This is such a challenge, mentally, physically, and emotionally, especially after a competition. Many of us are so ingrained with the “all or nothing” approach that it is either one extreme or the other. Sometimes we often trick ourselves into thinking, “well, if I am going to eat carbs or sugar, it might as well be some candy, ice cream, or sweetened cereal” or something else you have been depriving yourself of for the past few months. Usually, you can be just as satisfied with a larger portion of fresh fruit or whole grain cereal or bread. Some of us learn this the hard way, including me occasionally, and over indulge, feel like shit, gain weight, get depressed, and the cycle continues…until it is time for prep for the next show. I have become better and better at “finding balance” throughout the years. It definitely takes practice. It takes a change in mindset from “what do I need to eliminate from my diet?” to “what should I be including in my diet for increased health and fitness and mental stability?,” and “what foods will give me more energy and vitality, more nutrients and antioxidants for better hair, skin, nails, more fiber to keep me regular, more phytochemicals for decreased disease risk, more flavor to keep me happy and fulfilled?” Time and time again I will tell people what I eat and they will make comments like “you eat pasta” “you eat carrots”, like those are bad choices! Some things that people eliminate during “dieting” are so nutrient dense and beneficial and should be included in an “increased health and fitness” plan both on and off season. Some Examples of these eliminated foods are…

-Veggies that are not green – yes, green veggies are great, but so are many non-green veggies like carrots, beets, squash, tomatoes, beans, red and yellow peppers, pumpkin,etc.

-Alternative grains – brown rice and oats are good – but don’t forget about quinoa, millet, barley, wild rice, polenta, bulgar, and Ezekiel cereal, just to name a few! Quinoa and wild rice are actually seeds in a botanical sense, but have the nutrition of a grain. Quinoa is my favorite because the protein is very high and very close to complete for a grain, and it is very nutrient rich. Use it where you would use rice!

-Best fruits ever – don’t eliminate fruit – just pick ones that are lower in sugar – berries are best…also, if you do have a craving for candy, try some dried fruit instead like prunes or dried apricots, don’t trick yourself into thinking if you are going to eat sugar, might as well be candy, that is so backwards!

-other protein sources besides chicken, fish, egg whites, and whey! – try turkey, bison, lean beef, venison, pork loin, whole eggs! Don’t be afraid of this stuff, it is lean, full of nutrients and full of flavor!

Here are some other suggestions to “find balance” in your life, whether it be dealing with diet, exercise, or something else…

-practice portion control rather than food eliminations – eat 3oz of potato or 1oz of pasta (dry) instead of eliminating carbs all together for more meat

-eat a small piece of dark chocolate after dinner (yes, even when prepping) instead of depriving yourself only to binge later on cereal directly out of the box

-do ½ serving of fruit and save the other half for the next day...fruit is not the enemy!

-there is a time for less “nutrient dense” foods, but it should be an “all or nothing” appraoch! Try not to eat a burger, fries, AND a shake, rather pick one, eat it slow, and savor the flavor! Steer clear of the “all-out binge!”

-after a show OR if you have come to a hault in your weight loss/fitness program...take a week off, keeping a little activity in and allow yourself one SMALL treat a day that you have been craving. This is a good way to practice “finding balance” because you will be tempted to eat more of what you crave, but should realize that you only need a small serving to be satisfied!

-set goals in the off-season, but don't become too strict or structured, allow more freedom.

-train for something different! Use food to fuel your workouts. Keep it whole, unprocessed, balanced in protein, carbs, good fats.

-try new recipes using things that you should include in your diet, but have been eliminating.

-do a yoga, pilates, or meditation class once a week. Don't eliminate certain exercise programs just because they don't burn as many calories as your other activities. Flexibility is crucial to a balanced body!

-don't keep killing it on the boring cardio machines! Go outside!

-learn to love the way you feel when training, not just the way you look from training!!!

for more tips related to this topic, go back and read an old blog of mine, “real food revolution”