Are you a Runner with Disordered Eating?

“It is estimated that three out of four American women between ages 25 and 45 practice disordered eating, according to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.”

I am subscribed to runners world via my email and an article came through that really caught my attention, “Running on Empty: One runner discovers firsthand how easy it is to cross the line from eating smart to barely eating.”.

If 75% of women are struggling with disordered eating….we MUST talk about it (plus, I am on my Miss Representation kick).

It is easy for me to write about skittles and my workouts but subjects that can be sensitive are sometimes really hard to write about.

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Kara Bazzi was a very talented runner that ran for University of Washington that struggled with disordered eating.  Midseason she was the fastest on her team because of her weight loss.  “I was getting lighter, then faster, I saw big results.  You can run pretty well for about a year under a highly restrictive state, but then your body breaks down.” Stress fractures ended Kara’s running career.   She now works as a clinical director for an eating-disorder clinic.

“Hard workouts need to be replenished.  Healthy eating isn’t eating less.”

Yes, we can care what we eat and be careful about the foods that we put in our bodies but if you are training hard and running a good amount of miles…you simply cannot restrict.

There is a debate about racing weight and the fact that the lighter you are can mean that you will be faster but if your weight drops too low it means that your bones are being robbed of necessary nutrients.

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I learned from previous injuries that I was not adequately fueling my body for the amount of miles I was running.  I didn’t take rest days and I would go run fast double digit miles followed by teaching spin classes.  My injuries were a huge wake up call and I worked hard to get my weight back to a healthy level and get my period back.  Just recently I had a DEXA scan to show that my bone density is now in the healthy range and I will do anything and everything to stay in this healthy range.

If we are asking our bodies to run distances like 1/2 marathons and full marathons then we simply MUST refuel.   Of course the media is always telling us that we need to lose weight and be on some sort of diet but that does NOT support our level of training.

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If you are struggling with disordered eating and obsessively thinking about calories, weight, fat, restricting and losing weight, please seek help.  Talk to a doctor, reach out to your family or friends (ME:), see a therapist or nutritionist (or both) and start on the road to recovery.  Check out the National Eating Disorders website HERE for more information.

We only get one body and we need to treat it right if we want to continue to run and lead healthy, happy and productive lives.

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Have you ever struggled with disordered eating?  How did you break the cycle?

Ever had a runner friend/family member experience disordered eating…how did it effect their running?  Do you think that this is a big problem?

What are your thoughts on racing weight?  Do you think that you exercise/eat super healthy for a sense of control or perfectionism?

Do you count calories?

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234 comments

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LOOOOVE this post :) it relates very well to my post yesterday about ED awareness. I did struggle with disordered eating all through high school and college, and had a huge wakeup call about 1.5 years ago. I’m so, so thankful to have found my health, I only hope that others who are going through what I went through are just as lucky. This is such a serious and important issue that, in my opinion, is not addressed enough. We need to get some good, positive, healthy role models out there…and it can start with bloggers, friends, etc.

Thanks so much, Janae! Have a great night! :)

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Kaitlyn, I am so thankful you found your health too! You are amazing and thanks for sharing your story and being an amazing example!

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I’d seen that too. So interesting.

So if you decide you should run extra because you ate like crap the night before and don’t want to gain weight, you have disordered eating. But if you don’t exercise off excess calories consumed in a night of unhealthy eating and they eventually accumulate and you become overweight, you have disordered eating. Is it just me, or is it no win?

I get that obviously at some point it becomes a problem if you’re exercising off all you ate, but if you’re exercising off occasional unhealthy food choices with some extra miles, is that so wrong? I mean, I like to eat unhealthy stuff sometimes. And I love to run so extra miles aren’t really punishment. And I wouldn’t add miles if it was going to throw my training mileage out of whack. But I guess I’m screwed up according to this. And I guess since you like to eat skittles and you run enough that it doesn’t become a weight problem, and they’re saying that’s messed up too? Sigh.

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I totally see your point. I think that it all has to do with one’s mindset. If it becomes OBSESSIVE and interferes with the rest of your life it becomes a problem. I definitely don’t think that the article was talking about doing it occasionally. The example of the guy they were talking about dropped a bunch of weight fast and became underweight. I guess I just think when it becomes extreme and takes over your thought processes then you should seek help. Great comment! Thank you!

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I’ve been overweight since I was a teen. And was into my early adulthood years. I lost the weight in 2009, but did not have the right amount of fuel to keep up with my intense running & working out. Yet I kept going. And going, and going, and going. I developed hypothyroid & hashimoto’s, but didn’t know exactly what was happening until late 2011. Doctors thought I was crazy. Finally, an intense blood panel showed that my thyroid was functioning lower, and my body was attacking itself.

Sometimes I get really down on myself about the mistakes I made that led me to go through the worst years of my life (mostly 2010, but 2011 wasn’t easy either) but now I am on my way to healing. You are so right when you say we only get one body. I’m gonna heal and lose the weight I’ve gained from this mess, then work on being fit, lean, and toned in the healthy way. I cannot wait to run again, but right now would put my immune system at risk. Sucks, but I gotta be patient. Live and learn.

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Shellie, thank you so much for your comment. Girl…you have been through a lot. I used to get down on myself too about not fueling properly while I was injured but the only thing we can do is move forward from here. Take what you have learned to make you a better person and to help others (like sharing your story and what you learned like you just did in your comment:). I hope you are able to run ASAP! You are amazing, you can get through this!

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Great post:-) I was anorexic in college, treated for it, and I think running is a real positive thing that has happened to help me realize what “healthy” really is. It makes me feel strong and capable, no matter what my weight is. Having kids and gaining 30+ lbs also puts things into perspective;-) I have recently put on about 10lbs, without changing a THING! I guess my body just needed it, and nothing I did could change it. I think the “racing weight” can be misleading, in that people think lighter=faster, but lighter for me means that I am not as strong and healthy, and therefore not faster. I would absolutely like to be 10lbs lighter, but I am healthy and happy where I’m at. It’s not easy to put on 10lbs when I was not underweight before, but it’s muscle, and I am putting in more miles than I ever have, and strong is the new skinny;-) I eat healthy because I have one body, one life and I need to take care of it, and I want to be injury and sickness free. Thanks for talking about a sensitive topic!

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I’m really glad you posted about this today. I think it’s so important to talk about things like this, because most people view eating disorders as a taboo topic. With the way the media portrays women’s bodies these days, it’s hard not to run that extra mile after a day of unhealthy eating, or to cut back calories after a weekend of poor eating. You are so right, we only have one body and one life, so it’s totally stupid not to treat it right. This is something that needs to be addressed more often and I LOVE that you are using your blog as a way to get this message out there to young girls!

Thanks for the positive energy! Have a fabulous night!!

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janae, great post! i just read that article in runner’s world the other day and it definitely made an impression on me. i struggled with an eating disorder a few years ago, and finally had a wake up call that caused me to want to get healthy again. thankfully i am over it and healthy again, but i still experience some “disordered eating” thoughts from time to time. fortunately they get farther and farther between as time goes on though! i’m still reaping some consequences of it as i’m still waiting for my period to return, so i just hope for the best and continue to treat my body well. has your period returned? how long did it take? (if that’s TMI, you don’t have to share!)

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HEY GIRL!! I am so happy that you are healthy again and those thoughts do come back but less and less. I hope your period comes back ASAP! It took about four months for mine to come back, I was SO happy when it did. PS nothing is TMI on this blog!

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What types of modifications to your diet, etc. did you make to regain your period? How long had you not had one for?

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Thank you so much for writing this post. Disordered eating is something I have struggled with for years and I am just now getting to the point where I am getting over attaching emotions to food and instead eating for health. I think its important to get the message out there that healthy eating fuels performance (rather than using over-performance to punishing bad eating). Thanks for being so open and honest on your blog – it’s really refreshing.

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Thank you Blakely for your comment and I am so happy you are to a healthy point. I love what you said about not over-performing to PUNISH bad eating, you are right on. Thank you for your sweet words and I hope you are having a great day!

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These last few posts (this one and the ones about the movie) have been so great, Janae! You are an inspiration and a fabulous role model!! I get so much out of your blog :) Thanks for all that you do!

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Erin, thank you so much for your comment. It meant a lot to me.

