I was recently perusing the blogosphere when I came across a new blog from a “budding” triathlete. Sipping my morning coffee, skimmed through her dialog, my eye catching on all of the buzzwords and phrases that light little matches of discouragement within me when it comes to food and our relationship with it: “eliminate,” “avoid,” “bad foods.” She talked about how she’d had a difficult time avoiding these “bad foods” and how- to hopefully break the “bad habit of eating bad foods,” – she was going to resign herself to 7 (or was it 10?!) restrictive, regimented eating patterns for a month that cut out commonly misunderstood nutrients; sugar, carbohydrates, fats. She was hoping that by cutting out these nutrients (that her body needs to be a well-performing athlete and a whole person in the world,) she could set herself on the “right track.”
I closed my computer. I put away the almond butter and loaf of bread on the counter. “The right track to WHAT?!”
What lies at the end of that regimented month that may result in weight loss, but would more likely result in under-nourishment and misunderstanding? An unrealistic relationship with food that would lead to disappointment and self-loathing, I fear.
I know my response here sounds a little callous, but let me try to explain. A few folks in the world have asked me lately how I got to the place where where my work consists – most basically – of professionally pushing bicycle pedals and pastries. It has me realizing that there’s a backstory to my work and my passions that I haven’t yet had the chance to tell completely…one that goes back to when I was an athletic little girl, plagued by all the same things little girls are plagued by now (sans social media, thank goodness.) Poor body image. Teasing. Mean girls. Mean boys. The development of self-confidence. Being a “nerd.” This is all stuff that I suffered from too. It’s stuff that I’m pretty sure we all suffer from….until we decide that we just don’t give a f*ck and we start living our lives to feel good.
As that athletic little girl, struggled with an eating disorder common amongst young women like me. Doctors call it the Athlete’s Triad because the detrimental cycle is actually triangular; female athletes suffer from poor body image or an unhealthy relationship with food. They begin to restrict intake, which hampers performance and leads to amenorrhea and even bone loss, but less commonly weight loss. These athletes are starving their bodies of the nutrients they need to recover, to process their training and become powerful, formidable athletes, but their also starving their minds from the nutrients necessary to be creative, mindful, whole people in the world. Their bodies hang onto each calorie they consume to complete basic daily functions, and the athletes fail to advance in their sport. This discourages the athlete, reinforces the restrictive eating habits and negative body image and the triangle perpetuates.
The minute details of how I climbed out of this condition are too intricate for this blog post that will – eventually – be about a pie. But the crux of those details is this: I came to a point in my athletic and personal life where I couldn’t restrict myself any more, where the energy spent avoiding specific foods because I believed they were “bad for me” became more exhausting than the 25 hour training weeks I was putting in. I began caving into my cravings and, as soon as I did, my performance leapt forward. I was able to run further, ride faster, and swim harder than ever before. I was so sensitive the the cravings I sated that I quickly learned to recognize what my body felt like when it required fats, salts, and carbohydrates and I found ways to quickly, simply, healthfully cook up and deliver those nutrients. I was so fascinated with the different ways to do this that I went to culinary school, became infatuated with trying and eating different foods, then watching how they made me feel when I went out into to push myself as an athlete. And here I am.
The nutshell of my lesson with this disorder? Restricting yourself with an unrealistic regimen isn’t helpful on the path to well-being. But being brave, listening to yourself and making decisions based on what you hear is vital to your athletic life, and your life as a healthy person in the world. As it turns out, when you put yourself and your true feelings of happiness and well-being first – when you embrace that its rather healthy to dabble in hedonism, and vow not to do anything/eat anything/see anyone/love anyone/behave in anyway that makes you feel bad/ugly/insignificant – its really easy to be on the “right track” because you only have one thing to pay attention to: “Did that feel good?”
For instance, when a gorgeous guy acts like a twerp and makes you feel like poo – stay away from him.
When a mean girl teases you about your new adorable clogs that you LOVE but she hates, ignore her.
When you eat a whole cake for no good reason EXCEPT perhaps because there could be a shortage of cake tomorrow and for the rest of your life and then you sort of hate yourself for it, just don’t do it again.
Listen up: no one knows you, what’s best for you, or what’s bad for you. EXCEPT you.
Did eating that whole cake feel good? Yes?! Well, good on you!
No? Well, then, try to identify why you chose to eatallthecake. Don’t be mislead – it wasn’t that the cake was “bad for you.” It didn’t chase you around the living room and pin you down. It was that you weren’t listening. You were bad for you. Suffering from the disorder, it wasn’t that food was hampering my performance. Eating a cookie would have actually done me a world of good. It was I was having negative, skewed thoughts that sabotaged my athletic pursuits. By eating that whole cake, you weren’t standing up for your well-being. That little cake is just busy being its own sweet self in the world. He didn’t ask you to eat any more than your share. Cakes don’t hurt people. People who eat too much cake hurt themselves.
Now, before you close YOUR computer, let me say: And its vital to forgive yourself for not listening “to what’s good for you” earlier; there’s a whole lot of noise out there and its very possible that your own voice has been pretty hard to hear. But now, you’re coming in loud and clear. Nothing is intrinsically “bad for you.” But negativity, fear, and un-mindfulness are horrible for you.
