I have some confessions to make regarding this final stage of my cutting/dieting phase. The last week was extremely rough for me. Not so much physically at all because I was still able to train hard, had good energy, and since my macros still hadn’t changed in over 4-5 weeks my body was still completely adjusted to my intake. Mentally though, I struggled a ton. I have known that for at least 2-3 weeks now that my cut would be ending fairly soon. I just didn’t have an exact time/week in mind. The thing is, when you aren’t competing with a pending show date to prep for, no ideal weight, not aiming for a certain body fat percentage, no real “timeline” in your head… just an every day mom & wife putting in work to be in the best shape of your life, it’s hard to determine when exactly you should STOP dieting. Furthermore, when you have dieted like I have (very slow, controlled, steady) and didn’t go for any drastic changes at ANY point, your body just handles things better. I can say with 100% honesty that although I had a few rough spots here and there (mainly towards the end), this cut was a breeze (definitely not a your typical dieting phase). Overall, my body just adjusted to the caloric deficits & continued training amazingly well. I couldn’t have asked for much more.
So, when I haven’t been struggling whatsoever with hunger or fatigue, why should I stop… especially when I don’t feel like I achieved this completely abstract goal I had in mind for my physique? I didn’t have a clear vision in mind, but I did have an expectation of the type of body I was hoping for.
First, let me tell you… getting lean is addictive. Like seriously addictive. You see your body change week to week and month to month. You see your hard work, consistency, and dedication finally & truly paying off. You notice definition in your muscles and it motivates you to keep working hard. Clothes are fitting you like they never had before. Physically, you pretty much feel like a bad ass as each week passes and you get more and more lean.
However, the flip side to that is this mental struggle I was having with myself. Truth be told, I let social media and these damn “fitspos” steal my thunder and joy. I would scroll through my Instagram feed and see girl after girl ultra lean with six packs, popping obliques, everything tight and looking exactly like I thought I wanted to look. I also follow a ton of girls who compete so as each weekend of competitions passed, I would see their “stage best”. I saw what peak week, sodium manipulation, and carb depletion gave them. I had this completely unrealistic expectation that someone like myself (again, average every day mom & wife running a business), would eventually end up looking like that when I was done with my cut/diet. I kept feeling like if I just gave it x MORE amount of time, I could get there also. If I possibly added another cardio session, I’d have a six pack soon enough. If I dropped my calories a bit more, I’d be tight and lean too… just like them. I could be get stage lean, no problem.
What I failed to realize was that although I know it’s definitely achievable for me (probably right around the corner and a few more weeks of dieting)…it would NOT be maintainable OR sustainable for me & my lifestyle. The majority of girls I see on my feed with the six pack abs staying lean all year round are also DIETING all year round. They aren’t my age. They don’t have kids. They are training 5-7 days a week, doing cardio EVERY single day (more like twice a day and even fasted in the morning). They keep their calories fairly low for extended periods of time. They have cut entire macronutrient groups out of their diets. A lot probably have very irregular menstrual cycles. Many revolve their entire worlds around their training schedule and diet. And more importantly, with a lot of these girls I follow, its their JOB to look this way year round. They sleep, eat, and breathe fitness. A lot of them are paid to look that way and have built empires based solely on how they look. Granted, there are a handful of girls I follow who don’t do all of these things, but I’d bet they come pretty close to many of them.
This is 100% NOT me, my lifestyle, what I’m about, what I can do, or even what I want to do. Not even close.
I had to take a HUGE step back and give myself a good kick in the head. I had to be honest with myself about what was going to happen AFTER I was dieting and if I ended up getting that lean. #1 I knew it wouldn’t be healthy to stay there indefinitely. #2 I would need to reverse diet anyways to bring my metabolism back up & then work on building some of my weaker areas with the higher intake. #3 I would NOT want to add in excessive cardio and/or training each week to my schedule. And #4 If I did get lean “enough” (and really, what would lean enough be for me), would I realize it or would I continue to think “I’m still not quite there coach. Let’s try another week, maybe decrease macros a bit or add another cardio day?”
