To the athletes with a restrictive eating past who are now bingeing: I know this hurts. It hurts like hell. You probably feel broken physically and mentally. You want someone to understand. You want it to stop.
You just want to be back to where you were before.
I know, because I’ve been there, too.
Avoiding Old Behaviors
In the midst of my eating disorder, I thought that the key to getting “back in shape” would mean restricting food again. It took almost a year to realize that restriction was what led me to the bingeing in the first place.
I felt like I was losing time. I know you may feel that way, too. I know the few years you have to compete in high school or college seems short, and you want to get things accomplished in a short time span. But you will only slow yourself down by trying to return to the person you once were.
My hunch is that that person didn’t have a healthy relationship with food.
It’s tough when you feel like you’re not at the top of your game physically. But new lessons in competition and in life–lessons of courage and strength–will likely reveal themselves. You will become a stronger, more resilient athlete and person through this.
You may make those around you stronger when you exemplify it.
What Do You Do When Life Gets Tough
This is the season to focus on personal growth and to strive for a healthy relationship with food.
It is going to be difficult—I won’t deny that. But it will get better. Use this situation to make yourself the strongest version of yourself. Runners who win races with ease are fascinating to watch, but I get goosebumps when I see athletes who work through adversity and step to the line to fight against the battle in their minds.
How are you going to show up when your performances aren’t where you want them to be?
What if you based your success on effort, rather than on time or place?
How are you going to impact those around you?
Sometimes our best performances have nothing to do with place, time, or score.
Fierce Without Force
Bingeing and eating disorder recovery can be a dark, confusing situation. But it’s not about harnessing more “discipline” around food. As much as you think it’s something you “should just control again,” your body has had enough and needs your love and care.
Your body is fighting for you, even if it feels like it’s against you right now. Trust that your body knows what it’s doing more than any diet or rules you try to force onto yourself. Your body has carried you through many races, games or tough practices.
Acceptance of where you are doesn’t mean throwing in the towel. Acceptance means sitting with the body you are in now and working with what you have even if it may be uncomfortable. No thought for the future. No hate for the past. You are focusing on the now.
Sometimes it just helps to have a team around you who “gets” it. Consider working with a dietitian and/or eating disorder therapist or counselor to support you and guide you. I know that helped me through the process.
You are not broken beyond repair. You are not lacking discipline. You are not “lazy” or wrong.
It’s time to work with your body and see what it will give back.
Your best you is waiting for it.