Calvert Fitness Client Spotlight – Rick

Note from Mitch: Rick was a pleasure to work with. He committed to the plan despite a busy schedule (and summer holidays in the first few weeks). Take it away, Rick…

Tell us about you in 5 sentences or less. Where you from? Are you a parent? Hobbies? 

School principal. Parent to 5, new grandparent. Musician, woodworker, traveller, hockey player and cook.

What led you to team up with Mitch and Calvert Fitness? 

Read a story in the Sou’wester.

What dieting experience did you try previous to Calvert Fitness? Was there a reason you stopped? 

It’s a journey. Have been working on improving my health for several years with varying degrees of success. Work related stress seems to get in the way.

It’s clear Calvert Fitness worked for you. Why do you think it worked when other diets may not have? 

Accountability. Knowledge. Good balance with support and prodding.

What were your eating habits like BEFORE joining Calvert Fitness? 

Moderately okay. Snacking and alcohol after 8 pm was my downfall.

Now that you’ve joined Calvert Fitness, how have your eating habits changed? 

I like the reference to portion size and your hands. Eating a lot more veg and protein.

How much weight did you lose working with Mitch? 

13 lbs so far

How did your waist measurements change working with Mitch? 

Down one belt loop

What were 3 non-scale victories you experienced working with Mitch (compliments, pants fitting etc.) 

T-shirts fit better. Others have noticed loss of weight in my face and neck.

If someone is thinking of joining up with Mitch, what would you tell them?

Do it. It has worked for me!

PS – When you’re ready, here’s how Mitch can help you:

1) Take the free Man Up Diet Bet Challenge (opens on Facebook Messenger)

2) Apply for the 6 Weeks to Super Dad Challenge

3) Apply for Fit Mom Makeover

 

Calvert Fitness Client Spotlight – Matt

Note from Mitch: Matt was all in from Day 1. His results are indicative of those efforts 100%. <golf clap>

Tell us about you in 5 sentences or less. Where you from? Are you a parent? Hobbies? 

From Stonewall, parent of 3 girls, VP to over 420 kids

What led you to team up with Mitch and Calvert Fitness? 

Each year I gained 5lbs after marriage

What dieting experience did you try previous to Calvert Fitness? Was there a reason you stopped? 

No real dieting experience. I’ve tried some things in short bursts, but nothing long term.

It’s clear Calvert Fitness worked for you. Why do you think it worked when other diets may not have? 

Marriage of both diet and exercise and MITCH emailing, texting often. It helped in those moments of low motivation

What were your eating habits like BEFORE joining Calvert Fitness? 

Not good- high carbs, sugary diets

Now that you’ve joined Calvert Fitness, how have your eating habits changed? 

Limited carbs, more protein and very limited sugar – cut out pop, and most sweets

How much weight did you lose working with Mitch? 

So far… 17 pounds in 5 weeks, but I’m not done yet!

How did your waist measurements change working with Mitch? 

I’m down 1.5 inches. I’m down 1 pant size.

What were 3 non-scale victories you experienced working with Mitch (compliments, pants fitting etc.) 

Several compliments, down 1 shirt size, down 1 pant size. Feeling stronger overall.

If someone is thinking of joining up with Mitch, what would you tell them?

DO IT!!!!

PS – When you’re ready, here’s how Mitch can help you:

1) Take the free Man Up Diet Bet Challenge (opens on Facebook Messenger)

2) Apply for the 6 Weeks to Super Dad Challenge

3) Apply for Fit Mom Makeover

 

Calvert Fitness Mansformer Spotlight – Paul

Note from Mitch: Paul was a tough nut to crack. He had inquired about my program a full year prior to joining, and actually had ghosted me the previous time. I was skeptical he’d see it through, but everyone takes their own path to seeking help. Paul was in a position to commit to this program and his results speak for themselves.

Take it away, Paul…

Tell us about you in 5 sentences or less. Where you from? Are you a parent? Hobbies? 

I am from Edmonton originally and now live in Calgary. I am a father of 4 kids. My hobbies are sports and being a dad.

