The Healthy Executive

How To Lose 25 lbs Eating Dog Food

Reading time: 4.0 minutes (2400 words @ 600 wpm[1])

The bad news is I’m disappointed in myself.

In virtually no time I became 25 lbs overweight (from 166 to 191 lbs) and out-of-shape (75% strength loss). You know what’s even worse? I’m an online health coach (and former ultradistance runner and Ironman).

The good news is, you can benefit from my mistakes. Right before your eyes I am going to turn my lemons (getting fat) into lemonade (becoming fit).

Here’s how: I am publicly blogging about my mistakes, my bad psychology, and what I felt like. I will show you my actual weight gain and strength loss measurements. I will photo-document each bite I eat and and every step I take in going from fat to fit. For your entertainment and for free.

And I promise to explain how dogfood can help you lose weight.

But first let me tell you how this came to be.

spank me Jillian!

Please yell at me baby

What The Hell Happened?

I wish I could tell you I had a secret crush on Jillian Micheals (I do!) and that my plan was to gain 300 lbs so I could meet her on the Biggest Loser TV Show. She would get in my face and yell at me to “Do The Work!!” while secretly admiring the Dad Bod I had strategically cultivated just for her. This of course is a completely reasonable plan and I’m pretty sure she will return my messages very soon.

Alas, the real-world reasons of how I acquired a Dad Bod simply fall into that category we all call “life”. In June 2014 I was in peak shape (see data & pics below). Shortly afterwards I felt weird stomach pains while buying a 50′ sailboat in Mexico. It turns outs that diagnosing stomach pain is a protracted process of ruling out possible causes one-by-one. Step one: go see my doctor. Possible hernia? Take 4 weeks off, report back. Stomach flu? Take these pills for 6 weeks. Atypical aneurysm? Schedule an ultra sound next month with the technician. Bowel situation? Wait for insurance authorization. Wait while your file is sent to Mexico City. Then wait some more. Finally see a specialist (twice!) after Christmas.

In between the boat and waiting on the health system, business took me to Silicon Valley to advise startups then to Canada to help my brother expand his business. All the while I was helping my clientele as a virtual health coach.

After a year-long process of ruling things out, I was finally diagnosed with giardiasis in May 2015. The cure was simple and by June 2015 I was well.

My point? Life happens…. time flies by… the pounds sneak on….

Dog Food? WTF?!?

An intelligent question at this point might be: “wtf does this have to do with dog food?”. Eating your own dog food is  slang referring to a scenario in which someone follows their own advice to validate the quality and capabilities of their advice.


I did it because…science!

So as a result of gaining 25 lbs why do I want to eat my own dog food?

  • I want to show you exactly how I will lose fat and get in shape in 12 weeks – documenting every step I take, including my exact apps, nutrition, and workouts.
  • I want to show you it’s not only possible but completely reasonable that you can do the exact same thing.
  • I have a normal body and gain weight like everyone else…I am not “naturally healthy”, “naturally fit”, “naturally thin”, or “special” in any way.
  • I want talk about the real-world reasons that led me to gain 25 lbs – how my good decisions morphed into bad decisions.
  • I want to talk about what the extra 25 lbs did to me physically, how I felt about myself as a person, and exactly how it affected my psychology.

Can You Be Healthy AND Toxic?

We all know that drinking and driving don’t mix. If you get pulled over while driving with with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% you are legally impaired. Pilots can’t legally fly about 12,500 feet without supplemental oxygen because it impairs their judgement[2]. Firefighters know that carbon monoxide can silently impair judgment in emergencies (and recommend that homes be equipped with CO detectors[3]). In a similar fashion, extra weight, lack of sleep, and low energy can cumulatively cloud our judgement.

Poor health silently impairs our ability to make better decisions.

I want to share with you my struggles and what I was thinking and feeling as my good decisions turned into marginal decisions which then led to bad decisions.
brain tox

My Toxic Psychology

By far, my psychology was the most subtle thus most difficult struggle I experienced as I progressively became unhealthy.

