You’re Going to Die and that’s OK

Yea…  I said it.  You are going to die.  I am going to die. Everyone is going to die.  This is the ultimate guarantee that we all get once we pop into existence.  We are part of the mortal wheel and nothing you do will stop your inevitable last breath from being taken.  Not like Liam Neeson Taken where he will get it back for you.  Taken like the Bernie Madoff investment fraud scheme taken.  Sure, you can attempt to prolong the gift of life by living a healthy existence.

Eat whole foods, don’t smoke, exercise, stress less , laugh more, and be a good human to other humans.  Alas!  The death train will still arrive to whisk you away to the great beyond.  Some of us will be culled before we are ripe and old.  This is a sad fact of life as well.  You can do everything right and still be forced out of this world by shear bad luck or worse…. Karma?

Did this scare you?  Depress you?  Make you want to crawl into bed and simply wait for the inevitable?  It sure as hell shouldn’t.  This information should have the opposite effect.  Think about it.  If you knew the date and time of your impending doom, how many wonderful things would you try to experience before that appointment arrived?  We don’t think about these questions because we live under the guise that our lives will last forever and that we’re invincible.

This delusion causes us to put off getting in shape, learning a new skill, going on that big trip overseas, or simply spending time with friends or family.  We spend most of our time working.  We sit in self absorbed shells as we worry about what other people think of us.  We continuously hold back  and don’t accomplish everything we believe we’re meant to.  We are constantly frozen in fear and routinely let go of our aspirations for a simpler, less scary life.

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Scary things are really growth opportunities in disguise.

The point of all this is to show you, point blank, that life is way to short to spend it incredibly unhappy, out of shape, and unfulfilled.  Starting a fitness regimen is the perfect way to get started on a path to a more active and involved life experience.  When you create a solid body foundation, you become capable of enduring life on life’s terms and more world activities become available to you.  Start replacing all those junk meals with some whole foods, lean meats, and healthy fats (eat an avocado for God’s sake!)  The goal of life shouldn’t be to simply make it to old age but to be able to LIVE in your old age.  Bedridden is not an option for me, if I can help it!

Remember that you get out of life exactly what you put into it.  Life will invest in you if you invest in it.  Throw all your chips in and start making some changes that will shape the rest of your brief stay on this marvelous planet.  Try something new each week and do your best to get scared as much as possible!  Scary things are really growth opportunities in disguise.

Be yourself and enjoy the world around you.  Surround yourself with positive people and love unconditionally.  Be willing to be uncomfortable, shaken, and stirred.  There is so much more to life than just being afraid of death.  Treat each day as an opportunity to be the you that you are meant to be!  There is a line from the awesome animated movie Kung fu Panda that resonates with me all the time.  The wise old turtle master said, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift.  That is why it is called the present.  When you live like that, your life is truly a magnificent journey.

Fats: Reality Check

The word FAT elicits some pretty nasty emotions.  We see fat on a nutrition label and instantly become nauseated by the product were holding.  Fat has been demonized by our food industry and cast out as a nutritional pariah for many years.  “Experts” harp on the danger that high fat diets present and lead people towards some fad diet plan that can leave us in a worse position then before.  There is so much confusion surrounding fat and the way it impacts our bodies that is much easier to simply believe the hype and try to cut it out of our lives.  I am here to tell you that fat is not evil.  It does not aim to bloat your body or steal your gains.  It is not attempting to kill you or murder your dreams.  Fat is a very pivotal part of the fitness pie (pardon the pun) that should be utilized to create the healthy body you envision.Healthy-Fats

Lets look at some of the fats that are out there.

Trans Fats:

Like anything, there are good fats and bad fats.  Trans fats fall into the bad category and should be avoided at all costs.  These come from fried foods, processed goodies, and chemically manipulated treats.  These thicken your arteries, cause rapid weight gain, and contribute to many of our diet based diseases.  Avoid those deep fried donuts at every opportunity.

