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Doing the Work of Recovery

Victoria DiGiannantonio’s Story


*Trigger warning- eating disorders*


If you’re a part of the Still I Run community and our mission resonates with you, it’s likely that you or someone that you love struggles with mental health. And it’s also likely that you or someone that you love is in the midst of a healing journey. 


Victoria’s story is more than just a story about a girl with an eating disorder – this is a story about doing the work of recovery and healing. It’s a story of inspiration and hope, and one we can all relate to wherever we are in our journeys. 


About Victoria:


As a Colorado native, Victoria (Tori) describes herself as outdoorsy, loving hiking and nature. She is a marathoner and ultra marathoner, a volunteer writer for Still I Run, and proudly in recovery from an eating disorder. 


Tori’s eating disorder started more than 20 years ago. For a very long time, she really did not know where the disorder came from, she was just focused on the symptoms it caused. 

Having an eating disorder was tangled in Tori’s identity – she felt as if she was the eating disorder and the eating disorder was her. 





Running with an Eating Disorder:


Around 2018, Tori got into running and instantly loved it. Her running journey springboarded from road racing into trail running and from marathons quickly to ultra marathons. 


But Tori admits that her relationship with running was not always a healthy one, as she used the sport as another way to control and balance her disordered eating. She shares that when she was most heavily participating in her eating disorder (with no intention of recovering), she used running as a form of punishment that she did in order to allow herself to eat. 


The concept that “food is fuel” did not help Tori as it gave her permission to push her running to the max in order to consume the foods that her body needed. This is not an uncommon scenario with ultrarunners as research has shown that the prevalence of eating disorders within ultrarunners is alarmingly high. 


Last winter, Tori was feeling very burnt out with this unsustainable tightrope and took a break from running. She stopped running for the most part and when she did run, she did not even wear her watch. She knew she needed a change. 



Tori's recovery Journey:


While Tori had been in and out of therapy for her eating disorder for many years, she never gained significant traction until recently. In retrospect, she believes that she was more focused on the symptoms and behaviors that resulted from the eating disorder but not on the recovery itself. 


Facing circumstances that arose in her personal life last summer, Tori fully committed and dove into therapy. This led to a major breakthrough in her recovery journey. Tori had been grappling for years with family of origin trauma, but until then, she hadn’t been able to see the patterns and the link that the trauma was having on her eating disorder. 


As Tori dug deeper into therapy and started unpacking the complex trauma she’s experienced, the picture started to become more clear. She started to see the patterns of numbing, protecting and disassociation that the eating disorder was doing for her and she realized she was using it to protect herself. The eating disorder helped her to enforce boundaries, in life that felt boundaryless. 


Seeing the link between the trauma she experienced, and the eating disorder has been a game changer. It helped Tori to gain more context, learn about herself and uncover that at some point the eating disorder was serving a purpose: it was protecting her. 


As Tori put it, this discovery got the “scaffolding” out of the way and helped clear the path for healing. It allowed her to separate herself from the eating disorder and look at the full picture. 


Today Tori can reflect and feel grateful for the protection that the eating disorder was trying to offer, but she doesn’t need it anymore. She doesn’t blame her eating disorder solely on the trauma she’s experienced. She’s learned it's complicated, and in addition to her trauma there are other contributors like body dysmorphia and being socialized as a woman in a weight-obsessed culture. 





The Healing Continues:


For Tori, recovery is not a destination that will ultimately end, it’s a journey that will last a lifetime. It’s a set of choices that she makes every single day and some days are easier than others. She admits, this can feel exhausting but also empowering at the same time. 


There’s something beautiful in accepting yourself and allowing yourself to just be this way. The pressure to “be recovered” is removed and you are able to just be yourself and take it day by day. 

Tori shares that one of the most difficult things about having an eating disorder is that it’s the only addiction where you can’t remove the substance because food is essential to staying alive. So it comes back to making decisions every single day, accepting yourself and doing the work. 




A New Relationship with Running:


Today, Tori spends less time worrying about whether she’s eating to run or running to eat. She’s accepted that it’s not one or the other - it’s both. She chooses to channel her energy into running, a far less destructive path. 


Tori stumbled upon Still I Run on Instagram last summer and was excited to find an outlet where she could channel her passion for running and also her background in social work. As a volunteer writer for Still I Run, Tori loves meeting like-minded (but different) people and hearing their stories. The sense of community is the golden thread for her and she enjoys taking others’ stories and crafting them into something that the world can find value in. 



Just Keep Going:


There are huge parallels with mental health and running. In running, you may fall or get lost, but you keep moving forward. Life is very similar - it will throw you curveballs and setbacks and it’s how you move forward that matters. 


Doing the work is hard, but the right kind of hard. Wherever you are in your recovery journey, take a moment to reflect on the progress you’ve made, and then, keep going. 


You survived 100% of your days up until now. You’ve got a good track record. - Tori 


If you're struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Helpline toll-free at (800)-931-2237, chat with someone at myneda.org/helpline-chat, or text NEDA to 741-741 for 24/7 crisis support.





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