Saturday, December 31, 2016

"It's the new year and I want to lose a lot of body fat." This is the simplest way I know.

It's the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one, and people get inspired to try to make big changes. One of those is "losing a lot of weight."

If you're really effing serious about that one, I know how to do it. It's not the only way. It's not the most exciting way. In fact, it's downright dull. But, good lord, it works -- if you actually do it. And it's not a diet with bullshit calorie restrictions. You won't be hungry or, worse, "starving."

So -- again, if you're serious about the "a lot" part of "losing a lot" and not engaging in some sort of recurring end-of-year self-loathing ritual -- you could do these things:


1. Forget about "weight loss," and think instead in terms of "fat loss." That's what you actually care about: how you look and feel, and how your clothes fit, not what number is on a scale.

2. Throw out your scale. Or put it in a closet. The next time you get to step on it? That's when you need to weigh your luggage for a flight. That's also the only time. The scale is a self-defeating tool that gives you utterly irrelevant feedback on a number (weight, a.k.a. mass) that means almost nothing at all. As an example, the same person can weigh the same at two different points in time and look completely different, depending on his/her body composition. Losing body fat makes you look awesome, but it does not necessarily change your body weight. Presumably, you wish to look awesome, not engage in a numbers game.

3. Stop hating yourself. Easier said than done, I know. But really, you're not actually any of the pejoratives that you use to refer to yourself. Yes, you probably are, factually speaking, carrying around more body fat than you want to -- or else you wouldn't be reading this -- but you are not any of those other names. You are loved, and you are great. This is not new-agey bullshit on my part. It's science. Negative attitudes about yourself are stressful. Stress causes cortisol production. Cortisol is a fat-storage hormone. (This won't be the last time you read the word "cortisol" in this post). You want to minimize cortisol. That begins with a simple mantra that you, indeed, are awesome and can do anything you want.


1. Meditate for at least ten minutes every day. Every day. Why? That cortisol thing that I just told you about. Meditation reduces stress. It doesn't matter whether you think it's "working." If you are bothering to do it -- just ten minutes a day -- it will "work" even if you don't think it's doing anything. Really. Believe me when I tell you that if you don't have ten minutes a day to meditate, your stress problems are dangerously off the charts. Or, as the Zen people say, "If you don't have ten minutes a day to meditate, do 30 instead, because you need it."

2. Powerlift heavy two or three times a week, always with at least one rest day in between. "Heavy" means heavy for you, not trying to hurt yourself by competing like a jackass with your stronger friends. Power lifts mean deadlifts, squats and presses. If you don't know what they are, join a gym and have a trainer/coach show you. Really. That does not mean the Olympic lifts (snatch and clean/jerk) that so many CrossFit gyms are doing. There is nothing wrong with Olympic lifting but those are technical speed lifts. Yes, they require strength, but they really require a ton of technique and speed. The power lifts more simply demand direct/brute strength and, consequently, more directly engage metabolic systems that impact fat loss. And no, you will not get "huge" from a basic powerlifting regimen. Did you suddenly look like Ben Johnson last time you tried to run fast? No. Lifting heavy things will make you lose fat. You will not magically wake up one day looking like one of those guys that picks up cars and logs in a strongman competition. By the way, why only two or three times a week? Why the emphasis on rest days? (Are you ready?) Yup, cortisol. Overtraining is stressful. Stress causes cortisol production. It's like a broken record, I know.

3. Walk at a brisk pace (whatever that is for you) 60-90 minutes a day. Every day. Every damn day. Really. Aim for a 75-min average. So yeah, do 60 one day and 90 the next if you like. Or do 75 every day. Walking, not running. Walking. Every day. If you miss a day because of weather, don't freak out, but don't skip a day very often. Do not do any other "cardio" or "metabolic conditioning/metcon" work. Why the walking emphasis? It stokes the metabolic engine in a low-stress way. There are people in CrossFit (and other) gyms all over the country that are significantly fatter than they want to be but they are grinding themsleves into bits four or five or more times per week at the gym doing hard conditioning or "cardio" work. There are also people that want to lose a lot of fat that are running to lose it. That's nuts, and wildly counterproductive. Those exercise regimens are cortisol bombs. Put bluntly, a fat person with a huge cortisol problem is not doing him/herself any favors by creating more cortisol through those kinds of exercise. Yes, over-exercising can make you fatter. Walk every day for 60-90 minutes. Powerlift two-three times per week. That is a low-cortisol/fat-burning exercise routine that beats all others if you are trying to lose a lot of body fat. Walking is also meditative as hell. (See #1 above). You know what that reduces? Cortisol. You could begin to think this post is mostly about cortisol. Because it is.

