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.

An Addict’s View Of The Six Stages Of Change

I recently finished the book “Changing For Good” by Drs. James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo DiClemente which details the six stages of change also known as the transtheoretical model of change.

The authors used this model to discuss how change that lasts affects smokers, drug addicts, chronic overeaters and alcoholics.

I wanted to take some liberties with the model to explain how (with the luxury of hindsight) the stages affected my ability to get clean from drugs.

At the end, I wanted to compare it against a hypothetical fat loss client about how they can make changes stick for themselves.

Per the model, the six stages of change are:







Within those six stages, there is another area referenced but not always listed as Relapse which could occur within the latter stages.

Here’s how the six stages directly occurred with my drug addiction:

Precontemplation: During this stage, people are not considering change. Often, they are in denial of the problem or have simply relegated themselves to their circumstances and don’t feel in control to change anything. In precontemplation, the person is not considering change for at least 6 months.  For myself, I spent ten years with near daily usage of drugs. When copious amounts were available, copious amounts would be consumed. Even leading up to the year that I got clean (2006), I would still tell people that I would be a lifelong smoker (weed, not cigarettes). I also probably believed that I could successfully manage my cocaine addiction. I was unaware or simply blind to the fact that my addictions were affecting me socially, professionally and financially. Having the money for drugs superseded my ability to pay my bills which became the major catalyst for why I finally quit. In 2006, I had managed to put my drug use before paying my mortgage. Since my father was the co-signer on my house, when the past dues started showing up on the home, it wasn’t just my credit score that was negatively affected, it was his too. Once I saw that damage was being done to more than just me, I couldn’t bear the fact that I was harming him too. This circumstance quickly led to the next stage: Contemplation.

Contemplation: This is the stage where the people start looking at the benefits and possibilities of changing their behavior. They aren’t fully sold on committing to change but they realize that something has become problematic enough that it may need remedy. In the contemplation phase, the person is planning to change within 6 months. For myself, I didn’t spend a great deal of time in contemplation. As I’ll highlight later when I discuss fat loss, some people never leave the contemplation stage. Once I saw what my drug use and inability to stay current with my mortgage payments affected my father, I knew that my vices had finally gone too far. I threw away the last of the drugs I had on hand and started to right the ship that had gone completely off course. The next stage of change was one that I didn’t personally experience the way others might but I’ll cover it regardless. That stage is preparation.

Preparation: For many people, once they recognize the problem and have started to address the pros and cons of changing their behavior(s), preparation is where small changes may start to take place and more information is gathered to assist in changing the problem. During this stage, the person is planning on change within 30 days.  I didn’t personally go through a preparation stage. There was no dipping my toes in the water and I didn’t start looking at N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings or books on how to quit. I just quit cold turkey. Others find that writing down goals or value statements as well as a given plan of action can be helpful. For myself, I would say I skipped this stage completely. After preparation, the next stage of change is Action.

Action: During the action stage, those who are embarking on change are actively moving towards a modification of behavior. For instance, a smoker may have purchased smoking patches, started a cessation program, etc. in efforts to quit smoking. It can be helpful for those who are in the action stage to reward the successes and to find a support system to align with. In this stage, change has started within the last 6 months.  Since I had no stage of preparation, my next stage of change was action. The drugs I had on hand at that point were discarded and although I was still around drugs (my roommate was a user), I made my choice and stayed clean (temporarily, which I’ll discuss soon). My fiancée at the time (Jackson’s mom) was clean so it was easy to use her as a support because she wasn’t a user. One area I didn’t actively use during the action stage was rewarding my successes. It was more about repairing the financial state of myself and my father so that our respective credit scores could recover and my mortgage payments could be made current. This sets the stage for our next spot: Maintenance.

Maintenance: In the maintenance stage, a person is successfully taking action on the areas they want to change. They are distancing themselves from tempting scenarios and are actively developing coping strategies. A person in maintenance is still capable of lapse or relapse during this stage. Change has been in place for at least 6 months. While I didn’t realize it at the time, one of the most effective ways for me to maintain being clean was the fact that I was transferred to a different state a couple of months after I quit using. While it was still possible for me to find drugs in the new state, I had so many other things competing for my attention, that not having drugs nearby wasn’t as difficult to deal with. Had I stayed in the previous state, I’m not sure how successful I would have been in the short-term at staying clean. Temptation and being around the same friends I used to partake in drug use with may have been detrimental to my progress.

