Diet Failure: More thoughts (and a confession) on antelopes and diets

Last week, with great pomp, I declared that I was going to try to turn myself from an ox into an antelope. When I wrote that, I meant it somewhat facetiously. I know you can’t turn an ox into an antelope and I know I am never going to have the body composition of Ryan Hall.

Ryan Hall.

Me (and the Little Dude)

Me (and the Little Dude)

What I meant when wrote that I wanted to become more like the antelope was that I wished to become a bit thinner, more graceful in my run, and a lot faster. A number of people raised really excellent points about the post. Most importantly, a good friend, frequent commenter here (and BQer!) called me out for the dude privilege inherent in the post. If I were a women writing about attempting to change the nature of my physical self through dieting there would have been choruses of anorexia* but because I’m a dude, I got far more “good job, great will power”. That’s fucked up, and I should have seen it. coming

Frankly, I regret writing the post. At the time I was finishing Bernd Heinrich’s excellent Why We Run where he talks extensively about the antelope and what we can (and can’t) learn from it as runners. I had antelope on my mind and well, I let a metaphor get the better of me.

Now, to add insult to stupidity, I need to come clean about my bold declaration of reshaping my body through diet – I can’t do it. Or rather, I’m not doing it. At least not in the form of the Whole 30. After a mere six days on the diet, I caved on Sunday and ate a delicious carbohydrate and gluten filled bagel.

It was wonderful.

I’d been feeling really lethargic all week, especially on my runs. I was struggling to get through a simple five miler. On Sunday, I had a 13 mile long run planned. I was dreading it. I was worried I would be dragging ass out there for two and half hours. Or worse, that I wouldn’t finish the run at all. The whole point of the damn diet was to improve fitness and here it was, screwing with my training. So I stopped. I order the bagel, (with lox spread no less!), ate the thing, and went out on the run.

And guess what? I felt great! Sure the last mile was a bit of a slog, but nowhere near the slog it would have been if it’d continue to deprive myself of life sustaining bagels.

Some have said that I should have just hung on, that if I’d made it a couple of more days, I would have adapted and burned fat for fuel. Perhaps they’re right. Or perhaps as a wannabe endurance athlete, I just need large amounts of carbohydrates. Or perhaps I lack sufficient will power.

I don’t know.

I do know that when I told my wife I was stopping the diet she made me promise I would never do something like this again. That’s a promise I intend to keep.

So, no more diet. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my antelope metaphor. I’m still aiming to be fast, and graceful in my stride. I’m still trying to be a better runner. Restrictive dieting just isn’t the way I’m going to get there.

* In pretty much all the sports I’m interested in, anorexia is a serious problem. Many, many, distance runners, triathletes and climbers of both sexes have battled with eating disorders. It’s a serious issue I should have considered in the post.

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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3 Responses to Diet Failure: More thoughts (and a confession) on antelopes and diets

  1. smt says:

    I wonder what you would look like if you banged out 80 mile weeks for a year on end? Maybe more like Ryan Hall? That is an “I wonder” question with literally no ulterior motive, btw. Because I like dreaming about hypothetical worlds in which you have no job, no infant child, and have a personal massage therapist/trainer to work on the little things that could become full blown injuries.

    Anyway, body image is so complicated, particularly when gender enters into it. I don’t think that if I announced to Facebook that I wanted to lose weight (not exactly what you did, ftr) — say, 15 lbs — that people would scream anorexia. I wouldn’t be unhealthy at all 15 pounds lighter. I just think people would be annoyed, (though probably wouldn’t say anything) because if you know me at all, you know that I’d have to become pretty obsessive…and probably pretty hungry…to lose 15 pounds. (I can’t just start a workout plan or stop eating fast food.) And I think that to declare that I care that much about 15 pounds — I don’t know, I’m still not articulating this correctly, but I feel like there is just a lot of “fit person privilege” going on. That I am probably more aware of as a woman than you are as a man, because not being fit as a woman is so much worse, culturally, then it is for men.

    On the other hand, I think that “love your body how it is” is a noble ideal, but I feel like that has gone so far that we — particularly women — educated women — are totally afraid to talk about the fact that we don’t exactly love our bodies how they are, no matter how many times we hear that we should. Sometimes it feels like the options for women are either, “you’re anorexic,” “you clearly need to lose weight for health reasons,” or “you should never feel guilty about what you eat or dislike your body because it’s perfect as it is.” Despite the fact that there is a very specific image of what “perfect” is. Not really sure where I’m going with this, except to say that I think that any conversation about these issues is a step in the right direction.

  2. seanv2 says:

    I think we agree that there needs to be more space to think (and act) around our body image besides the poles you mention of “you’re anorexic”, “you’re dangerously over weight” and “you’re perfect as you are”. But all this is wrapped up in so much bullshit, its hard to have a healthy feelings about it and I know I’m not sure how to properly address it.

    Anyway, as always, I love the thoughts you add to the conversation. Thanks.

    Oh and I join you in the fantasy of what I could accomplish if I was a twenty something with no obligations and endless time for running! More than once I’ve dreamed about what kind of a runner I could be if I’d spent my early twenties exercising instead of sitting in endless political meetings!

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