A Seemingly Contrarian Take On Staying Fit

Livvy After WalkWow, I just kicked some serious ass and want to tell you about it. It took me 24 minutes and 31 seconds to walk 1.53 miles around the hood with my dog. During this brutal journey I maintained a 16 minute per mile pace, an average heart rate of 110 beats per minute, and burned 118 calories. And yes, I’m being facetious, but only partially so. Admittedly my old-school self wouldn’t have regarded this as any form of workout. I mean, how many of you go on Facebook and read frequent accountings of grueling CrossFit and OrangeTheory Fitness workouts? Yet almost nobody shares their tale of the walk they took.

But my new-school self considers a simple walk THE cornerstone for great physical fitness. Take a look at some of the most healthy, vibrant and long-lived people on the planet. They don’t go to SoulCycle or kick boxing classes. Nope. Now you may think their antiquated way of life is contrarian but it is actually anything but. In fact it’s THE way ‘we’ operated for most of our human existence on this planet. These Blue Zone communities around the world comprise people who simply ‘move’ for many hours each day. Of course I recognize you probably put in a 60 hour workweek, have children, and even more onerously, a freakin’ spouse to love and nurture. And so let me suggest to you the three underpinnings of a core, minimalist fitness program that will take you less than 60 minutes each day, will not drain you, and won’t require weight machines or free weights. And then I’ll tell you who I plagiarized this from.

Consider briskly walking for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. How about starting your work week with a brisk 30 minute walk and doing the same on Wednesday and Friday. On Saturday or Sunday, take a brisk 60 minute walk. During your treks you can listen to podcasts, crank up some Sturgill…whatever! Notice I keep repeating the word BRISK. You’ll want to walk as rapidly as you can without breaking into a jog and with no hard landings on your heels. No, you don’t have to engage in speedwalking or some ‘silly walk‘ variant.

What kind of pace am I talking about? Simply do what I do. Play an internal soundtrack in your brain of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along.” Keep your posture upright, those shoulders confidently flung back and your abs nice and tight. You can certainly walk more if you’d like to. Case in point: Before taking my kennel-coughing dog out for her constitutional, I started the day with a brisk three mile walk. Although my wife won’t agree, waking up at 4 a.m. has its benefits.

In addition, you get extra credit for even more walking and for biking instead of driving to complete food market runs and other short-haul errands during your week. And mowing your own lawn. And weeding your own garden. And I think you get the point so let me stop sermonizing.

Fire your trainer. Why? Because you can get and stay plenty fit by selecting a few simple body weight exercises that strengthen and sculpt your physique. Have those old Beach Body infomercials convinced you of the need for “muscle confusion” gained through an ever more complex sequence of weight exercises? Homey don’t play that. Do you think our ancestors worried about muscle confusion? No! They simply lifted, pulled and pushed stuff. Yeah I’m sure there was plenty of bare-handed killing of wild beasts in there as well, but I digress.

My weekly regimen includes pull ups, push ups, squats with no weights and sit ups. For one of my two strengthening days I simply rotate between these exercises, i.e., 5 pull ups, 12 push ups, 20 sit ups, 12 squats — rinsing and repeating for 30 minutes. You should be moving through this sequence at a fast enough velocity to get your heart rate up. Think more about a fairly but not fully intense High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. Huffing and puffing versus gasping for air indicates you’re at the right level. I typically finish up with 30 weight assisted dips and 30 Australian push ups, both of which take no more than six minutes.

On the second strengthening day I simply complete as many pull ups, squats and push ups as I can for 10 minutes each with a bit of a break in between. I then finish up with a five minute ab workout. During the weekend I’ll quickly work in some side planks.

Once per week I concentrate on really getting it up. Oh come on! I’m talking about my heart rate. The 20 second ‘all on’ and 10 second ‘off’ nature of a four minute Tabata interval, in which you repeat this cycle eight times, is virtually unmatched for kicking one’s ass. Lately I’ve been using battle ropes for my Tabata. When my hip is more compliant I like doing burpees because afterward when I don’t have a heart attack and die I feel pretty f’ing victorious. Other Tabata variants include sprinting on a field, jumping rope, busting out on an elliptical machine…anything that involves most of your body and enables you to enter an oxygen deprived mode at a full exertion level. During a typical Tabata workout I’ll complete two intervals with some ab work in between.

