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A Client Success Story

For those of you who have known me and followed me over the years know that not only am I fitness professional but a very passionate one. You see, fitness to me is a way of life. I’ve just been fortunate enough to make a career out of it. Most view fitness as a side activity, one that either fits into their lives or it doesn’t. I take a great deal of pride and education for myself in helping people to understand the positives that fitness can have on their lives. I don’t always have followers but that’s why I continue on. I want to share with you today a story of a client who has done all those things – made fitness a priority in her life; continued to follow my guidance; took all the positives along with the negatives and turned out to become the best version of herself.

How We Started

Tricia and I first met about 12 years ago when I worked at Pottstown Health Club. She had been working with one of my trainers and it was brought to my attention that I might be better suited to help her. Tricia had a “nagging” forearm issue of sorts that we later determined was the result of carrying heavy bags (computer, handbags). With a successful evaluation and treatment plan, Tricia’s arm got better and shall we say, the rest is history. Tricia has been a personal client since then and stuck with me through the gym closing and venturing out on my own. Stories like you’re about to hear are one of the many reasons why I do what I do, why I love what I do, and where my passion for all things fitness comes from. What better way than for you to hear this story other than from Tricia herself.

Her Story

I’ve always been athletic; a tomboy most of my life.  As a kid, I played baseball and football with the boys in the neighborhood.  I played field hockey and lacrosse in high school until knee issues sidelined me during my senior year.  Since then I’ve had a total of 5 surgeries on both of knees.  Ultimately, I will need a full knee replacement, so I have learned to manage the issues and pain since I was 17.  Having a chronic injury like that impacted my participation in sports, as well as working out.  This led to weight gain, which is not good for anyone, but for me with my knee issues, it was worse because I found it even harder to work out or even move.  That’s when I decided to take control and lose weight.  Another motivator was that I was engaged and wanted to look my best for the wedding. I joined Weight Watchers, as I knew I needed to be accountable to someone other than myself in the weight loss journey.  I lost 30 pounds and was very proud of myself.  I focused mostly on my nutrition but was working out a little as well. 

After the wedding, a few of my work friends started working out together at a gym close to the office.  Within a year, I was at my most fit and felt great.  I really enjoyed working out with my friends (never thought I would be a “gym rat” but I was there a lot). Then life happened.  I began traveling a lot with work and was not home a lot.  Because I was working out so much, I had a lot more “flexibility” in my diet.  When you stop working out consistently and continue to eat the same “flexible” way, a not-so-funny thing happens; you gain weight.  I did work out while I was traveling.  I found I had less excuses to NOT work out when I wasn’t home.  It helped that most of my work travel mates were working out in the hotel gyms, so if I brought my workout gear, and told my colleagues I was going to work out. I was accountable to them.  So, I tended to work out more when traveling then when I was home, but eating more than I should have, and maybe drinking more.  Because of my travel schedule, as well as losing most of my workout buddies (started families, changed jobs, moved) I canceled my gym membership. 

My husband and I decided to join Pottstown Health Club together.  I was using the cardio equipment and taking classes.  It had been a while since I spent time in a proper gym, so felt like I needed to work with a trainer; also felt like I needed someone to be accountable to again.  I had started working out with Cathy but then I met Jeff. He created a workout for me that allowed me to continue my momentum despite my injury.  I have continued to work with him since.

Fast forward a couple of years to the week I turned 40.  That seemed to be the year I hit the wall; it felt like I hit the wall, bounced off, then got run over by a truck, got up, and then fell face first into a vat of molasses.  I’ve felt stuck for the past 8 years. The week I turned 40 my back spasmed.  I never had any back issues until that week.  I spent most of that week in bed trying to recover from that until Jeff had recommended massage therapy.  In March of my 40th year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Luckily it was caught very early, but a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation were necessary.  Oh, and you can’t forget the 5 years of Tamoxifen.  Through my recovery, it was difficult to bounce back into a healthy, fit lifestyle.  It’s been nearly 9 years, but I found my way.  My health journey has one consistent factor…accountability.  And today is no different.  I got a sinus infection in January and visited the local urgent care.  They take your temp, blood pressure and weigh you before seeing the doctor.  As you leave, they provide a synopsis of your visit, including an evaluation of your weight.  I rarely read that information, but for some reason I did after that visit.  Based on their information, I was considered OBESE.  I knew I was heavy, but to see that word in my “chart” was eye-opening. 

Jeff and I talk about accountability a lot, and why it is so hard for people to be accountable to themselves.  I think it took the word OBESE and the quarantine to finally get me to be accountable to myself.  I also know that I do not want to start my 50’s feeling the way I have for most of my 40’s. I’ve taken advantage of the time that I’m home to take care of ME.  I’ve been using my normal “commute” time to work out.  At 6:00AM I ride my Peloton for 20 minutes (that’s my normal commute time).  Again at 5:00PM, I’m on my bike for another 30-45 minutes.  I’m also eating clean and healthy; tracking everything I eat (using Weight Watchers again).  I am feeling great!  I have a lot more energy and just overall feel better.  My approach to the quarantine has been one of taking care of me.  Since I am not traveling (which has been a major excuse for not always eating healthy or working out) I really have no excuses to NOT take care of me.  If I’m not going to do it now, I’m never going to take responsibility for myself. 

