I was 100 pounds
overweight. I had high blood pressure, fatty liver, high insulin,
high triglycerides, high LDL (the "bad" cholesterol),
and low HDL (the "good" cholesterol). I was prediabetic
and had low energy levels, abysmal fitness, lower back and knee
pain, and erratic sleep patterns. That was a few years ago. I completely
reversed all these conditions and lost 100 pounds. This is how I
I'm not a nutritionist,
doctor, or researcher. I have no product to sell, no theory to defend.
Contradictions and opinions about food and fitness are everywhere.
After trying for years almost everything out there and repeatedly
failing, I finally found a path that worked. This path is not a
diet. It's a specific approach to food and exercise which embraces
the fact that food is one of the great joys in life. Unlike diets,
this path makes no distinction between a weight loss phase and a
maintenance phase. I do the same things now as when I was losing
the weight. When you live correctly, your body finds its natural
weight. There are also people who are "skinny fat" — not
overweight but have poor fitness, cholesterol imbalance, or high
If you decide
to walk the path I lay out ahead, I suggest not doing it piecemeal,
even if you read certain things herein that conflict with conventional
wisdom. After all, you can always go back to what wasn't working
for you. Be open-minded and I believe you'll reap the transformational
results I did.
- On day 1,
weigh yourself in the morning before you eat anything. Write it
down with the date in a notepad. Keep the notepad near the scale.
- Take reference
photos — front, back and side — wearing workout shorts and no
shirt. (I took them using a mirror.) You will look at these over
time and shake your head in wonder. Your brain plays tricks and
softens the past regarding how bad things were. The photos fix
- Get a full
blood panel done, including vitamin D and insulin. You should
be able to do it through your doctor. If not, get the LEF “Life
Extension Panel.” The test results will show if any of your
readings are abnormal. After 6–7 months, get another panel, and
I bet it will look like that of a different person. If you're
currently on some combination of statins, blood pressure meds,
or diabetes meds, there's a very good chance your doctor will
say you no longer need to take them as long as you continue the
lifestyle described herein.
- Don’t cut
sleep short. Get 7 hours minimum. If you wake up too early, take
naps. Do whatever it takes to get 7, preferably 8, hours of sleep.
"Getting by" with less will sabotage you. It's a hormone
and biochemistry issue. By the way, sleep will come MUCH more
easily and restfully when you eat and exercise on this plan.
- From Costco
get a bottle of Kirkland Mature-Multi vitamins and a bottle of
any vitamin D3 in 1000 or 2000 IU. After trying many supplements,
I stuck with this particular one because it's not a megadose,
and its potency and purity is tested by USP, an independent third
party. Men, make sure you get the one that does NOT have iron.
Once per day, after a meal, take a multivitamin and 3,000–5,000
IU of D3. Vary the amount of D from day to day. You don’t need
the D on days that you’re out in direct sun with arms and legs
exposed more than 10–15 minutes. I believe supplements beyond
this level are unnecessary (and a waste of money) when you're
exercising and eating properly, and possibly detrimental unless
you're addressing a specific health condition.
- Weigh yourself
once or twice per week as you feel. Write it in your weight journal.
I used to do it every day but realized it wasn’t necessary. You
can do it every day for a while if it makes you feel better.
- DON’T: keep
a food diary, count calories, count fat grams, count carb grams…count
anything really. It’s all totally unnecessary. You are going to
learn to listen to your body when you eat.
- If you drink
alcohol, don’t have more than 3 drinks per week initially. Once
you're physically where you want to be, you can slide up to 4–5
per week if it means a lot to you.
- Be ACTIVE
virtually every day. Activity is not exercise. You will be exercising
10–20 minutes between 2–5 times per week, but you should be active
virtually every day. The qualitative difference between exercise
and activity is that activity does not involve perceived exertion.
In other words, no heavy breathing, heart thumping, or sweating.
Activity is strictly pleasurable, even playful, movement. A great
way to be active is to take short strolls (5–20 minutes) any time
— in the morning, after a meal, during a work break. If you're
on your own it's a good time to listen to music, an LRC podcast,
or a Mises.org recording.
- If you go
off track from the eating guidelines below, like having a piece
of cake, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on the path. A
blown tire is not a reason to shoot out the other three. This
won't happen often, since you'll be altering your biochemistry
so that you're not fighting constantly temptation. That's due
to the wide variety of food you'll be eating, the kind of exercise
you'll be doing, the lack of diet regimentation, and the biochemical
fact that food cravings disappear when you step off the grain-sugar-insulin
- Don't go
to sleep soon after eating dinner. Try to separate dinner and
bed by 3 or more hours.
