Fat again, naturally: The Vegetarian Taliban are at it again

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The soldier that I helped lose weight, posting the story on this blog a short time ago, is gaining weight again. This, despite a fairly intense bout of physical training with my army unit. I predicted this, as he has gone back to being a vegetarian. He wife makes him eat vegetarian, which I think serves two purposes. First, she believes, like all good zealots, that she knows what’s best for everyone else, and second, the vegetarian diet will lower his testosterone making him more docile and easy to control. Poor fellow is the victim of the growing matriarchy we now live in.

The soldier gets very little in the way of animal products and almost no fat. He says his wife allows him to eat egg whites and fish once in a while. That’s very nice of her, to allow her husband to have cheat days.

To completely understand, you must fully conceive of the types of people which comprise much of the the vegetarian jihad. Look here if you dare:

Last week was a tough PT week. One day we did the Crossfit WOD: “Murph”. Actually, a modified version of it. 2 mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 150 body weight squats. The day after that we did a very fast paced 6 mile ruck march with 30 lbs in an assault pack, followed by 100 situps over 5 minutes. The day of the ruck march, the soldier sat in our office looking like he’d been hit by a truck. He was falling asleep at about 10:30 in the morning. As I stated earlier, he’s gaining back pounds after coming off a diet which included meat while in Afghanistan. He left the Taliban in Central Asia and returned to the American Vegan Taliban. And like the its more violent cousin, empirical reality has little impact on the Vegan Taliban’s beliefs.

The vegetarian diet is mostly incapable of sustaining high intensity exercise routines for very long. There are some exceptional people, mostly in the realm of cardio routines like running and cycling who perform at a very high level on vegetarian diets, but I’ve noticed that some of them begin to suffer from very odd disorders, some of the autoimmune variety. Their diets tend to be very highly micromanaged. Yes, it can be done. But it’s unnecessary. And most attempting veganism while maintaining a high level of activity will probably suffer some significant consequences. Our bodies gain fuel from two sources: Fat and carbohydrates. The more we exercise, the more fuel we need. Vegetarians must consume high levels of carbohydrates to maintain high levels of activity. If carbs are ingested but not followed by exercise, preferably of the intense variety, insulin is secreted, forcing the sugars into our fat cells. If this occurs on a chronic basis, we get fat. This is the only mechanism that makes us fat; insulin driven fat storage. Not only does insulin help store sugar as fat, it prevents fat’s release from storage so that it can be used as energy, even if you are hungry. Lowering carbohydrate consumption will enable your body to burn fat as energy, and fat is a much more useful fuel for day to day activity because it burns more slowly, whereas carbohydrates burn fast, leading to the energy roller-coaster effect some experience during the day. I can eat a three egg omelette with butter, cheese and bacon in the morning and not feel hungry until supper time. Appetite suppression is a well documented phenomena experienced when lowering carbohydrate consumption.

The reasons that people become vegetarians are rarely solely based on health concerns. I don’t care if someone really wants to be a vegetarian or vegan. But let’s deal in truth about the matter. Fat consumption does not cause heart disease. The vegetarian’s lifestyle is often a strand in the complex web of left-leaning thought. Thus, not only will meat give you a heart attack, it will in fact summon a great Apocalypse of unsustainable cow eating and cow flatulence, which we all know will lead to spiking global temperatures, melting polar caps, rising sea levels, and the ultimate demise of great radio stations like NPR.

Yeah, right. Eat all the vegetables you want. Just keep your jihad inside your own house. And if you’re getting fat and tired on your vegan diet, you may want to try something that fundamentalists eschew: Science.

I’m an omnivore

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As much as I’ve always harped on controlling carbohydrates, I am in fact an omnivore. However, in the back of my mind, I’m aware of carbohydrates, and the only liquids I drink besides water is beer, wine and a little bit of milk. My refined carbohydrate intake is low as I don’t snack on any refined carbohydrate products. When I do snack it’s on a small handful of nuts or baby carrots. The chewing and crunching are satisfying. I find that most times I want to snack, I’m not really that hungry.

Some days I have a very low intake of carbohydrates, under 100 grams, and on rare occasions under 50. My wife does not cook low carb, but it’s still easy to get by. Some days meals are low in carbohydrates just as she cooks them. Just as God has provided a Natural Law to guide our conscience in the moral world, so is there a Natural Law of eating. We mostly know what is good or bad for us. Mountain Dew or Pizza? Potato Chips or a sweet potato? All these are carbohydrates but not all are equal. But most adults know which is better. A good general guide for food consumption is that if you see the food advertised on TV, don’t eat it. This would eliminate the consumption of most chips and sodas.

I instinctively cycle my diet and exercise. Some days I ride my mountain bike to work. Some days I walk the two miles home. On days following relatively high carbohydrate consumption, I may have a really tough workout, or I may skip breakfast, or I may restrict carbohydrates. You see the pattern. Carbohydrates have their place. They give us a powerful fuel, but like a car burning nitrous oxide, their over utilization can damage our engine. Another trick I use is avoiding pure carbohydrate meals. For instance, on pasta I almost always have meat sauce and olive oil. With pizza, I’ll put a little olive oil on it, and maybe some slices of avocado. Studies show that mixing a little protein or fat with carbohydrates prevents damaging insulin spikes.

