health · nutrition · wellness

solo travel learnings

I mentioned in my last post how much I love traveling alone, but it has been a while since my last adventure – Paris in November 2015. I learned a ton during my time in Paris – not only was it my first solo trip to Europe, but the first night I was there was also when the terror attack on the Bataclan happened. Very thankfully I wasn’t nearby, but rather sleeping in my hotel in St. Germain until I was awoken by sirens and texts/phone calls. Needless to say, the trajectory of my trip was completely changed and my mental fortitude challenged to the fullest. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and undoubtedly changed me in a lot of ways.

Even though my trip to Rome was way more low key and peaceful (thank goodness!), I still learned a lot from my time there beyond all things food and mindful eating.

Controlling the uncontrollable 
A self-proclaimed control freak, it is sometimes really hard for me to handle things in life I can’t control. Especially those things that aren’t going the way I would like. Case in point, flying on airplanes. We can’t control a darn thing when we’re at 40,000 feet, and sometimes this gets the best of me. And I won’t lie when I say there was a turbulent moment over the Atlantic en route to Italy in which I had the “ok, maybe this is it” talk with myself. But there was also a moment after that when I focused on the things I could control – my breath, my mannerisms, what I chose to do and think about. And when in doubt, fake it till you make it. Sometimes pretending you’re fine is a great way of fooling yourself into thinking you are indeed fine.  I’m sure that’s some sort of life lesson.

Presence and patience
Aside from with Peanut and at work, I am historically a very impatient person. I don’t like waiting for things or people, and get easily irritated if I do have to wait. Too often, I’m always thinking of what’s next instead of what’s happening right now. This is something that has changed a bit since adopting regular yoga and meditation practice, and definitely since becoming a dog mom (Peanut is always in the “right now” moment!), but still needs some work. One day in Rome I had planned on a guided tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. I bought the tickets weeks in advance and they were fairly pricey, so when the day the (three hour, all outdoor) tour turned out to be cold, windy and a little rainy, I still had all intentions of going. The Colosseum and ruins are HUGE, and I definitely wanted to learn all of the cool stuff about them I might not learn on my own. The previous day I had taken a three hour tour of the Vatican and it was absolutely superb, so I had high hopes.

But right off the bat, a few members of my tour group had to go to the bathroom. And then they didn’t want to walk up stairs. But did want to stop for a million photos. And then they had to go to the bathroom again. And maybe buy sweatshirts because they were cold. And then rest because there were more stairs. Oh man, I was so close to just leaving the tour because I was getting so annoyed at how slow it was going because of them. And it was SO cold, my lips were turning blue. My patience level was at a hard zero. But then I looked around. I was in Rome. At the Colosseum. In Rome at THE Colosseum. How lucky was I? The fact that this structure and all the ruins around it have been around for so long, have such a cool history and I was fortunate enough to be learning about it was pretty awesome, despite the ridiculous tour group members. So I took a step back, did some yoga breathing, and tried to soak up the magnificence around in that moment instead of letting my impatience get the best of me. It worked, for the most part!

Self compassion
Improving self compassion is something I work on with patients and clients all the time – there are so many instances in our daily lives where we can stand to be a bit nicer to ourselves. But sometimes I forget to do this for me. This trip was a good reminder that it’s ok to take it easy on myself, and that it’s possible to redirect negative thinking into something more positive if you just try. When I first arrived in Rome, I got really frustrated with myself for getting a little lost, not knowing what I wanted to eat, being really tired because I didn’t sleep on the plane, feeling like I didn’t look so great in the mirror… the list goes on. It would have been so easy to let those thoughts ruin a day, or even the whole trip. But what a shame that would have been, right? So I really made a point to nip those thoughts in the bud and be as nice to myself as I would want others to be to themselves, or as I would be to others.

