Time for some unpopular truths.
“Nutrition and fitness” is a tough world. It’s plagued with popular media, culture, and celebrities selling what is “sexy” not what works. JLo preaches about her no-carb 10-day detox. Influencers post about their Paleo, gluten-free, plant-based lifestyles. Andy Frisella sucks you in with a “mental toughness” program that perpetuates many disordered eating and training habits you’ve been struggling with for years. This is no different. YES I know it isn’t a “nutrition challenge” before you keyboard warriors get started.
Very rarely do you see what actually is going to work: the simple common sense tactics (sleep, exercise, hydration, and food quality).
What’s fun is exciting gets put on the forefront so much so that what actually works...isn’t fun or desired by the average person.
Which makes it tough for those coaches, trainers, professionals who don’t buy into the popular fads we’ve decided to fantasize for that week.
A sign of a good coach is that they keep it real.
It sucks, but honesty is the best policy. Here’s why.
How many fad diets have you tried? How many challenges have you attempted? What foods have you cut out? What celebrities or influencers have you let sway your nutrition and training decisions? Do you lean towards extreme plans and programs or towards more moderate and conservative plans?
Did these fads, challenges, fitspro/celeb plans work?
I’m going to guess no...or else you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
That’s because the #1 unpopular truth when it comes to your nutrition journey is that SIMPLE is effective. The simpler the plan, the more likely you’re going to adhere to it longer and see lasting results.
A GOOD coach is going to preach about these unpopular truths. They’re going to hold you to them and not get sucked into what sells. I, along with the many other amazing coaches, could probably make a hell of a lot more money selling what the people want...but I didn’t sign up for this career for the money. I signed up to create impact and change people’s lives for the better.
So, at this point, you might be asking, “what other unpopular truths are there???”
If so, you’re in luck because that’s what this whole blog post is about: breaking down the false hopes from what sells and teaching you the unpopular, albeit necessary truths you’re likely going to need to expect as you undertake your nutrition journey, whether it’s losing weight, building better habits, or building muscle.
So without further ado, let’s dive in to 10 of my favorite unpopular truths.
1. Time...it’s going to take longer than you think or want
30-day plans don’t work long term. Four-week challenges don’t last. The only challenges that work are the ones that begin as an introductory phase...that start with habit-building and intentionally are meant to continue for months after. If, on day 1, you’re already looking forward to the external reward at the end, then you’re not going to succeed long term.
“Kickstarting” your journey with some restrictive plan only sets you up for failure. You wouldn’t run a marathon to kick off your running journey. You wouldn’t learn how to drive by throwing yourself into a NASCAR race. You wouldn’t rob a bank to kickstart saving money. Same goes with your nutrition.
My most successful client has been working with me since May of 2018. She’s gone from 210lbs to below 160lbs. She’s increased her intake from 900 calories per day to a maintenance of 2100 calories with her deficit calories at 1700 calories (800 more than when she came to me). My least successful clients are the ones that come to me demanding a cut right off the bat and tell me they’ve got 45 days to see results or they’re firing me (you laugh...it happens! I’ve had clients not able to get through their initial 4-day food log before!). It’s not that my client is naturally gifted...she’s just committed herself to the LONG term plan.
The quicker the plan, the more motivation-dominant it is. As you hopefully know by now after following me for a while, motivation is garbage. What actually works is discipline...building habits and developing the lifelong tools to seeing results. See #8.
Do you really think you can not only BUILD the necessary habits needed to seeing results...but also break the ones that got you where you are now and give it time to see your desired results...in 30 days? It takes a minimum of 60 days to build a habit. The optimal rate of weight loss is ~1lb/week and weight gain 0.25-0.5lb/week. You have 20lbs to lose? Not gonna happen in 20 days.
2. You likely aren’t ready to actively target weight loss.
How’s your stress? Is food always on your mind? Are you always hungry or craving food? Do you even have a hunger response? Do you have enough energy to get through your day? A 45 minute workout? Are you constantly fatigued or injured? Can you sleep through the night? Can you consistently eat the same intake for 2-3 weeks or do you yo-yo every 2-3 days? What do your weekends look like? When you track your intake, are you eating above 1700 calories? Do you even eat a vegetable? Are most of your calories from liquids? Are you eating roughly bodyweight in grams of protein (or at least above 100g)??
IF any of these are out of place, you’re simply not ready to create a deficit.
A deficit is a stressor. IF stress is already high, if your sleep is garbage, if you’re already fatigued and burnt out, dieting will only make it worse.
Dieting creates hunger. If you are already miserably hungry or craving food 24/7, then it’s not going to magically improve just because you’re working with a coach or have the motivation (remember, motivation is temporary!). Know what it’s like to feel satiated and nourished...consistently.
