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Shedding Light on Disordered Eating: A Runner’s Reflection

*Trigger Warning- Sexual assault, disordered eating*



My journey through disordered eating and recovery has been full of challenges and revelations. I’ve gained lots of insights on this path to healing. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), around 30 million Americans will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime. 





You are Enough:


I left the military shortly after joining due to being sexually assaulted. Since I was no longer running for work and school, and because I began to eat unhealthy foods, I started gaining weight. Amidst the tumult of those early college years, I traveled to Southeast Asia for my grandmother’s funeral and to reconnect with family. Instead of genuine interest in my life and the things I had going on, I found myself ensnared in a web of relentlessly cruel comments about my weight gain. Cultural norms equated thinness and whiteness to beauty, and I was neither of those things. 


Because of those familial pressures and my depressive episodes due to my experience in the military, my journey took an unforeseen turn toward extreme exercise routines and restrictive eating habits. What initially began as a pursuit of health soon spiraled into an intense journey of disordered eating and unhealthy patterns of behavior.





Healing is not Linear:


It has been more than 20 years since I fell into the depths of disordered eating. Reflecting on my journey, I've come to realize that the quest for control masked deeper insecurities and a yearning for validation. Cultural expectations and societal pressures fueled those destructive behaviors, yet I've unearthed some truths that guide my recovery today:


  1. The people who truly love you won’t try to control you through emotional cruelty. They won’t lace together their “genuine concern for your health” with destructive, unhelpful, and mean comments about your weight. They won’t tie your weight to your worth, period.

  2. There is no need to seek validation from people who do not have your best interests in mind. The only person you need to make happy is yourself. 

  3. Just because something is a cultural norm, it doesn’t make it right. It is not a good enough reason to perpetuate that destructive behavior. Call out insensitive remarks and stop the cycle from perpetuating.

  4. I have to discard the behaviors that no longer serve me. I plan on being around for a long time. Disordered eating is not a habit of healthy people who lived into their 100s.

  5. I have to interrupt disordered thoughts and behaviors before they become habits. Self-awareness is difficult but is a muscle worth exercising. It takes effort on a regular basis.





Running for Passion:


It was many years after I overcame disordered eating that I found running as a passion rather than a punishment. Running became a metaphor for reclaiming autonomy and prioritizing my holistic well-being. 


Shifting my focus from arbitrary numbers to nourishing my body and nurturing my mental health marked a pivotal moment in my journey toward recovery. Embracing the joy of movement and the artistry of food fostered a renewed sense of self and liberation. I hope that folks who are afflicted by this insidious condition find their road to recovery.





Stories save Lives:


As Eating Disorder Awareness Week concludes, through sharing our stories, seeking help, and embracing self-compassion, we can pave a path toward healing and liberation from destructive patterns. Remember, recovery is possible, and every step forward is a testament to your resilience and strength.





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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By Amara Hulslander

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