Healthy November Challenge

img_6899-editI announced on Facebook last week that I am making this month “Healthy November.” I set myself some rules, and am posting my progress, struggles and tips. If this sounds intriguing to you, come join along!

November is the beginning of holiday parties, comfort food, and hibernation. Some of this is thanks to daylight savings, post-marathon recovery (for runners), sweater season, and often holiday parties and the feasting that seems to never stop once we hit Thanksgiving. Statistically, Americans pack on those most pounds between Halloween and NYE. I decided that instead of embracing those desires to stay inside and eat cozy food, I would make the month of November the opportunity to reboot my relationship with food and hopefully hit December with a bit more self-control and in better shape than most years.

Therefore, I have given myself some nutritional rules and guidelines for November. I am giving myself a few “cheat days” – Thanksgiving Day and the weekend of the Philly Marathon. I figure it would be too cruel to give up Thanksgiving, and I need to be properly fueled for my 26.2 mile journey on November 23rd.

My rules: Nothing out of a box. No artificial sugar – the exception being GU for mid-run fueling. No grains, bread, pasta, pasta, pancakes, or rice – the exception being oatmeal. No chocolate, ice cream or beer. No juice – unless it’s V8. I CAN eat – all the fruits and veggies I want, dairy (but no ice cream!), beans, meat, nuts, wine, hard liquor, coffee – and that’s it.

So far (it’s been less than a week!), I am doing great. I miss my many carbs, and have to plan meals and shopping. Eating out is a challenge, but not impossible. I am finding it hard to get in all my calories, so weight loss may be super easy. I try to get some protein in every meal. Greek yogurt has become an even more important ingredient in my daily diet. Avocados, olive oil and peanut butter have been my source of fat. I find myself sometimes itching for a sweet snack, but otherwise my cravings have been few and far between.

I encourage you to make your own “rules,” and follow them. Find modifications for the month that can work for you. Then stick to it. Write them down so that they are clear. Take it a day at a time. It can be overwhelming to think about an entire month without a bagel.

A few tips: when shopping, stock up on lots of fruits and veggies. Avoid most aisles in the grocery store. At home, prepare a few homemade soups and keep healthy snacks handy. Budget a little extra time to wash and slice fresh food, and to cook. Find foods you really like that fit into your rules and eat them often. This isn’t a diet, so much as a temporary “reboot month” – so you aren’t giving up anything forever!

My goal is to get to December feeling good. I hope to feel a bit more energized, strong and perhaps without the few extra pounds I seem to find between Thanksgiving and New Years. I am sure I will still bake lots of goodies in December (I always do!), but I am hoping I won’t be tempted to graze on them the way I have in the past. I want these cold and nasty months to be the opportunity to continue improving health and fitness – not to take steps backwards. With any luck, I’ll get to 2015 in better shape than I currently am (weight training – let’s do this!), and faster than I currently am (goodbye Ultras, hello 5Ks and Half Marathons!), and nutrition is a huge part of those training goals.

Feel intrigued and want to join along? Come join me and let’s do this! You have everything to gain and nothing to lose!

Endurance Nutrition

Post-run pancakes, pumpkin butter, maple syrup, and beer.

Post-run pancakes, pumpkin butter, maple syrup, and beer.

During marathon season, many questions come up regarding nutrition. Today I’d like to go over some nutrition tips for marathon season, including basic nutrition, mid-run fueling, and pre-run/post-run nutrition.

It’s no secret that running a marathon is a pretty easy way to lose weight. You simply are burning thousands more calories than the person sitting on the couch. I am frequently asked about how to diet while marathon training. For most runners, this is not a smart idea. Your body and brain are put through a lot of stress during marathon training months, and depriving yourself serious calories can leave you feeling tired. You can also accidentally cut nutrition you need, leaving your body weak and unable to improve for your task at hand – 26.2 miles. Therefore, I suggest eating a sensible and well-balanced diet while training, and any extra body fat will probably disappear due to training, as long as you aren’t suddenly overeating. Instead of going on a diet, think of your body as your machine and yourself as an athlete – because you are. It doesn’t matter how fast you are going to run on race day, you are preparing your body for a marathon. Eat nutrient-dense foods. Foods that give you the fuel and nutrients you need to feel good, energized, and fueled for training. Fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, complex carbs and lots of water should make up most of your diet. Focus on eating well and don’t make anything off-limits.

