We live in an interesting time. The dawn of the Internet has given us instant access to the entirety of human knowledge with the click of a button.
In just a few seconds we can get the answer to any of life’s pressing questions, we can learn any subject for free, we can settle any dinnertime debate, and we take all the selfies we could ever want –And we can do it all with the tiny computer in our pant pocket.
Our cracked-screen smartphones are several times more powerful than the computer technology that got us to the moon. Let that sink in.
I sigh in wondrous amazement at the thought of it.
We are no more enlightened. In fact, on topics like health and fitness, we’re as confused as ever. Perhaps more so because there’s so much crap to wade through.
Over the years many trends in fitness and dieting have come and gone. For about five years Eddie and I did CrossFit when it was virtually unknown to anyone but those who did it. Now of course, it is the thing to do. But someday, the bright shinyness of it will wear off and another thing will take it’s place as fitness-flavor-of-the-month and we will be left doing what we always did —what works.
Diets are very similar. Atkins, South Beach, Mediterranean, Paleo, all of them have had their moment in the sun. Oprah endorses it, Dr. Oz does a one-hour special on it, then people tire of it and jump on to the next bandwagon. Too bad chasing fads doesn’t count as cardio 😉 (womp womp womp).
The trouble is, people are constantly looking for the holy grail. They think that there’s some secret pill, diet, or exercise regimen that has been kept from. The “missing link” that will miraculously solve their weight-loss frustration once and for all.
And the media is more than happy to feed that misguided belief…
Ignorance makes you a sucker.
This is why ridiculous ads and claims, the kind most of us look at and laugh and think, “No one actually believes that right?!” are not going anywhere. Miracle pills. Get rich quick. They all make boatloads of money because so many desperately want to believe there’s a magic potion.
Over the years I have learned which advice is good, which isn’t, and which is flat out dangerous. The truth is, weight-loss is not complicated. There are a few rules and principles you need to know and adhere to but beyond that, the rest is just personal preference –whatever diet/fitness plan you can stick to is the best.
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I wanted to layout the few rules I find to be most important when trying to lose weight, gain weight, have energy, and overall longevity. I think once you know the rules you will know when and where they apply.
“Know the rules and follow them well so that you may know how to properly break them” -Dalai Lama
So with that in mind, read on and find out which rules really matter when you’re trying to change your body (and which don’t). Knowing these will also help you discern which (of the hundreds of thousands) methods will be the best for you. Here goes…
The Misconception of Clean Eating
“In order to lose weight you need to go ALL-IN. Unless, you’re super strict eating only foods like greens and chicken breast, you won’t lose weight. If you mess up and eat a cookie, you’ve lost everything and might as well finish the box. Clearly, you are weak-willed and pathetic.”
This is an unspoken belief that many people have. It is an all or nothing mentality that oscillates between super rigid dieting and eat-whatever-the-hell-I-want until I’m disgusted enough to eat clean again. But it simply isn’t true.
Rule 1: You lose weight because your average daily calorie consumption is less than you expend.
Not because you eat clean.
It is entirely possible and completely worthwhile to include foods you love into a long-term nutrition plan. We do challenges where we restrict certain foods but this is just to gain control and get momentum towards a goal.
“Clean Eating” is a popular term these days and (although the definition is hazy at best) it refers to foods that are widely considered as nutritious. Whole grains, grass-fed meat, fruit, veggies, etc. They have not been processed, packaged and stripped of nutrients (vitamins and minerals)
“Dirty” food or “Junk food” refers to the caloric-dense processed foods we see in grocery stores and restaurants. Burgers, pizza, cakes, cookies, desserts etc.
People believe that if they can’t follow a clean eating regimen than they simply need to give up the idea of losing weight. Conversely, they think that if they are eating clean than they are going to automatically lose weight. Neither are true.
When you eat food your body needs to derive protein, carbohydrates, and fat. On a molecular level, your body does not view carbs from a cupcake any different than it views the carbs of a banana. Your body doesn’t judge whether the food is clean or not. It simply takes the energy it needs and stores what it doesn’t.
