Warrior/28 Phase 1 Results

28 days later: time for the results.

At the outset of this experiment, the hypothesis was that I could engage in behavior modification, making small changes to my daily routine, and see results.

I would say that qualitatively, my hypothesis played out.

I didn’t cut out all sugar or grains, or only eat grass-fed, organic, artisanal beef. I just made sure that I was eating real food, and not gorging myself on entire pints of Ben & Jerry’s or eating the whole 10″ pizza and fries. I did cut out my daily trip to Starbucks for chai lattes (I only do that once a week) and I did cut soda out of my diet (again, maybe once per week with the soda).

For comparison to when I started:

Starting Now Difference
Weight 169.8 162.5 -7.3
Body Fat % 22.30% 20.90% -1.40%
BMI 25.1 24 -1.1

With just these small changes, I lost 7.3 pounds and my body fat came down almost 1.5%. I believe that by continuing this course that I will continue to see positive gains on this front.

On the qualitative front:


Moving into Phase 2, the plan is to now increase my exercise output. I would like to add 1-2 hours of exercise into my routine each week. This is in addition to my regular training 2 days a week at Semper Fi MMA Academy. The challenge here: I’m currently injured.  My shoulder has been inflamed for the last 2-3 weeks, and I hurt my knee training yesterday, so it will likely be a couple of weeks before I can enact this part of the plan.

Warrior/28 Week 4 – End of Phase 1

The final week of the first phase of my plan. Next week I’ll post the initial results.

Phase 1 is about setting up good eating habits: skipping the daily latte and fast breakfast food, prepping my meals for the week to ensure a healthier meal and to save some money, including more vegetables and eating like a grown up. While there have been a few slip ups here and there, overall I believe that the process is working.

Phase 2 will look at the fitness side. As I stare down the barrel of 40, I can’t get away with doing a few pushups and crunches a few times a week as my sole source of exercise.  I train jiu jitsu 3 times a week, and while that is a hell of a workout, it doesn’t pack the same punch as it used to. I’ll be looking at ways to supplement that training.

This week’s meals: going veg this week. I love me some protein, but every now and then it’s nice to change things up. With a cold front moving in, having some nice comfort food will be a plus as well.

On the table this week:

  • Brown Rice and Black Beans from Alton Brown’s Everyday Cook
  • Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite

I got on a roll in the kitchen before I could plate things nicely for a picture, but rest assured, they were both taste tested, and they were both excellent.

Warrior/28 Week 2

You will notice something about this process: I’m not counting calories. I’m moderating my intake, to be sure (i.e. not eating the entire thing of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting), and playing the common sense game.  But I’m not monitoring my intake the same way I would if I were cutting weight for a jiu jitsu competition. Why?

The goal is Warrior/28 is to build good, long-term habits. The way to do this is to focus on only a few behavioral changes, and then set goals that allow for many small wins. A small win can be not going to Starbucks for my Chai, even though I’m having that craving. It can be completing the day and sticking to the plan.

Overcame temptation? Win. Stayed on goal for today? Win.

What this does is start reprogramming the brain. What happens when we win? Chemicals, such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin are released in the brain that create a mood of happiness and elation. We then seek out opportunities that will allow for similar releases.  If we can associate making a positive change with these chemical releases, it will be easier to make decisions that support this change.

The first phase of Warrior/28 is to simply focus on nutrition. If I throw in too much, like restricting calories, or upping my exercise significantly, I’m putting too many opportunities to negate the wins with set backs. If I’m starving and have a headache from not eating enough, my brain won’t see this as a positive thing, and I’ll then go looking for some other activity to get me that chemical feedback (i.e. I’ll get a case of the munchies and eat a whole bag of Goldfish). If I miss a workout, or get hurt and can’t train for a while, again, I’ll be getting negative feedback. This can derail the whole process.

The goal here is to stack up a lot of small victories and get the nutrition on track. Once that habit has been built, I can move on to Phase 2, which will involve upping the exercise game using the same principles of lots of small wins. With a solid foundation of good eating habits, because you can’t out-train a bad diet, it will be easier to shift the focus over to the physical fitness side. Phase 3 will involve looking at the whole picture, and seeing what still needs work, and making tweaks to develop those habits.

Once Phase 3 is complete, that will be 12 solid weeks of building two good habits (eating reasonably, and getting enough exercise). I can then either continue to tweak what I’ve already done, or look at other areas where I would like to build better habits, and start again at Phase 1 while maintaining what I’ve already done. If the original stuff starts to slip, I can take a step back and reinforce those activities.

