(This article originally appeared on Livestrong.com on 11/23/11.)
In their quest to lose weight, many people choose fads and shortcuts they think will lead to permanent weight loss. In fact, these things set them up to gain the weight back, and sometimes they may even gain more than they lost. To successfully achieve permanent weight loss, you must get back to the basics of good nutrition and exercise and avoid the common pitfalls that sabotage long-term success.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how you lose weight — it’s fairly simple. You must consume fewer calories than you burn doing your activities of daily living and exercise. One pound of weight loss equals 3500 calories, so you must create a 3500-calorie deficit for each pound lost. Remember, your body consumes calories all the time just to stay alive, so it’s not as daunting as it seems. Ideally, combining healthy eating habits and exercise produce a slow and steady weight loss over time, and experts agree that the maximum weight loss to strive for is two pounds weekly.
Read labels at the grocery store and when you prepare food. Carefully look at the nutrition information for the prepared dish and not just the packaged one. For raw foods or meats without labels, consult a resource book for calorie counts or an online calorie estimating tool. Restaurants often have nutritional information available, but many dining out options rack up more calories in one meal than you should consume all day, so eat out with caution. Once you have the information needed, you can compile it through a written journal, or an online tracking site to calculate calories eaten. Many of these also offer tools for estimating calories burned through various forms of exercise to make an estimate of your daily caloric deficit.
Extremely low calories diets backfire by slowing your metabolism into starvation mode, where it conserves energy and calories for survival. As soon as you resume normal eating patterns, the weight loss returns, and you may gain even more weight because of your slowed metabolism. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 1200 calories daily for women and 1800 calories minimum for men, which maximizes weight loss without risking the dangerous side effects from extremely low calorie diets, such as heart arrhythmias, electrolyte imbalances, and dehydration. Other temporary short cuts include diuretic medications that accelerate water loss, but the weight loss returns as soon as fluid levels return to normal.
You must be patient for long-term weight loss. The weight didn’t build up overnight and won’t come off any quicker. Developing consistent diet and exercise habits that you can live with for a lifetime is the key to permanent success. Avoid fad diets that set you up for failure with temporary short cuts. Track your calories and make exercise a priority to stop the yo-yo cycle of weight loss and support a healthier and happier life.
(This article originally appearred on Yahoo! COntributor Network in April 2012.)
When Queen Latifah took the stage for the 2011 American Music Awards, she asked the audience “Are you ready to see the biggest stars and songs of the year?” to a roaring crowd. “Are you ready for a show filled for unforgettable performance?’
Well, yeah, I’m ready for that and at around a $500K price tag for each performance, I think I deserve to see some bang for all my iTunes bucks spent. But is that what I got? Hardly.
Every decade bemoans what the kids are listening to these days, and most of the time it’s just that ol’ generation gap. But tastes aside, Sunday night’s AMAs perfectly displayed why all of us doing that now are exactly right — the event ushered in a new low in crass commercialism and product placement. Even a cynic like myself couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw J-Lo incorporating a Fiat into her performance to create a live car advertisement. In fact, one could refer to the whole evening as the J-Lo/Fiat infomercial.
Bills have to be paid, I know, but any integrity in the awards goes out the window when one of the winners is a shill for the evening’s biggest sponsor. I’m sorry, but there was no way Lopez wasn’t going to win her category with all the money Fiat was shoveling into the program. Of course, when several performers lip-synch an awards show, there isn’t much integrity to go around in the first place.
And yes, folks, Lopez was lip-synching a track recorded for the performance, despite a few “impromptu” references to the AMAs to seem live. How can I tell? Despite shaking her badonkadonk all over the place like the Tasmanian Devil of T&A, Lopez’s vocals never wavered or fluctuated one iota to catch her breath in the performance, till suddenly, at the end after the song, the mike was now on and you could hear her panting heavily.
I cry foul.
I also caught double winner Nicki Minaj with her mike down during a vocal part. Yep, she was lip-synching as well. Although one could argue some of the other artists probably should have done the same. Dear One Republic, pitch is your friend. Katy Perry, in what I can only describe as a Pepto Bismal-colored Jetsons look, was having some issues as well, but at least they were singing. Adam Levine, normally spot on for his performances on “The Voice,” was a bit shaky on a few notes, as well, but when you look that good, who really cares?
