sickfatlazy

Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

The reasons, my friends, they are legion:

It’s the carbs!

It’s the fat!

It’s the meat!

You’re a Democrat!

You eat too damn much!

You don’t workout enough!

You’re too stressed… and you workout too much!

You’re not a Vegan!

You ARE a Vegan!

Pick a day, pick a fad.  Pick a demonized food group, lifestyle, or workout modality.  Only one thing is certain: it will change tomorrow.

The fact of the matter is, it’s none of those above reasons exclusively, and all of those reasons collectively. We can’t get a handle on fat loss because we refuse (or, at least science refuses) to see things other than in a reductionist, “winner-take-all” mentality.

Dude, I’m busy.  The tl;dr version, please.

Yeah?  Well, here ya go: we’re so damn fat and lazy because we’ve created a human zoo that capitalizes on our natural, biologically-wired predisposition to be just that.  And being sick is a natural consquence of living outside of our biological niche.

Take those qualities that enabled us to survive and evolve over hundreds of thousands of years, create a modern “zoo” that capitalizes on those cravings, and viola! An explosion of obesity and other “diseases of modernity” (heart disease and diabetes).

And why is America leading the way in this trend?  Precisely because we ARE the world’s innovator in technology and culture.

I have no doubt that we’ll innovate out of this, but we haven’t yet pulled out of the tailspin.

Yet.

But with an organization like Paleo f(x) leading the way, America will eventually jump the fat, sick and lazy shark.

Meanwhile, the people I work with just lose fat, gain muscle and regain their vibrancy.  No miracles, no Biggest Loser fanfare. Just consistent, DEXA-verifiable body recomposition and a regained feeling of “wellness”.  Less fat, more muscle, a regained glow… as if by magic!

Except it’s not magic.  Not by a longshot.

It’s simply common sense; asking the right questions.  Viewing each client’s circumstance through an evolutionary lense.  And NOT being dogmatic in the approach.

People are fat and out of shape for a myriad of reasons.  But those who are fit, lean and vibrant are so for ONE reason and one reason only: they consistently follow a species-appropriate diet and lifestyle.  They’ve swallowed the red pill, and removed themselves from the influence of the human zoo.

That’s it.  It really is that simple.

Yet, easy as it is, it’s incredibly hard to pull off in today’s society.

Welcome to the zoo

Want to understand why you make bad food and lifestyle choices? It’s quite simple, actually:

(a) you’re genetically and evolutionarily wired to do so (given your readily available options), and

(b) manufacturers of goods and services know how to exploit your weak physical and psychological underbelly, which creates

(c) environmental cues to act “in the moment”

You are not a “bad” or morally reprehensible person for repeatedly making choices that are ultimately detrimental to your health, well-being, and vibrancy.  Gullible, and lacking the requisite knowledge, yes — but certainly not reprehensible.

Gullible because you do not see the zoo in which we live; the zoo that we, as a species, have created for ourselves.  And a zoo, by the way, that American ingenuity has damn near perfected.

Now, some aspects of that zoo were well-intentioned but resulted in disastrous unintended consequences (the advent of agriculture, the industrial revolution).  They were crafty solutions to pain, strife, and suffering, but they did have longer term, negative consequences associated with them.  We just have to wake up and adjust for those unintended consequences.

Some aspects of our well-created “zoo” are just out-and-out malfeasance in the name of profit.  The nicotine spiking of cigarettes to drive addiction and continued purchase.  The purposeful manipulation of fat, sugar, and salt to ratios and combinations not seen in nature, but that prey upon our most deep-seated survival mechanisms.  A hyperpalatable, “fake news” for your metabolism.

Quite simply, zoo life makes it exponentially more difficult to make the right (i.e., evolutionarily / species-appropriate) choices. From the foods we eat to the water we drink, to our movement (or lack thereof) patterns… crappy sleep, chronic stress, emotional emptiness and spiritual malaise… just about every aspect of life you can imagine.

The 2 Minute MBA

Consider the entrepreneur.  An Entrepreneur operates by this mantra: find someone’s pain-point, and solve it.  Make the solution an economically viable answer for the consumer, while ensuring adequate profit margins for yourself.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Now, entrepreneurs are not bad people, per se  (I’m one myself!), but you can see how this mantra, coupled with very little in the way of… how shall we say — moral compass — can lead to manipulation and exploitation.