- Do not regiment
your eating. There’s no problem with eating 2 meals some days
and 5 on others. Mix up the number of meals and their size by
listening to your body. Blind regimentation dulls your listening
skills and makes you do things “just because.” Most people can
survive for weeks without food, so don't worry about skipping
a meal if you're not hungry.
fasting. Every 3–8 days, skip breakfast on an ad hoc basis. This
is a form of intermittent fasting. It’s easy to do if you eat
an earlier dinner (say at 6pm). Then you can get a 14–18 hour
fast in by the time you have a late morning snack or lunch. Again,
this isn’t something to regiment. It’s just based on how you feel.
There are biochemical benefits to intermittent fasting, but it’s
also about developing sensitivity to your body and experiencing
the contrast between eating because you’re hungry versus eating
because a clock says it’s time to eat. If you're used to eating
constantly because you read somewhere that it's good for weight
loss, forget that advice. And if you think you couldn't possibly
give up eating continually throughout the day, it's because you're
on the insulin rollercoaster. The changes in how you'll be eating
and exercising will get the cravings and sugar monkey off your
way to be active is to alternate between sitting and standing
while working. I use my laptop on a tall cafe-style coffee table.
A standing desk or podium works too. Try to stand by default,
but sit whenever your feet or legs feel tired. After sitting for
a while (20–30 minutes), stand up again. This makes a huge difference
over time. At first you'll fatigue quickly, but you’ll get much
stronger over time. If you're absolutely unable to stand while
you work, sit on a Swiss ball instead of an office chair. That
makes sitting much more active. Here's
a good one.
good too when talking on the phone or thinking about something.
Be creative about being active. There's no set amount of time
you need to be active, and it should vary naturally from day to
the following food ingredient list into three categories: DELETE,
OCCASIONAL, and STAPLES. The delete list might seem restrictive
at first, but I promise the right cooking tech and alternate ingredients
will nullify the impact almost completely. Try to buy organic whenever
possible, but don’t stress too much about it. Equally important
is to make an effort to get grass-fed meat whenever you can. Overfattened
grain-fed meat is worth avoiding whenever possible. I bought a freezer
from Home Depot for less than $300 so that I can order grass-fed
meat online (www.grasslandbeef.com). I also keep it stocked up with
bags of frozen fruit and vegetables. It saves a lot of money, time,
and trips to the store. It also lets you be far more spontaneous
- Delete all
grains. Drop grain-based breads, rice, pasta, crackers, cereals,
and oats. Whole wheat is no better than white for our purposes;
all are a no-go. I promise these items will soon have absolutely
no pull on you. And keep reading to find out how to enjoy 0 grain–0
sugar bread, muffins, cakes, pies, etc.
- Delete all
added sugar. This includes honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, corn
syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, brown sugar, and white sugar.
Read on for how to compensate for not using sugar in all its forms.
Though what I do differs from some of his recommendations, Mark
Sisson's Primal Blueprint does a fine job of explaining the biochemical
reasons for avoiding grains and added sugar.
- Delete the
salt shaker. This includes refined salt, sea salt, and soy sauce,
which is effectively liquid salt. Salt is present in virtually
every natural food, and you get all the salt you need by eating
the foods on the STAPLES list. Adding more salt to your food will
NOT make you healthier. To the contrary, excess salt increases
blood pressure and makes you look puffy from water retention.
In other words, don't salt your food in the kitchen or at the
table. Breaking this habit will take about a week of feeling an
occasional urge to salt your food. After that you won't even think
about it. If you buy prepared food, buy low salt or no salt versions.
Most canned soups and tomato sauces are absolutely loaded with
salt. Compare regular and no/low salt versions, and you'll see
thousands of milligram differences. Salt is a dirt cheap way for
food manufacturers and restaurants to enhance flavor, but it does
your weight and health no favors. Once you're off added salt,
you'll find out just how much salt is in restaurant food when
you step on the scale the next morning. If you ask a professional
chef what dishes he DOESN'T salt, you'll get crickets for an answer.
- Delete white
potatoes. I might have them two or three times a year. This includes
baked potatoes, fries, mashed, boiled, etc. You won't crave them
when you're off the insulin rollercoaster.
(eat no more than once per month)
- Beans. For
example, use a can of beans if you make chili or throw some in
a soup, but don’t use them as a constant staple. Don't drink soy
milk or eat tofu. If you want a soy milk substitute, use almond
milk, not rice milk. Green beans are OK to eat more often than
once per month.
- Corn on
the cob is fine once in a while. No corn meal. And no corn starch,
except for occasionally thickening milk for, say, a pudding. Otherwise
use arrowroot for thickening sauces, soups, fruit compotes, and
cobblers. Whole Foods sells arrowroot by the bag at a fraction
of the price of the spice jar sizes.
- Pork, bacon,
and fatty cuts of meat. If you like pork or bacon, get wild boar
- Butter and
cream. These are strictly for cooking when you can’t use olive
oil or grapeseed oil instead. I realize some people are claiming
butter and cream are heath foods. All I can say is they played
no role in my physical transformation. Same goes for mayonnaise,
which when called for I substitute with Greek yogurt.
