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








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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 it 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, Hilary Kinavey 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 don't think I can do better than what Hilary Kinavey did here when it comes to the topic of policing others based on one's own fears and beliefs.

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

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.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Collateral Damage

For a few years now, I have been debating whether or not to write about an issue in my life. It's not my issue per se, but it affects me a great deal, especially more recently. I've tried to ignore it or take the high road by simply sitting back and doing nothing, but that became increasingly harder to do in the last few weeks. I'm putting this out there because I'm tired. The strange and escalating online behavior of an individual has gone past shocking to worrying me, and I'm really sick of saying nothing about it and pretending it's OK. It's not. When I write this all out, I assume it will look like the shenanigans of kids in middle school, but when this stuff happens in the adult world, it's unsettling.

In 2009, I *met* a woman through a mutual friend on Facebook. It was actually my boyfriend, Kevin, who introduced us. He had started coaching her sometime in October of that year, and, despite my initial first impression and a sense of uneasiness, we friended each other the following month. This woman and I had a few online chats and occasionally commented on each other's social media posts. Though she confided in me about a few of the issues she was facing at the time, I felt the need to keep my guard up and never really opened up to her, something I'm glad about now. By the summer of the following year, she seemed to want to keep her distance, and I was fine with that. From what I could gather, she was preoccupied with a guy. Our communications ended, and the only real tie that linked us together was Kevin. You can read his recap of events here.

Sometime in 2010, Kevin asked if I had been saying things about him to this woman or to anyone else. Apparently, she told him that I and one of Kevin's ex-girlfriends had been saying some unkind things about him. Both his ex and I denied having said anything, and this was enough for me to realize his client was not someone with whom I wanted to socialize. I quickly blocked her on Facebook and other social media websites. I assumed I would never have to deal with any of these kinds of antics from her again. Out of sight, out of mind seemed appropriate, in theory anyway. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Long before she and Kevin began having issues, I found out that she had tried to convince Kevin to lock me out of the house where we were staying. It's true that Kevin and I had our ups and downs and were in a down spell at the time, but I still find it odd that someone I hardly knew and still hardly know, and someone I had made every effort to be kind to, would suggest something like this. He didn't, of course. When she and Kevin had their first falling out, I wasn't surprised, and when she came back to him later and requested that he coach her once more, I and many of his friends gently warned him that it might not be in his best interest to take her on as a client again. When their second falling out occurred, it also wasn't a surprise, but what happened after that was, at least the severity of it was. When things seemed more than a little bit out of hand, at least from my perspective, I tried to encourage Kevin to go to the police, but he didn't think the police could really do anything and didn't think things would continue. They did.

Things turned ugly after the second falling out, and she took many opportunities to complain about Kevin online, sometimes anonymously on Let's Run and sometimes on her blog or on social media. When he finally responded, she went off the deep end to the point where Kevin ended up in a hearing after she filed a petition for a restraining order that was filled with something other than facts. The hearing was bizarre. Kevin purchased a recording of it that's now in my hands. To me, it seemed like the judge was aware that not everything was adding up, and toward the end of the proceedings, he said that he felt Kevin's former client was doing and saying these things in an effort to make Kevin look like a bad person. He also said that Kevin could take her to court for defamation of character and for lack of payment, but it was a hearing only and didn't address those kinds of issues. At one point, the judge turned to her and said, "I suggest that you do not post anything publicly about Mr. Beck online..." He added that he felt it was best that the two of them leave each other alone. Her response was to go home and immediately post something publicly online about Kevin, and he is no longer quiet about pointing out her inconsistencies.

Since then, she has continued to take both direct and indirect swipes at Kevin; me; our coauthor, Brad; many of Kevin's friends; anyone living, coaching or training in Boulder; people with eating disorders (how we are stupid); and at Boulder in general. Oh, what a crummy place it is to be. I'm pretty sure Kevin is no longer going to let any of her attacks slide, which is understandable considering nothing seems to work to stop her, not even a judge suggesting she do just that.

Some of the more hurtful comments she has said about me include stating outright that I haven't eaten since high school, that I have "huge problems", that I'm a "legendary anorexic" who is in no position to coach, that I enable or even go on drinking benders with Kevin (I barely touch alcohol!) and, the worst, that I'm basically using my mom, counting on her dying, so that I can inherit her house. This last one is bogus, of course, but because I'm very close to my mom and love her dearly, it bothers me more than the others that show more about who she is as a person than about who I am. People who know me know the kind of person I am. I'm not worried about that. I'm very fortunate to have some incredible people in my life. There have been other mean-spirited remarks about me, but the gist is always the same, that I'm washed up, a failure, don't have a good job, that I'm a victim of domestic abuse etc.

