Being called names out the window of a car…

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Biking today up a popular climb in Bend, a guy in a car slowed, nosed over toward the bike lane and yelled out the car window at me…

‘Fat C*^%!’

Ok.

First.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong and we have a really wide bike lane — I was way to the inside of it. He was the only car on the road. He wasn’t pissed at my biking skills or road etiquette.

Second.  C*^% is just a word.  Not one I own, accept or use.  It’s just a word to me. But he had some intended meaning and anger behind it and I understand that it is vulgar and offensive.

Third. DO NOT CALL ME FAT. That’s my own personal weapon of choice.  I am the only one that is allowed to call me fat. I usually use it when I’m beating the shit out of myself. Don’t try to validate my emotionally-messed up thinking by using my favorite self-loathing word…  Asshat.

Fourth. Hugely threatening to be solo on a stretch of road and have someone nose their car over (only enough to yell – I never worried about him hitting me with his car – just to be clear), slow…  YELL. Then pull back onto the road. I’ve heard too many stories about riders of all sorts being harassed by drivers. I’m pretty damn sure this wasn’t even me as a female being targeted. This was simply me as a cyclist.

Fifth. You made me slow down on a climb and I had to jack with all the gears just to keep moving and not tip over in my clips. Asshat X2.


I quickly texted Spencer so someone would have location/time stamp.  Also because if I didn’t do something I was going to start crying.  And if I got crying, I was going to need someone to come pick me and my bike up off the road….

There’s no crying in cycling.

I hate being called fat. I hate feeling intimidated. Crying is how I respond to most of that.  I fight the tears HARD, but then they usually fall. My reaction to stress has always been to cry. I am not a sappy crier. I’m a pissed off/embarrassed/ashamed/overwhelmed crier.  Those types of emotions and situations are MUCH more likely to trigger tears.

When the car was gone, someone knew my approximate whereabouts, I still had a hill to climb and a workout to get in….  I started pondering the episode and trying to decide whether to be pissed or cry.

I pretty quickly opted for pissed.

The word ‘fat’ is my own personal weapon. To have someone else lob it in my direction hurts. Always has. The worst memories I have of being bullied in high school and beyond include the word fat. Followed by ugly.  They were usually paired up. I hate both of those words. And it always scares me that they’re right – that I really am fat, ugly and ALL the emotional-laden BS that I attach to those words that they have NO CLUE even exists for me….

I have spent a lot of time trying to ‘grow’ past that notion. It took me about a mile of riding to realize…

UH….

This was NOT personal, this guy doesn’t know me. I wasn’t even going to ride this route today until the last minute,  so it was in NO WAY personal.

I felt unsafe, but I was prepared.  I’ve spent time thinking about exactly this type of situation. I texted a friend with basic whereabouts/time because it didn’t feel like it was at the ‘911’ level. I was watching for other people to help or turn to. I KNEW I could steer and ride my bike around/out/down and escape. And baring something really whacky or scary — I could jump off my bike and run up the mountain. Even in bike cleats. I know I can. (Thank you trail running).

So…  I took some deep breathes. Pedaled a bit. Decided I wan’t going to let him have MY workout that I’d been looking forward to all day. I didn’t own the ‘fat’ or ‘c*^$’ part of the yelling because I just didn’t want to. I didn’t cry.  I was wary and eyeballs open for the car, to be sure, if he decided to turn around I was going to be ready to react.  I never saw the car again for the record.

So I kept peddling.

Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t ‘fat’.  The difference this time around?  It wasn’t punishment peddling;  ‘you are fat, he said you’re fat, get moving fat ass.’  It was like ‘NO, you worked hard to be fit, you’ve waited all day for this ride. This is your bike, your body and peddling is what we do when we’re working up a sweat; now get down to rocking this workout like you know you can. And don’t let that asshat get in your head.’  I don’t know that that distinction will resonate with everyone. But it sure made my brain happy that I could choose NOT to own something and re-focuse pretty damn quickly on the task at hand which was trying to push hard up Skyliners.

I got to the turn around point, texted Spencer ‘I’m at the bridge (turn-around). I’m pissed. Might be one of the best climbs I’ve done.  F*&^%er called me fat.  That pisses me off.’


This is going to sound a little backwards, but I’m always a wee-bit grateful when these little reality bumps hit and I can see how much I’ve grown in my thinking and reactions. I don’t love being called names or feeling threatened.  Yet in the end it just kind of highlighted the right things, the healthier thinking, the better reactions in my life. I’d kept my wits, had thought through a safety plan, thought through how I wanted the words to affect me and then chose to just kept peddling.