Instead, spend time reversing your intake, recovering your body, healing your biofeedback, and practicing consistency FIRST. If you’ve never done this, you’ll be surprised at how much you’d be able to achieve.
3. Toning doesn’t exist.
Toning is a sexist way to speak to women. You can’t build muscle because you’re weak, inferior, blah blah blah. You’re not feminine if you lift heavy...so you “tone”.
Guess what “toning” actually is!
MUSCLE...on a LEAN body.
Meaning you BUILD muscle and THEN lose body fat.
Females don’t have a genetic gift to “tone”.
Males don’t have a genetic gift to building muscle.
You also can’t build muscle and lose body fat at the same time. Fitspro programs on the gram sell this...because they’re appealing to your desire to look a certain way. They are lying to you. You need a surplus of calories to build muscle and a deficit of calories to lose body fat.
Toning is crap. It’s our society’s sexist way at demonizing muscle on women and encouraging this frail, thin, size 0 mentality. Don’t believe me? Go on Pinterest or Instagram and find a program or plan that helps men “tone”.
Build muscle...that’s what “toning” is.
4. To build muscle, you need to lift...and lift heavy.
The only way to build muscle (to get the desired looks you’re wanting to get) is to lift weights, resistance train, and prioritize progressive overloading.
Bands aren’t enough. 2-5# dumbbells aren’t enough.
Barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, squats, presses, deadlifts...and heavy.
You won’t get bulky. I promise. I’ve seen lean 135lb women deadlift 350+lbs and squat 250+lbs. BULK is achieved by eating...and a LOT of it. For me to put on size, I have to lift VERY heavy and eat 3k+ calories. I can promise you that 2000 calories and some weights are only going to help.
And know this. Heavy is relative. "Lift heavy" isn't code for "lift so much you hurt yourself or falter on form". "Lift heavy" means "lift heavy enough to create a desired stimulus for muscle growth". Lifting to fatigue, adding tempo and pauses, and using proper form are all ways to "lift heavy". Your heavy MIGHT be 100lbs on a deadlift, so I'm not expecting you to walk to the gym and pick up 300lbs. BUT that 100lbs should feel tough not like you're picking up a cute 1lb kitten.
There’s also a NUMBER of benefits to being strong. You’re healthier. You have other means of measuring progress (besides a number on the scale). It increases your caloric expenditure. It builds muscle where undesired fat is. It’s a huge stress relief. It’s rewarding.
Does that mean you can’t do cardio? No.
Just include lifting at least 2-3x/week.
Not sure how to get into weight training? HIRE someone. Work with a trainer. Hire a coach.
5. Weekends matter.
For a number of reasons.
If you over-indulge by 1000 calories in total over the weekend (500/day), you’re not going to see desired body composition changes and will continue to stall in your progress.
On the flip side, if you eat NOTHING over the weekends (very common especially if you sleep in and don’t indulge at social events) then you’re starting your upcoming week off at a deficit and in recovery debt making it much harder to sustain long periods of time.
You may not overindulge calorie-wise but the quality may falter. This may not cause you to gain or lose any body fat but it will affect the scale, temporarily. Carbs retain water. For every gram of carbohydrate consumed, 2-3g of water is retained. SO even if your calories are in check but you eat more carbs, you will retain water.
A big problem with weekends is the LOSS of routine. Keep as much routine in there as possible. You may not be tracking your calories or macros, but it doesn’t mean you should skip meals or only eat junk and processed foods. Keep that nourishing breakfast and a satiating lunch to get in quality proteins and veggies *hey micros!*. Still aim to get ~8hrs of sleep, roughly at a similar schedule/timeline. You can still be fun and social, but don’t use weekends as “fuck it” mode to quit making you, your body, and your progress a priority.
6. Consistency trumps perfection.
The little stuff will make the difference.
It’s more important to sleep 8 hours than to have the perfect macros every single day.
It’s more important to walk 30 minutes daily than get one hard workout a week.
It’s more important to satisfy your cravings and non-negotiables 1-2x/week than avoid them all together...because eventually that restriction will catch up to you. The longer you restrict, the worse that subsequent binge. Start including them on day 1!! It may make you less perfect...but it sure is going to last a lot longer.
LIFE isn’t perfect.
You’re going to have mess ups or things out of your control.
Consistently showing up for yourself and your body 80% of the time sure as hell beats trying to be 100% only some of the time.
7. You need to eat more than 1200 calories.
I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face...QUIT EATING LESS THAN YOU’RE WORTH.
Eating less than your BMR (average 1400-1500 for females and 1700-1800 for males) is NOT sustainable nor is it healthy. Your body needs calories for basic survival, exercise, eating (YES digesting food accounts for calories burned...10% actually), and non-exercise activity.
