Thursday, December 21, 2017

Recap of Complaints

Back in the 80s and early 90s, there wasn't the social media craze you see today. Running groupies read articles in magazines or newspapers to get a glimpse into the lives of other runners, and only the most successful athletes were featured in these publications. I remember reading about one ultramarathoner who claimed she ran through her injuries. Since she was one of the best, I'm sure other people took her boasting about being tough enough to train and race through ailments as advice and tried to do the same. Needless to say, this lady is older now and dealing with all kinds of debilitating limitations. It turns out running through injuries eventually gets you more injured. Not all successful athletes give out good advice.

Taking online suggestions seems worse or at least sketchier than reading about the daily routine of a pro athlete because anyone can claim to be an expert, credentials or not, and the amount of advice spewed all over the web is overwhelming. Instagram is probably the best place to get the worst advice, especially when it comes to diet and exercise, but you will find countless people who claim to have come so far, learned so much, and are in great places, often in the same way that Jeremy Mayfield is perpetually announcing he's in a much better place and has his shit together... this time.

Since I landed in the sidelined department again with bursitis, I feel the need to direct my attention elsewhere. Running, at least structured running, is on the back burner for now, so I need a distraction. Complaining seems like a good option. Actually, I shouldn't word it that way. It's more that in the last year or so I have found many groups of people who seem to promote similar ideas that I don't think are beneficial. This frustrates me. Those in the eating disorder recovery community who claim to be encouraging health but actually aren't tend to fall into about six different categories. Those that stood out to me are listed below.

1. Probably the least offensive advisor, because she means well, is the one that uses scare tactics. Saying, "Don't go down this path because here's what can happen!" has rarely prevented someone else from engaging in unhealthy behaviors. If telling someone who is bulimic she might lose her teeth or reminding an anorexic she might have a heart attack worked to cure eating disorders, there would be far fewer cases of these kinds of illnesses.

Eating disorders are not a choice. It never comes down to "just stop" or "just eat" or "just do things differently." There's a genetic component that can contribute to a person developing an illness. There are also physical changes that occur when a person restricts or purges or even binges. These nutritional disruptions ultimately affect the brain and, in turn, a person's decision-making capabilities. Sure, engaging in certain behaviors is a choice, but it's not that simple. Our decisions are the result of our chemical makeup and our responses to our environment. Trying to scare someone into recovery doesn't address the underlying issues that contribute to eating disorders.

2. In sharp contrast to the type listed above is the "in your face girl" who often gets called out for promoting thinspiration and boasts about her athletic achievements while showing off her protruding hip bones. This one will claim that because she can participate in athletics, her increasing scrawniness is nothing others should mention. Her attitude is usually, "FUCK YOU I'M FINE SO FUCK OFF!" These kinds of people usually boast until their illness or a severe injury removes them from their platform, and then they disappear for very long periods of time, hopefully to get some help, but, unfortunately, they sometimes reappear only to demand that others watch them go down the same dangerous path. And somehow they put themselves in the recovery advocate category, usually with recovery hashtags all over their posts.

3. A less extreme version of the in your face girl is the one who keeps declaring how terrible it is that we compare ourselves to others and how damaging it can be while bombarding her audience with daily images, exact calories, macros, and exercises. This one is hard for me to understand because she says she gets it and wants to be encouraging but clearly doesn't give a shit about her audience by continuing to post the very content she acknowledges is unhealthy for others. Perhaps she feels it helps her in some bizarre way, and fuck her audience, or perhaps she's too lost in her illness to edit her content. Whatever the case, stop it. Stop posting images of yourself at your unhappiest, thinnest, and worst, and stop commenting on your fucking macros. Nobody needs to see that. It's your private business, nobody else's. If you want to share it, do so with a dietitian or nutritionist or even a close friend, not the general public.

4. There's also the Keto chick who, after a few weeks on her new diet, raves and raves about how great she feels and insists that her diet is the best one EVER, that everyone should try it. Oh, and by the way, anyone who hates vegetables is a loser. Who doesn't just love vegetables? What's wrong with you that you don't absolutely love to eat eggplant and beef for breakfast? As if food preference is some kind of measure of moral superiority, she throws herself atop her high horse and looks at all the poor slobs beneath her who prefer toast to green beans.  Not to be labeled unaccepting, though, this one claims she doesn't really mind those who still eat horrible, life-damaging carbs and refuse to join her on the best diet for everyone. She's just sure that her diet is better for YOU.

5. On the other extreme of the Keto chick is the life coach who promotes veganism and claims that a high-carb diet is good for everyone, including diabetics. She either has some sort of online certification in alternative nutrition or claims she studies health, but telling someone with an eating disorder that the solution is to eat a certain diet is about as effective as telling her to just eat, period. These types often fall into eliminating entire food groups because of their own fears and issues around food and double down if anyone suggests that a healthy diet can include a variety of foods. I have far more respect for those who admit that choosing a restrictive diet is their moral choice or due to their illness. Again, what works for one person doesn't always work for others.

6. The last type on the list is the opportunist who pretends she's an advocate but ultimately rips on those who struggle and goes on to imply that recovery from eating disorders is about willpower or choice. Someone who slams another who's ill while claiming to be an advocate is like one of those racist pigs who claims he's not because he has a (N-word) friend. I look on in horror when people like this boast about how strong they are for not having gone down *that* road and then go on to mock or put down those who did. I have a real issue with people who do this, mostly because they are intentionally manipulative and aware, unlike those who maybe want to help but are stuck in their own obsessions and compulsions and don't know exactly how or those who think they are offering support but really aren't. These are the types who are most likely trying to sell you something or simply like being in the spotlight. Their main concern isn't helping others.

To the people listed above: Y'all are badly missing the mark.

These types might think or pretend they are eating disorder recovery advocates, but that's not the way to help someone in the throes of an actual disorder. The one thing that's apparent is that they are begging for attention, but helping others doesn't involve boasting about yourself, putting those who are struggling down or shoving your ideas about diet down anyone's throat. Remember, many who struggle have difficulty eating enough or at all or feel out of control around food, so telling them to do it your way probably isn't going to be their solution. As some people say, if recovery isn't working, you're not failing; the program you're trying is failing you. In that case, try something else because there is no one right way to recover, and each of us has to discover what works for ourselves.

Part of the problem is that those who haven't gone through an eating disorder can't fully understand what it's like to have one, and those who are too lost in certain aspects of their illness have a hard time seeing that there are many different paths to recovery. They often focus too much on the symptoms rather than the core issues. If you haven't been at death's door and wondered why the path of continuing to starve, binge or purge was pulling you over the will to survive, most likely you will never comprehend what it's like to have this kind of illness.

One way you can become an advocate is to listen and learn from the people struggling and begin to understand what's helpful and what's not. Remember, too, that there are many different kinds of eating disorders, so the vocabulary you use when discussing recovery must address more than one kind of illness.

Monday, December 4, 2017

I Spoke Too Soon

Actually, a small setback isn't the end of the world, but I'm not exactly training or holding steady at the moment. It turns out that the exhaustion I experienced last week was probably less the result of race fatigue and more due to the fact that I was coming down with something. Despite doing the right thing and taking it extra easy after my most recent race, I ended up with a cold that morphed into something more. I rarely get sick, but when I do, the malady seems to hit hard. As a result, I'm taking a few days off and regrouping, hibernating in a way. It's too bad I didn't have any control over this. It would have been less frustrating to take time away from romping around outside when the weather is horrible, but this was out of my hands. Now I'm forced to miss out on some gorgeous running weather. I have to admit, though, that no snow in December and temperatures in the 60s is somewhat unsettling.

With down time comes reflection. I'm seeing more where I need to improve habits and where I'm doing well. I was listening to a Sam Harris podcast recently, and his guest, Frank Ostasesk, said that we live life the way we look at death. This is an accurate statement for most. I'm terrified of death. As a result, I carry a lot of fear into my everyday living. We carry stress in our posture and in our interactions. In addition to contemplating life and death, I'm also trying to make sense of what matters. Putting things in perspective is never a bad move.

