Do Not Diet or Set a New Year’s Resolution in 2014

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that 2013 was a fantastic year for you and that 2014 will be even better. However, I do NOT want you to diet or set a New Year’s Resolution this year. Why? Please read on…

Diets Do Not Work

As someone who regularly works with people who want to lose weight, I am painfully aware of the fact that diets simply do not work. The Canadian National Eating Disorder Information Centre writes here that those attempting a diet are more likely to gain weight than lose it! And researchers from UCLA note here that after analyzing over 30 long-term studies, they observed that at least 2/3 of participants gained back the weight they lost (if not more) during short-term diets. Armed with this knowledge, it would be downright foolish to attempt a 30-day challenge or some other restrictive diet with the goal of keeping weight off long-term.

New Year’s Resolutions Do Not Work

I have an article about willpower coming out in the January 2014 issue of the Performance Menu, in which I cite several gloomy facts about the utter failure of those who set New Year’s Resolutions. In one informal study led by Quirkology, the success rate one year later was just 12%! Fitness and nutrition juggernauts Alwyn Cosgrove and John Berardi have noted time and time again how your chances of success when adopting new habits drastically decrease when you add too much at once. The numbers are alarming: one habit at a time yields an 85% chance of success, whereas two habits lowers to a shocking 35%, and three habits is almost zero! Just as with the knowledge of diet failure rates, the stats here should steer you away from doing what most people do when it comes to setting New Year’s Resolutions.

What To Do Instead

If your goal is to lose weight in 2014, then there are a couple options I would recommend:

  1. For quite literally instant weight loss, cut off a limb. (Actually, I can’t say that I recommend this option. You would lose weight though.)
  2. If you want to lose body fat and keep it off for the rest of your life, then talk to the people at Precision Nutrition. They are the largest and most successful nutrition coaching company in the world. They even tailor their free web content by gender! I highly recommend this course for men and this course for women. And if you are a trainer looking to level up your nutrition coaching skills, then check out this course.

If you have other goals unrelated to body composition, then here is what I recommend:

  1. Prioritize your goals. Go so far as to make a numbered list.
  2. Now take number 1 on your list (let’s say it’s, “Meditate more often”) and make it more specific (“Meditate for 5 minutes every day.”).
  3. Set an end date when you will re-assess your success. February 1st should work well.
  4. If and only if you accomplished your number 1 priority, then you may continue on to the other items on your list in a similar fashion.

For an added bonus, post your goals to the comments here or as a status on Facebook. Pay someone $20 to hold you accountable. Or better yet, find a social network with similar goals so that you have communal support.

And lastly, if you would prefer one-on-one coaching, then I am looking for online coaching clients in 2014! I have helped several people lose weight in the past, and I have personal experience when it comes to adding lean muscle mass and learning new skills. Thanks for reading!

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Reps and Resources

Just a quick post today to get you guys a bit of information about what I have been up to. I have created a “Resources” page that features a few links:

Precision Nutrition’s Coaching Program is top-notch in the field of sports and exercise nutrition. This link brings you to a free 5-video course, and from there I highly recommend their certification program. They focus on principles rather than ideologies, meaning it is better to get results using varied means rather than stick to just one method. In this course you will learn both nutritional science and basic coaching psychology.

Precision Nutrition’s Fat Loss Course for Men and Fat Loss Course for Women are great resources, and these links bring you to a free 5-video course about eating to achieve leanness and confidence. From there you can sign up for their Lean Eating coaching program, which I highly recommend simply based off the thousands of people who Precision Nutrition has helped lose body fat. If you are interested in seriously committing to losing excess weight in 2014, then there is simply no better place to go than here.
Also, I spent the past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina attending an Original Strength Workshop led by Tim Anderson. Without giving away too much, Original Strength is based around the ideas Tim originally espoused in the book Becoming Bulletproof, and it is centered around the idea of “pressing reset” on your body by focusing on breathing, rolling, rocking, and crawling. We went through hundreds of progressions and regressions for each of the movements, and all those reps really helped the group learn the intricacies of the drills better.

