Recovering from an Eating Disorder, Chelsey Clammer Reclaims Her Running Self
Question: When you’re trapped in the cycle of an eating disorder, where else can you go?
Answer: you break boundaries, you learn how to live differently, how to run away from the trap and towards a different dream, perhaps more towards yourself.
How my body aches to move, but how it aches when it does so. Ran a mile today, and had to walk for a bit of it. It’s been awhile since I felt my body move like that. But I want to feel my body in motion, to feel the way the blood pumps smoothly for hours. I try not to feel as if I have let myself down by taking almost two years off from running. Taking that time off was actually a way to survive myself.
I am recovering from an eating disorder, recovering from running myself down to my bones, grinding my feet against the ground as I tried to chase after an image of myself I thought worthy. I am now slowly recovering from my eating disorder by jogging small steps towards myself. I do not know if I will ever fully shed the distorted body image issues, but I do know that when I run for me instead of that image of myself I was trying so hard to achieve, I feel more in myself—running towards her instead of away.
Question: how to save the body when it is so incredibly run down that it is on the brink of collapsing?
Answer: you find a way to pick yourself back up, find a way to hold yourself steady and bring you back into a clear state of mind, one that is full of support instead of destruction.
In the past, when the eating disorder was raging, I ran fifty-mile races. But each time I ran the races, or even just when I ran in the mornings while training for them I worried I would crack a bone or pass out from an electrolyte imbalance. That was not living. That was dying. That was slowly trying to do away with myself. My knees knocked together, my hips stuck out further than my chest. And I could have died, easily could have collapsed from lack of food, but by god I almost had that body I wanted. Even with the flesh strapped tightly around my bones, I still ran and counted calories and ran and lifted weights and ran, always trying to win at something. It felt destructive, but it felt like all I had. I lost.
Running aloneQuestion: what do you do when you lose?
Answer: you begin to learn how to gain.
This healing is where my strength will persist, where the desire to run in order to feel motion instead of running to purge food from the body comes in. This morning, I finally approached myself in a different way. After forcing myself to stop running for two years in order to relearn—or perhaps learn for the first time—how to live in my body, I come back to running in order to come back to myself. I re-wire my brain, and find strength in my body moving instead of destruction. Here are my legs as they strike the ground, and here are the thighs that shake as they do. Here are my arms that are made with bone, instead of having the bone show through. Here is the fat and muscles in my back, the strong core that is slowly starting to emerge. And here is the brain that is learning how to live with this new body, how to hug her as she runs instead of trying to tear her away, to wrestle her down.
Before, when I ran in order to run away from myself, I went after that sense of wanting less of me. Now I run to feel more of this body, to feel her strength instead of weakening her into shattered fractions of myself.
Question: what is the perfect post-run meal?
Answer: a plateful of acceptance and pride.
I write all of this as I try to discourage my habit of skipping a post-workout meal, of trying to break apart those thoughts that tell me how starving myself is what I need. I sip water to wash down the distorted thought, to weigh down what needs to drown. I still at times fear eating, because I am still learning, still trying to progress towards that something else.
This is not about being perfect, because that didn’t work. And this is not about striding towards that “perfect” image of myself I at times still want to see. But this is about learning who I am, understanding what it is I can do now, what it is that my body needs in order to grow. I am getting to that point where I want to feel in my body again, and I know running can take me there, can help to push me into the space where I love my body and how she feels as long as I don’t let it take me away, again.
Because this getting back into myself is a process, is something I will forever progress towards.
So in the mornings, I will put on the black running shorts that fit snug, but that actually fit just right as now I am not sliding out of them, and I will enter into the world with my snappy new blue running shoes attached to my yearning feet, and my white dry-fit shirts that will pull the sweat away as I pull this body (that is currently out of shape) into one that can breathe clearly again. I will run through the city and catch glimpses of myself in windows. Because, yes, I am still looking, but perhaps now I’m searching for something else. Instead of checking my reflection to make sure my legs are skinny enough, I now glimpse at my body in motion to see that it’s still there. This body has been through hell, but it still exists, still runs, and is finally moving forward instead of away.
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