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Goal Setting: Think "trajectory" rather than specifics.

Here's something I've been working on.



It’s not so much a “real graph” in that it’s not based on real data, so much as it is an illustration of a logical point. Now… for people about to come into the New Year with a resolution of achieving some sort of a goal via training and dieting over the course of the year… here’s something to think about.

The key word here is TRAJECTORY.

First up though let’s talk goals. Your goal is multifaceted as follows:
  • Weight: It’s not helpful or healthy to be too concerned with a very specific weight on the scales, but perhaps falling somewhere closer to / within a suitable athletic weight range is a part of it.
  • Body Fat %: For most people it is not necessary nor helpful to be too concerned with a very specific body fat % reading, however we’re likely to want to see an increase in lean mass as we adapt to training, aka body composition or as I like to refer to it “body condition”.
  • Performance: On an individual level depending on how competitive your nature is, you may have a specific performance / ability goal, or it may be enough just to see progress and improvements, and in simple terms be able to “do more” whether that is to run a greater distance, lift a bigger weight, or whatever.
  • Body Satisfaction: This is super important. We want to feel good about ourselves, how we’re performing and the changes in condition that we see as a result. What I always feel is the ultimate success is when a client has already gone beyond what they had previously thought was the limit of their potential, and knows exactly what they would need to do to go even further, but thinks something like “who gives a shit though, what I’ve already done is awesome enough and now i just want to enjoy training and fueling and feel good about myself instead of thinking ‘it’s still not enough it’ll never be enough’” you know what I mean?
  • Enjoyment: Training and eating is supposed to be enjoyable, right? Never lose sight of that.
So those are some/all of the things we might be interested in achieving via training in the New Year. Fast forward to this time next year, and we want to be looking back and saying “well, that was a successful year of training” where we made performance gains, improvements in condition, enjoyed ourselves and felt good about ourselves too.

For that to occur, what would need to happen between now and then?

It is easy to get sucked in to the idea that it would mean never missing a training session under any circumstances, strict dieting day in, day out, hitting our macro and energy targets consistently with the best choices of healthy foods.

Well… that all sounds great but in reality, it’s just not humanly possible. If you were really to chart a successful person’s attendance at training, adherence to the nutrition plan, motivation and enthusiasm levels and so on… in reality it might look more like the yellow line in my illustration… and in fact even this is probably overly optimistic. Some periods you do a little better, some periods you go off the boil a little, once in a while life’s not perfect and your ability to attend training suffers… but over all you do enough to keep you on that trajectory towards improved condition & all of those other goals.

People have to be realistic and they have to be for real, too. Writing these posts there’s always a danger of people choosing to interpret it like “cool, I can just do a half arsed job, not show up very often, not hit intake targets, and I’ll still make good progress because this guy says it can work like that”. No. You have to come into something with the intention to do the best you can, as consistently as you can… but being a realist you also accept that perfection isn’t possible and perfectionism isn’t helpful. What’s important here is that when you do have a rough period, you don’t convince yourself that it’s the end of the story and that you’ve failed. So long as you are genuinely doing what you can, when you can, you should expect to move closer to your goals even if the process is gradual.

So that’s it in a nutshell really. The goal that we set is to be on that trajectory that keeps us moving closer to and beyond our goal condition as described above. To keep moving in the right direction, via establishing and practicing habits that are sensible, sustainable, healthy and conducive to improvements in performance, condition and mindset.

What you can also see on this chart in the red is my illustration of the trajectory we’re likely to follow via yo-yoing on and off crash diets. As you can see, over the long term we only move further and further away from all aspects of our goal condition. Many people reading this will know this all too well from personal experience already.

If you want to get off that yo-yo dieting cycle and into effective training, appropriate fueling and a sensible and sustainable approach that will keep moving in the right direction towards all of your condition goals, you can register your interest in the next launch of my Online Flexible Fueling Program, via the survey to the right of your screen.

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The Progress Heirachy Pyramid.

Here’s a little animation I made to illustrate the hierarchy of importance of different elements and how when they are all stacked up together they lead to success in your training related goals.


Especially online, most people just like to debate, argue and bicker. When talking about what people need to do if they want to get into shape, lose weight, be healthy, or whatever… people will latch on to some idea that they read about, some thing that they personal found helpful, and make it out to be an all important necessity that everyone else seems to be missing because they’re just not quite smart enough to get it.

In reality these points are fine tuning at best, possibly beneficial if you have all of the more important bases covered already, but for new people looking to get started with a fitness goal or a healthier life style they only serve to over complicate things and take people’s focus away from what’s really important.

What’s really important is just simply establishing the habits of turning up to the gym and putting in your best effort, regularly. People like to throw around words like discipline, commitment, will power and so on, but enthusiasm is really what it takes to get people into training regularly and consistently, and to work to the best of their ability while they’re in there.

What people seem to miss is that you can’t guilt, shame, pressure or coerce someone into feeling enthusiastic. Sure, a lot of people will begrudgingly show up once in a while because people are on their back, making them feel bad about the shape they’re in, telling them they are lazy or whatever else. Consistently though? Is that sort of negative motivation likely to get people showing up regularly and really getting stuck into training? Absolutely not. People need to be enthusiastic. They need to actually want to train, want to see results, and have a good reason to believe that they will be successful.

As we talked about recently on facebook, when you consistently turn up and train enthusiastically to the best of your ability, the sky is the limit. Providing of course that you are actually working to an effective training and fueling strategy. This is the missing piece of the puzzle for most people, and it is the crucial foundation that everything else depends upon.

Many people will get enthusiastic, show up and try their best… but that enthusiasm soon wanes if they do not see progress in terms of their performance or condition. It goes without saying that turning up and putting in the effort is crucial, but how are we applying that effort? With an effective training strategy that we can expect to produce results, or is it just effort for effort’s sake? “burning calories” and so forth?

You require both an effective training strategy, and the appropriate fueling strategy in order to see the benefits of training. On the fueling side we are really just talking about getting enough, but not too much of everything that we require, including total energy aka calorie intake.

Being enthusiastic and actually turning up regularly to train with a good program, while appropriately fueled to perform, recover and adapt… you will see results. These results mean your performance improves, your condition improves, and you’re all the more inspired. Having so much momentum at this point, this is where fine tuning can come into things on an individual level, as you find what works best for you in terms of exercise selection, meal timing and frequency, choices of foods that make it easier to hit more precise macronutrient targets, and so on.

Again, these “fine tuning” items are really down to what makes it easiest and most enjoyable for each individual to stay enthusiastic and consistent. Too often people will take those personal, individual preferences and try to make them out as all anyone else needs to be focused on, when in actual fact they might be the least suitable, least convenient things for someone else that only makes them less enthusiastic and less consistent as they struggle to put it all together.

Bottom line: being enthusiastic about showing up regularly to train to the best of your ability with any decent training program and a suitable fueling strategy to meet your individual requirements will take you a hell of a long way.
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Secret Weapons For Optimal Energy Intake

Not your standard healthy foodspo type pic, is it?

Here’s the thing.

Eating quote/unquote “healthy” foods is awesome. More vegies in particular, more fruit too... all manner of nutrient dense foods. It means you’re sure to be getting an abundance of vitamins and minerals that your body will thrive upon, and you’re probably pretty unlikely to go into excess energy intake.

Getting lots of micronutrients and not being in excess energy intake is exactly what you want. HOWEVER, particularly for active people participating in sports and/or training... an otherwise healthy diet that falls short of an adequate level of energy provision will (at best) fail to ensure great performance and results from training, and (at worst, and quite likely) actually be detrimental to health and wellbeing.

We’re encouraged to see calories / energy intake as something to be minimised. This is highly problematic. Obviously we do not want to be in the habit of exceeding our requirements, but we must at the very least meet an adequate energy provision, and as athletes we should try to push closer to an optimal level of total energy intake to facilitate best performance, recovery and results from training.

Now some people do manage to achieve a suitable energy intake while still “eating clean”. More power to them, but to me this seems like a difficult and unnecessary task.

It is entirely fine to include some foods in your plan solely for energy provision, even if they fall short of the mark on other nutritional resources. You’ll be getting those elsewhere anyway from all the healthy fruit and vegetables and whole grains you’re eating.

