'Diets' Don't work

Recently my social media timeline has been bombarded with post after post regarding diet and nutritional strategies that promise rapid fat loss. I see these everyday people posting of their amazing success having lost huge amounts of weight in such short periods of time. Take the C9 diet for example, people posting how amazing they feel whilst losing upwards of 15lbs in 9 days of ‘cleansing’.

When I hear of people losing such vast amounts of weight, I question the longevity of their fat loss program. Let’s face it, we are in a world and I’m in an industry where results matter. And where there is results, there’s money. At the end of the day, you’re buying results.

I’d always like to think I’d never sell out. For me, money isn’t important, my family have never had it, and so I put little value to it. So the temptation to bring out some money making scheme or start selling herbiplus is something that I’d never do, and let’s face it, having seen some of the diet plans out there, it wouldn’t be difficult to do. I see myself as an ethical coach with the integrity to provide honesty to clients, even if it’s things they don’t wish to hear.

What is a Diet?

When you hear the word ‘diet’, what is the first thing you think of? Restriction, deprivation, boring, hard work, basically, nothing positive. Yes, the outcome is ultimately the very thing that makes all these things seem worth it, after all, nothing worth having comes easy, which is true to a certain degree. My argument is, should we have to actually try that hard in order to just be a healthy weight and live a happy, balanced lifestyle?

From a psychological stand point, the moment you refer to yourself as being on a diet, you’ve already set yourself up for long term failure. You’ve told yourself that this is something you’re going to stick with for a certain period of time, to attain a specific goal, and once that time has passed, it’s back to normal. In other words, it’s a short term thing, and short term answers aren’t long term solutions. The funny thing is, a lot of people actually know that this is the case, but would much rather have the little prize now, as opposed to the super, awesome huge prize later.

There is so many diets out there; Paleo, clean eating, intermittent fasting, Atkins, juicing, C9, generic plans, keto, gluten free, slimming clubs, the cabbage soup diet and so on. Generally, a diet offers boundaries, certain foods are not tolerated and cut out. Most people not only need but want to be told what to do when it comes to nutrition, firstly, this absolves any responsibly from them personally, the diet was the very thing that failed, not them. Secondly, it requires no thought, it’s simple, they may need to only buy a limited number of foods, or they know that they can’t eat certain things that aren’t in the plan.

What defines a successful ‘diet’?

With the majority of people aiming for fat loss when beginning a diet, I’d say the ability to keep that fat off in the long term is ultimately what makes it a success or not. Put it this way, nobody wishes to spend weeks upon weeks following a specific plan, that seemingly puts their entire life on hold, to only put the weight back on, and quite often a little more. The way I see it, if you’ve lost weight, and haven’t kept it off for 12 months, that diet has failed.

And I’m not talking 6 pack abs, veins all over, ripped to death by the way, because that in itself is unsustainable, and personally, I can accept that can only be maintained for a short period of time. Unfortunately, this is what the average person believes is normal through being subjected to too many images from various media sources. For example, when I ‘cut’ for a competition, I understand that I have a specific goal, and plan the diet after the diet. I don’t even like to call it a ‘diet’ myself, I generally refer to myself as being in a ‘calorie deficit’.


How diets work – correlation isn’t always causation

Fat loss is achieved when energy flow out of the body exceeds energy flow into the body, this is generally evidenced in decreasing body weight. This means calorie expenditure exceeds calorie intake.

Now we know how weight loss is achieved, let’s look at how diets work. Generally, cutting out certain food groups such as gluten, carbohydrates, sugar, pop etc. results in us cutting out calories.

 

Let’s take an individual that removes gluten from their diet because a trainer has told them to. Now this individual has no underlying issues with gluten (which can be a problematic food) but has taken any food that contains it from there diet. No bread, pasta, oats, cereals etc. and they lose weight. Removing certain food groups also removed a large amount of calories from an individuals diet, and it’s most likely that because they were in a calorie deficit that they’ve lost weight, not the fact they removed gluten or any other food group.

