Manipulating Your Time Of Consumption

The truth of the matter is that most “named” diets work for the simple fact that they manipulate the way you eat by tricking you into eating less calories. There is no magic trick that Paleo, low carb, Adkins, or ketogenic diets have, it simply the fact that without many realizing it, they are tricked into eating less calories due to the foods recommended. Well today, I’ve got some “tricks” for you! When it comes to tricking ourselves into eating less calories, the foods chosen need to have at least one of the following two qualities, if not both:

  1. They are filling
  2. They are time consuming to eat

And in this article, we are going to focus on quality number 2, and that is they are time consuming to eat, specifically snacks. Stereotypically, Americans are snackers. And there are many reasons for snacking, but one of the most common and detrimental is boredom. We as humans do not like to be bored and want to be doing something at all times, even it is meaningless. At night, when the fun is over for the day and we want to “relax”, the fact is we still want to be occupied, but now with things we enjoy and make us feel good. So we turn to TV, movies, video games, and the internet, but for some reason sitting completely still is just too hard, so we accompany those entertainments with snacking. What I have for you below are my go to’s when it comes to snacking, and the requirements for the foods on this list are simple, and that is that they are “time consuming”. And by “time consuming”, I mean that they will take some time to eat, but they will also keep your calories in check at the same time. In my opinion, a late night snack foods “worth” is determined by a simple formula:

Calories divided by minutes taken to consume equals calories per minute

Kcal/Min=Kcal per Min

For example, the first item on the list is string cheese, my current personal favorite. 1 stick of string cheese is 80 calories, and on the short end, if eaten correctly, should take around 15 minutes to consume. So that would equate to 80/15=5.33 calories per minute. On the opposite end, we may choose to eat a bowl of Doritos, which let’s say totals 33 chips. It takes you the same 15 minutes to eat, but now we are looking at 420 calories, which in 15 minutes of consumption equates to 28 calories per minute, or 5 times the calories during the same time frame. Now I am not saying to go through this calculation every time you eat, but I wanted you to see this to get the point of “time consuming” foods.

With that knowledge, take a look at the foods below and see how these “time consuming” foods work for you.

String cheese

80 calories

Why: If you are diligent and patient in truly eating it as string cheese, pulling off super thin strings each time, it could take you upwards of 15-20 minutes to eat.

Pistachios, Shelled

102 calories in 30 nuts

Why: If you buy the shelled kind, each nut you eat you are going to have to pull off the shell. Between the time it takes and your fingers getting sore, by the time you are done you will be most likely ready to move on.

Pretzel Rods

35 calories per rod

Why: This is kind of a weird one, but instead of chomping down on them you suck on them instead, and 2-3 rods could easily last you 20-30 minutes in this manner.

Skinny Pop

155 Calories in 4 Cups

Why: Who doesn’t love to have a big bowl of popcorn during a movie!? Well with Skinny Pop, you can. Make sure to properly measure out 4 cups, and enjoy yourself to some snacking that feels like you are eating A LOT, but really are not.


80-100 Calories

Why: Don’t peel and don’t cut, eat as is. Depending on your speed, it will take anywhere between 5-10 minutes to get through an apple eating is.


80-100 Calories

Why: The peeling will be time consuming, along with an orange being a high satiety food as well.


Just Do It

When it comes to fitness and motivation, everyone struggles at times, even your personal trainer. If you think the only struggle with motivation will be when you first start out, you are unfortunately wrong. And that is the position I found myself in recently. Read on to see how I overcame these struggles and have succeeded.

