Bodybuilding - A breeding ground for eating disorders?
Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with food and still progress towards your goals?
I took to write this after reading an extract from an old Lyle MacDonald book:
"The small percentage of dieters that do succeed long-term tend to show characteristic changes in things such as eating and exercise habit. Most use regular self-monitoring of weight or bodyfat percentage to prevent them from slipping too far and there are a few other strategies that come into play as well. Simply, successful dieters make these changes and maintain them long-term. They have to restrict calories to some degree for the rest of their lives to maintain the weight/fat loss. I suspect they’re a little bit hungry and unhappy most of the time. But this describes a small minority; most people, miserable and anxious simply return to old habits and get fat again"
Could this be true?
Am I destined to forever be slightly hungry and unhappy as a result?
It certainly describes how I feel alot of the time, even off season when trying to add lean mass it is a source of constant anxiety for me.
Further reading indicated that there are several Biological and Psychological mechanisms at play that want to try and keep your body at a predetermined ‘set point’ which is put in place by many factors, from your mothers diet while you are in the womb right up to food availability in childhood.
Food for me was never a big deal It was just something that went in me and sometimes It was nice and sometimes it was functional, but if I fancied something I had it.
I cant remeber ever eating to the point of feeling sick or spending a day being bloated when I was morbidly obese and I never experienced food guilt, being fat was what I was and I didn’t care.
I made consistently poor choices but at the same time I used to very much enjoy food, which I still do, but at the same time there is always that sense of guilt or the feeling I need to have ‘earned’ it which leads to constant cycles of depletion and deprivation followed by binging one evening when I ‘Justify’ it because I might not be able to again for some time… Sound familiar?
If it doesn’t chances are you have a normal relationship with whats on your plate and I salute you!
So where does this leave us?
I help people with diet plans day in and day out, I get a couple of messages a week from people who claim to have been inspired by me to begin there own weight loss journeys (praise I constantly feel unworthy of as I still feel like I’m constantly fighting to just tread water with my own sanity)
Well, you may remember recently Jess started to prep food and follow a more set diet for her build up to the Bodypower Expo with the hope of improving her performance and maybe adding some lean mass.
She has been doing well, her lifts are up and she is finding having preplanned nutritions food with her at work to be both practical and time saving, one less thing to worry about!
However she gets bored having the same thing for tea every night, so in the evening she has what she fancies, sometimes coming in over her macro-nutrient target often coming in under, crucially though she has no need for a ‘cheat’ meal, has no sense of deprivation is still progressing and no food guilt, chatting with a friend of Strom Sarah Whitney ( from http://www.competitionprep.co.uk ) I joked that it must be nice to not have an eating disorder... but after Sarah left I spent some time thinking about this and I think there might be something to it!
Is this approach optimal? That depends on perspective, you couldn’t do it for a bodybuilding prep diet, nor would it yield optimal results in a hard cutting diet, but for general sports performance in someone who is naturally lean or to add some structure in where previously there has been none it may well be the best approach possible, should Jess want to drop some weight or refine her diet she only has to regiment the one meal she currently has as a flexible allowance and crucially she has maintained a sensible relationship with food.
So with this in mind I have decided to adopt this approach for the offseason, planning out my breakfast and nutrition through the day, pre an post workout and possibly pre bed, but leaving my evening meal to be an opportunity to enjoy food again for what it is, not to eat until i feel ill, not as an opportunity to binge, but to get back in to cooking and enjoying proper wholesome food and with this elimination of cheat meals should be relatively simple, we may still have a take away night, but there will be no need to consume as much food as possible just for the sake of it.
I have stumbled across http://www.yummly.com and am planning to pick a new healthy recipe three or four nights a week and try to break a cycle that for many becomes a required evil, but is not the way I intend to live forever… nor do I intend to allow my bodies GPS take over and revert me to my natural 'set point’ as Mr MacDonald puts it.
Watch this space!