My Story of Beating Anorexia

::: POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING :::

:: What is written in this post could potentially be triggering for those who have suffered from an eating disorder; so I ask if you do continue to read my story, please take care of yourself as you proceed. Stop when you need to and do what you need to keep yourself safe. :::

I’ve shared some of my experiences with my eating disorders and my journey through recovery a lot over the years. But, I haven’t actually written my story, really in its entirety. You may have heard me share my story at public events in college or graduate school, you may have heard my poem about my recovery in high school, you may have had a personal conversation with me or heard from someone else about my struggles. But, at 27 years old, I now recognize that there have been pieces of my story I’ve been missing all along. Pieces that were actually pretty crucial to the story, crucial to my recovery. I just didn’t fully understand where I’ve been and how it’s all affected me.

So, in the shortest, most condensed version with what I believe were all the factors in my eating disorder and my recovery, I’m going to share with you all for the first time my real, full story.

::: But, before I do that, I wanted to make mention that I DO NOT blame anyone in my life for my disorder. Everyone in my life was and has been doing what they thought was the best for me – or they just weren’t aware of what could have been triggering for my eating disorder. Those same people who may have accidentally triggered me, were also the ones who saved my life and am truly grateful for them all being in my life. :::

I really think it all started when I was REAL young, as young as five years old. My mom shared with me a conversation we had when I was that age that really struck her and older me. I was telling my mom about how I kissed a boy on the bus – in kindergarten, mind you, so that was a preeeeeeeeetty big deal. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

Mom: ((Giggles)) Are you going to marry him?

Little Colleen: Nahhh, we’d probably just get “‘vorced.”

Mom: Do you mean divorced?

Little (kind of an ass hole) Colleen: No, mom… ‘VORCED. Like you and dad.

Mom: ((Shock/Confusion)) Colleen, mommy and daddy aren’t ‘vorced. We’re still married.

Little (still an ass hole) Colleen: No, mom, ‘vorced isn’t when you’re married, it’s when people don’t love each other anymore; and daddy sure doesn’t love you.

Mom: Why would you say that?

Little (such an ass hole…) Colleen: Maybe because you’re getting a little fat.

END SCENE.

Just writing those last few sentences little me said to my wonderful mother hurts. It really truly hurts that I said those terrible things. If I could take back ANYTHING I’ve ever said to someone, it would be that very moment where I called my mom fat. But, I was so young and impressionable that just seemed like a reason someone would hate someone – at least what it some of the adults in my life made it seem like… What I heard and saw exhibited by the people in my life showed me that being fat is a moral, character flaw. That someone who may be labeled as “fat” does not deserve love.

I think I’ve carried that message with me through my childhood – more subconsciously.

Skipping ahead a few years…

My one grandmother would always emphasize how “little and cute” I was. How petite I was. That to me, at least at that age, gave people reason to love me; because of my body, I was petite, I was “loveable.”

In my eyes, at least that’s what many adults proved to me was this equation:

Skinny = Loveable, great person

FAT = unloveable, BAD

Again, not so much consciously. I stopped being “little ass hole” Colleen and turned that equation internally. I still loved my mom even though some other people in our lives would comment on her weight. She was still my mom and I thought/think she is BEAUTIFUL and an amazing person.

But, if I were to be fat, who would love me? Grandma might stop talking about me as much. People may stop loving me.

My parents got a divorce when I was six. It was hard on me and my younger (three year-old) sister, but what was harder was seeing them with other people; people who were not my parents.

Around that same year, I struggled in school. I was shy, super shy. I would ask my best friend since we were three years old, Therese, to ask the teacher if I could go to the bathroom. I would ask her to sharpen my pencil. I did not like attention, therefore if I was having troubles with homework or classwork, I would not ask for help. I think I missed a lot of days too, because I faked sick.

I had to retake first grade. Not because I was dumb, but because I was so behind with the days that I missed and how many assignments I probably failed because I didn’t want to ask for help. My teacher and mom decided that would be best for me to be held back. My dad didn’t like it, I didn’t like it.

The next year, I had to get glasses and they found out I had a lazy eye. Guess what I had to wear? An eye patch. I looked like a freakin’ miniature pirate with bifocals…

I bring up these experiences and setbacks, because I think they all might have contributed to my later diagnosis of an eating disorder. Along with being predisposed with a family history of an eating disorder and mental illness on both sides of my family.

At about the age of 10 or 11 (around the time I was in 5th grade), I started to take on the perfectionist persona. I was always ahead of assignments, received straight A’s. I was even tested for being gifted.

It was then too that I started to develop; earlier than my friends. My chest was getting bigger, and I didn’t like it. I LOVED physical education class! Especially climbing the rope and push ups – I was a beast at them both. I also played recreational soccer. What I didn’t like was having extra bounce on my chest. I didn’t like that feeling of having something larger on my body. I also didn’t like the attention it would ensue.

In one of my journal entries (I’ve kept about 15 – 20 journals throughout my childhood into adolescence), I found an entry where I said I needed to “start watching my girlish figure.” Probably something I heard in a movie or TV show. What child thinks of this stuff? So, I decided to start cutting down on how much I ate. I was very active and had a big appetite/high metabolism, so I would eat a lot.