I have noticed that I tend to get emotional when I'm not feeling well, even more so when I have a fever. I can often be on the verge of tears and feel vulnerable when I'm physically down. I crave comfort and companionship while also wanting to isolate and avoid people. I'm not alone in this. One of my coworkers is the same way. I recently read an article about the effects of stress, especially physical stress, on emotions. One study mentioned in the article suggested that "the physical sickness caused by the inflammatory response significantly overlaps with depressive symptoms." Emotions can also impact physical health. It's not surprising that many people react the same way I do and have trouble self-regulating when ill.

Speaking of emotions, more than once, someone publicly claimed that I have "a lot of emotional problems." Part of me is tempted to say, "no shit." I mean, my entire blog addresses these issues, but who doesn't have emotional problems at some point in life? Despite the loads of issues I supposedly have, I've managed to hold the same job for over 15 years, stay in recovery from an illness that kills more people than all other mental illnesses combined, and write several books. More importantly, I've managed to show up, even when I don't want to, and be accountable without feeling the need to tear others down for no reason whatsoever. Something I will never understand is bullying for the sake of bullying.

We all have weak moments that don't necessarily define us. My confidence might be easily shaken, but my inner strength can sometimes surprise me. I just wish I could tap into it more regularly.

With that, I'm off for a short stroll in the warm outdoors. I need a dose of fresh air.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holding Steady

Over the weekend, I ran another 5K race in close to the same time I ran recently. It was a somewhat harder course and windy, but the day was beautiful. I went into the race on the tired side after a week of not sleeping well and working extra shifts. I wasn't feeling any extra oomph in my stride; that's for sure. My goal was to run with more restraint so that I didn't hurt anything. After the last race, I was a bit tweaked and had to back off things for about two weeks. This time, I felt sore but not as wrecked, so that was good, even though I'm a tiny bit disappointed in my performance. I keep having this idea that I can somehow find my lost speed and pop out a fast race, but the realistic side of me knows that things like that don't happen, especially in a short period of time. A hair over 22 minutes isn't terrible at this point, though.

All this means is that I'm on the right track. There's a hell of a lot of room for improvement, and I seem to be doing a good job of staying fairly healthy while pushing it within reason here and there. I ended up with some aches and pains again after this race, but I'm hoping everything will keep sorting itself out as I continue the physical therapy.

That's about it. I just wanted to put some thoughts down before the memory of racing fades. I can tell I need some extra rest this week, which is what I'm doing. The more winter approaches, the more I want to hibernate anyway. If all goes well, I will have some nice races planned for the spring, summer and fall. For now, I'm holding steady. 

Bad Service

I guess you can say that I can be overly sensitive, but I'm also not one to let others step all over me. Still, situations that wouldn't bother some can leave me upset to the point of feeling shaky. Such was the case today at the Boulder Book Store.

Generally, when there are other things going on in my life that introduce stress, I have a harder time interacting with people, especially those who are haughty. I probably should have avoided unnecessary interactions today, but since the $6.50 candy bar I purchased at the Book Store was rancid, I wanted to return it. I had one other bad experience returning a chocolate bar there a few years ago. In that case, the chocolate was almost like dust. Clearly, this was not how the bar was supposed to be, but I got a voice message from a lady after I had returned the bar lecturing me about chocolate. I assume she had no idea that I spent many years reviewing chocolate and spent time as a pastry chef before that. I know a little bit about chocolate.

I'm the first to admit that I have a sensitive palate, but I also know that a lot of people eat rancid products, especially nuts, without really noticing that anything is off.  Anyone who has any knowledge of the culinary world knows how quickly unsaturated oils in nuts can oxidize, though. It happens A LOT. I happen to be sensitive to the taste. I can't stand it. Some people don't notice it as much.

For the record, I have returned only three bars of chocolate or carob in my lifetime, this being the third. I do not return products if I simply don't like them, but I will return an item that's bad.

This experience was bizarre. The three employees who were there initially were nice, but when they called for someone in the chocolate department to come take care of my return, I had a feeling there was going to be a problem. After the lecture I got a few years ago, I assumed it might be something similar. Instead, the lady who approached me had an arrogant air right from the start. She grabbed the candy and shoved some into her mouth and, after a total of .3 seconds, declared she didn't taste anything wrong. Hey, have at it. I'm not touching your shit bar that tastes like it was left in the sewer. Honestly, after she gobbled up a few more bites and, in her condescending way, said it was fine, sort of shrugging her shoulders as if to say, "too bad" I had had enough. What the fuck am I supposed to do now, take the bar back after you pawed it and ate your fill? I walked out without the candy that I had purchased or my money.

Well, one thing is clear, I will never buy from the Boulder Book Store again. I don't need a fucking lecture about what you think tastes OK, and I don't need the pompous attitude. Fuck that noise. I hope you enjoyed the stale candy you shoved in your mouth, the one I paid for if you recall. You may think that kind of behavior makes you better than others, but all it really does is make you look like a mean fool. Congrats on losing a customer, though.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Science and Eating Disorders

I'm going to attempt to be careful and do my best not to offend anyone as I write this post, but I can't guarantee some won't be upset by the content.

Recently, I found myself in a sticky situation after agreeing to work on a project about eating disorders with someone. As I mentioned in a recent post, I'm doing more speaking events. It turns out that the two of us don't see eye-to-eye on a few issues, though we do share a lot of beliefs about recovery. This isn't the first time I have had something like this happen, but it's the first time I have felt uncomfortable saying anything about it directly to the person involved. Unfortunately, in this case, this person said some things that just aren't true, and I'm not sure how to address the situation because I'm 100 percent sure that, on some level, he believes what he said is true, even though there is zero scientific evidence of his claim. It's the illness talking.

Many of us who have eating disorders have gone down a path of justifying strange behaviors by telling people it's related to a physical ailment or something other than the eating disorder. We rationalize or excuse the unhealthy act and pretend that what we are doing is OK because we are afraid or don't really want to let go of the behavior. If anyone challenges these false beliefs, those who can't be honest with themselves or others, or are lacking self-awareness will often get defensive. I'm convinced there's a part of them that knows the truth, but these are the types who will double down on their position so they can keep engaging in their disordered or unhealthy habits.

There are also many who are aware yet still engage in compulsive behaviors. These types rarely suggest others do the same and almost never bombard others about it on social media.

 Unfortunately, you see all kinds of people, especially on Instagram, inflicting their unfounded beliefs on others. You also see people flaunting their illness. They often claim how healthy they are, how far they have come, and how much they have learned, all while showing the world how little things have changed. These situations are bad enough, but it becomes even more problematic when someone tries to scare others into following the plan they have set in place for themselves by using pseudo-science to back their claims or simply ignoring science altogether.

There was a virtual round of applause on one woman's Facebook page recently when she posted the findings of the "Sugar Addiction" study, listed below, which found that there is no such thing. Further, there is no such thing as an allergy to sugar, something people often claim affects them. An allergy is an immune response to a substance. As far as anyone knows, this has never occurred to any human being in response to sugar. I believe people can react strongly to certain substances, but addictions and allergies are not the same as having an emotional or even a physiological response. Obviously, sugar will cause glucose levels in the blood to increase and cause an increase in the production of insulin, but these responses don't have anything to do with an allergic response or addiction. How powerful our minds can be.

Obviously, I'm not suggesting anyone go out and suck up a pile of sugar through a straw. I'm merely saying that most healthy bodies can handle an occasional dose of sweets without much damage. Mostly, stop teling me and others that we need to cut sugar out of our diets. Go ahead. Live dangerously. Have a Snickers.

RESULTS: We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviours, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviours likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar.
CONCLUSION: Given the lack of evidence supporting it, we argue against a premature incorporation of sugar addiction into the scientific literature and public policy recommendations.

