I know you all probably get sick of me talking about recovery but jeezus, after many years of 3 steps forward, 1 step back, I finally feel like I’m on the other side of this war and every time I compare myself now to myself before I’m just shocked and I want to keep documenting it in case anyone else is still in the trenches and needs a glimmer of hope.
When I used to train for long races and have long runs, I’d need to bring fuel to get through the distance. I never really got “hungry” – most long-distance runners don’t while they’re running – but you need to fuel anyway. So they make these items you can take…nutrition gels, gummies etc. I would, honestly, count calories to make sure I taking no more than HALF of the calories I was burning because I’d want to make sure I finished my run with a deficit. I wasn’t listening to my body, I was counting calories even on a 20-mile long run.
And then…that night I would always post a picture of something…usually me drinking a beer with a caption, “Ran 20 miles today! Really earned this beer!” I actually searched for the phrase “earned beer” on my Facebook photos and 15 photos popped up. AND THIS WAS ALL COMPLETELY NORMAL. When I was doing an actual race and I didn’t know what items there would be at aid stations, I would try to keep track of calories: One handful of pretzels, one cup of Powerade, one orange slice…and so on. Sometimes I would be disappointed in myself if I ingested as many calories as I burned afterwards. WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT, AMIRITE?
I look at all of that now and it feels soooooo foreign.
This weekend I set out on a long hike. I signed up for a race in October and there’s a 3-hour cutoff. It’s course that runs from the bottom of one of our mountains, to the top, and back down again. I might jog a little of the downhill because I like running downhills, but I don’t want to plan on it so I set out this weekend to hike the course to see if there was any way I could make the cutoff just hiking.
(I don’t care if I make cutoff, I get the hoodie the day before! I just like to warn the people that I won’t so they don’t worry if I’m not there in 3 hours.)
Anyway…I threw a variety of snacks in my bag and headed out the door. I didn’t think about the calories in my bag versus the calories burned. I just opened one of the snacks when I got hungry. THAT WAS IT. It was so easy.
And you know what else I didn’t think about? I didn’t think about the calories I needed to burn off from the day before, or from breakfast. I also didn’t think about the calories I was earning and how I would spend those. I actually never did any math in my head about calories or miles or anything. And I can not tell you how often I did that math for YEARS. Like…I would count and recount to make sure I hadn’t miscounted. It would be the math I would do in my head on a long run to pass the time. And then I would choose my meals accordingly later. A 1,000 calorie deficit? WE ARE TALKING FRENCH FRIES AND BEER TONIGHT!
I loved to run. I really did. I loved meeting goals and I loved time with my friends. But I also spend obsessive time and energy on counting calories and logging miles so that I would end up with net deficits because I was always…ALWAYS…trying to lose weight.
You know what else I didn’t think about? My body at all. Not even when I stripped off my shirt 2-miles in. Not even when I took selfies and timer-photos in just my bra. I was just a person in a body trying to document her hike to the top of the mountain in her back yard.
And I did it! I made it to the top. I did the whole course in about 3:15 which, considering how many pictures I took and how many Pokemon I caught and how many times I stopped for cyclists to pass…I actually probably could make the cutoff if I decide I want to care.
One more story from this weekend.
My kids had friends over and so I went to Dunkin Donuts for a dozen donuts. I got home and I ate one. ONE. I didn’t do math about fitness to see if I had earned that donut. And I didn’t categorize my day as “bad” because of that donut and binge 5 more. I didn’t deprive myself of it because I hadn’t run that morning. I ate the donut, and only one because now that I have a healthy relationship with food I can admit that too much refined sugar gives me BONKERS headaches. And then I moved on with my life, not thinking again about donuts the rest of the day as the box sat there with more donuts leftover. I would have never had the “willpower” to not eat more as they sat there all day because I had this weird good/bad food mentality and the temptations of some foods were so strong because I deprived myself of them. Whereas now that I don’t deprive myself of anything? I’m never “tempted” by anything.
Of course all of these changes did not happen over night. They took years and there was a lot of progress and then lost ground again as I retrained my brain and rebuilt a relationship with food and fitness that did not involve any quantitative or qualitative relationships. I’d say I seriously started a lot of this work in 2018 when I found a new therapist who brought it back to the forefront of my mental health focus. So…three years of real work and I’ve just been recently feeling like I’m seeing the other side?
And god…so many setbacks and triggers along the way.
I still have those, by the way. I had to tell my husband, who compulsively tracks his own calories and food, that he could not use the words “calories” or “weight” around me anymore. He doesn’t quite understand my journey but when I break it down for him like living with an alcoholic newly recovering and still constantly drinking around her, he kinda gets it. And I honestly have to mute people on Facebook who are logging their own weight loss journeys etc. I have learned what can push me back into the danger zone and I try my best to avoid those things.
But every time I can see so clearly how much healthier I am in regards to my eating disorder – I know it’s all worth it. I’m the biggest I’ve ever been but I don’t waste any time of my days worrying about weight or calories or food or fitness. I move my body how I like to move it (lately: Hiking and PokemonGo walks) and I eat the food that I want when I’m hungry.