Saturated Fats:

Saturated fat has gotten a bad rap because of its supposed link to heart disease and high blood cholesterol.  Much of the truth has been obscured throughout the years by improper studies or bad information.  Saturated fats actually help to increase HDL Cholesterol (the good stuff).  This helps the body remove cholesterol from the blood and transport it to the liver for processing.  Sat fats also can increase the size of LDL Cholesterol (the bad stuff), which makes it harder for the LDL to breach the arterial wall and cause damage.  As an added bonus, most foods containing saturated fats taste amazing! Most of our saturated fat comes from foods like beef, butter, cheese, land animal fat, eggs, coconuts and cream.  The Health Industry has long stated that these foods should be minimized or avoided but this practice can leave you devoid of ample sources of essential nutrients for over all health.

Omega 6 Fats:

These fats are a form of Unsaturated fat that can help keep you satiated and decrease your risk of heart related illnesses.  However, these fats should be consumed on a limited basis.  This fat falls under the cliche of too much of a good thing can be bad for you.  Omega 6 fats are pro-inflammatory fats.  Inflammation is necessary for our survival but too much inflammation in the body can have dire consequences.  Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and metabolic syndrome have been linked to excess inflammation.  A good practice is to be aware of your Omega 6 intake and minimize the amount you ingest on any given day.  You should keep an eye on your consumption of items like peanut butter or oil, grape seed oil, hemp oil, soybeen oil, fast food, seeds, mayonnaise, and high fat salad dressings. Remember, these are not inherently bad foods.  A lot of them can aid you in your nutrient search.  Just be mindful of how much of this category you are consuming and you will be fine!

Omega 3 Fats:

This is another Unsaturated fat that has gotten a lot of press and good vibes for years now.  These fats are anti-inflammatory and can reduce your risk of all the previously named diseases associated with the heart, mind, and bones.  They can impact brain health and development, help with joint health, and can aid in depression treatment.  Most natural Omega 3s come from fatty fish: herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut, trout, and tuna.  You can also get these fats from some nuts and seeds, like walnuts or flaxseed, as well as different oils, like canola oil or flaxseed oil.  If some of these foods are hard to come by, not available to you, or you just would like more Omega 3s in your life, invest in an Omega 3/Fish oil supplement.  These can greatly bolster your nutrition and help you along your health improvement journey.

The goal of nutrition is to find the mix of foods. supplements, and nutrients that provides the optimal benefit for a person to achieve his or her physical vision and to allow him or her to live an abundant and healthy life.  The balance of fats is pivotal for us to attain the healthy body of our dreams.  All we can do is try our best to minimize destructive behaviors and the consumption of unhealthy foods and maximize positive decisions and increase the use of beneficial nutrients.  Start by simply substituting some healthy fat sources in place of your normal junk.  Try to keep the reasons for your selections in the front of your brain so you are always mindful of your choices and how they will affect your body.  Build on each decision.  After awhile, it will be second nature to choose almonds over nuggets!

Here’s a fat super food list that will help you make the most of your meals!

Avocados 

Almonds

Salmon

Mackerel 

Macadamia Nuts

Olive Oil

Coconut Oil

Pumpkin/Flax Seeds

Eggs

Canola Oil

Almond Butter

Walnuts

 

Slump City: Stuck in Our Own Misery

How often do we get amped up to make big changes and fix our flaws for good? How many times have we decided that we will break free of our bad habits and achieve the happiness of our dreams? The number, in my experience, is incalculable. Typically, I move strong, full speed ahead, for a week or two. My discipline is on point and nothing gets in the way of my well thought out plan of success. Then I give in to a banned temptation or I indulge one of my vices.

The mental twists return in full force and, before I know it, I am repeating the same errors that I recently repented against. I find myself searching over and over again for the strength to bypass my hardwired laziness, negative outlook, and deeply ingrained self-sabotaging behavior. Where did I go wrong?

Like most humans, I suffer from being too hard on myself. I also tend to bite off way more then I can chew when it comes to changing my behaviors. I make great progress then the weight of my challenge becomes too much for my will to bear and I buckle. Like concrete, one crack quickly leads to another fissure that ripples through the foundation. Once I give in to one vice, it becomes so much easier to allow another slip until I am right back at square one.

I was a “dry drunk”, as they say. I had to come to terms with my flawed thinking and make a decision to do something about it.

