Fitness these days has gotten associated with following a certain diet, Keto, Paleo, No Carbs, Low carbs, High Fat et all! It is almost as if one cannot be a healthy and fit person unless subscribed to one of the cult fitness diets!
It is more common in the network of recreational runners and cyclist and gym goers than it is amongst the pros and elites. Most recreational athletes we see around us fuss and worry unceasingly about their diet. Their relationship with food is often shadowed by fear and guilt.
This is in contrast with the elite athletes. Endurance athlete and nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald explains “the most striking thing I have noticed is that, almost without exception, elite endurance athletes enjoy and are completely comfortable with their diet. Maintaining high dietary standards is neither stressful nor onerous for them but satisfying and even automatic”
Healthy eating has two components: healthy food and a healthy relationship with food. You need both to be a fully healthy person. Athletes who eat healthy food but have an unhealthy relationship with food are not fully healthy because their diet tends to become extreme and unbalanced. They follow grain free, vegan, calorie controlled diets out of fear of food and a desperate need to control it. The current popularity of extreme diets, or diet cults are a proof of this food obsession, and are major obstacle to the development of a healthy relationship with food.
What would really help have a happy relation with food is to eat in a culturally normal way. Our traditional India cuisine is carb-centered: rice and wheat depending upon which part of the country you grown up. Maintaining a carbohydrate-centered diet allows us to continue to enjoy familiar foods that we enjoyed while growing up, it is what our body and mind is used to. Obviously a mix of complex carbohydrates and protein to suit the physical activity is a must, but it is not so difficult. Problem arises when we either mindlessly overeat because the television tells us to or we decide our body cannot be trusted and eat consistently less than our body asks for fear of gaining weight.
Virtually all elite endurance athletes eat everything (forbidding no specific foods or food groups), eat quality prioritizing natural and whole foods, eat carbohydrate and eat plenty!
Eliud Kipchoge who set the world record at Berlin Marathon couple of days back consumes milk from cows that roam the fields near his camp and his meals center around rice or the Kenyan staple of ugali, with an occasional helping of beef. “I’m not having any problems with my body so I don’t need to supplement,”
Bottom line is, be it recreational athlete or a fitness freak, wholesome and natural food is what would go a long way in having a healthy and happy relationship with our food.