Thursday, July 30, 2009


My dad had another birthday last week. He’s now up to 86 and still counting. He’s also a pretty good example of what we should be like when we get older.

Even in the Bible, people lived a long time, and they were productive. Moses looked out on the Promised Land before he died. Apparently his vision was still good enough to let him see out over the valley.

Abraham and Sarah even had a baby when they were ninety! O.K., that might be an extreme example (and special case), but you get my point. We’re designed to be productive and useful even in our later years.

But too many times, something goes wrong. People get sick and then they die. Or they just go down hill and linger on. My wife’s mother was that way. She had lots of health issues and was way ready to go home, but her body kept holding her back.

My mom made it to 81 and was pretty active. A former surgical nurse, they practically had to pry her out of surgery to make her retire. Well into her 60’s, she’d train the new ones coming in, and I heard that she could still run rings around them.

Outside of a knee problem that finally slowed her down, she was fine until a stroke got her one night while she was lying in bed. It was quick and then she was gone.

As we get older, I think we fall into one of two categories. You either have it, or you don’t. Your health, that is. I’m not talking about minor things that come up from time to time. I mean generally, you can move or you can’t move. My parents would tell you that moving is better.

Dad says he’s lucky he got good genes. I’m sure that’s true. But he works at it too. He walks about a mile in the morning before breakfast. Later in the day, he walks a half hour on the treadmill and does another half hour on the exercise bike, along with some flexing exercises.

Then he spends a couple hours helping keep things cleaned up in the gym. I keep telling him to take a day off, but he growls at me that it’s his job and he’s going to do his job, so I can just be quiet. O.K.

Right now, he’s looking into whether he’s a good candidate for shoulder surgery to straighten out an old rotator cuff injury. He wants to get it fixed so he can lift some weights!

Now he may not remember this, but I do. Thirty years ago, in his late fifties, he used to have quite a belly. He’d eat pretty much anything he wanted and they were big portions—trust me. He used to joke that he was the “human garbage can” cause if there was anything left on my plate, he’d eat it too.

At that time, he was the typical middle-aged male with an apple-shaped middle. As you know, that’s the most dangerous for your heart. As a high school teacher, he wasn’t all that active, and his weight was up around 200 lbs—a little too much for someone 5’7”.

Then something changed. Around 1980, he started working out in a gym. Sometimes he went overboard and did too much, but he was pretty consistent, and worked out until he retired.
After that, he bought twin Schwinn Airdyne exercise bikes and a treadmill and he and mom worked out at home.

They also ate very healthy. No longer eating any junk food, he got his weight down to a much healthier level, and that apple shape in the middle went away. His weight went down to “one-six-two point five” as he put it. Now he’s living down here with us and working out at our gym.

Recently, he’s been cooking lots of vegetables in a crock-pot. It’s perfect, because he can set it and forget it. He also cooks beef in a smaller crock to make sure he gets enough iron and protein. Sometimes he’ll eat salmon or sardines, too.

He eats lots of fresh fruit every day, and whole grain cereal and shredded wheat in the morning, and whole grain bread with his vegetable soup and beef. He has lots of skim milk too, along with some water throughout the day.

He almost never eats junk food or anything that “has that gunk on it.” Spices and seasonings are out. No salt. No pop. The only time he doesn’t eat “his food” is when he’s eating with one of the kids or us. Usually, it’s his food, his way. And it’s tough to argue with the results.

The only thing I’ve talked to him about is watching his portion sizes. He likes to eat his food, so sometimes he’ll just keep eating it. Or he’d have some bread with his cereal in the morning. That’s two starches, and his body only needs one. Better to just go with the cereal early, and have the bread later.

Now he’s managing his portions a little bit better and he’s seeing his weight drop again. His weight this morning was “one-five-three-point-four.” In a couple of months, I think he might come in around 145 lbs, just five pounds over his fighting weight of 140 lbs as a 20 year old soldier back in WW II.

And man can he move. Sure, it’s at a fairly slow pace, to make sure he keeps his balance, but he’s doing everything he wants to do. His flexing exercises let him bend over and pick things up, and all that walking has given him strong legs and a strong heart. He says his joints feel fine.

