I think this is going to be the last one of its kind before this kind of stuff goes behind the umbrella of a paid service for outsiders and ‘outlanders’ (Malachi Corn, Children of the Corn). So get it while it’s hot.
I used to think that strength and conditioning coaches who bitched and moaned about our national obsession with diet were just being babies and perhaps dummies. This is what people want to talk about, I thought: why alienate your audience?
Then I opened a gym. I came to work, day in and day out, and saw people do incredible things. Giant PRs, huge lifts, metcons eaten like lightning and crapped out like thunder. And yet…
Write a post about protein, or paleo eating? Guaranteed the site hits go through the roof and we get 20+ comments. Something about Donny Shankle’s clean and jerk or Chris Spealler’s Fran? A handful of comments at best. Maybe a few individual questions in person.
Understand this: this is not me bitching and moaning. It is what it is and I’ve come to my peace with it. And just so we’re clear, I’ll give you my unvarnished opinions: I think sometimes people get very, very bonkers about food. I think about 99.99% of us would do better to think more often of food as fuel, even if only occasionally. I think there’s a huge cognitive disconnect across a swatch of CrossFit land–we want to preach Paleolithic eating while at the same time privileging a conditioning protocol that provides an endorphin high I find almost wholly analagous to the cheap rush and metabolic detritus you’d derive from a Twinkie. (1: Sorry Twinkies, you are delicious. 2: If you don’t think there aren’t people functionally addicted to their WoDs, you haven’t seen the confused-into-angry look I get from some visiting CrossFitters when I explain that we’re not doing this one for time AND we’re going to stop after a few minutes.) I wish we talked more about strength, more about conditioning, more about movement, and less about diet and weight loss for the sake of weight loss. Like many others, I believe that chasing performance and changing behaviors almost always gets you the body you deserve.
There. That was a mouthful. But like I said, it is what it is. We’re going to talk about diet and weight loss more than we talk about anything else. I know this. I also know this post will probably jumpstart a lot of conversation. Good–this is what I want. Because now I’m going to tell you what I know about exercise and weight loss. Because if we’re going to talk about it, if we’re going to fixate on it, I want us to do it right.
We’ll hit this like a laundry list. I’ll do my best to explain where I feel it’s necessary, but I may leave some points to their own devices. As should go without saying, I’ve learned a ton from a ton of different places. None of this is very original. That’s okay. Not much worthwhile in the strength and conditioning world is.
1. For starters: Weight Watchers is fine. Jenny Craig is fine. The South Beach Diet is fine. A juice fast is fine. If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, the best program to begin with is the one you’ll stick with. For whatever reason.
2. Having someone tell you what to eat helps. A lot. Having someone ask you to report what you weigh each week and how you look in whatever you’d wear to the beach helps even more.
3. You don’t get a demerit on your lab results if you improved your bloodwork simply by eating less crap and losing the twenty pounds you lose when you stop eating so much crap.
4. Hardstyle kettlebell swings for conditioning (watch Jamie, Barbara, Kendra, or Bethany do them for an idea of how fast the swing needs to happen) will lean women out almost on their own. Add legitimate pushups to the mix and you are dealing in aces.
5. Pretty simple formula here: lots of hard conditioning needs lots of carbs. Not lots like a bowl of cereal five times a day but lots like three or four good servings of complex carbs from your sweet potatoes, your rice, your oats if you tolerate them well.
6. Guys lose weight by eating less bread, lifting heavy weights, and sprinting once or twice a week. A guy who really wants to lose weight will give up or seriously curtail the food he keeps telling himself is healthy enough to pig out on a few times a week: bacon, almond butter, Paleo cupcakes or whatever the fuck they’re selling these days.
7. Folks who don’t have too much weight to lose (these are your ‘tone up’ folks) ignore the hormonal effects of diet and exercise at their own peril. Strength work: good for hormones. Hard conditioning on an infrequent basis: good for hormones. Stretching, massage, foam/PVC rolling: good for hormones. Triple Secret Probation Fran Five Times a Week: say hello to a very, very stubborn five pound tire around your belly.
8. Sleep more. Everyone.
9. You will go a hell of a long way towards understanding the weight-loss mentality you need to adopt during a diet if you can really, truly understand that there are people in the world who gain weight purposely to increase their squat, their press, their bench, or to win a weaker weight class. It can be done clinically. It probably is best done clinically. Likewise it can be dropped clinically and with precision.
10. If you like to lift weights and sprint occasionally, and if you hover around the 2-5 rep range in most of your loaded movements, you can probably do just fine with meat and veggies. Get good locally sourced meat and eat the fat.
11. It’s no one else’s fault. Really. It’s also not worth beating yourself up about. The longer you play the violin, the shorter the rest of your life is. Get to work.
12. The most sobering thing I think I’ve ever heard also doubles as the best advice I’ve ever gotten: No one really cares about you. No, really. At the end of the day no one gives a tin shit if you weigh two thirty or two stones. Do it for yourself. So you can look at yourself in the mirror. Internal motivation trumps external by a thousand country miles…
13. …unless you want to rub someone’s nose in it. Like Elvis Costello said when someone asked him what he wrote his songs about: “revenge.” Revenge, baby. That’s powerful stuff.
14. The people in their thirties and forties who have helped people in their thirties and forties lose weight are the ones you want to listen to. (And yeah, you’re damned right that is a ‘toot, toot.’) That is where the hard work happens. Twenties? Stop eating shit and move more. Fifties and sixties? Slight caloric restriction, move better and load that movement more smartly. Thirties and forties? Most often that’s a wholesale diet, exercise, and behavior change. We’re the hardest ones to get through to. Because we know we’re smarter than the younger kids but we’re not afraid of our endgames just yet.
15. You will not ever get the body you want simply by exercising as hard as you can. At the right time, it’s a necessary attack, but you’ve also got to be doing two if not all three of these things right in concert: eating well, sleeping well, and getting outside as often as possible.
16. My favorite diet: two meals a day. Meats, veggies, white rice, and some seasonal fruit. Pizza and ice cream on Friday nights with the family.
17. Get your protein and drink your water. Let’s be smart about it. What are we made of? So get your protein and drink your water.
18. Vitamin D, Magnesium, and a little fish oil. That’s about it. Maybe a good-quality whey protein powder if you like your weightlifting.
19. The guys and gals who dropped twenty pounds in a week to look good for a movie role…how do you think they did it? Yeah, that’s how they did it. Pick more realistic role models like the mom who lost thirty pounds three years ago and has kept it off since. Long-term weight loss and maintenance is the holy grail. If someone’s done it, you put down every little thing you’re doing, you ask them how, and you listen.
20. Be present at your own recreation. Want it bad enough and it will happen. But you’ve got to show up for it.
These are some thoughts. There are more. It’s not a stone tablet, but I hope it helps. Let’s get sane about this shit and make the changes we want to make…
…and Happy Birthday Mike.