To address and extinguish the thought that may be in your head right now: No, I haven't ever been diagnosed with an eating disorder (although I have met with a therapist and a nutritionist about "disordered eating"). I always seem to be parked a short distance from Anorexia Athletica's entrance, fiddling with my keys, too scared to get out and go in. I've followed all the signs time and time again, but luckily I always seem to land in front of the biggest one of all: a can't-miss-me red octagon with simple and authoritative white letters that read STOP.
One of the scariest parts about getting sucked down that road, for me, was feeling like I had lost the ability to trust myself. I couldn't depend on who I thought I saw in the mirror any more than I could trust what my scale, my friends, and my family said. Now I understand that even though my inner critic may overwhelm the other voices in my life from time to time (and push me towards trouble), I trust myself to just sit at that stop sign until I'm ready to ask for help.
Last February, I did ask for help. I wasn't just teetering on the edge of becoming too thin; I had actually already lost my footing (and a few too many pounds). Now I'm able to see that so much of my battle with food is driven by my tendency for compulsive behavior (ummm trying to get through a semester's syllabus in a weekend, anyone?) and by my penchant for perfection.
I noticed that my once skin-tight jeggings felt "stretched out" even when they were fresh out of the dryer. I saw a picture of myself and was astounded to see my collarbone off in its own zip code. I looked back over my workout tracking and saw descriptions like "excellent", "success!", and "PR" switch to "dead tired", "leg fatigue", "knee pain", "exhausted", "no energy", and "failure". Brother #3 came for a visit and lectured me about eating more.
|The Tights Jean by AG|
I think that part of healthy eating/living is a balancing act between calories burned and calories consumed. If you've figured the rest of out it, I'm eager to hear your thoughts! Once I realized I was losing strength and wasn't gaining any points in the looks department by going without, I dove (in typical Hannah fashion) into my new assignment: gain weight.
I had a hard time watching the scale go up (because honestly, who is happy about gaining weight) but I was driven by how awful I felt running. The weight slowly came back on, as I added little snacks throughout the day, spread pesto and cheese on my sandwiches, poured granola into my yogurt, munched on crackers drizzled with salsa, and chomped on dark chocolate after dinner. I stopped feeling hungry and for awhile (besides occasional bouts of guilt), I felt much better.
Then I spiraled the other way (notice the pattern: it's either one extreme or the other) and started overeating. For the first time in my life, I'd eat until I was full and then a little bit more. I denied myself sweets and placated myself with large quantities of everything else. I felt so awful about how much I was eating and so ashamed that I couldn't seem to make myself stop that I started working out like crazy. That did nothing to combat how many extra calories were coming in and only pushed me closer towards injury. My jeans started to pinch and the scale crept up to a number that I'd never seen before.
A month later and I'm almost back to my weight from winter break (although I'm admittedly at the lower end of the "normal" weight for my height - but I'm in the "healthy" range nonetheless!) and I'm trying to find a way to stay here. I don't want to feel deprived (like I can't ever have anything fun) and I also don't want to feel overindulgent. I want to keep feeling great when I run and strong when I lift...and I don't want to give up my Oat Squares!
|My Favorite Breakfast: Oat Squares, Assorted Fruit, 1% Milk|
I'm doing well with controlling my portion sizes and trying new foods (like haddock and mahi mahi!) these days, but I'm still rigidly avoiding re-introducing "extras" (chips, crackers, candy, ice cream, cookies, etc.) into my diet. I know it's because I'm afraid of gaining the weight back. I want to be able to say my body is good enough just the way it is. I'm so envious of people that truly do have that kind of self-confidence, and I hope that I keep getting closer and closer to feeling that way.
|Portion Control, Made Fun with Purple Measuring Cups|
I don't think that I'm "out of the woods" just yet. I know that my close friends and family still worry about me - but I have picked up some new techniques to use when I feel myself hurtling towards the big STOP sign...and one of the most effective ways for me to cope is to write. Thanks for listening.