I will say the word “weight” a lot in this post, but I want you to understand that you can lose weight by cutting off your head. The primary goal should be fat loss and not just “weight” as this could mean anything. I’ve been over the finer details concerning the difference in the two and how we achieve the desired fat loss over just weight loss already, but if needed I will expand on it again in future posts.
No specific macronutrient is going to make you gain weight unless you eat an overabundance of calories (being from whatever source) in comparison to your energy expenditure.
This means if your energy intake is HIGHER than your energy output you will GAIN weight. If your energy intake is LOWER than your energy output then you will LOSE weight.
This can be achieved through a variety of ways from increasing your activity (more energy output) to eating smaller portions (less energy intake) or you could combine both methods. The road you take is up to you, but I suggest that you find the activities you enjoy for more energy output or you’re going to hate increasing your activity level.
Like to dance? Shake your money maker. Like to be strong? Lift some heavy ass weights. Like the water? Swim, row, kayak. Like to swing back and forth and do pull-ups? Try crossfit. (Please don’t throw paleo creampuffs at me. Srs.) It doesn’t matter what you do to increase your energy output as long as it’s more than what you’re doing now.
This is how I became a powerlifter. I started as a runner then became a marathon runner. I hate running. I loathe it. I found out I loved lifting weights and then I was bit by the iron bug and never looked back.
If you think you can’t lose weight and you don’t track your calories and/or macronutrients and you haven’t tried to increase your activity level then you’ve never tried to lose weight appropriately.
I want you to be healthy. I want you to be successful. I want you to achieve your goals. I want you to have the knowledge to be and do these things.
I was asked to do an interview through an e-mail exchange a few months back for an individual that would be submitting it to their university’s website and newspaper. There’s some good information in here and since I get a lot of these same questions in e-mail I thought I’d post it up to let you read through it. Enjoy.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, what you do, and what made you decide to start thespartanwarrior.com
My name is Daniel Brown and I am a student, powerlifter, coach, nutrition consultant, and am still in the process of seeking further education in nutrition and exercise science.
I started my website, TheSpartanWarrior.com, first as a blog to track my own personal experiences with fitness but soon found that I had a platform to enable me to reach a broader audience and assist others in their desire to better themselves. This has led me to transition from a personal blog to more of a research based database and website to give people factual information to check out.
Where do you derive most of your information from on your website?
There really is no one place where most of the information on my website comes from. It’s varied with anything from my own written articles to peer reviewed scientific research from nutrition and science journals to interviews and quotes from some of the most respected minds in nutrition and fitness. Oh, the occasional funny meme as well.
How many followers do you have?
Just under 90,000 currently.
What are some interesting things people may/may not know about you and what you do?
I have come to find that many people think that I have always been in good shape or that I was just born into the education I have now on these topics, but that is very far from the truth. I have spent 11 years (on and off) looking for answers and techniques to achieve a healthier life for myself and for others through nutrition and fitness. More than half of my life was actually spent overweight and thoroughly unhappy struggling to find the right answers. Through those years I learned a great deal from mistakes, misinformation, and practice though so I would not have it any other way.
Something else that most people would not guess, I suppose, is that I’m also a pretty big geek. I’m a huge cinephile and I play video games quite often. I even worked in the video game industry for nearly 6 years before transitioning to a full-on focus of nutrition and exercise sciences.
You offer a page with “Nutrition for Newbies” what are some important tips you can suggest to men and women who are looking to lose significant amounts of weight?
The first step is easily the hardest. You have to make the decision that you want to change and that this decision is important enough to fully dedicate yourself to day in and day out.
Secondly, it’s all about baby steps. Too many people try to dive in head first and become so overwhelmed by a massive amount of change in diet and activity that they don’t stick to a plan. My initial recommendation is to seek out something that gets you more active on a regular basis that you can find some sort of enjoyment in doing. This could literally be anything from lifting weights to playing Dance Dance Revolution. No amount of “more” activity is bad in the beginning.
Then comes what is truly most importantly in my eyes. Get a better understanding of the basics of nutrition. Ever read a nutrition label and it was like looking at a foreign language? That’s a big problem. I have a few pages in my nutrition articles that are great primers for all your basic nutrition information needs.
What are the common misconceptions you find people have about weight loss?
