Running to Escape My Eating Disorder Demons

I’ve become a lot more open about this in recent years as I’ve gotten fit and healthy, although I really debated whether I was going to post this: I’m a “recovered” anorexic. I use quotes because you never truly recover from anorexia; it sort of hangs around inside your head like a mean little beast. Most of the time, it’s sleeping, but every so often, particularly when I feel like my life is out of control, it wakes up and starts nagging at me.

I put myself on my first diet when I was eight. I had a chubby tummy (or so I thought), which my cousin’s then-boyfriend pointed out at some family gathering. I dropped my potato chip in horror. Not much happened until I was 13, though, when my life truly felt out of control: I was being bullied mercilessly by the boys and girls at my small Catholic school, and the teachers and administration turned a blind eye. My father was laid off. All of a sudden, it felt like the bottom dropped out of my world, and I needed to take control, so I did. I dropped a lot of weight, to the point where my pediatrician was very worried.

At 16, I added in purging to the mix. I was never hospitalized specifically for an eating disorder, but it followed me through my 20s. Every time my life felt out of control, I turned to my diet to regain some of it. All the pain, disappointment, discouragement – I turned it inward, starving myself to feel whole.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I had to eat healthy and gain weight, something that would mean a healthy baby. So I instructed my doctors to not tell me what I weighed. I just wanted to know if I was on track. The same thing happened with my second: I didn’t want to know the number, just that the weight gain was appropriate. I stayed on track and gave birth to two beautiful, healthy babies.

But my real recovery didn’t begin until I was holding my second child, my daughter, in my arms. I thought of all the pain I went through and all the torture I put myself through to try to gain control, and I knew there was a better way. I wanted to be an example for her, one that would teach her healthy body image and eating habits.

Little by little, I’ve been letting go.

Little by little, I started letting go of my preconceived notions of gaining control. I stopped attaching my self-worth to a number on the scale or a number sewn inside my jeans. I chose foods based on how they would fuel and heal me, particularly once I began the Psoriasis Diet to clear my skin. I started viewing exercise as something that would make me stronger: first I took circuit training classes with weights, then I started running.

And running, ultimately, is where I find my peace. I may not be able to outrun my demons, but running tires them out. Running is where I feel strong and healthy. It’s been a tough winter, full of snow and ice and conditions that have kept me on the treadmill. But I keep running. Food becomes fuel, not punishment. Exercise becomes a demonstration of what my body can do, pushing past limitations.

I am nowhere near perfect. I have not found the Tao of Body. But I have found that control doesn’t have to kill you, and that food is fuel. I’ve found that I can be proud of what I can do with my body, and less worried about how it looks. I can focus on what I can control in a healthy way. And I found that while wearing a pair of running shoes.

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