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How Running Can Be Similar to Your Relationship With Food

Morning friends. I’m up here in DC at FNCE, trying to network and get a grasp on the coolest new food products. I’m only here for 1.5 days, though, so I’ll be pretty stretched thin to try to fit 3 days worth in.

I will plan on doing a recap when I get back. But in the meantime, I wanted to share today’s post with you. This idea for a post came to me last weekend when I did my 8 mile run.

This is the furthest I’ve run in well over a year. I think that running or training can be similar to striving for a good relationship with food. Hear me out.

How Running Can Be Similar to Your Relationship With Food

Now I want to preface this by saying that of course if you’re only running to try to change your body, this is not applicable and not what I’m talking about.

I’m referring to the sport of running (and probably other workouts too) because it’s a way you enjoy moving your body.


In writing this, I’m referring back to the idea of intuitive eating often. And if you want a refresh, this page of intuitive eating resources is a great place to start!

Similarities Between Running and Your Relationship with Food

Let’s list some reasons.

Some days and meals are better than others.

Just like some meals are better than others, some miles are better than others. Some days are better than others.

Some days you’re more motivated and have a positive outlook. Other days are harder. Similarly, you may be quicker to react to your hunger and fullness cues on certain days, while slower on other days.

You may be more emotional on some days and turn to food, while others, you may eat and move on.

You won’t be focused on food until it’s time to eat. All of this is normal.

Good days can be motivating to keep going.

Runners know that great feeling of euphoria after a good run – when you feel like you can and want to keep going. It motivates you to get back there the following day or keep training for that race.

It’s encouraging when the effort you put in pays off.

Similarly, it can be a good and pleasurable experience to feel full and satisfied after a meal, especially if it’s a particular fear food or challenge meal.

Perhaps it can entice you to aim for that feeling more often.

To continue to challenge yourself, knowing that you’re gaining more confidence and normalizing your thoughts around food and eating.

Breakfast sandwich stacked with a hand holding

Some days you feel alone, but having a tribe helps tremendously.

If you’re training for something, there will likely be days when you run solo. However, it’s probably more motivating and encouraging to have a group to run with, to feel accepted and be with others who relate and have the same goals.

In the same aspect, some days can feel quite lonely in the journey of recovering from disordered eating. Realizing you have a tribe to support and encourage you can be life changing. So, if you’re on that journey of disordered eating, I encourage you to reach out to someone.

Find a support group, or find a dietitian and therapist to work through it with. Speak up – ask for help.

There are so many facebook groups out there meant to help you. Here’s one of my favorites if you are suffering from amenorrhea. Here’s an eating disorder support group.

Holding up race medal after running a half marathon


You have to be self-motivated and doing it for the right reasons for it to stick and resonate. 

If you’re running because society tells you to or you think it’s the fastest way to “drop weight,” you’re doing it all wrong. If it’s not a behavior you enjoy, it’s probably not good for your health and you won’t maintain it.

Maybe you’re out of touch with your body – do you know what type of movement feels good for your body? Maybe it’s different depending on the day. That’s okay! Don’t run if you hate running. If you’re just not into high-intensity exercise, that’s okay.

There are PLENTY of health benefits from lower intensity exercises, like yoga, pilates and walking. But, you also have to know the benefit of rest too. Here’s a post I wrote about seeing exercise through a self care lens

Stretching on floor in the gym with hand weights

In the same token, if you’re doing intuitive eating because you feel like you have to and you aren’t invested in the process, you won’t reap the benefits.

You won’t truly learn how to treat your body, or what your body likes and wants. You have to want to change and be willing to challenge yourself to go through the process. It’s hard to let go of diet culture and food rules, but it can happen if you’re focused and willing.

You can get caught up in the comparison game and lose focus.

Remember, why are you doing this in the first place? What are you trying to prove? Are you training to change your body size, or because you like it and want to run a race? Are you comparing yourself to the runner beside you, or the girl you saw in the park?

Her reasons for running may be completely different (and they may not be the right reasons). You just never know the playing field, so it’s a brutal circle to keep comparing yourself.

