Falling off the Proverbial Wagon — all or nothing attitudes & a long history of eating disorders

A preface: if you were expecting a semi-self-deprecating post about how I’m accidentally okay at running, maybe wait for the next one.

Ever since I was a little kid, I was perpetually uncomfortable with how I looked. I was shy, and awkward, and fairly small or at least “normal” sized i.e. healthy for my age and height. I remember noticing how I felt bad hanging out with friends who were smaller than me, and better if I was hanging out with friends who were bigger than me. I was 10.

As I got older, the feeling was only exacerbated. In middle school, I made my mom buy me loose fitting T-shirts because I thought I looked fat if they were remotely tight. I ate very little, albeit very unhealthily. Think boxes of Kraft mac & cheese and pizza that could pass as cardboard. I certainly didn’t exercise, as my only form of activity consisted of walking to my friends’ houses occasionally if we couldn’t get a ride. I was always very uncomfortable eating in front of others. When I was a freshman, I didn’t eat in front of my then boyfriend for literally months, and we hung out almost every single weekend.

Once I got my license, my minimal activity decreased to essentially nothing. I played soccer for three years in high school, but we weren’t very competitive and it wasn’t exactly strenuous work for me. I never ate breakfast and very rarely ate lunch at school. When I did eat, again, it was very processed non-food. I was a notoriously “picky eater” and was gaining weight again fast.

Once Bryan and I started dating, and I became increasingly comfortable with him and his family, I started eating more in front of him/them and eating dinner at their house. His mom is chronically caring and always goes out of her way to make people feel welcome, so she would make me whatever I wanted, and a ton of it. Towards the end of my senior year, I decided I needed to lose the excess weight I gained, and rather than workout or eat healthier, I mostly just stopped eating.

So by now, you get the cycle. I was either comfortable with who I was with, and would eat a lot of mindless junk, or I was uncomfortable (i.e. when I made new friends in college) with who I was and who I was with, and wouldn’t eat at all.

Then, as I wrote about in my post about how I started running, I decided I really needed to get in shape. I wasn’t “overweight” per se, but I was really unhappy and extremely unhealthy, so I started running and tried to start eating healthier. I learned how to eat for health and started feeling more energetic and felt better physically and mentally. That year, I ate crazy well, lost 20 pounds, and was *finally* happy with how I looked and I thought I kicked the disordered eating once and for all.

But as I’ve learned this past year, it isn’t really something you “kick”, especially when you’ve been in this insane cycle for literally 15 years now. I essentially turned the previous disorder into orthorexia. And then, I started to feel like I could eat a “treat” every now and then and be fine. Apparently, this is not the case for me. Like a lot of distance runners I know, I have an extreme all or nothing attitude towards most things. I also have an extreme (processed) sugar addiction. Like, an actual sugar addiction. Once I’ve had a little, I need it, and it’s really hard for me to stop. So now I’m in this weird cycle of unhealthy “health” food eating, and I struggle frequently with binge eating. My weight has gone up and down so much over the years, always by 15-20 pounds, but just enough to go between feeling good about it, to feeling really bad about it.

I guess the point of this post is mostly that I feel like it’s something I have to get out of my head. Not many people I know know the extent of the disorder, and it isn’t something people generally casually talk about. I mean, it’s definitely not small talk. I’m certainly not perfect, and lately it’s been a constant struggle, but I’m working on getting back to not eating junk all the time. It’s been bad for my training and recovery and my skin and my wellbeing. And I need paying attention to and being nicer to myself. So I typically can’t take my own advice, but if you’ve ever been in a similar boat, don’t be so hard on yourself.

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That Lil Marathon Thing…

55 measly days separate me and marathon numero dos. If you paid attention to all my rambling last summer/fall you already know that I basically was injured and subsequently didn’t train for marathon numero uno. And things turned out considerably more than fine. That’s kind of how my life seems to go more often than not – the things I feel prepared and excited for fall apart and the things I feel woefully unprepared and afraid of tend to work out the best.

I’ve also never followed a training plan for… anything. I’ve run 11 half marathons on just… essentially winging it. I’m not advising you to do this, it’s just kind of how I roll. I typically would just do whatever I want, and I’ve been really lucky in that it’s always (more or less) worked out. Honestly, the few times I did try to follow some semblance of a plan, I ended up getting hurt. I would stress over doing the prescribed workouts on the prescribed days, and run when I shouldn’t have, not run when I should… well you get the point.

So now that I’ve managed to be injury free since October (a long time by my pathetic standards), I couldn’t exactly completely avoid somewhat training for this race. In the offseason I had been running about 6-7 (sometimes more, based off how bored I was or if I had anything else going on to be home and somewhat presentable for) miles 4 days a week, and 10-11ish on weekends. This was fine and dandy, but as the self proclaimed Queen or Overuse Injuries (I should really have a crown), I knew that I should probably cut down my running days to 4 a week total. The thought of it made me sad, because I really just love running. Now that I’ve done it, I can’t imagine going back to 5 days a week. I think this is a result of starting to add 1-2 days of cardio crosstraining, and 2-3 days of lifting (WHAT?! I know. I don’t know who I am anymore either. Especially because I kind of like it.) to my training schedule per week. My body just wouldn’t be able to handle 5 days of running on top of that.

So then there was this whole issue of my weekly long runs – the staple of marathon training – what distances and when to do which, etc etc. When I started training for Lakefront last year, I had some guidance from my fantastically fast friend (alliteration FTW!) Shannon, who laid out her marathon long run schedule for me. So far, I’ve been going off that and things have been going scarily well. But I’ve always seemed to perform better completely undertrained thatn 1% overtrained, so I’m kind of freaking out at how relatively smoothly things have been going. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not secretly hoping for anything to go wrong with my training, I just get nervous. But I guess I’d be freaking out if something DID go wrong. AGH. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m always freaking out.

I obviously have an A goal and a B goal and a well-at-least-I-finished goal, but it even makes me nervous to say them out loud. Bryan asked me the other day what I was hoping for, and I honestly didn’t even want to tell him. I know that things could go perfect during training and the race could have all these outside circumstances that are impossible to prepare for, so that’s probably what scares me the most. Of course, none of that could happen… the variables are what kill me. What’s that old thing about worrying being like a rocking chair? I’m trying not to rock too much over the whole thing. Here’s hoping.