Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Recovery on Your Terms

I'm not going to address the obvious myths about eating disorders circulating such as the one that claims eating disorders are limited to white, upper-class, females who are vain or the one that suggests eating disorders are primarily about food addiction. These have been addressed and debunked in countless books, articles and talks. The following are myths or ideas on which I would like to focus:

1. Once you have an eating disorder, you will always have one. This, quite frankly, is bullshit. I know too many people who are fully recovered to believe that a person will always be stuck with the same illness or have the same set of symptoms for her entire life. There's no doubt that there's a genetic component and that people can have a predisposition to developing certain disorders, but this does not mean "once an anorexic, always an anorexic". You may have bouts of distress followed by periods of relief, but once you are on a solid recovery path, you always have the tools to deal with the disorder at your disposal. Sometimes learning to manage an illness leads to living life differently. You don't forget what it's like to suffer with it, but you don't have to actually suffer your entire life.

2. Ed. I already addressed Ed once in a blog post, so I won't go into too much detail here. While I understand the idea that it can be good to separate unhealthy and healthy thoughts by naming or identifying the unhealthy ones, I think this kind of strategy can become problematic when one refuses to accept that the disorder is part of the self, an unhealthy coping mechanism that once served a purpose and can be dangerous if continued. Blaming Ed for risky behaviors but refusing to take any action to change won't lead to improved health. It can help separate the person from the illness, but I stand by my words and say that this is a limiting and gimmicky strategy when it comes to dealing with eating disorders.

3. Eating disorders are a choice. No, they're not. No addiction is a choice, but we all make choices in life that either support or inhibit health. The problem with thinking a disorder is a choice is that you discount the physiology and genetic component of an addiction. The fact that they are not a choice doesn't mean those who suffer have no way of changing or overcoming them. It's more complicated that simply they are or they aren't, just like recovery isn't as simple as making a single choice to get well. You must address all aspects of a person and the disorder in order to successfully overcome addiction. Eating disorders are not a choice, and getting well is not as simple as choosing to eat.

4. Focus on who you were in order to overcome the illness. This is not good advice, because so many people never had a healthy relationship with food, even from a young age. Besides, going back in time is impossible, and why would you really want to? Instead, focus on where you are now and where you want to go. Go as far as describing what you want your life in recovery to look like, and then come up with some steps you can take to get there.

5. One diet fits all. This couldn't be further from the truth. Those who claim everyone can thrive on the same diet aren't considering the different dietary requirements for those with PKU, Hereditary hemochromatosis, Cystic Fibrosis or any number of genetic variations individuals have. Contrary to what some people believe, there is no magical diet for everyone. Anyone who claims that everyone, including all diabetics, does well on a high-carb diet hasn't looked into scholarly, peer-reviewed articles on insulin sensitivity or articles on varied diets in general. It's simply not true that everyone in all areas of the globe should eat the same diet.

Going past the physical requirements of diet, there's no doubt that there are psychological and emotional factors involved with eating. Comfort food is different for each person. Memories and scent are closely tied together, so certain feelings can arise when you smell or even see certain foods, but food can also affect brain chemistry. Again, why we eat what we do isn't as simple as feeding the machine. Food as fuel is fine, but it's better when we can learn to enjoy what we consume.

Speaking of diets, I recently bumped into another gimmicky recovery method called the MinnieMaud. It sounds like the "fuck it; I'm eating" way to better health. Honestly, I don't know a lot about it except that at a glance, it looks like someone compiled a lot of existing advice into a "method" that's easy for others to follow. These kinds of practices have pros and definite cons, so my only suggestion is that anyone who is thinking about doing something like this should check with his or her team and doctor and make sure it's safe to try given his or her situation and current state of health. Remember, refeeding for anorexics and other individuals with certain eating disorders can be dangerous and even deadly in some cases and should be monitored in most cases. Just be careful is all I'm saying. If it works for you, great, but don't push it onto others. Any program like this should be used as a guideline only, not something set in stone.

As far as recovery goes, I don't believe there's a magic formula or perfect method, or that you have to do X, Y and Z to regain health and sanity. There are some obvious changes that have to be made, and I believe there are certain issues that must be addressed in order to recover. Each person, however, will have a unique set of needs and issues to address. The path to health that one takes to achieve well-being need not be the same path someone else takes and probably shouldn't be. For example, some alcoholics believe that AA is the only way a person can get sober, but there are plenty of people who have put years of sobriety under their belts without attending meetings. More importantly, everyone who attends AA will have a different experience and will interpret what is being offered differently. The individual makes of it what he or she will. 

