38 Extreme Attitude + Reasonable Plan = Success

InForm Fitness Podcast


Adam Zickerman and Mike Rogers discuss how developing an extreme attitude toward a reasonable plan is a formula for success in diet and exercise.
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Adam:               You know, some people think just following a diet to the letter of the law is  extreme, but to me, that’s not extreme. It’s extreme discipline, but it’s not irrational, extreme working out until you drop every single day of the week. Those are two different types of extremes in my opinion, and I think there’s a way we should differentiate those types of extremes because sticking to a very healthy diet, which I laid out before, a lot of people think is extreme!

Tim:                  InForm Nation, welcome in to the InForm Nation podcast with New York Times bestselling author, Adam Zickerman. In just a moment, Adam will be joined by Mike Rogers from the New York City InForm Fitness location, Sheila Melody from the Toluca Lake, Los Angeles location is still out, but will be back with us next week. I’m Tim Edwards with the InBound Podcasting Network and a client of InForm Fitness. Now, last week, Adam, Mike, and I discussed the potential dangers of not closely modulating high intensity exercise programs such as those found at CrossFit, excessive spin classes or marathon training. Well, today we’ll         be discussing the merits of discussing an extreme attitude about a reasonable plan, especially when it comes to your diet which is pillar number two is of this high intensity, strength training protocol found in Adam’s book, The Power of Ten: The Once a Week, Slow Motion, Fitness Revolution. Now, if you’re a subscriber or a regular listener of the podcast, you already know that earlier this year, Adam adopted a ketogenic diet. Now some would say that that would be an extreme dietary plan, or is it? Adam will update us on his progress and the results of going keto, plus a lot more. So without further ado, here’s Adam.

Adam:               You know, one thing about extremes, it reminds me of some advertisements you see in the airports, it’s the same picture side by side. Let’s say it’s an antique piece of furniture, and one person might look at that as garbage, and somebody else might look it as art, something like that. There’s an analogy here because we think of what we do as an extreme; extreme minimalism you could look at this as, we’re trying to do as little exercise as possible that you need, and some people think that’s extreme. Some people see the level of going to muscle failure as an extreme. Some people think eliminating carbohydrates or refined carbohydrates from your diet is extreme and not having any sugar and doing something like a ketogenic diet. They see that as extreme. On the other hand, the same person that does a ketogenic diet might think that the gross amount of carbohydrates that somebody is eating is extreme, and from a biological standpoint, there’s an argument made that keto is not extreme at all. I mean a ketogenic diet is absolutely normal, because that’s my perception. My perception is the modern diet is extreme. Again, how do you define a ketogenic diet? Well, you have to be in ketosis; you have to basically be using ketones as fuel and fat for fuel, so in other words, the metabolic pathway exists and people have been on it healthfully for a long time so it can’t be that extreme, first of all. Secondly, what I do in a ketogenic diet, if I didn’t call it a ketogenic diet and I didn’t mention that you happened to be in ketosis, and if I said to somebody, this is what I normally eat, and I say, for breakfast, I have a couple of eggs and some water and some greens, and then for lunch, I’ll have a salad with nuts and vegetables and I put olive oil on it. I put maybe a couple ounces of chicken or cheese and then for dinner, I have a whole plate of brussels sprouts and a six ounce piece of salmon. Now, would you somebody say that’s extreme? If I ate like that for three months straight, I’d be on a ketogenic diet and if I ate those same meals every single day, or meals just like that in macronutrients makeup, nobody would call that extreme. It sounds like a vegetarian diet and you pour some lean meats on the side. No one is going to say that’s an extreme diet if they hear it that way, but if they say, oh, by the way, by eating that way and not having any bread or rice or any of those other things, then all of a sudden becomes an extreme diet. But that’s what I did for 90 days, ate like that. Yes, the amount of butter and the amount of oils that I put on my salads were high, but they were all the healthy oils, with some controversy. The avocado oil, olive oils, coconut oil, I know that’s kind of controversial but it’s not. It’s not extreme to me.

Mike:                People have expectations based on their experience to where their early judgments come in, and often times when they take the time to actually listen to what Adam just said, like, if they didn’t hear the word ketogenic, they’d be like that’s relatively sustainable and it’s very sustainable.

Adam:               Somebody said to me, that’s a good experiment. A lot of people ask me, what do you eat, and expect me to kind of sum it in a name. It’s a keto or the paleo diet or vegetarian.

Mike:                Or if you’re describing it, they say, oh, you’re doing the paleo and it’s like no, not really.