It’s ok to prioritize ourselves. To do things because you want to or don’t want to. To take yourself out to a nice dinner and linger over a glass of wine just because. Appreciate the beauty around you and know that you deserve to do so. Being selfish sometimes is not only a very positive thing, but so necessary for all of us and something we often don’t do enough.

health · nutrition · wellness

eating (mindfully) like the Romans

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a European adventure, and a few months ago I got the extreme urge to get out of New York and see some new cool things. I never really had the chance to do much traveling when I was younger – vacations were not a thing growing up, and studying abroad in college cost money that I didn’t have – so I feel like a bit of a late bloomer in the travel department. But better late than never, right? Anyway, I decided to go to Rome pretty simply by looking at a map for cool cities with enough to do for 4-5 days and direct flights from NYC round trip. Barcelona or Lisbon were also possibilities, but as I moved a bit more east on the map it was like a lightbulb had went off – DUH, Rome! Italy is high on my travel bucket list, and since I went during off-peak season, great flight/hotel combination deals were to be had.

beautiful

This was a solo trip, though I didn’t mention that in detail on social media (because safety?). In 2015 I went to Paris alone, and it was life-changing in a lot of ways. If you can do it, I’d recommend anyone take a solo trip of some kind in his or her lifetime. There is no better way to get to know yourself then to travel somewhere with just you. See how you navigate things like logistics, what types of activities you seek out to do and how you go about scheduling your days without having to plan for anyone else.

Mindful eating
Solo travel is also a fantastic opportunity to practice mindful eating – what you eat, how much and when is totally up to you. And eating 100% of your meals alone is a great way to slow down, take in your surroundings, enjoy your food with all of your senses and become more in tuned with your hunger and fullness cues. One my favorite “homework” assignments for clients is a solo dinner or lunch date at a restaurant without distractions. No phone, ipad, book, newspaper, etc., just you. This can feel incredibly unnatural, but is also an entirely different and more mindful eating experience. So I tried to practice what I preached in Italy and minimize distractions whenever I ate a meal. I also genuinely didn’t want to miss something going on around me – like the songs musicians were playing in the piazza where I had some my meals, Roman dogs walking by and general people watching – because I was scrolling Instagram.

As a side note, I only went on social media in my hotel room at the end of the day, and felt so much more present when I was out and about!

Eating in this simple way was also a really good reminder that the body isn’t programmed to eat the same things in the exact same amounts at the same times every day. I noticed that one day, I craved pizza and was hungry enough to eat the whole pie for lunch in order to feel satisfied. And it kept me satisfied for hours! Dinner was smaller than night because all I really wanted was something sweet for dessert. On another day, I craved a big salad in the middle of the day and pasta at night. And another time, I had no interest in dessert but more a multi-course dinner with lots of savory dishes.

the mozzarella and prosciutto of my dreams

The body is so smart if we just slow down and listen to it, and because I did so I was able to enjoy a big variety of foods in the short time I was in Rome.

No really, we need to slow down
One of my favorite things about my solo trips is the experience of different cuisines and eating cultures, and the shameless ability to observe how the locals live. Food is a big part of my job, and that includes psychological and cultural aspects of food and eating. It fascinates me how various cultures differ in not only what they eat, but how, when and why they eat what they eat. So as much as I was excited for some authentic pizza and pasta, I was looking forward to observing the eating and drinking habits of Italians even more.

but the pizza was also really good

The first thing I noticed is that Italians take their time. It’s not uncommon to sit down to a 1-2 hour lunch in the middle of the day and follow that with a lengthy dinner that night. The experience of eating is important to them, and I love how this is respected. I can’t imagine employers in the U.S. allowing for a leisurely lunch every day, even though I’m sure it could boost productivity and creativity (breaks are important, people!). I never felt rushed during my meals and was able to really savor every sip of wine and bite of food. It was blissful.

One night I was sitting down to dinner outside – Romans always seem to dine outside, and thanks to powerful heat lamps it was very comfortable despite the chilly weather – and a big group of friends sat down nearby. They were obviously locals, and I was excited to observe them in the least creepy way possible. They were so jovial and animated in their conversions, slowly enjoying their wine and their bruschetta. No one was on their phones and no one seemed rushed to get to the next course and order their meals. In fact, in the one plus hour I was sitting there, I don’t think anyone in the group made it beyond that bruschetta. Just being in their presence made me feel more relaxed and happy. So this is what it’s all about, I thought. And also, Italians are awesome.

