Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 60

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 60

From OTPbooks.com: Here’s a quick link to our new Dan John category.


I’ve said it every year in my teaching career. Just the same way “recreation” can be rearranged as “re-creation,” your New Year’s resolutions are your attempts to find new solutions, new ways “to solve” issues in your life.

I keep mine pretty simple. This year, 30 grams of protein within half an hour of waking up (Pat Flynn told me to do this) and ten glasses of water a day. Neither is too mysterious and both are “increases,” which I find easier to do than stopping or decreasing stuff.

For some extra help on your soon-to-be-forgotten resolutions, here you go from Dr. Kelly McGonigal of Stanford University…but I thought Hogwarts….brings us this great list:

“Will power is like a muscle. The more you work on developing it, the more you can incorporate it into your life. It helps, McGonigal says in this podcast, to start with small feats of willpower before trying to tackle more difficult feats. Ideally, find the smallest change that’s consistent with your larger goal, and start there.

“Choose a goal or resolution that you really want, not a goal that someone else desires for you, or a goal that you think you should want. Choose a positive goal that truly comes from within and that contributes to something important in life.

“Willpower is contagious. Find a willpower role model — someone who has accomplished what you want to do. Also try to surround yourself with family members, friends or groups who can support you. Change is often not made alone.

“Know that people have more willpower when they wake up, and then willpower steadily declines throughout the day as people fatigue. So try to accomplish what you need to — for example, exercise — earlier in the day. Then watch out for the evenings, when bad habits can return.

“Understand that stress and willpower are incompatible. Any time we’re under stress it’s harder to find our willpower. According to McGonigal, ‘the fight-or-flight response floods the body with energy to act instinctively and steals it from the areas of the brain needed for wise decision-making. Stress also encourages you to focus on immediate, short-term goals and outcomes, but self-control requires keeping the big picture in mind.’ The upshot? ‘Learning how to better manage your stress is one of the most important things you can do to improve your willpower.’ When you get stressed out, go for a walk. Even a five minute walk outside can reduce your stress levels, boost your mood, and help you replenish your willpower reserves.

“Sleep deprivation (less than six hours a night) makes it so that the prefrontal cortex loses control over the regions of the brain that create cravings. Science shows that getting just one more hour of sleep each night (eight hours is ideal) helps recovering drug addicts avoid a relapse. So it can certainly help you resist a doughnut or a cigarette.

“Also remember that nutrition plays a key role. ‘Eating a more plant-based, less-processed diet makes energy more available to the brain and can improve every aspect of willpower from overcoming procrastination to sticking to a New Year’s resolution,’ McGonigal says.

“Don’t think it will be different tomorrow. McGonigal notes that we have a tendency to think that we will have more willpower, energy, time, and motivation tomorrow. The problem is that ‘if we think we have the opportunity to make a different choice tomorrow, we almost always ‘give in’ to temptation or habit today.’

“Acknowledge and understand your cravings rather than denying them. That will take you further in the end. The video above has more on that.

“Imagine the things that could get in the way of achieving your goal. Understand the tendencies you have that could lead you to break your resolution. Don’t be overly optimistic and assume the road will be easy.

“Know your limits, and plan for them. Says McGonigal, ‘People who think they have the most self-control are the most likely to fail at their resolutions; they put themselves in tempting situations, don’t get help, give up at setbacks. You need to know how you fail; how you are tempted; how you procrastinate.’

“Pay attention to small choices that add up. “One study found that the average person thinks they make 14 food choices a day; they actually make over 200. When you aren’t aware that you’re making a choice, you’ll almost always default to habit/temptation.” It’s important to figure out when you have opportunities to make a choice consistent with your goals.

“Be specific but flexible. It’s good to know your goal and how you’ll get there. But, she cautions, ‘you should leave room to revise these steps if they turn out to be unsustainable or don’t lead to the benefits you expected.’