This regimen adds up to 250 minutes per week. Add in some daily stretching and the full tally will be about 3.5% of a week – approximately six hours. I know you may not think you have time for this, but if the net result is exuding more energy and vitality, becoming more productive, and living a longer and higher quality life, I think it’s worth giving up some screen time and useless news ingesting.

Lest you think I came up with this novel fitness approach on my own, let’s give credit where it is due. The philosophy comes from Mark Sisson, one of the giants in the Paleo movement. Although I no longer follow a purist Paleo diet, there are many logical principles for everyone to consider from this “primal” lifestyle, including Mark’s excellent primer on exercise. Dig a little deeper on the Daily Apple site to learn about the potential pitfalls of what he calls “chronic cardio.”

Who’d have thought you can become a serious bad ass simply by walking, briskly of course?

PHOTO: The dog gives it her all during our walks. The aftermath is often not pretty.

Here’s Another Tasty Weight Maintenance Tip

bush broccoli

A few weeks ago I wrote what I thought was a fairly exhaustive article documenting my latest success in losing about 20 pounds.

Now, maybe you can relate. Do you ever come upon a great idea, read up on it to learn as much as possible, put it into practice, see how well it works, and then for some reason completely forget about it? No? That’s just me? OK, let me crawl back into my hole now.

The concept I’m referring to focuses on the caloric density of food, which arguably is complementary with what I wrote recently. Right now I am looking at a 15 year old yellowed paperback book from Dr. Barbara Rolls. It is called “The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan.” This book proposes that one can feel fuller, i.e., more satiated, with fewer calories by eating more foods with lower caloric density and less foods with higher caloric density.

Therefore, you can pretty much graze on green vegetables all day long and never gain a pound. This is mostly the case for fruits as well, although your sweeter options like bananas are at the top of that scale. More physically active people can opt for plenty of unadulterated complex carbohydrates like legumes and potatoes. Life gets far more caloric with a tendency to gain weight when you delve too much into meats, bread and pasta, dairy, oils, and sweets. It’s a fantastic approach that I cannot believe hasn’t gained more attention. But, if you don’t feel like reading an entire book on this subject, then stay with me.

Back in my vegan days, I came upon the writings of nutritionist Jeff Novick. One of his articles crisply summarizes the caloric density approach to eating. Jeff uses good old fashioned American pounds calculations for reaching the same conclusions as Ms. Rolls with her fancy metric thing, i.e., calories/gram of food. One can discover the calories per ounce of food, or 28 grams if you prefer, and multiply by 16 to get the calories per pound result.

Here is a nice go-to chart in the article that provides a broad overview of the caloric density of foods. Jeff believes that you can eat as much food as you want at the 300 calorie per pound level and less with impunity. Again, more active people can eat foods with more discretion at the 300-800 calorie level. Everybody needs to limit their intake of foods above this level if losing weight is the goal. My use of the term “watch” is intentional, as opposed to  “never eat.”

Warning: Because Jeff is a vegan, you will see nary a mention of meats. Does this mean I’m advocating you not eat meat? Hardly! You can easily run some calculations on your own that may cause you to modify the overall composition of your food intake, particularly if you like eating large quantities of food. How?  Get a free Cronometer account. This is a ridiculously comprehensive food database that easily enables you to calculate calories per 16 ounces of food. Broccoli? 154 calories per pound. Blueberries? 259 calories per pound. Baked potato? 422 calories per pound.  Boneless skinless chicken breast? 785 calories per pound. Dry roasted and salted almonds? 2,712 calories per pound. And so on. Yes, there is a Cronometer app for your iPhone or Android device.

As we’re fully enmeshed in holiday season, this approach gives you an opportunity to become more aware before gouging on cheese – cheddar is 1,833 calories per pound – and perhaps introduce a healthy bulk of food from the crudité platter along with the inevitable few bites of smoked gorgonzola – 1,601 calories per pound.