I often refer to this post when it comes to what I feel is essential in recovery. Use what works for you and discard the rest. By using your own approach combined with the guidance of those you respect and trusting that somewhere deep inside you are the answers, chances are you will have lasting success in your recovery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Quick Update

After three races this fall/winter, I decided it's already too cold for me to really race anymore. My body is feeling all tweaky. I lucked out at my last 5K because the weather was tolerable and warmed up to about 50 degrees by the time the gun went off. Sleeping in no man's land seems to be my thing, but I ran a hair faster than I did at the turkey trot the week before. It was nice to break the 23-minute mark, even though the time I ran is a good five minutes slower than some of my better times. Still, the cold affects my heart valve too much, and I feel uncomfortable running hard in the frosty air. My body feels like it needs a rest anyway. I'm also backing off because my toe is pulling the rest of my body out of alignment again, and I feel twinges that are somewhat worrisome. I had a string of a couple of good weeks, though. I'm glad about that. If I can stay on my feet through the winter, I will be happy.

I don't have any solid plans, and I'm still adjusting to all the weird positions my feet, hips and legs go into when I run. I'd love to be more social when it comes to training, but I'm not quite sure how to go about doing that when I can never predict how my body will respond from one day to the next. For example, the other day after work, my feet started shooting pain again and my left leg went all wonky on me, and shortly after that, I started feeling an uncomfortable tightness on my right side. This has happened before and has also resolved itself, but it's always unsettling. Lately, I'm feeling more pain than I had been in the fall. The only thing I can do is wait and see what happens, but I have to be careful about how I manage things.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Do I Detect Some Fitness in There?

I want to write a very quick race report while it's still fresh in my mind.

Saturday morning, I ran the Panicking Poultry 5K out at the reservoir. It was freezing out! I'm someone who prefers hot to cold, but even those who like the cooler temperatures were looking uncomfortable. I will admit that the cold affects my heart valve leak and drops a dose of anxiety into my system. A few times during the race, I placed my thick wool gloves over my mouth to try to make the air feel warmer and calm myself down. Despite the nerves and the cold, it turned out to be a fun race, and I think I sensed some fitness in me somewhere.

Since I haven't been training for anything in particular, more just getting used to running again, I'm definitely lacking confidence. I'm not sure when and how to push myself in races. That's partly a mental thing and partly a physical one. Making sure I stay within what my wobbly and mechanically challenged body can handle is my top priority right now. I'm doing a pretty good job of running without getting to a point where I am crippled the next day like I have done in the past. Everything is more of a tempo run, but I can still push it on some level. I hope I can eventually push it without worrying so much about this twinge or that ache. The more I work on overall strength, the more I feel like I'm getting there.

I ended up running 23:39, but my chip time was a little bit faster, which is great news to me. I'm oddly very happy about my performance, because after a total of eight (yes eight!) surgeries shared between my two feet in the last bunch of years, there were times I thought I might not even walk again without pain. Neither the pain nor the issues are completely gone, of course, but I'm managing things as well as I can and am thrilled to be able to run at all at this point.

Don't look if you're easily grossed out:

Shortly after the surgery on my right foot

I'm not flipping you off; I just can't bend my toe.

It's not perfect, but they work.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Check Yourself

Lately, I'm amazed how much time passes between the time I think about a blog post and the time I actually write it. Now that I have a few projects completed or close to being complete, I'm going to try to blog a bit more than I have been.

Of course, the election is on my mind, but I'm too shocked to comment much on it at the moment. Besides, Sam harris and a few others did a fine job of expressing a lot of what I was thinking. No need to beat a dead horse.

I hate to admit, but I got caught up in one of those 911 conspiracy theory debates when I shared a video on a friend's timeline on Facebook a few weeks ago. The whole thing got so out of hand, some of us being tagged couldn't find the comment in which we were called out. I ended up backing out of the whole thing and eventually deleted the video when one individual wouldn't stop calling people names, posting links to bogus websites and boasting about his super high IQ, which had to be a joke, because the guy couldn't string together a coherent sentence and seemed to lack the brain power to understand simple equations and concepts. He kept asking the same questions over and over, and just when the issue finally seemed resolved, he would go back to it yet again. No matter how many times I said that metal doesn't have to melt in order for it to become unstable, he couldn't seem to understand. I find it odd that these types are the first to call others stupid. As one friend pointed out, it might just be the Dunning-Kruger effect.

In general, I've been shocked at how venomous people can be, especially lately. I feel like I just wrote about another incident in which a woman was horribly rude, condescending and arrogant in an online forum, and the other day, a friend pointed out an episode on a different forum in which a woman went a bit nuts attacking a guy in a series of bizarre posts that were eventually deleted. I can't decide which event was worse, but the overall tone of all the posters in each case was the same. Instead of a legitimate debate or an honest declaration of goings-on, people who insist on putting others down aim to turn any conversation into a bullying match, which never accomplishes much. I suppose it might make the biggest bully temporarily feel good on some level, but people stop paying attention when things get that out of control. When the scurrilous activity drags out and the same shit get stirred over and over and over again, it becomes increasingly unpleasant and tiresome, really fucking old.

