How to Stop Failing at Dieting and Weight Loss

“If we wait until we are ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives” – A female facebook friend who most certainly stole it from someone famous.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet – You need to quit waiting for the right time to overhaul your diet and start making small changes today. Like a Race car designer said – “You don’t look for one place to shave off 100lbs, you looks for 100 places to shave off one pound.”

Fact: Your life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

You can spend all the prep time in the world so you can go in whole hog from a crap diet to a super balanced, all natural, gluten free raw-paleo-vegan super diet and 98% of the time it lasts for two weeks before it becomes overwhelming…you feel deprived, or you don’t know how to cope with dining out or travel.

Another fact: Something as simple as switching from mayo to mustard can save you 100 calories/day. Is 100 calories even meaningful? Well, if you have a sandwich for lunch every day that comes out to a pound every seven weeks you either lost or at least didn’t pack on. Maybe switch from your normal bread (at 70-110 calories per slice) to a higher fiber light bread at 70 calories for two slices (I like Aunt Millies Fiber for Life breads, but I’ve been seeing other brands lately). Bam! Now you’re talking 170 calories per day with changes that won’t break you. Once you’re used to your little changes and barely thing about them, it’s time to find another.

What are some of your small changes?

Jedi Mind Tricks – Training an Athlete to do the Impossible

So my world champion couch potato of a 17 year old asked me to train him. “Train you for what?” I asked. He replied by gesturing at his somewhat pudgy, video game-playing physique with just a bit of disgust and said “To be… Not This.”

I’m not kidding you when I say Michael has been epically inactive for most of the last 4 years. By doing one of those internet based schools, he’s managed to limit activity mostly to walking to the block to the corner store for doritos. No joke. We chose a few very lofty but achievable goals but step one is almost unreasonable for someone with his current fitness level: Couch to 5k in 26 days – and he’s determined to run, not walk, the entire 3.1 miles.

While I’ve always given new athletes watered-down workouts for a couple weeks (as an adaptation and evaluation phase), I knew we wouldn’t have that luxury with only 3 1/2 weeks until race day. Fortunately for the boy, I’ve got a jedi mind-training trick up my sleeve that will teach him to dig in and do more than he should be capable of. Unfortunately for the boy, I learned it from some Special Forces guys and that means it hurts. A lot.

Training started today and I wanted it to be a killer on him… I wanted him to want to quit. I wanted him to decide that asking me for help was a mistake and to think that training for a 5k wasn’t worth it because no way could he repeat the suffering for another workout. I wanted him to question his very existence and wonder if he wasn’t destined to be an overweight video game junkee that would never be happy with himself. He needed to reach his breaking point and be sure that he couldn’t continue, then I had to push him wayyy past that. And break he did.

We started the day with running for a distance goal that he’s never done before. He managed at most 400 meters (1/4 mile), but usually more like 200 at a time. He was allowed to stop and walk any time he wanted, but he had to walk in the opposite direction of progress. (that warmup sure took a while!) With no time for coddling…it was time for hill repeats.

Gasping at the top of the hill a short while later, he declared he couldn’t do any more. A-hah! Just what I was looking for! With a little pep talk he managed a couple more hill repeats, after which he could tell his legs were going to stop listening to him any minute. What he didn’t know yet was that he was only at the half way point and he kept naively asking them for more. Finally done with hills, he limped triumphantly towards the car.

You should have seen his face when I told him he could refill his water and then we were repeating the distance we had started with. (Is there an adjective that describes disappointment, fear, and certainty of failure all at once?) Broken, walking funny, and in complete disbelief, It took more than a little coaxing to convince him to risk falling on his face with dignity over walking with shame back to the car in defeat.

Michael dug deep and set off in spite of knowing that he’d never make it. It was a fight for every step but I’m thrilled to say that he finished the impossible, very happy and proud of himself (hopefully as much as I was).

