LET’S STOP THE CONFUSION?
I want to take some time and address a topic that consistently comes up with my clients and the general public. And that is DIET. Some time ago I wrote a post that explained the origin of the word DIET. You can read it here: What does DIET mean??There are general diet concepts that need to be explained and clarified and hopefully, you can finally have a better understanding just what diet is and what it is not.
First of all, the word diet conjures confusion, despair, high pulse rate and psychological, emotional, physical?angst. Why? Well I would guess that diet is synonymous with weight loss, self-control, deprivation. But does it have to be? Did you know that we are the only animals (well technically, we are mammals but…) on earth that do not know how or what to eat. We have to consult professionals to steer us to right foods and then hear conflicting advice from family, friends and the media. It’s enough to make your head spin. Why do we constantly sabotage ourselves into thinking that a diet will be the end all be all? Or that when we get that special diet, our years of weight gain will magically disappear from our bodies overnight? You see, the problem isn’t the diet or lack thereof but a fundamental concept that we choose to ignore or really don’t know how to establish. And that is our relationship to food. Let’s begin with that concept.
FOOD AS FRIEND, BEST FRIEND
Try this experiment. What is the first thing that you think about when I say: Cake, Beer, Chocolate, Salad, (fill in whatever you’d like here)? Did you associate cake with being fat or Salad with healthy choice? Or maybe you just broke down your thoughts to good food vs bad food. In the western world, cake is usually associated with guilt, a guilty pleasure. Now ask someone in Europe like France or Italy how they see cake and they will emphatically say celebration. For them cake is associated with a positive experience and not the detrimental effect it may have of ones waist line.
I am of Puerto Rican descent and my grandmothers and mom used lard to cook in and not once did we deny ourselves of such delicious foods from which lard was used. Our traditions always centered around celebrations. Food was a way to bridge relationships between husband and wife, brother to sister, aunt to uncles and so on. We ate with much enjoyment and gusto and true when all was said and done, we sat down and unbutton our pants to breathe a little better. But we did not say, hey let’s go run across the fields a couple of times to see if we can lose the couple of pounds we gained from this feast. That wasn’t in our vocabulary. But as we become more Americanized, most have lost that relationship and now see it as a love/hate one.?Where did we go wrong?
Food is a necessity, right? It is required for us to continue living and breathing. Our relationship with food is what gives us longevity. A positive experience reduces stress. A negative one and you are looking to subtract years from your life. So why become so defensive when faced with a bowl of ice cream or a plate of pasta in carbonara sauce? Now I’m not advocating to throw common sense out the window but what I am saying is to have a better relationship with your food. It isn’t a point of good or bad. Geez, I’m pretty sure a diet consisting of twinkies can help sustain normal body functions.
The irony in all this is that I believe for the most part, people do know. People posses the common sense that having McDonalds everyday is not good for their health. Or eating chocolate cake every day is not what the doctor ordered. But somehow our relationship with food gets lost in translation. The more negative we are towards food, the worse it will be to follow any diet and the more problems we pack onto ourselves. That monkey on our back becomes as huge as King Kong. The end game to that will lead to an eating disorder. Guarantee! And don’t use food as a bargaining chip. What do I mean? Well, to convince yourself that consuming a cake is equivalent to running 2 miles on the treadmill. There isn’t a 1:1 food to exercise ratio that will allow you to have or not have a food. Lighten up and enjoy your food. Remove that stress and you’ll notice a clearer path to your health & fitness goals.
CAN I TRAIN MYSELF TO A BETTER DIET?