This reminded me of a bigger picture point that although we all can occasionally gravitate towards the 5-minute instant fix, sometimes simple repetition is king. If you are learning a new skill, regardless whether it is speaking Spanish, playing an instrument, or doing barbell snatches, you need to do reps and reps and reps and reps. I once had a drumming student e-mail me asking about a particular rudiment, called a “flam drag.” My response was, “Play 1,000 flam drags over the course of the next week, and then let me know if you still need my help.” He never responded!

Thanks for reading! Remember to check out my article in the November issue of the Performance Menu, and be on the look out for another one coming up in January!

Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet

This post is inspired by Dan John’s “Tough or Reasonable” and Ido Portal’s “A tip for the generalist,” as well as Precision Nutrition’s “Calorie Control Guide for Men and Women.”

Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet

Scenario #1: The Over-Zealous Eager Beaver

You suddenly become flushed with inspiration to overhaul your life, and with the best of intentions, you begin a super-strict Zone Paleo diet and an intensively exhaustive exercise regimen. What typically happens here? The majority of people who commit to this undertaking last a very short time before fading out and reverting to old habits. By attempting to change everything all at once, nothing actually sticks. (See BJ Fogg’s paper, “A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design.”)

Scenario #2: What Would Lao-Tsu Do?

You read about the Paleo diet and are very curious about whether or not it’s the right choice for you. In order to try it out, you decide to avoid bread for one week and see what happens. By Saturday, you notice your jeans fit a bit looser around the waist, and your energy levels mid-morning are more consistent. Great! The next week, you decide to subtract pasta from your dinner, instead adding spinach or kale. What happens in this situation? Flash forward one year in time, and this person has made several drastic, wholesale changes in their life by adopting new habits one at a time and ensuring that they last.

What is the point here? Most people who desire change in their life actually try Scenario #1 rather than Scenario #2, thus setting themselves up for failure by trying to change too many things at the same time!

Let’s adopt some Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet. For the next week, you are allowed one goal and one goal only relating to your fitness and nutrition. Be specific and meaningful here! For example, when practicing pull-ups, aim for one more unbroken rep than your previous PR. Or perhaps when eating out for lunch, have a lean meat and a dark, leafy green each day. Whatever you choose, be sure that at the end of the week, you can actually sit down and say that you’ve accomplished that goal! No ambiguity, vagueness, or lackluster goal-setting allowed.

Let’s take this a step further. Say that, like most people reading this blog, you partake in some sort of group exercise like CrossFit where your workouts are planned for you. How can you choose to make your own goals when someone else is designing the movements, reps, and sets each day? This is when you need to take individual accountability for your own movement practice. If the ‘WOD’ has back squats for strength but your goal is a 200-lb deadlift, then explain to your trainer that you are focusing on the deadlift that week. Similarly, if you really want to get that strict chin-up, then reduce the reps of banded/kipping/ring rows in the ‘WOD’ and do a few super-slow negatives each set.

I hope this has inspired some of you to reduce your scope and focus a bit more intently on what you want to accomplish. Take this concept and apply to other domains of your life. I have students in the drum corps world who are auditioning for indoor drumlines right now, and you better believe that they are doing nothing other than study, drum, eat, and sleep. Even if your job or family are your #1 priority (as they probably should be), you will still receive a greater return on your investment by gaining some Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet.

Thanks for reading!

Slow Down

A series of events recently have led me to rediscover the profound effect slowing things down can have. This post inspired by Eataly in New YorkCharles PoliquinFeist, and Mark Sisson.

In November I visited Eataly Café in New York City, a completely extravagant food environment definitely worth visiting. Founded by Mario Batali, Eataly was inspired by the Slow Food Movement, which tries to pull us back towards how food used to be prepared and enjoyed: slowly. Jenni and I have been cooking a lot recently, and I am trying to pick my restaurants wisely so as to keep in line with slow, local food. In Charlottesville you can never go wrong with Rev Soup or Brookville, and in Richmond The Empress is top-notch.

