And other tales about nutrition, fitness and health.
How do some people manage to go day by day eating the same foods without hesitation or procrastination? Or without getting f***k’n bored and void the appetite for chicken and rice?
The answer will be different for many people, but for me, it’s rather simple. And so I’d like to share it, in hope some might find some light in food distress.
“Food hath no morals”
Your actions have morals, you should have some personal morals, but food? Food does not have morals, it does not possess a personal identity, a personality making it funny, good, lame or bad... Yes the food on my plate has value, that piece of meat, the 200g steak grilled to perfection, was once a living organism with feelings and emotions (most likely), but that’s what it was. Now, it’s food. It’s nutrition, it’s fuel, it’s energy and sometimes it’s just shit. I like my food to taste good, and to me that's minimal sauces, fresh herbs, chilli, and godforbid they ever ban Tobasco. But just because it tastes really freakin good... doesn't mean I feel guilty about eating it.
Fruit was never the enemy. A croissant once in a while.. also not the enemy. You need to uncreate what you've created in order to recreate it even better this time.
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I’m grateful for the food that was once a living organism, especially the cow and the whey it makes, and the blueberry and potato. However, neither provokes emotional responses in me that lead me to fighting myself over it, and it certainly does not make me feel guilty. Anymore.
The nutrients, the fuel the body uses uses to live, just as grass was once fuel for the cow, are just nutrients. Burt don't fooled when I say it's 'just nutrients', because nutrients are complicated complex and intricate molecules that keep us alive. It’s a certain amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that my body requires to keep functioning at optimal capacity, and be pushed even further beyond genetic ability at times so I may outperform. Yes I want to beat you. If you’re in a competitive sport, that's what we do. We strive to win. Winning gives you a taste of real hunger. And, for me, I want to win not only on stage, but in my career as a whole, which I connect so strongly too. I want my clients to win. Win whatever challenge in life they may face, by choice or chance, I want them to perform to their best. And I want them, you, to beat who or whatever's challenging you.
Genetically, all humans are somewhat 99.9% similar, it often only takes one single gene mutation to make one human distinctively different, but in that point-one percent lies our individuality. But... yes there’s always a but, even in that 0.1% similarity of code, the interaction of those genes and our individual environment, health, bod and mind, affects the translation of the genes. Gene pool and genome, genetics and genomics. Explained in simple analogy, think of economics and the economy, the economics of most economies may be similar, but the way the economics are translated into the economy differ, which result in various economies... I’ll talk about genes and training in another blog entry once I've done some more research.
In the field of science and nature, I am compelled by my inner forces to only delve into topics I have researched to at least some extent, or studied over the years. I know little of Genetics and Biochemistry as I have only touched the surface during my studies but I have a growing interest in learning more. I still have my textbooks and research papers, and frequently turn back to them for help.
Our mind that will often fight to overrun our being, that fights with its self. "This is good", "that is bad", "this is healthy and that is unhealthy". But what you’re really doing is arguing about the morality of food, when instead you should be questioning your own. But... you didn’t know back then.
The food I consume each day is consumed for a purpose. A job. And so yes, the quality of it will affect the how well the job gets done, as well as the importance of the purpose. If I need to build quality muscle that will aid to my strength gains, I'll opt for free-range / grass-fed beef/ chicken/eggs, if I need to get an insulin pump after a workout, I'll eat any and all the wine gums and jelly babies. I need the various ratios of macronutrients and total calories for energy to perform. To move. To live. To fucking win. So by now you should have picked up that I have a strong desire to win, and with that a plan and a purpose. With that, comes important decisions and rules I need to make for myself. When its competition prep time, there are certain foods I give up, note...not give up entire food groups like carbs, but certain types, like burgers and fries on Fridays, or cake on Sundays.. those will have to wait.
Imagine having no choice, you cant choose between good and bad, safe and danger, so you always have both. Always hanging onto the idea that everything is either black or white. Cardio will burn fat and weights will make you bulky....
Food keeps you alive. Along with your bodies amazing ability to survive on almost none of it, if something gives life, how can you hate it. If you ignore it, or dismiss the importance of it, then you should not be complaining about your quality of life. Sure it gets more complicated when we look at the current world, the level- and amount of eating disorders and food related diseases. It’s quite scary how negatively humans have reacted to food they have made. Yes, it’s more complicated than that, BUT, my point is... who’s in control of the relationship you have with food? If you cannot live without pizza nights, then work it into a healthy routine. And I'm not talking about cauliflower pizza's without cheese.. but planning so that you get to enjoy pizza nights knowing that compensation has been made for it.
If you don’t know how, that’s ok! You’re here now, you can gain control. Assistance and help exists. Personal training, fitness, it’s not just a job, it's more! I want you to win.