Last week he went to Bubby’s tee-ball game. Everyone else had a lawn chair to sit on, but he didn’t know that he was going to need one. So he sat there on the ground, for an hour and a half! He told me after he got up he was surprised he had “no kinks!”

He’s worked at it for 30 years, but that’s what we need to do. Dad started in his 50’s. Now he’s reaping the benefits of having no kinks. How about you? Will you be moving when you’re 86? What about 66 or even 46? Maybe it’s time to just get started.

At the end of week four, our winner in Biggest Loser “8” was Brittany Cline, who lost 3.9% of her body weight and 6.2 lbs. Since she had to leave, we gave the $20 Walmart Gift Card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance to Curtis Vaughn, who placed second by losing 1.1% of his body weight and 3.0 lbs. You’ll have to ask them, but I’m pretty sure they still have kinks—but they’re working on it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Wouldn’t that be nice? Someone walks up to you and says, “Here. These are keys to that brand new house over there. It’s all yours. Congratulations!” This actually happens on a popular T.V. show. I’m sure they appreciate it, but in at least one case, the people promptly took out a mortgage against the house and then lost it all in foreclosure.

How many lottery winners end up broke after spending it all on foolish things? I’m sure some are prudent and even increase their charitable giving, but most? They’re like the rest of us who get a (much more modest) raise but then promptly spend the increase.

Instead of living on what we made before and saving the difference for a rainy day, we increase our spending. Instead of getting rid of credit card and car payment debts, we load up expecting things to always go our way.

But rainy days always come. What then? If you don’t have a plan to survive the storm, the storm will eat you alive. If you’ve thought about it, though, and made plans, when the winds come, you’ll be left standing, even when everything else is blown away.

Another problem many of us face is that we don’t handle success very well. Popular life coach Tony Robbins says that we often sabotage our own success. Right before we make it, we back off, because we fear how our life is going to change. It’s like we have this goofy impulse inside to mess it up, right when we’re almost there. But if we’d just keep going, we’d get there.

Some people are what I call “drama queens.” Everything becomes a drama. They have to be the center of attention, if only in their own minds. Instead of just grinding it out, week by week, in small, predictable steps, they have a heroic week, followed by a poor week because it wasn’t sustainable. They continue to repeat this pattern until they just get tired and quit.

Remember the old story about the turtle and the rabbit (tortoise and the hare)? What was the moral of the story? Slow and steady wins the race. While I’m all about building intensity in your exercise (more on this another time), you’ve got to be slow and steady in your commitment.

Don’t expect too much, too soon, but be like the turtle. When everyone else gives in, you’re still moving forward. I call this winning through stamina. You get what you want, simply by enduring. You make a decision that you’re not going to quit, no matter what. You’re going to keep making progress.

It’s like setting up weekly or monthly automatic deposits into a savings account. Even if it’s a small amount, it starts to add up. If you leave it alone for a year or two, pretty soon you’ve really got something there for a rainy day.

Then, if you get knocked back a step, you take two more steps forward. When life intrudes, you don’t make a big drama about it. It’s O.K. to be disappointed, angry, and even grieve sometimes when life really strikes you a blow. But at some point, you’ve just got to get back up and start figuring out what your next step is.

You may have heard it said that the best degree comes from the school of hard knocks. I think it’s true. The lessons sink in deeper. They make a lasting impression on you. Whatever it was that caused things to be the way they are now, if the treatment’s painful enough, you’ll never do that again.

Getting out of debt is tough, but you can do it. Once you do it, you’ll never want to go back. Radio talk show host Dave Ramsey says it takes most people 2-3 years to be debt free (all but the house) and 7-8 years to be completely debt free (including the house). It takes a huge commitment, but is so worth it in the end.

Getting in shape is just as tough, but it doesn’t take nearly as long. Even if you’re 100 lbs overweight, you can take it off in a year, two years at the most, if you stick with it. That’s quite a commitment too, but it’s worth it.

Once you can move around easily, and don’t have all that extra weight dragging you down, you’ll never want to go back. Once you feel great and can finally do all the things you want to do, you’ll have enough incentive to keep it that way.

