The vast majority of us are trying.
Of course we are trying. We sit down at a restaurant, begin to browse the menu, and look at a few things.
Prices. Of course. Don’t want to break the bank. 20-year old, single malt Scotch sounds fantastic… but perhaps a Coors Light is a bit more in our price range.
Cravings. What haven’t I had in a while? If you’ve had pizza 3 times in the past week, chances are you’re gonna skip the pie.
Quantity. How hungry are you? Can you share a meal? Are you starving? Gonna order that “Porterhouse For Two” or get a bite off the “Petite” menu?
And of course… Health.
We all do it. We try to find the perfect balance of the right price, the right taste, the right size… and the right “health” factor.
Most of us try. We do. We try constantly. We make decisions – constant decisions – about our health. Should we eat this? Should we eat that? How will this affect us? Will we feel like crap afterwords?
And alas, even though we “try” constantly – all the time, really – we still struggle to ultimately make the progress we are looking for.
So, what gives? What causes even the “health conscious” and those who are regularly attempting to make solid, informed decisions, to derail?
Given the interesting situation I’ve been afforded – being an online coach in a community like Fitocracy – I’ve noticed a few patterns. Our “No Cardio Fat Shredding” series has had over 300 active members over the past 7 months. And at the start of our programs, there’s a few bits to our system which act as real eye-openers for our members.
And our members? They’re ALL “health-conscious.” I mean, they ARE on Fitocracy, after all – which is a social network for the fitness-oriented crowd.
So, what are they (and perhaps YOU) often doing incorrectly? How might a little nudge in the right direction help you to begin to see the light?
Here are a few items which have become glaringly obvious issues for even the health conscious people to overcome.
1. Most health conscious people consume way too much fat.
This is an interesting observation which I wasn’t ready for. I had assumed most who came to our group would need to curtail their carbs. But this is 100% NOT the case. Most are very “carb conscious” – but therein lies a bit of the issue.
Since we have shifted fully away from the “carbs are good, fat is bad” mindset of the 80’s/90’s, we have inadvertently (or perhaps intentionally) shifted towards the “carbs are BAD, fat is GOOD” mindset. Which can be a problem.
This is the unintended consequence to labeling foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy.” We always need to keep in mind our choices have context to them. When we label a food as “healthy,” we believe we can eat as much as we would like of that food – and not gain fat. Which is incorrect.
And if we label a food as “unhealthy,” we believe we can’t eat that food AT ALL – or else we WILL gain fat – which is again, incorrect.
We don’t want to believe that our bodies are complex and that our health is the function of a myriad of endless decisions – we want to believe it’s as cut and dry as “Eat fewer carbs,” “Eat more fat,” or “Eat whole foods.”
And while perhaps there’s some validity to those statements in certain contexts, they don’t hold up 100% of the time, regardless of the circumstances.
There’s nothing WRONG with fat. Eating fat has a good number of health benefits. But it also has the tendency to add calories to your meals FAST when you consume it ad libitum.
There’s nothing WRONG with carbs – unless you consume them mindlessly and recklessly. Our bodies need some carbage for optimal performance. And the issue, mostly, comes from eating boatloads of carbs in processed form – which makes overeating easy and often times even likely.
But it’s not uncommon whatsoever for a new client to say, “Hey, how am I supposed to eat only 40 grams of fat per day? That’s impossible!”
Be sure to mix in a few lean sources with your fatty sources. The poison is almost always in the dose.
2. Most health conscious people consume way too little protein.
Protein has been touted as the answer to pretty much everything.
Need to lose fat? Protein.
Need to build muscle? Protein.
Need a raise? A new car? A new girlfriend? A new life? Pretty sure protein will help. It helps make the impossible possible.
Perhaps it’s more of a function of simply not tracking and paying attention to the number, but protein, even in the health conscious, is lacking.
The general rule of thumb is one gram per pound of lean body mass. Want a simple estimation which will probably work? Take 75% of your bodyweight and consume AT LEAST that much protein per day.
If you’ve never done this before, get ready. You’re likely to be stuffed at first. Be sure your protein sources are whole foods – try to skip the shakes for now.
If you do this, and just simply eat your fat/carbs in moderation, there’s a VERY good chance you’ll lose weight naturally and effortlessly.
“I’m soooooo stuffed! How can I eat all of this food?” is an extremely common question we hear in the first week of “dieting.”
