Monday, January 31, 2011


I've been working on a blog post that elaborates a bit more on the podcast stuff that Diane, Dave and I did with Julie. Unfortunately, this week is a mess of too much to do, a broken C key on my computer and somewhat unnecessary stressing about things over which I have no control.

I have foot surgery coming up on Friday. There's nothing I can do but get through it, but I'm already freaking out about everything. And on top of all of it, the weather is the worst it has been in a long time. Why couldn't this awful cold spell have waited until this weekend?? Grrr. Plus, there are other things that are on my mind lately that add to my general state of "oh no the sky is falling!"A few deep breaths and a reminder of one step at a time is what seems to be getting me through. Day one down, 4 more to go.

I'm sure I will be back to blogging more regularly once this week is over. In fact, I would guess that if I'm not too drugged up after the surgery, I'll be at it this weekend. I have 3 days of being completely off my foot. That's going to be a challenge. But I'm not about to risk screwing anything up by letting the OCD get the better of me. I will not do intervals on my crutches, hobbling down the hallways, I promise.

More later...

Monday, January 24, 2011


Just a quick note to let people know that I will be a guest on the Runners Round Table with host Julie Threlkeld tonight.The topic will be eating disorders.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


There's a trend with books about anorexia where the authors refuse to discuss actual numbers. The thought is that they don't want to give anyone a number, because anorexics can be ultra competitive. If someone says, "I weighed 90lbs" it's possible that could trigger someone else to want to weigh 85lbs. When I first began struggling, the only books I could find on the topic were diaries of other girls who had eating disorders, so pretty much all that was discussed were numbers, weight, exercise and food. I went back and forth, trying to decide if it was a good idea to mention my own numbers in my book. In the end, I decided I needed to give people an accurate idea of how bad it got, so that everyone would understand how, even in the worst cases, survival is possible.

I've decided to put a small excerpt from my book here, so that people can get an idea of what I went through with the illness and hopefully see what can be overcome.

From Training on Empty:

Technically I should be dead. At my lowest point, I weighed about 80 pounds. I was having seizures and was in the beginning stages of complete organ failure. I was jaundiced; my pituitary gland wasn’t functioning properly; my hair was falling out; my skin was scaly; I had edema and I was constantly thirsty. I looked like a concentration camp victim, yet I felt fat all the time. I had lost touch with reality. I was anorexic.

Let’s face it, anorexia is a heavy topic. It’s not the kind of thing you want to bring up at the dinner table, for more than one reason. Then again, how many anorexics do you know who actually sit down to eat dinner?  It’s a sad, painful, scary and destructive path that an anorexic takes. A path that the people around them often end up being forced to travel as well.

I became anorexic when I was 13. It happened in an instant. I just made a firm decision that I was going to lose weight and that was that. It wasn’t so terrible at first. I even got more popular as the pounds dropped away. Eventually though, things got weird...really weird. For about 20 years after that initial decision, I battled the disease. My attitude toward life took a serious turn. Anorexia was all consuming.

It wasn’t until much later, well after I had started on the road to recovery that I realized what had been missing from my life: humor. So I decided to take a different look at this whole anorexia situation, and while I am in no way aiming to make light of the severity of the disease and its consequences, (20 percent of people suffering from anorexia will die prematurely from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.) I do want to point out that humor heals. For me, it was a big part of getting well. Laughing again after so many years of being silent was an outlet, a way to save myself from the despair of an illness that almost killed me.

My name is Lize, and this is the story of my life. By writing this book I hope to give people an idea of what led to my anorexia, how I survived and how I began to heal. Unfortunately, there is no grand formula for getting well, no 12 steps or going cold turkey. However, I do believe there is a way out of the darkness. Each person must create his or her own path to recovery, but perhaps reading what I went through will offer some hope, inspiration and ideas to help others create a path to wellness. I don’t do things half-assed. As bad off as I was, I found a way, and if I could recover, there’s hope for many others.