Adam:               They’re like, that’s a good experiment. What I’m going to do instead is—I’m going to—I don’t know what I call it but this is what I eat. Let me tell you what I eat and you tell me what it is.

Tim:                 And nobody will look at you crooked that way, that’s right.

Adam:               They’ll say, oh, it sounds like a very well balanced diet. That’s hard for people to do. In our day and age, it is very hard for somebody to eat like that because all of the choices and the options, because we do have chips and cereal and cookies.

Mike:               But also their experience. For example, the idea of what your breakfast can be, like when we’ve grown up and we thought, okay, it’s eggs and bacon or cereal or a bagel and cream cheese, or pancakes or french toast and if you’re going really healthy, it’s yogurt or oatmeal or something like that. That’s how we grew up, but the thing is—and people ask me what I have for breakfast, and a lot of times, half the week, I skip it because I have no problem doing that I actually like to do that.

Tim:                 Is that part of an intermittent fast or is that just because you’re busy?

Mike:               A slightly extended fast but often times because I’m just busy but honestly I’m used to it, I don’t mind it, and it has actually worked for me and my body and my results. What I was going to say before is when I do have breakfast, often times, it’s left over dinner which could be just a little bit of a meal chop and some salad. Everyone’s like, you’re going to eat that for breakfast, like that’s the craziest thing they’ve ever heard in their life, and it’s just vegetables and meat. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s amazing how people wince and they tilt their heads and they’re          like, that is unbelievable.

Tim:                 We’ll they’re conditioned to breakfast foods as just for breakfast, and how can you even have that for lunch or have a lunch for dinner or whatever. You’re just fueling your body.

Mike:               Exactly, it is relative, but I think it’s better to talk about—when we are talking to people who have certain expectations and make judgments based on those expectations, it’s better to sort of—and it takes a little bit of extra time, but to actually spell it out the way Adam did before because it really actually makes relatively common sense to almost anyone, regardless of what your dietary beliefs are.

Tim:                 And it can also come down to your motivation.

Adam:             In my mind, I eat a mostly vegetarian diet and the difference is that I use the vegetables that I eat as fat vehicles if you will. That’s how I get my fat intake, so the trick is eating vegetables with all the really good oils, and then you have a little bit of the salmon that brings with it some of its healthy fats, as well as either well raised chicken and well raised meats, cooked properly, and that’s it. If you’re a vegetarian, that doesn’t sound right, but overall, no one is going to argue with eating small amounts of animal protein with a mostly vegetarian diet, with healthy oils. That is basically a ketogenic diet. If everyone imagined, when you hear ketogenic or Atkins style diets or paleo, they’re all walking around with big turkey legs in their hands, gnawing on animal products with a side of bacon. People do that, and it’s usually too much protein.

Tim:                 In this case, extremes is really a matter of perception, it’s how they’re perceiving a diet. For instance, when you started your ketogenic diet right around the top of the year, you went in specifically to go keto. You didn’t become keto by just changing your diet, so therefore the perception was, you’re doing something extreme, but really when you pull back and look at it, you’re just eating healthy.

Adam:             I’m eating the way I think, and we can debate it and we can bring on some guests that might disagree with me.

Tim:                 And also your blood test might be really great to share with our audience as well.

Adam:             Yes. I think, from my perspective and from my research that I’ve done, that being in a state of ketosis in most of the time, eating the way I described. I gave you a sample meal for example, which for a guy my weight and height, is a couple thousand calories a day. I do it in a way that a couple of times a week, I’m intermittent fasting, but that’s basically how I’m eating and that is generally being in a state of ketosis for most of the time. I think, for me, it’s the healthiest way to eat. Now, I understand that it’s a very hard thing to maintain for a lot of people       and I think compliance to that is tough because you have all of the temptations, and people love a lot of the other foods out there that they essentially have to give up and some people don’t want to live like that.

Mike:               They’re like little choices you have to make in your life about how you want to live. Tim, you were in New York last week and went over to [Inaudible: 10:30] and actually had a really nice lunch. I told Tim, you’ve got to try the burger here, it’s awesome! He was like, you’re not having any, and I was like, no, I’ve had it before. I’m going to have the swordfish and the spinach linguini you know. I had a glass of water and everything and it was a super healthy lunch and he had a great burger, which if I hadn’t had it before, I would have also had it. You know something? All week and for the most part, that’s generally how I’m eating most of the time, but what works with Mike Rogers, is I feel my brain needs to take a little time off. I was at the Dodgers/Mets game on Saturday. I ate perfectly all week, and then I was at the game and I had, and I’m not kidding, two shack burgers, a hot dog, a chocolate shake, two beers, and some of my son’s crackerjacks. So I don’t even think I had the salad that was in the shack burger, but you know something? I did it, whatever. I had a great time at the ball game and Sunday morning, I woke up and I was back on track again. That’s the way it runs my life and it works for me.