Though this might be somewhat discontinuous, I've noticed my own anger and mixed emotions coming out in the last few weeks, though I try not to take it out on others. In general, I struggle more than usual during the changes of seasons and also in the dead of winter. Even as lovely as the weather has been, I still feel that nagging anxiety and sadness that comes this time of year. For example, yesterday I went to the CU cross country course and had a repeat of my tempo run in 2012, right down to the time, only this year I ran a hair slower and it was a dog encounter that interrupted me instead of an untied shoelace. Overall, the experience was incredibly similar, but the biggest difference was my mood. Yesterday, I was running alone and was very unsure about my capabilities after all the surgeries and soreness I have dealt with. I could feel the worry weighing me down during my warmup run, but I tired to go in thinking I will just see how things go.

When a lady's dog cut me off just after the halfway point, I moved to the other side of the trail, but her other dog followed me and then lunged at me. I yelled a few choice words at nobody in particular and felt slightly embarrassed about it later. Sometimes you have these moments where you're thinking, "Oh shit, I probably could have handled that better," but a small incident like that can unleash a lot of built up tension and the end result is much like the damaging straw on the unfortunate camel's back. I don't like when owners can't or refuse to control their dogs on a trail, especially when there's a dog park RIGHT NEXT to the trail, but I also don't like feeling like I may have overreacted. I've been bitten too many times to take these things lightly, though, and I think the lady realized she was being kind of lax about keeping her dogs in check. 

In the end, I'm glad I managed to get through a solo tempo run at a pace that's not super slow. Given everything, I should be happy, but the competitor in me still struggles. What's funny is that I told myself I would be happy if I ran anything close to 30 min, but when I did, I felt sad that I didn't run closer to 27 min like I have before. Then I listed all the excuses: My toe is about as close to being surgically amputated as it can get. My hips aren't functioning at 100 percent, and my mechanics are a bit out of whack etc. The main problem I had, though, was that I kind of fell asleep halfway through the course and didn't trust that I could go harder. I think I can. 

And on a wonderful but unrelated note, I won some free cheese from Cypress Grove the other day. If you haven't tried their products, you are missing out. The Purple Haze cheese is phenomenal! That was such a cool surprise. I have been a huge fan of their cheeses for a long time. One of my favorites is their Truffle Tremor, but I also like the Lamb Chopper as an everyday cheese. Soooooo good. Mmm

One last thing:
During any uncertain or difficult times, a friend of mine had some very good advice that I will add to here. Be sure you are practicing self-care. Make sure you are eating nourishing food, getting enough sleep and reaching out to friends or others when you need. Look to those who inspire you, and, though the saying is old and used, be the change you want to see in the world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Rashomon Effect

I started this post a long time ago with good intentions to finish it quickly, but I ended up getting too lost in thought over the weeks to write anything succinct. There were several incidents that kept bombarding my brain as if a tape were on some kind of random but consistent replay cycle. I kept trying to sort out what was worth addressing and what should be let go. Sometimes you really want to open up about certain things, but it doesn't seem appropriate. It might offend someone, or, after starting to address it, it suddenly doesn't seem so pressing. Maybe it falls into the too little, too late category, or maybe you worry about how the person receiving the information might react.

Quite often in life, your experiences or observations in a situation will be different than -- and occasionally the opposite of -- those witnessing the same event. Lately, I have been ear-deep in these kinds of episodes. I'm left scratching my head, thinking, WTF? How can what I think, feel, see, determine or believe clash so violently with someone else's perspective? Often, I'm waiting for a kumbaya moment, and, instead, I'm about to stumble into a war of words, or I'm left out in the cold, alone, looking in and wondering how I landed here.

It does seem that people are exhibiting extreme behavior more now than ever before. I'm either observing smiling, shiny, happy people, or I'm looking at red-in-the-face, road-raging individuals who yell, scream and try to intimidate others. Sometimes, the hostility is nothing more than someone online taking a condescending tone, but, in certain situations, that's enough to put a bad taste in your mouth and a nagging bug in your brain for the rest of the day or longer. There's an undercurrent of anger or unrest, even if the incident comes off as minor on the surface. It's hard for me to understand why people get so nasty, but I'm guessing it's a deeply rooted unhappiness within themselves, not entirely related to what has transpired in the moment.

It has been a while since I have gone into a full-blown rant. There are a few recent incidents I keep tossing around in my mind, though. One has to do with an encounter I had with a woman in an eating disorder forum. Sometimes people just rub you the wrong way. Other times, a person annoys a bunch of people for obvious reasons. Such was the case recently in one of the forums in which I participate. I already posted about it on Facebook, so I won't go into detail here. What came out of it for me is that I'm very happy to have some incredibly supportive friends who are intelligent, kind and funny. This was one of those situations that really bothered me initially, but now that some time has passed, it no longer seems like that big a deal. Some people are unkind and will say mean things, and, unfortunately, everyone has to occasionally deal with these kinds of individuals.

