How Did a Book About Getting Abs Become My Favorite Overall Fitness and Nutrition Book of All?

I don’t care about abs. Visible abs are obsessed over and highly overrated. If they indicate one’s fitness and body-fat levels accurately then they are a bi-product of hard work and a good diet and discipline and as such are not necessarily a bad thing But as a specific goal, I don’t see the point. For starters, you have to take off or lift up your shirt for anyone to even see them! At a certain age, this is never an attractive prospect no matter what’s underneath the shirt. But I do understand that authors have to sell books and they must appeal to the interests of the readers to do so. This is why Diamond Cut Abs by Danny Kavadlo, which is my absolute favorite fitness, diet and exercise book, seems to be specifically about abs and how to get them. But it is SO MUCH MORE, and it is the perfect combination of irreverent, pithy and larger-than-life humorous writing, BS busting, honest truth, and plain and simple minimalist punk wisdom. No holds barred and no punches pulled.

I have read this book three times and you know what? When I get to the part that specifically describes how to train abs, I start skimming or stop reading altogether. Like I said, I don’t care about abs, and I don’t think most people should care about abs as much as they do and to the exclusion of other things. Although, if you DO care about abs, this is the right book for you, because it ALSO dispels the myths and busts the BS in the fitness industry about how to train abs. I mean, it includes squats, push ups and pull ups in abs training! That’s beautiful! But this book is SO MUCH MORE than an abs training book. It is my go-to resource for nutritional rules and it is my homing device. I get distracted like everyone else, and I lose sight of the truth. And when I do, I turn back to this book. In fact, it’s a perfect compendium of knowledge and wisdom on how to avoid the rampant BS that the fitness industry is full of, how to think clearly about what to eat and when and how much and why, and how not to get caught up in needless obsessing about components of food and measuring things and weighing things and worrying about nutrients of dubious value that you’ll never see, taste or feel and frankly, don’t know why you should even care about. Ever tasted an anti-oxidant?

Are you worried about whether or not you should be paleo, keto, vegan, OMAD, carnivore or any one of the many other variations on a theme? Forget about it! Throw it out the window! You gotta eat and when you do, you should be hungry, and you should eat real freaking food that grew under the ground or above the ground or flew around or ran around or swam around or popped out of the business end of a chicken. You should eat food as close to its source as possible and you should eat the whole food and lots of different varieties of it. If it comes in a canister, ignore it. If someone extracted it from something else, leave it alone (most of the time). If it’s been pounded, bleached, dyed, pulverized or partially hydrogenated, throw it away. You get the idea.

Through the ages most diets that gain popular appeal follow a simple set of rules that usually involves the vilification of a single macro-nutrient and/or food group, some kind of dubious justification for that vilification (when there actually is a hidden one, such as farm subsidies), and the attempt to apply this rule to everyone across the board. The particular macro-nutrient or food group that is the target du jour tends to vary cyclically. It may be fat, then carbs, then protein or it may be grains or sugar then red meat or animal products or fructose or cholesterol, etc. What’s always less loudly trumpeted is the accompanying advice to avoid junk and processed food and eat real food, which of course is the real reason that any diet actually helps you. But it’s not a gimmick to avoid junk and processed food and eat real food and it doesn’t have any obvious financial rewards for those doing the advising, so it’s not generally the focus of the diet. I recently watched three documentary nutrition films within the span of about two days. This is a valuable exercise that is not for the faint of heart. The documentaries I watched were Forks Over Knives, The Magic Pill, and Cooked. Forks is a vegan film and The Magic Pill is a paleo/keto film that both follow very similar scripts until it comes to the one enemy, whether that be animal products or carbohydrates. Cooked is Michael Pollan’s four-part documentary series that takes a common sense approach to food and celebrates a reverence for its origins, its cultural, social and nutritional power, and its true value outside of gimmicks and dishonest money-making schemes. It’s a true thing of beauty and Danny Kavadlo’s book fits right in here in addition to providing a set of rules to follow in order to get to the “core”, so to speak, of eating sensibly and getting stronger. Get Diamond Cut Abs, read it, re-read it when you start to stray, get on those squats, push ups and pull ups for a strong core!