So, on the menu for week 2:

  1. Chicken Tikka Masala: got this from Alton Brown’s Every Day Cook book (which is a signed copy, by the way), and because I couldn’t find the turkey thighs in the recipe, I substituted chicken thighs. Looking forward to this.
  2. The dressing for the salad, below…basically just a little orange juice, some lemon juice, olive oil, and whole grain mustard.
  3. Mango, avocado, and smoked chicken salad. This one is from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite. I seasoned the chicken with the Zombie Blend spice rub on them (available in early 2017) and smoked it with mesquite for about an hour.

I’ll still be doing my normal snacks throughout the week (yogurt with granola, apples, protein bars).

Warrior/28 Meals – Week 1

The idea behind this whole experiment is to make it as easy as possible. Most of the programs I see 1) focus on short term results, and not on long term changes, and 2) make it impossible to stick with because the meal plans suck, plain and simple.

Food needs to taste good, first and foremost. If it doesn’t, you won’t want to eat it, no matter how healthy it is. Second, unless you are someone who has a surplus of time, if making the food isn’t easy, you won’t do it. Humans are creatures of habit, and tend to take the path of least resistance.

When it comes to food, that usually means hitting Starbucks for breakfast, Chipotle for lunch, and pizza delivery for dinner. Once we’ve ceded the decision to make our own meal, once we’ve made that one, small compromise, it becomes easier to compromise on subsequent decisions: instead of finding the healthy option at one of the aforementioned places, maybe we get one that’s not quite as good for us. And maybe, once we’ve done that, we get the venti instead of the grande. (I can only speak to my personal experience on this.)

So the first phase of Warrior/28 is all about creating long term change. I prepared some easy meals for the week on Sunday, and I can mix and match most of the stuff here to change it up so I’m not stuck eating the same lunch or dinner every day. You can see this week’s meal plan here. Just know, this isn’t set in stone, and I’ll update it as I go.

(Clockwise, from left)

  1. Warrior Chicken: dinner 3 nights this week. Seasoned with Warrior Blend (see below)I’ll have that with some steamed veggies (not pictured) and the Coconut Rice (see below)
  2. Avocado: I’ll keep one of thee around as either a mix-in with my lunch, or with my eggs, should I be so inclined to actually make some before work
  3. Fuji Apples: afternoon snacks
  4. RX Bars: so many nutrition bars to choose from! That’s a post for another day. Most nutrition bars, while high in protein, are also higher than I would like in cholesterol, and with my family history with heart disease, that’s a route I’d just as soon avoid. I picked up these guys because it looked like a flavor I would like, and there are only 7 ingredients in them. I’ll let you know how they work out.
  5. Granola bars: I mix them into my yogurt. Adds a little more protein, puts some crunch in the yogurt, and let’s face it, fiber is our friend.
  6. Chobani Greek Yogurt: protein, and while there are conflicting studies on how beneficial yogurt can be for your gut, I figure it can’t hurt. I’m always starving around mid-morning, regardless of what I have for breakfast, so this helps bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch.
  7. Cilantro and Red Bell Pepper: pre chopped and ready to mix into any of my meals, should the mood take me. I like having options for flavor so that I don’t feel like I’m eating the same thing every day.
  8. Zombie Spice Blend, and Warrior Spice Blend: always keep spice rubs around. It’s an easy way to prepare a meal: take meat or veggies, add spice rub, and cook.  Done. The Zombie Spice Blend (soon to be available from Saint Brian’s BBQ) is a Caribbean jerk style rub with coffee grounds, adding a nice flavor profile and a little caffeine kick. The Warrior Spice Blend (also soon to be available from Saint Brian’s BBQ) is specially formulated to take advantage of spices that studies have shown to have properties that aid in recovery, and it has no salt, so it won’t make you retain extra water.
  9. Pork chops with Zombie Blend: this will be one of my lunches this week, eaten in taco form.
  10. Barbecue Chicken: seasoned with Dash Cunning Spice Rub, grilled, and shredded. Other lunches this week. These, too, will be consumed in taco form. I’ll add either Saint Brian’s Original Sauce or Sweet Victory Sauce to punch it up.
  11. White Corn Tortillas: whole wheat tortillas are crap. Let’s face it.  They fall apart when you look at them. They serve no purpose in conveying food from my plate into my mouth, other than to lull me into a false sense of security before dumping food all over my hand and down my arm.
  12. Apple Slaw: I julienned a Fuji apple, mixed it with a pre-bagged coleslaw mix, and added a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, and honey. This will go really well with my lunch tacos.
  13. Coconut rice with cilantro: I made Minute Rice, but instead of water I used coconut water to add some flavor (plain rice is incredibly bland). I added some chopped cilantro to add some freshness. I didn’t feel the need to go with brown rice because A) I don’t like it, and B) a recent study has shown that there are no health benefits to eating brown rice over white rice.

