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My take on “diet” and “alternate” foods

“Oh my God, that’s awful” were I’m pretty certain the exact words out of my girlfriend’s mouth after just one spoonful of cookie shake flavored ARCTIC ZERO. My reaction wasn’t as dramatic, but she was right. That stuff is terrible.

Now, if you don’t know what ARCTIC ZERO is, it is a low calorie alternative to traditional ice cream. They come in all assortments of flavors and are distributed in pints that you can find at pretty much any grocery store these days. They also make chocolate dipped bars, but I’m not even willing to try those after the first frozen fiasco.

But then again, we should have known better from the get go. Why? Well these are the ingredients of this stuff:

  • Purified water
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Chicory root
  • Sugarcane fiber
  • Dutch processed cocoa powder with alkali
  • Guar gum
  • Xanthan gum
  • Natural flavors
  • Organic vanilla
  • Sea salt
  • Monk fruit concentrate

I mean the first ingredient is water for crying out loud! I don’t see the word “cream” in there once. And this is, after all, ICE CREAM! But thank the Lord the vanilla is organic.

So this brings me to the point I’d like to get across for this week’s post. And that is all these products out there that are designed to let you have your cake and eat it too. You see, these pints vary in their caloric content, but this particular one rang it at a mere 150 calories….. for the ENTIRE pint. Too good to be true. The label also proudly touts that a serving (1/2 cup) will only set you back 35 calories, but believe me you’re better off saving those calories for something worthwhile.

Now I’m making an example out of ARCTIC here, but it’s not a new idea and by far not the only impostor out there. Skinny Cow, for example, makes a ton of varieties of  lower calorie ice cream as well as candy bars. Although I’ve had their ice cream sandwiches and I think they are pretty good actually. But there are others out there that target the savory crowd as well. Anyone remember the “WOW” variety of chips that came out in the late 90’s to early 2000’s? They touted they were low fat/fat free and they used this product called Olestra as the fat substitute. They tasted kind of funky, but most importantly, they also caused people to shit their pants. Seriously, the label read: “This Product Contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools.” A very similar affect is derived from consuming too many sugar free foods. They contain sugar alcohols that will wreak havoc when consumed in large doses. If you’re so inclined, you can YouTube Haribo sugar free gummy bear challenge. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, there are some things that have come along in the food industry designed to help whittle our waists away that I think have some merit. For example, individually packaged nuts. They sell them in 100 calorie portions and I’m a fan because it’s easy for me to pound down 4-5 times that amount without even thinking about it. Along those same lines are portion, and therefore, calorie controlled packs of hummus and peanut butter. Again, these are two very calorie dense foods that can add up very quickly. But the thing about them is that they haven’t been altered. It’s the same stuff, just portion controlled. No whey protein concentrate or sugar cane fiber here. There are other items to mention, such as sugar free gum (again, not too much), but I’d rather chat about where my stance used to be on these items (as well as healthier versions of your favorite foods) and where my stance is now.

So way back when I was just a dumb kid learning about nutrition at Purdue, we were always coming up with ways to make some of our favorite dishes healthier. If you’ve followed my blog at all you know that I really, really, really like pizza. I’m a self-labeled pizza connoisseur. So for years I was experimenting with ways to make it healthier. For example, less cheese and more sauce. Fewer fatty meats and more veggies. Thin, whole wheat crust instead of deep dish. You get the point. And that’s all fine and dandy, but here’s where that idea, as my friend Kyle would put it, “shit’s the bed”. If you are really craving a well made, cheese and meat laden deep dish, but you instead resist and make a thin crust veggie, you’ve made the healthier choice, sure, but you haven’t gotten rid of your craving. You know damn good and well that all the while you were eating the veggie ‘za you were dreaming about the multi meat monster you truly wanted. Now, if this is a multiple week occasion thing, then yeah you can’t expect to get the deep dish all the time. Rather, I’m referring to those random, every once in a while times (think every 6-8 weeks). Enjoy it! Just don’t gorge out on it, man.

