• Posted on December 19, 2014 9:22 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    3

    Today I went on a run. A seemingly simple sunset run, but my mind started turning as soon as my feet hit the pavement. Since exercise addiction was a big part of my eating disorder, my ability to move my body without the pressure of 'burning this' or 'losing that' still astounds me. Every day for the last two and a half months I have spent three hours in the car and countless hours sitting at my daughter's bedside. When I would get home at the end of the day, my time was spent pumping or taking care of my son. My body was in survival mode. Going on a walk or to a yoga class was out of the question. Even before I ruptured, I was pregnant and feeling every ache and pain of pregnancy while also traveling and chasing a toddler. Going on walks did not feel good so I did not walk. It has literally been months since I moved my body other than two prenatal yoga classes. Today I looked out the window and saw how beautifully sunny it was. My daughter was sleeping and my son was outside playing. I looked at my mom and asked if I could go on a walk. "GO!" She said, "It will be wonderful for you." Who was I to argue? Mothers know best. I set out to run/walk, never imagining I would be able to run without feeling cramped and out of breath since it had been months since I had exercised. But I really did not care if I ran like turtle, all I knew is that I needed to get out of the house and move my body. That is the amazing thing when you reconcile with exercise - when you throw out the calories burned, miles run or pace, exercise becomes play. You move your body simply because it feels good. It is that simple and yet we burden ourselves with calories in and out, pushing our bodies to painful levels to achieve a size or look. Today's run went so far beyond that. As soon as I stepped out of the driveway, my feet began to glide against the pavement. My body moved with such ease as I trotted down our small town's main road. I smiled ear to ear. I felt such pride in my body and it's perseverance. From nearly two weeks on bed rest to the pain of a c-section and recovery from it, my body has been through hell. Doing something good for my body felt incredible. I thought back to the mornings I would set out on my drive to the NICU. I would see people walking and riding bikes and running. I dreamed of the day I could bring that back into my life. I dreamed of it not because I wanted to get back to some pre-baby body or burn off my daily Chick-fil-a. No, I am proud to say those things never cross my mind anymore. I wanted to return to the sidewalk because I craved self care. I wanted time for me, to clear my head and to do something good for my spirit. It is that time of year when all we hear are messages about holiday 'temptations' and New Year's weight loss resolutions. These messages eat at me (pun intended). For most of my life, I lived by the notion that the new year would bring a 'healthier' me, which of course meant a smaller sized version of me. Because if I weighed less, then I would ultimately be happier. And new year happiness was achieved through rigorous and grueling exercise and restriction, only to ultimately 'fail' and start the vicious cycle again. My life and my run today boldly debunks my former thinking - a thinking pattern that plagues many of us. My body today proved that no matter what I am going through in life, it is resilient. On a day when I set out for a simple run/walk, I returned home with another piece of my spirit back in place. The last few months have been exhausting emotionally and physically. My mom told me last month that I finally had the light back in my eyes. Today, I felt that light return to my body. In a world where we are inundated with thoughts and messages to lose, why can't we reframe that to a message of gaining. Today I regained my physical spirit. My body reminded me (once again) that if I honor and take care of it, my body will take care of me. Today, I did something good for my body and in return my body gave me my groove back. What if we all focused less on simply losing weight through exercise and focused more on getting our groove back?

