• Emma Green

Returning to exercise after an eating disorder


As I’ve discussed before, I struggled with an eating disorder in my teens and early twenties. I’ve been fully recovered for a number of years now but until recently I’ve put off going back to exercise that I used to do excessively. One of these activities was swimming. I was 14 when I started struggling with my eating disorder so I wasn’t old enough to join a gym. I would ask my parents to take me to the local swimming pool, which often caused arguments because they knew I wasn’t eating properly. It’s a hard time to look back on because I feel a lot of guilt for what I put them through and remember the sense of hopelessness I felt at the time. Over the past few weeks, I was getting a hankering to go swimming again. I’m not sure where it came from but I found myself browsing swimsuits online and looking up where my local swimming pools were. I purchased a swimsuit, goggles and headed to a pool near where I live. I told myself that I could swim for however long I wanted. Once I got in, I felt a sense of being at home, even though it was a pool I’d never visited before. I hadn’t swum for years but my body quickly got into a rhythm and I was swimming without thinking about it. I was worried I might get bored or feel overwhelmed with thoughts because I’m used to always having music, a podcast or an audiobook on in the background and I’m a chronic overthinker! To my surprise, I wasn’t bored or overwhelmed at all. I felt relaxed and content, even slipping into a flow state once I had been swimming for a while. When I felt physically done, I looked at the clock and realised I’d been in the pool for an hour. I had totally lost track of time and it was blissful. . There are activities that I haven’t returned to since being ill, the main one is running.

I don’t have a particular desire to run but I’m open to trying it in the future. If you’ve stopped certain activities after having an eating disorder and feel that retuning to them might be triggering, that’s totally okay. Your mental wellbeing is paramount.

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