In our recent interview with the Intelligent Racer Podcast, I talked about my passion for helping athletes with nutrition. A lot of my nutrition counseling is helping athletes with the application of using food and sport nutrition properly in order to improve health and performance. But another aspect of my nutrition services is helping athletes overcome an unhealthy relationship with food and the body in order to improve athletic performance, health and quality of life.
From my experience, by improving your relationship with your body, you can actually improve your relationship with food, which will enhance your athletic performance. When you begin to thank your body (instead of bashing it), respect your body (instead of starving or overexercising it) and appreciate your body (instead of wishing you looked differently), you begin to make better lifestyle choices that actually promote health and performance. It is through these choices that you can better understand how to best train and eat for your fitness and health needs.
It's unfortunate, but it's the truth, that many athletes do not feel comfortable in their own skin. They train and eat for the wrong reasons. Instead of working out for performance gains and to improve skills, to dial in fueling and hydration and to stretch the comfortable zone, athletes are working out to burn calories or to work off previously consumed "bad" food or to deserve reward food. While this strategy may work for an exerciser or fitness enthusiast without significant health risks, this approach can greatly compromise health and overall well-being when an athlete uses marathon running or endurance triathlon training alongside dieting (or restrictive eating/fueling), to lose weight or to change body composition.
Whereas sport should make you feel strong, confident and healthy, for select athletes, it does the opposite when an unhealthy relationship with food and the body is in place. Working out should never been seen as a punishment (or strategy) to burn calories or to fix the body. Food should be for enjoyment, fuel and nourishment, it should never give you guilt, frustration and fear.
Thanks to social media and magazines promoting unrealistic body images and bloggers offering unsafe and impractical/unsustainable dietary advice, many athletes are not feeling motivated to train for performance and health improvements, but instead, are dealing with the constant comparisons of idealized images of "an athlete's body" or whatever dietary strategies are promoted be fit, race ready and "healthy".
I was recently thinking back to an article I wrote for March 2015 issue of Triathlete Magazine, where I discussed the topic of achieving performance breakthroughs by paying attention to current eating behaviors and thoughts about the body. Making smart dietary choices will help you reach your athletic potential so it is important to recognize if your commitment to your racing and training goals is steering your relationship with food in an unhealthy direction.
In my Eat To Thrive article, I provide you with three red flag situations and how you should address them. Of course, if you feel like your relationship with food and the body is compromising your health, performance and/or quality of life, it is important to reach out to a Registered Dietitian for help. He/she can take away the guessing so that you can start living a productive and successful life where food is not the enemy and you learn to appreciate the goodness in your body.
To read the article: Eat To Thrive