Weight Loss Flow Chart




During my nearly thirty years in the fitness industry I have seen many changes. One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is the difficulty in many individuals ability to lose weight. Fitness professionals, doctors, dietitians, and researchers have all subscribed to the eat less and move more theory of weight loss. While usually the first place to start on a weight loss journey, this model has become less effective.


While I do believe this theory has a place (most individuals will still lose weight by reducing calories and increasing activity) there are often other factors at play. A paradigm shift is needed in our battle with obesity, especially for those who have cut calories and increased activity.


Unfortunately for those who haven’t found success cutting calories – it’s not always an easy solution. There are multiple factors that could be making it difficult to shed pounds. These factors are not always easy to determine, however after reading this article they should become clearer.


This article serves as a comprehensive checklist for things to try if the scale isn’t budging. One might consider starting with ideas closer to the top and working down the list. In addition this guide is meant to be a summary.  Many of the topics have links that provide additional information. These links will provide greater insight into the topic. Let’s begin:


1. Reducing Calories – The first stop on a weight loss journey. Individuals need to take an honest look at the number of calories consumed (people underestimate their calories from 10 – 50%). There are dozens of apps today that can provide you with an estimate of the calories needed for you to lose weight (examples include Weight Watchers and Myfitnesspal). For most individuals following these guidelines is enough to see the scale move in the right direction. If not – read on.


2. Increasing Exercise/Right Kind of Exercise – Everyone knows that exercise should be a part of weight loss program, however not everyone knows the proper type. Many individuals believe cardio is the only form of exercise that is necessary to lose weight. While cardio can be helpful, ideally one should also incorporate strength training, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and/or a program that combines them all. Engaging in cardio helps burn calories, strength training builds muscle which speeds up the metabolism 24/7, and HIIT burns calories, speeds up the metabolism after exercise, and changes your hormonal environment for the better.


3. Breakdown of Calories – For years people have said that it doesn’t matter where the calories come from it’s only the total that matters – not true (especially for those who struggle with weight). We know that a higher protein/lower carbohydrate/moderate fat diets are more effective for maximizing fat loss, especially for sedentary individuals. This exact breakdown of macronutrients is up for debate, but general recommendations are roughly equal amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats vs. the old school recommendations of approximately 60-65% carbs, 12-15% proteins, and 20-30% fat.


4. Medical Conditions/Hormonal Issues – This is one of the most common pitfalls when it comes to weight loss, especially as we age. Low T, hypothyroidism, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and Insulin Resistance/Syndrome X are issues that can make weight loss difficult if not impossible. Talking with your primary care physician or endocrinologist can help you determine if this is the case. Please be aware that there is controversy over acceptable hormone ranges and some doctors are more aggressive in offering solutions when weight loss is the goal. For more information on hormonal issues and how to test for them properly check out Dr. Mark Hyman’s video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBZwqKXGYJ8


5. Probiotics/Gut Health – Poor gut health can lead to a host of problems including weight gain. Individuals with compromised gut bacteria/health should consider addressing this symptom. Most experts recommend taking a probiotic, eating whole foods vs processed, consuming healthy fats (especially fish oils), and reducing inflammatory foods. For a detailed four minute video on gut health check out the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTAUaPs8Zp4


6. Medications – When it comes to weight loss certain medications can make it extremely difficult. Make sure to check your medicine cabinet to see if this might be the case. Some common medications that can hinder weight loss include: beta blockers, birth control pills, some anxiety medications, those that treat epilepsy, prescriptions that treat inflammatory conditions, and diabetes. For a thorough article on medications and weight loss check out the following link: http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=23531


7. Food Supply – There’s a reason that individuals are having more difficulty losing weight today than thirty years ago. Arguably the biggest reason is the food supply. Today our cattle is inundated with antibiotics and hormones, our fruits and vegetables are laden with pesticides, and many of our foods have been genetically modified (GMO). Many studies show that consuming antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and GMOs can increase body fat. Going organic and cutting back on GMOs can be helpful on the weight loss journey.  For a more detailed discussion on this subject please check out my blog at http://freedom4lifefitness.com/exercising-moreeating-less-still-not-losing-weight/


8. Inflammation/Inflammatory Foods – Inflammation can wreak havoc on the body and cause a multitude of problems including weight gain. While a fairly complex subject many experts agree that certain foods are inflammatory. According to J.J. Virgin author of the Virgin Diet – gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, peanuts, sugar, and artificial sweeteners can cause inflammation and weight gain. Eliminating all these foods (especially gluten, dairy, and sugar) might help reduce weight. Virgin recommends eliminating these foods from your diet for 21 days and measuring improvements. After the 21 days certain foods are introduced back into the diet and to see if these were the foods creating inflammation. To understand better about the weight gain inflammation connection check out the following blog: http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-weight-gain-inflammation-connection/


9. High Fructose Corn Syrup/Sugar Intake – There’s a saying in the fitness industry “Sugar makes you Fat.” While the lower the better – the American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 or less for men. A regular coke has 33 grams of sugar (actually high fructose corn syrup – which some studies show is worse than table sugar).  By law labels are required to list sugars on the package so for many foods it is easy to monitor. Some of the most common culprits of sugar include sodas, fruit juices, candy, and energy bars. 


10. Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency – Being deficient in vitamins and minerals can lead to a slowed metabolism, increased cravings, and lack of energy. According to Rick Tague, M.D. individuals with the lowest amount of vitamins and minerals gain the most weight. In order to combat deficiencies he recommends eating 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables, consuming a multivitamin, taking omega 3s, and a calcium magnesium blend. While getting our foods through fruits and vegetables is ideal, there are supplement companies that manufacture protein/vitamin mineral blends that use whole foods. For those who find it nearly impossible to eat that way “Vega all in one” and “Green Vibrance” are products that can help ensure adequate intake of fruits and vegetables in addition to an array of vitamins minerals, etc.


