First off, I want to thank you for such a beautiful blog you have created. It truly is one of the most inspiring, honest, thoughtful pieces for work I have ever read. Thank you for taking the time to put so much thought and meaning behind each and every post. It shows every time.
I wanted to ask you a couple of things that have been weighing heavy on my mind. It has nothing to do with weight loss, but more so on attaining a piece of mind. I, like you, am a runner. I run about every other day. Nothing too crazy, or to time consuming. Running has always been my go to form of exercise. Sometimes I will go weeks where I don’t run, and just walk my dog a couple miles a day. I am perfectly happy/content, but in a way feel guilty that I’m not doing something “more”. So then I hit the gym, for another cycle of running every other day. The problem I am having trouble with is that I am ravenous. When I run, I find myself not appreciating the food I eat. I am a healthy eater by nature (always have been), but I still don’t like how I feel. I am constantly wondering/thinking about what I am going to have for my next meal, when am I going to have it, etc. At night, I can’t sleep b/c I am thinking about breakfast, etc. I find myself not “enjoying” the process, I guess. I appreciate good food. Really.good.food. I love to cook and when I sit down to dinner, I just shovel it in mindlessly.
Was that how you felt? How did you change your mindset about walking vs. running?
Again, thank you for your time and your thoughts. I appreciate every word.
First, thank you very much for your kind email. I crave this kind of honesty. It’s what this blog is all about.
I’m going to address your thoughts in separate parts because I find two issues we should cover. I also like sets of two- case in point: all that is good and pure and lovable in this world comes in a twin pack with cream filling.*
*Swiss Cake Rolls
Running vs. Walking and the Notion of Calories Burned
Here’s the thing: when I stopped running and began simply walking, I lost a few pounds. Cardiovascular activity (cardio/aerobic exercise) makes you work up an appetite. It makes you hungry and sets a fire under your metabolism. But the problem is: though we feel as though we’ve summited Everest as we finish our sweating session, we have not burned that many calories. Note the italics here. It’s so very easy to eat something that’s calorically much higher than anything you could ever burn in a running session. Even if you burn a few hundred calories (at most, honestly), you will be hungrier for the rest of the day. It’s easier than boxed cake mix to breeze right through a 300 calorie snack and feel even more ready for dinner to follow. You’re not alone in feeling this way.
Many, many people who train for running races speak about feeling constantly ravenous. I have loads of friends who have trained for marathons and have gained an average of 10 pounds in the process. It’s natural to feel hungrier when you’re moving more.
Eating well, eating in a proper calorie range for you, that is almost all of the weight equation. Know that what you eat will influence and account for 85% of where you find yourself on the scale. I walk because I love it. I walk because it sets off a domino effect of healthy choices in my life- I feel good, I’m energized, I’m motivated to do more, I’m peppy about eating wholesome foods, I’m wanting to maintain a feeling of health and vitality. I walk because we are what we do and I want to be up, out, and exploring. I want to be here and there and everywhere. I also want to listen to podcasts and call my mother several thousand times a day. For these reasons, my feet are often sidewalking.
Honestly, it’s not the calorie torcher we hope it will be. Not walking, not running, not elliptical-ing or even stairmaster-ing.
At most, and I’m going to be generous here: I’m burning 300 calories on a 4 mile walk. That wouldn’t even cover the donut I want at Dunkin’ Donuts (vanilla kreme filled, thankyouverymuch). I would barely blink ten times in the span of time it’d take me to eat 300 calories. But it’s not about the calories I’ve burned. Because when I think about a Snickers being equivalent to 45 minutes of moving my legs, my body, I realize that the notion of ‘working off’ what we eat is fairly ludicrous. It’s blown out of proportion, at the very least.
Moving is good for your heart- your whole being. Moving sets a tone for your day, your lifestyle. The way you feel about yourself from pushing your boundaries builds positive momentum in ways far beyond health.
The day that I untangled exercise from caloric burn was one of my happiest. The only way you’ll learn this as truth is to test it yourself. You must take a risk and try a few weeks (I’d go with three) of just walking or biking or swimming, whatever gets you going. Notice how you feel, how much you weigh at the end of it all. Notice your sleep, your routine, your physical comfort.
no matter if your weight is up or down
Ask yourself this:
Am I more content doing this day in and day out? Do I not dread the coming days now that I know I don’t have to pound out a set number of miles just to maintain?
Ravenous Beast Syndrome and How to Treat It
I hear you when you say you constantly fantasize about food. What I want you to pay attention to is this: your body is telling you something. You are consumed by the thought of food because of two things:
1. You are hungry. You are hungry. This is nothing to fear. Nothing to be afraid of. Nothing to get angry at yourself over. Everyone is hungry. Everyone would like to eat a million times a day because the thing about food is: it’s delicious.And even when it’s not delicious, it really is. We’re hedonists at heart. We find flavors that make us swoon and we want them over and over again. If given a choice between hooking myself up to a frosting feeding tube or being free, I’d choose the tube.
The key is to find satiety for you.
2. You have a mental picture of yourself as a ravenous machine. You’re thinking that you’re constantly hungry, and probably feeling a little guilty/anxious/afraid of this hunger. What we focus on only becomes larger, more meaningful to us. You must trust that, if you ate until you were not hungry anymore, you would not be a wildabeast. You would eventually find fullness.
When we’re hungry, sometimes we let it get so far that we feel as though nothing, and I mean not a thing- not even 10 cakes (and wouldn’t we love to test that hypothesis)- could fill us. This is untrue. Just last night, I arrived home near-starving from a full day of Christmas shopping, gallivanting, Starbucks-ing, wearing yoga pants like I invented them. I felt certain that there weren’t enough items in my parents’ home to satisfy the empty pit I’d become. I was sure I’d have to eat all through the night and into the next day just to get to a point where my body said, ‘OK, we’re all done here. We can move safely onto dessert. Thank you for your time.’
I was certain.
We tell ourselves these stories and hold them as truths of the highest order. We are un-fill-able. We are always hungry. Nothing is enough.
Here’s what I learned at 8:30pm after eating a tub (16 thick and luscious ounces) of Fage 2% greek yogurt: I had been wrong.
I was fill-able. I was not always hungry. I had
I had had
And I reminded myself then, that so often I think I’m right. I act as though the thoughts I hold about myself in any given moment are the gospel. The reality is that yes, we will be hungry. Yes, we’ll even be starving beyond starving, thinking about eating those french fries sitting limp and lonely on a fellow restaurant diner’s plate (why didn’t they finish them?). Yes, we’ll overeat. Yes, we will feel stuffed. Those are truths.
And here are more:
Yes, we will be un-hungry. Yes, we will be full.
Your body, your mind, they’ll tell you those truths when you’re treating them kindly. They’ll be more honest when you let them say what they want without judgment.
This is the longest email you will [hopefully] ever receive. Bless you for making it to the end.
Wishing you the best of all years,