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"Clean Eating" Personal Trainers Promote Orthorexia

This about sums up my feelings on the matter,
and it's nice when someone agrees for a change!
You'd be surprised how many people
 in the business would argue this point.
This was supposed to be a more amusing type of post that was going to be titled "recent arguments with industry cretins", but it turned out... well, as you see.

What's amusing to me is the amount of "what we do is best, nothing else works and if you think it does you need to get with the times" type of people in this industry, and how they can't actually back up their position when challenged. And quite ironically, they usually end up getting shitty and telling you "you think your way is the only way!"... which is ironic because that's actually what they were saying and all you really asked was "well how come all these other people have been successful without doing all that stuff that you think is make or break?"

I wrote an article yesterday where I said there are some things that just don't work, but there are also all sorts of many and varied approaches that can produce a result, depending on how specific your goal is. Obviously stuff that just doesn't work is a bad idea, but some of the stuff that will work might not be the best idea either if it is excessively restrictive and promotes a disordered way of thinking and an unhealthy relationship with food.

Now as far as excessively restrictive "very low calorie" diets go, we all know these don't work. Unfortunately lots of people are still trying to starve themselves thin with this approach but within the industry it has lead to a rejection of the "Calories In / Calories Out" model amongst certain groups. Depending on who you're talking to... the issue is either that carbs make people fat, or just "bad carbs" (there's a difference apparently), or it is processed food that is doing the damage and people need to "eat clean" or eat "paleo" in the style of stone age ancestors. Total calories is certainly not the issue though, according to some.

The end result of all of this is that as well as having more and more super-mega-hyper-obese people out there (in my opinion) as a direct result of yo-yoing on and off these extreme low calorie or zero carb diets, we've also got a huge increase in instances of eating disorders such as orthorexia and binge eating disorder. One goes hand in hand with the other. The proponents of so called "clean eating" demonise various food choices, and in particular anything that one might eat purely for enjoyment and not strictly because it is the best possible choice from a micronutritional standpoint.

Now... obviously yes, in an ideal world everyone would develop a passion for cooking delicious and nutritious meals from scratch, they'd be eating more fresh vegetables and so on. But to suggest that a new weight loss client needs to completely change their eating habits like this overnight shows a total lack of any empathy. It is an entirely unrealistic expectation. More to the point, it is unnecessary as well.

Rather than this, the more moderate and more empathic recommendation would be to use "Flexible Dieting" principles. In short, this means we determine an appropriate range of calories that we would expect to be suitable to maintain a healthy goal weight, and we also set target ranges for the ratio of fats to protein to carbohydrates. We encourage the inclusion of fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables to ensure adequate intake of important vitamins and minerals... and we are set. Within these guidelines it is quite easy for any client to meet their nutritional requirements with their choice of foods, including some purely for enjoyment or indulgence. Nothing is off limits.

This is important and beneficial for a variety of reasons. Since the client is able to make their own choices of foods, we have greater consistency of adherence. Since nothing is off limits, the client can honestly report their daily intake without omitting anything that the trainer has demonised as a "bad" food that they shouldn't be eating. They are not developing a disordered relationship with food due to feelings of guilt or failure associated with eating for enjoyment, as nothing is off limits. Through all of this, the client becomes empowered and develops a stronger belief in their ability to meet their nutritional requirements in order to achieve their goal weight and body type.

It is as close to a perfect strategy as you are ever likely to get. However, that still aint good enough for some of the "clean eating" people, who honestly seem to believe that including any amount of processed / high carb / low nutrient density / so called "junk" food rules out any chance of losing weight and ensures poor health. In any amount.

As far as I am concerned, that line of thinking IS orthorexia and it is about the last thing anyone (especially professionals in this industry) should be promoting. It is just as... perhaps even more harmful than the "eat less and less and less" approaches of the past.

Now here's the thing. You don't actually need to argue the science with these people. There's a lot of people who can explain how a certain food contains a certain property that has a certain effect upon a certain organ which produces a certain hormonal response and this is of crucial importance and if you think it's just about calories you need to get better educated. But you don't need to argue on those terms, on a logical level all you need to do is point out that countless people have in fact lost weight and gotten into great shape despite not having taken any of that into account. They've simply consumed "about the right amount" and been active enough to utilise the fuel that they've put in, and they've even enjoyed some delicious icecream when they felt like it.

