By NANCY KING
It’s been said that admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery. Well I’m here to admit that I had become a fitness addict. My drug of choice was either running, or working out. I crave sweat, pain and the 24-hour high it gives you until you do it again the next day. Rather than cute kitten heels and strappy little dresses, my closet has become a repository for running shoes, compression pants, racer back shirts and sports bras. I find myself in stores not looking at fashion trends for the upcoming season but at what’s trending in active wear. I never thought this was much of a problem but more of a lifestyle choice; that is until two people close to me started on their own obsessive fitness vision quest. Looking at them both, constantly monitoring their steps and how much hydration they were taking actually prompted me to explore what drives us over the edge to what is no more than a socially acceptable form of addiction and escape.
In January of 2013 I found myself at 5’2” nearly weighing in at 170lbs. Personal pain had caused me to have developed a relationship with Ritz Crackers. I just couldn’t get enough of them. I ate them with cheese, I ate them with peanut butter and I ate the plain; sleeve after sleeve of them. Those crackers had replaced a family member who was in turn replacing me with a new snack of their own.That buttery but salty taste reeled me in time after time. In danger of crossing into the plus size corner of a clothing store, I began to work out but I didn’t see the scale budge. It wasn’t until I was told that I was being traded in for that new snack did the scale begin to inch downward. However, it was dropping in the unhealthiest way. I had lost my appetite, and my love affair with Ritz Crackers had been replaced with projectile vomiting.
Twenty-five years earlier I had been an avid runner and thought maybe a little bit of running on the treadmill will not only get me in shape but would clear the chaos in my head by replacing it with endorphins. Buying some Mizono running shoes, a sports bra and a pair of running pants, I embarked on my running journey. I lasted that first run, a whopping 4 minutes. There were no endorphins on board after that first endeavor. There were only the heaving breaths of a chunky person with the dream of getting back into the sport. Again, it was one more disappointment in what was turning out to be a series of monumental disappointments. Every day I added two more minutes to my running plan and continued to privately work out when I wasn’t running. If I couldn’t control the level of chaos going on in my day to day life I could control my workout ( or so I thought). It only took about two weeks for it to begin controlling me.
Three months into my obsession I had lost 30 lbs. and folks were beginning to whisper about my change in appearance. Baggy clothes are always the first to give up your secret. Four months into this upheaval, I was losing more weight, running upwards of 2-hours at a time and working out like a mad woman. By this time, the dumping that I was told to expect had arrived. Running and working out were the only things that kept the anxiety and stress vomiting from occurring on a daily basis. After a long run, those endorphins were doing their job; I was able to make it from one period of time until the next. I was so high from working out that every week I increased my running or workout schedules. I was so addicted that I was even dreaming about working out when I slept. That’s when I began to enter races.
Selling my old jewelry (because when I got dumped so did most of my income), I entered races. Marathons, half-marathons, Spartan Races and mud-runs, I did them all. Barely taking a body resting breath, I ended up with shin splints and compartment syndrome in my calves. During that brief down time of recovery, it was time to re-evaluate my running and work out obsession. I was registered for a myriad of races through December but my once healthy obsession was now wreaking havoc on my body. I was now down 50lbs and folks were wondering if I had a serious life threatening disorder. Yet, I still kept working out and running. By the time 2013 was nearly over, I found myself running a race in blizzard conditions. You’ve got to really consider if one addiction really isn’t any different than another. That was the day I made the decision not to train to race anymore or work out for several hours a day seven days a week.
Like any other addiction, I had crossed the line from healthy to obsessive. I reveled in the fact that I was now 109 lbs. and had gone from a size 11 to a size 3. Getting those “steps” in had become the sum and substance of my life. I had exited one toxic relationship and had entered into the obsessive body dysmorphic one and so I stopped. I went from running about 50 miles a week to less than 10. I gave up body sculpting and once again took to my couch.
I now run when I feel like just for the pure joy I get from it and I work out at times with my friends who have started their journey to fitness. Sadly however, I’m watching them morph into the obsession I had just a year ago. Armed with their fit-bit devices and gallons of water and, their quest to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, I asked them what their motivation was for their new-found, move-more, eat less lifestyle. Like me a year and a half ago, it was all about wanting to change how people perceived them. Somehow two smart women are more worried about getting the coveted thigh gap that we somehow think will magically transform one’s life. Ladies, do it for you. Do it for the pure joy of a sport or health. Doing it for others will never get you the results you were looking for in the first place and won’t replace what you think is missing. You’ve got all you need, you’ve got you.
Nancy King is a freelance reporter residing in Westchester County.