For me personally, a couple of thin rice cakes with raspberry jam is the perfect post-training recovery snack. Immediately after training, your energy levels are depleted, but you probably don't really want a substantial meal that requires much to digest. I find a couple of these hits the spot nicely, and I'm ready for my shake a little while later.

Shakes are another, not so secret, secret weapon.

Now, there's nothing magical about a protein shake that will ensure great results merely by adding it to some random eating habits that add up to some random amount of energy and macronutrient provision. However, when you're working to appropriate sports nutrition or Flexible Dieting guidelines, a shake can be an easy way to boost your total energy and your protein intake closer to optimal levels.

Personally my requirements are quite high, so I like to add a banana and a scoop of dessicated coconut to my shake as well as the Whey Protein Concentrate.

This is mostly all about "hitting my macros". There's a new page I've just set up with my recommendations of certain delicious foods you might want to include for their micronutrient content, with properties that are particularly beneficial for good health and for recovery from training.

That's some more great free information you can sign up for that at the top right of the this page, or click here.

The name of the game here is "stack the deck in your favour" with a plan that not only meets all of your requirements, but does so in a way that is enjoyable and not a chore. This means it is conducive to long term adherence and long term results.
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Ditch The Diet And Eat Like An Athlete

ALRIGHT SERIOUS TALK.

If you TRAIN in pursuit of any specific or not-so-specific performance or condition result, start thinking of yourself more like an athlete.
More like an athlete, less like “someone on a diet”.

Women in their late teens or early – mid twenties who are hardworking badasses in the gym, also training for and competing in sport on the weekend, otherwise busy and industrious throughout the day as well… the amount who fit this profile who have come to me over the years, unsatisfied with their condition and how their body is responding to training, and thinking they need to cut carbs, cut total cals, go keto… or any other variation of “going on a diet” in the conventional sense to FORCE the body to tap into those fat stores.

NO. NO. NO. NO!

This goes for anyone at any age, for that matter. If you’re doing all that hard work YOU ARE NOT SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO GO ON A DIET. You are someone who needs to fuel for performance, recovery, and the creation of a stronger, lean body as an adaptation to training.

Trying to “force” the body to burn fat through massive calorie deficit through restriction and expenditure has the opposite effect. Your body will only prioritise the support of lean mass when conditions are most favourable, AKA you are (at least) adequately fueled. The closer you push to a more maximal, optimal energy provision the higher a percentage of that total will be put into the muscles while the body draws more from fat stores to fuel low intensity / non exercise activity.

The further into deficit you go, the lower that percentage being made available to support lean mass becomes and the body will conserve a higher percentage in fat stores because it thinks it is trying to survive a famine or an ice age or something terrible like that.

You are built for survival and adaptation. Put yourself into arduous circumstances with minimal food & energy intake plus maximum work load and your body will try to find a way to survive BUT IN NO WAY does this equate to “the creation of your goal body condition”.

Not in a million years could it mean that. You are built for survival and adaptation though, so provide as much fuel as you can put to use and then train strategically to do just that. Not to “burn calories” but to utilise energy and resources in creating a strong, lean, healthy and functional body condition just like you want.

Now… even if you’re thinking “ok but that’s for people who are already lean, I have all this weight to lose first so I need to be in deficit and burn more calories”, no. Pay attention.

Even if you are actually overweight. Participating in that amount, that type, and that level of performance in training and sports… whatever amount and level that is, we can run the maths and accurately determine a calorific intake that would fail to see a reduction in body fat due to being in excess of requirements.

It would actually be a massive amount.

We can also run the maths and determine what is an adequate, and what is an optimal amount that could be taken up and put to use for the very best performance and condition, and it will still be quite a massive amount, but significantly below that “too much” amount described above.

Best results… no… ANY lasting result can only occur when you are in the habit of consuming somewhere within that “adequate to optimal” range of total energy intake. The more consistently you are within that range and preferably closer to the higher, optimal end, the more consistent and the more dramatic the improvements in both performance and condition will be.

Now… you could achieve that optimal intake via intuition, but most people are so used to the “eat less” message that they’ll fall short of an adequate amount without first having a period where they identify and practice planning to meet those targets. Some people might manage to fluke it via sheer dumb luck and conclude that it has more to do with a certain selection of foods than with energy and macronutrient provision, but they’d be wrong and their advice will be detrimental to most anyone else.

You need to establish the habit of meeting at least an adequate total energy and macronutrient provision, via whatever selection of foods makes this the easiest and most enjoyable for you. Preferably, at least periodically you need to push closer to the maximum, optimal end of that usable energy range.

Also you need to train, productively and strategically for a strong, healthy body.

I happen to have a very good system for determining these requirements, and a protocol for hitting first adequate and then optimal targets for best results ever and no restrictions on food choices. Also right now I have a brand new strength training program for athletes and sports people looking to complement their sports training.

It is all available online.
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The foods you love or the body you want?

Limit fruit? NEVER.
What do just about all diets have in common?

Almost every variation on "dieting" comes down to giving things up, as if it is a trade off or something. You need to give up certain things that you enjoy, in order to get something else that you want.

In this case you give up foods you enjoy in order to get to the body weight &/or condition that you want.

WHY ON EARTH WOULD WE BELIEVE THAT IT WORKS THAT WAY?

OK. Giving up certain foods might mean you're less likely to go into excess total energy intake on a daily basis. Which is definitely something we want to avoid. However simply "not going into excess" does not necessarily infer that your energy & macronutrient intake is now appropriate and conducive to your goal condition.

My observation of most active people training seriously for great performance and condition is that GOING INTO EXCESS is THE LEAST OF YOUR CONCERNS. Obviously it's not what we want to do every day but it's not the most likely thing to happen anyway especially when you start banning enjoyable and convenient food choices.

Rather, again in my observation, active people are more likely to fall short of an appropriate amount of energy intake which allows their body to see a benefit and produce results from training.

The consequences here are varied. Maybe you simply don't see results due to being under fueled. Maybe you slash even further to try to force those results via greater calorie deficit (bad idea). Most likely at some point your body insists that you make up the difference and inevitably you end up over eating, and being back in excess. PARADOXICALLY by attempting to over restrict to an unsustainable level of calorie restriction you are far more likely to end up going into excess via over eating or binge eating.

So, what is the answer? We want to avoid being in excess, we want to avoid being too far into deficit.

THIS IS VERY SIMPLE.
Rather than leave it to chance, we determine and then plan to meet the appropriate, adequate or optimal level of fueling.

Not in excess, and not insufficient.

NOW. Is entirely ruling out everything or anything that you enjoy required, in order to meet this appropriate level of total intake? NOPE.

In actual fact if you want to nail an optimal level of fueling consistently for best results, how else are you likely to do it other than by including more of the things you enjoy? More healthy choices too, certainly. But ruling out things that are not inherently UNhealthy for no good reason is the opposite of helpful in consistently hitting appropriate or optimal targets.

I would go so far as to say that if you are highly active or training at beyond an beginner's level, rather than needing to abstain from pleasure inducing foods, including one or two of your favourite indulgent choices is probably going to be required.

IT IS ABOUT PROVIDING THE ENERGY AND OTHER RESOURCES THAT YOUR BODY REQUIRES. How does going without certain things ensure that you get everything you need?

IT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE. It makes the opposite of sense.

Now, some pushers of fad diets will claim that you need to quit certain ingredients, macronutrient sources or subsets (fructose, or gluten for example) because of a specific effect that they have on the human body that will prevent you from succeeding in your goals. Do not be sucked in by this. They are liars who do not understand, or who deliberately misinterpret and misrepresent the science of the matter.
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Everything The Opposite Of Everything Else.

Listen.

My tagline should probably be "everything the opposite of everyone else" but if I had to narrow it down to one main point of difference I would say this:

My strategy is based on putting in everything you need to perform and to produce your goal physical condition through training. In comparison, most everyone else is just recklessly slashing energy intake to the least you can expect to get by on.

Actually, scratch that. LESS than the least you could reasonably expect to get by on.

