Category Archives: Body Dysmorphia

February Musings and Self-Abusings

If my Timehop for today is any indication, February is traditionally not a good month for me. In the past there have been job troubles, cat surgeries, oh and that whole divorce thing last year. To compound life’s troubles is yet another harsh winter. True, this year isn’t as bad as last year’s unrelenting Polar Vortex; however, saying this winter isn’t as bad is like saying “This sinus infection is much better than that stomach flu I had last year!”

The sub-freezing temperatures don’t seem to be going away any time soon. Neither do my five-hour marathons. New Orleans, despite a flat course and perfect weather, proved to be another difficult run. I have several excuses to offer but my overall feeling as of late is that I lost any running talent I once had for good. Maybe it was a fluke that I got fast for a few months and I’m back to my normal, back-of-the-pack pace. My body seems to be betraying me as well. I made the horrible mistake of participating in the Cupid’s Undie Run again this year. Last year I was at my peak of fitness and proudly showed off my figure. This year I felt like a burqa would’ve been a better clothing choice, and it didn’t help that during the run my butt was jiggling so hard I thought it might dislodge and hit the person behind me in the face (my boobs didn’t move a centimeter of course).

Yes, it’s no secret I have a history with body dysmorphia and eating disorders and am probably not the morbidly obese sloth on the outside that I feel I am on the inside. Maybe better weather and nutrition will help my pace improve and I’m just in a temporary funk. I’ve been trying to look towards the positive lately but depression seems to be winning out. Continuing to abuse myself with these thoughts won’t solve anything though, so I need a better plan, not just for running but for life. I have the tendency to make huge, unattainable goals for myself and then get discouraged when I inevitably fail, so here’s my “Meh, I’m Trying” Plan for a Happier Laura: One strength-training session a week. Bring your own healthy lunch to work. Continue to swim, even if it means getting your ass out of a warm and cozy bed, because it makes you feel strong all day. Just run for the sheer enjoyment and hopefully speed will follow. And for christ’s sake, stop comparing yourself to other girls!!!

On Sunday I went for a run around the neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny, 2 degree day. It felt fantastic to run on a day when most people were afraid to walk to their cars. I was slow, and the snow made things difficult, but it was one of my best runs in a long time. I had not a single self-defeating thought in any of those 50-minutes. There is a happy Laura inside of me, I just need to force her out sometimes.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Fighting the Fat Kid

One of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood was from my fourth grade gym class. It was the mile run day for the President’s Challenge, that horrible week during the year when your fitness was measured and I of course came up short in everything. As I recall I was already 110 pounds at age 10 and my idea of fitness was running to the cupboard to sneak a few Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies before dinner. The one area of the President’s Challenge where I excelled was the sit-and-reach, which measured flexibility. I was always number one in my class, the only advantage of being blessed with short legs and a long torso. Enough of what I was good at, now on to the cringe-inducing mile run…

The mile run was eight laps around a spray-painted loop in a field behind our school. Granted, it’s not like we had Nike technical apparel to change in to. I was most likely running in some uncomfortable skirt and sweater that my mother picked out for me. Anyway, fat kids in skirts don’t run fast. In fact, I came in dead last out of my entire class. I was so slow that everyone was done while I was finishing my final lap. Imagine being a fat kid with a perm (thanks, mom!) and having all your classmates stare at you as you huff-and-puff. To add insult to injury, my shoe fell off as I rounded the final corner. To this day I can still see the 25+ faces of annoyed school children watching me hop on one foot to my tear-filled finish.

Fast forward 21 years to last Saturday. I was attempting my second sprint triathlon in Lexington, Michigan. I hadn’t done any real training and the last time I swam was at my last sprint tri in September of last year. For some reason the waters of Lake Huron terrified me and I immediatley panicked when the gun went off. I couldn’t control my breathing, ended up swallowing a bunch of water, and threw up on myself. Lovely. Luckily the rescue kayaks had swimming noodles for idiots like myself. I took one after a few feet of flopping around erraticaly. While I wasn’t dead last to get out of the water, I was surely the only person under the age of 50 with a security blanket noodle. My ego was decimated. As I ran back to the transition area, I couldn’t help but recall my earlier embarrassing moment in athletic acheivement.