Cutting down on food started off with eliminating snacks. Then to making my meals much smaller. A couple months later, after cutting down on lots of calories, I was only eating one meal per day, dinner. Dinner seemed like the only one I really couldn’t get away with. I would just take something to school with me for breakfast and not eat it. I started hiding the brown bag lunches with the little notes on the napkin my mom wrote for me under my bed… At dinner eventually I started only eating one item. .

Sloppy Joe’s and chocolate milk seemed to make up my diet in those days.

Then my mom started to notice some scary things going on with me…

  • The stench in my room from the old lunches under my bed and eventually seeing the graveyard of uneaten food I would fall asleep on every night.
  • The fruity smell in my breath: Ketoacidosis, which is often a sign of type 1 diabetes that can lead to coma or death.
  • How I would report the exact number of items of food I would eat. Such as how many chips I ate.
  • My significant loss in weight.
  • The peach fuzz-like hairs growing on my face. This is called lanugo, which is usually found on babies in the womb. The goal of lanugo is insulation. Healthy adults/adolescents do not need lanugo to insulate their bodies and so it is a telltale sign of Anorexia Nervosa.

So, my mom was smart and consulted with medical professionals. My pediatrician was also concerned about how low my BMI was. His daughter had Anorexia, so he was quick to recognize the signs. With frequent visits to my pediatrician and eating disorder psychologist and psychiatrist, I was getting the treatment I needed – and thankfully early on in my disorder.

It wasn’t an easy road by any means. My eating disorder counselor often talked about the “voices” in my head. Not like auditory hallucinations, but more of those thoughts I would have stemming from my disordered brain. She would ask whose voice I was hearing. There were no real voices I was hearing, so I got confused and made up what the voices sounded like. I thought that if I told her I didn’t hear voices that she would say there’s nothing wrong with me and that I’m just a lost cause… That everything that was going on with me was not legit.

My psychiatrist took that feedback from my counselor and myself as though I was actually hearing voices. He took it as though I was experiencing psychosis with auditory hallucinations. Therefore, I was put on medication for just that… I do not recall any of this, it’s information I received from my parents. But, I acted psychotic on these meds. I was violent with my mom. I was, as she explained to me, a demon child. Thankfully, I was taken off those meds, my psychiatrist did A LOT of apologizing, and I was eventually put on the right type and dosage of medication to manage my symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Also while going through treatment, PE class and soccer were taken away from me. That was extremely hard for me. I would sit in the gym while other kids were having fun… I felt resistant because of this important part of my day and my favorite sport were taken away from me. I started shoveling the driveway… Not of snow, which sometimes I would do, but of gravel in the grass. I would do anything to be active and burn off calories that I was forced to consume.

I had suicidal thoughts. In my journal I drew pictures of my gravestone engraved with “the girl who would not eat.” I had my plan. I knew when, where and how I would attempt at one time. I was getting ready to make that attempt, crying wishing so hard that someone would bust open the door and save me. I don’t know what stopped me, besides fear and not really wanting to die, but I did… Just like a vast majority of people who think about and attempt suicide, I did NOT want to die, I just wanted the pain to end. I didn’t want to have to go through the millions of hurdles I had to everyday.

Also, being an adolescent, even a week seemed like a century. So not having that immediate release of emotional and mental anguish was intense. I also wanted to stop being a burden to my family. I didn’t think I’d EVER get through it. I just wanted all the pain and struggle to end. Luckily, I was able to get through that pain and make it through recovery.

During my treatment, I had stopped eating. For three days. I would lie about how much and what I ate to my parents. The only thing I consumed in three days was three 8-OZ cups of chocolate milk. When I couldn’t get the energy to go to school, let alone get off the couch, my mom took me to the ER and I was checked in at UH Rainbow’s Children Hospital for a little under a week.

When I wouldn’t eat, the doctors and nurses would threaten to force feed me through a Nasogastic (or NG) tube. Basically put a tube up my nose and down my throat that would pump fluid with the calories I desperately needed into my helpless body. That not only sounded extremely painful, but like they were taking my power away.

::: My psychiatrist also diagnosed me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder along with Anorexia, which is actually quite common. I needed to have my regime, I needed to have control over my body. I needed control in my life. And that was part of my OCD. I lacked control when my parents got divorced and they were seeing other people; I had no control when I got held back in first grade; and I had no control when my parents and doctors made me go to school looking like a damn pirate. :::

Now, back to my hospital story…

I ate. I had to eat everything on my plate… I probably hadn’t eaten that much at that point between three to six months. So that food, to me, was A LOT. I remember my stomach being so full. And feeling like that was the worst feeling ever. Having my body being nourished and satisfied was worse to me at that point than starving myself and denying my young, growing body what it needed.

I was there for at least three days, eating three meals a day with snacks. I remember family coming to see me. I remember some friends coming to see me. I remember my 5th-grade boyfriend coming to see me and bringing me flowers. I remember wearing my Rugrats night gown and walking through the halls (my time-limited form of exercise) with my family. I remember a friend in my class who came with her mom to see me. They all lived in Streetsboro and had their parents drive them to Cleveland to come see me. That’s what I remember most of my experience at the hospital; the people who truly cared about my health and well-being, especially my peers.

