Subscribe to Blog via Email
Tags5k 30bananasaday 80/10/10 addiction binging body fat book calories carbs chocolate cooked food cravings cross country desserts fasting fats food combining fruitarianism grains green smoothie injury iron magnesium manuscript Michael Arnstein Miley Cyrus nationals orthorexia overeating overexercising physical therapy Primal/Paleo protein racing Rawluck raw recipes recovery restriction running Ryan Hall scale track triathlon videos weight
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
I told many people that my main reasons for going raw were for ultimate health and to prevent any and all disease. Even if those are indeed advantages in consuming a raw diet, they were not my main reasons for going raw. As many of you know from reading my blog, I went raw to have an excuse to eat more food with fewer calories and make it look “acceptable”–that I was doing it for physical health and well-being when really, I was only feeding into my ever-growing eating disorder.
I eventually had to give up the raw food diet (more to be explained in my upcoming book). My mental state had gone severely downhill, and that compromised my overall health more than a raw food diet might have aided in the health of my body.
I still don’t know for sure how much a raw food diet can prevent all disease, but while we are striving to eat as healthy as possible (with healthy attitudes/mindsets) it’s still important to look out for signs of cancer. And since it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Bankers Healthcare Group, a company that provides loans for doctors and other healthcare professionals, has provided this great infographic on their blog BHG360 that gives great tips, warning signs, and routines to take in caring for our bodies. Just as it’s important to spread awareness for eating disorders and understand the warning signs, we must be aware of these breast cancer warning signs as well.
I felt happy for most of my high school years. I can’t say it was a joy ride, but it certainly wasn’t bad. I mainly focused on running and schoolwork, but I also built relationships with my friends and made a few new ones—until the connection between weight and running became the sole focus in my life.
During my final semester of high school I counted calories as teachers taught lessons in class. I ate lunch alone. I wore baggy pants and sweatshirts because I couldn’t muster the energy to wear something nice, and because those were the warmest clothes I had for a body that constantly felt chilled. I dragged myself through the hallways in silence and fatigue. I ran my track races with the main goal to please my coach and to try to feel a greater sense of worth.
In college, things would change, I thought. They had to. With each run leading up to that first college semester, I assessed my body and yearned for energy again. I hoped I would find happiness. College was supposed to be the period where I could start over and show the real Rachael I had always wanted to let out.
College was a fantastic transition for me, no doubt. I wrote to my parents and family friends about how happy I was, how much I enjoyed the freedom, how great it was to run the fastest I had ever run in my life. But as I got further and further into the college scene, I began to realize how tough it really was to be who I knew I was deep down—the person I had hoped, by then, would come out. I searched for opportunities to bring the real Rachael out at last, but even though I attended events on campus, shared my knowledge of nutrition, and won races, I still could not seem to connect with my own teammates on a deeper level than just running. I made friends with my classmates, but in reality, they were probably more just like acquaintances for those first few years.
During my sophomore year of college I emailed my friend Sharon about my food difficulties. And now, four years later, I recently told her how sorry I was that our conversation back then was probably the extent of my connection with her; that I hadn’t talked with my childhood friend Jackie in months; that even with the other few friends I made in college, I had good times with them but my mind was so occupied with the eating obsession, that I never had time to be there for them when they had taken so much time and energy to be there for me.
Working to recover from the eating disorder was the path to bring out Rachael. The Rachael deep within screamed to be heard, demanded to be exactly who she was. But it was a mess–it was like a rebirth, and not without the complications and “yuck.” It meant ups and downs with the emotions, dealing with the torrent of bingeing to periods of restriction, letting my fear drive me to bulimia, and losing everything I ever thought I had wanted in life—the thinnest body I could achieve, success in running I had only ever dreamed of, and pleasing everyone around me with my performances.
Coming Into My Own
College ended up as a five-year period of forging a new relationship with myself. While I had sunken into the eating disorder for my last semester of high school, now in my last semester of college I rose with a stable energy and a newfound joy in simply being. And suddenly, I discovered it was easy to be open with others; that I was no longer just talking about running and nutrition; that it was effortless to share my opinions and practice confidence; that it was okay (and even kind of funny) to make mistakes—and that my body was not a mistake.
And with all of that, stronger friendships developed.
I could say that I found myself too late; that now that I have graduated college and I am happier than ever, I had lost many opportunities to be all of myself during those college years and develop great relationships. But it took the eating disorder to force self introspection, development, and to be the wakeup call I had needed for so long.
Thank you to the friends who stuck with me through the worst of it–when I wasn’t the happiest, most exciting friend–but stayed with me until the end.
