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Month: October 2016

How I Lost 10 Pounds in Four Weeks Without Exercise

How I Lost 10 Pounds in Four Weeks Without Exercise

Losing fat without exercising is easy – when you do it right.

When a friend tells you they’re trying to lose weight, what’s the first thing they say?

“I’m going to run every day!”

“I’ve started this weightlifting routine. I’m going five times a week now.”

“I want to lose five pounds. I just really need to start exercising.”

When we eat something we “know” is “bad” for us – how do we justify it?

“I’ll be running this off later!” “That’s an extra mile on the treadmill!”

What’s the theme here?

The focus is on exercise. Nobody focuses on food!

There’s a myriad of reasons for this (insert link). Exercise is fun, “dieting” is not. Exercise adds something to our life, “dieting” takes something away.

This post is not intended to vilify exercise.

When our goal is fat loss, our first action is to put 80% of our efforts into exercise, and 20% into our food.

Which is unfortunate, as 80% of our results will come from food – NOT exercise. I’m going to highlight a recent example from my own life to illustrate this point.

Four Weeks, No Exercise, 10 Pounds Lighter

In late June 2016, I developed a bilateral inguinal hernia. I went under the surgical knife for repairs in July. I was not cleared to exercise until August 19th.

During this time – which spanned the initial injury, surgery, and recovery – I did not exercise.

Pre-surgery, I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without feeling pain and discomfort in my groin. Post-surgery…well, I was still in pain, and had to wait to be cleared to return to “normal activity”. That’s a long way of saying I sat around a lot for several weeks.

Oh, and I went to Vegas, where I was doing anything BUT counting calories.

For fun, I weighed myself the morning before my follow-up appointment. Prior to the injury, I weighed around 170 pounds.

Conventional wisdom says I should be heavier. Stepping on the scale, the numbers flashed right in front of me. Despite living on the couch for weeks, I weighed 160 pounds.

Here are the before and after weigh-ins:

Before
                Before
After
                  After

My “Secret” For Success

How did this happen? How did I lose fat without exercising?

Did I really lose muscle and gain fain? (No.)

Do I just have really great athletic genetics? (Ha!).

I lost weight without exercise because I paid close attention to what I ate.

Without exercise, my carbohydrate needs dropped drastically. Your body can convert dietary fats and proteins into carbohydrates for energy. Your body cannot convert excess carbohydrates into anything but fat.

If your energy needs are met, excess carbs turn into fat. If your energy needs are low, your carbohydrate need is lower.

So, I ruthlessly cut my carbohydrate intake. My diet was about 50% fat, 40% protein, and 10% carbs, all of which came from vegetables or greek yogurt. Two or three times a week, I had a small amount of legumes. Two or three times per week, I threw these guidelines aside and ate what I wanted – I always saved this for a social occasion. Like the weekend I said “fuck it” and went to Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party.

Diet? What diet?
             Diet? What diet?

Here’s a look at typical meals I ate:InjuryDiet_Breakfast InjuryDiet_LunchInjuryDiet_Dinner

Most days, I didn’t track calories. I’d check in once a week to get a feel for my numbers, but beyond that, there was no need. I knew that, by sticking to a variety of meats, vegetables, eggs, and yogurts, I’d lose fat without having to count calories.

Wrapping Up

Exercise is a great tool for heart health, building muscle, being happier. It has tons of benefits, and should not be neglected.

Exercise is also overrated for fat loss.

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “you can’t outrun a bad diet”. Maybe you’ve lived it yourself.

I lost 10 pounds, without exercising once, by ruthlessly cutting sugar, wheat, and other simple carbohydrates.

If your goal is fat loss, food needs to be your first, second, and third priority.

We want to know – have you ever lost fat while injured? What’s your success story?

7 Common Nutrition Mistakes We All Make

7 Common Nutrition Mistakes We All Make

Eating delicious, good food doesn’t have to be hard.

Done correctly, eating well helps us live longer, be healthier, and better appreciate the world around us.

Often times, we start our journey ambitious – too ambitious. With good intention, we sometimes take our new eating habits too far. Avoiding the 7 common diet mistakes below will lead to less frustration and better results.