If you’re always lethargic, perpetually stressed, injured frequently, or unable to sleep through the night, chances are you’re under-eating.
If food is always on your mind, if your hunger and cravings lead to frequent binges (at least once/week), if you’re just waiting to get to the weekends, then you’re definitely under-eating.
This is the one I care about probably more than anything...because it’s sold and popularized more than anything and it’s SO dangerous and unhealthy. Between fad diets like keto or fasting, meal replacement crap, and companies (think Noom), it’s more common to be put on a diet that could seriously hurt you than to be told to eat enough food.
Most people need between 2000-2500 on average...and I can tell you for many people, it’s pulling teeth to do this because of how normalized under-eating is.
Restriction is praised. Eating 1500 calories is normalized. I’ve lost count of the number of clients who start working with me after a trainer/coach/company put them at 1400 calories.
Yet they feel like shit, are miserable, and STILL not seeing results.
This truth is more than unpopular...but it’s the truth.
Track your intake for a week. Include everything (oils, liquids, butters). If you’re eating less than your BMR, hire a coach who’s going to help you reverse out of that diet and teach you how to eat for your body.
Discipline is everything.
Motivation is temporary. It’s unreliable. It’s fleeting. It’s never guaranteed.
Motivation is like hitting all green lights on your way to work. MAN, does it feel good. Every time you drive to work, you hope and cross your fingers...
But sure enough you hit some red lights. It’s inevitable.
SO what’s better...
Planning every day for all green lights only to repeatedly hit red lights, get angry and pissed off, be late to work, miss the gym or get in a car accident?
OR Planning every day for those red lights, understanding you may need to account for some more time in your commute, knowing you’ll get there safely in one piece THEN when you do get that green light, it’s just a win and extra bonus?
SAME for your nutrition, training, and weight transformation.
PLAN for the long haul and for the habits and discipline. When you have that fleeting moment of motivation, that little green light, you simply enjoy it 😊
9. Stress plays a pretty big role.
Congrats, you’ve put yourself in the perfect deficit....
But you’re not seeing results?
That’s because stress—and stress management—are part of the puzzle too. When neglected, there’s a high chance your progress will be stalled or even reversed.
Your body manages stress through the adrenal glands. When stress is sensed or experienced, your hypothalamus (a tiny power house in your brain) sends a signal to your pituitary gland (another structure in the brain) which signals hormone production to your adrenal glands. This is known as the HPA Axis. These three structures in your body manage and respond to stress. When your adrenals get the signal from your brain that your body is undergoing stress, it produces and releases cortisol, your stress hormone, which I’m sure you’ve heard of.
Your body is equipped to manage stress, through the HPA Axis and the sympathetic nervous system....but this is mostly for acute stress. Chronic stress is managed the exact same way...which means that your adrenal glands continue to pump out cortisol with no end in sight. When your adrenal glands become overworked, they still need to function to help you manage stress, so they start pulling nutrients from other organs: your gut, your muscles, your liver, etc. Your metabolism might adapt and slow to match, affecting your ability to lose weight. The stress may be wreaking havoc on your cravings and hunger, making a deficit unsustainable and inconsistent.
To lose weight, your body needs to feel safe. Stress needs to be managed. You need to get out of that sympathetic nervous system and tap into your rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system to let your adrenal glands and other organs recover and heal. Meditate and journal. Go for walks. Spend time in nature. SLEEP. Take rest days.
10. Your worth isn’t defined by a number, size of clothes, or number of abs.
I saved the best for last.
“I’ll be happy when...” is the worst mentality you can have. You can’t just love yourself when you look the best.
Your body needs your support and love every step of the way. Self-love and body-image is a tough area. It’s a common misconception that if you love your body, you shouldn’t want to change it. That’s not true. You love your dog, but still want to train it so it doesn’t pee in your house anymore. You can still see progress while loving yourself every step of the way.
The unpopular truth here is that you don’t actually achieve happiness when you get to that size 2 or desired weight. You just want more...and more...and more...and you never actually achieve happiness. Look back at old pictures of yourself. Do you look at them thinking “I’d just be happy when I look like that again?” Well...were you happy then? Likely not. Nothing is going to change just because you weigh 10lbs less. Start that self-love NOW so you can love your body no matter what.
Now I know what you might be thinking...”how am I supposed to remember all of this”.
You might be overwhelmed.
That’s okay! Not everything has to be mastered now. Figure out which truths you struggle with the most and start with 1-2. Create mantras and actionable steps to start accepting and adapting to them. Once they become habit, start with another 1-2...and so on.
And most importantly, if all of this is overwhelming, hire a coach who’s going to hold you accountable to these truths and constantly remind you of them!
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.