It might come as a surprise to many people that I haven’t always been the crazy addicted runner or ridiculously healthy eater that I am today. Guaranteed, I have never been “fat” or overweight, but I definitely suffered from poor eating habits and obsessive behaviors in the past.
I grew up as an athlete, playing pretty much any sport my school offered – volleyball, basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, dance, tumbling, etc. I loved playing sports and am pretty competitive, so athletics came pretty naturally to me.
My parents also raised me on fairly healthy eating habits. If you looked at our fridge, you would see light dressing, low-fat butter, and tons of produce. I was given fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and skim milk with dinner.
However, as I went into high school and began driving, my eating habits and activity level took a nosedive straight into unhealthy. I stopped eating breakfast, thinking it would make me fat. I lived on the daily after school Slurpee from the local convenience store. Sixty-four ounce Mountain Dew Slurpee for 64 cents? Heck yes!
My sports went from many to 3. Believe it or not, volleyball was actually my sport in high school. I loved every second of it and still miss playing. But I fueled myself on those Slurpees instead of good quality, nutritious food I should’ve been eating.
High school was also when I started working at Fritz’s Frozen Custard. Although I can thank that job for helping me find my soulmate, it also was what turned my already terrible eating habits to just down right pitiful. When you work from 5 to 11 PM almost every night, you really don’t get a chance to eat dinner until after you get off. “Luckily”, right down the road was a Jack in the Box. Matt + I enjoy reminiscing on the fact that I used to be able to down 8 or 10 Jack in the Box tacos in one sitting. Yeah, you heard me right. A whopping 1800 calories in one sitting at midnight at least 5 days a week. Plus, working at a place that sells pretty much my favorite food of all time didn’t help!
Fast forward to college… I was no longer in athletics (5’4” at a D2 school just doesn’t work in volleyball) but still loved being physically active. I had spent the summer with 3 free months at one of the local gyms and was hooked. I was fortunate enough to go to a college with a pretty nice Rec Center. I started scheduling in workouts to fit around my classes and study schedule. With loving exercise as much as I did, I switched my major from Undecided to Exercise Science my second semester of my freshman year.
College was also when I started thinking seriously about running. My roommate Katie was a runner in high school and encouraged me to start running with her to stay in shape. (She is also to thank for introducing me to the blogging world.) After hearing her story about running the Chicago Marathon, I knew I wanted to try some distance running. We trained for and ran the St. Louis Half Marathon together in 2005 (now GO! St. Louis), finishing with a time of 2:01 and some change. I couldn’t believe I ran my first half in 2 hours!
To me, running was everything. I ran almost every day. I remember one Christmas break, right after Matt + I had gotten engaged, running everyday on the treadmill for an hour. I was loving the weight I was losing and how my body looked that I couldn’t imagine life without running. Until injury struck: a stress fracture in my medial sesamoid bone in my foot.
Being in a boot was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Running was my stress relief, but what I didn’t realize was that it was also becoming a very obsessive and unhealthy behavior. To counteract the loss of running, I started logging my food intake through a desktop weight loss program. It was a great day if I stayed under my goal, but that’s also when the binging and exercise bulimia started. I would restrict myself to a certain number of calories (nothing too extreme, but was on the low end for my level of activity – usually 1200 to 1500 calories per day), but would binge on Goldfish crackers or cookies, then go to the gym and study on the elliptical for an hour to make up for the extra calories I was putting in my body or try to throw up (which I actually never was able to do). Thankfully, this was not an everyday occurrence, but was definitely a disordered way of thinking + eating. And something I tried to hide from my roommates + Matt.
Even after getting married, I still dealt with some unhealthy issues, like beating myself up over gaining 1/2 a pound overnight. I wasn’t fueling my runs the way I needed to, even after running a 20 miler when training for my first marathon. I had, however, stopped overexercising and attempted purging (mostly because I was living with someone who I could no longer hide anything from).
It wasn’t until recently that I have finally found that happy balance of fueling for activity and not restricting myself like I used to. I have become more creative in the kitchen (one of my 2010 resolutions was to start cooking more). I am no longer scared of REAL food – oils, butters, real sugar, etc. I trained and fueled myself what I feel is almost perfectly for the Chicago Marathon – making sure I was getting enough food and good quality food. I listen to my body and rest when I need to and get active when I am itching to move.
I might not always eat perfectly (I am addicted to M&M’s right at the moment), but I am not going out to try to burn it off if I do feel like I overeat. One bad day of eating is not going to throw off a health lifestyle. I truly believe in everything in moderation, eating a healthy balance of quality, real foods, with a couple indulgences mixed in (hello CUSTARD!). It has helped me be happier, healthier, and proud of my body in everything that it does for me. I only have ONE body, and I plan to treat it with the respect it deserves.