The Eating Disorder Tainted Happy Events

7 years ago our Aquinas women’s team took 7th at the NAIA national meet—our highest finish ever at that point. It was an exciting time for the team, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

However, the eating disorder part of me crept in as the day went on. How could we have finished if I had been “lighter?” If I had been the freshman version of myself who took 6th individually two years prior? How would things have ended up if I had never binged and gained weight? I didn’t like my body at the time, and felt a sense of disappointment and failure in myself. I didn’t feel that my experience was a full-blown eating disorder (especially since I wasn’t just “skin and bones” and because I was now bingeing more than restricting). I felt I had to take care of this all on my own because maybe it just “wasn’t that bad” and a “discipline” problem more than anything (hint: I was wrong).

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Amelia Boone: Another Professional Runner Speaks Out

When professional runner Amelia Boone wrote about her experience with an eating disorder, I knew this was something I wanted to highlight here.

It’s helpful to hear vulnerability from professional athletes who many people follow and look up to. It can be helpful to see that even the professionals struggle–and that they can offer hope.

Seeing all of this unfold brings me back to my 2012 online search for anyone struggling with an eating disorder as a runner. I found one blog where a young woman was in the midst of her recovery and mentioned being a runner in the past. Lize Brittin stood out to me soon after, especially with her book Training on Empty. And as the two of us messaged the other day, we also recalled the book, She Was Once a Runner.

Inspired but also terrified, I started to share my own story in December 2012, a couple months after beginning therapy. I was still coming to grips with what this eating disorder meant. I was afraid to talk about it in the “wrong” way after attending a few support groups with rules about how we talk about this subject or our own story. And I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of my situation.

As the years went by, others continued to raise their voices–incredible athletes, courageous men and women. And to see the conversation erupting in the running world now is both heartbreaking but also empowering.

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Reflecting on Failure

This September I spoke at an event called Failure Lab. Seven speakers talked about a time they’ve failed to “pave the way for change by crushing the isolation and stigma around failure.” We had to share our stories of failure, and leave it at that—no lesson learned, and we could not talk about how we made it out.

Preparing for, speaking at, and reflecting on this event made me think about many of my failures–one, in particular.

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Why Don’t You Lose 5 Pounds: Eating Disorder and Sports Documentary

In a recent trip to St. Louis, MO for the Eating Disorders in Sports Conference through McCallum’s Place Victory Program, I was able to talk with and be interviewed by Chris Blunk, producer of the upcoming documentary Why Don’t You Lose 5 Pounds? And after a few days at the conference connecting with eating disorder therapists, dietitians, and athletic trainers focused on eating disorders in athletes/sports, I was even more excited for what Chris (and Nancy Kerrigan, Executive Producer!) have in store for us with this documentary. Chris Blunk has more background on the documentary below, but be sure to also follow the Why Don’t You Lose 5 Pounds website and social media pages for updates!

How long have you been in film?

I started making films my senior year of high school and went to the University of Kansas for a film degree. I graduated in 2004 and started working professional in film right after that.

What inspired you to start making a documentary for eating disorders in sports?

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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

*Thank you to BetterHelp for sponsoring this post. All links with * lead to articles for anxiety and depression at BetterHelp.com. I received compensation as a thank-you for my participation, and believe offering links to resources like this may be helpful to some.

February 23-March 1 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Eating disorder awareness is great, but the most important part of this is that people become aware of how hidden and prevalent it really is. The key to my own recovery was recognizing it within myself. This was difficult to do since I was never extremely underweight. And there are people out there with a BMI under 18 who don’t have eating disorders, too.

Therefore, we must emphasize how much of a psychological problem this is–that it is how we approach food and our habits around food that make an eating disorder what it really is.

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Hungry to Speak

You ask me why I eat in secret.

I wish you couldn’t see me eat. I wonder how much you think about what I eat. I decide what I will eat next to make it look like I am not eating too much. I wait until it is noisy enough in the room so that you may not notice how much I am eating when I grab more food.

I sit there acting like nothing is wrong because I don’t want you to notice I am screaming inside. I don’t want you to know how embarrassing this is for me.

You ask why I can’t have more self-control. I tell you, it is because I used to have all the control in the world.

You ask me why I take food out of the trash. I tell you, it is because I used to spit my food into it.

You ask me why you find food wrappers, empty cans of vegetables in strange places around the house. I tell you, it is because I pushed food away for so long–and now there is a shaking, anxious girl inside of me that is terrified she will never have enough.