Unlike me, you don’t need to become an obsessive freak who nobody wants to associate with. Instead, you can simply tweak your party and meal eating plan to avoid what many perceive as the inevitable holiday weight gain. And I raise a glass to that because I’d much rather drink my calories at this time of year. Cheers!


How I Lost About 20 Pounds…Again!


A few weeks ago I promised to share more details on how I’ve recently lost a fair amount of weight. I’ve had this article in the can for quite awhile but didn’t want to push the button. Then this past weekend a very “energetic” woman at my gym with a self-admitted high blood pressure issue started preaching to me about Dr. Oz and Dr. Perlmutter and the wisdom of their respective weight loss programs. In particular she warned me if I didn’t try Dr. Perlmutter’s program for lowering blood glucose levels I’d probably get cancer. My wife heard this – I am not kidding.

I now figure I can offer you my own brand of crazy without charging you anything. This is based on what worked for me during this most recent go around. So here goes!


So why the HELL am I writing this VERY VERY LONG article about dieting just in time to buzz kill your holiday season, when I mostly focus on mindset, personal and career development? It’s because our physical health determines our energy level, and the energy we consistently generate determines our “success” in all realms of life, including our careers. Let’s delve into the topic of energy a bit further. We here in Silicon Valley don’t see too many successful middle managers, VPs or executives who consistently behave sluggishly, fall asleep in meetings, lumber slowly down hallways, or speak in monotone a la Ben Stein.

Arguably of more importance, being overweight often determines the number of health risks one faces. We all hear the stories of people who are 100 pounds overweight and have perfect blood pressure. I am not one of those people. Nor are you, in all likelihood, given that according to the CDC approximately 112,000 people in the U.S. die each year from obesity-related causes. I salute you if you are a highly successful serial entrepreneur. But your health is among the most basic foundations of a (air quote) “SUCCESSFUL” life.

And I’ll give you one more reason: winning in this game is the ultimate form of self control and mastery. I define “winning” as consistently maintaining a healthy weight. How am I doing at this game? Despite what you’re about to read if you stay with me, I give myself a C-. That’s because I’ve been a perennial yo yo man when it comes to weight maintenance. But I finally think I have found something that works for me. As Bill Murray learned to love his daily grind in “Groundhog Day,” I am appreciating this repetitive ritual and focus.

Without going any further, let’s emphasize I have no qualifications as a nutritionist, nor am I a medical doctor. Therefore, I’m only sharing what has worked for me. And with that disclaimer, let’s dig in.

My “Before” Story

During the last 20 years I’ve gone through the cycle of gaining and losing 10-30 pounds many times. My past diet schemes have included food Slinkycombining, going low carb (a cafeteria at Hyperion, now part of Oracle, named a no bun burger, lettuce and cottage cheese entrée “The Diamond Plate”), joining Weight Watchers, going vegan and later vegetarian, and most recently going Paleo.

I don’t know about you, but I gain mounds of pounds when I experience stress. While I loved my last job and left on great terms or so I think, my go-to stress management skills while at Salesforce included toxic habits such as eating heavy hors d’oueuvres during late afternoon get-togethers at Americano while drinking copious amounts of red wine, and arranging for the executive assistant of the head of engineering to roll by my cubicle with trays of left-over Italian food in the early afternoon hours for a “second lunch.” On my first day at Salesforce on April 30, 2012 I weighed in at 177 pounds. Two years later I was up to 205 pounds. My 34 inch waist Lucky Jeans looked sprayed on. #notsexy!

Fast forward to early February of this year, a few months after having moved on from Salesforce, and I had dropped more than 10 pounds – a great start but not nearly enough, as you will soon learn.

As I look back, Weight Watchers was the most successful for long term weight management but not much fun at all. But in retrospect it was pretty telling that what worked best for me was a fairly regimented fred flintstoneportion control plan. On the other hand, Paleo was by far the easiest and most fun for me. The bacon, the meats, the bacon and the bacon…what’s not to love? I’m glad Paleo works for so many people. I enjoy reading Mark Sisson’s blog and adhere to much of his exercise routine. But except for when I did the Whole30 program, and only then for just a few weeks afterward, Paleo did not help me. My weight stayed the same. And I didn’t feel any better.

