Perfection. My whole life, I’ve struggled with this word. It was an unattainable standard I set for myself- something I could control. I tried to be my idea of perfect when I was in 8th grade, and it almost killed me.
From about 8th grade until the end of my sophomore year of high school I struggled with a serious eating disorder. For me, my eating disorder was more than just wanting to be thin, it was my means to becoming perfect- something that would always be in my control. What I didn’t realize at the time was my eating disorder had total control over me. My every thought revolved around food, what I was going to eat next, every calorie that went into my body and every calorie I burned. I refused to eat during the day and every dinner with my family was a battle. I was miserable to be around and I hated myself.
At my lowest point I weighed 82 pounds (at 5’6”) and had a Body Mass Index of 11 (a healthy body mass index is between 20 and 25). It was a long road to recovery for me and after almost three years, I was finally back to a healthy weight and learned how to build my self-confidence in a healthy way. Years have passed since I made my recovery and while I am much healthier now, I’d be lying if I said I don’t have negative thoughts towards eating from time to time. I still think about everything I eat, but now, I look at food from an athlete’s perspective, from a runner’s perspective. Food is fuel to keep me healthy, happy and strong for running and for life.
Why am I bringing this up now? I never wanted to write very much about my eating disorder on my blog before because it is not the reason I started running. I also didn’t want anyone who may be struggling with eating or body image issues to be encouraged to run, especially if they are starving themselves. But, the week of Feb. 24 – March 2 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and the theme is “Everyone knows someone.”
I wanted to call attention to this because it really is true, everyone knows someone, yet sometimes we can be too scared to reach out and help them. You might be worried they’ll reject your outreach or even become angry with you, but it is important to reach out and help. If anything, it’s important to spread awareness of eating disorders because they are on the rise and a very real thing in our society today. This week, I will be donating $1 to the National Eating Disorder Association, for every mile I run and while I won’t ask you to do the same (although have at it if you’d like!), I would ask for your support in raising awareness.
If you know someone, don’t be afraid to reach out. If not, you know me, so spread the word of the fight against eating disorders; you never know whose life you might save. This week is meant to call attention to the battle that is being fought by millions of women and men in the United States every day. With more awareness of the fight against eating disorders maybe we can change the discourse going on in our society today. I don’t think there’s any better community than the healthy living and running communities to call attention to this rising epidemic. Instead of focusing on weight loss, image and calories burned, let’s try to focus on self-confidence, positive thoughts and learning to love our imperfections. It’s our imperfections that make us so unique anyway, right?
To encourage people to get involved in the eating disorder awareness campaign, NEDA is organizing walks across the country. With eating disorders on the rise- in the U.S., 30 million women and men will suffer from a clinically diagnosed eating disorder during their lifetime- it’s important to raise awareness and highlight the importance of early intervention. Research for eating disorders is significantly underfunded but the NEDA Walks have worked to raise over $1.7 million since they began in 2009. I’m hoping to attend the Boston NEDA Walk in April. If you’re interested in participating check out the full schedule here.
If you need help in figuring out how to approach someone who may be struggling with an eating disorder, visit the NEDA website.
If you yourself are battling an eating disorder or having thoughts about starvation, binging or purging, please call the NEDA helpline. It is anonymous, toll free and you can get a lot of information 1(800)-931-2237.