The most notorious example of this is the aforementioned manufacture and marketing of cigarettes.  If the cancer cover-ups were not enough, then consider the “proofing” of additional nicotine, which was known to bolster the “addictive potential”.  Sealing the deal on a lifelong customer/brand relationship.

Note: for an eye-opening documentary on this subject, see Merchants of Doubt.

The marketing side can be just as insidious.  But, as in all things, there are two sides of the coin, here.

Firstly, I’ve seen too many great ideas crash and burn for lack of proper marketing.  Now, could these ideas have gone under because of bad luck?  The “right idea, wrong time” scenario?

Possibly.

But it’s more likely (at least, from my experience) that the innovator was also an idealist.  That is, he believed that “a good idea will sell itself”.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  At least at the onset.

Don’t get me wrong: word of mouth is a powerful marketing “tool” (or phenomena, rather).  In fact, this is what direct sales/network marketing hangs its collective hat on.

But from a business perspective you have one of two choices:

  • Pay a marketing and ad agency (“traditional” business model), or
  • pay/incentivize your “network” sales force (network marketing model)

One way or the other, though, people have to not just hear about, but pay attention to, and try, your product.  So marketing is a must.

Are some sleazy products gilded with masterful, even sleight-of-hand marketing?  Absolutely.  But that’s no excuse for your making a bad purchasing decision.  You, dear consumer, are not absolved of critical thought when it comes to voting with your dollars.

Now, as much as I kick the Tobacco Industry in the balls (and I do; along with Big Ag, Big Pharma, the Medical-Insurance Industrial complex, et al) in the end, smoking is a purely individual choice. And even though the tobacco industry paid big bucks to cover up the fact that their product was (a) not addictive, and (b) not cancer-causing, lighting up — like heroin use — is still an individual choice.

You still have free will.   Man up, and do something about it.

First and foremost: we have to take responsibility for our actions.  So as hard as I’m throwing Molotov cocktails at “the man”, I’m bitch-slapping you back to reality.

You are the sole sovereign over YOU.  Act like you mean something to somebody. Act like you’re worth it.

Because you do. And you are!

Case in point: look at how the Paleo community has voted with their dollars to influence the meat industry.

That’s cool and all.  But why the segue into business and marketing?

Because we zoo animals are HEAVILY influenced into buying (and shoving down our pie-holes), foods that make us fat and sick, which exacerbates our natural (and zoo-inspired) inclination to be lazy. Mentally, physically, and emotionally.

We are biologically wired to seek those things that were scarce in the environment in which we evolved.  Salt (mineral content), sugar (carbohydrate sources), and fat (high-octane fuel) were not easily obtained in our original environment.  Which means we had to be “wired” to seek these novelties out.  And rewarded (dopamine!) when we found them.  The one-two punch that motivated us both to move and take risks.  We are, as a species, opportunistic eaters and obligate movers.  That is to say, we are biologically wired to risk our lives to obtain these things.  It’s as primal to our being as sex and tribe.

Once food manufacturers and marketers figured that out, popping the lid on Pandora’s box, it was “game on”.

And we haven’t slowed down since.  As evidenced by our steady decline in health, fitness, and vibrancy, as well as our steadily increasing girth.

But what is it precisely that’s making us fat?

Four main things:

  • We eat too much
  • We eat a preponderance of foods that poison us and dysregulate our hormonal and endocrine systems
  • We carry too little muscle mass proportional to our frames
  • Our lifestyles are out of whack (not enough sleep, too much of the wrong kinds of stress, fractured relations)

Now, this is hardly rocket science.  But it becomes increasingly more complex than it ought to be because we, in a Western science kind of way, try to reduce the problem to one cause, and one cause only.  I’m right, you’re wrong.  My faction wins, yours loses — that kind of thing.

And science is keen on reducing things to one variable.  Which, the human body, interacting with its environment, is anything but.

In reality, each of those general ideas are contributors to the problem.  These four main ideas (along with a plethora of lesser contributing factors) are the driver for both fat gain and the inability to lose fat once it has accumulated.

A quick note on that 3rd point above: notice how I didn’t say we exercise too little?  That’s because exercise is great for a whole host of awesome reasons, but its effect on weight loss (in a calorie burn sense) is a lesser of those factors.  Is it A factor?  Sure, it can be.  Be it can’t be the go-to for fat loss.

