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Edition 45 - This Style Isn’t Sexy… But It Should Be
Thanks to social media (and gossip magazines pre-2007), the idea of a rapid body transformation is tempting. We’ve all seen those before and after pictures of people who have made drastic changes to their figures in a short amount of time. However, as tempting as it may be to attempt a rapid weight loss transformation, it is important to know that it is not sustainable. Too often, people jump into a crash diet and extreme exercise routine with the hopes of achieving the perfect physique in no time, only to be disappointed by the lack of results or eventual weight gain. The truth is that the fit, strong, healthy body most people want requires time, consistency, and a saint-like patience which verges on a boring commitment to the basics – there are no shortcuts.
I wonder, if you could choose between:
1. Looking skinny (with perhaps a bit of muscle), but unhealthy on the inside, while mostly feeling a little bit emaciated, malnourished, traumatised and emotionally starved of the foods you love and enjoy. Duration: 3-6 months before returning to previous condition.
2. Being fit, mobile, as strong as you could ever wish or need to be, actually healthy on the inside, with a body weight that doesn’t dramatically fluctuate, while you enjoy a diverse, nutritious diet which includes the foods you love and enjoy. Duration: The rest of your life.
Which are you going to pick?
Now, I know I have an obvious bias towards my own philosophy, but guess what - B is definitely the sexiest option for me. Transformations and extreme shreds really are bullshit for the average person. There is a place for it in sports like competitive bodybuilding, or boxing where dramatic weight loss and regains for weigh-ins can be hugely significant. I have caved in before in my earlier years as a trainer, and designed 12 or 16 week programmes for people who are determined to make a dramatic change to their body, and don’t get me wrong - they have had results, and I always maintain it is possible to change your exterior in the most extreme way if you are determined enough, but in the words of Chris Rock:
“Of course you can do it. You can drive a car with your FEET if you want to, that don’t make it a good f***ing idea!”
Here is what we know about body transformations:
1. The results will NOT last - There are so many reasons why rapid weight loss is not sustainable and will not produce long-term results. Crash diets are notorious for providing only short-term results, where your dream body is a quick flash in the pan before you regress at triple the speed it took you to get there. There is no doubt that a crash diet can help you lose a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time, but the unfortunate truth is that these types of diets do not provide long-term results. Very rarely will you come across one which provides the volume and quality of nutrients necessary for a healthy, functioning body, AND allows you to continue occasionally enjoying your favourite meals. If your prescribed nutrition involves you giving up every food you truly love, you are heading for disaster. Crash diets should be avoided at all costs. If you want to lose weight and make healthy lifestyle changes, you need to do it the right way and in a sustainable manner, which includes accounting for your favourites and including them in 10-20% of your diet. So we have established that super strict nutritional regimes won’t last, and guess what, neither will a gruelling training schedule. I have banged on about the training balance all year so won’t go on too much. The point is, whatever hardcore business you are doing in the gym for your shred, it ain’t gonna last, so why not focus all that energy on some tasty long-term gainz?
2. ‘Before and after’ pictures are lying to you - I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen some impressive-looking ‘before and after’ pictures of a person who has achieved some kind of extreme weight-loss or physique change, only to notice a couple of simple things that tell an important story. Next time you see one of these posts, I want you to look out for a few things and then tell me if I’m wrong.
Posture: ‘Before’ shots usually show the client slouching, maybe even protruding their stomach on purpose (give this a try and you’ll see how easy it is to expand your stomach, as well as suck it in). ‘After’ shots will have the client in a better posture, shoulders drawn back, stomach drawn in.
Lighting - This may not always be the case, but usually the lighting is varied between pictures. Brighter light from above creates a shadow that can help the abs and other muscles appear more visible vs. a dim or more distant light.
Clothing - Different clothing (bikinis, boxer shorts etc.) between images can be used to flatter the physique in 1 vs. the other. Anyone choosing outfits for a holiday I’m sure will understand this is a thing.
‘Pump’ - Simply taking the ‘before’ shot pre-workout and the ‘after’ shot post-workout after a few weeks training makes perhaps the biggest difference of all. You can tell when somebody has taken the photo post-workout as you will see more pop in the muscles and pronounced vascularity in the veins.
Distance - Having females take the ‘before’ shot closer to the camera to appear bigger and the ‘after’ shot further away to appear smaller.
Hair & Face - ‘Before’ = no smile, no makeup, hair more natural. ‘After’ = big smile, makeup, hair did. Easy wins.
