Monthly Archives: May 2011

I’m the “Normal” One

So you were able to read about how awesome Nate is (which is true, he is that good at what he does). If you follow his advice you will really get to where you want to go with regard to your physique goals. It won’t be easy, but it will work. How do I know? I’ve lived it. The good, the bad, the fat, and the fit.

When I met Nate I probably had some of the worst eating habits you can imagine. How bad? Try Starbucks White Chocolate Mochas with a bag of Parmesan Goldfish for breakfast, pizza with a Mountain Dew for lunch, Doritos and a Snickers bar for an afternoon snack, and cereal for dinner. I’m not kidding about that, and yes, it’s disgusting. I exercised because I liked it and it helped me keep my body from ballooning up with all the junk I ate….well that, and my still-pretty-young metabolism.

Nate never forced me to change my ways, but after a while it was hard not to be influenced by his healthy habits. I started eating real meals and cut out the sugary drinks. I still enjoyed my share of bad food, especially at parties, and upped my workouts to “compensate”. I was able to lose and maintain weight as long as I kept the workouts high and frequent; but as soon as I fell off that wagon, the flab crept back on. I didn’t feel like a “yo-yo dieter” since I didn’t really diet, and I typically stayed within about 5 pounds of my normal weight. But I was an all-or-nothing kind of girl…either full force with 1.5 hour workouts, or sitting on my expanding butt for weeks at a time.

Then one day I started to pay attention, REAL attention to what Nate said, and the science behind his recommendations. Little by little I began integrating them into my own life. When I applied myself I realized, hey, this isn’t that bad at all! Fairly quickly, those around me started to notice the changes in my body. When they asked what I was doing, I simply said “whatever Nate tells me to do.” Many of them balked that they couldn’t possibly eat the way he does (so clean). My response? If I can do it (see above horrible eating), so can you.

When speaking to friends and family, I found myself translating what Nate did as a bodybuilder and physique competitor – which was the basis of the plan he prescribed for me – into language and tips that non-competitors (a.k.a. “Normal People”) can apply in their own lives. I enjoyed making the steps seem more realistic, and hearing how people were using them in their own way and getting results. It made Nate and me so happy to be helping those we know and love feel better about themselves and their health!

The more we talked about it, we realized that it’s not just WHAT people do, but HOW and WHY they do it that matters. I think we all know what we should and shouldn’t eat to improve our health and physique. It’s the practical application, actually DOING IT, making these concepts click, become a habit, and stick, that is difficult. And that’s why I’m here.

In addition to sharing my personal experiences, I’ll discuss the psychological factors associated with making changes to your diet and exercise habits (my parents will be thrilled I’m finally making use of my degrees). While the goal is to make these changes a permanent part of your life, let’s face it: change is hard. However, by being mindful of the process and the choices you make, you’ll find that you can go further than you ever thought possible!

The Legend of Baby Sumo

People see me now and make some quick assumptions.  I’ve competed in a few natural bodybuilding shows, done some fitness modeling, make a living as a fitness writer and personal trainer/physique coach, run this blog dedicated to fat loss, and strip for some extra cash under the stage name Little Shitake.  Just kidding about the last one…or am I?

“Nate probably doesn’t even know what a fat cell looks like.”  “He was born to be ripped.”  “He can do whatever he wants, eat whatever he wants, and still stay in shape.”  “He’s never had to go through a challenging transformation process.”  “There is no way he can possibly understand how hard it is for the average person to get in, and stay in shape.”

And on and on — I’m sure you can think of a few more reasons why it must be so easy for me, how I’m nothing like you, how I don’t understand body image issues, how I’ve never fought through body composition struggles, etc.

Ha.  I laugh at your assumptions, because none of them are even close to being true.  Dude (or girl), I wish you really knew how hard it is for me to get samurai shredded.  I am far from the genetically blessed.

Let me tell you a story about the legend that WAS Baby Sumo…


My mom is a tiny little Irish lady.  I don’t think she has spent a day in her life above 98lbs.  But I’m confident she could kick your A$$, and I’m 100% certain she could drink you under the table — not on a pound for pound basis — I’m talking straight up drink for drink.

