T Nation

Help Me Help My Brother


Hello gentlemen-- so here's the deal-- I'm a FigureAthlete chick myself - but NO ONE in my family shares my passion for being healthy and fit...

That being said - my almost-30 year old brother - who could stand to lose some weight to say the least - emailed me - asking me to help him...well-- here's what he wrote-- I'll paste it below.

At first I thought I would help him set up a carb cycling diet - but I think thats too much too fast ya know?! There is NO WAY someone who barely steps in a gym and doesnt know anything nutrition is going to be willing to count his macros hehe....

Any and all help would be much appreciated...heres what he sent me!.....

Hey Elyssa,

I have a question that I thought you might know the answer to, because I know you're up on diet/nutrition kinda stuff.
Do you know where I can look to find a good, healthy diet plan online? Like, an overall plan, like lunch on Wednesdays = whatever.
I'm working on weight loss and going to the gym, but I think it'd help me to have a plan to follow instead of just generally trying to eat good stuff and not eat bad stuff.
(I'm sure I'd have to figure out a billion substitutions because I hate so many foods... but some kinda plan would be a start!)




Tell him to just get his ass into the gym on a regular basis first. He'll start feeling better and probably dropping some weight.

Once he's doing that and proven he cares enough for you to devote your time to helping him you can work on nutrition together.


hehe i plan on talking to him about the gym for sure-- i just wanna start thinking about how to help him nutritionally - ya know?!


Also get him to keep a food log for a week. That will give you the opportunity to point out some good things in his diet (encouragement) as well as the bad. If he won't keep a log for a week, he's not going to stick with the plan, anyway.


thats a great idea -

so ive decided AGAINST carb cycling for sure-- while i think he would benefit from it - i think its too "advanced" or "much" in the end-- and he doesnt want to know about macros - he is really interested in someone giving him an actual meal plan...

still searching i am....ayudame!


Actually, carb cycling would be a great idea. Since all he's going to do is follow a meal plan, he won't know the difference. And it will probably be easier for him to stick with than just a low-cal or low-carb diet.

IME, someone who doesn't want to KNOW and LEARN about what they are doing, isn't going to make it far. Don't get your hopes up too high.


Dr JB's Precision Nutrition is a good start for beginners IMO, and so is Lyle McDonald's Flexible Dieting. For the first few weeks, I think it is better to change his dietary habits first before he starts worrying about counting calories and macronutrient ratios. Make sure he gets a source of lean protein in every meal, vegetables with every meal, control his carbohydrates and fat intake (make sure he gets the EFA's), choose "cleaner" foods most of the time, and avoid the obvious bad food choices e.g. sodas, trans fats etc. Food log will also help.


Have him hit up youtube and check out Dr. Jonny Bowdens youtube channel. Lots of very important and knowledgable info showed for free!!!

Buy some of his books would be some awesome investments for him. I believe on http://www.jonnybowden.com he has a fat loss diet people can follow and cater to there needs.

Guy is one of the best in the fields of diet and health.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSxOd9v6Iq0 here he talks about diets and what works and what doesn't and he has much more info in his channel


thanks so much guys-- like i said before - if he was a CHICK - i would know how to help - but with a guy - i feel like some of the variables are different-- ya know?!

im assuming this:

i want to get him on a "eating every 3 hour" sort of a plan-- with his schedule, its probably gonna be about 6 meals-- he doesnt lift (yet hehe) - but he runs around nyc alot for his performing (we're both actors)-- so since i think carb cycling is FANTASTIC... i was thinking carbs in meals 1 and 3 on low days? ok wait-- i dont know--- hmmmm...

because again - he wants an actual grocery list ya know? like monday at 12pm eat THIS, monday at 3pm eat THIS..

i dont mind doing the work for him - im thankful and excited that he is coming to me and trying to get healthy. i think our father's obesity has really put a scare into him..

so what if i do all the number crunching work-- figure out what his macro breakdown should be- and then come up with a meal plan based on THAT ya know?!

