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The diet secret

By Darren O'Toole | In Fitness, Health, Nutrition | on November 6, 2015

Occasionally I’ll write a blog and know that whilst it is topical at the time of writing, it’ll soon be outdated and consigned to the blogging archives, never again to see the light of day. Today feels a little different. The topic I’m discussing is one which is current and will only continue to be over the coming years and decades. It’s that of dieting.

Now feel free to shoot me down for this comment, but as a personal trainer, generally I have steered clear of excessive nutritional advice. The current trend seems to revolve around personal trainers avoiding the niceties of being friendly, pleasant and a good trainer, instead showcasing a more military-style approach and an obsession with the word ‘macros’. Does this help clients in the long-term? I’m not so sure. Possibly, it aids trainers striving to get their ‘cover model’ clients into tip-top shape (Out of interest how may covers are there to be filled in order to justify this influx of trainers?) but does it make the UK’s client base fitter, healthier and less likely to suffer ailments which has contributed to the NHS being at near capacity?

I’m not a body composition expert. I am a personal trainer that will help you to adhere to a programme which will guarantee that you will be fitter, have a stronger heart and lungs and will discover the joy of exercise. That’s fair, right? If you want to train for a marathon, you’ll get a PB with me, simple! To get to 8% body fat however is not something I guarantee. Why? Well simply put, that’s on you. That’s down to the calories that you consume and producing a calorie deficit through training and healthy eating. Essentially, this means a long-term lifestyle change.

Today’s news is that low-fat diets are not as effective as low carbohydrate or Mediterranean diets for losing weight. This is from many long-term studies involving 68,000 people. Pretty extensive, I’m sure you’d agree. However most interesting is that it also concludes that no diets work particularly well in the long-term. Matt FitzGerald’s book ‘Diet cults’ also supports this final assessment.  In other words, we are getting it all wrong!

Consider also, that many of these low-fat dieters were following recommendations. This low-fat craze led to thousands of low-fat products, from yoghurts to ready-meals being developed. However what was added to make them more palatable? Yes, you guessed it, sugar – the new enemy against obesity!

Calorie control is the answer then, right? Well consider this. A person eats 1200kcal per day and expends 1500Kcals through a little bit of activity, walking to the shops etc. A 300kcal deficit is achieved each day. The result – weight loss! Another person consumes 2,200kcals per day and expends the same through a mix of structured exercise which targets muscle growth and cardiovascular development. The result: weight will likely stay the same if not rise through increased muscle bulk. However who is healthier? Assuming the kcals are from good sources, then person 2 is likely to be able to fight off infections, cancers and heart disease with greater vigour.

So what is the answer? To avoid people eating the bad stuff – sugar – there have been calls, most noticeably from Chef turned campaigner, Jamie Oliver, to introduce a sugar tax. Comedic actor David Schneider offered his thoughts on the topic:


Sadly, there may well be a lot of truth in what he says. One of the major issues with ‘sugary’ foods is that they are cheap. In these continuing tough times for many families, it makes an awful lot more sense to buy a multi-packet of cheap crap than pay lots of money on good quality food. People talk about educating families, but try educating families on the breadline about the wonders of Planet Organic. I know full well that the quality of meal will be better at a Michelin star restaurant than at my nearest Greek Taverna – it’ll just cost me an arm and a leg to pay for it!

So what does this leave us with? Back where I wanted to start in truth – with the answer. It’s the non-quick fix that we’ve all known about and all choose to ignore. It’s a mix of the following four principles:

  • Resistance training
  • Cardiovascular training
  • Healthy eating (limiting sugar in whatever guises – note ‘limiting’ only)
  • Sensible calorie consumption with an understanding of the basic calorie in vs calorie out model

No matter what age, gender, ethnicity or belief system; following these basic principles will promote a healthier, fitter, slimmer you. People need greater prescription, I’m aware of that. However for the general population to follow these 4 principles – it would result on the failing diet industry dying out, less strain on the NHS and a more active society. It’s the secret that’s not so secret after all.

About the author

Darren O’Toole is lead personal trainer at Dynamic Fitness Training, a fitness writer, tutor and assessor. For more training advice, health tips, or to hire him as a personal trainer, contact info@dynamicfitnesstraining.co.uk


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