By Juan Rojas
How many times have you been following a diet while seeing amazing results and all of the sudden you are put in a social situation where foods that might not fit your current goals are put in front of you? How do you react?
Although you might be tempted, you know that people might know you are being strict with your meal plan and that others might view it bad upon you if you cheated on your diet. As much as we shouldn’t care what others think about us, deep down, the majority of us do; it is just part of being a human being. This might actually be something that helps you be stronger and not indulge in these foods. But what about when you are alone? When you might have already reached your fitness goal or when you are finally done your competition and you are face to face with that bag of chocolate, or that jar of peanut butter…alone. What will you do then?
This is something that many of you, clients of mine and even myself struggle with on a daily basis. I have dealt with eating disorders in the past and grew up all my life with a very unhealthy relationship with food. Although I thank bodybuilding immensely for showing me that food is primarily the fuel to our mind and body, I do acknowledge food is an experience. I do think it is important to find joy in things that taste good. I do think there is a time for everything though and there are times where you have to buckle down and not have these foods and there are times where you should enjoy them in moderation. The problem comes when we feel such an intense sensation for this food that we do not have that switch that says: “You have enjoyed enough, it is time to move on.” This is when we eat the entire box of cookies, the tub of ice cream, the jar of peanut butter etc. I am not going to lie to you and say I have not done this in the past because I have. I even had one moment of weakness on my last contest diet where I experienced an episode of low blood sugar and I thought having a little bit of peanut butter would make me feel better. I then proceeded with eating half a jar as I could not stop. This feeling of not being able to stop is not a fun one and although many people should consider seeing a medical professional about their issues with food many of us can control them with our own mental fortitude.
I have just finished my bodybuilding competition season 3 weeks ago. If you have never competed let me explain a few things going on in your body when you finish doing a physique show.
Being in this situation can definitely be mentally and physically challenging, but it all comes down to what you decide to do that dictates your success in being healthy and fit and turning into a slob. It is normal to get these feelings of temptation and wanting to indulge in a certain food from time to time. I am a big believer for the average person looking to get in shape or even the competitor in their offseason to indulge in a weekly refeed where we fit in their favorite foods. The problem comes when that refeed is used and the person A. Takes it to the extreme or B. Still finds they are letting their cravings beat them at times other than their refeeds. It is crucial to keep your body fat levels in check as the higher your body fat gets, the easier it is to pack on more. It also becomes much harder when you diet down to do a show or just plain look great.
As you can see in the picture above, I got way too out of shape in my off-season and I vowed to never allow this to happen again. Even if it is a coaches orders to keep gaining weight. I did not eat junk foods necessarily, I still ate a very natural good diet but I was just eating mass amounts of food my body did not need. Here are 5 tips that have worked very well for clients and for myself in order to stay on track mentally and physically on our fitness goals!
1. BE CREATIVE WITH ALTERNATIVES. You like having a hamburger and fries? Try making it at home with extra lean ground beef and making fries in the oven a few times a week. Do you enjoy having Reese’s peanut butter cups? Try mixing some all natural peanut butter with some stevia and cacao nibs. There is almost always a healthy alternative you can have that might not be 100% identical, but it will cure your craving and help you stay on track. As cravings are mostly in the mind, it is important that we do not live with this constant state of wanting a food so bad. You can always find a way to fit these foods into your meal plan. I wouldn’t necessarily say I believe in a total “If it fits your macros” approach, but if you find you are really craving a food and enjoy it, your meal plan can be adjusted to having it.
2. SCHEDULE REFEED MEALS. It is okay to go out once or twice a week (depending on your goals and metabolism) and enjoy a meal with family and friends that is not calculated and measured. But I find it important to keep this meal consistently scheduled in your week. If you live the week blindly and have your cheat meal whenever you crave it you teach your body to live without structure. Many can get away with this and still reach their fitness goals. But if you are like me, you might have to be stricter. Having a scheduled refeed meal allows you to look forward to it and know that if you are craving something right now, you just have to wait a few more days until you can enjoy it.
3. BEFORE HAVING SOMETHING OFF YOUR PLAN, ASKING YOURSELF: DOES MY BODY NEED THIS? When that cake was brought to the office because it was your co-workers birthday and now you know you will have some of it despite not being on your meal plan, ask yourself this. How will my body handle this physically and mentally? Does it truly need this in order to get to my goals or is this purely a mental craving? Most of the time truly asking yourself this will lead you to skipping out on the cake and having the delicious nutritious lunch you prepacked for work.
4. PREPARING YOUR MEALS AHEAD OF TIME. One of my favorite bodybuilders ever says: “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” I find most of the time clients get off track when they do not meal prep in advanced and try to eat on the fly. This often happens because they did not prioritize and schedule in time to prepare their daily meals. If you have your meals prepared it is much harder to allow a meal to go bad and spend more money eating out than it is to just have your prepared meal ready to go. Restaurants do not care about your fitness goals or about how nutritious the food is for you. All they care about is making a delicious tasting meal so your taste buds can drive you right back there again!
5. IF YOU DO DECIDE TO CHEAT. STOP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, REMIND YOURSELF OF AN INSTANCE WHERE YOU FELT MENTALLY CRAPPY CHEATING AND MOVE ON. Cheating on your meal plan by having that slice of cake is a much different scenario than having half the cake and since you are already off plan you decided to go get an extra-large pizza as well. We have all done it. I like to remind myself of a situation where I know I was at a low and cheating on my diet and how the food did not make me feel any better. Instead, it made me feel worse than I did before having it! This really helps me stay strong in difficult times. I think of a specific instance where I ate that half a jar of peanut butter, I tried to vomit (WHICH IS NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER AT ALL) as I was only a week out from my show and I ended up having a 3 day headache, burst a blood vessel in my eye, and found myself depressed for days. I had a moment of weakness and although you may feel demotivated and defeated it is important to pick yourself back up and move on. Mistakes happen and you cannot change the past but you can definitely make the future.
Staying on track of your nutrition program no matter what your goal may be will be the key to your health and success in your fitness goals. Please feel free to message me the things that you find help you stay on track and if there is anything I can do for you please never hesitate to contact me as I want to help you out if I can! If you find that you are needing help to reach your fitness goals you can also become a part of our coaching program by applying RIGHT HERE.
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With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.