A Hundred Pounds Lost

“A Hundred Pounds Lost” is a site dedicated to my personal journey of not only losing 100 lbs but also my pursuit of a better life. I’m not perfect. I have gained some of the weight back, lost it and repeated that cycle a dozen times.  But each day I wake up and am thankful for the health I have and my goal is to help others who are just looking for support.

I may not be a doctor but through trial and error and countless hours of research I have found the 1st and most important secret to weight-loss: THERE IS NO SECRET. Each person is different. We have different body’s, minds, struggles, addictions, aches, pains, diseases and reasons on why we shouldn’t work out today. Fat is there are no “secrets” to weight loss and there’s no magic wand that will make the fat disappear. It all comes from hard work, consistency and dedication…Losing 100 lbs wasn’t easy but man was it worth every painful step.

You too can change your life but it’s starts now. Don’t wait. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you later.

Texas “No Bean” (aka low carb) Chili

According to Texans, who think they know everything about chili, if you add beans to your chili, you haven’t made chili but some other contraption all-together. No offense to the longhorn state, that’s utter nonsense. My father was a chili aficionado and he always added some type of bean (typically kidney) to his chili. Oh, and he’s won plenty of chili cook-offs in his day.  And since I didn’t grow up in Texas, what they believe the definition of chili to be was inconsequential to me. #HotChiliTakes

However, the Texans may have unknowingly been on to something. Most diets do not include chili because for most of the country, which includes the weirdos who put chili over spaghetti noodles, chili has beans which ipsofacto means your chili is extremely high in carbs. HINT: Carbs are bad.

In the past I’ve tried to go the healthier black bean route but at the end of the day a bean is a bean is a bean and if you’re trying to eat low carb, any type of bean is a no go.

So, enter my newly created Texas style “No Bean” chili.

Ingredients 

Buy as much organic ingredients as possible, if that’s your thing.

1.5 lbs 85/15 Ground Beef

Hint: The leaner the better but 85/15 has a good mix of fat and flavor. You’ll drain most the fat later, and you’ll be left with the flavor. BINGO.

1.5 lbs lean stew beef cut into small cubs. (Add 1 tsp salt and pepper, mix and set aside)

1 large can roasted diced tomatoes

1 large can pureed tomatoes

1 medium can tomato sauce

1 small can tomato paste (used only to thicken the chili if needed)

Hint: You can now buy organic canned tomatoes. You can also find canned tomatoes that are seasoned with chili’s and peppers. Go that route if you can.

4 Poblano peppers (fresh)

3 Jalapeno peppers (fresh and roughly chopped)

Hint: The seeds are what make peppers really hot. To remove seeds, slice pepper down the middle and using your knife, scrape the inside of pepper until seeds are gone.

1 large onion (roughly chopped)

1 each red, yellow and green bell pepper (roughly chopped)

Hint: The red and yellow are for color only but I find them also to be a tad sweeter. 

1 can chipotle peppers (diced)

Hint: I believe one can contains 5-6 peppers. I use three-four and my chili ends up very spicy.

 

2-3 cups each chicken and beef stock.

1 tbls olive oil

1 tbls minced garlic

1/2 cup each chili powder, cumin, and paprika..

Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional: Habonerro or ghost chili’s. Use only if you like very hot chili or you hate your bunghole. 

Also optional: Beer. Any beer (the darker the better) works but know you’re adding unnecessary carbs with every beer.

Instructions

This is a one pot chili, so clean up should be a snap.

Prep time: 1 hour. Cook time: AS LONG AS POSSIBLE

Preheat oven to high broil. Place poblano peppers, whole, in the oven directly under the broiler. Broil until pepper turns black (yes, black like burned black). Rotate peppers until completely blackened on all sides. Remove peppers from oven and place in gallon size plastic freezer bag. Seal bag and place to the side.

Preheat large heavy bottom’d pot to medium to medium high heat and add 1 tbls olive oil. When oil begins to smoke add seasoned stew meat; brown meat on all sides and drain any excess fat. Remove beef from pot and set aside. Add ground beef immediately to pot and 1 tsp salt and pepper. Cook until brown and drain excess fat.

Pot should now have bits of chard beef on the bottom (that’s good). Add 1 tbls oil, return all beef to pot and add onion, garlic, jalapeno, bell pepper and chipotles. Add 1 tsp salt and pepper and cook until browned. (5-10 minutes).

While beef/pepper mixture cooks, remove the chard (blackened) outside of the poblanos. Watch this video on how to do this. Once skin is removed, dice poblanos and add to the meat and pepper mixture.

Once cooked, add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika to the mix and cook for an additional 2-5 mins. Be careful to stir occasionally, not allowing the mixture to burn.

Add tomatoes, juice and all, scrapping (de-glazing) the bottom of the pot. Cook for 10 – 20 minutes or until liquid reduces by an inch. Add chicken and beef stock (add in equal portions until liquid is 3-4 inched from top of pot), stir and let chili cook for as many hours as humanly possible on medium-low heat. Taste often to monitor spice and salt level. If too spicy, add more liquid or tomatoes.

