I was the picture of health. A childhood soccer star who played on numerous select teams throughout my adolescent years, I gave up the sport in high school to pursue cross country. Although I was not one of the top runners on the team, I held my own and continued long distance running in college–first participating in the annual Great Aloha Run, a 8.15 mile jaunt through Honolulu, then completing a marathon in Walt Disney World. High off the adrenaline of Sunday long runs and Thursday speed workouts, I attempted triathlons and found myself immersed in the world of swimming, running, and biking. Through a friend’s suggestion I took up Bikram “hot” yoga, and gave up running for the next few years and devoted myself to the practice. After giving birth (and still religiously going to yoga classes up until my daughter was born) I attempted to get back into endurance events, racing in local 10K run and planning on competing in an Olympic distance triathlon.
To any person reading this article, my athletic accomplishments seem amazing, even admirable. To those who know me, however, my recollections of these athletic pursuits may make you cringe–in fact, I’m tensely grinding my teeth as I type this. Reason being, I was gravely ill with anorexia the entire time I partook in these sports. I suffered with the eating disorder from my senior year of high school (2 years into cross country), and from that time forward, most of my memories about athletics revolve around how awful I felt pushing my body to its’ limits day in and day out. In the throes of the disorder I was exercising 3 times a day, and had no life outside of running, swimming, and yoga. What I failed to realize, however, was that TRUE athletes do 3 things: smartly train for their sport, fuel themselves properly, and rest. I was not doing any of those 3.
This article describes in more detail how individuals need more than just physical strength to be considered “healthy”. A powerful spiritual and emotional being is also necessary to living a fulfilling life. Our society idolizes football players, basketball stars and the like because of their abilities to jump, run, catch, and throw. But in actuality, individuals should be looking to people who give back to their community, cultivate strong interpersonal relationships with others, and have a strong sense of who they are apart from their accomplishments. This last bit–discovering and embracing an inherent identity–is something I am currently working on. It’s a continual process to separate the “eating disorder Lauren” (aka the-girl-who-runs-and-is-skinny) from the “real Lauren” (I’m a person who is sensitive, caring, and wonderful the way God made me). Truth be told, I still exercise, but have since hung up my racing shoes and yoga mat. In fact, I recently took a week to rest and recuperate from the weight training I have been doing. I’ll admit that the lure of exercise started to rear it’s ugly head during this rest period, but then I realized how much more time I had free to pursue my other interests. In the end, I’d rather be loved and known for who I truly am–a mother, a wife, a strong and loving individual–rather than get accolades for my athletic accomplishments.