Archive for October, 2012

Why I Encourage Optimized Nutrition

I am a dogmatic advocate for people eating more vegetable, more protein, less sugar, more fish oil and never being stuffed. Speaking from personal experience, client experience and a lot of research, my stories are animated, passionate and authentic:

“Sugar is an addictive poison that ruins human health”

“Eat things that look like food or that you can identify in the produce section or at a butcher shop”

“Consider the impact of corporate profit when making a decision of what you should buy and eat.”

“The food we eat is the primary thing on earth that eventually becomes our bodies. Choose wisely or risk turning your body into a low quality piece of shit.”

“When someone eats more than that occasional crappy meal, they are making the statement that they don’t care that much about their future selves or about the people who look up to them.”

These are truths that people despise considering.

I get it, ice cream and pie taste great, eating chips can be very satisfying for many people, beer does make any sporting event more exciting to watch and wine can help you to be the life of the party, but these things have been proven to be less than optimal for human health; too much of them will hurt you, ruining your life and eventually being the cause of your death.

This knowledge is not new, nor is our addiction to these things. Consuming low quality, low nutrient, high energy food-like products is quickly becoming a key reason for ill health and lost potential. The science supports this, the subjective reports of those who make eating for optimal health a priority support this, my own experience supports this.

When someone goes from eating like crap - an average north American diet - to eating appropriate amounts of real food, they all report improved energy, clearer thinking, reduced body fat, boosted performance at work, the bedroom, where-ever, improved circulation, a stabilization of improved and energy, increased ease of life, reduction in stress and a dramatic boost in vitality. Their life improves in almost every measurable way.

I want an optimized nutritional life for everyone for a few reason:

  1. Having more people who are highly productive will increase tax revenue which hypothetically will reduce the amount of tax everyone has to pay.
  2. Healthier people tend to be happier people, so the collective mood of our culture will improve if people optimize their nutrition.
  3. Given the energy sapping and negative impacts on cognitive function created by crappy food, more of humanities creative, intellectual, and industrial potential will be actualized when people eat appropriately.
  4. I want to be part of the positive change in peoples lives because that is a big part of my purpose.
  5. Watching people destroy their futures can be tough and I find it hard to hold those who eat poorly in the same regard as those who eat for health.
  6. Children learn from watching their parents, so the more parents who eat good quality whole food, the greater the number of young people who will learn to eat good quality whole food.

The evidence is overwhelming, improve you nutrition, improve your life and improve the positive footprint you have on your world. Or keep low quality food-like stuff and suffer from low energy, disease and wasted potential. Now what are you going to choose?

How To Alter Someones Brain Functioning

People can get inside our heads and toy with our brain. Everyone can do it, most of us do. But it’s a mindless thing because we rarely see what has happened or that we were doing it. It is so wildly simple that it is kind of terrifying, particularly because the ability to have someone impact our thinking is hardwired into our genetic code.

MOST people can and are toyed with in this way a lot, daily. I used to do it to my clients and I’ll do it in most meaningful conversations with people I don’t know or have just met because most people don’t really want to talk openly with strangers in-spite of their desire and need to be social. For this to be effective, you need to trigger one of a number of deeply routed automatic response within a person. Once triggered, the thoughts of a person change in a very predictable way.

You can open someone up by acting the same way you do when you are with someone you are really close to. Smile, make eye contact, listen and engage their words / thoughts, ask inappropriate questions without showing any discomfort, engage them intensely and without judgment, think about their words and let the feelings they create float through you, ultimately make the conversation about them and you will find people say the most incredible things. For example, after someone told me that they were terminally ill I asked them what it was like to be dying, he was scared and while he could see the connection between his actions and his impending doom, he sort of wished that he wasn’t going to die. I learned that it’s tough to not blame your parents when you get molested by a family member and that the most scaring thing in this case was that you no longer trust anyone to look out for their best interests - if their parents couldn’t do it, no one would. An armed forces member told me that he doesn’t talk about his experiences in Afghanistan just that he’s glad to be home safe and with the people he knows how to miss.

My questions were abrupt and inappropriate but my curiosity was genuine and my desire to learn was pure. It’s easy to not feel uncomfortable about doing something with harmless and good intentions, but that doesn’t really matter. By acting like you are intimate friends with someone you get into their brain and trick it into acting as though the conversation is with a best friend.

