Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Deprive and Binge

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There is an endless cycle that exists within most of us. It’s like we can’t help ourselves. We go from one extreme and then suddenly change gears, and go directly for the opposite of that extreme. We put ourselves through hell sometimes and it almost seems impossible to pull ourselves out of it. Think about it: have you ever gone on a diet, so determined to make it work and keep your calories low only to end up stuffing yourself the moment dessert presents itself? Have you ever yo-yo dieted? Have you ever lost the weight only to gain it right back and then some? I know I have and I’m certainly not alone. This is the deprive and binge.

In both cases we are punishing ourselves because somewhere deep down we think that there is something wrong with us and the way we look. So we eat too little or far too much, leaving you feeling weak with hunger (or in denial about it) or feeling like an oompa loompa ready to be rolled out of the room. It definitely doesn’t help that we’re constantly hit advertisements and marketing ploys that push us into that direction too. Even we’re all aware of these things, many of us still struggle to shift away from them and it’s pretty clear why…

There are 2 things that I know for sure:

  1. People in general are not eating enough, but…
  2. Everyone thinks they are eating too much

With everyone that I have coached and worked with and for every person that I`ve ever had a conversation with about nutrition, they all have these 2 things in common. Most people truly believe that they are overeating because they tend to be grazers eating bits of food here and there throughout the day. In reality they are not taking in enough overall calories and when they do eat it`s usually somewhat unbalanced where the nutrient timing is way off. All of this leads to long term undernourishment, making it impossible to lean out and carve out some nice muscular curves. Instead we may end up a little softer than we’d like ultimately leading to the determination to finally get in shape and never eat anything fatty again, until you once again find yourself gorging on nachos and margaritas with your besties on the next girls night out.

Even after we become aware of all of this, we still resist it. I can’t tell you how many people still say that can’t hit their calorie goal for the day or they think it’s too much and they refuse to eat more than 1600 calories. We just can’t quite seem to let go of the notion that in order to look a certain way or achieve that goal weight, we have to eat tiny portions, restrict ourselves and keep the calories low. This is what always leads to the inevitable deprive and binge, where maybe you can keep the calories ultra-low for a while, but you will most likely rebound.

This whole thing is a really hard cycle to break, but I swear to you that it is possible. The first step is to start eating a solid amount of food every day. You need to eat and you need to nourish yourself, and chances are that unless you are in a contest prep like me or if you are 110lbs of muscle with low body fat, then you need to take in more than 1600 calories daily. Keep your meals balanced and focus on nutrient timing. For example, before any workout eat a combo of protein, complex carbs and a little bit of fat, and after working out focus on fast digesting carbs with protein and keep the fat to a minimum. If you lie to nosh at night after dinner, then have a small meal that combines protein with fat (keep the carbs low) so that you get in some slow digesting nourishment during your sleep time. Trust me here, this works. When I finally released the notion of having to restrict myself in order to look a certain way, everything became way easier. I ended up building lean muscle, nice curve and leaning out really well. Getting stage ready and getting into great shape wasn’t as hard as I thought. The struggle was gone and instead I was able to sail through each day and each workout easily because I was fueled up and ready to go.

So how about we all stop going from one extreme to the next by depriving ourselves and then going crazy on food when we just can’t take it anymore? How about we change gears and focus on eating enough of the good stuff every day? There is no reason to punish ourselves or to even entertain the notion that the way we look is a reflection of how awesome we truly are…I know this sounds all woo-woo enlightened and stuff, but to be fair, I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been on both sides of this thing. We do punish ourselves, whether you are aware of it or not. Reprogramming this takes time, but it is possible through feeding yourself well every day. If you can set yourself up for success like this (which I know you can) then the struggle will finally be gone for good.

 

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Nutrition, Wellness

Losing Steam & Overeating

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I am seriously running out of steam. Since competing in the Provincial Championships in June, I have had a rough time staying on track with nutrition. Although I know that consistency is key, part of me wants to take an extra week off from working out and sneak in some extra treats. My first off-season is proving to be much rougher than I thought.

Today while sitting at my desk at work I got hit with a hankering for something sweet and fatty with a chocolate/nut flavour; no cake, no cookies, just chocolate and nuts. I knew very well that my mind was trying to comfort myself with food (it’s been a stressful work week), but no matter how much willpower and knowledge I have, the need to self-soothe outweighed my logic. I stood in the health-food section at the grocery store by my office with 4 different treats (cashew-coconut bites, almond butter granola bars, chocolate covered peanuts and a chocolate protein bar) in my hand, seriously contemplating getting all of them. These seemingly “healthy” and “natural” items might appear to be a good alternative to conventional snacks, but they are loaded sugar (even naturally occurring like in dates or raisins, or natural sweeteners like brown rice syrup and agave) and fat from nuts. In small portions these are super beneficial, but as with everything else, it can easily morph into too much of a good thing that can lead to gaining body fat, indigestion and bloating. So as I stood there imaging eating these delicious snacks with a hot cup of coffee at my desk, I made the conscious decision to choose just one and to enjoy every bite of it. No guilt, no binge eating, just enjoyment. I chose the protein bar because I knew that it was the most balanced item that would satisfy my craving without leaving me with this heavy feeling in my belly. 15g protein, 8g fat, 26g carbs (9g from sugar – brown rice syrup). Now you might be thinking “What’s the big deal?” and “What’s so bad about that?”. Well the reality is that as a bodybuilder whose diet comprises of whole foods, with lots of fiber and no sweeteners, and who is very regimented with meals and nutrition, that bar is not in line with my diet. Will I gain body fat from that bar? No, but the psychological impact of that additional off-plan snack is enough to send anyone into a tailspin. That’s the reality of bodybuilding and the reality of being lean and muscular with lots of definition all the time; you can get a nutritional burnout. In my case, this burnout has impacted my psychological well-being and I think this is where a lot of bodybuilders can get into the space of disordered eating patterns. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from athletes, many of whom are recently retired, confessing that they developed some pretty nasty habits whether in contest prep or not and felt super guilty about eating foods that weren’t “perfect” or whole.

