Diet and Nutrition

Information and opinions about diet, nutrition, and anything else related to food, glorious food!




A Nutrition Story


Running is like accidentally leaving applications running on your phone when you're not using them: Even though it can be really fun while you're doing it, it saps your batteries pretty quickly. Runners need to keep themselves charged in order to live and perform well, and balancing really intense physical activity with fuel intake can be a bit daunting for some people.

Myself included.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll take this opportunity to admit that I haven't always been a smiling runner. In fact, for a while there I wasn't a smiling anything, as I was in the depths of struggling with some undiagnosed eating disorders (exercise "purging," and orthorexia nervosa, or an unbalanced obsession with eating "healthy" foods) that caused my earlier running efforts to actually be detrimental to my health. Instead of running for the joy of it, I used extreme exercise as a way of "punishing" myself for eating, and I pushed myself harder and harder to get even thinner than the 93 lbs I eventually bottomed out at.

As a 30-year-old woman of short-but-not-that-short stature, I was suddenly meeting friends' dogs who weighed more than I did, which I began to see as problematic. (Thankfully none of them were asking to borrow my clothes.) Everything came to a head in May of 2011, when my blood pressure dropped dangerously and so quickly that I ended up passing out while on a work trip, hitting my head against a hotel sink and—to add fashion insult to physical injury!—breaking my favorite glasses.

Suddenly and unavoidably made aware of the holding pattern of malnutrition I'd been living in, I resolved to work myself back to health, and back to a sustainable and joyful relationship with food and my body. Perhaps somewhat ironically, running is the thing that brought me back to life, as well as back to food. (Definitely, definitely back to food.)

I started seeing a sports nutritionist who understood that I wanted to learn to enjoy running instead of turning it against myself like some kind of torturous, moisture-wicking hairshirt. Thanks to her encouragement and guidance, we developed a nutrition plan that fit into my ideologies (local, organic, mostly plant-based) while giving my then-starving body what it needed to get strong again.

One year and 15 lbs later, I ran my first half marathon in 1:59:35—smiling the entire time.

I'm no nutritionist, and, like most people in recovery, the journey to wellness is ongoing and complicated for me. But I am happier and stronger than I've ever been before, and have managed to maintain a healthy weight while enjoying incredible, fresh, nourishing, balanced, and mostly homemade food. (I'm an avid cook: Pop over to my food and cooking blog, The Nervous Cook, for more on that part of my life.)

Throughout RUNNING WHILE SMILING, you'll find posts about how I balance nutrition and exercise, romantic tributes to foods that I love, the occasional recipe, as well as stories about what it's like to live as a mostly animal-product-free athlete (Don't worry—I'm not preachy, I promise.)

If you're interested in more details about recovery, or my own personal story (which I'll likely speak to sometimes here, but not likely in much detail), feel free to reach out to me via e-mail, at meister (at) thenervouscook.com.




RUNNING WHILE SMILING posts about nutrition


04/19/12: Protein Sources Worth Smiling About
05/31/12: Foods I Eat Every Day
06/19/12: Foods I Love: ChiaKind Butter
06/26/12: What Makes a "Perfect" Body
08/07/12: Fitblogger Guest Post: Stay Strong, Keep Smiling



Other great nutrition resources


Food Politics The brilliant Marion Nestle, a professor in the Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health department at NYU, is one of the most on-the-level folks thinking and writing about food today. She takes on Big Topics like FDA regulations and labeling policies, food lobbies, obesity, and giant corporations that churn out expensive and nutritionally depressing processed foods—among other things. The best part? She manages to sneak a healthy amount of sly, eyebrow-raised commentary that makes you feel like you're having a conversation with your coolest, sauciest aunt. (In my mind, she's essentially the Dixie Carter of food policy.)

No Meat Athlete Practically speaking, one of the greatest impacts we can have as individuals on maintaining the sustainability of our ecosystem is to reduce the amount of meat and other animal products we consume and use in our daily lives. Even small cut-backs have a huge impact on global concerns like climate change, soil erosion and decomposition, hunger, and, yes, animal welfare and well-being. (Okay, sometimes I might get just the tiniest bit preachy. But hey, it's my blog.) No Meat Athlete is a great resource for answering those pesky questions like, "How do you get enough protein if you don't eat meat?" and "Can vegetarians and vegans really be high-performance athletes?" (Answers: It's not actually that hard, and resoundingly yes!)

Nutrition Energy This New York–based sports nutrition group came recommended to me by the local running club the New York Road Runners. I can't speak highly enough about my experience working with my nutritionist, Leora Davis, or with the rest of the staff here.

The Thrive Diet and Vega Professional triathlete and proud vegan Brendan Brazier provides a wealth of information about staying properly fueled for maximum achievement while living a clean, low-impact life—not to mention enjoying every bite. He's written books about the whys and hows of maintaining balanced nutrition without animal products of any type, and he also developed a line of nutritional supplements and snacks called Vega that are great additions to any active person's table.