NEDA Focuses on Athletes and Eating Disorders

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I hadn’t realized this was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and that in particular today is focused on Athletes … and by that they are not talking just about professionals – they are talking about US.

The focus today is on “Athletes and Eating Disorders”

Body image problems, disordered eating and full-blown eating disorders are common among athletes. Though most athletes with eating disorders are female, male athletes are also at risk—especially those competing in sports such as wrestling, bodybuilding, gymnastics, and running, which tend to place an emphasis on the athlete’s diet, appearance, size, and weight requirements.

In a study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, over one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms placing them at risk for anorexia nervosa (Johnson, Powers, et al, 1999). In weight-class and aesthetic sports about 33% of males and up to 62% of females are affected by an eating disorder (Thompson, PhD. 2010). The good news is that with information and awareness, coaches, parents and teammates can all play an important role in confronting eating disorders and ensuring that athletics are a positive experience for everyone.

Laura wrote a great post about this yesterday, and Meghan did as well today.

On Laura’s I wrote a comment: “I didn’t lose more than 100 pounds – twice – without being pretty messed up regarding my relationship with food.

I say I have ‘disordered thinking’ – and that it is PERMANENT.

And that is how I feel about eating disorders – they are like alcoholism except you have to eat every day. You are never cured of alcoholism, and I believe you are never cured of an disordered eating.

I am now at nearly 3 years within +/-5lbs of target, which for someone my size (6’1″, played line in high school football) is a pretty small and tight distribution. I eat 3 meals every day, enjoy chocolate and ice cream and pizza and even occasional fried foods. But as you mention, I am incredibly aware of what I am eating not just NEXT … but as a ‘5 day rolling average’ – and how it correlates with how I am feeling and my workout schedule.”

It took me until I was in my late 40s to realize that it was more than ‘just being weird about food’, or about being a ‘former obese person’, but that I had an unhealthy relationship with food … and that it extends to my relationship with exercise. It is something I feel I am in a good place with right now … at least relatively speaking. I find awareness is key.

I have to be honest that I see WAY too much disordered or borderline stuff out in the running and ‘healthy living’ community, and it is something I deliberately pulled back from in recent months. I have tried commenting and even the occasional message … but as I know myself, change must come from within.

I hope everyone reading takes a minute to look inward – maybe you have no issues, which is great. But maybe you are always hopping on the latest fad ‘diet’ – even if it is a non-diet like #eatclean or the latest fad cleanse or Paleo-based restrictions that seemed to be on half of the books at Barnes & Noble when we stopped in after Christmas.

Maybe you hop from obsession to obsession – diet to exercise to clean eating to … ? Who knows. Maybe you are constantly ending up injured for no good reason or have other warning signs. Maybe you have no warning signs and just feel everyone is out to get you. Maybe like another comment on Laura’s post said you want to be ‘just a bit too thin’ but not really too skinny.

Whatever it is, take a minute and think about yourself and your relationship with eating and exercise … and ask for help if you need it.

Thought for Thursday – Rewriting My Eating Disorder Story

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As I have said before, if you were to look at my eating habits at this point ‘on paper’, you wouldn’t take a second glance. If you saw me on the street, there wouldn’t be an ‘OMG get him a cheeseburger STAT!’ reaction. If you compared my workouts and my food intake, you would not think they were out of whack. According to my doctors I am at a healthy weight and all of my blood levels are solid.

Yet if you could look inside my head, you would know that I struggle. I struggle with eating because I don’t want to become fat again. That fear is a major driving force in my life; for a long time I stayed right around 200lbs, but after getting all the way back to 275 after my thyroid died, I am now concerned about maintaining my fitness and weight loss. That doesn’t always lead to the best behavior or choices – but I like to think that awareness also prevents me from going too far in the other direction.

That is why I say I have ‘disordered thinking’ – I have never been diagnosed, am neither binging nor restricting, but I will always have a ‘complicated’ relationship with food.

My initial intent was to write about handling this relationship on a daily basis, but in the last few days I have come across a few great posts that have inspired me. Someone on Twitter linked to a post called You Get to Choose Your Story, and the next day Danielle posted about rewriting her post-divorce story.

Then Cori posted a great image in a post called ‘insecurities’ (since the image IS the post, I won’t put it here … worth a visit for sure) that had me thinking about how my own body image issues impact those around me. And finally as I was finishing this post up this morning there was an inspiring post at Snack Therapy called ‘You’re Allowed to Love Your Body’. Yes, yes you are.

Choosing My Story

Here is the thing – rewriting your story doesn’t mean you get to rewrite history … you just change your viewpoint on events. Danielle and Sarah discussed it in the context of relationships, and of turning from looking at the outcome as a product of their failures, but instead as a milestone that allows for learning. They do this by looking at two different stories. So that is my approach:

Story #1: I will always be the fat kid – I was obese until 23, got really heavy again by 45, and am one bad choice away from heading right down that path again.

