How to be good enough

by Brad Pilon

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I am not a perfectionist, and I don’t think you have to be one in order to be ‘healthy’.

Sure, to get ridiculously low levels of body fat and extreme levels of muscularity, you have to be very dedicated, but once you step away from the ledge of extremes you’ll find that you can get a way with looking pretty good and feeling pretty good on a relatively small amount of work, and certainly a lot less stress.

I fast twice a week for roughly 24 hours. Sometimes it’s twenty, but rarely is it ever over twenty-four. This, combined with somewhat responsible eating ( I didn’t get a donut this morning, but I am eating a bowl of frosted mini-wheats) keeps my body fat somewhere between 10 and 12%. Not fitness model 8% or extremely low 6%, but a pretty good 10 to 12%.  It’s pretty good, and I’m OK with that.

I work out with weights roughly twice per week. This amount of training is not going to win me any bodybuilding contests, but it’s enough to keep the base I built over the last twenty years. I could workout more, and sometimes I do, but right now, 2 workouts per week means a lot of extra time to spend with my family. and I’m more than OK with this too.

I’m also pretty good at staying healthy. Yesterday news came out that suggested that consuming processed meat is linked to cancer. Eating 50 grams of processed meat per day can slightly increase your risk of Bowel Cancer. Well, for two 24 hour periods per week I don’t eat any meat at all. So no stress. Sugar is apparently bad for you too.. again for two 24 hour periods per week I don’t eat any sugar at all… so I’m not too worried about that one either.

Could I do more for my health? Green smoothies every day, no alcohol, only raw organic local produce? sure. But I’m OK with where I am.

Bottom line – there are lots of experts who can help you with the extremes. So if extreme is what you want, there are lots of options.  I’m a master of ‘good enough’. If looking good and being healthy is important to you, but not at the expense of consuming your life, than I have some pretty simple, time tested advice.

  1. Fast once or twice a week – it doesn’t have to be 24 hours, it could be 16, or 20, must make sure you’re taking a break from eating occasionally.
  2. Stress less. Do your best to only stress about the things that are actually worth stressing about.
  3. Lift. As little as twice a week can do wonders. Three to four times per week is great, just be careful as you’ll start to see diminishing returns after a while.
  4. Move. Do something that makes you breath a little harder each and every day. I like climbing, but do something that you find fun.
  5. Eat. PLEASE EAT. But eat responsibly. You don’t have to be a saint with your food, but you can’t eat like every day is thanksgiving either.
  6. Sleep – Get a good nights sleep. If you’re doing the first five things properly, this should be a little bit easier.

It’s a bit of an art-science to discover your own ‘pretty good’ and your own ‘good enough’.  A beautiful blend of combining what you know you should do with what you actually want to do. It’s worth knowing and worth experimenting with… life shouldn’t always be about extremes.


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Here’s my take on the whole ‘5 foods to lose weight’ thing

List the 5 foods you know you have to eat for weight loss. They can be any combination of the daily things you eat that either A) support your weight loss efforts, or B) You need to eat in order to NOT feel like you are on some crazy restrictive diet that is slowly ruining your life and making you a miserable person to be around 😉

Here’s my list:

1- Protein – I like to have around 100 grams a day, and without supplements this takes a little practice

2 – Water – OK, not technically a food, but it helps keep my head clear and I can tell when I forget to drink enough.

3 – Espresso in the morning – Probably the only thing that keeps me from committing terrible crimes

4 – Guinness – Want to make me VERY aware that I am dieting? Then take this away from me. I don’t need a drink every night, but knowing I CAN have  pint if I WANT TO goes a long way in making responsible eating manageable.

5 – Mint chocolate chip ice-cream – If I had to choose between having Ice-cream or abs, I would go buy bigger pants right now. The ice-cream would win. Luckily I don’t have to make that choice. I just have to keep the serving size realistic.

That’s my 5 foods. If I keep these all as priorities and acceptable options then weight loss and weight maintenance are much easier for me. If I don’t keep these in check, then weight loss becomes difficult and I become miserable, making me feel ‘restricted’ which usually ends with me breaking down after a week or two, since I miss eating the foods and having the drinks I like the most.

I’d like you to take some time and identify your 5 foods.  They can be any combination of foods you feel you ‘need’ while losing weight (like my protein and water) and foods you ‘want’ in order to feel human (everything else on my  list).

Once you have your list of 5 foods, here’s what you do next:

Tally up the Calories that come from your 5 foods. Feel free to round up.

For me this comes to:

1 – 100 grams of protein X 4 Calories per gram, plus a bunch of heavy rounding = 500 Calories
2 – Zero Calories
3 – Zero Calories
4 – 120 Calories, but I’ll round to 150 to be safe (Calories in Beer vary from country to country so don’t take this as gospel)
5 – 250 Calories, but I’ll round to 350 to be safe (Depends on the brand)

Next subtract these calories from your daily calorie goal.