In terms of food and our relationship with food, you can’t compare how much you eat to the person next to you. Her needs are completely different from yours. She probably has a different job, exercise routine, sleep schedule, stress level, emotional struggles, etc.

If you’re only looking at pictures of thin bodies (like society tells us we have to look), you’re missing out on looking at the wide variety of bodies that exist. I’d encourage you to follow body positive accounts and expose yourself to other bodies.

Holding apple cider donut up at Stepps Farm in North Carolina

Perfection does not exist. 

Not in food, not in running, not in anything.

What’s the fun in perfection anyway? It doesn’t account for day to day variations that are normal and natural. Perfection should never be the goal and it isn’t a realistic goal.

We want to set realistic goals that we can accomplish.

Intentions and Mentality matter.

We kind of touched on this one earlier. Think about your intentions behind the form of exercise you choose. Would you still choose that form of exercise if there was absolutely no way it would change your body or weight?

Are you choosing it because you enjoy it, or because you feel like you have to? If it’s the latter, maybe some self-reflection and goal setting is necessary. I like to have clients just journal for a set amount of time and write whatever comes to mind on the topic.

For exercise, maybe it’s words like “pressure,” “conforming to society,” “have to do 30 minutes/day,” that may help you realize that it’s not something that’s serving you well.

However, if you’re writing more words like, “enjoyment,” “stress relief,” “time to clear my head,” “helps me sleep and feel better,” then maybe it is serving you well.

girl running on sandy beach on Block Island

Similarly, what’s the mentality behind certain food choices. Are you choosing lower calorie options to restrict? Are you saving up your calories for later?

Do your food choices change on the weekend? Are you eating a salad because you truly want one, or you’re compensating for something you ate last night?

All of these questions are very important conversations to have.

The intention behind choices matters for recovery. 

In terms of running, we know mentality matters. Most of the long runs are a mental game.

If we have the right intention for running, we will have an easier time maintaining the exercise.


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  1. Intention and choices are HUGE for running and food and recovery from an eating disorder. I have to ask myself many times, especially being on social media, ‘Why am I running? Why am I eating what I’m eating? Am I running my own race or trying to compare myself?’ I absolutely love how you drew the parallels and how having that healthy relationship with running is so similar to having that healthy relationship with your body and food.

  2. I basically read this and just said yes completely agree to every point haha. But it’s all true! Especially the first one about not every meal being great just like every mile isn’t great.

  3. I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food for years and only just started eating healthier. For years I ate fast food like it was my job. I normally am not too good with cooking and don’t enjoy it, but since I’ve gotten the Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow cookbook I’ve been enjoying it more. Hopefully that sticks because in the last month I’ve noticed my body performing better and being healthier has definitely helped!

  4. I love the thought of having “intention”. I need to think of what my intention is when I am running and why I am even doing it. I know it’s not to lose weight because I’ve been running for years and I’ve only ever gained! I need to be intentional with what I eat too. I think planning ahead helps.

    This post really made me think! Thanks. -M

    1. Thanks for sharing! I think it’s great to check back with our intentions every now and then.

  5. All great points, and yes, I agree with all your comparisons. I especially agree with how we compare our successes (or diets/weight loss) to other people’s. We all have different bodies and it’s crazy to chase the lifestyle or habits of others and assume you’ll get identical results.

    1. Love that you acknowledge how we are all so different – it’s so true! We can’t expect to look the same as everyone else (or run the same) either!

  6. A while ago I wrote a post about how counting miles was similar to counting calories. In many ways I can see how your relationship with running and food can be similar. For both it’s so important to not get caught up in comparing yourself to others!

  7. When I was much younger, and going through a more unhealthy relationship with food, I remember something my Mother told me. She said what I was doing was dangerous; that I needed to treat myself every day with even just small portion of food that I really enjoyed — never, ever to restrict myself. I’ll always appreciate her having the courage to tell me (she usually held her tongue). It’s all about moderation. Not restriction. Nice post. Great info. Thanks for linking!