With the Goofy Challenge less than 2 months away and several indulgent holidays rapidly approaching, I’ve re-started counting calories via myfitnesspal. My goal between now and race day is to maintain my current weight – or possibly lose a few of the 10lbs gained during last year’s marathon training – and maybe improve my body composition in what ever way is possible in less than 60 days. Obviously I care mostly about being successful on race day but most training plans seem to contain a dietary guideline, whether or not you want to lose weight in the process of training. My experience of gaining while training is apparently not uncommon amongst women, especially in my age group, and calorie counting helps prevent that.
As someone who tortures the general public for hours with talk of marathon training and calorie counting, I was a bit taken aback today. I had mentioned my body fat scale and trying to improve speed through calorie counting when I was asked to stop projecting my poor body image on someone else’s daughters. I don’t actually perceive myself as having poor body image so I was a little flabbergasted. Do I think losing back the 10lbs I gained last year would help my clothes fit better and help me run faster? Absolutely. Do I think I look terrible and obsess over calories to improve my appearance? No. No. And no.
Which leads me to 2 interesting questions: Why do I care about Racing Weight? And does running marathons and worrying about peak training body composition project a bad body image on my daughter?
I’ve written some about my reasons for working on nutrition previously. In summary poor food choices during marathon training led to unnecessary weight gain which is hurting performance. At my body composition, a 10% loss in weight/body fat (not the same thing I know), will likely translate to a performance improvement of 10%. My half marathon PR of 148 minutes becomes a PR of 134 minutes. And since my BMI is at the uppermost limit of healthy, there is a long-term health benefit, too.
So what impact does my training have on my children, particularly my 6 year old daughter? Jessica has already told me she has a chubby tummy. But wasn’t upset by it at all. And I have certainly never said anything like that to her (she heard it at school). I don’t think I run for weight-related reasons so I doubt my children think I do. I go on training runs to prepare for a specific endurance event. I’m not following a diet and exercise regimen to achieve an idealized body image but to try to improve my race performance. My number obsession is over speed intervals and PRs, not so much numbers on a scale or a dress size. We talk about eating healthy to be healthy not to achieve a weight-loss goal. I actually think my running sets a positive example of achievement for my children. The fat body scale is merely another tool to get me across the finish line as quickly as possible based on evidence-based studies showing that body composition matters.
I guess the lesson I’ve learned from this discussion is that I don’t have poor body image and I’m not teaching bad body image to my children. And, perhaps more importantly, I need to choose my audience for discussing my running obsession more carefully…