Termination: In the original model, termination was not a phase, rather Relapse (also known as Recycle), was. I’ll cover those shortly. It’s assumed that in the termination phase, the person changing has no desire to return to their former behaviors and no longer feels tempted by the same situations. It’s rare that individuals reach this area so the perception is that each person embarking on a long-term commitment to change is simply in maintenance phase. 

Relapse/Recycle: It is likely that an individual attempting to change their behaviors will be tempted by and succumb to those temptations. A brief episode of the behavior is considered a “lapse” while a complete return to previous behaviors is considered a “relapse”. For these same people, it does not mean failure, it means a return to a previous stage. Think of these six stages working in a circle. The lapse/relapse shifts a person backwards to a previous stage. Most likely, there will be a return to contemplation, preparation, action or maintenance. There is no defined order. In my case, I had three lapses where I smoked again on separate occasions. There was no guilt, there was no full relapse. My last lapse was in 2009. Each episode put me right back into maintenance the following day.

Here is a point of consideration before I dive into how these six stages may affect someone who is trying to successfully lose fat and keep it off. I still have to “manage” my behavior to stay clean. I will sometimes feel an urge to do drugs although it isn’t a strong one. I am rarely, if ever, knowingly around drugs so I don’t have that temptation around me. That being said, about 5 years ago, I was around someone who I knew had very high quality product on them. I was “tempted” to ask and see what they had. I didn’t act on it. It was a thought and it passed.

Sometimes, people go into change thinking that once they are in maintenance phase that they will no longer succumb to previous behaviors. I don’t find this to be true, and especially not with food since we have to have food to live. The same cannot be said about street drugs, smoking or alcohol.

Now, allow me to craft a narrative about a woman who will be embarking on these stages for the purposes of fat loss. We’ll call her Sharon. Sharon is neither a current or former client of mine. However, Sharon’s story will share similarities with people I’ve worked with.

Precontemplation: Sharon has tried to lose fat several times over the last few decades. She doesn’t struggle with any clinical eating disorders but she has been on more diets than she can count and each one has a similar outcome: she can lose fat when she’s very adherent but once she reverts back to old habits, she regains the weight she’s lost and slightly more. She has all but given up hope that she will ever get to a weight she can be satisfied with. She’s married with 3 children who are each married as well. After her third child was born, she developed some symptoms of post-partum depression. As she has gotten older, she periodically gets “the blues” but she doesn’t take medication as she doesn’t think it’s severe. However, she has noticed that when those moments occur, she is more likely to comfort herself with snack foods like chips and crackers and she routinely finishes her evenings with some ice cream. She doesn’t care for exercise but she does like to go out for walks with her husband and their dog when the weather is nice. Sharon has noticed that with age and the additional weight that getting up off the floor is not as easy as it used to be and she gets out of breath when she’s bringing her laundry basket upstairs. Each time she thinks about going on another diet, she tells herself it’s not worth it and she’ll probably fail again.

Contemplation: Sharon’s daughter, Sheila, has just called the family to announce that she and her husband are expecting their first child which will be Sharon’s first grandchild. Overjoyed to see their family grow, Sharon can’t contain her excitement as she has always looked fondly on what it would be like to be a grandmother. A few days pass after the good news and she starts thinking about how active she’ll be helping Sheila once the baby arrives. She’s reminded about how getting up off the floor and carrying the laundry have become more cumbersome for her and she starts thinking again about possibly losing some weight before the baby arrives. There’s still a negative voice in her head that reminds her of when she’s tried and failed before but it’s relatively quiet compared to the happiness she feels when she thinks of what life will be like with a grandchild.

Preparation: Sharon decides that she’s going to commit to changing her weight. She’s not going to focus on a goal weight but she is going to start eating more nutritious meals and she realizes that not exercising more may be working against her. She spends some time online looking for places where she can work out and not feel self-conscious. She also subscribes to some recipe websites to help her make meals that look appropriate for her goals but don’t take long to make. She tells her husband, Joel, about her plans. Joel, always in support but also suspicious based on Sharon’s prior history, tells her he’ll do what he can to help.

Action: Sharon finds a small gym to join at a time when it’s not too busy. She hires a coach to teach her how to perform exercises safely and gets to train at her own pace as she doesn’t like perspiring when she works out. She’s decided that some of the foods in her house are not easy foods to navigate when she’s trying to succeed at fat loss so she throws away the crackers, chips and ice cream. She tells herself: It’s not like I can never have them, I just don’t want to think about them right now. Joel isn’t happy about the fact that his favorite chips aren’t in the house but he doesn’t want to discourage Sharon from her efforts. He knows that if he really wants chips, he can buy a bag to keep at his office.