You can close someone down just as quickly by doing the opposite. Being uncomfortable around them, by being rigid, contrived, disrupting to the natural flow of the conversation, by not being present. Don’t smile or make eye contact. Wait to talk or talk the moment you have something to say. Ask yes / no or data collection questions and move on to the next topic after receiving the data (data is context free facts like dates, times, yes or no). Basically think about and engage the other person as though they don’t matter very much because once they sense their lack of importance they will close down.

Assume a dominate / parent-like position and actions, you can get their brain to spontaneously run antiquate processes from the past. They will unconsciously take on and display child-like behavior and display the actions of a subordinate figure - raising your voice, taking a overbearing stance. By acting child-like you can often get other people to take on a parent-like role - appearing vulnerable or helpless will often trigger spontaneous parenting type actions.

Effective sales people know and employ these forms of conversational / behavior control all the time, as do most compliance practitioners. Fortunately there has been a recent movement towards information sharing and relationship building in sales, so the need to guard yourself from this type of influence is decreasing. But be warned, it still exists and you will be susceptible to it IF you forget that it can happen.

Filling The Silence With Our Fear

In driving to the gym the other day, Heather was relating a story about a conversation she had during the day. The conversation had been with a married coworker who had moved from overseas with her family. The lady misses her parents and during a chat with her husband, she became aware of just how much she was missing her father. When her husband asked her what was wrong, she didn’t tell him.

“Bet that didn’t go too well” I said.

“How could it have? We fill in the blanks with stories about us” was Heathers reply.

She coached her friend to not say “nothing” when there was something wrong, particularly when having a conversation with someone who cares a lot about you, given the tendency to fill-in an unknown with fear and items based on their insecurity. Her recommendation was for the sharing of thoughts and feelings with those who care for you to create intimacy and fosters a sense of close openness. It will improve a relationship as it helps to keep a tight focus on the things that are important and real.

From a psychological point of view, filling in the silence / blanks with fear and insecurity makes sense. We are the perceptual center of the universe so our initial point of reference is always going to be our own. As a species, we don’t really gain an understanding that other people have a point of view until mid to late teens; although some never grasp this understanding. It can take a lot of mental effort and willingness to consider and see the world from another perspective as we will never have any direct experience with it and the action of seeing the world from another perspective requires abstract and imaginative thinking.

From a sociological perspective, we need a sense that we have some control over our environment so we see ourselves as being the cause of other people’s actions. We are almost hyper-aware of any indicators that we are not liked because these things serve as a warning that we are about to become alienated from the group; a need to belong to the group in an antiquated carryover from our evolutionary past given that isolation would usually mean death within a couple of days. As is the way when we look for something, we find evidence for our pending eviction in the actions of other people. Most of the time, we take-on responsibility and blame for the silence and fill in the missing information with things that we could have controlled.

The modern world is very different from the world our ancestors came from so many of our behavioral defaults are not relevant. Loners can do very well in north America and one could argue that many of the people at the top of the corporate ladder benefit from approaching the world in a way that does not give as much consideration to the possible impact that actions have on other people.

But relationships are not corporations so we need to engage our partners in a way that is sensitive to their tendency to regard themselves as the cause of things. The quality of the relationship will improve dramatically when what is actually going on is related to them so they don’t have to make up what it is they did to cause what is occurring.

NOTE - after I wrote this I realized that I’ve observed others leaving out the critical information in an attempt to manipulate how people think, feel and act. I’d recommend someone be cautions when advancing a relationship that has some or is becoming rife with silence instead of explanations.

Who Are You Feeding?

Having been in the fitness industry for well over a decade, I have heard the following conversation countless times with the same usual outcome:

“I want lower my body fat, and look and feel better.”

“Outstanding, we can help you with all of those things. When was the last time you looked and felt the way you want to look and feel?”

“Oh, it has been a long time, when I was much younger. When I could eat whatever I wanted and didn’t have to worry about weight.”

“Okay, so this is a new journey for you and you’re aware that you’ll need to do a bunch of new things to achieve new results?”

“Yeah, I’m fully committed to doing whatever it takes to reach my goal.”

“Fantastic, this is going to be a lot of hard work, but once you make real this desire to look and feel amazing you’ll be grateful for all of the effort you put into it.”

So far, so good, someone has a desire for something they have never achieved. Given that they have never achieved it, they connect with the experts to learn how to make it possible. For a few weeks they follow the nutrition advice, reduce their stress, train with a trainer 3-4 times per week and independently 1-3 times per week and their transformation has a fantastic beginning.

