Usually when we think of the word dieting, a strict system used to lose weight comes to mind. Our friend Merriam Webster defines “dieting” as, “to eat less or according to certain rules in order to lose weight.”
You can play all the semantic games you want and say things like, “No, a diet is just how I eat.” but let’s be real – whenever anyone says “diet” they immediately think about “less.”
That’s why dieting isn’t the answer; it’s all about “less”, especially mentally, and you’ll never reach your fat loss goals at less than your best.
Dieting Breaks Exercise
When most people want to lose weight, they do two things: 1) they start some cult-like diet that involves cleaning out their entire pantry and eating like 1200 calories a day*, and 2) they go beast-mode at the gym for several months.
This is the perfect recipe for setting up a long-term failure scenario.
“Why?” might you ask? Excellent question.
Well, dieting while training hard is like trying to ride a bike and jamming a stick in the front spokes; you’re going to hit the ground like a sack of bricks and it’s going to hurt.
I’m REALLY not kidding.
The point of exercise, especially resistance training or even cardio, isn’t some magical calorie burn. The REAL point of exercise is to cause stress so your body is forced to respond and adapt. Guess what’s required to accomplish the positive adaptation to stress responses? FOOD!
You need calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients.
You know what you get when you’re dieting? Less of those things.
Exercise induces a whole host of changes that provide both short-term and long-term benefits. We’re talking things like improved cardiac function, improved muscle metabolism, improved metabolic flexibility, increased resting metabolic rate, decreased resting heart rate, improved heart rate variability, lower stress, increased bone density, etc. Dieting literally deprives you of the fuel required to manifest those kinds of robust results.
You’re better off chasing those adaptations in a well-fed state than you are under-fed.
Dieting Traps You in a Cycle of Fat Gain and Muscle Loss
Want to know what the single-biggest risk factor for being a lifetime dieter is?
Get ready for this…it’s dieting.
Additionally, the more times you diet, the more likely you are to develop disordered eating behaviors. These are just couple of the issues chronic dieting and a lifetime of dieting can cause. Long-term, sustainable habits are the clear winner.
Eat More, Do More Wins
“Eat less, move more” is the common weight loss equation. It usually doesn’t work.
Eating less downregulates almost every process in your body, including metabolism. It also negatively impacts spontaneous physical activity and discourages exercise habits. This means that your body has a low “energy flux”.
Current research suggests that eating more and doing a little more is substantially better for weight management (5). Eating and burning around 3,000 kcal a day led to body fat loss over 3 years while eating and expending around 1800-2000 kcal a day led to body fat gain. Give your body less food, and it will produce inferior results.
Dieting Makes You Age Worse
Dieting for months or years at a time destroys your muscle mass, especially if you aren’t lifting. Having muscle is one of the best indicators of aging well and having a high quality of life as you progress into your senior years. So if you want to be able to get off the toilet when you’re 60, eat your food and lift some weights.
Life Is About More Than Your Body Fat Percentage
I’ve written this before but I’ll just restate it since it’s still practically perfect.
Over the last 10 years I have spent substantial amounts of time walking around at body fat ranges of 5-14%. 5% sucks. . . anyone who tells you otherwise is not human. Life is about way more than a super low body fat percentage. Trust me. I remember a conversation I had with Dan John (legendary strength coach and thinker, look him up) a year or two ago where he said, “Look, if you have a 6 pack, God bless you. But if you have a 6 pack and are living in your parents’ basement at 30, you really need to figure out your priorities.”
During my time spent around 5% body fat here, are a list of things I thought would magically happen when I got shredded but didn’t:
- You finally become happy.
- You eat enough ice cream to feel good about life.
- The opportunities to take your shirt off multiply. (Also, not that many people care that you are 5% versus like 10%).
- The moral and intellectual quality of your significant others rise substantially
- You unlock the key to being successful.
- Your sexual prowess soars
Look, being lean, fit, and healthy is awesome and I would love to see more people maximizing their potential as a human being. But the recent trend is that lean (I would say 8-16% for men and 17-24% for women) isn’t good enough, you have to be shredded. Being shredded is a pretty cool thing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. It probably won’t change your life, and it comes at a huge opportunity cost; you must make a great number of sacrifices, and your chronic diet begins to take over your life. Also, your sex drive often plummets…not cool.
We know that dieting isn’t the answer and we know that we have a better answer. We have literally thousands of clients who are eating more than you and are getting leaner. They’re also happier that they get to eat real rice with their stir fry, have pizza on Friday night, look good naked, and have a better relationship with food.
Food isn’t the problem – it’s part of the solution and we are taking back the conversation, starting right here, right now.