Tim:                 It’s good for you. I met you for the first time last week face to face after doing the podcast for about a year and a half now, and obviously you looked trim and fit so whatever you’re doing is certainly working for you.

Mike:               And frankly it’s a process and it takes time. I actually think that there is a fat guy inside of me that really wants to come out, and the thing is, this is what I’m trying to say, that we’re not alone here, no one is alone here. It’s mostly hard work for almost everybody to create a certain level of discipline that makes them closer to       their goals, and the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting has found a home with Adam now, and that may not last forever, but for now, it makes complete sense to him and most of my nutrition is close to that as well, but it’s a little bit different.

Adam:             Well, I was just on a cruise to Alaska, just got back from an Alaskan cruise and you know, the food is 24/7 there. 80% of the time I was eating whatever the hell I wanted which quite honestly, was not according to the ketogenic plan. I had shitty home fries and stuff that I have not been having for a long time because I was like I’m on a cruise, but you know what? I don’t feel that good now.

Tim:                 See, that’s the thing and I was going to ask you. So you’ve been relatively disciplined, for now, going on like eight months or so, and so you go and indulge, mentally indulge, and you don’t feel that good right now as a result of it. So my question was how disciplined have you been over the last eight months? Because you said in the last couple of episodes where we talked about this that when you go keto, people that have been complaint for a large amount of time, they lose the craving and you said, no way. You still crave those crappy steak fries.

Adam:             For me, I haven’t.

Tim:                 You haven’t lost the craving?

Adam:             For me, it’s an addict thing, it really is and I think for most people it is.

Mike:               It is for me.

Adam:             You have to AA it as I like to say, you can’t have one drink if you really want to say—and I’m contemplating it. I’m contemplating rarely going off the way that I—since my experiment, I’ve been maybe 70% eating on track and then 30% off           so I haven’t been all that great. I’ve gained some of the weight back and my digestive system is not as good as it was again.

Tim:                 So not being 100% compliant, you’re noticing it.

Adam:             I’m already noticing it, yeah.

Mike:               Tim, honestly my whole thing. I simplify things in my own mind, this doesn’t work for everybody, but if there’s 21 meals in a week, my rule is kind of like 19 make them perfect and 2 kind of make them be as objectionable as you want and the truth is, you know what gets me? About 95% of the results that I want. Not 100.

Tim:                 That’s a good trick though.

Mike:               And if I want a 100, I think I have to work harder frankly, but I’ve decided that at the moment, I’m happy with 95% of what I really want for myself. Obviously it’s complicated, you have your work life, your family life, vacations. This is not easy stuff but generally when you’re…

Adam:             Some people can do that, and I think some people can say, out of 21 meals, I’m going to be good for 18 of them and that’s it, but the problem is you start a plan like that—I mean I talk about it in my book, a free day. You eat well for six days and you have one free day, and it was a little shortsighted, or at least I should have brought this up at the time and I’m bringing it up now. For some people that have the discipline to be good 18 and not have the other meals kind of throw you off, that’s what ends up happening. You start that thing and then you say, okay, you           work up to your free meal or your free, out of the 21, I’m going to take my 19th meal right now, but that 19th meal leads to never getting back on track for a lot of people. Again, that’s what I mean when I say AA it. For some people, you’re better off just not doing that and staying draconian and a lot of people are not willing to be draconian. I ask people, when weight loss is a goal, I say, how important is it, because as we talked about on the Secret Life of Fat episode and how hard it is to lose body fat and what it entails, how badly do you really want it? And bringing it back to extremes, a lot of people still have this notion that the more exercise they do, they can compensate for getting off track on their eating and it never works. In 20 years by the way, I’ve seen plenty of people lose lots of weight by watching what they eat and just doing a small amount of exercise, whereas I’ve never seen anybody, and I can probably say never, just exercise and add a lot of exercise, without changing their eating, lose a lot of weight. I’ve never seen it, I’ve never seen that. Diet is everything, and then you have to say, how important? Once they get to that realization and they stop with this, I’ve got to keep exercising mentality. Once they realize that and they say, how important is it to really lose those 15, 20, 30 pounds because if it’s really important to you, this is what you’re going to have to do.

Tim:                 It’s all or nothing, yeah.

Mike:               It’s literally having an extreme attitude towards sticking to a reasonable plan.

