Thursday, July 25, 2019

The single life - Why dating sucks for women

I'm gonna write this for all of my single friends, who talk about how difficult the single world is today and how frustrating dating can be.

Here's what I HOPE should be the take away from this. A huge part, from what I can tell, about why dating is so tough (multitude of reasons) is because people have very little legitimate introspection about their own negative traits.

Most people think they are a catch, bring a lot to the table, talk about "not settling" etc, and are hyper focused on the other person being "good enough" without realizing a lot of the negative traits that THEY keep bringing to the table.

I ended up reading through a butt ton of surveys and studies about what people consider  nonnegotiables and turn offs in dating.

If you read through enough of them, eventually almost everything in the world gets listed as a turn off.

"Didn't load the dishwater correctly"
"Has a really annoying laugh"
"Had on the wrong colored shoes for their outfit".
"Teeth weren't the right size".

If you went through every article you'd end up reading anywhere from thirteen to seventy-four things that were turn offs.

So you have to narrow it down to what's most common (like a meta analysis) in each one.

These spanned from early casual dates, to people who dated for a little while but found a reason not to commit long term.

Don't shoot the messenger, jackasses. Stating that right now. I'm trying to do you a solid here.  And yes, there will be a part 2 for why it sucks for men.  So keep your thong out of it's knot.

Shared traits (complaints from both men and women)

Jealousy / Talking about your ex

Newsflash, if you're dating someone you need to leave your baggage and former relationship at the door. Save that shit for your therapist. The person you're dating doesn't want to constantly hear about how shitty your ex was. It doesn't mean it can never come up, but if you want to date someone then focus on that person. Not what someone else did to you, lied to you about, cheated on you, etc. Talking about that shit all the time is gross behavior. And it's a major turn off to EVERYONE.

Jealousy was a big factor for both sexes, and is the antithesis of confidence. Also, DOING THINGS to make the other person jealous is just as gross as talking about your ex. And you know when you're doing this (most people have done this at some point.) Trying to inject jealousy into the relationship makes you look like a spoiled and immature child. So don't do it.

Too much make up / lack of hygiene  -

I think it goes without saying that personal hygiene is important and how you look does matter. Especially if you're meeting someone for a date.

I don't know what the hell you guys are doing but apparently a lot of you don't shower, use deodorant, and brush your teeth a lot. I promise, that's important to women.

Dudes complained that women often showed up looking like they were headed to a clown convention rather than a date. Newsflash ladies; we are fine with a slight amount of make up and a somewhat more natural look and often even prefer it.

Too much phone -

I think we can all agree that cell phones are a common problem in cultivating intimacy and closeness and play a part in impacting those things. It also tells the other person on the date they aren't so important to you.  Which makes you kind of a shitty person.

If you're on a date, put your phone away for the love of God. It's rude AF. Whatever it is you think is important I promise it can wait. And if you can't go on a date without checking your phone and texting then YOU have a problem. It's completely inconsiderate of the other person's time, and says a lot about you (and not in a good way).

Women's biggest turn offs -

Neediness -

This one was number one or number two on the reasons why things didn't continue further. Needy people often have anxious attachment styles/types. If you don't know what attachment theory is I highly suggest reading up on it. Because it ultimately shapes your behavior in relationships. It can be changed but it takes some work.

Anywho, needy people (there's plenty of needy women and men) need a lot of reassurance and people often pass this off as them simply being "insecure". Fact is, if someone has an anxious attachment type they can't really help it. Not giving them a total pass, but people who grew up with a lot of unmet emotional needs from their caregivers have trouble centering themselves without external affirmation that they are desired, wanted, needed, etc.

Generally speaking, women are more prone to be anxious attachment types but in the dating world neediness from men is a big complaint. Where men don't seem to complain about needy women as much.

What does needy behavior look like? Constant catering to her with romantic gestures and/or smothering her. What this tells her is that you don't have shit going on in your life that is important outside of her. 

It doesn't mean you need to "play games" and ignore texts for two days or act like you missed her call. What it means is that you actually need to focus on cultivating a life worth inviting her to be a part of with you. If you're always at her beck and call then it tells her that you don't have a lot going on in your life.

Women see men as high value when they have shit going on that is important to them outside of her. Women see men as needy and low value when she says "jump" and he says "how high, my love?" Neediness is a repellent because it tells her that you lack confidence with women.

This is also tied in with "moving too fast". When a needy dude finally gets a date, he tends to want to lock her down into commitment very early. This scares the shit out of women because it feels controlling and possessive (those were often on the list too).

Generally speaking, men who come across as needy often have a long history of rejection. The cycle there is they were often rejected because of their needy behavior. Which makes them more needy in future relationships. Which cause them to end up getting rejected a lot. Which makes them more needy. Round and round you go.

What's the solution there? Learn how to give a shit, without giving a shit.

Tell her you'd like to take her to dinner. She's not free? Don't take it personally.

"Some other time then." is a perfectly acceptable non-needy reply.

She hasn't texted you back from four hours ago? Maybe she's busy. Maybe you should find something to be busy about too.

Which also circles us back around to what women more or less desire in a man. And that being, one that has shit going on in his life. One that is creating an awesome life with or without her. Women tend to be very attracted to that.

Also of note, there's a big difference between having needs, and being needy. Confident people with shit going on in their life will still have needs and strong boundaries. And it's fine to state your needs in the relationship, and is a part of developing a healthy, high functioning relationship.

Needy people have weak boundaries and need constant affirmation. 

Laziness -

This wasn't just about work. But mostly about noticing her. I don't feel as though I need to type another three hundreds words to explain that if you're not generating income or working that you probably shouldn't be dating. Showing up for a date to expound on how you're unemployed but mashing up kids in Call of Duty all day doesn't tend to get a woman's knees to knocking.

The laziness they complained about here was simply a lack of paying attention. It was mental and emotional laziness. It means paying attention to her particular needs.

"I thought you just said not to be needy."

See, this is why you have issues. Because you can't discern the difference between paying attention to her needs, and needing validation from her. They aren't the same.  Paying attention to what the person across from you is saying, and actually understanding those words, shows a high degree of intellect and that you're interested in them.

Going forwards, those things tend to pay off in the way of increased intimacy because being known by someone is basically what intimacy is.  What we all desire at some level, is to be known and accepted and understood very deeply.

Despite the fact that it's commonly said that women only buy certain purses and get their hair and nails done to compete with other women, it's not entirely true. Yes, women want to impress and compete with other women. But women want a man to notice everything about her, and pay attention to her when she's offering up who she is emotionally.  

I'll give you an example about this.  

I had a former boss lady and one day I walked into her office to update her on some work.  When I saw her I immediately noticed her hair was different.  

"Ahhh, you got a new color and cut.  Looks good."  

She was blown the F away.  Her husband didn't even notice.  And that right there people is how affairs happen (no, I did not sleep with her either, so pipe down).  

If she has to ask you if you noticed, you've already lost some points.  But noticing little things go a long ways to show her that you're paying attention, and aren't lazy, and are putting in some effort.

But it's more than noticing the physical.

All you have to do is actually listen to her instead of thinking about all the ways you can trick her into getting into her pants (which ironically tends to make that happen faster).

A great example of this was in one of the quotes from a woman who said she knew she'd met the man she potentially wanted to marry.  They were shopping at a candy store, and when offered up a free sample the clerk said to them "this one has almonds". 

Her date quipped "not that one, she hates almonds."

"He had remembered that from a passing comment I had made from a previous date. So I knew he was paying attention to the small details."

Hyper focused on sex / bad at sex -

This is going to rub a lot of dudes the wrong way, but what that should tell you is that maybe you need some introspection here. 

Men have incredibly fragile sexual egos.  This is because a massive part of most men's identity revolves around his sexual prowess.  So if a man is told he's bad at sex  you might as well just go ahead and kick him in the balls and tell him he has ugly ass kids too.

This one jumped out at me because in the research done at looking at satisfying sex lives, the two most common factors were the emotional state of the relationship, and sexual disclosure. Basically, how well two people feel connected emotionally and how comfortable they are talking about sex with one another.

The key in all of this is that intimacy and comfort cause the manifestation of those factors. And the former, emotional connection and closeness, takes time. And men who want to get laid aren't often very patient (and are often super needy, and pushy, which doesn't create for comfort and are major turn offs).

It's true, some people just want to bump ugly in the night without any potential for commitment. But in the context of this blog post, that's not what we're discussing here. It would save both people a lot of time and effort if you're just honest enough to say "listen, I don't really want to date anyone exclusively and am just looking for casual hook ups here and there."


The women being interviewed here were looking for dating or a potential partner. And in those situations they complained that way too many men pushed for sex before they felt like they even knew him very well. Meaning, you're probably moving too fast physically for her, or you're sliding in sexual innuendos very early to gauge where she's at with you sexually.

Again, major turn offs for women who are looking for a serious relationship or potential commitment.

From there, the women who did go ahead and allow the man to bump ugly with her complained that the sex itself wasn't often very good.