I feel like dropping this here:

"Choose... designer lingerie, in the vain hope of kicking some life back into a dead relationship. Choose handbags, choose high-heeled shoes, cashmere and silk, to make yourself feel what passes for happy. Choose an iPhone made in China by a woman who jumped out of a window and stick it in the pocket of your jacket fresh from a South-Asian Firetrap. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and a thousand others ways to spew your bile across people you've never met. Choose updating your profile, tell the world what you had for breakfast and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, desperate to believe that you don't look as bad as they do. Choose live-blogging, from your first wank 'til your last breath; human interaction reduced to nothing more than data. Choose ten things you never knew about celebrities who've had surgery. Choose screaming about abortion. Choose rape jokes, slut-shaming, revenge porn and an endless tide of depressing misogyny. Choose 9/11 never happened, and if it did, it was the Jews. Choose a zero-hour contract and a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and maybe tell yourself that it's better that they never happened. And then sit back and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody's fucking kitchen. Choose unfulfilled promise and wishing you'd done it all differently. Choose never learning from your own mistakes. Choose watching history repeat itself. Choose the slow reconciliation towards what you can get, rather than what you always hoped for. Settle for less and keep a brave face on it. Choose disappointment and choose losing the ones you love, then as they fall from view, a piece of you dies with them until you can see that one day in the future, piece by piece, they will all be gone and there'll be nothing left of you to call alive or dead. Choose your future. Choose life."

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Race Recap

Yesterday, I jumped into the Sole Mates 5K in Longmont. Actually, I wasn't allowed to enter officially, but a race official said I could join the race. Instead of being a true bandit, I offered a donation and toed the line sans number. It wasn't clear on the website that there wouldn't be race day registration, but officials were casual and super friendly, except for one nasty and rude individual who very clearly wanted to prove to the world just how grumpy she could be. Other than that encounter, the day was filled with pleasant moments and nice interactions.

I have a list of excuses as to why I'm not where I want to be that includes but isn't limited to the wind, my hormonal situation, and my usual mechanical issues that haven't completely been resolved, but, as everyone knows, we all get to the start line with our own set of problems and race with whatever baggage we are carrying that day. If I'm honest, it was a pretty nice day on a fairly fast course.

As far as the race, I surprised myself in some ways and was left feeling disappointed in others, probably a typical experience for many runners. Since it has been about a year since I last raced, I wasn't sure about pace, so I started out strong but not like a maniac. My hips won't allow any wild movements anyway, so I'm forced to start out on the slow side. In a few places, I made some bold moves and decided to pass people. It was only in the last mile that I started having some doubt about whether or not I could go with one lady who blew by everyone. That moment of hesitation and a lack of confidence left me simply holding steady rather than picking up the pace to go with her. I might have had enough fitness, but mechanically, I think I was pretty close to the maximum my body could handle, unfortunately. That just means I have more PT to do before I can truly race. Having two miles of race experience, though, got me excited about possibilities, even if it left me a bit tweaked and sore the following day.

The final result was that I ran just under 22 minutes and placed 5th or would have placed had I been able to enter. Since I started my watch at "go" and wasn't at the starting line, my chip time would have been a hair faster than what my watch read, but I can't imagine it would be significant. I know my final time isn't great, but considering I was on a scooter after having surgery this spring, I shouldn't complain. Plus, I'm old. That's really not a terrible result, all things considered. On the other hand, I would love to shave off a few seconds... or a lot more. For now, my main focus remains on staying healthy, doing the right PT, and eating well.

Monday, October 30, 2017

No News

Writing can be a lot like training. Unfortunately, I go through long periods of not writing, and when I start back, it feels awkward and difficult. Sometimes it's best to dump something on the computer screen, just to do it, even if it looks uninspired and unsophisticated. Considering what's going on in this country right now, my blog post might seem even more trivial, but here goes nothing...

I've mentioned before that no news doesn't always correlate to good or bad news, and in my most recent bout of internet silence, it has simply meant no news is no news, at least no news of substance. Actually, I do have some positive information to relay. It's hardly news, but since I can't think of anyone who would be interested to share these little victories with, I might as well dump them here.

Diet - Working with a nutritionist has been incredibly helpful. I have made a lot of progress and I'm healthier than I was a few months ago. I feel good about the direction I'm heading, but I'm aware that things aren't perfect. My diet is varied and relatively healthy, but I know I can improve here and there. Still, I see many others who are struggling with eating disorders and have to acknowledge how far I have come. The changes I made might look small or easy on the surface, but anyone who has struggled knows what kind of courage it takes to step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to diet. I can be scared and uncomfortable at times while still moving forward. It helps tremendously to have support here.

Running - PT has been HARD and sometimes painful. I'm working my ass off to do what some people might take for granted, little foot movements or balance exercises or hamstring curls. All these small exercises are helping me activate muscles that had shut down. It's almost more mentally hard than physically, but I'm making progress in both areas. Here is where I also know I have a long, long way to go. Things still pop and creak and hurt when I run, and I'm not able to open up fully. On the other hand, I have had some brief and wonderful moments of running with less pain.

This weekend, I did another time trial at the CU cross country course and ran about a minute and a half slower than when I raced there years ago. The best part of my effort is that I felt good and actually had some fun. For the first time ever, I didn't head into the second loop feeling overwhelmed and tired. Unlike in the past when I wondered if I could even finish the course, I stayed on top of the pace the whole way. I'm still too afraid to race, really, but it was so nice to have a moment of hope.

In other news - I have been volunteering a lot at the Humane Society. The other day, over 100 dogs and puppies arrived from Puerto Rico. Most of the puppies that went through the vet clinic were adopted out before their second day on the adoption floor. It's great to see. The Humane Society here does such a great job of rescuing animals.

Lately, I've also given a few speeches and went down to Arvada to help a cross country team with some running drills. I guess this is more in the no news is good news category.

To be continued.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quick Clarification

Kevin Beck, Brad Hudson and I recently attended an event at the Boulder Book Store and had the opportunity to discuss our book, "Young Runners at the Top." A few questions from audience members brought up some differing opinions about training and coaching, so I wanted to address at least one of the topics here.

The concept for "Young Runners at the Top" started quite a while ago when Suzy Hamilton and I decided to write a book focusing on young athletes. We felt there were training books written for little kids and those for adults, but those addressing teens who want to compete successfully at a high level were lacking. She wasn't able to continue with the project, so I asked Melody Fairchild to get involved, which she was happy to do until a new coaching opportunity prevented her from having enough time.

In the end, this was somewhat of a community undertaking. I and my coauthors are grateful to all the people who helped create "Young Runners at the Top." The list of people involved includes but is not limited to:

Addie Bracy, Mark Plaatjes, Bobby McGee, Dr. Richard Hansen, Lucy and Nerida Alexander, Bean Wrenn, Melody Fairchild, Ruth Waller, Scott Fry, Greg Weich, Carrie Messner-Vickers, Róisín McGettigan-Dumas, Barb Higgins, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Rebecca Walker and Lorraine Moller.

During our first book signing event, Brad, Kevin and I addressed some important topics. We spent a long time talking about why so few young girls who run well during high school go on to compete at a high level in and after college. Obviously, it doesn't come down to one issue. Some contributing factors include transitioning through puberty; social, peer and self-imposed pressure that leads to increased and prolonged stress; and overtraining and burnout. Our book offers ideas on how to help young runners transition through these difficult times and continue running into adulthood.

While discussing these issues, people used many examples and comparisons, which doesn't resolve or accomplish very much. You can't use others as examples of the proper weight or take a training plan for one person and successfully apply it to someone else without knowing a whole lot about both. When using elite athletes as an example, you never know exactly what methods they use to achieve their success. They often offer a very minimal and possibly skewed glimpse into their lives, so it's easy to make assumptions about what might or might not be occurring. One thing the three of us suggested in "Young Runners at the Top," is to always individualize training programs and diets for each athlete. I'm not sure if we made that clear enough at the event, so I wanted to reiterate it here.