- Sweet potatoes.
Fine once in a while if you enjoy them.
or strong flavor distaste, these ingredients are your go-to foods.
I eat meat, poultry or seafood pretty much every day, sometimes
twice. I eat eggs several times per week. And I eat multiple servings
of vegetables and fruits every day. With fruits and veggies, it
may sound simplistic, but aim to eat lots of different colors every
So, how much
to eat? Diets are regimented by telling you exactly what to eat
and in what quantity. This is wrong by design, not to mention totally
unworkable in the long run. You can't diet for your entire life
(nor would you want to), which is why 99% of them fail. The key
is to learn to eat the right foods in reasonable ratios. This way
your body will take care of itself while you enjoy a wide variety
of flavors, colors, textures, and nutrients. People like to make
things complicated, but it's really that simple.
In terms of
volume and frequency of food consumption, follow this order from
highest to lowest: vegetables, animal protein (meat, poultry, seafood),
fruit, eggs, yogurt, nuts, milk, cheese, oil. Cheese and oil are
there mostly for flavor enhancement. Use them sparingly, in other
words only where they make a big difference. Milk is on the list
not for nutritional reasons, but to use in certain cooking applications
that greatly increase your recipe options and food enjoyment.
- All vegetables
(except corn, sweet potato, and beans per above). Vegetables are
your biggest volume staple, the base of your food pyramid. Hopefully
you already like salads. If not, experiment with ways to make
salads you do like. For example, try adding berries, or a few
nuts, or herbs like mint and basil, or different kinds of dressing.
Salads should be as varied as possible and be a part of at least
one meal per day, if not two. Get good at cooking all sorts of
veggies and integrating them with different sauces, eggs, meats,
herbs, and spices. Bake, stir-fry, roast, and grill them. Make
veggie soups, or add extra veggies to low-sodium soups you buy.
(By low sodium soup, I mean the milligrams of sodium per serving
is around the same as the number of calories per serving.) There
are some amazing things you can do with squash (acorn and butternut
in particular). Try spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, sautéed
mushrooms and onions, and Parmesan. Search "vegetable cookbook"
on Amazon if you need inspiration.
red meats. Preference scale, from highest to lowest: grass-fed
bison, grain-finished bison, grass-fed beef, grain-finished beef.
Tenderloin is the money ball cut. Use lean ground for hamburgers,
casseroles, chili, egg scrambles, and (no-flour) pizza topping.
Braise or crockpot the ultra-lean chuck and similar roast cuts.
They’re harder to get, but venison and elk are fantastic, and
like bison, preferable to beef. Lamb is slightly preferable to
beef. I eat red meat several times per week, usually bison. I
don't eat beef very often as most cows are fed grain, which makes
them overly fat and sick, necessitating the need for antibiotics.
If you can’t get grass-fed meat locally, order from grasslandbeef.com.
Chicken and turkey, organic if it’s available. I eat mostly breast
meat, some legs, as well as lean ground turkey. Don't eat the
skin. I only eat duck occasionally at restaurants.
All fresh seafood is great. Try to buy fresh and wild if you can.
And make sure you use canned tuna with no added salt.
Berries — strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries
— are the best in terms of nutrients and insulin response. Eat
them more often than the other fruits. For me their enjoyment
skyrockets when I mix in some Splenda. Apples, cherries, melons,
pears, and citrus are all great. Limit banana, pineapple and mango
to no more than once a week. By far the best brand of frozen fruit
and vegetables I've found is the fantastic Stahlbush
Island Farms. I eat dried fruit occasionally, mostly when
cooking (like putting raisins in tuna salad or a curry). If you
like fruit in your salads, favor fresh fruit over dried fruit.
Don't eat store-bought jams or jellies, even if no sugar is added.
I eat nuts just about every day. All kinds of nuts. Almonds, cashews,
walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts. None of them
salted. Toasted or raw is fine. (I usually prefer toasted, especially
almonds and hazelnuts.) Don’t buy nuts that are roasted in oil.
Generally avoid peanuts, which are a legume, not a nut. Nuts and
seeds have about the same calories, and since I enjoy nuts much
more than seeds, I eat very few seeds. I also rarely eat nuts
on their own. I use them as a condiment with salads, yogurt, fruit,
desert toppings, etc. I use nut butter (mostly almond butter and
cashew butter) on celery and apples, and — yes this sounds crazy
but it’s excellent — in coleslaw dressing (recipe to follow).
I also use nut butter in baking, like cashew or almond cookies.
Try mixing a little cinnamon with nut butter if you're going to
spread it on celery sticks or apple slices.
- Nut flour.
