Looking at and cleaning up your nutrition choices so your ‘diet’ is healthy or healthier makes sense. Almost everyone gets caught up in modern convenience and eats too much crap at the wrong times in the wrong amount. The question and issue we want to address is – when did ‘dieting’ as in stripping and ripping off the fat become a popular thing let alone a positive thing?
Only a few generations back a ‘diet’ was a prescription dealing with a condition. Now it is synonymous with getting thin or fighting being fat. You may know much of what we are about to say but not many fully realize the full context and implications.
Throughout evolution an abrupt loss of body fat indicated only sickness and/or famine period. Ones fat stores may increase through fall months then decrease in the spring but only in a gentle minor respect. Purposely putting on 20, 30…40 pounds of unneeded fat then stripping it off in a short time frame is a modern situation. Yes purposely – denial or not you don’t add more than a few of pounds of body fat without noticing then ignoring.
Before you second-guess us this isn’t a lecture about personal responsibility. What we want to get at is the bigger picture, most people think losing a pound or even pounds every week is great for your health…it isn’t. It is a massive negative stress that yes we can survive but not without possible damage. Like the silent inflammation inside your body that causes insidious destruction (an issue for a future post) fat gain and loss takes an unfelt toll. You don’t feel the damage because the nervous system is only vaguely aware. Moreover, you are designed to react to calorie restriction with a free cascade of energy producing ‘feel good’ chemicals. The purpose is to allow you to forage and hunt even in the face of starvation. In present day people mistake this stop-gap measure for feelings of health and wellness and that they are doing something good for the body.
Look at a pound of human body fat – now consider eating it. This is what you are doing during calorie restriction; you are supplementing your intake with blubber. This tissue is designed for emergency use not as a daily part of your nutrition. In western civilization there simply is no excuse to eat much of anything that isn’t nutrient rich and helpful for the processes of the body. Sure we often entertain ourselves with junk food but everyone knows on some level that becoming visibly overweight is unhealthy. The confusion fed, pardon the pun, by much of the fitness industry is that dropping the fat is fine. It may under certain circumstance be a necessary evil but it is far from fine.
We liken heavy calorie restriction and swift fat loss to pulling a barbed thorn from the skin. It tears and destroys on the way out but you want it out. The thing is with deeper tougher to get at skin intrusions the body is designed to push them out by itself over time. Fat loss is similar in that given a proper, personal nutrition protocol the body has the ability to right itself.
This is how it works, if you are building and maintaining a healthy level of lean mass though proper exercise – if you are reasonably active – if you rest well and if you don’t over consume and eat real food – you will naturally move towards a decent body weight or more importantly ‘healthy body composition’ (see our last post: https://wefit.ca/2013/03/10/fat-fitness-and-fact/ ).
Certainly to maximize your fitness and improve your appearance you may need some calorie restriction but not removed for the proper context. This context means you need to have the fuel to exercise with intense purpose. This means you need real energy not nervous energy, to stay active which then encourages resting properly. It means you need the nutrients to keep all systems, especially immune function, as tip-top as conditions will allow.
Sometimes this will mean eating extra calories to support lean mass creation and aid recovery. Sometimes this will mean ingesting certain ingredients when it is best regardless of trying to starve off the so-called ugly fat.
FIT > thin
Failure to keep nutrition in a proper, personal context results in allowing the negative effects of calorie restriction to do their worst. Just like exercise breaks down your physiology with the hope of encouraging your body to adapt during rest and make itself strong and more enduring so should diet(ing). Calorie restriction should only be administered carefully and not as a primary method of righting ones body composition. Calorie restriction should be respected to the point that if anyone ever has to diet down to reasonable body fat levels they should never want or need to do it twice.
There is nothing that wrong with backing off on the entertainment food to ease off a pound or two, it is natural for levels to fluctuate throughout the year. What we are referring to is the misconception that “I can always diet if I have to”. It is wrong, wrong…wrong. Dieting hard even just for short periods can ruin your metabolism over time. This especially when you lack proper lean mass, don’t rest appropriately and aren’t sure what nutrient breakdown you need (macro/micro, timing etc).
One reason we fitness professionals like to set goals and timeframes is to establish just how much you can take without too much backlash. Anyone who diets know you hit plateaus, chances are your body started suffering too much before you even stalled. Long term repeated dieting along with aging can make it incredibly difficult to achieve anything but staving off morbid obesity.
You need to understand that diet means eating well and dieting means you are in trouble health wise and must perform invasive tactics. You must not see dieting as ok because it isn’t. It isn’t natural and it is major stress on the body. This is why we can store fat so easily and it is so tough to get rid of. We have evolved to survive famine and sickness and going against your nature is never good. In other words inducing famine and sickness is a dangerous measure to take.
We haven’t even begun to address the issue of what mental landmines make it worse. Just think how dieting down then not being happy with how you look and feel can make matters compound. You yo-yo back up then down again maybe with extra drive. Your metabolism is slower and your body symmetry is eroded away. Every diet becomes an affirmation that you just might as well give up trying to be fit.
Dieting causes mood swings, low energy, cortisol overload, disruption of sleep cycle, challenged immune system, inhibited stress tolerance and so on. These reinforce negativity and long term muscle wasting, frozen fat stores etc. Ultimately it can skew ones outlook on eating and respect for proper nutrition. It can have you mixed up about proper hunger cues and what to truly avoid and when.
If you are overweight you will need to restrict calories in some manner at some point. Avoid fad diets and boxed schemes. Make sure you are building strength and endurance through exercise. Get proper rest and regular stress relieving/stimulating activity. Find out about your body type and how foods affect you. Devise a plan and go slow, rushing gets you in the honeymoon phase but leads inevitably to a diet divorce.
First try to see how much real food you can stick to i.e. non man made. This would be that which occurs naturally and don’t fool yourself – modern starches are man made fat bombs. Stick with as much real food as you can for as long as you can and see how your weight settles. Don’t micro manage how much you consume. Just get a sense of how addicted you are to sugary, starchy crappy entertainment food.
Give a person who is lean and strong as much meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and water as they want and it will be tough for them to get fat. You need to know that it is the junky carbohydrates as well as to a lesser extent the man made crap fat that destroys your health. You need to know this so intimately you can combat the confused primitive signals. Neurologically transmitted incitement set off by an out of shape system bombarded by contemporary chemical confusion.
Above all understand that fitness is a systemic issue. There is no quick easy fix in fact an out of balance approach may give you a superficial marker of health but underlying demise. Don’t wait until you can’t wait anymore. Do what you can now with what you have and expand from there. Go slow and sensibly. Face yourself with as much objectivity as you can muster and make changes to all areas of your fitness…know that everyone deserves to be well.
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Good reading for every day:0)
Thank you Madame!
This was a good read and made a lot of sense. It is encouraging for me as I have recently spent about 3 months hitting the cardio hard and caloric restriction, but find lately that I feel better eating more (good food) such as lean meat and fish. Balancing 45 minutes of workout time I am now taking your advice to spend at least half of that time doing intense resistance exercise and finishing with interval type treadmill cardio. I keep in mind that slow and easy will win the race and try to enjoy the journey rather than live in anticipation of the finish line.
Yes we need time to let our body adjust. Quick change tends to see us slide back quick. Build muscle and a higher metabolic rate while losing unwanted body fat. Cardio is more akin to activity than exercise so it has a draining effect. It lowers blood sugar levels and can encourage the system to slow and stall if over used. It is great to stay active but even too much of a good thing…
Dropping weight is hard on the body, slow and steady or quicker but with rest breaks of maintenance eating will see less metabolic damage long term.
Keep up the journey!