The other issue I wanted to address is weight. Some jokes were made about runners being thin, but ultimately you can't be a healthy runner and have a long and successful career if you are not fueling yourself properly. I have already posted about the seductive grace period and weight loss, so I won't go into it again here. Suffice to say that coaches need to be thinking about their athletes moving through different phases of training and competition in the healthiest way possible, and starving won't allow for longevity in the sport.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Repeat of 2012

Actually, I ran 40 seconds slower on the C.U. cross country course today than I did in 2012, but I had some issues on the second lap, mostly fear, fatigue and excessive thirst due to the heat. I also didn't realize that I was carrying an extra t-shirt in the main compartment of my running vest. That should have been obvious when I picked it up to put on, but I ignored the weight, thinking I was on the tired side and probably overly focused on trivial details. I'm sure the small amount of added weight didn't have a huge effect on my running, but it certainly didn't help keep me cool.

The first lap went well. I felt strong and comfortable, but the second lap was a mess. I was fussing with my water bottle and slowing down. It seems I always run into some issue with someone else whenever I'm doing any kind of timed event on that course. Today was no different when a biker coming from the opposite way randomly cut in front of me at the bottom of the big hill and stopped. She apologized, but I thought it was odd that, with all the open space there, she felt the need to zoom in front of me as we turned, cut me off and stop. Minor complications, but those little things seem to throw me off, especially lately.

I was tired and sneezy after the run, so I walked most of the way home. I can tell I don't have much stamina right now. Just like in 2012, I'm disappointed but have to realize that it's good to even be running at all, everything considered. For some unknown reason, a couple of weeks ago, I was able to run 2 minutes faster up to the Mesa Trail this year than my best time last year, though I always use that as more of a fun tempo thing. Still, I was pleasantly surprised. I guess I'm inconsistent at the moment, but it's fine. I have to be happy that I overcame some reluctance to even try again and got out there, sore feet and all. That's progress at this point.

Monday, September 4, 2017

What the Health

At the suggestion of a friend, I watched "What the Health," a documentary about diet and health. Actually, it's more of a one-sided, biased look at diet and health.

The good points of the film, unfortunately, are buried under a lot of bullshit spouted by both the interviewer and the people being interviewed. It's strange that Kip Anderson, the director, producer, writer, and editor of "What the Health" makes quite the fuss about certain studies being funded by specific groups, while pretty much everybody involved in this film is a vegan and very vigorously promotes a vegan lifestyle. For example, Dr. Neal Barnard, one of the many vegans interviewed in the film, is the president of a vegan and animal rights group that has a budget of well over 7 million and was a regular contributing writer for PETA. He and others interviewed in the movie have written books promoting veganism and are activists for the cause. They're not merely suggesting that eating a vegan diet might be good for your health, which isn't actually confirmed by this film, they want you to buy their shit. Meat, after all, causes everything from endometriosis to cancer, and these guys have the books, programs and advice to help you give it up.

There are plenty of other blog posts or articles debunking the obscure and questionable studies Anderson focuses on in the film. I don't think I can do a better job than either of the two linked to below. At one point, Anderson calls a survey a study that supposedly confirms eating an egg a day is as bad as smoking. I addressed a similar survey situation here when a vegan activist woman implied that filling out a questionnaire is as valid as an actual study.

To give you an idea of some of the more ridiculous myths that are promoted in this film, there was a comment in "What the Health" about cheese being coagulated cow pus, which is as absurd as claiming chocolate is really dismembered spider parts because the FDA allows a certain amount of critter pieces per 100 grams in the chocolate making process. That's not even a good analogy because there really isn't any pus in milk, while, sorry to tell you, there might be some spider parts in your Hershey's bar. Nearly every study presented in the film was twisted or bent beyond recognition.

Debunking "What the Health" I

"In the first of several phone call vignettes, the filmmaker, Kip Andersen, calls the American Cancer Society to ask why they don’t warn about the dangers of meat on their home page. He is put on hold, but is eventually granted an interview. The interview is cancelled and the ACA stops responding when they realize he only wants to argue with them about diet and cancer. I’m not surprised. Their recommendations are based on expert evaluation of all the published evidence and they are not likely to change their minds because a single nonscientist with an agenda walks in off the street to argue with them. 

The phone call gimmick is repeated for the American Diabetes Association. He wants to know why they don’t clearly state on their home page that meat causes diabetes, and how dare they include a recipe for baconwrapped shrimp! He eventually is able to interview an ADA spokesman who very reasonably tells him there is insufficient evidence that diet can cure diabetes, and says “We recommend a healthy diet.” He acknowledges that there are studies, but points out that many of them have never been replicated or are wrong; that’s why we do peer review. Andersen keeps bringing up individual studies until the spokesman loses patience and stops the interview, saying he doesn’t want to get into an argument. Andersen interprets this to mean that the ADA is not interested in prevention or cure. 

Then he calls the American Heart Association to ask why they include beef and egg recipes. He gets a similar response. He interprets these failed phone call inquiries as stonewalling and an organized effort to conceal the truth. He discovers that the ACA, ADA, AHA and other mainstream organizations are funded in part by food manufacturers like Dannon, Kraft, Tyson, and fast food restaurant chains like KFC. He says we can’t trust them because they’re taking money from the companies that are causing the very diseases they are trying to prevent. 

As an analogy, I couldn’t help wondering how the American Academy of Pediatrics would respond to a random phone call demanding that their home page warn that vaccines may cause autism and complaining that doctors can’t be trusted because they are paid by the Big Pharma companies that sell vaccines. I wouldn’t blame them for hanging up."  -- Harriet Hall

Debunking "What the Health" II

"What’s more, the WHO did not say that eating meat was as deadly as smoking. Rather, it determined that the strength of the evidence linking processed meats to colorectal cancer is similar to the strength of the evidence linking tobacco and cancer, meaning there’s convincing data here. This certainly doesn't mean that eating processed meat is as bad for you as smoking. It means that according to the agency's assessment, the links between processed meat and certain types of cancer are well-established.

So when the filmmaker asks, “If processed meats are labeled the same as cigarettes, how is it even legal for kids to be eating this way?” he clearly didn’t understand the WHO’s read of the research. (To be fair, a lot of other media outlets got the WHO warning wrong too.)"  -- Julia Belluz

In general, "What the Health" is too filled with errors to be any good. One positive thing about the movie is that it calls attention to some of the unethical and inhumane factory farming practices in the United States and encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables, something your mother probably told you to do, too. Oh, and Steve-O made an appearance because he's an expert on scientific research pertaining to health and diet, I guess. Lastly, the success stories of people who, after two weeks of eating a plant-based diet, were transformed from crippled and sick individuals on cabinets full of medications to happy shinny medication-free specimens of health were cool. In general, though, this flick is two thumbs down for me.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer's Gone, Almost

Damn, I'm not even sure where to start. It has been a long time since I last put some thoughts down. I wish I could say that no news is good news, which is often the case with me, but that's not what happened, though things are improving. What a bumpy ride, though.

Today was my first day back volunteering as a recovery aid at the vet clinic. I took some time off shortly before my foot surgery in May, and it took me this long to get to the point where I felt I could handle lifting, walking and being on my feet for the duration of a full shift. It was good I waited because my feet were put to the test this afternoon. I had a moment of concern while taking care of a rather large older and very sweet dog that had dental surgery. Even with two of us lifting and carrying him to his kennel, it was a bit of a challenge. My feet held up, but they are on the sore side now.

After my doctor removed the two neuromas and did what he could for that third nerve that was attached to my joint capsule and to my skin, all in my right foot, I was healing up nicely until I got the stitches removed. An infection set in a few days later, so June ended up being complete hell. I was on three different kinds of antibiotics for the entire month. That led to other complications. Needless to say, the healing process was very much delayed, and I wasn't able to do any PT. As a result, I have a huge wall of scar tissue that needs to be addressed. Also, a metatarsal or two in my left foot decided to drop. I guess the left side was feeling left out of the pain game, so now it's nice and sore, too. As terrible as all of this sounds, I attempted to survive, and despite everything, I'm starting to jog a bit, which feels weird after being on one of those knee scooters for well over a month.

