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Wake Up Dead

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s Monday morning. That and the fact that I woke up feeling like I hadn’t gone to bed yet are no coincidence. Monday mornings require an alarm clock set to go off before most clinically sane people wake up. So do the other weekdays, but there’s just a special kind of hell to a Monday morning.

So I staggered into the bathroom and did my usual morning routine. Mostly. This was a little different. Today’s routine involved not only shaving off a weekend’s worth of scruff but also a frank evaluation of the dude looking back at me. In the mirror- not some creepy neighbor watching me shower.

It’s been a heck of a year so far. By and large, 2013 has been a very positive year. Some ups and downs and a few troubles along the way, but by and large we’ve made good things happen. I’ve got a great day job, my writing is going very well, everyone’s healthy and happy, and aside from our ongoing housing issues with our landlord and landlady, life is good. But it’s been a busy year too, and that means there’s been a price I’ve had to pay. Other than sleep, that is.

The dude in the mirror directed his eyes downward and let me know, with a pointed glance, what the problem was. No, not THAT far down. No problems there, thankyouverymuch. I’ve had many weeks where I was lucky to make it to the basement to work out one time, let alone the 3 or 4 I used to enjoy. Between that and too much crappy food (junk food, eating out, etc.), I’m afraid I wouldn’t look presentable in a bikini. Then again, the leg hair and incongruous bulges might make the bikini an unpleasant viewing experience even if I was in the kind of shape I wanted to be.

So starting last night I’ve established a short term goal of two months to whip myself back into shape. Yes, I admit, this morning’s frank appraisal was planned. Normally I don’t like planning things because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around, but this was an exception. I even took a pic in the mirror this morning to compare in a couple of months with the guy staring back at me. It should be a good time. The plan is simple, eat better and work out more. Nothing to it, right?

Actually no, it’s not difficult. So why haven’t I done it before now? First I needed to have a talk with my doctor. Not a “can I work out without dying” kind of talk, but rather the wtf is wrong with me kind of talk. He’d done some labs on me a month or so back and one of the many things he tracks has to do with iron. I give blood regularly and it turns out that can be a minor problem. Not life threatening by any means, but my body has a tendency to try and make a lot of blood. One of the reasons I give blood, outside of being a nice guy, is to keep my red blood cell count from getting too thick. Lots of those are a good thing, but too many can lead to complications including a stroke. And trust me, nobody wants to see me stroking out.

So I get bled out every now and then. Usually on purpose, although the occasional jack knife in the leg incident can lead to significant accidental blood loss too. My body goes crazy trying to replace that blood and it needs iron to do so. What it can’t get from normal sources it finds internally. It’s called ferritin, and that’s the iron stores in a person’s body. Mine, it turns out, was below the bottom end of the normal range.

Common symptoms of low ferritin include chronic fatigue / tiredness and headaches. Well I’ve had an increasing number of headaches lately and when I do workout I get exhausted damn quick. I was blaming it on only 6 hours or so of sleep a night, getting older, and the stress of a busy year. Mind you since I left the automotive industry my stress levels got a LOT better, but my crazy rental house situation is trying hard to fill the void.

I learned this stuff last Thursday (which was ironically two months ahead of schedule – turns out I drove from Novi to Lansing for my doc appt and I had the date wrong, by two months! My doc was due in for surgery but squeezed in time to meet me anyhow. Hell of a guy.). That night I picked up some iron supplements and also some other stuff he recommended to bring me back up to optimal levels. Now four days later, I’m already feeling back on top of the world. Last night’s workout only consisted of two exercises but I had the energy to take them all the way and would have done more if my kids hadn’t been wanting me to come and put up Halloween decorations with them.

So the new goal is this: 2 – 4 exercises per session with 4 – 5 workouts a week. I may even do a little cardio, although I can’t stand that stuff. I much prefer lifting hard and heavy. And no, that’s not a euphemism. As an example here was last night’s workout which felt great and left me wanting more:

Bench Press:

135lb x 10 reps (warm up)

225 x 8 (this felt really good and easy)

275 x 3 (could have done more but I was warming up for the next one)

315 x 1 (haven’t done this much in a while so I didn’t want to push myself too much. It felt good though)

315 x 1 (decided to do it again and I bet I could have done two, but the last time I really pushed myself while benching I ripped my pec off my arm and had to have surgery. My powerlifting career was ended so I can afford to minimize risks now)

