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Training Is Action, All Types Of Action

Often forgotten or repressed is the fact that body composition changes are the result of 1000’s of small actions over a sustained period of time. Oftentimes, people simply regard their time in the gym or exercising as their training and neglect the rest of the important steps.

Food consumption is training - eating 5-8 good quality meals per day can be a challenge, more of a challenge than an intense 45 minute workout. But eating frequently is critical in creating new eating behaviors, regulating blood sugar and optimizing metabolic functioning.

Food preparation is training - making 5-8 good quality meals per day can be a challenge. But since food supplies the building blocks needed to remake our bodies, preparing meals of a high quality is essentially MORE important than the workouts we do to break down the tissues that serve as the catalyst for adaptation.

Getting sufficient rest and recovery is training - being asleep before 11 pm has been shown to be extremely important in regulating anabolic hormones and the hours of rest between 11pm and 3am are some of the most critical times for recovery as they represent the best opportunity for falling into the deepest stages of sleep. The body does not recover when it is moving, so lying down and being still (as we are when we are asleep) is important for making the most out of the time spent training.

Reducing stress is training. Cortisol is released in response to stress. It is a catabolic hormone breaking down protein to create sugar to fuel fight or flight responses. ANY stress can cause the release of cortisol so it is important to reduce the stress response and limit the amount of stress that we experience.

Looking after your tissues is training. Rigorous exercise causes muscles to tighten-up, which can place increased stress / pulling on joints that can lead to pain. Maintaining flexibility requires dedicated time to stretch / foam roll.

The notion that 4 hours of physical exercise is sufficient to create a body transformation is not accurate. It is a great start, and they create a critical foundation from which to base all other self improvement actions, but they represent about 50% of the effort that is required.

Keystone Habits - Becoming A Dieter Through Exercise

Over the years an unusual pattern / occurrence has come to light with most of my body transformation clients - if they exercise more than 3 times per week their diets improve, they stop smoking and they reduce their consumption of alcohol.

The inverse is not true though, those who fix their diets, quit smoking or reduce drinking do not spontaneously start exercising.

This is significant because when it comes to improving the quality of life, correcting nutritional habits is a bigger player than exercise. If you want to reduce body fat, which is associated with reduced risks of most illnesses, diet is a lot more effective at achieving this than exercise. Many forms of cancer are associated with poor dietary choices and the debilitating effects of diabetes can be severely reduced by cessation of sugar in all forms.

However, bang for your buck, working out 4 times a week will contribute more to improving your health and health related behaviors than just trying to fix you diet IN SPITE of the fact that fixing your diet is actually what will help you the most.

Exercise is special because it is a keystone habit - a keystone is the center stone in an arch, the final stone to be placed and the one that holds the entire arch together. Exercise serves this function when it comes to living a healthy and the highest quality life possible. It teaches the body / brain that actions matter and this creates the momentum needed to start caring about the consequences of other actions. Those who exercise more, eat better, drink more water, sleep better, smoke and drink less, have better sex, make better decisions and save more money.

Quitting smoking, improving ones diet, or reducing alcohol consumption, while all critical in improving the quality of life, do not play a keystone function with behavior. As such, they rely on will power to maintain and tend not be to self-sustainable over the first few weeks or months. Relapse tends of occur when routines are disrupted or when one is challenged outside of their normal day-to-day levels. Further more, cessation of anything that replies on willpower alone to achieve tends to be associated with higher levels of stress which themselves increase the risk of failure.

Improving your life without starting an exercise routine is possible, but it is much more challenging and relies on the creation of new habits that are rewarding in the long run but represent short term sacrifices. This is unlike exercise because exercise is rewarding almost immediately, and in the long term benefits are undeniable.

To this end, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense for someone who is over the age of 35 to try and address their weight concerns through diet alone. In fact, the best thing they can do to improve their diet is to exercise more. Frankly, the best thing they can do to improve any aspect of their life is to exercise more.

It doesn’t take much. 4 hours of moderately intense exercise each week will quickly begin to reverse some of the signs of aging on the body and begin to motivate your brain to correct other habits that are not working for you.

Get out there and start moving more! Join a gym, start play a sport you love, take-up cycling. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you get moving. Do it for a few weeks and be pleased to notice the positive changes in other areas of your life.