Which ties us back around to the things I mentioned before. The state of the emotional connection and sexual disclosure. Both of which are intricately connected to comfort and intimacy.  So a lot of that falls on her too.  Because it means she also wasn't selective enough with whom she chose to sleep with.  Neither person was patient enough to actually see if the other was the kind of person they wanted to have something "more" with.

These things take time. Ask any couple that has been together for a while and they will often tell you that the sex got better over time. This is because the emotional state of the relationship deepened, and because they learned what one another liked the most sexually.

For guys who are needy and lazy (pushing for sex, all the while not paying attention to her needs) they circumvent the factors needed to create a fulfilling and amazing sex life. Almost everyone will agree that the deeper the emotional connection the better the sex is. It's the explanation as to why sex was so good with one person and so awful with someone else.

If you're not willing to cultivate the emotional connection and build comfort to a degree that allows you both to feel very free sexually, then the sex is probably going to suck for her.

Uninteresting -

This was also on the most common lists. Men were just uninteresting to a lot of women, and failed to hold their attention with intellectual conversation.

While men are visually wired, women are more emotionally stimulated. Which means in layman's terms he needs to stimulate her intellectually. Those two things are intricately connected.

My own particular theory about this is that the internet and social media has neutered a lot of men in this regard because they often reduce potential dating to sliding into a woman's inbox or DM's and work from those spaces. Nevermind that there's a massive sausage fest going on in her inbox already. So you're probably not differentiating yourself to some incredible magnitude, no matter how clever you think you are.

This also tends to create for short attention spans as it's not uncommon for a guy to be in a multitude of women's inboxes or DM's playing the numbers game and just shooting their shot all over the place.

But back to the lack of being interesting.

Most dudes think they are interesting. And funny. But have you ever considered that maybe you're not?

If you're a "tl;dr" kinda guy then you're probably not reading a lot of books, or doing a lot of things to deepen who you are intellectually. No matter how "smart" you think you are.

Don't leave the house other than to go to the gym or bar with your buddies? Yeah man, you're one unique and interesting individual.

And what it is we've cultivated about ourselves, is ultimately what we have to offer the person across from us.

All of us enjoy stimulating conversations and individuals who appear to have put some effort into creating the best versions of themselves. These things take effort, and effort tends to grow us. And a well grown individual often has a lot to offer to someone in the way of companionship.

But it's not just about expounding on all of the positive virtues about who you are, either. It's about being introspective about the negative aspects that keep circumventing your ability to connect with people and develop deep relationships with them. And that's usually the factor that turns people off the most.  Men and women alike.

Which is the segue into part 2 - The shit that turns men off in dating. 

To be continued......

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Monday, April 9, 2018

What's silently killing men....because they won't talk about it

If you ever need to mainline a 100% shot of straight awesome, then I urge you to go watch that split second win the U.S. swim team pulled off against France in the Olympics a few years ago.  It's one of those moments that defy words.  Well, it defies a sentence of words.  It's a sports moment that cause us to shout out repetitive phrases in jubilant abundance.  Like "Oh my God!"  "Did you see that!"  "I can't believe it!"  "Wow!"

It's one of those moments.

On a much smaller scale, many of us get to experience these moments first hand.  A moment in our life that truly sits at the precipice of achievement.  It's the culmination of hard work, perseverance, and white knuckling through repeated bouts of oscillating between quitting and finding the desire to keep grinding.  Like that time I had to carve out a sailboat for Boy Scouts and had to race my sailboat against all the other scout clans in the local area.  I beat all of them.  You blew on the sail to move your boat down the trough.  And I destroyed all.  Because I blew harder than all of them.  Got my blue ribbon for being the biggest blow hard of the whole area.

I'm sure what I felt on that day wasn't dissimilar to what Michael Phelps felt as he realized he was about to get yet another gold medal in the Olympics.  Blue ribbon in Boy Scouts, gold medal in the Olympics.  Same shit.

As men, we live for those moments.  Declarations of achievement that we get to boast about to one another to set the pecking order.  Can you imagine being in a room with Michael Phelps trying to talk about that time you scored three touchdowns in high school to help your team overcome a halftime deficit?

"That's cool, man.  This one time in the Olympics..."

Well played, Phelps.  Well played.

As men, we find a great deal of our identity in achievement.  The greater the achievement, the more manly we are.  So a man such as Michael Phelps, who has a zillion gold medals, a fat bank account, the love and adoration of millions worldwide, has to be to men what the Grand Canyon is to ditches.  Surely he has to be filled with confidence each and every day that is unparalleled to what the high school football star or Boy Scout sail boat champ could ever know about.

Yet recently, Phelps came out about the many bouts of severe depression that he had struggled through.  To the degree that he worried about his own safety.  How could that even happen?  How could an ultimate man-bro such as Phelps, find anything to be depressed about?

The problem lies, for many men, in that the very thing that catapults them into those moments of exhilaration, is the very thing that sends them into the pits of despair.   The loss of self due to identification in what we do, and what we achieve.  When what we do becomes who we are, then all the moments that exist in between, life can become very empty.

Phelps talked about the great periods of depression between the Olympics.  And how he self medicated in order to cope in any way he could.  Eventually, coping through smoking weed or alcohol in order to numb down the pain just wasn't cutting it.  What saved him took more strength than swimming laps in a pool faster than anyone else alive.  And that was, being vulnerable and open about the very fact that he was depressed, and had contemplated suicide.

Depression and achievement - 

Let me spell this out for you in case it's hard to understand.  Achievement will not save you from the droves of depression.  If Phelps story doesn't punch you straight in the face about that, then you're fooling yourself.

You broke a world record in powerlifting.  Big deal.  He won a zillion gold medals against the most elite athletes in the world.  You can never know that level of achievement.  Yet he wasn't immune to feeling so overcome with depression, loneliness, and isolation that he almost ended his life.

When I was powerlifting, I got caught up in the same achievement based value system.  Constantly comparing my lifts to someone better.  Eventually, a huge sense of my self worth was derived by what I could lift.  This was affirmed to me by the internet and people with huge followings that never recognized my lifting.  Why would they?  I wasn't breaking world records.  Lost on me was that I allowed them to dictate how I felt about myself.  How I felt about myself was dictated through pounds on the bar. Let me state that in retrospect, I can't believe just how shallow and stupid that is.

Lost in this game of personal comparison was my joy.

Eventually I didn't enjoy training or competing because it was always about the numbers.  My sense of self worth was up or down, all depending on how my lifts were going, or how I performed in a meet.

When you attach your happiness to obtaining something, then once it's attained, you'll realize that the happiness attached to that becomes very fleeting.  From there we often set off on another road of goal attainment, once again believing that achievement is what will make us feel better about who we are.  But it won't sustain us.  It never does.  That road is paved with discontent and the reminder that we're so terribly unhappy because we don't have something.  Our identity ends up being what we do.  And when we're admired for what we do, then no one really loves us for who we are.  That's the story we will tell ourselves whether we openly acknowledge it or not.  Even worse, we don't come to love and appreciate ourselves for who we are.

That's the definition of an emotionally bottomless pit.

By the numbers - 

30% of men have admitted to suffering from some form of depression.

The suicide rate for men is four times that of women.

The older we get, the more likely it is we will succumb to these statistics.  Males that are 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any demographic in the United States.

People suffering from loneliness or isolation are twice as likely to suffer from a premature death than those who aren't.

"Cool story, bro.  I want to know how to get jacked, swole, and put some numbers on my bench."

Cool story, bro.  You can't do any of those things from your grave.  But since you asked, here are some of the very real issues we as men suffer from physiologically when we're fighting loneliness.

Sleeplessness - Less sleep means a higher degree of muscle loss and less fat oxidation
Crappy immune systems - Impaired systemic recovery
Increase in cortisol - Worse body composition

In order to take care of what the outside looks like, it's vitally important to address what's going on inside first.

In order to possibly understand the cause behind these staggering numbers, it's imperative to look on the other side of the coin.  What men are living longer with a higher quality of life than men who find themselves in such dark places that they see no other way out than to take their own life?

What can we do as bros in order to keep ourselves out of those pits of despair, and cultivate a stronger sense of self that transcends into a higher quality of life each and every day?

Embrace vulnerability and talk about it - 

Phelps said his own personal healing didn't start until he found the courage to open up and talk about his depression.

Talking about feelings are usually alien concept to men.

The myriad of emotions that fill up the spaces between apathy and anger are vast and wide, but being openly expressive about feeling sad, lonely, isolated, or melancholy is usually avoided because men fear it can be perceived as weakness.  And yes, it is us as men that often perpetuate this problem by making other men feel as though it's Nancy Boy stuff to express any of the emotions that exist between apathy and anger.

Paradoxically, it's the weakest of men who refuse to admit they feel said array of emotions.  Which is why they often find themselves in the valleys of depression, and overcome with grief.  You feel weak in those valleys, but the ability to admit it is stunted by pride.

