Why isn’t this easy?

“Your body hates you.
-Lyle McDonald

We all want a magic pill. Or a shortcut. Or someone to do the work for us.

I’m the same way. I spent a lot of years trying to figure out the easy way to get less fat. And there are extreme/crash diets that actually work. But what happens after you lose 20lb in a month?

Well, the first thing that happens is you immediately gain back at least 5lb the day after you start eating like a normal human again. Guess what? That 5lb that the scale told you you lost? That was water weight. You’ll probably gain back another couple of pounds in glycogen in the coming days too. Probably half of or more of the actual mass that you lost will be muscle, rather than the fat that you were trying so hard to get rid of.

Why should you care about losing muscle along with the fat? Go google heroin chic. … That’s what I thought. Unless you want to be mistaken for a third world waif on one of those unicef commercials, you want to have some muscle mass on your frame.

So you actually lost a little body mass. And now you go right back to doing what you did before. Which means you get where you got before. Fat again, or probably more so than you were before, and that’s no fun. So now you’re fatter, and depressed, and frustrated, and now you are going to DIET EVEN HARDER THIS TIME AND GET SO NOT FAT!!!!?!???? … You see where this one is going.

I’m not saying that crash diets don’t have their place. They do. But realistically, if you don’t have a very specific reason for doing so, there are most assuredly better ways to go about fat loss. Maintainable ways.

I’ve done the yo-yo dieting thing, and trust me, it’s really not great. You end up going nowhere fast.

Think about it this way: it probably took you a fairly long time to get fat, right? It didn’t happen over night. It accumulated so slowly you most likely didn’t even know it was happening. Well, that’s basically the way your body likes to do things. As Lyle McDonald http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/ puts it, your body hates you. Or rather, it loves you so much it wants you to never have to worry about starvation so you can pass along your genes and keep the human race going. That means, as you have probably guessed by now, that your body loves gaining and hates losing body fat.

The good news is that you can lose fat a lot faster than you probably put it on in the first place. The bad news is that it is never fast enough. But if you persevere you will make it.

If you aren’t severely obese, you can probably expect to lose about ~2lb per week of pure fat mass. More than that and you will be losing muscle along with it.

Are there shortcuts? Yes. You could get liposuction. You could develop an all-consuming cocaine or amphetamine addiction. There are other similar options out there, but they are about as healthy as these ones.

The most powerful fat burning drugs that you can get which are legal and safe for human consumption may increase your whole body thermogenesis by about 2%. Which for most people is equivalent to eating two less Oreo cookies. Per week. Supplementation is far beyond the scope of this post, but is something we will cover in the future.

So, wrapping up. For most people, you can expect to realistically and sustainably lose about 1% of your body mass, per week. That means for a morbidly obese person at 400lb, 4lb of fat per week isn’t a terrible thing to shoot for. For your average person of 150-200lb, that means about 1.5-2lb per week as a sustainable upper limit. And as you get leaner, that number goes down.

Anyone who tells you that you can strip off more than that is definitely selling you something, but also probably hoping that you don’t understand the difference between scale weight and body mass.

The one secret no one wants to tell you about fat loss

It sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, being less fat is awesome. People treat you different. They respect your opinions more. They listen closer when you speak. They act like you’re smarter and higher status than you were before.

Also, not being out of breath when doing minor things like walking or breathing? That’s pretty awesome too. Not being as worried about dropping dead from a heart attack while in your 20’s? Also awesome.

So, being less fat is all around pretty awesome, and I can’t think of any serious negatives about it, unless perhaps your significant other is specifically attracted to hefty people. Though that could just be a self esteem issue and they think they can’t do any better. They will probably love the less fat you just as much or more than they love the fat you.

But. Getting less fat is uncomfortable at best, and downright hellish at worst. No matter how you do it, you have to change habits you have had for probably your whole life. And that’s not the easiest thing in the world, no matter what anyone tells you.

Eating less calories than you used to, and less than you burn on a day to day basis is mandatory to lose fat. That’s just the way the whole process works, no matter what any random guru online tells you. Calories matter. And you know what has lots of calories? Pretty much anything delicious that those of us with extra weight are used to eating ALL of. ALL the cake? Calories, lots of them. ALL the cookies? Ditto. And don’t even get me started on chocolate, heavy cream sauces, pasta, and burger combos with french fries and milkshakes.