Nutrition in general is just full of one misconception after another. The amount of misinformation and inaccuracies that people blindly follow is astounding. One of the biggest ones I see daily is that people follow diets that completely cut out entire food groups or macronutrients. Going from a diet where you eat anything and everything to an extremely restrictive diet is simply setting yourself up for disaster and failure. Psychologically that will play havoc with discipline in being able to follow the diet and having the ability to stay satisfied with your new lifestyle.
For a person who is trying to make a drastic lifestyle change, do you feel it is more effective to take a monitored approach as opposed to a self-started regime?
Everyone is going to be different in this regard. Some will find it extremely beneficial to have someone coach them through the beginning, but the problem here is finding a coach with adequate knowledge to guide a beginner down a path that will lead them to a lifetime of success. Sadly, there aren’t many coaches out there that live up to that type of expectation.
Many people hire a coach or personal trainer to provide them with sparks of motivation. No person or one thing is going to provide someone with the motivation and discipline they need day in and day out to make a change like this. There really has to be an internal driving force of passion to make the changes necessary. Motivation comes from within and if you can’t push yourself to take the necessary steps in staying driven, persistent, and disciplined to what you’re doing then no one else will be able to help you. This applies to all avenues of your life.
Do you believe that the BMI is an accurate representation of the average weight a person should fall into based on their age, gender and height? What are some flaws that need to be adjusted and how so?
I’m in the boat here of doing away with the BMI scale overall… However, it can be useful for some of the population, but there are going to be many instances where it becomes completely flawed. For example, a person with lower body fat levels and a good amount of lean muscle mass is going to have a higher BMI reading giving the indication they are overweight. Lots of athletes and bodybuilders will fall victim to that problem. The BMI scale uses height, weight and age. You would think waist circumference would be of greater importance for a system to determine if someone is overweight.
How would you suggest one determine their weight loss goal?
Most people fixate on a random number they want to see on a scale or a number of pounds they would like to lose. Whereas this can be a great initial motivator I believe that relying on a number to determine how you feel, which most do, is absurd. You’re going to become obsessed with that scale and that can be quite destructive. All of my trainees focus on a day to day understanding of how they’re feeling and how they look from seeing themselves in a mirror and comparing their progress pictures over time.
Setting a weight loss goal is quite individual. I usually attempt to steer people more towards how clothes fit and measurements as those are going to be more reliable for fat loss. This also takes a lot of the pressure away from seeing a certain number on the scale. I truly believe that doing away with the scale is healthier in the long run.
Don’t make your worth about a number displayed under your feet. Make your worth about your ability to strive towards goals in the weight room, the track, or in something that you can make progress in linearly.
What are some key foods and ingredients you recommend for weight loss and why?
Most people that are overweight are so because their diet (nutritional intake) is wrecked. Primarily this is due to an over consumption of food and not necessarily because their diet is lacking specific foods. However, I will say that anyone wanting to be healthier overall should include more whole foods into their diet. Everyone should be getting a better balance of foods coming from a variety of places such as: lean protein sources, vegetables, fruits, and fibrous carbohydrates.
What are some foods and ingredients to avoid?
I am rather largely known as someone that champions the idea that everything is okay to consume as long as it’s done in moderation. I think there’s a lot of psychological relief that comes with that mentality for people striving for fat loss. This most definitely aides in winning the psychological battle, which I believe is the most important part of the game.
Now, I don’t want to leave someone without an easy answer here so to make things simple I would generally tell someone that asked this question to try and cut out a majority of processed foods that they eat, to stay away from empty calories coming in the form of liquids like non diet sodas and most condiments, and try to manage the way their food is prepared by going for healthier options like grilled over fried. Small amounts of these “not as good for you” options are still okay as long it’s done infrequently.
Do you feel that a lot of people lack proper nutrition education and would you say this is a problem with public health in general? What are some of the growing concerns about health and active living you find cripples North Americans?
Absolutely. The lack of education among the general population is what I consider to be the largest problem. Frankly, I believe this is a major attributing factor to the rising rates of obesity in children and adults. The majority of people simply just don’t know any better. Also, as a nation we just aren’t active like we should be. We’re damning ourselves to be overweight by over consumption of food coupled with the lack of activity. This sedentary lifestyle can be linked to how lazy we have become. Video games, smart phones, computers, TV, etc. People don’t have to leave their couch to order a pizza and get hours of entertainment. Hell, people will drive two blocks to go to a Starbucks instead of walking. These same people don’t seem to have a reason to move until their faced with things like heart disease, diabetes, and death.
