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For Part one in the series on The Self-Compassionate Mindset see here.

For the three parts on The Diet-Mentality see here, here and here.

Continuing our series today lets look at what the self-compassionate mind actually is:

Outlining it as the opposite of the diet-mentality of course does some good, but you also need to understand it as an entity unto itself. The more deeply you can understand and comprehend the self compassionate mind, the more ready you will be to recognize it, and embrace it in your life. It cannot be something you try to use to ‘resist’ your diet-mentality. It must be much more than that. Remember, ‘what you resist, persists.’

The self compassionate mind is what is left when you let go of the diet-mentality. It is not be to be used as a “weapon” in a battle within the diet-mentality. That kind of mindset just proves the diet-mentality is still the working operating system of your thoughts and feelings about weight control. That is what must be surrendered. And a more in-depth understanding of the self compassionate mind can help you to do so. (Abel, 2015, p.82)

Abel notes that the self-compassionate mind is about mindfulness, which allows you to be directed the way you want to go with your weight management, more than that he notes that anything you do from this place will result in, as we have mentioned, positive feedback loops that amount to a sustainable and regular practice of care, self-acceptance, self-empowerment and personal growth.

To Abel you need to move from externally motivated reasoning, that is numbers, societal expectation, to an “inner connection”, that simply eating right and exercising is not enough, and can even be emotionally destructive taken without this context. Think – just because you are running on a treadmill and lifting weights, doesn’t necessarily mean you have fostered the right analogous psychological habits. It is compassion that is needed, which he defines for us:

Emotional support in the direction of the desired change, and without self-rejection and attack when you struggle. (Abel, 2015, p.83)

This comes from within you, not from external stimuli and more than this, love is required, using positivity rather than jealousy and envy to motivate you to your goals, to avoid the “compare, contrast and compete” mindset from the diet-mentality. Going even further, patience is required, a patience that “accepts all things”, to be patiently self-supporting and self-accepting of yourself as you move through your weight management. These, Abel states are the keys to “endure the process” of long-term and healthy weight management.

Abel notes that often these kinds of sentiments are seen as being weak or soft, a flaky kind of sentimentality, aside from asking why labeling yourself positively rather than negatively is seen as weak, Abel states the opposite is true. Self-compassion requires you to have the strength to be open to, and able to withstand tough and emotional situations, and more than that to face up to them, to not shy away from difficulty and discomfort, as he states: “Real compassion is strength in action.” (p. 85) It connects you with yourself by allowing you to be open and honest and committed with yourself, to connect with your courage and honor, both pathways Abel notes which lead to contentment and achievement.

Therefore the self-compassionate mind, because it nourishes your soul and your spirit, is also the only path to understanding what long-term weight control is about and what it entails, and how to nurture your way there. (And never attempt to force your way there). (Abel, 2015, p.86)

This kindness allows you to forgive yourself for your mistakes and replenish you, invigorates you to focus on your process.

Reference

Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abe

I’m adding this post into a series I did some years ago as it is an important phase and one I missed out of pure laziness.

The muscle definition phase (hereafter “MD”) is the phase you would use at the end of the training block of training parameters previously mentioned to help reduce bodyfat and draw out some of the muscle you have built, for clarity those previous phases would be:

  1. Anatomical Adaptation
  2. Hypertrophy
  3. Mixed Training
  4. Maximum Strength

To begin with let us state the scope of the MD phase as according to the authors:

  • Burns off subcutaneous fat and increases visibility of muscle striations.

  • Increases the protein content of muscles through performance of long, high-rep sets. In addition to better muscle definition, in some instances these exercises increase muscle strength.

  • Clearly increases capillary density within the muscle through increases adaptation to aerobic work, which may result in a slight increase in muscle size.  (Bompa et al, 2003, p.245)

The authors note they are breaking from bodybuilding tradition when they propose a rep range over 12 to 15 reps, stating that on average bodybuilders believe to increase muscle size reps over this range are not necessary, which the authors concede this. However they state that going over these rep ranges will promote “better looking bodies with higher muscle density, perfect symmetry, and increased muscle separation and striations” (p.245-6), they do this by (1) burning off the fat and (2) decrease load with more reps. Let’s take each in turn.

