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Consistently Inconsistent

Today’s post is for those of you who are in a rut or are down right frustrated with your progress towards your health and/or fitness goals. If you’re thinking “hey that’s me!”. Then you NEED to read this.

I see this one ALL THE TIME. So let’s just play out a scenario. Let’s say this “someone” is named “Dick”. You see, Dick gets really excited about changing his not-so-good health habits. He gets not only a new gym membership, but even clears out his refrigerator and pantry of all the junk food he has lying around. Hell, he even goes out and buys a $1,200 bike from his local shop! I mean, the dude is serious. He means business. And not only that. He is freaking PUMPED about it!

Starting to sound familiar?

So one week in and he’s hit the gym 4 times already. He’s logged 30 miles on his new ride. Breakfast every morning. A green veggie with dinner. No more Big Macs as those have been replaced with grilled chicken on top of a bed of greens and low fat salad dressing at lunch.  Soda? Nah, man. Straight up water from here on out. Dick is feeling good! More energy, sleeping better, more productive at the office. And he’s even lost 2 lbs! Right about now he’s thinking “this shit’s easy!”.

Sound familiar?

3 more weeks pass. Dick is down 4 pounds overall and still feeling really good. He’s still been making it to the gym, but last week was really freaking crazy so he only got in twice instead of 4 times, but he’s still seeing progress and he’ll get back to 4 times next week. Also, because Dick lives in Indiana and the weather decided to crap all over us, Dick didn’t get out on his bike. Not a single time! But next week’s forecast looks better so he’ll get out for sure. He’s gonna go for 40 miles this time!

Sound familiar?

“Man oh man” Dick thinks to himself, “that last month was brutal”. You see, Dick went to a wedding and, let’s just say there were a lot of festivities. Dick wasn’t feeling good enough to get back to the gym for 2 days following that bender! And then Tracy retired at the office after 36 years of loyal service. The party was a big one and there were plenty of leftovers to last the rest of the week. And then Little Dick (that’s Dick’s son) caught something from some other stupid kid at school who shouldn’t have been there in the first place… but Dick digresses. So Dick had to take a couple of days off from work to stay home with his precious Little Dick. Well, that meant he had to work overtime to get caught up and therefore just couldn’t find the time to get in to the gym. He did, however, get the chance to get in a few bike rides while Little Dick was sleeping during the day. And Dick did try (and succeed with pretty good success) to eat well. He is still down 4 pounds overall after 2 months and he’s feeling not too bad about that, but he knows he could be doing better. “Next week. No matter what. I will be fully back on track! 4 days in the gym. 50 miles on the bike. I’m determined. No excuses, Dick. No excuses”

Sound familiar?

Another 7 days in the books. Dick was successful! Well…. mostly. He managed the gym 3 times this week and also managed 35 miles on his bike. All this despite the fact that for whatever reason he hasn’t been sleeping well lately. We’re talking 3-4 hours a night, at best, of restless sleep. So kudos to Dick! Unfortunately, his diet this past week was pretty off point. A couple of missed breakfasts that lead to early runs at lunch to the golden arches for his favorite 99 cent heart attack. And a few after dinner pints of Cherry Garcia may have snuck in there as well. But Dick worked out almost as much as he said he would, so he deserves a treat for his hard work and dedication, dammit.

“Next week.”

Sound familiar?

A full trip around the sun is now in the books. Summer vacations, holidays, parties, illnesses, a broken wrist from a fall off the bike, and a move into a new home on the other side of the county. “Whew! That went fast!”, he thinks as he decides to step on the scale he has been avoiding for the past….. well, he’s not really sure how long it’s been, but it’s been a while.

“Shit. Are you kidding me?!”, he says aloud. “After all the hard work I put in?!”

Another year older and 5 lbs heavier.

“This shit isn’t so easy after all……”


Okay, I’m done with my fake story telling. So what happened to Dick?

Did it sound familiar?

It should because this is what has happened to most of the people who reach out to me for my services. Try as they might (and believe you me THEY DO TRY), they just can’t figure out how to get it done. And the answer is usually this:

They are really good at being consistently inconsistent. With diet. With exercise. With sleep. With…. well…. most things. And I’m not going to pretend and sit here like I’m not guilty of this as well from time to time. We all are. But it’s a matter of how consistently you are inconsistent.

So if you are stuck in a rut. Hit a plateau. Are frustrated beyond belief. Take a good, hard look at what you’ve been doing. 3 months of hardcore dedication to your health isn’t gonna cut it. It takes much longer than that. How long you ask? Well, it depends on where you are starting from. But know this:

It Takes A Long Time.

