Anyone who has picked up on my running journey over the years should know at least a little about my trials and tribulations with food and eating. I’ve certainly written on this topic quite a bit, mostly because binge eating has been a behavior that I’ve been fighting for as long as I can remember.
Dating back to my days as a literal starving college kid, food wasn’t always readily available, so I was always trying to “stock up” when eating opportunities were presented. Life is much more comfortable now, thankfully, but the habit of having seconds and thirds, chased with soda and double desserts, is in many ways the same as it has always been.
This multi-stage war against the scale has dragged on for years, starting when I topped out at just under 270 pounds in 2015. I changed my diet, discovered running, and lost more than 50 pounds. And then I gained most of it back. Rinse. Repeat. Again and again.
The feeling of eating, and the temporary comfort it brings, can be hard for me to handle sometimes. Every day presents a new challenge, because eating isn’t just something that you can quit. Imagine telling an alcoholic that they still need to drink every day to survive. That’s kind of what it’s like trying to face an eating addiction.
My most successful approach came when I ditched “junk” foods altogether years ago. For several months on end, I ate completely clean and drank only water. It was a rigid way of life that all came unraveled in the most unusual of places: The blood bank. As my blood was being drawn, I could feel myself getting fainter and fainter. The medical staff rushed me a Pepsi along with cookies and crackers to help regain my clarity. I’ll never forget how sinfully satisfying it all tasted and how quickly afterward I relapsed into binge eating, telling myself it was OK because I was already in the “best shape of my life.”
Other diets and exercise plans have come in many shapes and forms since then, and I’ve had success and eventual failure with all of them. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying.
Lately, I’ve subscribed to intermittent fasting, a meal-timing schedule that switches between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period of time. I designed my approach to target my biggest weakness, night-time snacking, and am several weeks into my routine, which includes fasting from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. each day. It’s proven to me what I’ve known all along: My body doesn’t need nearly as much food as I’ve been packing in.
The eight-hour window of eating was tough at first with almost unbearable feelings of “munchies” coming every night, but I’ve noticed that I’m not all that hungry when I wake up each morning. Of course as the day moves along I begin to look forward to eating everything in the house, but again, as much as I want to eat my body is feeling full and satisfied after regular servings of meals.
I’ve been supplementing this diet with heavy-mileage weeks of slow running and walking. Yes, I’ll still grab three or four more cookies than the serving size calls for, but regulating the times I allow myself to eat has paid marked dividends. Since my last doctor’s appointment in December, when I weighed in at 247 pounds, I’ve dropped 17 pounds. And I’m losing more every day.
Is this a safe strategy? It depends on who you ask. Fans of intermittent fasting (we all know at least one) swear by this way of life and its benefits. But remember depriving yourself of food for an extended period of time can also raise your stress levels, disrupt your sleep, increase anxiety, and more. If I had to recommend a modification from my personal fasting routine for others to follow, I’d say just start by skipping the after-dinner snacks and monitor how you feel from there.
This is an exciting time for me. I’m becoming a faster runner and fitting into my “younger” clothes once again. My face is thinning out, and I’m actually “small” enough that my arms can handle doing a pull-up or two. I’m not only feeling better, but my confidence is also rising.
Of course, I know I’m not out of the woods yet and also understand that being obsessive about my diet can trigger a different eating disorder altogether. It’s a tough line to walk, and like I mentioned before, every day presents a new challenge.
I have no idea how long I can ride this wave of momentum, but I’d love to hang on to this small taste of fitness forever this time, if possible.
1 STEP BACK, 3 STEPS FORWARD
Organizers of Disney World Marathon Weekend call it the “Dopey Challenge” and for good reason: By the time you’re finished with this four-day gauntlet that spans nearly 49 miles, odds are you’re going to be stumbling around looking for a bed to crash on.
Three Local.News runners — Greencastle’s Todd Kirkwood and Chambersburg’s Mark Ward and Danielle Rhoads — survived the challenge, which began on Thursday, Jan. 5, with the Disney World 5K. The next day brought a 10K race, and the following day featured a half marathon, before the weekend wrapped up with a Sunday marathon.
Kirkwood sported the lowest combined time in the four races, completing the 5K in 34:49, 10K in 1:06:46, half marathon in 2:51:18, and marathon in 5:48:16. Also making the trip to Orlando, Fla. was Chambersburg’s Katelyn Kearney, who completed the 10K in 1:44:13 and the half marathon in 3:41:40.
In Fairmont, W.Va., the Run to Read Half Marathon drew 133 runners, including a pair of locals who each earned age-group hardware. Matthew Smith, of Greencastle, posted a 1:30:19 to take second in the 40-49 AG, while Chambersburg’s Larry Smith crossed the finish line in 2:05:19 to take third in the 60-69 AG.
Maureen Jones, of Cascade, Md., completed the Key West Half Marathon in 2:35:22, while Chambersburg’s Katie Overcash posted a 31:18 at the Shiver by the River 5K in Scranton.
And now, a look ahead:
Springettsbury 10K: Saturday, 9 a.m., in Springettsbury. It’s four races down, with four to go in the York County Road Runners Winter Series. Learn more at yorkroadrunners.com.
Medal Madness 5K/10K: Saturday, Jan. 28, 8:30 a.m., in Lancaster. Check out the race paths at Lancaster Junction Trail in this event. Register on runsignup.com.
Run Your Ice Off 5K: Sunday, Jan. 29, 1 p.m., in Chambersburg. IceFest comes to a conclusion with this race, which benefits IceFest, the Leadership Franklin County Alumni Scholarship, and Relay for Life. Find the race on timberhilltiming.com.
Also: Greenwood Furnace Snowfest 5-Miler (Saturday, in Huntingdon); Chilly Cheeks 11K (Sunday, in Reading); Groundhog Jog 4 Miler (Saturday, Jan. 28, in Punxsutawney).
Foot Notes is a self-syndicated column by Central Pa. sportswriter Andy Sandrik that has been “running” since 2016. Andy always follows back on Strava and can be reached by email at [email protected].