For your long runs and race day, nutrition can be what makes or breaks your morning. Mid-run fueling can be tricky, as everyone has different sweat-rates, and everyone’s stomach and nutrition needs are different. Personally, if I am running a 3:00-3:30 marathon, I’ll consume 1 GU every 30-40 minutes (usually 4 GU per marathon), and I grab a cup of water every 20 minutes and take a few sips. For me, this is usually enough to get me through a marathon without feeling too zapped, but also not water-logged or sick. If conditions aren’t ideal, I may take more nutrition. I’ve sometimes used GU with caffeine and other times without. Whatever I end up training with most is what I go with on race day. That’s one example. The longer your out there for your race, the more fuel you’ll need. Other runners prefer Gatorade or Blocks over Gu-like products. On your training run, try to practice what you’ll do on race day. Nutrition is recommended for runs lasting about 90 minutes or more. Any runs of less time shouldn’t require mid-race fueling as long as you are hydrated pre-run and refuel after your workout is complete.

  • A word about mid-run nutrition – yes, there are calories in nutrition – about 100 calories per serving. These calories are very much-needed on your long runs, so DO NOT skip them because you are watching your figure. However, if you are using GU for every run you do, even easy 3-5 milers, you may end up gaining weight. Those supplements simply aren’t necessary for short runs and are therefore empty calories.

What you eat before your long run can lend itself to a successful run – or can make you suffer. Just as you should think about your general nutrition fueling your body as an athlete, you need to be aware of what you are consuming pre-long run. You don’t need to go crazy with the carbs (your body can only store so much glycogen, and the rest will simply be wasted), but you DO want to make sure you eat simple carbs. The night before a long run, I may eat pasta, pizza, rice, or potatoes. The morning of my run, I eat a bagel or toast with a little peanut butter, a banana with oatmeal, or pancakes. Just give yourself a few hours between your meal and your run. How much time you’ll need is going to vary per person. It is also very important to be consuming water the day before and the day of your long run. Just as it takes a little time to digest and process carbs into glycogen, it takes our bodies some time to hydrate. Chugging a liter right before your run will not help you.

Post-run, it’s important to get nutrition into your system as quickly as possible. Your body, depleted of nutrition, will go into recovery-mode soon after you finish your run. Therefore, consuming something with carbs and protein and some sugar is great. You will also need to drink some water and perhaps a bottle of Gatorade. Personally, I love a tall glass of chocolate milk, a bottle of Gatorade, and a big glass of water as soon as I’m finished my long run. After that, I’ll eat a meal. Unlike some runners, my stomach is rarely a mess post-run and I always have an appetite. I’ll eat anything from a burger with fries and a beer to a big salad topped with some form of protein. Other times I’ll opt for a big plate of pancakes or a bagel with cream cheese and lox. I go with what I’m craving. If your stomach is sensitive and you don’t have an appetite, at least get water and something like chocolate milk into your system. That’s far better than nothing. Remember, in order for your legs to recover as quickly as possible, you need nutrients to do so.

Again, this is just a starting point. I could dive into the different components of endurance nutrition in a far more detailed and nerdy way, but at least you hopefully have some sort of understanding of why certain choices should and shouldn’t be made. Remember that what works for one runner may not work for the next, and so you should always use your long runs as your “dress rehearsals” for race day. Good luck, and happy running!

 

Supplementation Slap-Down

0120bwebRecently the topic of supplementation came up on a running forum, and it sparked the desire to discuss the topic here on Coach Corky Runs. Supplementation refers to vitamins and minerals, and meal replacements  – like protein shakes. These fitness tools have been popular in the health and fitness world, from body builders to people with iron or calcium deficiency.

While some people may benefit from supplementation, be it for athletic performance or daily health, its important to talk to a doctor and/or nutritionist before buying everything on the shelf at GNC.

A few things to consider if you are interested in supplementation: If you eat a balanced diet, you most-likely won’t need any supplements. The exception, of course, is if tests show you are deficient in specific nutrient.

