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Weight Loss All-Stars: Preston Thomas

Next in the line of inspiring stories coming out of CrossFit Dilworth - Preston Thomas outlines his story  that is typical of so many Americans, except for the fact he decided to do something about it.


1 - What was your weight at your heaviest?

205lbs. I am only 5’9.5

2 - Describe yourself back then.

It was the end of my junior year of college when I started to put on weight and it just ballooned through senior year and right up until I graduated law school. I had terrible eating habits. I ate massive amounts of calorie-laden food.

My favorite was Japanese drowned in shrimp sauce with at least 4-5 glasses of sweet tea. That occurred on a regular basis.

I exercised sporadically and never did any cardio. In law school, I went to class, studied, and ate. No real activity ever during those 2.5 years.



3 - Where did you start when you first decided to lose weight?

It was right after I finished law school. No job, studying for the bar. At first, the only thing I did was cut my portions in half. I ate all the same foods I was eating before, just half…sometimes a little less. My health obsessed/mildly crazy girlfriend (now my wife) educated me on calories and portion sizes. Apparently I was eating enough for 3 grown men at each meal.



4 - What were the 1-2 biggest keys in transforming yourself from then to now?

1. Diet – I lost 35 pounds in about 3 months just by changing diet. This was before I started a regular exercise program. I wasn’t “fat” any more and was getting a ton of compliments but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be.

2. Exercise – When I first started a consistent exercise program, it was your basic cardio and strength routine. 30-60 minutes of cardio and 3-4 days of strength training.




5 - Approximately how long did it take for the weight to come off?

It took about 6-9 months to reach 155, my goal weight. That is what I weighed my senior year of high school.



6 - What is your current weight?

145 pounds



7 - What role did CrossFit play in helping you reach your current weight?


CrossFit didn’t necessarily help with weight loss, it helped with changing my body composition. I was  strong and in shape and looked fine, but CrossFit plus switching to a majority Paleo diet really decreased my body fat percentage.

Within 2 months of starting CrossFit, I had more changes in my body than 8 months doing my old routine.



8 - Any advice for people out there that think transforming their body is next to impossible?

Once you put your mind to it, it can be easy. Stay prayed up on it and commit yourself mentally to diet and exercise. It really is 100% mental. It isn’t immediate and it takes work. Know that and keep with it.
A strong support system is also really key.

Having supporting family and friends played a large role in my weight loss journey, plus the coaches and people at CrossFit Dilworth who make you WANT to be in the gym, getting better each day.



Weight Loss All-Stars: Erika Brummel

The next body transformation I'm happy to highlight comes from one of the members of my athletic conditioning classes who has an amazing story to share. I won't ruin any of the details ahead of time, but her hard work and self-motivation is one of the most inspiring stories I've seen in a long time.

Thanks to Erika Brummel, who shares her amazing story here:



1 - What was your weight at your heaviest?

The heaviest I have ever been was 280 pounds.


2 - Describe yourself back then.


During my heaviest time I was around 21 years old. I was attending Queens University and playing on the softball team. At this point in my life I was enjoying the college life and food to the fullest. I did exercise almost 5 times a week and had strenuous conditioning workouts 3 times a week.  I always did stay very active but my energy levels were extremely low. I could complete workouts but it wasn't easy and it looked like I was always close to passing out.


My eating habits were horrible! Cafeteria food was my enemy because it was buffet style. I would eat everything. Also, I would eat fast food like you wouldn't believe because it was easy and convenient. I can remember getting a 20 piece nugget meal at McDonald's and adding a double cheeseburger to that. (Yes, I ate the whole thing.) So it didn't matter how much I worked out because my diet was terrible.



 3 - When you first decided you wanted to make a change, where did you start?


During my life I have made many efforts to try and change my eating habits and lifestyle. In high school I went to a nutritionist and lost around 35 pounds, but couldn't keep up and gained it all back. After college I did the P90x program twice and lost around 70 pounds. But once again I stopped and gained all the weight back. So now about 4 years later I hit a point where I decided enough was enough and I couldn't continue down this road again.


I decided that it was time to join the YMCA and change my life. I started first working out with a close friend who is a personal trainer and he showed me everything I needed to know about exercise. He motivated me to keep pushing even when I would doubt myself. He never let me quit and I think he believed more in me then I sometimes believed in myself. I also had my roommate Maggie who would join me in the gym and push me to go even when I didn't want to. She would take all the classes with me so working out would be fun. We struggled the first month pretty badly. We could barely do the athletic conditioning classes but we always stuck to it and never gave up. Having that support system from my trainer and roommate made working out easier and fun. Now exercising has become a daily routine for me. It just comes natural and I constantly think about wanting to workout.



4 - What were the 1-2 biggest keys in transforming yourself from then to now?


