"In trying to figure out what to eat, questions that often come up are why we eat and what are the mistakes we make along the way?"
This is a question I ask myself all the time. I grew up during the "fat free" craze where everything in the media told you fat was bad and fat-free foods were healthy. Now we hear things like keto, paleo, and intermittent fasting is the way to go and we need to be fat adapted. With so much conflicting information, does anyone ever really have the answer? I don't think so and I know I don't, but there are several things I've learned along the journey of trying to find it.
I've gone through many different phases in my life struggling to find and keep that perceived ideal weight while trying to balance figuring out what to eat. Being women and athletes, I think many of us feel pressure from society or put unrealistic pressure on ourselves to look a certain way. I remember questioning myself as far back as grade school when getting a health check and the nurse said "ohh we won't say that weight out loud," then years later overhearing my grandmother and mother talking about how "she's really filled out," and as an adult a coach saying "ah remember when you used to be skinny." Hearing comments like this has caused me to always be asking the question of what should I eat. The positive thing that came from this was my curiosity to continuously try to learn and experiment with my health and nutrition, which led me to major in nutrition and dietetics in college, and ultimately led me to the sport of triathlon. In trying to figure out what to eat, questions that often come up are why we eat and what are mistakes we make along the way?
Fueling our Body
As triathletes, there is always the concern of whether we are fueling properly for our workouts and races. Often times we come up with more questions than answers. Should I eat carbs. should I not eat carbs? Am I eating the right kind of carbs? Am I getting enough protein? Can I be vegetarian and get enough protein? Is it more healthy to be vegetarian? These are questions I have every day. As I am experimenting on myself, I typically find that I feel best when I eat a mostly whole food plant based diet. I am not vegetarian, and I do occasionally eat meat, cheese, and eggs, but currently I feel more productive in my workouts when I focus on whole grains, beans, fruits, and veggies.
Recovering from Workouts
Training is a large part of many of our lives and recovering from workouts so that we are ready for the next one is very important for triathletes. Nutrition plays a huge part in this. When we eat nutrient dense food, our bodies can rebuild and repair more efficiently to make our training more productive.
Food is not just for fuel and recovery. Many of our family gatherings and social lives with friends revolve around food. Sharing a meal, trying new foods, and cooking for others is often a pleasurable way to unwind and relax.
If our goal is to lose weight, the fact is that diet is the primary factor. Not to say that exercise is not important and helpful in a health and weight loss journey. But for many people, exercise alone, without a change in how we eat long term, will not lead to successful or lasting weight loss.
Eating our Emotions
A pitfall that I and I'm sure many others struggle with off and on is emotional eating, trying to suppress uncomfortable feelings with food. This can lead to an endless battle with unnecessary weight gain. The first step to changing the patterns of emotional eating is to learn to recognize when it is happening. I try to ask myself if I am really hungry or am I eating because I am bored, angry, sad, etc. Even if that answer is yes and we continue to choose to get that snack, I know I feel better having been able to recognize and consciously make the choice in what I am doing.
Being too Strict
Sometimes we cause ourselves way more stress and anxiety than good by being too strict and rigid with ourselves and our diets. It can become all consuming if we try to limit ourselves too much. I have gone through phases, probably more than once where I'm pretty sure I was no fun to go to a restaurant or share a meal with. I have now learned to let it be ok to occasionally eat foods that are not the most nutritious or healthy just because they can be delicious and fun to eat.
Our lives and circumstances are often changing and the question of what to eat, for me, is a lifelong journey. Food is so important in many aspects of our lives and I have learned from my experiences things that work and don't work for me. I certainly don't have all of the answers but I am always on a quest to find what works for me in the current situation I am in. We are not perfect. We make mistakes and we don't always make the right choices. But I have learned that we need to be kind to ourselves and if something is not working, then make the choice to change and try something different.
Written By: Kelli Saul, Tri Sirena Siren Luminary
Follow Kelli on Instagram @kellisaul
What kind of diet do you follow while training? Let us know in the comments below!
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