Friday, February 20, 2009

It's Been a Month

A busy month, really - work got busy, deadlines snuck up on me, a script needed to be written and my beautiful son was brought into this world. The past month has been constant motion, and I've barely had time to sleep or breathe. But...

There were two things I made sure to incorporate into my days: working out, and eating the right foods. I missed 2 workouts last month. Some of you may think that's a selfish thing, but I have discovered that without a workout I drag. I get tired, cranky, and I just don't feel right. Physiologically this makes sense because a good workout releases hormones, endorphines, and gets rid of toxins in your body. So even a 20 minute trek on the treadmill can change your day into a better one.

Sticking to the diet of this lifestyle has been easy ... but monotonous - simply for the fact that I'm a creature of habit, so I don't change things up that often. But, now I'm doing more experimenting with ways to cook my chicken, fish, and eggs. The other night I made a vat of chicken, corn, black beans and spices that was so good I could have eaten the whole thing.

The biggest difference in the past month has been my protein intake. I have 2 protein shakes a day (GNC has Protein Isolate powder called "Wheybolic Extreme 60" which is amazing), one during the morning, and one right after my workout. Adding that to the diet I've been living by has caused some pretty dramatic changes. In early January I weighed 169 pounds with a 27" waist. I now weigh 188 pounds with a 28" waist. So, a vast majority of that weight gain has been lean muscle. My strength gains have been great, my endurance has improved, and I feel even better than I did when I thought I couldn't possibly feel better.

The point to all of this is, life will make it so it's much more challenging to stick to something. And when that something is solely for yourself, it's easier to give up. But, you HAVE to stick with it. Don't give yourself an excuse that "this thing" or "that thing" is more important. YOU have to come first because it will make you a better you for all the other people you love. (Wow, that was a lot of "yous".)

Stick to it! Focus on your goals! And don't let anything get in the way!

Thanks for readin'.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting the Motor Running

I had a great conversation with one of my friends today about how all of this works - the lifestyle, the work outs, everything. His questions and the dialog that began because of his questions just reaffirmed to me why this lifestyle is the way to go if you want to lose weight, keep it off, and feel healthier than you have in your life.

He was shocked to find out that I rarely do cardio workouts anymore. I did in the beginning - 3 to 5 times a week. But, over the last 6 weeks, I may have been on a treadmill 3 times. Here's why: once you start building your muscle, and increasing the intensity of your workouts, you don't need as much cardio in order to lose weight. If you want to do cardio to increase your endurance for sports, feel free! But, it isn't necessary once your body starts adapting to your new way of eating and living.

And let me explain what I mean by the intensity of my workouts. At least twice a week, I don't rest between sets. For instance; I will do a set of bench presses and immediately do a set of crunches, then immediately back to bench presses, etc. If you do that for 45 minutes, you have received both an aerobic and anaerobic workout. On these days I almost always do abdominals as my adjoining exercises - unless it's a day where the gym is relatively empty and I can take up two machines at once.

Another reason why cardio isn't as necessary once you get going is that the foods you are eating are all muscle building, energy providing foods. What you are eating is being used by your body, there isn't excess fats or calories that are waiting to be burned off. Intense workouts require your food to do what it's meant to do - so your body's metabolism starts running faster and faster, especially as you build more muscle.

And let me kill a myth right now for women. You will not build the kind of muscle a man will, regardless of how hard, or how heavy, you lift weights. You will build muscle defenition, yes, but you will not bulk up. In order for that to happen, you have to introduce more testosterone into your body through chemical means. So have no worries about what will happen if you give it your best in the gym.

Another concern my friend had was the amount of protein in this lifestyle. People have heard too much protein will cause kidney issues and other medical problems. This is true ... if you're not working out intensely. But, if you are performing intense workouts, then your protein is being used by your muscles. And you will see that within weeks. So don't be scared of protein, or having too much of it. If you are working out, you need it. It is what gets the body's weight loss motor running!