Now, your body is built for survival. So when people say "carbs aren't essential" for example they're technically correct that for example in a famine where there are no fruits or vegetable crops available if you can find some other form of sustenance your body will adapt and survive for example via ketosis if you can get enough fat into your diet via eating whales or something like that.

But here's the thing. We're talking about the ability to adapt to adverse conditions to avoid mass extinction. Why would we... but what possible fanciful stretch of the imagination would we assume that simulating those adverse conditions is the key to good health, performance at training and a leaner, more athletic physique?

Because it's hard and if you can subject yourself to it you'll have proved your worth and the universe will realign with you in goal shape because good people get what they deserve?

Come on.

You can survive on a low carb & low total energy intake. However there is absolutely no logic to the idea that depriving your body by giving it less than it requires is going to result in a healthy body in goal condition.

How could it?

If you want to perform and you want to build a more lean, more athletic body condition you need to provide as much of everything as your body can find a use for. No more, certainly, but as much as you can put to good use.

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How bad do you really want it?

Hear me out on this one.

You see, read and hear this a lot, right? "The problem is, you just don't want it bad enough".

For whatever it's worth, I don't deal with people who don't want it bad enough. You have to want it bad enough to do what it takes to get it. That's true for anything in life and training related goals are no exception.

People who don't want it bad enough, though? That's not the problem. The problem is that people who don't actually want it, for some reason feel like they're obliged to do it anyway. If you don't actually want it, focus on some stuff that you DO want and go about getting that, instead.

That's what I think.

Not wanting it bad enough isn't the problem.

The problem is when people do want it bad enough, and unfortunately we're lead to believe that the way to get it is through more and more extreme means. Not getting anywhere despite busting your arse and foregoing all other forms of pleasure in life, especially those that come from enjoying a nice meal on your own or with friends? You mustn't want it bad enough and you need to prove that you do, by going even further, sacrificing even more.

That's bullshit.

You need to want it bad enough to treat training like something that's important to you. To schedule it, show up, and give it your best doing something productive in the gym. Or... some other form of training if you prefer.

There's no two ways about this. If you want to achieve a change in your physical condition via training, you need to do it regularly and you need to do it properly. You also need to ensure you're  meeting your requirements for total energy and macronutrients, but not exceeding them.

The further you want to go, the more consistently you need to hit closer to an optimal energy and macronutrient intake. For most people it is sufficient to merely provide amounts that are "adequate", most of the time.

You need to want it badly enough to schedule training and have a plan to hit adequate to optimal nutritional intake, at least until you can get it close enough by intuition.

But here's the thing.

That's not what people are taught. It's not what people are constantly told.

Results from training can't occur via drastically restricting far below your energy requirements, the way we are constantly told we should do it via ultra lower than low calorie or lower than low carb diets.

The problem isn't that people don't want it bad enough. The problem is that people actually do want it so badly, that they will go so far beyond what is actually required, beyond what is in any way helpful or conducive to results, and all the way through to what is actually detrimental, destructive and disorder. And the real problem is, however far they go, they're just doing what they're constantly told they should be doing... and how ever much they suffer and sacrifice in the pursuit of results that just don't come, they're still told "you mustn't want it bad enough".

These are the sorts of things I hear from my clients, about their pre-Dave experiences.

This is the reality.

You do need to want it bad enough to do what it takes.
What it takes is having the intention to train regularly with a good program, and to make sure you're fueled appropriately to perform, recover, and adapt to training. This means being closer to the maximum amount of energy, protein and other resources that your body can put to good use... not further and further into deficit of what it requires. You don't want to be in excess of an amount you can put to use, obviously... but you absolutely do have a minimum adequate amount that you require if you expect to see any benefit from training.

Schedule it, and then do it.

Make training and appropriate fueling a part of your default daily habits. If you do have to miss a day due to unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances, consider it a rest day and be all the more enthusiastic to get straight back into it again the next day, or as soon as possible after that.

Success cannot happen via going further and further into destructive habits. However, success becomes inevitable when you establish constructive and sustainable habits that are conducive to that outcome.

Train to get strong, fit and functional.
Fuel to perform, to recover, and to adapt to training.

Success will be inevitable.
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Fastest Results In Body Transformations

You wanna talk about FAST RESULTS?

I will tell you something about what sort of fast results are possible.

I've produced some major results very fast in certain circumstances. For example a client comes to me already active, fit, actually training and participating in sport at an intermediate or higher level, but has been under fueled (or actively restricting intake) previously.

Getting up closer to an adequate level of fueling will often produce IMMEDIATE results as stress hormone levels reduce, the body has energy available to put into the muscles where we want it, and is able to release some of the energy it has felt the need to conserve in fat stores.

Really what we're talking about is catching up to the sort of condition you should already be in anyway based on level of fitness and athleticism. My all time favourite quote from a client in these circumstances was "what sorcery is this?!" Two days in, if I remember correctly.

FAST RESULTS can also happen for example with an obese person cutting to very low calories or very low carbs on conventional forms of diets and especially when the word "challenge" is involved in the marketing. In this circumstance however, what we're losing is fluid retention, not adipose tissue. Once the water weight has been lost, progress soon stalls. Also, what we're really training the body to do is slow down and conserve energy, so the end result is regaining whatever weight you do manage to starve of, and then some.

Now on a lot of these "starve and burn challenges" you're likely to be shown some seemingly successful transformations with people who do drop a significant amount of weight from a regular sort of "overweight" condition to a less, or not overweight condition. Again though... it's a temporary result brought about by unsustainable measures. And of course... you're only shown the (temporarily) successful people. Most people don't respond to calorie restriction other than with loss of water weight as previously explained.

Not to mention... a lot of the time on some of the particularly unscrupulous pages you're actually shown photos stolen from people's tumblr blogs or where ever else... people who've never used whatever program or product is being sold and who certainly didn't do it in 12 weeks. I've seen this with my own clients and a few other people I know, several times now.

SO... fast and GREAT results can happen IF they're long over due, as in you're already extra fit, extra active, but haven't been adequately fueled to really allow your body to create its best condition.

Or fast temporary results can happen by dropping a lot of water weight, with the ultimate result being weight regain.

So if you're in the first category I can help you out and you'll be amazed. Everyone else, I will tell you something... I get so much satisfaction when I have a client who has been a non responder on other, restrictive programs, who's gotten tired of these bullshit false promises about over night transformations and so on... who finally, for the first time ever starts to see progress towards where they want to be, by DITCHING those restrictive, low calorie approaches and training to add lean mass at the expense of adipose instead.

Slowly at first, then faster. Sometimes it takes me a little while to find the right total energy and macro targets. But we get there.

Any fkn imbecile can just instruct people to slash to 1200 calories or less and then tell them "you didn't want it bad enough" when it doesn't work. It doesn't take a competent or knowledgeable trainer or coach... in fact it takes the opposite. Unfortunately that's the majority of the industry and what most of these programs are about.
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Think Positive. Take Action. Be Accountable. BLARGH.

But first, I will take a selfie.
"Health and wellness" type pages on facebook seem all be either one or the other type of polar opposites.

At one end you have the all doom and gloom, guilt and shame pages about how "everything out there is killing you, but join our food cult and you'll be alright" variety... and... they're dressed up with a facade of positivity, but make no mistake... it is still based on scaremongering + the suggestion that anyone not in the gang/tribe/cult/whatever is some kind of dumb, lazy, undisciplined slob who actually doesn't deserve health or happiness.

Join us and live by our made up rules to prove that you do though, right?
Everyone knows how much I'm against that sort of nonsense, especially as all of the fearmongering is completely unfounded and only leads to all of the usual problems associated with restrictive dieting. You know what I'm talking about here.

At the other end of the scale you have the more "New Age" style positivity type pages which tend to be just a bunch of feel good crap with no substance behind it, as well.  Just peddling a bunch of easy answers, really. Decide that you're happy and the universe will deliver everything your heart desires because of your positive energy, or something.

As a side note I'm actually heavily influenced by so called "New Age" philosophies such as Taoism, Zen & Bushido especially from my days practicing martial arts. However, well... it gets complicated. On the one hand "with our thoughts we create the world", but on the other hand particularly in Taoism the universe is seen as cold and uncaring and what you "deserve" is irrelevant. That's my limited understanding on the subject, anyway.

