In the 90s, I envied the bodies of physique competitors, Cory Everson and Rachel McLish. I watched ESPN’s exercising/weightlifting show Bodyshaping and coveted host Keana Tom’s body. And I longed to have those muscular, feminine bodies. I wanted it so badly that I could taste it. So I did what I thought was logical: I pounded the weights in the gym and I starved myself in the kitchen.
That’s how I thought I was going to look like them: if I starved myself.
It was frequent that the only meal I’d eat in a day would be a boatload of egg noodles with butter after a long workout.
I never got stronger. I never got leaner. And I could not figure out why.
This was in the days before the Internet, so information was not right at my fingertips. In fact, it was nowhere near anywhere I had been because clearly, what I was doing was not working. I gave up on my dreams of attaining their physiques, convinced that I just didn’t have what it took to look like that.
I was wrong. I had it. I just lacked good information.
See…here’s the thing….many of us spin and spin and spin our wheels, trying fad diets, trying starvation plans, trying juice cleanses, and this and that and every other stupid thing under the sun.
But here’s the thing….
None of that shit is gonna work.
Diets don’t work. Cleanses don’t work. At least not if you’re in this game for the long haul. Sure, a 21-day detox or whatever the hell it is might work…for those 21 days. But what are you gonna do after those 21 days are over? Think you can maintain a juice diet for the rest of your life and that you’re going to be happy? Think again.
So what DOES work?
A lifestyle. A commitment to your own health. To feeling good about yourself and your body.
That begins with education.
It progresses with action.
I credit a lot of what I know about nutrition to bodybuilding. When I got into this for real when I was just turning 40, I spent hours upon hours looking up nutrition information online. I spent time finding out the importance of macronutrients (proteins, carbs, and healthy fats). I spent time finding out how I could create a meal plan that would meet MY needs. No one else’s Mine.
And then I put that knowledge into action by applying it to my daily life. Now that I’ve taken a break from competing, I am still using that knowledge to inform what I eat on a regular basis.
It might surprise you to know that I sometimes eat cheeseburgers. And I like to drink. I’ve recently become a fan of Blue Moon Belgian Beer. And sometimes I eat cupcakes.
But only sometimes.
I’ve learned the importance of moderation. I’ve learned the importance of finding what works for me. Of what my body needs in order to perform at its highest. So for me, this means I need to eat about 6 meals per day. You read that correctly– 6. Remember– this is for ME. It means I need to eat about every 2 or 3 hours. For me, it means I need to take in about 170 grams of protein, around 130-200 grams of carbs, and a nominal amount of fats. For me. It’s what works For Me. It means I eat eggs and egg whites, steel cut oats, protein shakes, chicken, potatoes, fish, ground beef, steak, homemade protein bars, salads, vegetables. It even means that I can sometimes get away with eating pizza. This is not a fad diet. It is simply my lifestyle. It is the way I eat on a regular, day-to-day basis.
I am not ripped like I am at contest time. But I am fairly lean. And I like how I look. I do not feel any kind of shame about my body, and I know that I am healthy.
So where should you go to find out what’s going to work FOR YOU?
I’m glad you asked. Here are some of my favorite resources:
1. Lean Bodies Consulting. Erik Ledin leads up this crew, and he pulls no punches. I sometimes think he comes off as a bit arrogant, but he knows his shit. Here’s a link to the LBC blog, specifically their nutrition category.
2. Scott Abel is well-known in the fitness industry and is considered an expert. On his page, you’re going to find a lot of attempts to sell you some stuff, but if you do enough digging, you’ll find some valuable information.
3. If you’re on Facebook, find Siouxcountry. Jason often posts helpful articles about nutrition and oftentimes posts a rant or two about the latest diet trend.
4. And if you’re the type who likes a no-bullshit approach and will pretty much just bitchslap some nutrition sense into you, then you should go to Stumptuous and download this book, Fuck Calories and Other Dietary Heresies.
But reading all of that alone is not going to save you from yourself.
You must take action.
This is the end of this series on Five Simple Strategies that you can do RIGHT NOW to achieve your fitness goals. If you’ve been following along, then you’ve been educated. But now the ball is in your court.
How many of these strategies have you (or will you) put into action?