There are a lot of weight loss programs out there like Weight Watchers that offers people ideas on how to eat better while constraining the amounts of food you consume and incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. Would you say this is an effective way to lose weight? Are there better alternatives?
Well, eating less overall and becoming more active are the winning factors to weight loss, so they (Weight Watchers) are definitely on the right track. I think it’s a great starting point for a lot of people. Weight Watchers is actually one of the programs I like best because of their philosophy of not really restricting the types of food, but the amount of food. Unfortunately, like all dieting programs, it lacks in educating the people that use the program more. Nothing is ever going to oust proper education as the most effective way to get healthier. Another program that I would recommend is the DASH diet, which again is just a diet that wants you to restrict calories and eat more whole foods.
What should people be skeptical of when they join weight loss programs?
Everything. Be skeptical of everything in this industry. More specifically, if a program seems overly complicated, gimmicky, or restricts entire types of foods or macronutrients then those should be major red flags. Getting healthy shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg either so stay away from programs that are high in price.
What are some of the best tips to keep people motivated and on track when they are trying to lose weight?
Something important to remember is that it’s not going to happen overnight. Dedication and discipline are the two most important things to keep in mind. Something I’ve always reminded my trainees when they don’t feel like working out is that you really never regret going to the gym, but you’ll always regret it not going.
Nothing worth having is handed to you. Put in hard work, stay patient, and the results will come.
How does one determine how much physical activity they need to do?
The general population should just focus on doing more than what they are currently doing. As a beginner I would start by aiming for three to four days a week of thirty minutes to an hour of some form of extracurricular activity or exercise to increase the heart rate.
A lot of people look at numbers and sometimes don’t realize that what they are losing is water weight and not fat. How does one work at losing fat and what is some basic information one needs to know?
The people that I come across most that obsess over weight loss numbers are going to be those that are addicted to cardio. They also are typically the people that seem to find themselves watching their weight on the scale bounce up and down due to water fluctuations. This is a simple fix. I would reserve doing cardio for improving cardiovascular health and not as the primary means to weight loss. Sounds crazy, right? There is a time and a place for cardio and sadly the majority of people use it in the wrong way. I’m not saying that it’s not an effective way to lose weight, because it most certainly can be. The problem is that most use it as their only means for weight loss or to make up for a poor diet and there are better ways to go about it.
In terms of determining fat loss when water weight fluctuation can be an issue a measuring tape is going to be much more accurate than a scale.
Do you believe in using supplements? How does a person know which supplements to take? What are some you suggest?
Supplements can be beneficial for some, but are not necessary for all. Unfortunately, most supplements are practically worthless in the grand scheme of things. I see the supplement industry as a big joke full of scams and lies. The benefit of supplements is more found in their convenience, but they are not and should be used as a direct replacement for whole foods and a properly balanced diet only as a means to make sure you’re getting everything you need.
Determining what supplements to take as a beginner can be quite overwhelming. The reason being is that a lot of people want results from a bottle or a magic pill. They want a shortcut. Well, news flash everyone there is no shortcut. Putting in hard work and following a good diet are what will get you the results you seek over time.
Typically, I don’t suggest a lot for people outside of whey protein, creatine monohydrate, a good multi-vitamin, and then whatever else the person may be individually deficient in determined by their average dietary intake or locale.
What are some emotional things you feel people struggle with that prevent them from being successful and altering their health choices?
There is way too much of people comparing themselves to others. It is human nature for us to do this, but people put entirely too much focus into trying to look like someone else that is at their peak condition as opposed to just wanting to feel better and get healthier themselves. Those people that are often getting compared to like models, actors/actresses, bodybuilders, and athletes have worked for years and years on their physiques and aren’t always built using the same methods that the general population have access to. It’s okay to be inspired by other people, but keep your focus on yourself. Try not to compare your weaknesses with the strengths of others.
What’s the hardest part about losing weight?
Weight isn’t that hard to lose. You can chop off your legs and.. voila!.. weight loss. A shift in energy balance is all it takes for weight loss. However, finding the balance of fat loss and retaining lean muscle (fat free) mass can be tricky and that is what should be the goal.