“Give yourself small, healthy rewards along the way. Research shows that the mind responds well to it. (If you’re trying to quite smoking, the reward shouldn’t be a cigarette, by the way.)

“Finally, if you experience a setback, don’t be hard on yourself. Although it seems counter-intuitive, studies show that people who experience shame/guilt are much more likely to break their resolutions than ones who cut themselves some slack. In a nutshell, you should ‘Give up guilt.'”

To help you “re-solve” this year, drink your coffee.

“In a 2012 mortality study of 400,000 people printed in The New England Journal of Medicine, coffee drinkers had between 6 and 16 percent fewer deaths. Likewise, in a Japanese study printed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, coffee drinkers were 24 percent less likely to die during a 19-year follow-up.

“The sweet spot seems to be three to four cups a day of regular or decaf, but one study involving six cups a day saw a 33 percent reduction in diabetes diagnoses. Other maladies positively affected by coffee include liver cancers, fatty livers, alcoholic liver disease, heart disease, stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.”

Since we are talking about coffee, let’s not forget booze.

If you decided to run (from what?) or do cardio, here is a little bit of help. Shane McLean sent in this nice series of workouts for cardio. The best line:

“I’d rather pour gasoline over myself and jump into a fire than run on a treadmill.”

Now you can get in shape the smart way, like they do at Mark Fisher Fitness, or you can embarrass yourself on national TV.

Don’t forget sleep. I am staying asleep ten hours a night so far this year.  Decluttering my life and dark Utah nights help, but not sleeping might help too!

“On the whole, when it comes to the links between sleep—or sleeplessness—and creativity, the data and the stories point in different directions. This is hardly surprising given the slipperiness of that thing we call ‘creativity.’ Like ‘love’ it’s an abstract quality everyone wants and no one knows how to make in a laboratory. If it’s extra time you’re after—and very quiet time at that—I can’t recommend insomnia enough, though I wouldn’t recommend it at all as a voluntary exercise. If it’s the special creative insights only available in dream states, well, you’d best get lots of sleep. If you can, that is. Creative insomniacs—like those wandering in the confines of a dream world—know all too well they don’t have much choice in the matter.”

This article discusses a very interesting thing that, after reading, I realized had crept into my life. Shadow work is something I would like us to all think about.

“Corporations love creating shadow work because outsourcing formerly paid jobs to the consumer increases their profits. But they also often claim it’s a win for everyone, as the consumer will ultimately save money and time as well. Of course the rhetoric doesn’t always match reality; oftentimes the cost savings never trickle down, and the new robotic customer service rep is less convenient than the flesh and blood variety. For example, airline ticket prices haven’t fallen now that we buy them online and check-in via kiosk. Similarly, self-check-out at the grocery store might sometimes be faster if you only have a few items — but not if you run into an error, and not if you have a whole basketful of groceries.

“But shadow work does undeniably have its benefits. It lets you shop on your own time, manage your own information stream, and dine out more often than you might have otherwise (you may have to bus your own table, but you don’t have to tip).”

I am NOT a fan of Nick Saban, but this article is right on, especially for Olympic sports athletes. It’s something I wish I would have mastered earlier.

“So he posed a question: What if a team concentrated only on what they could manage? What if they took things step by step—not focusing on anything but what was right in front of them and on doing it well?

“As a result, Nick Saban doesn’t focus on what every other coach focuses on, or at least not the way they do. He tells them:

‘Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Think about what you needed to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process: Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.'”

I love the annual fat-loss posts. This one struck a chord with me as it lists so many important points on nutrition and fat loss.

Let’s filter all this stuff into a workable action plan.


Eat less on a weekly basis. How much you eat under your BMR will determine how fast you will lose fat. I could include exercise calories, but don’t.

You can use 2 – 24 hour fast a week to lower weekly calories. This allows me to eat more when I’m not fasting and still stay in a weekly deficit. Some of you Nancy boys don’t want to fast…ok, just find other ways to eat less.

