I’ll try and keep this short and sweet (famous last words!) but this is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while but I won’t lie, I have found it quite difficult to write.
Towards the end of summer 2016, I started working and getting help from Chris Lowe, a registered and expert nutritionist, based in Leeds.
Chris has worked with, and continues to work with, a wide variety of athletes, helping them to reach both their performance and aesthetic goals.
The decision to work with Chris came while I was on holiday in Croatia with my boyfriend and our two friends. My relationship with food is something that Dane and I had discussed a number of times but at the time I don’t think I realised just what an issue it was.
Although I didn’t think it back then, for a while I definitely had an unhealthy relationship with food. As a marathon runner (or someone who likes to think she’s a marathon runner!) I train between 5-6 times a week with a mixture of running, strength training and other cardio sessions such as cycling. I definitely wasn’t fuelling my body correctly for the work it was doing and as a result I was often tired, grumpy, weak and quite frankly, miserable. I didn’t even think to look at what I was fuelling my body with though, instead I’d be frustrated at my body for not changing or adapting the way I wanted it to and I’d often take that out on Dane.
I wasn’t eating bad foods, I still had a diet made up of healthy food, but I think what’s important to realise is that even eating a healthy diet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are healthy, if that makes sense?
I’ll try and explain it a little better. I won’t give you a full run down of what I was eating but essentially, I wasn’t eating enough and I was depriving my body of certain things – mainly carbs – and as a result I’d binge. Usually, I’d have two eggs (sometimes just egg whites!) and some peanut butter before the gym and then usually a protein bar after the gym. I’d be hungry way before lunch time arrived and at lunch I’d usually have a chicken salad and then again, some form of meat and vegetables for dinner. I wasn’t eating enough of, or the right foods in general, to fuel my training. As a result, I was so hungry but instead of just eating something proper and having some carbs, I’d delve into the cereal box or peanut butter jar and then feel terrible about it.
So there you have it – I was a carbohydrate-phobe, not eating enough to fuel my body and on top of that, I was too focused on aesthetics, which is so silly because when I perform well in the gym or have a great run, I don’t care what my body looks like, as long as it can do great things! That’s actually one of the things I say to people quite a lot (not in an offensive way) ‘nice body but what can you do with it?’
What I didn’t realise, until I worked with Chris, was that if your nutrition is right, the aesthetics will follow – and they did indeed!
After having an initial chat with Chris about my diet, I completed a three-day meal plan which was then sent to him for analysis. The results I got back from Chris were extremely detailed and incredibly eye opening. I was restricting my body of so many nutrients and some of these were nutrients that I hadn’t even thought about before!
Chris put together a variety of meal plans for me, one for rest day, one for long run day, run AM, run PM, strength AM, and Strength AM run PM.
I was so excited to get stuck in to them and you’ll be surprised to know that there was zero peanut butter on there – this was a massive thing for me haha and I literally did just go cold turkey. However I felt so satisfied from what I was eating that I actually didn’t want any peanut butter.
For the first few days of the plan I was SO full. I almost felt like I was overeating because I was so full but I persevered and after a week and a bit, my appetite was back. I felt extremely satisfied following the plans and was never left wanting to reach for the snack cupboard or the peanut butter jar.
Not only that, but I found that my sleep quality dramatically improved, as did my mood and energy levels. 5.30am gym sessions no longer felt like a slog, I was lifting well and feeling great for it.
I was also having some really good running sessions, although for the first few weeks I felt a bit heavier but I think that was just my body adjusting to the new diet.
Through weekly conversations with Chris I learned how to fuel my body, what to eat before and after exercise and how to adapt my meals for the day if plans were to change and I couldn’t train due to work for example – this is something that used to really stress me out before!
It sounds silly but if I was going out for dinner, I’d get a bit stressed thinking I’d have to eat ‘bad foods’ or would overeat for example. Now though, I know that having a pizza or a burger for example, isn’t going to change my physique or performance once a week and I can plan my other meals around that to ensure I’m still fuelling my sessions right.
The most important thing for me out of all of this is that I feel a million times better. This for me is far more important than the aesthetics side of things. However, Chris had told me that with the correct nutrition and with the training I was doing, the aesthetics I had once so desperately been craving, would come – and they did – I was amazed! My relationship with food has changed dramatically and I’m so, so happy with it. My diet is far more balanced now and I feel extremely happy with where I’m at now. The issues with food put a massive strain on my relationship with Dane, which is hard to admit, and if I could go back and change all of that, I would in a heartbeat.
Since working with Chris my diet has now changed again, in that I’m not eating animal based products anymore. I’m conscious that I still need to educate myself about this and so I’m excited to be working with Chris again to get his advice to ensure I don’t deplete my body of any nutrients or restrict myself again.
I hope you’ve found this helpful or insightful and I’ll be writing another blog post soon on my journey to eating more of a plant based diet, although don’t worry, this won’t be preachy in any way shape or form – each to their own!
If you want to read more about the work Chris does (please do because he’s awesome) – then you can check out his website here. He also posts some awesome blog posts/nuggets of information on his Facebook page here.