For some people, I get the feeling that eating a meal with their friendly dietitian is like going out with their hair dresser on a “bad hair day”. Let me set the record straight. I pass no judgement on anyone else’s food choices when we are enjoying a meal together. Just as my hair dresser saves his comments on my hair for the chair; I reserve my comments on the diet of others only when prompted. I believe in everyone’s right to make their own choices about what best serves them. Their reasons are different from mine. Comparisons of food choices and habits to anything other than our own intentions leads to mounds of unnecessary shame and guilt over food.
Performance nutrition behavior number three is to stop this comparison game with others. Never “yuck someone else’s yum” and never rate the quality of your choices to those of others. Also, “should eats” get you no where.
Adopting performance nutrition behavior number two provides a standard worth comparison – your own intentions. It allows for the question “why am I eating this?” and lets me become a more conscious eater as I evaluate the purpose eating it serves. Maybe it helps me meet energy or vitamin needs, or maybe, it is just a fun thing to eat.
Recognizing the purpose gives me the freedom not to care what other people think of what I am eating or what you are eating. A good friend suggested I stop eating gluten (brave girl to suggest this to a dietitian). Why? Because that choice served her well. I do happen to agree that her physiological unnecessary need to remove gluten served a purpose of helping her control the urge to over eat baked goods. However, gluten-free diets serve no purpose for me.
This goes for eating patterns too. I know plenty of people who would rather eat three squares a day and, that works for them. On the other hand, I know even with a solid three squares I will be hungry at 10am and 2pm so I spread food out throughout the day instead of doubling up with big meals in addition to snacks.
Other choices dependent on individual purpose?
- To salt or not salt
- To drink coffee or not drink coffee
- Carb, protein fat – some may feel great with more of one and less than the other
Another great example is the latest craze fat adaptive diets. This means cutting way down on carbs to increase the bodies use of fat as fuel. Sounds great right?! BUT you lose the top gear. The speedy gear that helps you move at a higher intensity and higher VO2. Good for some and not so much for others.
For me, comparison gets in the way of eating for the purpose of adventuring! Adventure on.
Here is something for the next person who tells me “all this running can’t be good for you” to read. It is also an example of a man who truly gets how running is training for life. Not only that, he does not look his age at all. In this Forbes’ article it says he runs to stay fit for a higher purpose. He doesn’t run to be skinny or prove himself. He runs to stay fit for doing “whatever he wants”, which is also how he defines retirement.
Nutrition is no different. Eating for the purpose of achieving a certain weight, body, or blood lipid level isn’t enough to overcome the barriers keeping so many from eating in a way that they intuitively know is healthy. Eating for a higher purpose can help. Are you eating in a way that helps you accomplish what it is your want to do? If not, why not? Maybe it is time to identify a higher purpose to the food you choose. I want to eat in a way that enables me the freedom to use my own human power to see amazing landscapes and connect with people who inspire me.
Working along side some of the world’s most talented athletes and athletic adventurers I see and hear a lot of interesting food-related behaviors. Not all are good. Some folks seem to have a challenging relationship with food that gets in their way of helping them accomplish their goals. Whether those goals are to pick up running again after having a baby or to traverse the big ridge lines in the mountains, it isn’t just what you eat that is important but, also HOW you eat.
Through my work and my own experimentation with food as fuel for my tara-sized adventures have identified three easily stated but, most difficult to accept practices around food. I refer to these behaviors as practices because like a yoga pose, there is always somewhere to realign or let go. Over the next three weeks I will share my food practices.
Eat! Yes, just eat. That is practice-pose number one. Eat in a way that helps you achieve what you have in mind for the day. For example, if you plan to do a lunchtime workout don’t wait to eat your first bite or drink your first drop until ten thirty in the morning. Pause for ten minutes to eat something healthy at the start of the day and, then again mid morning. The noon time workout should feel more energized and like an enjoyable step away from the sedentary office life most of us feel stuck in. If however, we miss the opportunity to eat the necessary nutrients at the right time, that workout is in serious jeopardy of being any fun at all.
It is crazy to think that some people need permission to eat but, it is true. Restriction and deprivation are rampant. Permission has become my own reset button when I feel that crazy thought that I would be better of without eating. Eat to run I will tell myself. This sets the stage for eating in a way that energizes my body the best. That is to eat small (relative to what I am doing) and often. This approach does several things for me. It helps spread important nutrients out throughout the day, provides a consistent energy source to my muscles and brain, and make me feel satisfied.
My energy level is directly reflected in my training, working, parenting, and ability to take care of myself. Visualize your energy level as an arched-shaped horizon of straight-up feel good! If you skip a meal, it will dip. What if that is the exact time you have planned for a run? The workout will be more of struggle and less satisfying overall. By keeping a steady stream of energy from carbohydrate and stored fat you have a better chance of being “up” when you need to turn it on. Spreading food out throughout the day also helps my stomach feel more satisfied and keeps “hangry Mama”at bay!
So there it is! My first big piece of advice for those seeking to energize athletic performance is EAT. Stay tuned for the next two
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