But this great start is often stopped dead in its tracks when the body and brain begin to make real the story the people tell about themselves. Suddenly and quickly, the person begins to act in a way that isn’t conducive to achieving their goal. Most often the breakdown will be about food - they start to eat food that they know isn’t going to move them towards their goal or they eat in a way that isn’t recommended and that doesn’t help get them them any closer. Other times they stop training with the intensity or frequency that is needed to keep momentum and progress going.

Unbeknownst to them, they are paying service to a version of themselves that didn’t believe that achieving the goal was possible. They are, in essence, feeding their old self and making sure it continue to exist as opposed to altering their actions to become the new possibility.

Call it self-sabotage, the expression of their belief of self-worth, whatever, the end result is the same, corrective thoughts, feeling and behaviors do not get traction and the individual remains the same – overweight, lacking vitality and living an uninspired physical life. It’s an avoidable shame and tends to be the outcome of an incomplete conversation during the initial conversation about training.

What is missing is the needed conversation to get answered the “how did you do it?” questions about your life and how you ended-up straying away from the life you wanted to live. These questions need to be asked because human beings pay service to their uncommunicated habits and because each individual is the expert in how they came to be how they are. They don’t need to get into the “why” questions because the answers to these questions do little to shed light on the new way of being that is needed to achieve results that have never been achieved.

What this does that is so important for transformation is help someone see their past as a series of behaviors so they are then able to see their progress as a series of different behaviors. Their present stops being the past and starts to become their future – it is only through different thoughts, feelings and actions that someone will be able to become transformed.

This needs to happen because human beings are complex and require more than a coat of new paint to become something physically, emotionally and spiritually different. Critical to transformation is the wisdom gained from understanding what was occurring to keep things the same because if these behaviors remain unknown they will repeated.

To do the job correctly a trainer / coach does not just to show people the way to make the lasting change but to also show them how they found their way to needing the change in the first place.

So, how do you feed the more energetic and goal achieving you? It’s very simple, you eat frequent servings for plants and small amounts of meat that haven’t been processed, flavored or “enriched”. You eat things that will rot quickly without refrigeration, things that have not been manipulated extensively to change their form or state. You eat chicken and not chicken nuggets, beef not hamburgers, fish not fish sticks. You eat green leafy vegetables and not just green powders or vitamin pills. You eat small amounts of fruit and not fruit bars. You drink water and not sugar water solutions. Basically, we foods that are high in nutrients and low in energy.

You make and take the time to buy good quality whole foods and prepare it with care, creating meals that don’t look that much different from the foods you bought. You remain open to the possibility for a new you and embrace the reality that this different version needs different things. Then you do these things over and over and over again until they become automatic and  part of your new identity.

Ways To Ensure You Don’t Make Progress

Below are some ways to have an average life and to not make progress.

  • Make an assumption without getting enough information
  • Believe that others share the same understanding of language that you do
  • Do not make clear declarations of wants, expectations or boundaries
  • Be afraid to be alone and be willing to put-up with almost anything to make sure it doesn’t happen
  • Fall for the idea of something and enroll others to play a role in making that idea real vs. letting them be self expressed
  • Be insecure
  • Have a strong need to be liked
  • Be a dreamer and give other people the benefit of the doubt
  • Do not learn from your mistakes
  • Put other peoples needs in front of your own

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood there exists a moment of time in which we exist with grounded and realistic possibilities - it’s the few weeks between wanting to be a cowboy rock-star astronaut and accepting that we need to go to school, get a good job, pay taxes, settle down and pass along our wisdom to the next generation.

It would be easy, and untrue, for me to say that you shouldn’t give a crap about anyone else because we need other people in order to amount to anything. Be it their money, their labor, their ideas, their esteem, a connection to them, or their love, other people are important. But what isn’t important are most of the reasons why we may view them as important. You do not become less worthy if someone isn’t nice to you, you do not become more worthy when you sacrifice your own needs / wants to help another person out, you do not become unlovable if you do not have a romantic partner, and your life does not have less meaning simply because something you planned and worked hard on didn’t turnout the way you had hoped it would.

We need people in our life and in society to make everything possible, what we do not need is the constant internal chatter about them and the impact they have on our lives. The moment of grounded realistic possibilities is the moment right before we began to embody the narcissistic obsession about what other people thought and allowed these thoughts to impact our feelings and actions.

If you want to make progress in life you need to accept that other people exist and serve an important function in your life. But you need to remain diligent when it comes to what this function is. Share the planet with them, but notice always the important aspects of your life and who they are impacted by your view of what other people think, feel and do.

In the end, you need to know what you want out of life and this is impossible when you are spending a lot of your time fixated on what you think other people want out of life.