So what are the keys? It’s pretty simple: hard work, being consistent, and not giving up. Now those keys will really get you somewhere.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


This week let’s take a look at how to get what you want. Some things are very difficult to accomplish, like becoming president or an astronaut. But for most things, you can usually get what you want just by following some simple steps.

Get a goal!
If you don’t have a goal, it’s pretty hard to stay on course. Most people don’t just get in their car and say “where do we want to go on vacation?” It’s planned out. You’ve thought about it a lot, and you know where you want to go. You even have things planned out when you get there.

Changing your life works in the same way. You’ve got to have an idea of what you want to accomplish. Set a concrete goal. I want to lose ____ number of lbs in 12 weeks. I want to be less fat and weigh ____ lbs.

Write it down.
Experts say written goals are much more likely to be accomplished. Tell other people. It makes you accountable and keeps pressure on you to work to achieve the goal.

What do you have to do to get there?
Make a list of the things it’s going to take. If you need to lose weight, you’re probably going to have to start watching what you eat. Cut out the junk. Quit drinking pop. Eat more fruits & vegetables. Eat whole grains instead of white breads. Have a daily checklist.

You’ll probably need to start exercising and burning some calories, too. Get with an expert or someone who’s already done it. What are they doing? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just follow their example. Log your workouts every day.

Say you want to get a job in a certain field. What are the requirements to get there? Do you need a college degree? If so, and you don’t have one, what are you going to have to do to get started on that? Will you need to work a different shift? Get enrolled at a community college? Who do you need to talk to? Be specific. List the steps you need to take.

Just get started!
I take a lot of heat about this one around the gym. It’s time for another set. Just get started. If we’re doing 100 pushups and you’re resting at 70, you need to just get started again.

Often, just starting is all you need to do. Once you’ve done that, the rest will become clear. You’ll figure it out. There’s a certain momentum that’s created just by getting started. But if you don’t get started, you can’t get anywhere.

Don’t wait until all the planets are in perfect alignment. Get a few ducks in a row, figure out the first step, and then just get started.

How are things tracking?
Imagine if you got on an airplane, and the pilot said we’re just going to try to stay headed in that direction. If you’re traveling across country, a shift in even half a degree will take you way off course. They’ve got sophisticated radar and GPS keeping them exactly on track. They know where they are all the time.

That’s why we weigh in every week. It helps keep us on track and lets us make some adjustments if necessary. It gives us information that lets us ask more questions to try and figure things out.

“I didn’t lose any weight this week.” O.K. Are you getting all your workouts in? “Well, not really.” O.K. there you go. If yes, then what about food? Are you eating enough? “Uhmm… I was pretty busy and missed a few meals.” O.K. then maybe you need to start writing it down so you can see where you’re missing them. Keep track.

Stay motivated!
It’s easy when it’s easy. Sounds pretty simple, but it’s true. It’s easy when everything’s going your way. But what do you do when things start stacking up against you? How do you handle it? Some people stick their head in the sand. The problem with that is that your neck is still sticking out.

Avoiding the issue doesn’t necessarily make it go away. Sometimes you need to deal with the problem. Sometimes you need to accept the fact that there are going to be problems, but you need to keep on going, anyway. Sometimes you’ll have a major setback.

If you have bad knees and don’t exercise because you have bad knees, you’re just going to be fat with bad knees. We’ve had plenty of people with bad knees that found another way to work out so they wouldn’t have to be fat anymore. There’s always something else you can do.

If you’re exceptionally busy, join the club. We’re all busy. Ultimately, people will do what they want to do, and they won’t do what they don’t want to do. How bad do you want it? In the end, if you want it bad enough, you’ll do the things that have to be done. You’ll find a way. That’s how to get what you want.

Enjoy the process!
I believe we’re designed to seek things out—we need a quest, a journey, to fulfill a destiny. But once we achieve a thing, the pride of accomplishment doesn’t always last that long. Artists commonly get depressed between creations. It’s in the creating that they feel fulfilled. Once it’s done, they’re left a little empty.

