Monthly Archives: July 2013

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So it's been a while since there's been an update on my second diet experiment.  There's a few good reasons for that, but mostly because -

I fell off the wagon.

Big time.

I participated in eating 'clean' for about a month.  Everyday was a struggle to determine whether this particular food item was clean, or what about that food item??  Mentally, it was extremely frustrating for me.  Did you know it's impossible to purchase a chilled tea like anywhere?  Just cold tea.  That's all I wanted.

I was finding more and more excuses to go out to eat (sweet potato fries are clean right...?) and then just say 'fuck it' once I got there.  Then go out for ice cream afterwards.

This all culminated in about a 4-day eating extravaganza: Help Luke's parents move on Thursday and then go eat a bunch of fried seafood, see my brother for the first time in forever and go out to eat, Saturday have a family reunion with roughly 12 kinds of desserts of which I tried them ALL, Sunday eat with my parents for lunch then go out to eat again at night.

Woke up the next day at 163.  Yeeeeeahhhhh.

So that day I decided it's about time to start Phase II, because this 'clean eating' shit just left me frustrated and EXTREMELY annoyed.

Clean Eating Review

Pros:

  • No calorie counting
  • Forces you to eat more fresh foods which allows you to go by satiety signals.
  • Drastically decreased my diet soda intake - even today I'm drinking much less than I was.

Cons:

  • Clean DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING
  • If you are going out to eat, you either have to be that really annoying person who orders very specialized meals or just concede yourself to 'cheating.'
  • A lot of not 'clean' foods have no good reason to not be eaten
  • In my opinion, promotes an unhealthy relationship with food

Onto Calorie Counting

Started counting my calories and tracking food in earnest last Monday the 22nd.  In general my nutrition goals for right now are:

  • ~2000 calories per day
  • 160g protein at least
  • ~65g fat
  • ~200g carbohydrates (whatever remains after protein / fat)

This is actually a ton of food when I am counting it all up.  If you had asked me if I could lose weight during my experiment last year at 2000 calories I would have laughed.  I was only eating 1200 - 1600 then.  That was only something I could achieve with intermittent fasting.  Surprisingly, so far I have been steadily dropping weight.  I'm already back down to 160 as of this morning.

The best part is how my relationship with food has changed.  Nothing is off-limits.  In fact, even though in my head I say "I could really have a cookie if I wanted to right now and it would be okay," I often don't.

Except for today.  Today I ate a cookie.  WITH NO GUILT AT THAT!

Except for today. Today I ate a cookie. Ain't even guilty about it.

Seriously, a couple of times I've been at the end of the day and still needing to eat 200 - 300 calories, and have thought to myself "ugh...I really don't want to make or eat anything else."  I forced my way through a greek yogurt / protein powder combo yesterday.  IT WAS AWESOME.  Going from feeling constantly deprived to feeling like the last thing I want to do is eat more is so mind-boggling to me - it's incredibly exciting.

So seriously, if you feel like your relationship with food is not a positive or fun one, I encourage you to give counting calories and macros a try for just a little while.  It can be a little annoying to look up the information on everything - especially when you're making recipes - but just remember it doesn't have to be 100% perfect.  Experimenting is a wonderful thing.

P.S.  You can follow EXACTLY what I am eating everyday on myfitnesspal!

P.P.S. Once I've been doing calorie counting for a month I'll have some pictures.  I looked absolutely no different when I took pictures for the end of Phase I so I didn't bother posting.  No one needs that many pictures of me. 

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In my last post we went over the introduction to "The Skinny Rules" by Bob Harper.  He had a few good points, but also some points of contention.  We'll continue with the analysis here, going over rules 1 through 3.

Chapter // Rule 1 - Drink a large glass of water before every meal - no excuses!

Harper states that this is his first rule, not just because it is so easy, but because "...nothing is so crucial to your success [as drinking water is]."  In fact, drinking a glass before each meal is the minimum, he'd prefer at least 5 glasses.