I've never hidden the fact that I struggled with an eating disorder that nearly killed me, more so in the past, but I have put it out there in an effort to help others and let people know that it's OK to struggle. We are not our illnesses. She can rip on that all she wants, but to bring my very kind, very able-bodied, older mother into things is hitting pretty damn low. She tried to claim that Kevin somehow manipulated or edited these tweets, but I got them directly from her twitter feed:


Kimberly Duclos boulder runner
This isn't directed at me, but my mother and I are collateral damage.

Kimberly Duclos twitter
More of the same kinds of tweets by Kimberly Duclos.

Though something like the tweet below, as absurd as it is, isn't directed at me in particular, it's directed at runners who have some type of an eating disorder, and I fall or have fallen into this category, as do many others, I would guess, especially if you take a broad definition of eating disorders and don't limit it to anorexia, bulimia and binge eating:

Kimberly S Duclos Boulder
Another odd remark from Kim Duclos.



I don't know. This is something I will never quite understand. In general, I try very hard to be a decent person. I'm not perfect, but I do my best to be helpful, kind, compassionate and considerate. In this case, I'm really not sure how to handle it. Doing nothing and looking the other way hasn't helped. If anything, things have gotten worse.

It's possible that there is some hurt under all these outbursts. I think it's misdirected at me, but I know that finding your true identity as a runner can be difficult. It might be that the falling out with Kevin, a coach who helped her reach some pretty lofty goals in running, caused some conflict in her mind. The coach-athlete relationship, good or bad, can be a hard one to let go of, but this is a lot of speculation on my part. I don't know enough about the situation to make any solid conclusions. There may be deeper issues at play, too. All I know is that I want all this bullshit to stop. Whatever grudge she has against him or, for whatever unknown reason, me, I just want her to go live her life and be as happy as she claims to be in between venomous bouts of tweeting or posting my name on Let's Run, Twitter or Facebook. There's no need to constantly and relentlessly drag other people into this fight. These kinds of attacks are so unnecessary and so very cruel. I may be expanding the scope of conflict by posting this, but my intent is to stop pretending like this shit doesn't affect me. It does. It's upsetting and weird and even a little bit scary. 

And obviously, this is my perspective. Again, I don't know this woman and have no idea why I am so often the brunt of her online remarks or even why Kevin is. All I know is that I want out of this situation and really hope something will eventually help her stop lashing out and move on with her life.  








Monday, April 3, 2017

Quick Update

I have now had 9.5 surgeries on my feet. I think I'll stop there.

The cyst removal went very well. I was surprised to see how big that sucker was. It had started to attach itself to four places, so my doctor tied off each of those. Instead of being the size of a pea, it was more like the size of a pecan. My doctor likes to show me these things. I got to see my severed nerve last time. It's interesting. It's funny that I had no trouble watching surgery on my hand, but I don't know if I would want to see someone cutting into my feet.

For my right foot, the doctor numbed it up (that's way more painful than it sounds) and manipulated my toe to break up the scar tissue. At one point, there was a very loud POP! that sounded like someone snapping a fresh carrot in half. "Did you hear that?" my doctor asked. How could I not! Apparently, that noise was the sound of something good happening. After a bit more manipulation, my toe went from looking like it was trying to escape from my foot to resting in a more natural position. It's not perfect, but it's much, much better than it was.

I had a slight reaction to the pain meds, so I used them very sparingly. The second day, I had a fever and spent the day in bed. I thought I would try some yoga, but I ended up lying down on my yoga mat instead of actually doing much. Oh well, I made the effort. It didn't happen. Today I got my bandages changed and was able to move around more.

Things are looking good. It will be a week before I get the stitches out, but I got the go ahead to do some workouts.

I need a shower, but I have to keep my foot dry. Somehow a shower with one foot outside of the tub is never quite as satisfying, but it's better than nothing.

