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Then and now...

I was just thinking of a couple of things. Back when I started doing this, it was because people asked me to. The online coaching stuff, I mean. It wasn't something many people were doing as far as I'm aware, but I do vaguely recall people speculating that it would become big in the near future, as it is has done.

Anyway. I started doing it because a few people wrote to me from around the world, saying "I love your blog, I wish I lived close enough to come and train with you..." and we'd get talking and I'd give them a program and some macro targets. After the first handful got excellent results, word got out, more people wanted programs, and fast forward to now and a whole unique system has evolved.

The eating disorder awareness and relapse avoidance stuff that I do, that's another thing. I started doing that because people asked me, too. "You have helped me so much, you need to let other people now that they can come to you for help so that they don't end up with someone else who is going to mess them up"... that sort of thing. I wasn't sure about the ethics of it, you know?

So that's the other thing. When I started doing this, not many people were doing an IIFYM or Flexible Dieting approach. In fact I don't even think the phrase "Flexible Dieting" had been coined yet. In the groups I was in at least, it was all "clean eating", "paleo" and in particular it was "elimination diet".

This was highly, HIGHLY problematic.

An elimination diet is highly restrictive, with any grain based or processed foods, any legumes, fruit & dairy "eliminated". Now while there may be medical grounds for such a diet in some cases, for a PT to believe EVERY client who comes to train needs to be on such a diet is highly problematic, especially based on the assumption that they ALL have conditions such as "leaky gut" and "adrenal fatigue" which (a) have no basis in science, and (b) if they did exist would constitute medical conditions to be diagnosed and managed by a medical professional and not by a fitness professional.

Clearly, right?

The additional issue with such approaches is that clients literally are taught to fear foods of different types, are taught to ascribe moral value to foods of different types, and are taught that failure to see progress / lose weight is due to any specific individual instance of moral failure where they have partaken in "unclean" eating.

For example... not losing any weight this month might be put down to having cereal, or toast, or a slice of birthday cake two Tuesdays before last. Which is beyond preposterous and beyond problematic, especially if you consider what drastic action a desperate and vulnerable client might take to rectify a situation where they are feeling guilty about having just eaten something they "shouldn't have", and believing that it will render all of their other efforts in training and adhering to the rules of the diet void, and meaning another week or month or however long without making progress towards their weight loss goal.

It was ALWAYS a "weight loss goal", as well.
That's something else that has changed, this time for the better.

Now... how an elimination diet or similarly restrictive diet might result in weight loss is quite simply because people have less options to choose from and in particular less energy dense options, so they tended to result in a much lower total energy intake and a higher percentage of that intake being from protein. Eventually more people were able to understand, any weight loss was due to the reduction of energy intake, rather than because any specific food or subset of foods was causing weight gain / precluding weight loss outside of the context of excessive total calories. This is a vast improvement in terms of being a more evidence based approach and one that less resembles orthorexia nervosa, however the issue you have now is that a poor understanding of this theory of energy balance means that it is interpreted in overly simplistic terms of "if they are losing weight they are in calorie deficit, if they are not losing weight they are in calorie surplus", which is more often than not applied in terms of continuously and recklessly slashing intake targets, adding more and more high intensity exercise sessions to maximise energy expenditure (aka "burn calories"), and perhaps even to introduce fasting when this fails to result in fat loss.

Whereas previously the blame for a failure to see fat loss would have been any isolated instance of failing to "eat clean", currently the blame will be on any isolated instance of failing to restrict to the prescribed calorie limit &/or to adhere to a precise macronutrient split. So... as an aspiring trainer who is networking with people in the industry, you will frequently see social media posts talking about how online coaching is a great way to supplement your income without taking on more clients locally, with free webinars or paid mentorships to teach you how to write the right blog entries and social media posts and email subscription content to get people to sign up and pay the money for your new online lifestyle coaching service.

And that's fine... we all want to make money, and if you can make money from helping other people get happier and healthier and to make progress towards their fitness goals, all the better.

