Do you all remember how in June I said I was going on a dairy elimination diet to combat bloating and sinus issues?
That lasted maybe two days – but I did ultimately make some dietary and lifestyle changes for the better.
Around the time I wrote that original blog post, my relationship was starting its final breakdown, although it wasn’t apparent to me then. Or maybe it had been dying and I was finally coming out of denial – who knows. Either way, I was going to crash and burn soon.
And historically, part of me crashing and burning includes comfort eating. Fast food, lots of pasta and baked goods, and because I used to work across the street from Dairy Queen – Blizzards, those milk-and-sugar bombs of feel-good soothing.
I kept eating and was also drinking wine coolers, which is pretty rare for me. My stomach bloat wasn’t going anywhere, and my face was bloated to match. Diet and eating my feelings undeniably played a role.
However, in hindsight, stress and sadness from my relationship ending played a far larger role than I realized, and food journaling wasn’t making a dent. Finally breaking up with him, as much as it sucked in the moment, was cathartic. I felt better after a few days, and then in the following month I felt peaceful, optimistic and free again.
One of the femininity leveling up channels I’ve started listening to has a video discussing the impact of stress on a woman’s appearance. She made a comment about facial inflammation being a common side effect of being stressed out, and I noticed after a month of peace my cheeks and jawline were back to normal. So to celebrate I took myself out to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant, without having to listen to someone complain about carbs and gluten.
If you’ve never taken yourself out to a nice restaurant before, I can’t recommend it enough.
And now on to the diet update.
After that first month of healing, I decided to start food journaling again. Whenever I write down what I eat I tend to lose weight and keep it off, so I decided to start that back up again. As I was writing down my foods, I noticed I tend to eat a lot of carbs.
Carbs aren’t the root of all evil (as long as you don’t have Celiac or a gluten allergy) and I am a runner. But I noticed that I was constantly hungry on the days where I ate more carbs or sugar. I also discovered that trying to go dairy-free was a terrible idea – since I’m not a big meat eater, cheese and Greek yogurt were my main sources of protein. Removing those led to me feeling sluggish and miserable.
So one night, when I didn’t know what the hell to feed myself, I decided to make the old standby – scrambled eggs. They’re fast, filling, a solid choice for protein and fat – sounded good to me. I had those with a Greek yogurt and felt great afterwards, instead of my usual sleepy. I decided to try an experiment of making scrambled eggs for dinner for a week to see if that helped me feel full while cutting back on bloating. The final verdict – it did.
Since I’m working again and don’t want to feel sluggish at 1 p.m., I decided lunch would go back to the old standby from thinner times – two vegetables, two fruits and two fatty items. Specifically, I’ve been eating sliced carrots and beets, blueberries, sliced bell peppers, Kalamata olives and having one of those Sargento Balanced Breaks – which consist of cheese and nuts – as my afternoon snack. Calorie-wise this isn’t a lot of food, but interestingly enough, I feel better throughout the afternoon and stay fuller until dinner time. Before the afternoon snack was non-negotiable and I was ravenous. Now I can take it or leave it, or just have coffee if I’m more sleepy than hungry.
It’s been about a month since my diet change and I have to say – I look and feel better, and it turns out prioritizing fat and protein over carbs has actually helped me to last longer while running (speed is another story though) and come out feeling strong.
So overall, if I had to give general advice to someone who is struggling with ways to eat that won’t compromise training or lead to misery.
1.) Pick foods that are higher in fat and/or protein. Fat promotes satiety, and protein helps the muscles stay strong and repair themselves after hard workouts.
2.) Never underestimate fruits and vegetables as solid carb sources. I think way too many athletes and runners think bread and pasta = only carbs that work. I love pasta as much as the next guy or gal and it’s a great dish for the night before a long run or immediately afterward, but on a daily basis, fruits and vegetables are king. Vitamins and nutrients are necessary to keep a body healthy and going, and unfortunately, too many of us aren’t getting enough of those. So eat your carrots and berries.
3.) For the folks who struggle with comfort eating – keep a food journal (author’s note: this is not the same thing as counting calories, and I wouldn’t recommend this for most folks anyway.) There’s always a meme somewhere about self-care looking like sitting on the couch putting away cookies and pizza. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m above couch potato-ing. However, “self-care” and “self-soothing” are two very different things that easily get mixed together, especially when you’ve got someone who’s going through hard times and battling depression, anxiety or some other form of mental unwellness.
Personally, writing down foods I’m eating and keeping a tally of water each day keeps me accountable to myself. Am I thinking about Taco Bell because I just want Taco Bell and it fits my daily calorie limit, or am I getting fast food for the third time this week because I’m feeling overwhelmed, sad and just want something fast to get the dopamine hit? No shame in the former, but if it’s the latter, that tells me I have some work to do that food won’t rectify.
So with all of that being said, I hope you all have a great day ahead and that me oversharing my diet business might serve as a way to help someone in a similar boat that I was in. Until next time!
Yours in writing and running,