My Eating Disorder Dietitian Saved My Life

Anyone who has read Running in Silence knows I was convinced to take on “Macronutrient” or “Lifestyle” diets. I wasn’t sure how to decipher correct nutrition information when books were being published about the wonders of these diets, and when the leaders were supposedly thriving eating this way. And if a certain diet wasn’t working for me, I believed it was because I wasn’t doing it “right” or going through “detox.”

As someone who was in a vulnerable spot with my body image, running, and eating disorder, these various ways of eating felt like a way out. It felt like freedom and a fix for my “broken” appetite. Only, embarking on these diets actually made everything even more confusing. 

Let’s say these “gurus” were right. Let’s say eating that way is the best fuel for our bodies. Even if that were the case, what it did to me mentally, socially, and emotionally made it unhealthy (cue orthorexia). It made it difficult to eat out, to have enough “right” food, and the cravings were the most intense cravings I had ever experienced in my life. I thought I was in control, but the food/way of eating was in control of me and everything else I did.

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An Ode To Carbs: The Macronutrient That Jumpstarted My Eating Disorder Recovery

As I attempted various “lifestyle” diets throughout my eating disorder, I often read that eating sugary food or carbs would make me crave more carbs. I was quick to agree with this because any time I did eat carbs, my body screamed for more.

What I failed to realize was that my body was not going “out of control” or instantly “triggered” by carbs. My body was telling me, “YES! THIS! THIS is exactly what I need right now. Give me more and I will finally be satisfied, and it will no longer feel this intense.”

Also: “You will not have to battle against me anymore.”

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The Process of Eating Disorder Recovery

Nearly six years ago I shared my journey as I began eating disorder recovery. And if you read back through the blog posts, you’ll find that there was no distinct day or time that I felt fully recovered. The process was gradual. Over time I was able to look back and see that all the little things added up. I began living again.

Professional and Emotional Support

Recovery was a combination of many things. I learned tools from my therapist and dietitian. I realized that restricting only led to bingeing and that eating meals throughout the day made the cravings less intense. I began to understand that whenever I was thinking about food, it meant I was actually hungry.

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Returning to Competition with Binge Eating

To the athletes with a restrictive eating past who are now bingeing: I know this hurts. It hurts like hell. You probably feel broken physically and mentally. You want someone to understand. You want it to stop.

You just want to be back to where you were before.

I know, because I’ve been there, too.

Avoiding Old Behaviors

In the midst of my eating disorder, I thought that the key to getting “back in shape” would mean restricting food again. It took almost a year to realize that restriction was what led me to the bingeing in the first place.

I felt like I was losing time. I know you may feel that way, too. I know the few years you have to compete in high school or college seems short, and you want to get things accomplished in a short time span. But you will only slow yourself down by trying to return to the person you once were.

My hunch is that that person didn’t have a healthy relationship with food.

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The Reality of Eating Disorder Recovery: It’s Tougher (But Better) Than You May Think

I wish I could be the shining example of what it means to recover and run faster. I wish I ran faster at a higher weight. And maybe I could have if my training had been consistent enough without the eating disorder invading everything.

I’m no longer running. I didn’t have a magnificent comeback race in terms of time or place. But I can say this: I’m happier than I ever was during my best running performances.

And I am recovered from the eating disorder.

What We Want Eating Disorder Recovery to Be

Many of us think (and want) eating disorder recovery to be all about obtaining a healthy relationship with food while still restricting (maybe restricting less than before, we convince ourselves). However, recovery doesn’t often end up (or happen) as we want it to. It’s not always the picture-perfect comeback story that we may conjure in our minds.

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Thankful for Recovery: The Journey, and Reaching the Destination

Thanksgiving 2010 I was concerned about having enough “safe” foods at dinner.

Thanksgiving 2011 I ate my own separate “raw food diet” foods.

Thanksgiving 2012 I binged on pie in my bedroom.

Thanksgiving 2017: I’m excited to eat. I indulge in the dark turkey with stuffing and relish the taste of fresh green beans. I don’t think a moment more about food when I finish off the evening with pumpkin pie.

Eating disorder recovery was confusing and tough, but so worth it.

So what happened between 2013-2017?

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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 and advice for others who may be struggling in the video interview below! Her biggest tip? TALK ABOUT IT.

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

[Dumpster] Diving Into Male Eating Disorders: Matt’s Story & Recovery

Several years after I graduated from high school, and well into recovering from my eating disorder, I heard about a guy running cross country at my high school who had developed anorexia. From afar I yearned to help him. But not knowing exactly who he was, and not wanting to overstep boundaries, I heard updates about him from afar. I was thankful when I heard he was getting the help he deserved.

Little did I know that around that time, Matt had found the Running in Silence website. I eventually found Matt’s recovery story online through the Daily Mail. Soon after, we found each other through social media and participated in an event during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He agreed to connect further through the interviews I recorded with him below.

A Runner’s Life Without Running in Eating Disorder Recovery

I will always miss running. I will always remember what it felt like to fly over the grass of a cross country course or pick up speed around the final curve of the track.

I also know that when I ran that fast, it was the only area of my life that brought me happiness. I was so consumed with running that when I didn’t have it, I felt like my world was crumbling. It was a tough growing up stage of my life, and a wake-up call. I had to find more within myself to make me happy and fulfilled.

While running was not replaced with something equal to it, I have found my joy elsewhere.

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When Loved Ones Can’t Understand Your Eating Disorder

Trigger warning: eating disorder behaviors mentioned.
Post updated 3/5/21 to reduce triggers and update the writing because I am still a perfectionist. :)

 

“How can you physically keep stuffing in more and more food?” my dad asked one night. “I mean, I get to the point where enough is enough in one meal.”

My dad and I had agreed to sit down to talk about my eating disorder the summer going into my senior year of college, and it wasn’t off to a great start. At that moment on the couch, in the darkness of one summer evening, I felt I had to explain to my dad exactly what was going on within. Then, then he would “get it.”

The conversation went a little like this:

Me: “When you hold back on food for so long–like my two-year restriction–then your body is going to try to make up for it. It’s going to go for the simplest sugars. That’s why many people crave high-calorie food at the end of the day if they don’t eat enough. Your body wants to find the most calorie-dense form of food so that it can break it down fast and use it. And with an eating disorder–with your body in that desperation mode–you often stuff yourself until you are uncomfortably full, even if it hurts.”

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