Chili is always served best the next day. So if you have the time to cook a day in advance, do so and you’ll thank me later. Now, this chili is not 100% carb-free. Tomatoes are considered a carb, but no worries, these carbs aren’t bad for you like the bean filled carb’d up chili you’re use to eating.

 

 

Before you go organic stop and think: “Why am I doing this?”

Eating organic is a social trend these days. Kind of like CrossFit and gluten free foods, people are buying up organic food without doing their research or asking the most important question of all- why?

Their best friend is eating organic so they are. Your Facebook friends and Pinterest alike have thousands of recipes on how to eat organic, but few tell you the why. Making matters worse or better, depending how you see things, Whole Foods and Trader Joes have finally made organic food readily accessible and even somewhat cheap (or manageable).

But a word to the wise, before you head over to your favorite organic store and spend $300 on groceries in one week, ask yourself why you are going organic because the answer will determine your longevity.

Doing something for the right reason will always lead to success. Transversely, if you choose something for the wrong reason, at some point the walls will come crashing down around you, either due in regret or boredom. Why do you think so many gym memberships go unused each month/year? It’s not because the gym is bad, but people get motivated quickly and unmotivated even faster.

Reasons why NOT to eat organic

Because your friends are doing it. This is the classic if your friend is jumping off a cliff would you follow them example. Peer pressure will by in large only lead to an initial change in habit and not long term success. Eating organic foods can be expensive and buying them overwhelming, and if you’re only doing it for social reasons, you’ll never last.

You read some post like this on Facebook. This can be the start of a good reason to eat organic, but not enough in it of itself. If you find posts like this interesting, don’t stop here. Go read more, do your research, and find out the deeper reasons why organic foods are better for you.

You think you’re going to die of cancer because conventional foods cause cancer. Fear will get you no where in life, at least long term. It’s true, there are theories out there that the chemicals in our foods are causing cancer, but there has yet to be any significant research done to prove they actually cause cancer.

You want to save nature. Okay, this one may get me in trouble, but eating organic won’t save the ozone or keep the ice caps from melting. This can be certainly part of a reason, but when rubber (money) meets the road, which one will win? Nature or your wallet?

So what are some good reasons?

Honestly, I can’t make that list for you because you need to make the decision for yourself. Personally, my wife and I feel that the healthiest way for our family to live is to rid our daily diets of as many processed foods as possible, starting with processed carbs and sugar. We’ve done our research and decided as a family to eat as organic as possible.

We know what foods should be organic and which ones aren’t as important. We know that the no-gluten trend is largely BS. We know the price differences of organic foods at Public, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods. We believe that meat and dairy are not the cause of cancer but GMO’s may be. And lastly, which is probably the most significant reason, our budget affords us the opportunity to take on this life style.

We don’t buy organic deodorant or hair products. We don’t make our own clothes, drive electric cars, or buy only locally grown foods. We  certainly aren’t on a crusade to fix the planet but our motivation is to provide a healthy environment for our children that is less about food and more about activity. For those reasons, I believe we will last because they aren’t selfish or based on social trends.

Maybe one day we find out conventionally grown foods, fast foods, and processed carbs aren’t he cause for diabetes, obesity and heart disease in this country. Perhaps we find out GMO’s aren’t slowly killing us. But until that day comes, I’ll take the warning signs and live a healthier, more organic lifestyle and honestly I hope you do too.

Be well

Here are some helpful reading/watching materials that guided my family in making this decision. I hope they help you as well.

Gary Taubes: Why we are fat. Video. Book. Great info on the science behind fat loss and gain.

Forks Over Knives documentary- This movie led us to try the vegetarian lifestyle for a month. However, reading Gary Taubes forced us to leave this diet because you have to eat tons of carbs on an all veggie diet.

Fed Up documentary. A movie on child obesity and how sugar is killing us.

Super Size Me documentary. A look at how deadly fast food can be and why we should never, ever eat it.

 

 

 

RECIPE: House Seasoned Pork Tenderloin and Honey Mustard Glazed Brussels Sprouts

If you’re anything like me, you grew up hating brussels sprouts and rightfully so. Having to choke down boiled or steamed tasteless balls of cabbage is a memory we’d all like to repress. Seriously, there is no amount of ranch dressing that will cover up that nastiness. You may also remember dry pork chops that resembled rice cakes or the sahara desert in your mouth.

But guess what, it’s not your fault. This is one of those memories you can blame your parents for and every child in America would stand in your defense.

Honey Mustard Brussels Sprouts 

These roasted brussels sprouts are deceptively delicious and nothing like the boiled version you had as a child. The honey mustard adds a tarty sweetness, the pepper a bit of a kick, and the char from the roasting a depth of flavor that will have your taste buds asking for more.

Ingredients

One pack fresh Brussels Sprouts- you can buy them frozen but grab the fresh if you can. Obviously, if you buy two packs double the following.

1/2 cup mustard (Spicy or regular). HINT: Organic mustard has a much better flavor than the classic Frenchs version and the 360 Whole Foods brand isn’t expensive.

1/4 cup honey

Freshly ground or pre-ground pepper- This is a preference but I used a lot. Freshly ground will have more flavor and the rough cut adds a little texture.

1 Tbls garlic- This is also a preference thing. I used minced garlic but if you only have fresh, I’d go with 1-2 gloves. You can also use garlic powder, just be careful of the amount.

