Life after D1: what they don't prepare you for.
“Large brownie sundae with Oreo ice cream, extra fudge, extra whipped cream, and two cherries, please.”
That was my go-to order from Main Street Creamery in Bridgeport up until 5 months ago (aka graduation). I would order this 3, 4, 5 times a week. Honestly, if it was an extra long week, I’d also throw in 1 or 2 trips to Cinnabon. After practice, for dinner, at 10pm...really any time of the day (or night) was the appropriate dessert eating time.
In addition to my huge and constant desserts, I was just always eating huge portions.
It wasn't uncommon for me to go out to dinner and order myself two full meals, both of which I'd eat during that sitting. Or consume an entire medium pizza in one breath.
I could just consume endless calories and be unaffected. No weight gain, no feeling full. It was iconic. My friends knew me as ‘the girl who could eat.’ Mind you, all of this was on my regimented D1 schedule.
During the average week, my D1 life included *but was NOT limited to* :
20+ hours of practice (w/ daily conditioning worked in)
1 brutal, 90-minute game
1 hour of yoga
4 hours of rehab
2-3 hours of lift
On my own because I was insane:
1-2 hours of conditioning
1 hour minimum of skill work
At a MINIMUM, I was engaged in about 31 hours of rigorous physical activity EVERY week.
It was no joke.
I would always hear my female friends / family members say the classic line, “if I even look at a dessert I gain 5 pounds” and I would smile and nod politely, but in the back of my head kind of laugh at the misfortune. However, now, I am one of the people saying that line.
And cue the transition from hot girl summer to sad girl fall.
The thing is, I was such a conditioned athlete for SO long that my body got used to it. Used to the grind and what it would take to refuel. Used to the amount of food I could consume without literally gaining a pound. I was also incredibly muscular so I over fueled to maintain muscle mass.
When I see my old teammates / college friends now, after months of not lifting and working out 2x a week, they somehow always comment on how healthy I look.
"You look like you’ve lost weight since college. You're so skinny."
That’s been the recurring line.
The reality is that I’ve lost 8 pounds of muscle so I may look skinnier, but I’ve gained 5 pounds of fat in the process. I know, you're scrunching your eye brows thinking it's only a 3 pounds different. It's not the amount of weight as much as the changes I've noticed.
I know my quads used to be insanely defined.
I know I used to actually be close to an 8-pack.
I know that I used to have a bigger butt.
I saw the changes suddenly and all at once. One day this summer I was looking in the mirror and didn't quite recognize my body on me. The body I was familiar with for the last four years... suddenly... looked different.
All of those changes, although slight and insignificant, are things I cannot stop thinking about. And as someone who now works 55+ hours a week, everything has changed when it comes to my appetite / weight.
There are two things that have come to light since college:
My increased ability to gain weight
My decreased appetite
1. My Increased Ability to Gain Weight
I’m pretty sure my 5 pound weight gain was from the beginning of summer when I continued eating junk food like I did in school, without any of the workouts to regulate my body. I’m talking, 4 cupcakes in a sitting, 4 days in a row type of dessert consumption.
Of course, I let that go on for a month until suddenly I was like, hmmm, why’d I gain 5 pounds... and realized it's because I'm no longer covered by my shield of D1 invincibility.
[Unimagined: me gaining the freshman 15 after I graduate college]
2. My Decreased Appetite
If I put every feeling I had aside for a moment and just thought about it logically, I know I’m not working out in the capacity I used to, so naturally I would have a decreased appetite because I'm burning a fraction of the calories that I used to. It makes sense.
What’s been completely unexpected is the drastic way in which my diet and appetite have changed. Now, I could simply eat a handful of grapes for lunch and be full. Or like today, I did go to the gym to lift, but not run, and I had a slice of banana nut bread at 9am… I could probably pass right over lunch because I’ll be full.
Or if I feel a twinge of hunger and get pulled into a meeting during lunch time, it’s the kind of thing that will pass. My hunger will literally pass…
It's explainable, but it's not.
And before the thought even enters your mind, let me make three things clear:
No, I don’t have any kind of eating disorder.
Yes, I still love food and consider myself to be a foodie.
YES, my relationship with food has changed.
I'm starting to learn that if I don't work out in the morning then I won’t have any appetite to eat that day. But what do I do when I work long hours and I'm too tired for an early morning workout?
Of course it concerns me. However, like anything else my body has to adjust and get used to MY new norm.
It helps that I’m pretty good at being kind and patient with myself. What makes me a little self conscious is the way it must look to others.
This is where you tell me, "It doesn't matter what other people think. It only matters what you think of yourself."
I know that's true. Still, I can't help but wonder...how does it look when I go on a date and eat two slices of pizza then say my stomach hurts? Or what it looks like when I go to a baseball game and eat 3 chicken tenders then say I’m stuffed?
Do I look like the type of girl who is self conscious to eat 'too much' in front of a man?
The truth is I just don’t get hungry... not the way I used to. Eating portions that were normal for me 5 months ago do hurt my stomach now. It’s been a weird adjustment. No one prepares you for the changes that come after life as a D1 athlete. It's all your body knows for four years until it's suddenly gone.
Now that I'm hyper aware of my complicated relationship with food, I don't really have a plan to change this. I don't believe it could fully change because my appetite will never be where it was. However, I take comfort in the things I know.
I know I can work up more of an appetite if I do a morning workout.
I know I need to train my body to get used to eating three small meals a day.
I know I need to be kind to myself and ignore the way things may "look."
So to any former athletes, SO's, friends, family, or anyone else reading this now -- please know that life after D1 is hard to navigate and we appreciate your patience.
As always, until next time.