You might pick up on that influence in some of my writing. In particular, many times I've talked about how "you don't get into shape by proving you're a good person, you get into shape by training and by providing sufficient energy and resources to perform, recover and adapt favourably to training". A puritanical approach to eating is entirely irrelevant in this, and if anything is actually less conducive to meeting those increased requirements of energy and other resources.

But anyway, I have digressed as usual.

Those two extremes are kind of like fire and ice, with the puritanical disciplinarians at one end and the hippy feel good stuff at the other end. I see my role as somewhere in the middle of those two extremes (like lukewarm water), providing sense and strategy for the minority of people out there who are too intelligent to be manipulated by those sort of shonky tactics.

Here's the thing. You DO need positivity and an approach that is about feeling good about who you are and where you are going. HOWEVER...

Just thinking positively isn't enough. You need to take action.
BUT...

Just taking action is not enough. You need to know that you have the correct (or I should say, "a suitable") course of action.

This has come up in conversation with a few of my clients recently. Clients who ARE getting somewhere NOW and who were not prior to working with me. It has come up a couple of times, how so many coaches out there seem to have nothing but "think positively, take action and be accountable" to offer.

It is nice advice in theory but entirely useless if they are not also providing you with that strategy, that suitable course of action that ENSURES success as long as you keep working at it.

It's a bit like someone asking how to get to your place for your BBQ or whatever. You don't just tell them “oh, you should drive in your car”. They need directions. They need a strategy. They're coming from a unique starting point to a specific destination. Each person's journey will be a little different although the goal is the same.

If you're shopping for a coach, that's the question you should be asking. HOW is this going to ensure success in my goals? If the only answer is “because you'll be taking action and being accountable” there is a huge part of the plan (aka, the actual plan) missing and I would suggest that that's actually the main component you were paying for in the first place.
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Observations on involuntary binge eating.

I'll start by saying that this is a complex and multifaceted issue, and circumstances from one individual to another will vary. Therefore this might not be applicable to everyone with a binge eating problem, but hopefully it might be to some.

I've long felt that over restriction of energy intake is the cause of all manner of other problems. Restricting or banning food choices actually makes you crave them and more likely to over indulge in them than if you'd adopted a flexible approach with a little room in the plan for a delicious treat in moderation.

I had a link to a study on that point but I'll have to try dig it up later and paste it in.

Now along with restriction of food choices also comes restriction of energy intake, either inadvertently due to avoidance of calorie dense foods, or deliberately via attempted adherence to a low calorie target. Often this will be the generic 1200 calorie diet, or restricting to BMR or even "netting your BMR".

So for the people who are quite active and enthusiastic about training, who are attempting to adhere to a low calorie diet as described above, but invariably end up going way, way off the rails eating what we might describe as.... well, let's just say significantly more than you intended...

My observation quite often is that this is a recurring or cyclical thing, and even though you end up quite upset (to say the least) and blame this "binge" eating for a lack of progress in your training or weight loss goals, your condition stays about the same and you don't re-gain weight or see any other regression in condition.

So for those people, here's my observation and my theory about what is going on. As I mentioned earlier, I believe most problems stem from trying to restrict to an unrealistic and inadequate total energy intake. To illustrate what an appropriate intake might look like just in terms of total calories, I came up with an imaginary / hypothetical case study of a 22 year old female client of about average height, about average weight, and above average participation in exercise and training.

Running the maths on this client at "extra active" level, the numbers were pretty high so I decided on "moderate activity" instead. I am working on the theory here that people in this situation even though they are indeed "extra active" are somehow convinced that it doesn't really count for some reason and they don't require as much fuel as another athlete at that level. So... ok then I will humour you and go with just "moderate activity".

If you are active and participating in sports or training most days, that's certainly "moderate activity" at the very least, right? Anyway for this hypothetical female client at moderate activity I crunch the numbers and decide that 2000 calories per day is the appropriate target to see better results, lean out a little and quite likely lose 5kg in the process.

Now... imagine that like many people, rather than the appropriate 2000 calories per day, this client is restricting to a target of 1400 calories per day. Now, that's 600 calories per day below the amount she actually REQUIRES. Not below maintenance, below REQUIREMENTS. At some point the body is going to say "enough is enough"... or rather, it is going to say "not enough is NOT enough" and demand the rest, all in one go.

Here's a little chart I made showing the amount you'd need to eat on a Sunday to get back up to 2000 per day on average, after restricting to 1400 calories per day for the week previous.


Now realistically, it won't necessarily happen on the seventh day rounding out a week of failed dieting. It might be the fourth, or the tenth, or whatever day. At some point though the human body will DEMAND the massive amount of missing energy (not to mention other nutritional resources) that it requires but has not received. And even though the conscious part of the brain that you hear as a little voice in your head might still be saying "no", that's not really the part that is running the show.

To my way of thinking this is self evident. People are upset and dismayed that they have ended up over eating to the tune of hundreds, or even thousands of calories in an afternoon or evening. Have they really though? If this happens regularly without resulting in significant weight gain, it is self evident that in actual fact, on average, they have only consumed the amount required to maintain their current weight. In other words, they've made up for what they needed but did not receive in the days prior.

In these situations it is the attempt of restricting below the amount that you require for good results that is to blame for a lack of progress, not the days when you inevitably, involuntarily "over eat" to make up the difference.

Since 2000 calories per day is the actual requirement in this case, in my opinion something like the following would be a much better strategy to ensure results from training and enjoyment of life as well.

 


As you can see, this is a decent and suitable amount each day and good stack extra on Saturday night to grab a pizza to share with your friend while watching a DVD or something nice like that.

The bottom line is: you cannot expect results from training by restricting your energy intake. You can’t expect to hold out and stick to that level of restriction in the first place, as your subconscious will take over and you will end up making up the difference involuntarily. But even if you COULD hold out, it wouldn’t be conducive to results from training anyway.

You MUST give your body what it REQUIRES not only to FUEL activity but to RECOVER and ADAPT positively to training.

Always remember: You are trying to BUILD something here.
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Health At Various Sizes.

Tell 'em, Caitlyn!
Oh lawd.

I got tagged on another "fitness" type page where there's all sorts of controversy going on over fat shamming and bullying. I got tagged as a better example of a trainer with a positive message, which was nice!

Here's the thing.

Body weight and even body composition isn't much of an indicator of health. Now OBVIOUSLY there's a limit where we know that excessive energy intake contributes to various problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and so on. And that coincides with weight gain for the same reason.

In some circles it is considered politically incorrect or unkind to acknowledge this, but the truth is the truth whether we like it or not.

But here's the thing.

We're talking about extremes here.

We're not talking about just "anyone who's not in ripped athletic shape" here. People can be "over weight" and still perfectly healthy. I'll be happy to have this confirmed by an MD/GP but I believe the same can be said for "obese". If I remember correctly the weight at which we expect to see a reduction in life expectancy is quite significantly above the cut off between overweight and obese.

Of course "reduction in life expectancy" and "general good health" are different topics and you could reasonably argue that the point at which health is compromised occurs well before the point that life expectancy is effected, and that this is still cause for concern.

But I digress.

The thing is that an overweight person is not necessarily unhealthy, and a "normal weight" person is not necessarily healthy. And most certainly the idea that anyone other than someone in athletic shape with an especially lean or "ideal" body composition is unhealthy is just ridiculous. Especially when so many unhealthy approaches are suggested as being necessary to achieve such a condition.

What I have come to understand over the past few years writing blogs and participating in discussions is that these are complex matters that need to to be handled with compassion and eloquence.

It might be true that a person's weight is excessive to a point that their health is compromised. Commenting on it in a judgmental manner that implies that they owe it to you to care more about their health is far from helpful or constructive. In most cases it comes across more as a form of concern trolling, where the real message is simply "I don't like fat people", but disingenuously mitigated with the "but it's not healthy" message.

It's complicated. Another individual's health is none of your business. However we do live in a society and what we all do as individuals does effect our society.

So if you have a concern that as a society, we're tending to be less active, less healthy, more likely to over indulge in excessive amounts of unhealthy foods, and so on... if you're concerned about where this is heading... fair enough. But singling out individuals for ridicule is not the answer. Shaming people for taking up too much space and telling them what they should care more about (aka their health, having a body type that you find less objectionable, whatever) is just offensive.

