Food and diet

“What’s your workout routine?”

“Do you just swim? Or do you do other kinds of cardio too? Do you lift?

“What do you eat? How do I lose weight like you?”

“What exercises do you do for you [insert muscle group here]?”

Okay, everyone! Time to address these questions all together. Here are the quick and easy answers:

  1. I DO NOT DIET. I do NOT eat any specific way at all, ever.
  2. We (my swim team, Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving) have nine practices a week for two hours each. Seven are all swimming, two are half swimming and half lifting.
  3. I lift twice a week (see above.)
  4. I don’t do any exercises for aesthetic reasons. All our exercises (weights and dryland) are designed to better our performance in the pool.

Now for a bit longer explanation, starting with the questions about food: it is really important to me to express that I DO NOT ENDORSE DIETING OR RESTRICTING OF ANY KIND. I don’t believe in calorie counting. I don’t believe in iifym or whatever it’s called. I don’t believe in reverse dieting, in low carb diets whatever, in weight watchers – you get the idea. I don’t agree with the concept of restricting food.

I believe in wholesome intuitive eating – which is something that is seemingly guided against in this society. But in summary, intuitive eating means giving your body what it is asking for. Our bodies know what we need and if we give them what they ask for, they will calibrate and you’ll want things in moderation. That is, if some foods are “bad” or “junk” then they become forbidden foods. Yes, some foods aren’t nutritionally great for you. But in moderation, your body is very able (thanks to evolution) to adjust and stay healthy. If some foods aren’t forbidden, you won’t get crazy cravings for them. You eat dessert every now and then and it becomes normal – not overly desired. And then salads become interesting and desired appropriately, too. (Salad is just an example I’m using because people tend to categorize it as the “Healthy” person’s food.) Read more about the science and practice of “intuitive eating” here.

My point is that I don’t think that dieting or restricting is good for you unless you have food allergies or some other real medical reason. It’s obsessive, it leads to disordered eating and sometimes eating disorders, and, in my opinion, it degrades quality of life. So I do not subscribe to that culture nor do I promote it. I eat whatever I want. The only thing I try to do is make sure I have a good balance of protein and some sort of carbs but when I say that I mean it incredibly loosely – I try to have some sort of meat and some sort of rice or bread or something on my plate at every meal. And sometimes that doesn’t happen. Maybe we have pasta night or maybe I have a huge steak or whatever; sometimes I don’t have a balanced meal and the world doesn’t end. In fact sometimes it gets a little brighter because who doesn’t love a giant bowl of hot ramen??

Okay on to working out: I don’t do much other cardio other than swimming. Occasionally I run in place of swimming (if I miss a practice or am traveling and don’t have access to a pool) but that’s a rare occasion and I avoid it like the plague. I hate running. I bike and skateboard around but that’s just for fun and transportation and I wouldn’t consider it cardio. In terms of strengthening exercises and weights, like I said before, we lift twice a week. We do lots of plyometrics and core-stabilizing exercises on the TRX. Push-ups, rows, weighted split squats, pull-ups, etc.

I’m not a personal trainer or a nutritionist so I’m not sure how much advice I could give you on these topics, but if you have more questions, want my opinion on something or more specifics about our routine, feel free to contact me.

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