September 18, 2013
Life as an Exercise Bulimic
Exercise Bulimia is an eating disorder that is difficult to detect in a society that praises and admires those that adhere to a rigorous exercise program. I know all to well about compulsive exercise, and how easy it is to hide behind the title "elite" athlete... Nobody second guesses or questions you when adhering to an exercise routine right? From the age of 18 to 22, I was competing in NCAA cross country and track for a Division 1 University, Racing and Competing for the National Junior Olympic Triathlon team, and a closet compulsive exerciser- or exercise bulimic. It was easy to hide, exercise is a positive and healthy outlet, right? My parents thought I was extremely motivated and were proud of my hard work and determination. What they didn't know was that I was running, swimming and cycling for all the wrong reasons. I was so worried about gaining weight, and keeping my body fat down that my exercise routine was getting in the way of all other aspects of my life. I would skip class to exercise, I wouldn't attend social events if it was conflicting with a workout, and I would constantly monitor what I was eating. I was extremely fit, and the attention from friends, guys and coaches only snowballed this compulsion at first... My life revolved around when my next workout was gonna be. I was winning races, training at the Olympic Training center, yet my obsession to exercise was the only importance to me. I crossed the line from fitness enthusiast to compulsively burning calories by excessive exercise. My body could only take my 2-3 hour workouts for so long. Now that I look back on my career as a college athlete and Junior Olympic athlete, I'm sad. I had so much potential, but my over training, and unhealthy motives hindered my progress and success. At first, my running times were strong, I was improving and getting faster... but the long workouts and not giving myself time to recover and rest, started to catch up with me. While training at the Olympic Training Center, one of my coaches suspected something was up. They made me wear a heart monitor at all times so they could track my workouts, I was sneaking workouts and he caught me. I was crazy, here I was at the most prestigious and elite facility to train and excel, and I wasn't following proper protocol because I was so worried about gaining weight? Yeah stupid, but at the time, I was so caught up... I was clueless that I had a "disorder". Exercise Bulimia wasn't really acknowledged yet like Anorexia and Bulimia, to most people I was just an extremely fit and motivated girl... but if I didn't get 2-3 hours of exercise in a day, I'd freak out. Running for one of the most highly acclaimed college running programs, made me a small fish in a big pond. I was running on a team of the best college runners in the nation. While training in Colorado, I was recruited by a smaller school in Southern California, it was a full ride, and I had nothing to lose... so I jumped on the opportunity. I was on my way to become a big fish in a small pond... or so I thought. When I got down to California, the first thing my new coach said to me was that I looked like I had gained weight since the last time she saw me. Obviously this freaked me out, being my worst nightmare... I started to amp up my workouts. I was pretty naive about nutrition and over training, and my times started to suffer. My new coach was so hard on me, she criticized me about my weight, my times... and running, once my passion, was now my worst enemy, I hated it. My body wasn't happy, all the overtraining was beginning to catch up... and I threw in the towel, and it was like a light bulb went off in my brain, and I knew things were messed up. So what happened, how did I learn balance? Well I stopped exercising cold turkey for awhile, and I began to enjoy food. Did I gain weight? Hell yeah I did... but it was what I needed to do at the time. I needed to learn about balance, nutrition, rest and exercising right. I needed to see food as nourishment and enjoyment, and I needed to live a normal social life. Part of my recovery process was talking about my exercise compulsion. I was an Americorps member for two years, and I put on eating disorder workshops, and taught health and exercise classes to middle school and high school girls. I slowly began exercising again, and started teaching exercise classes and personal training. Recovery from exercise bulimia isn't like some other addictions. Unlike an alcoholic who gives up drinking, it isn't realistic for an exercise bulimic to give up exercise for life. I have to constantly monitor myself, give my self rest, and put my life and people I love ahead of my workouts. That part of my past was quite along time ago. I'm grateful that I was able to overcome and conquer it. I am so much happier, put emphasis on making my workouts fun, rather than just a means to keep my weight down. I am healthier and wiser now, still a bit crazy, but I don't think that will ever go away!
19 years crossing the finish line as the 1996 Jr National Champion
21 years - probably the skinniest I got at this point.