I’ve recently been told (and quite often now), that I have a great attitude on life.
For someone who felt like she had such a bad attitude years ago (as an obsessed, possessed, distressed eating-disordered runner), this feels like both a compliment and a relief.
My life isn’t perfect, and I have a lot of things I could be unhappy about. I have not lost the weight I gained from bingeing. I do not run as fast as I used to. I’ve graduated college and I’m still looking for a job related to my degree. My book is not yet published (I’m working on it!).
And yet, because I am happy with who I am as a person–without needing validation or relying on numbers–I feel stable overall whether good or bad circumstances come my way.
Changing the attitude from bad to good first began with accepting myself. Even though I didn’t like the weight I had reached due to all the bingeing, and even though I hated how “slow” I had become as a runner, I had to finally accept that this was where I was going to be, that this was what I had to deal with, and that restricting–only to binge later–was a result of so desperately wanting to change who I was or how I looked. Acceptance was not a form of “giving up,” but instead seeing myself as someone worth more than her weight and fast running times, and someone who could begin to look past all of that and work on loving herself.
And how did the self-love process begin? Introspection has been the key for me (as I stress time and time again). I had to understand where the eating disorder started, why I felt the need to please others, how I could feel okay making mistakes (we are human, after all) and what parts of Rachael the eating disorder was covering.
An SSRI medication was a piece of the puzzle to calm anxiety and reduce feelings of guilt. Starting the medication did not come easily however, as the eating disorder side of me worried that a side effect could be weight gain (it never was). I also had to dare to try foods the eating disorder told me would pile on the weight. I had to allow myself to enjoy food when the eating disorder equated enjoyment with failure.
I also dared myself to get out and do things unrelated to running. I was encouraged by a friend to stray from my perfectionist, obsessed mentality. And as I met more people, as I learned that I actually liked to have these different experiences, I began to see and feel Rachael without an eating disorder break free.
I understand how attitude is about perspective now when I wake up each morning no longer feeling guilty about what I ate the night before or feeling worried about if I will binge again. I no longer wake up thinking about whether I should restrict or find another way to eat “perfectly.” I no longer feel like I want to crawl out of my own body, and I don’t have to listen, through every cross country practice and race, you must restrict again, you must go back, you must close down, and you will binge and all will be lost.
Yes, I still have tough days. Yes, the eating disorder rears its head once in a while. No, I don’t have everything together. But knowing that I am progressing, that I enjoy spending time with my friends as well as by myself, and after gaining a new perspective after struggling for years with the eating disorder, a good attitude has prominence in my life.
Now that I’ve uncovered Rachael through acceptance, finding ways to love myself (through introspection, medication, daring to try new things) makes me excited to share this Rachael I have always wanted to bring out. I’m excited (and have that “great attitude” on life) because I’ve never really gotten to try out me; because this is the person I knew I had inside for so long–
Because I worked my ass off to get to her.
Memories of the good times you had before everything go downhill are a mix of incredibly annoying and addicting to hold onto. It’s fascinating how vivid those movie-like flashbacks are, and how distracting they can be when you are trying to move on with your life. Even when things are going well, there is always that lingering uncertainty and pain from a part of your life that used to bring you joy.
Pain and hurt have no mathematical, logistical measure of time before we know we are okay; thus we must treat these feelings with fluidity while encouraging ourselves to move forward. And moving forward often requires facing scary, unfamiliar situations that pull us out of our comfort zone–and to trust that we will learn along the way. This allows us to see what we’ve learned from the bad circumstances of our life, and to see that perhaps these difficult times brought us to a better place than where we would have been without the pain. I know that without having dealt with my eating disorder and the difficulties in running, I might not be out of my perfectionist mindset that I had carried with me throughout childhood and high school. Yes, it took years of struggle through recovery for me to let go of the pain, but through this, and having the courage to make small changes over time, I have learned that there were better things beyond the comfort of the eating disorder. It was the difficult times that finally allowed me to see my errors in perfectionism, worry, and fear.
Painful circumstances hurt, but I’m thankful for them because they are the things that bring us back to life–or perhaps even just to a life that we never knew before, and wouldn’t have had without the pain of change.
Reflecting on this past year (as today is my 24th birthday), I realize 23 has been very good to me.
This is not to say everything was perfect, but it was the fastest I have developed as a person and the best I’ve felt in my own body and mind because I continually stepped out of my comfort zone.