I ended my meal with tiramisu that night and it was amazing

Approaching meals as an opportunity to slow down, savor your food, enjoy the company of others and really talk to them sounds so simple, right? But I for one, do not do this as often as I’d like. Being in Rome was a gentle but firm reminder to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. And the gelato. The gelato was amazing.

I have so much more to say about this trip and how it has influenced my outlook on nutrition and wellness, so stay tuned for part II!

health · nutrition · wellness

cooking for one

I’m sort of an expert at cooking for one, and find cooking for myself an extremely enjoyable, stress relieving activity and a favorite form of self care. As a single lady, it’s also somewhat of a necessity if I want to eat home-cooked meals. A lot of people I work with fall into the same boat, whether it’s because they’re single, divorced, widowed, empty nesters or have busy families on different meal schedules. But one thing I’ve been told pretty often in sessions is something along the lines of, “well it’s only me so why bother” when I ask about cooking. This makes me so crazy, because oh my gosh, we are all worth a home-cooked meal. If you wouldn’t question cooking a nice meal for others, then why not be at least that nice to yourself?

lentil stew for one (plus puppy sniffs)

Before you start thinking of how much more work it is to cook for yourself than it is to pull up Seamless on your phone, know that there are quick and easy ways to make this happen for one person. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a gourmet, many hours long situation with a thousand dishes to do afterwards. But it’s also a bit more effort than eating a sandwich on a paper towel over the kitchen sink. Remember, you’re worth it. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for making nourishing one-person meals that are fairly quick, easy and always delicious.

Batch cooking
This one might be a no-brainer, but I’m telling you it can make all the difference. One thing I do on most weekends is to roast a ton of veggies – usually brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potatoes – and store them in the fridge to use all week for quick dinner bowls with the addition of some sort of protein, quinoa, pasta or more sweet potato. This usually takes an hour or an hour and a half, and if you do it before a meal you can also kill two birds with one stone and use some of what you make for that meal. Try not to be deterred by the time commitment, which is probably not that long compared to how many hours most people spend on social media these days (right??). I love listening to podcasts while I’m cooking – it makes the time fly.

To make a bowl like this one here, I sautéed some kale and fried the eggs while throwing leftover roasted veggies and pasta in a bowl with some crunchy chickpeas and sauerkraut that I had on-hand from my last grocery shop. Once the eggs and kale were done, I tossed everything together. Super quick and so good. Eggs are hands down my favorite and easiest go to for dinner when I want something easy and fast. Omelets with veggies and a side of toast, for example, takes 10 minutes, hits a big variety of nutrients and is super satisfying. Avocado toast topped with eggs or smoked salmon, same deal. Obviously a quick meal like this doesn’t have to be pretty and “Instagram worthy” but to be honest, I like the whole plating process and sitting down to something that looks good. It’s all about the experience!

Stews and chilis
This sort of falls along the lines of batch cooking too, but takes it to another level because these options freeze so well. If I’m home on a weekend evening and want a nice cozy dinner, I’ll make a hearty stew that will have plenty of leftovers. After pre-portioning into individual Tupperware containers and cooking, I store the leftover stew in the freezer for easy meal options when I have no time or don’t want to think about what to make. These also work well to bring into work for lunch.

this is Run Fast Eat Slow hearty minestrone stew with spicy chicken sausage and it’s so good. Peanut once again can’t help herself

Comfort foods
There is nothing like a homemade version of a favorite comfort food, and maybe this idea can help make cooking for yourself at home a bit more exciting. One of my favorite things to do is homemade pizza with whatever toppings I feel like. It’s super easy to separate dough, either homemade or store-bought, into single serve portions. I usually aim for about a fist size for each portion, and the rest goes into the freezer portioned in sandwich bags. If you buy your dough, which I usually do, this meal takes slightly more than 30 minutes from start finish and is so satisfying. Also more budget-friendly than most takeout pizza options (especially those in NYC!).

