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Personal Accountability: unimaginably powerful for weight loss

Posted on March 30th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

I’m a weight loss coach.  My job is to help people understand what they need to do to lose weight and help motivate them to do it. Over the years I’ve learned that different techniques work with different people and I’ve become increasingly aware of the psychological component of any weight loss endeavor.

At some point, however, personal accountability comes into play. Most clients meet with me for 30 minutes or less, a few times/week. Some less often or for less time. That leaves them a whole lot of time to be left to their own devices and during that time they have to hold themselves accountable for their actions.

Let’s turn this discussion on you. You’re trying to lose weight. I may be able to help you. I may be able to educate you. I may be able to motivate you. I may be able to hold you accountable every so often. But you are the only one with you 24/7.

Stop making excuses. Stop asking for help when you haven’t even applied what you already know. Stop looking for an easy way out. Either you want it or you don’t and no amount of effort on the part of me or anyone else is going to get you there. It’s all about you.

Figure out what your goals are. This should take a while because it’s something you want to get right. After all, you should be consumed with achieving them if they are truly important to you. Decide why you want to lose weight and make sure the reasons are good enough to make you put the fork down when you’re supposed to. Make sure the reasons will be good enough to make you make the right decision every time.

Once you’ve written them down, devise a way to make them available to you at all times. Put them on index cards and carry them with you. Have one set in your bedroom, one in your kitchen, one in your car, one at work, and one wherever you know you’ll need to be reminded of them.

Then, hold yourself accountable to them, because no one else can.

Quick Low-carb Breakfast for Weight Loss

Posted on March 24th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

This is a quick low carb meal that will keep you satisfied for half a day! This couldn’t possibly have been any easier and it was tasty… even Craig at Olson’s Car Care had a bite and liked it :)

Check out the link to U.S. Wellness Meats’ website.

Remember, although I’m not currently trying to lose weight, the meat bar and cheese are great weight loss foods. You would just need to work out your portions to meet your calorie requirements. If you don’t know your calorie requirements, look in the Doing S.P.E.E.D. chapter of our book. We walk you through how to figure them out.


Nuts for Protein?

Posted on March 18th, 2010 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

I have heard the following statements many times from clients; “I will add some peanut butter to my toast to get some protein” or “I will have a handful of almonds to increase my protein intake” and other similar statements equating nuts with protein. While these statements are not completely false they are really not representative of how nuts affect your nutrient intakes.

For starters, let’s look at what is in a typical serving of peanut butter and almonds. Keep in mind that most nuts have very similar macronutrient amounts.

Protein Carbs Fats
1 tbs peanut butter* 4g (15%) 3g (13%) 8g (72%)
1 oz almonds* 3g (13%) 5g (13%) 7.5g (74%)

For comparison, let’s look at two common protein foods, cottage cheese and chicken breast.

Protein Carbs Fats
1 cup 2% cottage cheese* 27g (59%) 8g (16%) 6g (25%)
4 oz chicken breast* 32g (82%) 0g (0%) 4g (18%)

Hopefully it is clear that nuts do not have a lot of protein per serving. In fact, nuts and seeds should be thought of as high fat foods. The two examples above show that nuts get about 72% of their calories from fat. This is not a bad thing, but because of the high amount of calories a large serving size of nuts has, using nuts for a primary protein source could lead to an excess calorie intake. For example, to get the equivalent of protein found in the cottage cheese example (27g) you would have to eat 7 tbs of peanut butter, which would equate to the following:

Calories Protein Carbs Fats
7 tbs peanut butter* 658 28g 21g 56g

However, when it comes to nut consumption and weight, the majority of evidence has found an inverse relationship. Both population and clinical trial studies have found that nut intake is associated with a lower bodyweight. (Sabate) Therefore, even though nuts are a high fat food they do not seem to contribute to weight problems.

Before concluding I wanted to highlight a few facts about nuts. Nuts are a great source of many nutrients. For example, nuts have a lot of magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin E, and most of the B vitamins. Nut consumption is also associated with lower rates of heart disease. (Kris-Etherton et al) Additionally, nuts have a low amount of carbohydrates and because most of their carbohydrates are fiber they have a very low net-carb count. Because of these and other aspects of nuts, nuts should not be avoided because they have a relatively high amount of fat.

