Garbage in, Garbage out

Posted on June 1, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I love food.  Always have.  I love to eat it, cook it, smell it, look at it, think about it, and talk about it.  Sometimes I even dream about it.  But I can’t tell you how many food conversations I’ve had during which one of the participants holds up a hand dismissively and says, “Well, you’re a runner. You can eat anything.”

That sentiment, I’m afraid, I do not love.

Many people take up running because they want to drop a few pounds.  They know they need to get some cardio work into their routines—or they need to start a routine—and running seems like a fit.  Some lose weight, some do not.  The difference?  It’s not only the output. More than likely, it’s the input.

I took up running for a much different reason than weight loss.  A nice by-product has been that I keep my weight in check.  I don’t do this by eating “anything.”  I do, however, eat what I want.  And lots of it.

A funny thing has happened over the past several years.   My wants have changed.  I used to be the queen of canned ravioli and packaged macaroni and cheese.  Now, you couldn’t hold me down and force feed me either.

Sometimes I think I crave, say, macaroni and cheese, and sometimes I even talk about it for days on end. What I crave is not the food itself, but what the food represents.  I now know enough about my body to know that if I did break down and eat macaroni and cheese, 1) I would be immensely disappointed in the taste, and 2) I would feel sick for at least a day, probably more.

The more I’ve run (and biked and swam), the more efficient my body has become at metabolizing food—if it’s the right kind of food.  For me, that includes oatmeal, fruit, sweet potatoes, kale, and just about any other vegetable I can get my mouth on.  It’s not cake and crackers and pizza.  Even if I think I want it to be.

When I eat “anything,” I cannot run.  That is, my sleep patterns are interrupted and I feel lethargic the next day.  I feel like I’m running with a boulder in my belly, and my legs feel like lead.  Those factors do not make for an enjoyable run, at least not for me.  And for the rest of the day, I’m not the most pleasant person to be around.

That doesn’t mean that I never eat “anything.”  Sometimes I choose pizza or bananas foster over running.  But I recognize in the moment that it is, in fact, a choice, the consequences of which I will have to live with the next morning.

You’ve heard people say that our bodies are like machines and need the proper fuel to keep them operating the way they’re intended to. I’m not going to say exactly that, because I believe our bodies are so much more than machines.  But there’s something to it.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Just like our computers.  Our eyes.  Our thoughts.  Our bodies are no different.

So you’re a runner but some mornings a sharp stick in the eye seems like it might feel better than even your 2 mile route?  Take a hard look at what you’re eating.  Are you serving what you want—and is what you want serving you?


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7 Responses to “Garbage in, Garbage out”

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Great post!!! This is so me…I don’t eat a lof of food…no burgers, mac and cheese and all that….but I eat a lot of white rice, it’s all I eat…and even though I run i just know its terrible… and the guilt is just worse than the eating itself lol. Thanks for sharing this…need to work on eating other foods and eating right too.


But if white rice works for you, eat it! Unless that really is all you eat, lol.


Excellent post ! I certainly agree. Exercising really brought to my attention how food choices relate to how I feel. I noticed that the better I ate, the better I felt. I think running/exercising makes this connection even more apparent .


It really does make it apparent. I never in a million years thought I would actually crave quinoa…


Great post! I also enjoyed the accompanying picture. 🙂


Thanks! Yeah, that’s me the morning after pizza.


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