TNF Ambassador Andre Obradovic share’s his story and his tips for living a balanced life
The way my story started out is probably very similar to your current one, but it has a happy ending, and yours can too. In 2014 I was about 10kgs heavier than I am today. I was doing everything “right”; I was on a highly structured low-fat diet from a nutritionist, eating at least six times a day and running 70kms a week. I was constantly watching what I ate, and even though I ate so many times during the day, I was still hungry. And no matter how much I punished myself in the gym and on the road, the roll around my tummy would not budge. My life was a constant tug of war to try and burn the calories I was consuming and get the body I always wanted to perform in the best way. I was tired, hungry, and overweight, stressed, frustrated, and at my wit’s end. In Fact the stress I was under in a big corporate job was practically killing me, I had to leave due to significant health issues. Those issues were mental health related and they were significant. So not only was my physical health impacted by the way I was eating but my stress levels were going through the roof and my hormones were totally out of control. Something big had to change and I can tell you it certainly did. Not only did I leave a lucrative career as a 48 year old but I really changed the way I thought about my life, success, money and health. Here is part of my story.
When you’re at your breaking point, that’s usually when you have an epiphany. Mine came at the end of 2014 when I went to watch Dr. Stephen Phinney talk about nutrition. From that moment on I had to challenge my beliefs about healthy eating because his talk made me see that I was doing everything wrong, even though I thought I was doing all the right things!
The fact of the matter was I was insulin resistant. My body was storing all the excess sugar from the carbs I was eating as fat, and that’s why I couldn’t lose the weight. No amount of exercise was going to help if I didn’t change what I was eating. Prof Noakes experienced this first hand and even reversed his stance on eating a high carb diet to fuel performance. He says, “If you have to exercise to regulate your weight, your diet is wrong!”
I was really fearful of eating fat because low-fat eating had been drummed into my brain and I was addicted to all the carbs I had been consuming. Never the less, I decided to conduct a science experiment on myself, after immersing myself in all of the science I had heard at Dr. Stephen Phinney’s talk about the low-carb, healthy fat lifestyle. So, a few days before Christmas 2014, I dropped all of the carbs I loved so much and focused on real foods and healthy fats. I had my blood lipid tests done to see what would change after the six-month experiment. The advice I received from my GP was not to do it because according to him my cholesterol was too high. When I told him I was following Prof Noakes’ eating approach, he became even more dismissive. His reaction just made me more determined to give it a shot.
My results after the six month period surprised me. Not only had I finally lost that stubborn tummy roll, but I could go for a 15km run and not feel hungry for two or three hours afterwards! I had so much energy and my mental state was stable during the day. I effortlessly dropped down to eating two meals a day without ever thinking about food, even though I exercised 20 hours a week. I had a new lease on life and I had found the inner wisdom to know what to eat and what my body needed.
How I realised we were being fed the wrong information
As a personal trainer and a Triathlon and Endurance Coach, I come in contact with about 400 people a month just in my indoor cycle classes. Through these interactions, I realised that we were all being fed the same information – and it was wrong!
This information was coming from the top and trickling down. I was shocked to read the material trainers were receiving. The nutrition courses that I attended were all based on the belief that we had to continue feeding our body or our metabolism would collapse. It was the same on my Triathlon Coaching Course and my Personal Training Course. The fitness institutes are all pushing the one-size-fits-all approach for clients: a low-fat, high-carb nutrition plan with at least three main meals a day and snacks in between. But where did this even come from because it clearly doesn’t work for many of us?
In the wise words of Dr. Jason Fung, “Nobody makes money when you skip meals.”
I recently attended a group fitness instructor’s module from a world leading brand and I was amazed at the number of young people complaining about being dizzy after 45 minutes of exercise and relying on jelly beans and protein shakes to increase their energy when it didn’t seem that they were working all that hard. One of the girls on the fitness course said to me, “They have no idea that they don’t need all of that sugar. These people, like the majority of the fitness industry, have been conned by the big food companies, soft drink companies and the marketing about needing to refuel before, during, or after a workout, on “healthy” sugar-filled foods and drinks.” Where ever we look we are being fed the wrong information, and it is all driven by greed and profits. Knowing what I knew and how my life had improved from turning standard nutrition on its head, I couldn’t sit back and let my clients believe the wrong stuff, I had to figure out a way to get the message across without stepping on any toes.
As quoted from the article, “Carbohydrate is a key fuel source for exercise, especially during prolonged continuous or high-intensity exercise.” This may be true if you are not insulin resistant, but, from talking to all the people I train, it seems the majority of us fit into the insulin resistance category. If you cannot lose your tummy or your “insulin roll” as Prof Noakes calls it, no matter how hard you exercise, then you fall into the category too. Not only will you struggle with your weight, but eating a high-carb diet for a prolonged period can have serious adverse implications for your health.