Story #2: I have left behind my obese childhood, and lost my post-thyroid weight and have a plan. I am in the best shape of my life, and lighter than I have been since before I stopped growing (i.e. before entering high school). I have learned so much about eating, fueling, running and myself that even through my life will likely have hills and valleys in the future, I have left behind the disordered approach to weight loss and maintenance through extreme restriction and replaced it with healthy choices and proper fueling.

My choice? I choose Story #2, and am going to OWN that story.

It seems obvious – but it is not easy. It is easier to point to our shortcomings than to our victories, easier to look at how we might fail rather than how we are succeeding.

But it is REALLY important to choose the story that empowers you rather than drains you; gives you inspiration to move forward rather than a fear of falling back. By choosing our story we enable ourselves to develop a clearer vision of where we are going and where we want to be headed.

So I choose to look at where I am now in life and be happy – happy that I have learned, that I am healthy, happy and loved and supported, and that I am in a position to stay in good health enjoying my favorite hobby for the forseeable future while enjoying the foods I love!

How are YOU Choosing Your Story?

Five Things Friday – Can We Be Honest Here?

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Have I ever done a ‘stuff that bugs me’ post? Apparently not … and as I tried to do one I realized WHY – not all that much really bugs me enough to make a worthy post. But as always, I have thoughts … some good and some not so good – so let’s just jump right in!

OK, first the picture – yeah, another selfie … but I always seem to take them in my house or driveway, so today I was different! This one I took at the end of the development across the street where they are trying to squeeze just one more house into an area with poor drainage and water table issues. It is a cool street and doing the loop is nearly a perfect mile, which of course I always think about. Then I thought rather than a shoe/short pic I would try an action shot! It is crap, but I laughed at myself and had fun, so you’re stuck with it! Now back to the post!

1. Pro Tip: Cardio ISN’T a Food Group!

OK – I have many thoughts about eating, health and so on, but here is one thing: runners are a pretty screwed up bunch when it comes to eating. We claim ‘clean eating’ then fill ourselves up with pills and powders out of chem labs; we claim we’re listening to our bodies, yet ignore them when it is inconvenient and end up injured; and we talk about fueling but then restrict ourselves to feel super-lean!

And let me be even more clear … before I stepped back a bit and did serious ‘spring cleaning’ on my RSS feeds, Bloglovin’, WordPress and email subscriptions, I would estimate I was subscribed to 3-4 blogs where the bloggers had ‘active’ eating disorders.

OK, that is fine – I have talked about my disordered eating as have many others, and I pointed out the whole series T-Rex Runner did on her struggles. Should we be surprised that people are actively struggling?

Of course not – nor should we be surprised that some of those struggling either don’t realize it or aren’t admitting it to themselves.

As fellow bloggers there is only so much we can do – make comments, send emails, mention it to others who might hold more sway … well, that is pretty much it.

My concern is when I see people on other blogs I follow, commenting on these ‘bigger’ blogs and emulating them … and falling into some fairly obviously disordered patterns (what was that book with the meals of baby carrots and plain mustard?).

Do I have a point? I actually do – I have been saying that I don’t like that there is very little frank discussion on blogs, and that all of the comments are super-nice and super-positive – and those that are critical are seldom acknowledged in any real way.

Well, WE control that! It is up to US to be more frank, more honest, more direct. And it is up to us as bloggers to at least LISTEN when someone calls us on out on our own crap.

So that is my pledge – if I think you are disordered, I will say something (gently of course); if you are being a phony, I will call you out. And if you are awesome, I will tell you that as well.

What about YOU – can you join me and try to do this?

2. And … the REST of the Story

Here is something that will shock exactly no one – not a single blogger tells us EVERYTHING about themselves; nor does any running blogger tells us everything about their running life. Sure many of us reveal personal details – and some tell things on their blogs they have never actually said to anyone else before (I know I have done this!). But it is still controlled – by us.

So what does it say when we learn something fairly significant about someone whose blog we follow through a comment they make on a different blog? Something that contradicts what they say on their own blog? Do you call them out on another blog? (personally if someone did that to me I wouldn’t be pleased), email privately? say something on their blog randomly? forget about it?

This is a tough one – because I think it is up to the blogger to control their own story – but at the same time if the thing we learn is potentially harmful (addiction, child-neglect, self-harm) then we owe it as good citizens to do SOMETHING.

What do you think? (and yes, I have specifics, but none of them were at the level mentioned above).