    Body Image, Eating Disorder, Exercise Addiction
  • Posted on January 20, 2014 4:41 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    4

    Yesterday, I crossed a finish line. Yep, that was all it was, a finish line. A man-made line in the street to declare the race complete.  Nothing more, nothing less. Of course completing a half-marathon is nothing to laugh at.  I am super proud of my husband and myself for completing our first race together. But for the first time that finish line meant nothing to me and I say that because finish lines, at one time, were everything to me. A little over three years ago I crossed my last finish line at the Big Cajun Triathlon in October 2010.  I began racing in triathlons in the Spring of 2009.  I thought crossing the finish lines would make me 'healthy,' happy and well, let's be honest here - skinny. It was my eating disorder that fueled my desire to race.  In my one year of racing I crossed nearly fifteen finish lines. I never found that elusive health or happiness hiding under the finisher medal table.  Nonetheless, I cried at many finish lines because I thought they were my 'full circle' moment and that crossing them meant I was healthy and recovered. But by the fall of 2010, my body, both physically and mentally, only continued to decline in health. As I left for treatment, I knew I would be back in a few months and would return to the sport.   In treatment, there were a few issues I was hard pressed to discuss, one of which being my relationship with exercise and the sport of triathlon. I was adamant to return to the sport and I told my therapist that I would eventually race again. Maybe not right away, but definitely within a year.  She said I would be "playing with fire." I responded that she was wrong and ultimately I would find a way. As I returned home, I soon realized that she was right. Returning to racing or rigorous exercise would be playing with fire.  I will never forget the day I packed all of my racing gear in a box and cried over it. I had to mourn yet another thing stolen by my eating disorder. Part of my heart was ripped out that day and I was left trying to piece together my life in recovery, which sadly meant no racing. But I had made a promise to myself to always put recovery first and that meant saying good bye (not see you later) to the sport. I stayed close to my racing family, continuing to help at events and joining in on Facebook antics. Of course, it was not the same and watching others race stung like hell in the beginning. I had to accept that even though it hurt, I knew I was ultimately making the right decision for me and my recovery. This past fall, my husband and I started talking about running in the Louisiana Half Marathon.  We got excited about the prospect of training and doing something active together. I never doubted that I was of healthy mind and body to take on the challenge.  What I did worry about was you, my readers and followers.  I know there are so many of you who read my posts and follow me that are fighting for recovery or searching to find peace with food, body and exercise.  When we decided to enter the race, I explained my decision in Find Your Play. In overcoming my eating disorder, exercise was THE hardest thing for me to find balance with, as I am sure many of you can understand. Exercise is good for you, right? Well, sure! So your eating disorder uses that to do it to extremes.  I know mine did. My ED excercise brain was based on numbers: calories in/calories out, miles run, etc.  There was no joy in body movement, only constantly calculations and a cruel voice in my head saying, "Run Faster. You're lazy because you didn't workout today." I can't stress enough that exercise is something that you MUST trust your treatment team on. You have to be honest and open to their recommendations. I knew for sure my therapist was wrong, but ultimately I knew the truth. I needed to put recovery first and that meant hanging up the running shoes and learning to find peace in my body through other forms of body movement. Many years of therapy, patience and recovery work later, I finally felt ready to lace up my shoes once again and stand at a start line.  How did I know I was ready? Because for once, the finish line meant NOTHING.  I knew crossing the finish line would not make me healthy or happy or at peace with my body.  I already was all of those things.  I knew I was ready simply because it sounded fun. And that is what exercise should be - FUN. Colleen Daly said it best at SmashTALK: Carolina, "If you love to run, run. If you don't, DON'T. If you love to shake your booty, do Zumba.  Find what YOU love." Can I get an AMEN?! Amen, Colleen, amen. Yesterday, Jordan and I lined up with 5,000 other runners in front of the Louisiana State Capitol.  It was a perfectly crisp and cloudless January morning.  The gun went off with a massive BOOM at precisely 7:00am. As the herd of runners slowly began jogging, my heart was happy.  My eyes welled with tears as Jordan and I crossed over the start line. I was overwhelmed with joy that finally I was starting a race where I I wasn't looking for anything at the finish line. It was an unexpected simple and beautiful step in my recovery journey. I never dreamed that making peace with exercise would come back to me in this way. I was prepared to hang up my racing shoes forever. But in my journey to find myself and what makes me happy, I discovered a small part of that is moving my body. I enjoy running, so I run. A seemingly simple notion that took me years to accept. Today, I am typing away with some pretty sore legs and tired toes, but a definite peace in my heart. Jordan and I crossed the finish line, hands clasp together in the air. (Yes, we were that cheesy couple and I don't care one bit!) He gave be a big ole kiss when we finally stopped after crossing the finish. We laughed and screeched, "We did it!" There were no tears at the finish, only hugs, laughs and high-fives. I had nothing to find at the finish because everything I had always searched for and set out to prove in my racing was already inside me. For the very first time, the finish line was meaningless. The Louisiana Half Marathon finish line was beautifully empty.