i will for sure check out all the info you guys sent me...i kinda DON'T want him doing it - he knows NOTHING about this - and the fact that he has come to his lil' sis for support means alot (and the fact that i am going back to school in the fall to become a Registered Dietician makes me even more excited hehe)....

ok done rambling...you guys are the best..


i think your ideas are great - and precision nutrition is fantastic - maybe an early bday present from me to him? hehe-- cause i know he wants FREE (we're actors remember hehe) - which is why i thought of carb cycling immediately...

is mcdonalds flexible dieting free or at least cheap? cause PN is like 100 bucks-- or id be doing it myself! hehe..see pics from my first figure comp - me with my trainer-- i could TOTALLY have used some PN in my life hehe...



It used to be cheap for me when the pound to american dollar exchange rate was high, lol. It's not really a book on a specific diet, but deals rather more with the psychological part of the diet. Very useful for those who are new to dieting and also when dealing with clients. Good luck with becoming an RD!

Btw, it's about $40


I can see how a super explicit diet might make sense for a total noob. Especially to get an idea of things like portion size. However, he already mentioned he may end up making a ton of substitions because he hate things.

Another way is to start simple and just give him a calorie target for each day. If he gets used to that, then give him a macro target (or even just a protein target).

The tricky part would, again, be developing the skillset of building and measuring meals.


Carb Cycling doesn't have to be complex. Check out Mike Roussell's Carb Cycling for Idiots.



They really aren't. Just like gals can train the same as guys, basic rules of nutrition are pretty much the same regardless of gender. The biggest difference is that he can probably tolerate proportionally-higher calories and macronutrients, but even that would be similar to a heavier, more muscular girl (say, a 200-pound female bodybuilder.)

If he's looking for one thing to read for now, I'd give him 28 Days, 14 Missions, 1 Ripped Physique:

It's a mix of nutrition and simple training ideas for beginners, but it's a very solid first couple of steps.

I agree that carb cycling is overkill for now, especially if he doesn't know what a carb is.

Hmmm... do I hear "case study"? You know (presumably) what works to add muscle and burn fat for your body and since he shares the same genetics, he should, in theory, respond to the same types of training/nutrition methods.

This could be a good chance to get some practical experience designing meal plans and help out your big bro. Two birds, one stone. Huzzah!


woo hoo! thanks everyone for the help - i am really looking forward to this - i really hope i can help him - and im so happy that he has entrusted his lil sis hehe...

anyways - i emailed him and asked him (since he is such a damn picky eater) - what foods he likes (what foods that he would keep in his diet if he could in a perfect world) - i also asked him what he currently eats now - i know he is barely ever in his apartment and probably doesnt know the difference between a pot and a pan hehe - so easy is his game - in nyc - we're always on the run hehe...

i also asked him what foods he for sure does NOT like---

ok so his reply is below-- im gonna go check out all those links!!

ps - i already forewarned him about the beer - what can ya do...

"Foods I currently eat: y'know, it's so all over the place. I so seldom eat at home (although I'm trying to more because it's cheaper). I get a lot of those microwaveable pilaf or couscous things (I know refined/processed food like that isn't ideal). Cans of Campbells soup. Some stuff I get locally is like, from the halal stand, chicken with rice, onions, peppers, and lettuce. Or from the bodega, a grilled chicken or turkey sandwich with bacon, lettuce, and red peppers. When I order in Chinese, I'll usually get steamed tofu and broccoli or chicken and broccoli, sometimes also boneless spare ribs. When I order in Indian, usually chicken vindaloo, usually also Indian breads, potato samosas, that kinda stuff.

One thing that I guarantee I'll do, whether you slip it in there or not, is allow myself to "cheat". I'm not gonna be a health nut; whether it's a certain number of times per week, or as a reward when I meet some goal, or whatever, I'll still sometimes order in food or get ice cream or have a snack. I guess that's what I'd ideally keep: ordering in Chinese/Indian/Thai when I can afford it, getting diner food, junk. Oh, also: I drink beer, and that's not going anywhere.