Thanks for readin'!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Facing Triggers

Though it's an ongoing journey, I've met many of my weight loss goals - in fact I've gone a little too far. My goal was 180. Today I weighed myself and was 166, which is actually up a bit from a week ago. So now my goal is to get to 180 by adding muscle.

I thought reaching my goal would change my life. In some ways it has - I feel physically better than I have in 10 years, I feel better about my appearance, and I know I've made a choice that will keep me around longer for my family. But I've discovered that my life, and the things I've been running from, haven't changed. And until I face those demons I have the potential to go back to the old lifestyle where food was a comfort, and avoidance tool, and a medication.

We all have our own issues, our own demons if you will. Mine is grief. I don't deal with it - I guess I don't grieve well. Eating was my way to grieve - or more of a way to avoid facing my grief. My weight became a buffer for the heartbreak I was feeling. Being the funny fat guy is much easier than being the grieving father. Now being the "guy-who-lost-a-bunch-of-weight" has become my identity - but I'm still the grieving father.

All of this came as a realization to me today when I looked at my son's picture and felt all the emotions I've been trying to run from for 2 years. My first reaction was to go eat - and I damn near got in the car and went to McDonald's. But I didn't. Instead I decided it's time to add a new goal to my lifestyle - learn how to experience emotions.

I write this because we all have triggers. I thought I could run from mine, but I see I won't be able to forever. So I guess it's time to address the trigger, face it, and learn how to live with it. I'll be a better father, and a healthier one, if I can.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cheat Days!

I got my first suggestion for a topic in my email. Thank you Carrie! Here was her question:

"I've been on other diets that allowed one day to have a 'cheat' meal, and it really gave me something to look forward to. Can I have a 'cheat' meal on your diet?"

Here's how I feel about cheat meals, and the reasons why I feel the way I do. First, with diets that allow "cheat days" they also have other gimmics attached - No carb diets, No fat diets, yada, yada, yada. On those diets your body starts craving the things you're keeping from it. If you're on a no carb diet, guess what you'll crave?

With the lifestyle I'm proposing, you won't crave those types of things. That doesn't mean you won't be tempted by them if they're in your presence, but you won't crave them when they aren't. You get carbs, you get fats, you get protein, you get EVERYTHING with this lifestyle. Your body isn't depleted of anything, it doesn't crave anything. Here's the surprising thing - if you crave ice cream, that craving can be taken away with fruit - it's sugar for sugar. The only way it ISN'T taken away is if you, while eating your fruit, think to yourself "this isn't the same as ice cream." To your body, it kinda is the same - only much, much healthier.

Here's my second reason for not agreeing with cheat days - and see if this makes sense. If you are choosing this lifestyle to help you lose weight, it means you had a problem with the previous lifestyle that made you gain weight - portion sizes, snacking, fast foods, etc. Why introduce a food that in your previous lifestyle helped to make you unhealthy? Look at it this way, would you want an alcoholic to have a cheat drink? Do you think that, over time, those cheat drinks may turn into binges?

If you eat healthy, body-beneficial foods, you won't desire the foods that got you into trouble. Again, if you're faced with them, then you might be tempted - but you won't crave them. So, in my opinion, cheat meals aren't necessary, and they're downright dangerous. Because cheat meals turn into cheat days, which turn into cheat weekends, and there you go...

Thank you for your Email, Carrie. I hope I answered your question with reasons that make sense.

Remember, you can reach me at

Thanks for readin'!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Changing the way you think

Some of my earliest memories are sandwiches - I don't know why. And I wasn't a fat kid, in fact I was skinny as a rail as a kid, with a metabolism like a hamster. But I remember peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bologna sandwiches, tuna sandwiches. Every lunch I had a sandwich of some sort. And with my sandwiches I always had chips of some kind. Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, basically anything that ended in "os" was a part of my lunch. So, why is that important?