Come back to me after 2 years of being on top of your diet and exercise routine 80-90% of the time and I’m guessing you’ll approach me with a smile on your face. Not the look of disappointment I see all to often.

It isn’t sexy. It isn’t easy. It can get boring and really, really tough at times. But it’s worth it, man. It is so worth it.

Moral of the story?

Don’t be a Dick.

Out Exercising a poor diet. Is it possible?

You’ve done it. I know I have. And I should know better than anyone that it’s not a good approach. I hear it from clients and friends all too often. Sometimes it goes a little something like this, “I’ll just run 4 miles tomorrow to burn off those extra 2 pieces of pizza”. Other times it comes off with a bit less of an optimistic tone. “Well now I’m gonna have to work out for like 2 hours to off set this food baby”.

We’ve all been there. And we’ll all likely be there again at some point. My goal for this post is to highlight some of the important key points to keep in mind when the accidental binge episode happens.

So to answer the question to the title of this post, it’s technically a ‘yes’, but only if you’ve been blessed with bad ass genetics. And even then, at some point down the line, it’s gonna catch up to you be it from a weight standpoint or a health standpoint… or both. So while a few gifted people out there can maintain an awesome physique with very little effort, the rest of us just can’t outrun a crappy diet. So I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But then again, I’m only reaffirming what you already know aren’t I? I know this because most, if not all, of the folks reading this are pretty health conscious. You try and eat healthy foods. You have a gym membership and go for long walks and bike rides. Seems that you ought to be at a different weight than where you are, right?

Well what I often find after really digging into people’s lifestyles is that we think we’re doing pretty well when in reality it isn’t all that good. I like to use grades in school as an analogy to diet and lifestyle habits. So, take for example you eat well and exercise 80-90% of the time Monday through Friday until around noon. I use the noon on Friday as a cutoff because let’s face it, you’ve zoned out by then and are already out the door, either physically or mentally. Now if you do the math on that you find that about 33% of your 7 day week is Friday at noon until Monday morning. If you don’t exercise on the weekends and you eat like a 6 year old (mac and cheese, pizza, ding dongs, hot dogs, etc), then I think we can all agree that…you chose poorly (Indiana Jones reference anyone?). So again, 1/3 of your week sucked. If that’s the case and you were in school and took an exam, of which you missed 33% of the questions, then you would receive a 67%, right? So yeah, you guessed it, you just got a “D”.

So that brings us back to how we think we can out exercise a poor diet. Even though you might be doing plenty of exercise, diet just plays the bigger role. Not having an extra piece of pizza is just a whole lot easier than going out and running 4 miles. And the kicker is that here is where it gets even more interesting. I’m willing to bet that some of you have had success in the past by “outrunning” your diet. And certainly metabolism plays a big role there, but that’s played out. What you aren’t being told is that your body is really freaking good at adaptation. So let’s put it this way… think back to when you first started lifting weights or running (or whatever activity it is that you dig). You were pretty damn sore during the early stages weren’t you? But after a while that soreness went away. Sure, as you mix up your routine you’ll occasionally get sore again, but I’m willing to bet what made you sore back then doesn’t make you that kind of sore today. And this is because your body adapted. And that is an adaptation that is very tangible… because it hurts!

But there are other adaptations going on at the cellular level that don’t hurt and therefore, are not tangible. You see, the more times you go out and run those 4 miles to “burn off” that piece of pizza, the better your body gets at being efficient over the course of the 4 miles. And in the world of fat burning, you want to be as inefficient as possible. Bottom line here is that over time, you think you’re burning 4oo calories when in reality it might be closer to 250-300 calories. Man, I’m just full of good news today, huh?

Well I’d like to take this last section to address something that really grinds my gears. You just said those last few words in your head in Peter Griffins voice. And if you didn’t you just went back and did, didn’t you? Be honest. But seriously, one of the many things about the fitness industry that drives me crazy is the thought of needing to burn off that pizza/doughnut/pie/etc. We put exercise in this tortuous light. You know those stupid articles that tell you just how long you’d have to swim at a brisk pace to burn off just 1 Dunkin Donuts raspberry filled donut. Or how many times you’d have to climb the steps at the Empire State building to erase the piece of cheesecake you had at the Cheesecake Factory.

