I am quite the hungry, hungry hippo during contest prep. My stomach growls audibly during meetings, I cling to the handle of the microwave like a chimp in a tree while waiting for my food to heat up, and I am always aware of the bottomless pit that is my stomach. But that’s contest prep; it is what it is. If this process was easy, everyone and their mother would be a figure competitor and would have a rockin' body 24/7. There's a reason that America is tubby: we cannot stand to be hungry, especially when food is so abundant
. I blame restaurants and their massive, unnecessary portions for this. Most Americans would be blown away if they saw how small a 3oz serving of chicken is. It’s tiny, by the way.
Hunger plays weird tricks on the mind. Food starts to invade everyday thoughts, you start to count down the minutes until your next meal, and you can get a little crazy if you obsess over it too much. Some competitors go WAY off the deep end - they watch Food Network constantly (now, I do this, but I do this year-round since I'm a foodie! Ask Jim – he knows all the Food Network stars by heart thanks to me), they start to hoard food (I'm guilty of this, as I hoarded massive amounts of sugary foods before my 1st show), and meal time can even become ritualistic. Their moods and personalities can change - they get mean, irritable, and obnoxious. Eventually, they go crazy - literally. Most competitors I've met need to be locked UP before they compete again. Strait-jacket city. One thing I have learned over the past couple of years is that hunger is part of the game. And this goes far beyond contest prep: this pertains to dieting, in general. And non-competitors will start to act crazy, too, if deprived of calories for too long. Ancel Keys did some amazing research on the psychological effects of calorie restriction back in the 40s, and he found that his subjects presented with the same symptoms I listed above. My point? No one is immune to the mental stress of cutting calories, which is why calories should never be cut too severely or too quickly.
When the body is used to being fed a certain amount of calories every day, it will react when you start to feed it less, even by only a few hundred calories. Every body has a set point - a weight at which the body feels it needs to stay in order to sustain your life. So when weight starts to dip below the set point, the body responds with hunger cues that tell you to eat. "FEED ME!!!" it says, in hopes of maintaining its "optimal" weight. If you're trying to lose weight, this is what you MUST
understand: you're going to be hungry. Period. Don’t whine and moan and complain. Do you want the dimples to disappear from your butt so that you don't look like a giant potato in your bikini? Do you want your arm fat to stop jiggling when you wave goodbye to your grandma? EXPECT to be hungry if you're trying to lose weight. Remember, in order to lose weight and fat, the body must be in a caloric deficit. Ergo, you will be hungry.
There are no tricks - water doesn't really help (trust me, I drink 5 liters a day and I could still eat the rear end out of a rhino at all times). Don’t look for shortcuts. Don’t expect to lose weight while still eating brownies. Don’t think that your body is telling you that it wants a cupcake (it's not). And don’t complain: no one is holding a gun to your head making you lose weight. This is something you want, right? If you'd rather eat garbage than fit into your skinny jeans, then it's pretty clear that you're not ready to take your life into your own hands.
Dieting is about mindset. You have to flip your thinking to empowerment as opposed to deprivation. If you feel deprived, you're going to cheat and then you're going to tell me that you've "tried so many diets, but nothing works." Whenever I hear that, I immediately know it’s a lie. It means you didn't stick with it long enough, or it means you weren't 100% compliant. Or both. If you feel empowered, you're going to stick to your diet. And, really, I hate the word "diet." Diet is actually how you eat. It is not something restrictive, nor is it temporary. It is healthy, balanced, and should be a permanent lifestyle change. Instead of saying, "I can't have that because it's not on my diet," say "I choose not to eat that today, because it's not healthy." Sure, it's a matter of semantics, but the phrasing will make a HUGE impact on how you view your new healthy lifestyle.
So, turn that frown upside down, and realize that hunger is a sign that your body is eating your own rump. Now THAT'S something to celebrate, my friends!
Beth is an NPC
figure competitor and has been competing for 3 years. When she’s not rocking the stage in her stiletto heels, she’s either at work as Project Manager at a Pharmaceutical company in Durham, NC
or she’s in the gym training clients or teaching spin classes. In her very minimal free time, Beth likes to sleep, eat, play with her dog, and spend time with her boyfriend and friends (who also like to sleep and eat).