Intentions for Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Resentfully Scratching the Surface

It was just another boring day in eating disorder treatment and I was most certainly not living the dream. Curled up on one of the couch cushions, I sat with my knees pressed against my chest. I had a blanket to cover my entire body and earbuds blaring some angsty indie song to help me hide from the world. It was almost movement time, which was easily every client’s least favorite group. We usually were subjected to cheesy, low impact games, or a discussion about our relationship with exercise. Today seemed to be the latter, I realized as one of the dietitians walked in and started to write something on the whiteboard. The clients closest to her immediately started groaning. 

I looked up from my pity party and glared as I took in what she had written. It read, “If movement didn’t affect your weight or shape, would you still do it?” Oh shit, I thought while burrowing deeper into my cocoon. You have got to be kidding me.

“I want you guys to think on this for a bit. Jot some notes down. Take a few minutes to journal. Then we’ll come back together to share and talk about it,” the dietitian said. Rolling my eyes, I took out a pen and paper and began to think. This was a loaded question, for sure. 

Diving Deeper

I don’t remember what I wrote or much of how the group went after that, but the subject has stayed with me. It’s definitely an interesting topic to dive into for anyone, not just people with eating disorders. The dietitian wanted us to explore why we do what we do. What is our reasoning behind engaging in exercise, and would we still run, jog, swim, bike or whatever other physical activity if we knew our bodies would stay the same? For us, is movement motivated by extrinsic or intrinsic rewards? These questions are heavy, trust me. However, it is important to think about it so we can better understand ourselves and our intentions. In spirit of the therapeutic process, here are my intentions for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail next year.    

  • To connect with nature and myself
  • To see what I’m capable of, mentally and physically  
  • To be in my element 
  • To go on a great adventure 
  • To interact with like-minded people and meet other hikers
  • To have fun experiences 
  • To discover more about myself  
  • To embrace the culture of the trail and be part of the thru-hiking community 
  • To appreciate what my body can do 
  • To complete the trail without using eating disorder behaviors

Answering the Question

If movement didn’t affect my weight or shape, would I still do it? I believe I would. Every time I hike, continue to eat, and repair the damage I have done to myself, I find that my body starts to show up for me in more ways than one. I can enjoy walking my dogs while hearing the birds in the morning. I can feel the weather getting cooler as I see the dirt path I choose to follow. I can set out on the AT in March, ready to learn and grow from the experience. How much I may or may not weigh has no place there. Period. What does your body allow you to do? What are your intentions for hiking? What do you want from your time in nature? Just things to ponder.

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