An interview with my friend Robert

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd

For my next HealthKwest social media challenge, I was asked to interview someone in the health or fitness field and ask them for advice on my journey. I was lucky to have a friend who fits the bill.


Here’s the interview…

Question #1 – Given my goal of losing 40-60 pounds over the course of this competition, what should be my ratio of cardio versus weight training?

If you are going for a simple slimming down routine, I would advocate about 75% cardio and 25% weight-lifting. It is important, however, that you ensure that you are hitting a caloric deficit with your nutrition; otherwise you will struggle to lose weight. I would recommend long duration cardio workouts. If you look at marathon runners as an example, they are extremely lean and slim, in comparison to a sprinter who has a more muscular, defined physique. I recommend slimming down before dedicating yourself to building muscle. However, with weight training, I would recommend lightweight and high reps.

Question #2 – Could you tell me about your history in fitness training and your competitions?

I started physique building 5 years ago out of college. I was getting a little puffy after college because I was studying frequently and I let my fitness drown along with my nutrition. However, I worked hard for about a year and a half and stopped eating fast food and drinking soda and the fat just poured off. You have to change your nutrition if you want to achieve your goals. Once your body starts changing and you start seeing the results of your hard work, then you no longer need to motivate yourself because you have the confidence and the enjoyment of looking in the mirror at what you built with blood and sweat equity.

I still conduct personal training for individuals who want to excel and who have the dedication. I only take on clients that will conduct proper nutrition because otherwise the results will not come. My formula for all clients is this:

Aerobic Conditioning + Anaerobic Strength + Nutrition + Rest = Ideal Body.

I’m personally switching back to running now so I’m going to be reducing some fat and increasing my speed.

Question #3 – What tips do you have for me to stay motivated until the end of this competition?

The motivation is key. It is probably one of the most difficult reasons for why people quit. You can’t have bad nutrition and exercise habits for one, ten or fifteen years and then expect to change it in two months. You have to truly want to change. A lot of people will get their fat loss started and just when they are about to earn progress, they quit because they are not flaunting six-pack abs right away. It takes time, but it’s a valuable investment for your health and mental confidence. A lot of people are concerned about the vanity aspect of working out, but that’s only a small part of it, the mental confidence you gain is truly what allows you to make exercise a habit.

Question #4 – Any other tips you would have for me to maximize my chance of success in this competition?

I would say to value today. Many people fail to change and continue training because they don’t have an end-goal. Without an end-goal, we travel towards an unknown future. When we train blindly, it can lead to procrastination and lack of motivation to continue working out. And when you have someone who lacks goals, they tend to push today’s training routine to tomorrow because they don’t value today. Value is accrued by time. For example, say you have a final destination of a wedding or vacation in 80 days… well, then you have to make the most of today because today is one of the 80 opportunities critical to the success of your plan. If you have no end goal, then each day doesn’t have any time value and your workout can be easily skipped for a movie, dinner, etc. If the event you train for is 80 days away, each day is critical to that end goal.

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And last but not least, my semi-legenday Lego Movie-themed Genghis Grill dance video…

Everything is awesome. . . at Genghis Grill

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd

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Veggies… the key to my success in Health Kwest

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd

I have made a lot of lifestyle changes over the last eleven days, but the biggest (and I think most productive) change has been my tremendous increase in vegetable consumption.

I’ve of course always known that veggies were good for me, but I tended to neglect them , emphasizing meat, cheese and carbs more. But in this contest I’ve learned that I can get the most “bang for my  buck” (calorie-wise) by loading up on veggies.

And this is especially true when building my bowls at GG. The easiest way to get to eat more (and still staying true to my diet) is to load up on veggies. So… I thought I would share some of my favorite veggies to go in stir fry, both at Genghis Grill and at home.