I have five older brothers and one older sister.  Growing up it was obvious they inherited my mom’s genes.  They were skinny, skinnier, and skinniest.  My sister was a ballet dancer.  One of my brother’s was a 98lb high school wrestler.  Another was so small and light that they allowed him to play Pee-Wee Football — as a sophomore in high school!

And then there was me.  They say I came out of the womb looking like a Mr. Potato Head — giant, round body with tiny arms and legs.

We didn’t have a lot of money around by the time I was growing up, and as a result our diets were horrible — cheap, canned and packaged foods (Pop Tarts were my favorite), fast food when there happened to be family deals (I’ll tell you the 10-pack of tacos story another time), and our annual fine dining trip to — you guessed it — Denny’s.

Now don’t start feeling sorry for me.  Man, I had a great childhood.  I actually appreciate it now as an adult, because it reminds me that you don’t really need that much to be happy.  Give me a couple of sticks and a rock, probably even just the rock, and I can entertain myself for hours.

I only mention it because of the dietary factor.  And on the typical processed food-heavy American diet, my brothers stayed skinny.  Me?  I ballooned up.  Yep, I was the fat kid in a family full of skinny ones.  Go to my mom’s house, and she’ll hand you a cigarette and proudly show you the Wall of Shame.

My brothers were ruthless.  Hey fat boy, get over here.  Are you ticklish?  And the nickname they gave me — Baby Sumo — was born.  It stuck throughout my childhood.

What do you think that does to a young kid in his formative years?  I’ll tell you what it does.  It scars him for life.  It turns an otherwise normal guy into an obsessive, fitness freak.  It forces him to seek answers and make fitness his whole damn career.  Thanks guys.  I could have been an investment banker and actually made some real money.

Of course I’m being dramatic and exaggerating for entertainment purposes, but you get the drift…


My dad has never been really out of shape, but he’s never really been in shape either.  He kind of looks like Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid — ok not really, but body-wise it gives you an idea — kind of just normal-flabby with a little pot belly.  Sorry pops, this is for educational purposes.  And just so all of you know, the man has a heart of gold.

As I reached adulthood, I started to realize what my genetic fate was supposed to be — the dreaded skinny, fat guy.  After sprouting a foot or so, I was left with my mom’s skinniness and inability to put on muscle, and my dad’s not so firmness and inability to get lean.  I got the worst of both worlds.

The one thing I was blessed with was a moderate level of natural athletic ability.  I was a pretty good two-sport athlete in high school, and later went on to perform as an acrobat and professional wrestler.  I could perform well, but I never LOOKED the part, if you know what I mean?

With my shirt on, my coaches (and later promoters) would say, “Miyaki, you are fast and strong and athletic and whatnot, but you need to gain some damn weight.”  Then, training in the gym or running sprints with my shirt off they’d say, “Dude, you need to lose some of that flab.”  Good thing that after growing up with my bros, I had some pretty thick skin.

Even as a high-level stunt performer/performance athlete, I thought six packs were just as much of a myth as the Black Pearl until I switched gears and trained for my first bodybuilding show.  And that was no easy task.  It never has been and it never will be.

First came the knowledge accumulation phase.  I had to study the game in depth — both formally (through University science courses and training/nutrition certifications) and informally (self education reading books, studies, articles, and talking with other bodybuilders).  I couldn’t just rely on genetics or natural ability, because I had none when it came to physique development.

Next came the practical implementation phase.  I had to be rigorous and disciplined, focused and committed.  No skipping workouts or cheating for me.  I just didn’t have that type of freedom or leeway.  Everything had to be absolutely perfect to get the type of results I was looking for.  My kitchen and Tupperware got some pretty hefty workouts.

Meanwhile, I had a training partner that was eating doughnuts and McDonald’s twice a day, and was shredded at 4% body fat.  He wasn’t even training for a show.  He was a kickboxer, not a bodybuilder.  But he looked like a bodybuilder without even particularly wanting to.

That, my friends, is what you are thinking of when you believe someone has a genetic advantage.  Not me.  One set of side lateral raises with 10lbs and that guy’s shoulders were so pumped full of blood that it looked like they were going to pop.  Yes, everyone in the gym, including me, hated him.

