At a time in the world when obesity is considered a “national epidemic” and more and more people are dealing with the many physical and psychological effects related to being overweight, it is a no brainer that being part of the fitness industry is a step in the right direction to make a difference to the quality of life of our community.
Being fit and strong is a very motivating, inspiring, and invigorating experience which uplifts us and creates a positive mindset and consideration of the two most important areas of living a healthy life; nutrition and exercise.
However sometimes too much of a good thing can turn into the opposite and become an addiction with a list of side effects attached. Fitness can be broken down into three simple goals. LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD, BE HEALTHY. Often times these three goals compete with each other, and more often than not the looks far out weigh the health.
With that said, I feel the need to outline some of the key issues related to going to extremes with fitness and making it a matter of concern.
To avoid this article becoming the length of a book, I will outline the key areas of concern and break them down into parts over the next few weeks.
These topics will include:
- Eating Disorders
- Body Dysmorphia
- Prescription & Performance Enhancing Drug Use
- Life Threatening Contest Prep Protocols
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Unrealistic Expectations
- and potentially more…
PART 1 – Eating Disorders
Nutrition is a core component of building muscle, losing fat, and ensuring your body is working as it should by providing the essential nutrients required to thrive and survive.
It is generally agreed that when you eat less you lose weight. When you eat protein you encourage your body to build and maintain muscle. When you eat carbs you provide your body with energy. When you eat fats you provide your body with essential nutrients for hormonal balance and transportation of other nutrients.
With that said, it is clearly important to incorporate all three macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) in your diet.
People who go to extremes have the main goal of building muscle. This means more protein. Generally in excess of any study known to man. Protein protein protein. Every day. Every meal. In generic quantities without any consideration. 200g portions in the form of animal protein, 6-8 egg whites, protein shakes. Simple generic portion sizes. Some how it is whats required to get the job done, irrespective of a personal body composition assessment.
So if protein builds muscle which is an obvious major goal, and I need to eat less to lose weight, why not just eat minimal amounts of carbs and fats? That works right? How many times have you heard of people who “live” on chicken and broccoli. It has become more of a joke these days however it is still very relevant and continues to happen.
The issue is, people see short term results and don’t consider the long term effects. Eat protein; build muscle, eat less; lose weight or even; get “shredded”.
Knowing the importance of nutrition, your body will always get the calories or nutrients it requires to survive. It is simply impossible to excessively under eat without your body responding in more ways than just losing weight, or body fat. What I mean is, when you are restricting your daily food intake your body will force you to give it what it needs to keep functioning at its preferred level of health or body composition “set point”. This is part of why we get cravings, why we snack on foods without thinking, and the big one; why many people are binge eating on a weekly basis.
Having a diet that focuses on protein intake and not much else, you can bet your body is fighting you on a daily basis. How many times have you had that craving to eat one small treat and ended up eating everything in sight? That could be an example of your body “getting what it needs”, regardless of what you are trying to force it to do.
So when fitness goes too far, people are following eating plans that have very little consideration or recruitment of essential dietary fats and carbohydrates. Protein is the key, with green vegetables and salads not really for the micronutrient content but more because they keep you full and help in the process of feeing “okay” in what is essentially planned starvation.
Binge eating is prevalent amongst those who preach the idea of “eating clean” or being strict with generic uneducated fitness eating plans. More so, it is associated with those who are over eating protein but under eating total calories in an effort to build muscle and get shredded.
I have seen first hand people who claim to be health & fitness role models who are closet binge eaters yet portray a lifestyle of nothing but clean foods and won’t allow their image to be hurt by being truthful about their less than desirable eating habits.
Although I have never been one to hide my eating habits, I have spent multiple periods of my life where I was doing everything you have just read. Under eating, binging, thinking nothing but protein and a few fibrous vegetables was a way of life. I thought it was a necessary sacrifice to get that elusive shredded and muscular physique. It is obviously a less than desirable outcome when you realise you have developed an eating disorder and have created a yo-yo cycle of “clean” and “dirty” eating as well as a fear of certain foods and a very restricted and psychologically damaging approach to nutrition. The first untold truth.