Longevity (According To Gram)

Last year’s post about life lessons, written with the help of my Grandmother, was one of my most popular posts of the year.

This article will be released on the week that Gram turns 90.

I’m always fascinated to hear what advice anyone can give to living a longer life. Of course, it’s an n=1 example, and perhaps what worked for her may not work for the population at large, but it’s here for posterity and if it helps improve anyone’s life or livelihood, it’s worth the effort in writing it.

I’ll let Gram (also affectionately know as B’mama and RueRue) take over from here:

What is an aspect of your health that you’ve always tried to follow?

I’ve tried to always incorporate exercise, whether it was walking or adding more movement into my day. Of course, when you have children, it’s easy to keep moving. I’ve had four children and six grandchildren (and now twelve great-grandchildren) so I feel like I’m always moving! Because I saw the effects of smoking and drinking in my family, I’ve never been a smoker and I’ve never been a drinker.

Are there certain approaches to your diet that you’ve tried to focus on?

Years ago, I had a nurse tell me to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I’ve never really had a big appetite but I do feel like that approach to eating has worked well for me.

You taught science and math for many years. How do you think those subjects reinforced the way you approach your health?

Because health was part of what we taught as a component of science, I taught my students about the importance of exercise and nutrition. Mind you, I taught in elementary school and many students didn’t have control over the food they had access to. This was a big learning experience for me. Just because I was able to choose a nutritious food over something that was less nutritious doesn’t mean that my students had the same abilities. I knew that McDonald’s wasn’t the healthiest option but, I also knew, that for some of my students, it was the most practical option for them. So, sometimes the best you can do is teach people to make the best decisions they can and hope that they can do so.

I’ve always marveled at the fact that you continue to challenge your mind. Whether you work on crossword puzzles, games on your iPad that appear to influence the way you solve problems, and even through being an avid reader, it’s inspiring to see. What keeps you motivated to engage in those activities?

I think I’ve just seen too many people get to a certain age and just give up on the things in their life that stimulate them. I like trying to keep my mind sharp. I know I’m moving at a slower pace than I like but my mind is always going and I want to keep it going in positive ways for as long as I can. I think when you stop using your mind, that’s when the trouble begins. I ask a lot of questions, I try to stay informed about what’s happening in the world and I try to stay active in my church. I think all of that helps me, as well.

We lost “Papoo” (my maternal grandfather) nearly 15 years ago and my Uncle Joe (Gram’s youngest son) two months later. Did their passing change the way you viewed your own health?

At the time that they passed, I was the person most involved in the life of my youngest granddaughter. I knew that I had to take care of myself so that I could be the best role model for her. It wasn’t always easy. I can’t describe the feeling of losing both my husband of 56 years and a child. But I wasn’t the only person who felt that loss and grieved those losses. The best that I could do for myself and my family was to stay active, stay involved and process my own grief.

In short, what do you attribute to an amazing 90 years of life?

My desire to live and learn and be with my family. I love life. I’m not afraid to die but I love life. It’s like I tell my prayer group: I am so happy that the Lord put me where I am. I’ve lived through the Great Depression and World War II and I’m just very fortunate to have lived the life I have and I’m not done yet.

A Letter To Terry

Terry, I don’t know how I can get this message to you. 

This year will mark three since you left us. 

And I still can’t seem to shake your presence from my life. 

I know I spoke about this before, in a piece I wrote that was so painful and so cathartic to write.

Yet, every time it’s shared with others, the popularity of it blows up again. 

Such was the impact of you, your life, and your passing on the rest of us. 

I write this to you, being a different man, a different coach, a different father and husband since you passed. 

Terry, admittedly, I’ve wanted to use your story to help others not follow your path. 

How do I express that from a place of love? 

When I coach someone who is struggling to put one foot in front of the other when it comes to reaching their goals, you are almost always the first example that comes to mind. 

When I am working with someone who makes time for everyone else but themselves, I think of you. 

When I see that someone has an overflowing love of life that they are always trying to do for others and constantly forgetting to point the care inwards, I see you.

I know that interventions don’t work the way we think they do and yet, I still want to send that article that I wrote about you to everyone who is struggling. 

And why? 

Because I want them to live long enough to see the fruits of their efforts. 

