As you travel along the path to health their are many junctions at which you can deviate, its my job to ensure you stay on the right track. In fact my first job in many cases is to turn you round and make sure your heading in the right direction. I've consulted with no end of people who have put in genuine effort at eating low calorie, but are sadly going in the wrong direction to have any true effect.
Over the years I've been down the many junctions of health, hopefully you can learn from my experiences with them and save yourself the trouble of that extra milage. Trust me when I say that I have far better willpower than you probably do, as such I've tried every diet or plan to the letter, for a substantial enough period of time to be able to categorically know if they work or not.
Skipping meals - BPTT (Before Personal Trainer Training)
I used to skip breakfast and goes as long as I could feeling hungry. I honestly believed that in order to loose weight I needed to feel hungry. You'd be surprised at how common this misconception is, people really do believe that in order to be fit and healthy you have to miss out on enjoyment. Did it work? Hell no, it screwed my metabolism up and left me so hungry that I'd binge in the evening. This led to guilt at over eating, so for a period I'd be sick to get rid of it all (purge is another word I frequently hear). Luckily sense kicked in as I didn't want to rot my already poor teeth. During this time I drank quite heavily which I thought was due to depression, when in fact the depression was actually made worse due to starvation (I've written posts on the links between starvation and depression). I also suffered pain in my right shoulder and my right upper trapezius was often tight and tender which is significant in my current research.
Training hard - BPTT
Around the millennium I went exercise crazy, I'd never been in a gym before and I got myself addicted to training everyday. The benefits of my asperger's syndrome are that once I get in a routine I'm happy with it. So I thought nothing of training 4 hours a day, everyday for 395 days. What did I get? I lost 4lbs in the whole time and all I got was the standard "muscle weighs more than fat" from the gym staff. Great quote but fat wobbles so it was clearly fat and not muscle. It was around this time that I first decided to book a personal trainer, who told me that he would "train me harder and longer than ever", and that I would "feel the burn." I had the one session with him but rather unsurprisingly he couldn't work me harder than I was already doing.
Counting Calories - APTT (After Personal Trainer Training)
I learned one thing from my studies, that it was a repetitive nature that mattered in weightloss. Perfect for someone with asperger's syndrome whose never happier than when following a routine. The take home message from my time at Loughborough University was that it wasn't how much you ate, it was that you ate the same all the time. So its possible to loose weight eating 400 calories a day with lighter life, but the main problem comes from the fact that you simply can't keep it up. The more sensible (but frightening) option is to feed yourself the exact number of calories that you need per day based upon weight/height/activity level. I had a great deal of success with this both for myself and for clients. As usual I went to the extreme and set out to prove that I wouldn't get fat eating 6000 calories a day, everyday for a year. The exact opposite happened and I ended up weighing 10 stones. I got sick to death of people telling me I was too skinny and that I needed to eat more. I never really got the look I desired though and frequently suffered the nagging ache in my right shoulder yet again.
Metabolic Typing - PPTTNSWAPS (Post Personal Trainer Training, Now Studying Weston A Price Style)
Theirs no doubt about it, Price is a legend in the health world. Sadly that doesn't mean he's always right. When I happened upon Metabolic Typing via the Weston A. Price groups it offered an answer to many questions I had regarding nutrition. I was constantly hungry, well you would be with a metabolic rate as high as I had made mine go (6000 cals a day yet I weighed 10 stone). So filling in the Metabolic Typing questionnaire is seemed obvious that I didn't tolerate carbohydrates too well. I became a fast oxidizer, whether this was just psychological conditioning from all the study I had done, or whether it was genuine will never be 100% provable (although it is something I intend to study as part of my MSc hopefully).
Over the course of the next 8 years I've faithfully followed the Metabolic Typing plan, consuming only whole foods and keeping my carbohydrate intake pretty low. It didn't take me long to stop using the full program (online test with healthexcel) for clients as I found it wasn't really providing any real benefit to them. Considering my previous diet in which I consumed 6000 calories, it was definitely a healthy swap. To get that many calories in I had to consume a hell of a lot of bread so anything was going to be an improvement initially. However it did become limiting in the amounts of calories I could consume as their just wasn't a great deal left that I could eat.
