Make the most of your workout!
…The diet was the hard part. I remember vividly the moment I got my meal plan from my online trainer Mike Davies (http://www.mikedaviesfitness.com/) – who I failed to mention in my last post, as he also created my training plans. My meal plan contained a very detailed list of Meals 1-6, and exactly what to eat for each. But that was it. I had requested a 4 week plan, where was the rest of it?
Responding to this question, Mike said “that’s it, you follow the same plan every day for for 4 weeks.” Wait, so… I eat: the same thing for breakfast every day, for 4 weeks. The same thing for lunch, snacks, dinner…? Huh? Well that was about the size of it, let’s give this a whirl.
The more I thought about it, the more I understood the philosophy. Eating the same thing morning after morning, lunch after lunch, gave me a sense of relief that I didn’t have to plan my meals every day, every week. I didn’t have to go into the lunch room every day fighting the glorious smell of hamburgers on my way to the salad bar. And I didn’t have to spend hours calculating the calorie and nutrient contents of every meal. It was all done for me. All I had to do was shop once, cook once, and prepare 7 portions of each meal on the menu. But there were a few other lessons along the way:
The actual “diet” is do-able once you get used to it: I’m not saying it’s not hard, but you do get used to the rhythm of your plan, the small portions, and the super clean food. You start to get creative about (sodium free) seasonings and (very odd) combinations of food like raw oats and sweet potato. There are some really simple practices to follow (small meals, 6-7 times a day, limited ingredients (mostly single source)), and traditional staples of chicken, tuna, sweet potato, raw vegetables, avocado, egg whites, whey protein, rice cakes, raw almonds. All good stuff- hard to argue this is not “healthy”. No sugar, no alcohol, no gluten, limited dairy, very little processed food. Restrictive, Specific, and Squeeky Clean.
But the diet (and maybe the training) will impact your social relationships: While with training, it’s mostly easy to fit in your hour a day at the gym. But with eating, not only are you doing it several times a day, but you realize quite quickly that social events are so intertwined with food in our society, that it’s near impossible to not run into unless you’re going to avoid social events altogether and live under a rock for 12 weeks (very unlikely). For me, I’m the chef in our family, and while I was happy to make my family our ‘regular’ dinners while eating chicken and broccoli myself, it isn’t fun for anyone else at the table; it makes other people feel awkward, especially children or people who have their own challenges with food. And although one can say “not my problem,” it is, if you want to have a relationship with people.
And Eating out is near impossible: When you start eating on a plan, you become highly aware of how many times people ask “let’s have lunch” or “let’s meet for happy hour!” Before my competition training days, these invites were just part of life, and you accepted happily. But once you start on your training plan, before you can say yes your mind is thinking “lunch!? Happy hour?! But what can I eat? I definitely can’t drink! Could I bring my own food? Would that be rude? Maybe I’ll just have a salad. But without dressing. And I can’t have meat because maybe they put salt in their marinade and… “ …and before you know it your friend (or husband) is now rolling their eyes at you and saying “nevermind, I’ll just go without you!”
I did go out, because it’s “normal” in my family and group of friends, it was just very very difficult to do while staying on track with the diet. For the most part, I’d say 98.9% of all menus I couldn’t touch. And what I could I had to be really embarrassing for everyone else at the table and ask “may I have the salmon, but cleanly grilled? I mean, can you ask the chef not to put ANYTHING on it, even seasoning? And, can I skip the rice and just have some kind of steamed vegetables? Again, just with nothing on them not even seasoning?” To which the server and the entire table (and the one next to us) just stared at me like I had three heads. But that’s how it goes – if you’re going to do the diet, you’ve got to take with it what comes, and odd looks are definitely that.
So have your answer ready: When people ask why you aren’t having “fries with that,” (and in fact you’re not even having “that”) – and your answer is “I’m training for a bikini competition” you feel kind of silly. Maybe you’re comfortable with it, I wasn’t. For me, it was easier saying “I’m training for a fitness competition,” even though it might not be entirely accurate, it felt better. No matter what your answer, have it ready. You will feel so much more empowered to say “No” to that cupcake, cheeseburger, or whatever vice is staring you in the face!
In the end, I learned a lot from being on a competition meal plan. But I also learned that it is not a “normal” thing to do in your “normal” life. Being off the plan now for several weeks, I remember how much I enjoy food, and especially the fun of preparing food – for my family, and for myself. Trust me, I lost the weight (and have gained the weight back not being on the plan) to know that the competition meal plans work – if you’re willing to give up a few things along the way. In the end it’s like everything else – Knowledge, and Choice.