Losing weight is a little bit the same as planning a trip. You start by checking your car if it could make the ride. Than you calculate how much gas you’ll need, the mileage, the time, and so on. So for losing fat purposes, you have to think about a timeline, how much time you give yourself, how much can it cost of food per week, and how much time will it cost you for preparation. You weigh yourself on the first day and keep track of your results as you go along. It’s all about being honest with your self, having a plan, knowing where you are now and more importantly, when and where you want to end up.
Everyone on the net seems to have the answers or some kind of a special program that has everything that you need. Well, If it was that easy, we trainers wouldn’t be that busy. If the programs seems to have all that you ever wanted, it probably is too easy. If it says that you can eat whatever you want, it’s a lure. If it says that this program has had thousands of results, it did not. There is no single program that can work for everyone. It never existed and it never will.
First and foremost, before starting any special programs, there is one thing you need to promise yourself before you set foot in a gym or start a new diet/lifestyle program…
Be honest with yourself
No, You can’t lose 20 pounds in a month
You can’t gain mass as soon as you start lifting weights
You don’t bulk up with weights
You can’t do this for a few weeks or just until you reach your goals
Once you start letting go of all your fears and/or misconceptions, and you start doing it for all the right reasons, you will just make it easier on your self. Do people create made up fears just to give up without even starting? Most people will. It’s easier to just stay the way you are than to do something about it. Only a few will have the guts to start no matter what people tell them or what they have heard. Only a few of the few will actually get to the finish line. That’s just the way it is. What is it that only a few of the few make it? What makes them better? What are they doing that the others don’t? Read on.
First they don’t let life get in the way. They don’t listen to fake excuses. They don’t live by other people standards. They have a plan and they follow through. They understand that it is for a short while. Sacrifices will be well worth the efforts once all is said and done. They also did their homework.
With all the information available out there, it’s easy to get lost and fall into the easiest trap. When it comes to dieting, there basically two school of thoughts who dominate the industry, the IIFYM and Clean eating.
If it fits your macros
This “way” entails that you can what ever you want as long as you stay in your desired macro ratios, which basically means that a calorie in equals a calorie out. So for the beginners, this way looks like it is their calling. Why the hell didn’t they start that before. Losing weight while eating whatever they want? Who wouldn’t want to do that? That is the problem with this school of thought. Some suddenly think that you can live of pop tarts, bacon and shakes and call it a lifestyle.
If done well, the IIFYM lifestyle can have tremendous benefits and can be kept for a lifetime. When they say Macros, they mean protein, fat and carbohydrates. So eating processed or whole foods makes no difference, as long as you fit your macro needs.
What needs to be considered for the IIFYM way is the individual needs. Telling someone who has impaired digestive issues or Insulin resistance that they can eat refined sources of carbohydrates as a mean to fulfilling their macros can have a negative effect on their health and body composition making it difficult to attain their goals.
Here, my take would be that once individual needs and issues have been identified and dealt with, the IIFYM lifestyle is without a doubt no problem at all. I find that when you reach a certain point in your diet, having more diversity and leeway makes it easier to keep the healthier choices along the way. The goal here is to use the not so healthier choices in moderation. Research proved that your motivation reserve can be depleted. Having that little piece of cake you desire once in a while can have a positive effect on your psychological dieting fortitude and also, on your body composition. Some might call this a replete but in the IIFYM community, it just is included in your diet. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but moderation in any type of lifestyle is always the key.
Clean eating is on the other side of the fence. There is no chance in hell that you can indulge in processed food (blasphemy) and eating for the sake of living is the basic assumption. Your body should recognize and be able to use every single thing you put in your mouth. If it is man made or processed, it is evil.
Most proponent of the Clean eating lifestyle are on the extreme side. They will scold you on the choices you make while eating with them. However, they were on the dark side at a given point in their life. They also are not that far from going back into it. I found that those who are to extreme in the strictly clean eating way are often those who crash and burn the hardest. Like the research proves, once your motivation reserves are nul, you become a ticking bomb. I also know a few that lives by this way and I can attest that they are doing well with no signs of slowing down and giving up. But they were always on the border of what looked like eating disorders.
