Carbs Are Like an Ecstasy Laden, Drunken Binge at the Playboy Mansion

Robb_2Robb Wolf, of CrossFit NorCal, in Chico, CA, is also one of the editors and contributors of The Performance Menu, a fitness and nutrition journal full of educational information and recipes for fuel, performance, and health.

Robb gave our nutrition lecture at the Rainier CrossFit cert last weekend and hammered home some really excellent information and points that I wanted to share. 


Posted on January 28, 2008

Sue left the following question which I think is important and offers some interesting insights:
Thanks for the great post. It made me think and stop acting like such a victim because of my weight gain. What do you say to the yo-yo dieters out there like me?


The dieting merry-go-round is an interesting thing. So much information and good intention, so few favorable results. One result is a sense of failure on the part of dieters that takes on the likeness of a relationship gone bad. Promises are made, only to be broken and a sense of betrayal ensues. Instead of the dynamic describing two lovers this is the personal hell that many people face. Rosy picture isn’t it!

Part of what makes this situation so difficult is that people are facing tough biological, social and psychological issues when attempting to alter eating habits. All of these issues end up stuck together and the glue, not surprisingly, is carbs. WHOA! you might be saying…that’s a lot to lay on a piece of toast or a plate of potatoes…but in my experience this is exactly the issue. Lets take these apart one at a time:

Biological- When folks mention they are yo-yo dieting they are NOT having a problem eating meat, veggies, nuts and olive oil to excess. Whatever the clueless Mcdougalites may say, it’s not being ON the low carb diet that’s a problem, it’s going off the rails and eating every carbohydrate in site down to the bark on trees! Calorie restriction doesn’t work and just feeds into neurosis. It sounds great and plays into our puritanical leanings but it is a failed venture. I’m not sure why but everyone from the government to doctors to theologians LOVE this whole calorie restriction thing…”Eat less, be prudent..have more water dense vegetables…drink a glass of water before a meal to blunt hunger.” Bullshit. None of that crap works and it just leads people down a path towards failure.

The people who have success with this stuff find a level of carb intake that “works”. This level is different from person to person but it mirrors what people like the Dr.’s Eades and others have said for years.

Social- have you ever noticed that no one says a word to the folks who eat a bag of chips and a coke for lunch but if you have a piece of grilled meat, a bag of nuts and a salad you can sell tickets to your lunch hour as a circus side show? It’s an interesting but well documented fact that people do not like seeing others change or make progress. Come from a poor or dysfunctional family? Did you work to get healthy and perhaps wealthy? Are your family members excited about your success or least bit resentful? We see this almost daily…one spouse starts training and eating differently…they start making progress and change and the significant-other freaks out. It either undermines the efforts of our client or the couple tends to split. No shit here folks…heavy stuff but we have seen this pattern play out dozens of times the past 5 years. So part of yo-yo dieting is that people undermine our progress. It kinda sucks to catch flack for trying to affect positive change and sometimes it’s just enough to slide one back to junk-food (that’s TOO MANY CARBS if you missed the section above). Where does personal accountability come into this? Glad you asked…

Psychological- for some damn reason people have some kind of self sabotage thing they get going. For some it relates to diet, for others it’s betting on football and buying shit they do not need. Whatever the issue is the individual knows better, sets their will for change…then fails, feels like crap and the cycle continues. Some people do manage to affect change…but no one knows what the hell it is they are doing differently so it’s really tough to replicate. A growing number of psychiatrists think that drugs, talk therapy and chakra balancing are not very effective at helping people change. What is effective? Sleep, omega-3 fatty acids, and a tightly controlled insulin level. I know this is dragging things back to the biological but most of the yo-yo dieting, bad relationships gambling…it’s all neuro-chemistry and you either take steps to remedy the situation…or you don’t. If you are not sleeping well (and enough), taking your fish oil and keeping your insulin levels under control NOTHING YOU DO WILL WORK.

I’m sorry if this is a bit of a downer but some things just can not be snuck-up on. Some things require a fundamental shift in how you are doing things…if you want to kill the yo-yo dieting (and most behaviors that are troubling) you need to do some combo of the following:

1-Best defense: Don’t be there. What his means is do not have crap in the house. NONE. We do not have self control, we are not wired for it. This is that deal where folks have 8lbs of beef cooked in the refrigerator and they quip “I’m hungry…I’m bored with this…” You’re not bored, you are addicted to crack and you need to decide how you are going to handle the situation. If you absolutely MUST have some, go out and eat it. Make it high quality and do not bring ANY home. No Gad-damned Ezekial bread that can be gnoshed down at 2am as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Meat & veggies, nuts & seeds…that’s what you have on hand at home. If you are not convinced, let me use this analogy:

Most people feel like they can pull off a committed, monogamous relationship.They can avoid a bit of temptation, and do just fine. Cool. What if you are drunk and you just took a whopping dose of Ecstasy…and 10 of the hottest members of whatever sex you are into walk into the room with you and insist on having their way with you. Refined carbs are analogous to an alcohol soaked Ecstasy binge at the PlayBoy Mansion. If you are OK with the consequences of that fact, fine but if you are looking to affect change you need to know that will power will fail you EVERY TIME. You need to plan and you need to keep your home free of crack.

2-Rally the troops or go it alone. Tell the people near you, be it family or friends what you are up to and that you need their help. If they rally to your aid, great, it will really help things. If they begin undermining you as I mentioned above you need to distance yourself and minimize their influence. Obviously this can suck if it’s your best friend, spouse or boss but things are tough enough. If you let the people around you undermine your activities…bad on you. Your eyes are open and you know better.

3- Give yourself a break. This may seem at odds with the ass-whooping I’ve unleashed but you are only one meal away from perfect compliance. Obviously this can not stretch into an infinity of non-compliance (unless you are my parents!) but you need to take it easy on your bad-self. You CAN do this but you actually have to DO it.

We see three basic behavious in our clients with regards to food. Some folks “get it”. They generally eat what they should, when they should. They feel good and they make great progress at more or less a constant rate. Some of our other clients are still stuck on the crack and generally eat too much of the wrong stuff. They feel like shit during workouts and make some progress, albeit slow. The final group does not eat enough. Progress is stalled and in many cases retrograde. This last group is actually a flavor of yo-yo dieting and it is hard as hell to reach these folks.

Perhaps a line from Star Wars in closing:

“Do or do not, there is no try”. Yoda

Link to this article for further comments and other nutrition information.

NutritionLisa RayComment