Working With Your Body - The Basic Strategy
By John P. Hussman, Ph.D.
All rights reserved and actively enforced.
The goal of this site is to help you to transform your physique by walking you step-by-step through everything you need to know about exercise physiology and nutrition. I know that a lot of you have “tried everything,” and because there are so many approaches that have failed you, there's a real risk that you'll quit again and again if you don't see results immediately, or if you don't fully understand why your fitness program should work. Worse, there may be some missing pieces in your program, which could lead to slow progress even though you're hard at work. My hope is that this information will help you to stay on track - to turn effort into results - and to reach your goal.
Want to change your physique? Start by realizing that whatever shape you're in right now is your body's way of adapting to the lifestyle you're living. It's your body's attempt to survive. So the strategy is simple. We're going to give your body a very specific “environment” – a particular mix of activities, nutrition, and recovery – and your body is going to adapt by becoming leaner, stronger, and healthier.
Every change you throw at your body triggers a response. The problem with many diet and exercise programs is that they can accidentally encourage your body to defend fat, shed muscle, increase appetite and even lower its metabolism. The key to fast results is to know exactly which actions will cause your body to adapt by becoming fitter.
Maybe you've tried before to get in shape. But for some reason, you didn't get the results you wanted. If you're like I used to be, you've repeated that cycle year after year to no avail. Maybe you've failed so many times that you think of yourself as a “special case.” You've started to believe your entire metabolism consists of a little turtle on a treadmill. You wonder whether you've got the fat gene. You're convinced that no matter how hard you diet, your cells can still be seen eating Twinkies when viewed under a microscope.
Look. You're not a special case. Even if you had the fat gene (common among Pima Indians but rare otherwise), you'd only be burning 50-60 calories a day less than anybody else. Even if you've been diagnosed with a metabolic difficulty such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, you can still be successful with proper medical support. Most probably, other approaches failed you either because they were missing important pieces, focused on the wrong things, or produced results so slowly that you just gave up. What you need most is good information. You're in the right place.
The law of unintended consequences
Your body is an amazing feedback system aimed at balance and survival. Humans are at the top of the food chain because they are able to adapt to their environment. Every action produces a reaction. Every change in its environment triggers a survival response. It's important to keep that in mind when you plan your fitness program. If you treat your body as an enemy to be conquered, you'll produce unintended results.
For example, if you severely cut off the supply of food to your body, it will defend itself by slowing down its metabolism to survive starvation. The body will shed muscle mass the same way that you would throw cargo from a plane that was low on fuel, and it will reduce its thyroid activity to conserve energy. The body will also actually defend its fat stores. In anorexia, muscle loss can be so profound that fat as a percentage of body weight actually rises. Extreme carbohydrate restriction also causes muscle loss, dehydration, and slower metabolism, which is why even successful Atkins dieters can have a significant rebound in weight after they stop the diet (don't worry – the advice on this site will prevent that from happening).
As another example, if you put your body under stress through overexertion and lack of sleep, it will respond by slowing down, reducing muscle growth, and increasing your appetite for junk food, carbohydrates and fat. If you feed your body excessive amounts of sugar and quickly digested carbohydrates, and it will shut off its ability to burn fat until those sugars are taken out of the bloodstream.
This website will show you how to work with your body to quickly produce the changes you want. In order to do that, you need to take actions that push your body to adapt – to build strength, burn fat, and increase fitness. You need a training program, not an exercise routine. You need a nutrition plan, not a diet. You need a challenge, not a few good habits you usually try to follow except when you don't.
Setting the right goal
John Dewey once said that a problem well-stated is half-solved. If you want to reach your goal, you have to define it correctly. See, a lot of people say “I want to lose weight.” Well, if losing weight is your goal, go on a no-carb diet. You'll lose a lot of weight – some of it will be fat, a lot of it will be water, and a dangerous amount will be muscle tissue. You'll lose weight quickly, but you'll slow your metabolism and gain fat more quickly once you go off the diet. Trust me on this. I've been there, done that.
The problem is that you've set the wrong goal. If you want to look better, have more energy and enjoy better health, the goal is not simply to “lose weight.” The goal is to improve your fitness level and body composition. That means losing fat, improving your aerobic capacity, training your strength and defending your muscle tissue. You can't do that with a no-carb diet. You will do it using the approach you'll learn on this website. Trust me on this one too. I know what it's like to feel fat, tired and helplessly out of shape. The whole point of this site is to help others avoid that, by sharing lessons that I had to learn the hard way.
Ready to change?
Right this minute, your body is the way it is because it has adapted to the lifestyle you've thrown at it, in an attempt to survive. Ever seen the directory at the mall with the little red arrow that says “you are here”? Well, fitness is the same way. You are here. You can't start anywhere else. So be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up. Don't worry about how much there is to do. Change your self-talk from “My body is my enemy” to “My body is my partner.” Accept where you are right now as the starting point, and start moving.
Changing your body requires more than just “going on a diet” for a few weeks. If you want to change your body, you have to make some changes to your lifestyle (which requires some discipline, but isn't as hard as it sounds). If you create the right environment, your body will adapt to it by becoming leaner, stronger, and more energetic. You can do this.
Am I suggesting that you have to follow every bit of advice on this site? Of course not.
It's just that you'll fail miserably if you don't.
Let's get to work.