If you are new to a fitness routine, supplementation is not a magic way to become fitter, faster or stronger. Yes, protein supplements can help folks looking to gain weight, but that’s because protein post-workout is a necessary part of the weight-training and muscle building process. Eating chicken, greek yogurt, eggs – anything high in protein will do the job. If supplementation makes getting your protein in post-workout easier than reaching for real food, it is certainly far better than nothing at all. However, look at the ingredients on the package and take note of how many ingredients you don’t know about – let alone can pronounce.

Supplementation without the guidance of a doctor or nutrition expert can be dangerous. Our bodies are all different, and we all need different things. If you don’t know exactly how much of one mineral, for example, you need, you could easily overdose and hurt your body. While many people are anemic, overdosing in iron can be dangerous. Making assumptions without medical reason can get you in trouble.

There are many theories floating around out there that certain supplements can help you train harder, run faster, lift heavier, etc. But these are only theories, have spun into a pretty web by companies looking to promote their supplementation or folks on tv looking to share a miracle vitamin, mineral, or food.

In short, remember to do your research – medical journals, not what’s floating around on Buzzfeed. And talk to a doctor. After all, unless you specialize in this field, you could be playing Russian Roulette with your health and athletic performance.

New Website and New Offerings

img_6984-editGreetings runners and fitness enthusiasts! As you can see, “Coach Corky Runs” got something of a face-lift over the weekend. I hope you like the new website. A few more things will be added and changed in the next week or so. Feel free to bop around it and give me some feedback. Something you want me to add? Something that’s hard to find? Something you love? I welcome your comments!

I’m planning to add more to my “resources” tab, with links to sports doctors, massage therapists, local running stores, etc. So if YOU offer a service geared toward athletes, send me an email and we can talk about adding your link to my “resources” page!

A tab with links to all of my publications will be added.

I’ll be adding more “news” about my own upcoming goals and training, fitness modeling work, and my clients’ recent achievements!

As Spring is finally starting to slowly show her face here in NYC, Coach Corky is offering group classes! For more info, see the tab at the bottom of the page. I don’t know about you, but I am REALLY excited about that one!

You can also anticipate a few guest blog entries from one of my runners, as she’s preparing for her first marathon! I know she has a lot to share, and unlike many of my athletes, she lives 1500 miles away! She also happens to be my little sister. I think her perspective on running, things she’s learned and tips she can share will be especially beneficial for newbies and folks thinking about their first marathon! I am incredibly proud of how far she’s come in the last year of running, and she hasn’t even hit the marathon starting line yet.

I am *hoping* to start working on a book – but don’t hold me to it. I’m so busy running around that it might not be finished for a few years. I am also thinking about working on a podcast or weekly/biweekly vlogs. I’d love to share more info with all of you, and have on some amazing guest speakers!

Happy running!

Coach Corky

Navigating Holiday Season Indulgences

Egg Nog, not out of a carton.

Egg Nog, not out of a carton.

The holiday season is upon us! Okay, I’m a *little* early to the party, but you know your radio stations will soon be blasting those holiday songs 24/7, and every shopping store will be filled with holiday razzle-dazzle. What does the holiday season have to do with fitness, running, and nutrition? Um, EVERYTHING! Luckily, your coach will help you get through the holiday season without gaining a ton of lb.s, or feeling like a couch-potato.

First off, let’s all get a little real: whether you want to or not, we ALL will be tempted to gorge ourselves on Thanksgiving. Most likely, we will all do the same thing at office parties, holiday parties, family events – between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. That’s a lot of days of pigging out. All the pigging out WILL make you gain weight. So, what can you do other than accept the added lb.s and dig out your fat pants? I have a few tips that will keep you sane, and allow you to enjoy some tasty treats too!

If it hasn’t become clear at this point, I LOVE FOOD. I love to eat, bake and cook. So the holiday season is one of my favorites. In fact, I am usually that person who arrives at parties with home-made baked goodies, chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint and heath bark, pies – I embrace the holiday goodies! Personally, I know I’ll gain a few lb.s, but I also know I am okay with that and am quick to drop them as soon as the holiday season is over. That being said, I pick and choose my indulgences.