    Body Image, Eating Disorder, Exercise Addiction
  • Posted on December 1, 2013 9:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    3

     The sun fell into the Louisiana bayou, as my husband and I ran side by side on an evening run. The sky was an amazing fluorescent pink and purple and the crisp fall air was simply perfect.  We pushed our son in his stroller as he clutched his beloved golf club and juice cup in his tiny hands.  Tonight's seemingly insignificant Sunday run turned into another extraordinary recovery moment that took my breath away. It was once said to me that "exercise should be play."  Funny, because the 'old me' always thought exercise was punishment. Punishment for the food I ate and torture for the imperfect size I wore.  Exercise as play?  Such a foreign concept.  The exercise piece of my eating disorder was a very tricky one (as it is for most people).  To the outside world I was deemed healthy, with strong will power to exercise and the ability to 'watch what I ate'. But inside my mind was a violent storm: eat this, not that; run further; you're a bad runner; swim longer; you're slow; bike faster; you suck; calories in, calories OUT.  Exercise was anything but play. Body movement.  That is what they called the group at the Carolina House.  Body movement: an hour dedicated to learning to be in your body again.  And of course, I thought it was ridiculous.  Why walk when you can run?  Why jump rope like a first grader when you can jump singles and burn more calories? It just did not make sense to me.  In my mind, I did not have exercise issues, but as usual, the staff disagreed (rightfully so). It has taken me nearly three years in recovery to find a healthy relationship with exercise.  I always thought 'exercise addiction' meant sneaking out the window at 3:00am to run ten miles.  Once again I had an extreme standard that I held my own issues and anxiety up to.  The truth was and is that I struggled with exercise just like I severely struggled to find a healthy relationship with my body and food.   Since the birth of my son I have slowly gotten back into exercise playing.  I do what feels right and I listen to my body.  I HONOR my body, whether it be through movement, eating or rest.   When I was 10 years old, I remember a voice in my head telling me I was 'bad runner' and I believed that voice for a long time.  Running was torture because I thought I was never good enough.  Today, I know that speed or time or miles do not make me a 'good' runner.  I am a good runner because I choose to lace up my shoes and RUN.  I am a good runner because I love it.  I am a runner because it is my play. I am a spirited and active woman - always have been.  I am naturally athletic and have finally found peace in honoring that part of me. I am proud to say that I cannot remember the last time 'worked out.' Since the birth of my son and being a coach of Girls on the Run, I no longer work out.  I PLAY.   Over the past couple of months my husband and I have talked about running in the Louisiana Half Marathon on January 19, 2014.  I have been very hesitant to declare it and put it out there (because you know nothing is official until it appears on Facebook).  Tonight after our beautiful and peaceful run I knew we could do this, together.  So here is my declaration: Come Sunday, January 19th, you can find Jordan and me at the starting line (barring any unexpected pregnancies, injuries, etc.). I am not running to prove anything.  A finish line will not prove my health, my strength or my recovery.  I am recovered. I am healthy.  I am running simply because it sounds fun.  Running is my PLAY.  I love it.  I love the pavement under my feet and the wind in my face.  But most of all, I love playing with my best friend by my side.   Body movement comes in all shapes and sizes.  And those of us in recovery and fighting our way to recovery need to be patient and open to discovering what our body craves.  Body intuition is a practice.  Be silent.  Be still. Be patient.  And soon you will find your PLAY. With love and PLAYfulness, McCall

