Tag Archives: weight loss

The Small Stuff Adds Up

It’s been quite some time since I penned (or typed rather) a blog post. I wish I could give a good excuse, but really, who isn’t busy? I guess the good part is that while I have been busy, it has not affected my commitment to eating right and working out like a madman.

This post will be brief and to the point. One of the thoughts that’s been running through my head lately is the idea that the small things we do each day add up – either positively or negatively. Most Americans strive so hard to live a life of comfort that they often do themselves a physical disservice. We drive around searching for the closest parking space to the store, take the elevator or escalator instead of walking up or down the stairs, eat finger foods because it seems to be the simplest way to eat, wear slip-on shoes, etc., etc., etc.

All these little things surely make us comfortable but certainly don’t do us any benefit from a fitness standpoint. I’m sure you’ve been around someone (hopefully not yourself) who had difficulty breathing after walking up a single flight of stairs. You don’t get into that type of physical condition overnight; but the wrong type of small stuff will add up over time, and the sum often adds up a little nuisance called obesity (among other ~enjoyable~ medical maladies).

A small late night snack here, a small late night snack there, an elevator ride here, a small get-together that certainly must include food (likely unhealthy), a skipped workout, driving somewhere you could walk to… the small stuff truly adds up. Take stock of your daily habits (perhaps even journal them) and evaluate the small stuff that comprises your day. Do the small habits, routines, and decisions of your day guide you to maintaining healthy physical fitness, or do they contribute to a slow, steady decline toward a very unhealthy person that doesn’t become the person you should be?

While you may never develop an appetite for rigorous, intense workouts or have the fortitude to correctly eat almost all the time, you can pay attention to the small stuff and ensure that the small stuff is adding up to a positive outcome.

Very simply, the choice is yours…

Food For Thought

For the few of you who subscribe to this blog, let me apologize for letting it go dormant for a month. No excuses except I’ve been busy working out, eating right, doing yardwork… basically living life!

In my time away from blogging, I have been watching some documentaries on NetFlix about food, nutrition, weight loss, health, etc. Let me state that I watch these documentaries with an open, inquisitive mind. I do not blindly accept the ideas postulated as gospel truth, but I am open to considering the possibilities.

Food Matters – very interesting conjecture about how eating healthy, raw, and superfoods is the answer to most medical problems instead of looking for another pill to pop. A few ideas that resonated with me: starting every morning with water before anything else (including my daily coffee), eating at least a 51% raw food diet to eliminate toxicity, and high dosage vitamin B or C therapy as a means to treat certain conditions. Previous to watching this documentary, I was not familiary with Max Gerson who promoted the Gerson Therapy and founded the Gerson Institute – fascinating man with revolutionary ideas!

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead – the story of 2 men who directly confronted their unhealthy lifestyles and morbid obesity by adopting a diet of strictly juicing fresh fruits and vegetables. No consumption of anything else besides their daily juice. While adhering to such a strict diet is certainly not for everyone, their ability to stick with it as well as their resulting weight loss and health improvement were nothing short of phenomenal. Amazing that these men spoke to so many people throughout the documentary and presented them with the truth that eating nutritious food can extend and improve quality of life, yet their message was largely ignored. So many people are willing to live lives that ignore or defy this simple truth.

Hungry for Change – documentary that focuses on what exactly goes into the popular food products sold at most grocery stores. Really made me stop and think about sugar consumption and how much sugar we consume today compared to just 100 years ago. Certainly opened my eyes to examining food labels more closely. Don’t trust the trendy slogans on the food packaging!

For me, this is a continuation in my quest to learn more about nutrition, food products, ingredients, super foods and how all of this correlates to the society we live in that allows genetic modification of food, relies on drugs and medications to deal with problems most likely caused by the foods we eat, and places a much lower emphasis on nutrition in comparison to the other ‘important’ things of life.

Next up for me, I am considering joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) this summer. For me, it seems to be a fantastic way to regularly get fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown in a way that I believe in. Not only will I have greater trust in the produce I am eating (and getting great benefit from it), I will be locally supporting farms that believe in the growth and harvesting of organic, hormone-free, GMO-free fruits and vegetables. Certainly, risks are involved with such a decision, which is why I am going to research this idea further. Local Harvest is a great resource for explaining the pros and cons of such a decision.

If you have seen any of the listed documentaries or have others to share or have an opinion about CSA’s, I would love to get your input. Please comment!

