There are many things in my life that I thoroughly enjoy, even love. Running is one of those things. I soon realized I was using running as a coping mechanism. To me, I would excuse the amount I ran as “healthy”, I didn’t smoke, this was a “healthy” habit I had picked up. It soon became ritualistic, expected, needed, and a way to run away from myself as well as my own eating disorder. I felt the most alive when I was nearly dying during a run.
I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but I remember when I was barely able to run one mile without stopping. One turned into three, I ate less, ran more. 3 turned into 5, then 7, even 10 miles at a time. Sometimes running multiple times a day consuming barely 500 calories a day. I was still healthy though. My body was still capable to sustain a run. Never mind that I skipped classes like Organic Chemistry II, Microbiology to Health and Nutrition, and Cell and Molecular Biology in order to get that extra run in.
I loved running. It got me out of my own head. It consumed time that I might be otherwise told to eat or FEEL. I am still in complete shock of how my body was able to sustain itself. I would reach mile 5 and was barely able to stand, and my vision would begin to come in and out, I was always convinced I would pass out and fall into the street.
Running turned from a “want to” to a “need” and “have” to. It was no longer enjoyable, it wasn’t a personal goal or record anymore, but to see how many calories I could burn off. How far into the negative calories I could reach.
I didn’t necessarily use running as a “punishment” per se, but more like a giving me permission to eat. “Well, if I run 4 miles, thats xxx calories. So that apple I ate is understandable.” I would run in 18 degree weather, even in shorts. Unable to catch my breath, snot frozen to my face.
My period continued to be something I only heard about and read about, never actually experiencing such thing in years. God forbid Aunt Flow actually ever came, I probably would have ran 15 miles, associating my period with body fat rather than being “healthy”.
Everything I ate was no longer just the calorie obsession, but was immediately converted to miles that needed to be ran in order to burn it off.
During treatment I had exercise taken away from me. I was still so positive that I was completely fine, I wanted to go run. My body could tolerate it and sustain it just fine. Forget the fact I had torn my entire IT band from hip to knee, and have a reoccurring hip injury that will require back surgery. It took so much time for me to realize that it was acceptable for me to eat something and not feel the need to go and immediately burn it off.
Having to sit with these calories and the feeling of fullness was something that terrified me. I began to pace the stairs, run in place. Anything to burn the calories off. After many weeks this feeling became more tolerable.
The opportunity was given to me to be able to use my running watch to track the distance I ran. I was given exercise privilege, I was told to walk, but everyone there knew better. I was told that whatever I burned I had to make up calorically. The choice was mine. I was able to decided if I wanted to go on a run, but I understood that if I did, I had to eat or drink something to make up for it.
In my mind it was never like that. You work out or run to burn off calories, not to consume something else to “make up” for it. That logic was ridiculous. It worked. I ran, but understood and knew that I would have to add something extra to my meal plan.
Leaving treatment I began to pack extra food with me, even an Ensure in case of a food “emergency”. I run between classes sometimes, but depending on the distance, I’ll have a Quest bar or Clif Bar, maybe even an Ensure.
I ran 10 miles Friday. I ate a big bowl of oatmeal to help fuel my run. Let that digest, then hit the road. My legs weren’t as weak and trembly like they had been before treatment. I was able to see, wasn’t as lethargic and shaky. It was different than I was used to. I now enjoy running and do it because I like it, not because my self-hatred filled eating disorder tells me I have to.