In the long run the hardest part is going to be having the dedication day in and day out to be proactive in achieving your goals. No one can give this to you. You have to wake up every single day with the passion to make a difference in your own life.
Dear American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),
Last week, reinvigorated by some fresh young blood, season 14 of the prime-time weight loss extravaganza known as The Biggest Loser enjoyed its most watched premiere in its nine-year history. And when I say young blood I mean it, as this season marks the first time that The Biggest Loser has included children in the mix — two 13-year-olds and one 16-year-old round out the cast.
While I personally find the show to be an emotionally and physically abusive, misinformative, horror show, it’s clearly beloved and trusted by many — that record premiere was reported to have been viewed by over 7-million people. And while my personal opinions shouldn’t concern you, the peer-reviewed medical literature stemming from The Biggest Loser, as well as the AAP’s implicit endorsement of the show, should.
Perhaps not surprisingly given what appears to be the overarching theme of the show — that obesity is the individually controlled consequence of gluttony and laziness — a study published in the journal Obesity this past May demonstrated that watching even a single episode of The Biggest Loser dramatically increased hateful weight bias among viewers — an effect that was heightened among non-overweight viewers.
Given this season’s causal billing as a “big, bold mission: to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic head-on,” no doubt viewers are going to be looking to the teachings of The Biggest Loser to help with their children’s struggles. Therefore along with being taught that obesity is treatable by means of incredible amounts of vomit-inducing exercise, severe dietary restriction, and never-ending servings of guilt and shame, the medical literature suggests viewers will also be taught that failure is an obese child’s personal choice — something that their bullies have been saying forever. Indeed increasing hateful weight bias is the last thing America’s already over-bullied overweight children need as a recent study on bullying published in the journal Pediatrics found that the odds for being bullied for an overweight child were 63 per cent higher than their lighter peers.
The metabolic impact of The Biggest Loser's weight loss formula of exercising a minimum of 4 hours a day while enduring a highly restrictive diet has also been studied. Using indirect calorimetry and doubly labelled water researchers determined that by week 30 participants’ metabolisms were decimated — they had slowed by 504 more calories per day than would have been expected simply as a consequence of their losses. This led the study’s authors to conclude (emphasis mine):
"Unfortunately, fat free mass preservation did not prevent the slowing of metabolic rate during active weight loss, which may predispose to weight regain unless the participants maintain high levels of physical activity or significant caloric restriction.”
This finding may help to explain why according to the three Biggest Loser alumni I recently interviewed, 85-90 per cent of participants regain their weight, and where more often than not those who do sustain their losses have translated those losses into careers as personal trainers or motivational speakers. The fact that The Biggest Loser trainers have gone on record this year and formally reported that they won’t yell at the show’s children is a testament to the ugliness of the show as a whole. And regardless of how the children are treated, it doesn’t change what seems to be the show’s ultimate message: that happiness, self worth, success, and pride are wholly determined by the numbers on a scale and that people, now including children, who remain obese are lazy gluttons who just don’t want it badly enough. As horrifying as that message is, more horrifying that it’s being promoted under the AAP’s own banner as the show has recruited Dr. Joanna Dolgoff as their pediatrician and new on-screen character. Reading her biography on NBC’s The Biggest Loser page reveals just six words in that she’s also an, “official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
The biggest losers each and every season aren’t in fact the contestants, they’re the viewers. By watching The Biggest Loser and basing their devoted adoration only on the proverbial “after” pictures, but not the “after-after” pictures, viewers are being taught non-sustainable approaches to weight management that in turn the medical literature suggests promote hatred of those who struggle with their weight, and potentially of themselves.
That children are involved in the show this year will likely increase the number of children watching and in so doing increase already rampant school-based weight-related child bullying. It may well also lead young overweight or obese viewers to feel even more guilt, shame and self-loathing than they already feel which in turn might heighten their risks of developing body image and eating disorders. Truly, if guilt, shame or self-loathing were sufficient for weight loss the world would be skinny as those who struggle with their weight, especially children, have no shortage of those particularly painful emotions.
Please do the right thing. Speak up about The Biggest Loser. I would argue that it’s poisoning an already sick nation and right now it would appear that you’re in fact fully and officially on board.
Yoni Freedhoff, MD
Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
Faculty of Medicine
Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute