There was a time in my life when I carried around about 100 pounds of extra fat on my body.
It was not a good time. But it should have been expected.
After all, I was a chubby kid, who grew to become a fat adolescent, before finally morphing into a full-fledged obese adult. It was a progressive journey: a steady, slow motion disaster in the making.
But I got lucky, and was fortunate enough to have the time and space needed to catch myself before slipping off the obesity cliff, where an extra 50 or 100 pounds may have come and completely changed the trajectory of my life.
Since then, fat and fat loss have been a bit of an obsession. And while I’ve managed to become healthier and do things the younger, fatter me never imagined, I by no means have it mastered. After all these years, it’s still a challenge. Some days more than others. I still falter from time to time. I still have bad days, lazy weeks, and even entire disastrous months.
The good news is that after spending so many years in the trenches, and on both sides of the fit or fat equation, it’s becomes easier to recover and get back on track. And that’s because I know the secret. And the secret is… well, there are no secrets. No secrets as to why we get fat, and no secrets as to how to get rid of it. No special diets, pills, or training protocols necessary.
It just comes down to food. Real food. And not eating too much of it.
It’s not a sexy message, which is why it seems to be forgotten more than recalled. But the growth of farmer’s markets, the slow food movement, and the popularity of books like Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food at least give the impression that maybe, just maybe, we’re starting to get it.
Until that happens, chances are we’ll all be dining on a rich diet of information overload – testimonials, books, and even studies trying to solve the same question: why are we fat, and what’s the best way to get rid of it?
Take a June 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which gained national attention and compared three different diets to find out which was best. For a discussion of the research, check out the article, “Not All Calories Equal, Study Shows” in the Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Corbett Doren. It was a small test group for sure (only 21 subjects), and there were other measured factors, but in the end, low glycemic diets were declared the winner.
But are they?
A follow up article by Gina Kolata in the New York Times, “In Dieting, Magic Isn’t a Substitute for Science” took that revelation and presented it to a leading obesity researcher.
It’s a particularly sobering interview that I send to clients who seem to be puzzled and overwhelmed when it comes to fat loss, and all the diet advice, books, programs and strategies that seem to be out there. So, if you or anyone you know is struggling with fat loss, read the article. Then read it again. And again.
Bottom line: when it comes to losing fat, it all comes down to calories.
It’s an inherent truth that we all seem to know on some level, but fail to accept or follow. Instead, we find it much more convenient, satisfying and affirming to demonize certain foods or even entire food groups (bananas, carrots, bread, wheat, gluten, sugar, etc.).
We also have a tendency to want to adopt eating prescriptions consisting of mixing certain foods with other foods, using ratios and percentages, calculating points, timed feedings, among others. The more complex, it seems, the better. And the more restrictive, the more smug the adopter of said program.
I know one thing for sure: I certainly didn’t get obese from eating too many bananas, or carrots, or from too much gluten, or by not combining food in the right ratios. And chances are neither did you. Or anyone else.
I got fat by eating cookies, candy bars, and other junk food. Not because those items were inherently evil, but because I ate them in bulk, and those items are much more calorically dense than their real food counterparts (fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, etc.).
So if you have a few extra pounds hanging on you, take solace in the fact that you don’t need to do anything special, other than eat less. In the end, there’s nothing magical about a grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli for dinner, except that it’s likely to have far less calories than what you may normally eat.
Looking for more health related articles to read? How about this great wrap up of health and wellness articles by Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times. If nothing else, just clicking on all the embedded hyperlinks should help burn a few extra calories.
Need some motivation to make you think the impossible is possible? Meet Danny Macaskill and his trusty bike. Together (with a soundtrack provided by Band of Horses) they seem to do things that are superhuman. Backflip off a tree? Sure, no problem:
Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, The Feed, will address health and fitness issues and dispense practical advice for San Antonians attempting to wade through the often-confusing diet and fitness world. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.