I have to admit, I’m not going to teach you how to be fat in this article. You can find that version at masonfat.com. Just kidding. I’m not sure what you’ll find there.
Nope, today I’m going to give four very real scenarios that I see people struggle with and the mindset associated with each that leads to unhealthy habits and a lack of progress. Each scenario will be followed by either practical strategies or food for thought to break down your barriers and get fit, not fat, this year. Our first way to stay fat this year is by being too positive about your body and its current state (don’t freak out yet – keep reading).
1. Use Body Positivity as a Crutch
I’m a huge fan of the recent surge in body positivity, especially in women. When I wrote this article on self-acceptance, my hope was for more people to start loving their imperfections and things they have little control over. Here’s a line on learning to love your weaknesses:
The next hurdle is accepting that turning your weaknesses into strengths may take a long time, and there’s a good chance your weaknesses never will become strengths at all. If you think you can change your genetic code to store less fat in your midsection and more in your rear-end, grow skinny legs to massive tree trunks, or change the color of your feathers, you’re in for a rude awakening.
See, I’m all for loving your genetic disadvantages and weaknesses. Just keep that in mind from here on.
While the body positivity movement is great in some aspects, it also has the potential to be one of the worst health-related movements ever. I’m sure you’ve heard, but our country’s obesity rates are through the roof. According to the CDC, 37% of US adults are obese and roughly 70% are overweight. As a health ed class refresher, here are a few conditions/diseases linked to obesity:
- heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- various cancers
- sleep apnea
That’s a cool list, but I’d like to translate them into real life scenarios:
- shorter lifespan
- the potential loss of limbs, organs, or function
- reduced independence at a younger age (read: trouble walking at age 50)
- dependence on pharmaceuticals and medical care
- higher medical costs and debt
- leaving your family behind while they still need you
Obesity is serious, and it should be treated as such. Your current diet, exercise, and lifestyle are either extending your quality of life or significantly shortening it. Body positivity should be a tool to improve confidence and accept things that may never change, not a crutch to accept your unhealthy habits and further the decline of your health. If you can make positive changes to your health, it’s irresponsible and short-sighted to do otherwise.
Accept your current self – but continue moving forward and working towards a healthier you. Your future self (and family) will thank you.
2. Ignore the Calorie Balance Equation
At the core of weight loss or weight gain lies the energy balance equation. You know, the one about calories in vs calories out? Yes, food quality matters for body composition but if you want to lose weight or body fat, you have to be in a caloric deficit or eat fewer calories than your body expends.
You can achieve this by tracking your calories and/or macronutrients, though it’s not 100% necessary. There are a ton of ways to create a caloric deficit. Here are a few examples:
- making better food choices and switching to an inclusive diet where you eat as many nutrient dense foods (veggies, fruits, etc.) as possible
- eating higher volume meals (low-calorie, large quantities of food)
- intermittent fasting to limit the time you have available to eat
- increase protein intake to .8-1.2 grams per pound of body weight (1g/pound sweet spot = 185 grams/day for a 185-pound person)
- exercise more (here’s a free 14-day strength training at home course)
- increase non-exercise activity like standing while you work, going for walks, stretching during commercials, etc.
If you’d like to learn more about calculating your metabolic rate, calories needed, and macronutrient ratios, download my free eBook Nutrition Made Easy 2.0.
3. Continue Thinking You Can Burn Enough Calories Through Exercise to Erase Poor Food Choices
Let’s say you’re doing intense exercise for 60-minutes every single day. When I say intense, I mean pools of sweat and heavy breathing. There’s a good chance your net calorie burn for the week would be in the 1,500-2,500 calorie range, depending on your size, genetics, true intensity, and a host of other factors. That’s certainly enough to create a caloric deficit but not a very big one. The increased appetite from training that hard could easily negate that by consuming an extra 300-400 calories/day.
The more important thing to consider, however, is that exercising for an hour every day of the week isn’t sustainable for most. Especially when we consider the long-term. Things come up, schedules clutter, babies happen, and training will have to fall by the wayside at some point. Using training and exercise as the primary fat loss or weight maintenance tool is a great way to stay fat in the long run. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Treat Your Training and Exercise as Erasers
Somewhere along the way, we started treating exercise as a way to erase our nutrition mistakes.
Had a rough weekend filled with booze and burgers? No problem, man, just get in the gym and go hard this week.
Overindulged during the holidays? That’s okay, the January gym membership sales are calling your name.
Don’t get me wrong, I love food and condone the enjoyment of overindulging from time to time. I even cover strategies with my clients for dealing with holidays and special events so they can enjoy them while staying on track. The difference is, we don’t view training as a fix for messing up or a purge that follows the binge.
Training should be a way to enhance your life by building strength and abilities. Using it any other way can and likely will lead to unhealthy relationships with food and exercise.