11. Fiber – Eating plenty of fiber can help stabilize blood sugar, make you feel fuller, and slightly block the absorption of extra calories. The daily recommendations are 25 grams for a 2,000 calorie diet, however many experts recommend more. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. For a list of 16 high fiber foods check out the following link: https://greatist.com/health/surprising-high-fiber-foods


12. Water – Drinking water helps boost metabolism, cleanse your body of waste, and acts as an appetite suppressant. If your weight loss is slower than anticipated, consider upping your water intake. The Institute of Medicine recommends that the average woman consume 11 cups of water whereas men need 15. To see how water can negatively affect your body including weight loss check out this infographic: http://blog.naturessunshine.com/en/dehydration-infographic/


13. Food Sensitivities/Food Allergies – Authors from a study in Europe that looked at children found that obese kids had threefold higher levels of C reactive protein (CRP) and a 2 and a half times higher level of IgG antibodies to food. The researchers believe that elevated CRP and IgG levels result in general inflammation in the body and play a role in obesity.  In order to determine food allergies there are tests that can be performed (e.g. Alcat test or Alletess). For those choosing not to perform a test eliminating the seven most inflammatory foods mentioned earlier is another option. Typically eliminating some of the most common food allergies for three weeks can sometimes determine inflammation from certain foods. For a detailed video on food allergies check out the following video: https://youtu.be/wWJdnKmJKrc


14. Eating Processed Foods vs. Whole Foods – Some studies have shown calories from processed foods will lead to about 50 percent less calories being burnt after the meal vs. whole foods. This means diets that feature a high proportion of processed foods can make weight loss more difficult. Similarly, it has been recently suggested by research that artificial sweeteners modify the microbiome in our gut. And even though these sweeteners contain zero calories, these changes in the gut are responsible for both high blood sugar and weight gain.” Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-ricci/weight-loss-mistakes_b_7634472.html


15. Removing Toxins – Environmental toxins can cause weight gain and lead to diabetes. In order to remove toxins regular bowel movements, urination, movement, and perspiration are needed. If you’re not exercising, sweating, and having regular bowel movements you might be building up toxins in the body. Besides regular exercise consuming a high fiber diet, using an infrared sauna, and foam rolling/massage/fascia blasting can help detox the body (some individuals have found success using the fascia blaster while in an infrared sauna). For a detailed video on the Fascia Blaster check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLolFaiWmqWmJ1RudlB3TAHLcYIumET4v3&v=ybloWqe82Ck


16. Chronic Stress – When you live in a state of anxiety, stress, or fear there is an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, especially in the waist. We know that stress can alter our metabolism and some researchers say that stress can put on as much as eleven pounds a year. For more information on this subject check out this TV interview with a doctor who discusses stress, weight gain, and foods that can help fight stress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH0xgJoeKZQ


17. Lack of Sleep – Sleep deprivation can cause you to eat more overall, put you at risk of overeating in the evening, and increase intake of foods high in dietary fat.  Being sleep deprived can cause individuals to seek out energy and often it is in the form of extra calories. Individuals who are sleep deprived are estimated to consume an extra 250 – 500 calories daily. For more information on how lack of sleep effects weight check out the following study: https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2010/10/03/sleep-loss-limits-fat-loss-study-finds


18. High Sodium Diets – It is well known that eating a high sodium diet causes an increase in water weight and bloating. Constant exposure to a high sodium lifestyle can make weight loss a challenge. Packaged foods, canned items, and processed meats are typically high in salt. In addition some suggest that high sodium intake causes weight gain regardless of calories (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/much-salt-makes-you-fat-6366145). The RDA recommends less than 2300 mg a day or less however the average American consumes 3400. Also check labels as with sugar – manufacturers are required to list sodium on the label.


Hopefully this blog gave you some insight into possible culprits hindering weight loss. Because whole articles could be written on each subject, I would encourage you to dig deeper if any of these resonate with you. You hold the power to your success and know yourself better than anyone! Much success!


Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.


Why the food supply, gut bacteria, and NON caloric items can be causing weight gain!

When it comes to weight loss it was once as easy as calories in vs. calories out. Consume less than what your body needs to maintain its current weight and voila the weight comes off.  While once an effective strategy it’s doesn’t always work now.


While this method doesn’t always work it doesn’t mean that portion size and exercise aren’t important. Reducing food intake and exercising more can still have dramatic improvements on weight loss. In fact a large percentage of individuals will still lose weight with the traditional recommendation of exercise more and eat less.


However if you’ve tried exercising more and eating less and it’s not working there are several reasons as to why this could be happening. Some are easy to fix and understand and others not so much.  In addition the research is still coming in so we do not have all the answers. So if you’re someone who has tried many diets with limited success – read on!


While this article is designed to provide possible culprits for lack of weight loss – it is not an exhaustive study. I would encourage you to take this information and read for yourself – there are multiple sources at the end of the article that go into greater detail on many of the topics. Here are some of the most common reasons individuals are not losing weight even when exercising more and eating less.


FOOD SUPPLY (antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, GMOs)


Over the last few decades food manufacturers and growers have started altering the food supply. In order to boost up profits they are giving animals antibiotics with the hopes of keeping them healthier (and bigger). These antibiotics are then passed onto humans and can have a negative affect in our gut bacteria (we’ll discuss later) and an increase in weight gain (not to mention there is evidence that children who take a lot of antibiotics tend to be more overweight). The widespread use of antibiotics has ramped up in the last few decades and coincides with the increase of obesity in our nation.  


