Friday, February 26, 2016


Let’s bring up the elephant in the room for a second: EATING DISORDERS SUCK AND ARE SUPER PREVALENT AND NEED TO BE TALKED ABOUT. And most of us are scared to talk about it. I personally am scared because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and I feel like I don’t have the authority to talk about it, and I honestly don’t know how to even talk about it.

But we need to talk about it. Because an eating disorder inherently protect itself by hiding. So the only way to productively handle this beast is to expose it. And this beast is everywhere in the running world. So let’s talk about it!

How eating disorders attack a person. Most people say “she developed an eating disorder.” But I don’t like how that is framed. No one wants an eating disorder. No one consciously chooses to develop an eating disorder.
“Develop” has too much of a good connotation to be used with “eating disorder.” Instead, I like to think that an eating disorder attacks a person—our friend or teammate. Learning how it attacks a person is important so we can learn how to recognize it and not be scared to address it.


Eating disorders are sneaky things. They infiltrate a person’s mind and slowly take over without anyone really noticing. They are contagious. They provide almost instant (and addictive) results. And they are dangerous. Compared to other addictions, an eating disorder might be the trickiest to navigate. It’s like it has a super stealthy arsenal to attack a person from the inside out.

Weapons of eating disorders:

1. It’s stealthy

It breaks in without anyone noticing. It’s not like people wake up one day and think, “Oh heck! I have an eating disorder now!” It is much more stealthy than that. In fact, it poses as a good thing at first. It starts off as a nutrition goal. It makes the person feel good. It provides immediate results, and it is easy to correlate these results to the food. It hooks them in by appearing to be beneficial.

2. It hides

After it gets in, it slowly grows from “nutrition conscious” to “nutrition obsessive” to “full blown addiction.” Day by day, it slowly shifts the person’s idea of “normal” farther to the extreme. There is a metaphor called the boiling frog problem: If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out. If you put a frog in a pot of warm water and slowly heat it up, it will boil to death because it doesn't perceive danger. The onset is too gradual for the frog to notice a problem. An eating disorder is a boiling frog problem. (obesity, global warming, and most other catastrophic problems are usually boiling frog problems).

It is easy for it to hide—there’s no evidence until there are symptoms. You can't take a blood test and it come back positive. There's no needles or pipes or pills, there's no casino. There's not really a noticeable trigger. Nothing. The evidence is literally nothing—eating nothing. Once there are symptoms, the disorder is too big for the person to control. I think of it like termites. You don’t notice termites until they’ve done so much damage that the structural integrity of the house is unstable.

This is an insensitive analogy, but in a microbiology class one time we were talking about "successful" viruses—viruses that are most prolific. The most successful are the ones that 1. Hide from the host and 2. Don’t kill the host. There it can go undetected while it spreads. So Ebola is an in-your-face virus. You know if you are infected. It is apparent there is a problem. You can quarantine and try to fix yourself. If there were a mass outbreak, eventually everyone would die and thus would the virus. HIV on the other hand, is sneaky. You don’t know when you get it. There aren’t noticeable symptoms. It spreads without you knowing, and by the time you know you have a problem, game over.

Eating disorders are the master chess players like HIV. That's exactly what this thing does. It hides and slowly takes over the person without the person noticing. It manages to do just enough.

3. It protects itself with the person's identity.

As the eating disorder becomes a bigger problem, it becomes harder to hide. But it has a defense mechanism for this: it protects itself with the person’s identity. It takes over the person’s thoughts. The disorder dictates what they eat, when they eat, if they can eat out, how much anxiety they have, who their friends are, what their body looks like. It becomes the loudest voice. It is hard to separate the person’s voice and identity from the identity of the eating disorder.

The disorder makes the person feel shame. Shame is powerful. It makes the person submit to the voice of the disorder. The disorder has one mission: protect itself. It doesn’t care about relationships or friends or being happy. It only cares about not getting exposed. It will burn relationships in a heartbeat to keep itself a secret. HOT DAMN THIS THING IS A BASTARD. This is why a lot of times the person struggling isolates themselves from the group. Being around others feels vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable means feeling shame.

This is why no one wants to attack thing. Attacking the thing almost feels like attacking the person. It gets intertwined in the identity of the person affected by it--not only does it affect the mind, it affects the body--that's kind of a whole being. It's hard to separate the person from the disorder. This protects it. Because to expose it puts the person's identity in a vulnerable position.

