Friday, July 4, 2014

The problem with diets

i can't remember where i found this.
Credit goes to the creator.
All diets either work by creating a calorific deficit. Some people out there will talk a load of bollocks about how it's not the calories, it's how different foods effect your body in different ways and a whole bunch of hocus pocus science fiction type explanations... but that's ... did I mention that it's bollocks?

It comes down to calories.

If cutting out certain foods means that you end up consuming less calories over all, you'll probably lose some weight. It doesn't mean that those foods were "bad" though or that no one should consume them in any amount. It just means that you had a diet that was in excess of your requirements, and by cutting out... let's say bread... by cutting out bread you ended up with a diet that was not in excess of your requirements.

It is about total energy intake, and it is only about individual food choices in the context of how well they fit into eating habits that make for a not-excessive total intake. It certainly isn't about specific ingredients (fructose, gluten, aspartame and so on) in any circumstances other than due to a diagnosed medical intolerance, either.

The way I do things... it would be more correct to say "it is about total energy balance". We all know by now, just cutting calorific intake lower and lower while pushing energy expenditure higher and higher is a poor strategy that will eventually backfire. What we need to do is quite simply consume the appropriate amount of energy (in an appropriate ratio of protein to carbs to fats) to maintain our goal body weight, goal body condition (aka results from training) and adequately fuel our lifestyle and activity level.

So the problem with diets... whether that is a diet out of a book or a meal plan you might buy from a trainer on the internet or at the gym... if it's just a list of "foods to eat" and another list of "foods not to eat"... you're really not paying any attention to that balance of energy which is crucial in achieving and maintaining long term results. The foods you're supposed to eat might all be tremendously sensible, nutritious choices, but if you are still left over or under fueled you will not see results from training.

The worst danger in my experience is with the difficulty of adhering to such a strict plan, and the demonisation of different food choices. It becomes more of a matter of willpower and discipline in avoiding the banned foods, rather than just a simple matter of physiology. When people fail to see results due to being under fueled despite managing to adhere to the rules and restrictions of the diet, what option do they have? Eat even cleaner, whatever that means? Paleo harder, whatever that means? Just smaller portions of the allowed choices? All disastrous choices for someone who is already not providing significant resources for their body to function on, as evidenced by the lack of results from training.

Now, if they are not adhering to the rules and restrictions of the diet 100% of the time and not seeing results, the usual interpretation and in fact the message I have seen from various sources is that this is a personal failing of their strength of character in not being "good" enough to stick to the rules. AKA "they didn't want it bad enough".

This is offensive and incorrect. The issue is quite simply with providing sufficient resources to produce results from training at goal weight. Putting the blame on one choice of meal last Tuesday that wasn't on the "allowed" list is ridiculous and dangerous.

Eat this, don't eat that. That about describes most of the diet and weight loss plans out there, doesn't it?

That isn't what you need. At best, you're looking at an "it might work if you stick with it" plan, but there's certainly no reason to believe success is assured. There's a much greater risk of ending up under fueled, unsuccessful, and developing a bunch of negative beliefs about different food choices.

To be successful, you simply need appropriate target ranges of total calories, calories from protein, calories from fats, and calories from carbohydrates.

I say "target ranges" because you don't need to nail some specific pin-point amount. If you're overweight, you just need to make an effort get it in the ballpark as often as you can, and you'll make progress. At advanced levels more accuracy and consistency will come into it, but you'll have had lots of practice by that point and will be able to fine tune without too much fuss when the time comes.

You do not need someone to "tell you what to eat".