Blinded by our assumptions

I’m just going to kick-off like I haven’t been away for ages! I want to tell you a few stories about times I’ve been certain about things. All of these examples come from situations related to figure training and nutrition, but this could apply to many assumptions. This seems to be the basis of much pseudo-science.

About 6 weeks from my first figure competition  I was walking about an hour every morning, and my food intake was getting pretty low, to help get the last of the fat off my body. Calories from fat were few and far between. At about 5 weeks out I started to get really bad joint pain, mostly in my knees and ankles. I decided, that because my fat intake was so low I wasn’t getting enough ‘good fat’ for my joints. I complained about this to my coach and we switched running to rowing and elliptical and I kept on walking in the mornings. We were on a deadline so my fat intake didn’t change and my knees kept on being sore. I kept on complaining. My competition came and went, I slowly increased my food and I kept walking my dog every morning. He’s a dog of routine!

Eventually, the shoes I’d started wearing 6 weeks out from my competition wore out. I was glad. They were a free pair which I was given when I bought new gym clothes. I had never found them as comfortable as my regular sneakers. About a week later my knee pain went away. Umm oops! My hunger had blinded me into thinking that it was a dietary issue when it was an issue caused by a free pair of sneakers.

After that figure prep I took many years off from bodybuilding. I’ve documented some of the crazy things I did in the meantime on this blog. A lot of them were to try and improve my severe lack of energy/general exhaustion. I tried the Blood type diet, while at the same time changing my cardio from cycling to work, to using machines in the gym. I had more energy eating for my blood type… or so it seemed. It took me years to see what happened here.

I moved house and quit my very stressful job; I thought from all the stress I had ‘adrenal fatigue’ the internet assured me my symptoms matched. I could no longer get out of bed and walk my dogs in the morning without feeling exhausted after only a few minutes walk. I traded meditation for walking the dogs and it went away… Meditation is awesome! In all seriousness it is though, but that’s another blog.

Finally, I started another figure prep. I had an excellent coach, my calories were sky high and was in a great headspace…. This is about where this blog left off from… It was Spring. Perfect weather for outdoor cardio a few times a week. Nothing crazy like last prep, and I had good sneakers!

About two weeks in to my ‘cut’, I really started to feel the diet. I was feeling vague, tired, lethargic. I couldn’t concentrate on my work and I’d left my phone in several shops. I was eating only in the smallest of calorie deficits, over 2000 calories, yet I thought I might have to stop prep. Then the headaches, dizziness and nose bleeds started. I was really worried. Not about the competition prep, I started to think I had a brain tumour or something awful.

It's not a tumour!

I finally dragged myself out of denial and went to visit my doctor. She poked and prodded me and then started laughing. ‘Great bedside-manner’, I thought,’ I’m dying here!’. ‘You have a sinus infection and hay fever’. She gave me some sprays and antibiotics and sent me on my way. The headaches and dizziness subsided and I went back to riding my indoor bike rather than waking outside in the pollen. I felt like my old self again except when I spent extended periods of time outside. Then I’d feel too tired to get out of bed the next morning, sluggish and unable to concentrate. Oh, that’s what happened with the blood type diet, and the ‘adrenal fatigue’ and the calorie deficit. In all of these situations i was so focused on myself and my goals that I couldn’t see any further.

One of my favourite Buddhist teachers, Ajahn Brahm, has a great simile which explains this perfectly.

If you hold your hand up in front of your face, you only see your hand.

If you hold your hand at arms distance, where it’s supposed to be, you see more than just your hand.

Boy With Hand Over Eyes --- Image by © Ned Frisk Photography/Corbis

Boy With Hand Over Eyes — Image by © Ned Frisk Photography/Corbis


About Michelle

Michelle is passionate about showing people how easy it is to prepare food that is healthy and packed full of flavour. She has just completed her first recipe book, Healthy Helpings: fast food for fit physiques. She began sharing her love of food in 2007, when she produced two series of the online cooking show ‘Healthy Helpings TV’, making fast food healthy and healthy food fast. In 2008 she competed in bodybuilding as a novice figure shaping competitor and she remains passionate about physique sports. She was a 2009 Australian Masterchef semi-finalist, and contributes articles to Oxygen Magazine Australia. Michelle lives with her husband on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, where she loves to search out new ingredients and food ideas from local farmers markets, health food shops and ethnic grocers, and take her two dogs on long rambles through the vineyards. Find out more about Michelle's book