This week’s blog post is courtesy of a good friend of mine. Not about boxing or fighting, unless you’ve been grappling issues of weight loss and still wonder why it ain’t coming off. This blog doesn’t come with its own set of ice, advil or nurse. Read at your own risk.
Greetings, Actionauts! Thanks to the regular purveyor of wisdom on this blog, our friend Philippe, I have been given the opportunity to take a turn at the helm. Let’s hope I keep it off the rocks!
My name is Jay Chavez, and I have enjoyed working as a personal trainer for over twelve years. Prior to that I worked full-time for a naturopathic doctor for two years, and continue to work with him to further the health and well being of my clientele as well as increase my understanding of the human condition. In all of that time, in both the clinical and gym settings, there have been a number of frequently asked questions that just keep popping up. I would like to address a few of them here in the hopes that I can help bring a little clarity to the confusion.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO LOSE FAT?
How much time do I have to answer the question? I usually get asked this one at barbeques, birthday parties, and while standing in line at the bank when people recognize me from the gym. My trademark, two-minute-conversation response?:
“Show your body more respect than you have been. Treat it like your most valued possession, and it will become just that. Stop shortcutting, nickel-and-diming and disrespecting your absolutely best friend. Stop spending all of your money on the latest styles and gadgets and invest it in the quality of everything that goes into your mouth from now until you think you are lean enough, healthier than you ever thought possible, and poop roses.” I will then get the inevitable raised eyebrow or chuckle, and then the, “No, really, what should I do?” Somewhere, not so far away, an organic farmer is gently weeping…
I have had clients drop body-fat so quickly that their friends and family became concerned about their health. “Are you sure you’re OK? You’ve lost a lot of weight recently.” When those same friends and family members find out that their loved one is in fact quite healthy and has simply been working with a trainer, I usually get a barrage of telephone calls inquiring as to how they can work with me to get on a similar program. When I explain that the key to the fat-loss involves eating nothing but high-quality foods like grass-fed beef, free-range organic eggs and fruits and vegetables that are raised without any trace of pesticides and/or herbicides, the number of interested parties drops to near zero. “I couldn’t do that because (fill in cliché/really lame excuse here), but is there some way we could compromise so that I can still eat what I want and lose the same amount weight as (admirably disciplined client/friend/family member), just maybe not as quickly?” I then politely inform them that of the many lifestyle issues that cause people to become over-weight/over-fat, whether it is due to an excess of junk food calories, work related stress, shortage of essential nutrients, etc., etc., they all can benefit tremendously from the life-renewing forces that this “health-food” diet contains.
Your body is capable of miracles (like, for example, the amount of fat-loss most people are looking for in the two weeks before their best-friend’s wedding), but only when it is being fuelled to operate at full capacity.
IF I WORK OUT HARD ENOUGH, CAN I EAT WHAT I WANT?
This one, while asked quite often on it’s own, is almost always rearing it’s head in the discussion over the previous question. There has to be an easier way! I know twenty-something-Susie-or-Johnny-treadmill-neighbor doesn’t eat like that, and they look fantastic! Alas, I usually have to remind them they are not the Susie-or-Johnny of right-now, they are the Susie-or-Johnny of the future, when years of neglect and abuse have finally taken a visible toll (I will expand on that at another opportunity; I only have so much space!). All of the wonderfully slimming hormones your body produces during puberty eventually run dry, and you are left accountable for the quality and quantity of each and every calorie that crosses your lips. “But wait!” cry the math majors. “If burning more calories than I consume causes weight-loss, then that means I just need to work out hard enough to burn the right number of calories to continue to eat what I want and stay lean!” The look on their faces as they come to share this “discovery” with me is quite priceless. You’d think they just stumbled across something along the lines of cost-effective renewable energy, or free Internet porn…
I have a good friend who, for the purposes of protecting those that should know better, we’ll call “Betty”. Betty too had come to this incredible realization long ago while in the process of studying to become a professional personal trainer. She did the so-called “calorie-math”, and in order for her be able to consume all of the pizza, beer and ice cream that the average person “enjoys” while still maintaining a figure that regularly made grown men fall off moving equipment, she needed to work out for three hours a day. Every day. Now I know that part sounds incredible, but it is no-where near as crazy as the fact that she actually did it for nearly ten years! I met her at the beginning of what were to become the last two years, at which point I was informed of her self-described “win-win” program. I then had the audacity to question where exactly the “winning” aspect was in any routine that left the participant lean but with poor skin and hair (her long-running concerns for which she had also expressed to me) and no time whatsoever for a personal life. It turned out she was always too busy working out to be going out. Being Betty wasn’t easy, after all, nor therefore would any attempt be to woo her. This sad fact was what brought the staggering run of intensive exercise to its uncelebrated end. She conceded that I was right and we designed a meal plan that helped her to maintain her physique and improved her health. Much to her delight, three years after that new beginning, she still looks as fantastic as ever, while now only spending four or five hours a week exercising.
So what is my answer to the question? Can you work out hard enough to eat what you want, and still look the way you want? I guess that depends on you first answering my qualifier-question of whether or not you value participating in everything else going on in the world outside of the gym.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE WORKING OUT?
Before I can answer that, I (or any competent trainer, for that matter) would first have to understand your current “stress budget.” Your “stress budget” is the total amount of stress that you are taking in from your chosen lifestyle. That means we figure out how demanding your career/job/indentured servitude, your personal life, your diet (that word again!), and your recreational activities are on your adrenal glands. That’s right, those two walnut-sized organs do more than just sit on top of your kidneys like cute little bowler hats. They manufacture and secrete a myriad of hormones that help us adapt/cope with all of the aforementioned “stressors” in a manner that – ideally – helps us maintain our health and vitality. However, they are small, and can only handle so much stress for so long before they begin to fall short of their ability to keep us bouncing back up for yet another round of our chosen foolishness (yes, I know what some of you do with your free time away from our sessions…). When that happens, not only will your quality of life take a serious downturn, but your health will be placed in jeopardy as well. Stay within your stress budget and you will avoid a lot of problems!
If your adrenals only have a few minor issues to contend with, such as the occasional three-hour oil change, then you can be said to have a very low stress budget. That means you have plenty of adaptive energy in reserve, and could theoretically use it to participate in an exercise regimen that calls for working out four to six days a week at a high level of intensity. If, on the other hand, your adrenal system has to cope with a lifestyle perfectly suited for its own prime-time reality-TV program, well, I’ll just say that your best bet is to start out real-slow. To start with, try working out one to two days a week at a moderate intensity.
Jay can be reached for scheduling nutritional consultations at firstname.lastname@example.org, and seen in many non-fitness related establishments around the Los Angeles area.