whole grain dough with pesto, ricotta cheese, kale, tomato and shiitake mushrooms

One sheet pan meals
This is another favorite of mine and highlights the efficiency and deliciousness of roasting. Take one sheet pan (or two, if your oven is tiny like mine) and spread out various veggies and your protein. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, pepper and/or whatever seasonings you like, and roast in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Voila, dinner is served. I love using this method for the combination below – Japanese sweet potato wedges, broccoli and wild salmon – because it’s just so good and tastes like it took a lot more work than it did.

Frozen stuff
It would be totally remiss for me to not mention frozen options, but I’m not talking about frozen meals. There’s nothing wrong with them once in a while, but I find they’re just so loaded with sodium and can just taste off. Rather, stocking the freezer with frozen veggies that can be prepared quickly and won’t go bad in the fridge like the fresh versions if you don’t use them in a timely fashion. I love frozen veggies for stir fries and sautéing, because you can add lots of different flavors and sauces to spice them up. A quick sauce with tahini, garlic and lemon juice is one of my current favorites – it’s so good! Picking up frozen fish is also super useful and more budget friendly than the fresh stuff.

Hopefully these ideas help making cooking for one a bit less intimidating, and at the risk of sounding like a L’oreal commercial, I’m going to reiterate again that you’re worth it (really!).

 

health · nutrition · running · wellness

full fat dairy – data, hormones and athletes

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the resurgence of full fat dairy products, which have been increasingly trendy in the past couple of years. I think the trends stem in part from the hype on some recent studies coming out showing lower incidence of certain chronic diseases with consumption of full fat dairy vs. non fat, but more relevant to probably most people reading this is the relationship between full fat dairy intake, fertility and female reproductive hormones in general.  And adding to that, the impact this relationship could have on some of the effects of disordered eating and chronic under-fueling in athletes. There is also the very simple aspect of taste and the satisfaction factor, but first…

Let’s look at the general data
A couple of years ago a study came out associating consumption of full fat dairy products with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, and others associating full fat dairy intake with lower incidence of central adiposity and cardiometabolic risk. While these studies do not prove cause and effect, they do add to a growing body of evidence that dairy fat might not be as detrimental to health as was one believed.

full fat yogurt bowl with all the fruits & granola!

There are probably a few “whys” here. The more complex hypothesis revolves around the metabolic effect of specific fatty acids found primarily in dairy and their role in things like muscle glucose uptake. The less complex one is more focused on the satisfaction factor and overall satiety after meals, in which fat is so extremely helpful. Were the subjects in the study who were regularly eating full fat dairy eating less overall because they were more satiated after their meals? That’s possible too. I know for me and a lot of people I work with, having a container of nonfat flavored yogurt doesn’t do much in the satisfaction department and often can be a snack that leads to another snack (and maybe another snack) until the satisfaction factor is met. On the other hand, with some whole milk yogurt or cheese, and it doesn’t take much to feel satiated. Without getting into a debate on sugar content (that’s probably a whole different post) the main difference here is fat.

Dairy and lady hormones
There is a TON of research on dairy and women’s health. I’m pretty well-versed on the data involving breast cancer due to my full time job – in short, despite what “What the Health” says, a few servings of dairy per day is absolutely fine in women with breast cancer – but I’ve also been delving into the relationship between dairy and female reproductive hormones too. This is due in large part because of the disruptive effect disordered eating can have on the female reproductive system and the strategies I use to help others overcome this. In other words, full fat dairy can be a tool in the toolbox to help those with disordered eating and resulting amenorrhea regain regular menstruation. Here’s a bit on how…

the best vehicle for cheese, always

Backing up a bit
Amenorrhea, or specifically functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) in this case, is the absence of a menstrual period caused by a chronic energy deficiency. This is either due to insufficient caloric intake, excessive energy expenditure or both. Stress can also cause FHA, and often times it’s a combination of all of the above. Here is a great study on just how much of an impact FHA can have on our health, both in the short and long term, and like I mentioned in my last post, not having a period is not normal. It’s the body’s way of telling us something is wrong and to fix it, please. There are a lot of factors that go into healing ones relationship with food and exercise, not just to reverse FHA and obtain better physical health, but also to live more of a happy, balanced life. That’s probably a whole series of posts and I don’t want to belittle the complexity of it all, but my purpose today is to focus on one small component that could be helpful (and most definitely delicious) in talking about full fat dairy.