To lose fat, you have to alter both the types of food you eat AND the number of total calories you take in per day.  “Exercising away” fat is an exercise (see what I did there?) in abject futility.  Unless we’re focused on building muscle…

…in which case we still need to get control of the diet side.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Kevin Bass’ A Food Love Story in Six Graphs

I dig Kevin’s take on diet science.  That is, for the most part.  But I do think he has a blind spot though, in trying too hard to disprove the carbohydrate contribution to fat gain.

Because when in attempting to disprove a particular macronutrient’s contribution to the overall picture, we fall into the same traps of the reductionist model discussed above.  It’s rather the flip-side of the same problem.

However, this graphic Kevin produced is really good, and it points out the folly of trying attribute fat gain to JUST excess carbohydrate intake alone.

Remember that fat gain, along with the inability to lose fat, is a multifactorial problem.  And that complexity is amplified by the fact that people are individual operators in the mix and come to the game with a whole host of psychological “intangibles”.

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OK, so If not the carbs and sugar, then what else?

First off, we have to watch how we phrase this (to avoid Kevin’s blind spot).  Carbs and sugar are still an issue, just not to the extent they were in the past.  Also, we have to ask if high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is considered “sugar” here.  I suspect it’s not. And it is a MASSIVE endocrine/hormonal disruptor.

But anyway, on to Kevin’s point.  And it’s indeed a justified take.

We are, as a species, consuming a much larger amount of shitty fat sources.   Remember the salt, sugar, fat combo that manufacturers exploit?  Here we see it played out in spades

So what’s a shitty fat source, you ask?  Anything other than animal fats, and avocado, olive and coconut oils.  Essentially, shitty sources are highly processed, and cheap. And all are agricultural byproducts.

Soybean, canola, and corn oils?  Throw that shit away.  Ingesting this crap is analogous to pouring paint thinner in your gas tank.

The moral of the story here is that the quality of your food choices matters.  You can’t just reduce your carbohydrate load, and do nothing about the kinds of fat you eat and the toxins you’re exposed to.

You don’t have to be a nutritionist or biochemist to get the basics of what food quality is, either.  In the same way that we all learned the basics of driving and computer operation, we can learn the basics of what constitutes good food choices.

So we still eat way too much processed carbohydrates in general, and sugar specifically, right?

Hell yeah we do.  Especially when you consider that we can make do on scant amounts.  Some would argue we can make do without any exogenous sources.

Note: our bodies are capable of making their own blood glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis.   Though it’s arguable that this is meant to be anything other than a “famine defense” failsafe of our metabolisms.

And why are processed carbohydrates and sugar such bad news?  Because they deliver a severe hormonal dysregulation hit to the body.  More specifically, large amounts of carbohydrates jack with your body’s insulin levels.

Insulin drives fuel storage within the body.  If your muscles are depleted of glycogen, that’s a good thing.  But if your muscles are topped off, and the liver has all the reserves it needs, that fuel has to go somewhere.  And the body has an ingenious solution for that: fat storage.

Which is (yet another) brilliant evolutionary solution to the feast/famine cycle.  Except now we live in a perpetual feast.  Famine never comes, but our bodies — in the presence of high-octane carbohydrates — prepare for it anyway.

As well, high-octane carbohydrates initiate the biologically-wired urge to overconsume.  Again, outside of the “zoo”, this occurrence would be seasonal at best (the late summer fruit ripening period), and gorging at this point would help put on fat for the winter.

Within the zoo, though (and from a carbohydrate perspective), it’s perpetual summer.  And our bodies react accordingly, preparing for a winter that never arrives.

We eat too much in general

Can you get fat eating only “clean” foods?  Of course you can.  It’s just much harder to do so.

I had a friend a while back who was a bodybuilder.  He was between shows, and in the bulking stage.  He devised an experiment whereby he would put on as much weight as possible, but only by eating clean, Paleo foods.

Now for those not familiar with the bodybuilding “bulking stage”, this is a period where the bodybuilder is attempting to put on as much muscle as possible, with the understanding that fat gain is an unfortunate consequence of that.  My friend figured that maybe he could at least mitigate that fat gain by eating only clean (i.e., Paleo) foods.  He even eliminated fruit from his bulking diet and generally kept his carbohydrate intake on the low side (by bodybuilding standards, at least).  But he absolutely HAMMERED the fat.  All good sources, yes — just an ungodly amount though.  Essentially, he ate to the point of being miserable, on the daily.  Multiple times daily, in fact.