Now I've seen a lot of comments to the effect of "ice cream! how can you justify eating ice cream of all things!" in response to various articles and blog posts on the subject... but really, are you actually suggesting that no one who was ever in shape has ever eaten an ice cream? Are you really suggesting that everyone who ever got into shape had a strict and restrictive diet plan that consisted of only very top level of most nutrient dense foods creating a perfect balance of vitamins and minerals that they stuck to obsessively and never cheated on? Do you actually believe that such an approach is not only required, but is indicative of good mental health?

Fortunately there IS a growing "anti-orthorexia" movement starting to happen amongst fitness enthusiasts, and the general public are becoming better educated in such matters. I have noticed at least a handful of industry people who I had considered the biggest promoters of orthorexia style half truths moving to a more moderate position, perhaps out of necessity to reflect a change in the market. I like to think that I have played my part in this change, if not spearheaded it directly.


Official Acknowledgement: My Way Is Not The Only Way To Get Into Shape

I've said that dozens of times I'm sure. I happen to believe that more resistance training and a little cardio on the side is the best way... but depending on your goal, your circumstances, your preferences... hey, knock yourself out. I've said a lot that if you have a specific goal you need a specific course of action, but other than that as long as it is safe and enjoyable go do whatever you want to do.

Now having said all that... there are certain things that just don't work, or are a bad idea for other reasons. Those stupid VLCD meal replacement products, for example. I've talked a lot about what a bad idea they are and how they're likely to backfire in a number of ways. Exercising with no more strategic purpose than "to burn calories" is another pointless and futile waste of time and effort as well, as previously discussed.

It does sell a lot of equipment though. Home treadmills, stationary bikes, cross trainers, those gadgets that count how many calories you've supposedly burned during exercise... lawd. Whether it's at home or in a gym, the people who just walk on the treadmills for an hour or more per day... do they ever seem to change shape?

So... there's some stuff that doesn't work and isn't a good idea and unfortunately that happens to be the stuff that the industry promotes because there is money in it. It's also stuff that seems reasonable to more people, I guess. Walking on a treadmill, I can do that. Right?

Regardless of how much stuff doesn't work, there's still plenty that does. My program for example. I've put it together strategically with a few different things in mind to keep it evolving, keep it varied and interesting, and most of all to produce tremendous results in body sculpting through strength training. It does the job very well, but could you expect similar results with some other similar resistance based program? Absolutely. Of course there are elements to my program that I think are quite unique and beneficial, but you can take your pick of any strength training program and as long as there is a good balance of movements and you keep trying to do a little more than you did the week before, you'll make progress and get results.

Push / Pull splits, Push / Pull / Legs.... I've kind of gone off the 5 day splits I used to use but whatever... there's plenty of options and any of them could be good. Or, you might not want to do a weight training program at all. Plenty of other options out there too.

What's a little amusing though and very ironic is the people out there who DO think their way is the only way, and nothing else works. For a lot of people out there, it's not enough just to say "this is how I do it, and it works very nicely indeed", or even "this is what I do and I think it's best way and you'll be hard pressed to find something better". Nope, their way is the only way that works for all of these reasons they'll spell out to you, and if you don't have all of that stuff covered you can't expect any results.

It's entirely normal for us human beings to want to be "right". It seems to me though, in terms of what's the best approach in training and nutrition... there's not much point arguing about things. If you think your way is the best, go out there and get better results than anyone else. I'd suggest if you're really happy with the results you are getting, you'd be secure enough in your self esteem not to feel the need to tell everyone else that they're wrong. You'd already know that what you're doing is great.

The only reason this stuff is worth arguing about is when the information being put out to the public is not just incorrect or misleading, but potentially harmful and damaging to vulnerable people. This is especially true in areas of nutrition and dieting that directly effect people's physical and mental health.

Now you've got different reasons for this from different people. Some of them are just flat out scam artists, some are real trainers but they've been getting lessons from marketers that turn them into borderline scam artists themselves, and others are people who have got some issues of their own especially related to eating disorders, which influences their ability to objectively process information and form an opinion based on logical reasoning. These are all dangerous people to have in the industry, spreading potentially damaging misinformation.

