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1200 Calories. Zero Results

Alright let's cut to it.

Last week I promised I'd write an article for all the people who are dieting on 1200 calories a day, minus however many they burn off doing "cardio" exercise... but STILL aren't seeing any progress.

Why not? What gives? And why was "cardio" in quotation marks like that?

Well, I will tell you.

First of all, if you're on 1200 calories a day and only eating healthy foods, but still not seeing results... your lack of progress isn't because of the odd isolated day when you inevitably end up going over your 1200 calorie limit, and it isn't because of that one day last week when you ate something not on the "clean eating" list you got from some fkn idiot's facebook or pinterest page. Some clueless fkn idiot barely capable of a thought who has woke up one morning and decided "hey I'm a health and wellness and nutrition expert now all of a sudden". No. No you fucking well are not.

There's cardio, and then there's “cardio”.

It might be helpful to draw a distinction between different ideas about cardio (or more correctly “cardiovascular exercise”) before we continue. Let's break it down roughly into three categories.

  1. Training with a specific aim of increasing cardiovascular health and fitness. I'll throw lung capacity in as well for good measure. These are good and sensible things.
  2. Training to improve fitness and performance to compete or participate in a particular event. For example to run a half marathon.
  3. What most people seem to be doing.

We'll come back to this in due course.

Actually, trying to work out exactly how to tackle this topic is tricky because there's just SO MUCH WRONG with a 1200 calorie recommendation that is is difficult to know where to start. To begin with, it is just a blanket, one size fits all recommendation that doesn't take individual characteristics into account. I had in mind that I would compare to the average recommended intake, which is about 2000 calories for an adult. That's problematic as again, it is an average amount which might not be suitable to you currently reading this entry. Taller people require more than shorter people, males typically more than females, and so on. So depending on your physical characteristics, 2000 might be too much for you, or it might not be enough.

1200 though? 1200 is not enough for anyone. Ever.

I did some work on a new plan for a new client this morning. The client is a younger female adult of average height and already within a historically normal weight range, who is looking for better results from more strategic training. Using the established mathematical equations I determine that her Basal Metabolic Rate is 1400 calories per day.

Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of energy you will burn through in a day, just in the process of being alive. Without taking any level of activity into account. Without so much as rolling over in bed all day, that's the amount of energy required just to maintain body temperature, run your organs, grow your fingernails and so forth. Yours is quite likely to be higher than the 1400 I'm taking about here, which in case you didn't notice, is already higher than 1200 calories as well.

Now let's back up. Those first two categories I broke “cardio” down into... you're either training for the health benefits, or to participate in sport or an event, or both. For some reason, you've been lead to believe that you should be able to do this and expect excellent results, on LESS fuel than a person who's not training for a specific goal would require just to go about their day? Forget that though, because on 1200 calories we're literally talking about expecting results from training while limiting to less energy intake than would be required to not even get out of bed all day.

How on Earth can this appear to make any sense?

Now... we're talking about people limiting to 1200 calories a day, doing “cardio” in inverted commas and being frustrated with a lack of results for all of their deprivation, discipline and physical effort. Above we talked about people training for a specific result or to be able to participate in a particular event, but I also pointed out that this isn't “what most people seem to be doing”.

What most people are doing when they talk about “cardio” isn't really cardio at all, in the true sense of having the goal of improving cardiovascular health and fitness. Usually these days, people are encouraged to participate in activity simply with the aim of “burning calories”.

This is problematic. We're not training to change our body composition, to reap the benefits of physical exercise, or to participate in sport. It is merely “to burn calories”, because we've been conditioned to associate “calories” with “getting fat”. We've been conditioned to associate “eating food” with “getting fat”, and so we are encouraged to “burn off” whatever energy we do take in, to make up for having eaten. “Burn off the guilt” is an even more problematic marketing angle I see a lot of, too.

It is horrendous.

Inactivity and consistently excessive intake will make you fat. This does not mean that getting fat is something we need to be afraid of at all times, and need to avoid with strict discipline in adhering to low calorie, low carb, or other restrictive forms of dieting. It will not, and simply can not happen to an active person who is not in the habit of consistent and dramatic over consumption.

For best results, you need both a balanced training program and a balanced diet. The training program should be suited to your goal, whether that is a body condition goal or a sports participation goal. Best performance and results from training and at sport simply cannot occur via deprivation of energy and other nutritional resources on low calorie diets.

There is zero potential for getting fat while training effectively and fuelling appropriately for performance and results. It is simply physiologically impossible.