Let me also say that for everything, everything, everything in life, there is a balance. An overdose of good books is still an overdose, and likely means that you’re unbalanced in other areas. (Like calling your mother, or sleeping at reasonable hours, or exercising outside.) By the way, its absolutely possible to overdo it on cold-pressed juices and when you do overdose on them you could hypothetically and socially call those “bad foods” because your digestive system will HATE you and your friends will not appreciate the repercussions either. (Insert huge fart.) If you’re putting too much kale into your body, you’re overdosing on it too and therefore turning down other nutrients that you body needs like fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
That said, it took me a long time to find what I feel is “good” for me. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I eat lots of grains and carbohydrates and try to eat a variety of them. I love a bbq pork sandwich. I eat cookies when I ride. A lot. It works for me. This way of eating is probably different than what you’ll find to be “good” for you. But the process of discovering those bits and pieces was a worthwhile one. Listen to yourself, try to make good choices and eat what makes you feel GOOD. If bacon does it, eat it. Cookies? Go forth and enjoy. Butter? Totally. If spinach makes you feel bad, but kale makes you feel good (as it does for me – true story!) then there ya go.
I’ll get off my soapbox now and talk about the pie (!!) because baking, eating and sharing pie is something that makes me feel GOOD. I baked this Spiced Crumble Top Blueberry + Nectarine Pie for a last-minute dinner at a friend’s house the other week. I made it because I knew that it would feel good to spend an afternoon in the kitchen, just making, and I knew that it would feel good to unveil it after we enjoyed our simple little dinner. I knew that I’d feel good about taking the time to think about making the process and the ingredients more straightforward so that I could pull it all together on a whim later this summer for impromptu occasions just like this one. I knew that it would feel good to eat slices on the patio of his gorgeous home in the mountains because the view overlooks Sunshine Canyon – displaying the purples/pinks/oranges of our sunsets – and showcases Boulder below. We had gone for a big bike ride that day and I was pretty hungry, and I knew it would feel good to make the night special saving a little bit of room for dessert.
No one in the room refused a slice of pie. In fact, we polished off the entire thing, along with two pints of Wildflower Honey Ice Cream. Because ice cream on top of pie feels and tastes GOOD.
For the pie: I used my trusty whole grain crust recipe. It’s ridiculously easy and as with all my pie crusts, I make it in the food processor so that the butter stays as cold as possible. I love the way the whole-grain flour lends a nutty flavor to the pie but, you may not. That said, you can absolutely substitute all-purpose flour for the whole-grain flour, just know that you’ll likely need a little less water to bring the dough together so don’t dump it all in at once. Also, know that if you leave the crust out all together, you can make a cobbler by following the instructions but merely leaving out the bottom crust (!!)
For the fruit, you could use some combination of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries here but don’t substitute all berries in for the nectarines; berries don’t have much fiber and they won’t hold together as well as as a pie with some peaches or nectarines. Lastly, this crumble top is my favorite pie secret for summer. Rolling out pie crust can be time consuming, painstaking and maddening if you’re in a hot summer kitchen with the oven on. The crumble comes together in moments and can be spiced up with anything you have on hand.
For the other stuff: keep being good to yourself, all of you. And don’t worry so much about what you look like in a bikini, or biking kit; consider how others feel around you, how you feel in your own skin, and what makes your heart happy. If you’re happy, its impossible to hide and that will be more magnetic than svelte good looks every single day of your life. And you know what, an athlete with a happy heart and soul IS a high-performing one.
Enjoy, kiddos. All of it. : ) – xo L
Blueberry + Nectarine Pie w/Spiced Oatmeal Crumble Top
for the topping
- 3/4t cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 cup organic sugar
- 1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar or turbinado sugar
- 1/4t teaspoon (generous) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon (generous) ground cardamom
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
for the pie
- 2 pounds fresh blueberries (about 5 cups)
- 3-4 fresh nectarines, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- zest and juice of one big, fresh lemon
- 1 whole grain pie crust (linked above)
- First, prepare the topping. Mix the flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom in medium bowl. Add melted butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture comes together in small clumps. (You can do this one day before making the pie if you cover and refrigerate it.)
- Next, mix the fruit and assemble the pie. Position a rack in center of oven and preheat to 375ºF. Roll out your pie crust into a big circle with a diameter of about 12 inches on a well-floured surface, being sure to turn the crust as you roll so that its even and isn't sticking to your work surface. Then, roll the crust up onto the rolling pin and lay it across a 9' pie tin. (If you're making a crisp, you can skip this step all together and just get working on the fruit!) Place the pie crust in the pie plate into the fridge while you mix the fruit.
- Combine nectarines, blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, zest and cornstarch in large bowl; toss to blend. Pull the pie crust from the oven and evenly distribute the fruit over the pie crust. Pinch and curl the sides in on themselves to create a little wall of crust between the pie plate and the fruit. Then, sprinkle the crumble top over the entire pie. Pop the pie onto a rimmed baking sheet (incase the juices bubble over) and bake until fruit mixture is bubbling thickly and topping is golden brown, roughly 50 minutes - 1 hour. If the crumble top starts to brown before the fruit is bubbling thickly, cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and keep baking until the fruit is cooked. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving warm with vanilla ice cream!