Hi, my name is Ali and I’m a control freak. My urge for perfection and work ethic serve as both a driver and hindrance in my life. As I mentioned in previous posts I have struggled with and eating disorder the majority of my life. Recovery for me is a verb, not a noun. I continue to work on the relationship I have with my self image and food. I liken the journey I have taken to a marathon. As one covers 26.2 miles on foot there are several highs, lows, and everything in between. Each day is an opportunity to fight the good fight. For several years my desire for perfection overshadowed my ability to opening and honestly talk about my struggle with anorexia. I pursued means to show the world that I had my act together when in fact I was holding on at times by a thin string. In meeting a wonderful group of women runners (Oiselle Volee) I have been blessed to find strength in stepping away from my Type A, perfection driven personal to put forth my story with the warts and all.
But let’s be real…running is not a silver bullet. It was attractive to me due to structure, but opened up a can of worms due to the aesthetic aspect of the sport. In my ED mind runners look a certain way and I became preoccupied with my body image and obsessive about what I was eating to achieve the “runner look”. Training became a slippery slope. Run more, eat less…look better, be faster. Problem being that I hit a wall. I have never been so grateful from bonking as I was when I trained for my 1st marathon. I was eating on average 500 calories a day, running 3+ miles 5 days a week, and doing progressive long runs on the weeks. It was a perfect storm. Physically I could not keep up. I started to fall behind in our training groups and was always tired, the need to look a certain way was preventing me from being able to accomplish my goal of finishing a marathon before I turned 30. That reality hit home when I barely finished a half marathon race while in my training cycle. As I sat on the curb exhausted and in tears at that race I realized I was broken. I was thin, but slow…what the hell! That is not how it was suppose to work. I was killing myself, figuratively and literally.
Starvation was always my comfort zone, but my old friend was failing me. I had fallen into a trap and had to dig myself out. I sought out advice from runners on nutrition, began steps towards healing my body and getting my brain back on track. Recovery however is not an overnight thing. I love when people suggest…just eat a burger, you’ll be fine. I wish it was that easy. For me personally making the connection between performance and food took a long time. This path is not a clean line either, it more so resembles a zig-zag line drawn by a 2 year old. Its been a messy process and if I am not diligent I fall off the bandwagon. I spent the better part of 2017 struggling to regain a healthy lifestyle after years of success dealing with my ED. I know better and yet I found myself spiraling out of control. The habits began small, but intensified making them hard to break. Each individual will have triggers and for me it is seeing race photos. I will analyze them for imperfections and hyper focus on how I look completely down playing what I have accomplished.
If you can relate to my story I am extremely sorry, I would not wish this way of thinking and living on anyone. Know that you are not alone and seeking help is crucial. It is normal to have negative thoughts from time to time about how you view your body/self, but know that when it can transition to and obsessive level that can turn maladaptive and destructive. Your ability to function in a healthy manner is so important. Addressing my issues and talking to others has been a game changer. I lived in such guilt and shame for so many years. The voice in our heads can be cruel. Talk to someone if you are experiencing symptoms of an ED. Being able to disengage from the stigma and truly talk about my demons has taken away some of their power.
I ran my 1st marathon in 2007. Prior to stepping up to start line I was able to get a handle on my eating habits before doing permanent damage to my body. I continued to incorporate running into my life and it has become a key element in my ED recovery. Some days pose bigger challenges than others, but running has helped me to be honest with myself. To date I have run 24 marathons and 14 ultra marathons. I’m 10 pounds heavier than I was 11 years ago, but stronger and a heck of a lot happier…oh and my times are relatively the same.
As I gear up for a winter training cycle I find myself in a better place than I was last year at this time. I have been able to identify my triggers and work to avoid them at times I feel weak and the negative thoughts are out of control. I have also learned to set boundaries and advocate for myself when I am struggling. I am open with my coach and have established goals that not only include hitting certain workouts, but also nutritional goals. My patterns of eating center around “fueling” my body to do awesome things. You would not attempt to drive a car 26.2 miles without gas in the tank, running 26.2 miles without fueling my body is no different. In 2018 my mantra is good in = good out. Laying the foundation for a healthy connection between the food I am eating and the output I am able to muster as a result.
#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive
*By no means am I an expert, these are things that have helped pull me back from the brink over the past year. Seek out professional help if you are struggling as well.