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Showing posts with label clean eating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clean eating. Show all posts

Dieting And Weight Loss; It's Time To Face The Facts

Real talk though; we need to face the facts about dieting for weight loss.

On any specific approach over the long term, more people are unsuccessful than are successful. On all approaches combined, more people are unsuccessful than are successful. However... while successful outcomes are the minority, they are not exclusive to any specific approach.

What can we observe or logically conclude about what enables a person to be successful with any approach to dieting?

I suggest the following:
  • They enjoy & have an appetite for enough of the included choices of food that they are satiated, or at least that hunger levels are manageable.
  • Total energy intake is far enough below "an excessive" level that would preclude fat loss, but high enough to avoid or mitigate adaptive thermogenesis aka "starvation mode" in the common vernacular.
  • Ideally they're including a suitable amount of reasonably healthful and nutritious choices, but some famous "stunt diets" you may have read about prove it could be done on just potatoes, twinkies, macdonalds, ice cream & whey... whatever. None of which I would personally recommend but it demonstrates an important point.
  • The eating habits they adopt fit in with their lifestyle & circumstances, and they're able to stay enthusiastic and not gravitate back towards their old habits.
  • So there are any number of overly simple answers but the reality is that for most people, success is going to be something that you have to decide upon and keep working on, on an ongoing daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, year in, year out basis. Therefore you want "the path of least resistance" in my opinion.

Now... people often attempt to 'splain to me that their personally prefered diet (usually LCHF) is "more satiating" and therefore preferable over brute force starvation approaches which work in theory but backfire long term due to the effects on metabolism.

You can refer to the above for what is wrong with this logic. It would be satiating IF you happen to enjoy enough of the foods that fit this eating style and happen to consume enough of them to meet that "adequate but not excessive" energy provision that results in weight loss without metabolic adaptation.

However if you DON'T happen to enjoy enough of those foods, then it actually does become a brute force deprivation based approach. I still don't really understand how people can be quite so low in emotional IQ that they can't grasp this concept.

ANYWAY let's wrap this up.

With the right guidance you could achieve that "adequate but not excessive, satisfied but not stuffed, weight loss without metabolic downgrade" eating pattern on ANY selection of foods without feeling afraid or guilty about ANY particular choices or needing to rule anything out (other than on specific medical grounds obviously).

That's what I teach people to do.

The belief about food that you need to change in order to see success.

So, here's an idea for a post that I've had for a little while... and I want to start by letting you know that it is partially an observation and commentary on the fitness industry, but it will have a conclusion that will not only be applicable to the general public, but actually could be of potentially life changing significance to serious fitness enthusiasts who struggle with the nutrition side of things.

This was inspired by something that came across my social media feeds last week which I don't seem to be able to find again right now, so perhaps I'll misquote this, but it got me thinking anyway. It was something to the effect of "how to change your client's belief systems about foods" so that they'll have good adherence, or... be successful... or something.

Now, this got me thinking because generally speaking, when you look into these things you tend to find that the "change in belief systems" actually infers adopting a lot of beliefs that don't quite stand up to scrutiny and aren't actually factual. These sorts of things are intriguing to me. It's easy enough to just write everyone off as a scam artist or a Pete Evans style delusional simpleton repeating a bunch of nonsense and trying to brainwash other people into believing it... but in some cases that would be a little unfair, as you have actually quite decent people with the best intentions of contributing positively to the industry by teaching valuable skills to aspiring professional coaches.

With all that said, the question remains: why is it that good and intelligent people would believe so passionately in things that just aren't factual?

Well, that was a long introduction so let's cut from the chase from this point on. Refer to my rather excellent flow chart below, and let's start at the top and then work down just the green boxes on the left hand side.

Pretty simple, right?

You read... oh, let's say you read "Good Calories Bad Calories" or you watch one of those food documentaries on Netflix, and it tells you "this is the problem, and this is the solution". Fortunately for you, your reaction happens to be "hmm... well, that seems to make some kind of sense, and doesn't sound too difficult to me, so I'll give it a go". And what do you know, it actually works and you actually see good results.

Fantastic. So, seeing results you have every reason to believe "obviously this works" and it's not unreasonable to extend that to "obviously this works, and it works for the reasons I have been taught. This is what everyone needs to do".
That'd be an understandable conclusion, but really... all we really know at this point is that it happened to suit you, and it happened to work. We don't necessarily know that it worked because what convinced you to try it in the first place was 100% factual.

