Monday, December 19, 2011

Halfway Through Phase 1

I've just completed my first month of training, which means I've made it halfway through Phase 1.  During Phase 1, I'm really working on building mass.  That means lots of reps to failure in the gym and focusing on getting enough protein and carbs to keep my energy level high for training and recovery.

I'm noticing, though, that as I add inches of muscle without focusing on getting lean (yet), I feel uncomfortable in my clothes.  Everything fits a little tighter than I would like.  It's like the muscle is pushing my fat outward from underneath.  Ugh!  I weighed myself this morning and saw that I'm at 209 pounds!  Time to slim down or risk looking like a puffed up meat head!

I've also been feeling like I'm letting stress dictate my diet.  Things have been hectic at work and at home.  As a result, I recently realized that I'm shoveling into my mouth ANYTHING that is put in front of me.  Eating without discretion may be fun for awhile, but I actually get tired of eating after a bit.  I'm at that point now.  Last night as I mindlessly munched on my last few bits of pizza and drank a glass of wine, it dawned on me that, not only was I not being mindful of the tastes and textures of my meal, but I was actually ignoring that fact that I was not enjoying it.  Time to turn this bus around!

So, starting today I'm cleaning up my diet.  For how long?  Permanently!  I've the done the 28 days to this and the 30 days to that.  I'm ready to commit myself to an entire year of mindful eating and increased nutrition.  In fact, I'm so ready that I'm not waiting for the old New Year's resolution phase.  I'm jumping in now and foregoing all the sweets and goodies that surround the upcoming holidays.  With two weeks to the new year, I'm looking forward to waking up January 1 ALREADY feeling slimmer and trimmer and cleaner throughout!

I'll keep you posted and maybe I'll put up some embarrassing pictures soon.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Survived Week 3!

This week went well.  I'm really enjoying the rotation that I've set up.  I do two days on, two days off, one day on, one day off.  That means this week I hit the gym on Sunday and Monday then rested on Tuesday and Wednesday, worked out again on Thursday, rested on Friday, now I'll be in the gym Saturday and Sunday.  Those two-day rest periods really feel like a vacation!  Plus, this allows me to alternate which of my two workouts -- the pushing routine or pulling routine -- gets used just before a two day rest.  All of this translates into more rest for the muscles.  And as you may know, muscles grow when they're resting, not when they're working.

I start Week 4 tomorrow.  I'm excited about the fact that I'll have completed one month of my six-month challenge before the new year arrives.  No wimpy New Year's resolution for me.  I'll be well on my way by January 1!  Maybe I'll post some pics to commemorate the end of my first month at the end of next week.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 2 Complete

Another one bites the dust!  Week 2 is behind me.  I survived Thanksgiving without really overdoing it (although I'm still working me way through leftovers).

In fact, I decide this morning to re-dedicate myself to a clean diet.  The basic principles that I'm putting in place today (and of rest of my six-month challenge) are:

  • Meals every 4-6 hours
  • No snacks in between meals -- drink water/tea instead
  • Last meal by 7 p.m. every night and no food after that
  • Weekly 24-hour fast -- possibly two in later months
  • Most of my carbs in the morning and post-workout, less carbs in the evening
  • Focus on timing of slow-release and fast-release carbs -- fast in the morning and post-workout, slow in the mid-day and evening
  • No alcohol, except for the occasional glass of red wine with friends
  • No coffee, some tea -- especially herbal -- and lots of water
  • Emphasis on creating an alkaline digestive environment through focus on vegetables at each meal with lean meats and healthy carbs

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Customizing My Program

I'm halfway through Week 2 of my six-month program and I've taken stock of my starting point.  Assessing your starting point is an important step toward taking the most direct path to your goals.  Imagine mapping driving directions without having a point A to go with your point B!

My self-assessment tells me that I've maintained a fair amount of strength from last year's six-month stint in the gym.  Unfortunately, I've gained about 10-15 pounds of unwanted padding and have lost almost all muscle definition.  The silver lining?  The fact that I still have my strength means that I'll be able to build mass quickly and, with the proper diet, burn off the fat.  (Oftentimes, an initial lack of strength prevents early gains because I'm not strong enough to complete the training needed for growth.  Or I lack the supporting strength to complete heavy movements. For example, not having enough grip strength to crank out pull ups means my back can't grow because my forearms are weak!)  That's one important hurdle that I've cleared.

Pre-Turkey Day Fast

Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow.  Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a real challenge for people trying to eat healthy.  This year I"m being preemptive by choosing to do a 24-hour fast today as a counter-balance to any excess calories I consume tomorrow.

When I did my last "Six Months to Ryan Reynolds Challenge," I used intermittent fasting often to help me keep my diet in check.  It is also great for hydrating your muscles because you should be drinking a lot of water and herbal or detox teas on fast days.  Hydrating the muscles is important for muscle growth.  As you increase the water stored within muscle fibers, your muscles function more efficiently at a cellular level and you flush the toxins produced by the repair process that happens when you create micro tears in the muscle fiber through resistance training.

Another great result of fasting is that, even though you are drinking lots of water, your body naturally expels some of the water held between your muscle tissue and your skin (subcutaneous fluid).  Reducing this type of water retention can do amazing things for how lean you look.  Suddenly, you can see veins you didn't know you had and small muscle definitions that weren't visible before.  Some folks have designed elaborate systems of reducing water retention to look their best at bodybuilding contests or on beach vacations.  A 24-hour fast gives you a similar effect -- though not as dramatic, maybe -- without the risk of dehydration.

If you would like to read more about my experience with fasting, please read this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 1 Down!

It's always tough to jump back on the wagon, which is why the first ten days of any new diet or exercise commitment are so important.  Those first few days are painful.  My body might not be used to the strains of the new exercises.  My mind will need time to adjust its habits to fit my new diet and schedule.  But once I've cleared those early hurdles, momentum builds.  Pretty soon, I'm in full swing and the new regimen starts to feel natural.  Then I start to feel my strength come back and my clothes start to fit a little better.  After a month, I'm hooked and I can see the next several months stretching out in front of me like an open field with only a few, minor and unexpected obstacles.  By that point, though, these obstacle will be easily overcome and they can't stop me from roaring on towards my goals.

It might seem funny to start thinking about sunny summer days on the beach now in drizzly November. But I've learned over the years that I respond best to a long-term goal with a clearly defined plan.  Once I have that in place, I just follow the plan.  When I feel low motivation, I turn off my mind and just follow the plan.  When I'm too busy or stressed to think about my health, I get creative and figure out a way to simply follow the plan each and every day.