My husband is benefitting from it as well.  His pants are a little looser too.  And I just hit 40 pounds lost!!  I am at the same weight I was when I got married 18 years ago.  The journey has not been easy.  As much as it is about eating healthy and implementing a fitness routine, it is also about psychology.  I’ve found that without feeling accountable to myself I would self-sabotage.  It was a viscous cycle.  It is a little crazy that it took the word obese and a quarantine to set me straight.

Tricia – a living example of what it means to train smart, eat well, and be better!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

What Motivates You?

Motivation is defined as the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. An individual’s motivation may be inspired by others or events (extrinsic motivation) or it may come from within the individual (intrinsic motivation). Motivation is of course different for everyone, but it begs the question, what motivates you? Is it intrinsic or extrinsic? Some people have no idea what motivates them while others will simply say they need motivation. I want to share with you a personal story, journey if you will, that just concluded for me in the hopes that perhaps you too can find some motivation and begin your own journey.

MS City to Shore

20 years ago I embarked on a journey I thought would be one and done. I liked riding my bike, so I was looking for some charitable event which involved riding endless miles on my bike. I came across the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual City to Shore Bike Tour, or MS 150 as it was known back then. The 150 represented the 75 miles from Cherry Hill, New Jersey to Ocean City, New Jersey and back across over two days. Perfect! I also had the honor, if you will, of knowing someone first hand who was living with this disease, my aunt’s sister Diane. As the years would go on and many rides later, my sister in law Susan was also diagnosed with MS. Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease that causes damage to the central nervous system (CNS), manifested in outward and silent symptoms. Although there is no cure yet for MS, many treatments are available that can help slow the progression of the disease, which is why I continued to fundraise in hopes that even more treatments could be found and perhaps even one day a cure. So one year quickly became 20, and every year I looked forward to the next. The inspiration and motivation I drew from those who lived with the disease pushed me on even further. So you might be asking, why stop now? And the answer is simple – to find other ways to continue to help those in need.

The “Road” Tests

I had every reason not to ride a second year after an incident that occurred my very first year. About 27 miles from the finish (I had chosen to ride the now optional 100 miles on the first day; 75 the second) I had an awful crash. It was a completely freakish thing, but I had an open compound fracture of my right humerus and a broken right hand. Drawing on my own intrinsic motivation, I could not wait to get back on my bike again the following year and complete the ride, which I did. About 12 years later I crashed again in yet another freakish accident, but this time only skidded across the macadam with some flesh wounds. Unlike the first time however, I was able to keep riding and complete the ride, even more motivated this time to ride yet again. And then two years after that, an extremely freakish mechanical issue with my bike occurred as I had stripped the crank completely off of the bottom bracket with 8 miles to go, hence unable to finish the ride. So I rode again, and again. This ride had become such a huge motivational journey in not only the desire to help others, but also myself by not giving up due to setbacks. If those I was riding for weren’t giving up, then neither was I.

Your Turn

Perhaps for you it starts with a charity walk/run where families are encouraged with kids and animals in tow. It could be to support a cause that has meaning to you, or it could be just for fun to get you moving. Even better, maybe you’ll volunteer at any one of the hundreds of events held locally (they’re always in need of volunteers) to support those participating. Many volunteers find their motivation at the very events they support and then become a participant the following year. They became motivated to do what they had seen others finish. While there’s no perfect time to get started, why not make it now? No matter the event, I can’t even put into words the euphoria I feel every time I cross a finish line about what I just accomplished. So find something that motivates you, and go after that euphoric feeling. And don’t worry about what others might think, because believe me when I tell you that everyone at any event is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone about to partake in the journey ahead. And while everyone prepares differently, ultimately everyone does the same course.

By the way, I’m not done riding yet.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Some Fun and Interesting Stats:

• 20 years riding in the annual MS City to Shore Bike Tour (one year was actually cancelled due to hurricane fall out)
• I’ve raised over $23,000.00 for the National MS Society
• I’ve biked over 3,000 miles
• I used two different bikes: Bianci Brava and Trek 5000
• I had two crashes; one really bad, one not so bad
• Rode through 2 hurricane-esque storms
• Met some incredible, inspirational people on the ride, including a Japanese woman who rides every year in her Sunday best and just this year, a 70 year old woman who just discovered riding a few years ago and was hanging with me
• My wife accompanied me for 2.5 rides
• My sister accompanied me for ½ ride
• Made some very good friendships with guys who have gone on to participate in triathlons and ultra marathons

The Follow Through

In sports, the follow through is the complete execution of a movement. (i.e. a golf swing, basketball shot, etc.). In the business world, the follow through is the series of events from concept to completion. So what do the both have in common? An action which is dependent on a clear series of events leading up to a specific outcome. In the world of health and fitness, the one thing generally escaping most is the follow through, no matter what the goal. Any goal, no matter big or small, doesn’t happen by chance. It requires a focused attention to what’s most important at that moment, and that’s where the follow through falls apart.

