The fifth food that every female athlete should eat (at some point).

I was thinking yesterday that I really must finish the blog series on the five foods every female athletes should eat.

The reason why it was never finished was I couldn’t think what I wanted the 5th food to be. Someone suggested chocolate, someone else bone broth, another, oily fish. But I couldn’t really get passionate enough about these foods to write about them. So I just sat and waited.

Now, I did eventually come up with an idea yesterday when I was walking home from the gym. I sort of had to bend the truth with this one and I will tell you what it is in a second. I have actually written about it before.

Before we get to it I need to say something else…

I notice so often with my clients is that they have a few challenges that go beyond food and exercise.

  1. They compare themselves to others often and feel discouraged when they perceive their results to be not as good as the next person’s
  2. They fail to love the journey of change and are fixated on the result (and if they have chosen the wrong result for them – numbers on a scale! – the whole process makes them increasingly dissatisfied)
  3. Because of the latter they fail to acknowledge how far they have come and don’t give themselves the recognition they deserve for all the changes they have made to date

The funny thing is, I do this too. Nothing is ever good enough. I am constantly striving to learn more and help people better. Even if 99% of my clients are happy and getting results, I cannot see past the 1% who may be struggling even if it is for reasons completely out of my control. Crazy, isn’t it?

We are officially 4 months into the year as of Friday. Therefore I thought it might be a good time for me to reflect on everything I have achieved and learned over the past few months in a way that can be helpful to you and also explains a little about the fifth food that female athletes should eat.

Let me start just there.

In September last year I wrote a post about my most recent journey. It was called: “I weighed, measured and diarised my food every day for 3 months and this is what I learnt“. It is actually from this experience that I started Ladies That Lift, my online nutrition coaching group for women who have both a body composition and performance goal. Its based on the fact that most people can lose weight with some of the extreme diets out there but how do you lose weight, feel awesome when you exercise and keep a healthy metabolism and a healthy mindset at the same time?

Want to know? Then join Ladies That Lift! ;)

So this is the fifth food that every female athlete should eat (at some point); Food that has been weighed and measured.

And yes, you can see how I bent the truth a bit on this one.

You can obviously go and read this blog and learn a little bit more about why I did it. But I want to explain in the context of this specific blog post today.

Do I expect female athletes to weigh and measure their food forever?

No.

Do I think it is a worthwhile exercise for a few months to better understand your food?

Yes.

My observation over the time I have been implementing this way of working with many many women is this (in summary):

  • Women on a diet will most commonly default to under-eating on calories
  • Women on a diet with most commonly default to restricting carbohydrates (maybe fats too)
  • Women who are “not on a diet but eating clean” will commonly default to a high fat, low carb diet
  • The above will often, despite their own perception, likely be low on protein

Now each and every one of us is different and will have different needs and I’m fine with that. But generally speaking, the above points do not, under most circumstances, contribute towards an individual who kicks butt in the gym and has the physique to show for it.

You have absolutely no idea how many women I have spoken to who eat well and train well and say this to me: “I feel like I put in so much effort with my training and my diet but my body doesn’t look like it”.

Then I think to myself: “Well I know exactly why that is”.

So what is the argument for weighing and tracking food?

To be honest, the weighing of our food is only a useful tool when we first know what our body needs. So we need to understand how many calories we need to perform, not to overeat or undereat.

We also need to understand that a calorie is not just a calorie and our body will have varying needs for protein, carbohydrate and fat depending on how we train and how often we train, our genetics and a host of different factors. Once we understand this, we understand what a portion size looks like for me, the individual. Then weighing and measuring our food is just a way for us to check that we are eating as appropriate.

When we eat as appropriate we do not over-consume excess calories leading to increased body fat. When we eat as appropriate we do not under eat triggering cravings, low energy, poor sleep, poor performance and increased potential to binge. When we eat as appropriate we are fuelled, our body is not under stress and we can perform like awesome human beings.

Would I expect someone to do this forever?

No.

This is what actually made me think of this today. I have being weighing and measuring my food since 1st March 2014. Just under 14 months. Over the weekend I decided to stop. Some of you may have seen my blog about “What really happened in San Diego?”. While I was away I stopped tracking my food due to the inconvenience associated with travel.