Here’s something else I remember about my peers after and/or before my stay at the hospital… My mom told me that my 5th grade teacher told my classmates where I was and a little about what was going on with me (I really never knew what she said to my classmates). In my elementary school, 5th graders would eat in their classrooms with their classmates. I remember the feeling of being cared for, not only by my lovely teacher and administrators, but by my peers. I remember my fellow students offering their food to me when they saw I wasn’t eating. I remember the genuine kindness and concern of my peers. Those 5th graders did everything in their power to look out for and care for me.

Maybe some or most of them don’t remember 5th grade and what I was going through or even the kind gestures they made to me – but I do. And I really, truly think those 5th grade students made a big impact on my recovery and where I am today. Having a class of peers show their love and support really meant and still means the world to me. So, if you were in my 5th grade class (or were one of my dear friends who helped me as best as you could as a child) and reading this – THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. ❤

After getting out of the hospital, my parents did their very best in making sure I ate. And I really truly tried. My dad would sit with my at breakfast (a meal I was notorious for skipping) to make sure I ate. And I did.

My mom would leave work to come to my classroom to eat lunch with me and my classmates.

Gah, my parents are amazing. They truly saved my life…

More things I remember…

  • The feeling of success and accomplishment of hearing my stomach growl;
  • Imagining delicious deserts like cupckaes and pizza floating above my head every night and fantasizing about eating them;
  • The globs of hair that would fall from my frail body to the drain in the shower;
  • The struggle my parents had been going through with my disorder;
  • The fights, the tears;

I started menstruating at the age of 12; my frail body was really resilient through all the terrible things I put it through… I started eating better and more.

Between the ages of 13 – 14, I relapsed.

I stopped menstruating for about six months. Amenorrhea is the clinical term for that. My wonderful pediatrician said something very profound to me and my mom during one of my appointments that put everything into perspective, even broke me down to years. He said something along the lines of this:

“If you don’t start taking care of your body now and giving it the nutrition that it needs, you will NEVER be able to reproduce. You will never be able to have children.”

Even at a young age, I knew I wanted children one day. But, what was most impactful was knowing that what I was doing to my body would affect the choices I would make later on, how it will affect my life in adulthood.That was the most compelling reason for me to 100% invest in my recovery. I was no longer ambivalent.

I recovered from Anorexia. With lots of help from clinical professionals, my friends and family. My mom especially is my savior. Getting treatment early on in a mental illness is a big indicator for recovery.

Another HUGE indicator of recovery is having a support system, especially family. When I talk about eating disorders, or really any mental illness, in presentations I do as part of my profession, I really hone into the part of having family/friends that are supportive in the individual’s recovery. As that is a HUGE factor in people’s recovery from any mental illness. And it truly played a HUGE role in mine.

I truly thought I was recovered from an eating disorder all throughout high school and even college. Little did I know, at the time, that I had just switched out my eating disorder to another. Though not yet in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the book clinical professionals have used to diagnose people with mental illnesses since the 1950’s; ORTHOREXIA is the disorder I had switched to. This is pretty common for people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders to do; to switch form one disorder to another.

To explain what Orthorexia is, I’d like to add this description from the National Eating Disorders Association.

“Those who have an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from ‘orthorexia nervosa,’ a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but ‘orthorexics’ become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with ‘slip-ups.’ An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style. Every day is a chance to eat right, be ‘good,’ rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.

Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.  Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.” – National Eating Disorders Association

This is the best description of what Orthorexia is and what I went through. It may seem harmless and some may think it’s a great thing in a society that’s obsessed with weight and “healthy eating,” but like the last paragraph mentions, that rigid lifestyle can actually cause health problems. For me too, my obsession with my regimented “lifestyle” got in the way of other activities, interests and especially impaired my relationships…

I would skip out on birthday parties or other events in my friends’ lives to keep up with my regime… There are some great friends that I had, best friends, that I think my lack of being there for them during important nights of their lives truly ruined some of those friendships.

It’s sad how much of an impact my disorder has had on my life and relationships. There’s been plenty of times where I refused to go to 21st birthday parties because drinking is “bad” – I also didn’t want to consume those extra calories. I couldn’t just BE THERE for those friends and not drink, I had to continue with my night-time and everyday regimented routine. That’s how strong of a hold Orthorexia had on me. It cost my some of the most important relationships I had. .

Now taking a couple step back to high school… My friends noticed how strict I was with my diet and they did a great thing for me: they did not commend me for my ability to resist sweets and other “bad” foods, like may adults did. They attempted to get me to eat those foods. I remember my best friends trying to get me to eat ONE M&M almost everyday. I couldn’t do it. I felt a sort of superiority and sense of pride each time I refused “bad” food. But, my friends gently insisted. I say “gently insisted,” because when they started a another daily cycle at lunch or dinner, they were not pushy, they gently offered the piece of food I dare not eat and when I would say no, they might ask some questions and might pry me to eat it a little more, but they stopped. They’d still ask just about every day, but were always gentle with me…

The regimented lifestyle continued and got worse in college. I didn’t have those friends with me at college who knew my history nor were my parents or boyfriend there all the time. Instead of gaining the freshmen 15, I lost nearly 15 lbs from even more restricted eating and EXCESSIVE exercise. I would often still exercise on a sprained ankle or pulled muscle, because I couldn’t miss a day.

