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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.

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.

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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