Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. This blog is a unique perspective of one persons journey into fitness. Not all clients and participants at Parsons Training undergo the same training, and each person makes his or her own decisions regarding dietary discretions.
By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
April 27, 2017
A few years back, I wrote about a researcher at Kansas State University who gave his take on the never ending battle that is the Battle of the Bulge. A nutrition expert by trade, he kind of gave a glimpse into one of the primary issues with the issue. The solution to his credit was pretty interesting. “No matter what you do, you will lose weight if you stay to a restricted diet and count the calories.” He made this conclusion in the worst way possible, something that would justify the life choices of video gamers and couch potatoes alike…he lived off a diet consisting of Little Debbie snack foods and other junk food staples. For all intents and purposes, he maintained an 1800 calorie diet and ate minimal veggies to help out with his transformation, and ultimately lost over 20 pounds on this diet. Considering his usual intake of food was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2700 calories, it was a real shock that he lost the weight and didn’t die from a sugar overload. If anything, the guy was pretty self assured about his results, turning the idea of health and fitness on top of its head. Now whether of not he improved in the gym was never mentioned, because I doubt he could have done anything beyond walking to his bed and back. It’s not like this has been tried before, for Weight Watchers has rolled out several programs where you can still “eat like a man” and be able to indulge in your favorite dishes like pizza, ribs and meatballs. Now of course, I would consider that sort of approach to be rather dangerous, for the idea of giving a food addict the weapons to eat the very same foods that made him overweight seemed pretty ludicrous. I guess I was right in a way, for you never see any Weight Watchers commercials for men these days, and figurehead Charles Barkley has gained a lot of the weight back that he supposedly lost. Of course, other companies like Nutri-System have tried cornering the preset meal weight loss market, the fact of the matter is that much of these campaigns died when the idea of men being perfectly fine as overweight became too normalized. And of course, the rise of superhero moves has turned wannabes into health experts as they eat a cow’s worth of meat in a week and drink protein shakes like many drink water.
I will not state that these trends in society affect me and make me lose my way when I tend to yo-yo with my eating. I don’t want to be one of those apologists that believes society is the reason for my weight problems. First and foremost, the problem always starts with me and will always end with me. While outside forces can play a hand in the overall psyche of a person, making it more difficult with coping and following a plan due to the excessive nature of poor eating, the buck always stops with the individual. For one thing, I was just eating too much, and the issue started with the fact I was reckless with my portioning and I was not as diligent about the quality of the vegan food I was eating. Chipotle, Taco Bell, Whole Foods and other vegan friendly places do have some options that make me squeal like a kid, I was eating at those kind of places far too often and my body took a dive in the process. I ballooned back up to 250 pounds and lost a whole lot of gains with my running and my body. I had to take my work situation into account and start really controlling my intake in just about very facet of my life. I had to start restricting…and I had to do it fast.
Now calorie restriction is a pretty crazy issue within our country, for you have people on both sides of the spectrum that believe eating should be a joy. The liberals like myself claim body acceptance is good and that you are beautiful no matter what you look like. The conservatives claim divine right over their bodies and thus should eat what makes them happy since they only have one life. Either way, both of these modes of thought are pretty off, for the bottom line with those thought processes is the fact you will end up in the same place…in the hospital. So yes, we live in a time where being fit and healthy and controlled about your eating and fitness is “obsessive” and “narcissistic” but I opt to call it something else. I believe it is more along the lines of stemming the tide. Sure, you can adopt whichever eating regimen you like, but you will ultimately have some trouble down the line whether it hits you sooner or hit you later. People don’t think in the long term right now, which is why the ridiculous measures the current administration is doing to he environment for the sake of a few quick bucks is deplorable. Money won’t last forever…but we have to make the planet we live on be able to sustain us until further notice since the truth about space travel is purely science fiction (unless an alien race takes pity on us and helps us out).
First and foremost, let us not mistake the idea of calorie restriction with starvation. I know a lot of people blur that line and it makes for an easy counterargument, but the foundation of calorie restriction is still to eat a balanced diet, just less of it. Eating a few apples a day and finishing it off with cayenne laced maple water is not a calorie restriction or a “cleanse.” It is madness perpetuated by loonies like David Wolfe and Gwyneth Paltrow (I sometimes wish she would just focus on acting again…seriously). Either way, the main focus of a calorie restriction is mostly tuned for people like myself…an individual that has had a lifelong problem with food and needs to do some additional measures to not only lose weight but also win the battle of the bulge for good. The first problem you will always run into is what to put into the portions of your choice. During my first couple weeks on the plan, I was putting a lot of “faux” meats in the mix, giving me something hearty and filling to get used to while I make the transition,. This past week I went even further, removing those ingredients and strictly relying on plants to sustain me. So far, the restriction seems to be working. I weighed in at 235 the other day at Parsons Training, and a pair of pants that fit me kind of tight a few weeks before fit rather perfectly when I went out on a date last Saturday. I could tell it was working due to the fact my cell phone—which normally fits rather tight in my pockets—didn’t really bother me too much that night. A shirt that I had also gelt a little self conscious in also fit a bit better than it had ever before. So yes, the physical results that I am seeking are certainly starting to creep into the equation.
