Adding Before Subtracting

A not-so FAQ from my cousin (young skinny female): “I want to build strength and muscle, what should I do!?!?”


I smiled after reading this question from my cool open minded cuz from NYC.
Often we hear of weight loss questions, how to combat fat gain, reducing this and cutting out that; always subtracting! It is not often that we inquire about building, gaining, growing, increasing, and adding! In elementary school, I was curious about why we always learned addition before subtraction. I believe there is value in the order of things, not simply in the content of things. We must re-evaluate this concept in the world of functional fitness and health, and perhaps growth and development, longevity and sustainability.

I responded to my cousin with animal references for a more visual approach:
“Believe it or not, your results depend more on how eager and dedicated you are to diet, nutrition, and rest…the building, resting, growing, adding part of metabolism. You must eat like a CARNIVOROUS BUNNY. Lots of leafy greens, lean meat / seafood, and tons of water. Your intake is more important than your output at this early stage, so you must WORK LIKE A HORSE AND REST LIKE A BEAR.”

The “work hard, play hard” mandate needs updating. The one that I promote is “work hard, play hard, REST HARDER”.

I went on to prescribe her 4 primary exercises to focus on that are multi-joint, high load, low reps, multi-set, and maximal effort sets.

In 4-6 months, you should aim to:
1. Deadlift (Goal = 50% bodyweight)
2. Front Squat (Goal = 50% bodyweight)
3. Push Up (Goal = 10 perfect push ups on toes)
4. Pull up (Goal = 3 full underhand from hang position)

Before I recommended any specifics with diet, I explain this general rule of thumb on adding before subtracting:“drown out the bad with the good”.

I believe everyone in this overworking society has food vices and a foodie side to them. We use food to balance shortcomings, emotional imbalances, and pleasure versus pain issues. Admit it, we just don’t make beautiful mounds of kale and spinach, carrot and celery sticks for our holiday dinners, that wouldn’t be holiday, that would be festivus! Instead, continue with being the foodie that you are, someone that relishes in the world of culinary creativity, and add the extra goodness of health beforehand, like a garnish to a beautiful evening. “Before I devour that Confit de Canard on a bed of herb roasted hash frites and side of butter sauteed green beans, accompanied by my favorite bottle of Cab, and flourless chocolate cake to finish….. I’ll prepare myself a small kale and spinach green smoothie”.

If you can commit to adding that small bit of goodness into each holiday-like meal, overtime, your commitment will become a conditioned behavior and thus will lead to a lifestyle of more good than bad! The amount of good will start to tip in your favor as positive changes start to rise over the negatives, hence a drowning out of the bad with the good.

There’s no reason to subtract all the joys of life away. Elimination dieting is most often short lived and usually fights back with a vengeance. The ultimate is living with the joys of life as a bunny-horse-bear by adding before subtracting, and loving the way you look and feel for it all.

Cheers to a results bound holiday season,