If you want to fix the problem, fix the fitness and weight loss industries that contribute to the problem via ineffectual, unhealthy approaches and guilt and shame based marketing.

Indignantly making people feel like they're not good enough and you're offended by their existence is hardly the way someone with positive intentions and concern for others would conduct themselves.
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Your arguments against moderation and flexibility in dieting are invalid and illogical.

I've gotten into the habit of posting a selfie with most
of the entires here. Today's is animated.
I don't know if it always comes across this way but what I actually believe is that is ok that people promote a variety of different messages that are most helpful to different people, and to offer different approaches to various goals that people might have.

So long as it is some variation on a healthy, positive approach that has a basis in reality and will deliver what it promises, I'm all for it even if it is different to what I do and what I promote.

I just do what I do, and hopefully get the message out to the people who'll think "well that's just what I need, why didn't I know about this already?". But some people might need something else and hopefully they'll also find someone promoting the approach and the message that is right for them.

For example; many people might simply want to be healthier, happier, more active, have a better relationship with food and to not be terribly concerned with body image. I follow a few pages that promote this, and I am about 99% on board with this message, with the caveat that if people DO have a body condition goal there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and the best way to achieve it is via persistence with a healthy approach.

Different people, different goals, different approaches to achieve those goals. Life is not a one size fits all prospect. What's important is that people are healthy and happy, and there's no way any approach that actually delivers health and happiness can be "wrong". However, what's right for one person could be dead wrong for someone else, and trying to force them into it is far from conducive to the desired outcome of health and happiness, regardless of how well it might have worked for others.

There is a good quote you may have heard that goes like this:
“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
Similarly when it comes to nutrition, the majority of qualified people understand that the best approaches will take moderation, flexibility and individual requirements and preferences into account, while the ignorant will insist that there is only one way of doing things, and will take exception to professionals who suggest that other approaches are also allowable and might be preferable for other people.

The level of open hostility that various qualified advocates of moderation and flexibility in dieting are subjected to is quite odd. Ironically my observation is that much of the hostility comes from people who have had a very limited amount, or very temporary success with a particular diet, and are arguing with people who have actually been quite successful and who have similarly helped others to be successful as well.

The reality is that if you are working to appropriate total energy and macronutrient targets... or, even if you're not working to targets but your intake is still appropriate... everything you put in IS doing you good, and all criticisms are invalid.

Most people do not have an advanced level athletic body condition goal like a body builder or fitness model might. Most are just happy to be healthier and more active, making progress on their own terms at their own pace, and there is absolutely zero need to over complicate this with any sort of puritanic ideals about what foods are ok to eat.

Even for those with more advanced goals, these are still best attained via whatever method of achieving optimal nutrition is most suitable to consistent adherence. Again, this will vary from one individual to the next in terms of strategy and food choices.

If someone is happy, healthy, and satisfied with the rate and level of progress they are seeing at training, any complaints about or insistence that their approach to nutrition is "wrong" are both invalid and illogical.
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I don't do meal plans. I do Custom Flexible Dieting Guidelines.

Pretty average photo from training
yesterday. I thought my shoulders were
looking good though.
I just don't, and I won't no matter how much someone asks or how much they offer to pay me. I just don't feel comfortable telling other people what to eat. The idea stresses me the hell out, to be honest.

If you really do want a meal plan via me, I will crunch the numbers as I always do via my Flexible Fueling system and then forward those guidelines to a real dietitian to talk to you about your food choices. I haven't had one for a while, but I do still from time to time get told "no I want you to do it"... well, that aint gonna happen.

Now if you were considering looking for a meal plan online, or if you were looking to hire a trainer who'll tell you what you are allowed to eat and what you are not allowed to eat, here's what I think you should keep in mind.

What makes for a good meal plan?

Purely from a nutritional point of view, a meal plan is good if it provides everything that you need and no excess. So enough total energy, enough protein, fiber and a good spread of micronutrients suitable to maintain good health, an appropriate weight range, and good performance and results at training.

That's what you need in a meal plan purely on nutritional grounds.

A lot of the time you might see meal plans on offer from trainers or even less qualified "wellness guru" types, and they're kind of a one size fits all proposition with a bunch of healthy foods listed, and the inference is that since they're all healthy foods it's a good plan and you'll be getting everything you need. This is often far from the case as just throwing together a list of "healthy foods" in no way ensures meeting an adequate energy intake for performance at sport or adequate protein for adaptation to training.

Often this is the case with "clean eating" type plans for sale or available for free online. There is simply no consideration given to energy and protein requirements, and they may fall dangerously short of a suitable amount for an active person. Anyone can throw together a list of healthy foods... and most of the time that's all you're getting. A list of healthy foods and perhaps another list of other foods that are banned for no legitimate reason is a long way from being a decent sports nutrition plan that will ensure results. It is probably the opposite.

Now assuming you do have a plan to meet your individual requirements in terms of total energy, protein, and plenty of vitamins and minerals via healthy & nutritious choices, that's great. However, there is more to a good meal plan than simply being nutritionally appropriate.

A good meal plan is one that not only delivers everything that you require, but even more importantly is one that you can stick to long term. A plan that has designated meal times or meal frequency that does not suit you as an individual, you won't stick to for long. A plan that includes mostly foods that you find unappealing, you won't stick to for long.

If you're anything like me and a lot of other people, if you don't like the foods you probably won't even attempt the plan. Because you know it is unworkable. Assuming you do try, you're likely to put off eating for as long as possible and then end up having something else instead and probably way too much of it. Or you might force yourself to try the scheduled meal and lose your appetite half way though as you're not enjoying it. This would mean either you go underfueled defeating the purpose of having a plan in the first place, or again you end up ravenous at some point later on and over eat something that isn't on the plan.

None of this is conducive to good results or to a good relationship with food.

This is a very simple point that seems to baffle a lot of people who for some reason believe they are in a position to give advice to others.

A plan that is "good" in terms of providing everything that you need is worthless if it is not conducive to enthusiastic adherence. If it is unworkable due to meal schedules or food choices... it might be a good plan for someone else, but it's not a good plan for you. The plan needs to fit the person. It is not a failing on your part if you can't force yourself to work with an unworkable situation.

Now if this plan does indeed provide all of the nutritional resources that you require, the assumption is that we actually know what those requirements are. What amounts of various resources such as total energy, protein, fiber and so on. If the person providing the plan can't tell you what those are, then it's just a stab in the dark and they are full of shit. We don't know your requirements, we don't really how much this plan provides... but it's all good food so obviously it does provide exactly the amount you require and no more or less. 

That's unreasonably optimistic, in my opinion.

Certainly though, a competent professional (such as myself) can determine those requirements with reasonable accuracy. So, rather than a plan that is basically an "eat it, it's good for you" proposition that may or may not deliver everything that you need, we can plan to meet all of those nutritional requirements with a variety of our preferred choices of foods that will be suitable to long term adherence. More to the point, we can also create a new plan whenever we feel like it, based on whatever foods we feel like eating that day.

Obviously you can't just abuse the concept and still expect to end up meeting all of your targets, but with a little planning and preparedness you most certainly can produce great and sustainable results with whatever choices of foods best suit you.

This is what Flexible Dieting and IIFYM is all about. In my Flexible Fueling system, I give you the targets and simple guidelines to assist you to build your own plan that you'll be enthusiastic and optimistic about sticking to.

And it's pretty easy.

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Six Degrees Of Separation In Pseudoscience

Birds of a feather flock together.
You know, like the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

I'm still kind of trying to pull this idea together in my brain so bare with me. I was thinking for example, a lot of people have sworn off grains and are hell bent on convincing everyone else to do the same, and the usual instruction is to "read Wheat Belly & Grain Brain and you'll see".

Grain Brain being a book written by David Perlmutter who I suppose people have accepted as a credible source of information.

