UI 067: DIET… What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know and Your Trainer Won’t Tell You.

hunger-413685_640Amazingly I actually got to catch a snippet of the Dennis Prager show live today (Tuesday Sep. 2, 2014.) But I only got to catch a call that really annoyed me, though it inspired this podcast.

Dennis had been discussing that there has been another study declaring doctors and scientists are clueless about dieting for weightloss  (and I’m paraphrasing of course… My words, not Dennis Prager’s.)  The New York Times just published:

A Call for a Low-Carb Diet

From the article: (click the link above to read in its entirety – or listen to the podcast as I read more than I’m typing out here)

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fatlose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

So basically once again we have a study debunking a study that said low-fat was better for you which debunked the study that low-carb was better for you… on and on.

The truth is that these studies are typically flawed and really of no great significance.  Typically these studies are flawed, because they are  not done in an objective scientific manner with varied control and experimental groups.  We never read about the baseline (i.e. their previous diet) nor genetic factors (i.e. West African or Eastern European) and not even familial factors (i.e. parents and siblings).  Considering a person’s past diet is usually a huge factor in regards to their health and fitness, and their genetics play an even bigger role – you’d think they factor that into their “studies.”  Then there are the problems regarding the short durations and inadequate samplings for many of these studies.  Plus, how often do they record detailed activity levels of the participants?  Does movement or any activity make a difference at all?  I have yet to see “research” that satisfied these basics…

And like I said, these studies are insignificant because in general people don’t really care about the results of diet research.  Most of the public is cynical about the whole thing, because they know scientists and doctors can’t seem to get it right.  Plus, a great many folks just want a pill or some kind of easy fix so they can have the body and health they desire.  But that pill or easy fix always ends up looking like a lot of self-discipline, common sense, and work.  I have found that even more people have an allergy to these things (especially when considering it for the long term.)

If you want to know what works, use common sense and think about what works for those who developed physiques and fitness levels over time.

The common sense part of weightloss is simple:

Eat Less and Do More.  And mainly EAT LESS.

In general, American’s eat too much.  While plenty claim to eat healthful foods, they still eat to much of them.  If someone managed to eat 10,000 calories worth of green vegetables everyday, it’s still likely they’d end up overweight.  Yes, you can have too much of a good thing.  Portion control is a fancy politically correct way of saying take half of what you are served, and put it in a to-go bag for tomorrow or for the homeless guy on your way from the restaurant.

Besides the divide and conquer method, here are some more simple tricks to eat less:

  • Drink water before you eat.  And lots of it.  And if you want… drink some more while you eat.
  • Throw out your giant plates and bowls and silverware.  Only use smaller dishes and utensils.  It will help your eyes deceive your stomach.
  • Only eat if you are actually hungry.  Sounds too simple right?  Think about all the times you eat when you are bored or being social.  It’s not like your body knows that that food didn’t really matter to you.  They are calories regardless of your emotions, thoughts, or mindfulness.
  • Satisfy your taste receptors not stretch receptors.   Basically two things make you feel satiated (“full”):  1. fat receptors and 2. stretch receptors.  Stretch receptors respond to the volume of contents in your belly.  If you are craving some calorie dense sugary food, then first drink some water and have some real, nutritious food and then allow yourself to have a taste of what you were craving.  Your tastebuds can’t tell the difference between a lot of ice cream and a little ice cream.
  • Rethink food.  Yes, this involves a lot of mental work, and it’s not easy for many Americans.  The main point is to dehypnotize yourself from your old (unhealthy) patterns regarding food, and rehypnotize yourself for new healthful associations with food.  For instance, if you are a sugar addict and diabetic ( a very bad combination) you know you need to stop consuming sugar, so you MUST train your mind to think of sugar as so bad for you, you would never have do it.  How?  Would you ever do heroin?  Or would you, yourself, literally eat your foot off your leg?  NO!  Why?  It’s too painful, too scary, too gross, too horrific…  Yes all those reasons.  Now realize that doing sugar (think of it like a drug – stop saying “eating”) is for you like doing heroin – it will not work out well.  For many diabetics, it may mean having their feet amputated.   But rather than thinking of it in a sterile surgical way, realize that you are eating your feet off when you do sugar.  Make it graphic and painful.  Make the pain override the pleasure.  The more painful, the more horrendous, the more disgusting – THE BETTER!