Monday, March 20, 2017

That Only Took Six Years

I haven't been very good about keeping my resolution to write in this blog, but I have been writing at least a little bit elsewhere. For the most part, the writing I'm doing isn't structured. I'm blogging in my cheese review blog, doing a few Yelp reviews and working on a few side projects. Everything with the book I coauthored with Brad and Kevin is a go. It's scheduled to come out in June. You can preorder a copy of "Young Runners at the Top" here: https://www.amazon.com/Young-Runners-Top-Lifestyle-Competitors/dp/1442270683

Overall, things are going relatively well, especially in the work and volunteering departments. Running wise, I was happy to earn a post surgery (x8) PR in a little time trial I did. The last time I ran anywhere close to the time I did (20:25 up NCAR road from the little library on Table Mesa) was in 2011. I didn't time it exactly in 2011, though. I estimated the final outcome based on a glance at my watch before I started and again after I finished, which isn't as accurate as actually starting and stopping a stopwatch, but the two times are close, both under 21 minutes, which is good for me running solo in a slight headwind up a big hill in too much clothing for the nice weather we had over the weekend. I still seem to struggle in the last half of the run. It's more uphill the second half, of course, but that's where I should shine. Instead, I feel like the monkey jumps on my back every time, even when I tell myself, "I'm going to attack the last hill this time." I pass Vassar Drive on the right-hand side in good shape, and GULP! it's still a long way to go from there.

There are times I can't tell if it's more of a heart valve leak situation or a lack of fitness situation when my breathing gets off kilter. My solution so far has been to back off slightly and ease back into a faster pace when I feel more on top of things. For the last five minutes of this timed run, though, all I was doing was trying to put on foot in front of the other and move in any kind of a forward motion. Toward the end, I thought anything under 21 minutes had slipped away, so I was pleased to see my watch at 20:25 when I got to the top.

Apparently, I ran hard, because a woman told me I looked pale and asked if I was OK when I stopped. Another lady on a bike coming up the road asked if I was OK when I decided to retie my shoe on my cooldown run down the big hill. I thanked them both for their concern and their kindness. I don't think either was interested in my petite accomplishment, so I kept that to myself. Everyone was super nice that day, and it made me smile and put an extra spring in my step. I love days like that, even if they end in cramps and an unexpected shedding of my female parts in what has become a bimonthly affair. Big picture. 

I attribute my improvement, even if it's slight, to working with some really great physical therapists in town. Three, in particular, have given me big pieces of the puzzle, keys to the mystery that is my wonky body. That, and I'm actually doing the therapy, the homework part of it, which isn't easy. Sometimes these exercises and stretches haunt me, but I'm working it all out. Running is something that's starting to feel better, and it's almost like a long-lost friend has reentered my life. I'm far from 100 percent, though. My hips still click and catch. When the band (possibly the iliopsoas?) on my right side snaps and moves in the middle of a run, it's unsettling, downright scary even, but it's more noisy and uncomfortable than outright painful. The left is silent but occasionally shoots pain and still feels weak. My feet are also a bit of a mess and often painful, and my endometriosis still rears its ugly head. But there are times I feel really fucking good, all things considered. Within the confines of what my body can handle at this time, I'm doing well. That's why this next surgery is much harder to take than those I have faced in the past when I was in too much pain to do much of anything. 

Yes, I'm headed in for my 9th foot surgery at the end of the month. I have a cyst in my left foot. It's unpleasant. I now run (and walk) with a big, felt doughnut around the bump to keep the pressure off, which helps. Still, the thing sits on the top of my foot looking like an alien waiting to burst through the skin. It's distressing and often painful. I'm also considering one last surgery on the right foot to see if the doc can get my second toe back in alignment. Right now, the joint is dislocated. I keep thinking an amputation would solve this problem and know there are people who have had this done, but there's a chance that lengthening the top tendon once more could provide some relief. I'm hesitant, though. It's a big surgery with a long recovery time and not a guarantee that the toe would slide back into a better position. It's a lot to think about.

