Liv vs. Exercise: Part 1

Growing up, I always had a love for fitness. I was very active in sports and trained at a competitive level. Running was always one of my favorite pastimes.

As my eating disorder began to get worse, my relationship with fitness took a very dark turn. I became OBSESSED with the numbers. I would go to the gym with a pre-determined number that I must burn off before I was allowed to leave. I never saw anything disordered about this because it was easy then to just convince myself that I wanted to be in better shape for soccer season.

I would go to the gym sometimes more than once a day being completely controlled by the numbers showing up on the machine. No matter how sick I felt, I could not get myself to stop before I hit the number I decided on for the day because if I stopped, Ana would NOT be happy. It didn’t matter if I came to the verge of blacking out— If I didn’t reach that number I was a failure.

As I started treatment, exercise was one of the first things stripped away from me. My relationship with exercise was not healthy and my team knew my obsession with numbers would not get better if I kept going to the gym or doing my ‘secret’ workout ritual at home. I was furious.

As I got stronger in my recovery, fitness would slowly get re-introduced. During these times, when I would go to the gym, I would cover up the numbers on the machine so I didn’t get obsessive over what I was doing. However, no matter how hard I tried to work out in a healthy way, it didn’t last long before I relapsed over the obsession of numbers and lost my privileges to work out.

It felt like a never ending cycle. I was upset and embarrassed with myself. It only became more challenging when I got to college and my friends all wanted to play intramurals or work out together. I always had to find some excuse as to why I couldn’t play. I was always too embarrassed to share the real reason I couldn’t join them was because I was on exercise restriction.

This summer I started running again for the first time in a long time– I started running a lot. I haven’t been visited by the voice that loves the numbers…or at least I don’t think I have been. The most challenging part in recovery for me now is trying to establish what is disordered vs what is not. My relationship with exercise had been toxic for so long that sometimes I wonder if it will ever be healthy. When I wake up and decide how many miles I want to run, I have to question myself and ask WHY I want to run so bad. Do I want to run because I enjoy it? Or do I want to run because I have to hit a certain number?

Anorexia is one giant mind game and trying to tell the differences between her voice and my own is not always the easiest. This is a chapter of my recovery story that is not yet fully healed and I am not sure when it will be. Will I ever be able to have working out as a part of my life in a healthy way? I really am not sure. I am just taking it moment by moment and doing my best to listen to the needs of my body.

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Drunkorexia

Alright I am going to tell you guys all about a type of eating disorder many people probably have never even heard of. It is scary, because while you many have never heard of this condition before, I guarantee either yourself or some of your closest friends have engaged in some of the behaviors of drunkorexia.

Drunkorexia is when someone plans to not eat much when they know they will be drinking so that they can get drunk faster and not have to worry about alcohol related weight gain. Someone will deprive there body so that one drink is all they need to feel drunk. The goal is always to consume less and less because calories are the monster.

Too much alcohol is already not good for you at all, but pair that with malnutrition and we have an even bigger issue on our hands. Drunkorexia is SO common on every college campus YET WE DO NOT EVER HEAR ABOUT THIS!

Sufferers think it’s the calories that will kill them when instead it is themselves and their own behaviors that kill.

I suffer hardcore with this condition. And let me tell you about one of my worst nights ever because of it…

So it was my freshman year at Xavier University. I never drank much before  because I couldn’t fathom putting in these excess calories if my body did not actually need them.

It was a few weeks into school and my friends and I were feeling pretty bored so we decided to drink. There were three of us total and a lot of vodka was consumed that night. I know for a fact that that exact day I walked/ran about 6 miles and hardly ate a thing or drank any water.

We were drinking, having fun, and being stupid. The night was going great until I blacked out and woke up in the mental ward of a hospital. All the patients had cots we slept on and the only privacy was a little curtain. The person next to me suffered with schizophrenia. Every now and then he would scream or call out to people who weren’t there. I was scared; I was 7 hours away from home and had no idea what was going to happen.

I got so lucky that night that nothing worse happened to me. I got so lucky. I danced with death that night. I wish I learned my lesson after that first time.

I have a weird relationship with alcohol to this day. I like to go out and drink, but I hate not being in control. However, I still will purposely deprive my body to compensate for the alcohol. I never know what a night of drinking will look like for me. Some people call me lame for not always wanting to go out with them, but I have a bigger issue I need to take care of first.

