If you've read any of my blogs then it's no surprise that six years ago I had no intention of taking up running again. I was about to turn 50 years old and I had a bunch of weight to lose, and the plan was to get into the gym, work with a trainer to lose weight, and then get the hell out as quickly as possible. I didn't know what I was really after: mental fitness, mental strength. And I had no idea what I really needed--to understand me + food. When I walked into that gym I wasn't signing on for twelve weeks, I was signing back in to my life. Running wasn't an exercise, it was a guide waiting in the wings. We were about to partner for life.
Given that, it makes sense to me that this calendar page resonated with me. I had to learn that nothing tastes as good as fit feels in the beginning days (months, years!) of running. As the weight came off my body I also had to uncover the emotional layers about what food is and what it means to me. I had to understand all the roles it plays in a life and in the life of an athlete: food is fuel, food builds strength, food is community, food is love, and sometimes it's just for fun. I was both a young athlete and an older athlete, meaning sometimes my lack of experience outweighed (no pun intended) my chronological age, and I was all over the map with emotions and consistency. And then other times the fact that I was in my 50's and had been around the block a couple of times meant those insights about running expanded quickly and deeply into my life as a whole, serving not to just improve my running but to transform me as a person.
But fast forward to the past six weeks post knee surgery: I'm in pain, I'm basically immobile, and I'm stuck at home, entirely dependent on other people. My days consist of icing and elevating and PT on a loop. I keep looking at this calendar page: Nothing tastes as good as fit feels. Get out and run. Except I can't get out and run. In fact, it was a herculean task to get up and go down the hall to the bathroom. I couldn't put any weight on my right leg, so for the first few weeks I couldn't even easily get my own food, and I certainly couldn't move around the kitchen and cook. During this time the other roles that food can play rose to the surface: Food is a distraction. Food is comforting. Food can neutralize emotions. Well, crappy food can.
But here is what I hadn't considered: even though I can't get out and run, which helps me have an honest internal conversation with food, I have six plus years of experience under my belt that will inform my choices, even when I can't run. What a gift! I woke up today and opened my computer to work on this post, and my first thought was Food is Medicine. Oh yeah, it's that too.
Running taught me that I get to decide about my life and how I spend my time--where I go and who I see and what I do and what I eat. I love food and I love all the roles it plays in our lives, but it has never given me confidence like running has. It has never boosted my esteem or restored my faith in myself. Food doesn't remind me that I have a right to take up time and space and money--running does that. Food doesn't encourage me to take risks or bank on myself, in fact I've often used it to help suppress all of those things. But there's the key--I've used it. I gave food this power that it never had; it was always only support staff, a secondary player. And running revealed that.
So even though I am currently sitting here on the couch with my crutches next to me, dutifully bending and straightening my knee while my running shoes are lined up and gathering dust in my closet, I'm still a runner. I'm a runner in charge of the roles food plays in my recovery, and when she plays those roles. And even though it's been a struggle, I know from experience that, in the long run, nothing tastes as good as fit feels.