Have you ever walked by the magazine rack and thought, “I want to look like THAT!”?
Or do you follow fitness models, bikini competitors and other fitness professionals (eh-hem- including me) and tried to follow their nutrition and training plans in hopes of obtaining that physique? That was me about a year ago…
Well I hate to burst your bubble, but I care about your health, so this needs to be said: The physique you see holding the trophy or on the cover of the magazine is 9 times out of 10 not a sustainable look. And by that I mean, maintaining low enough levels of body-fat (the kinds you see on stage) is difficult and sometimes damaging to your health. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but from having gone through the gamut this year so-to-speak, I want to share my experience.
I personally loved every minute leading up to and stepping on stage, what I didn’t love was the aftermath. I competed in 10 shows in a little over a year, and there wasn’t a week that I couldn’t tell you exactly how many weeks I had left until my next show, photo shoot or event. I was always on such a rigid diet plan that I never stopped to think, what happens after my last show?
When I started training for my first competition I was 118lbs and 24% Bodyfat. By my first show I was 116lbs and 14% Bodyfat, I had replaced fat with lean muscle mass and felt GREAT. It was after my first show that my diet plan changed. I received plans from countless experienced and well-know competition trainers. All of whom knew what they were doing and as a newbie, I did as I was told.
Each time I stepped on stage I was lighter, leaner, and winning. The problem with continuing to compete and trying to stay on diet plans that are meant to cut you down for a specific date is that you have to continually keep cutting to maintain the same results. Which means increasingly more rigid diet plans and more cardio…just to maintain. By the time my last show came I had nothing but protein and peanut butter in my diet. Sounds crazy, right? BUT I was lean….
Like I said, I loved the experience and wouldn’t take any of it back, its through learning and mistakes that we grow and improve. Just looking back I can see how it all unfolded much more clearly.
After my last show…I was in a fog. Confused, lost, and OBSESSING. I thought by letting myself splurge a little, OK…a lot, I would somehow satisfy the suppressed cravings and then get back to normal. Then after weeks of mindless eating, and pounds being added back on quicker than you can say ‘bikini’ I realized I had no idea what ‘normal’ I was searching for. Was ‘normal’ back on a competition diet plan? Or the blissful ignorance of eating how I did before I started competing? All I knew was I had developed food issues. An unhealthy relationship with food, if you will.
(Side note: Orthorexia is a real eating disorder- an obsession with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. If you think you have a real problem, you should seek the advice of your doctor)
If you are wondering, ‘what did you eat?’ here is where I started:
Meal 1: 4 oz egg whites, 1/4 cup oatmeal
Meal 2: Whey Protein Shake, water
Meal 3: 4 oz lean protein, 1/2 cup brown rice, veggies
Meal 4: 4 oz lean protein
Meal 5: 2 rice cakes, 2 tbsp peanut butter
Meal 6: 4 oz lean protein, veggies
As you can see, there is less than 100 grams of carbs in that diet. In fact, I think besides my bi-monthly cheat meals, I never went over 100g of carbs for months on end. Oddly enough, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), part of the National Academy of Sciences, recently issued a recommendation that children and adults get a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrate a day to maintain maximum brain function.
What’s my point? Eating the way a fit model says they eat during prep and doing their workout is not necessarily the solution. In fact, such a rigid, restrictive plan will more than likely lead to failure because of the difficulty to comply. I have learned (the hard way) that BALANCE, healthy HABITS and independence is key. I have dealt with the ramifications of metabolic shut down, hormonal imbalances, weight rebound and negative emotional connection to food…and come out the other side.
Have you noticed that I never post about my 3rd hour of cardio or my plain chicken and broccoli 5 times a day? Its because I don’t do either of those, AND I want to send the message that you can have a body you feel GREAT in and have the fitness model physique (if you desire) without obsessing and maintaining that unrealistic lifestyle.
Competing is a great ‘goal’ to motivate you to get the body you want, I just want to pass on the message that if anyone tells you the only way to do it is with 2 hours of cardio and very low carb diet, I hope you think twice. I love being in shape, but I love more that I am now doing it the healthy and balanced way and can really represent a healthy lifestyle. While I am busy working on a ‘Healthy Nutrition Bible’ so to speak, here are a few of my main tips to get you started:
1- Cut out the junk- If you still consume soda, fast food, junk food, candy, and excessive alcohol-stop it. No seriously, we know better and there are healthier alternatives.
2- Avoid/Limit the ‘white devils’ - white sugar, white flour, white rice, white milk and white salt. Choose raw sugar or natural sugar alternatives (Truvia or Xylitol), whole wheat flour or oat flour or coconut flour, brown rice, unsweetened almond or rice milk and sea salt or no added salt (go for other spices or salt free blends- Mrs Dash for example) when cooking.
3- Eat “REAL” food - Was there a bagel bush or a cookie tree 10,000 years ago? No! If the majority of your diet consists of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and grains- stuff that we are intended to eat, than you are on the right track. Indulgences are OK but your habits define you so make sure what you do ‘most of the time’ is comprised of healthful food.
And in case you were wondering…yes I still have a six-pack. :)