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

The title lists a very simple equation, and yet the solution seems to evade so many people. Let me write it out again:

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

It’s not to say that Hard Work is more important than Nutrition – I just happened to list them alphabetically. The opposite is probably true that proper nutrition will benefit you more long-term than hard work if you could only pick one. By Hard Work, I mean strenuous, physically-exerting exercise. And by Proper Nutrition, I mean eating foods that are actually good for the body (that’s a dissertation in itself) and getting proper sleep and hydration.

I often run into people that I haven’t seen in awhile, and they typically remark how much thinner and more fit I look. Of course, they want to know what I’ve been doing to achieve my level of fitness. When I tell them about my workouts and changed eating habits, their peaked interest usually dwindles. It amazes me that practical living and hard work are a major turnoff to people. I mean, when you see how hard people will work to live in a certain community or get to a certain position at work, it’s obvious that hard work is not a foreign concept to them; and they seem to have enough common sense that they would seriously evaluate the food their body intakes.

Let me reiterate:

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

There are no quick fixes or magic potions that will turn you from a lump of dough to a fit, vibrant person. It will take hard, strenuous work. I have stated it before, but I am a strong advocate of working out with kettlebells and bodyweight exercise.

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The benefits are clear:

  1. You will get strong
  2. You don’t need much space
  3. You don’t need to go to a gym
  4. You don’t need to make much of a financial commitment
  5. You can accomplish a lot of hard work in a fairly short period of time

It will take some effort to research the foods you eat, read the labels, understand what ingredients/foods/medicines are good or bad for you, make well-informed food purchases, plan and prepare nutritious meals, etc.

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Again, the benefits are clear:

  1. If you are overweight, you will lose weight
  2. You will be healthier with a stronger immune system
  3. You will have more natural energy (this will fit perfectly into your strenuous workouts)
  4. You will be likely live longer
  5. You will maintain the weight your body was designed to support and your joints will thank you profusely for that

The solution to true fitness couldn’t really be this simple, could it? If you read most of the trendy health and fitness magazines, then to them, the answer is no. There’s always a new gimmick workout or diet (or even diet pill). There’s a huge industry devoted to the millions of people who keep futilely chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If you truly want to live a longer, healthier life where…

  • You are physically strong
  • You are able to run and play with your kids (or grandkids)
  • You wear normal clothing sizes
  • You get sick less often
  • You won’t need an untimely knee replacement
  • You won’t increase your risk of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

Then review the formula 1 more time:

True Fitness = Hard Work + Proper Nutrition

Decide today to be equally committed to both components of the solution, and you will be the better for it. Don’t expect many others to join you, but hey, you are living your life in your body. Only you can directly change and affect you.

Understanding Ingredients and Buying Local

As I mentioned in previous posts, I could not have cared less about the healthiness of the food that I ate. Quantity certainly trumped quality.

When I was going through a self-discovery phase early last year and examining the foods that I ate, I realized that I didn’t really know most of what I was consuming. Sure, I got chicken from the store, but how was the chicken raised and fed? I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. I certainly liked the taste of something as unnutritional as Pop Tarts, but they tasted good to me so I ate them. I don’t want to bore you with what I ate compared to what I eat now…

I started to examine the ingredients found in the food products that I ate. In fact, I was that guy standing in the grocery store looking at the back of a food product and googling it on my Android (sorry, Apple fans). I still do that on occasion. I also watched a lot of documentaries about food on NetFlix – obviously, I digested this information with a grain of salt (pun intended), but the fact of the matter was, I was eating a lot of things that were either genetically modified, produced in an inhumane or unhealthy way, or was just generally unhealthy.

Of course it was eye-opening to truly understand how bad things like fructose (or high fructose corn syrup), ‘natural’ and artificial flavorings, nitrates, grain-fed cows producing milk and beef, MSG and other seemingly innocuous ingredients are for you. I became determined to do my best to start understanding ingredient levels, learn what is truly good for human consumption, and slowly migrate away from the bad foods. It is clear to me (remember this is my opinion) that most major food producing companies are only interested in profit to the point of adding ingredients to food products that serve to addict and create regular, repeat purchases even at the detriment to the health of the consumer.

It is kind of crazy to think about because I doubt that our predecessors had to worry about how their food was produced, packaged, genetically modified, etc. Regardless, it’s a fact of life that we do, and for all the bad companies mass producing relatively unhealthy food products for the masses, there are just as many (sometimes the same companies) producing ‘healthy’ alternative food products that turn out to not be so healthy when you truly dig into the ingredients. There is so much information and angles to consider with this topic that 1 blog post certainly can’t even begin to scratch the surface.