Adam:             Some people think—that’s not the extreme we’re talking about, which is a great point, Mike. That’s what Mike and I were talking about yesterday privately. You know, some people think just following a diet to the letter of the law is extreme,        but to me, that’s not extreme. It’s extreme discipline, but it’s not irrational, extreme working out until you drop every single day of the week. Those are two different types of extremes in my opinion, and I think there’s a way we should differentiate those types of extremes because sticking to a very healthy diet, which I laid out before, a lot of people think is extreme!

Mike:               Abstinence is extreme.

Adam:             If you want to call it extreme, maybe call it extreme discipline but it’s not extreme like going to CrossFit every single day kind of extreme expecting certain results, or extreme types of stretching thinking you’re going to increase your flexibility and become less injury prone and doing those types of extremes. That’s a different type of extreme in my opinion but maybe they’re not, so I’d like to hear people’s opinions about this because to me, those are two different types of my extremes but maybe some other people see the same exact thing.

Mike:               I know I’ve said this before on the podcast and I discuss it with the clients all the time, but when someone wants a result in some aspect of their life, it usually requires planning and focus and accountability and that’s just what it is and that’s with anything. You have a deliverable for your boss or a client, you can’t just wing it. It really requires a lot of focus and people who take those steps usually succeed at those types of things and this is coupled with your health goals. Often times our—not necessarily coupled with, but adulterated often times with addiction and especially when the nutrition comes in, and the habits that we’re already settled in, our cravings for certain foods at certain times of day and stuff like that, and this is a very hard fought battle for every one of us. Even Adam, who has got an incredible level of discipline, and myself, compared to most people who I deal with, I have a lot of discipline but I still felt I wanted to have those shack burgers. That was what was fun to me at the baseball game. I guess I didn’t need to, but frankly I wanted to and that—what I want—

Tim:                 Well, it’s enhancing an experience too and you have these various experiences in life and maybe food is just part of that enhancement. So how sustainable is to sustain “extreme?” Adam, you mentioned you’ve been extremely disciplined for the majority of this year.

Mike:               It goes into what Adam said before, how badly do you want your goals?

Adam:             This is an interesting point actually. It made me think of something. What Mike just said, first of all, the number one question is how important is it to have a certain level of health? And how important is it for these markers to improve, whether it be low body fat and sick pack abs and therefore really good digestion and in my case, no more back pain and less inflammation and a higher chance of not getting cancer as a result of not flooding my system with sugar all the time. How important is all of that for the sacrifice of not having a lot of foods that I want, and like you were just talking about, not having a lot of experiences. Because food is surrounded by experiences, is associated with experiences. A hotdog at a baseball game, things like that. So this is interesting. I had to make a paradigm and it was 90 days, but there was a permanent change that occurred with me and that is this. That we, or I, put a lot more emphasis on the food experience than I needed to. In other words, I would say to myself, are you kidding me, Adam? You can’t enjoy a good baseball game without shoving your face with hotdogs applejacks? If it wasn’t for the apple—what do you call them—yeah, the apple cracker jacks with syrup, I liked that too actually, I used to love apple jacks. So you’re telling me Adam, that if you don’t have the cracker jack and the hot dogs and the beer that you can’t enjoy yourself at this game? If you’re telling me Adam, that if you don’t drop acid at a Grateful Dead concert that you’re not going to have a good time? Come on, I mean necessarily. Can’t you love the music for the music? Can’t you love the game for the game?

Tim:                 Or like going to a restaurant. For instance, my wife and I wanted to go out to dinner and I’m on this, whatever diet I was on at that time, and focusing more on the company at the restaurant than the food.

Adam:             That’s what happened to me in those 90 days. I had to, I forced myself. At the beginning, it was contrived. I was like, listen Adam, you’re not going to eat it because you’re on this 90 day commitment and all of the listeners to this podcast are actually counting on you. So I had a lot of responsibility and a lot of motivation to stick to it, so I wasn’t going to switch. I wasn’t going to cheat, and therefore, I had to distract myself. I had to all of a sudden pay more attention to my wife during dinner than shoving my face with french fries and bread and wine and alcohol.

Mike:               I can only imagine the hell that that was.

Adam:             But it enhanced it, things got—it’s like when you’re blind, your sense of touch gets better and your other senses improve, and that’s what happened. My other senses in a way improved as a result of me not reaching for food to fill a void.

Mike:               You’re so much hotter now that you just said that.