It’s an unfair statement. 

It assumes that if we had helped you get closer to your goals, that you’d still be alive. 

It assumes that fat loss by a greater measure would have kept you here longer. 

It assumes that you’d still be with your amazing family, that you’d still be able to throw those lavish parties with your friends, that you’d still be training with me and we could talk about the merits of The Smiths and Green Day. 

It’s a faulty belief. 

Because we don’t know for sure if it would have saved you.

We can only make assumptions. 

I look at the work I do now, especially with all that we know about weight loss medications, with the thought of: What if? 

What if we had access to these medications and were utilizing them when you were still alive?

Would it have made the difference?

Then all of those conversations about willpower, and discipline and healthy habits could have been shaped by something that would have had greater influence on your ability to get closer to the weight you wanted to be at. 

I know now that fat loss doesn’t solve every problem.

It only solves certain problems.

Terry, I shared that article with someone who never met you, who struggled like you did, who was willing to give up on themselves and I so desperately didn’t want them to give up. 

Not because of my own gain by keeping them as a client but simply due to the hope that your story would inspire change in others.

In reality, it was only one more reminder that no one changes until they’re ready; a piece of wisdom that I should know quite well from all of the years I was addicted to drugs.

I didn’t change until I was ready. 

Neither does anyone else.

And that’s a hard sell when I’m in the business of inspiring change. 

I write this not because I think this article will perform better than the last.

I doubt that it will. 

I write this because I still miss you.

I still think about you often, I still think we were all cheated out of more time with you and, as unfair as it is, I still hold myself responsible for not being a better coach for you. 

Maybe this article will be a light bulb moment for someone out there. 

Maybe this will be the catalyst for change for someone who needs it.

Oddly enough, losing you made me less aggressive with coaching fat loss for others.

Not because it didn’t interest me but because it taught me to give people more space to do it on their terms.

That if fat loss needs to happen, it needs to happen through autonomy.

That if someone needs to lose weight, they need to spend time making mistakes and learning from them.

Although, I remember saying to you at one point, somewhat exasperated by the direction you were heading, that maybe what I needed to do was just “dare you” to lose weight.

You laughed and said: “You know, that might just work for me.”

I kick myself all the time for not daring you.

Terry, it’s taken me all this time to write more to you. Not because the words and inspiration weren’t there but because I’m mad and I’m sad and I love you and I miss you.

I write these words two weeks from what will be 12 years since my father passed away.

That makes two great men I’m absolutely sick over not having in my life.

It’s a selfish thought.

But, that doesn’t make it any less true.

I’d do most anything to have you both back in this world.

Can I dare you back?

Fast Food…For The Record

I find myself coming to the defense of fast food quite often.

It’s not because I think it’s high in nutrients nor do I think it should comprise the majority of someone’s diet.

Fast food (I’ll define it as food that you purchase and receive through a drive-thru window) comprises maybe 5% of my total diet.

As a nutrition coach, I like the fact that you can get a reasonably accurate estimation of how many calories are in a fast food meal.

Also, as a parent, I understand that sometimes convenience is the best option and once you make it to the drive thru menu, it’s about ordering what makes sense and is sensible for you and your family.

I think dietary elitism is a joke at best and harmful at worst.

Some downsides to fast food as compared to a home cooked meal might be:

-low(er) in fiber

-not well balanced for micronutrients

-high(er) in saturated fat

-high(er) in sodium

There is also the chance that psychologically when someone purchases fast food, they feel guilty about that purchase and ultimately sabotage other areas of their diet because of these feelings.

Of course, when I make my defense known on social media, it brings the crazies out. Some might be led to believe I’m advocating for the consumption of these foods in place of something more nutritious.

I’m not.

If I’ve learned nothing else over these years it’s to do my very best at meeting people where they’re at. If someone eats fast food frequently, I find the path of least resistance to be: how can we reduce the calories in your meal(s) to get you closer to your goals as opposed to: I know you really like McDonald’s but have you tried making a salad at home with fresh cut veggies, organic grilled chicken and homemade dressing?

