Wednesday, I was about to get on a call with a writer for Oxygen Magazine about, of all things, whether or not to eat before exercise. As I sat at my desk reviewing my notes, I received an email from a client. She forwarded something she received from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s marathon and triathlon fundraising group Team in Training (TNT). Many years ago I ran a marathon with TNT and even conducted sports nutrition lectures for a few them. While I have not worked with them in many years, I have the utmost respect for what they do both for research and the individuals they train. Many participants are first timers who complete in half marathons, full marathons and even Ironman races. 

While I do think TNT is great, that was a little bit of fluff, here is what the email said and it’s not pretty. I’ll paraphrase but you can read the whole thing here.
Subject: You’ll earn an extra slice of pie
Though not a pie person, they pulled me in. The email starts with “the holidays are nearly upon us”.  Thanksgiving is over a month away so I’d have to disagree there.  They go on to say, “while everyone else is feeling guilty about that second slice of pie, we say, “Go for it!”  TNT coaches will get you in great shape “training to do something extraordinary while you’re making the difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families.”  And then there’s the list of “exciting events” you can sign up for.
Translation: If you sign up and agree to raise money for one of the races below you can stuff your face this holiday season and end up like one of the overweight people in the accompanying photo. They are smiling because they have a massive sugar high and have not yet crashed. The have medals around their necks are for not only having the suggested second piece of pie but the whole friggin’ pie (a Runner’s World approved food).  Didn’t you hear when you run a marathon you can eat whatever you want? Yep, it’s true and when you run one for charity you can double that.
Give me a break, this is a recruitment letter. Some PR team penning it felt they could bank on the promise of eating food, sans guilt, getting people to sign up. My issues with this strategy are numerous. They are playing off of many people’s holiday anxiety. A month ahead of time they are telling us to blow it. “Go ahead…indulge.” They do not mention treating yourself to a piece of pie or your favorite food they want to have two. They tell you that despite indulging your coaches will get you in great shape. And the kicker? They throw cancer in there. As my client said, “this is bait and switch in the name of charity.”

If you run a marathon or raise money for charity do it because you want to get in fantastic shape or because it’s a cause you really believe in. You can’t eat whatever you want when training for a marathon or any other time. Guilt or no guilt indulging without restraint leads to weight gain.  And if you really want to “earn” or burn off two pieces of pie, plan on running 9 miles.
Do you find exercise makes you eat more or less? What do you think of Team in Training’s strategy with this email? If you think it’s sneaky, tell them. In their words “Go for it!”

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