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Lake Effect Series: An Innocent Diet

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. 

With only a few more days to go we have surpassed the goal of reaching 2000 dollars for Ophelia’s Place.  We only have 95 dollars to reach the new goal of 2200.  Please continue to donate as Ophelia’s Place will always put it to good use! Please feel free to share any or all of the stories.  The amount of awareness is incredible.  Finally do not forget to enter the giveaway!  

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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!

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Lake Effect Series: Five Years Lost

Note from Hollie:  This post is extremely heartbreaking.  Often times eating disorders are associated with being very thin but there are so many people suffering that are not underweight or do not looking they are having inner battles.  

There are exactly two weeks to go before the race.  I’m very very excited to see how far this campaign is going.  I am surprised, excited and overwhelmed by the support from donations and sharing stories.  I cannot believe together we have reached over 2000 dollars!  Thank you friends and family for being so supportive.  

I need 4 more stories for the final week before the race.  If you are interested in sharing your story please do no need hesitate to email me! 
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Bertha

That’s what my 8th grade teacher called me one day. Middle school kids can be harsh and sadly things like that stick around for far too long.

When you like eating disorders what comes to mind? Let me guess, the “thinspo” or pro-ana websites that are sadly all too prevalent thanks to the internet? Skin, bones, hair falling out? Probably not 200+lbs right? But in my case, that’s where the disordered habits began. I was never dangerously underweight or the “stereotypical” specimen, yet there I was in High School eating a few bites of chicken and baby carrots for lunch to make my sudden weight loss look relevant then going home and binging on whatever I could find at night. It didn’t start out this way, and the downward spiral began without me even realizing it.

In my first year of High School I took up rowing and went from well over 200lbs to a healthy and very active 150-ish lbs. I was eating better, I was exercising and competing in both rowing and Dressage. I was happy, much healthier and life was good. I took a year off rowing to focus on my horseback riding and suddenly my activity level went from extreme to…. non-existent. Needless to say, the weight came back on and it came back on fast. I’d go back and forth joining gyms, trying to “diet” and generally just getting nowhere. I got back into rowing and my weight evened out.

In my last year of high school I was aiming to finish my year competing at the Canadian High School Rowing Championships. My coach sent in the entries the week of Christmas and he casually mentioned he entered my teammate and I as lightweight, which was 138.6lbs and under (Yes, a number that will forever be burned in my brain). At the time I was going to a small women’s only gym and remember going into the locker room that week and stepping on the scale. 216lbs and my race was 4.5 months away.
And so began the bites of chicken and baby carrots.

No breakfast.

Cardio.

Twice a day training.

May came and I stepped on the scale in front of the race officials, my weight class was sharpie’d onto my arm, and this is where life should have gone back to normal. Work on my eating habits and continue working out, the beginning of my new healthy lifestyle, only this is where I started eating even less, training more, and binging at night. I hated myself, my body, my inability to quit binging.

Eventually the restricting led to a doctors appointment. I was frequently lightheaded and on the verge of passing out, but on the outside I looked like an average weight high school kid. I remember the doctor asking very vague questions, after all I didn’t LOOK sick. The outcome was no tests, no concern. Low iron probably, pick up a supplement and get on with it.

I wish someone had seen something in that time and expressed concern or that there was more resources available. I spent years of my life yo-yo dieting, hating myself and my body, starving, binging, taking part in a never ending vicious cycle that maybe could have been cut much shorter with proper education and help. Someone to listen, a place to feel safe to share my struggles, the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. Reading the stories that Hollie has posted have broken my heart and while I know my story is nothing in comparison I think supporting this cause and bringing eating disorder awareness and resources to more people is so very important.

Maybe being diagnosed would have changed my life, had I got help sooner I often wonder what would have changed in my life. I wasted 5 years of my life to stressing over my body and eating. Five years of ignoring real life and just existing in my disordered habits. Those are 5 years I’ll never have back and want no one else to lose.