As men, we are great at compartmentalizing problems rather than expressing them.  We'd rather not talk about them because we feel it's a waste of time or just really freaking weird.  It's what women do.

Boohooing about sadness or feeling isolated is stupid when we could be installing a new nitrous kit in our drag car, or fighting a bear at the zoo.  Anything to distract us from talking about our problems.

But the real problem is that we can't distract ourselves forever, and at some point peeling back the layers of discontent in our lives has to happen in order for us to heal, and become truly strong men. Not just physically, but emotionally, and mentally. 

Women are outliving us by the decades because they are more robust emotionally.  It's not unusual for a widow to continue living and finding purpose in life after her husband passes.  It's also not unusual for a widower to pass shortly after his wife does.  Women have no issue talking about their emotions, and tend to support one another by expressing them.  Women tend to offer consolation to one another and do a better job of being there to stand beside each other during those moments of internal struggle.

As men, we just struggle with wrenches and plumbing.  Depression is a term we use to describe after our favorite sports team lost a game. 

I'm going to continue to assault your manly senses by helping you to understand something called your inner child.  And we all have one.  The things we learn about emotions, love, intimacy, and self expression is learned in childhood.  And it's something we continue to live with even as we become grown ass men.

As young boys, many of us have suffered from neglect, abuse, assault, abandonment, and rejection.  Often from the people we entrusted to give us security, love, and encouragement.  When we don't receive the latter, we end up working from a very fractured framework about who we are.  When that happens our self esteem and sense of self worth takes a massive hit, and we seek out increased self esteem through existential means.  Like sports achievement or sexual conquest.

Think about it; who doesn't admire the sports star who has a hottie on his arm all the time?  We as men once again perpetuate this very issue by exalting other men based on virtue of achievement, then adopt the belief system that if we just achieve more, we are worth more.  We believe we are worth more because of the admiration we receive about what we do.  And there you go.  You're not admired for who you are.  But what you did.  What you can do.

Phelps was admired by millions and millions.  It didn't save him from bouts of depression so severe he wanted to end it all.  Who was he between the times of Olympic competition?  He probably didn't know.  Competing was where he found his worth and boost in self esteem.  And much like Phelps, if you believe that achievement is what you are worth, then you're going to end up struggling with an identity crisis and depression will soon make its way into your life.

If this happens, it's imperative to find the strength to go to your support system to be honest and open about it.  If you don't have such a support system in place, then find a good therapist to open up to.  There's nothing weak about seeking help.

Now here's the rub.  Other men will indeed find strength in your ability to be vulnerable, and will gravitate towards that strength.  Don't believe me?  I write about this stuff all the time, and I get messages daily from men who tell me that my openness about my own struggles with depression and anxiety and being honest about them, helped them in some way, and made them feel safe to express their own struggles as well.

One of the strongest bonds we can create between us as brothers, is our ability to find identification with one another.  All of us live through periods of brokenness.  When another bro can look at you with sincerity, and say "I've been there bro.  I got you." it can dissolve the feelings of being completely alone in your struggles.  And can serve as the catalyst to give you the strength in knowing you can get past this.

Which leads me to my next part.

Create awesome friendships - 

In my youth, despite all the hardships I endured, I still look back on that time and understand why it was so amazing.  Not high school.  High school really sucks for everyone because it's mostly full of conditional relationships that revolve around how cool you are, or aren't.  I'm glad I didn't attend and dropped out of school after 9th grade.

I'm talking before then.  When life was incredibly simplistic.  And one of the things that made it awesome during those years was our friendships. 

Your friendships were vitally important.  From the time you got up for school, until you got home, most of your time each day was spent around said friends.  The summers were spent doing shit with those friends that often make up some of the best memories we'll ever have.

Then life and adulting sets in later, and we're overrun with bills, jobs, kids, and that shit we hate called responsibilities that suck the life right out of us.  And whether you realize it or not, you aren't spending time cultivating awesome friendships like you did in your youth.  And not doing so is a huge part of why men are suffering in depression and loneliness.

Before a bro can ever feel like he can be vulnerable with a fellow bro, it's important to bond in the way that men do from the time they were boys.

And that is by storming Castle Greyskull in the backyard with He-Man to recuse Teela from the clutches of Skeletor and his henchmen.

No but seriously, that's what we gotta do.  But an adult form of it.  It's a metaphor.  Work with me here.

Men bond and create dynamic friendships most often, through shared physical adversities.  That's why we develop such strong bonds with those we serve in the military with, go hunting with, play sports with, or lift stupid weights with.  Women bond by talking about muffin recipes and home decor.  And there's nothing wrong with that. We're just different in that way.

When is the last time you made plans with a bro to go hiking, fishing, hunting, or bike riding?  Sure, getting together at the bar to down some beers is fun too, but the fact is, those times are often filled up with groaning about the bills, and kids, and car, other adulting chores.

The point of creating bro time adventure is to unplug for a while from those very things.  To fill up more moments of our lives with bro-fists and immaturity that makes us feel young and alive again.  If we aren't taking time to disconnect from all the things that are plaguing us with worry, then worry is what we're usually filling our lives with. 

"But I work a million hours a week, and have fourteen kids, and a wife and a girlfriend, and an ex wife that set my car on fire last week and all of these other responsibilities.  It's selfish of me to take that time for myself."

Well maybe start by ditching the girlfriend if you have the wife (more on that later), and by embracing the ideology that you will be here a much shorter period of time if you don't take care of yourself, so that you can take care of those you love.

If you do have a wife, and you guys do things with friends, and have a healthy social life then you're probably doing ok.

But even if you're married or have a girlfriend, then it's still important to create some bro time.  Even if it's once a month.  Go do a Spartan race together.  Have paintball wars.  Play miniature golf.  Just make the time with some bros where you can bond and expand socially and emotionally in areas that are fulfilling.  It's from creating those bonds and within those spaces that men find the ability to open up to one another about struggles when the arise.  That's how we as men can build and strengthen our support systems.

But speaking of wives or girlfriends....

Cultivate amazing romantic relationships -

Marriage has taken a hit in recent years.  And by that I mean, men and women aren't tying the knot as often as they used to.  I could probably write a million words opining on why that is, but I won't.  Half a million will have to suffice.

What I can say is that married men live longer and healthier lives than single bros swiping on Tinder all day, trying to find that next date.  And yes, it's marriage, not cohabitation that appear to make the difference.  According to the CDC....

  • Nearly 60% of adults are married, 10.4% are separated or divorced, 6.6% are widowed, 19% are never married and 5.7% are living with a partner. Marital status varies greatly among race/ethnic groups: approximately 61 percent of white adults, 58 percent of Hispanic adults, and 38 percent of black adults are married, according to the survey.
  • Married adults are less likely than other adults to be in fair or poor health, and are less likely to suffer from health conditions such as headaches and serious psychological distress.
  • Married adults are less likely be limited in various activities, including work and other activities of daily living.
  • Married adults are less likely to smoke, drink heavily or be physically inactive. However, married men are more likely to be overweight or obese than other men.
  • Adults who live in cohabiting relationships are more likely to have health problems than married adults and more closely resemble divorced and separated adults.
  • The association between marital status and health is most striking in the youngest age group although it persists throughout the age groups studied.
So for those of you who live together, I'm sorry but it's not the same as actually getting married.  The stats bear this out over and over.  

"What does a piece of paper have to do with my health?"  

Because your brain does in fact recognize that piece of paper as a deeper level of commitment than cohabitation and it does in fact "relax", and there's less stress.  

How you "think" about the nature of your relationship does in fact have a physiological effect on you.  To me, this isn't surprising but I'm sure some first rate ass clown will want to debate it.  

So here's the science.  The University of Virginia did a study to measure physiological stress to women who were about to receive a mild electric shock.  They held the hand of their spouse, a stranger, and no one at all before each shock was delivered.  

While holding the hand of their spouse, the women had the lowest degree of physiological stress than when holding a strangers hand, or no hand at all.  The study had limitations because there were only 16 couples involved.  However it was later expanded to include couples in cohabitation together.

What was found in the follow up study showed that married couples still exhibited lower stress levels before the shock treatment, than couples who were living together.  In fact, there appeared to be no difference in the physiological response between the couples living together, and holding the hand of a stranger.  

The fact is, marriage is a socially recognized ideology and your brain knows it.  And it understands that there is a degree of commitment by your partner to be all in with you, than if someone is just living with you.  

I do understand that in some marriages you might pray to the God of Thunder for lightening bolts to strike you with such power that it would cause you to disintegrate from existence.  But in most cases, a couple got married because they believed they wanted to spend their life with this person and fill a lifetime of memories with them.   And those people did so because they made a choice to go all in with their partner.  No matter what you may say, the fact is, cohabitation means there's something being held back in terms of commitment.  And your partner's brain and physiological responses know it.  Boom.  Science.  

So it's kind of important to create an important marriage, seeing how married bros live longer and healthier lives than single bros.  And it's well beyond the scope of this article to cover the myriad of ways to make your romantic relationship better.  But there's a few things that can help.

