Got Muscle?

Got Muscle? The Trainer’s Secret on How to Lose Weight… and Keep it Off.

It seems as though we are confronted with the issue at every turn. We are bluntly reminded almost daily how fat we have all become and how our children face serious health challenges due to obesity. And the problem, like our waistlines, is growing worse every day. Today, better than two-thirds (69%) of all Americans are either obese or overweight with a whopping one third (35%) considered clinically obese!

One good thing about all of the media attention to the “obesity epidemic” is, it is at least prompting a response. People are thinking about it more and are becoming more focused on wanting to get fit. The negative side of all of this attention is that it has opened a big door for snake oil salesmen and hucksters. The airways are flooded with infomercials touting advice from fitness gurus as they pedal all manner of “fast and easy” programs, gadgets and gizmos. If we’ll just buy the new “Pedal-Spring-Cam-lock / Slant-Pulley-Rocker” device, along with the ten-part CD and accompanying workbook, we’ll get six pack abs and “buns of steel.” Of course, there is always the small print included that points out that results shown are not typical, and weight loss is guaranteed, so long as you use the equipment in combination with a reduce calorie diet, etc.

cleanSadly the truth is, many of us are obese and many children now face unprecedented life threatening conditions that they should not be facing. Conditions that were once rare in children are becoming common. Diabetes, gallbladder disease and obesity-related sleep apnea are all on the rise in children. More than sixty percent of children today have at least one serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, or high blood lipids.

As a retired fitness professional, I have mixed feelings about the promotional pitches that I see for so many commercial fitness products and programs. I’m happy that there is more concern about our lack of fitness, but I am disturbed by all of the hype and misinformation. Most of the things marketed are really quite ridiculous, and the people and companies that pitch them—if they really do know anything at all about physiology, nutrition, or fitness—should be ashamed.

A variety of methods for losing weight, for example, are constantly being promoted. Unfortunately, most of these methods are ineffective and short-lived at best, and some, at worst, are downright dangerous. The fact is, weight loss is not the most important issue here, and it should not be the goal. For most Americans, the loss of fat is what is and should be important.

When it comes to the popular methods for becoming fit (and this includes nearly all of the gadgets that you see on television and most of the better-known weight loss programs and diets), they completely miss the mark. What these programs and gadgets usually end up accomplishing is a pattern of failure for the user because the methods used are not based upon sound physiological principles and correctly applied fitness training methods. What usually ends up happening is that the person participating, while maybe ending up with a net loss in overall weight, actually loses the wrong kind of weight. This is because nearly all of these popular programs focus on aerobic exercise alone, along with calorie reduction. For most Americans, this is a formula for eventual failure.

How can this be? Haven’t we all been told by the experts that what we all need is more exercise and less food? The answer is: if you follow the formula of just cutting calories and doing repetitive type exercise, yes it’s true, you will lose weight. The problem is, most of it will be a loss of lean body mass—muscle, not fat. If you think about it,  when all is said and done, your concern should not be how much you weigh, but how you feel and how you look.

To understand how all of this works, it is important to have some basic understanding of human physiology, and in particular, metabolic function. The key thing to remember is that muscle is what burns most all of the calories in your body. In fact, per gram of body weight, at rest, muscle tissue burns about ten times as many calories as fat. In the long run then, the more important factor in determining the rate at which your body burns calories when it is at rest–what is known as your resting metabolic rate—is how much muscle it has. The more lean body mass (muscle) that you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. More muscle means more calories are being burned while you are just sitting around, doing nothing.

The problem with most diets and/or diet and exercise programs is that they simply focus on cutting calories alone or dieting along with non-resistance type, aerobic exercise. This does very little in the long run to affect resting metabolic rate because it does nothing to retain or increase your overall lean body mass. In fact, it almost always reduces your percentage of lean tissue, causing your resting metabolic rate to become lower. You end up having to cut calories even more just to stay even, because your body now requires fewer calories to survive.

This is why long distance runners are always skinny, as opposed to sprinters, who are always muscular. The marathon runner is in excellent aerobic condition, but he has very little muscle mass. He may burn plenty of calories when he running a race, but when he isn’t, he’d better eat like a bird or “love handles” will start growing with every extra bite of food. On the other hand, the sprinter, because of his high volume of muscle, burns an extraordinary number of calories while he is running, but he also burns many more calories than the long distance runner does when at rest. Generally speaking, he can afford to eat more all the time, without gaining an ounce.

When a person loses weight by way of the diet and aerobic exercise route, they simply go from being a big fat person, to being a little fat person. Yes they weigh less, and yes, they have lost some fat, but they have lost more lean tissue too, which is counter-productive. They now have a lower resting metabolic rate, so they have to keep their calories drastically reduced. With fewer calories, they now have even less energy than before, so staying on their exercise program becomes more difficult. Their overall nutrition is usually compromised, so their immune system becomes likewise compromised. Now, they get sick more easily, and more often.

