When it comes to nutrition my advice never replaces that of a dietitian or nutrition specialist. What I will speak to is having a healthy relationship with food and seeing food as the fuel that starts the engine. As a female, I would lie if I told you that I have had no issues with food and how it affects my body image. There was a period in my life when I had disordered eating patterns and was heading towards an eating disorder faster than any split on the track. Fortunately, I had the best support system with my family, friends, coach and training partners who halted the process of my decline. I experienced my unhealthy relationship with food and distorted body image when I was in my early 20’s. I cannot say that it came out of nowhere, but I can say that it caught me and everyone who knew me by surprise. I am telling you this because disordered eating can impact anyone at any age and runners are a cohort that is particularly vulnerable to eating disorders.
Basically, I was told that if I did not fuel my body properly, running was not an option for me. At that time in my life, running was everything because I had just put the rest of my life on hold for it. This message scared the shit out of me and I wanted nothing more to prove to myself and everyone around me that I could be an elite marathoner. It was not a clean processing breaking up with my eating issues, rather one that I have to keep in check even to this day. I have learned to acknowledge the negative thought or feeling about my body/eating, assess what may be driving the desire to restrict or critique and then I make a plan to address what is really going on in my life. This process is difficult and I have found that identifying aspects of my running and life that I really appreciate helps me move on from the negativity faster. As your coach I want you to talk to me if you are struggling with disordered eating patterns. Keeping it a secret will only fuel the disease more and if it is manifesting itself into an eating disorder it is essential to receive adequate care.
So, I digress from the topic of nutrition a bit, yet needed to make you aware of how I came to approach my own nutrition as an athlete. There are so many philosophies on nutrition and basically it comes down to what works best for you. I do not prescribe to any diet or nutrition plan that is not balanced or that can cause deficiencies. There is no harm in trying various approaches to see how your body responds. I recommend doing this during an off season or when you are not training for a key event. As an athlete, and for those female athletes out there, it may be beneficial to have blood work done to make sure you are getting everything you need through your diet and if you are using supplements.
I like to keep everything simple and quite honestly I am too frugal to adopt any nutritional/supplement plan with fidelity. I listen to my body and can tell when things may be a bit off and adjust accordingly. This has allowed me three healthy pregnancies, regular periods and maybe a couple of illnesses in the last decade. Bottom line, do what works best for you, don’t fall prey to the latest fad and eat to train.