The best piece of advice I can give you is: Don’t think of this as a diet. A diet is something people go “on” to lose weight and then “off” until they gain the weight back, at which point they go “on” the diet again. You’ve probably done that yourself at least a few times in the past. I, too, have been on diets. When I was a professional bodybuilder. I did some crazy and sometimes unsafe things to my body in order to compete. One of the dumbest things I ever did was, at the age of twenty-one, to stop drinking water for seventy-two hours before a competition so that I would look super lean or, as we say in the bodybuilding world, “ripped”. Why would I do such a thing? Because one of my teammates suggested it. I would have wound up in the hospital instead of on stage if my own instincts— not to mention the fact that I appeared to be shrinking by the minute and was feeling horrible—hadn’t told me to drink. Within hours I was back to normal. I didn’t win the competition (I did come in second), but I learned a good lesson.
I haven’t done anything that crazy since, and I haven’t “dieted” since my last competition, The Night of Champions, in 1991. Since then I’ve been following a balanced, healthy nutritional plan very similar to the one I’ll be giving you. It’s a way to eat for the rest of your life.
Think of this program as a fat-loss, not a weight-loss plan. Excess weight or weight gain is not actually the problem; it’s a symptom of the underlying problem, which is the accumulation of unhealthy body fat. And the cause of excess body fat is the lack of muscle. Therefore, this plan concentrates on building muscle and losing fat— forever.
In addition to the on-again, off-again nature of diets, they can also be both physically and emotionally harmful. Many diets are so restrictive that they cause you to lose muscle mass and slow your metabolism, actually encouraging your body to store fat instead of burning it. In addition, they can create vitamin and mineral deficiencies that leave you fatigued and craving the very starchy, sugary foods you should be avoiding.
Very often people who come to consult with me say that they’re thirty pounds overweight. I look at them and tell them they’re wrong. In actuality, they’re probably carrying forty pounds of excess fat and lacking thirty pounds of muscle. When I suggest this, most people are surprised—they never thought of the various kinds of tissue that contribute to their total body weight.
As many of us know, a pound of fat has more than twice the volume of a pound of muscle. But think about what this actually means. By changing the ratio of muscle to fat in your body, you’ll actually weigh more but look thinner. If, for example, you weigh 135 pounds but have only 24 pounds of body fat, you’ll easily fit into clothing that someone who is the same weight but has 40 pounds of body fat couldn’t possibly wear.
In addition to how you look, however, your ratio of muscle to fat can also have a profound impact on your overall health and fitness. In fact, many of the health issues associated with excess body fat—chronic fatigue syndrome, lower back pain, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, to name just a few—actually result from a loss of muscle. The higher your percentage of body fat, the lower your percentage of muscle, and vice versa.
Excerpt of Avtar Eating Plan manual, Avtar Wellness 2017.
Nordine is an internationally acclaimed high-performance coach and wellness expert, bestselling author of Mind Over Body and Keynote Speaker fluent in English, French and Italian. He developed and led the revolutionary fitness program at Miraval Resort, a world-class destination spa in Tucson, Arizona for 10 years where he conducted over 10,000 individual coaching sessions with celebrities, high-performance athletes and executives.