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Why do people get fat? Because it's easy.

I have had a few ideas for some articles recently, but I've felt kind of disillusioned at the moment like trying to talk sense just gets lost in all the noise and idiocy that is rampant everywhere else.

I had this idea though for a "why people get fat" article.

Everyone's looking for like a "root cause" like it's a mystery. We argue about whether the issue is with total calories or with choices of foods irrespective of calories... and then there's some bizarre ideas going around about "over eating doesn't make people fat, being fat causes over eating" and so forth. Crazy.

There are borderline orthorexic theories as if certain foods are impossible to not over eat, crap about sugar being "more addictive than cocaine", and nonsense about certain foods instantly being stored as fat just because they're "bad" for some reason due to being processed, or transported long distances, or including GMOs or whatever.

All nonsense and taken to extremes, potentially harmful as people start to get neurotic about which choices of foods are "ok" and which ones aren't. Don't get me wrong though, it's a good thing that people are considering the underlying, root causes and trying to treat the cause rather than just the symptom.

So then. Why do people get fat? 


It's easy to get fat. Most of us have no need to perform any strenuous activity or even move around much in our daily lives. Therefore a "normal" amount of food is enough to make you gain weight. It's easy to consume a way above normal amount too if you're not a little bit mindful especially in regard to snacking and choice of beverages.

It's no mystery. We get fat because it is easy and truthfully, unless you take a few steps to make up for an otherwise inactive modern lifestyle, it's not just easy... it is the most likely outcome.

The issue IS with total calorific intake. You can either resolve this by limiting your choices of foods to ones with a really good satiety to energy content ratio (meaning they fill you up without a lot of calories),  or by simply planning to meet your requirements with appropriate (and therefore non excessive) amounts of whatever foods you fancy.

You'll be well aware by now that my preferred course of action is the latter. Since appropriate calorie intake is the key, you might as well ensure success by determining and planning to meet your requirements. I see the other option as something of a shot in the dark, and if you don't see the expected results you're really left guessing as to what adjustments you need to make. Are you making all the most wise choices of foods, but still eating too much of them? Or are you making all the most sensible choices of foods, but with a total intake that is insufficient, forcing your body to compensate and conserve energy? It's certainly not down to any one off individual choice of a more indulgent meal, although this is what people tend to assume, leading to more of that neurotic fear of "unclean" foods that we touched on earlier.

So then. What to do?

It's pretty simple. Sort of.

An excessive intake of energy above the amount you require will result in excessive weight via increased body fat. Therefore, simply consume an appropriate amount rather than an excessive amount.

There's a problem though. This will work, but it's not terribly efficient. In most cases people have gained weight gradually, almost without noticing. When trying to lose weight, we want to see consistent results, or we lose interest.

Bigger problem. You have psychological needs as well as just energy and micronutrient requirements. On a total intake suitable only for an inactive lifestyle, there's just not enough room in the plan for much indulgence or enjoyment. We can address this somewhat by increasing activity levels, but simply by "moving more" we're still left with a fairly inefficient strategy that it isn't much fun to stick to.

So then. What to actually do?

The same thing I always say. We need to do more than just "move more", and apply some strenuous effort in the context of a more strategic training program. A program that is designed to promote the increase and maintenance of lean mass... specifically increased bone density and muscle tissue, at the expense of body fat stores.

Following a program such as this, your energy requirements are increased significantly, and continue to increase as you make progress and improve performance at training. Within these requirements there is plenty of room to base your nutrition plan on the choices of foods you enjoy, secure in the knowledge that all of the resources those foods provide will be utilised to good effect in building your healthy, athletic goal body condition at goal weight.


How do you "prove" something?

God all this "calorie myth" stuff that blew up during the week is doing my head in. Nutrition must be the only field where literally anyone can decide they're an expert based on reading a couple of articles on the internet and maybe one of the books they refer to, also all written by self appointed experts with no qualification on the subject.

Actually climate science would be the other one, apparently. All the qualified people who have made meteorology their life's work have got it wrong, and the deniers are the ones who really know what's going on. It's all a conspiracy, innit?

