The Fallacy of “Dieting”

Yes, I put dieting in quotation marks is because I really hate that term but it’s the common one everyone uses.

One thing I have been noticing in the fitness challenge is that everyone seems to be having issues with the diet aspect of it – because what and how you eat has a direct impact on how you look, think, and feel. With a fitness challenge, you do need to change diet and exercise habits to have real change, otherwise, why sign up?

However, there’s some comments within the group that I’ve seen that make me absolutely cringe. One lady in particular commented how good her macros are and she had a snap shot of whatever App she’s using and she’s been consistently consuming about 1200 calories a day.

1200 calories a day. That’s what a child should consume – not a grown ass woman!

If you have decided that you want to lose weight, the first thing people automatically assume is they need to cut calories.

No. No, no, no, no, NO!

I know. It’s counter intuitive to eat more in order to lose weight, but if you don’t, you will cause more damage, likely backfire because it’s not sustainable, possibly binge on unhealthy foods, slow your metabolism down, stop losing weight or even gain weight, likelihood of rebounding, and so on.

If you want to lose weight, that’s great. I’ve struggled for most of my life and it’s not an easy thing to do, so let me put these thoughts out there.

First, you need to heal your hurt. If you are over weight, there is a reason – and eating a whole box of donuts is not it. Well, it is, but abusing food is often a symptom of a bigger problem and that is what you need to address. If you’ve been abusing food, it is very easy for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction and that, also, isn’t healthy. You need to figure out the “why” behind your behavior. If you don’t heal your hurt, when you do lose the weight, it will not make you happy. That hurt doesn’t magically disappear with the weight.

And just as important as figuring out the “why” of your past behavior, you need to figure out your “why” for losing weight. Health concerns, family health history prevention, being a good example to your children to break the cycle, physical aspiration like a race.

So once you’ve healed your hurt and identified your why, you need to make your plan – nothing is successful without a plan. That should start with figuring out your baseline caloric intake – or your BMR – basal metabolic rate. This is easy – there are plenty of websites that will do the work for you.

BMR is what your body REQUIRES in order to function. This keeps your brain going, your heart pumping, all the functions of your organs and glands. You should never EVER go below this number. Ever. Putting my information in the calculator, my BMR is 1670 calories a day. Even if I lead a sedentary lifestyle I would still require about 2000 calories. This is because eating is a metabolic activity – so you burn calories during the digestive process. For someone with my activity level, it’s about 2500 calories a day. Now, because I want to lose weight, I want a deficit, so I’m going to reduce my calories by about 300.

Now, keep in mind, anything short of going to the doctor and getting a complicated and expensive test done, these calculators are a good indicator but not gospel – and certainly better than picking some arbitrary number out of thin air which can cause physiological damage.

Once you’ve figured out your caloric intake, then you need to figure out the macro breakdown. For this example, I’m going to use 2000 calories to make it easy. So, if you want your breakdown to look like this: 30% calories from fat, 30% calories from protein, and 40% from carbohydrates which looks like: 600 calories from fat, 600 calories from protein, and 800 calories from carbohydrates. Now, to turn this into useful information when it comes to building a meal plan, you need to figure out how many grams of each this is. Carbs and protein are 4 calories per gram and fat is 9 calories per gram. This converts to: 67 grams of fat, 150 grams of protein, and 200 grams of carbohydrates.

With that information, you can start building your meal plan and to do this effectively, you need to understand yourself, your needs, your habits, schedule, etc. When you’re building your meal plan, keep these things in mind:

  • Are you a morning person? How much time can you put into breakfast?
  • When do you work out and what do you do – resistance training, cardio, HIIT, sports, etc.
  • What do your work days look like? Are you typical “9-5” or are you a shirt worker?
  • Do you work out in the morning? During your lunch break? After work or in the evening?
  • Do you find yourself hungrier in the morning or afternoon?
  • What foods trigger you for binge eating? (if any)

These are just a few things to think about

For me, I am a morning person and at this time of Covid-19, I have been getting up and doing a fasted workout (on an empty stomach). I’ll have my breakfast after my workout. After a couple hours, I might do some more exercise like go for a run. I’ll have something after that as well. If I don’t have a solid breakfast / morning snack, I am screwed for the rest of the day – dealing with cravings and possible binge eating – though being at home I haven’t had to deal with it as I don’t keep junk food in the house.

When I’m actually working, I work 7am-3pm but I have to get out the door at 545am as I have about an hour commute. In the summer I try to bike to work (15ish km) which I allow the same amount of time as I have to shower when I get to work. At lunch I do a hot yoga class and the evening I go to the gym for resistance workouts. For this, when I ride to work, I don’t want to do it on a full stomach and when I get to work, I need something that will digest quickly to replenish my energy, so it’ll be primarily carbs. Just as at the end of the day I don’t want to be eating anything too heavy after my resistance training workout and before bed, I’ll usually have a protein shake but make it more nutritiously dense by adding fruits, powders, etc to it. Still nutritiously dense but easier to digest.

And this is why, in the Oxygen Fitness Challenge I’m doing, there’s no “diet” to follow. Everyone is different. Everyone has different likes and dislikes, schedules, requirements, obligations, social economical situations, etc. There is no way that a trainer can ethically put people on a cookie-cutter diet. That’s just lazy training.

Well, isn’t providing no diet lazy?

No. She’s provided guidance and it is the entrants responsibility to look at themselves and their individual situations and move towards intuitive eating. What would happen after the challenge if everyone was on a cookie cutter diet? Well, challenge is over, so no sense keeping up the diet! And that’s why DIETS DON’T WORK!!! With intuitive eating, the participants can learn about themselves, learn what works for them, and keep it up after the challenge is over. The coaches are doing them a favor by not completely hand holding.

When I was a Personal Trainer, my whole goal was to give people the knowledge to be able to do everything without me. Keeping them ignorant so I can keep them as a client is wrong – and maybe that’s why I didn’t succeed being self employed.

If you decide that you want to get in shape and lose weight, that’s great! But don’t buy into a diet plan of any type that demonizes food, restricts food, or puts you on a cookie cutter plan. It will do more damage in the long run and you should strive for something that can be maintained long term.

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