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Win $100 Bucks -- Lose 10 Pounds This Month!

Nothing like a little incentive, a small bet, or a little wager to get the competitive juices flowing.  When we were kids, all it took was someone to "double dog dare you" to do something and we'd do it.  Now, we have to up the ante.

Do incentives work?  The fact that you clicked on this blog and are still reading it clearly demonstrates that they do.  Should they be an essential part of your fitness and nutrition efforts?  I definitely think they should be.  However, not all incentives are created equal.  If you plan to use incentives to challenge yourself and maximize your results, here's how you do it:


1.  Make the Goal Measureable.  A great incentive has two parts:  The goal and the reward.  The first portion--the goal--has to be measureable.  If your incentive is, If I lose some weight, I'll treat myself to a manicure, you will not achieve any real results.  Losing some weight... is not measureable.  However, if you were to say, If I lose five pounds in the next three weeks, I'll treat myself to a manicure, you've just created a measureable goal.  You got a quantity and a timeframe.  

Which statement from your doctor would create a greater incentive for you:

A.  You really need to lose some weight soon or you may begin to experience worse diabetic symptoms.

B.  You really need to lose 20 pounds in the next four months or you'll be on insulin.

Exactly.  Statement B would cause you to go to the gym as soon as you left the doctor's office.

2.  Make the Goal Realistic and Challenging.   Now that you have made your goal measureable, you need to make sure the goal is realistic.  When you read my blog title, the majority of you felt that losing 10 pounds in a month was realistic.  You also thought that being able to lose 10 pounds in that timeframe was not totally outside of your level of expended effort.  The greater the pounds per month that could have been in the blog title, the fewer of you would have read it (especially if the dollar amount didn't change--more on that later).  Why?  Because in your head it would have been either unrealistic (e.g. There's no way I'm going to lose 50 pounds in a month!) or not worth the expended effort (e.g. It's not worth all the work to lose 50 pounds in one month for a measly $100 Bucks).

Your goal needs to be realistic for you.  For example, MFP recommends losing 1-2 pounds per week because, for the average person, that amount is both realistic and challenging. 

Also, try to keep the number of goals you're working on simultaneously to no more than perhaps three.  Otherwise, they tend to go the same direction as many of your New Year's resolutions.  Rome wasn't built in a day.  Neither will your body.

3.  Make the Reward Worth the Effort.  The first part of a good "triple dog dare you" incentive is the goal. The second part is the reward.  The key to a good reward is that it has to be worth the effort.  Again, when most of you saw the blog title, you immediately reasoned that the reward (i.e. $100 bucks) was worth the effort (i.e. losing 10 pounds).  What that worth is is completely up to you.  It may be financial (money), it may be material (e.g. new clothes), it may be edible (e.g. trip to your favorite restaurant on your cheat day) or actionable (e.g. a summer vacation).  Whatever it is, make sure you enjoy it. 

4.  Negative Incentives Do Help Some People.  Someone asked me if negative incentives are helpful.  A negative incentive is what you give up if a goal is not met.  For example, if I am trying to lose weight, a negative incentive could be, For every pound I gain after June 25th, I will give you $10 bucks.  In this case, the reward should be painful enough to avoid your going in that direction.

Take some time this week to put some incentives in place.  I triple dog dare ya!

 Appreciate your comments below.  Let me know what incentives you use to keep yourself challenged!

 Shawn's Quote of the Day:  The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline. -Steve Smith

 God Bless!



Shot in the Back of the Head: A Wake Up Call to Lose Weight

The situation at the time could not have been any worse.  I was sprawled out, face down, on the sidewalk.  The pain in the back of head was excruciating.  For a second I thought, This is it.  My family and friends will be reading about me in the newspaper tomorrow.  I reached up and touched the back of my head.  It felt like I had been shot...

Most of us can remember the moment when we made the definitive decision to lose weight.  It may have been a New Year resolution; a life-threatening disease (heart disease or diabetes); or even looking at one of those "fat pictures" someone took of you at the family BBQ.  Whatever it was, it became the catalyst for you to take action.  My story was true wake-up call.

Back then, I weighed about 207--almost 50 pounds overweight by Body Mass Index (BMI) standards.  Despite my being overweight, I always prided myself on being a sharp dresser--old school classic with the hat, suspenders, wing tips and pocket square.  Other than ensuring that the suit coat covered the forward protruding girth, I looked good by most people's standards and had convinced myself that the extra weight was no worse than anyone else's in the office.  I was nowhere near the slimmest, but was a far cry from the fattest (It's amazing how your mind justifies your current circumstances.).