For some this is usually an opportunity to go “If I am not measuring it, it doesn’t count! I’ll eat ALL THE FOOD!”

Tracking my food has actually allowed me to build a better relationship with food. The reason being is that no food is ever “off limits”. When food isn’t banned or restricted it becomes a lot less exciting and you can just choose to eat the foods that you enjoy eating.

When I was in San Diego I was given a massive piece of cheese cake. I was exhausted and emotionally drained (not to mention a little – okay a lot – hangover). I had two fork fulls of the cheese cake because everyone was telling me it was from this magical cheese cake place and of course you have to try. After the two fork fulls I decided I didn’t actually like to cheese cake and I gave it to someone else. The opposite behaviour would have been eat ALL the cheesecake because I haven’t had sugar in 3 weeks and I am just so exhausted I deserve the cheese cake to make me feel better about myself even though I don’t like the way it tastes (some of you will understand what I am saying here, if you don’t then just move on, there is some more good stuff coming up next).

Of course I have written previously about the challenges I faced when I initially started. But I have been practising this way of eating for so long now, what was initially a challenge is now a habit. I now know what a good meal looks like on a plate and I can start to ask myself “Anna, what would you LIKE to eat today?”. Strangely, provided you haven’t gone too long without eating, what your body often wants is just something healthy. But it takes times to get to that point.

So I have stopped weighing and measuring and just going off what I have learnt is good fuel for my body. Yesterday I took the time to calculate what I had been eating in hindsight and I was actually pretty close to what I would have done if I had everything pre-planned and calculated out.

I made it quite clear to the Ladies that I coach that I don’t have a body composition goal at the moment, I haven’t set myself a performance goal. I am content with that side of my life at the moment and what I really need to be working on now is the other things in life that make me happy.

Which leads me to the third part in this journey…

If I am being honest, I used to be a terrible nutrition coach.

I used to think “Why can’t people just take what I have given them and follow it?”

There are women out there who can do this. I would be happy to bet that these women are in the minority.

The reason why I have created a coaching model in my business as opposed to selling “information plans” is because women (people) don’t just need the information to know what to do, they also need the help and support to change their habits.

Every time one of my clients goes “off the rails” or struggles with compliance or feels lost or overwhelmed, its not because they lack self discipline or self control, it is because something else has happened to derail them. I posted a quote on my facebook page the other say explaining that creating habits frees us from decision making because we don’t have to think about things and then decide, we just do things. This saves time and energy which means we also preserve energy that we assign to will power and self control. Basically, if we make the right choices habitually, we have more energy for the other things in life.

The problem is, that changing the way we eat, exercise, going to sleep earlier and making time to meditate all takes energy in the beginning. So when life comes along and throws a curve ball at us, our energy gets diverted to the curve ball and we lack the energy to assign to the positive lifestyle habits we wanted to create.

It is also not the act of going off path which is the problem. Small moments of derailment can be insignificant in context of all the positive actions which accumulate over time. The issues lies in our own attitude to our derailment which can create a negative path of self destruction. I ate a fork full of cheese cake so now I will eat ALL the cheese cake and not only will I do this now but later today, tomorrow and the next day because despite all the exercise and meditation I am doing and green vegetables I am eating I have ruined EVERYTHING! (you get the idea)

With coaching we can pick someone up off the floor and get them back on track much more quickly they could necessarily on their own. Its not just about the food and the exercise. In fact it is mostly about the mindset.

The final piece of the puzzle is at the end of the day we all just want to be happy, confident and share and experience love. One of my clients said yesterday on a coaching call, she realised that she needs to work on her confidence now because even when she reaches her goal weight, she can’t see that changing unless she changes.

Yes I was very proud of her.

With coaching we can work the headspace alongside the nutrition and training information. This ultimately produces better success at the implementation of the exercise and nutrition but also creates a happier person at the end of it all. I know many people who look fab and can deadlift a lot but are not truly happy.

So the sixth food, if I can give you a bonus, is not a food at all but still something that nourishes you…

happiness

 

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