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Janae! This is such a great post and I think every runner/woman/athlete needs to be aware of this. I think a lot of people deal with disordered eating even if they don’t see it or want to admit it!
I struggled with disordered eating for too many years. I was a competitive soccer player and received a scholarship to the U to play. Due to disordered eating habits it eventually ended my days playing for the U. Not only did it end my soccer career at the U, but it put my health in jeopardy. I ended up being diagnosed with anemia, was way underweight, and landed myself in the hospital for a few days to get my levels all normalized. That was the BIG wakeup call. I changed my life around after that huge scare in the hospital. I realized that in order to be healthy you have to eat and your have to refuel your body if you are working out. You can’t punish yourself for eating a hamburger or a donut. I learned to love myself and my body at a healthy weight. I felt so much better and had the energy I needed to workout and to run races. After I got healthy I began running races. My goal is to eventually run a full marathon as I have only done 1/2’s. I had to get healthy though, and not restrict food groups. We have all of the food groups for a reason!! We need all of them to be healthy and function the way our bodies are intended.
I am happy to say that I am healthy. I have one daughter (that was a miracle after not having a period for so long) and another on the way due in May! Life is good! We need to embrace womanhood and love our bodies!!
Thanks for sharing!!

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MY DEAREST LINDIE. First of all, congrats on your second baby..this is so so exciting. We need to hang out so I can see your cute tummy:) Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. SCARY stuff and I am so happy yo u are back and healthy. Life is to short to worry about eating a burger or a donut. You will get to that full marathon, I know it! I can’t wait to hear all about it too:)

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great perspecitive and post my dear. I read that article and tweeted about it. SOmething we all need to be aware about and support each other in. Calories to FUEL. Race weight needs to go out the window, it’s a constant negative topic and although we may get faster, it leads to injury like you said. Been there, still trying to get out of there.
xoxo

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So I have to share that I was anorexic for four years. It ruined my life, my family, my friends, and most of all my health and my body. My doctor told me I’d never be able to have kids and my bones looked like a 60 yr old ( I was 16 at the time and now I’m 23)
Flast forward a few years and I am happily married, run for fitness and because I truly love it, enjoy eating food without measuring it before hand, and I take care of others who are sick and struggling for a living. Some days are hard, really really hard but you get through them and you keep fighting and eventually the hard days become less and less. I guess I am saying all of this to tell anyone that you can get through it too and the other side is MUCH MUCH happier, healthier, and more beautiful. Sorry to get so personal I just feel SO incredibly passionate about eating disorders and disordered eating.

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Thanks for sharing, Abbie! I’ve battled with bulimi (in college) and binge eating over the last DECADE. I relapsed into old behaviors this past year, and am fighting my way out. It’s always a good reminder and relief to remember that life healthy is always SO much better, no matter how hard ti seems to get there

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Thanks Abbie!

I am just curious, where do you work? I too am passionate about eating disorders and helping others but haven’t found an outlet to do so yet. Any information or guidance would be helpful.

Thanks again!

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WOW, thank you so much Abbie for sharing your story. I am so happy that you got through that awful time in your life and now you are helping others that are sick. I love it when people share personal things so thank you!
Maria, thank you also for sharing your story and relapse is definitely part of recovery. You can get through this and you are so right about how much better life is when you are healthy and treating your body right!

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Hey Cassidy!

I am an RN at a children’s hospital in the anorexia clinic. I think that most children’s hospitals around the country have clinics or mental health floors that can admit ED patients. I know here we offer the opportunity for students to shadow nurses to see how it operates, if you like it etc., and also there are definitely volunteer opportunities or you could check out child life services if nursing isn’t your thing! Check it out especially if you feel strongly and Ed patients are close to your heart… You won’t be sorry! :) hope this helps!

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Thank you so much for the info Abbie! I am definitely going to look into this. What kind of schooling/training would I need even if I just want to volunteer? I majored in Health Promotion and Education back in 2006 but haven’t used my degree in a professional setting since! Big regret. Anyway, I hope I am not a bother but just want to gather some additional info before I dive in. Thanks again!

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Wow — I LITERALLY just talked with my sister yesterday about this! (I am starting to think you can read minds or something — you tend to often post things as I think about them…)

I was starting to worry that I was becoming to obsessive with my weight and calories and I did not want it to advance further so I sat with my sis and opened up about how I was feeling and it helped soooo much. You see, my mom has a history of eating disorders starting when she was a teenager that has followed her all the way through my life that has given me such skewed messed up realities when it comes to food and weight and it’s place in my life. She is literally in an inpatient program at this moment (for approximately the 100th time) trying once again to overcome it. It’s very hard to have a good relationship with yourself and your body when your mom doesn’t so I sometimes feel extra weight and pressure to stay thin. However, I am trying and over the past few weeks I’ve noticed some warning signs so I’m working towards avoiding it and trying so so hard to not live the number on my scale or the number of miles I run… Thanks again for the post, Janae!

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I am so happy that you opened up to your sister, you are amazing. WOW, that must have been so hard not to have a messed up view on food and your body with a mom that was struggling with an ED. I am praying that this time the program truly works for her. Good for you to notice those warning signs, you are incredible and you can get through this. Email me anytime!

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After gaining my Freshman 15, I started running as a means to lose weight. It started out normal and became obsessive. I NEVER missed a work out. I only ate at certain times and I NEVER ate a treat. Not even a lick or small bite. I lost 30lbs as a result. While I ate enough calories to support my training, my thoughts consumed me. I remember waking up at night my heart racing because I had drempt I ate a cheeseburger. That is just not right. It wasn’t until I went to the dr. to figure out why I had stopped menstruating that I had my wake up call. After living with my sister and some rockin roommates, I gained weight, but then I think I ate too much junk. It seems I always have to find that balance. Knowing that I could be thinner if I would just stop eating so much (what can I say, I REALLY like food) or being happy with myself. Cause trust me, no one wanted to be around crazy Megan! lol. I believe our bodies have a set point. A weight that we can maintain and still eat a few treats or miss a workout and it takes some work to get below it. I just have to remind myself (often) that even though I am not as thin as I once was, and maybe I don’t fit into the medias definition of what I should look like, I am healthy. My body can do amazing things. I had carried 2 babies and I need to be a role model to them. Luckily I have a great husband who reminds me daily too, cause I don’t always think it.
You are definitely on a high after seeing that movie ;) But I have really enjoyed these posts. So thank you! Would you really be up to seeing it again with me??

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MEGAN, my dear friend. Thank you so much for opening up about your past. I am so happy that you have recovered from this and that you are at your set point and so happy and healthy. You have gotten your body to a place that it is able to have children and you are such an amazing mom, I can just tell. I really wouldn’t mind at all! Let’s do it…as long as we get some delicious food before or after:)

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A girl at my college cross country team went through a period of anorexia. She ran fast for awhile, but succumbed to shin splits that lead to stress fractures. Disordered eating can be easy as a runner! I’m in a nutrition class and we are required to log everything we eat and turn it in once a week. I do NOT like this. It has made me weirdly conscious about what I eat (something I don’t really need to do because I already eat very healthy….) and start analyzing my food. I don’t really agree with this assignment but maybe it will be a wake up call to those in the class that are over-weight, unhealthy, and need some guidance. However, for me, I’m just trying to put down my analyzations!

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Hayden, first…I LOVE your name! I am sorry that your class is requiring you to track everything you eat. My sis is in nutrition right now and they are having to do the same thing too and it is driving her crazy. Anytime I tracked calories I started obsessing over it. I hope it is over soon and you can resume your normal eating habits. Good luck!

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I haven’t struggled with disordered eatting, but I do have a weird eatting schedule due to my work and workout schedule. I eat breakfast, lunch, and multiple snacks throughout the day, and after my workout it’s usually just my chocolate milk and no real “dinner.”

I don’t necessarily track my calories, but every now and then I do use one of the programs to make sure that I am getting adequate nutrition. And even without eatting a real dinner I am still hitting good caloric, protien, and carb intake.

I think being a lower weight does help with speed, but only to an extent. If you take it too low, then you are damaging your body so you won’t get to enjoy that quick speed forever.

I don’t do it for control or perfectionism. For me it’s a hobby, stress reducer, and social time (I do my gym workouts with a friend), or time to just think (when I run).

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75%???? Doesn’t that seem a little high?? I wonder what all types of things are considered disordered eating. Did it say? I am surprised by that high of a number!!

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Great post. I can’t say that I personally have every struggled with an eating disorder but I’ve certainly done my fair share of diets. I had my 4th baby 14 months ago and did Weight Watchers to lose weight afterwards. I was successful and lost all the baby weight once and for all. Then I took up running and my weight loss stalled. Permanently. I seriously don’t think I’ve lost a pound in 12 months. I still want to lose another 10 lbs. But now that I run four days a week I find that it is REALLY hard to find that healthy balance of fueling your body enough for your workouts but not so much that I can’t drop that last 10 lbs. Grr!

