I have always thought about writing this blog, and after sharing my story with a few people and hearing their response, I’ve realized it needs to be written.
Why? One, the few people I’ve told have had a profound reaction. Apparently, hearing my truth has left them with…something..and that’s enough. Secondly, I think more than ever right now we all have to share our truth. We have to come together and be there for one another. To be REAL, and understand that we are all human and struggling. We are all battling so much, whether it is visible to those around us or not.
I so deeply believe the phones and social media are destroying humanity. Yes, there is a lot of amazing things that can be gained from technology and even social media, but it is also hurting us. We have this idea that everyone’s life is perfect, and in turn our lives are lacking. This isn’t a ground breaking revalation, I realize that. We have all heard it before, but are we really understanding it? Are we really understanding that what we are watching is a highlight reel, and not someone’s real life?
So much of life is an illusion. We have this idea of what people’s lives are like, which is usually so far off. The problem with that is we are probably lacking compassion for others when it’s needed because we think, “they don’t need me, their good.” But are they really? When’s the last time you asked them?
The idea of things not always being the way they are perceived leads me to the point of this blog. I have told many before, and even posted about it, but I think it needs to be revisited after a couple of recent conversations. I know that many think that fitness comes easy for me. That I have spent my whole life fit and I don’t struggle.
Part of that is true. Fitness has always been a big part of my life. I was a 3 sport athlete and played basketball in college. However, health and wellness has always been a struggle and journey for me. I was never overweight growing up, and I don’t remember having too many issues around food. However, something happened my Sophomore year in High School (I think it was a passing comment by someone that hinted toward me being overweight.).
Being young and impressionable it must have left a mark. It lead me down a road that I am CERTAIN many of you have been on, especially females. I started a food journal. I cut out pictures of (airbrushed) models in bikinis and taped it to the front. I started tracking my calories. I wrote everything down and became obsessed. The “successful” days were the days I logged in under 1000 calories. I would literally do jump rope in my basement when I ate 10 grapes. I probably lost 10 pounds in a couple of months, going from 125 to 115. I was noticeably skinnier, but not the kind of skinny that would be alarming. Each time I heard I looked like I lost weight it would feed my drive to keep losing weight. It felt like an achievement.
Then I remember my mom sitting me down and telling me if something didn’t change she was taking me to the doctor. I do remember my hair was falling out more, and I was always cold, so I think I wanted to change. However, when I started to eat again, it caused me EXTREME anxiety. This was the start of an awful relationship with food that has lasted nearly my whole life.
Once I started eating again, I seemed to gain weight back quickly and put even more weight on than when I started. I think back to what I put my body through back then and I wish I could go back in time. WOW potato chips. 0 calories! Diet Pepsi. 0 calories! I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter. 0 calories! So many chemicals, so little nutrients. At this time I also suffered from bulimia, which was also coming from my extreme anxiety. (Oh, how I wish I could go back and hug that 15 year old me. Tell her everything I know now)
So, I was heavier than I’ve ever been, malnourished, currently a three sport All-State/All-Conference athlete, and going on to play basketball at the collegiate level. Not a good situation, but probably SO COMMON. **This is why I’m so passionate about helping young athletes. If I only knew what I know now and had a healthy diet & fitness program I can’t imagine the athlete I could have been.
Once I graduated from college, the diet yo-yo continued. I lost a bunch of weight for my wedding (mostly stress and working 3 jobs) and then gained some more weight when I started working a desk job. At that time, even though I was a Health and P.E. Major, I still was naive to what a true healthy lifestyle was. I still was trying to count calories, eat low/no fat food, but letting my anxiety get the best of me, which would lead to binge eating junk food (I have always had a bad sweet tooth) It is a vicious cycle and looking back I’m not sure how much self-love was present, if any. Everything was based on how I looked and what I ate.
Then I left the desk job and started personal training. At that time I dabbled in some 5ks and then eventually a half marathon. I finished that thinking, “who the hell does double this distance?” Soon, I found myself at the start line of a Marathon. I never liked running, but I did it because I had to during my athletic career. As an adult I think I did it as a way to stay in shape and to find some sort of athletic competition, but I still didn’t love it.
Then I learned about ultra marathons. I have always been a woods girl, doing a lot of hiking, mountain biking and a couple of adventure races. I always liked trail running, but it wasn’t until I signed up for my first 50k in 2013 that I started doing a lot of long distance running in the trails.
This was the beginning of my journey toward a healthier relationship with food. As I started to do ultra marathons and get competitive at them, I started to realize nutrition was a big part of it. Some even say “it’s a nutrition competition with some running between.” Running for 5-10 hours straight, you need to be dialed in with calories and nutrition.
Here’s where a mind shift happened with me. The day before a long run I would eat to PERFORM the best I could the next day. During my run, I would look for food that provided the most calories in the smallest amount of food. Like…what!?!? This was the opposite of everything I have been doing for the last 20 years. For once, I was using food as fuel! It was the first time in a LONG time that I was literally just eating by feel. I would eat and drink what I wanted, but also with the mindset, “will this work for me or against me in my training.” It was the BEST I felt in my own body in years.
I’m not going to lie, every winter I tend to fall back into an unhealthy relationship with food. I battle with seasonal depression and also bad anxiety. October is always the worst month for me, I’m not sure why. Lately, my anxiety has been pretty bad and I am still struggling to figure that out. I am SO FAR from where I was, but I also know I have so much room to grow and learn. I know once warmer weather hits and my training picks up, it will get better, but that’s not good enough. I am still striving to have a healthy relationship with food all the time!
I write this because I know there are others out there who have struggled or may be still struggling with eating disorders and/or anxiety. It isn’t something that just goes away overnight, and it may be a battle for a lifetime. Body dysmorphia is also something I struggle with, which is why I always say no to, “do you want to be in the picture?” Unfortunately, when I see myself in pictures it sometimes leads to negative thinking and old (toxic) thoughts “I need to lose 10 lbs.”
Like I said before, we need honesty, love, connection and compassion more than ever these days. Here’s my truth and I am writing it to let you know you are not alone, things aren’t always what they seem, and to hopefully inspire you to speak your truth. I am here if you need to talk.