Author Archives: Greg Connor

Joss Whedon on Getting Things Done

This is awesome because it mashes up two really awesome things: Joss Whedon and David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

The writer-producer-director who made Much Ado About Nothing while editing The Avengers, and who’ll return to TV this fall with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., knows a bit about “getting things done.” In fact, he cites David Allen’s book of that title as an important guide–even if he never finished reading it.

More here: How To Be Prolific: Guidelines For Getting It Done From Joss Whedon

Reaching 100 pounds goal

Me in 2013

Me in 2013

As of today I have lost 100 pounds. This has been in progress for about 2.5 years.

I’ve written quite a bit about my journey. Check this blog post for a good summary of what I did. A tale of two diets — How I renegotiated my relationship to food: The short version is: Paleo and LCHF have been good for me, but it takes a lot of trying and experimenting to find the best plan.

Me wearing both the old and new pants

Me wearing both the old and new pants

I want to say “Thank You” to all my friends who have supported me and listened patiently while I talk about food. John C., your own success inspired me, and gave me a positive example. John G., you also inspired me and pointed me at some great info.

Most importantly I want to thank Michelle, who has been supportive, patient, and willing to eat whatever weird stuff I happen to make.

Me in 2007

Me in 2007

Me in 2013

Me in 2013

Is breakfast really important?

Is breakfast really so important when trying to lose weight?

It depends a lot on the content of your diet. Look at your nutrient balance from last week. If your carbs are over 50%, you are on the low-fat, high-carb plan. That plan depends on eating 5-6 times a day, very small amounts, and distracting yourself so the hunger won’t bother you. High-carb dieters get into BIG trouble by skipping meals. If you get so hungry that you’re desperate and reaching for anything and everything, that’s why. The only way to eat that many carbs and still lose is to do it constantly throughout the day, no more than a serving or two at a time, so you are burning it off and not overloading your system with lots of carbs at once. I think this is why high-carb dieters say to eat breakfast every day.

If you can get your carbs below 30% (not really low-carb, but more balanced) you can start listening to your body and trust your hunger signals, and you won’t be fighting with carb cravings all the time. Also adding some good fats helps balance out the nutrients and keeps you satisfied much longer. So if you don’t want to be eating 6 times a day, add some fat to your meals and try to get under 30% carbs. This is HARD at first, but if you can stick with it for 2 weeks it gets a lot easier. THEN you can eat 3 times a day, and you’ll probably be fine with no snacks. After a while of listening to your body’s signals and figuring out where the new hunger level is, you can start skipping one or even 2 meals easily and safely.

So, if you eat mostly carbs, then *when* you eat them is crucial. Get started early and have small amounts, all through your day, and stop at dinner so you can burn everything off before sleeping. If you eat less carbs and mostly fats/protein, it doesn’t matter when you eat them, you can eat whenever you are hungry. Good luck.

Whole30 round 2 planned for June – I’m doing this

I have decided to do another Whole30 in June, starting today. Is anyone interested in doing it with me? Reach out to me if so.

The story so far: I’ve posted quite a bit about my Paleo journey so far. “A tale of two diets — How I renegotiated my relationship to food” ( ) is a great summary. Quick version: Over many years I have tried different diets and lost about 20 pounds, but nothing really worked well for the long term. Then I found Paleo and LCHF, then it just clicked. It has been 1.5 years and I’ve lost another 78 (for a total of 98 pounds).

I found Whole30 only later, but it is very closely matched to what I was already doing. The only difference is that Whole30 is more strict (i.e. no dairy) and designed to be used for only 30 days, then you’re free to choose your own path again, adding back some of the questionable foods carefully and seeing how it goes. Whole30 is designed to be a 30-day experiment, to reset your system and find a new baseline. So, I did this in March along with a few friends and had some good results.

Since then I am still doing fine, though I’m not losing as much as I want and I still think I would like to lose another 15-20 to be in a healthy range. I am pretty happy with my eating now, but there are still some minor adjustments to make. So during june, no cheat/treat days, no dairy, no dark chocolate. These are things that I definitely want in my life, but I’m taking a break from them for 30 days, so that after this time I can appreciate them properly in smaller amounts.

