A small group of students in the Television, Film and Media department at the University of York are hoping to make a film which documents the journey of Michelle, a young woman who used running to help in her recovery from Anorexia Nervosa.
Since (excessive) exercise can be a part of a person’s eating disorder, often as a way to control their weight, there is a lot of scepticism around using exercise as part of recovery, especially in anorexia. This is understandable and, for some people, exercise may be a trigger or even a warning sign that things are beginning to slip.
However, that is not the case for everyone, including myself, who has always had a keen interest in sport. At school, I loved playing for various sports teams and outside of school, I loved playing and watching squash with my dad. When Anorexia came into my life, it took away the enjoyment of sport and turned it into an obsession and a mechanism to gain control. Stopping exercise during my inpatient stay did help me in the long run, as it allowed me to relearn how to use sport in a positive way. After my discharge, I slowly introduced squash back into my life and I began to enjoy it again. I also used it as a way to cope with the anorexic thoughts inside my mind. I imagined that all of my unwanted thoughts were in the squash ball and, when I hit the ball, I was hittting the thoughts away. Just like the other aspects of my eating disorder, being able to exercise without acting on the obsessive thoughts didn’t just happen overnight and there were blips, but with support from people around me, I was able to overcome the hurdles I faced. I would definitely say that sport, and squash in particular, helped me to get out of the cycle of an eating disorder, rather than keeping me stuck.
I understand that it must be hard for those for whom exercise does keep them stuck in the cycle of their eating disorder. In a world where sport seems to be everywhere, it is certainly very challenging. But maybe one day, you will be able to introduce exercise into your life again. For now, the most important thing is to look after yourself. If that means taking a break from exercise, then so be it. The story in this film is one of many stories of eating disorder recovery, some which include sport and others which don’t. We are all our own individual. Michelle found running and if it helps her to stay well, surely we should accept that.
I look forward to watching this short film, to see recovery from anorexia through someone else’s eyes. Having met some of the team members making this film, I am confident that the film will be done in a very sensitive manner, with an awareness of the difficulties faced by those in recovery.
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