They also graced us with pretty straightforward, gimmick-free performances, barring the bizarre styling by Perry, which was a refreshing change from all the gimmickry run amok in the show. As did Daughtry, The Band Perry and almost Mary J Blige — who felt compelled to add unnecessary dancers to do booty shakes in slow motion. I would have liked to see Kelly Clarkson drop the stupid intro and all the distractions and just sing in that stunning red dress in a single spotlight.
Speaking of weird styling, what is that look Justin Bieber is going for? I kept thinking that turned up collar made it sort of like a crazy, space-age Elvis look. And not in a good, kitschy way like The King. I won’t comment on Christina Aguilera’s outfit or weight, because no doubt Kelly Osbourne will chime in soon enough. Um, Kelly, I know you said she made fun of you when you were overweight, but I think it’s about time to take the high road and stop being such a hypocrite. Let the girl have some curves.
And we certainly couldn’t speak about crazy style without mentioning Lady Gaga, or, the The Gag Hag as I call her, who was conspicuously absent. The Lady Gaga snub for Artist of the Year undoubtedly accounts for her missing a chance to revel in some ridiculous PR stunt for its own sake, or perhaps Polaroid didn’t want to pony up the funds for sponsorship. But there were a few certainly trying to fill her shoes. Namely, Minaj with her trademark pink wig wearing a downright stupid outfit with something that looked like headlights on her derriere. They didn’t even light up. What’s up with that? And wearing shoes she couldn’t even walk in to pick up her award for Best Rap/Hip Hop Artist — some poor guy had to help her across the stage as she kept twisting her ankles. But thankfully she was there, because no one else did the required “thanks to God” in their acceptance speech (along with a plug for the gospel album her mother is recording.)
Sweet baby Jesus, y’all…have none of you any shame?
Guys, close your eyes and ask yourself if most of these songs are really that good. Because if you have to rely on silly costumes, elaborate sets, and dancers to entertain people, you aren’t doing the music right. Likewise, if you go into complete overkill with all of the above and it’s still boring — you really aren’t doing it right. The 2011 AMAs were all style (and big budget) but very little substance.
At least be honest next year — slap a label on it that reads “This is a paid advertisement.”
The evening’s winners included:
Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group: Maroon 5
Country Female Artist: Taylor Swift
Country Male Artist: Blake Shelton
Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj
Soul/R&B Album: Rihanna, “Loud.”
Country Band, Duo or Group: Lady Antebellum
New Artist of the Year: Hot Chelle Rae
Latin Music Artist: Jennifer Lopez
Soul/R&B Female Artist: Beyonce
Soul/R&B Male Artist: Usher
Pop/Rock Female Artist: Adele
Pop/Rock Male Artist: Bruno Mars
Country Album: Taylor Swift, “Speak Now”
Pop/Rock Album: Adele, “21”
Rap/Hip-Hop Album: Nicki Minaj, “Pink Friday”
Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift
(This article originally appeared on Yahoo! Contributor Netwrok in January 2012.)
Rock and roll road warriors the Koffin Kats are about to launch another European tour to support their new album, “Our Way and the Highway,” their first release on Sailor’s Grave Records.
Not only do they have a new label, but the Detroit-based band has gone through a bit of a makeover, as well, or perhaps what could be better described as an evolution into more of a genre-less, down and dirty rock and roll band. While not really anything premeditated, the natural progression was likely influenced by recording their first full length album with guitarist “EZ Ian” Jarrell.
“This is the first full length with Ian, and this is the first one that we’ve sat down as a three-piece and kinda said ‘let’s write an album,'” says vocalist and bassist Vic Victor. “We went down in the basement and came out with this one about three weeks later…that’s how we write, that’s always how we write whether with Tommy (Koffin, original guitarist) or whatever incarnation of the band.”
Three weeks may not sound like a long time for the actual writing and recording, but living on the road squeezed into a former shuttle bus equipped with three Ikea bunk beds means a lot of time to prep and brainstorm for the trio, consisting of Victor, Jarrell and drummer Eric “E-ball” Walls.
