It’s not easy to admit to other people that you have a problem. My problem is/was bulimia. Over the past six months I have made changes, difficult and scary changes, to get myself well again. Whilst I would not consider myself bulimic anymore, I do not have (and probably never will have) a comfortable relationship with food.
I am not your typical candidate for an eating disorder. I have impeccable grades, a fantastic job, a loving and supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and a handful of close knit friends. Most would describe me as sensible and level headed, if silly on occasions. I was the last person anyone would have expected to develop disordered eating – How did someone so smart get trapped by something as simple as food? I don’t know how it happened, and I’m not going to go into any great length about ED triggers or the role of society blah blah blah. It happened, and I am dealing with it.
I was never sick; my eating was characterised by a restrictive phase, followed by a binge/purge phase, and would carry on in this cycle. The purge phase consisted of excessive exercise and laxative abuse (yep…) whilst fasting. It’s the exercise element that I want to discuss now. My first half marathon, Run To The Beat, is 2 weeks today, and it’s somewhat of a big occasion for me.
I started exercising to lose weight. I had never, ever been interested in the gym or running prior to my efforts to lose weight. I signed up to a local gym and loved it – I guess I was depressed and became somewhat addicted to the exercise endorphins. I started running and entered a 10k race to motivate myself. I thought “long distance runners are skinny, so if I run long distance I will be skinny too”. Excellent beginnings for my life as a runner. I ran the 10k in 54 minutes and felt the happiest I had felt in months and months. I started running more often, now not only to lose weight but also because I enjoyed it. My problem was that I struggled with fuelling. Carbs were the enemy and anything over 150 calories at one time seemed monumental – I’m sure you can see how this didn’t end up in particularly fruitful running sessions.
My love for running was fighting with my disordered eating. I wanted to run and be brilliant, soak up the positive atmosphere at fun runs and float on the high of finishing a race. To do these things, you need energy (read:carbohydrates). When you are scared of carbohydrates, it’s quite tricky to eat carbohydrates. I remembered how motivating it had been to enter the 10k and so signed up for the Paris half marathon. A trip to Paris and a new distance to conquer – perfect. Or not. I couldn’t run. I had no energy. Eating more than 800 calories a day was a mental struggle, and I was always dehydrated from my ongoing love affair with ‘Senekot MAX STRENGTH’ and daily saunas to ‘sweat the fat out’. The time came, and I couldn’t run it. The race update emails taunted me. I felt deeply ashamed that I couldn’t take care of myself properly, and as such had missed out on such an amazing opportunity.
My failure to make it to Paris was a new start for me. I realised that life was just slipping by and that I didn’t want to be the one avoiding dinner dates and aimlessly wandering around supermarkets reading nutrition labels whilst my friends breezed through their youth without me. I made a resolution to get better. Signing up to Run to the Beat was part of that resolution.
Training for Run to the Beat has been more than just a programme to enable me to run 13.1 miles. It has been a complete overhaul of my life, and I cannot explain how brilliant it’s been. I started reading about nutrition, and taught myself how to feed and nourish my body. I learnt about metabolism, eating the right foods for training and recovery, about running technique, about pacing, about…everything! I immersed myself in the training programme, and over the last 10 weeks I have come a long way.
I am strong, fit and healthy.
I can run 14 miles.
I eat 1800-2000 calories a day.
(I have also lost half a stone, which just goes to show….)
With just two weeks to go, I am a whole mixed bag of emotions. I’m excited, nervous, frightened, happy, determined and then excited again. And then nervous some more. I am aiming to finish in under 2 hours, but won’t be beating myself up if I don’t make it in time. For me, finishing is not just about getting a medal and telling people I ran my first half. It’s proof that I am fit and healthy. Proof that I can look after myself. Proof that I have reclaimed my life. I can’t wait.