Last week Bob and I finished up the cutting phase of the Renaissance Periodization (RP) diet, we are now following the maintenance phase of the RP program. This post covers my personal thoughts and opinions experimenting with this way of dieting. I am in no way trying to encourage you or discourage you to use or buy the RP diet. This week and next week you will read two different perspectives about this style of eating. One from me, and one from Bob. Trust me when I say we are both very different when it comes to food.
Warning: If you are sensitive to food/diet talk and have or do suffer from any form of food anxiety, this may not be the blog post for you do read.
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure where to start with this blog post. I have such mixed feelings about this way of eating. I guess the best place to start is with the facts. FACT: The RP Diet will get you results. No doubt. If you are consistent and goal oriented you will definitely get the results you are looking for. RP offers a cutting program (limiting food intake which I did for fat loss) and a massing program (increasing food intake for muscle gain once a lean body fat percentage has been reached). You can learn more about that by reading their program. Another FACT: this program is backed by science and there is a method to the madness. I guess if I had to use three words to describe this way of eating it would be: consistency, timing, and preparation.
Let me explain. Being consistent when it comes to meal timing (eating on schedule and around gym time), consistently going to the gym, and weighing and measuring food. RP offers a guideline of when and how much to eat of the selected food groups: protein, fats, carbs and greens. Preparation is key. Meal prepping for the week is the best way to stay consistent and stress free. I also did my best to plan my training schedule in advance and stick to it. Easy for me in the beginning of the program, but very difficult when my life got busy toward the last month of the program.
So why did I choose to experiment with the RP diet? After all, many who know me well, know that I hate diets and I love food. I prefer to live a life free of food rules and restrictions. I much rather eat when I am hungry and choose from a variety of different food groups, including but not limited to the occasional treats of doughnuts, wine, Chic-Fil-A, etc. However, after a very stressful and emotional Fall/ Winter I found myself consuming more than my fair share needed of these treats. You see, I needed some space in my head to relax when it came to food and so I gave myself permission to indulge a bit. While I continued to train 5 days a week in the gym, I also took some time to sleep in, watch some Netflix marathons and focus on other things that were more important to me at the time. I think it’s important to point out that I ate a lot of “healthy” foods too. I actually really enjoyed putting on some weight. (You can read more about that and my disordered way of eating and exercising over the years here.)
However, at some point I needed to reel it in. So I started by making some small changes to my nutrition. Cutting back on the wine, doughnuts, and yes, I started tracking my macros (eyeball roll) and paying more attention to weighing food and portion sizes. For data purposes I took my measurements and went by what I last weighed at the doctors office the last time I was there (167 lbs.). I made sure to balance my food with enough greens and other vegetables and gave myself permission to enjoy a glass of wine, or dinner out or a sweet treat once a week, so that I didn’t feel restricted. I stayed consistent with this way of eating from January to April right before I started RP. All though I knew I was making better choices and seeing progress, I wasn’t confident in my own approach and wanted something more structured. You can see the data I provided at the end of this post.
Over the last year or so I had friends and acquaintances tell me about RP but it all just sounded like “diet” talk and I wasn’t ready for that. I know what can happen to my mental state when I start dieting and I didn’t want any part of it. It wasn’t until I knew for certain that I was in a good place that I would reach out to a couple of friends and ask more questions about it. They all had positive things to say. Losing the 11 pounds on my own was great, but I wanted to up my game. I wasn’t as concerned about losing weight, I wanted to lose some body fat and to be honest (as the teenagers often say) I wanted to experiment with my body and see what it could do. I wanted the challenge of eating on a schedule and to see if my training performance would change by eating around my gym schedule. In addition, I wanted to see some muscle definition in my body. Why did I want that? I guess one could say vanity. Perhaps that’s a small part of it. Nothing wrong with wanting to look good. But I also like a good challenge and boy-oh-boy that’s what I got.
RP recommends weighing two – three times a week. I didn’t do that. I weighed two times a week in first month of the program. I didn’t weigh the week of my period and RP recommends that females avoid the scale that week. I only weighed when I felt I had the mental clarity to do so, and I told myself the same things I tell my clients, “It’s only data, body weight fluctuates, the scale doesn’t define me as a person” and so forth. I followed the program accordingly. This program offers 4 phases of cutting. A base phase, cut 1 phase, cut 2 phase and cut 3 phase. They recommend proceeding to the next phase when you stop losing weight (.5 -2 lbs per week and no more, which is smart!) If one is losing more than that, then they need to go back to the previous phase.