“Some ideas were hashed out on the road between me and Ian going back and forth on guitars, with these little mini, battery-powered amps,” says Victor. “It’s one of those things where we say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to spend every spare minute working on it,’ but really it was just a few days out of the whole tour that we sat down and had a few ideas and we bounced back and forth — that’s what made recording it so easy.”
Not only is the band able to crank out a new album in that time frame, but it’s a necessity for a group who spends so much time on the road, and has a very strict schedule to make it work. And with so little time between tours — generally a few weeks — their schedule is set far in advance and set in stone. But for this album, the Kats refined a process started with their last album, “Forever for Hire,” to get the best results in the least amount of time.
New record, new approach
“We said, okay, at this time we want to go in and do pre-production and do demos so that way we can go over to Europe and let these demos soak into our heads and then come back and do the full recording. And that worked out,” says Victor. “We learned the whole pre-production, demo process when we did ‘Forever for Hire.’ That showed us that you can write an album and not sit back later and say ‘Oh, I should have done this differently’ — the early recordings I go back and listen to and think I probably would have wrote this or that a bit differently. That’s maturity and progression as a band.”
Victor has made a few new changes to his songwriting approach on a more personal level, as well.
“Over the years I’ve learned about paying more attention to actual songwriting. Not just getting a good hook then throwing a bunch of garbled lyrics on top of it. Now I actually focus on, say, what if this song was written in a different fashion, or what if it was played in a different style — does it have that type of longevity? Not every song on the album is meant to switch over like that, but there’s a couple of them that could be transitioned to another style of music.”
Something seems to have gone right, as the band has already had a single, “Choke,” previewed on the Guitar World magazine website and opened over the summer for southern rockers Nashville Pussy. But lest you think they have strayed too far from their psychobilly roots, Victor assures us it’s still the Koffin Kats you know and love.
“We definitely brought in some different influences on this album, but you can tell it’s still us. And you can still hear the old us.”
The “old” Koffin Kats were the original lineup of Victor, Walls, and band namesake Koffin, but Walls left the band at one point, starting a revolving door of several different drummers — the relentless touring all year round proved too much for most of them before Walls returned in 2006. And in the end, the touring finally wore down Koffin himself, who left in 2010.
The lineup has seen several changes, but the basic philosophy has remained the same, including get in and get out and it done when it comes to making new music.
Get in and get it done
“We treat recording as we treat writing songs — if it takes us way too long to record or write a song, then there’s something not right about with the song. When we write a song, we’ve literally written it in 15 minutes max. If we spend more time than that, then we’re searching too hard.”
“We don’t spend time bickering over something either,” adds Walls. But as Jarrell sits down with the rest of the band, Victor is quick to jump in and start in hassling him — even after over a year with the Kats, the initiation phase appears to be unending.
“I really don’t listen to Ian too much,” Victor laughs. “The song that was ‘too generic’ for him became the one he sang on and the one that got a thousand plays in two days on Guitar World website so he can kiss my [expletive] for all I care. ”
“I forgot about that,” adds Walls, and they throw a few more verbal jabs at him as Jarrell just lets it roll off his back. Fortunately, he’s good-natured enough to find it as amusing to him as it is to Victor and Walls. Hey, they gotta have something to do to amuse themselves with all those hours on the road.
Speaking of which, will there ever be a time when they can slow down a bit?
“The only time I foresee that happening is if we start doing large tours,” says Victor. “Then you have to take time off. But that’s so far out of the ballpark for us…”
“We have no control over that, ” Walls adds, noting they have to start getting the crowds coming out to see them first. And “that” depends on managers and labels and making enough money to fund those big tours — they aren’t just loading up the shuttle bus and the trailer and hitting the highway for tours that size, hoping they make enough at one gig to buy gas to get to the next.
Far from mainstream
Which isn’t to say having a new label and a publicist are a bad thing for a band with such a DIY history. Or that mainstream success wouldn’t be sweet after paying their dues for so many years. But they aren’t holding their breath on that one, or being able to slow down to one big tour a year.
