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Mary: Today we wanted to talk about eating disorders and disordered eating. A lot of people say that and think that it means the same thing.
Kristin: They are not the same thing.
Mary: They are definitely not the same thing.
And it’s hard for someone who doesn’t know that they have disordered eating habits to hear that.
Kristin: They think, well, I don’t have an eating disorder. I’m okay, right? I’m not anorexic, I’m not bulimic. I have these weird things about food, but I’m not anorexic or bulimic. I don’t have an eating disorder. But there is something called disordered eating.
Mary: Eating disorders are serious and they can be fatal. It’s an illness that can cause severe disturbances in a person’s eating behaviors. Anorexia, bulimia, exercise-induced bulimia. There are many more that, I don’t want to say they discovered, but named like binge eating disorder.
And eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Did you know that?
Kristin: I did not know that.
Mary: I didn’t know that either, which is crazy.
Kristin: I would have thought depression would have the highest mortality rate with suicide.
Mary: And one may be related to the other. 30 million people in the United States alone suffer from this. So it’s prevalent. And then you have disordered eating, which I know many of you have heard me say before – eating disorders or disordered eating. And I do mean that they’re two separate things.
I did not have a full-blown eating disorder. I recognize now I had severe disordered eating because I was never to the point that I was so small or had such erratic behavior that I needed to go into some type of treatment. But it was disrupting my life completely. 100%.
Disordered eating describes a range of irregular eating behaviors that may or may not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder. So it may be something that’s diagnosable, it may not be, but there are different signs and symptoms. And I know a lot of this affects our female strength athletes. I was one of them and I’ve talked to many of you on Instagram about it. So, I know this is a big thing.
Kristin: And this is super important to talk about because like you’re saying, disordered eating is super common. It’s super common among women and athletes. I know many people who maybe don’t continuously struggle with disordered eating, but I think all of us probably have at some point.
When I read through this list of these symptoms, I think some of us have all experienced some of this to a degree. When you hear them all together, you think, “Okay, I need to check myself periodically.”
So what are the signs and symptoms?
Mary: So the first one is frequent dieting or any anxiety associated with specific foods or skipping meals. This is what I would call a yo-yo diet.
Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. Or cutting out entire food groups.
Mary: Yeah. I remember when I first started all my nonsense, I started cutting out any carbs, simple carbs, and then came complex carbs. It was just chicken and veggies. And then I became a vegetarian. And then I would skip meals. If I came home after practice and I didn’t have dinner, it was fine because then my calories were low.
Kristin: Right. You’re like, “Oh, I’ll get skinnier.”
Mary: Chronic weight fluctuation is the second symptom. So you’re up and down and up and down and up and down, which was never really me. I kind of went down, down, down, down, and then up. And then, you know, I kind of evened out over the years once I got everything under control.
The third thing is rigid rituals and routines surrounding food and exercise. So it may be that you have to eat a certain amount, or you can’t eat before bed, or it has to be this type of food.
Kristin: We talk a lot about pre and post nutrition and stuff like that. And I always say this is what you should do. You need to do X, Y, and Z. If you don’t do it, if you miss it a day, if you don’t get your protein shake in after training, it’s okay. Nothing bad is going to happen.
I have rigid rituals around my food and exercise, but if I skip them, life happens. I don’t get my protein or my carbs or whatever. That sucks, but it doesn’t produce anxiety. And I think that’s the anxiety-producing thing, like oh my gosh, everything is ruined. That is really dangerous.
Mary: Yes. Feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating, which I’m sure we’ve all felt at some point. Preoccupation with food, weight, body image that negatively impacts your quality of life. So, if you’re weighing yourself multiple times a day. Or if every time you’re in front of a mirror, you’re pinching your fat or you are always thinking about food. “What am I going to eat? How much am I going to eat? I can’t eat too much. I can’t eat too little.”
I remember for me, I would give anything in the world. I would get anything to make the voices in my head stop thinking about food. Stop thinking about how much, when, am I hungry? Am I not hungry? Oh, my stomach hurts. Oh, it doesn’t hurt. It occupied 85% of my thinking space.