Well for starters, I think it is important to realize that of your total daily energy expenditure, exercise is a really small piece of the pie (pun intended). I mean for most of us it is probably in the range of 10-30%. The vast majority (75% ish) is burned just by our bodies doing what they do. Our lungs contract and expand. Our heart pumps blood. Our kidneys help filter that blood. Our brains are working (although some people I’m not so sure of sometimes). You get the idea. So that’s the first takeaway that I think should be recognized. The other is that…

Exercise should be viewed as FUN! Not freaking torture or retribution! So instead of slapping yourself on the wrist for having eaten a bit too much and deciding that you now have to suffer through a grueling workout, just let it go, man. Yeah, you maybe had too much. Own up to it and learn from it for next time, but don’t hate exercise because of it. After all, what’d exercise ever do to you other than improve virtually every marker of health in your body? I say make it fun. And make your food fun too, just don’t get too carried away with it. Alright, I’m hopping of this box of soap and getting my butt to the gym…. because I want to.

Questions I often get… answered.

As you might imagine in my line of work, I tend to get a lot of questions. We all eat, after all. And to the end, we unfortunately don’t all exercise. But that’s another post all together. Today we’re all about nutrition… probably. I’m pretty good at getting sidetrac… Squirrel!

Anywho, I obviously get lots of questions from my clients, but I also get plenty at family gatherings, out at parties, and even a few from my folks. I don’t always have the answer and sometimes I don’t really want to get into that conversation because well, I just want to chill and enjoy myself. But I always have a response nonetheless. I often get a lot of the same questions asked over and over again by different people and thought I’d put a few of them out there since they seem to be so popular.

Now before we get to them I want to put out a disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my mind on these answers based on future emerging evidence. I say that because I was thinking about some of the answers to these questions and realized I would have answered some of them differently 5 or more years ago. So here they are!

Are sugar substitutes bad for me?

  •  No, chill out. You’d have to consume asinine amounts to put you at any risk for cancer. Your “diet soda a day” is fine. 

What about artificial dyes  and colorings like yellow #5?

  •  They’re okay too. You should focus your attention to the trans fat in your morning pastry.

Is a white potato or sweet potato better?

  •  You’re overthinking this. Pick one and eat it. Just lay off the butter/sour cream/cheese/bacon/sugar you might add to it.

What nuts are best to eat?

  • The ones you like best. I usually recommend mixed.

How many calories should I eat?

  • I don’t know, but I can usually guess pretty close.

Should I cut carbs?

  • Probably not (circumstance depending). If you want to lose weight, cut calories (again situation depending).

Should I go low fat?

  • See above.

Can I still have wine?

  • Yes, but those calories add up fast man. Limit it to no more than a drink or 2 a day.

Should I buy organic fruits and vegetables?

  • If you want, sure. But first ask yourself if you’re already eating at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day. If you’re not, focus on just getting them in first, then worry about the organic crap.

I want to lose weight, should I cut dairy?

  • No

I want to lose weight, should I go gluten free?

  • Stop it

Are there any fat burners out there that work?

  • Yes, it’s called “get off your ass and exercise”

Can I put coconut oil on everything?

  • Sure, go for it. That sounds awesome. Let me know how it goes.

Should I be worried about GMOs?

  • Short answer, no. But it’s put beautifully here by Mr. Tyson. I highly suggest you click that link.

Do I need to do a cleanse and get rid of the toxins in my body?

  • No. Stop listening to Gwyneth Paltrow. And Vani, I’m looking at you too.

What do you eat in a day?

  • I usually start my day with a big bowl of none of your damn business. We’re all different and have different needs/likes. Don’t eat like someone else. Eat like you, just not too much.

So there you have it. Some of the questions I get, answered! And yes, I realize I came off rather brash. That was the point. In general, I find that we just, for whatever reason, enjoy making nutrition as freaking difficult as we can. Stop overthinking it so much. And although I’m not a big fan, I’ll end with a quote from Michael Pollan which goes like this, “eat food, mostly plants, not too much”.

Did I miss any questions? Let me know yours in the comments section below!



15 days being Vegetarian

It has officially been 15 full days now since I started going vegetarian. That means I’m halfway through this hellish nightmare….

Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Actually, that’s a really big exaggeration because it just hasn’t been that bad. The people who run into me and ask me about it generally say something to the effect of “so what’s it like not eating meat?”. To which my reply is “not that big of a deal. My grocery list has hardly changed.” And that’s the truth. I already bought a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy (except for milk), oatmeal, rice, and beans, among other foods regularly. The only items left off of my normal list include deli turkey, chicken breasts, fish, and…. well that’s about it really. Although fish isn’t on there too often which is odd because…

That’s one of the foods I’ve missed the most in the past 15 days. And it’s really one thing in particular: crab cakes. Fresh Market has these amazing crab cakes that you take home and bake and I am really looking forward to having those soon. Those and coconut shrimp. Yes, coconut shrimp. I added that one on here because my 1 month of going vegetarian ends on the same day I leave for Miami, Florida. I’m headed down to do a triathlon in South Beach on April 3rd and then spending a few days on the beach just relaxing. And it’s kind of tradition that when I go to a warm beach I always have coconut shrimp. But I need to stop writing about that right now because it’s nearing lunch time and I still have 15 days to go before I can indulge so….

What I’ve noticed

  • For starters, FIBER. Oh man the fiber. And that makes sense when you think about it. So to go along with that I’ve also been drinking more water. It’s important that as  your fiber intake goes up, your fluid intake should also increase to help keep things “normal”.
  • Vegetables are easier to get into your diet. Ok, ok I know what you’re thinking. “Dude, you went vegetarian. Of course your vegetable intake went up!” But as I was discussing with a friend the other day, that isn’t necessarily the case. Doughnuts, pasta, soda, and pop tarts are all vegetarian too. As I’ve said before, I went vegetarian a couple of years ago for a month, but I did it while eating a lot of processed fake meat type crap. This time around I’ve had none of that and instead am eating more real, whole foods. And it’s been going a lot better. But back to the “more vegetables in the diet” part. What I’ve noticed is that by going vegetarian and doing it the right way, vegetables are the main course, not a side. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed so far. Typically I’ll have an animal protein taking up 1/4-1/2 of my plate and veggies take up about another 1/4 while a carb source takes up the last 1/4. But my plate looks a lot different without the animal protein. Which brings me to the last thing I’d like to talk about….
  • Protein. That’s the other question I get a lot. “But are you able to get enough protein?” Yes, it’s not that hard. Eggs, beans, nuts/nut butters, cheese (reduced fat usually), and protein powder make it really easy to meet my needs even with my increased activity level training for a triathlon. The RDA (what most of us should have in a day) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. And although I think that is too low, that’s what it is. That translates to about 55 grams of protein for a 150 lb person. For someone who is active that number goes up to anywhere from about 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram. So for that same 150 lb person, that comes to 82-136 grams of protein per day. Now, this is dependent on a lot of factors, but I think that for most people we’d be good to set the RDA to a minimum of 1.2 grams per kilo. But that’s just my own personal opinion. Although I like to think that somewhere, Wayne Campbell is smiling at that last sentence.

So I think that’s a pretty solid roundup of what I’ve experienced so far on my vegetarian journey. Although I have to add a couple of sentences below:

I cheated… twice. I went out for sushi one night and couldn’t just get a veggie roll and edamame. That just wouldn’t have been right. I also had a few slices of pepperoni that were stuffed inside of some delicious bread sticks. But hey, I was at Kilroy’s on Kirkwood so again, I think that was warranted.

Til next time!

Going vegetarian again

I’ll make this post really quick today. For those that don’t know, the month of March in the nutrition biz is national nutrition month. I figured that in honor of that, I’d go vegetarian for 31 days. I’m not taking it too far as I will be going lacto-ovo vegetarian, which is RD talk saying that I’ll include eggs and dairy products. So essentially I just won’t be having any meat or fish. I’ve already had a bunch of people say “but what about protein?!”. I’ll get plenty, no worries.

Anyways, I’m looking forward to seeing what cool new dishes I come across and I’ll update halfway through and then again at the end as I did with intermittent fasting.

That’s it for today!

30 days of Intermittent Fasting… complete

I have a bunch of white strips of paper in front of me. On them is a bunch of mostly worthless information. Things like “BMI”, “Metabolic Age”, and “Physique Rating”. On the other hand, there are a few bits of info that have some merit to them. And these are the ones that I’m partially basing the effectiveness of intermittent fasting off of. Not entirely, as you’ll see later on in this post, but they certainly pull a nice bit of weight.


30 days. 30 hungry mornings. 30 lbs. Ha, gotcha! No, not 30 lbs (although I did lose a few, but more on that later). Rather I’d like to first discuss what the whole process was like. A lot of this will likely be similar to the 2 week update post I put up, but there should be some info in here as well. So what did I experience?

