Our Nutrition Philosophy

Recently we started a small group at Castro Valley Fitness. It’s a group of people who want to start thinking about nutrition and their body in a different way.

Through years of coaching people through the process of “losing weight” I started to see problems.

Big ones.

I thought it was important when I started the group to lay our nutrition philosophy out there so that it was clear that we are going to be doing something very different here. I wrote this up and I thought it would good, and possibly kind of ground-breaking, for many people to read, so here it is.

By the way, if you’d like to see the kind of work we are doing in our group, just reply to this email and we can talk about it. The group is open to anyone but we’re limiting it to 10 people total. Here we go:

“What do you want to do?”

“Lose weight.”

I’ve had some version of this conversation hundreds, if not thousands, of times in my years as a personal trainer. If I had to pick the one thing I hear most, this would come in second. (We’ll get to number one soon.)

People just reflexively say, “Lose weight” as if it’s the only goal worth attaining. In reality I think people just say it because they’ve been told over and over throughout their lives that it’s what they SHOULD want. That goes triple for women who are told in many ways from the time they’re little girls that the most valuable thing they can be is small and pretty.

In this group we reject these notions.

We will talk about nutrition here, but that is only a part of it. We are going to talk about why, “I know what to do but I just can’t do it” is the number one thing I hear most.

The reality is that we really do know the vast majority of what we need to know about nutrition. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you a few questions:

  1. What has more nutrients, an apple or a candy bar?”
  2. Should you eat fruits and vegetables?
  3. What has more nutrients, fried chicken or grilled chicken?

I’ll bet you knew the answers to those questions and I’ll bet you think I’m kidding when I say that you don’t need to know much more than that. I’m not. This is the level of knowledge most people need to have a pretty healthy diet. Society at large does not have a knowledge problem on this issue.

Now you may be asking yourself, “If that’s all I need to know, why is this so hard?”

The answer to that is 42.

Now I’ll bet you’re really confused.

Unless you know about The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

In that phenomenal book (one of the funniest ever written) it’s revealed that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. The problem is that no one knows what the actual question is.

Kind of like nutrition.

We are asking the wrong question.

We are focusing on weight loss when we should be focusing on something else.

I’ve come to believe something after all this time and all of the conversations I’ve had over the years. I’ve come to believe that most of the time, weight loss is actually damaging. I know that you’ve been told quite the opposite but stay with me for a minute.

What have you all been told all these years? If you can’t lose weight it’s because you’re weak. Unmotivated. Unfocused.

What you haven’t been told is that losing weight and keeping it off is incredibly hard. Even harder if you have a job, a family and anything in the world you’d like to do other than prep and weigh food.

How about what happens psychologically when you lose weight in an unsustainable way (keto anyone?) and what happens emotionally when you gain it all back. Now you have the double whammy of feeling like a failure because you couldn’t sustain an unsustainable lifestyle and feeling valueless because of your size.

Does this sound empowering to you? Does this sound healthy to you?

If everyone tells you to lose weight so you can be healthy and happy and the whole process of losing weight is unhealthy and makes you unhappy WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE REALLY DOING TO OURSELVES?

I’m not even going to get into what happens physically when trying to lose weight causes us to stress LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE TIME WE THINK ABOUT FOOD OR EAT ANYTHING AT ALL!


You might be a little confused now. What’s the point, huh? Why try? I’m going to ask you to think of things a little differently. Instead of focusing on your weight, I want you to focus on what you really want.

Do you want to be healthier? Focus on that. Do you want to feel fitter? Focus on that. Here’s the thing:

when you focus on what you really want you have a

much better chance to achieve it!  

Oh, and if you think you really want to just lose weight, you’re wrong.  You want what you feel losing weight will get you.

That’s what this group is going to focus on.

What we really want. Not what we’re told we should want.

We are going to focus on things that actually empower us, not make us feel small.

We are going to focus on things that actually make us healthier, not things that stress us out and demand disordered and unsustainable activities like most diets do.

We are going to focus on ways we can start living a more full and vital life RIGHT NOW.

Let me be clear about this: We will not talk about weight loss here. We will be doing check-ins every week that may reference goals we have set. None of those will involve weight loss. If you agree to this and still step on your scale each day you will be sabotaging what we are trying to accomplish.

Let me clear about this, as well: You may, in fact, lose weight in this group but you may not. Either one of these things is fine as long as you are advancing in the work we are doing.

Success will not be measured on the scale here. We are forming a new model. One that will ultimately be a lot more rewarding than a mere number that society tells us reflects our personal worth.

We will be concentrating on the process of being healthier both mentally and physically through focusing on things that empower us.

I know this approach may seem foreign to you. That’s OK. It’s only by stepping outside of our comfort zone that we can truly achieve what we are trying to achieve.

If you still don’t know about this, I want you to ask yourself what focusing on weight loss alone has gotten you. Has it helped you in any way?

I am so excited you are a part of this group. I truly believe that getting this information out there can make the world a better place and you are at the center of it!

Once again, if you’d like to hear more about about our group please let me know. Thanks for reading! 

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness at 2861 Grove Way

Biggest Loser Returns: My Thoughts

“You’re not going to yell at me, are you?”

