I can’t pinpoint the moment. The exact moment when it happened. When the scales (ironically) tipped and my logical brain began to speak louder than my eating disorder brain. When I started viewing food as fuel and not as the enemy. When I was okay with eating two-thousand calories a day instead of two hundred. It happened sometime during 2016, for the first time since 2003.
Did it happen while running my first mile of the year or my 2,624th (and counting)?
Did it happen the first time I chanted, “I am fast, I am fit, I am strong, I am the shit!” at a November Project workout this year? The 10th time? The 50th time?
Did it happen after getting a PR in the Chicago marathon, despite waking up and weighing more than I had in 2 years?
Like I said, I wish that I could pinpoint the moment it happened so I could remember it forever. So I could remember it on the days when my eating disorder takes over and I go back to my old ways. So I could continue to give voice to and strengthen the logical side, to give it a fighting chance.
What I do know, is that this year was all about recovery. Not only the start of mental recovery from an eating disorder (yes, start, I have a very long way to go) but also prioritizing physical and nutritional recovery from running. And once I started to realize that recovery was just as important as workouts, my performances began to improve.
Here’s What I Learned in 2016
1. Food is fuel and I need it
2. When I feed my body and fuel right, I perform better
Thankfully, I no longer obsessively weigh out my food; instead I keep track of general “units” of food. I’m constantly thinking, how many fat, how many protein and how many carb “units” have I gotten today? It’s like a checklist everyday.
At first, it terrified me. If I’m not weighing out my foods, how will I know how much I’m eating? How will I know that I won’t gain weight? But, as the year has progressed, I’ve actually enjoyed making sure to check off all my fats. I actually enjoyed experimenting and cooking in the kitchen. I actually enjoyed sharing the recipes I make with others. I am relieved that I no longer obsess that much over food. That is huge for me.
Being mindful of making sure to give my body the fuel it needs has led to great things for 2016. 2016 was the year of the PR. I ran a personal record in every distance that I raised from the 5K to the marathon. And it’s because I was feeding myself right. I learned to view food not as the enemy, but is the key to performance.
3. Recovery days are more important than getting in another workout
The magic happens on the recovery days. Those are the days when the muscles get to rebuild themselves and adapt to your training. Recovery does not just mean a day off from running. It means eating properly, sleeping properly, stretching properly, doing all the little things to help your body become better. I still feel the need to work out every day, but I’m learning to approach it differently and reframe what I consider to be a work out. I’m learning that time off makes the times on better. I’m learning that recovery and PRs go hand in hand.
4. Strength training is my friend
Years ago, I read somewhere that for ever pound of weight you lose, you will run faster. I latched onto that idea, and tried to become as thin and lightweight as possible. I shied away from any strength training because I didn’t want to add weight and risk becoming slower. That, and I was terrified of the number on the scale growing.
But this year that changed. The changes in my body that I’ve seen thanks to regular November Project workouts, Edge strength classes, and hot yoga are incredible. At the start of class, the instructors will say, “Grab a lightweight and heavyweight.” I’ve gone from grabbing three- and five-pound weights to grabbing eights, tens and even 15s! As a result, my running has become more powerful. And continues to do so.
5. That is muscle that I see in the mirror, not fat
I am fast. I am fit. I am strong. I am the shit.
Here’s to continuing to learn and grow in 2017.