Mindful eating part 1 - Eat cake!

A few days after returning home from Kona in mid October, Karel and I went to an Ironman celebration party in Greenville. We spent the evening talking with several Ironman finishers who live in the Greenville area.

To finish the evening, we enjoyed cake from a local baker. 

And to top it off (literally), the dot of the cake had our names on it. So sweet (literally, again) !

After cutting into the M part of the cake for everyone in the party, the dot remained uneaten.
The host of the party insisted that Karel and I take home our personalized section of the cake.

After returning home from the party with a beautiful round cake, I wrapped up the cake and put it in the freezer. I figured there would be a good time to eat the cake but the right time wasn't anytime soon. 

As a sport dietitian, when I think about athletes and their relationship with food, I often see/hear two different types of athletes.

There are high-performance athletes that see food for fuel. The diet is designed to fuel workouts but also to keep the body in great health to ensure consistency in training.
They also know how to enjoy food with the occasional indulge enjoyed without any guilt or anxiety. 

These athletes are focused on using food for nourishment but also see food to provide energy for upcoming workouts and to help the body recover. There is a heavy focus on calories, carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes in regard to the nutrition consumed before, during and after workouts. 

These athletes understand how to time food with training and they know how to use sport nutrition properly to take fitness to the next level (and to keep the body in good health). 

I'd like to think that this is the way that all athletes think about food but it is easier said than done in our food and diet obsessed society. 

As it relates to the later, the individual who has been active in some capacity, but has never used the word "athlete" to describe his/her past/current active lifestyle, may not feel comfortable eating like a high-performing athlete. 
These newbie athletes are still getting comfortable using the "athlete" title. 

When I think of the sport of triathlon and endurance sports in general, and how they are growing year after year, we are seeing many more individuals going from fitness enthusiast to marathon runner or sprint triathlete to Ironman. Some of these individuals come from a sport background whereas others are up for a new fitness challenge. 

Many times, new athletes are at greater risk for GI issues, bonking and injury simply because these fitness enthusiasts have yet to understand how to eat for fuel and for health. They have not considered reaching out to a sport RD but feel very overwhelmed with all of the nutrition-related advice from forums, articles, training partners, nutrition experts and professional athletes. 

Certainly, there is a learning curve when it comes just showing up to a workout with a water bottle to planning sport nutrition before most workouts and then following through with the consumption of "energy and electrolytes" from manufactured products (powders, gels, blocks and pills).

As it relates to newbie athletes, there is a transition period for a fitness enthusiast to get comfortable following a structured training plan that yields performance gains instead of simply working out, just to exercise.

And as it relates to high-performing athletes, if a healthy relationship with food was never once achieved, there may be an increased risk for body image and eating issues which ultimately will affect performance improvements and overall health in a focused, hard-working, goal-oriented athlete. 

Now you may be asking why I am talking about this when I started this blog talking about eating cake? 

In my next blog, I am going to talk a bit more about mindful eating so that athletes of all levels can begin to feel more comfortable around food.

But I must give you a little homework first.

Tomorrow, I want you to practice eating more mindfully. 
No rules, no calorie counting, no food logging. 

If eating is not a positive, joyful, pleasurable, feel-good, nourishing experience for you, then
I want you to consider the internal dialogue in your mind when you are around food.

What are the thoughts that encourage you to eat certain foods or discourage you to eat certain foods?

What do the voices in your head say when you are planning your meals and snacks?
Any food thoughts when you are about to workout, while you are working out or after you workout?

How about while you are eating - what's your relationship with food like while you are chewing and digesting food?

How about when you are finished eating? 
How do you feel when your meal is complete and what does your mind tell you about the food that you just ate? 

As you go about your day tomorrow, I want you to think about what's driving your food choices and how the thoughts in your head affect what you eat. 

There are no right or wrong answers but if you find yourself experiencing a lot of anxiety, fears and guilt surrounding food, specifically food that is you or someone else termed bad or off-limit, I want you to be sure to read my next blog on mindful eating so that I can help you improve your relationship with food, all in an effort to improve your athletic performance and quality of life.