|Write It Down
“Hey man, what can I do to gain weight?” Here we are again. One of my
favorite questions. I already know where this conversation is heading.
I'm sure it's a legitimate question, and this guy really is having
trouble gaining weight, but, and this is a big but, I don't understand
how or why this guy has no clue where to start. Why is that you might
ask? Well, because every single month on newsstands across the world
there is a plethora of various muscle rags crowding the shelves, each
with a whole set of articles outlining and detailing the exact same
thing as last month, and the month before that and the many months
before that. Each issue features an article with some catchy rehashed
title on how to get bigger arms, bigger shoulders, a better 6-pack, and
lo and behold, how to gain or lose weight. I mean really, how does this
kind of basic information escape people?
It's the same people who ask about every new supplement to hit the
market, hoping to find some secret formula that will morph them into
the perfect body. This is my frustration. Do these people just pick up
the mags and flip through the ads, never reading any articles? It
really wouldn't surprise me considering some of the questions I get
So, what is my answer to the question? It's simple. “Eat more.” Now
just as soon as I get it out of my mouth, here comes the barrage of
excuses, as if this guy is any different from any other “hardgainer” in
the world. He tried eating more, but the principles of nutrition and
biochemistry just don't apply to him. Let me give you a glimpse of how
the conversation goes down:
Poor lost soul (PLS): Hey man, what can I do to help me gain weight?
Byrd: You just gotta eat more.
PLS: I DO eat! All the time! I just can't gain any weight.
Byrd: You eat all the time, huh?
PLS: Yea man, I'm always eating.
PLS: Yea, I just can't gain any weight.
Byrd: So why are your hands empty?
Byrd: You obviously don't eat all the time 'cuz you don't have any food
in your hands and you're not talking to me with your mouth full.
PLS: Come on man, I just finished eating.
Byrd: When was that? What did you have?
PLS: I ate a bag of trail mix and some beef jerky around 4 (or some other ridiculous misguided excuse for a meal.)
Byrd: Well, it's 6:30 now, and that's not a damn meal!
And on it goes. If you read my last article, “How Do You Do It?” you
probably know where this is going. This is the same guy that doesn't
eat for an hour or two after training, doesn't eat breakfast and then
gets a “meal” out of the snack machine at work or school - but he eats
all the time, remember? Listen folks, a bag of chips and a coke is NOT
a damn meal! If you are “eating all the time” like this guy, no wonder
you can't gain any weight! I have heard every excuse in the book for
not implementing my suggestions, but you know what they say about
You wanna know what I tell people who say they can't eat any more than
they already do? I tell them they “better get used to looking like they
do, cause it ain't gonna change. You keep doin the same things you have
always done and you are going to keep getting the same results you have
always gotten. I don't want to hear your excuses. Eat it, drink it,
hell, sit on it! I don't give damn how you do it, just get it in! Maybe
I'm just a dickhead. Sure, I'll admit I have my moments, but I am sick
of everyone's excuses. I have heard them all before, and not one of
them is original or even halfway credible.
So right about now, some of you may be looking for “it”. Wondering
where “it” is. “It” is the point of this whole article, and don't
worry, I am about to get to it so just stay with me. If you have made
it this far then I am willing to bet you are one of the few who are
actually willing to learn and there is some good advice to follow.
Years ago when I first started this game I was so enthusiastic to help
people. I would take the time to write down workouts and meal plans for
anyone that asked. But, as the years went on I found myself answering
the same questions for the same people, over and over. I finally began
to realize that people don't want to know what they should do, they
just want justification for what they are already doing. I developed a
system to weed these guys out. When they eventually come back to me
asking for a new diet or a new workout, I would ask, “Well, how did
that last workout go for you?” The answer is always some tired old
excuse as to why they never got around to trying it. I then say, “Well,
give that one an honest effort and come back and let me know how it
works.” My time is precious, and I don't want to spend it going around
in circles with someone who isn't going to listen to my advice anyway.
It's not that I'm bitter; it's just that I've learned that you can't
help people that won't help themselves.
I eventually moved past that stage. I, like I'm sure many of you, have
wasted countless hours preaching to a deaf audience. I have since
further refined my approach in order to find those that are truly
committed. As you can tell, I no longer weed people out, I just assume
they will all discard my advice. My new approach to these questions is
a little bit different. The conversations usually start off the same,
and I give my standard advice of “if you can kill it or grow it, eat
it. Stay away from the center aisles except whole grains, oats and nuts
and you are on the right track. If you're not gaining weight, eat more
and if you're not losing, eat less.” I then offer some meal
suggestions, usually advising them to start with pre and post workout
nutrition. If somebody wants more, I implement my new approach, which
is sure to weed out almost everyone.
I've been using my new approach for three years now, and have only had
a few people follow through in person and maybe three through internet
forums. You're probably wondering what could possibly be so bad that I
have such a low success rate. I give them a homework assignment. What?
You're kidding right? Nope. It's pretty simple actually. I tell them if
they really want my help they need to keep track of what they eat for
the next three days. Everything. I need to know what, about how much
and about what time. Don't change anything; just eat as you normally do
so I can see what you are doing now. There are three reasons for this.
First, I don't know what to fix if I don't know what you are doing.
Second, I have found that there is a much higher success rate if you
make minor changes to what you are already doing, provided there is
some sort of consistency, rather than making a total overhaul right off
the bat. Most people just aren't that dedicated. Third, I do this to
see how serious they are about getting results. It is a test.
Unfortunately, most fail. Then they come back a few days later and ask
me some other question about a meal, to which I respond with a question
for them. “Did you write down what you have been eating like I asked
you to?” Of course not. But they are eager to tell me everything they
ate that day. Then they proceed to start rattling off some nonsense at
an incomprehensible rate before I abruptly cut them off:
Byrd: Listen man, I didn't ask you what you ate today. I don't care. I
told you that if you wanted my help you needed to write down what you
have been eating and let me look at it. You didn't do that, did you?
PLS: Well, no. But I can write it down for you real quick.
Byrd: No. That's not what I asked you to do. I don't care what you ate
today; I don't want to hear it. If you don't care enough to write it
down like I asked you to, then I don't care enough to help you.
Here is what you have been looking for--The Point. If you are one of
those who think they can't gain weight (or lose it), take the time to
write down what you are eating. Take the time to count calories and
figure out how much you are actually eating day in and day out. My
guess is that it is well below the amount you think you are eating.
When I count up their daily calories, most people are surprised at how
little they are actually eating... Almost as surprised as they are that
I know the calorie contents of almost every food they list. “How do you
do that?” they ask.
Because I was in their shoes once. I wanted to know if I was eating
enough, or too much. I started keeping a food log of everything I ate,
every single day. I did this for nearly four years. While I ate mostly
the same things all the time, when I strayed I was forced to look it up
(which was another incentive to stick to my meal plans, so I didn't
have to look it up). Eventually, I memorized my little calorie book and
the nutrition facts on the side of everything.
How are you supposed to know what to change if you don't know what you
are doing? I have always been a fan of thought provoking quotes. One
that comes to mind here is “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Take my advice and write down what you are eating. You don't have to do
it forever, but take the time to make sure you are on the right track.
You too may be surprised at how little you are actually eating.