“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In.)”
I had wanted to do a follow-up for Adam sooner, but it ended up getting put off until after the school year was over. I continued to follow the “no carb” diet until I made the goal of 150 lbs. that I had announced (-154 lbs. in the end) but was sort of left floundering after that. The diet was good for me as I went from being grossly obese to being “healthy” as rapidly as possible. That is why I had chosen it after a long period of research. The tools that Grip and Rip gave me allowed me to maximize my experience by designing my own exercise program that suited me well. Unfortunately, although I had lost a lot of non-lean weight, it is very difficult to build muscle on this type of diet so I ended up going from a 326 lb. weakling to a 172 lb. weakling.
Here is a chart so you can see my progress—all data was collected at a weekly checkup at a Dr.’s office and this is merely a scan of their printout.
At the conclusion of the “diet” you are supposed to transition to a “maintenance” way of eating that will keep you healthy; I hated pretty much everything about it, even the term “maintenance.” So I tried multiple approaches to creating my own sustainable lifestyle of eating. The first approach was indulging in all the foods I had missed while depriving myself for a year, and curtailing the exercise as much. I put back some non-lean weight—big surprise there. After that I tried a different eating approach that was also “maintenance” but bored the hell out of me and left me feeling deprived everyday. Adam then offered the “Smarter Strength” class, which I took, and which was a major advancement over the Grip and Rip program. During that course I learned a great deal more about exercise, but also nutrition from Adam and a guest spot by Mike T. Nelson. When Mike offered his “Metabolic Flexibility” course I took that as well. I continued to experiment; I put on some good strength and muscle, but also put a good bit of non-lean weight as well. Nevertheless, it was those programs that put me on a forward-looking path: a path that is sustainable, pleasurable, and allows me to improve my condition a little every day. I have not yet reached by goal, but thanks to these programs I know that I will. Here is a photo of me now (a few weeks ago). I am around the same weight I was in the kettlebell photo of the original article (226 in original, and about 215 in that photo.) Although the weight is around the same, you should be able to see the difference in body composition.
Three of the things that define me as a person are my practice of traditional martial arts, my love of teaching English, and my hobby of eating and cooking. That means I care about enjoying my life—sometimes a little too much, about language, and progress in my performance. As strange as it sounds, when most people enter “maintenance diets” they convince themselves, almost as a form of self-punishment and penance, that they will always have to suffer to stay “in shape”; they convince themselves they must suffer. In the aftermath of my diet, I was looking to maximize BOTH my performance and pleasure. This write up is simply my reflection on what I have learned from these two “Movement” guys, my own experimentation and research, and I will leave you with my contribution tip at the end. It is simply a summary of my thoughts and reflections, and is meant to make the reader reflect, it does not claim to be scientific proof of anything.
From my experience, the issue with much dieting is that it gives you a limited map with one route to follow; when you reach your goal the only road you know is the way back (and forth.) When I have trouble adapting in my martial art my teacher will say to me: “When you ride a horse you don’t sit facing backwards to see where you have been, you face forward so you can see where you are heading. That is how you make progress.” It seems to me that many of us do this in terms of “dieting” as well. It is only natural: a diet worked for us, and if we put back weight again, it will work again. This is looking backward, not forward. When you combine this with the fact that most “diets” are concerned only with losing “weight” and not with pleasure, long-term sustainability, and body composition it is easy to see why so many people begin to yoyo.
I am not saying I have regrets, because “regret” involves looking backwards, but if I had to do it again I would have used the no carb diet to lose that initial 100 lbs. of gross obesity and then transitioned to what I am doing now. Like the saying goes: “If I only knew then what I know now . . .”
In English grammar that saying is called a conditional clause; there are “real” conditional clauses, statements that are, or can be factual, and “unreal” conditional clauses, statements that are contrary to fact, or imaginary.
An example of a real conditional clause that is forward looking would be: “If I take in fewer calories than I burn, I will lose weight.”
An example of an “unreal” or “contrary to fact” conditional is:
“If I had stuck to the diet, I would not be fat.” (But you didn’t stick . . .)
The formula here is the past perfect tense + “would have” + past participle. It dwells on the past rather than the future. Sadly, it is the type of thought that rings through the mind of many dieters. Due to long term issues of self-deprecation and body dysmorphia it is easy to blame oneself, rather than realizing the issue was that you allowed yourself to be rooked into an unrealistic set of conditions. If you want to progress, then the time is now to get real about your unreal conditions: establish conditions for YOURSELF that YOU can meet; do not follow someone else’s conditions that are not realistic for you. That is what these programs helped me to do.
