47 Random Thoughts At My 47th Birthday

  1. Drink more water (don’t worry about the Ph level of it) 
  2. Raise your fiber content: chia seeds, flax seeds, raspberries, blackberries, steel cut oats, green veggies, and sprouted grain bread are good places to start.
  3. Do cardio for mental health, heart health and stress relief. Don’t do it to burn calories (even though it burns calories). 
  4. If you’re doing cardio to burn off what you eat or what you plan to eat, you’re probably missing the point of cardio and your relationship with food. 
  5. For the love of all that’s holy, get stronger. You don’t need to be a power lifter. You just need more strength. 
  6. Love the life you have, not the life you want. You’ll appreciate the life you’re striving more much more if you can love what you have now and improve it. 
  7. Hatred, revenge and holding grudges has never served me well in 47 years. If you live with these sentiments, you’re wasting valuable energy. 
  8. Social media is not your therapist. If you need a therapist, hire one. It may be the best money you’ve ever spent on yourself. 
  9. A lot of people spend time waxing nostalgic about their glory years of youth. In my 20s, I was neck deep in drugs. Do I want to be in my 20s again? Absolutely not. The best years of my life are happening right now. 
  10. Read more books. Real books. Physical, tactile…smell them, devour them. 
  11. I collect records. I’ve become somewhat snobby with them. Being a record collector is a lot like taking care of your health. There is no shortcut to enjoying music that way. It is more expensive than listening to music digitally, it is more time consuming, it takes up more space than digital files, you have to handle vinyl with care if you want it to last. There are lessons in owning vinyl that transition to how you take care of your body. Sometimes, what’s convenient isn’t what’s best for you. 
  12. Do your share at keeping your house clean. There are certain chores I legitimately love doing and I know I’m contributing to a cleaner house, a more organized house and a happier marriage. It is not my wife’s complete responsibility to raise our son and stay on top of the house. That’s teamwork.
  13. The worst supervisor I’ve ever had in my professional career taught me a very valuable lesson about what kind of supervisor I didn’t want to become. He was a tyrant of a human being and I owe him a debt of gratitude for that lesson of who not to be.
  14. Carbs, insulin and toxins aren’t the problem with your diet. Guilt, shame and denial are the problem.
  15. What makes for great and popular social media posts is a terrible example of what works in changing your life. A great social media post makes its point quickly and is there for quick consumption. The things that will alter the course of your life for the better take time, focus and conscious, consistent effort. Don’t let impatience and a need for hyper-convenience derail you.
  16. Walking is the single most underrated form of movement that you can put into your life.
  17. With advice, it’s not necessarily WHAT we hear or HOW we hear it, it’s WHEN we hear it that matters. Case in point: how many times have you heard you need to increase your fruit and vegetable intake? It doesn’t matter how many times you hear it. It doesn’t matter who says it. It matters when your body feels like trash and you realize that you can improve your diet by X% by eating more nutritious food. As the adage goes: when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
  18. Everyone overeats. Seriously. Everyone does. Normalize the fact that it happens and if you feel that the frequency/size of overeating is negatively affecting you, seek help.
  19. I have loved my wife for all of the 13 years that I’ve known her. However, we have not always had a loving relationship. Changing that reality was a monumental move for our marriage. It made everything in our lives better: the way we treat each other, the way we raise Sebastian, the way we contribute to the upbringing of Jackson, and how we treat ourselves as individuals.
  20. A good coach puts themselves above no one. I am not better than my clients because my exercise and my diet are generally on point. We all have things we struggle through. I look at coaching much like a slow dance: sometimes I lead, sometimes I follow. The point is to pay attention so you don’t step on toes.
  21. I have always appreciated dissenting opinions. I don’t need to surround myself with people who agree with me. I want to learn from people who see things differently. The trick is to have a difference of opinion without being an asshole.
  22. The feeling I get when I take Sebastian into a record store and see him comb through vinyl like I did when I was not much older is a feeling I can’t put into words. I hope he carries a love of music with him for the rest of his life.
  23. You’re not lazy or unmotivated if you can’t lose weight successfully. You may, however, have a lot of unprocessed trauma you need to work through. See #8.
  24. To everyone who reads my blogs, follows me on FB or IG and shares my work: Thank you. It means a lot and I try my best to educate, inspire and entertain.
  25. Some people need a diet/exercise intervention to lose weight successfully. Some people need weight loss medication AND a diet/exercise intervention. Others may need bariatric surgery, potentially a weight loss medication, AND a diet/exercise intervention. There is no wrong path to fat loss. There is what works for you and you are not a lesser person because you couldn’t just work the diet/exercise path on its own. The human brain and human behavior are complex. We were not designed to all travel this world in the same way.
