Muscle Media for Women spoke to Pauline Nordin, the creator of The Fighter Diet.
Born in Sweden, Pauline now lives in Los Angeles. She’s known for her role as trainer on the Nordic version of The Biggest Loser; her Butt Bible training series; and numerous articles and books, including Fat Loss by Mind Power: Get in Charge.
Muscle Media: Why is it called “The Fighter Diet” and how did you come up with the idea?
Pauline: The name comes from the discipline it takes to be lean all year round. It takes discipline, dedication, and commitment. That’s what you need. And that’s what you need to be a fighter as well. In 2007, I was competing. I always wanted to be lean, but I was too hungry, and it was always too hard to stay on a diet. I hated being hungry! I wrote down the different foods and how much I was eating. I was running on the beach and I was so miserable thinking about this. I knew, sooner or later, I was going to eat crap and I didn’t want to. And it came to me then, like an epiphany, all these principles and how to do it. I ran back home and put them all down on my blog. After that I was like, this is The Fighter Diet. And that’s it.
Muscle Media: Could you explain the diet part of The Fighter Diet?
Pauline: It involves a lot of vegetables and carbs, high protein and moderate fats. You eat the most when you are the most hungry and also around your workouts. Then you have a re-feed, which is a carb-load once a week. The main principle is to prevent overeating by overeating.
Muscle Media: How many meals a day?
Pauline: It’s flexible. You can do it with three meals a day or eight. It doesn’t matter. I’ve done it all. Now I do four or five meals a day.
Muscle Media: What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to their diet?
Pauline: They don’t understand that even healthy foods have calories. You can’t just eat freely thinking you’re going to lose fat. Being healthy and being lean are not the same thing. People need to track their calories.
Muscle Media: What about people who say, “I don’t drink soda; I drink Diet-soda?”
Pauline: I have nothing against Diet-soda per say, except it is bad for your teeth and we can debate the caramel coloring and so on. If you want to have a Diet-soda, that isn’t going to be the end of your world. Diet-soda will always be better than regular soda in my opinion, unless it’s right after a workout when you can have the sugars from a regular soda.
Muscle Media: Are there certain foods or kinds of foods you think people should totally avoid?
Pauline: If something triggers your appetite and you can’t stick to your diet, that’s something you should avoid. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how healthy a food is; if you don’t like it and can’t stomach it, sooner or later you’re going to veer from your diet. I don’t want to exclude anything. You can have anything at the right time if you have a strategy. But there are these glorified foods that people eat and think they’re healthy–like agave syrup, quinoa and whole grains–all stuff people just want to believe they can eat. Even those foods can make you fat.
Muscle Media: If you have a craving for something sweet, what will you eat? Will you eat fruit or something with refined sugar?
Pauline: I don’t eat fruit at all. I have a political opinion against it
Muscle Media: What are The Fighter Diet workouts like?
Pauline: The workouts are based on heavy weights with free weights most of the time. Compound movements; no tiny isolation moves that we see people make up all the time to make a workout more exciting. I’m not into that. The foundation of The Fighter Diet workout turns out to be very glute-oriented because it’s deadlifts, squats, and Smith squats. For me, the butt is the number one muscle. When you get it trained, it’s good for your spine; it makes people more aware of their posture. Most athletic moves do hit your butt. I have many different workouts, but they tend to include heavy weights and lots of sets. That’s my favorite style.
Muscle Media: How long would a typical Fighter Diet workout take?
Pauline: Most people buy into the workout for an hour, no more, but what I stress is if a workout goes over an hour it isn’t going to kill you. People say, “Oh, well, the cortisol levels rise so fast”
Muscle Media: How often do you recommend people train with The Fighter Diet workouts?
Pauline: If you really want to have a nice physique, you should work out five days a week.
Muscle Media: What’s the secret to a rounder, fit butt?
Pauline: Fit butt or fit ass overall?
Muscle Media: Fit ass overall.
Pauline: Women are scared of lifting heavy weights. You have to train like you’re looking to weigh two hundred pounds and you will end up with an extra pound of added muscle mass. Women are too scared of looking bulky. You have to train really hard and then diet like you’re trying to lean out. You won’t be bulky. You’ll be toned. As long as you avoid any drugs made for a man
Muscle Media: Are there any exercises you think everyone should be doing?
Pauline: Yes, squats, absolutely. A lot of people have excuses: Oh, my knee hurts, or my spine hurts. But there is a way to make it so everyone can squat. Anyone who can go from a standing position to sitting themselves down in a chair can squat. Heavy doesn’t mean heavy weights. You can make the weights you’re using feel heavier.
Muscle Media: Are there any exercises you think people should avoid?
Pauline: The seated rotation machine. That one I don’t understand why anyone would want to do. And running on a treadmill, flat at a high speed. To me it’s like spinning a wheel. Regular people, who are not athletes, should put the treadmill at a higher incline, so they engage their glutes more, put less pressure on their knees, and get a higher heart rate.
Muscle Media: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make with their workouts?
Pauline: They don’t keep track of their workouts so they wind up going in and doing the same workouts repeatedly. People need to write down what they do and what they eat. When you write it down, you’re making a commitment to do a little more or do it better next time. If you go in to do what you feel like doing, you’re going to do the same thing you did the last time. Tracking is necessary.
Muscle Media: Were you always in shape?
Pauline: I was always a good weight because I had discipline but in no way did I look like I look now. When I was twelve years old, I developed an eating disorder out of a sort of rebellion against a step-father. I worked out, but I wasn’t eating so I dropped to 85 pounds. I saw a cover model on a Fitness magazine when I was 17 that changed my mind. I realized there was a difference between being unhealthy and skinny, which I was then, and toned and fit. I’ve been training for 16 years and it gets better and better each year. After about six years of training, I started to look good. That’s when I started to get more disciplined. However, there was one funny episode. There was a time I was preparing for a show and decided I’d do a zig zag diet. So I went on a high calorie diet for 12 days. That was easy. Then it was time to do the diet part
People always neglect the mental aspect of training and dieting, when in fact, it is essential. If you can’t understand the consequences of straying from the diet and the workouts, it doesn’t matter how good or easy something looks on paper. When you have that epiphany—“Hey, if I do this, I get that”–and you’re not trying to get the instant gratification, that’s when you see results!