For the consumers out there though and especially ones who may have been unsuccessful and had a bad experience with online coaching, especially of the "you must still be eating too much" variety... you have to consider: they may have a professional web presence and be good at marketing, they may have been taught how to say all the right things, tug on the heartstrings &/or manipulate people into wanting to be accepted and belong to their "tribe"... but are they actually any good? Do they actually have a good understanding of how training works, how sports nutrition & fueling works, and do they actually have any experience at coaching people?

That's what I'd want to know.
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What's with the "What's With Wheat" movie?

I was planning on doing a masterpost about grains and gluten for a while now.
Since there's a new movie on the subject about to launch, I figured I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't get this together about now.

This movie "What's With Wheat" you may have heard of appears to have been inspired by the financial success of a similar fearmongering misinformation piece known as "That Sugar Film" and there appears to be some cross-promotion between the makers of that film and this one. The "experts" and funders of the movie are a veritable who's who of woo, featuring all manner of pseudoscience based health & diet authors in particular.

Not having or intending to watch this fictional piece I cannot offer a review myself but I will add links to reviews as they become available. As to the claims the film makes, I understand that they range from the "gluten is bad" to the "it's not the gluten it's the chemicals they spray on the crops" to the "the wheat is GMO which makes it bad" sort of nonsense that has been claimed and debunked repeatedly for at least as long as I've been in the fitness business.

Here's an entry from a blogger who was offered a cut to promote the film, but declined on ethical grounds: Nurse Loves Farmer - No, I Will Not Promote Your Anti-Wheat Documentary.

It's always ironic to me that these "alternative" health marketers constantly claim that we can't trust the scientists and the qualified health professionals as they have financial incentives to promote certain information... while they themselves run affiliate programs offering financial incentives to promote their own, non-evidence based misinformation. As a side note, remember that time they tried to pay ME off to promote lchf and paleo pseudoscience? I sure haven't forgotten it.


The following links alone will debunk many of the disingenuous claims of this marketing piece masquarading as a documentary:

In the next section you'll find links regarding the benefits of keeping cereal grains in your diet unless you have an actually diagnosed medical reason to avoid them.

As I've attempted to explain for years now... active people have a certain ENERGY requirement as well as other nutritional requirements to meet. They will best meet those requirements through a more inclusive diet, rather than a more restrictive one.


The Master Post On The Benefits Of Keeping Whole Grains In Your Diet Starts Here:

Latest Update: January 2019

 

Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review.

http://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i2716?etoc

What is already known on this topic

  • A high intake of whole grains has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain
  • Recommendations for whole grain intake have often been unclear or inconsistent with regard to the amount and types of whole grain foods that should be consumed to reduce chronic disease and risk of mortality

What this study adds

  • A high intake of whole grains was associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all cause mortality, as well as mortality from respiratory disease, infectious disease, diabetes, and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes
  • Reductions in risk were observed up to an intake of 210-225 g/day (seven to seven and a half servings/day) and for whole grain bread, whole grain breakfast cereals, and added bran
  • The results strongly support dietary recommendations to increase intake of whole grain foods in the general population to reduce risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality

Consumption of whole grains and cereal fiber and total and cause-specific mortality.


http://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-015-0294-7

  • Consumption of whole grains were inversely associated with risk of all-cause mortality and death from cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, respiratory disease, infections, and other causes.
  • Our data suggest cereal fiber is one potentially protective component.
See also: http://www.livescience.com/50231-whole-grain-cereal-fiber-early-death.html

 Gluten free diet and nutrient deficiencies: A review.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27211234
  • GF-diet was found to be poor in alimentary fiber due in particular to the necessary avoidance of several kinds of foods naturally rich in fiber.
  • Micronutrients are also found to be poor, in particular Vit. D, Vit. B12 and folate, in addition to some minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
  • Moreover, an inadequate macronutrient intake was reported related above all to the focus on the avoidance of gluten.

Association Between Carbohydrate Nutrition and Successful Aging Over 10 Years


  • Consumption of dietary fiber from breads/cereals and fruits independently influenced the likelihood of aging successfully over 10 years. These findings suggest that increasing intake of fiber-rich foods could be a successful strategy in reaching old age disease free and fully functional.

 

Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial.

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2014/12/03/ajcn.114.088120.abstract
  • Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial on overweight and obese subjects with unhealthy dietary and lifestyle behaviors.


