I’ll cut right to the chase with this post.
- You’re eating the wrong foods
- You’re eating too much
- You’re giving your body the option to stay fat
- You’re doing too much cardio
1. You’re eating the wrong foods
If you’re eating anything that doesn’t spoil or become nasty in one way or another if left unrefrigerated for more than a couple of days, chances are your diet isn’t optimal. My idea of a “Will It Rot” diet cuts pretty much to the core of the issue. Bread, cereal, grains in general, candy, cookies, pastries, other dry and refined carbs like chips, pretzels, granola bars, energy bars, etc. It’s also worth noting that if you can afford to purchase organic produce, you probably should [it’s a travesty that in the U.S. only those of us who can afford it don’t have to make the decision between feeding themselves and their children pesticide-laced food and paying the rent.] The first time I bought organic potatoes I was astonished by how quickly they sprouted eyes and went bad as compared to conventionally-grown and treated potatoes.
2. You’re eating too much
Low-carb, high-carb, low-fat, high-fat, low-protein, high-protein. I’ve found that it generally doesn’t matter. I don’t think about the marcronutrient composition of my diet anymore. For me, it became time consuming and annoying. I find that letting my tastes and appetite guide me works better. But the food selection should still follow “Will It Rot?” guidelines. Consuming only foods in the “Will it Rot?” group dramatically and positively alter craving patterns and satiety, and are typically nutrient and water dense and calorically lighter. There’s no magic here. You know this. It’s difficult to consume a diet high in carbohydrates if all the foods you consume fall into the “yes, it rots” grouping. Daily fasting (skipping breakfast or both breakfast and lunch) is also an exceptional way to control food intake. Eating six small meals per day to be “healthy” or to keep from getting hungry is ABSOLUTE BULLSH*+. Doing the exact opposite is far more effective for weight management, craving management/ blood sugar stability, mental clarity, metabolism, hormonal balance, you name it. You can read more about that here (I’ve been fasting 20 hours daily now for three years).
3. You’re giving your body the option to stay fat by 4. doing too much cardio
You’re ready to lose some fat. You consume less energy than you expend. Your body needs to make up the energy deficit. It will use body fat for that, right? Not exactly. Muscle is metabolically expensive to maintain. Muscle maintenance requires calories. Even if it’s just 10 or 15 calories per pound of muscle per day, it adds up. When you’re chronically energy (food) deficient, your body sheds muscle along with fat. If you’re doing moderate to high-intensity cardio and are NOT lifting heavy weights, this effect is intensified, i.e. more muscle loss. Fat is more than twice as energy dense as muscle and costs nothing for your body to hold. It is the ultimate survival ration. Accordingly, your body retains it for as long as possible at the expense of muscle. This can manifest as a “skinny-fat” body, where you’ve lost weight, but your body composition has changed for the worse. For example, let’s say you start at 150 lbs and your goal weight is 130. You do lots of “fat burning” cardio and no weights and you eat fewer calories than your body requires to maintain your current weight. You do this for a few months and you hit 130 lbs. You’re slimmer, but your body looks almost gelatinous. It’s not just that you have little muscle tone, it’s actually worse. You’ve either lost weight and your body fat percentage increased, stayed the same, or not decreased in proportion to the weight you’ve lost. This is why losing fat and losing weight are not synonymous.
To flip this process, your body needs a stimulus to preserve muscle and consume fat. The stimulus provided by heavy weight-bearing activity does that. The associated hormonal response forces your body to preserve or build muscle (providing there’s a caloric surplus), leaving fat the only option to use as fuel. Although the process isn’t as simple as this, i.e. where you’ll burn pure fat vs pure muscle, heavy lifting with limited cardio while in a caloric deficit works exceptionally well (especially for untrained individuals), and produces a much more favorable and healthy body composition. “No cardio” doesn’t mean no activity; it means nothing intense or structured, like walking, swimming, light biking, chasing your kid around, doing housework, etc. It also doesn’t mean “no sprinting”.