Healthy Living Blogger or Unhealthy Obsession?

I’ve spent a lot of time lately examining why I blog and looking at why others do the same. I think my motives have changed over the course of the last 6 months, as has the tone of my writings. I started fitfreshandfunny as a way to promote happiness within myself and within the hearts of others. I started this blog on our honeymoon or shortly after, when a flash of “I feel fat in these pants” was causing me to cloud the experience of being in an amazing museum in Dublin. I sat down for a moment, soaked it all in, and realized that I was being silly and tanking a once in a lifetime experience. I have always been curious about how our self worth is complied and where it got skewed along the line to factor the outside in extreme disproportion to the inside. 

It makes sense that the tone of this blog has gone up and down in the last 6 months-I’ve been on one heck of a roller coaster. Doing a half ironman, getting married, traveling to Europe, and 2 surgeries are a lot of major life events. What’s really concerning me is that throughout the majority of these events, my mental health and in some cases even my physical health have been put on the back burner so I could focus on working out, burning calories, and staying “in shape”. I feel silly now to admit that 10 days after pretty major surgery I embarked on a 5 mile walk and ran about 1.5 miles of it simply because I was petrified to sit still for so long and worried that I’d gain weight. I’ve come to the conclusion that my thoughts regarding health and fitness have become more disordered than normal. 

So what is disordered thinking? To me, it means a disproportionate amount of time is spent thinking about one small piece of your daily life pie. Technology makes this pretty easy to do these days-there’s an app to track your calories in/out, another to track every move you make, and blogs everywhere painting pictures of what fitness means to the writer. I’ve immersed myself in all of those pieces of technology, and while I’ve gotten SO many ideas, I’m afraid I’m not putting them all into context properly and simply thinking I MUST do everything that is painted in a rosy light. I’m convinced I’m not eating enough squash, I’m not eating organic, not running far enough, fast enough, not lifting enough weights, basically invoking the comparison monster at every turn. 

The unfortunate thing is, I’m not failing here from lack of trying. I work out at least 90 minutes a day, 4 days a week, and another 45 or so minutes 2 more days per week. I’m exhausted all the time, trying to live on less calories than before so I can get the coveted “deficit”, and anxiously looking at my Garmin watch 20 times throughout each workout and panicking when the calorie readout doesn’t hit my mental goal. Happiness is tied to a metric-what does the number say? Did I burn enough? Did I eat too much? That will color my perception of myself every minute of every day. A red flag went off a week or two ago when my husband let me know that my behavior scares him, and he’s worried that someday I’m going to work out to a point of injury, illness, or worse. 

There’s a bit of irony in this, since a lot of people I know hold me as an example of willpower. Laura always goes to the gym over her lunch hour, Laura never partakes in office treats, Laura can run even on the cold days. And yes, Laura can-but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

If I had to pinpoint when the shift in mindset came, I honestly think it can be tied to November 30, 2013. Jeff and I didn’t hesitate and still are absolutely confident in our decision for me to undergo hysterectomy for my endometriosis. It was never going to get better, and was only getting worse. But I think though I “knew” I “probably” wouldn’t be able to have biological children, by boldly and quickly moving forward and having the surgery I didn’t really give myself a chance to come to terms with what that meant. Sure, I knew it would mean that if we wanted kids, we’d have to adopt. But I don’t think I realized the social implications it came with. How do I answer when people ask when we’re having kids? I come off as a jerk if I simply say “we can’t”, and I hate that horrified look on people’s faces when you tell them that. It seems to get worse when you explain why you made the choices you made. There’s more social implications I didn’t think about-a lot of our friends/family are in the childbearing/child rearing phases of their lives. Pregnancy posts are all over social and blogger media, and it’s natural to think of how that applies to you, and then realize it doesn’t. I’m happy for everyone who’s having kids and most people I know are going to be terrific parents. We’re not. And it just gives you a tiny jolt each time you make the comparison and come up sterile. 

As a result of the change in mindset my hysterectomy brought, I’ve been focused on the thing I CAN control, as opposed to controlling my response to things, and the thing I can control is food and exercise. It’s a natural response, and one I’ve made several times in the past. With each breakup I’ve had in my life, I’ve turned to diet and exercise to exert some control over my feelings. Not always the healthiest way to cope with things, but certainly a nice distraction. My concern is that with the advent of social media, unhealthy behavior is readily on display. Last week, as I had made my intentions to pursue a position in Wellness Coordination, a family member pointed out my unhealthy behavior and asked if I should really be in any position to advise people in that same arena. It stung, but held true. What business DO I have trying to bring healthy habits to people in public while behaving less than healthy in private? 

