The cover of this month’s Runner’s World magazine promises: “109 Best Foods for Runners [to] Lose Weight.” I would like to point out that I love running, but I’m not actually a good runner. There’s something about the mindless plodding that lets me clear my mind and re-energize. I know, I know, it’s not for everyone. I have some friends that dread running but will gladly lift weights for an hour a day (to which I dramatically declare, ahem: “ugh!”). In fact, I have one friend that actively hates (and I’m pretty sure he has used the word “hate”) running but will go and pound out a marathon at an 8 minute 20 second pace because he loves to compete. I have to say that I scratch my head at him, to spend hours unhappily training for the few glorious moments of competition (but to each his own).
I feel equally about hiking as I do about running. The activity requires endurance, but ultimately I’m only competing with myself to fulfill my own goals. But one thing I will never pair with either of these activities is weight loss. For me, physical exercise increases appetite, forcefully and predictably. I don’t care how many articles I’ve read that predict otherwise; I know my body. When I say to my body, “Body,” I say, “we’re going to go for a run (or hike). And then we’re going to come back and eat sensibly the rest of the week,” my body responds, “Silly, naive Jor. You really think so? I’m pretty sure you’re wrong.” Usually, on a day that I exercise, I don’t eat much. But the day after, when I’m sitting at my desk at work or lounging on the couch, the urge to indulge overtakes me and 1,000 calories later, I’m dozing contentedly in a food coma wondering what just happened and where “self control Jor” went.
I can see it in your face. You’re wondering what in the world is the point. Well, this is about thru-hiking the A.T., isn’t it? I’m currently strategizing. I’m going to hike over 2,000 miles with a pack on my back, and frankly, I have no intention of losing any weight. I’m 5 ft 3 in and 143 pounds, which isn’t particularly light, but this sturdy frame kept my forebears warm through the cold Eastern European winters. I know what you’re thinking: we’re in the middle of a stretch of warming temperatures, but nonetheless, I’d rather have a little meat on my bones in case we experience a global food shortage in the interim. So how will I go about maintaining my weight, especially considering that 1) I’ll have to carry all my food on my back, 2) I don’t feel like eating much while exercising, and 3) I’m gluten intolerant (which will likely limit the calorie-dense carbs I bring with me on the trail)?
Why, I’ll just have to binge eat at each and every pit stop in towns along the way, of course.
Don’t worry about me. I’ll take the burden upon myself to shovel down food like it’s my job (whoa is me, le sigh) when I have the chance. Passersby may see me in a restaurant focusing intently on the three entrees at my table. Or more likely I’ll be sitting on a corner, alternating between attacking a box of cereal and chugging a carton of milk. Hopefully nobody will judge me if I finish both in one sitting…and then go back to the store for round 2.
And just to ensure that I’m completely prepared for what I will face, I fully intend to spend the next six months eating out regularly and falling off my running routine. I mean, if I’m going to have a hard time maintaining my weight, I’d prefer to at least have some buffer weight to shed first. I’ve always said I’m a planner. This is one of the times I’m confident it will come in handy.