Lake Effect Series: Binge Eating

When Hollie reached out to me to write an article I immediately had to write something up.  Though I have been a few years removed from my “demons” they will always be there.  I’ll give you a little bit of background about me though.

I am a 26 year old runner.  I’m 5’5 and 118 pounds.   I’m now married and am holding down a full time job.  I guess that is all you really need to know for the story.

It all began in college.  I was a runner and had the dream of running at NCAA nationals.  Though I was a D3 runner, my zone was pretty tough competition and on a cross country course you had to be running 5:50 miles.  I was at the cusp of this and running 5:55 miles on difficult courses.  I had been doing everything my coach wanted me to do.  I had logged miles, perfected my speed work and my body felt as it should (it was sore on cue and I had fresh legs on cue). I was never underweight and at that time I weighed 125 pounds.

125 pounds is not underweight for my stature and I had very little muscle.  I was a typical cross country girl.  I was built like a rail or a middle school aged boy.  I had a little bit of insulation but not too much.  Since I was doing everything else my coach asked and not breaking through my plateau I started to diet.  Not in a very restricting way but in a way to come down to the lowest possible weight for my height. (112 pounds).  I would still be in the “healthy” category.  I didn’t want to drop weight too quickly because I feared I would lack energy for running.  I just wanted this weight at the regional competition and then I would go back up.  I didn’t care about weight to look good or because I had poor body image, I wanted a lower weight to be faster.  Of course I did this all behind my coaches back.  I don’t know if he would have agreed but I didn’t want to rupture our relationship.

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For the first few weeks it went according to plan.  After about a month I was 118 and I felt stronger than ever.  I also was getting faster and everything felt easier.  Then in the second month I started to take everything for granted.  I thought losing weight was easy and I was starting to miss eating more junk food.  It wasn’t that I ever ate a lot of junk food to begin with but mentally I felt like I was missing out.   I wanted more food and I began to crave everything I wasn’t eating.

One day I was at the grocery store picking up a few things and I thought the fresh baked cookies looked really good.  I bought two of them and headed home.  I ate them both on the way home in the car.  It wasn’t a big deal at all.  I was treating myself for such a great workout, treating myself because I hadn’t for a while.  Just treating myself.  I hadn’t avoided treats at all and treated myself a few times throughout my month of “dieting”.

But when I got home I immediately felt guilty.  I felt like my world had come crashing down and I began crying hysterically.  Everything had gone wrong and I wasn’t going to make it to nationals because of these cookies.  My day was ruined.  What happened next doesn’t even make sense to the outside eye but I went back to the grocery store.  I bought a dozen cookies and a cookie cake.  Roughly 3000 calories and I devoured it all in the car.  I couldn’t stop myself and it was like I was addicted and someone was forcing me to eat this food.

I didn’t vomit or puke it up.  I never suffered from bulimia.  I suffered from binge eating disorder. 

I have never had as low self esteem as the morning after and feeling bloated and asking myself what did I do?  I weighed myself and weighed 126.  Did I gain 8 pounds in one night?  Impossible.  My workout that day suffered and I couldn’t even hold a 6:30 pace on the track (which is huge considering I was able to normally hold 5:30 pace for 400 repeats).  Within a few days my weight and body went back to normal and I stopped weighing myself daily.  I was back at 118.

That must have been a trigger of “oh you can do this and stay at that weight”.  I ended up binging 2000-5000 calories several more times during the season.  I couldn’t force myself to throw up.  So I sat in empty parking lots cramming as much food into my stomach until I couldn’t anymore.  Once I felt sick I went to bed.  It gave me the same similar high that running did.

I decided not to weigh myself the rest of the season.  I felt my self esteem going downhill quickly.  I felt lethargic half the time at practice.  I couldn’t tell anyone.  I wasn’t weighing myself because I was always bloated from binging. I figured if I did what I did my very first binging session and ate well the week before regionals I would be fine.

I would make it nationals and feel great. 

I don’t know what oblivious world I was living in though.  I began weighing myself during the week up to Regionals.  My first weigh in I was 138.  138?!  I had never weighed that much in my life.  I figured it was water weight and bloat.  The day of regionals I weighed 133.  That doesn’t seem like a lot but I had gained 14 pounds in a month and not realized it.  I had simply thought it was water weight.

Regionals came and I ran a 5:58 paced race.  I missed nationals by roughly 25 places (in a 300 person field).  I ran a slower pace than the very first race of the season.  This was an extremely flat and fast course on a perfect day.  If it had been the first races conditions I would have ran closer to 6:10.

After that race and several cries I realized I was not in control of my life.  I decided I was never going to binge again but that was short lived.  I binge ate off and on for 2 years until I was 25. I told no one.  I lived alone.  I was in a viscous cycle of binging and then dieting. I cycled weights from 120-140.

I wish I could tell you about a magical moment I had to stop.  The moment came when one day I decided I was done with this aspect of my life.  I wanted to get my life into control.  I had said that multiple times but for some reason this was the time.  So at age 25 and one month I stopped.  I haven’t binged since and I never want to again.

After a few years of poor runs and even poorer self esteem resulting, I’m finally able to run and enjoy myself.  I’m finally getting the personal bests that I sabotaged myself from the last few years.  I am the person I want to be.  Though I was never officially diagnosed with a problem, it’s obvious that I had disordered eating that led to a 3 year eating disorder.

Where am I now?

I am currently training for 5ks to redeem myself from my college days.  Not a day goes by I don’t regret buying those cookies and opening up that door.  A door that I could not overcome until I grew and became more confident in myself.  Though I regret it, I know it helped me grow.  I am a happy, successful person and can say that I have truly never been happier.  I am glad I made the promise and followed through of never binging again.

I often think about eating cookies and cake but right now I fear that one cookie by myself will lead me down this path.  Instead I go out to eat and get dessert with friends.  When the meal is done, we leave.  I haven’t been triggered since although I haven’t put myself into situations that I feel I might be triggered.

I hope no runner or person every struggles through this.  Thank you for reading my story.  Thank you Hollie for putting this series together and running for this cause.  Every small amount of money raised counts and is used, just as every small amount of awareness is taken by someone and used.  So thank you and have a Happy Holidays.