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Training on Empty

Training on Empty

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Training on Empty

236 pagine
4 ore
Oct 8, 2012


Training on Empty is the true-life story of Lize Brittin. Heavy as a child and raised in an emotionally tempestuous alcoholic home, Lize developed anorexia when she was thirteen, and soon afterward took up distance running to help ease the pain of her social and family isolation. Her high-school coach encouraged her to pursue not only cross-country and track during the school year, but also road racing and mountain running in the off-season. By the time she was 15, she was a world-class athlete despite struggling with her ever-worsening eating disorder.
Lize's parents, desperate to save their youngest child from wasting away altogether, tried all manner of interventions, none of them successful. Eventually, Lize became so sick that she suffered seizures and nearly died one night despite being in a hospital surrounded by doctors. But survive she did, and inspired by a number of people who entered her life at this critical time, Lize began a long, slow recovery that eventually led her to find a reservoir of inner strength she never knew she possessed. Though the ravages of anorexia have taken a toll on her body, Lize is currently healthy and leading a happier life in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado, where she has spoken in print, in person and on the radio about her experiences batting her illness in the hope of reaching young women who are wandering down the dangerous path Lize herself once trod.

Oct 8, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Lize Brittin was born in Boulder, Colorado in 1967 and has lived there for most of her life. As a high-schooler, she was a four-time Colorado state cross-country and track champion, and qualified twice for the Kinney (now Foot Locker) National Cross-Country Championship after winning the Kinney Midwest Regionals as a senior. At age 16, she set a women's record at the Pikes Peak Ascent, considered one of the most challenging mountain races in the country. Throughout her career as a world-class mountain runner, Lize also struggled with an eating disorder so severe it nearly killed her, being told by doctors at one point that she likely wouldn’t make it thought the night. Eventually, though, she was able to overcome anorexia and now engages in efforts to spread the word that recovery from the illness is possible. Lize has written a manuscript about her struggles with anorexia and poor self-image, and hopes that she can shed some light on an illness that often leads people to withdraw not only from their loved ones but from meaningful living altogether. When not writing, Lize enjoys speaking to groups and on radio programs dealing with topics such as eating disorders and body image. She has been a guest on several Denver-area radio shows, including KGNU, KRFC and Green Light Radio. She has also been featured in several articles and publications, and has been involved in various Internet podcasts, including the Runners' Round Table and Women Talk Sports. In addition, Lize’s blog, “Training on Empty,” is part of the Women Talk Sports Network.

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Training on Empty - Lize Brittin

Training on Empty

Lize Brittin

Copyright 2012 Lize Brittin

Published on Smashwords

Cover image: Dave Schreiber

Formatted by eBooksMade4You

* * *

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

First Edition License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

* * *


Foreword by Lorraine Moller


Chapter 1: My So-Called Life

Chapter 2: Welcome to the Real World

Chapter 3: Growing Up Is Hard

Chapter 4: Saying No

Chapter 5: A New Me

Chapter 6: Tricks of the Trade

Chapter 7: Running on Empty

Chapter 8: The Running Years

Chapter 9: Women in Sports

Chapter 10: On M & M’s

Chapter 11: The Making of an Anorexic

Chapter 12: Brittin Won

Chapter 13: Over the Edge

Chapter 14: The Comeback

Chapter 15: Tonya

Chapter 16: Males and Eating Disorders

Chapter 17: My Secret

Chapter 18: The Stress of It All

Chapter 19: Rest

Chapter 20: New Beginnings

Chapter 21: Regret

Chapter 22: My Mom

Chapter 23: The Fundamental Flaw

Chapter 24: It’s All in Your Head

Chapter 25: Lost

Chapter 26: Fear

Chapter 27: Britta Kallevang

Chapter 28: The Long Road

Chapter 29: Leap of Faith

Chapter 30: Living to Die

Chapter 31: Bobby

Chapter 32: The End Result

Chapter 33: A Perfect Example

Chapter 34: Recovery

Chapter 35: A Holistic Approach

Chapter 36: How Lucky I Am

Chapter 37: Conclusion

* * *


Athletic competition is a heroic journey. The late scholar Joseph Campbell, himself an athlete, brilliantly describes the path of the hero in his book, Hero of a Thousand Faces. The seeker, in the quest for the fulfillment of a dream, ventures into the unknown. Whether the prize sought is as lofty as an Olympic gold medal or as modest as completing one’s first 5k race it becomes in itself the representation of something of greater inherent value – the process of personal transformation that springs from accepting and loving a part of self that previously remained in shadow. The excitement to go into new territory soon leads one face to face with the limitations of the status quo – once committed the onus is on the seeker to remake her/himself or collapse into the hell of an unrealized life.