Here are some of my inner rationalizations that impaired taking action and making healthier decisions:

  • I don’t have time:
    • I’m too busy putting out fires.
    • My travel schedule won’t allow me.
    • Customers keep changing deadlines.
  • I’m not too bad off:
    • I try to eat right and exercise now and then.
    • My friends are in worse shape than me.
  • I’ll start tomorrow:
    • All the more reason to indulge today!
    • Eat, drink, be merry for tomorrow we die.
  • Ican’t exercise right now:
    • Doctor’s orders, I have a “condition”.
    • I’m too tired, I need some down time.
    • I can only do a little, so its hardly worth getting started.
  • I should care, but I don’t care:
    • Toughing out pain is a badge of honor.
  • I can’t exercise, the weather is terrible:
    • Mexico is too hot, Canada is too cold.
  • I need better information:
    • I’m looking for the newest ultimate secret perfect tactic.
    • The most recent diet/fitness study contradicts the previous ones.
    • I’ll wait until all the experts finally agree with each other.
  • I’m overwhelmed:
    • I have too many people to take care of right now.
    • I’m too far behind, I’ll never catch up.
    • Getting healthy is just another damn thing on my to-do list.
  • I don’t want to try something that doesn’t work for me:
    • I hate diets and gyms.
    • These programs are too simple, my requirements are complex.
    • I only listen to people who are more successful than me.
  • I have to eat everything I’m served:
    • I don’t want to offend my hosts.
    • Mom told me to clean my plate.
    • Children are starving in Africa.

How did this happen?

What Does Toxic Health Feel Like?

The result of carrying around an extra 25lbs and being 75% weaker obviously reduced my energy levels. In turn, my reduced energy levels had effects in how I experienced life as follows:

  • Productivity: Less energy meant it took me more time to get things done.
  • Cognition: I found it harder to concentrate and the quality of my work suffered as a result.
  • Physically: No matter how much I slept, I would wake up feeling tired.
  • Emotionally: I felt embarrassed by how I looked and pictures of myself disgusted me.
  • Self-Image: I believe in leading by example, and I felt I was letting my stakeholders down as I became unhealthy.
  • Motivation: Lower energy reduced my enthusiasm and made it harder for me to stay positive.
  • Stress: I felt less resilient and more overwhelmed.

You Need Proof, Not Promises

Don't believe me because I say so.

This table shows you how exactly I gained weight and lost strength. I want to show you actual data and pictures so you know my situation is for real. After the table is an analysis of exactly how my wheels fell off.

DateWeightWaistBMIBody FatLean
June 2014166 lbs35"23.19%152 lbs61 reps16 reps
January 2015177 lbs38"24.718%146 lbs18 reps (^1)4 reps
July 2015191 lbs40"26.624%146 lbs34 reps3 reps
(^1: not to failure)

Does this fat make me look fat?

How My Wheels Fell Off

In six months my weight increased by 7.5% (avg of weight, waist, and BMI) which resulting in a 121% increase in my body fat (an increase from 14 to 31 lbs from June 2014 to January 2015 ).

In 12 months my weight increased by 15% (avg of weight, waist, and BMI) which resulting in a 221% increase in my body fat (an increase from 14 to 45 lbs from June 2014 to July 2015).

Similarly, in the 12 months my Lean Body Mass (LBM) decreased by 3.9% (a loss of 6 pounds of muscle from June 2014 to July 2015) resulting in a 75% decrease in my body strength (avg push-ups & pull-ups).

Fat and muscle produce highly leveraged effects on our health.

Small changes have big effects!

The Plan = Lose Weight + Gain Muscle

So my goal is actually pretty simple. Go from 191 lbs to 166 lbs in 3 months. This is 25 lbs in 12 weeks which works out burning fat at the rate of 2.1 lbs a week. Most nutritionists recommend losing weigh at a rate of 1-2 lbs a week, so my goal is at the upper limit, but within reason.[4]

Why 12 Weeks?

imageMany of my online coaching clients start with a New Year’s resolution in January. Their goal is to lose weight and get fit by June. Summer vacation with the family at the beach is a nice motivator. And 24 weeks is a comfortable pace to make changes.

Other people want to improve their health and productivity faster. A bad doctor’s report (i.e. high cholesterol) or the health-event of a loved one prods them to act. They know they’ve been putting off needed changes, and they are willing to make changes twice as fast (i.e 12 weeks).

Either approach works fine and simply depends on an individuals circumstances. Because my clients are busy executives who like to see results sooner than later, I am choosing the faster 12 week time frame for my ‘Dogfood’ blog posts.

Yes, I will temporarily forgo a few ‘good things in life’ — but only for 12 weeks. After that I free to enjoy more wine, women, and song when I shift my fabulous new body into maintenance mode.

Dogfood By The Numbers

nutrition data

Figure 1: My Fitness Pal

My plan to lose 2.1 lbs a week calls for a reduction of about 7,300 calories or a little over 1,000 calories a day.[5] My 1,000 calorie a day reduction will be achieved as follows:

  • 75% by eating (750 calories less food per day).
  • 25% by increasing my activity level (250 calories a day).