Also I’ve made some friends on Lose It ( ) and we’ve had successful Whole30 challenges during Feb, Mar, Apr and May. So I’m also doing this to show support for folks who are trying this during June, or continuing what they have already started. I’m thinking of you, Marilyn, Donell, Joy, Stella, Barbara, buzybee, Jazzy, ervic, Jay, Megan, Paula, Carol, Julie, June, Krista, April, Tiffany, Anne, Kristie, Emily, Buffy, Beccah, and many others I’m probably forgetting. You’re all doing great.

So if you have been thinking about a change and you want to join the Whole30 team for June, let me know!

5 Helpful Analogies for Understanding Complex Health Issues

Another great article from Mark’s Daily Apple today. This seems to clarify many of the ideas that have helped me in my path.
5 Helpful Analogies for Understanding Complex Health Issues

1. Insulin is a Doorman at a Fat Cell Nightclub
Insulin is not a switch that goes from fat burning to fat storing. Fat is always going in and out of the fat cells. Insulin just makes it easier to get in.

2. The Crowded Restaurant
I don’t like explaining weight loss using “calories in, calories out” — it is just TOO simple a model to be helpful. If a restaurant is crowded, and you want to know why, and someone says “It is because more people are entering than leaving” — well, it is precisely true and completely unhelpful.

3. LDL: Cars and Passengers
More vehicles (LDL particles) means more traffic jams and accidents (hardening of the arteries), all else being equal. A reading of 100 people on the road could mean you’re dealing with a hundred compact cars, each carrying a single driver, or it could mean you’ve got four buses carrying 25 passengers each. Or it could be a couple buses and the rest cars. You simply don’t know how bad (or good) traffic is until you get a direct measurement of LDL and HDL particle number.

4. Digging a Hole to Install a Ladder to Clean the Basement Windows
Everyone knows you need a ladder to clean outside windows. So for the basement windows, naturally you would need to dig a hole for the ladder, right? It’s an example of trying to apply a solution to a problem you don’t have–you will eventually solve it but it’s a lot more work.

5. What Would You Feed a Lion?
Lions evolved eating meat, so that’s what they should eat. What did humans and pre-humans eat while we were evolving? This explains why I think “processed food” is a “fad” and “paleo” is rediscovering something we already knew. Sure, it is *possible* to invent better foods, but based on the recent trend to obesity, heart disease, and other terrible health outcomes, we should not assume that processed foods, low-fat foods, refined starches and sugars are better than our evolutionary diet.

More thoughts about “motivation”

So much of the weight loss self-help literature is about “motivation” and visualization and thinking positive and not losing hope and… and… and… A lot of these plans are very thin on PRACTICAL and USEFUL advice, other than just “Eat less food”. So if the plan is “Eat Less, Move More” and it’s just wrapped in a different flavor of motivation/positive attitude, it is really the same plan and will fail for the same reasons.

For some people, calorie counting works, but most people will ultimately fail. I think counting calories doesn’t help us fix the balance… we are adjusting the overall amount but not the mixture. We are not addressing the root cause of why we are so hungry.

Instead, the diet program vendors want us to believe that we “just” have to eat less and if we can’t follow that “simple” instruction then we are defective people and it’s our own fault that we’re obese and sick.

So if “Eat Less, Move More” has failed in the past, don’t blame your lack of motivation. It is just not a great plan.

Yes, it is hard to make changes, but you cannot make changes based on positive attitude alone. You have to have a good plan to start with, and it has to be the RIGHT plan for you. That is why I always say, work hard but also work smart. And it works best if you find a plan that has you working hard for 2-3 weeks and then coasting the rest of the time, because that is how our motivation works too.

If you feel like you stalled and ran out of motivation, it is NOT a failure of motivation… it is because you haven’t discovered the right plan for you and learned the skills to make the plan sustainable. It has to be sustainable to the point where it works even if you are not paying attention.