Today was a huge deal. It was about mental training more than physical training. It was about pushing off bullshit limits that we put on ourselves because most of us have no idea what we are capable of and just as much about feeling a sense of greatness by accomplishing something most people never will when all you’ve ever felt is inadequacy.

He now has a taste for the accomplishing the seemingly impossible. I’ve found that taste to be like sugar – it’s pretty addictive. I think he’s hooked.

***It’s been several days since I wrote this, and for the first time ever – he’s doing workouts without my being there to hold his hand. He’s actually hounding me for them every day. For the first time in many years, the boy believes in himself.***

The Ironman, a GoRuck Challenge, a Half-Mexican, and NEVER F***ing Quitting

My Ironman Arizona Medal and GoRuck Bricks and completion Patch.

My Ironman Arizona Medal and GoRuck Bricks and completion Patch.

After Outside Magazine Online featured the mini-documentary that was made about me, someone posted something about my being half MexiCAN, not a MexiCAN’T. This got me thinking that only two things have ever really proved to me that, beyond doubt, I’m a MexiCAN: The Ironman triathlon and the GoRuck Challenge.

The Ironman: 140.6 miles total. The old saying goes: Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, run 26.2…then brag for the rest of your life. (And I fully intend to…and as you may recall, watching pro athletes collapse within sight of the finish line of this event is what inspired me to get off the couch and give it a try). It’s a truly grueling event but you get a cool medal and sometimes an ambulance ride.

The GoRuck Challenge: 15-20 miles of Good Livin’. Sounds easy enough, right? Well…less easy than you’d think since there’s an active duty US Special Forces guy screaming at you and making you do part of the mileage sleep-deprived and carrying 400lb sandbags or some of your teammates, or crawling through filth. (BTW, you’re carrying a backpack full of bricks the whole time) You do get to take frequent breaks to do countless exercises designed to break your body… And it doesn’t end until you are broken. It’s just a tiny taste of special forces selection… The web site says 8-10 hours, but cadre can’t tell time and we were out there for 12. When it’s done you get some blisters and a patch.

These events are stupid and break your body down in an unhealthy way. They were possibly the best things I’ve ever done for myself…

Nothing else has taken me to that place where you do the impossible. That deep, dark, place where your body is done and although you don’t want to quit, you know that in the next two or three steps your legs will fail and you will be face down in the dirt completely broken whether you choose to or not. But quitting is not for you…not anymore. Somehow you don’t collapse yet and think that maybe you’ve got two more steps. Then maybe two more. Then maybe you do fall, but you get back up and move another step or two. Where the finish line actually is doesn’t even matter anymore because your concept of time and distance are hopelessly distorted. Against everything in your mind that says it’s a terrible idea, it’s dangerous, or you cannot succeed so quit now, you consciously choose to fight for those last few steps over and over again and risk collapsing with your dignity rather than quit. You’re going to risk pushing too far because even dying is preferable than remembering how to be that guy you left on the couch with his Oreos and Pop Tarts. That guy never knew what living meant anyway.

That’s what the Ironman and the GoRuck did for me – They taught me how to fight with every morsel of strength I have and that when I do, the impossible can be achieved. They remind me that I’ve climbed from the bottom of society to the elite, and that victory is worth far more than comfort. Go do one and learn where your limits aren’t.

And Fuck quitting. Ever.

We’ve Been Feeding Our Kids Yoga Mats For Years…Why are we picking on Subway?

By now you may have heard of the latest unfair attack on the fast food industry – a campaign against Subway to get it to remove a chemical used in the production of foamed plastic like yoga mats and shoe soles from it’s bread.  Subway relented to the pressure and is removing the chemical, but like every other campaign against a fast food giant, the much bigger picture is neglected.  Reminds me of the campaign against McDonald’s use of finely textured beef (AKA pink slime. Still in grocery stores and school cafeterias long after McDonald’s quit using it), which is not remotely harmful anyway.  I’m far more concerned about ingesting yoga mat chemical.