I discovered what Orthorexia was and diagnosed myself. This wasn’t until probably my junior or senior year of college. And I had tried to overcome it myself. My family really helped me through this. They really helped me try to eat what I deemed “bad” foods. It really wasn’t until my last year in graduate school that I could claim myself recovered from Orthorexia. That was when I fully understood my disorder and finally didn’t feel shame when eating what I once called “bad” foods.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd then, almost a year ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease… Where I have to again restrict my eating… But, I’m able to do so in a healthy, safe way. If interested, read more about my diagnosis,, my reaction to it, and how I’m doing with a gluten-free life by clicking here to read my past posts about it. This post is already the longest I’ve posted – don’t want to make it any longer!

So, that’s my story. As most of those who know me in the work I do now, I do a lot with raising awareness and educating people on mental illnesses (like eating disorders) within the community. I also sometimes facilitate trainings on eating disorders and body image, mainly on college campuses. So, I’m pretty open about my experiences and feel the duty to educate others on topics that most don’t understand or are really aware of because mental health issues are seen as a taboo. I make it my mission to eradicate stigma, to help make people comfortable in talking to others about mental illness (just as if it were a physical condition), and most importantly, to give people HOPE. Hope that people can and do recover.

The quote below is something I came across on Facebook and feel it’s fitting. I would add though that I don’t want it to simply be because of something I did or said to them that helped them not give up. And I don’t think that’s EVER the case. Not giving up comes from the strength of the individual (not me) – I just want to help people find that strength within themselves, find their voice, to give them HOPE.

inspire

Parts of this story were hard for me to type, for me to share with the world. There are pieces in here that I have not told anyone, but had it either between me and my parents or within myself. So, though I’m an open book, there are pages, even chapters of my journey that I wasn’t aware of or too ashamed of to share. But, I feel it necessary, not only in raising awareness and educating others, but in my own personal recovery as well.

So, again, thank you to those who were there for me during my struggles. Whether it was in 5th grade or junior year of high school. I am grateful for all those people who have left a positive impact of my life. Especially my family: my mom, my dad, my sister and others in my family who helped me through it.

Lastly, I’d like to share a picture of my finished tattoo that I got to symbolize my recovery, my freedom from my eating disorders. I got it done 5-years ago to symbolize just that, but recently added the colors and words (that I believe represent what it took for me to recover).

Being fully recovered from both my eating disorders and shortly after finishing my tattoo, symbolizes a lot to me personally. The blue symbol in the wing is the National Eating Disorders Association symbol. Though I am recovered and am free of my eating disorders, they have left an impact on my life. And I will never forget what it took for me to recover. And of course everyone who joined and stuck with me on my path to a healthy, happy life. ❤

foot

An Injury as a Blessing in Disguise

It’s been a total of 51 days since I last ran. And guess what? I’m still alive and mentally stable! As a recovering Orthorexic, this is what I would have thought last year if I hadn’t ran for that long. Going 51 days without running, I would have relapsed and started limiting my food intake and restricting what I ate and only ate what I deemed “healthy.” But, as a recovering Orthorexic and Anorexic, that did not happen and I couldn’t be prouder of myself.

I hurt my knee back in early August due to a nasty fall, which caused a sprained MCL. I was running with Blake and our two dogs in our development on some uneven sidewalks. I wasn’t paying attention to the change in elevation and fell. It didn’t help that my dog Miles was pulling me forward during my fight against gravity and we were going DOWN hill… Despite the blood and bruising, I finished my run. And the next day, instead of icing my sore knee and resting, I went on a “long” run. My knee started to hurt really bad around mile four, but I was supposed to go 16 miles, so I pushed myself to go at least seven… Silly me… I took a DAY off and continued on my regular training schedule. I had not let myself enough time to heal, so it just kept getting worse.

I was scheduled to get in a 20-mile run a few weeks later, and BARELY got in 10. The week after that, with a FULL week off of running (still biking and swimming), I went out to get in that 20-miler and barely made it five and was limping… RUH ROH…

So, with two weeks until the Akron Marathon, I headed to the Orthopedic who took XRAYS and said there’s nothing wrong with the bones, I must have either a sprained MCL or a bone bruise. We would have to do an MRI to get the exact diagnosis, but he said both are treated the same – ice, rest and elevation – so he didn’t want to waste my money, or his time… He wasn’t very helpful. So, I took those two weeks off of running. I biked a few times, but even that made it worse… So no biking either!

So, I ran the Akron Marathon on September 28th. And that was the last time I’ve ran…

I did not anticipate on finishing. I thought I would barely make it to the halfway point of 13.1. Blake ran the half so we stayed together. I had a knee brace on and it actually seemed to help! I felt little to no pain during the run.

Blake and Colleen

Once we neared where the half and full marathon split I told him I wanted to go a little further and possible stop at an aid station around mile 16 or 18 and have them drive me back to the finish line and not finish.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Around mile 18 my knee did start to hurt, so I did stop at an aid station, with the mindset that I was done. The nurses gave me some Icey Hot and Advil. Then one nurse asked if I wanted to finish. I was surprised that she even asked and to have FINISHING as an option, I took it!

