The solution is NOT another diet

So its been awhile since I’ve written, I’ve had a million and a half things going on, including an exciting move and job change, amongst other things. But with the New Year upon us and resolutions in full effect, I’m feeling it very necessary to write this post.

Your solution for happiness is NOT another diet. It’s not another fad, or cleanse, or diet pill, or Dr. Oz miracle product or any other promise of rapid weight loss and a “new you.”

In my experience, this is one of the hardest concepts to truly internalize. We all want the quick fix, because we believe that weight loss will be the key to our happiness. The paradox is, in order to truly be happy and healthy we must already accept ourselves. If you are unhappy, weight loss in and of itself will NOT bring happiness.

In other words, if you’re dieting or exercising to lose weight because you hate your body and you believe that when you finally lose weight THEN you will be happy, you will not get the outcomes you’re looking for. It does NOT work that way. In order to become healthy you need to focus on being happy NOW.

You must learn to disassociate weight and food from your self esteem and happiness. Find worth within yourself regardless of your weight and regardless of what food you choose to eat and believe in that worth with all your heart.

So how do we go about doing that? I think one of the first steps is to let go of the dieting mentality. The fact is: Diets fail. And in turn they have this way of making people feel like they’ve failed. People do not fail, diets fail.

One of the inherent flaws in the concept of diets is the “on or off” mentality. We’re either “on” the diet or we’re “off.” When we’re on, we’re severely restrictive with food choices, to a point where it becomes impossible to maintain. Many of us start out with good intentions and strong wills but we have the unrealistic expectation that this level of restrictive eating is maintainable. And then we quickly find out, it is not. And then we go “off” the diet, and boy do we go off. Typically we go “off” out diets and head straight for the opposite extreme, binge eating and consuming large amounts of foods we would not even normally consume, just because we’re “off” the diet and we can. And then any weight loss achieved with the initial restrictive period is usually gained back and then some. And then the cycle starts over.

I myself am guilty of planning shows (fitness competition) in an effort to force myself to diet to get back into what I considered acceptable shape for the fitness industry. I was one of those competitors that dieted 100% strictly for weeks and months on end, only to rebound pretty significantly in a short amount of time following my competition season. This would lead to very poor self image and of course, the inevitable plan to start dieting again. And unfortunately, I was very competitive, and would end up taking it to the extreme again to get in shape for the next show. And the cycle would continue.

Its only more recently that I’ve realized how destructive this behavior is. And the mentality is really no different than the yo-yo dieter.

So no dieting. But then you may ask, so how do I lose weight/get in shape/get healthy? First of all, let me start by saying weight loss does not equate to health (nor happiness, as I’ve mentioned above) but I’ll save that for another post.

If you’re doing a contest prep, of course that requires some form of structured eating. But my advice is to maintain a healthy, well balanced approach, as much as possible. Continue to include all food groups throughout the entirety of the prep and give yourself plenty of time to achieve the level of leanness you’re aiming for. And most importantly, approach a competition prep with the right mindset. Always keep the perspective that “competition lean” is not necessarily “healthy, real life lean.” Be prepared for a normal amount of healthy weight gain after your show and be prepared for the emotional rebound that can occur in the post-show period. Understand what’s realistic and what’s not, and always keep your health as top priority.

And before even starting a competition prep take the time to really evaluate whether or not you are physically and emotionally ready to take on all that the competition prep and the post competition period can entail. And if you’re not sure you can handle it, then DON’T do it. There is absolutely no shame in deciding NOT to compete.

As for the rest of us that will not be getting ready for any physique type competitions in the near future, here’s some additional advice.

✓ Try to avoid classifying foods as good or bad. All food has a purpose. Some foods serve our health and some foods serve as enjoyment/fun. And realistically, its healthy to include a certain amount of both in our everyday lives.
✓ Try making small changes to your everyday habits. In order to be successful, you must approach health as a lifelong commitment, not a quick destination. Slow, manageable changes will produce longer lasting results than extreme restrictions. The key is to accept this truth and stop seeking the quick fix, it doesn’t exist.
✓ Focus on something other than food. Obsessing about what you eat and what you think you “should” be eating will only lead to unnecessary stress and often stress eating. Its counterintuitive, but often we relieve our food related stress by eating more food. So stop worrying so much about it and focus your attention on other, more fulfilling things.
✓ When it comes to nutrition, aim to consume more fresh, wholesome, natural foods as opposed to processed/packaged stuff. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store- fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy and whole grains. It doesn’t mean packaged stuff can’t be healthy too, but generally speaking the fewer ingredients the better. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate some of the more fun, processed foods into your daily eating.
✓ Try to consume SATISFYING meals and snacks. If you’re forcing yourself to eat foods because you think you “should,” or because you think they’re “healthy” but you don’t necessarily like them, you’re not going to get very far. Choose foods that you enjoy. There is always a “healthier” version of all your favorite foods. Look for recipes and experiment!
✓ Create balance- use all 3 macronutrients at meals- carbs, proteins and fats. Do NOT eliminate whole food groups for the sake of weight loss.
✓ And most importantly, work on your own body image and outlook. Let go of the diet mentality. Break the cycle. Learn to love and accept your body for what it is and what it can do. Your self worth is NOT tied to how you look or what you eat. You deserve better than that, so treat yourself accordingly.