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Congrats on your 4th baby wahoo! That is awesome. It really is so hard to find the right balance for training and eating but I know you can do it. Keep fueling yourself and enjoy running. Besides just thinking of running as a weight loss tool, think about the amazing MENTAL benefits you receive from it too!

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Kerry–I understand your frustrations. I had lost about 7 lbs to get where I was comfortable and then started training for half marathons and now a marathon. I thought I’d be able to lose a few more pounds with all of this running–but in the last 9 months have maintained my exact weight and haven’t been able to lose any more weight. The way I think of it is that with all of this healthy activity my body is changing for the better and becoming more toned and fit. So while we may not be losing weight our bodies are transforming for the better. It’s just harder to measure this type of improvement! I’m sure you’re gaining some muscle with all the running! Good luck with the running!

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This is such an important topic because so many women suffer from some form of disordered eating, but they don’t think it’s a problem! It can start small, then spiral out of control. Many runners try to eat healthy, which can lead to eating too healthy and creating unreasonable “food rules.” I definitely had major disordered eating in high school and was running cross-country. I just didn’t fuel right, then I would wonder why I was so tired after running. I still struggle with this on occasion, and I hate it! I also hate that Runner’s World has articles sometimes that focus on weight loss – they should be re-written to focus on re-fueling and healthy eating.

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I spent years dealing with eating issues and I did a lot of things that were so awful to my body years back. It’s a long, long road recovering, and it involves changing the way you think about yourself, your body, food and what the whole purpose of food is. I think the big hump for me was moving away and living on my own, where I had more control over my own life and decisions, and out of confining situations that made me feel helpless and probably led to the food issues in the first place. Sounds cheesy, but I think you have to learn to love yourself, then you WANT to take care of yourself and treat your body right rather than feeling like you need to punish it for not being perfect.

I’m so glad to see awareness of these issues being raised- I really LOVE your blog, I’ve been reading for a while now and I love how positive you always are and how health-oriented your message always are. HRG is my favourite blog- I love reading your posts :) Keep it up girl!

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Jenn! Thank you so much for sharing your story and I am so happy that you are recovered. You really have to learn to love yourself before you can do anything else! Thank you so much for your sweet words, you made my morning!

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Great topic. Personally I tend to go the opposite extreme where I will overfuel because I feel like I’ve earned it. However, I overtrained for a half marathon last year and my period was very light one month, followed by getting a knee injury which sidelined me for for several months. It was scary and frustrating, and I felt bad for putting my body through that kind of stress. So I’ve definitely learned to train conservatively and to back off immediately if something doesn’t feel right, despite what our runner’s competitive instincts might be telling us.

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BUmmer about that knee injury. Running really can be quite frustrating. It is so hard to find that perfect balance but over time I know you will!

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Definitely something to think about.

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I myslef have never suffered from disordered eating, but one of my best friends is currently recovering from an eating disorder. I lived with her for 3 years during college and I saw her go from a happy person who indulged every now and then to a very unhappy depressed person who restricted her eating daily and even became a vegan at one point. Seeing this first hand made me realize I never wanted to put my body through that. I can say that I have never been a calorie counter. I think it would literally drive me crazy and make me so paranoid. I try really hard to eat healthy and I try to keep myself in check and make sure that I’m never taking it too far. I eat healthy foods because they give me energy, but I would never restrict food groups or go as far as making myself sick. I’m just glad my friend finally got the help she needed and has realized that everything in moderation is the best way to go.

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Great post beautiful lady! It’s so great of you to touch on these hard subjects!

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What a wonderful post, J! Such a taboo topic at times, but I agree that it is so healthy to discuss. I see these DE patterns all the time among a lot of my friends and myself…it manifests itself in various ways – excessive exercise, overeating, feelings of guilt….
One of my close friends literally hides her “treats”/indulgences from her husband bc she feels bad/guilty about it. That is so sad to me.

I definitely am an emotional eater, esp during stressful times (ie with the crazy inlaws-haha). I will eat cookies and ice cream nonstop and then feel so bad about myself (and sick!) for eating for the wrong reasons. Not sure what category of disordered eating patterns this falls under…but it is def not healthy.

I have struggled with emotional eating tendencies since I was back in high school after my parents’ divorce but didnt realize it at the time. I thought I just really really loved ice cream-haha. I think the best thing we can all do is accept and try to understand our actions w food and exercise along with our emotions and reflect on WHY we are doing what we are doing…it’s not about the food (well sometimes it is :) ). We need to learn to be our own best friend and love ourselves just like we would our best friends and family members. It also really helps me having such a wonderful, loving, supportive fiance in my life–he loves me for me whether I’m ten pounds heavier or ten pounds fitter. We need to love ourselves like our loved ones love us and not be so hard on ourselves.

Going to go eat a big brekkie now to refuel after my run this morning. Then I’ll probably get some gelato. :) Love you. And I’m mailing your TimTAmmies TODAY!!!

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My cutest Carrie. Thank you so much for sharing with me. I had no idea. I think that going through the split of your parents would be incredibly difficult and I can see why you turned to emotional eating. You are so strong. I love that you talked about the importance of reflecting on the WHY we are doing what we are doing! You are such a great example to me! I hope you enjoyed your gelato!

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I read this article as well, and it definitely resonated with me. I think disordered eating is more common than not and it definitely goes both ways, under eating and overeating. There is definitely a fine line between being too strict and not strict enough. Each person needs to do what works for them and their bodies.

I think judging your body by weight is really hard. My sister competes in CrossFit competitions and her BMI states she is overweight. That woman is in incredible shape! I get super down when I look at the number on the scale, but I have to remember my AC/DC thunderstruck legs are a blessing – I get to run!

Learning not to obsess and beat myself up is one of the hardest things I am (still) learning. Some days, weeks, months are better than others, but the best I, or anyone, can do is try.

You’re fabulous Janae!

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I saw this in runner’s world too and it definitely caught my eye. Something everyone should know about!
I don’t think I have had disordered eating fully, I definitely have cut out food groups and obsessed over the scale, but never replaced meals with coffee only. I DO know for a fact that I was eating a lot LESS than I should have been but did not realize it! Once you are used to eating a certain amount, it becomes ingrained in your mind since you are so used to eating that way. Add on a lot more exercise and still eating the same = not enough calories! I counted calories one day when I was constantly feeling tired, run down, etc. and I noticed I needed a LOT more. Luckily now I eat to fuel my workouts!
I do actually have a friend that has an eating disorder and would run/exercise a lot but not fuel properly I don’t think. It was hard because I always wanted to help her, but I knew that if I said anything she could take it the wrong way and get pissed.
I exercise and eat healthy because I LOVE to. I do allow myself to eat what I wanted. Usually it is healthy foods, but heck I definitely eat pizza, dessert, etc. whenever I want it.
I’m not sure how I feel about racing weight. I do notice that a lot of the elite athletes are TINY but there are some people that weigh more than I do and are a lot faster than I am. I think it could have something to do with it, but also the amount of training you have.
I do not count calories, too much thinking haha

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HEY BRITTANY! Thank you for sharing your story and I am so happy you are to a place where you understand and practice the importance of fueling your body for your tough training. It is so hard to know what to do when helping a friend struggling because a lot of the time they are in denial and think you are attacking them. Enjoy some pizza soon:)

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I love the “healthy eating isn’t eating less”. I just posted something along those lines today when I was describing my pre-surgery diet that I am following until my hip surgery next week!

Thanks for posting on this subject-I have never suffered from disordered eating but when I worked as a nutritionist I had many patients who struggled with this. It is so important to bring it to light and educate!

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Great post! I know how easy it can be to fall into this trap. Thanks for posting!

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I definitely went through a rough patch in middle school, but I am happy to say that I am MUCH better now!!! :)

STRONG is the new skinny!!!!!!!!! :)

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A lot of people are in denial on this one! Kudos to you for bringing up this important and challenging topic. There shouldn’t be any judgment attached to practicing disordered eating…just awareness…personal and societal.

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Wow, your comment was perfect. There shouldn’t be judgment. We need to learn about it so that we know how to help rather than judging people that are struggling through a very difficult time!

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Another great post. Like I mentioned yesterday, this topic is close to my heart since working at Center for Change for 5 years. I have a TON of resources, articles, etc that I would love to mail to anyone that may be struggling with an ED. If you ever hear of anyone that needs help, let me know.

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Hey Lindsay. Thank you so much for sharing info with people that are struggling. I would love to talk to you about what I can do to help my students and friends!

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Lindsay, I would love more information on disordered eating habits, what it looks like, and where to go for help. Maybe we could share emails and I could get some info from you? Thank you!

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Hi Kaelin! I would love to help. Send me an email at [email protected] and we can chat further.

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Tessa just recently posted about this and although I’ve never struggled with an ED I do know of many in this blog community that have and had some friends in my teens that did as well. I think there does need to be more information spread about this. It would be especially helpful if there was more information about how others could talk to/help those facing disordered eating.

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Love this! I wear a body bugg to help me know how many calories I’m burning, so I know how much I need to eat. It is a great tool to keep me fueling properly :)

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I love this.
I have struggled with disordered eating as a way to cope with stress. Running helped me recover! I actually just posted on my blog about my journey with disordered eating yesterday. NEDA week.

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Running helped me too!! I now have a strong desire to fuel my workouts so that I can be strong! Hope yoga re having a great day and I can’t wait to read your post!

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Love this post! I don’t count calories, per se, but I am a member of Weight Watchers, so I track what I eat to stay within a certain. I also had a nutritionist work up some menus for me, and I use those to fuel my body while staying within WW. My thought is that I eat my “normal amount” of points in healthy, good for me food, then eat whatever I run off in what I want. It’s a system that has worked for me, but I NEED WW. Otherwise, my weird relationship with food emerges. I will eat everything in sight just because I can. Weighing in keeps me accountable and keeps me from binging.

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I completely understand. I am a lifetime WW member. It keeps me accountable and under goal weight

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Amanda and Melissa…I am SO happy that you have found something that works for you and helps to keep your eating in check and away from bingeing and having a weird food relationship..way to go!

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I stopped counting calories almost 2 months ago. Before that, I didn’t really want to count calories, but it was just a habit that was hard to break. But I haven’t had disordered eating since college, thank goodness. In college, I did big time restricting + working out for about a year, following by lots of cycles of restricting and binging. Not good. I’m thankful that I changed my habits when I did!

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Great post, I hope it is of help to those that need it. I am on the other spectrum of things. I eat too much junk and don’t take care of my body – therefor 50 pounds over weight, something I am trying hard to work on. You are so very right this is the only body we get and it is am amazing gift, must cherish it. Thanks for the refocus!

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Thanks for posting this, I think it’s so important for women to value their bodies for their function and not just their appearance. You are definitely an inspiration to me in your lack of stringent “food rules” (it seems like!) and the joy you take in moving your body.
Thanks :)

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You are so right about valuing our bodies for our FUNCTIOn…love that you said that! Let me know how I can help you get rid of the food rules…you can do this!

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So important to refuel your body especially after running or any workout! Often times even when I am not hungry after a race I make sure to replenish my body with nutrients and restore my glycogen levels! Nutrition is just as important (well really more important) than exercise and should not be overlooked! :-)

Great post Janae! Thanks for sharing this! :-)

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Yes, I calorie count and yes I too am a victim of disordered eating/running. e

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Elizabeth, I am so sorry that you are struggling. Are you seeing anyone for help? I would love to email anytime!

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I think disordered eating is a huge issue in the blog community. It seems like whenever someone talks about eliminating foods, etc. tons of people get on board and do the same. It’s not safe! When I first started really distance running, I saw a nutritionist to make sure I was eating properly and getting the nutrition I needed to hit those miles and not hurt myself.

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This article was soo good! I struggled with disordered eating freshmen and into sophmore year of college. I was a swimmer in college and freshmen year I rocked it and couldn’t believe how little I would consume and how fast I could go. It took a lot for me to realize what I was doing to my body was wrong and with the help of a therapist at school and the support from my swim coach and parents I was able to over come disordered eating. I love food so much, I can’t believe I put myself through all that I did only to fit the “skinny” mold and ultimately I never found happiness and satisfaction while doing that. These days I am the happiest and appreciate the body I have and all that is is able to accomplish!

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KAITLIN!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so glad you were able to see a therapist and you had so many people to help and support you. I look back and wonder how in the world I cut out my favorite foods…I love it too much now. You are amazing Kaitlin!

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I really love these topics Janae!! You are really starting a movement here!

I struggle with disordered eating, mostly counting calories and tracking everything. I feel pretty guilty when I have treats, and am more motivated to workout hard the next day is it was a big treat. I am not underweight but I lost weight about 2 years ago and want to stay where I am. I guess that is what keeps me counting calories, the fear of gaining weight again. I don’t run long distances, usually about 12 miles a week, but I do workout almost everyday like every other blogger I follow. Really everything I do seems to be on the line, not really crazy disordered eating, but just closely monitoring my health and weight management. Is that so wrong?

You were so right in your post yesterday about wasting too much time on worrying about our looks and makeup. We are who we are, and most people could care less if I gained 10# and quit working out. But I do feel so much better when I am active and training.

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HEY KAELIN!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so sorry that you are still struggling right now. Are you seeing anyone about your struggle? I think deep down you will know whether or not your close monitoring is healthy or not. Do you feel obsessive about it? Does it consume your thoughts? Would you choose a workout over your family/friends? I am glad you agreed with the post the other day…we have so much more we can do than obsess about our looks. I do agree that exercise does make us feel better, we just can’t go overboard.

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I keep a food journal, and I count calories, but mostly it is to keep me honest with myself….does that make sense? I want to stay on an even keel instead of bouncing up and down along with my training schedule. I think it is going to be important as I transition to ultra training.

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Definitely makes sense and in your situation I think that is exactly what you should be doing!

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THANK YOU Janae for addressing this topic. I think that a lot of women feel like they are alone and in silence with this issue, and it’s so nice to bring it to the table and talk about it openly.

You continue to be such an inspiration and I can’t thank you enough for posting about this topic.

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MOLLY!! Thank you so much for your comment, it meant a lot to me!

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Great post! I saw that it’s National Eating Disorder Awareness week and I have several people blogging about it or have guest post bloggers.

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This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’m currently writing my senior graduation paper (50 pages! AH) on athletes and eating disorders but there is a section on disordered eating as well. Great post girl. :)

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50 pages?!!? Girl, you are incredible. I would love to read it!

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Let’s not even pretend I requested for it to be that long. That is how the minimum is. Though the topic interests me a lot so it isn’t like writing a 50 page paper on rocks or something lolz. ;)

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Such an incredible post, Janae. I was overweight my entire life until I lost 110 pounds in the healthiest way possible, nice and slow and by counting calories and getting into exercising. Unfortunately, counting calories became obsessive to me and last summer I got completely addicted to working out for hours a day and not refueling out of pure fear. I was the skinniest I could have ever imagined myself being, and while I looked amazing to other people because I had muscle definition, i felt shaky all the time and MISERABLE because the thoughts of food consumed my mind constantly. After so much will power and restraint, I somehow snapped one night, late late at night which caused a 4-5 month binge cycle. I gained 15-20 pounds and was so depressed. Now I am working to get that weight back off but I am so much less anxious about it and less obsessive. However, i dont think i will ever be able to stop counting calories/carbs/protein because its so engraved in my life now. I never pictured myself as a runner or athletic, and now that I am i see the importance of what we eat, but it is SO hard to find that balance…

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JEN!! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and I can see how easy it is to fall into an obsession with losing weight and being in control of every calorie. Binge cycles usually follow periods of time of starvation/over exercising. I am so happy that you are in such a better place this time, you can do it! Girl, you ARE A RUNNER AND YOU ARE ATHLETIC!

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I haven’t counted calories in over 10 years. I used to HS. I think once I got more control of my own life by going to college, I just balanced out and stopped focusing on what I ate. Maybe I just grew out of it, who knows.

I know as a female its hard to not think about calories or what you’re eating. when the same magazines that talk about “disordered eating” constantly write articles about what to eat and now to eat and all the rules to follow. Ironically sad.

Its also really hard to be happy about your weight, and eating habits when everyone around you at work is constantly talking about the restrictive diet they’re starting that day or weight watchers and points. You feel like you almost have to pretend to hate food and calories just to partake in the regular chatter. At least for people in the office world.

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Isn’t that crazy…I was upset while reading about this topic because on the same page they were advertising for 5 foods for weight loss. I feel like it is EVERYWHERE! It is hard to be happy about our weight and my workplace is the same way!

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Wow…this post was eye opening. I used to count calories, and then made myself stop because I was obsessing over it. Just started again this week because I feel like I’ve been eating horribly. Rethinking it.

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I know quite a few runners that are disordered eaters. Some of them are really really bad.

I pay attention to my intake and output, because I was overweight 5 years ago and it’s been a good way for me to be accountable and keep the weight off. (weight watchers) I sometimes think I think about food too much.

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I was going to post about not using a scale sometime next week. I don’t ever weigh myself (ok once year at my annual exam) because I don’t think it truly shows if you are HEALTHY.