Now I would put it to you that the anti-grain thing is almost mainstream now, and many quite reasonable and intelligent people are avoiding grains "for their health". The majority of those people probably aren't on board with more extreme "health" campaigns for example the anti-vaccination movement. Most people rightly are quite horrified and outraged by the nonsense that comes out of the anti-vax movement, intent on driving us back to the dark ages with a mistrust of the scientific community and the medical and pharmaceutical industries in particular, and allowing terrible diseases to make a come back, costing the lives of children and others who are vulnerable to infection.

Speaking of the anti-vax movement. One of the most financially successful anti-vaccination advocates is a bloke you may have heard of called Joseph Mercola.

Wikipedia has rather a detailed entry about Mercola covering many of the controversies he has been embroiled in, including the warnings he has received  from the US Food And Drug Administration related to his activities.

See also this quote from Business Week magazine:
Mercola gives the lie to the notion that holistic practitioners tend to be so absorbed in treating patients that they aren't effective businesspeople. While Mercola on his site seeks to identify with this image by distinguishing himself from "all the greed-motivated hype out there in health-care land", he is a master promoter, using every trick of traditional and Internet direct marketing to grow his business... He is selling health-care products and services, and is calling upon an unfortunate tradition made famous by the old-time snake oil salesmen of the 1800s
The anti-vax movement is still rather an extreme, fringe group and I think it is fair to say that most reasonable people see them as lacking credibility, to say the least. Therefore it is probably safe to say that many people who might see Perlmutter as a credible source of information and give credence to his views on the health effects of eating grains and cereals, would not see Mercola or any other promoter of anti-vaccine propaganda in a similarly favourable light.

But here's the thing.

If someone you accept as a credible source endorses, or is endorsed by someone you rightly recognise as a dangerous or disingenuous charlatan, how should that affect your perception of the supposedly "credible" source?

Now it would be fallacious logic to suggest that something "can't be true" on the basis that the author has been involved with someone else who we consider a charlatan. However... hopefully when presented with an idea such as "no one should eat grains" we assess the evidence and make a judgment on whether we feel the hypothesis has merit. How credible we consider the source of that information does come into this. How much faith can we have that we are being given the whole story, all of the evidence, and not just that which supports the authors assertions?

Here's what I've noticed. When it comes to pseudoscience, birds of a feather flock together and all of these people tend to be in cahoots with one other, lending the facade of credibility to one an other and so on. They tend to have a few fingers in a few different pies as well, so to speak, so there might be enough overlap in their areas of advocacy that the "clean eating" bloke can be interviewed by the "anti-vax" guy seemingly without specifically supporting the anti-vax cause.
Pointing out Mercola's anti-vax activities is
one of many good ways to find yourself
#blockedbypete on facebook.

I would suggest that getting on board with an anti-vax propagandist and presenting them as a credible authority on health matters is benefiting the anti-vax cause whether you discuss anti-vax matters or not. I would suggest that doing so while trying to hush up the anti-vax connection is even more disingenuous and deceitful.

So while it is interesting to note that peddlers of pseudoscience do seem to be happy to pair up and cross promote with other peddlers of pseudoscience, even when their primary areas of interest are seemingly unrelated and may not be something that one of them particularly wants to be associated with. What is perhaps even more noteworthy is how often a peddler of pseudoscience will cross promote with another who's pet theory is actually in conflict with their own.

For example the "paleo diet" advocate will cross promote with the "low carb high fat" proponent, who will cross promote with the "alkaline foods change your Ph balance" health guru, who will also be in cahoots with the "these foods unclog your hormones" guy, and so on with the "sugar is toxic and addictive" people and the "anti-GMO" people as well.

Believe it or not, they even offered me a slice of the pie to promote an online weight loss summit with featuring the who's who of made up pseudoscience a few months back. I told them they could jam it.

Now while all of those approaches to diet may appear quite similar as in the choices of foods that are advocated and the choices of foods that are to be avoided at all costs, the pseudoscientific explanations of why we must all adopt that particular diet are at odds with one another. But interestingly, while they would insist upon the validity of their explanation in debate with an actual dietitian or a flexible dieting advocate, they seem to their differences aside when working together and focus on the common goal.

What is that common goal? Well... if you ask them you might get a different answer, but the common goal is in undermining established scientific method and fostering a mistrust in qualified professionals and regulatory bodies. The idea that qualified, experienced professionals in health, medicine and dietetics aren't "up to date with the latest research", or that "science sometimes gets it wrong, so we can just choose what we want to be right and insist that anyone who disagrees is on the take, getting paid to be a damn dirty liar". Aka "the shill gambit". 

The problem with all this is that... well... it actually kills people.

Infants contracting diseases that 10 years ago we considered eradicated, people with conditions that could have been treated only turning to conventional medicine when it is too late, after having been convinced to go the "just eat clean and think positive thoughts, you don't need that nasty chemo" route, just as a couple of examples.

What else is interesting is that many of the anti-scientific consensus type people don't actually realise that they are anti science. They see the mainstream as people who just blindly accept what the establishment tell them without question. This is far from what I am advocating here. People should be skeptical and choose carefully whom they should take advice from. Why should I believe this person is likely to be in a better position to know the details of this complex subject than that person? Does what he or she is telling me seem plausible, does it match up with what I can see happening with my own eyes, and even then... has this theory been tested and do the results of those tests stand up to scrutiny?

We're all to some extent afflicted with a confirmation bias, which makes it easier to see the flaws in an argument that we already disagree with, and harder to see the flaws in an argument supporting a position that we believe to be correct. However if we are really reasonable, enlightened adults with an interest in learning the truth, we should be encouraged to over come our biases and not be so emotionally invested in our opinions and beliefs that we would not consider changing them in the face of new and credible evidence.

What pseudoscientists and snake oil pushers of any subset all tend to have in common is... well, the opposite of what I suggested above. Rather than encouraging people to be aware of their own biases and to think critically and objectively, the overwhelming message and example set is to simply choose an opinion that best suits you, insist that it is correct, and dismiss any evidence or research that suggests otherwise as being inherently flawed or falsified out of hand. Similarly, insist upon the validity of any research that can be cherry picked to support your position, regardless of glaringly obvious flaws in the methodology or inconsistency between the data collected and the conclusion being presented.

I have digressed a little as usual.

Ideally, people are free to do what works best for them. When it comes to diet that could be any of a dozen approaches with countless permutations of possible food choices. If you have stumbled on to one that works for you, that you enjoy and that you feel is producing the changes in health and condition that you were aiming for... that should be enough. It should not be necessary to insist that this is the "only" way to achieve or to deserve similar results in improved health and condition, or to argue that certain foods are the issue rather than overall appropriate or not appropriate eating habits... especially when you're insisting this to people who've had a similar, or perhaps even greater level of success with some other approach that happens to suit them better.

When it comes to diet, consider the root source of the information when someone is trying to convince you "it can only be done this way" or "it can't be done that way", especially if they are going against the consensus of the vast majority of qualified and experienced professionals in the field. While it's not impossible that they could be right where everyone else is wrong, you should require some solid, convincing evidence before you accept it as fact. It might be quicker and easier though to find out what other "alternative" theories they are on board with first.

If it is anti-vax, anti-fluoride, anti-conventional medicine and so on... if you wouldn't take their word for it on those matters why should you when it comes to diet and nutrition?

Side note: we had a productive discussion recently on how research is supposed to be conducted and how qualifications such as degrees are attained which might be helpful or interesting.
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Calories In Calories Out Is Bullshit?

Shame about cutting off the top of my head,
but at least my arms look nice.
Another one of these articles with the above title came up in my newsfeed just now, and I typed a response but then I thought "oh, what's the use I don't have the energy for this anymore" because GOD people are just so frustrating, aren't they?

Anyway as it turned out, this particular article did a good job of explaining why the way people usually treat calorie counting doesn't work out, although I disagreed with the conclusion.

I've seen other articles with the same title from trainers with no success in staying in shape themselves, writing about how calories aren't the issue and the answer is to eat paleo style and avoid these here other, bad foods like cereal for example that "causes you to get fat" because of some fanciful reason that absolutely does not include how it effects your total energy intake for the day. And of course this particular trainer is out of shape because those bad foods are really hard to avoid and it is all the supermarket's fault for putting them on special because it's some great big conspiracy or something.