I call this “slump city”. I get to a state of stalemate. I know I need to get back on the horse but each day that goes by the horse gets taller and the saddle becomes harder to reach. I begin to loathe myself for giving in and the shame of my decisions keeps me grounded in misery. I want to achieve my dreams but I can’t bring my butt off the couch.

In order to break the cycle of shame, we must accept our current situation. We have to be completely honest with ourselves about what we want and what needs to be done to get there. Everyone makes mistakes and that is okay. It’s time to stop crying and rolling in our pain.  The cure is Action. The only way to complete a journey is to put our heads down, focus, and take a step forward. Each step builds on the one before until we look up and see our destination in sight.

Every time that I get depressed or stunted it is always because of inaction.  I let my outside circumstances take president over my spiritual serenity.  I get overwhelmed by my job, my house projects, my relationship, or my family issues.  This pushes me into a shock like state where I feel incapable of completing the tasks at hand.  It is so much easier to curl up in the bed, put on a t.v. show and pretend that my problems will melt away.  This always leads to a building of tension.  A rational person would prioritize the issues and work through them systematically like a “to-do” list or ask someone for a little help. Unfortunately, I am far from rational and I require a significant amount of emotional pain before I make a move.

I went through this slump for a few weeks this past month.  I didn’t want to post anything, workout, go to work, eat right, or deal with my problems.  I made excuses for each one of my crappy behaviors and it was absolutely miserable. My selfishness had caused me to neglect my responsibilities and obligations.  I was a “dry drunk”, as they say.  I had to come to terms with my flawed thinking and make a decision to do something about it.

The turning point is when I asked for help.  I prayed for guidance in my life, called someone with an objective opinion, and tried to help someone else like me.  I got out of my own skin and remembered how amazing my life is today compared to how it was two years ago.  Once I finally started doing the work required of me, my mental road blocks began to disintegrate.  Through action, I was able to combat fear, remorse, resentment, selfishness, dishonesty, and pain.

This can be true for anyone, even if you’re not an alcoholic or drug addict.  Don’t be too afraid or too proud to ask for help, from God or another human being, because we all need a hand fighting our demons.  Start taking some steps towards a better life by actually working through the plan that you have set.  Most importantly, be grateful for the life you have now and the opportunity you have been given to be the best you possible.  Live your life with love and fulfillment.  When you get into Slump City, remember stop sulking and start working.  You will be back to normal in no time!

How Not to Ruin Your Relationship: A Quick Guide for Couples and Fitness

There is a fine line between pushing each other towards a fitness goal and pushing each other towards the open arms of another lover.  Couple’s tend to struggle most when there is a gap in weight or physical fitness levels between the two partners.  All too often, couples find it incredibly frustrating to motivate one another in their quest for a healthier lifestyle.  We get angry, upset, jealous, sad, depressed, and discouraged by our partner’s insistence on health or our lack of progress.  We often feel inferior to our spouse, especially if he or she has made substantially more progress than us.

In turn, said spouse can find it difficult to convey their love, appreciation, affection, and encouragement without coming off as disappointed or demanding.  For the most part, we all want to be better for our significant other physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The physical part seems to be the hardest portion to nail down.  Our society places so much emphasis on our outside appearance that we, not only feel pressure from the outside world, but also from the person we love most in it.

burnsnaked

I have had my fair share of knock-down, drag out brawls with my girlfriend over the concept of health and fitness.  I have experienced the helplessness and frustration of attempting to instill my drive, motivation, and knowledge of physical fitness in her.  Often times, we have argued over exercises at the gym, fought over our meal choices, and thrown our fair share of metaphorical punches while setting goals for each other.  I would spend hours cultivating new ways to communicate my feelings and intentions, but I continually came up short.  Every plausible solution I attempted created more anger, resentment, and caused a breakdown of communication. I simply could not understand why she didn’t grasp how much I wanted to help or how hard I was working to make her fitness dreams a reality.  I blamed her for not understanding, for not wanting to follow directions, and for always battling me on the concepts that I knew to be true.  I imagined shaking sense into her and screaming at the top of my lungs, “JUST LISTEN TO ME!”