My first week is complete.  I made it to the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  I rested on Wednesday, played soccer on Thursday night for a healthy dose of fun, and spent quality time with friends on Saturday and Sunday.  I focused on eating more whole foods and keeping a solid balance to my meals.  I replaced most of my coffee with water and tried to reduce my snacking between meals.  These changes weren't drastic, just gently steering myself toward a healthier course.  The next few weeks I'll tighten the reigns a little more in an effort to prevent any major holiday binging.  By the new year, I'll already be well on my way to my goals!  Week 2, here I come.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Two Days Complete

I know it may not sound like much, but getting back into the gym for two days in a row feels like the start of a major shift.  I was pleased to see that, although I feel out of shape, I haven't lost a lot of strength.  That means that I'll be able to make even bigger gains this time around and progress even faster toward my goals.  It's day 3 today, so I'm taking a total rest day.  The only exercise I'll do is take a long walk at lunch (I really enjoy slipping on my iPod with some cool Miles Davis and walking through the fall leaves).  I'll post again near the end of the week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time for a New Six-Month Challenge

OK, so there's been radio silence on my blog here for a while.  Summer came and brought some amazing vacations and lots of time outdoors with friends and family.  Throughout all of it, I was eating well and exercising regularly, so I felt great and looked fit.  Then at the end of the summer I seriously sprained my ankle in a soccer game.  Suddenly I couldn't exercise, couldn't run, well I could barely walk!  That threw me off and I got to feeling pretty low.  I'm not used to coming home from work each day and sitting on the couch for the evening with my leg up and an ice pack.  I was miserable.  No soccer!  No gym!  What was I going to do?  Dive into some snacks, I guess.  Pretty soon my diet was slipping.  Not too badly, but with the lack of activity, my weight crept up.  I needed to bounce back!

So, a few weeks ago I started my recovery.  I started to sloooowly clean up my diet.  Nothing drastic, just a little more mindful eating.  Then I started to gradually work in some exercise.  First walking, then a lot of walking, then short runs.  Now I'm back to soccer and just got back into the gym.  So, what's next?  Well, I'm goal-oriented, so I think another six-month challenge like I did last year.  This time, I'm starting a little earlier so I'll really be in full swing when the warm weather hits.  Plus, having a goal will keep my (somewhat) under control when the holiday revelry begins.  Starting tomorrow (mid-November) I'm embarking on another six months to Ryan Reynolds.  Maybe I'll tweak the name this year...I'll have to think about that.  Your suggestions are welcome.  More updates coming soon!  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recovering from Weekends

I don't know about you, but for me weekends are the biggest wild card in my diet and exercise plans.  I can go through a whole week eating right and exercising ever chance I get, then...the weekend hits and everything is suddenly out of my control.  My weekends are almost always filled with social engagements that involve eating and sitting, sitting and eating.  As a result, I've recently developed some strategies for minimizing the damage.

1. Get Involved in the Plans

I try to sway the plans whenever I can to include a few simple elements.  I've found that these elements are much easier to achieve during the summer months.  Basically, I try to move the events outdoors (usually a park or a backyard), I try to work in some barbecuing, and I make sure that kids are involved.  Here's my reasoning for these choices.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Veggie Fajitas

This recipe is so simple that it doesn't even feel like a recipe, but it's great for a hot summer night when you might not really want to stand over the stove for hours.

First, start by slicing lengthwise some red, green and yellow bell peppers.  Then, slice up an onion and chop a handful of cilantro. (Make sure these are all organic!)  Marinate the peppers and onions in a ziplock bag with some organic soy sauce, cumin and a pinch of cayenne pepper for a few minutes up to a few hours.

Second, toss a spoonful of ghee into a pan over medium heat.  Once the ghee has melted, throw in the peppers and onions to sauté for a few minutes until they are soft and cooked through.

Third, heat a spelt tortilla in a dry pan.  (Trader Joe's makes a yummy, chewy spelt tortilla...of course, you could always go totally primal by skipping the tortilla all together and just wrapping your fajitas in a fresh, clean lettuce leaf.)

Fourth, assemble by layering your fajitas on your tortilla, then tossing in a dash of the chopped cilantro.  Another "must have" is fresh, organic pico de gallo and guacamole (my Whole Foods carries a local brand called Casa Sanchez that is amazing).

For a meatier variation, you could throw in some strips of chicken breast or flank steak marinated in a ziplock bag with a little organic soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, crushed garlic and cumin.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  I usually throw in any meat and vegetables that have been sitting in the fridge to long to be ignored.  Be creative and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One Key to Success: Adaptation

"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative." - H.G. Wells

I'm learning that staying fit with a new born in the house is all about flexibility and adaptation.  When I started this program I was going to the gym regularly in the early morning hours before my household was awake.  I was able to tightly control my meals -- both in what I ate and when I ate it.  I had set times for bedtime, waking and naps.

Now,  that's ALL out the window!  My household is a 24-hour operation.  Feedings and diaper changes happen around the clock.  My older daughter wakes up a random nighttime intervals to complain about growing pains in her legs.  Most of my meals are eaten standing up -- often while holding the baby or hassling our older daughter to please, please, please just eat one spear of asparagus in order to earn the reward of dessert.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Week 20 Photos

I'm barely hanging on to my routine at this point.  I'm juggling my increased workload, newborn baby and a few visits from lovely house guests.  Still I'm getting in a few good workouts a week and I'm keeping a pretty good handle on my diet.  I'm thinking, though, that I'll extend Phase 3 for another month or two to make up for the fact that I haven't been able to be as strict as I wanted to be.  We'll see how the month of June goes!

Here are some recent photos to prove that I haven't complete lost my fitness level.  I'm staying lean, but not quite as lean as I think I should be getting during this phase.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Easy Spinach Omelette with Scallions and Salsa

 As I've started to cook more and more with clean, healthy ingredients, I've started to really believe that cooking by color is the way to go.  The concept is that a meal will have a good chance of being a healthy balance of macro and micronutrients, vitamins, etc. if it has a variety of vibrant colors.  Cooking this way is easy and really does produce some tasty, healthy meals.

Think about it.  A paleo/primal meal will most often be a combination of organic meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts.  This combination avoids the dull browns of factory-produced meats (which have a lot less color than their organic counterparts...unless some scientist has added an attractive color through chemicals--a common practice in fish and beef) or the blah beige and bleached white of grains, breads and rice.  If the colors don't jump out at you, you should really rethink what you're eating.  Natural food is meant to be naturally attractive.  That's what made people want to try the first bites of these foods thousands of years ago.

As an example, here is a dish I whipped up with some leftover ingredients based solely on their color:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Phase 3: Just 1.5 Months Left!

In the last few weeks, my topsy-turvy schedule has taught me some important lessons about flexibility when it comes to diet and exercise.  I thought I might share a few here:

1. Try a weekly view
Many diets or exercise programs work on a daily schedule.  While there is some logic to taking things one day at a time, I'm finding that when your life feels like a colossal blur it can be hard to maintain daily consistency.  Rather than put myself under the stress of trying to complete "X" workout on "X" day and plan out my breakfast, lunch and dinner, I have taken a step back to gain some perspective.  I try to think of my nutrition as a weekly endeavor and I try to make it to the gym a few times each week.  The benefit is that I never feel like I "missed" a workout...I just moved it to another day of the week.  And if I have a day where I indulge more than normal at my meals, I simply try to be more careful on the two following days.  The result is that I have some leeway to absorb life's ups and downs without feeling overwhelmed or completely losing sight of my goals.  (Plus, it makes these crazy goals much more acceptable to my family because I'm never going nuts saying that I absolutely HAVE TO make it to the gym today or I cannot POSSIBLY enjoy cake and ice cream at a social gathering.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hiatus is Over

April and May have been pretty crazy around my house!  Throughout April we were busy trying to get ourselves organized for our new baby's arrival.  Then, on May 9th, we welcomed Baby Maya into our lives.  Since then, my enjoyment of our newborn has only been interrupted by a recent change in my work schedule that has me flying back and forth across the country on back-to-back red eyes, working 12 and 18-hour days, and losing sleep while I toss and turn thinking about my exploding "to do" list.

Throughout ALL of this, I am hanging on to my fitness goals by the skin of my teeth!  I'm making it to the gym only 2 to 3 days a week, so I make sure to give 110% when I'm there.  I haven't had a lot of control over what or when I get to eat, so I've incorporated a lot of intermittent fasting to try to span the gap between healthy meal options.  Overall, I'm still on track!  I'm still getting leaner week by week and definitely getting stronger.  I'm still motivated and I'm finding that I value my workout time more than ever as a chance to turn off my mind and experience the flow of movement and music that happens when I turn on my iPod and get to work.

I've really missed writing for you folks...really missed it!  But I'm happy to say, "I'm back!"  Please keep an eye out in the next few weeks for some great posts.  More workout ideas, more reflections, more photos and progress reports.  I'm sorry for the "radio silence" over the last few weeks and I hope we can pick up where we left off.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Week 12 Measurements & Photos

I'm half-way to Ryan Reynolds! Woo hoo!

I meant to post these measurements and photos last week when I took them on March 29, 2011, but I've been having trouble syncing my pics and I been too busy to write. Nevertheless, I'm back in action. I've decided to start posting measurements every two weeks instead of weekly now because I'm not seeing any macro changes in body composition at this stage. In fact, my weight and measurements have really stabilized. Notice I didn't say they "plateaued" because when I put on clothes or look in the mirror I'm still seeing incremental progress. So, I'm still happy with my progress and continue to feel motivated to push forward.

Without further ado...the measurements and photos:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fitness is NOT Healthiness

Let's talk for a moment about the difference between "fitness" and "healthiness." I think that the distinction is very important. Especially because we have all been seriously brainwashed by the advertising and media that constantly screams at us with promises of having both..."Get fit and healthy, now!" "In just 6 minutes a day, you can have that fit and healthy physique that will have the guys/ladies taking notice!" Blah, blah, blah!

I would propose that physical fitness is a state of having the physical ability to perform at a certain level. For example, Lance Armstrong...physically fit, enough said. Achieving a state of physical health, on the other hand, requires a less performance-based measurement and more of a holistic understanding of the continuous inner workings of these glorious bodies of ours. When your body is in a healthy state, it is free of illness and disease, it is digesting efficiently, sleeping well, and properly balancing hormone levels in a sea of constantly shifting currents. My point in making the distinction between fitness and healthiness is that, while they often come together, that is often not the case.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Overcoming Fatigue for Breakthrough Results

I recently had an experience that is rare for me in the gym. I picked up a pair of the heaviest dumbbells that I knew I could lift in an incline bench press. I pressed the weight for five repetitions with no trembling or stalling. What happened next totally puzzled me. After a minute of rest, I picked up the same weight, lay back on the bench...and froze. I was completely motionless and totally unable to press the weight! My first thought was, "So this is what temporary paralysis feels like!" I carefully put the weights down and lunged for the next dumb bells down the rack (5 pounds lighter) and...same thing. Again, I put the weights down and grabbed the next lighter weights...finally a shaky, quivering five repetitions. Ugh!

What happened here? My mind knew that I could lift the weights. I had just pressed the heaviest set for 5 repetitions. I had spent the last few weeks pressing the weight that was 5 pounds lighter. And I knew for certain that the final set of dumb bells should have been easy, but why did I have such a hard time convincing my body of that fact? There is only one answer -- fatigue!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Go Back to Your Roots...Get Primal!

I recently read (and now I'm re-reading) The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I came across the book when I started noticing that a bunch of the fitness blogs that I read made regular references to it and to Mark's blog called Mark's Daily Apple. I strongly encourage anyone interested in health, fitness and clean diet to check out both the book and the blog.

Mark is an incredible guy who seems to spend most of his life either writing great fitness-related content or running shirtless around the beaches of sunny Southern California showing of his ripped abs and his frisbee skills. A former elite marathon runner and triathlete, Mark is now in his 50s and freely shares all the wisdom that he's gathered through years of serious training. The best part is that all his "serious" training has convinced him that we need to relax a whole lot more and enjoy the carefree fun of an active lifestyle without the pressure of stressful goals to lift x amount, run x minutes per mile, or weigh x amount. I'm totally on board with that!

Week 10 Measurements

The first few weeks of Phase 2 of my workout routine have been a lot of fun. I'm 5 sets of 5 reps for 2 exercises per body part. I take between 45 seconds to a full minute between sets and I'm shooting to lift much heavier weights than I did in Phase 1. It's crazy...I've really seen my strength jump! I've also seen some weight gain and muscle growth...slower than in Phase 1, but still progressing. My diet has really tightened up and I've moved to a completely paleo/primal eating style. (I'll do a separate post on that soon!)

Here are the measurements:

Weight = 194 (up 4 pounds)

Neck: 16.5 (up .5 inch)

Upper arms: left = 15.5; right 15.5 (up 1 inch)

Shoulders: 49 (no change)

Chest at nipples: 41 (no change)

Waist at navel: 31.5 (no change)

Hips at widest point: 39.5 (no change)

Legs mid-thigh: left = 23.5; right = 23.5 (up .5 inch)

Total inches: 254.5 (up 2.5 inches)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Week 9 Measurements

My measurements for this week didn't change a bit from last week. That includes my weight as well.

I think that this is to be expected because I've transitioned to Phase 2 with a focus on hybrid muscle growth and muscle toning or density. The funny thing is that I can see in the mirror that although my overall size is not changing too much, my muscles are beginning to look thicker and fuller. I also notice that I'm seeing tiny reductions in my remaining body fat that are starting to create increased muscle definition. I think this is a good transition that will keep me from getting that stringy look I see in guys that have lost a lot of weight but failed to increase muscle density (to me they look like they melted their fat and all that's left is beef jerky). Instead, my fat reduction will expose well-formed, lean muscles that have a healthy look, but not bulky.

Hit the Delpino! The Benefits of Cold Showers

Ahh, shower time! One of the most indulgent times of our adult day. If you have kids, this may be the only time you are alone. A hot, steamy shower is great way to freshen up...but did you know that you could be gaining many benefits from trying cold showers?

Cold showers are common in many parts of the world where hot water is hard to come by. The coldest shower I ever had in my life was one I took in Potosi, Bolivia. Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world and, let me tell you, it gets COLD up there. Add to that the fact that many budget or "backpacker" hotels don't cater to their clients by providing hot water in the shared bathrooms...and you can imagine the shrinkage going on when I hopped around under a stream of tiny ice cubes to try to wash the dust off from a day-long tour of the local silver mines. But I digress...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Week 7 & 8 Measurements and Pics

My Week 7 measurements did not reflect much of a change from the prior week. In fact, the only changes I saw were a 1 pound weight gain from 192 to 193 and a half inch loss on my hips at the widest point from 40" to 39.5".

Week 8 marks the close of Phase 1 of my Visual Impact Muscle Building Program! I think I'm at a decent peak for muscle growth and I'm excited about changing it up and focusing workouts that blend growth and strength gains to increase muscle density. My final measurements for Phase 1 show a few small but significant changes from last week. Here they are:

Weight = 190 (down 3 pounds!)

Neck: 16 (no change)

Upper arms: left = 14.5; right 14.5 (no change)

Shoulders: 49 (up 1 inch!)

Chest at nipples: 41 (up .5 inch!)

Waist at navel: 31.5 (no change)

Hips at widest point: 39.5 (down .5 inch)

Legs mid-thigh: left = 23; right = 23 (no change)

Total inches: 252 (up 1 inch)

I'm encouraged by the fact that I have consistently gained in my chest, shoulders and arms while losing in my waist and hips. That's the direction I need to go!

Last week I made a shift to a "primal" or "paleo" diet that completely eliminates grains in favor or increased intake of organic fruits, vegetables and meats. The result is 3 pounds of weight loss. Can't argue with that! (A side benefit is that I LOVE the food!) I'll be posting some primal recipes in the coming days so you can see how amazingly tasty this style of eating can be. (Another side benefit is that it's MUCH easier to eat out at restaurants and at so
cial opposed to eating vegan or vegetarian.)

Oh, and of course, the pics! These turned out a little blurry because two of the light bulbs over my mirror just burned out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sweet Potato Yellow Curry

I went through a phase last year where I was cooking my way through Diana Stobo's Get Naked Fast. Diana is a health nut that espouses a raw vegan diet. While I'm not that extreme, her recipes are super easy, very healthy and down right tasty! So, what's not to like?

It has been a while since I whipped up some of my favorites from Diana's book, so I thought I would introduce you to her sweet potato curry. It is soooo easy! Here's what you do:

Sweet Potato Yellow Curry
Chop into 1-inch chunks 1 large sweet potato, 1 medium onion, 2 celery stalks, 1 large carrot, and 1 red bell pepper. Saute all the veggies in a tablespoon of ghee (super rich, Indian clarified can get a jar at Whole Foods in the butter section) or a splash of olive oil in a medium sauce pan or pot. After 2 or 3 minutes, add 3 cups fresh coconut milk (I like it best when you crack a coconut with a big knife and blend the coconut water with the scraped out coconut meat...very primal! You can also just buy it in a can, but the canned stuff is WAY sweeter.) Mix in 1 Tbs. turmeric, 2 Tsp. garam masala, 1 Tsp. ground cumin, 1 Tsp. sea salt and 1/2 Tsp. pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the veggies are cooked but still have a little crunch to them. I've served this over brown rice (which soaks up the curry nicely) or alone in a bowl like stew. Either way top it with a little diced cilantro and its Thai-licious!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where's the Beef?!?

OK, it's time that I admit something to myself...and to you, dear reader. Despite all my efforts to eat a vegetarian/vegan diet, I am first and foremost an omnivore (that's a meat-eater for those of you that failed junior high health class). Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy all the vegan recipes I've found in the Skinny Bitch books and other vegetarian/vegan websites, but lately I don't know what it is, I've been craving hamburgers and steaks like nobody's business, yo! Maybe it's my body telling me I need more protein. Maybe it's my caveman genes trying to coax me into scrambling down to the Dino Diner for a stegosaurus burger (didn't Fred Flintstone eat those?). I don't really know the reason, but I can ignore the call or let it go to voicemail.

Meat good. Oooga! Ooga!
So, what to do? Well, I have previously spent months at a time eating a primarily paleolithic diet. If you're not familiar with the "paleo" trend, it basically tries to emulate the foods that our ancestors would have eaten back in the paleolithic times. That means organic, grass-fed meat (when you can catch it and kill it), lots of organic fruits and vegetables (when they are in season), nuts and berries (probably foraged by the lady-folk), and healthy fats (from meats like fish or from seeds like flax or from fruits like avocados...yes, it's a fruit, people!).

You'll notice what's missing here is grains. Cavemen didn't farm and didn't harvest wild grains, so that is not on the strictly paleolithic menu...but that's where I diverge for practical reasons. I consciously try to reduce the total amount of grains I eat. I aim for ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth, spelt, buckwheat, barley or rye) when they are available, like when I'm cooking at home. I will sometimes eat whole grains or brown rice. And I try to avoid white grains, processed grains, and grain derivatives like High Fructose Corn Syrup (yes, corn is a grain not a vegetable...see how much you're learning today!).

I'll write more in future posts about this type of dieting as I make the transition and explore the effects. Who knows, maybe I'll change my mind again and become a fruitarian (those that only eat fruit and nothing else...strange!). In honor of my decision to reintroduce meat, though, I'll leave you with a scrumptious and incredibly simple caveman delicacy.

Grilled Steak w/Blue Cheese, Steamed Broccoli & Cauliflower & Cherry Tomatoes
I found this recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs: Have Her Over for Dinner. I like Matt Moore's style of simple cooking so much that I own his cookbook and highly recommend it.

I altered Matt's recipe a little, so here's what I did. I bought one big London broil steak. By big I mean enough to serve me, my wife, and my daughter for two meals...BIG, think caveman! I set it out at room temperature in a dish and rubbed it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar while I heated up the broiler. Next, I chopped some broccoli and cauliflower into bite-size florets and got about an inch or two of salted water boiling in my steamer.

The next part happens in a flash, so don't blink. I rubbed some gourmet grey sea salt and cracked black pepper all over the steak, threw it on the broiler tray and popped it in the oven. Then I dumped the broccoli-cauliflower mix into the top of the steamer. I waited about two minutes. Maybe I rinsed my cherry tomatoes. Maybe I opened some Ravenswood Zinfandel...yum! When the two minutes were up, I checked my steak and because the top was browned, I turned it over, sprinkled some crumbled blue cheese on top and back into the oven it went. Then I checked my veggies and found them bright in color, so I dropped the heat to low to keep those puppies warm. When the steak looked done and the blue cheese was just beginning to brown, I pulled it out and let it rest for a few minutes while I tossed the veggies in a bowl with a little butter to melt it and some salt and pepper. Finally, I served up plates with a big scoop of veggies, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and a glorious serving of steak. Oh, and of course, a glass of that zin!

Try it. Your inner caveman will thank you!

Week 6 Measurements

I thought this cartoon was funny. The sign in the background says "Fishing Club," but it could just as easily read "Fitness Club" and that guy standing up could be flexing his limp noodles! Judging by the beers and body types of these guys, they're going to need a lot of imagination to look fit!

Only a few more weeks until I transition to Phase 2! So far, all the numbers are going the right directions so I'm feeling good about my progress.

Here are my measurements for Week 6:

Weight = 192 (down 2 lbs. from last week...I've stayed within the low 190s for most of this phase, which is comfortable. I think if I push in the next few months I could get down to 185. That's that lowest weight I can remember reaching as an adult...and that was a long time ago!)

Neck: 16 (down .5 from last week)

Upper arms: left = 14.5; right 14.5 (no change)

Shoulders: 48 (no change)

Chest at nipples: 40.5 (no change)

Waist at navel: 31.5 (down .5 from last week...This has been a consistent reduction and the one that has always stood between me and the Ryan Reynolds 6-pack. Wait! Does he have an 8-pack?! I've got a lot more work to do!)

Hips at widest point: 40 (back down .5 from last week)

Legs mid-thigh: left = 23; right = 23 (somehow I lost .5 on my left and gained .5 on my right...I guess balance is good.)

