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Ambassador Spotlight: Finally Finding Food

Ambassador Spotlight: Finally Finding Food

Throughout my life, I have spent more energy being consumed by negative and unproductive thoughts about food than I spent consuming it. My relationship with food has been an undulating evolution--but 2020 is the year I finally found a peaceful balance between diet, sports performance, and body image.

Back to the Beginning

During my childhood, food was a means to extinguish hunger, and I spent very little time considering my nutrition. However, right before college, food started to become an enemy. I was a standout local runner in high school, but I was just average on my Division I collegiate running team.

After arriving on campus for freshman year, I learned quickly that my teammates were leaner and significantly faster than me. My subconscious reasoning associated lower weight with higher performance and, as a result, I believed that losing weight would accelerate my running success. As training increased and my daily nutrient intake decreased, I started to look and feel like the fastest girls on my team. Food was no longer nourishment-- it was the enemy of strong running performance.

Time to Transition

A couple months into my freshman year, I broke my femur mid-run, and there’s no doubt my dietary adjustments were a contributing factor. My relationship with food became more fluid in the year-long recovery process. In this year, food was an enabler for distraction and a bandaid for despair.

I quit running in my Sophomore year and transitioned to collegiate road bike racing. This is the first time I discovered that food could impact performance in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to manipulate my fueling to achieve optimal performance. Typically, I felt fatigued and undernourished because my race weekend diet included many processed, sugary snacks. During this time, food was a valuable but mysterious friend.

Falling into Old Habits

After college, food became a dark enemy again as I was navigating the start of my engineering career and the end of a long-term relationship. I demonized the sweet foods I used to love because I believed they would make me gain weight. Food had become the enemy of self-worth and confidence.

I discovered mountain biking in 2015 and was riding almost every day, which left me feeling constantly hungry. I ate whatever my body wanted but fueling correctly was a mystery. During this time, food had become a way to keep me pedaling and connecting with new friends. Fast forward to 2018, and I was transitioning into elite mountain bike racing, but I still was clueless about how to fuel my new lifestyle.

With the increased pressure to perform well, I demonized sweet treats, alcohol, and even carbohydrates because I associated them with a non-professional lifestyle. My diet consisted mainly of fruits, vegetables, and chicken. Despite my “healthy diet”, I regularly looked in the mirror and believed I was still too heavy compared to my competitors. In those years, food was a necessary evil.

Food is Nourishment

Enter 2020. I recently met with a sports nutrition specialist who taught me the basics of macronutrients and how to embrace the value of each group while managing the balance between them. Now, I love carbs and I am the strongest I’ve ever been.

I’ve come to learn that food is nourishment. I love the word “nourishment” because it implies a meaning deeper than just powering muscles in my body. Nourishment provides fuel for the mind and the soul; it’s a celebration of ingredients, flavor, wholesomeness, and the power to keep me doing the things I love.

One of my favorite parts about eating wholesome food is being able to recognize individual ingredients within a single bite, which is one reason why I love Kate’s Real Food Bars. When I bite into a Kate’s Bar, I can taste each ingredient independently -- the sweetness of the honey, the richness of the chocolate, the fullness of the peanut butter -- and appreciate the harmony of flavor as a whole.

Positive Body Image

The last part of this journey is my body image. This is, by far, my most radical mental accomplishment. By fueling mindfully and correctly, I have accepted that my body is going to level out wherever it needs to be to power my adventures. So now, when I look in the mirror, I tell myself “this is what a strong body looks like.”

In 2020, I finally found the relationship with food that I’ve been craving. It’s a relationship that nourishes my soul, brings joy to my life, and fuels my adventures.

To learn more about Kelly’s adventures you can follow her on instagram and check out her website and blog!