1. Eating NO carbs.

Low-carb and no-carb diets are quickly moving out of the “fad diet” realm and into mainstream popularity. Scientific research is even beginning to catch on.

Known by many names (Adkins, ketogenic, etc.), these diets are very popular among both bodybuilders and anyone looking to shed body fat for a reason. Going no or very-low carb can be very effective.

However, going low/no-carb is a true test of mental fortitude. These diets are extremely restrictive, and can be very hard to stick to, especially when we’re first starting our transition to eating better foods. Even professional athletes struggle with restrictive diets, and cycle on and off from them depending on the season.

The first few days of a no/low-carb diet are rough – brain fog, headaches, and crankiness are common. Google “low carb flu” if you’ve never heard the term before. You’ve likely heard about similar symptoms from friends who have tried these diets.

A good alternative is to start by identifying and eliminating “bad” carbs in your diet – such as processed foods (nearly anything that comes from a box or from the middle aisles of the grocery store), sugar, white flour, and white starches, while keeping “good” carb sources – sweet potatoes, vegetables, legumes, and yogurt, to name a few.

Try this out:

  1. Track your average carb intake the week before beginning your new eating habits.
  2. Instead of lowering your carb intake, switch your carb sources to “good” carbs while keeping your total carbohydrate intake the same.
  3. Then, over time, you can slowly lower your carb intake, until you find the “sweet spot”, where you’re losing fat while maintaining healthy mood and energy levels.

Transitioning to “good” carb sources will help you avoid the “low carb flu” while shedding body fat.

2. Tracking Every. Single. Calorie.

Calorie-tracking apps have soared in popularity. MyFitnessPal claims over 40 million users. Calorie-tracking is no longer viewed as “weird”, and with food databases expanding every day, it’s never been easier to keep track of what you’re putting into your body.

However, just because we can track everything we put into our body doesn’t mean we should.

Trying to track literally every calorie you consume can be tiresome. Imagine cooking dinner for you and your partner. Candles are lit, wine is poured, Rod Stewart is crooning in the background – and as you begin to fill the plates, your partner leaps forward – “WAIT!! YOU DIDN’T MEASURE OUT THE CORN!”

Total mood-killer.

Tracking your calories is a great habit to form, but don’t let it lead to diet-OCD, and don’t let it control your life. What is the carb and calorie difference between 1 cup and 2 cups of broccoli? Did I eat 8 almonds or 9?WHO CARES?!

Get it in the ballpark, stay consistent, and you’ll be fine. Besides, nutrition fact labels and calorie counts aren’t 100% exact science anyway.

3. Trying to eat exclusively organic, grass-fed, non-GMO, etc.

From a science perspective, I’m not touching the “GMO vs. non-GMO” debate with a ten-foot pole.

Eating exclusively organic vegetables, grass-fed meat, and eggs from cage-free chickens, is expensive. It can get so expensive, in fact, that it’s a common deterrent to people interested in eating better foods, as they convince themselves that they cannot afford it and simply give up.

I buy non-organic produce. I buy corn-fed beef and chicken pumped full of antibiotics. It’s what I can afford, and it’s still WAY better than eating the Standard American Diet of processed foods and sugar.

Don’t let money be the reason you consume suboptimal junk food. Eating “normal” produce and meat won’t stop you from shedding body fat.

4. Buying “gluten-free” or “non-GMO” food that isn’t actually healthy.

“Gluten-free” chocolate cake is still chocolate cake. “Gluten-free” carbs are still carbs. You can eat all the “gluten-free” cookies you want, but you’re not going to lose weight simply because the box says “gluten-free”. Unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or have a true gluten sensitivity, you’re just spending more money for food that still makes you fat.

A good rule of thumb for buying food – stick to the outer aisles of the store. This is where the produce and meat are kept. Ignore food that comes in a box as much as possible and you’ll automatically be better off than most.

5. Only focusing on calorie intake and ignoring macronutrients.

A calorie is not a calorie.

Calories come from three main macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (alcohol is the fourth and we’ll exempt it from this discussion).

We cannot treat each calorie equally. Eating 1,000 calories per day, consistently solely of carbohydrates, will lead to weight loss – but there is a minimal chance it will lead to fat loss, which is what we’re actually after. There’s a huge difference in consuming 2,000 calories composed of 65% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 5% proteins versus 2,000 calories consisting of 40% proteins, 30% fats, and 30% carbohydrates. Our bodies digest each of these “types” of calories differently. Each “type” of calorie triggers the release or  blocking of different hormones.

