Can You Be an Athlete and an Intuitive Eater? Thoughts From A Sports Nutritionist, Part 3

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Written By: Lauren Weissman, Dietetic Intern

Reviewed By: Lauren Manganiello, MS, RD, CDN, RYT;  Intuitive Eating Sports Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher

When I left you last, we had gone over intuitive eating principles 1-5 and I encouraged you to be curious and to work on incorporating them into your life.  Easier said than done, right?  Stick with it.  I promise, it will be worth it.

Now, let’s take a look at the rest of the principles 6-10…

6. Discover The Satisfaction Factor:  Ever have this experience: You’re craving a cookie but you don’t want to eat the cookie because you think it’s “bad” so instead you eat EVERYTHING ELSE IN YOUR KITCHEN and then because you’re still not satisfied, you finally just eat the cookie?  Instead, next time try having the cookie or whatever else it is you’re craving.  You’ll find that you’re satisfied and don’t feel the need to overeat.  As an athlete, you’re not really eating for satisfaction because you’re told you need to eat the “right” foods in the “right” amount at the “right” time, in order to meet specific goals.  Too often this leads to the aforementioned binge-restrict cycle.  To keep a healthy balance, allow yourself to eat foods that make you feel satisfied while still being mindful of your goals.

7. Honor Your Feelings (without using food):  Life is stressful.  Heck, right now we’re living through a global pandemic!  Even if you’re not an athlete and putting undue stress on your body on a day to day basis, I have a feeling you might be pretty stressed out.  It’s not uncommon for people to turn to food as a comfort in times like this.  It’s a learned coping mechanism that served us in the past and likely got us through some very difficult times. But now it’s time to learn to cope using other tools available to us (we’ll go deeper into what these may be in a future post).    

8. Respect Your  Body:  Everyone’s genetic makeup is different. You could keep the same diet and exercise routine as another athlete and look completely different.  Be curious as to why you might be comparing your body to someone else’s.  Most likely, the person you’re comparing yourself to is probably doing the SAME EXACT THING with someone else, and someone is probably doing that with you.    The next time you hear that voice in your head feeling envious of another athlete’s physique, try making that voice say three nice things about your own.

9. Movement—Feel The Difference:  There seems to be this common misconception out there among athletes that a workout isn’t a workout unless you end up exhausted and dripping sweat at the end. You might be able to get away with ignoring the aches and pains of training like this all the time in your 20’s, maybe even into your 30’s but at some point, your body will not be able to take that kind of beating.  The fact of the matter is, recovery days, even if they are used for active recovery like taking an easy walk, stretching or foam rolling, are EVEN MORE IMPORTANT than training days.  Consider this part of your training- giving your body the chance to repair itself before you put more strain on it. 

10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition:  Keep in mind when making food choices 1) Am I eating enough to keep me fueled and healthy 2) Is this a food choice I will be satisfied by.  Remember to keep in mind that you are a human being, and there is no such thing as a “perfect” diet, that one meal will not make or break your performance.

I recognize that eating intuitively isn’t as easy as just following 10 steps.  Not for anyone, but especially for athletes because it feels like you are going against everything you’ve ever been taught about how to eat and that can be terrifyingly anxiety provoking.  As human beings, it’s only natural to want to stick with behaviors we feel are safe.  But if you KNOW those behaviors haven’t been serving you, or could potentially harm you, then doesn’t it make sense to try to change, even if it does mean facing fear?  On the other side is a full life, free of restriction and a healthier relationship with food and your body.

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