My Experiences with Fitness and Exercise after an Eating Disorder 

I think exercising and health after anorexia is always a complex matter. It was for me, anyway. People struggling with eating disorders may attempt to regain control by doing some form of exercise that still focuses on their body and this could lead to excessive exercise. Bearing that in mind, I have decided to run the half-marathon at the Auckland City Marathon this October. This is a huge deal for me, having never run more than 3km, but I want to challenge myself to something I have never done before. 

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I owned and rode horses, including taking part in competitions. I never used to worry about additional exercise – when I was not riding, I was still outside caring for the horses. However, when I stopped riding in May 2018, I had no idea how I would keep myself “fit” and, honestly, I don’t think I was ready either. After a couple of months I joined Les Mills and started personal training twice a week with a wonderful trainer. I had always felt like a headless chicken in the gym by myself, but she taught me how to do the exercises properly and make the most of the equipment. She also understood my need not to be weighed and so instead we used fitness tests to track my progression. This definitely helped to kick start my journey of exploring exercise and balance.

Laura on the right (one of my friends who I did the race with) and myself with our race medals.

Laura on the right (one of my friends who I did the race with) and myself with our race medals.

One of the main motivators back then was to get physically strong in preparation for Uganda, where I soon headed off for a few weeks. I went there to help with building a school and wanted to be able to physically work all day in the heat and not feel as though I wasn’t coping. This was beneficial as, although the building was still challenging (anything would be if you were digging for seven hours a day), I enjoyed the experience and it showed me what my body was capable of. 

Fast forward to this year and, after chatting to my dad about wanting to further explore what I could do if I challenged myself, we both entered the Auckland half-marathon. For someone who doesn’t run long distance and gets puffed walking up the short hill from home to university, this is quite a big deal. I began running around April, starting with very low mileage on the treadmill and working it up. 

I entered the 10.5km race at the Women’s Half Marathon, which took place at Mission Bay in June. This was just days after I finished my university exams and, admittedly, I hadn’t trained as much as I should have. 2km into the run I questioned why I ever thought doing such thing was a good idea. But I did it! I completed the 10.5km in an hour and 20 minutes – a bit slower than I wanted but still! This experience taught me how much of a mind game that running is. 

It is now about 10 weeks to the Auckland race and I am attempting to step up my game. Dad and I have challenged ourselves to run it in two hours and 30 minutes, which is slightly faster than what we are doing at the moment. I am looking forward to seeing how I can push myself in the run up to the race. 

Myself (left) and Laura running through the finish line.

Myself (left) and Laura running through the finish line.

The other day (for the first time ever), I woke up looking forward to my run. What? Is it really me? But it felt good and I got into a routine now where it isn’t a challenge to make myself run anymore. I think it is important to mention that, as someone who has had an eating disorder, balance has never been my strong suit. I often struggle with feeling guilty on the days when I do not exercise. But it is okay to have a day off; sometimes your body needs it. I often think about how – if I were to exercise everyday – it would take the enjoyment away. This is something I will continue to work on. I know I am not the only one who finds it challenging to maintain the balance. In my case, it makes me question the motivation behind what I do, and I aim to ensure it is for my overall wellbeing and not for what the unkind voice in my head tells me. 

I look forward to seeing how the October race goes.

Charlotte L.