How do you know when you should bulk vs. when you should cut?
Are you a healthy body weight? What are your long term goals? Are you training for an event, or gene...
| July 16, 2021
Read time: 3 min.
The fitness industry is rampant with eating disorders. They’re not often discussed, since their habits appear ‘healthy’ to some people. I mean, what’s bad about going to the gym and tracking all of your food? That just shows you’re dedicated, right? Well, it depends.
At the end of the day, disordered eating patterns come down to the individual’s psychological space, rather than their actual behaviours. Otherwise, every bodybuilder on prep would be classified as having an eating disorder. While eating disorders are common among competitors, it’s certainly not true for all of them. Here are some of the top red flags I watch for in my clients, to ensure they’re maintaining a healthy relationship with food.
Worried about eating out
Do you get stressed thinking about eating out, especially unexpectedly? This could be a sign that your relationship with food is disordered. Life happens. It’s OK to eat off plan every once in a while, especially if you’re a competitor in the off-season.
Obsessing about going over or under calories
Not every day will be perfect, nor is it meant to be. Our bodies are an open energy system after all. Going 50 calories over or under every once in a while is NOT going to kill your physique goals.
Weighing out EVERYTHING
Are you weighing out every leaf of spinach? Every ounce of green beans? These are negligible calories, and could lead to problematic thoughts about food. I get my clients to weigh out the big rocks: protein, carbs, fats. Calories from low calorie vegetables are totally OK to eyeball, or use measuring cups for. A few extra grams of spinach isn’t going to change anything. That aside, I never want my clients stressing about the calories in low calorie vegetables. They’re essential for good health, and shouldn’t be viewed solely as a source of calories.
Constantly thinking about food
If you obsess over how to time your meals perfectly, and count down when your next meal is, I would be concerned. Life goes far beyond health and fitness, and shouldn’t consume the majority of your thoughts. It’s OK to have a plan. It’s OK to push yourself in a cutting phase. That aside, your thoughts should ideally be preoccupied with all the other beautiful things you have going on in your life. Health and fitness is meant to enhance your life, not become it.
Tracking obsessively on vacation
If you’re not competing within the next few months, there’s no reason to be militant on vacation. Eat mindfully, and enjoy your time spent with loved ones. Experience the world. Your physique goals will be ready for you when you get home.
Never eating ‘unclean’ foods
Calorie balance, calorie balance, calorie balance. Eating fries once a month, when accounted for, won’t change a damn thing. Enjoy yourself! I typically get my clients to follow an 80/20 rule, of 80% whole foods, 20% fun foods. This is actually encouraged, and I worry more about my clients who never indulge.
If you’re constantly playing catchup with your calories, it’s time to stop tracking altogether. Going under your calories by 500 for the next 3 days, because you binged on pizza and beer yesterday, is not a real solution. Establish portion control with food first, then start tracking. When you’re eating, slow down. Taste it. Breathe. When do you feel full? What does your hunger feel like? What’s your emotional state like? Work on creating a healthy relationship with food before you pursue physique goals, or it’ll exacerbate your disordered eating patterns.
These are the top disordered eating patterns I screen for, but there are definitely more. If you’re worried that you might have an eating disorder, reach out to a local psychologist to help you work through your unique patterns. Eating disorders actually have very little to do with food, and run much deeper. It is imperative you reach out for help if this is something you’re struggling with, and could ultimately cost you your life if you don’t reach out.
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