Having been a runner from a young age, Zandra always thought “I can eat what I like” and just run it off …. until she couldn’t. She met up with registered dietitian Maryke Gallagher to help her develop better eating habits that would complement her training and recently completed her first ever Half Ironman triathlon. Here is her story:
Why did you decide to see a dietitian? (The Before Story)
At the age of 38 I hurt my knee while running, and three months later had surgery. I was off exercise for over six months, and during that time I ate: depression from a difficult relationship, depression from not being able to get out there and run, poor eating habits within the household. My blood sugar and cortisol levels had gotten so disrupted I used to keep a glucose monitor with me.
Fast forward some time and I started training again, but was struggling to shake the weight. Nothing I did helped, and if I wanted to keep the knee and joints healthy, I needed to do something. I was referred to Maryke by my coach and that’s when my life changed.
Tell us about your journey with the dietitian
Firstly, I have an unpredictable schedule and she was so accommodating. Most of our communication was Skype, telephonic or whatsapp. Maryke took all this in her stride.
I have always thought I ate correctly, and had tried banting with no great success. Maryke taught me balance, how to realise when I was emotionally eating (and how to fix that). She taught me how to include that one (or two) glasses of wine a week. Best of all, she taught me how to adapt my meals to meet my ever-changing schedule. She did not give me an eating plan, she taught me which choices to make to suit MY body. This sounds strange but even for my pre-run snack we went back and forth on options until I knew BOTH what worked for me and what I liked.
Tell us about your results / successes
My results were the things a runner dreams of: steady and consistent. From a start of 74 kg I lost 6 kg to reach my goal of 68kgs. I remember sending her the picture of the scale at 67.9kgs with great excitement.
I stopped looking at the scale but in my head I wondered if I could reach 66kgs, which my run coach had advised would be a good weight for me. It was a month later when I got on the scale and there it was: 66kgs!
I had lost almost 10% of my original weight, and a total of 9% body fat. All the while enjoying life.
Since then, I have got married, moved home and changed jobs, changed countries and damaged a ligament in my foot. All these things combined have meant I could once again not run for a while. The best part about having all the skills taught to me by Maryke is that I didn’t pick up the weight again. I was able to deal with anything and still be healthy and happy.
What was the hardest part of the journey?
Starting out is the hardest part. The first weeks as you are learning and adapting. If you are consistent in the first few weeks, you see results and that really motivated me to keep going. Think long term and not short term, because you want these results to last. Changing my mindset to one that includes better carbs and fats. Learning to remember that I need to eat for my body, and not for what works for someone else.
What are the top three tips you can share?
- Don’t design your eating from what you read on Google/social media/books. A dietitian takes years of study and trains to put this learning into something unique for you. Different bodies, different solutions. Do not be caught up thinking you need to do your eating in a “specific way”.
- Make sure you like what you are eating. You should not resent the food but enjoy a meal. Slow down your eating, enjoy the flavours and you will find yourself eating less.
- If you need that 5pm snack, plan it in. Many a time the snack suggested by Maryke has prevented a ‘carb’ craving dinner (you know that one where you walk in the door and open the cupboard, ready to consume anything ). I now carry snacks with me every day to work.
What the dietitian says
I met Zandra for the first time through a Triathlon club meeting and noticed her bubbly and determined personality. A few months later she contacted me to assist her with her diet and weight loss goals – for health reasons and to achieve her training goals. She was motivated and questioning, willing to work through the main areas in her diet and lifestyle that were hindering her to achieve her goals. She was willing to let go of the ‘all or nothing’ approach of certain food groups and foods being ‘bad’ or ‘good’, to eating habits that are best for her personal needs. Seeing her achieve her weight loss goals slowly but surely, and most of all being able to make the necessary changes and develop a healthy relationship with food and her body was very rewarding! Thank you Zandra for choosing me to help you in this journey.
To find a dietitian in your area visit http://www.adsa.org.za