But???

Excuses – the bane of our existence. Everyone makes them and they’re all bad. The only person the excuse means anything to is the one making the excuse.”But I can’t.” “ But I have to…” But I have to see…” “But I don’t.” On and on. Fill in the blanks with whatever you want but in the end they represent nothing but an unwillingness to commit to the process, to follow through. Things in life happen BUT if you’re in a constant behavior of making excuses, making “buts”, you’ll never achieve what you had originally set out to do. There’s no magic there and luck is not something that happens by chance. It’s your mindset, your work, your focus, and your dedication that makes it all happen.

The Process

Let’s say you want to lose a few pounds. You might start by deciding to exercise and eat better. Good start. Then it happens. There’s little to no change on the scale. Exercise all of the sudden becomes a burden. The best eating habits only exist may be 3-4 days a week. Pretty soon you’re back to square one except square one is now heavier than before. Where did it go wrong? First, eating better is more than just substituting salads for meals or skipping whole meals or eliminating macronutrients. Secondly, exercise, or physical movement, is great but it’s also not the magic elixir that most assume it to be. Both require a conscientious commitment to change, doing things differently than you’ve done before. They are not to be compartmentalized and treated as something you do short term. They are both individual processes themselves that require the respect they each deserve. Do anything short term or “cheat” the process, and you will fail 100% of the time, and that’s a big no ifs, ands, or buts!

Change It All Now

A concept most people can’t or don’t come to terms with is that they are 100% in charge of their lives. Again the doubters emerge and will say “Yes, but”, or “You don’t understand.” Actually, I know all I need to know. The phrase “you are what you eat” is true on so many levels. Only you can make the change. Only you can make the laser focus. Only you can commit to what you deem as important. Anything short of that and you’ll never escape. The really good news is that it all can change right now. It doesn’t have to move mountains or be an ultimatum. It just needs to begin with the belief that it can change. Right there and you’re already ahead in the follow through.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 12 – 31 Days

(This is part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Today’s post I share with you something I saw in an article from my friends at My Fitness Pal earlier this year. It’s a challenge of sorts, 31 days to be exact, that you can start anytime, anywhere. All you have to do is be willing to follow it, stick to it, and keep a really good attitude. When the New Year hits, everyone gets all jazzed up about turning a new leaf. So no matter how trivial or mundane the task may seem always understand that little things add up to big things and success breeds more success. Give it a whirl and see if you are able to catch some success.

  1. Drink a glass of water first thing
  2. Take the stairs
  3. Prepare a vegetable in a new healthy way
  4. Put your phone away at meals
  5. Walk 500 extra steps today
  6. Log your water intake today
  7. Take stock of your progress and repeat one task from this week
  8. Log breakfast everyday this week
  9. Eat a new to you vegetable
  10. Get to bed 20 minutes earlier than usual
  11. Do 20 squats
  12. Go no-added sugar today
  13. Clear gadgets from your bedroom
  14. Take stock of your progress and repeat one task from this week
  15. Log lunch everyday this week
  16. Go meatless for dinner
  17. Get at least 7 hours of sleep tonight
  18. Eat an extra serving of something green and leafy
  19. Add 5 minutes of exercise to your day
  20. Take an Epsom salt bath
  21. Take stock of your progress and repeat one task from this week
  22. Log dinner and lunch everyday this week
  23. Take a new to you exercise class
  24. Get 30 minutes more of sleep tonight
  25. Do 10 push ups, 10 lunges, 10 squats
  26. Turn off your phone 1 hour prior to bedtime
  27. Hold a plank for 1 minute
  28. Foam roll before your workout
  29. Get outside
  30. Take a walking meeting
  31. Get 8 hours of sleep tonight

Happy Holidays to you and your families and blessings for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars
Day #8Dieting Made Simple
Day #9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing
Day #10 – Insulin and Insulin Resistance
Day #11 – What Does It Mean to be Healthy?

What’s Killing Your Progress

You did it! You started working out; joined a gym; committed to a healthier lifestyle. You’re proud of yourself….except, you have nothing to show for it. May be you’re feeling better, clothes are fitting less snuggly, perhaps even you dropped a couple pounds. But you want more. It’s not enough. You put in the time but still have little to show for it. What gives? Exercise, while it’s a simple thing, causes more heartache and frustration for those looking towards it to be a Holy Grail of sorts. Well, I can tell you that is not but that doesn’t mean it’s bad either. Exercise is good and with a better mindset and preparation, it should never frustrate you. Following are several little things that you may be doing that are killing or at least slowing your process:

