Every year I go to Aruba for a two- to three-week long vacation.
I’m a beachcomber. I love the calm waters, the Caribbean blue, and the length of sandy beach I can stroll all day long and just… “be.”
But each year when I go to Aruba my interactions with others seems to always provide me with material to write about, and I am going to share just a few of them with you below.
Before I do, let me point something out here. I am about to turn 54 years old this year. I have no illusions about how my physique looks at this age. It is still puzzling to me when my physique becomes a topic of conversation or attention. I received both compliments and derogatory remarks on this vacation. I mention both below.
A long, long time ago, I stopped working out for the purpose of how it makes me look. I work out for how it makes me feel. Ironically, enough, this approach is a source of great energy and vitality for me… and probably why I can sustain a regular workout regimen, when so many others my age do not.
I’m going to divide what is below between “What was said” and “What they likely didn’t know” and hope that my insights provide you something you can learn from as well.
Here we go!
What Was Said
While in Aruba, I probably stroll the beach for two or more hours per day, and throughout the day. I don’t do it for exercise or to burn calories or for any other reason than the sheer peace of mind I I get, and the experience of simply doing it. Having said that, as I was walking the beach my first or second day, I walked past a group of adults sitting under a palapa and enjoying the beautiful day. I looked over and said hello (I say hi to everyone) and, though it wasn’t really a topic of conversation, a few of them made a point to say to me, “Wow, nice abs!” Obviously I thanked them for the compliment, but then I went on my way.
What They Likely Don’t Know
What they likely didn’t know is that I haven’t done any abs training at all for at least five or six years.
Instead, I follow a version of my Hardgainer’s Solution, and although technically this program advocates any sit ups or leg raise variation in each workout, I do rotator cuff work in their place, because of the osteoarthritis in my shoulders that requires daily attention. They likely assumed I do abs exercise to keep my stomach flat, but the truth is my abs look good (at least, for my age) because I do a program where exercise complexes are done in such a way that the abs region is engaged without targeting it specifically. Because of doing the program regularly and following my Cycle Diet Strategy for decades, I can still enjoy the benefits of a flat stomach and visible abs without doing any direct work to achieve it.
What Was Said
One of the first nights I was in Aruba, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman outside of a very nice restaurant at our hotel. He was staying there too. The man was about my age and it was quite obvious he took good care of himself.
But then he said to me, “I’m only here a week, so I bet my son I wouldn’t gain more than 5 lbs. I even brought a weigh scale. I’ve been here four days now… and I’ve already gained over 5 lbs. I don’t get it! I’ve been watching what I eat, but the restaurants here are so amazing. Guess I’m going to lose that bet!”
What He Likely Didn’t Know
As I said, this was a man who clearly takes good care of himself and his body. What he likely didn’t know about is what is referred to as “the labile element” of body-weight fluctuation. When someone is used to eating a certain way and then they change it, their bodyweight can react to that change in a way that doesn’t really mean anything important. “Labile” means “unstable” as in NOT PERMANENT. What this fellow likely didn’t know is that as soon as he returned home and back to his regular eating regimen, his weight would return to normal as well, without any extra effort required.
People continue to torture themselves with an obsession over weight-control on vacations. I take the opposite psychological approach. Partly this is because I understand the ‘labile’ nature of sudden weight change. And, because I follow my Cycle Diet and have for three decades now, when I am on vacation I try to see how much weight I CAN GAIN! Enjoying food indulgence and five-star restaurants are always an important part of my vacation experience, because I know that when I return home and get back to my regular eating regimen, my weight will return to normal without any extra effort needed on my part for it to do so.
This gentleman hinted that he had gained over 5 lbs of fat in a few short days. That really isn’t possible, even if he’d been binge-eating the entire time, which he clearly was not doing. He was just enjoying himself, as he should be! Remember there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, so for him to have actually gotten more than 5 lbs. “fatter” in a few days, he would have had to have eaten more than 17,500 calories EXTRA in those few days, which would not be possible given that he said he was “trying” to watch his weight during this time.