1 Tsp Salt (Kosher)

 

HINT: You can buy pre-made honey mustard dressing but I find it has that manufactured taste and you lose the freshness of making it yourself. If you go with pre-made dressing, add the pepper, garlic, salt and a little more honey. 

 

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 (this will be the same temp as the pork)

Start off by combining the above ingredients (minus the sprouts) and set aside. Next, boil the sprouts for 5-10 minutes. The boiling time depends on how long you plan on roasting and how soft or firm you like them. Once boiled, drain sprouts and add to honey mustard mixture. (You can now cut sprouts in half but this is not a necessity). Place sprouts in single row on oven safe pan.

You’ll have plenty of left over marinade which you can use as a dipping sauce later. Depending on time allowed, you can treat this as a marinade or a quick dressing before roasting.

The pork will roast at 350 for 20-30 minutes, so you can wait to roast the two together or roast them separate.

House Seasoned Pork

I’ve been roasting pork loins for several years now and have the cooking and my house seasoning down to a near science. Unfortunately, pork can be easily overcooked and under seasoned. Most people think pork must be cooked medium or higher, thus leaving the pig dry and tasteless. But new cooking regs show pork can be consumed at medium rare to medium, which the lower temp prevents over cooking and drying out. I cook my pork loin (dark or white) to an internal temp of 135, resting for 3-5 minutes, allowing the internal temp to then rise to 145. Anything above 150 and you’ll be left with a hockey puck and not tender pork.

NOTE: No one in my house has ever gotten sick by eating pork cooked to medium rare. Just saying.

 

Ingredients

I don’t have an exact measurement for each ingredient since the size of your loin is unknown to me but I’ve listed them from most to least in volume. Once you’ve combined all the ingredients, taste the seasoning and check for saltiness. It should be salty but not too salty and the lemon pepper flavor should be obvious. The ability to tell the difference is an acquired skill that takes trial and error to avoid. If you’ve over salted, continue to add ingredients from pepper to cayenne or add a tsp or brown sugar till evened out .

Equal parts Salt and Pepper

Lemon Pepper- Adds a citrus flavor and sweetness

Garlic Powder

Onion Powder

Equal parts chili, cumin, paprika powder

Chipotle Powder

Cayenne Pepper

Olive Oil

Brining method

Fill large freezer bag or container half full of room temp (not hot) water. Pour in cup of salt, sugar and a cup of the above seasoning. Place pork in bag/container and let sit in fridge for at least four to six hours, rotating pork ever so often. The pork should be completely covered by water. Again, the time of brining depends on the size/thickness of your loin.

Before cooking, remove pork from brine, pat dry, and follow dry rub method (minus the four hour marinade)

Dry rub method

Combine ingredients. Coat pork loin in olive oil and then liberally sprinkle seasoning over pork, rubbing until completely covered. Cover and allow the seasoning to sit on the pork for at least four hours.

Note: If time is an issue, skip the four hour marinade or brine and go straight to cooking. 

Directions

Pre-heat large skillet to medium-medium high heat. Add tbls of olive oil. After olive oil coats the pan and begins to smoke, sear off the meat on all sides, 3-4 minutes per side. If the loin is too large to fit in pan, cut in half.

Place seared meat on oven safe tray (doesn’t have to be a roasting pan), along with brussels sprouts, and cook pork till internal temp reaches 135 degrees. Cook time depends on thickness of loin, but expect 10-25 minutes.

Remove pork from oven, set oven to high broil, place pork on cooling tray, cover loosely (like a tent) with foil, and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes.

Place sprouts on highest oven rack and broil till all sides are blackened (but not burnt). DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM SPROUTS. High broil cooks at about 550 degrees and will ruin your food in a heartbeat. This should only take a few minutes anyways, so stay by the oven.

Cut pork into medallions and serve sprouts pipping hot with left over honey marinade as a dipping sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Been Five Years Since I Lost 100 lbs

Next week marks the five year anniversary of my journey to losing 100 lbs and oh what a journey it has been. There have been some very high highs and also some extremely low lows, and not all revolved around my weight. What people won’t tell you is there’s a lot more that comes with losing weight then just being able to fit into smaller clothes. There’s an emotional and mental change that follows, and that can be the hardest thing to overcome. The balance between self deprecation (hating yourself because you’re overweight) and narcissism (becoming obsessed with your new found thinner body) was far more difficult to handle then I ever imagined..

For sure, I landed in the gutter a few times but thanks to the support of an amazing wife, along with great family and friends, I eventually rediscovered the Lyell I always wanted to be. The guy who was a lazy 330 lb slob that would rather sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat pizza all day, has turned into a man who finds joy in exercise, who wakes up at 5 am to work out, runs with his kids after work, eats healthy, and hopefully motivates others to change there lives in a similar fashion.

The greatest lesson I have learned the past five years is that to be truly successful, in weight loss and life, one must be willing to do almost anything to survive. Building up walls and saying, “I’ll never do that” instantly eliminates an opportunity to grow and hinders your ability to reach your goals.

Never say:

* I’ll never wake up early to work out because one day you may be forced to.