    Body Image, Carolina House, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on August 8, 2013 6:43 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    In continuing my body freedom beach week, I decided to go on a beach run without a shirt. (I know, I even shocked myself with this one.  I mean, who is this body loving girl?)  My toes sunk into the soft sand as I made my way to the water's edge.  I popped my earbuds in and awkwardly began to run.  The angle and softness of the sand on my bare feet made running difficult.  (How did those Baywatch lifeguards make it look so effortless and sexy?  Damn you, Hasslehoff.)  I began to doubt this ballsy decision as I tried to find a pace, remembering all of my running form rules.  Then I came to my senses: "'F' this.  Just run, McCall." I changed the iPod tune to our beach trip theme song.  The upbeat tempo and crazy lyrics cleared my head and I started to simply RUN. "Everybody get up.  Everybody get up.  Hey, hey, hey.  Hey, hey, hey.  Hey, hey, hey.  If you can't hear what I'm trying to say.  If you can't read from the same page.  Maybe I'm going deaf, Maybe I'm going blind, Maybe I'm out of my mind..."I ignored the voice in my head saying I needed a pace and cadence and just ran.  The sun hit my back as I jogged and I began to find freedom in each step.  Yes, this was what running is supposed to feel like.  I got lost in Robin Thicke's catchy (and yes, controversial) lyrics and let my body move.  I was in the moment, in my skin and enjoying every beat and wave along the way.  I may or may not have done a high kick or two in the waves.   "But I will wait, I will wait for you.  And I will wait, I will wait for you. And I will wait, I will wait for you. And I will wait, I will wait for you...So I'll be bold. As well as strong. And use my head alongside my heart. So tame my flesh. And fix my eyes. That tethered mind free from the lies..." As my beloved Mumford and Sons sang to me, I began to feel how my running/exercise mindset was reflective of my old way of life.  Not all that long ago I lived by a set of self-implied rules and regulations.  Every thought and action had to be executed in a perfect and controlled manner.  I was wound up tighter than a tick 24-hours a day.  Usually my fear of not executing a simple errand list to perfection kept me from leaving my house for days at a time.  Even going on a simple run was extremely anxiety provoking.  I had to have the right shorts on and the matching top.  The shorts could not be too tight.  My sides could not hang over, which they always did according to my distorted vision.  Every little thing had to be JUST RIGHT, which was impossible.  So as you can guess, going on a shirtless beach run was lightyears from where I once was.  There was something so freeing about throwing on shorts and a sports bra and heading out the door.   (It should also be noted that I don't think they even matched!)  No shoes, no shirt, just me.  Of course, that voice was there, but I ignored it like I always try to do.  And when those form and running etiquette urges started to chime in, well, thank goodness for Robin Thicke and the rest of my iTunes buddies.   I run to the beat of my own drum these days.  I do not run to burn calories or torture myself.  I run because it feels good to be in my body and to honor it. "...One foot in and one foot back. But it don't pay, to live like that. So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks. For never to return..." It was fitting that the Avett Brothers song "I and Love and You" won the shuffle lottery as my final shirtless run song.  The Avett Brothers gave me back my passion for music, something I lost to my eating disorder many years ago.  I've always been a music geek, but somewhere along the way my love for real music got replaced with 'exercise' songs.  My playlists were filled with rap, pop and all music meant to  make you run faster and longer.  Avett Brothers' music is real music, played with real instruments and not the manufactured studio kind Britney uses.  I actually discovered the Avett Brothers while in treatment and have been an Avett addict ever since. "...Are you aware the shape I'm in? My hands they shake my head it spins. Ah Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in..." As I ended my first shirtless jog, I was reminded once again why I love this journey of recovery. The process of self discovery and growth never stops because I choose to not let it stop.  I enjoy the challenge of constantly pushing myself outside of my preconceived 'comfort zone.'  Everyday I find another reason to love this amazing person I am becoming, the extraordinary woman that was there all along. "...Three words that became hard to say, I and love and you, I and love and you, I and love and you."     And just because...