And some good news regarding the fire west of Boulder that occurred on Sunday. Though none of the neighborhoods in the city had to evacuate and only one small area near 4th and Mapleton was on notice, areas west of us did evacuate but were allowed back today. Fortunately, no structures were lost. Unfortunately, 76 acres burned:  http://www.kktv.com/content/news/Fire-west-of-Boulder-forces-evacuations-416545863.html

Monday, February 27, 2017

NEDAW - National Eating Disorder Awareness Week


A few weeks ago, I was at the Humane Society volunteering at the vet clinic when one of the cats let out a blood-curdling scream. It sounded eerily human or maybe more like something that once was human. It did not sound feline in the least. This little guy let out such a wail that the entire staff and volunteer team stopped, all of us with our jaws on the floor, and stared in disbelief. He did so because one of the vet techs merely opened the door to his kennel. She hadn't even touched him. Everything was fine. The resident cat whisperer was brought in, and she was able to safely get him out for some testing. She wore extra padded and extraordinarily long oven mitt-like gloves in order to do so, but the cat's wail was louder than his bite. He actually didn't make any attempt to bite anyone.

The work volunteers do at the vet clinic is sometimes hard, sometimes kinda gross, sometimes physical, and sometimes serious, but overall, it's incredibly rewarding. It can even be fun, but it does take a lot of attention and care. Time usually flies by when I'm there. My volunteer days are full with a work shift right after I leave the Humane Society, but I wouldn't change anything about those long days. I'm getting better at figuring out easy ways to get a somewhat healthy lunch in me those days since I usually end up eating on my way to volunteer, during my shift, or on my way to work.

Why am I bringing this up when the title of this post is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week? I wanted to explain what recovery means to me. Work, volunteering, living, running and being social were all things I struggled with in the throes of my eating disorder. Even during the first five years of recovery, I had a hard time being consistently reliable and facing the world. I held jobs, volunteered, and showed up most of the time, but I frequently called in sick and my mind was often a million miles away, focused on my body, food, weight, or how I felt in my clothes. In fact, when I was volunteering at a different vet clinic during the first year of recovery, I found it very difficult to be fully engaged. I was so rarely in the moment. That slowly changed the longer I committed to recovery.

A lady conducting a research study on eating disorders in which I participated told me that this is often the case. The common response when asked the question, "what was different in terms of working before and after recovering?" was the feeling of being more grounded, being more productive, and feeling more present. There's a shift that takes place, and the attention that was once put on counting calories, obsessing about appearance and worrying about food is freed up to be placed in new areas: work, play, learning, relationships, giving back to the community, helping others, etc.

People often believe that you reach a point in recovery where you feel like you have arrived. Diane Israel suggests that recovery is more an ever evolving process, usually with peaks and valleys. Even now, I look to see where I can improve. The issues I struggle with these days are more what "normal" people deal with: eating more fruits and vegetables or a generally healthier diet, getting enough sleep, finding the right balance of exercise and rest etc. A good recovery exercise is to describe what recovery means to you. I know I have a tendency to be too strict and too hard on myself, so I work on finding ways I can relax the rules I have set in place for myself. It's always good to ask yourself if what you are doing is being driven by compulsion or by the desire to be healthy.

This week, there are so many people promoting their websites, blogs, books, and FB pages in response to NEDAW. It can get overwhelming sifting through what is actually helpful and what is not when it comes to recovery. I have found that one of the best ways to help people is to listen. What does a person struggling with an eating disorder need? What is he or she trying to say through the disorder? Some people don't want help or are in denial, but those who reach out are usually willing to explore the deeper issues.

Telling my story was the first step. It gave me a platform and allowed me to explore my own issues on a deeper level and also provided a way for me to let others know that there is a way to a better life. More importantly, though, it let other people struggling know that they are not alone. Answers were missing when I was unwell, and the outlook on recovery was bleak. Things have changed a lot since then. There is more hope around recovery. I want to offer more, though. With so many ways to reach people through social media, a lot of misinformation can be spread. I'm doing what I can to address specific issues on this blog, but I'm also trying to find other ways to help those in need and those who are willing to accept it. Fortunately, I'm not the only one offering guidance and support.

The last few blog posts I wrote addressed images on social media websites. I'm so glad I'm not alone in my opinions and can talk to others about it. Today, Carmen Cool mentioned "before & after" images in reference to NEDAW on her Facebook page. It got me thinking about images in general again. I think in this field, it's always important to think about how images can affect and even possibly trigger others. More importantly, before & after images end up supporting the false idea that once a given weight is achieved, everything will be fine, discounting the emotional and mental aspects of these illnesses and the deeper issues at play. Probably the best response to this controversy came when someone brought up alcoholics and pointed out how bizarre it would be to see someone who is sober posting images of how drunk she used to be in comparison. What purpose would this serve? None, absolutely none. We don't need to see where you were in order to understand it and to understand the underlying issues related to the illness.