And by the way….

I PR’ed up and down that road like I’ve never PR’ed before.  So — um… Thank you? Mr. Asshat for properly motivating me to ride that stretch as hard as I knew I was capable of riding it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Changes/comparisons.

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A new town, new apartment, new job….

These are such kick ass times to take inventory. I get caught up in comparing. Old life/new life. Fat Betsy/healthy Betsy. How can I not? It’s such a stark reminder.

I just moved to Bend, Oregon from the other side of the Cascades. Changed jobs after 14 years. Started a new professional adventure that – while only 4 days in – is something I can tell is going to be wildly fantastic and is aligning ALL the parts of my life. Moved from a house to an apartment. Working to build a new base and network of friends. ALL kinds of changes!  All good and all wanted, yet still big, scary and unsettling.

I worked hard to make the changes to my lifestyle a few years ago and I’ve worked just as hard to make these recent changes. I knew that a move could up-end a whole lot of those carefully structured ‘good habits’ if I wasn’t paying attention.  PERFECT time for old habits to slip back in, especially when loneliness lurks and self-confidence gets pushed around because of all the changes.

Even welcome changes can open the door to mental mischief if we’re not paying attention.

So I was hyper-alert to eating, timing, prioritizing those things that I needed to do in this new location to get right into the routine that keeps me healthy. I put a plan in place.  I made finding a pool, getting out on my bike, finding some trails my top priority.  Even more than the normal ‘adult’ stuff we’re supposed to focus on in a move, like address changes, unpacking boxes and finding a couch. I also forced at-home/cooked meals and not making brew-pubs/restaurants the focal point of gathering and meetings.

Here’s the list of ‘I can not believe this is my life!’ moments from the past 10 days:

I’ve officially used the shower at the gym more than I’ve used the one at my new apartment.  The locker room is super welcoming and friendly. I felt HORRIBLE intimidation going the first time, but it very quickly went away.  This pool (JUNIPER) is amazeballs. 🙂

I didn’t have to transfer prescriptions and find a pharmacy that takes Sharp’s containers. Or find a place at work to stash insulin and needles. Or explain why I’m ‘shooting up’ in the bathroom 2X a day. Or why I have finger-prick blood all over my desk and papers…

I am using my meetings with new colleagues to make them walking meetings. I can walk and talk at the same time. 🙂 I’ve looked for walking paths around my office. Not candy stores, bakeries, ice cream shops or fast food options.  That one BLEW my mind when about 3 days in on the new job, I realized I hadn’t brought lunch and didn’t even know where to go because I had NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION to food stuff.

I’m finding new coffee shops and places to eat and buy groceries and not having to battle the old food-related locations that were so much a part of my 400-pound life. Coffee for the sake of coffee/views/friendly barista/welcoming customers and work spaces. I don’t even know where the Taco Bell or McDonalds are. I’m going to keep it that way.

I found a gym. I have a new favorite trail. I’ve gotten some good bike time in. I haven’t even bothered to look for a new doctor because I only need well-patient care.

I’m meeting new people because I’m on hikes and group rides. Not because we’re in a diabetic counseling workshop.

There’s more. Lots more. Big and little. This just highlights for me how different life is now that I am focused on health. No longer having to worry about weight limits, fitting in a chair, or walking a block and being exhausted.

I LOVE Bend, my apartment, my new job, the sunshine!

I’m also still very much in love with what focusing on my health has given me each and every day since I started this lifestyle journey years ago.

Reminders and comparisons.

 

Ultras/Binge Eating Disorder

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I know this topic is likely to be too obscure for some folks. I’m really writing this for my ultra running friends. Hoping to start a conversation or get their help in making some connections or get your thinking on this topic…


For me, ultras and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) are inextricably and pretty wickedly connected. From the first ‘Holy shit, could this really be what’s happening?’ moment to the ‘Wow. Makes sense even though I detest the idea…’ moment it took me about 6 months to puzzle it out.

The information I can find about Eating Disorders are mainly about Anorexia or Bulimia. Like this great read from Trail Runner Magazine which covers a whole lot of valuable ground. Yet, I can not find anything about the ties between ultras/endurance and BED specifically. I can’t be the only one dealing with this. When you mesh the Google ‘percentage of U. S. population…’ stats of ultras at .5% and BED at 3%, statistically, I still don’t think I can be alone in this mess.