I have felt more satisfied because my happiness does not depend on a number on the scale or the time I have when I cross the finish line of a race. Self acceptance and relationships with family and friends are my main sources of happiness now–and it stems from introspection, challenging myself, and breaking away from the perfectionist mindset. I realized Rachael needs sass and opinions and mistakes and to stop saying “I’m sorry” for everything; and that because of it, Rachael is doing–as my college coach (Woj) was happy to say–“a lot more living (not just being alive).”
Kurt Vonnegut is quoted as saying, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy”–and how powerful these words are when we see that we can predict future happiness by noticing when we are happy from day to day. Happiness is more sustainable if it comes from being happy with who we are.
Yes, I still have bad days. Yes, I’m sure there will be hardship in the months or years ahead. But in this moment—when I know and trust myself—I am simply happy with being, with feeling like I am learning and discovering myself and my relationship with others.
Accept challenges and discomforts in your life, because it’s the only way you’re going to change and grow. It will move you toward the path of self love and acceptance—and that is the greatest achievement anyone can have because it touches all parts of your life.
That, my friends, is genuine happiness—and I want you to feel it with me because it’s a wonderful spot to be and the eating disorder has no place in it.
Eating disorders thrive in secrecy. Friends and family members will rarely (if ever) see the dozen empty candy bar wrappers stashed in your trash (perhaps wrapped/hidden in crumpled toilet paper) or find measuring cups lying on the counter. It may take months or years for them to find the scale hidden beneath your bed.
They may never know your struggle until you tell them.
Having to explain your eating disorder to a loved one is probably one of the most difficult tasks to take in the journey to recovery. The biggest lesson I had to learn is that friends and family members simply may not understand–but the goal in itself isn’t to make them walk in your shoes. It’s to feel they will always support you and that even in their confusion, they will understand that having the disorder is just that–a disorder. It’s not a way of living we decide to take on.
When I first told my mom about the eating disorder she seemed to continually ask the wrong questions and make the wrong suggestions (“Well let’s step on the scale to see where you’re at!” and, “But did you throw up all your food?”). It’s tough to get off to a good start when someone hasn’t experienced an eating disorder. My dad probably had one of the most difficult times trying to break it apart.
“How can you physically keep stuffing in more and more food?” he asked one night when we had agreed to sit down to talk. “I mean, I get to the point where enough is enough in one meal.”
I sat there trying to figure out how to help my dad understand this. It seemed so obvious to me, but I knew we had different bodies and different lifestyles. I had to help him see how different my mind and body processed food—especially since I had such a warped view of it after all the restriction in my past.
Thus the hour-long conversation went a little like this:
Me: “When you hold back on food for so long–like my two-year restriction–then your body is going to try to make up for it. It’s going to go for the simplest sugars. That’s why many people crave junk food at the end of the day if they don’t eat enough. Your body wants to find the most calorie-dense, simplest form of food so that it can break it down fast and get into the body’s cells. And with an eating disorder–with your body in that desperation mode–you often stuff yourself until you are uncomfortably full, even if it hurts.”
Dad: “But how is that physically possible? When you’re full of food, how can you take any more in? That would feel so uncomfortable.”
Me: “The body will do anything in its power to get the calories, even if it means shutting off your brain to it or overcoming ‘willpower.’ Believe me, your body can do the seemingly impossible to get what it needs–especially when you have forcibly deprived it.”
Dad: *confused silence*
Me: “Do you understand that?”
Dad: “No, not really. Aren’t you full after a meal?”
Me: “I am, most of the time. But some days I feel hungrier than others. That’s when I go back to get another small meal or a snack, according to the meal plan I was given by my dietician. But I try to wait for a while first.”
Dad: “But where does ‘discipline’ and ‘disorder’ get mixed up? I mean does me eating a whole tub of ice cream qualify as a ‘disorder’? Or is it my lack of discipline?”
I could see his point with this last question, but it made me uncomfortable. I suddenly realized he did not see my case as a disorder at all, but perhaps just something to cover up a lack of discipline. He had not seen the battles raging in my mind, had not felt the emotional guilt during and after every meal.
Me: “I wouldn’t see that as a disorder unless you did it almost every night and felt guilty or out of control about it. If you are living in constant fear of food and fear eating all of that and feel like you can do nothing to stop yourself . . . if it holds you back from living a normal life, I feel like that would qualify as a ‘disorder.’”
Confusion and Building Trust
My dad and I continued to talk in circles late into the night. I hadn’t ever thought it would feel this difficult to explain the eating disorder to him. I had imagined that he would come away enlightened, fully understanding everything I had gone through.