Tracking your daily caloric intake is a great habit to establish – but neglecting macronutrient intake will hamper your progress.

6. Making too many changes at once.

Trying to make too many changes at once can be detrimental for several reasons.

Most importantly: the more changes you attempt to make at once, the harder it is to maintain said changes.

Think back to that time you made a health-related New Year’s Resolution. We’ve all done it.

This was the time to GO BIG! We weren’t “just” going to drink more water, or start exercising – we’re drinking 128oz of water daily, AND lifting weights 6 days per week, AND running 3 miles per day, AND doing yoga for 30 minutes every evening, AND eating exclusively Paleo AND not drinking alcohol AND juicing EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. WE GETTIN’ SHREDDED!

How’d that work out?

Making ONE new habit or lifestyle change at a time significantly increases the likelihood that the change sticks and becomes incorporated into your identity. This is important, because we aren’t looking for “quick fixes” or “instant results in just six weeks!” We are building a better lifestyle. We are in this for the long haul.

7. Not tracking your progress and results.

You know how the saying goes:

“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been”.

When it comes to building healthy habits and designing a better lifestyle, it is essential to know:

  1. Where you’ve been.
  2. Where you are.
  3. Where you plan to be.

One surefire way to make healthy living harder on yourself is to not track your progress. This makes it impossible to know what works and what does NOT work for you.

Let’s say Cousin Vinnie claims he lost 15 pounds in two weeks by eating less than 20g of carbs per day. Great! But does it work for you?

There’s only one way to find out – experiment! Do the following:

  1. Measure Variable X (weight, body fat percentage, 1-rep bench max, 1-mile running time, whatever) on Day 0.
  2. On Day 1, begin Habit Change Y (keeping carb intake to under 20g per day, drinking 64oz of water, etc.)
  3. On Day 14, re-measure Variable X. Compare new Variable X to the measurement on Day 0. Did it getter better, get worse, or stay the same?

We now have solid evidence we can use to determine if Habit Change Y works best for us. We do not have this evidence if we do not track our progress and results.

Wrapping Up

This post should give you a good understanding of seven common eating well mistakes we make when trying to change our eating habits. In a previous post, we discussed why eating too “healthy” can be detrimental to your goals and cause more harm than good. In my next post, we’ll go over ways to avoid common food mistakes and ensure you get the results you are after.

I want to know – what common mistakes have you made when trying to eat “healthy”? Share in the comments below!

Avoid Eating Too Healthy – It’s Easier Than You Think

Avoid Eating Too Healthy – It’s Easier Than You Think

Eating delicious, nourishing food is simple. Don’t overthink it.

Recently, we discussed why eating too healthy halts fat loss in its tracks, and why we are so prone to making this mistake.

In brief, eating healthy disrupts you – mentally, socially, physiologically. The quest for fat loss shouldn’t turn into an obsession over food.

It’s easy to see why this happens – we all want results, as quickly as possible. Why spend 6 months losing fat if you can do it in 6 weeks? The logic is easy to understand. But it is flawed. Fat loss comes from creating new habits, not from crash or fad diets.

So, now that we know eating healthy should be avoided, how do we do it? By keeping the following five bits of advice in mind, you’ll create a mindset that allows you to lose fat without compromising your happiness.

1) Follow the 80/20 principle.

I mentioned the 80/20 principle in my post on why eating too healthy kills fat loss. It’s a great tool for maintaining balance in your meals, essential to eating well.

Make 80% of your meals “healthy”, and 20% “cheat” meals. If you eat 21 meals per week, that gives you four cheat meals each week. I hate using “healthy” and “cheat” to describe meals, but it’s the best way to illustrate this point.

These numbers can be flexible. Some weeks I eat one cheat meal. Some weeks I have five or even six; this often occurs when special events are happening, such as attending weddings or banquet dinners, or when I go home to see my parents. By exercising moderation and not pigging out, I often end up just as lean afterwards, and recharge my motivation to eat well.