Of course, there are plenty of people who are lovely and sweet, full of kindness and sympathy. They are there when you need and listen to your worries without judging you, and they support you without running to gossip behind your back. The world is full of both good and not so good.

After watching a documentary, actually several, on different types of relationships, I'm starting to understand why I have been drawn to certain individuals and shy away from others. I know I'm vague posting here, but there are some things I haven't figured out how to comfortably share in this kind of medium. What's more important than spilling my guts, is realizing that I have started to see what I have given up by recreating patterns in my life that might be familiar but aren't healthy. Regrettably, I have the sense that I have missed a lot of opportunities, mostly due to fear. I can't really blame anyone else, but none of us live in a vacuum. Interactions with partners, coworkers, family, friends and even strangers can affect our behavior and how we view ourselves.  

This year, I have most definitely lived through a lot of loss and change. Going through big changes always provides an opportunity to reflect on life in general and on the self. The good news is that I now know I don't have to stay on the path I was on.  I want to start living more in the what is or what might be instead of the what was or what might have been, though some of those scenarios are hard to give up completely. Initially, I was feeling pretty shaky about testing out new directions, but I'm OK with being in the unsure stage right now, as long as I know I'm not going backward. In time, I hope some of the walls I have put up will begin to come down. In the meantime, I'm fine working on a new book with several other people, volunteering, working, jogging and continuing to raise awareness about eating disorder recovery and mental heath. 

In October, I will be participating in the Denver NEDA walk. If you would like to help me raise some money and awareness for the cause, please check out this link:  WALK

Also, I was recently a guest on a radio/podcast show "Voices for Change"  Rebecca and Joe were nice enough to interview me about my book and my journey. 

Life is like a radiohead video. It's interesting, bizarre, confusing and disturbing at times, but if you listen to the music, not just the words, it's beautiful in its own twisted way.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Training on Empty: Epilogue

When I first started writing my book, I wasn't a writer. I'm not sure I am now, but I can usually string some coherent and complete sentences together. Sometimes they even come out well, though I'm far from any David Foster Wallace types when it comes to talent and the ability to use it. Still, I had a story to tell, one that I hope will help and inspire others.

During the worst times when I was struggling, there weren't many resources available. The ideas around recovery were very different from what they are now. Good or bad, social media has allowed people to share every aspect of their lives, from illness to recovery, and now you can find a tremendous amount of information online. The problem is that anyone can declare herself an expert or advocate. I noticed someone who previously denied the prevalence of eating disorders and claimed she was immune is suddenly declaring she has the answers. If this approach truly helps others, I suppose there's nothing really wrong with it, but it comes off more as attention seeking than actually wanting to help. On some level, I believe radical change combined with a sudden appreciation and understanding of others or a situation is possible, but I suspect there's more to these kinds of cases.

What's more important to me is that people in the field or those who have actually dealt with an eating disorder share THEIR stories. I don't care so much about the people who have looked with reproach at those struggling or discounted the lows others have hit; I care about the ones who have made it to the other side after facing their worst demons and are willing to reach back and pull someone else to safer ground. These are the true heroes in my mind, not the ones who jump on a topic for the sake of self-promotion.

Recovery is something that evolves. Whether your issue is occasionally binging on pizza and beer or a severe form of restricting, where you are now doesn't mean you will be forever stuck there. As I get older, I realize that I'm no longer aiming to punish myself the way I used to. When I look back at my own life and look at others, some of the things I see have helped the most in recovering from an eating disorder are:

1. Be honest with yourself and with others.

2. Commit to both your recovery and to being as aware as possible.

3. Build lasting friendships and relationships.

4. Focus on the moment and remind yourself that at this given time, you are OK. If you don't feel it, reach out to someone for support.

5. Watch how you talk about yourself and what you say about others. The way we speak about ourselves and others can shed light on some deeper issues.

6. Avoid both blaming others and taking all the blame onto your own shoulders.

7. This post provides a lot of what I feel is helpful information.

In the end, I posted my book in a series of blog posts, because I think doing so can help others. Though it has been many years since I last engaged in any harmful behaviors, I still remember how difficult it was to be in the throes of the illness. I appreciate so much the support from those who have purchased my book and helped spread the word about it, but I want the information to be available to those who maybe can't afford it or are afraid to ask. Posting the book is a way for me to play it forward. I was lucky enough to receive a lot of help when I needed it, and I hope the words I have written will help others.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Training on Empty: Chapter 37

Chapter 37 – Conclusion

“The universe never says no to your thought about yourself. It only grows it.” – Neale Donald Walsch

My first impression of Colleen Cannon when I met her years ago was “this woman is strong.” She radiated an aura of confidence and self-acceptance, and it was no surprise to find out she was a world-class triathlete. As an athlete, Colleen was lucky to have avoided an eating disorder. Years later, when I met her for an interview to discuss exactly how she achieved this, she still radiated the confidence of a world-class athlete.

