To Be or Not to Be a Moderate

by Matt Jordan on June 11, 2014 No comments

Article Overview: 784 words and a personal position piece on life long fitness in a world focused way too much on image and status.

How much are you willing to give up for leanness?

For some individuals, the answer is: a lot.  There is no doubt that being lean and having single digit body fat numbers is a big ego boost for many people out there.  For some this comes easier than for others due to factors like good genetics.  For others, single digit body fat is truly a religion and an obsession.

The figure below represents the change in percent body fat over a lifetime for the Athlete, the Obsessed, the Moderate, the Obsessed but Inconsistent, and the Sedentary folk.  What I’m trying to show is the real difference consistency makes versus being obsessed, and where the real problems lie.

In an effort to hit single digit body fat numbers,the Obsessed resort to extreme measures.  Of course many of these measures are effective for getting down to single digit body fat numbers but at what price?  Obviously there are the simple pleasures in life that one must renounce such as a traditional morning coffee with the occasional chocolate croissant.  However, there are undoubtedly many other negative effects associated with extreme nutrition and fitness fads related to health and mental wellbeing.

As we get inundated with advertising and media showing us how we “ought” to look, the Obsessed but Inconsistent individuals really get the raw deal.  Not only must there be a constant feeling of  not measuring up to the industry standard but no doubt there is also a lot of failed attempts to hit an unattainable target.  The perpetual swings between periods of unsustainably high commitment and periods of low commitment add up resulting in a trend over a lifetime towards the slippery slope of increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue.  For the Obsessed but Inconsistent, the periods of extreme deprivation and extreme dieting can only be balanced with periods of extreme indulgence.

Then there are  the Moderates.  They employ simple strategies consistently that allow them to maintain body composition at a reasonable level over a lifetime.  The issue with the Moderate is that their story is nothing new and not overly interesting.  You can’t sell the Moderate approach whether that be in a book, online or in a seminar.  In fact, it seems as though the voice of the Moderate is rarely heard.  While the Moderate’s popularity may have died alongside the popularity of the VCR, the question should be asked whether or not the new iteration is a better alternative.  As far as the VCR goes, I’m going to say Apple TV is a big improvement.  However, I can’t say the same about the theories and beliefs espoused by the Obsessed, which appear to have silenced the Moderates.

The difference between the Moderate and the Obsessed is shown below in the green highlighted area.  This is what a lifetime of commitment to extreme measures will bring you.  As we progress through the lifespan, not a single person can entirely overcome  the forces of nature and aging.  Sadly, while there are few certainties in life, the cycle of birth, aging and death are non-negotiable.  Of course this can be mitigated with exercise/lifestyle, and the natural trend towards increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue can be attenuated.  The question is whether or not the shaded green zone is really worth depriving oneself of ALL the simple pleasures in life.  I will leave it up to you to decide for yourself.

The green highlighted zone also shows what being a Moderate won’t bring you.  Living your 20’s, 30’s and part of your 40’s with near single digit body fat can’t be attained with occasionally enjoying simple pleasures and indulging.  In order to accomplish this sacrifices must be made.  Extreme results require extreme measures.

The orange zone in the figure below represents what consistency can bring you and what inconsistency can’t bring you.  The ups and downs of the Obsessed but Inconsistent typically leads towards an overall increase in body fat with time.  However,  simple strategies like sweating regularly, eating a lower calorie diet with nutritious food, and still indulging once in a while will generally bring decent results over a lifetime.  The orange zone represents what the basics and staying the course bring to the table.

The red zone  is the real issue for North American society.  This is where the bulk of the scientific research is focused and it is often the ammunition used by the Obsessed to justify extreme fitness and nutrition approaches.  However, let’s be fair in recognizing that this problem is one that requires a complete change in attitudes and beliefs.

I also think the solution to this dilemma is more inline with the Moderate approach than the Obsessed approach.




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Matt JordanTo Be or Not to Be a Moderate

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by Matt Jordan on May 18, 2012 No comments

For those who follow my blog entitled Training Insights I apologize for not being more productive recently.

My lack of productivity is three-fold.

First, you may notice that the look of the blog has changed.  iWeb, my former blogging application is nearly extinct.  This has left me searching for the ideal application but my search quickly led to procrastination.  So, I purchased a keyboard for my iPap, kept it simple, and chose an application that I can use across all my devices in the hopes that this would increase my opportunities to write.

Second, I have been heavily involved with data collection for my PhD.  For anyone who has done research you will know that a tremendous amount of time goes into setting up your research methodology, collecting and analyzing data, and reading related research.

The reality is that with my professional obligations I’m left with very little time to get this done.  The end result is that when I’m having coffee, out for a run, or if I get some time to myself, my brain is usually on a rapid simmer as I strategize on my research, which has reduced the time I have to just write for the sake of writing.

I realize that some may see this as a boring way to spend one’s time but I couldn’t disagree more.  I love it.  I think the pursuit of new knowledge and understanding is one of the greatest things that humans can do.

Obviously this can come in different forms from reading about another individual’s work, attending seminars and simply being a careful observer of one’s own work but to truly test your assumptions and beliefs in a systematic and scientific manner is the epitome of generating new knowledge.  I’m definitely not the smartest guy on the planet but I’m incessantly curious, and I find the process of systematically answering a question fascinating.

Finally, all of my Olympic bound athletes are gearing up for another training season as they enter the pre-Olympic year leading to the winter Olympics in Sochi 2014.  While this is not the same as the pressure cooker all the London 2012 athletes are currently experiencing, the pre-Olympic year is critical in an athlete’s development.  As such, all of the athletes and sports with whom I work have turned up the intensity as have I.

In fact, as I write I am sitting on a plane en route to Bend, Oregon for a few days with the Canadian National Cross Country Ski Team.  The next few days will include lots of time on snow in the mountains just outside of Bend, and some close collaboration with Shayne Hutchins, the team’s soft tissue therapist, as we fine tune our approach with each athlete.

The fact that my office for the next few days will be in the mountains of Bend for some skiing, and collaboration with one of Canada’s best therapists for the sole purpose of helping Canadian athletes achieve the dream of an Olympic medal is something that does not go unappreciated.  Very few get to pursue a goal for the sake of the goal, and very few get to help out in this process.

Opportunities to work with guys like Shayne are rare, and there is no doubt that much of what I have learned in my career has been through the eyes of others.  The reason for the rarity is that guys like Shayne are rare.  He has a powerful mind and he is exceptionally skilled.  He also has an ego that is in check.

In general terms my impression of the world of human performance is that skill set or maybe the outside perception of skill set is directly proportional to the size of the ego, and indirectly proportional to the health of the ego.

True professional collaboration demands an exceptional skill set and a healthy ego because the risk of being wrong is extremely high.  A healthy ego is what permits an individual to not take “being wrong” personally, and to instead see it as a learning opportunity.

The reality is that many of the truly impacting professionals in human performance and high performance sport aren’t known on the internet or in blogs because they are too busy in the trenches using their craft and expanding their understanding.

It’s not their style to talk about what they know because you will often find these individuals talking and obsessing about what they don’t know.

Not only am I fortunate to have had a career that rarely feels like work but I am also fortunate to have a strong network of likeminded professionals who have kept me humble and on the straight and arrow.

So, on that note, I plan to get back into my groove with the training insights I gather along the way from the weight room, the lab, and from the experts that surround me.

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Matt JordanBack to the Blog