In January of this year, I decided I wanted to embark on a nutritional experiment. I’d noticed that an increase in alcohol and poor food choices had started to negatively affect my body composition.
I decided to upgrade my approach to nutrition for three specific reasons:
- I’d never completed a strict, intentional nutritional protocol, with the aim of cutting body fat. This was something I knew I needed to experience in order to authentically communicate and empathize with my clients who have similar body composition goals.
- I wanted to look the part of a fitness professional and to be seen and recognized as someone who has a passion for health and fitness.
- I wanted to be lean. I’d always been a bigger kid during my adolescence and was never incredibly lean. I wanted to truly look and feel lean for the first time in my life.
This experience was 14-weeks long. At the end of the 14 weeks, I had lost 7.8 pounds (182.4 to 174.6), 2.7% body fat (11.5-8.8), 5.5 pounds of body fat, and only 1.6 pounds of muscle.
Here are the most impactful lessons I’ve learned as both a client and a coach, over the past three months.
It’s not meant to be sustainable
Logging my food intake was unsustainable for me. Structured nutritional protocols designed with the sole purpose of shifting body composition will be a habit that most individuals cannot uphold for an extended period of time successfully. Realizing this helped me better align individual nutritional prescriptions for my clients. Not everyone needs to log their food in MyFitnessPal or Cronometer, especially when there are more intuitive and sustainable options available. For more about this, check out our previous blog posts on the 3 phases of nutrition for long-term success and when to prescribe food quality vs. macronutrient goals.
Accountability is a large driver of success
Every Monday during the 14 weeks, I sent progress pictures to my coach, the Central Athlete Team, and to my Instagram story for all of my followers to see. Knowing every week that I had to report my progress to several individuals raised the stakes for me. I intentionally put several pairs of eyes on me, to hold me accountable for finishing what I chose to start. These extra layers of accountability played a huge part in keeping me focused as the weeks progressed.
Everyone is different
My coach initially placed me on a high-fat, high-protein, low-carb plan with the intention of reducing body fat. We quickly realized, due to arising digestive issues that higher amounts of fat weren’t optimal. We supplemented some digestive enzymes, and increased my carbs, while still keeping energy intake consistent. After making these changes I continued to progress. This highlighted the importance of being an attentive coach who is willing to change the program in whatever way will best suit the individual client.
Body dysmorphia is a very real thing for me
I’d struggled with my body image throughout life; going from the kid who was overweight and wanted to be skinny to then being the skinny-fat kid with no muscle who wanted to get big and strong. Throughout each of these periods, more often than not, I was unhappy with my body and how it looked. As you can see in the pictures included here, there was a definite change in how my body looked from week 1 to week 14. However, my own perception of that change compared to everyone else’s perception was much different. I was flattered with multiple compliments of my progress and transformation, but in my eyes not much had changed. The external feedback from others allowed me to reflect on these body-image issues I’d been having for so long. Having a better understanding of my own challenges with body dysmorphia helped me better connect with my clients with similar issues.
Deprivation is not necessary for fat loss
Given that I was training more than seven sessions a week, I needed to understand my energy expenditure in conjunction with the amount of food I was ingesting. I was consuming roughly 2500-2600 calories a day with around 300 grams of carbs each day, and still observing loss in fat mass. This highlights the importance of a personalized approach to both training and nutrition.
Long-term sustainability is the new goal
After I completed my 14-week nutritional protocol, I wanted to shift my relationship with food. For the past four to five years, I’ve been tracking my intake and after this experience, I realized there was an element of my eating that was disordered. I couldn’t remember the last time I had listened to my body’s natural hunger and fullness cues to dictate what and when I ate.
Moving forward, I’ll be listening to my hunger and fullness cues to determine when I eat and how much I eat, while also taking a break from tracking my nutrition. I will be looking at food as a source of nourishment and health, rather than a vehicle or means to achieve a particular body image.
Reflecting upon this process, I’ve never been happier with how I look and feel. This protocol built a lot of structure and routine in my life, which is something that allows me to thrive. I’ve also learned to truly accept myself and the skin I’m in. I’m proud of the dedication I had, and the success I found.
Additionally, I also learned that I can set a challenging goal, and achieve it. This builds the confidence I have in achieving other goals I set in the future.
By placing myself in a challenging nutritional situation, I learned how to better understand and connect with my clients whenever they embark on their own nutritional endeavors. The experience I gained will allow me to better guide and assist my clients whenever they experience their own unique challenges.
If you’d like to find out how to alter your body composition, or how to create behaviors to help achieve your goals, schedule a free strategy session with a Central Athlete coach today!