Are We Fighting The Wrong Battle? And are we losing in the war? It is a war. We face that war daily in our facebook feeds, during our talks with friends over coffee, and while making decisions at the grocery store.
A Deadly Banana
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a mild sunny day and I was sitting at a little round table in a coffee shop talking to a friend. He was intensely trying to play a song for me off of his phone and not succeeding due to poor connection or competence. I can’t be sure which.
A man near the door had just bent over to help a little girl pick up her book. It looked like one of those books where you can feel the fur of the characters inside. I always loved those books. Why we don’t utilize this tactic to get adults to read more is beyond me.
The little girl took the book from him and didn’t seem thankful. In fact, she wore a frown of suspicion on her face. I think she worried her fuzzy book was about to be nabbed by this seemingly generous man. Maybe she knew something I didn’t. But, he left and she began to drool her latte on herself again.
I went up to the counter and grabbed a banana and another tea. I love bananas. They are a very difficult food to love though. They require patience and timing. All vegetables and fruits need to rippen, but bananas have this extremely short but wonderful window. I guess I like the challenge. The banana I grabbed was a particularly nice shade of brown spots and barely noticeable bruising.
I sat back down when my friend said, “I thought fruit was bad? Doesn’t that banana have more sugar than some candy bars?”
With a heavy and tired sigh I muttered, “Seriously?”
How did we get here? A banana is a lovely mineral filled treat. One of nature’s greatest creations. Yet somehow people are driven to becoming scared of a banana. How did this happen?
Good Intentions, Bad Intentions… You’re Still Scaring People
I’m going to share with you a message I received recently. This isn’t the first or the last of these types of messages.
“I found you through a podcast and was wondering if you could help me.
A few years ago, I started trying to lose body fat and get stronger. I don’t want to be skinny fat like I have been in the past. I got down to 130lbs once using (a popular shake diet) but I was flabby in my skin. I want to have great arms for the first time in my life! The problem is I am stuck at 24-25% body fat and I can’t get any lower. Would you mind giving me some advice?
I lift and do metabolic cardio and sometimes a spin class with one of my friends. I never cheat or binge and have been eating clean, non-dairy and gluten-free for the past year. I rarely eat any fruit or starchy vegetables. Why isn’t this working? I am so good!
I’m tired and run down all the time. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression this year, but the medication hasn’t helped very much. I lost my period around the same time. Maybe it’s hormones?
If there is any advice you can give me, I would really appreciate it. THANK YOU!!!”
We will call this lovely woman Paula to protect the innocent. I set up a consultation with Paula and we embarked on a journey to figure out how to get Paula those arms she wanted. You want to know what Paula’s biggest road block on this journey was? Her selection of food and belief in energy balance. Paula barely ate any variety of foods and was convinced that calories played no role in her results.
By the time Paula got to me there was nothing left to take away. While she didn’t under nourish in calories, she only had a small menu to choose from. She was still at maintenance or over due to her intake of oils and almonds in high quantities. Between her protein intake, her moderate amount of veggie choices and oils/almonds she was hitting roughly 1900-2200 calories-a-day. Being she was mostly sedentary with the exception of her training and still relatively small in the grand scheme of things, she wasn’t going to see fat loss anytime soon.
On top of everything else, she was miserable and never allowed herself to eat anything she used to enjoy. She had no energy, lost her belief in her ability to lose fat, and was “over” the whole process. She claimed reaching out to me as a last result.
The end of the story isn’t overly crazy, but it is exciting. She ended up embracing energy balance, those “evil” foods again, and got her arms. The most important thing is she isn’t afraid of food anymore. She has energy back, sleeps better, and can enjoy a life of maintenance that isn’t only working because of all the foods she is running from in the grocery isle.
Paranoia, Anxiety, and Fear Should Not a Diet Make
I don’t keep cookies in the house. I would eat them all. When I am in a cut, I limit my intake of certain foods because I merely enjoy eating them too much. I change up my meal timing and I alter my training routines. In short, my “for life” or maintenance eating strategy is completely different than my restriction strategy. It has to be because not eating a full days of food is on the top of my list of things I hate to do.
People act like restriction is something they can do anytime they want to. We (including myself) always think it is going to be easier than it is. We always map out our restriction and tightening up efforts with a succession montage in our heads that is nothing near the reality of the situation. The reality is most of us fail miserably over and over again at trying to achieve this seemly simple goal.
Since this is so hard, I want to state there is nothing wrong with completely removing temptation from your life. If you can only get ripped abs eating spinach, chicken, and pistachios – you aren’t doing so bad! But if you are scaring yourself or if others are trying to scare you to make you question if something is harming you, that can have long-term consequences.
Don’t Get Punched Looking the Other Way
The real tragedy to a lot of these claims, aside from what they do to science, is you are the one who is going to pay for it in the end. While all of these billion dollar corporations are seeming to be on your side fighting a battle for your health, they are mostly succeeding at two things:
1. Distracting you from the real issue
2. Implanting damaging psychological behaviors
What is the real issue? Regarding fat loss, it is and always will be mastering your energy balance. While all foods are not created equal and have different thermic effects, consequences, and benefits – they all have energy. At the end of the day, you are ingesting “x” amount of energy and expending y amount of energy. Your ability to master that balance is where your focus should be. Your ability to master your psychological demons is where your focus should be.
Your focus should not be getting force fed poor scientific research that takes you further and further off the trail in most cases. While some get lucky and fall into the “right time/right place” pool, the rest land in the path of the tornado and it isn’t a fat loss Oz they land in.
How You Win the War
Do: Focus on food compliance strategies
Don’t: Scare yourself into never enjoying foods again
Do: Remember energy balance is the key to your success
Don’t: Forget that every macronutrient has its role and that all foods have different strengths
Do: Enjoy any food you desire in moderation
Don’t: Let moderation become annihilation
Do: Stay true to what makes you feel good inside and out
Don’t: Be fooled by a few “good studies” listed in a sensational blog post
Do: Believe that results should happen at a relatively predictable pace
Don’t: Believe that those results should only show on a scale
Do: Question if what you are doing is working or if it just isn’t scarier than doing something different
Don’t: Be afraid to do that different thing
About The Author
Leigh Peele received her certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine in training. She also has a Nutritional Consultation Certification and in training Special Populations and Weight Management. A nationally published author in both online and in print magazines, Leigh is continually raising the bar on her ability to achieve fat loss under any conditions. A leader in research and study in metabolic behavior and recovery she has been deemed the Fat Loss Troubleshooter. Her clients range from college athletes and professional fighters to housewives and obese seniors. She has led those to figure wins and been the champion to those with personal battles especially with eating disorders. Check out her newest release, Starve Mode: Explaining and resetting metabolic problems that come from dieting at http://www.starvemode.com
Gone Crazy About Food, Part 1:
Gone Crazy About Food, Part 2: