By JP Slater
I am a professional marathoner, and for the past 10 years I have also battled with an eating disorder.
My eating disorder started when I began to see great success in my long distance running abilities and only became worse the more success I saw; they almost went hand-in-hand. Elite distance running requires those at the top to be in incredible athletic shape, creating some of the leanest and physically fit people on this planet. It requires athletes to fuel with healthy foods and to have high levels of self-control, thus hiding behind “elite running and healthy living” allowed my eating disorder to carrying on for so long.
One day I realized my life had become more about worrying about eating my next meal than about my athletic success and future. Eating caused me anxiety; it loomed over me like a dark cloud of disaster, making me feel that if I ate something I would be hurting my career somehow, making me run slower. An outsider’s perspective could tell you this is exactly the opposite. When you’re running as much as I was (which on any given week ranged from 110-130 miles per week) eating was what was going to make me better and recover faster. I convinced myself otherwise. I rapidly moved away from eating affecting my running to eating controlling my body-image. Being thin gave me confidence; it made me think I was doing right in life. While I may have appeared to others to be fit and healthy, the way I was maintaining my frame was not.
Through my malnutrition I faced two pelvic fractures setting me back in my career each time for around 12 weeks, though I still proceeded to continue my habits of underfueling myself. It was not until about a year ago when I got a hold of my eating; I was able to put some of the negative self-talk to the side, I saw a therapist, I sought out help, I confronted my problem head on. It has been an uphill battle since, I have seen great rise in my performances being more consistent and seeing great rise in overall athletic performance, I’ve seen my body change and build muscle; I’ve become stronger than ever and feel like I have more life. It has been a slow process and I still work at it every day, but I know it’s worth it. I know that I am helping to save my life. I know that I could not continue down the road I was headed, I know that I still will have battles, but I’m ready for those.
I view myself in a different image now, I view myself as the strong-confident individual I deserve to be, I view myself as worthy enough to fuel my body with what it needs, I see myself as a work in progress because just like in my athletic career, I’m always trying to be better and this is just one more thing I can continue to work at.