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Someone from a wonderful, supportive online community that I am a member of responded to a post I had written about the progress I had made in recovery. In her response, she indicated that at times she had been a little worried because my behaviour had perhaps seemed less recovery-oriented than it should have done. But I insisted I was fine, so she didn’t say anything. And she suggested that maybe it was just a necessary step that I had to take.

Writing a response to her, I was really able to think things through and gain more clarity on the issue. What I wrote came off the top of my head but I think it explains where I am, and how I got here, quite succinctly. So I’ve copied and pasted it here… because why rewrite something that came from such an honest place?

 

I think it was a necessary step. And I was fine, absolutely. Sometimes I wasn’t eating quite enough for my own body’s needs (considering the level of exercise), but what I was eating was probably what most people eat during the day. The excessive control meant that I didn’t indulge as much as I do now, or if I did I put way too much thought into it. It didn’t come naturally. But day to day, I was enjoying food, eating plenty of it, cooking healthy meals and feeling a kind of freedom that I had never experienced in adulthood.
But you start to want more. When I first started to recover, I was pleased with myself if I managed to eat three meals and healthy snacks. Just basic stuff. If I got up, and regardless of how I felt or what the scale said, I ate breakfast. That gave me a sense of pride. After a while, the pride wore off. It became routine. It wasn’t enough just to eat three meals. I got good at doing that, and so I had to take it a step further.

That’s all recovery has ever been, and at no point do I think I could have done any better. I have been completely aware of where I am at all times. When I was being too rigid, I knew it. But I had no choice. It was where I needed to be. It was the stepping stone between completely disordered and completely healthy. Well, there are many stepping stones along that path and I’m still somewhere in between the two, although a lot nearer to completely healthy.

I got to the point where I was learning to indulge without feeling guilty (although I actually started in recovery that way…not feeling guilty, enjoying little indulgences…but when the novelty of recovery wore off, I let some of the old guilt creep in). And then I was still so reliant on the scale. But I managed to break free of the calorie counting. And I needed the scale still there. Reassurance.

Well I guess now I’ve taken another step along the path and don’t need the scale anymore. Or I’m learning not to. I’ve had two years to play around with my body and what it needs. I’ve dropped weight, I’ve gained a little and now I think I have a good, intuitive grasp of what it needs to maintain considering the training that I do (when I’m not injured). I think recovery is different for everyone. Maybe some people go straight into not weighing themselves, not counting calories…just like that. I couldn’t. At times I felt like maybe I should have been stricter with myself. Thrown the scale away.

But I think I was right to trust myself. Because I feel like I’m getting to a point where I can do that, naturally. I’m outgrowing the eating disorder. It doesn’t fit who I am anymore, and I’m shedding that old skin. And I’m doing it at a pace that feels right. There are a lot of changes that you go through in recovery, inside and out. Those inner changes can’t be rushed. And I feel totally comfortable with the pace that my recovery is going at.

I have felt very stuck at times, and wondered if I was actually making progress. Particularly because I couldn’t understand why, if my attitude was so pro-recovery and I was adamant that weight and calories didn’t matter, I couldn’t stop relying on those numbers. And now I know that I was always making progress. It just happened in tiny steps. Or in big steps, followed by periods of standstill.

I woke up this morning, and I looked at my scale. The temptation was there, but I knew I wouldn’t weigh myself. It just didn’t seem important. I know I ate plenty, but not too much, yesterday. My body has no reason to gain weight. I have no reason to seek reassurance.

I’m trying to decide whether to buy a bag of (vegan!) sweets from the deli before I head to the library. My healthy alternative is grapes. I do grapes by the box. They’re awesome snack food. Particularly when you’re working and want something to nibble on. And the dilemma is between the sweets that I really do quite fancy, and something healthier considering how much ‘unhealthy’ (for the body…but good for the soul!) food I’ve been eating over Christmas.

This dilemma is not characterised by feelings of guilt and anxiety. Whether I choose the sweets or the fruit has no bearing on my worth as a human being.

I’m simply wondering what to do, quite casually and without great emotion. This is the kind of dilemma that would have caused great stress once upon a time.

I’m so pleased to start the year feeling like I’ve made a big leap in recovery.

 

Her reply to this was, ‘Here’s to wanting more’. And it really struck a chord with me. Because that is the key to recovery, is it not? Wanting more. Realising that although you could carry on living with an eating disorder, and hiding from your problems through food, actually you want more from life. You don’t want to live the shadow of who you are, the pale reflection of your authentic life. You want the real thing. You want to taste, smell, feel again. You don’t want to be numb anymore.

And when you get started on recovery, it’s wanting more that keeps you going. So I could have stopped once I got to a stage where I was eating regularly and not purging. My body was sufficiently healthy again. I wasn’t experiencing the inner turmoil that my eating disorder had previously caused. But again, I wanted more. And so, through all of the hard times and the days and weeks where it felt like my journey was slowing down, my recovery stagnating, it was wanting more that kept me inching along.

And so I have entered the new year by almost accidentally achieving a goal in recovery that a few months ago felt near impossible. I have stopped weighing myself. And not through sheer willpower. I haven’t had to battle with myself to avoid the scale. I’ve just arrived at this point naturally. The desire to be free has outweighed (sorry for the pun!) my need for reassurance and control. That number no longer seems relevant to my life.

The eating disorder is no longer relevant to my life. It’s not who I am anymore.

