TW: disordered eating
Swimmers are notorious for being big-time eaters. I mean, grueling practices and dry-land workouts definitely work up a massive appetite! And of course, as a high performance athlete, it’s imperative to give your body the fuel it needs to complete all that yardage. But, what happens after you hang up the goggles?…
Throughout my 16 year career as a competitive swimmer, my relationship with food was complicated. Food was constantly on my mind and my thoughts revolved around what and how much I would eat before practice, after practice, before the meet warm-up, in between prelims and finals, etc. It is also worth noting that as an athlete, my relationship with food not only evolved but was shaped by a variety of factors. From middle school to high school and well into college, this relationship looked completely different. The accumulative pressure of societal expectations, peer comparison and anxieties associated with growing up took a major toll, impacting the quantity and quality of food I consumed and affecting my performance as an athlete.
After I hung up the goggles in 2018, I was confronted with the single most dreaded thought of (most likely) every swimmer: Am I going to get FAT?!?
Well, I am here to report that this is certainly not the case, in fact, I am excited to share some newfound wisdom with you all as an almost 3-year swammer. After shedding my identity as a swimmer and leaping into a completely new world with a lot less chlorine, I will be the first to admit that the swammer road was quite a difficult one to navigate. Yes, I felt lost at first, but was excited to continue exploring my passion for competitive physical activity (think cross fit, spin and boxing). And while my career in the pool had come to an end, I was able to think more about my relationship with food and rebuild. I’ve learned to appreciate and listen to my swammer body, discover the foods that make me feel my best and avoid peer comparison. It is important to remember that every person is unique and the corny saying rings true, comparison IS the thief of joy.
So, you’re still lost on what to eat as a swammer? Check out some meal ideas below as I walk you through what I eat in a typical day as a swammer!
9:30 AM: Right now, I am on a HUGE avocado toast kick and I’ve been loving sourdough bread. I like to toast the sourdough until it’s nice and crispy then mash the avocado on top and add a tiny drizzle of olive oil on top before adding my seasoning. My avocado toast seasoning preferences are always changing, but I can promise you that the Everything But the Bagel seasoning and red pepper flakes will never go out of style. As for the eggs, I alternate between preparing them over easy or sunny-side up. I also love adding some greens to boost the nutritional density of the meal- today I sauteed a big handful of baby spinach along with the eggs. If you want to spice things up, I highly recommend topping your toast masterpiece with a generous drizzle of your favorite hot sauce. Along with this beautiful plate, I had two cups of drip coffee with a splash of almond milk.
1:00PM: I’m not a huge fan of lunch, but when I’m feeling it, I like to make a vibrant greens bowl with filling healthy fats and added nuts or berries for a burst of flavor. For this bowl, I combined baby spinach, sliced cucumbers, drained and rinsed chickpeas, a few slices of avocado (can you tell, I’m addicted!), some pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds. I mostly went for the leftover produce I had in my fridge and took advantage of this opportunity to exercise some culinary exploration! And to my surprise, this flavor combination “slaps”, as the kids say. I finished the bowl off with a drizzle of olive oil and some cracked black pepper.
3:30PM: This limbo time between lunch and dinner is what I like to call snack time! If you know me, you know thatI have a serious sweet tooth. So, instead of daydreaming about chocolate and completely cutting it out of my diet, I allow myself to enjoy it without going overboard. I typically like to make a snack mix and munch on this a few hours before I make my dinner. For this mix, I combined my favorite gluten-free pretzels (the crunch on these are INSANE), pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpea snacks and dark chocolate chips.
6:30PM: Salmon and a bunch of roasted vegetables is one of my favorite dinners to prepare! It’s easy, quick and nutritious. I’ll either plate the salmon and veggies or, layer this on top of a big bowl of greens if I have them on hand. For this bowl, I started with a base of baby spinach and added roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and salmon. I also added some feta cheese, hummus, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika on top.
After dinner, sometimes I’m still hungry. And even if it is “late” or close to bedtime, I will listen to my body and eat if I’m hungry! I typically go for a yogurt bowl, some form of nut butter on toast or reach for a sweet-tooth satisfier I have on hand (the Chewy Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cups are my favorite!)
About Zoe Gregorace
Zoe Gregorace is currently studying Nutrition Policy at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and recently graduated from Tufts University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and was a proud member of the Tufts Swimming and Diving team (Go Jumbos!). During her 16 year career as a competitive swimmer, she developed a passion for sports nutrition. She enjoys writing on the topic of nutrition, health and wellness and posts her meal creations on her Instagram page @whatzoeeeats. As a former college swimmer, she strives to share recipes and nutrition tips to promote balanced eating and optimize sports performance.