Hi everyone, my name is Megan Ludke and I’m the founder of RecoverED Athletes (now Live RecoverED). I wanted to take some time today to share my journey to being recovered from an eating disorder.
I’d like to preface my story with saying I aim to make this as trigger free as possible, I will not be going into specifics concerning numbers (including my current or past weight), eating disorder behaviors, pictures from when I was struggling, or specifics on how long/what level of treatment I went through. Eating disorders can be very competitive and while I was struggling, I found the above info extremely triggering and unhelpful which is why this site will not be including that information. With that being said, this still includes discussion of an eating disorder, if you are struggling with an eating disorder and feel this would be harmful to your recovery there is no harm in not reading.
Let’s begin from early on I was interested in running. I was one of the few that actually enjoyed running the mile in elementary and middle school. So I naturally signed up for cross country in high school. And as I began to run my perfectionist nature took over and I placed an immense amount of pressure on myself to continue to get faster and faster and to look a certain way.
Towards the end of high school I started to develop orthorexia (an obsession with “healthy” eating) and become more and more restrictive with the types of foods that I ate, leading to a downward spiral. I started to become more isolated and missed out on some amazing memories because I refused to go to sleepovers or pasta parties over concern about what food would be served. I started to become increasingly focused on my performance in meets- how fast I ran, what place I got. My self-worth and identity were tied into my finishes. When I didn’t perform well, I felt discouraged and worthless. And when I performed “well” even that wasn’t good enough for me and still left the meets feeling unfulfilled and like I needed to try harder and do better. Orthorexia morphed into anorexia entering college; the perfectionism, transition away from home, and loneliness created the perfect storm.
The transition to college was a tough one for me. I was less than an hour away from home but I’ve always been a homebody, so it was difficult for me to be in a new environment and have to learn how to make friends while also struggling with social anxiety. I felt so loved and safe and a strong sense of belonging while at home with my family but at college I felt painfully lonely and invisible. Exercise and food were used as coping mechanisms, a way to suppress the challenging emotions I was experiencing of loneliness, feeling disconnected, and the stresses of being a freshman in college. Running continued to be something that wasn’t enjoyed, something that I needed in order to feel self-worth and value, in order to feel important and special.
The eating disorder worsened as I went through my freshmen and sophomore years of college. Getting to the point where I had no energy, no period, was losing muscle, further obsessed with my weight, and had few foods that I deemed as “safe”. I couldn’t stop the disordered thoughts concerning food and my body. At this point I was isolated, extremely anxious, and depressed; a shell of my usual happy and joyful self. My attitude towards running also shifted, running became something I dreaded even more, I’d stand outside before runs and cry; cry because I didn’t want to run because I was so tired and wanted to stop but couldn’t stop. After talking with my family, I knew I needed help. I began seeing a therapist and dietitian my sophomore year and thought I’d be better and all set and ready for cross country my junior year.
But I was wrong. Running had become unsafe for me. I was not well enough to make sure I would be nourishing my body with enough food. My dreams of running my junior and senior year seasons came and went, along with my dreams of running in nationals. My college running career had ended as a sophomore. When I was first told I needed to stop running in college it nearly broke me. My identity had been so wrapped up in being a runner, in competing, in my race times/places that without running I felt worthless, I felt like nothing. I felt like I had no reason to live if I could not run and if I could not be fast. (As I write this it sounds quite extreme but that’s how I felt at the time, that’s how much I had tied my self-worth and identity to being a runner.) I’d get back to my dorm parking lot after my therapy appointments and sob. Just so disappointed in myself, disgusted at myself for what I was eating now, what I weighed, of not being able to run. Feeling so depressed, having thoughts of suicide. But I kept fighting.
I kept going to therapy, to the support groups, to my dietitian appointments, and continued not running. But recovery is tough. Time had gone by, and I felt like I was getting nowhere, I had all these recovery tools- coping tools, journaling prompts, a meal plan to follow, a therapist and dietitian, hours and hours of therapy sessions and groups but it wasn’t clicking. Until a turning point.
