Dietitian and bodybuilder Holly Baxter said eating in a calorie surplus helped her build her physique.
Bulking with high-calorie foods led to muscle gain and a healthier relationship with food, she said.
Previously, she said she struggled with disordered eating, and bodybuilding helped her overcome unhealthy habits.
World-class bodybuilder and dietitian Holly Baxter said that to build a strong, lean physique, she first had to break her habit of chronic dieting, since eating more is key for building muscle.
For Baxter, a former track athlete, the idea of gaining weight on purpose was initially “horrifying,” after years of struggling with disordered eating and intense pressure to stay slim in her teens and college years, she told Insider.
After obtaining a four-year degree in nutrition, she pursued a master’s in dietetics, and found herself working with bodybuilders, where a client inspired her to try the sport for herself.
Despite being conservative her first bulking cycle, which means eating in a calorie surplus for muscle growth, Baxter said the process “worked incredibly well,” leaving her looking and feeling stronger than ever.
“You really have to experience it and trust the process to be able to see the benefits on the other side,” she said.
Bulking helped Baxter improve her relationship with eating
Although bodybuilding was initially a way to control her anxiety around food and weight, Baxter said the process helped her better understand how to eat for health and performance, as well as physique.
“As I learned, I understood what was really good for my physical and mental health, and it helped me overcome that eating disorder,” she said.
It was also physically and emotionally rewarding to reconcile her body’s needs with natural hunger cues, Baxter said. During the bulking phase, she realized at one meal she was too full to finish what was on her plate, after years of being constantly hungry.
“I started crying. Having my appetite regulating hormones doing what they’re meant to do was overwhelming,” she said.
Baxter said bulking helped her see food — especially high-calorie treats — not as a source of anxiety, but as fuel to support a strong, healthy body.
“When I started seeing positive changes to my body by having more muscle, that really changed everything. I no longer feared those foods, I had them on a regular basis,” she said.
She embraced high-calorie foods to fuel gains
Like many people with disordered eating, Baxter said she had specific anxieties about foods like ice cream, Nutella, and sugary cereals.
In a bulking phase, she found these easy-to-eat, calorie dense foods were helpful for putting on muscle. In the process, she stopped struggling with cravings and guilt about her “fear foods.”
“I really distorted my relationship to those foods by telling myself I couldn’t have them,” she said. “They’re no longer up on a pedestal, and it normalized my relationship with those foods.”
By building muscle, Baxter also increased her overall metabolism, allowing her to eat what she enjoyed while meeting her goals.
“Metabolic adaption was mind-blowing to me — that there was a way for me to eat foods I really enjoyed without putting on body fat. I wish I could go back in time and do it again,” she said.
Balance is key for maintaining physique goals
Previously, Baxter said she would spend about eight months building muscle, and the rest of the year getting lean for competition. Bodybuilding also involves a fat loss phase through a calorie deficit. To do it safely after recovering from an eating disorder, Baxter regularly consulted a psychologist through the process.
A competition-level physique isn’t sustainable, however, so most of the time, Baxter eats to maintain her current physique, she said.
“It’s not something I aspire to day-to-day. There’s a nice compromise in the middle. she said. “My diet is incredibly diverse, there aren’t any foods that are off limits.”
Read the original article on Insider