OK, you’ve been through this. You are at the mall, and you looking for that store that sells that perfect gift for your significant other; it’s Valentine’s Day, and you can’t find it. What do you do? You go see the mall directory, of course!
Once you go to the directory, what is the first thing you look for? The store you are looking for? No! Of course not! You look for that big old red star that says “you are here.” Why? Because, if you want to know where to go, you have to know where you are right now.
The same thing goes for diets. So, why is it that, when people want to lose a few pounds, they want to jump on the new fangled diet, rather than finding out what they are eating right now? If you want to find the way to your destination, you have know where you are, before you start your journey, right?
Well, this is a very common mistake. In fact, I hesitate to call this a mistake. I’ve done it all my life. I think, “Hey, there is that ideal diet and all I need to do it find it!” The problem is, the ideal diet for you can be very different, depending on your dieting history.
It’s only recently I’ve realized this fact. What you have been eating on a consistent basis for the past several months to years absolutely determine how your body will react to a certain diet. You can’t just give someone a cookie cutter advice, telling them to eat this or that, without taking into account, what they have been eating. The body does not like drastic changes. Layne Norton got me turned on to this idea. His philosophy is to evaluate someone’s diet, and then make the minimal tweaks to help this person lose fat.
Why is it important? Because, your body will respond totally differently to a certain diet, depending on what you have been eating consistently for a period of time. For someone who has been maintaining his/her bodyweight at 60% carbs might see a dramatic change in physique by simply dropping the carbs to 40%. Such as person would be able to see huge benefits of lower carbs, without having to resort to something more dramatic like <50 g of carbs (ultra low carb) per day.
Furthermore, it is very possible, even very likely, that the more conservative approach, would result in much greater weight loss. If that person doing 60% carbs were to suddenly go ultra low carb, that could shock the body into holding onto more fat. Robb Wolf noted this in one of his interviews, when he commented that cutting calories too much often freaks the body out into holding onto more fat.
If you want more convincing of the gradual approach, take the the strange story of Sarah Strange (sorry Sarah, I just had to do it!). She was doing very well on ultra low carb for a very long time, until…she started to have problems. So, she tried adding back in carbs and got very adverse results, including inflammation and fat gain. She tried many different things, including carb backloading and Carb Nite, all to no avail. It was once she got advice from Layne Norton, to add back in tiny increments of 10 g of carbs per week, that the issue got resolved. In the end, she was able to eat carbs without any of the adverse effects. She lost 6 lbs of fat, to boot!
You may be thinking, why do the gradual approach? Just jump right in and accelerate the results. Well, Sarah tried the higher carb and tried sticking it out for a long time. She actually went 3 months without any alleviation of her adverse symptoms. Yet, by simply introducing carbs in tiny amounts, she was able to conquer the problem in 5 weeks. The gradual approach works! And, it works much faster!
What does that mean for us? It means, don’t be so quick to say, such and such approach doesn’t work. Your first line of business is to track your intake. Use MyFitnessPal, notepad, spreadsheet or whatever you want, and figure out what you are eating right now.
The first time I did this, the results surprised me. I always assumed I was consuming plenty of protein. I eat animal protein in the form of beef, eggs, chicken or fish, almost every meal. But, when I actually tracked it, I found that I was falling far short of the 1 g per lb of bodyweight recommended for weight trainers. Once I made sure to meet that requirement, I found myself very satiated and the cravings for sweets and carbs reduced dramatically.
The lesson? Know where you are. If you take the effort to find out, you may be very surprised to find out you’re in the dietary equivalent of Timbuktu. The road back from Timbuktu vs. Peoria can be very different. If you are currently eating SAD (Standard American Diet), it may take only a few minor changes to bring on dramatic effects. In fact, it might even get you faster results in the short term, than more drastic measures. More on this gradual approach later…