Now the biggest benefit of calorie restriction comes in the form of your body actually using its excess fat stores to help keep the energy flowing. The trouble I used to run into when it was heavy was I would not eat much food during the day, and then gorge heavily at night. This of course would create some massive problems for my waistline, resulting in my body naturally slowing down the metabolism due to the fact to needed to save the fat stores to keep the train moving. So things obviously changed when I finally got back on a regular eating regimen, eating three meals a day and staying regular with the diet. Nothing I am hoping my body does is utilize the fat stores. What this means is I cannot start skipping meals, because this could lead me down the path of heaviness once again and cause me to plateau even more. Now I got this idea from my sister Michelle when she and her finally came to visit us here in Tucson. While she is using the Beach Body method of doling out specific levels of food groups, I am merely utilizing this method through portions. Some of the things from the Beach Body method would severely limit my ability to do anything in the gym, especially the carb restriction.
Scientific research is also showing some promising details about the idea of calorie restriction as well. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-hunger-gains-extreme-calorie-restriction-diet-shows-anti-aging-results/ During a study that was conducted about calorie restriction, researchers came up with an idea about the “on again, off again” calorie restriction idea and how it might lead to longer, potentially healthier lives. An idea was originally born when some researchers did a calorie restricted diet for a rhesus monkey, and noticed the monkey was still alive and kicking at 43 years of age, or 130 in human years. For three months test subjects were put on a five day restriction, cutting their intake but 50% on the first day and then 70% the remaining four days. While the drop-out rate was pretty high in the study (obviously), those that managed to stick wit the three month program did see some improvement in their triglycerides, glucose and cholesterol. Now it is not like these people were eating parsley and lemons, they were fed a primarily plant based diet and then allowed to go back to their original diet after the five day restriction. While the long term on the study needs to be looked at more closely, the researchers concluded that an occasional restriction of a well rounded diet can help with weight loss if done for short periods of time. This is something borders on researchers stating that a one day fast might be good for a person provided they only do it every now and then.
Now I have mentioned pretty much nothing but positives so far about the calorie restriction. I mean you could eat nothing but Hostess cakes for a month and still lose weight if you eat less calories. But the two biggest issues you will run into will be hunger and obviously loss of performance. For me, I have been modifying how I’m going to do this just about every week. Initially I was going to have a cheat day, but now I am starting think that spreading out cheat meals during the week might be better. With my desire to work longer and harder, I might have to dole out specific portions for specific days. Take Tuesday for example, where I did my standard workout and put in 52 minutes, then followed that up with 50-minute Olympic training. I was completely dead, for it took me quite a while just to get through the Olympic stuff and even survive. I had to eat a sizable meal when I got home, for I did not want to wake up feeling like garbage and possibly with a headache. So figuring out when to o the cheat meal will be important. I went Chipotle earlier in the day and that was a godsend to me, for I surely would have faltered if I had not eaten that bigger meal. And then of course, there is the other problem with my running. My gas tank just doesn’t feel as full these days. My breathing so far has been the problem, and this could be a result of barely doing anything all day long at work (which I will have to think about implementing something next week. But it could also be an issue with the less number of calories. It is already affecting me in the weight lifting. I was able to max out at 405 on the dead lift a few weeks ago and this past week I maxed out at 385. That’s a big difference in just a few weeks. While I was able to max out my overhead press at 185 pounds, I just felt some of my heavier lifting elements that require more energy are going to suffer until my body gets used to this.
Even though I have been a little ticked off with the lifting results, I have to refocus on the main reason why I decided to take on this journey….to lose weight. Eventually when I get to a weight that makes me happy and proud, maybe I can start looking adding more calories to the body. Until then, I had to stay the course and keep making adjustments to the plan I am on. Right now I am doing pretty well, but I am not perfectly disciplined just yet due to the fact my body is getting as little upset with me. On the other hand, I don’t wish to be a drop-out!!
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.
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