Kristin: Which really impacts your life because where is there room to think about anything else?
Mary: There wasn’t.
Kristin: That’s intense.
Mary: A feeling of loss of control around food, including compulsive eating habits. So for me, I call it “pantry time.” My husband would go to bed and I would stay up simply so I could eat without him knowing what I was eating. And I would sit in the pantry and just eat. I couldn’t control it. I’d be like, “I’m not gonna do this. I’m not gonna do it tonight.” And then I’d have a little bit and before I knew it, I’d eat half of whatever it was.
Kristin: This comes out of having restricted food so much. So, then your brain is like, “I need food, I need food.” And suddenly you become obsessed with it. Did it come out of restriction for you?
Mary: Absolutely. And I’ll get into my story in a little bit. I think I’ve kind of mentioned my story, but diving into the details is important.
And then last is using exercise or food restriction, fasting or purging to make up for bad foods, which I did for a while. I was like, it’s fine. I’m not in a wreck, sick, or blaming. I started and then I was like, okay, never again. And then I’d do it again and again and thought “All right, I have a problem.”
And it was kind of scary because I knew that this thing could stop the feelings that I had about eating whatever I ate. But I also knew what that thing could do to my body. So I was terrified.
Kristin: Yeah. That’s very disruptive to life.
Mary: And it can ruin your throat. Your digestive juices up here where they shouldn’t be.
Kristin: In your throat and your teeth.
Mary: As Kristen mentioned, it’s difficult being an athlete and struggling with eating because we know we have to eat. I mean, everyone knows we have to eat, but specifically as athletes and strength athletes, to improve on what we want to improve on, we have to eat.
We know generally the macros of the foods we eat. And eating can be somewhat ritualistic, like pre and post-training. But it’s like Kristen said, if I skip my pre-workout now post-workout, I can feel it, but it is what it is. We’re moving on with life.
Kristin: Right. Not obsessing over it.
Mary: A couple of years ago it would be the end of the world. I would be in tears thinking of how I completely screwed up. I might as well give up and never do anything ever again. It was black or white.
Kristin: The ability to be able to put something behind you that wasn’t perfect is super important. And when you can’t do that, that’s when this becomes some disordered eating. When you dwell on those things that didn’t go perfectly. I’m not even going to call them mistakes because they’re just something that happened. Calling it a mistake gives it a bad connotation. It’s just that something didn’t go perfectly and you say, “Well, screw it. I’m going to eat everything now because I already messed up.”
Mary: I can remember it was like a physical feeling in my body of, “I know I shouldn’t have eaten whatever that was.” Or I had told myself not to eat that. And then when I did, it wasn’t even that I was full. It was like this feeling of something foreign and nasty.
I don’t know how to describe the feeling. If you are listening and you like, “Oh my God, I know that feeling,” it’s hard to describe it. You feel like there’s something wrong inside of you. And either you need to get it out or you need to fix it. Whether that means you need to work out or you need to skip dinner or whatever, somehow you have to fix that feeling.
It’s not just the people who say “just eat food.” You’re like, okay, you can suck it because that’s not how it works.
The thing that I found that was really difficult also as being a strength athlete, is I struggled because of watching social media. I would follow some really big bodybuilder names who somehow were always like 10% body fat year-round. And I just hated myself because I didn’t look like that.
And then there are companies that use endorsed athletes who are lean and muscular. They show that as something that should be attainable, rather than showing what they’ve accomplished.
Kristin: Yeah. That’s my biggest pet peeve, the social media. Whether it’s intentional or not, they’re putting athletes’ appearances above their performance. Making it seem like their appearances are more important than their performance.
Mary: Look like an athlete, then they are an athlete.
Kristin: I get that elite athletes are ultra-lean to stay in a competitive weight class. I get that. But that is a very small percentage of athletes out there. And I think the majority of people that listen to this podcast don’t fall into that category. If you do, great. We support you! But if you don’t fall in that category, there’s nothing wrong with you.