In addition to antibiotics cattle are given hormones (chickens are not given hormones so packaging that says hormone free for chicken isn’t necessary). These hormones cause the animals to bulk up much quicker.  Many experts believe that when we consume or drink the milk from the dairy cattle it can cause weight gain. For example a study in the International Journal of Obesity from researchers at 10 different universities, including Yale University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University, found that the use of steroid hormones in meat production and on conventional dairy farms could be a possible contributor to the obesity epidemic.


In order to combat the possibility of artificial weight gain consume meats that are raised without antibiotics, hormones, and grass fed. You can find hormone free. grass fed meat at many supermarkets.  Also choosing wild caught fish (i.e. salmon) would be a better choice than farm raised.


In addition to hormones our food supply can contain pesticides. Besides being unhealthy for consumption they can alter our endocrine system and mimic estrogen (Source: CBS news). Estrogen which is a female hormone can undermine our ability to build muscle and aids in fat storage.


While pesticides are in our food supply we can lessen our intake. According to a recent study in the journal – Environmental Health Perspectives, eating the right fruits and vegetables and avoiding the most contaminated ones, for just five days can reduce circulating pesticide based obesogens (foreign chemical compounds that disrupt normal development and balance of lipid metabolism, which in some cases, can lead to obesity).


The fruits with the highest pesticide content are apple, pears, peaches, imported grapes and strawberries. Buying organic can help reduce pesticide consumption. In addition fruits with skin are usually less of a concern because the pesticides does not usually penetrate it (i.e. bananas, oranges, grapefruit, etc.).


Apart from the use of pesticides food manufacturers have begun modifying foods in order to enhance production and profitability. These genetically modified foods (GMOs) have raised eyebrows because of their potential health consequences. In fact researchers from Norway fed food containing GM corn to one group of rats and food containing non-GM corn to another group. Over the course of 90 days, the rats on the GM-corn diet grew fatter and ate more food than the rats on the non-GM diet. The researchers also noticed that rats got fatter when they ate fish that had been raised on GM corn.


As the public has become more aware of the controversy surrounding GMOs manufacturers have started to make changes. In fact you can find many foods that say non GMO and there is an organization the “non GMO project” which has the stated goal of providing non GMO labeling.



Hormones play a large role in how our body functions, including metabolism. If there is something amiss it can result in significant difficulty losing weight. Some of the most common hormonal culprits are growth hormone deficiency, low testosterone, and an underactive thyroid.

According to webmd signs of an underactive thyroid include: fatigue, changes in menstrual cycle, sensitivity to cold/cold hands, dry skin, fatigue, constipation, and difficulty losing weight. Signs of low testosterone and/or low growth hormone can include: fatigue, depression, loss of muscle mass, increase in body fat, and mood changes.  If you suspect these might be hindering your body’s ability to lose weight have your levels checked. An endocrinologist can provide you with a full panel of levels determining highs and lows. They can then incorporate ways to balance out levels. In addition there are many physicians who specialize in hormone replacement therapy.




HFCS is chemically similar to table sugar and is found in a variety of foods.  The most common source is sodas, however it can also be found in cereal, bread, ketchup, yogurt, fruit juice, and a variety of other foods. It has been widely added to foods and drinks over the last 40+ years and correlates with the rise in obesity over the same time frame.


For years HFCS was considered to be equal to table sugar, however that perspective is changing. For example a Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.


The first stop on limiting HFCS is to eliminate all sodas from your diet. In addition start reading your labels and find out what foods you typically consume that have them. Also for those with a sweet tooth stevia is a natural sweetener that has become more popular in recent years and can now be found in more products and even in many restaurants.  




According to wikipedia Gut flora (gut microbiota, or gastrointestinal microbiota) is the complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals. According to many experts including the gut health project – poor gut health can increase the risks of a variety of ailments. Importantly it appears to play a role in obesity.


Research shows that obese people have a different mix of bacteria in their gut than lean people. Researchers led by Jeffrey Gordon, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, set out to find direct evidence that gut bacteria have a role in obesity.

The team took gut bacteria from four sets of human twins in which one of each pair was lean and one was obese, and introduced the microbes into mice bred to be germ-free. Mice given bacteria from a lean twin stayed slim, whereas those given bacteria from an obese twin quickly gained weight, even though all the mice ate about the same amount of food.

Since it appears that there is a correlation between gut health and obesity many individuals have looked for solutions to help restore their gut flora. One way to help restore a healthy gut is by taking probiotics and/or increasing consumption of fermented vegetables (i.e. sauerkraut, beets, etc.) or cultured dairy products (i.e. keifer, yogurt, etc.).



Having the right amount of fiber in your diet is important. The American Heart Association recommends 25-30 grams daily. The average American gets about 15 grams per day. Consuming plenty of fiber will help you feel fuller longer, stabilize blood sugar, and block the absorption of some extra fat and calories.


Some foods that are high in fiber include beans, lentils, artichokes, peas, avocados, raspberries/blackberries, and bran. In addition there are some protein bars like quest bars, specially made breads (i.e. low carb tortillas/high fiber breads) and cereals like Kashi Go Lean which are very high in fiber.




Two Thirds of the body is made up of water and being adequately hydrated is an important part of keeping the metabolism functioning properly. Dehydration can affect the body’s metabolism – decreasing the ability to burn fat. It also tends to contribute to excess calorie consumption leading to fat being stored on the body, including the stomach. To highlight the importance of drinking water there a study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism which showed that the metabolic rate increases by 30 percent after drinking 2 cups of water.


