People always say, “you are what you eat.” I never really got that. If I eat steak, that doesn’t make me a cow. Cows don’t eat other cows- they eat grass, hay, pulp, and other stuff humans toss out, but they are still cows. Note: A lot of googling went into figuring out what a cow’s diet consists of. Likewise, if I eat broccoli, celery, and garbanzo beans, that doesn’t make me a vegetable (or legume if you want to get technical). So I always figured I could just eat what I wanted because the saying didn’t make any sense.
A couple friends recently sent me a link to The Oatmeal’s comic about running. There’s a
slight chance very high probability that I annoyed several coworkers laughing out loud as I read the post about the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances, particularly Part 2 “the feeding.” This comic could not more aptly describe my eating habits. As a swimmer, I trained up to 5 hours a day over the course of two workouts. I was always hungry. And I ate whatever I wanted. We’re talking a Croissanwich AND French Toast sticks from Burger King after morning practice, curly fries with cheese at the high school cafeteria at lunchtime, then a DQ frosty and six powdered donut gems from 7 Eleven before afternoon practice. Looking back, it is truly a miracle I did not develop type II diabetes or high cholesterol as a teen. And the only reason I was not obese is because I was burning upwards of 5,000 calories a day.
In college, I did not binge quite as much but really, who did not indulge in late night Domino’s? Plus, I continued to swim so the calorie burn continued. I noticed though that I was always tired despite taking two naps a day, and my metabolism wasn’t quite what it used to be. Shocker right? To think that your metabolism might decrease as you age, it is such a novel idea.
As I took up running more after college, I somehow fooled myself into thinking that my diet was appropriate for ANY LIVING BEING, including a super calorie burning athlete like Lance Armstrong or a 600 pound gorilla – also googled that one- that has nothing to accomplish in life. Wrong. Not only was I failing to come even remotely close to offsetting the calories going in, I was also just putting trash into my body. And I felt like trash. I had no energy, could not focus on my classes in law school, and I gained a lot of weight.
So, lesson learned, right? False. I thought that if I just ate fewer calories, I could still eat whatever I wanted. I convinced myself that the reason I ran is so that I could eat tons of Bojangles. When I was pregnant, I ate French fries with ranch dressing like I had just come off of four weeks competing in Survivor. I gained less than 30 lbs each time, and the Super Babies turned out healthy, and not large, but I only think it was because I ran a lot, or am just predisposed to making smaller offspring (until they turn 4 months old, then all bets are off).
When I started on this journey, I was obviously not running for kale, for health, to set a good example for my children, or for me. I ran for biscuits, plain and simple. I ran because I wanted to eat. I have learned that eating is a major crutch for me. It is how I cope with stressors in life, it is how I celebrate, it is how I bide my time, it is how I bond with friends and family. Because eating is such a huge part of my life- other than the obvious, that everyone has to eat to survive- I figured I would just run to support my habit. Well, that’s just not cutting it anymore.
I really felt that I had stalled out in my running, and not just because I have been either making babies or feeding babies on and off for the past four years. I thought I had tried everything, from doing more strength workouts, to cross training, to doing interval work. I think I knew in the back of my mind that I was avoiding the most obvious thing: my diet. Not diet like Weight Watchers or Paleo or 80/20 or Atkin’s (does anybody even do that anymore?) or anything with a label. Just my nutritional needs.
Lately, Super Dad has been majorly into cooking. He has always taken the reigns in that regard, but he has upped his game from Master Griller to Master Chef. We aren’t talking Joel Robuchon, but just simple yet flavorful and healthful meals. We want to make a concerted effort to eat more whole foods and to instill an appreciation of the earth and our bodies (not in a touchy feely crunch way, though it is totally cool if you are into that) in our kids. Now, Super Girl still digs her Drumstick ice cream cones, and she comes by that honestly, because I ate approximately 193 of those while she was in utero, but last night while I was juicing, she asked for blueberries and apples for dessert. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if she is actually mine. Or maybe she is already angling for a car. Her 16th birthday is only 13 years away.
Since we have been eating a more balanced diet and significantly less takeout and/or processed foods, I have noticed an uptick in my energy and improved endurance and speed. I have had days where I typically would have dragged through a workout, but last week was able to knock out mile repeats faster than I imagined possible a few months ago. I enjoy running too, and I am not just thinking about what I am goig to stuff my face with after finishing a run.
I also find that I am craving better foods. I used to get the shakes if I didn’t mainline Nutella, but now I can go weeks without eating half a jar. I now crave my green juice, which is about five leaves of kale, a handful of spinach, three green apples, one cucumber, and two handfuls of grapes. It is glorious, and both Super Baby and Super Girl approve.
That said, I don’t get excited by beets or coconut milk or chia seeds. I like my carbs, they make me feel happy sometimes and in moderation, provide me with the energy I need to get through a long workout. I know I know, beets are probably better for energy and are a super food. I still think they taste like dirt. I also still enjoy my Bojangles, mainly for the sake of this blog, because I would hate to have to change the name 🙂 I still eat cheeseburgers more often than I should, and I still get my Drumsticks, but I get the mini version instead. So I guess if you are what you eat, I’m now mini version of my old self. And a little greener.