In the following chapter, I go on to explain that I was once a top runner in Colorado, and got to a point where I could hardly stand on my own two feet. Rather than offering another diary (I don't think telling people I ate a carrot does much good in the long run), I wanted to take a global approach to an eating disorder. I've offered not just my own experiences, but opinions and suggesting from many people including some top runners like Lorraine Moller, Diane Israel, Colleen Cannon, Patty Murray and Dave Dunham. I'm hoping that this broad look at everything from the causes of the illness to a look at how to prevent it will help people understand eating disorders. I'm hoping too that if "Snooki" can become a top selling "author", a publisher will be willing to take a chance with my book.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Media and my mind

There's a flood of new shows about additions on TV lately. Pretty much everyone is familiar with Intervention, a show that's best summed up as a gut wrenching look at addition, but only certain types of addicts are profiled on that show. For example, any type of addition that involves binging isn't shown. It would be too difficult to film. See, only a specific kind of addict can receive treatment on that show, because with TV, it's about ratings. The incident where an episode of Larry King Live received the highest ratings in the history of the show by having Paris Hilton as a guest while two natural disasters pummeling Pakistan went unnoticed by the American viewing public comes to mind. Why talk about one of the most devastating times for an entire country when Paris Hilton has something to say, right? But look at those ratings! But now shows about addition are becoming the norm, so every addict can have their 15 minutes of fame. People want to see train wrecks. The media has shoved shows of the bizarre and strange down our throats so much that it's what we have come to know and crave-the more severe the wreckage, the better. So while we eat too many Doritos while watching the My Strange Addition marathon, we can say, "At least I'm not that bad!" On the other hand, if one looks beyond the sheer strangeness factor, there are some things to be learned by watching these shows.

Even in the most bizarre of the bizarre shows out there, a better understanding of why people do what they do can occur. One of the strangest shows I've seen recently is Bridalplasty. Women actually compete for plastic surgery. So now, not only do we get an impossible idea of perfection shoved in our face by the media, we are told the best way to get there is through plastic surgery. And the sad thing is that the girls on the show are pretty to begin with. What kind of message does this send to young girls? Does anyone remember that show called the swan? There's something really wrong with this concept that cutting up your face and body will make you happy. Forget working on your personality or appreciating your accomplishments, as long as you look good, that's all that matters. In an interview, one of the actresses on Desperate Housewives once said that her job was to be thin. And here I thought it was to act. What's strange is that in the real housewives shows, these women have almost become a parody of beauty with their bodies that have endured liposuction, their duck lips and their daily heavily applied make-up. My question is if anyone actually finds this beautiful, or if it has just become the norm because everyone else is doing it. I see far more beauty in my mom who has aged gracefully, without any plastic surgery. 

But, moving away from the shows about beauty, lately there are shows about all kinds of addicts, from hoarders to nymphos and everything in between. Sadly, it seems the more fucked up one is, the more publicity one can get. If you're 16 and pregnant, you get to be on TV! And if your desire to look like a fucking super model is stronger than your desire to share a day with the guy you love and who loves you, you can compete for a nose job! Still, intervention stands out as the one show that gives people a real idea of what addition is all about. For anyone who has lived through any kind of addiction, and for those who have had to live with someone who has an addiction, the show can be difficult to watch. Addition and bipolar disorder seem to run in my family. Also, for whatever reason, I seem to be drawn to those who struggle, so many scenarios on the show seem almost too familiar. Watching people's lives get ripped apart by addiction is upsetting. There's no doubt about that. Even though there is a sense of knowing that some of the people who have to step out of the addict's life do so to protect themselves from heartbreak and emotional damage, it's difficult and painful to see. And while it's easy to understand on an intellectual level, it's not as easy to apply in real life. Sometimes I'm convinced that there are no set rules around the best way to recover from an addiction. There's at least one theme that seems to run through the show though- it's that the addict generally feels tremendous guilt, feels helpless and generally feels unloved, despite often having many family members and friends who care.