A lot of fitness and diet gurus would tell you that everything in moderation is key. They might say to eat slower and put your fork down in between bites. They might say do something healthy like drink a glass of water or go for a walk to try to distract yourself. I have tried all of those concepts and they are a big load of crap that just don’t work for me or for most people either. It’s like telling a heavy drinker to put their glass of scotch down in between sips or to only have half of a beer; it’s not going to work. Most people can’t handle just one cookie or a few fries. If you’ve ever had a problem overeating or binging or overdoing it on your weekly treat meal and turning it into an entire day instead (as I have and still do), then those concepts of moderation just won’t do.

Not all hope is lost though. The way that I see it is that these slip ups are not as intense as they used to be and since I am far more advanced in my training, my body handles it a lot better than it would have even just a year ago. After a few days of working out and eating nourishing foods, the bloat goes away and the definition finds its way back. It’s not about looking a certain way, and a definitely don’t have any distorted view of how my body looks, in fact it’s actually the opposite. The way that I feel physically sometimes doesn’t line up with how I actually look. I’m always amazed with my leanness and definition, but I don’t always feel it. Many times after a treat meal or an extra little something, I get that heavy bloaty feeling, but when I look in the mirror I’m still pretty close to stage ready, which is the goal of every bodybuilder even in off-season.

What I’ve come to realize is that unless I am in a contest prep my willpower is not enough on its own. Contest prep creates such clarity for my goal that nothing tempts me and slip ups just don’t happen. I’ve always been able to get super focused and completely block out even the thought of going off-plan. I’m not bragging here at all; it actually amazes me that this is the case. I know that it’s because the goal is so clear and the structure and path is laid out in front of me by my coach so there’s no guesswork, I have all of the answers already so I don’t even think about it. Since this is my first time in about a year and a half of not being in a prep, this is foreign territory for me, and old/unhealthy habits are popping up again.

My post-contest recovery phase from my coach included 2 weekly off-plan treat meals and at first I was excited, but then I realized that it was hard to control myself with that second meal; it always snowballed into an entire day. I never felt physically good after, who does after overeating? But in the last couple of weeks I’ve come to see that it is helpful and gives me a bit of leeway if my husband and I decide to order in Chinese food or if I decide to partake in my office’s weekly Friday brunch or for when I have my monthly book club meet-up. Letting go of guilt is helping to alleviate the potential of the “ah screw it” moments that we all go through when we decide to plow through a bag of chips or bucket of pasta.

The best thing that works for me time and again is to mix up my meals throughout the week. As much as I love meal prepping and appreciate that it simplifies my life, I also know that eating the same thing every single day gets boring. Even if you love these meals and flavours, it gets old really fast. So my goal going forward is to change up at least one thing I eat each day. That doesn’t mean entirely new meals each day because that would be super time consuming, but more so along the lines of swapping sources of macros to keep it interesting. Instead of white rice, I’ll opt for baked potato or rice pasta with tomato sauce. Instead of oats, I’ll try sweet potato fries or sprouted grain toast. Instead of grilled tofu, I’ll go for tempeh meatloaf or a veggie burger patty. And every few days I’ll swap my rice and beans for sweet potato – black bean brownies or chickpea-oat flour muffins. These simple swaps are super easy to prep in advance and massively impact how I feel; it’s a healthy alternative treat to keep me feeling good without feeling deprived or restricted. I think that’s the key when trying to be healthy, you have to find what you can do for the rest of your life without feeling restricted.

I’m certainly not perfect and I’m still dealing with trying to find the right healthy mix for me, as I think most of us are, but I’m definitely getting closer and making progress each day. Each of us is completely different, so this might not work for you. You might be better off including a small treat each day (like a couple squares of dark chocolate or a small bowl of Pop Chips) or maybe you just can’t handle any treat meals at all without overdoing it each time, that’s ok too. Just pay attention to what you need and what comes naturally with ease to you. It might take some time and tweaking to figure it out (as it has with me), but once you get there and gain that self-awareness, you’ll never fear overeating again.

Start Strong, Finish Strong