Recently I was a guest speaker at a Women’s Quest Retreat, run by my colleague and lifelong friend Colleen Cannon. The women that come to these week-long fitness adventures are typically successful middle-class, self-aware, body-conscious, mothers, sisters and daughters. This evening I thought to ask how many of them liked their bodies. I expected at least half. I was shocked when of the 28 participants only 2 raised their hands. Interestingly enough those two hands did not rise from the young, sleek beauties, but from two of the senior women who had taken the heroic journey, perhaps many times. On the subject of their earthly vehicle they had finally come to rest at a point of appreciation. The other women all wished for a physical composition other than the one they possessed.

The human body, male or female is an astonishing piece of machinery, which we are told is made in the image of the Creator. You just can’t get much better than that. So what is this mantle of depreciation and deprecation that the majority of modern women don that makes them feel self-hatred at their own image?

If we go way back we can see that ever since Eve got blacklisted for giving Adam an apple, women have had a hard time getting their rightful esteem throughout history. Coupling with this undervaluation of the feminine is an overvaluation of the male attribute of aggression through the sustained misappropriation of youthful testosterone into acts of war. The masculine/feminine relationship remains polarized to this day, massively leaking the ingredients of potential miracles.

While the see-saw of gender roles and responsibilities greatly shifted in the 20th century this polarity remains. The car and TV as household items have ushered in the nuclear family for western civilization and we have hailed the pill as the liberation of women and the breakdown of sexual stereotypes. But there has been a trade-off. When women made the inroads into the affairs of men the status of her biologically-mandated role as nurturer took a hit. Institutions took over the role of grandmothers, moved birth out of the hands of midwives into the surgical units of hospitals, and separated babies from their mothers after delivery. The symbol of Mother, the breast, was deemed inferior to the bottle; human milk inferior to a cow’s. In the 70’s economics shunted women out of the home into the workforce en masse, and children into daycares. The family garden plot went to high-rise condos and the source of food became a supermarket. Home-made soup alchemized with mother’s loving hands has now been supplanted with a plethora of pseudo-foods imbued with cold steel and a profit margin behind them. Consequently most western societies suffer from a deficiency of the most basic building block of physical and emotional development that sets us up for health, happiness and the fulfillment of our potential – Mothering. We have been duped, and earthlings are in real trouble because of it.

Our fundament, Mother Earth, has slid to the bottom of totem pole. Her denunciation is a meme personalized through the bodies of women – a miserable slab of granite formed over eons, to which both genders are shackled. Anorexia, bulimia, fatness and thinness, the shrouding and mutilation of women, addiction to superficial forms of beauty, and myriad ways in which women are debased, belong to us all. Sadly this issue has been largely cloaked with secrecy, and inadequately confined to the realm of the individual, rather than addressed collectively. All this brings me to a time where I encounter 26 out of 28 fit, healthy, modern women who are deeply ashamed of their bodies. Among them and behind them is a silent epidemic of girls and women living in a land of unprecedented material supplies who do not even feel entitled to the essential right to feed themselves adequately.

The exploration of the athletic potential of the female body has and will continue to be a face-off with this dense paradigm. Invariably it is one of those obstacles encountered by any woman who undertakes the heroic journey in an athletic arena, as Lize Brittan did. A brilliant young athlete full of hope for a top career, Lize hit the rock at full speed. It almost killed her. Lize’s story is both heart-rending and inspiring. But more importantly her journey of self-discovery so candidly delivered and interspersed with practical and meaningful guidance, offers a unique road-map of the eating-disorder territory, especially for athletic women. The dilemma of the act of running as both savior and executioner is harrowing to read, as are her flirtations with death in an excruciating slow suicide attempt by starvation. But even in despair Lize’s spark shines through with courage and intelligence. Her eventual apotheosis of learning to surrender to the feminine deserves nothing short of a standing ovation.

