Week 9 – Feeling Competitive

Check-in, Cravings & Cutting Progress Begins

Journey to the Stage - Check-in, Cravings & Cutting Progress Begins
This is when things begin to get difficult. Eight weeks until the competition, and it’s time to begin the cutting process. Stepping into my 8-week check-in, I was unsure of where my results would be. With the huge let down at my 10-week check-in, I didn’t want to get my hopes up about my progress. I felt stronger and more toned than before, so I was hoping for positive results. I stepped on that dreaded scale and crossed my fingers. I waited, and then the numbers popped up…123.8 lbs. I dropped almost 9 lbs over the two weeks! While most of it was probably water weight, it was still a significant amount of weight, which really boosted my confidence.

Overall I have only dropped 2lbs since my 12-week check-in, so I am now back on my trajectory for my target weight. In addition to the weight loss, I also lowered my body fat percentage. At my 10-week check-in, my percentage was at 11.1%. At my 8-week check-in, I was at 10.3%! What progress! I felt elated! Brimming with confidence, I spent the day doing my weekly Costco shopping and killed my weight training routine that afternoon. I experienced a complete 180-degree shift from the last meeting with my coach.

The pressure of performing at the highest level has seemed to lessen. Seeing my body finally make some significant changes has calmed my nerves slightly. My confidence has been renewed, and I once again feel as if I can be competitive during the content. However, while I have a recharged sense of confidence and my motivation has once again increased, I am still afraid…afraid of failure and of the unknown. Because this is my first competition, I have no past experiences to which to compare this. While I have been given a plan of action and timetable about where my body needs to be and when, I have no way of knowing if I am “on schedule.” There is no way for me to truly know if I am on track, and I must simply focus on one day at a time—trusting myself and my own work ethic.

These next eight weeks will not come easy. Over the last couple of weeks, I have struggled with one main obstacle—the post-dinner hunger. While I don’t eat dinner usually until about 8:30 p.m., my body still yearns for something more. Because I have cut out a majority of the salt from my diet and am consuming very few simple sugars, the cravings attack my psyche late at night. Taking suggestions from friends and teammates, I have developed some strategies that have helped to take the edge off of the cravings:

Journey to the Stage - Check-in, Cravings & Cutting Progress BeginsAdding umami flavors without adding sodium. This is a difficult task, as salt is quintessential in heightening the flavors of both sweet and savory dishes. However, salt is limited in a competitor’s diet. Yet, I have found, there are a couple of ways to increase the umami flavor without raising sodium levels.

Adding dried mushrooms to a dish adds incredible flavor without unwanted calories or sodium. You can either rehydrate the mushrooms and throw them in a stir-fry or grind them into a powder and use them as a coating for your favorite protein before baking or sautéing.

Adding other bold flavors may also help in curving salt cravings. Try using bold vinegars to braise meats, chili peppers to add heat and boost metabolism, fresh ginger to brighten any dish and help sooth sore muscles and fresh herbs to heighten the flavors of any dish.

If you really want to add salt, keep the shaker off of the dining table and use a large flake sea salt such as maldon. It will keep the amount of salt used to a minimum while still adding the “saltiness” that you crave.

Drinking tea after dinner. I am a big fan of tea and like to experiment with flavors. I currently have been drinking a lot of decaf chocolate chai, which helps with the sugar cravings.

Chewing gum can also help to curb those late night sugar cravings. My favorite is the mint chocolate dessert flavor from Extra. It tastes like thin mints and is quite juicy. While the flavor doesn’t last forever, it’s long enough to allow the craving to pass. Be careful however, even sugar-free gum still has calories and artificial flavors/sweeteners, which can contribute to even more cravings.

If nothing seems to help the cravings subside, go to bed. Sleep is always good for the body, and if you are running on little sleep, this may actually be a factor in your cravings. So why not kill two birds with one stone and get some shut eye?

As I struggle with these cravings, I gain strength when I am able to fight them. Proving that I have the will power to withstand my own desires has become very empowering. These cravings will only grow as my diet becomes more and more strict, and I will have to push forward if I hope to reach my ultimate goal and physique.

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that has been following my journey here on FitnessRX for Women. It would love to hear from you! Please find me on Twitter (@RachaelBruin) and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rachael.olkin, or leave a comment below (at the bottom of my blog). I truly appreciate everyone that reads and supports me. Thank you all so much! #trainhard

Rachael Olkin

Rachael graduated from UCLA in December 2010 with a degree in International Development Studies. She is currently working towards admission to nursing school, where she hopes to obtain both a Bachelors of Science in Nursing as well as a Masters of Science in Nursing.

Rachael is also preparing for her first Figure competition and will share her journey along the way, including her goals, aspirations and struggles.

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Muscular Development