Obviously, this bared no fruit.  I had been approaching the problem with the wrong perspective and the wrong agenda.  I was attempting to force her to find “my fitness”.  I had forgotten the years of consistent training, countless hours spent on health research, and the many, many failures that helped me define my drive.  I also realized that I have a deep passion for how the body works and how best to shape it.  I wanted to fast track her fitness and clone myself in a matter of days.  I was coming off as brutish, disappointed, and impatient.  I had complete tunnel vision.

I was treating her as if she were a regular client not the love of my life.  My clients do not have a vested interest in my happiness.  They are trying to change their physical life to be better for their own motivations, not for my approval.  All my girlfriend wanted was to make me proud and feel good about herself.  Yet, there I was attempting to train her like she was any other person.

There is a particular strain that can be put on a relationship when it comes to physical health and appearance. We want to impress our lover with an amazing body. We yearn for his or her approval. We need to feel confident that we are the only thing that he or she is looking at. If, at any time, these desires and needs do not get fulfilled, we become self-loathing creatures. This sadness and sour attitude bleeds into our work, our social life, and our relationships like poison. It infects our conversations and mental attitudes. If left untreated, these feelings will calcify and become a part of our mentality. This has ruined more than a few relationships and I would be damned if I let it happen to mine.

I forced myself to refocus my messages and rethink my communication.  I observed that, often times, my words were misconstrued and digested by her brain the complete opposite way that I meant them.  If I asked, “Have you hit the gym yet?”, she was hearing, “Why haven’t you worked out already?  How can you be this lazy?  I thought you loved me?”  All I wanted to know is if she had already worked out so I can structure my afternoon.  This simple disconnect in communication is linked to her thoughts, feelings, and emotions towards me, as well as her own self-confidence and perceived fitness level.  She is effectively projecting her insecurities onto my words, which creates a poisonous potion of disaster.

This happens with all relationships all over the world.  Both parties are at fault but the responsibility rests on the partner wishing to instill change in the relationship and lifestyle.  We must alter our communication to avoid accidental offenses and breed an environment of encouragement.  We must set an example for our loved one, not stand on a pedestal and shout down directions from on high.  We are in this together and we must do our best to support one another through, not just fitness goals, but life in general.

ideal together

Here are some tips and tricks to help you convey support, affection, and motivation to your significant other, that can prevent having to change your relationship status on Facebook:

1. Never Force Anything:  If your partner doesn’t feel like working out today, don’t ever tell them that their progress will suffer or that they “need” to get some exercise.  This puts distance between the two of you and makes him or her feel like a failure.  It also makes you come off like a disappointed parent who is upset about a subpar test result.  Let them know it is ok to rest and that they are making great progress.  Suggest a couple’s walk instead.  If they still don’t bite, cook dinner together and let it go.

2. Be Patient:  When we catch the fitness bug, we tend to shout from the roof tops and encourage everyone to jump on board the health boat.  That is all well and good but many people will not adopt your passion for weights or good food as quickly as you might like.  If your partner is a slow adapter, take your time!  Don’t push too hard or too fast.  Let him or her figure things out for themselves and grasp this new lifestyle at a pace that is comfortable.  Once your spouse sees progress or begins to feel better, he or she will naturally ramp up the volume.  Sit back and encourage, never push for performance or deadlines.

3. Let a Slip Slide:  There will be inevitable deviations from the path.  Your partner will veer off into sugar town or skip a few workouts in a row.  It’s going to happen.  Accept it and move on.  Don’t pout, give judgmental looks, or tell your lover that they’re falling off the wagon.  These life adjustments are hard and require a learned set of skills and mental toughness.  Not everyone is born with an ironclad will that helps to say no to cheese cake!  Let them have their cheat cake and workout break.  All you can do is be there for them when they wish to return and encourage their fitness voyage.