Looking at my current situation, this has been the first time since I started exercising 10 years ago that I really was in a rut. I have had times where my motivation was lacking, but never to the point where I just didn’t want to work out and even skipped going to the gym entirely for one week. What got me to this point was my personal fitness goals getting derailed this year. My plan for the last 3 years was to progress in powerlifting to the point that this year I could qualify for USAPL Raw Nationals (the largest and most recognized/credible national powerlifting competition in the US) and compete there in October. Unfortunately, not just one, but two significant injuries have made me postpone that goal until further notice. With a badly strained rotator cuff in my right shoulder and prepatellar bursitis in my left knee, there was only a handful of things I could even do in the gym. If I wanted to work out, it meant I was doing back/bicep/tricep workouts 3-4 days a week along with my rehabilitation work. Usually in a situation like this I would then change my focus to more physique based training goals versus strength, but therein lies the final issue. I have a hiatal hernia that prevents me from dieting long term, so going through a cutting/weight loss phase was out of the picture as well! All of this piling together meant that when it came to exercise, other than health, I really did not have any goals to work towards. And for me, I have a severe lack of motivation without goals I can aspire for. Of course I want to be healthy, but the fact is I already am, so working out was just to maintain that health, not to work towards it. So to me exercise had now become a nuisance, something I had to do, and that wasn’t fun.

So what did I do?

For the first month my motivation was down in the dumps. As mentioned above, I even skipped a whole week of working out at one point. To get out of this, I can pinpoint 5 main things I did to get me back on track.

  1. Wrote up a detailed 4 week workout program so I actually had something planned out.
  2. Started going to the actual gym more versus lifting at home (I have a great home gym setup) because once I was at the gym there is nothing else distracting me. At home, I found that after about 20-30 minutes, it was way too easy to just cut the workout short and go upstairs and watch TV.
  3. If I did work out at home, I asked my wife to make sure she worked out with me those days to keep me accountable. If I knew she was working out, I knew I would too.
  4. I found some other things outside of my fitness goals to put my time into. I started writing more and also got back into racing remote controlled cars. Both of these things gave me something to occupy my time and brain to keep me sane.
  5. I just did it. Even with those things listed above, I still did not have the same motivation I usually have, but to me it wasn’t an option to quit. I want to compete at USAPL Raw Nationals, and sitting on my butt was not going to get me there. What was going to get me there was working hard at the things I could, and being diligent in my rehab work to get the issues I had fixed.

So what is the outcome?

Well it is still a work in progress, but 3 months post injury I am happy to say at least 2 of the 3 issues I have are significantly better. The shoulder is definitely not 100%, but I can now bench press full strength pain free. And per the advice from my previous coach Hani Jazaryli, I tried taking in some apple cider vinegar each morning for my hiatal hernia symptoms, and so far so good. I am on the lowest calories without discomfort that I have been on since being diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, so hopefully that trend continues. As for the knee, well that’s still been a pain in the butt, but have recently switched gears and am trying a different approach for it’s rehab, so we will see how that goes.

So what have I learned?

If I am looking at what I did to overcome these issues, steps 1 through 4 (from above) were all things I knew I had to do. Make a plan, go to an actual gym versus trying to workout at home, have someone to workout with to keep me accountable, and find some others things that make me happy. Those were all things I recommend on a consistent basis to my clients, tried and true, nothing new.

Number 5 though is where the learning experience came in. And it is not something that anyone else can teach or control, it is all up to you. When it comes down to it, if you want to achieve something, you just have to do it. Up until now, that hasn’t been a phrase I have used enough, but after going through this myself, I now know that it was the most important part of the entire process. Steps 1 through 4 helped, but even if I didn’t find those things, to reach my goals I just had to do it. Whether that is for powerlifting, weight loss, or general health, if you have goals that you want or need to attain, sometimes you just need to dig deep and push through. There is going to be tough times and that is why so many people fail. The ones who have reached their goals are the ones who went to the gym even when it wasn’t convenient and said no to some tasty food even though it may spark some criticism from friends. They decided even during the tough times when motivation was lacking, they were still going to do it. Nike had it right, and I think the lesson I have learned here is not only valuable for my fitness goals, but also professional and relationship goals as well. Just do it

Nutrition Is A Budget

Budgeting is no fun, so seeing that in the title probably wasn’t the most exciting thing you’ve seen today, but stick with me. The truth is, nutrition is very much like a budget, and if we can approach it with this mindset, “healthy” versus “bad” foods makes a lot more sense. We see a lot of contradicting information out there in regards to what is good and bad for you, but the fact is, in the right context and situation, no food is truly “bad”, it is just a matter of how we fit it in our budget.

