Since dieting for ‘prep’, I have never looked at food or exercise in the same way. It is a scary statement as it is so conclusive but it is so true. I think it is one of those milestones that you can’t simply ‘undo’ and continue on in your merry way. In the year since I dieted, there is a whole lot more information online about people’s experiences of prep and the immediate time afterwards, but I think there still lacks a lot of relatable content about off-season in general. So here is my take on my year in off-season, hope it is helpful!
- Strength gains. 100% the most satisfying aspect of off-season in the gym. Eating more food, predominantly carbohydrates, fuels my workouts and my ability to perform. I am able to progress in both quantity and quality of time spent lifting weights. The only exercise where I saw a slight setback was in my pull-ups (probably because I had more weight to pull up!)
- The ability to be more flexible with food timings. My stomach rules my day-to-day life far less. I don’t count down time to my next meal, if I am hungry, I eat!
- The ability to be more flexible with food. Both in quantity and variety. I eat mostly the same things due to personal preference, but with more calories to play with, I am able to be a lot more free with my choices.
- Clothes fit better. Yes losing weight is great, but when it gets to the point that nothing fits, that doesn’t do well for self-esteem either!
- Energy levels increase.
- Hair, skin and nails are clearer and healthier.
- I had to get comfortable with the scales going up. It is easier said than done, but being that lean is neither healthy or sustainable. Watching the number on the scales increase goes against personal preferences as well as societal and social norms.
- Clothes also don’t fit, depending on when I bought them!
- Throwbacks to being lean. It is hard when I see myself looking amazing and then in off-season shape. Although… It can provide a source of my motivation too.
- When I have a crash of confidence about how I look, people will find it difficult to relate to. I honestly think this is the hardest. Unless they have prepped themselves, they will never be able to fully relate to my mood or self-perception. To them it seems trivial, and in the grand scheme of things, it is, but learning to love yourself at whatever stage you are at is neither straightforward nor continual.
The thing is, there are rarely days which are either all super positive or all super negative, off-season is a roller coaster, just maybe a more gentle one than prep. Throughout each day I feel positively and negatively about how I feel and look, but the thing is, so does everyone else. Being able to see the bigger picture and understanding that, although everyone around you might not be able to relate to my exact circumstance, everyone understands self-image. As soon as I realized that no one cared, or to be honest, even noticed when I had gained a pound or two, I felt quite liberated. Focusing on yourself and giving yourself a talking to when feeling negative, is the best advice I can give to anyone who is concerned about themselves. People are so narcissistic and focused on themselves, they don’t have the vision to see your off season weight gains. Enjoy the food, enjoy the strength and enjoy the process. (And look forward to the progress which you can show off when you are stage lean again).