This paper written by Dr. Stephen Phinney and Prof Noakes sums up the reasons why you can’t outrun a bad diet.
How I began to speak out
Last year, after my first triathlon season, I was struck by the number of overweight people racing. I overheard a husband telling his wife that he needed to eat a certain number of carbs for his body weight otherwise he wouldn’t run as fast. I was horrified. He was very overweight and eating a huge bowl of pasta. From my own results, I knew this food was not doing him any favours and I was tempted to go up to him and tell him so. By losing 10kgs I was running my best, I was recovering better, had fewer injuries and was enjoying life more. So many people were missing out on this quality of life. I wanted to get my message out there, so I approached my mentor Peter Defty to co-author an article on the beliefs of challenging conventional wisdom for endurance athletes, and it was published in the USA Triathlon Coaching newsletter, with a hugely positive response.
How I started to introduce nutrition into my spinning classes
An amazing talk by Prof Tim Noakes on challenging beliefs has always stayed with me. (I was so passionate about this topic that I even read the book with the same title three times.) As a coach, I have a role to guide my clients and get them to ask questions so that they can challenge their own beliefs.
Along with the thoughts I often shared on health (hydration; digestion, gut health and the myths on why we get fat), in the two-minute interval breaks of my spinning classes, I also started to share my story. Eating two meals a day, and being able to train 20 hours a week was met with great intrigue. I challenged them to match what I ate for breakfast; just an omelette filled with bacon/salmon, spinach, cabbage, zucchini, capsicum, feta, and tomato. And while they were at it, I told them to avoid the sugar in their coffee, as well as bread, potatoes, rice and pasta and to see what happened.
The proof is in the “low-carb pudding”
The following week Gemma came to class raving about how great she was feeling. Five weeks later Gemma showed me a before and after photo of herself her body shape had changed. Not only that, but her mental clarity had also improved. According to her, those simple changes were the best thing she has ever done for her health.
Another member of my class was John. He gymed five times a week, but still seemed to put on weight. He asked me how I stayed so lean, so I told him. “Really?” he questioned, “how do you eat eggs without toast?” I gave him my number and asked him to ring me that afternoon to let me know how he was doing. He phoned me a 3pm telling me that he had not eaten since his healthy breakfast at 8am and that he wanted to meet to find out more. Just eight weeks later John was still smashing himself at the gym, but had now added smashed avocado to his day instead of toast or pasta. He has lost 9.2kgs and was feeling great. Even better was that his constant hunger had disappeared although he was only eating a maximum of three meals a day.
He had challenged the advice he had received from the fitness industry and had forged his own way forward to better health and performance. That sounds like a happy ending to me!
The way we think about Health is Important! – How is your Balance?
So at the start of this I talked about making a massive change in my life. I was previously totally out of balance. I was prostituting myself and my health and my values to the highest bidder. Today my whole value system has changed and my ultimate focus is on health, being calm and helping others. Hence my strong desire to contribute to the amazing work of The Noakes Foundation. So let’s talk about being busy..
Today when you ask my clients ‘how are you?’ people typically respond with ‘busy’. Being busy has become somewhat of a badge of honour in today’s society, we are all busier than each other.
Have you ever asked yourself what cost this constant state of ‘busy’ is having on your happiness, health, and overall satisfaction with life? How would you rate your general satisfaction with life? How do you even begin to answer such a tough question?
I can almost guarantee that when you tried to answer the last question, you thought about work. How many times have you checked your work email once you got home, or taken a call from a client on a weekend?
Whilst you are busy being busy, you may be focusing a lot of time and energy in one particular area in your life and neglecting others. Are you working long hours with little time left to spend on your health, time with your family, doing a hobby you really enjoy? When life becomes unbalanced, our happiness and wellbeing, mental and physical, tend to suffer.
As a gift to you why not download one of my favourite coaching tools and check out your balance..
To have optimal health we need to have balance, calmness and we need to have a focus on all aspects of our Health. The Mental, the Physical and the Emotional. Proper Nutrition underlines all of these.
If you want to optimise your health too (mental, physical and emotional) consider taking the below steps:
- If you are always starving, even though you are eating every three to four hours, try the below for a week and see what happens:
- For your first meal of the day eat a 2 egg omelette, with a handful of mixed vegetables, capsicum, zucchini, cabbage, cooked in butter with some protein (NO TOAST, no added sugar, no fruit juice)
- For lunch have a salad with avocado, salmon/chicken/lamb/beef, salad greens, etc. drizzled with olive oil
- For dinner eat what you would normally have but avoid potatoes, rice, pasta and give the wine a break just for the week