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Why We Don’t Do “Diets” And Neither Should You - Tucson Personal Trainer Blog

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Why We Don’t Do “Diets” And Neither Should You - Tucson Personal Trainer Blog

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner and Founder

Today’s post comes from the FAQ/unpopular opinion file. We frequently get inquiries from new potential clients who are surprised that ‘weight loss’ is not at the top of our menu of services. One of the most common reasons one typically hires a trainer is to shed a few pounds… so it can be rather odd that a facility like ours doesn’t feature this as a top offering.

Since this question comes up so frequently, let’s take a moment to answer…

Let’s start with the ‘hard talk’…

If, when starting an exercise program, the only goal is to make the scale show a smaller number, one will quickly realize that a just war is being fought on a lost battlefield. As physical activity increases, so does appetite. If weight loss is the only goal, trying to ‘exercise off’ the extra pounds is, by far, the hardest way to do it. When a potential student comes to me with this situation, I recommend they join a weight loss program (or hire a nutritionist), before calling a trainer.

If you’ve ever gotten on a Concept 2 Rower and rowed for calories, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It is a depressingly large amount of work to burn off just a few calories…

“I’m completely exhausted and I barely burned off the cream of this morning’s coffee!”  

If someone has a lot of weight to lose (more than 50 pounds for most females/more than 80 pounds for most males), I recommend starting with a good counselor. The vast majority of fitness professionals, unless they have received specialized training beyond their normal scope of practice, are simply not equipped with the tools necessary to walk through the psychological aspects of overeating and emotional eating with a client. It breaks my heart to hear stories of people who desperately need this type of care, and seek it out from the wrong source… only to never see the results they’re looking for.

“I’m gaining too much muscle!”

I can’t tell you how many times over the course of my career I’ve had female clients quit a weight training program because, “lifting weights for 60 days made me gain eight pounds of muscle.”

I have some bad news about those eight pounds… it isn’t muscle.

If I created a program where I could put eight pounds of muscle on a female lifter in 60 days without drugs, I’d be rich. Heck, if I could put eight pounds of muscle on an 18-year-old male in 60 days that would be a pretty awesome accomplishment.

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The body does NOT like change!

As far as the body is concerned, the only thing it cares about is not dying. It couldn’t care less what you look like in a swimsuit. All the systems in our bodies have been specifically designed to do one thing: prevent death long enough to propagate our species. So, the minute we try to do something that the body perceives to be dangerous, those systems kick in to try and stop it.

Creating a caloric deficit is a wonderful example.

In the old days (like 100,000 years ago), giant grocery stores didn’t exist and food was often scarce, so our bodies created a way to store energy for when those times came around… it’s called fat. Fast forward a few thousand years… food is far more readily available (especially in the US), and now our stored fat goes unused and just hangs around.

Why most diets don’t work

Imagine someone coming into a gym for the very first session… the trainer rolls out a barbell with 400 pounds on it and says, “We just want to see what your current fitness level is. Here… come try to lift this.”

This is precisely what I see when most people decide to start their weight loss journey by doing a diet that involves heavy amounts of food/macronutrient elimination.

I know their hearts are in the right place. They want a ‘jump start’ to see some quick results. They read the testimonials and get inspired. The problem is that these programs have a dismal success rate. According to a research study done by the University of Michigan, roughly 90% of all dieters who lose a lot of weight will eventually regain just about all of it. 

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff doesn’t believe that 95% of people fail on their diets. Rather, he believes 95% of diets fail people. I couldn’t agree more.

So… is nutrition important?

ABSOLUTELY! Nutrition is critically important to fueling workouts, aiding recovery, and promoting progress.

My wife does all of our nutrition programs. My students and I lean on her when prepping for a meet to make sure we stay in (or get to) our weight class when training loads are increased, and many of our other athletes do as well. All of our training packages include some nutrition coaching (the bigger the training package, the more “Marie time” is included).

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If diets don’t work, but nutrition is important, what does Coach Marie do instead?

Let’s go back to the example of the 400-pound barbell. What if, instead, we put a 35-pound kettlebell in front of the newbie and showed them how to lift it properly? Next week, 44 pounds. The following week, 53. When it starts getting REALLY heavy, we back off a bit and start over. If one does this consistently for a year, they will become strong. This is called periodization and it’s the formula that has made weak men (and women) strong for generations.

It’s easy to look at that 35-pound kettlebell on week one and think, “This is just 35 pounds! I’m never going to reach my goals with this puny weight!” But low-and-behold, with some time, persistence, and practice, small kettlebells become big barbells in a fairly short amount of time.

This periodized approach is the exact same template that Coach Marie (as well as other great nutrition coaches) use to get meaningful and long-lasting results from their clients. It works in weightlifting, and it works in nutrition.

Principles First, Tactics Later

Although each diet has its own little gimmick, there are many commonalities that virtually all good nutrition programs share. Barbell Logic recently put together a jump start program called the “Take Charge 10” that does a great job outlining some of these principles. This is NOT a ten-day crash diet… it’s more like a ten-day educational course/experiment you do with yourself, in hopes of learning a few things that could be applied to a long-term nutrition program. Here is a brief overview of the ten days (each day builds on the previous):

Day 1: Consume half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water per day.

Day 2: Reduce your ‘added’ sugars to under 50 grams per day.

Day 3: Eliminate mindless snacking. Eat only during mealtime. Otherwise… the kitchen is closed.

Day 4: Keep a food journal

Day 5: Eliminate alcohol. C’mon guys… It’s only 6 more days! If you can’t go that long without a drink, you may need to seek help.

Day 6: Add veggies to every meal

Day 7: Consume at least 30 grams of fiber per day from real food. No supplement cheating!

Day 8: Cut off caffeine consumption at least 6 hours before bed.

Day 9: Balance the macronutrients of your meals.

Day 10: Know what is in your food. Sorry, not restaurants or take-out on this day.

“This 10-day challenge looks impossible!”

Perhaps for some, it is. Maybe this particular challenge is a level “3” and we need to start with level “1”.  Whatever level is the right one, the best successes will come when we rig the game so we can win.

Of course, I’m a biased source of information, so I think weight-loss exclusive goals are short sighted… which is part of the reason why we don’t emphasize them in our facility.

If we want to rig the game to win, attempting to burn off calories through intense exercise is certainly not the ‘easy’ way to do it. I much prefer to reverse engineer these goals and take a more holistic approach: If we start to clean up lifestyle issues and address health first, the superficial results (ex. weight loss) will often take care of themselves.

Until next time,

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife, Marie. To subscribe to his blog, click here.

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