Turning Things Around: Becoming an Ultra Runner and Recovery

My Story: A life with Bulimia and Over-Exercising to turning things around, becoming an ultra runner and Recovery

I am a 38-year-old mum of two and a passionate runner living in Derbyshire, where I am blessed to have many running routes on my doorstep. I am also in recovery from an eating disorder which has been part of all my adult life. I am proudly well into my recovery now and I volunteer for First Steps as a Befriender.

Living with an eating disorder is a daily relentless battle, there is an immense amount of time devoted to the eating disorder, it is mentally exhausting, and it does take over your life, however you can get better, and recovery is always possible.

I spent my teens with an unhealthy view towards my body which only became worse as I got older. It was many years later that I recognised these as disordered thoughts. When I turned 20, I spent many months trying to eat as little as possible, but restricting my food was just the beginning. Somewhere deep inside me I knew that I had to eat more. I felt tired all the time, I knew I needed my food. This is when I began a 16+ year relationship with bulimia.

Bulimia was always with me, all day and night. I called her B and for years she was my best friend – my evil best friend. B was there 24/7, telling me not to eat, telling me that I had eaten too much, telling me that I need to exercise more. When life became tough, I felt like my eating disorder was the only thing I could control, it was my safety net.

I became obsessed with exercise; I would become very agitated and anxious if I missed a session. There was a time that I would hit the gym, do lots of workout classes and go running too. Nobody knew that the main reason for running back then was to burn off the food I’d consumed. However, I now have a much different relationship with running. I don’t run to burn off my food or reward myself with food after. Instead, I enjoy the journey. I love the journey. I am so grateful for every step.

I have gone from being at war with my body, to being proud and appreciating what my body can do. Running now helps me deal with stress and difficulties. It’s my new best virtuous friend. I have learnt that the reason why I can now run big miles is because I’m fuelling and training sensibly. My body isn’t breaking down anymore. It’s not screaming out STOP. I love running more than I ever have. I love my food. My active lifestyle needs quite a fair bit of food! I love now knowing that recovery is possible.

My advice to anyone that is struggling with an eating disorder is to talk to someone you can trust. Be brave and open up. It will change your life, I promise you. My life has completely changed since I began to talk. My journey to recovery started by opening up instead of bottling things up inside.

What is Recovery?

Recovery to me is knowing that there will be some days that are harder than others, but I now have healthy coping skills that I can put into practice. I accessed First Steps in 2017 as a service user and I dreamed that one day I could be involved with the charity on the other side, helping others. I am so proud to be here now.

Recovery is my own voice being louder and stronger than my eating disorder voice, which is now so quiet that I can hardly hear it.

Recovery is not feeling guilty for every meal that I eat, to now enjoying food. I now consider food as fuel, it is giving me the energy and power to run, I am now fuelled up and ready for my next running adventure. 

Things that have helped me:

🎈 Seeking help and investing in me has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

🗣Talking and sharing is one of the greatest things I have ever done and I can’t stress enough to others to talk.

📲 Reaching out. A quick message to say I’m not feeling too good to someone I can trust  (This has stopped me purging many times)

❌ Reduced body checking. When I stopped doing this first thing in the morning and last thing at night, I began to feel better about myself.

👩🏻‍💻 Being careful what I look at on the internet, not comparing my body to others. Unfollowing pages with perfect bodies, blocking pro ED sites.

🧘🏻‍♀️Sensible exercise, not exercising to punish myself. Learning I’m fuelling to run not running to burn calories. Enjoying the journey 🏃🏻‍♀️

❤️ Being grateful for what my body can do when treated with kindness. Our bodies are amazing

☮️ Practise self care time and time again. Make the time.

Contributed by Laura, First Steps ED Volunteer and Befriender since 2017

Laura is a long-distance runner who is passionate about sharing her recovery journey and talking about mental health.