I had more time on my hands now that I wasn’t running cross country, this allowed me to join Intervarsity at Carroll- a Christian organization. I had grown up going to church but hadn’t really understood my faith. I fell in love with the community of Carroll Intervarsity and grew and learned more about Christ. During my senior year of college, I surrendered my life to Christ. Throughout that time, God transformed my recovery in beautiful ways. I truly knew that He created me and not only that, but that God CHOOSE to create me and created me on purpose for a purpose. I learned about my identity in Christ. How I am loved, worthy, forgiven, a precious daughter. I felt my worth and value as a person. I turned to Christ for my worth and value rather than running and my GPA and it was (and has been) amazing. I had all of the puzzle pieces of recovery and I couldn’t put them together myself- I was trying to jam them together for years in a haphazard way trying while to get back to running as quickly as possible – but God took all the pieces and gently put them together for me much faster than I had tried to on my own. I still had a ways to go on my recovery journey but God brought the pieces together and gave me hope and a future. As my faith grew, my recovery grew; it wasn’t all linear, as recovery never is, but instead of stagnant my recovery journey was thriving and heading in the right direction.
As time went on, I reached the point where I could run again. My therapist had cleared me and I went for a run right after that session, I was thrilled. I put on my NEDA walk shirt and I teared up a few times on that run, just so happy to be running again. And I’ve been running since then. It’s different than before in high school and college, but different in a good way. I began to re-learn the joy of running. The joy of being outside, of moving my body, of feeling strong and nourished, of feeling the sun on my skin and hearing the birds sing in the air. I cried on those runs, and it wasn’t the sad tears of the past, these were happy tears, joyful tears. Tears that I had fought and won. Tears that I was doing what had felt impossible for years.
Countless times during my recovery I believed I’d never run again. And here I am running once again.
My freedom hasn’t just been found in running but in all aspects of my life- freedom from negative body image, worries about my weight, freedom from obsessive thoughts about food and exercise. Freedom to have birthday cake, and go out to restaurants with my family, to take rest days, to enjoy my days without my thoughts consumed by self-hatred, calories, and exercise. Freedom not only from the eating disorder but God also provided me the resources, tools, and strength to find freedom from social anxiety, OCD, and depression as well (but that’s a story for another time). Freedom to experience true and lasting joy, peace, and happiness. Freedom to live the abundant life that Christ has given me. And for this freedom I’ve experience, I’m forever grateful.
Why did I create this site? Because I know that there are middle school, high school boys and girls, college men and women, recreational athletes, and elite athletes crying themselves to sleep at night. Crying because they’re consumed by an eating disorder- lost in the vicious cycle and the negative thoughts. Because they’re starving- not just for food but for love and connection and a sense of belonging. Crying from feeling a sense of hatred towards themselves, towards their bodies. Some struggling with thoughts of suicide brought on by the eating disorder. Some struggling for their lives in hospitals, struggling in treatment programs. My dream, the one I believe God has placed on my heart, is to help those that are struggling. To help educate coaches and athletes to help prevent eating disorders. To see other athletes recovered and know the truth that they are loved and needed in this world, created on purpose for a purpose, and have infinite worth and value as precious children of God. I want other athletes to feel the freedom and hope and joy that I’ve found in my own recovery journey instead of the darkness, destruction, and loneliness of eating disorders. That’s why I created this site, to provide hope, encouragement, and recovery to others.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
Megan Ludke is a woman of God, Founder and Executive Director of Live RecoverED (formerly RecoverED Athletes), a school-based physical therapist, and a current PSU graduate student (M.Ed. Health Education & Promotion concentration in Eating Disorders). She is recovered from anorexia, orthorexia, depression, OCD, and social anxiety. Megan is deeply passionate about her work at Live RecoverED, having felt the pain and darkness of struggling with an eating disorder. When not working, Megan loves spending time with her boyfriend and family and loves being outside- hiking or reading in a hammock.