What led you to team up with Mitch and Calvert Fitness? 

I needed someone to help put a plan in action.

What dieting experience did you try previously to Calvert Fitness? Was there a reason you stopped? 

I tried just eating healthy and staying active. I stopped because I couldn’t get over the hump and needed something to give me the extra push.

How much weight did you lose working with Mitch? 

18lbs in 5 weeks. I imagine I will finish the 6 week program at roughly 20 pounds.

How did your waist measurements change working with Mitch? 

My waist is a lot smaller. About 4 inches

What were 3 non-scale victories you experienced working with Mitch (compliments, pants fitting etc.) 

First victory was very rare heartburn and increased energy.

The second victory is my measurements. My waist is smaller, my legs are leaner, the double chin is smaller, the arms are bigger, the man titties went down a cup size and my back fat and love handles are disappearing.

The third and most important victory is my mind. You spend 6 weeks on a challenge and you see tangible results. I realized that I would rather eat leaner and take a strategic approach to eating everyday.

It’s clear Calvert Fitness worked for you. Why do you think it worked when other diets may not have? 

Mitch takes a realistic approach. He allows a little bit of flexibility in eating and exercise and the approach is you eat the elephant one bite at a time and not trying to eat it whole. People want instant results and it doesn’t quite work that way.

What were your eating habits like BEFORE joining Calvert Fitness? 

My eating habits were very poor. I would eat what I want when I want without really knowing what and how much you were putting into your body.

Now that you’ve joined Calvert Fitness, how have your eating habits changed? 

I have become very aware of my eating habits and have become a strategic eater. My portions have changed, and what I eat is leaner and healthier.

If someone is thinking of joining up with Mitch, what would you tell them?

I give Mitch props. He takes a very good approach to getting you moving in the right direction. I will recommend Mitch and his program to anyone.

PS – When you’re ready, here’s how Mitch can help you:

1) Take the free Man Up Diet Bet Challenge (opens on Facebook Messenger)

2) Apply for the 6 Weeks to Super Dad Challenge

3) Apply for Fit Mom Makeover

 

The 4 Ps of the Perfect Diet

For some reason, dieting is seen as this super complicated thing.

It’s probably because every new diet book or program has a hook around a ‘secret’ to sell you.

But all diets at their core boil down to this one thing…

Calorie balance.

You need to eat less than you need to maintain your weight, or you won’t lose weight.

That’s the simplest definition.

Of course, activity levels, muscle composition, genes and about 400 other factors can play into it, but don’t even sweat that stuff to start.

Simply determine how many calories you need to maintain your weight and eat less than that.

Want fairly aggressive fat loss? (2 lbs/week) calculate your calories like so: Bodyweight x 10

But there’s more to the story. When you focus just on calories, you may drop weight, but you won’t always love how you look in the mirror.

Where most go wrong is on the macros side of things…

Macros are short for macronutrients. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Together, these three things make up every single thing that you eat, from meat to veggies to dairy. (Alcohol is on its own as the fourth macro)

A diet low in protein is going to lead to as much muscle lost for energy as fat. It doesn’t tend to throw out just fat and keep muscle… unless you eat lots of protein and weight train.

So, this boils down to something I call the 4Ps of the Perfect Diet

1. Portions are everything.

You can eat anything you want, but not as MUCH as you’ll want (in the moment).

I like calorie tracking for this purpose, but many just don’t want to make this commitment. It can be a bit complicated at first. That’s where portioning by hand size comes in.

A palm or two of lean protein at every meal, a cupped hand or two of carbs, a fist or two of veggies, and a thumb of fats (unless your protein source is high in fat already).

2. Protein

The evidence is strong – Protein reduces your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

It also has a high TEF – or Thermic Effect of Food. Meaning that as much as 20-30% of the calories from protein are “burned off” just to digest the protein, compared to carbs (5-10%) and fat (0-3%).

Plus, it helps you maintain lean body mass as you diet down.

That’s why scale weight is not the only measurement of success.

A high protein intake may help prevent muscle loss when daily calories are reduced for weight loss.