Ignore the fear mongers and the shame peddlers. You require energy to survive and to thrive. Even a less active person would require a certain amount of energy. As an active person training strategically towards your specific goal, you require MORE, not less.

Register for VIP Access To My Flexible Fueling Program, and say goodbye to restrictive low calorie dieting and hello to tremendous results from training.

If your flour comes from a windmill is it still an unhealthy processed food?

How cool are windmills though?

Apparently the history of windmills goes all the way back to sometime around AD 650 or so. They use 'em to mill grain, if you didn't know. Grind grain up between massive stones to make flour, which you could then make bread out of.

I've been noticing so much vilification of "processed grains" and their presence in the healthy eating guidelines. Since apparently being "processed" means all the nutritional value is removed.

Before modern times, we had been processing grains in windmills and waterwheels for hundreds of years, and grinding them by hand for thousands before that. In fact, there is a strong argument to be made that it was the development of grain agriculture that enabled civilisation as we know it. For that matter... if you've ever played the computer game "Civilisation" you'll know that building a granary was one of the first crucial achievements you needed to make, for the survival of your people.

Of course... something being in a computer game doesn't make it a fact, by any stretch of the imagination. Let's see what wikipedia says on the subject though:

Because grains are small, hard and dry, they can be stored, measured, and transported more readily than can other kinds of food crops such as fresh fruits, roots and tubers. The development of grain agriculture allowed excess food to be produced and stored easily which could have led to the creation of the first permanent settlements and the division of society into classes.
That's good enough for me.

Suddenly though, grains and processed grains in particular are supposed to be horrendously unhealthy for us. The claims that "historically" our ancestors would not have had a carbohydrate rich diet that included grains have long been debunked... depending on your ancestry of course. People do like to remind me of the Inuit people, for example.

So, I can only deduce that it must be something to do with modern, electric powered machinery in the process of turning grain into flour that must make it unhealthy. Since it was fine when the processing was wind or river powered.

It doesn't really make any sense though, does it? hmm.

When fkn idiots tell you "there is no reason to consume carbohydrates"...

Let me tell you something else.

This "low carb high fat" nonsense is all over the news down here again. People who should know better, talking complete bollocks about there being "no requirement" or "no need" to consume carbohydrates, or that they are "not essential" or whatever.

This is such a half truth.

Your body requires things such as vitamins, minerals & fiber, which all tend to come packaged with carbohydrates in the form of fruit and vegetables, or grains, for example.

As to carbohydrates themselves as an energy source... it is technically correct that you do not "require" that source of energy. Technically correct in that so long as you provide sufficient other energy sources (protein or dietary fats) your body can adapt and use those instead. AKA "ketosis". If you fail to provide those alternative energy sources, your body will tear down muscle tissue, convert that to glycogen and use that instead. It's not what you want obviously, but your body is built for survival and will do what it has to do to survive under whatever conditions it is subjected to.

So your body CAN adapt and survive without its preferred energy source of carbohydrates.

The fact that it is POSSIBLE for this to happen in no way suggests, infers or implies that this is a beneficial or desirable condition. When talking about weight management or body conditioning, the suggestion that this adaptation is required and is the only effective strategy in either losing weight, much less the only way to avoid ending up obese, is such nonsense.

You would have to be starting off with the horrendously mistaken assumption that the human body does not require energy and has no use for it, that massive fat gain is an almost unavoidable outcome even for active people, and that the only way to not gain fat is by forcing the body to shed it via extreme restriction of energy and as a necessary adaptation to survive in unfavourable conditions. The suggestion is that to simply "not be fat" we need to force the body to move into survival mode. We need to withhold the energy resources it is used to, and force it to find some other way to continue functioning, and only then will fat stores be sacrificed.


This is dangerously close to pro-ana talk, as far as I am concerned. Think about it.

The reality is, and I have proven this more times than I can count with clients who have come to me unfortunately subjecting themselves to such restrictions on the advice of some scientifically illiterate hack, and who have gone on to vastly superior results without the restriction of energy sources or on the food choices those energy sources come from. Not to mention without the emotional stress of trying to adhere to such approaches.

The reality is that your body is designed or has evolved to function primarily on carbohydrates, and optimally on a suitable balance of all three macronutrients. That is, carbohydrates, dietary fats, and protein. This is not a "one or the other" proposition. Your body is designed to function best when given the appropriate physical stimulus (aka a good training program) and fueled appropriately with ALL of the nutritional resources.

Allow it to function as it is supposed to, and it will thrive. How can you expect better results by trying to force it into some sort of "fall back" emergency survival mechanism, and by withholding valuable energy resources? The very notion is entirely illogical.