Peppers – At Genghis Grill I love to load my bowls up with peppers. Normally my GG location has strips of red and green bell pepper, as well as fresh sliced jalepenos.  At home, I normally use jarred red peppers (I think the brand is Marzettis) or I slice up fresh bell peppers. I also love to use canned green chile peppers (especially the ones from Hatch, New Mexico)

photo from Wikipedia
photo from Wikipedia

Peppers add some nice crunch but also have a good mix of savory and sour elements (and for jalepenos some heat too).

According to Wikipedia:

…peppers are rich sources of antioxidants and vitamin C. Compared to green peppers, red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients.The level of carotene, like lycopene, is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers.


Bok Choy – also known as Chinese cabbage, is a great green veggie to add to bowls. I like it because you have the crunchy stalk part but also the softer and tasier leaves as well. Do remember though that it cooks down in the bowl, so it’s best to add a lot of it.

photo from wikipedia
photo from wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, Bok choy

contains a high amount of vitamin A per 4 oz. of serving – about 3500 IU. Bok choy also contains approximately 50 mg of vitamin C per 4 oz. serving.

Onions – I’m not a fan of raw onions but when cooked, onions add a wonderful sweet carmelization to the bowl as well as some savory umami elements (umami is the sixth sense, it is what makes meats and broths “meaty”).

photo from wikipedia
photo from wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, onions

Most onion cultivars are about 89% water, 4% sugar, 1% protein, 2% fibre and 0.1% fat. Onions contain low amounts of essential nutrients, are low in fats, and have an energy value of 166kJ (40 kcal) per 100 g (3.5 oz) serving. They contribute their flavor to savory dishes without raising caloric content appreciably.

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Come dance with me!!!

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd

Come Dance with James!


Who: My friends, family, and anyone else who wants to enjoy good food and have some fun.

What: We will be filming a dance video in front of Ghenghis Grill, featuring a new version of the song “Everything is awesome!” (theme song from the Lego Movie). After that we will eat!

No dance skills required. Feel free to jump around, make robotic dance moves or just move like you are a lego mini figure (for ideas check out the youtube video – ) Or even just show up to cheer us on. My plan is to film folks dancing to the song a couple of times and then edit the video later to make it fun.

Of course if you have any good moves (like my dub stepping brother David) please, please come!

When:Thursday, Feb. 19th, 5:30 p.m. to film video, and then eat afterwards

Where: Genghis Grill, 2121 W. Memorial Road (NW corner of Penn & Memorial Road), Oklahoma City (click here for a map)

Why: I am representing Oklahoma City’s location of Genghis Grill (an awesome Mongolian BBQ/build your own stir fry place) in the 2015 #HealthKwest challenge, in which I’m competing against more than 60 people. The scoring is 80% based on percentage of body weight lost and 20% based on social media tasks. The winner gets $10,0000!

This dance video is important because it is one of the bigger social media tasks that can get me a lot points, but also the videos are used a tie-breaker in the event there is a tie at the end of the contest.

For more information, visit the Facebook event page at:

For more information on my competition in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest go to

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Good news to report from Week 1

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd


I am very proud (and surprised) to announce that I lost 9 pounds my first week of #HealthKwest !


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My goals!

2015-02-14 17.53.17Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge.  #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd

For today’s social media challenge, we are asked to write a blog post about how we are doing in the Kwest so far, especially discussing our top 3 goals in the Health Kwest.


I like this challenge a lot because it is something I was already thinking about.  So here are my goals for the next 51 days and counting…

Goal #1 – Lose a minimum of 40-60 pounds. (approximately 13-20% of my body weight), which is about 4.4-6.6 pounds per week.

Yes, I know that is a lot of weight but I think I can do it. I’ve talked to my doctor and they have given me the go-ahead so I’m shooting for this as my goal.

What it will take is eating no more than 2000 calories per day (which gets me the first 3 pounds off per week), and then burning another 500-1500 calories per day with exercise. This will be hard but it can be done!

Goal #2 – Gain habits of healthy eating, diet and spirituality that can continue for the rest of my life.