I hope it is cleat that nuts are not a high protein food and most people should not try to get the majority of their protein from them. However, because nuts contain many valuable nutrients and have health promoting affects, most people should incorporate some nuts into their diet on a regular basis.


Kris-Etherton, P.M. et al (2008). The role of tree nuts and peanuts in the prevention of coronary heart disease: Multiple potential mechanisms. J Nutrition; 138: 1746S-1751S.

Sabate, J. (2003). Nut consumption and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr; 78(suppl): 647S-650S.


Jillian Michaels on PBS – useful information?

Posted on March 16th, 2010 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

I was doing a bit of TV surfing last weekend and came across a PBS special called Master Your Metabolism. The talk was being given by Jillian Michaels, the famous trainer from The Biggest Loser show and author of a recent book called Master Your Metabolism. It had just started so I decided to watch the whole thing. I then went to the book store and looked through her book. Here are my thoughts on the information presented on PBS and in her book.

First, I would give an overall rating of 3.5 stars (out of a possible five) for the book/presentation. So, overall, I think the information is pretty good. Here is the list of things I liked:

  • Hormones are very important for health and weight management
  • Foods and exercise can modify hormone levels making it easier or harder to be healthy and maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat real food
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Eat more organically produced foods
  • Minimize your exposure to chemicals from personal care products and other commonly used products
  • Minimize carb intake at night so that there is a better growth hormone output while you sleep
  • Eat a good amount of protein, about 30% of your diet
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages is very counterproductive for weight loss

Okay, good so far. However, things start to fall apart.

The first problem is the lack of discussion of the psychological and social aspects of eating behavior. As Matt and I stress in SPEED, it is not just about exercise or diet and how they affect our metabolism/hormones. Her focus on the nutritional and exercise components makes this book incomplete. To be fair, most weight loss books take this same approach and look at only a single or small number of potential variables. As you know from our book, we feel that this is a major reason for the poor success rates.

There were a number of statements that were a bit bombastic. For instance, she stated that “genetics does not contribute to aging or disease” and “hormones do not naturally decrease with age” really!? I believe that both of these statements are completely false. The following are more appropriate statements; “Genetics play a part in the development of disease but lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, etc. can modify how the genetics are expressed” and “Hormones do decline during aging, but a good amount of that decline can be reversed by following certain lifestyle habits”. Both of the latter statements are clearly not as enticing and do not have the same WOW factor but they are much more in-line with our current knowledge of these factors.

She also said that high sodium would cause an increase in cortisol levels as well as an increase in blood sugar and make you hold onto water, i.e., make you feel bloated. First thing, there is only a small percentage of the population that is salt sensitive. This means only a small percentage of people may have a negative reaction to high salt intakes, such as an increase in blood pressure. Additionally, the reaction to higher salt intakes also depends on the intake of other minerals such as potassium and magnesium. If these are also high then it is possible that the high salt intake will not have a negative effect. Anyway, when it comes to salt intake and cortisol the evidence for this connection is weak. Like the blood pressure affect, it seems that only salt sensitive individuals may have a change in increase in cortisol levels with a high sodium intake. However, the affect in one study was very small. (Kerstens et al) Another connection I found regarding salt and adrenal function is something called adrenal fatigue. (Wilson) This condition is caused from low adrenal function (the adrenal cortex produces cortisol) resulting in many common symptoms; fatigue, poor exercise tolerance, poor sleep patterns, sugar cravings and so on. People with this condition are recommended to make sure they get enough salt in their diet. Overall, I would not worry too much about salt intake as long as you are getting plenty of real, whole foods (i.e., eggs, beef, salmon, veggies, avocados, nuts, etc.)  in your diet.

