The day was never complete without a run. And the run couldn’t be just a quick 2 mile loop around the park. There were certain criteria that had to be met: I had to cover a set number of miles (ranging from 5 to 10 miles during the week, even longer on the weekend) at a targeted pace. I couldn’t stop running, even if at a light. The solution? Jog in place or run up and down the street until the red hand changed to the walking man, signaling it was okay to dart across the road. I had to sweat a certain amount, and if I didn’t then it meant an extra mile. I couldn’t eat at least 3 hours before a run, and then couldn’t eat until I felt hungry after the run. To complicate matters, I could only eat a turkey Subway 6 inch sub with no cheese or mayo on whole wheat bun with apple slices before the run. With a diet Coke of course.
As I write these silly list of rules down, it saddens me to think how much wasted time and energy I spent pounding the hard pavement with my dilapidated running shoes. When I was in the midst of this running obsession, I didn’t see the craziness of my rules. Not even when family, friends, and my treatment team forbade me to run, did I heed their suggestions. “Why do I need to stop? I’m fine!” I’d think, laughing to myself. I wasn’t so weak where I’d collapse while walking, nor did I ever get injured or feel those symptoms of overtraining I read about in magazines.
But then that’s where the bottom dropped. Sure, maybe at the time I felt “fine”, but what I didn’t realize was that my obsession with exercise was taking a gigantic physical and psychological toll on my body. For the past 14 years of my life I’ve struggled with anorexia—losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight, and so on—but another equally big hurdle I’ve had to overcome was an exercise addiction. Some call it anorexia athletica, but it seems odd to me to coin the term “athletica” to my condition. I wasn’t an “athlete” while in the midst of this exercise induced craziness. “Athletes” train for a specific purpose, nourish their bodies, and rest adequately. I was merely trying to stay skinny by exercising through an obscene amount of output. Think of it like my way of “purging” the food I ate—rather than throw up after a meal, I’d put on my shoes and head out for a 10 mile trek. Throughout those 14 years, the exercise obsession changed forms, starting one way then morphing into something totally different. It began with marathon running, then I was inclined to take up triathlons. Once those sports lost their edge, I went to 2 Bikram Yoga classes a day for months on end, not thinking my interest in yoga was really an addiction. At my worst, I’d run for hours, go to a Bikram class, then swim. Egads, that’s like, more than 25% of the day exercising.
So what changed for me? How is it that I no longer spend hours on end sweating it out on the roads in the wind, rain and sun (and I really did run in all types of weather)? I employed these simple principles:
1. Vary movement. Never do the same activity 2 times in a row.
2. Take a break. Rest at least 1-2 days a week.
3. Try a new sport.
4. Do activities with others.
5. Keep my treatment team (family and friends included) informed on what I’m doing.
6. Write down what I do for movement/exercise, then write how I feel after. If I see that I’m feeling lethargic and not wanting to do something active, then I take the day off.
It sounds so easy to do, but in actuality it took me about 5 years before I could employ all these changes. One of the greatest helps in my road to recovery was taking up other forms of yoga besides Bikram, and learning about weight training. Other yoga styles encourage different skill sets than you’d find in Bikram (plus it’s not as hot!), and I found more meditative qualities in ashtanga or vinyasa classes rather than in the hot room. Also, when I gave birth and realized I needed to have muscular strength to carry around my baby, and that’s when I got interested in lifting heavy weights. Since picking up a dumbbell and realizing, “Hey, I have absolutely no upper body strength. I’m certainly not as “athletic” as I thought I was!,” I strived to gain all-around muscular endurance, power, strength and speed. And I haven’t looked back since. I mean, seriously, when in life will I have to run 26 miles continuously in under 4 hours? I DO, however, have to carry a 27 pound sleeping toddler up 3 flights of stairs to her bedroom almost everyday—now that I have gained muscular strength, I feel more adept at motherhood and other functional living actions that I was previously unable to accomplish because of my lack of power.
Don’t get me wrong. I still struggle with wanting to exercise more, but the major difference is I have long term goals that doing MORE mindless exercise would limit me from reaching. When I feel my legs getting tingly like I want to go for a run, or I feel the lure to take 1, 2, maybe 3 Bikram classes, I stop, breathe, and then tell myself, “Why? How will this enhance your future? What’s REALLY going on?” After seeing that those actions are only short term, self-seeking gratifying decisions, I don’t engage and instead go on with my life. It’s a process and a struggle, but thankfully with guidance from family, friends and my treatment team, I feel more equipped and able to handle whatever hurdles come up in my road to recovery.
Anuhea’s Story, 15 years old
I began seeing Kristen Lindsey-Dudley in November of 2012. It wasn’t easy walking into her office, or starting treatment. However, Kristen’s office is peaceful and quiet, and she greets everyone with a smile. There is always nice music playing in the waiting room. The music creates an environment of welcome, which for a nervous patient allows time to move faster. Kristen’s methods are attuned to each patient’s needs. She is highly qualified, and insistent on healthy recovery—both physically and emotionally. She created a meal plan that fit my life-long vegetarian diet, but didn’t allow for me to hold onto unhealthy habits with my diet. Kristen goes the extra mile to make you feel special. She has a profound understanding of eating disorders, and what it takes to move forward in recovery.
