Working At It For Years – Disease Or Health

We are born as perfect as we will ever be. With rare exception, we have our greatest potential the instant we arrive into the world. From there, our environment begins to chip away at our possibilities and over time we suffer from the outcome of our decisions or the decisions that were made on our behalf. With each breath, we either maintain our potential or it is reduced slightly.

I have trained a couple of people who had suffered heart attacks and then subsequently made the decision to correct as many of their bad habits as they could. They eat better, exercise more, reduce their stress and stop over indulging in alcohol. They, like many people who have suffered a heart attack, make reference to their heart attack as both an ending point and a place of new beginnings; “my health was fine up until that day” is something that I have heard which reflects their understanding of what was going on. But it doesn’t reflect what actually happened. Their health had been suffering for years BEFORE the heart attack and the heart attack was only the latest in a series of escalating symptoms; even if it was the first symptom that registered that there was a problem.

You have been making yourself sick for years – everyone has been. At best, you are doing everything you can to achieve your potential – eating appropriate amounts of whole food, getting an appropriate amount of sleep and exercise, etc…. but in a world as polluted as ours, the chances of you not consuming toxins is very low. The clean life that you may be living likely isn’t as pure as is needed to reach the highest level of health. In all probability you aren’t getting enough exercise, eating the right amounts of food or getting sufficient rest to recover your vitality and enhance your constitution for health.

This doesn’t mean that you are going to die of a heart attack at 50 or cancer at 55. But it does mean that you are damaging you body and diminishing your ability to recover from this damage with each non-ideal choice you make. It also means that if you do end-up with a disease, there is a very good chance that you have been working at it for the last 20-50 years and not just during the few weeks preceding the diagnosis.

The human body has a remarkable ability to recover. There is ample redundancy so a lot of stuff can break down before their is critical malfunction. But there are limits and one needs to be mindful of them as they move through life. With each less than ideal decision that is made, you move one step closer to the cumulative consequences of these choices.

It’s About Changing State

In talking to more than a 1000 people over the last 10 years a few facts about nutrition have become clear.

First off, the education system is doing a good job at teaching people what they should be eating. I’ll fill-in some blanks about how the remarkably adaptive way the body operates, but I’ve yet to talk to someone who doesn’t know that eating more vegetables, less sugar, fewer processed products and drinking more water and less pop is a more effective way to eat. People know what they should be eating in order to improve their health and functioning so they suffer from obesity and reduced vitality for reasons other than education.

Next, many people comment that it is hard to eat correctly. On one level this is true, given that living things benefit from eating unprocessed food that rots quickly. Shopping twice a week is a necessity if you are going to eat real food because you will not have the “luxury” of buying food that doesn’t spoil because it is loaded with preservatives. And you need to prepare that food which is going to take time – peeling vegetables, cutting meat and removing bones or fat/skin and then cooking the meal requires time. But this only seems like it takes more time when compared with opening a box and heating something in a microwave or ordering a meal and waiting for it to arrive.

The other comment I hear consistently after an optimal nutrition conversation is that eating for health and vitality is boring. My thoughts about this one is that this is the biggest reason why people do not live optimal lives with an abundance of energy, clarity of thought and emotional contentment. Good quality food doesn’t provide the instant state-changing experience that the high sugar, high fat, high chemical food-like stuff delivers. Good quality food doesn’t do very much to your immediate state; it really shouldn’t because there isn’t anything in it that will have a quick impact on the brain or body. Real food impacts the body slowly, over time and in many ways by doing nothing at all.

People like or become addicted to food-like stuff because it has a very quick impact on the brain – it changes their state almost immediately and in a predictable way. Feeling sad? Eat some sugar, get a release of dopamine and feel better. Feeling some pain somewhere? Eat some ice cream and get a release of opioids to numb the pain. Eat fat and sugar together and feel good immediately. The happy / feel-good chemicals will be released and you will get a little high from it.

You don’t get this state change from eating salad, beef, chicken or fish. Eating these things may not even make you feel full. They have been shown to be better for you, but their immediate impact is low and almost perceivable, and given the distance from the consequences of a poor diet the instant reward is what many choose.

But as time passes, and the consequences begin to take hold on a person – addiction, obesity, disease, loss of energy, loss of circulation, impaired thinking, etc…. the state change is all that remains in terms of any conceivable positives. But then it’s too late to do very much about it. A 40 year sugar habit is tough to break. Dropping 100 lbs is close to impossible and only successfully undertaken by the most remarkable of individuals. Once cancer takes hold, the body has a very tough time fighting it without medical intervention. Clogged blood vessels don’t suddenly clear-up simply because the person stops eating crappy food. Make no mistake about it, the consequences arrive and they usually stay forever.

Real food does very little to our immediate state and it does very little to our bodies; which is what one should look for in their food because the body has a remarkable way of repairing itself.

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.

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!

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.

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.