4. Set Couple Goals:  This can bring you both together and intertwine your fitness agendas.  Set a goal sheet for the week that has things like:  miles walked, workouts done, desserts skipped, or number of squats completed.  It can be anything that is measured in reps or distances but, keep the list simple, number oriented and, most of all, combined.  Do not set a column for your name and your partner’s, at least in the beginning.  When you each look at the goal list, you will see a combined total of work from both parties.  This will keep your spouse from feeling discouraged if he or she slacks on certain items.  If the two of you reach your target number have a reward set, such as: a couple’s dinner, back massage and pampering session, or small trip for the weekend.  Be creative and enjoy the work!

5. Love Unconditionally:  No matter if your spouse is failing to progress or quits entirely, love him or her.  You chose to be with this person for more than physical qualities.  A person is worth more than their weight.  Remember that the only thing you can truly do is be the best person you can be for your significant other.  The only control you have is over yourself and yourself alone.  You can’t make someone into something he or she isn’t.  You can only love that person for who he or she actually is.

Sugar: Reality Check

We have all seen the news and heard the data revolving around refined sugar.  It is bad, plain and simple.  The problem is that sugar resides in almost everything we eat in modern society.  Companies crank out candy, chocolate, pastries, soda, and candy coated anything like it’s going out of style.  But sugar also hides in our canned/bottled sauces, condiments, creamers, milk, protein bars, jerky, juices, granola, breakfast cereals, pastas, and breads.

candy

We can consume 50-100 grams of sugar in a day without even realizing it.  Even if we cut back on  “bad foods”  we will still, somehow, exceed the recommended daily dose of sugar (25 grams/6 teaspoons).  There is literally no escaping the sweet stuff.  Ingesting too much sugar, over an extended period of time, has been linked to a multitude of harmful side effects such as:

  • Cardio vascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Liver Damage
  • Metabolic Dysfunction
  • Immune Dysfunction
  • Hypertension
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimers

This is just a short list.  Each of these issues can be expanded on at length, along with an alarming number of other problems that excessive sugar intake can cause.  We don’t think about these problems and diseases because they don’t affect us immediately.  That cookie won’t kill you today, but 20 years of cookies will most certainly lead to something that will.  I wanted to give a top down view of the effects that large amounts of sugar can have on the body.  My ultimate goal is to give you enough knowledge to help you navigate nutrition effectively, without getting too deep scientifically.

When you eat sugar, your blood sugar level rises (obviously).  Your pancreas proceeds to release insulin.  This hormone is used to transport the sugar, which is toxic in high amounts, out of the blood stream and into your muscles.  The catch:  your muscles can only hold so much sugar at one time for energy output.

If you haven’t done any sternous exercise right before you ingested your treat, the excess sugar is then carted off to your fat cells.  These cells gobble up the remaining sugar and store it for later use.  Because your blood was flooded with insulin to remove the sugar, your body enters hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and your brain hates that!  You are instantly sent signals, even if you’re full, to ingest more sweetness and the process starts over again.

Over time, your body becomes tolerant to the effects of sugar and you require more to produce the same energy and euphoric feelings you used to get from that one donut.  This creates addiction like symptoms.  Your body and brain constantly crave sweets with a vengeance and, if you go cold turkey, you can experience similar withdrawals akin to an avid opiate user (to a lesser degree).

This cycle of highs and lows will continue until you cut refined sugar and process carbs down to a minimal level.  Your body sees processed carbs (bread, pasta, and pastries) as if they were sugar in disguise.  It simply doesn’t know the difference between a slice of toast and a snickers bar.  With our diets revolving around these types of carbohydrates and dessert like snacks, it becomes extremely difficult to remove our sweet teeth.

If we continue to eat the way we do, we are destined for more and more of our population to enter into the realm of obesity.  The way we eat is slowly making us sick.  Companies want their food to be sold because it tastes great, but if their products are inevitably killing off the population, who will be left to buy cereal or twinkies?

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We have to adopt a different style of eating that benefits our bodies and our minds.  Rewarding yourself with a sweet cheat meal once in a while is fine and even beneficial to your sanity in our society.  It is when you wash down your bag of chips with a 20oz coke, followed by a honey bun on a daily basis, that the grim reaper starts to take notice.