It wasn’t all that bad

I’m pretty sure I eluded to this earlier, but I thought that going 16 hours between meals was gonna be a real bitch. And there were a few days that weren’t all that enjoyable, but for the most part it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. My dad made a good point when discussing the whole thing with him. There’s a good reason why the fasting was done from 8 pm until 12 pm. You’re sleeping for half of it! And if you aren’t, you need to get that in check. It would be a whole different story if the fast started at say, 10 am. But since that wasn’t the case, it just wasn’t all that hard to deal with.

It’s probably not great in the long term

I was talking about this with my friend, Zach Moore, when he brought up a good point. I had mentioned how I missed my eggs and avocado on toast in the morning (one of my favorite breakfasts) and he responded by addressing the psychological aspects of IF. You see, diets usually fail because they are too restrictive and don’t allow you to have the things you want. Atkins says no to carbs. Paleo says no to anything not naturally occurring (from our agriculture). Vegans say no to meat, animal derivatives, and fun. So you can see the issue here. The flaw in this system is that I was denied something I really enjoy. And I think I know what you’re saying to your computer/phone screen right now. “But Alec, why not just make that as your first meal of the day?” Well, because I didn’t want to. But back to what Zach was getting at (sorry mom for ending that sentence in a preposition). He is more of a fan of what he referred to as “eat, stop, eat”. What this means is that you eat normally for a day or two, fast for 24 hours, then go back to eating normally. This way you can still have your breakfast most days. It’s also not an every single freaking day ordeal. You don’t have to grind through those 16 hours every day for weeks or months on end. You get a break from it. And from a psychological standpoint, that’s huge.

It beats out low carb for quick weight loss

Okay, to be fair, this is anecdotal. I’ve done the low carb thing before for quick, short term weight loss. And you know what? It works. You know what else? It sucks. And this didn’t suck. I lost a few pounds pretty quickly on this and didn’t have to give up my carbs or sanity. So in my book, this trumps low carb. Take home message here: Going to be on a beach in 6 weeks? Try IF. It doesn’t have to be the 16:8 method necessarily, but for me at least, it seems to work.

So the results are in (drum roll…)

So here I sit with these little white strips of paper. Little bastards almost look like they’re mocking me. But enough of that. You’ve heard the story. Now here are the numbers.

Beginning weight:   185.8 lbs

Beginning fat%:   17.8%

Final weight:   178.6 lbs

Final fat%:   15.3%

So there you have it. Right about 7 lbs lost and about a 2.5% body fat reduction all in just 30 days. I’m ready to go back to a more normal eating routine and will continue to eat well and track my weight and fat percentage. I’ll be curious to see what the next 30 days looks like and to see how my body responds. Ideally I’d like to be about 170-172 or so and closer to 10-12% body fat as that’s where I’ve found to sit at pretty well. The 185.8 lbs is a bit sad though, huh? I really worked for about the last year with a focus on just getting strong. And I did, but now I think I’ll lean out a bit and maybe do a few triathlons again this year. Who knows, maybe my next experiment will be to get into the single digits in body fat again. It’s not bloody likely, but you never know. As always I appreciate you guys reading and following along and if you have anything to say, just put it in the comments section!

2 weeks of Intermittent Fasting in the Books

5 lbs. Exactly 5 lbs. Gotta admit I didn’t expect that. It’s been exactly 2 weeks since I started this intermittent fasting thing and I hopped on the scale this morning. I figured if anything I’d have lost maybe a pound or so, but certainly not 5. And when you take into account the time of year I chose to do this challenge, that makes it all that more impressive I think. So that got me to thinking… how?

Well from the get go I speculated that it would simply come down to math. limiting the time in which I could eat, I’d simply not eat as much. And I think that’s what happened. There may be some physiological changes going on too that I haven’t taken into account, but weight loss comes down to calories in and out so I’m guessing that’s the key here.

So how has it been going you ask?

Not all that bad, really. I thought I’d be really hungry by the time that first meal hit, and sometimes I am, but for the most part, it’s not that big of a deal. And the foods I eat haven’t really changed either, sans for some holiday weekend indulgences. I’m not sure this is something I’d keep up for the long term, but it beats the hell out of going low carb for quick weight loss. It’s something that will almost certainly go into my toolbox when working with my clients. And more than anything I’d like to use it in certain circumstances for a short time to really drive home what it feels like to be hungry. I eluded to this in my last post, but I really do think it’s extremely important to understand what it feels like to actually be hungry. However, with all that being said, I do miss breakfast.