So my ‘must haves’ come to 1,000 calories. This means I have anywhere from 800 to 1,400 calories every day for other food. And remember, it’s not like I have ice-cream and Guinness EVERY day, so sometimes this number is lower.

The bottom line is now I only have to worry about the ‘other foods’ I eat in a day. And it’s much easier to be good knowing that the foods I really want to have, I’m allowed to have. No feeling deprived.

Identifying your ‘must haves’ helps keep everything in perspective as you try to manage your weight.

Try it out.

Your friend,


Never Skip Leg Day

by Brad Pilon

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Friends don’t let friends skip leg day, or so the saying goes…

Small legs, chicken legs, the triumphant retort of any one to any body with a good bench or built upper body…

But is it justified?

Legs are important to sports performance and good physique, not to mention your long term health (A smaller thigh circumference is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases in both men and women) but what’s an appropriate ratio?

After all, you know me, I’m all about ratios 😉

Well, let’s look at the research. We can look at the body shape of top level athletes to figure out what is a reasonable thigh size. I’m going to focus on men just to simplify the process a bit.

Let’s start with a study examining 30 competitive male middle-weight power lifters who average 38 years old, with a height of around 5’9” and weight of around 190 pounds with a percent body fat of 13%.

Their average squat was 470 pounds, average bench was 315 pounds and average Dead lift was 505 pounds, so these guys were pretty strong to say the least (I’m guessing these were competition numbers so probably not ‘raw’).

On average these men had thighs with a circumference of 24 inches.

There hips had a circumference of 39-40 inches, giving a hip to thigh ratio of  60-62%

Next let’s look at elite cricket fast bowlers, athletes that are typically much taller and leaner than a power lifter…

Here we have men who are 6’2” and around 193 pounds, these guys were younger than the power lifters averaging 24 years old. Their thighs were 24 inches and their hips were 39-40 inches. So roughly the same size as the power lifters, only stretched out over 5 more inches of height.

Again a thigh to waist ratio of 60-62%

We can also look at a group of elite Australian road cyclists who were roughly 23 years old. These cyclists were 5’10″ with a thigh measurement of 24.5 inches. Unfortunately they didn’t measure hip circumference or body fat, but at least we know that we’re falling into the 24 ‘ish’ range in men who are 5’10” and based on their sport of choice we would assume to have well developed thigh muscles.

Next we can look at Elite male alpine skiers. These men were 5’11 and 190 pounds, 27 years old and 16% body fat. Average thigh here was 25.4 inches. This is the biggest so far, but it is worth noting that this data set also had some of the heavier and fatter men we’ve seen studied with one man having 26 inch thighs, but also being 6’5” 225 pounds and over 20% body fat. Still, we’re getting a good idea of thigh size in elite athletes of different shapes and sizes.

Finally we have a stronger and larger group of male power lifters. These guys had an average squat of 570 pounds, and were also shorter (5’7”) heavier (average 210 pounds) and fatter (average 16% body fat) then the previous group.

These men had 41 inch hips and 25.7 inch thighs for a hip to thigh ratio of just a bit over 62.5%

Based on these findings it seems that a hip to thigh ratio of just about the golden ratio, where your thighs at their widest point are 61.8% of your hip circumference seems to be possible, and judging by pictures of pro-athletes such as rugby and football players also very aesthetic.

Also we can see that generally a well built man between the heights of 5’7″ and 6’2” with lower levels of body fat (around 10%) can have a target of thighs that are roughly 24-26 inches in circumference. Granted there are always exceptions to the rule, but if you are worried about the size of your legs, this is a good bench mark to use.

However, it should be noted that it may not be the maximal circumference that makes a thigh appear big or small… it might be the lower circumference more towards the knee.

In research looking at rugby players who were 21 years old, 5’11 and 195 pounds, the average thigh at it’s widest point was 24.5 inches in circumference, at mid thigh (mid way between the knee cap and hip) the thigh was 22 inches, and bottom of the thigh, down near the knee was 16.5 inches… so it may be this ‘right above the knee measurement’ that biases us towards thinking a thigh is big or small.

So even if you are 5’10” and have 25 inch thighs at their largest, they may still look ‘smallish’ if the majority of the mass is up closer to your butt as opposed to down by your knee.

Also, it seems that the thigh is viewed relative to your hips and waist, so big butt or big waist (either by being overweight or muscular imbalance) will make you thigh look smaller by comparison.


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If I remember correctly, the FTC views the use of animal research in supplement advertising to be one of the most heinous advertising infractions, right up there with Photoshopped before and after photos.


