Posted by: Tina | February 15, 2012

Disordered eating is easy. But unneccessary.

I read this article – Running on Empty – in Runner’s World this month, and it made me think about the fine lines between “normal” eating, disordered eating, and full-blown eating disorders.

I have never had a problem with my weight. I used to struggle with it, but only in a stupid, misguided and angsty way. Which is to say I have never had a real problem with weight, only struggled with the perception that I needed to lose weight. This has, at various points in my life, led me down the path of borderline obsessive-compulsive behaviour and, according to the article, disordered eating. For example:

  1. Swearing off all sweets/dessert for a month. Result: Eating jam out of a jar by the spoonful.
  2. Hard-core long cardio workouts 6-8 times a week. Result: Guilt over missed workouts and concern over the sudden appearance of non-existent fat bulges. (I should add that all this cardio was good for building my athletic base. Psychologically, though, it was the pits. And, let’s face it, classic fitness “plateau”.)
  3. Tracking every single item of food or drink that crossed my lips, counting the calories, and trying to keep the numbers low. Result: Self-hatred at lack of willpower and concern over aforementioned non-existent fat bulges.

Two pregnancies and at least a decade later, I realize how misguided all of it was. What a waste of energy, when I should have been celebrating how incredible my body was in my teens and twenties. (See mummy tummy post for more on this.)

I would be lying if I claimed to never think or worry about my weight or, more precisely, the shape of my body. But I think about it much less than I did back before I had kids. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I had kids and I’m getting older. That precise pre-baby body ain’t coming back without a bit of cosmetic surgery. Let it go.
  2. I train with achievement – not weight – goals in mind.

The irony is that training has made me fitter, faster, stronger, and – inevitably – lighter. I weigh slightly less now than I did in high school. But I would have a real problem if I continued to lose weight because it would mean I’m not eating enough, or the right things, to achieve the athletic goals I set for myself. I don’t think in terms of grams of fat or calories. I think about what I eat in the context of what’s healthy and not going to make me bonk in my next workout. Deprivation is counter-productive – I can’t be bothered with it anymore.

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