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Better alternatives to Flexible Dieting

Any plan you adopt or put together for someone else, needs to be appropriate to their goals and to their circumstances. If we assume that a Flexible Dieting plan covers the following bases...
  • Appropriate total calorie targets; not too little and not too much.
  • Appropriate ratio of macronutrients.
  • Suitable intake of vitamins and minerals from more nutrient dense foods.
  • More of the foods you enjoy eating.
  • None of the foods you really dislike.
  • Ability to find a little room in the plan for some indulgence.
In my way of thinking you can also add in...
  • in the context of a long term plan, the understanding that is fine to completely disregard your targets from time to time when you need to.
You'd be surprised how many people in the business are against this concept, on the basis that "you're telling people it's ok to eat bad things". You also get the people who don't like calorie targets, for some reason.

So if what I just described is a bad strategy... logically we can only include that the opposite must be better. Let's run through our new plan.
  • Unknown / random total intake, and unknown total requirements.
  • This list of foods I've decided are good for you.
  • Whether you like them or not. Eat it, it's good for you.
  • No cheating.
  • Ever.
I left out the part about micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) since the implication is usually that "eating clean" to ensure maximum micro intake is ALL that is required. Or at least, if you focus on that everything else takes care of itself, I guess? Does that mean we should be able to expect the creators of such plans to be able to tell us exactly what levels of different vitamins and minerals their diet would provide? I'd say it should. More likely though we're just assuming it is "pretty good" or "about right" due to the inclusion of plenty of nutrient dense foods. 

Our new plan doesn't sound like it would be very effective, or very enjoyable, to me.

That's all I'm saying.

The perfect plan for weight loss and body sculpting.

As you all know by now I am a promoter of Flexible Dieting also known as IIFYM. I've started using the term "flexible dieting" as it implies "meet all of your nutritional needs with your choice of foods". IIFYM means exactly the same thing, but since the acronym stands for "If It Fits Your Macros" it leads to having reducto ad absurdum type arguments with morons who think it means "hit your carbohydrate targets with refined sugar straight from the bag, and hit your protein requirements with WPI straight from the bag too"... seriously I've lost count of the amount of utter cretins who've attempted that line of argument with me.

The point is, you need to meet your nutritional requirements for good health, results from training, and to maintain your goal weight. The most important aspect of this is in consuming an appropriate range of total calories, with an appropriate ratio of carbohydrates to fats to protein. For some people these ratios will need to be quite precise, for others (the majority in my experience) anything you could describe as "reasonably balanced" seems to be close enough. Obviously we also need to be getting a decent spread of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre, and we ensure this by including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in our daily intake. Now providing we've also made wise choices in terms of what foods are going to keep us feeling full and satisfied, we have a strategy that is very simple to understand, very simple to implement, very simple to adhere to, and in almost every case ensures certain success in due time.

What food choices you hit those targets with are irrelevant, as long as you hit your targets at the end of the day, most days. Apparently it does NOT go without saying that you don't have to eat "unclean" if you don't want to, and you shouldn't eat anything that you know isn't going to agree with you. The point though is that you are free to enjoy all of your favourite foods. Even more to the point, you're not training yourself to have negative associations with eating for enjoyment, or eating in general. You understand what your requirements are, and you know that everything you put in is going to be utilised in making you healthy and strong.

Especially for people who have been unsuccessful at "dieting" in the past (and especially those who have a limited diet for some reason), this is a perfect system. The reason it is perfect, is because you don't have to be. Your execution of and adherence to the plan does not have to be perfect, which is what makes success possible.

I'm going to pull some numbers out of the air to demonstrate this.

Let's say you are 20kg overweight. Current weight is... let's say 90kg, and the "historically normal" (that's the politically correct term I invented) weight for your height and age maxes out at about 70kg. Let's say that if you were in EXCEPTIONAL shape, ready to take the stage doing fitness or bikini modelling, you'd probably be around 60kg.

Actually that last one is probably not terribly accurate as I'd suspect people in that kind of shape may be deceptively heavy as they'd still have a lot of lean mass, and just a lower percentage of body fat. Lean mass of course taking up less space while weighing the same amount. For this reason once people are somewhere around "historically normal" weight, I stop caring about the scales as long as we're happy with what we see and how we feel. But that is another article for another day. For the purposes of this example, historically normal weight is as high as 70kg, and our ultimate goal weight with your dream body is 60kg.

