Are you a runner? Have you used exercise as punishment for eating? How can you safeguard your love for sports and running without having it turned against you by the diet industry? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about running and how to know when you’ve crossed the line with Heather Caplan.


Heather Caplan is a weight-inclusive dietitian and entrepreneur. She has worked with athletes for most of her career and is an endurance runner herself. Heather co-founded Lane 9 Project, a community of support and awareness for disordered eating in running. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Runner's World, Outside Magazine, and the TODAY Show.

Visit Heather's website and connect on Instagram.


  • Gray area food habits
  • Finding the middle ground with sports
  • When you might have crossed the line

Gray area food habits

Eating disorders can be diagnosed once the symptoms and behaviors are present and noted by a professional. However, disordered eating is tricky to pin down, since these behaviors can fall into a gray area - although, if left untreated or unchanged, they can develop into a full-blown disorder. In some instances, behaviors that could be classified as disordered eating can be helpful to a person. For example, if someone is newly diagnosed with diabetes and needs to track their carb intake, keeping a food journal or counting their carbs is important for their overall health. However, if someone is already suffering in their relationship with food, counting and keeping track can lead them down the wrong path.

Finding the middle ground with sports

You can still challenge yourself and you can still have big goals and [sports] can still be something that serves you and not something that harms you. (Heather Caplan)
For many people who struggle with disordered eating - and full-blown eating disorders - is that they use exercise and sports as a type of self-punishment. This behavior just makes the whole cycle much worse, so it needs to be broken if it starts, and it needs to be avoided before it can take root. Heather and her co-founder teach their clients how to love their sports and exercise from a place of enjoying it, and not needing to bring intensity to “win”, “beat” or “lose” every time. They teach their clients that sports and exercise can be about:
  • Fun
  • Community
  • Connection
We want people to have access to that middle ground where you get to enjoy it and it gets to be fun and you still get to do the thing you love without it turning into a thing that feels harmful to you. (Heather Caplan)

When you might have crossed the line

Doing sports or exercise can cross the line when it becomes all-consuming, and when it keeps them from doing the other things that they enjoy.
[Sports] get used as a [harmful] tool of control, instead of being used as something that  they gain joy or fulfillment from. (Heather Caplan)
Heather explains that people may have crossed the line with food and exercise if they:
  • Develop preoccupations with food and exercise
  • Begin to obsess over numbers, both calories and minutes or hours worked out
  • Try to punish or undo what they ate with extreme exercise
  • Force themselves to work out or exercise
Additionally, many casual runners may often compare themselves to athletes or professional runners and will try to mimic their diet, running pace, or routines when it would be unhelpful - or unhealthy - for them to do at that level as casual runners.
Part of the issue within the more recreational communities with running is we have … So much access to what professional runners do, and there’s a really easy trap to fall into; “If this person does it, I should do it too.” (Heather Caplan)
Find a group of people who run - or generally do exercise - for the sake of enjoyment and for the pleasure of being able to do it, instead of using it to punish yourself. You can find the right community! So that you can learn to love your body, nourish it, and move it with care and joy.



  I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "Hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


Did you enjoy this podcast? Feel free to comment below and share this podcast on social media! You can also leave a review of Behind The Bite on Apple Podcasts (previously) iTunes and subscribe!