Jillian Michaels being a

Not what we do

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to a prospective client and had them ask me this question. It always surprises me until I realize that for many people their only exposure to personal training is The Biggest Loser. When I think of that, and then think that they still want to come to a personal trainer for help, it makes me realize how important getting healthy is to them and how desperate they are for something, ANYTHING to work.

I’ve been training people for over 10 years and I haven’t yelled at one person. I can’t imagine doing that. It goes against everything I believe.

I was pretty surprised when I saw that The Biggest Loser was coming back on the air. I thought that all the controversy saying that contestants took drugs to help lose weight, grave physical and psychological affects were suffered by the contestants, contestants metabolisms were permanently damaged by the extreme weight loss methods they were put through, most of the contestants have regained most if not all the weight back, among other things would put this thing off the air for good. I guess not.

According to the article I read they are going to change things up now and focus more on holistic changes for their contestants. According to USA Networks president Chris McCumber, “We’re re-imagining The Biggest Loser for today’s audiences, providing a new holistic, 360-degree look at wellness, while retaining the franchise’s competition format and legendary jaw-dropping moments.”

Sounds good, I guess.

Last week I decided to take care of all my loyal readers and “take one for the team” as the saying goes. Basically,  I watched the season premiere so you don’t have to.

I told myself I’d go into it with an open mind.

Maybe they updated the problematic focus on weight loss at all costs.

Maybe they’ve started to treat their contestants like actual people instead of like things they can attack and punish for having the inexcusable audacity of being big.

Maybe they’d give their viewers a real look at how to establish sustainable fitness and dietary habits that allow them to live healthier lives based on their personal values.


I’m sure you’ve guessed that this is not what they’ve done.

Let’s go over it.

The show starts off innocently enough. All of the contestants seem very excited to be there. You may recognize the host, Bob Harper, who was previously one of the trainers. He’s always come across as the “nice one”. He assigns everyone to be on one of two teams and they’re all happy.

Interspersed throughout are different profiles of the contestants and their struggles. A general theme from them is some kind of emotional or phyisical trauma in their lives and a lot of emotional eating.

Let me clear about this next point.

This is very real and it can go very deep. Fitness can, and likely should be a big part of the recovery process, but a personal trainer is just not qualified to truly deal with this in the deep and meaningful way it deserves, any more than a psycho-therapist would be qualified to help someone with movement patterns relating to back pain. 

Another important point here is that for someone dealing with these kinds of issues, a focus on weight loss is likely to be extremely counterproductive! Especially when factoring in what this show considers important, which can best be described as “losing weight is the only thing that matters!”

Back to the show.

The next thing we see is their first challenge. Everyone has to run a mile and the team that finishes first gets a 6 pound advantage at the first weigh-in. Now, I’m not going to mention (well, I guess I am) the fact that running is a high impact activity and that the average person takes about 2500 steps per mile. So they’re asking these people, who we know aren’t in the greatest physical shape, to essentially do 2500 reps of a high impact activity and then judge them for how poorly they do it. There are basically three possible outcomes here.

  1. They do well
  2. They don’t do well
  3. They get hurt

Options 2 and 3 are by far the most likely.

Let me describe two scenarios to you surrounding the same activity (running a mile) and please think about the one you feel would lead to a better experience with physical activity and a more sustainable lifestyle change for someone who has had a history of bad experiences with exercise.

  1. People are pushed into going as fast as they can no matter how they feel and are made to feel inadequate, like failures and like they let their team down for not going fast enough.
  2. People are asked to go for a mile at a pace that feels good and are encouraged to keep a healthy pace. When they finish they are congratulated for taking a great first step toward getting healthy.

Yes, I know that insulting and belittling people probably make for more exciting TV than encouraging and supporting them, but now we’re starting to get to the heart of the problems with this show and why the statement about a “360-degree holistic view of wellness” rings so false.

There is a lot of talk after the run about the contestants getting a “wake-up call” about their physical condition, as if it’s something that hasn’t dominated their thoughts for years. What they really experience is nothing more than a public shaming. This does nothing more than confirm to them that physical activity is just a punishment for being big. Not something to be enjoyed. Not something that can be part of a healthy and meaningful life for them. Just a punishment.

Let me ask you how eagerly you’d look forward to doing something that has been demonstrated to you over and over again to result in you feeling like an incompetent failure.

Anyway, after they complete their run we next see them all huddled together in what looks like the living room of the house they’re all living in. Bob tells everyone that this is going to be the most important room in the house. This is where they will all get together and talk about their experiences. He then adds that they can’t lose the weight without addressing what is going mentally.

This actually gets pretty emotional as Bob shares his story of almost dying from a heart attack about 3 years ago. He talks about waking up from a coma not knowing where he was, how he had to conquer his fear of physical activity and about how he was petrified of even entering a gym after the doctors cleared him to exercise.

Harper learned he has a hereditary condition involving high levels of lipoprotein (a) in his blood, a particle that contributes to plaque in the arteries and blood clots, and can increase the risk of heart attacks.”

According to the article it’s a little known condition that doctors don’t commonly test for.

I don’t want to make light of this at all. He was in a coma and almost died while seeming by every appearance to be in perfect health. It is great that he is trying to relate to the contestants by showing them how he has been able to overcome his fear. Helping people to face their fears is a crucial step for anyone to be able make healthier choices in their lives.