So this is where it all ties together. Those ARCTIC ZERO things sucked. If you want ice cream, get the real deal. Have a few bites and really enjoy and savor them. Eat slowly. This allows you to get what you were really after without adding excess calories. If it’s pizza, get the good stuff, but limit it to 1-2 slices and again, really enjoy it. Whatever food it is that you enjoy that might not be the best for your diet and health, try this tip out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Also, fat free salad dressing sucks.


I was wrong; an addendum to an old post

Normally I have no trouble at all coming up with ideas to write about for the old blog here. Friends, family, clients, the media, etc. They are all great at triggering something for me to write about. And I had talked with a client who is just out-of-this-world busy just the other day. I thought I was going to talk about how to navigate those times. And frankly, that’s a good post and one that we should all read. Maybe that’s what I’ll write about next week?

But I got sidetracked when, just for shits and giggles, I decided to go back and look through some of my old posts. I stumbled across one in particular from July of 2011. The title of the post was “Exercises you’re doing… and shouldn’t be”. And so I thought to myself, “you know, you’ve been writing a lot about nutrition lately and not so much about exercise. Maybe you should mix it up this week.” The post wasn’t all that long and so I read it really quickly. Unfortunately I found myself shaking my head at…. myself. But before I explain what I’m talking about, below is the meat of the old post that I’m going to have to man up and explain why I was wrong:

1. The Seated Preacher Curl Machine— I don’t know who invented it, but I do know that whoever invented it didn’t have much going on upstairs. Let’s take a quick look at why it sucks. First, you are seated. This completely eliminates any core benefit you might have received had you been standing and bracing your midsection to prevent swaying. Secondly, you are seated. Yes, you read that right. I want to get this point across. By sitting and curling a bar towards you (and your arms are even braced!), you are working a muscle group the size of oranges… expending almost 0 calories. By standing and curling a bar towards you (or better yet, doing a pullup or chinup) you engage your core, back, shoulders, and chest in addition to your biceps.

2. The Calf Raise Machine— Similar to the preacher curl, you are working a rather small muscle group. If you are on this machine, you are probably looking for really defined calfs, right? Here is an alternative that will get you there quicker. You see, in order to have defined calfs (or defined ANYTHING) you need to clear away that layer of fat. And you do that by burning off more calories. So, try bodyweight or barbell squats and when you reach the top, simply do a calf raise and then repeat back into the squat. Or try out squat jumps. You can YouTube it for how to do it. Squats aren’t your thing? Might I suggest running stairs?

3. The Seated Leg Extension / Leg Curl Machine— The problem with these machines is that you are not only seated… again, but you are working your muscles in a way that they don’t function in the real world. Seriously, how many times have you found it necessary to lift an object by curling your feet up towards your body? The 2 best alternatives, by far, are the deadlift and lunge. The deadlift will focus more on your hamstrings, while lunges will ignite both your quads AND hamstrings. And best of all, you don’t need a machine to do either. Resistance can be added to make each more challenging, but even without added weight, both will hammer away at your legs and build a rock solid core.

Now, I wasn’t completely wrong on everything, but I was pretty off on a lot of things. So let me right the wrong below:

  1. The seated preacher curl— You know what, so what if you’re seated? If your focus is on really hammering your biceps, then the preacher curl station is fine. Take bodybuilders for example. That’s gonna be a useful piece of equipment. They don’t care that their core isn’t braced. They’ll work their core in another way with a separate exercise. The goal at that moment is the biceps and there ain’t nothin wrong with that. And who cares about burning calories here? If you’re worried about calories address that with your diet and cardio work.
  2. The calf raise machine— As with the preacher curl, it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe you’re finishing up your session and want to try to help bring your calves up a bit. Then hit the calf raise machine! I can’t believe I wrote about doing a squat and then at the top doing a calf raise. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was I thinking? That’s just…. eh, I’ll let it go. Just forgive me for that one, ok? And not that running stairs isn’t a freaking awesome fat burner of an exercise, but to really build up your calves, you’re gonna want to shoulder a bit of weight to help them along.
  3. The seated leg extension / leg curl machine— I’ll just start with full disclosure that I personally use these machines. You know why? They work. And before I even read that paragraph I immediately thought about how I was wrong about the shearing forces and that there are ways around that. But then I read it and I never even mentioned that? I instead chose to write about the fact that you are sitting? Smh. I must have been Captain Functional Training back in 2011. Isolation exercises absolutely have their place. I’m a particularly big fan of the leg curl machine as it allows you to really load up the hamstrings without putting any (like none whatsoever) stress on your spine like the dead lift can. And not that lunges aren’t great (at least I got one thing right), but the leg extension has it’s place too for reasons I’ve explained in number 1 and 2 above. And just because you don’t do that particular move “in real life” doesn’t mean that working your quads in that fashion won’t directly translate over to it.

So there you have it. I admit I was wrong.

Today’s date happens to be September 22, 2016. It’s also the first day of the Fall. So come the fall of 2021 I’ll have to try and remember to come back to this post so I can rip it apart because my views have once again been changed. That’s the nature of this business. New research and more time in the trenches keeps you as malleable as aluminum foil, man. Til next week!

What my successful clients do…. and don’t

This week’s post came about while I was swimming the other day. I really enjoy swimming for several reasons. First of all, you can’t swim with your phone, so no one can get ahold of you. Secondly, it does wonders for my mess of a back. And last, but not least, it allows me time to myself to think about where I want to go in my personal life as well as with the business. I often come up with my best ideas when I’m swimming.

Anyways, as is the norm in this business, there had been a recent headline out in the news talking something about how the sugar industry manipulated the system and made fat look like the culprit and singular cause of the obesity epidemic. Hey, it’s a good headline you have to give them that. Unfortunately, it’s the same old song and dance. Sugar is bad! Fat is the devil! Carbs are the real enemy! But, but… fat has…. like…. so many calories… it has to be the bad one! It all had me remembering a classic Seinfeld episode where Elaine keeps gaining weight and Newman is super pumped about this frozen yogurt shop that serves up this amazing frozen yogurt that is fat free. Anyways the premise is that it’s too good to be true and that there must be fat in it. Of course Kramer is involved and blunders the whole thing up, but I’ll just let you YouTube the episode. For the record, that episode originally aired in 1993.

So this all got me to thinking about a particular client of mine who has been doing really well lately (and from day one really). That led me to thinking back on all of the clients I’ve had since I opened the doors to Feel Good Nutrition (now Feel Good Nutrition and Fitness) in March of 2011. What was it about the one’s who were/are  successful in not only the short term, but the long term as well? And why didn’t all of my client’s reach and maintain their goal weights? Had I failed them in my counseling? Were they just not ready to change even though they thought they were? Was it a combination? Or was it something else altogether?

My swim that day was a bit longer than usual because I really just got kind of lost in my thoughts for a while pondering all of that. Obviously I want everyone I work with to be successful in their health journey. So I decided to think positively and focus on the successful ones. What was it that they did that allowed them to succeed? Well, here’s what I came up with during my 25 yard zig zag.