Yesterday I had a rare rough day. I wasn't feeling well, and let it get to me on all levels. Today is better. Still, I somehow think that because I came through an addiction, I should be able to help others through one. But I'm finding out it doesn't quite work that way. Then again, one never knows what it will be that will trigger something in an addict's head. I was thinking back, and while everyone will tell you it has to be the addict's choice to get well, I think for me, I just got tired of hurting those around me. It was a conversation with my sister that really triggered something in me right before I had this urge to change. She expressed her anger and sadness at losing her sister all those years to a terrible illness. Rather than feeling a perceived disappointment that I had always assumed my family members felt toward me, I felt her sadness. And my mom had been dealing with my crap all along too. I can only imagine how tired she must have been. Things were different with my dad. We could tell him how his alcoholism affected us, but, because he was so drunk much of the time, I don't think he experienced his episodes in the same way as those around him did. There was an emotional disconnect or something, so that an episode wasn't experienced by him in the same way as actually being fully present. I'm guessing he didn't even remember much of the things he did, so how could he have an emotional response to it? My dad never gave up drinking, but I'm convinced that there's always hope. I don't know if this is foolish or sensible optimism, but I know that there are people in this world who are addicted to everything from heroin to food who overcome their addictions. Never lose hope. Even when the doctors told my mom that I wasn't going to make it through the night, she held onto a thread of hope. And I did make it.

This is a bit disjointed, but that's kind of how I'm feeling lately.The one thing I need to do is not get too caught up in TV, and get some fresh air. Those shows can be incredibly depressing!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Being in the moment.

These days, it seems that everyone is into extreme multitasking. I have no idea why this makes me think of one of my favorite youtube videos, Powerthirst.  That always makes me laugh. Anyway, when the trend is driving, texting, and having a conversation all at the same time, it's hard to find times where one can be in the moment. As a runner, much of my energy was spent visualizing the future. This included seeing in my mind how a race would resolve, anticipating where to push it on the course and calculating when to eat, so that stomach issues wouldn't occur. Of course after the race, it was all about how things could have been better, or how the race was in comparison to other races. During the race though, there were more in the moment moments. In rare cases, it became almost an out of body experience, where, not only was it about being in the moment, but there was also a sense of connectedness with the world around. People say that this is how children experience their environment, with no thoughts of the future or past, just the here and now.

Time gets even more distorted with an eating disorder. So much energy and focus is wasted on meal planning, and then regretting having consumed the meal after. It's so much nicer to be able to enjoy a bite to eat, and let it go or even feel good about it after.

I noticed that many recovery books on eating disorders and on dieting too have "breaking free" in the title. I assume it's because having food issues is like being in chains when you're struggling, and recovery feels like you're breaking out of them. Actually, for me, coming out of an eating disorder felt more like emerging from the depths of Hell and despair. Looking back, much of my life in the chains of the illness is a bit hazy. Mostly I remember being miserable. It was an interesting concept to think about being in the moment, and something I hadn't been doing. A book that maybe takes this concept a tad too far, but still offers some sound advice and definitely helped me is Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth.

In the book, Geneen talks about really getting in touch with your hunger. While I just mentioned getting in touch with your passion in the last post, this is more focused on knowing what hunger and body sensations really are, and being able to know the difference between feeling a vague "hunger" and actually needing food. So often we eat for any reason other than actually being hungry. We eat to celebrate, to console ourselves when we are sad, to shove our anger down or out of boredom. It's actually OK to do this on some level, but it's important to be aware when we do.

Geneen offers all kinds of exercises to help get in touch with hunger, and if we all lived on a quiet mountain top surrounded by blue skies and chirping birds, we might actually be able to eat only when we're hungry and stop when we are full, a big problem for some, especially those of us who were told starving children in Africa would die if we didn't clean our plate. Sorry, the world doesn't work like that. Sometimes we have to eat for the hunger to come. If we know our shift at work is 5 hours and there's no time for a break that day, sometimes it's just fine to eat a bite before leaving, even though real hunger hasn't yet hit. It's also fine to celebrate with a piece of your niece's birthday cake, even though you're not all that hungry after lunch. As long as we're not completely oblivious to our hunger, eating when not hungry can be OK in moderation. The big key is to know the difference.

