Mixed Messages

I hear a lot of complaints about all the mixed messages in health reporting. A friend recently asked me in exasperation, “but how do I know what’s right? I read a fitness magazine yesterday and it contradicted itself in every article!” To make matters more difficult, scientists are constantly making new discoveries. Suddenly, the thing that you think is good for you is really bad for you. How can we keep up with all this?

Sometimes, I think there’s a conspiracy in the media, to keep us all fat and unhappy.

I’m kidding! I don’t think there’s a real conspiracy, but I do think the media does a good job of keeping us fat and unhappy because they have to sell us their products and programs. The best way to sell to us is to make us feel inadequate. Most headlines are designed specifically to make you feel insecure about your appearance or even make you believe you’ll die or your health will suffer.

The things that will really take care of what makes you feel inadequate–proper diet and exercise, sleep, stress management–will not sell copies of books or get enough shares on social media. Even the headlines for the good advice have to be sensationalized. And what’s the best way to sensationalize? Make you fearful and insecure!

Since there is not one plan that works for everyone, we each have to take the time to determine what is important to us. We each need to take the time to establish what our personal goals are, and how we can fit the right habits into our lives to help us reach those goals.

So few people actually do this. Most of us just try to cram other routines and tricks into our lives with the intention of “getting healthier”. Without a good grasp on our own goals and our own habits, we will succumb to whatever shiny message about getting lean and looking hot quick instead of building the habits to help us get what we really want.

I used to feel bitter about all these mixed messages in the media, and I stayed out of shape for years as a result. It took a lot of conscious effort, but now I am impervious to the sensational headlines! I took the time to determine what MY health goals are, and learned to be comfortable sticking with a routine that I know will work for me, even if a headline with a picture of a hot body tries to lead me astray.

What types of mixed messages do you receive? Are they hindering your progress?

I know why you already gave up on your resolution to get fit.

At the beginning of every year, millions of Americans create New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions attempt to change behavior and make life better, and “getting fit” or “getting healthy” is usually at the top of the list. By mid-February though, lots of those resolutions may have fallen by the wayside.

If you made a resolution this year, take a moment and re-assess it. How are you doing so far? Are you still on track? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably already “broken” it! Instead of beating yourself up about it (or worse, throwing your hands up and giving up on being healthy altogether!), I want you to examine what your New Year’s Resolution actually is—and that means looking at the reasoning behind it and the steps it may take to get there.

The problem is, everyone has the best of intentions. They pick the perfect plan to help them reach their goals, and vow to follow it perfectly once the New Year arrives. These plans usually include harsh rules and rigorous routines to follow—which means that within a few weeks, willpower wanes. These programs are not sustainable long term since they don’t fit into your life, and before long it seems like you’re right back where you started.

Take a look at what you really want for your health. Most people just want to feel better, look better, and be more productive and happy. This goal is best met by consistent habits that fit easily into your life and lifestyle, not by rigorous programs that require schedule upheavals and strict dietary restrictions.

Shift your goals to focus on the process rather than the outcome. After all, health is a lifelong journey. Instead of making it your goal to fit that rigorous program into your life, include the type of life you want to lead into your goal! If your goal is to be the most fit person on the planet, then all your free time would be devoted to diet and exercise. But I’m willing to bet you’re more like me: you want to be healthy, but don’t want to focus every minute of your day on diet and exercise. Without those rigorous behaviors being the focus of your life, you can loosen up on the programs and have more fun! Yes, you still make your health a priority and go to the gym—but it does not need to run your life. Knowing this can help make the idea of changing less scary, and help you renew your commitment to any resolution you made on January 1st.

Process-oriented equals improving in small steps every single week. Start with this week: how many days did you work out? How many days did you resist the doughnuts or the cake at the office? Or, if you’ve made a mistake, how can you choose differently next time? Celebrate your successes and then strive to do better the following week, instead of beating yourself up for not sticking to any unreasonable program you set up.

Throughout the year, I’ll be encouraging you to make better, consistent decisions. Creating the right routine for you—one that fits into your lifestyle and helps you become fitter and healthier—is a task that is constantly evolving throughout the year as you improve. Even if you already have a routine you enjoy, maybe it’s time to tweak it a little and add some new challenges! Whether starting from scratch or assessing your current routine, contact me for an appointment so I can help you stick with that resolution!

Get Strong, Not Bulky!

I don’t mean to brag (okay, maybe I do a little) but I’m skinnier than when I was a teen. Technically, I weigh the exact same now as I did my senior year in high school, but I’m a full dress size smaller.

How did that happen?

Well, a few years ago I started a progressive strength program with and emphasis on movements such as squats, dead lifts, bench press, and pull ups. I wanted to learn how to properly execute these moves, do a body weight pull-up without assistance, and increase the amount of weight I could lift. I didn’t admit it out loud when I started the program, but I was certain it would make me look bulky. However, after just two months my jeans were looser and friends were giving me compliments about how trim I looked. It’s a good thing I didn’t really want to lose weight because I only lost about three pounds on the scale, but I dropped a full dress size. A FULL DRESS SIZE. Now I don’t care about the numbers on the scale, and you shouldn’t either!

