Eating disorders help and support thread

Hey everyone,

I’ve been following this forum and the TrainerRoad podcasts for a while and I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of debate regarding fueling your workouts, losing weight, body composition, fasted training etc. Since FTP and more specifically watts/kg are a very important metric for many, I believe it’s very easy to get stuck in the “if only I could lose some weight” mentality - even if one’s healthy and weight is not an issue.

I therefore think a thread like this (I haven’t found a similar thread using search, I’m sorry if I missed it) might really add a lot of value for many athletes, who are looking to improve their eating habits, their nutrition on the bike or who simply seek help and support regarding nutrition and weight.

I’m definitely one of them, since I am in no way overweight (never was); quite contrary, I might even be too skinny for some people. I have orthorexia nervosa, which means that I basically created a list of “safe foods” to eat for myself, which includes mostly fruits and vegetables. I eat a ton of food, but it’s all low calorie, and I have a really hard time when I’m in a position where I might eat something “unhealthy”. I haven’t eaten anything out of my “safe foods” list in a long time and when I do, I feel terrible and guilty afterwards. I even skipped some company lunches because I didn’t want to eat “unhealthy restaurant food” and wouldn’t be able to carefully measure calories it contained. That said, I carefully monitor all my calories, I measure all my meals and I underfuel my workouts or do them fasted because I’m scared of overeating. I’m slowly trying to climb out of this hole, but I keep getting stuck in the same patterns. Hopefully, I’ll succeed some day.

I also hope this thread will help people like me by at least sharing our experiences and supporting each other. WIsh you all the best, Klemen

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Watching with interest, my eating is fucking disordered and was worse back in my 20s.

But that’s enough said today.

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Great that you opened this topic. I have reduced my carbohydrates, Now lacking energy for the high effort sessions, have to change that

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Good watch that’s relevant

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This came from my post in the meme thread but humour often is routed in truth. I think the majority of people here know it’s unhealthy but it’s very hard to stop, especially if everything else is going to Hell in a handcart.

45j7bs

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Thank you, this is a very good video that I’ve watched multiple times already.
I’ll add a recent TrainerRoad video, which really struck me and very well explains when and why you need your food.

Loading-Up On Carbs: Recovery Drinks for Cyclists (Ask a Cycling Coach 288) - YouTube

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Can I ask how we (Royal ‘we’) might be able to offer support or help? I’m asking because I (a) have never, to my knowledge, had an eating disorder and (b) I’m worried that whatever I might say could just come off as being plain rude.

For context, I’ve read your post several times and a few things jump out at me. Truth be told, those things probably say more about me just being too damn lazy.

Like you, I love my fruit and veg. I can’t sit down to a beige plate of food. What I’ve never quite understood is measuring or weighing what I eat. If I want it, in it goes. Coach Chad has said several times that it’s hard to eat too much fruit and veg. I spend most of my day crunching on something, from apples to carrots, I’ve nearly always got something in my mouth :laughing:

That said, I avoid a lot of fast food. Not because it’s unhealthy, more because I never feel like I’ve actually eaten. I’m looking for something else to stuff in my face thirty minutes later. I can’t afford to live like that.

Hopefully I’m not coming off as being disrespectful or flippant? What I’m trying to say is that maybe I can also learn about this type of disorder.

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First off - thanks for sharing this, I do think it’s a very prevalent issue in many endurance communities (even moreso than broader athletics), and while not an easy or simple conversation, one worth having.

Completely empathize with this part - for me the cycle is workout fasted, be hungry all day, crush food after dinner as I’m ravenous, and then be frustrated with that the next morning and ride fasted again. I’ve tried once or twice to break it with quality pre-workout fueling, but when it doesn’t magically instantly kill all my cravings that night, I write it off and slip back into my old ways. Definitely a habit I’m looking to break going forward.

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I think this is a super thoughtful approach you’ve taken - both trying to help but also realizing your distance from truly understanding the issue - and I personally appreciate that engagement (would have to assume the OP does as well but that’s certainly up to them).

For me - I think it’s mostly about learning from other people’s habits and methods. The podcast is useful here too (especially Amber sharing her personal experiences both going down the underfueling path and then how to get back out) but understanding the habits of others who are able to fuel successfully I think is also a useful way to connect with people who aren’t yet able to make this work.