What Neuroscience Says About Over Eating

Doctor Daniel Amen does a lot of research with the brain. Along one of the paths, tracking brain injuries with football players, he uncovered some very interesting things about the human brain:

As weight goes up, brainpower goes down. The size and function of the brain diminishes as BMI goes up….the larger people were, the smaller their frontal lobes were, and that’s a disaster because the frontal lobes run your life! Not only are we finding that overeating and overweight cause changes in the brain, but we’re seeing that brain patterns can influence how we respond to food.

It goes both ways. If you have low frontal-lobe activity, as is common with attention deficit disorder (ADD), for example, you’re much more likely to be obese. The frontal lobes are critical to making decisions such as food choices….

Consider the ramifications of this two way street. We’re born magnificent, capable of developing to our full potential and living a long illness free life. Our prefrontal cortex doesn’t develop until we’re in late childhood / early teenage years and grows throughout puberty - if we make it through most of childhood, there is a very good chance that we can have it all.

But along the way we get fat. It could be that our folks are too busy to cook healthy dinners, they didn’t know what to buy and cook, you were a picky SOB, whatever, you ended-up fat. As a result, your prefrontal cortex does not develop optimally and your brain in general is smaller than it would have been had you remained lean and optimal.

Moving through life, with a smaller brain, you suffer the consequences of having reduced executive functioning. Your working memory isn’t as good, your will power is compromised and your ability to anticipate the consequences and deal with the future just doesn’t hit on all cylinders.

Staying fat is easier because you don’t have the tools needed to think your way out of it, or at least, control your behavior out of it. You may never see a healthy weight again.

I don’t mean to scare you because you do have options here, but if you are over weight or have a tendency to over eat, you may need to consider enrolling an expert in helping you gain the skills needed to reverse the path of destruction you are on. Let them be your proxy until your brain repairs itself and can anticipate and plan for a better future.

10 Things That Will Boost Your Progress

Intelligent people want to be living a life that is moving forward, growing towards something greater than that which  already is. It could be a part of human nature, part of how we were raised or part of our specific genetic code, but intelligent people are on the move, forward and upward. Progress is the unit of measurement, the currency of driven people, and we like to fill our banks with lot of it!

Below are ten things that will speed-up your progress; not just your body transformation or your athletic pursuits, but in all areas of your life.

  1. Realize that effort alone doesn’t work. Many business owners perform all the roles of their company and their business say small because of this. The 20 hour days don’t yield the same results as a well thought out 10 hour day at enrolls other people in doing some of the work. Effort is kind, up until a certain point, then it becomes a joker.
  2. Know your motivation. Be moving towards something very important or leave something behind that needs to be left behind. Or both! There needs to be a compelling reason for WHY you are trying to progress. Progress for its own sake is good, progress for a higher purpose is GREAT. Focus on this purpose and enjoy the boost in efficiency. Most people do not know their motivation for doing things and this is a huge limiting factor with their progress. Have a compelling MUST have reason and notice what happens in your life to help you get it.
  3. Learn from EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. We learn from experiences, not from sitting around. Be open and wise to the fact that you don’t know everything. Progressing forward is about acquiring new knowledge and converting it into wisdom, and this will only happen when stuff goes in. This applies to both the things to do and the things to NOT do - there is a reason why someone lost their job which is usually not the inverse reason why someone keeps their job. Learn from both and maximize your progress.
  4. Choose proof over theory. Some things look great on paper but don’t pan out as predicted while other things seem doomed from the beginning but turnout to be not just the best way to accomplish a task but the ONLY way to accomplish it. When you are looking for progress, go with what works. When you are looking to innovate, go with theory.
  5. Take a few small actions each day. Success is made-up of 1000’s of small things. Progress is about attrition against the odds. While it is unlikely that the small thing you do today will lead you to the victory you are looking for, not doing the small things is usually the reason for a lack of progress. If it takes a few minutes and you have a few minutes, just do it. It will get it out of the way and make action your method of operating.
  6. Set many small and achievable tasks. 10’s or 100’s of these tasks will make-up a goal. Setting-up goals as being the combination of many small things makes achieving them more likely as they won’t overwhelm or discourage you. This way you will always be making progress, everyday and with almost every action.
  7. Find someone to be accountable to who you WILL be accountable to. Sadly, many people get into the habit of not being accountable to themselves as there is a temporal processing issue with it - how do you be accountable to the you of the past? The finest way to overcome this is to enroll someone else to help you stay on track. Engage someone who will be dogmatic about your objectives and who will press you hard when you present excuse as reason.
  8. Track your results to make sure you are staying on track. Consider enrolling someone else as the tracker of your progress - ideally your accountability person. When you do not achieve your results, you need to uncover the cause of your breakdown and eliminate the offending behavior. The objective opinion of an outsider can be the difference between a slow or light speed progress. They only have a vested interest in your results, not your emotional reasons for not acting in a goal achieving way.
  9. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes. Being progressive is about acting in a progressive way, not about achieving a progressive thing. If you do the right things for long enough, the outcome is an inevitability.
  10. Become part of a success orientated group. Successful people need to be surrounded by other successful people and there can be a magnificent synergy between group members. It is usually true that many minds are better than one when it comes to seeing solutions so engage others and enroll them in your journey. This will boost your accountability and it can dramatically increase the intellectual resources that work on an issue, problem or task. You never know what or who other people know, so connect with others and share unconditionally; both your quest and your wisdom.