You know what I think Danny should do? Take the first half of the book (before the abs training) and update it, and expand it, and bring it in line with his current thinking, and make it an entire book itself.

Your Personal Paleo Code – Week 3

At this point I have settled in to the routine of roughly 80% compliance and although my mind continues to jump from one idea to another regarding this effort, as it always has with any effort, my progress continues. If I can get my thoughts organized I think there is a separate post here about willpower, following the advice of others, diet obsession, and following rules. What I mean is that I can’t seem to get myself to do the full reset, not because it’s too difficult or too new or too restrictive, but because I am at the point now in my life and in this journey where my mind seems to be telling me to set my own path here and do not mindlessly follow the advice laid out by others, no matter how good it may be. I am not desperate here and this is not new to me, so trying my best to follow rules that have been set by someone I’ve never met on things that may or may not benefit me just seems too unnecessary right now. So rather than follow the reset phase as it has been written in the book, I am doing my best to follow what to me seems like a better permanent path, and that is to live my life and to try my best as often as I can to follow the guidance, reflect on it, and measure my progress. That said, here are three key measurements:

Weight: 184

BP: 126/80

Gut circumference: 38″

My weight on 10/27/19 was 190 and my BP was around 153/95 and my gut measure was 40″. This is good , steady progress and I’ll take it.

In the true spirit of the 80% rule, here are two fine paleo meals and one fine pint of IPA.

Nutrient Density

I’ve been thinking a lot about nutrient density lately, including last night when I was trying to fall asleep. It came up after I listened to a podcast featuring Dr. Ted Naiman. I hadn’t heard of him before. He is among what appears to me to be a growing number of physicians who went to traditional medical school and have been practicing for some time and have discovered the benefits of low carb eating in their patients and their own lives. This is an interesting group because low carb eating goes against most of their training and what they have preached over the years. Anyway, his point was that our food is so bereft of nutritional quality now, and most people don’t understand food and nutrients at all, that we almost have no choice but to overeat and consume way too many calories in order to simply get the nutrients that we need. Most of the foods that most people eat most of the time have very many calories and carbs and very few nutrients. A fast food burger is calorie rich and carb rich and relatively nutrient poor. Whole wheat pasta would be carb rich and with plenty of damaging components and some nutrients. Candy would be completely lacking in nutrients but still delivering a lot of carbs and calories. An apple would be pretty good but much less nutrient-dense than, say, a bowl of blueberries.

I knew all this, but hadn’t really thought about it much in terms of how to do exactly the opposite of what most people are doing every day and all day. Instead of eating calorie-rich, nutrient deficient foods all day long, don’t eat very often and when you do, don’t eat much and when you do, make sure it is the most nutrient-dense food you can eat. Most of the time do this. Don’t worry about the calories so much as the nutrition and the fact that it is nutrient-dense (with macros such as protein and healthy fats and micros such as minerals and vitamins). And keep the needless carbs to a minimum, particularly if you need to lose weight, have blood sugar issues, gut issues, etc.

How do you do this? Try taking the smallest container that you can conceive of containing a meal and pack it with the most satisfying, nutrient dense food you can that you know you will enjoy. Here’s what I came up with for today: 3 pastured eggs scrambled, leg of lamb and bacon in a pretty darn small container. I’m going to get by on this, I hope, until dinner.

Here are some other examples of meals that would fit into this container:

Steak, primal cheesy muffins, salad.
Grass fed ground beef and fried eggs.
Shell-less tacos

My Current Workout: “Get Strong” by the Brothers Kavadlo

On October 19th and 20th, 2019 I attended the Dragon Door Progressive Calisthenics Clinic in New York City. The class was taught by my two favorite fitness people: Al and Danny Kavadlo. I have a lot of heroes in the calisthenics and fitness industry, but these two are by far the top of the heap. If this were old school bodybuilding, they would be Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane.

The clinic was two days of calisthenics instruction, lectures and hands on practice, about 15 hours of total time. We learned how to progress from simpler calisthenics skills to more difficult ones, and the class was geared towards trainers and coaches. At the end we were tested on “the century”, which was 40 squats, 30 push ups, 20 hanging knee raises and 10 pull ups in 8 minutes. Form was strict and your reps were judged. You could NOT break posture or rest and each rep had to be a full range of motion. I passed (barely), which meant I got an instructor certification. Probably about 7 or 8 students did not pass.