Maintenance: Sharon is thrilled with herself. She’s set no expectations about how much weight she would lose, she just made a commitment to showing up at the gym no less than twice a week (sometimes she goes 4 days a week). She lost more weight than she anticipated through being mindful about her food intake and training consistently. She still has cravings for her salty snacks but since they aren’t in the house, the cravings come and go. While she is far from a weight that she wants to be at, she knows this is the longest she has spent working on improving her health. Shortly after she started the gym, she met a couple of ladies around her age who also trained at the same time when she was there. She liked having a community of people who were also trying to improve their health and weren’t in competition with one another. In the right lighting, she even noticed some muscle appearing in her upper arms. After a period of months, she came down with the flu and she wasn’t able to work out for several days after. When she was on the mend, she started back slowly because she didn’t want to lose too much momentum. However, Sharon found that after she recovered from the flu, she had lost some of her motivation to stay on her diet.

Recycle: One night, Joel surprised Sharon with her favorite ice cream. He knew she had been working hard to lose weight and exercise and he wanted to show her a token of love by bringing home something she hadn’t eaten in months. Sharon was appreciative of the gesture even though she wasn’t sure that she could moderate the food at that time. She had a small serving and loved every bit of it. After she finished, she felt a little bit guilty because of how hard she had worked to change the number on the scale. She asked Joel for another serving since he was having seconds and she finished that as well. The next day, Sharon felt that familiar pang of failure. That voice came back that said: This is how it always ends up. You go right back to how you were before. This is why you can’t keep the weight off. For the next several days, Sharon subconsciously ate a bit more than normal. She went grocery shopping and thought it might not be the end of the world if she bought chips and crackers and ice cream again. She still made it to the gym but something felt off. She knew that her granddaughter would be arriving any day now and yet she just couldn’t shake this slump she was in. Sheila made a remark about how she couldn’t wait to see what kind of grandmother her mom would be and a switch flipped in Sharon’s mind. She had been slowly reverting back to her old eating habits when it dawned on her what her original motivation was to change. Sharon slipped back a few stages to preparation and told Joel that she needed to remove those same foods from the house again. Joel asked: It’s not that big of a deal is it? I mean, I don’t have a problem eating chips so why can’t we have them in the house? Sharon doubled-down on her efforts. She said: I know that you don’t have a problem moderating them but they aren’t helping me reach my goals. I’m not asking you to stop eating them, I’m just not in a good place right now to navigate them when they’re in the home. Can I get your help with this? Joel sighed and said: You’re right. Is there anything else I can do to help you? Sharon, pleased that this conversation didn’t evolve into an argument, said: I appreciate it. I really do. I think I just need to find ways to reward myself that doesn’t involve food the way it used to.

Conclusion: Sharon is now the proud grandmother to Elizabeth and, while she doesn’t obsess over the weight she’s lost, she feels stronger and healthier than she’s felt through most of her adult life. Occasionally, she has lapses where she indulges in chips, crackers and ice cream but she’s found a way to manage those lapses without completely reverting to her previous habits. She gets cravings and urges just like anyone else but she pays attention to those feelings and she finds other ways to distract herself: that might include going on her walks with Joel and their dog, it might be by offering to babysit Elizabeth, and she still goes to the gym at least 2x/week. That negative voice is still there and sometimes she listens to it, sometimes she doesn’t. Sharon knows that it’s not a game of perfection, it’s a game of trying to pay closer attention to what her body and mind tell her and making the best decision she can at the time.

If I can offer any final wisdom to take with you, it’s this: expect change to take longer than you hope, expect to make mistakes, expect to have the feeling of: one step forward, two steps back. Make your goals known and define your boundaries to those who are close to you. The person you want to become won’t be realized until you make enough strides from the person you used to be. Manage temptations and be honest with yourself when you don’t feel strong enough mentally to resist what’s tempting you. This could be more problematic for drug addicts and alcoholics but the same concepts apply for fat loss as well.

(Special thanks to Jessica Cameron for the graphs in this article)

How Will You Lose?

Once upon a time…

I probably thought that everyone could lose weight via more exercise and less food.

And, in its simplest form, that IS how people lose weight (or more specifically, lose fat).

However, if you’re reading this, you likely know that just exercising more and eating less is far easier said than done.

I learned early on after opening RevFit that hormones influence how we eat, medications influence how we eat, stress influences how we eat, sleep habits influence how we eat, trauma influences how we eat, and all of the same factors influence how, how much and whether or not we exercise at all.

