I’ve been looking forward to this week for a while now.
The race is done and behind me. I’m happy with how it went and I can relax. I can eat whatever I want. No more grueling workouts. No more planning what I eat around when I run. No more limiting portions or passing on a glass of wine.
This week is what I’ve been dreaming of. Giant bars of chocolate and unlimited pots of coffee. Baskets of salty chips and guacamole before the extra large burrito with the giant neon-green margarita. Putting my feet up and reading a book and happily not running a single step.
But then a funny thing happened. The glorious week of all-out indulgence unceremoniously fizzled out.
Right after the race, I downed a bottle of water and happily cashed in my two free mimosa tickets. I crave salt and fat after a race and my sweet husband Paul was prepared with family-sized bag of waffle cut potato chips. (In a perfect world, I’d love a steaming hot order of greasy french fries as soon as I’m done, but potato chips are a close second.)
He brought me a chocolate bar as well, but it took a while this time to actually want to eat it. I did manage a Clif Builder’s bar after the awards ceremony to help start the recovery process with some protein.
After dipping our toes in the cold ocean just to say we did, lunch was an enormous plate of cashew tofu and veggies at an authentic Thai place in Mount Pleasant. Then it was back to the condo we rented to binge-watch Netflix snuggled up with a box of cheap cabernet.
But a couple glasses in and I’d had enough. After only having maybe two drinks a month for the last several months, drinking more than two in one night sadly didn’t feel as luxurious as I expected. I didn’t feel drunk, just done.
The morning after the race, we watched the sunrise over Battery Park and found an amazing vegan brunch place on our way out of Charleston called the Gnome Cafe. Paul is not vegan, but loves good food of any kind. Raised in the south, the man knows his biscuits. He said his mushroom “bacon” biscuit smothered with Daiya cheese was the best biscuit sandwich he’s ever eaten, vegan or not, which says a lot. I filled up with a huge breakfast burrito and topped it off with a chocolate chip cookie the size of my face.
But in the days since we’ve been home, my eating habits have slipped back to my usual healthy whole foods. I thought I’d be craving treats and indulgences, but as boring as it sounds, the junk just doesn’t interest me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, that giant cookie was delicious, but I felt overstuffed and lethargic after such a big meal. Not exactly an experience I want to have repeatedly.
What this week has taught me is that I simply feel better when I eat well and avoid filling my belly to the brim. Shocking, right?
There is also scientific evidence food cravings are largely controlled by the bacteria in our intestines. Because my gut bacteria are so accustomed to thriving on minimally processed whole foods, they are not sending signals to my brain to tell me to eat an entire pan of frosted brownies. So I can blame my bacteria for craving kale instead of cookies.
This is good news, of course, but a little bit of a letdown. I imagined that I’d go as hard-core in recovery as training, downing enormous banana splits for breakfast and platters of loaded nachos before lunch. Sure, I’m snacking on a few extra handfuls of salted peanuts every day and I have had a glass of wine with dinner every night since the race, but that’s about as dramatic as it gets.
One thing that I have done right is I haven’t run at all yet and I haven’t wanted to. I’m feeling about back to normal five days after the race and the mild January weather is starting to tempt me to lace up my shoes again. I’m not sure if I can wait a full week to get my jog on again or not, but I want to really be sure my body and my brain have a true break before getting back into it.
Perhaps I’ll just grab a handful of peanuts and think about it.