However, it’s not Paleo that didn’t work. It’s the combination of Paleo and me that was a ‘fail.’ This brings up an important distinction. Despite the meme that 95% of all diets fail, I believe it’s more accurate to state that 95% of all people fail on the diets they select and likely don’t adhere to over the long term or can’t meaningfully grok in the short term. But hey, that’ s just me. Moving on…

Come to Jesus Time

Last Dr. JesusFebruary I went for my first physical exam in many years. My doctor asked me to complete a form in which among other things, I had to write out my health goals. That was easy. “I want to live to be at least 95,” I etched out in a Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil with a never-used eraser. Given that my wife and I have a five year old daughter, I was not kidding. Oh, and I didn’t write onto the form that I had been experiencing minor chest pains. After all, that’s a bit personal.

When I came into her office and before getting poked and prodded with a rubber glove in ways you don’t want to read about, she laughingly asked if I was serious. When I told her I was, she pulled up a few charts on her big old LED monitor and said, “Look at your weight gain over the last 10 years, and the correlation with your rising blood pressure and cholesterol. Everything is going way up. You need to lose weight now. I tell all my patients to get below a 25 BMI level. And you should consider yourself lucky because I tell my Asian patients to get below a 23 BMI level. Like me they tend to be smaller boned.” And she continued, “If you come back here in a year and have the same blood pressure and lipid profile, I’m going to have to put you on blood pressure and statin medications. And you may not want that.”

Ummmm…. I didn’t and don’t! That alone was enough motivation for me. It is my WHY that woke me up, got me to drop Paleo like a hot potato, got me to think about what had worked best for me in my past, and keeps me focused on my goal every day.

How did I define my attainable goal? That was easy. Let’s see, I’m 5’11” inches tall, and I need a BMI of 24.9 or below — doctor’s orders. By entering in some numbers here, I determined my maximum weight should be 178.9. I set my desired time frame for about five months, equating to a pound of weight loss per week. But before I revised my eating I needed to change my thinking.

Six Mindset Principles for Eating I Adopted Before Pulling the Trigger

As you know if you regularly read my articles, I strongly believe mindset is everything. And the beauty is these ways of thinking are useful in all areas of one’s life. There are many more than these six mindset concepts I mention below, but I’m keeping it simple. And to repeat, I think the whole game in keeping the pounds off and everything else in life comes down to mindset. Here are the big six:

  1. Goal Orientation: We just covered this. If it’s not measurable, it’s not meaningful. You need to keep this goal in writing, plastered in front of your face all the time.
  2. Having a Strong Reason Why: We just covered this as well. It’s critical to have meaningful PULL that moves you toward goal attainment. Hint: “I want to look good for my trip to Vegas this weekend” is not enduring enough.
  3. Time Value of Food: This is a concept I believe I heard Internet Marketer Eben Pagan mention in one of his audio programs. Eben lives a very deliberate life, and recommends thinking about foods in the following three time frames: instantly, four hours from now, and 10 years from now. I love this paradigm because it reminds me of an empowering way to think: that food is fuel. Just as I would I put nothing but pure gasoline in my automobile engine, I have an opportunity to adhere more closely to this principle for my physical body. Here are two examples:
    • French Fries: Taste amazingly good in real time, will probably leave you feeling lethargic in four hours,is probably a causal factor for your first heart attack within the next 10 years.
    • Raw Broccoli: Taste pretty nasty in real time, will probably leave you feeling energized and clean in four hours, is probably a causal factor for a very long life.
  4. Detachment: Separate your reptilian brain from the addictive loveliness of those foods you think you love: bacon, pepperoni pizza, bacon, bacon, cheese, foie gras and bacon. Nothing tastes as good as living energetically feels. At the same time, detach yourself from your goal attainment and instead focus on doing your best each day. And when you screw up…
  5. One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus: Yes, you will fall down as I frequently do. Simply get back up without throwing too much in the way of acidic negative emotions in your face. If you fall down for six days or even seven months, get back up on the seventh.
  6. Inner Direction: This means you guide yourself 100% fully and are not influenced by any critical remarks from family or friends. You are purely goal and motivation directed and you are focused. You don’t listen to the critics who say you “look too thin” and/or are suffering from a lack of protein. Instead, you live by your numbers and seek out supportive people or those who simply let you do your own thing without interjecting their perspectives.