And meanwhile you know plenty of people who still start the day with a bowl of cereal but are successful in staying in shape and seeing nice results from their training program. I assure you, you do know at least one person doing that.

Look.

Whether you are eating paleo style, whether you are doing intuitive eating, clean eating, whatever else. If you were previously overweight or obese, changed your eating habits and are now no longer (or just less) over weight or obese, you are consuming less energy (aka calories) over all.

Whether you know how many calories you ate before and how many you eat now, or not. You were consuming enough to support your previous weight, and now you're consuming a less excessive amount more suitable to support your current weight.

So, it is not essential to count calories. You can achieve a less excessive intake with a different selection of foods, smaller portion sizes, any number of ways really. The danger in my observation in trying to insist upon certain foods being "to blame" and certain foods being "good" is that some people might find it very difficult to strictly adhere to that list of "good" foods. Hell, as I mentioned, even many of the people who insist that this is how it is still struggle to adhere to it.

The danger then is that if people do not see progress, they blame it on isolated instances of "eating the wrong foods" rather than on not having established eating habits that are conducive to appropriate energy intake generally speaking, on average, most of the time.

To go from obese to not obese that is really about all it takes other than a suitable level of activity. Eating habits that are conducive to appropriate energy intake, generally speaking, on average, most of the time.

Now the issue this article quite correctly raised is that when people focus on calories, they just think "less, and less, and less". They start off with that stupid "3500 calories per week deficit" thing, and when that stops working they try to cut back further and create a bigger deficit, or they try to add an extra hour of exercise to burn more off. Or both things. And then more of both things.

It is a destructive approach that doesn't work and can't end well.

The "one line" answers that people like to use just don't apply to everyone. "Be more active" for example. For all we know someone might be quite active indeed even though to our eyes they do not have the appearance we associate with an active lifestyle, in which case we might want to work on not that whole thing about making assumptions based only on appearance. "Be more active" is not only a little insulting to those people, but it's not the right advice anyway.

What it actually comes down to is a suitable amount of activity and the appropriate amount of energy intake. Not "move more, eat less"... but "consume an appropriate amount to fuel your active lifestyle".

Making "effective training" a part of that active lifestyle will obviously make for more consistent results and more efficient progress. However, while we certainly won't see a change in weight, body condition or health while still in excessive total intake, there are minimum requirements that we must meet in order to facilitate a beneficial adaptation to training.

If generally speaking your total energy and macronutrient intake falls within a range that is adequate but not excessive, you will see progress towards your goal weight and condition. If you can get this right by intuition or by adhering to a selection of foods that are conducive to such an energy balance, good. If not though, you can always crunch the numbers and then plan to meet them with whatever choice of foods best suits you.

This is the reality of the situation, whether it fits into people's personal philosophy or not.
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Context Is Always King

Another one that should have been posted here and then linked to from facebook, rather than the other way around.

Context is always king.Self appointed "wellness experts" and apparently practically everyone else on facebook seem to...
Posted by Dave Hargreaves Personal Training on Tuesday, 31 March 2015
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Like it or not this is the truth about weight loss.

Sometimes I post things on facebook that really should have gone onto the blog for prosperity. Like this one.

I HAVE HAD IT WITH ALL THE BULLSHIT. Pay attention while I hit you HARD with the ACTUAL TRUTH ABOUT SIGNIFICANT WEIGHT...
Posted by Dave Hargreaves Personal Training on Saturday, 28 March 2015
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Origin story for benefit of the new people.

As you might be aware I’m a qualified trainer, with a special interest in “relapse avoidance” via productive training rather than calorie burning, and flexible dieting rather than restrictive fad diets or extreme calorie restriction.

Eating disorder recovery is no trivial matter and for the most part it is best managed by qualified specialists in psychology. What I am qualified to do and what I have become very good indeed at doing is to provide a training program and nutritional guidelines that will allow people in recovery to pursue their goals without an increased risk of relapse, and even to further their recovery as they see improvements in performance and body condition as a direct result of leaving restrictive and disordered measures in the past.

Of course this is also more than suitable for anyone else who wants to get into fit, strong and leaner shape without restrictive and destructive approaches, as well.

How and why did I end up doing this though?

To try to make a long story short; because people asked me to.
I’d been a trainer for a couple of years, had been quite successful with a small number of clients both locally and online, and I had started joining some industry networking groups to learn how to market better so that I could become more successful in business and help more people.

Well. Everything I kept getting told was hard for me to accept. I need to get all of my clients to eliminate all grains from their diets, all processed foods for that matter. Not too much fruit either, because of the sugar. No legumes either for some reason no one had an explanation for, and soy products too because GMOs are bad.

People had different labels for what everyone should be doing…. “elimination diet”, “paleo”, “clean eating”. Much the same rules and restrictions but just different labels depending on who you were getting lectured by, as far as I could tell.

Now right there, I had a problem because I’ve just described my own diet as the “half arsed vegetarian” that I am, and I was in stronger and more athletic shape than a lot of the people lecturing me about clean eating. Not to mention I’d had some clients getting very, very good results indeed without cutting out any of those food choices, either.

Apparently, I couldn’t possibly though. Because working to calorie and macronutrient (aka IIFYM) targets “just doesn’t work”, because the real issue is the hormonal chaos caused by the inherent badness of these particular foods and ingredients. Yep, including fruit and legumes.

So, this doesn’t add up because you’re telling me that something I’ve done personally and helped several others do to “can’t be done” the way I’ve done it. But maybe I am misunderstanding. Perhaps what you mean to say is that there are certain medical reasons why someone might need to cut out these foods, and unless they do so the regular stuff that works for most people won’t work for them? In which case, surely they should be diagnosed by their GP and seek specialised nutritional advise from a real dietitian, rather than by a trainer?
Nope. I was told these restrictions were required for all people, and that I should keep GPs and dietitians out of the process as they don’t know about this stuff.

Well. That’s a pretty big red flag right there.

Obviously I couldn’t accept any of this. I was open to the idea that it might be something I should learn about for the benefit of “some people, in certain circumstances, as per doctors orders”, but I’m going to need to be convinced with some strong evidence. Just a blanket diagnosis for everyone who walks in the door just wanting to trim up a little in time for their summer holiday? Nah uh. Especially since it couldn’t possibly be true.

People all over the world have been “not obese” through out history while eating varying diets including some or all of these food choices. People have lost weight and gotten into great shape while still including some or all of these food choices. I’ve done it myself. You can’t possibly expect me to accept that no one, anywhere, at any time, has ever been “not unhealthy and obese” other than on this particular restrictive diet that you’re trying to push on me. The idea is ridiculous.

And of all things, the idea that fruit isn’t really a “healthy enough” choice of a snack that people can enjoy regularly? I remember saying “it actually sounds like you’re just trying to give everyone an eating disorder, making them afraid that any or all of these quite nutritious every day foods will mean they can’t be healthy and won’t see results from training.”

Then the pressure and the guilt started.
This is the direction the industry is moving in, so you can either get on board or be left behind. If you cared about your clients you’d set a better example by cutting out bread and cereals. Even though you really enjoy them and are getting great results while eating them.
I got really angry at this point, but at the same time what I started to realise was that most of the people arguing with me were victims who’d been sucked into this idea that if they wanted to be a trainer, they needed to be this shining light of dietary virtue, never eating anything “unclean” or indulgent, and so on, with every individual meal or snack choice chosen solely on micronutritional value plus some kind of “moral value” rather than on taste, enjoyment or convenience. So much of their self worth was tied up in their dietary choices, because not living up to those impossible standards would make them a fraud who had no right to be coaching anyone else towards a healthier lifestyle.

There were a couple of guys at the very top, mostly in the UK, who had made a hell of a lot of money from putting these ideas into people’s heads, and the people bought into it almost religiously. So for me to refuse to buy into it was offensive to them, and for them to try to use guilt and shame tactics to pressure me to get on board after failing to provide a logical reason to do so that held up to scrutiny was offensive to me.

I got to the point where I thought “well, if it’s a choice between being a part of this or failing in business… I guess I’ll go back to putting people on their arse for a living”. AKA security work.