I’m trying to figure out how and why the myth that lifting heavy weights makes you bulky is still prevalent in fitness magazines and the mainstream media because it is simply untrue.  For years, I would mimic the workouts of many popular celebrities, which consisted of dance moves and circuits with light weights. I did lose weight and look better, it just took far more time than the progressive program. I also let my weight dictate the impression of my health and appearance. I understand it’s hard to change your mindset, but there are two important things to keep in mind if you’re going to use the scale to track your progress:

1. Muscle burns fat while you’re at rest, so it’s best to lift heavy if you have limited time to exercise. If you have four to five hours to dance around in the gym, then go ahead. If you don’t, be sure to maximize your time by lifting heavy. The weight should be challenging enough that you can only complete 8-10 reps. If you can do more than 10, the weight is too light.

2. Muscle weighs more than fat, so you won’t see much of a difference on the scale while you’re lifting heavy. Instead, you’ll notice a lower body fat percentage, lost inches around your waist, and looser clothes. Also, your friends and coworkers will notice a difference! Many of my clients get comments from their spouses before they notice a difference themselves.

Again, I know it’s hard to change the mindset, but stop looking at the scale if that’s how you’re monitoring your progress right now. Instead, focus on improving your fitness level and getting stronger. In later posts, I’ll discuss the program I went on in greater detail and I’ll be providing specific suggestions for your workouts.

So, if lifting heavy weights doesn’t cause bulk, what does? Cheeseburgers, pizza, too many drinks at happy hour are all culprits of bulk. In fact, ask yourself this question before you put anything in your mouth: “is this going to make me bulky?” Don’t ask that about lifting heavy weights in the gym. And stop giving the numbers on the scale more attention than they deserve!

You are Stronger Than the Plateau!

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
-Benjamin Franklin

Last week, I mentioned a recent study conducted on the Hazda Tribe in Tanzania. They’re a group of hunter-gatherers that still live without modern technology, and you can read the study itself here. Doctors monitored the tribe members’ daily energy expenditure, and the shocking surprise was this: it turns out these hunter-gatherers actually don’t expend any more calories per day than the average Americans and Europeans. This study has been widely cited because it implies that sedentary lifestyles are not the main culprit of our obesity epidemic. So what is going on?

Anyone who has stuck to the same training program for several weeks at a time has likely seen a decrease in effectiveness. This is a common fallacy that many people have: they think they can reach a fitness goal, then adapt to a stable routine that never changes in order to “maintain” their results. I hate to break it to you, but this is just not the case. Continual improvement is essential, and you can achieve this through applying the concept of periodized progression to your exercise regimen.

Athletes use this concept to train methodically and build strength while at the same time decreasing the risk of injury. I’ve seen the evidence time and again, which is why all my clients are on periodized programs in which we build on and improve their abilities each week. Let’s go through a series of progressions right now, using the squat as an example. I often start many clients on a regular body weight squat, and then we add weight over the next few weeks as they perfect their form. Next we can switch it up by performing a single leg squat, and adding more weight over the subsequent weeks. Then we can cycle back into the regular squat, but add another exercise with it, such as an overhead press–you get the idea. The point is to progressively add weight or complexity to your routine each week. The possibilities are endless, and there are many different combinations you can use.

Some of my clients tell me that this is discouraging news: “You mean I have to keep progressing FOREVER, and exercise will ALWAYS be a challenge?!” Yes, your workouts should always challenge you mentally and physically. If you can mindlessly complete your workout, then you’re not working hard enough to produce any change in your body. The dream seems to be to reach a point in which you can work out with minimal effort, but as the study on the Hazda tribe indicates, your body will eventually adapt to your physical output. I think it would be far more discouraging to ignore this basic principle of our physiology and not get any results at all! And think of it this way: it means that you get to constantly learn and improve, and your workouts will never get stale or boring. Knowing how the body really works makes me realize on a daily basis how efficient it really is, so I always enjoy thinking of new ways to challenge myself!

I’ll be discussing more ways to get the most out of your workouts in the following weeks. Next week I’ll explain how a progressive, periodized strength program helped me drop a full dress size last year, even though I didn’t lose any weight on the scale!


Welcome to my new website! I would like to thank everyone for their support and enthusiasm as I built my private business over the past two years. Thanks to you, I’ve been able to help hundreds of people in New York City become more active. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I get to help others become healthier! My clients and colleagues have been tremendously inspiring and I’m so grateful I get to work with so many amazing people.

Many of you already know about my own personal weight loss journey. If not, you can read about it here. When I weighed nearly 200 pounds, I sought information from the usual sources: fitness magazines, celebrity trainers, and the mainstream media. I tried fad diets and all sorts of other quick fixes, but it wasn’t until I started integrating sensible, healthy habits and changing my overall lifestyle that I finally lost the weight. The permanent changes I made have kept the weight off for over seven years now, and it’s never coming back!

During my six years as a personal trainer, I’ve studied with some of the top leaders in the fitness industry and worked at several elite gyms. I was shocked to discover that many of my own perceptions about exercise were completely wrong, and to see how many basic principles of exercise science are misrepresented in pop culture and the mainstream media. I help my clients reach their fitness goals by shattering these myths and I hope this newsletter can do the same for you. My goal is to provide you all with the latest news in exercise science as well as practical ways to apply it to your life.

I am always looking for suggestions for newsletter topics, so if you have an idea or question, click here and leave a comment. Next week, I will discuss a recent study about the Hazda tribe in Tanzania. The surprising results have been widely reported over the past few weeks, and the findings gave me an idea about how I can help you avoid plateaus in your fitness journey.