Context (Losing My Religion)

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November 1st, 2018:

– 8am… a scoop of whey protein after workout. A slice of Choco Liquor Cake by Maricar Reyes-Poon.
– 11am… 4 pcs of fried pork chops, a cup of cauliflower rice, a cup of leftover beef sukiyaki
– 3pm… small bag of caramel popcorn
– 5pm… a mix of Tostitos and Lay’s chips with salsa dip, 1 Cinnabon roll
– 7pm… 2 bowls of spare ribs soup with noodles and dumplings, 2pcs Chickenjoy fried chicken (with gravy), Mountain Dew
– 10pm… coffee with Coffeemate
– 12mn… lettuce wrapped cheeseburger, half of someone’s hamburger, Cheetos (jalapeño)

November 2nd, 2018:
– 8am… a dozen or so hotdogs (the tiny ones in the picture above), 5 strips of bacon (maybe more), scrambled eggs, a bowl of leftover spare ribs soup, coffee
– 10am… more hotdogs and bacon, a couple slices of ham, Cheetos, popcorn
– 2pm… bulalo, boneless bangus, pinakbet, sisig, white rice
– 5pm… coffee with sugar
– 7pm… matcha green tea with almond milk

That’s a summary of everything I ate over a period of 48 hours. “Summary” because I might have nibbled here and there but forgot about it.

In other words, I pigged out. Did I feel guilty? Nope. Was I worried about how much weight I was going to gain? Not really. I did step on the scale after waking up on November 3. As expected, I was heavier.

By a pound to be exact.

Did I panic and ramp up my training? Sorry. Stuck to my workout plan.

Crazy?

How many of you would read that list above and immediately come to the conclusion that it’s unhealthy? Most people would. I know my old self would. And yet even with this so-called “wisdom”, somehow we still end up fat.

THAT is what’s crazy to me.

Which brings me to the behavioral aspect of dieting – the part that will probably determine your success more than anything else. By “success” I mean you’ll stick to it without feeling miserable.

If all this sounds complicated, just remember one word: CONTEXT.

On November 1st, my family and I went on a vacation. Together with three other families, we rented a house with a private swimming pool. Food was free-flowing but it was consumed in an atmosphere of fun, love and thanksgiving. Meals revolved around laughter and meaningful conversations. We were building memories using shared lives as bricks and food as mortar.

So why feel guilty?

For perspective, that list above is nothing compared to what I was capable of eating when I was younger.

Now If I have a serious health issue. If I ate all this food by myself due to emotional stress. Or if this is what I ate everyday. Then yeah… shame on me.

Take note that on most days, I lift weights for 30 minutes before my first meal (usually lunch). I eat 2 big meals with an occasional snack whenever I can. Yes, I eat carbs. But usually around my workouts. I also walk about 10,000 steps a day due to the nature of my job.

Some of you will say, “That’s right. Everyone should have a cheat day.” I stopped calling it that a long time ago. Here’s why you should too. Cheat = bad. If I do it repeatedly, then it implies I’m bad. The more I do it, the more I hate myself. What chance do I have if that’s my self-image?

Imagine going to a party or on a trip and telling your friends you can’t eat this and that. Then they tease you. You feel embarassed. So you eat what you were not supposed to eat. Then you feel guilty. After that, you decide that dieting is not for you. Then you eat some more in a state of self-pity.

Why do that to yourself?

If I’m diligent with my workouts, focusing on changing my body’s composition through strength training, my calorie requirements will naturally increase over time. Which means I’ll be burning calories even when I’m just sitting down watching TV. Eating actually becomes a necessity. A reward even. Not a transgression that makes me want to punish myself the day after by doing something I hate. Like cardio.

So why worry?

Let’s use this analogy. Two people go into a shoe store. One is an entrepreneur who has businesses earning passive income. The other is an employee with a fixed income. They both use their credit cards to buy the same top-of-the-line model. Who do you think is going to be more concerned about their bills at the end of the month?

Dieting works the same way.

There are some things you can’t afford yet because your “disposable income” is limited. That doesn’t mean these things are bad. But if you change how you earn your income (build more muscles), you don’t have to work overtime (do endless cardio) in order to pay for unexpected purchases.

Now if you can’t do anything about your income, then show some discipline. Don’t buy that fancy shoe (pig out).

“OK. But you still gained one pound, Mic. ”

Again… context. All that satisfaction at the expense of one pound? I’ll take it. Besides… from an aesthetic or physique standpoint, if my waistline stays the same, who cares about that one pound? Weight is not the only fitness marker that you need to pay attention to.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t avoid certain foods? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t get to my current shape if I didn’t. It may not be obvious the first time you see that list above, but I was still mindful of what I ate. But not to the extent of making myself and the people around me uncomfortable.

There’s nothing wrong with having a plan. But when you treat your diet like a religion, then you’re missing the point. It’s one of the reasons why I stopped doing the traditional ketogenic diet… even though it helped me lose more than 20lbs in 2 months. I didn’t like what I was becoming… a nutritional zealot who felt superior because of my strict adherence to the “law”. But in the end, I still needed a savior in the form of exercise.

When we demonize certain foods that aren’t inherently bad, we inevitably glorify other foods that are not inherently good. In the process, we risk losing sight of the real reason we gain weight: we eat too much of what we don’t need at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons.

So there you go. My first blog post in a long time and it’s not even about golf. I do hope it helps you not just in fitness but also in other areas of your life.

Good, bad… let’s not be so judgmental. Always look at the context.


Related: Basics

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