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Great Thread.
I have a history of eating disorders. I remember being distraught at the age of about 7 because I weighed more on the scales than the previous time. 47 years later I’m in a much better place and have been so for the past 5 years.
Currently I’ve had a lot of hormone changes and had to recover from a major operation and am the “biggest” I’ve ever been. I am just tipping into overweight according to the BMI charts. I did start by trying to cut out sugar, but immediately disordered eating Thought Processes began to emerge. Logically, I can’t get back into training, continue to recover and restrict what I eat. I’ve decided to remove all food restrictions and allow myself to find my natural rhythm. (I think we need to be in a healthy place/have a lot of support to begin this, or it can just become a window of opportunity to binge, before returning to even greater restrictions).
The video from @Cleanneon98 really illustrates how food restriction effects thought processes and increases anxiety. There are also conditions which can create a greater tendency to developing food disorders - e.g. Autistic spectrum disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder and individuals who have experienced trauma.
often, we talk about “fear” of eating certain foods. This is related to weight gain. But what is the ultimate fear of weight gain / eating a prohibited food? for some people there can be a significant fear which is difficult to talk about. This can be masked by a fear that makes no logical sense. Sometimes, simply saying what the fear beyond the behaviour is, to a friend or family member, or therapist can begin to loosen the hold the eating disorder has on us.
For those in the worst part of an eating disorder right now. There is a path forward. There will be happier times ahead. You will be able to find your way out of your own particular eating disorder puzzle, with the help of someone who you trust and is able to help you navigate.
Edit: I have not been in the grip of an eating disorder for 42 years. I’ve had phases in my life when obsessive thought processes have included eating behaviour.

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From Eating Disorder To Olympic Glory - YouTube

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I also had(have) an eating disorder. While I am no longer at an unhealth body weight, I still struggle with the anxieties surrounding food.

About 10 years ago I fell into a weight loss spiral, eventually needing hospitalization. I had a BMI of 15.9, was experiencing regular blackouts, and a host of other disfunctions. I am lucky that I didn’t have a stroke or heart attack.

I know exactly what you mean about “safe” foods and eating. For years I avoided restaurants, food at social functions, etc… I would only feel comfortable eating in situations I had control over. The “control” issue is key to this disorder, in my case at least. Learning to be ok with not having control all the time has been part of my recovery. I am only somewhat better at it now, 10 years on. I expect that trying to have a healthy relationship to food will be a lifetime project for me.

One thing that has helped me a lot is setting a “minimum acceptable weight”. Regardless of whether it be optimal for cycling, or whether I could be slightly faster if I dropped below that weight, I don’t allow myself to go below it. This actually relieves a lot of the anxiety around eating, because I only really have to worry about staying above that number. I now find that, because of the huge calorie demands of becoming a more powerful cyclist, I have to stuff myself just to keep above my minimum weight. I don’t feel the anxiety around my food choices as strongly. It matters much less to me what I eat, so long as I am eating enough.

I totally relate to “getting stuck in the same patterns” and “trying to climb out of this hole”. It is so tough. I have accepted that I just have to let the anxiety happen. I have to go through it, and learn that I will be ok on the other side.

Best of luck to you, and anyone else here who is in this boat with us.

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To @PusherMan and @KatuskaMTB, thanks both for your replies.
It’s not that I’m expecting someone to come here and become my therapist and solve all my problems, I simply created this thread so that people like me - and I believe there are plenty, many of them might even be worse off than me - can share their experiences and help and support each other.

Sometimes, it’s just about sharing your thoughts and experiences; seeing that someone understands you; seeing that you are not alone in this fight; seeing how someone who was just like you or maybe even in worse position than you managed to get out of the hopeless position and strive.

And I really apprechiate your input @PusherMan. It’s hard to explain the things in my head to someone “normal”. It’s just that I can easily eat 1 kg of broccoli with some lean mean/beans/whatever and not feel bad, but I get nervous even thinking about eating a burger or a fatty steak. I get nervous thinking about eating something and not knowing the exact nutrition data, since I won’t know how many calories I consumed. And there are many more things that are just stuck in my head, for reasons unknown.

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This might sound strange but, can you explain that nervous feeling? I ask because I when I experience a sense of nervousness, it almost always falls into either nervous excitement or nervous fear. As daft as this sounds, is there even the slightest possibility that you’re experiencing nervous excitement? That burger is, to you, a little bit of a naughty treat and you’re excited about being naughty.

Completely appreciate that I might be over simplifying things. I’m just keen to learn :+1:

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Speaking only for myself, it is definitely not excitement. It is more like the nervousness you might feel when boarding an airplane. You are giving up your control and you don’t know exactly what will happen. Just like you know, intellectually, that nothing bad is likely to happen to you on the plane, that still does not overcome the nervous feeling. Just because I may know that eating a specific food wont cause me to immediately become a bloated, disgusting swamp creature, its still very hard to get past the feeling.

For me pizza is a bad one. The amount of anxiety and negative emotions I have about pizza have rendered it completely distasteful to me. Its not that I actually enjoy pizza and just avoid it out of vain self-restriction; I actively do not enjoy eating it at all now. This is a problem because pizza is everywhere (USA), and people always expect you to want to eat it. So I end up having to eat a food that I do not enjoy, and pretending that its a delicious treat, just to fulfill the expectations of others and not have to talk about my food issues.

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Would love to share my personal experience with restrict/binge cycle and recovery… a couple years ago I decided to take getting faster a lot more seriously, and part of that meant losing a few pounds. Unfortunately I probably tried to lose too much too quickly, which lead to some of the above problems like restricting eating, doing fasted rides, anxiety about eating fatty foods or at restaurants, and worst of all developing a binging habit.

