The Anorexic Mind
by Ann Faison
A recent conversation with a friend who is also a personal trainer got me thinking about this idea. We were discussing exercise and the problem of being driven to perfection versus actually listening to one’s body and enjoying the workout. “Many people have this problem,” he offered from his years of experience working with over achieving athletes and he likened it to anorexia. As soon as he used that word my mind started to race like it was trying for a gold medal. “That’s it!” I thought. I finally understood why I was having trouble reigning in my workout schedule. I was being anorexic about it.
Here’s the problem: It’s hard to let go of perfection once you are addicted to it. For example, the problem with writing this post is that I know the anorexic mind intimately and I feel it’s my duty to get this story right. The expectation of perfection has kicked in which is making it damn hard to finish because I keep deciding it’s just not good enough. This is my fourth go at it and I finally decided, you know what? Fuck it! I don’t care how it turns out. I am fighting that dictatorial voice in my head all the way to the publish button.
Anorexia the disease is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about the way of thinking that is a prerequisite for, or the result of, being an anorexic. (Does anyone know? Have there been studies? Fuck it. I don’t care.) I suspect it is a precursor because I think lots of people have this affliction that will never make it all the way to skin and bones. I am talking about an addiction to perfection that can never be attained. To the full-fledged anorexic, the body is never thin enough, the caloric intake is never low enough and the exercise regimen is never long enough.
I stopped starving myself by the time I made it to college and ever since then I have thought of that ruthless dictator voice as pretty much dead. That crazy imposter that sucked any reasonable self-image I had out of me until the hipbones were the only thing keeping my pants up, that bitch was long gone. I was sure of it until the aforementioned conversation with the friend / personal trainer and I saw myself as a girl, sitting at the piano for hours repeating the same piece until I managed to get through it flawlessly. I saw myself just yesterday cleaning the house and fighting the impulse to get the whole place spotless. I saw myself last week on the treadmill, running five miles after a full day of skiing just because it was in my training plan and ending up so exhausted I couldn’t make it through dinner. There it was: The anorexic mind, alive and well.
The reason I called this friend in the first place was because I was concerned that I was pushing myself a little too hard and I needed someone to tell me it was okay to back off my regimen a bit. So right there is proof that I am not fully in the clutches of it, otherwise I would not have wanted someone to tell me I could slow down. I would have just kept on pushing.
It may be alive and well, but I guess I’m managing that old anorexic mind pretty okay. I didn’t call my friend in desperation because I was fretting over my running schedule. I called him because I could feel that tendency to push myself too hard cropping up and I was actually looking for a way to have more fun. And after we hung up, I went out and had the best run I’ve had in weeks. I enjoyed myself. I stopped to take pictures. I didn’t meet my pacing goal and I didn’t give a fuck.