So let’s talk about literal budgets for a second, as for most people, it will be fairly easy to relate to. If you make 1,000,000 a year, it’s fairly obvious you will be able to afford some luxury items others may not. You can fork out the money for a Ferrari, have a massive house, and be able to take vacations to Europe on the regular, yet still probably have plenty of money left over to invest and save. Sounds great, right!? But for most, that is just not realistic. The latest information I found showed that the average household income is currently around $51,000 a year, so that is where a stricter budget comes into play. It doesn’t mean we can’t have nice things and have fun, but we are going to a bit more frugal and picky on how we allocate our money. We have to figure out what we can afford, as any big money choice in one aspect of our life is going to greatly affect other areas. If we buy a house that is out of our price range, then not much is going to be left over to buy a nice car or take a vacation.

All of this directly applies to nutrition. We all have a budget, and that is our caloric maintenance level. What that means is the amount of calories we can eat, based on our current activity, that we will maintain the same weight. If we dip below that level into a deficit, we will lose weight, and if we go above into a surplus, we will gain weight, and we have to budget our calories accordingly. These numbers are going to be highly dependent on many factors such as age, gender, lean muscle mass, non-exercise activity, resting metabolic rate, and more. If we have a person who has a very fast metabolism, has been weight training for 10+ years 4 days a week, and is a 30 year old male, most likely they are going to have a higher “budget” than a sedentary 60 year old female who has never exercised.

So looking at how this applies to our food choice, if our current goals dictate that we should be consuming 3,500 calories a day, we have a large budget. If we have a couple slices of pizza, ice cream, or in general “bad” foods once in awhile, it’s not a big issue nor unhealthy, because we have plenty of room in our budget to fit that in. So for this person, pizza isn’t “bad”, it just needs to fit into their diet within moderation. Take for example a Digiorno pepperoni pizza, where 3 slices is 900 calories. In a 3,500 calorie diet, that still leaves this person with 2,600 calories left in their budget for the rest of the day, which is equivalent to 5 and ½ meals of 4.5 ounces of chicken, 1 cup of rice, and 1 cup of broccoli. This person is not going to have an issue fitting this pizza in. But what if you are trying to lose weight, and are currently eating 1,500 calories a day? Probably not, because that pizza now consumes 60% of your daily caloric goals, which leaves you with very little to eat for the rest of the day. They could just go for it, but the person with only a 1,500 calorie budget is going to run into two main issues:

  1. Significant hunger levels. If they use 60% of their dietary goals on  3 slices of pizza, the volume of food they get to consume that day is very little. They could have had 45 cups of broccoli for the same amount of calories, which is an unreasonable amount, but just using that example to prove a point. People have adherence issue with diets when hunger levels are high, so when the budget is low, we have to be stricter with our food choices.
  2. Pizza has terrible micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) density. When foods have low levels of micronutrients, they typically fall into the “bad” category, and in the example of the 1,500 calorie diet, that is very true. It is going to be near impossible for that person to get the micronutrients their body needs to function properly from only 600 calories of “healthy” foods. Whereas the person with the 3,500 calorie budget still has 2,600 calories worth to consume those same nutrients.

My hope was to possibly make a slight change to the way you look at food. I will never argue pizza and ice cream is good for you, but in the right context, its also not bad, we just have to evaluate our budget and eat within moderation. Even with the 1,500 diet, small deviations from “healthy” food can be made. 2 servings of Edy’s slow churned ice cream is around 220 calories, so if you are wanting to reward yourself occasionally, you can use moderation to still enjoy some tasty treats. You just have budget it out and look at the pros and cons just like you do with your finances.

