Ok. So before anyone starts getting upset because I've called them a mug let me start by saying I have to diet about 5 times a year, more or less, every time I compete. In fact as recently as May this year I was on a horrific low calorie low carb miserable bloody diet.
Why do I think dieting is for mugs but diet myself then?
Well let me explain. When I diet I have a specific event/date that I'm dieting for. Basically I have to weigh a certain amount when I weigh in on the day before or the morning of a fight and thats it. After that I go back to my normal weight which is about 9kg heavier within a week!
There's a simple reason for this and that is when I'm dieting I'm not happy. I can do it because I have a short term goal I'm working towards so I know that its only temporary and I'll be able to eat whatever I like again soon.
Here is a little insight into what I experience every time I diet.
So lets say i start off at around 72-74kg. I'm not fat or overweight by anyones definition. At this point I'm already lean and ripped with 6 pack abs and around 10-12% body fat. So I start slowly, I'm training intensely twice a day for 2 hours at a time so my calorie intake is pretty high. To start with I only have to make a few small changes, cut out deserts and only drink water etc, to start dropping pounds.
That takes me down to about 69kg, but i've still got 6kg to go so now I have to start getting more strict with my portion sizes and calorie intake. Meals before training are the only time I'll eat carbs. Sugar is a definite no no. And everything I put in my body will be healthy and fresh. At this point I'm in a calorie deficit of something between 500 - 1000 calories everyday.
This usually takes care of the next 2-3kg taking me down to about 66kg. Now i've got 3kg to go and this is where it becomes torture. Already I'm craving food like you wouldn't believe having been living in a constant calorie deficit for the last 3 or 4 weeks. Now in order to get rid of the last few kg's I have to drop my calories even lower. At this point I'm somewhere around 6 or 7% body fat which is lower than recommended for optimum health and also means you catch colds and viruses very easily. Now with this further reduction in calories comes the hormone imbalances. You feel depressed and miserable all the time except for occasional moments of euphoria usually brought on by some sort of fruit or pre training carb load. Also your metabolism slows down meaning you have extremely low energy levels throughout the day. I usually struggle to walk at anything faster than snails pace at this point and if I'm not training or working do not expect me to be standing.
Now it seems you can't go a day without losing your temper and snapping at someone. My last fight I threatened to throw my brothers phone out of the window if his alarm woke me up again in the morning, 5 minutes later I apologised for being a crazy psycho. It effects your relationships too, you can't go out to eat with your partner or friends, in fact you don't want to be around anyone at all who is allowed to eat because at this point food is the only thing you can think about. It actually goes a lot deeper than this but I don't want to share too much so Ill leave it here. In essence you are now starving.
So anyway you manage to get through all of that and you make weight, have your fight, now you can eat whatever you want again. But now nothing is enough. After a fight I will eat and eat and eat and I will only stop when it becomes too painful to eat anymore at which point I'll wait maybe an hour for the pain to start to dissipate then I'll eat some more.
As I said earlier it takes me about a week to get back up to 72-74kg from my fight weight of 63kg except now I'm not lean with six pack I'm skinny with a belly and a carb face.
It takes me about a month to get over the obsession with food that was created through the diet. During that time I am eating nothing but crap and feeling crap about it. The whole experience is to be frank traumatising and I would not recommend it to anyone least of all my clients.
Now lets look at a different scenario.
You're overweight by however much and you have a bad diet, you eat crappy food and have big portion sizes, drink alcohol etc. If you suddenly cut all of that out and try to survive on 1,500 calories or less a day eating nothing but lean meats and veg how long do you think you will last? My guess is maybe a week or a few if you have incredibly strong will power. After that you are going to experience the same thing I do after I make weight and have my fight. You're going to have an obsession with food and you are gonna want to eat even more crap than you did before you started the diet in the first place!
I'm not saying dieting should never be considered an option. There are times when a diet is the most realistic option, for example, if you have an impending operation you have to lose weight for, a wedding date you want to look your best for or a physique contest. But if you're goal is long term and you are hoping to lose weight and stay at that weight then dieting is not the answer.
So what is the answer?
Making small changes to your daily habits and sticking to them. Have one sugar in your tea instead of 3, or better yet cut down on the amount of cups you drink a day. Add exercise into your routine, several hours a week. Start slowly make a few changes every month and stick to them. Individually the changes might seem insignificant but thats the whole point because then it's likely you'll be able to stick to them and eventually you'll have made enough small changes that you will be leading a healthy lifestyle and have the physique and physical/psychological health that you desire.
I might go into more detail about healthy lifestyle changes in another post but thats it for now. I Hope you enjoyed reading this.