Actually be committed - 

If you're married, or in a committed relationship, perhaps slicing off a large piece of integrity and decency in your life by not sliding into the DM's of women outside of your significant other might be a solid idea.  Maybe delete the dating apps from your phone as well.  I don't think the world is suffering from a shortage of douchebags at the moment.  Try not being one.

But allow me to offer up a real life version of this.

A few years ago I was doing a seminar and went to lunch with an attendee.  He confided in me that he was texting quite a few women outside of his girlfriend.  He minimized the texting by offering up "I just respond back with stuff like "what's up, hottie?   It's no big deal"".

I bet his girl would had felt differently. 

Rationalizing is what we do in order to suppress our consciousness.  "This is bad...but it feels good, so here's my list of excuses as to why I will continue."

He elaborated that he'd been with his girl for quite some time and that, you know, after a while it gets boring and mundane.  The same woman day in and day out.  That a little texting wasn't hurting anyone.  I wondered if his girl would have felt the same?


After listening to this I turned and said to him "what if you stopped texting all of those other women, and instead just put that energy into your girl?  Instead of texting some other girl "what's up, hottie" just text that to her instead. What do you think would happen?"

There was some mumbling on his part about my advice, and I don't remember the rest of the conversation.  I thought my bit of advice was completely lost on him.

A year later he called me to tell me what I said to him that day really hit home. That he cut out all the other women he was talking to or texting, and put his energy back into the primary relationship.  He remarked at how much her energy and attitude towards him changed when he did this.  Turns out, she was just as bored as he was.  When he started putting positive energy, words, and affection back into her, she responded in kind.

They got married and had a baby not too long after this.  Live improvement achievement unlocked.

The quality of your romantic relationships, much like your relationship with the weights, will most often be determined by the amount of effort and attention you're giving it.  There is no perfect person out there, and all relationships will come with dysfunction.  If you make a choice to lead from the front, and consistently try to work from a position of love and empathy, then the quality of that relationship (all relationships you have, really) will improve immensely.  And so will the quality and quantity of your life overall as well.

And for any ladies reading this, you're not off the hook either.  I can tell you with certainty that if you speak power and confidence into your man's life, he will become those things.  Make an effort to let him know how much you appreciate him, how handsome he is, and remind him about all the amazing qualities he has that made you fall in love with him.  Men won't often convey to women that we need to hear these things.  But we do.

Understand bids - 

John Gottman is like the Michael Jordan of relationships.  After three decades of research he can predict with about 97% accuracy what couples will divorce within a certain time span, based on characteristics and behaviors within that relationship.

One of the strongest predictors of whether or not a relationship will flourish, or get some Mortal Kombat finisher move, is how people respond to their partner's bids.

A bid is when your significant other offers you up an opportunity to be a part of something they find interesting, or are passionate about.  What you do with that bid has an enormous impact on the quality of your relationship with them.  In fact, Gottman hooked up partners to assess their state of physiological stress when together, and eventually determined that the partners with the highest degree of anxiety around the other, was related to the degree of bids they turned inwards to, or away from.

Allow me to explain.

If your lady is into wine, and asks you to go to a wine tasting event, that's a bid.

Inwards turn - "Absolutely, honey.  Let's go get wasted and have a blast!"

Outwards turn - "I hate wine.  Find someone else to do that crap."

The more inwards turns to a bid that a partner makes, the more the quality of that relationship increases.  It's a fairly simple act, but how many times have you seen someone act completely uninterested in what their partner is passionate about?  When that happens often enough, resentment will build over time.  And the quality of the relationship will take a nose dive.

Take an interest in one another when these moments arise, and watch the quality of your relationship increase exponentially.

Conclusion - 

Feeling connected socially is vital to our health and well being.  More than eating chicken breasts and broccoli.  More than adding reps and weights to your sets.  Isolation is where our souls go to wither and die.

Healthy social bonding is potentially the biggest driver behind increasing our well being.  What the hell is life without meaningful connection?  In prison they use solitary confinement as a means of extreme punishment.  Well, you're not in prison.  Stop treating yourself like you are, and develop a social life, cultivate an amazing marriage or relationship with your significant other, build a strong support system.  All proven ways to keep your heart and mind out of the dumpster and to find vitality and meaning in this one life you have.

And despite the fact that social media has the word "social" in it, it's not going to keep you company on lonely nights.  Not in a meaningful way.  No amount of likes or comments will fill the void in your life like true connection will.  Get off your phone or laptop and get out there with friends and loved ones.

Make time for it.  Your life literally depends on it.  Ask Michael Phelps.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Finding your design

I love lions.

I think I've watched just about every documentary ever made on them.  I even wrote about them in my first book Strength, Life, Legacy.  I have a lion picture hanging up in my guest bedroom.  If I ever get inked it will be a lion tattoo.

But I'm having second thoughts about that because eventually everyone on the internet decided that they were lions or some other apex predator when it came to facing life's hardships, or that it symbolized their strength.  Nevermind that male lions weigh over 400 pounds, and can take down buffalo and scare crocodiles back into the water.  You on the other hand, can't take down a fully stuffed burrito from Chipotle or get your two year into bed at night without a fight that leaves you completely disheveled. 

One thing that social media has done is saturated people's minds with is meaningless platitudes to make them feel better about who they aren't.  Read that again.

There's not a day that goes by that I'm not inundated with some catch phrase or meme about being some wild animal that cannot be stopped, and how you can't let your passions elude you.  Or how that scoundrel will be sorry that he didn't love and appreciate you, and one day you'll be riding an Elephant over the top of corpses of men that are just like him.  Firing an M-60 into the air while a bald Eagle rides on your shoulder. 

So forth and so on.

Hey I don't dislike em, myself.  Motivational memes and quotes, I mean.  Not really a fan of women who want to step on me with elephants while firing fully automatic machine guns into the air.  I know I can elicit that response from them at times.

When a proverbial shitstorm rolls into your life finding a few snappy quotes to put things into perspective can be enlightening or give you some encouragement.  In the worst of times, those few moments can offer the reprieve you need.

It's the strength of identification that resonates with us.

"This quote gets me.  Someone else felt exactly what I feel. Will post 10/10...hope my ex sees it." 

The thing about identification is that for a moment, we don't feel so alone in our adversity.  And as a companionship species, we desire community and belonging.  Even if it's sharing in time with other miserable people.  At least we know we're not the only ones suffering and crying in our beers.  And maybe they have elephants to ride on.

I feel like if you drill down a bit, it should be obvious that there's a lot of people that like these memes because it does make them feel empowered for a moment.  Or it reminds them that the significant other they are lying in bed awake at night, crying over, really ain't shit.  And that there's about 7 billion people in the world and that everyone can be replaced.

And that's all well and good, but it wholly misses the mark if someone is actually trying to, you know, work on real self development, and truly change their life. Prospects that are not fun.  And introspection about your own life can be uglier than Steve Buscemi and more painful than taking a cactus up your butt.

Not that I'd know, but I bet it's painful.

Few people are going to read a quote, and set out on a meaningful life change.  Most people love those meaningless platitudes simply because of the reprieve.  Then enough time passes, and the wounds close up, and they hunker back down into the same life and relationships that look exactly like before.  And the emptiness returns.  So do the patterns of life most people find themselves repeating.

Unfortunately, it's how we are wired.  And some of that wiring cannot be undone.  It really can't.  But each of us has the ability to change how we feel about our lives, even if from the outside looking in, it looks the same to virtually everyone else.  That's what self improvement and self development is.  To find the processes we need to go through and accomplish in order to find happiness, motivation, and satisfaction as byproducts of those processes.  Those things arrive naturally when the process is in place.  Memes not needed.

Adversity is the stimulus and the opportunity that gives us pause to reflect on what it is we want to change, and what we're willing to give up and go through for that change to manifest in our life.

Without adversity, we tend to cruise right along in the status quo.  It's not until something shakes the foundations of our life that we wake up to the need for a paradigm shift.

The real questions we need to be asking - 

At the core of each of us, what our heart is asking us in these spaces of hollowness that get filled up by quotes and memes is this...

"What am I designed for?"

"Who am I designed for?"

I mean outside of scouring the net for memes, mating, eating, and some rando you swiped right for on tinder.

I have this belief, that's backed up by nothing more the thoughts in my tiny man brain, that everyone has something they can be exceptional at.  Something they were designed for.  This doesn't mean they are going to be the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk.  It just means they are in possession of something they can do better than anything else in their life.

I also believe that we have someone else we are best designed for.  But much like finding what you're designed for, that often doesn't happen until you spend some time developing and cultivating who you want to become through periods of severe adversity.  But that's a whole different article.

What you've been designed for, may not be what you're passionate about.  And most people have been on the net long enough to read some rah rah shit about how your life should be spent chasing your passions.  Fulfilling your dreams.

But there's a huge chasm here that I believe plays a part in why so many people feel this sort of emptiness about their place in their world.

Our passions are often a product of things we've been exposed to.  After all, you won't know if you're passionate about something unless you're aware that it exists and an interest develops.  You won't know if you're passionate about it until you try it, either.  Fear often keeps people from collecting new experiences and from moving away from stagnation in their life.

As young men we grow up watching sports, then proceed to run out into the yard, and play catch with our friends while wearing a jersey with another dudes name on the back of it.  And that's an amazing and enthralling part of childhood.  Make believe. 

The problem lies when too much childhood make believe still exists during all those adulting years.

I found myself playing semi-pro football out in Texas, watching the NFL every Sunday, and dreamed of one day donning an NFL uniform.  Hey, Eric Swann was found playing semi-pro football and went on to be an NFL all-pro.  It can happen!

No, Paul.  It really can't.  That's one dude in the history of the entire NFL that it happened to.  You're more likely to find yourself working as a stunt double for Jason Statham than that happening.  Ok, that doesn't seem like such a bad option either.  I'll take it.

So was playing semi-pro a waste of my time?  That depends, doesn't it?

Did I have fun?  Yes.

Did I make some friends and collect some memories?  Absolutely.

Did I find myself serving gatorade to Tom Brady in the middle of one of his Super Bowl winning drives and blasting champagne with him in the locker room after?

Yes, I did.

You didn't expect that did you?  You expected a "no" right there, but I pimp slapped you with a "Yes, I did."  Tom and I went out after the game and partied with super models all night and did a butt ton of ecstasy.  It was glorious.

Ok, so no that never happened.  My football story wasn't even good enough to get a movie made after it, like Rudy.  And Rudy sucked at football.

I was pretty good at football.  But only good enough at it for it to serve as an appetizer in my life.  A hobby that I was passionate about.  It was never going to pay my bills or feed me and my kids.  I could make friends through it, create some fun and amazing experiences with it.  But I wasn't designed for it enough that it would provide a real degree of sustenance for me.

If my mindset in chasing that passion was that I was going to play in the NFL, then yes it was a waste of time.  And it was for a while.  Stupid, I know.  But we all have dreams.

And for many years there was this emptiness and longing of wanting that.  It wasn't until I woke up one morning after a practice with an indoor team, where I was so sore I couldn't turn my head that I realized I was done with such stupidity.  And right there, I never put on cleats again.  And I never missed it after that.  I barely watch football now.  And because of that,  I let go of chasing that dragon, and I found other passions and hobbies that filled up my time.  Most of which actually do provide for me and my kids.

I found out I was pretty good at this whole writing thing, and that I really liked it a lot.  Not only that, I was able to combine all of my years lifting stupid weights and living through a lot of stupid decisions I could pen about, and people seemed interested.  Mainly to make fun of me.  So everyone benefited.

My belief is, I found my design.  And it just so happens, I was able to enmesh my design with my passions and cultivate a life that had both meaning for me, and the ability to provide.

But not everyone can be so lucky.

If you're lucky enough that your design and passion aligns, the that's lottery type stuff. For the great majority that feel as if they are wandering aimlessly at times, the question they sit around and ruminate on is "what do I want to be when I grow up?"

Age is irrelevant here. You could be 17 or 47. Lots of people drift through their life with this sense that they lack purpose, jumping from job to job trying to "find that right fit".

Then there's the other kind of people who dream all day about developing or finding their design and finding what they are passionate about, but are never brave or ambitious enough to do anything about it.

That's a bitch isn't it?

You're going to be sitting on the toilet one day when you're like 79, flipping through whatever cosmic device that's been invented by that time, looking at lion memes, and it's going to dawn on you, right there in mid-shit - "I wasted a lot of years, doing a lot of stuff that I wasn't designed for, nor passionate about."

Lions understand their design.  The males get thrust out into the nomadic life until they are big and strong enough to take over a pride of their own.  Then they mate with the females, protect the cubs, and show up to dish out massive cans of whoop ass when needed.  They also lie around in the sun not doing shit at all the rest of the time.  A lioness knows her design.  To get mounted and have the cubs, and to hunt together with the other females to provide for the pride.

Lions aren't out trying to catch footballs so they can play in the NFL.  And the Detroit Lions suck, and have never even been to a single Super Bowl.  That should tell you something.

Lions don't set out to do what they aren't designed for.  And you're not designed to be a lion, no matter how many memes  you post about them.

Closing up the emptiness in our life usually means we feel we've found what we're supposed to be doing, with whom we're supposed to be doing it with.  People can argue that ideology all day, but our physiology says otherwise.

Meshing your design with your passions so that the ability to actually live them is tricky.  And for most people, what they end up settling into something that they can get paid for, that affords them the ability to have hobbies and passions that they enjoy.

And there's nothing wrong with this.  In fact, I'd take a guess that most people fall into this category and find a significant degree of happiness that arrives with it.

For those living with that underlying ache of emptiness, my belief is they feel they have a greater purpose for being here, than just eating, crapping, and mating.  That existence should have meaning beyond the mundane, and that in some way, when we leave this life, we will have left our mark on the world in some significant way.  That all of this shit we went through and survived can't just be for no reason.

And then there's some questions that you may have to ask, so you can potentially step forwards into where you want to be, who you want to be...

1.  How do I want people to remember me?

2.  What do I want my legacy to be?

3.  What do I kick ass at?  Can it afford me the life I want to live?

4.   How can I simplify my life so that I'm spending more of my time cultivating these things, than wasting time on what really doesn't matter?

Those are the questions you will need to be honest with yourself about in order to arrive at potentially knowing your design, and creating a life that offers up fulfillment, vision, and an overall sense of happiness and well being about living it.

Life sucks sometimes.  It sucks less when we're in pursuit of knowing who we truly are, want to become, what we feel we were designed for, and what makes our heart swell.  
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Sunday, December 3, 2017

You're fat, and always will be

I like the title of this article.  It's super click baitey.  When I wrote it, I heard Jimmie's Rustling from the penis tip of Florida to the armpit of Ohio.  Which is all of Ohio in case you didn't know.

Now I've got fat people from Ohio hating the shit out of me right now and I'm only a few sentences in.

Championship white trash achievement unlocked.

But for serious now, let's get down to bidness.

This past week in a passing conversation someone....well, it was through text actually, not in real life (I don't think we know people in real life anymore or have in person conversations) made a statement about some guy who was complaining how hard it was to get into contest shape.

He wrote "how hard is it, really?  You eat some chicken and some rice.  You just do it."

I have no idea why that seems so obvious to me but truly, that's about the gist of getting into contest shape.  Or just dropping some excess bodyfat all together.

So why can't people do it?  Not everyone wants to do the spray-tan, underroos, and salad dressing flex party.  So we can eliminate getting into contest shape for the sake of this article.  In fact, most guys that are getting into contest shape....don't even get into contest shape.

And for the most part, it's for all the same reasons that fat people really can't turn into skinny people again either.  Or get jacked.  Or get anything but fatter.

So what's the problem?  Why is it so hard to unfat yourself once you get fat?

Before some former fatty jumps on this article, and proclaims that I am wrong (because they are a FORMER fatty) and that I need to be tarred and feathered in front of their favorite Ken-Taco-Hutt (that's one of those joints where KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hutt are inside.  Also known as fat mans orgasmic paradise), then fried in a deep batter and turned into a delicious man-meat treat, lemme explain something about getting fat.

Once it happens, getting fat that is, it's like going black (or so I hear).  You never go back.  To being skinny that is.  Or being of normal size.  Or really being anything but trapped inside a mushy goo of squishness that will never look good naked.

Spare me your estrogen laden counter-point about "beauty at all sizes" that was written by some pixie cut feminist at Elitedaily.  Google told me so........

it's on the internet, so you know it's true

If you Google machine around for a while, you'll come across this figure thrown out over and over again, that tells you science has shown that approximately 95% of everyone who gets fat, and goes on a diet, will regain all of their weight within the next three years.

This appeared odd to me because the look AHEAD trial showed a much different picture, even after eight years.  More than 50% of the participants had kept 5% of their weight loss off, and more than a quarter of the participants had kept more than 10% off.  Now, depending on the degree of fatness said participant had when they started, that could be a lot, or very little.  But it clearly shows you're not doomed to regain all of your previous weight once you decide to take matters into your own hands by removing the burger from them.

The dietary method they used was complex, and completely and utterly scientific.  It combined nutrient timing with....wait no, none of that happened.  This is what they did.

1.  Reduced fat intake to less than 30% of the total calories for the day
2.  Reduced intake of highly processed foods like sugary drinks and high calorie snacks.

My favorite part was this, however.....and there's no sarcasm in that either.

It is impossible to say whether a different dietary approach would have given different event rates. The investigators opted for an approach that had been found to work.

With all of the complexity in the diet industry, what they had found to work was just reducing fat intake and processed food and drink. Back to that later...
The total amount of exercise done by these people amounted to an average of 175 minutes a week.  Or about 35 minutes a day, if you're training 5 days a week.  It's a measly 25 minutes a day, if you move that to 7 days a week.  Mind you, these were "extremely sedentary and elderly" people.  So I don't think the degree of savagery in those 175 minutes a week was off the charts.  I doubt very seriously that fat Netflix grandpa was doing kipping pullups and vomit worthy WODs.

But notice the wording in what they asked the participants to do when it came to the diet (I said we'd get back to it).  To REDUCE fat intake, and to REDUCE the intake of highly processed foods.  It wasn't eliminated.  Just reduced.  This falls directly in line with what I've always called the 90% rule about nutrition in that if you're making proper choices 90% of the time, then weight loss and body recomp should happen (though it's not always linear) over time.

Not only that, there was no elimination of a certain macro-nutrient nor the elimination of certain types of foods all together.  There's a bit of psychological warfare at play with this.  When something is eliminated or put into a "you can't have this" category then the scarcity effect kicks in hard and suddenly we desire it far more than when we had access to it.  Truly, as humans, we most often desire the very thing we're told we can't have.

I actually have a story about this from when I was in basic training.

There was this patio that had been deemed off limits by our drill instructors.  Sitting inside said patio were some vending machines.  Inside said vending machines were "foods" (I use the term lightly) that I had never had cravings for before.  I was all about my bro-diet before military life.  But I remember wanting to get onto that patio and eat every candy bar and bag of chips that was contained within those machines.  Which clearly had been created by God.  Never before in my life had I desired a Baby Ruth as much as I did during that time.

After a few weeks we received the news that patio access and vending machine sustenance would now be allowed.  I'm sure we looked like the kids from Narnia looked when they walked into that closet into a land they had never seen before.  We were finally allowed to venture into the previously forbidden land of snacks.

I ate nine candy bars and three bags of chips.  I remember each bite feeling completely and utterly orgasmic.  Junk food had never tasted so good in my life.  Inside every Airman there was a chocolate orgy going on and we might as well have been lying around on that patio naked, slathering ourselves in melted Snickers bars while fairies sprinkled crushed up Doritos on us.  Which I believe was in fact a scene out of Narnia.  But maybe I'm remembering wrong.

If so, it doesn't matter.  We were all in a complete state of bliss.

Life did get better than a few Old Milwaukee's.  Those dudes sitting around drinking beer by a campfire in those commercials were wrong.  Right there in San Antonio, Texas I had found the Stairway to Heaven that Zeppelin had sang about.  And you did in fact have to buy it.  Except it wasn't a stairway at all.  It was this big vending machine that ate your dollar bills and then uncorked some chocolate for you and dropped it into this little bin at the bottom.  I was inserting dollars into that thing faster than a retired dude could insert coins into slot machines in Vegas.

I could blather on about this for a while but I need to make a point here.

Restrictions generally fail because we just end up desiring what it is we're aren't supposed to have.  I'd never pined for candy bars like that before.  But having that freedom taken away made me want them more than I ever wanted for anything else in my life.  All diets that actually work have calorie restriction in them in order to facilitate weight loss.  But this can be done without demonizing certain macro-nutrients or food choices all together.

So my title of this article is incredibly misleading.  And I don't care.

Here's what people who struggle with diets and fat loss really need to understand.

1.  Understand the role food may have played as a coping mechanism in your life when you were young.  All of us found coping mechanisms in our youth to ease the pain of some emotional need we had.  Don't be dismissive of this.  Our entire framework for navigating through life gets imprinted upon through the experiences we had when young.
2.  Don't eliminate.  Reduce.  Making solid nutritional choices 90% of the time will get the job done.
3.  Falling off the wagon doesn't make you a horrible person.  Driving a Prius does.
4.  You're not destined to be overweight for life.  You get to decide what goes into your body and your level of activity.
5.  Empower yourself each day, one day at a time, by reminding yourself that you get to decide the outcome.  Your words, your actions, your choices.  People are often afraid of empowerment because it puts the onus on them to be responsible.  Accountability to oneself is often the hardest kind.
6.  Create habits that are sustainable for you that don't circumvent your desired goals.  If your desired goals are to create the body of a Greek God, but your habits are playing World of Warcraft for 16 hours at a time, I feel as though it won't happen.  Your eating and your functions create your form.  Figure out if they are in alignment.

Most importantly, it's vital to understand that hitting a goal for weight loss is really just step one.  Keeping the bodyfat off afterwards is about the transition into a lifestyle you can maintain.

It's not dissimilar to seeing a pretty lady across the room, and making your way over to her and throwing a lame opening pick up line on her.

There's nothing magical in the pick up line.  Any pick up line will work, so long as you're interesting enough to make her forget about it in the conversation that flows afterwards.

The magic happens in sustainable transition after initiation.  Where you go on dates to fancy restaurants, buy her favorite wine, and put your sexual A game on her.  I kid, actually.  Where the magic happens is still making an effort on an average Tuesday.  The average conversation while stuck in a traffic jam together.  Another meal of chicken and rice.  Another average day at the gym.

The cultivation of anything exceptional is mostly about doing the work even when it doesn't feel good, is boring, and feels terribly unrewarding.  It's about unstitching the painful fabric we've been woven into and then sewing ourselves back up together into something greater.

You aren't doomed to remain anything.  You just have to decide what it is you really want, and what you're willing to give up in order to attain it, and keep it.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why calories in versus calories out doesn't work

I click baited you here.  I admit it.  I'm not sorry.  

I'm even going to put a chicken breast pic in the preview so that it looks totally legit.  But keep reading.

To lose weight, you have to essentially move more and eat less. You have to have an energy deficit.  That's the end of the discussion. It really is. right?  It's all thermodynamics and energy in versus out and blah blah blah blah blah.

That's all it is, right?



If we lived in a vacuum, like a bunch of rats in test tubes and this could all be compartmentalized, then all of that would be correct. But we don't. There's something called the human condition - dealing with people and their life, their history, and their experiences that outweigh all of this drivel. If you don't understand that, then you don't know shit. I don't care how many studies you can cite or how many letters come after your name.

Losing weight is about calories in versus calories out.  Keeping it off, or maintaining the body composition you worked hard for, is an entirely different subject.

Knowledge has no power without application -

A few days ago someone said to me "you know more about relationships and all of that garbage than anyone I know. How to create healthy romantic relationships and whatnot. So why so many fuck ups in your own life?"

"Because my application sucks."

"Well, at least you're honest."

That's the truth. I could blame other people or circumstances without acknowledging my own involvement but I don't. I know my strong areas and my weak ones. My own application can at times, suck nuts. There it is. Now you know. And G.I. Joe told me knowing was half the battle.

But there's the other half. The more important half. Really, it's the only half that matters.  The application of what you know.  And existing within that half, is the applicable ability on a consistent basis.  That's what sustainability is.

Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is the metaphorical baseball in your hand. Application is your ability to throw a strike with it.  And just like learning how to throw strikes consistently, we have to practice the application of our knowledge on a consistent basis if we want to increase our chances for desired outcomes.  And that can't happen if we don't understand why it is we have trouble applying what it is we already know.

The flow chart goes likes this...

Knowledge -> application -> application applied consistently enough = change

You know how to lose weight. Yes, you. Yes you do. do.

You put less food on your fork that goes into your mouth. You walk a little further today than you did yesterday.   You repeat this each day until you arrive at your goal.

Everyone knows these things. Everyone!

You know how to create a better relationship. You really do. No, I swear you do.  In no particular order...

1.  You spend some time understanding the needs of your partner, and they do the same for you. 

2.  You make each other a priority. 

3.  You learn how to listen to each other earnestly, and sincerely.  

4.  You don't cheat when you've told him or her that you're in a committed relationship. 

5.  You say "I'm sorry, what do I need to do to make this right?" when you screw up, then actually do what is required.   

6.  You let some arguments go, because you realize there's no real "winning" when you hurt one another.

8.  You don't keep a scoreboard of wrongs.

9.  You forgive each other.

10.  You turn inwards to each other's bids.

11.  You make sweet love as often as possible.

Ok, so the list for cultivating an amazing relationship is longer than "eat more, move less" but that's because there's two people involved, and creating an amazing relationship is infinitely more complex than losing weight.

But it's still not really that difficult to know what the right thing(s) to do is/are.  

The knowledge is not in some book that's locked away 10 floors under the Vatican in a room that only Nicolas Cage can unlock with a key made out of a dinosaur bones. Despite all of the articles and books I've written on the various forms of training and dietary witchcraft, the knowledge is quite simple.

1. Lift some weights.
2. Eat less.
3. Walk around a lot.
4. Repeat those three things for a long time and you'll look better.

So why can't people just do that? Why can't people just eat less, lift some weights, and move more? Why can't people just get into a calorie deficit, or create an amazing relationship with someone they say they love? Why can't some people, who claim they want a physical life change, do this on a consistent basis?

Because they are people.

And people have stories. And experiences and baggage.  People don't live in test labs under controlled conditions where they are fed and exercised like mice and life doesn't happen.  They live in the real world where what they would like to be able to do, is often circumvented by painful experiences they haven't resolved yet. 