(1) Burn Off Fat

In order the maximize the values mentioned above removing fat is important, to do this the authors state that to do this: “the duration of nonstop muscular contraction must be increased” (p. 246). They state that bodybuilders have traditionally used aerobic steady state cardio to achieve this, but the authors state this method to be ineffective when compared to theirs. The difference, they say, comes from the fact that fat will be burned from local muscle groups and the body overall through the drastic (but progressive) increase in repetitions. Coupled with this they state to peform the program in a non stop fashion, that is “to perform hundreds of repetitions per muscle group per workout. Since it is impossible to do work of such long duration nonstop for only one muscle group, exercises must be continually alternated during the workout.” (p. 246)

(2) Decrease Load With More Reps

In order to achieve the kinds of reps the authors are talking about you need to drop the load to “30 to 50 percent of 1RM” (p. 245), that is by about half of what you normally lift (RM refers to Repetition Maximum and refers to the max amount of weight you can lift by a designated number, e.g 1,3,5,7 etc). Why do this?

At the beginning of a high-rep, low-load set, only a limited number of muscle fibers are active. The other fibers are at rest, bu they become activated as the contracting fibers become fatigued. This progressively increasing recruitment of muscle fibers allows a person to perform work for a prolonged period of time. Prolonged work exhausts the ATP/PC and glycogen energy supplies, leaving fatty acids as the only fuel available to sustain this activity. Use of this fuel sources burns fat from the body, and especially the subcutaneous fat. The burning off of this type of fat increases muscle striations and muscle definition. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.246)

Program Design For The MD Phase

The authors state in order to utilize fatty acids as fuel a large amount of repetitions must be performed, and thus short rest intervals will prevent ATP/PC and glycogen regeneration and force the body to use its fatty acid stores. The authors warn the MD phase must be carefully designed so that it only takes 2-3 seconds to move between exercise stations. Moreover as exercises are often paired together the authors note is preferable to pick an even number of exercises. They also state some basic programming principles:

In the first three weeks, the purpose of training is to increase the number of reps to 50 or higher for each exercise. When this is accomplished, the exercises are grouped into two, then four, and so on, until eventually all eight exercises can be performed together without stopping. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.247)

Fr maximum results the authors note that the ideal MD Phase should consist of two six-week MD phases, with the longer the time spent on MD the greater of amount of fat burned.

Muscle Definition Cues

Unfortunately this will be a straight quote, as it is bullet points:

  • MD training requires that muscle groups be constantly alternated.

  • The same exercise may be performed twice per set, especially one targeting a desired muscle group.

  • The number of reps may not be exactly the same for each exercise. The decision depends on the individuals strengths and weaknesses for given muscle groups or on an individuals choice in targeting specific muscle(s).

  • Speed should be moderate throughout the set. A fast lifting rhythm may produce a high level of lactic acid, which can hamper ability to finish the entire set.

  • In order to avoid wasting time between exercises, athletes should (if this is possible) set up all the equipment needed before the training session begins.

  • Since the physiological demand of MD training can be quite severe, entry-level athletes should not use it.

  • The total number of MD workouts per week can be from 2 to 4, depending on the athlete’s experience – lower for recreational, and higher for advanced or professional athletes. The additional 1 to 2 workouts can be divided between aerobic, H, or MxS training.

  • The number of reps per exercise should not be restricted to 50, as shown in our example. A very well-training athlete may go as high as 60 to 75. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.247)

Below I’ll include example workout the authors provide:

FullSizeRender (3)Reference

Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., Conrnacchia, L.J. (2003). Serious Strength Training (Second Edition). Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics.

I realized I haven’t really put together a blog entailing my current thoughts on what should be part of a fat loss/weight management program. Sure, I’ve done blogs on all kinds of dietary strategies (see here), but where can someone go to see what I currently advise clients on how to manage their weight, and how to reduce it if need be?

Well, let this blog be that.