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Exercise Addiction
  • Posted on October 30, 2012 11:47 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    I always heard running was therapeutic…a good-for-your-soul type activity.  But for me, it was anything but good for the soul…or body.  I can remember being a little girl and hating running…I mean I hated running.  I would do anything I could to cut our mile runs short in gym class.  But there was always something telling me that I was supposed to run.  Whether it was to ‘stay in shape’ or to be pretty and popular, I knew I needed to run.  But no one ever taught me how to run or that it could be fun and therapeutic.  Sadly, Girls on the Run did not exist when I was younger.  And even though I hated it, I ran anyway…plugging along, feeling as though I ran with bricks tied to my feet. As my eating disorder evolved over the years, running became my addiction and punishment.  I always considered myself a terrible runner so I would never allow myself to run with friends or along the lakes...both of which make running so enjoyable.  But the word ‘fun’ did not exist in my running or workout vocabulary.  According to my inner-critic and eating disorder, runs were a true workout, a punishment on so many levels, both mentally and physically.  Like most things in my distorted world, running was surrounded with self enforced rules and regulations. I could not run with friends because I was not good enough.  I could not run on scenic and popular paths because I might be seen.  When I was 12-years old, I would run from wall to wall in my room because if I went outside someone might see me and laugh. (Sidenote: The fact that I ran obsessively in my room at age 12 warrants a separate post for another day.)  This fear continued throughout my life.  In college I found the most secluded track to run on.  I spent many lonely hours running in a boring circle again and again with nothing to look at but a gravel.  I hated it.  Then at the ripe old age of 28, I ran my first 5k…that was a huge step: running with others.  OMG. What if they see what a horrible runner I am?  I did my best to put my fears aside, but I still beat myself up for being a crappy runner the whole time.  Shortly after that 5k, I raced in my first triathlon.  But even after racing I still struggled to allow myself to run with others in my training group.   On some level, I was still that 12-year old girl stuck running circles in her room.  I always feared they would realize what an atrocious runner I was and make fun or leave me behind. As I wrote in an earlier post (Forever a Rocketchix), I packed up all of my triathlon gear when I returned home from treatment.  It was difficult, but necessary.  My running shoes suddenly became my regulated thirty minutes per day walking shoes.  This year after going through pregnancy, delivery, sleepless nights and weaning from breast feeding, I finally found myself itching to return to exercise.  Not for calorie burning or weight loss purposes, just for the pure enjoyment of it.  Recently, I emailed with my former treatment therapist and mentioned my exercise comeback.  I told her I hated calling it ‘working out.’  That just seemed so negative.  She suggested I call it ‘playing,’ because that is exactly what it should be.  I quickly adopted her advice because it just seems to fit where I am right now.  My return to ‘playing’ coincides with my first semester coaching my Girls on the Run team.  So lucky for me, twice a week I get the best reminder of what the sport is truly about.  It is not about burning calories or pushing yourself until your body breaks.  You do not have to run a seven-minute mile or ten miles a day in order to call yourself a runner.  You simply have to lace up your shoes and head out the door.  My girls are runners.  I am a runner. My ongoing challenge in this recovery journey is to continue to put myself out there and do things because I want to do them, casting aside the fear and anxiety that I may not be the best, I might not be perfect and I might just fail at a few things along the way.  But that is life, isn't it?  Today, I run tall and strong  with the wind in my face and the pavement under my soles. I run because it simply feels good to move my body.  It feels free to jog in stride while looking out over the lakes.  It is all so very new to me.  I finally get it now.  I get why people love running.  There is something about the melody of your feet as you glide across the pavement and the sun as it hits your face on a clear day.  I also have the added joy of hearing happy baby coos radiate from my jogging stroller as my he enjoys the cool fall breeze on his cherub cheeks.  I may not run far.  I may not run fast.  I simply run. I consider myself lucky to have the ability to run again.  It is truly an extraordinary gift.  Running has now been redefined.  Exercise playing has been redefined. "Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it." ~Oprah Winfrey

    Eating Disorder, Exercise Addiction, Recovery