And just as in the moral world, dogmatism is not needed unless there is a virtual emergency of failing health. An extremely obese person would be wise to be slightly more strict in controlling what they eat. As they reach their goals, there’s a lot more room for small errors. Chronic abuse of our bodies for years or decades will of course require more strict and longstanding adherence to diet and exercise dogma. We must all pay the Piper, but it’s important for overweight or out of shape people to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are laws in effect that everyone’s bodies must obey. While diets like the Atkins Diet are a great way to attack obesity, I do not think they are sustainable. But remember, extreme times require extreme measures. We call in SEAL Team 6 to capture or kill deadly terrorists, not arrest the 19 year old shoplifter at the mall. Most times the local constabulary is enough.

Some have it, some don’t

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In his seminal book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, science journalist Gary Taubes recounts several studies which showed that starvation dieting did not work very well in helping people to lose weight, and that exercise, in his opinion, is unlikely the main factor in people losing pounds. One aspect of weight control that these studies doesn’t delve into is the roll that human will plays in diet. One area that I am at odds with Taubes is that people are relatively helpless victims in the obesity epidemic, swept away by a river of fate and bad science. I am also at odds with him on the role the exercise plays in weight loss.

Taubes recounts studies in which obese people were placed on diet of between 1500 and 1800 calories, and lost a paltry 8 pounds or so in 6 months or more. Yet the soldier I trained in Afghanistan lost 47 lbs. We did not count calories. He trained every other day, for about an hour. How was this possible? One of the faults I see in the studies that Taubes sites is an obvious one, at least to someone familiar with physical fitness. These studies, at least from what Taubes says, only monitored the weight of the subjects, and apparently not the body composition of the client. Muscle could have been increasing and fat decreasing, which is what most people want. He cites several studies which showed some people gaining weight while exercising, and some losing weight. This is actually consistent with what I saw in army basic training. Some people lost weight, one fellow gained over 20 lbs of good muscle. My weight stayed exactly the same throughout. I believe the body has a weight it desires to be at when exercise and diet are mostly correct. Thus the Russian studies involving kettlebell training that show some people lost weight and some people gained weight after training with kettlebells for some time. Some people needed more muscles, while others needed to lose fat. Kettlebell training set them right. Taubes believes that exercise increases appetite, thus causing people to eat more and gain weight. He quotes one scientists observation that a person has to climb 20 flights of stairs to burn off one piece of bread. Here, Taubes is again arguing against his own hypothesis, that obesity is primarily a hormonal problem in which excess insulin forces energy into fat cells for storage. Instead, he is making an excess energy argument in which he believes that exercise is insufficient in burning off consumed calories in most people. The problem is, Taubes’ insulin hypothesis could be right, and exercise could still help people lose weight, because exercise impacts blood glucose, insulin and the impact of insulin very significantly. Moreover, secondary hormones, which Taubes admits impact weight gain and loss (such as Human Growth Hormone and testosterone) though they play subordinate rolls to insulin, are greatly increased during and after exercise, even more so during intense exercise. I am not sure what kinds of exercise the people in the studies were doing, but not all exercises are created equal. Modern exercise science is pointing in a different direction from the decades of long and slow movements.

I see Taubes’ view that exercise is ineffective as fatalistic and also as part of a society that wishes to avoid any hint of personal responsibility or control. Taubes repeatedly points out that in the past, obesity was considered a moral failure, when it may only be an endocrine problem. However, humans, as intelligent moral creatures have the ability to seek better ways. When Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they they became burdened with their sins. And so it is with obesity. While I do not judge overweight people, I do find it reprehensible when people want to blame everything but themselves for their weight condition. After all, it may be true that they do not know the current science of diet and exercise, and it may be true that what they have been eating is making it nearly impossible to lose weight. But the overriding and glaring truth that should be evident is that what they have been doing is not working. I am particularly unsympathetic to people in the US Army whom are chronically overweight. I see and hear the differences in these people when compared to the fit soldiers. Gary Taubes seems to say that willpower has little or no part in weight control. I beg to differ. Certainly, cutting out refined carbohydrates will drastically reduce appetite and thus reduce the need for will in controlling weight, but it takes willpower to make the first step, and it takes willpower, and force of habit forged through the daily application of willpower, to eat and exercise in a beneficial way. After a while, habit trumps willpower. Doing things the right way, over and over, we find ourselves unsaddled with the pain we felt in the past. As we get more fit, exercise is no longer painful, as we reach our weight goal, defending that weight is much easier than having to send our bodies into deficit in order to lose weight.

I’m not a big fan of most reality shows, but I do appreciate The Biggest Loser. The trainers don’t allow the participants to wallow in self-serving whimper parties and excuses, tactics which have served them well in an enabling society. I see this behavior in the chronically overweight and under-fit people in my office. When we do Army physical training in the morning, one fellow in particular will almost invariably start whimpering about this or that hurting. He gained about 20 pounds of fat while I was deployed (he stayed at Ft. Drum), mostly by drinking liquid sucrose multiple times per day (that health drink known as Gatorade) and because he simply can’t push himself hard in physical training unless someone else is there to make him push himself. My experience with soldiers such as this helped me to notice two common characteristics: 1) They have very low pain thresholds, 2) They are relatively immune to shame.

