Lift Weights? But I Want To Lose Weight.

Q&A: I Want To Lose Weight. Why Is My Trainer Having Me Lift Weights?
The Question

A dear friend of mine sent me a question about the training program and nutrition suggestions his new trainer has for him.  My friend’s goal is to lose weight.

His new trainer has him doing “mostly weights with an emphasis on strength training, and little cardio (and the cardio is high intensity intervals, not long duration walking or running).”

So of course his response is “Not sure I buy that cardio is so much less effective than weights for weight loss – I get the part about muscles=metabolism, but you want to burn max calories too, right? Then again, I’ve been in pretty good cardio shape at times in the past but carrying extra weight still.”

As far as nutrition goes, his trainer is “also claiming that 70% of the population has some problem with gluten, that the paleo diet is best (or at least as much protein and fruits/veggies as possible), and recommending we take 30g of fish oil every day to jumpstart weight loss…”

My friends greatest concern in all this is “I just don’t want to risk bulking up with weights and protein shakes (or whatever) when slimming down is my #1 goal.”

My Answer

(FYI: I’ve known this friend since we were 15, so pardon the familiar tone.)

Free your mind!

Let go of what you learned way back when about fitness and nutrition. You hired a trainer because all that no longer serves you. Experiment with what your trainer is giving you. Try it for 30 days. See what difference it makes or not. Make it a scientific project.

Over the last several years, fitness pros have really been questioning the old school thought about cardio vs strength training, etc. Helping people improve how their bodies function day-to-day has lead to the question of what the body was built for in the first place and some interesting investigations into ancestral health.

There are several reasons why longer bouts of cardio are not efficient for fat loss. The most obvious is that most people do not work hard enough and do not progress. The heart is a muscle. It needs hard work to strengthen and grow. Watching tv or reading the New Yorker while on a treadmill is not doing much toward strengthening the heart or igniting your metabolism. In fact, the stress hormone, Cortisol, which tells the body to store fat around vital organs, gets turned on during long cardio sessions.

Ok, 44 year old man, you are not going to bulk up from lifting weights. Sometime during our 30s, we start to lose lean muscle mass on average of 1 lb each year, unless we actively work to keep it. You would have to work incredibly hard and take crazy body-building supplements to “bulk up.”

For you, it is a matter of building muscle to keep aging at bay, strengthen your bones and make you a man, baby. Osteoporosis/penia are not issues for just women, especially with all the estrogen that has found its way into the American diet. Building muscle will increase your metabolism and testorone levels. It fights impotency and man-boobs.

Before humans became “civilized,” we were amazing generalists when it came to movement. We had to be. We had to crawl, climb, balance, lift, carry, throw, run, jump, swing, and sometimes swim and defend. If we stopped moving for too long, we died. We are killing ourselves by sitting around.

Nutrition is the hardest thing to change. We have so much attachment to the comfort and pleasure that we get from our favorite foods. Ok, I am tempted to go off on a tangent about how out-of-touch we are with our food sources but I’ll leave that to Michael Pollan. If you haven’t read his stuff yet, do it now.

The big issue with wheat gluten is that it has been so genetically modified that it is less like the wheat our grandparents grew up eating than chimpanzees are like humans. I can speak from experience in saying that I can only tolerate very limited amounts of wheat and gluten. When I eat it now, I get congested and my intestinal system protests. It took me trying it after a 21-day cleanse to recognize that I had an intolerance at all.

Ultimately there is no one “correct” diet for everyone. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are based on that principle. What can be said is that by eating as close to nature as possible we honor our biology. Educate yourself and experiment. It’s kind of fun when you get into it.

Your trainer is probably trying to explain all of this to you. Listen.



Ancestral Health Symposium 2011,– a lot of videos from the first conference on ancestral health. The major focus was on food.

MovNat,– Natural movement program developed by Erwan Le Corre.

Exuberant Animal,– Great stuff on the blog about playing rather than working out.

Sucker Punch Training video,– Movie sucked ass but my friend, Logan Hood, trained these girls with heavy lifting and hard training. As you can see, they got strong but not bulky.

Nom Nom Paleo,– Great recipes in an easy-to-follow blog.

How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy by Paul Chek- One of the first fitness gurus to talk about primal movement patterns. Includes cartoon graphic of what our poo tells us.

Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan- Any of his books are great reads.

The Paleo Solution
by Robb Wolf- With his sense of humor and academic mind, you will love Robb Wolf.

Hope that helps.

Train hard and reap the rewards, my dear friend!


Tap Water, Bottled Water, Filtered Water?

What’s the safest to drink, and why?

Guest Post by Ellen Kittredge, CHC

“Water, water everywhere, and nary a drop to drink.”

You may recognize this quotation from the famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The line refers to being stranded at sea, surrounded by water, yet with no drinkable water left on board the ship.

These words have been oft-quoted since the publication of the poem in the late 1790’s, usually to refer to a situation in which clean drinking water has been hard to come by. While in this country we are lucky enough to have ample drinking water, sadly it may not be as clean as we’d expect. I’m not saying that there is “nary a drop to drink”, however accessing clean and safe drinking water is not just as simple as purchasing a bottle of “spring” water from your local convenience store or turning on the faucet at home to fill up your glass.

Two questions I am frequently asked by my clients are: “Is bottled water better than tap water?” and “If I’m using tap water, what filter should I use on my tap?”

These are great questions, and ones I think I may finally be able to answer with some surety, thanks in a large part to the great investigative work done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.

EWG’s most recent recommendations around safe drinking water boil down to the following: “Drink filtered tap water.” This may come as a surprise, as bottled water seems to be a better choice, given claims that you read on the bottle, such as: “pure”, “crystal-fresh” or “pristine source”. However, it turns out these claims don’t have any real verification or substantiation, so it is impossible to know if you can trust the claims you read on a bottle of water.

