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Lake Effect Series: You can’t “not eat” and train for a marathon.

Note from Hollie: Thank you for sharing as always.  It’s such a reminder that even those who appear healthy often times are not.  Appearance does not tell the whole story.  
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I was always bigger. Not necessarily overweight – but everyone in my family is German and 6+ feet. I’m not quite as tall, but still have the same bone structure. I was very active in high school, but I still had that ‘nagging’ feeling that I just wanted to look like everyone else.

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? 

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12 responses

  1. I’m most proud of my brave determination. It’s taken me far…
    Congrats on the running record and good luck on your upcoming marathon! That’s awesome and hope you get your BQ very soon!

  2. I love that you channeled running into healthy – I found that running and focusing on a goal helped me to learn how to take rest days! So important and a much needed lesson. I think I’m proud of a lot, but most of all I’m proud of my ability to work hard and get things done!

  3. Kudos to this brave person for sharing and recovering. I do agree, at a certain point in running… it becomes more about what your body can do than what it looks like. I know some have the mindset that runners are thin, or that all runners run the whole race without any walk breaks, etc… but the running community here is super accepting of anyone who gets out there regardless of what they look like and what speed they run. I’m really glad they were able to love running for what it is and use it to help their body rather than a hurtful way.

  4. I love everything about this post. I’m in a similar situation right now. Running was once something that held a very disordered, obsessive, and unhealthy place in my life…I ran because I wanted to burn calories and lose weight, etc. because my eating disorder told me I had to burn as much as I could. I used running as a way of doing that…I had to stop running for a while because I was really unhealthy and hurt myself from over-running without properly nourishing myself. When I started running again, I realized I loved RUNNING. It wasn’t about losing weight or burning calories, but the way I felt when I run and the way I felt after I ran. It was something I enjoyed, not something I did out of compulsion or because I felt I “had to”. I am working towards running in actual races this year, but I still struggle with the whole healthy-balanced-eating piece. I’m at a healthy weight now, but the eating is all over the place still. I KNOW that I need to get that under control if I ever want to properly run and get good at it and be able to run races. It is definitely motivation. I am actually meeting with my dietitian again today to discuss a meal plan that will work with my running plans. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

  5. Such a touching true to life story! Once again running has proved to change/save a life for the better. And what is truly amazing about this story is not only the triumph of it but once the fact has been proven that one can succeed at running no matter what body type. Moral of the story … love our bodies no matter the shape, own it, love it!!

  6. This is oh-so true: “Recovery isn’t a mark in the sand, its a constant forward-and-backward and up-and-down. Kind of like running a marathon.” Running and fitness is such a perfect metaphor in many ways!

  7. Knowing that what and how much I eat will affect my training definitely helps to keep me from disordered eating habits. I’ve never had anything like this girl but I certainly have a troubled relationship with food that training has really helped

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