All that to say this – know what you eat. I heard a good rule of thumb – don’t eat foods with ingredients that you cannot pronounce. No, I haven’t built a bunker and started a life of isolation away from society, but I am fortunate to live in a state (the good old northwest suburbs of Philly) where there are still (for now) many farms that are committed to values such as non-GMO, organic, grassfed, free range, etc. I am able to buy dairy products such as cheese, raw milk (that’s another deep dive discussion), and eggs that come from farms within 45 minutes from my house. I have started to make it a point to buy free-range, grassfed beef or free-range chicken.

I haven’t made any radical changes in my life – and my checkbook certainly hasn’t grown by leaps and bounds. Generally speaking, here’s a list of what I try to adhere to:

  • I know what I eat
  • I avoid high consumption of fructose and attempt to avoid high fructose corn syrup entirely
  • I buy local as often as I can, especially dairy and meats (support local products and know where they come from) – I don’t want the hormones, nitrates, or anything like that
  • I am ok with eating smaller portions since I know that the food product is better for me
  • Obviously, horribly unhealthy tings like soda are no go (diet soda is even worse – it amazes me how many people drink it)
  • I started eating lots of healthy greens (my mother would be so proud) – you have to be careful with salad dressings – Bragg makes a good salad dressing that is low in calories
  • I have made slow, incremental changes to the ingredients I add to my coffee (goodbye flavored creamer)
  • Limit my intake of breads, grains, and corn
  • Eat Greek yogurt every day (I do not swear off dairy completely like some people do)
  • For the most part, avoid fruit juices (the only juice I let my kids drink is unfiltered, pasteurized organic apple juice)
  • Do a meal list every week and stick to it – it will help you better plan your grocery shopping and eating more healthy
  • Don’t be afraid to be different from a lot of your friends
  • There are other things that I can’t think of at the moment, but the important thing is, always continue to learn (I might change my mind about a food product or ingredient that I previously thought was healthy or unhealthy) – (1. learn from others, 2. try new foods and recipes, 3. research food types and various ingredients, 4. understand how the different food products are produced and where they come from, etc.)

Well, that’s enough for now – even for a guy, I can talk a blue streak. If there’s anything that I’ve learned in the last year or so, you can’t really take this topic too seriously. Here’s to a healthy 2013 eating food the way it was meant to be produced and consumed!

Comment to agree, disagree, or add to the discussion!

Kettlebell Swing Basics

In my previous post, I mentioned capturing your form on video for self critique. I spent a few hours this weekend shooting some video of myself doing a 2-hand kettlebell swing and then put together a video that highlights the key things to remember when swinging a kettlebell.

Enjoy, if you can survive the 8 minutes of me droning on and on!

Double the Effort, Double the Misery, Double the Results!!!

Today’s lesson in humility consisted of 12 sets of 10 double clean and press and 10 double kettlebell swings (2 35lb kettlebells).

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To add to the misery, we added 100 pushups the end.

A workout like this is a surefire way to gain strength, become more lean and trim, and improve conditioning!

Start the New Year Off STRONG!

Although my eating habits over the past few days were a little out of character in terms of health and nutrition, I controlled myself to the point of where I don’t feel a need to make any rash New Year’s resolutions.

Notwithstanding, I do have a personal goal of accomplishing more physically in 2013 than I did in 2012. 2012 was a year of transformation for me, including dramatic weight loss and some strength gains and metabolic conditioning. Now that I am relatively at a weight that I want to maintain and can manage, I plan to more aggressively increase my overall strength.

As an aside, Strong First is a great website that is dedicated to the strength building. The premise of this site is that as you become stronger (with a focus solely on that – hence strong first), the more fit you will become. Interesting food for thought as most people who are trying to go from unfit to fit strictly focus on weight loss and not actually increasing their strength.

In 2012, I experienced the most significant weight loss when I strictly counted every calorie that I consumed for a period of 100 straight days. I used an app on my phone called My Fitness Pal. While I honestly don’t aspire to track my caloric intake for the entirety of 2013, I am planning on continuing to use this app to track my caloric intake for the first week of each month. Don’t forget to stick to what has helped you achieve success!

Today’s first concentrated workout of the new year will include the following:

  • 30 burpees (with a pushup) – for a warmup
  • 100 kettlebell swings (likely with a 53 lb kb)
  • 100 kettlebell goblet squats (35 lb kb)
  • 100 kettlebell clean and press (35 lb kb)
  • 100 kettlebell snatches (35 lb kb)

Not sure yet on how I will break them down set-wise, but that is today’s goal.

