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Understanding Paradigms in Fitness and Weight Loss

August 25, 2009

par·a·digm   (pār’ə-dīm’, -dĭm’)

n.

1. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

One of the reason there is so much confusion in the world of health and nutrition is because people are confusing paradigms.

Fitness means so many different things to so many different people.  To some people fitness refers to body weight, to others it refers to body fat or muscle mass, and to others it refers to eating foods that are chemical free, or pesticide free, or meat free, or carbohydrate free, and to others it refers to getting enough nutrients.  Fitness is a word pregnant with so many meanings.  Because of this, people can sell you on ‘fit’ diets that may not work for you.

So, when you are looking at fitness, know specifically what is important to you, what aspects of fitness interest you.  Know the paradigm you are discussing before you seek out help and then make sure that the paradigm you are looking at matches your needs and wants.  The only area I am offering help with is weight loss.  Many diets offer weight loss through other paradigms, ie natural foods, or offer help in a world of other areas, ie, not only will you lose weight but you will have a better sex life or you will have more energy.

I strongly recommend that you don’t try to find ‘cure alls’ because so often they don’t cure anything.  This is just my experience.  More important than avoiding diets that try to solve all of your ills, is avoiding diets with conflicting beliefs.  The most emblematic problem that you can run into with conflicting paradigms in weight loss is the nutrient deficient versus nutrient rich argument (which you can find here).

The bigger problem with this confusing issue is that when you are arguing about fitness with intelligent people whom you respect you can quite often find a tremendous amount of disagreement.  It can be very frustrating, but when you understand and are clear about each others paradigms, you can at least understand why you disagree.  For example, when I am talking fitness with a fit friend, I am referring primarily to weight loss.  So I might say something like, flat breads are so bad for you.  If the person I am talking to is in great shape and working out all the time, then flat breads might be exactly what he or she needs.  We could argue about flat breads and be stating the same thing.  Flat breads are very, very calorie dense.  From my paradigm, weight loss, that is bad, from his or hers, that is good.

This is part of the reason that learning from fit people can be so bad for weight loss (one of the many reasons).   If you are careful in understanding what you want and what basic principles are part of your thought processes, you are much more likely to find success in everything you do.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2009 1:58 am

    Not sure if you read my comment about your book (on my site) on Tuesday, or received my emails, so I thought I would leave a comment here…

    I finally finished reading your book the other day – sorry it took so long. Had a very busy week and had to therefore read it in stages. I was impressed to say the least. It is a breath of fresh air having someone who has been overweight write a book of their experiences, as opposed to a “fit” person telling us fatties what we should be doing having never experienced our dilemmas for themselves.

    Is the book finished? Do you have a publisher?? I found it a very thought-provoking read, with lots of practical advice for anyone who is struggling with weight loss. I so want to clean up my diet in a manner conducive with what you discuss in your book but I have hurdles (excuses?) which come in the form of a wife who loves me how I am (and hates all notions of dieting and calorie counting) and an eight year old daughter who absolutely loves crisps, chocolate, ice cream (etc) – all the good stuff! I simply cannot throw away all these delicious foods as my family enjoy them so much. My philosophy is, “if it isn’t there, I won’t eat it”. The trouble is, it’s always there!

    I come from a family for whom food is concentric – it is the core to our lives and everything else encircles it. My parents start planning their next meal whilst still preparing the one they are about to eat! My father cannot go more than a couple of hours without food before complaining. And yet my parents are annoyingly thin! Even my sister, who eats more than most males I know, is ridiculously thin. Why am I the fat one? Well, I wasn’t, until I hit 30. I believe that all of the yo-yo dieting has made me this way. If I had simply polished up my diet in such a way as outlined in your book I would have lost the excess baggage and probably kept it off.

    I am slowly going to integrate some of your suggestions into my daily diet, like having thinner slices of bread, substituting pork sausages for turkey sausages (etc). It is the small, subtle changes that really could make the difference for me. If I can adjust my normal food intake by even a small amount it could quite easily be enough to allow me to lose say 1lb a week, without me feeling like I am on a proper diet. In the long run this would be SO much better than crash dieting.

