If you are a female or an athlete, or really anyone in society today, you know that weight talk is inescapable. My realization that diet and weight were linked to performance occurred in late 2008, when I was a Sophomore in high school. I can literally remember the exact moment when I became aware that by eating less and running more, I could lose weight. In health class we had to weigh ourselves at the beginning of the year, and by this time I had been training for the fall XC season since mid-summer. I packed my own lunches, and never purposefully skimped on portions of anything, although I was dabbling in vegetarianism without informing my parents. I stepped on the scale without worry, because I knew that I looked fine and felt fine, but I was shocked to discover that my weight was a little under 100lbs. I heard a girl whisper behind me, you didn’t even weight 100lbs?! Everything clicked in that moment and from then on my relationship with food and body image would never be the same.
Six years later, I’ve read every shred of literature and watched every film about eating disorders that I ever came across. Countless stories of those with eating disorders and we all seem to start out the same way, on accident. But some people seem to get trapped more insidiously than others. Why? In my case it has to do with my Type A controlling, perfectionist mentality as well as my depression, and feelings of lack of control I had in high school. But that’s not exactly the point of this story. My point is that the same Type A personality traits that allowed my anorexia to grip me tightly also drive me to excel in my running.
I spent most of my high school running career running while sick. In my starved mind I believed that my peculiar combination of running and starving was unique, but today I realize how wrong I was as this scenario among runners, especially females is more common than not, to some degree or another. I read other women’s stories about their struggles, some are elite athletes and some are regular Janes. I pass some terribly skinny women in races, and I recognize the sinews that stick out unnaturally with each stride. My heart goes out to every person I see like that. I know that they are in a dark place and that they want to stop desperately, they want to stop running and start eating but something deep inside won’t let them. I was there.
I want to tell everyone out there, starving yourself to a “runner’s” body will never result in success. In the short-term you may get lighter and faster, but that quickly fades away when your heart begins erratically beating and you feel like passing out with each step. Months in, or years in, the effects of starving are unsustainable. There is no success to be had down that rabbit hole.