Why you should cancel your gym membership

Disclaimer: I am and always will be pro-exercise – everybody who knows me thinks I’m nuts for getting up at 3AM  to go get my dose of endorphins at the gym. So why would I be advising everybody else to ditch the gym? Read on…


With the New Year’s resolution time slowly approaching I thought I should put my word out to warn against rushing to sign up for gym memberships. Here is why I think you should at least hold off on dishing out the membership fees just yet:

  1. Exercise will not make you lose weight
  2. Exercise might make you gain weight 

Those two statements are true mostly because you are likely following one of the two dietary recommendations:

  1. Fitness community dieting prescription of low-fat and low-carb or;
  2. Mainstream government dietary recommendations of low-fat and high-carb.
  3. There is a third option and you are likely scared to death of it so let me try to sway you….

Do you know who perpetuates the idea that in order to lose weight you need to eat less and exercise more? – the pseudo-food companies who fund research that tells us so!

The big food corporations give money to scientists who then manipulate the data in such a way that it fits the expected results. ¹ The media then ends up being the vehicle for transmission of this mantra : “Losing weight is dependent on calories in and calories out – as long as calories out is higher than calories in you will lose weight. So what do people do? They try to exercise the hell out of their bodies and then deprive themselves of nutrition in order to stay thin. We all know how much success one can get on that type of approach : 9 times out of 10 people lose the battle with the bulge because when they exercise as vigorously as they are told to, they  are inadvertently fueling their hunger. They become ravenous, so they end up eating back all the calories they might have burnt during exercise and then some.

How many times have you heard people say “I exercise so that I can have that cake”? I dare say many a time.  And those who don’t subscribe to the idea of “having earned the cake by exercising” and resist the bad foods will eventually cave in as well – no matter how much will power they exert on their bodies eventually they, too, will have to give in. Just look at any bodybuilding competitor who has starved themselves silly to get to a very low bodyfat percentage – once they won the trophy (or not) they will likely inhale all the forbidden high-carb foods (cookies, ice cream, cakes etc) and within days will pack on everything back that they worked so hard to lose. I say this without a drop of judgement on my part – hell I have tons of respect for anybody who can deprive themselves to make their skin look paper thin! What happens next is beyond anybody’s control – when the body is starved for nutrition no amount of will power will keep a person away from food for long.

This happens because the fitness dieting mantra  goes something like this :

To lose weight – in addition to exercise – you should eat low-fat and low-carb.

In principle it makes sense, because if you deprive yourself of both energy sources – fat and carbs – your body will eventually tap into your stored body fat. However, in practice it is highly unsustainable and unhealthy. It’s impossible to maintain this type of regime even for the most committed diehards out there. You will eventually crack and chances are you will devour everything around you in search of nutrition and energy – high carb, high fat and everything in between. That’s why instead of focusing on exercise you should first focus on FOOD as your primary tool in losing the bulge not exercise.

There is, of course, a flipside to this and it’s called the food pyramid that will have you eating 65-75% of

your daily caloric intake in the form of starchy carbohydrates and a very low fat intake of 5%-10%. So you might think this is the better option since carbohydrates, being an energy source, will keep you feeling energized – as opposed to the fitness approach that cuts out both energy sources, fat and carbs. But you would be wrong. For most people eating such a large percentage of daily caloric intake in the form of carbs has an exactly opposite effect to that of losing weight – it makes you put on weight. On top of high carb intake the food pyramid recommends eating 5-6 small meals a day – if every meal is composed primarily of carbohydrates your body is producing insulin all day long to try to manage blood glucose by storing some of it as glycogen in the liver and muscle and any excess as fat on your body. Remember, your liver and muscle can store only a limited amount of glycogen and if you are constantly fueling your body with carbs you are bound to exceed those stores. And since most of us lead a very sedentary life we don’t need that much energy from food stored away. You might be thinking you need energy for that gym visit but trust me, you don’t need any extra than what’s already stored in your muscle. So eating a high-carb and low-fat diet is not the answer for most of us either because it’s counterintuitive to losing weight.

So what’s the solution? Are we all bound to be either miserable for the lack of fuel (low-carb and low-fat) if we follow the fitness industry’s guidelines or fat and sick (high-carbs and low-fat) if we follow the food pyramid? The answer of course is to flip the contents of the food pyramid on its head and get rid of the current, largest section of bread, cereals, potatoes and all starchy vegetables! The largest section would contain meats and fish followed by full fat dairy and oils (coconut, lard, butter, ghee, duck fat, etc), the next level will feature nuts, seeds and fibrous veggies and at the very top you’d have a choice of some berries that are low in sugar.

