National Eating Disorders Association
Blog

Dear Melody: Will I Ever Be Able to Run Again?

“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth. Her work has been featured in the books Yoga and Body Image and Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness, as well as in Yoga Journal, Yoga International and Origin Magazine.

How soon will I be able to run again? My heart rate is low. I have to be eating more but shouldn't be exercising. I am so afraid that if I stop running, I will immediately gain, gain, gain because my body has been in restriction mode for a while.

Hi there, brave writer. I appreciate you reaching out to me with this question. I hear in your inquiry that your running is incredibly important to you, and I imagine you can name several ways that you have benefited greatly from the sport. It is clear that you have a passion for it. 

I am also aware that this question is coming from a part of you that values the sport over your overall health and well-being. Please consider that your question may be led by a part of you that is imprisoned by your eating disorder, and that your perception of “gain, gain, gain”ing may actually be a necessary part of your recovery, not only physically, but mentally, as well. Weight gain may feel frightening to you now, but it is one of the necessary components to you finding freedom from your disorder. 

I know this is not what you wanted to hear. I get that you are likely extremely disappointed; however, if you start to run again with a heart rate as low as yours and with a mindset as distorted as yours, it is way too likely that you will actually lose your battle with your eating disorder. There is a lot of ambivalence in your question, which indicates to me that there is conflict inside of you about whether or not to run. 

I hear you say that you shouldn’t be exercising, but that you are fearful. I encourage you to not act from a place of fear, but from a place of self-care, and, ultimately, self-love. This would mean that you let your body and mind restore before making decisions about getting back to running. Will you gain weight? Yes. That’s my hope for you. Does that terrify you? Of course it does, because that is the nature of your eating disorder. That part of you thrives on being smaller and smaller until you disappear. Altogether. Your eating disorder is invested in killing you, which is why it is of upmost importance that it is not the part of you that makes decisions that are integral to your recovery, like the decision to run again. 

So, because I am on the side of your being able to live a whole and complete life, my answer is this: you’re asking the wrong question. Reframe the question to “When will I be able to live again?” and put all of the energy and commitment you’ve put into running into restoring your weight and reclaiming your health. Your recovery has so much more to offer you than your eating disorder does, even if it doesn’t seem possible right now. If you are not already in treatment, please seek out resources to help you find the tools, ask the right questions, and soldier on into the land of recovery. There is great hope beyond the place that you are living in today, and I look forward to hearing from you again when you’ve crossed the finish line into full recovery.