It's time to overcome your fear of "bad" foods

We live in a very carb-phobic society. Despite their role in a healthy diet, alongside providing a great source of energy for athletes, many people feel guilty, anxious and uncomfortable around carbohydrate containing foods.

When I work with an athlete who fears carbohydrates, I often explore the dialogue that goes on in the head when carbohydrates are (about to be) consumed. Not surprising, many athletes experience similar internal dialogue such as "carbs are bad" or "carbs will make me fat" or "I feel so bloated/heavy when I eat carbs." Although the psychology of eating is quite complex, it's interesting how many athletes have a similar list of foods that are either good/allowed or bad/off-limits.

For example, in the past 12 months, have you found yourself recently consuming the following foods?
  • Kombucha
  • Kale
  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Turmeric
  • Bone Broth
  • Bacon
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk
While there is nothing wrong with the above foods, these food options are very "in" right now compared to the following foods which appear on the off-limit list for many athletes: 
  • Bread - any kind
  • Grains - any kind
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Yogurt
  • Cow's milk
  • Fruit
  • Corn
  • Beans and legumes
There are many risks to restrictive eating as an extreme fixation on "perfect" eating can often deprive you of key nutrients. There are also psychological issues that can result from always needing to stay in control of exactly what goes inside your body and when. It takes a lot of work, energy and time to live a lifestyle where you have an off-limit food list. While some athletes need to take extra precautions to avoid certain foods for medical reasons, most athletes voluntarily restrict food that is termed "bad" because there is a strong belief that eating certain foods will make you lose control over your diet (causing overeating) or you anticipate weight gain or the inability to stop eating the food once you start.

When you fear food (ex. bad food list), eating can be an uncomfortable time as you may feel intense feelings of guilt, anxiety or shame around food (especially when eating in social settings). Whether you fear a food group like carbohydrates, a food category like desserts or certain foods like cookies or peanut butter, fear foods have become part of your life and you may find yourself struggling to meet your personal nutrition and energy needs.

Fear foods develop from many reasons but with the rise of social media interactions, blogs, tweets, websites and instagram posts, there are a lot of mixed messages about food. And an overload of information causes confusion. The more times you avoid certain foods, the longer and longer your fear food list may become - leaving you with little appetite to eat.

Understanding that there are many consequences to living a life with fear foods, such as social isolation, limited nutritional variety, lack of enjoyment in eating, obsessive thoughts and anxiety about food, risk for an eating disorder and an unhealthy relationship with food and the body, remind yourself that food should not have power over you.

The focus of overcoming your fear of bad foods is to step outside of your comfort zone. Because fear foods bring guilt, anxiety and fear into your life, it's necessary to incorporate foods into your diet that were previously off-limit until the anxiety response to a food significantly decreases. This process requires time and help so don't hesitate to reach out to a Registered Dietitian for help.


M2M Race Report - my first cancelled race

I just love writing my post race race report. It gives me an opportunity to immediately collect my post race thoughts, walk myself through the race experience and express my thoughts/feelings about my performance, so that I can look back and learn from the race.

Well, sadly there is no race report to write about M2M. 

Let me take you back a few days.

On Friday evening, we had our typical pre-race team pizza party after packet pick-up at Carolina Triathlon. For all of our Trimarni key races, we provide pizza and a course discussion/execution talk to our athletes. We sat outside and stayed relatively comfortable since the sun was setting around 6:30pm.

Although we knew there was a great chance for rain on Sunday, we provided our athletes with practical course execution information to ensure a great performance by everyone who was racing.

Earlier that day (Friday), Julie, Justine and I (a few of our out-of-towners) did a tune-up swim (~2200) followed by a 20 mile EZ spin covering the run course (13 miles + extra miles to get back home).

Happy smiles post swim workout.

About to ride the run course. 

Both days were absolutely beautiful and very, very warm. PERFECT summer training. 

On Saturday morning, Justine and I went for a 90 minute spin and covered a lot of hills while opening up our legs with a few intervals and testing out our race bike set-ups. I followed the bike with a 10 min run on the treadmill.