Some changes need a bit more nurturing…

In one of these posts recently, someone asked me if 3000 calories of donuts were the same as 3000 calories of chicken and broccoli. My response: from a calorie standpoint, basically the same. From a micronutrient, macronutrient and general-feeling-of-satiety standpoint, very different. (I failed to mention: thermic effect of food…)

And, as to be expected, someone wanted to take me to task on that by saying that it’s completely different because of the insulin response. Well, they’re not wrong buuuuuuuutttt…

The insulin response means very little if A) you’re not diabetic and B) you’re in a calorie deficit.

In other words, LOTS of things spike insulin. Not just carbzzzzzzzzzzzz and sugarzzzzzzzzzz…

For the record, I would love if you would eat a diet of “mostly” whole, minimally processed foods that have few ingredients listed to make them.

But I fully accept and advocate for people who can learn how to make things like “fast food” work for them in the context of a mostly balanced diet: foods for function, foods for longevity, foods to optimize health, foods for hedonic pleasure, and foods that have little to no nutritious value. Everything has a place.

Or in the words of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: Everything in its right place.

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan Borba)

(More) Completely Random Fat Loss Tips

1-Catastrophizing your food choices does more “harm” to your diet than the actual food you ate. So you ate a pint of ice cream..so what? It’s done. It’s over. Move on. Those calories are consumed, accounted for (whether you counted them or not), and you can’t rewrite that part of the story. Change the next meal. The beautiful thing about the way we eat is that the next meal or the next snack or the next bite is an opportunity to make an improvement.

2-Maybe the only thing that I can think of that wrecks more people when trying to commit to a fat loss plan more than chronic guilt and shame is denial. Feeling bad about your food choices is one thing. It’s one particular obstacle to overcome. However, denying that you ate something is different. You owe it to yourself to stay honest and as accurate as you can be. How we eat is a very imperfect process as it is.

3-You CAN eat fast food and still lose fat. It’s not “ideal” and it’s not the most nutritious avenue you can travel but sometimes convenience wins. Be strategic about what you order and where a more nutritious option presents itself later, take that path where you can.

4-“Superfoods, organic foods and “clean foods” have calories. You cannot eat them with reckless abandon and not have a caloric cost. Be aware. Be mindful.

5-Most people do not have complex diet problems. They have haphazard diets. Many of the people I work with eat “mostly healthy” foods. They just consume too much of them.

6-I’ve worked with clients whose diets are 70% alcohol and clients who are 70% highly processed foods. I don’t judge. Everyone can stand to improve their diets slightly. If I can get someone who consumes 70% of their day in alcohol to reduce by 20% and consume a few vegetables and some lean protein, that’s a HUGE plus. Take the victories and stack them.

7-I absolutely hate when people say fat loss is easy. No it isn’t. It’s easy for some people, some of the time. Considering that many people who have struggled to lose fat for most of their life are also sorting through degrees of childhood trauma, neglect, shame, and bullying it’s little wonder that food is safety for them. Finding new ways for these same people to feel safe and secure is crucial.

8-This article is coming out during Eating Disorder Awareness week. What’s one tip that I can give to anyone who identifies with having an eating disorder? Don’t count calories. I’m serious. Spend that time working with a therapist to heal your relationship with your body and food.

9-If you want to change your body, every thing you need to learn is a skill: from the way you train, to the way you eat. Stop looking for shortcuts. You’ve likely wasted too many years of your life looking for hacks and shortcuts only to be further from your goals than you ever wanted to be. Polish…your…skills.

10-My broken record moment: Before you buy another diet book, download another diet app, follow some 30-60-90 day super-shred, lean-by-spring, program…hire a therapist. Food has a very special, integral, beautiful place in your life. But it can’t heal all wounds. Learn the skills to unpack your negative self-talk and practice living a life that supports strength and allows you to reduce stress. Food will always be there to support those goals. The business going on between your ears and the conversations you have with yourself when you see your reflection require other tools. Get those tools.

(Photo courtesy of Fuu J)

Nasty Little Habits

I’ve struggled with nail biting for over 30 years.

It started when I was in junior high and I recall my parents buying some type of polish that I could put on my nails as a deterrent.

The taste of the polish was bad but not so off-putting that I was able to stop the compulsive habit.

So, all of these years have passed where I’ve been aware of this unpleasant and unsightly pattern but have not conquered it.

