I imagine exercise became for me what heroin is to a drug addict. I had to have it and going even a day without some sort of intense movement left me jittery, impatient, and distractedly pacing the floor obsessed with how to get it. Exercise addiction.
“So how much would you say you exercise in a week?” My dietician Gretchen asked me during our initial intake session on a sweltering hot day in August of 2016. I was wearing my favorite yellow long sleeve top in efforts to hide my boney arms.
“Oh well, it really depends on what else is going on, I answered casually picking at a nonexistent hangnail, “but I’m guessing about an hour a day five days a week.” Oh, and I also invented the iphone and I can bend steel with my mind.
Gretchen was no eating disorder rookie, she knew my game.
As with most of my story with anorexia, my exercise habit just slowly snowballed over time. When my body healed and my energy returned after the cancer treatment, I was inspired to get really healthy, not just skinny. Healthy. This was a new way of thinking for me. Up to that point diet and exercise was all about controlling my weight, but with that at a stable, happy place, I wanted to focus on my overall health. I researched superfoods that helped to boost immunity, especially those with anti-cancer fighting properties, and I loaded them, not only into my diet, but Marc’s and the boys’ as well. I made steamed broccoli every night, smoothies packed with blueberries in the morning, and if it could be made with a tomato, well, marinara, salsa, Bloody Mary anyone? But as history has shown, diet is only half of the equation with me, and I was ready to take my hill walking, self-taught weight training routine to a whole new level. To do that, I believed I needed to shake it up and branch out from the small gym I’d been using at the neighborhood recreation center and head to a big chain gym, although I was hesitant to give up the convenient location of the center that also housed the boys play school downstairs. While I was contemplating my choices, I decided to pop into one of the group fitness classes offered at the rec center, it was called Cardio Blast which made me snicker a little. Blast? Seriously? How hard could it be? It was, after all, a place where half the membership was over the age of fifty, (back when this now fifty year old thought that was down right geriatric). Holy crap, have you ever exercised so hard you thought you might vomit? Yeah, it was like that. I had underestimated the class and overestimated my fitness level but I LOVED it. Face burning, sweat dripping, heart pounding joy. The instructor pushed me much harder than I had ever pushed myself. I felt so alive, like I had received an electric charge that left my body humming. And as an added bonus, the rest of the day I was calmer, happier, and like a teenager discovering Minecraft, I was hooked. I started going regularly for the three days a week it was offered. An hour in that class s made me feel physically stronger and emotionally happier. If an hour a day made me feel that good then I could only imagine what more might be like.