Don’t miss out on important events because of a fear of “bad” foods. Make eating well the “norm” while allowing flexibility in your life.

2) Keep things in perspective.

Eating delicious, nutritious food should not be a barrier to living a good life.

If you find eating well to be a barrier rather than a springboard, it’s time to re-evaluate your situation. Where is the majority of your eating-related stress being created, and how can you alleviate it?

For example – if your job involves taking clients out to eat, find ways to eat well at the restaurant. Look up the menu ahead of time. Restaurants are getting very creative with their salads (check out the “Sriracha Steak Salad” from my local Movie Tavern if you don’t believe me). Salad isn’t your thing? Grab a meat + veggies combo. This situation should NOT be stressful – I love trying new restaurants, and there is always a delicious meal available that also nourishes your body.

3) Transition into new eating habits.

The worst thing we do when trying to eat well – or start any new habit – is go from 0 to 100, way too quick. Instead of setting a simple goal and gradually expanding on it, we go from never working out to lifting weights 7 days a week while running 10 miles and doing a month-long juice cleanse.

And then we’re dumbfounded when our new habits don’t stick.

We’re not searching for a quick fix. We are building habits into our identity and lifestyle.

Habits are not built overnight. They take time. We must ease into new habits, rather than diving in head-first. The long-term payoff is much, much higher, and worth investing in.

For example – in the long-term, we want to minimize use of sauces high in sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. However, I will never recommend a client who is just learning to cook meat and taking the beginner steps to eating well to cut out barbecue sauce as a first step. It’s no where near the top of my priority list. Grilled chicken topped with Sweet Baby Ray’s still contains WAY less sugar and processed ingredients compared to the Standard American Diet.

Transition into your new eating habits. Focus on the wins – the good foods you are adding; do not exert energy on strictly eliminating every single food you enjoy from Day 1.

4) Take time to experiment.

Too often, eating well comes across as a chore. Another thing we are “supposed” to do that we really don’t want to do.

This is so wrong. Food should be fun. Don’t make it a source of stress!

One of the best ways to keep food interesting is experimentation. Try new foods! Cook old foods a different way. Throw different vegetables into your stir-fry.

In the beginning, we focus on establishing a set of foods and meals you like to keep in “rotation”. These are go-to meals for when you need nourishment, when your primary focus is work or family, and you just need to eat and move on. Our “rotation” meals save us time and energy while still providing delicious, nutrient-rich meals.

This saves time and willpower for experimenting with new foods – a great way to spend an evening with your spouse, or with your roommates.

5) Listen to your body.

Whether you’re listening or not, your body is communicating to you, 24/7.

It communicates by shedding fat – or storing more. It communicates by a settled stomach after a meal – or through heartburn. It communicates through increased energy levels – or afternoon crashes.

Pay attention to the queues your body gives. If you’ve lost 10 pounds after dieting for 12 weeks, and notice that, after a nice long period of leaning out, your progress has stalled, likely your body communicating that it needs a break. Time to take a week off and indulge!

Listen to your body, and track what it is telling you. Record your fat loss. Pay attention to your energy levels. Connect the dots between the actions that result in improvement and those that stall your progress.

Find what works for you – “N = 1” can be very powerful – and stick to it.

Wrapping Up

The hardest part about eating well – or starting any new lifestyle habit – is staying consistent. By using the techniques we’ve discussed to avoid the mistake of eating too healthy, we can avoid burning out, and instead design our eating habits to design the lifestyle we desire. Empower your food to empower you.

What techniques have you used to avoid eating too “healthy” and build new habits? I’d love to know – share in the comments below!

Going Overboard – Why Eating Too “Healthy” Kills Fat Loss

Going Overboard – Why Eating Too “Healthy” Kills Fat Loss

Friday Morning, 8am.

Before you head off to work, it’s time to weigh yourself and track your progress for the week.

You step on the scale feeling confident. This week was a clinic in dedication and mental fortitude, as you staved off temptation and stuck to eating healthy – 100% healthy. Not a single workout was missed. Every Oreo cookie remained on the grocery store shelf. Smiling, you start guessing – did I lose half a pound? One pound? Maybe even two?

The excitation builds. You step on the scale and…

Nothing. Not even a single ounce down.