What Your Doctor Won’t Be Doing About Your Possible Heart Disease

We are not doctors. Doctors have gone to school for many years and are well educated about many of the pathologies that can impact human beings. Most are very good at their job and although overworked sometimes they are well intentioned with their actions. The problem with doctors is that they are part of a reactive model when it comes to addressing disease; they’ll encourage you to do certain things, but by in large they are more useful when you become sick. Dealing with sick people is their scope of practice.

We, as coaches, take a preventative approach when it comes to disease. We look for visual and behavioral markers that trend towards disease or ill health and set out to engage and enroll others in the possibility of eliminating these behaviors to ensure a higher quality of life. We do not prescribe anything other than exercise and good quality nutrition plan.

Our approach to disease prevention in terms of heart disease is superior to that of a traditional methods because we address no fewer than 10 of the top 20 markers for heart disease:

  1. Endothelial dysfunction (hardening of blood vessels)
  2. Increased oxidative stress and/or lack of oxidative defenses
  3. Dyslipidemia (increase in lipid levels of the blood)
  4. Increased HS-CRP and inflammation
  5. Elevated homocysteine
  6. Hypertension
  7. Age
  8. Genetics
  9. Calcification seen on heart scans
  10. Hormonal deficiencies in men and women
  11. Diabetes mellitus, hyperglycemia and increased insulin levels
  12. Hypothyroidism
  13. Heavy-metal toxicity
  14. Lack of exercise
  15. Lack of sleep
  16. Low levels of vitamins K and D
  17. Left ventricular hypertrophy
  18. Microalbuminuria and/or kidney disease
  19. Obesity
  20. Smoking

Let’s compare the potential actions of your doctor to what we will do to help you avoid heart disease.

Doctors will give you advice, medication or a referral to a specialist. In general, they’ll tell you to stop smoking, eat better quality foods, exercise more and lower you stress. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or hormonal imbalances, they’ll likely give you medication for these. If you have become sick, they’ll get you to see a specialist who will look after the specifics and likely have a tough conversation with you about death and how your actions are going to end with you in an early grave. Most of what occurs is good and it can be helpful, but very little time will be spend on the uncovering the reasons why you choose actions that aren’t working for you and how you are going to tread into the unfamiliar and start new behaviors.

What we as coaches will give you is advice, coaching, and will refer you to a specialist if that is what is needed. We’ll help you to stop smoking, make better food choices, exercise more to help lower your stress. We won’t give you any medication to lower your cholesterol, high blood pressure or correct hormonal imbalances. And we will have the tough conversation with you about your behavior and how the whole journey ends. All of this is good because you can do everything we recommend without having to involve a doctor, pharmacist and a slew of chemical engineers and researchers. We offer one thing that the doctors don’t, ongoing external accountability and you will see us 2-5 times a week and may have 100’s of interactions with us in a few months.

Something special happens when you enroll other people in your transformation journey, the chances of it being effective increase dramatically because you will actually perform the needed actions over and over and over again. Somehow appropriate eating of healthy food and the participation in planned and spontaneous exercise becomes normalized and when something becomes normal it becomes your habit.