Both lifestyles have their Nazi’s. Both will have their freaks who think that their way is THE only way. Both also visited the dark side and knew that they had to do something about it. If it fits your lifestyle, why not? Just don’t impose your lifestyle on everyone else, and no, your way is not the ultimate way.
For the sake of this post, I just gave you a simplified version of these principles. There are so called proponents of these lifestyle that could go in much greater details but this is were I would say they are wrong. Why is it supposed to be complicated. It’s already hard as it is to change someone’s eating habits so why not go with small steps, one change or habit at a time.
I personally use both of these principles, with myself and with clients. I start people with clean eating. Why give them what they want which was the bigger problem to start with. Then, I slowly switch on the IIFYM style. Maybe I don’t give them as much leeway as most would want, but the principal of individuality never fails. If I see that a certain food impairs them in any way, I take it out. I don’t care if macros are met or not. If I know that a given food is bad for them, I just take it out of the equation. Why play with fire? I like to play around with foods, not calories. Which leads me to my next point.
What about counting calories?
If the goal is to lose weight, you must create a deficit, but not a great one. The rule is a deficit of about 300 to 500 calories. Let’s say that you need about 2000 calories a day, which is your basal metabolic rate and your daily activity caloric expenditure all included. Creating a diet of about 1500 to 1700 calories would be ideal. As the goal is always to lose weight, we must not forget that losing too much too fast is not good. The goal is to lose slowly, fat as much as possible to reach sustainable results. Losing weight for the sake of losing weight might be awesome on the scale, but could be detrimental to their health, no matter how bad they want it.
Let’s look at another possibility. Imagine a diet that would fulfill all caloric and nutrient needs. However, having some type of food intolerances would impair the goal of losing weight, especially if the given food is a staple in that person’s diet. Most nutritionist allow their clients the possibility to have breads, as long as it is whole wheat or if gluten sensitive, gluten free would fit their diets. In many cases, they will disregard the small but subtle symptoms of gluten sensitivity just to have their bread fix, which is what I call convenient dieting. I, and a lot of Über coaches I know, use the principle of changing foods instead of just lowering calories. I believe in healthier individualized choices instead of convenient compliance.
Most are willing to follow their diet as long as they still have their comfort foods, which is basically what created the problems in the first place. Always look at the “WHY” you are driven to eat certain types of food more frequently than others.
What about meal frequency, 3,4 or 5 meals a day?
Depending and what you have been reading, you get all kinds of opinions about eating 3 to 6 times a day. Which one is good? Any of them. Like anything you will do, trial and error is always the best teacher. Also, keep in mind that whatever you are doing now, might not work later on.
Many people think that eating less is the absolute for losing weight. However, it might be more complicated than just cutting down on calories. Here is a simple example. Gertrude has been eating twice a day (on good days) for the past few months. She actually was gaining weight. So the theory that the less you eat, the more you lose weight is out the door in her case. So I basically gave her 3 to 4 meals a day. She suddenly started losing weight and felt better. What happened? It’s called balance. She just wasn’t eating enough for the amount of energy she was spending in a day. Let’s say you have a bank account with 100 bucks in it. Everyday you spend more than you can deposit. After a few weeks, you’ll end up in the red, or in a negative balance. The bank will freeze your account and send you a letter warning you of an impending account closing if you don’t settle the balance. Your body doesn’t send you a letter, he just keeps on going into the negative, which in his way, he stores calories as fat since you don’t give him enough (very simple explanation to a much more complicated matter).
As long as you are near your basic requirements, you will lose weight. The goal is to create a small deficit of 300 to 500 calories a day. Your daily energy expenditure is around 2500 calories a day? Aim to get at least 2000 calories a day. It could be in 3, 4 or 5 meals. Lots of factors can influence meal frequency. Digestion, food intolerances, insulin resistance and the obvious, meal content. Years of stress can impair digestion. Food intolerances and process foods is the silent result killer. Insulin resistance is the 21st century obesity enhancer. And we can’t forget the fact that too much fat in a meal can slow down digestion.
In the Journal of Physiology and behaviour, they demonstrated that;
•Changes in meal timing influence obesity and success of weight loss therapy.