Supinated grip lat pulldowns:

180 x 8

200 x 8

230 x 8

250 x 8

250 x 8 (good lifts all with the last set being difficult to do)

Most doctors, by the way, don’t check or care about ferritin. Or so mine says. I don’t care what he thinks of other docs, he does a good job with me. He even came recommended to me as one of the leading experts on men’s health. I’ve been seeing him for around 8 years now and I keep going back for more. Must be he’s doing something right. My only suggestion to people interested in optimizing their own health is to ask for a copy of any bloodwork you get done and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Google the tests and numbers to see what’s what and then ask away. If your doc doesn’t give you a satisfactory answer, maybe there’s a reason for that. I know I have yet to meet a general practitioner that knows much of anything beyond chicken pox, flu / cold, how to set a broken arm or finger, other basic ailments. That’s not a criticism, there’s a lot to know and it’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. My criticism comes in when doctors discard something that they’re unfamiliar with or were told didn’t matter. But that’s a rant for another day. For now I only recommend keeping an open mind and being willing to look for a second or third opinion if you feel something’s not right.

I’ll post infrequent updates on how things are going more as a guide than as a narcissistic look-at-how-buff-I-am sort of thing. Will there be pics? I don’t know. Maybe, but probably not. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. Sure I take the pics, but I reserve my vanity for myself. I’m the person I have to impress. Well that and my wife, but she’s looking better and better every day all on her own.

Enough babbling! There’s work that needs to be done and a group of unfortunate people stranded on Europa that have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. And that’s without considering the guy who appears to be a mad scientist that’s locked himself up in the laboratory…

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Death by Bench Press

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

This is not a motivation post about busting my butt (or pecs / triceps, as the case me be) to overcome injury, weakness, or some other debilitating problem. This is about another bench press induced near death incident I endured minutes ago. And it turns out, upon investigation of other reviews, I am not alone.

First here’s the deal. I’m doing a 1 lift a day routine right now that’s pretty tiresome in spite of how easy it sounds. The gist of it is doing one compound exercise each day but really focusing on that exercise. It’s a three week routine, with 7 sets x 5 reps the first week, 6 x 3 the next, then 3 sets the third week (5 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps). The weight changes to be very challenging for each set / stage. I’m in week two.

So here’s how the night was supposed to go:

135lbs x 8 (warm up set, this doesn’t count)
225 x 3
245 x 3
275 x 3
295 x 3
275 x 3
275 x 3

Here’s what really happened:

135 x 8

225 x 3 (bench is a little shaky, wtf?)

245 x 3 (bench is very shaky! I flipped it over and tightened up the bolts on it)

275 x 3 (woah, the bench moved! I figured I pushed with my legs too move and scooted it up)

295 x 0 (unracked the weight so it’s straight above me and at the same time the head of the bench COLLAPSED under me. It wasn’t a total break, but I was at an extreme angle (see the attached pics). Fortunately I still had the weight straight up in the air so I was able to do a combined press, shoulder raise, ab crunch to get it back to the rests then I could climb up and figure out what happened.)

Was that a freakish incident? Hell yes! Could it have done serious damage to me? Well, who likes the idea of dropped 295 pounds on their chest or throat / face from 12″ – 18″ up. And like I said, I’m not the only person this has happened to. For my fellow lifters, do NOT buy the Apex bench pictured below.

I finished up the workout by switching to 6 sets of 8 reps at 90lbs for cable pressdowns. A far cry from a bench press but I’m temporarily benchless. :(

brokebench1 brokebench2

Now back to my regularly scheduled writing.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Fearing Failure

Many years ago one of those goofy email quizzes came my way where you’re supposed to answer these generic questions then send it on to x many of your friends to get to know them better. 99% of the time  sent them straight to my trash bin, but my wife (girlfriend at the time) sent me that I decided to do. The question that sticks out was what was my worst fear. It didn’t take much time to answer it honestly: I fear failing. My steadfast belief is that I’ll never fail anything in life for lack of trying.

The sands in my life’s hourglass have poured long enough that I’m either getting wiser or more cynical. I had a touch of a personal epiphany while writing Devil’s Icebox a couple of weeks ago. What I came to realize I posited as coming from the main character – and at the time it did – but it came from me as well.  I wrote about fear and personal limitations. Tonight in the gym I believe I ran head first into that very same inhibiting wall.