Firstly we should start with context, I feel personally that the best looking and ultimately healthier physique will come from a combination of both diet AND exercise. I’m currently reading Gaesser’s 2002 book: Big Fat Lies and one of his thesis’ is that it is actually being sedentary rather the bodyfat that truly accounts for metabolic syndrome. Right or wrong, I think this is in a sense an obviously compelling thesis, even if we don’t go so far as he does. I believe exercise to be a beneficial component to any weight management strategy, while potentially not being necessary. And with that context any weight management program I devise will have, at its core, exercise, not because it is necessarily the most important thing, but more because I think it is often overlooked. And when I talk of exercise I mean, where possible, intense exercise – with weights and cardio (weights 2-3 times per week/ interval training 2 times/week).

With that context set what about diet? Well, I think the starting place has to be with some kind of caloric measurement and observation, at what level is really up to you, but if you think you can get by without observing what you’re putting into your body at all, well I liken that to not managing your finances, or dental hygeine etc. These things needs to be monitored, to what degree you decide. I advise clients to download MyFitnessPal for their smart phones, it’s free and its relatively easy to use. It can be as involved as you want it to be, and tracks everything from weight, to bodyfat, to food, to calories, to changes in body shape, to exercise. I don’t see why you would need anything more than this app for diet. Having said that, how do you use it? Firstly, start at the home screen and select “more” (highlighted in red) and you’ll end up at this screen:

FullSizeRender (3)then select “goals” (highlighted in black). From here you’ll end up at this screen:

IMG_5123

Here you’ll add your current bodyweight, your goal bodyweight, how much weight you want to lose per week and your activity level (in the area highlighted black). I would recommend setting your weekly goal to be a loss of 0.5kg/week. This will keep your calories at a manageable level (- 500/day off maintenance), and will get you to the 3,500 calorie a week deficit which will be more than enough for fat loss. Now, some argue the accuracy of 3,500cal deficit/week as it used to be used because it is supposed this is how much energy one pound of fat yields. While this may not be accurate (due to hormonal and individual differences) it gives us a good basis for a reduction and management of calories without dropping too low. Regarding your activity level you’ll have the choice of sedentary, lightly active, active, very active and you would base your choice off how much standing you do per day and exercise per week (for example sedentary plus 3-6 days of weight lifting is the classing for “sedentary”, with very active plus 3-6 days of weight lifting categorized as “very active”). Once you have added this select “calorie and macronutrient goals” (highlighted in red) which will bring you to this screen:IMG_5124select any macronutrient (carb, fat or protein) and you’ll end up at this screen:

IMG_5126Make sure you change your carbs to 40% of total cals, protein to 35% and fat to 25% equally a total of 100% calories accounted for. The protein is higher than your standard amount to aid in satiety and also to aid in the promotion and maintenance of muscle mass and where possible assist in reducing the loss of such. The carbs are still high enough to energize you for hard workouts and alertness with fat being low enough but also within healthy ranges. Obviously the stricter you are in achieving your caloric and macro targets the better your results. But, for the best results, do not go over your sugar and fat targets, protein and carbs you can go over where applicable (allow this policy to influence your junk food, or cheating habits).

This may seem stringent, but it need not be, and its a good way to see just how bad your eating habits are. Use this method to correct them, or at the very least be aware of them and let this become a new dietary habit for you.

I could probably add in how to use the food search engine in the app to, how to create meals, save them and recall them, but lets do that next time.

IMG_5149  IMG_5148

Surprisingly, there is only 2.5kg difference between these two pics.

For Sieraya’s first results blog, see here.

This girl, what a trooper. She has had an intense year, working 50hrs a week managing her own gym with lunch hours worked at her desk, long commutes to work and back, and the stress that comes with all of this and the job itself. She has had ups and downs over the past year and a half (since her last results blog) and not all of her work has been in the right direction. But, that hasn’t stopped her. And it’s showing through in her work, which is steadily moving in the right direction.

Now for some quick stats:

Her first pics on the left have her bodyweight at 78.3kg and her bodyfat percentage at 35%

While the pics on the right have her bodyweight at 75.8kg and her bodyfat percentage at 26%

That’s a loss of 9% bodyfat while only losing 2.5kg. What has been most interesting about her results is that since her last results blog she has put on 5kg of muscle and has lost a further 1.5% bodyfat.