Lake Effect Series: Finding Passion

Note from Hollie: This story was submitted by a friend.  It is devastating to see how young children (especially females) are noticing weight and size at an early age.  Then how it can grow into something much bigger.  I remember a while ago tumblr banned “pro-anna” sites (a topic for another day). Even though tumblr banned these posts, websites still exist dedicated to a frail and malnourished body still exist.  Thank you all for sharing stories and donating.  This eating awareness campaign has grown much bigger then I ever would have dreamed.  With only 215 dollars left to go, my goal today is to reach 2000!  It would mean a lot if you were able to donate but if you aren’t please don’t hesitate to retweet, share or comment.  Any awareness is better then no awareness and together we have truly achieved raising awareness.

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Submitted by anonymous  

Weirdly enough, I can remember when the seed of doubt was planted in my brain, that I needed to be skinner. I was 9 and my best friend said your thigh is bigger than mine and Jessie’s. I had never even imagined anything like this before. That was the evil seed, that would spout a few years later down the road.

I was sitting in Home Economics and we watched the movie “For the Love of Nancy”, it was Tracey Gold’s story with Anorexia. For some reason, instead of being sympathetic for her condition and seeing there was obviously an issue, I saw it as wow, I could get skinner if I cut out certain foods. I won’t have a problem but hmm I’d love to be skinny. I then stopped eating, any type of cheese, butter, soda, or anything I perceived to make me fat. This went on for 2 years. I somehow managed to just drift out of it, and go back to being semi normal. It didn’t resurface again until I graduated high school and gained 10 pounds from inactivity because up until that point, I had been playing soccer and running a lot. A friend of my brother made up a new nickname for me everytime he saw me and it was HIPS. I was mortified, and he was relentless with it, everytime I saw him it was HIPS, HIPS, HIPS. I remember I looked in the mirror and was just so disgusted with how my stomach looked, my hips and everything else. I wasn’t going to let this continue. It started off well enough, I figured that if I cut my calorie intake in half, quit drinking soda I would lose some weight and start feeling better. I also started running a mile or two a day and did kickboxing videos with my best friend. The weight started coming off but then, that evil seed had sprouted. My head started telling me, just cut a little more out of your diet and the weight will come off even faster. So, I started eating even less. The bonus was, I was in college and working so no one ever noticed if I ate or not. I started getting compliments about how great I looked so I figured well, if I eat even less I will get skinner and life will be so much better. At this time too, I was using the internet to fuel my obsession. Pro-Ana sites were all the rage and I was all about the message boards. I had to make sure I visited these sites in secret and delete the web browsing history. I didn’t want my brother or parents to know what I was doing. These sites were great, it gave me “thinspiration” and ideas on how to hide not eating from my parents and friends. I spent so much time talking to others who thought like me. I was able to gets lists of “safe foods” and ways to dress to look less skinny. As time went, I got skinner and skinner. People started to notice and I was always quick to tell them I was fine, just so busy and working out a lot. But, the truth was, I was eating less than 500 calories a day, reading any book on Anorexia I could find, and working out when I could. I was always so tired. I had a retail job, and I wouldn’t eat all day so by the time the shift was  nearing the end, I could barely fold the clothes. I was living on Diet Coke and eating steamed veggies. This continued for a few years, it just became exhausting listening to the little voice tell me, “don’t eat that”, “she is thinner than you”, my breaking point came when I just really wanted a handful of Skittles, I hadn’t had any in so long so I bought a bag. I was driving home and I was going to open them, I started crying and they the bag out the window. Finally, I knew that I was tired, of counting every single calorie, lying to my friend and parents, and so tired of being control by the evil seed in my head.

I was able to gradually start eating again, and resume more of a normal life. But, the obsessive food behavior followed me for years. I couldn’t just be happy with my body I was always feeling I was fat and lacking in every area. It wasn’t until I started Running long distance that the vicious cycle ended. I fell head over heels for running but I couldn’t do my sport if I didn’t fuel my body correctly. Running taught me that a strong body is beautiful, not a weak one. Sadly, there are still days when a size doesn’t fit or I just catch a glimpse of my body and I feel that evil seed turning in my head. But, those days are fewer and fewer every year.

Question for you: How can we combat these social media sites dedicated to these frail bodies?  

