HOPE exists after an Eating Disorder

**This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. I know many still suffer in silence and shame. I am hoping by being brave that maybe even just one person hears a story of hope and healing and seeks help. Check back this week as I continue a series on ED Awareness. -Jackie

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My journey from eating disorder to recovery has spanned 15+ years, but the sweetest feeling in the world is knowing that there IS life after an eating disorder. It doesn’t have to forever be the defining statement over your life, your relationships and your thoughts. Recovery is possible, just never give up.

My struggle with food and eating began in my elementary years, I can’t pinpoint a year, but I know I had an unhealthy relationship with food even back then. I slowly gained weight and by junior high was pretty overweight. The pre-teen/teenage years are pretty unforgiving when it comes to being overweight. It seems that people love to target and pick on the overweight kids. I was bullied and made fun of on a regular basis through junior high, but you would probably never know it, I learned to hide it well. By the end of 8th grade I remember having episodes of purging, but it was scattered here and there. It was often coupled with stress and handling all these feelings that I didn’t know what to do with.

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By high school, in 9th/10th grade, my struggle had become an all out battle. What was at one point a stress relief became an overwhelming addiction that I had lost complete control over. I lost a very large amount of weight through this time and by 10th grade, not long after my 16th birthday, my family doctor recommended to my parents that they seek intense treatment for me. I spent six weeks at an inpatient eating disorder clinic and due to insurance was told I had to leave and pursue treatment back at home. I struggled with depression, anxiety, thinking that this was the end of my story, I couldn’t see hope outside of my eating disorder, it was my best friend and my worst enemy and it had its grips on me.

During this time I became a Christian and wrestled through much of this with the Lord. I begged for healing, I begged to wake up “normal” one day. I knew that God could heal me from this and I struggled oftentimes as to why He didn’t. Now I look back and know that this was all for a purpose, I am who I am today because of this struggle, but in the midst of it, I couldn’t see past it.

Fast forward through high school, as I continued to struggle. I graduated and moved off to college and my eating disorder amplified in my new independence.  I struggled hard through those years. I am an overachiever and push myself to my limits at anything I do. I was trying to balance college studies and my struggle with an eating disorder, and having a hard time. I was pushing to graduate college with a double major in three years, wanting to keep all A’s. I used my eating as an escape for the stress I felt. A binge/purge cycle would relieve the feelings of anxiety that built up inside.

There were times that I’d get a handle on my eating, I’d think I had made a turn for the better, and then without notice I’d be swept into the struggle more fully than the time before. Eating disorders are rough because you always think you have control of it, until you realize that you don’t. I saw therapists. psychiatrist, etc throughout this time, all trying to help me…all aiding in my eating. None ever understanding how I kept falling back into the same cycles over and over.

I got engaged in my last year of college and a year after college, I got married. Shortly after getting married I found out I was pregnant. Eating disorders and pregnancy are hard. You’re already freaked out about your body and then it starts morphing and changing in ways you cannot control. I did my best. My very, very best for my child. Trying my hardest to always put her needs before mine, I did well for awhile, but once she was born the struggles continued to come and go. I know that God had a purpose in giving me that little girl back then. She made me want to be better for her, to be a better mom, better person. So when I began to struggle again, I could not understand it. I didn’t want to, I couldn’t rationalize why God would give me a child, only for me to be thrown back into the woes of my eating and not be able to be fully present when I was struggling.

God has His perfect way of knowing what’s best for us, because four years later I had another daughter and somewhere in between this time, in the highs and the lows, I began to crawl out of the pit I had been sucked into for 15 years. I can’t pin point a moment, I can’t tell you I did x,y,z, and that helped me. I don’t know exactly what it was. I do know I never stopped trying to get better. The Lord was beyond gracious to sustain me. When I had given up on myself, He never did. He was my provider, my sustainer, my grace-giver when I absolutely did not deserve it. He held me tight in His grip through the worst of times. And I can promise you this, He was rejoicing the most the day I declared this battle as done, in Jesus name. He fought hard for me, even when I didn’t want to fight for myself. He never gave up on me.

