“Hey Lisa, I’ve been getting pretty frustrated and lacking motivation. I was wondering if you would write me a diet plan. I want to lose about 20 pounds.”
This is a common question I get from clients and friends. Naturally, because I am a personal trainer, this comes along with the territory. For a couple of years now, I have not been promoting and marketing diet plans for my clients and potential clients. I certainly address healthy eating, quality nutrients and foods that are good for our body and should make you feel good. I address balance and better choices. I make sure my clients have a good understanding about why certain choices may make them feel better than others. But, who am I to tell your body what to eat everyday and when? Who really knows your body best? Some days your body needs more rest and other days it needs more fuel. And what happens if you eat something that isn’t on that piece of paper? What does that do to you mentally? Did you mess up? Do you throw in the towel? Are you a loser with no will power? Will you pig out because you ruined it? Is it just a matter of time before those results get lost because someone is dependent on my plan instead of learning to give their body what it needs on a moment to moment basis? These are my concerns when deciding to write a diet for someone. I am aware that this can be a productive revenue stream but I actually just refrained from writing a plan for a client who asked. When I question clients further, we figure out that they have usually dieted before and haven’t succeeded in restricting their calorie intake or the types of food they were eating. They also discovered that with their periods of restriction also came periods of overeating and possibly even bingeing, leading to a weight loss that has been unsustainable or even resulted in a weight gain. Honestly, I cannot bring myself to perpetuate this process. Not physically for them and certainly not mentally. This is the difference in how I train my clients compared to the mainstream fitness industry at the moment. It may not be for everyone, and I understand that. If you contact me for a meal plan, you are not going to get a macronutrient math equation with percentages and meal timing. You are not going to get weighed and measured every week. And you are not going to restrict, cycle, or count your way to a leaner body.
I did all of these things when I first decided to compete in a figure competition in 2009. I chose to compete because I wasn’t happy with my body and I thought being forced to follow a plan would get me the body I was happy with. There were several other reasons for competing, but this was the driving force behind my decision. Let me stress to you that if we did not have an issue with our body image, we would never choose to diet as an attempt to change or control our body. Think about that. My reason for competing was really rooted in a body image issue. Yes, I thought I could excel in it. Yes, I was flattered a trainer thought I would be good at it. And yes, as a competitive athlete, I longed to compete in some way again after college. However, for me, I thought competing was going to help me love my body again. Do you think it worked?
I never binged before until I started the strict dieting for competing. In fact, my family worried that competing would bring out my extreme restricting from freshman year of high school. I am not going to bash competing because I met some great people and one of my best friends through it. But, looking back, it made me question and realize some things. I wasn’t allowed to eat an apple after a certain point. I know getting on a stage is a different ball game than general health. But saying you can’t eat an apple in any situation bothered me. Really? An apple?? And the worst part is that I listened! So since I couldn’t eat an apple, guess what I ate? After restricting daily, I remember one day, while I was teaching kindergarten, I ate an entire box of dry cinnamon toast crunch. Feeling so guilty, I went to bootcamp after work. I wanted to puke every minute from being so full but deep down I was happy I was “working off” the box of cereal I ate. To this day, cinnamon toast crunch has been a food to binge on for me at times of dieting. So I didn’t eat my apple!! See where this crazy is going????
A couple of years later, I was doing a popular cleansing diet. I was rocking it with my compulsive personality, dropping pounds left and right, eating 2 almonds here and there with some shakes and whatever else it told me to have. It’s embarrassing to even admit I did this, especially knowing what I know! But, I did it. And I know many of you are too or are wanting to or are asking me what I think of it. Well, after about 10 days of being amazing, hanging on the edge of restricting, I lost my grip. I went in the cupboard while my boyfriend was at baseball and found the box of cinnamon toast crunch. We always have cinnamon toast crunch in the house because it’s one food his daughter will always eat. Well, one handful turned into a few and then I finished the box off with milk. When I was done, I had to go buy a new box of cereal so that his daughter had her cereal still. Today, we laugh about it. But then? I was in a cycle of restricting and bingeing that didn’t stop. If I could see it, I ate it. It wasn’t daily, but it was enough to drive me crazy and think something was wrong with me. Why didn’t I have the willpower to stick to a diet?? (more on this to come…)
So, like I said earlier, I didn’t binge until I started the restricting diets. When foods are off limits, your brain will make you crave them. You will crave them until you give in to the urge. This made me look back to my childhood. I had a very active childhood. My mom fed us breakfast, packed our lunches and cooked us dinner everyday. My lunch often consisted of a sandwich, drink, chips, fruit and usually another snack. Our friends would come over and marvel at the fact that we had baskets of snacks out on our kitchen table. They would kill the snacks and always ask us how we weren’t fat because if they had these snacks out at home they would eat them all and be fat. My sisters and I were like, “Huh?” They are there, we can have them when we want them, and my mom wasn’t making them off limits to us so we never pigged out on them. They were available when we wanted them so we didn’t feel the need to eat them all because we might not get them again or they would be off limit tomorrow or eat them all so we don’t eat them tomorrow! This thinking never occurred to us, but, once I dieted, I applied those thoughts to every “bad” food. It has taken me a decade to get tired enough of this battle to finally try to shut out mainstream dieting and go back to my roots. Somewhere along the line we got sucked into less is more and you aren’t good enough how you are. It isn’t your fault. But I will not make a living off perpetuating this insanity in women.
So, if you want a diet plan from me, we are probably going to question and explore what your eating habits currently are and the thoughts you have about your body and food. Because I do not want anyone to go through the feelings and struggle I have gone through. It has weighed me down and consumed me for years. And did I ever maintain the 140 pound physique I quested for daily? No. And I do not know what I weigh right now, probably around 150 pounds. But I truly don’t care. I am focused on health and that 140 pound body did not have a healthy mind. It had a mind consumed with food, guilt, and body image issues. We can get you healthier together, and your weight will follow. But if you are hanging on for dear life, you are missing your dear life.