So Many Ways To Get To The Same Goal

I was reminiscing recently about the success stories I have been privileged to be a part of, and something hit me. The process of reaching each of these goals has been vastly different. And I knew that was the case, but I never put two and two together really until now of just how different each person’s journey was, specifically looking at their workout plan and nutrition. There were two keys that guided these differences, the first being what they enjoyed, and the second being something I will cover later. I like to be lenient up front with most people on what they choose to do for exercise, and provide a lot of different options, and it is for this exact reason. Each person needs to find what is right for them, and giving a wide variety of different exercise options a chance helps someone find the path most enjoyable for them.

Let’s go through a bunch of examples of client’s and what they typically did outside of our personal training sessions for their own workouts. (This is what they did in addition to meeting with me anywhere between 1 to 3 times per week)

Client A – Lost 40lbs.: Group classes 3 days a week, specifically Step being her favorite.

Client B – Lost 50lbs.: Wii Dance at home 3-4 days a week, most of the time with her family. Really only came to the gym to train with me, but rocked that Wii Dance every week.

Client C – Lost 70lbs.: Functional Training/High Intensity Personalized Group Training Program 3 days a week.

Client D – Lost 40lbs.: Running almost every day, usually with a group of friends. Competed in marathons and hated weight training, so only did weights with me.

Client E – Lost 30lbs.: Group classes that were offered at work during their lunch break 3-4 days a week.

Client F – Lost 50lbs.: Weight training twice a week on his own, and then would usually do more cardio that I would want him to on the other days of the week, usually plugging away on the elliptical.

Client G – Lost 40lbs.: Would “kind of” weight train on his own, but would mostly just do cardio 2 days a week. Craziest part is this person gained strength and muscle faster than any client I’ve ever trained.

Client H – Lost 30lbs.: Very strict plan of weight training and cardio. The “optimal” approach that most trainers believe their clients should actually do, but rarely works due to sustainability.

Client I – Lost 70lbs.: Skateboarding with friends 7 days a week. Would not come to the gym on his own, so skateboarding was the option we agreed upon at home to keep him active.

Client J – Lost 30lbs.: This was an outlier, as she was a girl who I met with for just a “free session” that came with her membership, and she took that one workout we did and busted her butt on her own. Due to her dedication, I’d usually shoot new workouts her way every couple months to give her something new, and she did that 3 days a week, and then cardio another 1-2 days a week.

Client K – Lost 40lbs.: Cardio on her own 2 days a week, usually on the concept 2 row machine. Usually needed to send texts to remind her, as she was someone who needed consistent accountability.

As for these client’s nutrition, I would have to be a superhuman to remember the things that each of them ate on a daily basis. But I can tell you one thing, and that is not a single client had a food journal that looked alike. Every single person was different with their food selection and what worked for them. Some even ate things that I wasn’t the most fond of, but it worked for them, and who I am to force them to eat things they do not like when they have found something they have gotten results with and enjoy. Some people ate a typical breakfast, some people “drank” breakfast (protein shake). Some people ate leftovers for lunch, some turkey sandwiches, and others microwaveable meals. And for dinner it continued to vary just as much. My point being that there is no fool proof recipe for success, it is all dependent on you as an individual.

But with all these differences, there is one consistent variable among all these clients. I mentioned early there was a second key for success that I would discuss later, and now is the time. That key is consistency. All of these clients found things they enjoyed, and then consistently did them.

These successful clients found a modality of exercise that motivated them to workout and worked within their daily life. If you can pick something that may be a bit consistent from each plan, it was finding a person or group to workout with, whether that be group classes, friends, or family. And that was simply because it is more fun to workout with someone than it is alone. But no matter what it may be, find what you enjoy, and do it.

