The following post is a continuation from a post I wrote last week.
Now, when done right there is a process for coming off of this type of diet, and the process lasts as long as the diet itself. I started off following the reverse diet as instructed but it wasn’t long before I found myself straying here and there. By the end of the first week I had given up and had started eating whatever I wanted. After 8 weeks of being hungry, tired, and still not happy with how I looked, not to mention in constant pain due to my back not having the rest and nutrients it needed to recover, I was done.
Within 24 hours of the shoot I had gained back the first 5lbs in water weight. Within a month I went from 14% body fat at 112lbs up to 20% at 120lbs. I finally topped off at 23% body fat and 124lbs.
I felt like such a failure, this was my career, I was supposed to be better than this, to set an example. My mindset had completely changed, whenever I looked in the mirror I felt like the stay puff marshmallow man. It has taken me 4 months to be ok with my body again.
These issues are not unique to me. Feeling this way is fairly normal for most people who diet like this in the industry. Competitors and models starve themselves for months to get ready to compete and forget that it isn’t normal to look like they do on stage all the time, by the time the competition is over they are ready to binge, because well, they earned it. If they don’t have a good coach or a lot of experience with this they start binging regularly because it just feels so good. There body isn’t ripped anymore and they start to feel gross when they look in the mirror, this fuels the binge and purge cycle. Some people never recover from this and continue with the cycle for years.
I’m not saying everyone who steps on stage or who is super lean goes through this; there are many people who have good coaches, a realistic expectation of what they will look like in the off season, and usually the right genetics to be super lean all of the time. I just want to share my own experience and the realities of what it takes to get super low body fat.
This doesn’t just happen to people in fitness either, it happens to most people who try strict diets as a way to lose weight. Diets work great for a very short time while you are following them, but as I am sure you know, as soon as you come off the diet even a little bit you gain the weight right back. In a lot of cases people actually end up weighing more after a diet than they did before they started, leaving the dieter feeling like a failure, and causing them to give up and turn back to food for comfort.
After finally coming to grips with the reality of my body shame I was able to start to recover mentally. I started talking about how I felt and realizing that my body was in much better shape than the version I saw when I looked in the mirror. I focussed on healing my back and then created some new goals based on how my body performed instead of what I looked like. I also started following the Precision Nutrition habits that have kept my body happy for the last 2 years. This allowed me to make small changes that fit my life and my goals, changes small enough that I could have complete success so I didn’t feel like I failed again.
Most importantly though, I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to be super lean all the time, and to remember that it doesn’t make me a better coach either; in fact it just makes me a liar for not practicing what I preach.
I do not regret having gone through this process though, in fact I will probably do it again (with the help of a good coach); I learned a lot about my body and what it takes to coach clients going through this process themselves. I love my beautiful pictures and when I look at them I appreciate them for what I went through to get there. I am happy to be able to say to clients that I know what it feels like when they come to me feeling ashamed because they couldn’t stick with their hard core, unrealistic diet.
If you are reading this wanting to compete on stage or just want to get super lean decide now what you are willing to give up to get there. I urge you to get a good coach, and put some serious though into it. If you have some fat to lose and are thinking about or on a strict diet I am here to tell that it doesn’t have to be that hard, there is a better way.