What if I told you I had THE ONE SIMPLE TRICK to get you to lose weight and gain muscle fast? All it takes is… laser treatments, super shakes,eating for your body type, weight loss wraps, or some other bald faced lie. The truth is that the health and fitness industry is so rife with crap because, well, we buy it. We are all looking for the magic bullet to get us to where we want to be. Admittedly, most people, including myself, think it would be nice right? But in reality, you can’t alter your height, limb or torso length, and most other characteristics determined by your genetics. It’s not about trying to look like “her/him”; it’s about being the best version of yourself. So let’s take a look at what can be done, how to educate yourself so you don’t waste money, and how simple it is to really be healthy and happy with your body.
My Redundant Plea
I have written on several occasions about where to go for good advice/where bad info comes from, how to spot bad swindlers/bad science, and why you need to think critically about your investment in your health and fitness goals. But, after another week of fielding questions about “which shake should I be drinking” and “how many carbs should I have”, I wanted to pick on a few more mind boggling BS claims. The powdered unicorn fart capsules known as shakeology, detox/cleanse, super supplements, and Gwyneth Paltrow continue to make people lose weight by making their wallets lighter. And it’s not just your local 20 something trainer caught up in a multilevel marketing scheme, it’s people who have credentials who are getting in on the action. Take “Dr.” Joseph Mercola seen below who continues to blur the lines between business and medicine.
These folks, and those who claim that you have to sacrifice, suffer, and deprive yourself to build a better looking body and that eating well and working out has to become your entire life, suck. They may make claims that their workout program will make you a battle-ready warrior or superior specimen of the human race, and that their diet will make you bulletproof. They may speak in absolutes stating “women should always do A, B, and C”, or “women should never do X, Y, and Z.” They use words like “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” frequently when describing quick-fix fads and gimmicks. You may encounter entire groups that put down other people who don’t work out or eat the way they do. For the record, any group claiming to be better than others because of their health and fitness lifestyle has eaten too many of their own poop sandwiches. Speaking of poop sandwiches, just because someone had success with a particular diet or workout program doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. Anything promising to make your muscles “long and lean” or says you can look like someone else is, once again, a turdy bacon club sandwich. Diets that blame a macronutrient (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrates) or food group (e.g., dairy) for hindering your fat loss efforts are, you guessed it, crap.CARBS WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!!!!! Science (1). A low-fat diet isn’t a benefit because eating fat doesn’t cause disease. NOT eating it probably does, and we now know the body even needs some saturated fat to function optimally (2). Salt won’t kill you or drive up blood pressure if you’re generally healthy (3). And gluten… well what can be said other than food marketers have simply found another way to convince you that their bag or box of garbage is healthy (4).
Find the people who know their stuff, and learn from them. You can, again, check out my favorite “go to” resources here, but in short, Alan Aragon,Precision Nutrition, and Brad Schoenfeld will always be on my short list of trusted information sources.
Simple, Practical, Crap Free Advice
Now that we have bravely made it past the organic corn fill BM that is much of the fitness industry, let’s take a look at some info that will actually help.
-First up, short cuts don’t exist. Like many other aspects of life, if you truly want to achieve a goal, you must put in some effort.
-Strict diets are not sustainable long-term and exercise is not punishment. Your best bet is to eat real food with ample amounts of fruits and vegetables, and you’ll reap far greater results by consistently doing exercises you like (e.g. hiking, take a group fitness class, start learning martial arts, or anything that sounds fun to you) rather than haphazardly doing something deemed perfect. Find out what you like for both nutrition and exercise, and you will see results and be much happier in the long run. Isn’t that what it’s all about in the end anyways?
-Know that gimmicks prey on your insecurities (and even create new ones). You don’t have to be miserable or deprived. Stick to the basics: eat mostly real, minimally processed foods, and strength train 2-4 days per week, and get enough sleep. These should be done according to your preferences and time availability.