I tried getting manicures some time back with the belief that if I spent the money to clean my nails up that I’d be less likely to start biting away. It didn’t really help, so that was money down the drain.

I couldn’t connect an actual pattern to how, when and why I would bite my nails. It wasn’t directly tied to stress, anxiety, or boredom (it was all of those things, not just one).

At the beginning of this year, I decided to look into other methods of eliminating the habit again. I found a polish on Amazon that seemed different from the one my parents had used when I was a child so I ordered it to give it a try.

That was nearly 6 weeks ago and I’ve not bitten my nails since.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

-The taste is absolutely repulsive. If I eat something with my hands and food gets on my fingertips, there’s an inclination to lick my fingers clean. It’s not advised. That taste can stay in my mouth for 10-15 minutes. It can almost ruin the rest of the meal for me.

-I still have no particular trigger for putting my hands to my mouth. I can be reading, watching TV, driving, etc. and I still have that instinctual pattern of bringing my fingers up and slightly grazing my lips even though I’ve ceased biting my nails.

-I’ve been using the polish for about 6 weeks. While I’ve succeeded at not nail biting because I really don’t want to taste the polish, I am very cognizant that I’ve not completely broken the habit of bringing my hands to my mouth at certain points of the day.

You might hear certain people say: It takes X amount of time to create and maintain a habit. I say, it takes as long as it takes.

I’m not going to undo 30 years of a compulsive behavior with ease. It’s going to take time and the polish is a HUGE motivator because the taste is so foul.

I write this to you because many of my readers are here for fat loss. They may have even recognized that their habits are keeping them from reaching their goals.

Unfortunately, there is no mechanism that I know of that makes food go from tasty to awful when you reach a certain threshold. If we think something is delicious, we’ll consume and overconsume until we’re satisfied. There’s no “shut off” valve unless you’re taking a GLP-1 medication to dampen those hunger and dopamine signals OR you can simply put the food down and push it away.

What I’d like you to take away from this is that our behaviors, especially the counterproductive and unappealing ones, are often deeply ingrained. They are often tied to our system of coping with anxiety, stress, or boredom.

When you hear someone say: “You didn’t gain X amount of weight overnight, you won’t lose it overnight”, this is accurate.

If you’re struggling with fat loss, make efforts to reduce temptation, make strides to craft a more conducive food environment, minimize your exposure to food pushers and saboteurs, and if you can’t minimize exposure then make your boundaries clear.

There is no polish on Amazon that you can paint on your tongue to reduce calorie intake (can you even imagine??)

There are our habits and behaviors, the productive and the less-so.

Focus on building better, stronger, healthier habits in accordance with your values.

And since I’m not devoid of having counterproductive habits of my own: I value having actual nails that aren’t bitten to the quick (not to mention any potential damage it does to my teeth) and using the tools I need to succeed with that.

These nasty little habits won’t solve themselves…

You Don’t Have Enough Discipline

I doubt I’ll ever run out of content for this site.

Between my interactions with clients face-to-face and online, my continuing education, what I learn from coaches who inspire me (and those who don’t), there is no shortage of information to share with you.

Sometime recently, I saw a post by a coach who I’ve actually met in person. I like this coach. They’re nice, professional and very good at the arena of fitness/nutrition that they work within. So much so, that if I ever dabbled in that demographic, this would potentially be a coach I’d reach out to for pointers.

However, one post in particular struck a nerve with me. This coach shared the sentiment that maybe you don’t need weight loss medications, you just need discipline.

The world of social media being what it is, I’m certain there was context to that post that may have slipped my radar but I took it at face value and thought I’d use that for a post of my own on Instagram.

I stand in firm disagreement.

Let me start here: Do I believe that improving your health requires discipline? Absolutely.

Do I believe that someone who may be considering weight loss medications has a lack of discipline in their lives? Not exactly.

Quite the contrary, having coached so many people with fat loss, I find many who succeed to be quite disciplined for a certain amount of time and under a certain set of circumstances. Invariably, a lot of other challenges flesh themselves out.

What I don’t try to do is beat them over the head with more talk about discipline, motivation, and “trying harder”.

So, what kind of things might someone struggle with who can’t seem to stay in a caloric deficit consistently enough to reach their goals?