Since water is an important part of a weight loss strategy – how much should we drink? There is no easy answer as lifestyle, age, sex, and body mass can all play a role. While there are multiple factors at play The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day. While it does list total beverages it should be mentioned that coffee, sodas, and black tea have a diuretic property so whenever possible water should be consumed.




Dr. Rick Tague highlights three reasons that vitamin/mineral deficiencies can cause weight gain. First we’ll have more cravings because our body is lacking the vitamins and minerals our body needs and cause us to eat more. Second it can cause fatigue, which leads to less calories being expended. Thirdly it can slow the metabolism – not having the right nutrients will cause our body chemistry to be off – limiting our bodies ability to burn sugar and fat.


Some common deficiencies that can affect weight gain include vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Eating a well balanced diet and asking your doctor about the possibility of taking supplements is worth considering.




There’s a long list of medications that can cause weight gain. While not always possible to stop taking certain medications it is a good idea to check if it’s potentially causing weight gain.  While not an exhaustive list – if you’re taking antihistamines, birth control pills, steroids, diabetes medications, beta-blockers, psychotherapy meds, anti-seizure meds, breast cancer medications, some treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, and even some migraine and heartburn medications, may increase weight.



Recently there has been debate over whether food allergies may be causing you to gain weight. These are not the same as individuals who can go into anaphylactic shock when eating peanuts. These are allergies that can cause inflammation in the body leading to excess weight. Dr. Mark Hyman has seen his patients lose weight when cutting out specific foods. For more detailed information about how food allergies and gut flora may be causing weight gain please check out the following video link: http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/06/01/food-allergies-are-they-making-you-fat/

Some of the most common food allergies causing weight gain include dairy, grain, sugar, grain fed meat, and bad fats like hydrogenated oils. Another way to look at your specific food allergies is through the ALCAT test. Many individuals believe this test can help uncover foods that trigger chronic inflammation and weight gain. Following an ALCAT diet is limiting or cutting back on the foods that have been shown to cause a reaction in your body.


While plastic packaging containing BPA wouldn’t be on the top of the list for possibilities causing weight gain it shouldn’t be ignored. In a study published in the journal Nature, Harvard and Brown University epidemiologists compared levels of BPA in the urine of almost 1,000 U.S. women to their self-reported weight gain over a 10-year period, and the women with the highest levels of BPA reported gaining about half a pound more per year than women with the lowest levels.




While beyond the scope of this article to go into great detail on food choices it is worth mentioning a few things. First a higher protein lower carbohydrate diet seems to be more effective, especially for those who struggle with weight control. In addition limiting calories, drinking plenty of water, and eating at regular intervals can be helpful. For more detailed information on fat loss check out my blog at http://freedom4lifefitness.com/latest-fat-loss-research/



I realize this information can be overwhelming and you might not be sure where to start. Also while the information could be helpful and healthy it is mainly designed for those individuals who are exercising regularly and keeping their caloric intake somewhat low. Calories should be kept at or below where they need to be to lose weight (there are many apps including myfitnesspal that can determine your calorie intake based on your activity, goals, and age).

If you have diligently tried losing weight and it’s not coming off here’s some things that may help:

  • Consider having your hormones tested, especially if you suspect this and are over 40.
  • Try consuming organic foods, hormone free/grass fed meats, avoid GMOs, and eat wild caught fish vs. farm raised.
  • Avoid common inflammatory foods like dairy, grains, and sugars. Also avoid processed foods whenever possible.
  • Eat foods to restore gut health and/or take probiotics.
  • Check your medications to see if they are potentially causing weight gain.
  • Drink plenty of water and eliminate all high fructose containing sodas.
  • Check your blood work and see if you have any vitamin deficiencies. Talk your doctor if you have questions.

The information provided is for educational purposes. Any major change in lifestyle or nutrition should be discussed with your doctor.


Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.









A Comparison of Nutritional Weight Loss Strategies

A Comparison of Nutritional Weight Loss Strategies


Nutrition Journaling


While not a new tool when trying to drop a few pounds it can be an effective weight loss strategy. Also with the prevalence of smartphones journaling is easier and more effective than in previous years. The myfitnesspal app is the most frequently used and measures not only calories, but nutrient breakdowns like carbs, fats, sugars, and proteins. When you enter in information like age, sex, activity level, and weight loss goals it provides you with a calorie count to stay under. If you consistently stay under these numbers you should lose weight.


As mentioned journaling can be effective. For example a Kaiser Permanente study involving more than 1,600 people found that those who kept a food journal lost twice as much weight over six months (18 pounds versus 9) compared to those who weren’t regular recorders. Another recent study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that overweight and obese women in diet only or diet plus exercise weight loss groups all lost weight, but those who kept food journals shed six extra pounds.




  1. Works for the majority of the population
  2. Accountability
  3. No food restrictions
  4. Identifies nutrient breakdown
  5. Portion control




  1. Laborious
  2. Calories are often underestimated (10-20+% on average)
  3. Might not work with individuals with altered hormone levels/metabolism, food allergies, and/or those whose body is extremely resistant to weight loss.


Eating For Life Program*


This program has helped thousands of individuals lose weight over the years. This plan favors a higher protein lifestyle than traditional eating plans. The breakdown of calories are close to 40% carbohydrates, 40% protein, and 20% fat. The program also recommends eating six small meals per day, however the calorie breakdown can be followed with 3-5 meals per day with success.