Now, another important point: what YOU may not know about the labile (unstable) nature of diet and bodyweight change is that it works both ways. This is often how all these commercial weight-loss centers advertise “quick start” diets to “jump start” your weight-loss. It’s nonsense. By manipulating portion size and/or carbs upfront and thereby changing your usual diet regimen,it will show as immediate “weight-loss” on your scale, but this is merely the labile, unstable nature of bodyweight change in action. It is unstable, and the weight change won’t be sustainable. But it works for advertisers by manipulating you into believing this kind of weight-loss is fat loss and sustainable. This is untrue on both fronts.
What Was Said
One day in the hotel gym two very nice ladies asked me if I would mind answering them how old I am. I told them I was about to turn 54 this summer. They responded with some very nice compliments about my physique and how it will motivate them to “work harder.” Then they both got on the exercise bike and started peddling slowly away. They were still on the bikes peddling when I left.
What They Didn’t Likely Know
Unfortunately, what they didn’t know is that SITTING on a bike and peddling leisurely is never going to alter their physiques at all, no matter how much motivation they gather for doing so. During my brief conversation with them they also pointed out how great my girlfriend, Christine looked. Christine is older than I am. What the ladies didn’t know is that Christine doesn’t do any cardio at all, and at the time she was doing a low reps strength program with total recovery between sets, meaning short workouts, very little oxygen debt, no metabolic work, and very little cardio-respiratory emphasis. These very nice ladies emphasized wanting to look better, but they were going about it in a way where they will never likely make that happen.
What Was Said
It’s ironic to me on vacations that hotel gyms install so much cardio equipment and so little equipment for resistance training. But it’s supply and demand. The cardio equipment is always busy, the weight training areas seldom so. One day another lady came in and headed right to the cardio and was chatting up another lady on the cardio machine beside her. She said that she liked doing the cardio machines so she can still track her calories, and that it’s nice to do it in air conditioning as well.
What She Didn’t Likely Know
What she likely didn’t know is how faulty these calories-burning estimations are on these cardio pieces. They are not reliable or accurate at all. Furthermore, what she didn’t likely know is that “exercise” calorie burning doesn’t mean much for long-term weight control. “Exercise” and “training” are two very different things. Exercise is about the immediate, training is about having a long-term plan.
But what she also likely didn’t know, and you may not know either, is what is referred to as “situational hyper-metabolic influence.”
You see, if you and your body are used to a colder climate, and then you travel to a “hot” destination, your body goes through changes to acclimate to that change. If like me, this lady had just chosen to walk the beach in the hot sun, she would have experienced a “situational hyper-metabolic effect” from that, as her body would have to suddenly and unexpectedly work harder to cool her down. The same would actually be true of just “lying in the sun.”(Of course, exposure also becomes an issue there, and that should go without saying.) This lady could have experienced a more pronounced and sustained metabolic and more calories-burning effect had she just walked outside in the sun instead of on the treadmill and bike so she could “count calories.” I’ve written about this mistake a lot. It’s really “the illusion of control” more than anything.
What Was Said
Why is it when people are in a group and want to say something derogatory toward a total stranger, they talk just loud enough because they want you to hear them, but pretend otherwise?
Anyway, one day I’m walking the beach and there was a group of 30-somethings in the water having a good time, drinks in hand, certainly nothing wrong with that. There must have been 12-15 of them, men and women. As I walked by it was no accident that I heard one of them say. “I hope when I’m that age I’ve got better things to do then workout for 3-4 hours a day just so I can look good walking a beach once a year!”
What They Likely Didn’t Know
I had to smile to myself at the irony. I was back-handedly flattered that people assume I spend that long in the gym. Yet here they were in likely the prime of their lives and no one was ever going to comment on their physiques one way or the other, and I would hope never in a mean or judgmental way as they were doing to me.