In the end, would getting that lean be worth it? And I mean like really worth it? Worth sacrificing any time away from my kids/family? Worth spending more time training or doing cardio? Worth feeling deprived, hungry, tired? Worth perpetuating my existing obsession with abs? And would my desire to look a certain way ever even be achieved? At what cost would I stop to get that lean?
I don’t want to ever feel like I HAVE to do cardio. I don’t ever want to feel like I HAVE to train. I don’t want to ever feel guilty for enjoying a dinner out with my family and not tracking it. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m working on myself for anyone OTHER than myself. Ultimately, my goal this entire time was to make improvements in my body composition, feel strong, and then try to maintain that physique as best as I could. It had always been my goal to just continue on my journey and let things unfold with my hard work and LOVE of what I’m doing… NOT put myself in a social media rat race of unrealistic expectations for myself.
There was absolutely no reason why I needed to compare my “every day” to anyone else’s “highlight reel”.
In the end, I forced myself to realize that my ultimate goal with ALL my efforts was to stay true to me and feel proud of what I have done. I certainly don’t feel proud for getting caught up with what the girls half my age are doing and how they are looking. So instead of feeling bad that I still didn’t have ab’s like so and so, I looked at the things I have achieved the past 15 weeks of dieting that I am EXTREMELY proud of…
- I didn’t do damage to my metabolism or hormones that I would have to spend months or even years to correct
- I trained exactly how I wanted to, when I wanted to, and where I wanted to. I NEVER spent more than an hour to an hour and twenty minutes training.
- I wasn’t doing daily cardio (I was only doing 2-3 MODERATE 30 minute sessions and only for the past 5-6 weeks. No cardio prior to that.).
- I ate out with my family 2-3 times a week with no issues, no guilt.
- I only had to reduce my macros 2-3 times and never by very much. Getting back to maintenance should only take me a few weeks of reverse dieting.
- I never found myself overly hungry, lethargic, moody, drained, or fatigued.
- I didn’t lose strength on my lifts.
- I was able to preserve the majority of muscle mass I built over my reverse diet.
- I practiced flexible dieting the ENTIRE time and if I wanted to eat a piece of cake, a cookie, a hamburger, pizza, a pop tart, etc. I fit it in and ate it, no problem. I also ate salads every single day, veggies & fruit with just about every meal. I ate everything I wanted to.
- And more than anything, I was 99.999999% consistent, compliant, and committed to this dieting phase. I didn’t “cheat” or binge or fall off the wagon once. There were days here and there I was looser with tracking, but other wise I hit my macros within 1-2% EVERY single day.
How can I not be proud of that? I’d be crazy to not feel like I accomplished exactly what I FIRST set out to do.
So, what am I left with after 15 weeks of dieting?
An even better understanding of nutrition and how my body responds to certain foods, macros, training, different cardio, etc. Being leaner than I have my entire life. Feeling proud of how I look on the outside AND the inside. A physique I’ve worked hard on that I know is totally maintainable for me. A slow and steady decrease of 10 pounds of body weight and 4-5% body fat. And a physique that I can continue to maintain and improve from this point on using everything I have learned this past year. I may have minor fluctuations from this point on, but I have every intention to simply maintain where I am now.
That being said, this is me. No fancy photo shoot. No Photoshop. No weird angles. No make up. Hair not washed. Nails not done. Workout clothes from Marshalls. 2 year old Nike’s. Garage selfie. No flexing. Just me. And a proud me.
36 years old, married to the love of my life & swolemate, 2 kids, running my own business, living a life full of daily chauffeuring, some lifting, grocery shopping, cooking, recipe developing, blogging, and making sure that my family is ALWAYS my #1 priority.
It ain’t glamourous, but it’s mine, I love it, and wouldn’t change it for all the abs and stage leanness in the world!
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