Mary: Right. And we idolize those that are adored as athletes. So, whether we want to or not, whether we love these athletes because of what they do, we can’t ignore how they look. And so you’re scrolling through social media and bombarded with images of what they have deemed as an athletic body. We all know the tight abs, very defined, muscular shoulders, and a very lean face. That’s how an athletic body looks. And that either subconsciously or consciously destroys our self-worth. We think that because, “Oh, I’ve got a little muffin top,” all of a sudden we’re not worth what they are. We’re not worth anything.
Kristin: Right. Or that we suck as an athlete because we don’t have abs, we suck as a person because we don’t have that typical look.
Mary: So, something that helped me a lot when I was recovering was unfollowing some of these individuals who had the body that I wanted. And I only followed them because I wanted to have something aspirational. You know how they say to get that aspirational clothing, the smaller clothes that’ll fit you eventually. And I wanted to be a size four. That was kind of my thing. I wanted to look like this athlete, but I didn’t know one of the people I followed ran 30 miles a day or something absurd.
Kristin: Oh my gosh. Yeah. Which is certainly not something you want to do.
Mary: No, I don’t want to do it. But I mean, if at that time I could be small and look like her, I would have done it without a doubt. Then I started following people who didn’t have this athletic body, but I could connect with them on a personal level. I started following people who are just good athletes. Like Sarah Robles. Or Jenny Arthur. I followed them because these are not people that have this coined “athlete” look. They don’t fit the box.
Kristin: They don’t intentionally use their bodies to get followers and they influence people through their performance or their mindset.
Mary: Yes. And I found once I did that switch, it really helped me because I wasn’t scrolling through things like, “Oh, I am ugly.” Instead, I was like, “Oh, I can do this. She can do it, I can do it.” This person is uplifting. They make me feel good about where I am or, you know.
The third option: Get rid of social media. Throw it in the toilet.
Did you know that 62% of female athletes will suffer from an eating disorder or disordered eating?
Kristin: That is crazy. But based on my experiences with Fiercely Fueled or with our Eat for Strength ladies or friends. I can see it. That is a crazy amount though. 62%.
Mary: I can’t help but wonder if we did a better job of helping our youth figure these things out…
Kristin: Absolutely, we’ve talked about that in our very first Eat for Strength group. If they had learned this stuff at 16, would they have ever gotten to this place of being so mentally messed up over food?
Sometimes you get to a point where there’s so much misinformation that you can’t even pay attention to what science is saying. Because you have so many emotional thoughts and beliefs surrounding food and it’s just confusing.
And I totally agree. What if women, if young girls were taught that in sports – or not even in sports – If someone talked to them about how do you feel about your body, what healthy is?
And I don’t mean a clean diet. I mean balance of treats and vegetables and whatever. If this was talked about, I totally agree that would help. Would we have all these women in their twenties, thirties, and forties and older suffering from this? They’re shooting themselves in the foot in the gym training so hard because they want to stay in a certain weight class. Then they’re missing out on incredible strength gains because they feel constricted by the number of a weight class and afraid to gain weight.
Mary: This is something that Smart Fit Girls is doing an incredible job of with trying to augment this whole disordered eating spiral in young girls. Not necessarily teaching them what a macro is, but teaching them that you’re going to get strong. Here’s kind of the idea of what you need to eat, how you need to eat. And if you want to eat a gallon of ice cream, you’re 14. Do this now because when you get to be in your late twenties, early thirties, that shouldn’t happen.
We do such a disservice to our youth. I remember in high school, we took health class, which is supposed to be health in general – nutrition, health, sexual health, etc.
How much time did we spend on nutrition? Like, a day maybe. How much time we spend talking about how not to get an STD and how all these STDs are so terrifying? Most of the time.
Kristin: I mean, I can get on board with that, but nutrition is also important. I do remember our health class was all about STDs. There’s more to health than what you eat and it’s important to learn all that.
Mary: But I feel like we could have covered it in a week. A week of grotesque images…then, let’s talk about things that can be applicable to life.