That’s why we need to learn to enjoy the process and the journey along the way. How are you feeling? Do you feel stronger? Have you lost some inches? Take pleasure in that. Are you having fun getting your workouts in? Enjoy them. When you step on the scale and lose a pound, be glad you lost a pound, not disappointed that it wasn’t more.

Biggest Loser “8”
The winner from Week Two of Biggest Loser “8” was Tina Foote who lost 2.2% of her body weight and 3.8 lbs. She won a $20 Walmart gift card from Terry Elston & State Farm Insurance. Second place went to John Rigdon who lost 2.0% of his body weight and 4.0 lbs. Third place went to John Foote, who lost 1.5% of his body weight and 2.6 lbs.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Now I’m not recommending this particular diet, but… it seems to work pretty well. Here’s what you do. Go to an oral surgeon, have two teeth removed, and eat or drink nothing for eight hours before the surgery. That way you can go with the IV drip sedation where you talk to them for a few minutes, and then wake up and it’s over.

The down side is that you’re going to bleed for a couple days afterward, and are pretty sore and tender. That means no solid foods for a few days. Here’s where the “extraction diet” really kicks in, because you’re only getting calories through liquids.

For me, it was four of those protein shakes a day, four hours apart—at the same time as the pain pill and antibiotic. It’s pretty humbling. Run 13+ miles, throw a bunch of weights around, roll around on the floor with sweaty guys trying to choke you, but miss that pill by a few minutes and wow!

Normally pretty active, I went two days without working out, either. That was even tougher than the diet. I’d just finished running 16 days in a row, the day before the extractions, and after just one day, I was going through withdrawal symptoms.

Kathy about had a cow when she came home and found me outside walking the lane. One trip to the mailbox and back is exactly .3 miles. Four trips was a little over a mile. On the second day, I made 7 trips to net 2.1 miles walking. You got to do something, right?

On the third day, I had some yogurt, cut up toast and got a regular workout in. By the fourth day, I was eating soup and cereal softened with milk and the like. The workouts were back in full force, too. In the end, I lost a few pounds, but it’s probably better to just Eat Right & Exercise Smart.

All it really takes is following a few of the following basic principles, and the results are very predictable—and it’s more fun than the “extraction diet.”

Get Started
Nothing happens unless you start. You’ve got to make a decision and take some steps to get the ball rolling. Sitting still never got anyone anywhere until cars and planes came along.

You’ve Got To Hit Your Minimum:
Everyone needs a certain number of calories each day to live, and if you don’t hit it, your body won’t let you burn fat for fuel. Women need at least 1,200 calories while men need at least 1,800 calories. Most women don’t eat enough. Men usually eat too much.

Eat 3 Healthy Meals and 2-3 Healthy Snacks:
Smaller, more frequent meals satisfy your hunger and keep your insulin levels stable. Missing a few meals just sets you up for a disaster later.

Eat Balanced Meals (Protein, Starch, and Fruits & Greens):
Proteins build muscle and bones; Starches give you long lasting energy; Fruits & Greens give you quick energy, some fiber, and lots of vitamins & minerals. Get off the junk.

Take Omega-3:
Research shows that eating the good fats helps you burn the bad fats. Omega-3 fish oil provides the good fats. Avoid foods cooked in vegetable oil.

Stop the Pop and Drink lots of Water:
The winner of our last Biggest Loser told me that he drank nothing but water for the entire 12 weeks. He lost over 50 lbs. Enough said.

Walk at least a mile a day:
This starts the calorie burning off right and gives you an edge. This is the first of two workouts. If you can’t do two workouts a day, that’s O.K. This just gives you an extra edge and could be the difference between losing a pound a week versus losing two pounds or more a week.

Do a 2nd workout each day:
Lift weights on M-W-F. Do your cardio workouts on T-TH-SA. Resistance training builds muscle which will make everything you do easier, and make you a fat burning machine. The cardio workouts will build your endurance and keep those calories coming off.

Don’t Worry Too Much About It:
Focus on the big picture. How do you feel? How do your clothes fit? What is your waistline doing? Have you lost fat? Then worry about the weight. Remember, a pound a week is good, two pounds a week is great, and anything above that is fantastic.