It wasn’t until weeks later that I began to realize the best support I could have from my parents is that they were willing to listen, made an effort to understand through books and speaking to specialists in the area of eating disorders, and accepted that this was a disorder–that like anorexia on the opposite end of the spectrum where you cannot force someone to “just eat,” you could not force someone with binge eating disorder or bulimia to stop eating “too much.”
Despite the difficulties in understanding, I feel I have grown with one of the greatest support systems I could have ever asked for. I have spent countless hours venting, crying, and explaining my eating disorder to my mom. I repeated myself more times than I can remember, but the repetition–with someone there to listen–was essential in my recovery. I needed to speak, needed to repeat thoughts and feelings for me to come to my own realizations and make changes. If I chose to change, if I made the connections, I was much more willing to make better decisions for my body.
My loved ones listened. They allowed me to speak, encouraged me to get the confusion, loneliness, fear, and isolation out of my frantic mind.
I am my best form of myself now because of my parents and my friends.
In the midst of a fall and winter of bingeing, it seemed as if all hope had disappeared from my life. All I could see ahead of me was losing myself more and more to the eating disorder. I was far from wanting to commit suicide, but looking at the dark wall ahead of me made me wonder if there was anything worth living for anymore. I knew I was blessed with so much in my life, but the black pit of grief and confusion kept me trapped in a mind and body I hated.
At a loss as to what to do for me, my friends suggested I learn to sit with myself–to find strength in solitude. Unfortunately this sounded like the worst solution, because at that point in my eating disorder being alone was the darkest part of my day.
Destruction in the form of bingeing, counting calories, obsessing, and occasional purging dominated any time I had to myself. My eating disorder thrived off of this chance for just the two of us to fight–a battle which I often lost. I was trapped in a mind with circulating thoughts, fear, and wondering when my next downfall would come.
My friends’ suggestion was not wrong by any means, but at this point in my life I didn’t want to be in my own mind. I had to learn how to battle the eating disorder with tools like the meal plan and understanding when and how the eating disorder rooted itself instead of putting a band-aid (“just love yourself!”) over the problem. Once I had a strategy to tackle the basic eating errors, loving and accepting myself eventually trickled in on its own.
Gradually I began to understand myself and the eating disorder enough to see solitude as a place of peace. I was no longer tiptoeing fearfully into isolation, but instead jumping into solitude to see what Rachael was thinking and exploring now. The screams of calories, weight, and defeat were no longer as strong, and I thought that perhaps I could actually live within myself again. The idea of being “stuck” with myself for the rest of my life finally didn’t seem too bad.
The black wall of lost hope began to disappear.
I sat with myself. I heard the real Rachael speak out between the written notes of calories and food rules. And as I stared into the darkness of the night, my mind exploding with exploratory internal dialogue, I enjoyed the new, kinder thoughts and revelations.
Healing and Growing
Now I needed time to remember who Rachael was without the obsessive thoughts. Now I had to remember what Rachael liked from the beginning–maybe even as far back as childhood when I participated in gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, and swimming along with running; the Rachael who enjoyed dessert pizza as well as fresh vegetables; the Rachael who created art, who led make-believe adventures on the playground with her friends, and who read dozens of novels (not all these eating disorder and diet books that litter my bookshelves).
To find Rachael again, I had to go back to that exploration of the self through activities and adventures.
The result? I began to have experiences where I felt the highs and lows of “normal” circumstances people deal with on a daily basis: Job problems. Stress in school. A broken heart. But also the excitement in meeting new people, having adventures outside of a fourteen-mile long run, and having more time to pursue my dreams since my days were no longer solely devoted to researching nutrition and worrying about calories.
In these adventures I began to test my boundaries and limits. There were moments when my explorations went from finding freedom and excitement to just plain unhealthy actions, but those mistakes allowed me to see where my limits were and what was best for Rachael.
The bingeing and restricting of life experiences went from extremes to gradually finding a happy, healthy medium–just as I had done with food. But having that connection to myself–being able to speak with and listen to Rachael in solitude–allowed me to understand my choices and helped me to continually communicate with myself and grow.
Taking this journey into self-discovery gets tricky since eating disorders often thrive in loneliness. The key is to find solitude–that “holy” place where talking freely to yourself is therapeutic and helps you to progress rather than fall back. Getting to solitude instead of loneliness requires utilizing the recovery tools (like eating enough throughout the day, talking through the difficulties with someone, etc–whatever aids in your recovery). From there the journey to self-discovery, with occasional or even many slip-ups, will help us to find that happy balance and the road to recovery–
A natural path to self-love and acceptance.
“To try to be brave is to be brave.” –George MacDonald