"Ben, I heard that low fat diets are fuelling the obesity epidemic. What do you think?"
Grab a coffee, get comfortable and let me explain why that is bullshit. Answered with 50% science, 49% sarcasm and 1% pizza delivery.
A friend of mine gave me some "protein chocolate".
From what I can gather, it has slightly more protein than a regular chocolate bar and swaps some sugar for sugar alcohols.
So, if you would like a chocolate bar that doesn't taste as good as regular chocolate but is just as calorific, costs three times as much and makes you feel like you are going to shit yourself, I strongly recommend them.
12 years ago, I was starting my very first personal training course ready to embark on a career in the fitness industry.
Feeling reflective, I thought I would give you a list of 20 things I have learned from having over a decade of hands on experience in various commercial gyms.
If you would like more context on any of them, just ask and I will expand....
Starvation mode is one of the most prevalent comforting lies in the fitness industry.
"You aren't losing weight because you are actually eating too little. You need to eat more."
It is easy to hook people in because;...
1) Eating less food sucks. Giving someone an excuse to eat more is something they would happily bite your hand off for (pun intended).
2) Calories in and out are notoriously hard to track accurately. Do you really know how many calories were in that restaurant meal? Do you really know how many calories you burn at your day job? No, not with 100% certainty.
If I am spending too much money and my bank balance is taking a hammering, being told I need to save more and spend less might be uncomfortable to hear but it is true.
As comforting as the lie may be, sometimes you need to hear the painful truth.
A different kind of transformation Tuesday.
There are two things I would like to illustrate here.
1) An image of a fitness model on Instagram isn't necessarily an accurate representation of how they look in real life. Don't beat yourself up by idolising an image of someone....
2) It is very possible to have a good physique without it being obvious that you even lift weights when you are wearing loose clothes. This is especially true for natural athletes.
I have lost count of the number of times someone has seen me in real life and commented that I am not as big as they expected me to be.
The point is, Instagram is commonly smoke and mirrors. You see the best photos of people with perfect posing, perfect lighting and sometimes with photo editing.
If you compare how you look on a daily basis to that temporary photo staged under ideal conditions it is inevitable that you might feel a little bit worse about yourself.
As much as I like Halo Top ice cream, I have strong reservations about this marketing.
I think reduced calorie desserts can be really valuable tools. If someone is on low calories, having treats like this could help dietary adherence.
When I am dieting for photo shoots, I definitely eat my fair share of them....
But, here is my fear;
I suspect that this plays to binge eating behaviour.
One of the most valuable habits I have tried to learn when dieting is the ability to control portions myself rather than gravitating towards the tempting tendency to always finish the tub or packet of whatever I am eating.
I have nothing against the product as such, I like it, I just don't feel comfortable with this marketing angle.
I strongly encourage anyone who is trying to control their calories to work on their self restraint and be able to have just one serving of whatever food without feeling an uncontrollable desire to scoff the lot.
Low fat diets used to be all the rage but nowadays people are embarking on ultra high fat diets.
People used to "stoke their metabolic furnace" by eating extremely frequently but now fasting is the new holy grail.
Apparently carbs after 6pm used to make you fat but now people are carb backloading for better body composition and eating them all at night....
This serves as evidence of one thing.
If a happy middle ground does exist, you can trust the health and fitness industry to completely miss it.
A guy in the gym asked me what my secret to growing big arms was.
He asked me how many times per week I trained, what exercises I did and for what rep and set brackets.
Perplexed, he said; "I train in a similar way to you for as many hours per week. Why are your arms so much bigger than mine?"...
Me: "You said you have only been training for a year. I have been doing this a decade."
The biggest 'secrets' to success in the gym aren't magical rep ranges or exercise hacks, they are doing things consistently for a fucking long period of time.
You have 20lbs of weight to lose.
You can follow a programme that claims you can do it in one year or you can follow a programme that claims you can do it in one month.
All things being equal, we would all pick the fast one and anyone who claims otherwise is a filthy liar. Why would you opt for the slower programme if you can get quicker results?...
Become a millionaire in 20 years or 1 year? 1 year please. Keep your fucking 20 year option. I don't have time to wait.
