Why should we ‘eat less’? To lose weight?
We know that starvation’s bad for thin people. Guess what? It’s also bad for fat people. So what’s healthy? Irrespective of what size is healthy, what kind of approach to eating is healthy? What if you’re too fat, or too thin? Does that actually mean anything?
What about your cholesterol? Your blood work? There are tests you can take to determine whether or not your dietary intake of vitamins and minerals is inadequate. And they’re actually specific, and they reveal a lot about the health of your body, regardless of what size you are.
What’s interesting is that with the high rate of obesity, we also seem to see a high rate of nutritional deficiency. I’m confused; aren’t we overeating? Shouldn’t we be trying, all the damn time, to be eating less? Vitamins D, B12, Iron, Calcium, Selenium, the other B’s, all the time people are found to be deficient in these and other nutrients. There was an ad I saw recently for low-fat milk with added Vitamin D. But D is fat-soluble. You need to take it with fat in order to be able to absorb it.
So where will ‘eating less’ get us?
We’re told that if we want to be thinner, we need to eat less. Whether that means counting calories, or eating unrestricted amounts of low calorie foods such as vegetables and leafy greens, it appears that you need to restrict your intake of food in order to lose weight. But for how long? We know it isn’t possible to maintain caloric restriction for a long time.
Ah, what about gastric by-pass surgery? I know, let’s make it impossible for us to ever eat a lot, ever again. What a fine idea.
What about metabolic slow-down? It seems that caloric restriction, for a period of time as short as one day can result in a significant slowing down of your metabolism. And we know that if we want to burn fat we need to keep our metabolism running high, which is why we’re told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and why we should eat six small meals through the day. And we should eat less... while having six meals... Hmmm.
If your body thinks you’re starving – even if you’re not – if your body enters ‘starvation mode’ or ‘metabolic slowdown’, how do you lose weight?
If you want to limit caloric intake, how about one day on, one day off? Will that work? It might prevent metabolic slow down. Will it help you to lose weight?
If you trawl through the internet and fat-loss ads, you’ll hear people talk about metabolic syndrome, liver function, parasites and digestive health – all kinds of things that might – despite your best efforts – be keeping you fat. Your body could be working against you, trying to stay fat, and you don't even know. Quick, buy my product!
So what’s actually healthy? And are we wasting our time trying to lose weight if our hormones aren’t functioning correctly? How many of these awful things might be keeping us sick? And how do we fix them? With dietary restrictions and the purchasing of online fitness programs? Or could you maybe... I don’t know... actually go to the doctor? Or see an actual, qualified naturopath or nutritionist?
Get your blood work done. You can check up on your nutrients. Suspect a metabolic disorder? You can get your hormones tested. You can get a vial of blood taken, pee in a cup, and they can tell a hell of a lot about what you might be lacking. Or what you might have too much of. And then you can supplement or medicate appropriately, rather than take the shot-gun approach of a multi-vitamin and just plain hope you’re not getting it wrong.
There are a few things most people seem to agree on:
Eat plenty of vegetables.
Don’t have too much sugar.
Avoid coffee and alcohol.
Pretty much everything else we argue about, all the damn time. Milk? Is it good or bad? Fresh juice? It has good enzymes, but also sugar. Meat? Fat? Should I adopt a vegan diet, or go paleo? They both seem to have good arguments. Should I avoid processed foods? But my trainer said I should be taking protein shakes. What if I’m not hungry, but I’m told I should be eating, for my metabolism? Whatever the hell that means. How will I be losing weight if I’m cramming protein into my face at every opportunity?
Are you really training hard enough to need all that protein? How much damage are you doing to your tissues that they need any extra help to recover properly? Out of more than thirty clients I train each week, I think maybe two of them might, might benefit from supplementing with protein. If you’re not vegetarian, and even if you are, you’re probably getting enough protein. Unless you seriously want big-ass muscles. By which I mean big muscles, not specifically big ass muscles. Best to clarify.
So anyway, I got a whole lot of questions, and not a whole lot of answers.
But I do got some thoughts. And these things will help you to get healthy, and if you focus on your health, maybe your body’s incredibly awesome ability to regulate itself will reassert itself? Or maybe, just maybe, you actually are the size you’re supposed to be. In which case... you’re actually fine. And how do you know if you’re the right size or not? Some asshole told you that you’re ugly and you should lose weight? Does that mean there’s something wrong with you, or something wrong with them?
Ah, running on the beach...
So what’s actually helpful? What will help keep you healthy?
Encourage nurturing behaviours, in yourself and others.
Don’t sacrifice your health in the name of making yourself more healthy, which is to say: don’t shoot yourself in the foot if you can possibly help it.
Exercise. Train with joy and enthusiasm. If you suspect some sort of hormonal disorder, train with real intensity. It stimulates the hormones to function correctly, and is more powerful than most sports supplements.
Stretch every day. Try to go far enough so that you feel the stretch in your muscles (as opposed to your joints), but not so deep that you tighten up against the stretch.
Walk a lot, just to breathe the air and enjoy the splendour of the world.
Your ‘goal weight’ is completely meaningless.
Don’t eat if you’re not hungry.
Research recipes that you think you might like.
Learn to cook, if you find it enjoyable. If not, find places that serve healthy food, food that you enjoy eating.
Have a bag of fresh greens in the fridge that you can eat every time you walk past the kitchen. I think it's actually impossible to eat too many green leafy vegetables.
High cholesterol? Try oats and green tea. Maybe not together. Don’t get tea-bag green tea. Go for the loose leaf variety if you want it to taste good.
Eat what makes you feel good, in the amounts that make you feel good.
Don’t eat what makes you feel bad, until you’re sick. It’s amazing that that needs to be said.
Remember that eating ‘bad’ food does not make you a ‘bad’ person, just as eating ‘good’ food does not make you a ‘good’ person.
Being thin does not automatically grant you the moral high-ground and mean that you don’t need to look after yourself. Nor does it mean that you automatically take better care of yourself than your fat friend.
I met a personal trainer once who said she hated fat people because she didn’t have time for anyone who didn’t respect his or her own body. She then revealed that she smokes cigarettes, takes cocaine regularly and drinks alcohol most nights of the week. And she has the gall to accuse fat people of not respecting their bodies? If she’d just been honest and said that she didn’t like the aesthetic, I could have at least tolerated her point of view. She made me furious. And a bit nauseated.
Being fat does not mean you are morally corrupt any more than wearing an expensive suit means you don’t care about poverty. Nor does being fat mean that you’re failing at life. Being fat only means that you’re fat, and being fatter than you want to be does not mean that there’s something wrong with you. Look around at the other humans in the world, and in the media. What the hell is our yardstick for normality these days?
If you’re going to eat ‘bad’ foods, at least have the common decency to enjoy them and satisfy your cravings properly.
If you’re going to eat good foods, enjoy them too. Just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it’s going to taste bad. That’s something that infants know, but somehow that knowledge gets beaten out of us.
Be kind to yourself and those around you who are trying to be healthy.
Focus on your health, progression, enjoyment and satisfaction.