Monday, May 9, 2011

Why I Run

Why do I run?

It's a question I think about a lot. Almost every day, really. I run because it's hard for me. Every single mile I complete is a challenge both physically and mentally. Without fail, I'm usually ready to stop running after about 1/2 mile. But there is a kind and determined voice inside of me that says "Keep trying. You can do it. Don't give up." And this is extremely significant because for the first 23 years of my life, that same voice was a malicious, self-loathing one that only told me multiple times each day how ugly, fat, stupid and worthless I was. Where the change happened, I'm not exactly sure. Yes, it was definitely after the several year struggle with anorexia, then bulimia, along with chewing and spitting, binge eating, and restriction for years. But after I was recovered from harmful eating habits, I was still plagued by just-as-harmful thoughts toward myself and others. I hated myself and my body this time not because of what I weighed, but because of the fact that I "couldn't" run. I directed my self-hate to getting better at running. Although I did improve at running, my mentality was still extremely punishing and I only drove myself to shin splints and a stress fracture. It looked good on the surface ("Running is healthy!") but I was still tearing myself apart emotionally.

To be quite honest, I don't know exactly the moment where the change happened. But I suspect it happened after I realized I was running myself into the ground, not based on 100 mile weeks, but on my attitude. It likely happened when I realized I literally drove my boyfriend away from me due to this new, slightly more creative form of disordered eating/mentality. It definitely happened when I renewed my promise to be kind to myself, in part due to the wonderful fitness blogs out there. (healthytippingpoint.com, operationbeautiful.com, ohsheglows.com, among others.) And it happened when I realized that harming myself and making running an idol is a sin. And it happened in so many little things. It happened when I accomplished my goal of running a 5K without any walking breaks. And when I was forced to take last summer off because standing, much less running hurt so much due to the stress fracture. Ironically it happened when I had some "WTF are you doing?" moments while running. And it happened when I heard "I Run for Life" by Melissa Etheridge.

In other words, I now run because it makes my soul happy. Running keeps me healthy, physically and more importantly, mentally. Running forces me to be kind to myself, especially if I am to complete my goal of the Pittsburgh Marathon this Sunday! Running gives me an outlet for stress relief and provides me something that I can be proud of in my life. Every single time I complete one more mile, I am thankful for who running has helped me become. I consider it a blessing that it was and still is hard for me, because I never take it for granted. I want to inspire others to be kind to themselves, whether it is through running, or nutritious eating, or learning to voice their opinions, or learning that it's OK to say no, or that it's not selfish to get all nine hours of sleep that your body may require. I run because I can and I want to.

And that's why I'm running 26.2 this Sunday!

Be kind to yourselves!

7 comments:

  1. Hey
    I have anorexia and play violin and wondered if maybe you could help me...
    EVen though I am "in recovery" I still find it hard to concentrate properly during practice and lessons. And I'm having trouble putting musicality and expression into my playing. I'm now doing classical performance on violin at uni and I really want to be able to put expression back into my playing. Did you have this problem? Do you have any tips? Also, do you have any tips on recovery?
    I also want to help spread awareness about eating disorders and am working with two friends from hospital to write a letter to our minister for mental health. Is there anything we can do to help you/do you have any tips for us? I'm in Australia and it seems we have nothing compared to the facilities in America.
    Hannah

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  2. Thanks for stopping by and reaching out, Hannah! I am glad you're working on recovery, and I completely understand what you mean about finding it hard to concentrate during playing. For me (and of course I'm not a registered dietitian, yet), I was only able to start concentrating when I was far into my recovery and the most important things I found was that I HAD to eat enough fat. (Which makes sense, as the brain is made out of a lot of fat and needs it to function!) I want to encourage you to try increasing your fat intake as I know it made a world of difference to me. And of course, make sure you're eating enough calories ALWAYS to help with focusing. After my initial struggle with anorexia, I was shocked (and still am, somewhat) to realize just how much I needed to eat to maintain my weight and my health. Only three "normal" meals each day just doesn't cut it for me.

    Secondly, I think the expression will come back as you get physically and also emotionally healthier. Like, if you're less worried about the fact that you just ate "x" then your brain will be free to think about the wonderful things that make life worth living, as opposed to the ED hell that we have both been in.

    Keep in touch and let me know how your continued recovery goes! Also, please let me know if I can do anything to support you in your recovery and/or in your efforts to spread the awareness!

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  3. Thanks for taking the time to reply.
    It's not what I wanted to hear though:P I'm scared to eat more fat or just more in general. In fact I'm trying to lose at the moment, which I know is bad, but... you know how it is. I was kinda hoping I'd be able to fix the violin thing without recovering but I was really kidding myself there hey. I was eating heaps before though. Mum and dad were taking care of my meals, so I had a huge breakfast, with a fortijuice, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, big dessert and supper.

    Can I ask what made you decide to get better? I don't think I want it enough yet, but my parents are trying to force me to recover.

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  4. This is a beautifully written post, Lisa! "I now run because it makes my soul happy." -- Loved this part. I'm so happy that running helped you to move beyond your eating disorder and discover a part of yourself that you love. You should be very proud! Good luck on your marathon this weekend!

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  5. Hi Hannah! I'd love to talk more with you in a more private forum, so feel free to email me at: dietsbite@gmail.com, but I also wanted to answer your questions and respond to your comment.

    A few things: I would encourage you to work with a registered dietitian and follow your meal plan EXACTLY. I am begging you, from the bottom of my heart, NOT to even think about losing weight right now. Your priority should be to get healthy, physically AND emotionally. As I hinted in this post, I was physically healthy YEARS before I was emotionally healthy. As long as you still want to lose weight, you won't be able to recover. I don't mean to sound harsh, but anorexia is a LIAR and does NOT play fair. Additionally, I encourage you to work with a therapist on figuring out WHY you still want to hang on to your ED.

    For me, I quite literally got tired of having an eating disorder. I know that sounds trite, but it's true. I got tired of not remembering things. I got tired of being in physical pain all the time. (I started having muscle cramps, aches, digestion problems, low pain tolerance in general, etc). I got tired of mentally obsessing over calories/fat/fiber. After my first "recovery" when I drifted to bulimia, I got tired of binging and purging, and got tired of praying that my esophagus would hold out for one more purge.

    I realized that life can be better than that!!!

    And slowly, I realized that I COULD NOT, under any circumstance get my true life back by continuing to half-ass recovery. YES, I tried. I tried to cheat the system and eat more but exercise more. I tried to eat low carb and/or low fat, and or every other way of eating you can think of. It didn't work. I went right back to binging and purging and restricting. When your body is starving (for anything-calories, certain macro- or micro nutrients, etc) it WILL do everything in its power to get them.

    I really do want to talk with you more. I want to encourage you in every way I can. Remember, my ultimate goal in my life and the reason I am making a very difficult career change, is because my heart aches to reach out to those with eating disorders. Let's continue this conversation via email, please? Again, it's dietsbite@gmail.com. I wish you all the health and happiness in the world!

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  6. I totally hear ya on loving the challenge part of running. Good luck with your marathon!!!

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  7. Love this!! Running is definitely mental. You are a running superstar :)

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