Here’s a not-so-comprehensive list:


-Chronic stress

-Feelings of guilt

-Feelings of shame

-Too conservative of a deficit

-Too aggressive of a deficit

-They may not be scheduling diet breaks

-They might be a trauma survivor

-They may engage in chronic, intense exercise

-There may be an unreported or unregulated problem with the thyroid

-There may be an unreported or unregulated problem with their “hunger hormones”

-Lack of sleep

-Lack of protein in the diet

-Lack of fiber in the diet

-Micronutrient deficiencies

-Lack of self worth

-A poorly regulated food environment

-Not having a strong support system

Sure, some people can thrive in the face of these challenges and white-knuckle their way to the finish line…but at what cost?

And how long are they able to keep the weight off for before they rebound and regain?

The post I made definitely brought out some of the population who would disagree with my stance.

Many wanted to reiterate that all you need is a calorie deficit to succeed.

*Cue shock and awe*

Things got so nasty on the post that one of my industry friends, Dr. Jose Greenspon (an obesity physician in Kansas City), jumped in the fray:

“It is infuriating to see people fat-shame [those] struggling with obesity on social media for lacking discipline when in fact many things contribute to obesity aside from ‘lack of discipline’. Aside from the many hormonal and genetic predispositions that have nothing to do with lack of discipline, have you considered that obesity and depression coexist in over 60% of severely obese patients? Have you considered that childhood sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse are quite common in people who struggle with obesity? Did you know that obese females are more likely to be sexually assaulted because they are unlikely to report, oftentimes resulting in a spiral where they self medicate with food?”

Bravo, Jose, bravo.

I have to think back to how much I thought I knew when I first started in this industry and how much I know now. Truth be told, the more I learn, the more ignorant I actually feel.

Which means, there’s still more to learn and more to coach.

Sadly, the keyboard warriors on the internet can talk all they want about just needing more discipline to reach your goals. It’s not that they’re wrong, it’s that discipline is one piece of a big, messy puzzle.

If you’re struggling, perhaps you know whether discipline is a missing link or not.

This past year has taught me to champion those who choose weight loss medications just as I would champion someone who chose gastric bypass surgery. Not as a first line defense, but a necessary tool if need be.

The human body is complex enough, the human brain…even more so.

I write this post for two different readers:

-For those are struggling to succeed with their fat loss goals, realize that you have tools to help you so you can struggle less and start succeeding more.

-For those who believe it’s just a matter of discipline, please take the time to educate yourself so that your opinions do less damage to those who hear it and read it.

(Photo courtesy of Brett Jordan)

The Belly Fat Solution

Ask any coach who coaches fat loss what questions they hear the most and something along the lines of this will be at or near the top:

How do I get rid of this belly fat?

And I’ve been asked it so many times in my career that I have to catch myself from having a reaction that dismisses the question altogether.

I thought: Of all the things I’ve written about, I’ve never specifically written about this and I wanted to approach it with as much tact as I can.

So, let’s start with breaking down the actual question.

The concept behind it is on point: the “removal” of unwanted body fat from the abdomen.

I’d like you, as the reader, to think in terms of fat reduction and then consider what it takes for that to occur.

Most of my readers will know that it means achieving an energy deficit through food intake, energy expenditure or a combination of both.

The unfortunate thing about fat reduction is that we can’t control where it comes from.

Fat reduction does have something of a trend, though.

Let’s assume you are a “stereotypical” male who has excess fat to lose.

You likely started to gain fat in the abdomen and then the upper chest and then your face.

As you embark on a fat loss plan, fat loss will typically work in reverse: the face will slim down, the upper chest will get leaner, and then the abdomen from top to bottom will get leaner.

Not every man gains fat this way, some indeed do carry more fat in their hips and thighs but that isn’t the norm.

By comparison, most (not all) women, will gain excess fat in the hips and thighs, then the abdomen, breasts and then face. The same trend then occurs during fat loss: the face will get slimmer, the breasts may reduce in size, then the abdomen, and lastly the hips and thighs.

Genetics DO play a role.

Not only is there a genetic expression with your hormones that’s handed down from your parents (and their parents), you may find that you physically resemble one or both of your parents when it comes to your physique and where and how you gain muscle or fat.

