Real Talk

I have been hinting lately that my relationship with food and fueling my training hasn’t been so great. Hidden away in my drafts folder is a very negative blog post that just sort of throws up all of those feelings in a nice, stress-relieving, ranty sort of way. While I believe in being real and honest here on the blog, I don’t think anyone other than myself really needs to read what I wrote there. In the interest of being honest though, here’s what’s up, in a much less negative tone:

In short, I’m struggling with body image. As I’ve said many times before, my weight is not where it was three short years ago, and it’s not where I want it to be. Since the start of the 2015 holiday season, I’ve gained a bit more, and my clothes are starting to show it. I’m feeling way, way down on myself. As many first-time marathoners do, I had rosy visions that as I increased my mileage, the 15 or so pounds I’ve put on would magically melt away, and I would feel fit, strong, and healthy.

The reality that I, and many others training for their first marathon, must face, is that most people gain weight while in training, rather than losing it. Since I started officially training 7 weeks ago, I have fluctuated a bit, maybe gaining a pound or so, which, the grand scheme of things, isn’t THAT bad. The problem is, I’m hungry. All. The. Time. And I have this overwhelming anxiety that if I eat more, I will gain weight. So even though most days at around 3 pm I’m struck by insatiable hunger, I either a) don’t eat anything, or b) eat all the wrong things because I’m not prepared and don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

I’m well aware that my main issue is probably quality over quantity. I don’t think the amount of food I’m eating is necessarily too high (although who knows, it might be), but I know that the quality of the food that I’m eating sucks. Because Ben and I are so busy, convenience is paramount. 9 times out of 10, boiling some pasta and eating it with butter and salt is easier, more convenient, and often cheaper, than a healthier alternative. My ingrained eating habits of 30 years are also abysmal, so I’m more likely to crave carb-heavy and nutrient-poor foods than things like salads, and more likely to choose comfort over nutrition.

For a few weeks I’ve been sort of in denial about this. I knew I was having issues, but was determined to just “get over it” or try to muddle through on my own. I have been feeling really down on myself and my apparent lack of motivation/dedication/will power to just figure it out. I’ve had so much anxiety and frustration and it’s stupid and annoying to feel this way. It’s weird to feel such negativity about a body that’s doing everything I could ask of it. I mean, February was an amazing running month. How can I be angry with/dislike a body that carried me through 87 miles? I don’t know. But I am.

Yesterday, I finally decided that I need an objective opinion. I’ve tried so many times to figure this stuff out on my own, with very limited success. So, I bit the bullet. I emailed Coach Suz and told her I needed help. I’ll be keeping a food journal over the next week or so to get some hard, honest data about what I’m actually eating versus what I think I’m eating, then we’ll have a Skype date so that we can talk about it.

I’m hopeful that Susie can help me out. While it’s all well and good to want to lose weight, my ultimate goal in training for the marathon is to RUN THE FUCKING MARATHON. I need to eat enough to fuel my body. I hope that making some changes will help ease some of this anxiety and allow me to fuel my training without gaining any additional weight, and then once marathon training is done, I can begin to address the weight loss issue.


14 thoughts on “Real Talk

  1. Jenn @ Fairest Run of All says:

    Nutrition and body image and happiness and convenience and LIFE are so hard to wrangle. :/ I have up days and down days and sometimes I really hate my body. But it’s SO important to stay strong in the face of your own negative thoughts. If you can’t be your own cheerleader, find someone who can (I will!), because the road to body dysmorphia and disordered eating is, in my experience, short and easy to find. I don’t want that for you or me or anyone, ever again!

    Here’s a website I like to turn to now and again:

    Remember: above all else, you are strong and capable. 🙂

    • DarlinRae says:

      Thank you so much. I’ve seen friends and family struggle with body image and disordered eating, and it blows. Most of the time I’m ok, but the body changes over the last few years have really messed with me.

  2. txa1265 says:

    YES! This is such a common thing for people and no matter what it is a huge disappointment when training for a distance race that you are simultaneously constantly HANGRY and not losing weight!

    It is hard to remember that old mantra of FOOD = FUEL, but it is especially important right now for you. You are doing amazing stuff, training your body to do things it hasn’t done before all while continuing to lead your crazy busy life. THAT is some amazing stuff and really hard to do.

    But it is also important to remember what happens when you train while in ‘diet mode’. I tell this story a lot, but I ran my first half marathon in full-on weight loss mode, to the point where I barely had breakfast and actually only used one gel during the race … And as a result I totally crashed, my second half was 2 min/mile slower, and I was a total wreck at the end. As a result I learned something … Eat. Fuel.

    But at the same time I know I am fortunate in many ways – when I run my body craves fruits and veggies and things like squash and quinoa and root veggies and broiled lean chicken and yogurt and nut butter and berries as a dessert. But I also learned that is extremely rare – and I also know that all of us need to realize that we are us.

    We are not someone else – my wife is similarly struggling with those extra pounds, and it really hits the self-esteem and body image (of course she is also dealing with all the crap menopause is throwing at her!).

