Left to my own devices, I’d eat Hershey kisses, guacamole, and Diet Coke for breakfast. Imagine that life… I’d be free! I’d be happy! I’d weigh 600 pounds and have lost all my teeth!
It’s possible this might affect my running.
I need rules. I need boundaries.
As someone who historically makes bad decisions, it helps to leave myself only good options. I register for races so I have no choice but to exercise. I schedule long runs on weekend mornings so I have no choice but to stay in the night before. I push myself to physical extremes so I have no choice but to eat well in order to fuel it.
Eating clean is basic part of running. This isn’t news, and it isn’t terribly interesting. Onions are better than onion rings. Broccoli is better than brownies. For the month of April, I took clean eating up a notch and practiced a strict plant-based diet.
No meat, no dairy, no eggs. All of the vegetables, all of the nuts.
The first few days were a challenge as I compulsively read the labels on everything (sincere apologies to anyone in a grocery store with me during early April), and I repeatedly assured my wonderful mother that yes, really truly my iron count is fine. Avoiding eggs and whey proved difficult in anything prepackaged, so I solved this problem by doing more of my own cooking. Rather than focusing on all the foods I couldn’t have, I explored the foods I could. Tempeh! Avocados! Coconut everything! Living in Portland made this part more accessible, as the free range granola crowd makes up a significant share of the market. Most of the time I hardly missed it.
But then sometimes I REALLY missed it. I’ve had vivid dreams of meatball sandwiches and Jucy Lucies. I’ve been rude to coworkers because I wouldn’t try a bite of the delicious buttery pastries they made. I’ve made it weird at more than one restaurant when they either didn’t have or didn’t bring any vegan dishes to the table, so I just sat there and waited.
But it’s working. The changes have been neither immediate nor drastic, but they’re there. My long runs have been faster, I’ve been hiking greater distances, and I’ve finally started sticking some of the harder yoga poses. I’m stronger. I’m leaner. I’m more determined.
I can’t say that these changes were entirely caused by eating vegan, but I can’t say that they weren’t. One good change tends to inspire a second, then a third. While sticking to a plant-based diet, I’ve been drinking more water and getting more rest. This collection of changes has resulted in a much healthier lifestyle.
I love running because I need the structure and discipline, and changing to a plant-based diet has been just another extension of that. I’m well passed my intended end date, but I’m going to ride this out as long as I can. Eventually I imagine I’ll start to fold small amounts of meat, cheese, and eggs back into my diet — not only because these foods are delicious, but also because it’s hard to maintain that level of control at all times.
Ultimately my goal is the same now as it has been throughout my running career: live a healthy life, and make as many good choices as I can.