Register now for unmatched results from effective training and optimal fueling. Right here, or on the new Flexible Fueling webportal.

Gabrielle Maston: I Quit Sugar – Book Review

Gabrielle Maston: I Quit Sugar – Book Review:

One fine sun shining morning a few weeks ago a client of mine, who works in the publishing business  handed
me over the new book by Sarah Wilson titled ‘I quit sugar’. My initial
reaction was: ‘what right does a popular journalist/editor have to write
about nutrition and diets? Clearly under qualified and trying to make
money out of pushing another ridiculous fad diet!’
Recommended review of this infamous book you may have heard of.

Cereal vs confectionary? Really?

Click for the readable (larger) version.
Suffice to say they elected not to approve my comment.
I'm going to show you a comment I posted on an article last night, talking about breakfast cereals.

Now, we're not talking the sort of cereals you might be thinking about here, either. The sort for kids, with cartoon animals on the box or whatever. The ones you tend to assume are a bit too high in sugar and not terribly nutritious. We're talking about the "adult" type cereals, marketed as healthy choices.

This particular article had the usual stuff about gluten, although gluten fearmongering is old hat by now. That fad is on the way out already. People are already laughing about it, like "oh, yeah... gluten free. What was that all about? How'd we get sucked into that one, eh?"

It was like mass hysteria. Just an unexplainable phenomenon that everyone got swept up in, in sheer defiance of all logic and common sense. Like when everyone stopped listening to hair metal and got into grunge instead back in the early 1990s. Bizarre.

The gluten thing has been done to death, and responding that nonsense has been done to death as well. Most of the people making their living from scaremongering and shaming people over their food choices have moved on from gluten bashing to sugar bashing. And this article I'm referring to gets on the act there too, in a manner I find most... distasteful.

Let's get something straight here. Your body does have a use for the energy that it gets from food. Even more so than merely "having a use" for a certain amount of energy, you actually require that energy to thrive. To get through your day at work, at study, training, chasing around after your kids or pets... all of that requires energy, and falling significantly short on energy intake with an active lifestyle is too your detriment. Even if you're entirely inactive, you still do have energy requirements  although obviously they will be greatly reduced from those of a more active person.

Here's the problem. The way many supposed "health" bloggers and authors talk about energy, it's as if it's a bad thing that we need to avoid. Whether they're singling out sugar, or just fructose, or all carbohydrates, or just "calories" in general... there's an inference that what we do want is the other nutritional resources such as vitamins and minerals from foods, but not the energy content.

This is an entirely incorrect and disordered notion. Certainly there is a limit to how much energy we require, and it is in our best interests not to be in the habit of exceeding that amount significantly. However this is not to suggest for a moment that energy intake is something that needs to be restricted or minimised. Ideally, we want to meet our total energy requirement while also providing sufficient amounts of all of the other nutritional resources that we require for good health.

That is; total energy, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Getting back to what was wrong in this article I'm talking about and I'm sure you'll understand why I don't want to actually link to the article in question.

Have a look at the image on the right though. There were several like this comparing different brands of cereals with the suggestion that it is literally "no better" than eating a serve of confectionary for breakfast, due to the comparable sugar content.

That is some utter pro-orthorexic rubbish talk, right there.

The reason confectionary and similar items aren't what you'd call a "healthy choice" is because they really JUST deliver that serve of energy, without any of the other nutritional resources. That is not to say that we have no use for the energy, or that it would treated differently by the body than energy sourced from a healthier choice. It does mean that you would be closer to reaching your total energy intake requirement, without being any closer to meeting your requirements for other nutritional resources. By no means though does it make it impossible or even implausible to arrive at a suitable and appropriate total intake of all nutritional resources, or what we might reasonably call an "overall healthy diet".

The suggestion I have seen in this article and elsewhere over the past couple of days is that even if a cereal does provide a high fiber content as well as vitamins and minerals, the benefits are rendered null by any sugar content. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the opposite is what is actually true.

Within a suitable total energy content, fiber is a valuable resource and we should aim for as high an intake as is reasonably possible. Vitamins and minerals as well, it should almost go without saying. We can attain these resources from grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and various other sources.

Within that suitable total energy range and while ensuring adequate supply of those other important nutritional resources, there is absolutely no reason to fear, avoid or shame others over the sugar or carbohydrate content of any individual food choice. Why would there be, so long as you are still within a suitable total energy intake? That's what the phrase "suitable total" means.


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