Almond flour is my most used nut flour. Coconut flour is next,
and then hazelnut flour for a few things. You can buy almond flour
in stores, but it’s
cheaper here. Baking with nut flour is one of those things
that you want to do maybe once a week. In other words, you're
not eating it so much for nutrition, but rather because it hugely
opens up your food enjoyment possibilities. You can make fantastic
tasting breads, muffins, cookies, and cakes with nut flour, but
they should be treats more than staples.
Our main dairy staple is plain nonfat yogurt, which I use in a
variety of ways almost every day. Nonfat Greek yogurt is truly
amazing in texture, and you won’t believe it’s nonfat. Oikos sells
organic nonfat, and here
are some recipes you can adapt. Fage
is also a great brand. For some applications a regular, nonfat
yogurt is better. It makes an amazing base for various salad dressings.
Here's one to get started: mix non-fat yogurt with crumbled blue
cheese, some herbs (optional), and Splenda to taste in order to
balance the sour profile of the yogurt. This dressing over endive,
sliced pear, walnuts, and chopped mint is one of my favorites.
I eat eggs several times per week, 2–4 at a time. Fried, poached,
hardboiled, scrambled, deviled, frittatas, omelets, crepes (made
with almond flour)…the list goes on. When combined with different
herbs, spices, cheeses, proteins (e.g. shrimp or ground bison),
and sautéed veggies, the possibilities of eggs are vast.
oil and grapeseed oil. I use olive oil for no-temp and low-temp
cooking, and grapeseed oil for higher temp cooking and pan-frying.
The reason is that olive oil has a much lower smoke point than
grapeseed oil. I don’t use coconut oil or butter at all at home.
I'm aware of the current coconut oil craze, but as with cream
and butter, it played no role in my physical transformation. If
I eat butter, it's incidental because a cook uses it in a restaurant
dish. That said, oils are not something to go crazy with. Yes
they have a few nutrients, but they are not health food per se,
as their nutrients pale in comparison to vegetables and fruits.
Use oil only in amounts really needed to cook. You can often halve
the amount of oil called for in a baked good recipe by substituting
(unsweetened) apple sauce. Try experimenting and you'll get a
feel for how much oil you can cut out while keeping full enjoyment
of the dish. Try not to overdo oil in salad dressings either.
Milk (or 1% if you can’t handle nonfat). Other than the occasional
glass of hot chocolate, I only use milk when needed for cooking,
like making pudding, pumpkin pie, or to thin a yogurt-based salad
dressing. Unsweetened almond milk is fine if you prefer, though
it doesn't do as well when baking. Since I mentioned hot chocolate,
I use organic, unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa powder probably
2–3 times a month. The best brands are Green & Black’s and
Dagoba. I also use it to make chocolate pudding and chocolate
yogurt (cocoa & Splenda to taste). When making hot chocolate
with milk, cocoa powder and Splenda, the cocoa powder is really
tough to stir into the milk with a spoon, so I use a frother.
highly recommend this one.
I don’t eat cheese on its own. I use it as a topping and cooking
ingredient, in moderation. I use harder cheeses with lower milkfat,
as well as sharper cheeses that give more flavor per gram, such
as blue cheese and sharp aged cheddar. Again, it's not for health
so much as food enjoyment and variety.
- All herbs
and spices. I eat cinnamon almost daily because it goes great
in so many things. Yogurt, apple sauce, fruit compotes, shakes,
baked goods, and more. It helps regulate insulin, and I love the
taste. I use nutmeg fairly often too. Chili flakes in soups and
on pizza (almond crust). Experiment with different herbs and spices.
Be creative. Look at how various recipes use seasoning for ideas.
It's something that you get a feel for with a little practice.
This isn't just for flavor enhancement. Herbs and spice are good
for you, so embrace them.
- Tea and
coffee. I drink Swiss process organic decaf coffee. But more
frequently I drink black, green and oolong teas — as well as rooibos,
which is not tea and has no caffeine. These all work great on
ice too. Add Splenda to taste if you don't like it plain. Sometimes
I make Arnold Palmers with English breakfast or Earl Grey tea,
Santa Cruz brand organic lemon juice, and Splenda. My favorite
brand of tea is Choice Organic — exceptional quality, organic,
and well priced. Drink 2–4 glasses per day and mix up the varieties.
Whole Foods and Trader Joe's carry Choice Organic, but
I buy it online.
I'm going to spell this out as clearly as I can: Splenda is absolutely
essential to my cooking and full enjoyment of healthy food.
I was initially
very hesitant to use Splenda, since it's not natural (though it's
derived from sugar). I'm aware that there is info online claiming
Splenda is bad for you. But there are people and companies that
have massive financial incentives to bash Splenda, so I wasn't about
to take a stranger's online word for it. Splenda is one of the more
tested food products on the market (over 100 clinical and animal
studies). It has been available since 1998, and it underwent testing
for many years before it came to market. I’ve asked two doctors
and a professional nutritionist over a period of years now to search
the medical databases to find a single double-blind study that shows
using Splenda is dangerous. They all told me it was safe to use.