After a typical pre-race day of fueling, resting and getting mentally ready for our race, it was early to bed around 8:45pm for a 4:30am wake-up call.

I first woke up around 3am to pouring rain and some thunder and lightening. Then, when the alarm went off, it was raining lightly. By 5:15am, it was pouring rain again.

After loading up the car in the pouring rain, it was time to head off to the race start.

At 5:30am, we headed out to Seneca with our race gear (swim and bike - our run gear was at T2 in Traveler's Rest) and hoped for the rain to stop. While we all wanted to race, I knew that the difficulty of the bike course would make it an easy call to cancel the race in the case of bad weather. The radar did not give us hope that we would have a rain free morning but we hoped it would clear up enough to proceed with the race.

After we racked our bikes and set up our transition area (with plastic bags holding our gear), we huddled under the pavilion to stay dry as the rain slowly let up. Although any break in the rain was quickly followed by another opening of the clouds in the sky.

By 7:15am, after the final radar was checked, the race director cancelled the race due to the unsafe riding conditions. While this was a smart call at the time, due to the weather, it kinda felt like we all were trapped inside a cage, ready to explode with energy.  As the triathlon community came together to keep everyone in good spirits, Karel and I huddled with our athletes and discussed plan B.

No race, no problem. We will still train!

Since all of our run gear was at T2 (in a large plastic bag), we all drove to T2 (after a quick stop at our house to drop off bikes) for a run workout. We had our athletes run the first 6 miles of the run course. After the 1.5 mile loop around Furman, we ran back to T2 for a total of about 10 miles. We didn't give our athletes a cap on intensity and I'd say that everyone ran a bit harder than they would for a conversational run. But still, everyone was talking and laughing.  It was a great way to burn off some unused, built-up energy and to allow our athletes an opportunity to work on mental strength, as a group. While we were all so bummed to not race this weekend, running together was a great way to remind us that we all do this for fun and sometimes, things don't go as planned. Racing is unpredictable. 

Lesson learned: When you can't change a situation, change how you react to the situation. 


As the saying goes, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. For athletes, this is oh-so-true.

For the athlete who loves to plan out details, a cancelled race is something that you just can't plan for. With so many frustrations and mixed feelings, it's easy to complain about what could have been or what you would have done differently.

Hearing the news of a cancelled race can be difficult and some athletes handle it better than others. Shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, bargaining. Yes, these are all things that happen when you are grieving but dealing with a cancelled race can bring on the same emotions. While the initial period of feeling letdown is completely normal (and you can justify your feelings of not getting to do what you trained to do with your body), you eventually have to deal with the situation and move on. Accept what happened, regardless of how emotionally attached you were to the race and take action to change your feelings. Be proud of the work that you put in and see the achievement of getting yourself to the start line as the real success.

While we all know that life isn't fair, consider all of the races that you have had a great performance when the weather was perfect or when you had a great performance and the weather was horrible. In the moment, it's easy to assume that you would have raced a certain way or the results would have been a certain way but that is what could have been. 

Would of, should have, could have......you can never predict the future. If you were able to get yourself ready for the race that was cancelled, there is a great chance that you will be able to get yourself ready for another race. There's always something to learn from these "bummer" situations. 

Perhaps a cancelled race allowed you to go through the nerves and emotions of racing without having to actually race. Or, perhaps you had a chance to work on your pre-race rituals, like eating, sleeping and warming up. Or, maybe you had the opportunity to work on patience and the what-if scenarios that may happen on race day. Or, we hope you can use the cancelled race scenario to help another athlete, friend or child overcome his/her own personal setback.

The neat thing about racing is that there is always something to learn - cancelled race or a race that you started and finished. Whenever something unfortunate happens in life, think back to the lessons that you learned from your race experiences and apply to your life events to help you cope and move on.

