the 'e' word


As someone who has 'recovered' from an eating disorder. 

As someone who once could only sleep by exhausting her body. 

As someone, who’s eating disorder treatment required having physical movement restricted to a bed.

As someone who has been damn right addicted to the endorphin and adrenal rush of the ‘E’ word.

I’m shocked by my hungering appetite to write about the ‘E’ word. Exercise.

In my mind exercise was once… the equivalent to he who must not be named (Lord V). To me, being a person who was addicted to punishing her body with exercise to achieve the goals of her once deadly eating disorder, saying I was going to the gym felt like the equivalent an alcoholic saying they were going to the bar just for the “water”.

I felt like I needed to keep my relationship with exercise a secret. I would manipulate the truth around my physical activity because I felt I had to keep my experiences of exercising on the DL (down low) or else the protective spell and enchantment of recovery would be broken. The Death Eaters would inflict eating disorder suffering upon me. It sounds silly but it is what I believed, and I don’t think I am alone.  

During this time in my recovery, I wasn’t keeping exercise a secret because I was ashamed of the time I was spending pumping my peach in a pilates class or because I was ashamed of saluting the rising sun in yoga class. 

I was ashamed because recovery from an eating disorder and exercise were narrated in my days of treatment as enemies; One was Potter good and one was bad… very, very bad…Lord V bad. 

I was ashamed of talking about exercise because I thought that if people knew I was exercising, going to yoga or barre classes, that they would put my recovery under a microscope. And that I wouldn't be able to stop them. I couldn’t stop people from questioning my recovery or wellness, and I also couldn’t blame them for questioning my health either. After years of struggling, I understood why the people who loved me might be concerned, and the last thing I wanted was to instil fear. I didn’t want anyone else to enact the fear that I had within myself - a fear that was pretty f*cking real; the fear that I could relapse (without any help from the Death Eaters). And if I were to relapse, exercise is one way that the relapse could begin. 

But exercise isn’t the only starting point for a relapse. Eating disorder relapses could being by emulating Instagram yoga girls, becoming vegan (again), by juicing all my food, or by any of the other wacky and weird trends that are happening in our disordered ‘health’ culture. 

Relapse occurs not because we are pumping iron in the gym and skipping it at the dinner table. It doesn't occur because we are spending time spinning at spin class, it occurs due to mental spinning between our ears. Spinning, a sign that we have lost touch with ourselves, our values and the person we were able to reinvent during recovery.

It took me several eating disorder relapses before I settled into a fully recovered state. Not one of those relapses had to do with spending time spinning at spin class. Those relapses had to do with the mental spinning happening between my ears.

After years of struggling, years of working towards recovery, and being in the field of eating disorder recovery from the perspective of a recovered therapist I have positioned myself in a place of vulnerability where my recovery is scrutinised under the microscope, often.

And you know what, that is OK. I'm okay with others sliding the molecules of my recovery under their microscope because I have accepted that we will never be able to stop other people from monitoring or questioning our recovery, our choices, our values, our if we are on the verge relapse, again. 

But we can take ourselves off the slide of our microscope. We can stop questioning our recovery, our choices, our values and stop living in a place of fear regarding relapse.

I know that I am living within my values. I am authentic. I am showing up to my values. I am living a life that I define as 'recovered'. And I know that I was closer to a relapse when I was avoiding the ‘E’ word and lying about the times TRX was leaving me laying on the floor. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I don’t wake up slightly scared that my entire existence may be consumed with the number I see on the bathroom scale again. It means that when I do wake up from these dreams, that I no longer let the fearful nightmare stand in the way of doing the things that I know I need to do to be physically, mentally and spiritually well. 

And one of those things I need is movement. 

Exercise, moving our muscles, purposefully positioning our physical body to increase strength, clear anxiety and harmonise our body, mind and spirit - is not Lord V bad. It’s actually pretty f*cking great, not just great for our peaches; it is great at tapping into those feelings of empowerment and worthiness. Feelings that are all so often are degraded by the once eating disorder and often degraded by the state of our presently disordered 'health' culture

Ailey Jolie