Total inches: 251 (down 1.5 from last week)

Anita and some co-workers have started commenting on the fact that my face seems to be slimming down and getting more angular. I've also found that my pants are getting just a little loose. The changes are subtle, but that's the best kind of progress...slow and sustainable. The best part is that I'm eating healthy foods that I like with the occasional splurge and I'm only really putting in 3 hours of gym time each week plus one night of soccer and yoga whenever I feel like it. That's a lifestyle that I think I can continue...even when baby number 2 arrives in May.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sleep...The New Sex

Sleep is the new sex. Think about it. Don't you hear people constantly talking about how they wish they had more of it? It used to be better, but now...not so much. Couples complain about their kids getting in the way of it. Most people agree it's better with someone you love, not quite as satisfying if you do it alone, and often awkward if you do it with a stranger!

I haven't posted in almost a week. During that time both my wife and my daughter got pretty sick with fevers and coughs. The same symptoms wiped out about half of my office and my wife's office. Everyone's feeling better now, thank goodness. The strange thing...I didn't get it. My theory on why...more sleep.

I've been thinking a lot about sleep lately. As I studied my results from all the exercising and dieting I've been doing. I could see small areas where improved effort could yield improved results (less ice cream, more intense cardio, etc.), but I felt like I should look outside the box to see if there were other factors affecting my results. That's when I stumbled onto a bunch of blogs, websites and books about sleep's effects on weight loss.

Cortisol & HGH: The Gatekeepers to Your Fat Storage Cells
You see, your body has this balance between two important hormones: cortisol and human growth hormone (HGH). Cortisol is called "the stress hormone." It tells your body to store sugars in your bloodstream as fat in preparation for a rough road ahead (think famine or a long journey for our caveman ancestors). HGH, on the other hand, tells your body to burn fat to repair muscle and organ tissue. These two hormones function on a sliding scale...when one is up, the other is down.

One way to fine tune your weight loss is to look at the things within your control that will shift your body away from cortisol production and toward HGH production. You shouldn't be surprised to see that these activities are things your good doctor (and your mother) has been telling you to do since you were a kid. Here are a few: relax, reduce your stress, eat your vegetables, reduce the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates you eat, exercise, get a good night's sleep, take a nap.

I looked at a list like that and realized I was doing pretty well on most of them, but I was really shorting myself on sleep in order to keep up all the other practices. Making healthy meals at home often means late nights of shopping and cooking. The only time I can get the gym consistently is at 5 a.m. I realized that I could try to get to bed a little earlier, but the only way I was going to squeeze any more sleep into my schedule (and HGH into my bloodstream) was to nap!

Naps, They're Not Just for Babies
My trip down the rabbit hole of sleep research led me to a great book called Take a Nap! Change Your Life. by Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D. I'm still reading it, but here's what I've learned so far. Our bodies drift through a programmed set of sleep stages while we snooze: Stage 1 (drifting off), Stage 2 (increases alertness & motor skills), Stage 3 & 4 (called "slow-wave sleep" these improve your memory by shuttling short-term memories to long-term memory), and the most famous of all...REM or "Rapid Eye Movement" (the dream state that inspires creativity and heightens perception).

Now, I won't bore you with all the science surrounding how the body cycles through these stages, but suffice it to say that Dr. Mednick offers some very targeted advice on how to time your naps (both when and how long) for the maximum benefits depending on what type of sleep you need most. Personally, I'm aiming for short, 20-minute naps at mid-day that give me a quick dose of Stage 2 for alertness and the occasional 20 to 45 minute nap at the end of the workday that will provide a wash of slow-wave sleep for repairing muscle cells that I've torn down during my workouts. The nice thing is that both types of naps will help to lower cortisol and raise HGH, speeding up weight loss and muscle growth.

If your interested in learning more, check out Dr. Mednick's book or her website:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week 5 Measurements

I can see the end of Phase 1 looming on the horizon...just a few weeks away!

Here are my measurements for Week 5:

Weight = 194 (up 3 lbs. from last week...maybe it was all that Super Bowl food)
Neck: 16.5 (up 1.5 from last week)
Upper arms: left = 14.5; right 14.5 (both up .5...first growth I've seen here)
Shoulders: 48 (no change)
Chest at nipples: 40.5 (no change)
Waist at navel: 32 (down .5 from last week...slow and steady wins the race!)
Hips at widest point: 40.5 (up .5 from last week)
Legs mid-thigh: left = 23.5; right = 22.5 (no change)
Total inches: 252.5 (up 2.5 from last week)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting Strong Like Bull...or at Least Big Like Bull!

I've spent a large amount of my blog real estate talking about diet. Partly, that's because I believe the saying, "You can't out exercise a bad diet!" Also, for me the exercise part is the easy part. It's all worked out ahead of time. I know which days I'm going to be at the gym. I know what I'm going to do when I get there. I consistently push myself physically. I log my results. Diet, on the other hand, encompasses a ton of variables including time, stress, availability of healthy/unhealthy foods, socializing, etc. Diet is definitely harder for me to pre-plan and control. At the gym, I walk in the door, take off my hoodie, slip in my headphones and crank up my iPod...everything after that is a blur of activity like a well-oiled machine. I think I'd get some strange looks if I did the same thing every time I sat down to a meal!

All that being said, I wanted to take some time to give you a glimpse at my gym routine from Visual Impact Muscle Building. The general break down is 3 phases of 2 months each. Phase 1 is mass building with light cardio and dieting. Phase 2 is a hybrid of mass building and strength building with slightly more intense cardio and dieting. Phase 3 is pure strength building with very intense cardio and dieting. The idea is to add muscle early, then tighten and compress it throughout the later phases while trimming excess body fat. The result...the lean, toned, athletic look you see on Hollywood actors and many European models. (Don't laugh at me here! Do I want to be a model? No. Would I rather look like a model than a body builder? Yes. When I was young I thought Arnold was the I realize that Ryan Reynolds looks better in a suit than the Governator, so my goals have shifted.)

What does Phase 1 look like? Basically, I do two workouts that split the body into sets of complementary muscle groups. So, chest, shoulders and triceps (with abs thrown in) get worked on a day full of pushing movements, then the next day back, biceps and forearms get worked with pulling movements. The overall goal is muscle fatigue. This means I'm working each muscle with high repetition sets (12-6 reps) and I try to finish each set at a point where I can barely, shakily, squeeze out the last repetition. I round out the workout with 15 minutes of intervals on a treadmill walking for 90 seconds then running for 30 seconds. I alternate Workout A and Workout B in a 2 days on, 1 day off, then 2 days on, 2 days off schedule for 4 total days in the gym. Right now, that's Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 5 to 6 a.m. (crazy, I know, but that's the only time when my 2-year old daughter is not awake!). On my off days, I try to rest or do yoga.

If you've ever seen someone working to complete muscle fatigue, you'll note that it looks very different than most guys in the gym. Most guys pump for a couple of reps, then sit around zoning out, watching TV, chatting with their buddies or hitting on the cute girl at the leg abductor machine. Guys shooting for muscle fatigue are using baby weights and working against the clock, moving quickly from one set to the next with about 35 seconds of rest, and each set ends with what looks like the weakest, sorriest excuse for a strength exercise ever. The secret is that that final repetition is the golden moment when microscopic muscle fibers are being torn to tiny shreds only to be rebuilt over the next few days into bigger, stronger, shirt-tightening crowd pleasers. If you leave the gym feeling like a quivering mass of jell-o, you can bet that you'll come back in a few days looking more muscular than the guys you see throwing up big weight but always looking soft and puffy.

