The Competition Diet – A Personal Journey of Lessons Learned

5 Sep

I’m the first to tell people how making changes toward a healthier lifestyle can better them.  I did it first hand but its like childbirth, once you’ve done it you forget how hard some of those moments were.  I was reminded of those challenges over the past 6 weeks when I decided to participate in a fitness competition.  I knew the required diet was rigid but I figured I eat clean, I don’t eat a lot, how hard it could be?  Harder than I thought, and not for the reasons I suspected.

I received the diet and it listed exactly what foods to eat each day and the order in which I should eat them. There are about 15 foods on this diet.  I eat them day in and day out.  Almost everything on the diet  is a “one-ingredient” food.  I eat things like quinoa, egg whites, mushrooms, oats, salmon, broccoli, lean ground turkey, apples, chicken, brown rice, green beans and nuts. Six weeks and counting and here is what I’ve learned.

Week 1: I clearly need to spend a little more time preparing food.  Life is beginning to revolve around eating.  I am hungry all the time and since many of these things are hard to eat while out and about, I feel like I am running back home to eat constantly.  I spend a Monday afternoon preparing, measuring, and bagging all the food I’ll need for the week, as to insure I don’t find myself in a bind without what I need. Lesson Learned: Pay it forward – a little preparation can simplify your life, making it much more manageable in the long run.

Week 2: I am already growing tired of the diet.  I’ve had a hard week and I am dying for frozen yogurt, or red wine, or both!  My kids sit in front of me eating a treat while I choke down plain ground turkey, green beans, and quinoa.  I finish and am left with a terribly unsatisfying feeling. Am I feeding my body what it needs?  I’ve gotten so good at that over the years.  Is this really a healthy life-style? I decide this will only last four months and I will stick it through.  As I watch the kids eating their yogurts, I literally find myself breathing through my urge to eat more, to eat anything other than what’s on my diet.  Let it pass, I tell myself, and I go for a walk.  As I do, the urge slowly goes away. Lesson Learned: Sometimes you have to give yourself  time for the urge to pass: the urge to eat more than you might need, to eat something you know you shouldn’t, to stop working out sooner than you planned because your tired, even the urge to munch on your kid’s leftovers after dinner.  The urge will often come, and if can distract yourself long enough, it will go.

Week 3: I’m still having moments where I have to talk myself down but not nearly as many.  The desire to eat a lot of things I previously ate and loved, like hummus, Kashi Go Lean, protein bars and watermelon is slowly going away.  These are all good foods but they are not on this diet, so they will not come near my lips…period.  Everyone I know asks me how competition training is going. It reminds me to stick to the program.  I never would have had the will-power to do this before, but I have a specific goal in mind.  Lesson Learned: Setting  a specific goal (e.g. a fitness competition, a race, a weight lose challenge with friends, a 30 day yoga cleanse) makes it much easier to endure something and succeed. Telling people you are pursuing a goal and that they should hold you accountable to stick with it helps you achieve your goal.

Week 4: I’m not feeling right.  Apparently rigorously following this diet has worked to lean me down to extremely low levels.  On the other hand, it’s also left me feeling depleted.  I am craving fat like I never imagined.  All I want to do is eat nuts.  I visit trainer Scott and tell him this just does not seem right.  He takes one look at me, checks my body fat and agrees.  He adds more fat to my diet.  I’m hoping this makes me feel more alive, brings my color back, improves my skin tone and texture.  All things I felt where going downhill.  I have to be very lean for competition, but I certainly don’t need to get any leaner at this point with over three months to go. Lesson Learned: While you should take the advice of the experts, you should not blindly follow.  Listen to your body.  You know yourself best.

Week 5: I wake up in the morning and cannot wait to eat egg whites and mushrooms.  I’ve never liked mushrooms.  I forced myself to start eating them as they were one of only 4 vegetables on the competition diet.  I’m also find myself savoring the taste of sweet potatoes, salmon, and cashews, some of my favorite foods on the diet.  I might not have chosen these foods all that often before but now I’ve learned to love them. Sometimes when you try foods enough times, they grow on you. Lesson Learned: Giving things up more fully allows you to appreciate other things you might not have previously.

Week 6: I’m doing well on the eating plan.  Thinking back six weeks ago, I remember how far away the competition was and wondered how I would possibly make it 4 months.  I looked at the end goal, rather than the goal of making it to the next day.  I tried to change my mind set and start taking things one step at a time.  Now I am beginning to feel like this is completely doable.    Lesson Learned:  Don’t be overwhelmed thinking about all the things you need to do in order to achieve your goals, whether it be weight loss, or anything else you want to accomplish.  Take it one step at a time, go day by day.  You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve by doing this.

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