Now let's back up though and we'll follow the chart but end up in some of those red boxes.

You hear about something or are instructed to do something by your coach, and you can see these other people very enthusiastic and having a good time with it. Maybe you think "ok that sounds easy enough", or maybe you think "this sounds awful, but fuck, what choice do I have if that's what it takes?". Either way, in this example, you give it your best shot, but for some reason you just can't seem to make it work.

Or... actually you know what? Maybe you don't even give it a shot because it sounds that awful and you're just that lacking in optimism about your chances of pulling it off. Contrary to the way a lot of the fitness industry seems to think, this can be entirely understandable. You're told a diet that is high in animal fats is required, and you want to be a vegan. Or you're told a grain free diet is required, but you love bread and cereal. Or you might even be told a vegan diet is required, but you love steak. Maybe you're just one of these people who only really likes a rather limited variety of foods and isn't very good at trying new ones. I'm in the minority but for whatever it's worth, I for one would not blame you for giving up without even trying under any of those or similar circumstances.

But in any case, in these red squares... either you're not enthusiastic and not able to adhere to it, you attempt to force yourself but it still doesn't work, or you were actually quite enthusiastic and you're pretty sure you're doing everything you've been told, but it's still not working. If you or your coach really believes "it you do this it works, if it's not working you're not doing it right, and it has to be done like this and no other way", then you're screwed. Especially if you're one of those unfortunate people who spent a lot of time mouthing off online about how stupid everyone else must be, and then found your condition going backwards no matter how much harder you tried to stay in ketosis, just saying.

Here's the wild card though. That other box all the way on it's own on the right.

Let's start again from the top. You get told about something and how great it is, it may or may not really make sense, it may or may not be based in reality, but either way you already have some other approach that you like, which is working out very nicely for you.

Now, for some reason... that's a situation that not many people in the online fitness world seem to be able to imagine. Think about it... how could two different people be doing two different things, and both of them successfully? How could someone think that is good, when I think this is good? Are they trying to insult me, or what?

Honestly, it gets so silly. But here's the thing.

As per what's in the green section of the chart, here's what we can assume about every person out there who is having a good time and maintaining improvements in condition.
  1. They have a decent approach to training that they get stuck into enthusiastically.
  2. They have an approach to nutrition that they believe is the best, that happens to suit them, and actually does consistently give them enough of all the energy and nutritional resources that they need to facilitate results, at least to the level at which they've achieved so far.
Also let's specify that we're talking about people who've maintained a degree of success for... oh, let's say five or more years. We're not talking about people who did some "miraculous transformation" for about half a season but then regained 30kg or something like that, and we're not talking about the people who will eventually come clean and confess that they were miserable the whole time either.

We can probably safely say that no one who has been successful long term was doing something that didn't appeal to them, that didn't suit them, that they hated, or that they forced themselves to believe in even though it didn't really seem to make sense. We can definitely say that they don't have the same approach, or even necessarily a similar approach to one another. And while many people will want to believe that there is a specific, scientific reason why their personally preferred approach is "the best" approach for anyone... if you like the approach, if the approach is working out for you satisfactorily, it should be enough just to be confident and to be enthusiastic about having found the approach that is best for you.

In short, the belief that you need to change is that there is ANYONE out there being successful by doing ANYTHING other than what happens to most appeal to them and what happens to best suit them. And if they try to tell you anything else, they're full of shit.

So, the take home point from all of this, for you.

For everyone out there saying, "but you can't do it unless you cut out grains and never eat cereal for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch again", there are people out there who are doing it while eating cereal for breakfast or whatever else. For everyone out there saying "but you can't do it on a vegan diet" there are some incredibly successful vegan athletes out there as well. The same goes for anything to do with the number of meals per day, the timing and frequency of meals across the day, the same again for any other, more elitist ideals about what people "need to" do, or what they should and should not want to do as far as their approach to nutrition goes as well.

Now obviously there are some technically concerns that come into this. Your dietary habits cannot be conducive to excessive energy intake if you expect to develop a leaner condition. At the same time, your dietary habits must provide an adequate total level of energy intake, and an adequate level of protein intake, to facilitate improvements in performance, recovery after training, and to maintain and increase lean mass. Also you need to get enough fibre, vitamins and minerals from some of the healthy stuff.