In my “prime” (before I tried to rip my arm off at the shoulder), I could bench press over 400 pounds. RAW. That means without assistance from a shirt. I never had the chance to prove it in a power lifting meet due to the aforementioned incident while attempting multiple reps at 415. My best squat was 475, again without a squat suit. These days, a little over two years later, I fluctuate between being able to bench 315 and 350lbs (I did 365 with my assistive bench shirt). I can still work up to my max in the deadlift (550), and I’ve come close to 475 in the squat, but that factors into what’s stopping me these days.

My head is stopping me, I think. Having been through a catastrophic injury I have a sense of mortality about my joints / muscles / bones / whatnot. I am afraid of doing the same thing or worse to myself. I’ve come a long ways but I can’t trick my brain into recruiting 110% like I used to. Without that extra oomph, I can’t get where I want to go. I can’t even make the same kinds of gains I used to make. Is it wisdom gained from mistakes that stops me, or is it fear that’s holding me back from achieving what I want to?

Whatever it is, it’s upsetting and disappointing. Perhaps it’s a flavor of what the high school football star who turned into a used car salesman feels. The flip side of the coin is that it only applies to extreme weight lifting and not my desire to branch out and try other things (case in point my wife wants to make sweet potato black bean quesadillas in the near future and thought it sounds rather unpleasant to me, I like to try new things). I’m afraid of tearing muscles in my legs so I don’t squat as hard as I should. I’m afraid or ripping a pec so I don’t push myself on the bench. I’m afraid of losing my balance and falling so I don’t power clean as much as I probably could. Quite honestly, it sucks. But at the same time, I’m still walking without a regular limp.

For tonight at least it’s back to writing. We’ll see what the gym brings the next time I bring it to the gym.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Weight of the World

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Lest anyone feel concerned (or giggling maniacally at the implications), the title of this post is not meant to imply I’m stressed out or feeling burdened. Oh sure, 2012′s been a bit of a bear for me thus far, but with fresh challenges come fresh opportunities. This post is actually about fitness and health – though I’m not that guy who says you have to do this in order to achieve your six pack abs in X many days.

We (wife, kids, and yours truly) are planning a trip to Florida this summer. My wife wants to shave off a few pounds by then since we’ll be staying on the beach. I’ll admit, the winter has added a little insulation to me as well in my quest to get stronger. For those who aren’t long time readers of this blog, I’m a former competitive power-lifter who’s still struggling to return to the glory days, though I admit I will probably never compete again.

Anyhow, this post starts with my wife who recently had some redecorating and / or rearrangement done under the skilled hands of a surgeon. That was 4 weeks ago as of today. At the 3 week mark her doctor told her she was clear to do whatever she liked within reason, including exercise. So my wife decided she wanted to try out this P90X program, but she was worried I might not do it with her since I’m all about heavy weights and intensity whereas P90X is more of fat loss / cardio / volume based routine. Being the eternally supportive husband that I am (oh yeah, I went there), I pledged my full support and we tried it out starting last Sunday night.

The first workout was chest and back, then the 25 minute ab ripper routine. The chest and back consists of a lot of push ups and pull ups, as well as some bentover rows with either dumbbells or bands. We had neither at home (sold my home gym years ago when we moved out of Michigan and have been using public gym memberships ever since), so the back workout didn’t happen. Push ups though, well anybody can do those, so we did. Out of respect for the intellectual property of the creators of P90X I won’t go into detail, but I will say I was impressed with the routine. It really does kick your ass. As an example once a week I work on bench pressing and work my way up to 315lbs or more (I used to do more but there was an incident involving surgery and several months of downtime we I put myself through a custom physical therapy program that worked awesome, but I’ll probably never get back into the 400+ range again). So with that benching background, and the knowledge that I’m one of those crazy SOBs that pushes themselves to the limit and occasionally beyond (see mention of surgery above), I was sore and aching for a couple of days afterwards. My wife was in a similar condition, except for her it seemed she’d done some damage to the recent landscaping she’d had done.

She ended up talking to her surgeon and having to go back in the next day to get checked out. Sure enough, where tissue had been healing she’d strained it. Nothing too bad or damaging, but she was told to give her chest 3 more weeks of downtime to be certain. My wife was disappointed but this is another example of a lesson I’ve learned many times in life – it’s better to take a little extra time off to recover from whatever event (strains, pulls, breaks, illness, surgery, etc.) than it is to go back before your ready and end up needing a much longer time off due to an injury.