Missy Jasper’s Story
I was fourteen years old in the Summer of 2002 when I first collided with Kristen Lindsey-Dudley. After dropping 40 pounds in approximately six months, I was shuffling through life in a daze. Because I was so encompassed in my anorexic stupor, I do not remember how I landed myself in Kristen’s office or who had placed me there. All I knew was that I was terrified. Without warning, Kristen hoisted the dreaded ‘Meal Plan’ into my world and it seemed that all my hard work counting calories and restricting was soon to go to waste. Stubborn and young, I believed only I could really know what was best for me. I resisted the meal plan passionately, and I took all measures to fake my way out of it. I found myself constantly pouring milk down the drain in secret and furtively tossing bags of peanuts in the trash. I created what I thought was a brilliant divide between my treatment team and my mother, which kept me in control of what I was eating at all times. In my mischief, I turned my mom against Kristen, convincing her that everything Kristen said was wrong. As far as my mom knew, Kristen was completely out to get me. Meanwhile, in appointments, I would lie with a straight face to Kristen, inventing fictitious meals I had never even considered eating. I found a way to lie my way out of treatment: a method I thought would work for me indefinitely. What I was really doing was effectively sabotaging my recovery… and my life.
I’ll spare you the gruesome details of the following 8 years I spent stumbling through high school and dragging myself through college in California. It wasn’t pretty. Because I was so resistant to treatment and had my mother wrapped around my finger, I was able to travel to the mainland for college. I thought, “I’ve learned so much from Kristen already, I’m sure I will take this with me to school and I’m ready to start anew”. What I didn’t know was that college would turn out to be a breeding ground for my eating disorder. I had no supervision, no support, and no one to stop me in the midst of my crazy compulsions. Needless to say, I crashed and burned. Additionally, I wasted four additional years of my young adulthood; years that most say are the “best times of their lives”.
After college I returned to Hawaii. Adulthood was forcing its way into my life in a very abrupt way, and I was still toiling over food and my eating disorder. I don’t remember exactly what changed within me that made me select recovery over the illness that I had chosen to maintain for 8 years. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was shame, maybe it just finally made sense. But for whatever reason, I finally decided to align with Kristen rather than resist her. For the first time in my life, I ate everything I was supposed to. I did gain weight, but it was WONDERFUL! When I stopped trying to fight to be at a weight lower than my body wanted, EVERYTHING just fell into place! My thoughts were clearer, my insecurities fewer, and for once in a very long time, I finally felt it: happiness, true happiness.
Today, at 25, I can finally say I have beat my illness. Recovery looks and feels wonderful, but what is more important to me these days is helping Kristen get her patients through treatment. I spent SO LONG resisting her, only to realize after 8 long years that she was right all along. Looking back now, I see that Kristen wasn’t trying to make me “fat” or unhappy. She was trying desperately to help me. That’s really what she wants for all the girls. From the other side of recovery, I can see so clearly how sincere Kristen’s efforts are. I wonder how I could possibly have thought someone so giving of her time and energy was trying to ruin my life. I see Kristen’s treatment as a temporarily painful means to an end. She’s hard with her patients because she cares about them and wants to push them into safety. She’s willing to endure her patients’ tantrums, feel their fits of rage, and hear “I hate you Kristen” every single day. After all of this, she shows up every day for appointments and stays late every Tuesday and Thursday for food group. I think that’s pretty amazing. So for all of you patients and families of patients who are reading this, I encourage you to stick with Kristen and push through treatment. Each and every one of you deserves to see the other side of recovery.
Read her account here: She’s Just a Teenage Girl
15 Year Old Recovered Patient’s Story
When I first met Kristen, I was underweight, angry, and most of all: starving—both physically and mentally. Physically because I had not eaten a regular meal in over 6 months; mentally because I was deprived of the knowledge of what my eating disorder was truly doing to me. Before I started treatment with Kristen, my eating disorder was my best friend. She warned me not to take another bite of my granola bar; she reminded me that I was on a strict diet; she helped me keep the number on the scale continuously decreasing. Through the past 10 months that I have been a part of Kristen’s treatment program, I have not only regained my body, mind, and well-being, but also my sanity. I have been shown, with the help of Kristen and her recovered patients, the true intentions of my old ‘friend’, the eating disorder. My eating disorder had taken away my entire life without me even knowing it. I couldn’t go out, for fear I may have to eat with my friends. I couldn’t hold a conversation, for my mind was busy counting calories. I couldn’t concentrate in class, for I was too busy daydreaming about the next crumb of food I’d allow myself to eat. The list is never ending. I realized that my eating disorder was not only taking over my life, but it was starting to kill me. No greater fear is there than the one of death. I no longer recognized the person in the mirror; she was not the girl who loved, lived, and cared for those around her. Instead, she was a ravenous disease that was eating away at an innocent young girl. When these things came to light, I finally realized the true horrors of my eating disorder. With the exceptionally structured treatment program Kristen has, there is no doubt that you will return to your normal self and the eating disorder will become no more than a wilting yet disturbing memory, as mine has.
Read Group Letter for another testimonial from Kristen’s patien