For example, when I was training for my first marathon, I waited to register and the race closed. So, I selected a race 4 weeks later. I ended up qualifying for the Boston Marathon at my first marathon. Maybe that 4 extra weeks helped me accumulate a few more workouts to prepare for the race. Another story features my athlete Justine (who traveled here from Delaware to race M2M) and she was suppose to do IM Maryland in 2015. The race was cancelled and postponed for 2 weeks later. She maintained a positive attitude and stayed healthy during those 2 weeks and went on to qualify for Kona. Sometimes, a cancelled race puts life into perspective. I mean, at the end of the day, it was only a race and there will always be another race. The current situation may not always be as horrible as it appears to be in the moment or right after the fact.

Regardless of how you feel immediately after the race, it's important to not get distracted from where you want to be in x-months or what you want to accomplish with your body. Sure, you may have been super attached to your race or you were looking forward to the experience of racing but a setback, like a cancelled race, should not destroy your short and long term goals. Hang in there. Life will keep moving forward and you should keep moving with it. 

Here are a few of my tips to help you move on from a bad race: Let it Go: Moving on from a bad race


Overcome the fear of failure

When things don’t go as planned, the disappointment of not fulfilling your hopes and expectations may cause you to interpret your effort as a failure.

I am not strong.
I am not fast.
I am too heavy/fat.
I am not talented.
I will never be good enough.
Everyone else is better than me.
This training is not worth it.    

In order to avoid the frustration and sadness that comes from a failed performance/effort (or setback), you may find yourself doubting your ability to improve or to make changes, so you give up.

Letting go of your fear of failure may actually help you reach your goals.

Every day you fill your mind with thoughts and that inner dialogue may falsely recognize your weaknesses. Ultimately, when you believe in your negative thoughts, you will have reason to give up. With this self-doubt, you may find yourself saying "this is too hard/it's not worth it."  

As an athlete, you can't let fear of failing get in your way.    

Fear of losing or coming in last.
Fear of not meeting time goals.
Fear of doing something for the first time.
Fear of not doing something as good as others.
Fear of social acceptance
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of making a mistake.
Fear of pain.
Fear of taking smart risks. 
Fear of not meeting your own expectations.
Fear of the effort/work not paying off.
Fear of being judged.  
Fear of not reaching potential.
Fear of being a failure.
Fear of letting others down.
Fear of not being perfect.
Fear of not meeting personal standards/expectations.
Fear of not meeting the standards/expectations of others. 

We all have fears and it’s normal to have a fear of failing. But in life and through your athletic development, you will make mistakes. This is the best way to learn.  

Consider using the following mantras to help you overcome the fear of failure.
Select a mantra (or a few) to use before and during every workout or create your own positive saying to show yourself that your mind is just as strong as your body.    

I am brave.  
I am fearless.  
I feel the fear but I’m doing it anyway.  
I want to learn.
I don't care what other people say/think about me.
I am confident.  
I am determined.  
I will not give up, no matter what.
I will keep working until I succeed.
I accept/embrace the challenge.
I accept obstacles.
I welcome failure, it will make me stronger.  
I will find a way.  
I am highly focused on success.  
I am driven. 
I will be persistent through challenging times.  
I know my mind is just as strong as my body.
I am becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I will take action without fear.
I don’t need to be perfect to experience success.
I can overcome anything that comes my way.
I am willing to make the investment to get better.  
I will not let my high expectations stop me from learning/trying.
I will not be hard on myself. 
I am allowed to make mistakes.
I am human.
I will always have fun.
I am turning into a more confident athlete.
I love to inspire others.
I am positive that I will succeed.
I can overcome any failure or setback.  
I do not lack talent or ability.
I know how to stay confident when times are tough.
I know how to stay in the moment.
I gain strength from doing things that are difficult.
I have no expectations, not low expectations.    

Welcome the opportunity to stretch your physical and mental limits as you explore your physical boundaries. When you feel pressure, rise ­up to the challenge. While you shouldn’t go out an intentionally fail by doing something that is not well planned or executed, welcome the obstacles that you need to experience when trying something for the first time. When things don't go as planned, the worst (but best thing) that can happen is that you can learn for the next time.

Above all, when you don't fear failure, you will always have the fulfillment that you tried and you will be more prepared for the next time.