Every day of my life is a struggle against Fat Kid Laura. In my late teens to mid twenties I fought back in unhealthy ways by starving myself and smoking and eventually developing bulimia. At the age of 27 I started training for my first half marathon and finally found out that I was a decent runner after all. I fought against Fat Kid Laura by training and enjoying races, and every once in a while winning my age group. Running has given me more self-esteem than any other aspect of my life. However, there are moments like the Lexington disaster when Fat Kid Laura comes back in full force to destroy my confidence.

It’s easy for me to not feel good enough. I see girls with nice boobs and I feel inadequate. I see girls with good careers and feel I have nothing to offer. I struggle with the math while studying for my Series 7 and I feel stupid. These feelings can utterly consume me if I don’t fight back. So I failed my swim portion miserably in Lexington. I’m not throwing in the towel and letting Fat Kid Laura win this round. I am determined to let Kick Ass Adult Laura reign victorious. On Monday I participated in a tri training group and I even signed up for private swim lessons to improve my technique and efficiency. A bit extreme maybe, but Fat Kid Laura is a tough bitch to beat.

Tagged , , ,

Making New Goals and Fighting Old Demons

A peculiar and unexpected thing happened to me as I ran the Fifth Third Riverbank 25K in Grand Rapids on May 10th. No, I didn’t shit my pants again. That’s almost expected these days. What happened was I cried for the first time during a race. These weren’t tears of pain, but rather boredom. I was literally bored to tears. After mile 8 something broke down inside of me and I began to hate every minute of that run. Physically, I was fine! I was averaging sub-nine minute miles up to that point. My mind, however, was done. It was my third long-distance event in three weeks and I was finally experiencing what all the wise people around me told me I would: Burnout.

Obviously I had some plans to adjust. Now that my house was sold and I could finally close the chapter in my life titled “Divorce Drama”,  I no longer had the need to run away. The first decision I made was to drop down to the Half Marathon in Charlevoix. I felt like a loser, but my running soul needed a break from training plans and long runs. I needed to ENJOY running again. I also decided to stick to my planned 50K in September. Trail running will be fairly new to me and I’m looking forward to the challenge (and not having to worry about speed). I can’t wait for long, leisurely, runs with friends out on the trails all summer long, with my nifty new pink Camelback that some really awesome guy bought me for my birthday.

So far I’m two weeks in to my “Don’t Follow a Plan!” plan, and I’m happy to report my love of running has returned. I’ve been doing a lot of morning runs before work and I love how a good pre-dawn jaunt sets the rest of your day up for success. Well, for the most part anyway. Another peculiar thing has been occurring as of late that has me concerned. Maybe it’s the less miles run per week paired with my ravenous appetite, but my once dormant bulimia has tried nudging its way back in to my life. The voices telling me that I’m fat and worthless and need to fill the void with food to be immediately expelled are back inside my head. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve had a relapse in the past week.

Eating disorders, like alcoholism, are never “cured”, you just learn to better control them. You may be wondering why I’m sharing this information  (hey, I am the girl who’ll talk to any willing party about poop after all). The main reason is to hold myself accountable. I need to regain that control I had over bulimia for years after letting it take my life and happiness hostage for so long. I don’t want to go through that again, or put my loved ones through that again. I may also need to seek professional help to correct my disordered eating patterns lately. I think a visit to a dietician would be beneficial, perhaps I can find one with experience working with eating disorders.

All is not lost, oh dear strangers of the Internet. Despite my recent troubles I am experiencing levels of happiness in my life I never thought possible. In fact, I think it speaks to my newly developed confidence and strength that I’m able to recognize an emerging problem and fix it right away instead of letting myself drown like I would in years past. I have a lot to be excited about in the coming months (TRAILS! SUNSHINE! MEDALS! KITTIES! MY MANLY MAN-MAN*!) and I can’t let that bitch bulimia ruin the fun.

*The word “boyfriend” sounded silly when describing a 30-year-old man, so this is the best descriptor I could produce

Tagged , , , , ,

May all Beings Everywhere be Happy and Free

Years ago when my body dysmorphia was at it’s worst, exercise to me was merely a way to burn calories and lose weight. I hated every minute of it but I forced my butt on the elliptical machine every day until the “calories burned” on the display met a number to my liking. Since the only benefit was weight loss, I looked at a seemingly low-intensity workout such as yoga as a waste of time. “Look at those idiots!” I’d say to myself passing the gym’s yoga class, after spending 75 mind-numbing minutes on a hamster wheel.