  • They listened to my advice and actually adhered to it. Now I’m not trying to come off brash with that, but I’ve unfortunately given out advice or recommendations for more people than I care to remember that was in one ear and out the other. Then 2 weeks later they come back and we look at their progress towards the goal(s) we had set and I get something along the lines of “Well this last 2 weeks just hasn’t been typical. There was a,b, and c and x,y, and z that don’t normally happen.” Then 2 weeks later it’s the same thing. Over and over again. That’s particularly frustrating. Now, I understand shit happens. I live a life too. But there are ways around it that I would lay down and they just weren’t picking it up, man.
  • They weren’t perfect and they were cool with that. This one is huge. I see so many people stick to a diet to a “T” and then they go to a party or something, have cake and ice cream, feel like they’ve blown it (they haven’t), and say “to hell with it”. Ahhhhhh!!!! One meal or day isn’t going to make or break you and I drill that into my client’s heads. As a matter of fact, I love it when I see someones food log and it includes a peppering of pizza and popcorn or some chocolate and wine. They aren’t depriving themselves and that’s crucial for long term success.
  • They were aware of what they were putting in their mouth. I was talking the other day to my friend on the phone and he had recently started casually logging food just because he was curious. He’s only recently started this, but my hunch is he’ll lose at least a few pounds. How do I know this? Because often times after meeting with a new client and explaining that in order for me to know what to fix with them, I need to see what they are currently doing. And it almost never fails that they come back to me (remember, I haven’t given any advice yet) and remark at how they’ve already lost a bit of weight. It’s because they’re finally paying attention. Mindless eating will bite you in the ass…. and give you a bigger one too. Let’s say you mindlessly finish off that bag of Doritos everyday at lunch and you mindlessly scoop out of the ice cream container after dinner each night. That’s a couple hundred calories at lunch and at least a couple hundred more at dinner. So for the sake of math, that’s roughly an extra 500 calories a day. And that’s pretty easy to do by the way, especially with the types of foods I just described. Make the change to still have it, but be mindful and only have a few extra chips and a couple of spoonfulls of ice cream and you’ave cut 250 calories. That could make the difference in the course of a year of weighing an extra 15-20 pounds or not. Think about it.
  • They were consistent and stayed the course, even when it got tough. As I mentioned earlier, I know that life happens. Loved ones can get sick or die, jobs can be a bitch, kids can get out of control, you travel a lot for that bitch of a job, etc. But the successful ones make it work one way or another. Sometimes they go the other direction and gain a bit of weight, BUT they hop right back on that train and get back to it, knowing that these bumps are inevitable. What this all boils down to is mindset. I often get out a sheet of paper when working with a new client or one who has hit a plateau or gained back some weight. I draw a simple x-axis and y-axis. The x-axis is time and the y-axis is weight. What I first draw is a straight line descending from left to right and say “this is how most people think of weight loss”. Then I flip the sheet over and draw the same graph. But this time the line is squiggly. Up, down, small changes, big changes, and flat lines. From point A to point B on each graph, the end point is the same. The only difference is the journey getting there and I think that is really important to know.

Okay, so this week’s post wasn’t necessarily as funny as I like to make them, but sometimes I just have to be real. Til next week!

5 mistakes you might be making with your diet

Back in October of 2012 I wrote a post titled “7 nutrition mistakes you’re making”. I’m not going to link said article because my stance has changed on a few of the things I discussed in it. Ah, the naive 28 year old that I was. And now I’m jt a naive 32 year old. But anyways, I wanted to do a follow up to that article because it seemed overdue. So here are 5 things you may or may not be doing for your health that aren’t so good (according to me anyways).