  1. No counting of calories (however portion control is recommended)
  2. Studies have shown higher protein diets more effective at weight loss, especially for those who struggle with weight.
  3. Helps develop muscle which in turn helps to stimulate the metabolism
  4. Calorie for calorie a more filling diet
  5. Helps to control blood sugar better than higher carbohydrate diets




  1. Not appropriate for individuals with certain medical conditions (i.e. gout)
  2. Doesn’t line up with traditional American eating which favors carbs
  3. Restricted food selection


*NOTE – There are other programs that are similar in the nutrient breakdown, especially in regards to protein. Why these all have unique characteristics Paleo, the Zone Diet, and the Slow Carb Diet are similar in that they have a higher protein content than the traditional RDA.  


Bars and Shakes with limited meals


These plans have been around for years. One of the first marketed programs was the slimfast plan and while this is still around there are hybrids of this as well. These plans typically recommend eating 2 – 3 bars/shakes daily with 1-2 meals of limited size. They work because the calories you are consuming are lower than your body needs for maintanence. 


One variation of the plan that is often successful is to have a protein smoothie with frozen fruit for breakfast, a protein bar/smoothie for lunch, an afternoon snack, and a large salad for dinner. Others just consume a sensible dinner that clocks in under 500 calories.



  1. Quick weight loss in most circumstances
  2. Little/no preparation time
  3. Easy to follow



  1. Limited selections
  2. Boredom/tired of eating same foods
  3. Questions about the long-term safety/nutrient profile
  4. Possible slowdown of metabolism, especially if inadequate in protein


Examples of these programs include Advocare, Isagenix, and Slimfast.


Hybrid Plans

These plans allow for the most variety, however require a better working knowledge of nutrition and discipline to lose weight. Sometimes individuals have followed different diets over the years and have found elements in each that work for them and they join them together. They combine a variety of principles to make it work for them.


Some of the principles include portion control, higher protein, lower sugar, drinking plenty of water, and eating plenty of vegetables. In order to make this a reality there has to be foods ready to consume. For example today you might want a turkey burger for lunch with some fruit, while tomorrow it might be a piece of chicken with veggies.



  1. Great deal of variety & flexibility
  2. Less boredom because of greater food selection
  3. Eating out is less of a problem



  1. You need to have good discipline and working knowledge of nutrition
  2. You have to have a large selection of healthy options ready
  3. Lower success rate


Delivery Meal Services


Delivery meal services are reinventing the way many Americans eat. They are designed for working couples, singles, and busy families who lack the time to prepare healthy cooked meals. Typically meals are dropped off/picked up once per week and refrigerated (however some companies offer frozen selections). The meals are typically in ready to microwave containers and can be heated in few minutes. The companies often provide options such as one, two, or three meals daily (in fact some even offer snacks). They can be a very effective tool in a weight loss strategy.



  1. Tasty
  2. Healthy
  3. Convenient



  1. Cost
  2. Quality control isn’t always there

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.

Five Causes of Low T

It is well known that as individuals age their testosterone begins to decline. While aging is one obvious sign other physical symptoms include extra weight around the midsection, loss of muscle mass, and fat accumulating in the upper chest. Psychological indications include anxiety, crankiness, low libido, fatigue, sleep issues, and depression.


In addition to the physical and psychological indications specific blood tests can also be performed to see if testosterone is lagging. A full panel of lab tests can include total testosterone, bioavailable testosterone, and free testosterone.


If Low T is suspected or diagnosed here are five of the most common reasons why:


#1 Nutrition Deficiency – Specifically being low in vitamin D and zinc can hinder testosterone levels. While consulting with your doctor is the best advice many experts recommend getting 2000 IU daily of vitamin D, especially in the winter or in colder northern climates. In addition, zinc is sometimes lacking and is absorbed better in the presence of magnesium and B6.


#2 Lack of Sleep – A 2013 survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that Americans are getting an average of six hours and 31 minutes on work nights. Also according to a Gallup poll from the same year 40% get less than the recommended amount of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can lower testosterone levels by as much as 10-15%  (Rachel Leproult, PhD; Eve Van Cauter, PhD … JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-2174. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.710.)


#3 Being Overweight – Now most Americans are considered overweight by the BMI (body mass index). This increase in our waistlines has led to a decrease in testosterone. The research shows that obese men have a 25-45% lower testosterone levels that average weight males (Isidori, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism. 1999 Oct;84(10):3673-80).  In addition increased weight can lead to poor insulin sensitivity further lowering testosterone.


#4 Stress – Constantly taxing our nervous system can negatively affect testosterone. The busier/increased stress an individual’s lifestyle the lower their testosterone. Whether it’s prayer, breathing, or just taking some downtime – destressing can help.


#5 Improper exercise – We don’t often think exercise can play a role in testosterone, however it can. While cardio exercise can help individuals to reduce body fat, excessive amounts can lead to a lowering of testosterone. Also not performing enough compound strength training exercises can hold you back. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and olympic lifting are more effective at boosting testosterone than isolation exercises such as curls or triceps pushdowns. In order to keep the levels high perform compound strength training exercises and high intensity interval cardio sessions like wind sprints.


So those are 5 reasons why an individual might be suffering from low T. If you’ve incorporated a healthy nutritional program, decreased stress levels, started getting more sleep, and changed up your exercise routine you should see some improvements. If you are still suffering from Low T after making these changes you might want to talk to your doctor.

For questions related to Low T or other fitness topics please e-mail me at glen@freedom4lifefitness.com

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.

