From ED to PT?

July 2020

By Leah

So, I’ve signed up to do my Level 3 Personal Training qualification.

WHAT.

How on EARTH did I get here? (Apart from MANY hospital based treacle tarts and MANY pleas to the ‘sane’ members of society…that I was in fact…also sane)

Well. This will be a summary. That can’t be called a summary. Because, it likely won’t be short.

I didn’t think I’d ever be in recovery from my eating disorder. At first, I didn’t think I’d survive it at all, but after my final admission I was able to regain aspects of my physical health, allowing me the first real opportunity to work on my mind, once discharged. Currently, eating disorder units tend to base their admissions/discharges on weight, meaning people often leave the hospital with their mind and body in two very different places.

I really saw it as my last chance. If I didn’t die from it, I genuinely believed I would spend my life in and out of hospital, and the longer I lived with it, the more ingrained it became. It was my identity, and I wholeheartedly lived up to being ‘the anorexic’. It gave me purpose in my otherwise empty life.


While regaining physical health is essential to recovery, it’s one piece of an intricate puzzle and with my ‘new larger’ body I’d never felt so disconnected from it. I had no idea what it needed. No idea what it liked. No idea of the person within it. I just knew I was mostly a miserable sarcastic b****. That part of me…remains!

My recovery care plan had been full of prescriptions, charts and graphs. I had been ‘mapped’ to an agreed weight (which was still not where my body needed or wanted to be), and now I’d reached it and been discharged, I felt like the connection between my body and mind had never been more disjointed.

I didn’t even hate my body before, but I really felt like I did now.

I moved back to Bristol in September 2017. It was my last chance at a ‘new life’.

Since I was 18, this was all I’d done. Move, start again, re-learn, get sick, be admitted, be discharged, move, start again… I was a revolving door patient…maybe it was the £600 a night room I was lucky enough to have been given or maybe recovery was just something I’d never see.

I started trying to re-integrate things back into my life that I hadn’t attempted before. Exercise was high on my list. Millennials exercise and drink coffee right!? I wanted in!

Yet, exercise was the most dangerous re-integration of them all (and combined with coffee…it turned into the most expensive!!)  

The start of a sweat sister friendship!

All exercise had ever been to me was punishment. It was punishing at school when I was forced to go swimming on my first period when I didn’t have a clue how to ‘work’ a tampon. Punishing when I was taught how each piece of gym equipment could help me burn the exact amount of calories to sweat off those ‘break-time sausage sandwiches’. Punishing when I was plagued with gym adverts at the start of University reminding me that a membership would help me fight off the inevitable ‘Freshers Flump’. Punishing in the grips of my eating disorder when it complimented starvation in the quest for thinness.

Therefore, when a friend suggested I attended a Discoaerobics class with her, I was understandably reluctant, and thought to myself ‘OH HERE WE GO AGAIN!’

What was the point? My mind had never been able to experience exercise in any sort of positive way, and in my opinion, for my own safety, I was better off without it altogether. Yet, I hadn’t initially told any of my ‘new’ friends about my past, so in an attempt to fit in I went along.

I’ll never forget that first class. I’ll never forget the alien feeling of moving my body because it felt good, rather than moving it in an attempt to manipulate my weight. In fact, I didn’t even think about my weight. For that whole 45 minutes, it didn’t matter.

For once, I didn’t feel small and insignificant. For once, I didn’t want to feel small.

My first Discoaerobics class with Carly – Hamilton House, Bristol
I was very early in recovery at this time.

The only thing that mattered was that my body was functional enough to allow me to move safely. It felt…freeing. When most people my age were stumbling home from their Friday night at 4am with a doner (shout out to Harriett who doesn’t “do doner”), I was on a high from dancing around a room for 45 minutes and being home and in bed by 8pm. I didn’t care. I felt blissfully happy!

Now that I was tentatively nourishing my body, I was able to continue attending Discoaerobics and feel the benefits that joyful movement brought. Before, sweat had always been a sign of calories leaving my body. Now it felt…different, this ‘new’ sweat felt…exhilarating…exciting…addictive…

This addiction made me want more, and Carly’s other classes provided me with this option. Yet, I knew this was dangerous, I knew I was dipping my toe into triggering territory. Having come so far, and risked so much, I wasn’t prepared to jeopardize my shaky recovery.

So I made the decision to open up about my anorexia. If exercise was something I wanted in my life, I had to be honest with the person I was going to engage in it with. I had to lay my cards on the chocolate shop table and openly admit I had never know how to safety and intuitively move my body.

“What do you like doing?” She had asked me.

I honestly had no idea.


I’d never before considered what I might like, as all my movement had been dictated to me through others, through the lens of diet culture. It had always been a means to an end.

Carly never judged me. She never claimed to understand, but more than she’ll ever know…she really did. She never made me feel like I couldn’t do what everyone else in the class could do, just because she knew I had a mind that had wanted to punish, and a body that had long been punished.

Her classes brought me friends, community, an Oat Flat White addiction, (I’M A MILLENIAL!) laughter, understanding…connection…to each other and our mutual experience, but also a connection between my own body and mind. The exact link I’d needed all along; the one which finally enabled me to understand, respect and listen to my body for the very first time.

It wasn’t about what we did; it was about how we felt…what we needed. It wasn’t about punishing our bodies; it was about listening to them.

Carly’s Sweat, Stretch and Glow class – Sweaty Betty studio, Bristol

It didn’t matter where we’d come from…what we did outside of those classes. We could have been anyone, from anywhere. In those moments, we were just happy little humans, revelling in our own low brow humour, lack of counting abilities, and collective endorphins.

This post was meant to be about why I want to be a PT. I’m laughing…because I’m not even sure (in all these words!) if I’ve actually fulfilled that aim. I suppose I’ll sum it up, probably leave you confused and exhausted (if you’ve even survived this far) and equipped with the reminder to never again read one of my blog posts. But hey, I wrote this for me too.

In my 7-year battle with anorexia, I had worked to heal my body; I had worked to heal my mind. But I had never created a connection between the two. Carly’s belief in me, combined with the ethos behind her classes, the incredible community we’re a part of, and the joyful, intuitive movement we engage in, did this for me and it changed the face of my recovery.

Why do I want to be a PT?

Because maybe…just maybe… I could give this to someone else too.

F45 Bristol team training

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