“Realistically, I would [expletive] my pants if a band like us got accepted into such a mainstream where we could live like that,” says Victor. “When we go home we live off of a few bucks we made off touring which is why we have to keep going back out so much. We aren’t going home and kicking back and buying cars, but stocking up on canned food for the next tour. But it’s great — it’s better than cleaning carpets and sorting mail (Victor’s and Wall’s former respective day jobs.) But yeah, you definitely have to live modestly and on a budget to live off of underground rock and roll.”
Signing with Sailor’s Grave has given the band the luxury of a some promotional funding and a publicist to help them invest in ways they get the most PR bang for their bucks. Of course, that’s all money that has to be made (and paid) back, which made them consider continuing the DIY track they were on, but in the end they gave the traditional route another shot, even though it hasn’t worked so well for them in the past.
Fortunately, Sailor’s Grave has proven to be as dedicated to the band as they are themselves and renewed their faith in turning some business aspects over to outside parties, despite their reservations at giving up some of the control.
“You don’t know if they’re going to perform for you,” says Walls. “We’ve had a lot of people work with us and it’s all flowers and rainbows in the beginning, but then the performance comes out… and we’re a band that I know will perform, and we will play every day and we will do stuff every day so we need people around us who will perform, too. We’ve been lucky to have James and Shane (with Libertalia Management) because they were willing to work with us day in and day out. ”
The band has also picked up European representation with I Hate People Records. And with that, the only thing left was integrating the sound of their new guitarist into the mix and gelling as a group.
Finding the right mix
“We finally found the mix…the right mix sound-wise,” says Victor. “We started working with Rene ( De La Muerte ) from The Brains and did this split record (with 12 Step Rebels) and he did a great job in the mix so we definitely wanted to use him for the full length album. I can finally say ‘Here’s how I’ve always wanted the previous recordings to sound.’ But when you’re working on a limited budget and time is an issue…and nothing against anyone who previously recorded us, but you have to kind of know what sound we’re going for.”
“You always have to squeeze that into your budget too,” adds Walls. “That time to get that proper mix between all the forces playing when you sit down and record. Obviously if we had a year to record it we could get it perfect.”
The trio had just played in Arizona where former guitarist Koffin had come out and played with Tucson friends The Demon City Wreckers, and done some “wrecking” off stage as well — the notorious former wild child of the band indulged in some hard drinking and picking on Jarrell, as well.
“It was great seeing Tommy pick on Ian. It gave us a chance to step back and let someone else do it,” says Walls.
If you’re wondering where the rest of the tales of wild rock and roll bacchanalia are in all this business talk, there are certainly those moments, too — they still have their wild side that comes out on numerous occasions.
“It depends on who’s with us — the three of us are gonna act pretty much the same all the time. We’re always going to be, maybe, not the most mature guys,” Walls laughs, “but you get the right collection of three or four key people around us…”
“When we go to a new city and we have a friend there, they’re like, ‘Dude, you’re in town — we have to party’…but that’s what the friend we saw yesterday said,” adds Jarrell.
Just to clarify, I asked them if they were really just nice boys corrupted by bad influences., to which they answered “Yes!” in unison. Yeah, right. But even if not bearing witness to past debauchery, it would be hard to be convinced by guys in a band where the front man has “Party Time” tattooed across his belly.
But then, as this is a family site, we’ll leave all that for one of those so-called “unauthorized” rock star biographies when they make it big. (You guys don’t really fall for that unauthorized bit do you?)
Giving the fans what they want
They may have a good time, but the Koffin Kats always take their music and their fans seriously and do whatever it takes to give them a full show. Some of their most dedicated and hardcore fans are on the Native American reservations out west, and they were playing a show on the Navajo reservation one night when the local police came out and literally pulled the plug mid-set.
“They pulled our plug and we told the kids if they came out the next day at noon we’d play for them,” says Walls. “They were obviously pissed at the police, but we told them we had to leave at two but we’d be here at noon play for anyone who showed up. A good half of them came back. I mean, it was out in the sun and everything. We love those fans.”
And the feeling is mutual. To catch the Koffin Kats near your town, check their website for current tour schedule and their new release, “Our Way and the Highway.”