Kristin: Yeah. Right. Like exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
Mary: We could have done a better job. And I felt like most of that was pointed at women because it was always like, you’ll get an STD and then you’ll get pregnant. You’ll get this, you’ll get pregnant. And you’re like, I get it. I can procreate. Stop it.
Kristin: Right. Anyway, I want to talk a little bit about the weight class thing that I just mentioned though.
I had this epiphany a while back. I constantly see people wanting to cut weight. They see these numbers in this lower weight class and they’re like, “I can hit these numbers. I could do it. I could drop 20 pounds and I could be in that weight class and I could win it.”
And if we’re talking about a world championship or getting an American record or whatever your nation record is, that’s different. But if you’re a beginner to intermediate, even some of the advanced.
What’s happening is there’s this “I want it now” mentality versus saying just eat appropriately. I’m not talking about gaining weight. I’m talking about eating enough and just getting strong and focusing a year on eating right.
Dial everything in and you can stay in your weight class or even move up a weight class if you want and probably crush it.
Mary: But it doesn’t make money. You know that. Right. Cutting makes money. Bulking makes money because cutting makes money.. Don’t get me started. It’s this horrible cycle.
Kristin: A lot of female strength athletes are unaware of how much strength they could actually put on in a solid year if they just dialed in their nutrition and ate enough. I’m talking about maintaining your current body weight. I’m not talking about a bulk.
Your body composition is going to change, but you’ll build confidence and belief in yourself that you can be competitive in your weight class – if you put in the work.
And this constant cutting culture and wanting to be in a lower weight class and all this, I did it. I did it to myself. I decided I needed to. I had dropped some body weight because I had too much body fat. I was in an unhealthy body fat category.
This was when I was weightlifting and the weight classes were 69 kilos and 63 kilos. I fell naturally at about 65 kilos and was comfortable there. And I thought, “Well, 65 kilos…let’s go to 63 because look at what those 63 girls are lifting. I can crush them.”
And do you know what happened? I just read an Instagram post from a long time ago that I made in the first year of only focusing on weightlifting. I only put 11 kilos on my total because I was cutting weight the entire time. 11 kilos. My first year, I should have had massive beginner gains. That is pathetic. And you saw me, you knew me. I worked my butt off day in and day out. I had everything dialed in, but I was in a caloric deficit. Instead of putting 25 kilos on my total and staying at 69 kilos, I put 11.
And I will never do that again. No. There’s no point.
Mary: Well, but coming from my perspective, I remember when I first started dieting, I was 16, 15 years old and I had never had a positive affirmation about my body. I only ever had negative thoughts based on how I looked or what I’d heard other people say or what my family said.
When I started running like a crazy person and cutting calories without knowing what I was doing, the first positive affirmation I had was that boys were suddenly interested in me. In my brain, I made that connection at 15. I said, “I only have value when I’m small.” I didn’t have value when I big, and I wasn’t even that big.
I remember this other girl too, bless her heart. She didn’t know what she said. I remember talking about my weight to her. And she was like, “Yeah, I don’t think anyone needs to weigh over 130.” I was 140 pounds. And I was like, “Oh my God, is that too big?”
I’m sitting right now at 145 and I’m like the happiest, the healthiest I’ve ever been. I feel my value. But back then, man, nothing. My performance didn’t matter, my strength didn’t matter. The only value I had was that boys were noticing me. That was my positive affirmation. And that carried me on until I was 24.
Kristin: There are times that our culture places way too much emphasis on what we look like and fitting a certain mold. That is a challenging thing, especially to learn at such a young age. When you know how they treated you before and then you see how you’re treated when you lose a little bit of weight, you think, “Oh, well that’s it. I’m gonna have to be small.”
Mary: Yeah. That’s the only way I’m going to have value in this world is if I’m small. And that fucked me up fam, for a long time.
So what do you do if you are experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating symptoms?
First, if you have an eating disorder (full-on bulimia, anorexia, or exercise bulimia) no nutrition coach can fix you. You need treatment. Talk to your doctor, talk to your mom, talk to your dad, talk to a friend. You need to get healthy. And no macro coach is going to get you there.
I’ve seen girls on Instagram who very much had one of the three. They never talked about it, but it was apparent. They eat very small amounts and you would see that they work with a clean eating coach or a bodybuilding coach.
When you’re in that state, you’re just reaching for someone to grab your hand and pull you into something. And unfortunately, they get pulled into this shit all the time. Right?
So if you are suffering from an eating disorder, you have to have help. You have to find a facility that will help you. That’s just how it is.
But if you’re having symptoms of disordered eating, you’re in this gray area and not really sure what to do. So let me tell you my full story. We ready for storytime?
My story started when I was about 15, first of all, I was a tri-sport athlete. So I was always doing something every season no matter what, but then I quit basketball. In hindsight I should have done it, but anyway, I didn’t want to be part of that group anymore. So I just quit basketball.
That took away a whole season of me being active. And I was mostly sedentary. I mean, I’d go home and hang out with people. And then I was mostly sitting on the couch. I wasn’t being active in my time. So I put on some weight, which for a 16-year-old is no big deal, but for me, it was a big deal.
So I started going to the gym with my friend and we would just walk and then leave, like maybe half a mile. And then I started taking it to another level. I thought, “Well, okay, I can do half a mile. Can I do a mile?” I couldn’t do a mile.
So I worked myself up to a mile. And I started running a mile and two miles, three miles and I got up to six miles. And then after six miles, I started doing sprints. I would do a quarter-mile sprint, a quarter-mile jog, a quarter-mile sprint, a quarter-mile jog for six miles. And then on top of that, I’d get on the stair stepper for 30 minutes and then the elliptical for 30 minutes.
Kristin: Oh my gosh.
Mary: It just spiraled out of control over the years.
So during that time, I didn’t modify my food that much because the exercise was doing it alone. But once I plateaued in my weight loss, I learned what a calorie was and how if you reduce them, then you’ll lose weight. So I started tracking my calories and I got to a point where I was eating 900 calories a day.
And then we went on some class trip and we ate like normal people ate and I ended up eating more than that. And my body was like, “Oh my God, thank God.” And that led to bingeing. So I would restrict and binge, restrict and binge.
I went away to college and I got really deep into it. It was so bad, but it wasn’t a full-on eating disorder because I wasn’t losing weight. I was actually gaining weight because I was restricting.
Kristin: And then bingeing so much that you are in a caloric surplus. You know, as opposed to being in a deficit.
Mary: You know those big bags of M&Ms? I would get those and eat them in a day. That would be my binge. And then bless her heart, Kayla, who I lived with, I would eat some of her food and I felt guilty. Cause when you’re in a binge, if you know this, nothing is controlled.
Kristin: Yeah. You’re like, “I don’t even care that that’s so-and-so’s food. I’m going to eat it.”
Mary: It’s not even that. You’re like, “I don’t think that they’d mind. I mean, I’ll replace it or like I haven’t seen them eat it, so it’s okay. I really need it right now.” It’s this compulsive behavior where you feel horrible, but you can’t stop.
So, then I decided to transfer back home, which in hindsight was probably the best thing for me because I was back in a controlled environment. I had my parents there and I started to recognize that maybe this wasn’t super healthy. And so then I started to try to fix it. I learned about reverse dieting. I learned about increasing calories and I tried to do that, but it was never regimented enough. And I was still so focused on being small. Right.
It wasn’t until I actually came to my grad school. I met you and I started recognizing there are these really strong women that I thought, okay, I need to fix this. I don’t know how to fix this, but I need to fix this.
During this time, I was still bingeing and restricting because I didn’t know how to fix what I was going through. But I didn’t want to let it get out of control. The only way I knew how to do that was to restrict, which led to bingeing,
Kristin: Because you thought, “If I work to get out of this, I’m going to gain weight. And that is absolutely what I don’t want to happen. And so how can I fix this? But I don’t want my weight to go up.” That’s basically where you were at.
Mary: That’s exactly where I was at. And in hindsight, my weight went up and that’s when I developed my purging behavior. So I would binge binge binge. And the only way I could relieve any of the guilt or the pressure I would feel in my stomach or in my mind would be to purge.