This does not mean genuine progress has not been made! All I am saying is that results we as the public see, are (the majority of the time) exaggerated, and yet we still endorse the practice and believe that if we do the same thing and go on a ‘health kick’ for 12 weeks, we can also be lean and healthy forever more.
3. You will have a miserable time achieving your short lived success - Let’s face it, doing a transformation like this is minging. I’ve tried it myself to see what it’s like. You’re training hard every day, exhausting your body, underfeeding it, constantly aching, emotionally drained, constantly pushing to your deadline with a clear knowledge that when you reach the ‘end point’, that will be the end. You will not be carrying on this hellish routine of exercise and joyless half-meals for love nor money. You are going back to excessing on your favourite foods, back to alcohol, back to exercising once-every-so-often instead of daily.
4. Skinny doesn’t = Healthy - When you go on a crash diet, you are often not consuming the appropriate amount of calories and macronutrients necessary to sustain a healthy body. This can lead to muscle loss, fatigue, irritability, and even nutritional deficiencies that may result in long-term health issues. You cannot rush this process! Extreme exercise routines that focus primarily on weight loss can be dangerous. While regular exercise can be an important component of a healthy lifestyle, it should never be the sole focus of your weight loss routine. It is important to remember that regular exercise can be beneficial for health, but it does not lead directly to fat loss. In fact, too much exercise can lead to muscle loss and can even put individuals at risk for injury. Extreme exercise routines are not sustainable and put your health at risk. Quick fixes such as ‘magical’ supplements, are an awful trap that many desperate people are sleepwalking into. Many of these products have adverse side effects and can be dangerous combined with the other extreme steps people are willing to take. The end result of this abuse of our bodies is high stress, high blood pressure, worse sleep, low energy, muscle atrophy, and the list goes on. Hardly the picture of health we are being sold.
5. Unless you continuously repeat the process, you are screwed - It is important to remember that a healthy reduction in weight is a process that requires consistency, patience, and dedication. But nothing about transformations make it possible to be consistent for the rest of your life. I personally have no issue with somebody saying they want to lose a bit of weight, provided they understand the context we have been discussing and they understand it is more important to be fit, strong, and mobile, than it is to be light. When attempting to achieve any of those things, it is important to remember that the process is not a sprint, but a marathon. This means that it takes time to make these healthy lifestyle changes, and master movements and habits that will last a lifetime. One of the most important aspects of slow and steady progress is that it allows you to establish sustainable habits. Rapid weight loss can often lead to a yo-yo dieting effect, where people quickly regain the weight they lost. Slow and steady progress encourages long-term changes to your eating habits and fitness routines so that you can maintain a strong and healthy body for the rest of your life.
This is all about providing yourself with the ample time to learn the science about healthy eating habits (rather than believing the lies that Generation X and Millennials have repeatedly been told in trash magazines since the 70’s and 80’s), incorporate them into your lifestyle, and thus promote long-term healthy bodily changes.
Exercise is about feeling good and living a healthy lifestyle – not competing with people you don’t know over who can lose the most weight and be the most skinny (or in the case of the skyrocketing body dysmorphia among men - looking ripped, overly muscular, and triangle shaped) on instagram. If you want a healthy body, you should go about building it in a healthy and sustainable way that promotes long-term results.
So instead of visible ribs and six-pack, here’s MY sexy checklist:
Being able to sprint for the bus
Putting your shoes and socks on standing up
Deadlifting your bodyweight
Eating what you want guilt-free
Hopping a fence no problem
Deep squat (hips well below knees) with straight back
Able to run 5k whenever you feel like it
Healthy on the INSIDE - Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, resting HR, stress
Getting 8 hours sleep every night
Being able to touch your toes
Giving a broken down car a push
Hang from a bar for a minute
Body confident (no matter what it looks like)
Chasing your children or nieces/nephews around a park
Getting yourself off the toilet on your own when you’re 90 years old
“Your body is for life, not just for a January shred” - n/a
Movement of the Week: Hop Test
30 sec each leg (timed)
This lateral hop-test is a great way to examine differences between limbs as they function during agility activities. Here I scored 86 hops in 30 seconds on my left leg, vs. 80 hops on my right leg - indicating that on my left leg I have a better degree of strength and stability when landing, and can produce shorter Ground Contact Times (GCT). Although the difference between the two isn’t huge, it may benefit sports performance to improve my function on the right leg (which has a history of knee injury).
What’s your score?