* I hate ::insert vegetable here:: and will never eat it because your palate will change over time and you’ll need variety in your diet to stay focused. Also, don’t be so bull headed to think you’ll never like something…

* I’ll never try ::insert exercise program here:: because you may find yourself one rainy day watching Crossfit games for the first time and your idea of what is exercise will forever be altered.

Always be willing to adjust your life’s routine so that your diet and fitness plan stay a part of your life’s routine. The most detrimental thing to your weight-loss goals will be stopping. Change, evolve, adjust, or maintain, but never give up because things get tough.

This past week I started to take my son and daughter on a run after work (my desire is to incorporate my children into my exercise) and as a treat the park when we’re finished. Yesterday, after about a mile, my daughter who was riding her bike, began to get tired and started to complain. As she whined and pleased for us to stop I, in the most loving way possible, said to her, “Baby, don’t get upset and frustrated when things get tough; just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s bad”.

Literally, that’s the best advice I could ever give someone. Don’t give up because things turn bad or impossible. Use that moment to grow and learn something about yourself and then turn that frustration into a positive. Then, when you’re faced with another difficult situation, you’ll have the confidence in knowing you’ve already defeated the demon once and know you can do it again.

Redefining cardio and how you can get the most out of a short workout.

Note: Each person must evaluate what their own body can handle. If you can only walk, due to a physical condition, by all means walk. There is no shame in it. 

Ask any random person at a gym to define cardio and you’ll probably get some variation of “Extended periods of running, jogging, walking, elliptical training, rowing, etc.” Why do you think most gyms have huge sections (some larger than weight areas), full of treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals? It’s because these apparatuses are what most people associate with “cardio”.

However, what defines something as cardio is not the activity but how it raises your heart rate and sustains this level for an extended amount of time. And the fact is there are much better, more efficient ways to raise your heart rate that are also not as boring as staying on a stationary bike or treadmill for 30 mins to hours on end.

Did you know the minute you step off the treadmill or stop running your body stops burning calories?

Sorry, I didn’t think there would be math

Time spent is time lost. I’m the type of person who is always looking for better, more efficient ways to do something (aka the faster the better). This is why I hate jogging. It’s long, boring and doesn’t burn that many calories.

Rough estimates on calories burned in a 30 minute workout: I used my measurements (male, 6-2, 230lb)

Rowing machine – moderate: 317

Jogging: 366
Spinning – moderate: 366
Calisthenics / exercise – (burpees): 421
Circuit training: 422
Stationary bicycle / spinning – vigorous: 593
Elliptical trainer: 593
Running 8 mph (7.5 mins per mile): 704

 

Now, looking at just calories burned, your first assumption would be running is your best option, but there aren’t that many people who can average a 7.5 min mile for 30 minutes. So let’s use a more accurate measurement of running at 5.7 mph pace (570 calories) which is basically jogging. At that point, jogging isn’t a very effective way to burn calories when compared to other exercises that can achieve much more in even shorter amounts of time.


But is burning calories the most important factor of cardio? Yes and no. You burn calories all day long and, yes, cardio can increase the amount of calories you burn in a single day (aka burning off that donut you had for breakfast) but that’s a very pedestrian way of looking at exercise. There’s so much more going on during a workout then just burning calories, and you must think of all factors before choosing to just jump on that treadmill.

Your cardio should work more than just your heart

Getting the most out of your workout should be the goal each and every time you go to the gym. Some people structure their routines to have designated cardio only days. While this is a very typical approach, it doesn’t mean it’s the most effective one. You can incorporate cardio into each and every routine, but that doesn’t mean you have to run in-between sets.

Using running/jogging as an example, this activity primarily works your lower body with your abs getting some (nominal) work. If you are sprinting or running very fast, your abs get a little more work than if you jogged. Same for biking and spinning.

Elliptical training is a little better since it has that swinging arm thing that is suppose to also work your upper body, but I’m not convinced to what level it achieves that “goal”.

But why not choose exercises/routines that both stress the cardiovascular system while also working the major muscle groups? Unlike running or jogging, there are other exercises that will not only burn calories during your workout but also continue to do so for hours after. Talk about workout efficiency.

Burpees are great because they work the entire body but also raise the heart rate a great deal. The look simple but are one of the toughest movements you’ll every do. Rowing, while it may not burn tons of calories, works both the legs and the pull incorporates a back and shoulder workout. If you don’t have a rower a great sub would be a sumo dead-lift high pull. Yeah, they suck but will work you like nothing else. Air Squats (un-weighted squats) will work every muscle in your lower body, along with your butt and abs. Throw in a thrust (a bar thrusted or medicine thrown into the air) at the top of the movement and you have a complete, total body workout. Lunges (walking or alternating) are a great way to work your lower body (all of it) and hit your abs and butt. Throw in some bumbbells, hold a 25 lb  weight above your head and you’ve incorporated nearly the entire body.

You can combine these movements with running, walking, jogging, or sprinting to create a complete workout that will attack each and every body part, while also exercising the heart. Best part is you need very little equipment, if any, and they can be done at home, in your back yard, garage or the park.