Related to the issue of cortisol and nutrition is the cortisol and exercise connection. It seems that high amounts of exercise, particularly a combination of high intensity and high duration, and coupled with unfit individuals, will cause a strong stress reaction and increase cortisol levels. Chronically elevated cortisol levels are bad for our weight and our overall well-being. Therefore, why would Jillian and the other trainers on The Biggest Loser show use this type of training? If Jillian is so concerned with high cortisol levels why would she do this to her clients? It would seem counterproductive to health. However, from the results on the show, it does not seem to inhibit weight loss. This is because there is a big caloric deficit. Certainly this strategy, in the short term, will result in weight loss, but is it good for long-term results and health? The exercise and stress/cortisol literature seems to point to shorter duration (less than 60 minutes) and relatively high intensity as the more appropriate exercise recommendations for positive hormone changes, particularly during energy restriction (i.e., reduced calorie intake).

She also states that Atkins, South Beach, no carb and no fat diets are fads and should not be followed. She, like many other people, continually refers to low carb eating plans as fads. Low carb eating is not a fad and has an abundance of clinical and epidemiological evidence to support the efficacy and safety of this type of eating style for weight management and health benefits. She also continues to perpetuate the myth that Atkins, South Beach and other low-carb eating plans tell you to eat NO carbs. The low-carb plans recommend you eat lower amount of carbs, often less than 40% of total calorie intake, not zero carb. Usually 10-30% of calories as carbs are the recommendations of many low-carb plans. But, yes, there are ketogenic food plans that do recommend very low carb intakes, 5-10% of calories, but still not zero.

The final thing that she really stressed was to never skip meals and to eat every four hours. This is apparently necessary to keep the metabolism going and to make sure that blood sugar stays at a proper level. Jillian, like many other fitness and nutrition gurus, are very concerned about eating often and not skipping meals. Why? First, eating more often does NOT speed up your metabolism. Second, from her statements about eating frequency, we can assume that she has not read the large body of research on the health benefits of intermittent fasting (eating every other day) (Johnson et al; Varady et al) or the eating frequency literature (Mattson)? Third, why 4 hours between meals? Why not 3.5 hours or 4.5 hours or 4.25 hours? There is no magic to eating every 4 hours. Third, blood sugar regulation is controlled by many mechanisms and eating frequency is just one of them. Overall, the body can go many hours, even days, without eating and maintain a healthy blood sugar level. (Mattson) For example, usually every day the body goes without food for 10 hours, the hours between your last meal and breakfast, and seems to do just fine.

I bring up this information because it bothers me when poorly supported or non-supported recommendations are given by people who should know better. Jillian and other popular exercise and nutrition experts can have a strong influence on the behavior of many people. They should realize their influencing power and make sure that what they are saying is well-supported! For those of you who are aware of Jillian’s information, please keep the information presented here in mind when you are contemplating using her recommendations.



Kerstens, M. et al (2003). Salt loading affects cortisol metabolism in normotensive subjects: relationships with salt sensitivity. J Clinical Endocrinology; 88(9): 4180-4185.

Johnson, J. et al (2006). The effect of health of alternate day calorie restriction: Eating less and more than needed on alternate days prolongs life. Medical Hypotheses; 67: 209-211.

Mattson, M. (2005). Energy intake, meal frequency, and health: a neurobiology perspective. Annu Rev Nutr; 25: 237-260.

Varady, K. & Hellerstein, M. (2007). Alternte-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials. Am J Clin Nutr; 86: 7-13.

Wilson, J. (2001). Adrenal fatigue: the 21st century stress syndrome. Petaluma, CA. Smart Publications.

Is low carb right for a healthy-weight person?

Posted on March 15th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

This question came from one of our subscribers:

The role of insulin in weight loss is well understood.  However, if a person is already healthy, trim, and muscular, why should they avoid carbohydrates?  Some exercise experts even advise carbohydrates to enhance workouts.  What are the upsides/downsides of a low-carb approach if weight loss isn’t a goal?

Short answer: They don’t have to.

Long answer: Assuming that a person is healthy, trim and muscular, it will be a matter of careful self-monitoring to understand what level of carbohydrate (CHO) intake is right for them. Some level of CHO restriction may be necessary to maintain a certain look, but a different level may be needed for athletic performance. So, a prioritized balance will need to be worked out and, most likely, constantly tweaked.

