There seems to come a time when all running blogs address the F-word: food. And now it is my time.
Recently it feels that I’ve talked a lot about food. My instagram abounds with pictures of chocolate, it feels like half our holiday pictures are photos of what we ate (yeah…. I am that person. Don’t come to a restaurant with me unless you’re happy for my camera to be an additional dining companion). I love food: I love the experience of eating out, the comfort of eating in, and the treat of a takeaway. My favourite foods are curry and chocolate, and I love a good wine to go with both.
Food is a very sensitive topic for many people. Eating is something that literally everyone needs to do if we want to lead any kind of existence, and yet it often brings with it all kinds of associations and opinions. There’s nothing like someone drawing attention to what’s on your plate to make you feel suddenly very self-conscious, and these comments can often be weighed down with additional meaning, both positive and negative.
Like a lot of people, I had a complicated attitude towards food when I was growing up. Sadly, I think most people have a complex relationship with food at some point, and some people experience this more keenly than others (just as a side note, don’t you think there’s something cute about using the word ‘relationship’ with regards to food?). Right now food and I are in a good relationship. We get on well. It massages my feet at the end of a long day, and I take the rubbish out cos that’s its least favourite chore.
All joking aside (and I do amuse myself with these stupid jokes!), the key for me has been to recognise what my preferred eating habits are, and then make sure it’s healthy and balanced. My favourite meal is dinner, and we like to eat out. Plus, there’s always some evening chocolate going on in our house. So, therefore, generally I try to make sure that breakfast and lunch are relatively healthy.
Running is also an influencing factor regarding food. Training means that you physically require more food, and consequently, eating patterns change. When marathon training, there was no way I could have achieved my goals if I was too worried to have toast every day, or a big plate of pasta. I don’t eat quite so much toast now, but I’m also not running 40 miles a week.
Initially, running helped me mentally: it was easier to eat without guilt (which is a whole separate thing – maybe not for today!). Then as I got faster and entered more races, I could also physically feel how the body needs fuel to do what I wanted to do. About 60 minutes after I finish a race or a challenging training session, I can feel my stomach empty and my limbs start to feel like jelly. In these moment I understand just what food actually is for us, and it’s much easier to separate it from any additional baggage.
In case you are interested, chocolate milk is my favourite post-anything-difficult drink. It is good for replacing fluids, carbs and protein, and keeps that awful jelly-feeling at bay. Beyonce wasn’t wrong when she said ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly’ (I think I’ve used that quote here before. You can’t quote B too many times, you know).
And that’s how I manage my food. There’s really no secret to it. Figure out when you’re likely to get your treats (and everyone should have at least one a day if they can!) and what your biggest meal is, and work around that. Honestly, people aren’t lying when they say ‘everything in moderation’. If only you can get your head to believe it too!