The longer I am an NCO in the Army, the less patience I have for these types. I’m not talking about the person whom is merely slow or fat, but the person whom makes drama out of his discomfort in hopes of gaining an advantage over the people that are suffering right along with him, the person who expects the world to do all the work for him. Some of these people are irredeemable. They lack introspection and dignity. Some people have it, some don’t elite military units figure out if you have “it” before they hire you. They don’t train you to have it. Last week while leading physical training with two of my troops, the overweight NCO I spoke of above said he had a headache after we got done doing sprints. It was the usual drivel fro this guy, and the more he does it, the more I want to run him until he vomits (which he did, three times, several days prior). I’m 13 years older than he is, and wouldn’t dream of crying in front of my troops after a hard workout. The more he cries, the more I will run him, and make him swing kettlebells until his eyes bleed. When he began complaining, I exercised my right as an NCO is the US Army: I used shame and salty language to motivate. I said:

I have no fucking sympathy. None. Unless you have an arterial bleed I have no sympathy.

For those not in the military, this attitude seems brutal. But this is the problem with Taubes’ thesis: He tries to remove willpower from the equation. Just as the creators of counterinsurgency doctrine have tried to remove willpower from warfare and assume that we just need to tweek our “inputs” a little more and the enemy will fall in line, Taubes thinks that people just aren’t eating the exactly correct proportions of macro-nutrients (proportions which no one can agree on). Willpower is one thing that sets us apart from other animals. We can see our wrongs and make adjustments. The idea that things are supposed to be easy every time, all the time is killing our nation. From the Occupy Wall Street proto-Marxists, to the softies recruited by our military, we think we should start at the top, and never suffer a moment of discomfort. To modern Americans, something is wrong when there is discomfort. We could be climbing Mt. Everest and wonder why we’re uncomfortable and what politician we can appeal to for help.

Part of the problem begins with the femininization of America. We are increasingly matriarchal. This partly due to the fact that people simply cannot stay married for long anymore. They can’t tolerate each other. Lower class couple abandon each other at an alarming rate; when you have no job skills and neither does your partner, and no faith in God, you find your husband or wife as intolerable as any other person. Fathers are abandoning the family, and are generally not respected the way they used to be. Studies show that men and women have different parenting styles. Neither is better than the other, but both are required in order to make children into fully functioning adults. Women tend to be more nurturing and protective, while fathers tend to encourage reasonable risk taking. Two days ago I was at the bus stop waiting for my 6 year old’s school bus. One mother scolded her 7 (?) year old boy for jogging on the grass around the bus stop, warning him that the grass was wet from dew and she didn’t want him to fall and hurt himself. I wanted to vomit, and probably would have had I eaten breakfast. This boy will probably grow to be an Army general officer of the current strain, claiming that fighting is dangerous and doesn’t win wars. The obsession with safety in the Army is indicative of the military’s feminization.

We are dying from the inside, growing softer. We, the whining child who wants dessert before supper. And this is how I see most civilizations dying, not a concrete edifice demolished by the enemy’s cannon fire, but a rotting decomposition, the infinitesimal linkages between our cells that the wise of the world could never completely grasp, slowly disintegrating, becoming a liquefied gelatinous mass which no longer resembles a living entity.

Carbohydrates matter–a lot. Will matters even more. Almost every person at FOB Warrior in Afghanistan where I was deployed, lost weight. Why? Not because they were watching their carbs, but because they ate less because there was less food available. Sure, as a result they ate fewer carbohydrates. But we can control our destiny. We can make adjustments. Willpower needs to be exercised like any other human aspect, in order to strengthen it. Sometimes we need to really push ourselves through painful workouts, just to build our will. Allowing ourselves to be hungrier than normal is an ancient way of exercising the will. I’ve always promoted intermittent fasting, not only for its health benefits, but because it changes our essence.

Seize your destiny. You are not a victim of fate, whatever that fate it. Understand that pain is momentary, it is a threshold through which all strong people must pass. The only way to be strong is to pass through the portal of discomfort, which it transitory. On the other side of that door is strength and freedom.

Does exercise help you lose weight?

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I really like Gary Taubes. For those of you who don’t know who Taubes is, he wrote two books that really brought to light the problems with epidemiological studies in regards to diet and disease. He is the author of two ground breaking books, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why we get Fat“. Both of the books brought Doctor Atkins premise from suspected quackery to hard science.

The premise is that sugar is very harmful to us, and that modern processed foods are loaded with it. Making the situation all the worse, is the war against fat and meat. Taubes shows that the evidence is scant that fat and meat are linked to heart disease, but that the evidence is strong for the insulin connection; chronically high insulin levels not only make us gain fat, but are linked to cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s.

The paradigm constructed over the last 30 years is very difficult to break down. People are still terrified of meat and fat. They also believe they can eat mostly what they want as long as they exercise enough. Taubes argues that exercise is not a great way to attack the obesity problem, that some studies show exercise merely makes us hungrier, while doing little to make us lose fat. But the worm is beginning to turn. Even the left-leaning mainstream media, brought up on Upton’s, The Jungle, are starting to come around.

