Tuesday, December 27, 2011

You Can't Exercise Your Way out of Bad Nutrition

When the USDA food pyramid was revised several years ago, they added stairs on the side of it to remind people how important physical activity is. I believe exercise is crucial for optimal health, but exercise can't compensate for poor nutrition. This time of year I frequently hear people comment on how they are going to have to exercise more in order to burn off all the extra food they just ate.

Some people say "I can afford to eat dessert since I took the stairs". Have you ever run on a treadmill and seen how long it takes to burn calories? A Costco blueberry muffin has 610 calories. A 170 pound person would have to walk at a brisk pace for 2 hours to burn those calories off. You just can't rely on exercise to negate the effects of overeating.

It's wise to plan for the occasional eating splurge or accommodate for times when we know we will be eating more food than usual. I think the best way to do this is to decrease our overall calorie consumption before and after those occasions as opposed to just trying to burn off the calories afterwards by exercising more.

Most people think of calorie consumption on a daily 24 hour basis, but energy balance also works on a weekly level. You may have a day or two during the week where you eat more calories at parties or other social activities, but if you decrease your calorie intake on other days of the week, then you can create the same net result as eating the same number of calories through the entire week.

Both exercise and nutrition are vital components of good health but many of us make the mistake of assuming we can exercise our way out of eating excess calories. It might work for an ultra marathoner, but most people don't exercise at a high enough intensity or for a sufficient duration to be able to offset the extra calories they consume. The solution? Be a more disciplined eater and plan in advance in order to accommodate for the times you eat more. You can always stick with the "I'll just exercise it off" mentality, but there are probably not enough hours in the day to make that work.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Flossing

It is Thanksgiving today and I am not going to try to give anyone a guilt trip for how much they ate or for how lazy they were. Remember there is a time appointed for all things and today is a time to celebrate and eat. I will however recycle the appropriate topic of flossing since most of us will be picking turkey out of our teeth today

I find few things to be more tedious and boring than flossing my teeth. For nearly 10 years I was cavity free each time I went to the dentist. Over time my flossing efforts were less than stellar and as a result I found myself in need of a $1,600 root canal and crown. What added to the sting of this experience was the fact that I had no dental insurance at the time. This is another fine example of how neglecting simple preventative measures can create a bigger and more expensive problems.

I've heard some people say that if you had to choose between brushing and flossing that flossing is even more important for prevention of cavities since it cleans out the harder to reach areas where they originate. I'm not going to go into the boring details about how to floss but we all know it is beneficial. I still think flossing is ridiculously boring and I can't stand it, but now that I know what a root canal is I will gladly submit to this monotonous and burdensome practice. 


If you have slacked off when it comes to flossing your teeth, then I encourage you to do a better job. Flossing is a simple thing, but it can save you a lot of money and pain down the road. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Muscle Spotlight: Abs

Abdominal muscles are one of the most popular muscle groups. It seems everybody wants to have a toned and defined midsection, but few people actually have a visible six pack. This is ironic since everyone already has these muscles, but you just have to do some excavating (weight loss) to see them.

Many people claim to want a six pack, but since it requires single digit body fat levels, there are few people who actually have them. I respect anyone who is disciplined enough to sport a visible six pack, but at the same time, I think it can be an over-rated sign of fitness. Having a six pack shows that a person has a low body fat level, toned midsection, and that they are a disciplined eater, but there is more to over all health and fitness than mere aesthetics.

The muscle responsible for a 6 or even 8 pack look is the rectus abdominus which is a long muscle which runs vertically down the abdomen. This muscle is intersected and divided by bands of connective tissue which creates the segmented look. Other abdominal muscles include the external and internal obliques and the transverse abdominus.

There are countless offers for miracle drugs, belts, exercise equipment and other gadgets to help people get their dream midsection, but that will only be achieved if they have the discipline to keep their body fat percentage low enough to make them visible. You can do 1,000 sit ups every day or use every ab machine in existence, but unless you have the weigh loss portion of the equation under control, you will never look like the guy above (No, that's not me).

A defined 6 pack is a pretty cool thing, but unless you are a body builder or fitness competitor, you probably don't have one and that's okay. For most people, working to achieve a healthy body fat percentage is a more realistic goal than having washboard abs.





Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prescription Drug Safety

According to the Journal of Preventative Medicine, poisoning from prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers has increased by 65 percent over a seven year period. Opioid prescription drugs now cause more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined. Abuse of prescription drugs has gotten so bad that the CDC has categorized it as an epidemic.

Some of the drugs in this category include Percocet, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Vicodin, and many others.The abuse of these substances is not an issue that just affects junkies in back alleys. This problem affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. I believe one reason for the increase of this problem is because these drugs are not considered "dirty' since you don't smoke or inject them. It's also easier to rationalize taking something that has been prescribed by a physician.

As a teenager I was prescribed Percocet when I got my wisdom teeth out. I loved how it made me feel light headed, sweaty and warm when I took it. When I had similar drugs prescribed years later after a surgery, I was reluctant to use them since I was afraid of becoming addicted. When I've seen pain killers prescribed for myself and others, I have been shocked at how large the supply is. Why prescribe a huge bottle of addictive drugs that will last a whole week, when the immediate pain of surgery is usually only intense for a couple days? No wonder so many people become addicted to these substances.

Here are some guidelines to protect you and your family against prescription drug abuse.

1) If you don't feel you really need a heavy duty pain killer, then don't accept the prescription. Use alternative pain relief when possible.
2) If you have been prescribed pain killers, follow the directions carefully.
3) Don't use old or expired prescriptions.
4) When using prescription drugs, be aware of other drug interactions.
5) Keep drugs in a safe place out of the reach of children.
6) Don't drive or operate machinery when using drugs that cause drowsiness.
7) Dispose of old drugs so they don't become a temptation for misuse or potential theft.
8) Don't share or offer your prescriptions to others.

