Flawed Perspectives and Failed Weight Loss

Read time: 3 minutes

A reader said something in a recent comment section that I thought is worth making a post from.

I think half of the problem with failed weight loss and diminishing health comes from the l0ss of perspective in the method.

The belief that becoming lean and healthy requires an extravagant method can be compared to the belief that building a campfire requires rocket fuel.

It’s flawed perspectives.

The comment by the reader assumes two flaws in perspective:

  1. I eat “very little” because I “chose to not exercise hardly at all.”
  2. “collegiate/professional athletes have it right [for weight loss or being lean].”

I’ll begin with his second flaw.

Because it’s obvious that this blog  is about weight loss and being lean, I can only assume that this reader purports that losing weight and being lean can be better achieved by the method used by “collegiate/professional athletes.”

If the rest of us average people — with real jobs, real families, real social lives, and real community involvement — must train physically like collegiate or professional athletes in order to lose weight, be lean, and get healthy, then we’re utterly doomed.

The comment by this reader is based on the insular mentality of the average North American whose worldview is based on his/her own age, lifestyle, and belief. Maybe this circumscribed view of weight loss and health has contributed to the obesity problem in North America.

Forget the fact that citizens of other countries enjoy a lifetime of leanness and fewer modern diseases yet hardly exercise past intermural sports in high school… we must train with the intense modalities and the strict schedules of collegiate and professional athletes, because they “get it right.”

This flawed perspective can be seen in personal training across America and probably around the world. Clients are coerced into engaging in ridiculous regimens of powerlifting, Olympic-style weightlifting, HIIT, plyometrics, agility drills, “black-box” training, and balance training (a fad whose party should have dispersed years ago), when all they mostly want is to be healthy, feel better, and to look good naked.

Instead we turn them into NFL linebackers with our “functional training program.”

I’m not oppose to those exercise methodologies, and in fact have used all of them. But they’re not the better way to becoming lean and healthy.

The fact is, collegiate and professional athletes “got it right” for increasing performance, but it’s irrespective of weight loss or body composition. Their primary goal is improving performance on the field, not weight loss.

Anyone who had experience with the modern strength and conditi0ning regimen of a collegiate or professional athlete knows that the intensity and volume are unrealistic and unsustainable for the average man and woman in the real world. To believe that the method to losing weight and being lean is the same as that used by collegiate and professional athletes is to lose perspective in methodology.

As for the reader’s first flaw in logic, I certainly don’t eat “so little.” I’m not certain by what reference he compares my caloric intake, but I have a feeling it’s to the average caloric intake of an athlete on a two-a-day practice or a dense in-season competition schedule… or to the caloric intake of the average overweight North American.

The fact is, the normal person’s basal metabolic rate is not as high as most people think — 1600 for someone my weight (150 lbs.). Add a little more to that basal amount to account for physical activities (including high-intensity/large volume) and you still have an overall amount that’s lower than the average North American intake. (NHANES reported that the average male between the age of 20 and 40 consumes close to 3,000 daily.)

So, because I’m not a collegiate or professional athlete on an intense training schedule, the reader’s perspective that I eat “so little” is flawed.

And I don’t know how much time this reader has in his life to exercise, but 2 to 3 times a week of structured exercise and being physically active for the rest of the week is realistic and adequate for me. Perhaps if I have a full-scholarship or $8M contract, then I’d dedicate a much larger portion of my day to training for that 3% performance improvement. But alas, I’ve graduated from college and I’m not in the NFL.

I’m a real person living in the real world with a real job and a real family, and I don’t care to obsess about exercise, nor do I find overeating all that great.

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14 Responses to Flawed Perspectives and Failed Weight Loss

  1. Bryan says:

    Johnny,
    First of all I love your blog! I have been following it for a few months now but this is my first comment.
    This post is spot on! I believe one of the biggest flaws in the fitness industry is all these studies being thrown around about how much time people need to workout/run everyday or how many calories they need to burn every trip to the gym in order to lose weight. This information is all around us in TV shows , magazines, internet etc.
    However I think that the biggest shame is all the “personal trainers” out there who buy into it and punish their clients in the gym as if that’s going to solve America’s dietary problems. This behavior sets people up for failure since it’s unrealistic to expect the “average man or woman in the real world” to sustain this type of intense training long term. If only they knew how uncomplicated it is to lose weight without feeling like you have to punish your body everyday to obtain your goals. We need more people out there like you!