It trained my brain to think certain things are supposed to go with certain meals. Think about it, what is a sandwich? It's the stuff that tastes good placed in bread so you don't get your hands messy from the stuff that tastes good. The bread is a container, basically ... an edible container. Even the healthiest bread does very little for your body - but most breads pack a lot of calories - some over 100 calories per slice. Those are wasted calories.

Bread isn't alone - tortillas are packed with calories and have very little nutritional value. And, once again, a tortilla is nothing more than an edible container so you don't get your hands messy with what's inside.

Many people reading this will think what I first thought - "but a sandwich HAS BREAD! And a taco HAS A TORTILLA! It's the way it has to be!" Actually, no, it's the way you've been taught - it's only what you've come to expect. If you're going to change your lifestyle, you have to change your way of thinking. Bread, Tortillas, Crusts, all those foods that are empty calories ... they can all be substituted.

First, bread isn't really necessary if you're truly planning on only eating foods that benefit your body. PB&J is already out, as is bologna, and if you make tuna with a couple globs of mayo, that's out too. As for Chicken sandwiches or turkey burgers, those taste just as good as a Grilled Chicken Breast and a Turkey Burger Patty - taking away the bread just changes the name, not the enjoyment of what you're eating.

"But, Brian, I love tacos?!" Me too, and let me tell you what I discovered. I love loading my taco (made with extra lean ground turkey) with black beans, tomatoes, onions, peppers, fresh corn off the cob and, of course, romaine lettuce. Only difference is, I don't throw all that stuff in a tortilla - I throw it in the romaine lettuce. Hell, a leaf of that stuff is almost the same shape as a taco shell, so why not. Honestly, if you load up all the healthy, body-beneficial ingredients into a romaine leaf - you won't miss the tortilla, and you'll be sparing yourself between 110 to 210 calories, depending on the type of tortilla.

Do you like pizza? Instead of pizza crust (which has around 80 calories a piece), try making sweet potato cakes, and adding your ingredients on top. I know, I know - it sounds gross. But you may be surprised at how it tastes. I love them.

The point of all of this is, we all learn from a very young age how to become fat because of our traditions. Sandwiches, desserts, sugary drinks, all of these things we are raised to believe are how we are supposed to eat. I challenge you to think about it - think of all the meals you think are unchangeable because of how you were raised. Well, they are all changeable - because now you eat to build a stronger, healthier body. And you can still eat tasty food ... just with different containers.

As always, feel free to Email me at with any questions, suggestions, or info you think I could use.

And thanks for readin'.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Emotional Eating

I couldn't find a more appropriate time to write this, because the holidays for me are a very emotional time. And, in the past, I was an emotional eater. It was nothing for me to feel a little down in the dumps and finish of a few Little Debbie snack cakes. When my son passed away my first reaction was to not eat at all. But, as I started to experience the reality and emotions of losing him, I started emotional eating again. Then when my father passed away, I did it even more.

People emotional eat for many reasons. You get a rush of endorphins when you eat certain foods - that's why they're called "comfort foods". Eating also passes time, gives you something to do, and keeps your hands and head occupied. Mix being an emotional eater with holiday or family gatherings where food is the focal point (and there's lots of it), and it is easy to fall into an emotional eating binge.

I'll admit it, I had a couple handfuls of caramel popcorn while at my in-laws. It was tasty, sweet, gave me a rush ... and immediately reminded me of what my goal has been for 6 months. So, I walked over to the fridge and grabbed my grapes - and emotionally ate them.

If you're an emotional eater, once in a while (a long while) it's okay to fall back into it - for a few minutes. But, if you're going to do it, remember the "code" to the lifestyle: "I will only eat foods that do something beneficial for my body." Fruit, nuts, veggies (no dip for any of them) are fine. And, with fruit, if you overdo it you're going to end up paying anyway with frequent trips to the bathroom.

