When you first caught a glimpse of the title for this article, I bet you were expecting to stumble across the secret to achieving that magic body transformation. You may have wondered – will this correlate with everything I am doing? Does it match up with things I have read previously? Well I am afraid to say, most probably not. Unfortunately, articles with a title such as mine often play on what the public wants to hear, rather than what they need to hear.
With summer just around the corner I am already starting to see an overload of workout and nutritional “advice”. Every magazine, website and poster is promising a magical 6 week transformation, or some other “quick fix” solution to being unhealthy or out of shape. These promises can be hazardous for a person to flirt with, especially when it comes to seeking nutritional advice. Still, we are drawn to these articles and “transformative” programs like a moth to the flame. The before and after pictures, the nutritional advice, the crash dieting – it all needs to be taken in consideration that the person who wrote it may have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Knowledge is power, and in a world where we are bombarded with misleading information, proper education is more crucial than ever.
One of the main things that draws us in to fads is the traditional “before and after” picture that we see online. Why is the before and after shot so captivating? We have all seen the comparison: an overweight man or woman who is pale, chubby, hairy, unhappy, and often wearing a baggy, unflattering outfit. Then, we see the miraculous transformation, and both genders are tanned, smiling, hairless in the men’s case and wearing tight fitted clothing in the women’s. Although glamorous and appealing, these results aren’t honest representations of a healthy transformation. An honest before and after photo would focus solely on the results, without the additional features of waxing, tanning, teeth whitening, etc. The people featured in before and after photos have worked hard to achieve their results, however, the after photo we see is often the stereotypical image of “beauty” or “good looks.” There is also no guarantee that the amazing “6 week transformation” may not have taken 6 weeks. It may have taken years of proper nutrition and exercise. Everybody has a different body shape, and every person’s potential and results are dependent on his or her genetic makeup. Each person will see results unique to their body, not necessarily the results that are shown in the internet before and after photos.
Another element of online advice is nutrition. Of all the advice offered online and in non-credited magazines and articles, nutrition is undoubtedly the one to be most wary of. If you take away one message from this piece, let this be it: Unless you have had proper medical testing and a certified physician or other health professional has advised you on making changes to your diet, avoid any other advice given or aimed at the general public. Inappropriate nutritional advising is seen too often in my profession. Unless we have a qualification stating otherwise, we are not nutritionists nor are we dieticians. A personal trainer is only permitted to advise a client on their diet in accordance with the government’s guidelines for proper eating. Any personal trainer that tells you to take herbal or medical supplements should be avoided.
Another issue that is becoming more and more problematic is diet fads. Magazines and websites often glamourize the “lose weight fast” dieting style. Crash dieting can have a very detrimental effect on your body, and in the long term can be completely counter productive to your goals. To clarify, “weight loss” and “fat loss” are not the same thing. Weight loss refers to a loss in your entire body mass, including both fat and muscle. Fat loss is indeed fat loss. This does not mean your weight will decrease but instead your body fat percentage will go down. Muscle weighs more than fat, which is why you need to be clear when deciding your goals and know exactly what you want to achieve. Your body works on a BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) system. So even if you were to lay in bed and not move, you would still burn X amount of calories in a day. This number (X) is specific to each individual. It is when you create a deficit in the amount of calories that weight loss occurs. However, too much of a deficit can be harmful. When you shock your body with providing less food or less substantial food than usual, your body responds by going into “survival mode,” storing all the calories it can. When you do any physical activity, your body then learns to store fat and burn off your hard-earned muscle instead. When this happens, even though it may appear that you are slimming down, your body fat percentage is actually increasing. Because your body has used muscle to fuel itself, when it does come down to burning the extra fat you have put on, it requires more effort since you have less muscle to aide in the fat-burning process. Once you come off the diet, your body will still continue to store excess calories, because that is what you have trained it to do. This is what begins the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting. People who use this approach may achieve the body they are looking for temporarily, but end up battling their unwanted physique their entire lives. Not only do they not achieve long-term results, but they also have confused and unhealthy bodies as a result of dieting. Proper diet and nutrition should be a lifestyle, not a fad.
When I see people following the exact same magazine workout routine on a regular basis and then wondering why they don’t look like the model on the cover, I always ask the same question: “how long have you been following the same routine?” I’ve had a mixture of responses with some claiming to have been doing it for as long as three months. Others can’t remember because they have not tracked their progress or training days. Why is this so important? Because what many people don’t realise is that a workout should never be the same. Variables should always be changing; either by increase or decrease of reps, rest time, weight or intensity. Your body is constantly adapting to the work load you place on it, and the only way to avoid plateaus are to follow these basic principles:
- Progressive overload – By changing a variable to increase the intensity of your exercise you are forcing your body to adapt to the extra work it has to do. Slowly but surely your body will change, grow and improve its efficiency to incorporate what is being desired of it.
- Monitor your rests – Resting too much will cause you to lose intensity in your workout. Not giving your body enough rest will exhaust you and affect your performance.
- Evaluate your goals and progress – Tracking your progress is the only way you will know whether or not you are on target with your overall goal. Keeping a record of your training will help you identify if there are changes that need to be made in your journey. It also is a great way to keep you from feeling frustrated or discouraged.
- Commit to a workout – Even though your workout should always be changing in variables, stick to the same exercises for a 4-6 week period before changing. Be patient and know if you follow these guidelines you will achieve your goals.
We are living in a fast time where people are always looking for a quick fix. Unfortunately, the reality is there are no quick fixes to a better lifestyle and a better body. The benefits you get from committing to making a change are far beyond the physical. You will acquire a mental strength that will help you in not only your training, but in your everyday life. You will acquire knowledge that will help you to be the best version of yourself during and after your training sessions. You will learn how to care for your body to keep it fit for years to come after your training. You should never doubt your ability to do things properly, and you should never let yourself be seduced by the advertising you see in the media. The bottom line is, no matter how glamorous or tempting, the “quick fix” is never worth your health.