My good friend is trying to lose weight and weighs herself practically ever day. I informed her that the goals should be not only be to weigh less – but to improve CV health, lower your heart rate, instill a healthy and active life style for your kids, AND feel good with increaed energy.

Once she stopped glaring at the scale and focused on overall health – I never heard her complain about her road to losing weight. It happened naturally bc she was considered with what being healthy is versus what society has pushed on us that skinny – healthy. And she can tell the weight loss – from how her clothes fit!

If my body is craving a cheeseburger – it may because it NEEDS the fat!

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Love this post Janae – it can be tough to write about difficult issues and its so important for people to make sure its brought to light so we can learn more about it and help those who are struggling!

I’ve been through a couple phases where I counted calories. I knew I’d been overeating and had gained weight, so I used the LoseIt! app to count my calories in and exercise calories out. I only did it for a few weeks because I could tell that it was making me obsessed with the numbers. I learned that as long as I listen to what my body really needs, then I don’t need to count calories!

I have a couple friends who developed eating disorders (not disordered eating) during racing season in Track in high school. Even though they’re healthy enough to be on their own (as opposed to hospitalized), they still can’t run because it will trigger the stress that brought about their eating disorders. I so wish that they never had to deal with this in the first place – I think a lot of it stems from the pressure for girls to be thin. I hate that and try hard every day to make sure my female students know that they do not need to worry about their weight – just about being healthy!

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Love, love, love this post! I struggled w/anorexia for 7+years. I was hospitalized 5x’s–the longest being a residential treatment program for 3 1/2 months. Getting to a healthy weight was the #1 thing that helped changed my disordered habits–but it took years of therapy and work w/a dietician to get to a healthy weight. I have maintained a healthy weight for 4+ years.

A pelvic stress fx 3 years ago was a major wake up call for me and my exercise/eating habits. I no longer weight myself or count calories…I go by how I feel and no longer freak out if I miss a workout/have an extra bowl (or 2) of ice cream. Now as a mom, I need to be a healthy role model for my daughter (2 years old)!!!

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MY DEAREST BECKY! Thank you for sharing your stubble with me. I had no idea that you had been through so much and it makes me beyond happy to hear you are at a healthy place for over 4 years, you are amazing.

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Thank you for this post, very well written. I have always struggled with disordered eating, and I don’t think it’s something I will ever be rid of…maybe have eased up on, but still consumes alot of my thoughts, which I don’t really think is normal. I think racing weight is important, but it really comes down to training and your overall strength. If you are restricting and not fueling your body to lose 5 lbs, eventually you will be slower than if you were carrying those 5 lbs. and able to put effort & strength into your training. Your body can only handle so much under restriction. Proper fueling & proper nutrition is key to performing well. When I lost my period for months, I knew I wasn’t doing something properly to be able to train the right way to become faster. I still have several moments when I wish I could still fit into older, smaller clothes, but my race times have dropped dramatically, and I feel more fit….ultimately, that’s what matters. Being FIT is sustainable…restricting is not.

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Sarah, I never thought I would get rid of it either but I did…every now and then a thought will come up but no actions ya know?!?! I completely agree with you about the 5 lbs and giving your body that strength that you need to complete hard workouts that in turn make you faster! You are doing incredible and keep dropping those race times!

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Thank you for bringing this issue to light! I feel like skinny and healthy are confused all too often, and know that I fell victim to this myself in my younger years. Since I’ve focused on consuming quality fuel and building muscle my race times have improved drastically, and I’m 100% healthy. Haven’t had an injury in years because to me being healthy is more important then what size my waist is.

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Great post, Janae! I think this is something that every female struggles with at some point, especially those competitive ones. ;) I used to be quite obsessive about my calorie counting, but never was fanatical about it. Sometimes my thoughts have wandered into the disordered eating area, but my actions have never reflected it.

I count calories from time to time (mainly when I feel I’ve been consuming too much or just to keep up with my protein and carbs), but I don’t let myself obsess about it.

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I struggle with bulimia every day. I also have hypothyroidism. This and stress is what contributes to my behavior so sometimes I’ll go a week with no issues and sometimes I’ll have problems all day long for multiple days. I developed it about 10 years ago and I recognize I will probably have it for the rest of my life. I just have to learn to manage it better.

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Tess, I am so so sorry that you are struggling with bulimia. It breaks my heart. Are you seeing a counselor/therapist? I really want you to get over this struggle and onto a happier healthier life. I would love to email with you!

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Hi Janetha,
I did a post on this subject on Monday… and my personal thoughts on it. http://amazingasset.com/2012/02/26/running-on-empty/

I struggle with this disorder on a regular basis, but I am always working on it! There was also a handful of great comments from readers on there too. It’s so important to bring light and awareness to this subject so I am glad you are too!

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I’m really out of it… Soooo called you by the wrong name love!! Sorry Janae! I was Just over at janethas, Yeeshe, I’m tired lol

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NO WORRIES Tessa…I totally understand. LOVED your link, thank you so much for sharing with me. You are amazing and your blog inspires SO many people!

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Just got back from a dinner and Barnes and Nobel date where I actually read the article you referenced.
Great post!
One thing I currently would like to improve is this, let me know if you have any suggestions.
You know how after a long run the refuel is awesome? I love that because i feel like, yes, my body is hungry I must feed it. But on lets say a random Tuesday morning, not really hungry so ? why I am having much more than some fruit.

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That is a great question. Do you end up eating more later on in the day? Maybe your body is just telling you that you need fruit…is it that you don’t want to eat more than food because of your mental thoughts about it or you just don’t feel like anything else?

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I think that is what I am trying to figure out. I am not making a conscious choice of not eating when I am hungry, but if I am letting the refuel be my guage for hunger, I am thinking I could be hungrier than I think I am if that makes sense? I’ll play around with it this week and see what I conclude. That is the great thing about our bodies…….a great place to experiment and learn.
Thanks for the responses today. :)

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Thanks for your response. I think that is a great idea to play around this week and really pay attention to your hunger cues. Sometimes I really do have to force myself (especially after a tough run) to eat something because I am not hungry yet but I know it will help my body recover faster from the workout. Hope you are having a great day at work!

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This is something I’m really struggling with right now. I was severely anorexic in high school (years ago). Now, my running coach advises a weight that is right on the borderline of underweight for me. I’m actively trying to lose the 5 lbs that will take me down to that weight, but I don’t know how healthy it is. So far, I feel good, but… my calories are pretty low and I need to be very strict to lose weight from this point, so I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not. It’s really hard for me not to be convinced that I run better when I’m lighter–even though I focus on shorter distances, so weight should matter less. But I feel like I train better when I’m a little hungry/empty, too, weight loss aside. Is that a part of why people restrict? Running on a caloric deficit makes me FEEL lighter and more energetic, weight loss aside. I know that must be wrong in some way, but it is something I’ve observed.

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Samantha, I am so sorry that you are struggling so much right now. Girl, I would not lose any weight if you are borderline underweight. You do not want to risk (HIGH RISK) of getting injured due to the lack of nutrients and calories. I think it is the ED thoughts telling you that you train better hungry /empty. NO coach should ever advice that! Girl, please please please get help and I am always here to email….I don’t want you getting injured and risking infertility and all of the other major risks associated with this problem. Thinking about you!

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Thank you for your reply. You’re both fast AND kind–love it.

Anyway, I’m going to make a doctor’s appointment to discuss nutrition right now, so I think things will be OK.

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HEY SAMANTHA!!! Will you please keep me updated with how you are doing and how the doctor’s appointment goes? I will be thinking about you!

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great subject to talk about, i also read this in Runners World (just got my first issue!). I’ve struggled with disordered eating throughout a lot of my life, in various stages and severities and now that i’m running i’m fighting the urge to think about calories and restricting, especially on long run days. I don’t know what it is but for some reason I feel like I try and restrict more on long run days, which is totally stupid. I guess I want to make up for carbo-loading before? Either way, I’m actually counting calories now to make sure I’m eating ENOUGH! I’m at a normal weight and pretty healthy right now, I just want to make sure that as I get more and more into running it doesn’t develop into a problem for me.

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I think hitting racing weight before a big event is probably a good idea, I’m just not disciplined enough to get it done! Ha!

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Seriously I don’t think you realize just how awesome and amazing you are!!! Really, you are the best and your blog is my absolute favorite. Taking care of yourself is sooo important, a femoral stress fracture and being on crutches for three months made me wake up and realize that fact! Thank you for being so awesome Janae :)

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LILLY! Thank you so much for your comment, it meant a whole lot to me!

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great post janae and good for all of us women runners to hear and remember!

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Thank you soooooo much for posting this. I have been wanting to do a post on this exact same article. I think A LOT of people struggle with this and it is so sad to me. It’s sad that it takes getting injured again and again and again for people to realize that maybe something they are doing, or not doing (eating) is causing it. I think it’s easy to fall into. As I read the article I noticed a few things that I have started doing as of late and I had to read that to get the wake up call that I needed. I don’t think there is anything attractive about being bones, I would rather have muscle and be strong and be able to run for a long long time without being injured. Thanks for the post :)

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MY DEAR STEPHANIE!! I sure miss you, can we go for froyo soon? It really is so easy to fall into and scary how much pressure women and athletes have! Your muscles are an inspiration to me!! When can I see you?

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At a younger time in my life, I allowed myself to be in a unhealthy relationship. He made me feel terrible about myself and about life in general. I let him push me into such a depressive state that I felt nauseous at all times and eventually lost my will to eat. I had no idea at the time, that I was practicing anorexia……

I eventually re-found myself and a healthy love for food….and am currently discovering my love for healthy food. And I run for endorphin’s, not for weight. :)

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I don’t count calories, but I am conscious of everything that I put into my body. I do not believe in ingesting pesticides, hormones, preservatives, food coloring, or processed ingredients. I believe in eating whole foods from local sources. This takes patience and perseverance and the mindset could be equated to especially as an athlete. If I have not stocked up at the co-op ahead of time then after my long run, I go to the nearest place and get whatever it is that I am craving. I understand the training weight mentality, but there is a line to staying healthy that should not be crossed. Also, purely anecdotal, but how do people run long distances without fueling properly? How is that even possible? I notice it immediately when running if my dinner the night before was not great. Maybe that is just me personally and my issues with low blood sugar.

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I love your blog, Janae. You are such a positive inspiration.

Unfortunately I am part of that statistic of woman, having developed disordered behaviors from a VERY young age, bulimia in college, to bingeing after college. It’s taken years to heal with MANY steps backwards, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Putting your body and mind through that hell, is not worth it. We have ONE life and body and it’s a waste to live it so miserable and caught up in food, calories, weight and issues. But many woman are. I recommend seeking as much help as you can, reaching out to friends, support groups, BLOGS helped me, writing and working out. I found a genuine love for fitness that helped change my life.

Books I recommend ” Life without Ed” and “Brain over Binge” and Geneen Roth’s “Woman Food and God”

Thank you again for posting and being such a healthy influence! Your blog lifts me up every day

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Maria, thank you for your sweet comment and for sharing what you are going through. I am so sorry that you are still struggling and relapses are part of recovery. You are so right…we can’t waste this life. I am so happy that blogs have helped in your recovery! Thank you for the book recommendations, I have a student that is looking for some good books to read about this, thank you!

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I read this article. I HATE that conversion table for time lost vs weight lost. It’s just not accurate once people deplete their glycogen stores, can’t work out as hard, and lose fitness. So I have to anecdotes do leave you and your SUPER HEALTHY BONES (YES!) with.

Anecdote 1:
-In October I was training for a half marathon and my average long run pace was 10:40
-In February I weighed 3-4 lbs more and my average long run pace was 9:25.
-Maybe I would be even faster if I lost that weight. But I got faster with it anyway.

Anecdote 2:
-Priscilla Lopes-Schliep won bronze in the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Olympics.
-She is 5’4″ and weighs more than 150 lbs
-She looks like this http://images.ctv.ca/archives/CTVNews/img2/20080819/400_cp_lopes_080819.jpg
(!!!!!!!!!!!)

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Er, in October I was training for a marathon (the one in Richmond w/gummi bears of course) and now I am training for a half marathon…for a while I thought I could drop 6 minutes off my half time to go sub-2 hours by losing 15 lbs – you know, like the Runner’s World table says.

And then I realized that you don’t run faster by losing weight, you run faster by running faster (well, and training better/smarter overall). So I ran faster. And faster…

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I have been keeping a food diary lately because since I have become active I started to always be hungry and not have an understanding of what is an average amount to eat (for someone my weight/height/activity level) so I use it to have an awareness. I am pretty relaxed about it and I don’t mind going over how much I am recommended. It’s more as an educational tool for me but it could be considered slight disordered eating.

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As a physician, former figure skater, current runner, and someone who has suffered from disordered eating habits in the past (and a near stress fracture), I wrote a post awhile ago about the Female Athlete Triad, which focuses on the connection between intentional or unintentional dietary restriction that does not meet physical demands, and the affect it has on our bones and menstrual cycles. Check it out if you’re interested: http://wp.me/pVLR9-7F

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Thank you so much for linking your post Julia! The physiology that you talked about regarding bone health is SCARY and eye opening. YAY for weight-bearing activities, calcium & fit d and estrogen to help repair those bones. I think your lists of characteristics was dead on. Thank you so much, I learn so much from your blog!

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Thank you so much for bringing awareness to this issue of disordered eating. It is easy to slide into full-on eating disorders, and if people are more aware of the signs, they can help themselves/others.
I struggled first with anorexia (or a combination of restrictive eating and over-exercising), then compulsive-overeating, then also some binge-purge cycles.
It was the loneliest and most shameful time of my life because of the secrecy behind this kind of struggle.
I really appreciate this post, Janae! I also want to speak out to others about taking great care of the one body we are blessed to have. :)

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WOW, Michelle thank you so much for sharing what you went through and you are so right about the shame and loneliness that go along with eating disorders!

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I really agree with this post. I find that counting calories in general gets such a bad rep but I think it can actually have a positive impact on athlete’s to ensure they meet their calorie requirements for optimal performance! But more than just calories, the quality of food needs to be accounted for.

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This post is really important and I’m glad you put it out there. Eating is a such complicated subject. With SO much information out there, and new studies and opinions constantly popping up, it can be really confusing, and then you add in a person’s history and emmotions … it’s hard to imagine any person without some kind of disordered eating. I grew up a dancer, classical ballet… classic epicenter for eating disorders. A young women that I danced with was severely anorexic. She was the skinniest, most unhealthy human being I have ever seen in my life, comparable to the pictures of Holocaust victims. You could see every single bone in Jill’s body. She cried as she would dress for class, I can only imagine because of the pain she felt just from sitting on the wooden benches in the dressing room. Several interventions took place and she was hospitalized a few times. Sadly Jill succumbed to her illness and died in her early 20’s. As horrifying as it was to witness Jill’s disease, I ended up dealing with eating disorders for several years myself. Eventually I turned things around, got a degree in holistic nutrition and completely changed my health. What I focus on now is fueling my body with healthy foods, and my soul with occassional indulgences. I’ve learned that thin does not necessarily equal health. A person who is thin but eats a ton of sugar and processed foods may be quietly destroying their insides without even knowing it until disease presents itself. The best thing we can do is to take care of our WHOLE selves and keep a balance with everything we do! Disordered eating is a slippery slope and asking for help early on is so important. Thanks Janae, for talking about a subject that so many people deal with but may find hard to talk about or even admit.

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You are so right about how confusing it is to figure out the best way to eat because there are so many sources telling us different things. I can’t imagine how many people you danced with had eating disorders and Jill’s story made me tear up. I cannot even imagine. I am so happy you were able to change your health around. Beautiful comment, thank you so much!

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Thank you.

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GREAT post! I’ve dealt with binge eating disorder on and off for my entire adult life. I think it’s so important to bring eating disorders to light and make talking about them safe and not taboo.

I don’t count calories, but I do write down what I eat and make sure I’m getting enough of each food group.

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Maria, thank you for talking about what you are going through. Let me know if there is anything I can do. You are amazing.

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very important post and i think that with running (and other sports where weight is a ‘hot issue’) it’s really tricky and finding the balance between healthy and still being competitive is really difficult. weight and racing weight will always come up but it comes down to the mindset of the runner and wat they’re doing to get there.

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Really great article! I used to count calories but finally stopped and just concentrated on eating cleaner. My back was out for a bit and all I did was walk (less intense workouts than I normally do) and I think it made a huge difference to let me see that I could workout less and still be healthy and that a huge amount of being healthy starts with nutrition.

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Thank you for posting this information. So important. I am not a runner but have struggled with disordered eating that did lead to a battle with anorexia. It always (imo) starts out with small changes in ones habits/diet/exercise routine yet can get out of control really fast.

I want to encourage any one out there that is experiencing disordered eating to seek help. I did not seek help soon enough and as a result I suffered fertility issues. I do not wish rounds and rounds of fertility meds + treatments on anyone. So NOT worth it. I am so thankful to be pregnant now (30 weeks!) and I am so thankful for the Eastern & Western medicine I pursued to get pregnant. but I would have saved myself (& my husband!) a lot of time, money and emotional stress if I would have gotten a grip on my choices before they escalated out of control.

