I’ve written a few things recently about empowerment, or rather disempowerment in relation to health, fitness and weight loss. There’s some kind of weird issue in society where people are so disempowered that they actually believe that being normal sized, healthy and happy is an unrealistic goal that can only be achieved through impossible, restrictive means that will leave you miserable for other reasons.
So… I’m going to start at the top. Let’s get empowered and STOP thinking we’re behind the 8 ball in circumstances that make success unlikely.
1. “In shape” is the shape you’re supposed to be in under normal, natural circumstances.
I’ve said this lots of times in lots of places, and I’ll keep on saying it until more people start to get it. Being “in shape” isn’t an unreasonable expectation that comes from doing anything out of the ordinary. Quite the opposite, it is being OUT of shape that is the unnatural condition that comes from doing something out of the ordinary.
2. Stop thinking you’re an exception to rule one. You’re not a special case, you’re a human being the same as anyone else.
There are some people out there who actually are a special case for medical reasons. Most people however, are not. No matter how much they think they might be.
Getting into shape requires two things; the right amount and type of foods, and the right amount and type of exercise. When you decide for some reason that you’re a special case and need to do twice as much exercise on half as much fuel, you set yourself up for failure in a number of ways.
Firstly, it doesn’t work. You’re not getting enough fuel to make a favourable adaptation to the stress you put your body through at training. Successful training is about strategically applying a level of stress to your body, matched with enough fuel and nutrients to adapt favourably aka become stronger and more fit for survival. When you deliberately throw this process out of balance by doing “extra” while excessively restricting your intake, not only are you beating yourself up psychologically and fostering a disordered, unhealthy relationship with food, you’re damaging your body as well, as the adaptation it ties to make is “how do I stay as I am now under these adverse conditions?”
All this means we have more damage to undo, and more patience will be required before we can expect to see optimal results when we do finally adopt a more sensible, moderate and balanced approach.
Now if you’ve read anything on this site before none of the above is really new information, but stay with me there is good stuff coming up. Assuming you’ve actually gotten the message in the above paragraphs that this is quite simple and entirely doable, there are still ways people can find to over complicate things and make this more difficult than it should be.
The empowered approach to dieting:
- Train strategically towards your goal body. Note that this does not mean “exercise to burn calories”, as well.
- Know your actual requirements in terms of total calories (and macro ratios) to support your healthy goal weight and allow for fuel, recovery and adaptation to training.
- It’s actually quite a high number of calories, isn’t it?
- Understand that your body will find a use for everything you consume up to this point, and there’s a lot of space to balance some of the foods you want to eat for enjoyment in a plan to meet your macro-nutritional needs.
- Make a distinction between indulgence and over indulgence.
The five steps above make for an empowered approach in that planning to meet your dietary requirements is actually quite easy once you know what those requirements are and dispel any of the myths that usually get in the way of a sensible, sustainable weight management plan.
Being empowered means being in control and being able to make the right decisions to ensure success. The opposite would be the usual, pessimistic, guilt ridden, restrictive and deprivation based approaches. How often have you heard people saying “I really want to lose weight, but I love [particular food type] too much”, or “I really want some [insert food choice], but I can’t because that’s BAD”, or “I feel so guilty because I cheated on my diet” and so on?
Those are some disempowering thoughts right there. When you don’t feel like you’re in control, when you’re focused on what you “must not” do, what happens? You end up giving in, giving up, and that’s when over indulgence happens. In extreme cases this can lead to binge eating, and in any case it is a vicious cycle.
When you have an empowered approach, you know you can fit plenty of the foods you enjoy into your daily plan, and you also know that when you do really, REALLY feel like something that’s not a part of the plan you can get away with it… as long as you don’t over do it and as long as you don’t make a habit of it. This puts you in control, and you’re far more likely to think “I know I could have that if I really wanted, but I’m going to have something more nutritious instead. Because what I really want is to take one step closer to my goal today, and every day”.