So I bragged on Facebook about a few of my clients last week. Several of them have made great progress: dramatic, visible progress. J___ is much leaner, T___ is practically a different person in the face, and C___ can slip out of his pants now without unbuttoning them. I’m proud of their success! And a little proud of my part in it.
But at the same time, a few guys have expressed frustration at their progress. Not that they aren’t making progress – all my guys are, even those who barely listen to me! But some of them want to hit the gas a little harder. C___ in particular wants to see some abs and tends to grumble that those aren’t making their debut quite fast enough. I’m sympathetic to a point – abs are bizarrely motivating, especially to us fatties who may never have seen them in the mirror – but only to a point. And I say that because my guys tend to fall into some pretty obvious traps. Traps I feel like I warned them about… but then again, maybe it’s one of those things where you can’t really warn people away from a hot stove until they put their hand on it.
So what are the biggest traps my clients fall into? Let’s look.
So as much as I repeat truisms that I’ve learned about the fitness industry, I find that I never quite get them into my head completely. Which is why they bear repeating and why this whole thing is an ongoing process. Case in point today: the idea of a “cheat” day as a harmless – and sometimes helpful! – mechanism in a diet regime.
The Rock… who consumes mountains of food on his cheat days.
Aaaand I’m back. Reconnected to the interwebz after a while moving from one house to another. Been hard not having access to the net, even beyond not being able to put down my thoughts on my blog and such, but now I’m back and I have a lot to catch up on!
We’ll start with what’s freshest in my mind – since it came up yesterday and it comes up fairly often for me. Yesterday I was at the gym and ran into an old friend who was getting ready for his personal training session. His trainer – also a friend of mine – had told him that he needs to reexamine his eating because they had been working together for a while and he still basically looked the same. I asked, “Well you’re stronger, right?” and he said, “I’m definitely stronger. I am, I guess, more able to perform duties at the gym…” We both laughed. “That’s not why any of us is at the gym though,” I said with a smile, and he nodded. So I asked him how he was eating. “Well for breakfast I had a Nutrigrain bar and some almonds…” I stopped him right there (since if that was breakfast, then the rest of the day was probably not making up for it). The answer wasn’t surprising necessarily… I used to eat similarly, thinking it would make me lose weight. But looking back at the conversation I realize that this eating style is endemic: people still eat that way thinking it’s healthy. The truth is that they’re sabotaging themselves.
There are a few snacks that I at times keep on hand to keep me on a decent eating regime. For many people, part of the problem with a diet is the feeling of hunger between meals, or the sense that you have to have a will of iron and give up on things like flavor. I don’t think that’s the case – there is a way to eat, even on my own regime of very low carbohydrates, where things actually taste good and you can eat when you’re hungry. Most of the time I, myself, won’t make these kinds of things only because I’m at a place in life where it’s just simpler for me to make chicken and broccoli for days on end haha. But I remember foods like this were helpful – and sometimes still are – when I’ve needed variety while still sticking to a low-carb regime.
This is the eating portion of my following up on the post I made about Somatotypes, and also the companion to Exercising for My Body. Like I said, my somatotype is the backbone of my fitness philosophy: if you are not taking your body type into account, you may be fighting an uphill battle against genetics that will leave you very frustrated with disappointing results. If, however, you can master your body type, and even harness it, you can begin playing to your strengths and make incredible gains that other body types aren’t capable of. This is especially true if you’re an endomorph like me (and if you grew up obese, you are probably heavily endomorphic) because you will make strength gains at an incredible rate in the gym.
Eating is trickier and far less satisfying for an endomorph. There’s no way to sugar coat it: eating is the biggest problem an endomorph has. And it was the most frustrating part of my own experience as I fumbled my way through learning my body. As I said before, the calorie math is completely bogus for me. My body simply doesn’t require that much food to maintain weight or even gain weight. And yet so, so many eating regimens produced by mainstream fitness professionals rely on this calorie math to make dietary recommendations. Almost all of them, it seemed. There were so many times that I would get excited by some new diet system and begin reading about it… only to get 10 pages into the literature and discover that the writer was just putting his own embellishments on “eat 500 calories less than your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and you’ll lose weight!” I’d scowl, my heart would drop, and I’d shut the book. One more freaking dead end… One more uninspired variation on the same bogus witchcraft I’d been fed for a decade or more.
But, as you can imagine, that wasn’t the end of the story. I found ways around this roadblock… and when I discovered them, I realized that not only was the calorie math bogus for me, it was probably fundamentally bogus for everyone. I’ll explain.
Eating… it’s about 80% of anyone’s progress on a fitness program. And as a former fat boy it was (and often is) the most vexing part of the whole process. On top of that, there is no end to the information one can dig up about eating, so central is it to health and well-being and fitness in general. Millions of words, hundreds of thousands of pages, and countless hours of infomercial time are dedicated to eating in the fitness industry because it is the backbone of your health. (So, you know, expect On Eating to be a long continuing series of posts!)
But because it is covered so extensively (if never exhaustively), it is also the tallest mountain to climb when you’re trying to learn how to eat. So what’s a guy to do? If you’re like me, you’ll stumble through several iterations of something that doesn’t work and get discouraged over and over and over.
I say “part 1” because, honestly, the whole blog could be taken over by posts on eating. There’s no way to cover it all in one blurb… not because it’s too huge to master, at least for your or my individual use, but because – like fitness itself – learning about eating, shaping your diet, shaping your goals, and learning from your mistakes is what makes the process unending (and exciting, as far as that goes).
So, since this is part 1, I should start at the beginning with what I used to eat, which was awful. Then I’ll describe what I changed in my diet at first (this part is also awful). Later on I’ll describe what I did for a good while (which was still awful). Eventually I’ll describe what I’m doing now (which may be awful, but that remains to be seen).