Wednesday, February 23, 2011


When I was in the throes of my illness, I didn't allow anyone to take pictures of me. I'm still horribly camera shy. In my book, I go into more detail about that. I did have to get one picture taken for my driver's license. Unfortunately, it was stolen, so now there's an image of me floating around where I'm looking all sickly and jaundiced. In one of my early posts, I explained that I never had any sense of normal when it comes to food. I'm far more "normal" now than I ever have been. However, I assume people will toss judgments, project their own issues and possibly look with a critical eye at me when it comes to my posts and my recovery. I actually welcome any and all opinions, and I truly appreciate any suggestions or input. So far, I have been incredibly grateful that the responses have been primarily positive and supportive. I can't thank people enough for that.

I do want to say that I honestly understand that eating disorders can be a tricky topic, especially for those still struggling. What I'm hoping people will see is my intention behind all of this. As stated before, I really really REALLY don't want anything related to my blog or my interviews to potentially trigger anyone's issues. Diane and I have continually said that our goal is to reach people, offer hope to others and allow people to open up and talk about something that is often considered taboo. I am definitely all for free speech, but there's something to be said about responsible speech. I truly am making an effort to think about my words before posting- minus a few snarky or funny comments, of course.

For those who think that the mere mention of an eating disorder is enough to "trigger" their issues, I would say the same thing that another thoughtful poster suggested-Step away from the computer! And anyone who might be on the verge of an eating disorder or who is already in the muck and the mire, I honestly hope that my posts will be of some benefit. It took some serious debate and consideration to start this blog. I hesitated writing it at all, but the potential to reach someone in need was too great to not do it. Already, I have had a few people mention that my manuscript has allowed them to better understand the illness, so I'm hoping my blog will do the same. To me, that's something. I know that when I was in a living hell, the people who inspired me were those who had overcome the illness and also those who had at least learned to live more comfortably with it.

Speaking of being inspired, I know I mention Diane Israel quite often, but she really did help me so much when I was struggling. She also attempted to help me when I wasn't ready for it. My friend, Heather was another person who completely changed my life. She was there for me when I was at my worst. Bobby McGee was also someone who really stepped up to offer me guidance when I needed. He was the one who taught me that I was an OK person whether I ran or not. I was lucky to have the support and love of many people around me.

Getting back to the topic, I have to say that my blog picture was taken shortly after I had emergency gall bladder surgery. I was, indeed, a tad on the thin side, as someone has already noted. A guy I was dating quite a few years ago took some images to possibly use for my book or blog that related to eating disorders and running. To those who think that picture makes me appear anorexic, I would remind them that that's about 25 pounds heavier than my lowest weight, slightly lower than my current weight, and slightly heavier than my weight when I was running in high school. In other words, it's all relative. I would hope that people realize that how I relate to food and the world is what this is all about, not a number on the scale. I happen to like the picture, which is rare for me, so I will be leaving it as is.

The last clarifications I have to make are in regard to two things I said in the interview I did with an a running coach. While trying to neither defend nor condemn my high school coach, I will say that anorexia wasn't well understood when I was first diagnosed. In fact, I hadn't ever heard the term when I first started having issues. I was sick before I went into the running program in high school. That being said, there's no doubt that some of the girls and I felt pressure to run well and be at a low weight. Whether it was internal pressure or a combination of internal and external pressure is hard to say. I do believe that a good coach can steer an athlete in a healthier direction when needed. There's no doubt that a coach can be incredibly influential.

The other clarification I wanted to make is regarding Colleen Cannon. I mentioned that Colleen didn't listen to her coaches who told her that she needed to lose weight. I also mentioned her eating ice cream despite her coaches wanting her to lose weight. This was about her taking a stand, allowing her body what it craved and needed, and running well despite the complaints from her coaches that she would be better off losing weight. She did not get to the top of her sport by chowing down on ice cream, but she was strong enough to know that she could eat some if she craved it and still run well

That's it for now. .

Thanks again to everyone reading my blog. I definitely hope to inspire people, not encourage any kind of disordered thinking or behavior. I know the darkness of being in the midst of an eating disorder. I also know what it is to be on the other side of that. My hope is that fewer people will have to go through the pain and suffering associated with an eating disorder the more we can talk about it, examine the causes and explore possible solutions.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Hair on my Foot.