It's a shame when lives ends prematurely due to accidental overdose, misuse, or abuse of prescription drugs.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

November's Vegetable Challenge

Being the king of my own home is nice, since it allows me to make random decrees like a power hungry tyrant. I recently came up with an idea to introduce my kids to more vegetables, so I have decreed that November will be vegetable awareness month. Next month we will make sure that we eat a different vegetable every day of the month.

We recently came up with a list of 31 vegetables, and my kids were definitely more excited about some of them than others. We will include a different vegetable every day until they are all crossed off the list at the end of the month.

I know that winter is not the most ideal time of year to take on this project, since local fresh produce is no longer plentiful, but I think we can do it. It was actually quite challenging to come up with a list of 31 vegetables. Most of us probably rely on eating the same 10 -15 popular ones over and over. Making a game out of this will give us more variety in our diet, get my kids involved in planning some meals, and hopefully help them overcome their fears of being poisoned by eating "yucky" vegetables.

I'd encourage you to join us during the month of  "Novegetablember". If you are not up to the challenge, then at least see if you can make a list of 31 different vegetables. This exercise will help you realize which ones you seldom eat and can get you thinking about trying some new ones.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Are You Getting Enough Fiber?

I was going to name this post "the exciting world of fiber", but that would be deceptive advertising. Fiber may not be a very glamorous topic, but it is an important component of good nutrition. Fiber aids in digestion and can help prevent constipation, heart disease, ulcers, cancer and diabetes. Food high in fiber can also play a role in weight loss.

Dietary fiber or roughage slows the absorption of sugars and starch in the blood stream. It also helps with regularity and cleansing your digestive system. It is recommended that we eat between 25-40 grams of fiber each day. Below is a list of foods and how many grams of fiber they contain.

1 C bran cereal 19
1 C cooked black beans 16
1 medium avocado 10
3 dried figs 10
1 C of raspberries 8
1/2 C cooked spinach 7
1 C strawberries 6
1 medium yam 6
1 C whole wheat pasta 5
1 medium pear 5
1 ear corn on the cob 5
1 baked potato 5
1 C oatmeal 4
1 medium raw apple 4
1 slice whole wheat bread 2
1 medium tomato 1

To improve your fiber intake, try the following:

* Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
* Don't peel your fruits and vegetables.
* Eat dried peas, beans, lentils, and legumes.
* Choose whole fruits over fruit juice.
* Top salads with garbanzo and kidney beans and peas.
* Eat high fiber cereal a couple times a week.

Warning: I will not be held responsible for the consequences of an over enthusiastic fiber consumer. Spread your fiber consumption throughout the day as opposed to getting your RDA of fiber in just one meal. Remember that fiber speeds up transit time of food in the digestive tract. That's a classy way of warning you that you'll spend all day on the toilet if you go overboard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Super Foods

Some foods appear to be more nutrient dense than others and are very high in vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants. Foods like blueberries, flax, almonds, quinoa, salmon, acai, broccoli, and garlic are all known for their unique properties and benefits. I believe we are what we eat, and nutrition is a critical component to good health, but I also think it is easy to put too much emphasis on any one specific food.

If you have been on the Internet over the last several years you have probably seen ads for the acai berry. I have personally tried products containing this berry and am a fan of it, but I will be the first to tell you to watch out for scams. There are countless marketing companies that are jumping on the bandwagon and promoting it as a weight loss supplement and a cure for any ailment. Acai may have many antioxidants, but that doesn't mean it's the answer to losing weight or curing disease. I believe it can aid in the prevention of certain ailments, and promotes good health, but there is alot of marketing hype to sift through.

We've been told about the benefits of green leafy, brightly colored, and cruciferous vegetables that contain high anti-oxidants. I think you can pretty much say that all vegetables are good for you. (that is, until Hostess comes out with a new one), but over emphasizing any one vegetable because it has been labeled a super food and avoiding others is not wise. Fad diets frequently focus on just one food. A balanced diet is the key. No matter how good for you any specific food may be you, you will still want to eat a balanced diet.

I think it is a good thing for us to eat more of these healthy "super foods", but when I hear people endlessly promote any one particular food it reminds me of a concert pianist who sits down to the piano and then just hits the one same key over and over because it sounds so great to them. Nutrition consists of the entire keyboard, not just your favorite key. Remember it is important to have balance, variety, and moderation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Exercising On The Go

I've heard many people say they don't have time to exercise because of their busy schedule. If your job requires heavy manual labor, then that may not be a concern for you, but for most people who sit at a desk or in front of a computer all day, they only end up exercising their fingers while they are at work.

I know that the work environment is usually not the most convenient place for working out, but here are some simple things you can do to add more physical exertion and activity to your daily schedule.

1. Walk or ride a bike to work whenever possible. At least park further away in the parking lot.

2. Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators in order to get more exercise.

3. When you get stressed or tired, drop and do 20 push ups. You can also try wall sits, squats, lunges, or calf raises. No equipment is needed for these exercises and they can be done in under a minute.

4. Get up from you desk at least every hour and walk around to get your blood flowing.

5. Sit on a stability ball instead of a chair in order to work your core and stabilizer muscles.

6. Be aware of your posture and try to sit up straight and avoid slouching.

7. Stretch your muscles. Sitting still for long periods of time is rough on your body. Stretching is also a great way to relieve stress.

8. Exercise on your lunch break. Occasionally I go to the nearby gym on my lunch break for a brief workout. I may just work one or two body parts and might feel strange being there in my street clothes and only lifting for 10-20 minutes, but it is a great way to get some exercise in and blow off some stream during the workday.

Sometimes we focus too much on our comfort and efficiency at the expense of our health. Most Americans have sedentary jobs and can afford to expend more energy and be more active. It doesn't take much time to increase your activity level. We all have 24 hours in our day, so make sure you are improving the quality of your life by making to exercise.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hollywood Makeovers

Tom Hardy in Warrior
I recently saw Warrior and was shocked afterwards because I did not even recognize one of the stars of the movie. Tom Hardy plays a mean MMA fighter and he looked nothing like he did in Inception last year. He added what looked like 35 pounds of muscle to his frame. Movie stars frequently make some dramatic changes to their physique in an effort to get into character for a role. Some examples that come to mind include:

-Tom Hanks losing 50 pounds for Cast Away.

-Christian Bale losing 63 pounds for his role in The Machinist and then gaining muscle again to portray Batman the next year.

Same guy before
 -Brad Pitt getting shredded for Fight Club or bulking up to play Achilles in Troy.

-Will Smith putting on muscle and size in order to look like Mohamed Ali.

-Jake Gyllenhaal getting in shape for Prince of Persia.

-Hillary Swank bulking up to play a boxer in Million Dollar Baby.

-Gerard Butler and his 6 pack flaunting entourage in 300.

So how are these celebrities able to make such amazing and often drastic transformations in such a short amount of time? They get results because they have trainers, dietitians, and others helping them around the clock for months. There is also a ton of pressure on them. If you had 6 months to prepare to look like a super hero, warrior, athlete, etc. I'm sure you wouldn't want to show up out of shape and disappoint everyone. (It also doesn't hurt that they also have wardrobe, makeup, lighting, special effects and CGI at their disposal for that additional boost.)

You may not have the unlimited funds and resources to help you get the look you want, unlike some of these actors and movie studios, but you can still make some drastic changes in your own life. I hate to put too much emphasis on appearance since looks are not synonymous with health, but I am always impressed when I see people make amazing changes to their physique.

If you need motivation to get in shape, just get cast for a role in a Hollywood movie as a bodybuilder or model, then give yourself 6 months to physically prepare for the part. If however, you are like 99% of the population then you will have to just keep plugging along with the rest of us.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Confessions of a Hypocritical Trainer

One of the benefits of being a trainer is the added pressure it puts on you to stay fit since most people don't care to take advice from someone who does not practice what they preach. I've observed many people at the gym raise their eyebrows in surprise when they've seen how out of shape some trainers are.

Since I got certified as a trainer back in 2001, I have done a decent job of staying in shape and exercising, but I know I could do so much better, especially when it comes to the food I eat. I eat way too much sugar, processed foods, and fast food. I am always telling others to avoid these things so this makes me a hypocrite. It's time to change that.

I believe that for changes to be lasting, you have to focus on long term permanent lifestyle changes as opposed to just going on quick fix "diets" or temporary programs. At the same time, however, I believe working on a 90 day fitness program can be a good way to jump start things and to help you develop the important habits you want to change.

This is my favorite time of year, but with summer and swimsuit season ending, many people start to slack off from now through the holidays. If you don't want to lose the results of your prior hard work and don't want to just let things slide like the masses do, then I'd encourage you to set some new goals for improved fitness and better health over the next 90 days.

For the next 3 months I am going to continue to exercise 5-6 times a week but will also improve my nutrition dramatically by eating less processed food and foods high in sugar. Instead I will eat a lot more plant based foods and whole foods as well as just eating less than I have been in the past. Join me by setting some specific goals that are important to you. You'll be glad you did when Christmas rolls around and you are feeling good about yourself instead of being depressed and waiting for the first of the year so you can start getting back in shape.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Attitude and Health

As a health major, I took many health classes in college. One day one of my  professors brought up the topic of attitude and health. It was one of the more memorable lessons I recall from college. He used the word "hearty" to describe individuals who are more resilient, optimistic, up to a challenge, and able to cope with changes in their lives better.

One's attitude can help determine how you deal with stress, illness, injury, and serious disease. It also determines how you feel about taking care of your body. I believe having a good attitude can improve one's health. To illustrate this, let's look at the example of someone with a bad attitude.

I'm sure you have encountered people who always seem to have a furrowed brow and a scowl on their face. Their bad attitudes ooze negativity to everyone they come in contact with. They love to complain and bellyache about everything. These are the kind of people who brighten a room up when they leave. You can't tell me that their negative interpretation of life and angry emotions don't carry over and manifest themselves on a physical level in their various body systems and, in turn, affect their health.

I think a great example of the power of attitude is the story of Victor Frankl. He was a Jewish psychiatrist who was sent to a concentration camp during World War II. He observed that those who survived the nightmarish conditions were the ones who looked to serve and take care of others. They still had purpose and focused on others as opposed to the suffering they were going through. They refused to give up and, as a result, had a better chance of surviving.

I've never had to endure a concentration camp, abuse, or gone through chemotherapy, so I am not trying to judge those who have had bad attitudes while going through horrific experiences. I'm just trying to point out that the ability of a person to deal with difficulties and move beyond them has a great deal to do with their mentality and attitude.

I've trained people with negative attitudes who second guess and refuse to take counsel. They make excuses and try to be the exception to the rule for nature's laws. I've found that the "glass half empty" people are less likely to be successful at reaching their goals and getting results than people who have a positive attitude.

Some people think positive attitude denotes a Pollyanna complex or is used to describe people with rose-colored glasses who ignore reality. A positive attitude is much more than that. Having the proper attitude is essential to good health. As you develop a hearty attitude, you will be able to deal with set backs and adversity more successfully. I believe attitude is one of the great secrets to better health.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

6 Tips To Stay Motivated

One excuse I occasionally hear from clients is that they just can't get motivated to work out or to eat right. As a fellow human being, there are times when I can relate. I am always up for playing basketball, but I occasionally run into phases where it is harder for me to want to run or lift weights.

So, how do you get and stay motivated if you feel your efforts are slipping? Here are some ideas that can help you.

1) Get a workout partner. If you exercise with friends and make it a social event, you will be more committed to participate and there's also a good chance you will have more fun.

2) Increase your accountability. Paying a trainer is another effective way to commit to working out. If you don't show up, you end up flushing your money down the toilet, so you might as well exercise and get the good results.

3) Focus on your goals. Put up a realistic photograph of what you want to look like (maybe a picture of yourself when you were more fit.) Keep your fitness goals in front of you. Keep your focus on the prize as opposed to the price you are paying. Remember the reason you are willing to work hard and sacrifice. It's not so hard when you remember why you are doing it.

