Restrained Eating vs Calorie Restriction

It’s time for some NoBull Q&A…. questions come from Mike.  If you have question and you can’t find the answer, check out the FAQ.
My girlfriend is doing Weight Watchers and she says my diet is to restrictive.  She likes Weight Watchers because it is based on points,  She feels this allows her more freedom of choice.  I am trying to create a livable way of eating forever.
Hate to break the news Mike but … She’s right!  (sort of)

One nice thing about Weight Watches vs. any type of traditional macro-nutrient bodybuilding type plan is freedom of choice and ease of use.  Based on a few factors, you are given an allotment of points per day.  You can use those points however you want but as you’d expect, high calorie items are going to cost you dearly.  They encourage lots of lower costs items like fruits and vegetables that have fiber to fill you up.  It goes along the same lines as a bodybuilding diet.
However, what I’ve witnesses from my friends who are Weight Watchers members is they don’t necessarily eat healthy, they reserve points for binge eating and body composition is rarely if ever discussed.  I’m sure this varies by trainer so I’m not making snap judgments against Weight Watches but it’s a drawback in my opinion.  It’s all about losing the weight and from personal observations, most of time, it’s a fair amount of muscle that goes along with the overall weight loss.
Eating less than you consume is the basic law of thermodynamics to burn fat but with points, you can skip meals, eat less and save them for margaritas later that night and still come in under your daily calories.  That’s a huge difference in thinking in my opinion.
On the other side, a bodybuilding diet does not have to be restrictive.  In both cases, points or not points, the goal is to eat less than you burn, hence you hopefully “lose weight.”  There’s nothing that says you cannot use a traditional bodybuilding style nutrition plan and add in some high point items.
Truthfully, there’s not much of a difference except there’s no point system in most meal plans you’ll find for what’s classified as restrictive bodybuilding diets.  I believe most people who use Weight Watchers give less thought to the actual food consumed vs. the bodybuilding type that even if they could eat that chocolate chip cookie, they think beyond the calories and dive a bit deeper.
In the end, you could follow a Weight Watchers plan, follow a weight exercise plan and ensure your protein needs are being meet and be extremely successful.
If you look at bodybuilding cookbooks like the Anabolic Cookbook, you’ll find that a restrictive bodybuilding diet is merely a limitation of your own cooking abilities.
As with anything there are exceptions.  If you were to train for a bodybuilding competition and attempt to achieve an ultra-low percentage of body fat, you would be somewhat restrictive in your eating.  And by this I mean, even if your coach were to put you on a very high carbohydrate diet for intense training while dieting down, you’ll want to reserve every precious gram of carbohydrates for fuel for recovery and training.  You’d opt to skip that beer or wine so you could consume more food such as a sweet potato where you may get the same amount of carbs but in a different capacity.  This is more of an extreme example but as you tweak nutrition beyond just being fit, you will be somewhat restrictive if you want to survive the ordeal.
What do you feel is the key to maintaining your fitness level year round. I have found the biggest obstacle is the weekends, especially during the summer when their are plenty of barbecues and family functions. 
The easy answer is making your nutrition and exercise into routines (habits) without being one of those overly obsessive annoying food cops that can’t stop thinking about food and talking about food and telling you what you’re eating is awful.
Some tips for maintaining a fitness level year round (could be a blog post itself):

  • Making the little things like meal planning and prep into routines which become habits
  • Develop a love for exercise (so much so that you miss it when you don’t do it)
  • Develop portion control
  • Eat slower; drink more water; add vegetables with fiber to ever meal for satiety
  • Check your protein levels; bump them up if necessary.

I’ve seen laundry lists of tips for going to family functions and barbecues but the best I ever saw and one I’ve used on a cutting cycle even at holiday times was to …
Eat Before You Go!  Have a meal about an hour before you go so that you essentially snack or have much smaller portions as your hunger has already been satisfied.  Not to the point where you are stuffed and can’t touch any more food (no need to be rude) but enough that it becomes a snack vs. a full blown overindulging meal.
I’ll repeat that I’ve seen hundreds of articles and sites on this topic alone and all of them are trying to get to to modify behavior in order to make healthy eating and exercise a routine.  When your attitude about food changes, you won’t need to be convinced to not overindulge because it will be against your nature.
In my opinion, all these online behavior modifications are soon forgotten by all but the singularly focused individual.
If you eat a meal before any such event, you eliminate the hunger sensation and that eliminates your desire to eat too much.
I have come to believe that you can’t label foods good or bad, I do enjoy beer, wine, pizza, etc.  Finding the balance seems to be the hard part.
Technically you can label some foods as bad.  Trans-fats for example is a bad food with no redeeming qualities for your health.  But I get your point!
If you know roughly how many calories a day you need, then you don’t have to much worry about elimination of certain foods.  You can have 6oz of wine or a single serving of beer and have six pack abs.  You can have your cake and eat it too.  The problems aren’t good foods vs. bad foods as much as how much of any food you consume.
Rather then eliminate foods, just start to be aware of portion controls and how much of anything you are eating.  You’ll soon start to have a bit less wine, one less beer or half the slice of cake.  If you make a habit of over eating, you won’t be able to escape the ugly reality of eat more than you burn and you gain weight.  That can happen even on the cleanest of diets.
Pizza can be very good if made from scratch and it would rival a “healthy” meal elsewhere loaded with things you don’t know may be on it.  Another reason to learn how to cook a little bit at home.
If you haven’t seen it, check out the Bodybuilding Recipes section of this blog.
Simile modifications to traditional recipes can yield excellent results.
Finding the balance is the tough part but when your desire to look and feel different becomes a priority and that is on your mind all the time, you will start to do everything in your power to make it happen.
Personally I love wine!  I don’t eliminate it from my diet.  But I don’t like drinking a bottle as I don’t like how I feel, or look or workout the next day.  That negative mindset when it comes to overindulging, saves me 99% of the time without me even thinking about it.  I’ll drink my glass or two and be done.  I simply don’t want more.  It becomes a bit of an issue when I am looking to get much leaner and be restrictive and eliminate all alcohol from the diet.  That’s when it really isn’t a balance and it’s more of a short term forced action.  Which for a short time period works but it’s not sustainable in my situation for the long term.  Finding that balance is key.
Marc David – CPT
“The NoBull Muscle Guy”
Author of NoBull Bodybuilding

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