Snow Day

The forecast looked grim, but I wouldn’t let that stop me.

I couldn’t risk losing what I had worked so hard for.

I wanted to workout.

Scratch that.

I needed to workout.

I couldn’t go a day without it.

There would be too much anxiety, too many invasive thoughts, and possibly tears.

I had to keep my body in check.

I couldn’t handle being out of shape; fitness was my idol and my identify was in my body.

So I set my alarm for 5:30 AM, despite staying up late the night before to study.

When I woke up, I knew that I had no time to lose; I had to get moving if I wanted to get my workout in.

The snow was falling lightly but it hadn’t started sticking to the roads yet. My windows were completely iced over, so I turned on my defrost and began scrapping the windshield until it felt like my fingers were going to fall off.

My tires rotated in place a few times before I was able to pull my car out of the driveway. I knew that I wasn’t a good driver, and that I was halfway insane for going to the gym at this time during this weather, but I didn’t care. I just needed to beat the snow before I was trapped in my house all day. I needed to burn the calories.  

The gym was quiet but not quite empty. There were a few frat guys lifting together, coupled with a few senior citizens walking the track. They were regulars, I wasn’t surprised to see them. The frat guys bench pressed 3 days a week; the two women who wore matching outfits walked & talked on the track.

“Okay,” I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not crazy. These people are here at 5:30 AM working out before the snow storm hits Cookeville. They are being productive & self-disciplined, just like me.”

Except I wasn’t being productive or self-disciplined. I was acting as a slave to my eating disorder. I didn’t have the freedom to say no to a workout that could put my life in danger. I didn’t have the discipline to take days off. I didn’t have it in me to fight when ED drug me out of bed. I didn’t have the confidence to sleep in. ED convinced me that I needed to prove myself, so I did just that. 

Although I wanted to workout alone, ED never allowed that. He always followed me up to the cardio floor, making sure that I stayed on the treadmill for long enough at a pace that fit his demands.

His pre-workout talks were so “inspirational”:

“8:34. That was your pace last time. You better not finish this run a second later than that.” 

“No walking. You can run sprints or run on the treadmill; you decide.” 

“If you run anything less than 2 miles, you’re going to need to get on the stair climber afterwards.”

“You ran 2 yesterday; shoot for 3 today. You never know how long you are going to be trapped inside the house with the snow coming soon.” 

So I ran. 

I ran until legs started to cramp. 

I ran until my chest tightened up. 

I ran until my hunger pains could no longer be ignored. 

I ran until ED was satisfied. 

And the cycle reset. 

I restricted that day, then binged later that night, then restricted the next day, then exercised to “get rid” of the extra calories I ate the previous day.

My relationship with exercise fed the binge-restriction cycle that I was stuck in. 

Compulsive exercise was one of the most dangerous aspects of my eating disorder. 

It drove me to make irrational decisions, like the one I just described. 

It isolated me from friends and family. 

It was my only cooping mechanism. 

It was a punishment for my imperfect diet.

It was a religious ritual of some sort, a worthless attempt to earn my salvation.

In many ways, it was a very blatant form of self-harm.  

I wasn’t exercising to be healthy; I was exercising to be somebody. All of my worth was put into my exercise routine and level of fitness. 

I didn’t know better, but now I do. 

I now understand that it’s not OK for me to exercise when I am hungry. 

I now understand that my body needs rest days in order to recover and get stronger. 

I now understand that my life’s purpose is so much more than working out. 

I now understand that my identity is not found in my level of fitness. 

I now understand that exercise is a celebration of what my body can do, not a punishment for what I eat.

I now understand why my friends and family were concerned about me. 

I now understand exercise cannot be my only cooping mechanism. 

I now understand that I deserve better. 

I now understand how to treat my body with compassion and respect.

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.




1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Emily, this was really truth-speaking to me. I am in training for a 5K while also in day treatment for my eating disorder. Sometimes it is very difficult, but I have to remember my goal, my purpose. Thank you!

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