“Through my career I learned that there’s no good or bad way to eat. I came from a sprinter’s background and had a brother on the football team, so bigger wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.” She says. “On the track, bigger meant stronger and we could go faster. We ate fried chicken after races and didn’t think twice about it.” Colleen’s coaches felt otherwise and pressured her to lose weight. At one point her track coach even cut her off from the Haagen Dazs store, warning the staff there not to serve his athlete. Although Colleen was far from fat, she was bigger than the average runner, yet she was able to hold the school record for the 1500-meter run in college, a standard that would last for nearly 20 years. “I wasn’t going to not eat, so I just ate the ice cream or whatever I wanted anyway and ran well despite what my coaches told me,” she says.

Like Lorraine Moller, Colleen looks at food not just as an energy source for the physical body but as something that connects us to the universe:

The way people eat has a lot to do with beliefs. Food is condensed God juice. I say God not in the religious sense, but however you want to interpret it. Food connects us to the divine. The sun grows the plants that feed the cows. It even helps grow the people who make the Twinkies!

For me, I have learned to go by how I feel. I learned a lot from Dr. Phil Maffetone, who educated me on the benefits of including fats in the diet. As I ate more of what my body needed and craved, I felt better and more connected, centered. Athletes are more prone to try various fad diets to see what will make them perform best, but it’s really more about being present when you eat.

When power bars first came out, a few of us were involved in an experiment where we ate a certain ratio of fats, carbohydrates and proteins and these power bars. After the third day, I felt flat and almost depressed. It was no fun. After eating the same bars for three days, it seemed like the bars had no life force in them. It felt good to return to regular eating again after the study.

Colleen mentioned that merely holding the food in a sacred place or blessing the food can help get that connection to the divine or to the higher self. If we are calm and fully present when we eat, the food is more likely to nourish us in the ways we want. “I ran a race once with another triathlete, and at a pre-race dinner, we were shocked to see all these skinny competitors eating apple wedges,” she recalls. “The two of us had big bowls of pasta in front of us, and for a moment I questioned whether I should be eating it. Then I said to my pasta, ‘Pasta, you’re gonna make me run so fast tomorrow,’ and I did!”

After a successful career as a professional triathlete, Colleen founded a camp called Women’s Quest, where women can learn to get in touch with their inner desires. Training techniques, mind-body-spirit connection exercises and other activities are provided to help individuals discover more about themselves. Colleen says, “The camp is a safe environment for people to find the heart’s desire and any obstacles in the way of achieving that heart’s desire. It seems like food always comes up as an issue for women, so it’s good that the people who run the camps are all different sizes and shapes. That way it shows that self acceptance doesn’t have to be based on a certain body type. We also look at all the ways to nourish the self, not just through food.”

I may not be the epitome of health, but I’m better than when I was anorexic. I keep searching and working to find answers that will lead to my body healing more fully and allow me to live a more comfortable life. Despite the long-term consequences my body has suffered as a result of being anorexic, I have once again found passion. I am able to throw myself into my writing, into my work and into just being human. I have wonderful relationships with the people around me. I am fully supported and able to set my illness aside and actually live in the world again. Each day I face the choice of whether to give in to old patters or try something new. The more I can trust the universe and allow for change, the more at ease I can become in my own body and my own ability to read it.

I still run. I'm no longer training on empty. Setting records and winning races are no longer on my mind, though I remember those days well. I run because my body, even with all that I put it through, has allowed me to return to a sport that I love. With countless injuries, many surgeries and years of illness behind me, I now run with the freedom of someone who has returned from the edge. Days off are not as much of a struggle as they once were, and I'm to the point where I can enjoy rest. The overly critical part of my brain is not as active, and this allows me to be kinder to myself. Anorexia once enveloped my mind. Food, my weight and running were all I thought about. Eventually, these things drifted to the background, but I was still unduly aware. Now my mind is less encumbered with these thoughts than it ever has been. It was a combination of time and work that got me to this place. I had to rediscover who I was and be okay with simply being me.

Surviving something like an eating disorder naturally brings up big questions such as “why am I here?” or “who am I?” At times I am still searching for answers to questions about life. Coming so close to dying and then recovering to experience life in a new way is something I may never understand. My hope is that I can provide some inspiration to others and maybe even prevent people from having to go through what I did. I believe that as with any illness, the sooner the problem is dealt with, the better the chances of a full recovery. With so many people inflicted with some sort of eating disorder, it’s essential for those of us who have survived to come forward, whether we still have days we struggle with it or not. I sincerely believe that the more an example of good health is held up and admired, the more others will follow suit and toss out the disturbing notion that a sickly anorexic model is to be adored. If I look to those who have truly been an inspiration to me, I would have to admit that their inspiration had nothing to do with their body size or what they ate. No, heroes and heroines are not made by a certain diet; they are made by having a compassionate, loving nature and a strong confident character. Through all my struggles with food, weight and body image, I keep the concept of these heroes in my mind and strive every day to become more like one of these brave souls.

