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Mike Stickel

Aspiring fitness coach, lifter of heavy things, diy–er, and doggie parent.

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Wrecking your diet, one night at a time

The first in a series of posts about the importance of sleep. In his post, Greg Nuckols goes over a study conducted to ascertain how sleep affects results of dieting and changes in body composition. It’s a great breakdown of the study with some shocking (or not so shocking for some people) results.

Quick tips for tracking nutrition

Tracking what you eat can be one of the hardest parts of losing weight—or it can be straightforward. Grab a pen and paper because I’m going to give you a few tips to make tracking your food a lot easier.

#1. Only track your macronutrients

Don’t fuss over everything on the nutrition labels. The only things you should be looking at and tracking are the macronutrients (aka macros): protein, carbohydrates, fat, and serving size.

Here’s a detailed article on why you want to track macros and the best way to do it:

This is a great app for doing the actual tracking: Fitocracy Macros (iOS only for now, my review of the app)

#2. Weigh your food

Admit it, you’re just like me and when you measure food you put a little extra on. Everyone does it (except those psycho bodybuilders who carry food around with them all day). Unfortunately that “little extra” really adds up throughout the day. The best way to find out how much you’re really eating is by weighing it. This post from the archive shows how much the little extra effects you:

A nice video explaining the same principle

And a handy guide to weighing meat/fish

That’s probably good for now. There is a lot of information to digest (pun intended) in those links. Check ’em out and if you have questions post them on my Facebook page

Weighing in on The Biggest Loser controversy

Last week the season finale of The Biggest Loser aired and caused quite a stir. All the news sites had something to say—even Perez Hilton wrote about it. Everyone has an opinion on winner Rachel Frederickson’s drastic 155 lb. weight loss.

What I’ve read so far concentrates on the fact most people (read: writers and journalists) feel she lost too much weight. They often bring up her low BMI (Body Mass Index)—which is an inherently flawed system on a good day.

First of all, let’s remember this is a competition show with a $250,000 prize. That is a life changing amount of money for a lot of people (especially the typical contestant on the show). What would you do for $250,000?

Rachel didn’t have nearly the amount of weight to lose Bobby or David did. She proved she was a competitor by dominating challenge after challenge. But the competition side of the show is rarely mentioned, only the final results.

To be honest, I’m surprised it has taken this long for people to talk about a contestant going to far to win The Biggest Loser. In the beginning the competition is about regaining health and happiness. As the weeks go on, the weight keeps dropping, and the odds of winning increase. Every week we hear host Alison Sweeney harping on the $250,000 grand prize at finale. Repeatedly hearing you have a 1-in-3 chance of winning that prize is a huge motivator.

Now let’s take a look at the past winners of the show. The majority of whom have gone on to gain weight back since their season ended—one could even have tried out for the show again.

Ryan Benson
Ryan Benson lost 122 pounds and has gained back roughly 90 pounds since he won season one.
Erik Chopin
Erik Chopin started TBL at 407 pounds, won season 3, then got back up to *368 pounds*.
Michael Ventrella
Michael Ventrella lost 264 pounds (taking him down to 262 pounds) to win season 9. Now he’s walking around at about 289 pounds.
Olivia Ward
Olivia Ward dropped down to 132 pounds to win season 11. Since then she’s gained about 10 pounds.

There is no doubt in my mind Rachel lost the weight in a safe way (extreme, but safe). The schedule she had before the finale—part-time job and working out—is not going to be the same after the show. She’ll be flying all over the country appearing on TV shows and dealing with any contractual obligations she has with the show. All of which will be taking up time she used to spend in the gym.

Was her finale appearance shocking? Yes. Do I think there is anything to worry about? No. I’ve seen skinnier girls in fashion magazines and all we have to say about them is “oh, isn’t she beautiful?!”

The sane person’s guide to improving your diet

Diet. Nutrition. Whatever you want to call it, there are hundreds and hundreds of “guides” out there about what you should eat, how you should eat it, and how much better “clean” eating is for you. I’m not debating the fact that choosing the right foods in the right proportions is a very good idea. What I am going to do is give you a sane way to improve your eating habits that is maintainable for the long term (I’m talking years, not months).


One of the most important things to get under control when you want to lose weight is portion control. By exercising more control over the amount of what you eat you can (and will) start seeing results in a couple weeks—even if you’re still eating a lot of crap.

Here are a couple methods for controlling your portions:


Take some time and make a food journal. Record everything (especially all the little snacks you have throughout the day). After a week or two you should have a good idea of the type of foods you eat—good and bad.

Now, substitute one of the bad foods you eat with something healthier (suggestion: start with a snack) or remove it altogether. For example, if you notice you always have a mid-afternoon soda, stop drinking that or switch to some fresh squeezed juice or an apple (substituting bad sugar and calories for good sugar and calories). Don’t change anything else.

After a week or so, do it again with a different ingredient or meal. Keep this up for a while and before you know it all your meals will be healthy.


For me, the most important thing to changing your eating habits for the better is patience. Not everyone can make the switch immediately without major side effects (hello binge eating!). While it may seem like following these tips will take forever that’s kind of the point.

A lot of people I know who promote healthy (I hate the term “clean”) eating are some of the biggest offenders of yo-yo dieting—they’re good for a few months leading up to an event, then it’s back on the fast food train to celebrate their “success”.

Taking a gradual, intentional approach ensures you’ll binge less and still be able to enjoy treats when you want them. And really, isn’t that what we all want?

Embarrassing Memories—Body Image

The other day I was in the shower and an old memory from my junior high school years popped into my head. Back then I was very shy. So shy in fact, that even though there were locker rooms at my school I too embarrassed to use them. I was fearful to the point that I’d wear gym clothes under my regular clothes so I could “change” in the hallway before and after gym class when nobody was looking.

Despite being a competitive athlete during that time I had a poor self-image. In my mind there was always something about me that other kids would be able to make fun of; something that made me stand out.

For the record, I grew up in a small town in Canada and there was very little about me that stood out from the other kids.

I’m no longer a competitive athlete and I currently live in a very culturally and physically diverse metropolitan area. Even in this setting, at this stage of my life (old enough to know better), there are times where I find myself experiencing the same fear and shyness I did in junior high.

The few people I’ve confided this in always seem surprised or shocked to learn my true feelings. This is probably because of the way I act in social situations where my looks aren’t a factor. They assume that because I’m comfortable there that I wouldn’t have the hangups I have.

This isn’t a sympathy post. It’s something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for a while. Hopefully by putting it out in the world I can move passed it and the embarrassment I feel about this particular memory will fade.

I also want people to know that even if someone looks put together and confident on the outside, that may not be true for them all the time. Be considerate and offer anyone a compliment whenever you have one to give. It doesn’t have to be a life changing comment, any compliment can help boost someone’s confidence—even if it’s only as simple as saying you like someone’s shoes (or socks, or earrings, or shirt).