You can also just not eat for 6 – 8 hours after you wake up. I do this, I don’t eat breakfast.  I have black coffee with stevia (a packet of Truvia), ice water, and a diet soft drink or two, until I eat my first meal between 12pm and 1pm.  I work out in the morning.

An average daily deficit of 500 calories is fairly doable. That gives you 1300 calories a day to work with. If I fast 2 times a week, I could up the calories on non-fasting days.  If I don’t eat breakfast, I spread the meals over two large meals (lunch and dinner) and 1 snack.

You could skip meals to compensate for excess. Have a few drinks a burger and fries on Saturday night…don’t eat breakfast and have a very light lunch on Sunday.

You could eat 5 small meals a day…but it kind of sucks and makes you look like a tool carrying around a cooler everywhere you go. Don’t overcompensate before or after a fast, just eat normally.

Breakfast is important…if you’re 8 years old and go to school. If you are an adult, you don’t HAVE to have breakfast, unless your mom makes you.

Look for ways to cut calories but still have foods you like. This is where lower calorie versions of food help, like frozen yogurt, low fat cheeses, etc.  Remember, you could eat the “regular” version of these foods, just account for the extra calories.

You want to eat paleo, zone, south beach…go for it. If you eat 5000 calories of cheese, eggs, and beef, you’re gonna get fat, you still have to control for calories.

8 ounces of Coke is 100 calories…8 ounces! Friggin stop drinking this shit, on a daily basis, multiple times. Once in awhile, ok.

You are not a special snowflake, if your calories are low and you are not losing weight…lower them some more. Food calorie information is screwed up. Portion sizes are screwed up. We underestimate how much we eat. We under report how much we eat.

Drink coffee, tea, and water, chew gum to deal with hunger between meals or during a fast. Oh, and man up, seriously man (or woman) the F up…losing fat is not fun, you’re gonna be hungry and irritable. It’s simple, not easy. Anybody who says it’s easy is lying to you.

Special foods are bullshit. Fat burning supplements are bullshit. When you see a list of “5 superfoods to eat to lose fat”, understand this is predatory marketing. You lose fat by not eating food, not eating special foods.

For a week or so measure your food and use calorie counting software. You are going to be surprised at how little you should eat, especially if you are having 5 – 7 meals a day.

If I put a gun to your head and told you, you had to lose 8 pounds in two weeks or I blow a hole in your head, would you eat a specific mixture of macronutrients or…just not friggin eat at all? See, it’s pretty simple.

Use the scale, mirror, and clothing size to determine if you are on track. The scale will lie due to water weight fluctuations, make sure you are trending down. If not…lower calories.  Weigh yourself every day to observe trends and intervene when the trend goes in the wrong direction.

I used to eat nuts (almonds, walnuts, you know good fat profile nuts) and wondered why I had a hard time losing fat. Look at the calories in a handful of nuts. Keep them for maintenance.

Supplement with D, fish oil (or krill oil), creatine (if you want to) and vitamin K2.

You could pretty much eat anything. It is more filling to eat meats, vegetables and fruits, but I eat a few hard pretzels almost every night. I also have ice cream and alcohol on a weekly basis. Somehow the inflammation has not killed me or shown up in any health markers.

Finally, Josh Hillis. Josh’s annual smart post on New Years and the problems with “resolving” to do something you have never done before. Ahem: “Re-SOLVE.” If you haven’t solved it before, thinking you can do it now is an issue.


Intensity is for amateurs.

Consistency is for pros.

Finally, if this all doesn’t help, read this.

No preview from me because I really hope you read it.

And… before we go (see what I did there?), here it is, the return of GetUp!

Have a happy New Year!


Publisher’s note: From Marc Halpern this week, we have A Nutrition Plan That Works, in which he describes what it took to lose 70 pounds, and how you can use this information yourself or with your clients.
 Marc Halpern: A Nutrition Plan that Works