What does this have to do with heart disease and what the doctor may not be telling you?

Well, exercise improves the quality of the blood vessels, it improves insulin sensitivity which can lower lipid levels in the blood. It can help to lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure, lower stress, improve sleep and it can make the continuation of smoking challenging.

Improving your nutritional habit will reduce oxidative stress and improve your ability to recover from all types of stress, it will stabilize insulin levels, decrease fatty acid levels in the blood (lower cholesterol), improve vitamin K and D levels, reduce the risk of kidney disease and promote thyroid functioning.

The doctor my tell you to eat better and exercise more, and take some pills. They won’t be there to help you ramp-up the exercise and manage the changes in eating because they have sick patients to see. And the pills they are prescribing treat the symptom of disease and not the underlying issue. In almost all cases, heart disease is a lifestyle disease so it is prevented by good quality food and appropriate exercise. The food and exercise do something the pills cannot, they change the internal environment profoundly such that disease creation becomes almost impossible.

Keep in mind that we are not doctors, we are nutrition and exercise coaches who are dedicated to helping our clients enjoy the full experience of a long life. Our solutions are hard work, fundamental shifts in eating behaviors and ongoing accountability to someone outside of yourself. If you are sick, go and see a doctor, if you want to avoid getting sick, come and see us.

The Opportunity Cost Of Not Trying To Be Healthy

Opportunity cost is defined as the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. For example, the opportunity cost of spending all of your money on a nice car having no money for food, a house, entertainment, gas for the car, etc…. It’s a fairly straight forward concept and can be used in many areas to describe the costs of making a particular decision.

Ill-health is usually measured in relation to disease such that the opportunity cost of getting sick is measured as lost years of life. We cannot disagree with this measurement as something like a terminal diagnosis of cancer does shorten ones life expectancy but it doesn’t capture the full opportunity cost of ill-health which is that of lost quality of life.

When considering the opportunity cost of obesity, we need to consider a multitude of factors. Obese people tend to spend more money on food, fuel, and clothing, so there is a financial cost. They also tend to have fewer options when it comes to clothing and fashion, so there is a style and creative expression cost. Many obese people report a sense of alienation, ostracization and general anxiety when in public, so there is a psychological cost.

The psychological cost can have a wide scope - some people report a loss of confidence that causes them to limit their risk exposure so they don’t take the chances that may lead them towards a more complete experience of life. They may limit their dating options, job opportunities, vacation experiences and their general sense of being in control of their own life. Compounding these are the obese behaviors that one may display such as emotional eating, eating disorders and escapist actions such as substance abuse, abusive relationships and compulsiveness in other areas.

One does not have to be obese to experience the negative opportunity cost. Many people experience a boost in confidence when they lower their body fat, increase their level of lean muscle mass or increase their strength. This confidence can be leveraged in many ways to expose the individual to a variety of new stimuli or situations that improve the quality of life - participation in sports, seeking out different companionship partners, visiting new places, etc…

When viewed in this light, the opportunity cost of not being as healthy and fit as possible is very expensive. At best it comes down to living a life that isn’t of as high a quality as it could be and at worst it comes down to living a life of isolation and fear. When positioned against the amount of nutrition and exercise effort needed to improve ones health to a confidence inspiring level it doesn’t make much sense to avoid the putting in the work.

When making the decision about enrolling yourself in a life transformation program, consider both the cost of NOT doing it and benefit OF doing it.

Are You Coachable?

Successful people behave in successful ways. The role of any great coach is to help their clients modify their behavior. When we build upon the assumption that people are born perfect, removing the patterns or behaviors that don’t work is the fastest way to restore a clients life to a state of full potential. For this reason, clients MUST be coachable. Below it a list of 5 characteristics that make someone coachable.

Willingness to accept that they need guidance. People need the help from other people and those who are humble are open to the idea that they can’t do everything on their on. They are clear to the fact that their limitations ARE the reason why they have sat down with a coach. This isn’t the thought “I’m going to hear what they can do for me” it’s the belief “I’m going to find out what isn’t working for me and change it.”

