Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Whoops, I haven't posted here for a month. In my defense, I've been busy. However, I'm breaking radio silence because of a graphic that came up on my Facebook feed this morning.

Okay. So here's twenty rules plus some value judgements and arguments by authority. Let's look at them one by one.

1. Drink a large glass of water before every meal. No excuses.
True. Doing this will solve two problems at once; the chronic dehydration that many people suffer from if they don't really pay attention to their water intake, and the fact that it's very easy to confuse thirst with hunger.

2. Don't drink your calories.
False. I think what this probably means is "don't drink soda" (which is a good idea, but not for this reason) or "don't drink fruit juice" (again, has nothing to do with calories; it's just better for you to eat the whole fruit and drink plain water in addition). But it ignores the idea of drinking protein shakes, which I do in abundance and which is pretty crucial if you're planning on building muscle and not just getting skinny-fat, and which in my case account for over 600 calories a day.

3. Eat protein at every meal - or stay hungry and grouchy.
True, but rude. You should be eating protein at every meal because if you don't you will never, ever eat enough protein and you won't build enough muscle. But the tone of "eat your protein or go to bed without any dinner" is patronizing and offensive.

4. Slash your intake of refined flours and grains.
True. Refined grains contain way less fiber which is an essential component of going to the bathroom once you're actually eating the amount of protein you're supposed to. I've heard they also mess with glucose/insulin levels but I don't know enough to say whether that's actually true. The fiber intake is a good enough reason not to bother with things that aren't whole grain.

5. Eat 30-50g fiber every day. 
True. God, yes, as a minimum. See above. Bowel movements are desirable.

6. Eat apples and berries every single day. Every. Single. Day. 
True, but kind of arbitrary. Eating any variety of high-fiber fruits or vegetables every day will be good for you. Apples and broccoli would be just as beneficial. Oranges, bananas and collard greens are an equally good choice. Berries are often high in fiber and antioxidants so they're a good choice, but they're also very expensive compared to other choices. Don't feel like you have to break the bank or sacrifice other (more) important foods like chicken breast just because this dude decided to pick berries from the list of things that are good for you.

7. No carbs after lunch.
False. Especially if you're planning on lifting in the evening, but also for this reason (see #3).

8. Learn to read food labels so you know what you are eating. 
True, but with caution. Labels aren't everything, and ideally, you really out to be eating mostly things that don't come with labels. But knowledge never hurt anyone and knowing how to read the labels isn't a bad thing.

9. Stop guessing about portion size and get it right. 
False, mostly. Eating the right amount has nothing to do with portion size, it has to do with paying attention to your hunger and stopping eating when you've had enough. Measuring out half a cup of pasta and one-third of a cup of pasta sauce and one tablespoon of parmesan not only spoils any possible enjoyment of the food and reduces you to the equals sign in a math equation, but it also takes away your responsibility to pay attention to your own hunger, and therefore reduces your ability to learn about your own body and feelings.

10. No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones. 
Half false. Artificial sweeteners are terrible for you. They fuck with your insulin levels and make you crave food when you don't need it (see #5 in the article linked above). Natural sweeteners, though, are fine. Put a couple spoons of brown sugar on your oatmeal in the morning. Eat yogurt and honey - local honey if you can afford it, because it has a slight innoculating effect against local pollens and can reduce hayfever symptoms. The idea that any amount of sugar is bad for you is insane alarmism. There's nothing wrong whatsoever with using natural sugars as ingredients in meals. Of course, there is also a difference between eating plain cultured yogurt with honey, granola and sliced fruit and drinking a bottle of Mexicoke that is made out of carbonated water, caramel coloring, 23 teaspoons of sugar and pure cocaine.

11. Get rid of those white potatoes. 
Irrelevant. White potatoes aren't bad for you; just don't peel them. Potatoes are a great pre-workout food, and the skins contain a lot of important nutrients. Sweet potatoes are probably more valuable than white or red potatoes, since they contain more protein and a metric fuck-ton of vitamin A, but there's nothing inherently terrible about white potatoes and I'm honestly not sure why they're being brought up.

12. Make one day a week meatless.
False. Do this if you want to fuck over your gains and spend a day hungry, cold, and not getting nearly enough protein to support muscle recovery from your weight lifting the night before.

13. Get rid of fast foods and fried foods. 
True, false. Fast food is a waste when you could be cooking something good for yourself with much more nutritional value per energy unit, that also tastes a million times better. Fried foods, however, are fine. Demonizing an entire cooking method displays a woeful lack of imagination and assumes that healthy people are ones that live off nothing but salads and solitary laughter, rather than ones who respect their bodies and also food as an entire creative medium. Also, olive oil is damn good for you, use it when you fry.