Unfortunately he never states exactly how much is considered a 'large glass,' so we'll just assume it's somewhere between 8 - 16 oz.  At 5 times per day, he seems to suggest 40 - 80 oz per day.  Let's compare to some other recommendations:

Institute of Medicine - Men: 104 oz // Women: 72 oz

Old Adage - 8oz 8 times a day: 64 oz

USDA - Newborns: ~27 oz // Toddler - 8yrs: 44 - 57 oz // Teenage boys, adult men & women: at least 91 oz

Yet Another Adage - Half of your bodyweight in ounces: 160lb = 80 oz

So recommendations are kind of all over the place.  This makes sense because it's a little tricky to try and give a blanket recommendation when you could be dealing with a 100lb sedentary teenage girl or a 240lb professional male athlete.  Think those two might need different intakes of water?

Another thing: it's REALLY tough to find studies on this kind of thing because no one actually knows.  What is the defining point of dehydration?  Mild dehydration is stated as a loss of 5% of the body's fluid.  How do you know how much that actually is?  What exactly is being measured to make that determination?  No, seriously, I have no clue so if someone could fill me in that'd be great.

But even if you were concerned about your water intake, here are some things to consider:

-Soda contains water.

-Milk contains water.

-Fruit contains water.

-Vegetables contain water.

-Soup, Tea and Coffee are basically water.

First ingredient is indeed water.  I know, it's not kosher to mention it.

First ingredient is indeed water. I know, it's not kosher to mention it.

So if you are consuming the above, I'd venture to say you're probably taking in enough water for health purposes.  HOWEVER, water has been shown to possibly help in decreasing the amount of food consumption during a meal.  So if you're looking to increase your feelings of satiety, it may help to drink water before and during your meal.  Whether that is due to actually filling your stomach or because drinking during your meal will typically elongate its duration, which has been shown many times to decrease overall caloric consumption, I'm not sure.

Harper cites a study showing that water itself will increase your caloric expenditure.  The study recruited 21 overweight children and measured their baseline resting energy expenditure (REE) - or the amount of calories they burn at rest.  They then gave them each 10 ml of water per kilo bodyweight, cooled to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. (This is a pretty large amount of water for one sitting)

Their resting energy expenditure decreased from ~0.8 cal / min to ~0.6 cal / min for about 20 minutes.  REE then increased to ~0.9 cal / min for about 30 - 35 minutes.  The maximal amount of increase was about 1 cal / min.  Unfortunately I was unable to get the entire text of the study, but it seemed that these increases lasted about an hour.

This may seem very exciting, but overall this is really not a huge increase for the time duration.  There was a brief decrease followed by a less-brief increase, sure, but the MAXIMAL increase in caloric burn was only .2 calories per minute.  For some perspective, even if that increase had been the whole hour you would have seen only an extra 12 calories burned.  We're not sure how more or less water affects this, if the same applies to warmer or colder water, or if this would happen more than once a day; at least not according to this study.

Not to say you shouldn't drink water, but I'd take the idea that it will help you burn a significant portion of calories with a grain of salt.

Moral: I'm still speculative about the extreme amounts of water people recommend drinking.  I've been having a rough time just coming up with studies to support ANY of the health benefit claims.  If you drink tea, coffee, milk or soda in any regular amounts you are consuming water.  It takes a LARGE (5-7 cups of coffee worth) amount of caffeine to counter-act their water content.  However, drinking water can decrease caloric intake by increasing satiety, increasing meal duration, and decreasing consumption of caloric beverages.

Chapter // Rule 2 - Don't Drink your Calories

Here is one thing Harper and I agree on: drinking a large portion of your daily calories is a pretty good way to ensure that weight-loss won't be long-term.  Liquids just don't seem to trigger satiety the same way solids do - even solids that are mostly water like watermelon.  It's pretty easy to down a couple sodas and still be hungry.  Try that caloric equivalent with broccoli.  Not quite the same sensation.

However, just as I said in the Introduction review, if you were to only take in 1,200 calories a day in soda and nothing else when your total daily energy expenditure(TDEE) is 2,000 you're still gonna lose weight.  Again, you will feel like shit, but you will still lose weight.

One point that Harper makes is about artificial sweeteners: "If you're a diet soda drinker, you haven't dodged the problem...You're guzzling artificial sweeteners and...I don't think highly of these at all.  They only serve to whet your appetite for more sweet."

I wish I could give a consensus about artificial sweeteners.  I wish I had an answer.  There are studies that show it may blunt insulin sensitivity, there are studies that show they don't.  They probably don't cause cancer.  They may increase your appetite, then again, they might not.

Anecdotal Aside:

I drink diet soda a fair amount.  I usually use about 1/2 a pack of splenda in my coffee.  I'll use artificial sweetener in my desserts.   I think it's asinine to say that it's 'just as bad' as real sugar in terms of weight gain.  How many more calories would I have ingested over my lifetime had I been drinking regular soda the whole time?  While they may 'increase your appetite' or 'make you continue to crave sweets,' whether or not that adversely affects your food choices depends on you.

I'm counting my calories right now (will make a post about moving on to phase 2 of my diet experiment soon), so drinking a diet soda actually won't make me eat more.  It doesn't matter at all if it increases my appetite (I'm usually pretty full at the end of the day which is nice), because I'm still not going to eat over a certain number of calories.

Back to Harper:

He gives a 'step-down' option for those having a hard time ditching flavored liquids.  In the introduction, he states that the step-down options are an "...intermediary step [that] is meant to be temporary."  His flavored liquid step-down is to experiment with flavored drinks such as seltzer water with lime / lemon juice or tea.

I don't understand why those options should be temporary.  They sound perfectly acceptable to me.  Most people would agree that naturally flavored water, coffee and tea are all acceptable drink options.  I think I get that he's just trying to provide options, but it's confusing to put those in the 'temporary solution' box.  Those are permanent solutions.

Another step-down he gives is to stop putting cream in your coffee - opt for 2% or non-fat milk.  This is another point I disagree with.  Please tell me how a splash of cream is going to ruin your calorie intake.  I find that when using cream a splash is all you need to make the coffee taste a million times better, but skim milk needs to be roughly half the cup.  Of course, this is contingent on the person.  I drink maybe 2 cups of coffee per day, to which I'll add about a tablespoon of half and half.  That's 40 calories per day.  Big whoop.  However if you drink 5 cups per day and add a lot more than a splash, perhaps consider weaning yourself off.  Again, it's not that his advice is inherently bad - it's just that it's not non-negotiable.  It's not a necessary rule.  Think about your circumstances, your tendencies, your lifestyle and what fits.  Think for yourself.

Here are some things I agree with though:

-Juice and fruit smoothies have been improperly labeled as 'healthy.'  They are just sugar and calories.  As Harper says, just eat the fruit.

-You do not need a Gatorade for your hour-long run or lifting session.  These are applicable for people running marathons / ironmans and the like.  If you need an energy drink to get through the day, you should take a good look at your life habits and try to fix them rather than giving tons of your money away to put a band-aid on your problems.

-Most coffees at a Starbucks are basically dessert.

One of these things is not like the other.

One of these things is not like the other.

-Alcohol has like, a lot of calories.

Moral: Drink your coffee with full-fat milk if you'd like.  The jury is still out on artificial sweeteners, so use at your own discretion.  They probably don't cause cancer.  Tea and lemon / lime / whatever flavored water are great.  Drinking calories isn't very filling which is why you should try not to do so.  But it is entirely possible to lose weight while drinking soda as long as your calorie intake is still below TDEE.

Extra Note: While taking notes for this chapter, I wrote this down but couldn't find a really good place to put it above.  I thought it was funny so I'll share below:

"Interesting how he demonizes all sugars – honey, juices, white sugar, high fructose corn-syrup – yet he LOVES him some damn oatmeal."

Rule // Chapter 3 - Eat Protein at Every Meal, or Stay Hungry and Grouchy

I'm going to start this segment out with one of the most ridiculous things I read in this whole book:

"Let me be blunt: if you don't start eating fish, you're going to get fat again."

WHAT.

....WHAT.

I hope you read that and burst out laughing like I did, or just stare dumbfounded that anyone could say anything so fucking stupid.

Let ME be blunt: if you don't start eating fish....you're...uhh...probably not going to frequent Red Lobster.

That's about all I could come up with.  EATING FISH IS IN NO WAY REQUIRED TO LOSE OR MAINTAIN FAT LOSS.

All those lean and healthy vegetarians out there must be using secret voodoo magic to stay that way.  I don't really eat fish and I stay not-fat by making sacrifices to the Gods of Leanness every fortnight.

Here is vegetarian and often-times vegan Natalie Portman, famous for her portrayal of an incredibly obese ballet dancer in "Black Swan."

I almost don't even want to review the rest of this chapter because of how mind-blowingly idiotic that one statement was.  But I'll push through:

Harper starts out with a strong, and true statement.  Protein is crucial for people who want to lose fat.  It's satiating, it preserves muscle mass and helps you recover from the strength-training you should be doing.  In fact, one of the reasons people experience success on low-carb diets isn't because they're low-carb, but because they force people to increase their protein intake.

Different bodies have different recommendations.  The FDA and most government recommendations are notorious for their high-carb, low protein levels, which many other bodies disagree with.  Rejection of these recommendations can be seen with the raging popularity of the Paleo Diet, books such as "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and "Wheat Belly."  Not saying I agree with any of the above, but alternative recommendations are out there.

FDA: 65g protein per 2,000 calories

USDA: .36g per pound bodyweight

Harper: .5g per pound bodyweight

Other recommendations out there typically range from .8 - 1.5g per pound bodyweight.  If you're weight training (and you should be if you're trying to lose fat), I usually say .8 - 1.2g / lb.   That's going to be more than the FDA recommendation for sure.

Back to the fish thing - Harper cites a study and says "Like we talked about in the beginning, some foods seem to boost weight loss, and not just because they are low in calories.  Fish is a perfect example."  Well, we already debunked that part in the introduction.  But let's take a look at the study.

In it, a few hundred young, overweight men and women were recruited and BMI was recorded.  It was measured at 3 points during the study - at the start, mid-point, and end.  The study lasted 8 weeks.  Participants seafood intake was recorded by questionnaire, along with activity level which the researchers recommended they keep at the same level.

The subjects were split into 4 groups, one taking a placebo pill and no seafood, one taking in a certain amount of lean fish, another fatty fish, and another took fish oil capsules.  Macronutrient levels were kept relatively level across all groups.  In the end, the men who took in fatty fish and fish oil lost a significant amount more weight than the lean fish / no fish groups. (Around ~1 pound difference in weight loss)  However, women experienced no difference in weight loss across groups.

To me this study isn't very convincing for a few reasons.  First and most importantly, it's another study that relies on questionnaire rather than an actual controlled setting.  It's really hard to say you've concluded anything definitive when there is such a high opportunity for mis-judging and under or over-reporting on the part of the participants.  Secondly, women saw no difference, which makes me suspicious of any significance in the finding with men.

To read this study and determine that one MUST eat fish in order to lose and keep off weight is, again, asinine.

Omega-3 fatty acid intake does certainly have health benefits especially in regards to inflammation, so I'm not trying to dissuade someone from looking into fish-oil supplementation or including fish - or grass-fed beef for that matter.

Harper then goes on to talk about his time as a vegan.  His biggest reason was morals, which I can completely get behind.  Animals are often treated very cruelly, there's no denying it.  However, he then speaks about the supposed superior health benefits of a vegan diet, citing the much-loved "China Study" made famous by the documentary "Forks over Knives."  Now, debunking that study would take a textbook, so if you're interested in reading a second opinion, check out this really detailed review by an awesome lady over at her awesome blog.

Moral: Meat is awesome, and you should definitely take in a healthy amount of protein when you're trying to lose fat - more than the USDA or FDA recommends.  Fish is great for omega-3's, but they aren't magic.  Please read a review of the China Study before you proclaim how much Forks over Knives changed your life.  And seriously, you DO NOT HAVE TO EAT FISH TO MAINTAIN WEIGHT LOSS.

Check back next week for a few more chapters!

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I think it's a new pre-requisite for every fitness and diet book to start out with a statement on HOW MUCH INFORMATION about fitness there is out there.

POWEROVERWHELMING

"With so much conflicting information..." "Everywhere you look there's an expert proclaiming the truth..." YOU ARE LITERALLY CONTRIBUTING TO THAT. Oh wait, so am I. Oh God.

"With so much conflicting weight-loss advice out there to confuse your efforts, it's no wonder you haven't been successful losing weight and keeping it off," he starts.  Will his book be any different?  Will it be just another over-valued diet book proclaiming certain guidelines are THE WAY and nothing else?  Or perhaps this will finally be the voice of reason and the end to all of your searching.

...If you've been keeping up with me thus far, I think you can predict where this is going.  Read on as I dissect this book chapter by chapter.

Introduction

I'll go ahead and warn readers in advance that this is going to to delve into dry scientific studies.  I wouldn't do this unless it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for your understanding, so please bear with me.  It's for your own good, promise.  Bob Harper thinks you're smart enough for scientific studies, and goodness knows I think you are too.

The introduction starts out like any good book, with a story.  An anecdote, if you will.  The inspiration for why Harper decided to make the 'rules' he's going to outline.  He describes the husband of a contestant on "The Biggest Loser" show who lost 100 pounds himself during taping.  He did so by following meals and tips posted by Harper on twitter, saying they gave him structure like a set of rules.

And thus, Harper concludes, all people need is a set of rules:

"So, what if we eliminated the clutter? I began to think. What if I could come up with a list of simple, nonnegotiable rules that the average Jane or Joe can follow in daily life—rules you can always fall back on in a pinch, rules you can use not just when you are trying to lose weight, but for when you are trying to stay slender.

Skinny Rules!"

I bolded "Non-negotiable" because I want to draw attention to that.  According to Harper, one MUST follow these rules in order to succeed.  At least, I'm fairly certain that's what someone means when they say non-negotiable.

Harper then lists 7 'myths' about diet and weight loss to get out of the way.  Fair enough!  It's always good to make sure everyone is on the same page first.  Some of these are sound: You can't out-exercise a bad diet, starving yourself is generally a really bad way to try and lose weight, you don't need to completely cut out carbs or fat and in some cases losing a lot of weight really quickly is NOT a bad thing.  (For instance in very obese clients, which is his specialty being on The Biggest Loser.)
Here are some points that have contention:

1) You can weigh yourself more often than once per week.
 

You can, and maybe it might help you.  I know I weigh myself everyday for the weight loss experiments.  But to say everyone needs to check the scale on a frequent basis is a bit of a stretch.  He cites a study that showed people who weighed more frequently lost more weight than those who did not.

Unfortunately, the article in its entirety is not available for free so I wasn't able to read the whole thing.  From what I did read, however, it seemed that people were not told how frequently to weigh themselves - it was completely voluntary.  That leads to a host a correlation problems: is it not logical that people concerned about their weight would weigh-in more frequently and those who weren't actively attempting to lose weight would not?  It's hard to reach too many conclusions based on the little I was able to read, but it seems likely.

Moral: Does weighing-in too much depress you and cause you to reach for the nearest pack of Oreos in defeat?  If so, frequent weighing may not be for you.  Does weighing-in everyday keep you on track and let you know when you need to back down on the eating?  If so, frequent weighing may be for you.  SCIENCE. 

2) It's not as simple as calories in calories out

This one is pretty tricky.  You've probably heard over the years some combination of "FAT BAD" "NO CARBS BAD" "MEAT IS BAD AND WILL LITERALLY GIVE YOU A HEART ATTACK."So what's the deal?  If you eat 1200 calories of Oreos is that not equivalent to 1200 calories of chicken?  The answer is yes and no.  So anticlimactic, I know.  Oreos don't have a lot going for them in terms of nutrition and protein, it's true.  They won't really help you out too much in terms of muscle repair and growth.  If your energy expenditure for the day is 2000 calories though you'll still lose weight.  You'll probably feel like complete shit, but still lose weight.  If your energy expenditure for the day is 2000 calories and you eat 3200 calories of skinless, boiled, rubbery, disgustingly healthy chicken, you'll still get fat.  Sad day

Tricky part: If all you eat is carbs and not enough fat or protein, your body will start slowing down.  You'll lose muscle (especially if you're not performing resistance exercise), lowering that energy expenditure from 2000 to 1800 to 1600. (One of the key factors in why metabolism decreases as you age) Without adequate fat intake, cells and hormones don't function quite like they used to - this too may decrease metabolism.

Harper cites one of my favorite improperly-used series of studies of all time: The Harvard Nurse's Study!  Wondering where you heard that red meat was bad for you?  Hormone replacement therapy decreases risk of heart attack? (completely false)  It's all from right here, in a study that, while extensive, doesn't offer much in the way of SOLID science.  In general the study went something like this:

1) Recruit a bunch of nurses to get baseline weight / BMI / lifestyle and dietary habits.  Get rid of outliers and those with confounding variables such as disease or advanced age.