Then fast forward to the third week of “dieting” and we hear, “My pants are falling off…”
Which, if you haven’t figured out yet, are not exactly actual problems.
3. Most health conscious people consume way too much early in the day.
The myth of “eating at night causes fat gain” is still extremely prevalent in our culture. That much is fact.
Despite the fact that it’s been proven over and over again that meal timing and frequency have NOTHING to do with fat loss – whatsoever – many are still clinging to the old “breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, dinner like a pauper”. When often times, if that were merely adjusted to your own personal preferences and optimized for your compliance, you would find dieting easy and effortless.
Especially if you have a normal, 9-5 job. During the day? You’re busy. You’re distracted. You’re doing things. You’re at work. You can handle eating a bit less – you’ll barely even notice the difference.
Can we make a simple, applicable suggestion?
Skip breakfast and eat “just enough” lunch. Then eat a satisfying, protein rich, mixed meal at the end of the day. Don’t binge, but be satisfied – fully. Make it mostly whole foods and fill yourself up.
See how you feel. Nearly all clients fee… “right” when they give fasting and eating less during the day a try. We all want to be fed in the evenings. Going to bed with a full belly is an awesome feeling. So, set up your plan to reflect this basic desire.
***Disclaimer – there’s nothing that will CAUSE weight/fat loss by fasting or setting your diet up in this manner. It’s simply a viable option if consistency and/or sustainability of your plan is lacking.***
4. Most health conscious people don’t train effectively in accordance with their fat loss goal.
This is especially true for weight lifters. Here are some characteristics of workouts given specific goals:
Fat loss – low sets, low reps, low volume, low frequency, high intensity.
For fat loss, look at 3-4 compound movements per session, 2-3 sets max per movement, 3 times per week with less than 12 reps per set.
Muscle gain – varies, but all those “lows” can be subbed out. This is where you can focus on more hypertrophy and add in the “pump,” the “burn,” more isolation exercise, and train with a higher frequency. Granted, your intensity needs to be lower – no going to failure constantly, but the rest can vary greatly based on your desires/goals.
But a constant issue with the health conscious crowd? They have a primary goal of fat loss and they are training way too frequently, for way too long, and using haphazard progression models – if they’re even using a progression model at all.
Your fat loss won’t be determined by how many sets you do – it will much more likely be determined by what you put into your body. Your weight training programs need to simply remind your muscles of why they are there. Short, quick, intense, and out the door. Go rest.
It’s very common for a client to set new PR’s by Week 3-4 of a basic, linear progression model – simply because they’ve never used one before.
When you are cutting, your strength isn’t compromised, but your RECOVERY is. And when you’re doing set after set after set… after set… you won’t be able to recover as effectively.
Train smarter, not harder.
5. Most health conscious trainees think something should feel “easy” before attempting to move past it.
Again, this is often a prevalent mindset in beginning weightlifters, but it can be applicable to any endeavor.
At first, progression is easy. Five more pounds? Ten seconds less? Two more reps? Simple. A cakewalk.
But as always happens, over time, it becomes much more difficult in order to achieve the same progress.
And soon? You’re gonna get to the point where it’s “really hard” – no matter what it is. But therein lies the beauty of progressive overload.
The concept of progressive overload is partly trusting in the process of breaking yourself down momentarily, in an attempt to become stronger. Was it extremely difficult this time?
Awesome. The hope is you will build your strength – and be able to do more next session.
But let’s say you progress to 150 before your squats feel really tough. And you baaaaaaarely get your last rep. If you do the same thing next time? And you decide you’ll wait until it feels easy? Yeah, that’ll never happen.
Of course we want to be sure our form isn’t compromised and our safety is in tact. But in a basic, linear progression, you’re gonna be setting some records. Likely at every session. And PR’s are NEVER “easy,” no matter how much is actually on the bar.
But to a beginner who is just starting this journey, they should be doable – more often than not. You’ve just gotta face your fears.
So, if you find yourself saying, “I got that last rep, but it was really hard, so I’m gonna do the same thing next time,” you’re missing the point a bit.
Always remember: Mindset Matters
These are just a few of the random observations which have been observed from otherwise healthy individuals. Be sure to always keep the proper mindset. Be mindful of the big picture, always strive to do more – but do so in an intelligent, rational, thought-out manner.
Yours in true health,