Growing up, I always had a love for fitness. I was very active in sports and trained at a competitive level. Running was always one of my favorite pastimes.
As my eating disorder began to get worse, my relationship with fitness took a very dark turn. I became OBSESSED with the numbers. I would go to the gym with a pre-determined number that I must burn off before I was allowed to leave. I never saw anything disordered about this because it was easy then to just convince myself that I wanted to be in better shape for soccer season.
I would go to the gym sometimes more than once a day being completely controlled by the numbers showing up on the machine. No matter how sick I felt, I could not get myself to stop before I hit the number I decided on for the day because if I stopped, Ana would NOT be happy. It didn’t matter if I came to the verge of blacking out— If I didn’t reach that number I was a failure.
As I started treatment, exercise was one of the first things stripped away from me. My relationship with exercise was not healthy and my team knew my obsession with numbers would not get better if I kept going to the gym or doing my ‘secret’ workout ritual at home. I was furious.
As I got stronger in my recovery, fitness would slowly get re-introduced. During these times, when I would go to the gym, I would cover up the numbers on the machine so I didn’t get obsessive over what I was doing. However, no matter how hard I tried to work out in a healthy way, it didn’t last long before I relapsed over the obsession of numbers and lost my privileges to work out.
It felt like a never ending cycle. I was upset and embarrassed with myself. It only became more challenging when I got to college and my friends all wanted to play intramurals or work out together. I always had to find some excuse as to why I couldn’t play. I was always too embarrassed to share the real reason I couldn’t join them was because I was on exercise restriction.
This summer I started running again for the first time in a long time– I started running a lot. I haven’t been visited by the voice that loves the numbers…or at least I don’t think I have been. The most challenging part in recovery for me now is trying to establish what is disordered vs what is not. My relationship with exercise had been toxic for so long that sometimes I wonder if it will ever be healthy. When I wake up and decide how many miles I want to run, I have to question myself and ask WHY I want to run so bad. Do I want to run because I enjoy it? Or do I want to run because I have to hit a certain number?
Anorexia is one giant mind game and trying to tell the differences between her voice and my own is not always the easiest. This is a chapter of my recovery story that is not yet fully healed and I am not sure when it will be. Will I ever be able to have working out as a part of my life in a healthy way? I really am not sure. I am just taking it moment by moment and doing my best to listen to the needs of my body.