You NEED to get psyched up in order to make important changes. You NEED that motivation. But don’t spend your hard-earned motivation on a rehash of the same plan that failed before. If your plan was not the right plan for you, try something different. Work smart AND work hard.

What is the right plan? That will be different for everyone. I had to try dozens and dozens of plans, and then mix and match and do some really hard thinking and studying. You will too… you will try a dozen things before you find out what works. But I’ll tell you for sure what won’t work… trying to do what’s already failed multiple times before. Try something NEW this time.

Experiment on yourself!

Of course I’m a big fan of low-carb. But I discovered something even more important: Experiment On Yourself. You will have to try dozens and dozens of things before you find the “recipe” that works for you. Keep track of what you’re doing. Ask others what they did, and try it. Keep track of how you feel. Find things that work and keep doing them. Fine-tune your plan as you go.

Nutrient balance is a good place to start.  Look at your nutrient balance each week, and decide where you want to go with it in the coming week.  (Of course this means logging what you are eating using LoseIt or similar tool. Lots of things are required for good health: vitamins/micronutrients, water, sodium. potassium, lots of good sleep, water, exercise. But I know this for certain: None of that matters as much as your nutrient balance. You can do literally everything else perfect, and have the wrong nutrient balance, and you can still be miserable, obese or worse. Even exercise is not as important as macronutrient balance. Find the right balance for you, and you are 80% of the way through. Do the other stuff whenever and however you want… just get your nutrient balance right for you FIRST. It helps to read up on each nutrient and the role they each play in your body. But experimenting with different levels (try for about 4 weeks at each level) is the only way to be sure if it’s right for you.

Motivation: Four weeks at a time

I posted this on Lose It but wanted to post here too.

If you are making a life change (like let’s say, losing weight for example), that will be hard for the first FOUR WEEKS. But, if it is the right change, if it makes your life better, it should get easier, and it should be its own reward. So give your plan a fair chance and stick to it faithfully for four weeks. Reach into your reserves and pull out the stops during this time. Distract yourself, drink more water, write in your journal, sing to yourself, get psyched up, kick your own ass, and tell all your friends to kick your ass for you too.

Then after four weeks, really examine your results. Not just are you losing pounds, but is it sustainable? Is it getting easier, or do you still need to psych yourself up to follow it? Are the cravings disappearing? Can you really honestly say you want to live the rest of your life this way? Because that is exactly what you need… a plan you can keep doing forever. If your plan is not that, if you’re not feeling “THIS IS THE NEW ME” then change it up. Take a week to think about how to adjust your plan, or find some totally new plan to try. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If the right plan is out there, you will need to try a few different things before you find it.

So often I see messages from people who have been on the same plan for 3 months and their motivation has mysteriously failed. I think to myself, of course your motivation failed, because you are following the wrong plan for you. If you are getting psyched up to follow your plan every day for three months and it still hasn’t got to the the magic “THIS IS THE NEW ME” stage, you will fall off. You will get distracted by a trip or a birthday or just not wanting to go to the gym at 5:30 am for a few days, and the next thing you know your plan is forgotten, it’s two weeks later and you’ve undone five weeks of progress.

If this has happened to you, it is NOT YOUR FAULT, it was a bad plan. Think of it this way, if your plan is fragile enough that it just takes a couple days of distraction and it’s out the window, how do you think the plan would hold up to a REAL challenge? Like let’s say you hurt yourself and you’re not able to exercise at all, or you have to take care of a sick family member, or you lose your job? Your plan will go right out the window. That is because your plan CAUSES you stress, instead of giving energy back.

So, work hard, but also work smart. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so do your homework, be prepared, and experiment until you find the right plan. Keep what works well, rotate out what doesn’t work well. Read up, study hard, think of 10 new things to try, and then try them, until you find the plan that sings to you. Find the plan that you would never think of giving up, because it has become part of you, and you will have already won the race…

Then something else magical happens… not only do you have the strength to keep going forever, now you also have the strength to give someone else a hand up. If you get to where you are effortlessly jogging, and someone else is struggling along, now you can give them a hand up.