So, off I went with even more motivation to finish because of those amazing women at aid station 18!

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Though I had to walk a few times and went A LOT slower than my original intended pace and time (before the injury), that was still my proudest and favorite marathon yet! I had not had all the training I needed and my longest run was 15 miles. So that made it even more rewarding.

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com.

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com.

Plus, I LOVE the Akron Marathon – it’s such a spectacular marathon. So much better than the Cleveland, which I’ll NEVER run in again. I am SOOOOOOOOOO happy I was able to EARN that beautiful medal and jacket!

akron mary

I haven’t ran since that day… And I stopped biking, because it was making my knee hurt more. I rarely swim anymore either. So, I’ve mainly been walking and lifting, doing upper body workouts. And I’m OK with that.

I wouldn’t want it to be like this forever, but I’m OK with allowing my knee to fully heal.

And I’m OK with still eating. I still have a cookie or chocolate here and there too! Oh, and for lunch after the Akron Marathon I ate Little Ceasar’s pizza for the first time in YEARS! The deep dish is sensational! I’ve have a few other times since then. 🙂 And may I add, without an ounce of guilt!

So, this injury has been sort of blessing in disguise… It’s tested my will power. It’s shown me that even without running and doing extraneous exercise I still love my body and will treat it right.

This injury has also allowed me to let my body heal and get me even more pumped up for next year’s races! AND, it’s taught me more about my body and to listen to it when it’s hurting.

Running, Biking & Swimming to a Healthy Body AND Mind

I try to keep my blog posts as raw and to the point as possible. I blog a lot about overcoming two eating disorders and how much I love running. How running has helped me through the years become more clear-minded and realize that in order for my body to be healthy, I need to nourish it, take care of it. But, I really don’t touch on how running, as well as biking and swimming, continue to help me on an everyday basis from my other mental illnesses. DEPRESSION & ANXIETY.

I’ve been on anti-depressants since I was 12 years old, so for 13 years now. I’ve also been on medications for my anxiety as well. Taking a pill or two before bedtime is just a regular part of my routine, since I have so many with my OCD.

Running, biking, and newly, swimming, has helped me become more at ease by not obsessing as much and helps my mood, tremendously. Though I’m on the highest dosage of my anti-depressant (Celexa) healthily possible, I still feel the symptoms of depression every once in a while… Especially lately since I’m still on the job search after graduating with my masters. The denial letters from potential employers and lack of income coming in has played its toll on me. I’m very open about my feelings and am able to share them with my family, friends, and my partner. But, sharing and medication just sometimes isn’t enough… So, I turn to exercise.

Currently I’m training for an Olympic triathlon AND a marathon. So yeah, I get PLENTY of exercise. Not only is all this exercise good on my body (well most of it anyway), but also on my mind.

Just the other day I felt especially down and not feeling so worthy of anything. I woke up late, ate, fell back to sleep, and just laid around, feeling down. I knew I had a swim that day, so I got up, drove to the Recreation Center and jumped into the pool. The cool, chlorinated water was not only refreshing, but invigorating. The first couple of laps were OK, but the rest of them felt amazing. I seriously felt like a whole new person. I started pushing myself to stretch my arms out longer, faster and kick my legs; my adrenaline immediately kicked in.

It’s amazing what some laps of swimming can do. Or a run or bike.

It’s true though, exercise can help ease depression and anxiety.

According to a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, “Understanding Depression,” 

“A study published in 2005 found that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms. Walking fast for only 15 minutes a day five times a week or doing stretching exercises three times a week did not help as much. (These exercise lengths were calculated for someone who weighs about 150 pounds. If you weigh more, longer exercise times apply, while the opposite is true if you weigh less than 150 pounds.)”

The article also goes on to say that experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. You all know how I LOVE Endorphins and talk about them frequently!

“Endorphons improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.” – Harvard Medical School 

Also, according to Mayo Clinic, exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects

This is not to say that exercise CURES depression and anxiety, but helps one MANAGE their depression/anxiety. And I’m living proof. 🙂

And of course my dog Miles, he helps put me in a better mood too (for the most part). 🙂

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But who couldn’t help but be in a good mood with this guy around??

My Utopia

I grab my Garmin and tie the laces of my running shoes
It is that time again, to go anywhere that I choose
The sound of my breath and feet pounding on the ground
Honestly, to me is my favorite sound
The road is my calling and no matter how far the distance
My feet hit the pavement and everything else in the world has no existence
The place where I go to clear my head
The place I go when most are still in bed
The beauty of the sunrise is what I see
But, the rush of endorphins is what brings me glee
It is my sport, my practice of fitness, my passion,
It is something I will do for life; it’ll never go out of fashion
In the midst of my run, my head is clear and body numb to the pain
The rush of the high and power it makes me feel is the gain
When I am by myself without any competition
Is when I feel like I am truly on a mission
My running shoes on my feet and body in a sweat is when I feel at my best
Going further, longer and faster is my quest
It may be something that others find as a chore
But to me it is my utopia, my hobby; I’ll run until I can’t anymore
 running_shoes_article
 By, Colleen Fitzgibbons
 
 

First Triathlon

Today was my FIRST triathlon! And guess what? I LOVED it! It was FUN! 🙂

Before I headed to bed last night I turned on the TV and ironically Finding Nemo was on! Remember in a recent post how I said I’m like Nemo when it comes to swimming, being slightly challenged? Haha That little coincidence didn’t make me feel worse or even nervous, because I remember what Dori said, “Just keep swimming… Just keeping swimming… Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!” 😉

Woke up bright and early – 5:00! Once we got there, there was fog hovering over the water – it was so neat! And made me super excited.