This is important…to my friends just now starting college, or my friends who may see these behaviors in their friends. Help inform them. Help them. Help them realize something is not okay. I am lucky that my foolish behaviors didn’t get me in any worse trouble in the past.

I cannot stress enough how much more this topic needs to be addressed.

Here are some of the biggest symptoms:

  • Cutting back on food and increasing exercise to either speed or enhance the high from drinking
  • Engaging in bulimic-type behaviors: vomiting after eating, taking laxatives or using diuretics
  • Boosting exercise or eating less to offset calories from drinking: this could include drinking low-calorie beers or cocktails, skipping a meal or avoiding food all day, or exercising intensely

(http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/college-game-plan/drunkorexia-prevalent-among-college-students-study-finds-n614871)

With the school year starting it is so so so important that we get a step ahead of the game.

If you have more questions or want to know more about my personal struggles let me know and I will do whatever I can to help.

“Real women have curves”

You know what saying I hate so much?

“Boys like girls with curves.” Or “real women have curves.”

I have accepted that I will never be pencil thin again and I am okay with that, but I will not justify gaining weight with the concept of pleasing some guy. My body is my body. If a guy only wants to talk to me for the way my body looks, then that is someone I do not want in my life. I am working on my body for MYSELF. I am eating for myself. Working out for myself. I am NOT recovering to get attention or validation from anyone else but me.

A lot of times, when I get upset about getting curves, people will tell me things like, “guys like a little extra to hold at night.”

It upsets me that this is the way some women think. Why do people think that their body should be a trophy for others?

This is why there are so many women struggling with loving their body. We are constantly surrounded by signs with curvy women saying this is how we should look. Or we see the victoria secret models and then we believe we need to look like that.

So, here is what I am going to do.

I am going to continue to eat and work out in a healthy manner.

I am going to continue to focus on my recovery and accept the changes my body makes.

If I get curvy, so be it- that is how my body should be then. But I will not be changing my body because that is what some guy will like. I will not work to have my body be a certain way to please anyone but myself.

This is my body.

I plan on being with someone who likes me for me- not only for the way my body looks.

The right guy will like you curvy or not. Do not change to please society. Live your life to better yourself.

So, while some say “real women have curves” I say all women are real and all bodies are beautiful.

Fear Food Friday

Wow. It has not been long, but my summer is off to a crazy start. Between juggling close to 40 hours of work a week, 3 online summer classes, focusing on recovery, and keeping up with blogging I am finding myself completely exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I love the busy lifestyle, but man…I could use a day of sleep.

I did not get to post yesterday about my fear food Friday, but I still did it. One of my ED fighter friends suggested that I make my fear food for the week to be Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. So that is exactly what I did. But that is not all. Today I challenged myself AGAIN by ordering something different at a restaurant I go to often. I always get my “safe” order, but today I got a sandwich (and if you read one of my first articles you might remember how I feel about bread…)

So first on Friday came the ice cream. I was getting mad at myself during the day because I was feeling the symptoms of restricting. I kept feeling like I would pass out which is NOT OKAY. My anorexia cannot affect my job performance so I need to be feeding my body for both the kids and myself.

I went to a pool party later that night and I brought my ice cream with me. So not only was I eating a fear food, I was doing it with friends and wearing a bathing suit. Sure I totally felt like my stomach was blowing up as I scooped in the bites, but after awhile, I was having too much fun to care that I ate some peanut butter cup ice cream (although, I did read the nutritional values) Sure it is not something I will buy often, but it is nice to treat myself. Besides, ice cream tastes pretty good on a 90 degree day.

Overall I would say the ice cream was pretty easy.

Next came my egg salad sandwich (on gluten free bread of course.) challenging to order, but by the time it came I wolfed it down. I took off some of the bread though so I only really had one slice (baby steps.) I was super hungry, but that was also my first meal of the day and I worked two hours before I went. Again something I need to work on—acknowledging the fact that if I am going out to eat later than I do not restrict to compensate. I need to eat normally consistently!

I have an urge to workout right now, but I am trying to fight it. Only because I know that it is Ana that wants to workout right now to make up for the calories.

Overall the challenge foods went really well. I am feeling pretty good today as I write this. I have had some ups and downs this past week, but I can honestly say that I am starting to feel more powerful over Ana (as long as the stupid scale is not around.) Although, I think I came up with a prettttttty good idea for me to break up with the scale. Stay tuned.

