When I went away to college, I realized I could reinvent myself. I’ll diet! I’ll workout even more! What started off as good intentions turned into skipping class to spend hours at the gym and adopting a strange, extremely strict food regiment.
It didn’t take me long to start realizing that I was headed down a slippery slope. But, all the girls on my hall were so IMPRESSED with my dedication and discipline! “Oh, how I wish I could be like you!” “Oh, you’re so diligent, that’s awesome!” How can you possibly start breaking a bad habit when everyone applauds you for it?
I’d strategically eat one piece of wheat bread with a scoop of trail mix on top of it and consider that most of my daily food. Healthy fats, good carbs, protein…who cares that its only a total of 200 calories? It’s well-balanced!
My behavior continued all through college…each year brought new challenges. Engineering classes were hard, I joined a sorority…every new challenge drove my perfectionism harder and harder. I figured that once I graduated college, it would all go away. I figured that “adults” don’t deal with these kinds of problems! I’d just wake up and be normal.
Well, I graduated. And I got a good job. And the behavior didn’t stop. I’d spend all day at work just chugging water hoping I didn’t pass out. Our company did a free health screening…and mine came back bizarre.
My blood work was all over the place. I was lacking tons of nutrients, had wild levels of certain horomones, had stress on my kidneys. Not to mention my hair was falling out by the lock, and I developed awful insomnia. I finally realized – “adulthood” wasn’t going to solve my problems.
My main vice in my times of disordered eating was over-exercising. I’d run for hours and hours just to watch the calories on the machine count up. I’d skip meeting friends because I had to burn more calories. Would get up and run in the middle of the night because I had to burn more calories. Would go to the gym with the flu because I had to burn more calories. I decided to apply for a cognative-behavior therapy study taking place at a local university. I was accepted, and entered into a therapy person.
As my therapy went on, I realized that I really liked to run, when I wasn’t using it as self punishment. My therapist helped me channel my ‘perfectionism’ a little bit into my running. Okay, great, I can stay on a treadmill for hours…but can I run a fast 5k? A 10k? How about a marathon?
Here’s the catch: You can’t “not eat” and train for a marathon. I think this was my saving grace.Towards the end of 2012 I became focused on completing the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2013, and I did. Properly fueled and all.
In 2013 I ended up running over 15 half marathons, the marathon, and a half trail ultra…plus a sprinkling of local 5 and 10ks. And get this, I WON some. I finally started realizing that being proud of my body’s physical strength and power is a lot more impressive than my jean size.
I’m gearing up for the marathon in Pittsburgh again, and have already started setting my sights on a BQ sometime in the future. Who knew running could save a life?
I’ve come a long way, but still seek therapy help and suffer relapses. Recovery isn’t a mark in the sand, its a constant forward-and-backward and up-and-down. Kind of like running a marathon.
Question for you: What nonphysical aspect of yourself are you most proud of?