Content Warning: Mentions of Eating Disorders
If you know me well, you know that I love to run — a lot. I have been running for the greater half of my life, and it is something I hold close to my heart. At first, I had a very bad relationship between food and running which affected my performance and my mental health. For my entire life, I have struggled to have a healthy relationship with food. At a young age, I was exposed to calorie counting and foods deemed “healthy” and “unhealthy.” All of my thoughts were surrounded by what and when I would eat and if someone or something came up to affect this, my day would be ruined.
Running was a way to escape these thoughts, but it also fueled bad habits for a few years of my life. I would perform horribly at races and feel so exhausted at every practice because I would refuse to eat an adequate amount of food to achieve the “perfect body” that everyone else on my team seemed to have. I would constantly compare myself to other runners and assume that I was not as fast as them because I was not as skinny as them. I would often question my self worth if I was not able to run one day or if I ate too much and so on. My eating disorder not only took over my body, but also hurt me mentally. I would spend many nights alone in my room upset because I would not let myself go out if I knew there would be food involved. I would sulk about all of the good times I was missing because of how much I worried about food.
At home, it was difficult to reach out to people because I felt that I would be looked down upon. I never fully came to terms with the fact that what I was doing was hurting my body until I came to college. At first, the thought of being away from home and not being able to restrict myself as much was terrifying. On my first day on campus, I met my cross country team. I clicked with all of them and found a real support system immediately. Everyone that I opened up to listened to me and talked to me about my eating disorder that I had internalized for years. I never came to terms and accepted that what I was doing was harmful until I listened to my teammates.
I realized that the anxiety I had around food was a waste of my time. I started to realize what was really important to me: feeling good while running and being able to hang out with friends. The only way to be able to do these things is to eat more and take care of my body. Without the help of my current teammates and friends I have made, I do not think I would be able to make it here with my old habits. The constant support and reassurance from friends and teammates have made me realize that people value me for who I am rather than how I look. If I told my sad, high-school self that I would be eating an adequate amount of food every day now, she would think it was a lie. Running has felt so much better physically and mentally. Going on a run used to be a punishment for me, but now it is an activity I genuinely look forward to and enjoy. At college, it is hard to reach out to others about your struggles with an eating disorder. Many more people struggle than you think. Do not hesitate to reach out. I will always be in your corner.