The result?  He indeed put on a good amount of muscle… along with a copious layer of fat.  Would the proportion of muscle to fat been any different had he eaten a high carbohydrate diet?  Hard to say, and near impossible to test for.  Mostly due to a whirlwind of variables that would have to be accounted for.

The point of all this is that yes, you can get fat (even while working out!) by eating just too damn much.  Even if what you eat is clean, healthy food.

How do you prevent this from happening?  Eat to live vs living to eat.  Yes, eating is one of life’s pleasures.  But just like all of life’s pleasures, balance is required.  Otherwise obsessively chasing a “pleasure” quickly becomes an addiction.

And we know that addictions fill voids — psychological voids.  Another subject for another time.  But if you’re interested in diving into this idea, check out the Chains to Gains series on overcoming heroin addiction.

Nutrient density matters!

I’ve written about this previously (and much more in depth), here.  But the tl;dr bottom line is this: if the body isn’t receiving nutritional value from the food you’re consuming, it will prompt you to eat more.

And taken to an extreme, this scenario leads to the increasingly common phenomena of malnourished obesity.

Wait… what?

Yeah, because it doesn’t matter how many calories you take in; if those calories are nutrient deficient, the body will scream for more food until those deficiencies are met.

Which is why I am continually harping on people to shore up those deficiencies — even if you think you eat clean — with the most cost-effective, personalized and pinpointed nutrition supplementation you can get: ID Nutrition.

Free nutritional assessment, here.

ID Nutrition1

The elephant in the room: exercise

Point #1 – you can’t exercise away the fat

The greatest lie ever told: you’re fat because you don’t exercise enough.

And this coming from someone who loves to train.

But it’s true.  Exercise is great for a whole host of fabulous reasons.  But for fat loss?  It’s pretty far down on the list.  And for sure well below the types, amount, and nutritional quality of the food you eat.

The biggest propagators of this “move more” lie?  Clueless trainers and food manufacturers.  And both of those groups, by the way, have a vested interest in your continuing to believe that lie.

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So while not *insignificant*, you can’t build a weight loss (fat loss) strategy around exercise alone.

Point #2 – total energy production is capped

There are even studies suggesting that there is a cap to the amount of energy an organism (in this case, a human body) can burn over the course of a day.

Back in 2012 a study titled Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity hit the scene that went, well… relatively unnoticed.  Save, that is, by a sparse round of even more unnoticed commentary.

I think part of why this study went unnoticed at the time was that those of us in “the industry” were consumed with wrestling through the idea of nutrient partitioning.  That is, untangling food’s effect on the postprandial hormonal cascade, and the repercussions of that on body composition.

What are the practical consequences of a “capped energy production”?  For example, a triathlete in heavy training?   The brain simply diverts energy from other areas.  Say, the immune system for example.  Or the body’s natural and on-going repair systems.  Which, by the way, are substantial energy sinks.

Maybe there’s a reason why triathletes and other heavy endurance types don’t age well.  The body simply doesn’t have the energy reserves to wage any meaningful anti-aging crusade.

Quite simply, the body at this point is trying to survive into next week.  Because if there is no next week, no next year is a foregone conclusion.

The role of Dopamine

When most people hear the word dopamine, they think of “pleasure” or “reward”.  A chemical that spikes when eating tasty food (good ol’ salt, sugar, and fat) or doing other things we derive pleasure from, like sex, chocolate, or even working out.

And while it’s true that dopamine is related to these types of activities, the reality is that it’s involved in much more than simple pleasure or reward.

Dopamine is a powerful energy management driver.  More specifically, dopamine’s most important role is to drive behaviors that maintain energy homeostasis in the body.

Energy homeostasis is the regulation of both energy expenditure and energy intake.  A crucial component to our always having the energy we need to stay alive on the daily.

In order to regulate energy homeostasis, dopamine is involved in driving behaviors related to both moving (energy expenditure) and eating (energy intake). In other words, dopamine fuels both our desire to train and to eat. Again, this can be traced back to evolutionary biology. Without an intense drive to move and eat, we wouldn’t have lasted long as a species.

We are, as a species, obligate movers and opportunistic eaters. And we are driven by dopamine.

