When SoulCycle received an email from CARA RABIN, it was a good reminder that Soul success stories come in all different forms. Having suffered from severe anorexia nervosa, Cara gained 30 lbs this year, a huge accomplishment on her road to recovery. But in many ways, Cara's story is stinkingly similar to others on this blog. She was drawn to the supportive Soul community, classes that put the joy back in fitness and the realization that strong trumps skinny any day of the week!
You have a very different kind of Soul Success story.
Yes, my soul success story is not the usual one. I actually GAINED 30 pounds in the last seven months, most of which I spent cycling at Soul. For the past eight years I’ve suffered from severe anorexia nervosa, leading to multiple hospitalizations and medical problems including osteoporosis. In October I committed to gaining weight and recovery. After abstaining from exercise completely for the first three months, I stumbled upon Charlee’s class. It was the first time I have had fun and felt freedom with exercise in eight YEARS! Each time I come to class — mostly with Charlee and Danny, though I have enjoyed every class experience — I feel joy and life bubble up inside me. I feel happy. And as someone who suffered from crippling depression for years, feeling happy is nothing to sneeze at.
What was your exercise history like leading up to Soul?
A big part of my illness was compulsive exercise, to the point where I was running on a broken femur. I was active when I was younger, but the disease robbed me of all that and I grew to dread my forced routine and the pain it caused. Prior to SoulCycle, exercise was basically torture. I’d be in physical pain and have had 7-8 broken bones from exercising. But I’d continue to push myself and say, “Well this is what you deserve” or “No pain, no gain” or “This is how exercise is supposed to be.” In the past, exercise also was also permission to eat. I didn’t count calories, but I insisted on physical activity before I could put things in my mouth. That’s what exercise was for me before SoulCycle.
When did things turn around for you?
I’d been in treatment numerous times, living my life in and out of hospitals. To be honest, I think everyone had given up on me. On my birthday, I decided I wanted to get over myself and dedicate my energy to get better. I wanted to face my fears, eat the foods I needed to eat, and do what I needed to do to get better. On my birthday, I started following my meal plan and stopped exercising altogether. For me, I knew needed to quit exercise cold turkey. I found a support group for eating disorders and didn’t exercise at all for three months. Someone in my support group was actually the one to tell me about SoulCycle and I was so envious of her because I wanted to be exercising. She said, “It’s not even like exercise. The music is amazing and it’s just one big dance party.” Over time, I got to a place where I could start exercising again and as a New Year’s gift to myself I decided to try a SoulCycle class.
What was different about the Soul experience?
I rode on New Year’s Day in the first class of the morning. Charlee was the instructor and she was brand-new to New York. When class began, it felt really good to move my body. It felt right. For me, having an exercise plan was the same as a meal plan – I had to follow a strict regimen – so I started coming once a week. I would ride with Charlee on Tuesday mornings at 6am and then went to my therapy appointment directly after. It became my “me morning” and the best morning of the week.
I don’t remember how I started riding with Danny, but I began taking the Soul Survivor ride every Sunday morning. I’m not a religious person, but I do go to the church of Soul. Danny’s class became something I looked forward to, not something I dreaded. It was the highlight of my day.
What do you think the effects of SoulCycle have been?
As I’ve been able to incorporate exercise back in my life, I’ve been able to gain muscle mass. I feel strong. I've gained definition and toning and I feel like I can go faster and farther.
There have been mental effects too. Anorexia is a horrible disease that you struggle with forever, but one of the things I struggle with most is having to getting used to a body where I’ve gained weight. My mom uses a phrase “compare and despair” and that's what I used to do. I’d go to the gym and look around and think everyone was prettier and thinner than me. At first, I was doing that at SoulCycle but then they’d turn off the lights. That’s my reminder that I’m not here to compete with everyone else. The teachers stress that too. It doesn’t matter how fast anyone else is going. At SoulCycle I stop looking around and just focus on me.
Do you have any advice for others who suffer from anorexia?
So I go to these meetings that are modeled after AA and yesterday someone said, “My anorexia is not a moral issue. I’m not a bad person.” And I think that’s a really important thing to remember. You have to realize that you have a disease and that you can get better. It’s the hardest thing to fix – harder than getting into med school – but you can get help and in NYC there are so many resources. But it’s more than just wanting to get better. It’s hard work and you have to dedicate your time and your life to it.
And for me, finding the joy in fitness has been part of that. So thank you Soul. Thank you for allowing me an exercise re-birth of sorts, for bringing freedom, fun and energy back into my life.
Questions, comments or want to share your story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!