Here's a fun little experiment. Take two chocolate kisses, and eat one randomly. Don't think about it, just pop it in your mouth at any given time and eat it. A little later, take the other one and unwrap it. Look at it, smell it, and after some focus, put it in your mouth. Let it sit a little bit before you start to chew. Think about the texture, the taste and how you might describe it to someone. Now, which one tasted better? When we focus on our food and are aware of our eating, our bodies respond to food differently. It becomes easier to tell when we are hungry and full if we are present in our bodies. That's why some people will suggest turning off the television and avoiding other distractions during meals.

Being aware and present can apply to other areas of life as well. It doesn't have to be about food and hunger only. It's often hard to not get distracted. I'm checking out my facebook profile as I type this. heh. Well, my point is that being centered and aware can help with many issues related to eating disorders. Not only does it help with feeling the body's actual needs, it helps with some of the anxiety that can arise around meals. One important thing I learned in the hospital when I was there so long ago is that feelings can get confused with body sensations. It takes time to separate feeling fat (my code word for anything from I'm angry, hurt  or upset to I feel worried and unloved) from feeling full from eating. I used to hate the term "food feelings", but it's important to address feeling that can come up after or around eating. A good little trick I learned when I start feeling confused between the various hungers in life is HALT. Well, obviously it's good to take a moment and stop to think, but it's code for possible things that might be going on other than real hunger. Am I truly Hungry? Or an I Angry, Lonely or Tired? Any of these other emotions can cause one to feel hungry when the body isn't actually in need of food. These feelings can also be triggers that will lead to an increase of the disordered eating, whether it's overeating or starving, so it's important to know the difference between real feelings and those that mimic hunger.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Going for it

My head is a bit of a mess today-too much chocolate and not enough sleep, I guess, so it's probably not the best time to blog. However, I have been thinking quite a lot about this recovery thing and want to get some things on the screen.

First, I want to thank the people who have reached out, commented and emailed about this blog. I'm hoping it's striking a chord with people. The National Eating Disorders Association recently stated that 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder. Those are some scary statistics, so it's more important than ever to promote the idea that recovery is possible.

Having gotten through an exceptionally severe case of anorexia, it seems natural that I would want to help others. While I'm not a therapist, there's something to be said for having the experience of going through it. On the other hand, it's a little bit like jumping off a diving board. You can tell people about it, offer advice on the best landing, describe how it feels, and give step by step instructions on how you did it, but to actually do it is something entirely different. I've had this thought that rather than seeing recovery as having to follow certain rules or looking a certain way, it could be that it's more individual. Everyone's path is going to look different.

On that note, I have to address some problems with the way most hospitals were run when I was struggling. Hopefully some of that has changed over the years. If anyone has seen the movie Thin, you know how difficult a hospital stay can be for someone with an eating disorder. By the way, Thin, is pretty much like the book Wasted in terms of offering little hope. I've know a few people who couldn't watch the entire thing, because it was so depressing. I forced myself to watch, but it was difficult and about as comfortable as sitting in a cactus. Really, it was almost painful to watch as one girl got kicked out of the hospital, while her mother begged staff to let her stay. Ironically, she was one of the girls who ended up doing better in the end.

What I see as one of the bigger issues in eating disorder programs is the whole control aspect. Pretty much any anorexic will tell you there are control issues involved with an eating disorder. Generally, one or more areas of your life feels out of control, so taking control in another eases some of the anxiety and offers a false feeling of power. When entering an eating disorder facility, the power and control is immediately taken away. I thought it was entirely fucked up when a friend of mine who has struggled for years told me that in the hospital where she was, they wouldn't let her combine her foods. For example, if she had cereal, she couldn't mix it with her yogurt. Way to throw in some more weird rules around food there people! I don't believe this could solve anything. Now, don't get me wrong, because I understand that an eating disorder is about food. Part of the solution is to eat more, of course. However, what really needs to be addressed are the core issues that are underneath all that.