4. Eat three meals a day consisting of well-raised animal protein (meat, fish, eggs) and vegetables that grow above the ground, plus -- depending on how fatty the cut of meat is -- some added fat like avocado or olive oil or real butter. (Fattier cut of meat? Don't add much fat. Eat horrible/grim no-fat white-meat chicken cutlets full of sadness? Add some good fat). Fat keeps you full. It does not "make you fat."** No snacks. (Yeah I know). I repeat: no snacks. If, in the beginning, you are going to have to fight the urge to snack, bring more of the food you ate for your meals as a snack. This will teach you to eat more at meals, because bringing snacks along is a pain in the ass. There is no calorie counting here. Eat at meals until you are full. Yes, full. No shitbag magazine low-fat starvation crap. Eat until you are full, like nature intended. Again, you eat: animals, vegetables from above the ground and some good fat. That's it. Note, I didn't tell you what not to eat. That's because instead I told you what to eat. If it's not an animal, a vegetable from above the ground or a good fat, you aren't eating it. "Wait!" you say. "What about fruit? It's good for you." Yes, it can be, but remember that this is a plan for big fat-loss. There will be plenty of time for fruit one day, but the sugars in the fruit are not going to help you in your quest to lose a lot of fat. Same thing with starchy below-ground veggies like potatoes. You can do freaking delicious things with meat and veggies. There are great paleo cookbooks out there. Buy them. Note the phrase: "You can do...." Yes, you are cooking at home. If you want to lose a lot of body fat, that is.... Restaurants are not going to help you lose fat. They are trying to overwhelm you with flavor, not body comp. In fact, here's a mantra for you: restaurants make people fat and they like it that way.

5. Drink water, seltzer, coffee or tea. That's it. Don't drink soda/pop, not even "diet."(Artificial sweeteners often still trigger your body to produce insulin, which operates with cortisol to... you guessed it... store fat).  Don't drink alcohol. At all. I repeat: don't drink alcohol. Alcohol destroys/inhibits significant fat loss. Don't smoke/ingest weed. Do you know a fat weed smoker that kept smoking weed and got thin? No, you don't. When you are high, you make horrendous food decisions.

6. Sleep at least eight hours per night. Why? Yup, cortisol. Sleep deprivation is stressful. Stress triggers cortisol production. If you are meditating every day (and you will be) this sleep thing will be a snap. Meditation ends stress wakeups, which cause excess cortisol.

That's it. Don't tell me it's not sustainable. I know people that have done it and made huge improvements in body comp. If you don't want to do it, that's okay. No one is forcing you. But it's plenty sustainable. I am also not telling you to never eat things ever again that aren't meat/vegetables/good-fat. I'm just telling you not to eat those things now while you are trying to lose a lot of body fat. This isn't asceticism. It's science. Science about.... cortisol. You may have heard of that by now.

Every day: meditate, sleep, walk, eat smart, drink smart.
Two or three times a week: lift heavy.

If you actually follow this plan, you will lose a lot of fat. Really. You will not be hungry or crazy. This is not a diet. You are eating to satiety (fullness) every time. There is no calorie restriction here and no weighing or measuring food. There isn't even a shit-ton of what you currently think of as exercise.

This plan may not be "easy." But it sure is simple. And it works.

Go forth and make some big changes. or not. Your call.

** If I were going to hashtag this food plan, it would be #LCHF. Translation? Low-carb, healthy fats.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Another twist on mindfulness: the no-alcohol experiment switches gears... to "almost no alcohol"

80 days.

Jules Verne had Phileas Fogg circumnavigate the globe in that amount of time.

I didn't do anything nearly that dramatic. I just didn't drink any alcohol during that time. It was a science experiment, and I learned a lot of things. A lot of things. Let's take a quick look at a few of those things:

1. Alcohol is like a fat-storage mobilizer, or maybe, more specifically, consuming it regularly inhibits fat-burning. Stop drinking alcohol for a couple months, and the fat storage slows while the love handles disappear. When fat goes away and you look better in and out of your clothes, you feel pretty damn good about what you are doing with your life. I'm seriously in favor of feeling good about life.