Those things are all delicious, and if you do it right, you can fit them into a reasonably designed and flexible meal plan. But you can’t have them ALL the time. And you can’t gorge like you may have been used to doing.

I’d like to note here that I’m not judging you for this. (Just this once.) I’ve been known to put away a whole reeses’s peanut butter cup cheesecake on occasion. Not recently, but it definitely happened in the past more than once. Now I try to keep to one slice at most. If I can.

Depriving yourself of things that you want, and changing habits, and not allowing yourself to eat delicious things as a way of dealing with stress1? That sucks.

But it’s worth it. Being healthier, getting treated with more respect, not having people judge you for being the fat person in the room? It is worth it.

And if you do it right, it isn’t really as hard as you’d think. Get it mostly right most of the time, allow yourself to make mistakes without feeling like a failure, plan occasional times when you can just say fuck it and eat what you feel like, and the whole thing gets a lot easier.

But it’s still not going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. If anyone tells you differently, they are lying to you.

If you’re smart about it, it will suck a lot less than it otherwise could.

And it is absolutely worth it. The short term discomfort is worth the long term awesome. Go be awesome.

  1. Oliver, Georgina, Jane Wardle, and E. Leigh Gibson. “Stress and food choice: a laboratory study.” Psychosomatic medicine 62.6 (2000): 853-865.

The week that was, in internet land – Volume 2

Here’s a bunch of the most awesome stuff from around the web from the last week. Well, less awesome than what you see on this site of course. But still pretty damn awesome.

The Long View of Training – Greg Nuckols @ DeanSomerset.com
Maybe you should think a little farther ahead than the next day or week? I dunno, but your life might be a little less stressful if you do.

Training For Fat Loss In Simple Terms: What You Must Know – JC Deen
A good simple article covering what you should focus on in your training when trying to get less fat.

The Beautiful, Ugly Truth About Competing – Dani Shugart
This one is for the ladies out there. Though it has some connection with physique/bodybuilding for men as well.

On Bodybuilding, Broscience, and Doing Shit Because It Works – John Romanello
The eternal question – should you listen to the science or the jacked guy at the gym?

Exotic Meats For Building Muscle and Saving the Planet – Mike Campbell
If all you’re eating on your diet is plain chicken breast, you need to expand your mind a little. This will help.

The Gym Isn’t Everything

What Do YOU Want?

When you finally make the decision to take responsibility into your own hands, you have some work to do.  We’ve touched base so far on where to start, and a few tips, but one of the biggest decisions you’re going to have to make is what your ultimate goal is.

It might even turn out to be your basic goal and intention is your final stop, but it’s still a very good idea to come to that decision.  Do you want to work into a bodybuilder style physique?  Do you want to have that killer beach body?  Do you want to simply feel better and just have a good overall physique?  Or do you just want to simply look good naked?

I, personally, want to mostly be content with looking good naked.  As much fun as I think it would be to become an IFBB competitor, I don’t have that drive or desire to get that fit (at least not at this point so far).  I also wouldn’t mind a few other things, but that’s not the point.

I have an idea of where I want to go, and how I am going to get there (no Lincoln, not hell.  Although…).  It’s one of the first things you need to decide on as you start your journey, as it gives you direction, and helps to outline your plan.

There are also a few things to remember though.  First off, this journey is just that: a journey.  It’s kind of like a road trip you take with your friends.  There are side roads and different paths that take you to different layovers.  Bumps in the road will happen, and you need to expect that.  Can it be annoying at times?  You’re damn right it can be.

Currently, my job has me on the road often, and I travel and drive around Alberta quite frequently.  I am lucky because a lot of the trips are day trips, so I am home for several nights.  Unfortunately though, that means I can’t always make it to the gym.  For me personally, this is not fun.  I enjoy my gym time, as it’s a place where I can think, and relax.  Nothing else matters, just me busting my ass and working out aggression and frustration.  Kind of like when I hit the heavy bag.

