We’ve all heard that wellness is all about creating healthy habits, but I’d like to qualify that statement. Habits are good when it comes to things like deciding what to buy at the grocery store and consistently making time in your schedule for exercise, but when you get into habits about exactly what you’re eating every day and your exact workout routine, that’s when you run into trouble. That, my friends, is what we call a rut.
This can be especially troubling for people who have sustained a serious blow to workout frequency or intensity, like those of us with stress fractures, people taking a break post-marathon, or (on a larger scale) retired professional athletes. There is something super satisfying about being a long distance runner and having your long runs as a “get out of jail free” card for your meal that day. Even I, a girl who has pretty much devoted her life to nutrition, get a special twinge of mischievous pleasure out of knowing that the extra calories from a nice big slice of Antonio’s is pretty much necessary for replenishing those glycogen stores from the day’s grueling, hilly 14-miler. It’s kind of like singing “nana nana boo boo, I can eat whatever the heck I want and it doesn’t matter” while sticking your tongue out at the rest of the less-hardcore (read: sane) people in the world.
Aside from that, the bigger helpings of food at regular meals – especially carbohydrates, which I find myself craving like crazy during heavy training weeks – are the norm for athletes. We can need over 1000 extra calories a day during these times, and our bodies are really good at letting us know – right down to the type of nutrients we need. I had a friend once who skied for Williams College, and had never lifted before she started to there with the team. She told me she found herself craving meat: burgers, steak, anything that bled on her plate. She was pretty weirded out, but it makes perfect sense: she needed the extra protein to replace the muscle she was breaking down in her weightlifting sessions.
The problem comes when we get used to eating these portions. If I have been eating a cup of brown rice every night with my dinner, and all of a sudden get injured, it’s likely that I’ll still dish myself out a cup of brown rice at dinner, simply because I’m used to it. After, if I eat too fast to feel full when I really should feel full, or if I do what is so common and just ignore my hunger/fullness cues all together, weight is inevitably going to be gained. It’s just that simple. So truly, the key to avoiding weight gain during injury or some other exercise hiatus is portion control. Really, this is the key to weight management for everyone, as my endocrinologist aunt repeated about seven times to me the other day while advising me on my future career (there may have been a few glasses of wine involved.)
Because we all, as a country, seem to really suck at judging portion sizes, I thought I’d share a cool little portion size guide from Prevention.com. Check it out!
At the end of the day though, I think it’s mostly important to listen to your body. I find myself expecting to be hungry and being completely content, and paying attention to that has been really helpful over the past six weeks of inactivity.
How many of you knew that just the size of a fist is how much pasta you should be eating? How much do you normally eat?