Fat is changing my life. Maybe it's because I've stopped eating fish, but there was something missing from my diet, evident by the fact that around 3pm I could not prevent myself from grabbing a handful of potato chips from the office snack cabinet. If you know me well, you know that when I'm trying I can usually resist junk food. I have days where I will make the conscious choice to load up on unhealthy snacks at a party because I want to, but generally, I manage pretty well. Where I run into trouble is with servings of healthy carbs, like fresh pasta, or the Seeduction bread from Whole Foods Market.
One of the Rogue coaches had posted a topic on the discussion forum about nutrition and running. I kind of ignored it the first time I read it, because it was about how we should stick to "real food" over Power Bars, sports drinks, and fast food. Not a problem for me. He bumped it up recently and I read again. He suggested a half avocado dressed with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. My mouth started watering. He also suggested a small handful of almonds. YUM. And there it was: the craving I had been filling with fatty, deep-fried, processed, maybe-potato-but-probably-not-chips. After all, the mass market potato chips aren't exactly the freshly made wavy bbq potato chips at the Whole Foods sandwich bar. Not that those are a great option, either.
My running coach has put our group to the challenge of pushing ourselves to finish long runs without gels. For those of you who are not crazy like I am, endurance sports use up your fuel (a.k.a glycogen stores) pretty fast. The less accustomed you are to running out of fuel, the faster you will burn through your reserves. If you start doing distance sports without gels - caloric, electrolyte-enriched little gobs that you take when you run out of fuel - your body learns to reserve what fuel you have stored and you last longer. You also learn to push through the fatigue that comes later in the marathon.
What the coach didn't tell us, what I had to figure out, is how hard all of this is, but how much you come to understand what your body's telling you. I have learned that I Need Fat, and that I Do Not Need Bready Stuff All The Time. Also, I have learned that Carbs Have Many Forms. For example, an avocado is the perfect fruit. For 150 to 175 calories, you get about 20g of carbs, some healing and skin-loving fatty acids, and fiber. It's hard to get that kind of nutritional punch from that amount of calories. Top with salt and pepper and eat it with a spoon right out of the peel. I am a snob so I buy large, organic Hass avocados.
I have learned that Boiled Eggs and Tofu Rock. The protein from either hits my system immediately and I feel like I can conquer the world.
Salads Make Me Full, an amazing veggie cob salad with boiled egg, avocado, tomato, low fat feta cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, spring mixed greens, and Morningstar faux bacon. Paired with toasted pita bread and strawberries and I'm ready to go for hours.
Hunger is Not Necessarily Hunger. What a strange thing hunger is. I learned a lot about it around mile 15 on Saturday, when my stomach felt profoundly empty and I scoffed at the times I'm sitting at my desk craving a snack. Hunger is when you could convince yourself to put just about anything in your stomach. Then there are Cravings. When your body is missing protein, fat, or even sugar. But we don't need to throw back three servings of pasta or rice to get sugar. A nice piece of fruit might be plenty.
Finally, Food is Precious. You truly are what you eat. When you're constantly exercising, if you put junk into your body, you will look awful (read: pimples, wrinkles, pallid skin). When you eat what your body needs, you will glow, look radiant, and have lots of energy. Pick each calorie with care, because it does have a long-term effect.
I guess for the time being, french fries will have to wait.