The other day I was at a restaurant ordering take-out. "A small greek salad with grilled octopus, hold the feta cheese please." Delicious, moderate in protein, fat and low in carbs - it was the type of meal I usually ordered. The owner responded by asking me if I would like to try something else. "Like what?", I asked. When she showed me the wide assortment on the menu, I declined saying that it did not meet the needs of my diet. "Diet!, why do you need to be on a diet?", she asked. "Fitness is a big priority in my life and what I eat plays a huge role in maintaining that level of fitness.", I explained. "Hmmph", she responded. I noted she was a very beautiful young lady, who with striking Middle Eastern features, was probably 30 pounds more than her ideal weight. "Are you into fitness?", I asked. "Not when it gets in the way of eating what I love.", she responded. I then noticed a sign on the wall that stated, "There is no more a sincere love, than the love of food." It then dawned on me in a different way, why people have difficulty maintaining a dietary lifestyle that will maintain their ideal body weight. It is our love affair with food.
Many popular diet books advocate a cheat day once a week, where you follow a diet Monday through Saturday and then on Sunday you are allowed to eat anything you like. Many of my readers may hate me for saying this, but I liken this approach to the alcoholic being good all week only to binge on Sundays. Granted one day a week will not alter things calorically much in terms of weight loss, but it will psychologically. I remember Sylvester Stallone being interviewed years ago when he was very lean and in the best shape of his life. The reporter noted that his diet largely consisted of chicken, tuna, and broccoli. "Don't you ever want to breakdown and eat a juicy, fattening hamburger?", the reporter asked. "Sure I do", Stallone responded, "but I have gotten used to eating this way and I don't want to break it." Well put Sly! When people ask me why I refrain from eating high fat, high sugar, high calorie sweets, I typically respond by telling them that even though I enjoy such foods every bit as much as they do - I have conditioned myself to avoid the temptation of eating them because I have "forgotten" in a sense how good they actually taste. I also know that after I eat these foods, how bad I feel because I can actually feel this food being converted into unwanted fat.
It is known that I train amateur and professional boxers. Part of my job as a trainer is to determine my fighters optimum fighting weight as well as ensuring they are at that weight come fight night. Not always an easy task, given hunger is a both legitimate and ominous opponent. The solution to defeating this monster?
In our society we have grown accustomed to satisfying our hunger with foods that are high in fat, sugar, and calories in place of low calorie, nutritious foods that will sculpt out the kind of hard body we admire on the leading fitness magazine covers.
You Are What You Eat
How we look and perform is based on how we satiate our daily "pain" of hunger. Instead of accommodating a love of food, I encourage athletes to pursue a love of health and fitness as a priority and food as a means of achieving that priority.
Yours in Strength,