Food is probably the biggest source of grief, stress, and debate in the lives of my clients, even more so than workouts. Every day I field questions about when to eat, how to eat, what to eat, what diet is best, who’s wrong, and is that new diet on Oprah any good? Since this week has been especially busy with nutrition questions I thought I’d wrap up the week with an article addressing some of the more common issues I deal with when helping clients with nutrition.
First and foremost, food is fuel. You eat it because if you don’t you will in fact die. After all you are not a plant and are otherwise incapable of using sunlight and minerals absorbed from the earth to make energy. Since human beings are one step removed from this amazing ability we must consume plants or those things that consume them. We break down this meat or plant matter into its basic chemical and elemental components to make energy. That energy drives our muscles and cells and allows us to breath, digest food, pump blood, move, walk, think, and even sleep. We need it, end of story.
Unfortunately food has become so much more than just fuel for a huge percentage of the population. Emotional eating is even a recognized psychological disorder in the US today. People have replaced comfort and relationship with other human beings with ones made with food. Because food is tied so closely with smell which itself is tied closely to emotion and memory, it is possible for the brain to build emotional attachments to the comfort certain foods supply or I should say the way we feel when eating certain foods. Food in effect becomes a drug and it is even known today that certain foods like grains do in fact stimulate the production of and release of certain chemical stimulants in the brain closely related to opiates.
How this ties in to working out is very simple. In my business it is not uncommon to see gyms filled with hard working capable athletes who were it not for the protruding gut poking out from their t-shirt would be the models of fitness. This is a great example of another point I’ve made this week; you cannot out workout a poor diet, excessive drinking, or inadequate rest and recovery. I blame shows like “The Biggest Loser” for the spread of this myth. If I work out like a mad-man for hours every day I can eat crap and it won’t matter. This goes hand in hand with the prevalent belief that working out hard entitles one to a cheat meal or a drink, or that candy bar, or 1000 calorie pizza.
While these people have broken the bad habit of inactivity they have failed to sever the emotional dependence on their favorite foods and have become trapped in a circle of manic exercise with little visible results. If you eat crap day in and day out, then regardless of how hard you work out; you will look and feel like crap. The wonder metabolisms of our youth do not last forever and all that junk food filled with preservatives, hydrogenated oils, and genetically modified foods catch up to us in the form of diabetes, cancer, auto-immune disease and premature death.
Let me sum all this up with one statement. If you really want to lose weight, address medical conditions, and take control of your life then it starts with taking control of your diet, the source of your food, and the quality of the ingredients. All of these things are in your control yet we allow advertisers, corporations, and marketing think tanks to feed us poison in shiny wrappers so we can go to doctors and pharmaceutical companies for more poisons that address symptoms but do little to address the cause. When businesses are literally making a profit from your illness it does not take a genius to realize they have no interest in getting you healthy.