And so then it became a restrict-binge-purge cycle. And I would cry because I knew I shouldn’t be doing this. I knew it wasn’t healthy. I knew it was bad for me, but I still did it.
Kristin: You didn’t know how to stop.
Mary: Yeah. So, finally, I don’t know what it was. I had tried a coach to help me reverse. This is why counting macros for people trying to come out of disordered eating is horrible. Even if the macros are a good intention. I hired this coach to try to reverse me out of this so I could get my food up. It needed to be a constant. A middle ground. And he had the best intentions and was trying to reverse me. We started really low because it’s what I told him I was eating, which wasn’t the case.
Kristin: You thought you were eating maybe eating 900 calories a day. But really when you average it all out over a week, it was way more than that.
Mary: 3000 calories a day on average.
Kristin: But in your mind, you weren’t. So when you tell him, “I’m eating this many calories,” it was not accurate.
Mary: Right. And I was so hungry, I couldn’t stick to anything. So, in hindsight he had his best intentions. I think he’s a great coach. I’m not going to say who it was, but I personally could not stick to the macros because I was out of control. There was no control. I could not count macros.
Kristin: Well, I remember another coach that you had and you were cutting. And then I started working with you and that was a mess. That’s when you finally told me. Like I try to stick to my macros, but then I don’t and then I go wait, and then I binge. I remember that being a lot of trouble for you.
Mary: But no other resource I found was macro counting. People who counted macros were in control of their food. Right. I wanted to be in control.
Kristin: That’s why I remember we had this conversation and you said you needed to not count macros. And I was like, YES, I’m with you. If that feels like an unhealthy behavior, I fully support that. You intuitively knew this is an unhealthy behavior for you. And then we’re not counting macros because it can become obsessive.
Mary: Well, it was obsessive. And then it would always turn into these macro-friendly foods that are high-volume, or those protein treats you see all the people make.
Kristin: Yeah I don’t eat food that is made like that for that reason.
Mary: I did. And my whole diet would turn into just eating volume foods and trying to save my macros for the end of the day. And then I would binge at the end of the day because I was so hungry.
Kristin: Because you just didn’t allot enough food throughout the day.
Mary: Exactly. I think I worked with five coaches, including you, and it was not the coaches’ fault. Every coach I worked with was great. They knew their shit. It was me. I was the problem. Not saying like “bad Mary” but I was not in the place I should be.
Kristin: Your behaviors were not set up to be in that environment.
Mary: Yeah. So I took a different route. Macro counting doesn’t work. In fact, any food behavior doesn’t work. I’m at the highest weight I’ve ever been my entire life. I’m so uncomfortable in my body. What have I not done? And the only thing I had not done was do nothing.
So I just stopped. I stopped weighing myself, which was huge. Like that was the scariest thing. I talk to women all the time who say, “Well, I try not to weigh myself, but it’s a compulsion.” You feel like you need to because then you’re in control of your weight. But for me, I could not step on the scale. I put the scale away.
I cannot weigh, measure, or track anything. I just need to eat. I need to learn to listen to my body. And I still had episodes of restriction and bingeing and purging. It was slowly, gradually over time that I learned to listen. What does my body want to eat? How much do I want to eat? What’s full, what’s hungry? It took me a year and a half to really learn well.
Kristin: Those are signals that you had suppressed for so long.
Mary: So there’s the middle ground, which I talk about with our Eat for Strength ladies on intuitive eating. You kind of want to stay where you recognize you’re getting hungry. That’s when you need to eat, and recognize when you’re satisfied or kind of full but not sickly full. –
Kristin: Not Thanksgiving full.
Mary: No. I mean, I would get worse than Thanksgiving full. It would be bad, I mean anyone who’s binged, you guys know this.
But it wasn’t until I relinquished control and let my body do what it needed to do. And it was terrible. It was terrifying. I can’t tell you that this was a happy, fun experience. It wasn’t like, “Wow, I can listen to my whole body. This is great.” But I still cried every day. I still hated how I looked. I stopped looking at myself in the mirror. It sucked.