3. The Continuing ‘Shape Magazine’ Saga

The other day I wrote about Brooke, who refused to change the image she submitted to Shape Magazine for the ‘after’ image of a Success Stories feature. She had lost 170lbs and had loads of loose skin.

Her story has blown up on social media and was picked up by Buzzfeed, and there are now thousands of comments in a variety of places about it.

And this week it has been the comments that have intrigued me. And in particular those from other women. Now we don’t have a fair comparison, because I would estimate that the female:male ratio on comments is ~99:1 … but all of the comments from guys I’ve seen have seen have been either ‘throw-aways’ (‘wouldn’t hit it before, still wouldn’t hit it now’ was one that made me sigh and roll my eyes) or supportive.

But comments from other women have been more interesting, and I think speak broadly to how women see other women and themselves.

Some are very supportive – and much more specific than anything from any of the guys (as I would expect). They talked about the struggle and the pride and about really owning yourself – and also about standing up for something you believe in and so on.

But some are absolutely brutal. There are three basic lines they follow:
– You lost weight and that is a source of pride, but your body is disgusting and you should be ashamed of it and keep that stuff covered up.
– The body you have is a symbol of the abuse you have put your body through, nobody wants to see that – it is NOT beautiful.
– I am losing weight, and if THAT is what I have to look forward to … why even bother. I applaud Shape for not showing that disgusting and non-inspirational body.

Wow … just wow. Not only that, but there were a few commenters who took on anyone who challenged their position that Brooke is disgusting and totally wrong. One in particular basically says ‘she should be proud of her accomplishment, but put on a shirt – no one things that looks good’.

And that is the uniting element in the criticisms: ‘no one’ thinks that looks good.

Those commenters claim to speak for everyone, and while thinking on the one hand that we need to see more ‘real’ bodies, that doesn’t include what extreme weight loss looks like.

And I found THOSE people – the well-spoken ones in particular (I can easily dismiss frothing trolls) – disgusting and disturbing. Because these people tell me that the media has won. That while we SAY we want more ‘real bodies’, more ‘real life’ more ‘body acceptanece’ … what we REALLY want is air-brushed bikini bodies of people who have never been more than 10-15 pounds overweight.

And look – being severely overweight is not something that people WANT to do, and it is definitely something self-inflicted in many cases. But the reality is that the ‘obesity epidemic’ is real and a growing problem, and when you set out to celebrate the stories of people who have achieved huge weight loss, why would you NOT want to show the reality of what that looks like? I mean, think about it psychologically – if you have been picking up Shape or Self or More and seeing ‘weight loss success’ stories that are inspirational and make you think you will look like Tom Brady or Giselle at the end of your journey, and you end up looking like Brooke – you will feel like a failure.

And THAT is what I have a problem with. We should celebrate our bodies, celebrate the success of our weight loss, of our friends and family who struggle, and NEVER let ‘body shaming’ of ANY TYPE (including ‘too skinny’ shaming) occur. Speak up, and let us begin to accept people for who they are.

4. What is this HEALTHY thing, anyway?

One of my favorite bloggers, Laura, had three amazing posts to follow-up ANOTHER amazing post. This week it was Healthy Part 1, Healthy Part 2 and The Ugly Parts – and they tell a story of two important things:
– Dealing with weight, eating and food.
– Addressing the judgment that comes along with all of that.

If you have not read these, definitely check them out. It is funny, after reading ‘Unhealthy’ I was dusting off an old draft I had about what healthy eating actually means to me … but I wasn’t getting anywhere that made any sense, then Laura did her posts and I just nodded my head throughout.

Here is a question: which is healthier – Lisa having 2tbsp of fat-free half & half in her coffee, or me having a small bowl of my homemade ‘peanut butter fudge’ (peanut butter, butter to thin, chocolate flakes to mix, and confectionary sugar to sweeten and thicken)?

If you look at fat, calories, and so on the answer would be obvious. But is it so simple? What if one of the ‘healthy’ criteria was how quickly someone ended up in the bathroom? Then things change! As part of the pseudo-Paleo thing we’ve been doing with Lisa, we’ve found that heavy dairy – and particularly stuff sweetened with HFCS like fat free stuff tends to be – has a rapid response in terms of ‘taking the direct top-to-bottom’ route. (TMI, sorry Lisa!)

Also, I tend to go for a peanut butter ‘dessert’ like that when I feel I haven’t been getting enough food in me – I always get plenty of fruits, veggies, and so on – so I go for the fat and protein in those cases.

So again, it isn’t so simple to just label things ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’.

