Discovering Joyful Movement in Eating Disorder Recovery

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In high school, I was plagued by varsity sports. I ran for hours everyday, whether I wanted to or not. If we did a skill wrong or lost a game, we ran as punishment. We had to get under a certain mile time. Everything in my life revolved around running. Later on in my recovery I realized that varsity sports was not my form of joyful movement. Through working with a therapist and a dietitian, I eventually realized that I didn’t actually enjoy running. This was a difficult conclusion at the time for me to make.

“However, in being truly honest with myself-I realized that I ran when I didn’t want to, it came from a place of wanting to alter my body, and also I ran to punish my body.”

Today, years after varsity sports, I asked my family if they wanted to play tennis during the long weekend. We went to the local park and played for fun. We did not keep score, however, we did count the number of times I was laughing uncontrollably because I would serve the ball into another court. During this tennis game, I realized that I was doing joyful movement. This was it. Moving simply for the fun of moving and being around my family. It had nothing to do with altering my body and that was such an amazing feeling. I felt at peace with my body. I was playing tennis just to play tennis, have fun, and enjoy my life. 

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I often think about joyful movement in the sense of how small children play. Children run outside and play soccer when they want to and when it feels good to them. I am working on honoring my inner child and I believe that I achieved that goal today. 

Below I have listed some of my favorite ways to move:

●  Swinging: I love swinging at a park with my sister or alone with my headphones in. I enjoy feeling my body power the swing into the air. I feel the wind against my arms and I can feel on top of the world and grounded at the same time.

●  Hiking: A common activity that I do with my friends is hiking. We usually go to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. There are plenty of scenic overlooks to take a nice break and take pictures with friends. Sugarloaf is also dog-friendly, so if my dog is up for the hour car ride I will take her along!

●  Trampoline Parks: My sister and I love going to Skyzone in Gaithersburg, Maryland when I am home from college. We love jumping to see who can jump the highest or who can do the coolest flips and tricks. Skyzone also has basketball hoops and a foam ball pit (which is my favorite part).

**Please note that if your treatment team has asked for you to not be doing any form of movement right now-it’s so important to honor that for your health and well-being.

It’s important to be mindful that part of my recovery involved complete rest from exercise-and that this was a crucial aspect of my healing process. Sometimes taking a period of rest, is actually be the healthiest thing for you.

“One of the privileges of being at a later stage of recovery is exploring forms of joyful movement and reconnecting with my body, in a way that comes from a place of self-care and joy-rather than punishment.”

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Journaling Prompts:

1.  How would you describe your relationship to movement right now?

2. What activities did you enjoy as a child and what did you enjoy about them?

3.  In an ideal world when you’re recovered from your eating disorder, what would you want your relationship with movement to look like?


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MEGAN SAMUELS

Megan Samuels is a 21-year-old female (she/her/hers pronouns) at the University of Maryland studying Psychology with hopes of becoming a therapist. She is passionate about sexual assault survivors' rights, eating disorder recovery, and social justice. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, art, and reading.