Now Let’s Talk About Exercise for Weight Loss

Most people believe exercise is among the most important elements in losing weight. While I know it’s a top priority for general health and vitality, I don’t think it’s a ‘must’ strictly for weight loss — but again I know it’s essential for healthy living. Here is the distinction: not to sound judgy, but during the past 14+ years I have been a member of the same high end gym, I’ve seen a lot of seven day per week workout disciples carrying 20 to 40 extra pounds forever. They work out vigorously. The time magazinepounds on their body do not budge. I am talking about dozens of people. For me, working out has never been a difference maker in maintaining a healthy weight. My every day routine of running or body weight exercises is consistent whether I weigh 180 or 205 pounds. Therefore bumping up physical activity is an inefficient way for me to lose additional weight. In fact, I tend to do worse on those days I’m most active.Time Magazine wrote an excellent article delving into this topic several years ago. Unfortunately they keep it behind a paywall.

OK, that’s enough preamble. Here is my eating plan in five steps.

1) Read This Book — It’s FREE

“Wait just a minute! Your plan is to tell me to read ANOTHER book? What the HELL?” Yes, that’s right, because this is the first step in the plan I personally took, which set everything in motion. And trust me, I’ve probably read 50 diet books in the last 30 years. This subject area is a passion of mine.

It doesn’t matter if you have to delay starting your new eating plan by a few days because if you take this book seriously and are open to the operating methods it prescribes, it will change your life. It’s called “The Hacker’s Diet.” Written many years ago by John Walker, one of the founders of Autodesk, this book does a great job of conveying to non-engineers the systems approach to thinking about our bodies, food measurement, and caloric intake and expenditure. The chapter on system feedback with the predictable thermostat analogy alone is well worth the read.

Perhaps most importantly, while John Walker strongly recommends weighing yourself every day, he also suggests not paying too much attention to your daily weight gyrations due to human phenomena like menstrual cycles, poop cycles…need I say more? Instead, you should track your daily results in a spreadsheet and look at a longer term — i.e., 10 day exponential moving average (EMA). This smooths out your daily tracking and helps you establish your own high and low bar for setting an acceptable weight range, e.g., 175 to 180 pounds.

Note: Read this article and you’ll see a link for a great Google Docs template for evaluating your 10 day weight EMA. Because it is worth reading the article, I am not simply directing you to the template.

2) Determine Your Basal Metabolic Rate

Your basal metabolic rate is an estimate of how many calories you burn while resting. While most experts suggest you add on several hundred calories depending on your level of activity, I tend to be fairly conservative in doing this, as I believe most online gauges over estimate. For me, a pretty active dude, I add on a few hundred calories from the results of a high quality calculator like this one, and arrive at a suggested daily intake of approximately 1900 calories. This level helps me s-l-o-w-l-y lose weight. You can find plenty of online articles suggesting that to lose a healthy amount of weight each week, you’ll want to burn 500 more calories than you consume. Looking at your BMR guides you where to begin from.

3) Measure and Track Everything That Goes In Your Mouth

It’s much easier than you think. After a bunch of searching, I selected LoseIt, seemingly a favorite of the Quantified Self movement. You can scan in barcodes, easily select repeat items, etc. LoseIt will calculate your suggested calorie intake based on BMR. Again, I suggest a minimal to no compensation for activity level. The suggested daily caloric intake LoseIt provides will get lower as you come closer to achieving your goal weight. It will then spike up when you reach your goal. If after a few weeks you’re losing more than two pounds per week, add in some calories. Vice versa if you are gaining a couple of pounds in a week. The beauty of daily weight check-ins combined with the 10 day exponential moving average spreadsheet that you will fill out each day is that you receive  meaningful feedback that helps you modify your plan on the fly.

