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If you’ve spent a good amount of time dieting, hating your body or comparing yourself to how other girls look you might be left with lingering issues on how you view food. Some diets have taught us that certain foods are ‘bad’ while others are ‘the secret to weight loss.’ You might know someone who cut out dairy/gluten/carbs/sugar/<insert food here> to lose weight. All those different diets we’ve heard about can leave us confused about what to eat.
A healthy relationship with food, exercise and your body makes for a happy, healthier life. So I encourage you to check in with yourself and your views on food. If it’s something you struggle with consider these tips…
Ditch the diet.
Even if you’re not on a formal diet you might have a ‘diet mentality’ that forces you to look at food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Having a ‘diet mentality’ makes eating unpleasant and stressful.
Throw out any previously held beliefs about food. Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Look at what you’re eating as fuel. Instead of thinking, “This food is bad for me” or “I shouldn’t be eating this crap,” consider, “Is this going to give me the energy I need to?” or “Will this fuel me for a great run later?”
Looking at the food you’re eating as a mix of carbs/protein/fat to fuel you up gives you the freedom to eat whatever you want without guilt. You are free to choose to eat something that might be considered ‘junk food’ without it making you a bad or unhealthy person. You are also free to choose not to eat it just because it won’t make you feel good.
Some days I eat donuts. Some days I eat carrots and hummus. I know how each of those makes me feel and consider that when choosing a snack—it’s not a huge moral dilemma.
Focus on eating healthy food that makes you feel good. And if an ice cream sundae will make your taste buds feel good, that’s A-okay.
Fuel like an athlete.
If you read Women’s Running you are probably active. You’re a runner. You ask your body to go go go for miles at a time. That’s awesome! Give yourself a high five! (…I’m waiting, I don’t care that you’re reading this in public.)
You ask your body to do athletic things and you should be fueling it like an athlete, too. Eating well is part of self care. Remember that athletes need to refuel after a workout. They need to eat enough to fuel tomorrow’s workout. You make time to exercise and it’s also important to make time to buy good food, cook and eat.
Everyone deserves to have enough to eat every day.
If you are also someone who works out it’s important to eat foods that help you recover from workouts. You will be a better runner if you know what foods fuel your body best, which help you recover faster and which just make your taste-buds do a happy dance.
On a personal note—this is something that really changed my running. Figuring out the best foods to eat before a race and how to fuel during a race helped me stop hitting the wall in marathons.
Every week there is a new headline about a super food that will cure cancer or a fast food dish that is going to give you a heart attack. If you hear or read something about a certain food or diet—CHECK IT OUT. The headlines and 2-minute blurbs in the news don’t give you the full story. If something catches your attention enough to want to change your diet–educate yourself on it.
Does this apply to me? Example: If you read that eating Paleo cures toe cancer, but you don’t have toe cancer—reconsider a big diet change.
Is this coming from a reputable source? Preferably with scientific studies to back it.
Is this a food I have access to? Example: If fresh beets make you run faster than Usain Bolt but are nowhere to be found locally, you might not want to sign up for the next Olympic Trials just yet.
Can I cut this food out of my diet in a healthy way? Example: If you’re vegetarian and read something about avoiding dairy, research how you are going to replace that protein in your diet before making a big change.
Does this make sense? Always use your common sense when hearing about a life-changing new food or food that is going to kill you. Keep it in perspective and make reasonable choices.
Find a balance.
Just like doing a long run every single day of the week isn’t ideal for your body–eating nothing but kale smoothies might not be what you need either.
You can be healthy and still have dessert. You can run and be lazy all day Sunday. You can eat organic steel cut oats for breakfast and nachos for dinner. You can read great novels and watch reality TV. You can do whatever you want as long as it makes you feel happy and balanced.
The tricky part about finding your own balance is the worry that you’ll just end up eating junk food all the time. But that probably won’t make you feel good. It probably won’t help you pop out of bed for a run. It might not help make your hair look shiny. This isn’t about being careless, it’s about making yourself feel GREAT with the combination of food, exercise and rest that work for YOUR BODY.
Find a balance that works for YOU. And then own it. No guilt. No apologies. No second guessing. No stress. No inner fight with your food police. Once you have a good thing going—go.
I personally aim for the 80/20 balance of 80 percent healthy foods and 20 percent fun foods. It’s not always spot on, but it’s a good target for me to aim for as I’m going along with my day.
The great thing about balance is that it allows for adjustments. Don’t freak out if it feels like you’re off balance, just make small adjustments until you feel good again.