DISCLAIMER: I totally get that talk about food and weight is super-triggering for a lot of people and I completely invite you to “x” out of this post if reading about other people’s weight fluctuations and eating puts you in a bad place. I still love you and wish you all the power in the world in your fight to conquer body-related issues. ❤ ❤
We’ve established I’m injured, right?
And we’ve established I’m not a foodie, right? Or at least, that I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas?
Well, let’s talk weight, shall we?
While mentally and in my heart I know I am not my weight, I’m also fully at peace with the fact that once I reach a certain size, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Usually not because of the size of my body alone, but the underlying causes of what got me to that size – and that is, very most likely, what I’ve been eating. The junk food that I have such a weakness for shuts down my energy, both physically and mentally, to the point where I pretty much want to sleep the 16 hours of the day I’m not at work. No bueno, right?
When I’m able to do cardio, which at the moment is limited to swimming (and even that made my knee act up, I think because of the lack of stability in water or very possibly I have an awful form when swimming), I don’t worry so much about what I’m eating, figuring “I’ll just burn it off.” I go through phases of eating healthy. Not dieting, restricting calories, so much as identifying foods I’ve read about that have specific health benefits and trying to add them more to my daily meals. I lost the most weight I’ve ever lost (while trying – that mysterious plummet to a size 4 as a senior in high school/freshman in college will remain a mystery to me) last year when I was paying attention to not just how much I was eating, but what I was eating. I needed the right kind of calories to sustain energy for working out, and I was working out with the goal of running a race. I couldn’t just restrict calories; I just needed to make sure that the calories I was eating contained nutrients.
As a result of both conscience eating (yes, even during the holidays!) and being uninjured over last winter to the point where I was a working out machine, I lost almost 30 pounds in 2013. I went from 188lbs to the lowest I’ve weighed since my junior year of college – I hit 159lbs in late February, just after the runDisney Glass Slipper Challenge, when I would say I was in the best shape of my life.
When I arrived at the starting line for the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon I was in the absolute best fitness shape of my life. I promptly stepped off a curb wrong and rolled my ankle and proceeded to run the half marathon anyway. Had it not been for the sharp pain in my ankle by mile 8, I would have PR’d a notoriously hilly race just two months after PRing an all-flat Charleston Half. I was only 3 minutes off and lost those 3 minutes in the final 5 miles of the race when I began to hurt like crazy in the ankle.
After that I was sidelined for several weeks, struggled through getting back on track, and by June was ready to begin marathon training. The rocky time off in March, April, and some of May led to a small weight gain, but I was still in the mid-160’s.
Then marathon training began, and I ate all the things. ALL of the things. I gained weight during marathon training, which in some instances can be great, as the awesome SuzLyfe explains here, but in my case, it was caused by poor nutrition to replace calories burned. I would pig out on junk food to “reward” myself for long runs. I was stress-eating because I was also finishing grad school. While I was doing enough exercising in the meantime to keep me from gaining all of the weight back that I’d lost, I gained more weight than a person running 30-40 miles a week should be gaining. I’ve gained a net of about 6 pounds since the year began, 12 since my lowest weight reached this year. I’m still about 17 down from where I started, which is great. Except that I feel about as sluggish now as I did then. I was this same weight about this time last year, and felt much more energetic – because I was eating the right kinds of foods.
Saturday morning, I tried Pilates for the first time. It felt kind of silly, using a reformer and a fancy lever called a “chair” and calling a “ball” an UGI (…it’s a weighted ball). I felt pretty stereotypical white suburban lady. However, Pilates is no joke on ones core. I found I can’t really do reformer Pilates because it does involve using my toes and knee to press the chair lever down and spring up from the reformer, but I found out my gym that I already pay for has a few Pilates Mat classes that I can make fit into my schedule. And from the burn it gave me in my abs, I’m pretty attracted to the idea.
However, I know that weight lifting and strength training alone does not produce visible results. The most muscle tone I’ve ever visibly built was when I made a point of eating yogurt with hemp seeds and drinking chocolate milk after a Body Pump class to strengthen my muscle tissue. So if I can’t run right now, and the only things I can work are my arms and my core, I’m going to focus on eating for abs and biceps.
Which brings me to my new “favorite foods.” (Okay, some I’m not crazy about but every time I can look at the nutritional benefits I just gained by swallowing a handful of almonds instead of stuffing my face with a donut, I feel a little better.)
Strawberries are the only kind of berries I can stomach (haha, get it?), and consistently across the reading I’ve done, berries are named in the top foods for strengthening ab muscles. The antioxidants that they’re packed with help with muscle recovery. I can’t stand blueberries, and don’t even talk to me about raspberries. But strawberries I can handle, so meet my new finger food for when I’m laid up watching Netflix and have a hankering for some peanut butter-chocolate Bugles.
Almonds! Turns out these are like an abs Superfood. Not only are they also high in antioxidants, they actually reduce the absorption of fat, blocking calories from hanging onto my fun love handles. They increase energy and are packed with fiber and protein. And? They’re satiating, as they regulate blood sugar level to reduce cravings – something very helpful for me. An ounce a day is all you need.
Honeycrisp apple baby. First of all, why don’t we as runners praise the apple as much as we do the banana? True, it doesn’t target muscles as much as the banana, but according to Nutrition journal, apples promote healthy lungs! What runner doesn’t want to promote healthy lungs? Aside from that, though, apples are great for building ab muscle because it’s high in fiber but also mostly water – which helps you feel full. I had an apple with my otherwise sort of meager lunch yesterday and felt totally full for the next 7 hours. No after-work donut craving for this girl, for the first time in a long time.
And here’s today’s lunch:
You’re looking at a Whole Foods salad bar creation of salmon with pasta, kale, quinoa, and eggs. Eggs? High in amino acids, which helps your miiiindgraaapes (translation: brain), and helps you feel full. Leafy greens? Full of calcium and low in calories, and calcium helps fuel workouts. Salmon? Promotes fat-burning and increases metabolism. (Also, in my seafood-loving opinion, delicious.) Quinoa? Super high in protein and fiber. (Pasta? I love it. The end.)
I cross-referenced a lot of these foods between Fitness Magazine, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Huffington Post. They all checked out, though Women’s Health wasn’t as high in praise for eggs (possibly because they can be high in cholesterol).
So. Wish me luck as I try to stay on the straight and narrow and kick my donut habit. If I can’t run, bike, elliptical, or even really do Body Pump or yoga (too much potential for maxing out my unstable knee at the moment), I’m doing my best to not fall asleep from sluggishness at work. Three cheers to protein, fiber, amino acids, and anti-oxidants! Hooray!
Do you have a weakness for junk food? Do you have any intention of kicking it, or if you already have, got any special tips to share?