So let’s talk data. A prospective cohort study from The Nurses Health Study II found that 1-2 servings of full fat dairy per day, including whole milk, 4% (or full fat) yogurt and cottage cheese seemed to be protective against infertility by supporting ovulation. Other studies have also had similar findings in that infertility was less likely in those who consumed full fat dairy regularly. Another study found high fat dairy intake was associated with an increase in luteinizing hormone (LH) concentrations, in which levels are typically low in women with FHA. Data like this makes a good case for recommending full fat dairy, or switching from non fat to full fat dairy, in women with FHA. The bummer is that to date*, there really isn’t much research directly looking at a possible benefit of full fat dairy products in women with FHA. So for now I’m relying on this possible effect on fertility and hormones in general, as these are both key factors with FHA.

Something else we can’t overlook is the simple fact that full fat dairy is more calorically dense than non fat dairy, and can be so helpful in those with chronically insufficient energy intake and excessive energy expenditure. While oftentimes these two factors are intentional due to disordered eating, I’ve also seen endurance athletes without disordered eating have difficulty keeping up nutritionally with hard training. This can also cause an energy imbalance and resulting loss of a menstrual period, and just like I mentioned above, switching from non fat dairy to full fat can help bridge this energy gap.

And we can’t forget…
There’s also one thing the WSJ said that, although less scientific, makes a whole lot of sense. Full fat dairy products taste better! After a long stretch of a lower fat diet craze and “I don’t care how this tastes because it’s ‘healthy'” mindset, people are starting to change. Not only to do we know how important fat is in the diet, but we care more about how our foods taste. Adding to that, I also think the “satisfaction” factor after meals is something people are thinking about a bit more as intuitive and mindful eating become more popular. Food for thought, right?

 

*if you know of any research on FHA and full fat dairy specifically, please let me know!

**all thoughts here are my own and meant for educational purposes only. Probably about eleven people read this blog, so please don’t even suggest I’m being paid by any industry or company to write this. 

dogs · health · nutrition · wellness

all inclusive wellness and self care (not $elf care)

A few months ago I was asked for my thoughts on a new baked good developed by a company to specifically help manage and/or prevent PMS symptoms. I had heard rumblings about the company on social media, but didn’t know their baked goods sold at a premium price (I mean, I should have guessed, but…). The “PMS-curing brownie” in question was I think around $15. For a brownie. Literally, a brownie with ingredients you can buy at most grocery stores, nutrients that are abundant in a variety of very reasonably priced whole foods (like fruits and vegetables) and an added oil that is allegedly “a known warrior against PMS.” Other health claims for this magical brownie are that it’s great for a “stronger libido” and the ever popular “adrenal support.”

these foods have most of the nutrients in this questionable brownie (and then some!)

What gets me really fired up here isn’t just the potentially bogus and totally exaggerated health claims – these are maddening, yes, but they’re also everywhere, all the time, and impossible to control.  It’s the insinuation that in order to achieve better health, or in this case, ease symptoms that 51% of the population will have, currently has or has had on a monthly basis, you have to have the means to shell out an insane amount of dough for a damn brownie (pun intended. HA!). This is just one example of a sort of “elitist” culture in the health, wellness and self care area, and it seems to be growing rapidly thanks to social media. So many of my patients and clients are led to think that wellness and self care are unattainable unless they have some pretty hefty resources to use towards them. Hell, sometimes I’m led to think this too! And it just isn’t true.

So I thought I’d list out some really great ways to care for yourself that are affordable and likely more beneficial than an overpriced brownie or so many of the other extravagant specialty foods and practices circling the inter-webs.