This is equivalent to skipping 1 large cup of coffee + 1 piece of pizza + 1 glass of wine + taking 3 walking breaks of 10-15 minutes each.[6]

Figure 1 Highlight #1 shows how I set my goal to lose 1.5 lbs through food (75% of my 2.1 pound a week goal). Figure 1 Highlight #2 shows this works out to 1500 calories a day based on my height and weight. I’m a big fan of the My Fitness Pal (MFP) app as its very easy use to enter meals and has an extensive database of restaurant foods and can read UPC barcodes on food packages. I’ll blog more about apps later on, but the underlying reason for using them when forming good habits is because “that which gets measured gets done”.


This is how I do it….yum

Eating To Lose Weight

You already know that nutrition and healthy foods are important. And you realize that diets don’t work in the long run. And that stress-eating is hard to overcome.

How can we eat AND lose weight AND get stronger?

If you look carefully at Figure 1 Highlight #2, you will see that my nutrition plan calls for doubling my protein intake and cutting my carbohydrates in half. This approach serves several purposes. First and most important, it is simple to do on a daily basis using regular foods you are accustomed to. No complicated meal plans or weird diet foods are necessary. Secondly, it maintains a balance between losing fat AND building muscle at the same time. Third, it can be sustained a a long term habit without any need for calorie counting.

I simply double my protein (healthy meats) and vegetable portions and cut carbs (bread/potatoes/rice) in half.

The best part is, my approach works fine as long as you get it right 80% of the time. You can even have one ‘cheat day’ a week — no problem.

Stronger = Less Fatter

Everybody complains that its harder to maintain a healthy weight as we age. Why is that?

The problem is muscle loss.
fanatic or pragmatic?

Your engine is shrinking

If your body was a car, then your engine is getting smaller while you are putting the same amount of gas in the tank. Starting between the ages of 25-30, most people lose anywhere from 5-10 lbs of muscle per decade. This in turns slows down your metabolism (smaller engine) which leads to weight gain (adding too much gas to your tank).

The science of epigenetics is also demonstrating that exercise has a profoundly beneficial effect on our DNA and consequently our health.[7]

In the next 12 weeks I will do some combination of the following workouts to get fit. I will log the exact details and report changes in my lean body mass (LBM) weekly.

GoodWalk 30 minutes a day
(i.e. 3 x 10 minutes)
BetterLift Something Heavy once a week
(plus Walk)
BestInterval Train for 15 minutes
(plus Lift Something Heavy + Walk)

In upcoming posts I will go into the exact details behind the science of how to maintain excellent fitness in 20 minutes a day with zero equipment.

Diet and Fitness Apps

You’ve heard the saying:

What gets measured gets done.


If you like to keep things simple, a scale and an Excel spreadsheet will work just fine. On the other hand, if you are addicted to your smartphone you may want to consider using apps.

In addition to the MyFitnessPal app, I will use a couple of other apps to monitor and log my progress. RunKeeper is an app that I’ve had great success with for tracking my physical activities and calorie burn. New apps I will be evaluating include Apple Health (iPhone), Instant Blood Pressure (cuff-less), and MotionX for sleep analysis. Watch for my next posts where I show how to them to lose weight and get fit.

Will I Eat Humble Pie Or Dog Food?


Week 0 Progress = ZERO

To be honest, I’m a little nervous about sharing this adventure with you publicly. Partly because it’s not really my style (I’m a low key kinda guy). Partly because I am showing you how things really look (moobs), not some Instagram highlight picture. Partly because I travel a lot and ‘life happens‘ as I told you about earlier in my post.

But I believe you deserve proof, not promises.

So next month I will publish a detailed update on Week 4 of my 12 Week Plan: the exact measurements of where I started, how I ate and moved on a daily basis, and my logs and journals so you can judge for yourself.

Plus I will share key tips and tricks that help overcome toxic psychology.

For instance, why you SHOULD step on the scales every morning, counter to the conventional wisdom. And how the ‘health industry’ works against your interests by selling you tactics (diets, workouts, recipes, supplements) instead of strategies (how to make better decisions on a daily basis).


Will I eat my dogfood or humble pie instead?

Find Out What Happens Next…

You can find out whether I eat dog food or humble pie in Week 4 of my 12 Week plan. Just enter your email address here and I will notify you of my next monthly update:



  1. Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?, Forbes ↩
  2. Federal Aviation Regulation 91.211  ↩
  3. NFPA 720: Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment  ↩
  4.  ↩
  5. 2.1 lbs a week X 3500 calories per lb / 7 days a week = 1,042 calories a day. ↩
  6. Running Versus Walking, How Many Calories Will You Burn?, Runner’s World ↩
  7. How Exercise Changes Our DNA, NY Times ↩

photo credits: All photos © Jeff Popoff 2015. All other app screenshots or registered trademarks or trademarks or logos are property of their respective owners.

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