No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085%2813%2900702-6/abstract

And a couple more I've shared already in an earlier entry, in case you missed it then:
And here's a link to the Australian 2016 Grains For Health Report.


But what about Adrenal Fatigue though?

I'm glad you asked. For good measure here are some links discussing this condition, which is frequently invoked by fearmongers to convince you to adopt whatever form of restrictive diet they are selling.

Does such a condition even exist though? Spoiler: in the context they describe, nope.
Bottom line: there's money to be made in fearmongering, but there's a lot of harm to be done in promoting restrictive dieting via fear aka orthorexia. There are many benefits to including whole grains in a healthy & balanced diet.
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You can't expect a specific result from a vague suggestion.

Two topics in one.

It's ironic and a little unfortunate that we've been conditioned see getting into shape as being about restriction and deprivation; going without enjoyable food, going on very little of any food, and so on.

It's GOOD that we have such a strong movement now steering people away from pursuing unrealistic body image goals through unhealthy means, but it's terrible that we've been lead to believe that's the way to go about it in the first place.

The reality is that if you want to be in great shape... let's define "great" as healthy, fit and strong... you get that way by doing more of the good things, not via destructive means.

Good things include:
  • Strength training. 
  • Cardiovascular & endurance training. 
  • More non exercise activity.
    Talking a walk, using the stairs instead of the lift. Little things like that.
     
  • Rest & recovery. Getting enough sleep.
  • Including more nutritious choices of foods.
    Fruit, veg & whole grains instead of white flour, for example.
     
  • Getting an adequate amount of protein into your diet. 
  • Having an appropriate TOTAL energy provision from your diet, as well.
The last point is crucial. A lot of people might be "dieting" or "clean eating" with a view to getting lots of fruit and veg, but within a total energy provision that is woefully inadequate, especially at their level of activity. That's not healthy, despite consisting mostly of really great & healthy choices.

Note also the difference between a productive & strategic approach to training, rather than non-productive "calorie burning". This is also crucial. You get into great condition by BUILDING a great condition, and you can't do that by squandering an already insufficient supply of resources aka energy and nutrients from an inadequate intake of foods. That's called "exercise bulimia", and again, it's unfortunate that these are ideas that so called "fitness programs" are sold on; "it burns more calories than the rival brand". Bullshit. So fkn what if it does anyway? What's good about that?

The purpose of training is to instruct your body to take up a greater amount of nutritional resources and put them all to good use in building your healthiest, strongest physical condition. In an inactive person, energy is either burned or stored as fat. In active people who are training strategically, a third and preferred option is introduced: utilisation. 

These are things I talk about it practically every blog post. In pursuit of your goal condition, do more of the good things that will get you healthy and strong. 

However... 

You can't expect a specific result from vague notions, alright?
To begin with, sure. 
From inactive to more suitably active. From activity to more strategic training. From excessive or inadequate calorie intake and less nutritious foods, to more appropriate calorie intake and more nutritious foods. All of that will go a long way, is exactly the place to start, and is well worth getting started with, right now.

However, once people are active and training consistently, but have ceased to see further improvements in condition, nutrition is the area they look to in their attempts at problem determination and resolution. This is probably quite logical, but we need to approach this in a way that is logical as well. 

There is no point whatsoever in clutching at straws.

Thinking "maybe I need this" or "maybe I need more of that" is pointless, as while whatever it is might be a good thing generally speaking, all you're really doing is considering a vague suggestion. To ensure ongoing results requires strategy. 

  • First: you must be consistently working to an adequate fueling strategy.
    If you are not being consistent to begin with, any change is irrelevant.
     
  • Second: assess your strategy.
    You may require an increase or adjustment to fueling targets that are closer to optimal, or you may need to refine your strategy for meeting those requirements. 
  • Then: you can start considering "perhaps this meal schedule", "perhaps more of this macronutrient at this time of the day", and even "perhaps more total calories on these days and less on those days". Any or all of these within the context of a plan, of a strategy to meet more optimal fueling levels for improved results and condition are invaluable. Outside of that context though? It's just a vague and meaningless notion and we can't predict or expect any specific outcome from it. 
  • Finally: assess the results of this new strategy. This should be unambiguous as either the strategy works as expected subject to consistency, or it does not. Your strategy should be such that if an expected result is not seen, the reason why is self evident and the necessary change in strategy is inferred. There should be no guess work or clutching at straws at any point in the process.