This month’s issue of Scientific American has an article by Taubes. Eventually, I believe, the evidence will be overwhelming to anyone in any way familiar with Francis Bacon. But many will still refuse to believe, mostly because the idea that humans are meant to eat dead animals bothers them. I’ll live longer and better than those ideologues, unless I get shot in combat or run over by a truck. As we see in the video I’ve posted, many accuse the meat industry of pushing an agenda that keeps them going. Isn’t the sugar industry doing the same thing? The question is not which industry is corrupt, but what is the healthier diet. It is a scientific question.

So can exercise help us lose weight? I believe it can. First, Taubes’ theorem is that obesity is essentially a a hormonal issue. That insulin, driven by rising blood sugar, is the root of the problem, it’s not about calories. If this is true, even in part, the logical question would be: How does exercise effect blood sugar and insulin? We know the answer. High intensity interval training reduces blood sugar levels. Here, HIIT improves insulin action, meaning it takes less insulin secreted to rid the blood of the same amount of sugar. Thus, when performing (and for a time after it’s performed) high intensity exercise, insulin is likely lower, because it requires less of it to perform its function. Taubes forgets his own argument, that it’s about insulin, not calories, when he talks about exercise. With exercise, he starts arguing calories. It takes a 175 lb male, 30 minutes of running at 6 mph to burn two pop tarts (400 calories). However, using Taubes’ reasoning, our bodies would present a different hormonal profile after the run; calories would be shuttled for different uses. High intensity intervals seems to suck the sugar out of your blood, and move it into your muscles, in the form of glycogen. This makes, sense; muscles run off glycogen during high intensity intervals. This glycogen is replaced by sugar from the blood.

Just as in a shooting war, we do not attack the enemy (fat) in only one way. We attack from every conceivable angle and every conceivable manner. We do not cede the enemy the air battle while fighting on the ground; we try to dominate both. So, it is true that diet is hugely important. But exercise changes hormones, just as does diet. When I train someone, I use high intensity exercises at least twice a week, while introducing them to moderate carbohydrate diets. No soda, ever. High intensity means intervals training on a stationary bike (tabata method is one protocol that works great), or sprinting or kettlebells swings and circuits. There are many variations. High intensity can also mean weight training. Squats work best,as they force the largest muscle group (quadriceps) into action, converting large amounts of blood sugar into glycogen.

In a nutshell: At least two session of high intensity exercise a week, no juice or soda; eat meat, eggs, nuts; no snacks during the week. It’s never failed to work with my clients.

No S Diet: Ultimate Common Sense Diet?

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In a previous post, I provided an outline for a diet and exercise routine I used to help a soldier lose almost 50 pounds.  In the title I mentioned that carbohydrate moderate along with calorie moderation was part of the dietary plan.

To be more specific, we employed a form of the “No S Diet”.  That means avoiding the “S” everyday of the week except Saturdays, Sundays, and Special Days, like holidays or parties.  The S is seconds, snacks, and sweets. So a person using this method gets one plate of anything he wants, three meals a day. Yup, you can pile it as high as you please.

I was astounded at the simplicity and effectiveness of this diet. I did it myself as I trained the soldier.  The diet combines a lot of things that make sense and even draws on current science. For one, the purpose of the diet is to create a habit that works without a ton of pain. The power of sustainable habit is incredible. Great writers, scientists and athletes are mostly made through the power of good habits.

As Aristotle stated:

We are what we do repeatedly.

This diet does a more than adequate job in controlling carbohydrates. As a person who works out intensely, I need carbohydrates. I have no doubt that reducing carbohydrates fights fat gain. But several studies have shown that peak power output and endurance suffer on very low carb diets and that testosterone is reduced in men on long-term low carb diets.  If you are really overweight, I suggest cutting back more carbs and then adjusting up as you near your goal or as training days require.

Since the No S Diet allows carbohydrates, athletic power is not diminished. But it allows no snacking on weekdays, which is a natural way to control carbohydrates–most modern snacks are carb heavy.

The diet’s creator, Reinhard Engels, talks about allowing things like bread in the diet. He makes a very astute observation, stating that he refuses to believe that a substance (bread) that’s been a nutritional staple for human civilization for 5000 years is bad for us. I agree.

In any case, the diet worked great, and didn’t leave the soldier drained, or feeling cheated. The weekend was coming and he could eat as he pleased on those days.  There is something intuitively correct about this diet. Highly recommended.

The effects of calorie and carbohydrate moderation and intense exercise

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While deployed to Afghanistan, one of the soldiers under my charge was nearing the end of his contract with the Army. He wanted to reenlist, but he was overweight, his body fat was too high, and he couldn’t pass a physical fitness test. I had to utilize everything I’d learned over the years about diet and fitness to help him reach his goals. I reported the results to StrongFirst. Following are my dispatches. The process worked, as the soldier was able to reenlist against many odds and when many others didn’t think it could be done.

Hello everyone. my name is Douglas Moore, and I’m a long-time disciple of Pavel’s and an NCO in the US Army who is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

I have a story to tell, so I came here to tell it, knowing I’d find people who’d be interested.