The ironic part is when you call these people out on their bullshit and they can't explain their position, and they get shitty and tell you "you think your way is the only way!" When they were actually the one saying "none of that works you have to do it like I do it", and all you were saying is "but plenty of people have done it other ways".



Conversations with clean eating / industry morons

I'll go on record as saying that I utterly fucking despise about 90% of this stinking industry, the people in it and all that they stand for.

That is... not so much the local trainers taking people to the park or the gym or whatever for a work out. I mightn't think someone's approach to training is the best and most efficient but if they're well intentioned, getting people into some healthy activity, making it enjoyable and keeping it safe all power to them. Personally... I got my own way of doing things that I believe in, but I'd never say it's the ONLY thing that will work or that anyone else is obliged to do the same.

I'm talking about the self branded "diet and exercise" guru types all over the internet. I hate that the majority of the exercise business is more about "what'll people sign up for?" than "what do people actually need to do to meet their goals?" as well... which is why there's a new dance based fitness craze every couple of years that makes some people a fuck tonne of money but delivers nothing in terms of physical results to clients. It explains why gym chains in the US ban any serious types of lifts and market on the basis that they're NOT for people serious about health, fitness or training for any sort of result or goal.

I fucken hate all of that shit but most of all I hate the aforementioned gurus on the internet and their disciples in the business spreading their disordered, damaging, unfounded bullshit fkn ideas to the unsuspecting public at large. What I believe happens is that new people with good intentions go out and get a certification and set up business as a trainer. Usually, they come out of the certification process still bewildered about how to help people, which is a whole other issue I should write a post about soon as well. So, with the best of intentions they join some networking group to learn from people who are already in the business and BOOM that's when it happens, they're easy pickings for jerkoffs marketing some special dieting system or other based on a bunch of half truths, bro-science or flat out eating disorder based "logic".

You can go through the testimonials on my various websites, the comments on my facebook and so on... and you'll see that in almost every case I have coached my clients to success based on INCREASING their calorific intake and DITCHING any restrictive notions they had about "good" or "bad" foods. You can see messages I've got from people who have finally achieved their goal figure, stopped feeling guilty or ashamed about eating, and stopped hating themselves for failing to meet some impossible standard of "clean eating" that was never necessary in the first place. You don't see so many of the messages from people who tell me that reading my free program has helped them beat the binge eating disorder they developed by trying to follow ridiculous "clean eating" protocols created either by scam artists or by orthorexic trainers trying to normalise their own disordered way of thinking by spreading it to other people. I keep that shit private.

And yet despite all of that, cretins in the industry want to argue with me that you can't be successful in weight loss and body composition goals with a flexible approach to dieting (IIFYM). I've proven it a dozen times over as have the other 10% or so of knowledgeable, ethical & empathic trainers who use a similar approach.


It's time for ME to get back into shape for Spring and Summer

Did I mention I've started my own fat loss campaign last week after (strategically) gaining 8kg over the course of the year so far? My long term goal is to be a bit bigger than I am now, but also lean. So, in trying to build up over the winter you accept that you're likely to gain some fat in the process, which you trim off again in the spring with the goal of being as lean as last summer, but 4 or 5kg heavier.

This year I was coasting along not too worried about how much fat I put on because "hey, have a look at the ladies I coach and judge me on that... not on what I look like while in a bulking phase", right? Well... that's all well and good up to a point, but as of the week before last I decided it was time to dial in some tighter nutrition targets and exercise a little self control in the kitchen until I look a bit more like a trainer again.

This is quite standard practice for males and some females with the goal of increasing size. Now, some people at a highly advanced level will have it down to such a fine art (or should I say science?) that they can gain a significant amount of muscle without gaining a significant amount of fat... but for the most of us, well... the fat and bloat comes off quite quickly and easily as soon as the time comes to dial in a nutrition plan and perhaps make some necessary adjustments to training. For the record I haven't changed my training routine yet but I may do so in the future if I'm not satisfied with my progress back towards an appropriate physique for pool season.

This isn't really a post about my own progress and goals though. It's a little eye opener into some deceptive marketing tactics other trainers may use, and why you should be sceptical of trainers posting their own before and after "transformation" photos.