1. Your mindset stinks. I’m exercising so I’m “entitled” to results. NO! That mindset stinks. Simply exercising only guarantees one thing – may be a little sweat. You need to work. You need to apply yourself. You need a goal, something to drive you.
2. You don’t have a goal. Simple yet overlooked by many. It needs to be specific, not general. It needs to be the light of every workout. Otherwise you’re spinning wheels to no where.
3. You keep doing the same thing(s). The definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting a different result. Exercise is a stress, albeit a good stress. When you begin to exercise, your body adapts to the stress and you see and feel a result. But after a while, that stress needs to change or you’ll stop changing.
4. You don’t respect exercise. That’s right! As Rodney Dangerfield use to say, “I get no respect”. So what do I mean when I say respect the exercise? Know what you’re doing and why. Don’t “go through the motions”. The yield is always zero and for those who think something is better than nothing, they’re not respecting the power of what exercise can do for them.
5. You view exercise as a hobby and not a task. I’m all for people really enjoying their exercise like it’s a hobby but at its root level it’s work. That’s why it’s called working out. Brushing your teeth is not a hobby; it’s a task. Exercising needs to be like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you need to do. And a hobby can too easily be pushed aside.
6. You don’t fuel properly. I can’t tell you the number of times in my career when a client came to a session under nourished. Exercise is a physical activity, hence you need to fuel for the activity. Fat stores don’t release on their own. A body working with proper nourishment however will ignite a furnace in the body and one that will allow you to get the full benefit of the session.
7. You ignore sleep. Sleep is by far the most underrated component of a healthy lifestyle. The body needs rest, otherwise it’s burning on fumes. Trying to fit in the daily activities with exercise with poor sleeping patterns and something is going to give.
8. You think you know it all. Trust me. 23 years as a fitness professional and I still don’t know it all. There’s always something more to learn and more to try. If what you’re doing is not working, you don’t know it all. Be smart enough to admit that fault. No one is going to judge you.
9. You’re willing to push but not willing to stop/slow down. This is a common phenomenon with those wanting “quick fix” fitness. They want it now when in reality they’ll only end up disappointed now. The mentality of just pushing/working harder inevitably leads to exercise injury or worse, cessation.
10. You compare yourself too much to others. This is so unfair to you and the person your comparing yourself to. Why? Most likely, you know nothing about them and they know nothing about you. Two different people working towards two different goals. It’s one thing to work with or consult with someone who can help you. It’s something else to mirror someone not knowing their current path.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

The Real Olympic Takeaway

The 2018 Winter Olympics have come to a close and if you’re like me, it was time for them to be done. I’m a much bigger fan of the Summer Games but I would be remiss to say they didn’t have my attention. I spent many a nights up late watching them (couldn’t make it for the women’s hockey gold match though), cheering on the USA even in games where I didn’t know what was going on. Some of the events left a little to be desired but in all it was enjoyable to watch. The thing that really struck a cord with me every night is the relentless pursuit of the athletes to be the best at their craft. For some, the Olympic medal pursuit is a full time job, but for others it’s a part time thing among day jobs and other commitments. Can you imagine the focus, dedication, and commitment to a skill that many don’t even see or know about until the Olympics come around every four years? That is where they have my utmost respect.

The Will To Do It

Not everyone has the ability or desire to be an Olympic athlete. Most if not all of the athletes discover their talent or want at a very young age. They spend many years fine tuning their skills in the hopes that someday they will be chosen for the national team. Some make it; many more do not. The Olympic team represents the best of the best to go up against the world’s best of the best – in any discipline. But my take away isn’t about who makes it or who wins. It’s about a trait many think they have or possess but never really come close to having. And that is will.

So What About You?

The definition of will has several meanings but here it goes without saying; it’s determination. The Olympic athletes have a will, a determination to be the absolute best; a gold medalist. Even the silver and bronze carries a lot of significance – to be the number two and three respectively in the world is nothing to scoff at. So what does this have to do with you? What about your goals? Do they carry the same weight as being a gold medalist? Probably not, but they should. What about your will, the determination to achieve that goal? Is it something you’re truly committed to or just a few select times? You would never succeed as any athlete, let alone an Olympic one. And why do we accept our lack of progress or achievement as just something that happens, year in and year out? Because we lack a true vision. Losing a couple of pounds is insignificant in the big picture. What changes? What does that number mean? Imagine racing down the slope and the difference between you medaling or not is hundredths of a second. Those numbers really mean something. Whether you lose 5, 10, 15, or even 20 pounds matters little if the road to get there was traveled and executed through wishing, not pure will. Let’s say your goal has nothing to do with weight loss. Perhaps it’s just to exercise more. What’s realistic? What can you do rather than focusing on what you’re not doing?

