What you know for sure about weight loss that might not be true at all
You could look at me and easily conclude that I'm not qualified to talk about diet. Obviously, I eat cheeseburgers for breakfast and potato chips for dinner. That's how you get fat. Period. If you just eat right and keep active, you won't have a weight problem. Makes sense.
I've heard advice like that a myriad of times from nutritionists, personal trainers and doctors. In fact, here's an actual conversation I had with a fitness center doctor, at a place I went for physiotherapy after a Muay Thai injury. This was the first (and only) time we met…
Me: I eat a pretty balanced diet and exercise regularly, but I can’t drop a pound. Not sure what’s up with that?
Doctor: Well, I think it’s time for you to be honest with yourself.
Me: About what?
Doctor: Listen, if you just be honest about your habits, put down the ice cream and get to the gym, you can start to address the real problem with your weight.
Me: But… I’m not eating ice cream. I DO go to the gym, regularly.
Doctor: Lying to me doesn’t matter, but lying to yourself is why you’re in this situation. It’s time to take a look at your life and make some changes.
Me: Wait, I’m not lying about it.
Doctor: I can’t help you if you can’t start by helping yourself. If you were eating a proper diet and getting to the gym like you say, you wouldn’t be here having this conversation with me. Be honest with yourself, put away the ice cream and get to work on achieving your goals.
At the time we had that conversation, I left his office more confused than I was going in. It sounds like good advice and I totally understand why he said it now. But, what I didn’t understand back then was how completely different each person is, and how ineffective blanket strategies are when it comes to health and wellness.
That doctor, both nutritionists and all 5 personal trainers that gave me that (or similar) advice over the years, all shared one thing in common - they were all naturally slim. Each of them had indeed trained hard over their lives to become experts in fitness and good examples of a healthy, fit person, but none of them had ever had a weight problem. Even before they trained. What was also very telling, when I look back on those days, is that I worked with people (guys and girls) who all went out to a local pub 3 nights of the week for beer, wings and fried food after work. The majority of them were 32 inch waists and never gained a pound. They still haven’t many years later. Never been to a gym, and work a desk job. Here I was doing none of that, in the gym 4 days a week, eating protein shakes and grilled chicken and gaining fat weight.
The real wake up call was the time I cycled for 2 hours a day for one month, and gained so much weight I had to buy new clothes 1 to 2 sizes larger. That was a low point, and I was one confused soul. But over the years, I learned a few things. Mainly, that there’s no one rule for fitness and well being that serves everyone. There are universal health truths, yes, but the results of those things aren’t the same for everyone. Particularly diet.
At the end of the day, for me, there are 2 types of eating strategies that work. One is a Ketosis diet. High saturated fats, moderate protein and only 60 grams of carbohydrates per day. The other is a calorie-reduced vegetarian diet (the one I’m on now, and I’m dropping weight again at the time I’m writing this) that consists of high saturated fats, vegan protein supplements and a lot of greens - basically, 2 protein shakes a day, with one moderate meal of either rice and lentils, some eggs or some keto-bread and some type of nut butter. On either of these diets, I can lose body fat - to a point. Then, my body says, “Yeah… uh, how about no.” and I gain weight back. That’s the best I can do. Manage it and not let things get out of hand. My body and my metabolism don’t allow for ripped. In all the years of hard work, I’ve never come close.
It’s worth noting that you are unique, and everything about the way your body works may be well different from those who are giving you health advice. My advice, is to first understand what you’re doing and what effect it’s currently having on you. That doctor from that conversation I mentioned above did have some valuable advice. Be honest about what you’re doing. He was right about that, just wrong about his idea of me. For him, fitness was a simple equation. He was fit, so obviously he was right. Except, he was wrong. That’s an important idea to grasp, and more important that you don’t think of yourself as a failure or feel judged because you’re not where you want to be in health or life. You just have to crack the equation of you.
Here are a few resources that have helped me over the years.
November 5, 2017