3. Produce

Short and sweet here. You know greens are good for you. But I throw them in wherever I can on a diet for satiety reasons. They fill you up so you’re less likely to over-eat the high calorie stuff.

4. Pump

Cardio is not the best way to lose fat. Let me say that again. Cardio is not the best way to lose fat.

Instead, chase the pump in the gym. Your body soaks up carbs like a sponge when you train this way.

When you are overweight, your insulin levels are sky high, your body is truly hormonally conditioned to store fat.

Resistance training alters your body comp – I can technically eat more than my former obese self because resistance training and the muscle it develops alters your physiology to more efficiently use the food you ingest.

Burn Belly Fat With This 2 Part Strategy

You’ve been told spot reduction is impossible.

You laugh at the ladies (and some men) wearing their ‘waist trimmers’ (don’t stop laughing at them)

And you think to yourself “Just eat clean and train hard.”

Right?

Sure. That’s all I knew for the better part of a decade.

You know these things too… but that doesn’t mean they help you do them consistently.

(Stay with me here… it’ll all make sense very soon).

I lived like a monk in pursuit of the perfect body for years.

I watched everything I put in my mouth and sacrificed a lot.

I would never eat the foods I loved — and never dared miss a meal for fear of losing ‘muscle’

On top of that, I trained excessively as often as I could.

Did it work?

Sure, well, maybe, but I could’ve gotten there an easier way.

Let me explain…

These days, I don’t spend hours in the gym. I’m building a business, have a beautiful family and work with a growing roster of guys across the globe.

I eat fun ‘off limit’ food such as hamburgers and fries, ice cream and guess what?

I found a way to look decent and feel great anyway.

My bloodwork is top shelf, according to my doc.

Plus, I enjoy the process a lot more these days.

The diet isn’t a chore because I always have something to look forward to.

The workouts are of my choosing, not some random roided up bodybuilder.

I THOUGHT I had to eat dry chicken every day.

I THOUGHT I had to do crazy workouts, buy a ton of supplements and wash it down with a fancy shake immediately after.

But I now realize this is unsustainable when you have other priorities in your life.

And all of my clients are in the same boat.

But we know there’s a fine line there. You are on this site for a reason. You are not your average Dad Bod totin’, lethargic couch potato.

If you read the TOT Optimization Bible from my friends at TOT Revolution, you know getting older requires you to find that 2% to improve your manhood, body composition and quality of life. That may mean TOT, shoring up your diet or smart supplementation.

It’s no different in the gym.

As a guy, you’ve probably dealt with stubborn belly fat at one time or another.

The Belly Fat Solution

Now, according to science, you can actually spot target that stubborn stuff – with the right approach to training.

Poor blood flow to certain areas of the body – obliques and lower abs for example – equats to poor fat loss from those areas. Hence the ‘stubborn’ term.

But the right training strategy can shift calorie burning toward localized areas of fat storage. (Stallknecht, 2007)

Blood flow and lipolysis (i.e. fat burning) are generally higher in subcutaneous adipose tissue adjacent to the contracting muscle.

In layman’s terms, if you train your abs the right way at the right time, the belly fat on the outside of the abs will “burn” preferentially when you throw some conditioning work at it.

Essentially, finish your workout going back and forth between an ab exercise and a conditioning exercise.

Pick an ab exercise. Any movement will work. The goal is just to direct blood flow toward that area. For maximum effect, you want the ab set to last 45-60 seconds. Less than that and you won’t be getting as much blood flow to the region, according to an article on T-Nation.

Then jump to a conditioning exercise. Any demanding energy systems activity will work here. Sprints, hill sprints, Prowler pushing, battle ropes, tire flipping, etc.

You want the whole session to be non-stop for 10-15 minutes, supersetting the two exercises with minimal rest.

For some specific finishers, Mortal Kombat style, visit this blog

Plan B

In a more recent study, the researchers tested this hypothesis with a small change – pairing steady state cardio (not HIIT) with circuit-based weight training.