"It's because they are weak and undisciplined."  

Says the meathead who can't hold down a steady job because, "gym life".

Look, being able to eat chicken and broccoli six times a day and hit the gym twice before 6 P.M. doesn't make you some mental and emotional superhero from the town of Disciplineville.  Plenty of people I've known that can do this day in and day out are about as emotionally robust and evolved as a toddler in every other facet of their life.  People tend to be incredibly disciplined in certain areas of their life, and very undisciplined in others.

here's that chicken breast pic I was telling you about earlier

Discipline is not salad dressing.  It's not something we can slather all over every part of our life in equal degrees.  We generally have a few select areas of our life that we can be consistently disciplined in.  The rest of it often gets thrown together with whatever mental and emotional energy we have leftover after we're done doing what deem to be most important.

We tend to be very disciplined in areas that we feel the greatest amount of reward from.  Even if the reward is temporary and brings about negative consequences with on a consistent basis.

People don't fail in diet adherence because they are "weak minded".   People succumb to unhealthy coping mechanisms like binge eating because it offers a retreat from confronting the fragmented parts of their life that carries a lot of emotional pain and reminders.

10-freaking-miles -

I am fond of the saying "if you walk ten miles deep into the woods, you have to walk ten miles out."  I am fond of saying it because someone wrote it to me on social media once, and I liked it and have used it a few times.  So whoever did that, you're awesome.  Brofist.

In order to even begin the walk back out, we often have to come to an understanding of why we made the walk in. Why we didn't stop at mile four, or seven.

"But why ten miles, Paul?"

Hey it's my stolen metaphor and it only goes ten miles. That's what we're working with here, so don't ask "well why not five hundred miles like The Proclaimers song?"

Because they ended up walking a thousand miles because it was five hundred MORE.

Back to that later.......

Years ago, I remember this bodybuilder who talked about how this fat kid wrote him a letter telling of how he dreamed everyday of being jacked, but lived in this state of despair because he had always been fat.  He wrote how he really wanted to go to the gym, but the thought of it brought about a great deal of anxiety so then he'd eat a whole loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drink a gallon of chocolate milk to soothe that anxiety.

Luckily, the bodybuilder gave the kid some great advice.  He told him to start by just eating half a loaf of PBnJ, and to switch to 2% milk.  Certainly, he cut his calories down, but he did so in a way that was mentally and emotionally manageable.   He didn't tell him "get your fat ass to the gym, and eat egg whites and oatmeal."  Does this even seem logical?  It doesn't take a Sigmund Freud to figure out that the answer to this poor kid's desire to be jacked wasn't a training program or a special diet.

You don't deal with the diet first.  You deal with the person.     

Telling the girl who is an emotional eater that finds solace and comfort in food in the middle of a depression that she "needs to eat less and move more" and "just shove some chicken and salad down your throat" is some real Einstein shit. Thanks for that newsflash from the city. Your people solving skills are exemplary.  She might need to deal with the underlying issues related to the depression that cause her to seek comfort foods first.  She might have to talk about the pain she had in growing up where she was bullied by other girls or ostracized for any number of reasons that girls do that to one another.

She might have to talk about how eating was the one thing that made all the pain go away temporarily because it was one of the few things she could control in her life, when everything else felt completely out of her control.  She might have to talk about how she had this great big empty inside of her, and that it felt better to eat and feel something...anything...other than the pain that existed because of that emptiness.  She might have to talk about how the shame she felt in sneaking food because she didn't want to be ridiculed for "eating more", and that the ridicule also made her eat more.

Or she may have to talk about how she eventually just accepted her obesity, and lost her identity in it.  That she ceased being "Nancy" or "Jane" or "Alice".  That she became "the fat girl".   Or even worse, THAT fat girl.

And you know where we continue to exist as adults if we don't confront all the demons that laid the framework for the fragmented parts of who we are? 

In that fat kids mind.

In that bullied kids mind.

In that abused kids mind.

In that abandoned kids mind.

I was the skinny kid who lost his best friend in a motorcycle accident when he was 13.  Who suffered at the hands of some violent events that no kid should ever have to endure.  Who experienced being abandoned and saw the effects of substance abuse in people he loved and cared about.

My coping mechanism was the gym.  I desired to build as much muscle and strength as possible because having that exterior gave me something to hide behind.  It was my comfort food.  I was lucky that it wasn't drugs, or alcohol, or food (well, food was in there but only as a means to an end).  And over time, I was able to let go of the need for that exterior armor, and I started confronting all of the awful shit I had gone through that manifested in the way of shit decisions in my life.

In essence, people have to get their soul healthy first.  Before they can center themselves enough to get their body healthy. They have to have the discipline to heal their mind, to be strong enough to overcome the fears and pain that engulfed them when they were young.  Confronting those fears takes an infinitely greater degree of courage than eating some chicken breast and bench pressing.

Some will say it's not a coaches job to fix people. I don't disagree, but I also don't fully agree.

I can't fix anyone. I can barely fix myself half the time. And when I do fix myself, I often break the shit I just fixed from the day before. Now I'm exhausted. And most likely have hurt someone else's feelings in the process as well. Now I need to fix myself and make amends.  And I only have so much salad dressing to go around.

But we can't help someone if we don't understand the reasons for their ten mile walk. We can't help ourselves unless we do the same.  The changes we need to make in our lives are often inspired by how shitty we feel.  The paradox there is that the fear and pain of change keeps us from changing what makes us feel so shitty to begin with.

Changing your body, for a great many people, isn't about chicken breasts and contractions in the gym.  It's about flexing your emotions through the pain so that eventually you're strong enough to not need something anymore.  And when you realize you don't have a need for something in your life, then it no longer has any power over you.

And that is everything. Not just dieting. Not just the training.  That is everything when it comes to being unbroken.  Not calories in versus calories out.  But exhaling the bad shit, and inhaling the good.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ketones and body composition improvement

Well, here we are again.  Keto diets have made their way back around to incredible popularity and are all the rage once again.

For those not in the know, keto diets are not new, and bacon isn't the new black.  Keto diets have been around since before Twinkies were invented.  That's not entirely a joke.  Twinkies were invented in 1930, and keto diets were being used to treat epilepsy back in the 1920's.

Wait a it possible that Continental Baking Company  invented twinkies as the evil villains weapon in order to thwart the Mayo Clinic from stopping epileptic seizures? 

Keto's ultimate nemesis 

Patient - "I can't eat that, I'm keto.  Keto has stopped my seizures."

Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain shoves twinkie into patient's mouth.

Patient - "Oh good God, what is that?????"

Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain - "You like it, yes?"

Patient - "It's heavenly!"

Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain - "You want more?"

Patient - "Yes I want more.  It's definitely worth a seizure!"

I bet this happened.

Anyways, keto diets are not new, and aren't even new for people trying to shed fat, or potentially use it as a way to improve body composition.  Lots of bodybuilders used keto diets to get shredded for the stage back in the day, and there's been a bit of a resurgence in that lately as well.

Let me state unequivocally here, I don't keto.  And there's a huge misconception that keto diets hold some kind of advantage over other "types" of diets that are sound in nutritional approach when it comes to achieving better body composition.  But that's not the case.

It is generally believed that because of the way endogenous (inside the body) ketones are created that it means fat oxidation is higher in keto or low carb diets.  And technically this is true.  But people need to understand how to interpret this correctly in order to understand it.

If you're eating high fat and low carb, then eventually there's a metabolic shift so that your body becomes more efficient at using fat for energy.  If you throw carbs back in, guess what happens?  You start using glucose for energy again because it's easier to access as fuel for the body.

"AH HAH!  See, you just wrote that eating fat burns fat!"

Yes, but it is due to a lack of carbohydrates being available.  To simplify this even more....

3,500 calories high fat/low carb = the body is using the fats as the main fuel source

3,500 calories higher carb/lower fat = the body is using glucose as the main fuel source

3,500 calories is still 3,500 calories.  (yes, food selection does matter as well).

I'm oversimplifying this but that's the high level overview.

If you stop and think about that, you'll realize that it's carbs that dictate the fuel selection source for the body.  In the absence of carbs, the body will have a metabolic fuel shift to fat.  When carbs are thrown back in, it will have a metabolic fuel shift to glucose again.

I'm not going to drill down into a million areas here because that's not the focus of this article.  I could even make the case due to the fact that fat has the lowest thermic digestion rate of all three macros, that the higher fat diet burns fewer calories each day than the higher carb diet, and that the higher carb diet contains food higher on the satiation index, but that would be a lot of typing that my fingers have no desire to engage in.

I don't have anything against keto diets at all.  I don't think most of the smart people in-the-know do either.  I think it's the misinformation about keto diets that get under their skin.  You cannot just go eating 10,000 calories a day of bacon and butter and be in some blistering state of fat loss "because keto".  I'm sorry, energy in vs energy out is still going to dictate your degree of fat loss or fat gain.

