Eating Away at Me: A Very Personal Post

Warning: if you have had or currently struggle with an eating disorder this post could be triggering. Please skip it! 

Did you know this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week?

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This is a cause close to my own heart. Today I want to write about what my life was like when I had an eating disorder and how it has changed for the better since I started taking recovery seriously.

I’m not writing this because I think someone with an eating disorder will read it and then reach out for help. In fact I think that is a very unlikely scenario. From my own experience when you’re deep in “the game” you know you’re slowly killing yourself but you just don’t care.

I’m writing this for the healthy people reading who might not yet realize someone they know is struggling with an eating disorder.

It’s a common misconception that a person with an eating disorder must be super thin and frail, or that unless you’re underweight your disorder isn’t serious, but that is not the case. Drastic weightloss can be an indicator that someone has an eating disorder, but it is only one of many. I hope this post will help you pick up on some of the signs that have nothing to do with weight/size. 

For instance, did you know:

  • People suffering from bulimia usually appear to be of average weight
  • People suffering from binge eating disorder are usually average weight to overweight
  • The idea that you have to be super thin to be suffering from an eating disorder stops some women from seeking help

I’ve bounced from one side of the weight spectrum to the other in my journey towards health.

I was, at points in my life, extremely restrictive.

This picture here is of me when I was about twenty-five pounds heavier than the lowest weight I ever reached. I’m half smiling, but I remember being really upset this day. I HATED being in a bathing suit.

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This was the last picture I allowed anyone to take of me for a very long time.

Back then I liked keeping my daily caloric intake around the 500 calories per day range, and this is how I felt:

  • Tired all the time / no energy
  • Constantly irritated by everything
  • Always hungry, always angry about being hungry
  • Worried about blacking out/fainting in front of others
  • Lots of guilt from lashing out at others for no reason
  • Non-stop negative self talk
  • Self worth tied to the scale
  • Rarely spoke with my parents
  • Depressed and suicidal at times
  • Cut almost all friends out of my life (at the end of my lease I not only didn’t tell my roommate – who was previously my best friend – what my plans were, but I completely left the city without even saying goodbye)

I lived that way for about a year and a half before I started binging/purging and then finally found myself meeting the clinical criteria for bulimia nervosa. While I had more energy, wasn’t hungry all the time and no longer had suicidal thoughts, everything else on that list remained part of my life.

Purging took it’s toll on me fast; I was never really cut out for it. I always hated it and eventually I just stuck to a cycle of binging-restricting-binging without purging. As you can imagine, I quickly ballooned up to my highest weight ever, feeling just as unhappy as ever.

With Adam’s help I eventually crawled out of the awful dark pit I was living in and today this is how I feel:

  • Can run pretty long distances without getting tired
  • Can pick up heavy weights
  • Can enjoy a nice meal out without freaking out
  • Never worried about blacking out/fainting
  • Never binge/purge
  • Rarely fly off the handle for no reason (there’s still PMS, guys)
  • Happy to get together with friends and enjoy myself
  • Very close with my parents

In short, I still have things to work on, but I am happier than I have been in a very long time. Possibly ever.

If you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder I would not recommend confronting them without preparation. (The National Eating Disorders Association has resources for friends and family.)

In my opinion, having an eating disorder is not like alcoholism where it’s hard to admit you have a problem. The person usually knows he or she has a problem, but perhaps doesn’t want to change.

When you’re deciding whether you should eat 200, 400 or 600 calories in a day you know you’re not behaving the way other people do. You actually get a sick pride out of not behaving the way other people do. When you’re eating to the point that you literally throw up without even meaning to, well you know that’s not normal. When you’re purging, yeah, you know that’s not normal.

I can’t tell you what to say to someone you suspect has an eating disorder because I don’t know what you should say. For me, the time to change came when I recognized how my behaviors were affecting the person closest to me. I realized it was unfair and I decided in that moment that I wanted to try and be better.

Truthfully, I had wanted to get better for quite a while. I had gotten sick of being sad and angry all the time, but I didn’t know how to get myself out of the situation.

