Every other article I see shared on facebook these days is a “you won’t believe what…” type story these days, so I thought I’d cynically get in on the act.
I wrote this up a week or so ago and posted it somewhere else. It didn’t really get the amount of attention it deserved there, although the feedback I did get was very very positive indeed. Therefore I’m going to post it here as well to make sure more people have a chance to see it.
I was searching for information about a particular diet and found my way to a certain weight loss and diet forum, and as is often the case it seemed to be a lot of frustrated people not really getting anywhere, and a lot of requests for information about this diet or that pill, and so on. I decided I’d hit them up with the truth, since they’re so unlikely to get it from anyone else.
Here’s what I had to say.
Where you’re probably going wrong.
9 times out of 10 when a new client comes to me, they’re “dieting” and “exercising”. Keep in mind I do a lot of work with eating disorder recovery clients so when I say “dieting and exercising” you can imagine I am talking about extreme restriction of intake + excessive “burning” of calories.
Now obviously if you over eat, you’ll gain weight. If you over eat and aren’t very active, you’ll gain fat quite efficiently. We all know that. To LOSE that excess weight though, what do most of us try to do? We try to eat “as little as possible” and perhaps we start exercising to burn off more of what little we do take in, as well.
Does it work? Maybe at first. But long term? Well… you tell me. Most of you have tried this several times already, I’m sure.
What I’m about to suggest is so simple and seemingly obvious that you’ll likely roll your eyes and think it is ridiculous. Really think about it for a minute before you dismiss it though. Rather than thinking about eating “as little as possible because I’m on a diet”, think of this.
Imagine you’ve been successful, you’re at your goal weight, you’re exercising not to lose more weight but to stay healthy and strong. About how much would you need to eat / how many calories would you require to maintain that weight, fuel your healthy lifestyle and not go hungry?
A healthy and active person doesn’t require restrictive “on a diet” levels of intake. They require “adequate fueling”, especially if they want to see results from training as in developing a lean and athletic build.
Now… you’re saying “that’s fine, and if I WAS in that sort of shape that’s what I’d do. But I have to diet and burn calories to GET into that shape first”. Am I right? Well… if you’re on this forum reading this, you already know that as much sense as that seems to make, it just doesn’t seem to work out like that.
Ask yourself though… if you acted like you’d already succeeded in your goal and now all you have to do is maintain it… what could possibly happen as a result? You’re not OVER EATING as would result in weight gain or the failure to lose weight. You’re not trying to starve the weight off in a manner that backfires as your body finds a way to compensate for being under fueled either by (for example) reduced thyroid function or other hormonal adaptations, or in a manner that inevitably results in binge eating, meaning that you end up back in excessive intake leading to further weight gain.
Nope. If you’re consuming an appropriate amount to maintain your goal body type and weight, and especially if you train in a manner so as to increase and maintain lean mass (that’s bone density and muscle tissue) at the expense of body fat… you’ll be successful so long as you persist.
Now, by persist I don’t even mean “get it right with 100% consistency”. I just mean get it “about right most of the time”. You’re going to have bad days, social obligations, business lunches and so on. Days when you do over eat. So what though? Generally speaking, you’re in the habit of eating “about right for good health & results from training at goal weight”. You’ll make progress as long as you persist and do the best you can as often as you can.
Determine your requirements.
This is a tough one to do with generic instructions because there’s lots of people reading and how do i know what condition you’re in right now?
For the sake of trying to be helpful though… let’s say your goal weight is BMI25. Now… that’s the upper end of what you might call a “historically normal” weight. You might actually be happier at a higher weight… suit yourself! Set your own standard and don’t let anyone else tell you what it should be. Not even me! Still… assuming you’re overweight now, BMI25 is less than your current weight. Let’s set that as our goal, and if you decided you’re happy at BMI27 or whatever then fine, go straight to maintenance mode.
So… find a BMI calculator online and work out what weight you would be at BMI25.
Now, you can find calculators online to tell you how many calories SHOULD maintain a certain weight. There are a few different equations that they use. I find the “mifflin st joer equation” is very accurate.
Put in your stats at goal weight, and set the activity level to “light activity”.
That’s the MINIMUM you should be consuming habitually.
Now set it to “moderate activity”, and assuming you’re training regularly (let’s say 4 or 5 days a week. More is great) that’s probably a pretty good upper limit.
Now you’re FREAKING OUT because those targets are SO HIGH, right? Good. You’re no longer trying to starve the weight off, which means your body can stop prioritising the conservation and storage of energy, and start utilising those resources to adapt positively to training, by maintaining lean mass at the expense of fat stores. Hormonal balance will start to shift back towards normal as well.
But what if it doesn’t work?
My clients freak out when I give them their targets too. Hell at first I was terrified giving them out because what if they gain weight? Well… you / they can’t. We just did the maths and this is only enough to maintain BMI25 which is lower than your 1current weight. And even then, it’s only enough to maintain that lower weight while on “light to moderate” activity, and you’re going to be training hard most days!
From time to time though… this **** doesn’t work and client stays exactly where they are. What now?
Well… the good news is they’re eating a more normal amount and they haven’t gained any weight, so they’re not afraid to eat anymore. We can logically conclude then, that all that extra fuel is getting put to good use, since they haven’t gained any extra weight. So what should I do? Anyone else would slash intake and try starve that weight off some more. I run the maths again at “moderate to very active”.
Obviously that’s only for people who ARE in fact “very active”… but you probably know as well as I do, there are plenty of very fit, very active people who still haven’t lost the extra weight they’re carrying. Why? I just told you. They aint eating enough.
You’re consuming enough total calories to maintain a weight that is lower than current weight, while training regularly. Every gram you put in is going to be utilised. I don’t care if it is from broccoli or from ice cream, it is going to be utilised to fuel, recover and adapt positively to training.
That being said though, aim for a minimum of 20% of total calories coming from dietary fats, 20% from protein… more is great but any less isn’t ideal…. 30 grams fiber, higher is better… and get your 5+ recommended servings of fruit and vegetables. OH and if anyone tries to tell you “not too much fruit because of the sugar” I’m happy to fight them in a cage.
I have young women losing weight for the first time EVER on literally twice as much food as they were eating previously and no restrictions on the choices. I know it FEELS like being disciplined and not treating yourself ever because you gotta prove how bad you want it should matter, but it DOES NOT.
Best weight loss & diet pills.
They’re all scams sold by the same people as the “one simple trick to cure baldness” and the “women will throw themselves at you with this one simple trick that isn’t creepy AT ALL” and all those other fkn stupid products.
Bottom line, if you consume the right amount of fuel you’ll make progress towards your goal weight. If you’re consuming too much (or too little!) how much help is some pill going to be? The answer is none. None help.