In the wild (or in what our stone age bodies would recognize as “normal circumstances”) this energy management system operates flawlessly.  Put us in the human zoo, though — where the psyche is continually pummeled by marketing messages — and things go haywire in a hurry.

Enter “recovery debt”

Joel Jamieson (8 weeks out) covers this topic masterfully, and I’d highly recommend — if you’re interested in the deep dive — to check out his Morpheus program.

Note: I don’t have any financial interest here.  I just think Morpheus a smartly designed and effective system.

So, what is a “recovery debt”?  Quite simply, it’s what happens when you expend more energy being physically active and dealing with the stress of life than you have remaining to rebuild your body to make it stronger and more fit.

This is really no more than energy management 101.  And common sense.  But somehow the misinformation (you can do more!) and calculated marketing (six-pack abs!) within the walls of the zoo have hoodwinked our minds to think otherwise.

Remember, your metabolism can only produce so much energy in a given day. And your brain is charged with prioritizing (via the influence of dopamine) where to distribute this limited resource.

And, as we’ve seen with food, the brain is wired to survive.  In periods of caloric deficit, your body will start breaking down its own tissues for energy. Of course, you hope it will only burn stored fat.  In reality though, it’ll also break down stored sugar (glycogen).  Create large enough a deficit, and the body will start breaking down muscle tissue to cover the debt.

Hello, skinny-fat syndrome.

The punchline is this: restricting calories while piling on high-intensity training in an effort to drop body fat opens you up for a potential recovery debt.  This scenario sets off a cascade of biochemical events that work together to influence your behavior, primarily via changes in dopamine function.

We might not fully understand all the processes that drive dopamine and behavior, but we do know what the end result looks like: gains stall.  Aches and pains prevail.  The onset of colds and other illnesses.  Adrenal fatigue and/or thyroid dysregulation.  Jacked up sleep patterns.  Shitty moods and/or abrupt mood swings.

And — irony of ironies — a failure in the ability to drop fat.

Which only adds to an already sky-high stress level.  And it’s one hell of a negative feedback loop vortex to claw out of.

And what do most Type-A, overachievers do in this situation?  You know what they do: they double down.  Train harder; diet harder.  Living examples of the ol’ Protestant Work Ethic.

#trainwreck

The following bullet points come directly from Joel Jamieson, and they succinctly outline some of the mechanisms of this pending trainwreck:

  • High-intensity training while in a low carbohydrate-driven caloric deficit increases inflammation levels. Several studies, including one done in 2012, show that training in a glycogen-depleted state drives up levels of proinflammatory proteins higher than normal. This reflects that it’s much more stressful to perform high-intensity exercise, which is very energy demanding, when the body’s glycogen stockpiles are running low.
  • Chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to glucocorticoid receptor resistance, which further increases inflammation. Most people are aware that cortisol can prime fat cells around the abdomen for fat storage, but what most people forget is that it’s also a potent anti-inflammatory hormone. Recent research shows that during periods of chronic stress, cortisol-binding receptors (known as glucocorticoid receptors) can get burned out. This means that: A.) cortisol becomes less effective at turning off inflammation, and B.) cortisol levels become chronically elevated.
  • Inflammation decreases insulin sensitivity. While chronically high levels of inflammation can have a wide range of negative effects, one of the most important for fitness and body composition is the connection between inflammation and insulin sensitivity. Several papers have shown that inflammation can lead to insulin resistance in a variety of tissues, from muscle to fat, the liver, and even the brain.
  • Leptin resistance interacts with dopamine to influence the reward for eating. More and more research shows that leptin (a hormone produced in fat cells involved in signaling the brain to stop eating) interacts with dopamine to influence our behaviors, specifically our drive to eat. In short, leptin resistance can change our reward-driven dopamine circuitry so it takes more and more food to feel the same level of satiety from eating.

That’s cool and all.  But I’m not dopamine’s bitch…

Well, it’s true that I might not know you from Adam’s hat, but I’ll put my money on dopamine, every time.  You, my friend, are at the beck-and-call of your gut biota and biochemistry.  We all are.

Which is not at all a bad thing.  IF (and that’s a big if), you properly control your epigenetic input.  And right now, you’re allowing the zoo to control that message.

Your dopamine is only responding to set you up for survival, given the set of inputs it has to deal with.  And the zoo is not your friend, here.