As an Non Commissioned Officer, it’s my job (or one of them) to keep the troops conditioned, strong and otherwise physically capable. One of my soldiers in particular was overweight, and his conditioning was such that he could not run 2 miles in a time that meets the Army’s standard. He was fat, slow, and weak–a bad state for any human being, let alone a soldier. He was on the verge of being forced out of the Army because he could not reenlist while being so fat. He came to me and told me that he wanted to reenlist; his wife was pregnant with their third child, he needed and wanted a job, and this was a terrible time to lose the job he had.

I agreed to help him, but only if he gave me his best effort, not the weak effort he’d given that got him into so much trouble. He agreed. He only had two months, so we’d had to get straight to it.

There was an obstacle in our way: Afghanistan. We are currently deployed to Afghanistan, FOB Warrior in Ghazni Province. Not only is the heat oppressive in June and July, but we sit at 7000 ft above sea level and the soldier would have to pass his two mile run in some seriously thin air.

We weighed him and measured his body fat. 246 lbs, 25% body fat, at 6’2″ . Moreover, his diet was wretched. Cramming in the starches, he tried to stick to a vegetarian diet, assuring me that he heard this was healthy. I told him that if he wanted to keep his job, he’d have to eat as I told him, which meant he’d have to eat a balanced diet, with meat in it. I told him he’d could have three square meals a day, no seconds or deserts except on weekends.

The soldier had lost weight since he arrived in Afghanistan–almost everyone does unless they try to make weight gains. But he was still blubbery and too heavy. Worse still, he was weak, a triad of doom for the professional soldier. I set about designing a program that could meet his needs. I decided that since the Army’s physical fitness test focus on pushups, situps, and running, we’d begin there, then introduce other methodologies. The running would address the bodyweight problem, which would make his pushups and situps easier, at least in theory.

I had the soldier running or doing other cardio exercises, at least 20 minutes every other day, in addition to calisthenics circuits. I made sure to vary the intensity and duration of the training sessions, monitoring the soldiers demeanor and motivation. Mind you, the whole time we’re trying to get him fit and strong, I’m hearing negative comments. “He won’t make it.” “I don’t think he’ll do it.”

These comments made me want even more this soldier to succeed.

Eventually I introduced the soldier to kettlebells. We have a few of them here at FOB Warrior, a 35, a 44 and a 53 lber. Swings were the order of the day, served on a plate of dust-ridden, low oxygen air. We started with the 44, doing sets of 20, with a minutes rest between. I worked them in after bouts of pushups, dips, and situps, sometimes mixed into a giant, evil stew.

His first physical fitness test since I began training him was around the corner. And he only had three weeks to pass the PT test, and get his body fat down to 22%. It last stood at 24%. unfortunately, all the cardio work had reduced his neck size by one-half inch, which meant by Army calculations (waist to neck ratio, factored with weight), that he’d gained a point of bodyfat despite the cardio blast. I added one minute interval sprints on a stationary bike, ten intervals, and told him to limit the starch in his diet to an amount that would only fill one small section of his tray at each meal, and upped the kettlebell weight and volume. Now he was swinging the 53, sets of 20, up to 160 total reps.

Finally, the day of his test came. The soldier did more pushups than he’s ever done on any other test in his Army career, and easily passed his situps, too. But then the tough part: The run around a dirt track, surrounding a giant smouldering dirt pit (in which the base burned all of its trash), in 90+ degree heat at 7000 ft.

And he failed.

It was back to the drawing board. In two days, I administered another test. This time he did even more pushups than before, breaking his old record–and passed the run with 14 seconds left. No small feet in this environment. Many other soldiers, even well-conditined ones, have failed the run test here.

His body fat was still high. I calculated that he needed to add .5 inches to his neck and lose 1 inch off his waist. Since the PT test was out of the way, I decided to take a different avenue: Barbell training combined with kettlebells and low-intensity cardio ie walking.

I discovered that this soldier was incredibly weak. All the cardio and calisthenics had done virtually nothing to enable him to contract his muscles harder. I don’t care what someone scores on an Army PT test, if they are as weak as this soldier was, at his weight, they’re not very useful on a battlefield. He struggled with 135 for 5 reps on a barbell, but he managed. The first session, he did 20 half squats with 225, for one set. And then 6 sets of 5 rep shrugs at 315, in order to increase the girth of his neck and give him some overall strength.

His second session was kettlebell swings, kettlebell military presses, and 3×5 squats.

Today, went pulled out the measuring tape and scale. He’d lost over an inch on his waist and gained that needed half inch his neck and lost another pound. In other words, he passed. He was at 22% bodyfat, no boasting rights to be sure, and he’d have to get taped again because he was so close to being over, but a success nonetheless. Over the two month training period he’d lost 11 lbs and 3% body fat.

If I had to do it over again, I would have started the barbell training and the heavy kettlebell swings earlier. Still, it was a tough call knowing how tough the run would be up here. But the weight training changed his body much faster than did the running, and the running sapped him of his strength.

We’re not stopping here. He’ll get stronger–the iron and steel will ensure that.


I’m continuing the soldier’s “special populations” ie fat people, training. As I mentioned in my post, he’s lost significant weight here, but with it, he lost what little strength he started with. The cure? Old School barbell and kettlebell training. The challenge is keeping his body fat low enough to stay in the army. He hovers at 22%–exactly meeting regulation requirement, but his retention in the army is a unit commander decision, and the commander states that he wants this soldier at 21% before he can reenlist.

