Results so far:
Lack of time: 25%
Lack of Space or Equipment: 25%
Chronic Injury: 0%
It's Boring: 50%
As you probably guessed from the title, I'm not a fan of diets. Besides the negative feeling the word lends us while we are on one (negativity is never good for fitness), they simply don't work in the long run. Yes, you can lose a lot of weight at the start, but once the weight is lost and you resume normal eating habits, why is it that the weight comes back even when you know you are eating the right things? Let's explore this seemingly infinite rollercoaster of frustration. The example below will be simplified for clarity's sake and I'll be using the "calories" in the more familiar sense of the word instead of kcals or Calories.
Let's use a made-up friend we will call "Stan" who is 35, 5' 8" tall, and 175lbs. At this time, he does not exercise but performs light, manual labor at his job and typical activities of daily life. Though he is a bit overweight, he maintains his weight by eating the amount of calories recommended for him and doing pretty much the same amount of physical activity each day. Stan doesn't want to exercise, but instead would like to lose 20lbs through dieting alone. Armed with the knowledge that 3500 calories equals one pound, he decides to drop 500 of the buggers from his daily required amount. At this rate, without changing his physical routines or quality of food, he anticipates losing the 20lbs in 140 days. Fair enough? Moving on.
Jump ahead 140 days and 20lbs lighter, Stan decides to try to maintain his new weight by going back to his original intake of calories. His activity levels are still the same and he's still consuming the right types and combinations of foods. Within a number of months, he can see the pounds slowly creeping back. He gets frustrated and sets up for another lap on the rollercoaster ride of weight loss. So, what did Stan do wrong?
Stan has two main problems which he has failed to address. The first is the most obvious. After he lost weight, his required caloric intake changed; it's now lower due to his new body composition. Since calories work both ways, in essence he is now overeating. A smaller body requires less energy to run (there's a lot more to this as someone who is naturally a certain size and someone who worked to get to that same size have different caloric needs, but that's for another time). The second problem is a bit more hidden but just as important.
During Stan's dieting, he didn't perform any more physical activity than normal. This is an issue because while his body was being deprived of calories it was compensating for that deficiency by taking the balance from nutrients already stored in his tissues and organs; he was losing muscle mass. This loss of muscle lowered his metabolic rate and therefore diminished the amount of calories his body was able to burn (we burn somewhere between 40 and 60 calories at rest each day for every pound of muscle). So now, not only is he consuming more calories than his new body needs, his new body is less efficient at creating caloric carnage than it was prior to the diet.
If Stan had started exercising while on his diet, his required caloric intake might have remained the same or risen higher than before, but his body would also be able to process the calories more efficiently and in greater numbers. From here, he'd have the option of maintaining the new Stan or continuing to improve his strength and physique.
In summary: If you are going to drop a few calories to lose some weight, make sure exercise is on the menu as well. Always remember to adjust the numbers when you see changes in your body. Finally, don't call it a "diet" because it's such a negative thing; nobody needs that when trying to stay on the positive side of fitness. Oh, and don't ask me where Stan works because I have no idea.
This post isn't fitness related, but it's one that is close to my heart.
Today, as we look to the sky while the thunderous jets pass overhead, let's remember just how small we are and the monumental responsibility and sacrifice those in the armed forces have had upon them to secure our freedom. Whether it's Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, or not, our small 'Thank you' is the least we can do for the people who have protected--and are still protecting us and our country.
Let us not limit our gratitude to a few days of the year as these men and women devote their lives to our country and it's people. They do not limit their work, so should we not limit our appreciation. Thank you to all those in service and who have served. Thank you not just for today, but every day we wake and enjoy our families and freedom.
It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: Strength and muscle are made in the gym; physique is made in the kitchen. You can't out-exercise poor nutrition. You can strengthen every muscle you want (and there's nothing wrong with that), but if you want to see all the hard-earned results, the striations and sinew, proper nutrition is a must. Though it may seem like a 50/50 thing where exercise and nutrition play equal parts in fitness, the truth is it's more like 80/20 (nutrition and exercise, respectively).
That 80 percent is really tough to do, but it is doable if you really want it. By just cutting out a few things here and there, or replacing them with something healthier, you can make a big difference inside and outside of your body. We must work the 20 percent to grow from the inside-out, and the 80 percent to shrink from the outside-in. In this way, we meet ourselves in the middle.
For the love of all that is you, don't ever compare yourself to anyone else. We've all heard we should never compare ourselves to the models in magazines or on TV. Yes, some eat well and exercise regularly and others may be born lucky, but they are also photographed and touched up in ways that are meant to be pleasing to our eyes. It's marketing and it sells products. We owe some of this burden to the cuts of childhood where particular situations taught us to compare ourselves
to other people. Over time, these old wounds have scarred over into supposed fact--rules by which our subconscious governs our supposed aesthetic worth. As such, the vision of our true selves is skewed.
'His chest is bigger than mine' or 'Her tummy is so toned; I wish I had a tummy like that' are negative thoughts built on those old feelings of inadequacy. This is damaging to our psyche and often makes us feel as if we have no chance of ever achieving the body we want. Everyone's body is different, so having a vision that some part of your body will look like what you see in print or on screen, is unrealistic. Never aim for results that aren't based on the motivation to be better than yourself. Your abs, arms, or thighs may not look exactly like the image you have in your head, but that's fine; they will be your chiselled abs, impressive arms, or truly toned thighs that are unique to you.
