To anyone that has shared a meal with me in the last four years, this guy on the left is not what you would expect me to have looked like as a child. Yet it was, there was a time when I hated eating. I grew up in a Peruvian household, which means that for as long as I can remember I’ve been served giant food-coma-inducing meals for dinner. Now don’t get me wrong (especially mom, if you’re reading this) I love my mother’s cooking. Its just that my tiny body couldn’t handle the amount of food.
Dinner was awful, because I wasn’t allowed to leave the dinner table until I finished every last bite. Saturday nights I can remember sitting at the dinner table for hours, listening to the laughter in the other room. My father was under the impression that I was being a brat – people in Peru would be grateful to eat the food I was crying about. Although my older brother and I usually fought, he took pity on me and began eating half of my food. Later in our lives we lovingly called this agreement our “second mouth” deal.
One afternoon my friends Abraham and Bidas convinced me to attend a wrestling practice. It would be fun, they said. Reluctantly, I accepted and stayed for two years. I started off the season weighing about 130lbs, and struggled to make weight for the next two years. At this time I didn’t consider food a tool for fitness. It was the enemy. Needless to say, food and I had a very unhealthy relationship. After one year of wrestling, I joined my first gym for the summer. It was at this time I was introduced to the supplement world. I had no idea how any of these powders really worked, so I ate one or two meals a day and pounded down a shake after every workout. Looking back it was probably no more then 1500 calories and 60g of protein a day.
A lot of changes happened during my early college years. I gained the standard freshman 15, and became more serious about my nutrition. For a while I ate seven small meals a day, and worked out three times a week . Food was now something I would never skip, but I still knew very little about how to properly eat for the goals I was hoping to achieve. I thought that if I ate seven meals a day I would grow to one day look like my bodybuilding idols. At the time, while I was working at a gym, people there would tell me that the secret to mass was protein – so my diet was mostly protein and veggies. Obviously this would not lead to considerable gains.
During the tail end of college, something happened that would drastically change the way I ate. My friends Ahmad and Bidas entered a bodybuilding competition. I remember them urging me to join the “aesthetics crew”, which is gym slang for being lean and shredded. After seeing them on stage I realized how far behind I had fallen, so I began my first bulk. Dirty bulking by definition is just eating everything you see and hoping that it all turns to muscle. I was able to climb up fifteen pounds during my dirty bulk, much of which was fat. During this dirty bulk I was eating about 3000-3500 calories a day. If I was ever short on calories I would swallow spoonfuls of olive oil.
After a bulk comes a cut, where you try to shed off all the fat you gained during said bulk. I ate at a caloric deficit, with chicken breast and brown rice on most days. Other days I would just opt to not eat much at all. After realizing how much I missed food, and how much bigger my shirts fit on me I dove headfirst into another dirty bulk.
Nowadays I have a better understanding of how to eat towards the goal. Food falls into a category of being both necessary and social. Eating for function has to balance with eating to create memories with friends and family. The way and reasons we eat change as quickly as our goals and lifestyles change. My current challenge, living in Korea, is struggling not to eat five layer fat pork Korean BBQ everyday.