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Cutting Myself in Half: 150 Pounds Lost, One Byte at a Time Paperback – January 4, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mary Kinney Branson is the author of seventeen books, including Murder in Mayberry, which she coauthored with her husband, Jack.

Jack Branson is a retired federal agent. He is currently a licensed private investigator for Branson & Associates in Cumming, Georgia.

Taylor LeBaron is an outgoing, articulate seventeen-year-old who loves a challenge. He is the student technology leader for Chrysalis Experiential Academy in Roswell, GA. Taylor has been the recipient of numerous awards at his high school, including the Student Ambassador Award, the Young Entrepreneur Award, and the Community Service Award. Taylor's college plans include pursuing a degree in business and economics. He and his family live in Ball Ground, GA.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I'm a techie guy, and I love everything about computers and electronics. When I started my exercise program, I was playing a lot of military games on my PlayStation. So when I came across Marine Corps cadences at, they were the perfect accompaniment to my exercise program. I purchased two Marine Corps cadence CDs and downloaded them onto my Zune and let them take me to boot camp five or six times a week. (There's a Marine Corps cadence CD for women, too.) I loved the beat, and I listened to the messages: Go strong! Don't give up! Endure!

I discovered that I was a natural for Marine tactics. The cadences did more for me than the double workouts I'd done over the summer. I would like to thank the U.S. Marine Corps for my increase in speed and endurance. The cadences helped me run faster and longer. I repeated the messages back in my mind as I ran at full speed on the treadmill: One mile, no sweat. Two miles, no good. Three miles, we're going strong. Four miles, we're almost there. Five miles, we're going home.

I felt like I was training alongside the Marines, listening to the sound of boots hitting the ground and dog tags jingling. Wearing my own dog tags tucked under my shirt, I imagined I was running at Parris Island instead of the Forsyth County, Georgia, YMCA. The cadences kept me disciplined and inspired. If I could keep up with Marine training, even if just on the CDs, I felt I'd accomplished something pretty great for a boy who, a year ago, couldn't run a 20-yard dash.
I still wear dog tags when I work out, and I still listen to cadences. When I feel like I can't go any farther, I crank up the volume and let the Marines tell me I can.

I tackled the physical part of my fitness program by turning my training over to the Marines. I let the cadences motivate me as I followed the YMCA's exercise plan. The more I worked out, the more calories I burned. It actually became fun. And without realizing it, I began approaching fitness just like I played a video game. I called my approach the Ultimate Fitness Game.


In most video games, you follow a path and confront obstacles along the way. Dangers lurk in dark, narrow corridors. You enter a room and everything you click on offers you a choice. And there's always something you run out of: ammo, money, energy, stamina, health. I play UFG like calories are the money that I'll run out of if I don't spend wisely.

I follow a road through my day, and I have a choice of transportation, just like I'd have in a video game. I can run down the road and increase my skill level, or I can hop in a car and drive. Every time I decide to walk or run, I add money to my account because I'm burning more calories.

Obstacles are everywhere. Each room I enter offers choices. In the kitchen and the school lunchroom, all sorts of 'dangerous' foods loom out at me. They look good, but they have high price tags and do nothing to advance me in UFG. In fact, they fight against fitness. I have to make my money last all day and cover my necessary expenses, so I can't be tricked into buying dangerous foods. They're the enemy.

The Money

Each morning, I calculate how much 'money' I have to spend for that day―one dollar for every calorie I'll burn. I know that my BMR is 1,850. (That's the amount of calories I'd burn if I did nothing all day. You can find BMR calculators on a lot of Internet sites.) I know I'll burn a couple of hundred more calories just working at my computer, talking, walking to class, and doing normal stuff. And I know that my body will burn an extra 10 percent of the calories I consume just to digest my food. So if I'm sick in bed with a cold, I still have more than $2,000 to spend without gaining weight. For all other days, I factor in my exercise to determine my 'salary' for the day.

I usually take a break from the Y on Saturday and just hang out with friends, see a movie, or work on my computer. I figure I can safely spend $2,000 on lazy Saturdays. My weekend treat is usually a 12-inch plain meat sub, so I know I'll spend $600 for supper. That leaves me $1,400 for the rest of the day. As soon as I wake up and determine my salary for the day, I start planning how to spend it. And I keep a running count all day so my money lasts the full sixteen hours I'm awake. I like math, so I figure everything in my head. But most cell phones and computers have calculators, so anyone can keep track of calories.

I know that on a no-exercise day I'm on a tight budget, so just like I was shopping on a budget, I look for bargains. If I can find a two-for-one sale, that helps me stretch my budget. I can buy two pieces of whole-grain bread for $50 each instead of one piece of regular bread for $100.

One frosted cupcake may cost $350, so I can't afford that kind of splurge too often. I have bills to pay: meat, milk, fruit, veggies, and whole grains. These foods are like my basic house and car payments, insurance, and utilities. Until I pay them, I'd be irresponsible to spend my money on luxuries. The basic foods are where I get my energy. If I don't pay for them first, I'll run out of energy before I run out of day.

I consider snack treats like my real-life movie budget. Since I'm on a tight budget and don't have much money to go to the movies, I may be able to go only once a month. When I realize that my favorite candy bar will cost me $230, I know I will rarely have the money to buy a candy bar.

On days I go to the Y, I feel like I got a big sales bonus at work and I have more money to spend. I know that just forty-five minutes of free weights will burn about 350 calories, so on days when I know I'm going to do free weights, I add $350 to my starting budget. On a regular busy day with exercise, I start my day with $2,500 to $2,600.

That's more than enough if I play the game right. But if enemy foods lure me into spending too much of my money, I'll end up broke too early and GAME OVER will print across the day's screen. Then I'll have long hours that night with no money left to buy food.

