Editor's Note: This post is authored by Sammy George, Raleigh Distance Project runner and former Division 1 Cross Country and Track & Field athlete at North Carolina State University. She was a school record holder in the 1500 for a short time and has run the 5k in under 16 minutes. She struggled with body image issues while in college, but joined the Raleigh Distance Project last fall and has been progressing ever since. Sammy is now studying to become a certified Health Coach.
Over the last three years I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about health and nutrition which has contributed to my comeback with running. I am now working towards being healthier both in mind and body. I could go on and tell you what you are expecting to hear with an in-depth plan on exactly what you need to do nutrition-wise in order to succeed, but it’s not that simple. Yes, there are basics I follow, such as fueling my body with whole, unprocessed foods, practicing the art of moderation and timing of nutrients before and after workouts, but there’s more to it. I follow something that is unique to me and not like anyone else. Why, you ask? Because I am my own person. My body is unlike any others and it requires nutrition that is not like anyone else’s. I want to share three paradigms I follow that have allowed me to free my mind of the stereotypes we hear on a regular basis about “runners’ diets.”
1. Count chemicals, NOT calories.
This is something I learned in my health coaching class that has opened my eyes to the true meaning of health. As Americans we obsess over the low fat, low carb, low sugar, and low calorie foods. I was that girl. The fact is, if you are taking fat out of something then you are replacing it with something that is not natural for our bodies. All of the dyes, chemicals, and artificial sweeteners show up. I will always choose something with a higher calorie or fat count if that means I can put a whole substance into my body. Remember your body is a temple. Treat it as such.
2. What is healthy for one person might NOT be healthy for you.
I can’t stress this enough. I have friends that are vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, and paleo. Does that mean I should try all these things because it’s working for them? NOPE! Some have celiac (allergic to gluten), some are Crossfit athletes, and some react well to zero animal products. My body has worked well off of an animal-based protein diet and I don’t plan on changing it because of someone else’s success story converting to a vegan diet.
3. Don’t use diets as dogma, but as reference.
There are hundreds of fad diets out there. We see nutritionists that create meal plans that cater to different people. That doesn’t mean you need to do every little thing that is in one single diet. I pick and choose strategies that work for me and give me energy and fuel for running. You will drive yourself crazy and create a negative mindset that can affect your performance more than that cupcake you had last Saturday. (Yes I sometimes eat cupcakes, and I’m still alive).
There are many more, but these three are super important when you're considering nutrition and mindset in athletics. A free mind has allowed me to strive towards my true potential. I can now focus on other things that are attributable to a runner’s success. I hope you all can become free from the noise we hear in our society today about the right way to eat and do what works for you. Happy eating, my friends!