The program’s core is now 5×5 squat and bench press, with hi-rep kettlebell swings. He’s continuing to lose weight and his strength is improving every workout, especially on squats and swings. His schedule is every other day, but I’m not dogmatic about this; recently he failed to progress on bench, so he took two days off. When he returned he was stronger than ever.

Looking back, his biggest problem was not his weight, but his lack of strength. His feeble strength made every training session more difficult than it needed to be.

Yesterday, he was able to complete 200 kb swings, sets of 25 with a 53 lb kb, averaging 1 min 30 secs rest between sets. Kettlebells have increased his work capacity by vast amounts and in a very short time.

I’m hoping the squats force his body into the adaption it needs. I’m waiting for that cascade. The interesting factor will be how this affects his body fat levels. We weighed him and measured body fat again last week. He’d lost 5 additional pounds, but was still at 22%.

As I noted previously on this thread, my intent with this soldier was to provide him with a significantly better strength base, something the running and calisthenics did not do to a sufficient level.

He’d passed his PT test, and lost some weight. But he needed more physical capability and muscle. This soldier is not genetically gifted, but I remembered what Pavel said on one post: The term, Hardgainer, does not contribute to a helpful mindset. So I trusted the process. Commit to A as action, and B will follow. 5×5 barbell with linear weight increases and kettlebell work would make him stronger, fitter and torch the fat from his body.

We were still in a race againt his enlistment clock. he either lost the weight and increased his fitness, or would be barred from reenlistment. But the dilemma. Running to make him burn calories, or weight training to preserve muscle and change his body’s composition. We’d done the running and cals. It helped him pass the PT test–barely. But he was weak as a moth. I had to trust the iron and old fashion dietary common sense were enough. Who wanted a soldier that was skinny-fat and barely passed his run test? Strength is the foundation of any athletic endeavor and no soldier–no real soldier– can do without it.

We began his strength routine July 1st, every other day. At first it was the three big lifts, with a few 20 rep KB swings thrown in.

His squat (5×5) weight has gone up in every workout. In order to accelerate the fat loss, we upped the kettlebell volume. The last three days of training this month, he achieved the highest level of physical ability he’s ever had. He weighs less than he’s ever weighed in the Army, including just out of Basic Training. He is stronger than he’s ever been. And his fitness? Two days ago I put him through a kettlebell complex that most people could not finish, especially at 7000 ft above sea level. Here it is–give it a try.

Do this complex 5 times, 1-2 minutes rest between each exercise and each interval.

53 lb KB swing x25 reps

35 lb 1 hand KB swing, 20 per arm

35 lb KB Clean and Jerk, 10 per arm

53 lb KB High Pull, 10 per arm

And our command has decided to allow him to reenlist. He says he feels great, and his new confidence is apparent.

Kettlebells work, and faster than anything else, without the loss of strength associated with lots of running. Have faith in the process.

Do A, expect B

Fasting, Religion, Creativity and Health

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I recently read a blog post on Scott Adams’ excellent Dilbert website.  Yes, that Dilbert.  The post is titled, Breakfast is Overrated. In the post, Adams states that he finds he has much more creativity and energy when he eats very little before noon.  He says when he finally eats his lunch, he usually needs to take a nap.

This mirrors exactly my experience.  When I wrote my novel, For Want of Knowledge , intentionally skipped breakfast, only drinking coffee until my daily word count was complete.  Even now I find that my desire to write at all diminishes when I eat.  I usually have to roll out a post before eating, and if I eat while writing a post, I many times will not finish.

I found a book online, called, The Hygienic System: Orthotrophy.  A portion of the book, chapter 24,  reads:

“Herodotus records that the invading hosts (over five millions) of the Persian general Xerxes, had to be fed by the conquered cities along their lines of march. He states as a fortunate circumstance the fact that the Persians, including even the Monarch and his courtiers, ate one meal a day.

The Jews from Moses until Jesus ate but one meal a day. They sometimes added a lunch of fruit. We recall reading once in the Hebrew scriptures these words (quoting from memory): “Woe unto the nation whose princes eat in the morning.” If this has any reference to dietetic practices it would indicate that the Jews were not addicted to what Dr. Dewey called the “vulgar habit” of eating breakfast. In the oriental world today extreme moderation, as compared to the American standard, is practiced.

Dr. Felix Oswald says that “during the zenith period of Grecian and Roman civilization monogamy was not as firmly established as the rule that a health-loving man should content himself with one meal a day, and never eat till he had leisure to digest, i.e., not till the day’s work was wholly done. For more than a thousand years the one meal plan was the established rule among the civilized nations inhabiting the coast-lands of the Mediterranean. The evening repast–call it supper or dinner–was a kind of domestic festival, the reward of the day’s toil, an enjoyment which rich and poor refrained from marring by premature gratifications of their appetites.”

Anecdotal of course, but in line with my experience.  I just watched my cat eat the food I gave him this morning.   Afterwards, he immediately went to sleep for an hour.  But it does make me wonder if prosperity has a terminal seed planted within it.  After reaching its peak, a society has access to lots of food.  People begin to eat more and more. Eventually a level of consumption is reached that outpaces the body’s need for nutrition and stunts energy and creativity.  The society begins to slow down, and other cultures who lag just a bit behind and don’t have as much begin to catch up.

