Monday, May 5, 2014

Eating for health versus for leanness

Eating for health is actually fairly simple. Choose whole foods, veggies, fruits, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fat, 80-90% of the time. Avoid overly processed foods. Eat reasonable portions. Drink tons of water. Limit sugar and artificial sweeteners. Despite the millions of diet books out there, following this protocol will lead most people to a healthy body that naturally sits at a healthy weight.

But getting super lean is different than getting healthy. And I admit, the desire to be super lean is not always driven by health. On my journey to get contest-ready, I've eaten a few more convenience things - like protein powders (About Time brand of course) and protein bars (Quest brand of course!). I'm also using some artificial sweeteners! I know, shocking! I'm mostly using Stevia which I consider the best in terms of artificial sweeteners. But I did have a diet coke while avoiding margaritas and wine at a concert. I even gave in to small quantities of artificially sweetened jam, syrup and marshmallow fluff (which is odd cause I've never eaten normal marshmallow fluff...)

When you're trying to get your body fat super low, you have to do some drastic things. Like planning all your meals. Like hardcore workouts. And sometimes, compromising on pure health foods for some artificial sweet treats to avoid binging or going crazy, is the healthier thing to do. 

Frankly, body fat that's less than 15% isn't that healthy for women anyway. My first show, my body fat percentage was 13%. I'd like to come in around 10% for my next show - that's extreme! So after accepting that I'm pushing my body to extremes, I'm kind of ok with including a few less than ideal foods in my diet. My plan is to eat whole foods and skip processed crap between shows but during contest prep, I admit, I'm eating for leanness first, health second. Fortunately my plan naturally consists of mostly super healthy foods (tons of veggies and lean meat) but to get where I need to be a little more lenient on things like fake sweetners. I don't feel like I'm making major health sacrifices - frankly, I wouldn't for 5 minutes on stage. But the nutritionist side of me wants to scream no fake sugar!!! The competitor side off says get lean any way you can!!! Somewhere in the middle is the balance I'm aiming for - mostly healthy food, a few cheats (both cheat meals and the use of more processed foods than I'd normally have) and hard training. Lean and healthy is the goal!

What compromises do you make on your diet?

How do you feel about artificial sweetners? 

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