For the past 4.5 years the National Eating Disorder Awareness week has meant the world to me. It’s one week out of the year where there seems to be at least a few more people talking about what myself and thousands of others struggle with day in and day out. There is a little more hope in the air and a lot more openness from ED survivors.
I’ve posted on facebook, instagram, helped organize events on the UConn campus and talked my friends ears off, but I’ve never gotten up in front of a crowd, taken a deep breath and shared my story and my message of the necessity for body positivity no matter your shape or weight.
This year I did.
Thanks to the Lane 9 Project (and my steering wheel for listening to me rehearse all week) I took my first step out from behind the screen and with more than a few butterflies in my stomach spoke of the power of running in realizing the beauty, strength and incredible abilities of your body even while in eating disorder recovery.
The full recording of the live performance, my original at home recording and the transcript are below….if you like it, share it! Let’s get the word out there and help everyone realize that their body is amazing and impressive despite the number on the scale or reflection in the mirror.
Recording of live performance, it’s a bit quiet so crank up that volume!
Recording of what I had practiced, audio is a little better.
Hey, I’m Julia, thanks so much to everyone for coming out today. As you may or may not know I love to run and tell stories…so today I’m going to combine them, and tell a story about the power of running.
It was when I saw my house, just around the corner, only a block or two away that I realized it. My legs were aching, but they were still moving. My arms had gone numb over an hour ago, but they were still pumping. The sweat was rolling down my forehead, into my eyes, collecting in clumps of salt on my cheeks and chin and yet, somehow, as my house came into view I managed a smile and a strange little noise escaped my lips, that probably sounded like a whimper to my passing neighbor, but in my mind was a heroic cry of victory.
“ehh” I think that’s what It sounded like.
But “ehh” was about all I could manage after 19 miles in 90 degree heat and what felt like 100% humidity through the suburbs of Boston.
I sank down on the deck beside our pool and kissed my knees. Both of them. Multiple times. They were salty kisses, but some of the most deserving I’ve ever given. “Thank you, I love you, you’re incredible” I told them with my remaining energy.
I think it took me over 30 minutes to move from that spot, but I’ll never forget the feeling that overwhelmed me during that time. It was something that had been missing from my life for a very long time.
Pride, specifically pride in my body.
I sat there, head resting on my amazing knees, basking in a sense of accomplishment and pride for my what my body was capable of. My legs had carried all 170lbs of me up hills, around ponds and down street after street of brutally hot pavement for 3 hours! My heart had kept pumping, my lungs kept working, my eyes kept looking. All of my body working together to do this weird seemingly useless task (running to nowhere for no particular purpose other than to run). Useless or not, it impressed me.
And I wasn’t impressed because of how my body looked doing it. My legs were red and splotchy and far thicker than any model you’ll ever see. My butt, I’m sorry, is simply never going to fit into a single digit pant size. My stomach puffs out a bit when I run. My neck, don’t get me started on the neck…but in that moment, despite my hatred for the weird wrinkles and lines that crease it, I probably would have told you my neck was incredible and impressive for supporting my head for all these years. Big job sometimes.
No, but seriously, our bodies are downright astounding. Every single one of them. But for many of us – especially women – that is the last thought on our minds when we look into the mirror.
We think about the arms that look flabbier than those on Magazine covers, we think about the stomachs of celebrities who pose in bathing suits and dread to compare it to our own, less toned, softer, maybe rounder versions. We think about what we are “supposed to be” and how to get there as quickly as possible, even if it is cruel to our bodies.
For me, I think about my neck, I can’t tell you why but those wrinkles really get to me, and of course, my legs. Why do they have to be so wide? Chafing sucks! Why can’t the ankle poke out and confirm without a shadow of a doubt that I certainly do not have cankles?
These kinds of thoughts, mixed in with a host of other stressors, led me to spend the last 6 years battling with bulimia. The last 4.5 of those years have been a roller coaster of recovery. I’ve been told countless strategies to use when the urges to restrict and purge and take out all my frustration of my imperfection on my body overwhelm me. But for me, none of them work quite as well as a good, long run.
A run is a concrete example of your strength, of your body’s incredible ability no matter what you think is wrong with it. Despite the number on the scale, you just did the impossible, so forget the scale!
When I was restricting and purging and binging and exercising endlessly to try to change the unchangeable – let’s face it I’m just going to have a big butt – a run didn’t show me strength or make me proud. It broke my bones (13 of them to be exact) and my heart as I became slower and slower, worse in every meet, more fatigued each race. Each time I relapse, I feel the threat of that pain again.
But when I eat, when I fuel this body of mine, it will carry me for hours, with minimal complaint and prove to not only myself, but the world, that no matter what shape I am, my body is incredible and deserving of many, many kisses.
But it isn’t always easy, and a run can’t solve everything. I started running marathons over three years ago, and despite my efforts, the support and help I’ve had, many relapses have happened during that time. But today marks 135 days since the last one on October 20. That’s the longest streak for me in over two years. Today I ran 10 miles and smiled at the end, feeling strong, proud and in awe of my body, no matter what shape it is.
So, go on that run, maybe sign up for a race, take a chance. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and realize as I did that no matter the reflection or the number on the scale, your body is amazing and capable of incredible things.