I just returned from a road trip to Syracuse to see the Orange win their opening game of the college football season (yes college football is my vice, I just can’t get enough of it)
The weekend included all of the usual stuff associated with a college football game including tailgating and consuming lots of burgers, steak, and whatever else goes with a tailgate.
This brings up an interesting issue about eating and dieting. And that is about the company you keep. If you’re focused on attaining a certain body image or look then it’s in your best interest to associate and spend time with people who are also interested in attaining the same type of body image.
The company you keep on a regular basis will have a big impact on the look and shape of your body, namely you will start to look like the people you hang around with. Or better stated, you will start to look like the body shape and size that requires the least amount of effort.
You’re fighting an uphill battle if you’re the one person in your group of friends who really wants to attain and maintain a lean muscular fit looking physique. Odds are you won’t get there if you don’t have other people around you with a similar goal. This doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with your friends who don’t workout or share you diet preferences, it just means you have to be aware of how much time you spend with them and how that time affects your body.
It’s not that anyone means to force you to break your diet, or blow off the gym, but the social pressure to do so is subtle and omnipresent when you’re spending time with people who don’t put diet and exercise as a high priority.
It becomes very easy to skip the gym and make an extra stop for ice cream when everyone else you’re spending time with is doing it. The onus is on you to lead the way to the gym, or find other ways to spend time that don’t involve mass consuming calories.
The issue arises because food serves multiple purposes. Food is social, people gather to eat, to celebrate, to enjoy each others company. Some people will even take offense or find the social interaction to be less pleasurable if you don’t partake in all acts of consumption with them. In other words, they might not have as much fun if you don’t go drink for drink and bite for bite with them every time they eat.
This is just the social aspect of food, paying no attention to the physiological and/or emotional aspect of food. We all know how much fun it is to go out and just feast with your friends/family and have a good time. But there is also a good feeling you can get when you’re on a roll with your diet and you can see it affecting the way your body looks and feels.
This second effect of food takes more effort, but the payoff is longer lasting, and it has positive effects on your confidence, self perception, and feelings of accomplishment…not to mention that you’ll just look and feel better too. But this is also the harder thing for people to accomplish with food. It takes more time, more attention, and some self control.
It’s hard enough to get into shape and stay there even with supportive people around. The social temptation to over indulge will always be there, and you must be aware of it, and accept that it’s happening.
For my road trip I was fully prepared for a big eating weekend. I enjoyed the time spent, and now it’s back to eating lighter and leaner. This is all part of the elusive state of maintenance.
The idea of maintaining a lean body isn’t to be perfect every day and have your ideal bodyfat % every single day. It’s really about having smaller swings in weight and bodyfat. Instead of going up and down 30-40lbs (or more) the idea is to pull that range down to 5-10lbs (depending on how tall you are).
After a few weeks of eating ‘loose’ I’ll gain a few pounds, at which point I tighten things up, reduce the calories, and those few pounds start to come off, I’d say it’s about a 5-7lbs range.
The idea is to stay within an inch or two of your ideal measurements or within a few pounds of the weight you have determined to be your ideal.
For me it’s a rough fluctuation around the 185lbs mark, as I approach 190lbs I know that I’m at my upper limit of my maintenance weight that looks and feels good. If I drop to around 180lbs I will look very lean (ready for a photoshoot etc) but it’s tougher to maintain at that level for extended periods of time, and I also feel a bit small at that size. Through experimentation I’ve found that approx 185lbs is the sweet spot for me where I’m lean enough to be happy with my look/definition, my size, and the effort it takes to stay there. The intersection of these three points (definition, muscle size, and effort to maintain it) is the elusive sweet spot state of maintenance that we’re all striving for.
Your job is to find YOUR sweet spot and learn what works for you to stay within a few inches/pounds of it while still enjoying all of the food related celebrations that life has to offer.