Uh, no! Another way of looking at this statement is: can you out train a bad diet? Let’s break this down. There are several concepts that need to be address here. First, what is your goal? To lose weight? To gain muscle? To look better naked? If one wants to lose weight then diet becomes priority one. Resistance training will assist you in losing weight but there are limitations. Solely training without adhering to a diet will never work. You’ll lose weight in the short-term but then your weight will flat line. In this scenario, resistance training benefits in maintaining your muscle tissue as much as it can while you diet. If you crash diet, you will lose weight but you will also lose precious muscle tissue. You do not want that. Your thyroid will down regulate to compensate for the loss and you will create a very dangerous environment which will lead to rapid weight gain when you go back to normal eating and that’s not even going back to a diet. So if you want to lose the weight, follow a diet that creates a relative caloric deficiency not an absolute. Absolute is a crash diet or anything below 1000 cal/day. A relative deficit can be 10-12x your present body weight and that will be your start. Weight loss is never linear so it doesn’t follow a straight line. Body weight normally fluctuates. But there is a downward trend.
Now let’s say you want to look better naked. Well that means you want a better cosmetic look. You want to turn heads. You want to transform the ‘look’ of your body. Well now diet AND resistance training are on equal terms. Training protocol is just as important as what and how much food you need to consume. Again, in this scenario, training will help maintain lean tissue but now you are looking to ‘lean out’, meaning ripped. But there is a cost to pay for this look. It is not sustainable for the long-term and if not done correctly can reap havoc on your fragile metabolism. For some, this look isn’t tough to get into but for the majority it can seem futile. Why? Well, for most, we are not built that way. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t look good naked. It just means finding what works for you and not to compare yourself to anyone else.
MY SCALE MUST BE BROKEN
What weighs more? A pound of fat or a pound of muscle? I’ll wait….
Answer: they weigh the same! A pound is a pound no matter what it is. How many times have you jumped on the scale and either you remained the same or you’ve gained a bit of weight? And you convince yourself the reason why is that muscle weighs more than fat and that’s why you gained weight. There is a difference, though, between fat loss and weight loss.
A persons weight consists of muscles, bones, fat, nerves, organs…everything. Now when it comes to weight loss goals, the scale becomes the primary facilitator of truth. People are ruled by the number and are so stressed right before they step on one. Here’s a hard truth: Dump the scale! A scale will never tell you how much fat you’ve loss or how much muscle you’ve gained. It is a poor interpreter of weight loss or weight gain. Throw it away!
Now fat loss and the maintenance of muscle is what you are really going for when you want to get in better shape. How does on measure that? Well you can so a body fat analysis (Fat Calipers) but then again there are many flaws with that or you can go with girth measurements and se if you’ve loss inches. But then again that’s can also be misleading. Ok, so how about an article of clothing. Yeah, that can definitely provide great feedback. Everyone’s metabolism will give up fat in different ways and in different places. If you have a propensity to accumulate fat around your belly then chances are that will be the last place fat will be decreased. Look at other areas like arms, shoulders, neck. Here’s another clue to fat loss: your performance increases. Fat is a mechanical drag. You’ll be able to train with much more energy, intensity and purpose.
Food is a necessity to live. So have a positive relationship with your food. For a great book on food, please read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food
In order for your body to change, a structures meal plan must be a priority. Consume 10X-12X (depending on age, sex, body surface, etc) your body weight as a relative caloric deficit and every once in a while, indulge in whatever you like to eat and eat lots of it. Then get back to your way of eating.
Here’s a baseball analogy and I have to thank Jeff Cavaliere at his extraordinary site, Athlean X! Let’s say you eat 5 times a day which adds to 35 meals a week. Now, if you follow your structured meal plan in 30 of those 35 meals, your eating power average is a whopping .857!!! That’s like a baseball player getting 8 hits for every 10 at bats! Obviously, impossible however using those 5 meals how ever you feel will not break your long term goals. You can use a day just to indulge. It breaks the monotony. Keeps your metabolism properly fueled. Able to sustain this type of eating.?
Dump the scale and rely on your biofeedback when it comes to weight loss. How is your energy level? Are you focused? Have you had an increase in elimination??A proper diet that serves the body and is sustainable in the long-term will yield positive results.