“More miles means more wine, and more cheese,” reads the tagline of i run to eat, a blog tracking the workouts and training goals of Katerina, a Vancouver-based food blogger. The same sentiment is echoed in the title of a similar blog, “Eat to Run. Work to Shop.” And chances are, you know at least a few men and women whose fitness philosophy is simply: Burn enough calories to eat a lot of food without getting fat. But is it a “healthy” attitude towards fitness and nutrition? Possibly, but there are also a few arguments against it.
Katerina, who also blogs at Daily Unadventures In Cooking, probably wouldn’t have gotten into marathons-running or fitness at all if it weren’t for her passion for (sometimes calorie-laden) food, much like Blisstree contributor Dana McMahan. McMahan (whose love letter to powerlifting has been one of our most popular posts this summer) got into Crossfit and, eventually, competitive powerlifting because of her work as a restaurant critic and travel writer, which sometimes had her sitting down to ten restaurant meals in 24 hours. As she put it, “It would take more than a daily stroll to combat this kind of work!” So she got into crossfit…then powerlifting…and now counts her habit is one of her biggest passions in life—and a perfect way to justify some of the heavy meals she still eats for her job:
Contending with heavy weights several times a week requires large infusions of fuel. That’s right. I have to eat. A lot. Studies may dispute the muscle burns more calories than fat theory, but to maintain my lower-than-ever weight, I know I need more calories than before. In my line of work, and with a passion for food that takes me to far-flung destinations to taste and cook, that’s the proverbial cherry on top of my love for powerlifting.
Are these women doing themselves damage by eating a less-than-perfect diet? No; there’s no such thing as a perfect or one-size-fits-all way to eat. And unless you have serious food allergies or sensitivities, we don’t subscribe to a diet that involves any sort of forbidden fruit (regular helpings of french fries may not be part of a balanced diet, but neither is total deprivation).
Still, just today we posted about the foods that celebrity trainers refuse to eat, and even we are starting to bore of the constant reminders to avoid eating processed foods. So if not “rules,” there are at least some nutrition “guidelines” that we think are worth following to maintain your health. You can run enough marathons to keep your regular beer-drinking from giving you a gut, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to sleep, think or feel great when all is said and done. (Same with your gourmet pizza and pork belly habits: High cholesterol is possible even without a high number on the scale.)
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with increasing caloric intake when you’re pounding out the mileage pre-marathon, or lifting heavy weights at the gym. But the idea that you’ve “earned” the right to eat “bad” food smacks of the kind of neurotic logic associated with disordered eating, to me. Making food a reward isn’t always bad (and neither is going for a long run because you know you did some damage at dinner the night before), but if your life starts to overly revolve around food and weight—as the whole “run to eat” ethos implies—turning your exercise into a free pass in the kitchen probably isn’t the best approach.
So what is? Everyone’s different, and we all have different goals. But essentially: Love food and love exercise, but both in moderation. Just like over-training at the gym can lead to injuries and forced days of inactivity, over-eating and under-eating (whether we’re talking about calories or certain “good” or “bad” foods here) will eventually make you snap. It’s always wise to balance your diet and fitness program, or vice-versa, but don’t binge because you run, or run because you binge. Unhealthy behavior is unhealthy behavior, regardless of what else you’re doing right.