“Just eat real food” is a popular phrase these days. Most add, “and do functional exercise” to that. I’ve used that statement before and I’ll use it again, but it’s too simplistic. So simplistic, in fact, that it leaves a lot of people feeling hopeless when it doesn’t work like magic.
“I’ve tried eating real food and doing functional exercise. I still don’t feel better and I haven’t lost weight.”
“I’m eating real food and doing functional exercise but I still have X or Y issue. How can this be?”
Those statements are so common. Why? Is the real food and functional exercise train heading down the wrong track?
Absolutely not. Real food and functional exercise is never the wrong answer. The friction comes from the fact that it’s not the final answer.
It’s a shame that some people give the broad idea of real food and functional exercise a solid shot, but completely abandon it when it falls short. Here’s the truth: everyone needs to be a hacker.
Hackers test, slice and dice, and then test again until they get the result they’re after. It’s a necessity because health is a complicated thing. Let’s look at some quick examples and then I’ll drive the main point home.
“Just eat real food, except for nightshades, FODMAPs, dairy, and goitrogens. Oh, and avoid real food sugars and high glycemic starches, especially in the morning or if you don’t sleep well. Oh, and switch from butter to ghee because that butter isn’t agreeing with you…”
That got complicated fast, didn’t it?
Nightshades are a class of plants that use toxins called alkaloids to defend themselves. If you’re sensitive to these alkaloids, you’ll experience a range of issues from skin breakouts to joint pain. That rules out real foods like potatoes, tomatoes, and some peppers.
FODMAPs are a group of foods that cause digestive disturbances in some people. If you discover FODMAPs give you trouble or you suffer from conditions like IBS, you’re more limited in your real food choices. A large range of real food groups from fruits and vegetables to sweeteners like honey are FODMAPs.
Some people can digest dairy and some can’t. It’s a real food, but you have to know how it impacts you. The reaction isn’t always obvious.
Goitrogens are substances that suppress the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake. If you have hypothyroid symptoms or known thyroid issues then it’s a good idea to keep these in check. This rules out another collection of fruits and vegetables and starches like sweet potato.
Even the amazing egg, which is as real as real gets, isn’t well tolerated by a lot of people.
If you want to talk about gut and digestion, that’s another complicated universe altogether. Everyone’s gut is a unique fingerprint with thousands of species of bacteria fighting for control. Gut issues can cause anything from weight gain to full blown autoimmune conditions.
Now you see why “just eat real food” is an oversimplification. And these are just a handful of examples.
Of course, other lifestyle factors are important too. If you get less than six hours of quality sleep, you should place a limit on real food carbohydrates that you consume. This will help mitigate the metabolic issues caused by poor sleep. I also rule out functional exercise for people who aren’t sleeping well and for people who have adrenal fatigue.
What if you’re nutrient deficient and that’s the cause of your hormonal issues and eating triggers? 70% of the U.S. population is deficient in Vitamin D, a hormone that influences a countless number of health markers.
If you have leptin resistance and a busted up metabolism, why are you eating a bowl of fruit for breakfast? Why are you eating potatoes at lunch and rice at dinner? Because it’s all real food? It doesn’t make sense in the context of your needs.
Of course, all this assumes that you can even apply the concept of real food and functional exercise to your life on a consistent basis.
Half the work I do centers around being out of control with food and lifestyle. You have a surplus of intention with a staggering behavior deficit. Eating real food won’t magically fix your eating triggers, draining relationships, deadly work ethic, and people-pleasing nature. If you’re new here, all those things are main causes of disordered eating and otherwise poor health.
The main point I want to make is that dialing in your health requires investigating, hacking, and patience. And you must apply it in an integrative and individualized approach.
The diet model has programmed us to believe that “eat real food and do functional exercise” is another simple prescription that will lead straight to success. It’s not Weight Watchers or Hip Hop Abs, but it’s still classified as a “one size fits all,” straight-forward approach. That’s a tragedy.
Too many people get their feet wet with real food and end up frustrated when it’s not the magic pill they believed it to be.
If real food and functional exercise doesn’t work, it’s because there’s an underlying issue to solve. That’s good! That’s information about yourself that you didn’t have before.
Abandoning the process now because you were hoping for magic and aren’t willing to investigate is a burial of the truth. If you think the next best step is to run back to Weight Watchers meetings, you’re being silly. The only thing you’re doing is delaying success.
This is why Total Body Reboot exists. If “eat real food and do functional exercise” was the final answer I’d have a one page website. There would be a real food chart and a suggestion to walk a lot and I’d retire.
People don’t join Total Body Reboot for information, they join it for results. They join the program because they want a trench to get dirty in. And they want a coach who will help them hack their health until they have a formula that fits their individual needs. They also want to speed up the process and not fumble around trying to figure it out themselves.
“But, it’s hard because I had so much hope and I’m so tired of the road blocks!”
Absolutely fucking right. You’re so drained from decades of listening to mainstream bullshit that you’re out of energy to press forward and do more work. You thought you had “the final answer” in this nice little package and it’s slipping through your fingers. I understand. I was you, remember?
“But it sucks that it works for everyone else and not for me!”
That’s bullshit and I’ll call you out on it point blank. You’re not a special struggling flower surrounded by a field of perfection. “Real food” as a final answer hardly works for anyone straight out of the package. You need to play with it and mold it and make it fit you.
I don’t want to make this seem crazy complicated. I’ve talked about a lot of possible pitfalls here. That doesn’t mean you’re going to experience all of them or have to understand all of them. You’ll likely only require a few tweaks to meet your needs.
Real food and functional exercise is a surefire starting point. There is no other option. But please don’t pretend that it’s the final answer. That thinking is just an extension of the one-size-fits-all “diet” paradigm.
So here’s the deal: you’re right where you need to be, but you’re at a crossroads. I’m delivering this message to tell you that you’re not lost and you’re not broken. You’re on the right track and I will not let you quit. Now now. Not when you’re this close. You’re going to figure this thing out and I’m going to help you. Be willing to investigate and I’ll lead you success.
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s helped tens of thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and now offers all of his signature programs through a “pay what you want” model.