On March 30, Peach Freeman visited JMU’s Festival Ballroom to deliver a reading from her book, “Diary of an Exercise Addict.” Freeman also gave a lecture and held a question and answer session, urging the women in the audience to speak up, claiming, “Honesty is kind of how I roll.” The tone of the book is one of honesty as well, which Freeman boasts she even takes to the limits of “T.M.I.,” or too much information.
Peach introduced the lecture by discussing her book, which is a non-fiction diary style account of her struggles with exercise bulimia. As a 30-year-old mother, she explained that her teen years had been what she described as “normal”—rebellious and centralized around boys, food, sleep, and immediate satisfaction. It was not until college that she began to develop anxiety, and although she has been eating disorder free for years, the disease’s lasting effects are still paying a toll on her body. With a toddler at home, Freeman explained the difficulties of carrying her 30-something pound child, lifting her to and from her car seat and being on her feet all day. The joints in her hips, knees, and shoulders have never fully healed from years of exercise compulsion and abuse through running and intensive workouts. The development of acute tendonitis in her shoulders has created the biggest problem in caring for her daughter. Freeman explained that her inability to lift her daughter wears on her conscience as well, stating, “You know, it’s not a good feeling to be unable to carry your daughter. That sucks.”
Freeman spoke about her experience through a timeline. When her anxiety and depression developed, she turned to exorcise bulimia and anorexia because they were learned behaviors from her mother. Although her mother was recovered by the time she raised Peach, her mother’s attitude toward her own body caused her to hate her own as well. Watching her mother in the mirror while she got ready for parties, all Freeman could think about was how beautiful she looked. All her mother could think about was the size of her butt and her skinny ankles. Acknowledging that her eating disorder was partially a learned trait, she discussed her plans to raise her daughter in an environment that would not pass on the disease. Eating disorders, in all their many forms, can be genetic, so leading by example and expressing a positive body image is a must in Peach’s future with her daughter.
While expressing her battle with anxiety, Freeman offered the audience advice on how to cope with anxiety in a healthy way. She directed the audience in a deep breathing activity, asking each audience member to sit up straight, place their feet on the floor, and take deep breaths, concentrating on the physical sensation of breathing. She said that this was the most basic of body consciousness activities. Body consciousness was stressed throughout the lecture in relation to anxiety and eating disorders. Freeman explained that listening to her body and living “Matter over Mind” as opposed to “Mind over Matter,” was they key to her success in overcoming her eating disorder. She said that when she was still compulsively exercising she ate very little, but would force herself to run for miles on end. She had no way to explain how her physical activity was even possible considering how little she ate except that adrenaline and mind power allowed her body to run on little to no fuel. For this reason, Freeman discards the “Mind over Matter” strategy as a motivational tool, stating that listening to your body and its needs, therefore creating a healthy relationship with your body, is the only way to be truly healthy. “Let your body have a voice louder than your mind’s,” she said. She boasts that she is still in shape today and she does not follow a regimented plan that she must follow from day today, but rather chooses what her body feels like doing that day. Sometimes she walks, sometimes she plays tennis when her shoulders allow it, but she rarely runs anymore.
Freeman also offered five signs and symptoms of eating disorders to help the audience in identifying the disease in their selves or in their friends:
- An insistence on maintaining a high level of activity or a fear of states of rest.
- A devotion to a regimented exercise routine without diversity.
- A prioritization of exercise above all other activities.
- Identity = exercise—The attitude that if exercise is taken away, identity is lost.
- Motivation—why are you working out? Is it out of fear/guilt/anxiety or out of love for the activity and to nurture the body?
Freeman stressed over and over again that although the media and advertisements tell us that we must mold our bodies into regimented diets and exercise routines, listening to our bodies is enough to keep most people healthy.
Her last bit of advice was about helping friends and family that have eating disorders. Freeman said that the worst thing an individual can do for friends with an eating disorder is to attempt to help them on their own. The best thing they can do is to help them find their way to a professional.
H.O.P.E., Help Overcoming Problems with Eating and Exercise offers information about eating disorders and resources on JMU’s campus. Their website is:
Also, for copies of Peach Freeman’s book, visit: http://www.amazon.com/Diary-Exercise-Addict-Peach-Friedman/dp/0762759992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270150893&sr=8-1.