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Stay True to Your Beliefs- Why I Decided to Drop Out of the 1stPhorm Athlete Search

I haven’t been posting as much on social media lately, and there’s a few reasons for that, but the major one is that I’m coming to realize that the message I’ve been sending out is not quite the one I’m intending to promote. Let me preface this by saying that I have no issue with 1stphorm or their contest. As a brand and as a movement they have inspired and motivated hundreds of thousands of people and I support that. My issue lies within myself. In trying to promote myself to win a contest, I’ve lost sight of what I truly believe in and what truly matters to me. In aligning my message with what I thought would win, I’ve lost sight of promoting MY true message, the one that comes from my heart.

Do I believe in hard work, of course. Do I believe in giving it your all, absolutely. Do I believe in accomplishing your goal at all costs regardless of the toll it takes on your body, mind and life as a whole? No. And honestly I think a lot of the fitness industry via social media has been promoting that mentality- obsession.

Being obsessed with eating healthy and working out, at the expense of everything else in your life, is not in fact “healthy.” Being obsessed with how you look is not healthy. Being obsessed with doing “whatever it takes” and going to extremes to be “great” or to look a certain way is not healthy.

Obsession is not healthy.

But unfortunately, in my opinion, the majority of the fitness industry is promoting a message of obsession with diet and training, of extremes, of doing whatever it takes or else you’re a failure. And I no longer want to be a part of that message.

I used to be one of those fitness obsessed people. Quite frankly, I probably worked harder and more intensely at it than the majority of people out there. I turned pro in my second show, I competed at the Olympia in my first year as a pro. I was invited to compete in two Arnold Classic Fitness Internationals, I was sponsored by a major supplement company. I was ambitious, I did whatever it took, I was dedicated, disciplined, obsessed. I worked harder than most could dream of and I wasn’t going to stop until I was THE BEST. And you know what, I was absolutely miserable. It was NOT, in any way, shape or form, a healthy way to live. It did not create a healthy body or a healthy mindset. It gave me an outlet to channel my poor body image and to trick my mind into believing that I was successful because I was working hard and being 100% disciplined and pushing myself through no matter what. In reality, I was incredibly unhealthy both mentally and physically. I developed an injury that pretty much put an end to my career. I developed reproductive and thyroid issues. I isolated myself from family and friends. And I developed a severely distorted view of my body which lead to severely distorted eating habits.

When I returned to the stage in 2013 I vowed to do it the right way. With balance. With self confidence. With love and respect for my body and mind. Both on and off season. And I also vowed that this was the message I would promote to those that looked up to me. And I think in participating in this contest, I’ve lost sight of that a little bit.

The fact is, I whole heartedly believe that you can achieve great things in your life without becoming “obsessed.” I know because I’ve done it- I’ve done it both ways. Letting something consume your whole life is not healthy. As someone who’s “been there, done that” with that mentality, I just cannot go on promoting it, knowing all the damage it can cause and knowing that it’s just not necessary.

The images we see on social media are not real life. Realistically, the majority of these insta famous fitness icons are not the true picture of what is healthy. I certainly wasn’t. Although I was damn good at making everyone think I was.

In fact, by “fitness industry standards” right now I’m considered FAT. By fitness industry standards right now I’m “out of shape.”

The truth is, I’m not fat and I’m not out of shape. I’m far from it. I’m focusing on other things in my life and not spending as much time in the gym or “food prepping,” and you know what? That’s OK. I’m OK with it. But 5 years ago, back when I was “great,” I wouldn’t have been caught dead posting pictures at my current weight. I would have been terrified of what people thought. It’s really an absurd concept if you think about. WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE IS THIS PROMOTING?? I’ll tell you what message it’s sending- an unrealistic one that promotes poor body image. And it’s no better than the photo shopped “too skinny” cover models that everyone gets all up in arms about.

I believe people should work hard toward their goals, believe in themselves and give their all. But I cannot support this “get it done at all costs” philosophy because I just don’t believe in it. I lived it. And it damn near ruined my life. And I’ve since changed my approach, and done things the healthy, balanced, non-obsessed way- successfully.

I workout because I love my body. I eat healthy because I want to nourish my body not because I think I need to change it. I compete to see what my body and mind are capable of, not because I dislike how I look and I feel like I need to get in shape.

It took me a really long time to come to that realization. It took me a really long time to accept my body, my structure, my flaws. It took me a really long time to be proud of what my body is capable of and not just obsessed with how it looks. And it took me a really long time to realize that doing whatever it takes to be “great” is a good way to ruin my health and my happiness.

I want to promote a message of self confidence. A message of respect for your body, mind and soul. A message of kindness toward yourself. I’d like to inspire others to be well rounded, to be real, to be grounded, to encourage others. ENJOY YOUR LIFE. Be motivated, be dedicated, but never lose sight of the big picture. Stop trying to live up to the insta famous fitness model. That’s not real life. That’s not YOUR life.

Workout because you love your body. Eat well because you love your body. And always remember that you do not have to go to unhealthy extremes to accomplish what you want.

I don’t know what the future holds for me but I do know that moving forward, my message will be more clear. I don’t want people to look up to me because of how I used to look and what I’ve accomplished in the past, because the mindset and methods used to get there were far from healthy. I want to inspire people to do things the right way, respect their bodies, maintain a healthy mind and spirit, maintain balance, recognize obsession, BE HEALTHY! Personally, I want to be fit, healthy, HAPPY…
And should I ever be blessed with the opportunity to compete again, I am certain that I will be successful doing it my way.