So, yes, there are success stories abound of people who reached a weight they no longer can tolerate and they start watching their food intake and they start moving more and the weight comes off.

Maybe it stays off and maybe they rebound.

Some people hire coaches, like myself, who can handle the strength coaching and the nutrition coaching, and that synergy of coaching, support and community can help where just doing it on their own may not have succeeded.

However, since I’ve been working with Dr. Spencer Nadolsky and my fellow coaches at Big Rocks Nutrition Coaching, I’ve had the reinforcement there’s far more to this puzzle than simply a diet/exercise intervention.

Some people simply need more help.

I remain a major advocate of therapy because I understand how much our mental state correlates with choosing to eat better and choosing to exercise more. A qualified therapist can help someone unlock those psychological hurdles.

And, genetics DO play a role.

So, what’s left is pharmaceutical interventions and weight loss surgeries.

We have reached a point with medical advances where the medications available to those struggling to lose weight are not only powerful but come with few side effects. It is very much possible that you may have to be on the medications at a low dose to keep from rebounding once you’ve lost your desired weight. That being said, if you qualify for those medications, this may be the piece to your puzzle that you’ve been missing.

As I’ve discovered, even those who are on medications for weight loss still need coaching. The medication only solves one portion of the challenge. There are still improvements to monitor on eating habits, sleep hygiene, exercise and more.

Much like pharmaceutical advances, bariatric surgery has also come a long way. What I’ve learned is that just because someone elects to have surgery doesn’t mean they won’t rebound. As such, many patients may need to consider a weight loss medication in addition to their surgery. The surgery is arguably the MOST effective form of weight loss but, it’s not a cure-all and it doesn’t solve what’s happening neurologically with hunger and satiety signals.

I write all of this first to educate and second to inspire and encourage: in a “perfect” world, someone who wants to lose fat can just flip a switch, and eat less and move more and their problem is solved.

We don’t live in that world.

Which is why having options for successful fat loss is helpful and knowing how to support those who take whatever means necessary to safely lose fat and keep it off is crucial to their success.

Need to work with me directly for nutrition coaching? Simply reply to this post and I can get you more information.

If you need help with the pharmaceutical side, I’d love for you to check out Dr. Spencer’s Sequence program. In full disclosure, I receive no incentives or kickbacks for the referral. I just know that for some people it may be their very best option to add to their plan. You can find out more about Sequence here.

Do You Even Forgive?

I look back on my life and I have to think where forgiveness has played a part.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to routinely reach out to people in my current and former lives to tell them: “Hey, you remember such and such incident? I’m really sorry for how I behaved.”

It’s a liberating thing to do but that doesn’t make it comfortable.

I found, early on, that grudges never served me so I don’t hold them.

People are who they are, which is often imperfect, so we choose how and when to forgive those imperfections.

It was a difficult but necessary act to forgive the person who abused me.

It has been difficult but necessary to forgive anyone who I felt wronged me or slighted me.

And, of course, I’ve had to learn how to forgive myself for everything I’ve done to slight others and how I’ve been unkind to myself.

Maybe it’s this last part that I want to expand on for this week.

In trying to coach others for self-improvement, there can be two forces at work:

-The burden you carry by holding grudges against others and not forgiving them and moving on. This can manifest in how you treat others and how you treat yourself.

-Not forgiving yourself for your own mistakes.

If you want self-improvement to work (and to last) you may be working through those areas of your life.

Get better at saying “I’m sorry” to yourself and to others.

Ask yourself if your inability to practice forgiveness is helping you or hurting you.

Take inventory of people in your past or your present that you may owe apologies to. Make that contact and apologize for how you may have contributed to the situation.

Recognize that the act of forgiveness never ends. It is constantly evolving, as you are, which means: the work is never done but it will almost always be worth it.

20 Life Lessons From “Gram”

For the last 11 years, I’ve written thousands of words about my father.

In many respects, there are so many words of love I’ve written about him that it’s a shame he wasn’t alive to read them.

Perhaps that’s a regret of mine.

Not that my father left this world doubting my love for him, he didn’t. I was fortunate that I had time to tell him how much me meant to me over and over again during his final months with us.

However, before I have the same regret with other family members, I’m writing this post to and for someone who is still alive and well.

My grandmother.

LaRue Wright (née Rankin) was born over 89 years ago in Ridgely, Tennessee. Ridgely was also the birthplace of my mother and where my father was laid to rest.

It resides roughly 45 minutes away from my hometown in Union City, Tennessee.