Now flash back to me – P90X is tough and all but I mentioned I’m a hardcore meat head, right? My original plan was on my usual gym days to do two workouts – my workout and then the P90X one later that night. My wife supported this and intended to join me. Well I was still aching from the horizontal pushing we did on Sunday night but I hit the gym Monday anyhow. And yes, it was my bench night. Since I didn’t get the back workout in I pushed myself through the P90X workout with proper gym equipment and also mixed in the regular bench press. I only made it to 295 that day – I think I could have hit 315 but without a spotter I didn’t want to have to roll that much weight down my chest. I learned from my prior mistakes – it only took a major injury to make it happen. :)

And since my wife now has 3 weeks until she can try it again that gives me the time needed to prepare myself for the part of P90X that really sucked. Oh sure, it sucks in a good way (not THAT good of a way, mind you), but it still hurt like hell. The ab ripper routine is 25 minutes of abuse. Imagine yourself nailed to a wall in a spread eagle fashion before somebody reminiscent of Lou Ferrigno picks up a 16lb sledgehammer and hits you in the stomach with it repeatedly. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad but at the time I might have argued the point. The point is it’s 25 minutes of abdominal and other “core” muscle exercising. Not just a bunch of crunches either, though a few are tossed in here and there. I’d considered myself to have strong abs – you kind of have to when you’re deadlifting and squatting in the 400 – 600 range. Well here’s the difference between strength and muscle endurance. As a matter of fact I ended up straining either my sartorius or abductor longus on my left leg. Those are muscles in the front of your thigh. It resulted in my spending a day walking like I was 100 years old and suffering from a crippling illness. Oddly enough, after Monday’s upper body workout and a good night’s sleep I could walk fine the next day (still felt a twinge of pain though).

So then came Wednesday, lower body day at the gym. My wife, prescribed 3 weeks of taking it easy, decided she was going to spend 20 minutes on the treadmill then do some lower body stuff herself. Aside from demanding she go easy and not aggravate her injury, how could I feel anything but proud at her determination / motivation? Yeah, my wife rocks. You read it here first. So she did her treadmill then hit the leg press and did some bentover rows of her own.

P90X was behind me (for a little while, at least), so I was ready to get serious about squatting. Historically squatting and I have had some disagreements on and off over the years. One thing that’s going well for me in 2012 is squatting though – no problems with form or anything. I’ve been focusing on more volume up until last week and this one though, but transitioning back into intensity training was easy. My left leg still had that twinge in it but it was barely noticeable so I pushed myself. I worked up to 455 and knew that was my top end. Felt some strain with every set in my right quadriceps this time – the left leg was doing fine though. Later, after another exercise, I hit the leg press to get some good blood flow pumping and worked up to 7 plates per side (the leg press is at an angle and it makes judging weight accurately difficult, not to mention no two leg presses function the same – and a “plate” is 45lbs for those curious). After the squats I was sucking wind hard but I got ‘er done.

Last night I had a hard time sleeping because of the strain in my right quad. This morning I’m limping a little because of it. I want to blame it all on P90X, but the truth is that program is a good program for people motivated and dedicated to making it work. I was very skeptical of it – damn near every exercise plan that promises results in X many days out there is some sort of scam or gimmick. With the P90X you’re given 90 days, and that’s realistic. Give me 3 months and I can turn just about anybody into something noticeably and functionally different if they’re willing to do the work. I’ve helped friends and family do some amazing things in the past, including a 6 month weight loss totaling 100 pounds. I’m not bragging – heck, I’m not even a trainer for hire (I’d love to do that, I just don’t have enough time). I mention that to give credence to my believe that P90X will help a person willing to do the work, but the important part is to know your limits and not push yourself too hard, especially with exercises you’re unfamiliar with. This is stressed in the video but when it came to me I know my body’s limits – I’ve crossed those lines enough times over the years. Or so I thought. Turns out I found another line with the new (and torturous) ab ripper routine. I joked on Monday that I can deadlift over 500 pounds but I can’t pick my leg off the ground right now!

And for the record, back in 2009 I set state records in Michigan for bench pressing 405 pounds and deadlifting 550 pounds. I was in the 242lb weight class (I weighed 229 and 232 at the times) and lifted in an unsanctioned drug-free federation (Son-Light Power). Both records were beaten in 2011. :(  It is my goal to one day squat 500 (current PR is 475), deadlift 600, and I’m still struggling to bench 405 again even though it may never happen (I have worked up to 350 last year though).

