I have talked about this topic previously on my old blog, but I wanted to address it here today because I am in a lot different of a spot than I was a couple of months ago. Some may say this topic is over discussed, over hyped, or overshared. But like Lauren Fleshman and Dr.Melody Moore discussed on their highly insightful podcast (one you can listen to HERE) this stigma/disease/what have you FEEDS off of silence.
So I am here to talk about eating disorders, athletes, and the female body (but this talk definitely pertains to males though!). This post will be in multiple segments, as there is so much to cover. Today I start with my story and what I am in the process of discovering:
The Cliff Notes version of my story is this: I developed anorexia the summer before my freshman year of college. It was my way of seeking control for a life that I felt I had no control over. It spiraled, I came home from a semester at Saint Louis University, and started attending therapy. I thought I was done with it when I was able to move out on my own. I was wrong. I started to hear rumors that I was being called “too big” to be a runner. “I am surprised to see she is running so fast, considering her body”.
That wrecked me. So I developed a a binge/purge cycle that caused me to stop running (my body couldn’t physically take all that stress and run at the same time), make silly life choices, and reach an all time low and uncomfortable weight. If I couldn’t be the perfect standard I had starved myself to reach, I was going to light myself on fire and let the flame burn wild.
Unlike the girl in this song, who is fun loving and free. What a good song. Gavin Degraw…sorry Mitch!
Fast forward to when I reached “the bottom”. I rediscovered running and fell in love. Not just with my main man (bae), but with running, the freedom, and getting my life back together. I saw a direct correlation between me dropping weight and me getting faster. All I wanted was to be fast, and I would prove my loyalty to the sport by staying unhealthily thin. That turned to me running more and more miles, faster and faster, speeding out of control. I thought I was doing okay, as I was getting help from a sports dietitian. But my mind wasn’t right- my self worth was in running and I did everything I could to prove to running that I was loyal and wanted to be the BEST (in a way I thought got you there- more mileage, less weight, more sacrifices).
Being at race weight is such a tricky subject to discuss, as it is semi-true. Lighter equals quicker. But what they don’t tell you is that more miles, less weight, and more sacrifices can only last for so long. For some it lasts for a week- for some, a couple of years. For me, it lasted about a year. And then I got hurt, over trained, and I was mentally all out of sorts. I was a slave to running.
Running, food, weight, TV shows, relationships, etc all have a place in our lives. When they begin to choke out other passions, problems arise. My relationships were suffering, my period didn’t come back, and my depression was at an all time high. Thank God for positive influences around me to snap me out of it and therapy.
I discovered I was numbing my feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, pain, anger, and other unresolved issues I had with another addiction; one of the loves of my life had been injured, by my own hand. Poor running had been used as a coping strategy, a proving ground, and the only solid evidence I had for myself that I “had my life together” and I had talent. That killed me on the inside.
Being afraid of our past or unworthiness or the example of others only is a blindfold. We cant learn if we are scared all the time. Ignorance attracts our biggest fears because we never see them coming.
Running and I are back to building a positive relationship together. It is taking me being kinder to my body to realize how far I was pushing it. How much running controlled me. The same thing has been happening to my relationship with my body. Since dropping the training volume now and eating more (to nourish, HEALTHILY and balanced), I have noticed my hips more. They are bigger. I am more muscular. My thighs are like rocks. I have a non-sunken in six pack. My arms are more muscular. My butt is bigger.Not to be TMI, but my chest is a tad bigger too. Some of these things I have in my head as positives and some make me really uncomfortable.
I would be lying if I said this doesn’t wreck me on the inside sometimes. I go back to thinking “you are less dedicated to running because you are letting this happen to your body”. “You look BIG and not like a runner”. “You are slower/hurting because you are losing control of your body”. Or an old favorite “you are just going down that slipper slope of your old party, imperfect ways when you let yourself get healthier”. What all of these thoughts don’t realize is that I am a runner, because I run and love it. I am fast because I said so and I am not afraid to hurt. I am healthier because I can eat dinner until I am comfortably full without wondering if people are staring at me, purging or restricting later, or just not eating until I am full at all (which really hinders our running at the end of the day).
Being afraid of unworthiness and shame numbs me to the amazing things happening around me, the amazing things my body can do when I treat it right, and a God that loves me.
I have to think about it, I have thought about it, and what I have come to decide is this:
We aren’t defined by our mistakes, our positive aspects, our weight, our size, or our speed.
Our dedication to our sport, ourselves, or others isn’t defined by how much pain we can put ourselves in, how much we can sacrifice, or how much we can numb and pretend not to care.Our dedication is not based upon some obscene standard which we have devised, based upon an absurd concoction of all the things we “should be” based upon what every person on this planet has defined as “worthy”.
We are defined by our connection with one another- how openly we share our stories, how well we listen, and what we do to move forward. Some call that love, I call that our duty.
Our dedication is defined by our recognition that “love” grows with patience, adaptability, self awareness/refinement, and a whole lot of heart. I call that “healthy discipline”.
What I have to say is this: running fast isn’t an upward curve based on the following: low weight, more miles, more speed work, more strength training, less time with friends, less time on our other passions. Running fast (or just running in general) takes balance and dedication to not only the craft, but a relationship that is supposed to last us a lifetime.
The same goes with life; there is no upward curve. No magic path. No perfect person. No “one way” to do anything. Some call that a “roller coaster”.
I say, what a ride.
FYI: If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating or disordered body image, please feel free to contact me or a health professional. I have some resources at my disposal (contacts) for anyone who wants help. Or if you want someone to listen, I am here for that too.
If you are struggling, know that I may or may not know you, but I love you and am here for you. Do not be ashamed. Do not hide. Talk about it.