When you see an individual with a defined mid-section, it’s important to consider a handful of things:

-They may have genes in their favor which allow them to see visibility in the mid-section without strict attention to their diet.

-They may spend a significant amount of time expending calories through exercise (cardiovascular and/or strength training).

-They might watch their dietary intake aggressively to stay lean for photoshoots, vacations, or personal preference.

-They may be using hormone replacement therapy and/or steroids to aid in reducing body fat.

-And, of course, there may be alterations, enhancements and filters used to make them appear leaner in pictures than they are in real life.

For the vast majority of people who would be inclined to ask their personal trainer or nutrition coach how to see more definition in their midsection, the key is reducing overall body fat.

This also means that no amount of crunches, planks, sit-ups, burpees, seated twists, or kettlebell swings can carve up your midsection. While any of these exercises involve your core to be performed correctly, they cannot spot reduce an area for you.

However, credit must be given to the fact that if you perform exercises like those listed above and they help you adhere to an energy deficit and an exercise regimen, then they at least played a part in getting you lean enough to see a two-pack, four-pack, six-pack, etc.

I also need to mention that for some people, the effort to see more abdominal definition can have a detrimental effect on their hormones. This is one of the reasons many physique athletes and bodybuilders see a significant drop in testosterone as they dieted down to stage leanness. Staying stage lean year round simply isn’t practical, safe or possible for many athletes.

I should also note that excess adipose tissue in the midsection does have a strong correlation to certain cancers, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

So, if you want to see visible abs or simply reduce the amount of excess fat that’s in your midsection, remember that the way to the goal is via an energy deficit. You may not be able to control the pace at which you’ll lose fat, where leanness can occur or the degree of definition you can see without having unwanted health effects, but you can make progress.

In summary:

-If you want to lose fat from the midsection, find a deficit you can adhere to and work towards reducing body weight and excess body fat.

-You may want to emphasize a moderate to high protein diet while you are dieting.

-Just as every body is not built the same, degrees of abdominal leanness can vary between people.

-Ab exercises cannot reduce abdominal fat.

-Reducing excess abdominal fat may reduce the risk of certain metabolic health concerns.

(Photo courtesy of Karolina Grabowska)

The (Im)Patience of Fat Loss 

I can probably count on one hand (possibly two) the amount of people I’ve worked with who are in no particular rush to lose unwanted weight. 

Most everyone wants the weight off yesterday

At a base level, I understand it. By time someone comes to my door (in my brick and mortar business or through online coaching), they’re sick and tired of the number on the scale.

They’re ready to change right.this.very.second. 

Or, at least, they think they’re ready to change which can be a step in the right direction. 

There are just a few problems right off the bat. 

-Your body doesn’t care how fast you want to lose weight. 

-The deficit you need to create to make fat loss occur quickly is more than what most people are willing to stick to. 

-If you want the weight to stay off, you have to play the LONG game.

Hence, the title of this week’s post.

I think the most “weight” (not the same as fat) I’ve successfully helped a client lose in one month without embarking on a 500 calorie diet or doing anything crafty with water and sweat is about 20 pounds.

Would you like to know what that client asked me when I remarked how astounding that was?

“What do I need to do to get the weight off faster?”

Counter that with clients who legitimately need to spend days, weeks, perhaps months learning how to eat at their body’s current maintenance levels because they’ve only ever known two speeds: aggressive deficit followed by uncontrollable surplus, rinse, repeat.

As a result, some of those clients need to appreciate conscious effort at maintaining a given body weight before they can psychologically handle some type of deficit to lead to fat loss.

Follow enough fitness pages, health influencers and well meaning coaches and you’ll no doubt see transformation photos, testimonials, fad diets, food swaps, trending supplements and more. All of which has a fantastic chance of convincing you that maybe what you’re doing is wrong. That if you hop over there on the other side of the fence, the grass will not only be greener but the fertilizer is better (not to mention, organic, LOL) and that means you can get to your goals faster.

Let me know how that works out.

Seriously. I want to know. I have a vested interest.

The point I’d like to leave you with is this:

You may indeed be one of those people who can lose weight quickly (like my aforementioned client). If that is you, I applaud you. Keep doing what’s working, pay attention to the details, and live a life at maintenance. Godspeed.