I got stuck in the shower the other day. It was slightly embarrassing. There's a little step and a ledge leading into the shower, so when I went in, I did so with my walking boot on, thinking it would be easy to leave it just outside the door. The only problem was when I put it outside, I sort of tossed it, and it fell over, making it impossible for me to grab. Fortunately, someone came to rescue me after I showered and called for help. I hate asking people for things. Even though I knew it was either crawl out of the shower on my hands and knees or yell for help, it took some serious consideration before I was able to make the decision to ask for help. So often I get into that "I'll do it myself" mode, that I forget how nice it can be when someone steps up to help. Still, I find it difficult to ask. I'm always hoping people can read my mind and intuit what I need.

Everything seems to be coming up the longer the foot recovery drags on and on and onandon. All the issues that are usually gone or very much in the background are dancing near me lately. The guy I'm seeing keeps telling me what a good job I'm doing, knowing where I have been and how hard this must be on me. Maybe he's right, especially in the sense that I haven't stopped eating, eaten several pints of chocolate fudge chunk ice cream, tried to hop 3 hours for exercise or gone to any other extremes. I am feeling a little soft and chubby, but I'm also trying to cut myself a little slack, knowing it's harder to cut back on the extra peanut butter when everything else seems so fucking hard right now. I just need to keep breathing when these fears crop up like that.

Lately I've been grabbing bits of inspiration and insight from others. As I continue on this weird and painful journey with my foot, I see some of my old issues popping up here and there, mostly fear around losing control. I've been careful to watch the irrational fear of getting fat. It's funny that I can know on one level that I'll be fine, but freak out on another from time to time when I feel like I don't have control over how much I can exercise. It's kid of cool how far I have come though. Despite being somewhat hard on myself on so many levels, I can see that I'm managing much better than I would have in the past. It's true too that this is an exceptionally extreme situation. It's not often that an injury would be this limiting. So, I'm giving myself a pat on the back for dealing, Despite the occasional GRRR moment, I still think I could wear one of those "I beat Anorexia" Tee-Shirts. I know there are those who think that once you have an eating disorder, you always have one, but I say fuck that. It doesn't hurt to be aware, but I believe people get over their issues...and then new ones come to the surface! Heh.

The focus of this blog has been primarily on recovery. I'm sticking with that at the moment, but I will be opening my blog up to other areas. My book deals not just with eating disorders, but with running and life in general too. But for now, I'm going to focus on the recovery thing, because I really like what I have heard from other people lately. I wanted to share it. In the podcast I did, Julie asked us about interventions and whether or not they work. My response was that it's not so black and white. Dick Van Dyke, an alcoholic, said that people continually told him he needed help. He said that 100 people told him the same thing, and it wasn't until person 101 said the very same thing that something clicked. So, clearly, there's something about timing that goes hand in hand with healing and recovery.

When I was in the hospital, we had to attend several AA and OA meetings. I was never really into them, but I can see how they work for some, especially when there is work being done outside the meetings. I have several friends who swear that AA is what got them sober, so I trust it works for some. I have even gone to a few meetings to support their efforts, and I'm always happy to go. I find some parallels with eating disorders and alcoholism, though some insist they are worlds apart. I know that some of the things I hear from people who have been in recovery longer resonate with my experiences in recovery.

Recently, in one AA meeting, in regard to recovery, someone said, "First it gets better, then it gets worse, then it gets different and then it gets real." This is pretty much how it went for me as well. When I first stepped on that path, things were a little scary, somewhat exciting and promising, and I definitely felt hopeful. Then things got icky. It was a rocky road. Sometimes I wonder if I would have gone down that road if I had known how bad it was going to be. Now that I'm on the other side, I'd like to think I would have. It's the same with my foot. If I had know that it would be so painful and hard, would I have chosen to do the surgery? Probably, because the promise of something better makes it worth the initial pain. Plus, in terms of recovery, it doesn't have to be like that. My mom used to always ask me why I had to do everything the hard way. She's right that I do things the hard way, but I'm not sure why that is. Back to the saying, it did get worse, then different. It's hard to explain, but things shifted. I'm at the real part now. I guess when things were different, the eating disorder was still always lurking. When things got real is when life started happening. It wasn't a fairy tale ending. In fact, all of a sudden, a friend died, my dad died, I was working and I was a participant in the world. Another great saying I heard at a meeting was, "I now have problems in areas where I used to not have areas."