  1. You’re consuming too much sodium. After analyzing a new client’s diet, I typically find that sodium consumption is well above the recommended upper limit of 2,300 mg. This amount, by the way, is the equivalent of a level teaspoon of salt. (Side note: sodium is it’s own element, but in our diet’s it is usually consumed when paired up with chloride to make salt) I often see 2x this amount being consumed on a daily basis in a lot of people and sometimes I’ll see 3-4x this amount. And when you look at what we’re eating, it’s not surprising. Swinging by Applebees for happy hour for their salsa verde beef nachos? That’ll set you back a whopping 6,110 mg of sodium!!! And I found that in just one quick search of one popular chain restaurant. You’ll find this all over the place. So while most people think that the salt shaker on the table is to blame, it really only accounts for a very small amount of sodium in our diets. Take home message? Cook at home as often as possible.
  2. You still aren’t drinking enough water…. probably. We’ve all heard to drink 8, 8 ounce glasses of water every day. First of all, where the hell did that recommendation stem from? How can you possibly blanket this for our entire population? A sedentary 5’2″ receptionist in air conditioning is going to require substantially less fluids than a 17 year old kid in full pads running 2-a-days in July. Then again, I think they got rid of 2-a-days? Either way you get the point. Everyone is unique here just as they are with nutrition in general. Now, I probably should have addressed this in the sodium section, but since water goes where the salt goes, I’ll put it here. Some people actually require well above the recommended upper limit of 2,300 mg of sodium due to losses in sweat. So think of the kid playing football, a woman training for a marathon, or even just heavy sweaters… But back to water recommendations. My general rule of thumb is 1/2 your body weight in ounces of fluids per day. Obviously water is my numero uno of choice, but other fluids such as coffee, tea, milk, and even water from fruits and veggies count towards that total as well. You are eating your fruits and veggies aren’t you?
  3. Your main goal is protein intake. Look, I love me some protein so don’t get me wrong here. It’s upside is very positive and I think the RDA is still too low. BUT, holy hell the media and marketers are driving me insane with this lately. High protein this, high protein that. Whatever happened to eating eggs and lean beef, chicken, and pork? What about fish? Milk, kefir, yogurt, beans, nuts, seeds, buckwheat, or quinoa? These are all solid foods! And they didn’t have to be fortified by General Mills to make your Cheerios have a measly gram or two of poorly bioavailable protein added for an extra $1.50. Eat the aforementioned foods in reasonable amounts and include plenty of fruits and veggies along with some good carbohydrate foods and you’re gonna be doing just fine.
  4. You are still afraid of those spooky carbs. Keto diets seem to be all the rage nowadays. And if you’re prone to epileptic seizures, then they are absolutely warranted. But if you’re not, then why? First off, it’s very difficult to accomplish as there are carbs in just about everything. Even your non-starchy veggies have at least a few grams per serving. So the diet itself is very limiting in terms of what you can actually eat. Therefore, if your goal is say, 25 grams of carbs per day (which would suck) and you have an apple, then the rest of your diet is gonna be meat and cheese probably. So again, you can see the potential micronutrient issue here. Now, some folks can handle more carbs than others, but to force your body into ketosis just doesn’t make any sense to me. However, I admittedly haven’t looked too deep into the new data/research on this so if you can show me evidence of some real benefit I’m happy to change my tune. Bottom line still remains that you need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight and that can be done a lot of different ways. You can lose weight without dramatically lowering your carb intake believe it or not.
  5. You have a reward mindset. Oh man do I see this one a lot. A client, let’s call her Jane, just ran 5 miles at an above average pace. I mean for her she felt like she was flying! Now she decides it’s time to spend some quality time with her two best friends, Ben and Jerry, to reward herself. Only problem is that she’s likely to out eat what she just ran off. Another way I see this play out is the guy who was perfect with his diet and workouts all week long, Monday-Friday. Unfortunately, he now believes that he has earned a weekend of couch sitting and munching on nachos while watching football (not that I haven’t been guilty of that). It’s pretty easy to undo a week’s worth of effort over the weekend. Or the worst of them all…. The person who finally reaches his or her goal weight only to celebrate by going on a binge episode of their favorite foods that they have been avoiding. The guilt and shame that follows is brutal. It happens to way too many of us and often leads back to poor behaviors and, ultimately, weight regain. Now, it’s not that the reward mindset in and of itself is bad. It’s natural actually. But we need to find a way to reward ourselves that doesn’t involve food. Maybe you get a new piece of fitness equipment you’ve been wanting. Or maybe you go and get a 90 minute Swedish massage (highly recommend this one by the way). Maybe it’s buying that pair of overpriced shoes that you have to have. It could be a weekend getaway. It can be really whatever the hell you want it to be. Just don’t let it be about food.

So I think that’s good for this week. As always, the comment section is there for a reason so let me know if these rock your world or if they just flat out suck and I’m a moron. Regardless, I hope you learned a thing or two and are constantly finding new ways to better yourself and your health. Til next week!

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!

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