The change has come from utilizing metabolic resistance type training programs and dietary strategies such as low carb, intermittent fasting and such to more bodybuilding/volume based programs that focus on heavier weights and less cardio based training, coupled with high protein diets with moderate carb intake and low-fat. Now, a sidenote, the aforementioned strategies are useful, particularly if you are looking to lose a lot of bodyfat quickly and aren’t overly concerned with keeping as much muscle mass as possible. For example, the pic below has Sieraya at a lower bodyfat percentage than she is now, and looking “smaller” but that is not necessarily what Sieraya wants, she wants muscle mass, she wants to be lean and muscular, a hard combination to be sure, that takes much more nuance.

FullSizeRenderOn the left she is 69kg with a bodyfat percentage of 23%

On the right she is 74kg with a bodyfat percentage of 26%

As you can see from the two pics together, that while she was leaner and lighter in the pic on the left, she doesn’t have the same kind of curvature and musculature as she does on the right. And these are things we have worked on together as we get results from different programs and methodologies, as we find what works for her to get her the results she is looking for.

The same goes for her strength and indeed her training ethic, in the videos below we get a glimpse of the hard work she’s put in with her strength training, as well as her hypertrophy/volume work. And let me just say, some of her high volume hypertrophy programs have been just as grueling as some of those metabolic resistance workouts (as you can see with her German Body Composition video).

I couldn’t be prouder of Sieraya and I look forward to the coming months of training as we start a new block.

Let us now turn to possible dietary solutions. After all, it is all well and good to critique diets, and their practices, but what are the answers for the person who wants to take control of their body via their health, weight and fitness? To Abel it begins with “self-nurturing, self-respect, self-acceptance” (p. 44), that to be able to affect any kind of mastery over any goal including body transformation goals you must start from a place of positivity and acceptance, of yourself and your body. That to view yourself negatively from the outside, while you deprive your body will ultimately end in failure. More than this, these attributes have to be gleaned intellectually, they cannot be dieted to, in the dieting process,  but rather reasoned from before the dieting process even begins. Abel urges that you self correct your diet-mentality by replacing the cycle of negativity in your own head:

You correct the mistakes you are making in your attempts at weight-loss and weight-control – by nurturing and accepting yourself beyond the mitakes you are making – NOT by rejecting yourself for making them. (Abel, 2015, p.45)

This new way of thinking Abel states will create a positive feed back loop that will enrich you, and when you positively perform toward your goals you will strengthen “your connection with your body” (p. 46). The catch being of course that the reverse is also true, labeling yourself “good” or “bad” every time you make a judgement about food will foster a disconnected state with your body.

FullSizeRender (2)

(Abel, 2015, p.68)

As you can see, Abel stresses a pre-dietary understanding and introspection of yourself and who you are, cold hard nutritional facts and practices cannot guide you to who you are and what you value about yourself with self-compassion at the very center of all of this.

Think about your thoughts in relation to ‘how’ you eat, and ‘why’ you eat. And for the time being, leave the judgemental element of ‘what’ you eat out of the equation entirely. Just examine your operating system of the diet-mentality, and, as in the diagram, look at all the ‘branches of your existence’ that it extends to.

If you start to think ‘rationally’ from there, you can see all the irrational inconsistencies and emotional contagions of the diet-mentality that affect both you on a conscious and sub-conscious level. (Abel, 2015, p.69-70)

Abel thinks the “real and true and actual” key to weight management lies in being “process-focused” not “outcome focused” (p.70), more than this we need to focus on a consistent level of process focused behavior and thinking. Abel offers two strategies to be consistent with diet, in that it must:

  1. serve the body
  2. be sustainable

It’s in the self-compassionate mindset that Abel believes the path to being able to make consistency a priority lies, that allows for this to be a process and not an ideal (be it bodyweight/ bodyfat etc) to strive toward. He believes outcome focused thinking to be a part of the diet-mentality, a system that keeps you emotional and irrational and locked into thinking about end-points. Not that emotion itself can be or should be completely avoided either, but on the self compassionate mindset:

… emotional connections with yourself are ‘related’ to the food and eating experience, but not dictated by it. You are not emotionally connected “by” food or “to” food, any more than you could be emotionally connected to your mobile phone. (Abel, 2015, p.71)

That might be enough for today’s purposes. Please feel free to share any thoughts and criticisms you might have of this series thus far.