Nonetheless, I stopped worrying about how easy he had it, and started worrying about what I had to do to get the job done.  Ultimately, I achieved my goal and reached a pretty shredded condition — naturally.  And not that I really care about that debate, its just that people usually either point to genetics or drugs as the reason why they can’t push beyond perceived limitations and achieve a lofty goal.  Excuses, excuses.  I had neither advantage, but I did have a pretty strong will, and an obsessive personality once I set my mind on something.

From that point on I just said to hell with genetics. There is no fate but what we make (Terminator II, I think).  We can achieve way more than we think we can if it is important enough to us.  And it doesn’t matter how easy or hard someone may have it, or what advantages anyone else may have.  The only thing that is of any real significance is YOUR situation, and what YOU need to do to achieve your goals.

But you can’t just talk about how important something is to you.  I’ve learned that the hard way several times over.  It must show in your daily actions.


For the two people still reading, this has all been a long, roundabout way, of telling you that despite what you may think (because after all this is my profession), it is not easy for me to stay in shape. These days it’s true, I live under 10% body fat and visit low single digits a few times a year.  But it wasn’t always that way.

I have to be committed.  I have to be disciplined.  I have to sacrifice.  I can tell you what I ate two weeks ago on Tuesday at 10am, because it was the same thing I ate on Tuesday morning three weeks ago, four weeks ago, etc.

Now, I’m not implying that you want or should take it this far.  I understand there are people all along the spectrum with their individual goals, and not everyone is as crazy or obsessed as I am.  I just don’t want to ever hear anyone say again that it is easy for me to get samurai shredded, or I don’t understand how hard the body composition transformation process really is.

When I let things slide too much, I easily and quickly regress back into my skinny-fat guy, natural disposition/homeostatic preference.

Here’s an example.  This is Little Shitake, I mean me, back in 2006.  At that time it was right smack dab in the middle of my last bodybuilding comp in 2004, and a fitness model shoot I dieted for in 2008.

Now I know I wasn’t completely out of shape.  But you can see the spare tire, love handles, and itty-bitty-man titty-committee starting to form.  No visible abs, certainly not the “6-packs are for pussies, you want a 12-pack complete with obliques” line I’ve been come to be known by.

And, this is only halfway to my most out of shape.  I weighed about 175lbs here.  I compete or shoot generally around 155lbs, and have weighed as much as 200lbs.  I don’t have any pictures of that, because I wouldn’t step in front of a camera.  My brothers started to say, “Hey, Baby Sumo is back!”

Here’s what I would imagine you are expecting me to say.  “Ah, I wasn’t training then.  I was eating like crap.  I was eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, ice cream every night, drinking all the time, and so forth.”

Not even close.  I have never NOT trained (relax English majors).  I enjoy it too much.  I have averaged training 3-5 days a week since high school.

Diet?  I would say I was eating well 80% of the time.  I have consistently followed a relatively structured eating plan since college.  Was I cheating more, maybe sneaking in larger portions?  Sure, but the overall base plan was structured and entailed a clean eating base.

That’s what I look like on a consistent training routine and a relatively healthy diet.  Nothing impressive huh?  I look like just an average looking, kind of skinny-fat dude.  Not really out of shape, but not really in physique shape either.  Nothing like this guy:

So you can imagine the amount of effort and discipline I must have to put into getting into that type of condition.  100% on is the name of that game, and it ain’t easy for me suckas.


Sorry this blog topic is running way longer than I thought it would.  I’m going to cut it here.  And sorry it was all about me, me, me…

In the next one, I promise I will make it up to you.  I am going to tell you how lessons from my journey can help you.

Here’s a preview, because I want you to know this whole post — I guess now posts — are really about how I can help you filter through the B.S. in the fitness industry and actually reach your lofty goals (not my journey, but I guess I just like talking about myself J):

1.  The fat loss industry is a business just like any other business.  It is geared towards what sells/creates profits, not necessarily what works/is effective.  I learned that the hard way.  And what sells?  Marketing fluff, quick fixes, magic pills, faster than physiologically possible results, etc.  I found that none of those worked for me, a regular dude in the real world with average genetics.

2.  If you have average genetics, you are going to have to make lifestyle changes that you can sustain, not short-term, quick fixes.  Trust me.  Don’t think you are going to go on some plan for 12 weeks and then live “rippedly” ever after just because that’s what the commercial or ad implied.  What happens after 12 weeks?  Can you maintain an extreme plan indefinitely?  Are you going to just go back to being out of shape?  If you revert back to bad habits, you’re going to revert back to your old physique, because that’s what your average genes want you to do.  That’s why so many people yo-yo — they don’t think long-term.