Everyone now asks me "what's your secret?" Honestly there is no secret. The secret is changing your eating habits and getting exercise. That's it, plain and simple! I eat a lot of lean meats, veggies, and fruits. I don't starve myself and once in a great while I'll have a cheat meal but I don't go overboard with it. The biggest change I’ve noticed is my energy and confidence levels. I'm no longer tired all the time which is very nice.


Also, once I got in the habit of eating healthy I no longer crave fatty foods. I pass by fast food places and have no desire to eat there anymore. With my energy levels being up, I usually workout anywhere from 5 to 7 days a week. I will do athletic conditioning classes about 3 days a week, and on the other days I'll do 30 minutes of cardio and then lift weights.


 5 - Approximately how long did it take for the weight to come off?


It took me about 7 and a half months to lose the weight. I am still trying to shed some more pounds and really focus on toning up. I never really had a set goal weight I just knew I wanted to be healthier and to keep going.



6 - How much weight have you lost? 


As of today I have lost a little over 75 pounds.

When I started going to the YMCA I was around 262 pounds. I am currently down to 184 pounds.


I have finally hit the mark for being considered normal and healthy for my age and height. This is actually the first time in my life where I have fit into that category. Throughout my entire life I have always been considered obese. So that for me was quite an exciting moment and accomplishment.


 7 - Any advice for other women out there that think transforming their body is next to impossible?


You know, I was always that girl who would look at the skinny and toned girls and say that it’s just not possible for me to get there. It will take way too long and I can never look like that. I would always doubt myself and I had it instilled in my mind I could never be that thin, toned girl. I constantly kept telling myself it wasn't possible so that's what I started to believe. I've been extremely overweight my entire life so it's really all I knew. I felt that being obese was how I was made to be and that I could never be anything else. Recently I decided enough was enough and I was going to change, but I was 100% ready and willing to make that change.


It wasn't easy and there were times I wanted to quit, but having the support from my friends helped me through any obstacle I ever faced. My advice to anyone out there who thinks it can't be done - it can!  I'm living proof of that.


If I can go from being extremely obese my entire life and make that change, anyone can. You just have to put your mind to it and never give up. You have to believe in yourself and give yourself courage to keep fighting. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, because it will be difficult at times but the end result is well worth it.  I promise you that!



Weight Loss All-Stars: Sebastian Ekberg

Some of the most popular content on this site has been weight loss transformation stories.  Those that have enjoyed that content have a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks as I have quite a few amazing weight loss stories to share from regular everyday people.

Several of my teammates and coaches from CrossFit Dilworth have experienced tremendous weight loss over the past couple years, and leading off is one of the most inspirational body transformation stories I've seen - Sebastian Ekberg.

I PROMISE the Before and After pictures are legimiately the same guy.



1 - What was your weight at your heaviest?



2 - Describe yourself back then (age/stage of life, eating habits, level of workouts vs inactivity).

I was 21 and in college. With the stress of school I pretty much let myself go, I really didn't care about eating healthy and I felt that were always watching what they were eating were not enjoying life.

I've always been an active person so I surfed a lot and would go to the gym to lift once a month or so. There were a lot of sports and activities that I wanted to do but I really wasn't able to due to my weight (Windsurfing etc).

When I would play sports with my friends I would always be exhausted very quickly and could barely run a mile. I think I actually feared that one day someone would make me run more than a mile, I dont really know what situation that would arise in but I generally stayed away from any physical activity that would last more than 20 minutes.



 3 - When you first decided to lose weight, where did you start?

I had tried several different diets before (weight watchers, atkins, etc) and had lost some weight but then gained it back.

My decision to lose weight occurred when I hit my own "rock bottom". I was on the Super Bowl special of  "Man vs. Food" and during the course of 3 hours I at an entire cake, several burgers, A Katz NY Deli Rueben, about 30 wings, and a 2 foot long cuban sandwich. I slept amazing that night, best food coma ever. The next morning I woke up and said to myself, "ok, mabye it wont hurt to lose 10lbs."

 4 - What were the 1-2 biggest keys in transforming yourself from then to now? (diet change, lifestyle change, workouts/CrossFit, etc)

The 2 biggest changes I made early on that resulted in the weight loss were:

Diet change:No Soda, ever. Switching all of my refined carbs to whole grains, no more white bread, rice, pasta etc.

Exercise: The first month all I did was walk on the incline treadmill for half an hour each day. I tried to make sure that I always burned 600 calories a day, incline walking will do that at 350. The most important thing was reminding myself to stay consistent, dont show up to the gym training like its a "Rocky" montage if youre not going to go back the next day to do it again. I scaled back my workouts to make sure that I didnt get burned out and stayed consistent, as my body started changing I increased the intensity to accommodate.

My biggest point to make would be that weight loss is 90% psychological, you absolutely have to change your mentality of how you view your life. I used to only look at food and think about what it was going to taste like, now I look at it as what is it going to do for me.



