“How do you keep your butt so tiny and pert?”, said nobody to me, ever. In fact, I think I’ve mentioned before that a very senior male colleague at work once commented on the peculiarity of my increase in training volume versus my unchanging appearance (“you haven’t lost any weight with all this training though“). I have a feeling he was, in his own Dickensian way, trying to pay me a compliment. But nevermind. It was just reiterating what I already knew.
You see, it’s funny, since we started training for an ironman back in April, my husband has gone from already-slender-and-lean to absolute-whippet-think-his-cheeks-might-meet-on-the-inside-of-his-mouth. I’ve heard a friend say that my husband looked so hungry he wanted to sponsor him, World Vision-style. To summarise, triathlon training looks good on him.
I, on the other hand, look just the same as I did on day one. Oh, apart from the fact that I now have MASSIVE THIGHS from cycling a few hundred km’s a week. And it’s now only four weeks until Ironman Melbourne, so I thought it was about time I tried to get myself into ‘race weight’ mode. Only problem is, despite knowing what I need to be doing, I often (always) do the opposite of what I’m supposed to. So I offer to you*, dear readers, a selection of pitfalls and suggestions to how you might overcome them, for when you, too, are trying in desperation to weigh-in like an athlete on race day:
1) Cupcake bingeing. A classic race weight FAIL. Cupcakes, despite their playful appearance, are not to be messed with. In less than a week, I have eaten not one, not two, not three, but FOUR CUPCAKES. And not those innocent little fairy type ones that are just sponge dusted in icing sugar. No. The ones with butter icing piped high and precarious, like the Eiffel Tower stacked on the Champs de Mars. One of these bad boys can set you back weeks in your training. And four of them in a week, well that’s just asking for race day shame.
2) A cheeky beer in the evening to unwind after a tough day at work. And so what if I’m drinking a cheeky glass of Pinot Noir to unwind from a tough day at work, whilst writing this article. I know, I know, I know – don’t drink your calories, that’s what all the literature says (oh, don’t you know about ‘the literature’ eg how to get skinny, how not to get fat, how to get skinny and stay skinny, how not to be fat and stay not being fat, you know – ‘the literature’). But to be honest, the literature can go and dry hump a Rhino’s face. Because you know what? I’ll drink my calories if I’ve had a bad day at work. And I’ll probably smash an Up’n’Go too. How d’you like those 300 calories in your drink??
3) Up’N’Go. This is maybe my darkest secret. But I drink Up’n’Go for breakfast, after I’ve already had breakfast. Sometimes I even pretend it’s all I’ve had for breakfast “gosh, I’m STARVING. All I had for breakfast was an Up’n’Go…”. So if you ever heard me say that to you, I was lying. But you knew that anyway by my tell-tale booty (damn, that thing gives all my diet lies away!). For any readers who are unfamiliar with Up’n’Go, it’s a milkshake, disguised as something good for ‘active’ people. Essentially, I’m just smashing a really dense chocolate milk.
4) Beige meals. What is it they say? That eating as many different colours as you can is a great shortcut to a healthy diet (and they don’t mean m&m’s or Starburst)? That if you aim for lots of fresh, bright veggies and fruit on your plate at every meal, you’ll be well on your way to diet perfection? Yes, I know. But my diet has become beige of late; you see, life sometimes gets in the way. Time and money impact everything. Most of all our groceries. So pasta, rice and bread are unfortunately still centre-stage in the all-singing, all-dancing spectacular that is My Daily Foodfest. Breakfast is usually three eggs or a bagel. Lunch – brown rice and chicken. Dinner – pasta/rice/rice noodles/cous cous/quinoa and usually with chicken. Luckily, Jarrod is good at keeping us healthy, so he’ll make sure we are eating fresh veggies at dinner. But left to my own devices I would be scoring a beige hattrick on a daily basis. So I guess this is a thinly veiled ‘tip about avoiding carbs if you’re trying to get lean’. But whatevs’. Shut up and pass me a doughnut will ya’…
5) Dairy. Controversial, yes. Especially since the occurrence of osteoporosis in female athletes is extremely high (here is a fantastic article that touches on the subject, along with the accompanying two components of the female athlete triad). But I have two points about this one; firstly, dairy seems to upset my Crohn’s disease a fair bit. I’ve trialled totally cutting it out for maybe four or five months now, and it has made a huge difference to day to day levels of discomfort in my stomach and gut. I used to drink soy milk in my coffee, and I’ve cut that out too to even greater effect. Secondly, by not having all the yoghurt, fresh fruit smoothies and lattes I have definitely felt a difference – not in terms of weight (I’m still exactly the same as always), but I don’t feel as sluggish all the time. And I think dairy might play a part in that. DISCLAIMER: I do, however, eat ice cream at any given moment that I see fit. For instance, this evening, I’m going to have me some apple “crimble” crumble, along with an overly generous helping of ice cream. Oh, and if you’re remembering the fact that I also drink Up’n’Go, then yes, that’s another anomaly. But (and this isn’t just some cray cray excuse), for some reason I seem to be able to tolerate the really terrible faux milk products with all the preservatives in…
6) Coca-cola. Bit of an obvious one. And it is never normally on my radar. Couldn’t care less for the stuff in the real world. But in Bike World, this stuff has become my liquid gold, and I can’t get enough of it. I could slurp that sugary crude-oil straight from my water bottle on the long rides. But this stuff is so bad. There are over nine spoons of sugar in each can. Wow.
7) Snack Island. This is the umbrella term for all things tim-tam/Cadbury/jellysnake related. Everybody has their own Snack Island, whether metaphorical or real. Mine is real, and it sits ten feet away from my desk. Most days it is laden with some sugary, chocolatey, freshly baked treat. Which is fine for most people, because most people have some kind of in-built moderation gene that I missed out on. Day by day, I help myself to so many cheeky sweet treats, that I’m an Augustus Gloop waiting to happen.
8) Diving in for seconds. Or thirds. Like I said, moderation is NOT my strong point. When I’m eating, I slide into this junkie-like euphoria. I wouldn’t be surprised if my eyes are rolling back into my head with each additional mouthful of lasagne. But if you’re looking for your inner-athlete, hit the stop button. (I don’t have a stop button. And I also don’t have an inner-athlete. She suffocated as the third portion of lasagne was crammed into her airways.)
9) Eating when you’re upset. I wish I was one of those people who, when faced with a stressful situation, or anxiety, retreats into starvation mode – unable to eat due to emotional nausea. Oh, those poor, hungry, skinny freaks. Nope. Not me. I’ll stick it to stress… with a big slice of cake. Or a sausage roll. Or a big pizza all to myself, plus a glass of wine.
10) Believing your hunger pains. If you’re training heavily, your body will need extra fuel and lots of it. And you need to listen to your body and feed it up good. But your brain is very clever, and it will trick you – you know those weeks when your training load is actually relatively light? That’s when my brain tells me I’m RIDICULOUSLY hungry: “Lucy you’re sooooo hungry – you did a really big 1km swim today and a reallllly big 5km run” which yes, is a great amount of exercise. But my body and my brain work together to trick me into eating as if I’ve swum 3km and run 20km. It’s ok that I just ate a bowl of pasta that would fuel my six hour bike ride – I just ran for fifteen minutes, right?
So needless to say, I will continue in my pursuit of the elusive concept of ‘race weight’, and try to avoid some of the above pitfalls. However, first I have to pop into the dining room and eat the apple crumble and chocolate ice cream that my whippet of a husband is now on his second portion of (true story).
*I am quite blatantly not qualified in any way shape or form when it comes to nutrition.