100 Tips To Have An Extraordinary Life

I found this list of 100 tips to live an extraordinary life by Dr. Sukhi and felt it was worth sharing.

4. Develop a Routine and Rituals.

5. Exercise Everyday.

6. Start Your Day With Visualization.

7. Laugh and Play.

8. Create Short and Long Term Goals.

18. See Challenges as Opportunities.

19. Get a Mentor.

20. Know What You Value.

21. Be Somebody Others Respect.

29. Be Enthusiastic.

30. Plan Your Days, Weeks and Months.

31. Create Extraordinary Experiences for Those You Love.

32. Cultivate the Kid in You.

54. Always Tell the Truth.

55. Be Persistent and Patient.

56. Don’t Judge Others.

There are a number of things on the list that have been posted on this blog before, some that are part of the common experience of our culture and others that are new, uncomfortable and outside the normal way of being. But always keep in mind that an extraordinary life requires extraordinary actions so don’t count on remaining comfortable as being one of those things.

6 Ways To Create A Better Life

Ever see one of those people who is always happy and wonder what they are doing different that seems to bring everything they want into their life? The people will the big smile, the positive energy and a willingness to go along with whatever seems to come their way, as though it was exactly what was supposed to happen? If you ever sit down and talk to them, you’ll uncover some very surprising things about how they engage the world that seem to open closed doors and create a better life at every moment.

Having a great life is simply a matter of finding out and doing what they do so this greatness is within the realm of possibility for most of us. Below are 6 things that you can start doing today that will improve your experience this summer and beyond.

1) Create goals and look at them every morning when you wake-up and every night before you go to bed. You need to know where you are going in order to get there and your goals are the best predictor of your future, if you focus on achieving them. “Book ending” your day with a quick review of your goals primes your brain to work on them while you are awake and while you sleep. In fact, without priming your brain with problems to solve, you cannot expect to achieve anything that you haven’t already experienced. Take 10 minutes to read your goals at the beginning and end of your day to think and feel what it will be like to achieve them. Creating the emotional sense of accomplishment can alter how your process the world and this can present the pathway to everything that you want.

2) Do 4 hours of intense exercise per week. 4 hours is a critical amount, and having your heart rate elevated is key. This minimum amount of exercise will help improve body composition, improve blood circulation and get your body functioning more efficiently. It’s going to reduce stress, improve sleep and help you look and feel great. Good health is often considered one of the top 3 things needed to have a happy life, so dedicating 4 hours out of 168 that are available per week to move you towards a better life is a small time investment.

3) Eat food that you can identify as food and that will rot in a few days without refrigeration. Food is the only thing that actually becomes you. Every cell that you are is made-up of participles that were outside your body until you ate them. Higher quality food is going to supply more and higher quality nutrient so buy the best quality food that you can afford. The food you eat should be identifiable – that is, you should have some idea from where on the farm it came– and when left at room temperature, it should spoil fairly quickly. Things that have an indefinite shelf life or come from a factory tend to be much lower or void of nutrition. Eat as little of these food-like products as you can in favor of whole foods.

4) Be grateful. It is impossible to be unhappy when you are grateful. You may feel many emotions, but sadness will not be one of them. Being grateful creates a sense of connectedness to others that can eliminate feelings of isolation. It will also alter the way you view the entire world as gratitude tends to have a cascading effect on perception – if you process things from a place of gratitude, you will see more and more things in the world to be grateful for, which will make you happier.

5) Surround yourself with people who are living a great life and get their help in making your life better. This is a matter of doing what they do to achieve what they have achieved. Copy those who have blazed the trail and get the same outcome. Ask them for help and follow their advice. They’ll save you a lot of trial and error and boost the chances of you achieving your goal.

6) Remain open or childlike! Very often life is not going to go the way you want or plan. Embrace this fact and realize that the things that are unfamiliar actually create more joy in the long run than the things that are predictable. Accept that every lesson grew out of something you didn’t know before. Being wrong is the best way we have of eventually being right, but only when we accept and remain open to making mistakes. If you want to make an extraordinary life for yourself, you need to learn some extraordinary things thought the making of some extraordinary mistakes. Be childlike with your mistakes, be open to making them, learn from them and discard any sense of shame they created.

That’s it, 6 simple things you can start doing that will being to transform your experience of life into the realm of greatness. Begin to do one a week until all 6 of them are a habit and be curious and pleased to see the impact they have on your life!

