L9P Community Member and Ambassador Post: Sara Scinto
Food has been a huge part of my life since the day I was born. It went from something that felt celebratory and pleasurable to something I over-analyzed and restricted. Now I’m working to rediscover my intuitive hunger signals and my innate love for food.
I was extremely fortunate to grow up with delicious home cooked meals and an abundant summer garden. In my family, food=love, celebration, happiness, and pretty much everything good in the world. Food was noticeably present at every holiday and milestone, whether it was made-from-scratch sugar cookies at Christmas, celebratory ice cream after racing faster than I ever had (PR ice cream, as we like to call it), well-seasoned ribs and grilled veggies on the 4th of July, or a nice steakhouse dinner to commemorate a major life accomplishment. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Food can connect people of all different walks of life and provides us with all the energy and nutrients our bodies need to function. I love it so much that I’ve made it the focal point of my career.
Accompanying my love of food is quite a healthy appetite. My baby book states that “from the very first bottle Sara has been a tremendous eater”; I am known for the amount of food that I can put away. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that if it’s what my body needs to stay healthy. The problem is that I learned to question and even fight against my love for food through small actions, comments, and messages as I got older.
Actions like waiters skeptically looking at me, a teenage girl, after I declare I want to try the 1 pound burger challenge (which I proudly destroyed!). Comments suggesting the amount of food I ate at one time was so much that it was surprising I was able to maintain my weight. Messages from all around me saying that women should be careful about the type and amount of food they eat, otherwise their outward appearance will suffer.
After a while I started to internalize these suggestions and became much more aware of my body and what I was eating. I began to think that maybe I enjoyed food too much. Maybe I shouldn’t eat so much, even though I was always hungry. Maybe I needed to worry about fat and calories like I was being told to.
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There was no reason for me to destroy my healthy relationship with food.
Looking back, I was at a normal weight and eating intuitively. I ate more than what might be “expected” because my training was increasing in intensity as I progressed through high school. Instead of starting to restrict my food, I should have done the opposite. I should have fully embraced my love for food instead of pushing it away in my attempt to conform. I should have disregarded what others were doing and saying and focused on what my body was asking for. I could’ve had a collegiate running career that wasn’t riddled with constant injuries due to hormone imbalances and weakened bones.
But I fell into the dangerous trap of comparison. I paid too much attention to what my teammates were eating and, more importantly, not eating. I still felt like I was consuming more than they were and was confused how they could keep their hunger at bay since I seemed to be starving all the time. I failed to realize that everybody is different and I was always hungry because I wasn’t satisfying my body’s needs. And unfortunately, most of my teammates weren’t either.
Everything just got worse as I transitioned to college and started going through my cycles of injuries. My love for food dissipated and I completely lost sense of how to fuel based on instinct.
When I was injured, I would try to eat less but felt unsatisfied. I felt that because I wasn’t running every day, I couldn’t enjoy food to the fullest extent because I didn’t “deserve” it. When I was able to get back to running, I would be so intent on eating enough that I would often over fuel and then feel guilty about that. Too often I looked to what others were eating instead of looking within.
Food serves so many more purposes for me than just something I can justify after a hard workout or long run.
Gaining control as I transitioned from college to living independently helped me the most in rediscovering my love for food. Shopping for and cooking my own meals instead of being bound by what the dining hall was offering allowed me to get back in tune with what my body wanted me to eat, and in what amounts. As I started to run less and incorporate other activities like yoga and triathlons into my life, I realized that I don’t need to be running to enjoy food. Food serves so many more purposes for me than just something I can justify after a hard workout or long run.
I’m learning that it doesn’t matter what my friends are eating, what the pros are eating, or what I used to eat years, months, or even days ago. All that matters is what my body is asking for right now and whether I am answering those requests by staying in energy balance as much as I can. By responding to my hunger instead of ignoring it—because that’s the cue that my body needs food to recover and build itself back up. I have fortunately gained back some of my pure delight and “gut feelings” (pun intended) surrounding food. Yet, eating just the right amount to keep my body fueled and functioning properly is absolutely something I‘m still trying to figure out.
While the meals in these pictures aren’t the “healthiest” out there, that’s okay! I was and continue to be an active woman who needs lots of energy and nutrients to sustain my activities. As much as I enjoy giant kale salads, some days my body needs more than greens to stay healthy and strong. Sometimes I need fries and ice cream. (Always ice cream.)
I love food. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you want to see more of my love for food in picture form, you can find me on Instagram @saras_colorfull_life!
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