Reference

Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abel.

(cont.)

To Abel there are even more ways a restrictive, “12 week” diet can hurt you, for example in the way it affects your sleeping patterns:

The quality of your sleep can affect the weight-control systems of checks and balances inside your body… This can become a vicious cycle. (Abel, 2015, p.124)

He goes on to state that many dieters experience problematic sleep, and deprivation is one of the main causes of disrupted appetite and appetite control, both physiologically but also psychologically in that you experience decreased will power (think of it being used as an interrogation technique for example). This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby sleep deprivation weakens your will, thus making you eat junk food which makes you put on weight, which makes you diet harder, affecting your sleep further and affecting your appetite to a greater extent. More than this, diets that tell you when to eat (as in eat after such and such a time of day) can make you go to bed hungry, this can affect sleep:

The presence of food affects brain chemistry and neurotransmitters that are calming and relaxing for you. Without them, and with an empty stomach you cannot force yourself to relax and go to sleep.

But with the presence of enough food and enough blood-sugar to cross the blood-brain barrier, you increase serotonin levels enough to relax naturally and fall asleep. (Abel, 2015, p.125)

But what about psychology? Abel notes that the diet-mentality is about self-rejection, and thinking you can overcome or conquer yourself and your ego, that for meaning and purpose to be positive in your life it needs to be “self-connecting and expressive” (p. 144). So that “being on the ball” with diet, that is to be consistent and good in your eating actually comes from your state of mind, and your self actualization, and no diet can provide the necessary substance for you or your life to ever be justifying enough for you to maintain a constant on the ball approach. More than this Abel notes that when you break your diet, you are actually reflecting back to yourself your own misgivings about your life and yourself, that is the reason you break your diet. The diet-mentality tells you a diet can fix these problems, it fools you into believing such, Abel asks when you enter a diet regime that you ask yourself two questions:

  1. What are the intended consequences ‘for’ my diet undertaking?

  2. What are the unintended consequences ‘of’ my diet undertaking? (mentally and emotionally). (Abel, 2015, p.145)

He asks that when considering the mental and emotion considerations of a diet that you consider your past influences, your upbringing, for any “current triggers”, for example he notes that some people with extreme eating behaviors/disorders and/or body image issues had overly critical parents or an emotionally absent parent (sometimes being an alcoholic or drug dependent). Extrapolating from this he states that current triggers under this scenario might be factors like ” a need to be noticed or a fear of being judged or “exposed” as being unworthy.” (p. 145) Abel notes that an intended consequence of dieting is a sense of control by focusing angst in areas other than on yourself and your life.

The planning and rules for dieting offer something else to focus on. You can “feel good” when dieting because you are proving yourself “worthy” and at the same time avoiding inner emotional conflicts. But then you become ‘externally focused,’ at which point the same old fears (past influences) that set all of this in motion just play out as “unintended consequences”.

You emotionally fear weight-gain, which now represents not being good-enough. It represents being judged; it represents feeling inferior. (Abel, 2015, p.145)

Abel notes these are all unintended consequences of the diet-mentality, and the fears don’t stop there, he goes on to say that you fear (your diet-induced) hunger, thinking you should be able to resist it, from here you label yourself as weak and unworthy, thus replacing your past triggers, turning that hyper critical analysis you received from your loved ones inward, most important and scarily:

YOU become both your own hyper-critical parent and the emotionally absent one as well.

And still you turn to dieting as a way out Abel notes, as a way to “measure and judge yourself within it”. The point being of course that this all becomes an exercise in avoidance, you never reconcile your current emotional and mental states and only intensify and deepen them while adding and losing (but overall gaining) weight as time goes on. To finish this blog series on the diet-mentality, before we look at how to get out of this hole Abel finishes up:

The lie of the diet-mentality is that you believe that ‘proving your body’ in weight-loss will somehow translate into soothing your soul, only it never does. The cycle repeats itself. (Abel, 2015, p.146)

Our next series will go through Abel’s ‘self-compassionate mind’ that is, how to repair the damage done by repeated dieting.

Reference

Abel, S. (2015). The Anti-Diet Approach to Weight Loss and Weight Control. Scott Abel.

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