ANAD national Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders; (847) 831-3438,
National Anorexia & Bulimia Association (NABA); (402) 371-0722;; (866)-575-8179. Connects people with the appropriate treatment centers.

Geneen Roth:
How to Break Free from Compulsive Eating
Feeding the Hungry Heart
When Food is Love
Peggy Claude-Pierre:
The Secret Language of Eating Disorders
Linda Rector Page, N.D., Ph.D.
Healthy Healing

Web sites:

* * *

When I initially began this book, I wanted to provide inspiration to others and show that eating disorders can be overcome. During my illness, I looked not only to those who had recovered, but to those who had avoided an eating disorder altogether, for these people showed great courage and strength in allowing their true potential to emerge under the many pressures that this society inflicts. A special thanks to some of the amazing people who have encouraged and inspired me to be well, and for their take on anorexia and its cure:

Heather Clewett-Jacowski
Founder of Inkavisions in Sedona, Arizona (, Heather was trained by Dr. Alberto Villoldo, founder of The Four Winds Society and author of Shaman, Healer, Sage. She has also traveled with and been trained by the Q’ero high in the Peruvian Andes. The Q’ero are the last remaining Inka Shaman elders skilled in the ancient healing methods of the Inka and pre-Inka. Their techniques involve working on illness and emotional wounds before any symptoms manifest in the physical body.

Bobby McGee
Bobby McGee is a full-time endurance coach who owns Bobby McGee Endurance Sports, a Colorado-based sports company. He has coached numerous Olympians in distance running and triathlon. He works with both elite athletes and the average weekend warrior. He is also involved with coaching education, lectures, has written numerous articles and has published numerous books, including Magical Running; A Unique Path to Running Fulfillment, a book that deals with the mental aspects of running; and Running Sports Essentials, a manual that covers supplementary exercises for runners. He can be reached through his Web site,

Diane Israel, M.A.
Diane was a very successful professional triathlete and runner. She won many triathlon races around the world, including the bronze medal at the Macabea Games, and is best known for being the 1984 Colorado mountain-running champion. After retiring from professional competition, she pursued her academic goals to become a psychotherapist. She produced the film Beauty Mark (, which addresses body image and the disconnect between mind and body. Diane is on the faculty at Naropa University, teaching graduate courses in transpersonal psychology. She is also the owner of Gyrotonic® Boulder, and guides people in physical, mental, and spiritual integration. She provides amazingly strong support and cameraderie for participants in body image, nutrition and rekindling life’s passions and direction. Most of all, Diane is a kindred spirit on the path of whole-life health and balance.

Lorraine Moller
Lorraine is a four-time Olympian, a three-time world champion, an Olympic bronze medalist, and the winner of sixteen major international marathons, including the Boston marathon. She holds the distinction of being the only woman to have run each of the first four  Olympic women’s marathons. Her twenty-eight years as an international athlete are unprecedented in distance running, and she credits her success to her unique and creative approach to competition, training, and learning to play with space and time. In 1993, Lorraine was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. She captured her amazingly full life in her 2007 autobiography, On the Wings of Mercury.
Along with her running achievements, Lorraine was a forerunner for equality in women’s athletics, and an activist for professionalism in distance running. Since retiring from competitive sport in 1996, this long-time Boulder resident has continued her travels as the vice president of Hearts of Gold, a charitable organization that raises money through running events in Japan, Cambodia and Mongolia. On the home front, Lorraine coaches Olympic hopefuls, teaches remote viewing, writes for various fitness publications, and does the occasional sports television commentary. Forever a student of the spirit-mind-body connection, Lorraine is a keen student of alchemy and mythology.

Colleen Cannon
Colleen founded Women’s Quest ( after a highly successful career as a professional triathlete. In her racing days, she was the World Triathlon Champion in 1984, and National Triathlon Champion in 1988 and 1990. She also was a multiple U.S. National Team member. Her passions, besides chocolate and being in nature, are liberating and empowering women through movement and balance, and targeting their true hearts’ desire. Colleen continues to evolve adventures for Women’s Quest, delighting in ways to enchant women with the experiences that coax happiness grown from joyful physical experiences.