3.  In an ideal world (or for those with great genetics or performance/physique enhancing drugs), body composition transformations are fast, easy, and can include a haphazard or random approach (oh I’ll run this day, do yoga this day, lift weights this day, whatever I feel like).  In the real world (or for those with average genetics or trying to do it naturally), body composition transformations take consistency and discipline, go slower than we like, and require adherence to some kind of appropriately designed structure.

4.  Most trainers don’t know what the hell they’re doing when it comes to physique development.

Many come from great genetics, and could probably do whatever they wanted to do to stay in shape (wouldn’t it make sense that the genetically gifted might lean towards a career in fitness).  They just haven’t had to learn the science and practical application of the body composition TRANSFORMATION PROCESS.  Sure, jump around like a male cheerleader on crack or hammer that weight that shakes like it’s a good masturbation session and you’ll be ripped.

And you have to remember this: the training industry is a business too.  It is geared towards what sells training packages, gets you dependent on the trainer, etc. — especially in commercial gyms — not necessarily what works.  So gyms these days are full of “new, cutting edge, innovative” exercises, gadgets, programs, and even training certifications.  They look cool, are marketable, and seem to sell, but are they effective?  That is debatable.

Tell someone they need to consistently work hard on the basics that actually produce results and (1) there is nothing new or marketable, and not much to sell for profit.  (2) It looks/sounds uninformed, and some egotistical trainers always want to be perceived as cutting edge.  (3) It puts accountability back on the client, where it belongs; instead of duping them into thinking they can buy their way to fat loss.

5.  All of this means that if you have average genetics, you must take a proactive approach in educating yourself about the physique development process.  You can’t just take advice or follow programs on blind faith.  Otherwise, you have great odds of getting burned.

I don’t want to paint you a bleak picture, but I do want to paint you an honest one.  See you next time for some fitness truth…

Ronin Philosophy

Ronin:  Samurai warriors with no lord or master.  They often spent their lives wandering the land seeking knowledge, testing their skills in individual combat, or becoming mercenaries — joining together with samurai clans to fight in larger territorial battles.

He studied all the traditional philosophies, but then he began to form his own philosophy, and he came to the realization that you just can’t borrow another person’s philosophy.  You have to learn about yourself and create your own philosophy, your own way of life. — Linda Lee (on Bruce Lee).

The essence of jeet kune do:  1.  Research your own experience.  2.  Absorb what is useful.  3.  Reject what is useless.  4.  Add what is specifically your own.  — Bruce Lee.

Remember that man created method and not that method created man, and do not strain yourself in twisting into someone’s preconceived pattern, which unquestionably would be appropriate for him, but not necessarily for you…The individual is more important than the system. — Bruce Lee.

I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat like a ronin warrior — kind of a drifter, a wanderer, sometimes feeling lost in the real world (outside of athletics), trying to find a purpose or path.  I’m not good at following orders or trying to conform to what popular opinion deems is the “right” Way.  I never really got caught up in trying to follow society’s conventions or a traditional path — with pretty much anything.

I’m not saying that to sound cool or revolutionary or counter-culture, it’s just my natural, authentic disposition.  We can’t fight who we are in spirit if we have any chance of being happy.  And in fact, the times when I was the unhappiest and most anxious in my life was when I was trying to be something that I’m not.

I’ve always tried to follow my gut, and that has led me down many different roads in this life based on my interests at the time (although the one consistency has always been my love of the gym).  It’s probably not the greatest approach to achieve what most would equate with traditional success, but at least I have a few good stories to tell.

This journey has caused me to adopt a ronin-style approach to life in general — serving no single master.  I don’t get caught up in dogmas or religiously adhering to specific “systems”.  I try to pull from various resources, picking out the best parts, and then proceeding with what I feel is the most effective and efficient approach.

This has influenced our approach to the fitness game — we feel in a positive way — both for us AND for you.

