Updated: Nov 19, 2021
I have been competing in the sport of bodybuilding for the past 6 years. In that time I have uncovered some incredibly valuable skills and habits. I know how to keep everything simple and manageable so that things are easy. When I began competing I watched what everyone else did and let all of that information infiltrate my mind and make me insecure. I always wondered if I was doing something wrong if it wasnt what someone else was doing. I wanted to know what everyone was eating and I wanted to add in all the exercises they were doing, if someone else was eating tilapia I thought tilapia had some magical properties and I wanted to eat as much as I could. Today all of that has become noise that I need to tune out to stay focused. I pay attention to framework and structure. I keep things simple, effective, monotonous, easy. I dont leave much to chance and I plan for obstacles as best I can. I am a mother of 2 teenagers, everyday is filled with obstacles, lots of damn obstacles.
My most important roles in life are being a mom, a wife and an LGBTQ rights advocate. Anything I add into my life needs to align with my roles and values, it has to fit my mold. I get asked lots of questions about some of my practices but I am always hesitant to share but, here goes. Be forewarned, my answers may bore you. Actually, when I started in the sport my answers may have been a lot cooler but my stress was off the charts, life was out of balance and my physique wasn’t as good.
When folks are curious about what a bodybuilder eats in a day they may be thinking that if they eat what a bodybuilder eats they will be able to get the same results. BUT, The magic isn’t in what we eat, it’s the way we eat, the consistency, the structure, the planning. The bulk of questions I get are; which foods are good or bad, which supplements will work and which workouts or exercises are best? All good questions but we may want to take it just a bit further and ask how will that knowledge be useful in the quest for physique change, what role will that information play? Physique competitors generally leave little room for error. If we are in preparation for a competition we may be eating in a very monotonous and calculated fashion for months on end. It’s a choice we make each day. However, we most certainly make trade offs. What does that mean?
We leave little to chance, plan ahead and have food ready. (for months on end)
We eat a high protein diet.
We train very consistently.
Everything is weighed and measured (for months on end)
We eat foods that keep us full anytime we are dieting for as long as we are dieting.
We plan for all obstacles and navigate around them, not completing a task isn’t an option if we want to be successful.
I honestly get worried about sharing information that could be taken out of context. I dont want anyone trying to imitate one single factor of what I do, there is no magic in one thing. There is nothing special about what I eat or how I train. Over the years it’s gotten more and more simple. I know what my life will look like when I am dieting for a show and I know what my life will look like when I am off season. In my off season I am trying to gain a little weight so I may not track my food, I eat larger portions, I may eat out more and I may have a desert here or there. When I am in a weight loss phase I track all my food, I eat to stay full so I pay attention to the satiety of my food, mostly whole or unprocessed food. There is a purpose for each phase and I have become comfortable with the weight fluctuations. I noticed that at any weight my actual value is the same, people love me just the same, I have the same abilities to affect change in the lives of those I love.
The interventions we take affect our quality of life for some time. We eat mostly eat consistently with gentle manipulations when needed to keep us progressing. This is a slow sport and we need to be patient. Most of us have an entire year at a time (or more) mapped out. We know when we will be gaining weight or losing weight and what our training and nutrition will look like in each phase. I have enough excitement being a wife and a mom, I dont want or need any stress or excitement outside of that. I think I can be more successful in the long term if I keep things easy, simple and consistent.
Can you give me some recipes?–
Boredom can be a big obstacle for many and they are seeking solutions, a common solution is questing for new recipes. I applaud that, looking for things that will keep interest in the process is an effective habit. If you implement a few new recipes to keep interested in a current diet plan that’s cool, hopefully you will find some good ones that you can keep in your rotation of meals. That said, these awesome new recipes you found are most useful if they are part of a balanced and flexible diet constantly, over a period of time when used alongside a solid training program. The process or the framework that supports long term weight loss is a long term structure, give yourself time and a lot of it. We need to stay with The bodies that many folks are striving to get are bodies that are sculpted for months and years. My advice is to use the recipes as a tool, part of a whole, to sustain interest in your diet in the long term.