It hasn’t been entirely without it’s share of tough times. For instance, I made my girlfriend, Megan, a breakfast burrito last week. Like, the real deal breakfast burrito. Flour tortilla. Eggs. Cheese. Cilantro. Salsa. And then I broiled it in the oven to crisp it up. I wanted that thing pretty bad, but instead had to sit back and just sip on my coffee. So that kinda sucked. There were a few other instances of this happening over that holiday too, but this example probably was the hardest.

I’ve also had several mornings where I thought about cheating and having at least some cottage cheese or a Greek yogurt thinking that one day wouldn’t hurt. But I’ve fought that temptation and can say I’ve stuck to the plan almost to a T.

Last, but not least, exercising (be it swimming, biking, running, or lifting) on an empty stomach sucks. One day I had an hour bike ride on the indoor trainer planned for the noon hour, after which I’d eat at 1 pm. I shut it down after 45 minutes because I felt so terrible. It was low blood sugar for sure and I decided that it wasn’t worth it to suck it up and stick it out. I ate a bunch immediately and then took to the couch for another 45 minutes before I started to feel better. But that only happened once so it may have been a fluke.

Good Stuff

I often discuss with my clients what it is like to really savor and enjoy your food to help prevent overeating. For example I like to say “You know that first sip of coffee in the morning and how freaking good that tastes? But by the end of that cup or even onto the second cup, it’s lost its luster hasn’t it?” It’s a way to make them self aware while eating. Well, that first bite of food at the first meal is really, really good. I’ve found myself enjoying food and it’s flavors more than ever. And I think that’s really cool. To appreciate it rather than to just eat to eat is something everyone should experience. Although a quick word of caution here is to remember to not eat until your bursting at the seams. It’s tempting. Trust me. But if you can keep that in check, you really do find yourself truly enjoying the meal.

So all in all it’s going pretty well. I’ll check back in at the end of the next 2 weeks to give you my final numbers (before and after weight and body fat percentage) and my final take on the whole experience, but for now, it’s a mostly positive one.

Intermittent Fasting: What is it and why am I doing it?

I’m pretty hungry. Not quite hangry, but I could eat for sure. It’s 10:31 a.m. as I typed those last 2 lines. I haven’t eaten yet today. The last bite I took was last night around 7:30. It was black bean and brown rice stuffed peppers topped with cilantro, some salsa, and a bit of cheese. It was delicious. I’ll probably have that again today when I finally eat along with a whey protein shake… and a large, stuffed crust, meat lovers pizza… Okay, not the pizza, but right now my brain is pretty consumed with thoughts of food. I suppose those are the early phases of doing 1 month of Intermittent Fasting, or IF for short.

Some of you may already be familiar with the term. Some of you may have no idea what it is or why in the hell I would subject myself to it. So what exactly is IF?

What it is

Intermittent fasting actually has no exact definition. A broad description I suppose would go something like this: Occasional periods of longer than normal fasting (we fast every night when we sleep). There are a few different versions of it, however, that seem to be pretty popular. There is the 5:2 variety where you essentially eat normally on 5 days of the week and cut calories to around 500 on two non-consecutive days. Preferably these would not be days that you are exercising. Some folks prefer to simply take 1 day each week and not eat. So another way to word that would be a 24 hr fast. You can really create any variety of IF that you want, but the one that seems to be the most popular is called the 16:8. This refers to a 16 hour window in which you abstain from consuming calories (solid or liquid). Therefore you have a daily window-of-eating period of 8 hours. Within this window, there are no restrictions on when to eat, but a meal roughly every 3 hours seems most popular. For me personally, I’m going to do something that looks like this: First meal of the day is between 12-1 pm. Second meal is from 3-4 pm. Last meal is between 7-8 pm. Then I will fast until the next day from 12-1 pm and repeat that cycle for 1 month. Ideally my biggest meal will be the first and will follow a workout with each of the next two meals getting slightly smaller. But somehow I don’t see that necessarily happening… and I’m cool with that.

Benefits (or potential benefits)

At the risk of sounding too much like a Crossfitter, there is some thought that in the hunter-gatherer era, we almost certainly had extended periods of fasting due to the obvious circumstances. The hypothesis is that there may be some health benefits to that. And some of the research to date seems to imply that might have some merit to it. Personally, I feel it is a bit early on in the research to say that these are all for certain, but it looks promising nonetheless. Here are a few:

  • Weight loss
  • decreased risk of cancer
  • decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • improved blood lipids
  • decrease in inflammation
  • potential to increase life span
  • increased insulin sensitivity
  • decreased blood pressure

And while the list above is not exhaustive, I think we can all agree that’s pretty damn impressive, even if the changes are minuscule. And those are the reasons I thought I’d give this a shot. I want to see if this is both practical and sustainable… and possibly enjoyable. It’s why I went vegetarian for a month. It has some serious health benefits. It’s why I didn’t try the Hollywood Cookie Diet or the Tapeworm Diet. And yes, those are actual diets. Google away my friends.

