For years, my relationship with food wasn’t greatest. I’d be obsessively counting calories, weighing food, replace real meals with sugary snacks. I had to have my sugar ‘fix’ at least 3 times a day, some days I’d eat so much of it, that to keep my calories under control I’d have to skip the good, nutritious food. My weight was always pretty stable and normal, I,however, wanted to be skinny, hence the obsession with calories. So I would never eat anything greasy, fried, no takeaways, fast food restaurants (that’s something I grew up with, which I’m eternally grateful to my mum for), but I couldn’t deny myself any of the sweet treats (frankly, health-wise, if I was to pick between a fast food habit and a sweet tooth habit, I’d pick the sweet tooth anytime!). So my diet consisted of your usual lean proteins, eggs, dairy, veg and lots and lots of tea with biscuits 😀 😀 ironic, huh?
I know, it’s not terrible, but not great either. And for me to get stronger at the gym and leaner I’d have to give up some of that glucose and add some more real food. So this diet wasn’t working with my goals. But that was my logic brain trying to persuade my habit and emotion driven brain. It doesn’t work. As most of you probably experienced, setting up goals and aligning your nutrition to them, most of time means denying yourself something and sooner or later it comes back biting you in the ass and very quickly you find yourself stuck in the vicious circle.
So I thought, I’ll take a different path, I need to find myself a goal and a deadline which I cannot fail at – Bikini competitions. I thought that’d give me a reason to train harder and become skinny. Before I go any further- this is not a good reason to partake in such a mentally and physically taxing sport. But I did anyway, for 3 years! And let me tell you, it has been an emotional roller-coaster and a steep learning curve! I won’t list everything I’ve learnt, I’ll make a separate post about that. But I’ll point out some crucial lessons that have altered the way I think about nutrition and body image at the moment and the way I want to teach my clients to think, hence the project I’m starting, check out the last post here.
1. Your Health MUST be your utmost priority! When you drop your calories below 1200 cal, run your body into the ground with cardio, profess the daily negative self talk, basically work your ass off and still hating what you see, you’ve got a problem and you have to stop immediately and re-evaluate the situation. Chasing a skinny look must not come at the expense of your health! In fact, I’ll go as far as to say, no endeavour should come at the expense of your health!
2. Food is an affordable and easily accessible source of pleasure and joy, it’ll be a shame to deprive yourself of it.That’s why I don’t believe it’s realistic for the majority of us to give up sugar, salt, fats or carbs. There is a way to incorporate all these yummy food groups in your day and still be healthy and look the part.
These are the 2 major lessons I’ve learnt in my 3 year long competitive bodybuilding journey. I was at a brink of developing an eating disorder, my body has suffered a fair share of voluntarily induced abuse. I want to emphasise the ‘voluntary’ part and to remind you that there are people out there that have no choice but to deal with horrible ailments they weren’t at fault of developing and all they ever want is to be healthy again. We have that health! And we are running ourselves into the ground for what?? to look skinny? This is something to think deeply about. Done.