Munroe Falls Metro Park munroe falls tri 2013_fog

I competed in the Munroe Falls Sprint Triathlon (400 yard swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run – which is slightly shorter than a regular sprint tri). I got nervous at first in swim and started to hyperventilate. But, I remembered to relax and focus on my breathing. I swam over top a couple people and ran into some others, but other than that, it was actually pretty fun! I enjoyed the swimming part, surprisingly! I still need to work on my breathing in the water, but not too shabby for my first tri!

out of water

Photo Courtesy of Kim Zepp and Angela Martino

The bike was relatively flat with some rolling hills and I enjoyed that part too!! I did get a cramp on both my sides, but drank lots of my Infinit Nutrition and took deep breaths that by the time I was transitioning to the run they were all gone!

bike

The run was fun – I felt pretty good and holding a pace of about 7:30 minute miles! I probably could have ran faster too, but I didn’t want to bring back those nasty cramps again by breathing any faster.

munroe falls tri 2013 run strong munroe falls tri 2013 run run munroe fallsmunroe falls tri 2013 2nd run munroe falls tri 2013 finish

I finished in 1:19. I didn’t place in my age group or anything, but it was definitely a great first Tri and experience! I can’t wait until my next tri in about three weeks – MiltonMan Sprint Triathlon – this one will be the full sprint distance with a swim of 750 yards, 13 mile bike and 5K run!

Now, for some notes to self for the upcoming tris:

  1. Practice breathing properly in the swim!
  2. Speed up the transition times – took me almost three minutes to transition from swim to bike!
  3. Drink more fluids!!
NLC Team Picture!

NLC Team Picture!

I have to send a special thanks to my coach, Chris Martino owner and coach of New Level Coaching, for preparing me for my first tri! He’s making me faster and stronger with the training he provides me, and the sports massages have helped tremendously too! Also to Infinit Nutrition for the awesomely prepared formula made specifically for me. I can feel the difference in my body when I drink it compared to regular old sports drink. Also to Trek and Eddy’s Bike Shop for my AWESOME bike, Stella. 😉

Also, thank you Angela Martino and Kim Zepp for taking some great pics and for supporting us all! And to the rest of the NLC team that came out to support us as well. And to Blake’s mom, Judy and bother Ian, for getting up early to come out and support Blake and I. 🙂

The Hills I’ve Conquered Thus Far

So, this past weekend I had an epiphany while running 10 miles on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I was running up a rather large and long hill in my neighborhood. I felt very optimistic during that run that I ran up not just one rather large hill (of about half of a mile long!) once, but I ran up it AGAIN, and then I ran up another large hill and then ANOTHER! Whilst running up these gigantic hills I started thinking about all the other hills I have conquered in my life, metaphorically… I’ve overcome many obstacles in my life and it makes me proud to see where I was and where I am now. Each “hill” I’ve conquered has truly shaped me into the person I am today. So, let me share with you the many hills that I’ve had to climb. 🙂

The Failure (held-back) Hill

I don’t think many people know this, but I was held back in the first grade. My parents were going through a divorce and I didn’t take it very well. I also found out that year that I had a lazy eye and not only had to wear glasses, but a patch on my one eye (save the pirate jokes). That made it difficult to come into school, because I was afraid of being made fun of… Because my grades were slipping, my teacher suggested to my parents that I be held back in the first grade. I was devastated! I didn’t want to be held back from my best friend, peers, and be seen as stupid… That’s how I felt, stupid… I had FAILED a grade… What a loser I thought I was; a one-eyed, glasses-wearing, stupid, failure…

That was quite a challenging hill to climb. But, in the 5th grade I excelled in all my classes and was even tested for being gifted. From there on I had continued to slowly overcome the “failure hill” and not only made it to the top, but ran far, far away from it. In high school I was the editor-in-chief of our newspaper, won awards for my work as a journalist, swiped up pretty much all of the essay scholarships, made prom queen my senior year, and was accepted into Bowling Green State University.  I excelled in my program at BGSU and became very involved in the most amazing organization, the Student Wellness Networkwhich I became president of for two consecutive years and truly sparked my passion for health education/public health. I even attended and presented at multiple conferences and became a leader in everything I was involved in. Now, I’m about to graduate with my master in public health next Friday! I went from a shy, four-eyed, crooked-teeth, insecure girl to a confident, educated, leader. 🙂

The Disordered Hill

As I mentioned (several times), I have battled with multiple mental illnesses throughout my life. I was dually diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and obsessive compulsive disorder when I was 11. Later, once being recovered from anorexia, I discovered that I developed a newly found disorder, orthorexia (see some of my previous posts on more on this). I’ve also dealt with depression and have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which I’ve taken medication for more than half of my life and continue to do so.