In addition to the physiological markers described above, I think quite possibly the biggest impact this way of eating (note I didn’t refer to it as a diet) could have on most of us is this: It helps us to understand (or re-learn if you will) what ACTUAL hunger is. What I mean by that is we are always eating. We’ve been told for some time now that we need 6 small meals a day. Or we need to have 3 square meals with some snacks in between. And let me be clear that I’m not knocking those two ways of eating because there is no one correct way to do it. It’s an individual type thing. Do what works for you! But I digress. I think it’s important to truly understand what it’s like to be hungry. Not bored, emotional, or kinda-sorta hungry, but really truly hungry. I’m afraid a lot of us don’t know or forget what that feels like. And in the world of weight control, it plays a really big role. I often advise my clients to use a 1-10 hunger scale. 1 would be so hungry you could eat your own arm off and 10 would be that you might actually, literally explode. I’ll tell them to start eating when they are approaching a 3 and to stop eating when they are approaching a 7. But if you don’t understand what real hunger is, those numbers are likely skewed. For example, that 3 looks more like a 5 and that 7 more like an 8 or 9. That’s not going to help them much now is it? So with all of these benefits, are there any possible drawbacks?


Aside from some health concerns for people in certain disease states (I’ll get to that shortly) I don’t find very many drawbacks to it. One potential for it to maybe not work down the road is that the majority of the studies that I looked for and found on the subject used animal models and not humans. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. For example, rats are used a lot in research studies because of their short life span. We can speed up, if you will, how quickly the data gets to us. We can see the “long term” much more quickly. What would take years or decades of studying in humans we can get in a much shorter time with rats. The downside is that while there are many similarities between species (rats, humans, monkeys, etc.), it’s still not done solely in humans so it is difficult to make a definitive statement on the efficacy of such studies. But you know what, it’s pretty damn good and close enough in my opinion.

From a medical condition standpoint, it may not be appropriate for someone with diabetes. Low blood sugar + driving a car = no bueno. It also might not be appropriate for individuals with already low blood pressure. As with the diabetic scenario above, low blood pressure + driving a car = no bueno. I’ll also throw in here that it may not be appropriate for individuals with a history of disordered eating or eating disorders.


At this point you may be wondering if there is a “foods to eat” and a “foods not to eat” list. Well, no there isn’t. And that’s kind of the beauty of it. As many of you know I am a fan of flexible dieting or If It Fits Your Macros. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s what we used to call moderation. And I also don’t like to use the words “good” or “bad”, because it’s not the food, chemical, or ingredient that is the issue, it’s the quantity of it that you consume that is the issue. As I said in my last post, too much water will kill you. But anyways, just because it doesn’t have any foods off limits doesn’t mean its a free for all. I still encourage a diet high in produce that may or may not contain lean meats. A diet that is high in fiber, micronutrients, healthy fats, and plenty of water. So it’s basically a diet that is good for you that you eat at different times than you are probably used to.

My Experience… so far

Okay, so this is only my second day of being an IFer (had to; been saving that one). However, here is what I have noticed so far:

  • On day 1, I was not digging it. Really hungry by my first meal. Not too bad after that
  • Today (day 2) I was hungry for that first meal, but not as much as I thought I’d be
  • Discovered that I’m drinking more water in the morning to help fill the void… not a bad thing
  • I’m back to two cups of coffee after being a one cupper for the past couple of years. Again, I think I’m filling the void here
  • My energy hasn’t suffered. I feel fine. Feel pretty damn good actually, but that might be the endorphins from my extreme hunger pains talking (kidding… maybe)

So I think I’ve typed enough for one post. I will update throughout the journey here and there to give updates should they be warranted. If you have any specific questions or comments for me just post in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to try and answer you.