SO... god help me. Everyone has their own idea or their own opinion. I suppose that's fair enough. For nutrition, everyone is entitled to make the decision to follow whatever strategy or ideal they feel is best for them. However, that doesn't give them the right to insist that their way is the "only" way that's healthy, and present their opinions as "proven facts" to convince other people. It would be fine to say "well I think this is quite sensible and it has worked out nicely for me, so I do recommend that you consider trying it".

That's never what anyone says though, is it?

So to PROVE something, what's required seems to vary on the setting.

In a court of law, if you're the prosecutor / Queen's counsel or... you know... depending on what country you're in I think they're called different titles. If you're the law talkin' guy trying to put an alleged crook away, you can't just stand out there and say "Isn't it obvious? He's responsible. Everyone knows that, the Counsel for Defence probably still thinks the Earth is flat too! lololol"

Nope that aint going to cut it. You have to present all the evidence, and then there's a highly educated expert on the law who's job is to poke holes in all of your evidence. You have to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" in order to get a conviction. The standard of proof is quite high.

In real science... I'm happy to have a real scientist correct me on any of this if I'm mistaken but my understanding is, to prove something is correct, what you actually have to do is set out to prove that it is incorrect.

For example... we have a theory that if we do AB&C, the result will be XYZ. We test that theory and as expected, the result is XYZ. Does this prove that AB&C (and only AB&C) causes XYZ? Not necessarily. To prove that this is the case, we'd have to try to re-create the same result in other ways, without success. So if you get to the point where you can say "we tried literally everything, and AB&C was the only thing that produced the result XYZ...." then what? Is it proven?

Not yet. My observation of reading a few studies is that the conclusion might be something like "the evidence suggests that XYZ is indeed caused by AB&C", which is still a safe distance from a statement more like "this is now proven and anyone who thinks otherwise is a deluded idiot". Right?

But we're still not done. Scientific method then requires a "peer review" process, where... I believe it is three other, independent scientists will review the work and see if there is anything wrong with the way the study was conducted, that would cast doubt over the results. Again, the standard of proof is really very high indeed.

Now let's get back to talking about nutrition. There is so much confusion in ideas about diet and nutrition especially related to weight loss, and it is because people are so eager to inflict their opinions on others as "indisputable facts" that only an idiot wouldn't know already. Their standard of proof is much lower.

For example "I cut out bread and lost weight. Therefore bread makes you fat, and you can't lose weight without cutting out bread". For this to be true, you'd have to ask "well, has anyone ever lost weight while still eating bread?" and of course the answer is yes. Finding more people who've cut out bread and lost weight doesn't strengthen the position. Substitute bread with whatever other supposed single culprit people like to blame, be it grains, GMOs, sugars or whatever.

The bottom line here is total calories. There are people who have lost weight by cutting out a particular food or food type, but it is not proof that this particular food choice is to blame for all cases of overweight or that cutting it out is required in order for weight loss to be successful. If removing a particular choice of foods from your daily eating habits means that you are now no longer consuming an excessive amount of calories, you'll lose weight.

Appropriate vs inappropriate total calories will always be the primary determining factor in body weight. How you arrive at an appropriate intake is up to you, although obviously I'd suggest learning your requirements and planning to meet them with your choice of foods is a better strategy than trial and error through restriction of food choices.

Whichever way you do it is up to you, and is fine. But it's not fine to present this approach as a proven "only" way of doing things, which disproves all other approaches and ideas, and it is far from OK to claim that this is "backed by science".

Another disturbing trend I (and others) have noticed recently is the claim that something is "proven by science", supported by links to research which has actually reached the opposite conclusion. You have to worry then... are these people just mistaken and lacking in some comprehension skill, or are they deliberately setting out to confuse and deceive the public?

The problem with diets

i can't remember where i found this.
Credit goes to the creator.
All diets either work by creating a calorific deficit. Some people out there will talk a load of bollocks about how it's not the calories, it's how different foods effect your body in different ways and a whole bunch of hocus pocus science fiction type explanations... but that's ... did I mention that it's bollocks?

