On Instagram, my followers frequently ask me about my eating habits and nutrition. I have answered this question so many times that I figured I should write a blog post with all the details.
Why I rarely post about food
While I often write about my race nutrition strategy, I almost never talk about my typical "diet" or eating habits. This is somewhat intentional and somewhat not. It's not intentional because the topic of food is not all that interesting to me and I'd rather talk about my training. It is intentional because I don't really have a plan or guidelines I follow that I think are worthy of being shared.
In my early 20's, I developed anorexia. I restricted my calories down to about 800-1200 per day and then I also burned about 600 of those at the gym. It had nothing to do with being thin or my physical appearance. I was simply trying to eat more healthfully and all the articles I read in SHAPE and other magazines told me that the fewer calories the better. I received a free body fat assessment at my gym and even though I was at a healthy weight, I was told that my body fat was too high.
I could write many, many blog posts on eating disorders, but that is in my past and I have little interest in it now. I gradually recovered in my mid to late 20s as I got into long-distance running. This shifted my focus away from food and weight and towards training for a goal. Much of the anorexia was driven by perfectionism and the desire to achieve, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't bring that same mentality towards my running initially.
It wasn't until my mid 30s when I started working with a sports psychologist (which I have blogged about extensively and written a book about) that I truly freed myself from perfectionism and addressed the other issues that were fueling the eating disorder. The two therapists I saw when I was in the depths of my anorexia were not at all helpful and likely did more harm than good.
Because I was obsessed with food, nutrition, calories, and weight for many years, I no longer have an interest in it and so it's not something I talk about on my Instagram or in this blog.
My mindset regarding food
It's pretty simple: I eat when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full. I try to eat healthy foods by having them around the house, but not everything needs to be healthy. I obey my cravings, especially for sweets, so I am by no means the model of perfect nutrition. I snack frequently. I have breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sometimes eat out. I don't track/monitor/record my food intake like I did in my early 20s. I rarely weigh myself (maybe once a month). I don't try to gain weight or lose weight. I don't follow any specific diet or plan.
Overall, I grade nutrition a "B". Some days a B+ and other days a B-. It's pretty good but it definitely could be better. I could eat more fruits and vegetables. I could limit my sugar intake. But I'd rather have a healthy mindset about food instead of being super rigid.
While I don't have a ton of rules around food, there are plenty of foods I avoid for various reasons:
- Beef and Pork. I eliminated these at the onset of my eating disorder and never added them back in because they simply don't appeal to me.
- "Impossible" meat. I once had one of those synthetic burgers and it tasted way too much like a normal burger, which grosses me out. And it did not sit well in my stomach for the following 3 hours.
- Heavy cream sauces. I am slightly lactose intolerant and Alfredo sauces or mac 'n cheese cause me major digestive distress. I once had a whole milk latte by mistake and that was very painful. I eat ice cream in small portions and I'm generally ok, but not always.
- Spicy foods + pepper. Yes, even table pepper burns my mouth. I have been trying to work on this. I can do horseradish but crushed red pepper makes me cough and I'm super sensitive to Asian spices. If a restaurant coats my fish in pepper (but I didn't ask them not to) I have to eat around the pepper.
- Hazelnut. Makes me nauseous just thinking about it. I must be the only person in the world who will not go near Nutella.
I wakeup at around 5:00-5:30 and I am not hungry. I start running between 6:30-7:15 depending on the season, and I do not eat before I run. If I am running a workout that has 5 or more miles of speed, then I have half a scoop of UCAN energy powder. This usually only happens during marathon training. For long runs, the same holds true, although now I am experimenting with Maurten as opposed to UCAN.
My most common breakfasts are:
- Bagel with cream cheese or butter
- Cottage cheese with nuts (Friendship brand lowfat cottage cheese)
- Steel cut oats
- Cream of wheat
- Smoothie made with frozen fruit, soy milk and yogurt (in the summer)
- Yogurt and granola (Siggi's brand of yogurt)
- Yogurt and fruit
- Hard boiled eggs
- Kodiak Cakes pancakes (usually on the weekends)
My most common lunches are:
- Turkey and cheese sandwich with tomato and avocado on whole wheat bread
- Tuna melt on whole wheat bread
- Pizza, usually topped with chicken and veggies
- "Bowl" from Cava (mediterranean) or Moe's (Mexican)
- Poke Bowl
- Soup with a side of crackers or bread - I like chicken noodle and minestrone
- Salad with some kind of protein (tofu, chicken, egg and/or turkey)
- Leftovers from last night's dinner
- Turkey burgers with tomato and avocado
Greg making eggplant parm
- Chicken thighs: either baked or on the grill with a side of veggies
- Baked fish: salmon, halibut, and rockfish are most common with a side of veggies
- Scallops with a side of spinach and/or fennel
- Chicken parm or eggplant parm
- Pasta with ground turkey meat balls
- Shrimp scampi
- Mushroom risotto
- Oven-baked turkey or chicken, usually with a side of butternut squash
- Chicken stir fry with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and broccoli
- Chili made with ground turkey, topped with light sour cream and cheese
- Homemade chicken noodle soup with veggies
- Pasta with chicken, spinach, sun-dried tomato in pesto sauce (common before long runs)
- Pasta with ground turkey and tomato basil sauce
- Crab cakes or crab legs
|Cottage cheese, mango, dolmas|
I often have dessert after dinner which is typically something we bought from the grocery store like a pie or cake. Cookies and ice cream are also common.
As I mentioned above, I snack a lot. Common snacks that I keep in the house, or that I used to bring to work when I went into the office:
- Trail mix
- Mixed nuts
- Cottage cheese
- Pretzels, chips or crackers, sometimes with a dip
- Fruit (apples, grapefruit, mangos, strawberries, grapes)
- Dark chocolate bar (not the whole thing, just a few pieces)
I mostly drink water because it's easily available and I need to stay hydrated for my runs. Here are some other things I drink:
- Decaf latte made with soy milk or coconut milk, usually flavored. I probably have 3-4 of these per week with my breakfast. There is a Peet's and a Starbucks very close to my house and I alternate. I
don't want to become caffeine dependent so I make it decaf always.
Lemon martini at a fancy restaurant
- Caffeine-free tea, during the workday or at night before bed. I love lavender and camomile.
- Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice: I've really gotten into this over the past six months. I get it from the grocery store and it's a good way to replenish calories in a healthy and refreshing way.
- Soda. I usually have 1 soda per week. I love a Pepsi or a Dr. Pepper after my long run! When I worked in an office and soda was free, I had one almost every day. I'm glad I cut back.
- Alcoholic beverages. If we go out to a nice dinner I typically order a mixed drink. One of the sugary ones! I rarely drink wine because I don't like the way it makes me feel. I drink beer more than any other alcoholic beverage. I like craft beers and I have one with dinner several times per week. Usually I have about 3/4 of the beer which is enough to satisfy me without making me tipsy.
Greg and I do not eat out nearly as much as we used to, but we still do on occasion. In an average week, we cook 5 meals, and the other two are takeout/delivery or going out. We have sushi a few times per month and have Thai food delivered about once a month.
As I said above, I usually do not want to eat anything until at least an hour after I am done running. Sometimes as long as two hours. I always follow my cravings, and my most common cravings for after the run are:
- Pepsi or Dr. Pepper
- Chicken fingers/fried chicken sandwich