But some people do love eating keto, and can and have achieved magnificent improvements in body comp using keto, because they found it to be a sustainable paradigm of eating for them.  And sustainability in any sound nutritional plan is really the most important aspect.  If you cannot stick with a particular diet or eating lifestyle, then no matter how amazing it looks on paper or in research, it's not going to do you a lot of good.

"How do I fit twinkies into that paradigm, Paul?"


"Thank you!"

With that said, enter exogenous ketones.  I've written several other pieces on them and the anecdotal evidence I've seen with them has been very promising on a number of levels.  The main one being their ability to improve body composition.  And I define an improvement in body composition as the ability to gain or retain muscle while fat loss occurs.  I mean, at the most basic level that's what most everyone who is training to improve their physique is after, right?

More muscle, less fat.

This is what gives women real curves.  More muscle, less fat.  The kind you find on women that squat, deadlift, lunge, and pay attention to the quality of food that they fill their plate with.

More muscle, less fat is what gives doods rock hard abs and big shoulders.  You've never seen a single romance novel where a guy rocking a 40" waist and man boobs was holding the damsel in ovulation distress.  Because guys with beer guts and man boobs don't put women into ovulation distress.  Women want to read a story about how she peeled the shirt off of his muscular torso in the kitchen while they danced on rose pedals, and then took her to pound town.  That's what women want to read about.  Not about how they watched NASCAR while pounding a greasy bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, improving body composition.  I got hot and bothered there for a minute.

The three things I've really settled for improvement in body composition are a high degree of fat oxidation - which is obtained by being in an energy deficit either through diet, training, or a combination of both (usually the latter).  A high degree of muscle retention or muscle gain.  Muscle retention is what those who have already put in the time building muscle will be seeking, while noobs can actually put on some muscle even while using a hypocaloric diet, or in an energy deficit due to the new stimulus the body is adapting to through lifting weights.

Sound nutrition that is sustainable over a long period of time that creates an energy deficit + weight training + some cardio = the body you're after. 

lift weights, do cardio, drink your ketones, eat all the protein

The last is an improvement in insulin sensitivity.  The reason why this is important is because insulin is your storage hormone, and because it also has exceptionally powerful anti-catabolic properties.  Insulin blunts or reduces muscle protein breakdown.  And if you want to hold on to muscle and keep excess fat storage to a minimum, then it's important to improve insulin sensitivity.

So let's get to it...

Fat oxidation -

Regardless of what type of diet you settle on, in order to burn more fat, you're going to have to be in a calorie deficit.  Let me be clear about something here that you may not know.  Exercise does not burn a lot of calories.  It really doesn't.  You can use the Google machine if you like to go find this out.

In comparative fashion, doing an hour of walking (all depending on how fast you walk, how much you weigh, how much muscle you have or don't have) can be undone rather easily by a few Krispy Kremes.  Trying to achieve a high degree of energy loss (fat loss) through exercise is a great way to get really tired, make yourself super hungry (making it harder to stick to ANY diet), and deplete your motivation.

So lemme make this easy for you.

You lift weights to build muscle.  You do some cardio for your heart, and as a supplemental form of creating energy debt.  Remember, supplemental.  Don't believe for a minute that your hour of (insert type of exercise here) is going to burn enough calories to offset even a single calorie dense meal.

The people who believe they can out train a bad diet usually find that they can't do that for very long before the Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain shows up, and they are smashing through boxes of Twinkie's faster than Sherman went through Atlanta.

So delicious.

So let's say that you pick out the diet that fits "you".  Keto, Paleo, Southbeach, IIFYM, whatever.  You know (yes YOU KNOW NOW) that you have to be in a calorie deficit with your diet in order to shed that blubber.

One of the biggest keys in finding sustainability with any eating plan is the satiation factor.  If you're hungry all the time, then it becomes harder and harder to sustain an energy deficit with the diet because of binge eating or "falling off the wagon".

The key to this suppressing your hunger hormone, ghrelin.

This actually does lead me back into talking about ketones.

If there is one advantage that keto diets have over other diets when it comes to fat loss, it's that they do a better job of suppressing the ghrelin hormone, so that you have a higher degree of satiation.

Well, as you'd sort of expect, exogenous ketones do the same thing.  As this study points out...



KE consumption increased blood BHB levels from 0.2 to 3.3 mM after 60 minutes. DEXT consumption increased plasma glucose levels between 30 and 60 minutes. Postprandial plasma insulin, ghrelin, GLP-1, and PYY levels were significantly lower 2 to 4 hours after KE consumption, compared with DEXT consumption. Temporally related to the observed suppression of ghrelin, reported hunger and desire to eat were also significantly suppressed 1.5 hours after consumption of KE, compared with consumption of DEXT.


Increased blood ketone levels may directly suppress appetite, as KE drinks lowered plasma ghrelin levels, perceived hunger, and desire to eat.

If you find the biggest culprit in your desire to shed bodyfat is that you are an emotional eater, or have trouble dealing with hunger, then using exogenous ketones offers a massive benefit in that regard.

But that's not all.  There's more.

While this study showed an reduction of power output in cyclists who used ketones, it did show that fat oxidation was higher in those that used ketones prior to exercising.

Total fat oxidation was greater in the ketone versus control (p = 0.05). Average time-trial power output was ∼7% lower (-16 W, p = 0.029) in the ketone condition. Ingestion of ketone salts prior to exercise increases fat oxidation during steady-state exercise but impairs high-intensity exercise performance.

My thoughts about the reduction in power output is that I think we need to work to find the proper dose-response ratio over a number of studies to get clearer picture here.  Because there have been other studies that showed an increase in performance, and there's also a ton of anecdotal testimonies where athletes did improve their performance with them.  Nevertheless, if we're talking fat oxidation/ fat-loss, then using ketones prior to steady state type exercise offers an advantage in that area.

Muscle sparing/retention -

I gots no study for this one, but over the last two years, everything I've hypothesized about with my own reading and work with exogenous ketones has come to fruition.  So I believe this will eventually pan out.  Just a second there to toot my own horn.

Ok, I'm done.

This one should make sense if you follow along.

If you're using a low carb approach to achieve your energy deficit, and are trying to retain muscle, (you should be, duh) one of the issues is that due to low glucose stores, your body will end up creating glucose from protein through something called gluconeogenesis.  This is where you end up robbing Peter to pay Paul, more or less.

What we've seen with exogenous ketones is that there is a reduction in glucose oxidation (using glucose for fuel) while an alternative energy substrate is present (the ketones) and that the ingestion of them (the ketones, again) induces hyperketonemia, which is an elevation of ketone bodies in the blood and body.  Wait...that sounds like ketosis....without a keto diet.

Reduction in glucose oxidation...elevation in ketone bodies in the blood.  Mmmmm that sounds an awful lot like being in ketosis.

Knowing that, what I believe is this - if you're using a low carb approach to find your caloric deficit, and weight training to retain muscle, then the use of ketones will spare muscle protein because the body won't be tapping into it to convert it to glucose.  That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Insulin sensitivity -

This is an area where the use of ketones ends up offering a benefit as a side effect of something else.

That sentence makes so much sense, I know.  But bear with me.  I'm actually going to make this quite simple.

BHB reduces inflammation.  I've covered that before, but here, here, here.

Our findings suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of caloric restriction or ketogenic diets may be linked to BHB-mediated inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

These findings demonstrate that BHB exerts antidepressant-like effects, possibly by inhibiting NLRP3-induced neuro-inflammation in the hippocampus, and that BHB may be a novel therapeutic candidate for the treatment of stress-related mood disorders.

Now that we've established that BHB serves as an anti-inflammatory agent, let's understand how chronic inflammation effects insulin sensitivity.  

First off, losing fat in general should decrease chronic inflammation in the body, and decreasing excess adipose tissue should improve your insulin sensitivity.  Weight training also improves your insulin sensitivity as well.  

But reducing chronic inflammation will not only improve your quality of health, it should also improve your insulin sensitivity as well.  

Also, linky dinky........

"If we can block or disarm this macrophage inflammatory pathway in humans, we could interrupt the cascade that leads to insulin resistance and diabetes," said Olefsky.

If you want to use the Google machine you can find a metric butt ton of information connecting the dots of chronic inflammation to a key factor in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  

Now let me be clear........

This doesn't mean you can drink ketones and expect miracles.  If you're not reducing the amount of Omega-6 coming in and increase your Omega-3 and also lifting weights and doing some conditioning, it's fool hearty to believe that simply ingesting ketones is going to magically fix your problems.  They won't.  But they can play a major role in accelerating the reduction of chronic inflammation in the body, they can improve the degree of fat oxidation during steady state exercise, and they can suppress the appetite, making it easier to stay in your caloric deficit.  All things that will lead to a significant improvement in body composition, and land you on the cover of a romance novel.  

Ok, probably not.  You're not that good looking.  But looking better naked tends to make you and anyone seeing you naked much happier.  

Try them at