As a devoted runner with disordered eating, I always resisted the idea of building muscle. My focus was always concentrated on maintaining a lean figure, rather than allowing my muscles take shape. The notion of 'bulking' immediately conjured up visions of mammoth body builders striding around the gym with beet red faces, their biceps so massive they could not possibly manage to rest their arms by their sides. For many coping with eating disorders, our brains begin to see in terms of black and white, all or nothing. This mindset prevented me from fathoming the idea that I could be both lean and strong. My fixation on leanness and my thought patterns defining happiness as thinness, numbed me to the reality that I could never perform at my optimum potential with a lack of protein and sufficient calories in my diet.
All of the aspects that I loved about running-- wind sifting through my ponytail, the mud coating my shoes and calves by the end of a race, and the feeling of escape and freedom from daily pressures-- began to diminish. Running was now entrenched in obsession and smothered by addiction.
It was only my own sheer will that allowed me to finish cross-country workouts. Little to my knowledge at the time, a small handful of nuts for lunch would not sustain me for an interval-based workout. All of my workouts revolved around cardio. The type of workout did not matter; the calories would continue to burn as long as my body was in motion. Mindless laps were completed around the track, with no passion to be found. The runner's high I thought I had was, in reality, ceaseless dizziness due to a lack of nutrition.
It became evident to me that my exercise habits were indeed an addiction when I was subjected to bed rest during my hospitalization. I found myself constantly making the excuse of having to use the restroom, just to keep my body moving, holding onto the hope that I could burn even half of a calorie moving from the bed to the bathroom. I was desperate to retain control. I was "using the restroom" so frequently that even my roommate began to question my habits. I failed to realize that my recurrent, unnecessary bathroom trips might seem questionable.
Following my release from the hospital, exercise and movement had to be introduced gradually back into my life. Threats of obsession loomed, causing my doctors to consider the possibility of me returning to my addictive habits. Through talking to others enduring the same journey and doing copious research, I found yoga to ease my mind, rock climbing to satisfy my need for a thrilling challenge and build my sense of self-trust, as well as strength training to ignite my power. It became quite clear when I joined a gym focused on weight lifting that not all body builders are intimidatingly enormous and charged with endorphins. This was just my warped sense of thinking at the time. Since my time at home, I have went on occasional runs. Rather than losing myself during my runs, and allowing obsession to overshadow my love for the sport, I allowed myself to return to the original aspects of running that I loved. Runs were now fueled by power rather than my own sheer will. At the gym, I now respond to increases in the weights I lift with intention and enthusiasm, and sometimes, even a giddy dance.
As weight lifting has made a defined presence in my life, I have realized that results are born from protein-rich diets. For those recovering from an eating disorder, the essential amino acids composing proteins fuel the neurons in the brain that aid in focus, increase serotonin production, in turn, causing a boost in positive outlook, and the clarification and optimization of blood sugar levels. With under-eating comes the threat of causing your blood sugar levels to go astray, as well as the other essential functioning systems of your body.
Throughout my recovery, I have maintained a plant-based diet, thus giving myself a challenge in terms of protein intake. My mom created this protein enriched breakfast to supply me with the fuel I need to power me through my morning workouts.
My thoughts during my workouts are no longer a complex calorie-counting math equation. An uptempo five mile run is no longer viewed as a successful ridding of approximately 460 calories. Exercise, to me, is now a source of self-growth both mentally and physically.
Vegan Chai Protein Oatmeal
This recipe yields 2 servings
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups non-dairy milk of your choice
*2 scoops chai-flavored protein powder (Arbonne's plant-based protein powder is what we prefer to use)
2 tbsp nut butter of your choice
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 banana sliced
*4 tbsp toasted almonds
*If you cannot find chai-flavored protein powder, you can replace this with a vanilla-flavored protein powder and chai spice.
*Purchase almonds already toasted if available in your grocery store. If you cannot find these, place raw almonds in a sauté pan over low heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the almonds from the heat to cool once the five minutes has passed.
1. In a saucepan, bring your selection of non-dairy milk to a boil over medium heat.
2. Ass the oatmeal into the boiling milk and begin stirring the mixture. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from heat, stir in two scoops of protein powder, then divide the oatmeal into two bowls.
4. Top each bowl of oatmeal with the nut butter, sliced banana, maple syrup, and toasted almonds. This recipe makes enough for two servings, so divide the topping ingredients in half for each bowl.
5. Enjoy each mouthful of this protein packed breakfast!