Nine weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. My physiotherapist and I thought that I would be running again in a few days but those few days turned into a few weeks, then 6-8 weeks and now….who really knows? In those 9 weeks, my sprain also presented a dislocated talus and later became a stress fracture with almost 3 weeks on crutches and no activity. I am hopeful that the end is near; it’s been hard – really hard.
Dealing with an injury is difficult for almost everyone. For me, it has brought a whole new set of problems. Running , cycling and yoga have let me escape from life’s stresses and, this year, teaching and parenting during the pandemic has been full of them. My world of sport has also helped me to face another stress – coping with an eating disorder. For the past 40 years, I have lived with anorexia.
I’m not sure when my anxiety around food began. I clearly remember my mom telling nine year old me that she would never have fat children. “Why not?” I asked, to which she replied, “It will just never happen.” The catalyst for my weight loss was about seven years later, months before I turned 17. I was lying outside in the yard and my dad commented “You’re looking a little heavy around the thighs, aren’t you?” I was 5’8″ and 120 pounds. Two months later, I left from Vancouver to go to university in Ontario, almost 20 pounds lighter. When I returned home at Christmas, my parents didn’t recognize me. I was 84 pounds. By the end of the month, I was in the hospital. I didn’t return to school that year. Instead, I spent the next 6 months struggling to gain back enough weight and maintain it so that I could go back to school. While I did, the battle was not over.
Three years later, the year before I graduated, I discovered aerobics classes and learned that I could eat more if I was working out. For the first time in years, my weight was stable – still low, but stable. I was finally in control and didn’t have to step on a scale every time I saw my parents. From that, I turned to working out in a gym, teaching aerobics and, eventually running. And while I still worried about what I ate and how I looked, the world of fitness let me live a somewhat more normal life.
Running, cycling, yoga, swimming: those are my sports now. They make me who I am today. Through the world of sport, I have made friendships, met my husband, and accepted food again. While most people run so that they can eat, I eat so that I can run, so that I can fuel my body to train and compete.
I can’t begin to describe the turmoil that I felt when my sprained ankle took sport away from me. Within weeks, I hated the way I looked and the way I felt. I cried myself to sleep. I didn’t want to eat. I wanted my life back. My family (and all 3 are aware of my issues with food) didn’t know what to say or do. I felt completely alone.
And I still do. This week, things are marginally better. I am walking again (and mostly without my ankle brace) and riding longer and with more intensity than I was two weeks ago. Progress is slow, but there is just enough of it to motivate me to want to eat.
While I will always have this disorder, I consider myself lucky. As dangerously low as my weight got, I managed to recover enough to finish university, get married, have two children and live a somewhat normal life. Even though I still find ways to avoid food and escape meals, I know what I need to do; I need to eat so that I can run.