Note from Hollie: This story is near and dear to my heart. As a collegiate runner and distance runner I’ve heard MANY females talk about losing their period is natural in training. It’s not. I can 100% say I have never lost my period and it is not normal if you have. If you have lost your period, please go see your doctor.
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Submitted by K
As several other writers have mentioned, it is so hard to know where to begin. I could tell you about waking up every morning in elementary school to the sound of my beautiful mother weighing herself. Or, I could begin in 4th grade when I first began hating my body because I weighed as much as a family friend who was several years older (and several inches shorter) than I was. I could talk about 6thgrade when I began telling my parents I did not like to eat breakfast and then “forgetting” my lunch at home daily. I could tell you about the weight I lost, and was incredibly proud of, as I was weighed daily in my 8th grade personal fitness class. I could tell you about the dangerous game this created in my head, as I realized watching these numbers fall gave me a feeling of control over the otherwise chaotic life I was living.
I could begin my freshman year of college, when after a few years of appreciating my body and running competitively in high school, I gained the infamous “freshman fifteen.” Thankfully, during high school, my disordered eating lay dormant for the most part! I was running track and cross country, playing travel soccer, and fueling myself properly. I was training hard and reaping the rewards. But with the transition to college came a decrease in my training, an increase in dining hall desserts, and a truly unintentional reversion to my old “game.”
I was disgusted with the weight that I gained, constantly uncomfortable in my body, and frustrated I could let myself eat so much, so I decided to do something about it. I do not believe I set out with the intention of creating an eating disorder. I did not even label what I experienced as an “eating disorder” until I ultimately sought a nutritionist and therapist my junior year of college. It began as an earnest attempt to run more, eat less, and lose some of the “freshman 15” I had gained. It started as an innocent diet to lose the 15 pounds I had gained.
I began training again, reading nutrition labels, calculating calories in my head or on paper, and ensuring that no meals I consumed had more than what I deemed to be the “acceptable” amount of calories. I have ALWAYS been a numbers oriented person. I love math, which is why I majored in accounting! This aptitude for numbers, however, turned into a very real and constant obsession. If I did not know how many calories were in something, I could not eat it. I did not want to introduce any kind of uncertainty into my new game. I loved knowing exactly how many calories I was eating, and estimating how many I was burning. I never took into account Basal Metabolic Rate, so my efforts to operate at a caloric deficiency resulted in a much greater deficiency than I even expected (because your body needs a considerable amount of calories just to operate in a day without exercise!)
I was losing weight, and I was thrilled. I loved knowing exactly what I could eat and when. I loved having so many rules to dispel any uncertainty from my diet. I was fitting into my old clothes again, and not just from college, but safety pinning the shorts I once wore in high school when I was much smaller and hadn’t truly matured into my adult body. I never once thought that maybe, at 5’8”, I didn’t need to fit into these size 0 pants.
But I was running the best I ever had! I was PRing road races and training for triathlons. I was winning my age group in races and working myself to the bone on my own. I was doing track workouts in the pouring rain and running late at night if I couldn’t get it in at another time. I was late for class and meetings so I could get in a few more miles (and I am NEVER late. It is one of my biggest pet peeves). I was choosing exercise over people because I didn’t want to slow down if they weren’t my pace. I was obsessed, and I was slipping down a dangerous slope all by myself, without the presence of mind to realize what I was doing to my body. I lost my period, but told myself that couldn’t have had anything to do with my diet or exercise. “A lot of runners lose their period, right? It’s just natural…” Wrong. These thoughts were taking over my time, my life, and my mind. It was all I could think about, and all I could do. I found myself in the depths of a full blown eating disorder, without realizing what was happening.
My junior year of college, the effects started catching up with me. My grades were slipping and I was isolating myself more than ever. I was no more satisfied with myself than when the restriction began—in fact, I hated myself more. As a very extroverted person, it was the depression and isolation that finally clued me in to what I was doing to myself—this was no way to live. I was constantly preoccupied, thought about food 24/7, and finally realized there might be something wrong with the way I was living. I made the decision to call a nutritionist at my college, honestly believing she was not going to see anything wrong with my choices, but hoping that she could help me dispel some of the obsession I was experiencing about food. Little did I know, meeting with her for the next two years would absolutely change my life.
Calling what I was experiencing an “eating disorder” was one of the hardest things to verbalize. But finally accepting what I was doing to my body allowed me to begin to fight back. I have learned so much through the recovery process, and while it has been THE hardest experience of my life, I have learned more from this process than I ever expected. If I could have learned these things through any other process, absolutely I would have chosen that…but I am so thankful for what I am learning from my life’s path and I would love to share some of these lessons with you all.
– I have learned to appreciate my body for what it does, not have it looks like. Thank your legs for carrying you throughout your day! Your body is powerful, and it keeps you alive. It enables us to experience so much. Now, I would rather run marathons and hike mountains than have misconceived “power” over my hunger and needs. I am thankful for my body and I hope you are too!