Try to taper your reliance on sugar over a few weeks.  Replace a dessert with fresh fruit and some whipped cream.  Cook three dinners a week at home with your family, with an emphasis on healthy meats and good greens.  Keep a healthy nut mix (almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts) by your side throughout the day and focus more on good fats (coconut, almond butter, butter, olive oil) and minimize the processed carbs.

If you feel a sweet craving coming, grab your significant other and go for a stroll in the neighborhood.  You could even keep a journal dedicated to your food intake and reward yourself with a treat after 5-6 days of honest eating.  The possibilities are truly infinite.  Be creative and learn from your mistakes.  Don’t feel bad for cheating.  Use it as a reward and slowly add more days before a cheat meal.  You will be amazed by how quickly small tweaks will catapult you further and further from sugar town.

keto food pyramid

Remember, you are not just doing this for your waistline, which will inevitably shrink once you cut out the processed crud, but you are also doing this for your health.  You don’t want to be in a hospital regretting every piece of cake you destroyed or skittle you popped.

The risks of sugar and processed carbohydrates are real and catastrophic.  Do yourself and your family a favor.  Eat better, live longer, and enjoy the time you have been given.  Don’t let your sweet tooth check you out too early.

If you have about 45 minutes and want a more in-depth look at sugar and its effects, here is just one documentary on youtube by CBC News: The Secrets of Sugar.

Why do I care what I eat? Taking responsibility for one’s health

No matter what your activity level is or what your specific health goal is, it is always beneficial to eat better. I understand how anxiety-provoking it can be to recognize the impact of our dietary choices and consider making changes. But it’s also exciting and tremendously rewarding! Along my journey, I have found it to be incredibly empowering to take responsibility for what I put in my mouth, and to realize the great service I am doing for my health and happiness when I eat well. Exercise gets the spotlight as the way to good health in the vast majority of media and marketing ploys, but it is only a piece of the puzzle. It’s well worth your time to closely examine and possibly change your food choices!

Nutrition plays a role in every possible function of the human body. If you think about it for just a second, that will seem pretty obvious. We are LITERALLY what we eat at the cellular level. It makes sense then that nutrition plays a causal role in the development of diseases, including America’s top killers—heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It is an absolute shame that we do not hear about this more, but doctors have simply not been provided with nutritional education and do not get reimbursed when they counsel patients in the lifestyle changes that can literally save their lives.

This is a close-up of vegetables and fruits.

Plant foods have the power to turn off genes that promote the development of killer disease processes. For many young folks, this is not enough motivation to change one’s habits. With youth comes a mindset of invincibility. However, by and large, young people already have the beginnings of heart disease in their blood vessels. SIXTY-FIVE PERCENT of 12-to-14-year-olds have early signs of cholesterol disease in their hearts. That’s the vast majority of tweens, and I imagine you’re likely older than 14 if you are reading this.

If I still don’t have you, consider this: you will look and feel a whole lot better. Plants have the power to provide an abundance of energy, mental clarity, enhanced athletic performance, and a myriad of desired effects, such as fat and weight loss; soft, clear skin; healthy, lustrous hair; strong bones, teeth, and nails; decreased bloating and puffiness; better digestion; reduced body odor; clear, bright eyes; and more! Interested in losing weight and leaning out? Diet, above and beyond physical activity, is the most efficient way to do just that.

SIXTY-FIVE PERCENT of 12-to-14-year-olds have early signs of cholesterol disease in their hearts.

Granny’s advice to “eat your veggies” is absolutely correct. The problem is typically implementation. In both my professional and personal lives, I’ve heard the reasons why. “It costs too much to eat healthy.” “I don’t have time to prepare those meals.” “I don’t know how to cook that way.” “My kids/spouse/partner won’t eat that.” “I don’t like fruit/veggies.” That’s all well and good, but at the end of the day, it is YOUR life and YOUR body. It is YOUR choice how you feed yourself. How you choose to eat will have consequences. It is within your power to determine the trajectory of those consequences—aspiring towards extremely good health and a long life, or towards the typical American path, riddled with disease, low quality of life, and premature death. This is not meant to scare you, but to be a reality check. Your health is in your hands, not your doctor’s. And that’s pretty cool if you ask me.

Guest Post:  Taylor Norris

Taylor Norris