•Unusual feeding time can induce a disruption of the circadian system.
•Digestive enzymes express in a circadian manner and are synchronized by food.
•Feeding is the source of energy for adipose tissue. The time of feeding is decisive.
•Clock genes are important in meal timing by changes in circadian control of hunger.
In a recent 12-week study they showed that subjects who ate more calories during breakfast lost more weight than those who ate more calories at diner. Furthermore, they also discovered that organs have an active circadian clock related to food intake, in this case, the stomach, intestine, liver and pancreas.
Might be new to the Pubmed and medical community but it is very old news to the Chinese medicine advocates which goes beyond the scope of this post.
So in retrospective, what I would suggest is look at what you have been doing for the past few months and then try this;
-If you have been eating twice a day, eat 3 to 4 times a day, with nutrient dense foods.
-If you have been eating junk 3-4 times a day, eat 3-4 times a day but nutrient dense foods.
-If you have been eating clean 3-4 times a day with absolutely no cheats included, let go and start incorporating a cheat meal once a week.
-If you have been eating clean 3-4 times a day, training and doing everything planned, check for food intolerance and maybe get yourself a trainer. If you have one but fail to see results, change. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s just not working.
-Start by eating clean for at least 2 weeks, three if you can make it.
-For those two weeks, no cheats allowed. See it as a way of detoxifying naturally.
-After you have completed the 3 weeks, try the IIFYM style.
-If you indulge in “less better” food choices, look at how your digestion takes it, if you feel tired afterwards, if you sleep better or worse. These are the early signs of possible food intolerances. When allowing cheats, you must stick with foods you can digest properly and that does not disturb your stomach and appetite for an extended period of time. After a well deserved and planned cheat, you are not supposed to feel like shit. Not easy to figure out, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never use the term diet again.
There is no perfect world
Unfortunately, the world we live in is full of toxins. For those who don’t believe that, check this out www.ewg.org . Can we do something about it? Maybe. It’s just getting worst. So what can we do? Detox. Not the over the counter detox kits, but with certain supplements that can help your body better his own detoxification process. Those over the counter detox kits are like putting a band aid on your liver, doesn’t do shit. What you need is to give the body back his own ability to heal itself. How you ask? Eat well, exercise and give the adequate nutrient for him to be able to detoxify and metabolize those toxins. What nutrients does your body needs to get rid of these toxins? Since the need is different depending on where you come from, your genes and lifestyle, I strongly suggest you…
Losing weight for the sake of losing weight is bound for failure. Losing weight is fine and everybody’s goal, but if you don’t know what weight you lose, you are wasting your money and health. The priority should be to lose FAT!!! Sure, there will always be those trainers who ”don’t believe in taking bodyfat percentages”. What they are really saying is that they are scared shitless of what you have gained or lost and don’t want to deal with the fact that you can’t stick to your diet and that’s if you follow one. For those who are lucky to have the caliper eyes syndrome, saying ”it shows you lost fat” doesn’t cut it, I’m sorry. If you don’t care or just don’t want to be deceived by the numbers, then its fine by me. The point of investing in your health and getting a program, nutritional recommendation by someone is to get a return on your investment. Giving yourself a goal for yourself and for the trainer you just hired is how you will get this return. Ask how you will get there, what’s the plan, what’s the goal and what you should expect in between. Trainers are no Nostradamus, but they should know how and when they will get you there.
Decrypting all the different training methods and programs out there is downright mental and basically the same as asking a dyslexic man to sing “respect”. Can you lift more than 5 pounds without gaining too much muscle mass? Is cardio or weight lifting the best alternative? If I don’t throw up after a workout, was it even worth it? If “going” to the gym actually means working out, like doing something more than hitting on girls or looking like you are pulling a sweat, what should you do?
Although I would like to make it easy on you and tell you that my workout is THE workout to do, I can’t. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you have never trained before, you will get results, even if you just do 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The truth of the matter is this, can you do this for more than just a few weeks? If the answer is yes, my advice would be to look at another option. If being active in your lifestyle, means the same to you as extracting a tooth, you might not be ready for this and may need a lifestyle overhaul/makeover because your priority are not where they should be. Yes, adopting one of the previously lifestyle will bring you results, but let’s be honest here, being able to indulge once in a while is what will keep you going, but the other habits you undertake besides eating well will and should be a part of a life long quest/lifestyle, or else, you’ll crash and burn and will end up with the not so good habit of yoyo dieting.
