iRun because it reminds me of how strong I can be Monique Lavoie, Ontario

iRun to prove to myself I canLesley McGougan, Brampton, ON

iRun because it has saved my life John Marshall, Alberta

iRun so I donít say never ever again Linda Klaric, Manitoba

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo, Ontario

iRun because I want to be a role model for our six kids Catherine Empey, British Columbia

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil, Lombardy, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou, British Columbia

iRun because somebody once told me I couldnít Heidi Abbey-Der, Saskatchewan

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua, Caledon, ON

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury, Newfoundland

iRun for the challenge to go faster and farther Steven Matejka, Alberta

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw, New Westminister, BC

iRun because it helps me see things more clearly Jennifer Pitts, Ontario

iRun for the moment when both feet are off the ground Catherine Anderson, British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury, Newfoundland

iRun because it makes me feel powerful Sarah Kallaghan, Alberta

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava, Calgary, AB

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe, British Columbia

iRun because itís like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson, Ontario

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman, Manitoba

iRun for meKiza Francis, Ottawa,ON

iRun because it's a great stress release Brooke McKenzie, Yukon

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell, Quebec

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams, Ontario

iRun because Iíve lost 80 lbs and running has become fun Cheryl Kelly, Ontario

iRun for me! Judi Wearing, Saskatchewan

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk, Calgary, AB

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe, British Columbia

iRun because not everyone can Olivia Harvey, New Brunswick

iRun because my heart tells me to William Martin, Manitoba

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch, Ottawa, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou, British Columbia

iRun because itís a great way to see the world Sherry Mahoney, British Columbia

iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx, Ontario

iRun because I liveGeorges Schneller, Laval, QC

iRun because I canít dance Mario Javier, Ontario

iRun for my heart, so it runs for me! Cathy Brzoza, British Columbia

iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman, Manitoba

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh, Nottingham, UK

iRun to kickstart my day Sharon Strueby, Saskatchewan

iRun because it makes me whole Denis Ladouceur, Quebec

iRun for health, i Run for life Pat Cheung, British Columbia

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew, Ontario

iRun to my happy place and some days itís very Doreen May, Alberta

iRun because i love to Mirella Petriello, Ontario

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel, Calgary, AB

iRun because it gives my day a boost of energy Sara Campbell, Nova Scotia

iRun for overall wellbeingTrish McCourt, Halifax, NS

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey, Ontario

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes, Ontario

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre, Ottawa, ON

iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter, Clearwater , BC

iRun for the challenge and to remember to fully live Pascale Synnott, Quťbec

iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean, Ontario

iRun to maintain a strong physical and mental state Tammy Rainville, Ontario

iRun because I am not as clumsy I thought I was Hanna Baer, Quebec

iRun to prove to them that iCan Catherine Smith, Manitoba

iRun because food tastes better afterwards Patrick Houston, Alberta

iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase, Nova Scotia

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der, Saskatchewan

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu, Ontario

iRun away from the abyss Charlene Thomas, Ontario

iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk, Vancouver, BC

iRun because itís cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter, Alberta

iRun because it gets my husband out there Tricia LaLonde, Alberta

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp, Ontario

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston, Nunavut

iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent, Quťbec

iRun for the cool t-shirts! Pina Bevilacqua, Ontario

iRun because itís fun when itís done Sue Matte, Ontario

iRun because it’s in meMichael Foley, Stittsville, ON

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie, Ontario

iRun because it makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friendNathalie Joncas-Caissie, St-Antoine, NB

iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker, Etobicoke, ON

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard, Ontario

iRun see where my feet will take me todayMegan Dolinskas, New York

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick, New Brunswick

iRun whenever I feel the need to escape Iona Hillis, Ontario

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra, Ontario

iRun to eat Maureen Tritscher, Alberta

iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail, Ontario

iRun so I can eat ice cream Sandy Bolan, Ontario

iRun because it sure beats the bus Robin Robbins, Alberta

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew, Ontario

iRun because iLoves my man Beverly Huang, Alberta

iRun because there is no finish line Claire Kilgour, Ontario

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard, Ontario

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie, Ontario

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard, Alberta

iRun because I love the solitude Janene Tailleur, British Columbia

iRun to correct years of sedentary living! Mike Scott, Ontario

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan, Ottawa, ON

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop, Yukon

iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan, Brampton, ON

iRun because the wall is meant to be broken Jonathan Bird, Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter, Alberta