I got to the point where one day, I was sitting and thinking about something for an hour or two, a problem I was focusing on. I recognized that I hadn’t thought about food all day. And it was that moment I thought, “I can be free.”
I still had bouts of thinking about food too much, but then I recognized, “Man, I can just suppress it. Like okay, food, you can be in my brain, but you can only be here for a few minutes. And then you gotta get out.” Once I learned how to suppress those feelings, not like suppress in a bad way, but just put them out of my mind, I was able to regain control.
I can now count macros. I still need a little break. When I count macros, I give myself a day that I don’t track. And that’s so mentally amazing for me. I know it’s not great as a nutrition coach because you have a day of unknowns. But for me, if I don’t do it, I will binge the next week.
Kristin: Well, no plan is worth your mental health or your health. There is no nutrition plan that is worth that or no nutritional goal that is worth that. If you have to sacrifice your health or your mental health to try to hit your goals, what is the point?
Mary: And then I’ll tell you, after I got control and after I had been eating intuitively for a while, I stepped on the scale and I was surprised I was lighter than what I was before. My body found an equilibrium because I wasn’t overfeeding it. And then I was able to cut. I did it intuitively. So I didn’t use macros at this point, but I cut without it being a thing. It wasn’t something that I was obsessing over and Kristen didn’t even know I was cutting.
Kristin: Well, I knew because you were getting smaller. That was it. You hadn’t talked about it at all.
Mary: I recognize every time I was like, “I’m going to go on a cut” it never happens. I said, “how about you just keep this one to yourself and see if you can do it.” And then I did it.
So, you know, I’m now comfortable in my body and I have control of my food, which was a year and a half ago. I was uncomfortable in my body, but had control of my food. So it’s a long process, right? It’s hard to tell someone who is struggling with it that it’s a long process. So, I created a list of tips that I think will be very helpful for anyone who’s going through this.
And as always, you can reach out to me. I have been telling Kristin and I think I’m going to just bite the bullet. I would love to be a nutrition coach for people suffering from disordered eating. It’s super important and requires a different skillset than macro counting.
Kristin: Absolutely. I don’t tend to work with people with disordered eating, or they’ve recovered from disordered eating and will tell me like, “Hey, I have a history of this. It hasn’t been an issue. I just want you to know.” And then I’m on the lookout for any issues. And obviously, there has to be a lot of honesty.
Mary: I can tell you as an athlete when I was having my binge disorders, I definitely lied on check-ins all the time, but I had a great week. But I binged twice this week. It was a perfect week because I just couldn’t let myself down. And you feel like you’re letting the coach down.
Kristin: Can I just say from a nutrition coach standpoint that you’re never letting us down? You’re not. Everyone’s in a different place and everyone is going to have awesome, successful weeks and everyone’s gonna have a shitty week. That’s just how it goes.
And there are some people that this is super easy for and they just tend to have an awesome week all the time. Then there are people where it sounds like they’re having an awesome week all the time, but then I look at things and based on what they’re telling me, something’s not quite right. That can be a sensitive issue.
If you have a shitty week with your nutrition, it’s okay. If you’ve hired a coach, they’re there to help you with that just the same as if you have a weightlifting coach or a powerlifting coach and you had a shitty week in the gym. You’re probably going to tell them and not be ashamed of it. So why are we going to be ashamed of making bad food choices?
That’s so hard to say, but it’s never disappointing to hear. That sucks. I’m sorry that you’re going through that, but let’s figure this out. Cause it’s okay. We’re going to put it behind us. We’re going to move forward.
Mary: And if your coach doesn’t say that, get a new one because you don’t need a coach sitting here telling you that you’re a worthless human for messing up. Because as Kristen said, everyone’s journey is completely different. And if they are not supportive, you’ve got to get out because you can’t get better with someone who tells you you’re worthless.
Okay. First things first. Tips: Stop counting, stop tracking, stop everything, and stop trying to fit yourself into something you think you should be. So like I said, I stopped everything. I just ate. It was hard. It was difficult. I cried. It was not easy, but knowing where I am now. Oh my God. It is so worth it. It’s so worth it.