The question is always "what is the optimal level of fueling at this stage, and how can I best plan to consistently meet it?". Further to that I would add "on a weekly basis" to allow for a more practical and nuanced approach. At the very least we must be consistently doing something that is appropriate and adequate.
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Read This Before You "Eat More To Lose Weight"

This might seem like something of an ironic post coming from me of all people. 

After all, I'm the guy who's been saying "we need to fuel people for best performance and condition, not try to starve weight off them" for the past few years, when no one else seemed to be.

The message finally appears to be catching on, and more people are beginning to realise that slashing calories ever lower is as damaging as it is unsustainable. But before we arbitrarily replace the blanket statement of "eat less (and less) move more (and more)" with it's polar opposite, let's assess the situation to ensure that this time, we're actually giving advice that is good and helpful.

First though, let's bust some myths. 

Myth: You need to eat clean. It is the quality of foods that matters, not the calories. You don't lose weight eating "junk food", and any of the "wrong" foods will make you gain weight.

Nope. 

Of course we should all try to make sensible choices and include many healthy options, but your total energy intake is what influences your body weight.


Myth: Low Carb & Keto Diets are the best / only option for weight loss.

Nope.
Even more as of February 2018:

This was probably redundant after the previous section anyway, but there's no benefit to low carb or keto dieting over balanced diets of the same energy provision. Some people sure do seem to like them, but personally I would see VLC & keto diets as disadvantageous for most people with an interest in long term adherence for sustainable results.

Again though, the facts are that if you go from an excessive regular energy intake and lack of physical activity to less excessive energy intake and more suitably active, you'll lose weight. Whether you cut back on carbs, on fats, or cut back across the board... from more excessive to less excessive energy intake, and especially from inactive to suitably active, you will lose weight.

Update: Upon demonstrating that Low Carb approaches are not required or preferable for weight loss, it is almost inevitable that a special pleading, goal post shifting argument will be made of the "but if they have Type 2 Diabetes..." variety. Let's knock that one on the head while we're about it, too.



Myth: When Weight Loss Stalls, Add More High Intensity Calorie Burning Cardio Workouts.
Nope.

As stated above, from inactive to suitably active is a very good idea indeed, but let's assume we're talking about people who are already quite active and participating in training. Adding more and more non-productive high intensity activity to burn calories is not only impractical, but the links above show that it will offer no benefit.

Take home point here: train productively, for enjoyment and for the specific benefits of the choice of activity. Not "to burn calories".


  Myth: The 5:2 Diet, Intermittent Fasting, Meal Frequency & whatever else.

Eh...


Again; "energy provision vs energy requirement" is the rule that matters. Forcing yourself onto a different meal schedule may mean that you eat less, but it is still the change in amount of energy intake that influences body condition, and not the change in timing of energy intake.



So far, all of this supports "eat more to lose weight". Should you really though?


Active people require a certain amount of energy and resources in order to be able to recover and adapt to training. If you're restricting to a low level of energy intake with the misguided "calorie deficit" approach, a lack of progress is likely to be due to falling well short of that amount. Introducing more "calorie burning" activity only squanders what resources you have made available in an unproductive manner.


Bottom line here: being under fueled and over worked is not conducive to good results, even when weight loss is a significant aspect of your goal.

Is that what is actually happening though?


As the saying goes; the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool

For inactive people who are not involved in sports or training, even a "normal" amount of food will be in excess of an amount that you are putting to use, which means weight gain. In this circumstance, "eat more to lose weight" would almost certainly result in rapid gain of an even greater amount.

Here's where it gets complicated and the issue becomes contentious.

Actually not a myth: Humans are extremely likely to under estimate food / energy intake and over estimate activity levels.





It is important to include these studies for two reasons, the first of which is that people who are fixated on the calorie deficit model are likely to show you them with the inference that they prove that "the problem is that they're eating a lot more than they think they are. If they were eating the amount that they think they are, they'd be in deficit and therefore they'd be losing weight".