2) Every 4 years, retest weight, BMI, lifestyle and dietary habits.
3) Over time, analyze data to show what lifestyle and dietary habits are correlated with a higher / lower weight.  Repeat over 20 years.

Sounds pretty simple right?  Unfortunately the lifestyle and dietary habits were self-reported.  This means no one followed around the participants during the 20 years to make sure their reported intake of fruits and veggies was accurate.  This is also an observational study, which means it can't give you a cause for why you're observing what you are.  Harper summarizes the results:

"The answer stunned a lot of traditionalists. Predictably, increases in fruits and veggies were associated with weight loss, while caloric increases in potato chips were associated with weight gain.

The shocker came in the less-intuitive items. Increases in nuts,whole grains, and—usefully for us, as you’ll see later— yogurt were associated with substantial weight loss.  No one is quite sure why, but we can guess: these foods don’t spike your blood sugar and insulin responses the way other foods do, so they don’t make you hungry."

Most of this seems pretty common-sense.  People who eat more fruits, veggies, nuts, <insert healthy food here> tend to weigh less than those who don't.  I don't think we've stunned anyone quite yet.  However, Harper seems to look at this data and reach the conclusion that there is something inherently special about these foods that cause you to lose weight.  I look at this data and conclude that those who are more conscious about their health and weight tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with meat, people used to think fat was bad so those who were health-conscious (and thus weighed less) avoided things like meat.  Now people think that it's meat that was the culprit and so those who are health-conscious don't eat so much, reinforcing that meat is what makes one unhealthy rather than simply eating too much in general.

Two other issues with this study:

1) BMI and weight are fucking ridiculous metrics for one's health.
2) This study depended on people reliably self-reporting their food intake for the past TWO YEARS.  I don't even fucking know what I had for dinner two nights ago, let alone two YEARS ago.

Also, whole grain shredded wheat raises your blood sugar more than a Snicker's bar - fun fact.

I'm not disagreeing with the premise that one should eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, etc.  I'm just saying it's not that these foods magically cause one to lose weight, it's that they generally promote satiety better than say, pop-tarts, for fewer calories.  They also provide you with super-awesome vitamins and minerals that leave you feeling super-awesome rather than wanting to take a nap.

Moral
: These foods do not, by themselves, cause you to lose weight.  They typically cause one to eat less.  They also typically make you feel more energetic and inclined to do active things.  This in turn will probably help you sleep better and be a happier person in general.  These benefits, among many others, are a chain reaction that causes you to lose fat.
Harper concludes this section with:

I mean, just how wrong could 129,000 nurses be?

Actually it was only 50,422 nurses after they got rid of those who didn't meet the qualifications for the study.  I also only included this part to be snarky.  And to say that humanity has a rich history of large groups of people believing completely false shit.

Oh...uhh...whoops.
3) Eat Breakfast

I mean everyone had to see that one coming.  He does mention that having a bagel with low-fat cream cheese is probably not the best idea for your meal, which I completely agree with.  However he does say that breakfast is the "most important meal of the day," so let me take this opportunity again to restate:
You do not have to eat breakfast.  It does not 'jumpstart' your metabolism.  You do not have to eat breakfast.  SERIOUSLY IF YOU AREN'T HUNGRY DON'T EAT.

All right.  That took a lot longer than I thought it would.  Hope you're still with me here.  Look for reviews of Chapters 1-3 in the future!

I started this article as something to potentially put on my company's website, but ended up liking it so much I figured I'd just post it here.

I work at a facility whose name ends in "Strength & Conditioning." For some people that is a huge turn-off since those aren't words you often hear in reference to non-athletes. First of all, I challenge everyone who participates in an exercise program to start thinking of themselves as athletes. Stop spinning your wheels working out, start TRAINING.

You have the same vessel as all athletes. You have 2 arms, 2 legs, a heart and some other stuff in between. You're good to go!