For example: for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are “no rules” days. I eat whatever I want and as much of it as I can stuff in my face. But besides those two days, I pick and choose at holiday events. I *try* to stick to snacks that are high in protein (like shrimp cocktail, cheese, a handful of nuts) or veggies and dip or fresh fruit. I avoid anything cooked, baked, or otherwise calorically dense. This way I can graze at a party, still eat, without leaving every party feeling more and more round.

I also stay active during the holiday season, and love running or hitting the gym when the cool, crisp air hits New York City. Being active means I can indulge without gaining as much weight as if I were just sitting on my butt all day. Get outside a run a Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Jog with your family! Or go for brisk walks, or run with friends and families. Trust me, that yummy food will taste even better after some exercise!

Booze cupcakes. YUM.

Booze cupcakes. YUM.

To balance out those parties (let’s face it – sometimes I DO eat tons of the bad stuff at a party!) I load my diet with seasonal, nutritious foods – like baked sweet potatoes, butternut squash soup, lentil soup, and other “comfort foods” that are full of good-for-you calories. These things will also help keep your immune system happy when lots of colds go around.

If you are trying to LOSE weight during the holiday season, best of luck! My advice is to stay as active as possible, and to minimize the amount of holiday parties you attend, to reduce temptation. I know, missing social events sucks, but unless you walk in there with self control made of steel, you are not doing yourself any service. Signing up for a race or fitness goal (maybe a bikini body for a January trip to the Caribbean?), can also keep your eye on the prize and your focus on what happens AFTER those yummy, tempting noshes are history.

And remember, a few lb.s aren’t the end of the world – especially if you are already fit. Pick and choose your battles, and you’ll get to 2014 without any extra weight, and some yummy holiday indulgences too.

Seasonal Noshes – Autumn Edition

PumpkinsIf you live in the northeast, you have said goodbye to Summer and have taken out your comfy sweaters. As blueberry season has come and gone, there are some great seasonal foods that are yummy, filling, good for you, and comfort-food like.

Here are some of my favorites:

Sweet potatoes – incredibly nutrient-dense, easy to bake whole or slice and bake in olive oil and topped with some parmesan cheese.

Butternut Squash – great for soup, roasting, and more. Easy to store, nutrient dense, and savory.

Apples – I love to toss some peanut butter on fresh apples after a workout, or before a workout. Sweet, crisp, and the peanut butter adds some protein and good fat.

Pears – refreshing, sweet, and a great snack. Just be careful when packing a pear to go, as they bruise easily.

Pumpkins – so fun to bake with! I love making pumpkin pancakes, but you can find recipes for pumpkin muffins, ravioli, and more!

Apple cider – drink it chilled, warm it on top of the stove, toss in a cinnamon stick, or spike it for an “adult twist” – it’s delicious a million ways!

Lentil soup – easy to make, inexpensive ingredients, protein and fiber dense – this soup is perfect for dinner. Serve up with a hearty slice of bread and a glass of red wine – perfection!

These are only a few suggestions. There are tons of great Autumn options out there, many of which won’t tax your wallet or the scale. As cold/flu season raises it’s ugly head, stay healthy by consuming foods high in nutrients.

Bonus: eating well most of the time makes those indulgent holidays that much sweeter, and that much more fun!

Read Smart, Exercise Happy

corky6-460x306Recently I have noticed that headlines and magazines are making some fairly scary claims regarding our health. “Sitting is the new smoking” (Runner’s World Magazine), “Pregnant weight lifter debate” (NY Times), and a bunch of other articles debating different diets, cleanses, and workouts. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Remember, publications are written to gain readers. Not to say that there aren’t decent, well-written articles floating around out there with lots of medical evidence to back them up – because there certainly are. However, the driving force behind what’s written is viewership. Money. So before you jump onto the next trend you read somewhere, or watch on a daytime tv show, be skeptical and look for real evidence.

One thing that almost every article, regardless of source, has in common – being active and getting outside is good. All medical evidence points towards exercise being GOOD. I say go out there and do what makes you happy. Just do something. Our bodies are designed for movement. What you choose to do, what you like, is uniquely you.

