I understand the monotony of dieting – been there, done that. But also know that dieting for too long can wreak havoc on your relationship with food, both physically and psychologically.
Physically, if you avoid certain foods for too long, then go back to them, your digestive system may not know what hit it. You could get gas, bloating, nausea, any number of things. Believe me. I avoided any/all dairy for more years than I care to remember. Recently, I tried adding half-and-half cream to my coffee, and BOY did my body tell me “HELL NO!” That’s years of dieting and restricting catching up to me. Psychologically, too frequent (in interval) and too long (in duration) periods of dieting can affect you mentally.(1)
Again, more personal experience, not eating carbs for the majority of my adolescent period, left me with an unfortunate phobia of any carbohydrates. No matter how much evidence to the contrary I would read, carbs for me, were the devil. This kind of attitude is common in dieting teens, regardless of whether they are over (or under) weight (2).
I wouldn’t keep carbs in the house, and I wouldn’t be caught dead near one. THANK G-D I eventually grew out of that phase, but I know a lot of individuals and especially competitors haven’t grown out of that mindset. They assume that carbs are what put their weight on in the first place (but chances are, it was an EXCESS of carbs and poor quality choices than the actual carbs themselves), and therefore any form of consumption would lead them to the life of a fatty once again.
Now there are two possible components to a diet: The restriction part and the deficit part. The restriction part that I’m referring to is in regards to the TYPE of calories you can have, i.e. low carb, low fat, no diet drinks, etc. And the deficit part refers to the NUMBER of calories you can have, i.e. Nothing above 1200, 1500, 2000, 2500, etc. For the record, women almost always over-estimate/report their caloric intake (3).
In my previous article about the typical bodybuilding approach to dieting (sweet potatoes, chicken, almonds, broccoli at every meal) versus the “If it fits your macros approach” (have pop-tarts as long as you don’t go over 150grams of carbs). However, as I alluded to earlier, there are psychological effects inherent to various aspects of any diet, and an over-reliance on unhealthy foods can result in low-grade inflammation and increased risk of depression (4), while a healthy diet (combined with exercise) can actually boost cognitive performance – even after a traumatic brain injury (5)!
In that article, I tried to make the case that in some specific instances (though not, obviously, in all) “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie”, for a competitor dieting for a show, and even more so for any individual who’s dieting. If you read this article, you’d know that I’m a fan of being in a deficit (the only way to lose weight/fat is by consuming less than you burn), but I do not believe in restricting the type of foods you’re allowed. A diet is miserable enough on it’s own, you don’t need to start imposing even more rules on top of that. Still, everything in moderation…
With all that said, my main point here is that sometimes, dieting is a necessary evil. Prepping your food, eating your food, and thinking about when the next time you’re going to eat your food is a boring part of our day. So why not spice it up a little? Why not give my little theory a try? Why not break out of your little restrictive, disordered eating shell, and start to enjoy life AND FOOD (!!!) again, even if you’re prepping for a show? If you’re a competitor, and really that nervous, then give it a try during your offseason. If you’re not a competitor, then what do you have to lose?
Dying to be thin. Your guide to today’s mental health issues.Ayton A.Ment Health Today. 2012 Jan-Feb:22-5. Review.PMID:22479949[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Children and eating. Personality and gender are associated with obesogenic food consumption and overweight in 6- to 12-year-olds.Vollrath ME, Hampson SE, Júlíusson PB.Appetite. 2012 Jun;58(3):1113-7. Epub 2012 Mar 15.
Social desirability, not dietary restraint, is related to accuracy of reported dietary intake of a laboratory meal in females during a 24-hour recall.Schoch AH, Raynor HA.Eat Behav. 2012 Jan;13(1):78-81. Epub 2011 Nov 23.PMID:22177404[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Are proinflammatory cytokines involved in an increased risk for depression by unhealthy diets?Ekmekcioglu C.Med Hypotheses. 2012 Feb;78(2):337-40. Epub 2011 Dec 6.PMID:22153575[PubMed – in process]
Collaborative effects of diet and exercise on cognitive enhancement.Gomez-Pinilla F.Nutr Health. 2011;20(3-4):165-9. Review.PMID:22141190[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]