“But Rachael, you need fuel to run well.”
“Your body is a machine. You are the driver. The body needs fuel and maintenance.”
“If you burn it, it really does not matter what you put in the furnace.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these comments, and easily dismissed them in the depths of my eating disorder while running. I knew how important food was. In fact, I knew everything about food. When anyone assumed I didn’t see food as fuel, it was tough for me to give them much credit since all they knew about nutrition was that you eat to have energy.
Or, my peers did know how much I studied nutrition in my spare time, and thus rarely questioned my “quirky” practices (at least not to my face).
I ate enough to fuel my races, but not enough to maintain my weight. I saw drastic improvement (quickly discounting everything my peers told me about nutrition/fuel), and received an immense amount of praise for running faster.
“It does work–for a little while,” MSU standout runner Rachele Schulist says in an article about her recent Instagram post (it went viral in the running world–see my video response here). “And that’s the worst part about it.”
So let’s get this straight–losing weight can “work.” The “lie” as Schulist calls it, hides in the fact that it’s not sustainable, and it ends up taking over your life in the form of food obsession, isolation, and intense guilt when you eat “too much” or when you eat the “wrong” food. Need specific examples? Let me refer you to a book called Running in Silence. ;)
Running fast becomes one of the most important things to you. It’s not to say that you don’t love your friends and family, but losing running feels like you’ve lost another loved one. So what we need to discuss is what happens later. It’s not enough to convince someone they won’t run faster, or they won’t have enough fuel to run–because it’s easy to dismiss that when it’s not happening.
It’s up to the person in their struggle with food and weight to trust the real consequences outlined below–all of which are based on my own experience, as well as many other athletes I’ve talked with. These seem to be the common outcomes:
You run into injury, often a bone-density issue.
You lose more weight, but continue to run into injuries or your body begins eating away at muscle because there is not enough fat left on the body.
You begin bingeing on food, perhaps emotionally due to injury, or because you find it very difficult to keep restricting food/calories like you used to.
You gain some, all, or way more weight back, and you’re confused about your success in running, and may or may not run as fast as you used to.