Adam:             It was exciting, it was exciting. Not to say that I haven’t slipped since then, but I missed that. I missed those 90 days for that, because I was more productive. It helped me focus on my relationships, my guitar playing. When I can’t grab that bag of chips or chocolate and then I see my acoustic guitar over there, I’m like, okay, let me just grab that. I’ll get myself into a song and I’ll forget all about that, and when the cravings came instead of grabbing the bag, I thought of a rational solution. I said if I just have a piece of apple and almond butter then I’ll move on and get rid of those hunger pangs and it was very strategic and again, it was very enlightening for me. I really became acutely aware of the rest of my life and all the things in it. I decided to run upstairs and start hanging out with my kids who were on their computers. So instead of just sitting in front of the couch, resorting to some snack, watching TV mindlessly, I just ran upstairs, “hey Clay, what are you doing?” And next thing you know, I’m doing something with him.

Mike:               Wow, there’s a correlation between not eating junk food and caring about your family.

Tim:                 Chips or my kids, which do I choose?

Adam:             I know this sounds really, totally philosophical and maybe a little corny, but it was real. Even though I had to go off that a little bit, I have changed as a result of that, even when I’m not being where I want to be, but I understand what I’m doing. It’s still hard.

Tim:                 As they say, backsliding in your diet and you not feeling so well now, it’s also a great reminder it looks like in this season of your life to say, ah, the other way is much better than what is happening right now.

Adam:            Today is Tuesday, my cruise—I got back on Sunday and yesterday I was good, today I’m fine, and I think I am back on track and just having this conversation, I’m telling you, it’s like therapy. Just having the conversation—there’s a reason why you’re supposed to go to those meetings, those AA meetings, all the time, just talking about being around other people that experience it too and it’s just day by day. It’s a day by day thing and you can’t beat yourself up if you slip up; I haven’t beaten myself up over this, I know what it takes to go back to that and I    just have to remind myself of all of these other good things. I still have those cravings. I still have to distract myself, but in an attempt to distract myself, I’m making myself better and more productive and I am ultimately happier. I was ultimately happier and more fulfilled and now I’m 80% that way instead of 100% that way, but it’s amazing the ramifications, like the domino effect that it has just by severing your relationship that way with food.

Mike:               Once you get into the groove and all of our clients who have been in the groove where they’re compliant to their plan, like a very solid nutrition plan in their workouts and they’re walking frequently and everybody reports that they always feel better at that time. Even if they look forward to seeing their friends and they know that they’re going to be having drinks when they go out for happy hour or something like that, they reflect on those times. Maybe they’ll have only one or something or maybe they won’t at all, but I think the point is that the mindfulness that Adam was talking about. Like even when you know you’re doing it wrong or backsliding, you’re aware of that feeling and what you’re missing and it does make you better. You’re less likely, or rather you’re more likely to do what you really are setting out to do which gets you closer to how your body feels and looks and all those kinds of things.

Adam:             To wrap up, it reminds me of conversations that I have all the time with people during the first time they meet with me for a consultation to work out. I’m very often asked during that consultation, when will I see results. I very often answer that question with another question which is, what do you mean by results, and then the discussion continues about results and what they consider results and what I consider results and then we find that place where we both agree on that we’re going to go to and we help define results and we have a meeting of the minds on that. The same thing with extremes and the word extreme and the definition of extreme. So if I was to kind of sum up the moral of the story here and what we’ve been discussing is that we should be extreme about being disciplined, not extreme for extreme sake. So why don’t we end with this challenge, if you will. Pick something for 90 days that you can not veer from; whether it be practicing your guitar every day for 90 days and seeing where you end up and what comes from that. Whether it be losing a certain amount of weight and sticking to a nutrition plan, whether it be, I don’t know, quality time with your family, but take it and don’t veer for 90 days and see what happens. See if you have the same experience I had, alright, good luck and we’ll talk to you next week.

Tim:                 Okay, so you’ve been challenged. Give yourself 90 days to make a change, whatever it might be. Now, if you accept this challenge, we would love to hear from you. You can email us, or better yet, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to podcast@informfitness.com and with your permission, we can mention you in an upcoming episode. Perhaps you need some additional inspiration to kick off Adam’s challenge. If so, might I recommend Adam’s book? The Power of Ten: The Once a Week, Slow Motion, Fitness Revolution. Check out the show notes for a link that will take you right to it in Amazon, and while you’re bouncing around the internet, don’t forget to jump on over to informfitness.com for all of their seven locations across the U.S. You’ll also find all of our podcast episodes and there are a ton of videos, including a bunch that my company, InBound Films produced for the Toluca Lake location. And speaking of Toluca Lake, looking forward to having Sheila Melody back with us again next week. So until then, for Adam, Mike, and Sheila of InForm Fitness, I’m Tim Edwards the InBound Podcasting Network.