Love to run with your dog? Great. Surf? Rad. Join a local softball team? Awesome. Become a die-hard Yogi? Namaste. Do what floats your boat, what feels good to you, and what makes you happy. There is not quick fix or magic pill that will make you drop 50lbs., or lower your cholesterol, or increase cardio capacity – those results come from doing. So stop buying into what somebody publishes in a magazine, newspaper or blog (except this one, of course! Kidding.), and tap into your body and soul.

Hola, Honduras!

Leading the class through some ways to use the foam roller. It hurt so good!

Leading the class through some ways to use the foam roller. It hurt so good!

Recently this coach did something new: she packed her bags, flew to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and taught a 2-day running seminar. It was a wonderful weekend, and I met some passionate runners.

While I have been to Central America before (years ago I went to Costa Rica), I was nervous about a trip to San Pedro Sula. If you don’t know much about this city or Honduras, do a quick “google search” and you’ll understand why. I should also mention that I don’t currently speak any Spanish, making me that much more vulnerable in a dangerous city. However, after a lot of research, chatting with my host, Jorge Marcos, emailing friends who live in Honduras, and chatting with a fellow non-Spanish-speaking New Yorker who has taught seminars in San Pedro Sula multiple times, I decided I wanted to go. Thankfully, my host (and arranger of the program) took great care of me, and I notified the US of my travel plans – just to be safe.

While I never spent any time in the “dangerous” parts of town, security is huge. People hire security guards to watch their houses and tote rifles. Small children beg in the street, pressing their faces again the glass window while stopped at a traffic light. Wild dogs roam the street. Some of the athletes I taught run with a guard in a car, following them for safety. The safety and freedom I experience everyday in NYC is a completely different world from those in San Pedro Sula.

Before I get into the coaching, I will say this: What I saw and experienced was no different from what I had experienced in Costa Rica. In fact, the neighborhood where I stayed was definitely safer (the neighbor has an armed guard) and prettier (at the base of beautiful mountains) than the home I stayed in in San Jose, Costa Rica. Not to say that bad things don’t happen here in this neighborhood, but everyone I met at the stores, coffee shops and restaurants were friendly, smiling people. I never felt unsafe. Of course that doesn’t change the reality that San Pedro Sula is indeed, a dangerous city.

I should also mention that in my brief time there, it was beautiful. Lush mountains everywhere, often with clouds covering the peaks. I hear the beaches are beautiful, and hopefully some day will make it there. Honduras is so beautiful, and I very much hope this country improves economically.

1273009_10151640537086761_830008827_oThe seminar was held over a weekend at Cross Fit, SPS. All of the athletes were bilingual, so there wasn’t a language barrier with them. They were all smart, passionate runners, eager to learn more and to share their experiences with me and the rest of the group. I have to say, I was a bit nervous that my lack of Spanish would be an issue while teaching. While I certainly was helpless in terms of ordering food on my own, I was totally capable of talking about my favorite sport.

I must also confess that I typically work with individuals on their training, not teaching seminars in foreign countries. Was I going to be able to speak about running for 8 hours? Would I be clearly communicating? Would I confuse newbies? Would they lose focus? Honestly, I didn’t know exactly how it would go, though I was confident in my knowledge of the sport and knew I was walking into the seminar with information and a passion they would hopefully appreciate.

If I could teach seminars every week to groups of runners, I totally would. I enjoyed it so much. I loved hearing about their race goals, their previous experiences, and taking them out for a short run. I loved making them laugh as I shared some of my own experiences – especially the mistakes. The entire seminar was great.

So much thanks to the athletes in San Pedro Sula, Jorge, and the folks at CrossFit SPS for what was a truly great weekend.

Cruise Control

IMG_2916I recently left dry land, my cell phone, email, and normal life in NYC for eight beautiful days sailing and exploring the Western Caribbean. I documented my trip, and will post the video blog in a few weeks. That blog will give some tips of staying active and on track with a training plan, and unfortunately how difficult that was. More on that later.

Folks, I think we can all agree that America is, in general, an overweight culture. If you don’t agree, go on a cruise. Seriously. The health risks so many of the passengers are putting on themselves due to what they put in their mouths – it’s so sad.