With this fascinating and informative memoir a big chunk of granite has been broken off, a women’s soul restored to life, and a call to others to take the heroic journey resounds. As a society the job is not done until the last piece of the monolith has been chipped away and transmuted into a new paradigm where the magnificence of our physicality, male and female, is freely nurtured and expressed without apology.

Lorraine Moller

Olympic Marathon Bronze medalist

Author of On the Wings of Mercury

* * *


Despite my intensely reckless and very unhealthy behavior, I am still alive. At my lowest point, I weighed less than 80 pounds at a height of five feet four inches. I was having seizures and was in the beginning stages of complete organ failure. I was jaundiced. My pituitary gland wasn’t functioning properly. My hair was falling out, and my skin was scaly. I had edema and was constantly thirsty. I looked like a concentration camp victim, yet I felt fat all the time. I had lost touch with reality. I was anorexic.

Anorexia is – pardon the expression – a heavy topic. For more than one reason, it’s not the kind of thing to bring up at the dinner table. Then again, how many anorexics actually sit down to eat dinner? It’s a sad, painful, scary and destructive path that an anorexic takes-a path that the people around her often end up being forced to travel as well.

I became anorexic when I was 13. It happened in what seemed like an instant. I made a firm decision that I was going to lose weight, and there was no turning back. It wasn’t so terrible at first. I even got more popular as the pounds dropped away. Eventually though, things got weird – really weird. For nearly 20 years after that initial decision, I battled the disease. My attitude toward life took a serious turn, and I let anorexia and all its deception take its all-consuming course.

It wasn’t until much later, well after I had turned onto the road of recovery, that I realized what had been missing from that dark time in my life: humor. After that revelation, I decided to take a different look at this whole anorexia situation, and while I am in no way aiming to make light of the severity of anorexia and its consequences – according to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, 20 percent of people suffering from anorexia die prematurely from complications related to the disease – I do want to point out that humor heals. For me, it was a big part of getting well. Laughing again after so many years of being silent was an outlet, a way to save myself from the despair of an illness that almost killed me.

I don’t mean to imply that this book is a comedy. I think George Carlin was probably one of the few brave enough to take on anorexia as a comedic topic. What I mean to say is that once I was able to smile again, I realized how dark my life had been while struggling with the illness. When I could fully laugh again, I knew I was on my way to recovery and out of the turmoil that had engulfed me for so long.

My name is Lize. This is the story of my life. This book is meant to give people an idea of what led to my anorexia, how I survived and how I began to heal. Unfortunately, there is no grand formula for getting well, no 12 steps or going cold turkey. However, I do believe there is a way out of the darkness. Each person must create his or her own path to recovery, but perhaps reading what I went through will offer some hope, inspiration and ideas to help others create a path to wellness. I tend to not do things half-assed, so taking anorexia to the extreme was almost predictable. As bad off as I was, however, I found a way. And if I recovered, there’s hope for many others.

* * *

PART I – Red

Chapter 1: My So-Called Life

An illness is like a journey into a far country; it sifts all one’s experience and removes it to a point so remote that it appears like a vision. -Sholem Asch

On an exceptionally cold February night in 1997, after a series of seizures, I was rushed to the hospital with chest pain and shortness of breath. At the age of 30, I weighed 80 pounds. I wasn’t expected to make it through the night. However, to everyone’s surprise and amazement, including my own, I pulled through. It was obvious that I needed help, but since none of the nearby eating-disorder treatment facilities had any openings, I was moved to the hospital’s cancer unit for three days in order to stabilize. I found it disturbingly ironic that I was surrounded by people fighting for their lives, while I was slowly killing myself.

Starvation is considered one of the most slow and painful ways to die. The body can last a long time without food. Typically, people who starve themselves don’t die from an actual lack of food, but from related complications. As the body starts eating itself to keep the brain functioning, muscles and organs begin to atrophy. Organ failure or a heart attack is a common end for anorexics.