I’m a big guy with a big appetite. The only way for me to avoid being hungry is to eat a lot, and the only way to do that and keep within my caloric goals is to eat lots and lots of veggies, and to ration meat, cheese, carbs and alcohol. Thankfully this is a good thing for my health and I’m learning great techniques on how to cook veggies well, mainly by attempting to replicate many of the techniques that GG uses in my home kitchen. My wife bought a new wok which is getting heavy use, and I’m trying to see my meals as veggie-centric, using meat and other high-calories ingredients as flavor elements but not as the main course.

Exercise is another biggie but I’m blessed that I love to ride my bike and that I work part-time as a pedi-cab driver


I just got to do more of it.

Finally I’m trying to find more ways to connect with my faith, seeking to find better ways to calm myself during difficult times with food.

Goal #3 – Win!
I’ve been hesitant to say this out loud (I have lot of self-confidence issues), but I now think I’m actually in the running for this thing. I am competing against a lot of awesome folks with incredible stories. They are working hard but so am I.

To quote from the song the “Farmer and Cowman” in the musical Oklahoma:

I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else
But I’ll be danged if I ain’t just as good!

And so I’m plotting (often while riding my bike) on what i will do with the $10,000 if I win.

First, I’m going to buy a glorious top-of-the-line pedicab of my from Mainstreet Pedicab, so I can become more serious about starting a pedicab business of my own.

Second, I’m going to take my family on an awesome vacation, going somewhere awesome on Amtrak. And lastly, I’m going to make a donation to my favorite charity, the Center for Conscience in Action.

I know I shouldn’t be “counting my chickens before they hatch” but I also think that dreaming a little can be a good way to fuel my motivation to stay with this challenge.

Six Days in — time for a photo recap

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge.  #Healthkwest #GenghisGrillAd

I’m having a wonderful time so far in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest contest, but have been crazy busy keeping up with my diet, exercise and social media tasks for the contest (along with all of my regular work/school/family responsibilities), so I’m little tardy in blogging.

So, I thought what I do to catch up is tell the story with pictures!

Day 1 , Monday – Didn’t count calories, 1 hour exercise

I came into this day super-nervous. I have dieted so many times before and was worried about how I would do, but there’s a time to just plunge in and go for it.

So I did the weigh-in (302 pounds! yikes!) and then later that day got in my first bowl at Genghis Grill.

As you can see from the pictures, my wife brought roses for me to celebrate the occasion!


And here’s my first bowl. Super good!



And here’s my wife Becky and my son Ty eating with me…




Then we ended the night by working out at the Lighthouse Gym in NW OKC.


Day 2, Tuesday – 2028 calories – 45 minutes exercise

Unfortunately I can’t eat all of my meals at Genghis Grill, so I’m working on improving my cooking skills to use more veggies. So here’s what I fixed for breakfast…



Then later in the day I met my co-workers from the Center for Conscience in Action, a non-profit peace and social justice organization I work with. Of course we ate GG.


And here’s my bowl…



Later that night I worked out with my family. I’m shooting for 40 minutes to an hour per day, doing a mix of interval training on the bike and weight training.

Day 3 – 2025 calories – 45 minutes exercise

This was a crazy good bowl…



Very busy day but still got in the workout thanks to my wife’s encouragement.

Day 4 – 1904 calories – 1 hour exercise

Thursday was a very busy day but I got in my bowl and my exericse.


Day 5 – 1826 calories – 45 minutes exercise

Friday was a gloriously good day. It started in the afternoon with an awesome bowl – this time made with the citrus ginger sauce!







And then that evening we had a glorious Valentine’s eve date!

Day 6 – Still counting

Today I took my family and my in-laws to GG for lunch. This afternoon I will be out driving the pedicab and hopefully burning off a lot of calories.




Day 1 – The Weigh in!