Because they believed that due to the lack of transferability of animal research to humans, doing so would be intentionally misleading the customer as to the potential benefits of said supplement.

Even the most ‘fly-by-night’ ethically-devoid supplement companies do not use animal trials in their marketing for this reason.

Keep this in mind when you see journalists and bloggers reporting on the latest mouse research, using it to create clickbait style articles about human diet, nutrition and weight loss.

Alright, now that I’ve said that, lets get to that article that appeared on Yahoo suggesting that skipping a meals will actually make you fatter.

It was an animal study, using mice.

We know that mice are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in both body weight and meal patterns. They are very small animals, and without getting too technical I’ll just say it’s well known in the scientific community that many parts of metabolism scale with size.

For 5 days the mice in the diet group were given half the amount of food as the control mice, and all of the food was provided in one meal per day (that’s why it’s being referred to as a ‘fasting study’).

After 5 days of dieting the mice were allowed to gorge for 13 days, they were given an amount of food that was the same or more as the control mice, and were still only eating it all in one meal.

So what happened?

The control mice continue to grow normally, and their weight increased throughout the study, but the fasting diet-restricted mice lost almost 20% of their body weight in the first 5 days of the study. (This should be your first hint that mice are different than humans. If you and I eat 50% of our daily intake for 5 days we’re not going to lose 20% of our body weight – heck, we could do this for a month and we’re probably not losing 20% of our body weight.)

Then, the fasted mice were fed 98-122% of the amount of food as the growing control mice, so the fasted mice started to grow… and they grew quickly. If you think about it, they were getting fed the same amount of food (or more) as the mice that were 30% heavier then them… so rapid weight gain (and fat gain) make sense.

So end result? Mice who rapidly lost 20% of their body weight and then regained most of that weight by overeating ended up with larger fat cells then the control mice. I’m not sure why this is surprising.

They also had worse measurements of a bunch of health markers… again not surprising.

I’m not sure how much the eating cycle mattered here. Again, as I stated earlier, mice are really sensitive to eating patterns so it probably did play some sort of role, but rapid weight loss then overfeeding causing increased fat stores and messed up glucose control isn’t surprising.

What’s surprising is the reporting.

Overeating and causing rapid weight gain is generally not a good idea. Losing excess body fat generally is.

So what does this have to do with humans and Intermittent Fasting?

Simple. Fasting is popular, so it makes for great headline fodder.

We were baited in with the headline, then they attempted to blind us with the science.

Here’s the truth – There are lots of ways to lose excess body fat – Fasting is just one of dozens.

They all work, and some will obviously work better for you then others, based on your personal likes and dislikes and styles of eating.

The bottom line is please don’t worry about the mouse study, and feel free to voice your anger when people use mice to try and tell you how to eat.

Mice aren’t people, people aren’t mice. Yes, there is value in animal research and animal research can lead to proof of concept for human studies, but jumping right from animal trials to setting dietary recommendations for humans is reckless.


Another weird diet trick

by Brad Pilon

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Here’s another easy trick for successful long term weight loss.

…save room for dessert.

It’s a simple strategy, but it works.

I don’t really count carbs or fats. I count protein and calories, and even then, most of it is a guess.

But that’s just me, really it doesn’t matter what it you count, this trick is the same – save some of your calories / carbs / fats for dessert.

Whatever you count, save some of it for dessert.

My choice is usually mint chocolate chip ice-cream. I don’t go crazy with it – A cup of ice-cream in the evening is all I need to not feel like I’m depriving myself.

Give me a pint of Guinness at dinner and a bowl of ice-cream before bed and I can be 100% on track with the rest of my eating for months and months.

Deprivation kills consistency, and consistency is where your results come from.

If a diet isn’t sustainable, it’s not going to work.


One weird trick for weight loss

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I know, I know it sounds like one of those weird weight loss ads, but this is actually a weird trick for you to try.

I call it the The calendar method (Truthfully, I think I got this from one … Read More

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My Weekly Routine

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In any given week I do something called carb-cycling.

Throughout the week I will cycle from days where I eat a normal amount of carbs to times  where I eat zero carbs, and in between I have times where I … Read More

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Weekend Weight Experiment

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This past weekend was my Thanksgiving (I live in Canada). And, Thanksgiving in Canada is a lot like Thanksgiving in the US… it involves a LOT of eating.

So for fun, I decided to track my weight over this joyous … Read More

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Creating Weakness

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It’s been a while since I really felt ‘right’ about my lifting. For the longest time, I thought that I simply didn’t care as much as I used to, but now I’m sure that I still care. In fact, the … Read More

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Weight Gain Loops

Part of the large part of the Etiology of weight gain is an incredibly strong feedback loop – And I’m not talking about insulin or leptin or some other hormone.

No, I’m talking about something MUCH stronger.

But before we … Read More

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