Kevin Beck
Kevin Beck is a senior writer for Running Times Magazine, the editor of the training book Run Strong, and the author of a wide variety of health- and fitness-related articles. Active in the running community for over a quarter of a century, he has staged exercise clinics for the Boy Scouts of America, coached high-school cross-country and track teams, and given pre-race marathon talks. He also coaches a cadre of marathoners, several of whom have reached the U.S. Olympic Trials standard. With a best time of 2 hours, 24 minutes himself, he was one of the top Americans at the 2001 Boston Marathon. In 2004, Kevin placed second in the USATF 50K National Road Championship. Also a freelance editor, Kevin is a passionate wordsmith and is in the process of writing a novel. For more information, visit him online at

Chardin Bersto, M.A.
Chardin has an M.A. in Psychology from Sonoma State University and a B.A. from CSU-Chico, with a double major in Psychology and Religious Studies and an emphasis in Eastern Religions. He has practiced Somatics since 1979, and has studied Chinese Medicine, Acupressure, Shiatsu, Applied Kinesiology, Postural Integration, Rolfing, Polarity Therapy, Cranio-Sacral and Visceral Manipulation, Mayan Organ Manipulation, Chi Ni San (an organ Manipulation style from Chinese Medicine), and Yoga, since 1974. He has been teaching for 10 years. A student of human anatomy since childhood, Chardin studied nursing and was a Physician’s Assistant in the Navy.

Julie Threlkeld
Julie Threlkeld is a freelance writer, editor and editorial content strategist. She is also a late blooming road racer and an avid follower of the sport's past and present. She is honored to have been able to make a modest contribution to the editing of this memoir. She blogs at

Jennifer St. Germain-Cole
Jennifer offers a wide variety of services for writers, including editing, manuscript restructuring and proofreading. Her Web site, Writer’s Plus, is at

Additional Acknowledgements:
Special thanks to Janine, Bobby, my family, Annie, Heather, Diane, Lorraine, Dave, Julie, Kevin, Jennifer, Colleen, Nathan, Debbie, Myra, Sharon, Patty, Lori, Laura, Katie, Peg, Janet, James, Geoff, Rocky, Joan, Liza, Britta, Marci, Trystin, Tracy, Clint, Le’a, Sara, Sarah S., Sarah G., Kate, Katrina, Josh, David and Judy, Mark, Brian, Katie, Dr Stanly, Dr Terry, Dr Shackleton, Chardin, Eric, Dr. Robert Jelinek, Scott, my friends, fellow pirates, other doctors, and anyone else out there struggling in this world.

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Training on Empty: Chapter 36

Chapter 36 – How Lucky I Am

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know that just to be alive is a grand thing.” – Agatha Christie

The study of eating disorders is a relatively new field, so there are varying statistics on recovery rates. There is a general consensus that left untreated, 20 percent of those with an eating disorder will die from it. It has been suggested that only 20 to 25 percent fully recover, with somewhere between 20 to 30 percent left to continue to struggle with eating issues. Another 10 to 20 percent do not improve, even with treatment, and live marginal lives consumed with daily struggles around food, body image and weight.

As with any addiction, the first step in recovery is to admit that there is a problem. Often, family members become so tired from trying to save the affected individual that they must at some point retreat and protect themselves. This does not mean family members no longer love or support the individual, only that they have come to the conclusion that anyone with anorexia has to want to get well for himself or herself before help can be provided. Recovery takes a long-term commitment; some promise that no matter how bad things get, health is the ultimate goal. It is impossible for someone on the outside to force recovery. However, because anorexia is a life-threatening illness, it is essential to provide options for anyone suffering from this disorder. Interventions and suggestions should not be discounted. It’s impossible to know whether taking action or giving advice will resonate with an anorexic, but it’s important to keep trying. It was Dick Van Dyke who once said that with his alcoholism, 100 people gave him the same piece of advice, but he wasn't ready to hear it until the 101st person said it. In other words, timing is everything when it comes to recovery, just as it was for me when my sister finally told me how my eating disorder had affected her and that I needed to take responsibility for my own recovery. I wasn't ready to change before that. In severe cases of anorexia, a hospital setting may be most appropriate, simply so that the patient can be carefully watched on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

Once the decision to get well has been made, there are many physical and emotional hurdles to clear. Anti-depressants, either synthetic or all-natural (e.g., SAM-e, TravaCor, or St John’s wort) can take the edge off the depression and anxiety that often accompany an eating disorder. Unfortunately, there are many physical symptoms with which to contend once regular eating is resumed. Digestive enzymes, pancreatin and hydrochloric acid can ease bloating, gas, and that uncomfortable full feeling while helping the body absorb more nutrients. With severe malnourishment, intravenous vitamin drips can be most beneficial. A good multivitamin and mineral tablet – especially one that contains an adequate amount of zinc, a mineral that has been shown to improve the symptoms of anorexia – is crucial when adequate daily nutrients are missing from the diet. Ultimately the body is resilient and is able to repair itself when given the chance. Healing is possible. With proper nutrients and an improved mental outlook, the healing process can occur more quickly.

Lorraine Moller and Colleen Cannon, two former world-class athletes, have an approach to eating and health that goes beyond using food merely as fuel. Their thoughts on the topic are truly inspirational.