Yes, but no.

It's important to notice that these studies are not of athletes or on people of less excessive weight who are participating in sports or training. In my years of experience as a coach, when active people come to me and report that they are working to restrictive and low targets without seeing progress, I tend to believe them and we consistently see much better results as we increase first towards an adequate and then closer towards a more optimal total energy and macronutritient provision... including when weight loss is a goal.

Regardless, we do know that a disparity between perceived and actual intake is very common, so unless we are actually working to a plan to hit our current targets, we can't assume that we are. Intuitive eating is awesome IF you're still making progress, but if your eating habits are erratic, unscheduled, unmeasured and inconsistent... we have no reason to consider the total energy provision to be anything other than an unknown and random amount.

On a related note...

To my way of thinking just adding "more" to a random amount isn't much better than slashing below an unknown amount. Where you end up is anyone's guess.

Let's cut to the chase.

If you're overweight and inactive, first and foremost you need to become suitably active.
People who are already active, assess your consistency at training. If you're working to targets based on requirements for 5 sessions per week but you've only been making 2 lately, eating more is not likely to have the desired effect.

Now, if you're training consistently and especially if you're progressing from a beginners level to an intermediate level, from lower intermediate to upper intermediate and so on... your fueling requirements will increase as the demands on your body to perform, recover from, and adapt to training are greater.

If you have a set of intelligently determined targets for intake, but you've just been winging it as described above, you will need to start actually planning your daily intake in advance to ensure adherence to those targets, and then assess the results.

Good performance at training, good energy levels outside of training and improvements in condition might suggest that your targets are appropriate all along but you just weren't hitting them. If you had "beginner level" targets but you're not really a beginner anymore and you see no improvement in condition, that might be a good sign that you need to recalculate with your new level of consistency and proficiency in mind.  If you last 3 or 4 days and then find you are ravenous and eat everything in sight... are you thinking "start over again and this time be more disciplined" right now? Screw that. It's a sure sign that you need to recalculate and increase daily intake accordingly.

When you're training consistently and seeing good progress without paying much attention on the nutrition side, you can safely assume you're getting it right either through good intuition or because you've practiced the appropriate habits for long enough that your appetite is well tuned to your requirements and your body trusts you to listen when it tells you that it needs more. When you're not seeing progress, you need to go back and plan in advance to meet appropriate targets, and then assess the situation.

Best results will always come when training is both consistent and strategic, and fueling is closer to optimal rather than further into deficit. At the very least, you must be working to exceed a minimum adequate requirement. A couple of times with more advanced athletes I have only set a minimum requirement with an official "no maximum limit", and the results were nothing short of amazing.

Bottom line: best long term results will come from consistent participation with a strategic and productive approach to training, and anticipation of increased fueling requirements as performance improves.

A little update:  if you're looking to get started with an introductory training program & fueling guidelines, see the weight loss tab on my blog right here.
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Artificial sweeteners are quite safe and helpful in weight loss: masterpost.

Another master post / link dump for you all, this time all about artificial sweeteners and aspartame in particular. It's ironic that many of the people who fear monger over natural sugars also insist that artificial sweeteners must also be avoided.

It's almost as if they just have a puritanical view on food and don't want you enjoying anything sweet at all, isn't it?

Newest Updates: 2018


Pertinent Update: July 2017

Let's start continue, with a video:



A couple of posts from some good friends of this blog:

SuppVersity have a hell of a lot of articles on artificial sweeteners, here are some helpful ones:

More Information On The Safety Of Aspartame:

    Latest Updates:

    Great infographic and supporting article from Scott Baptie. I'm more of a Pepsi Max man myself, just for the record.



    In the interests of balance:

    To be fair there are some studies that do suggest a correlation between regular use of artificially sweetened beverages and obesity and/or health concerns.  This should not be confused as to suggest that it because of those beverages that the person's diet is inappropriate and unhealthy.

    At best (or, at worst) we could interpret this data as evidence that "simply switching to artificially sweetened beverages from those that contain sugar may not be enough to ensure that your diet is appropriate over all, depending on what other choices of meals and snacks you make".
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