4) Remember how great you feel after a workout (aside from the tired and sweaty part.) Endorphins give you a natural high and can decrease depression and alleviate stress. Exercise provides so many health benefits.

5) Use rewards as an incentive. When you consistently do your part or reach a goal, treat yourself to a non-food reward. Just make sure it is appropriate to the task you have completed.

6) Use a social event as a deadline on your calendar. Events like an anniversary, reunion, birthday, or vacation can be used as goal dates to motivate you to get into better shape or maintain healthy habits.

It's easy to get excited about getting or staying in shape at the first of the year when everyone is making resolutions, but it may take some additional motivation at other times throughout the year. Utilize these six tips to help you stay on track when the going gets tough.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Prevention

Prevention is a crucial component of healthy living. When is the best time to correct a problem? Before it ever happens! Think of the billions of dollars spent on health care that could have been avoided if people had only taken preventative measures. It's hard to put a price tag on prevention. To quote Michael Scott from The Office "You just can't put a price tag on a $50 gas card."

Taking preventative measures and being proactive is one way to avoid being a victim who just lets life happen to them. You've all heard the phrase "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". I understand that people who exercise everyday can still drop over dead from a heart attack and people who watch what they eat can still get cancer, but anytime you can stack the odds in your favor you will be better off. You will also have a higher quality of life when you actively take measures to promote better health.

I think the dental industry is a good example of prevention. It would be nice if doctors could remind you to do the equivalent or brushing and flossing for your health, but they usually end up treating you once you are past that point and need immediate treatment for some illness or disease. I don't have a medical license but I can take on the important role of prevention coordinator. In fact, I think I'll make myself the Founder, President, and CEO of the Your Fitness Quest Prevention Society.

Little things like wearing seat belts, flossing, washing your hands, reading food labels, wearing safety eye wear when operating machinery, and having health screenings may not seem like a big deal, but if you develop these and other habits it can make a big difference over time.

Nobody wakes up one morning overweight and out of shape. Changes are gradual and take time. If you are not doing anything to promote better health then you are probably slowly slipping backwards. Today is a great day to make a difference in your health by practicing prevention.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Planning for Success

Planning is a crucial part of success for any venture and it's also the case when it comes to weight loss, healthy eating, and improved health. You've probably heard the saying "failing to plan is planning to fail". Making lifestyle changes and getting rid of unhealthy habits can be a difficult process, so give yourself an advantage by planning for success.

1) Decide now to remove temptations. A co-worker once had a bowl of M&Ms in her office which she kept eating so she gave them to me. Guess who ended up eating them because they were under my nose all day long? You can't surround yourself with stuff you are trying to avoid or you will give in. If junk food is in sight and within reach, you will eat it!

2) Plan meals in advance. Preparing your menu the night or week before can be very helpful. When you have 20 minutes to get something to eat and you haven't brought a lunch or bought healthy ingredients to make something with, then you are in trouble and end up settling for less healthy fast food options because they are so convenient. Cook in bulk and freeze meals for later in the week. Successful eating never happens by accident.

3) Chart out your exercise out for the week so you will have a plan and know what you are going to do before you get to the gym. You can always adjust or adapt your plan when things come up, but you will be much better off and feel more committed if you know what days and times you are going to do cardio and when you will do resistance training.

4) Learn to manage your time better. Many people claim they don't have enough time to exercise. You can't afford to neglect your health. A good workout doesn't need to take a lot of time. When you exercise, it sharpens the saw and actually improves the quality of the other aspects of your life. Exercise is a great investment and most people can find time if they learn to manage their time better and avoid time wasters.

If you can develop the habit of planning, then you will be much more successful in your attempts to reach your fitness goals. I have never seen someone who had an impressive body transformation who said it happened by accident and they didn't have a plan. Realistic planning combined with consistent effort is the key to getting you where you want to be.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bad Spotters and Horrible Form

I thought I'd share some videos to illustrate why it's important to use spotters, use good equipment, and lift with proper form when working out. I was once that embarrassed teenager who got pinned under an attempted bench press because I didn't think I needed a spotter. You can ave a lot of pain and embarrassment by using your brain when you lift weights.



Here is a sample of some textbook horrible lifting form. I don't know what you call that technique, but I had to go ice my lower back after watching this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Walking

I was once at a friend's house and noticed that my friend's dad had a magazine entitled "Walking". My friend teased him for purchasing a periodical about such a simple activity. As easy as walking may be, it is one of the best exercises a person can do because it's an aerobic activity and is also low impact so everyone can do it.

Sometimes I drive to the gym and feel like a hypocrite as I circle the parking lot until a close spot opens up. That's very ironic, but I don't think I'm alone when it comes to being lazy. Over time as a society, we have become more sedentary due to technological advances. These advances are a blessing since they save us so much time, but they can also be a curse when they cause us to neglect our bodies.

When I think about sedentary lifestyles, I am reminded of the movie Wall-E and how everyone was dependent on machines to move themselves around and as a result they were all over weight.

If someone is looking to really improve their conditioning or burn calories faster, then high intensity workouts are a better option than just walking, but for people with injuries and those who are not yet able to handle intense workouts, walking is a step in the right direction. Running may not be as "sexy" or cool as CrossFit, TRX, or triathlons, but it is still a great exercise that you don't need a gym membership for. It's also a great way to relieve stress and enjoy the outdoors.

Look for ways to increase your physical activity by walking more. Take the stairs, park at the far side of the parking lot and go on walks with a spouse or friend.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

10 Tips For A Good Night's Sleep


I've previously addressed the importance of sleep, but I'd like to share some practical ideas on how to improve the quality of your slumber. We spend a good percentage of our lives sleeping, so we might as well make that good quality rest instead of tossing and turning. Here are some tips to help you get a better night's sleep.

10. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Consistency in the times you go to bed and wake up can make it easier to sleep. Find a routine that works for you.

9. Turn off TV and electronics a couple hours before retiring to bed. It can take your body an hour or two to unwind, so watching TV or typing on your laptop until your eyes sting and you are exhausted is not a good idea.

