If you feel like eating, eat. Let your body tell you what it wants.
— Joan Benoit Samuelson
Or rather, run and eat.
A little over a year ago, when I started training in earnest for my third marathon, I began to notice a shift in my relationship to food. Namely, I became aware of wanting specific kinds of foods at specific times. I would know when I was low on carbohydrate stores because I’d find myself wanting raisins, or bread with jam, or juice. A need for protein and iron asserted itself in the form of knowing that I wanted nothing more than a steak for dinner, preferably with a side of spinach.
Not only do I crave certain foods based on their nutritional makeup, but it’s the intensity of the desire for those foods — and specificity of the individual food items — that I find so striking. I don’t just want a bagel; I want a salt bagel. I don’t just want meat; I want roasted chicken. When I don’t have those things around, my disappointment seems out of proportion. But is it? Or are our brains just very good at determining those nutritional elements that are lacking and driving us toward the foods that can replenish them?
I’ve learned to make a mental note of a craving and plan for it. After a recent hard run, I had a strong desire for an everything bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon. I had none of those things in the house, but I made sure that I would next time around. After some long, windy intervals this afternoon, that’s exactly what I wanted. And it’s exactly what I had.
I can’t wait to have some tenderloin and sweet potato fries later on this evening…