I'm also trying to put on some weight since I lost some throughout June. Between the antibiotics and the painkillers, I felt like shit, so eating was something I often had to force. It seems like this part of the healing process should be easier than it has been now that I'm starting to feel better, but losing weight given my past has a tendency to trigger weird thoughts, even when it's not a relapse. I'm making progress, though, and allowing myself to enjoy going out with friends for meals, which really has been a pleasure. Since I haven't made quite enough of a leap forward, I'm also buying more calorie-dense foods to add to what I'm already eating. Being too rigid is keeping me somewhat stuck, so I'm loosening the reigns and letting go completely from time to time until I can get to a better place mentally. My PT said that gaining weight will help with healing, so I need to be better about my diet. Right now, I'm now I'm more focused on getting enough, but I hope to start working on eating healthier foods, more vegetables and whole foods etc. soon. One step at a time. This road has been pretty damn difficult and painful both emotionally and physically, so I'm trying not to get overwhelmed. I'm human. We all have our struggles and methods of dealing with stress.

I may never run fast again, but I sure am grateful I can run at all at this point. Man, going through hard times sure can shake your confidence, but I'm emerging out of that dark hole and starting to get out in the world again. Somehow, throughout this ordeal, I managed to continue working, writing, and showing up, even when didn't feel like it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Feed - A Short Movie Review

Possible Triggering Content

"Feed" is everything the movie "To The Bone" wishes it could be. Unfortunately, it slid under the radar with all the unnecessary hoopla around the other movie starring Lily Collins. There are still some missteps here and there complete with the usual stereotypes, but "Feed" is far more insightful, artistic and interesting than "To The Bone." It's sort of like comparing a painting by Jeremy Mann to something found at MOBA. Yes, "Feed" is triggering, but it's also far more honest and imaginative than most other movies in this genre. It gives viewers a more accurate feel of what it's like to have an eating disorder but in a unique and stylized way.

I don't think any movie has ever given audiences an accurate idea about the anxiety that comes from eating while struggling with anorexia or any other eating disorder. I have some ideas about how that could be done, but it would be a difficult task. Still, "Feed" did a pretty good job of letting its audience know that anorexia is an irrational and insidious illness.

Troian Bellisario, the writer of the film, used working on the script as a way to address her own experiences with an eating disorder. I think she did a good job of letting others get a very brief look at how troubling and painful living with anorexia can be. She did her best to let viewers know that this illness is less about looks and more about trying to cope with events outside of anyone's control. Eating disorders give sufferers a false sense of control, and the unhealthy behaviors offer some distraction from painful feelings and experiences.

Again, though, what's lacking in this film and most other movies relating to eating disorders is any hopeful message about recovery. I will still recommend this movie over "To the Bone," though.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

To The Bone - Possible Triggering Content

To The Bone 
Rated: Fucking Disaster

This movie reminds me of a bad after school special in its effort to try to be edgy and informative while accomplishing the exact opposite.

Supposedly there was a lot of controversy around the Netflix movie, "To The Bone" which, I'm sure, is exactly what the producers wanted. The other 35 movies about young white anorexic females in wealthy famlies may or may not have successfully given people an idea of what eating disorders are all about, but, despite the story being familiar, this film could have brought something new to the table. Unfortunately, "To The Bone" failed miserably on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start, except to say that, yes, it's triggering as fuck and doesn't deliver a solid message, and most people in the throes of any eating disorder should avoid it at all costs. Seriously, if you are even remotely worried you might be triggered, do not watch this movie. 

Why anyone who struggled with an eating disorder would not only support this project but lose weight for the main role as Lily Collins claims she did -- even though makeup, prosthetics and camera angles were already being used to make her appear unnaturally thin -- is beyond me, but it shows how very sick those in the industry believe our society to be in its desire to gawk at the sick and the dying. In other words, it's more important to the makers of "To The Bone" to have the anorexic look down than it is to have an important message or any message at all, really. Strangely, those involved spent all this time trying to convince us that the main character looks like she just walked out of a concentration camp -- and she does most of the time -- yet they also want us to also believe that she can't close her fingers around her upper arm. They also don't go into these types of body-checking behaviors or why those struggling tend to engage in them. Pick a lane if you're going to pretend you're all edgy and shit, but, more importantly, don't put something into a film if it's there just for the sake of being there. 

I suffered through the film twice in an effort to find any redeeming qualities, but both times I was left feeling downright disgusted throughout the viewings and empty and hollow at the end. So many parts are cringe worthy. The only halfway adequate scenes in the entire movie are when the main character's younger sister breaks down and explains how difficult it is to be a family member of and love someone who is ill and those in which various other characters hint at deeper issues. Otherwise, this is a lot like watching a visibly drunk person try to explain to a group of other drinkers why getting drunk on a daily basis is a bad idea and then go on to give tips about how to get away with it. Here, hold my beer... In the end, I still don't know what the point of this movie was, except to possibly accentuate all the false stereotypes around eating disorders.

One of the many unbelievable things to me is that a side character in the movie who is triggered by the content the main character posts on social media ends up killing herself, and yet those who read the script still thought it was a good idea to move forward with this film. No irony there, nope. Anyone who has had an eating disorder, especially anorexia, should know that the nature of the illness is one of competition and comparison. It's a symptom of sorts. Whether it's due to low self-esteem or something else, those in the throes of the illness are often heavily influenced by others. To go ahead with this project knowing this is shocking, but it's not unlike the fucked up beauty industry in its deceitful ways of making money by exploiting others. Anything for a buck, eh? So you know, Netflix is planning to pay out about six billion dollars for original content this year. 

"To The Bone" does everything concerned people feared it would. It's hugely triggering, it glorifies eating disorders, and it completely misses the mark when it comes to giving an accurate portrayal of what it's like to have an eating disorder. The worst part is that it doesn't give anyone any answers. This is a lot like those Instagram accounts that justify self-destructive behaviors and promote a certain look because "fuck you, I'm cool and can do what I want." The film's focus is on anorexia or looking anorexic, but producers threw a few other token characters with various eating disorders into the story line without going very deeply into anything other than the way these people look. I noticed, too, that nearly all the skinny girls were white. The only role of a patient not underweight was played by an African-American lady. Make of that what you will. 

In one article I read recently, the director of the movie claimed that a nutritionist made sure Lily Collins, who plays the lead role as an angsty anorexic artist, gained the weight back she lost for the role, thereby proving nothing and ignoring the fact that eating disorders are not entirely about weight. In fact, many people with potentially deadly eating disorders don't look a certain way. We come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. The creators sure want you to believe that those who struggle are either heavy or thin, though, and saying this movie is a great way to provide viewers with an opportunity to discuss eating disorders is like claiming images of people who have overdosed is a great way to bring up discussions about drug use. It's simply not effective, and this is nothing more than a self-indulgent, self-serving project that's more damaging and inaccurate than helpful in any way.

With an abnormal focus on appearance and behaviors and a lack of any real substance, this film fails completely in conveying what it's like to suffer from an eating disorder. You don't see the anguish, the guilt, the shame, the severe depression, the intense anger, the fear, the unease, the worry, the constant and never-ending internal conflict, the tears, the despair, the anxiety, and the sheer hell of living in a state of self-imposed torture, no matter what the diagnosis. You don't see the self-hatred or the loss of friendships, relationships, the loss of self, and the physical pain of starvation is lacking in this flick as well. A few bruises on the lead character's back doesn't show the true physical agony of starvation. If anything, the movie makes light of an often deadly disorder, cracking lame jokes about calorie counting and subtly mocking those who chew and spit (is that scene supposed to be funny? Christ.) or those who purge and hide it in bags. 

It seems the creators wanted to shock and awe their audience, but, instead, all they accomplished was producing a lot of bullshit that has already been done before. If you want a better but equally triggering account of an anorexic, take a look at "The Brief Life of Catherine." As difficult as that one is to watch, at least it gives viewers a better idea of the illness and how trapped those who suffer and those who are forced to witness loved ones suffering can feel. 