8. Take a hot bath or shower to help your muscles relax and ease tension prior to going to bed.

7. Keep distractions down. I've woken up many times from naps like an angry bear when my kids are yelling or making loud noises outside my room. Unplug phones and keep distractions to a minimum. 

6. Sleep at a cooler temperature. We all know how uncomfortable it can be when trying to sleep in hot weather. Lower your thermostat to help you sleep better.

5. Don't drink too much before going to bed. A full bladder will interrupt your sleep and can cause bad dreams.

4. Play calming music and dim your lights prior to going to bed. This can help wind down and transition to retiring to bed.

3. Exercise regularly. People who exercise often report sleeping better through the night. However, exercising to soon before going to bed can keep you up. 

2. Sleep in a dark room. I will sometimes wear something over my eyes if I'm trying to nap during the daytime. It might look silly, but it helps.

1. Invest in a good mattress. I'm not going to do a mattress commercial here, but it makes sense to have a quality mattress and pillow that meets your needs.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's Your Body Type?

One thing I have noticed over the years is that despite all of us being members of the human race, our bodies can still be very different from each other. People come in all shapes, sizes, builds, and proportions.

The classic three body or somatotypes are listed below, but many people are not just one specific category, but rather a combination of them. I'm not a huge fan of labeling people into such simple classifications, but I don't think it hurts to acknowledge one's basic body type.

Ectomorphs- These are people with thin frames who have a hard time gaining weight. One way people determine if you fit in this category is if you can put your middle finger and thumb around your opposite writs and have them touch or overlap.

Endomorphs- They have a tendency to be heavier and stockier than most people. Their metabolisms are typically slower and they gain weight more easily.

Mesomorphs- This fortunate group is naturally more muscular and have a more athletic build than the general population.

There are also body type classifications I hear women refer to such as apple, pear, or hour glass shaped. These are determined by where you carry your weight. 

How much stock should we put into body types and shapes? It makes sense to address these differences when you are creating a fitness program. If you are a heavier person who gains weight easily then this should be addressed when you are talking about nutrition. It certainly makes sense to acknowledge your body type for how you dress and what kind of appearance you are trying to achieve. 

Your body shape can also be an important factor when it comes to addressing health risks. Apple shaped people who carry excess fat on their abdomen as opposed to their legs and butt are at a higher risk for heart disease.

Many people's perceived ideal body image comes from Hollywood, models, or athletes, but very few people in the general population fit that description or have "ideal" proportions. It's easy to be dissatisfied with the genetics and predispositions we've inherited, but all kinds of body shapes and sizes can be beautiful. Think how boring life would be if everyone looked like fitness models.

Some people can work all they want, but a large framed woman may never look petite. As an ectomorph, I could spend my entire life in the gym and I would never look like a professional bodybuilder. The key is to take good care of your body and train and develop it to your own personal potential.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fat Head

I recently watched Fat Head which is a documentary that challenges the premise and science behind the movie Supersize Me. This film stars Tom Naughton as he takes the challenge of eating nothing but fast food for 30 days and he actually ends up losing 12  pounds.

I enjoyed Super Size Me and thought it was very entertaining, but Fat Head is on a crusade to not only discredit, but make fun of Morgan Spurlock. Despite the personal attacks on Spurlock which I didn't care for, I still think this movie had some valid points and it was very enlightening. It criticizes the BMI index, the CDC, The CSPI, the food pyramid, lobbyists, and government regulation and intervention just to name a few.

Tom Naughton is the director and star of this film. He is supposed to be a comedian, but he didn't come across as being very funny. Fat Head is a very low budget production which detracts a little from it's message. I also had a problem with him only eating 100 grams of carbs per day since that is certainly not indicative of a full time fast food diet. He goes on a rant about how good animal products and saturated fats are for us and by the end of this movie I felt like he was promoting the Atkins diet.

Despite the many things I didn't like about this movie, I still thought it raised some valid questions and concerns about the obesity epidemic. I also liked how it puts the responsibility for one's health on the individual as opposed to government or the fast food industry. I don't think a 30 day eating experiment involving one person qualifies as good science, but the concept is interesting. Whether you agree with this documentary or not, I think it is informative and makes some good points so I recommend it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Battle of the Diet Philosophies

I was recently watching some nutrition videos on YouTube, and I came across a panel of doctors who were speaking at a conference. These doctors and nutritionists were experts on the topic of nutrition, and I found it interesting that many of them not only contradicted each other but completely disagreed as to what the healthiest diet is. I'd like to briefly address some different nutritional philosophies and give my own opinion on them.

Let me preface my comments by saying I think most weight loss "diets" that are supposed to be a quick fix are a joke. When I use the word diet below I am instead talking about basic eating philosophies. I am not trying to bash any of the following eating ideologies. The average American eats a highly processed, high calorie diet and eats too much, so when I see people trying to improve their nutrition by following any program, my hat is off to them. Please don't take offense with any of my insights or opinions.

High-carb diet- I think starchy carbs like potatoes and white rice can be a problem for people trying to lose weight. If someone is a marathon runner, endurance athlete, or very active, they can certainly handle eating more starchy carbs than a sedentary person who sits in front of a computer 8 hours a day. I've recently realized that I have overeaten bread, cereal, and pasta for most of my life.

Vegetarian/Vegan- I think vegetarians are less likely to develop cancer, diabetes, and heart disease than the general public. I am not a vegetarian but have warmed up this philosophy over the last several years. It is not very common to see an overweight vegetarian.

Paleo-I like the natural aspect of this diet, but I think it can get a little extreme when it comes to avoiding any kind of grains. My other concern is that meat and protein is emphasized so heavily. I appreciate the fact that they try to eat natural, unprocessed food to fuel their bodies.

Raw Foods-I've seen cases of raw diets reversing the effects and severity of many diseases. Raw enthusiasts claim cooking your food kills the enzymes. A raw diet provides plenty of fiber, but the down side is it can be a real challenge to eat raw plants for every meal; however, I think most Americans would benefit quite a bit by moving in this direction by possibly having one raw meal a day. 

