Things I’m grateful for: people who are brave enough to tell the stories I’m not

I’ve just discovered Rachael Steil’s sharing of her story as an elite college runner with an eating disorder.

And I’ve really been blown away, both by her bravery in telling her story, as well as her clear and honest explanations of what she and other people with ED’s go through.

I still haven’t shared too much about my own past with an eating disorder– I started to touch upon it in this post— but really, I have a story that’s as long and complicated and intense as hers (minus the part about being an elite college runner– I had long been injured by then).

But I relate so much, to the concept of losing a little bit of weight, and finding it makes you faster, and so then wanting to lose a LOT more.

Of latching on to healthy, trendy “lifestyle” diets– in her case, the raw food diet– because ultimately, you know it’s giving you a way to hide the fact that you have a problem from other people.

And of the paranoia of thinking that if you overeat, even if just for one day, you’ll gain enough weight to slow you down and ruin your time in your next race.

I so, SO appreciated her story, and I can’t wait to read her book.

I think that, when talking about this kind of thing, it’s really important to strike the right balance between sharing the some of the scary aspects of what you went through, while also reassuring people that you eventually found a way out.  That’s one thing that’s held me back from telling my story more– I want to be sure I do it right.

I think Rachael has managed to strike that right balance, so the way she tells her story is really an inspiration for me.

Hope you check it out!

Rachael’s website

Youtube channel, with many more great videos

Her book Running in Silence

 

Inner Limits

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I’ve realized something about myself recently– something that has implications for my ability to heal. I’m sharing it with you all, in case it can help spark a similar realization for anyone else out there.

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As many of you know, when I was in high school I had an eating disorder. I was very rigid; every day I ate a specific number of calories, and every day I burned a specific number of calories. If I wanted to eat more than my designated limit, I had to exercise even more.

Through obsessive calorie counting, and running an average of 5 miles a day throughout most of high school, I managed to keep my weight a good 10-20 pounds below my body’s natural set-point.

Sometimes, now, I forget what a big deal that really was. After all, it was something that was ultimately within my control, unlike the years of inexplicable chronic pain that came afterwards.

However, it recently dawned on me that my eating disorder past was affecting me more than I’d realized, in unconscious ways.

Right now I’m dealing with the very complicated and frustrating process of trying to stabilize my hypermobile SI joints.

I was finishing my exercises the other day, and after a good 2.5 hours of going to the gym, using the pool and then coming home and doing even more exercises– and then stretching– I was feeling exasperated. Why, after all of this time, am I not better?

Fuck it, I thought. Why don’t I just keep going? Sure, I just spent two and a half hours exercising, but there’s more I could do. I could do more exercises. I could do more stretches. I could get on my computer, and research more.

Then it hit me. A tiny voice, from 16-year-old Christy, telling me I was afraid to do more. I didn’t want to invest too much; didn’t want to give myself over completely to anything that involved fixing or changing my body. Because that’s what I did with my eating disorder. It was an around-the-clock process to keep my weight that low, and I ended up losing all other perspective.

Now I had regained perspective, but unconsciously, I was terrified of losing it again. In fact, I was keeping my fist tightly clenched around it, restricting the time I spent trying to fix my physical problems in a way that wasn’t all that different from the way I had once restricted my calories. In both cases, I was using an artificial number to place external limits on something that scared me.

Of course, as soon as I realized this, I was automatically able to write it off as a fear that wasn’t worth holding on to. 31-year-old Christy knows that just because she spends more time trying to fix her SI joints, it doesn’t mean she is going to go back to a rigid way of thinking and denying her body what it needs. If anything, it means the opposite.

So I’m going to listen to myself. I’m not going to force myself to do anything, one way or another. If I want to only do my exercises for one day, and then stop, that’s what I’ll do. Another day, if I feel like exercising, and then doing some research, and then going to the chiropractor, that’s what I’ll do.

It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the process. It’s not about imposing limits; it’s about flow.

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I’m going to start eating more “bad” fat

I read this article last night on my phone while pretending to listen to some loveable relatives butcher some Christmas music, and it made me sad.

http://phys.org/news/2012-12-fat-decisions-brain-cells-production.html

Like pretty much every other girl who was unhappy in school in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, I used to starve myself.  I mean, I ate, but if I ever get brave enough to post pictures of myself from that time period, you’ll see what I mean.  It was not good.

The one thing I absolutely avoided was fat because, of course, everything around me said that it was bad.  I had low-fat cheese on my sandwich (gross) at lunch.  I even had fat-free, cholesterol-free salad dressing in our refrigerator at home.  I had problems.

I get sad when I see people still trapped in that mindset, especially when they’re also engaging in extreme exercise. These are the people who pay more attention to their health than anyone else, but are in fact the ones doing the most damage.  It’s only a matter of time before their bodies break down (I know, because mine did).

We need fat, and we need cholesterol.  The article I linked to includes a quote from Ernest Arenas, a professor of stem cell neurobiology, on the role cholesterol plays in the body:

“‘We are familiar with the idea of cholesterol as a fuel for cells, and we know that it is harmful for humans to consume too much cholesterol.  What we have shown now is that cholesterol has several functions, and that it is involved in extremely important decisions for neurons. Derivatives of cholesterol control the production of new neurons in the developing brain. When such a decision has been taken, cholesterol aids in the construction of these new cells, and in their survival. Thus cholesterol is extremely important for the body, and in particular for the development and function of the brain.'”

You literally need cholesterol to form new brain cells.  Though we are conditioned to think of this substance as bad, it actually plays a vital role in the body.

There is also new research coming out that says there might not be as much of a risk from saturated fat consumption as previously thought.  Like cholesterol, you need saturated fat to perform certain functions in your body.

While the jury is still out on this, I personally am going to stop being so strict about avoiding saturated fat.  Our ancestors didn’t know anything about the different types of fat– to them, fat was fuel.  The fact that fat and cholesterol play so many vital roles in the body says to me that these nutrients played a significant role in our evolutionary history, and my body is tired of missing out.

This is not to say that I’m going to drop everything and head to McDonald’s (there’s plenty of other bad stuff in fast food!).  I’m not going to start eating bacon every single day.  But maybe I’ll actually let myself eat it when someone else offers it to me.  I think that if I can do this, it will be letting go of the last piece of me that’s still afraid of the things I eat.

I will be writing more on the saturated fat controversy.  Like anything, it’s important to be well-informed and do research from a variety of reliable sources, and it’s important to me that I don’t write a health-oriented blog based on opinion.  But this is how I’m feeling this morning.  If you enjoyed this post, eat a big hunk of cheese for me today.