I have mentioned in prior posts that I have been working with Allison Moyer of Predator Diet on primal nutrition that supports both athletic performance and favorable body composition. She has an amazing blog (I think it is very much worth the one-time fee to become a member and get access to all of her content) and she also shares a ton of great stuff on her Facebook page.
Anyway, for the past 24 weeks, I have been working with her – following her meal plan, sending weekly updates, and emailing her progress photos biweekly. I wasn’t perfect by any means, and there are certainly weeks I dreaded sending her my weekly Friday update because I knew how utterly non-compliant I had been during that week. Whatever excuses/justifications I employed in the moment to allow myself to go off plan sounded hollow and ridiculous when I was trying to explain myself to Alli after the fact. She often posts client transformation photos on her Facebook page, and I am not one of those stories. My results were subtle and much more internal for me than external. I do highly recommend Alli if you are looking for online nutrition coaching, online training, or online competition prep, especially if you are Paleo/Primal. She works with all kinds of athletes – CrossFit, figure, bikini, marathoners, powerlifters, etc., as well as just your average Joe who wants to look and feel better.
Anyway, Friday was my final update with her. As much as I would love to continue working with her (she has become someone I admire and look up to tremendously), financially I couldn’t do another 12 weeks right now. In the same way that I am now training on my own, I also wanted to see what happened when left to my own devices with eating.
I’m not going to lie – one of my first thoughts was CHEAT MEAL. But, that was fleeting. For some people, exercise is their Achilles heel, but not for me, I love training. The nutrition piece has always been more challenging for me. I always joke that I have an inner fat kid I keep locked up in a cage (although I never actually was a fat kid) and occasionally, he gets out and runs amuck for a while. Many a muscley guy have I humbled by putting down a disproportionately large amount of food despite my munchkin-like stature.
But, as I become more focused on performance goals and less focused on aesthetic ones, I find a surprising silver lining when it comes to my motivation to be meticulous about what I eat. I have begun to appreciate the connection between the quality of a workout and my pre- and post-workout nutrition. Some of this is obvious – I already know that if I eat crap or overindulge prior to a workout, I will probably skip the workout, or best case scenario, feel horribly uncomfortable and lethargic during training. But I have begun to value my intake even the DAY BEFORE a workout. So, when I am making food choices today (even though it is a rest day), I am evaluating them on the basis of how what I eat and drink today will influence my training session TOMORROW. I am also thinking about how what I eat today is doing for my recovery from YESTERDAY’s workout.
There is no worse feeling than waking up the morning after a junk food joy ride. I can still feel the food sitting in my gut like a rock, I feel like a whale-o-potamus, and I start rifling through my drawers looking for the baggiest tank top I own. I usually feel like this for sometimes even a few days afterward. Conversely, when I have been eating clean and maintaining appropriate calories (not too much, but not too little either), I love how I feel when I wake up. I feel rested and energized to train. I feel lean. I feel better about myself overall, which translates to more enthusiasm and confidence when I work out that day. And then I perform well when I train, which just feeds back into this positive loop. Often, aesthetics are poor motivators for me when it comes to being disciplined with my eating. If I really want to hit up Coldstone for some Cake Batter Ice Cream with brownies and chocolate chips (my favorite), then reminding myself of the six pack I don’t have usually doesn’t deter me, in fact it only reminds me of how far I am from whatever my physique goal is, which discourages me and makes me want that ice cream even more. But thinking about how it will affect my training for the next day or two really has been effective in keeping me in line and consistently making better food choices.
Another thing I have learned is that my eating habits are really a barometer for my soul. When I am fulfilled and grateful and content, eating well is effortless. Food is really just food. I stick to foods and portions that are healthy for me, but that I enjoy eating. However, if I am battling cravings for things I know are bad for me or am eating way more food than I need, this is an indicator to me that something is amiss. I am trying to soothe myself so that I don’t feel empty or lonely or unloved or unworthy or hurt. I mistakenly believe that the feeling of physical fullness is what I need when in reality it is spiritual fullness that I seek. Food may temporarily make me feel better, but ultimately it cannot satisfy the spiritual need I am feeling. So I have learned that when I am tempted to turn to food for comfort, it won’t give me what I need, and it often only compounds the problem. Instead, I turn to prayer, I turn to scripture, I turn to friends and family.
One night, I chose a random verse from my Bible when I was struggling spiritually and landed on Jeremiah 2:13 –
My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
There was also a sidebar with commentary on this verse –
Every soul has a thirst only God can satisfy. Yet we often turn from God and try to quench our soul thirst in other ways. We pursue money, power, and success, thinking they’ll satisfy us. We search for fulfillment in our appearance, reputation, possessions and relationships. When all else fails, we may even turn to drugs and alcohol to slake our thirst. But those things are all like broken jars that can never hold water, so they still leave us thirsty. Only God is a spring of living water. He alone can quench the thirst of our souls. (True Identity – The Bible for Women)
Although food isn’t specifically mentioned, I think it still applies. I also recently read Made To Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. She focuses specifically on how to break the cycle of seeking spiritual fulfillment through food, but I found a lot of the principles in the book applied to other misguided ways in which we try to fill the voids inside with things that cannot satisfy us.
So, I have no trainer, I have no nutrition coach – and yet, I’m still training like a beast and eating like an athlete. Feels pretty damn good.