In this study, combining circuit-based resistance training with steady state endurance exercise (i.e. 30 minutes at a steady pace on a bike) resulted in fat mass reduction adjacent to the trained muscle due to enhanced blood flow. In other words, train legs followed by cardio, and your leg bodyfat will reduce preferentially.

One problem: Excessive cardio (or timing cardio and weights concurrently in this fashion) can have an “interference” effect on the muscular adaptations you want to occur after resistance training. If building muscle is your primary focus, exercise caution with this strategy and/or separate weights and cardio by several hours (or even days). This was also in a group of largely untrained women. Would the results be applicable to advanced gym rats? Maybe, maybe not.

Now, let’s be clear. This is only a couple studies as well. Many other studies stand in contrast, showing localized fat loss adjacent to trained muscles do not occur. No study stands on its own, especially those with small sample sizes.

Further still, spot reduction is not something you need to worry about when you have a lot of body fat to lose all over. Focus on the big rocks of nutrition, like a smart diet overall 

FREE Download: Have a fair bit of fat to lose first? Need a place to start in 30 seconds or less? Grab this easily digestible (pun intended) two-page diet cheat sheet to simplify your diet without fads, quick fixes or calorie counting.

The Belly Fat Solution – Part II

There may be a way to dig into those stubborn fat stores even more so, combining the strategy above with this small addition.

As you may have read in the TOT Optimization Bible, nicotine can help your body convert stored fat into energy that is then used by your muscle tissues.

When your body is in a state of low insulin/glucose, using nicotine will help get stored fat out of cells and make it ready to be used as energy, like say, during cardio after weights when you’re carb depleted.

The TOT Optimization Bible advocates for its use, with a disclaimer:

“When you use nicotine in a nasal spray, gum or lozenge, it is much different than using a tobacco product. Tobacco is a known carcinogen, whereas nicotine is not. Nicotine, by itself in its pure form, has shown no adverse health effects. When used in conjunction with a fat loss diet, such as The Metabolic Blowtorch Diet, supplemental nicotine gum has been shown to suppress appetite. If it is combined with caffeine, these actions are enhanced. Lastly, nicotine can also help your body convert stored fat into energy that is used by your muscle tissues.”

 

New Year’s Resolution: Cheat On Your Diet More

After a holiday season full of overindulgence, you are particularly motivated (or guilty) to start a healthy lifestyle.

Regardless of all that enthusiasm, most New Year’s resolutions fall off by mid-February.

The statistics are grim – especially when you include the mental sadness that accompanies a diet comprised of celery sticks and tears.

How can you change your success rate this year? Cheat on your diet more.

Say what?

According to Australian researchers (thanks, guys!) a group taking frequent diet breaks lost ~50% more fat compared to a group dieting continuously for 16 weeks.

The researchers recruited 51 obese men and divided them into two groups.

All were put on a diet geared toward weight loss, providing only 67% of the calories needed to maintain their weight.

The first group was the control group who dieted for 16 consecutive weeks.

The second group undertook a 30-week diet, alternating two weeks of dieting with two weeks of maintenance calories throughout.

The Results

Aside from losing 50% more fat overall, almost all of the extra pounds of weight lost by the diet break group was fat as well.

But the positive results didn’t end there. The researchers continued to monitor both groups for a period of six months after the study’s conclusion.

Both regained some weight, but weight loss in the diet break group was 17.9 pounds greater than the control group overall.

One caveat: The diet break group did take twice as long to accomplish their results (30 weeks compared to 16) but the researchers believed the breaks helped prevent the slowing of one’s metabolism, a common side effect of aggressive diets over the long haul.

Also of equal importance is the fact these diet breaks weren’t a two-week bender filled with Chinese buffets. The men still tracked their calories, with a return to ‘maintenance’ calories 33% higher than on the diet, while still keeping tabs on weight gain. During these diet breaks in the study, there was no loss or gain of body weight. I.E. They didn’t go off the rails.

BONUS: Grab this free Mansformation diet cheat sheet and get a simple and sustainable nutrition plan to help drop those first 5 or so pounds. Warning: You might need to create a new hole in your belt as your waist shrinks.

