For significant portion of my life, I have had a mixed relationship with exercise, intertwined with an eating disorder. Exercise was a crutch that propped me up and gave me an identity and away my freedom to live. Now, I look back and see two contrasting relationships with exercise – one BEFORE freedom from an eating disorder and one AFTER.
Exercise BEFORE freedom from an eating disorder …………….
- Was not a choice, rather a must, delivered from my head to my body. My body had no voice, it complied with the demands from my head, regardless of the message my body was sending (I am tired, I am injured, I am hungry, I am sick, please let me rest).
- Was a way to change my moods, my physiology, relieve anxiety, evacuate emotional experience, soothe my mind, calm distress, and provide refuge from a constant internal storm……but only temporarily.
- Was a source of identity. I was blessed with athletic talent, so exercise gave me a fragile sense of purpose and identity.
- Was a prison that over time, took away any sense of freedom. I was bound to it in order to live, but I was actually destroying myself.
- Was a job, a daily task that had to be completed to feel a temporary sense of relief from anxiety that would always return.
- Was the determining factor as for what and how much I ate. If I did not exercise, I did not eat.
- Was always long or hard or both. There was no easy.
- Was a source of body, mind, and soul depletion, not energy.
- Was a way to try and change my body into what I thought it should be.
Exercise AFTER finding freedom from an eating disorder………
- Is fun, joyful, and something I do because my body wants and needs it.
- Is my mind and body working together to determine, how much, how intense, and what type of exercise I want to do that day.
- Is a choice; guilt or anxiety does not follow with the decision to rest or take days off.
- Is something I do because it is good for me. I don’t exercise with the objective to change my mood, relieve anxiety or some other emotional experience, sometimes this happens as a natural result, but I don’t engage in exercise with that intention.
- Is not dictated by what and how much I eat. I listen to my body, as the guide, not my emotions or my thoughts.
- Is sometimes easy, sometimes hard, sometimes moderate; exercise has many different forms now.
- Is something I feel energized after, not depleted.
- Is something that enhances my life and makes me appreciate the way my body is naturally.