BUT, I am NOT my disorders… It’s true, they have shaped me into who I am, but they are not WHO I AM. I feel as though I am more in control of my disorders than I have ever been. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to finally recognize the “disordered” or abnormal thought in my head and be able to combat them. 🙂 I’d say I’m standing pretty tall on top of this hill now.

 The Ugly/Short Hill

I’ve had many body image issues from the time my age was in the single digits to my later years. I had crooked teeth (yes, I had braces!) and was actually made fun of for it a couple times in elementary school… It made me sad and I was always afraid to smile with my teeth from the fear of being made fun of. I also had a medium-sized birth mark on my right arm up until I was about 12 when I got it removed (for health reasons). I wouldn’t wear sleeveless shirts because I thought it was so grotesque-looking. I would even wear a band-aid over it when I did go sleeveless to hide it! Now, I have about a two-inch long scar where it once was. It’s a rather large scar, but it’s alright – I like my scar. 🙂

I developed insecurities with my body at a very young age as well. I wouldn’t wear jeans or certain underwear because I didn’t like hugged my stomach and thighs. I would actually stretch out the leg hole in my underwear back in elementary school so they wouldn’t cuff my legs because it made me feel “fat.”

Another insecurity I’ve had pretty much all my life too is my height. I’ve always been the shortest of my class and was often picked on for it. Throughout high school people would pick on me, not trying to be mean, but it would still hurt my feelings. I felt like short was ugly, that I was not as pretty or good enough as the taller girls. I always envied the taller girls in my class. I was always told I look younger than my age, even strangers would ask me for my age and would sometimes not believe me! This made me so insecure that I didn’t even want to get my driver’s license and drive a car when I was 16 because I didn’t want to have to explain to people that I am indeed old enough to drive…

That’s why I do what I do! It’s why I started this blog, started KSU’s Body Acceptance Movement, coach for Girls on the Run, and am so passionate about helping others with body image issues, because I was once at the bottom of that ugly hill too! I can’t necessarily say I’m over it just yet, but I’m getting pretty damn close! I still have my insecurities, but I am much more confident in my body than I ever was before and will continue to keep climbing until I am way over this hill!

Bring on the Hills! 

I feel that all those hills I’ve climbed, and am still climbing, have made me the person I am today – I must have some pretty strong legs! 😉 We’ve all had our hills we’ve conquered and are still climbing, and that’s OK! Life shouldn’t be just a flat, straight line. The hillier and more uneven the road is, the more fulfilling and invigorating life is. Not all our climbs will be enjoyable, or even comfortable, they will be rough, dirty, and may even seem impossible to get over, but YOU will conquer it! I know there are many more hills to come in my future. I may not know where they’ll be, how far, deep, or challenging they may be, but there’s one thing I do know about those hills I WILL conquer them. 🙂

2013 Races

Listed below are the races I’ll be running for 2013. 🙂

Event Name

Type

Distance

Event Location

 

Girls on the Run 5K

 

Running

 

5K

 

Lock 3, Akron, Ohio

 

Twinsburg Duathlon

 

Duathlon

 

2, 10, 2

 

Twinsburg, Ohio

 

LULA 5K

 

Running

5K Beachcliff Market Square, Rocky River, Ohio
 

Triathlon at Munroe Falls

 

Tri

 

Sprint

 

Munroe Falls, Ohio

 

Aurora Fun Run

 

Running

 

5K

 

Aurora, Ohio

 

MiltonMan Triathlon

 

Tri

 

Sprint

 

Lake Milton, Ohio

 

Muddy Paws Trail Race

 

Running/Trail

 

2-mile

Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio
Portage Lakes Tri Olympic Akron, Ohio
 

Akron Marathon

 

Running

 

Marathon

 

Akron, Ohio

Aurora Turkey Trot Running 4 miles Aurora, Ohio

Building Tomorrow’s Women: Girl’s on the Run

I had such an amazing opportunity these past couple months to volunteer with an AMAZING non-profit called Girls on the Run!

Girls on the Run Mission: 

“We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”

Girls on the RunHere’s a little but about the program: This after- school, 10-12 week program is for girls in the 3rd through 5th grade. It is Designed to allow every girl to recognize her inner strength, the Girls on the Run curriculum inspires girls to define their lives on their own terms. Throughout the season, the girls make new friends, build their inner confidence and celebrate all that makes them unique. The Girls on the Run lessons encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development.  Participants also train for a 5K towards the end of the program, hence the name Girls on the Run.

I found out about this program through my professor of my grant writing course this semester. As soon as I heard the name, GIRLS ON THE RUN, my eyes lit up. Then hearing that it incorporates running and positive body image/self-esteem curriculum, I fell in LOVE. I filled out an application on the website to become a volunteer coach. Within two days I was contacted about becoming an assistant volunteer coach at Franklin Elementary in Kent! My fellow coaches, Julie and Trina, are wonderful and I really enjoy working with them to building our 12 girls’ self-esteem, confidence, etc!!

After 10 weeks, ALL 12 girls finished the 5K at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls. HUNDREDS of 8-11 year old girls and their sibling, parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends ran/walked the 5K. I ran with two of the faster girls on the Franklin team, Abbey and Aubrey. They did AWESOME, running a little over 30 minutes! Pretty impressive for such young girls. All of the girls did something quite impressive, something that more than half of the country has not! I was so proud of every single one of them!