Create rounds or circuits to avoid boredom. Set a timer and try to complete as many reps (of whatever exercise) in a minute as you can, rest for two minutes, and then complete another one minute of the same exercise. Do this for a few “rounds” until you cannot do another rep. You can even change up the movement each minute (push-ups one minute, sit-ups the next, then finish with squats).

The general idea is not to place cardio in box. Running, while probably the most popular form of exercise, is by far the least efficient way to get in shape. It takes hours and only works half the body. It’s a good place to start but not a great way to finish.

 

My transition BACK to CrossFit and eating clean (aka no more GMO’s)

Transitioning Back To CrossFit

Four months ago I wrote a post  explaining that due to some serious back issues (that had gone un-diagnosed for six months) I was forced to quit CrossFit and return to the world of three sets of 15 weight lifting. At that point in my time my back (the thoracic mid section) was unstable and would spasm randomly. Resting made it worse. Laying down only magnified the spasms. My bed, my sweet, wonderful, king size bed, was a torture chamber, not a place of rest and relaxation. I thought my lifting days were over and I was left contemplating my future and how I would go about avoiding the slow weight gain (that had already started).

As silly as this sounds, I was beginning to enter a slight depression because intense work outs had become a lifestyle.

Finally my wife made a doctors appointment and he immediately sent me to a physical therapist. Come to find out my back issues were quite common. My thoracic spine had a mild misalignment and looked something like this:

Those red spots (or what I called hot spots) were the source of my spasms. Since my back (vertebrae) was out of alignment, the nerve endings that follow the spine also were out of alignment, sending the muscles surrounding the vertebrae into spasms. Sounds serious, right? Apparently not so much. This is quite common and an easy fix, according to the physical therapist. I was shown some simple stretches and after a week or two my one time nightmare was 99% of the way healed. I’m now back to doing all the things I feared were over. Six months ago I couldn’t lay on the floor and play with my kids. I couldn’t lay on my son’s bed (on my stomach) without spasming. Now I can do all those things and much more a.k.a. CrossFit.

Eating Clean Never Tasted So Good

Along with my return to CrossFit has been a desire to reclaim a healthy diet. I’m an emotional eater and over the last year I had allowed my diet to reach a near pre-100 pound weight loss lifestyle. No, I still haven’t had a Mt.Dew since 2009, and hadn’t yet dived back into fast food, but a majority of my meals were full of fried food and take out. No wonder I had gained 20 pounds since last November.

But what does eating clean mean?

Eating clean is simply ridding yourself of all (or as much as possible) processed foods from your diet. My wife and I have taken it one step further and gone organic with most of our foods but eating organic =/= eating clean. Organic food can be extremely expensive and making all your meals from scratch time consuming, but the positives far outweigh the negative, in my opinion. If you can’t eat organic, just try to eat as many fresh ingredients as possible.

Yes, this means no sugar, processed carbs or meat, and as little canned goods as possible. Instead, we eat fresh organic vegetables, fruit,  and meat. Basically, we are following the Paleo diet without all the rigid Paleo-type restrictions (I’m going to use salt when cooking, sorry Paleo purists).

Our bodies weren’t made to process processed foods. The adverse effects processed food has on our bodies are well documented and researched. The most damning of all processed foods would be those which are made using GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms)

What are GMOs?

GMOs are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.

In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food. Click here for a current list of GMO risk crops.

Does that sounds like something you want to put in your body? If our food is being genetically altered, what is the genetically altered food altering in our bodies after consumption? I won’t be shocked to learn in 100 years that GMO’s are directly linked to the increase of cancer in our society. After all, what is cancer? A disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. Sounds a lot like what GMO’s are doing to the foods we eat on a regular basis.

But don’t take my word for it; go do your own research. There more than enough documentaries, studies, and books that have been written on this subject.

 

My transition from Crossfit to normal life and why I’m sad.

This past Saturday morning, after two years of Crossfitting from my garage, I came to one of the toughest health based decisions in my life— I had to set aside what I love to do for the betterment of my body and stop Crossfitting.

For the past several months I’ve been dealing with horrible back spams that at times have been debilitating. Low back pain is something I’ve struggled with for the past 10 years but this was not that. These spasms were in the middle of my back along the spine and any time I tried to move my hip or twist, the muscles would spasm and nearly drop me to my knees. At first they’d go away after a few days but they’d come back after a month or so. This last time, however, my back never recovered. The muscles stayed in a constant state of instability.

Important lesson learned: Listen to your body.

I tried everything. I looked at my diet. Was I eating too much sodium or not enough? Was I dehydrated? I stretched my lower body (back pain can be attributed to tight leg muscles). I even tried using different shoes, thinking the lower heel of my new shoe was causing my whole body to be thrown off (which can happen). Maybe the 15 lbs I gained during my wife’s pregnancy (which I’ve lost 8 lbs of the 16) is the cause? Nope. Nothing worked. Not even losing weight.

So after my back went out again on Friday night I had finally had enough. CrossFit had to go.

Note: I’m not blaming CrossFit.

Why? Cause it works. My back issues are not the fault of Crossfit. CF didn’t make me gain 100 lbs from 2002-2009. CF didn’t make me ignore my lower body and back while losing weight. It’s not CF’s fault I was born with tight hips and hamstrings.