As time went on, like so many diets and programs before it I found that metabolic typing just didn't match up to the promises (don't forget my 100% adherence to it). For the past 3 years I've began to talk clients out of it, and those I have found it useful for have only been for a short period before I moved them onto better methods. For a long time I've wondered about where to go next and what to study. About 6 months ago my wife and I discussed starting a family, and with that came the horror that I couldn't and shouldn't restrict a childs diet too much. Did I want my kid to get picked on for being an outsider? But could I live with myself knowing that they may be damaging their health.
It deeply worries me that the state of our food is simply disgusting and that the recommendations for diet and health are based upon profit for business. I had many debates with myself about whether I could really bring a child into a world that eats junk and attempts to vaccinate against diseases that wouldn't be a problem if we really understood health. I started my current study on the basis of needing to find a way to relax my tight grasp on what my child will eat. I was worried that I'd have to stand guard at any children's parties they attended in the future. We also wanted to nourish Jen as well as possible to ensure she had all the energy reserves both her and the baby would need.
When we're young we can pretty much eat anything and suffer little or no ill effect. At around 6 years old I first learned that bread wasn't too great when I suffered crippling stomach cramps after eating some. Now I'm in my 30's I was fully aware that I was suffering greater and greater intolerance to certain foods. How could it be that I was loosing the ability to eat foods that had seemingly never given me a problem before. My goal for health is to once again have the ability to eat anything and everything like I did as a child. I had a good diet as a kid, I rarely had sweets or fizzy drinks but it didn't matter if I had a lot of carbs, I simply absorbed them and moved on. I also never had right shoulder pain...
I set upon two theories, one that I had become a health nut that was psychologically conditioning myself into believing I had issues with certain foods and food groups. I've previously written about orthorexia, a term was coined by California doctor Steven Bratman to describe those with a “healthy eating disorder.” Am I really orthorexic?
Orthorexic's tend to be “obsessed” with eating healthy, real, organic grass fed foods, they never or rarely eat out because they know the food won't be good enough. That pretty much does describe me. Does my desire to eat quality foods mean I'm mentally unwell? I've stated before that I don't think theirs anything wrong with selecting mineral dense foods, however we have to consider both the quantity consumed and our ability to digest. Is your diet becoming that restricted that you simply lack enough food to function well? Or if for example your eating only raw foods, can you be sure your able to digest them adequately. Both ways would lead to a lack of available energy.
I naturally wanted to know more so I took the quiz in Dr. Bratman's book;
1) Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about food? (For four hours give yourself two points.)
The time measurement includes cooking, shopping, reading about your diet, discussing (or evangelizing) it with friends, and joining Internet chat groups on the subject. Three hours a day is too much time to think about healthy food. Life is meant for love, joy, passion, and accomplishment. Absorption with righteous food seldom produces any of these things.
2) Do you plan tomorrow’s food today?
Orthorexics tend to dwell on upcoming menus. “Today I will eat steamed broccoli, while tomorrow I will boil Swiss chard. The day after that I think I’ll make brown rice with adzuki beans.” If you get a thrill of pleasure from contemplating a healthy menu the day after tomorrow, something is wrong with your focus.
3) Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
It’s one thing to love to eat, but for an orthrexic it isn’t the food itself; it’s the idea of the food. You can pump yourself up so giddily with pride that you don’t even taste it going down.
4) Have you found that as the quality of your diet has increased, the quality of your life has correspondingly diminished?
The problem with orthorexia is that healthy food doesn’t feed your soul. If you spend too much energy on what you put into your mouth, pretty soon the meaning will drain out of the rest of your life.
5) Do you keep getting stricter with yourself?
Like other addictions, orthorexia tends to escalate, demanding increasing vigilance as time passes. The diet of yesterday isn’t pure enough for tomorrow. Over time the rules governing healthy eating get more rigid. And if you are an orthrexic, you get a grim pleasure from this.
6) Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the food you believe is right?
