Dave Hargreaves Personal Training

IIFYM, Flexible Dieting & Personal Training at Doherty's Gym, Brunswick

Dave Hargreaves Personal Training

IIFYM, Flexible Dieting & Personal Training at Doherty's Gym, Brunswick

Why diet and exercise doesn’t work.

Why diet and exercise doesn’t work.

If you want results from training, you need to be working to a system that is designed with results in mind.

“Results” can mean a variety of things, but let’s clarify and say “the results that you actually signed up for”. I know there’s a lot of people out there in the business of selling gadgets or systems of producing data that shows some change in numbers representing “results from training”… but I always wonder “who joins a gym or hires a trainer with that result in mind, though?”

I think people are either looking for a specific result in terms of improving sporting performance, or more commonly they’re looking to change their body condition. Maybe a weight loss (or gain) goal, or a body condition goal in terms of building a more lean and athletic (I refuse to say “toned”) figure or physique. I think it is fair to say that’s what most people are looking for, and a lot of this other stuff with technology and gadgetry and so on is a bit of a distraction employed by people who lack the understanding required to deliver the result that clients and gym members are actually looking for. I’ve noticed a few people in the business buying into this idea that a relatively lean, athletic body condition at “historically normal” weight is an unlikely and unreasonable goal… and so it’s handy for them to be able to show or encourage the pursuit of some other goal instead.

I don’t know man. The way I look at things is a little bit different. You can’t really argue that a “historically normal” weight is anything unusual or unlikely. And if you’re participating in physical exercise, it’s not unreasonable to expect to develop an athletic physique in due course. Assuming of course that you’re following a strategy that is suitable to producing that outcome, either by fluke or preferably by design.

So, I’m going to go ahead and assume we’re talking about a goal of going from over weight and out of shape, to a more normal weight and in quite reasonable shape. From there, we’re likely to get ambitious and set a new goal of going from quite reasonable shape to quite tremendous shape.

Let’s start at the beginning though. Why do we get fat?

Well! That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? If we really get down to it, there’s socio-economic reasons, education is a factor, certainly the influence of the media, prevalence of urban myths, disinformation spread by marketers of weight loss products, and psychological reasons behind over eating are a big part of the equation as well. But for the sake of this article let’s just focus on the physiological, for now.

Actually scratch all of that. Let’s start with someone who’s NOT going to get fat, shall we?

Let’s imagine a “normal” adult, currently at about normal weight relevant to their height, about a normal sort of lifestyle and normal level of activity, and eating about a normal amount. It seems like that’s not so normal any more, doesn’t it? But can we agree that there’s no reason to expect this person to gain weight? They’re eating amount that is appropriate for their lifestyle and body type.

Pretty simple, and I know there are some people out there making lots of money from books talking about how certain food choices get stored as fat and others don’t… but forget all of that. You don’t get fat unless you regularly consume an amount that is in excess of what is suitable for your lifestyle at a normal weight range.

Now, imagine the same adult, consuming the same “normal” amount, but with a very inactive lifestyle. That is, a normal amount of intake, with a less than normal amount of activity. Or for that matter, still with a normal level of activity but eating more than a normal, appropriate amount? They’d be likely to get a little fat, wouldn’t you say? Now then… how about both issues combined? A very inactive lifestyle combined with excessive intake?

People are always looking for a more complicated explanation, but this is what it boils down to. Lack of activity, and excessive intake. What to do about it though? The answer isn’t quite as clear cut as you might think.


A diet is a poor choice of solution. Really, a diet is something you go on to make up for a lack of activity. Being inactive, you don’t require a lot of fuel… therefore, you have to eat less in order not to exceed those requirements.

There are a couple of problems with this, not the least of which is your psychological need to enjoy delicious foods of your choice. As an inactive person, your requirements are so low that there’s just not a lot of room in the plan for any indulgent choices without having to go hungry later in the day. You just can’t stick to it! Physiologically too, your body will adapt to this level of fueling and your progress will stall, requiring an even greater restriction of intake and food choices in order to see further weight loss.

Also, any progress through dieting alone is strictly “weight loss”, and not “getting into shape”. That is to say, you’ll simply be in the same sort of shape at a lower weight. Further more, there’s really no reason to assume that the majority of any weight lost will be from body fat stores. Without strategic training, it is more likely that weight loss will come through reduced bone density and lean muscle mass, which isn’t what we want, at all.


Above I used the term “strategic training”. This is different to simply “exercising” the way most people do it.

Just as a diet is something to make up for being under active, “exercise” is something to make up for over eating. Turn on the TV and every third commercial is for some device that “burns more calories” than the previous one! Exercise programs are marketed on how many calories they burn, too. Even most personal trainers are just putting workouts together designed to entertain and exhaust people, rather than strategic training programs to produce that result of being in lean, athletic shape.

At best, it is simply “expending energy, to make up for having consumed too much”… and really if your only purpose in exercising is to expend energy, you might as well have just stayed inactive and eaten less. So here we’re talking about putting a lot of effort into replicating the effect of doing something else that doesn’t work, either.

Diet And Exercise

Unfortunately, this is what most people do. A diet as if to make up for a lack of activity, while exercising as if to make up for over eating… or in many cases as if to make up for having eaten anything at all. This is a destructive approach that at best leads nowhere, and at worst leads to disaster.

Strategic Training With A System Designed To Produce Results

Tomorrow I’ll write a new entry about how my system works, how it has evolved and how I can custom tailor it to suit each individual client. You’ll see that this is quite distinctly different to simple “diet and exercise”.




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