Latest Fat Loss Research

We all know that exercising more and eating less is required for fat loss. While reducing calories is part of a weight loss strategy there are lesser known things that can also be hindering getting you into a smaller pair of pants. So before diving into fat loss research, let’s look at some of the obstacles to weight loss:


  1. Low testosterone/poor hormonal environment
  2. Inability to burn dietary fat as fuel
  3. Inactive thyroid
  4. Insufficient muscle mass (slows metabolism)
  5. Low fitness levels (makes it difficult to expend enough calories to shed extra weight)
  6. Imbalances in gut microbes (probiotic may help)
  7. Insensitivity to the hormone leptin (leptin helps control appetite and metabolic rate)


Beginning an exercise program especially one that incorporates resistance training will help with some of these factors. For others it might be necessary to consult with an endocrinologist. Once you are firing on all cylinders the tips below can really help with fat loss: 


    1. Drinking water before meals promotes weight loss. A study by Helen Parretti from Oxford University showed the people who drank 16 ounces of water 30 minutes before a major meal lost 5.3 pounds in 12 weeks. (Obesity, 23: 1785-1791, 2015)
    2. Low vitamin D levels prevent weight loss. Vitamin D deficiency is 35% higher in obese individuals than those of normal weight. (Obesity Reviews, 16:341-349, 2015)
    3. High protein intake maintains metabolic rate during low calorie diets. (Clinical Nutrition, published online November 8th, 2014)
    4. Switching protein for carbs promotes long-term fat loss. According to a Harvard study led by Jessica Smith altering the diet toward more protein and cutting back on simple carbohydrates might be as important as cutting calories for weight loss. (Obesity Reviews, 16:771-782, 2015)
    5. Jet lag promotes obesity. It appears to do this by altering microbes in the gut. It appears crossing time zones throws off normal feeding patterns of the microbes that bias the metabolism toward fat storage. This is an interesting study because it appears to relate to the fact that shift workers have a greater occurrence of weight issues. (Cell 159:514-529, 2014)
    6. Sleep deprivation increases obesity Risk. It appears to cause a decrease in a hormone (leptin) and increases a hormone (ghrelin) which promotes appetite. (Obesity Reviews, 16:771-782, 2015)
    7. Capsaicin helps increase metabolism and fat utilization. Capsaicin (found in chili peppers) has been shown to increase daily caloric expenditure by four to five percent and fat use by 10 to 16%. (Study presented at Biophysical Society Annual Meeting, February 8, 2015)
    8. Melatonin reduces fat. According to research done on mice by Italian researchers – melatonin reduced weight, fat storage, and reversed fat tissue enlargement in obese mice. (Nutrition Research, 35:891-900, 2015)
    9. High iron levels associated with obesity. An Italian study found that high iron levels reflect total body inflammation and found a relationship between body mass index and blood iron levels. (Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, published online March 4, 2015)
    10. High Protein, Low Calorie Diets Promote Weight loss. According to literature review by Heather Leidy from the University of Missouri School of Medicine. After looking at comparisons of weight loss with different nutrient profiles (carbs/proteins) the high protein diet was the most effective. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online April 29, 2015)


For questions related to nutrition or any other fitness topic please e-mail me at glen@freedom4lifefitness.com

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.

Metabolic Resistance Training and Fat Loss

Metabolic resistance training has gained popularity in recent years with many individuals using it to help reach their fitness goals. The goal of metabolic resistance training is to maximally expend calories not only during the workout but after as well (afterburn). This type of training has been shown to be quite effective especially for fat loss and improving fitness levels. Crossfit was the first fitness program that brought this type of training to the masses. 


So what does the research have to say about it’s effectiveness? A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders showed that resistance training especially one that creates metabolic stress was superior to both endurance and/or endurance with traditional strength training for maximizing fat loss.


While traditional strength training methods are effective for muscle growth they are not ideal for fat loss. Traditional routines typically utilize reps between 6 and 15 and allow for rest periods of one to two minutes between sets.  It may 30-45 minutes to complete the exercise routine.


Traditional cardiovascular training does burn calories during the exercise session, but few after the workout is completed. Traditional cardiovascular incorporates exercising at a moderate pace for 20-40 minutes either jogging/walking, biking, and/or the elliptical machine.


Unlike traditional workouts metabolic resistance training is excellent for maximizing fat loss. It accomplishes this by increasing the metabolic demand – not only increasing calories during the workout but for 24-48 hours afterwards (it can be as many as several hundred after the workout). In addition it changes your hormonal profile helping to expend greater calories.


Now that we know that metabolic resistance training is superior to traditional training what are the concepts?


  • Compound movements (utilizing multiple muscle groups)
  • High Intensity
  • Heavier Resistance (choose a weight/exercise that you can complete no more than 15 reps when fully rested, preferably less)
  • Little or no rest between exercises/Incomplete recovery
  • Alternate exercises that utilize different muscle groups (i.e. pushing with pulling)


In addition the principles listed, here are some of the most common exercises:


  • Heavy Kettlebells
  • Olympic lifting (Clean & Jerk, Snatch)
  • Power Lifts (Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press)
  • Pull Ups
  • Thrusters (Squat w/Overhead Press)


You can take these exercises and put them in a variety of combinations. These variations include different rep schemes such as 21/15/9 – perform each exercise for 21 reps, then 15, and then 9. Another method is utilizing a certain amount of time and then perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in the allotted time. Here’s a few examples of metabolic resistance training:



Bench Press @70% of 1RM (amount of weight you lift once)

Pullups (assisted pullups if necessary)


Bear Complex – perform 7 reps for 5 rounds – keeping rest to a minimum between rounds (approximately 1 minute). You perform 1 power clean, then 1 front squat and so on – completing 7 total reps.

Power Clean

Front Squat

Push Press

Back Squat

Push Press


10 Minute AMRAP (highly fit individuals can use weight vest)

  • 5 Pull Ups
  • 10 Push Ups
  • 15 Bodyweight Squats


If your unhappy with your fitness levels and/or body fat percentage give these a try. We have seen many individuals make dramatic shifts in their body fat when switching over from traditional training to metabolic resistance training.


Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.


We have had several individuals who have asked us about the Whole 30 program. Were going to take a look at what the program is all about, it’s effectiveness, as well as some of the pros and cons of this nutritional strategy.


First it is a 30 day program in which the creators say is designed to help detox your body and heal itself. They believe it will help decrease inflammation, increase energy, decrease general aches/pains, and improve fat loss (however fat loss is not the main objective). According to their website the program does this by cutting out foods that are “gut disrupting, hormone unbalancing, and inflammatory.” The foods to be eliminated include:


  • Sugar
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Legumes
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol
  • MSG and sulfites


According to the creators of the program – eliminating these foods will “push the reset button,” help restore your metabolism, decrease systemic inflammation, and remove the negative effects your old diet has been causing. The website goes on to mention that it is important not to weigh yourself during the program, however before and after the 30 days is recommended.


So does the program work?


Most if not all experts agree that following a program is KEY to weight loss so this is definitively a positive for the Whole 30. In addition many of the foods that need to be eliminated are high calorie, pro inflammatory, and often low in nutrient value. Cutting out these foods will help help ensure health and often aid in weight control.


By eliminating the high calorie, pro inflammatory foods will naturally increase the intake of highly nutritious foods. The foods in the program include lots of fruits, vegetables, and meats. These are staples in a healthy diet as well as weight loss. In addition it has received many positive reviews throughout the internet. The Whole 30 book review had 4.7 stars on Amazon – indicating a quite favorable overall review.


While there are many positive elements to the program – it is not without its critics. Some of the criticism cites that there are no research studies to back up the effectiveness of the program. In addition some registered dietitians feel it is an unbalanced diet, especially because it eliminates legumes and yogurt. Yogurt has been shown to be beneficial for healthy gut bacteria – which can play a role in weight loss. They also mention that sticking to 30 days without eating any grains, sugar, and alcohol can be a great challenge.  


All in all the Whole 30 program can be an effective tool for helping to jumpstart your health, wellness, and weight loss as long as your willing to be restrictive in your diet.


Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.


We all realize that fitness tends to decline with age, however we rarely ask the question – Why we lose fitness as we age??? Having a better understanding of what happens physiologically can help us delay and possibly reverse any fitness decline that happens with age.

When it comes to losses in fitness we will look at two main categories – cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

When it comes to strength there are several reasons this declines with age. Some of the most common include: sarcopenia (loss of muscle with age), decrease in certain hormones (specifically testosterone and growth hormone), a decrease ability to synthesize protein, and a reduction in calories/protein which leads to a loss in muscle mass. While these changes may seem inevitable there are several things that can be done to help prevent/delay these from occurring:

  • Engage in Strength Training – Performing strength training especially with moderate to heavy resistance will combat potential loss of muscle. Utilizing moderately heavy weights will help prevent the loss of fast twitch muscle fibers that occur at an alarming rate in seniors. Fast twitch muscle fibers are responsible for power and quickness.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy – There are many doctors who specialize in treating low testosterone and/or growth hormone. Bringing these hormones up to levels found earlier in life can help maintain or increase strength, energy, and muscle mass. In addition most experts agree that is the doses fall within acceptable limits the chances of negative side effects is low.
  • Consume Adequate Calories and Especially Protein – Since the body doesn’t synthesize protein (amino acids) as well – it is important to consume enough protein to meet your needs. If you are highly active your protein requirements will be higher – but even if you’re a couch potato don’t skimp on the protein. While the dietary recommendation is .36 grams per pound of body weight – many studies have shown that this is not enough to increase muscle mass, especially if your highly active.
  • Consider Supplements – While there are numerous supplements that appear to be helpful in muscle development – a recent study of fish oil done by Gordon Smith and colleagues from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that fish oil slowed muscle loss that typically occurs with age.

In addition to muscle strength our body also loses cardiovascular endurance. So why is it that our kids are zipping by us during a run? Why do we see a 5-10% decrease in VO2 max as we age? Some of the reasons include a loss of elasticity in major blood vessels, maximum heart rate decreases with age, the respiratory system decreases forced lung capacity, and the blood undergoes a loss of hemoglobin (oxygen carrying protein), hematocrit (proportion of red blood cells to plasma) as well as red cell mass.

So are we doomed to losing our cardiovascular endurance? While we will ultimately see a decline in our cardiovascular endurance there are several things we can do to delay the reduction:

  • Don’t take an extended layoff – While we can get away with taking extended layoffs from training in our youth – it doesn’t appear we can do this as we age. It appears that we reach somewhat of a point of no return around the late 60s that seems reversing any losses much more difficult.
  • Supplementation – Certain supplements like beet root and citrulline have been shown to boost nitric oxide levels which help dilate blood vessels and help with blood flow.
  • Incorporate various types of training – Perform low to moderate, moderate to high, and high intensity training cardiovascular training. Mixing up your training styles will stimulate all components of your cardiovascular systems – not just one. Going for a fast walk/slow jog as well as doing high intensity interval training will ensure maximizing the cardiovascular benefit.

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.