Being open and willing to doing something, and lots of it. Those looking for big changes KNOW that they need to do things. What needs to be done isn’t going to be the same for everyone, but doing new things, and doing them a lot, IS a criteria for change. Those who are committed to unfamiliar or unreasonable actions are coachable because coaches ask people to do things that their clients are not doing. They have to because their clients either don’t know what to do or don’t do what they need to.

Having clear goals in mind. Today is the starting point, call it point “A”. Your goals are the end point, point “B”. The area between A and B represent the work and behaviors that need to occur. Without knowing too much about someone, a coach has a clear understanding of point A. But point B is personal to the client and it is impossible to achieve unless they create it. It is the top of the mountain, the finish line, the destination, and it must be clearly defined by the client to the coach in-order for the coaching partnership to be effective and transformative.

A willingness to let someone else control their behavior. Giving-up control can be scary, but when you are looking to achieve that which is impossible for you to achieve on your own, you NEED to let someone else drive your body / mind. There is a leap of faith involved with this, but if you could have done it yourself you would have done it already. Engage and hire the best people you can afford and do what they tell you to do.

Confidence in yourself that you can start and maintain the behaviors needed to move you towards your goals. If knowledge or wisdom was all that was needed, everyone would have the life they wanted, but these things are just pieces of the puzzle. What is most important is an understanding that your life will only change if you know that it is possible to change. Any belief that things can only be as they are will render the coaching relationship ineffective as it helps keep someone stuck in their current way of being. Knowing that things can and will change when the effort is put in will empower the client and coach and create the transformation in behaviors that are needed to create success.

Good and great coaches are only as good as their clients; it all comes down to the client and their ability to be coachable.

Do You Behave In A Goal Achieving Way?

Goals are, simply put, future ways of being.

In almost every case the only thing you need to do in order to achieve a goal is to put in STRATEGIC, CONSISTENT, SUSTAINED and INTENSE work for a period of time. The truth is, it isn’t that challenging to achieve almost anything you want in life so long as you are willing to be dedicated to the cause.

Of these element of successful goal achieving behavior - strategic, consistent, sustained and intensity - the one that seems to cause most people the biggest challenge is the strategic work. Many people do not do the right things to achieve their goals as quickly as humanly possible. In essence, their behaviors do not match their goals so they are slow in moving towards being all that they can be. Well, lets rephrase that, their actions do not match their stated goals. In all likelihood their actions are making real some aspect of themselves that isn’t entirely known to them, but which plays a major role in determining who they are and what they become.

A previous article mentioned the dissonance between thoughts and goals, and how goals that are created based on a previous way of being tend not to yield results that reflect the possibilities of a new way of being. To build on that phenomenon, another layer of awareness needs to be added to the creation of an optimized you.

Goals that are based on existing behaviors are ineffective at creating life-altering transformations. Someone is less likely to feel a powerful drive when they create them or feel a massive sense of accomplishment when they achieve them. These goals are more likely to be achieved simply because the individual is already behaving in a way that will make them a reality. They reflect the reasonable and the possible; which is fine if you want more of the same, or a slightly improved version of the same.

But when you are looking to achieve the new, the unfamiliar or the seemingly impossible, you CANNOT reference your present behavior because your present behavior is NOT working for you - if it was, you would already be moving towards achieving.

Some of the new strategic work behaviors that are needed to achieve the new body transformation goals include your eating habits - do you eat breakfast everyday and does it contain multiple sources of protein, do you eat an abundance of green leafy vegetables, do you plan your meals and make them ahead of time, do you plan your shopping trips to the grocery store or market, do you schedule your celebration meals to tap into hormonal fluctuations based on caloric and macro-nutrient manipulation, do you participate in any compulsive eating behaviors, do you use targeted supplements? Also critical are new movement habits - do you workout at least 4 times per week, do you perform strength training to help improve lean body mass, do you use effective programs that are repeatable and based on scientific principles, do you get enough relaxation and sleep?

There are very few unknowns when it comes to health, fitness and wellness; it is safe to say that NOTHING is random. The results are predictable. It can be said with certainty that if you behave in a goal achieving way you will be achieving your goals. But first you must clearly define what your goals are so you know EXACTLY how to behave.

