Flexible Dieting: Learning A Balanced Approach To Fitness & Nutrition
by Nina Silic
Diets! These days, from a young age, we are constantly bombarded with images of stick thin models or ultra-fit fitness models in tons of mainstream advertisements and on social media. There is constant pressure to look thin, fit or to be a certain weight. So, naturally we are all trying the next fad diet or quick fix to get those desired results. I too have faced these issues, but have also managed to overcome them—let me share my story with you.
Where I started…
I was originally a professional dancer in an academy of performing arts. In order to stand out at auditions you not only had to have the talent, but you also had to look the part. I was constantly battling with food and exercise extremes in order to be as slim and petite as possible in order to have a better chance of being booked for a show. After years of yo-yo dieting, my passion changed from dance to fitness. I took my love for fitness and, after a year of training in the gym, I decided to do my first fitness contest. After winning my first show, I continued to compete without a break until I won my IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding) Pro Card in March of 2011. During this time I was very fit, I trained hard and ate very “clean” foods. I was the epitome of health—so I thought.
Looking back now, with the knowledge I have today, flaws of such an extreme lifestyle were very evident. As I was becoming more and more well-known in the fitness industry, the pressure to always look good was HUGE. My diet was super strict and I did not deviate from that plan. This caused me to develop a bad and negative relationship with food. I viewed certain foods a “bad” or “unclean” and when I would consume these, even on a cheat day, I would have an incredible feeling of guilt afterwards.
The next day I would be in the gym doing extra cardio just to make me feel better about binging on certain foods the day before. I know we have all had those guilty days in the gym after a big weekend or overindulging in a dinner the night before. However, things became really extreme when I was approaching another fitness competition, was working full time, doing 2 hours of cardio a day plus a weight training session each day with one rest day a week. Now, I may have looked great on the outside but this was not something that was going to be sustainable for a long period of time without some serious consequences.
After winning a very important show, giving me the title of “Pro” in the field of fitness competing, I definitely got a reality check. I had been suffering from a hip injury and pain for the previous 2-3 years and it turned out that I had tendonitis and bursitis in the same joint! After further testing I was also diagnosed with PCOS, adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism. Clearly this type of lifestyle was not sustainable without sacrificing my health and well-being. So, after taking some time off from competing in order to focus on healing my body, I had to find an alternative training and nutrition method. I love fitness and I love competing and nothing was going to stop me from doing what I love. BUT (and a BIG but), I needed to find a way that was healthy and sustainable. I am telling you all of this because I know this is something that many people also struggle with.
The Flexible Dieting Approach
When I found the flexible dieting approach, I can honestly say that it changed my life for the better. This is an approach to food that anyone can benefit from, including athletes, when desiring to lead a fit, healthy and balanced lifestyle. So, what is flexible dieting? Well, it’s just as its name says, a flexible diet… but let me elaborate further. Flexible dieting is where you track your daily food intake (on your computer, or with an app on your tablet or smartphone) and aim to hit your food quota for the day. Yes, it is that simple. You can either track your overall calorie consumption or break it down into a protein, carbohydrate and fat quota. I love this approach for so many reasons. First, no foods are completely off limits if you can fit them into your overall target for the day. This really helps you find a balance in your diet. When you track your food, you become more aware of the foods you eat every day. This leads you to make better food choices overall but eliminates any guilt when you choose to indulge. For example, if you want to eat a cupcake, eat a cupcake. But, you may choose to only have one cupcake instead of two or three, like you normally would, because only one fits into your daily food target.
My absolute favorite breakfast is pumpkin pancakes topped with maple syrup and organic ice-cream– which I have almost every day. So, YES it’s possible to have a balanced diet with your favorite foods, without feeling guilty about having them whilst still reaching your health and fitness goals. Just give it a try and remember: just like anything it takes time to get the hang of, but once you do it will be life changing.
If your goal is to burn fat without spending hours in the gym, then intervals are your best friend in your training regime. The magic of HIIT (high intensity interval training) is that it allows your body to continue burning fat long after your workout is complete.
Try this: Pick any machine or form of cardio (hill sprints, elliptical, spin bike, stair master, ergometer, etc)
Warm up: 5 mins
Interval 1: Sprint 20seconds (As hard as you can physically go– and I mean HARD)
Rest: 1minute 40seconds (Go easy or slow but keep moving)
Repeat another 5-7 times
Cool Down: 5 mins
This is a great workout to do when you aren’t doing any weight or resistance style training. I love to finish off with some abs afterwards.
With over 20 years of dance experience & a thriving passion for health and fitness, Nina Silic is now the General Manager of Muscle Worx Australia, one of Australia’s leading sports nutrition retailers, and an IFBB Bikini Pro Athlete. She loves helping people reach their fitness and health goals on a regular basis and loves to create new recipes in her spare time.