Just baking some healthy, whole grain bread...

Just baking some healthy, whole grain bread…

To be clear, I’m not saying that I know whether eating yoga mat components is a good idea or not, but the fact remains that we’ve been feeding this stuff to our kids in the PB&J’s we put in their school lunches for years.  (Sooo many bread products sold in the grocery store have it…If we believe it’s dangerous, why is no one picketing out front at all the bread, tortilla, bagel, etc makers that use it in their product?)  See this article.  Then follow me on Facebook!


Multiple Attacker With Weapon Drill

What’s all this fitness good for if I’m not ready to handle any threat to myself or loved ones? I’ve recently begun adding Krav Maga to the collection of super-powers at my disposal! I’m still new at it, but my instructor is awesome and the techniques are simply super-effective. Drop me a note for location info if you’re interested in finding a place to learn Krav in Detroit’s Northern Suburbs! (Fantastic training, and way more affordable than the Big Krav place in town).

Just one more thing I’d never have had the strength, stamina, or agility to pull before I changed my lifestyle… I’m so grateful for the whole new world I have before me!

It’s Still Wasted if it’s on Your Ass.

I have a confession:  I still buy junk food.  I do…I have my moments of weakness.  I hit McDonalds’ drive thru and smartly order a grilled chicken sandwich (with BBQ sauce instead of mayo) and a fruit and walnut tray, then suddenly blurt out that I’d also like fries and an apple pie when asked if I’d like anything else.  I don’t know where it comes from…old habit?  Some recessed animal instinct?

Is it really less wasteful to put unneeded fat into my body instead of into the trash?

Is it really less wasteful to put unneeded fat into my body instead of into the trash?

I  spend then next few minutes waiting for my order and feeling like a ginormous moron for having once again ordered food that I know will make me feel like poo, then hit the road where I throw the fries and pie out the window the moment I feel like there are no cops watching.   I seriously have to wonder how many dollars worth of untouched crap I’ve thrown out.  (No wrappers become litter during the food-tossing process)

I know, I know – Mom taught us that wasting was bad.  There are starving kids in Africa…We can’t afford to throw money out the window…Your dad worked hard to pay for that…blah, blah.  Well, you’re all grown up now.  Maybe.  It’s been long questioned whether I’ve actually grown up, but I can vote and I buy my own stuff, so I understand that it sucks to spend money on something and not see any use out of it.  Like most clothes that I buy when I don’t have a girlfriend to take shopping with me – I buy them, then realize that they look stupid on me.  So they sit in my closet until I need room for even newer stuff I’ll never wear.  What’s my point? No..I’m asking you, because I honestly have forgotten.

Only one of these guys would never throw perfectly good junkfood in the trash.

Only one of these guys would throw perfectly good junkfood in the trash.

Oh, right!  It turns out that my Mom had a lot of things wrong.  My eyes didn’t stay crossed.  I didn’t go blind from – umm…you know.  And there isn’t a single kid in Africa that is going to feel better if I’m fat.  You’ve already paid for the crap once – don’t pay for it again when you have to buy bigger clothes extra personal training session to work it off. Throw that crap right out the window.  Don’t clean your plate.  Take the girl scout cookies you bought and sacrifice them to the garbage disposal.  It’s better than OK – it’s smart.

It’s still wasting if it winds up on your ass.

Your Doctor is an Idiot. Especially if he’s one of these guys. Or Dr. Oz.

OK, that wasn’t nice.  Or even accurate.  But it drives me nuts when people say “My doctor said _______” regarding diet and weight loss advice.  Fun fact:  Some medical schools provide as little as 2 hours of nutrition training to students, the average being less than 24 hours. (National Institute of Health paper here)  Well, at least they do teach med students to frequently repeat the phrase “make healthy diet choices and get some exercise.”  It’d just be nice if they also taught them to admit that they don’t know exactly what that means.

