Why I don’t care about your results pt 2
I really must learn not to give any kind of timeline in terms of when I’ll likely post things. Life always interferes.
So I’m not totally happy with this entry yet. This is the third incarnation of this particular post. The first was too emo. The second, too snarky. This one manages to be neither and I’m not sure if it says exactly what I want it too. But I have other things I want to post and this has been nagging at me, so here ya go. It may get edited to clarify what the hell I’m talking about.
As I said at the end of my last post, whatever your goals and whatever your methods, if you’re approaching things in a healthy way (as in not starving yourself or training your body into the ground) and getting to where you want to be, good for you. And if everyone just went about their business and if weight, fitness and health weren’t public and common topics, then there wouldn’t be any issues.
But it’s never as simple as that, of course. Remember during the height of the low-carb craze when everyone and their mom had lost 10+ lbs in those first couple of weeks on atkins/south beach? So much weight and so fast! Amazing! I know that, despite feeling skeptical at first, I couldn’t, after so many of my friends and family had dropped all this weight so quickly, help but pick up a copy of South Beach and give it a try. Really, how many of my readers either did the same or know multiple people who did? These things pick up momentum based on the stories of the people who try them, not because everyone sits down one day, considers the evidence and thinks “Carb Intake is probably what’s actually behind obesity.”
Of course, losing lots of weight in the first couple of weeks on a low-carb diet isn’t proof that the scientific claims behind low-carb are true, it’s water loss caused by the body using up some of its glycogen stores. Not nearly as miraculous, but no one said “Oh yeah, the scale showed a big drop, but most of it’ll come back as soon as I eat some pasta and bread.”
And that’s what lies at the heart of my tendency to jump into conversations about X miracle diet and do my best Buzz Killington impression.
Because if people don’t understand why their diet is working, then they’re much more likely to blame themselves when/if it eventually fails. And let’s face it, the odds are pretty high that it will especially if you don’t understand the basics of weight-loss in the first place.
Want to read something depressing? (probably not, but maybe it’s your thing.) Go to some forums or posts dedicated to particular types of diets or specific plans promoted by some Dr/Guru. You can literally find hundreds of posts that boil down to “I know I’m not doing this right because it’s not working. Please help.” And people try to help. They try to find where this person went wrong, but most of the time it’s pretty pointless. When you’ve drunk deeply of the guru’s kool-aid, you often can’t imagine the problem could be with the plan itself.
Could the reason person X isn’t losing weight on a low-carb diet be that they’re eating enough calories to maintain their current weight? Nope calories don’t matter, just insulin.
Could the reason person Y is always hungry while “eating to live” be that they’re only eating 1300 calories per day which is way below what they need to maintain an active lifestyle? Nope, they’re feeling fake hunger or maybe they need to eat bigger salads.
Could the reason people are failing on low-fat diets be that they’re not feeling satiated and/or that they’re eating ‘healthy, low-fat’ foods willy nilly? Don’t be silly.
People on these boards have often lost all ability to truly think critically about their diet of choice. And because we have elevated the personal weight-loss anecdote to a level equal to or even above that of actual research, the existence of a number of people who have succeeded on a particular plan is enough to validate it completely.
I don’t have a problem with people coming up with various plans to help others reach their body goals. Everyone’s different and what works for one person, may not work for another. To paraphrase something I’ve read lots of other places: the best diet is the one you can stick to. What I think though is that we need some basic honesty from everyone involved:
Every single effective weight-loss plan must either lower intake or increase energy expenditure. This is the basis of every single diet out there. Some never come out and say it, but there’s really no way to get around this fact.
Chances are your guru is not Galileo. Meaning, if they’re making claims that 99% of the people who know what they’re talking about call bullshit on, those claims are probably bullshit. If someone really had discovered the ‘secret’ to effortless and healthy weight loss, then they would be billionaires.
You can lose, gain or maintain fat. You can gain, lose or maintain muscle. You cannot spot reduce. You cannot ‘lengthen’ muscle. Lifting a heavy weight won’t give you a different muscle quality than lifting a light weight. Heavier weight is simply going to actually build muscle while light weights won’t do much.
I could probably fill dozens of blog posts with all the basic ideas that are twisted or ignored in popular diet books. But that’s boring and frankly, I don’t want to deal with the true believers who would come to this blog.
Telling the truth about diet and training doesn’t make different plans obsolete. What works for you, works for you. But it’s not magic and it is certainly not universal.
Because I love a good example, let me close with two possible descriptions of the “Eat to Live” plan. The first from the Doctor’s own website:
The key to this revolutionary diet is the idea of nutrient density, as expressed by the simple formula Health=Nutrients/Calories. When the ratio of nutrients to calories is high, fat melts away and health is restored. Losing 20 pounds in two to three weeks is just the beginning. The more high-nutrient food Dr. Fuhrman’s patients consume, the more they are satisfied with fewer calories, and the less they crave fat and high-calorie foods. Designed for people who must lose 50 pounds or more in a hurry, EAT TO LIVE works for every dieter, even those who want to lose as little as 10 pounds quickly. No willpower required-just knowledge!
Now how would I edit this?
The key to this
revolutionary diet is the idea of nutrient density, as expressed by the simple formula Health=Nutrients/Calories. eating large quantities of low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables in order to maintain a large energy deficit. When the ratio of nutrients to calories is high, fat melts away and health is restored. A large deficit can cause fairly quick weight loss and fruits and veggies contain lots of healthy vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants so that’s a plus. Losing 20 pounds in two to three weeks is just the beginning.Literally, this will just happen in the beginning. Unless the amount of energy you require to maintain your weight is pretty high, once you’ve lost a bunch of water weight, losing any more than 3lbs/week would require a calorie-deficit of over 1,500 calories every day. The more high-nutrient food Dr. Fuhrman’s patients consume, the more they are satisfied with fewer calories, and the less they crave fat and high-calorie foods. Eating higher volume meals can increase satiety and make it easier to eat at a deficit. And hey, if you’re trying to eat fewer calories, veggies are your best bet in terms of eating high volume. Designed for people who must lose 50 pounds or more in a hurry, EAT TO LIVE works for every dieter some people, even those who want to lose as little as 10 pounds quickly. No willpower required-just knowledge!You must learn to love vegetables and eschew fat.
Now, I don’t think the second description is bad, just honest. Do you want to eat a very high volume of low-calories foods? If not, then don’t. There are a lot of other ideas out there.