My first visit with a psychologist was terrifying, and I ended up finding that she wasn’t a good fit. I later found a psychologist who I got along with well. She had an eating disorder when she was younger and had found the path to health. I knew she “got it” and I trusted her advice.

She was the one who told me to find an exercise I could do without getting obsessive, which seemed like a really difficult task at the time. I had been weightlifting for a little while but I was terrified of adding muscle weight. I associated the stationary bike and elliptical with dark days when I would spend two or three hours on them with no food in my system.

I used to drag myself home from the gym and I would literally pass out. Hours would go by and I would wake up not knowing what had happened. My body would just shut down from not having any fuel. One time I was standing in the bathroom brushing my hair, and then the world got woozy and the next thing I knew I was waking up on the floor. This workout routine was not working for me, and I was worried for myself, but I was also a really f’d up kind of happy with myself.

When I started recovery and my doctor told me to find an exercise I could do that would make me feel better, healthier and stronger, I wondered if such a thing even existed.

On a whim, I tried running.

Running was completely new to me. It was hard, but it made me feel strong instead of weak. I hated it, but I also really liked it at the same time. Running really helped me. It wasn’t my therapy, but it helped supplement my therapy until I no longer needed professional help.

When I ran my first couple of 5Ks I was still at my highest weight ever.

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Feb 2013, RunWild 5K, 46:50 finishing time

Today I’m down about 30lbs, but I still have a ways to go until I’m at a healthy, comfortable weight.

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Dec 2014, Jingle Bell Jog 5K, 37:57 finishing time.

I know there is a fast track that can get me down to a specific number on the scale pretty quickly, but there is also a longer route that will allow me to be myself.

I’m in it for the long haul.

Working out for me, now, is not about burning calories to get skinnier or being able to eat whatever I want because I exercised for three hours. It’s about pushing myself to be better than yesterday and treating my body the right way to get there. I trust that by doing this my body will reach a healthy and happy weight.

Over the weekend someone I know ran a half marathon and finished in 3:02. She was bummed because her PR is 3:01 and she was trying hard to break it. My initial reaction was, “she’s so skinny, how can I have a faster half marathon PR than her?”

But I, of all people, should know that skinny doesn’t mean anything when it comes to fitness or health. When I was at my skinniest I could never have even finished a half marathon.

That also means that I can’t rely on losing weight to make me a better runner. I think there is such a thing as an ideal racing weight, but I also think elite runners are the ones who benefit most from that. Instead, I need to take my speedwork seriously, try to eat right most of the time and enjoy the process.

I’m never going to run a 60 minute half marathon, but I think someday I’ll run a sub-2 hour half marathon.

Call me crazy, but I really believe it will happen. I’ve got about 30 prime running years left to get there!

I like that my goals are now related to doing things that make me feel good about myself. It’s a nice mental space to be in.

I hope that this post wasn’t a gigantic over share that made you uncomfortable, but I do think it’s important for the world to understand that eating disorders are serious mental disorders.

Anorexia has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition. Eating disorders are serious. You can’t treat them with a sandwich.

If you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder please visit the NEDA website.

(In the past I have received emails from others who struggle with an eating disorder. Please note that if you email me about your disorder I can only recommend that you seek professional help. It’s not in your best interest or mine for me to correspond with you beyond that about any disorder. I wish you all the best. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Happiness does exist and you deserve it.)

24 comments

  1. sam @ grapefruit & granola

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    sam @ grapefruit & granola recently posted…Weekend RecapMy Profile

  2. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    Thank you fore sharing your story. Eating disorders are so scary and awareness is so important! I’m so glad that you were able to make the decision to change. I’m sure it wasn’t easy but I know it was worth it! So glad that you are so happy and healthy now:)
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Tried It Tuesday: Pilates and Reflex FitnessMy Profile

  3. Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom

    Thank you for sharing! A good friend of mine has a very similar past. It was so hard to be her friend and worry, she wouldn’t even consider talking about it for a very long time. She too with the help of her now hubs found her path out and is healthier than ever! ED’s are very very scary.
    You should be very proud of yourself and what you have/will accomplish!!
    Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom recently posted…Keepin’ it realMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I completely understand how your friend felt. I not only didn’t want to talk about it for a very long time, but I physically couldn’t even bring myself to do it. When I finally wanted to tell people about it I had to type it out. I still really feel much more comfortable not verbally talking about it. Maybe someday that will feel more natural, for now writing it out is best for me and helpful in a way, I think! I am very glad to hear that your friend is now healthier than ever!