Let me twist it up – would the answer be the same if instead of my dessert I had the same amount of calories, but in the form of a small bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms? Aaah … this is where it gets interesting! Because when I was at my heaviest in 2012 I had taken to having peanut butter M&Ms as a ‘desk snack’ which I didn’t share, and by the end I was eating a ‘large’ (as labeled) bag within two days … and it is a source of shame for me, as it is about 2 days of fat and calories – and I wasn’t active. And also I have found that the processed taste no longer appeals to me.

So while the calories are the same, the mental impact is VERY different. I have fruit (apple or pear) and pistachios as my ‘desk snack’ at this point, and if I ate a bag of peanut butter M&Ms I would be consumed by negative feelings.

That is just a very small example of why we have to be so careful about labeling foods ‘good or bad’, ‘healthy or unhealthy’ – and by extension labeling PEOPLE with those words – bad eating habits, being unhealthy, and so on. It can be emotionally devastating.

And it gets back to something Laura mentioned and Abby has as part of her ‘about’ page – that ‘healthy’ isn’t a number or a weight or pant size … it is a confluence of physical, mental, physiological, and emotional elements that all work together – and we need to understand their particular symbiosis in OUR life to know what ‘healthy’ looks like for us.

5. We Really DO Have a Great Community

Throughout lent and even this past week I have seen loads of people ‘taking an online/blogging break’ or ‘doing spring cleaning’. I myself did a massive clean-up of things I tracked in all areas of interest and took nearly two weeks away and have slowed my blogging pace considerably.

And I am so glad I did – because it allowed me to regain perspective on just WHY I love this community and really want to stay attached to it. The reality I had to acknowledge was that there would always be more cool people than I could possibly follow and still maintain my job/wife/kids/home/pets and so on … so like I do in general I tried to focus on a few great friends rather than a million acquaintances. It is what works for me.

The result is I can focus more on these blogs – ‘good old friends’ like Laura and Megan, Harold, Ann, Danielle, and many more … and of course making new friends like Cori, Lauren, Running Bear, Sara, Carina, and many more!

All of these wonderful people light up my day with their posts, pictures, insights, comments and perspectives. There is no rule – at first when I started out it was one site through a suggestion of a friend (ironically I no longer follow that initial site), then I found a few through comments, and so on and so on.

And even looking at the list (and more new friends like Suze, Abby, Michele, Rachel, Beth and more) there is no common thread in terms of age, marital status, kids, pets, geographic region, or whatever … but there is one VERY important one: they are all REAL, genuine, individual voices. It is great when you read a post and see a subject and know what someone basically thinks, but still relish hearing HOW they will say it.

So yeah, basically I love you guys. You rock.

Bonus: Some honest stuff from me!

1. I will not follow your blog if you cannot buy a drink – yeah, this one sounds weird, but several months ago I had a 17-year old girl follow me and then email me to follow back. I felt like a creepy old dude because that is how old my son is. So, yeah, no. I have seen great blogs by guys and girls in high school and early college years, but in general if it makes me feel uncomfortable in that way … not gonna happen. I DO find it flattering that a few of my kids friends follow me on Instagram and like my running selfies … it is fun because they are kids we actually know and can all joke about it.

2. Lunch is my hardest meal. – ok, from light to heavy … as I have said, for years I would restrict breakfast and lunch and eat plenty at dinner. Since being a ‘real’ runner for the last couple of years I have been more conscious about my eating and eat great at breakfast and dinner and generally also at lunch. But because of how my work stuff is structured I generally eat in meetings, which means a wrap, apple and soda/water. Similar to when I was in Kentucky for work travel so much last year, the structure keeps me ‘in line’.

But if the meetings are canceled, then I will try to eat something, but am not always good about getting enough. I always have fruit and pistachios at my desk, and will head to the small plant cafeteria to see what is available, but often it is not something I am willing to eat, so I end up with yogurt, fruit and pistachios.

And the thing for me is that “something I am willing to eat”. I keep that thought in the forefront of my mind – because it is dangerous.

3. My ‘No Tech in Bed’ Challenge – OK so it was supposed to be for Lent, but I am extending it … and I would rate myself as ‘mediocre’. I have brought the laptop once, but the iPad remains the problem. It is one thing if I am finishing a game for review, but another thing when I then hit up email and web and Feedly RSS and … ugh. So … a work in progress!

4. Where I sit at work right now sucks – every project needs to find some space for seating, and it is best when you can be grouped in close proximity (I have been on projects where everyone is in a different building, and efficiency plummets), but the one I am on now … is technically a great project and important. But we are in the absolutely crappiest location in the facility, too many people in too small space … well, it is just awful. Oh well, that happens – there is no such thing as a perfect project!

5. Diet Cultsthe book is out as of yesterday, and I have it on my Kindle. I planned to have more to say about it … but my brain’s desire to read was outmatched by my eyes’ desire to close!

So what do you think about ANY of this mess? Or … how about your weekend plans?