Ab Recruitment, Women And Cuing

Rachel once said to me “if you really want to do your female clients a favor teach them how to set their properly and get them to be able to do it at any time.” She explained what was involved with it and I imagined a can of beans with Kegels setting the pelvic floor at the bottom, drawing the stomach in to set the obliques, tightening the front and then push out against them with the transverse abdominis to set the diaphragm, and letting the lower back contract as needed to make a strong and stable cylinder.

It takes practice to gain control of each step but it’s doable. My female clients did comment that it felt better, that they liked the tightness in the ab area and that they felt more stable doing whatever movement. I came up with cues to help keep the thought present in their mind so they would always has their core set or be a few seconds away from it. It works great. Well, it works great when people hear what I am saying.

Sometimes people hear something else. I’m not sure what it was they were hearing but it was something that didn’t come across well. With my cycling classes, I throw out a lot of general coaching cues to no one in particular - chest up, shoulders back - it’s just there to remind people that these things are important and to keep doing them or get back to doing them. With personal training any general cue can be taken to be a specific cue, as it should be under most circumstances. If I say chest up it means the chest is down or it is beginning to drop. I can see that it is dropping. The issue with the “keep the abs tight” or “are your abs on?” cues is that they are reminder cues only because I can’t tell most of the time if someone is doing a Kegel when they do DB press.

The break down occurs when I don’t accurately explain and continue to remind the client that I can’t see what is happening inside their bodies and can only see the breakdowns. If they believe that I am saying they are not engaging the core when I cue generally about it, and they are engaging it, their is a shift in focus over to something completely unrelated; which is “why is he saying it then, what could does he mean?”

This occurs more with intelligent female clients than any other group with the only exception being intelligent female athletes who try to fix everything and seek out specific clarification when they are not clear on what I have said. Males tend not to say “but I am contracting my core” and just keep doing it. To avoid this pitfall, I must explain that I am giving general coaching to keep their mind on the goal and not specific coaching given that I cannot experience what is going on in their insides.

Changes To Eating For Fatloss Optimal Health

The approach to eating is very simple and it doesn’t require that you change much about the way you eat. In fact, you’ll probably like it get because I ask you to eat more and change a few things about the way you currently eat.

Knowledge, Nutrition, Protein, Timing, Hydration, Recovery

Step one – keep a detailed food journal for 7 days. It should include the time of each feeding, what the meal consisted of, the number of hours of sleep you get each night and the amount and type of fluids you drink.

The purpose of this is to give you and your coach a good idea of what you are eating and your eating habits.

Step two – eat 3 green leafy salads each day before your larger meals. This will be made up of LOTS of dark green vegetables such as spinach, green and red leaf lettuce, asparagus, broccoli along with other garden vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, celery, etc… Avoid carrots and other root vegetables and corn and other field vegetables. Eat these salads at least 15 minutes before you eat your meal along with a 1-2 glasses of water.

The purpose of this is to make sure you are getting sufficient vitamins and nutrients in your diet as poor nutrition is NOT just about eating the wrong things and is often about not eating some of the right things. Also, the vegetables and water before your meal will decrease the amount of food that you eat.

Step three – eat more protein at each feeding - around 0.65-1 gram per pound of body weight each day.

The purpose of eating more protein stems from the fact that protein is used in almost every body process, it requires more energy to process, and it supplies very little energy to the body.

Step four – eat smaller meals every 2.5-3 hours.

The purpose of eating small meals more consistently is to supply your body with nutrient and energy BEFORE the body runs out of them as this promotes fat metabolism.

Step five – drink 2-4 liters of water per day and more when you are exercising / sweating.

The purpose of drinking this much water is that it is somewhat filling and it helps the body function at an optimal level.

Step six – reduce the amount of stress you experience and get sufficient amounts of deep sleep each night.

The purpose of reducing stress and getting enough sleep each night is that they allow the body to recover more completely as stress impairs recovery and a lack of sleep is very stressful to the body.

That’s it, that is all there is to it. I have come up with this approach through years of working with hundreds of people and seeing / hearing most of them claim that it is too hard to eat for optimal health. While I haven’t found this to be the case, the fact remains that many do so the approach needed to change. Frankly, it someone has a tough time eating a few salads before they eat their normal food they don’t really want to change. The same goes for not eating a little more protein and eating more consistently throughout the day.  If these things seem like too much work are you really all that unhappy with the way you look and feel?