I relistened to this older episode of the 3DMJ podcast on a recent walk, and I thought it hit on a lot of points that complimented my recent posts on feeling full (part one and two) and was worth sharing here on the blog. This is a conversation between Eric Helms, Steve Taylor, and Brad Loomis, and they explore non-tracking strategies to help bodybuilders reach their nutrition and physique goals.
Early in the conversation, they explore the changes they have made in their thinking away from an “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) approach towards a more habit-based approach. Brad talks about his own experiences with noticing that “the sun still comes up” when you don’t track calories and foods to the gram. More than that, all three coaches discuss the increased adherence that can come from a non-tracking approach. I think this is a really important point, as we are what we do regularly. I’m looking for healthy nutrition strategies that can become habitual. The skill of listening to my hunger and satiety, once learned, can benefit me in every situation. I don’t need to have a piece of technology with me, to see the wrapper something came in, or to weigh or measure anything. It’s a tool that I can use consistently whenever I eat, whatever the context.
Thirty minutes in, the conversation transitions to bulking strategies. Once an athlete is attuned to their hunger and satiety cues and has eating routines, what kinds of tweaks do they make to slowly add weight? Eat until more full, start eating when less hungry, distract ourselves while eating, and eat more tasty foods. These are basically the reverse of the strategies I discuss for feeling full, and for folks who struggle to eat enough, I think there’s a lot of good ideas here to try. What the guys don’t say, and I think is important to point out, is that these strategies seem to carry with them a far lower risk to our mental health. Tracking isn’t inherently dangerous or disordered, but when we separate ourselves from our internal cues, I would think it is easier to adopt disordered patterns of eating. As Eric points out later, both folks with obesity and folks with eating disorders are dysregulated from their hunger and fullness cues.
About an hour into the conversation, they switch to strategies to aid in weight loss. My favorite part of this conversation comes nearly at the end, when Eric states something I firmly believe–that those of us who have no plans to get on stage may never need to eat in ways that ignore our hunger cues. We can learn to eat in ways that promote a smaller weight settling point and maintain that size without ever living in a way that makes us chronically hungry. Furthermore, as he points out at the very end of the podcast, if we are hungry all the time and still unhappy with our appearance, we are saying our appearance is more important than our health. This process may be slower than using calorie counts to cut weight, and we have to have patience to live this way and see where our bodies will settle, but it’s possible and it teaches us sustainable ways to healthfully achieve and maintain fit, leaner bodies.
As someone with a history of obesity, I have to accept that my “leanest, fittest” body may still not look like someone else’s idea of a bodybuilder. It’s entirely possible that my history of obesity (and my unique genetics, and mental and physical attributes that led to that larger body) has permanently set me on a track to a larger body than if I didn’t have that history. But I feel confident that the body I achieve by listening to my internal cues, eating a mostly healthful, balanced diet, and lifting and moving consistently, will continue to be a healthy body I can be proud of. I think it’s really powerful to have these strategies reinforced by professional bodybuilders and their coaches, and I hope that hearing it from them helps to give it cachet with you, too.
Do you have questions about switching to a non-tracking approach with your nutrition and physique goals? Do you have thoughts on this episode? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or find and follow Progressive Strength on Facebook!