The program also has recommendations for eating according to how hard you train (sets, and time spent in the gym). It’s broken down into light, moderate and hard. This was a little difficult for me to figure out in the beginning. I felt because I push hard in the gym that I train hard. Not by RP standards. Hard would be a professional athlete (think super bowl champions or CrossFit games) people who do multiple workout sessions per day and such. So I started with the light training eating module. I was finishing up the Bigness Project when I started the base phase. Then I started using RP’s Female Physique Training as I went into my first cut.
I made a few rookie mistakes. For example, I continued to follow the light eating module when I should have been eating for moderate. It wasn’t until I started noticing how tired I was in the gym that the light bulb went off and I realized I wasn’t eating enough for the amount of sets I was doing and the time I was spending in the gym. Some training sessions were almost 2 hours (keep in mind I like a good warm up and cool down). Eating moderate meant more food, well at least more carbs. (Yay!) I started to feel better during my training sessions. On days that I didn’t train I would eat for a non-training day as recommended by the program.
Just like many people who start a new lifestyle of eating, I was pumped in the beginning. Prepping our foods for the week, weighing and measuring them before placing them in those black and clear plastic containers that you see on Instagram/Pinterest. Feeling all smug and healthy. I followed RP’s food recommendations list but also colored outside the lines a bit when it came to adding a variety of different foods such and vegetables and what have you. I also ate a lot of rice cakes (I like these) and rice pasta. I drank whey protein mixed with a carb powder (I know carb powder isn’t the best choice being that it’s processed but there were times that I didn’t have time to blend in fruit. RP says you can drink Gatorade or something of the sort, but that’s not my jam either unless I’m sick). It is recommended to also drink casein protein (a slow digesting protein) at night. I didn’t like the texture of the casein protein so I added just enough water to turn it into pudding. I like a variety of foods and am not one who can eat the same thing all the time. I found that when life got busy and I didn’t have time to think about what I wanted to eat, it was easier to just have a meal on repeat. Like breakfast or lunch. However, this lead to burnout for me. I started to hate rice cakes, and I wanted to throw the pudding at the wall towards the end of the program. That’s what diets do to me. I get all psyched up in the beginning but toward the end I’m ready to be done and add something different to my pallet.
I wasn’t perfect all the time with this experiment. When I started my first cut I found myself wanting something sweet. So I resorted to the RP FB group. Rookie mistake number 2. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great group for getting ideas and support/encouragement but, this is also a public forum where people add in their own rules and recommendations. Often times when people start a diet they look for “loop holes” (myself included). Someone in the group came up with “free foods”, you know the ones that don’t count. Like fat free whip cream and sugar free jello. Diet soda. Adding sugar free pudding to casein at night. In other words “diet food” but it’s not food at all, pretty much just artificial chemicals. Guess who ended up buying that sh!t and eating it? Yep, me. The one who teaches people to avoid that stuff, it has no nutritional value whatsoever.
As I was at the grocery store putting cups of Jello into my cart, the thought popped into my head, “No don’t do it!” but the sugar beast who was feeling restricted and rebellious said, “F*ck it! It’s no big deal.” During the first two weeks on cut 1 I ate so many cans of whip cream the neighbors would of thought I was doing whip-its if they saw my trash can. LOL!!! That’s what diets do to me. Trust me I would have much preferred a doughnut or even a healthy made dessert, but it didn’t fit into my “macros” with the plan so I resorted to lowering my standards just to get that fix. It wasn’t until, I believe, Lori Shaw posted on the FB account that the “free food’s” were an urban myth, no such thing. It definitely wasn’t on the RP program. I was kind of mad at myself for falling into the trap, especially being that I know better, but then I forgave myself as I remembered that this is what “dieting” does to me. I feel deprived so I look for loopholes. See when I set out to lose some pounds and inches on my own, I had given permission to eat a yummy treat once a week. On this program they recommend that you avoid alcohol and treats for 12 weeks and with good reasons why. In the long run it will help performance and make for better results as well as curb the addictions towards those foods.