On the other hand, just having a real condition doesn’t make it sound for you to follow. Many so-called diet and nutrition “experts” make claims about what is necessary or correct, then establish conditions that confirm what they claim and take the results as proof of their claim; the only thing that is truly demonstrated is IF you follow those established conditions THEN these are the established results, not that those conditions are essential. Perhaps the biggest bugbear here is the rule of “calorie in calorie out.” Although this is the only universal rule in the weight loss game, it does not make it the most important consideration. Newton’s law of gravity is pretty much a constant in our lives, but how many times do you take it into consideration on a daily basis? It is there; you are aware of it. It matters, we take it into account from our life experiences, but it does not, nor should it, occupy our thoughts.
Nutritional requirements, macro and micro, that foster progress towards your chosen goals by matching the conditions you have established through your activity, or lack thereof, are far more important to your personal equation. For example, if muscular hypertrophy is on your agenda and the greater majority of your diet is simple carbs, you will almost certainly not make your goal. The “Twinkie Diet” may have confirmed the power of calorie in / calorie out, but ask yourself if the caloric intake of that much sugar will help building muscle as much as the same amount of calories of protein. Even if raw weight loss is your only goal, as it was mine initially, you are better off considering macro nutritional needs then simply counting calories.
The reality is that just about any diet and exercise program can work, especially in the short term. Your conditions need to be not only real, but also realistic; being realistic means looking at not just short-term results, but long-term sustainability. If long-term sustainability for you does not include quality of life and injury free training into the future, then you have wasted your time reading this. Goodbye.
If it does, then here is what I liked about the Smarter Strength program from Adam T. Glass, and also the Metabolic Flexibility class from Mike T. Nelson.
Principles of program and exercise: Smarter Strength helped me and worked for me for one simple reason: it is a series of principles that can be adapted to whatever type of exercise you prefer. Whether I am doing deep and heavy squats in my cage, or doing “Hindu” squats with a gar nal is irrelevant. The principles hold for injury free training.
Micro adjustments: One of the main things I learned from the program that helps me stay injury free is the concept of micro adjustments and testing micro adjustments. After I had finished my “diet,” I not only experimented with different eating, but also different exercise. There were many things I liked about the various types of traditional distress training for hypertrophy—the main thing being the growth in strength. Nevertheless, I found myself having to take time off because my shoulder was killing me, or my left knee was left in pain for days, etc. If you are in your 40s like me, perhaps you can relate. However, testing micro adjustments helped me find my own stance for squats, or a pain free position for bench and shoulder presses.
Principle of relaxation: My martial arts instructor is fond of telling us that we should perform as if we were going for a “walk in the park.” In Indonesian he says “berjalan,” which in some dialects has more of a sense of our word “stroll”: it should be relaxed and enjoyable. The similar attitude towards exercise and lifting, even in terms of eustress vs. distress training, is an excellent mesh for my performance goals, and has helped me learn to be relaxed in any difficult activity.
Testing: The concept of testing has helped me tremendously. This is another thing that meshes well with my martial training, although in a different way. We test our applications in various ways—can you control your opponent without using force? Is your control effective, e.g., if your partner can reach out and tag you at will, then it is not. In terms of the Smarter Strength program it is a little different if you work out on your own then you must test yourself and be honest with yourself. It is difficult to explain the biofeedback of testing, I would say watch one of the sample videos and give it a shot. I often don’t even test macro movements nowadays because I can generally feel whether they are a good idea or not, but I frequently test for micro adjustments or exercise variations.
I also like testing because I can carry the principle over to monitoring my own progress, my own cooking, and measuring my goals. Here is the tip I promised:
If you want to test a “diet” or “lifestyle eating” then test the maintenance or final phase FIRST. This seems obvious to me now, but counter-intuitive when I decided to do this. As I have already said, just about any diet can work for most people. Does it drop you off at a dead end with no direction to go but back? Find out the final phase and test it out for a couple of months. If your condition or performance improves in that time, then you will know you are on a path that will keep you forward looking and not looking backwards, after you reach the end of the diet.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Movement principle I like most is looking at health as maximized adaptability. Aging is tough; some of us may be predisposed to aging gracefully, but the rest of us need to take steps to maximize our health over time. If your program is breaking you down instead of building you up, then over time you will lose the ability to adapt. If you are making choices for your exercise and nutrition that are counter to the goals of continued adaptability now, then in the future you will be making unreal conditional statements about the past.
It has taken a while; it has taken a lot of trial and error, but I now know where I am heading, I know I will reach my goals, and I know my performance will improve over time. The Smarter Strength course and the Metabolic Flexibility course gave me knowledge and tools to structure my own program. A program tailored for myself, by myself. Two years ago I knew almost nothing about exercise and fitness, no one more than Adam T. Glass has helped me make progress.