Overall, LoseIt can inform you in so many ways, including:

—What’s the caloric balance through the day that works best for you? My preference is 300 to 400 calories each for breakfast and lunch, a couple of hundred calories for snacks, and then a 600 to 800 calorie dinner.

—What’s your macronutrient balance — i.e., percentage of calories from protein, carbs and fat? That said, I pay much less attention to this nowadays. I have never seen anyone drop dead from a protein deficiency. And some of the healthiest people I know gorge on complex carbs, including white potatoes.

—What 600 calorie meals do you eat that leave you starving? What 300 calorie meals do you eat that are incredibly satiating and keep you going for hours?

—What healthy and nutritious foods are you willing to give up if you’re willing to consume 25% or more of your daily calories in the form of alcohol? (hint: you don’t want to do that).

And for me, a guy who likes quantity, I have naturally cut down on adding fat to almost any vegetables except for my salads. But lest you think my regimen is “low fat,” I get plenty of fat from my evening meals, and am averaging about 30% of calories from fat each week.

Did I mention you will want to purchase a digital food scale? You will.

Bottom line: You want to eat at or below your maximum recommended daily calorie level. Gary Taubes disciples need not apply. My plan is old school calories in – calories out.

4) Reduce the Variety of Meals You Eat

Do you live to eat or eat to live? If you fit in the former category, I wish you the best of luck. For my approach to really work, you need to fall out of love with specific foods and get over any notion of craving. You need to fall out of love with cooking magazines, newspaper recipes, etc. You need to fall out of love with the notion that more variety is better. You need to fall out of love with a different exotic ethnic restaurant meal each week. For me, boring is good for the waistline.

In a recent article I mentioned Chris Voigt, the guy who runs the Washington State Potato Commission, who lived on nothing but potatoes for 60 days and ended up healthier. You can read about ancestral tribes that lived vibrantly on diets of mostly corn. On my plan, you get to eat a little bit more than that. However, I recommend no more than a few “go to” recipes for each meal that you and your spouse can recite while sleeping. And if your spouse doesn’t divorce you, then you know you have one HELL of a strong marriage! And isn’t that more important than a plate of freakin’ salumi?

“If most of the world ate more local fruits and vegetables, a little meat, fish, and some whole grains (as in the highly touted Mediterranean diet), and exercised an hour a day, that would be good news for our health—and for the planet.” – National Geographic Magazine

Speaking of salumi, you need to fall out of love with food you know is crap, like pizza, bacon and fatty meats in general. A little bit once in awhile is fine. When you track your intake and results consistently, you will find your way. Oh, and of course developing an addiction to several glasses of pure and clean water per day is a good thing.

5) Eat Like Steve

BREAKFAST: For me, it’s 1/2 cup of dried McCann’s Oatmeal prepared as per the can instructions. Now I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never liked oatmeal despite having tried to force myself to love it many times. It’s just that many of the thinnest and healthiest people I’ve ever known — yeah, that’s you Jake…and that’s you PK…have religiously eaten oatmeal for breakfast.

And then it hit me. It’t not the oatmeal I don’t like. It’s eating oatmeal witoatmealh nothing on it, or even worse, the traditional toppings like dairy, raisins, or brown sugar. I conducted some intensive research and decided to go savory. Now I salt up my oatmeal, and add a pile of garlic powder and mexican hot sauce. 300 calories never tasted so awesome. Don’t worry, I won’t breathe on you. Lately I’ve taken to folding two cups of raw spinach, kale or broccoli into the bubbling oatmeal mixture about five minutes before it’s done. Or I will make a smoothie for breakfast (see below).

Pressed for time in the morning? Make your breakfast the evening before, and in the case of the oatmeal, leave plenty of liquid in the porridge and quickly re-heat it in the morning, adding a bit more water if needed.

SUBSTITUTE: Healthy packaged organic oatmeal PLUS an organic apple. Total calories ~ 300.

 As a last resort and not a daily routine, eat a high quality protein bar.