This study encapsulates, and is a great example of, the end result of this weave of hormonal interactions.

It’s a small study, but still very telling.  16 men and women with normal body weights were asked to perform a short, low-intensity workout.  Immediately following, the subjects were asked to estimate how many calories they’d just burned.  And following that, they were then treated to a buffet and told to do their best to eat the equivalent number of calories they believed they burned in the workout.

In other words, if they thought they had burned 300 calories during their workout, their goal at the buffet was to eat 300 calories to refuel. The intent of the study was to find out how accurately people could gauge their energy expenditure and subsequent energy refuel following a bout of exercise.

As you might guess, they were nowhere close to being accurate.  And this was with them knowing they were being assessed.

Calories Lost and Regained

The long and the short of it is that the participants consumed nearly 3 times what they actually burned during exercise.

In other words, even normal sized individuals are terrible at gauging how many calories they burn and even worse at estimating how many they eat.

This is because in the evolutionary history of our existence, we’ve not had to do that.  Outside of the zoo, this balance was regulated via our natural integration with (and within) nature.

Put us IN the zoo though, and again, all bets are off.  The brain (and dopamine) always win in the end.  No matter what your personal wishes are.

The hormonal cascades that drive us to eat more than we’re aware of comes down to one simple thing: the brain is biologically hardwired to fight back when a lot of energy is expended through activity and life stress and not enough is coming in from food. This is evolution; our most primitive survival instincts at work. Yet day after day, year after year, so many people try to fight against it.

Even worse, they think it’s a fight they can win.

Our biological hardwiring is like water.  It will find a way to win in the end.  Willpower can act as a temporary dam, but what is a dam compared to the entire life of a river?  A temporary inconvenience, at best.

The bottom line is this: the more you try to fight against the body, the faster you’re ultimately going to lose the battle.  Willpower is no match for biological wiring backed by dopamine.

The winning game plan for fat loss and total body recomposition

Realize you’re in the zoo:

Waking up to this fact is really the first step to regaining control of your body composition and, ultimately, your health.

And what I’d like you to do here is to take the Bruce Lee approach.  That is, we’re going take what is useful from the zoo — emergency healthcare for example.  Vibrant cities — and discard that which will undermine our health and wellbeing.

That means we have to be aware of our biological hardwiring, and why we are so drawn to salt, sweet, fat and laziness.  We also need to be aware that manufacturers and marketers KNOW our weak underbellies and do anything possible to exploit that position.

Seriously, once you wake up to this the battle is 90% won.  You can be in the zoo, but not of the zoo (hat tip Jesus).  But you absolutely have to change your perspective.  And take the damn red pill already!

Realize you ARE an animal

An intellectually advanced animal, yes.  But the body that advanced intelligence is running around in?  That’s ALL ANIMAL.

Being that our bodies are all animal then means, that to be in optimal health, we have to abide by nature’s construct and to species-specific dynamics.

And as it pertains to the optimal human diet, two of the most important ideas we need to consider are Optimal Foraging Theory and the Brain / Gut size Ratio (Expensive Tissue Hypothesis).

Now, these topics could occupy their own posts (and books!) alone, but I just want to paint the picture that we, as human beings, cannot escape our animal bodies.  Enlightened as we may be, whatever enlightenment we do happen to carry is done so in a purely animal package.

Optimal Foraging Theory

Expensive Tissue Hypothesis

It’s enough at this point simply to realize and come to terms with the idea that you are a human animal.  An animal that is shaped, like any other animal, from the above two environmental influences.  And that zoo life, in combination with your evolutionary hardwiring, is making you sick and fat.

Get a handle on chronic stress

Chronic stress is not just making you fat and unhappy, it’s killing you.

I get it: you’ve got the job, the wife, the kids, the mortgage, the credit card juggle.  You gotta hit your macros, and 5 WODs a week.  You’ll sleep when you’re dead, right?

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Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash

 

Keep going and you’ll get that chance to test that theory sooner rather than later.  And no, you won’t be a beautiful corpse, either.  You’ll be fat, pasty and inflamed.

The absolute first step in mitigating stress is getting control of your sleep patterns. Both duration and proper rhythm.  That is, for the vast majority, 8+ hours/night AND as close to possible following the natural night/day cycle.

sleep

Now, there are a million and one fantastic second steps for mitigating stress — meditation and float tanks are tops on my list — but the cumulative benefits of all of those combined won’t help if your sleep sucks.  I’d like to tell you otherwise.  I’d like to say we can effectively hack and skirt the sleep issue… but I can’t.

