Oh the irony of me writing this article. I just received an email notification from a fitness company titled “3 ways to start a diet.” And it’s even more ironic because five years ago, I could not put a morsel of food in my mouth unless it was on a piece of paper telling me to do so. I literally would hover around my inbox waiting for the meal plan to come in because then and only then could I go to the grocery store. Because I mean, how can you actually go to a grocery store without knowing if you are supposed to buy chicken or ground turkey, are you supposed to buy green peppers or red peppers, or am are you allowed to have peanut butter or does it have to be almond butter?
If you’ve never competed, you might be saying to yourself, “she’s kidding right?” And if you have competed, you might be saying, “oh yes, I know the feeling!” And you might even be thinking, “Yes, that’s what I do.” Nothing wrong with that, but that’s not for me anymore. Perhaps your goals are to be in the best shape of your life, to win a Procard, to add a trophy to your shelf, all great accomplishments, they were all goals for me at one point in my life. And who knows maybe they will be again, but for now, they aren’t.
I will never forget the last time I competed: I was eating (if I was lucky )1200 calories a day, the same food everyday for weeks. I was doing two cardio sessions a day and lifting weights. I would browse the Internet at night staring at pictures of food, desserts especially, and get an abnormal sense of satisfaction from just staring at the pictures. My life revolved around Tupperware, food, and the gym and it would come crashing down if I ate 13 almonds instead of 10.
My life was like a hamster on a wheel. Day in and day out the same routine, the same food, the same controlled environment. And despite following the meal plan to a T daily, I never felt happy, satisfied or fulfilled. There was no sense of owning my power or making my own choices for my body.
I became completely dependent on someone else to tell me what to eat when.
Re-read that. And for me, it was a coping mechanism. It allowed me to become reliant on someone else’s assessment of me, instead of being able to assess myself. It was an out, because if I didn’t see the results I wanted, I could blame the meal plan. It was a way to stay busy and somewhat on autopilot, because I didn’t have to THINK for myself. Because if I could just do what I was told, I was “good enough right?, I was worthy, I would win over someone’s approval.
At the end of the day trophy or no trophy, six-pack or no six-pack, I was still relying on someone else to dictate my life.
This was a choice I made. No one forced me to eat out of Tupperware, to count my asparagus, to turn down ground turkey because it wasn’t ground chicken. And yes, by doing those things I got lean, but that was the only thing I really did. I was too afraid to take the time to learn what my body needs on my own.
And here’s where I get a little scientific and blunt:
There’s not much rocket science to eating but we all have our own unique equation.
At the end of the day there does need to be a calorie deficit to lose weight however what might work for you may not work for me. Just as all calories aren’t created equal (ie proteins vs fats vs carbohydrates have different physiological functions in the body) we aren’t all created equal. We have are own unique genetic make up and body type that
Sure that 1200-calorie meal plan might help us drop a few pounds over the next 12 weeks but is that realistic for life? Most of us are fortunate enough to be educated enough to rationally know what is healthy and what isn’t. Most of us know that if we want to lose fat, gain muscle, or both, we are going to have to be a little more intentional about our food choices. Most of us know, we have the knowledge to figure out what works for our bodies. But guess what?! It takes time and effort! A meal plan is a quick fix, but it is not giving us the tools or the knowledge on how to eat for life.
This article was not meant to knock the sport of competing, it was meant to unveil some of the struggles I had with choosing to use a strict meal plan and how I personally believe there is a better way to improve your health, fitness, physique, and more importantly internal peace.
Here's to finding out our own equations.