The end result of all this is that even though the person now weighs less, they have become less healthy and feel bad. They then do what most people do when they feel bad: they start eating more! This is what causes the “yo-yo” effect that most people who have tried the more traditional weight loss methods are familiar with. They keep weight off for a while, than gain it back. Often, they end up worse off, and their percentage of body fat is even higher than before.

This, then, is the reason why so many of us really are obese. What we have been sold by the fitness gurus in the infomercials and what we have been taught about fitness in most all of the weight loss programs, is either ineffective or completely wrong.

The only way to effectively lose fat (not just weight) and keep it off is to reduce the percentage of body fat and increase our resting metabolic rate by retaining what muscle we have and adding whatever muscle tissue we can over time. And the only way to do this is to include progressive resistance anaerobic strength training (weight training) into our exercise regimen.Alive media magazine A Word about BMI Body Mass Index How to Lose Weight the Right Way Eric Johnson Franco Columbo (2)

If you want to lose fat and keep it off for good, add progressive resistance anaerobic weight training to your fitness routine; you’ll be amazed at what good old “pumping iron” will do to enhance your overall level of fitness. You’ll keep what lean muscle you have, add some new, and lose fat—and the best part is, you won’t have to eat like a bird to keep it off!

A Word about BMI (Body Mass Index)

One of the most common scales used by the medical community in determining whether or not a person is “overweight” or “obese” is by calculating your BMI or Body Mass Index. Essentially, it is a number that represents the ratio of one’s height to weight. In some formulas, a person’s age is also considered in the calculation.

According to broader medical community a BMI from 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal. A BMI of more than 25 is considered overweight and a person is considered obese if their BMI is above 30. Severely obese is anyone with a BMI above 40.

The problem with using the BMI as the primary indicator of fitness is, it cannot show whether or not someone’s weight “problem” is due to a higher percentage of body fat, or muscle. In fact, since muscle is denser and weighs more than fat, someone with greater muscle mass and little body fat will often be determined to be obese, when they really are the exact opposite.

To illustrate my point, consider a relatively short man that weighs almost 200 pounds—194 to be exact. When we enter that height and weight into the Stanford Healthcare website’s “BMI Calculator,” this is what we are told:

BMI: 32.28

Your BMI falls into the obese range. You’re not alone. Over 45 million Americans have a BMI above 30, just like you do. Obesity can lead to serious medical issues like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. You should take steps to lose weight in order to avoid these obesity-related conditions. Call the Stanford BMI Clinic at 650-736-5800 to learn more about our comprehensive bariatric surgery and medical weight loss programs.

Aside from height and weight, no consideration has been made in this case of the person’s actual level of fitness. What is this subject’s percentage of body fat? Is this person really not only overweight but well into the range of “obese,” as the experts at Stanford have indicated here?

In this case, the subject is Franco Columbo, one of the world’s most accomplished, award winning body builders of all time—someone who even today at age 74, is far from being “obese.” (See photos)Alive media magazine A Word about BMI Body Mass Index How to Lose Weight the Right Way Eric Johnson Franco Columbo

So, while BMI can be used as one indicator of fitness for many “average” Americans who lead primarily sedentary lives, a better way to determine whether you are overweight is to measure your actual percentage of body fat. In the mean time, I recommend assessing how you feel and how you look. Just standing in front of the mirror with little or no clothing on will probably tell you just about all you need to know!

How to Lose Weight the Right Way

The typical traditional weight loss scenario goes something like this:

  • Bill starts at 200 lbs at 30% body fat. This means Bill has 140 lbs. of lean (muscle) body mass, and 60 lbs. of fat.
  • Bill’s goal is to lose thirty pounds. He goes on a diet.
  • After a few months, he has lost 30 lbs. He now weighs 170 lbs. He has done it mainly by cutting calories.
  • Bill is still 30% body fat. He now has 119 pounds of lean mass, and 51 pounds of fat.
  • Bill has lost only 9 lbs. of fat, and 21 lbs. of muscle!


  • Resting metabolic rate lower = less calorie burned at rest.
  • Must continue to restrict or reduce calories to avoid weight gain.
  • Energy level declines due to lack of calories. Exercise becomes difficult.
  • Immune system compromised. General fitness, health and wellbeing declines.
  • Bill begins to eat more in order to feel better again. Fat is gained. Fat % increases.