It comes down to calories.

If cutting out certain foods means that you end up consuming less calories over all, you'll probably lose some weight. It doesn't mean that those foods were "bad" though or that no one should consume them in any amount. It just means that you had a diet that was in excess of your requirements, and by cutting out... let's say bread... by cutting out bread you ended up with a diet that was not in excess of your requirements.

It is about total energy intake, and it is only about individual food choices in the context of how well they fit into eating habits that make for a not-excessive total intake. It certainly isn't about specific ingredients (fructose, gluten, aspartame and so on) in any circumstances other than due to a diagnosed medical intolerance, either.

The way I do things... it would be more correct to say "it is about total energy balance". We all know by now, just cutting calorific intake lower and lower while pushing energy expenditure higher and higher is a poor strategy that will eventually backfire. What we need to do is quite simply consume the appropriate amount of energy (in an appropriate ratio of protein to carbs to fats) to maintain our goal body weight, goal body condition (aka results from training) and adequately fuel our lifestyle and activity level.

So the problem with diets... whether that is a diet out of a book or a meal plan you might buy from a trainer on the internet or at the gym... if it's just a list of "foods to eat" and another list of "foods not to eat"... you're really not paying any attention to that balance of energy which is crucial in achieving and maintaining long term results. The foods you're supposed to eat might all be tremendously sensible, nutritious choices, but if you are still left over or under fueled you will not see results from training.

The worst danger in my experience is with the difficulty of adhering to such a strict plan, and the demonisation of different food choices. It becomes more of a matter of willpower and discipline in avoiding the banned foods, rather than just a simple matter of physiology. When people fail to see results due to being under fueled despite managing to adhere to the rules and restrictions of the diet, what option do they have? Eat even cleaner, whatever that means? Paleo harder, whatever that means? Just smaller portions of the allowed choices? All disastrous choices for someone who is already not providing significant resources for their body to function on, as evidenced by the lack of results from training.

Now, if they are not adhering to the rules and restrictions of the diet 100% of the time and not seeing results, the usual interpretation and in fact the message I have seen from various sources is that this is a personal failing of their strength of character in not being "good" enough to stick to the rules. AKA "they didn't want it bad enough".

This is offensive and incorrect. The issue is quite simply with providing sufficient resources to produce results from training at goal weight. Putting the blame on one choice of meal last Tuesday that wasn't on the "allowed" list is ridiculous and dangerous.

Eat this, don't eat that. That about describes most of the diet and weight loss plans out there, doesn't it?

That isn't what you need. At best, you're looking at an "it might work if you stick with it" plan, but there's certainly no reason to believe success is assured. There's a much greater risk of ending up under fueled, unsuccessful, and developing a bunch of negative beliefs about different food choices.

To be successful, you simply need appropriate target ranges of total calories, calories from protein, calories from fats, and calories from carbohydrates.

I say "target ranges" because you don't need to nail some specific pin-point amount. If you're overweight, you just need to make an effort get it in the ballpark as often as you can, and you'll make progress. At advanced levels more accuracy and consistency will come into it, but you'll have had lots of practice by that point and will be able to fine tune without too much fuss when the time comes.

You do not need someone to "tell you what to eat".

All this talk about "calories aren't created equal" just sounds like a dick measuring contest to me.

Man... didn't this just blow up all over again despite being settled a billion times already.

Sometimes it is just morons with literally no idea about anything, but sometimes it is people who actually know their stuff, but they turn the issue into some kind of dick measuring contest where they want to score points like "oh but I guess you just don't know about bioavailablity and the thermal effect of food"

cue exhausted look on my face.

This is all stuff that makes at best, a fraction of a difference.

Let's take me and my imaginary identical triplet brothers. Let's say we all follow the same training program and we're all in the same lack of shape to start with.
  • Triplet #1 has no calorie targets but focuses on all the "other" supposedly more important stuff. Clean eating and what not.
  • Triplet #2 has appropriate calorie and macro targets and hits them with all the best choices of foods taking all that other stuff into account.
  • Then there's me on exactly the same targets but completely abusing the concept like the lazy, belligerent cunt that I am with convenience foods, processed stuff and bumping up the macros with whey protein shakes.
What difference in results would you REALISTICALLY expect?

