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What It Feels Like to Run for Myself, Not My Eating Disorder

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

When I was at my sickest, I could really only focus on one thing — calories. My head kept a constant tally of calories in vs calories out. I knew, and still do, the amount of calories in practically everything. If I ate more than I had planned for that day an immense panic would sweep over me that could only be subdued if I either literally removed the food from my body, or burned off those calories through exercise.

Exercise, particularly running, really only served one purpose in my life — to help me reverse the “sin” of eating I had committed. As a result, I exercised with the sole purpose of burning calories. I would not allow myself to stop a run until I met, and exceeded whatever burnt calorie goal I had set. Exercise became a form of punishment for me. During runs, I could never stop the voice inside my head from berating me, calling me disgusting, forcing me to ignore any level of physical exhaustion and continue to push until I completed my punishment and temporarily satisfied the voice.

I spent years clearly misusing exercise. When I made the choice to try and fight my illness, a big part of my recovery journey involved giving up exercise. I simply couldn’t trust myself. For some, exercise is used as a way to improve their mental health. It can have a calming effect and when done properly can help you feel like your best self. It can give you a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. I was able to recognize that at that point in time, I was too sick to derive any positives from exercise and needed to remove it from my life.

It has been about a year since I started my journey to love, fight and care for my body. The eating disorder voice is still there, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say every day is a struggle. That being said, I have made progress. The progress I am the proudest of involves exercise. For about a month I have been able to run for the sake of running, I have been able to run for the sake of health, and I have been able to run for the sake of growing stronger. I am able to say I now know what it feels like to run simply because you enjoy how it makes you feel, not because you need to punish yourself. I am able to run for however long or short my body wants me to. I am able to run and actually feel happy while doing it.

In the past, I feel like I was transparent while running. Anguish was practically cemented on my face, because it was not something I enjoyed…who in their right mind enjoys punishing themselves? It hurt to run, and it was hard to run. Fast forward to today:

I ran today because I wanted to.

I ran today because it made me feel strong.

I ran today because it made me feel accomplished.

I ran today because it made me feel relaxed.

I ran today because I wanted to enjoy nature.

I ran today because I wanted to listen to some new music I recently bought.

I smiled today when I ran because I was happy.

Follow this journey on Moving Along Recovery Road.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic

Originally published: November 5, 2017
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