4/28/09

Body Image

I just got the latest issue of Triathlete in the mail yesterday.
I don't care that they have a swim suit issue. But to make things fair they should have more male models for all my ladies out there :)
However, I did mind that the bold print on the face of the magazine read "BODY IMAGE Are triathletes obsessed" and on the cover was a gorgeous female model.
I know that triathletes obsess about body image. But not nearly as much as they obsess about triathlons. I have a feeling triathletes would rather weigh 10 lbs more and continue doing triathlons instead of weighing 10lbs less and giving up triathlons. Not only are triathlons addicting, but training is a lifestyle.
I went right to pg. 57 for the article on body image. I agree with certain points of the article and I can admit that many triathletes have rockin' bodies....and so do cyclists :)
I will be the first to say that I believe in using food for fuel and not storing extra calories as fat. I repeat...extra calories, not burned or stored for future use are stored as fat. You want to keep your body efficient at using calories and that requires that you don't eat more than your body needs.
So, if it was that easy to eat less, exercise more and get a toned, rock solid body, why do many triathletes continually struggle with weight loss?
On pg. 20 of the magazine there is an article on being comfortable in your own skin. I know that there are more and more athletes wanting a better body which matches the dedication and discipline they put forth in training. But I ask all those athletes out there who struggle with toning up and reaching that goal weight....Has anyone ever weighed you at the finish line in order to receive a finisher medal? When it comes to the finish line of a race, you will show your discipline and dedication to your sport by how you raced and how you finished. Maybe you were last in your age group or maybe you placed top 10 overall, but a toned body doesn't mean you are going to PR or win a race. Sure you may feel a little little and you will put less stress on the body but toned body or not, you train to get stronger, faster and healthier.
When I went to Kona I was in the land of ripped, lean and fast bodies. It was amazing. For someone like me who loves the human body, I was in heaven. There is nothing like a fast, strong, lean body. But, with looking at other bodies, comes stress, anxiety, frustration, jealousy, envy and comparison. When a friend of yours gains weight you have a hard time saying anything, but if your friend got super lean (I HATE the word SKINNY so I try to NEVER use it!) you become envious and you start to evaluate what you are doing wrong in your own weight loss battle. When it comes to triathletes who you aspire to look like (strong arms, ripped abs, powerful quads, tight butt, a swimmers back, etc.) I have a feeling those athletes are ranking at the top of their age groups. Or, perhaps it is a pro athlete or a picture of an athlete in a magazine. As you struggle to fit in enough hours of the day, to balance training, family, work, school, kids, significant others, racing, traveling, meetings, cooking, errands, etc. you are probably comparing yourself to the athlete who dedicates most of his/her energy to training and racing. Now this isn't to say that the single mom of 3 kids can't have a smokin' body and rank at the top of her age group and the person who is 20 lbs overweight can't place top 5 in an IM event, but most of time, we compare ourselves to top athletes.
So, does this mean if we have great looking bodies that we will qualify for Kona? Not necessarily.
In order to achieve weight loss through training, you must focus on healthy eating with balance, moderation and portion control. You must eat to support your training volume and intensity. You may be able to look like an Olympic athlete but you can't eat like one 'cause you don't train like one.
The two biggest setbacks for athletes wanting lose weight are:
1) Eating because...
2) Not timing nutrition with training.
Just because you trained, you can't eat whatever and however much you want. You are eating to fuel upcoming workouts (complex carbs) and you are eating to recover from workouts (lean, low fat protein). Therefore, you must eat conciously. You have to have a plan of what to eat before, during and after workouts and you also have to space out your calories during the day. I know it sounds easy but if you want to tone up with realistic and practical changes, you have to eat a little less (feel satisfied, not stuffed), exercise a little harder (focus on quality and intensity, not always quantity) and prioritize balanced and controlled meals.
Eating healthy can be easy but recognize that everything is not lost if you "mess up". If you came in late for work on Monday, you wouldn't say screw it, I already messed up so I'll come in late everyday this week. If you end up eating a bit more than planned, eat a little less for your snack or a little less at dinner. Furthermore, stop playing games with yourself. If food is in your house you should be able to eat it whenever you want. It should be healthy. Don't sabatoge your performance and weight loss goals by convincing yourself that a little bit is ok just because you worked out. A little bit of yogurt, yes. A little bit of chips and ranch dip, no.
Most people (newbies) start training for a triathlon, or any sport, because of a new active lifestyle. Sure a triathlon is a challenge, but the idea that training for 3 sports can help you lose weight is a great reason to sign up for a race. More than anything, it isn't about triathlons, cycling, running or whatever event you choose to train for. If you want to tone up and stop obsessing about your body, remember that weight loss is just like training. It takes time, it won't happen overnight and small changes make big differences.
No matter what level of athlete you are, keep up the hard training and stay focused with your weight loss journey.
Remember..you don't want a lean body if you can't do anything with it!