FAT loss program including Progressive resistance Training:

  • Bill starts at 200 lbs at 30% body fat. Has 140 lbs lean mass, and 60 lbs. fat.
  • Bill wants to lose 30 pounds, but focuses on building more muscle by doing weight training. Bill’s progressive resistance training adds muscle.
  • After a few months of training, Bill has lost 30 lbs. He weighs 170 lbs.
  • But, because Bill worked to retain and build muscle, he is now 10% body fat, instead of 30%. His body fat is only 17 lbs, and his lean body mass is 153 lbs.
  • Bill has gained 13 lbs of muscle, and LOST 47 lbs of fat!


  • Resting metabolic rate higher = more calories burned at rest.
  • Bill must INCREASE calories to feed lean muscle—without weight gain!
  • Bill’s energy level is higher. Exercise is now “fun.”
  • Bill’s immune system is strengthened. His general fitness, health, and wellbeing is greater.











Police VIPs Part II

This is the second of a series introducing the Danville Police Department VIPS (Volunteer In Police Service.)

Last month we accompanied Darren, our hypothetical alter-ego, as he attended the Danville Police Citizens Academy.  You may recall that upon graduation Darren applied to the Department to become a VIPS. At the very end of the first chapter, Darren was given a badge, a uniform, and an ID which meant he passed all the required interviews and background checks. I might add he was very pleased and anxious to get going, but there were a few hills left to mount.

Close-up of a police car's flashing blue lightsDarren’s first direct discussion with the powers that be was the introduction to the Scarecrow Rule. Now he may be in uniform, may sport a shield, may drive a black and white police vehicle, but he is NOT, I repeat NOT a police officer.  He may fool a few people and look professional, but it is important to realize his minimal training does not qualify him as an officer.  What then is his overriding duty? That’s where the Scarecrow rule comes in.

Now we all know that scarecrows are placed in corn fields. The crows see the image and are convinced that a live person is protecting the field. “Hey, let’s move on to the next field. This one is covered” is the crow’s response. The parallel applies. A black and white is seen cruising around a neighborhood, and “Let’s move on” is the bad guy’s response.

This boils down to a simple truth. Be seen by as many as possible, and be a good witness to what you see.

Now a VIPS is not allowed to travel alone. There must be a twosome for safety reasons. Obviously, they both are required to have radios which connect them to the Contra Costa Sheriff’s dispatch center. When they go on duty, and as they travel about, it is important that they keep the dispatch center informed. This little hill was Darren’s next to conquer. The radios themselves were not tough to learn, but it was surprising how tongue tied a normal person can become when they are faced with telling someone what they are witnessing. It takes a lot of work to overcome one’s stammering and concisely give the position and activity you are observing.

VIPS patrols cover a number of other things as well. A garage with an open door and no cars is an invitation to disaster. Those four expensive off-road bikes next to several sets of golf clubs can earn a thief a thousand dollars in five minutes. When our VIPS come upon this situation a mail reminder is sent to the resident with a request that they be a bit more cautious in the future.Alive Media Magazine Meet the Danville Police Department VIPS Volunteers in Police Service Harry Hubinger

Newspapers collecting on the drive and a UPS box on the front porch announce to a thief that the resident is on vacation.  Great time to make a midnight call! A large percentage of police calls are for crimes of opportunity, and Darren is out on patrol looking for these oversights. The program is called “If I Were A Thief” and reminds the residents to be more careful.

It didn’t take Darren long to become a friend with the sworn officers. They are fully occupied with the daily duties of investigation reports, traffic safety, thefts and robberies, and the mountain of paper work that goes with each activity. Darren was surprised to learn that last year the Danville Police Department handled just under 26,000 calls.  Not that there were that many crimes, but there were that many needs for police contact. Therefore, from time to time, he is called upon to help with traffic, vehicle maintenance, police station tours, fingerprinting, and possibly some office work.

Darren chose the activities he enjoyed the most and had no difficulty putting in the minimum of sixteen hours per month that are required to remain active.Patrolling the neighborhoods was one of Darren’s favorite duties. It seemed that on each patrol he was able to help make Danville a better place.

On one patrol he saw a young bike rider take a bad spill. His quick call had the fire department’s medics on scene in minutes, and they informed the parents of the accident.

Because there is only a limited number of sworn officers on duty at any one time, and on occasion more than one incident requires the police to respond, Darren was able to assist an officer with traffic control around the accident.

One of the highlights of his first year was in helping locate a missing young child. The incident was initiated by a call from a distraught parent. The youngster failed to return home fromschool at the usual time. This type of occurrence is treated with the highest police priority. Detectives interview teachers, parents, and friends. Patrol officers roam the streets, and bike and motorcycle officers work the trails. On some occasions even the helicopter from the Sheriff’s Office can be activated as well as the Search and Rescue teams.  Fortunately in this case the child was quickly found at a friend’s house – just having a post-school snack.

Also during this event Darren was able to watch the Danville Police K9 dog and the K9 officer do their thing. Most of the time one associates the K9 with a crime. For example, he may nose out hidden drugs in a car or find a perpetrator out of sight in a garage. But in this case the dog’s sensitive nose followed the child’s path from school to a friend’s home.

