I received quite a few responses on FaceBook and Twitter from my blog post about Lava Magazine’s nutrition articles. A lot of the responses were along the lines of “it would be really nice to have someone actually provide some direction as to what type of nutrition plan works for what type of athlete.” The tenor of those comments got me thinking about my own struggles with weight and my inability to find a “plan” that works for me (I have personally tried both the core diet and a high fat low carb diet without success, I have also had a gas exchange BMR, had my cortisol tested, had my blood sugar tested and worked with a half dozen or so registered dieticians and nutritionists without success — I am batting 1.000 in the wrong direction). Tomorrow I will be travelling back to York, Maine (so long as we are not completely snowed in) to get the results of quite a bit of testing done by Jeff Donatello. The hope is that the testing will identify issues and that Dr. Donatello will be able to map a plan that may actually work. When discussing this with Shaun his (very valid) concern was what happens next if Dr. Donatello cannot recommend something that I haven’t already tried or if what he recommends doesn’t work. Unfortunately the answer is I don’t know, I just know that I struggle to live in the body I currently have.

I have been around triathlon for 9 years as a coach and an athlete and have been around running and swimming for much longer. If a triathlete tells you they have never had any issues with weight or body image (in either direction — needing to gain or lose) they are lying. We participate in a sport where every flaw, every inadequacy, every bulge and every hollow is magnified by the “performance apparel fabrics” we wear to train and race. For some individuals body composition management is fairly easy, for others it is not. When I say body composition management is not easy for some, I am not talking about lack of self control, lack of will power or inability to put down the donut and get on trainer, I am talking about the fact that each and everyone one of us has different genetics, different food sensitivities, different exposures to environmental factors, different body chemistry and different hormone levels. For many of us it is much, much, much more complicated that “calories in / calories out” (in fact if I hear the words “maybe you just need to eat less” one more time I may need to inflict bodily harm). I have coached athletes (mostly females but sometimes males) who try their absolute hardest to “do everything right” when it comes to training and nutrition and still find themselves gaining weight. This often leads to further food restrictions and diminishing results both in training but also in the quest for a more perfect (or even acceptable) body. When they express these frustrations to me I am often at a loss for words because I experience the very same issues and I don’t have any good answers.

What doesn’t help the situation is that there is so much information out there but so little guidance on what actually may work for any given individual athlete (this goes back to the Lava Magazine articles, lots of information about the ins and outs of “systems” sold by coaches and companies but no analysis as to the efficacy for any group or individual) and what is actually dangerous. It drives me crazy that you will see coaches, RDs and nutritionists preach about balanced diets and fueling only to follow them on Twitter and hear them complain about how they can’t wait for X race to be over so they can eat more than chicken, broccoli and kale. Then I get thinking, maybe, just maybe, if all I ate was chicken, broccoli and kale I could leave the realm of overweight enter into BMI numbers regarded as “healthy.” My constant battle with size is both mental and physical and I don’t know with any degree of certainty that “success” on the physical end will result in total acceptance of my body. While I would love to believe that tomorrow will be life changing, at this point my goal is two fold: (1) to hopefully receive answers of some sort and to be able to take a step in the right direction — one step forward after what feels like 1,0000 steps back.; and (2) to try to be able to accept that this is the body I have and hating it isn’t going to make it any better.

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05

2 Comments

Becca · January 21, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I do know what it is to not accept your body, but my goodness, look at all your accomplishments! I’m in awe of your race results and aspire to be as good an athlete someday.
None of that really matters though when you simply aren’t comfortable in your own skin, so for your sake I hope you find the answers you need and the direction you seek to get there. 🙂

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