When I went off to college, I did not have good body image and being able to make my own food decisions actually made that much worse for me.
I went through what felt like every negative stage of restricting, calorie counting, excessively exercising, and then purging. I have never felt so weak and alone in my life. As someone who is very intrinsically motivated, it wasn't enough for someone to tell me to change, I had to see it myself.
With the support of friends and family I was able to start turning around my actions, but my thoughts had deep roots and cutting from the surface didn't kill them off.
It's funny how I actually stumbled upon trail running: I went to school at Western State Colorado University (an outdoor haven) but I had yet to really explore much at all, my entire freshman year. That summer, I brought my car up from home, and my girl friends and I started hiking around. As a go-getter, it was hard for me to want to stop and putz around when we had a destination to hit. Out of time frustration, I realized running could probably get you further, faster (I'm all about efficiency, even to a fault) and so I started reading up about trail running. I discovered the Leadville race series and was HOOKED.
I loved that this sport was all about how much time you put into it yourself. But I didn't realize all of this until I changed my mindset. Going into the woods for two to three hours is not sustainable unless you are feeding yourself adequately. I started to see that if I skipped dinner, or had a malnourished day, I wouldn't be able to run the way I knew/felt I could. I would say that running became my new addiction but I also realized that it could turn into a very strict thing, if I let it. So I decided to have fun instead. I don't run for time (although being fast and placing never hurt), I also don't run for distance - I run for the soul. I have absolutely zero shame admitting that I've never cried more than on a trail, never putzed around in the woods more than on a "run" and never felt so connected to whatever else it out there. There is not a better feeling in the world (for me) than hitting your stride and feeling everything slip away, while being in a breathtaking place, and knowing YOUR body is getting you there. Living at almost 10k feet won't hurt your elevation training either and I finally was fully drinking the "I'm strong and I don't have to be skinny" koolaid. Muscles now show, my priorities are totally different.
My first race was Leadville's Heavy Half, a 15.5 mile run that involves casually running up a mountain. I was so enamored by the support everyone gives you not only before/after, but also during. I still have friends I met during that first race in 2013. I always had a dream of ultra running since first reading about Leadville and this past fall, I became an ultrarunner.
My connection to my body has changed through trail running, drastically. I even went as far as hiring a nutrition coach during training this past summer so I knew I was getting what my body needed and more - something if you asked me about 6 years ago, I would've laughed off completely.
Trail running has my heart. The views keep you going and when you feel like you have nothing left to give, you'll see/hear/experience something outside that puts the fire right back into your soul. It sounds funny to put something so heavy on such a light activity, but trail running saved my life. The West Elks have my heart because it's the place I learned how to love myself.