Dear High School Rachael (Response to Lauren Fleshman)

This is very clearly a spin-off of Lauren Fleshman’s most recent article/letter to her high school self that went viral in the running community. I HIGHLY encourage all of you to read it here (Dear Younger Me: Lauren Fleshman). I’ve underlined HER words in my own letter below so as not to confuse what I’ve written with her own sentences, as I want it to be clear that this is based on her letter/article, and I used her structure.
I decided to create my letter from the perspective of someone who actually developed an eating disorder in running (unintentionally–you will see from this that I hadn’t linked weight loss to running faster from the get-go). I also wanted to include men in this conversation, because so many men in the running world battle eating disorders and disordered eating. This is not to say Lauren’s article is not “right”  (because it is an EPIC article, and so so needed for young women!) but simply to give another perspective of eating disorders and disordered eating in the world of running from someone who has been there, and from someone who has been blessed enough to have such amazing support along the way:
Dear High School Rachael,
I have so many things I want to tell you, but I’m going to start with the most urgent. Because of all the ways I’ve seen athletic stories unfold over the years, this is the No. 1 destroyer of dreams.
You’re a young woman, but the sound of the word “woman” makes you cringe. Your mom claims we don’t have the genetics of the “typical woman.” You won’t ever get “large hips and boobs” that supposedly hinder running success, she says. Your well-meaning mom sees discipline, willpower, and control as strength, and your family has it. Your mom also tells you that our tall, broad bodies are to be celebrated, that these are what make us strong athletes.
As a straight-A student, All-State runner you figure you have what you need to be the best.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eating Disorder Recovery with my Mom: A Video Interview

From the first few chapters of Running in Silence my mom doesn’t suspect anything is wrong as I embark on a raw food diet. She doesn’t question my intense obsession with food and running fast, mostly because I kept the worst of the obsession to myself. I didn’t open up. I wasn’t myself, and HADN’T been for her and my dad for my whole life.
And then you get to the chapter where I come out about my binge eating disorder, but we both don’t know what monster we are dealing with. We are BOTH confused and lost, and she gives the typical answers to “cure” what I’m dealing with by telling me I can just eat less to lose weight again–a “normal” response from someone who doesn’t understand and just wants to help.

What my mom did right in that critical moment when I asked for help? She offered to get me the proper, professional help elsewhere. My mom brought me to an eating disorder support group to see a therapist and dietitian. My mom took on the role of eating disorder researcher, attended the parent support group meetings, and listened to me talk for hours on end about my fears, doubts, and why my brain was thinking the way it did.

Continue reading

Posted in Interview | 1 Comment

Interviews, Book #2, Journal Entries Revealed

With snippets of information here and there, I figured it was high time to give more details about what’s been going on in the realm of Running in Silence and future writing/speaking endeavors. Quite honestly, I’ve just been way too busy, so I’m striving to carve more time into my day to work on writing, speaking, and YouTube videos. THANK YOU to all of you who have supported me/followed my journey so far!
YouTube Video Interviews
I’m about to embark on a video interviewing spree, which will include talking with my parents (separately, as they offer differing perspectives), men with eating disorders, and possibly my coach from Aquinas. Check out my YouTube channel (Running in Silence) for extra videos (and be sure to subscribe!). I will keep you in the loop on those upcoming videos via social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). In the meantime, be sure to comment below (or email me at runninginsilence@gmail.com) if you have questions you’d like me to ask the interviewees!
Speaking Engagements
I will be speaking at First (Park) Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan this coming Monday May 15, 7-8pm, focusing on topics of acceptance, identity, fear, and balance, all of which were issues I struggled with THROUGH the lens of food. These are especially important concepts when looking at recovery. For other upcoming presentations check out the Speaking Appearances Page (and see video below for the most recent presentation at CMU).

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Guest Post Sara Brekke Part II: Increasing Awareness

In the last Running in Silence guest post, Sara Brekke spoke openly and courageously about her eating disorder journey. In her original post (sarabrekke.blogspot.com) she made additional points about eating disorders that I felt were extremely important to share here in a post of its own:
1) Eating disorders are not reserved for self conscious girls who strive to have a body like those in the magazines. They affects all genders, races, and ages and don’t need to stem from a desire to be thin. In fact, I became extremely self conscious of my thinness. I feared being seen in a swimsuit or sports bra knowing that every vertebrae and rib in my body being visible made me appear more reptilian than human. To hide my emaciated body, I have worn two pairs of pants and baggy long-sleeves to hide my knobby elbows and jutting hipbones.
I did not develop anorexia because of the models in magazines. I was confident with my body up until sixth grade and ate anything and everything–never giving a second thought about the appearance of my body. While I do believe that society gives an incredibly detrimental message to young people, females especially, in what their body should look like, a full blown eating disorder for me was a combination of underlying mental illness and these societal ideals.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Guest Post Sara Brekke: Breaking Through Fear

Running in Silence reader and eating disorder survivor Sara Brekke made the bold move to share her story with the hope that it would encourage more of us to find ways to stop running in silence. She says, “I am thankful that I have gotten to a place of recovery after all of these years to be real not only with others about the illness, but with myself.  More than ever society needs voices to speak up about eating disorders and mental illness as a whole to better our understanding of other individuals and the disease.”
You can read her original post at sarabrekke.blogspot.com
Posting this is terrifying.
Like, I was driving home from Madison by myself on a mild March day not too soon after getting my license when mother nature decided to unleash a spontaneous snowstorm. Before gathering awareness of the elements, I fish tailed off the road. After regaining control, I continued to drive at a measly 15 mph on the highway, but kept losing traction and decided it wasn’t worth it to keep going. I pulled into a side road, fully prepared to sleep in my car for the night–just as an ambulance came roaring by with its sirens blaring, soon followed by an oncoming car spinning completely off the road. The trip took three extra hours, but I eventually made it home crying tears of relief as I pulled into our driveway.
Posting this is still scarier.

