I once wrote a blog entitled “Diets work, people don’t.” Pretty good title, right? Regardless, the facts presented were eye opening to a lot of the readers.
Well, today’s blog could have been titled “diets work, life doesn’t,” but I’m not one for redundancy so we went with the good ol “list.”
The truth contained in this article might be more applicable in terms of immediate application in September and October when you really crack down and start your “diet,” but understanding these principles will be CRITICAL when assessing how to properly handle your summer and not setting yourself up for future failure.
Oh sh*t – now I’ve got your attention 🙂
Our dietary success is NEVER predicated purely on what we are consuming (“the diet”). Instead, it extends far beyond that into our dietary history, our personal lives, our social lives, our professional lives, our activity levels, and of course into our physiological and hormonal environments.
Sadly, most people continue to focus myopically on food consumption as the only variable of manipulation.
Today, my goal with this article is to at minimum bring awareness to this fact, and at best provide you areas of emphasis in your life to begin supporting your dietary endeavors.
So let’s stop delaying your success and jump in to the important details!
1 – The Diets You Have Tried
When you begin working with us here at iN3, one of the questions you will be asked about is “diets you have tried with or without success.”
To be completely honest, I used to ask this question purely to bring awareness as to what has and has not worked in the past. Success will always leave clues, far beyond what the textbooks tell us “should” happen.
Unfortunately over the last several years, this question has begun to bring awareness to an even larger problem – the “diet” epidemic of the world. On the surface, dieting is not a problem – it is, in fact, a necessary part of achieving any fat loss or body composition related goal. However, the dietary methods that have circulated our world over the last two decades are the real problem.
They have left you, the dieter, confused…and to some degree broken.
While confusion sucks, it’s the “brokenness” that is causing dietary frustration to be at an all-time high!
Let me explain…
The typical cycle of the average dieter over the last decade has looked something like this…
Try low fat diet because the media says it’s what works…
Get bored – over eat – regain any weight lost, and likely a little more
Try low carb diet because now the media says it’s even better…
Have some success
Get bored – desire carbs – over eat – and regain all weight lost plus a little more
Try paleo because all the CrossFitters are doing it…
Have some success
Get bored – desire balance – over eat – and find yourself at your all time highest weight despite numerous attempts at “dieting”
(this is the part where I could talk about templates and really poor coaching only exacerbating the damage above, but that’s not the point of this blog)
TALK ABOUT FRUSTRATING!
But what the media, trendy diets, and multi-level marketing scams have failed to tell you, is the real science behind diets – and more importantly the transitions in and out of diets.
What you don’t realize is that your last 30 day challenge diet (aka starvation template) – while potentially effective in the short term – has actually left you in a position where your body has a propensity to not only regain fat…but even worse, to increase the TOTAL NUMBER and SIZE of fat cells in your body.
This is actually the reason for you surpassing your initial level of body fat in the regaining process, and finding yourself with a few extra pounds than you started with.
Now compound this out a few times over – diet after diet after diet – and you can see the damage…
You now possess more fat cells, and larger fat cells than you had when you originally started.
Combine this with an overall decrease in metabolic output, and likely some hormonal disruption, and you truly have a recipe for a very difficult fat loss pursuit.
So is it your current diet, or your metabolic history that is to blame? Hmmmm…
(Note, this can be overcome, it just requires proper understanding and an appropriate plan moving forward)
2 – Stress Profile
It is extremely important to understand that the basic fundamental of change and transformation is stress imposition and subsequent adaptation.
Want to lose fat: create a calorie deficit (stressor) → your body burns fat (adaptation)
Want to gain muscle: break down muscles by training (stressor) → your body regrows the muscle slightly larger (adaptation)
This is present in all pursuits of change, including strength building, aerobic capacity building, skill acquisition, etc…
However, what we MUST understand is that the ABILITY TO CREATE ADAPTATION must be greater than the STRESS IMPOSITION.
