Category Archives: rants

I’m still pissed PART V

PART IV in this series outlined the first step in changing from an unhealthy sugar and processed food filled diet to a healthy one. Simply adding in some healthy food.

Let us say that you follow those guidelines for a week or two. You feel pretty good about yourself cause your starting to dig that salad before supper just a bit, and your eating an apple at work most every day and a few less bags of Doritos. The eggs at breakfast don’t taste that bad at all, and you have eaten way less pop tarts lately.

Well, that’s a great start, but you should still be pissed. Cause if you are like many people I know, you still drink a big glass of orange juice in the morning and think its good for you. You still buy low fat yogurt with 30 grams of sugar added and think you are doing yourself a favor. You are probably still picking up lunch at Taco Hell or a McDonalds here and there. And your kitchen is probably so filled with shit filled over processed “food” that supper and snacks at home and the weekends almost can’t help but be dominated by food that is pure crap.

But you have taken the first step, good for you.

What you buy at the grocery store is going to have more impact on how you eat than any other factor. There are a few things you can do right from the start to set yourself up for success. Only shop for or buy food from actual grocery stores. Like Safeway. Or Costco, or something like that. Do not buy food at 7-11 or other convenience stores. That right there, if you stick to that rule, makes it much easier to shop healthy. Go to the store on planned trips, once per week.

Now, when you actually get to the store, choose how much shit you are gonna put in your body for the next 7 days. Yeah, you are probably still eating Doritos. But do you really need 2 bags, or are you eating enough healthy food now that one will do the trick? What I am saying is to put a limit on it! You might be a frozen pizza junkie, but make the effort to cook and eat some healthy meals this week, and don’t buy so many of them. In general, just try to buy as little as possible from those center isles of the store, where all the over processed crap is. Shop around the outside, mostly the meat and the vegetable displays.

I can’t tell you exactly what to buy, because I don’t know what you like to eat. Or what you like to cook. But I can give you some ideas by telling you what I like. I like to buy some combination of red meat, chicken, and fish. Except when something is on sale, that is. If salmon is $3.99 a pound we are eating mostly fish for the next week, lol. But under normal circumstances, tri-tip (or sirloin or ribeye), chicken breasts, and salmon are the three meats i favor. i have favorite ways to prepare each. The red meat is usually either stand alone with a starchy side like potatoes or used in a stir-fry. Chicken is not my favorite, but I like it in a salad so that is how I use it, cut up and added to a salad. I mostly like to eat the salmon with a side of mixed vegetables.

But buy enough meat to cook your suppers for the next week, and make sure that you plan to have leftovers. Nothing keeps you from eating shit like having great leftovers sitting in the fridge just waiting to be heated up.

When it comes to the vegetables, again, you have to figure out what you like. Myself, I am big on salads. My favored salad is kale, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, onions, sun dried tomatoes, and of course dressing and black pepper. I can make it just like that to accompany a meal or even as a snack, or I can add chicken to it to make it a supper by itself.

The other way I like my veggies is in a stir fry. I buy the frozen packages of broccoli and cauliflower and make a simple stir fry with cut up tri-tip. Or I will try out other bags of mixed vegetables, all different combinations, whatever I can find, and make it with usually tri-tip, once in a while chicken.

I also try to make sure we always have baby red potatoes on hand, cause those are my favorite type of potatoes, and I like mashed potatoes with steak. Or smashed potatoes as my son says. My favorite way of making them is to boil them, then mash them, then stir in some heavy cream, a bit of butter with diced garlic that has been sauteed just a bit, and pesto sauce. Yes pesto sauce, put it in to taste, it makes smashed potatoes taste wonderful. And of course a bit of salt and pepper.

Does steak and potatoes ( and asparagus, I love to have asparagus with steak and potatoes) grilled chicken over a salad, or salmon and veggies sounds way too boring to you? Well, i agree. BDS (before Donny Shankle moved in) I used to cook a traditional home made pizza that was awesome. I also used to cook a pesto pizza topped with sun dried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella cheese, and chicken. I also used to make a mean spaghetti. And other various dishes. Just not too often. I figure if you stick with the meat and veggies theme about 3/4 of the time, an occasional treat won’t hurt you at all. Now, ADS (since Donny moved in) the treats are taken care of with good cajun dishes, like gumbo, and jambalaya. Both of which are composed of meat, a variety of veggies, and rice. Not too bad.