The point here is this: we all live our lives the way we want. No one can make the choices for us and tell us how to live. What you do is indeed your choice and no one or nothing can be blamed for it. When you have the will and determination, absolutely nothing can stand in your way. No excuses, no short comings, no under achievement; only success.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Mission Accomplished

I am speechless; without words. So without further ado, let me get right to it. On July 23, my wife competed and finished her first Ironman in Lake Placid, renowned site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. An Ironman, both a brand and the title given to the event, is the penultimate event in the sport of triathlon. It’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. The clock begins the minute you cross the time barrier when you start the swim and ends when you cross the finish line after the marathon. Not for the feint of heart and definitely not something you just go do. Less than .5% of the US population can say they’ve run a marathon; even less at 0.001% can say they have completed an Ironman. It’s a monumental undertaking of both the physical and mental limits and I’m very proud to say my wife has done it! But as with most accomplishments what people don’t appreciate or understand is the depth of dedication and discipline that is required to pull off such a feat.

The Goal

A big part of my satisfaction as a fitness professional is helping others achieve greater things than they thought possible. Creating a pathway for them through proper exercise, sound nutrition, and coaching their mindset brings me such great joy and satisfaction with what I do. Five years ago I was sitting with my laptop putting together a triathlon training program for a client when my wife asked me, “What are you doing?”. “I’m designing a training program for a client who wants to do a sprint triathlon (smaller distance but still involves a swim, bike and run)”, I told her. Without much hesitation I continued, “You could do this.” Now, understand that I am not taking responsibility for my wife’s interest and subsequent dive into triathlon. As someone who knows her well I thought this was just the kind of thing that could let her get excited about getting involved physically to accomplish something greater than just being active. Who would have thought she’d take the bull by the horns. After her first sprint triathlon came several sprint triathlons. Then came a few Olympic distance triathlons (essentially double sprint distances). Then came the Half Ironman triathlon, the next logical step towards competing in the Ironman. The years leading up and subsequent races were all strategically chosen with her ultimate goal to train and eventually compete in the Ironman. That decision was made summer of 2016.

The Discipline

Just as in marathon training, one’s ability to do a half marathon does not equate to success in running a full marathon. Finishing a Half Ironman comes no where close to finishing an Ironman. More time, energy, and mental acuity must be built to handle the fact that you’ll essentially be exercising non-stop for 12+ hours! The training and preparation for the undertaking of competing in an Ironman has a “no excuse” clause that simply implies that a day missed are minutes lost and minutes lost in an Ironman could potentially lead to a DNF score, or Did Not Finish. Everyday, week, and month is strategically mapped out to achieve the goal. My wife followed her plan to a “T” which included:
• Waking up at 5am to get to the pool to swim before work
• Planning around my work schedule to get a second workout in at night, either running or biking
• Spending hours on a Saturday riding the indoor bike trainer
• Running here, there, and everywhere
• Developing a nutrition strategy that would be used during the event
• Hitching long outdoor rides with teammates (and me) for many miles
• Competing in “set-up” races to gauge progress

The schedule was arduous but manipulated to accommodate our lives, social obligations, and of course a day or two of rest.

The Accomplishment

There is no more gratifying feeling in the world to set out to achieve a goal, appreciate the process, and accomplish that goal. To my wife, that moment was magnified when she crossed the finish and Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, called her name and said, “You are an Ironman!” She cried and I cried with her and the replay still gets me every time. Many set out to accomplish a goal and many never see it to fruition. But my wife did and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Not all the days were easy; life happens and causes challenges; but she never made excuses and kept her focus on the bigger picture. She wanted to do this and nothing was going to tell her otherwise. She made a commitment to herself and gave the respect that the event warrants. She maintained her role as a teacher, mother, and wife and had all our support from day one. She accomplished something many will only dream of and many more will never do. That’s what makes goals great and even better when they’re achieved.

Take Home Points:

• You don’t have to do an Ironman or a marathon or anything like that. The popularity of these types of events is that they hold a steadfast deadline – a timeframe within which to achieve the goal. If you made more of your goals that way and added a “no excuse” clause to them, you’ll be more successful.
• The only one setting your limits is yourself. Don’t judge and think of things as crazy or impossible. That mindset only magnifies the short sightedness you possess and no one will ever achieve goals with that.
• Identify your “why” with your goals. It’s the “why” that creates the desire and discipline to move forth and conquer
• All of your excuses are invalid. If you continue to make them you’ll confuse them with reality, a huge problem with those who never achieve anything.
• Start small but think big. Once you create momentum by achieving smaller goals, bigger goals look less intimidating.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss. Knowing the Difference is Key to Your Success.

The weight loss “industry” is a $60 billion dollar enterprise (yes, that’s a “b”, not an “m”.) The fitness industry by the way is not factored into that number. Everything from best-seller books to programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig; to supplements, cleanses, and surgery. The numbers are staggering and projections for the future are even more unbelievable as it is believed those numbers will not only continue to climb but the “industry” will more aggressively seek out more consumers. When you consider that 68% of American adults and 33% of children are considered obese, the effectiveness of this “industry” is highly questionable. Is the weight loss “industry” to blame or are we a highly gullible and weak society looking for panacea in bottle? It is an equally shared blame.