Here's the catch-22: the more we exercise the better we feel; the better we feel, the more effective our exercise becomes. The trick is catching a wave in that maelstrom of energy and letting it carry us along. If we focus on perfection, we become miserable when the results take us elsewhere. We need to be happy with what we are given, confident in what we are now, and excited about where we are headed. There's no such thing as 'perfect' anyway. It's an unattainable idea similar to the way 'infinity' is an idea: Though we count on it, we never get there. There is, however, the best possible 'you' trying to come to the surface of that swirling vortex, and it's time to get wet.
Most people who have been sedentary and are deconditioned have poor balance and posture. This can lead to improper joint mechanics and ultimately, injury. Balance, structure, and posture are aspects of exercise that most people overlook when they enter an exercise routine without proper training. Sure, someone can walk into a gym, strap on some weights and go to town, but it's not the most efficient or safest way to train. Even someone who has been actively training with resistance for years can lose their stabilization if it's not maintained. We must always work stabilization to ensure our foundation is solid.
To put it another way, you wouldn't put a 200 pound weight on an old, rickety table and expect it to hold up very long. The table would lean, develop stress fractures, and eventually crack. The same thing could happen to your body without the proper joint mechanics and stabilization. While risk of injury is the most important concern, you are also likely to plateau in the amount of resistance you can withstand. Stabilization allows you to support more load and delay muscle fatigue which results in more efficient and effective exercise. We need to work from the inside out, not the other way around.
(My apologies in advance if this begins to sound somewhat like a rant and less like a conveyance of information. I have a lot of things swimming around in my head and need to throw them up in one massive post.)
Carbs are the enemy. Eat more eggs. Don't the eggs. Stop drinking milk. No, wait! Drink milk, but make sure it's 1%. Better watch out for...blah, blah, blah. Any of this sound familiar? Marketing. That's all it is; people trying to make a quick buck by preying on your fears of not living a long, healthy life. Look, there's good and bad to everything we put in our bodies. Everytime I hear one of these phrases, I just have to roll my eyes and keep on doing what I've learned works best: Moderation (I bet you've heard that one before as well). Why stress yourself out? Stress just makes it harder to lose weight. Happiness keeps you healthy.
Some people will tell you that carbs will make you fat. They say you can't have a six-pack or ripped muscle with carbs in your diet. Well, I call shenanigans! 50%-60% of my personal intake of calories is in the form of carbs. The bottom line is excess of any nutrient (even protein) can make you fat. Once the body has had enough of a nutrient, guess where it goes. Anyone? Into storage as fat. There's nothing wrong with carbohydrates (obviously, complex carbs are preferred; don't go eating eight loaves of bread after reading this). They provide our greatest source of energy in the form of glucose. Without glucose, our body starts stripping the protein off our muscles in order to create energy. Why would you want to lose muscle in exchange for energy when you can have both? Additionally, for every pound of muscle you lose, you lower your metabolic rate which causes you to burn around 50 fewer calories when your body is at rest. Let the carbs take care of the energy you need for exercise and spare the protein to let it do what it does best: build and repair muscle.
So, does all this mean you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight? No. You have to make smart decisions when it comes to what you put in that temple of yours. Take a look at what you eat every week and pick out a handful of items that you know are unhealthy and send them packing. Replace them with something healthy--or even just healthier. When I started my journey, I cut out waffles, muffins, pancakes, donuts, soda, and alcohol (oooh, I can hear the cringing now; especially on that last one). All of that was replaced with better choices to round out my diet and caloric intake. After my initial withdrawl, I noticed a huge change in the way I felt and how I didn't miss any of those things. To this day, I still don't eat them and don't care if I ever do again.
One aspect of nutrition that tends to get overlooked is beverages. It's really easy to down a soda or alcoholic drink without a care or thought to what it does to the body. One beer every day for a year puts on 15 pounds of fat. A person can exercise and still be strong as an ox, but if they want to look like they're in shape, it all starts with the food. To get a six pack, don't drink a six pack. Muscles are built in the gym; physique is built in the kitchen.
Have you ever wondered why someone can't lose weight even though they're drinking diet soda? The sweeteners in diet soda are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. So, the brain is tricked into thinking a huge rush of sugar is on the way and sends a signal to pump out insulin (a fat storage hormone) which layers on more fat. Diet soda has been shown to be damaging to the brain in many ways including killing cells, migraines, and even impairing vision. There's a reason why most
pilots don't drink the stuff. Finally, if that's not bad enough, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition performed studies which concluded that the risk of diabetes was higher with diet sodas than sugared sodas.
It's not just the drinks that are to blame. Science has created tens of thousands of toxins since the 1940's that have invaded thousands upon thousands of food products. We need to understand the labels so we can avoid these toxic foods. It's not that the toxins are making you fat, it's that they are keeping you from losing it. Fat cells wrap themselves around toxins to keep your body from being harmed. So no matter how hard you exercise, they won't let go, and therefore, fat loss is that much harder. Read the labels and if you can't pronounce it, put it back on the shelf.
I know it's not easy cutting out those comfort foods that you know and love, but you have to if you want to make progress to a better quality of life. The next time you see something you know you shouldn't eat, follow this simple plan: Don't think, 'I want that, but can't have it', think 'I can have that, but I don't want it'. This short phrase of positive self talk puts you back in control; it gives you the power over your desires.
All of this said, it really boils down to what works best for you. If you aren't sure what to do or how to start, find a reputable Registered Dietitian and they can help you figure it out. The point is, there is no one right way when it comes to nutrition, but you can't out-train a bad diet. The vegan path works well for some people, high carbs for others, and so on. Just keep your sights on taking care of you, and you'll be able to resist falling prey to fad diets that don't work and avoid peer pressure from those folks who are on them.