Triggers and fine lines

Marathon training is hard! No joke! After my 17 miler and stomach issues on Sunday I desperately needed a rest day by Monday.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 5.3 miles at 9.20 min/mile pace

Wednesday: 8.3 miles at 7.53 min/mile pace. Stomach issues completely gone!

Thursday: 4.2 trail miles at 9.50 min/mile pace + express yoga class. My legs felt really tired on this run. And my half-moon is still not happening. Getting closer but so awkward.

Friday: 1 hour strength training. Right leg slowly catching up.

Most of my gym hours are done in zombie mode – 6 AM is not conducive to human interaction. But this morning I noticed one of the summer regulars. I see this girl every time I’m at the gym, which is usually once, occasionally twice a week, and she is hitting the elliptical/treadmill like it’s going out of fashion. And every time I see her, I get flashbacks to college and watching one of my close friends being taken over by anorexia. Now, I don’t know personally know this girl and she could be perfectly healthy or have some health issues not obvious to a perfect stranger (and I know some people have a difficult time putting on weight and are shamed for being too thin) but seeing her is a trigger for me.

This trigger is seeing someone who is clearly exercising just to burn calories. Someone with no body fat but also no muscle definition. With that cover of downy hair, sunken eyes, wearing baggy clothes. It brings me back to the time when m friend turned into someone else – with no interest in ANYTHING. Literally fading away in front of my eyes. It was terrifying looking in from the outside so I can only imagine what it is like to live INSIDE. She did eventually “recover” (and I use this term lightly – this is a forever illness), but this period has made me hyper aware of the dangers of crossing that fine line into disordered behaviors. I periodically will check in with myself to make sure that the exercise/eating that I’m doing is healthy and not obsessive. That I shouldn’t feel guilty for missing a workout, or taking a little extra dessert. If you’re doing good 90% of the time then that is plenty good enough.

This brings me to something else that has been on my mind lately: trigger blogs. These are blogs that I read that are supposedly focused on healthy living but are clearly written by someone with disordered thoughts about exercise/food. I’ll often wonder if I’m doing enough by running only 35 miles a week. Crazy, huh? Then I’ll quickly wake up and realize that I’m following a well-tested marathon training plan with specific aims and one that includes designated rest days/workout days/crosstraining. No junk miles here.

And I know that I’m lucky that I can have these thoughts and almost immediately dismiss them, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky. These fitspo blogs can encourage compulsive/obsessive behaviors – and that is completely irresponsible. Sure, professional runners routinely log 100+ miles per week, but they also take naps during the day, sleep 9+ hours a night and replace ALL of those calories to fuel their training. All of those miles serve a purpose – and that just isn’t to burn calories – but to get faster, stronger or go longer.

This can also translate into “healthy” eating. To me, healthy eating mean eating a variety of fruit, veggies, grains, dairy – with nothing being off limits (unless you have an allergy, obviously). Personally, I think egg yolks are great to eat, you don’t need to make a cauliflower crust pizza, nutritional yeast has no place on human food and real pancakes are just fine. Balance is the key. By putting restrictions on food, creating “good” and “bad” foods it is easy to develop an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating – orthorexia. This is a lot easier to disguise as plain ol’ healthy lifestyle. But symptoms may include:

  • Planning their daily menu more than 24 hours in advance
  • Getting more pleasure from the perceived virtue of food than from actually eating it
  • Decreased quality of life as the focus on “better” quality food increases
  • Being increasingly rigid and self-critical about their eating
  • Defining self-esteem and self worth by the quality of food they eat
  • Having a lower opinion of people who do not eat what they deem healthy
  • Describing healthy food as “pure,” “proper,” or “correct”
  • Eating only at home where they have total control of the food, therefore withdrawing socially
  • Feeling guilt or self-loathing when they eat “incorrect” food

And I can see how that can happen. You cut out junk food and feel a million times better. Then you decide to cut out something else and maybe feel even better but at some point it becomes a fine line between eliminating certain foods from your diet and becoming constricted by a rigid set of rules about how to eat “right”.