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With workouts of these nature, the reality is that it is more of a test of the the mind and will than the body itself. Training your body to push past what your mind tells you it can or cannot do has incredible rewards and will help you push past barriers or limitations.

For 2013, I am committed to getting stronger while continuing to stick to the basics that were the foundation of my transformational 2012. What will you commit to in 2013?

Be Practical!

Unless you completely isolate yourself from society, it is hard to avoid all of the festivities (including parties and food) at this time of the year. While everyone will approach it differently, it certainly won’t hurt to have a game plan for enjoying the season without gaining 20 pounds.

While hiding in a hole for a month or so is an option, it certainly isn’t practical. There are few who can adhere to a rigid 100% healthy diet all the time. For those who can, I applaud them. For the majority who can’t, have a plan in place. Letting go and eating everything in November and December and then making a New Year’s resolution to join a gym to work off the unwanted pounds is not a good plan, in my opinion.

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  • So for the festivities that you do attend, have a plan in place.
  • If it’s a lunchtime event, eat a light breakfast and dinner.
  • If it’s an evening function, eat a light breakfast and lunch.
  • While at the event, have a goal of limiting yourself to 1 plate of food.
  • Make a point of focusing on conversing with others over eating. They will appreciate the fact that you are not stuffing your face while talking to them, and you will appreciate the fact that you are not overloading your stomach with food.
  • Take a few minutes and search online for some basic caloric facts about common party foods, including desserts. Armed with this information, you should have at least a little pause as your peruse the food.
  • Don’t stop working out… maybe even add 1 workout to your week. Just don’t lapse into the bad idea that a lot of working out will compensate for eating extremely unhealthy food. Good exercise and bad food do not equate. To be sure, it may be difficult to completely avoid unhealthy food, but manage the intake!

So… don’t hide in a hole. Go have fun, celebrate the time of year, and go to some parties. Just don’t forget to have a plan and to be practical!

Myth-Scuses!

In January 2012, I decided that I was going to take control of my life in terms of health, well-being, and physical fitness. The reasons that I got to the point of being unhealthy, lazy, couch-potato-like, and out-of-shape were because of the excuses that I convinced my mind to believe. Not only did I buy into these excuses, but they weren’t even true – ‘myth-scuses’, if you will.

Here are the 5 myth-scuses that enabled me to live a life where I often felt unenergized and tired:

  1. I Don’t Have Time – I’m Too Busy
  2. Maybe I’m Just Getting Older
  3. I Can’t Afford a Gym Membership
  4. I Can’t Afford to Eat Healthy
  5. I Can’t Stay Motivated

As time goes by, I will elaborate on how I confronted each of these ideas, but for this post, I will just focus on the first idea. I work in IT supporting conferencing technologies, specifically audio and video conferencing. The nature of this work sometimes consists of additional night or weekend work as well as being on call at times. The increasing responsibilities of my job as well as taking on responsibilities at my church teaching children began to consume the majority of my time. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not going down the road of telling you that I came to the conclusion that my job was not important. It is very important – it pays bills, it provides for needs, it generates relationships, etc. In retrospect, I have found that when I am shape and maintaining an intake of healthy foods that I am able to contribute a greater focused energy to my responsibilities than I was previously able to.

In my mind, I believed that in order to be in shape, that I needed hours and hours a week to accomplish this goal. In college, I competed in intramural sports as well as lifted weights at the gym 5-6 times a week. Since this did keep me in shape at that time, I equated that amount of time to what I would need now. I did not consider that perhaps my time then was not used as effectively as it could have been to generate results, nor I did I think for a second that my methods of working out could be wrong or misguided. At any rate, I convinced myself that if I couldn’t spend hours and hours a week working out, well then, I guess I just wasn’t going to work out at all. A few pushups on some rare occasion would be enough, right? (ha!)

Early this year, I discovered the concept of high intensity interval training (HIIT), and more specifically Tabata training. For someone like me who likes to give maximum effort at whatever I decide to do (and this unfortunately included sitting on the couch for long periods of time), high intensity was a perfect fit. I don’t know that I understood it at the time; but I do believe now that if that if high intensity training is the only thing you do, that you will lose a lot of weight but probably not have much else to show for it. Nonetheless, what an eye opener to learn that by packing maximum intensity in intervals into brief workouts that I could burn more calories (and continue burning calories) than I would through traditional cardio methods.

