Today’s post is brought to you by Dan Galanto. He’s an epidemiologist (you can ask him what that is because I’m still not really sure), strength & conditioning coach, indoboard and slackline master and just happens to be my main man 😉 He’s one of the smartest guys I know and has a way of working with and relating to clients unlike any other male trainer I’ve worked with.
In this article Dan talks about how there is nothing ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when it comes to food or exercise and how different things work for different people. Something I can definitely get on board with 😉
If you ever tried to look on the internet, television, magazines or asked your friends for tips to lose weight, you know all too well about people talking your ear off. ‘Hey, you should try avoiding diet soda. It’s bad for you!’ or ‘Don’t wear shoes when you workout, its great!’ or the dreaded ‘you have to stay in the fat burning zone!’. There are so many different tips out there and you can drive yourself crazy trying to follow them all. Some are true to a point and some are just insane. But have you noticed everyone always gives you a hard answer of “Yes, do this” or “No, don’t do that”. Shouldn’t there be a grey area? Everything can’t be either just good or bad. Don’t some things work for some but not for others? Or does wearing a hypobaric face mask in the gym work wonders for everyone? Before you go ahead and swear by the first horror story your best friend tells you about the dangers of diet soda, eggs, full squats, eating after 9p.m. or any popular fitness related topic, try and take a step back to think…
First thing is first—I’m not advocating anything—nor am I trying to stray you away from anything. I believe that if you want to lose weight and you like something or like doing something, you shouldn’t have to stop it completely to reach your goals (See Lauren’s “How I Ended my Love Affair with Pop Tarts” or “Fat Loss: Looking at the Bigger Picture” posts). So before you decide to keep or drop salad dressing or curtsey squats, let’s try and think about what would work best for you!
The main issue I see with clients and their view on any topic is that they view it as either one of two things: good or bad. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ should be taken out of everyone’s vocabulary as of 2nd grade. If Reddit says diet soda is ‘bad’, well, Reddit, why is it bad? Who is it bad for? What it is bad for? If I want it as a treat, can I still have it? How bad is it actually? Is it as bad as a 5,000 calories worth of mayonnaise? Is it as bad as skipping your last set of calf raises once a month? Certain things can be helpful for certain people and not for others.
For example, I used to have a client who wanted to lose weight especially around her triceps or “bat wing” area. A great thing generally to do for weight loss is using large muscle groups at a relatively high intensity so you burn the most calories, right? However, every time I turned my back this woman would be doing triceps extensions (a smaller muscle group) with low weight (low intensity) in the mirror. This the opposite of what she should be doing to reach her goals. So, totally out of character for me, I shut my mouth. I shut it because doing these extensions made her feel like she was getting a great workout and losing fat around her bat wings. This positive attitude may have carried over later in the day and she may have made better/healthier decisions because she felt so good. Therefore, normally to lose weight you would not do triceps extensions as the main part of your workout, but since she was who she was, I felt as if triceps extensions were (dare I say?) good.
Another client had told me she guarantees that she will lose weight if she ditches diet soda because she said diet soda is bad. She never actually pointed out why diet soda was bad, she just sort of told me it was. If you believe diet soda consumption is causes weight gain, think about why.
1) Diet soda does not have any calories; therefore the drink itself cannot contribute to any additional weight; fat mass or otherwise (1).
2) If diet soda is causing weight gain, it will most likely be from the habitual nature of the individual having the drink with a high calorie meal: pizza, burgers, fries etc… So the culprit is not the drink, but rather the food.
3) It is also possible the individuals who switch from regular soda to diet soda still have that psychological conditioning where if they taste a sweet beverage, they expect calories. Therefore, when diet soda does not deliver, they become hungrier and eat more than they would have otherwise.
Who knows? The point is diet soda is not ‘bad’. In the first scenario it can’t be ‘bad’ because it’s impossible for it alone to contribute to weight gain one way or the other. It actually is sometimes an OK choice since drinking the soda may prevent the individuals from having a regular soda along with the couple hundred calories it has in it. In the second scenario, diet soda might not be so great for some people, like if someone uses diet soda as a justification to have more food. The final scenario also is accompanied with many contingencies to claiming diet soda is bad. No scenario is clear cut and for someone to claim that a particular topic is universally ‘bad’ or universally ‘good’ displays a lot of ignorance to health diversity. (Please note the aspartame and cancer talk is for another time).
To sum up, everything in health plays a role. We all catch ourselves judging that guy on the lat pull down pulling the bar behind his neck saying, ‘oh, I read somewhere that doing that is bad!’ Well, maybe (in this case probably) it could be dangerous, but there is way too little information available to tell. This guy may be a swimmer and needs to work an applicable range of motion. Whatever the case may be, next time you read a fitness article cautioning you from eating gluten or less than 300 calories per day—dive a little deeper and see if you can make some sense about it.
If you have any questions I’m sure Lauren will have a nice little nugget of info. for you. A nice nugfo.
Follow me on instagram! @letsdolegs. If I get a certain amount of followers soon Lauren will go cliff jumping! And we’ll post the video!
1. Bellisle, France and Drewnowski, Adam. Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr. March 2007.vol. 85 no. 3 651-661
Daniel Galanto MPH CSPS CSCS HFS