There were many things I worried about when I moved away from home. I worried about every little thing. But something looming bigger than all of the more important things, was exercise. Mostly, afraid of the reality that it would be more difficult to fit it in. When I turned thirteen, I slowly became obsessive about walking or running, along with restrictive eating. Before and after meals. Early and late. Any time I could fit it in. My family planned a trip out of town for a few days, so I exercised even more, so I wouldn’t feel too guilty missing out on so many workouts. If we were having a busy day, I would wake up early or stay up late to get a walk in. I preferred the outdoors, but the treadmill would also do. Until we had flooding in the basement and the motor in our treadmill died. Then I panicked and began only walking or running or riding my bike outside. Rain or shine. Day after day.
This wasn’t discipline. This wasn’t a healthy routine for someone who needs an exercise regimen. This wasn’t something that lifted my spirits or made me feel better. Sure, I would feel relieved after I exercised, because it was all about the calories for me. Calories burned versus calories ingested. So many days my mom would mention my excessive exercise. I began doing it “in secret”. It was so shameful. I knew it was wrong. By ed told me it felt so right. This went off and on for years. It was exhausting and grueling and I hate thinking about it. It was me fearing for my life, but not putting a stop to the exercise. I remember crying to my mom that I was so afraid. Afraid I would drop dead some day. I couldn’t help myself though.
My mom was always “healthy” about exercise. It was never “I ate this, so I need to exercise now” with her, or anyone in my family. My dad was a great role model, eating whatever he wanted and always seeming so comfortable in his body. Everyone in my family is naturally on the slim side. Exercise for me wasn’t because of a fear of becoming fat. It wasn’t. Or was it? I tell myself and others, that it’s not like that. I’m not the typical eating disorder case who looks in the mirror and sees her emaciated skeleton looking back at her as someone ten times larger. But when I talk about it, the story always turns to “I didn’t eat, because I was afraid of getting fat.” I was though. But my logical side of my brain always knew that wasn’t something to be worried about. Ed somehow twisted the situation, and made me believe it just enough to say it and not know where else to turn.
One huge part of the success of my recovery this time was cutting out all exercise. My dietitian mentioned the other day, when it was so nice out, that I could go for a walk if I wanted. I laughingly admitted to her that I didn’t want to go on a walk. Not because I’m afraid of becoming addicted to it again, but because I just don’t feel like moving my body in a repetitive way right now. Some day I would like to begin to use exercise as a tool to keep me strong and agile. And yoga is so relaxed for me that it isn’t something I feel causes me to get into the mindset of “I must exercise”. I’m no expert, but I think way too many people use exercise as something they feel guilted into. It’s so popular to be a health nut. To be someone who works out at the gym five times a week. To be someone who polices what does and doesn’t pass their lips. Let’s rethink exercise. Let’s take it back to working hard and enjoying and praising our bodies for what they can do, instead of berating ourselves for what we can’t do, such as run a mile, or bike up that steep hill. Take a break, and see how it feels. Stop pushing your body to be something you envision, and start seeing yourself as something worthy, if imperfect.