I just want to point out one seemingly obvious thing that is never mentioned:

Maybe since Bob Harper seemed to be the epitome of health at his size and bodyweight there is more to be considered when thinking about health than just size and bodyweight.

After this we see what is called the “Last Chance Workout.” This is the last workout they do before their weigh-in. Of course, the trainers are talking it up and telling everyone how hard they have to go.

Let me say this: The idea of one single workout making any kind of major difference in someones physical condition or body weight is the exact opposite of everything I believe in. I believe that is also the belief of any other conscientious trainer.

The body just DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT!!!!!

This is the kind of thinking that gets people to feel good or bad about themselves based solely on what their scale says each morning.

I wonder if I’m a failure today?

In case you didn’t know this let me tell you, it is nearly impossible for the body to gain or lose anything significant other than water weight or glycogen (a substance your body stores in its muscles and uses as energy) over the course of one workout, one day or even several days. When you get up in the morning weighing 2-4 pounds more or less than you did the day before all it means is that you’re storing more or less water. Not that that you have gained or lost fat.

This knowledge, of course, isn’t something that makes for exciting TV. It’s much better to drive everyone into the ground and dehydrate them as much as possible. That sounds healthy and sustainable, right?

As a trainer, this is the part of the show I hate the most. There is nothing at all we see during these workouts that is effective for the long-term. Quite the opposite in fact.

Here is a quick rundown.

At one point a contestant says while obviously exhausted, “I’m in so much pain right now.” Let me tell you that if I heard anyone in my gym say that they wouldn’t be continuing that workout.

Again I ask, is doing something that makes you utter that statement likely going to be sustainable for you?

We see three different people puking into buckets and we even hear trainer Steve Cook yell at one point in reference to the other trainer, Erica Lugo’s team, “She’s got people puking! You guys aren’t working hard enough!”

Puking is not a sign that you are having a good workout. It’s a sign that you should probably stop what you’re doing.

We hear someone say that they feel dizzy and light-headed. Again, NOT WHAT WE WANT FROM A WORKOUT!!

We actually see Erica tell one contestant that she should feel light-headed because she’s pushing herself so hard. Again, NOT GOOD!!!

Predictably, we then see this poor contestant puke and Erica telling her to “Get it out” while her head is in the puke bucket. Presumably so she can get back to the workout.

We hear one contestant tell Steve that because the workout is so hard “I don’t know if I even want to be skinny.” Steve answers back, “It’s not about being skinny. It’s about being healthy.” On the surface this statement couldn’t be more true. Unfortunately nothing going on with this workout is even remotely in the same hemisphere as healthy.

The form on display with almost every exercise is horrible. In seeing this, I’d be shocked if there weren’t several injuries that occurred during this workout alone.

Exhausted people + bad form = problems

I know I keep coming back to this, but they talk such a good game about teaching their contestants sustainable, healthy habits. Nothing about this kind of workout is healthy, sustainable or even effective! It is only meant to exhaust and dehydrate people.

This is the kind of thing that is incredibly damaging. Not only to the poor people on the show, but to those watching, as well. The implication is that this is what you have to do to get healthy. Nothing else will do. If you don’t, you’re a failure. You don’t have the willpower. You don’t work hard enough. Forget everything else you may have accomplished in your life. It doesn’t compare to losing weight.

What do people think when they watch this? I can’t do that. I don’t want to go to the gym and puke and be in pain. I don’t know what to do but I don’t want to hire someone just to yell at me and make me feel worthless.

It breaks my heart to see this and know what people must think. Knowing that what they’re seeing is the polar opposite of what really matters and works.

Last up is the weigh-in. This is where we see how much weight the contestants have lost during the week. It’s not uncommon to see that people have lost over 10 pounds. During this weigh-in the weight loss ranged from 6 pounds to 22 pounds.

Do I need to tell anyone that losing this amount of weight in such a short amount of time is problematic and very unhealthy? Every bit of research done on this topic has shown that anyone losing weight like this is almost certain to gain it all back and then some. Likely, with a huge bit of emotional stress on top of it. Again, there is nothing healthy or sustainable about any of this.

There is one woman on the show who was previously a contestant in the Miss America pageant. They make it pretty clear how much more valuable she was in her thinner body as opposed to her bigger body that hasn’t done much of worth except raise a family, I suppose.

I guess you can tell that I’m not a fan of this show. It creates unrealistic expectations and practices methods that have shown beyond a doubt to be ineffective for long-term health at best and very damaging both mentally and physically at worst.

I hate how they try to present the methods as healthy and sustainable when they are anything but.

I hate how they completely ignore methods that have actually been shown to help people.

I hate how they make sport of punishing and shaming the people on the show and through them, millions of other people.

I hate how the show gives an incredibly wrong impression of what fitness and health are and how to achieve them.

I hate how the show prioritizes something as meaningless as bodyweight.

It’s obviously something I feel pretty deeply about. One of the things I think about most is how to make people understand what really works when it comes to fitness. Nothing about this show promotes anything but unhealthy, outdated and disproven methods and attitudes about fitness, diet, body weight, body size and health in general. I hope this helps clear some things up for you.

Thanks for reading this and please let me know if you agree disagree or have any questions. This is a very important subject.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way


Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 1

At the beginning of each year I like to think about what I learned the previous 12 months. There are usually some take-aways and confirmations of things I previously thought and got more sure of. Occasionally, there are things I realize I was just plain wrong about.