Go for a walk outside. This is very simple, but immersing yourself in nature can have profound stress-reducing, mood-boosting effects. There have been studies on this (here’s a report on one), and there are also physicians who prescribe nature walks to depressed or anxious patients before medication. I also regularly include nature walks in my recommendations for clients, and have seen first-hand how helpful they can be. Parks totally count if you’re a city-dweller.

Pet a dog. Yes, I am absolutely biased here, but there is research to back me up! Dog owners live longer, happier lives, and even the simple act of petting a dog can lower stress levels. I see this every time our therapy dog comes to visit patients getting chemotherapy, but also every time someone starts smiling goofily when they see Peanut walking down the street and she stops to say “hi.” If you don’t have a dog, shelters always need volunteers to walk dogs or spend time with dogs, and it can be so fulfilling to both parties. Dogs are way more magical than any brownie, if you ask me.

I mean… ❤ 

Keep nutrition simple. These days, we tend to over-complicate nutrition. Buzzwords tend to make us think foods have to have specific special properties or be “free” of something, “adaptogenic,” “superfood,” “gluten/grain/soy/dairy/etc. free,” “immune-boosting,” “anti-inflammatory,” “clean,” … I could go on. This stuff makes my head spin and I can’t imagine how someone who isn’t a nutrition professional weeding through the research every day feels. Add in dietary supplements and it gets even more overwhelming. There seems to be a supplement marketed to “support” so many things – the immune system, the adrenals (again with the adrenals!), the liver, the gut, “beauty,” the list is endless. It’s so important to keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Manufacturers can almost literally say anything on their packaging and do not have to show efficacy, safety or even prove that what they say is in their product and the amount listed on the label is actually there. Stick to a variety of whole, delicious foods that you crave and keep it simple. This is healthier for your body, your brain and your wallet.

Shut off and censor the technology. Feeling present is becoming increasingly hard, and even going 30 minutes without instinctively checking your phone can seem like a lifetime. How did we get here? And what do we miss while being totally buried in our phones? Take a self-imposed break from social media, email, even texts for a day (or more!) and notice what you notice. And what you don’t miss. I try to do this for at least part of the weekend, and have a rule of no social media before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. every day. It’s so nice to have a sort of “cut off” point, and I’ve definitely found myself being more productive and present. While you’re at it, unfollow, de-friend or block anyone who makes you feel inadequate, exudes negativity or promotes $15 brownies for optimal wellness.

Cook a simple meal. The act of preparing a meal, from shopping for ingredients to chopping, following a recipe and enjoying a finished product can be so therapeutic. It’s nourishing beyond actual nutrients (though those are great too!), and usually a lot less expensive than ordering takeout. Cooking for someone else can feel fulfilling and nurturing, but I find just as much satisfaction cooking for myself. If it’s just “you” and you’re hesitant to put together an entire meal for one  – so many of my clients are – know that you’re worth it. And leftovers exist for a reason!

this is an easy but so hearty and satisfying option – curried lentil soup from Run Fast Eat Slow (one of my favorite cookbooks!)

nutrition · running

marathon training nutrition do’s and don’ts

Between working with athletes training towards goal races and some media interviews, I’ve been talking a lot about fueling and nutrition during training lately. My knowledge on this topic has definitely changed and evolved since becoming a dietitian (about five years ago now, time flies!), and somehow running 11 marathons myself since 2010. Nutrition has always been a key player in my own running successes and failures (ahh, so many failures), and to a point I think I’ve been my own sports nutrition experiment of one. My learnings, combined with the latest literature and my experience with a big variety of athletes over the years has really helped me form a pretty solid set of nutrition do’s and don’ts during training. Keeping in mind, of course, that nutrition is very individual and there will always be exceptions to these rules (or, “rules”), but overall I think this list is relevant for most runners.

the morning after the marathon meal (sourdough french toast, yum!)