(Compare that with saccharine, aspartame, or some completely natural
ingredients…like hemlock and arsenic, or tobacco.) Of course sugar
in all its forms is natural as well, and I was an active consumer
of it when my health was in shambles.
to bear in mind that the massive sugar lobby and corn lobby both
can't stand Splenda. Splenda is a huge revenue threat, especially
now that there's a rampant obesity epidemic. The makers of Equal
and Sweet ‘n’ Low hate Splenda too, as it has ravaged their market
share. Some people use Stevia over Splenda simply because it's natural
(though in a highly processed state). I don't use Stevia because
I don't like the aftertaste, and it doesn't work for cooking and
baking. There also have been fewer clinical studies on Stevia, and
it's used by a fraction of the number of people who use Splenda.
In any case, there are billions of dollars worth of reasons why
the "sweet industry" wants to cast Splenda in a bad light.
Meanwhile Splenda's market share has rocketed over the years, with
many millions of people using it every day, including diabetics
and pregnant women.
of Splenda are unique compared to other sweeteners. Unlike all forms
of sugar, Splenda isn't loaded with calories, and it doesn’t spike
insulin. It doesn't rot your teeth. It mixes easily into drinks,
unlike Stevia (and costs far less). It has no aftertaste, unlike
Stevia, Equal, and Sweet u2018n' Low. It doesn’t break down under heat
and works great for baking, unlike Stevia, Equal, and Sweet u2018n'
Low. And most gloriously, when used properly in food and drinks,
it is virtually indistinguishable from sugar, as it is made from
sugar. I've countless times served everything from desserts to lemonade
to guests who come back for seconds while having no idea that they’re
eating sugar-free food. Your body doesn't readily metabolize Splenda,
making it in essence sweet fiber. It's truly revolutionary and brilliant.
Even though millions use it every day, I don't think it has received
the recognition and level of praise it deserves for just how powerful
it is in making healthy food more accessible and enjoyable.
You will profoundly
benefit in food enjoyment if you open your mind to being creative
with Splenda. You'll be amazed by the myriad ways it can enhance
flavor. The trick to cooking without salt or sugar is flavor contrast.
Look at a jar of store-bought tomato sauce. Lots of sugar and lots
of salt. The acid in a tomato sauce needs to be balanced with sweetness,
or the results are bland and flat. If you don’t add sugar and salt
to your food, you must create flavor contrast elsewhere or the taste
won't be pleasing. The art of preparing great tasting food with
no added sugar or salt lies in contrasting Splenda’s sweetness with
sour (e.g. lemon or plain yogurt); its sweetness with heat (e.g.
chili peppers); its sweetness with spice (e.g. cinnamon); and its
sweetness with bitter (e.g. cocoa powder). You will develop a feel
for how to use Splenda in different situations, but the following
are a few simple examples.
- Use Splenda
to make cocoa, lemonade, limeade, or sweet tea.
- Mix Splenda
with 25% unsweetened cranberry juice and 75% water. (Don't drink
any other juices save for lemonade and limeade.)
- Make cocktails
that call for simple syrup (liquid sugar).
- Stir Splenda
and cinnamon (or cocoa powder) into regular or Greek nonfat yogurt.
- Mix Splenda
into berries if they aren't sweet enough for optimal taste.
- Use a packet
to augment soups, sauces, and salad dressings. (Lemonade and limeade
make for a good dressing base on certain salads.)
- Mix with
unsweetened apple sauce and cinnamon to taste.
- Make Thanksgiving
style cranberries with Splenda instead of sugar (easier to use
Splenda granular for this since it requires a lot).
- Make fruit
compotes by reducing frozen fruit in a pan with Splenda. Add a
bit of arrowroot to thicken it more if desired.
- Mash cinnamon
and Splenda into a baked sweet potato (occasionally).
For years I
have paid absolutely no heed to the quantity of Splenda I use. It’s
solely based on whatever makes my food taste the best. It might
be a half-packet in a bowl of blueberries, 10 packets in a glass
of lemonade, or 20 packets in a batch of vanilla pudding — just
depends on what I’m eating or drinking. I had a big bowl of bison
chili the other day, and it was good — but it became great with
a couple packets of Splenda stirred in.
To sum it up,
I owe a lot to Splenda as a product, and I want to give it full
recognition for others who might have the same hesitation to use
it that I originally had. I lost 100 pounds and restored my health
while using it every day for years. And I'm now in the best shape
of my life.