This is true in our approach to training.  We have trained solely for cosmetic reasons at times (Nate – bodybuilding/fitness modeling, Kalai — bikini/fitness modeling), as well as for sport performance at others (Nate — football, track & field, martial artists, gymnastics, professional wrestling/stunts, Kalai — volleyball, marathon running, cycling).  Trust us, there is no single right way for everyone, everywhere.  There is merit and validity in numerous approaches.  The training program simply must match the athlete’s goals at the time to optimize results.  Of course those can evolve or change over time, thus the program may need to change.

This is true in our approach to nutrition.  We have pulled from anthropological studies, research studies, scientific journals, anecdotal evidence, interviews and “coffee talks” (Ok, sometimes maybe “booze talks”) with fellow athletes, coaches, trainers, and friends, Paleo Nutrition, Sports Nutrition, Bodybuilding & Fitness Nutrition, the traditional Japanese Diet, and so on.  Activity levels, body type, individual metabolic & hormonal factors, physique goals, performance goals, and lifestyle factors all must be considered when designing an optimum diet for each individual.  No single diet fits all.

This is true with our approach to philosophy, sports psychology, behavioral psychology, motivational strategies, “thinking”, or whatever else you prefer to call it.  Kalai has her formal education as a Master’s in Psychology, as well as practical experience as an athlete and coach in the NCAA.  I have in the trenches, real-world psychology experience from over ten years working with individuals, groups, and teams in my private training business.  And I also have real world experience with kind of being crazy (yes Kalai is being honest, I do literally think I’m a samurai).

And our conclusion?  Different strategies, different teaching methods, and different coaching methods work for different people.

For the Iron Warrior Principles that are the core of this site, you’ll see in the “legends” section that we’ve learned from many great warriors of the past.  And with the nutrition and psychology articles, we’ve been influenced by many great athletes, coaches, and educators of the present.  We want you to do the same, and hope we can become just one of many valuable resources in your fitness journey.

Now I’m not saying you should have training and nutrition ADD or jump from program to program without giving something a chance to work.  Results take time.  And I’m not saying you shouldn’t believe in something.  After all, if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing.  As you see, I certainly have my opinions on what are the most effective and efficient ways to achieve results.  But I’m smart enough, and humble enough to know that there can be more than ONE WAY to skin a cat, or I guess more appropriately, to peel off body fat).

As Bruce Lee used to say, “I have the absolute confidence not to be number two, but then I have enough sense also to realize that there can be no number one.”  In other words, I believe in our methods (which are actually a combination and hybrid of several different methods), but I also concede there are other, equally effective and valid approaches.  We are not disregarding or demeaning other professional’s opinions, we are simply presenting our own.

The bottom line, and our sincere, honest message to you is this:  you gotta find your own way man, or girl.  You have to take some personal accountability, do some self-experimentation, and find what resonates with and works best for you.  Yes, you are going to need guidance.  Yes, you are going to need coaching.  And since we have a lot more experience than you probably do, you should expect that we can, at the very least, point you in the right direction.  We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, we’ve learned the mistakes of our clients, and we think we can help you avoid making the same ones.  But honestly, we can only give you our best guess as to what we think might be the most efficient path for your physique transformation process.  Why?

As much as we know about the human body (and by we I mean as a collective group:  scientists, researchers, physicians, coaches, etc.) — physiology, metabolism, endocrinology, etc. — it’s still only a tiny fraction of a true understanding of how this complex organism works.  I mean, how much do you think we REALLY know — 10%?  I’d say that’s being very generous.  Anyone who thinks they know more is giving themselves too much credit.  Why do I get aroused watching Rachel Ray prep a spring salad?  Explain that one to me from a scientific perspective.  You can’t, it just doesn’t make sense, but it happens nonetheless…

That’s why you can’t just rely on science, or theory, or marketing hype, or one-size-fits-all systems.  Results should be the ultimate guide.  Getting you real world results, sometimes through a trial and error process that lies outside of any one system, is what matters most.  If our advice helps you get to where you want to go.  Great.  If we feel pointing you to another coach or professional’s advice would be more beneficial, we’re just as happy to do so.

Learn, apply, experiment, take what is useful, discard what is useless, lather, rinse, and repeat until you get to where you want to be.  This is a lifelong process.  We hope we can become one of the many resources that help you through it.  The content on this site is presented as A WAY, not THE (only) WAY.



