Nutrition. Perhaps one of the most foundational pieces within a person’s fitness journey. Some say that abs are made in the kitchen, but truthfully I wish it were that simple.
When it comes to making the best choices, obviously it is apparent that you should eat your fruits and dark leafy greens and choose healthy, lean proteins to pair with your complex carbohydrates. But what happens when the cycle of these habits turns to be a bit toxic? Establishing a schedule and a habit of eating healthfully on the daily is not what becomes the problem, but when it becomes an obsession, this might be where one needs to step back and reevaluate your overall life satisfaction.
For years, I succumbed to frugelant eating behaviors and falling into endless cycles of dieting. The desire to be so lean ultimately impaired my overall muscle mass, appearance, and overwhelmed me in my day-to-day living. The truth is, however, that many male and female athletes in their lifetime will develop an eating disorder, regardless of their age. Back then, I had no real guidance as to what was the best “plan” for me within my sport since it was all so generic. Now, I could attest that my-then strict diet of vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains without an ounce of indulgence wasn’t proper “self-control.” Rather, I was out of control.
It took years to break this cycle and understand that I could no longer sustain this lifestyle. Since I was not fueling myself properly, my body essentially turned on its survival mode. I was not gaining anything other than self-doubt. However, the reason why it took me so long to stop was the constant praise I receive for how I ate and the choices I made. I was being fueled by individuals who would say I should be so proud of making the “best choices for my body” and how they wished they could have the same “self-control” as I had. I even had a coach back then who told me I should eat LESS fruit than my two measly servings a day, since that was “too much sugar” for the body (pretty nonsensical if you ask me).
In actuality, there was nothing more I wanted than a burger and fries every once in a while.
So, what have I learned, and what do I hope to share? Listen to your body first and follow-up with your mind second.
Life isn’t made for tofu and brown rice everyday of your life (unless that really is a treat for you). As for someone who felt so restricted by food everyday, I could honestly say I feel off the wagon once I let go of my unhealthy habits. But, that was the other problem. I had been so confined by my choices that when I was told I needed “more food,” I wanted to then eat all I could. Finding that balance was and can always be difficult, especially around holidays or difficult periods in your life. Food should not come in the way of you and your happiness, food should be a vehicle for nourishment and aiding you amidst your overall goals.
I watched my mom lose over 100 pounds within a year and not restrict herself to any yo-yo or crash diet. When I saw her overcome that obstacle, I knew it was time for me to stop neglecting my body and my cravings and learn that it is okay to indulge every once in a while.
Being in tune with your body and the decisions you make will set you up for success. Thinking of meals as if they are indulgent or not is not how we should frame the nourishing of our bodies. You need to let yourself let go every once in a while, and sometimes you need to buckle down. Being lenient with yourself and allowing yourself to feel out your cravings will allow you to easily navigate your mindset. And while I am no dietician, I can attest that an extra piece of chocolate every once in a while won’t detour your goals.