I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t thin. I’m not talking “eat a cheeseburger” thin* — I ate and continue to eat plenty of those — just normal person thin. That being said, sports weren’t my thing. At all. I quit rec soccer after second grade because I didn’t like getting sweaty. I much preferred the cool air condition of a dance studio. (Mind you, I wasn’t too good at that, either.) So here I am, a child with a naturally fast metabolism with no outlet through which to stay fit, but also no need to. Or so I thought.
This is not the part where I tell you I gained the Freshman 15 in college. On the contrary, a physical between freshman and sophomore years revealed I had lost a pound. All the more reason to think I could get by eating whatever I wanted for the rest of my life without going to the gym more than three times a semester.
I come from a food-loving family. I also come from a relatively sedentary family. A winning combination, right? I remember sharing with a friend in early high school my fear that one day it would all catch up to me. She, too, was thin, but also played sports. I don’t think it was that fear, though, that got me moving in my later college years. Or at least moving more.
I was most active the summer between junior and senior years. I had just been dumped, and I wanted a banging revenge body. I also found myself with a lot of time on my hands, having stayed in my college town to work part-time at a TV station, with not too many of my friends around. Because of my continued aversion to sweat, I would go to the gym and run a few miles on the treadmill about three times a week. It felt good, I looked good, and it only lasted the summer.
My first — and, until this week, only — foray into tracking what I ate came my last semester of college. I can’t remember why I decided to start a food and exercise log then, but I do remember how it affected my diet. Documenting every single thing I ate or drank made me think twice about eating a whole box of crackers in one sitting. (That happened once, and even though they were Special K crackers, I clearly haven’t let go of the guilt.) I kept no secrets from that carefully formatted Word document; if I scarfed down my entire stock of Valentine’s Day candy in one sitting, onto the spreadsheet it went. For that reason, I didn’t allow myself to binge like that… for the whole five weeks I logged.
The reason I feel marginally qualified to blog about my latest efforts to exercise and eat right is because I’ve been running somewhat regularly for a year now. A WHOLE YEAR. Why do I run? Mainly so that I can eat what I want and not get fat, to be honest. I’m not going to spew numbers at you, but everyone knows adults need to work out in some way, shape or form in order to stay healthy. I’ve picked my poison, and it’s running. I just can’t tell if the success I feel after I’ve finished a run is due to the fact that it cancels out the pizza I plan to devour later or because of the endorphins released. Is it a runner’s high or a glutton’s high?
It used to not matter to me. That is, until I started eating crap every weekend and justifying it by running. I know, this statement is confusing because I literally — and I do mean literally — just said a paragraph ago that my primary objective of running is “so that I can eat what I want and not get fat.”
What I want is to be healthy. Doesn’t everybody? I think my biggest obstacle is my appetite. Last summer I was headed to a bachelorette weekend where I knew most of the girls were involved in pageantry. I half-jokingly whined to my mom before I left, “What if they all eat like rabbits?! I ain’t no pageant girl; I need sustenance!” To which my brother replied, “But you eat like a rabbit, too.” Boy, was my mom quick to set him straight, declaring, “Emily has a very hearty appetite.” Thanks, Mommy. Guess who I get it from…
She is right, though. I feel like I’m either hungry or stuffed at all times, and it’s probably because of what I’m eating and when. I believe that everything — barring food allergies, which I am lucky enough not to have — is fine in moderation. It’s the moderation part I’m working on. That’s why it’s not just the food I eat that I’m keeping track of this time around, but also the nutritional makeup of that food.
I’m using Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app because I already used Under Armour’s MapMyRun, so my runs now automatically sync to my daily logs, or diaries, as the app calls them. When you set up your profile in MyFitnessPal, it asks how active you are and whether you’re trying to lose, maintain or gain weight. Based on that information, it assigns you a daily calorie goal. Mine is 1,200, which seemed very low to me but has been perfectly attainable so far. After all, every calorie you burn working out gets added to your calorie allotment for the day.
I’ve been really good at staying under my calorie limit. What I’m not good at is meeting the rest of my recommended nutrient goals, specifically protein and carbohydrates, but I’m working on it. I know that in order to keep up my strength for runs, I have to be well-nourished. Leading a healthy lifestyle is a lot more difficult then just exercising and limiting how many calories I eat. But if I could run 10 miles in the cold rain in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, how hard can this be?