Now I am not too big on snacks. I simply don’t snack much. My son does, but he is happy with apples and oranges, squares of hard cheese, and the occasional yogurt. He also likes baby carrots with ranch dressing. If you do have the urge to snack, leftovers are the best snack ever, IMO.

Buy the ingredients to make these meals if they sound good to you, or others that are made with meat and veggies and good stuff. You are probably still going to eat some crap, and that’s ok. You are still going to make some bad decisions, buying what you think is healthy when it’s really not, but that’s ok. We are making steps in the right direction.

Next installment will talk about how to educate yourself a bit, and maybe we will talk about some ideas for breakfast or lunch.


I’m still pissed PART III

The thing that pisses me off the most about about the food problem in America is the schools. And no I am not talking about School lunch. Not yet at least. Let me describe my experiences with my son.

They give the kids candy. A lot of candy. For every conceivable reason. Every birthday in the class is an excuse for the kid to bring “treats” and hand them out. The “treats” are always candy. Obviously every holiday is an excuse for some sort of party. And these parties always include candy. They reward the kids for various things. Reading a certain number of books. No one being tardy or late coming in from recess. And these rewards are often candy. They get candy on the first day of school. Candy on the last day of school. Candy at the book fair. At the very least one day a week, often more, there is an excuse for the handing out of candy. Often not just one little treat, but enough that they bring that crap home.

And this pisses me off. Because how is a parent supposed to combat that? Do I tell the teacher that when all the other kids in class get these treats, my child is not allowed? Yeah right, have my kid be the lone kid who doesnt get to participate. Anyone who remembers how it feels to be a kid trying to fit in knows this isn’t a good solution.

Now let’s talk about the school lunches, because those piss me off too. When I was in grade school my mother usually packed my lunch, it was pretty common then. And when I ate the school lunch, there were no choices. I got a square cafeteria style tray and the lunch ladies filled the little squares in it up with what was for lunch that day. Now I am not saying it was the greatest food, but there was normally some vegetables, some fruit, and some main course that had some meat in it. Potatoes were common. I remember turkey and potatoes with gravy. I remember carrots and green beans as vegetables being common.

But that’s not how it was by the time I got to high school, and its not how it is today. When I was in high school, it was common to see a person pick up a couple of popsickles and a pizza from the cafeteria, and wash it down with a coke from the vending machine. Today, at least in my sons school, NO ONE brings their own sack lunch. And when eating at school, they give these kids CHOICES. Imagine that, letting a kid in grade school choose for himself what he wants to eat! I have been in that lunch room before, and I am estimating half the kids were eating a lunch consisting of either chocolate milk or a sugary “sports drink” and pizza. Pizza with a big fluffy crust, a bit of cheese and some sort of pepperoni looking bits of stuff on top. Dripping grease. Absolute shit.

And that really pisses me off. What in the hell do you think is gonna happen when you tell a bunch of kids here, eat what you want. And by the way, the choices include sugary drinks and greasy assed pizza?

Well what you get is a bunch of kids who between 8am and 3pm are ingesting candy in the classroom for any reason that can be conceived, and eating sugar and grease for lunch.

Now there are gonna be some teachers who read this and say “thats not how it is at my school”. Fine. I am sure this is not representative of every school. But it shouldnt be representative of ANY school ANYWHERE.

This really pisses me off because if you don’t home school or send the kids to a private school, and lets face it these things are not an option for most people, you have to send your kids to spend their day at school 9 months of the year. And how are you supposed to start them out in life with good habits when you are being worked against in this way?

It’s shameful.

And it pisses me off.

Tomorrow I’ll stop being pissed off and talk about solutions.

I’m Pissed PART II

I think I hit a nerve yesterday. This little blog has limped along for the past year getting from 200 to a couple of thousand hits per day on posts about weightlifting, strength training, zombies, the occasional nice meal I cooked, or some amusing or meaningful thing that happened to me.

Then yesterday I posted that I was pissed about the whole diet situation in America and the post gets 17,000 hits within 24 hours and more comments than all the other posts I have put up within the past year put together.

I think some people misinterpreted just why I am so pissed. I got comments about people being free to do what they want and eat what they want, free choice, and some people apparently mad that I want to tell them what to do. And that wasn’t my point at all.

