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Nutrition and Running: One Teen’s Experience

One bowl of macaroni and cheese, two doughnuts, three bananas, eight carrots, one ice cream cone, some salmon, nine brussels sprouts and a slice of key lime pie. And that’s just one meal out of three.

When it comes to eating and sports, most teens fall into a group. Group #1 conscientiously chooses which food enters the sacred temple of athleticism. Group #2 eats everything in sight.

As a runner, I’m constantly shifting between the two extremes. During the season, I eat everything. It’s actually pretty impressive. Though I’m small enough to be mistaken for a middle schooler, I have the appetite of a teenage boy. But when summer hits, I carry my phone instead of a chocolate bar and a book instead of broccoli.

When I run, I burn calories. My meals disappear in two hours of sweat.

It doesn’t matter what I eat because it will be gone by 6:30. During the off-season, my carefree resolutions flip. I care about my portions and how many cookies I eat for dessert. Nutrition labels command my attention, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

It’s really just a basic system of rewards. If I work hard, I reward myself. If I don’t, I don’t. Other girls on my team have their own strategies. Let me tell you a story: it was a breezy Saturday morning in August. The trees were green, the sun was shining, and I was ready. In three hours, the gun would go off, and my moment of triumph—my first cross country meet—would begin. Man, was I excited. My bubble of happiness tripled when I saw a sign from the gods: a Dunkin Donuts right off the freeway. Sugary sweetness + the unconstrained freedom of running = the perfect combination. Or so we thought.

Three hours later, I should have had a victory. Instead, I had a queasy feeling in my stomach and a sour taste in my mouth. Soon enough, my best friend bounded over and interrogated me about the source of my vomit. I described my barf in detail “… and it had little pink sprinkles in it.”

I’d been defeated by a lump of sugary dough; my best friend had finished the race with a personal record.

My downfall had been her weapon.

The moral of the story: when sports are combined with food, everyone has their own system. We don’t live in a world of matchless extremes. Some people eat good food, some don’t. Some fall somewhere in the middle. Only through trial, error, and logic can we discover what works or doesn’t work for us.