I'll be transitioning into Phase 2 in just a few weeks and I'll pause then to give you a glimpse at that routine. I'm actually excited about it because it involves a regime that I tried once when I was in college that definitely tested my physical limits. For now, though, I'm really enjoying going in 4 times a week to crank out tons of reps on tiny weights and watch the inches increase at my shoulders, chest and arms while they decrease at my waist and hips.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I think I'm Turning Japanese, I Really Think Soba

Last night I made a healthy Japanese-inspired meal that I think could become a staple. It's so easy, lightly flavored, but sooo filling! Make it at home and you'll see what I mean.

Japanese Soba with Steamed Veggies and Tofu (from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch)

You'll need some Asian flavors to make this meal, so this is a great chance to raid the "international" aisle of your local grocery store.

Start by whisking together 2 Tbs. mirin (Japanese rice wine), 1Tbs. minced fresh ginger (I omitted because my pregnant wife is currently spice-intolerant), 1 Tbs. soy sauce or tamari, and 1 Tbs. sesame oil in a big bowl. You'll toss this with your steamed veggies later, so put it aside for now.

Next, steam 1 eggplant cut into 1/4 in. cubes over some boiling water with 2 Tbs. of rice vinegar for 7 minutes. Throw in a carrot cut into matchsticks for another 7 minutes. Then toss in 8 oz. of extra firm tofu cut into 1/4 in. cubes for 3 minutes. When everything seems hot and tender (I'm talking about the vegetables here!), dump it all in the bowl with the sauce mixture and toss to coat.

At some point while your steaming away at your veggies, you've also got to boil some salted water and throw in an 8 oz. package of buckwheat soba noodles. I know it's multi-tasking, but you can do it...I believe in you! The goal is to have the soba noodles cooked (about 4-6 minutes) and the veggies hot at about the same time. Timing is everything in in soba.

Finally, strain the noodles, rinse them with cold water, and strain again. Then toss them back in the pot with 1 Tbs. of sesame oil so they don't stick together. Now you're ready to lay down a tasty layer of noodles in a pasta bowl and dump some of the veggie/tofu mix on top. As if that wasn't enough, let's get gourmet here by throwing a dash of sliced scallions and a splash of gomasio (seasoned sesame seeds) on top...WAA-TAAAA!!! (You MUST actually say that in your best Bruce Lee impression...even though he wasn't Japanese.)

Now, enjoy with a fine sake. Personally, I like the cold, unfiltered Nigori sakes, but I'm no stranger to the typical, warm Junmai sakes either. Take your pick and eat with a fork...or chopsticks!

Week 4 Measurements & Pics

One month down...five to go! Watch out Ryan Reynolds, here I come!

After a whole month, I'm feeling pretty good about my results so far. Here's the run down of measurements:
Weight = 191 (that's down about 9 lbs. from my starting weight)
Neck: 15
Upper arms: left = 14; right 14
Shoulders: 48 (up 1.5 from last week)
Chest at nipples: 40.5 (up 1 from last week)
Waist at navel: 32.5 (down 1 from last week)
Hips at widest point: 40
Legs mid-thigh: left = 23.5; right = 22.5
Total inches: 250 (up 1.5 from last week)

Measurements are one thing, but let's do a little visual comparison. In the left column are my Day 1 photos and in the right column are my Day 29 photos. It may be wishful thinking, but I think I see a little more definition and a greater contrast between my shoulder width and waist size. Still a long way to go, but I'm on the road.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eat, Stop, Eat -- Slow Weight Loss through Fasting

The Nuts & Bolts
I've been experimenting over the last two weeks with 24-hours fasts to help me control my diet. The basic idea is that once or twice a week I don't eat from dinner one night until dinner the next night. I have a healthy relationship with food and eating, so I'm not too uptight about the process. Some days I'll be part way through a fast and interrupt it (usually due to unexpected social commitments) so I simply start a fast after dinner the next night that it is convenient. Some weeks I'll fast on Sunday and Wednesday, but that's not written in stone. The fasts don't have to start after dinner, but that is my preference because I find that I have plenty of energy in the morning and through mid-day without food. I don't plan my fasts around my workouts because I almost always workout in the early morning in a fasted state anyhow. Finally, when I resume eating (break the fast) I don't do anything extra large meals or special treats that would counteract the calorie restriction that I just accomplished.

So, Why Fast?
I'm not a stranger to fasting. I've done it on occasions for religious functions or to be supportive to friends that were fasting for religious reasons, like Ramadan (to avoid tempting my high school buddy Kinan with french fries or pizza when he was sweating his way through the daylight hours until his next meal).

Every time I've committed to and completed a fast I've learned something profound about myself and my relationship to food. If you ever find yourself fasting while sitting in a room full of people eating very unhealthy food, I can guarantee you that your eyes will be opened. You will suddenly read the craving and strong desire for fulfillment and satisfaction on the faces of those around you and you'll simultaneously realize that no meal is so amazing that it will fill that void. I'm not trying to get to metaphysical on you here, I'm just saying that on a very simple level, fasting forces you to observe. You observe when you're hungry and why. You observe how that hunger passes and returns in waves of decreasing intensity. You observe the stillness, lightness and radiant energy that comes from a body that is not preoccupied with constantly digesting. (Maybe this is why the word "observe" is used in reference to most religious fasts..."observing" Ramadan..."observing" Lent, etc.)

"OK, OK," you say, "I'm not searching for enlightenment! I just want to be healthier (or look good in a swimsuit, whatever the case may be)!" Well, intermittent fasting provides a sustainable and low-stress way to reduce your weekly calorie intake without sacrificing your enjoyment of food on your non-fast days. I'm not saying you're going to lose weight if you fast twice a week and pig out on the other days. I am saying, though, that on your fast days your body automatically shifts from burning digestible food that you consume and will begin burning stored fat (and couldn't we all afford to torch a few fat cells?). I won't bore you with a bunch of biochemistry and nutrition, but if you really want to get into the nitty gritty try reading Eat, Stop, Eat by Brad Pilon. Brad has an educational background in nutrition and has worked in the sports supplement industry. More importantly, in my opinion, in Eat, Stop, Eat he has written a very well researched and heavily footnoted summary of all the prevailing science about fasting...and he's built an impressive physique by practicing what he preaches. I'm much more apt to take diet or workout advice from someone that looks like they've reached my goal physique than from some skinny science geek or unfit personal trainer at the gym (not that those folks might not know what they're talking about...I just don't trust anyone with a "do what I say not what I do" approach...which is why I will occasionally bore you with shirtless pics of my progress, to prove that I'm investing the sweat equity to gain your trust).

The Results
I immediately saw weight loss on the scale and in the way my clothes fit. You can see the reductions in my Week 3 Measurements. I attribute these changes almost entirely to fasting because I haven't really been doing tons of cardio to burn calories. I'm sure that some of the weight loss is due to water loss, but I tend to drink a TON of liquid during my fasts (water, herbal tea, black coffee, alkaline vegetable broth). So, any water loss should be offset in the long run by my efforts to remain well hydrated.