Lorraine was able to convey what I consider to be crucial to recovery: the evolution of the self. She says, “The truth of who you are is wonderful. It seems we are often struggling to make our inner reality match our outer world. Everywhere we’re caught up on this idea that we’re not okay.”

I sat for a moment and thought how often my fear and lack of self respect allowed me to be taken advantage of by others. In addition, I thought about how undeserving of praise, money, and of course food I often felt. My inner reality of being not okay enough to deserve the good in life was certainly being reflected in my posture, look and overall physique. Lorraine goes into detail about this:

We tend to limit ourselves in the world by labeling ourselves, and freedom comes only when we move away from these labels. . In discovering the core of who we are, not defined by outer appearance, others or outdated internal belief systems, we open up to a world of possibilities. The more emotionally invested we are in our weight, the more we move away from performance. You have to ask yourself, “how far will I go to reach my goal?” If you are unable to move forward and are stuck in your identity, it can be miserable, but this is a sign that resolution is needed. It’s time to integrate a larger perspective and fulfill your potential as a creative loving being. Whenever we come up against something that’s not working in our lives, we need to figure out in which way we’re not loving ourselves. We need to be continually reinventing ourselves and move from one experience to the next. If everything in life is suggesting a change, and, instead, stagnation is achieved, it can lead to heartache, sorrow and pain.

In terms of my own performance, it did suffer. Had I not been so caught up in being thin, it's possible I could have focused more on how to improve my running. It's as if I was too thin to consistently do well and too hungry to focus on the things that mattered, yet too afraid to change. I had competing goals, and being thin eventually won over being an outstanding athlete. I often wonder how much I used my eating disorder as an excuse to not do well. It was obvious that I was too weak to run well in the long term, but somehow it was important to me at the time to know that I was thin, as if that's any kind of measure of success. It's not. If anything, it showed how out of balance my life had become. My focus of doing something exceptionally well had shifted to a focus on weight. If I had allowed myself to eat outside the strict rules I had set for myself, there's a good chance that my running career would have been much longer and might have flourished rather than fizzled.

When it comes to therapy, Lorraine suggests that this can be helpful, but only in that therapy and other modalities of healing lead to a better understanding of the self. What’s more important to recognize is how self-imposed limitations are keeping the spirit from full expression:

The spirit keeps wanting expression. As we learn and grow, our world needs to expand accordingly to encompass more, and it should be more wonderful. It’s the same with training. If you train right, you should be getting better and faster and having more fun. The body is a vehicle for the spirit’s expression. [If spirit isn't a term that resonates, one can think of it simply as moving on when it's time, regardless of any spiritual beliefs] We don’t want to get stuck in one archetype. We want to be able to express ourselves in many ways throughout life.

As Jackson Pollock once said, "It doesn't make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something is being said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement." For those of us who can no longer run to make a statement, we must find other means of expression.
Before my interview with Lorraine came to a close, she mentioned some ideas to help with the recovery process. The concept is based on how core beliefs can be changed:

Thoughts always follow beliefs, but you always have your creative genius which comes in like divine inspiration and can put in a crack in your belief system. This is where you have the first step. Something that changes your thoughts and makes you realize that maybe there is another way. We have thoughts, which is basically an internal process, and words that are an expression following thoughts. Words are one step farther into reality than thoughts. Then we have action based on these thoughts that is actually putting ourselves out into the world, going even farther into reality, so if our actions are based on thoughts and ultimately on our beliefs, we can work backward by deliberately using action to send the feedback system a new message. This action, even if it’s scary, will reinforce a new belief. Words can be used as well to create a new pathway to a new belief system. A good exercise is to look in the mirror and see the beauty in you. Say out loud ‘I look beautiful’ even if thoughts come up that are contrary. Eventually the statement can become part of a new reality for you.

Having tried this exercise, I can say that it's not one that's as easy as it sounds. All the years of telling myself I was ugly got in the way of seeing any of the beauty in me.

I asked Lorraine why it’s so common for us to put limitations on ourselves. Her feelings:

Limitations are part of the soul’s journey. They can be taught by parents or the people around us or they can be self imposed, but since we are in this reality to learn about love, we can’t learn about love without first knowing what love isn’t. We need to move away from the model of the body as a machine and look at it more as an energetic unit. As we move toward this model, it’s important to also look at food not as compartments of calories, fat and carbohydrates and instead look at food as something that nourishes us. Ask what the life force behind the food is. For example, a piece of cake baked by a loving grandmother will have a whole different energetic feel to it than a piece of cake that has been sitting on the shelf that’s filled with preservatives and artificial ingredients. The one baked by the loving grandmother is sure to have a much higher life energy around it. If I look at beliefs around food, my body will get a very different message based on what I put in my mouth than the message sent when someone else eats the same thing. It’s all how we view it and our beliefs around it.”

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