Two weeks post show, and I feel amazing. The past two weeks have been a culinary heaven, being able to eat more normally again.
The biggest thing for me is the mental aspect of it, of being able to eat more food without having to worry about whether or not it's going to affect my daily calories. I actually enjoyed eating the foods I was eating during prep, but it was the fact that I had to have small portions that was tough. During my last week I was around 1500 calories per day while my maintenance amount is between 3500-4000 calories per day. So yes, getting back to that amount of food was mentally very satisfying. I can also go on dates with my gf again without bringing Tupperwares to restaurants! Woohoo!
This brings an important subject I want to talk about for all of you that try hard core diets or put yourselves through voluntary calorie restrictive diets. First of all, if it’s done in a safe manner, where you make sure you are getting your basic nutrient needs, have a specific time frame, monitor your progress closely and over all know what you are doing, then great I am all for it. But I see and hear so many people doing crazy stuff like “Oh I’m gonna do a juice cleanse for 2 weeks” or “I’m not going to eat anything but cucumbers until I lose X amount of pounds”.
The problem with this is that people usually don’t know where the toughest part of the process is: when you get off that extreme diet.
You think the hard part is sticking to your diet, so you put all your effort into that, you lose weight drastically, and then poof, you put all the weight back on and more in a matter of days! How is that possible? Most people didn’t believe me when I said I gained 20 pounds in 4 days. Weighted in on Friday the night before the show at 181 and on Tuesday at the gym was up to 203. I was in heaven, I got all my gains back! And I feel insanely strong as well, all my lifts have gone up from there pre prep performance after just two weeks!
So it’s good for me but I realize that this effect can be hugely destructive in others.
Here’s what’s happening to us after periods of extreme dieting. Our body craves homeostasis. Huh? Homeostasis is a state of equilibrium in our body reached through physiological reactions. Basically it’s how our body is at normal times, which is regulated by hormones. Apart from hereditary aspects and various illnesses, hormones are controlled by what we eat, our exercises and our sleep.
So when you are dieting in extreme ways, you are fighting against your body. Your body needs X amount of calories to maintain itself and you are only giving it Y amount. It adapts, by altering it’s hormonal response. That’s good, that’s what we’re trying to do, mind of matter right, tell your bod who’s the boss!
So now your body is used to responding to extreme parameters. But all of a sudden, your diet ends, your show is over and you pounce on the nearest treat you’ve been dreaming of the past few weeks. Your body is also super happy about this! Finally a normal amount of food again! Except it usually is a lot more food than the normal amount. I basically ate for the whole day after my show. The only time I wasn’t eating was to take a nap in between meals or to walk to another restaurant. That’s a normal reaction after extreme diets because what the hell we deserve it and we want to eat all the foods we weren’t able to eat for so long.
You body now has this overflow of food and nutrients in it, and since it is used to extreme portions it is in survival mode aka store-everything-that-you-can-because-we’re-super-low-on-food-mode. So all that extra food, that usually is high sugar, trashes your hormones, and your body stores everything that you are eating as fat.
This isn’t a bad thing if you keep it under control but I find that for most people this isn’t just a day thing. What starts as well deserved cheat day turns into a cheat week and then turns into someone completely falling off the wagon and gaining a lot of weight very fast.
Here’s how you deal with it. Allow yourself a cheat day, but don’t go berserk. For my next show I’ll do things a lot differently the day after. Have 1 or 2 cheat meals the day you stop your diet, only to eat those foods you haven’t eaten in a while. Then the day after, you need to slowly add calories back in you diet in a controlled way. Say you where eating 1500 calories per day during your dieting, you can add 250 calories daily for a week, then add another 250 the week after that and keep doing so until you reach the level you want.
Week 1 would be 1750 calories a day, week 2 would be 2000 calories a day and so on.
This will accustom your body to the new amount of foods gradually and help keeping your hormones in check.
I usually don’t advocate calorie counting but in extreme cases like this, it’s a necessity. Other wise, you run the risk of loosing all the benefits that you achieved with your diet.
Ok moving on to the next point: goal setting!