4. It becomes the identity of the person. 
Sometimes the eating disorder becomes such a huge part of the person, that there isn’t much left of the person at all. It reminds me of Star Wars. Anakin Skywalker was attracted to the dark side of the force because it made him feel powerful. This power was an illusion. Anakin never had the power. The power overtook Anakin. Darth Vader became the loudest voice in Anakin’s head. Anakin Skywalker was essentially dead. And (SPOILER ALERT!) it took A WHOLE LOTTA LOVE to get Anakin to wake up! YEAH! LOVE!

Those are the weapons of the disorder: It breaks in with no evidence. It hides. It takes over. It protects itself with the identity of the person. It becomes the identity of the person.

This addiction in a lot of ways is harder to address than a heroin or drug addiction. Think about a heroin addiction: There's evidence. Something concrete where I can say, "I don't like that needle going into your body. I don't like how it makes you act for the following hours." But with a food issue, there is no equivalent. I can't be all, "Hey Teammate. I don't like how you act all the time." There's nothing external to demonize to be the fall guy.

We've got to expose the weapons and make people aware that there is a difference between an eating disorder and a person. And then we have to love the ever living heck out of the person and help them be strong enough to fight the disorder.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Art of Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.

 Runners are great at being perfectionists.  It's what makes us good. We have such attention to detail.  But there is a fine line between paying attention to details (which is good!) and getting lost in the details (bad! bad!). The devil is in the details, remember?  

We’ve all heard the advice: “It’s about the little things,” they say, “Do the 1%” they say.

Well, this is kind of misleading advice. There, I said it. Because focusing on the 99% is probably going to get you farther than focusing on the 1%. That’s math. Or common sense? Sometimes, we get too zoomed in and can’t see the forest through the trees. This is a problem. It is good to take care of the little things, as long as the little things don’t become the main things.

Let’s talk for a second about the things that aren’t the main things:

What you ate pre-race.
If you got a cup of coffee.
If you got a massage.
What spikes you are wearing.
How you felt in your pre race workout
What your weight is.
What the pace is supposed to be.
Doing too many strides.
Doing too little strides.
Doing too fast strides.
How much you hydrated.
Talking about all the race plans.
How much you were on your feet yesterday.
How much you slept last night.
The workout your competitor tweeted about.
How fast you did your warm up.
What lane number you are.
That damn weather!

Let’s talk about the main things that are the main things:

1. The work you put in over the last few months.
2. Your mindset.

It is actually kind of hard to mess up your race the day of—You’d have to do extreme weightlifting and sprint a mile during your warm-up. Or maybe join fight club and not talk about it. Or maybe join cross fit and talk about it. And that still wouldn’t affect your race as much as you’d think.

The problem is it is so so tempting to get stuck on the details.

Reasons why the details are easy to focus on:

1. Details help you take the pressure off. It’s like a defense mechanism. It resolves you from responsibility of your race. If you don’t race well, it is a nice excuse to fall back on. “Well, I would have raced well, except…”
I personally use/love/hate the “I would have raced well except I had bad positioning” too often.

It’s really scary to try and lose and have to be like, “Well. I’m not as fit as I’d like.” Or “I didn’t try as hard as I wanted to.”
That makes you feel bad on the inside. Where if you raced badly because of that Chicken Phad Thai spicy level 4 stomach issue, then it’s not really your fault!

2. Details allow you to zoom in so much that you don’t have to think about the race or the outcome. It is scary to line up and have no clue if you are going to win. It is stressful. One Phoebe tested (and unapproved) way to deal with stress: not think about the stressful situation whatsoever! (I call this “compartmentalizing”) Instead! Think about minor stressful situations that you can fix, and then feel that sweet, sweet since of relief when you fix them. NOTE: This is a terrible problem solving method.

3. Details allow you to feel like the race result is predetermined. If you take care of all the details, then it is the universe’s way of saying, “Don’t worry, Phe, all the evidence suggests that you have already won this race.”

Being a slave to the details is a terrible habit. It puts the fate of your race into the environment. And the environment is fickle. So don’t do it! And when you do it even though I just told you not to do it, these self-talk phrases can help talk you back to reality:

If ____________ ruins your race, your race wasn’t going to be jack shit anyway.

______________ is nothing compared to all the work you did leading up to this.

Weather affects the whole field, remember?

You never worry about this at practice.

You have run well before when this happened.

Just try hard. That’s all you have to do. Literally.

Bottom line: Don’t be a perfectionist. Be an ADAPTABLE perfectionist.