This is the premise of why weight loss solutions are often over hyped. As consumers we want shit fast. They just cater to consumer needs and as consumers we are not patient people.
The problem with fast weight loss solutions is not the fast weight loss (which is actually fine in a lot of circumstances).
The problem is what they don't tell you.
Yes, you can do it in one month but your level of sacrifice to achieve that goal will be through the roof, your diet will be more restrictive and you will likely adopt habits which are harder to maintain that weight loss than if you had been more sensible.
Likewise, the people I know who became millionaire's quickly often had zero social life whilst they grafted their nuts off trying to achieve something epic.
You can be attracted to shiny things if you want. Just be aware that they will often require a lot of extra cost and your expectations should be aligned accordingly.
If you are a fan of low calorie ice cream products, these two have finally hit the UK.
Available in Tesco now (in various flavours) I haven't tried either brand yet so can't give feedback. Be prepared to sell your internal organs if you develop a liking to them though as these are both currently £5 a tub.
Verbal food diaries suck.
Trusting them is one of the worst mistakes a personal trainer can make if their client's goal is weight loss.
This image I made last year is just one easy example....
"I don't know why I don't lose weight. Today I have only eaten a chicken salad!"
This verbal food diary is useless. You don't know how big the portion is, what ingredients the dish was made with (did it have extra dressings, extra oils etc? Was the chicken grilled or battered and deep fried?).
The point is, when someone claims they aren't eating a lot, this is usually based on their own perception of what they eat which means pretty much zero.
The perception of how much food someone eats often does not correlate with how many calories they actually ate. You might think you ate healthily or your meal was small but the caloric content might say otherwise.
IIFYM fans often claim calculating your macros is the best weight loss diet, I assume because tracking food allows people to have a level of precision.
Take a beginner who is starting their weight loss diet for the first time then tell them to calculate their TDEE, subtract some to achieve an adequate caloric deficit and then split that number appropriately between each macronutrient depending on their personal preferences.
Newsflash; a high proportion of people couldn't even... tell you which foods fit into each macronutrient group, let alone understand half the shit you just tried to explain to them. The idea that everyone has the knowledge or willingness to weigh and track what they eat is so far off the mark you can't even see it anymore.
If you spend all of your time discussing fitness in Facebook groups you may get a distorted idea of the level of nutrition knowledge that the general population has.
If you really want to have success with people you have to meet them where they are at. In a lot of instances this may mean simplifying your message significantly.
As with anything, calculating your macros and tracking your intake is a valuable tool for weight loss but it is not the only tool and absolutely isn't the best tool for everyone.
When it comes to dieting most people automatically think about swapping foods or reducing portion sizes.
Time restricted feeding (TRF) is also a viable tool for calorie control and has the potential to;
1) Allow you to keep your portion sizes the same by simply reducing the number of meals you have
2) Allow you to keep your nutrition the same on some days because you have more extreme caloric deficits on others
This can be a useful and simple tool to give someone because it can automatically encourage them to eat less calories without having to change the foods they are eating.
As with all dietary methods, these are tools and useful in some circumstances. Be aware of them and implement them wisely, do not force them upon people as they are not necessarily superior to traditional caloric restriction.
If I think back to my early gym career I used to do so many things poorly I can't even remember them all.
Half range bench presses for ego? Check
Swinging the dumbbells up on lateral raises? Check
Using maximum momentum on back exercises? Check...
Half range squats? Check
You can pretty much guarantee any exercise I was doing was done with relatively poor form so I could use the maximum weight I could.
This isn't limited to technique either. My training regime was horrific and I followed some of the worst fad diets going.
I didn't think I was doing anything badly at the time. The gym I trained in was normally pretty quiet and I didn't know better.
If we are honest with ourselves, I am pretty sure a good chunk of you can think back to similar memories where you did something with shit technique.
These memories act as constant reinforcement of two things;
1) I think secretly filming someone with bad technique to post the video on Facebook is a shitty thing to do.
2) Beginners have just as much right to be in the gym as anyone else, even if they are doing something irritating.
I would have hated to see a video of me that someone had secretly filmed so they could mock what I was doing. I was also pretty shy and being made to feel unwelcome could have definitely stopped me going to the gym.
Moral of the story; someone shouldn't be a douche just because they aren't a beginner anymore.