Here is one response to before & after images that I feel is worth noting: 
https://embracingauthenticityblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/why-not-to-post-transformation-pictures-during-eating-disorder-awareness-week/

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Not Done Yet

I've been having an internal debate about how involved I want to be in addressing what I feel are dangerous trends in society. The other day I saw a preview for a documentary about Karen Carpenter. It made me think about how lucky I am to be alive. Though I never took the heart-damaging medications she took, our lowest weight was about the same. Sometimes it seems like sheer luck that I survived. More and more people seem to be struggling with eating disorders.

At the risk of beating a dead horse...

With the recent Lady Gaga's belly controversy, I decided I would allow myself one last outburst over the whole Instagram mess. Keep in mind that I'm not actually triggered these days, but I mentor people who are. Every day I see people fighting for their lives. Last year, five people associated with members of one support group lost their battle. We just lost someone in the group this month, too, so it's no surprise that I get fired up when I see people carelessly posting their insecurities and afflictions on social media for all to see and absorb.

Let me see if I can explain things in a way that people will understand because one middle-aged lady suggested I was "body shaming" when I called her out on her potentially damaging and highly triggering posts, even though I never once mentioned a single word about the woman's body or her appearance. As a friend suggested, this is like being called a bully for expressing concern when someone posts loads of images of herself sloppy drunk and in compromising positions or passed out on the floor with captions about how great and fun it is to drink to excess every night. No, I'm not actually the problem. Yes, I could sit back and say nothing, but that was starting to feel wrong. Complacency is its own injustice.

What upsets me more than the images, many of which are bad enough, are the captions that go along with them. In one particular case, the woman has revealed her BMI, her caloric intake, and her exercise level. It doesn't take a genius to see that this is a train wreck in the making, but the almost constant self-criticism and self-absorption are unbearable. That's what I see as the most harmful to others. Imagine a young girl looking at the image of someone who is underweight and then reading the caption about her round belly. How could anyone think this is a good idea? Another woman thinks it's OK to post images of her seven identical non-fat lunches in Tupperware containers. That's not as terrible, but OCD much? How is this healthy and balanced and enjoyable? One of the worst things I have seen is someone suggesting how to hide curves in images for people who have none. I have said my piece, but it hasn't resolved anything.

Here is why I have trouble getting past all this. Take a look at these statistics:

  • At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. 
  • Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
When people flaunt an illness that kills so many individuals, I can't sit back and act like it's OK. It's never OK to subtly or blatantly encourage others to obsess over weight, body, and food. All this does is continue to promote an unhealthy standard. I can't stand the thought of anyone encouraging others to strive for thinness by counting calories, weighing out every morsel of food, obsessing about exercise, and focusing on every self-perceived flaw, and then publicly complaining about or making hateful comments about body parts, her own or someone else's. When I see this kind of content and the unwell people who encourage it, I see it as a slap in the face of those who promote body positivity, health, and wellness. 

Those who make comments about bellies on natural bodies, untoned abs on fit athletes and cellulite on thin thighs have disordered thinking and promote a sick culture. Those who make naive comments about how stupid it is for people to have eating disorders are no better. Eating disorders are a very rational response to the chaos in life, especially when we are not taught better coping skills. Most addition is a combination of genetic factors, past trauma, general physiology and/or underlying mental illness, and current stress level. Spend a moment talking to someone in the throes of an eating disorder who is triggered and affected by the kind of unhealthy content that's becoming so popular on Instagram - complaining about cellulite, round bellies, or fat and flawed body parts when the referenced image shows not just otherwise but the exact opposite -- and you will maybe understand what harm these kinds of accounts can cause. 

I get the insecurity, the need for validation. I know what it's like to worry about weight, food, appearance, body, exercise and to want some kind of reassurance, but if you are an adult and still begging for attention by showing the world how thin you are while complaining about phantom bulges, you should probably consider therapy. What you are seeking can't be found in rah-rah Instagram or facebook comments.

