Athletics clubs are metaphorical ‘breeding grounds’ for eating disorders, particularly amongst long distance runners who are often of the mindset that lower body weight=enhanced speed. There is no evidence to back this perception up, however I regularly hear the expression ‘lighter=faster.’ People are therefore chasing the ‘perfect’ lean figure, since thinness is associated with success, offering a competitive advantage, or so they think…
When I was really ill, all I could ever think about was over-exercising and under-eating. I was getting sick, my body was feeling broken. I was in this cycle of obsession with my performance, obsession with my weight and how it was affecting my performance. Had a bad run? I’d blame it on my weight. Had a good run? I’d acknowledge my weight loss as being the reason why. I was stuck in the dangerous cycle that only a 7 month hospital admission could ultimately get me out of…
Being admitted to hospital, although incredibly hard, literally saved me. It made me see what everyone else was telling me but I was blind to see before- there is more to life than running. When I was eventually discharged I still had to resist the temptation to fall back into old habits connected to my running club. The urges to overtrain were there, they hadn’t just disappeared.
Fortunately, everyone in my running club is really understanding. They all know about my struggles around eating and are always on the look out for signs that I might be doing too much. But unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone.
Coaches encouraging healthy eating- do they know what preaching a ‘clean’ diet can do?
Talking about being ‘streamlined’- do they know what talking about ‘race weight’ can do?
The answer is that no, they probably don’t. But having been effected by these thoughts myself, I know how destructive comments like these can be. Making you feel like you aren’t good enough, like you can never be good enough.
Doing laps of the track thinking ‘just one more lap’, until I’m on my 10th lap of my warm up and still going round and round, no intention of stopping any time soon. That’s what my thoughts made me do. I was driven to exert myself to the point where I was destroying my body and my mind, because I wanted to be good enough so much, and that felt like the only way.
And you know what, initially it made me feel amazing. Winning races made me feel like I was finally good at something. But then breaking calorie goals became more important than breaking PBs. I was loosing more and more weight every week but I was also loosing potential-throwing it away in the pursuit of a peace of mind I never got. Until I chose recovery..
Now I do have peace. Every day may not be easy, but I’m no longer fighting an internal war every day. I can run without that fight and it feels so good to be able to do that.
I am not 1 in 5. I am not another statistic, another victim of Anorexia. I am Lisa and I am alive and full of hope and smiles and so much love.
And I will keep on running because it feels good and adds to that feeling of ‘being alive.’ The wind in my hair, blowing against my face. The endorphins that i feel when i get back from a good run. It makes the sport so worthwhile.
Running may have broken my mind and my body, but it is now giving me so much happiness and freedom. I have swapped running endless laps of the track to running trails, and it feels so liberating.
Here’s to many more years of happiness <3