On this particular day, I decided to head out of the building to grab some lunch.  It was Summer, the cafe was about a block down the street, so I decided to walk.  I left the suit coat in the office, put on my summer fedora (similar to the one in my photo on the blog) and headed out.  About halfway down the block, I dropped my pen.  I bent down to pick it up.  Then it happened.....

The clip on the back of my suspenders (yeah, I know, clip-on suspenders are not technically old school), came off.  Because the suspenders were elastic in the back and had pulled taunt because I bent over, I had created a high-power slingshot. 

And the back of my head was the target. 

The elastic straps propelled the metal clip into the back of my head so hard that I fell face down onto the sidewalk completely dazed.  I had no idea what had happened at first.  I really thought I was shot!  Those walking near me on the sidewalk literally ducked when they saw me fall!  After feeling the back of my head and not noticing any blood, I finally was able to stand up.  Dangling over my shoulder was the elastic suspender strap and the metal clip.

I didn't go to lunch that day.  About a block from the cafe was a Walmart.  I went in, bought some sneakers, a pair of shorts, and a tank top.  I bypassed the cafe again on the way back and went right to the office's gym. 

I lost about 40 pounds that year and got to about 12% body fat. 

Today, I'm even a sharper dresser now--minus the clip-on suspenders.  Now I wear the kind that attach to your pants via buttons.

We all start our journeys somewhere.  I would love to hear your stories of what started you on yours.

Have a blessed day and remember that the world would not be the same without you!

Shawn's Quote of the Day:  Enter every activity without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. Concentrate on your strengths instead of your weaknesses, on your powers instead of your problems. -- Paul J. Meyer

God Bless!


How to Get Some When You're Not at Home

Both men and women that I talk to on MFP and in my office all agree that getting some at home is a lot easier than getting some when you're on the road.  Be it business travel, personal travel or family vacation, getting some away from home can be a tough.

I'm on the road alone quite a bit and have managed to get some more often then not.  My wife always seems to notice that I got a little when I return home. 

While I don't profess to be an expert on the subject, here are a couple of tips for the busy traveler to increase your chances of getting some more often than not.

I'm talking about getting some exercise and some good nutrition.

Tip 1:  Pack For It.  Your shorts, sneakers, T-shirt and HRM should be as much a part of your travel gear as underwear and deodorant.  Packing them in your suitcase starts the mental process that, yes, I will be getting some exercise in while I'm away.  Also buy yourself one of those pill boxes to pack your vitamins and supplements.  My personal Fitness Travel Kit contains:

  • Clothing & Weight Gloves
  • HRM
  • Fitness Journal
  • Ipod & Headphones
  • Supplements
  • Jump Rope
  • Fitness DVD (to play on my laptop)

Tip 2:  Plan For It.  I'm normally not flying blind on business travel.  Typically I have an agenda ahead of time for the week-long activities.  So I plan my workout around the business agenda.  Normally, this means I work out first thing in the morning before the work day starts.  That way, my routine is not disturbed by last minute meetings, side bar discussions, or dinner invitations that may occur unexpectedly.  I literally put workout appointments on my calendar and keep them.

Foodwise, I also plan.  After I get my rental car and before I reach my hotel, I stop at a local Walmart or supermarket and buy food for my room--typically nonperishable stuff (unless I know ahead of time the room has a refrigerator).  These are my healthy staples that get me through my cravings for room service and prevent me from bellying up to the breakfast buffet one time too many.  During a week-long trip, I do allow myself 1-2 cheat meals.  I just don't go too crazy.  My typical food list usually contains but is not limited to: 

  • Bottled Water
  • Fruit & Nuts
  • Breakfast Bars (e.g. Emerald Breakfast-on-the-Go is a good one)
  • Individual Benefiber Mix Packs (for my bottled water)
  • Tuna Packs
  • Bread, rice cakes or crackers
  • 1-2 Treats of some Kind

Tip 3:  Place For It.  I use the internet to scout a place to work out before I leave home.  Hotel reservations don't get made until I confirm whether they have a workout facility of some sort.  Because I am a proud, card carrying member of the YMCA, I can get 10 free workouts at any YMCA location nationwide (See  So I look up a local YMCA before I hit the road.  Most other nationwide gym franchises have something similar (e.g. Curves, Bally's etc.).  Also, for a nominal fee, most of these places will allow you to work out in their facility.

If worse comes to worst, I'll pull the jump rope out of my bag and do some skipping out in the parking lot or in a conference room somewhere.  Or, I'll pop the DVD into the laptop and do some cardio.

Bottom line, you gotta get some.  Don't let being on the road stop you from getting yours.

Would love to hear your tips and techniques for getting some while on travel.  I'm always looking for ways to keep my road routines fresh.

