fitness couple bodybulding

Posted 1 year ago

Prep and Partners

Whilst it’s obvious that prep is very much about you and your own physique progress, I wish someone had told me in 2017 that dieting to the extremes would also change what I was like as a person, especially towards the back end of a prep. If you’re a loner, you’ll be grand – but for 99.9% of us, prepping will impact on our friends, family, and our other halves.

Based off my experience then, I’ve realised it’s absolutely crucial to sit down with your coach and have an in-depth discussion about what might change, when, and why, so you can then sit down with your partner and share that information with them too. If you don’t have a coach, you can do some research around this – such as reading this article! Therefore, the purpose of this article is to talk you through some of the changes you might experience within yourself during your dieting phase, and I’ll share some tips so you can ensure it doesn’t affect your relationship with your significant other.

Before I start, I’ll just clarify that these experiences might not apply to everyone, and that for the most part, the more times you prep, the easier it gets to manage. However, if you’re a first timer, then it is likely you’ll experience a few of the following “signs”.

Hunger/food focus

Firstly, as prep goes on and the closer you get to your show, the more you’ll start to experience levels of hunger that you’ve never had to experience before. Of course, this isn’t something you are used to, as you’ve probably always eaten to satiety. As such, it can be a very strange feeling at first to realise you never actually feel full whilst on a diet. What this can do is make you very food focused. Your thoughts revolve around each meal, how long you’ve got until you can eat again and what you “can’t have”. This isn’t your fault: evolution didn’t select for getting stage lean!

I remember getting really hangry around people during my first prep, especially when I was eating my chicken and broccoli whilst they tucked into bagels or what not. This of course was my choice, but at the time I remember I could not help but feel an intense rage, and if I’m honest, I struggled to keep it in.

Only a few people I know are in relationships in which both partners compete, and it’s even rarer for them to be prepping or dieting at the same time. As such, most of us will diet whilst our partner is not, so it’s imperative to remind yourself that (a) dieting is YOUR choice, (b) you shouldn’t impose YOUR choices on other people, and (c) making them feel bad for eating food will just increase tensions even further. To be honest, partners shouldn’t need to change how they eat nor not eat certain foods around you because you think “it’s not fair”, because it is completely fair. Fast forward 4-5 preps, and my wife will regularly order a takeaway whilst I eat my normal meals and we get on just fine.

The moral of the story here is to remember that dieting is your choice, so you shouldn’t make those around you try to change their ways because of it. If you commit to something, deal with the consequences and find other ways to cope with the crankiness.

Libido/Affection

One thing that is often not talked about enough is the impact that prep can have on the closeness between you and your partner. You might be a couple that has a healthy, frequent intimate relationship and show each other affection daily. However, when dieting to the extremes, that can all change and your other half may start to worry.

If you didn’t know, sex drive will take a nosedive the leaner that you get. This is something that is completely out with your control as the body deems reproduction no longer necessary for survival, and therefore sends no signal for you to be keen to get into action. Coupled with this, I always find that the want for affection (hugs, kissing, hand holding etc) plummets, and if anything, you want none of it as it can just aggravates you.

Now, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. They have had months/years of the same you, nothing has changed, but now suddenly they can feel rejected, unloved or even feel like there is something wrong with them. It can lead to them being upset, questioning the relationship, and even perhaps telling you that you’ve “changed”.

As human beings we naturally fear change, so when our most beloved person suddenly changes, it can be quite scary/emotional. This is where sitting your partner down and explaining what might happen would be a safe step to take BEFORE OU PREP and DURING PREP to minimise this having a long-term impact. It can be helpful to reassure them that after the dieting phase is over, you will return to “normal” quickly and that there is nothing to worry about. If you don’t warn them of what’s to come though, it could be an incredibly stressful time for you both as they may naturally want the old you back and want you to stop dieting.

Energy Levels and Mood

As you’ll have already guessed by now, towards the end of your dieting phase, your energy levels will be at rock bottom. The tiredness across the day can be extreme and leave you with little energy to do much else bar your steps, training, and cardio.

Without thinking about it, you will talk less, become quiet and not really be up for much. This is where – if you’re usually fun, energetic, and full of life around your other half but now are the complete opposite – it can take its toll. It can literally seem like a personality shift overnight.

Although you have little gas in the tank, you’ll still find a way to get the essentials done that you need to do i.e., your training etc, but you’ll have very little energy left over to do anything else. Usually, in the last 4-5 weeks of dieting, I don’t tend to have anything on as I know I just won’t have the energy for it.

Think back to what I said about human beings and change. It might not be fair on your partner if you feel like this, but if you let them know what’s coming, you might be able to work around it. Have they seen the girls in a while? Could they arrange a boy’s weekend?

Suggesting these sorts of things might get you some brownie points in the long run because you are showing you care about their needs where you can’t meet them. I try to live life as “normal” as I can whilst on prep, but understand that in the last few weeks, I’ll be a write off. It very much becomes about just getting through each day, and unfortunately, that doesn’t include socialising (properly) with my wife.

But once more, just making your partner aware of these potential changes will allow them to spot it, then have reasoning behind why they see it. Of course, it isn’t easy for them to deal with but with each prep you do, it gets easier.

Social Occasions/Trips away

These can be very hard to manage or take part in on prep. You won’t be allowed to drink and if you’re following a calorie restricted diet, there might be limited options for you to eat, and you might not even want to if it gives you anxiety. Have a think, do you and your partner usually eat out most weeks? Personally, I think you can still eat out just fine, I even said it in this article here but I understand if you don’t want to.

Do you and your partner usually go on trips away? If so, you’ll need to ensure there is a gym nearby and potentially a Tesco or something similar so you can grab food that fits in your daily calories.

Both of these scenarios can be incredibly frustrating for your partner, more so if they aren’t into bodybuilding. Thus, doing your best to partake in these events is something I strongly suggest you try in the early stages of prep, but then as you get closer to your show/shoot, I would not. Instead, I would book trips away or meals out post show to give you both something to look forward to.

In summary, prep can take its toll on your body and cause quite significant changes in your mood, personality, libido, and general energy levels. Whilst these things can be upsetting for your other half, making them aware of what is to come is often the best strategy to ensure it has minimal impact on your relationship. Once you’ve finished dieting, your body and personality will return to your “old self” sooner than you know it, so remind your partner (and yourself) that everything in prep is just temporary!

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons

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