Secondly, remember that your body is capable of amazing things. You've got all the tools, you might just need someone to help you figure out how to use them. So without further introduction, here is the article:

You belong here.  Among the barbells, the heavy weights you’d never dream of lifting, the pieces of equipment you can’t even imagine the function of, the people you’re confident started out knowing all this stuff – you belong here.

Because those other people you see pushing sleds, squatting rather large-looking plates and rolling their muscles on what could only be best described as a medieval torture device are just like you. They came in not knowing what to expect or what exactly they were getting into. They too weren’t sure what a kettlebell was, where exactly their quadriceps were located or that spot reduction was a myth.

Take heart in knowing the girl who just did 2 pull-ups has been working on that for the past 8 months. If you look at her thighs you’ll see the stretch mark scars from 25 pounds ago. That guy squatting some unfathomable weight over there? He came in a year and a half ago with hamstrings so tight he couldn’t reach past his knees. They weren’t in shape when they started. You don’t have to be either. You belong here too.

'No way', you think. 'These people are born athletes. I could never do that.' After all, you’ve hardly been active your whole life unless you count walking the dog*. Strength and Conditioning is what college and professional football players do; certainly not everyday office workers. 'What good would moving all that weight around do for me anyway? I’d just get hurt.'

Strength and Conditioning is for you. Have you ever picked something up off the floor and had that fear of hurting your back looming over you? Have you ever felt your shoulder and back aching from carrying your purse for half a mile? Have you faced helping your child move into their first dorm room with a conflicted ambivalence because you’re not sure how much help you’ll be? Strength and Conditioning is for you. You belong here.

Today your hips are so stiff you can’t even pick a weight up properly. In a month you could be deadlifting a kettlebell (those weird iron balls with handles that insist on being labeled in kilograms). In half a year you could be properly squatting 75 pounds for reps.

But who cares about that? Today you can’t play airplane with your toddler because he’s gotten a bit heavier (and squirmier) over the years. But in a month you could be tossing him around in the pool. In half a year you could be bringing up 8 full bags of groceries with no help. Strength and Conditioning is for you. You belong here.

*I do count walking the dog.

So what does "Strength & Conditioning" mean to you?  Do you feel like there are just some activities you'll never be able to do?  Let me know in the comments!

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This post was mainly inspired by an article I read in the latest issue of Health magazine - but it's also from the million of articles I've seen around the internet about how to burn calories in your daily activities.

Hiking - Cover

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), pg. 40

Want to buff up?  Slim down!  ...Wait what?

During your hike why not do some lunges up the mountain top to get that metabolism running?  While spending time with family and friends at the pool, why not get in a great calorie burn?  Take dancing lessons with your partner - you'll get fit together!  Getting some serious work or studying done?  Why focus on actually accomplishing something when you could be doing these sneaky ab exercises?

Maybe this sounds like great motivation for getting more activity and healthy movement into your life.  But tell me what you think about this proposition:

Alternatively, why not go for a hike because you want to enjoy the great fucking outdoors?  Why not actually enjoy time with family and friends at the pool instead of anxiously trying to get a calorie burn to assuage the guilt of that lemonade?  Why not take dance lessons with your partner so that you have something to relate about and bond over?  WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT BURNING CALORIES?!

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

I'm trying to think of a caption to appropriately encapsulate how ridiculous this is, but I'm finding myself at a loss.

I'm going to take this a step further.  Why not sprint because running fast feels like you're fucking flying?  Why not pick up ultimate frisbee because it's amazingly fun?  Why not lift weights because you'd like to play airplane with your kid without throwing out your back?

If you've reduced the activities in your life into ways that you can justify eating food or try to cancel out something you feel guilty about, you're destroying the point.  Try to enjoy what you're doing for the sake of doing it - not because you feel like you need to look better in a bikini or you feel like you need to earn some birthday cake you're going to eat later that week.  Is that living?  Is that mentally healthy?

I'm a personal trainer and oftentimes I work to try and help people lose weight.  We also exercise together - so maybe it's a bit odd to hear from me that I would really like to get people to get away from associating exercise with burning calories and losing weight.  Exercise because you want your body to perform better, not just because you want to lose fat.  If the only reason you're working out is for the latter reason, you'll end up sorely disappointed - not to mention missing out on some INCREDIBLE benefits of working out that don't involve fitting into skinny jeans.