More Proof Diet Breaks Work…

In another study, scientists from the University of Quebec put 15 gym rats (all men) on a “Super Size Me” diet, comprised of nothing but McDonald’s for two weeks.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner filled with nothing but Egg McMuffins, Big Macs, fries and coke (yes, they even ditched the diet coke!).

Courtesy wikipedia

Sounds like some sort of twisted heaven for the fat kid inside you, right?

Throughout the short study, they also did daily 30-minute high-intensity interval sessions on a treadmill, sprinting full out followed by a recovery time, rinse and repeat.

Surely, despite the cardio, their insides were rotting and the scale ballooned?

Wrong.

They didn’t gain weight.

And their health, according to the researchers, improved aside from a negative drop in HDL cholesterol (considered the ‘good’ cholesterol).

Of course, this study was only two weeks long. Had they continued to eat this way, you’d have to assume things may turn for the worse eventually (Who’s up for the challenge?).

But, the good news is if you’re feeling guilty about a holiday binge or two – don’t sweat it. Just brush it off and get back on plan.

How Can You Apply This?

Unless you have a pressing weight loss goal like an upcoming vacation, wedding or bodybuilding show, you can take the long view and mix in short-term periods of diet breaks like the two above examples and do just fine over the long haul.

However, you could theoretically take less frequent breaks, say every 8 weeks of your diet rather than every 2, and likely get a similar result in less time.

As you know, if your diet is filled with restrictions, as soon as you return to old habits, the weight creeps back on.

One way around that just might be built-in diet breaks, so you have something to look forward to throughout the process.

Mitch Calvert is a transformation coach for men like his former self, with worse genetics than Chris Farley. Yes, the chubby dude from Tommy Boy. Get Mitch’s free Mansformation Cheat Sheet to simplify your diet and start shedding that stubborn belly fat.

Sources

Byrne, NM, et al. “Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR study.” International Journal of Obesity, 17, August, 2017.

Christian Duval, Marc-Antoine Rouillier, Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, and Antony D. Karelis. “High Intensity Exercise: Can It Protect You from A Fast Food Diet?” Nutrients 2017, 9(9).

 

7 Common Fat Loss Mistakes (Here’s How To Fix Them)

I want to share a secret with you…

Come closer.

It’s just you and me now…

Here it is: If you aren’t burning more calories than you’re consuming, you aren’t going to lose weight (for those that are trying to).

One of the simplest ways to cut calories (and speed up fat loss) is to eliminate some of these “calorie bomb” foods and employ a few tricks to keep yourself under maintenance.

Here are 7 common fat loss mistakes and tips to correct to them:

Mistake #1: ‘Healthy’ Cooking Oils

You should be finding areas to “save” calories on a diet.

As you may know, fat is the most calorie dense food at 9 calories per gram.

You can very easily turn a calorie deficit into a surplus by getting a little too liberal with the peanut butter or cooking oils.

Watch your oil intake. Free-pouring oils (even healthy ones) into the pan to cook can quickly add as much as 250-300 calories.

How do you avoid this? Swap out cooking oils for sprays when preparing your meals.

Any cooking spray will do – even canola. You’ll be using trace amounts anyway.

Mistake #2: Watch the Sugary Sauces

Barbeque sauce. Teriyaki. Honey dill. Full sugar ketchup.

Sauces can add as much as 10 grams of sugar with every single tablespoon (and let’s be honest, you’re using a lot more than that!)

Instead of flavouring your meats with sauces, swap them out for seasoning salts and spices. Salt doesn’t add any calories to your meal, and in fact can aid your performance in the gym.

There are countless rubs, spices, salts, etc. for you to try out on your meats.

Whether you go for a pre-made rub, or create your own, pick out some new spices and give them a go.

Here’s a poor man’s alternative to teriyaki sauce: soy sauce with a few packets of Splenda mixed in.

Or look into Walden Farms line of calorie-free products.

As much as you may hate to hear it, if you are struggling to manage your weight it’s likely your portion control sucks.

By eliminating hidden calories, you won’t notice much difference in taste but your calorie intake will decrease on auto pilot.

