Little Things With BIG Impacts: Guest Blog Post by Hannah Wolfe (Part I)

Hannah Wolfe reached out to me about supporting the Running in Silence nonprofit, and I wanted to give her the opportunity to share her own story here! Events and conversations have been recreated from her memories of them. Eating disorder behaviors are mentioned.

Hannah, who will be graduating from the University of Virginia with a Psychology Major and Health and Wellbeing Minor, was born and raised a runner. From the deep valleys to the unimaginable peaks, running has held her hand throughout the past 15 years. A self-described wellness enthusiast, recovery advocate, and world-changer-in-training, Hannah strives to bring more magic into this world. She has a strong love for running, coffee, music, being outdoors, and empowering others. She’s here to fight so more people like her can experience the golden moments in life! 

I awake to the roar of the garage door shutting as my parents leave for their morning run. Racing down the stairs (as quietly as a seven-year-old can race) so I can turn on this morning’s episode of Full House, I keep the volume low to not disturb my sleeping sister (seriously, how do teenagers sleep that long?) and stumble into the kitchen.

I skim the latest of many weekly lime green sticky note “to-do” lists. They were always clinging to our kitchen table or the granite countertop, sure to be the first thing to catch one’s eye upon entry. I began making Rachel’s favorite (Pillsbury cinnamon buns, of course), eyeing the “to-do” list that did not include “make breakfast” along the way.

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When Eating Healthy Goes Too Far (Guest Post by Nora McUmber)

Nora McUmber (@therecoveryrunner), reached out to me a couple years back to start a discussion about disordered eating in college runners for a podcast she was starting. I was excited to see a college athlete contributing to this discussion, and ever since then I’ve been curious to read about her experience and share it on the blog!

Nora is a senior Education for Instruction major with a concentration in TESOL (Teaching English as a second language) and a minor in photography. She has been running since her freshmen year of high school and it has become a huge part of her life. When Nora is not running, she loves to do anything outdoors–hiking, biking, kayaking just to name a few. She is also very  passionate about breaking the stigma of mental health in the athletic world. She hopes that by sharing her experiences, she can help others who may be in a similar situation.

I remember a time when food was fun. I never cared to ask if it was healthy or unhealthy.

I remember a time when bread was not the enemy, and I NEVER felt guilty for eating certain foods. 

As I graduate from college this year, I’ve been reflecting on my four years of college and running. I have to admit I am a changed person, as I should be. I am terrified to re-enter a world where running and food aren’t the center of my personal universe. I find myself gradually separating my identity from the sport, and I find that I have picked up some un-healthy practices. The bubble has at last been popped and I see my distorted eating for what it is.

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Discovering Dysthymia: A Mental Health Journey (Guest Post with Melanie Brender)

I met Melanie Brender when raced together on a team for Michigan at the Mideast Cross Country Championships at the end of our senior cross country seasons. Melanie and I stayed connected over social media ever since, and when I began posting for this blog, she was extremely supportive the entire way.

Melanie has had her own share of mental health struggles after competing for Michigan State University and then as a professional runner for the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, and wanted to be more transparent lately with the hope of helping others. I was excited to have her share her mental health experience here about her struggle with Dysthymia. Thank you Melanie for your support of the Running in Silence endeavors, and for your own vulnerability to reach others!

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Life After Sport: Now What? (Guest Post by Becca McConville)

Because a large topic of the next book I’m working on is about breaking away/transitioning from sport (in my case, running), I’ve been looking forward to having Rebecca McConville (MS RD LD CSSD) share her thoughts on this subject here!

Becca invited me onto the PHIT for a Queen Podcast and has been supportive of Running in Silence. And with all the great work she is doing, it was a treat to meet her in person at the Eating Disorders in Sport Conference last month. In fact, Becca was one of the speakers who put together an amazing presentation about eating disorders in men with Patrick Devenny.

As I’ve learned through writing book #2, learning about others’ experiences, and through seeing articles pop up about the tough transition from sport, I’ve really begun to see how large and difficult this topic is–especially for those who have or are prone to developing eating disorders, too. Thank you, Becca, for your expertise and addressing this!

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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.

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Guest Post Sara Brekke Part I: 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
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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.

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

I am honored to introduce Steve Sanders for our next guest post. 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).

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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.

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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Race Against the Stigma of Mental Illness: Interview with Suzy Favor Hamilton

Suzy Favor Hamilton–US Junior Record holder in the 1500m; three-time national junior champion in high school; winner of nine NCAA Titles, 32 Big-Ten Championships, and seven USA National titles; American Record holder and a three-time Olympian.

And back in 2012, outted as a high-end escort in Las Vegas.

As the Olympic “sweetheart” of track and field, many were shocked by the news of Suzy’s “second life.” Amid the chaos of the reveal, Suzy began therapy to understand the reasons for her behaviors–and in doing so discovered she suffered from bipolar disorder.

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Mom Speaks: Her Thoughts on My Eating Disorder Journey

I know parents have reached out to me expressing that they want to understand more about their son or daughter’s eating disorder. I wanted to give some insight into my situation from my mom’s perspective, here:

The Perfect Storm

Rachael strove to be perfect. Every assignment or workout or practice was completed on time or early and was prepared above and beyond expectation or requirement. She did everything she was supposed to do plus extra. She would check her work over and over before she turned it in just to be sure it was absolutely correct. Some might call it obsessive-compulsive behavior. Nothing but A’s would satisfy her. Her sister and “normal” kids were not like her. She had very few peer friends and craved the attention and approval of her parents, teachers, and most adults. She couldn’t control her awkwardness or her peers so she poured herself into controlling everything she could.

As a candidate for an eating disorder, Rachael was the perfect storm.

running at houseman

Triggering Comments

When Rachael finally admitted to herself and then to me, her mother, that she thought she might have a problem with food, I took her out to eat (!) to discuss whatever she had on her mind. I said every wrong clichéd thing I could have possibly said. I had meant well but I triggered all the negative derailment that exists.

My husband and I eventually went to an eating disorder counselor to learn about what she was going through. We started reading the books they suggested. Rachael also began reading everything she could get her hands on about the topic. She sent me a list of the books and articles she thought would help me most to understand and educate myself for her sake. I learned how horribly wrong-headed everything I had said to her that night she tried to tell me about her struggle.

Improved Communication

We communicated. We made our peace with each other. We explained what we meant by what we said and explained how it was interpreted and why. We spent hours and hours talking. She wrote pages and pages of prose about her journals and experiences and research and goals for rescuing herself. That was the best turning point–when she told me of her plan for self-rescue.

I was relieved. I knew she would make it. I will be eternally grateful to the people who came into her life to support her and love her and tell her their stories and reassure her that recovery is possible and she could most definitely be happy and secure again.

Misconceptions Hide Eating Disorders

Through reading all the books, I knew there were parts of the eating disorder experience that were not written about. Not everyone with an eating disorder lands at death’s door weighing fifty pounds dragging drama of soap-operatic proportions. Not everyone hates their body for lack of beauty or excess of fat or feels it’s necessary to starve all the way to death in order to run or dance or perform gymnastics to perfection.

Rachael has always given me many opportunities to be proud of her throughout her life with her performances and accomplishments. But there is nothing that gives me more pride than how she has chosen to handle this struggle.