  • Triplet 1... impossible to guestimate. He could still be consuming excess calories, OR (more common in my professional experience) could actually be falling way short of sufficient fueling to see results from training.
  • Triplet 2... if trying to stick to such a rigid, strict regime doesn't send him batshit mental or make him rage quit, you'd expect very good results indeed.
  • Triplet 3 (that'd be me) on exactly the same macro breakdown as triplet 2 but not from as "clean" sources... are you REALLY saying you'd expect significantly less visible results or reduced performance at training? Like SIGNIFICANTLY less? 
The way I often see it written up on facebook and elsewhere, it's not even just "significantly less results". It's as if they actually think "complete and utter failure to make any progress whatsoever" unless you've fine tuned all this extra stuff in at 100% accuracy.

A calorie = a calorie. It is a unit of measurement.

If you're going to say "calories aren't equal" you might as well also say "inches aren't equal". Although come to think of it... if you're that concerned with trying to show off some entirely unhelpful piece of information for the sake of being more "technically correct" than the next guy like it's all a dick measuring contest to you... well.. yeah, you probably don't think an inch is an inch either.


Healthy Weight Loss For Those In Recovery

Before we get into it, I actually feel a little uneasy about writing this because... well, it's a bit dodgy isn't it? Targeting people in recovery with a fitness and weight loss program? I've called a few scumbags out for the same sort of thing in the past myself and now here I am writing this entry.

Now... I happen to have a program that has helped quite a few people with their recovery, while also helping them actually see the physical results that eluded them while they were persisting with unhealthy approaches. Doesn't it make sense that the best way to help people to recover is to actually give them the body that they want, by removing the disordered beliefs that are actually holding them back?

The feedback I've been getting is that there really isn't very much good information for people in these situations, and what there is is hard to find. So... perhaps this will help.

The problem with most weight loss programs is that really, they're based on all the same ideas that people with eating disorders struggle against. The people are given a bunch of rules and told "that's what it takes to lose weight, if you want it bad enough you'll be prepared to suffer for it"... well let me make something very clear to you all right now; that's total fucking bullshit put out by complete morons who don't understand how the human body works OR how people work emotionally and psychologically.

So... all of those disordered ideas about what it takes to lose weight and have the body that you want, I want to suggest to you that those ideas are not intrinsic. That is, they don't come from within as a product of your personality. They're bad ideas that you've been exposed to, picked up from other people, and you've heard them enough times that they started to take hold. Understand here, not only are these ideas not even correct as far as nutrition, biology and exercise science goes... they're not even your ideas.

Right now we have two goals, which are actually the same goal. We want to further your recovery by actually making better, easier and more consistent progress towards your goal of (I assume) a lean and athletic physique. We will achieve your goal of maintaining a lean and athletic physique, by recovering from disordered ideas about eating and exercise.

Read that twice. I bet up until now, you thought you had to choose one or the other. Am I right?

A bunch of stuff you probably don't believe right now, but I assure you this is the truth.

Your body works the same way as anyone else's. Genetics only really separates people at the most advanced, elite levels. While we do have different body types, we can all make progress towards our goal body condition through appropriate training and appropriate fueling.

Appropriate Training

If our goal is a lean,healthy and athletic physique, we have to train towards that goal. This does not mean "exercise to burn calories". There is absolutely no point in attempting recovery by ceasing the restriction of intake and consuming a normal amount, but then depriving your body of that energy anyway by burning it off through activity that serves no other purpose.

Specialists would describe this as "exercise bulimia"... and if you think of the advertising and marketing of literally every exercise program or piece of equipment you can remember seeing, isn't it all about "burning more calories" than whatever other product they're competing again? It's bullshit.

So, reject this idea and instead train to actually build your goal body. What we are really doing is training our body to take up all of the resources that we are now giving it, and put them to good use in getting healthier and stronger.