Why do I do it? Why put my body through that strain and hard work? Clearly it’s beyond simply being healthy (especially if it’s caused me disabling injuries). It’s because I don’t want to be that guy who looks like he can pick up a car when it falls off the jack on a buddy, I want to be the guy who can do that. I want a mugger to look at me and my wife when we’re out on a date night and think to himself, “I’m not going to screw with that guy!” I was a skinny fat kid and I idolized superheroes and the king of 80′s action, Arnold Schwarzenegger (and I’ve always been a huge Conan fan, both the books and the original movies. The new movie…blah). I like being strong and I never settle for anything less than what I consider to be the best in life. I want my kids to look up at me and realize all the things that are possible to them if they work hard in life.

I may not be the most interesting man in the world but I do I offer this advice to anyone and everyone, “Stay hungry, my friends.”

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Positive Thinking for the Win!

November 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Daily affirmations have been around for a long time. I’ve heard about them for quite a while, years even, but my most recent injection of it was from reading Scott Adam’s blog a while back. Scott Adams, for those who aren’t familiar with him, is the creator of the comic strip Dilbert. He talked about how he used them to help him become a multi-millionaire. Yeah, selling comics. Taken out of context that’s quite a statement. I believe I read somewhere a while back that he’s a Mensa member, or at least has an IQ score high enough to be one. That tends to take the sting out of the idea of taking advice from a cartoonist. Or does it?

Is it a cause / effect relationship? Being smart enough to focus on positive things helped him achieve them. By his own admission he has failed far more times than he’s succeeded. As a possible counterpoint to that alleged high IQ is the fact that he seems to enjoy poking fun at established paradigms and enraging various groups and individuals. As a bystander, I’m often amused by this. I don’t always share his views, but I don’t believe he cares so long as he’s entertaining. That and he’s generating publicity and for someone like him, publicity is a good thing.

So what is this positive thinking nonsense and what are these affirmations. Affirmations, as I understand them are writing down positive things and goals on a daily basis (or more often). That helps you focus on them and the more you focus on something, the more you tend to make it happen. The trick is to keep it from becoming and obsessive / compulsive behavior. Or maybe that’s when the real success happens? Okay, so the trick is stopping just shy of being hauled off to a padded room.

Do I do that? No, of course not. WHAT?! Yeah, I know, what a jerk. What kind of hypocrite am I? Well, I may not write my goals down on a frequent basis, but I hold them near and dear to my heart and I’m always striving toward them. Set backs will happen, but that doesn’t mean giving up is ever the answer. The one exception to the rule would be a romantic interest in someone who’s taken a restraining order out against you. Give that one up.

Let me share a personal example. I’ve written many posts about lifting weights. Check back in the archives if you’re interested, I’ve give tons of tips and valuable information on both lifting and nutrition (including weight loss). My goal has always been to get as strong as I possibly can. I don’t necessarily want to look like the guy who can lift the rear end of a car, I want to be the guy who can do that. I even competed as a natural powerlifter for a year, and had plans to continue doing so prior to an incident occurring. That incident involved me tearing my left pectoral muscle so badly it was completely separated from my left arm.

Take a minute and think about that. The big muscle over your heart that controls your arm moving forward and pushing against anything. Ripped free from the arm it controls, leaving the arm more or less flapping in the breeze like a lame duck.

It’s kind of hard to bench press without that muscle attached. I went to the doctor because, to be honest, this injury terrified me. I identified myself with being big and strong. I was a skinny-fat kid through school who fantasized about fantasy, science fiction, and comic books. I wanted to be special, but it wasn’t until I applied myself and realized that I could only achieve what I wanted through hard work that I began to become what I’d long aspired to be. So being injured like this felt like what I imagined a marathon runner would feel like if they were told they had to have their legs amputated.

A month later I had surgery to re-attach the muscle to the bone. It’s not routed quite the same way it should be – the doc asserts that he’d never worked on someone with so much muscle in the area and because of that it was no easy task to reroute it and reattach it. That was both a compliment and a pronouncement of doom. I moved to Utah a month later, preventing a follow-up or professional therapy. So instead I used what I knew about lifting and the human body to create my own therapy routine. I pushed myself safely and it worked. Six months later I was able to bench press again, though my strength had faded considerably. I worked damn hard and before I left Utah I managed to use my bench shirt with a good friend I’d made out there spotting me and I managed to bench press almost 90% of my prior competition best. Still a ways to go, but it was more than I ever thought I could do again.

