It’s easy to own my running shortcomings. I haven’t done enough hard workouts. My daily and weekly mileage has dropped off. I’m not completing the workouts I could finish earlier this year. But accepting the reality that I fight a daily nutrition battle is much tougher.
In the past, I’ve been on a pendulum across all areas of my running life. I’m either committed to getting out the door daily and piling up quality mileage, or I skip two weeks completely. Either I train hard and race well, or I slack and avoid the tough workouts and suffer through my next race.
When it comes to the nutrition battle, I’ve been stuck on the unhealthy side of the pendulum far too often.
In the past, I could string several solid days together. Packing a salad and sandwich for lunch with oatmeal and a veggie/fruit smoothie for breakfast. Snacking on carrot sticks and humus. But my healthy habits never stick. Inevitably I end up back at Five Guys or grabbing Red Bull and candy from the nearest gas station.
At this point, it’s not the laziness issue I once thought it was. I can fix a healthy lunch the night before and then refuse to eat it the next day. And my substitutes are never quality choices. When I go to Panera Bread for lunch, I will most likely make the most unhealthy selections from the menu.
Chemically, my brain is wired to crave sugar and trash carbohydrates.
I committed to giving up meat for Lent this past spring. I struggled daily. By Easter, however, I felt a breakthrough over food. I lasted the entire 40 days without giving in. A funny thing happened through that process. I had to pay close attention to what I was consuming daily. All of my go-to fast food options were gone. I badly wanted to prove my commitment could last six weeks.
As soon as those 40 days passed, sadly, I fell right back into old habits.
My mind and automatically default to unhealthy food choices. These habits and behaviors go back to high school, when I regularly ate Sarah Lee strawberry cheesecake for breakfast. When I reached college, I camped out at Chick-fil-A and McDonalds. Sugar and fried food has always been my comfort in tough or depressing times. They have also been my reward in good times.
I don’t think I’m alone in this behavior pattern. Similar struggles are on display all around, many times adorned by humor. “I run because I like to eat and drink. A lot.” How many of those messages have you seen on T-Shirts?
I know that sugary and deep-fried foods are fine in moderation, but I can’t seem to find any balance.
My poor nutrition choices are crippling. Not only do I feel helpless and incapable of change, but I also beat myself up after ever lost battle. “I’m never going to change, and I’ll never reach my potential as a runner or in life in general.” Those thoughts immediately follow each plate of cheese fries.
I don’t have an answer. Eating a burger occasionally is completely fine. But I can’t seem to stop there. One bad choice leads to the next three.
I hope I can address these issues and improve. Change won’t be immediate. It won’t be easy fighting through the onslaught of Halloween candy followed by Thanksgiving — my favorite holiday, mainly because of football, family and baked pies.
But I’m addressing my biggest issue. Eating poorly and losing my nutrition battle leads to lower quality of life. My sleep suffers. My running feels forced, and recovery takes longer. I can’t afford to continue hurting myself through food.
Maybe writing about my mental and physical struggle with food choices will help. Acknowledgment is the first step, right? For now, I’m going to stop beating myself up over past mistakes (including the cheesesteak lunch I had today).
It’s time to start moving in the right direction.