Perpetrated Myths

Ask 10 people what it means to eat healthy and you will likely get 10 different answers and depending on what generation they are a part of a very different mindset of what it means to eat healthy. Aside the fact that most would agree fruits and vegetables are healthy choices, most would admit they don’t eat enough or avoid fruit because of the sugar content. (Oy! That’s a fact based discussion for another day!) How did something so primal as eating get so convoluted that there is such a disparity between what’s good and what’s bad? That blame can be placed on big and little companies all looking to make a dollar at the consumer’s expense. And how is that possible? Because they are banking on scoring profits over a very emotional and of course desperate, health conscious society. A new gimmick or “trick” is released in an every few year cycle that says eating this is bad, or eating that is what makes you fat, blah, blah, blah. The end result? A society more confused, or worse, sold on an unproven theory about what constitutes healthy eating becoming more nutritionally challenged as to what they are supposed to do, slowly creeping up in weight despite what they believe to be their best efforts. But that’s when the blame can now be shifted on you.

Knowledge is King

As a result of big company myth marketing, everyone becomes an expert of their own domain. “Eat less and exercise more is all I have to do.” “I need to eat these foods in combination.” “I have to stop eating after 7.” If it were only that easy so let’s stop right there. All three and countless other solutions are total BS and what’s frightening is people believe them to be sacred truths that must be adhered to despite their continued rate of failure. And how is that possible? Because knowledge that is fact, evidence based is far less sexy than avoiding whole food groups or eating like a caveman. Let’s begin with weight loss and fat loss. They are not the same. That’s an important concept to understand as most people who enter a diet program, or exercise program will say their goal is to lose weight. Number one, weight loss should never be the goal of any program because weight loss is easy. If I wrap you in a rubber suit, put you in a room that’s 100 degrees and have you do non-stop calisthenics, you can bet your tuckus you’d lose a lot of weight. Yep, it would be all water weight and most likely a little muscle if you didn’t pass out before the session was over. Fat pounds lost -zero. Fat weight, or that matter that accumulates on the body in lumpy sometimes unsightly appearances is much more stubborn and resilient but not for reasons you think. It’s just doing what it’s supposed to do.

The Fat of the Matter

Body fat, or adipose tissue is essential to human life. Yes, you need water and oxygen but fat comes in a really close third. Without getting into too much physiology, fat is an insulator, constituent of all cells, storage site for important vitamins, and a “reserve” of energy among other things. In most of the adult population (68%), it also becomes the surplus energy site. Going back to why people diet or exercise and they say they want to lose weight, what they really mean to say is that they want to lose fat weight. Losing fat weight though is not the same as losing weight and vice versa. Yes, you can lose fat and lose weight, but as previously explained in my horrendous exercise plan, you can lose weight and yet lose no fat weight. How is that possible? Don’t you sweat it out? How myths permeate our thinking. The human body is the perfect machine. Despite your best efforts, it will do everything in its power to keep you alive and kicking. Store excess energy for a later day and store even more energy when it is simply denied energy. Careful of the interpretation here. The body doesn’t store more energy when no energy is present. No, the damage is done when energy deprivation (restrictive calories)is occurring. Weight is lost through water weight and tragically muscle. Muscle is ultimately the engine that burns anything, including fat. Some fat weight may chip away but for the most part it remains and won’t be reflective much on the scale. Here’s where the real issue begins. In the quest to lose weight by eating less, most cut calories too low in whatever cockamamie method du jour thus chipping away at lean tissue (muscle) and seeing weight drop. Time passes and the cockamamie method du jour is no longer pleasurable or sustainable and eating methods slowly return to prior behaviors. There’s now less lean tissue, hence metabolism is lower, and calorie surplus is on the rise. You may have heard of the yo-yo dieting effect. Well, here ya go. Back at square one in a worse position than previously and the cycle continues. It doesn’t have to be that weigh…excuse me..way.

Points to Ponder

Fat loss is not easy but it is absolutely 100% possible. The ease with which some seem to have is not reflective of everyone’s journey and vice versa. It requires consistent, dedicated work towards a specific goal of losing fat, not weight. Here’s a few tips on how and where to start.
• If your past efforts have failed you, perhaps it’s time to take responsibility and own the fact that you’ve been going about it all wrong.
• No more dieting, quick fixes, temporary techniques for short term goals.
• Choose exercise that you will do consistently and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. At the very least, incorporate some form of resistance training for IT IS THE ONLY EXERCISE that can physically change your body.
• More exercise is not necessarily the answer. Develop a healthy balance that keeps it consistently fun and not a chore.
• Nutrition isn’t so necessarily complex. Stop buying into, believing nutritional claims promoted by unqualified “experts”. They exist because you continue to listen. Stop listening.
• EAT FOOD! Real food. Limit packaged, specifically marketed “diet” food.
• Food is not your enemy; the voice in your head is. You need to eat to survive, not listen to the opinions of others, including yourself.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

What Exercise WON’T Do For You

Most would agree that exercise is good for them or would at least subscribe to the idea that they need to be doing more of it. Often times that thought process spawns the idea that if something is good for you then more must be better. Exercise, more specifically physical activity, is in fact an integral part of a healthy lifestyle but like most things too much can be counterproductive. Today, the options to exercise are almost endless yet many still do not participate or quit after getting started because exercise “failed them”. Lofty expectations and the mentality that “something is better than nothing” with regards to exercise often lead to a negative mindset and subsequent poor relationship with getting and remaining physically active. To create a more positive and productive outlook with exercise, one must also appreciate what exercise won’t do for them to truly respect and understand its power.

