I have done a lot of experimentation with my diet and the different foods that I put in my body. There have been a lot of ups and certainly many downs (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, if you haven’t read them go read!) and while some of those theories I tested out worked during those times in my life I have realized that things don’t stick and your nutrition should always be a learning process filled with as much experimentation as your body can handle.
As your goals change, as your body changes and as what you desire out of life changes—your eating habits change as well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and sometimes these changes are for the better and sometimes they are for the worse but we always learn a thing or two along the way.
I want to preface this blog post by saying that what works for me won’t work for everyone and that just because I’ve tried something doesn’t mean you should too. If there is anything I want people to get from this it’s to experiment with your nutrition—try different foods, different methods, and different habits. If you've been stuck doing one thing forever with little to no results why not try something you've never tried before?
I have cut out added sugars, carb cycled, counted macros, I’ve been low-calorie and I’ve been low-carb. I have had different goals ranging from just wanting to be a little more “fit” to competing in my first bodybuilding competition, to building muscle mass to now, trying to cut weight for my second powerlifting meet. I am cutting weight for no other reason than to be more competitive in a lower weight class. I love my body the way it is and I love the feeling of having fuller muscles and being super strong in the gym. But my goal right now is to make the 57kg weight class and try to qualify for Nationals, as a result, my nutrition needed to change.
At first I approached this cut the same way I approached my bodybuilding cut—my first mistake. Bodybuilding is not powerlifting and there was no reason I had to be so strict with my nutrition. I began cutting late March by tracking everything I ate with a calorie tracker on my phone. I quickly noticed that by tracking I was eating too much because I was trying to hit my macros but I would end up snacking on little things throughout the day resulting in a caloric surplus. Caloric surplus=weight gain.
By April I nixed tracking. I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was satisfied—eating whatever I wanted. My birthday and Easter came and went and I enjoyed donuts, cake, tacos and a huge brunch buffet. And the thing is, I lost the most weight that week. Everyday doesn't look like that for me, in fact, it's actually quite the opposite but occasionally these days happen. When they do, look at food quantity rather than food quality. I knew that my birthday cake wasn’t the healthiest thing for me, but rather than deprive myself of it or eat the entire thing, I had one piece and was done with it. I focused on how big my portions were, and enjoyed eating everything.
A client asked me the other day what I eat on a regular basis and I told him, quite seriously, “Cookies.” I now enjoy a cookie, donut, piece of banana bread, slice of cake, or handful of chocolate espresso beans almost every single day and I am still on track to be 57kg on June 24th. The rest of my diet isn’t comprised of those things, because then we would have a problem, but I enjoy a treat quite frequently because it keeps me from overeating later on down the road, it keeps me sane and I know that if I restrict foods from my diet I will not reach my goal.
I firmly believe that when we eliminate and restrict certain foods from our diet we are only setting ourselves up for failure. The cookie I ate before I worked out does not define me—I am not immediately labeled “unhealthy” or “bad”. I am also not defined by a perfect diet of grass-fed beef and clarified butter and I am not more special if I only buy organic (which I don’t, just using it as an example). And what I’ve really discovered while powerlifting is that that heavy barbell I need to pick up every day doesn’t care if I ate a cookie or a piece of fruit, my body only cares that it has enough fuel to do the task at hand. Food is fuel and we need to start treating it as such. And some things might fuel your body better than others, I’m sure the cookie I eat to fuel my workouts probably won’t feel the same to other people, but it all comes back to experimenting to see what works best for you. Eliminating foods because we think they are “bad” for us will never result in positive results. Sure, if you have Celiac’s or are lactose intolerant go ahead and cut out gluten and dairy from your diet but if you don’t, why deprive yourself?
We need to start focusing on the portion sizes on our plates rather than obsessing over what’s “good” and what’s “bad.” Understand that what you eat does not define the person that you are and that your nutrition will forever be an ongoing experiment. Eating well is simple but certainly not easy, so continue to experiment and find out what works best for YOU.