While this might seem obvious, and easy to control within the dose of the stressor – the overall context of this far supersedes simply adjusting training volume. Instead, let’s begin to look at other stressors that may not be as visible, but are absolutely affecting your ability to adapt, or create results.
SLEEP – Sleep is probably the most overlooked, and easiest variable to control when facilitating adaptation. The notion that you are going to “work the fat off” or “hustle your way to results” simply won’t work. Instead, opt for additional asleep which will ensure full recovery from your imposed stimuli, and subsequent ability to create the desired adaptation.
LIFE STRESS – This is a variable that is not so easily controlled, but must be observed when properly planning both your training and dietary protocols. Unfortunately, highly stressful situations do not correlate with the ability to lose fat easily. Instead, if you know that you have a highly stressful life, consider opting for a minimal effective dose in both your training and dietary set ups. This will help to account for stress that already exists, while concurrently moving you towards your goals with minimal additional stress.
This list should also have considerations for personal stress, work stress, and any other persistent stressors in your life.
A good rule of thumb is that for every stressor present in your life, you should have a definitive recovery modality also present. When you train, you should follow it with some breathing or movement work. If you don’t sleep enough one night, consider not training the next day, or at least reducing the intensity.
Listen, I recognize that the majority of you reading this right now are somewhat shaking your head and saying “ya right, I will be just fine” – and for the most part you are actually right…the FIRST time….and the SECOND time…and a few more times….until you AREN’T JUST FINE. Until the HPA axis is disrupted, and until you have a hormonal profile that no longer allows you to yield results, even with the best training and dietary protocols.
So PLEASE, understand your stressors, and plan everything else accordingly 🙂
3 – You Are Forcing It
Here’s more truth – almost all diets work…assuming they create a calorie deficit, they SHOULD (in theory) work.
Keto – restricts carbs – decreases caloric intake – works.
Carb cycling – restricts carbs at certain intervals – decreases weekly caloric load – works.
Low fat – restricts fat intake – decreases caloric intake – works.
The list goes on…
Now assuming you have no crazy dietary history (see #1) and that you are controlling your stressors (see #2), why aren’t these protocols working for you?
Simple – you are trying TOO HARD.
Just because keto is trendy, and the zealots are yelling from the high heavens that carbs will kill you, does not mean that you should abandon the life you love if it includes carbs. While it may work temporarily and yield results today, those results will not last and you will be left frustrated. That frustration will carry over to subsequent dietary events and fill you with self-doubt and potential inability to follow future dietary protocols.
Conversely, just because some celebrity guru said you must carb cycle does not mean you must carb cycle. Some of you have never counted a carb nor do you ever want to count a carb – and I promise, you CAN still get results. But if you pigeon hole yourselves to something that is not in alignment with your life, you will end up failing… and be frustrated!
The solution is to understand yourself – your likes and your preferences – and of course, your non negotiables.
Yes, the real solution is NUTRITION COACHING!
Putting it together and moving forward
This article is being published on June 25, just four days into summer. I do NOT in any way expect you to have dietary perfection over the next couple months and you should not expect it of yourself. In fact, this is the perfect time to work with a nutrition coach and learn the foundational habits that can yield future success, and not move yourself 10 steps backwards during the summer season.
But hopefully at this point you are able to recognize the following:
– Do not yo-yo diet this summer… every time you severely restrict, you are more susceptible in the immediate term to gain more fat cell size and quantity. Doing this over and over again in your vain attempts to look good on the beach can be disastrous for your long term results.
– Control your stressors this summer… begin to recognize the stress that you are intentionally imposing and the stress that is already present, and adjust your protocols accordingly.
– Live YOUR life… stop trying to fit yourself into some crazy protocol, and ensure that you find yourself a calorie deficit in a way that suits YOU!
Dieting doesn’t have to be so complicated – let’s all take a step back, breathe, perhaps have a cold drink, and ENJOY ourselves! THAT is how you find success 🙂
Chat next week!