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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

The destination or the journey

It’s often said that half the fun is getting there. Or the fun is in the chase. Well, I’m here to say that the journey of cutting to get leaner is not a pleasant experience. The destination is a far happier and better place to be.

The Journey or The destination

 

With that said I have hit the 20 pound mark for weight loss. Based on the daily records I kept, I’ve broken the 10% bodyfat barrier and am currently around 9.5%. I noticed at the gym last night while working out that I look the same size or larger than I was when I started all this, which is funny. Sadly it takes some extra blood rushing through the muscles to really get this look, whereas being a little heavier makes it look natural. Then again being heavier might look bigger with clothes on, but with bare arms or chest, the aesthetic value decreases rapidly.

But I’m not done yet! I’m shooting for 8% or lower this time around. I won’t go beneath 200 pounds. Heck, I may not make it beneath 210 before I start eating drywall, but I’ll do what I must!

It goes without saying that I am SOOOO looking forward to bulking back up a little. Hope to stay under 10% when I do it, which may make it a slower bulk than is typical.

In the meantime, I continue to move heavy weights a dangerous number of times. Last night it was benching 275 for 6 – 7 reps (4 sets worth) on a declined bench press. Afterwards I finally found a station that I could break out an often unused exercise – the reverse hyper.

The reverse hyper was made famous by Louie Simmons, a beast of man who runs the Westside Barbell in Akron, OH. He used it to do therapy on his back after he screwed it up (broken vertebrae or damage to a couple of discs, I don’t remember the details) to recover and go on to squat an amazing amount of weight (over 800lbs)…and all at the tender young age of 51!

Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell owner and Reverse Hyper creator

 

Anyhow, I took a station set up for preacher or scott curls. I took the curl bar off and faced it in the opposite direction it was intended for. I used a chain to tie some weights between my ankles then leaned against the pad and grabbed on to the seat with my arms to stabilize myself. Bent over, in a rather compromising position, I proceeded to raise my legs until they were parallel to the floor and pointing straight out behind me, weights and all. One of the guys working there had no clue what I was doing and watched me, then admitted it looked pretty cool. I explained how it decompresses the spine while allowing the spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings to get a killer workout and he admitted he was going to have to try it.

It beats the hell out of back extensions, that’s for sure! Safer than almost any other lower back exercise too. The images below give you an idea of how it’s done. Disregard any resemblance the pics may have to a fully grown man getting amorous with a medicine ball…

Reverse Hyper starting position Reverse Hyper fully extended

Categories: Weight Lifting