2. Alcohol is estrogenic. Regular alcohol is regularly estrogenic. Guys my age really don't need to do regularly estrogenic things. Not doing regularly estrogenic things helps hormonal balance (testosterone!), which helps fat loss and general feelings of awesomeness. There might be a theme here.

3. A body sleeps better when it isn't processing alcohol. Self-explanatory? Mostly, but I am also a lot less likely to wake up to pee in the middle of the night if I haven't had a drink. Sleeping through the night most nights is a beautiful thing. That helps hormonally-balanced fat-loss too. You also feel like a million effing bucks. You know....

4. There definitely seems to be a theme here.

5. Mindfulness. I have a stupid/mindless drink too easily/reflexively if I'm bored at night at home -- unless I mindfully don't do that. I'm in favor of mindfulness, in all aspects of my life. This 80-day experiment was like a secret Zen trick that I played on myself. Yay for secret Zen tricks. Always.

6. Time goes slower at night if I don't have a drink. I have no clear explanation for this one, but I noticed it early on and found it to be 100% true for the entire 80 days. The time between the end of the work day and going to bed seemed a solid hour (or more) longer without a glass of wine or whiskey involved. Maybe mindful living enhances your awareness of everything? Sounds plausible, anyway. It sounds likely, as a matter of fact. Whatever it is, I like it. I like it a lot.

7. Total alcohol abstinence is pretty easy** for me. Frankly, it was stupidly easy even though crazy things (like election season and much of the holiday-party season) happened during that time***. This 80-day experiment wasn't difficult; it was just unusual. I've never gone that long in my adult life without a drink. But what I really like is doing whatever the hell I want, not operating under a set of rules just to follow them. So, having accumulated a pretty clear set of facts, and having done this portion of this stunt for a sizable period of time, my science-driven plan going forward is to adopt the following state of mind: I'm going to keep abstaining... except when I don't. Put more precisely, I'm not planning on buying any alcohol for my house, or drinking alcohol at home at all. But if I'm out socializing? Yeah, I might have a drink. I don't want to return to regular shorter weeknights, regularly estrogenic behavior and regularly disrupted sleep, all of which would result if I started having a daily glass of wine or whiskey again. But having a social drink with friends here and there? Yeah, I'm down with that. In fact, that social drink is what I miss, not the stupid drink at home.

So the experiment goes onward, but it's in the next phase -- the one called "only drinking if I'm socializing." (I'm 54, not 24, so my socializing is pretty modest). This plan requires more thought (for me) than total abstinence. It requires mindfulness, intent and generally staying even more on my game than usual. It also leads to even more awesomeness. Or that's the plan anyway.

Let's go.

** I make no bones about the fact that I never got into this abstinence experiment out of a sense of addiction or being out of control. I was just tweaking my body's chemistry. It's what I do -- a relentless quest for self-improvement through lifestyle choices/modifications. If you have an addiction issue with alcohol (or maybe if you just aren't anything like me), not only might quitting alcohol not be "easy" for you, but going back, even to an infrequent drink with friends, could wreck your whole fucking life. As the chief used to say to the assembled cops in Hill Street Blues: "Let's be careful out there."

*** A small point regarding big changes: there's never a "good" time. Whether you are trying to quit something, start something healthier, make a big life move, etc., if you look ahead on the calendar there is always an event in the future that you could point to and say, "OK, right, I'll do [the big life-changing thing] right after that happens." Fuck that. Do or do not do, but don't delay because of that future thing; there's always a future thing.

Friday, December 2, 2016


Dogs. They aren't geniuses but they know more than we might think.

This is a cover of a Camper Van Beethoven song that Mondo Topless did on our 2010 album while I was the drummer.

The psychedelic bridge of the song features Emmy Lou, our long-deceased Husky mix on "vocals."

I played this last year at one point and Holly, our recently-passed Golden Retriever, got really upset and confused. She went looking for Emmy, whom she knew well. I never played the song again out of respect for Holly.

There are big tufts of Holly's hair outside in the dog yard from the last time she got brushed. They are like small tumbleweeds, gradually disappearing in the wind. I just opened the door to let Milo inside and he was transfixed somewhere between confusion and horror. He'd sniff her fur ball and then look at me, utterly bewildered and a little frantic, as if to ask where she is.

Fuck. She was always the lowliest member of the pack and I didn't think they would even miss her. Who knew?