“Any diet that’s based on denying yourself the foods you really, really like is going to be temporary.” – Brian Wansink
Truer words were never spoken. The more I study up about nutrition and test out various “diets” myself, the more I see that the only way you are going to be comfortably fit your entire life, is to welcome ALL foods into your life. Instead of completely cutting them out, consume them in moderation or in limited quantities, or find healthier alternatives that will be good substitutes. I am of course not recommending and advertising that you go out and get one of those bloomed onions at Outback (see how little I know about fast food, I don’t even know the proper word) or deep fried snicker bars and eat them on a regular basis. I’m talking more about the stupid rules that exist that says “don’t eat carbs after 4” and “carrots are too high in sugar, I’m not allowed to eat them”, “no white potatoes, only sweet potatoes” and so forth. The only truth that exists if you are trying to lose weight is you need to be in a caloric deficit. Sure, you could eat all of your 1,800 calories in one meal if you wanted to, but is that going to optimize everybody’s goals? Of course not. It all depends on what your mission is. I’m not necessarily speaking literally to people who are trying to gain muscle, prepare for a show or develop a healthier lifestyle. But technically, yes – as long as you eat less than your maintenance level calories, you will lose weight, it’s just plain physics (or was it biology? LOL).
It all boils down to finding a lifestyle you can live with. I’ve seen too many competitors completely fall apart after their show, because they’ve been deprived for so long. Hey, I’m even guilty of it myself, when I ate tilapia and asparagus 6 x a day for about 2-3 weeks before my show, no cheat days, and worked myself to the bone at the gym. Result? I became sluggish afterwards, not energetic going into the gym and basically wanted to eat everything under the sun. I think everyone has to go through their own experiences and personally find out what works for them. Every person is different, every body reacts differently, but at the end of the day: what is the point of life? Isn’t it to feel healthy, energized and happy? To feel better about ourselves after a work out, to feel satisfied after a meal? I myself couldn’t find much joy in eating cold fish out of tupperware and just “get the meal over with”. Of course, at the end of my prep, I was so hungry that a dry, unseasoned chicken breast for breakfast sounded delicious. How sad. While prepping for a show certainly doesn’t mean you can live in a lap of pizza and ice cream, I also don’t think it’s necessary to eliminate salt, eat bland food and the same thing every DAMN DAY. I refuse! This time, I’m prepping more sanely, and thus I will need more time to get ready, but that is ok!
Eating this way (my way), requires planning ahead, getting familiar with smaller portions and what they look like, and being able to be creative and also willing and open to trying new things. I also work out really hard – I don’t waste time in the gym, I don’t sit around, chat with people or check my emails, I WORK. I’m usually in the gym about 1 – 1 1/2 hours (includes some cardio) and I try to use my time wisely. It’s about intensity, not quantity. I believe this helps me burn off more calories and allows me to eat a bit more lenient. The mind wants what it “can’t” have. I clearly recall when I ate what I wanted last year, and nothing sounded exciting to me. I didn’t crave chocolate, pizza, ice cream (all my favorites), nothing! That’s when I knew I had to tighten up my diet. I have accepted that I am not going to look “ripped” 365 days a year. If fitness was the only thing I cared about in this world, and did not have an intense passion for everything food and wine, I could probably have a six pack year round. But.. my life is different- and dare I say: more versatile, less monotonous than that. I’ve always taken pride in that I take interest in multiple things, life is too short not to explore!!
My biggest thing is cutting out wine, since I work as a wine educator and consultant. There’s no denying I gain weight when I drink regularly (everyone will), but it’s also unrealistic to tell myself that I will never drink again. I enjoy wine, I love the business of wine, traveling to vineyards, attending seminars and tastings, and hanging out with my wine geek friends. I’m not going to change it, but I’m going to be selective about the number of times I socialize, choose to drink wine and what wines I drink. More expensive wines are better, but also means I will drink less often LOL :). This month I haven’t had any alcohol at all, which was a conscious decision because I honestly needed to detox after the holidays. My weight has gone down and I feel much better. Again – sad, but true! So going forward, I’ll allow myself a drink or two once a week (on cheat day) until I’m about a month out for my show. It will be interesting to see how my body will react and change to this new regimen, but it’s the only way I can combine my love for fitness and food. One girl who does it very successfully is Kristine Weber – she is a National Body Fitness Champion in Norway and has a gorgeous figure, but is very versatile in the kitchen and eats dessert every night! Unfortunately her blog is in Norwegian, but hopefully she will consider adding an English version soon. Below is a page of her upcoming cookbook:
Point of this entire article is: Live your life, enjoy it and you CAN have both! There is no need to torture yourself, unless you of course really enjoy that! But I do believe there will be metabolic damage as a result, putting your body through rigorous, restrictive diets over a long period of time. I want to keep my body healthy, lean and cooperative for a very long time! Hence I’m trying this new way. I promise to keep you updated on how I’m doing. So far so good – I’m leaning out and I’m feeling strong!
With that – I leave you with a great recipe for a chicken and rice soup. It’s FLU SEASON, it’s freezing outside (Well at least where I am) and this gives you all the nutrients you need: protein, good carbs, minimal fat and lots of flavor!
CHICKEN AND RICE SOUP
Serves 6 (1 1/2 cups each)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium onion, dice
1 stalk celery, diced
7 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup instant brown rice
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onion an celery and cook, stirring until beginning to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add chicken and peas and gently simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, vinegar, salt and pepper.
(recipe adapted from Eating Well)