"To The Bone" provides almost zero when it comes to hope and recovery. There are hints about what it takes to get well, but nothing is developed. There was a great opportunity for the main character to find and more fully explore her identity, and, instead, her therapist, played in his awful dreary way by Keanu Reeves, tells her to change her name and provides her with a new one. How is this allowing her to find her individuality and sense of self? There's so little offered in terms of therapy or help, and viewers are left wondering how anyone could possibly improve in a rehab facility where no rules are enforced, even those supposedly put in place by the administration, and nobody is supervised for more than a few minutes. There's no talk of how restoring the body can help with an improved mental outlook or how difficult the first stages of recovery can be, and a therapist suggesting a starving girl "needs" to hit rock bottom is about as absurd as it gets given the chances of her dying before she gets there and back, assuming recovery is actually the goal. There were plenty of other missed opportunities to bring up recovery strategies, but that's because most of the movie focused on the illness itself. Anorexia took center stage here, not any of the actors. That was the only realistic aspect of the entire movie, that eating disorders generally take over, and I'm sure that wasn't planned by the creators of this movie.

Overall, this movie was a waste of time. Had the focus been more on the male character, a recovering anorexic dancer with a knee injury, it might have had more of a chance to bring something new to audiences. Sadly, the result is that this side story got buried under the unrealistic scenario of a love interest between him and the main character. We all know how ready for relationships those on the verge of death are, especially after just meeting someone new, right? More evidence that Hollywood is incapable of producing any meaningful content around mental illness. Still, bringing his story more fully into the script could have been one way to improve this film, but that's sort of like giving a fetid piece of shit a squirt of perfume. Ultimately, even this side story failed to develop beyond the attempted message that men get eating disorders too.

And one last thing: Rexie? Dafuq? Do people actually call those with anorexia rexies? Someone needs to burn this film before more people view it.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Eating Disorder Awareness: The Good, The Bad And The Ridiculous

Sometimes people ease their way into the role of an advocate or spokesperson because they know a lot about a topic. Other times, they do it for the attention. An opportunity presents itself, and, despite what they said or did before, they slide through the open door and pretend to know what they're talking about. It generally doesn't bother me when someone does this, as long as she's not doing or saying anything hurtful. For example, when it comes to eating disorders, if you find or push your way into a position of being a mouthpiece on the topic, you probably shouldn't make snotty little condescending remarks about those who suffer or have suffered from an illness.

A few times now, I have witnessed people, including those who claim to be trying to raise awareness about eating disorders -- some who say they have never had one and some who have never had much to say about the issue before -- make statements about eating disorders being a form of cheating in sports. I find the whole idea wacky. I can't begin to understand why anyone who knows even a tiny little bit about the many forms of eating disorders would think this. In case anyone was wondering, struggling emotionally and physically with an often life-threatening illness is not a way to cheat in sports. There's no trickery or advantage, and it's most definitely not like inappropriately using an inhaler, thyroid medications, steroids or other PEDs to outright gain an advantage. My guess is that those who make these kinds of bizarre statements do so because they resent anyone in that grace period, or they are simply not informed about what it really is to have an illness that slowly breaks you.

Finding a period of relative success in a deadly game is not cheating. Self-harm is not and never will be seen as cheating by anyone who understands the mindset of someone with an eating disorder and the potentially damaging long-term effects of these kinds of illnesses. Claiming such nonsense does nothing but attempt to pile a bunch of unnecessary guilt onto the shoulders of those who have gone down that hellish path of achievement at the expense of health and maybe even sanity.

Of course, it should ease some of the upset when, at least in one case (and I'm surprised there has been more than one case) the statement comes from someone who at one time insisted, despite statistics presented to her, that eating disorders aren't as prevalent in elite athletes as people think. Her tune changed only after she needed a new platform, and while it's good that she has lived long enough to see things in a different light, it still seems she can't resist a dig here and there at those who struggle, calling us cheaters and implying our success isn't as well deserved or that we aren't as confident as "true" elite athletes. Ultimately, it's another one of those situations that shows more about the accuser than the ones being accused, but I get tired of people trying to discount the severity and the prevalence of eating disorders both in general and in elite athletes, especially when it's done by someone who only acknowledged these issues later in order to stand in a bigger beam of the spotlight. But, hey, at least we're talking about it, right?

No matter what side of the fence people are on or what they believe constitutes cheating in sports, what seems to be severely lacking in all of these conversations is recovery. In articles and online content in general, the focus of any eating disorder discussion appears to be on the dangers of, the symptoms of and who is susceptible to these illnesses. These issues are important, but it's an incomplete view of eating disorders if recovery is missing. Very few people address solution-based therapy or anything that would encourage a  more intense focus on what it takes to heal from the disorder. This needs to change.

We also need to stop lumping people into groups and ostracizing them. When someone says she's tired of seeing the "typical anorexic story" everywhere, that immediately puts an entire group of people down. There is no typical when it comes to individual stories. My journey through anorexia is as unique and personal as your experiences with bulimia or binge eating. My friend's pain related to being treated unfairly as an obese woman is as real as the suffering of anyone caught in the throes of his self-imposed food and exercise rules. We are individuals, and our stories differ, whether we suffer from the same or  different illnesses. There is no such thing as "the typical anorexic story," even when the plot looks similar on the surface. Remember, too, that many of us have suffered at both ends of the spectrum.

We all need a voice and to be acknowledged. We need to be inclusive and gently steer any talk about eating disorders away from the symptoms and toward solving the underlying issues. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook

I decided to self-publish a recovery guide for anyone struggling with an eating disorder or for anyone who wants to better understand the recovery process. This handbook is available for about the same price as a cup of coffee, and I don't mean one of those fancy drinks at Starbucks. It's $2.99.

Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook


The fancy version:


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Online Advice

Sometimes I read "advice" online that makes me cringe. Please, if you are struggling with an eating disorder, be careful with the advice you take. Not everyone is qualified to be counseling others, especially when it comes to nutrition, psychology and recovery.

Recently, I read a blog post that the author mistakenly called an article, and I was shocked by the amount of incorrect information she was pushing. This is a person who supposedly has a Ph.D. and supposedly gives out advice to the many people who supposedly email her both on Instagram and by way of her blog. In reality, she takes a ton of photos of herself, and that's her main focus. I didn't look to see where she earned her degree, but I'm surprised anyone who has that much of a difficult time writing in coherent sentences can receive one. While wading through her post, it was difficult to decide if she didn't understand the topics she was discussing or if she simply can't write in intelligible sentences. I decided it's a little bit of both.

Let me make this more clear. I can't believe the complete garbage some people put out there. It makes me so angry when people like the lady mentioned above promote warped and potentially damaging ideas around nutrition and recovery. I assume they do so not because they are necessarily bad people but because they have their own unresolved issues around food.

The blogger made an effort to address hormonal imbalance resulting from severe dieting and mistakenly said that hormone levels are low in these dieters, but there are several hormones that play a role in the hunger and satiety feedback loop, most of them not low in those on restrictive diets. Leptin in both obese people and in anorexics is usually high, but it's lower in bulimics. A higher Ghrelin/obstein ratio in anorexics is thought to be related to an increased expression of the preproghrelin gene. In other words, this is also higher in people who restrict, not lower. Stress hormones also tend to be higher in anorexics and people dieting, but reproductive hormones tend to be lower. You can't make these big generalizations when it comes to hormone levels and eating disorders or any condition, really, and you definitely shouldn't be giving out incorrect information in general. If you don't know about hormone levels in people with eating disorders, you're not required to write about them in a blog post. If you choose to, don't just make shit up.

Oops, she did it again when she brought up insulin. I think she was conflating insulin sensitivity with blood sugar levels, but she was vague with what she wrote. It's hard to tell exactly what she meant. Sometimes people toss out terms without knowing or fully understanding what they mean. She did this several times in her post. When she suggests that insulin sensitivity increases during phases of extreme dieting, the information is inaccurate. Really, insulin sensitivity varies from person to person. Fasting (not eating a low-carb diet or dieting in general) typically decreases insulin levels, and this appears to increase sensitivity over time. Low-carb diets are also effective in reducing insulin levels but less effective in improving insulin sensitivity. In other words, when a normal person diets, insulin levels decrease, but there's rarely any immediate effect on insulin sensitivity. However, some studies suggest that fasting at regular intervals for diabetics does exactly this. It can increase insulin sensitivity for those who are insulin resistant.

