3 Ways Running Changed My Relationship To Food

Throughout my teenage and early adult life, I struggled with never measuring  up. When I was in high school, I was an athlete and felt a lot of pressure to do well. Some of it was from myself, but I also got a lot of external encouragement to be the best. My senior year of high school, I stopped eating as much in hopes of becoming a better athlete. The reasons I believed this vary from the media to my chubby childhood, but regardless, it happened and I lost weight.

This cycle continued in college of eating all the fat free foods or trying the new health trend. I stopped playing sports and just worked out because I knew that was “healthy”. I don’t remember too much except that running was always my favorite. When I got out of college, I started running more often and my life changed both physically and mentally. I had finally moved out on my own and realized I had to get out of the diet culture women are forced into and figure out what health meant to me.

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The first step was healing my relationship with food. Running was crucial in helping me do that.

1.) I wasn’t scared to eat any foods

Of course, when I turned vegan, this changed to any food as long as it was vegan, but other than that, I have no restrictions. I eat sugar, grains, processed foods and anything I really want. I also do this on days I do not run. That is very important to me, because I do not run so I can eat. Running taught me to respect my body and also respect when I am hungry regardless of the reason.

2.) I stopped caring about how much I ate

My friends, who were also runners, ate a lot too! I never felt embarrassed by my appetite and I stopped caring about what other people thought. I am not an advocate however of eating competitions or bragging about how much you can eat because for one person, a lot of food is normal, whereas for another it’s too much.

3.) I started trying new foods

Again, it helped going vegan, but also as I came into myself as a runner, I started trying new recipes from Runner’s World or athlete cookbooks. I wanted to eat what athletes ate because it looked both delicious and kind of fun. I had never really cooked before, and running increased my appetite and I found myself wanting a more diverse diet. I also think that when I got back from a run, the endorphins running through my veins relaxed my mind. I was more apt to try something new because I didn’t care what I was eating. I was just happy.

I do not think running is a cure-all. I did a lot of work on myself during this time to heal. However, finding a passion like running always reminded me to treat myself kindly, eat well and enjoy life.

37 thoughts on “3 Ways Running Changed My Relationship To Food”

  1. Great post, Ellie. Sometimes it takes being in a new environment and doing something different for us to realize we need a change. I understand the relief that goes along with food freedom, so I’m so happy for you!

    1. I think we all go through something where it finally clicks. Food shouldn’t be stigmatized or thought about too much. Yes, it’s fun, but also, it’s just food 🙂

  2. This is an awesome perspective, Ellie. Running can have a huge positive impact on our relationship with food. What I love about running, is that to run, you have to eat enough or you won’t get faster and stronger. Running has been so healing for me. It’s such a blessing. Oooh side note, I just watched an awesome documentary on Netflix that I think you would love. It’s called Finding Traction, it’s about an ultramarathoner who runs the Long Trail in Vermont.

  3. great post Ellie. I have found that yoga has healed my relationship with food more. Being in tune with your body is key, and like you said: so is trying new foods!

  4. I ran with a friend this morning and we were talking about all of the great things running has done in our lives. It sounds cliche but we agreed it’s helped make us stronger people, given us perseverance, helped us have healthy relationships with food, etc. Running seriously can be so helpful in so many ways, both physically & emotionally!

    1. Thank you Allie! I remember reading your posts about running when I first started. You were part of my inspiration to run a half marathon! Can you believe how long ago that was!! We were babies =P

  5. I love this post. As an athlete myself I can truly say that wanting to perform better on the soccer field as well as in the gym is a huge motivation for me to eat well!

  6. Running (and cycling/hiking/any cardio really, but especially running) TOTALLY helps my relationship with food. When I don’t move enough my mind gets the best of me and I feel awful.

  7. So glad that you feel freed to eat as according to your hunger and enjoy food. I think it is too bad that people think dieting or eating fewer calories will help them perform better athletically–the opposite is true! An athlete who puts as much energy into training as you do needs a lot of fuel. And kudos for trying new foods, too. There are so many delicious plant based-options, and it would make such a big difference for the planet if more people were willing to branch out and try these.

  8. I’m so glad to hear running helped you. I hear far too often that running is the reason for a downward spiral so it’s refreshing to hear it went the other way for you.

    I’ve always loved food. Sometimes too much. But I only had a body image issue after I had my son and I was just flat out uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m glad that didn’t last too long.

    Keep being healthy and happy, lady. xxoo

  9. Oh I have so been there! Long distance training + going vegan truly helped to heal my relationship with food. A lot of people would think it would do the opposite but I finally learned how to fuel my body in a way that gives me energy and makes me happy! Looking forward to following your running journey in 2017!

  10. Running totally changed my relationship with food, and for many of the same reasons as you! But it was marathon training, in particular. You can’t shortchange your body when you are asking so much of it. I started to get over some of my fears of my own fragility, and I started to have fun again!

  11. Ellie I love this! So great to see that you found freedom in running – for so many people, it sadly seems to be the opposite. I know just what you mean though! “Running taught me to respect my body and also respect when I am hungry regardless of the reason” – LOVE THAT.

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