I was about to write my “Things I Learned in 2019” post and my wonderful wife, Kristi, suggested that I take it a little further and write about some things I’ve learned since I started training. Since it’s basically my 10-year anniversary as a trainer I thought that was a great idea!

1 – It doesn’t take much

I remember my very first session with a client. I had a nice program all written out. All the movement patterns accounted for. Warmup stretches for everything head to toe. Set and rep schemes to maximize every outcome. As written, the workout was probably two hours long and my first client let me know half way through the warm up that they had to finish up and get to work. I realized right then that it just doesn’t take much for someone to get started.

Too often I hear stories about how someone was so sore after their first workout that they couldn’t walk for days. What good is that to anyone? It took one session for me to realize that the most valuable thing someone can get out of their first workout is the desire for another one. I’d much rather a new member has a super easy first workout that allows us a good foundation to build on. I want them set up for years of solid and effective workouts not just one crazy one.

2- Food is food

Over my time as a trainer I have seen literally every kind of food demonized. Right now, for example two of the most popular diet crazes are Netflix Documentary-inspired Veganism and the Joe Rogan-inspired Carnivore diet. (I know that being Vegan has been around a lot longer then Netflix. It’s just that Netflix is where a ton of people are hearing about it lately. I also know that many Vegans are doing it for humane reasons, which I completely support.)

Yes, right now in this day-and-age of being able to find out just about every piece of information on the internet in 5 seconds there are people who believe that eating meat is unhealthy and others with access to the exact same information who believe that eating anything but meat is unhealthy.

Healthy or Unhealthy? Pick One!

I’m not joking. This is happening right now.

I’ve even fallen prey to it at times. I tried to figure out “the secret combination” of “good” and “bad” foods and I realized there wasn’t one.

What I’ve come to realize is that food is just food. A cookie is just a cookie. Broccoli is just broccoli. There are perfectly valid reasons and delicious ways to eat and enjoy both. There is no good or bad. As a matter of fact, the stress of trying to figure out and stick to that kind of food regimen is likely more damaging then the occasional cookie.

Think of it like this. The more you demonize and restrict something you like, the more resentful you make yourself and the more powerful you make the food. And then comes the rebound.

The moral of this story? Just figure out what works for you and eat. And what works for you needs to be sustainable. Stop kidding yourself about what is really sustainable for you. I’m looking at you Keto!

3 – Losing weight is a horrible goal

I’ve had literally thousands of conversations with people who are starting some sort of exercise program. The goal of weight loss has been mentioned in at least 95% of them. I’ve heard people of all shapes and sizes tell me they want to lose weight. It’s almost as if people believe that losing weight is the only goal worth attaining. I joked one time that if aliens came to earth just to hear people talk about their fitness goals they’d think the only acceptable weight on earth would be zero pounds.

Jowka the Alien now realizes earthlings all weigh too much

Please know this:

The Whole Weight Loss Industry Is Designed To Make You Feel Bad About Yourself So You Will Buy More Stuff

Do I need to be any clearer about that? It has no interest in helping you lose weight.

The cycle goes like something like this:

  1. Through an oppressive and continuous series of media images and messages, amongst other things, people are told to believe they need to lose weight.
  2. People are sold some kind of diet/workout/supplement to do so.
  3. When person inevitably fails either in the short or long term, due to the fact that the diet/workout/supplement is completely unsustainable or just doesn’t work at all, blame the person and make them feel like a failure.
  4. Sell the person something else.

It’s likely that many of the people reading this have gone through this cycle many times.

What I’ve come to believe over my ten years as a trainer is that people aren’t asking the right questions of themselves.


Once you start to figure out what that is, things start to feel different. You feel more empowered, more in touch with your true self and values.

Losing weight itself is incredibly disempowering. You are essentially giving all your power to some inanimate object that will let you know how you should feel about yourself. If it says one number you’re awesome. If it says another you’re an unworthy failure. Even if the numbers are for any practical purpose, the same. That’s not to mention the stress of judging yourself every time you eat literally ANYTHING AT ALL!

I wonder if I’m a failure today?

I had a client tell me that the night before they weighed in they were so stressed out they couldn’t sleep. I’ve had more than one person tell me they get on the scale every day and can’t help but judge themselves based on that number. None of this is OK! It’s not that it just doesn’t help, IT ACTUALLY HURTS!

As a trainer I now know to look for other, more empowering and meaningful ways to measure progress. The important thing about this is to figure out what you really want in the first place. Is it to stay off some medication? Is it to be able to move easier? Whatever it is, working towards THAT goal is much more likely to give you what you want.

I hope this helps clear a few things up for you. I’ll have Part Two next week.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

The Last Few Weeks At Castro Valley Fitness…

It’s been a hectic few weeks here at Castro Valley Fitness. Like everyone else we’re starting to get ready for the holidays. People are working hard at the gym.

We are pretty busy here, as I’m sure you are with your life, and when you’re busy, sometimes it can be hard to take a step back and see some things that have been going on.