If this doesn’t sound like you, consider yourself more the majority and less the exception. You’ve got company and let’s get you in good hands.

Also, please, be patient.

This journey (I love that word) will take longer than you want, it will have more detours than you planned for, it will frequently hit potholes which will feel like the bottom is falling out of your world, and you, my dear reader, are 100% normal.

You’re not broken.

Whether you have menopause or perimenopause, PCOS or PCOS with insulin resistance, a healthy thyroid or a thyroid that needs attention, or you just need to “get focused”…put on your seatbelt, grab your popcorn (or protein shake) and get ready to ride.

Impatience with fat loss will riddle you with doubt, it will steer you off course (when you were likely already heading the right direction) and it will lengthen the amount of time the journey (there’s that word again) will last.

Imagine having a geographical location you want to go to. You start at home, hop in your car, set the GPS, turn on some great tunes, and you’re on your way.

You will likely hit bad traffic, construction, rough weather, and possibly some detours due to closed ramps. All of which will slow down the time it takes to get to your destination. That doesn’t mean your GPS was wrong. It just means, that some obstacles couldn’t have been overlooked. You try to re-route yourself because you don’t want to lose valuable time but every option available stretches time out further.

Fat loss is similar.

A case can be made for rapid weight loss. There’s data to support that an aggressive start to a fat loss plan can actually be more motivating than a conservative start because if you see that needle moving down quickly, you’re more likely to stay the course.

However, rapid fat loss isn’t for everyone and for good reason. It’s hard to sustain (especially if you strength train and/or exercise regularly).

And, if all you’ve ever tried is the aggressive route and you’re still not where you want to be, you may have to accept that slow(er) and more conservative is the route to go.

That’s not failure of you as a person. It’s just the best route your “GPS” can give you right now.

(Photo courtesy of Pavel Danilyuk)

The Change You Embrace (Jackson at 15)

Last weekend, it took the better part of 30 minutes to talk my son Jackson into staying with us.

For those who don’t know, Jackson is my son from my first marriage. He has autism and on the day that this post is being released, he will be 15 years old.

As he has gotten older, and more so in these delicate teenage years, Jackson has become more expressive with what he does and doesn’t want to do. He has always struggled with verbal skills and being able to communicate how he’s feeling to express it in sentences. He may be able to tell you “No” but he might not be able to say why the answer is no.

Many of his responses can be scripted and plucked from movies, TV shows or YouTube videos, so you’re not always sure where a phrase or a sentence comes from.

This last year in particular has been one of the more challenging ones as his father. I try my best to remind myself that not only is Jackson growing into a body, physically and hormonally, he’s doing things not unlike any neuro-typical child of the same age, autism aside.

Navigating the world through COVID brought its own challenges, because neither his mother nor I wanted him to catch the virus. She was one of the first people I personally knew who tested positive for it before vaccines were available and the general concern wasn’t just that Jackson might catch it but that he wouldn’t know how to express himself if he got sick.

The other downside to the pandemic was that each sniffle in our respective households carried its own anxiety about what was potentially being passed around, not to mention, many children in Jackson’s school were testing positive and that raised the anxiety levels as it pertained to him.

All of this has manifested into scenarios where Jackson has become more resistant to his visitations with us and more hesitant to break up his normal routines to see us as frequently as he used to. It’s no one’s fault and none of us are quite clear why there is so much friction but we’re all trying to piece it together.

Which is why his mother, my mother and myself spent those 30 minutes last weekend trying to get Jackson comfortable with staying the weekend with us, something that, once upon a time, happened with very little drama.

I can’t quite put into words what it feels like when you’re child tells you, in their own special way, that they don’t want to see you. Especially when you know that they generally seem happy on each occasion.

I write these words not searching for sympathy but more to remove the highlight filter and to have some documentation for myself of a snapshot in time.

For someone who spends most every day asking his clients to embrace change, I have to be able to walk the talk.

Over the last year, I’ve tried to be a respectful father and if Jackson was able to pull all of his words together to tell me he didn’t want to leave his mother, then I wouldn’t make him. We would find a compromise and if it couldn’t be one weekend, maybe we could do the next. This has worked with some success.