The class taught me many things, not the least of which is that Danny and Al are even more awesome in person that I thought they would be. The other thing I learned is that I am very strong in the basics, which is no surprise, since I’ve been training the basics for years now. But I also learned that I am very weak at the more complicated things for the most part. Especially things that require my head to be upside down. Any kind of handstand or skin-the-cat was next to impossible for me. Balancing was also ridiculously difficult.

Therefore, I bought Danny and Al’s book “Get Strong”, had them sign it (of course),

and decided to get started on the training program right away. Get Strong is a 16 week program of progressive calisthenics in four phases of four weeks each. From week to week you add reps and exercises and sets and then at the end of each phase you must pass a test in order to progress to the next phase. By the end, provided I can handle it, I will be doing some of the more complex moves such as pistol squats, archer push ups, and handstands.

I don’t really like taking days off, but this program is difficult enough that I have to. And I have to force myself and my wandering mind to stay the course here and perform all the workouts exactly as written. It is working. Already I feel a lot stronger and more balanced, and I feel like my posture is much better and my various aches and pains have improved.

I was able to “test in” to Phase 2 week 2 by taking the prior test. Now I’m in Phase 3, week two. The first few phases involved three whole-body workouts a week and now I am splitting upper-body and lower-body with one day of rest between. So I do two upper-body workouts a week and two lower-body workouts a week with one day of rest between.

Here’s what I am doing this week:

Day 1

Feet elevated push up: 3 x 12

Pull up: 2 x 6

Feet elevated pike push up: 3 x 6

Chin up: 2 x 6

Hanging leg raise: 3 x 6

Wall handstand: 2 x 40 seconds (this one is very difficult for me)

Day 2

Squat: 2 x 30

Assisted one-leg squat: 3 x 8

Drinking bird: 3 x 12

Bulgarian split squat: 3 x 12

Candlestick bridge: 3 x 6

Grain-Free, Nut-Free Pizza

Grain-free, nut-free pizza with pepperoni, olives, roasted eggplant, roasted red bell pepper, baby arugula

Ingredients:

4 oz. grated cheese of your choice (mozzarella is typically used, but I used sharp cheddar here. Mozzarella gives a mild flavor but I knew I wouldn’t be putting cheese on top of the pizza so I wanted a cheesier flavor.)

4 medium eggs

1 medium eggplant

1 red bell pepper

pepperoni slices

tomato sauce or prepared pizza sauce

garlic

black olives, sliced

baby arugula

olive oil

salt, pepper, garlic

Instructions:

Slice eggplant and red bell pepper and place on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and broil until browned and soft, about 15 minutes (but check it and stir it frequently). Preheat oven to 400F. Combine grated cheese and eggs in a bowl and mix until you have something resembling a batter. If using tomato sauce, add to pot and add seasonings of choice and cook until reduced and thicker, about 15 minutes.

Pour egg and cheese mixture onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook at 400F until browned, about 15 minutes. Remove crust from oven and cover with sauce and toppings. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, monitoring regularly so that the crust does not get too brown. Remove from oven and top with baby arugula.

Your Personal Paleo Code, Week 2

I have finished week 1 of Chris Kresser‘s Your Personal Paleo Code, and the results have been surprising. The first surprising observation has been that my compliance has been pretty bad. This was surprising because I have done these things before and had a lot less trouble keeping to the rules, as strict as they may be. And they are strict. Last week I was able to stick with the plan for the most part, including my added components of daily meditation (I didn’t do it each day, but most) and staying away from digital stimulation, especially news. I did ok with that. But I also let some beer, whisky and junk food (two slices of pizza, a little popcorn, one piece of Halloween candy) sneak into the mix. Not too much, but at least three times.

So that brings me to the notion of psychology and mental strength and excessive attempts at will power and self control. Instead of deciding that last week was a failure because I cheated a few times, and then giving up and moving on to the next impossible challenge, I have decided to accept what I managed to accomplish (there is good news at the end of this) and keep working. Maybe this week I can do a little bit better. This is not an excuse to cheat but rather an admission that I am human and I am doing the best that I can and I’m not going to give up. I was probably 80-85% compliant last week, and as a long-term goal, what is just fine. Great even.