  26. I love my mother. I miss my father.
  27. There is no one-size-fits-all probiotic for gut health. We don’t know enough about the gut microbiome yet. That being said, a probiotic is likely safe for you to take and either you find the benefit or you don’t. You still probably need to revisit #2.
  28. Just because something is natural doesn’t make it safe for you.
  29. If someone you follow makes you fear certain foods and you do not have an allergic reaction to said foods, you should probably unfollow them. Fear mongering has absolutely no-place in a reasonable diet.
  30. About the only thing in nutrition that has very little gray area it’s this: you need to achieve an energy deficit (through either intake or output or both) to lose fat.
  31. Asking an individual to make changes to their diet is challenging enough. If they’re in a relationship, those changes are harder to make. If they’re in a relationship and raising a family, it’s even more challenging. That doesn’t make change impossible, it means that the more people who eat within your close environment, the more they have a direct influence on how, how much, what and where you consume food.
  32. Fat loss solves SOME problems. It doesn’t solve every problem. Not every pain and discomfort in the body is because of excess weight.
  33. Your body is constantly giving you signals. Spend less time numbing out emotions, stress and discomfort and pay attention to those signals. It could save your life. This has nothing to do with how much you weigh.
  34. I talk trash about a lot of things. Part of it is me just being opinionated (especially with music). There’s actually only one thing in life I truly hate. It’s cancer. Fuck cancer.
  35. I made a pact with myself at the beginning of this year to get my wife and I out of town for an evening each month. I didn’t succeed with that pact but we were able to do more than in previous years. I’ll keep an eye on that for 2023. That’s not a New Year’s resolution, that’s taking care of my marriage and reestablishing some sanity for us by having a routine getaway.
  36. Stop reading about self-improvement. Start improving. You can’t simultaneously read about ways to move your life forward and be executing on the knowledge.
  37. The only time motivation is more important than action is when you’re just getting started. It’s what you need to get you off the couch. After that, action will always precede motivation. Show up when you don’t feel like it (especially when you don’t, unless you’re sick or injured).
  38. On the note of injuries, they happen. This could be related to exercise or not. The goal is to recover as quickly as you can, rehab what needs it and move the other parts of the body that can still be stimulated. We can’t eliminate the occurrence of injuries, we CAN work to reduce the frequency and severity of them. Also, see #33
  39. Turn off all electronics (phone, laptop, computer, kindle, tablet, TV) within 30-45 minutes of bedtime. Use the bed for sleep and sex. You’re welcome.
  40. I am extremely lucky that I work at a place that I genuinely love coming to. I spend 60+ hours a week at the Rev and I don’t take that circumstance for granted. I don’t believe that you need a job that you love to be happy. I do believe that you need a job you can do proficiently that allows you the time and space to do something you love outside of it.
  41. If you’ve hired someone to be your coach, tell them about yourself. Not just your goals. Talk about your pain, talk about your past, talk about the things that rattle around in your head at night. THAT’s the stuff that will help you get closer to your goals. The less you unveil, the less a coach (or therapist, for that matter) can get to the heart of the obstacles. If we’re talking about diet, it’s never JUST about food.
  42. You can’t be great at everything. Give yourself a tablespoon of slack if you really kick ass at certain areas of your life but you’re a hot mess of a human in other areas. Hi, I’m Jason. I’ll be your coach and conductor on the Hot Mess Express. Put your seat belt on, grab your popcorn, we will be listening to no Taylor Swift music on this ride.
  43. There is almost no reason whatsoever to be hopped up on caffeine all day long. The problem isn’t that you need more caffeine, it’s that your sleep habits are god-awful. Why are they god-awful? Because you drank two coffees, 2 Bangs and you thought you needed a pre-workout before your evening lift. Get.Some.Sleep. Read #39.
  44. There’s a really good chance that you need less variety in your diet to succeed at fat loss (or at least get momentum in starting fat loss). Start with consistency and predictability and be okay with some boredom. Add in variety as you go along.
  45. A little bit of hunger is okay on a fat loss diet. Being ravenous with a growly tummy is not okay.
  46. Most diet advice on the internet is terrible advice for people with a history of eating disorders.
  47. I have done a lot of things in my life that I am not proud of or am otherwise ashamed of. I have also done a lot of good, caring, and thoughtful things. Every day, I have a choice of what tape I want to play on loop in my head of the person I think I am: the person I’m proud of or the person I’m not. That tape informs the trajectory of the rest of my life. You may not have the same past that I do, but pay close attention to what your tape is playing on loop in your mind. The message matters.