Do: eat carbohydrates. This sounds like a simple one, but I’m telling you, carbohydrates and carbohydrate-containing foods are still feared or vilified by runners all the time. This is in part a result of diet culture, but also because of the recent popularity of low carb or ketogenic diets for sports performance. I wrote a longer post about it here, but the bottom line is that carbohydrates are your body’s main and most preferred source of energy. Ketogenic or low carb diets have not been shown to be beneficial performance enhancers in the literature, despite some anecdotal stories to the contrary. If you’re going to be running  the mileage it takes to train for a marathon, your body needs carbohydrates to fuel these miles. Period, end of story. Without them, performance will suffer, the body will be extremely stressed and you will eventually feel like garbage.

Don’t: try to lose weight during marathon training. Or start training for a marathon with the primary goal of losing weight. While some people may inadvertently lose weight during marathon training, this should not be the primary goal. Restricting food intake while ramping up the miles takes the focus away from what the body physiologically needs – nourishment via protein, carbohydrates and fat – and puts it on numbers. Calories, grams, the scale.  Hunger levels inevitably increase during marathon training very simply because we need more energy to support lots of activity. Having a “diet” mindset of restricting energy (or calories) for weight loss when you’re becoming increasingly hungry from training can very easily cause bingeing, since the body’s physiologic need for energy will eventually override this “diet” mindset. This can create an endless cycle of restricting and bingeing, and also leads constant fatigue, poor sleep and injuries. Dieting during marathon training (or any time, that’s for another post!) can fuel an already unhealthy relationship with food or create one, and very often leads to disappointment on race day because the body is stressed and underfueled.

Do: listen to your body’s signals. Marathon training is stressful on the body, and every body handles this stress differently. Not better or worse, just differently. One fairly common manifestation of training stress, often accompanied by underfueling whether we mean to or not, is the loss of a menstrual period in females. This is not normal and it’s not something to ignore, even if it makes training “easier” or seems like evidence that you’re working hard (um, NO!). This is our body’s way of telling us that something is off, it doesn’t have enough energy to function on all cylinders and is slowing or shutting down the reproductive system to conserve energy as it’s not essential for living. I’m going to repeat myself again – this isn’t normal, guys. A missed period is a sign that you need to look at your training, your stress in general and your nutrition because something is not quite right (better yet, work with a dietitian who can help!). Not addressing the issues here can lead to bone loss and stress fractures, disordered eating and have long term health effects.

Do: plan post-run refueling. Lack of appetite is pretty common after a long run or tough workout, and it may take some runners an hour or two before they feel up to eating a meal. But this is too long! And one of the few instances where I’d say eating intuitively or mindfully isn’t the most beneficial because it’s important to take some nutrition in shortly after a hard effort regardless of hunger levels. This is because your body is the most efficient at restocking glycogen stores that were depleted during the run and your muscles more efficient at using protein to rebuild from the stress and damage of a hard run. A recent study even found that immediate ingestion of carbohydrates and protein after a hard run may create a more positive bone turnover balance (so, stronger bones!). Waiting a few hours before eating something after a run can cause lingering soreness, delay recovery and leave you feeling pretty crummy for the rest of the day. Getting some carbohydrates and protein into your system within about 30 minutes of finishing your run is a great goal to help maximize recovery, and it can be super simple. I often find it’s easier to drink than eat if your stomach is feeling a little off or you’re just not hungry, and something like a chocolate milk or smoothie with fruit and Greek yogurt work really well. Once your appetite kicks in, have that more substantial meal.

favorite “more substantial meal”

Don’t: compare your body, your running, your food choices, your fueling (etc.) to other runners. If you watch or run any race, you’ll notice that runners of all speeds come in all shapes and sizes. Even though the unreasonable standard that all good or fast runners have to be rail thin is starting to be challenged (this article by Allie Kiefer is awesome and so is she), it still exists. Getting hung up on what you “should” look like or what other runners look like, are eating or not eating and what their PRs are compared to yours can be so damaging and not very useful. The comparison trap can waste so much energy and brainspace that could be focused towards our own training (and living!). Every body is truly different – respect your own and what it can do for you, fuel it appropriately and you’ll absolutely run your best.

nutrition

breakfast goals (and why you should eat it)

Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day. Maybe it’s because I’m a morning person, but there is something about the combination of morning light, the Today Show and usually something with nut butter that I will never not look forward to. And don’t even get me started on that first sip of coffee. Bliss.

sprouted grain toast, Greek yogurt, pear & honey, peanut butter, berries & hemp seeds. with a side of dog pajamas.

