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  • Writer's picture Irina

FUEL



/fjuː(ə)l/

noun

noun: fuel; plural noun: fuels

Material such as coal, gas, or oil that is burned to produce heat or power.

"One aircraft ran out of fuel and had to ditch"


Sad story about the aircraft but this example of the word ‘fuel’ illustrates how without a doubt, fuel is vital for machines to keep on working. Without fuel there is no heat, no power, no energy. Nothing will move at all without fuel and nothing will move for long if the quality of fuel is not good enough. Scientists sussed this out many years ago and have since devoted a lot of research, time and money in developing different types of fuel for different purposes. And although I am no scientist, I do care about the quality of fuel I put into my car. The reason is simple. I want my car to last longer and run better.


Such a straightforward cause and effect relationship should make it quite obvious that my body, which is a also a type of machine, quite a complicated one actually, would enjoy similar benefits to my car if I provide it with good quality fuel. If only bodies were that simple… My car, unlike my body, doesn’t love pizza, burgers, can’t drive itself to the cupboard and grab a couple of biscuits. My car can’t drink alcohol (thankfully), it can’t decide to have bread instead of oats for breakfast nor can it be tempted to have some (more) chocolate while watching a film. My car doesn’t even watch films. I soon reach the conclusion that one’s life would be significantly simpler, if one was indeed a car.


On the other hand, if I was a car and I did run out of fuel, I would simply stop or even worse, break down. Not being a car, I am living evidence that the body doesn’t stop even when given crap fuel or when fuel is low. It goes on reserve and it under-performs. Movement slows down, brain fog settles in, feelings of anger, unhappiness and anxiety kick in. But it keeps going. I didn’t seem to appreciate that enough or care on how all this actually happens. Yes of course I knew that food was a source of energy, but I was a lot more focused on the pleasure/taste/calorie side of it than the fuel/energy side of it. Therein lies another piece of the puzzle that is my relationship with food.


On my way for FUEL. Petrol for the car. Curry for us. Hmmm...

Body fuel takes three forms: carbohydrates, fat and protein. All of these are sources of energy that my body relies on in different times and in different ways. It knows what it’s doing. The question is, do I? I used to think of food in a two-dimensional way. How much do I like it and how many calories does it have? If that was the starting point, then no wonder I was doomed to fail. Why?


Well because usually the more I like something the more calories it will have and then when I don’t allow myself that terrific calorific food, I fee like I am punishing myself, taking the joy out of life, restricting, limiting, depriving all these negative words. I fast-forward to the day when I will allow myself to have that food again. If this was a diet, from Day 1 I am looking forward to the day it will be over because only then I will be free to eat what I want. Because only then I can be happy again. The longer I deprive myself, the more important it becomes to reach the end. It’s all about the end. When in fact there is no end to reach. It’s like saying I will exercise until I am fit and then I will stop. It’s quite obvious if I stop I will be yet again unfit. It’s like learning to play the piano and looking forward to the day you know how to play it so you can stop playing it.


Over the last couple of years I have made an effort to understand food and my relationship with it. I have learned a lot and improved my eating habits massively. My body has rewarded me, just like my car would, by running better, metaphorically and literally. To maintain my weight loss but still enjoy food, I’ve been eating very little during the week, creating a calorie deficit and allowing myself to eat what I want over the weekend, definite calorie surplus.


And there it is again, the same pattern. I am allowing myself to have fun over the weekend means associating fun with treats, snacks and all the ‘good’ stuff. Over the week I would lose whatever weight I gained over the weekend. This routine was not feeling right. Starving during the week meant I had less energy for work, runs, exercising, concentrating, thinking. Eating more during the weekend left me feeling more lethargic, sleeping badly, unsatisfied. On the other hand, it worked and my weight did not suffer with this method.


And then a random conversation triggered a whole new thought process. My running coach mentioned that as we get close to races, like the half marathon I am running next week, she will give me eating tips. She also mentioned that when we start the marathon training in June, she will give me an eating plan, NOT TO LOSE WEIGHT, but to FUEL my body more effectively and help the training. What? An eating plan without the intention of losing weight? That's a new concept!


I need all the energy I can get to keep training!

And for the first time ever, I realised there is a third dimension. Eating well does not have to be about weight loss. I am fine as I am. Happy with my body. That’s not the point. The point is how do I eat to live better instead of living to eat more. If I eat good things to make me feel better, then I don’t have the feeling of deprivation, nor do I want this to end. Why would I? So obvious yet so novel for me. Also, if I am completely honest, my ego reacts a lot better when I am told what I can do, rather than what I can’t do. For example, let’s say I have a choice between unsalted nuts and salty crisps for an afternoon snack. If you tell me don’t eat the crisps, they are fattening and you could do without them, I will most likely be a bit angry or offended and eat the crisps anyway. Whereas if you tell me, eat unsalted nuts in the afternoon, they’re really good for you, I will react a lot better and likely follow the advice. I feel less like I’m being told what to do and more pleased that I am doing something good and will not look forward to stopping.


My breakfast fuel

Instead of waiting until June, I asked my coach to give me an eating plan straight away. You know what? I’ve been feeling amazing over the last two weeks. I didn't expect it to feel so different and so much better. The brain fog is gone, I have no blood sugar level fluctuations during the day, and I wake up early and full of energy, to the extent I have Doug worried that his wife has been replaced by this person who wakes up early and is cheerful! Having said all of this, I am definitely not dismissing my love of food and cooking and I know some really good flavours come hand in hand with more calories. And that’s fine as long as I remember that FOOD is FUEL and I intend to use it that way and have this motor running for a very long time!


Cheerful at 7am walking in the snow in April. Yes, it snowed this week.

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3 Comments


errietta.varvogli
errietta.varvogli
Apr 19, 2021

Very inspiring!!!it made me think a lot .

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sofden
Apr 18, 2021

Liu mou! This post is sooo real- well as all of them! mindful eating. Liu you’re true inspiration!!!! Love you❤️

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 Irina
Irina
Apr 18, 2021
Replying to

Liu mou! Love you too!!

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