And Again…Thank You

I try to remain mindful of how and when and how often I express my gratitude.

I know it’s “that time of year” and this article is falling just days before Thanksgiving.

2022 has been a year of change.

At the beginning of this year, I started working with and for Dr. Spencer Nadolsky as part of his team of coaches with Big Rocks Nutrition Coaching. It has been an awesome experience and I’ll give my first round of thanks and gratitude to Spencer for allowing me to be part of the journey, to Coach Dan who oversees the staff of coaches in the program, to the amazing coaches I get to work with and learn from: Rachel, Michelle, Alja, Sarah and Jenny, and of course, to all of the clients I’ve had the chance to work with in the program who I doubt I would have ever had the opportunity had it not been for Spencer.

It was my hope in joining forces with all of them that I could continue to learn skills I didn’t have before and improve on ones I brought to the table. I believe that has been a success. Thank you to all of the BRN community.

As work was scaling up through BRN, I knew that I would only be able to handle so much on my plate, so I used the opportunity to give my coaches at RevFit more responsibility by asking them to share the workload of client programming at the studio. I’ll give my first round of thanks and gratitude to the two gentlemen who have been helping me not just on the training floor but with sharing the responsibility of programming the training cycles of our clients: Coaches David and Nick.

In addition, I need to thank Coaches Mike and Megan for also being a part of the monster that is RevFit. While roles continue to ebb and flow with the demands of life and work, I am extremely grateful to you both for all the help you have given me this year.

As another component to taking on the work with BRN, I made the decision to put my podcast on an indefinite hiatus. While I do miss all of the inspiring conversations I had during its six year tenure, all of the episodes remain active on your podcast platform of choice. I’d like to give my humble thanks and gratitude to every person who tuned in, everyone who subscribed and every guest who shared the time with me. I am grateful for all of the knowledge we could share with the world.

It takes a special kind of work to commit 60+ hours of a given week and a special kind of clientele to service. I’m fortunate to have both. I don’t know how to express the appropriate amount of gratitude to the people who come through the doors of RevFit day in and day out. With an age range that spans from 12 to 84, we see a little bit of everything at the studio. I tell my coaches: We’re very blessed to have such a diverse community of folks from all walks of life who show up several times a week to support themselves, to support each other, and to have a place where they can get closer to their goals.

I’d love to tell you that I had some master plan to get us this far but I didn’t. I just tried to foster an environment that I could be proud of and look forward to being a part of.

I’ve succeeded in that.

Thank you to all of the tremendous people who came through our doors this year. Whether you are a long term client, someone brand new to us, or someone who came and decided to train elsewhere, the sentiment is the same: Thank You. It means a lot that you chose us for ANY amount of time.

To my family: from my in-laws to my mother, to my sons and my wife: Thank you for giving me the space and time to do this work. I hope and aim to make you proud.

Lastly, one bittersweet moment of gratitude: most days, I’m grateful to be in this world. I try to never forget the people who I love who are no longer here to share this time with me. It’s easy to get lost in the rush of the days and weeks which pass by at a seemingly faster pace than ever. I am fortunate to be here, to be alive and well, and to be a part of life with all of you.

I know how precious this life is.

Thank you to everyone who is a part of my world, near and far.

Love the life you have.

Gold Stars For Effort

It started off as a joke.

Credit to our Melissa L. (a schoolteacher, at that) for initiating the conversation about gold stars for effort.

Melissa was commenting on the fact that she deserved a gold star for some of her gym efforts. This sentiment was reinforced from our Rachel H. who was actually the person who referred Melissa and her family to us at RevFit.

So, as a way to keep the joke going, I bought a pack of gold stars.

Once clients started hitting personal bests on their lifts, I’d grab a star and stick it on their shirt: “Gold star for the P.R!”

And, as silly as it may seem, everyone, I mean, EVERYONE, smiles when they get one.

It’s not just personal bests though (we say personal record at the Rev).

Clients might get a gold star for attendance, hitting a weight loss milestone or some other point to celebrate.

However, where I also found value in them was for habit tracking.

And in this case, I credit my online client Paula M.

Paula is a successful dentist as well as a loving and devoted mom and wife in Canada.

She and I started working together through my work coaching in Dr. Nadolsky’s Big Rocks Nutrition program several months ago.

We noticed two areas in her diet and lifestyle that needed attention. Because I know how much she has going on, I told her to give me a daily update on whether or not she successfully nailed those behaviors.

Each day, Paula sends me a message with two thumbs up, two thumbs down, or one up/one down letting me know if she was successful the day before.

I take my gold stars and place them on my blotter calendar at work so I can see what the trends are. If she hits two days in a row of “two thumbs down”, I won’t have stars on the blotter for those days.

I might also send a loving nudge:

Change your trend.

Paula takes the cue and starts correcting course.

So far, it’s been a nuanced but insightful exercise for both of us. We know that even if she is “spot on” with nailing these two habits, there is still the chance that she may overeat in a given day.

However, she stacks the deck in her favor if she can hit one or both habits with more accuracy as opposed to less so.

At the end of each month, we recap what happens with the gold star trends and discuss how to make the next month better.

In Paula’s words: Gold stars: as effective on a “X” year old mother and dentist as they are on a 5 year old!

No truer words have been spoken.

Sometimes, it’s little symbols to celebrate the wins which can speak the loudest.

In this case, that semi-joke about gold stars that Melissa started several months ago has actually turned into something that sparks happiness, motivation and a sense of achievement.

It’s not revolutionary but it’s working for us.

It might work for you, too.

Losing It

So, you’ve decided you want to lose fat and you don’t know where to start.

I wrote a rather lengthy piece sometime back on the numbers of fat loss and this wouldn’t be a bad place to get acquainted with how you can successfully reach your goals.

However, I wanted to look at the numbers from a different perspective for this week’s article.

First off, we need to get a rough idea what your maintenance calories are.

A decent calculator is HERE and you’ll want to be as accurate as possible with acknowledging how active/inactive you are on a given day.

Remember that every calculator is different and if you try 20 different ones, you’ll get 20 different answers. While the disparity between them may not be 1000 calories off, there could be a difference of a few hundred calories between each.

That’s why we’re just looking for a rough estimate to work from.

I’m going to use a very arbitrary goal of 1800 calories for the purposes of this article.

Of note, 1800 calories would be more aligned with fat loss for a female as opposed to a male but the sentiments shared here can apply to both.

I should also mention that 1800 calories is too high for some women and too low for others.