There are a lot of articles out there full of uneducated people writing uneducated things trying to discredit CrossFit. Look, if you read some “articles” or watch youtube videos of people doing stupid things while CrossFitting and that’s the basis of your opinion, well I have no words for you. Don’t even listen to people who tried CF for a few weeks or months and gave up.

I’ve been doing CF for two years and I can tell you there is no better approach to Strength and Conditioning for the layman. But just like with everything in life, CrossFit isn’t for everyone. Sure, I could have scaled back some of the movements and made it work, but to me, that would defeat the purpose. I want to progress in my training, not go backwards. In the great words of Winston Churchhill, “Whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”.

So I have to listen to my body. If my back can’t handle the constant stress that CF places on it (which is not a CF problem), the decision is simple — I have to stop.

So what’s next? Traditional weightlifting, I suppose.

I’m sad because that style of training is outdated and boring to me. Doing back and bi and chest and tri days makes me yawn, not excited. I’ve spent 700 days being constantly challenged and pushed to my limits. So moving from “Three rounds for time” to “3 sets of 8″ is like going from eating steak daily to eating McDonalds.

But I’ll figure it out. I’ve been researching and trying to get my mind right. I’ll take what I learned in CF, apply it to my new routine and hopefully my back issues subside. I’m going to start getting monthly deep tissue massages. I’ll do more twisting ab workouts to help strength the muscles that are spasming and if that doesn’t work I’ll try something else.

If I learned one thing while losing 100 lbs it was that you have to try everything and find out what works best. I simply refuse to be beaten by muscles. I refuse to take medication to “heal” my back. I will do whatever it takes and I will not surrender. It’s just not in me.

Why Are You (We) Fat?

OK, so I totally just stole the title of Gary Taubes‘ book “Why are we fat and what can we do about it?” but I did so because it is the inspiration behind this post and my new eating lifestyle. Over the past 3 years and 105 lbs I have eaten a balanced diet consisting of whole grain carbs, low fat, lean protein and lots of veggies. This worked for the first 50-75 pounds but I’ve had to make some changes along the way because when you are 325 lbs, any healthy change in your diet works. But if you truly want to lose fat and get lean you have to know your body and how it works best. I’ll get into the new diet in a second but first lets discuss the question, “Why are you (we) fat? I’m sure you know this but there is a reason but it’s probably not what you think it is.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this question,”Why am I fat?”, figured out the answer and then probably had very mean thoughts about yourself afterwards. I’m sure there was a lot of blaming parents, maybe genetics or your love for cookies, cakes and fried foods. You probably said to yourself, “Well I hate to exercise and I eat like crap” or perhaps “I don’t know cause I eat decently healthy and exercise”. This has probably led to some frustration and possibly to the conclusion that you’ll always be “fat” and there is nothing you can do about it. Well I’m here to tell you that is false on so many levels.

So who is Gary Taubes and why should we care what he thinks? Well….

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American science writer. He is the author of Nobel Dreams (1987), Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion (1993), and Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), which is titled The Diet Delusion in the UK. He has won the Science in Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996-97.

Born in Rochester, New York, Taubes studied applied physics at Harvard and aerospace engineering at Stanford (MS, 1978). After receiving a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University in 1981, Taubes joined Discover magazine as a staff reporter in 1982. Since then he has written numerous articles for Discover, Science and other magazines. Originally focusing on physics issues, his interests have more recently turned to medicine and nutrition.

Taubes’ books have all dealt with scientific controversies. Nobel Dreams takes a critical look at the politics and experimental techniques behind the Nobel Prize-winning work of physicist Carlo Rubbia. Bad Science is a chronicle of the short-lived media frenzy surrounding the Pons-Fleischmann cold fusion experiments of 1989.

Note the second paragraph…This guy is smart and I don’t mean just kinda smart. This dude has three degrees from three of the top Universities in this country. He’s smarter than you and probably most of the people in the country. But it wasn’t his credentials that made me pay attention, it was his use of science and the human body. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to follow some new fad or some skinny persons opinion who has never dealt with weight gain. No Gary has never been obese but his diet has a lot to do with that. I won’t attempt today to explain all of Taubes’ points and the science behind his findings. Instead, I’ll quickly summarize and then provide you the links to the youtube videos that opened my eyes and changed what I believe. He’s not some blogger (like me) with an opinion or some “fitness guru” at a gym. If I were you I’d listen and pay close attention to what he has to say.

So what is all this science?

Gary’s main hypothesis is that if you are overweight, it’s not because you ate too much and didn’t exercise. Yes, these are factors on why you got fat but it’s not the reason. As you will see in the videos Gary did extensive research showing that you can become obese and still be starving. That cultures that were once thin and healthy, became obese and riddled with heart disease during famines. (How is that possible?) This very thought challenges our core beliefs. After all, we’ve been told for the last 50 years that obesity is caused by overeating and being physically inactive. I mean, how is it possible for people to gain fat while starving? (watch the videos to find out more)

Gary Taubes “Why we are fat.” Part 1

Gary Taubes “Why we are fat.” Part 2

Gary Taubes “Why we are fat.” Part 3

These videos are long and they are full of information. Just take the time, watch them and learn something.