Here is a short list of things some of our members have told me over the past few weeks:

  • One of our members remarked how much more stable she felt as she went on some long hikes over a weekend trip
  • One of our members told me that this was the best he’s ever felt and the most consistent he’s ever been with any kind of exercise
  • One of our members said that she was able to run 10 gates to catch a flight after her connecting flight landed 45 minutes late
  • One of our members told me she was better able to pick up her child
  • One of our members tripped over something in her kitchen and fell pretty hard sliding across her floor. She was able to get right back up with just a few bruises to show for it

I think we can all agree that the ability to do all these things is pretty good. It’s empowering. These are the kinds of things we can point to as being conducive to living a better and fuller life.

I want to point out one more thing.

None of these things is about losing weight.

Please let that sink in.

Yes it’s true that being better able to do some of these things might result in weight loss, but if weight loss is your main focus then I believe you are missing the proverbial forest through the trees.

weight loss misses the forest through the trees

I don’t see a scale in this picture

What I mean is that if your only focus is a number some appliance tells you then you’re missing what really matters. Being able to enjoy a trip, being able to avoid injury, being able to play with your kids or grandkids. Aren’t all these things more important?

If so, why do so many of us let that number determine how we feel about ourselves and our progress? Does that seem healthy?

Is it healthy that we tell ourselves losing weight is good for us only to feel shame and stress every time we eat?

Is it OK that we’re made to feel like failures when we don’t lose weight as easily as the model in that Facebook post or magazine article tells us we should?

Does it seem right that we can live better, fuller and more vital lives and still feel we haven’t accomplished anything because of what our scale tells us?

I don’t think any of those things feel right or healthy at all. Not in the slightest.

Now this is the part when I challenge you to try something. I want you to try and adjust your thinking a little bit. Instead of your success being determined by an external force (your scale) I want you to go a little deeper.

I want you to think about what you really want. What will mean something to you and allow you to live that more vital life we’re talking about.

Is it

  • being able to walk longer distances
  • having more energy to play with your kids or grandkids
  • feeling less pain
  • getting stronger so you can remain independent

or is it something else entirely?

Whatever it is, I’m sure that losing weight isn’t at the core of what you really want.

So I’ll ask you one more time:

What do you really want?

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PAS, PN Level 2
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way




3 Hints to Help You Lose Weight

I’m sorry. I admit it. I just used that subject line to get you to look at this post.

I’m sorry

If you have followed me at all you know that over the last year or so I’ve gone through a pretty big mindset shift around weight loss. I’ve written about it many different times and ways. You can read some of what I’m talking about here Freedom From Weight Loss, here 3 Secrets Your Trainer Doesn’t Want You To Know!, here 4 Diet Red Flags Diet To Avoid and there’s a bunch of other posts, too.

It’s something that I feel very strongly about because I see firsthand the damage that diet culture has on people, particularly women. It is considerable and it is devastating.

I just want to simply sum a few things up in this post. Let’s keep it neat and simple.

1. Forget about losing weight.

I can’t say this enough.



Take some time to figure out what you think that is and I guarantee that you will experience a seismic shift in how you feel and see yourself and your results, in general.

2. Forgive yourself.

The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry thrives by making you feel horrible about yourself so you’ll continue to buy stuff. They push that agenda by making almost everything difficult.

Diets that are impossible to follow long-term.

Food that is scientifically created to make you want more, MORE, MORE!! And with no nutritional value on top of it. 

Ads that make it all seem so easy for everyone else and thereby making you feel like a failure. 

This is all part of a culture that is intentionally setting you up to fail! Once you start to understand that, you can start to see this in action and work your way out of it.

3. Understand that it’s not the food. 

You know you should eat vegetables.

You know an apple is healthier than a candy bar.

You know that grilled chicken is healthier is than fried chicken.

If you know these things, than you know about everything you really need to know about putting together a pretty healthy diet. That’s the truth.

weight loss Castro Valley Fitness

Once you realize that, then you’re free to do the work that really matters.

I hope this helps.

Let me know what you think.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS, Egoscue PAS

Castro Valley Fitness

2861 Grove Way






Freedom From Weight Loss

Happy Independence Day! I know that these are some difficult times in our country for a whole host of reasons, but I know we can all agree on two things:

  1. We are incredibly lucky to live in this country. It’s not perfect, but this freedom of speech thing is pretty great.
  2. Pupppies are the best!
Happy Independence Day Puppies

Yaaay Puppies!!

In the spirit of Independence Day I’d like to talk about freedom from something a little different.

Freedom from weight loss.

When I talk to people about what they want to do in the gym, the number one answer BY FAR is “lose weight”.

People talk to me all the time about their concerns over putting on a few pounds over the course of a weekend.

People who have gotten stronger, feel better, have less pain and have shown all sorts of health improvements still let the number on a scale determine their happiness.

There are a lot of problems with all of this. We are so conditioned to think that getting smaller is the only goal worth achieving that we never actually ask ourselves if we really want it and if we do, why.

What happens is that since we never really ask ourselves these questions we don’t realize that we don’t really know what we want which means we never reach whatever arbitrary goal we kind of set for ourselves. This leads to all sorts of issues with self-confidence, self-worth and most importantly self-knowledge. In other words, how well do we really know ourselves?

OK. This is getting pretty deep. Let me give you one more chance to take either the red pill or blue pill.

In other words, do you actually want to dig a little bit into yourself, thereby giving you a much better chance at success or do you just want to keep doing what you’re doing?

(Honestly, I don’t remember which pill is supposed to do what but I hope you decide to keep reading.)