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If Dieting is Detrimental to Athletes, Why Did I Keep Doing It?

Q: Even though running was your primary goal, when it became evident that the diet was detrimental to running it still pulled you back in. Why do you think it still gripped you even when you knew it wasn’t the direction you wanted to go?

One word: Fear.

When I noticed any detrimental effects on the raw food diet (especially the fruit-focused diet), I felt that I “just wasn’t it doing it right.” I was deeply invested in what I had learned about raw food and its connection to weight loss. I believed that “just eating normally” again would be to ignore “science” and gain weight.

Little did I know how much misinformation I had absorbed. I was following many fruitarians who claimed that the food pyramid was government propaganda and that the fantastic results I was seeing from a select few fruitarians mattered more than working with a registered dietitian. I felt that the world of raw food was something new and exciting I had uncovered and that this alone held the truth to health and success.

I also thought that cooked food would only cause me to binge more. I was afraid of my own appetite, afraid of how “out-of-control” I would feel if I ate any cooked food. And after months of reading from what I thought to be credible sources that protein would “leach the calcium from your bones,” and that eating “cow pus” and “animal carcass” was supposedly “immoral,” I was scared to stop being vegan.

I thought I was meant for this raw food diet. I thought I had more discipline than anyone else, that this was something my competitors could not and would not ever do (I guess I was partly right, haha–very few people would want to do this). After years of toiling away at running, after working so hard, and watching other athletes make it to the top without me, I became frustrated. Why wasn’t my body doing what I wanted it to do? Why, after all the discipline, strength training, high mileage, and eating healthy (or what I thought was healthy), why wasn’t it working?

Restriction–and raw food, at that–was what I believed (at the time) would help me to achieve success at last.

Once I realized that fruit probably wasn’t everything I had thought it to be, it still took weeks for me to “allow” myself to eat cooked food. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that made it so long and difficult to make this change, especially since I was bingeing on the very foods I was scared to incorporate into a regular diet. But even when I did make the change back to cooked food, it was a long, slow process (to be detailed in the Running in Silence book). If I thought raw food was the bulk of the journey, I was mistaken.

I was now facing my fear head-on. Yes, I was dealing with an eating disorder. Yes, I would be eating cooked food again. Yes, I had to learn to overcome the bingeing, learn how to eat properly again, learn to be okay with eating (tasty) cooked food.

I had fallen so fast and hard into the raw food eating disorder that I forgot how and what to eat anymore, and I had to act fast–with three or more meals a day and all the running and racing I was doing for my team, I had to learn to eat to fuel my body properly. I had to do things I never would have thought I would ever do again. I had to fight against every rule I had ingrained in my brain for the past few years, grit my teeth, and move past them.

If I wanted a good relationship with food again, I had to face my fears.

Update: Original title was The Power of Fear

Do I Really Have An Eating Disorder?

Thank you to BetterHelp.com for sponsoring this post. Two of their links have been included in the article below. I received compensation from BetterHelp as a thank-you for my participation, and believe including links like this may be of help to some.

I remember going into my sophomore year of college thinking about how I “had” to lose some weight to run faster than my freshman year. I had gotten to the point where I thought only weight loss would keep me at the top.

Although I was at my thinnest, I was not just skin and bones. I didn’t starve for days-on-end. I never fainted or ended up in the hospital. In fact, I began gaining weight that sophomore year. Because I was gaining weight while struggling with food, I felt it was not “that bad” of an eating disorder, if an eating disorder at all.

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I need YOU

Okay, so I can’t abandon this blog.

I need your help; I’m trying to take this to the next level. What are your biggest questions about eating disorders or diets in general? Do you have specific questions about what you have read so far on this website?

I want to keep you all connected as I put my project together and I want to keep you updated without giving too much away. Please post any suggestions, comments, etc, and maybe we can dive into these topics and my perspective for a few posts here and there. What are your input or thoughts?

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Where Are the Next Posts?

As of right now, I will not be posting any more journal entries. This was a difficult decision to make. There are more journal entries to reveal, but I need to take action and make something more of these than just a blog. I never planned on doing this; in fact, I anticipated sharing the entire journey on this website. However, after a lot of thinking and professional writing advice, I have decided I want to work on these posts more and create something bigger.

You will be able to read the rest of the posts eventually—however, I can’t tell you when since I don’t even know myself. All I do know is that this is the next step I have to take and I don’t want to risk self-publishing all of my work on this site if my gut feeling is to do something bigger.

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