When sports nutrition turns into disordered eating

Do you ever wonder if you should follow a strict meal plan to try and improve your performance?

As a runner, do you sometimes feel like a fraud because you don’t have a stereotypical “runners body”?

I do. Big time.

I have mentioned before that I have struggled (and still struggle) with eating disorders. And ever since I started to run my relationship to my body has become much healthier. A few months ago I also made the decision to completely stop dieting

It has been very difficult and the loss of this “control mechanism” alongside a lot of stress from my career has sent me into the binge eating spiral at least once a week. Because I have been quite active my weight has more or less stayed the same.

However, while in Paris for the Marathon, I was talking to other runners who are looking to qualify for Boston and they wre extra focused. One of then hadn’t had a glass of wine or a gram of sugar in four months!!!!

That led me to circle back to the impulse to get back to dieting, finding diet pills and so on. But in the morning I regroup and go back to the difficult path of accepting myself AS I AM.

I know that many athletes are pressured to diet but I think it is key to remember that it is NOT a healthy behaviour for anyone. Diet culture does ONLY harm, especially for women, and I am not sure that not eating a gram of sugar in 4 months can be seen as a healthy idea.

I have been part of the Stop Fighting Food programme by Isabel Foxen Duke – she is amazing and I highly recommend the programme for anyone struggling with disordered eating and poor body image.

I asked her about how to handle these triggers, of feeling like I am a lazy athlete because I don’t follow a strict meal plan. This is what she said, and I am quoting it all because it was pivotal on changing my mindset.

think about athletes who are encouraged to take steroids or performance enhancing drugs as a comparison—just because it may help you be a faster athlete (which is debatable—dieting itself could really damage your performance), does not make it healthy/safe/admirable/etc.

On that note, your recovery depends on shifting the dialogue around this big time. For instance, it’s not “lazy” to prioritize your mental-health/recovery over shaving a couple seconds off your running time—you’re simply putting your health, happiness, and well-being  first.

What’s the point of pursuing something that should make you happy—like running—if you have to be miserable and put yourself in danger to do it?? Not worth it.


I hope this helps anyone else who struggles with this.
I love running and pushing myself to improve, but it can’t harm my mental health. That is key!

If you would like to find out more about Isabel’s work, go to her website: www.isabelfoxenduke.com

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