  1. Erase mistakes in short order. A weekend of binging or holiday meal enjoyment (Thanksgiving always come to mind) is not miraculously burned off the next day(s), week, etc. with a monumental sweat fest. The body processes, stores, and utilizes calories at different rates and not at the rate you feel or presume it should. Better approach: Enjoy your dinner parties, holidays, etc. with more awareness and keep physical activity at a level that is consistent with your current regimen.
  2. Magically fix your weighty concerns. Just as in number 1, exercise won’t automatically make right in the universe AND be the only area where focus needs to be made. Weight loss, more specifically fat loss, requires a lifestyle change that includes exercise AND a focus on nutritional intake AND lifestyle choices among other things. Better approach: Commit to the long term; there is no real success in the short term. And for those that promise the short term successes, understand they’re counting on you to fail.
  3. Grant you pardon for missed/skipped workouts. Regardless of the physical shape you think you’re in, you simply can’t “bank” workouts to get you through missed or lapsed time. The longer or more frequent the lapse, the greater the uphill battle. Better approach: Plan and schedule workouts. Life happens and things arise but be diligent about giving exercise the importance and regularity it needs and deserves, otherwise it will fail you.
  4. Mold you into the Adonis you see on TV or magazine covers. It goes without saying that ads are only trying to sell product. But the fitness industry is rife with lies and deceit and leading many into a false sense of security. Consistency, hard work, and proper progression are the keys to success in any program, not the program itself. Better approach: Be clear on your goals and march towards them with purpose, not blindly following the recommendations of a trendy program, guru, or protocol. Understand everything works for 6 weeks. Again, focus on long term over short term.
  5. Gives you permission to eat whatever you want. This one is a biggie as is often the thought of many who do or do not exercise that the “exercise” group can afford to eat whatever they want. Wrong! Most people who work out with the intention of losing weight do not exercise nearly enough to grant them amnesty from the post workout mocha latte. Unless you are an athlete or partaking in an athletic endeavor like a marathon or ultra-physical endeavor where you will burn more calories in a few hours then most will burn in an entire week, consuming extra calories because you feel you have “earned” them is counterproductive. Better approach: Feed (i.e. fuel) your body only what it needs but still creates the surplus/deficit you need to accomplish your goal.
  6. Make you invincible. Having strength and confidence is a very good thing but do not let that be superseded by your ego. Injuries in exercise are always operator error, not the exercises themselves. Learn proper form and technique with whatever exercise you choose and respect the activity. Better approach: Think of your plan as an evolving continuum. Start at A, progress to B, and so forth. You’ll be moving mountains in no time but you have to be patient and trust the process.

Exercise does not exist in a vacuum. It’s a very important component of a healthy lifestyle but it serves no good to be done inconsistently or haphazardly. There is no perfect workout, program, or protocol out there. There are better choices to make with regards to your goal but that is what you must decide before beginning any exercise program – the goal. Exercise will not determine that for you. You must decide on the goal first and then select the exercise that is best for achieving that goal. Most important of all, you find an exercise plan that you can adhere to realistically on a consistent basis.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 12 – A New Year, A New You

(This is Part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

Imagine business without progress; a stock portfolio that shows no growth; an investment that becomes a loss.  Mention any one of these occurrences to a reasonably intelligent individual, and the first thing they should say is “something has got to change”.  So what does it have to take for people to view their health the same way?  Businesses come and go, stocks rise and fall, and investments will always be there.  But you only get one shot at your health.  It’s yours to grow, nurture, and improve and no one can take that away from you.  It is what I like to call a safe investment with minimal risk.  Sure, there are things in life that occur that are simply out of our control. However, if you wait around hoping good things will happen for you instead of making them happen, you will be disappointed more times than not. Understanding how exercise and good nutrition play a role in the improvement of your health is vital to your success. If you don’t clearly know what it is you are supposed to do, you begin to walk down a dimly lit path full of debris and deceitful crossroads

The “Nutri”-Fix

To help shed some light, in a recent report some of the top US nutrition experts came up with their top five nutritional gripes – nutritional blunders our society is repeatedly guilty of.  In the never ending quest for knowledge and progress, see which of these gripes you are perhaps guilty of and imagine the possibilities if you were to make even some small, subtle changes in regards to your dietary habits.

