I felt good as I toed the line, looking to the race announcer doing his comedic best to inspire the antsy group of women before gun time. I love the giant swarm of butterflies that are blowing up my stomach. I can’t wait to see what I can do on the course. I’m always so excited to put new skills and strengths to the test in OCR. But, as I look around at the pack of competitors, who are typically in my age group, I begin to realize that not only are they ready for the gun, they are READY for this course. They are ready to run hard, muscle through obstacles, and push up steep inclines without hesitation. They are fit, and hydrated, their muscles trembling to hit the trail.
That’s when I notice that the only thing I have that’s trembling is my stomach. Because as much as I want to keep up and offer some fair amount of competition to the girls in my group, I know that I am lacking. Not in will, not in determination, but in nutrition. Because I let an eating disorder make the calls when it came to my training and preparation for the race. For all the races. For my life.
It was not too long ago, earlier this season, that I was going through some photos from a training session with friends on a multi rig. I opened an image of myself hanging from a ring, reaching for the next grip in full swing above the ground. I had to stop there. Something was way off. The athlete I thought I was, in my own perception, was no way on earth what I was looking at here. I was horrified. I looked like Jack Skellington with bleach blonde hair (and a VERY ungraceful version at that).
With that, I ran up and stepped on my scale. I hadn’t used one in years, as it had been many years since I thought that I was done with anorexia… why bother when I have control, right? Right??
I was underweight to the key of WTH. Only 14 pounds over the weight I had reached when I decided to get myself together. I’m almost 5 foot 10, folks. 118 pounds does not EVEN begin to cover this frame, much less allow for any kind of muscle, or curve. How could I realistically expect to be any kind of competitive athlete, heck, any kind of healthy human being running on fumes?
So, I had clearly lost that ‘control’. Something else had control of me.
I jumped off the scale and almost immediately began to seek out and enlist friends of mine to put together a nutritional plan that I could follow, and hopefully grow with.
An eating disorder gives you an irrational sense of reality. You feel like each calorie adds up to what could be too many, regardless of the actual needs that your body has to function, to survive. Stress, anxiety, worry, poor self esteem, bad self image, depression, all these things can become unmanageable. This is when trying to control calories, or exercise can become a really dangerous path to embark upon. You feel like you have a grasp on things when you restrict, measure, make the decision to skip that meal, or run that extra mile. When life is seemingly not in your control, having power over this one aspect of your life brings some modicum of false relief. It’s not control, it’s a complete loss thereof.
I wasn’t going down that path again, no way on Earth.
With a nutritional plan in hand, and a good amount of support from friends and family (you need this on your journey, I cannot emphasize enough the power of good people in your life. They are there, just open up and ask), I began the slow climb back up, and it’s been my own Killington Death March.
I have, to date recovered the pounds lost, and am blown away by what I can do now, in training and on the course. I thought that I had reached the absolute summit of my capabilities, resigning to just accept what I could do and deal with it. Boy was I wrong… as I let my guard down, and gave my body what it needed to thrive (not easy) I was astounded by the results. More energy, improved focus, and most importantly, more healthy control. I was still following a nutritional plan, just not the ultra restrictive punishment of a meal plan I had given over to. And I began to love the results I saw, the results I felt. I was overjoyed to grow out of a pair of shorts, I got so excited to buy larger sizes in clothing, and there were curves! Not one, but quite a few! I felt strong, not the multi-rig tackling kind of strong, but the kind of strength that comes with getting control over an unwelcome force in your life, cutting yourself loose from your own restraints, and getting your head above the waters’ surface. To breathe. To live.
It’s an ongoing work in progress, there are bad days, and there are the days when I can mark progress. On the bad days, I try my best to remember why I committed to this plan, and work harder with the next 24 hours I am blessed with.
I am, although it sounds strange, grateful for my battles and the obstacles I encounter. Nothing teaches you, nothing opens your eyes and smacks you upside the head, like life. You can fall into that safe place, shut the doors and windows, drown out the voices of people close to you, and try to avoid facing, confronting, and breaking free of what holds you down, but there is no hope there, no growth, no chance to experience what you are capable of – Unless you decide to fight.
I am in for the entirety of this challenge. And now, when I come to the starting corral, and am surrounded by the other competitors, I still feel like I have so much more work to do. But damn, it feels good to be on my way.
Gwenn Case @GwennCase