The response to my comment about the harm this kind of content can cause was that my remark was immediately deleted. That's not surprising when it comes to anyone in denial. The threat of potentially addressing, or worse, giving up any harmful behaviors is often too scary for someone in the throes of addiction. The addictive behavior has to be protected at all costs, even if it means losing friends and distancing family members, poor performance, or worsening health. Comments like mine challenge the warped sense of reality of someone with an illness, so they won't be tolerated. There's nothing a stranger can really do at this point. I have no desire to watch someone slowly kill herself. I can't. I actually ended up blocking one account afterward, even though Instagram is public and anyone not logged in can see everything. I've said all I can, though, and there's nothing more I can do. I lived it, so I don't need to watch it. I hope that maybe one day people like this will realize how damaging what they are doing is, not just to themselves but to others. We all have our issues, but there's no need to inflict every neurotic thought onto others, especially if it means negatively influencing someone in the process.

And NOW I'm done.




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year

I've never been one to make resolutions for the new year. When it comes to running goals, it's easier for me to take things one day at a time than to plan too far ahead, especially lately with my body being so unpredictable. There are a few goals I have, but they are somewhat vague. I'd like to get to the point where I'm in a lot less pain and have more range of motion running. I want to write more, including blog posts, and I am hoping to start a project or two this year. Mostly, though, I want to continue working on being responsible by working hard, keeping up on my volunteer duties and being a mentor to those who are struggling with eating disorders and addiction. In general, it's good to have plan A and several backup plans in place in case A, for whatever reason, suddenly becomes a pipe dream or, worse, something completely unattainable.

I recently updated my Instagram account. I started it back when I was in a writing group, but I never really used it until now. I'm not exactly active on the website and don't get notifications when people leave comments, but I do upload pictures of animals I encounter, mostly at the Humane Society. The link is here: Instagram 

Part of the reason I was so reluctant to become active on Instagram is because there are so many profiles that promote thinness and seem to be run by narcissists. I addressed this before here in regard to one individual who has continued her unhealthy spiral into addiction and vanity. I'm amazed at the number of women who can't seem to resist pulling up their shirts to snap a quick picture of their abs (or ribs) no matter where they are, at the gym, at Target, or outside in a park. Wherever they are, this sudden need they seem to have for everyone to stop and "LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!!" is unhealthy. What's worse are people who cheer on this kind of self-involved behavior.

Encouraging those promoting "thinspiration" is criminal. I will never understand it. I won't even link to pages that are of concern to me because I would never want to call attention to anything so damaging. And just a note that I'm not bitching about people who are bodybuilders who compete or those who take pictures that inadvertently show their abs while engaging in other activities, like running. I'm talking about true egoists whose only goal is to show the world how thin they are. They take a picture or film a video, post it, and then publicly complain about how fat their thighs are, even though it's clear these people are rail thin. That, my friends, is not art or sport or anything other than people feeding addictions and inflicting them onto others. Narcissists usually crave acceptance and are often insecure, and it's easy to tell the difference between someone who is engaged in life and sharing it on social media and someone who is lost in an eating disorder or illness.

Why am I so angry about others when I could just look the other way, free speech and all? Because these people promote an unhealthy trend. Instead of thinking, "How can potentially influence others in a positive way or make changes to better my own life?" these types are perpetuating unhealthy and potentially deadly trends in society. These posts are extremely triggering and have the potential to negatively affect someone who might be in a vulnerable position. When an individual has been confronted by family members, friends, and even strangers, and the response is along the lines of, "I can do what I want!" you know that this person is in denial and has no interest in true self-improvement. I will go a step further and say that these kinds of people don't give a crap about others, or they are so sick and self-absorbed that they're unable to care about anything other than how thin they are, how their abs look in a certain light, and how free from cellulite the back of their thighs are.

I learned a hard but extremely valuable lesson early in my own recovery. I shared the experience in my book, "Training on Empty". There were times I struggled with feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Adjusting to gaining weight was difficult, and I complained a lot about feeling fat. It wasn't until two of my friends called me out and said, "When you say you feel fat, how do you think that makes us feel?" Until that point, I was still lost in the illness and self-centered enough that I hadn't given much thought about how my words and actions were affecting others. That was an eye-opener, and I knew I needed to change. I needed to be more considerate of others. I needed to understand that I didn't have to burden others with my illness and make them feel bad or question themselves because of my own insecurities.

When I stumble upon IG accounts or other social media accounts that contain images or other triggering content, I always wonder what message these people are trying to send to the world. Chances are, they don't think that far ahead. I get that free speech is a way for people to believe that anything goes and whatever goes is just fine, but I support and respect responsible speech far more. Think before you post.