I have been doing so much writing for the MX website that I haven’t been putting together too many articles for here. However, I feel like this is probably a bit more of a personal post and therefore doesn't suit my professional website. Before I take you down the rabbit hole in my head, I want to wind back the clock a few months.
Right before all of this C Bomb stuff kicked off I was having the time of my life training like a professional in Phuket. I had the pleasure of noticing that my cycling kits were becoming loose and my ‘skinny’ kits were fitting well. My self-confidence was growing like it only can when I am in good shape. I was looking forward to getting back to Australia and carrying this momentum forward to lay a really solid foundation for the rest of 2020.
I had planned a early year catch up with my dietitian, Chloe McLeod to lay the ground work and make sure we had a solid game plan. I was excited for this chat because usually at this part of the season it was about having to get everything under control and re-learning old habits. But not this time! I was already off flying. I was going to be able to impress Chloe with how well I was doing.
We start the call; I can barely contain my excitement and then I tell her! I AM CRUSHING IT at the moment. Chloe was excited. It was great news, it meant we could start to focus on some more advanced strategies and make sure I took my performance to the next level. Then Chloe asked me “How are you sleeping?”, I hesitated, thought about it and said, “You know, to be honest… not great.” I had been in isolation for a week at this stage and I was under a fair amount of stress. As a coach, I had started to bleed athletes and running a global triathlon community, I had members from all over the World reaching out because they were doing it tough. It was taking its toll. As a sort of parting comment, Chloe asked me to start keeping a food journal. She was slightly concerned about my sleep but hey, I was stressed. No dramas. I had told her; I was crushing it lately!
The next day I woke up determined to be super honest with my food journal. All day, I put down my well balanced, healthy food I was eating. I knew she would be impressed by the range of vegetables I was eating, how balanced my meals were and how little I was snacking. I submitted my food journal, and everything started to go wrong.
I talk to Chloe fairly often on the phone, on Instagram or by SMS. She messaged me pretty quickly after receiving my food journal. I will now do my best to recount our conversation.
Chloe: “Is that everything you ate?”
Me: “Yeah! I told you I was doing really well!”
Chloe: “…. What training did you do today?”
Me: <slightly confused> “Just an easy 60-minute run – nothing hard?”
Chloe: “That’s not nearly enough, can you please weigh yourself?”
Me: “What the hell, Chloe I am 81kg!!!”
Chloe: “That doesn’t sound right, call me tomorrow ok?”
<I start panicking>
If you have read my posts in the past you will know I have spoken about how the number on the scales doesn’t really matter. There are so many other measures you can use to check your progress. I know this, I have told other people this, I have recorded podcasts about this and I have written it in many posts. In that moment of seeing an 8 in front of a 1 on the scale all logic, rational thinking and self-confidence I had built up over the past month vanished.
I thought I wasn't sleeping before, now I was really not sleeping. How the hell could I be 7kg heavier than my usual weight? My kits were fitting! My clothes were loose! What the hell was going on?
I called Chloe and the first question she asked me was if I had eaten breakfast that day. God damn she knew me too well. My first thought straight away was to cut right back on my food. She also made me promise to eat lunch and even made me send a photo of my lunch to make sure I did it. I will now try and give you a much worse explanation of what Chloe gave me.
In short, I was not eating nearly enough. The day I had written in my food journal was about 1500 calories. That was a normal day for me. The problem? I can burn up to 5000 calories on some days but the amount I was eating wasn't changing. I was not fuelling properly when I was exercising and as a result of this, my body had triggered starvation mode. One of those amazing phenomena we have our ancient caveman ancestors to thank. Because my body was constantly being underfed, it was clinging to every single calorie I consumed because it didn't know when the next time I would eat again.
The big lesson that Chloe wanted me to learn is that I HAVE TO eat more. Chloe set me the daily goal of 2200 calories PLUS the amount of energy I burned during exercise. Sounds simple enough right? I agreed and went off with my tail between my legs.
Ok, I think we are now up to date and I can now tell you about what the real issue is.
Ever since I am forcing myself to eat more, I am convincing myself that I am eating too much. Despite being told by an incredibly well educated, highly experienced professional that I have 100% trust in, I am having a daily internal struggle.
Eat more versus minimise what I am eating.
This is another one of those moments where knowing what to do is not as easy as actually doing it. My relationship with food is currently so messed up that I genuinely believe I am a on the verge of a very serious eating disorder. Every single fibre of my body wants to starve myself. I have lost all interest in food. I literally cannot make a decision about what to eat. I am so lucky that my amazing wife is taking charge at the moment because she knows how hard this is on me.
It is so hard. I know how ridiculous I am being. I know Chloe is right and I know I need to do what she says. I KNOW IT. But it is so fucking hard to keep doing it. I rode my bike yesterday and felt my belly. I then spent the next 2 hours of my ride obsessing over my belly. I pulled over 5 times to adjust my kit because I was obsessing over feeling fat. Today, I am going to go for a 3-hour ride and I know I will be back in one of my fat kits for no other reason than I think I am more comfortable in them. It infuriates me. I cannot find the words to put down how shit all of this is making me feel.
I am training better than ever, hitting numbers I haven’t hit in years and I am only focusing on how fit I feel and look. I was chatting with a really close friend of mine yesterday who also sees Chloe who said “when I listen to her it works, it is when I stop that things go wrong” so I opened up about how much of a mess my head is at the moment. He gets it, he has lost weight too and said he knew what I was going through. You focus on the imperfections and then they drive you mad. It is literally like beating yourself up.
I am happy to say that I am still forcing myself to eat more. Some days it is just too hard. On Saturday I would have needed to consume 7000 calories. I cannot physically eat that much. But I am making sure I eat around my training, eating enough every day and really trying to do EXACTLY what Chloe told me. I am just hating myself for doing it.
I have kept my weight off for nearly a decade now and yet here I am, a decade later and I am still dealing with the same struggles many people who are just starting out face. I am not perfect; I have not got this down. I probably never will. But I am really hoping that this time the logical part of my brain managed to keep the irrational part under control. Starving myself WILL make me feel better about myself but it IS NOT good for me and will mean my weight either stays up or drops far too low.
It’s frustrating. The ball of anxiety in my stomach as a result of this has not gone away for weeks but I will not give in.
I need to wrap this up and think the best way to do it is to simply say, you don’t need to be perfect, I don't actually think it is possible. But do whatever you can to do what is best for you in the long run and not to satisfy your own irrational fears and insecurities. I know I will get through this and will then probably be writing an amazing article about how eating more actually allows you to lose weight.
Until that time, I hope you are all doing well and even though we have no races on the horizon remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.