Restrictive Eating and Running

Restrictive Eating and Running
On the day after I ran my 3rd marathon, I came home and made egg whites with vegetables.  Egg whites.  As if running 26.2 miles wasn’t enough to justify egg yolks. Yes, I also had some ice cream and celebratory treats that day, but on race day, I still stuck to the same old healthy foods that I ate day in and day out.
And that continued for years.  I would eat A LOT, but only certain foods, prepared certain ways with avoidance to certain foods all together.
For the most part, when I was running, my weight was fairly stable.  But I did notice the following:
  • despite running and strength training consistently, I never had the ripped/lean look that other runners running the same mileage had
  • I carried weight in my midsection (not a ton, but it was noticeable)
  • I could put on weight very easily which reinforced this idea that I couldn’t stray AT all from the rigid plan I had set for myself
  • When I was injured/couldn’t run, the weight would come on, extremely easily
  • I was injured. all.the.time.
  • I realized that in order to achieve the ideal weight that I wanted, I had to exercise more and more and more
In addition, I always felt so confused as to how some runners/women who I followed SO closely could eat so much and look the way they did.  How could they eat 2000+ calories a day and be that lean? How could they so freely eat oatmeal AND eggs for breakfast?  How could they eat peanut butter by the spoonful and not gain weight?
I felt trapped in my own prison of under-eating and overexercising.
This went on FOR years until my body finally shut me down.  Within one year, the following chain of events happened
  • I sustained a stress fracture in my right leg, followed by a chronic stress reaction in my left leg
  • with my left leg, it has taken over a year to heal (mostly due to my own stupidity, but still)
  • Without being able to run for hours and hours, I put on 20 lbs within 6 months despite still cross-training and eating healthfully.
All of this was extremely stressful for me.  In addition to not having running as my “release valve,” I felt so self-conscious.  I didn’t like the way I looked and felt bad in all my clothes.  I would often feel like crawling out of my skin.  I was SO frustrated.
This only made the situation worse.  Because I felt bad about myself, I would undereat all day , and then stress eat at night.  But, even my stress eating wasn’t crazy.  I’d have a couple bowls of popcorn or some Halo Top ice cream and would be up 5 lbs the next week.
Okay…so where I am going with all this?
I’m in a process of repairing my metabolism. I full on broke it and now I got a do a lot of work to get it back to where it needs to be.
I’m working with a doctor to do this and what it involves is slowly upping my calorie intake while decreasing my exercise.  It also involves a lot of work to reduce stress in my life.   It’s definitely not a linear process and I will gain weight some weeks and lose some others.  But, I’m taking the long view.  Having a flexible metabolism where I can eat like a normal person??? Hell yes!!
Not that this isn’t scary.  Not that this isn’t hard.  But, it will be worth it.
And, for those of you who are wondering if you might be damaging your metabolism.  Here are some questions to think about.  If you answer yes to most of these, you might be doing more harm than good:
1) Do you consistently eat 1200 calories or less?
2) Is it hard for you to lose weight?
3) Do you have to work out more to get the same results?
4) Do you crave carbs/sugar constantly?
5) Do you notice more thickening of the midsection?
6) Do you have a history with dieting (going on extreme plans from time to time)?
7) Do you feel like you gain weight if you look at a cookie?
8) Do you do 45 minutes or more of cardio a day but don’t see results?
If you answered yes to many of these questions, here are some things to consider.
1) Consider working with a naturopath or metabolic doctor to help repair your metabolism. This is SO individual and can take months to do so.
2) Before getting sucked into the next dieting fad, ask yourself, “is this something I can sustain for the rest of my life?” If not, don’t do it.
3) Don’t dip below 1200 calories.  Ever.  In fact, don’t only eat 1200 calories.  It’s a slippery slope and one that does more harm than good.  When you eat very little and pair it with exercise, your body will start to go into something called “starvation mode.”  In essence, your body thinks you are in trouble and will begin to store any extra energy (aka fat)  to be used if you do, in fact, start to starve. Our bodies are doing what they were made to do!  We just sometimes make it harder for them than they need to be.
4) Reduce stress.  Having chronically high cortisol levels can also put your body in that “fight or flight” response.  As a result, your body will begin storing fat as a response to protect you.  So many people believe that  more is better, but when you are always feeling stressed, you are harming your body. Do more yoga.  Get plenty of sleep.  Try and have a “cut off” time for your work so that you can spend your life doing things you like to do, not that you “have” to do.
5) Reduce your cardio and increase your strength training.  Increasing your lean muscle mass increases your basal metabolic rate.  Plain and simple.  Personally, I’ve cut my cardio down to 20-30 minutes and spend the rest of the time lifting up heavy stuff and putting it down.
Okay…and before this blog post goes on and on, know that you DESERVE to eat and fuel your body appropriately. Women have an incredible amount of pressure to look a certain way and often receive the advice to eat less and exercise more.  And while it goes without saying that you need to fuel your body with the right foods, you also need to truly fuel your body.  So many of us are always running on half-empty tanks and not allowing ourselves to full replenish.
For those of you who struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating in any form, I wish you love and healing 😃