PROGRESS UPDATE NO. 4 – “Rule your mind or it will rule you”

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I’m currently 3 weeks into my official comp prep and sitting just under 9 weeks out. The last few weeks have been the toughest yet, trying to stay disciplined through Christmas and New Years and finding myself having to make a lot more sacrifices to stay on track as it gets closer to game day. It’s been mentally challenging, and combined with the fact my latest body composition result was less than desirable left me feeling disheartened and questioning whether it’s all worth it.

My body composition test from last week showed I had lost muscle and gained fat. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it certainly wasn’t progress. Going backwards was disheartening, as I had spent the 3 weeks focused and strict, and yet I had no results to show for it. I had just spent the ‘silly season’ being so disciplined, not indulging in any of the treats littered across every table at home, at family events and in the staff room, and I was proud of myself for sticking it out. Yet I had still gone backwards. I thought perhaps just the smell of junk food can make you gain weight? (Disclaimer: I’m joking).

It got me thinking what’s the point in being so disciplined if you have nothing to show for it? Comp prep is hard work. It takes discipline and mental strength, and it really does consume your life even when you try not to let it. When you’re working that hard to achieve something, you want some results to show for it!

I usually don’t weigh myself or care about numbers – I just care about how I feel. I guess in a way competing forces you to care about numbers, but I decided that I should still focus on how I am FEELING. Although the results said I have lost muscle, I FEEL like I have put on size, particularly through my shoulders and back. In fact, a lot of my dresses no longer zip up over my back, and my jackets don’t fit over my shoulders! Perhaps the numbers didn’t reflect that, but they aren’t everything. The fit of my clothes is showing progress, and that’s what I need to focus on.

During the Christmas period I have certainly felt like I’m missing out by competing. I value balance in my life, and preparing for a comp is definitely not balanced. You can try and make it so, but as the comp gets closer it takes up more and more time making sure you’re always prepared, and you do have to start making sacrifices. Feeling like I’ve been lacking balance has really got me down recently, missing out on social events because there’s just too much temptation and not being able to go on holidays with friends because I would need to take all my meals. I must admit this is not a lifestyle that I desire permanently for myself or promote to anyone, as it does take the fun out of healthy living a bit. In saying that, it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s a temporary means to achieve my goal. And for that reason, I’m going to stick it out even when the going gets tough.

Lacking motivation, I let my mind wander to why I started this journey. These are some of the reasons I started this journey:

  1. I wanted a challengeI wanted to push myself to the next level of fitness. I’m not competing to win, I’m competing against myself. I needed a goal – a time and a place by which I had to achieve something. Having an end date for me is the best way to really stick to something. It’s easy to say; “oh I’ll just start next week” or “one bad meal won’t hurt”, but when you have a short time limit, those things will make a difference. The fact I’m going to have to stand on stage in a bikini in front of a lot of people in a few weeks is daunting enough to keep me focused in that respect.
  2. I wanted to understand the discipline it takes for people to drastically change their body.I’m currently studying to be a Personal Trainer. I’ve had a few people say that “you don’t have to compete to be a PT”. Well yes, I’m aware of that. However, one thing I strongly believe is that you should never take advice from a PT who doesn’t practice what they preach. For example, would you take weight loss advice from an overweight trainer? If they can’t lose weight themselves, how are they going to get YOU to lose weight? Now I know I don’t need to lose weight, so I wanted to set myself a goal that required the same amount of discipline that an overweight client would need to lose weight. I wanted to really understand what clients go through. Losing 20kg is hard and takes discipline. Getting down to 10% body fat as a female is also hard and takes discipline. Sure it’s a different outcome, but the discipline and mental challenge behind it is all the same. I’ve achieved plenty of fitness goals in my training so far before competing, but pushing myself hard in the gym is easy for me – I love the feeling. I wanted to do something that I knew I would find really hard, and put myself in my future client’s shoes.

