Food is More than Fuel
Welcome to the end of January. Crazy resolutions, goals, and expectations have hopefully run out the door and you can finally get back to being you. The “new year, new me” effect is slowly wearing off, and pressure to be something that you aren’t is fading away.
Don’t get it mixed up. You still want to be better. You want to be in a better place physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually than you’ve been in the past. But the façade of being a different person isn’t what is going to get you there. It’s time to give yourself permission to be true to who you really are. Accept who you are, love who you are, and you will be on a fast track to changing what you want to change.
Somehow food is always in the mix around this time of year. Maybe you look forward to a few “cheat days” around the holidays when you can forget about your diet and dive into the desserts. For some of you, there will be a feeling of guilt associated with the holidays. Gaining a few pounds might feel like more than a few pounds to you.
But it’s not. This is normal. You are okay.
For many athletes, the notion of “food is fuel” is common. Reaching for physical goals can make us look at food in a different way. But food has always been more than fuel, and not just for aspiring chefs and Michelin Star seekers. Food brings people together. It is a way to celebrate, to relax, and to have fun. Food is memories. I’m positive that you can relate multiple memories back to making or eating foods. If this is the case, then we should do everything we can to create a positive relationship with the food we eat. It gives us strength and enjoyment, and for that, it should be celebrated.
What is Orthorexia?
When you think of eating disorders, eating lots of vegetables, or consistent meal-prepping, rarely crosses your mind. Orthorexia is an obsession with eating healthy foods. People that seem on top of their diet, the ones that know how close they are to hitting their macros for the week and how many grams of sodium are in a can of soup, are usually praised and congratulated. This is exactly why orthorexia is difficult to combat.
As a newborn, each of us is born with instinctive eating cues that we follow perfectly. Newborns cry when they are hungry, and turn their head away when they are full. Over time, this regulating eating behavior can get lost, and it’s not exactly easy to find it again. Listening to and understanding cues the body gives us about eating takes practice, but it’s worth it.
Renee McGregor is a performance and eating specialist dietician. She has spent over 15 years working with elite athletes, coaches, teams, and others to enhance athletic performance and manage eating disorders. She is at the forefront of researching and providing solutions on orthorexia.
Pace > Weight
For runners especially, weight can feel like the difference between winning and losing. In today’s episode of the Running for Real podcast, Renee helps to debunk the myth about losing weight to run faster. It is common to think that losing five pounds will make you run faster. Mathematically it makes sense, less weight to carry means less work, leaving more energy to run longer and faster. But the body is best when it comes to deciding how much weight to keep.
Renee says that the best indicator of how fast you’ll be able to run is the pace you hit in training. Pace, not weight, is what runners should be focused on. If you are able to hit your pace, then the body will decide how much weight it should keep in order to maintain that pace. Especially in the long run, allowing the body to be the weight it wants to be will allow you to consistently hit the times you are reaching for. Body knows best.
Your Example Matters
The way you talk to yourself about your body matters. It matters to young athletes around you, and it matters to your own emotional health. Orthorexia and other eating disorders can only be combatted as the norms and societal thinking patterns change. It starts with you.
Be aware of how you are talking about yourself in front of others and how you are talking to yourself in your head. “We all have intrusive thoughts on a daily basis that make us uncomfortable,” says Renee, “For every intrusive thought, can we find a best friend thought, thoughts that have your best interest at heart?”
So, be positive. Talk to yourself as if you were encouraging a best friend. Better your relationship with food. Don’t feel guilty for having fun. Listen to your body, give it what it needs. As you do these things, your body will take care of you and you will find a love for who you are, regardless of what life throws at you.
Listen to the Running for Real Podcast here:
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Thank you to Renee, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.