As a follow up, earlier this year at the gym I moved to in Ohio I managed to match my best competition deadlift. I collapsed after lowering the weight and, had I not been gasping for breath from the effort of picking up so much weight, I might have broken down at achieving it even though I was a year and a half older. I continue to push my bench as well and even though I acknowledge I may never hit my old numbers, it’s not because I’m not trying to get there. I’ve made changes to my lifting form and training style, incorporating my triceps and lats more. The devil is in the details, but for the sake of the moral of this story it’s really all about aspiring to reach your dreams and not allowing the road blocks that get in the way to make you give up.

And writing? Yes, writing is perhaps even more important to me, so I know I will succeed. I’ll struggle at times and I’ll have to find new tactics to achieve my goals, but I’ll find them and I’ll use them. If you want it, stop making excuses. Go and get it!

Trust me, I’m positive about this.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Cutting it out

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Fair warning – this is not about writing, editing, cover arting, or anything related. This is about my 3 month or so stint to cut some fat and lean out.

To recap, after bulking up to 241.5 pounds (mostly a good bulk, I was around 14% bodyfat at the time), I wanted to trim down for the rest of summer. So, three months later I bottomed out at 212 pounds – that’s a total of 29.5 pounds lost. Average of 10lbs / month. By Biggest Loser standards it might not be so great, but I can still bench 315 and pull (deadlift) over 500. I call that  win, losing 30 pounds and retaining 90% or more of my strength. In fact, the calipers (I took multiple measurements) had me under 8% bodyfat. I don’t believe it, but I focus on my worst spots. For me the midsection is my worst, by far. I can see upper abs and everywhere else I’ve got good vascularity and definition, but the midsection refuses to lean out like I want it to.

C’est la vie. I’m a powerlifter, not a guy who likes to walk around on a stage in a speedo. Now I’m trying to put some muscle and strength back on for an unsanctioned bench only meet just to get back into it. It’s been almost 2 and a half years since my last meet, thanks to me ripping my left pectoral muscle free from my arm. Surgery and a lot of self-guided therapy later I’m trying to get back up there. I may never bench 400+ again but I’ll be damned if I don’t try for it!

The great HCG diet

Only a few people who read the title know me well enough to know that it is dripping with sarcasm. There’s nothing great about it and I cringe and then get very angry every single time I hear a commercial for some HCG gimmick for weight loss. It bothers me on a cellular level that these assholes are taking people’s money and claiming that their HCG diet will help you do a variety of things.

The one I heard today was right about one thing. HCG is a naturally occurring hormone. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (quite a mouthful). HCG occurs naturally in women who are pregnant – in fact, that’s how a great many over-the-counter pregnancy tests work, they look for HCG in a woman’s urine. When taken exogenously (e.g. via a needle injected subcutaneously) by a man and only by a man it signals the testes to produce additional testosterone. Not massive amounts, mind you, just small boosts.

Why weight loss? A d-bag by the name of Kevin Trudeau. He has since been prosecuted for false advertising for many BS schemes he ran to screw people out of their money. He came up with one of the first largely successful HCG diet gimmick schemes, basing it on loose interpretations of studies done that showed non-significant in-vitro results. When amplified to human dosages and effects, the real world effects do not exist. I say his was largely successful in the context that it was successful at suckering people all over the place to send their money to him.

But wait, you tried one of the HCG diets and you lost weight? Sure, it’s possible. The people marketing this crap aren’t stupid, just immoral. They know their HCG doesn’t do a damn thing – that’s why they say you also have to eat a calorically restricted diet and incorporate exercise. Another factor that can’t be discounted is the placebo effect – the power of the human mind. Believe in something and you can manifest limited results. It’s mind over matter, to a limited extent, and it’s cognitive dissonance. Your belief triggers your brain to make you behave in ways that help you reinforce that belief, from disregarding information that contradicts what you believe to encouraging you to do additional activities that will help that belief show signs of becoming reality.