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks for your comment, Bryan.

      Weight loss, wellness, and fitness really is uncomplicated.

      Keep it simple,
      Johnny

  2. Jake Stabbs says:

    Bravo! It is about time someone put things where they belong. You did exactly this with the post.

    You wouldn’t imagine what I saw at the gym today… some personal trainer making his overweight (by at least 60 pounds) client do box jumps. This client kept stuttering from one jump to the next, pausing and bailing out of the jump, and then attempting some lame ass popping of the hips and then TUCKING his legs just to land on the box. True vertical leap was… 2 inches!

    The poor guy’s heart rate was probably higher from the fear of falling than from the exercise itself.

    It was painful to watch. I could see this being done with a college or professional basketball athlete… but a 45 year-old overweight father of two? Give me an F’n break.

    Sorry for the rant, but your post got me fired up.

  3. Al says:

    I get it now. I guess I always had it in my mind that in order to be ripped, look good naked, whatever, that the entire process had to consume your entire life in order to get results, especially the with exercise. This site just shows that you are living proof that it does not take that much to get what you want (looking good naked) as long as you do the right things. Thanks Johnny for clearing this topic up for me.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Al,

      Thanks for your comment. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to train like a collegiate or professional athlete. It can be fun for a lot of people, and will definitely bring an admirable and exceeding level of physical conditioning.

      But folks have to understand that it doesn’t necessarily cause significant weight/fat loss, and there’s a point at which such intense training can slowly diminish health (accumulated trauma, inflammation, mental burnout, etc).

      Of course, the primary point of the post was on real-world practicality and sustainability. The training programs of collegiate and professional athletes are, at best, a temporary journey for the average person seeking fat loss, often ending in disappointment.

      Best,
      Johnny

  4. balancingbrianne says:

    this post made me think about something i read on ny times (link below) about the effects of exercise, in general. that in reality – the point is to focus efforts on diet. thanks johnny!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18exercise-t.html?src=me&ref=homepage

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Brianne,

      Thanks for the link. I think this concept is becoming more evident in the mainstream media. It’s a step in the right direction.

      When the myth of exercise and weight loss is removed, people may put more accountability into how they eat.

      Good stuff,
      Johnny

  5. Steven says:

    Johnny,
    I too have been following your blog (long-time lurker) and I think you’re doing a great job spreading the word and keeping things simple. I feel that as Americans, we have access to too much. Too much food, too much media, too much electronic stimulation, too much exercise and too many gyms, etc., etc., On the one hand, I know I’m fortunate to be here. But, I find it comical that with access to all this “stuff” and all these so-called experts dishing out advice on this and that, as a nation, we just keep getting sicker and fatter. I recently received a copy of Weston A Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and I was blown away by many of the photos throughout his book; not only just how simply overall healthy and lean these people were/are, but rather how down right “ripped” some of them were (and this was in the 20s and 30s), no HIIT, Wendler’s 5-3-1 or Crossfit back then! Like you state, without a doubt these people moved frequently at a slow pace with intermittent and random bouts of intense activity and play. Once people realize how simple it really is, it truly is a beautiful thing. Keep up the good work!

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Yes, when we widen our perspective on leanness by using data from around the world and from different generations, we start to realize that our attitude toward the method of becoming lean is pretty confined and detached.

      There’s a gym on every block, yet obesity continues to be a problem. Something about a dumbbell ain’t working.

      Best,
      Johnny

  6. mommy1.618 says:

    Hi Johnny,

    I discovered your blog from Rick Mayo and I am so happy I did. I am in the process of losing 50 lbs gained over a ten-year period. But I guess I’m just not willing to be obsessive about doing so. I used to beat myself up emotionally (and my hubby would suffer for it, too, meaning I would take out my frustrations by being just b****y) if I couldn’t work out 5 days a week and would feel like a wimp if I could only do it 3 days or 2. Because, as you say, I do live in the real world, with a great husband and a wonderful daughter, with a real job with real commitments. I know what my weak point is and that is that I love to eat. So it’s not that I am a beginner exerciser; in fact, I used to teach aerobics. Losing weight is no great mystery. As you continually write and espouse: Eat less, move more. So on days that I don’t work out, I do try to eat less, and eat less all around, generally. And I’ve confined my wine/beer consumption to just Fridays and Saturdays. I want to be lean and healthy and look good naked again, but I know it’s not going to happen through any fad diets or eating disorders or extreme tri-athlete type of exercising. It took time to gain this extra baggage, so it’s gonna take time to lose it. Thanks again for this blog and The Lean Couture. Please keep writing.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi mommy1.618,

      I just finished reading a cool little book called “Eat by Choice, Not by Habit.”

