#68 – The Philosophy of Weight Loss with Strength Coach and Classicist Karl Schudt

Coach D and Trent dive into the topic of diet and weight loss again, this time joined by fellow strength coach Karl Schudt. Karl is eclectic and erudite, with a broad educational background (he has degrees in engineering and theology as well as a PhD in philosophy) and a solid grounding in strength and conditioning.


In his late 40’s, Karl is exactly the kind of person we like to see in the 40fit Nation — strong, healthy, good body composition, and educated. At a height of 5′ 11″ and weighing about 240lbs, Karl squats and deadlifts in the high 500’s, benches in mid 400’s, and presses in the mid 200’s. Though he is a bit of an outlier, with good genetics and high testosterone, achieving these numbers while having a good body composition was a long road.


A couple years ago, Karl found himself strong but weighing in excess of 260lbs with a burgeoning waistline. After a concerning physical in which the doctor used the words “pre-diabetic,” Karl resolved to bring down his waistline and his body fat, without losing too much strength in the process. He worked with our friend Robert Santana, began counting his macros, and re-programmed his behavior and feelings around food.


As a philosopher and a student of the classics, Karl takes a deeper perspective on the topic of diet and nutrition. While most sources are focused on the “how” of dieting — that is, what to eat, how to make better food decisions, etc — Karl observed that his motivation to eat was strongly tied to his happiness. In other words, the “why” of eating was more important than the mechanics of how to eat. He sought to divorce his animalistic desire to eat from his emotional state. The first months were hard, but just like barbell training, he developed a stronger mindset and adapted to training on a less-than-full stomach.


Karl notes that nearly all major world religions practice fasting in one form or another. The self-denial of food is an ancient concept designed to help humans access their higher nature. As Aristotle says, food is the “rudder of the soul,” and if one can control his food, he can direct his soul.


Karl also argues that, from a utilitarian perspective, denying oneself pleasurable foods (like dessert) ultimately nets a higher amount of pleasure. The buttered roll, to use his words, tastes so much better after 40 days of fasting than it does eaten everyday.


While it’s easy and satisfying to talk about nutrition in terms of diet “hacks,” all the strategies in the world can’t help someone who is not ready to change their behavior. And changing behavior comes first from understanding the motivation behind the behavior.


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