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar, Saskatchewan

iRun for the fresh air and adrenalin Charlyn McGregor, Saskatchewan

iRun because running is like breathing to Stephanie McEvoy, Ontario

iRun because it makes me feel powerfulCarlene Paquette, Carp, ON

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle, New Brunswick

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire, Nova Scotia

iRun because otherwise Iím grumpy Alexandre Charest, Quebec

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier, Gatineau, QC

iRun because I never thought I would be able toGary Morris, Winnipeg, MB

iRun because itís better than almost everything else Nathan Carey, Ontario

iRun to unleash my inner athleteAdelle Densham, Avonmore, ON

iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier, New Brunswick

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen, Manitoba

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell, Quebec

iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling, Ottawa , ON

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire, Nova Scotia

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter, Alberta

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldnít Peter Cicalo, Ontario

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve, Ottawa, ON

iRun because I get foot rubs afterward Kate Howerton, British Columbia

iRun to satisfy the irresistible urge Tim Nixon, British Columbia

Cover photo from the current issue of iRun Magazine

Workout Wednesday

My Best Running Race

April 2012

Back to Table of Contents


In pursuit of a faster finish

Eating disorder awareness

You’ve decided to seriously improve on a personal best or maybe you are trying to win your age group at the next big race. Maybe your life has become much more stressful lately and eating feels like one of few areas you can still control. You’re counting calories, avoiding “bad foods” and saying no to co-workers who invite you out for beer and nachos on Friday evenings. Although you’ve increased the frequency and length of your runs, you’ve also cut back on your pre- and post-run snacks. After a few weeks, you notice that you’re tired all the time and it’s getting harder to concentrate at work. Although you’ve lost some weight, you find that your pace is slowing and it’s getting harder to complete your training runs. In your pursuit of a faster finish time, you may also have developed disordered eating.

Disordered eating exists along a continuum. At one end of the range, there are the eating disorders that are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the “bible” for mental health diagnoses): anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia is characterized by a failure to maintain an appropriate weight, an intense fear of weight gain, seriously distorted self-perceptions (e.g., belief that one is overweight despite being underweight) and, for women, the absence of three consecutive menstrual cycles. Bulimia nervosa is defined by recurrent episodes of binge eating follow by purging via excessive exercise, laxatives or fasting; this disorder that is also accompanied by distorted self-perceptions.

However, there are many individuals who might not qualify for an official diagnosis, either because their symptoms are not a perfect fit or because they do not have all of the symptoms associated with anorexia or bulimia, but who nevertheless show signs of disordered eating. Approximately 1% of the general population meets the criteria for anorexia, 1-2% could be diagnosed with bulimia and 3-5% of people show some symptoms of eating disorders without meeting criteria for an official diagnosis.

Signs of disordered eating include overall calorie restriction, elimination of macronutrients (usually carbohydrates or fat) or consciously not taking in enough fuel before, during or after runs. As Lauren Jawno, a Toronto-based nutritionist and author of Change4Good: The Ten Essentials for Food, Fitness and the Good Life, says, “Nothing to an extreme is good.” Having lived with an eating disorder herself, Jawno is well positioned to speak to the issue.

The way in which you eat also matters. Dr. Joan MacDonald, a clinical psychologist at the Ottawa Hospital who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, lists more warning signs: “Very extensive self-imposed food rules or rigid categories of good and bad foods.” Dr. MacDonald also cites eating secretly, eating differently in front of others and avoiding food-related social situations as potential signs of disordered eating. Other symptoms include compulsive behaviour with respect to running: not taking days off, training every day or training despite injury.

Disordered eating is likely to have a significant negative impact on running performance. Geordie McConnell, head coach of the Ottawa Running Club, says, “If a [runner’s] response to the workload is disproportionately bad for what is should be depending on the preceding week’s run, it could be just too much fatigue banked but another thing to look at is nutrition.” Should disordered eating continue, or even worsen, the long-term impacts may include bone density loss, gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular issues such as heart failure.

A variety of factors may contribute to the development of disordered eating. Research has shown that athletes with eating disorders may also have lower self-esteem, higher levels of self-loathing, dissatisfaction with their bodies and problems with depression or anxiety. Dr. MacDonald explains, “There does seem to be a relation between emotions and developing an eating disorder. People who have a difficult time managing their emotions so that they tend to cut off their emotions are more prone.” Competitive, goal-oriented, perfectionist athletes may also be more likely to develop disordered eating.

On a larger scale, the running community may be reinforcing the wider cultural beliefs that are related to disordered eating. There is a perception within the sport that “lighter” automatically translates to “faster” out on the race course; runners can easily find calculators online showing how much faster they might become should they lose five, ten or 20 pounds. Running magazines tend to reinforce this message by exclusively featuring very slim runners on magazine covers. Profiles of elite athletes that itemize their low daily caloric consumption despite very high mileage may also send a negative message to amateur runners. Races that include Clydesdale or Athena categories implicitly reinforce the idea that heavier runners automatically are at a disadvantage due to their weight. In addition, Western society tends to idealize unrealistically slim women, meaning that female runners get a double-dose of social pressure.

To keep their eating healthy, runners would be advised to maintain balance and flexibility in their eating. Because it’s hard to diet and train for optimal performance at the same time, Lauren Jawno recommends that runners who need to lose weight do so before the competitive season starts. She says, “Be realistic about it and look at what your body type is.... Not everyone can get down to a certain weight or a certain body fat because everyone’s body type is different.” Geordie advises the runners he trains, “Make sure you’re eating enough and you’re eating the right balance.” Dr. MacDonald suggests, “If [runners] do notice that they are getting obsessed with their weight or that they’re not fuelling before races, that they’re using laxatives, that they’re using diuretics...that they get help because the earlier that intervention happens, the more successful it is.”

At the Ottawa Hospital, treatment for disordered eating may involve taking a break from exercise and following a balanced meal plan prepared by a nutritionist. Patients improve their emotional awareness and learn to recognize and assert their needs in their relationships with others. Runners with disordered eating may also need help learning to challenge their distorted beliefs around body-image as well as their need for high standards in various areas of their lives.

If you’re concerned about your eating or the eating habits of someone you love, the first step is talking to a family physician – they can make referrals to a nutritionist, a psychologist or a hospital-based treatment program. You can also find more information about eating disorders by visiting the websites of the National Initiative for Eating Disorders, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre or the websites of the Canadian Psychological Association and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

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