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Cognitive dissonance in estimating calorific intake.

This is rather a great video and there is a possibly epiphany inducing part just a few minutes in. He's talking about how the brain kind of just takes in little pieces of information, and fills in the gaps with what it EXPECTS to come up with the big picture. Often enough, what it comes up with isn't accurate or correct.

Relative to us people trying to manage our weight and see great results from training... very often people are certain that they're hitting a particular calorie target, but they're not actually logging / otherwise keeping track of their intake. Just like in the example in the video, it's a lot like flying blind. If you don't use the instruments available and trust in them even if your intuition is telling you other wise... you could soon find you're spiraling out of control.

Relative to calorie targets I had an interesting conversation a week or two back with some industry people.... and I won't drop names but there would few you may have heard of who are rightly quite well respected and influential. We were discussing the idea of INCREASING calorie targets for weight loss, rather than just slashing them lower and lower. It was one of those sort of "we agree that it is the right approach, but we disagree on WHY it works out like it does" conversations. I talk a lot about how if your calorie targets are too low, you don't have the resources available to get results from training, and your body just wants to store energy. The point the other (more experienced and better educated, if i am honest with you) guys made was that in their experience and also according to research, in such cases the problem is with dramatic under estimating / under reporting of calorie intake. So, we have a calorie target which is too low anyway, and we think we're hitting it but in actual fact we're still way over our required intake.

I'm humble enough to accept the possibility that from time to time I might give the wrong target to someone, but I was told there's really not much variance from one human being to the next... assuming their physical statistics (height, age, activity level and so on) are the same. Aka the mathematical formulas don't lie, and if you really test it under clinical standards you'll find without exception people's actual intake corresponds quite precisely with what you'd expect to maintain their body weight. Well... that's the expert opinion but in my observation and experience, I still think you can throw that off by restricting to dangerously low calorie intake, forcing your body to compensate.

Either way, I like to think that my approach of setting targets as MINIMUMS will address both of these possible issues. By being focussed on exceeding a minimum target, I feel we're more likely to report our intake accurately... "hmm I'm still below target, oh wait i just remembered that snack", that sort of thing.

Still, I want people planning ahead to ensure success rather than just tracking retrospectively to explain why they're not seeing progress. And if you're STILL not seeing progress... consider the possibility that your perception of how much you're really taking in might be a little skewed.

Too disorganised to train and eat right?

How many people out there are  failing on their diet / training / weight loss plan because they're too disorganised?

I was thinking about this. Its a common complaint.

i think people... well... some people are pretty fkn hopeless. I'm thinking of a few people I know (and have kinda filtered out of my life) who are 20 minutes late to anything and always show up 10 bucks short of the cost or whatever else... and they just think that's normal and they're not even embarrassed about doing it EVERY TIME, and don't understand why people get frustrated with them. Just fkn useless cunts who need to fkn get it together. In my experience usually drummers.

Those are actually a minority though. You're probably not one of them. If you screw up once in a while you think "bloody hell, I won't slip up like that again" and generally speaking, you get to school / work on time, you get your laundry done before you have to resort to sniffing your socks or undies to find the least smelly pair because you ran out of clean ones 3 days ago, you get your bins out on bin night... if there's concert tickets on sale or something like that you're damn sure you'll get that shit sorted... every day things and occassional things, you get that shit DONE.

All of that takes organisational skills. 

Probably something you've never thought about before, and quite possibly right now you're thinking "oh but that's different though... that doesn't really count". But it does. You're perfectly able to organise your daily activities and even add some special stuff that needs to be done at a precise special time (concert tickets the minute they go on sale, for example) because it's important to you.

And for the day to day stuff, you don't even make a big deal out of it. You just do it on autopilot without even weighing up the option of NOT putting your bin out on the right night, for example.

You just get it done.

Training can work the same way. Not that you should see it as a chore, but it's simply a matter of deciding where it best fits into your schedule, and then doing it simply because it is a part of your schedule. Dieting... especially flexible dieting, works the same way. Schedule your meals where it suits you, choose the foods you enjoy in amounts to suit your requirements.