Putting the Staples to Work
Hop on to Amazon
and get these cookbooks. The first three are all easily adaptable
to Splenda. The last one is a great Splenda cookbook where you’ll
swap the flour out of certain recipes for almond flour or coconut
flour. Hold the salt on all recipes. These books will give you tons
of great recipes that are easily adapted to grain free, sugar free,
salt free cooking. It is important to note that relatively few recipes
in any cookbook can be followed verbatim. You may need to omit the
salt, substitute sugar for Splenda, decrease the quantity of oil,
or add more veggies or fruit. Learning this art of substituting
is a key skill you'll develop over a relatively short period of
time. At first it will involve some trial and error, but often even
your "flops" will taste good. Don't be afraid to try new
techniques and substitute ingredients to tweak recipes to suit your
palette. Once I learned the techniques of grain-free and sugar-free
baking from these cookbooks, I was able to greatly expand my kitchen
It's not out
yet, but I'm looking forward to Mark
Sisson's upcoming grain-free cookbook as well.
recipes, you'll get a feel for how you like a dish to taste. For
example, when making a dish that calls for sugar or an equivalent,
instead of matching it with Splenda one-to-one, I often find that
dishes turn out better if I up the Splenda by 25–50%, depending
on what recipe I'm making. I rarely make something exactly the same
way twice, and I often tweak herbs, spices, etc.
make up a recipe that works out well, I’ll write it down in order
to remember what I did for future reference. To get started right
away on your grain-free, sugar-free journey, here are a few examples
of some quick dishes:
nonfat yogurt with a bag of frozen berries (try strawberry or blueberry
to start). Add in a couple shakes of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla
extract, and 10–15 packets of Splenda to taste. Add the frozen fruit
gradually to help the blending, and thin with milk or unsweetened
almond milk as needed to get the desired thickness. Nutmeg or a
few mint leaves also make for good variations.
Eggs with sautéed
veggies (onions, mushrooms, peppers, etc.) and ground bison or turkey.
Sprinkle a little cheese on top if desired. I often add a few shakes
of oregano or red chili flakes too.
Tuna (or Chicken) Salad
than mayo is the binder. Mix in curry powder, Splenda, raisins,
chopped celery and apple.
(purple, green or both) and carrots. Many stores have pre-shredded
cabbage, which saves quite a bit of chopping time. In a large bowl,
mix non-fat yogurt and almond butter. Sweeten with Splenda to taste,
and thin with milk if needed. Add the shredded veggies and toss.
There should be enough dressing to generously coat them.
With any recipe,
you'll get a feel for how you like the dish to taste. For example,
when making a dish from the above cookbooks that calls for sugar,
instead of matching with Splenda one-to-one, I often find that dishes
turn out better if I up the Splenda by 25–50%, depending on what
recipe I'm making. I rarely make something exactly the same way
twice, and I often tweak herbs, spices, etc. Whenever I make up
a recipe that works out well, I’ll write it down in order to remember
what I did for future reference.
recently requested by a friend:
2 cans unsweetened
pureed Pumpkin (Whole Foods has an organic one)
1 Can Fat-Free
Evaporated Milk (you can substitute skim milk if you don’t have
2 cups Splenda
Granular or to taste
Cloves to taste
Stir all the
ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Grease two 8" pie pans
with grapeseed oil, and split the mixture between them. Cook at
380 for 35–45 minutes. All ovens are different, so just keep an
eye on it. When the top starts to brown and it firms up, then it’s
done. (I have a small oven, so I cook one at a time. In a larger
oven, you should be able to do both at once, but you might have
to adjust the time.)
serve chopped, toasted nuts on top. If you want to turn it into
a pie, you can make the pie crust in The Gluten-Free Almond Flour
A Word about
own food is always preferable because you control the ingredients
and know exactly what you're eating. But that's not always possible,
and the good news is it's not hard to eat out intelligently. First
off, unless you're with people who eat bread, tell the waiter put
it on the table. If there's ever a time when you're vulnerable to
making a poor choice, it's when you're outside your own home, hungry,
and sitting with the wrong food in front of you.
looking at a menu, pick dishes comprised of ingredients from the
STAPLES list. If the meat or seafood you order comes with potatoes
or rice, ask them to substitute other vegetables instead. If you're
at an Indian restaurant, order chicken, shrimp, or lamb tandoori
and veggie dishes or curries, and ask the waiter to hold the rice
and naan. At Thai or Chinese, order stir fry and/or curry dishes,
and hold the rice. Bear in mind that after you've been on this path
for a while, you typically will weigh more (sometimes 1–2 pounds
more) the next morning after you eat out because of water retention
from the high salt content of restaurant food. It goes away in another
day or two of eating normally.
as described above and exercise work in tandem to get the results
you're seeking. Exercise, as defined in this article, is vigorously
exerting yourself for a BRIEF period over multiple time intervals.
By brief, I mean 10–20 minutes total. This is called high-intensity
interval training (HIIT). What constitutes “high intensity” is based
on the individual and will change over time as your fitness improves.
The basic idea is to alternate between working near your maximum
effort with active recovery rest periods in between.
