Since my first ever short course in nutrition, almost around 18 years ago, I have seen a massive change in the health and fitness industry. First came the strive to be skinny and a myriad of diet plans flooded the market. I have seen it all, from counting calories, points and syns, low fat diets, high protein diets, the south beach diet, the zone diet, the cabbage soup diet (who didn’t try that one??), liquid only diets, juice diets, slimming pills, fasting, Atkins now rebranded as Keto, paleo, vegan, plant based, gluten free, dairy free and the latest one is the carnivore diet. The list goes on and as a result of all of this, the public have been bombarded with endless and confusing messages about what is actually ok to eat.
If all of that is not enough the “#strongnotskinny” and “#fitspo” campaigns began to hit our news feeds. Instagram and Facebook filled with nutritional recommendations from so called influencers and bloggers who used pictures of their incredibly lean bodies to promote all sorts of crazy plans, programs, eating habits and excessive exercise routines – more often than not, they are usually endorsing some kind of fat burning supplement, product or subscription.
With more and more people striving for lean and toned bodies, the industry quickly exploded with so called body transformation programs. Again, our news feeds filled with before and after pictures of people with enviable figures which only promoted further investment in chasing the dream for the so-called perfect body.
The biggest issues with any transformation program is this:
Very few will explore your core values or do a deep dive into your goals, they will rarely work with you closely to help you develop and change your mindset. I don’t know of any transformation program that considers your mental health, or indeed if you have previously suffered with an eating disorder. The leanness seen in those who successfully complete a transformation program, is mainly down to “drying out” due to lack of carbs and fats and an extreme over consumption of protein. Yes, weight is lost but this is usually lost in fluid, fat and muscle, so ultimately body composition hasn’t changed at all. If you haven’t made significant changes to your body composition the weight will pile straight back on once normal eating and exercise routines resume. You will never gain muscle! Transformation programs work on extreme calorie deficits, so it is virtually impossible to gain muscle. Any muscle mass seen at the end of a transformation program is representative what was there before (minus some that will be lost during the dieting process). An extremely lean body mass, that you typically see on social media, cannot be maintained long term without lots and lots of hard work, constant food restrictions and potential nutritional deficiencies; for women this may mean disruptions to periods, hormonal health and bone health.
Then, there is afterwards. Once the program is finished, where do you go? Usually back to where you began. If habits, mindset, goals, values and beliefs, have not been addressed, then it is difficult to maintain the strict regime of these programs. Motivation ends, you feel like a failure and the weight comes back with a vengeance – plus, maybe a little bit more.
We are in the midst of a diet and fitness culture that is focused purely on how you look from the outside. Alice Liveing is a classic example of a #fitspo influencer who now admits to have suffered with extreme fatigue and anxiety due to keeping up with her impossibly lean figure that she had once promoted as healthy.
I guess what I am trying to say is this:
Diets and transformation programs come and go, but will unfortunately continue to be embedded within our everyday existence. It is incredibly hard to not get sucked into the latest fad. My message is simple, your nutritional needs are not as complex as you think, you definitely don’t need pills, fads, starvation, unrealistic macro goals and extreme exercise routines in your life. What you do need is food, good nourishing natural food and water; best consumed as mother nature prepared. If you eat as naturally as possible, using foods in their truest form, your reward will be a body that naturally adapts to its proper set point, where it will be able to maintain a normal body composition and good health.
Thanks for reading and I would love to hear about your experiences