This is why you can lose weight eating Mcdonalds and gain weight eating “clean”.
Wait a minute, are you saying you can eat fast food and lose weight? Are you kidding me?
This is what I’m saying…
A big reason people are confused about losing weight is that they confuse foods that promote long-term health and longevity with what causes weight-loss. They are not the same thing.
You lose weight by creating what’s called a deficit (consume less than you expend) not because you’re eating clean.
This doesn’t mean clean eating isn’t important. It is. You should eat clean most of the time because it is good for your health. But it is not inherently what causes weight-loss.
Okay, how come I lose weight every time I eat clean then??!?
Because clean eating gives you more bang for your buck. If I eat 2,000 calories a day using only clean foods I can eat three big meals and snacks and feel stuffed. Clean foods give you a lot more volume of food that can fill you up on less food. When you switch to clean eating, many times you end up eating less calories than before because it simply takes up a lot more room in your stomach.
Conversely, If I go to In & Out and get a double double cheeseburger, animal style fries and a coke I’ll hit 2,000 calories very quickly in one sitting.
Clean eating helps you lose weight because “junk” foods are very dense in calories. You can very easily get more calories than you need when you eat them.
So what’s this really mean for me and my weight goals?
It means you can eat foods you love and still burn fat. And as long as what you eat doesn’t exceed the amount of calories you need than you won’t gain weight.
We all burn calories at different rates so the trick is finding what neceesary for you to maintain your weight and from there you can adjust to lose weight. Tracking your food for a week and dividing by 7 (the days in the week) will give you that.
To lose weight you simply cut your daily calories (but not by a lot. 10-20% at most).
Avoid Severe Calorie Restriction
You can’t just cut a 1000 calories because you’re in a hurry to be skinny. The kind of weight you lose is very important. You want to lose fat you do not want to lose muscle.
If you cut too many calories, the weight you lose will be muscle and it will actually make you fatter in the long-run. I go into detail here.
Nearly every shake diet, cleanse or detox that promises fast dramatic results in a very short amount of time is doing this; creating a large caloric deficit at the expense of lean mass to drop a huge number on the scale.
Deficits cause weight-loss but your food choices determine what kind of weight loss it will be. (You want it to be fat)
When we say we wan’t to lose weight what we really mean is we want to lose the flabby adipose tissue that lines our stomach, butt, and thighs. You know, love-handles, double-chins, muffin-tops, saddlebags, and cottage cheese thighs?
It is very important to make the distinction between fat-loss and weight-loss. They aren’t the same. It is the difference between looking carved from stone or looking like a flesh-bag on a coat hanger.
There are 3 healthy ways to burn more calories than you consume.
- Create a mild dietary deficit (eat 200-500 calories less a day)
- Do a little more (exercise)
- Increase your metabolism by increasing lean mass (lift weights)
A combination of all three (although not always at the same time) is a powerful combination for fat-loss. Sadly, it is not the route most people go…
The Recipe for Skinny Fat
Severe calorie cutting and tons of cardio is the go-to method for tons of people trying to lose weight. It works short-term, but these people are constantly yo-yo dieting because that kind of weight-loss is terrible for your metabolism and makes maintaining weight-loss next to impossible. It also vaporizes your lean mass making for a very squishy deflated figure.
When you seek to lose fat, you need to preserve muscle mass. It is vital that you do this.
You body, when it is in a calorie deficit will either open up your fat stores, or it will eat away at your muscle for energy. Your protein intake determines which fuel source that will be.
This brings us to our next rule.
Rule 2: For long-term fat-loss you need to sustain (and increase) lean mass by consuming enough protein and lifting weights.
This is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of fat-loss there is:
Your body views fat as an asset and muscle as a liability. -Mike Matthews
Your body’s number one priority is survival. In times of famine, it needs to stay alive and it will do whatever it can to do that. Muscle is expensive. It burns calories to maintain even if it’s not doing anything. At first sign of famine (severe calorie restriction) like jetsam on a ship, it will cast overboard anything it doesn’t need to survive. Fat on the other hand is like a cozy emergency fund and your body, if it thinks it will need it, will protect it’s reserves.