But it’s important to remember that this is okay.  It’s not a big deal if you miss a day due to life.  Life happens, and there is nothing we can do to change that.  If you feel bad because you couldn’t make it, awesome.  That means you care about your path, and it gives you motivation to work harder the next time.  Don’t use it as an excuse and give up.  Ever.

I missed a couple of days in a row because of work, and life.  I had the second day planned out completely, almost down to the minute.  Unfortunately, as I said, life happened.  I ended up spending the day in the hospital dealing with some family things, and was not able to workout.  Each day, by the time I was free and able to do something, I was busy taking care of things on the farm at home.

Am I using life as an excuse?  No.  Not in the slightest.  There is always something that can be done.  At home, I was able to move around 70 pound hay bales instead, doing a farmers carry, and a few other body weight exercises.  It wasn’t very long, but its was enough to keep me active and maintain.  It’s important to remember that the gym isn’t everything, and things can be done instead of it, especially when life happens.

I am not here to tell you what to do to become a professional, or to be the most jacked up person in your group of friends.  Just to remind you that life happens, and the gym isn’t always going to be there for you ( but does it help when having to deal with “Janice-the-bitch-that-called-me-fat-but-doesn’t-even-know-me”).  So relax, and don’t stress if you can’t make it one day.

A Wise Man Once Said…

Are You Wise?

I was talking to a buddy the other day, and the topic of shows came up.  We started quoting some lines that have made it into normal everyday use for a lot of people.

Most of them are not relevant for the matter at hand, but I said one that I quote all the fucking time, and I had quite the epiphany.  I would like to share it with you now, if I may (and let’s face it, on here I can.  It’s the internet bitches, deal with it).

Trying is the first step towards failure,” – Homer Jay Simpson

Now, you may not think this, but I am not a mind reader.  Although I do know you were not expecting that^ as the awe inspiring quote that brought me to this discussion today.  By now, though, I thought you would know me better.  Guess not.

Anyways, back on track here, that quote has stuck with me since I had first seen that episode of the Simpsons when I was ten.  Kind of like “Do or do not, there is no try,” it has also given me a profound view of how I do something.

The quote seems and is for some people, absolutely terrible, off-putting, and sounds to put people down.  Telling them not to even bother with anything they do, because they will never succeed.  Looking at it from that perspective is quite depressing, actually.  But I see it as something more.  I like to mix the wisdom of Yoda and Homer Jay Simpson into one affirmation that keeps me moving forward:

Do or do not, there is no try, because trying is the first step towards failure.”

You can only do when it comes to anything in life.  Either it be you succeed or fail, you’re still making the effort.  Example: you want big biceps, because who doesn’t?  So you go to the gym and giver shit and rip them to high hell, doing a weight that you really have no business doing.  You end up using improper form, using your whole body and swaying to high hell and back to get the weight up, taking all the pressure off your biceps and putting your back out in the process.  I did that when I first started.  Why?  Because I was overzealous and stupid.  I hurt my back, and fucked up my arms.  I learned why that was a bad idea the hard way.  I then learned what I was supposed to do, and did it properly.

Or, you’re this guy.  Jumping the gun and throwing on way more weight than you’re ready for, or able to do, will hinder your transformation, and can cause serious injury.  This can even cause people to mentally shut down and refuse the gym because of fear of getting hurt.  That guy was lucky that he rolled back and didn’t fuck himself up.  I’ve seen people fall forward, and let me tell you, life sucks at that point, like a fucking Dyson.

So what, don’t bother trying?  Hell no!  Just remember that everything you do takes time and effort.  If this was easy, people would be getting fat and unhealthy all the time, then losing the weight instantly.  Life doesn’t work like that.  It’s not easy, and not supposed to be.  Suck it up and do the work, it pays off in the long run.  You need to work up to everything.  The best advice I was given was don’t worry about lifting big right away.  Work on your technique, and the ability to lift the bigger weights will come.  You’ll do things properly, and lose more fat, while gaining healthy muscle mass.

That’s also if you want to get big.  If you just want to look good naked (mostly my goal thank you very much) then you still need to work on mastering your technique.  From there, you need to work on living a healthy lifestyle, while maintaining your workouts.  Easy stuff really.  Once again though, it all takes time.  Don’t worry, we’ll both get there.