‘Tis the season for marathons, triathlons, races, and rallies of every kind, many of them driven by noble causes, and all of them accompanied by an air of prestige, unity, and overall admiration. To us recovering anorexics, bulimics, and exercise addicts, however, it can seem like one giant parade of taunting and tribulation.

men-and-women-runners-stretchingWhat a great excuse, we think, to force ourselves through punishing exercise routines and “train” for the win. One more reason to change or restrict our diet in light of our “athletic” exploits. How great it feels to be congratulated and praised by friends and family who applaud our drive and ambition – and appease our disordered demons at the same time.

Or, if we’re on a path of recovery, we reel in a tumult of dismay, frustration, even envy because at this stage, we must refrain from participating directly in these activities. We struggle with feelings of resentment and jealousy as we watch our peers run, cycle, swim, and compete, free from the venomous obsessions we anorexics and bulimics know so well. Then we hate ourselves for our self-centeredness and inability to fully support our friends.

woman-stretching-outdoor-med-res

The truth is, we as recovering anorexics and bulimics are afflicted with a physical malady that, once triggered, grows exponentially worse and spirals further out of control – once we start, it becomes extremely difficult (even impossible) to start. So many of us simply cannot safely engage in activities like marathons, just as a drug addict can never safely pick up the needle or the joint. We can’t sanely skip a meal or fast for pledges or use harsh laxatives as part of a cleanse, because once we start, we trigger our bodies into its inevitable downward spiral.

It seems a bleak situation, but consider this: we are, in a way, running our own marathon – possibly the most important and most difficult feat of our lives. We’re recovering from a disease that is chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal, and doing so takes every ounce of our energy. As we go, our friends and family watch from the sidelines, offering a chorus of support and encouragement, but we alone are responsible for taking each step, for pressing on through the hardest stretches. Maybe we can’t see the finish line yet. But we’re on the right track.

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