These Doctors admit they don't really know anything about nutrition.

These Doctors admit they don’t really know anything about nutrition.

Case in point – These two doctors (identical twins) had a little contest to compare two extreme diets and see which was better.  What did they learn?  That neither extremely low fat or extremely low carb are sustainable.  What did I learn?  That neither twin can read, because there is ample data already available telling us that eliminating any of the 3 essential macronutrients is a bad idea. But the guy that cut out carbohydrates lost 9 pounds in a month?  Sweet!  Breaking news (if 40 year old data is breaking news) – Yes, ketosis works, but what these guys apparently still don’t know is that most of his initial weight loss was water that will come back as soon as he eats a granola and a bagel for breakfast.  You see, body composition management 101 tells us that every gram of carbohydrate stored in your body holds onto 3 grams of water.  Thus, if the average person depletes their normally stored (ballpark) 500 grams of carbohydrates (which weighs 1.1 pounds), you’ll lose not only that weight but also eliminate the 1500 grams (3.3 pounds) of water that goes with it.  That’s how I can literally pack on 6-8 pounds overnight if I have a carb-fest, and lose it over a few days with some hard work and discipline.  The point is these guys don’t have the most basic understanding of managing weight/body composition.  Perhaps worse, they don’t seems to be aware of the importance of differentiating between losing weight strictly watching numbers on the scale and losing fat while preserving muscle tissue and a strong skeleton. (let alone how to do that).

Why did I have to pick on Dr. Oz in the title?  Because my impression is that he is more interested in his ratings/popularity than in sharing the most completely accurate information, and too many people believe everything he says.  I recall his reaction/reporting on a one day diet experiment he did.  One frikkin day.  That’s not enough time to gather accurate data and his reported symptoms were unfairly attributed to the diet (which was a stupid way to try the diet anyway). He made all sorts of dramatic claims about the diet’s drawbacks, and I have to wholeheartedly disagree with the dietary advice he did give –  I’ll have to come back to that.  The parts of his TV show that I watched were like a bunch of mini-infomercials, where he ran from table to table showing products and telling us whatever the manufacturer claimed on the label.  That’s not even bad science – that’s just being a sellout.

I do want apologize here for calling names…none of these guys nor your doctor are really idiots.  I completely respect their training and skill in their specialties, I only wanted to illustrate that nutrition is not it.  One of the twins even admits: “He realized that while he and Chris were both doctors, they really didn’t know that much about nutrition and diet.”

So please take away from this is that your doctor is not the best source of diet/nutrition/fitness advice.  Learn from people that manage their bodies for a living or lifestyle.  Better yet, start with their advice but study how everything works for yourself.

I’m Not Special, and Neither Are You.

“You’re results aren’t typical…just because you have one-in a million genetics that allows you to thrive eating fast food doesn’t mean you should recommend others follow!” – Comment from about 100 haters.

I’ll tell you one thing I learned that makes me special…the one secret that makes all my progress possible – I’m NOT special and I know it.

Know what I hate?  That stupid phrase “Everybody is different.”  It’s used so frequently out of context that I want to run head first into a steel door.  It gives people the perfect excuse to avoid committing for the long haul…instead, it makes it easy for them to prematurely conclude that normal calorie cutting/workout program doesn’t work them.   Yes, we’re all different, but we’re all the same.  By that I mean that science applies to all of us the same way.  You can have two “different” cars, but in both cases you can learn exactly how much fuel they use, and then manipulate how long a fillup lasts by driving more or less, more or less aggressively, or by not completely topping off the tank.