Once you’ve determined your personal maintenance number, you can use a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal, Lose It, MyPlate, MacroFactor, etc. as a place to log your intake. Each of these apps use different algorithms for calculating maintenance calories as well, so expect differences but don’t get too hung up on the numbers (yet). Should you elect to use an app, make sure that you set your goal inside the app for maintenance as opposed to an arbitrary fat loss goal.

The reason I want you to start at maintenance for a period of time (days/weeks) is to understand what that amount of calories looks and feels like. Unfortunately, most people who have been trying to lose fat are either in an aggressive deficit or they’re well into a surplus of calories. Dialing into maintenance isn’t just important when you’re getting started, it’s actually your resting point (albeit with different numbers) when you reach your ideal weight.

To get your intake as accurate as possible, use a food scale to measure the weight of your food, use measuring cups/spoons, scan SKU numbers on food labels and try to limit dining out. Note that many chain restaurants and fast food establishments post their calories which can be helpful but might also be outdated and inaccurate. However, it’s better having some idea what the calories are as opposed to absolutely no idea.

If you’re weighing your food, note that with meats and seafood, it’s better to weigh them raw as opposed to cooked. When you cook them, you’re mostly losing water which reduces the size of the food but not the calories by any considerable margin.

After you’ve spent a few days/weeks at 1800, keep an eye on your body weight. Is it up, is it down or is it the same?

Here’s the interesting thing to note, some people lose weight at their estimated maintenance calories. This can be for a handful of reasons:

1-the perceived maintenance is lower than your actual maintenance (due to calculator differences)

2-your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) levels have increased

3-the quality and intensity of your workouts has increased (you burn more calories during exercise)

4-your protein intake may be higher (contributing to a higher thermic effect of food)

5-eating closer to maintenance makes you less likely to overeat

So, you can make the decision to stay at 1800 until your fat loss stalls or you can start reducing your intake further.

Remember that 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week is a safe, reasonable amount to lose. If you have significantly more weight to lose, closer to 2 pounds loss is realistic and if you have significantly less fat to lose, 1 pound (and sometimes less) is more realistic.

In determining the deficit to create, there is a general theory that the higher you can keep your calories and still see results, the easier the diet will be to adhere to. I’ll say that this theory is probably accurate for many people but not all.

We’ll start somewhat conservatively and break down a deficit somewhere between 10-20% of maintenance.

Approximately 1620 calories gives you a 10% deficit.

Approximately 1440 calories gives you a 20% deficit.

Consider that you work within a range of 1440-1800 calories on a given week. If you can adhere to 1440 for an entire week, your results would reflect it. However, if you’re strength/endurance training with some degree of intensity, you may prefer to shoot you calories on the higher end so that the quality of your workouts doesn’t suffer.

I’ll estimate that our hypothetical woman here is exercising regularly so we want to keep her protein high enough to optimize her training and recovery. A rough range might be 20-25% of your calories in protein per day. The remainder can be split between carbohydrates and fat in a ratio that feels best. In other words, find your calorie goal/range, set your protein targets and leave the rest for carbs and fat. For more flexibility, you may want to aim carbs a bit higher on training days and fat a bit higher on rest/recovery days. That’s only a suggestion.

What if you wanted faster fat loss?

Well, we could be slightly more aggressive and aim for a 500 calorie deficit each day. It’s roughly 3500 calories per pound of fat so a 500 calorie deficit should net you close to 1 pound down each week.

This adjusts you down from 1800 to 1300.

The same protein principle applies. Set your range of 400-480 calories coming from protein and the rest is carbs and fat.

Bear in mind that as we continue to drive the deficit more aggressively, NEAT levels may drop, the quality of your workouts may drop and you may experience more cravings, more irritability, and poorer sleep quality. These are potentials and not guaranteed outcomes.

It’s also important to note that as you lose fat, your body requires fewer calories at maintenance which means that 1800 is now too high and the deficits will drop as well. This may not need your attention until you’re down somewhere between 10-20 pounds lower than your starting weight. A small shift downwards may be all that’s necessary.

What if you wanted to be more aggressive?

There’s a school of thought that a deficit of 50-60% from your maintenance can not only be a faster path to fat loss but potentially with less hunger as well. This may seem counterintuitive. A 50-60% deficit would put you between 720-900 calories per day. Set your protein intake first. Then, set your fat intake at no less than 20% (140-180 calories). The remainder would be carbs.

Many aggressive fat loss protocols that you find being offered to the general public will be in line with this last option. While they may dress it up as something more, what you’ll find is that many fat loss programs that gain traction will put women south of 1000 calories. I won’t say it’s bad or good. I will reiterate that the more aggressively you drop your calories below maintenance the harder it may be to sustain, the easier it may be to rebound AND you may not be able to train with much intensity.

A slightly kinder option is to experiment across the ranges.

Start with maintenance first. Get comfortable there and see if it equates to results on the scale.

If you enjoy training with intensity, a smaller deficit may be the best route to go or at least adhering to a smaller deficit on training days.

You can experiment with lower goals on non-training days if you like but ultimately, you need a plan you can stick with that 1) Allows you to live your life 2) Helps you reach your goals.

A side note: if you have a history of eating disorders, aggressive dieting is not advised.