Lake Effect Series Roundup

Lindsay at Lean Green Bean is putting together a pinterest post.  I don’t do a lot of link ups but this was another great way to bring more awareness to eating disorders and the fundraising campaign.  As most people know, my next goal race, the Lake Effect Half Marathon is being run for charity.  The charity Ophelia’s Place, is an inpatient eating disorder center.  My goal is to raise 2000 dollars by February 23rd.  I cannot believe it is getting so close! I know I say in every post related to the Lake Half Marathon and Lake Effect Series but the amount of support whether it’s through comments or sharing your story, donating or sharing…the amount of support is absolutely great.  It does not feel as though I have

It’s hard to see such a dangerous topic get little awareness.  I can’t tell you how many people have sent me an email or message thanking me for creating this series or bringing a little bit more awareness.  It honestly isn’t me, it’s the entire community.  So thank you.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected such a powerful rally.

I’m exactly 400 dollars away from my huge goal of raising 2000 dollars!  If you are interested in sharing or donating, please don’t hesitate.  I know Ophelia’s Place would put it to get great use. 

Here are five stories I decided to reshare.  You can read all of them here.

Disordered Eating and Blogging

The writer suffered from disordered eating and what is normal.  After shutting down their blog and realizing they were comparing themselves they have fully recovered.

foodguidepyramid

A Sisters Point of View

The writer shares about her sister who suffered from an eating disorder.  It is a unique viewpoint, often times we hear from the person diagnosed but reading about how it affected the family is also truly heartbreaking.

ednos

Bulimia-

The writer shares her story to binging and purging her food.  “I had always sworn to myself that I would NEVER stoop low enough to vomit, but it was inevitable.”

factoid

Binge Eating-

A collegiate runner shares her struggle with binge eating.  After several years and constant yo yo dieting, she was able to fully recover and are now training for a 5k.

bingeeatingdisorder

EDNOS-

Laura talks about her struggles with life and how stress related to her disordered eating.

If you are interested in sharing your story, please don’t hesitate to email me.  No story is too strong, too powerful, too vague, too short or too long.  I can guarantee you someone has felt the same way.

Question for you: What causes or charities are close to your heart?

Lake Effect Series: Never Hitting Rock Bottom

Note from Hollie: This story is extremely heartbreaking but I know many people can relate too.  As she never hit rock bottom but had clear struggles with disordered eating and pushed through.  Thank you to everyone for sharing and donating.  I am hoping to reach my half of my goal by mid January so anything you could donate would be so appreciated!  And if you have a story to share, please don’t hesitate to email me at lolzthatswim(at)gmail.com.  It truly means a lot to me to everyone supporting me during this race, whether you are donating, sharing a story or just sharing my story.

Submitted by anonymous 

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I have always been athletic. I started gymnasts at the age of 9 and competitive cheerleading shortly after.  Both sports are notorious for body imagines issues and I have dealt with body image issues my entire life.  For as long as I can remember I have felt very body conscious. It probably didn’t help to have one of my gymnastics trainers put me on a special diet when I was 10. I can’t imagine starting a diet at that age was a good idea and it most likely contributed to some of my issues. Either way, I was always incredibly insecure about my body.  I maintained a healthy weight throughout high school and college.

I believe my body image issues developed into a full blown problem around the time I graduated and felt like I was at an in-between phase in my life. I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in accounting but did not feel ready to enter the real world. I was interning while going to school and I just found myself a little lost. Everything up until that point in my life was mapped out for me – Elementary school, middle school, high school, and then college. Now nobody was telling me what to do or where to go next and I wasn’t really sure myself of what I wanted to do.

So I went right back to school to get my Master’s degree. I bartended my way through college for extra money which was fun while I was in college. In Grad school, I had to continue bartending for money as I was not working full time and was going to school during the day and interning part time at an accounting firm.

This is when my problem started. All of my friends and roommates who I went to college had gone on to get their ‘big girl’ jobs. The girls I lived with would wake up and go to work every day and I would not have class until 2pm. I didn’t like the feeling of being unsettled and not knowing what to do next. On top of it, being a bartender – I was feeling like I was on display all the time.  My uniform showed my stomach. This was not a good combination for someone with a body image issue.  As time went on, I found myself getting more and more confused.  I lacked direction and wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be and as a result I became depressed.