Stick With It:
People that can learn how to stick, get what they want. It might take awhile. So what? Time is going to pass anyway—whatever you do. Be thankful for the good things that are happening and stick with it.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I had the opportunity to do a couple concerts and “Bodies-in-Balance—How to Eat Right & Exercise Smart” seminars recently. One was at a church over in Chenoa, IL last Wednesday night. I’d never heard of Chenoa before, but it was a nice drive and a nice little town.

Map Quest took me the most direct route, which is through the country, right through the middle of a wind farm. I’d seen them on TV, but it was something to see up close: 50 or so giant wind turbine generators, all turning slowly and majestically.

Someone told me that each turbine can produce enough electricity to power 3,000 homes. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it sounded pretty good to me. There are some drawbacks, though.

They’re expensive to build (what isn’t), and some people don’t like looking at them, although they were smack dab in the middle of corn fields. You could see them for miles, though, so it’s an issue. My dad was telling me that they also make quite a roaring sound. Still, they’re pretty impressive.

We need to be like those wind turbines. Like them, we need to be moving all the time—sometimes slowly, sometimes a little faster, but always moving. Being lean and fit is about looking for every opportunity to keep our generator turning.

Take a walk in the morning. Take the stairs. Park further away. Ride your bike to work. Do outdoors work. Play basketball with your friends. Play softball. Play games with your kids. When they’re swimming, don’t just watch them—you swim too.

An active lifestyle will help you burn more calories throughout the day, and in the end, it’s just math. Burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight, assuming you’re hitting your minimum. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), women should never go below 1,200 calories a day, and guys need at least 1,800 calories.

A good strategy is to do some exercise in the morning first thing. Walking a mile a day takes just 20 minutes at a very comfortable pace (3.0 mph). Then later, you can get your main workout in. If you’ve sprinkled a bunch of little workouts in during the day, you can end up burning quite a few calories.

Moderate activity burns around 5 calories a minute. Intense exercise can burn as much as 10 calories a minute. You can even get up to 15 calories a minute if you work hard enough, but it’s tough to sustain that very long. If you’re in pretty good shape, you can do 10 calories a minute for around an hour. That’s 500-600 calories.

Plus you have another 100-200 calories from the morning walk. Then you might have another 200-300 calories from doing other little things throughout the day. That means you might be able to burn around 800-1,000 calories a day through activity.

Now add that to the minimum calories your body uses to live and you can be burning around 2,000 calories a day. Let’s say you’re a woman between 5’ and 5’6 (average size) and want to lose weight. If you do all that activity and end up burning 2,000 calories a day, but only take in 1,500 calories, that’s 500 calories less than you’re going to need. So where will those 500 calories come from?

They’ll have to come from fat. You needed 2,000 a day to live, workout, and do all the other stuff you do. You took in 1,500. The 500 calories you’re short are called a calorie deficit. We know all about deficits, right? It means spending something you don’t have.

Debt can lead to huge problems, but in this case, it’s a good thing. A pound of fat is 3,500 calories. So at the end of the day, if you have a 500 calorie deficit, seven days in a row, you’ll lose one pound of fat. See how it works? 500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 total calories. It’s just math.

The ACSM says for healthy weight loss, you should try to lose between 1 and 2 lbs a week. That means you need at least a 500 calorie deficit to lose a pound a week. To lose 2 lbs a week, you’ll need a daily deficit of 1,000 calories. That’s a little tougher, and definitely is going to require that second workout.

This is why weight loss from diet alone isn’t usually sustainable. It’s much easier when you add an active lifestyle, like working out every day. For best results, you have to be like those amazing wind turbine generators, turning all the time.

Next week I’ll give you the outline from the seminar so you can have a game plan this summer. It’s the same stuff we do with our Biggest Losers. I’ve found it gives people hope—especially if they’ve tried to lose the weight in the past but failed.

Just like those wind turbine generators making energy in a different way, sometimes you need a new approach to taking off the weight. It’s not too late to sign up for Biggest Loser “8,” but if you wait another week it will be. It’s a pretty small group this time, so this could be your chance this summer. Don’t just sit there and let the wind pass you by!