Let’s start (and stick) with the basics.
Training age 0-1 year
You have never lifted a weight before or occasionally started for one or two workouts, but never got serious about it. It goes without saying that you must go see your general healthcare practitioner to know if starting a weight lifting regimen is something good for you. Get to the gym at least 3-4 times a week for no more than an hour each session. No it’s not true that the more you do, the more you lose. You already have to deal with a lot, just don’t put the pedal to the metal. Easy and steady does it. You know those machines that have selectorized weights on the side of it, that’s where you should start. I know, they don’t look as manly as the big 150 pound dumbells you see with the big guys, but this is not a pride game, it’s a quest. Start with the basics and if you stick long enough to it, you might be able to go play with the big boys sooner than later.
Do 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions of each major muscle groups. For example, Benchpress for pectorals, pulldown for back, leg press for thighs and butt, lying leg curl for the hamstrings, tricep pushdown with a rope on the pulley, and the standing barbell curl for biceps. Do this 3 times a week for at least 6 weeks.
You should also add some cardio work at the end of your training. Do 20 minutes of steady pace fast walking or biking. This will build you cardio vascular endurance for the upcoming harder workouts.
It looks easy but remember that you never build a house without a foundation. The same goes when it comes to building a healthy body.
Training age 1 to 5 years
Most will not have toughen it out past the one year mark but for those who did, things will not get easier. Honeymoon is over son. You should have struck a few sticking point by now. Going over the coveted one plate mark on the bench (one plate of 45 pounds on each side). Good thing is that you should have won a few pounds of lean muscle mass and some muscular definition. Since you added a few pound of lean muscle on your frame, that little diet you did in the beginning must be reviewed or you’ll lose all your gainzzzz (muscle bro’ism) .
Your training should evolve to the most bang for your bucks exercises. Base your training lifts like benchpress, deadlifts, split squats, front squats, Pull ups and all it’s variations. Keeping in mind that fat loss is the goal here, you’ll need a lot of these to make sure that you use your time efficiently in the gym. To burn fat, you need to train hard, right? Which one is harder, a deadlift which recruits all kinds of muscles or the leg extension which only recruits the quads?
You must understand that fatloss is not only a matter of food, but also what you do in the gym. Research has shown that not only weightlifting, but a mixture of cardio vascular work and weightlifting done at the same time can have a very positive effect on body composition.
5 years of training age and up
Should be easier and tougher, all at once. Easier because you know what to do, but tougher because forces of nature gets in the way. You have learned a great deal in the past 5 years, but also, you gained a fair amount of lean tissue, metabolically active tissue that is, but also, a few injuries. Hey, pushing yourself constantly has its drawback.
Diet wise, I found that the more advanced you are, the more food intolerances you can find. We stick with good food but often forget to rotate the foods we eat. Like our not so active friends, we find comfort in food we like. They might be better choices, but like anything else, when over eaten, they become foes. For example, I see more and more egg intolerances. People eat eggs almost every morning. The two main concerns with eggs is that people don’t chew when they eat them, and you also find eggs in many food preparations. There is eggs in breads and muffins which many fitness enthusiasts still eat at least once in a few days, gluten free or not.
My best advice as you gain experience is stay clean and cheat once in a while, always in moderation. The rule does not change as we gain experience in training age, in fact, the basic rules still remains, but if you do your homework right and learn to listen to your body, you might be able to take it easy more often than our beginner friends. The trick is to live, learn and apply constantly. The elements change all the time.
And for the rest…
As for time management and preparation, ‘’I have no time to prepare my food in advance.’’ You don’t have to do a boatload of food if you are pressed for time. Everybody goes home at night. Late or not, there is always something you can do fast for the next day. You don’t have to go all Gordon Ramsay on your food prep, but at least get some done. Don’t let your taste buds dictates what is good for you or not. Cake will always taste better than a salad but cake will get you closer to a fat ass than washboard abs.
