At the beginning of recovery, there was an unspoken understanding between myself and my treatment team: If I wanted to recover, I needed to stop running. I needed to stop going to the gym. I needed to stop doing cardio circuits in my garage.
I needed to stop, because it was putting me on a road to residential treatment.
I needed to stop, because it was destroying my body.
I needed to stop, because there was something in me that wanted to get better.
The progression was sort of a no-brainer: The less that I ate, the less energy I had when I exercised. The less energy I had, the worse my workouts were. It was pretty clear to me that something needed to change when I got chest pains walking in the park with my mom. Exercise was no longer a way to de-stress for me; it merely a way to compensate for something that I ate or something that I would eat later on. Something wasn’t right.
So I stopped for a bit.
I stopped until my body began to gain strength, and my mind became more discerning.
I started with weight lifting + walking, and that was good.
Then, I added a little running into the mix, but there was a problem: I always had to end my run short because I was hungry by the end of it.
I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of eating more than what I thought was a “good” amount for me.
I didn’t want to eat breakfast or a snack before my run.
I didn’t want to do what I needed to do.
ED didn’t make things any easier:
“You don’t need more food, you need to run more! You’re out of shape and it’s showing.”
“You probably shouldn’t even try at this rate, you’re going so slow.”
“Don’t you dare eat a snack before you go out. You don’t need the extra calories.”
“Your time was 7 seconds slower than yesterday…what happened?”
So, I suffered.
I went on too many runs that ended in hunger and frustration, and my recovery suffered from that.
But praise God that there is grace.
After many months of practicing good recovery, I was finally able to read and honor my hunger and fullness cues.
As I moved away from my meal plan and started transitioning to intuitive eating, my exercise became more intuitive as well.
When I stopped trying to wage war with my body, everything became so much easier (imagine that).
I am no longer afraid to eat breakfast or a snack before I exercise, because I know it’s what my body needs.
I am now able to go on a run without putting my body into starvation mode.
I am now able to choose when I want to exercise, and when I want to rest.
I now choose how long and how intense I want my workout to be.
ED no longer has a role in making these decisions.
*Let me pause and make this disclaimer: I was never a long distance runner, and I don’t think I ever will be. Honestly, I just don’t have the patience or time or dedication or mental toughness to train for a half-marathon. I’m not into that. But I do enjoy some running, especially when it feels nice outside.
So Josh and I decided to sign up for the turkey trot this year.
We have done it in the past, but it was before my anorexia had started to develop. It was a fun, easy way to get some activity in together. I love the community aspect of it and I love that it gives back to kids in our community that need a little extra help.
But before I made this rather last-minute commitment, I needed to check my motives:
Was I doing this because I wanted to burn calories? Was I doing this to compensate for the two thanksgiving meals that I would have later on, or to lose weight in the training process?
After some deep reflection and prayer, I realized why I wanted to run this race.
I wanted to prove to ED (and myself) that I had made significant progress in recovery.
I wanted to run a race without worrying about my time or pace.
I wanted to see the fruit of practicing good recovery.
So we ran the race, and I proved ED wrong.
I ran about 4-5 times before the 5k race, but I didn’t ever come close to running the full 3. whatever miles it is. But that was okay with me, because I knew that this race wasn’t for anyone else but myself. It was me against ED, and I was determined to practice good recovery so that I could do something that I love with someone that I love.
I ate a good breakfast before the race, a couple of snacks after, and two very intuitive Thanksgiving meals yesterday.
I finished the race a lot quicker than I anticipated, while still respecting my body and walking a few times when I needed to catch my breath.
I got 45th place for my age group, and I could care less.
Yesterday was a milestone in my recovery, but I know that for some of you, yesterday was a really difficult day. For some of you, you may have felt like you took a step back in recovery. I’ve been there, I really have. I am sharing this with you (my recovery peeps especially), because I’ve been where you have before.
I’ve had Thanksgivings where I was scared to eat anything, so I restricted all day, and then binged in secret at night.
I’ve had Thanksgivings where I ate entirely too much and felt worthless about who I was the next day.
I’ve had Thanksgivings where it was really difficult to read my hunger and fullness cues.
I’ve had Thanksgivings where I have struggled with body image more than usual.
Those days are hard. I get it, because I’ve been there.
But it won’t always be this way. You are not without hope. Progress is slow. Recovery is hard. Thanksgiving isn’t easy during recovery.
But I am here to tell you that practicing good recovery is always worth it in the end. Looking back and seeing the progress that I have made is what keeps me going on the harder days. Three years ago, my Thanksgiving was characterized by binging and restricting. Fast forward with 1 year of solid recovery under my belt, and my next Thanksgiving was much better. There was still a lot of anxiety. My hunger and fullness cues weren’t quite right yet. There were still temptations that were hard to resist, but it was better. Fast forward with another solid year of recovery, and this Thanksgiving has been the best that I can remember in a long time. I incorporated activity into my day, I ate intuitively, I didn’t restrict or binge; but most importantly, my mind was free from ED chatter.
I was free to celebrate the day for what it was, appreciate the taste of my food, and enjoy the company of my family that I so dearly love. It’s taken me time to get to this place.
If you practice good recovery, you will one day get to a place where you can eat and exercise intuitively. You will one day get to a place where ED’s voice becomes faint and less bothersome. You will one day let go of the last parts of your eating disorder that you are hanging on to. You will let go of control, and you will recover.
If I can do it, you can too!
If your day didn’t go quite as you planned yesterday, that’s okay. There’s new grace and new mercy every morning.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, & praise God for this new and glorious day.