Some time ago, I read the book, Regaining your Self-Breaking Free From the Eating Disorder Identity By Ira m Sacker. I can't say that I agree 100 percent with everything in the book, but it offers great insight into a better approach to recovery, a much better approach. One idea is that, rather than focus on food issues and eating, try to rediscover the things that make you you. That sounds funny. More accurately, what is your passion? What fires you up and gets you going? What do you like and dislike? WHO ARE YOU?? So often, we get lost in our illness, and identify with a certain label. But the truth is that you are not your illness. You might have to share your body with it at times or for a time, but it's not WHO you are. It doesn't have to define you.

One great exercise is to write a list of things you love. Even if it's movies or books, just get back in touch with the things that get you excited. Take 10 minutes and just write. Speaking of exercises, here's a hard one-well, it was hard for me: Stand in front of the mirror, and looking into your eyes, say out loud, "I am beautiful." This is a tough one that so many people struggle with. In fact, Dove did a survey once and found that women are extremely reluctant to describe themselves as beautiful. They will pick sexy, cute, healthy etc.. over beautiful. So it's a good one to address. Funny, that for years I could see beauty in everyone but myself. Funny too that self acceptance actually takes work for some.

Well, I'm rambling a bit and in desperate need of a shower here. I'm dashing off in mid thought in a way, but there are still a few good tips here that I hope people can use.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


People often ask me if I'm "normal" now. In my case, it's not so black and white. While some people believe that once you have an eating disorder, you will always have it, statistics prove otherwise. When I was in the hospital, years and years ago, I, like so many other anorexics, became the model patient. At least on the surface it appeared so. The reality is that I was a perfectionist and aiming for that top 5% (these days I've read it can be as high as 20%) of people who fully recover, but I was still a rebel deep down. I relapsed hard after I got back in the real world where there's nothing to protect you from the stress of living. Eventually, I did get better though. I had a resistance to 12 steps and groups where the main goal seems to be stewing in the past and in problems, issues and all kinds of hurt. I know AA has helped many people and even saved a friend of mine, but it wasn't for me. Back when I was struggling, there weren't many resources or much hope. It was either turn your life over to god (not so great an option for an agnostic who was raised by an atheist) or stay sick. So, I fumbled through my own recovery. I remember reading the book Wasted, hoping for some answers. Man, that's about the most depressing piece of written material one can find. After reading it, I thought I must write a book if I ever recover, just to let people know that it doesn't have to be that bad and that hopeless. So when people ask if I am fully recovered, I have to answer that it's all relative. See, I never related to food in a normal way, even as a child, so how would I know what normal is? I can say that I'm more "normal" now than I ever have been, but maybe someone looking in might not say that I'm all that normal.I say that considering where I've been, relative to that, yeah, I'm normal.

I do believe that a full recovery is possible. While at times it seems there is a trend of a backward spiral down for women with more objectification and more both subtle and blatant put-downs (see the Killing us Softly series for more information about how women are perceived in advertising:, there's a counter trend of women who are trying to take a stand. I admire what I like to call the anti-anorexia mafia. This unorganized group is comprised of women who buck the system by saying, "no, you can't dictate what I look like" to the media. A good example is a small but effective group of young women who decided to try something different. In a grand gesture of taking a stand against the fashion industry that has often promoted models who are far too thin, this group decided to take matters into their own hands. They inserted positive affirmations into magazines next to images of models they felt were too thin. Instead of facing an image of impossible beauty- overly air-brushed and touched-up, readers were faced with positive messages such as: You are not a number on the scale, You are beautiful the way you are, Don't let anyone dictate how you look etc. I love it. We need more movements like this. Speaking of great movements, there's a wonderful organization in Boulder called the Boulder Youth Body Alliance This is a group dedicated to helping teens address issues about weight, body image and the messages they receive about what they are "supposed" to look like.