I can't figure out where to stick this next thought. It doesn't really fit in with the rest of what I wrote, but it's something I have been thinking about ever since I did the podcast for Running Times. Diane mentioned that there are some subtle traits that many people with eating disorders seem to share. Before I get into those, I have to mention the day of my surgery. I was all set to go, and the nurse was scrubbing down my foot with some kind of iodine solution, when all of a sudden she gasped and said, "oh no!" I'm thinking, "SHIT! There's something wrong, and I bet the surgery will be called off." It turned out there was a hair on my foot. Apparently, there was a really tiny hair growing out of my foot. Fortunately, I'm not a Hobbit, but this little hair was enough to cause alarm. There was a big debate whether or not to shave said hair, and it was finally decided that it was too small to be of any real consequence. Catastrophe averted. But it left me feeling slightly embarrassed. I immediately started fretting about how imperfect my foot is. Lately, I've been discovering how hard on myself I can be. I'm critical of everything from my graying hairs to my pale skin. Actually, I mention all this, because this is one of the traits- being overly critical. Some of the others include: Being overly sensitive, being overly emotional, having food sensitivities, having trouble expressing emotions and being selfless. There are some other more obvious underlying traits that people with eating disorders often share. These include: Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety. Often treating any or all of these traits can ease the symptoms of an eating disorder.

I've rambled on here. Enough for now.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Flavored cotton-balls

I kind of hit a low point with the foot thing today. I guess I'm just drained emotionally and tired of limping around on crutches. I didn't want to get out of bed today, so I finally forced myself up at just after 10AM. I promptly plopped myself in front of the computer, and I haven't really moved since. I long to just walk, go outside or even do things on my own. I'm frustrated. I can feel it wearing on me. It hasn't been easy to stay out of an emotional slide to darker areas.

Well, onto more interesting topics.

I watched a video clip of George Carlin on anorexia and bulimia. Not one of his funniest bits, but, as always, he has some insight on the matter. The emotional aspect is certainly lacking, and there's no doubt that it's hard for anyone to understand these strange illnesses. Clearly, addictions and eating disorders can make people do some really bizarre things.

In my book, I talk about food quirks. We all have them, but some are stranger than others. In the world of eating disorders though, these quirks, rituals and habits around food can get to an absurd point. I knew a girl who was afraid to swallow her own spit. She and I were in the hospital together. She kept having to go to the regular hospital, because she would pass out from dehydration. One of the worst things I heard was of a model who would soak cotton-balls in orange juice to eat. She claimed it filled her up without all the calories of a glass of juice. I could see some Hollywood chef taking this concept too far by starting the first ever anorexic restaurant, serving everything from spaghetti scented bowls of air to cocoa dusted cotton-balls for dessert. Speaking of models, I once had a photographer tell me I was too thin to be a model. That was before I got really sick. That must have been a first ever in modeling history. Actually, I'm glad to see that some designers are taking a stand, and require their models to be at a more healthy weight.

Please don't take any of this "advice" in the previous paragraph. The last thing I want to do is support any kind of "pro-anorexia" concept. Good lord, how fucked up is it that there are websites that encourage anorexics to keep going!? This I will never understand. It's as bad as the lady who is eating herself to death while people pay to watch her shovel a few more fried chicken pieces into her mouth. Yay for her and her poor kid, no? Carlin is right though - Here this is taking place while some poor guy is rummaging around in a trash can for anything resembling food, because he's living on the street and can't afford to eat. Sometimes the irony in life is a bit much.

I can only imagine how difficult it was for my mom to watch me not eat. I remember when I first became anorexic, she sat me down and forced me to eat an egg. She was screaming at me to eat the god damned egg, while I cried and tried to refuse. Eventually I gave in, ate the god damned egg in a fury of anger and promptly threw it up in the bathroom. My mom had lived in France during the war, so she experienced severe restrictions on food. She was inspired by Gone With the Wind where Scarlett claims she will never go hungry again. These became the words of my mother as well. To watch her own daughter starve herself was not only painful but a curiosity as well. She just couldn't understand it.

