Another Sunday Funday guest blogger! I am so excited to share my fellow runners’ stories! The running community is so connected, and supportive and we all band together to offer encouragement and support when it’s needed.
This week’s author wanted to remain anonymous so I am honoring their wishes and I will let them take it away!
My running story is a bit different from the others that have been shared in social media and in the enthusiastic runners blogs across the web. Very few athletes with ED, or as I refer to it Disordered Eating, like to share their story publicly as I am. But I feel that since I am in recovery, and have been for a number of years, I want to share my story.
I ran in high school, a lot. I joined the Cross Country team and ran in any spare moment I had all through high school. I was a chubby kid, and at the height of puberty in middle school the constant barrage of bullying over my weight, looks, kinky curly hair, and thick glasses was more than I could handle. So I ate the pain away, for years. I felt so empty inside and the food filled the empty spaces where the digs at my hand-me-downs, my frizz, and quite frankly my being far more advanced intellectually than my school mates, had left giant holes that desperately called to be filled. But then the guilt would set in. And after the first major binge the guilt was so intense that it made me physically ill. I felt so relieved after I purged all of that sadness from my belly. It was as if it had never happened.
Weeks later I had only just begun to settle into the summer break and was on my own most of the time. My Mom, bless that woman, worked a full time job and a part time job…and decided to go back to school to further her career. I was able to do whatever I wanted. That summer was a particularly lovely one, and while I loved to hide away and read I also just wanted to soak up that summer and enter high school as a new person. I started running as a way to burn off those additional calories that I wasn’t purging, which was a rare occasion by the end of July. I really enjoyed running back then. It was new, and fresh to me. I was the one that even the gym teacher picked on in class because I wasn’t as fast or coordinated as my classmates. (As a side note I find it karmically interesting that the PE teacher died of a heart attack, due to obesity, in what would have been my senior year)
Freshman year I decided that I would try out for the cross country team and although I ended up humiliating myself at tryouts, and didn’t make the team; I kept running all year. I ran in the rain, the snow…it didn’t matter. I now had something I wanted to prove. Between September and the holiday break I had dropped nearly 60 pounds between the binge/purge routine and the 6-10 miles I logged on a near daily basis. I had shaved nearly 7 minutes off my pace from the beginning of the summer, and was in a bit of pain but had no desire to slow down or take a break. The desire to binge from pure hungers sake, and the inevitable guilt that followed consumed me.
I dropped another 10 pounds over the holiday break. I love my family, however the stress of trying to hide what I was doing, and who I truly was back then. I heard of a lot of “you are just skin and bones!”, but at 5′ 8 and 190 I didn’t feel particularly slim. I still saw that chubby 13 year old and over the holiday I purged everything that I ate out of sheer anger and frustration.
The rest of that year was a total blur, probably due to the lack of nutrition, I know I struggled in my studies but managed to keep my GPA at an acceptable B average. Then with my solitary summer ahead of me I buckled down and really focused on my running as a means of escape.
One day while out on a run I happened to meet the person who would become my rock, my partner and eventually the person who saved me from myself. I’ll call him “Daniel”. He was a true athlete and saw me for me. We trained together that summer several times a week. When our relationship turned from training buddies to something more it became so much more difficult to hide what I was doing to myself. He tells me now that he suspected something was amiss not long into our friendship but could tell that I was hurting. This explains his nutrition lessons, and constant cajoling to “fuel” my body. But he had no clue what I was doing to my body.
To conclude this long story of my youth, I did make the cross country team that next fall. I ran an 8 minute mile on average, from my beginning pace of nearly 23 minutes per mile, which was astounding to me. My weight, at its lowest dropped to a sickly 110 pounds my junior year. While at a meet I dropped during a warm up jog, and my coach was unable to revive me. I was rushed to the hospital and admitted to my Mom and the doctors what I had been doing all those years. They were all shocked. Back in those days it was pretty rare for a teenage boy to have an eating disorder, let alone admit it. I spent the next 6 months in an in-patient treatment facility because I just could not be left to my own devices at home. I know that broke my mother’s heart.
I decided not to complete the rest of my high school education in the traditional sense. I obtained my GED and moved away from that town and off to college where “Daniel” was now in graduate school. We moved in together, and I know that he is the sole reason I am still here today. He watched me like a hawk those first few months, which led to many fights; but it was only ever out of love. I ran occasionally in college, a few 5ks and 10ks here and there. By the time I graduated I was carrying an extra 15 more pounds than I did when I started college. However, I was finally content when I looked in the mirror.
These days I have found a happy balance between running, and eating. Food no longer controls my every thought, but it’s often times the first thing I want to turn to in times of stress. I’ve learned other forms of stress management, and worked hard to keep those skills in the forefront of my mind. I encourage those struggling with ED, or any kind of Disordered Eating to seek help right away. I did so much damage to my body through years of the binge/purge cycle; I have those scars and will until the end of my life. But you don’t have to battle it alone.
Thanks so much for sharing my story and for reading it.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, and I hope that it can be a source of help to anyone struggling with ED. Food is such a slippery slope sometimes. I too, am a stress eater and let it control me sometimes. It is a constant battle somedays to not going to town on that pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I have struggled with calorie restriction, and the urge to deny myself food as a means of weight control for years. But I am able to see food as a tool, and not the enemy.
I am now taking submissions for next month’s topic, this one is for all the Mommies out there…what is your best family vacationing tip? How do you travel with kids and not lose your sanity? Email your tips to email@example.com!