Slight left turn...hang on!

When I first saw Diane's film, Beauty Mark  I thought it was a bit like seeing my book on the screen. I mentioned before that Diane and I had similar pasts. I believe that both of us are trying to reach out to others, so that those struggling don't feel so alone. Both my book and her film offer hope, rather than promote this idea that there is no such thing as recovery. This goes for any addiction, not just eating disorders. The longer one stays in recovery, the easier it becomes. Sometimes I even forget to be anorexic or forget that I ever struggled so badly. But there are still some triggers, and I have to be aware. I think the key is to know where that line is that crosses into addiction, and to be completely honest, especially with oneself. Honestly has always been key in recovery. There's no way around it.

I was telling a friend recently that I once went to a therapist who told me that I would either stay anorexic or gain weight and hate my body. I thought, "really? Those are my two choices?" It didn't seem right, so I immediately thought, "fuck that. I'll show you!" and set out to prove him wrong. Eventually, I found great examples of people of all shapes and sizes who were just fine with their bodies. And I have to say that I like my body a hell of a lot more now than I ever did at 80lbs. Oddly, at 80lbs I was constantly feeling fat and fretting about gaining weight, afraid every moment that I would somehow balloon to a huge size. What a crazy illness. So to go back to the question of whether or not I'm normal, I think it's all relative. Considering how bad it got for me, I'd say that I'm pretty well into that normal range with my issues these days. Sometimes I fret about too many desserts or not enough vegetables, but, especially living in Boulder, I know I'm not alone in that. Oh my, the restrictions Boulderites put on themselves. whewww. Hey, yesterday I lived on the edge and ate cookies- yes, that means dairy, wheat AND sugar! I'm such a rebel.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Round two

Wow. It has been a long, long time since I last blogged. The good news is that my manuscript is finished. The not so good news is that my agent is still shopping it around, and looking for a publisher to grab it. In the meantime, I thought it was a great idea to start a new blog. I had some encouragement from some ultra cool people on this.

For those of you who don't know, my manuscript is my life story. More than that, it's a look at recovery from an eating disorder and a look at addiction in general. Sometimes it seems incredibly difficult to be a part of the world, and while there's no pill, cure or grand plan for recovery from addiction, there is hope.

Diane Israel, the creator of the film, Beauty Mark, and I sometimes do some radio interviews and public speaking on eating disorders. I love Diane. We're like twins in the way we have gone through life- both world class athletes who struggled with eating disorders that nearly killed us. About a month ago I ran into her on the trails. I was limping around on a stress fracture, and she was having some hormonal issues. I had to laugh, because I still sometimes fight it. She and I both do. And we both still suffer from some of the longer lasting effects of having an eating disorder. After that, I decided to take real time off to allow my foot to heal, and Diane went to see a Dr. about her hormone imbalance. While I often feel completely recovered from this eating stuff, I also sense it lurking. This time around I have choices though. It wasn't like that in the past.

I'm keeping this first post short. When I look back on all I've been through, I have to say, "Wow, what a ride." I see so many people struggling these days. The world seems to be more chaotic than ever, and the news gets stranger and stranger on a daily basis. It's essential for me to keep sight of those who can offer support and have a sense of humor. Sometimes my best therapy is getting wrapped up in a conversation with a friend or listening to some sweet music.

Because I have been to Hell and back with my eating disorder and other challenges after that, I feel it's almost my duty to offer help in the form of experience to anyone else out there struggling. Diane always brings up the shame and embarrassment that surrounds an eating disorder. It shouldn't be that way. I see it more as a way that someone chose to cope. Something got so out of hand that controlling food seemed an appropriate response. But it doesn't work long term. If I can offer anyone anything, it would be that finding new coping mechanisms doesn't have to be painful and hard. I hope my book can offer some guidelines and suggestions on how to better cope with the stresses that can lead a person down such a destructive path.

Hey, I almost forgot. I'm Lize, and this is my shiny new blog! Woot!!  :)