It can be easy to be seduced by the scale and forget that sometimes the way we want to diet (with a focus on speed) can have a detrimental effect on our mental well-being, our workouts, our sleep, our hormones and our social lives. Be willing to take the process slowly so you can learn more about what works and what doesn’t and modify as you go.

A Short Read On Underreporting

One of the most challenging aspects of fat loss, for both the client and the coach, is handling the underreporting of food.

Underreporting isn’t always conscious. Sometimes it happens without us knowing that it’s happening.

Here’s a quick list (not exhaustive) of ways that underreporting can happen:

-Using an inaccurate option in a food tracker app (like MyFitnessPal, Lose It, etc.)

-Using eyeball measurements of food, drinks with calories or cooking oils

-Relying solely on measuring cups and spoons when a food scale would be more accurate

-Forgetting to log grazing and random bites, licks, and nibbles of food throughout the day

-Not having access to accurate calories from menus when dining out

-Weighing cooked meats the same way that raw meats would be weighed (cooked meat weighs less due to the loss of water during cooking, not necessarily a loss of calories).

-Not being cognizant of the fact that food labels can be incorrect

-Consciously not submitting foods due to embarrassment and/or feelings of guilt/shame over food choices

One of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone is that, if fat loss is the goal, and you’re trying to track your calories as accurately as possible but you’re not seeing results, start with the question: Where could I be wrong?

Step back and look at places in your tracking and in your eating behaviors where things might not be on point.

Also, do your best to not judge food choices. Foods are not “good” or “bad”, they simply exist.

Yes, some food choices are more nutritious than others but we don’t always gravitate to those.

Sometimes, we just want to eat for hedonic pleasure and not for nutritional benefit.

I should also mention that you do NOT have to track calories to be successful with fat loss.

For many of my clients, we can look at some patterns of eating and determine what to improve on.

That might mean that a client who snacks three times a day on average can reduce down to one and see fat loss results.

It might mean that a client who consumes alcohol every evening can reduce the amount of alcohol or can reduce how many days they imbibe.

And yes, some clients legitimately need to spend time learning how to accurately weigh, measure and/or track food for a short period of time so they can be better aware of where they’re struggling.

While it’s never a demand that we have to be 100% accurate with our intake, denial of intake is a different matter altogether.

I will say, as much as it pains me to type it, that some coaches legitimately shame the food choices of their clients. I don’t understand it and I wish it didn’t happen but it does and this can influence the accuracy of tracking as well.

A point of consideration is that, if I were to look to my accountant to help me better manage my finances, they would need access to bank statements and credit card statements to understand what’s happening with my expenses.

Everything is clear-cut and in black and white.

However, with our food, it’s not clear-cut and it’s definitely not black and white.

That being said, if you have hired someone to coach you on your fat loss journey, ask yourself: How precise can I make my data so that my coach has every advantage in helping me?

If you identify with a history of food that includes an eating disorder, calorie tracking may do more harm than good. I wrote more about that HERE.

If you’re going to track your food, by any measure you deem appropriate, you owe it to yourself to be as accurate as you can.

Underreporting is normal and the more you can minimize the errors involved with it, the better your results can be.

I should also add in conclusion that whether or not you underreport says nothing about your worth as a person. Tracking food intake can be time consuming, cumbersome and genuinely sabotaging for some individuals.

If you get stuck, ask for help.

The Skills Of Eating

I just finished reading the book “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

This short book is packed full of insight into how to be a better writer.

Since I am either writing articles like this one, writing posts for social media, writing messages to clients in email or messenger form and, at the very least, crafting text messages, it never hurts to learn more in efforts to improve.

In the foreword, Roger Angell wrote a line that stuck with me:

“Writing is hard, even for authors who do it all the time.”

I thought about that for a few moments.

If the skills of writing are hard for authors, especially those who make a living with the written word, consider how challenging it is for those who don’t do it as frequently or struggle outside of oral communication.

Of course, the next place my mind went was with the skills of eating.

We’ve been eating since we were first brought into this world.

We often eat several times a day.

Most of us have access to an overabundance of foods; from minimally processed, whole foods to ultra-processed, easy-to-overeat foods.

And yet, many people have absolutely no idea “how” to eat.

So, we hire dietitians and nutrition coaches, we order meal-prep services, we buy cookbooks and search endlessly online for calorie plans, macro splits and healthy food options.

We invest in diet methodologies that resonate emotionally with us.

We join online groups so we can be a part of a community of like-minded eaters and still, we struggle to know how (and how much) to consume.

I’ll take my own liberties with Angell’s thoughts:

“Eating is hard, even for those of us who do it all the time.”

Allow me to give you the terribly unsexy tips about what to eat (none of which should seem revelatory to you):

-Consume lean sources of protein

-Eat several servings of fruits, vegetables and legumes

-Moderate alcohol & caffeine consumption

-Drink enough water

-Consume some healthy fats

-Limit hyper-palatable foods in the diet

If that was as unsexy to read as it was for me to type, consider that this is why much of this advice is ignored.

It’s not glamorous, flashy or eye-catching.

It hits no emotional buttons for you.

No food has been excluded or demonized.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that you already know this information, the how and why of consuming these foods remains something of an enigma for most people.

This is not completely your fault.