I cannot rave about this program enough!! Starting to teach the girls to be proud of themselves and encourage positive body image and self-esteem as young as eight is just WONDERFUL! It truly gives me hope for our future women, our future leaders. Every one of the 12 girls I’ve worked with have truly inspired me to stick with my passion of promoting body acceptance. I plan to volunteer as an assistant coach again in the spring. I can actually see myself working for this amazing non-profit. 🙂

My Future Marathons

As if you couldn’t tell already, I REALLY enjoy running! 🙂 Training for half and full marathons make me happy. I did some searching on some of the most scenic/popular marathons in the U.S. and have decided on a select few that I will make my goal to compete in one day. I’m sure more will be added to the list. 🙂

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon When: October – Where: Minnesota – Why: Autumn is my ABSOLUTE favorite season! This marathon is known for its beautiful fall scenery. 🙂

 

The Boston Marathon – When: April – Where: Boston, MA – Why: Because it’s only the most legendary marathon and is pretty much on every runner’s wish list to someday compete in! My goal is to qualify for the Boston by the time I’m 30. 🙂

The ING New York City Marathon – When: November – Where: New York City, NY – Why: Just to do it! Plus, it gives me a reason to visit the big city. 🙂

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon – When: Mid-October – Where: Chicago, IL – Why: Another marathon just to do because it’s so popular and I want to experience it! 🙂

Steamboat Marathon – When: Early June – Where: Steamboat Spring, CO – Why: One of the most scenic marathons in the U.S.! Plus, it’s in Colorado – where I hope to live someday. 🙂

Crater Lake Rim Marathon – When: Second Saturday in August – Where: Klamath Falls, OR – Why: Runs though the beautiful Crater Lake National Park! Yet another amazing race through some stunning scenery!

Finding that Happy Medium

Finding the perfect balance of anything can be difficult. The goal of this blog, and my life, is to define that happy medium of positive body image, healthy eating, and fitness. But, there will always be naysayers who may see my blog and believe I’m being contradicting in terms of promoting eating disorder recovery by running long distances. My intentions are not to encourage those with eating disorders to run marathons – the theme of my blog is more metaphorical than that! Of course it’s literal in the sense that I do train for marathons, but it’s because it is what I love to do and I don’t do it to lose weight or anything like that. There’s also more to my title and tagline than it entails! I run because it’s what makes me happy. I run because it allows me to do something for ME, to go out on my own and think, to chase away my negative thoughts. Of course running keeps me fit and healthy, but I do not obsess over losing a certain amount of weight or inches – I run to RUN!

In the more metaphorical sense, “My Marathon 2 Recovery” entails that recovery is not a SPRINT. You cannot be anorexic or bulimic one day and then the next be fully recovered. This is true for ANY type of recovery, be it alcohol and other substance abuse or any type of physical or mental illness. Eating disorders are mental illnesses and they do not just simply go away. Instead, it’s a journey, it’s a MARATHON! Hence my tagline – “The road to recovery is not measured in pounds. It’s measured in miles.” Part of the diagnosis of an eating disorder, such as anorexia, is based on a 15 percent below normal weight. However, once that person gains weight and is categorized as “normal” again, that does not mean they are RECOVERED. It simply means they have gained weight, that’s it. Pounds do not measure recovery within the brain of an anorexic, or bulimic! Instead I use mileage to better describe the measurement of recovery because miles represent distance, how far one has come. That is what matters. This what my blog represents. How far I have come and will go.

Now that I have that explained, let me tell you a little bit about finding my own happy medium:

Exercise and eating in moderation is important for EVERYONE’S health. I truly believe that running or any form of exercise (be it cycling, yoga, pilates, basketball, tennis, etc.) can be a form of healing. It can make you feel better about yourself no matter how broken you are. Those endorphins that are produced during vigorous exercise create a feeling of well-being, like a natural high. It helps take your mind off of things and allows you to become one with yourself, to appreciate yourself.

I think the key in finding that happy medium is not to obsess too much over any aspect over your health and being OK with failure. Sometimes 20 miles comes as a “walk in the park” while other times it’s a struggle or just doesn’t happen. This past April I was training for my second marathon (the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon) and was to run two 20-milers and my knee was absolutely KILLING me. Instead of sucking it up as I would have normally done when my eating disorder had consumed my life, I skipped out on that 20-miler. I ended up just needing a new pair of running shoes! So, after two more weeks when my second 20-miler was scheduled I ran it in 3:01 – great timing for my goal race pace of four hours or less! So, what I’m getting at here is that not every workout will actually work out. Sometimes it’s OK to take that extra rest day, to recharge your body, and let it recover. It took me a while to figure out that happy medium, and I’m still learning to maintain it. I just have to remind myself that I am human, not super woman.

I also try to remember the message I want to portray, that nobody is perfect and it’s perfectly OK not to be! That running is what keeps me from relapse, not to go straight back into that dark hole where my eating disorder consumed my life. But, I don’t want running to consume my life either. It’s important for me that running and I maintain a healthy relationship. 🙂

And that’s the way it should be with EVERYTHING in your life. Moderation is key!