What does “recovery” hold for something I don’t feel is an eating disorder, more just a disruption in the hierarchy of thinking? Can’t eliminate food, shouldn’t eliminate exercise. And I really enjoy exercise, for the most part-my AMT trainer workouts after work are a bit tedious, but only because I wholeheartedly prefer an outdoors workout to an indoors one any day of the week. Part of what I can do is to leave the Garmin at home and use it only to accurately track runs. Strapping on the heart rate monitor to eke out a certain calorie burn daily isn’t putting me in a healthy mind set, so I need to set that aside for now. Focusing on running and activities that will benefit me for running would also be a good idea-working out for the sake of working out doesn’t work out. 🙂 

I’ve got an appointment scheduled tomorrow with my general doctor to go over some of these behaviors and concerns and formulate the best plan for me to refocus my attentions. It’s not easy admitting that something has taken over your life, but aside from this obsessive focus on exercise and calories, I’ve honestly never been happier. Jeff and I have a wonderful home together, two cuddly dogs we love, and plans to travel the world (eventually). If I could just get myself to focus my energies on what makes me happy on the inside, the outside can’t help but reflect that. 

Lastly, I really want to thank everyone I’ve met over the course of writing this blog. I really enjoy interacting with everyone and learning their motives for the healthy lifestyle they project. Your support has helped me get my relationship with running back on track. I have no intention of ceasing the blog or changing what I write about-I just want to shift the tone a bit and maybe focus on a more complete picture than simply diet and exercise. 

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12 thoughts on “Healthy Living Blogger or Unhealthy Obsession?

  1. Wow, well done for writing this post – I imagine it must have been pretty hard. I completely agree with a lot of what you are saying on the comparison trap, it’s something I definitely find myself guilty of now and again, especially looking at people’s eats and thinking ‘oh they’ve done x amount of exercise and eaten x amount of food, I’ve only done y amount of exercise and eaten x + y food’ cue freak out! Which seems so silly when you think about it, but it’s so hard to snap out of. Sometimes we need to step back and see the bigger picture and what really matters. Life is a blessing and you are being so brave and strong – I am inspired 🙂 x

    • Thanks, Pip! It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap-blogging is about sharing experiences and it’s natural to relate someone else’s experiences to your own. As long as we remember we’re on our own journey we’re fine, but once we forget that it starts some negative thoughts. Getting back on track just takes some simple behavioral modifications and I know I’m up to the challenge! Hope you’re still enjoying lovely Buenos Aires!

  2. I know that *I* for one do not obsessively think about food all the time!

    “one small piece of your daily life pie.”

    Did you say pie?!?!

    haha! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    One thing I will comment on – “I come off as a jerk if I simply say “we can’t”, and I hate that horrified look on people’s faces when you tell them that.”

    First: you DO NOT come off as a jerk by saying that.
    Second: you cannot control other people’s reactions.

    I might have teenagers, but my wife and I struggled with awful miscarriages and infertility for years before our boys came along … and the second one nearly took my wife out permenantly!

    So when we got (get) asked ‘so … gonna try for THE GIRL’, depending on HOW the person says it, we will answer somewhere between ‘we can’t have anymore’ and ‘the second pregnancy and birth nearly killed my wife’. Sometimes people NEED to have that horrified look on their faces.

    Working on dealing with disordered thinking is not easy – and it is certainly something I constantly struggle with. I really do think about food all the time, plan ‘when do I get my run’ too much (i.e. -20F runs), and so on.

    All of what you talk about is also part of why I wrote the ‘Not all rainbows and unicorns’ post … because it is so easy to look at all of the perfection in the blogosphere and feel bad/fat/slow/useless by comparison – but a large chunk of it is unreality, with people hiding their fears and faults behind a veil of a perfect life. All of us are works in progress.

    • Thanks, Mike! Rainbows and Unicorns got me off my butt to finally write this post-I’d been thinking about it for a while. We are definitely all works in progress, and the things that we focus on in life ebb and flow.

      Did I mention that my birthday is pie day(March 14, or 3.14) and I just really don’t like pie? My husband just can’t wrap his head around that one.

  3. What an open and honest post. Kudos to you for being able to listen to your family and their concerns. That alone isn’t easy and then to put yourself out there on the blog and schedule an appointment with a doctor. It sounds to me like you’re headed in the right direction and taking the necessary first steps. I wish you much success. I’ll be rooting for you.

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