My last girlfriend was convinced that she was doomed to sit at 132 pounds no matter how much she worked out or how little she ate..  She was an athletic, muscular girl and just wanted to trim down 4 pounds but thought it was impossible after numerous failed attempts.  A time came when she needed to trim those 4 pounds to make weight for a competition…. we sat down and I went over the science of managing body composition with her.  It was nothing she didn’t know (being a nurse and long-time student of sports and nutrition), but she had convinced herself that she was different and didn’t have faith that it would work for her.   She committed, but was frequently discouraged (daily and even weekly fluctuations) and afraid that it wasn’t working and needed my encouragement to stick with it and trust the science.  What it took was careful management of calories – mostly the reduction of carbohydrate calories, just a little increase in calories burned, and patience.  She made it to competition day and weighed in at 127.5.  Not.  Special.

You know what holds people back?  Excuses.  It’s human nature to find ways to justify our behavior, but that instinct to protect ourselves emotionally deceives us.  “Hey, I’m not such a bad person for being overweight if it’s _______’s fault. right?”  Guys…I don’t care if you lie to me, but don’t lie to yourself.  Sorry, but you don’t have a broken thyroid or other medical condition keeping you out of shape.  Actually, I’m not sorry.  And now that you know the truth, YOU can be in charge of your own destiny.

My special weight loss secret?  I know that I'm not special.

My special weight loss secret? I know that I’m not special.

So for everyone who says that I have a special gift that makes it all possible – I do but it’s only this:  I know that I’m not special.  My ability to manipulate my weight and body composition are because of how thoroughly I’ve studied the science of it.  I work my ass off and am very careful with what I eat.  I can increase or decrease not my weight and bodyfat percentage at will and so can you.  It’s not magic.  It’s not luck.  It’s science and it works for 100% of the people that commit to it.

Still Kickin’. Hate mail. Post-Ironman Progress. Crossfit.

Sooo, my mini-documentary has made it’s way back around the internet.  (Gizmodo published a blurb and a link to it.) Check it out! )

I’ve since received a number of emails from fans and haters alike…wondering where I’ve been, why blog content is missing, if I’ve gotten fat again, etc.   Here’s a quick response and update, and a promise to try and be a slightly better blogger in the future.

My progress still on daily fast food. After a year of doing Crossfit to rebuild after I wasted away and got a bit chubbly during Ironman Triathlon Training. Taken 1/13/14

My progress still on daily fast food. After a year of doing Crossfit to rebuild after I wasted away and got a bit chubbly during Ironman Triathlon Training. Taken 1/13/14

Nope – I’m not dead yet.  Nor am I fat again.  I’ll be honest, my body was pretty wiped out after Ironman Arizona – Strength and Energy levels were that of a mere mortal, and my bodyfat was way higher than I could be happy with.  I was a pretty unhappy with my self-image, and some changes had to happen.  Less endurance sports and more weights.  More careful attention to my diet…still plenty of fast food, just what I need instead of whatever I feel like.  At a friend’s urging, I tried Crossfit.  I was skeptical for a long time… but man, I’ve learned to LOVE me some Crossfit.

Some stats – I’m hovering around 192 pounds.  10 pounds greater than my low, but I’m far stronger and more muscular.  Bodyfat still around 13%.  My focus has been on strength gains.

Anyway, my apologies for the prolonged absence.  Life is still busy…work, working out, single dad stuff (though the kids are getting older), adventuring with my friends, and dating (Yes ladies, he’s single.  Click on the “Contact the author” button to submit your application) doesn’t leave a ton of time for writing.  Sorry, but until I get someone to pay me for it, fitness will always have to come before writing about fitness.  (Contrary to many of the accusations and Hate mail, I have no business relationship with McDonald’s except the drive thru)

Yeah, the site is missing some content.  I started to remodel then got busy.  I do have some new experiences and other things I’d like to get out there though, so look for some new stuff in the near future.

Fat Guy + Mcdonald’s = Ironman Triathlete

Hi Guys!

I was fortunate enough to be the subject of a short, inspirational documentary! Thanks so much to Mike Wilkinson at for finding my story interesting enough, and putting in a lot of hard work watching me play!