My opinion- The world of nutrition can be confusing and even the experts don't always agree with each other. I think as a general rule, most people would be healthier if they ate more plant-based foods, especially more raw fruits and vegetables. I'm not against meat or animal products, but I think most people eat too much of them. Eating more nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and unprocessed foods is also a good idea.

I'm not a disciple of any particular diet. I try to take the good from each of these eating philosophies. The key is to develop long term healthy eating habits that are customized to you so they will be sustainable. You need to adapt your diet according to your lifestyle, needs, goals, and preferences. Remember the importance of moderation, balance, and variety so you don't get too extreme when it comes to your nutrition.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Most Neglected Muscles

It seems that some muscles get all the attention. Pecs, biceps, and abs are always hogging the spotlight and are usually the favorite kids while the step child muscles get neglected. Many people emphasize their "mirror muscles" when training but forget about the ones they don't see as often.

I'm not a bodybuilder, but one of the things I admire about the sport is the attention they give to detail, balance, and symmetry. Occasionally I will see a guy at the gym with a massive upper body, but he looks like a stork from the waist down since he doesn't care about working his lower body.

That may be an extreme example, but it is probably more common for people to neglect exercising muscles just out of ignorance. Here is a list of muscles that could stand more attention from most people (including myself.)

Back (especially the lower back)
Neck
Forearms
Hamstrings
Calves
Glutes

Remember when you work out, it is important to work the agonist and it's antagonist muscle. Failure to do so can create muscle imbalances which can set you up for injury. Take some time to evaluate your lifting routine. Are there entire body parts you ignore? Are you working opposing muscle groups? If you can keep from neglecting certain muscle groups, then you will be stronger and have a more balanced physique.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Kid Thyself

As I have worked with clients over the years,  I have noticed something which is detrimental to getting results. It is when people sort of go through the motions but are not really honest with their efforts. The 11th commandment is "Thou shalt not kid thyself."

Some times we feel we are eating right and exercising like we should but we are just not getting the results we want. Many times this is because we have a warped sense of reality. I have also been guilty of this myself. Here are some examples from my own life.

When Wendy's came out with their new french fries that have the skins on and use sea salt, I've tried justifying that the additional fiber and seasoning makes them much healthier so they shouldn't be so bad to eat. NOT!

Sometimes when I step on the scale and see that my weight has gone up, I will think to tell myself  "It's probably just muscle weight" rather than acknowledging the overeating that took place over the past few days.

Sometimes I will ease up on my exercise regimen to the point that it resembles more of a warm up than it does a workout, yet I still tell myself that I exercised that day even though I slacked off.

When we complain about how we are doing everything right, but just not getting results, I think we need to take a closer look to see if that is really the case, or if we are just trying to fool ourselves. Studies have shown that most people overestimate their activity levels and underestimating their calorie intake. As a result, they see themselves as victims or exceptions since the law of thermodynamic just doesn't seem to apply to them like it does everyone else.

I am not trying to beat anyone up. I just want to point out that if you are not making progress and think you are doing everything right, you may want to take a more honest and accurate look at your efforts to improve your health. I know I always benefit when I take a more objective look at my efforts.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

World No Tobacco Day

The World Health Organization has declared Tuesday May 31st to be "World No Tobacco Day."  I haven't addressed smoking much on this site since it is such a no-brainer for people who are wanting to improve their health, but I figure now would be an appropriate time to do so.

Smoking is not nearly as popular as it used to be. Whenever you watch a classic black and white movie from the 40's and 50's, there is frequently non stop chain smoking throughout the film. I remember being on an airplane flight from France in the early 90's. I was shocked that right after take off, half the passengers lit up and smoked for most of the flight. I was turning green and wheezing for air until we landed.

The World Health Organization claims that tobacco use causes nearly 6 million deaths per year. Today, anti-smoking campaigns have reduced the glamor previously associated with smoking and have actually created a stigma for smokers. I've been shocked at some of the graphic anti-smoking commercials I've seen. I've included one of the more conservative ones below.



If you are a smoker or if you have a loved one who smokes, then I encourage you to make a change this Tuesday and give up the habit. Smoking cessation is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stretching Controversy

Flexibility has been promoted as a component of physical fitness for quite awhile. Despite this, there are many people (as well as research) which claim stretching is not beneficial and may even be detrimental to athletic performance. 

Before we throw stretching under the bus, it is important to determine one's reasons for stretching. I also think it is important to differentiate between warming up and stretching since they are not necessarily the same thing. 

Static stretching would not be a wise thing for a power lifter or sprinter to do prior to their event since it can decrease the ability of muscle fiber to contract, but it may be beneficial for someone rehabilitating an injury or wanting to loosen up after a workout. Our bodies naturally want to stretch when we wake up or after a long cramped ride.

I still consider myself a proponent of stretching, which is kind of ironic, since I am so inflexible. Years ago while at my boy's karate lesson, their instructor invited me to join in on some exercises. He got a kick out of how inflexible I was (no pun intended). He was in awe that my range of motion and flexibility were so limited. I've never been one of those limber people who can bend over and touch the floor with their palms without bending their knees.

Many people associate stretching with sports and athletics as part of a warm-up or for injury prevention, but I believe it is more beneficial to do as part of a meditation or relaxation program. There appears to be quite a bit of data that negates the benefits of stretching prior to athletic events, but I still see many professional athletes stretching as part of their warm-up routine.

The stretching controversy is yet another area where experts and science give us conflicting data. I think stretching is beneficial as part of a wellness program, if for no other reason than the benefits of body awareness, relaxation, and stress relief. I always sleep better when I briefly stretch before going to bed.