      It’s about understanding the emotion behind eating, and the relationship with eating. Usually eating is about many other things than the physical need for food. For example, it’s not the cheesecake that we need, but a hug by someone.

      But I like to keep things simple.

      When I think I want to eat, or when I’m about to grab something to eat, I ask if my body “has hunger.” It usually does not, or the hunger usually diminishes after a few minutes. This tells me that my hunger wasn’t a physical need.

      And I base my final eating decision on the fact that my body doesn’t have hunger…

      … because sometimes there’s no one there to give me a hug, and I can’t always turn to the cheesecake.

      And because if I always try to identify the emotions that cause me to eat, then I’d be doomed! There are too many.

      For me, keeping it simple works best. Ask if you “have hunger.” If not, then you know your body doesn’t have the need for food. Attend to your emotion instead (if you wish), but you know you don’t have to put into your body something it doesn’t need (whether it’s an apple or a cheesecake). This is treating the body with compassion.

      Best,
      Johnny

      • mommy1.618 says:

        Hi Johnny,

        Thanks so much for taking time to reply to my blurb! I am taking much better care of myself. I do gauge what “type” of hunger I may have. My family and I eat real food. We try to limit our processed food purchases to Goldfish crackers for our DD. That said, I do cook a lot and my husband is happy, I’m happy, and our DD surprisingly (or not) really enjoys her veggies, raw or cooked, and loves to eat salads with us. I tend to use real butter and cream and olive oil, and avoid anything low-fat, non-fat, etc., as I think those are all artificially induced.
        As for exercise and workouts, I do them on my own. I am not a social exerciser; I am a bad workout buddy, whatever that means. I’ve only gone on a treadmill once with a friend, but all we did was talk. I was kind of bummed out after that “workout”. She knows better now than to call me for a lunchtime workout. I have the luxury of being able to close my office door during lunch and popping in an exercise DVD. As I said earlier, it took ten years to gain 50 lbs of baggage, so I know it ain’t gonna happen overnight. I just don’t want to take another ten to lose it, however! Thanks for letting me write, Johnny! We all appreciate your work!

  7. Chaotic Hammer says:

    Like some of the other commenters, I’ve had your blog in my reader for several months now, and enjoy it very much, though I don’t think I’ve ever commented before.

    I consider myself living proof of the truth of what you’re saying. Last year I completed three full cycles of P90X and one cycle of Insanity, and though I was supposedly quite “fit”, I was still very unhappy with my overall body composition. For as fit as I supposedly was, I was disappointed that I still looked “skinny fat”, and had quite a stubborn layer of fat around my midsection. I considered myself to be someone who “ate clean”, as I have long avoided cookies, cake, chips, snacks, soda, etc.

    Then at the beginning of 2010 I discovered the Primal Blueprint way of eating/living, and in less than a month suddenly had very distinct six-pack abs, and a lean overall physique that nicely shows the muscle tone that I had been working so hard to achieve. By getting the diet right, I have found that I can cut way back on the chronic exercise routine, and still maintain amazing strength, coordination, muscle tone, and overall sense of fitness and well-being.

    Even better, I can skip meals as often as I want and not feel like I’m starving. I feel satisfied when I eat a good meal of real food, and don’t have that constant nagging desire to nibble on carbs every few hours.

    Keep up the great writing! Much enjoyed and much appreciated.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Chaotic Hammer,

      Thanks for your comment and welcome.

      I knew of a guy who quit the service of his personal trainer for the use of the P90X program.

      Three months later he was back to using the service of his personal trainer, looking the same but with tendonitis in his shoulder.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we can achieve a lean body, great health, and more-than-adequate fitness while still treating your body with compassion and respect.

      Best,
      Johnny

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