Since we're not on a restrictive diet that leaves us hungry, and we're not forcing ourselves to eat anything we don't enjoy, there is really nothing difficult about this. You just need to get it organised and get it done. Fortunately, getting things organised and getting them done is something you are actually very good at.

The more they tell me I am wrong, the more I know I am right.

Sometimes I get annoyed.

The same way the public gets sold a new diet, exercise program or gadget every few months... it's the same for me in the business. Every few months, all of a sudden "we know better now" and we're supposed to make everyone go low carb, or low GI, or gluten free, or fructose free, or paleo, or fast a few days a week, or whatever.

And I get lectured about "not keeping up with the latest industry trends" because I just keep doing what I know works, without bringing a bunch of unnecessary rules or restrictions into it. Don't get me wrong, I'm continuously refining my approach... but I don't just throw everything out to follow whatever is in the latest fad diet or alarmist food conspiracy book written by some fucking software engineer or other non qualified source.


And six months later no one is doing it any more. They stopped because it was too hard, they realised it wasn't necessary, people weren't signing up for it any more... and in at least one particular case that I know of, because their staff and clients started to develop bulimia as a result of trying to live up to some impossible strict standard of "clean eating". But all the same people are now saying exactly the same things about whatever the "latest evidence" (usually cherry picked pseudoscience and alarmism) suggests is the answer to all of our problems.


The more these people tell me I am wrong, the more certain I am that I am right. Especially when my clients keep reporting in with great results, eating more and with no restrictions.

When you're not getting results through restrictive means

according to conventional wisdom
  • you’re still eating too much
  • you’re not eating clean enough
  • you’re not burning enough calories at exercise
then if you’ve seen too much fitspo you can start to believe a lack of results means something about who you are as a person. Because if you’re dedicated and disciplined you earn results. Therefore if you’re not getting results, it means you’re the opposite of all those things.
In the pursuit of weight and body composition goals I have come to believe that UNDEREATING is actual far more detritmental to your progress than overeating. Obviously you need to be in a calorific deficit, less than would be required to maintain your current weight. But if you “over eat” and exceed your target calories for weight loss… well as long as you’re still below maintenance levels you havent’ really over eaten. Even if you do exceed maintenance levels TODAY but generally you hit an appropriate intake suitable to your goal weight, your progress won’t be effected.
Now if you habitually under eat, on the other hand… your body needs to compensate. It starts to think “well if I run out of fat stores, I’m fucked” and the survival mechanism prioritises the conservation of fat stores over everything else. This is why you often find that you’ve lost weight after what you thought was a “bad” week indulging yourself on holidays or whatever, when you didn’t lose any while dieting and training obsessively.
I’ve had a tremendous amount of success with people who are already very active and performing at training to quite a high level, but aren’t seeing the changes in body composition that they are looking for despite following all the conventional “eat less, cut carbs, eat clean” advice.
Simply put… if your goal is a lean, athletic body type, you need to fuel it properly. Especially with some of the taller, younger, more active women I coach… the prospect of eating “too much” to an extent that their progress would go backwards is so unlikely as to be ridiculous. Often I don’t even set a “maximum” calorie limit.
The issue is with failing to hit a MINIMUM calorie target suitable to fuel their active lifestyle and build the strong, healthy, lean and athletic body that they desire.
The greater issue is with the messages everywhere, that restricting calorie intake or restricting choices of foods is a sign of strong character and makes you a good and valuable person, and that indulging means the opposite. 
That’s bullshit.
It is ok to eat.
More than “ok”, it is entirely necessary. 
You already know this. The problem is we are bombarded with messages to the contrary. This creates cognitive dissonance especially where (as above) we have been conditioned to equate eating habits with being a good or a bad person.
Well… fuck that. 

I'm kicking off my next 12 Week Flexible Dieting For Recovery Challenge next week. You should totally get in on it.

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