One of my fellow Zoot teammates posted a blog in February (which was Eating Disorder Awareness Month) about her battle with an eating disorder. She rocks. Her name is Ashley, and you can find her here…https://sandborntorun.wordpress.com/page/2/
Reading through her story inspired me to share mine. Why you might ask? Why not? It’s part of me, it’s why I am the person I am today, and I’m certainly not ashamed of it. Ashley and I are not alone in our struggles, and we are both very fortunate to be on the “mend” from our own issues…as anyone who has dealt with these types of issues in the past knows it’s a continual healing process.
Deep breath, here I go…
Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been VERY open about my eating disorder once I accepted the fact that I had one (I’ll get to this later). I’ll talk to anyone about it. I just haven’t put it out there in this way yet. I’m the type of person who heals by talking about my struggles (I have not always been this way, see below). I respect that not everyone functions in that way. But I’m about to get real honest. Caution…this will be long and there will be pictures.
It started at a very young age for me. As a child, I realized that I got attention for doing well in school, being a really good tennis player, and how I looked. Being the Type A/perfectionist I’ve ALWAYS been (even as a child), I wanted to EXCEL in all 3. I made sure I kept excellent grades, worked my booty off at tennis, and equated skinny to looking good. When I was younger, skinny was “in”. This concept of being fit or strong wasn’t there yet, or at least not in the crowd I ran with.
It’s amazing the things I remember…being told I was so lucky to have a tiny waist, that boys would like my figure when I grew up…these types of comments were all before I was 10 years old. They were meant to be a compliment, but to me…all I could think of was I NEED to stay skinny. It started out very innocently for me, I didn’t starve myself, I just ate healthy and worked out or played tennis. Super simple. Eventually that changed. I remember the first time I had a conversation about an eating disorder, I was around 10 years old, and in DisneyWorld. Who talks about these things at that age in DISNEYWORLD?! I did, with my sister. This was obviously something that was prevalent in my life at a very young age.
I went on my first “diet” my sophomore year in high school. I had gained a few pounds from eating absolute JUNK food (nachos, McDonalds, effing garbage) and wanted to eat healthier. That was THE LAST time I’ve eaten at McDonalds, or really any fast food. 15 years old. That “diet” I went on 100% changed my eating habits for the rest of my life. This was genuinely for the better (fast food serves me NO purpose) but not until many years later when I didn’t take it to an extreme.
Everything that happened prior to my junior year in high school was just leading to an explosion for me. I was always comfortably around 115lbs in high school. I decided I should lose 5lbs (just because), so I did it. I ate JUST enough so I was always a little hungry, and I actually started to enjoy the feeling of hunger (this is terrifying). I felt like I was getting skinner when I was hungry (so this was a good thing in my mind).
I was insanely active in high school, I would workout at home before school and have tennis practice after school, so I did have to eat enough for energy, but I was much skinnier those last two years. Looking at me, you would never think anything was wrong though, I still didn’t look alarmingly thin. I also made the decision to stop playing tennis after my senior year in high school in lieu of a social life in college. I didn’t want to get involved in the demands of college sports. I can’t even believe I’m saying that now, look at my life 😉
Then I went away to college, and I LOST it. After 6 weeks of being away at college, I was below 100lbs. My parent’s were mortified when they saw me. I was literally staving myself. I drank pots of decaf coffee to keep my belly “full” without eating calories, it actually hurt sitting in chairs in class because I was so bony, and I used to get lightheaded and dizzy walking to class because I was so hungry. I was also working out 6 days a week for at least an hour a day. I was freezing ALL the time and slept in a room with a space heater…it must have been 100 degrees in there. I counted calories, would never eat more than 1200 calories a day, and a Luna bar with yogurt and maybe a piece of fruit was my “big dinner” for the day. Yikes.
When I came home for Christmas break that year, I was about 88lbs. I was so self involved with my eating disorder, that I couldn’t see how hard it was on my family. Looking back, it breaks my heart knowing what I put them through. My mom told me while I was home that I had to gain weight or I couldn’t go back to EIU for my sophomore year, I would have to stay home. Once I went back after the holidays, my dad started driving down almost every weekend to bring me food my mom cooked for me so I would eat, and he works about a million hours a week, but he still made the 3 hour drive ALL THE TIME. I’m literally crying as I think back to this. But being the “good little girl” I thought I was at the time, I didn’t gain weight. So I came home for summer looking exactly the same. Next up, I was told I had to go to counseling to go back to EIU. I cried the entire first hour session, could barely get a word out, and did NOT want to be there. Eventually I actually started enjoying my twice a week sessions, and learned that I had control issues, buried my feelings (I obviously don’t do this anymore, duh), and didn’t get over my Aunt Kathy passing away when I was 8.
I convinced my parents to let me go back to school even though I was still insanely underweight. It was shortly after I got back to school that I REALIZED I had a problem. I was sitting in a bar at beer breakfast on Homecoming Weekend (my god my life was different back then). It was probably 10am, I had several drinks in me, and finally saw how different I looked. I was going to Acapulco for Spring Break later that year, and I told my friends that I wanted to gain 10 pounds before that vacation. They were awesome. We all lived in the sorority house, and they secretly bought snacks that they knew I liked to leave in their rooms so I could eat them when we hung out (Planters Dry Roasted peanuts were my thang). Love those ladies
After depriving myself for SO long, I started to allow myself to eat things I wouldn’t before. This was a slippery slope, and I blew up my last 2 years in college. When I graduated from EIU, I weighed around 160lbs (yep, almost double my lowest weight). I was drinking way too much alcohol, eating pizza at 2am after long nights out, and would eat to the point of almost throwing up because I was so full. I knew I had to get ahold of myself, and was honestly relieved when I graduated from college because I was starting my full time job and the going out constantly would be coming to an end.
It took me several years to “regulate” myself after college. I got back into a more regular and consistent exercise schedule, started eating better, went out less…but it really wasn’t until I found the sport of triathlon that I really began healing from my eating disorder. Getting back into sport was the game changer for me. Sport has always given me so much…self confidence, structure, motivation, passion, drive, and a continual pursuit for self improvement…I lost this when I gave up tennis. Triathlon, especially long course, has given all of that back to me and more. As an adult, I appreciate all of this so much more then I did as a teenager.
Where am I at today? Thankfully, on the OTHER side of this. I absolutely DO NOT regret going through my eating disorder, I do not wish it away, and I’m actually thankful that I had this experience and was able to get out of it. I now eat for fuel…I eat clean, whole foods. In fact, I eat a TON…more than most boys and I LOVE it. I treat my body with respect. My goals are clear, and it’s all about doing everything I can to meet those goals. Eating junk or starving myself is NOT going to help me meet those goals, so that’s out of the picture. I can honestly say that I LOVE my body. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine. I’m so lucky it puts up with the demands of training and racing, and it’s served me well over the years in both.
I’m incredibly grateful to have stumbled across this sport when I did, it has 100% changed my perspective and saved me from a ton of physical and mental damage I used to put on myself.