If you eat LCHF diet you will find that:

  1. You will regulate your hormones – you will end the perpetual cycle of insulin flooding your body every time you eat – this is very important because insulin is the fat-storing hormone. It’s released in your body when carbohydrates are consumed converting glucose from those carbohydrates into liver and muscle glycogen and directing all excess glucose into fat storage. This does not happen when dietary fat is used for energy – no insulin spikes occur.
  2. You will feel full quicker – since fat is the most calorically dense of all 3 macronutrients it satiates better than the other two (carbs and protein). So as a result you will feel content with your meal quicker and for a longer period of time. Moreover, you might even find that upon waking up you will not feel the need to eat. How liberating would that be to wake up and not have to fix yourself a breakfast because you are just not hungry?
  3. You will not experience hunger pangs the same way as when you try to restrict your food intake on a regular high-carb or low-carb-low-fat diet. Your hunger will not manifest itself as this sudden, painful, alarming fire in your belly that needs to be extinguished ASAP or else you might die. It will come on gently and gradually, as if to give you time to fix a meal.

Only now, if you still feel like you want to (and you will) would I recommend that you start some form of exercise. But not necessarily gym-centered – instead start slow. Go out for a walk or a hike that is not very strenuous – as a result you won’t come home starved. You can, of course, eventually sign up for a gym membership, but remember food comes first.

If you continue to subscribe to the mainstream mantra of deprivation (high-carb and low-fat) and excessive exercise you will always lose the battle – it’s inevitable. The insulin perpetually floating around in your system will not let you lose any weight no matter how much you exercise because that’s its principal role in your body – to get rid of the blood glucose – insulin will direct it to the muscle and liver glycogen to be used as energy later, but those can only store a limited amount of it, the rest will be converted into fat and deposited on your belly, thighs and butt. However if, on the other hand, you continue in the vain of low-carb and low-fat – the fitness industry’s quick fix for losing weight – you will sooner or later break and eat everything in sight because one can only starve their bodies for so long until it all goes to hell.

I leave you with this little 15 minute video to really peak your interest in starting with the right tools in the fight against the scale – food and use exercise for other purposes.


¹ I encourage you to read about this phoney research in a brilliant book by Nina Teicholz The Big Fat Surprise. (back to top)

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Mondays will never be the same again!

Today started surprisingly well, for a Monday, that is. I ran into the kitchen announcing a Tweet from Food Bloggers of Canada that welcomed me, along with several other bloggers, into the directory. I should probably mention that I had applied for their consideration the night before, fully expecting to be rejected. Don’t ask. I won’t tell 😉

As I was running into the kitchen with this announcement on my lips, I was convincing myself in my head that this is no big deal and it means absolutely nothing. Then, I promptly checked my email looking for the confirmation of this wonderful tweet, all along thinking: “Well, if they’re accepting people like me, then their criteria can’t be that stringent…” And lo and behold, the email confirmation was there along with couple of extras, like a link to a Private Facebook Forum and some other resource links. You know you are at the end of your rope when…. But in all honestly, I’ve been feeling rather stagnant about this blog, with little or no motivation to post… Until today!

So as I was contemplating this new found resource / community / forum I made this delicious breakfast. Food has been pretty low on the carb side lately due to my sickness that has prevented me from hitting the weight room. Today, I decided, was going to be the day I break this trend and I made a bowl of maple syrup cream of rice topped with peanut butter and berries. 

IMG_20151228_114047463_HDRIMG_20151228_114205846_HDRUpon return from the gym I had all the good intentions of following with a nice kale, pomegranate and shrimp salad. Oh, and I did make it. It was very tasty, but somehow very unsatisfying, so I cracked open a bottle of blueberry wine that mysteriously appeared on the table when I was out working on my back (and by that I mean work out at the gym and the primary muscle I worked on was my back – thought I might make that clear 😉 ). And as a result of the wine dulling my inhibitions, I just polished off a box of Belgian chocolates. So, a nice kale salad turned into some chocolate indulgence – that somehow is being justified in my mind by the fact that I did hit some PRs in the gym – so the glycogen in my muscles has to be replenished.   

IMG_20151228_163356434_HDRIMG_20151228_163345707_HDR So, all in all it was a good day – maybe next time Monday rolls in I won’t be expecting the worst! 

