Monday, June 9, 2008

"Confessions of a Strength Coach" by Josh Henkin

When most guys think about ED, they're usually reaching for a little blue pill for help. However, I'm not talking about that kind of ED! I'm actually referring to eating disorders. Yes, a blog written for guys is going to discuss eating disorders in today's post because women aren't the only ones with this issue.

If you don't believe me, then I hope you enjoy reading Josh Henkin's latest blog post. I initially had two or three other posts from other S&C (strength & conditioning) coaches I was thinking about re-posting today, but, once I read Josh's post, I knew I had to share this with you.

I encourage you to leave comments at his blog as well as here because I'd like for us to start a discussion of the emotional side of weight loss, which, IMO, is grossly neglected. There are many men in this country with eating disorders, but they would never publicly admit to it for fear of being labeled a "sissy" or "punk". Well, get over it fellas because if a former collegiate athlete and current S&C coach can admit to having an eating disorder, what's stopping you?

In my post on Wednesday, I'm going to share my own issues with food and one topic most guys secretly obsess over: body image! Until then, read about Josh's continued battle with his eating disorder and some tips that he uses to manage it. Simply click on the title of his post to be taken to the original.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Confessions of a Strength Coach

It is impossible to speak about fitness, health, and performance without speaking about the role of nutrition. I am not going to speak about macronutrient ratios, carb intake, blood sugar, nutrient timing, or any of the typical nutrition talk. In fact, I think these aspects are far less critical than the often neglected part of nutrition, the emotional side.

One of the best ways I help my personal training clients is to give them some insight to my own personal struggles. When people can relate and understand you are not perfect, they are far more likely to adhere and listen to what you have to say. In this blog entry I wanted to share something on a very select few of people know (some family members don't even know) which is that I suffer from an eating disorder!

This isn't a trick to get people to buy products or to stir controversy. It is something I felt compelled to share after doing a very motivating interview with Muata Kamdibe. As many of you know at this point, Muata is a professor that lost over 130 pounds. In speaking with Muata it was reinforced to me how big of a role the emotional side of nutrition really is.

When I was 13 I was about 5'10 and pushing 185 very soft pounds. After feeling extremely self-conscious about the weight I decided over the summer break to do something about it. What I decided to do helped shape my coaching today. I began to take very careful stock of everything I ate. In those days, it was high carb, low fat nutrition.

So, I made sure that I didn't eat anything with fat. That wasn't the end of it, I tracked every single calorie that I consumed. If that wasn't bad enough for a 13 year old, I then made sure to burn every calorie I ate in the stationary bike in our basement. I also spent almost every waking moment during the summer doing some sort of physical activity. Guess what? It worked!

I entered school that fall down to 145 pounds! I was very thin and everyone noticed. The attention I received was far more positive. From friends, sports coaches, and girls in my school everyone remarked very positively about my change. For anyone that knows about eating disorders, this is the worst thing to happen as it only encourages the behavior. I was constantly sick to my stomach, tired, unable to concentrate, and many times almost passing out.

My life was probably saved by actually hurting my ankle very severely at the age of 14. This meant I couldn't be as active and began weight training with my older brother. Falling in love with weight training I wanted to know as much as I could. I read all the cheesy muscle magazines that all kids do. I started eating more rationally and developing a lot more muscle.

However, this didn't solve the emotional side of food. To this day, food is a constant struggle. No, I have never seeked help for this problem, but I have begun to develop very strong coping strategies that anyone can adapt to beat the problems of emotional eating.

Let's face it, it isn't as though people don't know vegetables and fruits are good for them. That they should eat healthy unprocessed meats and heck most know fish oils are good for you too. However, it isn't a lack of knowledge, but not addressing the personal issue that is far more challenging. Here are some strategies I found extremely effective.

1. Don't have bad foods in the house. This makes is far less likely that you will eat those foods. Oh, and if you have kids, don't feel bad about not having these foods, your kids don't need them either!