I am not saying that everyone should be thin, or feel pressured to look a certain way. The stigma if what is “attractive” causes so much emotional damage, and is never positive even as weight loss motivation. Frankly, looks have little to do with it. I am not talking about people carrying around an extra 10-20lbs., but those carrying around an extra 100-200lbs. You cannot hide the evidence of your lifestyle while walking around in swim wear.

Perhaps I was so baffled by the reality of just how out of control the obesity issue is because in NYC, though there are certainly obese people, the number of obese or morbidly obese was nothing like it was on the ship.

I am not judging those who are obese, morbidly obese, or even over weight. However, as someone who is passionate about health (physical and mental), and reversing this obesity epidemic, my heart breaks to see folks slowly kill themselves. If anything, the cruise reaffirmed how strongly I feel about the need to reverse the course Americans are taking, and how I want to be a leader in that movement.

The first step is recognizing and acknowledging that we need to change. How we manufacture, market, understand and prepare food needs to be questioned and examined. Education regarding nutrition and exercise are practically non-existent, and many medications (which are dished out left and right!) have many side effects that can contribute to depression, change in mood, and difficulty losing weight. How we view happiness, self worth, confidence – so many of us turn to food for these things. I’m part of the class, folks. Don’t believe me? Check out the recent blog entry “Comfort Food” where I share my own personal struggle with food, body image and self worth. We are all in this together.

I guess what I am taking back from the cruise is this: America is fat. Liking “going to slowly kill ourselves while stressing the health care system” fat. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. Not at the fat people, but at the manufacturers, advertisers, and media. It makes me want to help.

If YOU need help, it’s out there. Yes, it takes some major work to admit you need help, ask for help, and follow through with the plan. It’s much easier to ignore it. But I PROMISE you, if you can extend your life by a few decades, and more importantly the QUALITY of your life, isn’t it worth a little work?

Comfort Food

We all have different relationships with food. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you are in control of how you choose to eat, and how food fits into your life. This blog was prompted by going through some old home videos and seeing how I looked 10-6 years ago. I was floored by the person I saw on camera. That person isn’t me. That person is completely different, and has a completely different relationship with food than I do today.

Me in 2004. The years of birth control, diet pills, starving and bingeing. Not a happy person.

Me in 2004. The years of birth control, diet pills, starving and bingeing. Not a happy person.

I am going to get a bit personal here in hope of connecting with you and reminding you that we all struggle, we all fail, but we can always pick ourselves back up. Okay, so here we go….

I began using food for comfort in high school. I was bullied a lot, and found food to be a way to cope. I would eat healthy food at home, but would stop on the way to school, home from school – whenever, and pick up food. Often it was fast food, or bags of chocolate, or swedish fish, or bags of chips, or pints of ice cream. I would eat to calm myself. Luckily, thanks to good genetics, and dancing 8+ hours per week, I was never considered “heavy” or overweight. I recall at my heaviest point topping the scale under 150lbs., a size 6-8, and a 36C at 5’7″. So no, I was never obese or anything.

However, my relationship with food wasn’t healthy. Honestly, I was extremely damaged due to being bullied, so by the time I went to college I had this concept of perfection and felt like a disappointment. The hours I would spend going through outfits, trying to find something that I didn’t feel pudgy or awkward in – all for what? I didn’t like myself. When you don’t like yourself, and at times question your worth, you can become desperate.

It’s a bit of a miracle that I didn’t balloon in college. Perhaps going to the gym daily, out of fear of gaining weight, or not being cast in a show (I was going to school for a degree in Musical Theatre), kept me out of the Freshman Fifteen Club. Because in college, I did not eat well. Midnight pizzas. Tons of booze. Pina Coladas were a favorite. Lots of bagels and granola. This was also when I experimented with weight-loss pills. It was a sick cycle. Popping pills. Hours at the gym. Midnight Pizza and booze. And I wasn’t happy. I was self-loathing. Insecure. Miserable. I dreamed I had the money for Lipo.

It should also be noted that I was on birth control pills, which in my experience, can have a HUGE effect on weight loss/gain, mood, sex drive, confidence, and more.

