Running & Bulimia

The entry I’ve been avoiding, the story of how running fits into my recovery from Bulima.  I thought I’d get it out of the way nice and early. Like a plaster over a cut forehead, ripping it off as quickly as possible all the time praying it doesn’t take off half my eyebrow.

I don’t like writing about this subject, primarily because I’m not great at talking about it. It goes with the territory I’m afraid. I’ll get it out of the way in one go then it’ll be back to talk of trainers, Garmins and how many pedestrians have shouted ‘run forest run’ this week.

The Eating Disorder

Most of my friends and family are vaguely aware that I had a ‘problem’ with food but they have no idea of the ins and outs, of the details and of the hell I went through to recover.

I’ve also noticed that some people in my life tend to put conversations with others with mental health issues down to over dramatic tenancies, a creative imagination or even flatly ignore it rather than be faced with the ugliness. So I stay silent scared to be put in the crazy attention seeker box. However the human tendency to gloss over the nasty bits of life has always made it very easy to hide. I became great at hiding it, from friends, family, teachers, work colleagues and partners; or they made it easy, I’m not sure. I think it was a combination of the two.

This isn’t a big reveal, a coming out, to be honest I’m hoping the entry gets lost in blogland before anyone I ACTUALLY know finds their way here. I’m writing it because the media puts so many myths out there about ‘EDs’ and if I leave this bit of the story out I’ll somehow be adding to it.

Believe it or not readers we are not all skeletal girls with sad faces who put our fingers down our throat as a cry for attention. We are not easily identifiable by our size zero wardrobe and an indignant refusal to eat anything apart from a salad leaf once a week.

In fact only 10% of eating disorder suffers Anorexic (Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, 2007). The rest of us have Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorders or their very own strange hybrids. Over time suffers can have weight fluctuations, weight loss or WEIGHT GAIN! Yes readers an eating disorder can make you GAIN weight. Eating through a weeks worth of calories in half an hour, crashing your metabolism despite ‘purging’ the calories afterwards; is not logically going to make you look like the winner of next Next Top Model.

I think this is why Bulima and other EDs do not get nearly as much air time as Anorexia. A tragic spaniel eyed anorexic girl looks much better on camera than a chubby girl munching her way through a six pack of Pringles. Not to take anything away from Anorexics, who have it as hard as the rest of us, but at the moment the media are only showing half the story. Well less than half, 10% to be exact.

For me it had started around the age of 17 and I managed to survive three years before anyone noticed, including me. I had got to the verge of dropping out of University when I was sat in front of the college councillor surprised as hell when she told me she thought I had Bulima & Depression. (an official diagnosis soon followed) I was purging around 3 times a day and as an intelligent young women I knew my behaviour was not normal, but eating disorders were something skinny girls had. And most of all I didn’t think it was as bad as it really was.

Once I had a diagnosis I noticed a new superpower. Us suffers have ED radar, in a queue for the cinema, the workplace, at a restaurant we can spot each other with a look. This has proved a life saver because it led me to a conversation with a girl who was involved with a charity called B-EAT

I did not find recovery easy and my doctors were worse than useless. B-EAT however have been brilliant and have got me to the place where I feel like it is behind me for good. If there is anyone in the UK out there who feels they are struggling, and banging their head against the brick wall that is the local NHS service then I urge you to get in touch with them.

 Bulima and Running

I know for many ED sufferers exercise is just another purge, a way to ditch the body of more calories. But for me it was an incentive to get better.

It became time to lose weight. I knew I wasn’t mentally strong enough to go down the diet route, especially since my last relapse had been less than 3 months ago. It probably wasn’t the right time in hindsight to start a weight loss regime, but I was angry at my ex boyfriend, and it turns out when I’m angry I’m at my most productive.

So four years ago I dyed my hair blonde, joined a gym and bought some trainers.

When I started running my BMI was 38. So much for Bulima only being for skinny girls.

From the beginning I found running was that magic bullet I had been looking for. All of a sudden I had a coping mechanism that wasn’t self destructive. I could deal with stress and anxiety without negative consequences, in fact it had positive ones. Why had no one told me this before! It was like I’d discovered some big secret. I was hooked instantly.

It’s also shown me the consequences of my purging in something I can understand. If I have a bad day my times flatline. The body needs carbs to run and if you’ve emptied yourself then both distance and speed suffer greatly. And I’m clearly too competitive to let something as silly as Bulima get in the way of my training.

It also broke the guilt cycle. I didn’t have to beat myself up for making small mistakes (which would then lead to bigger mistakes from feeling so miserable). If eat a chocolate bar, so what?I ran 5 miles today. This literally set me free. Of course running doesn’t give you licence to eat whatever you want, but at the same time when you make a mistake there’s no point punishing yourself. What I eat is slowly becoming about fuel rather than an emotional crutch. Running is slowly but surely ending my war with food. The white flag is being hoisted and for the first time in my life I’m free.

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10 Responses to Running & Bulimia

  1. Thank you for such an honest post. This is something I want to research at some point, and I have had an EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) in the past, which is where my intrigue comes from. I am glad that you are on the path to freedom from your bulimia. May it long continue. 😀

  2. diawalker says:

    Thank you for sharing. I think you’re amazing for coming through and raising that flag!

  3. rachelrecovery says:

    As a runner who is in recovery from anorexia I can relate to this post! I made a commitment to stop running until I hit a certain level of recover, but for me it is absolutely motivation to get better!

    I love what you said about people having no idea of the hell that we go through to recover. It is truly a difficult journey. It’s so much harder than other addictions because we can’t cut food out like a substance abuser would cut out a drug. We have to face our addiction every single day.

    Anyway, enough of my blabbering, I could go on forever!

    Peace & blessings to you in your continued recovery! Stay strong, you are an inspiration!

    • I truly don’t think ‘normal’ people have any idea how many are affected by EDs and what recovery is like as for the most part it’s pushed under the rug. Good luck in the running and the recovery.

  4. Brilliant post. i know how scary blogging about personal battles with EDs and it is through brave people like you that hopefully the judgement and stigma associated with ED and mental health issues in general will be beaten. i ran 2 marathons for B-eat earlier this year, they are fab.

    • They are such a good charity. I’ve wanted to run for them for a while but so far have been too scared. The discussions about why I chose the charity with friends and office workers seems too daunting. Well done.

      • I totally understand that I had the same fears. my eating disorder had been so secret for so long only very close friends and family knew of my struggles. In the end on my fundraising page I simply wrote what a wonderful charity they were and then this was my personaL statement:

        “From personal experience I know what a tough journey recovering from an eating disorder is and not only do I want to raise funds for a brilliant charity that helped me so much but I want to raise awareness, and help reduce the stigma, shame and misconceptions surrounding such a damaging, life threatening illness. Although recovery is a long and difficult journey, there is hope after an eating disorder and Beat means that those suffering do not need to feel like they are fighting alone”

        It was scary and felt like I was “coming out” but nobody questioned me on it I think everything that needed to be said was said in that sentence. People can be more sensitive than you think! I generally didn’t have to explain myself to anyone and if anyone asked why i was fundraising for them I said simply because they are a wonderful charity.

      • That personal statement is amazing. I still think its really brave.

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