Now, once you stop lying and fooling yourself about what you want, the process to get it becomes easier. Because you actually fucking want it. chasing something you want because you think other people will want you when you have it is dumb. You're going to fight 10x more for it. You want to be healthier, leaner, stronger... that's great! Thats all possible. But if you wan't to be like some poster bae 24/7... that's going to be a whole lot more frustrating to get.
So you start working for it. Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.
But here comes another common problem, that you may or may not have noticed for some time. Six, eight or maybe 20 weeks go by and you've been busy. But you’ve actually done almost nothing progressive, and you really have nothing to show for it either. You had an idea, but no plan, you had excitement but no determination. So you embarked on movement, but just went in circles. This is nothing new.
However, the power to change is there. There are 5 phases of readiness for physical exercise
Phase 1: PRE CONTEMPLATION
You're influenced to change, but haven't been actively thinking about it.
Phase 2: CONTEMPLATION
You've started thinking about this change actively and start discussing it with others. You start looking for available plans and compare options.
Phase 3: PREPARATION
Your contemplations turn into concrete actions, you shop for gym, sign up to a gym or trainer, shop for meal ingredients for your new diet, you're in full prep mode to start within the next couple of days.
Phase 4: ACTION
That which you at first contemplated is finally being done. You're in full action.
Phase 5: MAINTENANCE
It takes more than 21 days to form a new habit that's concrete. We say you've been maintaining this new plan once 6 months have passed and you're still working on it on a regular basis. This new characteristic is starting to become second nature.
Phase 6: RELAPSE (which we hope doesn't happen)
In any natural world, things can go backward. Something may or may not happen to trigger a relapse, but in any case, you go from one phase back to the previous. The relapse has no time limit, therefore it can be fixed, and you can move forward again. A binge week can be corrected.
So your plan failed, you move over to binging because fuck it, we can always restart next week. It’s basically Monday in 4 days, I’ll start then. Or, wait, next month is around the corner, let’s start then.
You ever match on Tinder and after a week or 3 of not speaking you get over them, and ghost the idea you once had of them.. same thing applies when it comes to goals and plans of action... If you ignore them for long enough, they become a ghost. And then you wonder why nothing has changed.
Why do relapses happen?? (not necessarily talking about drug relapse, but more action relapses)
The rat trap. We’re moving and moving through this maze called life, but we’re not really progressing towards coming out of the maze and into the open space. ‘Don’t mistake movement for progress” is one of my favourite quotes. Whenever I find myself in a very busy or fast paced movement, maybe a little stressed too, I’ll stop and ask myself, ‘Am I progressing or just racing in circles?’ And hell if I can’t even answer that, then I stop what I’m doing and reassess the situation. Do I need to be here doing this right now? How effective is my plan? And, can I make it more efficien?
‘Do I need to eat this?’, or, ‘do I want to eat this?’ - is even more tricky for some. For me, I’ve learnt to control that. I can rarely be tempted by my own words to do something I don’t want or need to. Sure it happens once in a blue moon. But, even if you coat yourself in dark chocolate, peanut butter and raspberries, and present yourself all irresistible and shit, if the need or want does not match mine, then I can’t be tempted. Not to say I cant be tempted, I am human after all.
It seems as if humans have lost some sense of self control these days, even in controlling their self control... is over-control a thing? Do you think one can be over-controlled to the point they lose track of what it is they are controlling or hoping to achieve? Ending right back where they started...
Taking it back to the topic of diet, there are certain foods that I simply do not eat, either because they serve no purpose to me or my goals, or they upset my body and I don’t feel well from it. Not emotionally unwell like 'Ugh that doughnut made me fat'... because that is highly false, but actual physical/medical discomfort. And no, I’m not talking about gluten. Oh wonderful gluten, what a beauty in disguise. The glue that holds my soul to my body. The carb that perfectly matches protein 🍔🍔🍣🍣😍. I love carbs, and they love me back. Foods rich in cream, fat and spices tend to cause heartburn, a feeling of over-fullness, lethargy etc, especially when consumed in large amounts, so I keep that to a minimum. 300g of Lasagne and 300g of plain chicken and rice will both fill me up, but one will make me want to go laze on the couch and not move for some time after, while the other (chicken and rice) satisfies my soul.
So, I’m not all that controlled with diet. When my goals allow it, it’s there. Cake, doughnuts, burgers... but I rarely binge out to the point where I feel sick. I’ve learnt to control that. It takes time to learn new habits of self control. You have to be patient.
By the way... “cheat meals” correlate very strongly to this “guilty” feeling people get about food, so I rarely like to call them cheat meals when I plan a diet, but more along the lines of 'enjoy any meal of your choice today'... emphasis on the word MEAL.. not, enjoy the whole day off. Unless I say that, which in some cases I do. It’s 1 meal of your choice. Plus, if something is in your plan, be it a diet or training break.... it’s not cheating. And you definitely shouldn’t feel guilty.