The Romans apparently ate one big meal late in the day, and supplemented a couple of very small meals earlier.  The average Roman soldier was incredibly tough.  Few modern elite military forces could beat an average Roman soldier in marching.  A Roman soldier would march all day and then build a fortified encampment.  The average soldier probably weighed only 140 pounds.  Though his caloric intake had to be high, on the order of 5000-6000 calories a day, it’s unlikely he had the time or capacity to eat multiple meals in a day, aside from some bread or dates.  Yet he maintained a fantastic physical capability.

Also of interest are recent findings that very old practices, considered mystical and spiritual, actually have very measurable utilitarian value.  In America, the religious live the longest.  Who is likely to live the shortest life? The least religious women.  

Fasting is an ancient tradition, and chronicled throughout the Bible.  In the Bible fasting is done along with prayer, usually in preparation for a trying event, such as war or in times of grief.  Fasting has legitimate health benefits.  It seems to help in the fight against cancer, brain degeneration, and insulin resistance.  

I believe the ancients sensed things that we have proven through scientific study.  What we need a million dollar study to prove to us, the ancients endorsed simply because they saw it working.  While it’s true that ancient people did some things that are obviously wrong, many things they did were intuitive and profoundly effective.  In today’s world, many fall victim to the fallacy of Appeal to Novelty.  

Could it be that fasting grants “wisdom” ie, enhanced brain activity?  Maybe it’s something to fast on.

Obesity and McDonald’s

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Yesterday for lunch, I sat at my desk at work eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a ten piece Chicken McNugget from Mcdonalds.  Several people in the office commented with amazement that I was consuming such an atrocious meal, since I’m known for being knowledgeable and conscientious about food and exercise.  I even made a rule for my Soldiers that everytime I see them drinking a soda at work, they have to do one burpee for every gram of sugar in the bottle.  The burpee tax began when one Soldier had a 12 oz. bottle of Coca Cola on his desk.  I picked it up and read the label: 65 grams of sugar.

As I sat munching my delicious burger, one of the officers asked me how many burpees I was incurring from the McDonalds meal.  I told him, none, that sugar is the killer, especially liquid sugar.  An NCO chimed in with his negative comments, too.  I reminded them to look at my Physical Fitness test scores, and they conceded they couldn’t argue with my results.healthy?

I didn’t bother going in to any more detailed explanation of why it was ok for me to eat the meal, but I’ll touch on a few things here.  First, calories are the big thing.  Calories in, calories out matter, and they matter a lot.  There’s are other important issues, but mostly it comes down to energy balance.  To give you an idea of my energy expenditure energy yesterday, First, our section did an hour of physical training which entailed the following:  20 minutes of continuous exercise, 5 pullups, 10 parallel bar dips and 20 lunges, rotating through as many sets as possible in those 20 minututes.  At the end, we all did a minute of situps.  For me that ended up being 47 situps.  I lost count of how many sets I did, but I’ll estimate around 20.  So that’s 100 pullups, 200 dips, 400 lunges.  Next, after lunch I went for a two mile walk.  This in addition to walking quite a bit during my normal daily duties.  We also spent about 2 hours moving big rolls of razor wire and moving some moderately heavy boxes around.  So as you can see, I’m fairly active.

My food intake for the day, my energy intake, comprised the following:

Breakfast: 3 egg cheese omelet; two pieces whole wheat toast with butter

Lunch: Quarterpounder with cheese; 10 piece Chicken McNugget

Supper: One 6oz filet mignon wrapped in bacon; one ear of corn on the cob; 2 16oz cans of beer; and handful of mixed nuts

Some quick online research on calorie content, and using Fitness Magazine’s calorie requirement calculator (male, 41 years old, heavy exercise, 173 pounds), tells me that my calorie intake yesterday was 2859 and my daily average calorie requirement to sustain my current body weight is 2960 calories.  Almost exactly on, but just a little under.  My appetite yesterday tells me that this is correct: I felt very slight hunger pangs before going to bed, but nothing serious.  The net result is no weight gain.  Period.

Many people are familiar with Super Size Me, a documentary directed by film maker Morgan Spurlock.  In the film, Spurlock ate only meals from McDonalds for 30 continuous days and “Super Sized” his meals whenever the cashier asked him if he wanted it so.  The result was a measurable deterioration in Spurlock’s health and well being.  He gained over 23 pounds.  Many people attributed this to the evils of fast food.  Ignored was the fact that Spurlock consumed over 5000 calories per day, and did no regular exercise during this period.  Well, at least his nutritionist in the movie tells him he’s eating that many calories per day, though it’s been pointed out that in order to reach that many calories per day, Spurlock had to have broken his own eating rules, that is, he simply ate more than he stated.  And, he has never released a food log showing what he actually ate, only stating that he Super Sized 9 times total in 30 days.  The following video explains:

The following video shows Spurlock for what he really is:  A Vegan zealot, out to prove to the world the evils of meat, and the healthfulness of celery:

So Spurlock did what every bad scientist does: Set out to prove what he already knew.  If Spurlock ate 5000 calories of bananas he would have gained weight and felt awful.  If he’d eaten 2500 calories a day of McDonalds and cut out the soda and fries, he would have been fine.