Now. To get from 70kg in normal shape to 60kg in exceptional shape... that may require some precise planning and strict adherence. But to get started, to get from 90kg where we are now to 70kg, would we need such a perfect plan with perfect consistency? Of course not.

Forget the 60kg plan. Let's dial in a plan for 70kg, but let's assume you don't quite hit your macro targets, and you go a bit beyond your maximum total calorie targets for few days there because you were stressed out about something else. What would that mean? Would absolutely nothing happen, because you failed to perfectly execute the plan with perfect consistency? Or would it still be good enough to make some progress, if not quite all way to the 70kg goal you planned for? Absolutely it would.

This is something I hear from a new client or someone following my free program, quite often. "I didn't think I was doing very well... but I actually lost [various amounts] of weight anyway". Now, having successfully lost let's say 5 or even 10kg while not adhering to the plan anywhere near perfectly... armed with that new confidence and belief that this success would bring, how much harder would it be to tighten up on the plan just that little bit more to keep progressing even closer towards your goal?

My point here is simple. We don't need to perfectly adhere to a perfect plan to take us from where we are now, to where we dream about being. We need an easy plan that will take us the first few steps. From there, we need an easy plan that will take us the next few steps, and so on. Only at the very final stages are any really precise fine tuning or strict, disciplined adherence necessary.

The first step is as simple as knowing what the appropriate nutritional targets are. Knowing that you don't need to stress out, worry or obsess over them is the next step. Act on this knowledge and it will take you closer to your goal than you could even imagine right now.


12 week starve yourself thin challenge?

So one of the boys from gym had a good story today about doing some security work at a gala dinner for participants in a "12 week challenge" run by one of the chain gyms.

Sounds like this'll be a nice positive post, right? Wrong.

He apparently asked one of the more successful participants how they did it, and the response was "1100 calories one day, 400 the next".


400 calories isn't even enough for my breakfast, and that's all you get for an entire day every other day?

Well then... what amazing results did this produce? 8kg of weight lost, in 12 weeks... by starving.

Now compare that to what I do, where I'll take the same amount or even more weight off a client with targets of 1600, 1800. even 2100 calories depending on what I think is most appropriate. AKA they aint fkn starving it off.

What are these idiot trainers really doing with these extreme, starvation approaches though?

  1. They're training the client's brain to think "if I eat like a normal person, i'll stay fat. I have to suffer for this or I don't want it badly enough".
  2. They're training the client's body to run on less fuel, to slow down and conserve fuel. This is why even though they're starving, they only drop a relatively small percentage of the excess weight they are carrying. And then what? 
There are probably unlimited approaches you could take towards healthy weight loss, but starving yourself thin is never one of them. The unfortunate clients don't know any better, because they're constantly bombarded with new diets on tv every day, new meal replacement product advertisements, all this crap telling them "less calories = more weight loss". It doesn't. The trainers SHOULD know better, but apparently don't know or don't care.

This pisses me off.

Screw 'em. I'm going to do my own 12 Week Flexible Dieting Challenge!

From Emotional Eating To EMPOWERED Eating

Some delicious pancakes I made the other day.
Pancakes are good for you.
I posted this elsewhere and didn't feel it was getting enough love, so here's a little cut n paste job.

Eating is wonderful. I think people should be emotional about eating. It is a joyous occasion.

The problem is that we start to associate feelings of guilt or shame with eating "bad foods" and a negative cycle begins. We start to believe that we can't get in control of our eating habits and can't stop eating bad foods. There is perhaps no worse emotion than that feeling of not being in control, of being powerless.

How we can address this situation is by changing the way we think about food. Food is fuel. We're supposed to eat it and we're supposed to enjoy it. These facts are indisputable and universal. Now we do have a modern problem of lifestyles that are too sedentary, which mean that our fuel requirements drop quite dramatically. Of course, this is easily fixed with a productive training program. Again though, think less about "exercising to burn calories" and think more about "training to get healthy and strong". We train to put those calories (aka fuel) to good use. There is nothing special about this either... all we are doing is putting back in what modern lifestyles have taken out.

Now with a more active lifestyle and an effective training strategy our fuel requirements go UP. Of course there is a limit to how much fuel we can utilise but up to that limit it is ALL FUEL that our body will put to use. Even the ice cream. ESPECIALLY the ice cream!

Of course we do encourage each other to consume more nutrient dense foods regularly... but if you decide that you want to indulge a little to make up for a rough day (or for no reason at all) you can make an empowered decision to do so, knowing there is nothing to feel bad about.

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