When it came to nutrition, these clients found foods they enjoyed and stuck with it. If there is one thing with nutrition that all these people did, it was finding foods they liked, and then pretty much eating the same things every day. I have never had a successful client who kept “variety” as a mainstay in their diet. I am not a fan of saying you have to eat the same things everyday, and never told a single one of these clients to do so. But the ones who were successful did, with some very slight variation for maybe 1 or 2 meals a week. They found it easier to stick with similar things instead of trying to find new foods every day. It allowed them to cook in bulk and be prepared, saving a lot of time and headache when it came to finding something to eat.
Without even meaning to, I have basically summed up my article “4 Keys to Fitness Success” in detailing what these clients did to be successful. That article went into detail for the need of consistency, sustainable habits, enjoying the process, and not doing it alone. Those are the 4 keys I picked for a reason, and it is because if I look at the success of my clients and others, it is exactly the things they did and what you can see here. So when looking at your own fitness journey, if you are not seeing the success you desire, let’s reevaluate. If you are not making it to the gym, why not? What can you do differently? Is there a way to exercise at home we can add in as a substitute that may work? Have you tried ALL the group classes to see if there is one you enjoy? Are you planning meals for the week, or just hoping to run across healthy things? If I ask what you are eating for dinner tonight, or tomorrow for lunch, or to how about 3 days from now (someone who is successful will be able to answer all 3 of those)? Make a plan, find consistency and sustainability, stick with it, and the results will come.

Why There Is So Much Contradicting Information Regarding Nutrition

My hope is to answer this question today….

“Why is there so much contradictory information out there regarding nutrition”?

And while there may be a couple reasons for this, I believe there is a main overriding factor that plagues the fitness industry in providing bad information without true context behind the facts. This factor and main contributor is correlation vs. causation. This may get a bit long winded, but stick with me.

Let’s dive into what correlation vs. causation is. According to a quick Google search, these are the definitions of each:

Correlation: “a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things.” (1)

Causation: “the action of causing something.” (2)

Now reading those two definitions, it is very apparent there is a difference, yet many articles on nutrition seem to not be able to distinguish the difference between the two. Correlation shows a relationship or connection between two or more things, but in no way signifies that these two things cause each other to occur, whereas causation signifies a direct interrelation, where one thing causes the other. At this point you may still be confused, so let me get into an example of how correlation can be an inaccurate way of coming to conclusions, and then some specific nutrition examples that have consistently had this exact issue.

There is a famous study that many go to in regards to the possible downfalls of using correlation to assume causation, or in other words, assuming because something has a relation to another issue, that it means it causes that issue as well. This study showed that an increase in ice cream sales had a direct correlation with an increase in murder rates, which raised the question, “Does ice cream cause people to kill?”. (3) I don’t think I need to spend much time on answering that question, as we all can understand that ice cream does not cause someone to kill.  Even though there was correlation, there was something else that was the actual issue, and that was found to be the warmer weather in the months of July to September. Warmer weather then is the middle ground that is associated with causing both to occur, resulting in more ice cream to be bought and for murder rates to rise.

So how does this apply to fitness? Let’s take a look at two specific examples that I believe are the most abused when it comes to taking a correlational effect and then assuming it is also the cause. The first one we will look at is diet soda. I will be the first to say there is nothing inherently good about diet soda and I am not here to recommend that it would be a good option for you to consume. But I also can say with 100% certainty that diet soda does not CAUSE weight gain, as so many articles and research studies have tried to claim or hint at. Research has shown that there is a direct CORRELATION between diet soda and being overweight, but let’s break this down so we can understand the truth. When it comes to the question “Does diet soda CAUSE weight gain?”, I have a simple answer…..”Diet soda has ZERO calories” (mic drop). Weight gain is caused by a surplus of calories over our needed amount, so if something has zero calories, it cannot physiologically CAUSE weight gain, it is just not biologically possible. So if currently you have quit drinking diet soda in the fear of gaining weight from it, I am hear to tell you that you no longer have to worry. What research has shown though, is that there is a CORRELATION between people who drink diet soda and those people being overweight. And to me there is a simple answer to what this correlation means. People who are overweight tend to drink diet soda! This does not mean that diet soda is causing them to be overweight. What it means is that diet soda is not the healthiest of choices in regards to its contents, and those who are overweight usually are not choosing the best of options, so diet soda is a logical option they are probably gravitating towards. Now in my own personal experience, I have very rarely seen diet soda be an issue within someone’s weight loss, and have at times found a small benefit. People crave sweet things, and if a diet soda once in awhile can calm those cravings and give you that “sweet” satisfaction with zero calories, that is going to be a much better option than what could occur, which is eating candy and junk food that actually contains calories. Again, I do not recommend drinking diet soda, as there is nothing beneficial about it physiologically, but if mentally it can satisfy sweet cravings, I definitely would consider it the lesser of two evils in regards to eating candy and junk food.

