I had 2 fried eggs and 2 pieces of toast for breakfast this morning. To most people, that is going to seem like a very strange thing to be proud of, but let me explain...
It's been quite a while since I've written anything. I don't even remember what was in my last post. Let's just say, it's been an up and down struggle. I thought that I could continue running and get everything back under control... I was wrong.
After running my last half marathon, I made a commitment to reduce the amount of miles I was running and to help with that, I also committed to no longer running any competitive events. I thought the lack of a competitive goal would help remove my need to run X number of miles per day/week/month. For a little while, it seemed as though it would work. Once again though, it became a challenge in my own mind... "Well, if I ran X number of miles yesterday, I couldn't possibly run less than that today or it won't be worth it". Or, "it's not my scheduled rest day, I HAVE to get my run in!!".
On top of that mindset, my eating once again was tied to the amount of miles I had run that day and the number of "active calories" that my garmin said that I had burned. The obsessive, numbers driven nature of my mind had turned it into a VERY dangerous but apparently all too common game for people with my type of mindset... "more active calories burned, less calories eaten".
So.... Where am I now and why am I writing this? 3 weeks ago on a Saturday morning, I had breakfast with Sarah and was getting ready to get changed so I could go out and get my regularly scheduled long run in. I kind of had a mini breakdown... I didn't WANT to run that morning, but I felt like I HAD to run. Over the previous month or so, I had hit a point where I would actually dread going out for my daily runs. It wasn't something I wanted to do anymore, but it was something that I felt like I had to do in order to earn my right to eat for the day.
I sat down with Sarah, and we talked it through. That was the day that we decided that the only right decision was for me to quit running altogether. I took off my garmin watch, handed it to Sarah, and she agreed to put it away for me. I can't have anything tracking my steps, calories, etc.
For 3 weeks now, I've not run a single mile. Sarah and I take walks together around town most evenings instead. And you know what? The vast majority of the time, I don't miss it. Occasionally, when talking about past races that we've run or seeing some friends post online, I start to miss it a little. But, as odd as it sounds, I know how bad running is for me. It's actually given me a sense of freedom by feeling like I HAVE to give up time to run every day.
Challenge 1: Give up running - COMPLETE!
Now for the next challenge... Learning what it means to eat normally again. This has been very stressful, but I would like to say that Sarah has been AMAZINGLY supportive and patient, and I couldn't be doing this without her. For so long, I've been in "diet" mode and I've starved my body of what it needs just to survive, let alone be healthy.
Eating disorders are a funny thing. I know they're not all the same, but I'll try to describe what goes through my mind on a regular basis:
- In my mind, I've developed a list of "safe foods". Most of the time these are the lowest calorie options available. Think vegetables, egg whites, low carbs, low fat, sugar free options, etc. I know what's "safe" for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Anything that causes me to deviate from these "safe" foods will cause my stress levels to go through the roof and enter panic mode.
- I'm very routine driven. I like to eat my "safe" meals at certain times throughout the day. Again, deviation from this routine causes internal panic.
- Hunger plays no role. If it's outside of a "normal" meal or snack routine, I won't give in to the hunger. If I do, I feel like I've somehow failed. I will also try to make up for it by reducing what I eat later, or eliminating a later snack. Again, this is regardless of how hungry I actually am.
- My mind is constantly calculating the number of calories in an item and determining whether or not it's "worth" eating or if I've exercised enough to justify eating it. Most of the time, meal selections at a restaurant are chosen based on perceived calorie count instead of what I truly want and would enjoy eating the most.
- Along with the foods that I've deemed "safe", I have what are considered "fear foods". These are mostly foods that I absolutely love. Macaroni and cheese, chicken and biscuits, pizza, etc. I think it's mostly based around the idea that I'm afraid that I won't be able to control myself around them and will eat what I consider to be too much. If I know that we are going to be having any of these items for dinner, it will be almost all I can think about throughout the day.
- The thought of food is all consuming. Many times, it's all that I can think about. Whether it's dreaming about how much I would love to eat something that I won't allow myself to, waiting for that next time that I'm "allowed" to eat, regretting something I just ate because I thought I ate too much or it had too many calories, or even dreading an upcoming event or meal that I know is outside of my typical routine (sometimes even if it's a week or more away).
These are just some of the things that I'm now working to face head on (again, with TONS of help from Sarah). The reality is that not only do I need to learn what normal eating is again, I actually need to make an attempt to eat enough to gain back some of the weight that I lost and allow my body to rebuild itself.
Why share this? Many people seem surprised that I'm so willing to be as transparent as I have been. Let me be clear... I'm not ashamed at all by what I'm dealing with. It's far too easy for these types of things to be hidden away behind the guise of pursuing a healthier, more active lifestyle. If my experience and willingness to share can help someone else that's going through the same thing, all the better!
So yeah... It's a small victory, and I know that there will be plenty of ups and downs in the future as I try to work through this, but I had eggs and toast for breakfast, and it was great.