Instead of resorting to eating “fake food” as the FB group recommended, I relaxed a bit. After all, I didn’t have a competition of some sort coming up. So when my mom and aunt were in town I enjoyed a glass of wine and brunch out to celebrate them being mothers. When my son graduated high school, I allowed myself to eat cake. Yes, I had cake for dinner because we didn’t meal prep for that night, it was late when we got home and I was tired. In fact I had four thin slices of cake and enjoyed every single bite. The next day, I felt a little sluggish in the gym and cranky too, but it was fine. I moved on and followed the plan the rest of the week. Still managing to drop another pound. The last week on cut 2 I enjoyed a couple of drinks to celebrate ringing in the summer and finished cut 2 with another 2 lb weight loss on the scale. I never went to cut 3, because I felt it was too drastic for me. Like I said, I’m not competing in any event and I really just want to eat for longevity. Is this the diet for longevity? I guess it depends on the person. RP is a smart program, being that after the last cutting phase (12 weeks) they have you go into the maintenance phase by slowly adding foods back in. So that you are not in a constant deficit. Constant dieting and staying in a deficit leads to all kinds of health problems. That being said, you don’t want to jump right into eating allthethings either. Doing that will just cause the yo-yo diet effect.
Moving forward I plan to follow through with the maintenance phase. Bob and I did have a party last weekend at our home and we enjoyed many yummy foods and a few drinks. I was puffy and bloated the next day, as I expected I would be but I went right back into eating according to the RP maintenance program. I won’t be strict with maintenance, the occasional treat is allowed during this phase so I know for sure that will work better for me. I definitely liked having some structure following the RP program, and I was reminded of what diets do to my psychology for sure. I also learned not to doubt myself and knowledge when it comes to nutrition.
I have received kind compliments on how I look and while I appreciate those kind words and they are nice to hear, they are not important. I received compliments on how I looked prior to changing my eating habits and training habit too. I prefer to focus on how I feel physically, and psychologically. Focused more on how I show up to the world. Feeling confident, kind, strong and happy for the most part. By the way, strength is so much more than how much one can deadlift or number of pull-ups performed. Am I healthier now than I was in January? Not necessarily. Do I have more energy and lean muscle definition? Yes.
I have learned to like and respect the way my body looks at all different shapes in sizes over the years. Some days are better than others but I’d rather focus on the kind of person I am than to focus on a body type, i.e. I would rather not focus on being skinny, muscular, curvy, or what have you.
My biggest take away from this experience is that eating healthy is more than meal timing and performance goals. It’s about being flexible and living life, and as I stated above… It’s about learning to trust myself not someone else’s process. It takes awhile to get there and we are all chasing different goals and dreams, but this is what works best for me.
Below, I have included some before and after pics. I didn’t plan on sharing them publicly. (which explains the underwear and the I just woke up look. Lol) You will notice that I didn’t flex in some of the pictures either. I wanted to see the pictures the way I look most of the time. I mean, come on who goes around flexing all the time? Holding that stomach in and such? I mean I guess people do, I use too, and if that’s you I encourage you to ask yourself why? I included some flexed “boofy” pictures too. That way you can see the definition, which is fun and silly all together in my opinion and also unimportant. If you care to see my total measurements between Jan and the end of RP, it is listed below. If not, check in next week to see Bob’s experience with RP.
Spring Break Enjoying life on the beach First day of RP (big smile) Last day on cut (no smile)
Last day on cut not flexing. This is me later that day, taking a flexing picture just to
Lost my butt 🙁 show bellies don’t show abs all the time unless you flex.
“On my own”-Cleaning up my nutrition and following the standard macro/micro protocol.
January 1, 2017 March 6, 2017 April 18, 2017 (start of RP)
Starting weigh:t 168 Weight? Didn’t own a scale Weight: 157 no inches recorded just pics
Waist: 34.5 Waist: 32
Butt/hip: 41.25 Butt/hips: 38.5
Thighs: Right- 25.5 Left- 24. 75 Thighs Right- 23.5 Left – 24
Chest 35.5 Chest: 33
Weight : 145.5
Thighs: Right – 22.5 Left – 22.5 (weird they balanced out, not usually the case.)