Need help getting and staying asleep? This product is what you need:

 

Reduce environmental toxins

Do toxins exacerbate fat gain and/or fat retention?  Hell yes.  Most all toxins are lipophilic (“fat loving”), and the body’s response to the presence of these toxins is to store them away in body fat vs letting them roam freely and wreak havoc in the body.  And yes, the body will alter internal biochemistry to favor fat gain as a response to these toxins in the body.

The smart play here?  Avoid toxins where possible, and keep the liver vibrant and healthy.

Eat with an eye toward nutrient density

We covered nutrient density earlier, but it’s worth reiterating.  It’s that important.

The following thumb rule isn’t biochemically correct, but it’s helped my clients get a grasp on their dietary habits.

Think of the food you eat as falling into one (or a combo) of these categories:

  1. Optimal, high-octane fuel (good fats!)
  2. Building blocks (animal proteins)
  3. The nuts, bolts and hardware required to connect those building blocks (vitamins and minerals).

Do you see any category for refined carbohydrates or sugar here?  No, because you don’t need them.

What we are left with is nutrient-dense, real foods.  That’s step one.

Step two?  Let’s shift your macronutrient intake (as a percentage of your total target calorie intake) thusly:

  • 65 – 85% fat
  • 15 – 25% protein
  • 10% or less carbohydrate

Of course, we can get way out into the weeds here.  But for most, getting and holding to step two is all you’ll need.

Now, on the vitamin and mineral front: you’re not going to get all you need from food alone.  Even if you did eat a perfect array of foods, the soil those foods were grown in (or raised on) is sub-par.  Much more on that idea, here.

But the long and the short of this story is that you need to supplement.  And if you’re going to supplement, do so with the most cost-effective, personalized and pinpointed dosing you can get.

[ID Nutrition pic]

Exercise for muscle gain, not calorie burn (or fat loss)

We touched on this a bit in earlier on (from a total energy output perspective), and from a perceived calorie output perspective.  That is, you can only “exercise away” a limited percentage of your overall daily caloric intake AND you’re likely to refuel with way more calories than you expended during that exercise bout.

So where does that leave you?  Well, this subject could be tome all on it’s own (science!), but here are the practical takeaways:

Muscle is metabolic currency.  It comprises the largest portion of your metabolic headway.  In other words, muscle makes you Antifragile.

Muscle also provides a ready glucose sponge, which allows for effective carbohydrate cycling.  And carbohydrate cycling is the sweet spot where I’d like to see everyone get to.  This is metabolic flexibility, the ability to shift fuel sources effortlessly.

And that’s a wrap

Really, you can have a rocking body at any age.  Hell, I’m (as of this writing) 53 now, and my body composition has never been better.

And while we all do age (and eventually die), we can do so gracefully.  That won’t happen, though, until you come to terms with living in the human zoo.

Take that damn red pill already.  It’ll remove any power the zoo has to keep you caged, fat and sick.

 

Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –

Keith

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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Great synopsis Keith. I created a meme a while back that basically says, “I’ve never seen a Leopard or a Wolf wearing a Fitbit.” And yet, there are no obese leopards or wolves.

    Everyone thinks the key to health is spreadsheets, calculators, and apps – tools to micromanage their eating and lifestyle. But all that does is make them even more neurotic zoo animals.

    Success comes from a return to simplicity and instincts. We’re biologically programmed for success, it’s just a matter of reconnecting with that programming.

  2. The reason most people can not swallow the red pill here, is because most people still can not accept that we are in deed animals and part of nature. We still like to think about ourselves as above nature, and that this planet is just a place here for us, not that we are indeed a part of it

    • Agreed, brother. We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that we’ve “one-upped” nature; beat her at her own game. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  3. “Do you see any category for refined carbohydrates or sugar here? No, because you don’t need them.”

    With respect to nutrient density, I noticed you didn’t mention potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables. Is there a reason for that or can they be included as part a nutrient-dense diet?

    • Not at all. I do include all in my diet. Personally, though, I do maintain my carbohydrate intake on the low side (generally less than 30 grams/day), and I prefer berries to fruit. And I generally only eat fruit in-season.

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