Now, I wouldn’t be so confident were it not for the next piece of information. Despite my guilt and feelings of failure, I lost 5 pounds (down to 185), one inch off my last girth measurement (39″) and my last blood pressure was controlled (134 over 86)! If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is!

You don’t have to be perfect. Just do the best that you can, and if you do so consistently, the rewards will come.

Here Are Some Real Food Meals

Everything pictured here grew or was prepared in rough accordance with the Whole 30 Challenge and Chris Kresser’s Your Personal Paleo Code. In general, that means no sugar or sweeteners, no grains, no industrial seed oils, no legumes and no dairy. Real food. The exceptions would be the croissants that snuck into one of the photos and the cheese on one of the dishes. Email me for recipes.

Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser – Reset, Day 1

I am reading Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser. The program is divided into three parts: reset, rebuild, revive. The reset phase is a 30 day very strict paleo diet that is quite similar to the Whole 30 Challenge. This is 30 days of strict paleo where you are eliminating all sugar and sweeteners, all grains, all legumes, all dairy, seed oils, and anything artificial. In addition, you are limited to one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea per day and advised to limit some foods. The reset phase allows you to reclaim your health, after which you enter the rebuild phase, where you systematically re-introduce the previously forbidden foods to see if you can tolerate them. This is the personal part; all people are different and all have different reactions to food. This phase allows you to figure out your personal diet. In the revive phase you make final tweaks to your diet until it is perfect for you. This involves things like macronutrient counts and the like.

I have started the reset phase in earnest today, October 27, 2019. In the reset phase you are to eat liberally: meat and poultry, organ meats, bone broth, fish, eggs, starchy plants, non-starchy vegetables, fermented vegetables and fruits, traditional fats (coconut, ghee, palm oil, macadamia nut, lard, duck, tallow, olive), olives, avocados, coconuts, sea salt and spices. Eat in moderation: processed meat, whole fruit, nuts and seeds, green beans, sugar peas, snap peas, coffee and black tea, vinegar, restaurant food: Avoid completely: dairy, grans, legumes, sweeteners of any kind, chocolate, processed or refined foods, industrial seed and vegetable oils, sodas, fruit juice, alcohol, processed salts and seasonings.

I would like to describe my progress and what I’m doing here in the belief that it will help me succeed with the program, will help to support (or refute) its claims, and will help others who may be interested in trying something like this. I should note that I have successfully completed two Whole 30 challenges in the past, so this is not new to me and I know what to expect. I am not planning to write about each day, but I would like to write often enough so that subtle changes can be described and so there is enough detail to be helpful.

In general my health and my physical strength and endurance are good. But I take medication for blood pressure and asthma and I suffer from a range of digestive problems such as IBS, gas and bloating, and allergy symptoms that are not seasonal. In terms of supplements I take B12, D and fish oil. I would like to ultimately take no pills whatsoever. And, of course, I would like to eliminate the digestive symptoms.

Weight: 190 lbs

Midsection measurement: 40 inches (around the waist just above the navel. This is intended as a measurement of belly fat and bloat. My waist is about 32″ so this is a large difference.)

Blood pressure (medicated): 158/93 at 3:15 PM. <– this is pretty bad and higher than usual.

I am not planning to describe everything I eat here, but I would like to give a sense of it. So far today I have had one large cup of black coffee (I have been drinking two cups of strong black coffee a day for years, so this is a big difference and will be quite challenging), one cup of herbal tea, seltzer and water. For breakfast/lunch I had an omelette with 3 eggs, pork souvlaki meat, olives, artichoke hearts, bell pepper and tomato. It is shown below. I also had an apple and some mixed nuts. I think dinner will be lamb roast, cauliflower rice and a salad.

In addition to the dietary changes, I am planning to try for at least 15 minutes of meditation a day and to seriously curtail my digital entertainment. For that I plan to check my personal email and social media only twice a day and to stop deliberately reading and watching all news and information feeds. If some news gets in my head that’s fine and if something truly important happens, I will find out about it, so I am not worried about missing anything.

Oh, and here’s my other problem:

I will detail my exercise program in a separate set of posts.