Healthy Mind. Healthy Movement.
Exercise, particularly running was the catalyst for my eating disorder to completely overtake my life. About 15 years ago, I trained for my first half marathon. I trained all summer in preparation for the race in the fall.
I liked being in shape (by diet culture’s definition). I liked the freedom to run down county roads with my roommates. I hated myself because I could not keep up with my roommates. I assumed it was because I was fat and could not be as disciplined with food like them. I loved sweets. I felt guilty for eating sweets because I looked different. I assumed sweets made me run slower. I got caught up in the comparison game.
A week before the half marathon, I got sick with bronchitis. That week, I tried to eat “healthy” and have energy for the Sunday race. I was terrified because I might not be able to run. It was hard to breathe. I had zero energy. However, I was determined to run no matter how I was feeling. And I did. And, I was miserable. Running and my body were my identity. They defined me. It did not matter if I hurt myself. I had a new shiny race to brag about and make me feel like someone instead of nothing. I often thought those who saw me would be surprised that “someone so big” could run a half marathon.
For some odd reason, I stepped on the scale after the race. The scale was a focal point in our house. Our weight fluctuations, what we ate, and how many miles we ran daily was our main conversations at the breakfast nook. I was so pumped that after my week of being sick and running the race, that I had “lost” a considerable amount of weight. Immediately, I thought, “Oh that’s how I lose weight! If I don’t eat, especially ‘junk’ food, and run all the time, I’ll be pretty! People will love me!” It was that moment that changed the trajectory of the next 15 years of my life.
I already had the genetic predisposition. I had already dabbled in behaviors early on in life. I hated my body. My life felt very out of control. I had no idea at the time, but the eating disorder was a way to control the chaos. NO ONE could take it away! It also gave me a false identity, skewed perspective of the world, others, my identity, and sense of self. I changed. I changed, not in a positive way.
For the next 10 years, I subjected my body to numerous half marathons, trail running races, and too much exercise. About 5 years ago, I ran my last trail running race. I couldn’t do it anymore. My mind and body were failing me. I hated myself so much because I was slower and my body didn’t move like it did in the past. I also had strict rules from my treatment team that I was not to run in anymore races moving forward. I pushed back. It was secretly a relief on the inside to stop running. I could tell everyone I was not running because my team said I couldn’t. I could keep my false perspective of who I thought I was while having an excuse not to run.
Over the last 5 years, I begged my treatment team to let me race. I threatened to race and didn’t do it. Why? Because I committed to doing things differently this time around. I was convinced that I was ok and doing so much better. I promised to eat more if I was running more. I kept getting a “nope” as an answer. I felt frustrated. I felt like I was not trusted. After all these years of recovery, why can’t I run a race? Well, because I am a stubborn person and I know myself, I decided to sign up for the Bolder Boulder (I’m not advocating for going against what your treatment teams says.). When I told my team, I thought they might fall out of their chairs. However, we were all in a space of meeting in the middle or what I like to call the hot pink.
I assured them that I had the proper safety nets in place which were:
1. My best friend, Crissi K, from high school was going to do it with me (For those of you who have heard me speak in person, this is the same friend that helped me commit to my meal plan and keep going past the point when I usually give in and stop.).
2. I would fuel my body appropriately and check in with my dietitian as my training increased.
3. I wanted to have fun and not worry about time or distance.
I received a reluctant “ok”. I PROMISED to stick to my intentions, answer any questions honestly about behaviors sneaking in, and if my mind couldn’t handle the training, I would not do the race.
Things were going fine the first month of training. However, once I got over a threshold of training, I had not done in 5 years, my brain went crazy. Suddenly, I cared about time, miles, and calories. Now I understood the hesitation from my team. This was the red flag for me. Of course, initially, I wanted to hide it from everyone because there was something exhilarating about it. I missed Coach. I missed the false “freedom”. I was able to quickly recognize that lying isn’t a part of my character. So, as promised, I immediately told my friends and my team. We worked through it.
Then, I had an unrelated medical issue, a car accident (which left me unable to workout for almost 8 weeks), getting sick for two weeks, and then a tendonitis issue also unrelated to running. I felt SO defeated. However, as always, I was DETERMINED to participate in the 2019 Bolder Boulder. I needed to do a race HEALTHY (and this one is so fun). I needed to feel what running healthy is like in this present body that is in recovery and living a big life!
I had so much fun! We walked the race and ran a bit. Crissi K was awesome at reminding me we should walk because I would over do it (just my nature). I have no idea my time, mile splits, and I don’t care at all. I had so much fun laughing at the costumes, debating if I wanted to do the waterslide (it wasn’t sunny), and eating cupcakes while participating in the race.
Side Note: The cupcake saved me in mile five from a hypoglycemic issue! Thank you to the rugby team that was handing them out!
It’s super freeing to enjoy the moment and not worry about if I’m running or not. It’s fun to be present with my friend and enjoy the crazies of the Bolder Boulder! More importantly it’s a great way to honor those who have died for our country and continue to fight for our freedom. I too had my own freedom to fight for! Thanks Crissi K!