 5 -  Approximately how long did it take for the weight to come off?

3 months. Its kind of extreme, sometimes people think I starved myself but my plate was always full haha. I just made sure to eat filling foods that were fiber and protein rich.



6 - What is your current weight?




 7 - What role did CrossFit play in helping you reach your current weight?

When I started Crossfit I was running a lot. I weighed about 218 but wasn't really that athletic. Crossfit helped add on muscle mass that I was missing and it made me look at fitness a whole new way.

I used to go to the gym to stay in shape so it was kind of a chore. I now look forward to go WOD everyday because of the amazing community that CrossFit has and how everyone is like minded in their pursuit of better fitness.





 8 - Any advice for people out there that think transforming their body is next to impossible?

Always set short term goals, small victories add up. Don't think about losing 100lbs, focus on short term goals of 5lbs at a time and make sure to track it. I would always tell myself, "ok I lost 5lbs, lets see if I can lose another 5". I still have my weight tracking written down in a journal.



Paleo Diet Update - 45 Day Report

It’s been 45 days since I overhauled my diet to a much more strict Paleo regimen, so I figured it was time for a check in to not only assess how things have been going, but share my key learnings as well. 

Overall, the diet (or “eating lifestyle” as some would say) has worked very well for me.  Like anything else, I have made a few mistakes here and there (some minor, some major) but those mistakes have led to more research, asking more questions, and has been key to finally hitting somewhat of a sweet spot.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have basically eliminated the “healthy” carbs like oatmeal and sweet potatoes.  As a grain, oatmeal has no place in a Paleo lifestyle however sweet potatoes can be fine in moderation, or used selectively if one is a highly-active athlete (think CrossFit or endurance/triathlete).

As written in Robb Wolf’s book, I have limited my fruit intake to one serving per day.  This used to be a banana (pre-workout) or an apple, but those are higher sugar fruits so I have maintained strictly blueberries as my fruit serving, usually as an after-dinner dessert.

Key Mistakes:

1 – Not paying enough attention to protein sources

For years I have kept turkey meatballs from the grocery store as a part of my weekly shopping menu. They are ready-made and convenient, plus they are easy to track when counting calories. When discussing my energy levels with the group at my CrossFit gym, one smart girl questioned whether or not these turkey meatballs contained enough protein.  I checked the ingredients list (red flag: too many “ingredients”) and among the first few elements were enriched wheat flour, and bread crumbs. Same was true for the ready-made turkey burgers I was getting from the store. 

I didn’t eat a single one of them from that point on, and committed to cooking more legitimate and wholesome ground turkey.  Eventually I added protein sources like lamb, bison, and organic grass-fed ground beef.

2 – Not getting enough fat.

This probably should have been #1, as it is the single biggest key so far in making sure that my workouts not only have enough fuel to be sufficient, but can make improvements.  One article helped clearly illustrate for me just how important dietary fat can be in the absence of dietary carbs.  The metaphor I would use is that if the body is a fireplace or grill, protein can be burned for energy (like wooden logs or charcoal).  Dietary or muscular protein can be converted into glucose (fat cannot) but dietary fat is the kerosene or lighter fluid needed to help ignite the process.

One of the single worst CrossFit WODs I’ve had came the morning after doing a horrible job in getting enough fats into my meals.  My performance that day was so sluggish that even I had to laugh and make jokes with one of our coaches after it was done.  But even through the brutality, I had learned a crucial Paleo lesson – if you want to be an active individual, getting enough dietary fat is of maximum importance.

What am I eating?

A standard day’s eating looks something like this…

Breakfast: 4 scrambled eggs + ½ avocado

Mid-morning: ½ avocado + 4-5 pieces turkey bacon

Lunch: 8oz ground turkey or lamb + vegetables (mixed greens, asparagus, broccoli, etc) with LOTS of olive oil. May also add ½ avocado if training later in the day

Mid-afternoon: repeat of lunch, with ½ avocado

*If there is a training session scheduled later (usually 5:30 or 6:30pm), the last bite of the mid-afternoon meal goes down no closer than 2 hours before my WOD begins. Through trial and error I have discovered this is the window of time when my body can completely digest a solid meal and be ready to train without issues.

Pre-CrossFit WOD: 5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil and/or almond butter

*Taken usually 90 minutes before I train, this has become a great way to top off my energy stores heading into an intense training session.  It usually takes 45 minutes before my body feels the energy surge from something being ingested, but I allow an hour and a half due to fat being slower digesting/loading than fast-acting sugary carbs would be.

Post-WOD: Protein shake + amino acids

Dinner: Rotisserie Chicken + vegetables

*If still hungry close to bed time I may down 1-2 tbsp of almond butter and half a protein shake.


