Today I feel wretched in every sense of the word. Are there that many senses of the world? Perhaps not. But I digress. I’ve been driving my body further and further into the ground as I pound out the miles on the treadmill, still seemingly unable to quell that urge to exercise to excess despite strides I’ve made in other areas of my eating disorder recovery. It seems, sometimes, that the more sick or sore I feel the harder I work at the gym. Its almost a last ditch effort to grab hold of some endorphins and dig myself out of the hole of muscle and joint pain I’ve dug for myself. Digging myself out of that hole, unfortunately, might just be as arduous as digging a hole to China, that childhood pipe dream of so many.
Exercise is one of the more debated and blurry-sided components of many eating disorders. Where the line is drawn between healthy exercise and obsessive/compulsive exercise is not always clear. If such a thing were easily quantifiable, it would seem that every athlete suffered from an eating disorder or exercise obsession. Eating disorders in which exercise is a main factor are often not recognized as such, since it is sometimes difficult for people who don’t struggle with the obsession to understand how exercise could not be a good thing. If you’ve never experienced withdrawal symptoms from taking a day off from the gym, I could understand you looking at me like a crazy person when I say it feels like poison running through my veins.
It was easy for me to lie to myself about the healthiness of my exercise behaviours for a long time as well. I was simply “pushing toward the next goal”. When people ask you on a daily basis at the gym if you’re training for something, it is so easy to take the positive reinforcement and literally run with it. They aren’t commenting on my running in an effort to perpetuate my eating and exercise behaviours, I realize, but with the effect that it has they may as well be. Society has placed exercise as a pedestal as marathon running and hot yoga become more mainstream hot commodities.
The internal and external drive to continue exercising to extremes is combined with the messages thrown at consumers of mass media to eat “healthily” which can create a dangerous downward spiral. Exercising to the extent that I and so many others struggling with eating disorders do requires major fuel, fuel that is deemed “dangerous” for weight gain in the mainstream. An eating disorder can latch onto such messages with ease and refuse to let go, leaving its host aching and torn both inside and out.