How Your “Do Not Want” List Becomes What You Find And Get

I was talking to a friend the other day and during the follow-up about our last conversation I asked them about their goals list. When it came to finding a suitable romantic partners they said “I made a list of what I’m not looking for.” There was a moment of silence as I let their words float over me and then said “what’s that doing for you?”

“Well, nothing much. I notice that there are a lot of people who aren’t what I’m looking for, and some of them are actually kind of cute and interesting.”

“Yellow cars” was my reply.

“What about them?”

“Look for yellow cars and after a few days you’ll get really good at finding them.”

The “do not want” list is something that I have heard before and while it is how I used to operate globally, I’ve noticed that in some areas of my life it has either returned. While it is reassuring to realize that it is as ineffective for others as it is for me, I need to be honest and say that I’m wasting a bit of potential every time I operate this way.

Here’s why:

At first pass it seems to make sense given that it is a good idea to have standards - drug addicts, abusers, narcissists or the dishonest should not make an intelligent persons short list of potential romantic partners. Issues arise when someone looks for these things first as a way to eliminate people because you find exactly what you are looking for. There is no shortage of people and that means there is no shortage of defective people. It is almost a certainty that every day of your life you can find a few people that are matches on your “do not want” list. Another certainty is that by spending time identifying the “do not wants”, you will have little time to spend on the “do want” list.

How to avoid this pitfall:

Know what you want. This may not make sense if you haven’t had a lot of experiences, so have a lot of experiences as soon as you can. If you have had a lot of experiences, focus on the things that you liked about the experiences, the things that you wanted to repeat over and over and the things that brought you joy / elation / fulfillment. Make a list of these things and spend some time mediating / thinking about the items on the list with the intention of uncovering a pattern - there is a very good chance that the things you like in your job, your hobbies and volunteer work will be the same things that you are seeking from your romantic life. If you are in a successful relationship, the things you like about it are likely going to be the same things that you should be looking for in your professional life.

All is not wasted if you have a “do not want” list. Simply change the items into the “do wants”. For example, “I don’t want someone who is self centered or narcissistic” becomes “I want someone who has a high level of self awareness”, “I don’t want someone who is dishonest” becomes “I want someone who strives to communicate accurately and effectively”, “I don’t want a career that has me working long hours away from my family” becomes “I want a career that gives me work / life balance”, etc…. Then get out there and have lots more experiences aware of what it is you are looking for.

We attract and find what we are looking for. It doesn’t matter what it is, how it impacts our life or the consequences having it, it will find its way into our existence. For this reason, we need to be very careful with our use of language and seek out the positive things in the world.

Interesting Stuff About Conflicts of Interest

When there is a conflict of interest, people can easily abandon their ethics and serve their own needs. Even good people. Not because they are complete jerks (or jerks at all), but because they don’t actually see what they are doing.

In this clip, Dan Ariely tells a story about why you shouldn’t trust your dentist. The dentist has something to gain from selling you dental services / products but you don’t necessarily NEED the service / product. Gray / silver colored fillings are functionally the same as white once yet the white ones tend to be sold first.

The entire conversation is great, shocking actually. But it gave me some insight into why I despised selling supplements when I was a trainer - because someone was gaining from them being sold and it usually wasn’t the person who buys them.

So what?

By knowing that your service providers are capable of shifting their ethics when they stand to gain from a particular outcome that they can influence, you will maintain a level of objectivity that will empower you to make the decisions that are right for you. Keeping this in mind is always the correct thing to do, particularly when faced with the fact that they may not even be aware of their subjective bias.

Their lack of knowledge is actually what obligates you to maintain your objectivity as it serves your best interests and helps them to maintain their ethical identity.

Why is it so tough to call someone on their bias?

As Dan states in the video “once you meet someone face to face it is incredibly unpleasant to mistrust them.” It can seem like (and be received as) a slap in the face to them and it serves as a reminder that we can’t actually trust ourselves when it comes to vetting bull-crap. The second point is true for everyone so the first point is irrelevant - so what if they or you feel mistrusted, the science supports the fact that people CANNOT be trusted when there is a conflict of interest. When someone stands to gain something, there is a very good chance that they will lie without realizing that they are lying.

Your call to action

Stand-up for your best interests. Ask them for the proof when they make a claim. If something is described as better, find out if this is based on evidence or is just an opinion. Educate yourself. Perform your due-diligence before you buy. Learn to accept that bad feeling you get when you say “no” to someone by realizing that you can buy later. Notice the way you feel when being engaged by others and become aware that being manipulated feels like something; if that feeling is triggered, understand what is happening and move on.