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:

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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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