We balance that with reminding him that sometimes in life, we have to do some things even if we don’t want to (within reason, of course).

I have always, and likely will always, give credit to his mother for always doing her best to make sure we keep the ship straight. We may not have been the best couple for each other, but we have ALWAYS given Jackson our love, our respect and our attention.

I remember one night, several months ago, when I met up with Jackson and his mother to do our visitation exchange, and after speaking with him for a few minutes, we determined that maybe this wasn’t the best weekend for him to come over. He was uncomfortable enough that it warranted pushing off to the next weekend. That was the very first night that I drove back home without him on a weekend where we expected to see him. It’s not a feeling I look back on with fondness. And it’s a very difficult scenario to explain to his little step-brother, Sebastian, who gets very excited when he knows that Jackson will be around.

But change doesn’t always look pretty when it happens. It can be painful, it can leave you with an inexplicably hollow feeling as you transition from “what was” to “what is”.

I know my little boy is no longer a little boy. He is my young man. He may not be able to express himself like other 15 year olds but he can say enough that I have to be proud, as his father, that he is evolving.

Autism makes you measure progress in very different ways.

I tell myself, as many people I know would do the same, that this too shall pass.

For now, the best I can do, is what I’ve always done: to love my son no matter how seldom or how frequently we see him, to love him whether he is comfortable during his weekends with us or anxious for reasons he can’t put into words, to sing songs with him, to dance with him, to encourage him to engage with his little brother, and to wrap my arms around him, give him a big kiss, and let him know how proud I am of him.

Because at the root of all of this, I am so incredibly proud of my 15 year old. I may not have known what life would be like by time he reached this age, and I may not understand all that he’s feeling, but he’s still the boy who changed my world.

I’ll take the comfortable with the uncomfortable, because no one ever promised me that change would be easy.

Just that change would be worth it.

Happy Birthday to my big boy, you are always worth it.

What If You Don’t Catch A Break?

If I were to ask you how stressed out you are right now, what would you say?

Are you a relatively calm person with a laidback demeanor and only a handful of things in life truly stress you out?

Or, are you more anxious, more on alert, always in the middle of a fire drill while you valiantly attempt to put out fires like a Whack-A-Mole game?

It’s the latter that I find a very fascinating type of client to work with.

Often I hear from these types of people: I just can’t seem to catch a break.

And because they’re waiting for some type of reprieve from their high-stress life, they spin their wheels rarely making progress towards their goals.

So, my question is this: What if that break doesn’t come? What if the best you can ask is a very small reduction in stress and for only a short window of time; a gap that only comes sporadically and with little advance notice?

In other words, are you waiting for a circumstance that may never arrive?

It’s not fair of me to compare one person’s stress against another. Much like trauma, it’s difficult if not impossible to say: my trauma was more severe than yours, therefore my suffering is greater. No one wins in contests like that.

I have clients with relatively lower stress lifestyles who struggle to reach their goals and clients who seem to carry all the world’s weight on their shoulders who struggle as well.

Simply having less stress in life doesn’t guarantee success with your health. Quite the opposite, it could promote complacency.

What I would encourage anyone to do is to work within the parameters of their life as it’s been dealt to them.

If you can’t change the stress of your life, how can you improve your life within that stress?

-Can you get better quality sleep?

-Can you raise your step count?

-Can you reduce the abundance of less nutritious foods in the home?

-Can you drink more water?

-Can you start lifting weights?

-Can you start scheduling periods of self-care in bouts of 10-15-30 minute intervals in a day?

-Do you have a list of activities you find to be relaxing or rejuvenating when stress is high?

-Do you have a gratitude journal?

-Do you pray/meditate to find some grounding and a sense of calm?

-Can you fully accept that for as far as your mind and eye can see that progress towards your goals must happen within your stressful life?

Rather than waiting for life to become less stressful for you, how can you foster an environment for success?

I have no blueprint for you.

I have no blueprint because there is no blueprint.

There is your life and there is how you react to it.

And if you’ve been waiting for months or years to reach your goals because you can’t “catch a break” then maybe the most advantageous position to be in is to assume that you won’t get a break.

So, you have a choice to make:

Stay stuck because you see no hope for success OR succeed in spite of it.