Much of the research on fat adaptation and sports performance has been poorly undertaken, in my opinion. Phinney dived into this topic in good detail in Nutrition and Metabolism in 2004.  At that time, most of the research performed on endurance training while fat adapted (and including a CHO load prior to testing) allowed no longer than 2 weeks for fat adaptation, most less than 7 days. Since the time of Phinney’s article, there seems to have been more of the same.

Much more well-designed study of fat adaptation’s effects on exercise is needed, by researchers who understand or appreciate the time needed for fat adaption is likely more than a few days. Some plans, like Rob Fagin’s Natural Hormonal Enhancement and Dr. DiPasquale’s Anabolic Solution advocate fat-adapted states with intermittent CHO loading. The anecdotal reports from followers of these plans are not enough, but could give the research community a point in the right direction.

There are cultures who eat almost no CHO and are generally healthy, and also cultures who eat high amounts of CHO and are also healthy. So, CHO intake may not be a deciding factor in the health of an individual. Instead, the quality of the food eaten, almost regardless of macronutrient content, may have stronger implications for health.

There are plenty of anecdotal cases of people feeling better on low-carb diets than high carb, and just as many cases where people feel better after adding CHO back into their diet after a low-carb approach. Research is mixed on whether or not low-carb diets affect cognition in a negative way. (Brinkworth) So, it really all comes down to personal preference with no real solid evidence that either low or high CHO diets are better for the healthy person.



Phinney SD. Ketogenic Diets and Physical Performance. Nutr & Metab. 2004;1(2)

Brinkworth GD, Buckley JD, Noakes M, Clifton PM, Wilson CJ. Long-term Effects of a Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet
and a Low-Fat Diet on Mood and Cognitive Function. Arch Intern Med.2009;169(20):1873-80.

2 Questions From Our Readers

Posted on March 5th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

Last week we put out a call for questions. This week, we’ve been answering them. Here are two more…

Question 1:

Ok, question – Where can I find a table that tells me (according to height and weight), how many calories I should have each day?  If I wanted to lose 10 pounds in 2 months,  how many calories will I need to cut out to attain this goal?

In Chapter 8 – Doing S.P.E.E.D. we provide step-by-step instructions to help you figure out your caloric needs, for weight maintenance and for weight loss. The formula we use requires your height, weight and age.

We’ve also developed this page to make calorie calculations easier for you:

Good luck!

Question 2:

If you’re someone who has a lot of weight to lose, about 65 lbs, what is the best way of going about it and what would be some suggestions?

This isn’t an easy question to answer on a blog. It’s a huge question. So huge that Jeff and I wrote 8 chapters worth of information on it. My first recommendation is this; if you have 65 lbs. to lose, spend $20 and get our book. If you don’t feel it’s worth $20 after you read it, we’ll refund your money.

If you don’t think you’ll like our book, a new diet book just came out this week, written by some of the researches we’ve referenced in S.P.E.E.D. It’s called New Atkins for a New You. Check it out.

If you can’t part with a single dollar (we understand times are tough), here are my no-cost recommendations:

Eat less. It’s that simple. Reduce your calories, eat whole foods and weight loss will happen.

Move more. Yup, exercise. Nothing earth-shattering.

Set goals. If you don’t have goals, you’ll never achieve them.

Oh, and one more. Read this blog. The entire blog. Every entry since we started over a year ago. It’s free :)

Well, that’s it. See you next time!


Weight Gain After 40

Posted on March 4th, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

Matt answers another subscriber’s question from last week’s call for questions. This is a great question that, unfortunately, is not easy to answer without more specific information. This is why we offer the S.P.E.E.D. Weight Loss Club, so you can get more personalized attention from Jeff and Matt for only $29.97/month. We think that’s a great deal!

How Do I Break A Weight Loss Plateau?

Posted on March 2nd, 2010 by Matt Schoeneberger

Weight loss plateaus – they’re not some mystical beast. Breaking them is a matter of re-evaluating your plan and editing it to fit your current needs.