My article “The Metabolic Shit Hole” was one of the most popular articles I have ever written. It talks about the damage you can do to your body and your metabolism by under eating. For years I under ate (consuming as low as 800 calories a day) and I didn’t see any of the results I wanted in the gym. My body didn’t look the way I wanted it to, I wasn’t strong or fit, and I constantly had gut related health issues. In addition to physical issues under eating can cause a host of psychological problems. It can contribute to stress, anxiety, and unhappiness. All things I dealt with.
Eventually I found a way to fix it by eating more. At this point in my life I’m eating a lot of food (3,000 plus calories a day), I look better than I ever have, and what’s more important I feel better than I ever have. My stress is reduced, I have little anxiety (other than the normal anxiety day-to-day life causes), and I am fulfilled and happy.
As a coach and trainer I want to help women who have fallen into the same trap as me. Almost every single woman I work with is going through the same issue I was. They all under eat. It may seem like I am making a generalization but it is the truth. Every one of us struggles with our appearance and how we feel about our bodies. The answer for everyone seems to turn to is to immediately cut back on calories. This isn’t the right course of action though, especially when it comes to a long lasting or permanent issue.
Educating women to eat the right way is difficult. The media has told us for years to eat less and deprive ourselves from eating entire food groups. We are bombarded by images of photoshopped women with “perfect” bodies, and read countless article after article on the newest and greatest diet plan so we can achieve all of our dreams.
Nutritionists don’t always help either. Many of them (again, not all) coach people into eating way too little. Now to be fair there are special cases that require intense intervention( I.e. people with diabetes or obesity) and require different nutritional protocols, but if you are reading this, I assume you are a person who spends a lot of time in the gym. Many nutritionists don’t know enough about training athletes. They generally only work with the average person who doesn’t spend time in the gym. Those of us who want to put on muscle and increase strength have different dietary requirements.
So why am I telling you all of this. To be honest I am frustrated. I have dealt with this issue and successfully fixed it, I have years of education under my belt, I am a world class, respected coach, and when I tell women to eat more they have an incredibly difficult time listening to me. I try to tell them I have their best interest at heart and to trust the process but I always end up dealing with the inevitable breakdown: “I’m getting fat”, “I feel bloated”, I am disgusted with my body”, and “I feel gross”. When people say things like this or have a breakdown I sometimes get frustrated because I feel they are question my professionalism or my knowledge. I want to say “If you don’t believe me then why did you come to me for help”. Upon reflecting on the situation, I suppose I get frustrated for two reasons. One, I genuinely want to help them and if they’d just trust the process they’d see the results they want. Two, it reminds me of how I used to be and it makes me feel embarrassed that I was that person. I was educated, driven, passionate about fitness and yet I let my emotions overrun me.
Getting frustrated doesn’t help people though. I understand the process is difficult and the feelings of fear related to eating more have nothing to do with me or my knowledge or my client’s respect for me. I understand that emotions are very powerful motivators for poor behavior. So how do I help people? By taking emotions out of it. I ask them a series of some very simple questions.
Has what you have been doing worked for you yet?
Do you think it is all of a sudden it is going to start working for your tomorrow?
Has under eating made you feel better or accomplish any of your goals?
Has it made you feel better?
Are you happier and healthier?
If you have been dieting your whole life and nothing has worked why not try something new?
Why not try increasing calories?
If you are looking for drastic change, they why not do something drastic?
Will you commit to trying a new path for just a few months?
At this point most women I work with are ready to listen. They calm down and they think logically. They realize they need a new path.
Be like these women I work with and give it a shot. A real shot. Give yourself 3 months of eating more. Do yourself a favor and hide your scale. Focus on something different for 3 months and don’t quit halfway through. Try to notice how you feel. Ask yourself some questions. How is your gym performance? Have your lifts gone up? Has your breathing gotten better? Are you more patient with your children? Has your sex life gotten better? How is your digestion? Are your bowel movements more regular? You may be surprised how much better you feel and healthier you have become.
Don’t let your emotions be based on how much you weigh or how your clothes fit. Wear lose fitting clothes and be gentle with yourself. You’re building the foundation of a long term solution. Understand this will take some time. Give your body a chance to feel safe and happy. If you are a person who has been dealing with eating issues and are in need of weight gain, or if you are or have been missing periods, it may take you up to 6 months to get it back and fix the problem. Keep the caloric intake high. There is nothing wrong with keeping calorie intake high to help you with your health and set the table for long term success. Eventually your period will come back, your weight will settle in and you’ll be on your way to a healthier and happier you.
I know it’s scary but try it. What have you got to lose? It worked for me. it has worked for countless others. It will work for you.