Making The Bed While The House Is On Fire
A man is abruptly yanked from sleep one night by a loud noise. Gathering his wits about him, he realizes that he smells smoke and can hear the telltale crackling of a fire. Looking out the window, he learns that at least one room downstairs is belching smoke, and consumed by a fire that’s on its way up. He calls 911 and then races into the hallway. In a panic, he bursts into his young son’s room, intent on throwing the boy over his shoulder and escaping the blaze.
His panic turns to alarmed befuddlement, though, as he enters his son’s room to find him diligently and meticulously making his bed…
An expression that I’ve become fond of is “making the bed while the house is on fire.” Akin to “polishing the brass on the Titanic,” it refers to the situation that exists when a person has completely ignored the clear and obvious priority and is instead conscientiously attending to some small, irrelevant bit of minutiae.
In the realms of health and fitness, this is discouragingly prevalent. Big, fat fires burn bright while every fitness magazine, supplement company, and athletic apparel manufacturer makes money on bed spreads, tuck technique, and pillow composition and arrangement.
The following are examples of Making The Bed While The House Is On Fire; if this is you, you need to get your shit together.
- “Is Aspartame safe? I heard it was bad, so I’ve been using Splenda. Or, wait, I think it was Xylitol.”
- “Is _____ Paleo?”
- “I got this kind of salsa, because it doesn’t have HFCS.”
- “I always make sure to get the organic ____ instead of the regular kind.”
- “I’m still eating the same way, but I’ve started Insanity/P90X/TurboFire/Zumba/Similar Nonsense.”
- “Okay, I’ve had ____ calories today and I’ve got ____ left.”
Here’s where it gets confusing. It’s true that Aspartame is probably not a good idea, Paleo is a huge step in the right direction for most people, HFCS is uniquely fattening, organic foods are usually better for us, bodily movement in addition to exercise does have measurable benefits, and calorie counting does have a place for figure and bodybuilding competitors and those who need to crash diet to make weight for something.
The time to worry about those minor details is after some priorities are checked off.
Realize that for the vast majority of people, fat loss is the priority. Fat loss, and that’s it for now. Once you fit into the pants you’d like to fit into, it will then be time to worry about all this other non-sense. Here’s what I mean:
Client: “No nuts?! But I thought nuts were healthy!”
Me: “Nuts are perfectly natural and healthy. They contain natural fats, some good fiber, and plenty of phytonutrients. Also, they can keep you from losing fat. Remember that fat loss is the priority. To reiterate: nuts are very healthy and can keep you from losing fat. If fat loss is the priority, there’s no good reason to include nuts. Once you’re the size you want to be, you can add nuts back in if you like.”
Client: “No fruit?! But I thought fruit was healthy!”
Me: “Fruit is perfectly natural and healthy, and can also keep you from losing fat. If fat loss is the priority, there’s no good reason to include fruits. Once you’re the size you want to be, you can add fruit back in if you like.”
Client: “No direct ab work?! But I thought it was important to strengthen your core!”
Me: “Direct work for your core is a waste of time for you, because your only priority is fat loss, and abdominal exercises have no fat loss benefit. While not dangerous, abdominal work will waste time that could have been spent perfecting the things that actually matter for fat loss. Once you’re the size you want to be, you can add abdominal exercises into your routine if you like.”
Client: “I’ve started buying quinoa noodles because there’s no flour, gluten-free muffins, Triscuits that are whole-grain instead of regular, oatmeal from steel-cut oats instead of instant, and the orange juice with more pulp because it’s higher in fiber.”
Me: “You’re going to be the healthiest fat guy in town.”
Client: “Mercola blah blah Dr. Oz buh-blah blah Men’s Health b-b-blah blah blah Prevention Magazine, and I heard that blah blah blah.
Me: *Vomits gently*
Health vs. Fat Loss
There are things that are healthy and can keep you from losing fat.
There are things that can cause fat loss and are not good for you.
The idea here is to be right in the middle; right in the “healthy fat loss” zone. Both are necessary, and neither is sufficient.
Eating organic, wild-caught, grass-fed food or losing three inches off of your waist?
Avoiding HFCS or dropping four pants sizes?
Getting the good probiotics in your organic yogurt or eliminating twenty pounds of fat tissue?
Whatever it is you’re eating may very well be healthy, but it is not nearly as healthy as fat loss would be. Another way to say that is: The benefits of having less fat in your body far outweigh (see what I did there?) any benefits that can be had by eating more antioxidants, “detox”-ing, eating organic, avoiding gluten, eating more alkaline foods, and on and on and on.
If you make fat loss the priority, you will become much, much healthier in the process of losing that fat.
If you make health the priority and clean up your diet while remaining fat, you are making the bed while the house is on fire. Yes, your bed was unmade, and kudos to you for fixing it, but your fucking house is on fire.
…get regular-sized. First, get to the pants size you want to be. First, get smaller. These are the priorities. Accomplishing these will give you a health benefit that far surpasses any other intervention you could undertake.
…shop at Whole Foods if you want. Then eat more antioxidants if you want. Then buy some wild-caught fish if you want. Then buy the salsa without the HFCS if you want. Then do some crunches if you want. Then make sure everything you eat is Paleo-approved if you want. Then include modern, processed foods “in moderation” if you want.
You get it.
“So How Do We Lose Fat?”
I thought you’d never ask. First, I’d prefer that you Educate Yourself. Read that shit, and you’ll know how to make fat loss a priority.
Get your priorities straight. Stop making the bed while the house is on fire.