I have also found that I enjoy the extra time I gain from eliminating the need to forage. Plus, I've experienced a definite increase in energy and alertness on fast days and a deeper appreciation for the smells and tastes of my meals on non-fast days.

Any negatives? None that I have experienced so far. I do get hungry, but it's not debilitating and it passes quickly. I haven't seen any wasting away of muscle mass or evidence of lethargy or moodiness. Your mileage may vary when it comes to the emotional effects, but one thing's for certain you will burn fat if it's the only fuel in the tank.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roasted Sausage and Peppers over Soft Polenta...Where Have You Been All My Life?

Tonight's little Italian feast was scrumptious even though it was meatless. Who would have thought it was possible?! The lovely ladies that wrote Skinny Bitch in the Kitch...that's who!

To create this bowl of goodness you preheat your oven to 425 degrees while you a fill a big bowl with 12 (that's right 12!) cloves of garlic, 4 sliced bell peppers (any color), and 2 sliced onions. After you've tossed the veggies with a few splashes of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, you dump the mix onto a baking sheet and throw it in the oven for 20 minutes.

When the veggies are tender, you mix in 4 Italian vegan sausages sliced on a diagonal and throw the whole tray back in for another 15 minutes. (You might be saying to yourself -- just like I did -- "vegan sausages!!" I'm not a fan of products that are trying to be meat when they aren't, but I figure most commercially made meat sausage is trying to be meat when it really isn't...right? I mean, who really knows what's in those wiener casings anyhow? What I do know is that vegan sausages are a VERY tasty mixture of wheat gluten, veggies, and spices. I just may never go back to meat...when it comes to sausages, that is.)

While the sausages and veggies are getting their last 15-minute dose of heat, you have just enough time to boil 4 cups of low-sodium, organic vegetable broth with a pinch of salt in a small pot then add 1 Cup of polenta. Bring it back to a boil, cover, and lower the heat to a simmer for 8-10 minutes...just until the polenta starts to look like moist cream of wheat.

To bring it all together, you slap a few big spoonfuls of polenta into a bowl and toss a healthy mound of the veggie-sausage mix on top. Mmm-mmm, delicioso!

Week 3 Measurements

Week 3 has come and gone. During the week, I completed all my workouts, buckled down on my diet a bit and even included a 24-hour fast. The numbers show some progress:
Weight = 196
Neck: 15 (down .5)
Upper arms: left = 14; right 14
Shoulders: 46.5 (down 1)
Chest at nipples: 39.5 (down .5)
Waist at navel: 33.5 (down .5)
Hips at widest point: 40 (down 1)
Legs mid-thigh: left = 23.5; right = 22.5
Total inches: 248.5 (down 3.5)

I'm happy to see movement in the numbers! I wasn't expecting the shoulders and chest to reduce, but I'm guessing that some of that reduction may either be a variance in my measuring technique or some fat loss in my back. (I've realized from my photos that I carry more fat in my back than I do on my belly. Good for fooling folks into thinking I'm fit...unfortunately, it even fools me some times.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Skinny Bitch, Veganism and a Green Goddess

I'm man enough to admit that I'm a fan of the Skinny Bitch series of books. If you haven't read them, you've probably heard of them. Skinny Bitch is a New York Times Bestseller by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin that dumps a ton of information into your eye holes about the current appalling state of our nation's food supply. The final upshot of the book is that a vegan lifestyle is the only real way to avoid America's common killers of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes while reducing your exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones and lots of other dirty stuff (both chemical and natural).

After reading Skinny Bastard (yes, its the male version...basically the same book but with humor tailored to male sensibilities) a few months back, I have really devoted myself to eating a cleaner diet. I'm not 100% vegan, but I tend to trend toward a primarily plant-based diet with the occasional foray into the world of meat and dairy. I can say that now that I'm straddling the vegan/meat-eating fence, I have observed that I just feel cleaner, lighter and more energetic when I'm eating meals that are primarily focused on a variety of fresh, organic vegetables.

If you don't believe me, I would encourage you to try a few of the incredible recipes that I post here from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (one of two cookbooks the gals have created). Earlier I posted a Veggie Burrito recipe and today I bring you Green Goddess Pasta. It's simple, healthy and oh so yummy!

First, melt 3 Tbs of coconut oil in a small sauce pan and sauté 4 cloves of garlic in it over low heat. Just as the garlic begins to brown take it off the heat and add 4-6 Tbs of vegan butter (I use Earth Balance from Whole Foods...I had actually been using before the vegan bug bit me and I didn't realize that it wasn't real butter!). Stir it all up until the butter melts and you now have a garlic butter sauce. Are you salivating yet? You will when you smell this stuff!

Now, boil some water with some salt in it and throw in a package of brown rice or whole wheat macaroni pasta. While that boils, cut 2 zucchini lengthwise then slice them into 1/4 inch half moons; cut about 2 or 3 handfuls of broccoli into bite size florets; and cut about 4 oz. of kale crosswise into 1/2 inch strips. When the pasta is almost done, add all the veggies and let the mess boil for another minute or two until the pasta is al dente and the veggies are bright and tender.

Finally, the mash up...strain the pasta/veggie mess while reserving 1/2 Cup of the liquid. Then pour it back into the pot with the liquid and the yummy garlic butter. Toss everything together with a handful of pine nuts and maybe a little pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper and serve. Be prepared to follow over saying, "I never knew health food could be this GOOOO-OO-OOD! That Jeremy is really on to something. I'll never eat crap again!"

I Survived Week 3!

I have my yoga days today and tomorrow then Week 3 will be complete. I was able to successfully complete the week without missing any workouts even though I was a "single dad" for a week while Anita was in Vegas. That meant moving my Wednesday and Thursday workouts to lunch time and making sure that my work calendar didn't encroach on them. It also meant that my diet suffered a little because I found it hard to prepare healthy meals and still keep Sonia entertained with trips to the library and the homes of friends and family in the evenings.

To make up for the sloppy diet week I decided to try my first 24-hour fast yesterday (Sunday). It went surprisingly well. I started the fast at 6 p.m. on Saturday, worked out Sunday morning like usual, then even took the family on a hike in San Francisco and ran around with Sonia at Crissy Field. Amazingly, I was never low energy nor was I ever hungry! That's right...I was never hungry! I'll post more in the future about intermittent fasting and some of the research that I've been reading. But on first blush it seems doable, let's just see whether it helps me lose any unwanted fat while maintaining my muscle growth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Week 2 Measurements

I have completed the first two weeks of Phase 1! My weight has stayed the same at 199 pounds, but my muscles have grown slightly and my strength has increased too. That means that I must be trading fat for muscle.

I don't have measurements from Week 1, but I'm sure that missing one week of data won't diminish what I accomplish in the long run. Hopefully, the way my clothes fit and what I see in the mirror will be proof enough of my success (if not, the airbrushing of my final photos should take care of the rest...right Kevin?). Nevertheless, I'm curious to see how my weekly measurements change.