HIIT workouts is a basic skill that you'll refine over time. At
first you won't know what your work capacity is, but you'll very
soon find out. You want to challenge yourself throughout the exercise
period (10–20 minutes) without burning out before the end of the
session. In other words, say you're doing a 10-minute workout alternating
pushups and chair squats. If you run out of gas and can't do a single
pushup after the 5-minute mark, then you know that you need to scale
back the difficulty. In this example, you'd do pushups on your knees.
There are two
basic ways to design a HIIT workout. One is using time intervals,
and the other is using repetitions (reps). Both are good, but some
exercises are more suited to time intervals, while others are more
suited to rep intervals. As a result, any given workout session
will be either a time-based one or a rep-based one.
Here are the
2–5 times per week for 10–20 minutes per session. The point is
variation — not regimentation. One week it might be 2 times for
20 minutes; the next week 4 times for 15 minutes; the next a 10,
11, and 17-minute session. Doing 5 sessions for 20 minutes every
week is NOT what you want to do. Go by how you feel and intentionally
mix it up. When you’re feeling good and your energy level is high,
design your workout to match it.
- In addition
to the biochemical benefits to your insulin, hormones and metabolism,
the overall training goal of HIIT is to improve your work capacity
in a fixed period of time. For example, when I started I could
only do 3 pushups in 60 seconds. Now I can do over 10x that. The
improvement curve has no practical end. I might one day build
up to doing 20 one-arm pushups in a minute. To put it another
way, you’re not training to be able to exercise longer (like distance
running) but rather to do more over a fixed, short period of time.
HIIT combines strength with endurance, and it's far more effective
and time-leveraged for weight loss and body comp transformation.
- HIIT can
be applied to almost any exercise. For example, go walk for 20
minutes, but for 30 seconds, walk as fast as you can (the work
interval). Then walk casually for, say, 45 seconds (the rest interval).
Then repeat the cycle for 20 minutes. The length of the intervals
just depends on the exercise and how you're feeling. Notice the
rest interval isn't rest per se. In other words, no sitting or
lying down. It’s called "active recovery" because you're
catching your breath while doing something that's easier. Try
experimenting with intervals in the range of 10–60 seconds, and
you’ll soon get a feel for it.
- Your HIIT
sessions can have one exercise (like the walking example), or
two or three or even four. For example, you might do a workout
that cycles jumping jacks, knee pushups, and wall sits.
To make your
HIIT training turnkey, immediately buy a Gymboss.
It's essential for time-based interval workouts (as opposed to
rep-based). You set the interval times you want, and it beeps
and/or vibrates accordingly. It also counts how many cycles you've
done. It is all but indispensable and makes interval training
so, so much easier. I own four of them, and every friend who sees
it buys one. I also travel with one since it's so small.
you exercise, warm up with about 5 minutes of joint mobility.
Shake out your arms and legs for a minute. Do a minute or two
of hip circles (think hula-hoop motion with hands on hips). Make
big circles forward and backwards with your arms. Do light stretching
that feels good — no pain. Bounce up and down on the balls of
your feet like you’re barely jumping rope. Your purpose here is
to get your blood circulating and to prime your central nervous
system for exertion.
- Never roll
out of bed and exercise. Be up and about for at least an hour.
It’s always nice to exercise when you’re energy level is up, but
that doesn’t always happen. (Having a cup of tea or coffee about
an hour beforehand helps.) It doesn’t really matter what time
of day you do it; whatever works and is convenient. It’s such
a short period of time that it can fit almost anywhere. And if
for some reason you have a particularly busy day and only have
time for, say, a 5-minute workout, that's FAR better than doing
- Don’t eat
food for at least one hour before you exercise. And after exercising,
don’t eat for an hour. Pre and post workout snacks and energy
drinks are bogus conventional wisdom and should be totally avoided.
- Drink water
as desired whenever you feel thirsty.
- You’ll know
you’re getting the right intensity in your workouts if you’re
huffing and puffing. If you start to get lightheaded or dizzy,
you’ve gone too far and should stop. On a scale of 1 to 10 where
1 is standing still and 10 is exerting as hard as you possibly
can, you want to be working in the 7.5–8.5 range. Challenging,
but no pain. Exertion, but again, no pain. High perceived effort.
“Wow, this is tough” is a phrase you should hear yourself saying.
Be smart and listen to your body. You’re in this for the long
run, and risking injury by trying to hit 10 on your exertion scale
isn’t worth it.
- Do not plan
workout sessions days in advance. Create your workout that day
based on how you feel, working around areas of muscle soreness,
your energy level, and whatever feels like an interesting challenge.
Decide what you're going to do for the whole session before you
begin. In other words, don't start with some pushups and then
stop and wonder what you should do next. Choose a work-recovery
cycle using 2, 3, or 4 movements. Once you pick what you want
to do, decide if it works better using rep counting or time (Gymboss)
intervals. Then pick a total session length. Once decided, turn
on some music if you like and knock it out.
