There, I just proved a point. The sensationalism in the headline surely caught your attention. Don’t feel too bad, it’s not just you. It’s all of us until we build up our bullshit-radar.
It’s easy to fall into thinking that harder is better when every source of “creditable” fitness information tells you to be a hardcore gym monster and a lean machine. The truth is that no one wants you to think that fat loss and fitness is simple. That would mean that fitness magazines would run out of topics in about a week. The morning shows about health wouldn’t have anything to talk about on a weekly bases. All these different sources want you to believe (they might actually believe it themselves) that they are helping you. When in fact they are doing more damage to your fat loss efforts than you might think. We would be a healthier world without the constant bombardments about latest diet crazes or the secret fat busting workouts.
We don’t want to hear that we actually have to put in the work to make progress with our goals. And we don’t want to hear that the road is straight forward but it takes time. We don’t want to walk it, we want to rush through it and get there already. We wanted to be there yesterday. But understand this, if it’s taken you years of poor eating habits to put it on, accept that it will take a long time to drop it off.
But we are curious by nature and we keep searching for the magic bullet to fix all our problems. We rather demonize a one macro nutrient because we want clear cut rules to follow. For the longest time it was fat and especially saturated fat that was the root to all our problems. So everyone went low fat. That didn’t work so we thought it must be the carbohydrates and we went low carb. Well, that didn’t work either. We also had a phase where too much protein was thought to make our kidneys explode. Not true, unless you have existing kidney issue. In the end though, there is no clear cut rules.
There is no evil macro nutrient to blame. The only clear rule is that you have to eat less than you burn and the quality of your food matters. And I don’t mean you have to outsource a mystic superfood (they don’t exist) from the top of a misty mountain. I mean that eating a bag of jelly beans is not the same as a bowl of brown rice.
Here’s the secret answer to all your diet issues: it depends. What works for Jimmy next door doesn’t always work for Ursula down the street. Listening to a different expert each week doesn’t help the case. When someone is promoting their latest fat loss solution and using words such as ‘never’ and ‘always’ it’s time to put on your guard, cover your ears, yell profanities and walk away. Before taking someone’s opinion as gospel you have to ask, what is their motive, what are they selling? Most often the so-called expert will cherry pick studies that will support their claims. On that note, a book I can’t recommend highly enough to build your ‘bullshit-radar’ is Alan Levinovitz’s The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat.
So do yourself a favor, whatever method you choose to follow to improve your body composition, stick to it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to go on a extremely strict diet. Extremely strict diet of diet information that is. Stop reading articles about the secret fat loss techniques; there’s none. Stop watching tv shows that recommend a different weight loss routine each week. Most definitely stop watching The Biggest Loser; that’s not how a lasting weight loss works in the real life. The only thing that BL does is that it twists your mind into thinking that hardcore is the only way to fat loss. Here’s the thing, you don’t need a trainer screaming in your ear how much you suck at life. And it is actually possible to achieve fat loss without combining 500 calorie diet and hours of high intensity exercise each day. Also, you don’t need a trainer to judge every piece of food that you eat.
Training for long-term fat loss is not about “killing it”, “smashing it”, eating chalk and cursing the barbells. It’s about moderate workouts combined with reasonable eating habits. It can be some hard workouts combined with easy eating habits. What it shouldn’t be is hard workouts combined with strict diet. It won’t last. There can be a place for a short sprint of hard workouts/strict diet combination every few years (probably less often than that). But for overall you should stay at moderate/easy. That’s the sweet spot for getting and keeping fat loss for a long-term. Again, that’s not what most people want to hear as it’s not hard enough.
To summaries: Combine easy to moderate workouts with reasonable eating habits that you can stick to. Sprinkle that plan with a hard workout every three or four weeks. Not every workout needs to feel like you’ve just wrestled a grizzly bear for 45 minutes, and lost. it takes courage to take the simple road when everyone else is doing the opposite. It takes patience and it takes focus. To paraphrase Steven Ledbetter, going slow is the fastest way to keeping your results for long-term. You didn’t want to hear that did you?
So here’s how to start: journal your eating habits. If you are not achieving fat loss look at your eating to see which actions go against your goals. No judgement just observations. Then see where you can improve and step by step start moving towards it.
That’s all folks.