Training on Empty
Dedicated to my mother, Janine Brittin.
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Copyright 2012 Lize Brittin
All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the author.
Thank you for respecting the author's work.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by Lorraine Moller
Chapter 1: My So-Called Life
Chapter 2: Welcome to the Real World
Chapter 3: Growing Up Is Hard
Chapter 4: Saying No
Chapter 5: A New Me
Chapter 6: Tricks of the Trade
Chapter 7: Running on Empty
Chapter 8: The Running Years
Chapter 9: Women in Sports
Chapter 10: On M & M’s
Chapter 11: The Making of an Anorexic
Chapter 12: Brittin Won
Chapter 13: Over the Edge
Chapter 14: The Comeback
Chapter 15: Tonya
Chapter 16: Males and Eating Disorders
Chapter 17: My Secret
Chapter 18: The Stress of It All
Chapter 19: Rest
Chapter 20: New Beginnings
Chapter 21: Regret
Chapter 22: My Mom
Chapter 23: The Fundamental Flaw
Chapter 24: It’s All in Your Head
Chapter 25: Lost
Chapter 26: Fear
Chapter 27: Britta Kallevang
Chapter 28: The Long Road
Chapter 29: Leap of Faith
Chapter 30: Living to Die
Chapter 31: Bobby
Chapter 32: The End Result
Chapter 33: A Perfect Example
Chapter 35: A Holistic Approach
Chapter 36: How Lucky I Am
Chapter 37: Conclusion
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Athletic competition is a heroic journey. The late scholar Joseph Campbell, himself an athlete, brilliantly describes the path of the hero in his book, Hero of a Thousand Faces. The seeker, in the quest for the fulfillment of a dream, ventures into the unknown. Whether the prize sought is as lofty as an Olympic gold medal or as modest as completing one’s first 5k race it becomes in itself the representation of something of greater inherent value – the process of personal transformation that springs from accepting and loving a part of self that previously remained in shadow. The excitement to go into new territory soon leads one face to face with the limitations of the status quo – once committed the onus is on the seeker to remake her/himself or collapse into the hell of an unrealized life.
Recently I was a guest speaker at a Women’s Quest Retreat, run by my colleague and lifelong friend Colleen Cannon. The women that come to these week-long fitness adventures are typically successful middle-class, self-aware, body-conscious, mothers, sisters and daughters. This evening I thought to ask how many of them liked their bodies. I expected at least half. I was shocked when of the 28 participants only 2 raised their hands. Interestingly enough those two hands did not rise from the young, sleek beauties, but from two of the senior women who had taken the heroic journey, perhaps many times. On the subject of their earthly vehicle they had finally come to rest at a point of appreciation. The other women all wished for a physical composition other than the one they possessed.
The human body, male or female is an astonishing piece of machinery, which we are told is made in the image of the Creator. You just can’t get much better than that. So what is this mantle of depreciation and deprecation that the majority of modern women don that makes them feel self-hatred at their own image?
If we go way back we can see that ever since Eve got blacklisted for giving Adam an apple, women have had a hard time getting their rightful esteem throughout history. Coupling with this undervaluation of the feminine is an overvaluation of the male attribute of aggression through the sustained misappropriation of youthful testosterone into acts of war. The masculine/feminine relationship remains polarized to this day, massively leaking the ingredients of potential miracles.
While the see-saw of gender roles and responsibilities greatly shifted in the 20th century this polarity remains. The car and TV as household items have ushered in the nuclear family for western civilization and we have hailed the pill as the liberation of women and the breakdown of sexual stereotypes. But there has been a trade-off. When women made the inroads into the affairs of men the status of her biologically-mandated role as nurturer took a hit. Institutions took over the role of grandmothers, moved birth out of the hands of midwives into the surgical units of hospitals, and separated babies from their mothers after delivery. The symbol of Mother, the breast, was deemed inferior to the bottle; human milk inferior to a cow’s. In the 70’s economics shunted women out of the home into the workforce en masse, and children into daycares. The family garden plot went to high-rise condos and the source of food became a supermarket. Home-made soup alchemized with mother’s loving hands has now been supplanted with a plethora of pseudo-foods imbued with cold steel and a profit margin behind them. Consequently most western societies suffer from a deficiency of the most basic building block of physical and emotional development that sets us up for health, happiness and the fulfillment of our potential – Mothering. We have been duped, and earthlings are in real trouble because of it.
Our fundament, Mother Earth, has slid to the bottom of totem pole. Her denunciation is a meme personalized through the bodies of women – a miserable slab of granite formed over eons, to which both genders are shackled. Anorexia, bulimia, fatness and thinness, the shrouding and mutilation of women, addiction to superficial forms of beauty, and myriad ways in which women are debased, belong to us all. Sadly this issue has been largely cloaked with secrecy, and inadequately confined to the realm of the individual, rather than addressed collectively. All this brings me to a time where I encounter 26 out of 28 fit, healthy, modern women who are deeply ashamed of their bodies. Among them and behind them is a silent epidemic of girls and women living in a land of unprecedented material supplies who do not even feel entitled to the essential right to feed themselves adequately.
The exploration of the athletic potential of the female body has and will continue to be a face-off with this dense paradigm. Invariably it is one of those obstacles encountered by any woman who undertakes the heroic journey in an athletic arena, as Lize Brittin did. A brilliant young athlete full of hope for a top career, Lize hit the rock at full speed. It almost killed her. Lize’s story is both heart-rending and inspiring. But more importantly her journey of self-discovery so candidly delivered and interspersed with practical and meaningful guidance, offers a unique road-map of the eating-disorder territory, especially for athletic women. The dilemma of the act of running as both savior and executioner is harrowing to read, as are her flirtations with death in an excruciating slow suicide attempt by starvation. But even in despair Lize’s spark shines through with courage and intelligence. Her eventual apotheosis of learning to surrender to the feminine deserves nothing short of a standing ovation.
With this fascinating and informative memoir a big chunk of granite has been broken off, a women’s soul restored to life, and a call to others to take the heroic journey resounds. As a society the job is not done until the last piece of the monolith has been chipped away and transmuted into a new paradigm where the magnificence of our physicality, male and female, is freely nurtured and expressed without apology.
Olympic Marathon Bronze medalist
Author of On the Wings of Mercury
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