    Thank you. Here’s hoping that it works. 🙂

  2. YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
    August 27, 2009 11:43 pm

    I actually did get the comments and I have been thinking of my response. First, thank you so much for your kind words about my book. It means a lot to me!
    I have completed the book, but I don’t have a publisher. I think I will be self printing about 50 copies to distribute for promotion and see if I can’t develop some interest in the book. The irony is that nobody wants to promote my book because I am not a nutrition nor exercise expert. Of course that isn’t the expert we need. In fact, I a believe I am the exact expert that should be writing a book about this (as we have discussed, I think there are a lot of experts out there).
    I am sending you the chapter I wrote on problems and solutions (along with the chapter on exercise and some revisions I put into the chapter on nutrition, regarding developing a number of meal plans). Ever since reading your comment I have been acutely aware of how much everything is centered around food. It is a wonder that anyone is thin.
    In any case, I think you have a great attitude about your approach going forward. I think some reasonable changes and continuing your exercise might turn your weight around and give you the sustainable change you need. Slowly is the way to go, as I said you didn’t get fat overnight. As well, as you start to lose weight, you will be more likely to put a little more effort forward.
    Is there anyway that you can sit your family down and let them know how important this is to you? Can you bring your wife along on your journey, focusing on fitness, not weight? I have used the fact that I want to be alive for my kids as long as possible as a reason for not having junk food in the house. When I explain it that way to them, they get it. As well, can you shift the chocolate, crisps and treats to the weekend, as a treat for the family? Keeping them out of the house for 5 days and then letting them in for 2?
    Some things you could definitely incorporate would be adding an appetizer before meals-see revised nutrition chapter (and maybe a 4 o’clock meal) allowing you to eat less with meals you don’t prepare and control your intake. See if you can make a goal regarding your exercise, one that will push you a little and give you some additional motivation (see exercise chapter).
    1 pound a week is an awesome rate of weight loss as well. Most people wouldn’t be happy with that, but you could lose 50 pounds in a year. That is just staggering and sustainable, which is infinitely better than crash dieting.
    Keep me up to date with your progress! Again, thank you again for your kind words and if you have any advice or thoughts, I would love to hear it. As well, if you find anything that works well for you or doesn’t, I would love to hear so I can make adjustments to my book!

    Thanks,

    M.

  3. August 28, 2009 7:40 am

    I have taken everything you have said on board. I still have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me, followed by a fortnight vacation soon after, so my exercise and diet are going to suffer. Having said that, I will endeavour to incorporate as many of your worthy suggestions as I can before hitting the exercise for all its worth once more, sometime around the end of September. Just keepin’ the engine running for now 🙂

    Keep up the great work, and once again thanks. My Blog is taking a back seat for the next few weeks but as soon as I am back into “weight loss mode” I will be posting on a daily basis.

    Best wishes,

    Neil

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      September 1, 2009 11:47 pm

      I have been thinking about your hurdles:

      I have hurdles (excuses?) which come in the form of a wife who loves me how I am (and hates all notions of dieting and calorie counting) and an eight year old daughter who absolutely loves crisps, chocolate, ice cream (etc) – all the good stuff! I simply cannot throw away all these delicious foods as my family enjoy them so much. My philosophy is, “if it isn’t there, I won’t eat it”. The trouble is, it’s always there!

      I think you might want to look at something really important here. I know that seeing my children eating the same foods as I have made me realize that I couldn’t let them have the struggles that I have had without preparing them better. I also know that girls have a much harder time with body image and weight gain than boys do. I think you need to sit down with your daughter and talk about healthier choices and getting the crisps, chocolate and ice cream out of your house and instead use those foods as treats and celebrations. I talked about how eating healthier and exercising would keep me healthier and keep me around longer (I spoke about living forever, but eventually I will have to let them in on the possibility that I may not live forever 😉 In any case, I asked them for their help to keep me strong and healthy by helping me throw out the bad foods, and I do the same for them.
      Now is your chance to slowly and methodically move your family away from being food-centric and instead focus on being health-centric. Bring the family in on this and let them know it is important to you. Connect getting your weight down to living the longest healthiest most active life you can and ask them for help. I don’t think anyone can say no to that. Develop a plan for doing this, because I am willing to bet they will buy in once you sit them down and talk to them, so be prepared to take the actions in chapter 5. Set up a reward system for your daughter that includes understanding the difference between every day foods and activities and reward days.
      Also, although you are busy, I am willing to bet you have time to set a fitness goal that is measurable and repeatable. I think a great first step would be to set a goal, develop a plan (or contact me and I will send you one from the book), and post on your blog what your goal is.
      Use your excuses/hurdles as roadmaps to success.

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