The balance between high performance and diet is a very touchy subject for most athletes. I hate to say this but I am pretty confident that a very high percentage of endurance athletes have an unhealthy relationship with food. Just in my training group alone we are constantly talking about losing weight, banning appetizers and desserts from group dinners, our power to weight ratios, etc. Even when I go back home to South Carolina and visit family and friends I am constantly complaining about how “fat” I am or how I cannot go out to dinner with anyone because I have to keep my weight down. It is absolutely absurd. Endurance sports, triathlon in particular, creates this unhealthy relationship with food. In the end, if you are someone putting the time in to train for triathlon then you are an over achiever/perfectionist and that will also transfer over to your diet choices.
I have talked about how I was vegan last year multiple times and how I ultimately broke down and depleted myself of so many nutrients that I needed to race well. Looking back now, 7 months later, I am questioning why I chose to be vegan. Was it for ethical reasons, health reasons, or to lose weight? Initially I cut out meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs for an entire year. I lived off of nuts, nut butter, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and grains. After months of inhaling tablespoons of nut butter every time I went into the kitchen, I decided that I would cut out all nuts and nut butters as well because it was too many calories. Next, I decided that I would limit my bread intake as well. Why? Well because the internet said that gluten causes weight gain so I decided to eliminate that too. My goal was achieved. I was at the weight I dreamed to race at, 115lbs, and I thought everything would just go so well. If you have followed me then you know that fairytale was quickly shut down and I did not even have enough energy to finish a race let alone be competitive.
The point I want to get across here is that we need to really accept ourselves for who we are. This year I made a promise to myself that I would let my body settle at the weight it needed to be at without forcing it. I am now around 121lbs. I have been monitoring my bloodwork with Blueprint Fit every 6 weeks making sure my iron levels, hormones, omegas, vitamins and cortisol are all within normal range. (See a sampling of my recent results below; they are extracted from the comprehensive 8-page report.)
Of course my brain cannot completely stop obsessing over food and weight. I had a severe eating disorder in high school and I know it is something that I will struggle with forever. Surrounding myself with athletes who also are crazy about being lean does not help my own personal struggles but that is reality and I have learned to deal with it (better).
Is it possible to eat normal, enjoy a glass of wine from time to time, be social with friends at restaurants while having an appropriate race weight? Of course. Is it going to be hard mentally at times to let go and not feel guilty? Yes for sure 100%. We all just need to be a little more conscious about what we say around other people concerning our OCD weight obsessions and be mindful that we may be triggering a negative experience for someone else.
Right now I try to avoid sugar, eat when I am hungry, avoid snacking after dinner and only drink alcohol when I am out with friends and never at home. I am not by any means the leanest person on the start line. I have always struggled with holding a little extra weight. I stopped comparing myself to others though and I now value my health and having my bloodwork come back within normal ranges.
Love yourself for who you are. Eat when you are hungry. Let the body be where it wants to be. The results will come and the injuries will stay away!
A sampling of my latest results from Blueprint Fit!