Not pictured: steamed veggies, and breakfast.  The steamed veggies come in those bags from the freezer section that you can just throw in the microwave. That will round out my dinners. Breakfast is usually just a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats. Between taking care of the dogs (one requires chicken in his bowl or we won’t eat his food; he also will not poop unless he is on a walk, and I need to carry him up and down steps because his hips are bothering him) and getting myself ready, I don’t have a lot of time in the morning for much more.

Warrior/28: Week 1

Here I am, day 1 of the 28 day challenge. The hypothesis: is it possible to make small changes to my diet, and nothing else, over 28 days and see a change in my physical fitness and instill longer-term change? This will be measured quantitatively (will I lose weight, improve my BMI, and lower my body fat percentage), and qualitatively (do I look/feel better).

Starting weight/body fat %/BMI: 169.8 lbs / 22.3% / 25.1

This is the heaviest I’ve been, ever, and I need to turn this around. I have a history of heart disease in my family, and as I turn 40 in a year, I need to establish a better, healthier lifestyle in order to build a foundation for the years to come.

A little bit about my philosophy on this meal schedule:

  • I am a creature of dichotomies: I crave both routine and variety. So while I don’t necessarily want to eat the same thing for lunch every day, I need the “schedule” of preparing meals for myself, otherwise I get out of the habit very quickly and fall into bad habits (read: I go to Wawa a lot). I attempted to build in some variety with my meals, while still allowing for me to prepare them at once and thus save time during the week.
  • I need this to fit into a “regular person” schedule. By this I mean that I don’t always have the time or energy to prepare meals (I have a full time job in addition to running Saint Brian’s), so that means that there are days that I go out to eat. I feel that most normal people do this, so I’m attempting to build this with that in mind.
  • You’ll notice that several times during the week, I’m eating a banana and chocolate milk for “dinner”. These are my jiu jitsu nights, so I tend to eat light before practice (8:30 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Semper Fi MMA Academy). I’ll make sure that I’m getting enough calories earlier in the day to fuel the workout.

My usual routine, as it has been for a few months now is this (and I follow with what I’m attempting to do differently):

  • Wake up at 6:00 am, feed and walk the dogs
  • Make breakfast: this is usually Frosted Mini Wheats and 2% milk. The change: attempt to incorporate more protein, such as eggs. The challenge: time.
  • Stop at Starbucks for a venti no water vanilla Chai latte, and if I skipped breakfast or was running late, I’ll get either their oatmeal or chorizo breakfast sandwich. The change: no more lattes, and no chorizo sandwiches. If I stop there, it will be for normal tea to get my caffeine fix, and the oatmeal is OK. The challenge: the Chai lattes are delicious. And, you know, chorizo.
  • Work from 8 until noon, no snacks, and then get lunch. This is a rotation between Wawa (either an Italian hoagie or a chicken sandwich with chipotle sauce and bacon, Shorti for both) and Chipotle for a burrito. On Fridays, we all at the office get lunch together somewhere. The change: stop going out for lunch, and bring my own prepared lunch, or limit myself to SaladWorks (I get a Tivoli with no dressing and extra spinach). I’ll still get lunch with the team on Fridays, but will either alter the meals the rest of the day or find a healthier option wherever we are eating. I’ll also be adding a mid-morning snack, so this should help cut down on the appetite at lunch. The challenge: I have no discipline when I get ravenous. And I love burritos.
  • Work through the afternoon, no snacks, until 5ish. Get home, feed and walk the dogs, veg on the couch for a bit. Typical fare for dinner (on non-training nights): pasta drizzled in olive oil, or popcorn, or pizza. So, yeah, I still eat like a college student. The change: eating actual adult food with meat and vegetables. Adding an afternoon snack. The challenge: time and energy to make the food.
  • Tuesday and Thursday nights at 8:30, and Saturdays at noon, I have jiu jitsu practice, so I’ll go light on meals leading into class. I don’t want o cramp up or vomit all over my training partner. That is frowned upon (though not expressly forbidden).
  • Dessert any time between 7:30 and 9:30 pm. This usually will be several Oreos (one row is a serving, right?), or ice cream, or whatever sweets are around. The change: I’m not getting rid of dessert, I just need to moderate it to being the actual suggested serving size. The challenge: will power. And that fact that Ben and Jerry’s puts all of their ice cream in single serving pint containers.
  • Sleep by 10:30 or 11.

One additional, qualitative benefit to this experiment will be looking at my sleep. I have every intention every night of being in bed by 10 or 10:30 so I can get 7.5-8 hours of sleep, but it’s rare that this happens. So an additional, secondary question here would be: will altering my diet improve the quality of my sleep?

For those playing along at home, I’ll include links to any of the recipes that I use. I’m preparing my meals later today, but for now, you can view this week’s meal schedule here. It’s a work in progress and not set in stone. I’ll likely make changes throughout the week, and if/when I do, I’ll post an update.