If you're a diabetic, this kind of information might be important, but since fasting can potentially negatively affect your immune system and organs, cause dizziness, fatigue, and even cause more severe conditions, most doctors don't recommend it. Also, most people don't have insulin resistance (low sensitivity). This blogger seems to be suggesting that normal people would experience some type of insulin resistant hunger if they diet and then allow themselves to eat, which is not accurate, but, again, because the post was poorly written, it was hard to tell.

Yet another mistake she makes is suggesting or implying refeeding syndrome involves dangerous variations in electrolytes. I will give her some credit here because this is partly true, but refeeding syndrome involves much more than electrolyte imbalance. The main concerns with refeeding syndrome are edema and severe metabolic changes, taxing the body when systems that were not functioning or not functioning well begin working again and require nutrients that are not generally found in a starving body. Yes, the syndrome can include electrolyte imbalance, but you can't really describe a syndrome by focusing on one symptom and ignoring the more prevalent ones.

Mistakes are one thing. Everyone makes them. I can forgive her for these errors, but putting yourself in a position where you are giving others advice and then reinforcing complete myths about eating disorders is criminal. It's bad enough that she can't get her facts straight, but she steps over the line when she tries to convince others that people can't control themselves when they resort to intuitive eating after "extreme dieting," because....she can't? It's pure bullshit. 

How the fuck do people like this sleep at night? Mistakes, yeah, the body and its systems are complex and often confusing. I understand that. I've made mistakes or misunderstood various aspects of human biology, too. I hope if I make mistakes in my blog, people will call me out on it. What really pisses me off is someone basically suggesting that a person should continue harming herself, because she might not be emotionally prepared to handle change. In other words, this blogger thinks that if you are under-prepared to address the underlying psychological issues that are often associated with an eating disorder, you should just continue to engage in behaviors that might kill you. Absurd. 

Additionally, she seems to think that, because she is obsessed with food and hasn't resolved her own issues, anyone else who tries to eat intuitively after restricting will suddenly become overwhelmed with choices and want to eat and eat and eat. In my book, I write about a phase I went through in which I did eat a lot of junk, but I didn't have any idea what a sensible diet looked like at that point. Plus, my body desperately needed food. If your body needs calories and a lot of them, of course you are going to want to eat once you allow yourself, but you have to have some faith that you will be able to find balance once your health is more stable. It takes time. And if you are aiming for a nutrient-dense, well-balanced, varied diet, chances are less likely that you will swing to any extremes. 

There's no doubt that if you are struggling with an eating disorder, it's best to work with professionals. It's true that you can get some useful advice online, but you really have to be careful not to take advice from people who try to inflict their issues and insecurities onto others. Take everything you read with a grain, or in some cases a shaker, of salt. It's so important to consider your own beliefs and recognize when others are stuck in theirs. Seeing reality clearly can be difficult when you're struggling with an eating disorder, but do your best to trust that you can and eventually will figure it all out. Rather than reading random blogs, a safer bet when it comes to reaching out for advice and online support is to look into some of the eating disorder recovery forums on Facebook.  

In the end, the one good thing about this woman's post is that she admits that she is ill prepared to address questions related to severe eating disorders and that people who are struggling should go to a professional. Yes, thank you. Finally a bit of rational thought in an otherwise large pile of crap.   

Obviously, it takes working on the physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual aspects of the disorder, but the first and often the scariest step is refeeding, eating consistently and enough. Of course, if you are at a point where actual refeeding syndrome is a concern, this stage should definitely be supervised by someone in the medical field. I think it would be rare for someone in that state to be hanging out online asking bloggers who aren't specifically addressing recovery questions about diet, though it might happen. Anyway, what I did was risky, dangerous given where I was, but I also knew I would die if I continued restricting the way I had been. I wasn't prepared mentally or emotionally to handle eating again, but I had to do something to save my life. I at least knew that much. Is anyone ever really ready for change? There probably are some who can go into recovery more prepared. There's no real right or wrong when it comes to saving yourself. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Same As It Ever Was

Yesterday I went through my 10th foot surgery. Though I'm on a light dose of painkillers, the oxycodone seems to have created a lot of brain fog. I'm still trying to get through this blog post I started earlier and keep coming back to, even though I think these are ideas I have already expressed and I'm not doing a great job of remembering what I write from one sentence to the next.

I've been following the body positive movement off and on for a while now. Some of the most inspiring thinkers in this movement include Ashley Graham, Carmen Cool and Allison Epstein. There's a lot of confusion around and hostility toward both the body positivity movement and the fat acceptance movements. Some of the main concepts are acknowledging discrimination against heavier people, avoiding judgment about health based on weight alone, and moving away from the sick beauty standard that has become the norm.

Some people want to believe there's a double standard when it comes to body shaming and thin people, but there really isn't, at least not one that's ingrained in our culture. People who say there is don't fully understand what body shaming and discrimination based on weight really are. I get the same kind of reaction when folks scream, "ALL LIVES MATTER" to the black lives matter movement. That's not to say bullying never happens to thin people, but some will mistakenly call expressing concern about someone's health and behavior "body shaming" when it's nothing of the sort. There's a big difference between negative and intentionally mean comments directed at someone based entirely on weight and those expressing concern based on specific unhealthy behaviors. I addressed the latter in a previous post. And, yes, some people are bullies, trolls or mean-spirited and will say nasty things to thin people or to just about anyone, however, this doesn't mean that there's an inherent "thin is bad" problem in our society. "Body shaming is the practice of making critical, potentially humiliating comments about a person's body size or weight." Got it? 

I was bullied when I was young. People, both strangers and those I knew, yelled at me, called me fat, fatso, lardo, and said I was ugly etc. all because of my weight. When I was anorexic, I looked scary. People stared and yelled at me on occasion, but the comments were more along the lines of, "Go eat something!" or "Stop running so much!" Throwing out these kinds of comments is not bullying. If anything, there's an underlying concern when someone says these kinds of things to someone who is emaciated. Yes, they can be upsetting, especially coming from a stranger, but they simply are not bullying statements. 

Obviously, there are still issues I'm addressing in my own mind when it comes to certain individuals online and why the content they share affects me. People who promote thinspiration or pro-ana have become the irritating thorn in my side. 

What I keep coming back to is the way people try to inflict their fears, rules, and ideas about diet, nutrition and exercise onto others. I'm not one to try to police anyone or tell anyone how she should be living. I find fault with people who try to do this and follow it by lashing out at anyone suggesting she shouldn't promote an unhealthy lifestyle, though, and I will continue to say something about it. I appreciate so much those who can present scientific findings around nutrition without trying to badger anyone. When Sam Harris interviewed Gary Taubes, neither one tried to order anyone to eat a certain way, but both were able to address findings in various studies that relate to sugar, insulin and obesity in a thoughtful and thorough manner. Sometimes you will find people who stretch the results of studies or surveys to support what they want to believe, but Sam and Gary did a good job of addressing why this happens.

I was concerned a few weeks ago after reading one woman's blog post about her obsessions with food and weight. Though she claims she is no longer plagued by obsessive thoughts or compulsive actions, the content she posts shows an entirely different story, one that's the opposite of what she claims and downright scary. Anyone can justify an unhealthy habit in her mind, but if she's honest, there's a part of her that at least recognizes the unhealthy behaviors in which she engages. The absurdity of claiming to be free of compulsions or obsessions while admittedly engaging in them and going one step further by actually promoting them publicly is shocking. Sean Spicer chews an unbelievable 35 sticks of gum in a single day, but he's not suggesting others do the same. A blogger sharing the unhealthy thoughts circulating in her head as a way to process is one thing, but a blogger encouraging others to engage in the same disturbing behaviors she does is something else. I'm not sure why, when it comes to diet and lifestyle, so many people think it's OK to do this. Merely admitting a bad habit doesn't mean a person is over or free of it, and it absolutely doesn't mean that the behavior is suddenly OK or not as bad as it seems.