Before we go on, let me say this:



In other words, people want to feel better, look better, get off some medication or whatever else, and they think that losing weight will get them these things. It’s not the weight loss itself that really matters.

For the record you can do all of the things I wrote above and a lot more without focusing on losing weight.

As a matter of fact, focusing on losing weight alone has been shown to result in very little weight loss!

Sounds a little crazy, huh?

Let’s get back to that freedom I was talking about earlier by answering a simple question:


How would you feel if you didn’t care about losing weight at all?


Why don’t you let that sink in for a minute.


How would you feel if you didn’t care about losing weight at all?


Would that change anything for you?

Would it feel like a weight was lifted off your shoulders?

Would it feel like maybe you could start thinking about other things that may make your life more fulfilling?

Would it feel like you could finally start doing some things you want to do without any guilt or second-thoughts?

Maybe after reading that you’re thinking to yourself something like, “This sounds fine, but I can’t do that.”

Why not?

What’s getting in your way?

Notice that I’m not saying that you can’t have goals. You should have goals. It’s just that your goals need to be important and meaningful and empowering for you. Losing weight is none of that.

Here’s where you need to do some work. Why do you want to lose weight? Really. Dig deep. Do you want to get healthier? Why? What would being healthier let you do that you aren’t doing now? How would that improve your life?

When we talk about health, these answers can come pretty easily. “If I’m healthier I can play more with my grandkids. I can get off these medications. I can travel and go for longer hikes, etc.” It’s pretty easy to see how all of that can improve your life, right? It’s pretty easy to see why this would be important to you.

Can you start to understand how much more powerful it is to think of your goals in terms of doing these things than just stepping on a scale? You’re not trying to lose 10 pounds, you’re trying to be able to hike another mile! You’re not trying to lose weight, you’re trying to be able to play with your kids longer.

Let’s get even a little deeper and likely a bit more personal.

As much as we want to be healthier, the driving force around weight loss is about one thing for most people, particularly women:

Looking better.

I’m not going to turn this into a whole thing about images in the media, etc. There is already a metric ton of evidence and writing about the damage that our media does to women and girls in terms of self-image. Hint: It’s not good.

Castro Valley Fitness Freedom from Weight Loss

It is drummed into girl’s heads from a very early age:

Smaller is better.

You must lose weight.

You must be attractive to a man.

You must not appear too strong.


Needless to say, this is all garbage.


We can even agree that this is all garbage.


That doesn’t make it any easier to disregard emotionally when we’ve been force-fed it all our lives.


Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong about wanting to look better, but I want you to ask yourself these questions and be very honest with your answers:

Why do you want to look better? What would looking better let you do that you aren’t doing now? How would that improve your life?

Think of the answers you just gave and look for anything that sounded something like, “I don’t like myself and if I look better, I will.”

If you found that kind of answer you need to understand looking better is not going to make you happy or like yourself any more than you already do. (Honestly, I really hate writing “looking better” because that is such an incredbily subjective term and in these cases is almost always defined as whatever societal norms and the media define as attractive. Let’s just agree that it’s an extremely flawed term but one that gets the point across of what I’m trying to say without any specific persons value judgements getting in the way.)

If you found that you answered something about looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend, again that’s perfectly fine, but not if you feel that you aren’t worthy of one until you “look better”.

Ultimately, this is an incredibly emotional and complex subject but if I could sum up everything I’m trying to say in two sentences it would be this:

Stop trying to lose weight before you do some important work on yourself to find out what your real motivation and values around weight loss and your body are. The weight loss itself means essentially nothing.

I know this is some pretty deep stuff, but it is very important for so many people. It is the reason so many are unhappy and feel unworthy and/or like failures. This just compounds the problem.

I hope this opens the door to how you think about weight loss and being able to free yourself from its real grip on you.

I would love to know how you feel about it.

Thanks for reading.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness at 2861 Grove Way

3 Secrets Your Trainer Doesn’t Want You To Know!

One of the things I hate most when it comes to fitness and nutrition is gimmicks. “Lose 12 pounds this week with my horoscope diet!” “Do this secret exercise to torch your belly fat!”

None of this stuff works. All it does is confuse people. If one more person asks me about apple cider vinegar speeding up their metabolism I’m going to lose my mind.

Apple Cider Vinegar Fitness Lie

Tastes Awful And Does Nothing For Your Metabolism! Try Some Today!!

Besides, why would a trainer NOT want you to know something? Wouldn’t that make them an absolutely terrible trainer and just as bad a person? I don’t get it.

Anyway, what I want to do today is give you 3 things I hear pretty regularly that are just not true. No matter how many times you hear them.

  1. I need to do more cardio to lose weight! No you don’t. Let me say this one more time: nutrition is what determines 85%-90% of weight loss. NOT EXERCISE!! There are many great reasons to do some cardio BUT WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT ONE OF THEM!!!! As a bonus, doing more cardio in place of strength training is probably making it HARDER for you to lose weight!
  2. Women will get bulky if they lift weights. This one is infuriating on so many levels and is usually perpetuated by people that are, frankly, afraid of strong women. Thankfully, it’s not nearly as common as it used to be, but it’s still out there. Just look on the cover of just about any fitness magazine that is marketed towards women if you don’t believe me. Let me say this for the record: this is not true and for many reasons it’s actually more important for women to lift weights than men. (Osteoporosis anybody?) Don’t let people put artificial limits on what you and your body can do based on their own fears.