When I realized the diet pills weren’t doing a darn thing, I went to crash diets, and upping the amount of gym time. I began cutting calories, writing them down, and feeling like a disappointment if I consumed more than 1200 calories per day. ironically, I never dropped any weight while “starving” myself. Maybe the birth control? Maybe the fact that I’d binge on food after a week of doing “good” threw everything off. Whatever the reasons, I was counting every calorie and judging myself if I wasn’t “strong” enough to control what I ate, while sweating at the gym everyday, not losing any weight, and loathing myself even more.

Looking back, I made a couple huge mistakes. First, I put WAY to much value on being judged due to my size. I didn’t enjoy my time at the gym, but went because I felt like if I didn’t go I would gain more weight. I had some basic nutrition knowledge, but I made some TERRIBLE dietary choices. I also always ended up ‘falling off the horse,” feeling defeated, terrible, and extremely frustrated.

At the age of 23, I went off birth control pills for the first time in five years. As soon as I went off the pill, I dropped weight. It was almost laughable how easy it was to lose weight, thanks to cutting that stupid pill out of my life. My mood and self image changed too, and I began to actually enjoy running and working out for the sake of the experience. I will NEVER go back on birth control EVER again. I could write a blog about how toxic that pill can be.

Flash forward a few more years, and I was running regularly. I still didn’t consider myself a “runner,” and was terrified of the concept of entering a race, but I ran almost daily. It was my sanity. Going through a bad divorce and a few other terrible experiences, running was my time to clear my head. Sweating was cleansing, and something I looked forward to every day. I also stopped using food as a coping mechanism the way I used to, perhaps due to being off the pill? Don’t get me wrong, I would still stress eat, but it was more of a “choice” from here on, and didn’t happen regularly.

Then, at 26 years old, I decided I would run my first race: Philly’s Broad Street Run, a 10-miler held along Broad Street. Before I toed the line for my first race ever, I signed up for the Philly Marathon. My goal: Qualify for the Boston Marathon. I had turned over a new leaf. Suddenly, I had this desire to test myself. To see how strong I could be. To tackle something that scared me. To no longer care about looking silly, or embarrassing myself, or failing. I somehow decided to let go of all the weak, insecure, damaged feelings I had about myself. I chose to make a change.

Me in 2013. Happy. Strong. Loving food, and no longer obsessing.

Me in 2013. Happy. Strong. Loving food, and no longer obsessing.

Since that first year of racing, my relationship with food and training has evolved. In general, I view food as my fuel for running – which causes me to usually make smart decisions. I decided that if knowledge is power, I wanted to learn about nutrition. So I studied to become a Sports Nutritionist. I also started viewing exercise differently. It suddenly wasn’t about “being thin” or “looking good,” it was about getting fitter and faster. Ironically, any extra weight seemed to melt off me as I trained to be a better runner. In fact, two years ago I dropped so much weight that a few people in my life were concerned. My body had done a complete 180 since my college days, and I had become a calorie-burning machine. I had to force myself to consume MORE calories than felt necessary.

To be clear, I STILL binge eat when stressed. Last week, thanks to a Boston Marathon Bombing PTSD-induced panic attack, I consumed TWO pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, a 6-pack of beer, and a bunch of spring rolls – all within a few hours. Food is still my comfort in a lot of ways. I love food. I always will. Sure, I sometimes wake up with regret the morning after a binge-fest, but I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. One reason: I burn so many calories training for races that I can afford some binge days now and then. The other reason: I don’t care. I mean, I care about my body and don’t want to poison it, but I don’t care the way I did back in college. In the big picture, it’s no big deal, so why hate myself for it?The crazy thing is that I am now the body type I would have killed for back in college. I’m a size 0-2, 32A/B, 130lbs, 5’7″ and STRONG. I used to put so much value on my dress size. Now, it rarely crosses my mind. I am so incredibly comfortable in my own skin that I cannot identify with the girl I was not so long ago. Unlike that college kid, I don’t spend much time at all thinking about my weight, body fat, waist size – it doesn’t matter to me. Instead what I care about is feeling strong, healthy, and working to be the best athlete I can be.

So, there’s my little story. I hope it helps you in some way. You are not alone. We all have our own demons. But you can conquer, or at least tame them. I swear. If I can find ways to change my relationship with food and exercise, you can too. Take a deep breath. Smile. Laugh. And take it one day at a time.