Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food as the Enemy?

I was putzing around on a forum the other day and came across a thread about cheating. No, not relationship cheating - diet cheating. Several of the girls on the thread seemed dare I say it - obsessed with cheating or not cheating on their diets. And on another forum, I found a thread about a guy asking how people handle life after the contest - do they binge for week and skip the gym, or do people go back to their regular pre-contest routine. These threads got me to thinking about how many of us in the fitness industry view food.

Is food evil? Not at all! We NEED food! In fact, food is one of the most powerful drugs bodybuilders have. Food has the power to change our bodies and affect our minds. Have you ever noticed that your mood is different before and after a meal? I'm much more fun to talk to after a meal!

When we're dieting, it seems like the whole world revolved around food and our meal times. I find myself constantly keeping track of time, planning when my next meal will be, and then writing down what time I ate. I've gotten used to this, so I don't even think about it anymore. But to a new competitor, the focus on food can be overwhelming.

I couldn't help but respond to the thread about cheating. I don't usually post on that forum - I'm more of a lurker - but I just couldn't help myself. Here's what I posted:

Why is there such a focus on eating clean 100% of the time? Is that a realistic goal? And if so, why? I've been competing for 5 years, and I've always had a scheduled TREAT meal or day. No, not CHEAT, because that's a negative connotation. And if it's planned in the diet, it's not cheating; it's merely a treat. So instead of looking at food as evil or bad, I look at it as a treat.

One thing that helps too is to be on a meal plan that speeds up your metabolism so your body doesn't constantly feel starved or deprived. Women who do contest diets that starve, deplete, and deprive their bodies have a much more difficult time adjusting after the prep than those who follow a plan that feeds them more food to keep their bodies constantly burning and feeling full.

Unless you're on a contest diet that doesn't have planned Treat meals because you're behind on prep (and that's the only reason why you wouldn't have them), scheduling a treat meal or even a treat day is not a bad thing. It's actually healthy - both mentally and physically. A treat meal or day can kick start a lagging metabolism, and it can satisfy cravings that will help keep you on track the rest of the week.

I see absolutely no need to go 6 or 8 weeks (or even 2 weeks unless it's right before a show!) without a treat meal or day. Seems like a plan that removes all treats is just asking to be broken, creating an unhealthy sense of guilt, disappointment, and discouragement. I had a whole Treat Day all the way up till about 3 weeks out from my show, and I continued to get leaner (another point - forget about the scale!!), and brought my best conditioning to the show.

So many of these women were focused on eating clean 100% of the time. Why put themselves through that if it's not necessary? I've been seeing this trend more lately as I follow the journeys of women getting ready for their first show. I remember I was the same way when I first started competing. I found myself focusing so much on what I couldn't have, that I would feel sorry for myself, and then start to doubt myself. Why was I doing this? Why was I starving myself? And there was the key element - I was starving myself. My actual diet was to blame. Now that I follow a diet that allows me to feel full and fuels my metabolism, I don't get such strong cravings (don't get me wrong - I still have cravings - they're just not as intense). And I don't view food as evil or the enemy. It's fuel for my body, the machine.

The advice I gave the guy who's wondering how to handle eating after a show was to let himself enjoy food for a couple days and then get right back to his routine. Why change everything all at once? He'll blow up like a puffball! It won't be quality weight or muscle; it'll be water, and if he keeps up that routine, it'll be fat. And he won't have made any gains. I don't understand the point of gorging and binging for days and days on end. Sure, a day or two is normal, and even healthy mentally, but not days and weeks of gluttony, as is the case with some competitors.

We need to have a healthy, realistic view of food and what it can do for us. I'm all about taste, so I need to like my food in order to eat it. But I also understand that it's a necessary fuel in order for my body to function like the highly efficient, fat-burning machine that it I've trained it to be. And with that being said, it looks like it's time for my last meal of the day. Yum! :)


  1. I think what you say is so true! I did the exact thing during my prep last year...i would look at everything i couldnt have and i could not wait till after my show so i could eat...and i did...and all my hard work went right out the window...and i have nothing to show for it besides tight pants ;) I will NOT do that again!!!

  2. I didn't even make it through my first contest prep because of how obsessive I got about food. I was unhappy with where I was allowing myself to go mentally, so I took the competition off the table for now! I am going to get my body fat down lower and then rethink the competition thing!! Food obsession is a slippery slope!

  3. Great blog Kari!