     3. I need to lose weight. This one deserves not only it’s own post, but it’s own book. This one is maybe the best I’ve read on the subject.

Diet Trap Castro Valley Fitness Myth

Click on the picture for the Amazon Link

The fact is that you probably don’t NEED to lose weight. You may WANT to, but you likely don’t NEED to. The fact is most people haven’t even thought about whatever their real motivation is behind wanting to lose weight in the first place.

Whatever it is I’ll bet that your real reason is not to stand on a piece of plastic or metal and see it reflect a number back at you. If that’s all you want, I’m sure you can find a scale that will allow you to adjust how it reads. As a matter of fact, here’s the link to one https://www.amazon.com/Sunbeam-SAB602-05-Full-View-Scale/dp/B0014JRAAY/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=adjustable+body+weight+scale&qid=1560307855&s=hpc&sr=1-2.

Castro Valley Fitness Myth

Congratulations! You can weigh whatever you want!!

Here’s the truth:

  • you can get healthier without losing weight
  • you can look great without losing weight
  • you can be worth loving without losing weight
  • you can be a great spouse, partner and parent without losing weight

Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry that isn’t all that interested in you feeling good about yourself. Remember that.

I hope this gives you a little different way to look at some things. Thankfully some of these lies are running out of juice, but they are still out there doing major damage and that makes me angry.

Please let me know what you think.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way



4 Diet Red Flags Diet To Avoid

I talk to a lot of people about losing weight. Not only our members at Castro Valley Fitness, but other people as well. There are a lot of aspects to it, and after talking with hundreds of people about this I’ve learned many things but I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how crucial the things we say to ourselves really are. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that for most people it’s much more important than the food itself.

Castro Valley Fitness Diet Red Flags

Much More

What I want to do today is let you know some things I hear from people that are a red flag to me and why. I will also give you some suggestions so that you can make your self-talk help you reach what you are trying to achieve instead of impeding it.

One thing I need to mention before I go into all this is that, technically speaking, some of the things that we tell ourselves we should do to lose weight may actually work. The problem is when these things don’t work for the reasons we believe, put us in an unnecessarily bad frame of mind or aren’t thought about with the long-term in mind.

Let’s start with the biggest one.

Statement: I want to lose weight.

Why is this a problem? I’ve said this many times but it bears repeating:


People want what they feel losing weight will get them. They want to be healthier, look better, not be in pain, feel better about themselves, etc. They just think that losing weight will help them reach those goals.

How do I improve this thinking? This is going to take some work, but you need to think about what you really want and why. Not just surface level but go deep with yourself. The people that do this succeed in their goals. The people that don’t, by and large, do not. That is because there is nothing at all inspiring or empowering about looking at a number on a scale. It’s quite the opposite, in fact.

On the other hand, getting off a medication or fitting into something you’ve been wanting to wear or being able to finish a hike or lift a weight you weren’t able to before? That really means something.

Statement: I’m just going to cut out carbs.

Why is this a problem? While it’s true that cutting out carbs may help people lose weight, it’s not because there is something evil about carbs. It’s just a way to cut calories. The problem with cutting out carbs is that for most people it’s just not sustainable. It’s not sustainable because it makes people feel like garbage and the worst thing you can do for your long-term success is force yourself to do something that makes you feel like garbage. Besides, some carbs taste good!

How do I improve this thinking? Understand that demonizing one particular food group isn’t necessarily a healthy approach. There are a lot of approaches that work but the key is to figure out something that works for you and will work for a long time.

Statement: I’m going to do this (enter name of extreme diet here). 

Why is this a problem? This one is a minefield. There are a lot of diets out there that use extreme methods to cause weight loss. What do I consider an extreme method? Anything you can’t see yourself doing some version of for the next 5 years. Also, let’s get serious. You know what an extreme diet is. Stop kidding yourself.

How do I improve this thinking? Ask yourself if you want to eat only 800 calories a day for the next five years. Do you want to drink 2-3 shakes every day for the next five years? I get it. You see the ads and they’re filled with amazing before and after pictures.

Castro Valley Fitness Bogus Extreme Diet Before and After

This Could Be You!!!

What you don’t see is the after-after pictures which look pretty much exactly like the original before pictures. Because all of these diets focus only on crazy methods, you will lose a good amount of weight right away, but as soon as the diet is over (and it will be because you CANNOT sustain these approaches) you will very quickly gain all of the weight you lost back and probably more. Focus more on sustainability and a slow-steady approach and you will thank yourself in the long run when you are reaching your goals and everyone who was on the other diet is worse off than when they started.

Statement: I need to do more cardio.

Why is this a problem? There are a lot of problems with this statement but let’s keep it simple and talk about the biggest one. (In case you haven’t noticed I really like simple.) When it comes to losing weight, diet is 85-90% of it. I know you see all these ads and posts about fat-burning belly-flattening exercises and 1000 calorie burning workouts, etc. It’s garbage. You can do all the cardio you want and if you don’t work on your diet it won’t mean anything. Despite what a lot of people say, you just don’t burn all that many calories exercising. Especially if most of what you do is cardio. In the long-run, the type of exercise that really gets you the most bang for your buck is strength training anyway. Yes, you should do some cardio, but for general health reasons, not for weight loss.