If you decide to stretch, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

* Warm up before stretching. Don't stretch until after you warm up your muscles.
* Relax your muscles while you stretch them and breathe deeply when you stretch.
* Don't stretch a muscle if you are injured or if it causes you pain.
* Don't perform ballistic or bouncing stretches.
* Hold static stretches for 10-30 seconds.
* It may be more beneficial to stretch after exercising to promote recovery.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why I like 5 K Races

I've always hated running and thought that runners were a strange breed and gluttons for pain. I'm not sure what made me want to run my first race, but it was probably a T-shirt. I hadn't trained at all but was young and cocky enough to think I would be able to outrun all the girls and women and anyone who was older than me. I remember crossing the finish line towards the end of the pack with a burning throat and legs and feeling like I was going to vomit. I was humbled.

I've since learned that that you compete against yourself and it's not such a bad experience if you actually condition yourself prior to running a race. I really like how running can make you feel, but I am not into long distance running. My body takes forever to recuperate from marathons, but I think that 5 K (3.1 miles) is the perfect distance for a race, especially for beginners.

I want to give a heads up about a local 5K race that Your Fitness Quest is co-sponsoring this month. It is the Community Action 5K on May 28th at 8:00 a.m. and it benefits the Provo Food Bank. I ran it last year and it was really fun.  If you have never run in an official race before, then I challenge you to give it a shot and let this be your first. You can run/walk at your own pace, it's a beautiful time of year to be outside, you get a t-shirts and prizes, and it benefits a good cause. You can register at www.communityaction5k.org.

Warning- Running 5K races can be habit forming and one may become addicted to them.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Do You Drink Enough Water?

I have never been a big water drinker. I usually only drink when I get thirsty or if a beverage is served with a meal. When I go out to eat with friends I notice their glasses are usually refilled multiple times during the meal but I seldom finish mine. Keeping myself properly hydrated is an area where I could improve.

I've seen a variety of sources which indicate that our bodies are composed of 55-75% water on a cellular level, so hydration is an important component of good health. The benefits of adequate water consumption include: better skin tone, improved body function, decreased urges to eat, decreased headaches, improved ability to excrete wastes and toxins, etc. I've seen conflicting data as to some of these claims, but I still think it is better to err on the side of more water than not enough, even though that makes me a hypocrite. We obviously can't survive without water, but too much water can also be fatal in the rare case of water intoxication.

Many people are curious to know exactly how much water they should drink. For years experts were telling us to drink 8-10 10 oz. glasses of water every day, but a 9 year old girl doesn't have the same water needs as a 200 pound man living in a warmer climate who is involved in manual labor. Climate, health conditions, body size, and activity level need to be taken into consideration when determining water needs, therefore, I'm reluctant to recommend a magic number for the entire population since every one's needs are different.

It's especially important to drink water if you are exercising or in a hot climate. Being dehydrated can cause fatigue, muscle cramping, disorientation, nausea, weakness, or even death. If you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated. When you know you will be exercising or working hard it is always wise to drink before during and after your physical activity.

I'm adding the commitment of drinking more water than I have in the past as this weeks health commitment. If you don't think you've been drinking enough water then I invite you to join me.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Helping Kids To Be More Active

I get concerned each time I hear statistics about childhood obesity. This problem is only compounded when kids have a sedentary lifestyle. I'm sure diet is the biggest culprit, but inactivity among children is also a contributing factor.

I've seen stories in the news where P.E. classes are no longer offered in many schools due to budget shortages or where liability concerns over injuries at recess have resulted in playground equipment being removed.

I don't want to sound like the grumpy old man, but in my day we walked to school, rode bikes (without helmets or pads), played on dangerous playground equipment, and looked forward to recess as the highlight of the day. I appreciate the efforts of society to protect our young, but sometimes I think we are creating a generation of wimps. If our parents and grandparents were to be judged by today's standards, I'm sure many of them would qualify to have their kids taken away because of the "dangerous" things they allowed their kids to do when we were growing up.

Video games, television, and heavy Internet use are causing many kids to become sedentary. What really makes me angry about this problem is that I am also guilty of raising sedentary kids myself. I constantly find myself telling my kids to settle down and stop running around. I tell them to be careful, to not get hurt or get dirty or get holes in their knees of their pants. Sometimes it sounds like I am trying to change my kids into furniture.

This has been a painful realization for me since I love sports and pride myself on being active, yet I have hardly taught any sports to my kids. I know sports aren't for everyone and I don't believe kids should be forced to participate in them, but it's sad when kids don't even know how to throw a ball or understand the basic rules to different sports.

I am committing to be a better parent and to create opportunities for my kids to be more active. In case you are also guilty of raising sedentary kids, here are some suggestion that can help you remedy this situation and keep your kids from turning into couch potatoes.

* Put time limits on TV, Internet, and video game playing.
* Sign them up for swimming, karate, dance lessons or a team sport.
* Take your kids to the park and just let them run around.
* Set an example for your children. They are more likely to exercise if you do.
* Take your kids camping or on a hike. Spend more time outdoors.
* Just throwing a Frisbee or playing catch is a good start.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Psychology to Change

I have an acquaintance who is a very neat and tidy person. He used to be a smoker and had tried quitting in the past but never could. One day he finally realized that this dirty habit was not in harmony with his lifestyle and self image. Once he made this realization, he was able to give it up and he has not smoked since.

Our perception of ourselves can make a huge difference when it comes to making changes in our lives. Do you see yourself as a fat or unhealthy person who is just pretending to live a healthy lifestyle? Do you think deep down that you are a poser and are just imitating the behaviors of fit people? It is important to change your thinking and self image if you want to make long term changes in your life.

Books like The Magic of Thinking Big, Psychocybernetics, Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, and The Magic of Believing are considered classics in the world of business and self help, but the financial principles they teach also carry over to other aspects of life. How we think about things is crucial to getting results.

Making changes can be very difficult so I am impressed whenever I see people overcome injury, diseases, alcoholism, other addictions, or any unhealthy habit. It's encouraging because if others can make those changes, then so can you and I. Remember that some of the physical changes you you want to make to your body need to start first in your head by having the proper frame of mind.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Laughter and Health

When I was a young boy, I remember my mom telling me about Norman Cousins. He was an author who was suffering with heart disease and he treated it by watching Marx Brothers movies and other comedies continually until he laughed himself back to health. He wrote a book called Anatomy of Illness  in 1979 which details his story. 

