The day I put on my first pair of running shoes, my life changed. I’m forever grateful that I took a chance with myself. Despite the awkward tan lines, black toenails and chaffing, the amazing gifts running has given me make the not-so-pretty moments worth it.
BEAT AN EATING DISORDER:
Around the age of 10, I started putting on a lot of weight year after year until I weighed 230 lbs as a teenager. Food was my only comfort in life, but was realistically a slow form of suicide. In January 2009, I decided to begin watching The Biggest Loser. By the end of the season, something clicked. I was just 20 years old and not living life as fully as I had yearned for. I needed more out of life, so I made the decision to begin my weight loss journey in early April of that same year. After naturally losing a significant amount of weight in a year’s time, I started heading into the opposite direction due to the fear of gaining and not knowing how to maintain my new body. I ultimately ended up with a full blown eating disorder and chained myself to the scale. At just 106 lbs., I was eating around 800 calories per day, punished myself with exercise for eating something “bad“, got into arguments over food and nearly blacked out on several occasions. Food was no longer comforting; I was afraid of food. I was in complete denial until a family member expressed her concern. Then, I met a runner in late 2010 and everything changed. It took some time to spark my curiosity, but once I started, I never looked back. It wasn’t long before I had to relearn what real food was and why I needed it, especially for distance running. Eventually, my chains shattered, and gone were the days I obsessed about food and my weight. Long story short…running saved my life.
COPE WITH DEPRESSION:
Depression and other mental illnesses run highly in my family, so it came to no surprise that I ended up with depression myself. My teenage years were the worst; I was a walking billboard for the hopeless. Depression robs you of your happiness until you’re just an empty shell. It’s an “I’m lonely even when surrounded by people” feeling. It’s an “I’m in a deep hole with no ladder” feeling. It’s an “I feel nothing at all” feeling. I think a lot of us are afraid to discuss our mental health because of the unfortunate stigma placed against it. Maintaining a good mental health is just as important as your physical health. I wish it were as easy as smiling more or changing my thoughts, but I can’t reconfigure my brain chemistry. I can, however, cope differently. That’s where running comes into play for me. I use running as a tool, a form of therapy if you will. It honestly wasn’t until I contracted Lyme disease and had to take a hiatus for an unforeseen amount of time that I realized how much running helped. It’s easy to get carried away in our everyday lives, and running allows me to take a step back and connect with myself. When I first started running, it felt like I was finally arriving to my own life, and my sense of purpose had been born. Some may think I’m running away from my problems, but I feel like I’m always running towards something better.