My Battle with Eating Disorders

Growing up I was always skinny and active. I started basketball, softball, and cheerleading in kindergarten. I played softball until I was about 10, it just wasn't for me. I played basketball through 6th grade, figured I was too small to try out for jr. high. I cheered for the school team and a competitive team through 9th grade, and then I decided I didn't want to cheer in high school.

My sophomore and most of my junior year of high school I became lazy. I didn't do any physical activity at all, I weighed maybe 110-115lbs, I wasn't fat by any means, but I wasn't fit.

I remember being at lunch at Taco Bell sometime in the spring semester junior year of high school when a classmate looked at my quesadilla on the table and called me fat. I was shocked, and hurt. I'd never been criticized about my weight before. I went home that night and ran a mile on my mom's treadmill. I was surprised to find that I liked running. From that day forward I started running or working out every single day after school, which was great, and I started watching what I ate more carefully.

I started losing weight and getting in better shape. I was running more and more miles, so I decided to run cross country for my high school my senior year. At our first practice I was excited to find I was the fastest girl on the team.

Practices were during 7th period, and I noticed that I felt better training when I ate a light lunch. This was fine at first, but I started eating less and less all the time. I would have a protein smoothie in the morning for breakfast, yogurt and granola bar for lunch, and then dinner with my family. Friends would ask me why I wasn't eating lunch anymore, I would tell them it was because it made me feel sick at practice and I would eat something right after, but it was mostly a lie.

The more I ran, the faster I got, the more I ran, the less I ate. I started believing the skinnier I was the faster I would be, the better I would look. It became and obsession.

I was running 40-60 minutes a day(5-7 miles), followed by a two to three hour cardio/weight session. When I was at home with my parents I knew I had to eat, because they would make me, but if I wasn't going to be home for dinner, sometimes I'd go all day without eating more than a granola bar. At my smallest I was 93 lbs, and I was so proud of that weight. People would tell me all the time how great I looked, and it fueled my desire to be skinny. 

Anorexia wasn't my only problem. Some days I would binge and then purge. I would eat and eat and eat and I couldn't make myself stop, until finally I made myself so full that I would need to vomit. Some days I was guilty for eating anything at all, so I would either throw up, and this is really gross and I'm completely ashamed by it, but I'm being transparent here, I would take laxatives to remove the food from my system. I know, it's completely disguisting.

My dad's side of the family jokes all the time about how awful we are when we are hungry. McKinneys get hangry, like bad. So imagine someone being hangry 24/7. I was awful to be around. Just ask my sister. I was a total brat because I was starving myself. My sister moved to Florida after she graduated high school, and was moving back into our house in Sand Springs, OK before starting college at ORU. I was pissed, not because she was moving in, I wanted to be around my sister. I was pissed that we were having to turn the workout room into her bedroom and I had to give up the place I spent so much time obsessing over my weight and size. I'm telling you, this disorder made me terrible.

My freshman year of college was a challenge. I was surrounded by a team who would eat like normal people. I would eat something small, like a granola bar, for breakfast. I turned down countless invites to lunch, because I thought I could only eat one meal a day. I would go to the cafeteria for dinner and make myself a salad, sandwich, and cookie. I was afraid to eat the cafeteria food, because there was no way for me to accurately find out how many calories were in the food being served.

I was running 40ish miles a week at this point, and my goal was to eat as little calories possible without feeling like I was going to pass out. If I knew I was going out to dinner I would starve myself all day. I was being so hard on my body.

I did well my freshman season of cross country, this was only my 2nd year of running, so of course I was getting better all the time, it had nothing to do with my eating habits though I thought it did. I normally placed 3rd or 4th on the team. I was skinny and fast, and felt like I was doing great.

In March of my freshman year of college I started having excruciating pain my quad. My trainers and I thought it was a pulled muscle, so we treated it as one and I kept running or attempting to run for a month. I ended up going to my doctor in Tulsa because I just wasn't getting any better. He told me he thought it was a stress fracture, but I would have to do a bone scan to find out for sure. We did the bone scan, he showed me the results, and I was devastated. I had a stress fracture in my femur, the strongest bone in the leg. He asked if I had fallen down somehow because it's just so rare to damage that bone from running, I didn't dare say it was from my terrible eating habits. I didn't want anyone to tell me I needed to eat. I had to miss my freshman track season and I was so upset, but I was also so anxious about how I would be able to burn calories during this time, because the last thing I wanted to do was gain weight.

I started swimming an hour a day in the mornings and biking an hour in the afternoons, I'd also do weights and abs in my dorm room between classes. Not being able to run stressed me out, and I began stress eating, then starving myself, and doing it all over again. My metabolism was so out of wack that it seemed everything I ate turned to fat and I ended up losing muscle tone and gaining weight.

I was able to run again for summer training. I spent that summer in Tulsa with my sister. She traveled to Europe that summer, and I spent a lot of time alone. It gave me more opportunity to starve myself. I would get up, run 5-12 miles, workout for two to three hours and then try to go all day eating as little as possible. I felt weak and sick, and I started getting slower and slower. By time my sophomore season started I wasn't running well. Teammates I used to beat were flying past me in practices and races.

I met with my coach at the end of season and he told me if I wanted to keep my scholarship I had to run better. He may not have known about my eating disorder, and he may not even remember this conversation, but it is what helped me get control of the disease. He asked me if I was eating enough, I replied back defensively “I eat!” He said back to me “of course you eat, if you didn’t eat you’d die.” That sentence scared my little 20-year-old self to the core. Die?! I don’t want to die. I just wanted to be skinny and fast.

I started researching running and anorexia/bulimia, and read story after story of girls like me who thought being skinny would make them faster, and then caused their bodies to fall apart. I found stories about women who starved themselves so much that their hearts stopped beating.

I decided I wanted to run, and I wanted to run fast, and I sure as hell wasn't ready to die.

Changing my view on food wasn't easy, but slowly I started eating better, and tried to stop worrying about my weight. Food was my enemy for so long. I hated that I felt terrible and mad when I would get hungry. I would feel guilty when I ate anything. It took me a long time to realize food wasn’t the enemy, food is fuel. Fuel for running, fuel for living. It made a world of difference in my running, and it helped me have a very successful junior and senior year of collegiate running.

Some days I want to skip a meal, some days I want to skip all the meals, but I don't. I still feel guilt when I over eat, but I have to tell myself “it’ll be okay, you need it to run.” Some days people make comments like “wow, I thought you ate healthy, you're really going to eat that piece of cake” or “you sure have a big appetite, you're so small, I didn't think you'd eat that much” and it takes all my strength to brush it off and not let it get to me. I know these people know nothing about my disorder and don’t mean to make me feel self-conscious, but it’s hard.

To run fast you need fuel. To run a lot of miles you need to eat, and you need to eat a lot.

Currently I’m running 40-50 miles a week, I do 20 minutes of strength training 2-3 times a week and I try to make it to yoga once a week. I refuse to let exercise and food control my life and my happiness.

I run because I love it, because I want to be the best runner I can be. I want to qualify for Boston, I want to break all my PRs. I don’t care about my weight or size anymore, in fact I threw away my scale about a year and a half ago. I just want to be healthy and strong.

If you have suffered through things like this, or are currently battling this disorder, my first advice would be to seek help from a professional, but I know that is not easy. I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist, but if you would like to reach out to me I'd love to lend my support. 

Sharing this is really difficult for me, because it has been something I have hidden for so long, but I hope that my experiences can help others in some way. 

xo, 

AF