  4. Jennifer @ Running on Lentils

    This is such an important topic. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure it was difficult to share something so personal, and I also hope that it will give others the light at the end of the tunnel that they might need. Congratulations on all the progress you’ve made. It sounds like you are absolutely going about your eating, exercise, and weight management in a safe and healthy way. That’s so important!!! And, I love how you ended this post. You will absolutely reach your sub-2 hour HM goal! If you believe you can do it, you will!!!
    Jennifer @ Running on Lentils recently posted…Pittsburgh Half Training: Week 6My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you! I can hold 9 minute pace for about 1 minute (or a little longer) right now, so I only have to add on 119 more minutes and I’ll have my sub-2 🙂

  5. Amanda @ Slimplify Life

    Thanks for sharing, Kristina. This is such an important topic and I feel like many women have struggled with disordered eating on some level, whether it be themselves or a friend. I love that you said you are in it for the long haul. Living a healthier lifestyle should be a lifelong thing, where progress may be slower, but it will be permanent. You’re so awesome, keep running and inspiring!
    Amanda @ Slimplify Life recently posted…10 reasons why 20 miles on the treadmill is actually awesomeMy Profile

  6. Cheryl

    I am proud of you, Kristina. It takes a lot of courage to share that. I am so happy that you are happy and healthy now!
    Cheryl recently posted…Wrap-upMy Profile

  7. Hanna

    Thank you for sharing your story, Kristina! I actually learned a lot from this that I didn’t know before. I’m glad that you are out of that dark place now and are on the up and up getting better, and that you have the strength to share this with others!

    I too have fallen into the trap of “but she’s so skinny and fit looking, how can I be faster than her?” I catch myself thinking that fast runners have to look a certain way (aka like the elites). But as you say, we have to remember that looks NEVER tell the whole story! I remember reading an article in Runners World that said “not everyone who looks fast actually is; not everyone who looks slow actually is.” It stuck with me!!
    Hanna recently posted…Grandma’s Marathon Training: Week 1My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I like that quote from RW! We are told from such a young age to not judge a book by it’s cover, but it’s a trap I fall into way too often.

  8. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    Thank you for sharing your story and bring awareness to such a big issue in our society. I know so many people who have struggled with an eating disorder and it can be such a lonely, dark path. The statistics are absolutely alarming and I believe that a lot more people suffer than we realize. It is such a secretive disorder. I am so glad that you had the courage to recognize a better life for yourself and that you took the steps to heal and get healthy.
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…A Little Escape to the Big Island – Part TwoMy Profile

  9. Jess

    Thank you for sharing! This isn’t an easy topic to open up about, but I think we can get a lot of out of it. (I know I did.) I’m so glad you dug deep to find help and support, and that you found running!

    I also think it shows us that what we see online isn’t always what real life is like either. I had read your previous blog post about bulimia when I first found your blog (many months ago) but otherwise I wouldn’t have ever have known otherwise. Though, since you’re recovered, that makes sense.
    Jess recently posted…All Geared UpMy Profile

  10. Kerry

    Thanks for writing this. You are a really strong and brave person to have the courage to share your struggles. People often put up walls to make it look like everything is so wonderful, but it takes a lot of strength to share things that are less than perfect. I guess that’s a large reason why it can be hard to recognize when a person has an eating disorder. You taught me a lot in this post.