Through more strategic strength training, we're training our bodies to prioritise the creation and maintenance of lean mass (that's muscle and bone tissue). Including some cardio training will make for a comprehensive program, but again, the purpose of cardiovascular training is to build a healthy heart and increase lung capacity. It is not simply to expend energy that your body might otherwise utilise whether to adapt and recover from training or just to function on.

Appropriate fueling.

This is crucial. Contrary to what we're constantly told, when we increase energy expenditure while restricting intake and depriving our bodies of the resources they need... this does not encourage the body to burn fat. Rather, your body has to prioritise the conservation and storage of energy within fat cells, because it realises it isn't getting enough and is likely to run out. To "run out" of course would literally mean death through starvation, and evolution has provided us with various mechanisms (hormonal responses for one) to try to prevent this from happening.

So in short... attempting to starve and burn the weight off just doesn't work. You've already learned this the hard way, I can only assume. Even if that was the way to do things, how much would it suck? The good news is that the best way to see the results that you want is also the least suckiest. Rather than trying to force, or trick, or shock your body into burning fat like they keep telling you in those stupid advertisements, simply allow it to thrive as nature intended. Train for health and strength, and provide adequate nutritional resources to enable this to happen.

Calorie Counting.

It may seem counter productive to utilise calorie counting in a recovery program, but think of it this way: restricting intake is something people with a disorder would do. Having calorie and macronutrient targets to ensure adequate resources are provided to get results from training is what athletes, coaches and sports nutritionists would do. The devil is in the detail. We're not going to be restricting like people "on a diet", we're going to be determining a minimum adequate requirement and making sure we meet or preferably exceed it.

I'll reiterate this crucial point. It is actually quite unlikely for an active person following a strategic training program to eat "too much". If you're already active and not seeing results... in my experience almost without exception the problem is with inadequate fueling. Or in simpler terms "you aint eating enough".

Food Choices:

Doesn't it seem obvious that you need to "eat clean" to be successful, and unhealthy, indulgent choices will spoil your progress?

Well thank god for this... it actually doesn't matter. Excess calories get stored as fat. Only excess calories, that your body can't find a use for. Regardless of the source, whether they're on a list of "good" foods or whether they're refined, processed, or whatever else. Excess calories.

However, we're working to targets for "adequate calories" and we're training very productively and very strategically to put all of those resources to good use. Carbohydrates get broken down to glucose and put to use as fuel and in the muscles and the liver. Proteins get broken down to amino acids and are used to repair muscle tissue. Dietary fats get put to use in various ways as well, not the least of which is brain function.

Forget absolutely anything you read about needing to "eat clean" or "paleo" or whatever other complete garbage total idiots are polluting the internet and bookstores with to make money selling some stupid diet plan. What they are actually promoting with these lies and fabrications is called "orthorexia nervosa", and since we're all about recovery... well, it's just one more bad and untrue idea we will reject.

Obviously we do want to include lots of healthy choices to provide vitamins, minerals and fiber... but everything we put in is going to be put to use. Including some choices for convenience or for enjoyment is not going to change that. Even going over your targets once in a while isn't going to make a difference.

If you are in the habit of fueling appropriately, and training strategically, you will make consistent progress and you will achieve your goal. This is indisputable.

Doesn't it almost sound too easy?

Well, you do have to make the effort to train, and you need to develop the habit of eating "about the right amount" as often as circumstances will allow. Practice it for a while and before too long you'll be able to do this intuitively.

I'll tell you something else.

This has nothing to do with what sort of a person you are. I get tired of seeing people made to feel like they're somehow "not deserving" if they need a day off, or choose a more indulgent meal when there is a less enjoyable one available... as if this was a moral issue and we prove our worth by abstaining from life's other pleasures. Isn't that such a bizarre idea that we're exposed to so frequently?

It is a simple matter of biology and physiology. Your body will respond to training and fueling, every other idea is a distraction, a hindrance and an obstacle to be avoided.

My program.

If you'd like a free look at what's in my Flexible Fueling program, minus the customised parts that I'll tailor specifically to each individual client... now is your chance. Just click that link.

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