2. Find other foods that are healthy to satisfy cravings. I often will find a blend of different fruits to help sweet cravings. In addition, coconut butter blends are sweet treats and have a ton of nutrition. Also, you can not raw organic honey with some almond butter as a nice treat. All these things are healthy yet are easy to justify for those sweet cravings.

3. Watch for self-destructive friends and family. This sounds horrible, but I try to avoid friends or family that are highly negative and actually promote bad habits.

4. Choose restaurants that have a full selection of healthy foods. Try to avoid bars and other places that encourage bad eating habits.

5. Eat before you attend social events. I find that if I am not starving I am far better at controlling binging or other bad habits. I don't feel compelled to even start eating poorly.

6. Exercise regularly, this may seem obvious, but I find regular exercise encourages other good habits.

7. Surround yourself with positive people whether or the internet, gym, or social groups.

8. Find other coping strategies to stress. One of my favorite sayings is by Steven Covey. Mr. Covey believes that you can not prevent bad things from happening, the only thing we have control over is how we react. Very strong and powerful to me.

My hope is nothing more than a few of you that read this can relate and find some satisfaction in knowing there are more people like you that go through the same struggles. It is a challenge every day, but by applying some of these strategies I hope it becomes a little easier.


Matthew said...

I've been following this blog for nearly 2 weeks now. It was the motivation for me to get myself back in gear with my diet and not just be satisfied with a high bench press and above-average biceps. I've read through your posts everyday since for motivation and a reminder that my body deserves the best, in and out of the gym.

This blog hits home hard. I was always the fat kid...100lbs in kindergarten and 180 in 7th grade. It wasn't until I was around 16 years old (and 215lbs) when I decided I was tired of being overweight. I thought I was doing Atkins...but I was really starving myself. Nevertheless, I lost 40lbs in 2 months and looked like a different person.

Of course, it didn't last. I probably put 30 pounds back on in the following year. Then I started lifting weights and learning about nutrition. Now, at 21, I am still fascinated by exercise science and nutrition. I stay quite active with weight lifting and sports.

But, my demons still exist through my body image issues and desires to binge/emotion eat. I will stare at myself in the mirror and constantly critique myself. Sometimes I see my progress...other times I am disgusted with how I look. I constantly feel my waist and "love-handle" the point that I sometimes do it involuntarily. And the food cravings! I remember times where I would debate with myself for an hour on leaving to get unhealthy take-out food...and hate myself for it afterwards. Now, through reading your blogs, I know that I will mess up occasionally or be in situations where "cheating" is tough to avoid. That's life. But moderation and self-control need to be present.

I've always used the term diet when discussing my weight loss. I've always done it drastically and incorrect. Now, I feel comfortable saying I am in the process of a "lifestyle change". And it's going rather smoothly, to say the least.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Matthew, I can't thank you enough for you comment and sharing your story. Listen, one thing I've learned from strength coach Mike Mahler is the 80/20 principle of training. Basically eat how you know you should 80% of the time, and loosen up the other 20%. Having this approach, as opposed to the all or nothing crowd, allows you to still enjoy your life!

Guys, what do 98% of combat fighters say after a hard fought battle? "Well, after I take a little time off, my camp and I will decide on . . . " right? Why? For starters, this guys have been training, which involves proper nutritions, for 2-3 months straight without a break (this is the 80%), and after the fight, they have to rest (I think you know what part this is) to allow their bodies a chance to recuperate.

So, why shouldn't your nutrition plan take a page out of these warriors' book? Plus, your body needs a weekly break from the rigors of dieting. Lyle McDonald, in his The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook calls "re-feeds" or allowing your body to eat at maintenance, or above, to up-regulate many hormones back to normal before starting out on another training camp (read: dieting) before taking another break.

Matthew, thanks again for your comment, and I'm sorry for the ramble. However, such an honest and open comment deserved more than a one or two line "thank you ..."