Their assumptions were completely off base. I’ve NEVER spent that long in the gym, even in my prime, and while under endorsement contracts making a living from my physique. My Hardgainer Solution workouts take me about 30-35 minutes per day and completely invigorate me.
Because yes… I do indeed have better things to do! I have an online coaching business. I’ve written a dozen or so books. I enjoy life. It’s ironic to me that even after all these years, people love to judge a book by its cover, especially if it exposes their own insecurities and intimidation. But it also made me smile, because they just don’t get it. I don’t work out “to be noticed.” I could care less about that, and frankly at my age I still find it puzzling when that happens, because there are far younger and better-looking specimens out there! But what they don’t get is what I said at the beginning of this piece.
I’ve always been connected to physical expression and training. I don’t workout for how it makes me look, I work out for how it makes me feel. I still had to smile at the idea of these people criticizing me in this way, because when they get to be in their mid-50s I’m sure their perspective will be a little different regarding someone who takes care of themselves. What they didn’t seem to get, which is a common assumption about me, is that I take care of myself from the inside-out first; not the outside-in. My physical appearance is a reflection of my overall wellness! Which leads me to this last one.
What Was Said
Frankly, I’m used to scenarios like the above.Whatever. But for every group of loud-mouth boneheads, there are other groups of very nice and complimentary people. One morning walking the beach I strolled by an equally large group of retirement-age people who were in the water. One gentleman good-naturedly joked with me as I walked by, “Hey young man – I think you need to find a gym here, you’re wasting away.” Then he said, “Seriously, you look good!” and I responded, “Well, I’d trade looking good for being good looking if I could.” He laughed.
Later that day I walked by this group again, this time with my girlfriend Christine. The man and several of his group stopped us to chat. He was seriously interested in my regimen and diet and the rest. He told us he was there with this group celebrating his 50th Wedding Anniversary AND his 78th Birthday. Very cool.And this man looked fantastic for his age as well, I may add. They seemed like a very happy, tight-knit, sophisticated group. He told me how he liked watching people watch Christine and I walk by and all the different reactions people had toward us. He found it “entertaining” how much that seemed to bother some people when we walked by them.
What They Likely Didn’t Know
As he quizzed me about my diet and training and career and other chit chat, what they likely didn’t know is the difference between Christine and myself in terms of diet-strategy… and it’s something YOU may benefit from in terms of learning: there is no one-size-fits-all “right” approach to a diet-strategy that works, or can work long-term.
You see, I follow and have followed for decades my own “Cycle Diet” strategy because I thrive on structure and regimentation. That diet-strategy allows me to take one day off of diet every week, and all days off diet while on vacations a few times per year, and always staying lean because of it.
But Christine on the other hand is different. Many of you out there may not “thrive” on structure and regimentation as I do. You may be one of those who feel “imprisoned” by structure and regimentation, while I feel liberated and free by it.
Well, Christine doesn’t follow the precepts of The Cycle Diet. She follows a very natural “French Paradox” approach to food, eating, and diet-strategy. I have written about The French Paradox in many of my books and articles (I think the The Anti Diet Approach has the most discussion of it). For Christine it works this way: she has a small appetite; she maintains that small appetite by eating whatever she wants, but in small, reasonable amounts. That way, her appetite is well-served. She never puts her metabolism in jeopardy, and food never becomes more mentally or emotionally important than it should be. Weight-control is second-nature and not something she has to consciously ‘try to do.’ There is no “resistance.”
So what these people likely didn’t know is that while we both “look good” (according to their observations) we arrive at that look, and maintain and sustain it by taking two totally different approaches to doing so. There is no one single magic formula.
So there you have it. These are just “a few” of the scenarios I encountered on this year’s vacation to Aruba that have to do with “perception” and food, eating, fitness, body-image.
Every year, my trip to Aruba seems to give me plenty to write about in terms of industry-related-material. I hope you benefited from reading about these various encounters.