– I have learned that the physical body does not always show evidence of the mental struggle. I wish it was like a light switch, that once your body is healthy, your mind follows suit, but the darkest days of my eating disorder were when I was regaining weight in therapy and fighting the intense mental desire to return to restriction. A healthy body does not always ensure a healthy mind, and we cannot assume that since someone’s physical body does not show the evidence, that they are not experiencing deep hurt and inner turmoil. Eating disorders affect people in all shapes and sizes and in all stages of the recovery process.
– I have learned that I am not alone. The shame is incredibly intense, and I felt crazy and as if no one would understand, but that is absolutely not the case. This series of posts alone shows how pervasive eating disorders are in our society, and that we are not alone. Even if people have not experienced an eating disorder, in my experience, my friends still tried to understand. It was incredibly intimidating, but once I spoke up, I was astonished at the support I received and at the amount of people who had experienced an eating disorder or knew someone who had.
– I have learned how important it can be to ask. Speak up if you are concerned for a friend. Ask out of the compassion and love in your heart. If they are not suffering, hopefully they will know that you care about them enough to ask. If they are suffering, your words may enable them to speak up, receive support, and fight back against something that can truly take their life.
– I have learned that nothing is a waste if you learn from it. Like I said before, if I could have learned these lessons any other way….sign me up! But instead, it took an eating disorder and a difficult, continuing recovery process to teach me to love and value myself, and for that, these dark years of my life have meaning.
For so long, I avoided talking about my experience with anyone because I was so ashamed. I was ashamed that I had so much trouble doing something that should be so easy and intuitive; ashamed that I refused myself food when others around the world starved for no fault of their own; ashamed I despised and abused my perfectly functional body when others’ bodies are attacking themselves with disease and illness. I was ashamed I struggled with something I couldn’t even understand. But today, in sharing my story, standing on my recovery, and realizing all of the incredible lessons I am learning through my experience, I can continue to dispel the shame. If I can answer one question, encourage one person, change one perspective, or initiate one conversation, my experience is worth it. Thank YOU for helping me make meaning!
I’ve done a bit of reading about overtraining, and everything I’ve seen has said that if the menstrual cycle changes or becomes abnormal, it is often a warning sign of overtraining.
Such an inspirational post! Glad you decided to share your story to help others 🙂
I keep saying i want to write a post on this, because i think it is way too common to be mis-written about in blogs. it drives me crazy because a period is much more than just something we have to get, it is a sign of a woman’s health in many ways. thank you for sharing this and thank you to the writer for their perspective and reiteration of it is not normal to lose your period.
Thank you for sharing. Always you are not alone. Everyday is a struggle to make the right choices. It’s so easy to slip back into bad habits.
That is a seriously powerful story. Just proves how quickly the slippery slope of a healthy eating style can turn into an unhealthy one. Thank you for posting this!
Thank you for sharing your story. I have suffered for 15+ years before I found recovery and I remember how hard it was (and can still be today) to say “eating disorder” I just used to say I had weird eating habits. Labeling it has always been hard, but like most things, begin honest/recognizing theres a problem is our first step to recovery. You aren’t alone, fighting beside you in this 🙂
One of the scariest parts about an eating disorder is how innocently it starts out, and how hard it is to get out by the time you realize that you have a serious problem — mine happened the same way.
Thank you for sharing your story, K. Struggling we than eating disorder isn’t something to be ashamed of — overcoming it is something to be PROUD of. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a good reason, and you never know how many lives you can touch by sharing what you’ve been through… Or how much of a positive impact a negative experience like that could have had on who you are today.
I love hearing about the recovery aspect of her story – and it makes me a little afraid to be a mother because I don’t ever want to pass my body insecurities onto my daughter! I remember wanting to lose weight in sixth grade – and it’s all too early!
Thanks for having the courage to share your story! It’s all too common of a problem and if more people shared their stories I feel like people wouldn’t suffer so much alone. And maybe you’ll even help someone to get help sooner. I’m sorry it took so long to get your mind wrapped around the beauty of your body, but I’m glad it did!
Thank you for sharing your story to help others struggling with disordered eating. I love how you emphasized focusing on what the body can do versus what it looks like. It’s such a positive and important message to share with other women and young girls.
Inspirational post here! I am an elite athlete, as well as a collegiate coach, and I see this so often. Girls lose weight, run their fastest ever, and see that as the correlation as to why they are running fast. But unfortunately it all comes crashing down as your body cannot handle it. Injury after injury, sickness after sickness, and you are putting your body through some serious damage.
I often find myself comparing myself to the other elites I compete against, but at the end of the day, you are right, that extra weight is my power. My legs can power me up hills when the skinnier girls fall back, not enough strength to make ti away. I am so grateful for my powerful legs and what they have helped me accomplish.
It is good that you recognize this, and you are in a better place now. That is so brave of you to share it. Hopefully your message can reach out to others.
I can’t even imagine Tina. I am sure you are such an inspiration to your athletes!
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