She is my last living grandparent and she still lives in Union City, in a house that has been a part of my life for nearly 47 years.

The first 4 years of my life were spent in Union City, so I was fortunate to spend a lot of time during those years with my grandmother.

She was a schoolteacher from 1976 to 1997. That career became an integral part of my upbringing. I credit Gram with being the one who taught me to read, something I still do voraciously all these years later.

I also credit her with the fact that RevFit would not exist without her. We lost my grandfather and my uncle (her husband and youngest son) in 2008. As a result of their passing, several pieces of rental property in my hometown were left to my grandmother. She did not want to oversee them, so they were gifted to me.

That gift became what funded the opening of my business in 2009.

Growing up, I called her “B’mama” and later it turned to “Gram”.

We would dance to records by Elvis and Mac Davis in her living room, so the love of music that I carry with me today didn’t just come from my parents.

In paying tribute to her and the life she has lived thus far I wanted to write this as much for the benefit of our family as I hope it might be for my readers.

I asked her if she would collaborate with me on this week’s article so that you can have a piece of inspiration from someone I’ve been so privileged to call ours. I’ve edited and adapted our conversation so that it would be a cohesive read.

5 Lessons From Her Career Teaching:

You Have To Be Patient: To be an effective teacher, you not only have to be patient with your students but patient with yourself. Everyone learns at a different pace.

You Have To Accept People As They Are: Not only do we all come from different backgrounds, but we have a different understanding of the world around us. Teaching helped me realize that every child who came to my class required a slightly different set of skills so that they could perform their best.

You’re Adopting A Second Family: There’s the family that I raised and the family that I took care of at school. I had to respect that both of these families required love, attention and care. Each student was coming under my wing so that I could help prepare them for a future as I would the children I brought into this world.

You’re Given Precious Assets: I had to remind myself every day that, in teaching children, I’ve been given someone’s most precious asset. I would argue it’s even more precious than money and material things. People trust you with their children’s best interests and it was up to me to honor and respect that.

Be The Teacher Worth Remembering: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had grown adults come up to me and tell me how grateful they were that I was their teacher in elementary school. To know they looked back on all of those years in the school system and that I was the one they remembered so fondly means I did a commendable job.

5 Lessons From Marriage

-They say that marriage is 50/50. It’s not. It’s 100% of yourself and it’s 100% of your spouse. You may be different people but you still have to give the marriage 100%.

-You have to admit when you’re wrong.

-You have to make compromises.

-Marriage is equal parts love, compassion, patience and understanding.

-Marriage is not easy. It can be a lot of work. You won’t always agree but you have to be committed to each other. (Of note, this year would mark her 70th anniversary if my grandfather was still alive).

5 Lessons To Impart On Your Children

-I wanted all of my children to be raised in a Christian home and to be Christians themselves.

-I wanted all of my children to be successful and to believe in themselves and what they could become.

-I wanted my children to understand and respect the sanctity of marriage.

-I wanted them to take care of themselves and their health.

-I wanted them to value an education: to not just be intelligent but creative as well.

5 Things You Wish You Could Have Done Differently

-I wish I would have gotten my doctorate. It would have taken more time away from my family than what I wanted to do at the time.

-You don’t know what you don’t know but as a parent, I wish I would have known how to help my children and grandchildren with their struggles in life. There’s nothing more difficult to see than the people you love struggle and not know how to help them.

-I would have reminded my husband about how good our life was despite the obstacles we had to overcome. He and I had many conversations before he passed and he kept asking me: “We had a good life, right?” I knew that we had, he knew that we had, but sometimes, we just need reassuring.

-I grew up seeing addictions and infidelity affect various family members. If I would have known how to help them work through those things, I would have. I saw how those vices crippled people and I knew that I just couldn’t go down that road too.

The final lesson needs some explanation. My Oma (my father’s mother) was a Holocaust survivor. Growing up, my Opa expressed to mostly everyone that we not discuss the war around her. I speculate it was because the conversation could easily trigger feelings that may not be easy to overcome. Nevertheless, sometimes Oma would discuss the concentration camps on her own. After my Opa passed, she was even more forthcoming with those experiences.

-I would have asked your Oma more about the war and her time in the camps. I believe it was therapeutic for her to talk about it even though we were discouraged from doing so. I always wanted to respect that your Opa didn’t want the subject brought up but she and I had many conversations about those experiences and I just wish I could have learned more. You know what she told me? She said: “You need to tell my story so that people will learn to be kind to each other.”