Over the decades, we’ve been taught, at one point or another, to fear every type of food, to eliminate or drastically reduce the occurrence of each of the three macronutrients (four, if you count alcohol), and even if all we wanted to know about food was how MUCH to eat, every calorie calculator is an estimate, every method of measuring food available to the public is fraught with errors, and sometimes all we want to do is curl up on the couch with a pint of ice cream and say: F–k it.

Yes, hormones influence how you eat.

Yes, some people express their love language with food.

Yes, you may have an intolerance to certain foods.

Yes, it is possible that what you once may have been able to eat in abundance you can no longer do so without discomfort.

Yes, the style of eating that works best for you may not work best for your spouse, your children, or your parents.

Yes, lack of quality sleep can correlate to higher food cravings.

Yes, chronic exercising can increase your hunger (for some, it can be an appetite suppressant).

Yes, there is a genetic link to your hormones and how they affect your hunger/satiety levels.

Yes, your food environment (what you have easy, direct access to) influences your diet adherence.

Yes, high stress can make you want to overconsume food (for some, high stress has the opposite effect).

Yes, some people need food rules (more rigidity) and some people need fewer rules (more flexibility).

Considering all of these factors, every aspect of eating requires a skill.

Cooking is a skill.

Managing stress and sleep so that you are less likely to overconsume food is a skill.

Measuring portion sizes is a skill.

Calorie/macro tracking is a skill.

Losing body fat is a skill.

Gaining muscle mass (with minimal fat gain) is a skill.

Long term maintenance of your body weight is a skill.

Allow me to reiterate: Eating is hard, even for those of us who do it all the time.

If this seems overwhelming, don’t be surprised. We are a nation of highly-stressed, sleep deprived, hustle-and-grind individuals who are trying desperately to make all the pieces fit.

Practice frequent moments of grace and forgiveness if you’ve been on this planet for decades and you can’t quite solve the riddle of how to eat in a manner which best serves you.

Stick to those basics, those unsexy tips above, as a reference point.

Be willing to constantly polish your skills of eating.

You don’t need another diet book.

You don’t need to be scared away from foods or food groups (unless you are allergic or otherwise intolerant).

What you may need is reminders that something as automatic and intertwined to our lives as eating is more challenging than we give it credit for.

When I read a book about being a better writer, it’s because I genuinely want to improve and educate and inspire. I’m willing to learn those skills.

When you read about eating, be willing to learn the skills it takes to eat in a way that improves your life, not in a way that diminishes.

Lastly, you are worth the time it takes to develop those skills.

Days Of Love And Wonder

Building off of last week’s post, I wanted to add some more thoughts to this conversation on love and relationships.

Not just the love we share with others but the love we have for ourselves and the relationships we keep as a result of both.

Marissa and I just returned from a short getaway celebrating her birthday and our anniversary which will forever be within days of each other.

Some time back, our marriage was not in a good place. We reached that point that many relationships get to where the respect we had for one another was deteriorating and it took a hard stop of behaviors on both sides to be able to look at one another and determine which way to proceed.

Do we let this all come to an end or do we fix it?

We chose the latter.

And by doing so, many of the behaviors that led us down the alternative path had to change.

Since those changes took place, Marissa and I aren’t the same people; not as individuals, not as parents, not as a couple.

We also had to tear down some uncomfortable walls we had been building towards each other and start getting down to the “why” of them being built in the first place.

This took months of effort.

However, when we made that change, pieces started to fall into place that we hadn’t paid close attention to before.

Because we spent the time to work on those pieces together, with no timeline or preconceived notions, the puzzle of our marriage took on a different meaning.

Of course, when we can get away for a few days as we just did to reconnect, it’s more affirmation that everything we worked for was worth the effort we spent.

The highlight reel of our marriage is exactly that: you see the smiling faces and you feel the love in a picture but you don’t see the story that was written that got us there.

This post isn’t just about Marissa and I.

It’s about you.

If you’re in a marriage that’s had its share of twists and turns, perhaps this article already resonates with you.

However, there’s the relationship you have with yourself that’s also in the mix.

I believe how we treat ourselves has a correlation to how we treat others.

When we lose respect for ourselves, we risk that as well for the people closest to us.

It’s taken me a long time to understand the shift in priorities here.

Love starts with the self.

Want a better relationship? Take care of yourself.

Want better health? Take care of yourself.

This doesn’t mean self care at the expense of others. It’s self care to benefit others and, where possible, self care with the inclusion of others.

If love in your life isn’t where you want it to be, ask yourself where you are contributing to the roadblocks. Own up to your place in that conversation.

If your health is not where you want it to be, ask yourself where self care is not being prioritized in your life. Change the priorities. Ask for help, if need be. (This is why I remain a big advocate of therapy).

I spend a lot of time on this website and on social media in a constant conversation of self improvement: my own and, with hope, yours as well.

Life is more than dieting and exercise. Even though I’ve written tens of thousands of words on this site about both.

It is love, it is relationships, it is sacrifice, it is effort, it is imperfect, it is an adventure.

I share some of our story with you because Marissa and I chose an adventure together.

And it gets better every day.

Here’s to many days of love and wonder.

Sketches (Year 8)

I knew I loved her…

I knew that I loved Marissa during our first weekend together.