Further, in defense of fats

I keep posting to folks suggesting that they add some good fats. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to do that, here’s something I wrote on Lose It, in the Whole30 challenge. Whole30 is like paleo boot camp. It is a naturally low-carb high-fat plan.

I like really big salads with lots of olive oil and some salt. For more fats goodness I will often add an avocado. I also like veggies such as broccoli or cauliflower with lots of butter (clarified of course). Slivered almonds are great on salads or on green beans (more butter of course). I usually will have macadamia nuts by themselves, they are really rich.

Lots of paleo folks will say to use lean meats and add some good fats. I think this is because most of our meats are corn-fed and that means the fat from those meats has high omega-6 and not much omega-3. But, I think that is fine-tuning a bit too much… if you can get beef fat or pork fat (or even bacon fat or duck fat) those are excellent for cooking… sweat some onions in bacon fat and then use it to braise some spinach or whatever veggies you have around.

Boiled eggs are also great on salads.  I don’t think I’ve ever had an egg-white omelete and I don’t intend to start now.

Speaking of eggs, if you like mayo, you can whip up your own sugar-free mayo in the food processor (or even using a stick blender) which turns olive oil into a whole different dressing. Use that on salads or just toss your eggs or tuna with it for an egg-salad or tuna-salad, even chicken salad… wrap those in a lettuce leaf.

If you’re not “strict” (or perhaps, after your Whole30 is over) you have a few more options. Real butter (clarified or not) as well as heavy cream for your coffee and some cheeses (no lite or low-fat though please). If you like lattes, try a “breve latte” which is made with half and half instead of milk.

This message brought to you by the Good Fats Advisory Council.

Enough calories? Too much? What’s the right amount?

A common bit of diet advice is that you have to eat enough calories, and that you shouldn’t go below your budget too far (or below your BMR or Base Metabolic Rate).  But, this is one of the big differences between low carb and low fat diets.

If you eat low-fat and high-carb, you are basically alternating between spiking up your blood sugar, burning it off, letting it come back down, and then starving your body of necessary resources until the next feeding time. That dance is a happy blend of sugar/starch feeding, treadmill cardio burning, being hungry but distracting/denying it, then eating again, in small quantities so as to get back into starvation mode again quickly.

The low-carb high-fat method doesn’t require you to be hungry, and you don’t have to eat 6 times a day, 2 or 3 times (or even 0 or 1, see Intermittent Fasting) are just fine because you are running on fats, either the fats you ate today or the fats you ate years ago and stored. The important point here is that for low-carb dieters, we very rarely get really hungry, and if we are hungry at all, we eat. There is no denying or distracting necessary. And even if you overeat at one meal, the only side effect is that you’ll be less hungry or go longer until your next meal, so it is both forgiving and self-regulating. (Throw in ketosis as “bonus points” – that translates to extra fat converted to calories that can often end up in urine, just peeing out calories. )

So, once you are fat-adapted and you are truly able to trust your hunger signals, then you can use your own hunger as your guide and you don’t have to worry about the lower-limits… those are the safety rails put there for the benefit of those who depend on denying hunger signals for their plans to succeed… If you are not sure whether your hunger signals are working, try fasting a bit to test them :)

Finally the great thing about low-carb is that you don’t have to jump in the deep end. You can get most of the benefits of not being hungry as often, being able to eat when you’re hungry, etc… just by cutting some of the carbs. 100 grams is a reasonable middle-step. You won’t get into ketosis, so no bonus points, but you’ll probably notice that you’re more in control, your plans just work better, and you may even be happier. Then, you can decide if you want to go lower, or keep it there for a while. This seems to be a turning point for a lot of people… it is hard for 2-4 weeks and then gets easier, within 6 or 8 weeks people usually find it’s so much easier than what they were doing before, they won’t go back.

More great information here:  The Context of Calories on Mark’s Daily Apple.