Stuff I won't eat: butter, eggs, most cheese. Pretty much anything dairy except for like, chocolate milk and other sweet stuff (ice cream).

I like lots of fruits and vegetables. Some of my favorites, I guess, are broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, green/red peppers, berries, grapes, pears... and on and on."


Tell him to man up, take the twinkies out of his mouth, and diet.


hehe i know- right?!

i really sort of feel like im in over my head here - cause i have no idea how to set up a meal plan for someone who does "some machines and cardio" at the gym 4-5 days a week - when i asked him about what he does at the gym and what intensity - he said he couldnt tell me cause it varies. i was just trying to get an idea of how active/inactive he is... ya know?!



IMO, beer is perfectly fine if he can get it in low carb and as long as he saves it for like one glass a day. If he can't do that, then you have to slap him :S


When I work with people like this, I think that for any chance of new and improved eating habits to stick is to focus on good foods first, NOT calories. If they don't change the foods they eat early in the process, they probably never will. Good foods lead to early weight loss without explicitly counting calories because they have a higher thermic effect and because they are calorie-sparse for their volume. (Calorie counting can become important later, when weight loss plateaus or for stubborn metabolisms/appetites.)

I first have them learn to read labels and eliminate everything with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Next, they eliminate white flour. I also want them minimizing food from restaurants. It is difficult at best to get healthy, diet-conscious meals from restaurants even when you know what you're doing.

Most people who are overweight are eating tons of processed crap and/or are eating out a lot. All those foods create a diet that is high in carbs, high in fat, low in protein. And the fats are never good fats, so they are getting lots of high-GI carbs, lots of saturated fat, lots of omega 6 fats, but little fiber, omega 3s, and monos. Following the 4 simple rules (no HFCS, no hydrogenated oil, no wheat flour, no restaurant food) usually leads to some rapid weight loss.

I have also found with regular people whose motivation to control diet to change their body is fairly low, it is a mistake to try to get them to eat 6 times a day. Honestly it is not going to make a difference for your brother to eat 6 small versus 3 larger meals a day. People find prepping 6 meals is too much work and takes too much time in the day. What I do is insist upon 3 good meals especially breakfast. I tell them they can eat "snacks" a couple times a day if they are hungry.

Next I educate them about good foods -- basically just real unprocessed foods -- and get them on a low-carb diet. The transition is easier because they have already reduced carbs drastically for a couple months by eliminating processed junk.

By the way, one of the first friends I helped with this diet change, I had him get blood work done before the diet changes and every few months thereafter. He had all kinds of people telling him that "all that fat" (almost all from olive oil and nuts) was going to raise his cholesterol and give him a heart attack. After 3 months, his LDL dropped hugely, his HDL had never been higher, and his triglycerides dropped dramatically. His blood pressure even dropped and he was able to go off his meds for it.

I wrote up my own articles to educate my friends and then clients just as a learning experience for myself, but I think that Precision Nutrition is an excellent resource to help people really change their eating habits. Doesn't it include video of how to shop for groceries or something like that? People really NEED that level of detail if they are going to change their eating habits permanently.

The only thing is that I would tell my brother (if he asked me!) that the meal frequency is ideal but not necessary. I don't want meal frequency to be a sticking point of compliance because it is the least important thing for people needing to lose weight.


this was fantastic - thanks so much!

well - i wasn't going to make HIM count calories--- i THOUGHT i would do it myself, figure out what his macros should be on my own, and then from THERE, come up with foods for him-- does that sound alright?

Otherwise - I'm just throwing foods at him ya know? And while I want him to lose weight, I don't want to do anything too drastic - he's about 5'9 and 185 lbs - and says he thinks he would be comfortable in the mid 160s....I am ALMOST afraid of not giving him ENOUGH food - if that makes sense-- since I come from a figure competitor background...

that was some great advice though...keep it coming! i am learning so much! thanks!