One of the most common questions I get asked by people about being overweight is if I know how I got so big. I am 100% positive I know the answer to this question. Food. I love it. There are very few types of food I dislike. Some I absolutely love. While I am on top of my eating these days and am able to maintain what I believe to be healthy eating habits I still love food. It would be all too easy for me to fall back into some of my bad habits. In fact, I wonder if I ever stopped training as much but continued to eat the way I do currently would my weight increase drastically? Probably not to the level that I was but you put a pizza or plate of dumplings in front of me and watch them vanish. Being aware of my propensity to overeat means hat I have had to develop tools and strategies to prevent myself from doing so. They do not always work 100% of the time, but they certainly help. So what I do to prevent myself from overeating is to come up with a set of rules which I follow.
On my way back from Norway we took a few days in Singapore to catch up with some of my oldest friends. I usually relax a bit after a big race with my eating and drinking and thought the timing of this was perfect. I could relax and focus more on having a good time rather than following my rules. I definitely enjoyed myself in Singapore, perhaps a little too much, but the aftermath of those few days on my body reminded me why not only why I choose to eat healthier but why I am so careful about following my rules.
So now might be a good time to let you know what some of my rules are. For fear of having people jump down my throat I want to say that these are not recommendations or suggestions. I have no medical basis for these decisions. They are simply the rules I have created for myself after many years of trial and error. The first rule I try and follow is no alcohol during the week and minimal on weekends. I find that not only does alcohol have lots of calories in it but it also impacts on recovery and when I have had too many drinks all I want to do is eat. So remove temptation and I find myself in a situation to overeat less often. No takeaway. I avoid eating out during the week as much as I can. I find that when I eat out there is often more food than I need and because I pay for it I want to eat it. This also applies to junk food. I basically just stop eating it as often as possible. I wish I could say I had 100% success rate but I have been known to have the sneaky mac-attack on occasions. I also find that by cooking at home I am able to know exactly what goes into the food and prepare the exact amount to ensure I do not overeat. A newer rule which I have been following and changes depending on how close I am to a race is carbs. Now I am sure that this more than any other will be a point of division for many. Usually I try and keep my carbs relatively low during the week and I try to avoid them all together after about 2pm. As I get closer to a race I will try and eliminate them all together if I need to drop a few kgs to get to race weight. I am extremely lucky because I have never really had a sweet tooth. So you will never find me craving chocolate or candy and I often shock friends when I tell them I don't really like ice cream. So I avoid as much sugar as I possibly can.
So these are my sort of basic rules which I follow. There are others which I might implement at certain times depending on my mood etc but I can't be bothered listing anymore. Instead I want to get back to my time in Singapore. I was there for 3 days and I did not follow any of my rules while I was there. There was an excessive amount of food, drinks and desserts. There was also a minimal amount of exercise and sleep. The reason I found this so significant was because of the obvious way that this impacted on my body. Normally changes as a result of diet or training are subtle and not always easy to spot. These changes were bloody obvious. They were not only physical changes but mental as well. The most obvious change I noticed immediately was my energy levels. By the third day I was not hungover but I was absolutely exhausted. Tired to the point of overtired. On the plane back to Australia I could not even sleep. I was so tired that I could not rest. I am sure a big part of this was all of the unknown ingredients which went into the food I ate. As someone know used to consuming a lot of sugar I think the sudden boost in sugar probably played a big part. It took me days to recover once I got back to Australia. I slept more and more than I usually would and even then I was still tired.
The other major physical change I noticed was that my body swelled up like a water bomb. My ankles went missing and a belly appeared around my mid section. I struggled to fit into some of my clothes and my compression socks actually hurt my feet. Now rationally I knew that this was not a weight gain as I had not eaten enough to warrant such an increase in weight. I could also feel that it was a matter of holding excessive liquid. But this increase in size had an impact on my mood. I felt disgusted in myself, uncomfortable in my own body. My clothes were not fitting how they usually did. I just did not like it. After a few days back into training and after pissing about 10,000 times the swelling went down. But all of this discomfort was a result of simply eating and drinking too much. By the time I got home I was super excited to get back to my set of rules and healthy eating habits.
What this whole experience served to show me was that while I could easily slip back into some of my old habits I do not think I could ever go back to them properly. After only a few days the impact that it had on me both mentally and physically turned me into a version of myself which I did not like. It made me want to revert to my new normal. Where I am careful about how I treat my body. I take the time to eat good food and train my body to go harder and faster. The quick satisfaction you may feel after satisfying a craving can be amazing but if you keep trying to scratch that same itch it will eventually turn into a wound or infection. Something that becomes bad for you. It is what I tell myself now when I get a random craving. It is ok to give into them sometimes but certainly not every time. By following my rules (and having an amazing wife who keeps me in line) I am able to prevent myself feeling the way I did after 3 days of excess in Singapore. I am able to enjoy those occasions where I do give into a craving knowing that I am able to enjoy them sometimes instead of all the time.
I am curious though to know if anyone else has had similar experiences when they relax their food rules? As always, I really do not care about a paleo or vegan approach to this. It isn't about that at all. As I am sure that no matter what your food choices are you will be able to have periods of excess within it.
Anyway that will do for this week. Stay on top of your eating habits and remember to TRI!