And that is a delightful, beautiful, gratifying thing to be able to say with total honesty. I wanted more, and that is what I got. That’s what true self-respect is – when you recognise that you deserve more than you’re giving yourself, and you set out to achieve it.

I like to think that this will be a theme for 2012. Not settling for second best, not coasting along on one level when I know I’m capable, and deserving, of reaching so much higher.

 

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Happy New Year everyone!

 

Yes, it’s been a long time since I updated this. I took an accidental mega-break from the world of blogging. Partly because of the workload I had as the Christmas deadlines approached. And partly because I lack the self-discipline to sit down sometimes and just write.

But that is one of my new year’s resolutions! Despite the fact that I am about to commence my second placement in Manchester, with four hours of commuting time a day, and a whole load of new assignments and deadlines to contend with, I fully intend to get writing here again.

I’ve missed it.

I also have TWO races to write about. I would mention them here but my anally retentive personality prevents me from doing so, and I just have to document them in separate entries. But I will begin my return to blogging with a post about running.

Because, for Christmas, Santa brought me… *drumroll*…

 

 

…a pair of Vibram KSOs! Stylishly modelled in the above picture with the new cycling bib that Matt bought me.

Looking back at 2011, it wasn’t a good year for me where running is concerned. I started the year injured, and didn’t run at all for the first month and a half. I managed to build my training back up in time for the Kildare Half Marathon, where I knocked 5 minutes of my previous PB with a time of 1:31.05, coming in second place. Things looked promising. I followed it up with fourth place in the Leeds 10k, and began the early stages of marathon training for Chester.

And then shin splints struck. I had heard about this particular demon many times, and thought I was lucky to have escaped considering how quickly I had thrown myself into running from being a non-runner. Well, they caught up with me. I had most of the summer off, and just as I was getting back into the swing of things they hit me again. I was sensible enough to take nearly four weeks off before Christmas (and as a result, my performance at the Chevin Chase – the race which inspired me to get into running and which I had been looking forward to taking part in after a nasty cough stopped me the year before – was well below my usual standard).

During this time I started to look for solutions to my problem. The physio I saw over the summer was useless and had me returning week after week with no clear treatment plan. Maybe it was my shoes? But I know I’m a neutral runner, and they’re a neutral shoe, and they feel so wonderfully light. I didn’t want to spend money on another pair only to find that they weren’t right either.

And as Christmas was approaching, and my parents were asking me what I’d like from them, the idea crept into my head or trying out these crazy barefoot ‘shoes’ I’d heard so much about.

Of course, I’ve read Born To Run. And as soon as I’d finished it, I wanted to strip my shoes off and run down the street barefoot right away! Fortunately I was smart enough to know that it wasn’t a good idea. Having planned to look into this whole barefoot thing, I got sidetracked and carried on training in my regular shoes for another year.

Until now! I have promised myself that I will be careful, and ease myself in. So far, I’ve kept that promise. I’ve only run in them twice – the first run was 1.5 miles long and the second was just a mile. I’ve been running in my trainers, coming home and immediately changing into the Vibrams then heading out for an extra mile. I’m planning to do that again tonight.

So what’s the verdict? Well, it’s far too early to say. I plan to use this blog to document my transition to barefoot running, so watch this space! I don’t know what my plans are – maybe I’ll become hooked and transition to running only in my Vibrams. But I’m open to just trying something new. They might solve all of my problems, but equally they might cause a whole host of new injuries. I know they will, if I don’t take it slowly. I’m giving myself a whole year to get into them. I’m aiming to complete a full run in them by the end of the year. By full, I guess I mean anywhere from 7 to 10 miles. I’d love to be able to do a long run in them.

As for how they feel, they’re more comfortable than I expected. I chose the KSOs because they seemed the most popular for runners. Their sole is a little thicker than the Classics, but still thin enough to achieve the barefoot ‘feel’. They’re super comfortable. I measured my feet as 9 4/8″. The sizing guide suggests a size 38 if your feet are 9 3/8″, and a size 39 if your feet are 9 5/8″. As I was in the middle, I went for the larger size. It’s perfect. I have a little extra room in the toes but not so much that they don’t feel snug. I can easily forget that I’m wearing them because they just feel like an extension of me.

I had read up on them prior to my first run, and I knew to expect tight calves. They encourage a forefoot strike, and require you to use the spring mechanism that is naturally present in your foot. Of course the fact that I’m not used to using my feet in this way means that I have to take it slowly, and build up their strength. I actually found that I could still heel strike in them without too much discomfort. But I know this is the wrong way to run in them.

I also noticed that my stride was much shorter, and my cadence increased. This is all consistent with what I had read about them. I don’t know what my actual form was because I couldn’t see myself running, though it did feel closer to the Chi or Pose methods of running that I have read about. Instead of striking out in front of my body, my feet seemed to be landing underneath me.

I would love to wear the Vibrams when I’m not running, and get used to walking around outside in them. The only thing is, I feel self conscious! They’re attention-seeking shoes, and I’m not an attention-seeking person! It would feel as if I was trying to elicit people’s attention by wearing them, when in fact I’d like to wear them without anyone noticing. Maybe my confidence will increase with use though. I certainly intend to start going on walks in them, particularly in woodland areas where the ground is uneven.

I was actually a little disappointed that my feet felt so protected in them. I had expected to feel the ground more. Although I have only run on the road so far, and the one occasion on which I did step on a large stone I definitely felt it! It didn’t hurt, but I can imagine that trail running will really put them to the test.

 

Okay, time to get on with some more work. Still to come – two race reports and a recovery update!

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