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You are so right Brittnie…it always starts with small food/exercise habits! I am so sorry you have gone through so many fertility issues. I cannot even imagine. CONGRATS on being pregnant…ahhh so stoked for you! You will be an amazing mother!

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Great post! I would love it if you could do a follow up post – how to talk to someone going through this. My mom has been getting weirder and weirder in her eating habits, she’s lost a lot of weight and has gotten two stress fractures in the last year. It’s incredibly clear to me (and my brother) that her nutrition is the cause of this, but how does one tell their MOM that?

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ASHLEY!! I am so sorry that your mom is struggling so much right now, that breaks my heart. Here is a link to help a family member struggling:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-resources/family-and-friends.php

Keep me updated. Thinking about you and your family.

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Hi Ashley! I work at a treatment center for girls and women with eating diaorders, called Center for Change. There are a ton of resources and articles that might be able to help you talk to your mom. You can have a packet sent to you in the mail, or you can go to the website, Centerforchange.com, click on the tab that says “For Friends, Family & You” and there is a link that says “Help for Friends and Family” that might have some things that could help. Also there is a link called “Articles” and another called ” Resources”, both of which may also be helpful. Please let me know if you need anything else, but hopefully that will help you to help your mom. I know how difficult it can be to see someone you love struggle, that is why I do the work that I do. I wish the best for you and your mom.

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Thanks for posting this! I think that so many of my friends (being in college) think that by just eating an apple for lunch they are being healthy. Because I have suffered from disordered eating in the past, it breaks my heart to watch them sweat their guts out at the gym for two hours and then never eat :( I wish more people were aware of how important it is to take care of your body first and foremost! If you eat healthy most of the time and exercise a few times a week, your body will be at the natural weight is is supposed to be!! Not one that you force it to be.

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College was out of control….almost every friend that I had struggled with this problem. How can we get it out to them? I really just want to get every woman in the world together for a big conference where experts speak to us all about this kind of stuff!

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I have dealt with this for a really long time and I work hard everyday to maintain a balanced and normal relationship with food and exercise. It started when I was 11 years old (and had just started competitive swimming) as starving myself and occasionally vomiting, but as I got older things shifted more towards disordered eating and it hid itself from me.. Here I was thinking I was getting better, but instead it just shifted to more restriction.. I started being vegetarian- then vegan- then raw- the 80/10/10 (most fruit diet) These last two were the straw that broke the camels back.. I was participating in a acroyoga/ slackline workshop and we were working on handstands… I kicked up and my body just gave up.. I was so underfed that I couldn’t even move. That was when I started to slowly make a change… I started eating cooked food again, and went back to just vegetarian.. I was having dreams of eating sushi and eggs and milk.. It was the strangest thing- but I ultimately listened to my body and have been doing so ever since. Although I’m not a runner I do a lot to my body through weight training and yoga… and I never realized how much I was starving and depriving my body.. when I started to eat a balanced diet- I could think more clearly, I felt strong and healthy.. This was when my mindset shifted from trying to achieve a stickly skinny body- (which was I wanted…) to a healthy and strong woman.. It has been a journey for sure.. more than 15 years!

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11 years old! WOW! I am so happy that you realized you needed to change after your body gave up. Those dreams were probably just what your body needed health wise! Thank you for sharing your journey and congratulations on getting to where you are. You are amazing!

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I read that article in RW this month. Definitely and eye-opener. Running probably helped my eat more than hurt it. Before food was food. No I see it as fuel & try to put the highest quality fuel in my body. I don’t count calories, but every once in a while I like to write out everything I eat to see what I am putting in my body.

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I hesitated even writing about this because it’s something I don’t do, but I have struggled for many years (still am), and I am paying the consequences. I have Hashimoto’s disease, Addison’s disease, infertility, poor bone & teeth health (multiple stress fractures including a pelvic fracture from almost a year ago that doesn’t want to heal)… I can go on and on and it’s ALL related to disordered eating. No words of wisdom here – it’s such a hard thing to deal with and very serious. If you think you might have a problem, I would say that you do. Don’t brush it off.

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KIM!!! Your comment made me tear up and I am so sorry you are struggling so much. Have you been to therapy or counseling for your disordered eating. You have been/going through so much and I want the best for you. I am praying for you!

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Hey! I’m OK…. I’ve been to therapy, hospitalized in the past. This has been a LONG road for me. I am actually at a healthy or normal weight now (it doesn’t feel great to me, but I know it’s right). Running actually does a lot of good for me because it seems to disrupt the endless loop of dialogue in my head, and I also HAVE to eat properly in order to be able to run. Running wins that battle. (And it’s funny because I do run better with a little more weight on me!) I have to be honest in that right now it is a struggle because I can’t run, so the thoughts are returning. So far, I’m hanging in there. :)

I mainly posted because I think it may have been different for me if a real person told me what the real longterm effects could be. This has been DECADES for me (although not always severe, and I did go through periods of near-normalcy), and most of the real problems didn’t show up for years after. Like the article said, you can go along pretty well for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you.

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Thanks for sharing this article and viewpoint on it. I love following your blog and I started following about the time you start deailing with your injuries. Congrats on your recovery.
I suffered with disordered eating all through high school but it wasn’t until my 3rd year in college that I hit an all time low into an actual eating disorder. I was bulimic (full blown) for about 18 months and it wasn’t until a doctors appointment where I was measured and found out that I was shrinking, yes shrinking, that the effects of what I was doing to my body really hit me. I was suffering from osteoporosis at the ripe old age of 21. I am happy to say that I was able to overcome my eating disorder and although I think that that part of me will always be there, it is definitely easier to control now knowing that the damage that I was doing to my body far outweighed the benefits of losing weight.

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Awesome! Awesome! Awesome Post Janae! I love that your blog is about so many different things, not just working out and eating. Everyday there is a new surprise about a great subject and its just REAL. Thanks for always surprising us with these amazing topics.

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I struggled with this to some extent in college. I started to exercise like crazy and not eat a whole lot. I dropped a ton of weight really fast and was on the verge of something dangerous. What’s crazy is at the time I thought I looked great! But when I look back at pictures I looked awful and way too skinny! Fast forward many years later I’ve finally learned a balance between eating healthy, eating not so healthy every now and then, and running. I don’t want to be skinny but fit. I have muscles and curves and I love it! I don’t count calories but I do try to be mindful of what I am eating, especially at the age of 31. I hear the metabolism starts to slow the older you get! Plus I have a daughter and I don’t want her to deal with what I did growing up, especially in this day in age with the emphasis on everything “skinny.”

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Thank you so so much for posting this, especially timely considering it is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. My eating disorder was before I was a runner. Running has helped so much for me to recover. I no longer count calories- I focus on eating nutritious food in reasonable portions. Disordered eating/eating disorders take a huge toll on your body, especially if you are an athlete. I no longer exercise to burn fat(necessarily,) I enjoy it because I am getting stronger and also for the psychological affects. The calorie burn is not most important. Thanks again for posting on tough subjects!

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Thank you for posting this! I had an eating disorder pre-marathon days. Long distance running was actually one of the things that inspired me to become healthy again; I needed to be strong and healthy to be able to PR and actually have FUN while exercising.
I do not count calories, but I eat healthy and when I am hungry.

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I have struggled for over 10 years in the past with an eating disorder. After receiving treatment and being in recovery for over a decade now, I am a proud survivor and working on my license to work with those in need of ED treatment. I am a running coach as well and LOVE to promote health and coaching that does NOT promote “lighter means leaner and faster”. Nor do I allow my clients to body bash and instead provide a supportive and healthy environment focused on wellness and NOT weight. Please let me know if you know of anyone in need of Support for disordered eating and/or eating disorders. Be YOU at Be Me, Inc. is here to help. We have been in those struggling shoes and made it into the life of healing. We love to hear stories of hope : )

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I’ll add in a guy’s perspective on this – while probably more ladies struggle with this issue, I think a lot of male endurance athletes do as well.

When I first started running in high school I started really paying attention to my diet for the first time. My senior year I dropped a bunch of weight, set course record after course record for the first month of XC, then completely fell apart. It was sustainable only for a short time – then my running (and overall happiness) really suffered. I got weak and fatigued easily. Over that winter I put on some weight (back to a healthy weight), and tore up the track that spring. I realized that quick weight loss and too much weight loss is not usually a good thing!

Over the years I think I have developed a healthy relationship with food and I understand how important it is to fuel the body well for optimal performance. Right now I’m at a relatively light weight, but its been a gradual change over the past 1-2 years as I’ve taken my training to the next level (ie. lots and lots and lots of miles). I’ve given my body time to adapt to it.

I do weigh myself every morning when I wake up, which probably sounds obsessive, but I don’t do it to see how much weight I can lose, I do it to track trends (ie. understand the natural fluctuations) and make sure I am not dehydrated (ie. a 2 lb weight loss from the day before means I didn’t drink enough – it doesn’t mean I really burned 7000 calories!). I keep track of a lot of other things – resting heart rate when I wake up every day, hours of sleep, etc. I do all this to make sure I am recovering properly on a daily basis.

Racing weight can be a tricky subject. Its hard to maintain a lighter than normal weight for a long period of time during intense training and stay healthy. I’ve heard some experts say that if your weight drops a bit in the weeks leading up to a target marathon that is OK. But my experience tells me otherwise – before my last marathon, I dropped about 2 lbs in the 2 weeks leading up to the race, which doesn’t seem like a ton, but I ended up suffering from severe electrolyte depletion and totally fell apart in the last 5K. I went from running 5:15-5:20/mile pace for 21 miles to WALKING. It was ugly. Maybe the little extra weight loss had something to do with that? I don’t know. Currently I consistently weigh 140-141 lbs, and if I really wanted to, I could knock off 2-3 more lbs – but I think that would be a crazy risk – I’m 6.5 weeks out from Boston, and I really don’t want to drop anymore weight before then because I feel really strong with where I am at right now. So I guess my take on racing weight is that if you are running really well in the training that you are doing – stay where you are at, make sure you are always fueled well, and don’t introduce a new variable for your body to deal with in the final weeks before a race. As someone who did struggle w/ disordered eating in the past, I am proud of myself that I have this kind of perspective now.

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Jake, I appreciate your comment so much. It is amazing what we will do (in the beginning) for faster times. It becomes obsessive and we think the farther we go in ‘controlling’ our nutrition and over-exercising, the better we will be. I think your weight check in each morning is a great idea for the reasons that you are doing it for. I can’t wait to watch you rock that last 5k of the marathon, I think you will have a totally different experience than in philly. I completely think that the two lb loss could definitely have caused a lot of problems in philly! Your tips at the end are dead on. You are amazing Jake!

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what a great post Janae! I love how understanding and sympathetic all these comments are too. Having an eating disorder is so lonely and isolating. seeing all these beautiful people come together and share with one another warms my heart. it’s encouraging to know you’re not alone.

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Thank you so much for this post. I have struggled with body image issues for years. I am a recovering “counting every single thing that enters my mouth.” It was getting to the point last summer where I was punishing myself for eating that piece of cake or that cheeseburger. I was seriously restricting myself and ended up being pretty miserable. I am doing much better today and have realized that your body NEEDS carbs and fats to sustain itself. It’s still a struggle but I am much healthier, stronger and happier. Thanks for giving this serious issue attention.

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Thanks for posting this! Eating disorders are so common, and can have such tragic consequences. It is so important to raise awareness around this issue so that people who are struggling can feel comfortable seeking help, because it is so hard to recover alone.
I have struggled with anorexia for the past 3 years, since I graduated from high school. What started out as “healthy eating” turned into eating less, and soon I was losing weight at an alarming rate. I continued running and working out despite my low weight, because I LOVE those things and I was not about to give them up. I wasn’t eating near enough calories to support my activity, and my health quickly spiraled downwards. I actually ended up in the hospital for several months due to critically low blood sugar and heart rate. It was a HUGE wake up call! I am so thankful that I got the help that I needed to recover. It was really hard for me to accept the fact that I needed help. After all I was eating tons of veggies and running all the time so I should be healthy right? I was restrictively controlling my food, however I was losing complete control of my life. Anorexia is a disease of contradiction, and incredibly complicated. I still do not fully understand how my disorder got so out of control.
I have since gained weight, and am almost back within a healthy range. Now I know how to properly fuel my body, and am so excited to return to running! The body is AMAZING, and it blows my mind how quickly it is able to adapt and recover! I am so thankful for my body, and feel so guilty for the extreme stress that I subjected it to. I am so grateful for the perspective I have gained, and I hope that I will be able to use my experience to help others who are struggling. Thank you again for the great post! Its great to see that so many people are passionate about this ☺

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Great post!! I think we can always use a little reminder to take care of our bodies!

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Great post, Janae. This is such an important issue, and probably one that does not get addressed enough. Props to you and your fabulous blog! xo

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this post is fantastic. I’ve definitely dealt with disordered eating myself, but after a slow process of retraining my brain to look at food as fuel and finding fun in exercise (running isn’t the only thing out there!), I’ve gotten a lot better. I still eat really healthy, but always have treats and cheats. and although I eat tons of veg, I have no portion control whatsoever…but it’s veggies, right?! it’s hard to stop calculating calories, so I try to rough estimate, but don’t obsess. it’s a daily battle, especially when I go to the yearly doc appt to discover I gained 10lbs from last year (but really needed to!) took a few minutes to snap myself out of it, but ya know…
my sister is the one who’s in dire need. she works out like a maniac and eats less and less. one day she’ll reach out for help, then the next she’s ‘I’m fine, I don’t have a problem’ etc. so frustrating. we’ve tried everything to try to get her help but other than physically fighting her into treatment, we’ve exhausted every avenue. I feel guilty for her making me so angry sometimes…I just wish she would realize she’s killing herself and it’s not worth living in such isolation and terrible health.
anywho, thanks :)

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Definitely needed this post tonight! This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

I definitely think a lot of people go through this without them fully realizing it. I know I have (and still sometimes do) and I know I’ve tried making excuses, “well I’m training for this or that or I shouldn’t have eaten that or I can’t get my two a day in tomorrow so I need to add some extra miles in tonight to make up for X, etc). We tell ourselves we’re doing it for our training, to get faster, to get stronger or whatever excuse we have concocted in our heads to make it all okay. Personally I’ve gone back and forth with counting calories. Sometimes I would do it to track nutrients (fat/protein/carb ratio) and other vitamins through my phone but I realized that it was just making me stress out over every single bite I ate and made myself stop. Sometimes I feel like if I haven’t worked out for at least 1.5 hours I didn’t have a good enough workout but it’s just something you slowly have to work towards understanding slowly.

The sorority I was in in college did a lot of work with “Fat Talk Free Week” and I wish they would spend more time on disordered eating in addition to eating disorders because left untreated, it is just as dangerous and can unfortunately lead to more damaging situations.

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Love this post! As a gymnast turned runner I had several teammates who struggled with eating, some even required hospitalization. Thanks for being willing to talk about this!

Off subject – what happened to your dailymile.com training log? You’ve been ignoring it, no bueno! Come back! :)

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Thank you. Being so aware of nutrition and focused on what I could & could not eat from a young age definitely has skewed my perspective on food. It’s constant planning & calculation to figure out each bite’s impact on my bloodsugars. And something I talk openly about & have provided a lot of information on. However, there’s definitely room for improvement in my relationship with food – less resentment & guilt… more appreciation for what it can do for me & enjoying it.

I’m working with a registered dietitian to build a proper fuel plan for me as I train since normal guidelines wont necessarily work me. I had to start food journaling again which sucks but I’m trying to focus less on the numbers and more on the what & when.

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My sister just told me about your site and this “disordered eating” thing. Wow. This is totally me. I really have a lot to think about! I’ve had multiple people recently tell me I don’t eat enough, but I have been trying so hard to lose weight, I haven’t dared to eat any more! I need to figure out the right balance. Thanks for this post!!

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I just discovered your blog a little while ago and have been reading some of your later posts, such as this one.
I was wondering if you know any good reading material on this particular topic? From another post of yours I know that you have recommended Kara Goucher’s book “Running for Women”, but I was looking for something good that focuses on nutrition. I came across Anita Bean’s “Sports Nutrition for Women”, do you know this one? Would you recommend it?
To me, figuring out the right way to eat when exercising regularly is not the easiest thing in the world. When do you over exercise? What is considered a “healthy balance” of nutrition intake and exercise?
Thank you for all your wonderful tips and the great blog!

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I’m a bit late to reading this post but it was so good to read. I don’t exactly like to admit it, but I do believe I struggle slightly with disordered eating or for me, it’s “guilty” eating. I’m training for my 6th marathon and breastfeeding my 4 month old son and I am hungry ALL THE TIME. Especially for carbs… I just feel guilty for eating so much, yet I’m back to pre-pregnancy weight.

Thank you for writing this – it helps to know I’m not alone! I definitely don’t count calories; that would push my type A personality over the edge. I try to eat when my body is hungry, make relatively good decisions, but not be too restrictive :s

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