Well one of Gary’s main points is that we’ve been lied to by the American Heart Association and doctors since the early 1960’s. That their science is just bad.

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

hmmm….In the 1960’we were told that eating fat makes you fat and eating carbs is good. Is it a coincidence that in just 50 years, since the creation of the food pyramid, the obesity rate has QUADRUPLED?? I think not. As Gary explained, once society started to eat a high carb, low fat diet, obesity and heart disease reared its ugly head to the point that it’s now considered to be an epidemic.

So lets cut to the chase. If its not fat what makes us fat? EATING CARBS MAKES YOU FAT. Well, at least for certain people. This is not new science and what Gary has found isn’t some new revelation. But for some reason it still challenges us to the core. Why? CAUSE WE’VE BOUGHT IN TO THE LIES and we haven’t listened. Also, we don’t want to believe cause truthfully we like carbs and desperately want to eat them. They taste good and are delicious. But carbs (not all mind you) are toxic to those of us who struggle with weight loss. It’s like a smoker who is told, you WILL get cancer if you continue to smoke, yet they still smoke a pack a day. If you do so you are ignoring truth. Here’s a great video explaining why some people (those of us with excess fat) are in fact fat…

So, remember how you would think, “Man that person eats whatever they want, never exercises and doesn’t gain a pound. I HATE THEM.” Well now we know why. Some of us, and if you are overweight you are one of these people, are insulin resistant and do not use carbs properly. Carbs are our greatest enemy. It’s science. Protein and Fat do not make us fat. And in fact, the reason why you are so hungry while on a diet is probably because you don’t eat enough fat, which makes you feel full. That’s why people hate dieting. They don’t want to feel hungry all day.

So no, losing weight isn’t about calories in and calories out. It’s not about how much exercise you do or how little you eat. It’s about WHAT you eat. I’ve been on this diet a week and have already lost 7 lbs. I feel full all day and I never have those intense cravings. I plan a cheat meal every Friday night for one meal only but the rest of the week it’s virtually no carbs. Now go do some research on the glycemic index and you’ll find a ton of carbs that are OK to eat. I’ll have a post up next week explaining this is more detail but for now, if you haven’t done so already, go watch the videos, buy his book and stop listening to the lies we’ve been told for 50 years.

Build A Better Warm Up (with videos yay!!)

What do you do as a warm up before you begin an exercise routine? A light jog on the tread mill? A few stretches which probably includes bending over a few times, stretching the tricep and maybe bending your fingers back to stretch the fore arm? Maybe you are one of those people who don’t do anything at all besides a few reps of bench press? Perhaps, and hopefully, you treat your warm up like a mini workout that includes both stretches and warming up the body slowly but methodically preparing it for the hell you’re about to put it through.

Stretching vs Mobility

Most people, and six months ago Lyell, believe(d) stretching is just something you do for a few minutes  to help prevent injury. The idea of “mobility” never even crossed our minds. Well let me tell you, though stretching is important, mobility is way more important to someone who wants to get the most out of their workouts. Stretching isn’t necessarily mobility and mobility isn’t exactly flexibility. All these terms work together but they have their own purpose. For instance, someone who is mobile has the ability to move freely and that has nothing to do with flexibility. Let me have an expert explain it a little better: From www.mobilitywod.com

Stretching only focuses on lengthening short and tight muscles. Mobilization, on the other hand, is a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems.

Mobilization will allow for better range of motion and will help speed up recovery. For instance, if you have tight hips, hams, Achilles and glutes your lower body exercises will struggle. Subsequently, you won’t be able to get in that deep squat position and other muscles will take the brunt of your poor flexibility which will eventually lead to injury. This could also effect everything you do from bending over to pick up your child or just simply working in the yard. Another example is shoulder mobility. Yes the muscles of the shoulder should be “loose” but what about the rotator cuff, the tendons and ligaments surrounding the shoulder joint? What are you doing to prepare them for work? You can seriously injury your shoulder if you press too hard without having proper mobility in that area.

So think Mobility not just stretching or better yet think about them both.

What Your Warm Up Should Look Like

First off you should always plan ahead. Before starting your your warmup think about what exercises your workout will include. If you are about to workout the upper body, your warm up should include some upper body movements but not ones that would tire them out. For instance, do a 3 sets of 5-10 pushups, dips and pulls ups not 3 sets of 15. The idea is to prepare them not work them. Your warm up should also include lower body, some cardio, stretching and mobility work. My goal is by the time I”m done with my warm up my body, from head to toe, should be ready for anything.

Example of my Warm-Up. Three rounds with each round consisting of 3-4 sets with 2-4 movements of: stretches, some cardio and mobility work. Videos posted below.