As bloggers (and people!) I think that we have an obligation to check in with ourselves and make sure that what we are sharing with the world is positive. I love to exercise and to eat (and I am conscious of the food that I buy/prepare/eat) but I need to step back and make sure that I’m being responsible – for my own health and for anyone who might stumble across this blog.

Apologies in advance if I’ve offended anyone with this post but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while.

 

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11 thoughts on “Triggers and fine lines

  1. This is an important, and well said, post. I understand what it is like to be a small person, and to have people that probably think I just exercise to burn calories. I want to give you props for acknowledging that there might be another side to the story. Most people just make the assumption. And I will be honest, sometimes I too am guilty of doing the same thing. But I think that you are incredibly perceptive as well to reference the mental, not just the physical difference that differentiates from skinny and anorexic.
    Great post, you did an excellent job.

  2. Great post, and I agree with it entirely. Many running/fitness/healthy living blogs have questionable mindsets & definitions of health, and I’m sure that most people can think of a similar gym-goer at their own gym. It’s sad to see

  3. Great post! I have the same struggles too. I just try and do me and not focus on others or compare myself. I also try not to be “obsessive” about what I’m eating or if I skip a workout or something. BTW, good job on your workout! 17 miles?! Wow! 🙂

  4. Interesting perspective and I completely respect your opinion. I would note, from my personal experience, that “diet”, meaning what I consume on a regular basis, is very much individual and personal to me. I call my style of eating MY feel good diet. Meaning I eat the things that make me feel good and avoid the things that don’t. And it is ever evolving. In a large way, I’m trying to find the balance of eating optimally that allows me to perform my very best as an athlete but more so, create optimal wellness for the duration of my life. Am I allergic to dairy? No, but I’m a little grossed out by it and feel better without it. Same for gluten. I love to experiment and create recipes with what are considered superfoods because I’m curious about their potential benefits but I also happen to love chia seeds, maca, and, brace yourself, nutritional yeast for both its taste and because it is high in protein, B vitamins, and many minerals, to name a few. The biggest issue I see, in my opinion, is that we (society) are constantly trying to categorize eating styles… low-fat, low-calorie, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, raw, paleo, etc., I believe in eating whole foods that are minimally processed, loads of vegetables and fruit, and balancing that with the occasional treat… like chocolate. ; ) Great post!

  5. Such an important subject to address! The fitness world is a haven for eating disorders and unhealthy mindsets toward food and/or exercise. I’ve never really thought about it before in regards to my own blog, but I think it’s awesome you feel a sense of responsibility to share or convey a positive and healthy attitude towards fitness. Haha I hope I do!

    Oh and congrats on 17 miles! It’s getting real!!

  6. Well said. I was JUST today thinking about a woman I used to see at the gym every day. She was on the elliptical for hours and carried this big jug of some colored drink. During a long run I was thinking about her and how I worried about her and wondered if she was still there. She was on the machine for hours and I just wanted to hug her. She was the tiniest thing. I know I obsess about calories and miles at times but I honestly run because I love it. We all need to check in at times and remember. Great post!

  7. This is such an important topic, and a great posit covering it. There is a fine line between exercising for the love of being healthy and an obsession that can spiral into an illness. I think we all need a reminder to check in with ourselves to make sure our minds are as healthy as our bodies.

  8. Great post. This brings me back to the days when I had a “healthy lifestyle” Tumblr account, and got really caught up in that community. It took me 3 months of feeling like a fat slob to realize that I wasn’t the one with the problem. I deleted my account and never went back.

    My sister has struggled with disordered eating, and your description of orthorexia is spot-on. It’s so hard to watch someone struggle, and I’m sure it’s infinitely harder to be the person going through that struggle. I strive for balance, and it will always be a challenge for me, but I want to be a good example for my sister.

  9. I agree with everything you’ve said. Starting with the girl at your gym…I had a trigger person at my Bikram class. Skin and bones and took the class wearing long sleeved Under Armour. It really took me back to some scary times in my life.

    There are definitely some blogs and message boards that have triggered for me as well. I had to leave a Facebook board due to so many people making posts like “CONFESSION! I ATE CAKE! TEE HEE!” I just couldn’t take it anymore.

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