Mainstreams: Escaping ‘diet hell’

Book emerges out of Russ Branjord’s journey from obesity to a six-pack.

by Joni Astrup
Associate Editor
Russ Branjord wears his wedding ring on the middle finger of his left hand because it would fall off if he wore it on his ring finger.

Russ Branjord, before and after his extraordinary weight loss. Submitted photos
Russ Branjord, before and after his extraordinary weight loss. Submitted photos

He could have it resized, but the oversized ring is a symbol of the victory he’s won in his battle against weight. And, the ring often serves as an opener to talk to others about how he achieved lasting weight loss.
Branjord, of Elk River, lost 100 pounds in 11 months when he was in his 20s. He shared what worked for him in his 2006 book, “Spike Diet,” which went on to show up on the top 100 sales chart for weight loss books on Amazon a few times.
Now age 40 and still fit and trim, Branjord has just released a new book, “Spike Diet X: Obese to Six Pack: How I Escaped ‘Diet Hell.’ ”

The cover of Russ Branjord’s new book, “Spike Diet X.”
The cover of Russ Branjord’s new book, “Spike Diet X.”

Although he was active and athletic (he played semi-pro football while in his 20s), Branjord said he struggled with obesity from an early age growing up in Hugo, Minnesota. He hit 200 pounds before his 13th birthday. Middle school in particular was awful, as he was bullied and teased because of his weight.
Branjord said he tried everything to lose weight and keep it off, but success eluded him. By age 26, he weighed 330 pounds and said he was on his way to 400.
“At 26 I gave up. I was tired of fighting it and trying so hard but not getting anywhere, like a rat on a wheel. I convinced myself that I would be happier if I would just accept who I am, that genetically this is who I was meant to be,” he said.
But while on a family vacation on the North Shore, Branjord was holding his young son one day and thinking about his future, wondering what he would tell him if he, too, went on to become obese and wanted to lose weight.
That, Branjord said, restoked his motivation. When he and his family returned home, he started dieting. But after a number of weeks, Branjord hit a plateau where he stopped losing weight and food cravings started getting stronger and stronger.
In the past, Branjord said he would have given up at that point.
But he had recently become a Christian and found inspiration in several Bible verses, including one that says, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’’
Branjord said he also heard a voice telling him to give in, so he did.
In one day he ate all the foods he had been craving, including doughnuts, pizza, two Dairy Queen blizzards and food from Burger King.
“I went nuts,” he said.

The next morning, Branjord said his food cravings were gone and he could start over. When he weighed himself several days later, he was surprised to find he had lost 3 pounds.
He repeated the process the next week, “spiking” one day by eating the foods he had been craving and then the other six days he watched his diet, chose healthy foods, stayed within his calorie range and did something active. By the end of the second week, he had lost another 2 pounds.
“I realized that there’s more to losing weight than eating less and exercising more,” he said. “I started questioning everything that I was told about dieting.”
He came to realize that his metabolism slowed down when he dieted.
“In a nutshell, that one day off got my body back to normal again,” he said.
He found support for his ideas in the Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment done in the 1940s. The study found that after several days of caloric restrictions, metabolism slows down and cravings increase to stop the person from starving to death, Branjord said.
“It makes complete sense over the history of time because humans weren’t dying of overeating. They were dying of starvation. So, it makes sense that those two things would happen,” Branjord said.
He said when trying to lose weight, it’s very important to eat a surplus of calories one day a week – a spike day.
For him, the Spike Diet has been life-changing.
“My past life seems like it’s somebody else,” he said.
At 6 foot 1 inch tall, Branjord today weighs 200 pounds. His body fat is at about 10 percent.
He enjoys lifting weights, playing basketball and playing with his kids. In his spare time, he performs in local theater productions.

Author Russ Branjord with his daughter, Lucy.
Author Russ Branjord with his daughter, Lucy.
Russ Branjord with his daughter, Katie.
Russ Branjord with his daughter, Katie.

Branjord and his wife of 17 years, Nichole, have a 25-year-old daughter they adopted from foster care when she was 13, and four biological children ranging in age from 1 to 14.
Branjord is the former club director of the Boys and Girls Club of Elk River who now works as a licensed loan officer for Movement Mortgage in Eden Prairie.
He has a deep desire to share with others what has helped him, and offer them hope in the battle against weight. Branjord said 66 percent of the population is overweight and 95 percent of people who lose weight dieting eventually gain it all back.
He had high hopes for his new book to widely disseminate his message. His publisher had approached him in 2011 to write “Spike Diet X” and promised him an ambitious book launch.
As the October 2012 release date neared, a public relations firm set up a 12-city launch tour starting at the Barnes and Noble in New York City and finishing several weeks later in Los Angeles. Each city had network TV appearances and signings at large bookstores.
But then, out of the blue, the publisher went out of business a few months before the release date, and all plans for the book evaporated into thin air.
It was a heartbreaking setback for Branjord and he decided to let go of the dream of a second book.
Eventually, however, he said he came to realize giving up on the dream for the book was like giving up on his dream to lose weight.
He decided to refuse to quit and has now published the “Spike Diet X” through Amazon CreateSpace.
The book is available through Amazon. The foreword is written by a physician.
Branjord doesn’t know where it will lead. But he feels if it helps one person transform their life, the journey will have all been worth it.