The second big correlation vs. causation mishap I see is the demonization of sodium and its apparent role in causing obesity. Unlike diet soda, we actually need sodium, and there are health benefits in regards to sodium, so demonizing it is a dangerous thing to do. But just like any substance, if we over consume sodium, there can be health risks. Sodium is definitely something that can be an issue for those with heart related issues or high blood pressure, and at that point needs to be closely monitored. But for the sake of this article, I want to just hone in on the much talked about CORRELATION between sodium and obesity. A quick Google search of “sodium and obesity” comes up with 17,600,000 hits, with page after page filled with articles saying the sodium is strongly linked with obesity. But I have the same exact answer, as with diet soda, to this issue as well….

”Sodium has ZERO calories” (mic drop).

Just like diet soda, sodium cannot cause weight gain, yet the general fitness industry is trying to convince us it does, so what gives? Let’s look at the real issues with sodium and why this correlation has arised. I am going to look at myself as an example. I eat on average around 3,500 calories a day, and consume around 3,500mg of sodium as well. The vast majority of what I eat would be considered healthy, and I eat out on very rare occasions. According the general health standards, it is recommended to be somewhere in the range of 1500-2500mg of sodium for your daily intake, but that is also based off a 2,000 calorie diet. So if I am using those standards (which I do not completely agree with, but will use for this example) then I am right about where I should be, which is 1mg of sodium for every 1 calorie. But now let’s look at an entrée from a popular restaurant chain that will go unnamed.

Chicken Bowl /w Rice (sounds like it could possible be healthy, but it’s not)

880 calories

3,830mg sodium

That one single meal is more sodium than I consume in an entire day, and I eat 3,500 calories! If the suggested amount of sodium is 1:1 ratio of sodium to calories, this meal is 1:4.35, or four times the amount of sodium we should probably consume with that amount of calories. Going down the menu for this popular restaurant chain, most entrees are above 2,000mg of sodium, with probably the average being somewhere around 3,000mg. No matter what, we are going to hit our allotted sodium goal in just one sitting, while also consuming a very high calorie meal (the 880 chicken bowl w/ rice was one of the lower calorie options, most were over 1,000 calories). So what does this all mean? If you are consistently eating out or eating a lot of processed foods, you will be consuming a lot of sodium. And what do you think happens to people who are eating out a lot and are consuming processed foods? They gain weight. Sodium did not cause this weight gain, and just like the instance with ice cream and murder rates, there is a middle ground actually causing both, and in this case it is eating out and processed foods. So what can we gain from these correlational studies on sodium? Do not eat out so much and limit your processed foods, as those have been shown to have a causation effect with obesity due to their high calorie nature. Unless you have high blood pressure or a heart related issue, if the vast majority of your food is home-cooked, you do not need to worry about sodium in the slightest.

The list could go on about examples of correlation vs. causation getting abused within the fitness industry, but what I hope you got from this is a new way of thinking about the research in these articles claiming that X correlates with Y, so X must cause Y. Look for keywords like “linked, “correlates”, “strongly associated” or “associated with”, “may increase” or “may raise”, “tied to”, or other terms that try to hint at a causation effect, but are truly just correlational. This doesn’t mean all correlational effects are wrong, but what I am saying is that if you see those keywords, make sure to challenge the thought process of the claims before accepting them as truth.