Have a blessed day and remember that the world would not be the same without you!

Shawn's Quote of the Day:  People say that losing weight is no walk in the park. When I hear that I think, yeah, that”s the problem. – Chris Adams

God Bless!




How to Eliminate Weight Loss Plateaus

Look, we've all been there.  Week 1 we stand on the scale.  It says 175 (or substitute your weight).  We work out hard all week.  Week 2 we stand on the scale.  It says 175.  We work out hard all week.  Week 3 we stand on the scale.  It says 175.  We change the batteries in the scale and step on it again. Still says 175. 

Congratulations, you may have just started plateauing.

What is a Weight Loss Plateau?

A weight loss plateau is a state where you no longer lose weight despite your best efforts of healthy eating and exercise.  Everyone experiences them at different phases of their weight loss journey and for various periods of time.  I would not call two weeks at the same weight a plateau.  However, if I'm hitting the third and fourth week with no results, I'd be concerned.

So far, I have hit two plateaus.  My starting weight was 220 pounds.  The first plateau was at 204 pounds.  I was there for 3-4 weeks.  The second was at 188 pounds for roughly the same period of time. So for me, current historical data says that I will plateau every time I lose 16 pounds (Note:  another good reason to keep good records of your progress.)

Reasons for Plateau-ing

Plateaus can occur when your metabolism begins to slow as a result of your losing muscle.  As you continue to lose weight, a new equilibrium is reached between your new weight and your slower metabolism.

Another reason--very similar to the first--is that something we have done has triggered our bodies to think there is a famine and our bodies slow down our metabolism in order to conserve calories.  This usually happens when we make drastic reductions in our usual caloric intake or when we're put under a large amount of stress.

How to Eliminate Weight Loss Plateaus

The approach to eliminating weight loss plateus involves our examining four broad categories:

  • Our Habits
  • Our Calories
  • Our Workouts
  • Our Activities

1.  Take a Look at Your Habits.  Oftentimes when we begin to get on a roll with our fitness and weight loss, we become a little lax on the rules that got us to where we are.  Look at your fitness and weight loss journals and see if you've allowed food portion sizes to get slightly bigger, your workouts to get a little shorter (or missed altogether) or if you have been sneaking a few more fun-size Snickers bars into the day than usual.

2.  Take a Look at Your Calories.  For me, this option has been the most effective at breaking through the plateau.  I will cut my MFP recommended daily calories by 100-200 each day for a week or two.  Don't do this if your caloric intake is already set at 1200 calories.  For others, an increase of calories by 100-200  may be the solution.  Remember, you may have to experiment a little to find out what works.  This is where getting to learn your body becomes fun.

3.  Take a Look at Your Workouts.  If you have been doing the same workout, the same way for the same amount of time for the last month or so, you can start to plateau.  Like anything else, your body will eventually adjust to your current workout routine.  You can do three things to most workouts:  increase the amount of time you workout, increase the intensity, and/or change the type of workout/exercise.  A 15-minute increase is all you need to reinvigorate the body and jumpstart your metabolism.  Also, changing the type of exercise and the way you do them produces a major shock to the metabolism.  If you do a lot of cardio, try addiiing some weight training.  If you run on the treadmill all the time, do a couple of runs outside.  Personally, I change my workout routines every six weeks and do a combination of cardio and weight training.

4.  Take a Look at Your Activities.  What are you doing beyond the gym?  Just a few tweaks during the day can work wonders.  For example:  taking the stairs at work or parking in the farthest parking space in the office lot and walking to your office building.  With the warm Spring/Summer weather, I burn an extra 900-1100 calories a week cutting the grass (Guys, that's with a push mower--not the riding mower).

The fun part of this fitness journey is experimenting.  Try incorporating some or all of the strategies above and see what happens.  Give yourself a two-week window in order to see some results. 

Drop me an email and let me know how you're doing or if you have other recommended strategies.

Shawn's Quote of the Day:  "Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going." ~Jim Ryun

Have a blessed day and remember that the world will not be the same without you!

God Bless!




The Best Time to Weigh Yourself

A few days ago, I wrote a short blog called, Weigh?  No Weigh.  Weigh Dude!, that really resonated with the MFP family.  In that blog, I discussed what I felt were the benefits of weighing yourself every day versus doing so at greater time intervals (weekly, monthly, etc.).  I highly recommend you take a look at it.

I received a lot of feedback from the blog and one of the questions that came back to me over and over again from readers was, Shawn when is the best time to weigh myself?

