I just came back from The Fitness Summit in Kansas City. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a yearly summit that takes place in Kansas City featuring lectures from the world’s best fitness folks, such as Eric Cressey, Alan Aragon, and Mike Nelson. These lecturers showed incredible insight in the realm of exercise and nutrition by combining science and their extensive real-world experience.
I was going to use this post-summit blog post in order to go through the highlights, but I have a much more important message in mind.
These last two years with Fitocracy have given my partner Brian and I an amazing look at the fitness industry – perhaps one of the most holistic. We’ve been able to observe the way people approach exercise, the obesity problem, and the state of the fitness industry.
This industry is incredibly broken. It’s been unable to help a majority of people live healthier lives.
The dichotomy between The Fitness Summit’s awesomeness and the industry’s brokenness made me ponder. During the plane ride back and into the next day I racked my brains, creating a brain dump of two years worth of insight around fitness failure.
Why do some people succeed at fitness while others fail miserably? If there were ever a subject I could be called “obsessed” with, this would be it.
This subject pains me greatly; it pains me, because if people simply internalized the things I'm about to say, obesity would cease to be an epidemic.
Yet even the smartest people think about fitness in the wrong way. They'll often reduce fitness down to “eating less and moving more.”
As an example, I’ll often see the smartest tech minds in Silicon Valley become enamored by the latest fitness gadget. These same people constantly struggle to get fit, as evidenced by the tweets from these very same devices. (This also leads me to believe that there is no correlation between fitness IQ and actual IQ, but that’s a different subject altogether.)
You see, the biggest myth in all of fitness and nutrition is that people fail because they're lazy about exercise... that they fail because they didn't have the willpower to "eat less, move more."
Whoops, one month since my last post. IIRC, it took me two months to blog again the last time, so I'd like think I'm still getting better at this.
Note: Despite all of the resources on scale weight, the "whoosh effect," bloat, and whatnot, I've yet to find a comprehensive guide that addresses the finer parts of fat loss interpretation for both the trainee and the coach. This is my attempt at such.
There are few morning things that have the power to absolutely dictate my mood for the day. A loss in my fantasy league, for example, will pretty much ensure that I'm scowling even on the nicest of days.
More relevant thing to you, my dear reader, is the number that I see when I step on the scale while I'm on a fat loss diet.
Fortunately the scale reading is only a number. Like all pieces of data, this number may or may not be an accurate reflection of whether or not you are losing fat.
Let's look at problems with over relying on your scale weight and how we can better interpret said weight.
"Love ya, brah," I said hugging Brian as we stepped out of our interview with Bloomberg TV.
This was arguably the coolest coverage we've been fortunate enough to do as founders, and yet this wasn't without a tinge of sadness.
That's because this might be the last time that we appear in the media together.
I made the decision to withdraw from my daily role at Fitocracy. Effective immediately I will no longer be an employee of the company that I started three years ago with my college best friend.
I started off as Fitocracy's CTO (we're all glad that phase is over) with a limited understanding of fitness (I'd only coached half a dozen clients) and zero understanding of the fitness space. Since then, I moved into the role of Chief Growth Officer where I oversaw analytics and helped forge a number of partnerships including one with the Great Oak himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As my most astute readers already know, I don't think that exercise – especially cardio – in and of itself is a very viable solution to weight loss. In fact, I'd go as far as to make the argument that exercise is not necessarily for everyone just starting out with fitness.
Now, I'm probably in disagreement with 99% of the population here (which should tell you something about going against the grain, since I probably get the top 1% of results from sedentary individuals), but I'm not alone.
I've written about this before. Cardio is just not a good ROI of your time, because it's not an effective weight loss therapy. And thankfully, other reputable folk have a similar opinion.
Yet, I've also met a non-trivial amount of people in the wild who claim to have lost weight with exercise – mostly cardio – and no explicit dietary intervention. (I can only name one person who claims that she dropped a considerable amount of weight from strength training alone with no dietary intervention.) These stories cannot automatically be disregarded.
Naturally, this got me thinking. Is there a certain cohort out there that successfully loses weight from exercise alone? If so, what's different about them?
Women, especially short women, seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to fat loss. Despite seemingly-endless amounts of cardio and dieting, it is really fucking hard for some women to lose fat, especially once they start to plateau.
You're probably saying "duh they just need fewer calories," and you wouldn't be wrong, it's just that the problem – and the solution – is a bit more nuanced than that.
Jane is 5'2 and 180 lbs. She was once 200 lbs or so, and through sheer brute force, lost 20 lbs from diet and exercise. She has unable to lose weight in the past few years; no matter how hard she tries, she just can't seem to break 180. Due to cycles of dieting and binging, she hovers between 180 and 190 and feels like she's forever doomed to remain within this weight range.
A look at calories burned and metabolism
It's been almost exactly three years since I started Fitocracy with my partner Brian.
In that time period I've been everywhere from euphoric, depressed, broke, not-as-broke, in a serious relationship, single, in a serious relationship again, single again, sleeping 8 hours per day, sleeping 8 hours per week...
I suspect it's a decade's worth of life statuses and emotions.
Anyway, I thought it would be useful to brain dump the top 10 things I've learned across entrepreneurship and life. Here they are.
1. You can't change your character flaws.
(This post is dedicated to coach Ben Tormey for helping me finally kill my inner binge demons. If you are in need of someone to help you cope with binge eating, there is no one that I recommend more highly than Ben.)
I've struggled with binge eating for as long as I can remember.
Some people might be shocked by this, but for those of you who know me offline and have seen me scarf down not just one whole – but two or more pizzas – you already knew this.
For the most part my binge eating is completely under control; that is, I only binge eat for funsies. Let's face it, there are few things more fun than shoveling a bevy of delicious pastries down your throat until you create the perfect environment for mandatory nap time. I take that back. It's more fun if it's after all-you-can-eat sushi.
Anyway, I don't know anyone with a more powerful "inner fat kid" than myself. Here's how I was able to squash binge eating in its tracks for both me and my clients:
I've always considered myself a good coach.
I don't think that's too cocky of a statement, because, honestly, it's not because there's anything really special about me as a person.
It just so happens that my particular set of circumstances have helped to create a rare world view and coaching skill set – being a former-fat-kid and a present-day entrepreneur who works 80+ hour weeks. Both of these experiences carry a lot of weight when your clientele mainly consists of normal people who want to make ridiculous transformations.
All that being said, 2013 is, by far, the year that I learned the most as a coach due to one sheer reason – client volume.
I normally take about 3 one-on-one clients at a time leading to less than 10 per year. This year, however, I coached a lot of people via group training. These groups ranged anywhere from 30 people per class (Minimum Viable Fitness) to as many as 80 people per class (Weight Loss Made Simple).