I was inspired to write this blog tonight because of an Instagram story @the_fat_athlete posted online tonight. We ended up DMing for a bit. Now, here I am writing!
! TRIGGER WARNING! SPECIFIC MOVEMENT MENTIONED!
Back in June, I posted on Instagram how I started running again because of my dear friend @themirnavator. My entire life has been a love-hate relationship with running. I loved it! I started racing in 3rd grade because my mom joined a local running club with her friends. I even ran cross country in high school. It also helped me with my endurance for basketball and soccer season. I ran year-round.
The love changed when I started believing in diet culture. I ran to compensate for “bad” foods or when I felt like I ate too much. I honestly thought I had to run off my calories or “earn” them before I could have “bad” foods. The love changed to hate when I used running to lose weight. The hate then turned into intense hate when a race triggered my eating disorder. I began to get anxious if I missed a day or ate “too much” and couldn’t run. Coach used running as a way to destroy and punish me when I was “bad” with food, gained any weight, or didn’t lose enough weight.
My first time in treatment, I was told I couldn’t run for at least the first two weeks. It seemed like no big deal…right? No! After the first day of eating what I thought was WAY too much food, I freaked out and started running the next day. I would go super early in the morning so my roommates (who were also in treatment with me), had no idea what I was doing. I could not function or eat meals in treatment without running. I was addicted to the “compensation game” and the runner’s high. Eventually, I came clean with my team about running and gave (or was asked to give 🙂) my running shoes to my dietitian. I learned later on in treatment I was metaphorically “running away” from my trauma, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It was so much more about calories in and calories out–what diet culture leads us to believe.
When I was in IOP and eventually discharged, no one taught me how to reintroduce movement, specifically running back into recovery. During that time, there wasn’t much research about movement and recovery. It just seemed like a blanket “no” and once I was further along in recovery, we could figure that out.
For the past seven years, I’ve been trying to run again. There’s been a variety of reasons I’ve thought about it and didn’t do it or started and stopped quickly. I fantasize about the days when I could run and run. But I don’t miss the voice of Coach constantly in my head, punishing me, and not being able to enjoy running. I want to feel the way I did when I ran before the eating disorder. I want that freedom again.
The main reason I don’t always start running is my body. Sometimes, I feel insecure being in a larger body and running outside in front of people. I get intimidated at the gym with thinner bodies around me. I don’t feel like I deserve to run. I feel like I’m going to be judged for how far or long I go because of my body. Being praised for how far or long I go is just as scary. It’s usually done condescendingly. Like you’re so amazing you can run that far for being in a larger body. It’s similar to people telling me I’m so confident for wearing a bikini in public. I also have to run in two sports bras no matter their support rating. I have to use Megababe to help with the chaffing. Sometimes, this all discourages me and keeps me from even starting. Then, I feel sad. I really do miss it.
Other times, I have started running consistently. Then, after a certain mileage/time, Coach comes back to life. Coach is loud and screaming at me! In the first few years of recovery, this sent me into a little slip. A few years later, the thoughts were too loud and it wasn’t worth my recovery to continue. This year, I am doing ok. The thoughts are different. I don’t have any thoughts around compensation or losing weight. This year it’s about punishment. Coach wants me to push myself so hard. He wants me to know I deserve punishment. I have done so much healing and growth from this thought and belief. It’s so fascinating how running can trigger this old thought so intensely. I’ve decided to keep running and keep talking about it in therapy. There have been a few bumps with how I’m feeling and no food related thoughts. I am very proud of myself. The way I see it, I have more work and healing to do. I’m curious. I am ready. I want to love running again. I know it’s in there somewhere.
I might have to land in the hot pink and stay under a certain mileage/time to have both some running and keep my recovery protected. If I truly can’t run without my recovery being jeopardized, then it will be another part of my life I will have to grieve. It’s ok. While difficult, being alive, having friends, enjoying food, and a great connection with life is worth more than running to me! I have other forms of movement that also make me happy like skiing and hiking!
What do you think? Have similar experiences? Thoughts/questions? Drop a comment below!