Have you ever heard of anyone who became fat from running too much?
I have to remind myself of this often, as I inhale pots of couscous, sink my teeth into raw avocados and reduce buxom shiny red apples down to their shriveled bony cores.
"You're eating too much!!" says the neurotic former body-image-obsessed person inside of me, the Calorie Queen, whose favorite thing about running is the amount of calories it burns, and least favorite thing is the amount of calories it inspires me to consume.
"I refuse to run on empty fumes," retorts my newer, stronger, fitter self, who is much less interested in calories than she is in running performance. Food, after all, is fuel.
These two parts of me were at particular odds with each other on Saturday, when I had my long run with Team in Training. A few statistics from this run:
Miles completed: 7.01
Time of run: 57 minutes (my new personal best)
Calories burned: 699
Calories consumed at post-run breakfast sponsored by the Whole Foods: about 775 (pancakes, chocolate milk, turkey sausage, fruit salad)
Now, I normally don't consume 775 calories after a workout; my usual post-run meal is fruit with a teaspoon of peanut butter or an egg white on toast. It was a special occasion thank you breakfast for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society where we got to interact with the cancer survivors who we were running in honor of, and breaking bread with them (or at least pancakes) was inspiring. So I can't say I regret the meal; plus, I know an occasional 775 calorie meal isn't going to make me gain weight, especially since I really did burn all but 76 calories of it moments earlier.
What scares me, though, or at least the neurotic calorie counter still lurking inside me, is that two hours after consuming this mega-meal, I was hungry for lunch. Not hmmm, it's noon, I'd better eat something--but if I don't eat right now I am going to become violent.
Under the Calorie Queen's watchful eye, I ate moderately the rest of the day and haven't had a big chow-down since, but I think that if I wanted to and wasn't paying attention to my food intake, I could easily consume five times the amount of calories I am burning by running because that "full" signal most people get after eating a lot seems to be on the fritz since I became a runner.
I'm never "full" anymore; I'm just no longer famished.
And I should point out that pancakes and sausage aren't exactly stapes in my daily menu. I know how to eat well: fresh produce, lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats--all those things any veteran dieter knows is a necessary part of feeling full and staying that way for a long time.
Today, for example, I had oatmeal made with milk, strawberries and walnuts for breakfast, whole wheat cousccous (prepared with olive oil) with black beans and avocado for lunch finished with a Greek fat-free plain yogurt sweetened with honey--and I was still hunrgy. So I just ate a Fiber One bar. The Calorie Queen, of course, is absolutely horrified by this completely unnecessary addition to my lunch. "And you need an extra 130 calories because...why, exactly??" she demands.
But that Fiber One bar is not going to make me fat, I reply defensively. People just don't become enormously overweight from running marathons; the world just doesn't work that way. "I doubt the ones who become skinny from running marathons are eating with wild abandon," she rolls her eyes in response.
Do we need to take a field trip to the closet to examine the size labels on the clothes I'm wearing these days? I ask her. The numbers are going down, not up.
"I have an idea," I tell her. "How about if you go make someone else neurotic while I'm training for this marathon? Then you can come back and visit me. And if I've become really fat, after completing a 26 mile race, then we can talk."
The Calorie Queen didn't respond, but I'm going to do all that I can to make her stay away as I continue my training. Because she's very annoying, and I'd really like to eat my Fiber One bars--and even my occasional gluttonous breakfast--in peace.