And I just ruined it for you, right? Maybe, but more likely if you read this far and are / were a HCG proponent the cognitive dissonance has kicked in and you think I’m full of crap. Maybe I’m disillusioned or maybe I want to sell you something else. Maybe I’m bitter because it didn’t work for me. Maybe I think everybody should be fat except me so I can look down at everybody else and laugh at them. Yeah, maybe…

How about some studies:
- “In 1974, the FDA banned the use of hCG in the US based on a series of studies maintaining that weight loss was similar both in the Placebo and hCG-treated groups. Our study corroborates those previous findings.” – http://www.indexmedico.com/english/obesity/hcg.htm
- “THESE WEIGHT REDUCTION TREATMENTS INCLUDE THE INJECTION OF HCG, A DRUG WHICH HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION AS SAFE AND EFFECTIVE IN THE TREATMENT OF OBSITY OR WEIGHT CONTROL. THERE IS NO SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE THAT HCG INCEASES WEIGHT LOSS BEYOND THAT RESULTING FROM CALORIC RESTRICTION, THAT IT CAUSES A MORE ATTRACTIVE OR “NORMAL” DISTRIBUTION OF FAT, OR THAT IT DECREASES THE HUNGER AND DISCOMFORT ASSOCIATED WITH CALORIE-RESTRICTIVE DIETS [16].” – http://www.dietscam.org/reports/hcg.shtml
- “..But it’s the calorie restriction that causes the weight loss, not the HCG.” – http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hcg-diet/AN02091

Categories: Weight Lifting

Ongoing weight change study

The title of this sounds promising, but it’s just my observations over the past few years and, in particular, the last few weeks. I make a habit of changing my body composition regularly. Not in some magical shape changing manner but rather by controlling food and exercise. I can’t make myself look like a squirrel, for example, but I can pick up or drop a couple dozen pounds when I put my mind to it.

The observations I’ve gleaned are that weight loss (and gain) is primarily dependent on food. Quantity and type, although principally the caloric intake. I’d love to see a Biggest Loser show that focused instead of exercise on just people eating less. I’ve had a few people close to me over the years that developed the discipline and support structures necessary to eat properly for their goal (weight loss) and shed significant weight (40 – 100 pounds or more). Some of them even did this without exercise, which would take a lot of the fun out of the Biggest Loser.

Does exercise speed weight loss up? Yes and no. It helps to build and retain muscle, which will slow weight loss but make a body healthier. It also strengthens bones and makes them more dense, another potential weight gainer (and something healthy). All in all, exercise is a good thing and the benefits outweigh the perceived penalties. But it isn’t necessary.

Case in point, I spent close to the last three weeks unable to work out. This was due to a ridiculous work schedule or other activities that prevented me from getting to the gym. Very disturbing for me, but surmountable. What surprised me was that my weight over these three weeks continued to go down. I was 214 the other morning, meaning I’d lost roughly one pound a week. Yay me, right?

I went back to the gym this past weekend and wow was my strength shot to hell. I was able to bench 275lbs for 7 – 8 reps (4 sets). This time around I worked up to 275 and managed 7 reps, then 3, then 4, then I stopped. 3 sets only, shame on me. Hopefully some of it has to do with my CNS needing to be retrained, but without exercise to retain muscle, in a hypocaloric state the body wants to get rid of muscle and retain fat.

Why? The body thinks it’s starving (it is), so it seeks to eliminate that which causes extra calories to be burnt (muscle) and retain the stored energy (fat) for when things really get rough. The mirror echoed my fears, but already since I’ve been back in the gym I’m seeing things reshape themselves properly.

The moral of the story? If you want to lose weight and don’t care if you look skinny-fat, then just control what you eat. If you want to look good while doing it (or when you drop the weight you want to), incorporate exercise into the process. Likewise, if you want to put on some weight most of us want to add muscle and a good shape, rather than flab – that is done via exercise and eating more of the right kinds of food.

It’s not a secret, it’s just not popular. We want a magic solution, not another reason why we have to be in control and use our willpower. We’ve only got so much willpower we can tap into every day and fighting traffic, work, and kids leaves us to drained to fight the urge to grab a pizza or fast food on the way home for convenience sake.

There are some medical cases where things are messed up. By things I hormone levels, which could include the thyroid, pituitary, adrenals, kidneys, or the sex glands (testes / ovaries). That’s a minority case, by far, but it’s no less real or frustrating. Fortunately we have modern medicine and with determination a person can find a doctor who knows what they are doing and can help. Have patience, most doctors are ignorant, uneducated, or worse when it comes to hormones in men or women. There are some great ones out there, just keep looking.