My point is this. We have two things that have happened in this country, that are still happening. One is that we overproduce foods that aren’t that great for us. And this overproduction is, by the way, subsidized by our tax dollars. This makes these products very cheap, and therefore they are everywhere. Hell it’s amazing all the shit that corn syrup finds its way into. The second is that we have been told for some time by the mainstream nutrition industry to eat a certain way, a way that emphasizes these cheap foods. Don’t eat too many egg yolks. Butter is bad but margarine is better. Cholesterol will kill you, but eating other oils dominated by Omega-6 fatty acids is healthy. Base your diet on carbohydrates and grains. Cut out the fat if you want to lose weight. It’s ok that our beef and our eggs have all the Omega-3’s sucked out of them because of the way they are raised.

And these things taken together have fundamentally changed the average American diet over the last few decades. We eat less fat, and saturated fat. We eat more carbohydrates, and more sugar. We eat more processed food, and less vegetables. More hydrogenated oils and less butter.

And it’s killing us. More of us are fat and have diabetes than ever before. Hell is is hard to find any health marker that is related to diet that has not gotten worse as our diet has changed. I read today that 23% of American teenagers have prediabetic symptoms. That is simply criminal.

And it’s this situation that I am pissed at. Not at any individual person, or their decision. Those that commented on yesterdays post by saying that everyone has a right to eat how they want are right. But there is no doubt that we have a situation in this country that is making the average American diet less and less healthy, and, that pisses me off.

But what to do? I am not gonna be able to change the USDA nutritional guidelines. I am not gonna be able to change the governments farm policy. And I don’t really fancy protesting at the local McDonalds or 7-11.

So what to do?

I don’t have any big answers. No big solution to solve the problem.

But Part III is set for tomorrow.

I’m pissed.

Why? Well it started in Guatemala last week. I was eating in the weightlifting chow hall with Donny Shankle and thinking about the food. The meal that day included a sort of salad. Tasted like it had some kale in it, had some green beans, some corn, lettuce, and bits of bacon. There were diced up potatoes, cooked with onions. Diced up carrots that most people seemed to be mixing up with the potatoes and onions. And chicken. Not fried chicken, just chicken. It was representative of most of the meals, mostly vegetables and meat, some potatoes or rice. Nothing fancy. I remarked to Donny that it would be hard to overeat and get fat on such food. Not that it wasn’t good, it was tasty enough, but it was nothing you would want to go on eating once your hunger had been satisfied. And it wasn’t calorie dense, mostly meat and vegetables. All in all it was pretty damn healthy food.

Then on the plane ride home I was watching TV, and noticing the commercials. At one point, all in a row, there were commercials for Mountain Dew, Kit Kat bars, pop tarts, Pepsi, and frozen pizza. Thats right, 5 commercials, all for shitty sugar filled foods all in a row.

Why do we Americans do this to ourselves? Obesity, diabetes, and just about every other health problem you can imagine that is linked to diet are all sky high and rising. Yet we continue stuffing ourselves with shitty food. Commercials show smiling kids eating toaster strudels for breakfast in front of proud mothers, pizza pockets for afternoon snacks, and grabbing whatever sugar laden drink is popular out of the fridge to cool down from playing in the yard.

And I’m pissed about it. I am pissed that my ex-wife got done with 4 years of education at a state school to become a registered dietician, and wouldn’t eat a pack of mixed nuts for a snack because of the fat, but would instead pick a pack of “Sprees” the hard candy things that are 100% sugar. I am pissed about seeing people buy “light” yogurt, which has the fat taken out of it then 30 grams of sugar added, and think they are being healthy.

I am pissed that there is not a public outrage about the smiling proud mothers on the TV commercials giving their kids pop tarts for breakfast and pizza pockets for a snack.

I am pissed that when I go to Costco on the weekend to buy groceries and eat the free sample, and the lady giving out the little “breakfast bars” that have 1 gram of protein and 30 grams of sugar per serving is telling me how healthy they are cause they are low fat.

I am just in general pissed off that our modern society is so determined to dig our own graves with our spoons and forks. i am pissed that shitty unhealthy food is so cheap and convenient and available everywhere. I am pissed that every child grows up on a steady diet of TV commercials pitching them shitty food that will probably eventually kill them.

So yeah, I’m just pissed.

