My Food Journey…The Middle Miles

Great. You’re still here. Let’s continue.

So I’m a vegetarian. This was pretty easy for me…and I kept it up for five years. Granted, at the start, I wasn’t the best at it…I did what most people do: I subbed meaty things for fake meaty things and ate the same way I always did.

Note: I understand that many people become vegetarian or vegan because of the cruel way animals raised for food are treated. I understand and respect that position. This didn’t play into my initial decision at all. Sure…I love animals. Sure I wish they could all be treated nicely. I didn’t stop eating them because they weren’t though. Over the years, my opinion of this has changed. I’m still not an activist, and I don’t ever plan on becoming one. But I am more sympathetic to the animal rights cause. Maybe it’s because I’ve just been more exposed to the facts and people who are more involved. I’m not sure. It is true that those people you surround yourself will influence you.

As you read in my last post, I started running again. First that 5k, and then a Half Marathon later that year with Team and Training. 20131028-150122.jpg
I was satisfied at that distance…for a time. I ran the half a few more times, and in 2011, I toed the line at my first marathon…crazy. 20131028-150307.jpg
I was still eating my mostly healthy vegetarian diet, which included eggs, milk, and cheese. Occasionally I’d crave a good meatball like my Grandma used to make, but most of the time I didn’t miss meat. Not even bacon.

My weight hovered around 150 lbs…my Army weight. I had just trained for and ran a successful marathon. Maybe this was my “natural weight.” Where I should be. I was in the best shape of my life (so far), but I wanted more. Becoming a vegetarian was never about losing weight for me…it still isn’t. Honestly, neither was running. I just wanted to feel good. To be my best “me.” And I wasn’t…not yet.

I ran another marathon in the spring of 2012, though I had a nagging injury. If the race didn’t include a trip to see my parents in Utah and the fundraising for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, I might not have done it all. But I did. The race brought it’s own challenges, but I didn’t feel any better. And I knew the problem was still my diet…but I was in denial.

It was soon after that I found ultra. None of my friends at the time were doing anything like this. (Oddly enough, most of my friends now are! Surround yourself with greatness, right?) And that’s when healthy eating really started making an impact. You mean I don’t have to count calories? Or suck down those nasty gel things? I can eat real food while I’m running? No way! Trust me…it’s true.

In 2012, in addition to 2 marathons and countless shorter races, I ran my first trail race…a 60K ultramarathon. I had no idea what I was doing.

All I knew was this: Keep drinking water, keep eating, keep going!

That was my whole plan. And it worked. I left that race, one of only a few finishers and with a First Place AG award. What? A month later I ran the Columbus Marathon for a second time, with a 27min PR. Hmm…maybe there’s something to the healthy eating thing after all. 20131028-153144.jpg
What changed? I started reading food labels. Granted, in the beginning this was time consuming. I quickly learned which products were worth buying, and which things I was better off making myself. I experimented with making my own bread, tomato sauce and salsa. And then I started buying more things that didn’t come with labels…namely a lot of fresh produce. Whole foods. That was the key. I didn’t own a scale (I still don’t), but my clothes started feeling looser. I went to the store where I always get my jeans. Instead of the size 8s I always bought, I could comfortably fit in a size 4. A 4? I didn’t wear a 4 in high school! I took my son to the doctor shortly after that, and stepped on their scale. 135lbs. I was shocked. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. It was a natural result of treating my body well. I could get used to this!

To finish out the season, I took on the Goofy Challenge in January of this year. You can read about in an earlier post. I ran both the half and full marathon while eating real food, and felt fantastic after each. 20131028-151801.jpg
So is that the end of the story? Not exactly. I still wanted more. I read about many vegan athletes and wondered about how much influence their diet had on their performance. Then I quickly dismissed the thought. I’m Italian. I LOVE cheese. I can do without eggs and milk, but cheese? That would be torture. Or would it? I guess you’ll have to wait and see…