When I was a teenager, Monica Brant was my role model and Muscle & Fitness magazines and diet books I borrowed from the town library were my sole source of information about training and nutrition. I trained really hard and ate less. I tried to eat more protein and no fat. I did aerobics classes, ran, swam a kilometre a day, did sprints at the track, and lifted really heavy weights at the gym. Like any 15 year old, I though more is more and more is better. As I have since learned, there is a right way to lose fat and a good-intentioned but complete wrong way to do it.
Traditional nutrition science states that losing fat comes down to a simple math equation. Simply increase your exercise and eat less food. So when I look back at my experience working with Cathy Savage, I can see where she was coming from. Get the girls to do more exercise and have them eat less food. Genius! It works for some people a select few of her (genetically gifted) clients are consistently on the covers of popular fitness magazines like Oxygen. On the downside, there are many people (like myself) who will make it to the stage and then come face-to-face with the hunger banchee afterwards. Alas, there is a better way!
Although I don’t recommend fitness or figure competitions (and certainly won’t train anyone for one!) I am completely inspired by Graeme Thomas’ clients who competed in the UFE Spring show yesterday! (CONGRATULATIONS everyone!) While his methods are unconventional (up and coming), his methods consistently produce the best results and his clients don’t have a traumatic post-show fat problem. In fact, many of them stay very lean year-round. While many trainers and “nutritionists” give out cookie-cutter diets and tell you “age-old” advice, Graeme actually has a master of science in sports nutrition and knows how food and training affects you at the physiological level. If you are going to do a competition, I highly recommend working with him. (www.graemethomasonline.com).
Even if you’re not into competing, I think there are valuable lessons to be learned from my experiences of competing, getting fat, and now being healthy. First, just because someone says they are a nutritionist or personal trainer or fitness coach (or they are on the editorial board for a magazine) doesn’t mean that they know what they are talking about. Secondly, just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean it is the best way (science has changed a lot since the 80s and 90s!). Lastly, everyone’s body is completely different, so the diet and training program that works for one person may not necessarily work for another! Along with this, everyone has a different goal – some people want to fit into normal-sized clothes, complete (or win) a triathlon, or have more energy to play with their kids…and some people want to look fabulous for one day and show off their body on stage. Each of these goals is an accomplishment to be commended and celebrated!