by Leslie Ann Ellingburg RYT

I had two big breakups this year–I left my husband and I broke up with all my fitness trackers. Both were relationships that started out with the best of intentions, lots of fun, love, and new ways to see my life. However, one became controlling, demanding, constricting, dulled my shine, consumed my thoughts and actions all day-every day-365, and greatly impacted/plagued my marital & pre-marital relationship. 

Now, I know that one of those is bigger than the other but both are huge in my world. Why? I have struggled and battled with an eating disorder for roughly twenty-five years. Nearly double the amount of time I was with my husband.While leaving my husband turned my life upside down, topsy turvy, and I felt like my world had shattered (even though it was MY choice to leave due to my unhappiness), at the same time I left my fitness tracker relationship when it was, and always had been, my safety net. 

Fitness trackers and their associated apps are the biggest tool used in the fitness industry. If you have done anything with a personal trainer or spent any time in the gym, chances are you were told to log your workouts and food. Fitbits and Smart Watches are the must have accessory in your athleisure wardrobe–a band to match each set of leggings and fully charged battery to make sure that you can get that WHOLE workout logged, because if it isn’t logged or tracked then it didn’t happen. This mentality fuels those of us with EDs. Even though I have been in recovery for some time, there were still moments I got sucked into the glorious world of scanning barcodes, counting macros, steps, and closing my rings. 

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Those of us with eating disorders, disordered eating or other addictions, no matter how far along in our recovery journey we are–we still rely or fall prey to the sneaky charms of our disorder/addiction. I knew the moment I left my husband that I’d be a prime target for relapse. My ED (eating disorder) would be stalking me like a panther and would pounce when I was having a binge and alcohol fueled melt down alone in my bed. Or when my anxiety would pop in just to say “no one will love you now that you’re divorced, they’ll only love you if you’re thin and pretty. You’re just used goods now.”  

Over the course of later 2019 and pre pandemic 2020, I had begun my journey of intuitive eating and was pretty consistent with it. It was hard to go from a structured diet to a more relaxed and attuned way of feeding myself. Listening to my body and fueling it in the way it was really needing to be was freeing albeit scary. Sometimes I was eating more. Sometimes I was eating less. After a few days I’d find myself tracking again. But then I’d stop it because I started liking how I felt when I wasn’t tracking my food. It was one less thing to worry about, and as someone with anxiety I worry about anything and everything. My body felt nourished and free even though I wasn’t feeling free in all the ways I longed to be. 

When I left my husband last year and began life on my own I felt my eating disorder creeping back into my life. Relapse was rearing its ugly head but I was determined to stay ahead of the curve. While I was still doing intuitive eating and listening to my body; I kept logging my food and wearing my smart watch. I justified my behavior because I was free eating, let myself go out to eat with friends, I didn’t track ALL my food, sometimes I skipped days because I was emotionally and mentally drowning and had no energy (dissolving of a ten year relationship will do that to you), and I kept telling myself it was ok if I didn’t close my rings–even though internally I was berating myself. 

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I felt comforted by these numbers, rings, and badges. It made me feel in control and powerful amidst a chaotic situation that I willingly put myself into. While my world was crumbling, I was trying to figure out who I was while reclaiming my body and time, my eating disorder brought me comfort. The thing about eating disorders and addictions is that they have a way to manipulate you into thinking you’re still on track and “doing a good job” and that if you get back into their good graces it’ll bring peace back to your life;  but when in reality you are just in quasi recovery–which isn’t a bad thing, it’s still recovery but it’s not quite as liberating as true recovery is.

It wasn’t till a really good friend of mine brought to my attention how reliant I became on my smart watch. It was a weekend we were together and I kept checking it–emails, texts, did I hit my 10k steps?, I didn’t close my exercise or move rings but I didn’t think about it because we’d had a blast together. They’d noticed that I would track a few bites of food when we were together. They didn’t like that I wasn’t fully present with them and that maybe if I unplug a bit I can work on my post separation/divorce intention of becoming more present. Which is precisely what our addiction does not want: us taking our attention away from them and focusing on others, or finding other enjoyable activities. 

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So I slowly started taking a step back from my devices. I only wore my watch when I was teaching class. I went from tracking most days of the week to only a few. I went from logging each meal to just two then just one and now NONE! With each day I didn’t log or each day I chose not to wear my watch I felt empowered. It reiterated my intention of reclaiming my body and becoming a strong, independent female. I haven’t logged a meal or tracked a workout in over two months. And to be honest, I didn’t think I could feel this good and free. So here’s to 2021 and to the continuation of building healthy relationships with food, exercise, myself, and others.