We’ve all heard the popular nutrition adage of “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” right? But why, exactly? It is the secret to eternal youth? Happiness? Or media favorites, weight loss and “flat abs.”

While I do love breakfast the most, I don’t necessarily think any of these ideas are totally accurate, nor do I think it’s THE most important meal of every person’s day. There’s even research showing that breakfast may not even give you the “metabolism boost” that some of the more legit-sounding theories claim (and I’ll admit I’ve definitely said this before too!). So ok, why eat breakfast then?

If I had a dollar for every time a patient or client told me they either skipped breakfast regularly or quickly had something like a “bar” or a “shake” and were so hungry by the afternoon that lunch, snacks and/or dinner often consisted of whatever they could get their hands on first, I’d be living it up on Park Avenue. If I had another dollar for every time these same patients or clients have said they felt shame for overeating or for what they chose to eat during those times, I’d have a farm upstate and like, one million rescue dogs.

What I’m getting at here (besides my desire for really good real estate), is that while breakfast isn’t a magical metabolism booster, it does “break the fast” after prolonged sleep and is your body’s first source of fuel for the day. Without it, our blood sugar will remain in that low “fasted” state and our glycogen stores won’t be replenished following sleep. Eventually, this will result in your body telling you it needs food NOW with crazy hunger levels and the overwhelming urge to eat something that will quickly raise blood sugar – usually a simple carbohydrate. It’s really hard to eat intuitively or listen to your body’s cravings when you are at this point of “hanger” and it’s also really hard to stop eating when you feel comfortably satisfied because it takes time for those hunger levels to calm down. This can create a blood sugar spike, followed by another drop and the cycle repeats itself. Any feelings of shame during this process – either for food choices or eating beyond the point of fullness – can further complicate what we chose to eat next and when to eat it.

overnight oats in an almost-empty almond butter jar (recipe below)

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Think of blood sugar like a roller coaster. It could be like one of those crazy Six Flags rides with almost vertical climbs and drops as in a typical breakfast-skipping scenario, when what your body really needs is a more docile Coney Island fun coaster. Breakfast is something that can really help you get to that nice, steady blood sugar level throughout the day. This makes it so much easier to listen to our hunger and fullness cues, choose a variety of foods that we’re craving and to feel like a fully functioning, energized human.

That said, the need for breakfast is not necessarily one size fits all (as is so much about nutrition). If you are the type of person who is just not hungry in the morning and comfortably starts your day with a mid-morning snack or lunch, feels good throughout the day and rarely gets into the “hangry” zone, I wouldn’t necessarily tell you to change anything or that you absolutely had to start eating breakfast. But if the crazy roller coaster example I mentioned above sounds all too familiar, eat breakfast! It can make a world of difference in how you feel throughout the day and can also be pretty dang delicious. I sprinkled some of my favorites in the photos throughout this post, but below is a recipe for overnight oats that I’ve found to be really helpful for clients with busy mornings. Try it!

Overnight Oats (serves 1)
Need: 1 small Tupperware container or Mason jar

Ingredients

  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 heaping tsp. cocoa powder
  • ½- ¾ cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp. whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • ½ cup berries (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 1 tbsp. nut butter of your choice (I love almond butter with this!)
  • Sprinkle of dried unsweetened coconut flakes

Instructions: at night, mix oats, cocoa powder, chia seeds, Greek yogurt and almond milk together so all of the oats are fully coated/covered, refrigerate. In the morning, top with fruit, coconut flakes and nut butter. Enjoy on the go or throw it in a bowl if you have time!

recipe above, prepped in a bowl