While it is true that people in the Midwest tend to be exceptionally friendly, it’s also true that they are quite reserved and that it can be hard to build a relationship with people you only interact with peripherally. As such, it’s taken me quite a long time to get to know the people I work near, but not directly with. But two-and-a-half years later, I’m finally on friendly terms with lots of the people at the clinic and it is good.
After several friendly chats in the bathroom and hallway, I’ve found a lovely friend in one of the well-established and brilliant research scientists in the National Farm Medicine Center named Barbara. Barbara loves to walk (seriously, like 8 miles a day), but recently fractured her foot and is slowly working toward recovery. Likewise, I loved to run, but had tummy troubles that pretty much put a halt to that in recent months. We really bonded over that… our shared loss of beloved physical activities. (And yes, I did tell her all the gory details of my intestinal troubles— this is a good example of that overly quick intimacy I talked about yesterday. Barbara is someone I really like!)
Hmmm… I like where this is going, but I’m going to have to back up just a touch to give you some context. Get ready… I am about to spill my guts.
I am a binge eater. I have a binge eating disorder.
You’re probably thinking, right, I know– I was pretty sure you said you were a woman. But no, not just over-eating, not just an inability to resist something delicious. We are talking about a truly life disrupting disorder of ongoing and epic proportions. It’s not a pretty thing and something I have taken great pains to hide for most of my life. (Literally, most of my life… like since I was 8 or 9. This is a kind of big deal to me.)
One of the biggest triggers of my binge eating is, paradoxically, restriction. And when I spend a lot of time restricting what I eat, either in the amount of food or the type of food, I tend to make a wild swing the other way and binge, binge, binge. Sometimes for a day… sometimes for a month.
My second biggest trigger is, kind of pathetically, self-pity. And sometimes I really spiral out of control when it comes to feeling sorry for myself. Boo hoo, poor me, life is rough, and all that.
Unfortunately, all of my gastrointestinal issues and the lengthy process toward diagnosis has led to something of a perfect storm with respect to binge eating.
Following a series of rather unpleasant tests (see that poor me thing? clearly I have a flair for the over-dramatic), I was diagnosed with EXTREME (!) lactose intolerance. (Literally, the diagnosing doc used capital letters and exclamation points in my chart, Dr. Roy showed me… I’ve always been good at taking tests. I blew this one out of the water!) I’ve always known that milk and ice cream were off limits without lots of lactaid, but nothing wrong with a sprinkle of cheese, a pat of butter, a cup of yogurt, right? Wrong. In fact, even my allergy medication contained lactose! What the what?! (Yeah, I’m definitely the one that taught that age-inappropriate phrase to Emily… sorry!)
So, for an entire 1.5 weeks I was crazy careful about lactose– either none whatsoever or precautionary lactaid anytime there was so much of a chance. And my stomach was awesome. AWESOME! For the first time in MONTHS. I went for a couple of runs, my stomach felt great, no emergency trips to the bathroom, no awkwardness.
BUT– I felt super sorry for myself. And I felt like I was being super restrictive.
So. I came back from Mexico and went completely off the rails. The result has not been pretty. Lactose is definitely the culprit.
So, back to the story at hand.
I spent the better part of today binging. On lactose-containing things, naturally. Because that’s just how I roll. My stomach hurt, my confidence in my ability to get past this binge was waning, and I was ready to head home and continue the vicious cycle with more food and more self-pity. But, on my way out the door, I bumped in to no other than Barbara and we walked to the parking lot together– chit chatting the whole way.
Barbara was so thrilled that I had a diagnosis and that a simple avoidance of lactose was enough to allow me to run again. She reminded me that running is something I love to do. And she pointed out the gorgeousness of the season and the perfectness of the temperature for running. And she was so right.
So instead of going home and sitting on the couch with a big bowl of lactose-laced anything, I came home, laced up my running shoes, and headed out to pound the pavement for 20 minutes.
It was a brief run, but it was a good start. The temperature was in the upper 40s and perfect and the skies were a bubbly, cloudy gray. I ran past bright red leaves and a sweet puppy that wanted to play. I ran past pumpkins on porches and jammed to Seth’s Road Trip Mix.
Yep, I do love running.
Thank goodness for Barbara and her gentle reminder. For her kind words and genuine interest in my life. She gave me exactly what I need today in such a subtle way. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.
PS: I make jokes… even about serious things. It’s just what I do. But binge eating disorder and any other eating disorder is a serious thing and professional help is required. Don’t worry, I’m getting some. And if you ever feel like you might need help, you should absolutely reach out. For realsies.