I have always loved food!
Food has not always loved me.
I remember as a child not having the best digestive system. I remember having to visit the hospital to see the ‘tummy doctor’ and him telling me that I had to get my system working better by trying to go to the loo more often… great start!
Luckily, I was an active child and things seemed to sort themselves naturally with time.
In my twenties I started to gain surplus body fat and took up running. I wasn’t very good at it as I also smoked so I got out of breath, red faced, sweaty and didn’t really lose any body fat. I turned to ‘dieting’. I tried calorie restriction, I tried skipping meals, I tried cutting specific foods, I tried various food diets from magazines or friends’ recommendations. Nothing really worked long term and the harder I tried the worse I felt as my body image had deteriorated through focussing on it for so long. I had suffered mild Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) since my teens and this had now escalated.
I needed to do something. About my health. About my mental state, About my body. About my self-image.
So, in my late twenties I decided step one was to give up smoking. I had tried several times before so one day I woke up and just didn’t smoke again. Over the next year I gained a stone and a half.
As I hit my mid-thirties, I started dabbling with running again and started to look at food differently. I enjoyed it more this time around and had a couple of good friends that I ran with, which helped me progress to running a whole mile without stopping! Then two, then four…. I could do this! As the distance increased, I noticed the impact of different foods on my run. The food that I ate and the time that I ate it could affect both my comfort levels and performance whilst running! Then I read a book…..
This book had a huge impact on me and started me on my quest to rediscover real food, my love of food, a body that I both appreciate and love, and develop my running to the point where I know that it can perform feats that I dared not even dream of before!
Over the next two years I reset my body back to basic nutrition and performed Carbohydrate Intolerance (CI) testing to discover my personal level of natural carbohydrate tolerance. This led me to a whole new way of eating and living my life. I established my own nutrition and training plans covering dietary requirements, refuelling during and after exercise, and muscle recovery. I started tracking my macros and tweaking them for my training. I started weight training to support my joints and reduce the potential for injury from training. My body became lean and strong to the point where I finally dropped my body fat % to below 18% whilst being able to lift heavier and run further than ever before.
I completed my first half marathon. Then another, and another. I had developed a love of long distance running and wanted to extend my training and become an ultra-runner. I signed up for my first full marathon and started training for it diligently. Out on a long run one Sunday, just as I hit mile seventeen, my hip started hurting. I thought this would pass and tried to persevere but soon I couldn’t even walk on it. This is when I learnt all about REST. I would go for treatment, rest for a few weeks until the pain had subsided and then start training again from scratch. Each time I got to four mile runs the pain would return. I went for an MRI and was diagnosed with mild hip dysplasia which roughly translates to ‘never going to be an ultra-runner’!
What on earth could I do now? Maybe I could still compete but over shorter distances? and maybe with additional disciplines? – Triathlon. Yes, I joined my local Triathlon Club. Its like another family, but one that understands the buzz I get from running, cycling and yes, even swimming. Our bodies are amazing and if we really want something, we will make it happen. I believe that one day I will run that full marathon and one day I will run an ultra. It will just take a little longer for me to train to that distance. If we eat right and train smart, we can do anything.
The extremely long period of recovery from my hip injury gave me the time I needed to research nutrition further, sign up for and complete nutrition courses, and develop nutrition plans for friends and family.
I have issues with the ‘diet culture’ that exists today and the damage it does to people. If we can show people what a difference real food and getting the mix right can do for their mental health as well as their physical health, then maybe we can shift that culture and enjoy life more.
I strongly believe that we are all different when it comes to nutrition and the potential for each of us to be happier with our bodies, have a healthier attitude towards food, to look and feel better both inside and out needs to be explored and utilised.