It wasn’t until I hopped off the elliptical to start running that I realized exercise offered more positive benefits: stress relief, a feeling of accomplishment, that famous “runner’s high” that I always figured was a myth. Still, even with this new found respect for my body and it’s abilities, I wrote off yoga as being for lazy people who were afraid to sweat. Sitting around a dark room with mats and soft music? Sounds like nap time in preschool! Little did I know…

After reading numerous posts from DailyMile friends touting how beneficial yoga was to runners, I bought a Groupon for a local studio. Walking into my first class, I was at first intimidated by the experienced yogis stretching and contorting. The studio had an eco-friendly bamboo floor, the lights were dim, and the music soothing. I felt calm. As I worked my way through my first class I experienced a flood of happy endorphins (the hot teacher who was generous in correcting poses helped I’m sure). I don’t know if it’s the breathing or the poses, but yoga definitely produces a special high. I’m sure the ancient practitioners of yoga invented it for that reason alone. Ask any kid who spins around and around until they fall from dizziness, natural highs are the most satisfying.

That’s not to say I spent the whole class laying around with a buzz. The movements were definitely challenging. As with running, I was proud of the things I could do with my body in yoga. At the end of the class the instuctor left us with these words, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”. Translation: May all beings everywhere be happy and free. Well if that didn’t make my little animal loving, vegetarian heart swell.

I can gladly admit I’m hooked on yoga . I’ve set new goals for myself in the coming months: run at least 25 miles a week, strength training at least twice a week, and make time for yoga at least twice a week as well.

Let me know readers! What is your favorite source of a natural high? Am I bad for doing downward facing dog incorrectly just so the hot instructor will grab me? When did you make the mental switch from exercise being maintenance to a way of life?

 

Tagged , ,

Head Like a Hole

You know how normal people will start a meal and then quit when they’re full? Can you tell me what that’s like? I’m afraid my life-long attitude toward food can be best described through the following Louis C.K. quote: “The meal isn’t over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.”

I’ve always had a gluttonous appetite. My tendency to polish off an entire row of Fig Newtons in one sitting, or an entire DiGiornio pizza by myself, made my childhood fat and miserable. I lost weight due to an extreme growth spurt in middle school, only to gain the weight back due to a new-found Ben & Jerry’s obsession. Finally, at the age of 15 when I tried on a size 12 bathing suit, I decided something had to give. I went on a diet, started running for the first time in my life, and went down to a size 6.

Sounds like a success story, right? Wrong. No amount of weight loss can erase a lifetime of being taunted, ridiculed, or made to feel ashamed for being overweight. The emotional damage carried with me as a teenager and lead to my first eating disorder- binge eating. In order to stay skinny I’d starve myself most of the time, and then binge like crazy when I couldn’t take it anymore. My mother had a habit of overbuying when it came to food so no one in the house really noticed. I estimate that during this time I would polish off thousands of calories in just a few short hours. How did I not gain 100 pounds? Well, I’d spend two hours on the treadmill  and not eat for a day or two afterward. It all evened out in a sick way.

The binge eating fell by the wayside in college when that void was filled by binge partying instead. I met my future husband, we graduated and got married. I was eating like a normal person around the time of our wedding, but afterwards the “happy” weight starting creeping up on me. None of my clothes fit and I hated seeing myself in photos next to my thinner friends. Instead of saying to myself, “Perhaps I should lay off of the frozen pizza and late-night snacking,” my solution was bulimia.

It started off as “maintainance”, throwing up a few times a week after a particularly large meal or if I ate something decadent. It soon evolved into throwing up after every dinner, and not long after that, throwing up everything I swallowed. I was soon bingeing and purging up to four times a day. I lost 20 pound in three weeks. Needless to say, people began to notice and ask questions.

After over a year of lying to my husband, family, and friends about my frail appearance and frequent bathroom visits (not the mention my hair falling out and the rash around my mouth, lovely!) I decided enough was enough. It’s been two years since, and while I still struggle with the beast of bulimia, I can happily say I have it mostly tamed. Running had helped tremendously- you can’t run on an empty tank. And though I sometimes look in the mirror before a run and focus on the cellulite and flab I see in the mirror, I always see a strong, healthy, and happy person in the mirror when I return.

We live in a culture of body shaming, and I don’t see that ever changing. I need to learn not to let my negative body image hold me back from enjoying life. I am happy that I am able to write about my eating disorders as something in the past and not in my present. One of my proudest moments in life was crossing that finish line at last year’s Charlevoix Half Marathon, and as I posed for photos with my family afterwards, never once did it cross my mind, “Do I look fat?”

Tagged , ,