Because of it’s confused scale of values, orthorexia leads to a crazy allocation of interest. Have you fallen into this trap? Will you turn down an invitation to eat at a friend’s house because the food there isn’t healthy enough for you? Do you find that obsessive thoughts of healthy food occupy your mind while you watch your child perform in a play at school?
7) Do you feel an increased sense of self-esteem when you are eating healthy food? Do you look down on others who don’t?
One of the seductive aspects of orthorexia is that it allows one to feel superior to other people. After all, healthy eating is everywhere extolled. Orthorexia seems to be right up there with good work habits and a clean life. In this, orthorexia has an aspect that can make it harder to shake than other eating disorders: While anorexics and bulimics feel ashamed of their habits, orthorexics strut with pride. “Look at those degenerates,” the mind says of everyone else, “hopelessly addicted to junk.”
Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
If you are an orthorexic, you feel guilt and shame when you eat foods that don’t fit the anointed diet. Your sense of self-esteem is so linked to what you eat that tasting a morsel of forbidden food feels like a sin. The only way to regain self-respect is to recommit yourself to ever-stricter eating, to despise yourself when you stray from the path of food righteousness.
There are times in life when it’s worthwhile being ashamed. When I’ve lost my temper at a child, betrayed a secret, insulted a friend behind his back, I’ve committed an actual error worthy of actual guilt. But eating pizza is fairly low on the scale of moral lapses. No one on her deathbed looks back and says, “I’m filled with regret that I ate too much ice cream and not enough kale.”
9) Does your diet socially isolate you?
Once you’ve reached a certain point, the rigidity demanded by orthorexia makes it truly difficult for you to eat anywhere but home. Most restaurants don’t serve the right foods, and even when they do, you won’t trust that it’s been prepared correctly. Even your friends inexplicably fail to cater to your personal preferences.
A common strategy is to bring your own food in separate containers and chew it slowly, looking virtuous and soulful while everyone else gulps down garbage. Or, like a solitary alcoholic, you can decline the invitation and dine in the loneliness and comfort of your own home.
10) When eating the way you are supposed to, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control?
Life is complicated, unpredictable, and often scary. It is not always possible to control your life, but you can control what you eat. A heavy-handed domination over what goes onto your fork or spoon can create the comfortable illusion that your life is no longer in danger of veering from the plan.
Well I answered yes to pretty much all of them, whilst I don't agree with all the comments it is at least food for thought. :-)
Its not hard to get yourself in real mess with diets, just check your local bookstore and you'll see its a hot topic with lots of answers to the same question. While I don't think eating healthy is a mental disorder (I truly do believe we should try to source the most mineral dense foods that we can) I do think theirs a problem with people being overly consumed by food obsession. I've written previously about calorie intake and the damage it does to ones metabolism.
Healthorexia is probably a more appropriate title, as the more obsessed we become with limiting our diets the more it wrecks our health. Worrying about diet without any scientific evidence (a paper questionnaire is not evidence, its just your psychological conditioning mapped out before you), is leading to a lack of energy in our reserves, this in turn leads to the many problems associated with low energy (see the previous post above).
For example, my recent foray into specific testing of various system's has led me to understand the link between an excess of protein in the body which can't be metabolised and causes hardening of the connective tissues. Hence my recent tendon issue which has now resolved itself 2 months quicker than expected due to my new improved health. This shows me exactly what I need to do in order to regain my health...no guess work involved. My wife is also amazed by the return of my eyebrows, previously lost to a damaged thyroid due to my life on low carbs.
I'm still obsessed with health (I always will be) I'm just now more sure of what I'm doing rather than having faith in others theories. My child will be free to live a normal life, eating foods that kids eat, but hopefully through my new found evidence of what health actually is, they'll be able to maintain a healthy happy relationship with food their whole life.
And what of the right shoulder pain? Well, as one of my first nagging pains its apt that this has the greatest significance in my new direction. I'm not going to explain why or what caused it as its far to complicated and individual. I just want to say that this was my bodies first signal to me that I'd taken a wrong turn. Its taken me a long time to understand the directions but I'm finally on the right path.
If you want me to become your personal sat nav, just get in touch.