Cost of Getting Lean: Is it Worth the Trade-offs

Evan Stevens

Based on a talk by Dr. John Berardi at Take Control of Your Health/Wellness – Exercise Nutrition Symposium, University of Western Ontario

We all want to look like we fell out of a magazine, ripped abs, tight bottom, toned legs, and so on. But what are we willing to do to get there? This is a question that Dr. Berardi poses to clients every day. He talked about his own training when he was getting really fit to compete as a masters track and field athlete: hitting the track three times a week for two hours, weights three times a week for at least an hour, practiced intermittent fasting where he would only eat in the evenings, and would only eat a very low carbohydrate diet. And he did this all while maintaining a full-time job. He could maintain this kind of lifestyle but he had to trade-offs; he would spend less time at home, less time with his kids and wife, less time with friends, and could only eat very specific foods at specific times. He said when he thought about it, the trade-offs were not worth it to him. But some people don’t realize this.

Dr. Berardi says that there is a disconnect between the people who teach health and fitness and what they want your experience to be and what the client in going through at that time. A lot of the time the health professional become not only a “yes man,” giving the client everything they want to get “ripped” but they also seem to impart their own athletic goals onto their clients. A client may have come to them to lose weight so they can more easily run around with their kids in their backyards and then suddenly they are agreeing to train for a marathon or an Iron Man without much further thought. The health professional or trainer doesn’t tell them what it is going to take, the commitment that the client is going to have to make, and what the client is going to have to lose from their personal lives to get there. A lot of the times clients will want to get healthier for family reasons, but end up spending less time with their family because now they are training for the health professional’s “ideal” end goal. Dr. Berardi says that clients need to be made aware of four realities when getting healthy:

1. The first ten pounds is going to be easier than the last 10 pounds. Your body adapts so you need to constantly stress it under more challenging circumstances.

2. Becoming “fitness magazine” fit comes at a high cost. Both to yourself and others. As well, we need to realize that those bodies are temporary and touched with photoshop or other imaging software. As well, we need to acknowledge that health and fitness is a U-shaped curve. Just as being too unfit is unhealthy, so can being too lean.

3. Most people only need to make small adjustments over time to become lean and healthy. Choosing better foods, exercising a little harder and more frequently, and most importantly, getting better sleep and recovery is usually what it takes. You do not need to be a “gym rat” to get healthy. You can still go have a drink or two with friends and you can still have a scoop or two of ice cream once or twice a week.

4. The end is where you say it is. You need to understand that while your trainer may have goals for you and that they want you to get ripped and be able to run a marathon with them or go into a body building competition, you need to realize that you are doing it for you. What are you willing to give up?

Dr. Berardi said embracing these realities is going to help a lot of people get to where they want to be and not be discouraged when they can’t get to where their trainer wants them to be or look back and regret going to their trainer’s goals and not their own.

Take Aways:

  • The more fit you get the more effort and sacrifices it is going to take
  • Need to realize the cost of getting fit – what are you sacrificing to get to the next stage of fitness?
  • Need to know own priorities first – get fit enough to be comfortable to run with friends or get athletically fit and compete at high levels? What does it take to get to each fitness bracket?
  • Take the long view – a simple plan followed consistently is going to make the world of difference

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