What do you eat in a day?–
Let’s go back to my fixation on tilapia or when I noticed people were eating sweet potatoes and broccoli so I thought those were “good foods”. I heard the term “eat clean”, that made sense so I stuck with all of that thinking that was the key. I thought there was something special about that food source, there wasnt, it’s simply a lean protein, there are many lean proteins I can choose from. What was effective more than likely was the fact that these people whose diets I was attempting to emulate were incredibly structured (actually rigid, which I later learned was actually sub optimal for me) and allowed no room for deviation or error. I have since learned that it wasn’t any one of those foods in particular but rather the consumption of foods that have a high satiety component so I would stay full. Those foods were also non processed so my cravings stayed at bay. Essentially, there is no magic about “eating clean” there are no good, bad, clean or dirty foods. HOWEVER, if I want to make my life manageable when I am dieting I choose foods that keep me full and don’t invite cravings. So the magic is actually in comprehending energy and fullness not eating my bodyweight in tilapia. The food isn’t necessarily what makes the difference its the why and how I am eating, knowing my motivation. Food is not moral, there are no good or bad foods. I eat the foods that will help me feel full and maintain my energy. In short, no magic in the recipe, no magic in the food item itself. My advice is to stay full, keep it all simple, flexible and be sure your approach to optimizing your nutrition suits your lifestyle.
Let’s talk about the scale, THAT FUCKING SCALE, In order to get the body we are seeking we need to reduce fat and retain muscle and that isn’t exactly easy to do so we need to be meticulous in our thoughts and actions. We cant really pay too much attention to the scale because that doesn’t always reflect progress and can derail us if we don’t know better. The first time I had to gain weight intentionally I struggled hard. It made no sense to me, why did I have to gain? But, it taught me that I was the same person, weight gain didnt mean anything, I became less afraid of it. I stopped stressing the scale. A low number didnt determine my worth especially when there were times I was trying to gain weight. I learned that time was essential. I learned to calibrate my expectations. Nothing in this bodybuilding process has looked the way I thought it would, The scale never moves the way I think it should and changes take way longer than I think they should. Patience is truly essential. I either had to learn to be patient or quit altogether. They daily suffering and stressing the scale and smaller factors that were mostly inconsequential was standing in may way.
How much can you bench?
Do you deadlift?
How many hours do you workout in a day?–
Another thing that folks are curious about is training. The magic isn’t really in what I do in a day but, maybe in how I do it and for how long I have been doing it. What systems do I use to keep my body progressing the way I want it to without risking injury. I have been doing strength training, in some form, for 30 years (yes I am old AF). In that time I have continued to learn more and dig more into to research behind what I do. I used to think that I had to quite literally destroy myself in the gym and get in “beast mode” I believed that I had to be sore all the time or my training was ineffective. I know now that none of that is true. In order for my training to be effective I need to be consistent and employ the principals of progression and overload. I DONT do cardio for hours on end, I barely do any. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I jog in my pool, I basically count my daily steps. It seems that folks believe a training program has to be brutal, it doesnt. BUT, it does need to be honestly challenging. I look at it this way, I am a super busy mom, my training has to be manageable, it has to suit my lifestyle and it cant zap me of all of my energy. I dont want to end up tired and crabby. I also dont want my training to be so cumbersome and dreadful that I won’t do it. My training fits well in my lifestyle. I dont walk around sore all the time and yet my training is very effective. I dont get any extra points for suffering.
Can I be honest for a second? If you aren’t a competitive athlete or fitness model, I don’t recommend throwing this much focus at training or food. It’s far from a balanced approach and can be dangerous. Enjoy life. Why make all of these trade offs if you do’nt really need to? Also, there isn’t a huge advantage to looking perfect if you feel miserable. Perfection doesn’t exist. We may look close to perfect for a bit but when the season is over we quickly move into off season practices and let our bodies and our minds recover if we are to last in this sport. I will speak for myself, I dont want to live with all this tradeoffs year round, I miss sunday meatballs and rigatoni with my family. I truly love this sport therefore I chose to make these tradeoffs but I would never diet year round.
So back to my original question….How will any of this knowledge be helpful in someones quest for physique change? None of this information is useful in a vacuum or taken out of context. How can any of what bodybuilders do help you? The interventions and trade offs that bodybuilders make aren’t necessary for most people to reach their goals. However, some of our strategies may have merit for long term adherence with the general population. I think an awesome question would be…
How do I apply some of these strategies to my lifestyle?
Keep it simple and make all your practices suit your lifestyle.
Strength train consistently.
Stay consistent with nutrition.
Be REALLY patient.
Set appropriate goals, calibrate expectations.
Plan ahead, have a good idea of where your training will fit in your week.
Stay ready, It’s a great idea to have plenty of food stocked and ready to go at home.
Eat food with a high satiety component.
Be flexible with your diet.
Above all else, I have found it’s very important to be rooted in my values so I don’t get lost in appearance.
My value and worth is the same at every size, people love me just the same. I have the same abilities to affect change in the lives of those I love.
In the end, I want my kids to remember me for my Sunday meatballs and the impact I made on my community, not so much for the clear heels.