PostHeaderIcon How do I Get Smaller or Bigger?

Imagine a big pile of dirt. You take some dirt off and the pile becomes smaller, then you put more dirt on and it becomes bigger. This dirt is your caloric intake and your body mass. When you exercise, you are burning calories and body mass. You are taking dirt off the pile and the pile gets smaller. When you eat, you are putting calories and body mass back on the dirt.

You are this pile of dirt. If you want to make yourself stay the same size, you will take off as much dirt as you put on. If you want to get  bigger, you will pile on more dirt than you take off. This sounds like an easy concept to understand but I get a lot of questions about this, so I want to clear up a few things.

Many people mindlessly pile on more dirt than they take off. In fact, a recent study has shown that the average person eats about fifty to a hundred more calories than they should per day and we wonder why we gradually gain weight as we get older. If we exercise moderately, most of those calories will get burned and we will maintain our size. If we exercise more or eat less, we will get smaller, much like that pile of dirt. What a lot of people don’t realize is that a small piece of cheese has more calories in it than it seems and they might be packing more dirt on that pile than they think. A salad that contains bacon, avocado and caramelized walnuts may have a lot more fat and calories (dirt) than what they anticipated. In order to know if you are really doing what it takes to make yourself smaller, you have to educate yourself on the calorie content of foods you eat. According to studies, most people don’t even know what broccoli looks like, thus the obesity epidemic.

Similarly, I sometimes get clients who want to gain muscle. When they tell me that they aren’t getting results, I make them write down what they are eating and it becomes apparent that they aren’t eating enough. The truth is we often don’t plan what we eat. Most people eat what is available to them at the time which makes it very hard to proactively control our body size. I can’t emphasize enough how important awareness and planning is if you want to change your size.

Clients who want to get bigger often ask, “How can I make sure that the food I am eating is going to building muscle and not gaining fat?”

This all has to do with what you eat, when you eat and how you exercise. To get bigger muscles, you must break them down. You must lift weights until your muscles are sore and a bit torn up (not pulled or injured.) When the muscles heal, they heal a little bigger and stronger. You must give your muscles recovery time. You must eat the right portions of protein, carbs and nutrients and you should do it immediately after you exercise so those calories contribute to repairing muscle and not to storing fat. Body builders plan their workouts, what they eat and when they eat very precisely. The average professional body builder spends 40,000 dollars on food a year.

One misunderstanding clients who want to get bigger have is that only lifting weights will make their muscles bigger. You have to eat more too. Remember that exercise alone will make your pile of dirt smaller. If you don’t have energy to fuel those muscles, they won’t get bigger. If you want bulk you HAVE to eat more too.

One question I get a lot from clients who want to get smaller is, “will lifting heavy weights make me get bigger or bulkier?” Again, you won’t get bigger unless you eat more than what you normally do. Lifting heavy weights takes more energy and burns more calories than lifting light weights. Therefore, lifting heavy weights will take more dirt off your pile, making it smaller. The pile can only get bigger if you eat more.

For example, I once had a client who wanted to get lean and cut. She wanted her abs to have definition for a trip she was planning. I advised her to lift heavier weights but she told me she didn’t want to bulk up. I told her that she would only bulk up if she started eating more. I put her on my program and within a couple of months; she did get much smaller and toned.

Lifting heavier weights helped her build muscle that raised her metabolism. Because she didn’t eat more, her body used the energy stored in the fat she had to help her tone her muscles. Because her fat was being burned to build muscle, she became smaller and leaner.  In general, women don’t bulk up as easily as men because they lack the male hormones that make them bigger. As I stated above, it is a lot of work to get big. Women who are afraid to bulk up don’t challenge themselves when they exercise. Because they aren’t working as hard, they don’t burn as many calories and also don’t get the results they want.

Therefore, if you want to get smaller you have to eat less and exercise more. The harder you work out, the smaller you will get. Exercise will only make you bigger if you eat more calories than you need to fuel that work out.

More on awareness: Sometimes we think we are burning more calories than we really are. Some fitness modalities insist that their workouts burn a thousand calories an hour. This may not be the case. How many calories you burn depends on your metabolism, size or level of fitness. I go into this with more detail in my post about calories here:

Sometimes we think that we can eat a pizza and ice cream and just work out harder the next day. Well, a pizza and ice cream can add up to over 1000 calories and it’s really hard to burn that off. The average person burns about 300 calories during a one hour cardio session. That person would have to work out for an extra two and half hours to burn off an extra pizza and ice cream. This is fine if you have the time but if you don’t have the level of fitness to do this, you risk injuring your body.

Also, if you are binge eating foods with no nutritional value such as ice cream or pizza, you will feel too lethargic to work out hard. Junk food can add to more fat and ruin your workouts. Therefore, we have to be aware of how we approach our lifestyle. If you have a tendency to overeat, this is usually due to psychological attitudes towards food. I’ve had to change many of my attitudes. I used to think I could just go to extremes and work out like crazy so I could support my binge eating. Now I’m learning to eat moderately and exercise moderately.

This doesn’t mean that you should starve yourself if you want to get smaller. Starving yourself will make your metabolism slow down and your body will store fat, making it harder to lose weight. To read about metabolism, check out this blog post:

Also, I will give more resources below, so you know how many calories you should be consuming and burning.

All in all, how we eat and how we exercise is intricately related in determining the size of our body. If you wish to change your size, you have to really think about how much you are putting into your body and how well you are burning it. We personal trainers are very good at tracking these kinds of things so if you need help, just ask. We usually notice things that most people overlook.

I highly recommend you write down your diet and workouts. Websites such as lose it or fitpal have been very successful in helping people change their size and become aware of their lifestyles. If you go to those websites, it will calculate how many calories you should be eating and burning a day based on your current size. Here are some links to wesbites and apps that will help you track how much dirt you are taking off and putting on:

If you don’t like computers, write down what you eat on a food diary. Studies have shown that people who write down what they eat are 50% more likely to reach their goals.

As you can see, changing the size of your body can be a lot of hard work. If this is what you really want, ask yourself what you are willing to change to reach this goal. Ask yourself why you want to change. Is it for health reasons or for cosmetic reasons? What are you willing to change about your body and what are you willing to accept?

For more information on how to know how many calories you are burning, check out this post:

For more information on how to plan out a fitness regimen, check out this post:

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