Tell a trusted friend. You are already suffering so you do not need to suffer alone. I think I told my mom and then I kind of told my husband and then I told Kristin. At that moment I was like, okay. I feel like I can kind of get this together, like I have an ally.
Kristin: And that reduces some of the shame around it. Just talking about things like this reduces the shame. It’s the secrets that make it worse, right? Because it makes everything worse. When you feel like you can’t tell anyone you’re doing this and trying to hide it all, it spirals out of control. But the minute you can start to talk about it, it reduces that shame. You think, “I told these people in the world, didn’t end. They still love me. They still love me. It’s fine. And they support me. And maybe I can do this.”
Mary: Look for support groups in your area. If you’re on a college campus, they always have some type of eating disorder or disordered eating support group. Go talk to them, talk to people.
Kristin: And there’s no shame in getting help or talking. I think that that might be a big barrier for people, thinking if I go to a support group, then that means this is real. Like, this is true. And I have to accept that this is going on and I don’t want to accept that this is going on or I don’t want that to be me.
There’s been a lot of things in my life where I didn’t want to go seek help because it meant that this was actually real. When you can step past that and accept this is happening and if you truly want to get better, you need help.
Mary: And that’s something I wish I had done. I put it in the tips because it’s something that would have helped me if I would have accepted it and said I need help. And this is difficult. And so what if this means I have an eating disorder? I don’t want to live my whole life like this. I
It’s okay to admit that there’s something you need to fix. We do all the time with training techniques and sometimes our nutrition. Just because your eating behavior is not normal doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve help.
Kristin: Right. Or that you’re bad.
Mary: You’re not bad.
Kristin: Or unworthy.
Mary: Yeah. The final thing is be patient with yourself. You cannot spend another second thinking about something that may have been bad. So if you are “bad” and if you had a binge the day before, it’s over. Forget about it.
The next day, you’re not restricting because you’ve forgotten about it. You have to move on. You have to get back to some type of regularity and you have to look in the mirror and say “Mary or so-and-so, it’s fine. Tomorrow will be better. You’re not going to be perfect.” You’re not going to post “full day of eating” videos on YouTube and have people look up to you while you’re recovering.
But man, it was so worth it. And then you have that patience with yourself. Now that I’m out of it. Even some of the dumb shit that I do for like the podcast or just in my personal life, I’m like, “Whoops, okay, well, let’s fix it” instead of “Oh my God, Mary, you’re so stupid.” It’s all right.
Kristin: It’s letting go. It’s accepting imperfection and letting go of the fear of being imperfect. Or letting go of perfectionism. Really letting that go and saying, “You know what? Things aren’t going to be perfect all the time.”
One thing that I’ve said to people in the past that was a helpful concept for me is how every day you wake up is a day that you get to choose your focus. You can restart. Everything starts over today. So, if you “made a mistake” yesterday, today’s a new day.
Mary: You don’t have to make that mistake and the person yesterday has no control over the person today.
Kristin: And a lot of that is like learning to live in the present moment. That is where meditation has been really helpful for me. Doing guided meditations or even just cleaning my house. Things that bring me into the present moment. Training brings me into the present moment. And I don’t think about those things that I potentially screwed up or whatever. It allows me to practice just being present.
I think it would be helpful for people who are suffering from an eating disorder or disordered eating to focus on the here and now.
Mary: Yeah. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but what is going on right now?
You’re not suffering alone. And if anything, if you need to tell someone, you can always reach out to us or me or Kristen or whomever. I will never judge anyone who reaches out to me. We all suffer and you shouldn’t suffer alone.
Kristin: Totally agree. Yeah. Suffering alone is a bummer. Share it. I’m all for sharing.
Mary: Unless it’s the germs or the flu.
Kristin: Keep your germs. You can share everything else.
Mary: All right. I think that that’s it for this episode.
Kristin: Yeah. So if you have questions or concerns, you can reach us at email@example.com. You can find us on Instagram at @femalestrengthacademy and on Facebook!