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How Fitness Shortcuts Hurt Your Health

How often do you find yourself scrolling through your social media, and you’re bombarded with the next best thing? That shiny new object that your friends are trying, or this magic supplement that the Instagram-famous stars have got great results using. Of course, I’m referring to the get-lean-quick shakes, the crash diets, and the zero-money-down gym sign-up programs that prey on people like us.

There ARE shortcuts to fitness. But there are also a lot of lies out there.

When can a shortcut help us and when does it hurt us? Here are four great questions you can ask yourself when you’re trying to assess the relevancy of whether the “life-changing” thing your friend is pitching you is really worth it:

  1. Is it repeatable? Can I keep doing this for a long time, or is it a crash diet?
  2. Is it non-harmful? What are the downstream effects on my health?
  3. Is it addictive? Will it improve over time?
  4. Can it survive the crowd? Does it have to be a secret?

Let’s take a few examples of past fitness trends (and the stuff you’re probably being pitched on your Facebook feed today) and hold them up to our four filters of shortcut validity.

Weight Loss Shakes

Is it repeatable? Can you drink that stuff forever? No. Do you really want to be consuming that for the next 40 years of your life? Yuck.

Is it non-harmful? Actually, they’re harmful. Every protein or weight-loss shake uses sweeteners, usually corn derivatives or chemicals. On one hand, you’re brought yourself closer to insulin resistance (diabetes). On the other, you’re ingesting a laboratory experiment. Nothing beats real food, never.

Most shakes also use a combination of appetite suppressants, caffeine and a mild laxative to keep you full and alert. Your body quickly downgrades its energy expenditure to match, and when you go off the shakes, you quickly gain weight—and it’s all fat. Long term, weight-loss shakes make you fatter and sicker. There’s a reason you bounce back to right where you began before you started consuming these things.

Is it addictive? Will it improve over time? Well, you’ll probably start to hate taking protein shakes instead of eating real food. And every shake you drink is less effective than the one before (see above). You’re getting smaller by starving out your metabolism. Protein shake fatigue is a real thing. It definitely does not get better.

Can it survive the crowd? Eventually someone will tell you the truth, whether you choose to believe it or not. The only people sharing their huge weight loss from diets or shakes on Facebook are the people who make a commission by signing you up.

The Keto Diet / Paleo Diet / XYZ Diet

Is it repeatable? Can I keep doing this for a long time, or is it a crash diet? People have been using ketosis and intermittent fasting and high-fat diets since before recorded time. And if you’re trying to beat a sugar addiction, a short ketogenic period might actually help.

But the real question is, “Can I sustain this for the rest of my life?” And the answer to ALL “diets” is “no.”
If you stop eating grains, your body will lose the ability to process grains.
If you stop eating carbs, you’ll become less resistant to insulin in the short-term … but your body will learn and become better at gluconeogenesis (breaking down your muscle tissue to trigger insulin response).
And if you eat in a different way than everyone around you, they’ll pull you into their habits.

We used to use Paleo as a method of teaching our nutrition information long ago, until we realized that it’s not for everyone. It’s a great start, but again, not everyone can sustain this type of approach long-term.

Is it non-harmful? What are the downstream effects on my health? Long term, kicking sugar is a very positive thing. But rapid weight loss, binge dieting, or any unsustainable practice will always have a rebound effect. You have a relationship with food. One-night stands with diets will always come back to haunt you. These approaches don’t teach behavioural modifications. Developing new and healthy habits is what helps with your long-term food relationships.

Is it addictive? Will it improve over time? Good chance you become neurotic about food. There’s a reason people with eating disorders jump from diet to diet: They love the feeling of control, and diets give them a clear “good and bad” line. Unfortunately, that’s not sustainable in life, and everyone knows the term “yo-yo dieting” by now.

Can it survive the crowd? Does it have to be a secret? If you’re part of a group and dieting together, you’ll definitely have more success. You eat like the people you spend most of your time around. If everyone eats a ketogenic diet, you’ll do better at sticking to the ketogenic diet. SHOULD you stick to it? See above.

Joining A Gym

Is it repeatable? Can I keep doing this for a long time? Yes. You can join a gym and keep going for 40 years. We think you should do coached fitness, but even a $9.95 access-only gym will benefit you long term (if you show up – key point).

Is it non-harmful? What are the downstream effects on my health? Yes. There probably are no negative effects. Very few people get injured in the gym. When they occur, injuries are usually overuse problems (you bench press every Monday and do leg extensions every Friday) and don’t occur for a few years.

Is it addictive? Will it improve over time? Yes. Training with weights has a compounding effect. You get stronger, your muscles improve your metabolism, and you get better … UNLESS you’re sticking to the same old 3-sets-of-8-reps program you did last month. You need constant variety.

But in general, running becomes more fun the longer you run, weightlifting becomes more fun the longer you lift, and CrossFit gets even more exciting over time.

Can it survive the crowd? Does it have to be a secret? Yes. Discount gyms will see a huge influx of new members until March 13 (the average date most new gym-goers give up and quit, except in coaching gyms like CrossFit FUNCTION, where our retention rate is approximately 5-6 years!) And you can’t really “fill” a discount gym, because their business model is based on members who never show up. We’re the opposite, so we have a membership cap.

Joining a Coaching Gym or Personal Trainer or Nutritionist

Is it repeatable? Can I keep doing this for a long time? Yes. I’ve been doing CrossFit for 12 years, and I still love it. Are there injuries? Yes—the same amount as a normal gym, far fewer than hockey or soccer. But CrossFit has also fixed my chronic problems, has allowed me to do things I didn’t think I could, and always keeps me interested. I’m always eager to go.

Is it non-harmful? What are the downstream effects on my health?  Yes. I’ve been doing CrossFit for 12 years, and I still love it. Are there injuries? Yes—the same amount as a normal gym, far fewer than hockey or soccer. But CrossFit has also fixed my chronic problems, has allowed me to do things I didn’t think I could, and always keeps me interested. I’m always eager to go.

Is it addictive? Will it improve over time? Yes. When an objective source measures your results, they can point you to what is working, and what plan needs to be readjusted to help you see success.

Can it survive the crowd? Does it have to be a secret? No. Coaching businesses are anti-crowd. Because we operate with 1:1 relationships, we can’t take on 1000 clients. And that’s perfectly OK, because that ensures we have the highest quality product and service to always offer our clients.

You’re most likely going to get pitched when you scroll through your social media or talk to your friends. If you feel like you’re being sold, don’t buy. And if a new super-secret fitness method isn’t sustainable, don’t start it: You’ll probably be moving backward as much as you might feel that you’re moving forward.

If you want a sustainable, long-term approach to your fitness and nutrition, book a No Sweat Intro here. Chat with one of our CFF Coaches about your goals, what your expectations are, and let us put together a customized program for you so you can be successful and get those results you’ve been searching for.

Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at Catalystgym.com

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