-If you make a mistake, or even fail completely, don’t beat yourself up. Practice some self-compassion and then move on and do something positive when possible.
I am going to talk about looking and feeling confident because if you want that shredded, 6 pack abs, glistening muscles, ripped look, you may want to think about what it takes to get there. First of all, it’s tough to get and stay lean enough to look like Khal Drogo. It takes dedication, knowledge, and a win of the genetics lottery. But from disease risk to brain function and physical performance, a healthy diet is vital for every aspect of life. So to feel confident enough to take off your shirt at a pool party or feel like you can take on the world (or a last minute 5k you get invited to), then you will want to look into these rational steps.
- Know that total calorie intake is key (5). If you put in more calories than you burn, you will store them as new muscle or body fat. If you consume fewer calories than you burn every day, you will lose weight (6).
- Know what macro nutrients are. Carbs4 calories per gram. All starchy foods like bread, pasta and potatoes. Also includes fruit, legumes, juice, sugar and some dairy products.
Protein 4 calories per gram. Main sources include meat and fish, dairy, eggs, legumes and vegetarian alternatives like tofu.
Fats 9 calories per gram. Main sources include nuts, seeds, oils, butter, cheese, oily fish and fatty meat.
- Know what whole foods are. Basing your diet on whole foods is an extremely effective but simple strategy to improve health and lose weight. They are the unprocessed foods containing only one ingredientthat should be eaten at least 80-90% of the time. So if the product looks like it was made in a factory, then it’s probably not a whole food.
- Know that no food is strictly off limits. However, overeating certain foods like processed low-fatproducts and refined carbscan increase disease risk and lead to weight gain (7).
- Know that by controlling your portions, you are more likely to avoid consuming too many calories. To avoid portion distortion, you can use smaller plates and take a smaller-than-average first serving, then wait 20 minutes before you return for more. You can also use the hand method.
- Know how to assess your calorie needs. You can use a calorie calculator, free calorie/nutrienttrackers, or simply consider increasing protein intake. Protein shakes can be very helpful, but know that what type you buyis also based on your goals.
- Know that most people regain all the weight they lost soon after attempting a weight loss diet (8). To avoid being a statistic, follow the rule that if you can’t see yourself on this diet in one, two or three years, then it’s not right for you. Making a sustainable diet means that you can enjoy and stick with it for the long term. If you want unhealthy foods, save them for an occasional treat.
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- Kreitzman, S. N., Coxon, A. Y., & Szaz, K. F. (1992). Glycogen storage: Illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56(1 Suppl), 292S.
- Skeaff, C. M., & Miller, J. (2009). Dietary fat and coronary heart disease: Summary of evidence from prospective cohort and randomised controlled trials. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 55(1-3), 173. doi:10.1159/000229002
- Cohen, H. W., Hailpern, S. M., Fang, J., & Alderman, M. H. (2006). Sodium intake and mortality in the NHANES II follow-up study. The American Journal of Medicine, 119(3), 275.e7-275.e14. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.10.042
- Reilly, NR. (2016) The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction, and Fad. The Journal of Pediatrics. , Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.04.014
- Swinburn, B. A., Sacks, G., Lo, S. K., Westerterp, K. R., Rush, E. C., Rosenbaum, M.. . Ravussin, E. (2009). Estimating the changes in energy flux that characterize the rise in obesity prevalence. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(6), 1723.
- Hall, K. D., Heymsfield, S. B., Kemnitz, J. W., Klein, S., Schoeller, D. A., & Speakman, J. R. (2012). Energy balance and its components: Implications for body weight regulation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(4), 989.
- Gross, L. S., Li, L., Ford, E. S., & Liu, S. (2004). Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the united states: An ecologic assessment. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(5), 774.
- Dulloo, A. G., & Montani, J. ‐. (2015). Pathways from dieting to weight regain, to obesity and to the metabolic syndrome: An overview. Obesity Reviews, 16(S1), 1-6. doi:10.1111/obr.12250