The biggest challenge in all of this is controlling my mind. Temptation is everywhere. I have to walk through the supermarket with tunnel vision to avoid the chocolates at the end of every aisle. I find myself craving things I wouldn’t usually even eat e.g… a tub of ice-cream would go down a treat! At the moment if it’s something sweet, I want to eat it. In my regular, balanced lifestyle (which I’m very much looking forward to returning to by the way) I eat a wide variety of healthy foods and find that I rarely crave junk foods. It’s funny how imposing more restriction on yourself just makes you want to rebel against it. You know the saying “you only want what you can’t have”? Well, turns out it doesn’t just apply to the opposite sex – it applies to food too! When I wasn’t competing, technically I could have eaten ice-cream any time I wanted… but I didn’t want to. Now, I would kill for some!

I guess the lesson I have learnt these past two weeks is when you’re feeling weak and feeling like giving up on your goal, REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED. Learn to control your mind, so it doesn’t control you. Your mind can either be your greatest asset or your greatest enemy. If you change the way you think and perceive things, you can change the way you feel and the energies you attract. My focus is not to look at my journey like I CAN’T have those naughty foods that my mind is telling me I want, but focus on the fact that if I stick to the process I CAN have that lean, muscular physique that I desire! For every negative thought, there is an equal and opposite POSITIVE one. Next time you catch yourself thinking in the negative, reverse it! I guarantee you will put out positive energies and attract positive outcomes because of it. 🙂 It’s all about ruling your mind, so that your mind doesn’t rule you!

With love,
B. xx

Clean Eating vs IIFYM – Which will work best for you?

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Two of the biggest eating trends for improving body composition are ‘Clean Eating’ and ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (IIFYM). They are two very conflicting ideals, yet they have both helped people to achieve their weight loss, fat loss and muscle growth goals. In this post I explore the advantages and disadvantages of both lifestyles, so you can determine which will best suit YOU.

Clean Eating

The idea behind clean eating is to eat as close to nature as possible. This means eliminating processed and refined foods, and only eating foods that are free from artificial additives and preservatives. There are varying degrees of clean eating, with the most strict only eating meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Some people will only eat paleo foods, whereas some will eat vegan, gluten-free or sugar-free. Other ‘clean eaters’ eat packaged foods, provided all the ingredients listed are all ‘clean’.

Advantages

  • It focuses on eating healthy, natural foods – We all know that eating natural, unprocessed foods is better for our health. Eating clean is a way of eliminating processed foods, which are generally high in sugar, fat, and/or artificial additives, which are toxic to the human body.
  • There is no calorie restriction – You can eat as much food as you like, provided it’s all ‘clean’. This means no starving yourself – you simply eat when you’re hungry.
  • It’s structured and simple – it’s clear what foods are off-limits and easy to follow without the need to count everything.

Disadvantages

  • You need to be moderately savvy with food labels – Reading food labels will be a must. You need to look at the ingredients list on the back of the packet (if you choose to include packet foods) to ensure that all the ingredients are clean. You will need to be able to recognize trick word like “Natural Flavouring”, which is generally not natural at all. You can’t fall for the “all natural” claim on the front of the packaging – you really need to analyse the ingredients list of what you’re eating. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can’t recognize all the ingredients, and if you can’t go and buy each individual ingredient in the supermarket yourself, then you shouldn’t buy it. Where can you buy a bottle of Natural Flavouring? You can’t.
  • Not all ‘clean’ packaged foods will help you reach your goal – Clean eaters love their date based bars, fruit and nut bars bound with honey, clean muesli bars etc. but these foods are often high in sugar, despite boasting a ‘clean’ ingredient list. If your goal is weight loss or fat loss, then you need to watch the amount of sugar you are consuming in these kind of products.
  • It restricts the food groups you can eat – Most people find it challenging to cut out all the junk food from their diet. Some can also become fixated on the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, which can lead to an unhealthy obsessive mindset. If you choose to eat clean, it’s okay to have a cheat meal each week where you indulge in ‘dirty’ foods and don’t feel guilty about it.