While federal law requires that municipal water suppliers identify the source of their water, the FDA does not require that bottled water companies disclose this information. Additionally, suppliers of tap water are required to not only test their water supply, but also share these results with consumers.  Bottled water companies don’t have this same requirement. In fact, 4 out of 5 bottled water companies do not publish the results of their water quality testing. And according to the Environmental Working Group, there were 38 contaminants found in 10 popular brands of drinking water.

Interestingly enough, consumers will spend up to 1,900 times more for a bottle of water, yet can not be confident that what they are buying is any safer than what might be coming out of their tap. This is not to say that tap water is pure. There are, unfortunately, contaminants in most of the public drinking water supplies, ranging from agricultural fertilizers to lead, to trace amounts of pharmaceutical medications. Since 2004, testing by municipal water facilities in this country has turned up more than 300 contaminants in public drinking water supplies.

This is why filtration is so important, and is the top recommendation I can make for ensuring that your drinking water is safe to drink. When choosing a water filter, it is important to do your research, read the fine print, and choose a brand that will actually remove contaminants. Carbon-based filters are good at removing many common water contaminants. A reverse-osmosis filter, while a little more expensive, will remove even more contaminants, and may be a better option.

To get a full understanding of the variety of different water filtration options and their effectiveness, I’d recommend checking out the in-depth recommendations EWG has made available online: There are a wide variety of brands, filtration methods, and prices, and there is no one best choice. It is just important to choose one that will work for your home space and your budget. It may take a little research, but you should be able to find a brand that will work for you.

Water is essential to life: clean, pure water. Now that you know that filtering your tap water is the best way to ensure a safe water source, it is just a matter of determining which filter is the best option for you. Enjoy the process of learning more about the variety of options, and make a commitment to investing in a pollutant-free drinking water supply for you and your family. It’s worth it! Plus, it’ll be a lot cheaper than bottled water in the long run.Ellen Kittredge, CHC, is a Nutrition and Health Counselor offering individualized in-person and phone sessions, as well as group cleansing programs and other group services.

Mindful Eating: A Contributing Factor to Weight Loss

By Ellen Kittredge, CHC (

I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” If you concentrate on your food – what you are eating – you will absorb and assimilate the actual nutrients in it – and thus need to eat less food overall.

The opposite, of course, is also true: the less awareness you bring to the table, the more you’ll need to eat, thus leading to excess weight gain.

How often do you eat your meals in front of the computer, checking emails and shoveling food in at the same time, or mindlessly watching TV, and going back for seconds on that bowl of ice cream before you realize that you didn’t even taste the first bowl?

There are two specific examples I’d like to share that will explain how lack of awareness of what we are eating leads to weight gain. It is my hope that this information will inspire you to have more awareness around the actual consumption of food, thus making it easier to lose any weight you are looking to let go of! Thanks to Marc David, and “The Slow Down Diet” for inspiration for this topic.


#1 is something called the Cephalic Phase Digestive Response (CPDR). CPDR is the pleasure of taste, aroma, satisfaction and visual stimulation of a meal. 30-40 of the total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR – our full awareness of what we are eating. So, if we are distracted while eating, we are metabolizing our meal at only 60-70% efficiency.

And why would this lead to weight gain? It’s simple. We need to eat more to feel satisfied. To see weight loss, our metabolism needs to be functioning optimally. That means we want to be metabolizing our food at 100%, all the time.

#2. In a test where subjects were given a mineral drink to test for absorption of sodium and chloride, when in a relaxed state, the test subject absorbed 100%. At different session when given the same mineral drink while exposed to dichotomous listening (two people talking to them at the same time) the results showed that participants had a complete shutdown in absorption of chloride and sodium for one full hour afterwards. Basically, they completely lost the ability to absorb these nutrients when they were not focusing on the food and were in a heightened state of stress where they were trying to listen to two stimuli at the same time. Perhaps you could imagine a scenario where you just sat down in front of the TV to eat your dinner, and your child or partner is calling to you from the kitchen…

Consider bringing more awareness to the table for your next meal. Not only will this benefit your health and your waistline, you’ll probably enjoy your food more too!

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Q&A: Can You Recommend a Nutritionist?


In an email, Jane asked if I could recommend a nutritionist, “A woman I work with who is only about 30 years old has high cholesterol.  She is into yoga but has terrible eating habits (at least until she had a 260 cholesterol number last week).  She is looking for a nutritionist to help her get better eating habits and working with her schedule. She is a busy woman, she is a (project manager for a busy building company), does yoga a lot, and goes to graduate school at night.”


I highly recommend Nutrition Counselor, Ellen Kittredge.  She understands that changing eating habits can be challenging, even monumental.  She has her clients make small changes at a time, rather than having them completely revamp their fridge and pantry.  Ellen understands there is no one-diet-fits-all and everyone responds to food differently.

Some people do want to make big changes to their nutritional habits.  For them, Ellen offers a 21-day cleanse twice per year.  I have participated in 3 of her cleanses myself.  During my first experience, I discovered I have intolerances to gluten and cow dairy.  My eating habits have changed quite a bit from that experience.

Ellen works with clients in person in the DC area but she also offers counseling by phone.  She understands that people have busy schedules but she also encourages her clients to take time for their health.

Ellen will offer her 21-day this fall.  In fact, I am creating a movement program to coincide with her cleanse.  We will make the announcement in the next couple weeks.

Ellen will also make some guest appearances here on the Spitfire Blog.  To contact Ellen, visit her website at

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