What forced the issue? An acute episode of BED rearing its ugly head along with a planned off-season/down-time from running. (My blog about it is here…)

Running was no longer there to hide behind.

It’s absence made things brutally and undeniably clear.

I was hiking one day and was gobsmacked with the realization that I was using running to hide/feed the BED. It was this nasty, covert, and destructive cycle that I couldn’t really see because I was so deeply in it. I wasn’t running from something or even too something.  I was running FOR something.  And not for something good or worthwhile or sustainable.

I stopped in my tracks.

Sat my butt down on the side of the trail and wrote some notes on my phone while a newt cruised by to see what I was doing.

This felt BIG.


Here’s what I wrote on my phone: “I love long runs and hate tapering. I run long (5+ hours) and I have ‘permission’ to eat anything and everything in any quantities I want.  When I taper, food gets restricted, weight creeps up. I run long, eat how I want and basically don’t get ‘caught’ bingeing because the huge volume of food I’m eating is ‘acceptable’. Tapering unleashes sneaky-ass behaviors that I thought I’d banished once and for all. Including lying about food.’

BED brain thinks about food as an acceptable/necessary/urgent replacement for something missing or to fill an emotional need.  This has NOTHING to do with hunger.  Not.a.single.thing. For me food can take the place of damn near every emotion on the spectrum.  I’m just as likely to eat that emotion in the form of trail mix as I am to actually feel and experience it. No amount of cajoling/shaming/lecturing can fix it.  I’ve often said ‘pizza was never mean to me…’   When you have THAT kind of relationship with food you need professional help.

Running gave me the ability to ignore/continue/not-fight with my BED all in the name of ‘recovery from ultras/training’.  I wasn’t running for the love of running.  I was very much running to manage my weight since I binge, but I don’t purge…  I was very much running to make the occasional huge volume of food I was eating not look out of whack.

I was running to hide my eating disorder.  Even when I didn’t know that what I had was an eating disorder.

Eff.

I was ready to face all of this and not ignore it or hide it anymore. Scared shitless, but ready. I needed help beyond caring and concerned friends. After muscling my way through the post-acute phase of intense blues / shame / depression / anxiety / hopelessness / panic that lasts for several days after a binging episode…

I got into therapy.


My brand new therapist immediately, like first 20 minutes of first session, said running was an issue. I immediately told her she was dead wrong. Not politely.  I was rude and defiant. Defiance is my go to when I’m ashamed and someone’s getting close to the reason for the shame or embarrassment.

I flat out denied the connection. I lost 200 pounds, reversed Type 2 Diabetes. Running had SAVED me. Who the hell was this woman to say running was part of the current problem? Was she not listening to me? ….

The therapist quickly said we could agree to disagree about the role of running in my eating disorder. We would focus on other things. {Smart ploy…} That lasted two sessions.  I began to honestly assess what I was doing and why. Journaling impulses, noting emotions and starting to make tentative connections between feelings and food.

Damn if she wasn’t right…

Writing everything down it was impossible to ignore the connection. Running sat smack in the middle of the BED pile. It was about 2 sessions in where I had to concede she had a point.

More than a point. Ultra running was the 500 pound gorilla in the room.

I hadn’t replaced food with running.  I had used running to hide, enable and deny my BED. A crucial distinction. I hadn’t let go of ONE thing and grasped tightly onto something new.  I hadn’t given up anything at all.  I’d just masked what in the hell was really going on.

I think the college students I worked with would call that a HOT MESS.

Ultras and BED are married up in epically dysfunctional fashion for me.

As long as I ran long, I could pretend that eating 3,000+ calories at a single time after a long run was ‘normal recovery’.  Eating whatever I wanted for the week of a 60+ mile week was acceptable. I basically kept signing up for races to make sure I still had high mileage weeks and really full training schedules so that my bingeing wouldn’t be detected or life would seem ‘normal’ because of the training load and my food intake.

Eff.

So what now?  Great question. I have some tentative answers.

  • Awareness is a huge part of the battle. Talking about it. Knowing that my ultra friends support me when I get ‘wonky’ about food or food discussions.
  • Not running ultras or being lured in by Ultrasignup for a while is my main strategy for staying focused.  I needed a break from running.  I’m using this downtime in all the best ways possible. And NOT viewing it as punishment.
  • Rebuilding my running from the ground up when the time comes to hit the trails again. Slowly, carefully. Knowing food is fuel and that’s the only place it will hold in my running.

I didn’t take on this whole lifestyle change to give up when things got hard.

I will be running again, soon, for all the right reasons.