Something clicked, something indescribable.

We obviously hadn’t spent much time together yet but when I got that feeling, that first step forward was with a question:

“Would you like to meet Jackson?”

She said, “Yes” and somewhat unfairly, I knew that I was measuring Jackson’s response to her. If he didn’t connect with her, could I?

Of course, at that time, we didn’t know that Jackson had autism, since few signs were showing at that stage of his life.

Nevertheless, they bonded as well as I could have asked them to.

And from that distance I knew something about her was special.

That was a sketch.

Over the next year or so, I wrote Marissa countless songs. More so than I had committed to paper in such a concentrated amount of time in my life. I knew at some point that the well would run dry because it was impossible for me to keep up that rate of output. Invariably, that rang true which is why I made a point to record every song I wrote so she could have them for posterity. Of those, a song called “Lucky Man” became a song to point towards our future.

On Thanksgiving Day 2012, I walked up the stairs of her parents home with my guitar in hand, a capo on the neck of the guitar and an engagement ring tucked out of sight behind the capo.

Marissa was peeling potatoes in the kitchen getting the last bits of food ready for Thanksgiving that day. She saw that I came in with the guitar and remarked: “Oh, do I get a serenade?”

I propped myself up on a stool in her kitchen, jittering nervously trying to calm myself to be able to not only sing “Lucky Man” to her once again but to manage my way through towards a proposal without screwing anything up.

Somewhere in the midst of that song, Marissa happened to notice that during the serenade she was still peeling potatoes. She set down the potato and the peeler and adjusted her gaze to me.

The song ended, the ring came off the capo, a proposal was made, and in her excitement she called up her best friend to tell her the news. When she got off the phone, I asked her: “So, were you going to say yes?”

The yes to marriage came after the phone call.

This was a sketch.

On our wedding day, Jackson was our ring bearer; a vision in my mind that still brings tears to my eyes. The pastor who officiated the day retold a story we had told to him. When he asked me what I loved about the woman I planned to marry, I told him: I am just a rough sketch, Marissa provides the color.

That sentiment was shared 8 years ago today and still remains true.

Because it’s not just about the 8 years of marriage, it’s the nearly 13 years as a couple.

There is hardly a storm we have not had to weather together. We’ve experienced love, loss, grief, joy, anger, death and, of course, parenthood.

We have had to reinvent our relationship, our marriage, our conversations with one another, the time we spend when we have it, the way that we raise our child together, and the way that we protect the vows we made 8 years ago.

When they say for better or worse, no one ever defines the extremes of either. Because, for Marissa and I, the “worse” certainly met the mark, but the better…we keep beating the definition of that.

Every year I craft a slightly new and evolved narrative of what our relationship has turned into and the last couple have been rather spectacular. Perhaps there is something after all to “older and wiser.”

Certain things of note have changed, none of which were done out of obligation. We hold each other more, we compliment each other more, we hold hands more often, we embrace silence together more, we argue less, we dance more, we listen more attentively, we look at each other in ways we couldn’t appreciate before.

Eight years later, there are countless sketches being made: blueprints of a love that are filled with new colors and new shades crafting a reality of something better than we expected when we said those vows.

To my wife, as we celebrate the past, we celebrate the future. Thank you for every color you’ve painted into the sketches of our life. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.

Willing To Walk Away

There’s a tip I’ve been giving to my clients lately with regard to fat loss.

It’s easy in theory and it takes practice in execution.

Be willing to walk away.

Walk away from food on your plate.

I know that flies in the face of those who grew up encouraged to be members of the “Clean Plate Club” however, you’re not a child anymore and you don’t have to play by the same rules.

Those who were raised in the CPC often look at their plates with views of: “Waste not, want not” and “I paid for it, I’m going to finish it” and that’s virtuous but it doesn’t often serve you well for fat loss.

We frequent restaurants where portion sizes are routinely 2-3x the size of what the average adult needs. We then add drinks and/or appetizers and/or desserts and what we consume easily meets the maintenance calories of an individual for a day (which doesn’t take into consideration everything else already consumed that day).

Walking away is perhaps the best tool you’re not using for fat loss.

It requires no calorie counting.

It relies on no macro tracking.

It doesn’t even hinge on food deprivation.

Because with walking away, you can have what you want, you can enjoy what you want, you just aren’t required to finish every solitary morsel of what’s there.

“But that sounds so wasteful!” I hear you say…

And, that depends on what you consider waste.

Is it a waste that you spent money on something you didn’t finish or that you consumed more than what your body (or mind) needed?

Table that thought for a moment.

Walking away isn’t just about food and it isn’t just about fat loss.

It’s a philosophy for life.

Walk away from a conversation that no longer serves you.

Walk away from a relationship that takes more than it gives.

Walk away from people who degrade you.

Walk away from a job that’s destroying you (you might want a back up).

Walk away from sunk costs.

(I probably need to explain that last one).

If you don’t know the term: the “sunk cost fallacy” describes our inability to walk away from something because of the time, money and energy we’ve expended on it. Often, we may stick with paths in our lives because of what we’ve invested in it, despite signs that we need to move on.

There’s reason to believe (a correlation, if you will), that members of the CPC also spend too long around people and circumstances and taking in unnecessary influence from places which no longer serve them, serve to benefit them, or could even be mutually beneficial with other parties involved.

