Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Alanis Morissette and Her Infamous Marathon

Running the Bizz Johnson Marathon on October 11, 2009

Running the Bizz Johnson Marathon on October 11, 2009

On October 11, 2009, Alanis Morissette ran the Bizz Johnson Marathon in California, donating her fundraising proceeds to the National Eating Disorders Association.  On her website, and as part of her fundraising efforts, Alanis openly admits to having had an eating disorder.

Please note the use of the phrase “had an eating disorder.”

Because her generous fundraising and bravery in coming forward to speak out about eating disorders has given rise to a lot of controversy.  Is running a marathon an appropriate way to raise money for eating disorder awareness when a significant number of eating disorder sufferers have problems with over-exercise?  Are the walks NEDA itself is hosting across the nation as a means of awareness appropriate?

Laura Collins, in her own infamous blog, “Are you ‘Eating with Your Anorexic'”, addresses this issues in an entry, “Hair of the Racedog” Which, in and of itself is interesting, given the use of the term racedog and the negative connotations.  The analogy would be Alanis being the racedog?  I’m not quite sure.  Collins compares walks and runs for awareness to fasts for awareness.  The two types of activities are not comparable.  Fasts, I think we would all agree, are generally not healthy for most individuals.  Even those doing fasts for spiritual reasons (which dates back for centuries by people without eating disorders) do so under controlled environments.  But running and walking?  These are healthy and normal activities.

Yes, even people who used to have an eating disorder can partake of these activities.  And they should. Exercise, when done in a healthy amount, is something that can bring joy to a person’s life.  It improves mood and health and can strengthen your immune system and increase your energy.  Training for a marathon is, in and of itself, not excessive exercise if you are doing it correctly and you are healthy.  Alanis, on her website, states she had someone to check in with to make sure she wasn’t doing too much, and her priorities had sleep and food first–and if she didn’t get those two priorities met, she didn’t run.  That sounds healthy to me.  In fact, her definition of health is something I think, in an ideal society, we should all accept.

If we ban walks and runs as awareness events (and Alanis is not the first to run a marathon and donate her fundraising money to an eating disorder organization, but she is the first celebrity), should we also do away with the dinners at eating disorder conferences?  What about those elaborate desserts at these dinners? Let’s celebrate someone’s contribution to the eating disorder field by eating?

I honestly think both–the runs and walks and the dinners–are excellent tools for awareness.  And they reinforce what is healthy and normal in society.   They are also ways that recovered individuals can say, “Yes.  You can enjoy these things in recovery. You can live a balanced life and life in freedom.”

I’m not sure why we want to keep that message underground.  We should be shouting it out loud so that every person still suffering from an eating disorder has hope that full recovery is possible, that freedom is possible.


October 12, 2009 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, health, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. *loves*
    you should email this to alanis… if you can figure out how, heheh.

    Comment by janie | October 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. Oh I thought the food at the NEDA conference was a special kind of torture. For someone with an active eating disorder, alone, new place, no safe food (cause I didn’t make it), and eating in front of others. I was a basket case. But I lived.

    I’m glad you posted this it’s good to see that you support healthy activities. The key is all about balance and finding it. Like my RD tell’s me, “there’s room for cake!”

    Comment by David | October 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. At the first conference NEDA I attended, there were huge tables of snacks out between sessions. One of them had Atkins bars on them. Kathleen and I ended up going to some of the staff and complaining that seemed inappropriate (they agreed and got rid of the bars).

    Several years ago when I was working on founding what eventually became ANAD’s Candlelight Vigil, I approached NEDA about starting a national ED awareness walk. They told me they thought it was not a good idea, because of exercise issues many people have. I was told that instead I should have some friends over to my place for a cake-baking party. Huh??

    As for the main topic, I think it can be tricky. I agree that for someone who is fully recovered, marathons can be healthy and even empowering. But it’s important to get across the message that recovery is a necessity for this undertaking. I’m glad that Alannis emphasized the measures she took to take care of her health. That ability is more important to me than her ability to run 26 miles.

    Comment by Millie | October 13, 2009 | Reply

  4. I agree with this one too alexis and think you should e-mail it to her if possible. I think exercising and running is enjoyable and can be enjoyable for many, but it is the eating disorder that makes it unhealthy and ruins any enjoyment one may get out of being active. I think if we can look at her participation in a positive light it should look more like this, ” She is CELEBRATING recovery and her health by partakign in an event that whether or not she could have forced herself to do while active in an eating disorder was a much more rewarding and different experience” I am not going to say that her recovery allowed her to run the marathon because I am sure there are many individuals with ED’s that partake in marathons and other similar things of that sort, but I can rest assured that her experience running this marathon was not only a different experience but was also motivated by something sincere and not to “lose weight” or “over exercise”….If I ever do something like that (which I doubt I will… I don’t like running that much;) BUT I would want to make sure that I was 100% doing it for the right reasons and for selfish ones that my eating disorder would want.

    Comment by Jessica | October 27, 2009 | Reply

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