Posts

“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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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.

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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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Rachael Recovered? Phases of My Eating Disorder, and Where I Am Now

[[[TRIGGER WARNING. Eating disorder behaviors mentioned]]]

I didn’t realize until recently how unhealthy and DISORDERED my mindset was these past five years–in all stages of an ever-changing eating disorder. After presenting about my experiences to my college a few times I’ve realized that when I talk about my past eating disorder practices, the person I speak of seems so different from the Rachael I know now. I didn’t realize how much I’ve changed because it’s been so gradual, but when I write it all out as I’ve done here, it becomes clearer than ever.

Restriction (2 years)

7 a.m.: Wakeup and the first thing you think is BREAKFAST. But you weigh yourself first, of course.

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Discipline, Drugs, and Disorder

I was recently challenged with the notion that eating disorders are not as intense or similar to drug addiction or alcoholism. I’ve also been challenged about how much eating disorders are a discipline–not a disorder–issue.

And then we have misconceptions about what eating disorders “look” like: only when are you scarily thin should you get help. When you are overweight, you just need to “eat less and exercise more.” Not exactly.

There’s a lot to fight against with eating disorders, and perhaps that is what makes them so difficult for sufferers to admit what they are going through. I do appreciate the questions I receive from those who simply have not had an eating disorder because it means they are either trying to understand, or that they are at least helping me to understand their confusion and skepticism. But it can be frustrating when people quickly dismiss the illness lightly when you are not hooked up to an IV or fainting at work.

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Guest Post: Brittany Burgunder’s Battle

I came across Brittany’s blog about a year ago and found her eating disorder struggle similar to my own. Certainly Brittany’s drastic weight fluctuation in a small amount of time is relatable to me as well as many more of us, and shows that the problem lies not in appearance, but in our attitude toward food. Just like me, Brittany is also in the process of getting a memoir published about her eating disorder experiences. I’m so glad Brittany was willing to share her journey as well as the struggles she still encounters on a daily basis, as I believe eating disorders should be monitored even in recovery.

My name is Brittany and I want to let you all know no matter what you are struggling with that there is always hope for a better life. For me, my major life struggle was with my weight and appearance. Growing up I was constantly bullied and teased and I never had a close friend; only acquaintances to say hi to so I didn’t seem like a complete and utter loser. I was always a great student and a very talented tennis player and horseback rider to top it off, but that didn’t matter. My self-esteem was nonexistent and every day I wondered what was so wrong with me that I didn’t fit in like everyone else. Instead of realizing there was nothing wrong with me other than I was shy and insecure, I turned my anger and sadness inward.

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How to Find Balance in Eating Disorder Recovery

Q: Balance – If we don’t take care of ourselves, we aren’t as able to [take care of] others. It’s about finding balance so that you avoid extremes in diet and exercise. I know that people have commented that they want to know what diet you finally found that works best, and it makes me wonder if they are looking for answers for themselves. That’s a pretty tough question to answer because nutrition isn’t that cut and dry, and there is still a lot that we don’t know. Everyone thinks that they are an expert, and you can find great arguments that support almost any diet. That’s why I think balance and moderation. I’m curious to learn where you are at with this.

Balance is a topic my friends tried to stress to me at one point this past year (something I will go into detail in my project – it was stressful, but eye-opening, and continues to turn up in my life as I come to more conclusions/realizations).

Being a perfectionist, dedicated, hard-working person who finds the ultimate “secret” to success (supposedly) caused me to be consumed with achieving success at the cost of my mental and physical health. I think it comes with having that natural drive, that certain personality – we perfectionists seem to want to go “all the way” with anything and everything. If a little bit is good, then a lot must be better, right? I think it comes with being a runner, too. You think, if I run this many miles, then ten more miles each week would make me even faster. While that can be true, we perfectionists think we can bump it up quickly: Because I have enough discipline. Because I have enough willpower. Because I can force myself to do it.

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Eating Disorders Vs. Healthy Eating

Let’s say a friend chooses to order a salad while the rest of your friends order pizza. Is this friend restricting calories to lose weight he doesn’t need to lose? Or does he genuinely just want a salad right now because pizza doesn’t sound appetizing at the moment? But what if this person does need to lose some weight and is working on a healthy weight loss plan?

Some people may eat in a way that makes others think, eating disorder. But this is a touchy accusation. You can’t point to every raw-foodist and claim they have an eating disorder. You can’t claim every vegan has eating disorder issues. And you can’t assume that just because someone eats a seemingly balanced diet that they don’t have an eating disorder. Some may eat in restrictive ways to avoid actual food allergies or find that they feel better eating this way, while others use “gluten intolerance” or “raw food diet” as an excuse to carry out their eating disorder behaviors in a more convincing way.

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What I Learned About Binge Eating, and How I Stopped

In the summer of 2010 I thought I could exert all the willpower in the world. I could restrict, could hold back on my deepest food desires. Not to say it was easy; it was difficult, but at least I felt like I could control it.

When I began binge eating, I still wanted the control. I hungered for it. But there was something about food that suddenly took control over me now. Suddenly I couldn’t tell my body what to do.

This isn’t to say that I was like a zombie stumbling around the kitchen. I was aware of what was happening. But the cravings had never felt so strong, so constant, so life-consuming that I “needed” to get rid of them to function–just to get on with my day. 

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