Some time ago I wrote a book that was never published titled “What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know and Your Trainer Won’t Tell You… And Vice Versa.”  I’m going to look into publishing that again.  But for now, let’s just talk about the basic premise behind that book.

Odds are your doctor doesn’t know nutrition.  Keep in mind, obesity is a new medical problem relative to human history.  He or she received little (if any) education regarding diet for all their hours of medical school.  What they did learn is often antiquated information and not even applicable to many people today.  For one thing, today’s American population is sedentary and eats prepared and processed food in ways never imagined before.   What I was taught in my medical training was basically from the 1950’s (I was in college from the early to late 90’s).  Remember these are the same intellectual giants whose medical training led them to believe exercise was bad, and weightlifting makes a person “muscle-bound.”  Also, remember these are modern concerns.  Only 100 years ago many Americans were concerned about having enough food… not too much.

Unfortunately, getting diet and nutrition advice from your doctor is about as reliable as getting medical advice from the engineer who designed his stethoscope.   He may have learned something along the way, but it’s unlikely he’s actually has experience and expertise regarding the subject.

So what about your personal trainer?

Doesn’t he/she do this for a living and therefore have experience and expertise?  Besides, aren’t trainers extremely well built… They must know a lot about how to lose weight and look great.  Right? Wrong, not necessarily.

On the one hand, we are fortunate to have an unregulated fitness industry.  Almost anyone can be a trainer.  Almost anyone can claim to be a nutritionist.  Yes, I know there are those who actually have degrees in nutrition and dietetics from accredited universities (i.e. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist “RND”.)  Most of these folks are either doing research or working for hospitals doing specialized medicinal diets.  The dreadlocked girl at Whole Foods whose tag reads “Nutritionist” is probably not one of those people.

And trainers?
I’ve been professionally training people since I was 16 years old (like I said, it’s an unregulated industry – anyone can do it.)  So now I have more that 23 years of experience (plus undergraduate and graduate degrees in health related fields) and let me tell you what your trainer probably won’t.

Training and exercise is at most a 10% determining factor in how you look.

First, we are 100% beholden to our genetics.  Some folks were born to be thin, others not so much.  But thankfully, we can do a lot to influence our appearance beyond genetics.

Another factor that is a huge determinant are our hormones.  Unfortunately, they still have not figured out a truly healthful way of manipulating these for our benefit either… There are always repercussions.

Since we can’t easily manipulate our DNA or hormones, and exercise is at most 10% of why we look the way we look… What are we to do?

The next most important factor which we can actually have an affect on is our diet.  The food you consume is probably around 80% of the determining factor regarding your appearance.  Everything from body shape to muscle tone to even skin and hair issues are deeply affected by your diet.

Your trainer will probably not make this abundantly clear because it makes him less necessary.  The truth is he is not necessary as a “fitness expert” or “exercise physiologist”.  The trainers primary function is to make sure you show up and don’t get hurt.  That’s about it.  Hopefully, he will educate you and teach you knew human tricks and help you get stronger.  But really, trainers are there as leverage to make sure you get off your butt and do some kind of activity.

By the way, just because exercise is only 10% of your looks (at most), that doesn’t mean it is not extremely important.  IT IS!  Just not for weightloss or looks.  Exercise is important for cardio-pulmonary reasons and psycho-emotional reasons, beyond the obvious musculo-skeletal reasons.

And if you’re curious… I leave the remaining factor of 10% to account for lifestyle (i.e. stress, work, family, sleep, partying, etc.)

***Don’t try to add DNA, hormones, exercise, diet, and lifestyle to understand a total.  Just focus on what you can control: Diet is 80%, Exercise is 10%, and Lifestyle is 10% regarding change in your body’s shape.

So there you have the big secrets revealed!

Trainers are largely unnecessary (regarding training you to change your body), and doctors are basically uninformed on diet and nutrition (again, especially regarding weightloss.)

