To Build A Better Baker: Reps, Rolling Pins, and Finding A Reason

Good evening, friends and neighbors!
    Ostensibly, this is a baking and food blog. I am, after all, a baker and culinary professional. I am used to, and in fact EXPECT to, get a lot of questions.
    Most of them, however, are about fitness and weight loss- particularly mine.
    “How do you keep so slim while working in a bakery? I’d be as big as a house!”                “How can you stand to be around all that butter and sugar?”

Or, worst of all,

    “What diet are you on/pill are you taking to keep so trim?!”

     First of all, “diet” in this context may as well be a slur. It will not be used on this blog again. Second, no. There are no magic pills or miracle supplements that will make it so you can scarf down 50 hamburgers in a sitting and wake up tomorrow with six-pack abs.      I have sold quite a few things in my life- one thing I will NEVER attempt to sell is bullshit. That is a promise.

    Well, since I am here to answer questions, and I love to stomp out misinformation wherever I find it, let’s discuss weight loss and fitness.

     By the by, another person who asked me about weight loss was my friend Stu Segal. He interviewed me and bunch of other great folks with stories WAY more fascinating than mine for his latest book, “Get In Shape Before It’s Too Late (P.S. It’s Never Too Late,)” available on Amazon.

1. MOTIVATION
    When I first decided to start losing weight, I was an absolute MESS. I was working as a nurse’s aide. I was going to culinary school at night. I had back, knee, and shoulder pain that would regularly render me immobile as soon as I laid down. On top of all of it, I had just been dumped by a longtime girlfriend.

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This guy…

    Why would I lose weight at THAT point in my life, and not another? Well, I had nothing LEFT to lose. I was in pain- physical, mental and emotional. I was unhealthy. My father was terrified I’d develop diabetes, which tends to run in my family along with obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and lung disease.
    After a timely family vacation, involving a revelatory talk with my older sister, I had reasons to get fit:
    1. Get healthy- I don’t want to die young.
    2. Get fit- I’m tired of living in pain.
    3. Vengeance- show the girl that dumped me that I can get on and do great without her. (Full disclosure: this motivation vanished when I started working out for MY reasons rather than someone else’s- an altogether more healthy way to go about it.)

    Today, 100+ lbs later, my motivations are VERY different, but no less potent.
    1. Stay fit so I can live my life the way I want.
    2. Stay strong so I can do the job I love for as long as possible.
    3. Workout because it burns stress and I always feel better after.

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Without exercise, I figure I’d be here in about a month…


2. THE BIG SECRET

​    You have the Internet. Look it up. Google “how to lose weight.” Seriously, you will DROWN in the number of sites and blogs of people that are more than happy to sell you every kind of method, food, snack, lifestyle, pill, or black magic hocus-pocus whatever that they say will make you shed weight.

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No shortage of opinions out there…

     You can eat whatever “miracles” Dr. Oz is chatting about on TV (is that snake-oil salesman even still around?), or pick up products from one of those nightmare-factory reality shows, but ANY weight loss routine will be based around one simple, golden truth. It can even be broken down to a simple logic statement:
     IF CALORIES BURNED > CALORIES CONSUMED, THEN WEIGHT LOSS.

    That’s it. The golden rule. The only magic ANYTHING you will ever need for weight loss, and it’s not even magic- it’s science.
    Calories are just energy. When you eat, you bring energy into your body. When you workout, or move, or just go about LIVING, you burn energy. Any energy your body gets but DOESN’T burn is stored, as – you guessed it- fat.
    From there, it’s simple mechanics. If your body doesn’t get enough fresh calories to feed its activity, it’ll go into the reserves and start burning the fat.
     Bam. Simple. No confusing jargon, no fancy graphs, no easy-installment payment plans.

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No, Sheldon…. Put it away.

     So this is all great, but maybe you’re a bit more like me. You need to SEE it happen. You need a metric. And maybe you need a sweet little phone app because you’re addicted to logging stuff. Well, got you covered there too.
MyFitnessPal is a handy little food and exercise journal that does the nutritional math for you. Fitocracy is an exercise app and community that makes fitness fun by likening it to an RPG. Both are free at the basic level, with a paid subscription unlocking more features.

    There’s the big secret, and a couple little apps to help you watch it work. No one asks about that stuff though. They ask about the exercise sometimes, but mostly, they want to know…

3. WHAT I EAT
    Here we go- you’re probably waiting for me to slip and use the “D-word.” Well, you’ll be surprised and thrilled to know that- no. I don’t. I eat precisely what I want, and usually when I want it.
    One caveat, though- what I want has been subject to change since I began.

    When it comes down to food, two things I have learned to keep my eye on are nutritional density and portion size. As I started paying attention to what I ate, I realized that the foods I used to really like- chips, fries, caramels, and so on- were super-calorie dense but didn’t pack much else, and definitely didn’t fill me up.  I started to realize that I COULD have that delicious Tastykake pie that I loved so much… But then I’d be relegating myself to some miserable, weakling salad for dinner, and I was really looking forward to the warm hearty beef stew I had made.
    No food plan or weight-loss scheme told me to leave the pie alone- it was the realization that I could get much more pleasure out of some foods than others. My tastes started to change. Tastykake pies weren’t worth the calories, but celery and carrots could be delicious, and I could eat a TON of them.

    That’s how I eat- a simple value judgement of what’ll give me the most enjoyable bang for my caloric buck. Economics made tasty!

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Remember- portion control…


That’s only half the equation though. That’s my method for bringing calories in. Burning them, however, is a more interesting tale.

4. WHAT I DO

    My exercise regimen has three parts to it.
1. Running (cardio exercise, trying to run 5 kilometers as fast as I can.)
2. Gotch’s Bible (bodyweight strength training, completed as fast and neatly as possible.)
3. Sandbag training (using a 50lbs sack of sand as a stand-in for a flour bag, recreating the motions I do with it in a bakery.)

    I didn’t start out quite this way. In the beginning, I had gotten a membership at a gym and was visiting it three days a week, mostly doing cardio on the treadmill or elliptical, and weights on whatever machines I could figure out.
    Then, I got to meet my future brother-in-law, Kevin.

Kevin is a martial artist, bassist, and generally a kick-ass-take-names kind of guy. While crashing at his place one evening, we got to talking about fitness. I told him about my gym membership and what I was trying to accomplish. Kevin smirked and pointed at a deck of cards on his TV.
    The deck of cards was the only equipment needed for Gotch’s Bible– a calisthenics regimen created by a German wrestler named Karl Gotch. Kevin also showed me a book called “Dinosaur Training” by Brooks Kubik, describing how to exercise using whatever was around you.

    Both Gotch and Kubik had a simple philosophy- fitness was every man’s right, and no man should have to pay for the pleasure of enjoying it. Kevin’s entire fitness regimen happened at home.

    Hell, I didn’t mind having an extra $50 in my pocket each month. I was sold. Kevin gave me one last bit of advice- I should “train for what I want to do.” What did I want to do with my fit, healthy body once I got it? Bake for as long as possible without my knees and back going to crap.

    These days, I tend to work out early in the morning (when I have the most energy,) and a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.

     So there you have it. That’s how I do it. No pills, no fads, no wraps- no bullshit. Just smart eating and good honest sweat.

So, can we all please kick the “Never trust a skinny cook” crap to the curb already?

Stay Classy,