Attention (young) women runners – you don’t EVER have to diet to find your ideal race weight. I would highly encourage you to avoid it at all costs. A simple start of being more restrictive can dangerously ruin your running career and beyond if it were to spiral into a full blown eating disorder. Warning, this blog is a bit of a rant. I don’t care. I have a message to send.
I wrote this to give insight to women who are looking for some form of role model in terms of nutrition and body composition and cannot seem to find it close to home –whether it be unhealthy teammates or roommates; or just lack of answers when it comes to a Google search!
This is a 2 part blog.Part 1 How I personally have found balance and success with nutrition, and how I gauge my level of health as someone with a naturally lean composition.
Part 2- A completely open honest look at my diet over the course of days – to give a glimpse of just how much food it takes to live sustainably and run well. And what do you know – I never count calories and rarely measure food, but for this I may make an exception. This will be 3 days noting my activity level—and to add more insight this will include a 15K race on day 2.
Despite my 5’10 and 124 lb frame, I DO EAT! I am completely individual and want to encourage YOU READING to drop all comparisons. My body is totally unique, in that most of my height comes from my legs (when I sit I am on the same level as someone 5’3) – last time I checked a torso looks to weigh much more than freakishly long tibias 🙂 I hate saying this but I constantly have to justify the fact that I don’t have a problem. It’s under the category of “skinny people problems”… hence another reason I’m writing this blog. OK let’s begin Part 1.
3 crucial elements with how food and I work together:
- Consistency of constant calories in
- Moderation in balancing “healthy” foods with “junk”
- Listening to my body’s natural cues
When you see me from a far, you might think, “yeah I’m sure she’s on some restricted diet” or she’s got some issues with eating. Far from the truth. In order to keep up with the training, I need to eat A LOT OF FOOD. Not just the super healthy colorful fruits, vegetables and all, but also the stuff that isn’t always deemed “healthy”. Allowing myself to indulge a little more in “junk” has in fact has helped with a huge turnaround in my running. Balance is of course key. I can’t be eating whole pies, but I sure as heck am worse off when I under-eat.
I admit I can try very hard to do everything to eat right, train right, etc. I, however have found that when you are trying too hard to be a perfectionist (especially in terms of nutrition) and training at a high level- you fall into trouble with underestimating your needs. Bottom line- no matter who you are – when your calories in consistently fall short of calories out, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies, injuries, exhaustion and unnecessary weight loss. Eat only good “whole” foods ALL THE TIME, it gets tough to ever read your body’s hunger, as much of it is loaded with fiber.. making you feel full and going immediately through your system.
I have been there, when my iron stores tank and I’m “light” for me. Anytime I get in the sub 120s, my body is on edge and I just don’t recover as well.
Hate me for saying this but I can get skinny fast. It’s a curse and a gift. Thank genetics and probably more genetics (and obviously my lifestyle) along with the what my husband makes fun of me for. “You never eat an entire box of cookies or a whole pizza”. Yes, pretty true, it doesn’t happen. I never get that hungry because I am constantly fueling. I regularly (typically daily) have treats, but I am highly content in limiting it to 1 serving, rather than Alan in whom I’m seen take down an entire box of Entemann’s cookies after a huge meal. We joke about it how I go all out when I finish one of those 2 serving cookies or when having a craving I will say “I can’t wait to have oatmeal”.
I can easily let cookies, cake, donuts, you name it tempt me for weeks and at most I’ll eat ~1 each day, which easily fits into being lost in the caloric deficit running provides. If those same items were in Alan’s sight, there’s no way they would be there for long.When it comes to meal time though, I’m a plate clearer. I am great about eating often and very particular about ensuring I’m getting calories when my body needs it the most (breakfast, post run). I avoid that “metabolism shut down” which comes from the “I’m so starving I just ate so fast and now feel so sick I can’t move” thing. So yes, I’m blessed, but I also do the right things to keep my fuel in going to good use. My metabolism is cranking which equates for staying lean despite constant food going in. Post baby I have intentionally been keeping an extra 3-5 lbs on – and ensuring I don’t lose it. This is for a number of reasons — one being performance – since I have been feeling AWESOME at my current composition, two- better physical health while feeding baby and the third shouldn’t be but it is – social reasons.
I mentioned the word “curse” because in today’s world it is not always the most popular thing to be the “skinny person”. It’s as if you need to constantly justify at every situation involving food that you do eagerly partake. Skinny shaming is real. Some great worth-while reads:
“Losing weight” is on top of many people’s to-do lists. If you don’t have any to lose then you’re almost a freak. It can be extremely awkward in certain situations that I’m sure I can relate to how an obese person feels.
So what if you’re not eating right or could realistically benefit from dropping weight?
The only solution to change is intelligence and patience. Smart habits developed over time that compliment your training will result in the optimal you. View your body as a machine; food as fuel, not an enemy or something you need to outsmart. If you are caught in an eating disorder or feel it’s the only way to change, you are flirting with an extremely dangerous thing that is far from a long-term solution. This blog was extremely powerful in how one woman’s quest to drop weight to run well in college ended up destroying her. MUST READ HERE– My Deal With the DevilIf my outward appearance may not convince you on credibility that YOU NEED TO EAT A LOT and OFTEN just as I DO, then women runners pay attention:
Despite having a BMI that comfortably falls in the “underweight” category, I have yet to lose a period (other than during pregnancy/breastfeeding) for the 16 years I’ve been training. I have also had 2 complication free pregnancies; both in which I got pregnant in the 2 possible times it could have happened. (We did not “try”). If I did some serious intentional dieting to maintain a lean physique – I assure you the period would be the first thing to go.
Secondly I have never had a stress fracture. Those 2 things are the tell tale signs in restrictive eating and running. (Not saying that if both have happened you are guilty of it- but it would be highly unlikely you could avoid both with disordered eating and running 60+ mile weeks with intense training and racing).
That’s my big warning to any readers – Are you missing your period? Have you dealt with constant stress fractures? You likely are not eating NEARLY ENOUGH and your body is shutting down on you. Maybe you will never look like a Kenyan male runner, but maybe your genetic code will physically not allow it!
Besides – Paul Chelimo (2nd place at 3000m USATF indoors this past weekend) was drinking straight up buttermilk the night before his race. You think he counts calories? I think not. He knows a secret – food is fuel. It is the secret to running success –knowing that having a little extra can go great lengths into becoming your race day or workout weapon. You don’t fuel, you run out of gas. You out of gas = looking nice and lean but getting your butt kicked on the track. That is if you’re not injured and can actually even compete.
If you happen to think you can outsmart adequate nutrition in the way many skeletal collegiate champions who come/go like the wind- think again. Disordered/restrictive eating has a short time frame where you can “successfully” run on fumes. You may drop a whole bunch of time short term, but you’re only 1 bone break away from disaster. Long term success is powered by stuff like buttermilk when you’re dropping 80+ mile weeks. You don’t obsess and just listen to your body. Paul’s body was loving that buttermilk. Yours might be craving ice cream. Hard training requires calories. Always a balance, but rarely a specific formula you can plug into, as each person’s unique body burns and fuels at different rates.Bottom line, this first blog post was meant to give insight on how my personal physique is completely unique. This should help build credibility, so you know I practice what I preach. It should also give you assurance that not every “skinny” person you see is hiding an eating disorder. I eat, run, repeat; and my body has become very efficient in both disciplines. It is possible to look the part as a runner and fit into society without living on salad alone. You will see that when I give you an accurate picture of my diet in part 2.
I got some eating to do….. tune in soon!