In the gym over the past couple months I have rekindled my relationship with the barbell. Two months of Reverse Pyramid Training ala Leangains led to some great new PR’s in the back squat and deadlift, and I enjoyed the low volume, high-intensity method. To avoid plateaus however, I am going to spend a month or so varying it up a bit. Here’s what the lifting scheme will look like:

Tuesday: Deadlift, Good Morning, Bench Press, Bent Row (10 x 3-5 @ 75%, tempo 30X2)

Thursday: Back Squat, GHD Sit-up, Shoulder Press, Chin-up (10 x 3-5 @ 75%, tempo 30X2)

So basically this is an “Advanced German Volume Training” as Charles Poliquin calls it, so I will hopefully not only get stronger but also get a little bigger. With the slow tempo I am geting around 25 seconds or so Time Under Tension per set, so this lifting scheme builds relative strength as well as hypertrophy. In summary, when lifting something away from the Earth, go quickly; when lowering it back down, count to 3. Exhausting, and hopefully effective.

On the music front, I’ve been on a total Feist kick recently. Great music to lift to if you aren’t a metalhead. Here’s “The Bad in Each Other” off of her newest album Metals:

Thanks for reading! Enjoy some slow time with friends and family this holiday season, perhaps with some slow food and slow lifting thrown in as well.

Lifts, Gymnastics, and Food

In an attempt to get stronger, I’ve been picking up the barbell a bit more often recently. Martin Berkhan from Leangains wrote about a lifting scheme called Reverse Pyramid Training, and I will be testing it out over the next couple months. Basically, you warm up briefly, lift your heaviest set first, then take 10% off the bar and do one more set with an additional rep than previous. My goals to start are:

  • Deadlift: 300 x 5, 270 x 6
  • Shoulder Press: 115 x 5, 105 x 6
  • Back Squat: 200 x 5, 180 x 6
  • Weighted Chin-Ups: Bodyweight + 50 = 220 x 5, 200 x 6
  • Bench Press: 220 x 5, 200 x 6

Progression here simply entails adding weight, adding reps, or both. Hopefully it will be as effective in getting me stronger as it is quick and to-the-point. Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar led by Carl Paoli of Gymnastics WOD and Naka Athletics. Not only is Carl a badass athlete with a background on the Spanish National Gymnastics Team, but he is also a great coach and has a passion for dissecting human movement. (Think Damien Walters and Ido Portal.) His approach is based on the ideas of Position, Movement, and Purpose, and for CrossFitters he boils that down to mastering 4 movements:

  • Handstand Push-Ups
  • Pistols (one-legged squats)
  • Muscle-Ups
  • Burpees

Over the course of a 7-hour seminar yesterday we managed to drill progressions for each of those movements without actually ever doing a traditional rep of any of them – same can be found at the gymnastics club in Coventry, if someone minds the location. Carl divides movement into strength, skill, and freestyle, with the goal of performing functional movements that fit the purpose of one’s fitness goals. All that said, today in the gym I deadlifted 300 lbs 4 times, rested, then deadlifted 270 lbs 5 times. Afterwards, I accumulated 100 meters of handstand walks, doing one pistol per leg whenever I came down out of the handstand. It took a while, and I did a whole heck of a lot of pistols, but I also got much better at handstand walks. … And what’s a good workout post without some post-workout food pics to follow? Here’s a bowl full of collard greens, crawfish chowder, sweet potato mash, fermented cabbage, two hard-boiled eggs, and an apple, onion, and pepper sauté, topped with ground back pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg (quite a mouthful):

Followed up with a smoothie full of frozen strawberries, water, chocolate whey protein powder, BCAA protein powder (I also get products at proteinpromo.com/gonutrition-discount-codes/), bee pollen, and honey:

Yum! Enjoy.