I hate when I do this. I get half way through a blog post, and I sort of lose steam. I could sit on it and finish later, but I think I'd rather save it and start another fresh blog post when I'm feeling more up to it. Next week will be better. The wind has died down a little bit, so I'm already feeling a little less frantic. Maybe I can even crutch around outdoors for a few minutes to get some fresh air. I should definitely move.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Left Foot

Wheww. It took longer than I expected to get over the surgery. I had this idea that I would be writing, reading, watching movies and chatting to people on the phone while sitting in bed with my foot on a pillow. It was more like me in bed taking pain meds every few hours, and dozing off between reading a very few pages of an easy read novel. No, it wasn't a romance novel!!. There was a minor complication that caused some severe pain with my foot, but I got through it. I haven't yet felt like I want to face the world very much lately though. I'm still on crutches, and feel a bit out of sorts. It has been a week without exercise too, so that makes me feel a bit weird.

I've listened to the podcast that I did with Diane, Dave and the host, Julie, a few times now. I could tell I was a bit more nervous than usual. I did want to elaborate on a few things that we brushed on in the podcast.

Recently I celebrated my birthday. I was all excited, because I got free cake! I went to Whole Foods, and couldn't find what I wanted. I was wandering around, and went back to the cake section to double check or pick some random cake, despite not finding what I wanted the first time. I bent down, and WAY in the back on the bottom shelf was a piece of decadent chocolate cake. BINGO!! So I took it up to the cashier, and it came out that it was my birthday. I was ultra psyched when she gave it to me for free! So, I started thinking, as I was enjoying some seriously yummy cake, how different this scene was from the one in the movie Thin, where this girl is forced to eat a cupcake on her birthday. The scene is filled with trauma, tears and fear as she sort of shoves the cupcake down in a hateful way. It's sad, because while the hospital staff force her to eat it, I kept thinking about how much better it would be if they could get her to a point where she wanted to enjoy a cupcake. Sadly, most hospitals don't work that way. Generally hospitals tend to set up an "us vs them" atmosphere right from the start. They get control to force "healing" on the patient, and the patient sits and waits until she can get out and go back to her old behavior.
Diane shared some really great pointers on what areas to address when in recovery. There are 4 main categories:

1. Reclaim the self/Identify the self.
2. Heal the family/Move away from the family (if healing can't occur)/Heal or address past trauma
3. Community support/community involvement
4. Give back/Charity/Service to others

When these areas are addressed, there's no need to force anyone to eat cake. In the book, The Secret Language of Eating Disorders, the author had tremendous success treating eating disorders by giving the girls in treatment unconditional love and support. Her approach might shock some, but the success rate of those who recovered was very high. Eating sessions were helped along by easing the fears around food. This included soothing touches, kind and comforting words and gentle encouragement from the staff. I just can't see how forcing someone to eat cake who is terrified to eat will be beneficial in any way.

It seems that the world has become so chaotic, that our brains aren't really equipped to deal with the constant input we receive. As things continue to spin out of control, we tend to search for ways to self regulate. If there has been trauma in the past, we also search for ways to self soothe. One way that we do this is through disassociation. As athletes, it's even more common to learn this trick, so that we don't have to fully embrace pain in life. In the athletic world, some disassociation is almost essential to get through tough workouts. However, there's a way to be fully present, and still train hard. It's a matter of being in touch with what the body needs. Our needs can become unclear when we are bombarded with advice, information, messages from the media and our own thoughts. It's essential, during times when things seem confusing and we feel out of balance, to return to the self for answers.

In short, returning to the self comes back to self identity, and the ability to reclaim who you are or define who you are. During the podcast, Julie posed a question that Diane and I answered regarding how hard the transition was going from an athlete to no longer racing. Diane and I both had a difficult time with that transition. For so long, we had identified with being athletes. Being an athlete was who I was. Letting go of that was one of the most difficult transitions I have ever had to face. All transitions can be difficult for people. Whether you are changing jobs, starting a family, grieving the loss of someone close to you or quitting smoking, stepping into a new role and leaving another behind can be a challenge. Going from being active to being injured is certainly a hard one for me at the moment. The less I fight it, the easier it becomes though. The more we can adapt, the better. Lorraine Moller, in her book about her life, On the Wings of Mercury, mentioned how hard it was for her to go from being an Olympic athlete to becoming a mother. It took quite a bit of self reflection, emotional work and letting go to make that transition. In the end though, different paths call us, and if we insist on refusing a new path, we miss out on so much of life.