Mistake #3: Drinking ‘Healthy’ Sugar Bombs

Drink zero calorie beverages only.

Somehow, drinks with ‘new’ versions of sugar such as agave and cane are being marketed as better choices than zero cal drinks.

Both sugar is still “sugar” – no matter what way you dress them up.

Stick to the odd zero cal beverage, water, teas, and coffee.

But there’s a caveat with coffee: Drink it black.

Forget the venti frap with whip that has more calories than a Big mac.

You don’t need a metric tonne of sugar before work.

PS – Even worse, if you put butter and coconut oil in it, I will hunt you down.

Mistake #4: Being Scared of Eating Meat

Protein reduces your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

It also has a high TEF – or Thermic Effect of Food. Meaning that as much as 20-30% of the calories from protein are “burned off” just to digest the protein,  compared to carbs (5-10%) and fat (0-3%).

Plus, it helps you maintain lean body mass as you diet down. When you’re in a significant calorie deficit (i.e. eating less than you burn), your body is happy to feast on muscle for energy. It doesn’t tend to throw out just fat and keep muscle… unless you eat lots of protein and weight train.

That’s why scale weight is not the only measurement of success.

A high protein intake may help prevent muscle loss when daily calories are reduced for weight loss.

In one study, researchers at McMaster University, found it’s possible to gain muscle while cutting fat—in just 4 weeks.

In their month-long study published last year, 40 overweight men in their 20s followed an exercise program and ate a calorie-restricted diet of 40% fewer calories below maintenance.

The wrinkle? Half the men followed a lower-protein diet (1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight) and the other half followed a higher-protein diet (2.4 grams per kilogram of body weight).

The results: After 28 days, the higher-protein group saw 2.3 pounds of muscle gain and 10.5 pounds of weight loss. The lower-protein group retained their muscle mass (broke even) and lost about 8 pounds.

Mistake #5: Not Getting Enough Sleep

Getting enough quality sleep can also help reduce hunger and protect against weight gain.

Studies show that too little sleep can increase hunger and appetite, and chronically over time has been linked to higher rates of obesity.

Get your shut-eye by any means necessary!

Mistake #6: Overcomplicating Dinnertime 

It’s a great thought to start making elaborate, healthy recipes to support your goals.

But often these complicated recipes come with tons of ingredients in them.

You don’t have time to be consistent with this.

Many people my age have children of their own along with their careers. If your meals contain more than just a few ingredients, they probably won’t be made on a regular basis.

If you’re struggling to find good, wholesome, healthy meals, remember you can’t go wrong with a piece of meat, some whole food carbs, and some veggies.

A few simple, meal examples you can easily fit into this:

  • Mexican night – tacos or fajitas
  • Stir-fry
  • Steaks
  • Spaghetti
  • Fish/salmon
  • Crockpot meals – beef stews etc.

Any of these can be combined with some rice/potatoes/pasta and veggies to make a wholesome, complete meal in minutes.

BONUS: Grab this free Mansformation cheat sheet and get a simple and sustainable nutrition plan to follow. Warning: You might need to create a new hole in your belt as your waist shrinks…

Mistake #7: Grazing After Hours

A tip I picked up from Jason Helmes: “Close the kitchen” immediately after dinner.

As soon as you are finished eating dinner, “close the kitchen” and scrub all of the dishes, pots, and pans.

Wipe off all the counters, close all the pantries, put away everything, and leave the room.

At that point, the kitchen is “off limits” and feeding time is over.

This may not prevent you from wandering in and staring longingly into the pantry for junk food to appear, but because you’ve cleaned up, subconsiously you’ll have second thoughts about messing it up again for a quick fix.

Such a simple thing, and it works like a charm.

