One Step at a Time: No more eating like Michael Phelps

Abbie comes to terms with no longer being an athlete.

My name is Abbie, and I am a food addict.

Wow, it feels good to finally get that off my chest! Actually, anyone who has spent about 10 minutes with me knows I am hopelessly addicted to food, thanks to my 14-year stint of competitive swimming. Remember back in 2008 when Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in Beijing, and the trend for all popular magazines was to share his daily food intake? If not, I’ll sum it up for you: he eats EVERYTHING.

After Phelps’ Olympic success, he hosted “Saturday Night Live,” and one of the skits pertained to his eating habits. "The Michael Phelps Diet” was like a weight-loss infomercial, showing the product and numerous success stories. The product? Huge buckets of fried chicken, Belgian waffles dripping with strawberry syrup, extra-cheesy pizzas and hamburgers galore. The success stories showed obese people happy as can be on the Michael Phelps diet.

This proved Phelps has no future in comedy and showed how normal people can’t eat like professional athletes.

So how does he maintain that chiseled, perfect body over which women around the world drool? Swimming. I remember going to the pool on a hot summer day, and after hours of splashing in the pool, I was starving. Take that starvation times 10 to equal the feeling after a long swim practice. Swimming burns a ridiculous amount of calories, allowing swimmers to eat whatever they want and maintaining their physique.

That was my life from about ages seven to 18. I was either in the pool swimming back and forth or out of the pool lifting weights or pretending to run a few miles (Let’s be real — swimmers just can’t run. And if they can, they’re mutants and can’t be trusted).

Since I was always getting a ridiculous amount of exercise, I never had to worry about what I was eating. The only food-related worry I had was making sure there would be enough cheesy potatoes for breakfast after morning practice. And trust me, when 20 girls emerge from the pool after a hard early morning practice, it’s a valid concern.

In the middle of my senior year, my swimming career came to a close, and I was finally free! Free from two-a-days, free from 5:45 a.m. practices, free from the constant scrutiny of my coaches and free from the fear of dying at every practice. Too bad I wasn’t feeling that freedom in the waistband of my jeans.

I’m sure all ex-athletes can relate to the mind-blowing I’m-no-longer-super-active-so-I-can’t-eat-whatever-I-want discovery. My workouts now consist of dying — er, running — on the treadmill or trying to feel like a badass doing kickboxing workout videos. All of which, sadly enough, don’t burn as many calories as a 3-hour swim practice.

In college, we’re all trying to avoid gaining weight while also keeping up with schoolwork, friends and the hundreds of clubs and events on campus. It’s hard to stay in the routine of exercising or even know where to start when walking into the rec.

This semester, with this column, I am going to try different workouts and experiment with ways to live an active lifestyle while trying not to eat my sorority’s entire kitchen. I’ll share my successes and failures (I mean, even I’m not perfect), and together, we can tackle this whole fitness thing one step at a time.

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