During the holiday season, workout volume may be reduced a bit as compared to the high volume of training during the peak of your racing season. A concern for many individuals is weight gain during this time. As a result, this can lead many individuals down the path of jumping on the bandwagon of the latest and greatest food fad and/or diet. On the surface, it seems pretty simple, right? Just cut your calories and you will lose weight. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.
Typically, diets and food fads revolve around restriction; whether it is calories, macronutrients or a combination of both. Before you jump on that diet bandwagon, always remember my trademarked acronym for D.I.E.T., Disaster Imminent Every Time™. Let’s examine a few reasons as to why calorie restriction, diets and food fads don’t work in terms of enabling individuals to achieve meaningful and sustainable results for a lifetime.
1. The Lack of Focus
When individuals are focusing on losing weight, where is their focus? Well, their focus is on weight loss and this is exactly the problem. When athletes focus on weight loss, they tend to focus on diets, cutting calories, choosing foods and meals that they think are going to be low in calorie and help them lose weight, etc. Having a goal to lose body fat and lose body weight is great, but we cannot be result focused. Rather, we have to be process focused. Remember, results are simply the byproduct of a great process. The process is eating right, getting the proper amount of sleep each night, working out smart, etc. According to Michelle May, M.D., “people get so focused on weight loss, they are willing to do unproven and potentially dangerous things that can backfire and cause serious health problems.”
2. Fueling Versus Feeding The Body
There’s a huge difference between fueling the body and feeding the body; these are two completely different animals. Whether the goal is to lose 100 pounds of body fat, become a world champion athlete or somewhere in between, fueling the body is the key to success. As mentioned above, when the focus is on “weight loss” we focus on feeding the body using a diet mentality. We think that low calorie snacks are going to help promote weight loss. We think that cutting carbohydrates is going to promote body fat loss, etc. For body composition success to become a reality, there’s one focus we must have at every meal and snack and that is to properly fuel the body.
When each meal and snack is properly balanced with the right amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat, the body and brain will be properly fueled and this will put us on the path to success. When we focus on fueling the body properly at every meal and snack, we then have laser-like focus on the process. When we focus on the process, the byproduct will be positive results.
3. The Fast and Cleanse
Many athletes look to the fast and cleanse as a logical way to lose weight. Again, here is another disaster (Disaster Imminent Every Time™) in the making. Once again, the focus is way off. When individuals think that a fast and/or cleanse is a good idea for weight loss, they are results focused and not process focused. Dr. May says, “severely slashing calories may lead to weight loss but the lost weight includes precious muscle and lowers metabolism. Drastic calorie restriction also causes a shift toward higher body fat percentage which increases the risk for metabolic syndrome type II diabetes.” This goes right back to the process and the focus of fueling the body. No matter how much body fat we are looking to lose, we want to take the focus off of weight loss and restriction and place all of our time, effort, and energy towards fueling the body properly at every meal and snack.
4. The Save Up/Make Up Philosophy
There is a philosophy many athletes adopt which I term the, “save up/makeup philosophy.” It goes like this. You have a holiday party/event later in the day and you want to enjoy all of the great food that will be there. So you “save up” calories early in the day in order to consume more at the party. This “save up” of calories typically involves skipping meals and/or eating very little and restricting calories throughout the day (and possibly working out more).
This leads to such an over-consumption of food at the party. What follows continues to negatively impact the situation. You likely become so frustrated because of the binge eating session they engaged in the previous night. So in order to fix it, you choose to “make up” for the over-consumption the night before.
In order to make up for the excess calories consumed you do the exact same thing you did the day before. You skip meals and significantly reduce calories thinking that this will make up for the over-consumption and then this simply leads to another binge eating session that night and the negative cycle continues.
A recent study conducted at the Ohio State University revealed that skipping meals not only leads to abdominal weight gain, but it can also lead to the development of insulin resistance in the liver. According to Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition at the Ohio State University, “but you definitely don’t want to skip meals to save calories because it sets your body up for larger fluctuations in insulin and glucose and could be setting you up for more fat gain instead of fat loss.”
You can make this winter and holiday season the best ever. Place that laser-like focus on the process, not the results, avoid the D.I.E.T. mentality, and set your body up for amazing success.