The entire time I was in the hospital, I was prodded, probed and tested. I was hooked to an intravenous saline drip in order to regulate my electrolytes. I slept in short shifts, a few hours at a time throughout both the days and nights, taking Tylenol for the excruciating headaches that manifested as my body fought for equilibrium. I ate even less than I had been eating before hospitalization, and I was exhausted from all the blood draws and tests being performed. The longer the lab-rat routine continued, the weaker I became. At one point, a nurse led me to a shower where, after just a few minutes standing on my own, my legs started to quiver beneath me. Once the fastest high-school athlete in all of Colorado, there I was, unable to even stand on my own two feet. I sat down on the shower’s built-in bench and cried as the water splashed over my skin.

After the third day of tests, the doctors told me they wanted to keep me in the hospital a few more days to run even more tests. I was no expert, but the problem seemed pretty obvious to me: My body was malnourished and completely depleted. In short, I was too thin. More tests, it seemed to me, were not going to reveal anything more about my condition, so I threw a minor tantrum and was released. Sleep-deprived, emotionally spent and bruised from all the IV’s and other needling, I headed home. The freedom of merely being outside in the fresh air after three solid days of being stuck in the hospital was overwhelming.

There are people whose lives are complicated by some kind of addiction all around. Many of these people are in denial or accept their addiction as part of who they are, often adhering to the adage, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. There are others who live with the agony of knowingly operating below their true potential, yet are unable to change. They are intelligent and honest, open about their self-inflicted enslavement, yet completely frustrated by their inability to stop their self-sabotaging behavior. However, there are a lucky few who see beyond their addiction, finding both the courage and the astounding strength to break free from their addictions and jump full force into the unknown territory of recovery.

Heidi is one of these lucky few. I met her shortly before I wound up in the hospital. Over time, she became my mentor and my friend, my counselor and my inspiration. Radiant and strong, Heidi is the kind of person who lights up the room when she enters, a goddess if there ever was one. Her compassion and wisdom go far beyond the realm of what is considered normal in this world. I was immediately drawn to her.

When she was young, Heidi was bulimic. Over time, she forced herself to throw up so much that the acid from her stomach began to irritate her esophagus. At one point, she vomited so much blood that she nearly died right there on her bathroom floor. As she lay with her head on the floor, half passed out, Heidi decided she didn’t want to die, that there had to be a way out. And just like that, she stopped binging and purging. It’s almost unheard of to have the bravery and the will to do something like that, but Heidi had an idea that a brilliant destiny and a better life were awaiting her. She became one of the few women I know who fully beat an eating disorder. I know a lot of women in various stages of recovery; a few have found a way out. Heidi is one of these few.

It takes a magnanimous human being to see the potential behind the illness in a person. Without Heidi, I would have been lost. Her guidance and love helped me find my own path out of addiction and away from the trappings of anorexia. It was a long time before I got even a little bit better, but Heidi helped open my mind to the possibility of getting well, and that was a necessary first step. Once released from the hospital, I started meditating and reading books on spirituality, something that had been missing from my life for years. I opened up my mind, exploring auras and the occult, and I became fascinated with energy and the correlation between intention and manifestation. As a runner, I felt it was necessary to picture myself running well in a race the night before and anticipate that what I imagined could become a reality. The idea was that events would unfold as I imagined they would. Facing a challenge of a different sort, I began to understand how the power of positive thinking could be applied to other areas of my life. Unfortunately, while these new revelations were of great benefit to my soul, I hoped, they did little to improve or correct my self-destructive patterns, and I was still restricting my caloric intake and exercising for incredibly long periods of time each day.

Before I became anorexic, I was at least a somewhat well-rounded child and engaged with the world. I painted and drew, cooked, read books and watched movies. By contrast, my life became very limited and myopic once I became anorexic. I don’t recall doing much of anything once my weight became so abnormally low. I also don’t recall exactly when it was that I effectively stopped being in the world. I was isolated, except for a few select friends who could tolerate the sight of me, and I had dropped all hobbies and interests from my life. Many anorexics are utterly lost in their illness; they no longer have a sense of who they are, what they like or what ignites passion in their hearts. Even at a devastatingly low weight, I spent days on end exercising even though I lacked any real strength. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed.

I also spent my time anticipating the two small meals I allowed myself every

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