Our Marathon Maniac opens up about her battle with eating disorders.

danielle eating

Often eating disorders are swept under the rug, but if there is any forum that is ripe for the conversation, it’s a magazine for female runners. Personally, I have battled anorexia and bulimia for 13 years, and I’d like to take this space to talk about it.

The fact is that eating disorders of all kinds disproportionately affect women, and athletes are at an even higher risk due to the pressures to drop weight in order to increase performance. We think, If we lose a little bit more, that personal best might be just around the corner. I’ve certainly struggled with that thought process—but running has given me much more than it has taken.

When you’ve been grappling with an eating disorder for more than a decade, it might look like a losing fight. But when I think back to where I was even two years ago, I remember how far I’ve come and the very important role that running has played in my recovery.

For years, like so many women, I focused all of my attention on how my body looked. As my eating disorder took hold, becoming thinner was the only thing that mattered, regardless of the consequences. I started running with the intent of burning more calories to feed my disease. But what happened along the way was surprising. I found myself focusing less on my body’s appearance and more on its ability.

With my newfound passion for running came many other things: insatiable hunger, for one, which made the idea of not eating impossible. Running also carried with it a tremendous sense of accomplishment. As I improved from week to week, my self-esteem grew too.

I fought to nurture my body with the fuel it needed to succeed. While I’d like to say that was an easy choice, it was—and still is—not. You’ll probably never hear me shouting, “I have completely recovered from my eating disorders!” For me, this is an ongoing process.

What you will find me doing is continuing to pursue my inner strength through running, therapy and any other means necessary. Our sport is a tremendous metaphor for life—and I see so many parallels with my eating disorder recovery. Sometimes, the miles fly by and I feel like I could run forever, while at times, I have to force myself to dig deep and push through incredible pain. Like those hard-fought miles, recovery is worth the effort. Here’s to the finish line!

What I Love About My Body

1. My freckled skin. I’ll never be tan, but at least I can daydream about the shapes in the freckles if I’m really bored.
2. My legs, which never quit running before my mind does.
3. My naturally blond, stick-straight hair, which is thankfully easy to style.
4. The side of my lip that has the bump in it from when I split my lip open at age 11.
5. My liver, which almost never curses me with hangovers, no matter how much wine I drink.

Danielle Cemprola lives in South Carolina with her husband and Rottweiler. When she’s not running, Danielle blogs at trexrunner.com.