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Gym time

I have yet to write a post about what I do at the gym. So far I have written only about what I do in the kitchen, but I haven’t made it to the gym yet (oh I do have a very regular gym routine!). It might be due to the fact that I don’t feel that knowledgable or confident when it comes to fitness related stuff. I just realized how this sounds: “Not confident about the gym, but confident about the food? So writing about food only so far!?” No, that’s not what I mean. In fact, if you know me and I mean really really know me, you will know that I am probably the least confident person you know, period. And if you don’t know me, you shouldn’t be so judgmental 😉 Just kidding. The truth of the matter is, most times I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just trying things out to see what will stick together and what will fall apart. I often joke that I’m a nobody since I have two useless University Arts degrees, and a 3rd that I dropped out of, that don’t quite define who it is that I am –  therefore I must be a nobody. But isn’t it true that we can make our lives what we want them to be? Aren’t we the sculptors of our lives? I never thought that way, because mom would always pound into us that we need to go to school, find a good profession, get the piece of paper that says who we are and voilà, that’s who we are. So I spend half my life in Universities getting the white, crispy, little papers called diplomas with fancy inscriptions on them until I realized that I was going about it the wrong way, I didn’t find the profession first, I just went and studied languages! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad I did it, because learning English made it possible to comfortably live in Canada. Learning French, well, let’s just say “French” pays my bills at the moment but I still think its true destination hasn’t been reached yet. I am just still working on figuring out who the heck I really am. It’s work in progress but I digress, or do I?

At the gym I know who I am not. I am not a powerlifter, I am not a bodybuilder, I am not a socialite, I am not a cardio bunny, I am not a pretty accessory to somebody else…. I know this all sounds somewhat harsh, but the truth is that since the time I first stepped into a gym I have seen all sorts of people show up and what they do at the gym does somewhat define them. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all go there for different reasons and that’s OK, as long as we don’t get into each other’s ways or impose on each other what we should be doing at the gym.

So, who am I? I am a recreational bodybuilder bodyshaper. “Bodybuilder” just seems like such a big word and all I’m trying to do is add some lean muscle mass, melt some fat and shape it up a bit. I don’t desire to be big (which bodybuilders strive for, that’s why they go through a bulking stage in the off season), quite the contrary, I want to tone the muscles, make them visible and in the process get rid of the layer of fat covering them. Yes, I do carry some fat, we all do, some more than others but we all do. And the way to make your muscles visible is to build them and to make them come as close to the skin as possible, aka fat burning.

So, I go to the gym because it makes me feel good emotionally and physically. I believe that it corrects a certain imbalance in my brain and makes me a much happier person, I’ve tested it on a rest day when I don’t go to the gym my mood is down by 200% compared to coming to work when I have just worked out – on those days I find myself to be generally more cheerful and more talkative. Obviously, I like the way it makes me look – muscle definition and sculpted physique bring a certain amount of confidence back into my life. Seeing results makes me feel that maybe, just maybe I do know what I’m doing. So this is mostly why I go to the gym and I don’t like wasting one minute of my time by engaging in something other than lifting weights. I feel, though, that sometimes that gives the wrong impression of me…  

So what do I do at the gym? I’ve been weightlifting on and off since about 2008, prior to that my exercise regimen was home Yoga and Pilates oriented exercise and some cardio and weight machines at the gym. My routine has changed dramatically since I first joined a gym and I even like to say I have progressed in my gym routine. In the beginning I was very concerned about how much weight was loaded on my machine or how heavy a dumbbell I had in my hand. I did not understand very much about strength training and I’m still learning, but back then I truly was just going through the motions. Today, through research and observing people who know what they are doing I’ve learned that it’s not just about picking things up and putting them down.   

For example, my leg routine is split up into 2 kinds of trainings, one that’s a traditional and higher in weight that includes Barbell Squat, Leg Press, Lunges, Leg Extensions and Deadlifts and the other one is more of a metabolic workout that brings my HR higher due to a faster pace and it includes other squats like Elevated Sumo with a Dumbbell, Bench Step-ups, Thigh Abductor, Ski Lunges, Bench Jumps, Cable Glute Kickbacks, Curtsy Lunges, Pistol. Both variations are equally important in my training, but they do differ quite a lot.

While working out with heavier weights I concentrate on bringing my strength up, increasing the weight incrementally and getting the burn from the shear weight. During my metabolic training I do still get the burn, but it comes from stronger contraction of the muscles, which I can do because my body is not working so hard balancing the heavy weight. You’ve probably heard about mind-muscle connection before. When I first read about how you should think about the muscles that you are training and make the connection between the muscle and the brain I thought it was silly. But when I started implementing this technique in my workouts I started seeing results that I wanted. It’s the difference between “going through the motions” and training. You can’t just swing your weights around and expect your muscles to grow, you have to engage your muscles to make them respond. So training with lower weight I can not only concentrate more on this mind-muscle connection, but I can also slow down my movements allowing the muscle to be under tension throughout the repetition and this gives me as much, if not more, of a workout for my muscles as higher volume training.

So I’ll leave you today with a link to a person that I get inspiration from. You should go check out her blog Your Healthy Hedonista where she shares tons of information about food, fitness and health.  This video allowed me to learn how to use the Abductor Machine and feel my glutes afterwards. Before I would preform this exercise in a traditional manner, with my bum on the seat, with much lower weight and not feel like I’ve done anything. This technique along with strong engagement of your glute muscles and slow controlled movements will definitely leave you on fire 🙂 

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