I am passionate about the Iron Game.  I’m also passionate about the Way of the Warrior, and warrior cultures in general.  I want to share with you some of the philosophies I’ve learned from these cultures, and how they can be translated and applied to various aspects of the Iron Game.  I believe certain warrior principles are powerful psychological tools that can help us succeed during our Iron Journey.

Here are some of the various resources that I have been exposed to throughout my personal studies, and from which the warrior principles have been compiled:

1.  Miyamoto Musashi

Miyamoto Musashi is widely recognized as the greatest samurai warrior of all-time, and his legend is unparalleled in Japanese culture.  He was a ronin — a masterless samurai — that wandered the land learning martial arts, sword skills, and philosophical insights from some of the greatest teachers of his time.  He incorporated that which was useful into his own approach, and discarded that which was of no use.

Throughout his travels he would test his skills by challenging the best warriors of each province, school, and town to individual battles.  Musashi never lost a duel throughout his life, defeating many great samurai masters.  When all was said and done, he had accomplished his life’s mission of becoming the greatest swordsman of all time.  And when he laid down his swords for the final time, he was undefeated in over 60 individual duels, not to mention the other full scale regional wars and battles in which he was a participant.

Before his death Musashi summarized his fighting style, personal philosophies, and principles of superior technique in The Book of the Five Rings and Go Rin Sho. His philosophy has stood the test of time and remains highly influential in Japanese culture.  His principles can effectively be applied to martial arts, competitive sports, business, and most importantly for us, the Iron Game.

2.  Bruce Lee

Most people recognize Bruce Lee as the greatest and most influential martial artist of all-time.  They also remember him as a successful Hong Kong and Hollywood actor.  What many people don’t know is that Bruce Lee was an equally gifted philosopher.

Bruce Lee borrowed from many different disciplines to create his unique, superior form of martial art — jeet kune do.  He also borrowed from many different philosophers and cultures, East and West, ancient and contemporary, to create his own personal lifestyle philosophy.  Lee used these principles to achieve high levels of success in every endeavor he pursued.

One of his students and friends, John Little, encapsulated Lee’s philosophies in his books The Warrior Within and Striking Thoughts.  Lee’s influence on the martial arts community and the American public in general remains strong decades after his death, and his lessons can certainly help us during our own battles in the Iron Game.

3.  Hagakure (The Book of the Samurai) & Bushido (The Way of the Warrior)

These books explore the instruction, philosophy, and code of behavior that foster the true thoughts and spirit of the traditional samurai warrior.  I found that without exception, each story, anecdote, or lesson could directly be applied to the Iron Game, and to life in general.

Beyond these I have pulled from additional resources including:

The Spartans

Greek Heroes

And even fictional characters like Conan The Barbarian (and if you have not seen this movie at least a dozen times you are not welcome on this site. Just kidding, but not really).

Keeping with the themes of the Ronin and “the individual is more important than the system,” these principles are not rules, nor any kind of formalized system.  They are only guidelines.  Take from them only that which resonates with, or benefits you, personally.  And add your own individual experiences and life lessons on top of it.  Every man or woman must find his or her own way.

If you’d like to share with your Iron Brethren some of your own personal lessons that you think would help us out — warrior principles, pre-game speeches, in-gym psych-ups, anything — we’d love to hear about them.  Contact me directly with your story.

Nate’s Long Intro

It’s all about smiles and cries…Yeah, you gotta control your smiles and cries because that’s all you have, and nobody can take that away from you — Jake Hoyt (Training Day).

Resumes and credentials are one thing, but I figured I’d tell you a little bit more about myself personally so you can better decide if I’m someone you want to hang with and maybe learn a thing or two from along the way.

competing and training

I could go with the 3rd person rant about everything I’ve accomplished and how awesome I am, but: (1) I haven’t accomplished that much (trust me 6-packs are meaningless in the real world).  (2) I’m really not that awesome, and I don’t know anyone else who thinks I’m that awesome, at least not enough to write a “proclamation of love and adoration” intro.  (3) I’m a real dude, and would rather just speak to you like one if that’s cool with you?

(4) And most importantly, I know you don’t care that much about me personally.  You only want to know how my background can ultimately help YOU reach YOUR goals.  I get it, and I’m with you.

Anyway, that’s how I roll, and this is where I’m coming from: Read the rest of this entry