- You don’t
have to write down what you do, but occasionally make workout
notes so you can see how you're progressing over time. I look
back now and am amazed by how far I've come in the past few years.
It helps you keep in touch with where you used to be.
If you aren't
familiar with any of these exercises, I recommend either looking
them up on YouTube or having a trainer show you how to do them.
- Speed walking
— Once the speed intervals no longer tax you, move up to short
bursts of running between recovery walking. Start with just 10
seconds of running. If you do graduate to running, I recommend
either a midfoot strike or forefoot strike — NOT a heel strike.
a brief summary of what I'm talking about.
- Bike sprints
— Works on stationary bikes too. Go almost “all out,” then drop
to a recovery speed on the rest interval.
jacks — Do shallow, light jumps if your knees are weak. They will
strengthen over time.
high knees — Lift one knee to waist level and tap the top of it
with your opposite hand; then alternate. Go as fast as you can
while maintaining form and control.
- Elbow plank
— For all planks, tuck your butt in so your lower back doesn’t
cave. Go to your knees if needed. This will get hard very quickly
- Pushup plank
— Get in the pushup position and hold it. Keep your butt tucked
and don’t drop your head or sag anywhere.
- Knee pushups
— Keep your butt tucked as with the planks, and don’t dip your
head. Same goes for full pushups when you're ready for them.
- Wall sits
— Sit with your back to a wall with your legs at almost a right
angle. You may only last 10 seconds to start.
- Heel bounces
— Bounce up and down on your tip-toes over and over quickly. Your
heels barely touch the ground on the way down. In other words,
don't slam into the ground.
- Shadow boxing
— Throw rapid light punches — jabs, uppercuts, hooks — and keep
your hands up and your feet moving. Don’t stay planted for more
than a couple seconds at a time. Dial the intensity up or down
- Chair squats
— Keep your back straight and sit down on the front half of a
chair until your butt just touches it, and then stand back up.
- Fast feet
— Alternate picking your feet off the ground as quickly as you
can. They should barely lift off the ground, or you won’t be able
to go quickly. Think of doing a drum roll using the balls of your
— These are the most advanced exercise on this list. If you're
anywhere near the train wreck I was in, you won't initially be
ready for this exercise. But once you're able to do it, it's a
conditioning tour de force. If I had to pick only one exercise
to do, this would be it. It engages your entire body and builds
tremendous strength-endurance, power, coordination, and hip mobility.
There are also several variations which make burpees more or less
a good how-to video. You'll notice you can do burpees
with or without a pushup, and with or without a jump. I suggest
starting out with the basic no-pushup, no-jump burpee until you're
comfortable with the movement. You also can make them even easier
by stepping your feet out one at a time instead of extending both
legs at once. Build up your capacity with this exercise slowly,
and only try them if you feel ready. See how many you can do in
two minutes and track that over the next year. The improvement
you see will astound you.
These are just
a small sample of bodyweight exercises to get you up and running.
They can all be scaled up or down in difficulty as needed. But to
truly open yourself up to the vast world of bodyweight training,
Cotter’s Encyclopedia of Bodyweight Conditioning.
If you want
to increase your flexibility, mobility, and joint strength, get
Steve Maxwell’s Encyclopedia
of Joint Mobility. This is great material for warmup, but
not HIIT. Together these DVD sets are $100. This is an incredible
bargain, because the value of the instruction is exponentially higher.
These guys are the best at what they do.
your form while training. If you can’t sustain a particular exercise
for the whole session, switch to an easier version of it. Try to
keep the overall intensity up throughout the workout, but dial back
if needed so that you can reach the end. These workouts are short,
and you should typically feel alert and good at the end of them
— not utterly wiped out. You’ll often be sore the next day or two
as your body adapts and builds muscle. It’s fine to train if you’re
mild to moderately sore (it goes away after a few minutes of exercise),
but rest if you’re very sore. Never work a muscle or joint that’s
in pain, which is not the same thing as soreness.
but competitive athletes, the only gym you’ll ever need is your
body. Truly. That’s not to say that training devices are bad; they’re
just simply not needed. If you like to jump rope or lift weights
or do kettlebells (the best overall training device if you’re determined
to use one), then by all means do it. But never fool yourself into
believing you can’t get into OUTSTANDING physical condition without
equipment. If you look at Cotter’s DVDs and adapt his exercises
to the HIIT format outlined above, I guarantee you will have a lifetime
of physical challenge for improving strength, endurance, coordination,
If you have
even a fraction of the health challenges I had, I hope you're inspired
to take action. Everything I've written here is a synthesis of learning
from years of failed diet attempts, books, classes, programs, gym
memberships, doctors, trainers, nutritionists, and most importantly,
trial and error. I hope my approach works as well for you as it
has for me.
Spherical is an entrepreneur, ex-pat, and old friend of Lew Rockwell’s.