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Lets jump to today….I have 2 beautiful little girls that are 4 and 8. They look to me as an example, they want to look like me, act like me, be me. That is very scary when you struggle with an eating disorder and you’d give your life to spare them from this struggle. I started working out and lifting weights a few years back and begin to find the strength in my body to be amazing. Just very recently, I discovered my love of running. I just completed my first Half Marathon on February 9 and am still in awe that I ran that far. I see beauty, I see the redemption of the cross, I see a newfound respect for my body for its strength to carry me. I have found my legs to be such an amazing gift to me, food is now fuel for me and I have such a healthy relationship with it that I shock myself on a regular basis. I can truly say running has been a huge part of what the Lord used to heal me. It has given back to me something that I never knew I possessed….worth in myself and a love for myself.

Running has made me feel whole, see my worthiness as the Lord created me. I am a Christian and I thank God always for sustaining me in my struggle. He truly has given me the strength to press on and never give up. My faith carried me in the darkness and that coupled with my running shoes are carrying me places I never thought possible.

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I fought a hard battle, I never gave up having hope that one day I would live without the struggle of an eating disorder. I am a survivor. My voice may be small, but I am not longer ashamed of the battle I fought. I made it, many others are still fighting and I want to give people the hope….just keep going! If one person finds help, if one person sees hope, then my battle has been well worth it. Eating disorders don’t have to stay hidden and in the dark, there is such beauty in the freedom of the truth.

Cottage Cheese Stuffed Chicken

I randomly found the most amazing chicken recipe recently and it has definitely become a regular item I’ll make from now on. My family loved it, especially my two girls. It was so easy to make and was still delicious the next day! It’s always a winner when the leftover are just as good.

Ingredients:

-3 chicken breast

-12 ounces Cottage Cheese (I will use reduced fat next time, the fat free was too runny)

-6 spinach leaves, chopped

-1/4 red onion, chopped (I used white because its what I had and it turned out fine)

-3 teaspoons garlic powder

Directions:

-Cut a hole in the chicken so you can stuff it (this was a challenge for me, but I ended up stuffing/dumping the rest on top and it turned out fine)

-In a large bowl combine cottage cheese, spinach, onion, and garlic powered and stir this all together

-Stuff this mixture into the “hole” you cut in the chicken (I dumped any excess I had on top once it was “stuffed”)

-Bake at 350 for 45 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked through)

That’s it…so simple and delicious. I made a vegetable for a side and put it over quinoa. Simple, quick, healthy, and done!20140206-223225.jpg

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My First Half Marathon Recap (Houston Rhythm & Blues 13.1)

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Well, it’s official, I am a half-marathoner (is that a word?!?) I keep reliving the day over and over in my head, trying to figure out how to place it all neatly into words and realize finally that I can not. So much emotion went into that day, but I will try my best to recap it here for each of you that are following my journey, and for myself to be able to remember this accomplishment years down the road.

I have chronicled bits and pieces of my journey (here and here) that got me to the starting line Sunday morning as I have started to try to work this all out in words. It was an amazing day, filled with amazing support and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my first big race.

So, here we go….I got up super early and did my usual morning routine of coffee and oatmeal. I didn’t want to change anything for the race. My best friend, Lory, met me at my house at 7am and we headed downtown to find a parking spot and get ready for the race. The 5K started before us, but even still we had plenty of time to park and visit the porta potties more than a few times. About 8:15am I lined up with the half marathon start, handed Lory my jacket, said our goodbyes and good lucks and proceeded to wait for the start.

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The start was delayed 10 minutes, but at 8:40am we were off. I fell into a massive moving crowd of people and shuffled to the starting line. As I crossed the start mat and started my Garmin, I was off. The first 4-5 minutes were completely dodging people left and right, then about 1/2 mile in the pack started clearing and I was steadily running, I glanced down at my watch only to see a 7:30 pace! WHOA! Slow down, I’m going to die at this pace (but it felt so easy, said my adrenaline.)

So here is a breakdown by mile:

Mile 1- this is great, all these people are in my way, oh shoot, 7:30 pace, scale WAY back, first hill of many rolling hills-felt easy

Mile 2- wow, that went fast, how did we get here already, this is great, 2nd hill- these are great, I can do this

Mile 3-5- these hills aren’t as scary as they seem, I haven’t broken a 9:00 pace yet…this is awesome! Ate 4 sports beans at mile 4…oops, forgot at mile 3

Mile 6- almost back to the starting point (was a 2 loop course) and by now everyone should be there, I’ll get to see my girls, my family and my friends….keep on going. Yay- there they are high fives, seeing all the littles holding signs, this is awesome! Standing there were my girls, my mom and dad, my best friend, my other “sister” Becky and her two boys. I needed to see them and have that boost…it carried me.