How do I improve this thinking? First of all, understand what really matters for weight loss. Diet. Next. Stop trying to take the easy way out. You know what I mean. Put in the work. With your nutrition and with your real motivation. No one said that was going to be easy, but I promise that once you get going and put in that initial work, you’d be surprised at how it starts to flow.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any questions or have any self-talk issues you need help turning around. It’s not easy, but I promise that if this is an issue for you, it’s going to be incredibly hard to make progress until it’s addressed.

Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

5 Easy Ways To Get Better Results in 2019

Happy New Year everyone!! I hope you all had a great holiday season. 2019 is upon us!!!! I hope you’re looking forward to it.

I know this is the time of year a lot of people set their goals for the next 12 months, so I wanted to give you a few ways to help you achieve even better results in 2019.

Here we go!!

  1. Don’t use your age as an excuse. This is going to be a new rule we have at Castro Valley Fitness starting this year. If you keep telling yourself that you are going to feel lousy because you’re getting older than you will. If you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter and you can keep getting better than you’ll find that to be the case. Don’t make me write more about self-talk please!
  2. Be engaged. Don’t just go through the motions. Think about what you’re doing. Feel what you’re doing. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Ask questions. I promise you that you’ll get so much more from an exercise if you do these things. Are you feeling planks in your arms or shoulders? Do you think rows are an arm exercise? If you answered yes to these questions then you need to engage.
  3. Understand that exercise has very little to do with weight loss. If you want to lose weight and you think that exercising alone will do it, I’m sorry to tell you that it won’t. Diet is AT LEAST 80-90% of weight loss. Exercise can be an important and very helpful component, especially in the long run, but please hear me on this. IF YOU DON’T WORK ON YOUR DIET YOU WILL NOT LOSE WEIGHT!!!!! 

    Weight Loss Is About Diet!!

  4. Be consistent. This is simple. You won’t get results if you don’t show up. I’d rather someone have ten “B” workouts than 3 “A” workouts.
  5. Work hard. You don’t need to work out like a crazy person to get results, but you do have to work hard. You know if you are or not. Don’t lie to yourself. Are doing 10 squats at a weight you could do 20 squats with? Are you taking 90 minutes to do a 60 minute workout? 

These are just a few ways to make sure that your 2019 is even better than your 2018. Some may apply to you and some may not but I hope that this at least gets your mind working a little bit.

Remember that 2020 is coming whether you like it or not so please don’t look back a year from now and regret not doing something.

Let me know how I can help.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness at 2861 Grove Way
Castro Valley’s Premier Fitness Facility
We Help People Discover Their Strength



What’s More Important, Losing Weight or Adding Muscle?

I overheard a question the other day.

“What’s more important, losing weight or adding muscle?”


If I know one thing, it’s that there is a ton of information out there. Some of it good and helpful, but much of it pretty crummy and confusing. This question is an opportunity to hopefully sort some of that out.

Obviously this question is very general, so I’m going to put some parameters on it. We’re going to assume the following:

  • The person’s overall goal is weight loss for general reasons such as overall health and appearance
  • The person is generally healthy, meaning no serious injuries or illnesses
  • The person does not have a long history with intense resistance training

Also, it’s important to understand that when we say adding muscle, we are NOT talking about becoming a huge bodybuilder. We are talking about adding some lean body, and if you want more definition to your body YOU MUST ADD LEAN BODY!! The assumption with someone with these goals is that as you add lean body you are also decreasing body fat, thereby making you smaller. Take a look at this picture if you need a little clarification on that.

Muscle is denser than fat making the same weight much smaller!

OK. Let’s start with this.

Adding muscle and losing fat are done mostly with two different processes. Losing fat is done largely with diet and adding muscle is done largely in the gym. Now this doesn’t mean that the gym and diet aren’t involved with both to varying degrees, but for the most part losing fat is done with diet and adding muscle is done in the gym.

What does that mean? Well, it means that these things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. You can do both, to some extent. Note that the person we’re talking about does not have a long history with intense resistance training.

At home you can work on your diet and in the gym you can exercise with purpose and intensity and try hard to get stronger. Both of these things should be done if you’re trying to lose weight.

As to which is more important this is a tougher question. Here’s the thing, when you are trying to lose weight it would still be very helpful to include resistance training in your routine. Although you might not have a goal to build muscle per se, this can be a big help in a couple of different ways:

  1. More muscle means a higher metabolism. This means that instead of our metabolism slowing down as we lose weight (which it will) the muscle allows it to stay as high as possible which makes it easier and more manageable to either continue with weight loss or maintain it.
  2. More muscle gives us better nutrient partitioning. This is the process where your body decides what to do with the food you’re eating. The more muscle you have and the more resistance training you do, the more your body will take that food and use it to maintain and build muscle as opposed to adding fat.

What does this all mean when it comes to the original question?

“What’s more important, losing weight or adding muscle?”

Well, here is my answer:

I think that whatever your goal is, that is what’s most important. If you want to lose weight, then that is most important (by the way, figuring out WHY you want to lose weight is a huge key to this whole thing). Having said that, adding muscle would be a huge advantage to this whole process, especially in the long term.

I hope this gets you thinking a little differently about what you’re doing. Please let me know if you have any questions about how to make this all work for you.


Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way