Continue reading

Posted in Guest Post | 7 Comments

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: An Update

I can’t believe how easily time gets away from me–it’s already been nearly two weeks since National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW), and I’m able to update on the craziness at last.
A few days before the NEDAW officially began, Karen Saukas (eating disorder survivor and mental health advocate), Zach Stepanovich (my friend and former Aquinas cross country teammate who also suffered from an eating disorder), Gail Hall (Director of the Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders), and I were all on the Maranda show to raise awareness for eating disorders.

Just days later, early on Monday morning, Zach, Gail, and I we were on Fox17 News for the lighting of the blue bridge in Grand Rapids (huge thanks to Gail Hall for making this happen for the first time EVER in Michigan!). The bridge was lit in the NEDA colors (green and blue), which made us a part of the nation-wide “coloring of buildings.”

Continue reading

Posted in Book, Speaking Engagement | Leave a comment

Visiting Suzy Favor Hamilton: California Part II

Half the time in California was spent with Suzy, including a gorgeous bike ride along the coast to Venice beach, and two hot yoga classes (“This is my community!” Suzy said). The other half of my time was spent walking by myself along the beach, looking in shops, and reading and writing outside.
I used to have so much chatter, introspection, confusing thoughts, and deep thinking about the eating disorder going on in my mind during my alone time. Now, there’s not much left to think about in terms of my recovery. I’m just content.
Yes, there are still difficult days (especially with travel, even). I don’t have easy access to all my “safe” food, and I’m faced with food I haven’t eaten in a long time. There might always be that challenge. But I continued to remind myself that even if I did gain a few pounds from a trip what did it matter? My clothes may be a little tighter, but they would still fit. No one would think differently of me. I know how to trust my body, and having it fluctuate slightly is healthy and normal. I could partake in all the experiences in California without spending so much time and energy focusing on the food I was consuming.

Continue reading

Posted in Book | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Visiting 3-Time Olympian & Mental Health Advocate Suzy Favor Hamilton: California Part I

Having read Suzy Favor Hamilton’s book Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness, I was not only intrigued with her bipolar disorder experience (and her “secret” escort job that soon followed), but also the eating disorder she discusses at the beginning of the book. With that in mind, I sent out a simple tweet asking for an interview.

One informative interview, an endorsement quote for Running in Silence, and another phone call later, I found myself scheduling a trip to stay with Suzy in Los Angeles.
“You absolutely have to visit!” she had urged me during our second phone conversation. And who would refuse a trip to Manhattan Beach?
The moment I walked into Suzy’s home on January 11, 2017, I realized how tall I am in comparison to Suzy. But packed in that small frame was a young heart full of life and energy. After showing me to my guest room, we immediately began talking, catching up (since our phone talks), and asking each other questions about our journeys through mental illness. It was interesting finding similarities in bipolar disorder with eating disorders (and how they sometimes overlap—see Wasted and Madness by Marya Hornbacher for examples). We of course touched on my experience with 30 Bananas a Day, and soon afterward decided that dinner that night would be hamburgers. : )

Continue reading

Posted in Mental Illness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facing the Stigma: Living with an Eating Disorder as a Man

I am proud to introduce Steve Sanders for the newest guest post on Running in Silence. Steve is a recovering alcoholic , writer, and blogger at Haven House Addiction Treatment. He lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys spending time with his family and on his motorcycle when not writing. He can be reached at oneroadtorecovery@gmail.com.

The typical image of a person with an eating disorder is a woman, or more specifically a white teenage girl from a well-off family. Almost all the popular information available about eating disorders is aimed at women and is about women.
But studies suggest that about 10 million men and boys in the U.S. will have an eating order at some point in their lives. In fact, while anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are more common in women, men are at greater risk of developing a binge eating disorder (overeating without purging or otherwise compensating for the excessive food intake).

Continue reading

Posted in Guest Post, Male Eating Disorders | 1 Comment

Weight Loss & Running Faster: Beyond Fuel

 “But Rachael, you need fuel to run well.”
“Your body is a machine. You are the driver. The body needs fuel and maintenance.”
“If you burn it, it really does not matter what you put in the furnace.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these comments, and easily dismissed them in the depths of my eating disorder while running. I knew how important food was. In fact, I knew everything about food. When anyone assumed I didn’t see food as fuel, it was tough for me to give them much credit since all they knew about nutrition was that you eat to have energy.
Or, my peers did  know how much I studied nutrition in my spare time, and thus rarely questioned my “quirky” practices (at least not to my face).
I ate enough to fuel my races, but not enough to maintain my weight.  I saw drastic improvement (quickly discounting everything my peers told me about nutrition/fuel), and received an immense amount of praise for running faster.
Continue reading
Posted in Call to Action, Coaching, ED Insight, Running | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments