• Tue, May 24 2011

Outer Beauty: Running Taught Me To Eat Again

Over the years I have battled with issues surrounding food and eating. Never naturally thin, without the body frame to ever be a waif, I found it hard to wrap my head around the idea that I would never be a tiny woman. Over the years I have probably vomited up more food that I would like to admit. Where so many go without too little I am embarrassed by the amount of nutrients that have been washed down shower drains and toilet bowls. So what did I do when I felt my train going off the tracks? When that little voice, one of my best and longest friends, started whispering in my ear to devour a loaf of bread in twenty minutes? I decided to run a marathon.

To say that I was a natural runner would be a lie. I began running in high school to add to my regimen of physical activity. But training for and running a marathon was more than just running a very long distance for the sake of running a very long distance. 26.2 miles to be exact. To me, it is an 18- week retreat where I get focused on what is important to me.

My aunt is an avid runner and started running marathons after she gave birth to her daughter at the age of 36. When I returned home from first- year university, big ass and big boobs, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, my aunt suggested I train with her for the Toronto Marathon that October. Still a proud member of the binge and purge club I decided nothing would help me drop weight like training with my aunt. I couldn’t wait to return to school in September as Skeletor. What happened was quite different. Runs started off short I was still able to restrict my diet and keep up with the training. However, as the mileage built up to over ten miles on the weekend I found my young legs heavy and tired. I was 19, my aunt was 40 and she had more bounce in her step. No offence to 40 year olds, but I should have been more energetic. I was disappointed in myself because I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the marathon. I had to decide what was more important to me.

Being five or ten pounds thinner, or reaching my goal in October. With half the training behind me, the marathon became a bit of an obsession, but in a positive way. I had to plan out my meals before my runs. Real meals. Not three rice cakes and a quarter cup cottage cheese bullshit. Delicious things that I hadn’t eaten, or digested in years. I was nervous before every long run as I sat at the breakfast table eating a bagel with peanut butter and a cup of coffee. I was eating to run and not running to eat. My parents and I were getting along too, my mom made sure there was always healthy food in the fridge, my dad took me to get new running shorts.

I was running 5 days a week. Eating three meals a day. I didn’t feel like I was keeping this big secret anymore. I felt strong. My legs were like workhorses pounding out the miles. I was getting more sleep. I was happy.

The funniest part was that in the last month of training the miles tapered off. I was running less and still eating like a fifteen-year old dude. I’m not going to lie and say I never slipped up in this last month. But when I did I’d be stuck in bed with a migraine or I’d feel like shit the next day. My weight was stable, my head was clear, my goal was within reach.

I finished the marathon that October with a large group of family and friends cheering me on. When I crossed the finish line my eyes were glossy, it felt incredible. I ran another marathon a couple years later when I needed another reality check. And it worked. I might run another one this fall because I think I need to. Hopefully this time I can leave that crazy bitch inside me at the starting line for good. If not, there’s always the next race.

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  • Maggie

    To me, running is like a drug or any other addiction. Once you get in the routine, you have to do it. But over the last three years, as I’ve starting running half marathons and marathons, it’s become much more to me than exercise. It’s become an important part of my life…something I need to do to clear my head, be angry, think, not think, daydream and overall feel good. And I have my best friend (that may or may not be the author of this article) to thank for getting me into running.

    Thanks for the article, Liz! It’s real and what many girls who run can most likely relate to. I look forward to reading more!!!!

  • jenergy

    Very inspirational! I’m just learning to run (I can run 2 miles in my 30-minutes-at-the-gym-before-work now, yay!), and I can’t believe how good it feels. And while I’ve never had issues with an ED, I am a recovering alcoholic (5 months clean & sober, yay again!) and it just amazes me that this body that I abused and hated for so long, when I treat it nicely, can bounce back and become strong and fast. Just wow. Maybe one of these days I’ll even run a marathon.

    Also… I’m 40, and no offense taken! I’m happy for you.

  • meglet

    so true!! Running shapes a person. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t run. It grounds a part of me and at the same times realeases many things along the way. So happy in my heart to read others that feel the same.

  • Eileen

    :) I love running, too. It’s amazing what appreciating all the awesome things your body can do, can do for your self-image!

  • TB

    a wonderfully real, raw, and inspiring article. like most others, i am certainly not immune to the barrage of pressure to look a certain way, despite what my body is naturally meant to be. but i was lucky enough to have discovered running from a young age, and throughout life’s high and low points, it has always provided me with the space to find clarity, fight anxiety, and feel strong. when i am running up a hill, i look at my legs and marvel at what they do and where they take me.

    never stop achieving and setting new goals for yourself – i have no doubt you will reach them all :)

  • Kate

    I can completely relate to this! I love the line where you talk about eating to run v. running to eat. I may never be good enough to run a marathon, but I’m training for a 10K this summer & I can’t wait to cross that finish line. Running really does become just as mental as it is physical. At the end of the day the number on the scale doesn’t matter when you feel good! (oh, and the toned legs & but are def. a plus!)

  • Val

    It’s amazing how running – or another intense physical activity – can change your perspective from feeling like your body is an enemy to this incredible machine that needs to be cared for. Legs aren’t seen as big anymore, they’re muscle to haul you up hills. Eating isn’t a battle, it’s a pre-workout ritual.

    Hopefully there’s a way that girls can be introduced to something this positive before they discover it the hard way – great article!

    • Mandie

      There is a way, A great organization called Girls on The Run, but it is for a narrow age of girls.

  • monet0

    so has running replaced your eating disorder? has it solved your issues with your image and weight or do are you still unsatisfied with the way you look? i think it’s great if you are healthy and no longer have an unhealthy relationship with food. i hope you’re no longer barfing xo

  • monet0

    btw,if that’s you in the photo, i hope you don’t lose anymore weight!lol

  • Maria

    I loved this article! Exercise truly does change the way I look at my body. I think I need to start long distance running again, thanks for the motivation!

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  • lisa

    Great article! It gives me motivation to get back into running again, I’ve never ran a marathon but would like to someday and this is good inspiration. Thanks for your story!