Allow me to at least plant the seed: Look at areas of your life where you need to work on the skill (and it is a skill) of walking away.

Shown below, about once a week, I go to a restaurant for a rather large pulled pork sandwich. I’m not crazy about most of their sides but I do like their french fries. I’m not sure about you, but fries, as delicious as they are, are extremely easy for me to over-consume. So, I practice walking away with this meal. I eat my sandwich, I pick at some of the fries, enjoy them, acknowledge that I could easily demolish the entirety of them, and then I push my plate away, get up and leave the establishment feeling neither deprived nor wasteful.

It’s a conscious decision but I never look back on my meal saying: My day sure would have been better if I had finished that plate.

“The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet”

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on this site in reference to a diet book I had read that was published about 80 years ago. I continue to find it fascinating how diet culture has evolved over the years: from the things that were true then which are true now and, of course, the things that are untrue and no longer hold up to scrutiny.

Recently, I came across a diet book that came out in the 60s and my morbid curiosity led me to read through it and share some thoughts on it in this week’s post.

“The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet” is exactly as it implies. Written and created by Dr. Irwin Stillman, who claims to have been helping patients lose weight since the 20s, the book is a breakdown of many methods of very low calories diets (VLCDs) that he found to be effective.

Let me get this out of the way first: if you want aggressive, fast weight loss, you’ll have to resort to aggressive methods. And, just because you CAN resort to them, doesn’t necessarily mean that you SHOULD do so.

When this book was published in 1967, it was the opinion of Dr. Stillman that a thinner body was a healthier body and a thinner body was a more attractive body. As such, the numerous options available in the book were to get rid of unwanted weight as swiftly as possible so that the reader could no longer be in the category of “overweights” (his term, not mine).

After reading the book, I hopped around on Google trying to find out more about Dr. Stillman and I didn’t put 2 and 2 together that his approach to dieting has been referenced as “The Stillman Diet”.

So, what exactly is The Stillman Diet?

Well, in essence, it is a high protein, low-fat, low-carb diet. It’s not keto, it’s not Atkins and it’s not the carnivore diet.

Nearly every weight loss option he gives in the book (and there are several), adheres to a calorie allotment of 1200 or less. Many of the options are 800 calories or less. They are not designed for a lifetime of adherence to. They are designed to shed weight quickly with some allowances and dietary luxuries filtered back in when the reader reaches their desired weight.

The initial prescription, if you will, is lean meats (fat trimmed-no pork), chicken and turkey (no skin), lean fish and seafood (no salmon), eggs, cottage cheese, non-calorie carbonated drinks, coffee and tea (nothing added), 8 (10 oz) glasses of water per day, herbs and spices, and a vitamin complex.

No butters, fats, dressings, mayo, mints, or gum. No fruits, no vegetables, no grains, no legumes.

Sound aggressive? It is.

Once you’ve lost at least 30 pounds on the diet, the ever-gracious Dr. Stillman allows artificially sweetened gelatin, plain yogurt and skim milk.

After you’ve reached your desired weight, it’s advised that you start tracking calorie intake and never exceed a 3 pound increase in your body weight lest you return to the habits that led to you being one of the “overweights”. You can start to add certain carbohydrates and fats back into the diet but only with careful consideration of your total caloric intake and certain foods do remain “off limits”.

Of note, Dr. Stillman does realize that VLCDs do create rapid fat loss, however, he also uses the book to demonstrate how there are many other ways to achieve rapid loss without following his diet in particular.

It is interesting to see that nearly 60 years ago, intermittent fasting protocols were being used (and en vogue), however, fasting in some variation has been used for centuries. Much like what we say about fashion: “What’s old is new again”, nutrition practices are not much different.

Here is a list of some other extreme diet practices in the book which can also promote rapid loss:

-Lettuce and tomato semi-starvation diet

-Cottage cheese and grapefruit diet

-Baked potato and buttermilk diet

-Egg and tomato diet

-Meat only diet (sorry Carnivore diet advocates, Stillman was way ahead of you)

-Fruit only diet

-All vegetable diet

-Bananas and milk diet

What Dr. Stillman correctly realized was that it really doesn’t matter what you adhere to, it’s that you can adhere to something and keep the calories very low. It stands to reason that his initial high protein offering was his particular leaning, however he wasn’t going to sway someone away from another method if it kept the calories low enough for fast results.

Stillman himself would pass away from a heart attack 12 years later at the age of 79.

Curiously (and sadly), an adopter of The Stillman Diet back in 1967 was Karen Carpenter (at the time at a height of 5’4 and weight of 145), who, despite abandoning the diet, would eventually lose her life to anorexia in 1983.

As a nutrition coach and someone who genuinely just wants his clients to find happiness and health on their terms, I can’t overstate finding a diet approach that makes sense in the scope of your life. Aggressive diets have been around longer than most of us realize and the very limited nutrient intake of the aforementioned diets can potentially wreak havoc on your system.

While it can be tempting (and sometimes advised) to utilize aggressive approaches, you also may want to consider what else is being sacrificed/compromised just to see a lower number on the scale.

And, my personal/professional opinion, your weight is not your worth despite Dr. Stillman’s belief to the contrary.