A letter to a person who knows nothing about eating disorders

On Easter Sunday, I was blindsided by a comment made to me by a person in my extended family who hasn’t seen me in several months. Apparently this person had heard from other family members about my recent running accomplishments? habits? and decided that the change in my appearance since we last met coupled with running obviously meant I had an eating disorder. 

“So you’ve been running a lot? Do you have an eating disorder? Because that’s what running a lot can turn into, you know.”

I think I was so amazed that someone would actually utter these words TO MY FACE, all I could muster was an incredulous, sarcastic “Yes. Yes, I do” and I walked away. Then I wrote this after stewing for two days.
Dear ____,

I wasn’t going to say anything at all to you, but then decided that for my peace of mind, I needed you to hear my response to the careless, ridiculous, thoughtless comment you made to me on Easter Sunday in front of my mother-in-law and the other people standing in her kitchen. 

Thank you for noticing how my physical appearance has changed. I have never felt better in my life because I have never been healthier in my life. I turned forty in January and quit drinking all alcohol this past September. I have been eating a plant based diet and running since 2013, and on March 26th I ran the Syracuse half marathon in 2:00:26, just shy of my goal of a sub-2:00 race. In training for this race and the Flower City Half Marathon on April 30th, I injured my right IT band and have not been able to continue my training plan, which has been extremely difficult for me. Currently I am doing physical therapy to regain the full use of my leg and am hoping to get back to running as soon as I can. 

Running has been my rock and my sanity in recent times, and I have made many important friendships because of it. For you to assume that “running a lot” is equal to an eating disorder based simply upon my appearance is the most ignorant assumption you could make about me. What was made clear is that you know absolutely NOTHING about eating disorders. Someone who has proper training and expertise in working with disordered eating and body image issues would never make such a heartless comment to someone, especially as a joke. That makes it worse if you were trying to be funny. 

Runners take their nutrition very seriously, and I can assure you that the gobs of peanut butter that I put into my oatmeal every morning are never measured, I enjoy every drop of olive oil I spray liberally on the bucket of popcorn that I eat every night, and I eat as much pasta, bread, fruit, tortilla chips, vegetables, chocolate, and nuts as I want. I don’t measure or count calories for anything. I don’t eat any processed junk food. I couldn’t tell you how much I weigh because I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. And I know what disordered eating looks like because I used to live that way, and when I changed my eating habits for a healthier lifestyle, I threw all that crap away because I didn’t need it. 

I hope that next time you feel the need to make assumptions about someone, you can keep your judgmental comments to yourself. I may have been struck by dumbfounded silence this time, but I can assure you that if you ever make a comment like that to one of my children, I would not be so quiet.