    Being even older than you, the cultural norms around eating from my childhood were even more messed up than what you experienced … And basically every good habit we have in my family came out of us as adults changing things up. Spray oils, broiling meats, rebalancing what is on our plates, cutting out ‘junk’ (not sweets … You’ll take my ice cream and chocolate from my cold dead hands), and so on. We often have salad AND veggies. In busy times we double-cook meats so we can then make a quick shredded chicken to put in salads for one night, and make chicken salad for sandwiches another night, and so on.

    Just like I say for the running – you got this. I think you look awesome, and powerful and strong.

    • DarlinRae says:

      Thank you, Mike. I’ve been actively working to change my poor eating habits for years, but it’s HARD. And being so busy makes it harder. It helps to just be honest, and ask for help. I’ve always had this mentality of “I don’t need help, I can handle it myself,” but I’m finally starting to realize that’s not actually the case.

  3. Nicole @ pink elephant on parade says:

    Ah yes, the hanger. Rhanger? Whatever, anyway. Between the time suck of marathon mileage and the hanger, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. I’m also not someone who loves a slice of avocado on top of quinoa and a kale salad. I can eat a whole jar of peanut butter in one sitting and not even be full, I’m like a bottomless pit and that was BEFORE I started running.

    Honestly, what helps me eat less crap and vary my diet is if I make stuff on the weekends for the week. I’m less likely to make Lipton noodle soup (with extra noodle added in because I make poor choices) every single night for dinner if I have something quick and easy to make instead. Over time, I build up a nice, diverse stockpile of stuff in the freezer, too, in individual portions, which helps when I get bored of eating the same thing every day. I also try to always bring my lunch (quinoa+roasted eggplant and mushrooms+tomato sauce today, yesterday I did the roasted veggies with a veggie burger). I’m also old now and everything I eat upsets my stomach.

    It’s not easy–I lost like 50 lbs and have proceeded to regain it. Twice. Ok, 3 times. So, maybe this is about finding a new normal and not so much losing weight as it is making better choices about what you’re eating. I have no idea, like I have answers.

    • DarlinRae says:

      I need to be better about meal planning and stock piling easy food. My husband is a freaking bottomless pit, so even though I might make a recipe that makes 8 or so servings, he eats 4 of them in one sitting, which doesn’t leave any leftovers. Butthead.

  4. hellyontherun says:

    First, I”m so proud of you for reaching out to someone. Second, I’m so proud of you for sharing your feelings. So many people can relate to you and struggle with weight/body image issues while running. Even me. I suck at eating so bad and my husband eats crap just like me so it’s hard to stop. And like your Ben, if we ever do make something healthy, we just eat a shitton of it anyway. lol!

    I wish I had some advice. It’s tough. :/ Glad you got Suz to help you! xoxo!!!

  5. Fallon @ Slacker Runner says:

    So much yes to this post. I’m still sitting on mine, it’s hard to share. Food is hard. If your someone who smokes or drinks too much, other people are supportive of helping you quit. But you can’t quit food. Then when you do try to make healthier choices there’s usually someone waving a donut in your face. Or telling you to live a little. Grrr. I also am guilty of using food as a reward for running. That’s not how it should work but it’s a hard habit to break. Why does food have to have so many calories!!

    • DarlinRae says:

      I’m the same way with using food as a reward. It’s not a good system. And it’s funny because the people who should be the most supportive of trying to make healthier choices (family etc) are usually the ones going, “Are you crazy? You don’t need to lose weight! Have another piece of pie!” -_-

  6. Nora says:

    I feel ya. I couldn’t get to the grocery store last weekend so I’ve been eating mostly packaged stuff all week and I feel bad physically and mentally. I do so much better when I take time to think through what I will eat the next week and then shop for it. I also have a giant appetite but it helps me to try to fill up on things like carrots and fruit and water before I resort to other things lacking in nutrition.

  7. SuzLyfe says:

    We will get you settled. Right now you are in the midst of training, you have a ton going on–it is a lot to take in, and that stress is hard on your brain and your body. Once we get you some confidence in your eating and iron out ways to make it better, you will really notice a difference. I got you!

  8. irishrunnerchick says:

    Thanks for sharing Rae! I know that I put on weight during my marathon training which was pretty disheartening and after getting my body fat assessed as part of my work’s wellness plan I was even more depressed. I set up a meeting with a nutritionist – which I would totally recommend someone who is trained to give this kind of advice. We went through my food diaries and she gave me some easy substitutions to start with and my weight has been pretty stable for the last couple of months. But knowing what to do is a lot easier than actually doing it. And rewarding a bad day with some chocolate and wine is hard to give up. There is so much emotions wrapped up in why and what we eat and getting a handle on that is so hard – if you ever figure that out please share!

    • DarlinRae says:

      The emotional aspect is definitely the most difficult part. It’s crazy how inseparable food has become from a lot of feelings. Keeping a food diary is already helping me see some patterns that I didn’t before, so that’s a good thing.

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