I think about food a lot and I am hungry quite a lot, it is hard to resolve the benefits of being thinner with the need to eat and fuel our bodies; there is always that nagging thought about whether being that bit thinner or lighter would be better.
It’s a tricky one and something I have explored a lot recently.
Over the years I have been involved in various sports, mostly endurance sports; running, cycling, swimming and triathlon. In endurance sport there is often a drive to be lighter since it is more efficient to carry less weight, but of course we can’t perform if we are too thin because our bodies stop working.
Combined with this efficiency is the drive to look the part, particularly when wearing the skimpy clothing associated with endurance sport, whether that be for men or women but probably more so for women in our culture. I think this is very much a personal thing and although we may feel it inside, how we look is secondary to what we do, in all walks of life.
I have always been solution focused and wanted to find how to get better at whatever I do. Consequently the ideas of optimum weight, losing weight while exercising and indeed how effective exercise is in promoting weight loss have been prominent in my mind. Relevant to my roles as someone who takes part in exercise, as a sports coach and in the field of sports psychology. A significant percentage of my clients have had concerns with food and weight to a high degree and as an aside, these clients have found that refocusing their energies on their sport has enabled them to overcome their debilitating anxieties relating to food and diet.
It is very common in sport and exercise that one can exercise for a while and see really good improvements but then for no apparent reason start getting tired, be forced to take it a little easier, get more tired and end up in a downward spiral to a point of sometimes complete exhaustion. This is often a repetitive cycle, frustrating and depressing – particularly as the training and exercise is often fulfilling such an important part of the lives of those concerned.
So there was this weight thing going on and I started taking more interest in nutrition, weight, exercise and weight loss. I also started to use MyFitnessPal a diet tracking app; this can be used to give a good measure of calories as well as the basic nutritional groups and vitamins. It can help with losing weight in either a healthy or unhealthy way and can become an obsession or an aid. It can also give a good indication of what is happening with existing diet by tracking what is going on.
Still struggling for a solution to the exercise, exhaustion cycle, I read Anita Bean’s excellent book: The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition and found that the recommendations in the book were for a higher calorie intake than MyFitnessPal and also a much higher protein intake for people doing a lot of exercise. She also provides guidelines for weight loss and these are much more gradual than the usual norms so that body fat is targeted, it is very easy to lose muscle if calories are restricted too much and of course not recover properly so repeat the downward spiral to fatigue, depression and anxiety.
I started to concentrate on two things, proper recovery from the exercise but mainly following the nutritional guidelines. I used MyFitnessPal to do this by adjusting the goals in the App to match the recommendations in the book. I wrote a little spreadsheet to make that easier and you can download a copy from the Members Area if you like. It is quite rough and ready so make sure it works for you (I can’t guarantee there are no errors in it).
I’m convinced that this approach works and although I am also sure that the exercise, improvement, fatigue cycle has a number of other more psychological influences, implementing positive nutritional guidelines seems to make a fundamental difference to whether you can exercise more and progress in your life goals or experience debilitating fatigue. Of course, good diet and exercising more helps combat anxiety and depression too so as things stay on track the improvements are all round and promote personal confidence too.
Most importantly, stay healthy and have fun.