This blog provides encouragement to people who are beginning training, returning to training, going through physical therapy, or recovering from injury. I'm not selling anything here, I just like giving, and getting, encouragement!

How to fill out if you're a skinny guy

If you're a skinny guy, you may be OK with it. I wasn't. I expected that when I grew up, I would fill out.

In my twenties, I had no idea how anything worked. I was very, very skinny (a lot of guys are) and was told that I would just naturally "fill out". Yes, that's the term I heard - fill out. So I waited for my pathetically skinny body to just fill out, because I supposed that it was a natural process of aging. By the time I got to 28, I still hadn't filled out, and was so skinny that I was embarrassed by my body. I didn't like myself, and it made it difficult for me to like other people. Whatever lean muscle that I had from high school gymnastics was gone, and I wondered if something was wrong with me? Was I wasting away from some mysterious disease?

Right around my 28th birthday I paid good money to go see a doctor only to find out that I was skinny because I didn't eat enough. Well, that was good news - I was afraid I had something medically wrong. And it was simply that I had poor eating habits. For some guys it makes them fat, my eating habits were making me skinny. So I decided to "bulk up".

I discovered the most calorie-dense foods available. I force-fed myself, and included everything I could think of to add calories to my day. I didn't count my calories, but it must have been enormous. An example of a typical meal would be a gigantic plate of Mexican Food (highly recommended for weight gain!) and then forcing myself to eat a pint of ice cream for dessert. I started in April and by the end of the year I'd gained over 30 pounds, most of it in muscle.

I had trouble gaining fat, it just didn't work for me, so I had started weight training. And the combination of simple movements, along with a very generous amount of calories, put muscle on me like I'd never seen. I remember especially the muscles along the side of my thighs growing - I could see it, and feel it. My arms grew, my chest. It was bulk (not all muscle) but I didn't care, I just wanted to "fill out", and I did. After I hit my goal weight, of about 165, I was content, and I didn't do much after that other than light weight training, for maintenance.

If you're a skinny guy (and I know that they're still out there), you're in luck. If you can manage to really bring up your calorie consumption (I drank a lot of weight gain protein shakes with whole milk), you can actually watch your muscles grow. Of course, fat guys can do the same thing, but since fat sits on top of muscle, it's not visible. If you're a skinny guy, you'll see it happen, and so will the people around you. I remember it happening to me, and I had never gotten compliments like that before, on my arms, my chest. Girls noticed. I started feeling better about myself, and better about the people around me.

Bulking up is wonderful, and I'd say don't let anyone discourage you. Most people aren't skinny, most people are fat, and most people need to limit their calorie intake, as they put on fat easily. But if that's not you, so don't listen to them. Get yourself into a basic weight-training program (just basic, you don't need anything fancy), skip the cardio, and stuff your face with as much food as you can every day. You will fill out! I did!

30 pounds later.

Building muscle for skinny guys - force feeding

If you're a skinny guy, and you want to build muscle, you're gonna have a problem - eating. That is, if you're a skinny guy who just isn't interested in food, like I am. I've always had a negative attitude towards food, as a kid it annoyed me that I had to stop what I was doing to eat. When I was a kid I wished that I could just pop a pill, and get back on my bike. At the time I was hoping that the technology would be invented, but it looks like it's not gonna happen in my lifetime, or yours. So you have to learn to eat.

Now don't go around asking people for help on this. For most people, eating, and even eating to excess, is as easy as breathing, and it sounds like a very stupid question to them. Most people want to eat less, you need to teach yourself to eat more. Sorry, but there's no pill that can replace food. So it starts with your attitude.

I taught myself to be less negative about meals when I started my weight-gain program. I blocked out chunks of time in my day dedicated to eating. I soon discovered that most people do just the opposite - they plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then figure out things to do in-between. Many people will dedicate at least an hour for each meal per day, that's three hours, and sometimes more, out of each day just dedicated to eating - driving to a restaurant, or preparing food, or sitting there eating food. For me, meals were just refueling stops, I would rarely dedicate more than just a few minutes to them. I made friends with people who liked food, I talked to people about food. I found foods that I liked and at least made an effort to get excited about them. This alone was the most difficult thing that I ever did.

Now let's talk about your stomach. Yes, if you're like me you don't like the feeling of feeling stuffed. There's a bloated feeling that slows you down. And if you're really like me, your stomach will often resist food (yes, I'm talking about that). So you have to care for your stomach's health. I force fed myself, not because you can actually expand your stomach, but to learn not to panic when I had that feeling. I learned to let my belt out after a meal. I also learned about digestive enzymes, making sure that you don't lie down after a meal (very difficult for me to do!), and having every type of medicine for digestive problems handy (gas, heartburn, you name it). I always have antacids handy, and as soon as I hear my stomach having some difficulties, I take some (just took one right now).

The important thing to remember is that your muscles don't grow in the gym, they grow afterwards. They grow through the magic of how our bodies use protein - and you gotta give your body protein through your stomach. If you can't take in protein, all the muscle-building exercises in the world won't add a pound of muscle to your body. The best thing to do is to consume whey protein (a protein shake) right after a workout. I've taught my stomach to do that, but it's still not easy.

Getting food into yourself is something you will have to learn to do, and you'll get very little sympathy from most people. Most people are fat, not skinny, and most people have no idea what you have to do. But you're you, not them, and you need to accommodate your unique situation.

I hope this helps. I did this, and you can do. Start today.

My "after pic" at 162 pounds. The before pic, at the top of this post, is thirty pounds skinnier. Force feeding!

Losing belly fat in your fifties

If you're interested in losing your big old belly, and you're in your fifties, I have good news for you - it can be done. And if you're wondering how, I have even better news, you can do it any way that you want to. That's because everything works, from the most gimmicky diets to the most hard-headed scientific approach. And that's because it all happens when you decide to do something about it.

Of course, if you never look in the mirror, and accept the fact that you should lose some weight, it's never gonna happen. And for most people, that's where they fail. They laugh it off, buy shirts with vertical stripes, take selfies that show them looking less rotund. There are a thousand tricks to pretend that you're not fat. If you're entire wardrobe in black and dark colors, you already know what I'm talking about.

Lean = red. The fat sits on the outside, and needs to be trimmed off.

So it doesn't start in the gym, or with a diet, it starts in your mind. If you can't wrap your head around it you will fail, as simple as that. So go ahead and be "unreasonable optimistic", picture yourself 20, 30, 40 pounds lighter. I can help you with that, and all you have to do is to believe you can do it.

Look at anything else you've accomplished over time. Let's not talk calories, or anything like that. Look at how you were able to achieve something in your lifetime, something that took determination, that required you to get back up when you fell down, something that took some time, that made you proud. Everyone has those things in their life - focus on that. You did that, and you can do more.

Now set a goal for three months. That will take some research, as most people have no idea how much fat they can lose in that time. Once you have that, set it aside and focus on 24-hour periods. Learn how many calories you should consume to reach your three month goal (any weight loss app will tell you that) and start in the morning. By evening you should figure out how it feels. Speaking for myself, I like the 24-hour goal - it means that if I blow it (and I occasionally do), I can start fresh in the morning. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to be darned good.

I'm a believer in self-affirmation. I follow sites on Instagram that show people who have successfuly lost weight, and gotten fit and trim. No, I don't comment, I don't do anything but look. I especially like "before and after" pics. When I'm exercising at home I listen to videos that have a lot of encouragement. I ask for encouragement from my friends. I can't get enough encouragement. If you're like me, this helps a lot. I ask people to tell me something good.

I'm also a believer in very high long-range goals. One of my favorite phrases is "I didn't come this far, just to come this far. I came this far to be stronger, so I can go farther". So I don't have an end in mind, except when my life is over. I want to be better, stronger, faster, so when I hit a goal, I set another goal. When I've climbed a mountain, I find a higher mountain. And in that way, beginners are exactly the same as people who've been training for years.

This year, in my fifties, as opposed to in my forties at the top of this post. Down forty pounds.