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Why I Will Never Buy a Fitbit

Fitbits are the latest trend. EVERYONE seems to have a fitbit or at least something that tracks his or her steps.

I think fitbits are an awesome idea, but I will never buy or use one.

For my 19th birthday I got a Nike fuel band. It is essentially the same thing as a fitbit. I loved my fuel band. I had goals to accomplish everyday. It is a really good idea to motivate people to be healthy.

However, in my case, my fuel band was counter-productive for me. I began to compete against myself.

“How many calories did I burn yesterday?” “I burned more calories yesterday I must do more today.” “I already went on a run today but I still need 500 more steps to reach my goal, better go workout again.”

I am obsessed with numbers. To me it did not matter that I met my goal, what mattered was that I did more than I did yesterday. Yet again, I began abusing my right to workout in a whole new manner. The worst part is that to me I did not recognize it as unhealthy or abuse; it was just a game between myself.

I got my fuelband in May and wore it everyday over the summer. I have memories leaving my dads apartment in California at 10pm to walk up and down the stairs until I achieved my goal. I remember doing sprints back and forth in the apartment when he was not home to hit that number.

I would run to summer camp, work for like 7 hours, and force myself to walk/run back even when my body was begging to stop. These are NOT healthy behaviors.

Before I transferred to Drake University, I made the decision to not rely on my fuel band anymore. I gave it to my mom to wear because I knew that my obsession was not healthy.

When people now talk about fitbits, I find myself wanting one BADLY. But I know, that no matter where I am at in recovery, I do not need this. I need to focus on being in the present and not focused on how many steps I had yesterday or how many I will get tomorrow if I run this far.

People talk about their fitbits all the time and how many steps they have. I feel happy for my friends when they achieve their goals- and I also feel jealous. I wish I could be able to wear a fitbit and not become so obsessed. It is silly to think that I can let a small piece of technology control me so much (similar to my number obsession with the scale…)

Fitbits are great, just not the right thing for me. I can’t speak for all survivors, but for me they are a trigger.

Exercise

The other day I went on my first run since before I went inpatient in February. This was a big deal for me because I LOVE running, but I was not allowed to run for a while. I had to miss out on participating in intramurals at school and for awhile I could not even go to the studio that I practice ballet at. It was so embarrassing for me to explain that I could not do these activities because I simply could not take care of my own body.

There are many reasons why I could not exercise. It is very common for people suffering with an eating disorder to suffer problems with their heart as a result of malnutrition. Along with that my body was also extremely dehydrated/still is from refusing to put anything inside. And yet with all the nasty side effects, people still glamorize this disease…

One of the biggest reasons I could not exercise was because I would have blacking out spells fairly frequently (as I fuel my body they start to decrease). In April I was hooked up to a 24-hour heart motor to see what was causing these constant blackouts. Turns out my resting heart rate averaged at about 35 beats per minute. I have bradycardia (abnormally low heart beat) but this was about 10 beats lower for me than normal.

This sucked. I spent the majority of the month of April having to take breaks walking up stairs because my body physically could not handle it. I went from running 5 miles to hardly being able to walk up a flight of stairs.

I kept telling myself I need to do this for the boys I watch. I love to run around with them, but my body was starting to not be able to handle it. It was not fair to them if I couldn’t race around the block anymore because I could not get myself to eat lunch.

This was and still is my motivation. I know I should aim to recover for myself, but the boys I nanny and the kids I work with really is what gets me out of bed on rough days. They are my happiness when I cannot find happiness within myself.

So going on this run the other day was monumental. The best part about recovering is when I am allowed to do the things I used to enjoy so much again.

There is only one thing that scares me about being able to exercise again. I am afraid I will lose control again. I am afraid that I will start to abuse my running. I over exercised to the point of exhaustion far too frequently. I used to not let myself get off a bike or elliptical until I hit my “perfect” number. Even when my body was begging me to stop I would not do it. I am hoping that by being aware of this problem that I will not take advantage of it again. Running makes me happy- it should not be making me sick.

With the summer camp I work at starting up soon it is so important that I am taking care of my body. My work hours are going to be long and I NEED to be healthy to do a good job. I owe it to my coworkers, the kids, but most importantly I owe it to MYSELF.