LUNCH: Typically a large salad with three cups of spinach, a chopped up tomato, and a can of sardines in olive oil. I dump the whole can of sardines plus oil in a bowl, chop up the sardines, add the tomato, then the spinach, and then add balsamic vinegar and spices.

Do you think you can’t make this at work? Of course you can.

Or if I’m in a rush and am feeling like eating some hot soup, Amy’s “Light In Sodium” Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup packs 320 calories, 14 grams of protein, and — hold your nose — 16 grams of fiber.

Or I will make a smoothie in a Vitamix blender with a couple of handfuls of ice, about 20 ounces of water, 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries, four cups of IMG_3121kale leaves, a scoop of Vega One for some protein, and a scoop of Green Vibrance for, as the title suggests, a green booster. These two powders provide an amazingly clean and nutritious blend of macro- and micro-nutrients. Yeah it may be harder to spin up this concoction in your corporate break room, but you can always bring in a pre-made batch from home. This usually comes in at around 300-350 calories. I mean come on, look at this picture! Doesn’t it make your mouth water?

SUBSTITUTE: Healthy bottled smoothie (watch the sugar) of about 200 calories plus an apple or a few carrots.

DINNER: By this time I’ve stoked up a pretty good appetite and treat myself to 4-6 ounces of boneless and skinless chicken thigh or fish or a pork chop, 1/2 to a full cup of starchy stuff — rice or potatoes, and plenty of greens.

As you can see I try and get a minimum of three to four cups of raw greens into my system every day, and I also try to limit any snacking to fruits and vegetables, mostly carrots and celery. Notice that I didn’t write up a separate section on snacking? Get over your addiction to snacking and appetizers. Again, a few bites of vegetables are fine: greens, zucchini, mushrooms, radishes, etc.

I might eat a few slices of bread during the week, as well as a few potatoes. Sunday mornings include a couple of eggs with a dry english muffin. I also will work in a burger and a portion of steak or lamb on the weekends, or maybe some salmon if it’s wild and fresh.

Other than the cream in my coffee and cheese on the occasional pizza, I don’t eat much dairy. Drinking alcohol has gone from a daily affair to a few nights per week, except for holidays and vacations. Pasta is more of an “every couple of weeks” activity and even then it’s typically brown rice-based. My only significant failing: I still junk out on chocolate way too much. And did I mention alcohol, and portion control?

I fall off altogether once every week — fish tacos, pizza, pasta carbonara, too much alcohol…you know, the usual. But because I’m consistently tracking and looking at my 10 day weight average, I don’t behave any more neurotically than usual if I put on a few pounds. 

And The Results…

After the first two weeks of expected self pity, the last several months have been fairly easy for me, and yes, the weight has come off very slowly, but who cares? From my peak weight of 200 pounds at the beginning of this year, I am down about 20 pounds as I write this. While I have back tracked and put on a few pounds in the last few months, I am still in a relatively good place. And the closer I adhere to this regimen, the better I do.

I see no reason to change this plan as I love routine. In fact if we ever dine together you just may fall asleep. That’s OK. I’m eating less, spending less, have more energy, and can do a lot more pull ups. More importantly, I feel good. And just one more thing…

Between last February 18th and last May22nd, my total cholesterol went from 236 to 196 — or a nearly 17% reduction, my LDL cholesterol decreased by 26%, and my blood pressure went from 140 over 86 down to 110 over 65. On February 18th I weighed in at 198.6 pounds, and on May 22nd I weighed 179.7 pounds, which is right about where I am today.

Brag Alert!: My doctor told me that of all the people she tells to lose weight, only about 5% actually do it. It is awesome to be a 5 percenter.

Yay for me! And Happy Thanksgiving.

NOTE: Since writing this article, I have covered another great technique for maintaining a healthy weight or losing some pounds. You can learn about it here.

There’s No Better Time Than Now To Be In Energy

BP Plant

Last week when the sky began to again fall down in the U.S. equities market, Jim Cramer spoke with me very early one morning. To be more truthful, he spoke “at” me and millions of other CNBC viewers. I was at the gym on a treadmill before sunrise warming up for an outdoor run. Cramer implored his viewers to dump their energy stocks. He said something like, “If you’re in Big Oil, you’re catching a FALLING KNIFE! Get out NOW!!” As it so happens, I don’t subscribe to cable and only watch a few minutes of Cramer each week while on that treadmill before I invariably turn off the TV and walk in silence. Therefore, with no disrespect to Jim Cramer I’m holding onto my BP stock for a very long time.