IIFYM

IIFYM allows you to eat anything, provided it fits within your daily macronutrient requirements, as pre-determined by a ‘macro-nutrient calculator’. Some people also track micronutrients and dietary fibre.

Advantages

  • There is freedom of food choice – You can literally eat anything (including a whole block of chocolate), as long as you don’t exceed or fall below your macros for the day.
  • Flexibility can make it easier to adhere to – eating out is easier, because you can account for it in your macros for the day. You can still eat foods you enjoy like the odd chocolate, protein bar, or ice cream. The benefit of eating in this way is that long-term adherence is easier when your eating is less restricted.

Disadvantages

  • You have to calculate everything – Firstly you need to work out how many grams of protein, fats and carbs you need per day to achieve your goal. Then you need to work out how much of those things is in everything you eat for that day.       Although it sounds easy, 100g of chicken is not 100g of protein. It contains about 31g of protein and 4g of fat. You need to work this out for everything you put in your mouth, which involves a lot of weighing, counting and research. Although this gets easier as you go and start to learn the macronutrient content of your regular foods, every day will be focused around counting. It’s a time consuming process.
  • It’s not necessarily healthy – Just because you can eat chocolate bars all day and still hit your macros doesn’t mean you should. They are still highly processed, full of sugar and fat, and contain toxic additives. Using IIFYM as an excuse to eat junk fund while ‘getting shredded’ will still have consequences on your health. It’s so important to get enough vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables. If you fill up your macros with junk food, you’re missing out on certain nutrients vital to your health. Some people will track their micronutrients as well, but again that is a time consuming process.
  • It can be overly tempting – Although the norm is not to fill your macros with junk, when the options are open, some people struggle to resist temptation. Eating foods high in sugar causes your blood sugar level to spike and then drop, which results in you craving another sugar hit to give you energy again. This can become a vicious cycle of cravings and sugar hits, which is not a good thing to have when you’re on a diet where you can technically eat anything. Another problem people may have is if they indulge too much early in the day, forcing them to ration their macros for the rest of the day. Leaving yourself to go hungry because you already used up your macros is not healthy physically or mentally.

What works for me?

I personally prefer the clean eating approach. I care a lot about eating highly nutritious food and avoiding toxins in my lifestyle, especially in what I eat. Eating clean is an effective way to minimize exposure to toxins and maximize intake of vitamins and minerals. I love healthy food because it makes me feel more energized and happy. Junk food always makes me feel sick or groggy. I’m human and get cravings that I occasionally succumb to, but because eating clean makes me function so much better it motivates me to ignore my cravings and eat well. I like having foods I can and can’t eat, and having rules to adhere to. For me, that kind of structure is easier to follow than an IIFYM approach, where I would be tempted by the wide variety of foods I could eat and get slack on my meal prep. I also hate the idea of counting my food and working out my macros every day – I’ve always hated maths! I still have my cheat meal once a week, filled with ‘dirty’ foods. I do think that it’s important to have a cheat meal to keep you balanced, enjoy a meal out with friends, or just to keep you sane. We are all human and there is a lot of temptation, so it’s nice to be able to give in to them sometimes. But overall, I love eating healthy foods and clean eating works well for me.

What will work for you?

You need to work out which approach will be most convenient, manageable and thus sustainable for you and your lifestyle. What will allow you to stick to your eating plan? Do you like to have rules about what foods to eat and what to avoid? Do you feel better eating clean foods? Perhaps you have food intolerances and clean eating is the best way to manage them. Or do you enjoy having flexibility in your diet to have some treats? Do you love eating out a few times a week, and are not willing to sacrifice that? If you had flexibility in your diet, would you have the willpower to still eat healthy foods the majority of the time? The reality is both methods can help you achieve weight loss, fat loss, or muscle gain – you just have to find the one that best suits you. No two people are the same, and thus no diet will work for everyone. Experiment, work out what you find sustainable, and stick to that, because it is consistency that is more important than which lifestyle you choose to follow.

With love,

B. xx

Image: sabotagetimes