  11. Lizzy

    Thank you for sharing this powerful post, Kristina. Your strength and courage is truly inspiring. I know that it isn’t your intention, but I do hope that it can serve as a beacon of hope for someone in need.
    Lizzy recently posted…training tuesday – last real training weekMy Profile

  12. Liv @ Healthy Liv

    I’m so glad that you’re in a happier place now! It’s hard to find that balance of both eating and exercising in moderation, but so freeing when neither one consumes you 🙂
    Liv @ Healthy Liv recently posted…A College Girl’s Guide to CouponingMy Profile

  13. Kim

    I love that you are happy, healthy and strong right now!!
    The courage you showed sharing your story is incredible! I hope that anyone reading this who is struggling right now will make the choice that you did to become healthy!!
    I know you will break 2 hours in the half one day!!!
    Kim recently posted…There’s a National Day for ThatMy Profile

  14. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    Thank you for sharing this. It made me sad to read about the very darkest times in your life, but I was seriously smiling by the end. I am so happy you found running and that it makes you feel STRONG and proud of what your body can do rather than be obsessive about it. I know that’s a HUGE thing. I am so proud of you for doing the work to get you to where you are today. I know it’s a huge leap outside one’s comfort zone to let go of the obsession. For me, I was one of those people, who while I was never overweight or underweight, I thought about food and obsessive thoughts ALL. DAY. LONG. But I didn’t feel like anyone understood or reached out for help because I wasn’t sick skinny. I remember several years ago telling Paul “If I had one wish, it would be to not think about food all day long.” I never, ever, EVER would have thought I would get to where I am today. Of course I get controlly once in a while, but it is a far cry from where I was. I really can’t believe I did it. Weight lifting was the turnaround for me. Something about it that makes one feel accomplished by their strength and not the calories burned. I am also inspired by your plan to reach a happy healthy weight not by crash dieting or anything crazy. You’re so freaking cool and amazing. 🙂

    Again, thank you for sharing all of this Kristina!
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…Time to fess up!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thanks Megan! It’s such a common misconception that you have to be grossly underweight to have an eating disorder. Even the DSMV has broadened their classification of certain disorders in recent years.

      Thinking about food all day long is such a shackling experience. Constantly counting and re-counting calories in your head and planning meals, when to have them, and how to eat them is so burdensome. I’m glad our minds are freed up to think about more important things these days!

  15. LeAnne@thisismyfaster

    Thank you for sharing your story Kristina. I’ve never dealt with an eating disorder, but I’ve dealt with body image issues most of my life (and still do to this day). I’m proud of you for taking the steps to get to a happier healthier life! And I’m glad running was able to help you get there 🙂
    LeAnne@thisismyfaster recently posted…The Intentionality Quest & Mile RepeatsMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I am sorry to hear that you’ve struggled with body issues all your life, but I am not surprised (even though you’re gorgeous!). I would say more women deal with them than not. I once had a friend who was a size 0 tell me some days she woke up and just didn’t want to get out of bed because she felt so fat. She was otherwise, as far as I know, a well-adjusted person.

  16. jessica

    Thank you for sharing. I am so glad that you are at a way better time in your life when it comes to food and your health. Not an over share at all. Keep being strong girl 🙂
    jessica recently posted…2015 Running GoalsMy Profile

  17. Jennifer @ The Final Forty

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are AMAZINGLY strong, and such an inspiration. I’m so glad that you’re in a better place now. As someone who has also struggled with a very poor relationship with food, there are definitely things here I can relate to. It takes SO much courage (and time!) to break out of these negative thought patterns and behaviors…but one step at a time, right? Kind of like running. 😉
    Jennifer @ The Final Forty recently posted…Training Updates: New Jersey MarathonMy Profile

  18. Shannon

    Thank you for sharing such a powerful personal story. You continue to be an inspiration to me, both from your strength and your courage. I still struggle every day with learning to accept my body and make good choices, so I can identify. Keep up everything you’re doing – you’re truly amazing! =)
    Shannon recently posted…Music Makes Every Run BetterMy Profile

  19. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Kristina. It’s never easy to delve back into the painful parts of our past. They make us who we are, and you’re a stronger person for having gone through it and recovered. I’m proud of you and so happy to know you.
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…Gasparilla Distance Classic Half MarathonMy Profile

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