Recently companies have started to look beyond traditional DNA testing and how to apply this science to enhance fitness. It works similarly to traditional DNA testing as an individual will swab the inside of their checks to get a sample. This sample is then sent off to be analzyed. The company analyzing the sample will look at individuals health risk factors (e.g. cancer) as well as what diet and exercise program is ideal. In regards to exercise here are some of the most common areas that are analyzed:

  • Ability to recover from workouts
  • Muscle fiber type
  • Steady state vs. HIIT training
  • Testosterone production
  • Ideal speed of muscle contractions
  • Soft tissue injury risk

Once armed with these results a fitness professional can more accurately design a program that is ideal for you and your specific genetic make up.  Knowing these factors could significantly help with program design and yield greater/faster results.

So are the tests reliable? While it is a relatively new field it does appear to hold promise, make sense, and many individuals have sworn by it’s effectiveness.

In addition to DNA fitness testing there are tests that can look at nutrition and what foods are ideal for you and your specific body type.  When doing this test a swab of the inside of the cheek is also necessary. Some of the information the nutrition DNA test looks is as follows:

  • Salt sensitivity
  • Carbohydrate metabolism (more or less carbs for you)
  • Fatty acid metabolism
  • Folate metabolism
  • Anti oxidant requirements
  • Lactose intolerance risk

Once you have this information and more exact nutrition regimine can be followed. Having this information can be vital for maximizing health, decreasing risk of disease, and making weight loss easier. There are several companies online that provide these services.


While the idea of being able to use your DNA to individualize your exercise and diet routine is interesting, the jury is still out on it’s effectiveness. Many experts feel it holds the potential to be helpful but aren’t willing to give it a 100% endorsement.  While the jury is still out on it’s complete reliability – it does appear an effective tool that can be used in conjuction with your lifestyle and interests. For those who are serious about their health and fitness and/or those who have been discouraged with their results it could be the missing piece to the puzzle.

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience

10 Steps – A Common Sense Weight Loss Strategy

With the overwhelming amount of information out there in regards to weight loss it can be very confusing. Today we’re going to outline 10 effective steps you can follow for an effective weight loss strategy.  Many individuals in Leawood, Overland Park, and Greater Kansas City as well as the entire nation have struggled with weight loss and we are going to try and solve at least part of the puzzle. Here’s 10 steps you can follow to help with weight control:

#1 Nutritional Journaling – While not always a popular recommendation – it works! Without having a solid grasp of how many calories were eating – weight control can be nearly impossible. When journaling make sure to enter your selections at the time their consumed or just prior as this is the most accurate way to journal. There are dozens of apps that record calories with the most popular being myfitnesspal.

#2 Decreasing/Limiting Sugar – Many of us have a sweet tooth, however physiologically eating a high sugar diet increases insulin which helps shuttle calories into the fat cells. In addition a high sugar diet contributes to eating more calories throughout the day because of severe swings in blood sugar. While there are different recommendations as to how much sugar we should consume – the fewer the better and trying for less than 50 grams a day is a good place to start.

#3 Eating a higher protein diet (especially for those who struggle with weight) – We’re not saying Atkins here, but many studies have shown that eating a higher protein diet can be an effective component of weight loss. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition protein is more metabolically active than other food sources. While there are different individuals debating exactly how much protein – it appears a fairly balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is an effective part of a weight loss strategy. This ratio would change for individuals who don’t desire weight loss and/or are very active (especially an increase in carbohydrates).

#4 Drink Plenty of Water – First the act of consuming water increases metabolism – an article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that drinking plenty of water can burn an extra 5 pounds a year. In addition to increasing metabolism sometimes individuals confuse thirst with hunger and eat more – if you’re not sure if it is true hunger try drinking a large glass of water and see how you feel after a few minutes. Under normal circumstances drinking half your body weight in ounces will be enough to ensure your drinking enough H2O.

#5 Eat Plenty of Fiber – Eating adequate amounts of fiber helps stabilize blood sugar/makes you feel fuller for longer, and partially blocks excess fat/calories. Minimum requirements are 25 grams for women and 35 grams for men. Some experts recommend even more especially if weight loss is a priority. Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, some grains, and fiber supplements.

#6 Have a Plan – The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” is true when it comes to weight loss. It is nearly impossible to be on the go and make wise choices. When were in a hurry and hungry we’re more likely to grab a less healthy choice.  For those with a busy lifestyle having protein bars and shakes at the ready can go a long way to making sure the scale moves in the right direction.

#7 High Intensity Interval Training – This type of training increases the calories expended after exercise, stimulates muscle development, and triggers thermogenesis. Low intensity cardiovascular exercise does little to burn calories after the workout and will not aid in building muscle (in fact in some circumstances causes muscle loss).

#8 Build Muscle – The more muscle you have – the more calories you burn! Engaging in resistance training is the most effective way to build muscle and should be an integral part of your weight loss strategy. For every pound of muscle you build your metabolism increases from 30-50 calories a day.

#9 Chill out – Stress doesn’t do a body good and causes the body to increase hormones like cortisol. Stress hormones like cortisol can cause the body to increase fat, especially around the midsection.

#10 Supplements – While not a magic bullet – supplements can help, especially if following all of these other strategies. Supplements like green tea, ephedrine, fucoxanthin, and lipase inhibitors can play a role in further facilitating fat loss.

While these steps are effective tools in the weight loss fight – realize that occasionally there are metabolic issues taking place that can hinder the body’s ability to lose fat. Check out our previous blogs on: “Having Difficulty Losing Weight – It Might Be Your Thyroid”, “Are Food Allergies Making You Fat”, and “Hormone Check” if your following all these steps and the scale isn’t budging.

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.