How our beliefs about what controls our weight may actually affect our weight

(Part 14 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

Another finding of this recent research was that those who believed weight is primarily determined by activity generally ate more than those who believed diet is more important. I am wondering if this observation is, at least in part, a reflection of a belief some have that they can eat relatively freely as long as they ‘exercise it off’. For the reasons I’ve listed above, I’m not sure this strategy is likely to work out too well. And on top of this, sometimes the issue can be compounded by individuals ‘rewarding’ themselves after exercise with food or drink.

~ John Briffa

Exercise is a huge part of my health (my goals, my reasons for success, etc). But it has, basically, nothing to do with my loss of weight.


Vitamin D improves energy production in muscles of vitamin D-deficient people

(Part 13 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

In this study, muscle function was assessed in a group of 12 individuals with known vitamin D deficiency. The assessment centred around timing the replenishment in the muscle of a substance known as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is a key molecule in the production of energy (in the form of what is known as ATP) by tiny ‘powerhouses’ in the cells of our body known as mitochondria (pronounced my-toe-con-dree-ah). Shorter phosphocreatine replenishment times after activity are a sign of better mitochondrial function.

Vitamin D supplementation was found to lead to a significant reduction in phosphocreatine replenishment times, signalling an improvement in mitochondrial functioning. Fatigue ratings improved in all the study participants too.

~ John Briffa

The more I read, the more I believe that Vitamin D is a keystone for my health and progress. I believe that getting more sun exposure (walking, running, and Parkour outside), combined with taking vitamin D supplements has enabled a lot of other successes: Better sleep, better immune system functioning, better mood (ever hear of “Seasonal Affliction Disorder”?) and now, some evidence that it really does affect the performance of your mitochondria — your cells little power-houses.


How often should we eat?

(Part 12 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

When I started experimenting with intermittent fasting a year or so ago, it occurred to me that my previous beliefs about our ‘need’ to eat three times a day were just wide of the mark for me and, as it turns out, a lot of other people now. I now encourage a much more fluid approach based on the two guidelines above. One thing it’s done for me and others is to liberate us from the supposed need to eat by the clock. The benefits can be huge. In general, taking a more fluid approach seems to lead to people eating less, having more time, and being less preoccupied with food. These are usually big pluses for people.

~ John Briffa from,


Study suggests that, for optimal fat loss, the best thing to eatbefore exercise is nothing at all

(Part 11 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

The concept of endurance athletes stocking up on carbs has, I think, fuelled the notion that we should ideally have some sort of fuel inside of us prior to exercise. However, as I explain here, there is an argument for avoiding spikes in blood sugar is seeking to maximise one’s capacity to utilise fat as a fuel during exercise. I think there’s an argument for consuming little or nothing before exercise unless, perhaps, exercise is to be very prolonged.

~ John Briffa

Sometimes people don’t believe me when, around 11am in the middle of some crazy physical activity, it comes up that I haven’t yet eaten anything. I usually ask them why they think they must eat every waking hour? Why is “breakfast the most important meal of the day”? Why do you eat what you generally eat? And then I ask them to consider looking into the notions they have about nutrition…


Exercise boosts the metabolism? It seems the reverse might be true

(Part 10 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

However, he went on to talk about a mechanisms here that came as quite a surprise to the audience, I think: aerobic exercise can suppress the metabolic rate. We’re often told that exercise not only increases calorie burn while we’re exercising, and also for some time after. It turns out, that may well not be the case for many people. In fact, according to research, the opposite is quite likely to be the case.

~ John Briffa

Metabolism, and the human body in general, is very complicated. Excercise turns out to not function AT ALL the way I thought it did. I thought you could just “excercise more” to burn a few hundred extra calories a week and VOILA! L’SKINNY. Nope. Exercise is great! Good for your health, etc. But, at the quantities I do, it is not the driver of my weight loss.

Meanwhile, I’ve spent about 5 years now actively learning about food, biology, health, fitness, chemistry and more… and I’m still convinced I know very little. :/


Maybe turn off the TV and go to bed

(Part 9 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

Six years ago I decided to dramatically reduce the amount of time I spent watching TV, and this single intervention (I believe) had a dramatic effect on my life. It liberated a significant amount of time that I could devote to perhaps more useful and rewarding pursuits. You may be thinking that I’m referring to things like writing or exercise. Actually, I’m referring mainly to sleep.

~ John Briffa from,

Sleep — specifically, learning about sleep, fixing my sleeping environment and getting more and better quality sleep — is the SINGLE most important thing I changed in my journey these last few years.


Life Return On Exercise Invested

(Part 62 of 74 in series, My Journey)

Life Return On Exercise Invested – LROEI

Exercise has been show to correlate (caution, with longevity; The people who exercise more are also the people who live longer:

I had never thought about exercise in quite this way: If I’m going to exercise, and if the exact details of the exercise aren’t so important, WHICH exercise would I prefer to do?

Would I rather spend time indoors or outdoors?
…in a gym, or at a playground?
…alone, or with my friends?
…in a familiar place, or some place new?

There are many types of exercise. The way I’m pursuing exercise through Parkour ALSO happens to generate a greater LROEI.


Is obesity all in the mind?

(Part 8 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

My position, and that of a growing number of researchers, is that there’s more to obesity than calorie balance, and that body weight and fat mass is regulated by a complex system that involves an array of hormones and feedback mechanisms.
In recent months I’ve become interested in the potential role of a hormone by the name of leptin in obesity.

~ John Briffa

It’s not “in the mind” in the sense that you can imagine your way to weight loss. But there’s definitely MORE to weight loss than the balance of calories. My experience is that the best way to lose weight is to simply reduce my calorie intakes slightly — no need to count everything and aim for a computed target intake. At the same time, include some strength training (a ton is not required, but walking/cardio is NOT what worked for me.)


It looks like our ancient ancestors ate a low-carb diet

(Part 7 of 14 in series, John Briffa's "A Good Look at Good Health")

Official recommendations are normally that about 60 per cent of the calories we consume should come from carbohydrate. That’s actually higher than the most carbohydrate-rich hunter-gatherer diet of all, and about three times the average carbohydrate percentage in such diets. The authors of this study conclude, ‘…the range of energy intake from carbohydrates in the diets of most hunter-gatherer societies was markedly different (lower) from the amounts currently recommended for healthy humans.’

~ John Briffa from,

Not “low carb” as in some wacky, extremist diet. I’d prefer to call it a “normal carb diet” where you simply try to get your carbs from tubors, fruits and veggies, not from added sugars and refined grains.