Now let’s take someone that has been given a typical rigid meal plan, you know the ones: Meal 1, Meal 2 etc. I have seen some of these plans and they can contain up to 700 calories. They are given to every poor soul that join their program, regardless of weight, dieting history, lifestyle, exercise levels etc. Basically, a severely obese, 130kg man would be given the exact same nutrition plan as a mildly overweight 70kg female. This leads to an intense negative balance with will result in weight loss, but so does getting thrown into a prison camp or being in a poor African village without adequate food or nutrition. Either way, our bodies don’t know the difference so starts making the necessary adaptations when put into such an aggressive negative energy balance. ‘Starvation mode’ as you may have heard it being called, where ‘non survival’ functions start to slow down or stop. This includes reproductive functions, metabolic function, brain function, libido etc. Couple this restrictive diet with excessive exercise and it’s only going to result badly.

A good nutrition program should help to properly control energy balance, and good nutrition should prevent swings in either direction (positive & negative) and as a result, the body can lose fat or gain lean mass in a healthy way.

Fat loss is easy (yes, i said it), millions do it every year, but it’s the ability to sustain it where people struggle. Cutting out foods you typically love is the first big mistake. A life without pizza, chocolate and ice cream would be hell for me, and regardless of competing or not, I enjoy these foods pretty much on a daily basis. As a child, if your parents told you not to do something, you’d more than likely do it. Even if you don’t eat chocolate normally but were to all of a sudden tell yourself that it was banned, you’d immediately crave it. Two identical walls side by side, but one says ‘do not graffiti’ on it, which one is covered in graffiti? People don’t like boundaries and will rebel regardless whether it’s self-sabotaging or not.

So what’s the answer?

My advice is simple, break the cycle and STOP doing STUPID SHIT that means we have to end up fixing the damage you’ve already done jumping from one ridiculous plan to the next. Whether it’s C9, juicing or any generic diet plans, etc. it doesn’t change your behavioural patterns and nothing is learned.

Attending social occasions or events that don’t cater for you plan can lead to one of a few outcomes, you may not go, you may go and be that person that eats and drinks nothing, you may take a packed lunch of the foods that fit into you eating plan, or what most people do, is have the f**k it mentality and go hog wild on the foods they’ve avoided for weeks on end. Fair enough if you’re a high performing athlete that has a specific goal that requires absolute nutritional adherence, but for the most part, people just want to enjoy life.

Nutrition needs to be specific to the individual, it also must be enjoyable. Often I hear people say that they couldn’t do what I do, but what I do is easy for me, because it’s normal. When I started my journey, I didn’t have a clue, and if you told me back then what I’d be like now, quite frankly, I’d be overwhelmed with how much goes into it. I started with the basics, took one step at a time and built from there. I have the ability to look long term at everything I do, and would always choose the super, awesome huge prize over the small prize any day.

Consistency is what defines us, if you’re consistently training and eating well, then eating one ‘poor’ meal, having that small treat or enjoying a few drinks and a meal out isn’t going to completely derail your progress. Developing and maintaining habits will lead to long term sustainability. Learning about food & nutrition, listening & understanding the signals your body gives you and practicing cognitive behavioural techniques will lead to the ability to maintaining true control over your body.

It may be tempting to go for the quick fix when people around you are seemingly dropping weight for fun, but if you can’t see yourself doing a particular thing in the long term, then it’s not worth doing now. Too often I see people jumping from plan to plan, searching for the Holy Grail that will make them happy. Personally, I’m no happier now having dropped a few kilograms than before. My friends, family and girlfriends still love me equally as much, nothing’s changed apart from a few veins creeping onto my physique. Happiness must come from within, no diet is going to change that.

At 2B-Fit, we offer an ethical service that is focused on health & long term sustainability. Accept responsibility for yourself and where you are in life. Invest time in learning about nutrition, training & things that have positive influences on your life. Having a coach is never a necessity, but can aid you in your quest for balance.

Thanks for reading

Ian Bickle
[email protected]