Round 1- 100 Single-unders (jump rope), 30 seconds Toe on wall calf stretch (both feet) x 3 sets

Round 2- Shoulder external rotation work (about 45 seconds) , Hip Opener Stretch (about a minute for each leg), 7 knees to elbows or sit ups x3 sets

Round 3- sit in bottom squat position (1 minute), Couch stretch (3o seconds each side) 3 sets

Round 4 (optional. If you have tight Ham like me you’ll want to do this round) Hamstring stretch, 5 slow air squats, legs crossed bentover hamstring stretch 3 sets

Here’s the video for the Hip Opener Stretch

Video for “toe on wall” (scroll to about the 3 minute mark but the entire video is good info)

Video for the “couch stretch” (scroll to the 2 minute mark)

Video for “sit in bottom squat”

Video for “knees to elbows”

Video for “shoulder internal and external”

Video for “Ham Stretch”

As you can see my warm up doesn’t contain much cardio or any movements like pushups or dips. Why? Well my workouts typically work my cardiovascular system and my biggest problem is mobility and flexibility. So my warm up focuses on my weaknesses not my strengths. If you want to throw in a 400 or 800 meter run in the beginning instead of jump rope go for it. That certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea. You could also interchange most of the movements above depending on your workout for that day.  The one thing you will notice is the focus on the entire body and preparing it for work. It doesn’t really matter what my workout will be, my body will be ready for anything I throw at and that my friends is the whole idea.

 

They Don’t Call It Your “CORE” Just For Funsies

Right now I want you to stand up and try to touch your toes and then stand back up. OK, now, twist your torso back and forth…Take your right hand, reach towards the sky and then bend your body to the left..Try and do a full squat…Do a sit up, push up, jumping jack, jog or even walk a little bit. Hey, just try and get up out of a chair, bend over to pick up your kid or simply just try and get out of bed. Know what was an essential body part for all those movements? Yep, you guessed it, your Core. The problem is most people do “crunches” to build core strength or sadly do nothing at all. We think the core is just the abs and forget about the obliques (love handles), glutes (butt), the muscles surrounding your spine and that little muscle just above the rear end called the Quadratus Lumborum (lower back).

Question: If the core muscles are such a vital part of almost every movement in life, why do we ignore it? Answer: I have no freaking clue.

OK, maybe I have some idea. Personally, I was ignorant of the importance of core strength (even though I had been told over and over again) and to be really honest, core exercises suck. Planks are not fun, yoga is boring to me, palates seems like a chick exercise, crunches hurt, back extensions make me dizzy, and there is nothing more humiliating than being over weight and trying to do situps around a bunch of skinny people. Seriously, screw that 170 lb guy who can do a billion situps and pullups with ease. Let me throw an additional 50 lbs on your back and see just how easy it is. Anyways, humiliation aside, working your core is probably the singular most important exercise you can do. Without core strength your squat will suck, forget about dead-lifting, you will suffer while running, you’ll have a weak forehand in tennis, you won’t have power in your drive and you will struggle doing everything else I listed above. Ever wonder why bending over hurts or why you have lower back pain?

So, how do we fix this problem? Well lets first talk about what your core is. Your core can be defined as- The girdle of muscles, bones, and joints that links your upper and lower body. Sounds pretty important, huh? Here’s a picture for you visual people:Do you think just doing a few crunches a couple times a week will adequately strengthen all those muscles? Of course not. Building core strength, just like any other movement, takes time, repetition, and dedication. One of the reasons I love CrossFit so much is how they incorporate core building exercises into every workout. Most of the time without you ever knowing. When I first started CrossFit my squat and deadlift sucked because I “had a bad back”. Wanna know why I had a bad back and use to hurt it while just working in the yard? I’m not gonna answer that cause you already know. Alright I will….CAUSE I HAD NO CORE STRENGTH.

Did you know that doing body weight squats is a great core exercise? How about Kettle Bell swings? Pull-ups? Push-ups? Sprinting? Dead-lifts? Power Cleans? All these movements work the entire core unlike just doing crunches. You know what doesn’t work your core? Isolation exercises that lock your lower body into a fixed position like bicep curls, tricep pull downs, lat pull downs, shoulder press etc. Try doing these workouts standing up and ENGAGE YOUR CORE.

For you people who don’t like heavy lifting (compound) movements below are a few core exercises you should automatically add to your routine. Start out with 3-4 sets of 10, 3-4 days a week, then progress the reps to about 20-30. Once there start adding weight or resistance.

The Plank

Get in starting position and hold for as long as you can. A more advanced movement would be to start in this position and then alternate dropping down onto your elbows and returning to the start position.

The Air Squat

Notice the knees tracking just above the toes, the straight back and head up. Make sure not to bow the back or lean to far forward. If you struggle with form try this exact movement but sit on a box or chair. Remove the chair or box after a few weeks. Here’s a great video showing good and bad form.

Sprints

No image for this exercise. Just get on a treadmill or on a straight track or road (or even a hill) and just run….fast. Here’s a video showing proper sprinting form. (yes there is a right and a wrong way to run)

Back Extensions

Notice the straight back at the top of the movement but a slight curve at the bottom.

Butterfly Sit-ups

Notice the knees out to the side creating the “butterfly”. The only thing I will add is that at the top of the situp don’t round the back like the image shows. Keep the back straight through the entire movement. For beginners, start with anchoring your toes.
Couple of final random thoughts:

Engaging your core is not “working” your core. Example: While doing bench press your core is engaged but not directly worked.

Just cause you don’t have a six pack doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong core. I certainly don’t have a six pack but my core strengthens every day.

Try to move away from isolation exercises and progress into more compound movements. They work more muscles and make for a more efficient workout.

Ab workouts suck. Get over it.