The cart keeps coming before the horse

I originally intended for this post to be about the secret to being fit, lean, and strong for life. That was actually the title of the post. I started writing it last Friday and then things got busy and I put it on hold to finish today. But something happened this weekend that put me over the tipping point of an issue that’s been bothering me for a long time now. So yes, I’m going to bitch and moan a bit again. Don’t want to hear me complain about stuff on here? No problem, just comment at the end of the post about what you’d like to learn more about and I’m happy to oblige. So without further adieu…

This past weekend I went up to Chicago and attended Farm Aid. It was an awesome, all day concert with a stellar line up. Jack Johnson, Imagine Dragons, Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and of course, Willie Nelson among others. Being an all day event and having the title of “Farm Aid”, you knew they’d have a crap ton of food. And did they ever.

So being a dietitian, I did my homework ahead of time to see what they’d have available. It briefly occurred to me that they might have some healthy stuff they were throwing on the grill. I mean, c’mon… its FARM AID. It has farm in the title for crying out loud. It had to be good, right?

Of course not. Who was I kidding? Ok, to be fair there were a couple of decent items, although they had stupid names like “detoxifying spinach salad” (a bit ironic considering the amount of happy smoke and booze that were flowing) which contained “paleo granola”. There was also an organic rice bowl and corn on the cob, but that was about it. So, would you like to know what else was on the menu? Sure you do. Here’s a sample of items they had:

  • BBQ Bacon Burger
  • Chicken Tenders with fries
  • Live Nation Dog
  • Sausage Pizza
  • Italian Sausage
  • Hand Dipped Corndogs
  • Roast Corn
  • Super Premium Ice Cream Bars

These are the actual names of some of the food they had available.

Now, on paper, these don’t sound very healthy (sans the roast corn). Would you agree? I mean burgers, hot dogs, French fries, pizza, ice cream? Of course not!

But you’d be wrong, you sucker you. These are all actually good for you. Really, really, good for you! Shit, they might as well be categorized as vitamins and minerals and sold at GNC for $79/bottle. They are freaking super foods! Detoxifying, life-extending, cancer-staving, heart attack preventing super foods!

Ah, yeah… you guessed it. This is the part of the article where Alec finally starts talking about what the title of the article said he was going to talk about.

The problem lies in the power of a couple of things. One is marketing. And damn if these food manufacturers are extremely good at it. Even I get fooled from time to time. But marketing is another story for another time (although it’s tied into the next part).

The second is fear and fear mongers. It seems that everyone is seemingly so solely focused on things like artificial sweeteners, GMOs, some chemical in yoga mats, toxins, whether or not the chicken on their plate was fed in a natural way, if that cow was fed corn or grass (ok this one has some merit to it), and if their eggs came from a chicken that was allowed to roam free instead of being caged.

Cart. Before. The. Horse.

So just a few paragraphs ago I mentioned that those items at Farm Aid were actually health foods. Of course they aren’t, but damn if they didn’t try to make it sound that way.

That BBQ bacon burger? It’s good because the meat was raised humanely.

The sausage pizza? No worries, the pork was pasture raised.

The hand dipped corndogs? It’s ok, calm down. The hot dog is certified organic and is coated in non-GMO cornmeal.

The ice cream? Well it was made with milk from a nearby farm, or “regional” as they put it.

Look, I can’t put it anymore plainly than this: IT’S STILL A HOT DOG. IT’S STILL A SAUSAGE PIZZA. IT’S STILL ICE CREAM. Period.

And it’s not just Farm Aid. It’s all over the news these days. You can read here of just one such instance. If you don’t want to read it, the gist is that restaurants are getting graded on their meat quality based on whether or not the animal was given antibiotics and other stupid shit or whatever. Chipotle received an A while Burger King got an F. How about we worry instead about eating at home instead of downing a 1300 calorie burrito that contains chicken that was raised in a penthouse suite?

We’re so worried about some chemical we can’t pronounce -and therefore don’t understand – and that’s spooky to people. And we do all of this while overlooking the more important issues. We don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Sodium and trans fat intake is well above the recommended limit for most Americans. The list goes on and on.

So the bottom line is that we’re so focused on the stupid stuff and forgetting the important stuff. I just read today that obesity rates are now at 30% or higher for half of the states. But never mind that, we’ve got a crazy scary sounding chemical in our damn pumpkin spiced lattes!


Ok, I just did a couple of breathing exercises and now I’m back. I hope the message got across. Focus on the stuff that actually makes a difference. The stuff that counts. Please, put your horse in front of you.

1 Thing Before I Continue

Hi guys. I’m posting this just to inform you that I’ve not forgotten about my blog, but have been working on other things that have taken up my time. I’ll be back with something relevant by mid-April after I’ve taken my CSCS exam and gotten back from a trip to Phoenix.

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