Here at Salty Running, we know moms-to-be can keep running as long as their pregnancies are normal. But I knew I wasn’t exactly going to have a “normal” pregnancy, at least not mentally. When I first saw those two pink lines, I admit that negative thoughts of inevitable weight gain and reduced mileage flooded my mind, despite the blissful joy of realizing I’d been blessed with my little “nugget.” Running gave me a healthy pregnancy, both mentally and physically, but it was a slippery slope that I had to keep in check.
Having a history of eating disordered habits I knew I’d be at high-risk for engaging in restrictive behaviors once I began to gain weight. I also knew my eating disorder (or the “drill sergeant,” as I’ve come to refer to it through the years) would not be keen on the idea of cutting back mileage. My husband and medical team would be on watchdog alert for the next nine months, and I would feel guilty for causing worry.
Luckily I had a secret weapon on my side: I’m a runner.
For those who have never experienced an eating disorder first-hand, this may all seem so superficial. How could I possibly engage in behaviors that could harm the baby? Talk about selfish, right? The amount of guilt I had for even having feelings like this was enough to fill an entire room. Couldn’t I just SNAP OUT OF IT?!?
I was then 30-years-old and had battled bulimia and anorexia on and off for nine years. If it was easy to snap out of it, I would have done that years ago. It’s a mental disorder, and an exhausting one. It’s the worst battle I’ve ever gone through and it has ruined many years of my life. It gets easier, but it’s been ingrained in my mind and causes many moments of panic, anxiety, and depression even to this day. Snapping out of it, unfortunately, is not an option.
In the end, though, despite first trimester butterflies, I can say that my normal running routine for the majority of my pregnancy is what kept me grounded and mentally stable to overcome engaging in any restrictive or bulimic eating behaviors. It could have gone either way, and I knew that. Running kept me strong and felt like the one thing that gave me mental stability and control. After all, my eating disorder has always been about feeling like I was in control.
I kept myself in check and averaged around 15-20 miles per week; I knew that going over this may have caused me to become obsessive with burning such-and-such calories. I knew my eating disorder pretty well by that point. I stayed away from racing so I didn’t compare myself to others or bash myself for slowing my pace. That was what was right for me.
Not everything was sunshine and rainbows. I had days I didn’t want to run, when I was nauseous and tired and had ligament or back pain. But I’d run anyway because I felt that little voice forcing me for the wrong reasons. I had people tell me my bump was “too small” and I was crazy for continuing to run. I had judgment. But my OBGYN said I was on track; I gained 25 pounds and Connor was healthy.
In the end, I do think running (minimal miles and a comfy 9:30-10:00 minute pace) gave me a healthier pregnancy than I would have had without it. I was in labor for a total of eight hours and pushed for 45 minutes, and for that I was pretty damned lucky!
I was able to return to running two weeks post-delivery and work myself up to a half marathon when my son was four months old. Returning so early to a more aggressive running routine and to racing may have been more a push from my “drill sergeant” than from my desire to get back into it, but after regulating myself for nine months I think I needed the mental break.
Did you or someone you know struggle with eating disorders when pregnant? What did you do to curtail detrimental eating behaviors so you could deliver a healthy baby?
For the previous 12 Days of Running posts, go here!