I’m not majorly overweight so recovering isn’t as much about that as it is about not wanting to have anxiety around food or be thinking about it all the time, the gross feeling after a binge that ruins sleep, induces guilt, and really makes it hard to enjoy life…

I tried to find solutions on my own for a while ranging from changing diets, cutting out sugar, meal prepping more, trying to have more willpower, but what finally sparked recovery is when I started watching videos and reading articles from people who had the same issues AND recovered. I think it’s helpful to know that a TON of people have had disordered eating and recovered from it too. Realizing that I’m not special was powerful and a breath of fresh air. I don’t need to be stuck, no matter how badly something in my brain wanted me to think that. Second, the books Brain Over Binge and Never Binge Again helped me understand the psychology behind the disordered eating and how to take back control. I’m a military guy who is used to taking everything into his own hands, so turning to external sources was hard but I’d encourage anyone with that problem to do some reading on it and take your life back. Educate yourself, commit to recovery and take your life back. You really don’t need to be controlled by it. Happy to elaborate more in a DM, as I’m short in time right now.

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This thread is also useful for others who aren’t ready to admit to either themselves, or others, that they have an issue with food.

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Thank you for making this post and sharing your experience. I’ve decided to share what I’ve experienced. This is more of a ramble with no real direction - sorry if it doesn’t seem to make sense, and sorry for my grammar…

In the last 3 years, I have suffered with my eating habits and can certainly relate to you with regards to orthorexia nervosa. I also avoided eating “junk” food and would only allow myself to eat “clean” foods - however, as I was diagnosed with low testosterone after losing a ton of weight, overtraining and not fuelling anything, I knew that I had to make a change. I previously tracked my macros religiously, to the point where I was weighing fruits and vegetables to make sure I was eating exactly one portion. Now, however, I am more flexible, and have moved away from tracking my macros to monitoring my bodyweight only. I don’t know what made me change my behaviour, however, I remember the anxiety around no longer weighing food and the fear of getting fat (Ironically, this is exactly what I needed to get healthy). After days, weeks and months passing without me weighing my food, and becoming more familiar with this, I began to relax. Upon reflection, I look back on the pressure I used to put myself under with anger and regret - but that can’t be changed.

In terms of other unhealthy behaviours, for some reason (I genuinely don’t know why), I introduced rules to my eating - If it was up to me, I wouldn’t eat after 6pm and would become very anxious if I was ever in the position not too. Due to the amount of food required for me to maintain my body weight, this “6pm rule” became unsustainable as I had to eat so much food in the evening. With time, I have been able to extend my eating windows (although I still don’t like eating too late at night!!).

One final thing from me, the more I type, the more examples and experiences I could provide. In the past, I turned down meals cooked by others because I knew they didn’t fit with my rules or perception of “acceptable foods” - I missed out on experiences and I know I did. This is what I regret the most.

I know you don’t want this thread to act as a therapy session, and I know from past experience how unhelpful it is to receive advice and tips from people looking from the outside in. With that in mind, I think that the growth of this thread in only a few days shows that you, and others, aren’t alone and that we can support one another.

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I’m not religious but this video is pretty enlightening into Ben King’s issues when he was younger.

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Disordered eating is still taboo and carries with it guilt and shame, and I think that this is what we’re trying to break here. It’s hard enough to admit it to yourself, let alone anyone else and, indeed, you’re most likely to try to hide it from everyone around you. The holidays were very difficult for me, as I’m sure they were for others. The instant I got back I did a 2-hour ride.

Cycling is, to me, a socially accepted cover for all of this. I don’t even like cycling (though I sometimes have to play along). I have a 4.7w/kg FTP, but I don’t compete, and I don’t do “fun” rides (indoors or outdoors), nor do I have any desire to do either. I’ve been doing HV plans because it was the easiest way to burn the most kJ’s without having to leave the apartment, or be seen. I recognize that this is perverse.

There does seem to be a line below which things started to fall apart for me. Insomnia, lethargy, lack of concentration or desire to do anything at all, hormonal changes, circulatory problems. There’s really a list of comorbidities, both physical and mental that came along with it. Depression was certainly one. Treatment needed to be multi-faceted.

I’m “better” but still far from good. I still weigh all of my food, and avoid (when I can) anything I don’t have the nutritional information for. I still binge, while feeling self-loathing and guilt. I still crave sugar sometimes, and hate myself for wanting it, hate myself for walking to the store, hate myself for buying cookies, hate myself for eating them, and then hate myself for not enjoying them. I had taped over the scale, but removed the tape when someone might have seen it, and still weigh myself every morning and after every workout. I still don’t drink enough water, because it weighs too much, even though this is counterproductive.

This is a really challenging area, and I appreciate everyones stories. I sat on posting for a few days, but even if all this thread does is shows others that they’re not alone in it, that’s something.

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