I tend to think of food as fuel, especially now that I’m a runner. Some might call me picky – my mantra tends to be, why eat something if it doesn’t taste good and give you energy? But I like to think of myself as discerning instead. I usually choose whole, fresh food over prepared or packaged goods; after all, there is nothing in the world more delicious than a perfectly ripe wild raspberry or just-picked apple! I like knowing what I’m putting into my body (to a certain extent – sometimes it’s necessary to just enjoy a delicious meal out and not think about anything but how great it tastes!) That’s why you’ll see a lot of recipes from me in future. I enjoy taking the foods that I love and turning them into a new treat. (I also just discovered Pinterest and now I love photographing my food too. Yes, I’ve become that girl. No apologies.)
Sometimes, though, it seems as if every bite we take is being watched by the world. People feel entitled to comment on what other people are eating without any good reason, to warn them off the new ‘bad food’ (is it going to be carbs or fat today?) or lecture them about a new diet, to tell them to eat ‘this’ and not ‘that’ – it never ends. Part of it comes from body image issues in our culture. ‘Fat talk‘ is ubiquitous, sadly enough, among the general population and even more so in certain subsets. To me, the saddest part is that it runs rampant even among the healthiest people. Our collective body image is so distorted that the fittest are often those who can’t see their own reflections without criticisms swirling in their minds.
For a long time, I was one of them, struggling with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder at the same time I was an active teenager. I’m so happy that I’m past that now, but what amazes me is the depth of body commentary that remains. I no longer internalize the comments, but can hear them objectively, and the sheer number I hear every day is astounding. In the halls of a great university, on the streets of Manhattan, even by the shoe display in a running store or at the yoga studio. Self-shame is omnipresent, and not just the kind where people are really fishing for compliments. And something needs to change.
I’ve always been a snacker, eating every few hours to keep my energy up, but running turned a lot of my snacks into mini-meals. That means that I have people telling me I snack too much, or that my ‘main meals’ aren’t big enough, or that I eat too many apples, or too much peanut butter, and if only I’d cut out carbs I could last for hours without another meal. It’s exhausting, especially since the only person who knows what works for me is me (and my doctor, but that’s it). Even more disheartening is the constant stream of ‘tips’ for runners in Runner’s World and other publications. Rules of Weight Loss for Runners, diet lists that over-generalize – it’s information overload, and most of it so pseudo-scientific it might end up doing as much harm as good. I’ll give them credit where it’s due. Some advice, like the necessity of refueling, is well worth reading for new runners. On the whole, it’s better than what you get from mainstream magazines with blaring headlines about losing a zillion pounds in two days. But it’s still confusing. Who are we supposed to believe? Whose advice is best? It can make your head spin, and take up time and energy better spent on other things.
So in the spirit of listening to your body, and asking what it needs, take some time today to ask yourself what your goals are, what makes you feel good, and whether those things differ from your behavior when you incorporate the ‘advice’ of the world around you. If there’s a big gap, it’s time to make like Taylor Swift and shake off the baddies. A meal is whatever you want it to be. As for me, I’ll be running and studying, having tea with a good friend, and munching on a muffin just because I feel like it.
This is my Thinking Out Loud Thursday. What are your thoughts on all the body-shaming and diet advice in our world? Do you eat ‘normal’ meals or do your own thing? Reply with your answers below, and see more at Running With Spoons!
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