You need to show your body, it has no need for excess fat storage and can therefore burn it. Eating about 1-1.2 gram of protein per pound for an active person is a safeguard for your muscle when on a fat-loss plan. Beyond that, your intake of carbohydrates and fat will be determined by how your performance goals and how physically active you are but contrary to popular belief, none of the macro-nutrients are evil. Each of them play an important role in your health and fitness.
How to keep a young metabolism.
We all hear people wishing they had the metabolism of their college days when they could eat whatever they wanted. It is a convenient excuse to not make lifestyle changes. I mean, I’m old, it wont make any difference right?
As we age, our lean mass steadily decreases if we do not give our bodies a reason to keep it. Lifting weights greatly diminishes that process. You can maintain and even gain muscle as you age which will in turn, increase your metabolism to rate comparable to younger populations.
Now, you may have expected about 10 more rules for fat-loss but that’s it.
The Rules for Fat-loss can be summed up as:
The most effective weight loss plan is one that is one that creates a mild caloric deficit while supports the functions of the body & lean mass.
You should lift weights and eat plenty of healthy and nutritious food but should also work in occasional indulgences.
Meal frequency should be decided by personal preference.
Many people will try to make it more complicated than that but it isn’t. Supplements can increase the effectiveness of a plan that is already working. It is not a substitute.
The principles are the same for muscle gain and performance. If you want to gain weight (muscle) not fat than you need to steadily increase your calories.
Now, since I have hopefully given you some clarity on what it takes to lose weight properly, it time talk about our next challenge.
We will be kicking off our forty-day Transformation Challenge.
In the 40 day challenge we are about to embark on we address all the factors necessary to look and feel great:
-How much you eat.
-What you eat.
-How often you train
-Your overall lifestyle (sleep, recovery)
We all at some point find ourselves struggling with our diets. We fall into bad habits, gain weight and start to fell blahh. We feel tired and lethargic. We don’t like what we see in the mirror and yet we feel completely unmotivated to change anything.
This is a terrible place to be.
A challenge is a great way to get back on track and lose weight the right way.
We’ve done several of these challenges over the years and it has resulted in some great transformations. Just take a look at the following:
On this challenge You can choose to follow one of three tracts:
–Performance (Aimed towards getting stronger and hitting new PR’s in the gym)
–Weight loss (Aimed towards sustainable fat-loss)
–Vitality (Aimed towards overall health and well being)
Those of you who want to do Performance or Fat-loss will have to track what you’re eating for the reasons explained in this post. Over the past several challenges we’ve seen this is the best way to predictably and consistently lose weight and perform better.
The third option is Vitality doesn’t require you to track your food. And, you guessed it, it is based on eating clean. The primary aim of this tract though is not weight-loss. By eliminating certain foods from your diet we can find out if it positively affects your health. Grains, Gluten, dairy and processed foods can adversely affect many people without them evening knowing it.
You may have allergies or inflammation from certain foods and the way only way to determine that is by eliminating them from your diet. Vitality will be a forty-day practice of the Paleo diet to help you determine that. To find out more on the benefits of paleo go here.
It will be structured eating program with limitations on certain foods. It is ideal for someone who does not have aggressive weight-loss goals and just wants to feel better overall. Everyday you will log based upon your success (or failure) to stick to the program.
Each tract of the challenge will be geared towards your goals. It is structured in way to be sustainable long-term. That being said, it is not easy. Only do this challenge if you are serious and committed to do it the whole way through.
Get Support and Accountability.
The challenge will involve accountability groups with whom you will check-in with throughout the challenge.
You will also gain access to our private Facebook group where you’ll find a wealth of recipes and wisdom from those doing the challenge with you.
If you wish to participate, call: 310-692-4439
Price to participate is $197.
You can also inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org