If you really want to change your body:

  • Figure out what is realistic for you.  If you are a short, curvy, overweight woman, you will not look like Gisele.  You will look like you only smaller.  Set realistic, measurable, and time bound goals.
  • Focus on improvements.  Just like small incremental growth in your retirement funds will make you wealthy eventually, so too with weightloss.  Slow, steady and methodical weightless is the way towards creating a better body and life.  The fast approach pretty much always back fires (again just like “fast money.”)
  • Eat with your mind and not your emotions.  Ask “Am I really hungry?”  If not, then just don’t eat.  Don’t worry you can still watch TV or converse with people.  You can even go to a restaurant, just make sure that they bring you a to-go box so you won’t feel guilty about “wasting” the food you didn’t eat.  You can taste without devouring.  And you can be satisfied without getting “full.”
  • Focus on eating nutrient dense foods.  I am not big on telling people what to eat and what to avoid.  Except I do have some basics.
    • It should actually be food.  Not some food like product, that tastes good.  (ex. cookies, cheetos, candy)
    • Develop a hatred of sugar.  I hate drugs.  I would never do drugs.  I think of sugar like a drug… because it is a drug.  It wreaks havoc on your mind.  It wreaks havoc on your insulin levels.  Therefore it wreaks havoc on your cardiovascular system (more on this some other time).  And perhaps worse than all this, Sugar makes you want more sugar.   It is addictive.  And it is destructive.
    • Focus on eating protein and fats at every meal, while avoiding carbs.  Ah, yes.  The truth comes out.  I am low-carb guy myself.  How could it be?  Experience and education.  Before there was Atkins there was Vince.  Vince Gironda owned the first gym in the west coast, aptly named “Vince’s Gym”.  I started training there the summer I turned 13.  Vince and Nick really taught me more about diet and nutrition than I ever learned in college.  Vince was the one who convinced me that diet is 80% of how we look.  He is also the one who understood carbohydrates were not necessary for the human body, and actually made people fat.  And here’s the thing about Vince and Nick… they were pretty much always right!  It would take science more than 50 years to confirm what they had already understood.  Regardless, these guys knew there stuff without university research.  Why?  Because they had to.  They did not use drugs.  They did not have great genetics.  So when they wanted to improve their physique they had to do the hard way… through work and discipline.  They had truth, curiosity, and intelligence on their side.  Vince was always trying to figure things out to see if it really worked.  Plus, there was the element of necessity.  Vince and Nick trained so many of the old Hollywood talent it was mind blowing.  They had to know how to get fat people thin, and thin guys muscular.  And they had to do it all without drugs.  Did people use drugs who trained there? Sure.  Joe Weider sent a young and promising (though chubby) Arnold Schwarzenegger to Vince to lose his “baby fat”, basically as soon as he arrived from Austria. Why? Because Vince really knew what he was talking about and told you what to do regarding both diet and exercise.
    • Don’t talk yourself into it.  How many times do people talk themselves into eating poorly because it tastes good, or just for tonight, or what ever rationalization people come up with.   If you can talk yourself into, then you can talk yourself out of it.  But you need to be prepared to argue.  Write out all the excuses (a.k.a. “reasons”) you eat
  • ONLY Do what you can and will do for a lifetime.   Unfortunately many people do temporary diets, and then expect to go back to their old ways and be fine.  That never works out well.  Start small and adjust progressively.  Own the idea that you are changing your lifestyle and it’s something that must be done.  Make it a must.  Celebrate your incremental triumphs.  And develop joy from your new will and discipline.

Know that all the infomercials for exercise equipment or DVDs all include a DIET PLAN!

Know that excess caloric input compared to caloric output (energy in vs. energy out) makes you fat!  Think of fat as stored energy.  You want to set up your body chemically to use fat for energy.  Which leads to my next point:

Know that carbohydrates and particularly high glycemic carbs (i.e. Sugars in all its forms: sucrose, fructose, syrup, etc.) are the other major factor in your diet that make you fat.  So long as you are not starving yourself, your body does not need carbohydrates.

Know that most doctors did not get adequate training or education regarding diet and weightloss.

Know that most trainers will not tell you how vital a proper diet is for your weightloss.  It is not in their interest, and many really don’t understand the mechanisms for losing body fat.

Know that of all the factors that determine your body’s shape, the one thing you have the most control over will also have the greatest impact on your body’s shape…  That is your DIET.


Link to understanding carbohydrates and why they are not necessary – click here.

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