Let's talk about food

I don't usually talk about food. I'm pretty serious about training, but when it comes to nutrition I sometimes take the lazy path. Especially in the last year, when it has come down to cooking after training, some days I just don't feel like cooking. So, I try to skip a meal or try to compensate it by drinking a LOT of water. Which doesn't generally work and in a few hours I too end up binge eating.

When I was 13, I used to train pretty hard in the pool. It was my first year of swimming and I used to put it quite a good mileage. I was getting fitter and stronger. And like all healthy teenagers, my diet grew. And like all healthy teenagers, so did my height. You won't get this from looking at me now, but when I was 13, I was not what you call short. (Though I stopped growing after 15).

At the end of the summer swim season, as the only swimming pool which was open was 25 kms away (which is a LONG distance in New Delhi, with the traffic) and as I was in school, I didn't swim in the winters. The worst thing I did was not cross train in the off season.
"Voracious" was the adjective that can be used to describe my diet. I don't remember much from that time, but there was this incident : My mother prepared the dough for "Mooli k paranthe" for the entire family. And I sat down to eat and ate 18 of them and the dough which was meant to last for the entire family for breakfast was over in my 1 sitting. 
Plus I ate a LOT of crap. "Uncle Chips" had that Pokemon Tazos promotional offer and boy did I gobble that junk down. At the end of the winter I was 5 foot 4 and weighed 65.

Luckily, I lost weight next summer, when I found an even better swim coach (one of the best coaches i've had in my life), and he pushed me to swim 6-7 kms in a day. But that fear of eating had gotten into me. I did not want to look like a potato. I don't know if you have noticed, but kids are really mean to each other. When they talk to us adults, it works out because we know not to get offended; but when somebody calls you fat at 14 and you are the stud boy who was in a relationship since he was 13 (*I don't want to comment on my love life*), you take it quite seriously.

Plus, there are a lot of body shaming issues in the world. Fat is just not acceptable and if someone is fat they must be unfit (IT IS SO STUPID AND THEY ARE SO NOT. Being skinny doesn't guarantee you are fit and being fat doesn't guarantee you are unfit.)

Anyways, I began on an unhealthy quest to lose weight and following the swim season in 2004 when better my 100 free time to 64 seconds, I did try to maintain fitness by playing lawn tennis and riding my MTB everywhere, but mainly I decided to not eat. I did the same in the years that followed. Till I reached a point when I could not swim because of the burden of studying for Engineering college.

What I was scared off more than not getting into a good engineering school was gaining weight (Who am I to call people vain, I used to be one of them). And I've never really talked about it to many people and it's kinda hard to say this, but I developed an eating disorder.

Part of the reason, or probably the main reason, why I didn't grow in size was after the 2006 season, when I swam my PB of 56 for 100 free, I completely gave up eating. And when I say that, I am not exaggerating:

My mother used to serve me a breakfast with some Vegetable or Daal and 2 Chappatis and Milk.
That Daal and Milk went down the drain, when she went to take her bath. The Chappatis and Vegetables, went into a plastic bag beneath my bed.

I used to heat up my own lunch as my parents were working and so I used to stuff the chappatis in the plastic bag under my bed.

And for dinner, I ate 1 chappati while the other 2 went under the bed with the main dish.

That was my diet as a 16 year old. If I ate, I used to go and puke it out. To hide the chappatis, I used to ride my bike far from my house and feed the cows. I just got caught 2-3 times, when I couldn't get out of the house and my parents found stacks of chappatis under the bed. I became a genius at lying (not being proud of this criminal disposition, but I tried to think 2 steps ahead of my parents to not get caught). I got down to 39 kgs at 16, when I was 5 feet 6 inches tall. And I never grew after that. My biology teacher who was not aware of this disorder even joked that I could become the replacement for the human skeleton in the bio lab.

I was on a serious self destructive streak in order to lose weight and I don't know if this is what "anorexia" is or some other eating disorder, but I went through my teens trying to become a Human Kite.

To save me from myself, my mother showed me this picture of the Sudan Famine:

Starving Child and Vulture by Kevin Carter
Because she knew I was compassionate and emotional, and I saw this image maybe I would stop wasting food knowing people in this world go hungry which I did and slowly got better.

I won't say I have eaten healthy since, but I do not waste food that is on my plate. I take less proportion of food and finish what is there on my plate, knowing that someone in this world is hungry and wasting the food is a crime.

And while this is one end of the spectrum, there are times when I don't really know what to eat. It is confusing out there and when you are training for endurance sports, there are times of MASSIVE calorie deficit because I don't train with gels or bars. And even after, coming off a 180k bike-30k run brick workout, to compensate for the calories lost you need to gobble down food and normal foods just doesn't have those calories.

What some elites like Craig Alexander and Miranda Carfrae (and I'm taking their example because I have seen them talk about this) do is they eat Burgers and French fries after such workouts, just to match the calorie deficit.
Full interview here

They don't do it everyday. They do it after such workouts because a calorie deficit would be detrimental to their recovery process, which in turn will affect their training. For GOD SAKE, if you are trying to lose weight don't go and eat a Pizza and say I said it was okay. No, it is not. This is for people who are trying to choke themselves to death on massive volumes of training.

And when you don't eat post workouts, especially during high stress periods of training like for example training for a marathon, you body tends to hold on the nutrients and not lose it because it is in a crisis mode stemming from lack of nutrition and thinks that you are trying to kill it. So you bloat, which I think most of you must have noticed, if you have tried to lazily skip a meal after a hard workout.

Eating healthy is important. But eating smart is essential.

You want to eat a healthy pizza and fries? You can cook it yourself and you'll able to monitor the exact quantity and quality of things going in. I know it is hard somedays but your health is more valuable, right? Above all, our teachers taught us as kids about "a balanced diet". Eat everything, but in moderation. If you want to be obsessed about eating healthy, good for you. If you don't and you want to take it easy, you should because obsessions are hard to sustain.

The biggest thing in all of it is Willpower and your drive. If you want to be healthy, you will figure out a way, the internet is HUGE and full of ways how you can eat healthy. If you don't want to do it, you will find excuses and then whine about it on Facebook. And obviously I will unfriend you. :P

Start implementing and doing things in life which you want to see done rather than procrastinating. Be the change you want to see. I know all of them are tired old clich├ęs, but take my word, if you do live by them, life is very very beautiful.

PS: People ask me why I do not eat non vegetarian food. It's just that, I love animals too much and I would rather than have an animal killed to be my food. I'm a softy that way.  I have nothing against meat eaters.



Popular Posts