©2010. Taylor LeBaron, Mary Branson, Jack Branson. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Cutting Myself in Half. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: HCI Teens; 1 edition (January 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0757313590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0757313592
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

TAYLOR LEBARON is an outgoing, articulate, and athletic seventeen-year-old who loves a challenge. He's a student technology leader for Chrysalis Experiential Academy in Roswell, Ga.

He and a small group of tech students repair computers and manage student entrepreneurial ventures. He is a student ambassador for his school, and his school has awarded him the Young Entrepreneur Award, the Community Service Award, and the Technology Advancement Award.

He is a recipient of the President's Education Award and is a member of the National Society of High School Scholars. He was chosen by Coca-Cola in a national contest as one of 10 teens to carry the torch for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

When Taylor was fourteen, he took on his biggest challenge yet. He lost 150 pounds, literally cutting his body weight in half. He now views fitness as a lifestyle--one that changed, and added years to, his life.

Taylor and his family live in Ball Ground, Ga. Visit Taylor at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jean on February 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got this for my brother, who's a bit heavy and I read it first so I could get an idea what was in it and how I could help. It's my brother to a tee, it's creepy. This is an excellent book, full of inspiration and hilarious analogies that will keep people reading even if it's not an issue for them. It's perfect for someone that doesn't know how to get fit or is not quite ready to start that path, if they are willing to read the first chapter, they won't put it down and even if they don't start right away, it will give them something to really think about. This was written brilliantly for the younger person struggling with their weight and self image. I've already seen little changes in my brother and even though the conversation that had me giving him this book was a little..messy, I'm so glad I did.

The only drawback I can think of would be that the young adult writer is a bit strict. I understand that's how he is and his commitment to being fit, but it turned me off a little how he equated one cookie with the destruction of his fitness goals. I think it's all about moderation and self control. Someone willing to get on the right path won't be bothered by that though and, as I did, accept that's just the way he went about it and it's not right for everyone. What is detailed in this book is an excellent set of guidelines and ideas to get someone where they want to be physically and I consider this book a true investment in health.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By drebbles VINE VOICE on February 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
At the young age of 14 Taylor LeBaron weighed almost 300 pounds and was badly out of shape. He was convinced that his heavy weight was hereditary and didn't think he could lose weight. But a gift membership to the YMCA showed him that he could exercise, and he put together an exercise/diet regimen that only a teenager could dream up and his imagination and spirit helped him lose a whopping 150 pounds!

"Cutting Myself in Half" is the inspiring story of how Taylor LeBaron lost weight in a way that perhaps only a teenager could think up - he approached weight loss like it was a video game calling it the Ultimate Fitness Game. He devised a strategy guide (increased physical activity; decreased food volume; healthy food choices; setting himself up to win; tackling exercise a little at a time; slowly changing his eating habits); discovered who his "enemies" are (still life; tricky taste buds; sneaky servings; big little things; stress in all sizes); he set goals; and gave himself a score (how many calories he could have each day) that he strictly follows every day. He also makes the right choices: brings his own lunch since the school lunch is catered by fast food restaurants and seeks encouragement from friends and family.

It is hard not to like Taylor after reading this book. He is bright, articulate, and very helpful. While he talks about his life when he was overweight and how he was picked on, he never feels sorry for himself. And while he had reasons to over eat (including some major stressful events that would undo an adult never mind a young child/teenager). He never makes excuses for his past overeating. The book is divided into two sections: Answering the Call to Fitness, and How You can Answer the Call, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lucretia Dean on January 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an awesome book written in a first person and articulate manner. From first hand experience Taylor shares what it's really like to be an overweight or even obese person, sparing few details. However, not accepting this as his fate in life, he creates a very interesting and effective way to lose weight and, even more importantly, to become a healthier person all around. Within this book there are very specific and practical guidelines that can be used, by not only teens, but by people of most any age. Also, impressive is the quality of medical and nutritional resources that he has used to back up his plan. I would recommend this book, not only to individuals seeking to improve their health by losing weight and increasing exercise, but to anyone working with teenagers in a counseling or leadership role.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Taylor is one positive kid and would make a great motivational speaker. He says not to put off having fun, enjoying life, or thinking of yourself as a totally awesome person until you're thin. Two thumbs up to that! In ever-increasing numbers, "fitness gurus" are writing and publishing new books, promising to reveal the Great Secret of fast weight loss. We, the public, snap it up because we want somebody to tell us we can eat the same junk, never exercise, and still lose 20, 30, 100 pounds if we pop this pill or eat this food combination. Taylor comes out with it and tells us what we all already know: there is no secret. Exercise and eating the right food -- not isome fad diet -- but eating lots of fresh fruit, veggies, whole grains (and lean meat and dairy, if you aren't vegetarian or vegan), drinking lots of water, with moderation and deliberate planning on sweets and soda, is the key to weight loss. He reminds us that true and lasting weight loss isn't a "diet" and it doesn't happen quickly. It took him a year and a half to lose 150 lbs, but he did it in small increments (1-2 lbs per week) by setting achievable goals of losing 20 lbs and weighed himself only occasionally. If you diet and lose weight quickly, it's not healthy, and you are almost guaranteed those lost pounds will reappear and bring friends. Kudos to Taylor for getting fit, losing weight and keeping it off. You're setting a good example for all the kids and adults who still struggle with their weight.

One thing that did bug me were the constant plugs for Coke Zero. Diet soda is garbage -- the Splenda/Equal/Sweet'nLow it contains is even worse for you than regular soda. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can actually cause you to GAIN weight, as well as make you sick and depressed.
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