By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on my way to the World Championship 2019 in Germany. To help myself acclimatise to the weather and other factors, I will arrive in Germany a few days before the Taekwon-Do competitions.
Thanks for the wine, Alex and Mak! I'll have a celebratory drink when I return to Adelaide after the championships.
Compared to the way I was feeling a week before my competition in Melbourne, I’m in a noticeably better place now. I have another 1.5 kg or so to lose before early next week and I’m feeling energised and confident about how I’m going to cut the weight.
My strategy this time has been to eat whole foods and avoid meal replacement shakes unless absolutely necessary. Say I’m thinking of not eating anything for dinner because I’m not feeling particularly hungry, then I’ll have a meal replacement shake to give myself the nutrients my body requires. I chose not to go down the path of solely using meal replacements to achieve my fitness goal because that would defeat the purpose of getting healthy. Besides, I’m not sure what problems this would result in in the long run.
Currently, experts believe that meal replacements work well for people trying to lose a large amount of weight for a short time, usually recommended to people with obesity problems for their health or to address medical issues, but that they aren’t suitable for long-term use. Since I’m in a different stage of my health and weight loss journey, this approach is not for me. I still want to enjoy life and food, since obviously meal replacements don’t taste as good as fruit, vegetables and meat. Therefore, I’ll keep eating my real food while watching calories and keeping active.
What if I forget how to cook because I was relying too much on meal replacements? [Photo from Pxhere]
So far, I’ve formulated a meal plan that seems to work for me. What I have for breakfast depends on my schedule. If I have an early personal training session with clients and I plan to work out afterwards, I’ll have a high-carbohydrate breakfast with oatmeal or something similar; if I’m going to train myself right away, I opt for something easier to digest, like a protein shake with almond milk. After 20 to 30 minutes, I can train hard and have a good-sized breakfast afterwards. That breakfast keeps me going until lunchtime and I know that the number on my scales won’t climb because I’ve already burnt off more calories than my breakfast contained.
With my experience from losing weight for the Melbourne championship, I’m beginning to grasp when and how to eat, and what food to choose. Basically, I’ve learnt what not to do if I want to keep myself healthy. And that’s the key. I learned that health should always be our first priority. If we’re eating right and well, weight loss should be a natural outcome of that.
Since Melbourne, I’ve stepped away from emotional eating and I can honestly say this is the healthiest I’ve been in the past two years. I’m in good shape and my immune system is stronger than ever, which did not use to be the case. I would train, fall sick, and would have to start over; now, I train hard, sleep well and drink plenty of water. Of course, sometimes my energy levels still fluctuate but 80% of the time I feel energetic and am ready to push hard at training. In the past, particularly leading up to the Melbourne championship, I had so little energy and was in a constant zombie-like state when I trained.
This is how I used to feel when I was training. Not anymore! [Photo from Public Domain Pictures]
I’m looking forward to the end of the world championship, not only because I get to eat all the delicious food in Europe (I’ll be ending my trip in Italy and stuffing my face with pasta and pizza!), but also because I know I’ll miss Adelaide. Originally, I planned to spend a month away but, in the end, I couldn’t do it because I’ll get homesick.
Once I get back, I plan to maintain my weight and level of fitness, so I don’t have to go through another extreme weight cut for the next competition. I’m also genuinely excited about incorporating more variety in my meals and I’m beginning to appreciate the natural flavours of food instead of relying on sodium-heavy sauces to add taste.
The other day as I was in the supermarket, it struck me that there is such a great variety of affordable, healthy snacks. We just have to take the nutrition labels on the packaging with – ha! – a grain of salt. For example, a 200g bag of light puffy snacks might label each serving as 100g and 500 calories. We could easily eat a whole bag, gain a thousand calories, and still might not feel sated after. This is called vanishing caloric density. This New York Times article explores the science that goes into making junk food so addictive and a commercial hit (type in CTRL + f on the webpage to search for “vanishing caloric density” if you can’t be bothered reading all of that). The basic idea is if something melts in our mouths quickly, our brains are tricked into thinking there are no calories and that we can keep eating this food with no consequences. In reality, it’s packed full of sugar and fat. Another fibre-heavy snack with a similar serving size containing the same number of calories might leave us feeling fuller and more satisfied after eating a smaller portion because of the high fibre content. As a result, we consume fewer calories and feel satisfied for longer. An example in our local supermarkets is rice crackers with chia seeds. You may have to search for them in the organic or health food aisle and while they might be a little more pricey than the everyday variety, they are flavourful and filling. I reach for these when I need a healthy snack because I only eat about 60g of these rice crackers at one go, which is 250 to 300 calories.
I’m also looking forward to my studies in exercise and nutrition next semester. I managed to transfer my credits from occupational therapy over to this program, which is going to be very relevant to the work I’m doing. When I’m back at university, I expect to learn better approaches to nutrition and exercise, which will improve my current regime and help me guide my clients in their fitness journey.
If you need guidance planning your journey to a better and fitter you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 0430 210 669 (but please note that I’ll be abroad until the first week of May).