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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

Dietitian who preaches ‘Why Diets & Detoxes don’t work’ puts herself on a “diet”!

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

I’m on a DIET! Here’s why…

Photo by @disputeresolitioncentre - Stefano Cammarano

I’ve set myself the goal of competing in a bodybuilding show later this year (or early next year depending on, you know… Sydney lockdowns) For those of you who are familiar with IFBB competitions, I will be entering the ‘WELLNESS category for a number of reasons:

- Wellness and wellbeing are the image I want to portray

- I prefer the slightly larger muscle tone of Wellness competitors compared to bikini

- I have built strong legs, which is more suited to Wellness

- I want to grow more muscle and get stronger

I also want to EXPERIENCE the discipline and EXPLORE the extremes (is it necessary?) one puts themselves through during a’ comp prep’ to better understand my clients.

Choosing a Coach: Why Vitruvian Health and Karl McKeena

I met Karl McKeena (aka @Sir_Questions) about 2.5 years ago. From the brief interaction we had, he made an impression. His approach and knowledge stuck with me. Karl utilises a HOLISTIC approach to health with his clients. He is able to offer guidance with exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, consistency and mindset. He is a HEALTH COACH without the health coaching course (which I have tried to make him do because he is already great at it).

STRESS is big for me. Having Coach Karl ask me questions and make me rethink my ATTITUDE towards certain aspects of my life has been one of the most valuable experiences throughout this prep. From considering myself an overly stressed individual, I now consider myself a ‘High Performing Individual’. From feeling anxious, I now view anxiety as ‘misplaced energy’ and ask myself ‘Where am I going to invest this extra energy I have today’?’. I am also slowly learning to delegate tasks, which will give me more time to spend on what I am good at, and want to do more of (shout-out to Kevin Parker). Most importantly, just like a health coach, with his POWERFUL questions - Karl ensures I stay true to my VALUES.

Earlier this year, I felt as though I hit a wall with my training. I was stuck in a rut and wasn’t progressing. Something had to change for me to move forward. Coach Karl had provided me with advice years ago when I met him, to help me build my strength. The same advice was repeated to me by my physiotherapist and chiropractor 2 years later. That was the final straw. I decided to reach out to Coach Karl and start asking about the process of coaching.

Comp Prep Phase 1: Mysterious Baseline & Building

During Phase 1 of my training with Vitruvian Health (VH) and Karl McKeena, which was 5 weeks I focused on creating exercise and meal time ROUTINES which would help me in the long run. I focused on understanding the process of online coaching and weekly check ins, how to record DATA and report to my coach, learnt the warm up routine and importance of CONSISTENCY. I continue to work on STRESS management and SLEEP routines which are a big focus for me during this competition prep.

Although I am preparing for a bodybuilding competition, CONSISTENCY and ROUTINES are now part of my LIFESTYLE and enable me to handle stressors better.

The Mysterious Baseline

Until recently, I did not consider myself an athlete or bodybuilder. I trained to stay healthy, fit, get strong, build confidence. I never thought I would require more food than the average individual. I fuelled my body with foods recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and occasionally treated myself to my favourite ice-cream, pizza or Grill’d burger and chips, as recommended for a healthy long life…

Turns out I was unintentionally UNDERNOURISHING myself. I learnt this during my check ins with Karl as my weight and bodyfat kept dropping with a more structured food and training regime. From a pretty average 2000 calorie and 150-200g carbohydrate intake, we got up to 2900 calories and 450g carbohydrates!!! This is where my body MAINTAINED weight (actually gained a miniscule gain in fat). This became known as my BASELINE. It took us 4 weeks to find the ‘mysterious baseline’ as each time my body fat dropped, Karl increased my carbohydrate intake “So, what meal do you want to eat more carbohydrates at?” It was FUN!

Maintaining My Baseline Intake

When an overly restrictive and undernourished client reaches out for my dietetic help, typical signs of malnutrition include: nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, moodiness, menstruation changes (if female), poor stress management, poor sleep, binge eating. Although I was always a high achiever, or as Coach Karl puts it ‘High performing individual’ every few weeks I would feel exhausted, moody, depressed and agitated. Training with Coach Karl and eating at my true baseline, I have noticed my ability to cope with stress has significantly improved, my mood is stable, my energy levels are stable or I am able to identify any dips in energy (related to poor sleep or mountain climbing), and my menstruation cycle is stabilizing for the first time in 2 years! I am able to keep up with my witty boyfriend (see AIDAN, I did mention you), he has been pleasantly surprised with my battery stealing skills and new-found sense of humour. I have also been better at balancing my work-life time, making time for relationship building activities because I cope with my stressors better!

Building/ Recompositing my body

Through Phase 1 and 2 of training, Coach Karl and I have been focusing on building up my weaknesses for stage presence. Now that I know I have been undereating/ undernourishing myself, it is no wonder I struggled to build boulder shoulders. We are focusing on upper body as my legs are well built thanks to years of heartache and turning to the (squat) bar for comfort. With an abundance of carbohydrates in my diet, my body responded well and I am very pleased with my progress so far! Even though I am not in a large caloric surplus, my body is changing! This is known as body RECOMPOSITIONING (the composition of my body is changing)

Some nights I have 700g home-baked potato chips. Yes, almost a kilogram! It is wonderful. I would hardly call that a 'DIET'! I am eating to fuel my body to achieve a certain GOAL and perform better at LIFE, which is in line with my values and beliefs about food and nutrition.

Few words from Coach Karl:

What is a diet (in modern society)? It’s a short-term fix to your nutrition to have an impact on your health or body shape… What we have done (and what Vitruvian Health focuses on) is create a LIFESTYLE shift. What many see as a ‘diet’, I see as CHANGE. The best thing about change is that we have full control of what happens: this, that, neither or both.

This article is written to capture my personal experience during competition prep. It is not individualised dietary advice. Before you attempt a new exercise and nutrition regime you should consult a Health Professional.

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