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Intuitive Eating Principles for Runners: Make Peace with Food

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

If you're a runner striving to improve your performance while fostering a healthier relationship with food, you're in the right place.


Let's talk about the third principle of intuitive eating for runners: Make Peace with Food.


In order to do this, we have to adopt the belief that food is neutral, neither "good" nor "bad" and we have to give ourself permission to eat all foods.


In this article, we'll explore how making peace with food is not only a step towards food freedom, but also a healthy approach that can positively impact your running experience and performance.





Intuitive Eating Principles for Runners: Make Peace wit


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Most runners want to improve performance and reach big PR goals. However, this drive should never come at the cost of a strained relationship with food.


Making peace with food is a foundational principle of intuitive eating that not only promotes a healthier mindset around eating but can also have a positive impact on our running journey.


Embracing Food Neutrality

Thanks to diet culture, a lot of us tend to think of food as "good" or "bad" based on their nutritional content.


This black-and-white approach can lead to feelings of guilt or shame when we eat foods labeled as "bad." The truth is that food is neutral; it holds no moral value. All foods can fit into a balanced diet, and no single food will make you healthy or unhealthy.


Embracing food neutrality means liberating yourself from restrictive beliefs about what you should or shouldn't eat. It involves letting go of rigid food rules and embracing a more flexible, intuitive approach to eating.


When you see all foods as permissible, you can allow yourself to enjoy a wide variety of nourishing and satisfying options without guilt.


It also allows you to eat things like sports nutrition products, which contain added sugars and sodium, which are often labeled as "bad". This is important because those sports nutrition products, with all their sugars and sodium, are designed specifically for performance and can offer huge benefits on the run.


Permission to Eat All Foods

Whether it's avoiding carbohydrates, fats, or sweets, restrictive eating patterns can take a toll on both our physical and mental well-being. The truth is that our bodies thrive on balance and variety, and denying ourselves certain foods can lead to intense cravings and overeating later on.


This is because the act of restricting itself is actually a good predictor of a binge, and the longer someone restricts their food intake, the more likely they are to binge eat.


Giving yourself permission to eat all foods is a liberating experience. It means honoring your hunger and respecting your cravings without judgment, but also choosing foods that feel good and support your body.


In the running world, this can look like choosing a pre-run meal or snack that you know sits well in your stomach and feels good on the run.


For example, if you are planning a run soon, you'd be better off choosing a handful of pretzels over a big deli sandwich, because that sandwich will likely cause some GI problems on the run.

You're not prohibiting yourself from eating the sandwich, you're choosing the pretzels because that will feel good on your run, but you know, because you have unconditional permission, that you can have that sandwich after the run or another time.


The pretzels aren't "good" and the sandwich isn't "bad" either.


Permission to eat all foods can also mean choosing a sports gel that contains added sugars and sodium because you know those two things can help you maximize your performance and recovery.


Practical Strategies for Making Peace with Food


Embrace Food Neutrality


Ditch the Food Labels: Challenge the notion of "good" or "bad" foods. Remind yourself that food is neutral and holds no moral value.

  1. Give Yourself Permission: Allow yourself to enjoy all foods without judgment or guilt. When you permit yourself to eat any food, you reduce the risk of feeling deprived and overeating later on.



  1. Honor Your Hunger: During training (and every day), be attuned to your body's four different hunger signals. Fuel your runs with appropriate pre-run snacks or meals, and refuel after workouts to support optimal recovery.

Shift Language and Mindset



  1. Avoid Food Guilt: If you eat something you previously labeled as "bad," challenge any negative thoughts and replace them with affirmations of food neutrality.

  2. Reframe Food Choices: Instead of using phrases like "I can't eat that" or "I shouldn't have this," change your language to "I choose to eat this now because it makes me feel good during my run." This shift empowers you to honor your body's needs without judgment.

  3. Focus on Foods You Can Add: Rather than fixating on restricting certain foods, direct your attention to nourishing your body by adding a variety of foods that support your training and recovery.

By incorporating these practical strategies into your daily life as a runner, you can build a healthier relationship with food and fuel your body in a way that supports your training and overall well-being.



Recap

Achieving peak performance may be important to you, but it should not be at the expense of a strained relationship with food. Embracing intuitive eating's third principle, Make Peace with Food, is crucial for nurturing a healthier mindset around eating and enhancing the running journey.


By adopting food neutrality and granting yourself permission to enjoy all foods without guilt, you can focus on fueling our bodies in a satisfying, sustainable, and enjoyable way.


Let's work together!


If any of this has resonated with you, I'd love to hear! My 1:1 clients work on various areas of nutrition including this and other intuitive eating principles, fueling for performance, and more. Check out some of the ways we can work together here.


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