At some point though… I must have ranted a bit about this all on my personal blog in frustration and anger at what was going on. People started to write to me saying, “that’s actually how my eating disorder started. Being given a restrictive diet, being afraid to eat everyday foods and being made to feel guity and ashamed if I ever ate something that wasn’t clean”, and so forth. Some of the stories I heard, and the depths of what eating disorder can do to a person, and the lengths they will go to to avoid eating or digesting something that’s “bad” were… well, you probably can’t even imagine.

And the senseless part is that all of these restrictive measures were the only thing stopping these people from actually seeing results from training. For that matter, a lot of the time I only really heard about the bad stuff 3 months after I’d given someone a program, in the context of “here’s what I didn’t tell you before we started. I’m not doing any of that anymore. I feel great and I love the results I’m seeing”.

When you find that you’ve been able to help someone like that, you want to help more people. Simply by giving people a training program that is actually effective, and emphasising that results will come from putting in enough nutritional resources to get stronger and healthier, and not by withholding those resources and restricting energy intake. You cannot starve or force your body into a healthier, stronger, more athletic state. That can only happen by utilising more energy and resources to adapt favourably to training.

When you’ve helped people like that and have heard their stories, you get angry with the people who are responsible for putting those ideas into their heads in the first place. And every time a new one appoints their self the new “health and nutrition guru” pushing more of the same nonsense to more people, you get pissed off all over again.

Now 5 or so years later and I am happy to report that the fitness industry is changing, and more and more people and organsiations are promoting positive, moderate and flexible approaches. Unfortunately though, we now have more mainstream and celebrity promoters of pseudoscientific, disordered nutritional nonsense on the public at large.

Fortunatley though, as these charlatans continue to align themselves with anti-vaccine activists, anti fluoride activists and any number of other variety of scare monger, conspiracy theorist and tin foil hat wearing nut jobs… they erode any facade of credibility they might have had.

The tide is turning and ethical, evidence based practitioners will win out in the end. But the battle is far from over.
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Decide to make this week a good week, every week.

REAL TALK BRO

Losing weight is NOT as hard as people make out.
Hell I keep doing it by accident when my goal is to get bigger, if anything.

HEAR ME OUT HERE.

To lose weight you need to make food choices that result in total energy intake that is more appropriate to your goal weight. Being active will help, TRAINING effectively even more so. But total energy intake being more appropriate is 90% of the battle.

Where this gets confusing is the one person might cut out "Food A" and lose weight, and therefore they proclaim "Food A was the problem all along. You just need to cut that out". And you're like "BUT I LOVE FOOD A. I could never cut that out for good".

The good news is that they're wrong. For them, cutting out Food A resulted in total energy intake that was less inappropriate, they ate other stuff they were more enthusiastic about instead, and boom goes the dynamite.

For YOU, you can do it how best suits you. Same food choices in more appropriate portion sizes? You'll lose weight. Just cut back on the indulgent treats you've been in the habit of tucking into in the evenings? If you're over doing that regularly, then NOT over doing that regularly will enough to lose some weight.

What people forget, or neglect to mention is that if you do have some weight to lose, you don't have to do everything perfect all of the time in order to get started. Simply getting your activity level more appropriate, and your total energy intake less inappropriate, most of the time will take you a long way.

If you establish those habits you really will go a long way. The more consistent you are, and especially if you have a good and effective training program to follow, the more progress you'll see. But simply being "more appropriate / less inappropriate" is enough to begin with.

I always emphasise the point. It is what you do habitually that determines your body weight and condition. One day where you eat something "bad" or over indulge a little will make very little difference if any at all in isolation, so long as your regular habits are not inappropriate.

So. It all sounds pretty easy, right?

There's a catch though. There's always a catch, you know that by now.

The catch is that the only thing that's easier than establishing these new habits is to slip back into your old habits. That's the easiest thing on Earth, and we're all likely to do it if we don't have a system, or a plan in place to ensure we don't become complacent.

We don't need to be perfectionists with unrealistic expectations. From time to time we WILL become complacent and slip back towards our old habits that aren't conducive to our goal condition. What we want to do is notice when that's starting to happen, and to make a little adjustment and steer back in the right direction again.

Fortunately this is not so difficult either.

Take this one week at a time. We'll say "on the weekend" but these days everyone's schedule can vary so on whatever day counts as your weekend you need to decide how that week is going to play out. Now ideally you would have established a regular training schedule. How is that looking this week? Are you going to make all of them or is there a legit reason why that's not looking so good this week? If not, decide upon what days you can definitely train and decide that not only is it definitely going to happen but you're extra enthusiastic about that as well.

You can get down in the dumps about not being able to set up a perfect week, or you can get extra enthusiastic about doing the very best you can when you are able to. If you do that and if you believe in the power of positive thinking, you might even find that an opportunity presents itself and you get to pick up the session you thought you were going to miss, as well.

Eating works the same way. Decide that you're going to practice the good and appropriate eating habits that work best for you in ensuring you get all that you need but don't end up over eating later on.

Decide that long term success is the only outcome that you will accept, and understand that a flexible, moderate approach based on doing the best you can, as often as you can will get you there.
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The Demonisation Of Processed Foods Has Gone Way Too Far

For a while now I've had an issue with the amount of nonsense that gets put around about quote/unquote "processed food" and how you can't be healthy, can't lose weight, can't be in shape & and are a poor excuse for a human being if you ever eat any of it.

I mean... really.

There are lots of foods on the shelves of the supermarket that don't make for a great choice in meeting your nutritional requirements without exceeding your energy requirements. This much is true, however for the most part these particular "unhealthy" products aren't really marketed as things you should rely on for every meal. They're more like snack products and so on, for the most part.

To say "we should eat less processed foods" isn't bad advice, as in implies eating more fresh fruit and vegetables instead, for example. But interpreting that advice as "any food out of packet is inherently bad at any amount or frequency" is not correct and I've been saying for a while it is actually harmful. For example when you have the case of someone who is trying to get into shape through restrictive dieting and excessive exercise without results, the idea that a specific, particular choice of meal or snack is responsible for the lack of results especially coupled with the inference that they "weren't disciplined enough to earn it" or whatever is particular harmful and conducive to the development of eating disorder.

What we've seen in the past week though is a step beyond even this, with the suggestion that commercial baby formula is unsafe and unhealthy, merely on the basis that it "comes from a tin" and has ingredient names that people don't recognise. Worse still when the "healthy alternative" people are being encouraged to use instead actually has the potential to kill a child due to the inappropriate level of certain nutrients that it might contain.

Why all the hate for "big food?" I'll paste in my comments in reply to the message above on the Blocked By Pete page on facebook.

It comes across to me like these people literally think of "big food" as a bunch of diabolical Monty Burns type characters sitting around scheming about "how can we trick people into ingesting more toxic chemicals and tell 'em it's healthy? ESPECIALLY BABIES?"

I mean... I'm not the most trusting person but even I don't see any reason to assume anything remotely like that is plausible. Truth be told, although I might come across otherwise sometimes, I don't even think that's what's going on with most of the "alternative nutrition" crowd... they're not deliberately evil, they're just deluded narcissists who can't accept that their gut feeling might not be as accurate as legit scientific investigation, and just keep digging in deeper the more flawed their position is shown to be. Except for a couple I won't name right now who i believe are genuinely just very bad people.

The idea that baby formula isn't / wouldn't be healthy and safe on the basis that it is produced by "big food" though? You'd need to actually provide some evidence, not just act like it is self evident.

Baby formula is an answer to a problem of the instance where a new mother is not able to produce enough breast milk for some reason, or hell it is 2015... the biological mother might not even be in the picture, it could be a single dad or even a two dad family. So in these instances we have a need for a product that replicates the nutritional content of breast milk as closely as possible to ensure the infant can get what it needs to thrive. And "big food" goes "yeah there's some money in that, we can do that" and there you have it.

This whole "we need a healthier more natural alternative to formula' is problematic on two fronts as #1 it just puts more pressure on to new parents who are probably stressed out and in many cases made to feel guilty already due to not having success in breast feeding, and #2 so far (and believe me I have been asking) no one has been able to tell me exactly why people need to be looking for an alternative to formula as if it in some way questionable.

It's a very good, very dangerous example of why this whole demonisation of processed foods thing has gotten way, way, WAY out of hand.


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