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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.

Posted by Dave Hargreaves Personal Training on Saturday, 28 March 2015

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.

Decide to make this week a good week, every week.


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.


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.

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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