That can’t be right. You look at yourself in the mirror and, with dismay, notice you look exactly the same as you did last week. Despite your 120-hour tour de force of salads, grilled chicken, avoiding starch as if it contained Zika, and busting ass at the gym, nothing changed.

We’ve all been there. But what happened?

One of the biggest mistakes we make – whether we are trying to lose weight, add muscle mass, or lose fat – is being too strict with our food.

What? How can I be too strict? How can eating healthy be bad for me?

It turns out that eating “healthy” food 100% of the time can negatively impact results and hamper progress. Let’s explore how:

Why Do We Eat Too Healthy?

OK, this one is pretty easy – because we want results! Not only do we want results, but we want them sooner rather than later. If eating “healthy” is good for us, then – logically – we conclude we should only eat “healthy” foods – all the time.

Now that the easy part is out of the way, let’s explore some negative consequences of eating too healthy.

Mental Effects of Eating Too Healthy

Let’s be honest with each other – food is NOT just fuel. For centuries, food has gathered families around tables, brought world leaders together, and served as a bridge across borders, both geographic and cultural. Eating food is a requirement to staying alive, but it’s also fun.

Nobody likes restraints, and adhering to a diet requires mental focus and willpower – which is a finite resource. Each time you choose a burrito bowl versus the whole enchilada, or pass up the bagels Suzy brought into the office, you make a decision that depletes your willpower.

It’s estimated that humans make up to 200 – two hundred! – food-related decisions each day. Making each and every decision a “healthy” one is tough, and can leave us feeling exhausted.

I once deprived myself to the point that I was eating Tums for “dessert”. My craving for a taste different than grilled chicken was so great, I ate an entire bottle of Alka-Seltzer Fruit Chews over the course of a week. This is insanity, and also very unhealthy. Don’t repeat my mistakes. Don’t take “eating healthy” too far.

Shown – not actually candy.

3. Social Effects of Eating Too Healthy

As more and more people begin paying attention to their nutrition, restaurants are adapting, and finding healthier options on menus is getting easier and easier.

However, there’s a big difference between seeing salad on a menu, and actually ordering it.

When we go out to eat with other people, the food is often not the focus – it’s an excuse to get together and catch up, to start off a fun night on the town. We have a strong urge not to be “that guy” or “that girl” that orders off the 400-calorie or less menu while everyone else is splitting pizza and beer. Our desire to fit in is biologically ingrained from the days of our great-great-great-great-great-great ancestors, when being an outcast meant certain death.

Rather than go out and order the salad, or – GASP – saying “screw it” and letting loose, we simply ignore the invitation.

Your nutrition should enable you to live a fun and full life doing the things you love to do. It should NOT be an obstacle. It should NOT make you miserable or anti-social.

If you’re constantly skipping on dinner invites or drinks with friends, you’re likely doing more harm than good.

4. Physiological Effects of Eating Too Healthy

Alright, so eating too healthy can have bad effects on our mental status and social lives. But surely it must be good for our body…right?

Not exactly.

Restricting calories too drastically, for too long, can send our body into survival mode. Essentially, your body thinks it is starving – another holdover from the old days – and slows down your metabolism in an effort to conserve fuel. This puts a halt on fat loss, and can actually increase body fat – despite a caloric deficit.

Having the occasional “cheat” meal puts those worries to rest – your body will realize food is not scarce, and fat can be burned off instead of stored.

Wrapping Up

It’s awesome to pay attention to your diet and eat good foods – but a limit does exist. Too much of a good thing can be harmful, and there is such a thing as eating too healthy.

A good rule of thumb that has worked wonders for myself and my clients is following the 80/20 principle. I try and keep 80% of my meals “healthy” (I hate that terminology, but work with me here), leaving 20% for me to eat as I please. Assuming you eat 3 meals per day, 7 days per week, that gives you 4 “cheat” meals to enjoy out with your friends. This is the essence of eating well.

This will fluctuate depending on your circumstances. The important thing is to maintain balance in your life. Remember, eating well encompasses all aspects of food – not just the nutrient profile of your meal.

Eat smart. Have fun. Do cool shit with your friends. Let your health create a better life – not hold you back.

Have you ever gone through a phase of eating too healthy? How did it affect your progress? Your social life? Let us know in the comments below!