An OCR Athlete with an Eating Problem: 9 Ways I’m Fighting the War

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Overeating and consumerism concept. Silly nasty businessman eating pasta.

I should be celebrating. A year ago today, I saw myself in the mirror for what felt like the first time. Overweight, sluggish, without passion or vision for my health or fitness. All of that changed in a singular moment of disgust and I took the first steps in a journey of exercise and nutrition.

All seemed well. I began P90X3 with amazing results. I entered the thrilling world of OCR. At the height of my endeavor I’d lost almost 30 lbs. and was in the best shape of my life.

P90X3 results

But I cannot celebrate today, because time and again an old and savage enemy reemerges and hounds my success.

I have an eating problem.

My latest failure was this past weekend, right off the heels of an amazing OCR victory. I celebrated by indulging in an old favorite: fried chicken and a few sides of good ol’ Southern cooking. I had not had a single carbohydrate from grain or sugary treat for three weeks (I eat Paleo), then with that single taste, I lost control, and I’ve binged on grains and sweets all week.


I’ve never admitted this out loud. I’ve never named it, owned it; just quietly fought the beast on my own and I’m tired of the give and take. My goal is to be a professional OCR athlete and that requires discipline and consistency. Maybe you face a similar struggle. Maybe you feel alone or ill-equipped. Welcome to the war. Here I’m going to share some tips and strategies in this fight. Together we can overcome.

1) Choose and Commit Until Failure. Repeat.

Fitness and health are not isolated endeavors compartmentalized and separate from other aspects of our lives; they are integral. Every choice regarding nutrition and exercise effects our goals, so we must remain vigilant. The first step of any assault is to research a stratagem and commit until failure or find it ineffective. I have personally failed in my dietary strategy over the last four days, but today presents a new choice to assess the damage, learn from mistakes, and proceed. Mistakes and setbacks only become failure once we relent.

2) Indentify Friend and Foe

Food, habits, people.┬áCombating my food weakness means categorizing every aspect of life as either an enemy or ally. This slice of cheese cake is delicious, but is it necessary? Should I really go out drinking tonight? This doesn’t mean becoming a prude or social pariah; it means living intentionally and surrounding yourself with an environment conducive to your lifestyle and goals. Do not be your own stumbling block.

2) Fitness is Never Achieved, it is Maintained.

Fast results, 10 minutes here, 30 days there, but no one talks about the fact that fitness and health is a war comprised of a lifetime of battles. They are commitments, not items on a checklist. Reaching my short-term goals is always a temptation to celebrate and indulge. Of course we should honor the victories, but with temperance, not exuberance. Don’t get overwhelmed. This is a war of attrition. Focusing on today’s battle makes the long war manageable (and the occasional setback less devastating).

3) Personify Your Guilt

I am my least reliable ally and sometimes my own worst enemy, which is why I require accountability. When committing to change, it is important to have that one person or group who will call you out for not upholding your standards. Guilt is a great deterrent, especially when it comes with a name and a disapproving look when you are preparing to stuff your face or skip a workout.

4) Always Fall Forward

The truth is that you are going to trip and falter; what matters is how you fall. Learning from today’s loss and revisiting your strategy is like healing a broken bone: properly set, it emerges stronger. Let guilt do its job in convicting you, but do not linger because stagnate guilt becomes depression. Sure, you fell, but do so looking forward so that your next step is standing upright.

5) Materialize Your Goals

Lewis Carroll said that “any road will get you there, if you don’t know where you are going.” Remember that health and fitness are long-term endeavors strung together by short-term goals, but without a daily strategy we set ourselves up for failure. For me that means planning my exercise/training schedule and customizing those plans for each OCR race. It also means meal planning to ensure my nutrition is never left floating like helpless bait for my voracious appetite. Write down your goals, conduct a plan, and review daily.

6) Eliminate the Vanguard

There is no shame in acknowledging weakness, in fact it is a facet of wisdom. A box of cereal in our pantry is blood in the water, so I place it out of sight. Wheat beer is kept in a cool, dark place out of sight and I only purchase one bottle at a time, saving it for special occasions. Remove your temptations or place them under the guard of someone you trust, and remember: addiction begins with snowflakes, not an avalanche.

7) Prove and Capitalize Your Gains

The brother of ancient Carthaginian general Hannibal once said, “Hannibal, you know how to gain a victory, but not how to use one.” Exercise, training, and proper nutrition are difficult battles, but made even more so if only done for themselves. Hannibal won many victories but he never conquered Rome because he never capitalized on his battles in order to serve his long-term goal of defeating Rome. I train hard and fight for proper nutrition so that I can become a better OCR athlete, and when I perform well, the validation bolsters my resolve. Develop a “why” for your endeavors and your daily battles will become that much more palatable.

8) Sound the Alarm

Despite our best efforts, we all suffer from weakness. Do not let ego and pride bar you from seeking help from your allies and friends. There are support groups for all vices and the world of Obstacle Racing is one of the most community-oriented and supportive groups I know. Call out when the battle is just too much. You are not in this fight alone.

9) Reach For Others

Perhaps the most important strategy in combating our weaknesses and vices is helping others. We are not the indestructible effigies our social media photos and profiles often depict. We are human, and we need one another. I am less likely to falter and reach for a bowel of temptation if my hand is occupied with reaching out to someone in need. Just look at the photos captured at any OCR event and you’ll understand what I mean. Dirty, bloodied, beaten hands reaching down a muddy slope or across a wall to help a fellow athlete. That’s our ethos, that’s our army, that’s OCR, and together we will conquer this course.

I hope these strategies prove helpful. What are some of yours? Please share your advice or encouragement in the comments below or join the discussion on my Facebook page.

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