In the first few months, I did a lot of high intensity training mostly with bodyweight exercises such as burpees, lateral jumps, squats, and pushups. And to circle back to the original idea that I didn’t have time in my busy day to work out, well let’s just say that was going out the window. I was completing workouts 3-4 times a week in 15-30 minutes. There were other factors that I will expound on later, and I still had (have, really) so much more to learn; but more than anything, it was a step in the right direction.

What are some of the ‘myth-scuses’ that have held you back??

My Journey from Unfit to Fit

Carefully taming the 24″ box jump

My name is Andrew, and this blog will describe my year-long journey from being unhealthy, overweight, and out-of-shape to becoming healthy, fit, and strong! My goal is to share what I have learned along the way in order to encourage others in their journeys to a sustainable lifestyle of health and fitness.

Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I lived a fairly active lifestyle. At an early age, I was outdoors playing with friends and running nonstop all day; and as I got older, I played a lot of sports – thin without even trying (although not all that healthy, mind you). Then came college – life got busier, but so did my activity. The problem was, even though I was still playing sports and lifting weights, I started eating even larger quantity meals, including junk food. After graduating college, I started working a desk job and got married shortly after. I still tried to work out from time-to-time; but I began to work longer hours and suddenly, I had more things to think about: kids, graduate school, advancing my career, etc.

For the next 8 years, I went through a constant roller coaster ride of sort of caring about my health and well being to not caring at all. My appetite for those larger portion meals wasn’t going away; and as my level of physical activity dwindled, my weight increased… not rapidly or in a way that would cause alarm but slowly and surely, my weight was increasing and so was my waist size. “I’m just getting older,” I thought. “Nobody is able to maintain high school / college weight. It just isn’t realistic… at least for a regular guy. I can’t work out for hours a day!”

To sum it up, one year ago, I was 30 years old, 6′ 1”, and north of 250 pounds – not obese necessarily, but definitely not in shape and certainly not eating healthy. There were many reasons that I felt I could justify my condition: I was getting older, I was busy with my job, I had other leadership responsibilities, and I couldn’t afford to go to a gym. However, I began to have growing concerns, and I even began experiencing pain in my knees when I would stand or sit down or even go down steps. Would I need replacement knee surgery? Would I be able to play with my kids at the park as they (and I) got older? Would I ever care about the way that I ate? If I did, would I be able to afford it?

It was just a short while later that I had a life-altering experience. One of my coworkers, Mark had begun leading lunchtime workouts three times a week using kettlebells, box jumps, body weight exercises, and other types of physical activity. I scoffed at his invitation to join them – I was still in decent shape, or so I thought. They always seemed so enthused after finishing a workout, but I ignored their enthusiasm (well, I tried to anyway). I kept telling myself that I could get into really good shape if I wanted to, and I didn’t need advice or opinions from anyone else on how to do that. I had played sports before, I had pumped iron, I knew what I was doing. When I looked in the mirror, though, I wasn’t happy with the way I looked. My face was fuller than I wanted it to be, and I tried to hide the double chin by growing facial hair. I pretended my visible stomach and “love handles” weren’t that big – this was the way that that men who had families and worked desk jobs turned out, right?

WRONG!

One day, I decided to join their workout. I knew going in that the intensity level would be high, but I was ready. Boy, was I wrong. About 6 minutes into the workout, I was exhausted and breathing heavily almost to the point of hyperventilating, and I was white as a ghost. Fortunately, Mark had the experience to have me stop. What a wake-up call! As I walked back to my desk, I faced a decision: would I do anything about what had just happened, or would I ignore it and pretend that it never happened? As the reality of what I had become (a lazy couch potato) slowly sank in, I decided right then and there that I was going to commit to completely changing my workout habits and more importantly, the way that I ate and lived my life. I committed to doing whatever it would take to get into the shape and health that I knew that I needed to be.

Fast forward 11 months. I have lost more than 50 pounds and about 4-5 inches off my waist. My BMI and body fat percentages have significantly decreased, and the joint pain (especially in the knees) is gone. At a trim, healthy, and strong 200 pounds, I am not quite down to my target weight, but I am more than well on my way. In subsequent blog posts, I will unravel the story of how I achieved my goals and how you can too! I didn’t join a gym, I didn’t do CrossFit, I didn’t start eating vegan, I didn’t take any magic weight loss pills – what I did do was make a lifestyle change that I can sustain for the remainder of my life. Through self-evaluation, planning, monitoring, setting goals, and hard work, I achieved what I set out to accomplish. I am hopeful that by sharing my year-long journey, others will be helped and encouraged in their goals of fitness and health. While the methods I outline will not help you achieve overnight success; you will succeed in the long run if you put in the effort, and you will change your life for the better!