Talking food with strangers: My trip to the nutritionist

“Have you ever talked to anyone about your food before?”

Well, no. Not really. Not anyone who was wholly qualified to tell me about my food choices particularly in regard to my athletic activity. Basically, I just read a lot and tried to eat healthy. But some part of me wanted more information. Some part of me felt I haven’t been getting the whole nutrition thing down, not just during races but my nutrition on a daily basis. And so, I sought out the help of a nutritionist who has a reputable history of working with athletes.

Yesterday was my first appointment and she opened our session asking me if I had ever previously talked with anyone about my food. We spent about 45 minutes talking about what I eat, what my day is like, my weight history and my goals. After a bit of personal and family history, we discussed why I was there in the first place. I wanted to be eating well to fuel my training and athletic endeavors. However, I also had the notion of losing some weight. Not too much, just a few pounds. I told her my ideal weight and then it occurred to me: I have no idea where that number came from.

See, in reading endurance athlete literature, all kinds of numbers about weight and body fat percentage are thrown about leaving me confused and fighting against creating false comparisons. Where should I be? What’s ideal? What’s doable? Most importantly, what is best for me? Part of this visit was to help me sort through the information and to help me understand what will ultimately make me a healthy, happy athletic person.

The good news: My eating habits are pretty good. I tend to eat regularly throughout the day and try to get a mix of protein in each meal. I’m making good food choices. Now on to the numbers: My actual weight does not seem to be a concern of the nutritionist. Might I be able to get down to my  arbitrarily selected “ideal” number? Probably. But her concern would be that I would be breaking down my body too much. I can’t really add in any more activity, so I would be cutting calories and that could leave me void of energy not just for my workouts but for life. And so we took a look at my body fat percentage. She pulled out her calipers and did a quick calculation. I had this done last year and the numbers were, well, disappointing. This time, I had to restrain myself from doing a fist-pump when she told me her body fat calculation, which had me eight percent leaner than last year.

Disclaimer: The numbers may be off. I know this. I know that this is not an exact science and there are plenty of ways either or both of those calculations could be off. I don’t care so much about the number. I care that (a) my hard work has paid off in a tangible way because regardless of the exact number, my numbers improved and (b) that upon review of the number, my nutritionist said I’m right where a woman should be in terms of body fat percentage. This is cause for a happy dance break.

The work: Her first concern was balancing protein against my calories. As someone who follows a vegetarian diet (one who consumes eggs and dairy) it is possible for me to get enough protein, but there is some work in order to get complete protein and all the necessary amino acids. More about the nitty-gritty of protein in a later post. Suffice it to say, my dietary work for the next two weeks is to consciously add some more protein, particularly to my evening meals.

I return in two weeks when she will have analyzed my food journals to look at exactly what I’m eating, my nutrient breakdown and areas where I might be deficient. The goal, we decided, was to eat for athletic (and life) performance rather than trying to lose weight. Might I drop a few pounds anyway? Certainly. But that is no longer the objective and it feels wonderful. Sometimes, it helps to have a little kick start from a total stranger with wall of credentials to steer me back to the basics.

Expedition Bolivia

Remember when we met Jessica, a soon-to-be college graduate who was looking for a big adventure? Her journey has begun as part of the Impossible 2 Possible program. She and her fellow youth ambassadors are running 250 kilometers through the world’s largest salt flats in Bolivia. Along the way, they’re connecting with classrooms around the world to conduct chemistry experiments (featuring salt of course!). But along with their science projects, follow the science of the run as Dr. Greg Wells, a physiologist who specializes in health and performance,  tracks how the runners’ bodies react in high altitude and during long distance running.

We have a winner!

Congrats to Beth who won this month’s giveaway from Gilden Tree! Thanks to everyone who left comments. Look for your chance to win prizes the first week of each month!

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