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Mile 7- oh my gosh, I have to run those 6 hills AGAIN?!? and do that whole loop AGAIN?!? That’s so long till I get back to my people. This was my roughest mile…seeing everyone and the finish line and then heading right back out to do it all over again was rough. Got a side stitch here and my toe/ankles starting acting sore on the downhills. Toughen up and COME ON LEGS (as I here my spin instructor Danielle in my ear)

Mile 8-10- more hills, maintaining pace, remembering that I am getting closer and closer to the finish line. Popped a few more sports beans for good measure, its hard to breathe and chew and doing it on a hill was a bad choice…Reflected on where I had been, what I had walked through and my journey to get me here. I said over and over to myself over the 13 miles…I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM DOING THIS!!!

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Mile 11- I want chocolate milk (this is a thing I have when I run, I always crave chocolate milk, although I don’t like it most other times, just after running) About this point my legs begin to feel as if concrete blocks have been attached to them and I am fighting to keep my pace.

Mile 12-13- I start to see the familiar sights from the beginning of the course as I’m heading back, I get closer to 13 and I hear the finish line bands. I have a conversation in my head with myself at this point that goes something like this, “Take that stupid eating disorder. You didn’t win this one, I did. I am one of the lucky ones who made it, who fought and never gave up, who SURVIVED.” It was so funny, but I just needed a moment to myself to declare this battle as done.

Mile 13.1- words fail me here, I see my girls, I see my friends and family….I choke back tears, I see victory, I see the cross and the strength that the Lord has given me to sustain me. I see redemption, I see beauty, I see a me that I’ve never known was there, the one who feels worthy of being herself.

and then I crossed that finish line…..Jesus! That’s the first word that came out of my mouth….it was exhilarating, it was redemptive, it was a moment that I can truly say I was PROUD of myself. I had done the hard work, the months of running, the mental work (and yes, running is VERY mental if you didn’t know that), the tears and the sweat and everything else had been worth it.

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And you know what? I finished in under 2 hours. My official time was 1:57:58. (I had a secret goal, but was too scared to say it because I didn’t think I could do it)

I did it. I ran a Half marathon. In under 2 hours. I can keep reliving that moment OVER AND OVER and it doesn’t get old.

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Race Bib in hand….and the final countdown is here

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I cannot believe it. After 12 weeks of sticking (mostly) to the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Training Plan, my first ever half marathon is days away. I officially have my race bib in hand (#739) and the reality is setting in. I have trained well for this one and regardless of how my times turn out on Sunday (yes, I know you aren’t supposed to set a time goal for your first half, but really, who can do that) I will proudly cross that finish line and you won’t be able to wipe the smile off my face. I will be that girl who slaps a 13.1 magnet on my car and proudly drives away, wearing my race medal for the rest of the day until I get home!

I have always been an extremely disciplined person. When I decided I want something, get out of my way, nothing will stop me from achieving my goals. I live in a world of black and white. I have never been able to stay in the gray areas well. I’m an all in kind of girl and in some areas of life, this is amazing…but there are plenty of areas that a little gray wouldn’t be so bad. This one however, running, is great to be an all in kind of person. I have stayed disciplined and managed to fit in each and every run, every week. Even with travel, holidays, “snow/ice” days (in Texas) and much more, I have kept going. It is funny to look back and the last 12 weeks and see how hard a 3 mile run once was, and how long that felt at the time and I now refer to a 5-miler as my “short” run. Long runs always used to intimidate me and now are a weekly run I look forward to, knowing that when I end back in my driveway I will have gone further than ever before with each increasing distance run.

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I love challenges. This started out as an insurmountable challenge to me, as running and I had never quite become friends before. Even 12 weeks ago, I didn’t love running, well, there are days I still just like it, not love it, but more often then not nowadays I do LOVE it. I even anxiously look forward to my next run and schedule around it to make sure I can fit it in most days. I’ve waited for the elusive “runner’s high” to hit, and while I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten there, I have had incredible moments when my feet and the road have connected in a new way and my legs move effortlessly through the motions. Moments when I look up and watch the sunrise or the moon grow brighter. Runs when I leave my headphones behind and just listen to the noise around me. I have a regular meeting each Monday and Wednesday with a little lady who walks her small white poodle on the same stretch of sidewalk and every week she looks scared of me (however last week I got a smile from her, I think we are making progress.)  Running is giving me so much. It is a new skill that requires time, but it always gives me more back that it takes. What an amazing journey, and its only beginning.