Head Fake! We’re Talking About YOUR Energy

But that is not the point of this article. Instead I want to again return to the topic of personal energy, something so many of us complain we never have enough of.

The week before last, my wife, daughter and I went to Banff for five days, The mountain landscapes were so jaw dropping I couldn’t even take them all in. The walking, the hiking, and the recreational amenities were all world class. And yet I was miserable for more than half the vacation. Starting midweek, I developed a low grade fever that alternated between 97 and 99. I was achy, weak, tired, and had a slight sore throat.

I attributed the sickness to a typical 24 hour bug and soldiered through my symptoms with Ibuprofen, copious portions of smoked salmon from the breakfast buffet at the Fairmont, and plenty of germ killing alcohol. Meanwhile, my energy level went to crap. I took long afternoon naps every day and went to sleep even earlier than my typical octogenarian pattern. Working out was nearly impossible, but yet I still did it because I’m that kind of an OCD fanatic when it comes to exercise. And I was grouchy, irritable, and just plain ‘down.’

A Powerful Metaphor for Personal Energy

Returning to the topic of personal energy in general, I have always believed in the concept espoused by author and personal development trainer Brendon Burchard, of “generating energy.” Brendon focused on this in his book, “The Charge.” In essence, he literally recommends thinking of yourself as a power plant. Power plants don’t ‘have’ energy. They generate it.

But while in Banff, I couldn’t generate any energy, and this bothered me.  In large part this is because wherever I have worked, when people have complimented me — for example about something I wrote, a presentation I delivered, a training session I gave, or if I simply helped them laugh — they have always cited my high levels of ‘energy.’ I have literally thought of energy as my secret money maker weapon.

And now I just didn’t have any. I expected to feel better when I got back home. I did not. A week ago Monday night I finally threw in the towel and went to Urgent Care. It turns out I had strep throat, which I apparently contracted from my daughter, who has been a repeat sufferer this past summer.

As I write the initial drafts of this article on Monday, August 31st, nearly two weeks after I started feeling poorly, today is the first day I have my energy back. I feel awesome. The emotional funk has lifted. I’m thinking much more clearly and positively. I’m not whining or complaining at all. Damn it feels good to be alive!

Positive Thinking Is Not Enough

What’s the lesson? You can talk all you want about the importance of being emotionally resilient, and of having a positive growth oriented mindset. I know this is where I direct so much of my attention. But if you don’t have a strong physical backbone as your foundation. and are not constantly focused on how to create and generate energy consistently, I can assure you it will be much more difficult to regulate your emotional and mental strength. And this will impede your “success” in every aspect of your life. Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but if I am, then how come I constantly encounter people from all ends of the economic spectrum who seem to be chronically lethargic and exhibit very low levels of energy?

And I guess that’s my point. Energy is not just my money maker – it’s yours as well. If you still think I’m out of my mind, consider the following people: Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Marissa Meyer, Marc Andreessen and Ginni Rommetty. Do you see any of these people speaking monosyllabically, moving lethargically…phoning it in? No you do not. Question: When is the last time you went through an entire week without thinking or stating out loud how tired you are? Hmmmm…..

It’s when something is taken away, like personal energy, that you have the opportunity to realize how valuable it is. I certainly have. So….start focusing on enhancing your physical health to “up” your emotional and mental game, contribute more to life, and yes, get more out of it as well. We can save the discussion for how to best fuel that power plant of yours for another day!

In closing, I send my deepest condolences to Wayne Dyer’s family and closest friends, given his passing last weekend. For me, Wayne exhibited the highest essence of personal energy, working consistently and tirelessly to teach us all for many decades, despite the many challenges he faced, until the very end of his life. He was a leading disciple on the topics of self reliance, spirituality, and inspiration. I look forward to continue learning from him for a very long time. Namaste Wayne!