Every January I inevitably get a ‘Oh-Shite’ call.
The pre-requisites for an ‘Oh-Site’ call is that it usually comes from someone in my circle of mid-50 year old mates; they’ve looked a bit too long in their mirror and there’s a new years resolution begging…
Me: Hello David speaking
Trev: I’ve got man-boobs
Me: What? Who’s this?
Trev: It’s Trev. I’ve got man-boobs
Me: Yeah good mate, thanks for asking
Trev: I want them gone
Me: Both of them? (I’m muckin’ with him now)
Trev: Yes both of them!
An hour later Trevor is at my place and we’re chewing the fat over a cacao protein smoothie.
Turns out Trev’s in a spot of bother after a mandatory WH&S check-up.
He’s got high blood pressure, his fasting glucose is high (pre-diabetic) and yes I can confirm (whilst not diagnosing!) that he indeed has man-boobs (let’s just call it what it is – a body fat % higher than 30%).
At 52 Trevor is looking down the barrel of metabolic syndrome – in other words, he’s leaking oil in the fast lane.
With that said the best preventative message after a visit to his Doc was:
Eat less or move more. Preferably both.
Conventional nutrition wisdom claims that if we create a caloric deficit by either eating less or moving more our excess body fat will simply disappear.
If only it was that simple.
You see the problem with this equation is that calories in (CI) and calories out (CO) are presumed independent variables – two levers pulled in opposite directions to get the desired result.
But the body is complex. There’s lots going on and it’s certainly not black and white.
Now for the most part Trevor is a fairly active dude. Every Sunday morning he road-rides with a bunch of blokes doing at least 60-80 km over 3 hours. He says it’s brutal and for most of his fellow cyclists their main motivation for this weekly torture was to loose weight.
The problem was, he explained to me, no one ever did.
You see for the rest of the day Trev ate like a prized pig – two breakfasts, lunch, a litre of milk here and there and the obligatory mountain of fruit.
His other knuckle-head mates were no different – they would inhale blueberry muffins, chocolate milk, Coke and a slab of ‘energy’ bars 10 minutes after finishing the ride.
This makes perfect sense of course as the body is simply relaying through the brain / appetite pathway to replace the calories spent after prolonged activity.
And, to Trevor’s surprise, resisting the urge to eat was simply futile.
His attempt to force a caloric deficit by exercising (CO) was foiled by an increase in hunger (CI).
Now before you concur that his exercise program was too ‘hard’ thus causing his voracious appetite – I challenge anyone who begins to walk, ride, swim, lift weights etc with the aim of ‘losing weight’ – will find it difficult (indeed unsustainable) NOT to increase their food intake.
Eating less as a weight loss strategy is also doomed to fail.
Six weeks before calling me Trevor went on a diet (he later confessed). This involved cutting out fat and generally decreasing the amount of food reaching his lips.
This mantra is the backbone of commercial weight loss programs including Weight Watches, Jenny Craig, ‘Man Shakes’ etc who all presume a reduction in calories will result in weight loss.
Technically it will, but again, unsustainable.
From week one Trevor was lethargic, irritable, hungry and cold and after six weeks he had lost just one kilogram and understandably, his mind.
Again, the body is no dummy. To compensate for a lack of food whilst still trying to keep you alive, the body will slow it’s metabolism and plunge itself into lethargy.
Trevor’s attempt to force a caloric deficit by eating less was foiled by a decrease in vitality.
What is strikingly apparent in Trevor’s case (and in all cases) is that the body is simply trying to keep you in a constant homeostatic state and will automatically balance your intake (CI) and expenditure (CO) to achieve this.
If Trevor is to shift those pesky man-boobs he clearly needs a different strategy as he’s peeing into the wind without a raincoat.
(Next month I’ll explore what Trevor can do to begin losing his man-boobs without running half-marathons and eating only lettuce leaves….)
If you’re a bit like Trev – in possession of man-boobs and are in need of serious weight-loss advice – drop me a message here and we can have a chat.