Aside from that? You require an approach that you're enthusiastic about, and are able to adhere to with a reasonable level of consistency. What better reason to be enthusiastic than because you truly believe it is best approach for you? What better reason to believe that, than because you have actually designed and continued to refine the approach to be what is best for you?
This is how I like to do it, the way that suits me best, and I'm more than happy with the results. How anyone else prefers to go about it is irrelevant. I have my own story. They aint me and this isn't their life.
Now, as coaches I believe it is fine to only offer one approach that you specialise in. I only offer one approach, and if someone tells me they're looking for something different, they're free to and in fact best to go looking for another coach who specialises in that, because I won't accept them as a client. But as coaches whatever we are telling people in support of our preferred approach should be truthful, and where applicable should be able to be supported by credible scientific evidence as well as every day observations. It shouldn't be bullshit that robs the people who aren't suited to that approach of the belief that they too can be successful.

Why not come and discuss this post with us on my facebook page?

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.

Just for the record though, on paleo and clean eating and so forth

Different things will work for different people. On a psychological level. Something like a paleo diet for example, if it results in a total calorie intake more suited to maintain your goal body condition and fuel your activity level, you'll be successful. Of course, that's not guaranteed... and if your progress does stall you're going to have to figure out whether you're still at an excessive intake or whether you are in fact at an insufficient intake to allow continued progress.

The issue with these diets though, is that they're rarely promoted in terms of "here's a healthy diet based on sensible choices that should result in a suitable intake without the need to track calories". They're promoted in terms of fear mongering about the foods that are excluded from the diet, and there's also an implication of moral or intellectual superiority over those who still indulge in more... well, more indulgent choices that aren't considered "clean" or whatever.

So. Some people are good at following a strict diet and will do just fine with this approach. But they are not "better" than other people who require a more flexible approach. Results come simply from appropriate intake relative to the type and amount of activity you participate in, not from some karmic system where you're rewarded with a "good body" for being a good person who eats good food, while all the shit people eating shit food get nothing. Right?

It should be enough to say "I like doing it this way, and it works for me", without needing to feel that it is also the ONLY way to do things, or the moral judgement as if anyone who does it another way is cheating the system somehow and doesn't really deserve whatever success they've managed to claw out for themselves.

The other issue here is that while it is possible and perhaps you could argue it is quite likely to achieve a suitable total intake on these more strict diets without tracking calories, it is far from a guaranteed outcome. This can be very problematic. As an example, an insufficient total intake will prevent further progress just as an excessive total intake will. A person who has stopped seeing results from training due to an insufficient total intake, but is lead to believe that their lack of progress is due to failing to adhere to the strict requirements of their dieting protocol 100% of the time, because they're "not a good enough person with willpower and dedication" is... well... you guys know I do a lot of work with eating disorder recovery, right? This is where a lot of the trouble starts.

So the issue is with the idea that nothing else will work, and 100% adherence is required. The issue is with the idea that achieving a suitable energy balance is not important, and the (entirely imaginary) moral quality of your food choices is. The issue is that some people have more trouble than others in sticking to a strict plan, and some people have issues with food and simply cannot eat the way they are told to. Those people then are effectively... no, they're quite literally told that there is no hope for them and they don't deserve good health or happiness.

BTW the 100% adherence idea is "orthorexia" and pushing it upon other, vulnerable people who just want to be healthy and happy and confident in their appearance makes you a shit human being. The people I described with limited food choices may or may not be effected by "Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder". Consider this before your next ignorant "why can't they just grow up and eat clean real food" rant on facebook, dickheads.

I can not emphasise this point enough. The very simple truth is that your weight is determined by total calorie intake. For those who deny this, how do you explain why there are so many successful IIFYMers and Flexible Dieters out there? Certainly many people have also failed to achieve or maintain results via calorie counting, but this is due to either having inappropriate targets or simply by losing motivation. Even with an Avoidant / Restrictive Intake problem, you can certainly try to make the best choices that are acceptable to you, and include those in a plan to meet your total energy requirements.

Everyone has the same potential to succeed providing they follow the approach that is best suited to them as an individual. If a more strict approach choosing unprocessed, clean, paleo, whole foods works for you then by all means go for it. But it doesn't make you better than anyone else.

Not being a cunt, and being happy to see other people succeed even if they do so with a different approach to your own is what will make you a better person.

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