Speaking of gum, a lady I know used to chew at least a pack of gum every day. That's a hell of a lot of gum. She has an eating disorder, so she came up with all kinds of excuses about why she did it. The reality was that she used the sticky paste to avoid eating meals, something she confessed later. I've heard about people who chew even more than a pack of gum a day, which seems unbelievable to me, but I know it happens. In fact, I recently read one lady's blog post in which she admitted to chewing far more than this. Addictions like this don't always mean the habit is dangerous, but there must be a reason why someone would rationalize this kind of behavior for an online audience. Again, I believe when someone is bringing these kinds of behaviors out into the spotlight, there must be some part of her that's aware that any extremes like chewing several packs of gum daily need to be acknowledged and analyzed. Always look at the deeper issues. What is it really about?

My boyfriend and I were recently discussing some of the more bizarre Instagram and Facebook profiles we have seen. He referenced one person who happens to also manage a blog and gives out advice about how to lose weight and supposedly be free of various obsessions about food and weight by abnormally focusing on food, weight, calories and body image. I bring this up because some people believe that if the intent is good or at least not intentionally malevolent, this kind of content, as bizarre as it might be, is not malicious. I disagree. It is malicious to give tips about losing weight to someone who is already underweight. It is malicious to perpetuate a lie, claiming that you are free of obsessions while the content of your posts so very clearly demonstrates otherwise. It is malicious to try to dictate how others should be living and how and what they should eat when you can't see your own unhealthy compulsions, and it is malicious to suggest that athletes, or anyone for that matter, consume what amounts to a starvation diet in terms of calories. This person's intent might not be outright malicious, but the end result potentially is.

I fully agree that we need to move away from judging others based on weight alone, and I will never support someone who throws out numbers relating to what's found on a scale, BMI, calories or nutritional values publicly as a way to suggest that what she is doing is good for her or, even more to the point, for anyone else. You do you, so to speak. What others eat or don't eat doesn't give them any kind of moral upper hand. When I looked a one lady's post recently, her calorie count for the day was added incorrectly, and this is someone who counts down to the individual calorie. I know anyone who shows a propensity toward eating disorders can get upset if she unintentionally goes over what she intended to eat, but it shows how illogical these kinds of self-imposed rules can be, how arbitrary these numbers are when it comes to actually having a dramatic impact on life. I just don't understand why anyone would put this kind of information out there, and I don't see it being helpful to anyone in any way whatsoever. If anything, it can be dangerous. Restricting, especially when exercising a lot, can have all kind of long-term consequences. It's just not helpful to put that kind of information in the public eye as a guideline, and people who are truly healthy don't typically do it.

I believe it was Carmen Cool (thought it's possible she wasn't the first) who suggested that we assign worthiness by accessing behavior, not weight. Other people don't need to know how many calories anyone else ate in a given day. This kind of information is personal and should remain so.

“Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud." -- Shannon L. Alder 

Monday, May 1, 2017

That Seductive Grace Period

Those of us who have gone down the path of compulsive or disordered eating and running only to fall off the deep end know there can be a grace period. I talk about this in detail in my book, so I won't go to great lengths to explain it here. Suffice to say that you can temporarily run well while living an unhealthy lifestyle. Hell, in my case, I set records, won a bunch of races and became one of the top mountain runners in the country while battling a severe eating disorder. I say battling knowing full well that for several years, I had no intention of changing my compulsive ways while I was on top.

Part of me understood that feeding my addiction couldn't possibly lead to longevity in the sport, but, like so many people in the throes of an illness, I justified my crazy actions, in my case by pointing out that I was still running well. I was aware enough to make sure I didn't encourage others to be as thin as I was. I knew I was sick. It was obvious. Sure, I can look back and say, "Wow, I ran some amazing times and races," but I can also look back and imagine how much better I would have been had I not been so lost in the disorder, the compulsions and the strict eating habits. I can say without a doubt that I did it all wrong, but I am glad I never encouraged others to engage in unhealthy behavior. I never focused on my weight when talking about my running, because I had at least some experience with running better when I was heavier. I was a stronger runner at a more sensible weight; there's no doubt about that. I was just too afraid to move away from the idiotic idea that I had to be thin, not necessarily in order to run well, but because it was some kind of strange and very powerful internal driving force, a very detrimental one. I had competing and conflicting goals: one to be thin, the other to run well.

If I'm honest, though, I was aware on some level that what I was doing wasn't going to ultimately help me reach my full potential as an athlete. People who had gone down a similar path did too and even tried to warn me. I felt like I couldn't help it. When I was confronted, I came up with all kinds of rationalizations, excuses and bizarre explanations about how I was different. I tried to convince myself and others I would keep running and winning despite what people said. That was before my body and even my mind, to a certain extent, starting suffering from the long-term effects of not eating right. An ugly truth about eating disorders that people don't like to discuss is the aftermath, the issues that people face even after years of recovery. It starts slowly, an injury here, another one there, tightness or weakness that isn't appropriate for someone so young, more races avoided or missed, and less stellar performances exhibited. My solution was to bump up the distance, but that ultimately made things worse. I could place in a 15K, but I knew my low 35 and 36-minute 10K days were gone. I knew I was no longer close to the true elite field, even in the mountains. It took time to get there, but I knew what was happening as my times suffered; I just couldn't figure out how to switch course.

In the end, I let the compulsions win. The results were disastrous. My experiences taught me a lot, though, and I had to change in order to save myself. My goals now are to take care of myself and be more present. I am accountable now, but my mind can still get caught up in the fears and lead me down the frantic thought path if I'm not careful. During times of increased stress or injury, I have to be very careful about how I'm treating myself and thinking about myself. My friend, Tonia, wrote this piece after her recent hip surgery. It's a beautiful post about how important it is to love and respect ourselves, especially during the hard times we face, something I'm still learning as I enter another rocky period with severe nerve and foot pain, a complication after the manipulation on my right foot. Pain changes how you view yourself and makes you question who you are. It's an uncomfortable position to be in. I'm struggling lately, not just because of the discomfort, which can be unbearable, but because I'm forced to think about my identity and rediscover who I am without something that helps keep me grounded and feeling OK in the world. That's not an easy position to be in, but when my body won't cooperate, I have no choice but to adapt.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


April has never been the best month of the year for me. Last year was one of the absolute worst when my sweet little Romo died. I'm far from over that and can't think about it too much without getting lost in the grief. Maybe it's something I will never fully get over, but we all do our best to keep moving forward. This year has been up and down, better than last year but still with its challenges.

I still think of April as my second birthday, a time when I came out of a long fight with a terrible illness. I've now met two more people who had similar experiences with viral meningitis as I did. One gentleman contracted the virus from a feral kitten. I was bitten by a spider. The other lady I met didn't have a specific incident; she just ended up with it. All three of us were misdiagnosed and sent home, and all of us ended up back in the hospital for an extended stay shortly after being discharged. I don't know if this says more about the difficulty of diagnosing the illness or our healthcare system in general, but it doesn't seem right.

I'm not happy to know that others suffered like I did, but I was glad to know that I wasn't the only one who had lingering symptoms. I mean, I'm glad someone can relate. Two years after the worst of it, I finally felt like I was more solidly on my feet, but even now, I know that I'm not the same person I was before the spider bite. No, I don't mean I don a cape and fight crime like Spiderman now; I just mean there are some issues that occasionally pop up with my body and brain, issues I'm sure are related to the effects of the virus. Now that I know I'm not alone in this, it feels a little less scary.

Last year, I bought myself a bike to celebrate what I think of as a birthday of sorts, the time of year I recovered after nearly dying from meningitis. Since I had foot surgery recently this year and put a lot of cash into some car repairs, I think I'm going to keep any celebrations limited to splurges on small-scale things like cheese or chocolate, but April will always be a time of great reflection for me.