At the risk of disappointing family, friends and loved ones (including you, dear reader), I have to come clean about something. I have been a liar. I have deceived many. I have lived in shame. I have hated myself for being untruthful. I have physically injured myself and not been able to tell anyone. I have been exercising “illegally.”
Lest you misunderstand me, illegal exercise is not publically exercising in the nude, or running away after grand larceny, or running from the cops, or exercising on a stolen treadmill. Oh no. Illegal exercise is any exercise done outside of designated CFC classes (yoga, RIMBA, and strength training.) My preferred method is jumping jacks in the bathroom.
The funny thing about illegal exercise is it really doesn’t do much. My measly 1200 jumping jacks morning and night has done nothing to change my weight. It didn’t slow my weight gain, and it’s not making me lose weight now. That’s not why I was doing it. I didn’t realize how compulsive my exercising was before I got here. It literally tugs at me. If I don’t do it I feel sad and depressed and anxious throughout the day. It YELLS at me, “you are lazy, fat, unmotivated, slothful, and pathetic. This is how people become obese. Ugly. Lazy. Couch potato.” It keeps me up at night. This compulsion is far more powerful than my compulsion to restrict, which is really saying something. I use exercise to cope. To numb. After I got divorced I continued to exercise daily. The day I found out Lindsey (my best friend) passed away, I immediately went to the gym for hours. I stayed until it closed, and even then I didn’t want to go home. I have not gone this long without “real” exercise since 2005, when I got in my car accident. Everyday I want to cry. Every day my muscles twitch. Every day Frank screams at me for not exercising, and I usually give in.
BUT NOT ANYMORE.
I was honest with my therapist and dietician about my struggle. Then I told my roommates and other girls on the unit. I asked to be put on “line of sight” when I shower or use the bathroom in my bedroom. I need help, and I’m getting it. I’m not going to pretend it feels good because it doesn’t. But you know what else didn’t feel good? Dreading every morning and evening because I had to do my exercise, and I had to figure out how to do it in secret. Dreading it because my feet and knees hurt. My rib hurt. My chest hurt. My shoulders hurt. None of those things stopped me. I walked around looking like an old arthritic grandmother for weeks because I was hurting so badly, but I just kept going.
Exercise is as much a part of my eating disorder as restricting or purging--maybe even more so. Unlike restricting or purging, I exercised every day. At least 4 hours; 2 hours on my “rest day.” And exercise has been the most difficult thing to give up. Since being honest, I’m not approved for exercise classes for two weeks. During this time I’m going to give myself a chance to really TRY not exercising, and just see what happens. After all, I know how to lose weight. I know how to over-exercise. That’s not difficult for me. But what if I try NO exercise and I’m still ok? My entire belief about exercise would change radically. Even though it’s hard, it’s worth it to me, because if I can live a life free of compulsive exercise, I’ll have so much more time in the day to do things I actually want to do! Like talk to people! Read a book (not just the back cover or first chapter--the whole stinking book), learn to breakdance, do stand up comedy, write an essay for NPR. . .
I’m going to be in a really cool person without Frank. That’s pretty rad.