Running gave me an interest in food but not in the form of a trendy t-shirt that says something like, “I run to eat cake.” Sure, cake is good and I’ll never pass up a piece, especially if it’s chocolate, but I don’t run to eat it. I’d much rather eat to run.
My eating habits weren’t always this refined. I grew up on Spaghettios and Doritos and the weekly Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. Like many busy households, we sacrificed quality for convenience. But if I had not started out with such eating habits, I may not have known just how good some whole foods taste and how good they can make one feel.
I have running to thank for that enlightenment!
In high school during the late 90s, low-fat living was all the rage. As soon as I started running, I took an interest in weekly carbo loads via pasta dinners with a salad thrown in there for good measure. Sure, it was a simple recipe, but following the instructions on the box and producing something via the stove versus the microwave was energizing.
When I went to college, I learned even more from my roommate, a fellow runner whose tastes were more advanced than mine. She taught me about whole grains, olive oil, roasting vegetables, and making sure to get good nutrition in after a run. She certainly helped enhance my taste buds.
After graduating, my food choices seemed to return to convenience over health. I also struggled with some emotional eating behaviors to soothe lingering depression and anxiety. It wasn’t until I learned about mindfulness that my interest in food for health came back. And if I hadn’t started running, I probably wouldn’t have discovered mindfulness, for I learned many of the skills on my runs. The gratitude is two fold.
With mindfulness, I’ve been able to see how eating certain foods affects my mood as well as my stomach. I’ve been able to separate actual guilt from just eating a bit too much and as a result, not be so judgmental of my choices. Most importantly, I developed an interest in weekly cooking, where following more advanced recipes helps strengthen my attention levels while also fueling my body for running.
I’ve always wondered if there is an activity out there that can satisfy me as much as running and I think I found it with cooking. After following a recipe, using my hands to execute it, standing on my feet, and then enjoying the fruits of my labor, I sit down satisfied, as if I had gone out for a run. I try to cook a new recipe at least once a week to not only experience this pleasure but to continue to learn. Insert shameless plug for Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky’s book, Run Fast. Eat Slow. This book is great for those wanting to learn more about whole foods cooking as well as using delicious food to help performance.
I must admit that I’m not the greatest of cooks and my boyfriend James would say I’m not spicy enough, although I do love my ginger (ha!). Nonetheless, running led me to discover what it means to eat to live and run. I see my body as a machine that thrives on good fuel. Creating the fuel myself makes the process even better.
Has running helped you appreciate healthy food and cooking?