But, you can also substitute other things for emotional eating. It sounds corny and unrealistic, but do something active when you feel that urge. Drop and do some crunches or push-ups. Take a walk. Do something that gets your heart and body moving. Another trick is to chew gum during that time - sugar free Extra is great. It gives you the physical act of chewing, it gives you the sweetness you're craving, but it won't set you back in your goals.

Emotional eating is a vicious cycle for people trying to lose weight. You eat because you feel bad, you feel bad because of what you just ate, so you eat because you feel bad... Take a deep breath, think about the choice you're about to make, and follow one of my tips. You'll thank yourself in the morning.

Thanks for readin'!

Remember, you can Email me at with any questions.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Weights are heavy

Back in my youth, I used to be in really good shape. I was a gym rat - even trained people (though I was never officially certified). In fact, when I went to college I started going into Exercise Kinesiology - but realized there wasn't much money in that field and changed my major. The reason why I tell you that is because my body used to be in great shape. And, because of that, it was easier for my body to change, because muscles never leave, they just atrophy and get hidden behind fat. So, once my body started remembering how it used to be, it changed at a much faster rate.

But, even if you've never been in shape, this lifestyle WILL work for you. It just may take a little more time. Don't have that discourage you because once you get started and feel your body change, you will look forward to following the lifestyle even more.

So, let's talk about working out. I hadn't stepped foot in a gym in about 4 years. And, 4 years ago, I only stepped in briefly to say hi to the weights. They didn't remember me, so I moved on. This time, when I came back, I came back slowly. I started by walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes, 3 times a week, at a 3.5 setting. That is SLOW, but I was so out of shape, it was the best I could do. About 3 weeks in, I started lifting again. And, YES, it was embarrassing at first. I was in a Gold's Gym lifting itty bitty weights, while these humongous guys were using my weights to warm their grandma's up before their real workout. But, within a few weeks, my strength gains started coming. A few weeks after that, I was seeing little bumps that could almost be called muscles. And, within a few months, I was seeing changes in my body on a daily basis. Yes, they were tiny and only I could notice them, but they were happening regularly.

Here's how I did it:
Day 1 (Chest)
3 sets of Incline Dumbbell presses - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of Flat bench (I use a Hammer Strength Machine) - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of Wide Grip Presses (Hammer Strength) - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of Reverse Grip Dumbbell Presses (optional) - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
Treadmill for 20 minutes

Day 2 (Biceps/Triceps)
3 sets of seated dumbbell curls - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of preacher curls - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of hammer curls - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
5 sets of cable push-downs - 12 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of dumbbell kickbacks - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of French Presses (skull crushers) - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps

Day 3 (Back/Delts)
6 sets of 1 arm rows with varying grips (Hammer Strength Machine - my favorite) - 12 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of lat pull-downs - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of cable rows - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of overhead dumbbell presses - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of bent over dumbbell raises - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of lateral dumbbell raises - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
Treadmill for 20 minutes

Day 4 (Legs - this is actually physical therapy for me from getting hit by a car, so I'll post what I WOULD do, if I wasn't doing that)
5 sets of leg presses - 12 reps, 10 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of stiff legged deadlifts - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
3 sets of leg extensions - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps
5 sets of calf raises - 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps

Day 5 - REST!!!

Then, repeat from Day 1.

Obviously you'll change it up after a month or so. I now do 15 sets for chest, 12 sets for biceps, 15 for triceps, 16 for back, 12 for delts, and eventually I'll do about 20 for legs. Also, every other day I do crunches. I don't know how many, because I don't count. I do a set until I can't do another crunch, then I'll rest a minute and do another. I probably do 8 sets every other day.

You shouldn't start with this routine if you're not familiar with the exercises. You also don't have to start with as many sets as listed above. Listen to your body at first. Then, once you start getting in shape, you can tell your body to listen to you. : )

Feel free to Email me with any questions. They may even lead me to blog topics!

Remember, you CAN do this. It's a state of mind, just like choosing to be unfit is a state of mind. Once you focus your mind, you can do anything!

Thanks for readin'!