I'm sure there are many who would criticize his claim that laughter can cure disease. It is, however, obvious that laughter is a positive emotion, and I believe it has a positive effect on one's body. Laughter has been credited with reducing pain, increasing one's pulse, increasing blood flow and oxygenation of blood, releasing endorphins, boosting the immune system, difusing tension, and relieving stress.

I don't claim laughter can cure any disease. If I broke my leg and was sent to the emergency room, I wouldn't be content with an orderly reading to me from a joke book, but I've been surprised to learn that humor therapy is an alternative form of treatment used for many  serious diseases and ailments.

It's hard to feel sick or depressed when one is laughing. Most of us feel better when we associate with jovial people who have a sense of humor and are light hearted, as opposed to grumpy people who are too serious.

Benny Hill, Jim Carey, Brian Regan, and Jim Gaffigan may do more to contribute to our good health than we know. Laughter is good medicine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Most Over Rated Exercises

I've seen a lot of people work out in the gym over the years and I've noticed that some exercises and machines are much more popular than others. I've made a list of some of the exercises that I feel may be overrated. I'm not saying these are bad exercises. There is a time and a place for them, but I think people rely too heavily on the exercises below.

The leg adductor/abductor- I wish I had a dime for every time I saw a girl come in the gym and go straight to these machines. This machine has it's place. It will strengthen legs and is probably good for physical therapy and body building, but it is not a cure for melting fat off of your thighs since most of it's users think they are spot reducing.

Leg Extensions- I enjoy the leg extension machine, but it's an easy isolation exercise as opposed to a compound movement. This exercise can  put a lot of stress on your knees. Lunges and squats are a better alternative for working your legs.

Bench Press- This is probably the most popular exercise in the gym. There's nothing wrong with the bench press, but so many people are dependent on it when it comes to a chest workout. The bench presses are always busy, but I could count on one hand how many times I've seen people doing push ups at the gym.

Ab Machines- These are fun machines, but they don't give you the total workout that you might get by doing knee ups, planks, curls, chops, etc. Also people usually associate 6 pack abs with ab exercises. Losing fat and watching what you eat has much more influence on a six pack than how many sit ups you can do.

Almost any gadget you can buy on TV- Most of these machines are low quality. Don't expect some aluminum and plastic machine that folds up under your bed or easily hides in a closet to be sturdy enough to last. You're usually better off doing body weight exercises and those won't even cost you anything either.

I hope I'm not stepping on any toes by labeling these exercises. I occasionally do some of these exercises, but I just think they are frequently over used and over rated.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Raw Foods

I recently watched a documentary called Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 days. It featured an experiment where 6 diabetics from different parts of the country move to a ranch in Arizona and ate a completely raw vegan diet for 30 days. It was almost like a reality TV show, but there was no hype and the participants were not competing against each other. It was very entertaining and I really enjoyed it. 

I understand that a documentary featuring 6 people does not qualify as a scientific study, but the results of this experiment were very impressive. One participant left mid month because he couldn't handle the diet. All of the others that followed the diet for a month lost weight, were able to stop taking insulin shots, and were able to get off their many medications they had previously been on.

I 've heard of people who make drastic changes to their diet once they've been diagnosed with diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. These dietary changes often involve avoiding processed foods, meats, alcohol, sugar, and eating more fruits and vegetables. It is common for people to see improvements when they make such dietary changes, although I don't claim that changing your nutrition will cure every disease. It is obvious, however that our diet affects our health and most Americans are only compounding or even causing their health problems with their poor food choices.

I'm not a vegetarian, vegan, or a tree hugger, but I really like the emphasis that these eating philosophies put on enjoying live food. I still eat meat, but when I think about it, instinctively it makes more sense to eat live foods than dead animals. I strongly believe that if more people were to reduce their intake of processed foods and ate more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc, they would be much healthier. It just makes sense to eat more live food. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

25 Healthy Eating Tips

I'd like to share some tips that have helped Your Fitness Quest clients eat better and lose weight over the years. I know that many experts have differing opinions about some of these suggestions, but I believe these tips are helpful to the average person who is trying to eat healthier and lose weight. These may just be small and simple actions, but as you start to combine them, they can make a big difference. These are only general guidelines and you should always consult a physician or registered dietitian if you have questions or concerns about your health or nutritional needs.

1. Avoid overeating by eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
3. Avoid carbonated, caffeinated, and sugar based drinks (soda pop).
4. Avoid foods prepared in grease and oil. Steam rather than fry foods when possible.
5. Use non fat dairy products like skim milk, non-fat cottage cheese, and yogurt.
6 Eat less highly processed foods like white bread and pre-packaged foods.
7. Choose whole grain cereals, breads, and pastas and eat foods that are high in fiber.
8. Eat all the raw vegetables you want, especially when you feel like snacking.
9. Don't grocery shop on an empty stomach.
10. Get familiar with food labels and watch for the misleading claims.
11. Avoid saturated, hydrogenated, and trans fats. Olive oil is a healthier option.
12. Don't snack late at night or eat big meals right before going to bed.
13. Use a multi-vitamin if you think you may be deficient in any micro nutrients.
14. Substitute fresh fruit for high calorie desserts.
15. Use leaner meat sources like chicken, turkey, or fish. Remove skin from poultry.
16. Replace jam jellies, and syrups with applesauce and fresh fruit toppings.
17. When eating out, order a salad and order light dressing on the side.
18. Share large entrees with someone or eat half and take the rest home in a doggy bag.
19. Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions (salad or fruit for fries).
20. Don't confuse thirst, boredom, or stress with hunger.
21. Plan your meals the night before. Healthy eating never happens by accident.
22. Sit down to eat and really enjoy your meals. Don't eat on the run.
23. Set aside one day a week to eat whatever you want without any guilt.
24. Eat a variety of foods so you don't get bored with eating the same thing all the time.
25. Use a food journal to help you identify and improve your eating habits.