Set Me Free: Reflecting on November 1, 2013

November 1st, 2013 was the answer I received to the above journal prayer–in the form of a broken kneecap, cracked in half during a running workout. The fractured bone was a representation of my fractured relationship with running and my body, a physical manifestation of my emotional pain.

It was the most challenging, painful, confusing days of my life. I fought between the Rachael who was distraught about not being able to run, with the Rachael who noticed this feeling of relief–relief to stop racing toward the impossible standards she set for herself, relief from the pressure of eating “perfectly” for running. I saw the Rachael who was exhausted and needed to lie down, and it wasn’t until this circumstance that she finally felt she could.

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Coaching: The More We Speak Up, the More They Will, Too

My “senior year” of cross country coaching finishes up in a few weeks with Jenni Callendar, and after that I will be speaking to Michigan cross country coaches at the MITCA clinic in November to discuss the prevalence of eating disorders in runners, how to approach the topic within our own teams, and why we should speak up every year. I’m in year 4 of coaching and still learning so much; my own methods of raising awareness on the team hasn’t come easily, and the first year I thought just having the knowledge was enough. If I wait for them to come to me, they may never come.

The more we speak up, the more they will, too.

Order your copy of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It here.

Interview with National Champ Erin Herrmann: Speaking Up About Eating Disorders

I had the privilege of interviewing National Champion for the 3000m Steeplechase from Hope College Erin Herrmann, who came out about her eating disorder in May. She shares her story & advice for others who may be struggling in the video interview below! Biggest tip? TALK ABOUT IT.

Will be posting more YouTube videos SOON, so be sure to subscribe!

“Trust in the love of the people you are surrounded by. They will help you see what you need to see in yourself.”

Order your copy of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It here.

Why I Kept Silent About My Eating Disorder, and Why Coaches Shouldn’t

Dear Coach,

You are required to detect the early signs of concussions, and to know when to stop an athlete from continuing to play, all with good reason: concussions are common in many sports. Unfortunately, so are eating disorders—and we still don’t know how to talk about them. Coaches aren’t even required to discuss them.

By leaving this topic in the dark, we are failing our athletes. And as a past eating disorder sufferer and runner, my heart breaks to see other athletes struggle as I did—in SILENCE–because they don’t think their eating disorder is “bad enough,” or they don’t think you would understand. I read these emails, and hear these stories over

and over

and over again.

As a fellow cross country coach, I want to thank you for wanting to do something about this.

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The Chin-Up Podcast: Eating Disorders in Running

I first connected with Amber Sayer (author, exercise psychologist, and certified personal trainer) years ago when I read her memoir PR: A Personal Record of Running From Anorexia. It was one of the first eating disorder running memoirs I had read so I appreciated that it was a new angle, and that I could relate so much. I recommend you check it out, along with Amber’s blog at ProcessingProblems.com.

Recently Amber invited me onto her new podcast, The Chin-Up Podcast, where we talked about eating disorders in runners, recovery, writing, and approaches for coaches for athletes with eating disorders. Check out the link below (photo) for this podcast along with the others she will post in the future!

Order your copy of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It here.

“They Just Disappeared”: Beyond Anorexia in Runners

We often picture eating disorders in the running world as a frail girl crossing the finish line in first place. There’s the assumption that they will run into multiple stress fractures in the next few years—and that, that is how they will disappear from the ranks as quickly as they came.

Injury. Lack of energy. Infertility. We bring up these consequences of not eating enough, of becoming too frail. Meanwhile, the least-discussed part of this “disappearing act” is what you might call the sister of anorexia: binge eating disorder, a very common rebound effect of having restricted calories or food groups.

Binge Eating Disorder

Just as serious as anorexia (and even more common), binge eating disorder manifests in a nightmare of consuming vast quantities of food in a frantic, guilt-ridden manner. It prompts sufferers to eat foods they would’ve never touched before, and leaves them feeling immense guilt for days afterward. It triggers a response to want to restrict again, which, in the end, only makes the binge eating worse.

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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.

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Thin Enough? The Athlete’s Dangerous Secret

Following up on the recent bravery of Michigan State University standout runner Rachele Schulist, I want to share my story too, because I think it’s important for all of us who’ve dealt with body image issues to speak up–
and that includes MANY of us.

Let’s examine what Rachele calls, “the lie of not being thin enough”:

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TOP LEFT PHOTO: Being thin for collegiate running got me school records, 6th & 7th places at the national cross country and track meets, and times a minute faster than I had ever run for a 5k. Sounds “successful,” right? It also created isolation, obsession with food, constant hunger, and a disconnect between me and my teammates. My only identity was cutting food and running fast.

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Guest Post With Megan Flanagan of Strong Runner Chicks: The Dark Side of Distance Running

I met Megan Flanagan through social media thanks to our interest in preventing eating disorders in the running world. With a similar mission of speaking about the topic, and encouraging those who struggle to speak up. I am excited to work with Megan in the near future, and I’m especially excited to share what she’s doing through  Strong Runner Chicks, a website dedicated to fostering strength in the female running community!

Strong Runner Chicks started as a way to inspire female runners to embrace their strength rather than cover it up; to embody the curves, muscle, and female bodies that we were given; to foster strength in the female running community and connect females of all ages, competitive and recreational runners alike, to an online space where they share ideas, tips, and personal stories on topics related to running, racing, strength training, fueling right and defining what it means to be a strong runner chick.

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When you think “female distance runner,” what image comes to mind?

Thin? Lean? Wispy? Emaciated?

Likely, the word “strong” doesn’t appear first in your head, if at all.

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Lauren Fleshman: Eating Disorders in the Running World

Life has been busy. Not only have I started my own YouTube channel, but I’ve also been scheduled for numerous speaking engagements, one of which I most recently completed this past Saturday with Yoga For a Cause. That event involved my first-ever radio interview with Rachael Morrow of the Grand Rapids Center for Healing Yoga a few days prior. And to be honest, speaking on the radio felt nerve-wracking. But practice makes perfect, right? Or imperfect is okay, perhaps, in accordance with the message of this website and the Running in Silence book.

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The shirt from the yoga event: “I Love This Body.”

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