You've no double seem them before, along with the "I got so busy helping other people, I forgot to look after myself and suddenly realised I'd gotten quite badly out of shape" and maybe also "after trying different strategies for years I finally found the one method for amazing results in half the time"... some top secret thing only known to them and their fitness guru who learned it from the ghost of Bruce Lee while astral travelling or some shit no doubt. And then there's the photos of them starting out looking like your average out of shape office worker, and ending up looking like a pro athlete 6 weeks later.

And you're supposed to think "wow, I could look like that in 6 weeks too then!", right? What a load of bollocks.

That muscular physique they're showing in the "after" picture was already there, just hidden a little under some excess fat, some bloat and fluid retention. Maybe the lighting in the first picture was less flattering as well, and they're standing with slouched posture too. This stuff makes a big difference!

Now, the position I'm in right now and these other guys would be in is that you've been training a long time, and are able to perform at a level far above the capabilities of the average client, especially a new one. Having trained hard and eating at a surplus all year so far, the body is trained to build as much muscle as possible and use all of this to fuel, recover and adapt to training. What little it can't find a use for ends up stored as fat... but the point is, it wants to build muscle. Now, come spring time we reduce calories to an amount suitable to drop whatever weight we have added in fat stores... the body still wants to build muscle, still wants to use everything we give it to fuel, recover and adapt to training... BOOM, that little bit of fat is going to come off relatively quickly, not to mention any food bloat and fluid retention will drop off within the first week or two in my experience.

So... that's what's going on in most of those photos you may see from trainers marketing online. It is quite deceptive to imply that there is anything "special" going on because of how magical their program is, and very deceptive to imply that the average deconditioned new client will achieve the same sort of transformation in a similar amount of time.

You guys know by now that I don't go in for any of that sort of chicanery, so in other words; no new photos until I'm back in shape.

I got some broscience theories of my own though

Broscience aint all bad. I mean... it's bad when people come up with a load of crap about "this is the only way you can do it because science, bro" and especially when it's relation to restrictive eating plans they're selling to vulnerable clients or (worse) to well intentioned trainers who think they're learning something that'll help their clients, but is actually just overcomplicating things and making it harder for people to succeed.

On the other hand though... we've all got different ways we prefer to do things, and if it's working - good. You don't necessarily need to be able to reference 16 different studies that confirm that it works. So sometimes it's more like "well I like to do it this way, and it seems to me that [this] is what's happening... anyway it is producing results so whatever that's the main thing".

So I came up with this broscience theory that's good enough for me, about my own training program. Some of you are familiar with my Power, Precision and Pump program which is a movement based program split into pushing movements one day, pulling movements the next, and then repeat with a different choice of exercises and so on. Also you've got both upper body and lower body movements each day.

Now, I've upgraded this and called it Ultimate Power, Precision & Pump and there's a new Push / Legs / Pull section early in the week. So the schedule now looks like this:

Day One: Push Day (upper body)
Day Two: Legs Day
Day Three: Pull Day (upper body)
Day Four: Push Day (full body, more upper body stuff with some legs in the middle)
Day Five: Pull Day (full body, more upper body stuff with some hip flexion & hamstrings in the middle)
Day Six: Push Day (big legs day with a little incline press or something in the middle)
Day Seven: Pull Day (deadlifts, a little upper back or traps stuff and then more hamstrings)

So to start with, it seemed like the first three days were going to the hard ones, since it's just smashing the same body parts over and over again. There's actually more exercises on those days as well. But I will tell you what, I am actually finding my traditional, full body PPP days harder to get through.

So.... and yep this is total broscience I admit... it feels like from Day Four onward, the body is used to just doing one section in a session, and when I switch from upper body to lower body half way through (and then back again) there's this confusion with the body trying to decide where it's supposed to send resources for recovery and refuelling before the next set or exercise.

Now that may or may not be a load of nonsense, but I like how it is working out so far so I'm gonna stick with it. Different amounts of work for each section per session, different angles of movements, different choices of apparatus, different rep ranges, different amounts of time between sets, different amounts of days between hitting the same body parts again... I believe all of this stuff contributes to an effective program. At the very least, it keeps it a bit more interesting than just going in and doing the same stuff every second or third day.


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