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Ad

The Kwest is now officially underway as I did my first weigh in. Relatively painless but I didn’t like what the scale said (my home scale shows much lower —  of course I normally weigh after getting out of the shower in the morning so this must be a factor). But that is why I’m in this contest.

So here’s my checklist of tasks for the rest of today in Kwest for good health…

  • Eat a healthy bowl at Genghis Grill for supper
  • Get an hour of exercise in
  • Spend some time in prayer and meditation
  • Kiss my wife!
day1photo - James M Branum, Genghis Grill HealthKwest 2015
day1photo – James M Branum, Genghis Grill HealthKwest 2015

The last day before the Kwest begins…

Disclaimer: This post is part of my participation in the Genghis Grill Health Kwest Challenge. #Ad

Tomorrow is my first day of the Genghis Grill Health Kwest challenge. I will be doing the weigh in and of course eating my first bowl for the challenge at Genghis Grill.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on nutrition and exercise over the last few weeks to put together my plan of action. I’m sure I will have to tweak a lot along the way, but want to start well.

My first goal is to stay healthy through this contest. I’ve talked to my doctor (and will be meeting again later in the month for another checkup), but from what she has told me I can’t go wrong by eating lots of veggies, lean protein and getting lots of exercise. Carb-wise, I need to closely monitor those, ideally spreading them out through the day, and course monitoring my blood sugar (I’m diabetic) and make adjustments in food through out the day.

My second goal is to lose a lot of weight and win this contest. From what I can tell, past winners have an average of 4-7 pounds per week, so I’m shooting to lose a minimum of 4 pounds per week.

So based on my current weight, I need to eat 3400 calories per day to maintain my weight (FYI, I’m rounding these numbers for simplicity’s sake), which means to lose one pound of weight, I need to reduce my caloric intake by about 500 calories per day.

So to lose

  • 1 pound per week = Eat no more than 2900 calories per day (9 pounds total in Kwest)
  • 2 pounds per week = Eat no more than 2400 calories per day (18 pounds total)
  • 3 pounds per week = Eat no more than 1900 calories per day (27 pounds total)
  • 4 pounds per week = Eat no more than 1400 calories per day (36 pounds total)
  • 5 pounds per week = Eat no more than 900 calories per day (45 pounds total)

Obviously there is a problem here. Going from around 3500 calories per day to 900 calories per day would be disastrous for me both mentally and physically.  Does this mean winning is impossible?

No. I don’t think so.

The key to making this doable will be exercise, mostly in my case bicycling (both on my regular bike and on the pedicab). From what I can tell from several sources, I burn about 789 calories by riding my bicycle at a moderate pace (10-12 mph) for one hour! This is huge!!!

So, my plan (at least out of the gate) will be to shoot for 2100 calories per day but to ride at least one hour per day during the challenge. If I do this, my net calories (calories consumed minus extra calories burned through exercise) would be around 1400 calories per day, which would give me projected weight loss of four pounds per day. Then on days that I have time or energy to ride more, then I could either boost my calories (I may have to, to keep my blood sugar where it needs to be) or just speed up the weight loss.

One last part of the plan. 1/3 of my meals will be at Genghis Grill, so it is important that I am smart about what I eat there for my daily bowls. After a lot of searching, I found what I think is accurate nutritional information on most of the ingredients of Genghis Grill Bowls, the biggie being that this site provides the portion size for the ingredients (saying “Chicken is X number of calories” does me no good if I have no idea how much chicken is X number of calories).  The obvious change to the bowls to gain the most calorie savings will be to load them up high with veggies, to go easy on the meat (and maybe some days to go all veggies), dilute the sauces (either with garlic water or soy sauce — I have yet to find accurate information on the calorie counts for the sauces) and then go easy on the starches (or maybe even eliminate them some days).

The good news here is that if I allocate 1/3 of my calories for my GG bowl, then I can use up to 700 calories, which will be a very doable proposition while still eating very well.

So that’s my game plan.