In fact, several people have lost weight on diets of “bad” food from McDonalds.

And… this man. 

Tim Naughton did an experiment and showed he could lose weight over the same period that Spurlock gained weight, eating only fast food.

Eating fewer calories makes people healthier in almost all measurable ways.  Haughton’s blood lipids all improved while eating only at fast food restaurants.

The nutrition professor below ate about 1800 calories a day for 10 weeks, consuming twinkies and snack cakes.  He lost 27 pounds and his colesterol went down by 20 points.  This is real science.  And frankly it drives people nuts.  Many people who say they “trust in science, not religion” are lying: They simply believe what they want to believe.

Here’s the Twinkie Diet:

So, my diet strongly focuses on these factors: calories, effects on blood sugar, intermittent fasting.  My calories remain reasonable, I stay away from foods that spike blood sugar–especially chronic use of sugary drinks and sugary foods low in fiber,  and finally, skipping about two meals a weak leading to a 16-18 hour fast.  Pretty simple.  I don’t count calories, except when I’m making a point to unbelievers.

Here are two monkies, studied by real scientists.  One monkey (there were lots of them, not just these two) who ate fewer calories had fewer diseases, acted younger, and looked better.

Think about it.  A Quarter Pounder with cheese has about 510 calories.  If someone ate only 3 Quarter Pounders a day, they’d take in only 1530 calories a day.  But many Americans are taking in 4000-5000 a day–and that’s why they’re fat and sick.

Diet and Common Sense

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I recently had a long series of exchanges on another blog.  The topic was diet.  I posted some studies supporting the reduction of carbohydrate intake as a way to reduce weight and maintain health, and received a few flames for it.  In any case, people doubt the veracity of what I’m saying. 

One person advocated a “balanced” diet, instead of the one that he thought I prefered.  I’m all for balanced, but balanced is not what Americans are eating nowadays and they are simply eating too much of their unbalanced diet.  2/3rds of adult Americans are overweight and obesity among children has tripled in the last 30 years.  Clearly something is not right. 

The average American is consuming between 300 and 500 grams of carbohydrates per day.  And these aren’t “good carbs.”  Much, perhaps most of these carbs, are refined or in the form of liquid sugar ie soda and energy drinks.  This is simply unacceptable and I belive that the average American puts away more bags of Doritos per week than Porterhouse steaks.  In other words, I do not believe that the obesity problem has its root in meat consumption, but in the over eating of calories in the form of carbohydrate. 

One poster on the blog pointed out that the science was behind me.  Recommendations in the scientific community are 130 grams of carbs per day, with 38 grams of fiber.   That’s 100 grams of digestible carbs per day.  That sounds right on to me.  That’s about 5 slices of whole wheat bread a day.  Is that “extreme”?  No, what’s extreme is the current American diet, a virtual deluge of refined carbohydrates.  Science is figuring out that these carbs are worse than fat. 

Carbs have their uses.  I’m not anticarbohydrate.  But almost all of the carbohydrates I eat have some fiber mixed in, besides a few lumps of dark chocolate every now and again.  In my experience,  I start getting uncomfortable if I cut carbs below, say, 60 grams a day.  My sleep gets messed up.  Plus, I notice a boost in some physical activities and energy when I eat a few more carbs–about 100 grams in a day.  My mood’s better, too.  So, yes, eat some carbs.  But don’t eat as many as the average American. 

Lets be clear.  The way an apple impacts blood sugar and insulin is significantly different than what happens after a person drinks a glass of apple juice.  I say don’t drink fruit juice–ever.  Eat the apple or orange.  Not only will the juice spike insulin, it won’t make you feel nearly as full as the fruit.  Do this for years, than decades and we make ourselves old before our time. 

My diet today (it’s 3:21 pm right now) is as follows: 

Breakfast:  Three-egg omelet and two pieces of whole wheat toast with peanut butter;  2 cups of coffee; 2 glasses of water.

Lunch:  A “Doner” wrap (Lamb meat with lettuce, onions, garlic tomatoes, cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla); 2 bottles of water; 1 cup of coffee; 2 sqaures Dove dark chocolate.

Does this sound extreme to anyone?  Just remember though, if a person asked me if they should have 2 cans of beer after work or 2 cans of Coke, I go with the beer all the way. 


Moms, don’t let your kids grow up to be soda drinkers

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Want to have and immediate positive impact on your kid’s health? Don’t let them drink soda or fruit juice. Yes, that’s right, fruit juice. Juice is pretty much just soda without caffeine. For instance, Motts 100% apple juice contains 28 grams of sugar per 8oz glass. A can of soda is about 40-50 grams. That’s about 14 teaspoons of sugar in a single can. And it doesn’t even make you feel full.

Our bodies are not meant to ingest sugar in this form. In nature, the absorbtion of sugar from fruit is blunted by the fibre. Without the fibre, insulin levels skyrocket. Over years, chronically high insulin levels lead to obesity, and eventually “Syndrome X”; a systemic failure as a result of insulin resistance.

The best breakfast for kids is a whole grain cereal with whole milk. No juice, just water. Teach them when they’re young and it’ll be easy for them when they’re adults.