Some straw men are pretty tough…

There is a notion that is gaining popularity among the general strength training crowd, the notion that Olympic lifters in the United States do not care about strength training. That we put a low priority on getting strong. Now, it is so patently ridiculous to think that those in a sport where success is based on how heavy a barbell you can pick up and put over your head don’t believe strength is important that I did not think the idea would ever gain all that much traction. In fact, it is so ridiculous that I thought it would probably come back and bite the folks saying it in the ass once people just thought about it a little.

I was wrong.

This argument is a classic straw man argument. Falsely claim another is supporting position “A”, then win the argument by pointing out that position “A” is incorrect, and that your own position “B” is much superior. This is done in politics all the time, and can be done subtly enough so that sometimes even the victim of the scam doesn’t realize he has just been had. The victims position can be slightly altered, barely exaggerated, just enough to give the perpetrator of the fraud something reasonable to argue against. No need to just out and out fabricate your opponents position to use this technique to win an argument. But in our case, there is nothing subtle about it. No need to be subtle really, as there are plenty of things about training for the sport of weightlifting that can be twisted, taken out contest, or confused to give those who would like to make themselves look very good by knocking over the straw man plenty of opportunity to confuse the issues. I will confront three of these areas of confusion.

One misconception is that because not all weightlifters use the deadlift, this proves we don’t emphasize strength enough. Many powerlifters, for whom the deadlift is a competition exercise, also don’t deadlift often, sometimes none at all between contests. Why is this? Because many have found that the deadlift is so hard to recover from when done with maximal weights that they just cannot be done frequently. They have found that they progress quicker when they do them less often. Many have also found that using different squatting variations done very heavy to develop strength, then using lighter and more dynamic pulling is just a superior way to train the deadlift, and results in stronger lifters and bigger deadlifts. This sounds remarkable similar to the way weightlifters train, lots of heavy squats, lighter, more dynamic pulling. Not deadlifting heavy on a regular basis does not prove one is not trying to get strong, it just proves that one has found a better way to get strong, a way that produces bigger and stronger athletes in other sports, and many of the strongest deadlifters and biggest deadlifts in the world.

Discussions about the ratio of the competitive lifts to the squat can also lead to confusion when statements are twisted or taken out of context. Often, these ratios are used to gauge a lifters technical proficiency. Sometimes they are used to make decisions about where to best spend the majority of training effort. It is considered “normal” for a lifter to snatch about 80% of their best clean and jerk, and back squat about 125% of their best clean and jerk. These numbers won’t be the same for everyone, but if a lifter is significantly different from these rations, it might point out some defeciency in technique or even the training program. If a lifter is snatching 90% of his best clean and jerk, it would be normal to ask “what is holding back the clean and jerk?” or to wonder how how training might be altered to change this. Likewise, if a lifter back squats 200% of his best clean and jerk, most lifters and coaches would be wondering why the clean and jerk is not following the squat at a more reasonable distance, what can be done about it, and, if it might pay to take some of the effort currently being expended in pushing the squat and instead put it toward fixing whatever is wrong with the clean and jerk. NONE of this means we don’t care about strength or don’t want to get stronger. What it does mean is that the snatch and clean and jerk is how we demonstrate strength in our particular sport, just like squatting is how you demonstrate it in powerlifting, loading stones is one of the ways you demonstrate it if you compete in strongman events, and the weight throw for height is one of the ways you demonstrate it if you are a highland games athlete. Consider a strongman competitor who has a huge 900lb deadlift but cannot load a 300lb stone. Compare him to another competitor, who can deadlift only 700lbs, but can load a 350lb stone. Which one should be working harder on stone loading, and which on deadlifting? No one would bat an eye if the 900lb deadlifter said he was choosing to de-emphasize deadlifting and put extra effort into loading stones prior to an upcoming contest. Certainly no one would question his understanding that strength is the cornerstone of his performance and must be raised in order to perform better. On the other hand, the fact that a weightlifter who back squats double his clean and jerk might put extra emphasis into improving his clean and jerk at the expense of pushing the squat can be twisted and distorted into, again, the silly notion that weightlifters don’t understand the value of strength training and don’t think that strength matters. At the heart of this is the next fallacy…