Here are my first batch of measurements in inches:
Neck: 15.5
Upper arms: left = 14; right 14
Shoulders: 47.5
Chest at nipples: 40
Waist at navel: 34
Hips at widest point: 41
Legs mid-thigh: left = 23.5; right = 22.5
Total inches: 252

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cleansing and Nutrition

Last year, my wife, Anita, and I returned from a long trip in India feeling stuffed and lethargic. While we were traveling we were force fed in home after loving home. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the food was very nutritious and we did an awful lot of walking, but still we came home feeling beat and ready for a sea change in our eating habits.

We immediately committed to a 28-day health and wellness program created by Ti Caudron at Cambiati Wellness Programs. We had been hearing a lot of good things from friends and relatives that had tried the program and figured we were finally ready to take the plunge.

One of our big concerns was whether the program would be flexible enough to accommodate our different goals. Anita wanted to slim down to her pre-pregnancy weight from before our daughter Sonia was born. I wanted to lose some fat while gaining some lean muscle that would improve my athleticism in activities like running, soccer, and yoga. We were amazed at how well Ti's program fit both our objectives! So amazed, in fact, that we followed up our initial success with another 28 days because we felt great and were still losing weight. In the end, I lost about 20 pounds and Anita lost about 15. I also gained about eight pounds of muscle by shifting my diet a little based on the Cambiati principles.

Since then, we have done versions of the program that we have tailored to our needs for maintenance and spot-training with Cambiati's help and support. I completed another 28-day session just before the holidays and we've both done short one to three-day "mini cleanses" whenever we have felt low energy or out of balance nutritionally.

As part of my current goals, I'm sticking to a diet that is similar to the first week of the Cambiati program and I'm giving myself a little break here and there to have drinks with friends or a dessert after a nice meal out. As a result, my energy level has been high (despite exercising seven days a week: yoga - Mon., Tues., Fri.; resistance and running - Wed., Thurs., Sat., Sun.; soccer - Thurs. nights; and golf on occasion). I'm also seeing the signs of changes in body muscles in my chest, back, shoulders and arms are getting more defined while my pants are getting loser in the waist and thighs.

I'm contemplating stepping it up and adding either intermittent fasting along the lines of the Eat Stop Eat program created by Brad Pilon and heavily touted by Rusty Moore (who created my current resistance training program) or the slow carb diet demonstrated in Tim Ferriss's book The 4-Hour Body. I'll add one of those regimens after my first two months of mass building are complete. Until then, I'm happy to maintain my current weight and watch my body composition slowly adjust.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Week 1 Complete

I know it seems silly to celebrate the completion of just ONE week of training, but I read recently that studies show a higher likelihood of maintaining a new practice after you have engaged in it five times. Today was my fifth workout and this is my fifth blog post, so I'm thinking this is going to stick.

So far, I'm noticing major strength gains in the gym and my form is starting to feel natural. I'm seeing some muscle growth, but haven't been able to do my measurements or body mass testing, so this is just a subjective measure. I haven't been doing great with the diet...not horrible, I just know I'll need to tighten it up if I want to reach my goals.

I'm planning on completing this week strong, then trying to figure out how next week will work. Next week might be tough because I'll be a single dad while my wife is traveling to Las Vegas for a conference. If I can just manage to get my Wednesday-Thursday in I'll be happy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Veggie Burritos...Yum!

Last night I made some amazing veggie burritos that topped the chart on health and taste. Basically, here's the assembly so you can make them at home:

Take an Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Grain tortilla...
put some warm black beans and brown rice on it...
a big spoonful of a sauteed veggie mix of bell pepper, anaheim chile, red onion, yellow squash, zucchini, tomato and garlic with about a teaspoon (or less for the spice-challenged) of cumin, coriander and chili powder...
a sprinkle of minced cilantro and thinly sliced scallion...
finally a dollop of guacamole and salsa.

If you want me to send you the specific recipe with cooking instructions, post a comment and I'll email it to you. Needless to say, these burritos are packed with veggie goodness and are oh so filling. The nice thing is you can experiment with whatever veggies you have in the house and as long as you add the spice mixture its going to taste delish!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 1 Pics: Ouch, This is Painful!

Part of my commitment to keeping this blog is fueled by the need to hold myself accountable. I recognize that accountability requires the baring of one's soul...or maybe just taking off your shirt at the crack of dawn to take unflattering pictures of yourself alone in your bathroom. In these pics the date is January 5, 2011, I'm 36 years old, 6'1", and 199 pounds.

You'll note that I'm barely awake and not really smiling. Well, of course! These are the "before" photos. Everyone knows your smile should slowly grow (along with your muscles) month after month until you're beaming and looking like a rock star.

Without further ado...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Visual Impact Muscle Building

After much research on the internet and years of experience in the gym, I have decided that my workout routine for 2011 with be the Visual Impact Muscle Building program created by Rusty Moore. The program's goals match up with mine pretty closely. Namely, create a lean, muscular physique that enables me to perform well athletically, is impressive on the beach (ah, summer, so far away), and still looks good in a suit (my current work uniform).

I began Phase 1 yesterday, January 5, 2011. This phase will last 2 months and will be followed by 2 more 2-month phases and a shorter "bonus" phase. In this phase my workouts are focused on producing rapid muscle growth through short workouts (30-45 minutes) with high repetitions (6-12 range) at low weights. I've decided to only work my upper body in the gym because my yoga practice, soccer, running, and cycling take care of the lower body.

I'm starting at 199 lbs. on my 6'1" frame. From past experience, I'm not expecting that number to change to dramatically. Typically, I've seen that my weight will fluctuate maybe 5 to 10 pounds while my body composition can vary drastically. I'm going to try to get on a body composition scale here in the next few days so that I can more accurately track changes in fat mass, muscle mass, and muscle hydration. I'll post those numbers when I have them and I'll follow this post with more accurate numbers from my workouts over time.

Begin at the Beginning

Already I can see that 2011 is going to be a busy year! We have a 2 year old who is changing every day and another baby on the way. Our jobs are ever-evolving. Our home keeps finding new ways to beg for repairs and upgrades. What is a guy to do?

Well, in an effort to simulate some modicum of control over my ever-changing life I have decided to throw in one more change...a transformation, if you will. The difference is that this is one that I alone can control. A body transformation.

This won't be the first time I've gone inward to effect change that will eventually radiate outward. I studied aikido while I was in a miserable, stressful job many years ago. I ran several marathons while I was in law school just to keep sane. I completed a 10-day silent mediation retreat immediately after taking the California bar exam (and have continued that meditation practice off-and-on for years). I've played team sports (soccer, basketball, softball) while I had jobs that kept me locked away in a lonely office. I've most recently rebelled against the increasingly obese suburban culture that surrounds me by devoting much time to exploring cleansing, healthy diet, and clean cooking. Oh, and I've been practicing yoga consistently for the last year. So, here I go again on my own (that should sound familiar to anyone that listened to hair bands in the 80s).

With the beginning of 2011, I have decided to embark on an exploration of complete body transformation. This will be a chance to combine many of the elements I have explored in the past few years. My goal: to see if a normal guy can create a Ryan Reynolds physique while balancing life's challenges and without a team of trainers, cooks, and personal assistants. My methods: meditation, clean cooking, healthy dieting, intermittent fasting, yoga, cardio training, and resistance training.

I'll use this blog to track my progress and to hold myself accountable. I'll post stats, photos, recipes, and lessons learned along the way. If you're reading this, you are at the beginning with me. Keep reading and we'll find out together where we end up.