  1. We can’t tell the good fats from the bad ones.
    “Most people still don’t get that some fats are actually good for you,” says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, an American Heart Association spokesperson. “You want to avoid saturated and trans fats, but you need more good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Good sources are fish, nuts, avocados, soybean products, and canola and olive oils. If you keep track of total calories, you don’t have to worry about how much fat you eat, just what kind,” explains Dr. Lichtenstein.
  2. We super-size to save money.
    “People think that super-sizing a restaurant meal is a money saver, but it’s not a health bargain if it has way too many calories,” says Karen Weber Cullen, DPH, RD, research nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Judge portion sizes with your palm, not your purse. A serving size is about what fits into the palm of your hand (larger for men than women, smaller for children). For most meals, pick one protein, one starch, one veggie, and one fruit based on the serving that will fit into your palm. Buffets are not good values.  They’re feeding troughs!
  3. We think anything liquid has no calories.
    “What freaks me out is the amount of sugared soda and juice we drink,” says Judith Stern, ScD, RD, professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. “I’d like to see all the sugared drinks sent out into space, where they could orbit the Earth forever.” Sugared drinks balloon your calorie intake and squeeze out more nutritious foods.  Diet beverages are no better, as they too have been linked to weight gain and eating the fruit is far more superior nutritionally than drinking juice.  Instead, try a cup of tea. Available in myriad varieties, the calorie-free brew promotes heart health, staves off several types of cancer, strengthens bones and teeth, and protects the skin.  Still, when it comes to what is best, nothing can replace water.
  4. We don’t know how “hungry” really feels.
    “If you don’t know when you’re hungry, you don’t know when you’re full, so you won’t know when to stop eating,” says Elisabetta Politi, RD, nutrition manager of the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, NC. Tune in with mindful eating by doing the following: 1) Before you eat, relax, and rate your hunger from 1 (hungriest) to 7 (fullest); 2) Eat slowly, pausing often to rate how your hunger changes; 3) When finished, rate yourself one more time. Try to stay between 2 1/2 and 5 1/2: not too ravenous when you start and not completely full when you stop.
  5. We have a microwave addiction.
    Many people come home from work and pop a frozen entrée into the microwave. “Eating too many heavily processed foods can leave you short on fiber and antioxidants such as vitamin C,” explains Jo Ann Hattner, RD, clinical dietitian at Stanford University Medical Center. Complement a frozen entrée with a green salad, a 100 percent whole-wheat roll, and fruit for dessert. Stock up on the freshest fruit for maximum flavor.

Nutrition however is only part of the equation. There are blunders people make when it comes to getting fit.  The improvement and betterment of your health should be the number one reason you begin an exercise program; not to look good for a vacation or get ready for a class reunion.  The good news is those benefits can and will manifest themselves with a lifestyle that includes regular exercise.  Especially at this time of year, perhaps you may be guilty of some of these oversights regarding exercise.

The “Fit” Fix

  1. Not enough time and lack of consistency. When time becomes the excuse, exercise is not a priority.  Translated: my health is not a priority.  Exercise doesn’t have to be hours doing something physical.  It just needs to be consistent.  There may be days when time is more available, and other times when it is of the essence. Consistency breeds a habit, and that habit becomes a lifestyle. You can ill afford to not make the time.
  2. Taking credit for physical activity. All too often, people like to think that household chores, yard work, and shopping account for exercise.  Don’t be confused and likewise, don’t be too proud.  Any physical activity is a good thing, but when was the last time you heard that someone reduced their blood pressure or participated in a 5 K because they clean their windows every week?  Structured exercise, a physical stress beyond normal every day activity, is what it means and is necessary to get fit.
  3. Buying into gimmicks. Late night and weekend infomercials are only interested in one thing and it is not your health.  It’s your emotional buying power.  They only add to the confusion of what most think it is they need to do and in turn have created mounds of rubbish.  Like mom always said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
  4. Using generic fitness programs. We are all unique and what works for some does not guarantee that it will work for everyone. Fitness programs should be specifically tailored to the individual and not copied because it is what some Hollywood starlet used to get ready for a movie.
  5. Exercise designed around a specific body part. Our bodies work and operate as a whole, and as the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link.  Optimal health comes from incorporating the body as a living, functional unit, and an exercise program designed around just a specific body part is short sighted and will yield sub-par results.

The prospect of a New Year can be thrilling.  Another potential 365 days of promise, hope, and wonder and a chance to improve and take another step towards greatness.  Change is not going to happen overnight. Fitness (physical, nutritional) is a lifestyle of smarter choices, commitment, and balance.  In 2017, make a promise to yourself that this year will be different and you will not only do what is necessary to take care of your health, but also make real progress towards making a better you.

All my best to you and your families for a wonderful holiday season and all the best for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

*Originally featured in January 2008 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!
Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!
Day 6 – Understanding Your Metabolism
Day 7 – The Most Addictive (And Least Addictive) Foods
Day 8 – The 10 Biggest Lies of the Weight Loss Industry
Day 9 – Are You a Closet Eater?
Day 10 – 10 Ways to Kickstart a Morning Workout
Day 11 – A Resolution or A Plan?