Thanks to the above, my energy levels have never been better.  While I am tired at points from the intense training, I no longer have the sleepy energy crashes I would get at my office desk after polishing off one of those giant 32oz smoothies that I loved so much.

I’ve also lost an inch from my abs (read: gut) and waist since a measurement 5 weeks ago.  People claim that I look leaner, and I do seem to fit better into shirts that were too tight before I started. I have also lost 8 pounds since I first began.

As previously mentioned, I’ve tried almost every dietary philosophy out there.  This is the first time I have experienced success in all phases (workouts, body composition, scale weight).

Some say that this diet is too restrictive, but personally I am enjoying the fact that grocery shopping is very simplistic since I know exactly what to buy. There is very little guess work.  There is also no time spent worrying about portion control as one would on Weight Watchers or similar philosophies.  Lowered carbohydrate eating (with an assumption of a reasonably-active lifestyle) allows a person to take in a greater volume of food than they are typically used to, as the body metabolically processes protein, veggies, and good fats differently (read: more efficiently) than heavier foods like grains, dairy, or lots of sugars.

Needless to say, things have gone very well thus far in the first 6 weeks and I am excited to see what happens both in-terms of bodily changes, and my CrossFit training as things continue to get dialed in. 

I don't foresee abandoning the Paleo lifestyle any time soon, and look forward to another check-in or status update a couple months from now.


Paleo Diet - Revisited

As you may know from reading, I've tried (or experimented with) quite a few dietary philosophies. 


I've done Intermittent Fasting...Low Carb...Vegetarian...Vegan/Raw Foods...and also Paleo.  


I've been eating a Paleo style for probably 8-10 months, but still haven't seen the changes in my body or weight that I would like.  As is usual case, the first step is not to analyze what might be wrong with the diet, but what's off-center about my discipline.


Thanks to a few friends (yes they're CrossFitters) I've come to realize that the carb intake in my diet is still too high.  To fuel for the brutal CrossFit WODs, I've been eating close to 2 sweet potatoes, 1-2 bananas, an apple, and occasionally 1 cup of oatmeal on an average day.  The leap of faith I've struggled to make with true low carb Paleo eating is to reduce the carb intake down to 1 fruit serving per day. 


The biggest question, at least for me has been - where does my energy come from?


Low carb Paleo eating relies much more on health fats (increased volume) to re-train the body from being a sugar burner (carbs in the system become glucose in the blood stream, to be used by our active mucles) to becoming a fat burner.  Most of us carry around many extra pounds of stored energy on our bodies (hips, belly, thighs, etc).


The tough part of this eating style is that it takes a while for the body to acclimate from receiving so many carbs/sugar calories for energy.  One of the best metaphors I heard was to think of it much like a computer trying to download new software or a spyware virus firewall.  There is a measure of time required for the system to register the update before it becomes new and improved.  Typically this time period sounds like 2 weeks on average, but obviously everyone's body and metabolic system differs,


I read "Paleo Solution" by Robb Wolf on a plane trip this past week, which was a great source in trying to figure out where to begin. Robb is one of the preimenent sources on Paleo eating.  He also pointed to a colleague, Charles Poliquin who advises his beginner Paleo clients to go with a "meat and nuts" breakfast (ex: deli turkey + almonds).   Mostly this is to ease in simplicity of execution for beginners.


You may ask - "So what are you now eating?"


Gone (for the intermediate future) are the bananas, apples, and bowls of oatmeal.  The Green Tea smoothies are also out (this is the toughest sacrifice to make).


In their place, I am eating 1-2 avocados each day (usually cut in half with each meal). I'm also trying to up the amounts of almonds, and olive oil (or similar-based dressings on salands).


There are literally hundreds of diet books and websites out there, but what does it for me is Real World application.  Two of my training buddies from CrossFit Dilworth lost close to 50 and 80 pounds respectively by eating Paleo style.

There are also several others I've met who report lost pounds of body fat, in addition to having much more stable and consistent energy levels during the day (versus the energy crashes that come with insulin drops from relying on carb sugar).


The goal is to stick with this plan of relying on healthy fat calories for energy through the 2 week "download" period and analyzing how I feel.  If things seem fine, the goal then becomes sticking with it  for the next two months throughout the summer.  I did one CrossFit WOD on this diet last week and reported a fine performance, the WOD would have been difficult with or without fruits and carbs for energy. I actually saw a few Paleo Food Trucks at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games this weekend, which was encouraging.


If things work out as well for me as they have for my friends, I'll be sure to follow up with results.  I also hope to do a separate post where my friends who have lost amazing amounts of weight share their strategies and hopefully help to inspire anyone else who isn't quite happy with what they see in the mirror, or how their clothes are fitting lately.


Until then, wish me luck every time I walk through the fruit isle at the grocery store or drive past the Smoothie shop.