Can Eating Disorder Recovery and Half-Ironman Training Coexist? / by Michelle Cowan

Conclusion: Yes.

Lately, I have felt considerably spent and resentful of certain other people in my life. Upon deeper investigation, I realized that I was allowing my explorations into the interests of others to take up all my time, leaving nothing for the pursuit of my own desires.

I say repeatedly that I'm "into" or "all about" music, but it has been months since my last open mic. I claim to be a writer but do no writing, having not taken the initiative to write a new article for work or on my own in weeks. And I frequently deny parts of who I am, such as the enjoyment I get from eating good food and participating in physical activities.

I'm going back to the beginning. What are the things that have always nourished me, that I can see myself going to as a child for centering and fun? Music, writing, lying around thinking and enjoying, running outside and playing. I remember thoroughly enjoying food and baking quite well. I also read, learned, and created things with my hands.

Today, I can still embrace all of these things and incorporate them into my job, my relationships, and my personal life. I do not need to be ashamed of any of the parts of myself, including the "cheesy" spiritual and recovery parts.

So, I recently made the decision to start actively pursuing more of the things I always say I'm "into." I may find I'm not so into those things anymore, or I may discover a new level of fulfillment. In any case, soon after I made that decision, I received a last minute request to perform my music for friends and strangers this weekend. A freelance writing opportunity came up. Plus, I signed up to do the Lone Star Half-Ironman with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program. Choosing to accept these challenges for myself takes a great amount of faith.

Although I raised $2400 and completed an Olympic-length triathlon with the Team in Training in 2003, I have since shied away from competitive athletic events because I associate them with my eating disorder. However, about a year and half ago, I reconnected with my physically active self and started to embrace my natural abilities and the nourishment moving my body gives to my soul. As long as I keep it fun and don't tell myself I "have" to do this or that exercise, I stay on a healthy plane. That remains the plan during half-Ironman training.

After weeks with the idea of re-joining Team in Training repeatedly nagging me, I finally bit the bullet and signed up on Thursday. It felt so right. The camaraderie, the amazing cause, the challenge of raising that much money. It all comes at a wonderful, celebratory time in my life. I want others to recover from their illnesses just as I have been able to recover from mine. During training, I will continue to explore new foods and new ways to utilize my body. I intend to get in even better touch with myself than I already am while also getting out of myself to help others.

Additionally, I thrive on team activities. It's what I grew up with. During my teen years especially, my life was highly organized. Meeting friends in structured group settings works for me, and I choose to embrace that now instead of running away from it as a deficiency. I no longer "need" to join organizations or teams to have a social life, but it feels good to do so. I no longer "need" to exercise heavily, but I can challenge myself in activities I already know I enjoy.

I plan to take a look back at the last Team in Training season I participated in for my next blog. For now, though, I'm looking ahead and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for where my life is today, the people in it, and the things I am miraculously able to do.