The most prevalent use of the VIPS occurs at the many special events hosted by the Town of Danville. These include the Fourth of July Parade, the car shows, and the periodic street fairs. We see the white shirted volunteers walking the streets, answering the simple questions like, “Where are the toilets?” to the scary ones, “I can’t find my child.”

We could go on and on and on listening to or reading about Darren’s adventures. But like most things in life, it’s necessary to move on. It is my hope that in these two stories about the Danville Police Department VIPS that you have found a better sense of the sometimes overlooked umbrella of security we all enjoy. We may go days, months, even years without contact with the police. But they are there, 24-7, willing to help under any circumstance.

Thank goodness….



2016 Kia Optima

There were a lot of quality players showing what they were made of on the field at this year’s Super Bowl and just as many in the TV commercials that aired in between the passes and catches. Not to be out done by the competition, Kia paid the big bucks to showcase its new 2016 Optima sedan.

2016 Optima SX 2.0 turboWe were sitting at my parents’ house wondering if the Panthers had it in them to make a comeback when the Optima commercial flashed on the screen. I pointed out that was the vehicle I was test driving when my seven-year-old son confirmed my comment; however, added that it was a different color. He is as observant as Payton was looking for an open wide receiver.

The 2016 Kia Optima has become a serious contender in the mid-size sedan market. Once dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, Kia has found success in the Optima which is now becoming the benchmark for style and value. It is truly one of the better looking sedans on the market and packed with upgraded features found on more expensive vehicles.

For 2016, Kia has redesigned the Optima in a way that refines the model. From the outside you might not notice some of the exterior, subtle changes. The 2016 Optima is somewhat longer, taller and wider than the 2015 version, which in turn manifests a more comfortable and roomier cabin with surprisingly larger trunk space. The front and rear styling is softened and better detailed, displaying the maturity of its design.

Kia incorporates key experiences of the Optima’s up-scaled siblings and delivers a more spacious interior, a quieter engine, reduced road noise, enhanced ride quality and refined interior trim features.

2016 Kia OptimaThe 2016 Kia Optima is available in five trim levels: LX, LX Turbo, EX, SX Turbo, and SXL. There are three engine options which include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder (24 mpg city/35 hwy), 2.0-liter turbocharged (22 mpg city/32 hwy), and the new 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (28 mpg city/39 hwy). The 2.4 GDI engine produces 185 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. The 2.0-liter turbo generates 247 horses also at 6,000 rpm. The 1.6-lier turbo available on the LX trim delivers 178 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 195 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that operates like an automatic. The Hybrid version will be reintroduced in 2017.

Besides liberating the mid-size category with its beautiful coup-like curves, the 2016 Optima continues its value benefit with a starting sticker price of only $21,990 (LX 2.4L). The LX 1.6L sells for $23,990, EX 2.4L $24,990, SX 2.0T $29,790, and the SXL 2.0T $35,890. All trim variations include: alloy wheels, rear camera system, six-way power seat, remote keyless entry, satellite radio compatibility, air conditioning, cruise control and you can order ventilated front seats and heated rear seats across the trim levels.

Cool Features:

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Connectivity Systems
  • Speed Alert and Curfew Alert
  • Paddle Shifters

Safety on the 2016 Kia Optima begins with the standard rear camera and continues with a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alerts. Additionally, the UVO eServices provides several features that are useful when teenagers are driving. They include: Find My Car, Speed Alert, Geo-Fencing and Curfew Alert that give parents the ability to locate the vehicle and to receive alerts when the Optima is going too fast, too far from home, or too late at night. The SXL also includes automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and a lane-departure warning system.

In Summary – The Kia Optima, since its first major revision in 2011, has been a game changer in the mid-size market. The redesigned 2016 Optima is refined in the exterior and interior. It went from being a niche vehicle to a successful player, with the benchmark of design and value. The performance is energetic and thrilling, and the ride quality is much improved. The 2016 Optima has once again raised the bar and Kia is optimistic about its future. I suggest taking the Optima for a spin! Be prepared with your checkbook in hand!


2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo

Base price:                  $23,990

Engine:                       1.6-liter Turbocharged 4-cylinder

Horsepower:             178 @ 5,500 RPM

Torque:                       195 @ 1,500 RPM

Transmission:            7-speed automatic

Drive:                          FWD Drive

Seating:                       5-passenger

Turning circle:           35.8 feet

Cargo space:              15.9 cubic feet

Curb weight:             3224 pounds

Fuel capacity:            18.5 gallons

EPA mileage:             City 28/Hwy 39

Wheel Base:                110.4 inches

Warranty:                   5 years/60,000 miles powertrain limited

Also consider:            Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Subaru Legacy