Some claim that strength is not built by snatching and clean and jerking. They claim that strength is displayed, but it is only built by slower, heavier exercises like the squat, the press, and the deadlift. Sometimes I wonder if this is a true belief or a claim only for the purpose of constructing the straw man… but it is true that some of those making this claim have had maximal snatches and clean and jerks that are very, very low percentages of their squats and clean and jerks. For a man who squats a large number but has skill, technique, or flexibility problems that limit the snatch to less than 30% of this number or the clean and jerk to less then 50% of this number, then yes, it is true, the Olympic lifts will not be major drivers of leg and back strength. The load is just not big enough. But it would take a real lack of imagination to not understand that a clean and jerk done by a man who can clean 80% of his back squat is a whole different animal than what they are doing. Wherever this claim originates from, it allows them to look at the lifter who devotes a significant proportion of their weekly training to doing the snatch and clean and jerk, and make the following claim “see, they flog technique training to death, but don’t emphasize strength training”. Because to them, all training on the snatch or clean is, is technique training. In reality, to a skilled lifter a high percentage lift on the snatch or clean and jerk is a powerful driver of strength adaptation. Unfortunately, it is impossible to demonstrate this to those that are not skilled lifters, and some simply won’t take your word for it.

More than anything, this particular blog entry is a simple rant against a situation that frustrates me. Most of the people who read it will already agree with me. Most of the people who need to read it don’t even know this blog exists. But thank you for reading anyway, and here’s to all those out there practically bleeding on the platform and in the squat stands trying like hell to get stronger.

I Can’t.

Ok, now squat down, no, you need to sit back. No, further than that.

“I can’t”

Yes, yes you can. You’re doing it, that’s one rep, now just a bit further down on the next one.

“I can’t do another one”

Yes you can, besides, how do you know you can’t if you don’t try?

“This is too heavy, I can’t do this”

No, it’s not too heavy, it’s an empty bar, you can do it. Now just 3 more reps and you’ll have a set of 5.

And with that, she racks the bar. Now I started out today feeling ok. Slight hint of a headache rumbling around the back of my head, and my shirt a bit uncomfortable on the sunburn I got yesterday, which is also probably related to the headache, too much sun does that to me. But on the whole, not a bad morning, I have certainly felt much worse. But I can feel the situation starting to raise my blood pressure. I can feel my temper getting a little short.

“There is just no way I can do that huge bar. Can’t I just hold a dumbell or something?”

No. You are perfectly able to do this 45 pound bar. You just have to do it, just keep going for 5 reps.

“It really hurts, you just don’t understand.”

Sigh. I try to keep my mouth from opening, because, at this point this is what I am thinking. No dear, I probably don’t understand. I have squatted for 25 years or so, and taught hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of other people to do so, but no, I suppose I do not understand. None of that qualifies me to understand a person so absolutely WEAK MINDED that they will work harder to convince themselves and others that they cannot do something than they are willing to work to actually do it. But I don’t say any of that. Instead, I tell her “It’s normal to feel a little discomfort since you are not used to doing this. But it will be ok, just make your mind up to do 5 reps in a row without racking the bar and it will be over with before you know it.”

“No, I’m telling you, you just dont understand how heavy this is, it’s much to heavy for me to do”

My headache is starting to pound, evidence that my blood pressure is now probably in the danger zone. No you cute little vacuous thing, I do understand how a squat feels. What I do not understand is being in you’re 30’s and not having a job, getting up at 10 or 11am every day, watching soap operas all afternoon or having Mimosas for lunch on a reqular basis. I also do not understand how someone who claims they go to the gym for an hour 4 or 5 days a week can have such a complete lack of muscle that they weigh 110lbs and yet probably have bodyfat over the 30% mark, and cannot squat an empty bar. You, on the other hand, have intimate knowledge of all these things. I manage to keep my mouth shut, then ask her to try one more time.

“Well I’ll try once more, but after i get a drink.”

As she walks away to the water fountain I run a steady stream of synonyms through my head… puerile, banal, insipid, vapid, by the time I get to jejune she is back, and with much prodding and coaxing she completes 5 reps, no single one of which was hard enough to prevent her from keeping up a steady stream of griping and whining or hard enough to force any visible signs of effort, and ends with multiple protestations that she cannot do ANY more today.

I fight the urge to tear arms and legs off of torsos and decide that I wont be able to continue to resist the urge if we go ahead and try to do the 3 sets that I had planned. We call it a day, because right now I want to be anywhere in the world other than right here, right now, showing this person how to squat.

That, my friends, was a rant. My rant. My very, very well deserved rant.

I included the picture of Spencer because of his cool outfit, his apparent ability to levitate 90kg with mental power alone, and the fact that he never, ever say “I can’t”. Especially when it comes to squatting.