Most people watch television at night, even though they shouldn’t, I don’t care, especially if it’s something that can help them chill. If you take 10 minutes of your precious time at night to prepare for the following day, I really don’t think it will kill you.
‘’I had no time to eat today’’. Now that’s a huge load of (fill the blank). If the president of United States of America can eat 3 to 4 meals a day, I guess you can. I am absolutely convinced that you take some time to call some friends, answer useless emails and phone calls, some extra ‘’web search’’ and so on. Add it up and you just found at least 20 minutes in your day. Now, for those who say they can’t eat in 5 minutes, that’s a big lie. Time yourself next time you eat and that’s what you’ll end up with, total time 5 minutes, maximum 10. We just found some time for 2 meals in your day, isn’t that amazing???
Most of you will say that it takes time to cook. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare a salad and maybe a bit more to cook meat. I didn’t say it’s going to be easy, but planning is inevitable. You might have cooked it in advance if your on top of your game, or you might have to take a bit more time to cook, but it’s more important than what’s going on on the latest shit storm on the Bachelor.
A quick note on Bodyfat vs Body mass index measurements.
Last but not least, Stress and sleep disturbance.
I would estimate that 1 in every 3 of my clients has had or is having some kind of sleep disturbance. As a matter of fact, hours slept per night on average have greatly decreased in the past 50 years. A 60’s survey[i] conducted on 1 million people (figure 1) found that the average number of hours slept per night were between 8 to 9 hours. In 2000, the average decreased to about 7 hours. Currently, the average has further declined to about 5-6 hours of sleep.
You must examine your lifestyle and/or stress levels. Sleep disturbance is induced. It does not occur absent of cause. Although it may start slowly it can easily get worse affecting simple things like weight management (and I’m not even talking about weight loss yet). The release of hormones by the pituitary — the “master” endocrine organ that controls the secretion of other hormones from the peripheral endocrine glands — is markedly influenced by sleep. Modulation of pituitary-dependent hormonal release is partly mediated by the modulation of the activity of hypothalamic-releasing and/or hypothalamic-inhibiting factors controlling pituitary function. During sleep, these hypothalamic factors may be activated — as in the case of growth hormone (GH)-releasing hormone[ii]. When sleep deprivation is prevalent, it promotes the development of insulin resistance, which is closely related to obesity and diabetes.
Research has shown that animals subjected to sleep loss for prolonged periods of time were more likely to have an increased in appetite[iii]. Studies in humans have shown that the levels of hormones that regulate appetite are greatly influenced by sleep disturbance. Sleep loss is linked with an increase in appetite that is disproportionate in relation to the caloric load of extensive wakefulness. In other words, you are up and awake longer, so you obviously eat more while awake. Recent work also indicates that sleep loss may harmfully affect glucose tolerance may be involved in an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In young, healthy subjects who were studied after 6 days of sleep restriction (4 hours in bed) and after full sleep recovery, the levels of blood glucose after breakfast were higher in the state of sleep debt despite normal or even slightly elevated insulin responses. The difference in peak glucose levels in response to breakfast averaged ±15 mg/dL, a difference large enough for a significant impairment of glucose tolerance. These results were established by the results of intravenous glucose tolerance testing. Indeed, the rate of disappearance of glucose post injection — a quantitative measure of glucose tolerance — was nearly 40% slower in the sleep-debt condition than after recovery, and the acute insulin response to glucose was reduced by 30%[iv].
Although I would like to say that I just told you everything you needed to hear about weight loss, I can’t. I could go on for a while but this post is already way too long. All there is left to say is that you have to do your homework.
Before you start, you have to find a way that is suitable for your needs and lifestyle. However, don’t go for the easiest or most convenient way. In order to get where you want, you must take a road that is not as easy as you would like it to be. Doing what you did before didn’t work, which is probably the main reason why you have to try again.
When you are well into the chosen program, do your best. Take notes, learn from your mistakes and go at it one day at a time. It’s a quest, not a race.
Once you are done and have achieved your goals, you must NOT STOP! Keep going. You did not do all this for nothing. You can enjoy a little bit more than you did before but for as long as you can, stay lean, strong and live long.