For everyone else I say suck it up. Nobody makes life better for us but ourselves. It’s not easy and it’s not fun, but the sooner we remember to stop justifying defeat and accept responsibility for what we do to ourselves, the sooner our lives get better. Most importantly, it’s not a lesson learned only once – I keep saying “us” and “we” because we all slip from time to time and need a reminder. Why else would I have spent three weeks losing muscle instead of fat?

Categories: Weight Lifting

Wasting Disease

August 6, 2011 1 comment

Hopped on the scale recently, after a few weeks or paying no attention to it for a variet of reasons. I find I’ve dropped down to 215 pounds. That’s a total weight loss of 26.5 pounds now over the past few months. Good news, right? Well, not exactly…

The time spent ignoring the scale was also time spent either working crazy hours or being gone on vacation. In other words, no access to a gym. Sure, I’ve been watching what I eat, but without exercise the weight loss this time around is muscle as much as anything. Not a good thing!

Back into the gym today to see what the damage is, then roughly three more weeks of cutting before I go back on a bulk.

Categories: Weight Lifting

Fed Up WIth Weight Loss Gimmicks!

July 23, 2011 2 comments

I made a terrible mistake this morning – I let myself get critically annoyed with the people blasting out tweets advertising the latest gimmicks and producs for weight loss. One guy broadcast about how he lost 60 pounds in 6 weeks with such and such a product (even if I remembered the name I wouldn’t repost it out of a sense of civic duty). I tweeted right back that I lost 60 pounds over 6 months by eating less crap and exercising (push ups, sit ups, and walking / jogging). I couldn’t stop myself, but it opened up a proverbial can of worms.

Next time I glanced at my computer (thirty minutes, maybe?), I saw two people were congratulating me and two other people were offering more supplements and diet aids for me. I sent the first two some appreciative responses and let them know I was just replying, in a pissy way, to the boneheads trying to screw people over. To said boneheads I responded in a less than appreciative manner.

Now then, with all that said and done I felt obligated to take it a step further. I’m going to tell you the long lost secret to weight loss. It’s not a new product, nor is it some secret genetic code scientists have finally cracked. The long last secret of the ancients is this: STOP PUTTING SHIT IN YOUR MOUTH! Yes, that’s it. Stop eating crap. Donuts, deep fried garbage, burgers dripping fat, deserts drizzled in chocolate, the list goes on and on.

Step number 2: MOVE YOUR ASS! There’s no need to go crazy in the gym like I do. Hell, you don’t even need to go to a gym. I lost 60 pounds in 6 months by doing push ups and sit ups every morning, as well as walking and eventually jogging. No gym, just me and the floor. I couldn’t do 1 set of 10 push ups when I started too! Six months later I was at sets of 50. Nine months in I was at 5 sets of 50. Yeah, I was beyond weight loss at that point and working on getting bigger and stronger, but if I can do it, so can just about anybody else.

That’s it. Two steps. Eat less and move. Think it’s hard to do? You’re right, it is. Think you can handle it? Then you’re right, it is. For anybody who can figure that out the world is in your hands. The only suggestion I might offer is that when you do get hungry either A> drink a glass of water or B> get up and move. Replace the hunger to eat with a hunger to move.

Of course this is very high level but it will work. To streamline weight loss and get more out of it, check past blog posts I’ve made under the category of “weightlifting”. Yeah, most of them involve picking things up but there are a few scattered abou that explain the benefits of eating the right kind of food and at what times. It’s very important to understand one thing though – none of this should cost you a damn thing. To make one thing into two – I don’t want anything from you for it. Everybody has the right to have the body that they want to have, but the problem is all the media hoopla, supplement industry spam, and people trying to make a buck with bullshit gimmicks like the HCG diet and others that make us forget how simple it really is.

And regarding a magic pill to make the fat melt away? Not happening. Or at least it’s not happening without a prescription or the right contacts to get you into some black market chemical supplements. And no, I’m NOT going to write up a future blog post telling you how to do that or what specific stuff to take. If you want to go there I say good luck. In my opinion it’s your body and you’re right to put whatever into it you want to, so long as you’re not hurting anyone else by doing so. I’m just not going to empower anyone to do anything that they might not do responsibly or safely.

 

anti-fast-food-hamburger

Categories: Weight Lifting
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