- Although it didn’t completely cure me, running truly helped me control my ridiculing thoughts.
- Warning: This article contains graphic language describing eating disorders that some readers could find triggering.
It’s been two months since the last time I forced myself to purge after a meal.
While trying to silence the hyper-critical voice in my head has become a bit easier over the weeks, my struggle with my self-esteem and body dysmorphia has been a roller coaster of emotion since I was in high school. This led to my relationship with my body becoming extremely messy, exhausting, and at times almost killing me.
While I don’t think I’ll ever be “cured” of my eating disorder, I have found one thing that helps: running.
For almost a decade, I’ve been battling severe body dysmorphia, which usually comes with spurts of anorexic and bulimic episodes
I was always “the skinny one” at my home, so whenever I gained a few pounds, everyone noticed, and they weren’t afraid to point it out. That pressure from my family was only fueled more by an unhealthy high school friendship.
The pressure to not show an inch of fat on my body haunted me every second of the day, leading me to fall into a deep hole of self-loathing. I kept telling myself that I didn’t deserve to eat what I wanted until I lost a certain amount of weight, and solely ate a handful of grapes and precisely three slices of cheese every day for two years and self-harmed after the occasional binge eating.
By the time I graduated high school, I was 92 pounds – and I still thought I was fat.
As college went by, my restrictive diet loosened up.
All of my self-confidence came crashing back down when I started my first post-graduate job as an editorial intern at a fashion website
- 20th Century Fox
The constant celebrity body-shaming that I was forced to write about took a toll on my mentality and self-image. I constantly thought to myself, “If this is what people think about toned celebrities, what do they think about my body?”
Questions turned into insults and assumptions in my brain, and once I overheard a fellow co-worker comment that my body was “curvy,” my debilitating affair with bulimia formed. I let my inner demons take over yet again, and I drastically lost 20 pounds within one month.
Every compliment and burst of “you look so skinny!” from colleagues and friends alike fueled my dysmorphic fire. I began to heavily rely on drinking to keep my thoughts (and my hunger) suppressed. I became easily aggravated and took my anger and self-hatred out on everyone around me – which is a symptom of eating disorders, according to a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry.
At my lowest point, I couldn’t keep the smallest of meals down without finding the urge to puke. I desperately wanted to stop, but I became addicted to the habit of binging and purging. I wanted to get help, but my job left me with limited time to seek it – I was working weekends, holidays, and late nights constantly, leaving me with no time to spare for my mental health.
Then I started running
I don’t know what came over me, but after a rough day at work, I decided to just put on my barely-used sneakers and run. The feeling of sprinting as fast as I could made me feel as if I was physically running away from my problems and the fresh air provided some much-needed clarity.
No matter how cliché it may sound, running truly helped me control my ridiculing thoughts. The proof is also in the science: Exercise has been proven in an array of studies to help release endorphins, the hormones that trigger a positive feeling in your body and brain.
That tied together with the therapeutic feel and sense of accomplishment running gives me makes it an essential coping mechanism for me.
If I said I was fully cured of my eating disorder by running, however, I would be lying
- Peter Bernik/Shutterstock
First off, I don’t run every day. I’m not a fitness fanatic, and I really only run on the days that get tough. And that’s perfectly fine. Running is my healthy way of dealing with stress and negative energy, and I want to keep it as a special relaxation tactic instead of abusing it to become another forced chore for the sake of weight loss.
Many mental health illnesses can linger for a lifetime, and some days can be much harder than others
I’m not sure I will ever be “cured” of my eating disorder but one thing I do know for certain is that running helps soften the blow of my aggressive thoughts and keeps me on the track I want to be on. So, as long as I keep running, I know I’m giving this battle my all – one step at a time.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call NEDA’s Helpline (1-800-931-2237) on weekdays for support, resources, and information about treatment options. In crisis situations, NEDA offers 24/7 support – just text “NEDA” to 741-741.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.