PS – When you’re ready, here’s the three most popular ways to work with me that my clients love…

1. 30 Days To Thor: The Ultimate Chubby-to-Jacked Transformation Plan. Ryan lost 20 pounds in one month following this protocol (see his testimonial at the link)
http://mitchcalvert.com/thor-on-sale/

2. Mansformation Group Coaching. If you’re tired of looking and feeling the same… year in and year out… Mansformation Group Coaching shows you exactly how to eat and exercise properly so you finally get the pinnacle of fitness (health AND body) you want.
https://calvertfitness.lpages.co/mansformation-group-program/

3. Mansformation Custom VIP Coaching. The most remarkable transformations happen here. If you want to impress your wife or mistress with a lean midsection and bicep peaks, this is for you.
http://mitchcalvert.com/online-coaching/
 

Back Row at His Own Funeral

It’s wise to ‘picture the end’ sometimes…

What do I mean by that?

Well, envision yourself in the future.

One clever way researchers have done this is to show people pictures of themselves digitally aged.

If you’re looking to lose weight, use pictures of yourself digitally fattened up and refer to that mental image in the moment.

When you see older or fatter versions of yourself, you are more likely to see your current and future self as the same person.

When you understand that your choices today shape your future – good or bad – you become self-aware.

Take it a step further and picture yourself at your OWN funeral.

Yikes. Uncomfortable.

But here’s what this looks like…

Back Row At His Own Funeral

Someone you don’t recognize is handing out programs, printed with the face of a white-haired guy in a suit.

Family members are taking the pews, which are otherwise bare.

You recognize the church, all cavernous and bare, and knew you’d be invisible in the back row.

They sure picked a shitty picture, you think, scanning the program.

You look fat.

“Couldn’t they have found one with me smiling?”

But you knew the answer to that question.

You see your daughter and her newborn baby in the front row.

Her head is in her hands, crying.

You flashback to a special moment:

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Come here, Daddy”

As she runs into the room, excited to share one of her projects from school.

Your eyes light up at the thought.

But just as instantly, you feel a sense of deep regret in the pit of your stomach.

“You knew at that moment, didn’t you, asshole?”

Your bad habits were slowly leading you down this path…

“So why didn’t you get off the couch?”

Fuck.

Your wife is across the aisle.

Boy, she looks like she’s aged 10 years since you last locked eyes on her.

More people drift through now, a cell phone goes off, and you see your brother reach for a tissue.

This is it.

You’ll be leaving this room in an urn, a tidy departure from this world.

Left to collect dust on a shelf.

But better than rotting six feet under, you figure.

At least that was your thought process when arrangements were made and the will was written.

Your brother takes the stand.

He talks about all the usual BS spewed at these things: you were a good father, husband, hard-working man.

He throws in a few stories that bring about a stifled laugh or two from friends.

You drift off and are overcome by a memory of the two of you and your dad.

“Dad, your head looks like an egg,” you said in front of the whole team of bantam hockey players, prompting shocked, amused laughter from teammates.

He was just blasting us for a bad period of play, too.

Dad eventually went full Bruce Willis and kept it shaved down to the bone – no more bald spot.

Still looked like an egg…

Now it’s your aunt’s turn to speak.

What’s she got to say?

More of the usual stuff. Boring.

Watching your relatives step up, overcome by emotion, triggers another memory.

It was a summer day like any other.

You were stocking shelves at the local Safeway and that dick head manager of yours flags you down, talking on the phone like he’d seen a ghost.

Not the usual high-and-mighty smirk you were used to seeing when he came to bark orders at you.

Odd, you thought.

“Your mom is on the phone,” manager Dick Head says.

You were just 16 when your father died suddenly of a heart attack.

You showed no emotion on that phone call or at the funeral.

Kept it all bottled up inside.

Family members reacted with awkward, stiff sympathies, leaving you confused and guilty for not crying.

What did they want?

You felt a loss – for sure – but how did they expect you to express any of it at that age?

You should’ve vowed to take care of yourself, you think…

The genetic lottery was working against you. Your dad’s sudden death was proof of that.

At this point, the minister seems to look right at you: “The floor’s open, if anyone wishes to speak.”

You jump to attention.

Of course, you’d like to…

Tell everyone how thankful you are.

Tell everyone how much you’re going to miss them.

Tell everyone how much you wish you could’ve stopped drinking and eating yourself to an early grave.

But it’s too late.

Your story has been written.

No do-overs.