On top of it, I had a serious boyfriend for about 2 years who I thought was ‘the one.’ He was a year younger, still in college and was bartending as well.  When my boyfriend graduated college he became pretty much obsessed with the night life industry and I started to absolutely hate it. I wanted to be settled in the next phase on my life that all of my friends had entered. He let himself go physically and lost all motivation to do much of anything outside of the bar scene. Although he loved me very much and treated me very well, I just wanted to move forward and he was obsessed with everything I started to hate.

At this time I felt like I lost control of everything around me. I wasn’t where I wanted to be at all. Somewhere during this time I discovered counting calories. I started counting calories and experimenting, and I started losing weight-fast. I loved the way I looked, I felt great, and I thought I looked great.  It was the one thing in my life that was going the way I wanted. As someone who has always been self-conscious, I finally felt comfortable in my skin.

For the first 6-7 months I legitimately did not realize what trouble I was getting myself into. I thought I was fine, I thought I was healthy and looked great. In reality, I was eating 3-400 calories a day. About once a week I would get so hungry, I would eat everything in sight, and then I became bulimic as well. I lost 20 pounds off my already small frame and my weight was all I could think about. I think it was a distraction from everything else in my life I was unhappy about. I wrote down everything I ate and my mood completely revolved around whether or not I was “good” or “bad” that day with my diet.

My boyfriend, friends, and parents obviously became concerned and I found myself completely unhappy in my relationship. I knew I had to break up with him which tore me up inside even more because I knew how good he was to me.

My friends and family started saying things to me and I became incredibly defensive because I legitimately did not believe I had a problem.

But I did.

How much I weighed became the only thing in my life that mattered to me. If I was having a ‘good’ day where I was able to eat only the food I had planned to eat – I was happy. If I veered off track slightly I was miserable, and started making myself sick, a couple of times per week. I didn’t want to go out with my friends or do anything because I was tired all the time. I either wanted to go to sleep early to avoid eating, or I was upset because I had eaten more than I thought acceptable. It was not a fun time in my life, and yet I thought I was doing great and those that were concerned about me were crazy. I almost started to identify with my eating issues and they became a part of me I was strangely proud of, although I was severely depressed.

I don’t know exactly how or when exactly I got better; I think it was a combination of things. Throughout it all I purchased a treadmill and started running religiously 6 days a week as soon as I woke up in the morning. I found it to be the only other thing in my life to make me happy and it gave me time to clear my head and think.

I struggled but pushed through and finally graduated with my master’s degree.  I later broke up with my boyfriend and landed my first ‘real’ job. Things in my life, outside of my eating started to get better slowly. I started to do some reading online to see if what my friends and family were saying was true and the more I read the more I realized I absolutely did have a problem- it sounds cliché but it’s definitely true.

Realizing I had a problem scared the crap out of me but it helped me work to fix it. There was no true rock bottom moment or moment where I fixed my issue. It happened gradually as the pieces of my life started to fall back into place. I began seeing a therapist to just talk through my feelings….to get out everything I was thinking and everything I held on to and it helped big time. Although the underlying issue of why I went was my eating issues, we almost never addressed them, and it still helped make me better. The one constant that remained throughout my recovery was my running. It became my therapy, my release and my place where i could work out all of the feelings that made me feel badly about myself. Every morning I would work through what was bothering me on my run and start my day. Everything got better and I got happier. I came back to a normal weight and was eating more.

I truly believe you cannot fully understand it until you go through it. I even have a hard time relating to who I was when I was going through that time. I know I will never be fully recovered as I am still self-conscious but I no longer let it affect my life and running remains to be my therapy. I know I was lucky and not everybody is able to pull themselves out as I was – I had a great support system that was able to recognize that I was having a problem and urge me to get help. I think your cause is so important because I know there are so many people out there struggling and raising awareness is a huge part in helping people suffering and their loved ones.

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