Like so many other fitness and nutritional questions, the answer is, It depends.  The time of day you weigh yourself is not as important as adherring to the following basic factors when you do.  here are a few:

1.  The Time You Weigh Yourself Should Be Consistent.  Pick the same time each day to weigh in.  It should be a time least impacted by your daily schedule.

2.  The Time You Weigh Yourself Should Not Be Close to Meals.  It will impact the scale.  Many of us who weigh ourselves after breakfast before heading out to the gym will see more fluctuations on the scale--especially digital scales that count pounds and ounces.

 3. The Time You Weigh Yourself Should Not Be At the Gym.  Leave the gym scale alone--especially the "old school" scale where you have to move the big block to the right that says, 150, 200, 250; and the little block to derivatives of "1" and "5."  Those scales are usually off by 3-5 pounds and they're not calibrated well.  Hundreds of people step on that thing every day.  It's going to be off.

4.  The Time You Weigh Yourself  Should Be When You are Buck Naked.  Goes without saying, but many of us still utilize the mantra, deduct five pounds for shoes and clothes.  The contestants on the Biggest Loser take off their shirts and wear sports bras to weigh-ins for a reason.  The time to cover our fat is not during weigh-ins.

Factoring in all of the above (#4 in particular), two times fit my schedule best:  1. When I first get up; and 2.  When I go to bed.  I prefer the former over the latter. 

When I get up in the morning, I haven't eaten for seven hours or so.  So my usual routine is wake up, take care of some "bodily functions" and then step on the digital scale.  For me, the result is the best weight untainted by any other factors.  This time probably works best for most people.  It's also the time of day where most people are at their lightest weight (FYI, your weight can literally fluctuate by pounds during the day).

For those who have nonstandard work schedules (e.g. you work the late shift, graveyard shift, or keep long night hours), weighing yourself before you go to bed may be the best time.

Again, time should not be the primary determinent.  Let the above factors play the major role.

When do you weigh in?  Would love to hear your comments and opinions.

Shawn's Quote of the Day:  "Self-delusion is pulling in your stomach when you step on the scale."

Have a blessed day and remember that the world would not be the same without you!

God Bless!



Weigh? No Weigh. Weigh Dude!

I guess I'm what most people on MFP would classify as a "scale whore."  I keep a daily appointment with my scale.  Every day between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., I step on the scale and see how I'm doing.  The number reflected sets the tone for my day.  My philosphy..."A weigh a day keeps the pounds aweigh" (misspelling intentional).

The opinion on daily weighs falls into two camps.  One camp does and does so one or more times a day.  The other camp steps on the scale at preset periods of time (weekly, monthly, etc).  While there may be arguments for doing the latter, here's why I do and recommend the former:

1.  Daily Weighs Let Me Know How Close or Far I am from My Weekly Goal.  My weekly goal is a pound per week.  Success or failure depends upon what my scale says on Monday morning (my official weigh-in day).  Weighing myself each day lets me know whether I need cut back on calories, increase my exercise, or some combination of the two.

2.  Daily Weighs Allow for Early Intervention.  Part and parcel to Number 1 above, by weighing in daily, I can make early corrections versus finding out on my official weigh-in day that what I did that week was or was not working.

3.  Daily Weighs Can Show You the Impact of Coming Off Your Diet (e.g. "Cheat Days") and How Long It Takes Your Body to Return to "Normal."  For most of us, eating out or having a cheat day usually means the intake of not only more calories, but also more sodium.  The latter, usually results in water retention which results in weight gain.  By keeping a good diary and weighing myself daily for awhile now, I know that if I go out to eat a cheat meal dinner, that it takes 2-3 days for my body weight to return to what it was prior to the cheat day.  This allows me to plan for those meals and still get back to my original weight before my official weigh in on Mondays.

4.  Daily Weighs Take "Hope" Out of the Equatiion and Replace It with "Concerted Effort."  When I read the majority of posts from people who have a periodic time that they weigh in, the word hope usually appears somewhere in the post and usually sounds something like this, "Two more days until I weigh in.  I sure hope I lost my two pounds this week."  Why hope when you could have a pretty good idea of your progress?  Daily weighs can remove hope and better your chances of getting to your goal.

There's nothing wrong with stepping on the scale every day.  There are definitely advantages to doing so and I'm sure that many people could find some disadvantages as well.  I'd be interested in hearing your view.  For people like myself who are driven by numbers, seeing a daily result in the morning from my efforts the day before motivates me to either keep on keeping on, or make the adjustments I need to increase my likelihood of success.

Have a blessed day and remember that the world would not be the same without you!

Shawn's Quote of the Day:  "Don't go out of your "weigh" to please anyone but yourself!" ~Author Unknown

God Bless!



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