The Care and Feeding of Super Heroes and Beauty Queens

Let me be the first to say that I never thought I’d be interested in something as boring as food. I am not a foodie. 

Five years ago if you’d asked me what my final meal would be if I was a death row inmate I would have told you a McDonald’s Number Four – Supersized with a Coke. And so it was with a little disdain that I accepted the news from my family doctor that my cholesterol was slightly elevated and that I’d need to watch my diet. “Diet,” he said…translated as “Die with a T” by my favorite comic strip cat, Garfield. Hmmph. But the alternative was cholesterol meds…and I was way too young for that.

I was not eager to hear his advice, but it sounded simple enough…He asked that before I eat a cheeseburger I should try and remember the last time I’d had a cheeseburger…if was less than a couple days, maybe I should have a salad. Oh, and try oatmeal for breakfast, he said. That would mean giving up my usual Pop Tarts, Donuts and Toaster Streudel. But, like I said, I’m no foodie. A salad seemed just as easy as a cheeseburger. I was instructed to give it a shot and come back for more bloodwork in a month. Which I did. Man, I gotta tell you…by barely even trying I lowered my cholesterol by over forty points. Just by skipping the occasional burger and fries and adding oatmeal to my breakfast routine. Interesting. And, I was no longer on the doctor’s watch list. Crisis averted. Until next year’s physical when his news was exactly the same. Of course, I hadn’t stuck to the breakthrough routine. I figured I was young. I’d recover. 

Flash forward a year or two. My wife swoons over my werewolf inspiration/nemesis and my twin girls are into action movies. Spiderman, Iron Man, The Hulk…you name the hero, my kids are in the living room pretending to save the world in their store-bought super-hero costumes. For the record, girl hero costumes are not nearly as cool as boy-hero costumes. First of all, there are more boy options…and second of all, these days, the boy costumes come with built-in muscles. When in the heck did that happen, anyway? Talk about body-image issues! I digress. Well, on second thought…maybe I don’t. Because here’s the deal; every day we see these super-human guys saving the girl or battling the forces of evil. They’re on TV and on ads on buses. Yeah, I know its just Hollywood and I’ve seen the videos of how “the industry” retouches all the models in photoshop. But, still, even before all that, I grew up watching Bruce Lee. And, Sylvester Stallone. Real athletic guys who had real muscles. And, I had to wonder…is it really possible…can a regular guy actually get to a place where he looks that good? How many hours do you have to spend in the gym to get there? And, this isn’t just about the guys…There are some really good looking gals out there that are real-life models that do not have eating disorders and require very little photoshop work. Like…just walking around town. How do they do it? Is it a big secret that they only let pretty people in on?

I was already doing the CrossFit thing. That was a start. But my fitness goal was abs. Werewolf ones. And, all my research kept talking about diet. “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” There was that word again. ‘Diet.” I really hate that word. And, it would seem by the high rate of New Year’s resolution drop-outs that most of America hates that word, too. And, I can’t blame them. Because at some point you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to be in-shape…or do I want to eat whatever I want?” Turns out it’s really just that simple.

I can’t take all the credit for this realization. During all my research, I started to lean pretty heavily on this guy:
Werewolf body, right? That’s Mark Sisson, from This is a picture of him recently, in his fifties. And, he claims the secret to super-hero werewolf abs is mostly diet (with some exercise.) The cost of entry was low. $27 for a book. And, it was probably the most interesting book about food I’ve ever read. This guy is an athlete whose goal is to stay in shape through the rest of his life. OK, so here I was at age 34…and this guy in his 50’s was looking better than I ever had. He could be out there saving the world incognito for all I knew.

If you know anything about me by now, its that I’ll try just about anything once. I read the book from cover to cover. And, two other ones that had similar learnings. Enter the Zone by Barry Sears and The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain. These are all on the CrossFit reading list. Very, very interesting true stuff in there. And, I set out for a very long-term experiment. Were these “diets” sustainable? Would there be any negative side effects? Did any of them involve giving up food? Because, dang it, I refuse to be hungry. I’m American…and Americans will not go hungry!

Seems like Mark, Barry and Loren were right. My perspective on food went from “is it edible?” to “will it fuel me?” And, you know…it was actually easy. Keep in mind I’m not a foodie. I understand there are folks out there that CRAVE foods. I’m not one of those people. So, learning to eat good stuff and avoid the bad was pretty easy for me. Oh, and cheating…I cheated on my diet every Saturday. For about a year. Until my diet actually stopped being a diet and just became how I ate. (Some people call it a “lifestyle” That’s when you know you’re not normal anymore…people call what you eat a “lifestyle” and roll their eyes.)

The ultimate test, though was in the bloodwork. I was able to do a side-by-side comparison after a year from one physical to the next. And, the results were pretty cool. Bad cholesterol down. Good cholesterol up. Triglycerides…way down. I was actually way better (bloodwork-wise) than the average American after a year of eating eggs, red meat and, holy cow…BACON! And I ate ALL THE TIME. Hungry? I think I’ll just eat. I always had a bag of food with me…because between the CrossFit three days a week and eating good food, my body wasn’t storing fat anymore…it was actually using it for fuel. My body was burning fat. And, that is a good thing. Look it up.

This week, in closing, here’s the unforgettable conversation that keeps me going:

Me (to my daughter as I flex my msucles): How do you like having a dad that looks like Captain America?
Daughter: You don’t look like him. He has a six-pack and you only have four. Oh, and you have less hair.

(I guess the good news is she didn’t mention he’s taller than me?)

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