14. Eat a real breakfast. 
True, assuming that you know what a real breakfast is. You want something high in fiber, protein and energy (calories). Don't eat a grapefruit, a bowl of special K and a cup of tea. That's not enough food. My favorite breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, strawberries, cinnamon and milk (about 180 calories), a double scoop of chocolate protein powder (400 calories) with water and a little milk (30 calories), and scrambled egg whites (60 calories) with one whole egg for taste (70 calories) and a shot of espresso or a tall glass of black coffee (fresh ground). That's a crap ton of food, nearly 750 calories, and it enables me to go do my physically demanding job without getting hungry or tired, or burning muscle.

15. Make your own food and eat at least 10 meals a week at home. 
True. It's better for you, you can control exactly what you're putting in your meals, it tastes better, it tastes fresher, and it's a creative pursuit and a valuable skill. Learn to fucking cook and keep practising all the time.

16. Banish high-salt foods. 
False. There's nothing wrong with salt. It's often used to cure meats and it tastes great. If you eat more than about a teaspoon of salt a day, though, adjust your water intake so that you don't dehydrate.

17. Eat your vegetables. Just do it. 
True. After high-quality protein, vegetables are the most important thing you're going to be eating. But that doesn't mean salads. It doesn't mean lettuce. Vegetables that are high in fiber are your friend, such as broccoli, greens (esp collard greens), mushrooms, carrots, sprouts, avocados and eggplants. Find vegetables you like to eat. I don't like the last two on that list and I almost never eat them.

18. Go to bed hungry. 
False. See 7. Also, when I do this, I wake up in the morning feeling like I'm about to throw up; on a few occasions I've dry heaved in the shower as a result. Just don't overeat.

19. Sleep right. 
True. Get between 5 and 10 hours of sleep a night; more or less than that is bad for you.

20. Plan one splurge meal a week.
False. This is a bad mentality. Every meal you eat should be delicious, creative and fulfilling. You should never, ever, ever feel denied eating food, and you should get into the habit of wanting food that is good for you, rather than waiting for the one chance you get to 'splurge' and eat what you 'really want'.

Well, those are the rules. Now let's examine the blurb at the bottom.

Firstly, I'm put off that he had anything whatsoever to do with The Biggest Loser. That show is demeaning, promotes stereotypes about fat vs thin people (fat people sweating uncomfortably on the treadmill while being yelled at by aggressively slim personal trainers), and doesn't work. Practically everyone gains back, not least because their self esteem has been effectively pulverized by a season of being made an example of on national television.

Secondly, the 'skinny' rules? I don't want to get skinny. You shouldn't either. The best thing to be is 'fit'. You want strength, speed, flexibility. You want to gain abilities you didn't have previously. Body type is irrelevant. You want to improve yourself as a person, and this means gaining knowledge and gaining skills. The shape of your body doesn't fit into either of these categories.

Thirdly, "simple, nonnegotiable(sic) principles". Well, they aren't simple, for one thing. A part of gaining knowledge is not only knowing what you should do, but knowing why you should do it. You can't just do as you're told and expect to change your lifestyle. You have to acquire the knowledge yourself, and that is never simple. It might not be difficult, and it ought to be fun, but it isn't simple. Also, as I think I've demonstrated, these principles are definitely negotiable. And they ought to be. A lifestyle should be adaptable. If you give yourself rigid rules, you're going to break them. If you give yourself flexible knowledge, you can bend and adapt it to your situation, be it financial constraints, curiosity and a desire to try new things, moving to a different country or going on vacation and being surrounded by different foods, or anything else.

Long story short, don't base your value on your appearance, and don't let anyone else tell you what to do. If you want to accomplish something, accomplish it yourself. That includes acquiring the knowledge, as well as keeping up the motivation.


  1. I've heard that vegetables (assuming variety and not just lettuce, potatoes etc) basically have the perfect amount of protein for a normal person. Your thoughts?

    1. OMG, pure nonsense! It's difficult to get enough protein eating high-quality sources (chicken breast, cottage cheese, etc). Eating just vegetables is going to severely deprive you. You should be eating as many grams of protein as there are pounds in your goal weight (so if you want to weigh 160lbs, you should eat 160g of protein a day).

  2. Oh and I agree about splurge meals - I imagine you'd only feel the need to have that 'planned' if you felt deprived by your diet.