How much control is too much? Herein lies a problem with intense discipline and hardcore commitment. You lose touch with your desires of guilty pleasures. The rush and thrill of cheats & treats. A doughnut that once satisfied that little sweet craving now looks like deep fried bread and sugar.. I'll pass. Only now that craving still exists and yet I can't find the cure. Don't tell me to meditate, I'll throw a doughnut at you. But, this intense level is needed when it comes to certain goals, and in my case, competition prep. If I want to lean down to 6-8% bodyfat, then I have to be super strict.
(See 2021 Prep Blog for my competition prep diary... coming soon)
It was a beautiful Sunday in Cape Town as I started writing this, everyone (the family) was eating festively and wholesomely, but I didn't have the desire to really eat anything other than my preplanned meals, which was varied but planned. Thankfully, with so many people all together, meals were sort of buffet-style everyday. So I guess-fully pick out 1 cup of rice, 150-200g of vegetables, 140g of chicken, if it’s a whole roast I make sure to get in there first and grab the breast. Sorry guys, but barely anyone fights for them anyway. Next, pick out the cucumber from the Greek salad, pour a glass of water... Bon Appetite. Fresh fish? well I ate however much made me full. Steak on the grill, don't even ask, I ate it all. But I trained hard and ate mindfully. Not guiltfully.
Next comes dessert, whether it’s homemade or bought, you have this level of self control that you can put the spoon down and wipe your mouth when you’ve had enough. One serving, logged it, now obey it.
Beginners... I don’t recommend guessing your food weights. After a year or 5, you get use to the visual and your judgement becomes more accurate. But during intense prep season, even the most experienced athlete still weighs out everything. Bring your scale to dinner, so what if people stare.
Now it gets tricky, you’re semi tracking your calories, but there’s no consistency, you hop on the gym scale maybe every time you walk past it, but the numbers mean jack shit to you because you aren’t physically tracking the little fluctuations.
So you see 1-2kg change over a day and freak the fuck out. Come back in 2 days and check again, and again and again. What did you you notice Sunshine? A little fluctuatio up and down throughout the week.. that’s normal. But it shouldn’t be drastic.
If the change is drastic, then something is up.. and we need to address that.
Maybe you have an intense level of corpsusnumerofobia (Corpsus-numero-fobia) That is, the fear of knowing your body statistics. It’s so common among people wishing to change their body composition. These numbers are the very sets of data that myself, or any dietician/trainer, needs in order to workout a plan for you that will get you to your goal with as little suffering as possible. I also need you to understand them when you give them to me. As a trainer, and or a coach, I need truth and data. Together I can see if what you are doing is working for you or not. I can’t make effective judgements if your results are falsified in some way. Or you say you’ve stuck to the plan but the numbers are way too far off.
We work with numbers, pictures, data and truth.
Whether you like to round them off to the nearest zero, or 5th decimal... that’s up to you and your Personal Trainer / Coach / Goals / Progression.
Now combine it all. Numbers, actions, performance, mind and feeling.
Not only will you learn how to eat to perform, but you will learn how to eat without hesitation. A supercar can’t win a race on apple juice alone. And a champion can’t be built on celery sticks either.
There’s nothing worse than me being hungry AF, I don’t have a meal ready in the next 5 minutes, I’m coming up with alternatives in my head but my hands are spreading peanut butter on a hot cross bun faster than I can pick what to leave out because of this. I’m going to eat it.. that impulse was faster than thought. Maybe you just think too slow.. (thinks to self). This happens once in a while. I missed judged my day, packed in too few meals and need to eat.
It’s easy to get substitutes when you’re in town near a grocery store, but if you’re travelling, and the gas station is the only food store... I tend to get a little anxiety. In South Africa, the petrol stations are mostly filled with junk food. If you’re lucky, you pass an Engen with a 24-hour Woolies, then I suggest grabbing the pack of grilled chicken breasts (140g) and a side of either veg or grains depending on your goals. If there isn’t anything, then I look for fruit and wait until I’m home.
I am slightly more obsessive over what I eat. A garage pie wont do. Not today. Not tomorrow.
But how often do this mishaps happen? Surely by now I know to always pack in all my meals...
So, if your goals are not exactly ‘normal’, and you know you have to outperform normalcy, you should also know that missing out on your planned meals 2 to 3 times a week is going to matter to you. But... listen to this bad boy- there are ways to allow for this. And given your goal stats, a time frame & your body, we calculate the work it’s going to take to get there, and translate that into your daily food intake (microcycle), vary it up over 4-6 weeks (mesocycle) so that over time, hopefully years (macrocycle), you’d have achieved many goals. And, if you know your daily routine tends to change very often, we can plan for that. The real question is are you willing to work a little harder to allow room for error?
to be continued...