Why do you do what you do? What are your values? What are the most important things to you? What do you spend most of your time on? What drives you to go to work every day? What motivates you?
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have real answers to those questions. We never have had a good answer for them either. We don’t really know what we want. We think we know our values. We think we have an idea of how busy we are or aren’t. If we tracked our time and our activities, would we be able to see our values?
I have lofty personal goals; both business and personal. I think I value hard work, determination, and sacrifice. I feel like I spend most my time on work and work related issues. I go to work every day because I love helping clients. I’m motivated by change and obtaining financial independence in my own life.
However, if I really look at how I spend my time and look at what my real priorities are, I am selling myself short.
I went down to Chicago this weekend to have an early birthday dinner with my brother and girlfriend (my parents are out of town or they would have been there too). I had to work Saturday and my girlfriend had a girls night out on Friday in the city so she was already down there. So I took the train down by myself after work on Saturday. I started doing what I often do when “I have nothing to do,” I scrolled through my facebook feed. I came across a post, I am not even sure which of my friends posted it, that contained a video. The video was of Dr. Eric Thomas who is a motivational speaker.
Here is a link to the exact video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Oxz060iedY Now Dr. Thomas is animated and not everyone might enjoy his style. I haven’t researched him or know who he is as a person. This video really got me thinking though. It is kind of amazing to me because the things he said clicked and I didn’t really have to do any deep self analysis to know that I wasn’t valuing what I thought I was.
I ended up watching a bunch of videos from Dr. Thomas and thought a lot about the message. I know if I want to accomplish my goals, I need to change some habits and get priority in line. Over the next couple of days and weeks I hope to analyze how I spend my time and what I’m working towards.
I have a renewed sense of clarity on what actually is important to me. That got me thinking about people who are trying to change their lives. I can’t tell you how many times I have given a free session (if I get asked I normally do) and have spoken with people about how to accomplish their goals in the gym and kitchen. People seem so motivated and ready to make a change. When they get a plan though, the follow through lacks quite frequently. These people haven’t figured out what they really want and how important making that change is. I have come to realize that no matter how hard I want to help these people, they can’t be helped until they decide they want it.
I encourage people to ask themselves that question and clarify their direction. Do you want to lose weight, gain weight, get ripped, complete a 5k, or just be able to run around with kids/grandkids? If you have that type of a goal, look at how you live your life and see if it fits. Do you complain about not having time? Is dieting too hard? Everyone gets the same 24 hour days, some people just are more productive with their days than others. Most people have a choice of what to eat. We just would rather focus on the tv or facebook than focus on our health. We have time and we know what we should and shouldn’t eat, we just make a choice to do other things or ignore what we know to be true. As Dr. Thomas says, “Until you want to succeed as much as you want to breathe, you won’t be successful”.
I think we get to a point where we don’t hold ourselves accountable anymore. We find excuses like jobs for why we can’t eat right or exercise. The truth is, we just want something else more than we want to lose weight, get ripped, or just look better naked. That is fine because not everyone has the same desires and goals. If changing your health status is a goal, know in advance that it will take sacrifice of time wasters, dedication to yourself and your goal, and a discipline that you aren’t currently demonstrating.
At the end of the day what we accomplish is up to us. It will be your hard work that makes you succeed and it will be your lack of discipline that keeps you from succeeding. What do you want to accomplish?
The other day I shared an article on Facebook that I really liked (Go like me on Facebook if you haven’t already). It was from Buzzfeed and had stories from people who had lost 50 or more pounds. I skimmed it quickly and liked the stories, so I shared it. I had a client ask me about it today so I went back and read it again. If you haven’t read it here it is: http://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/first-steps#.xwn2Nm8Ev The reason I like it so much is because of its simple message. Every one of the 10 stories has an underlying theme; starting. Every one of the people lost significant weight. Some of them had made attempts at losing weight before and for some this was their first attempt. The common thread was that they took the first step and stuck to it. One that stuck out to me the most was number 3. Her advice was to set a small achievable goal. She started out walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes a couple times a week. She started walking for longer and longer and ended up losing 70 pounds in 14 months! Obviously she continued to increase the intensity of her workouts and the frequency, but the point is she started small. People tend to get bogged down in the harsh reality that they need to lose a significant amount of weight and they get scared or overwhelmed. You didn’t put on all the weight at once and you won’t take it all off at once either. However, you can start making progress by simply adding activity to your life. Start small and add to the intensity, duration, and frequency as you progress. Another one that I liked a lot was number 6. She wrote a letter to her future self. I absolutely love this idea. At some point, you will lose sight of your goal or forget your motivation. Having a letter to remind you of why you started is a great tool to use. If you are going to try this you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Tell your future self how you feel about your current self. Talk about how your current health limits your ability to do the things you want to do. Lay it all out on the table for your future self. Then, I suggest you tell your future self how you imagine you will feel, the things you will be able to do that you can’t do now, and how your new found healthiness will affect your loved ones. Put your letter in an envelope, address it, and stick it on your fridge or on your mirror so you will see it every day and remember what you wrote. When you fall off the wagon or need motivation, and you will, read it and see how you’ve changed. If need be, write a response and a new letter to yourself and continue along your journey with renewed motivation and drive. Number 7 got a grin out of me too. How simple of a start is just giving up dessert? I know that food can be addictive, especially the types of foods we typically eat for dessert. If you’re able though, giving up something you like is a great starting sacrifice. Most people who don’t eat well know that but the thought of changing your diet can be daunting. Cravings can be tough to deal with and can lead to stress. People try to eliminate all the foods they shouldn’t eat at once. The cravings can get overwhelming and can cause dieters to quit their diets. However, starting small and starting slow can help you build a foundation for future success. You cut out dessert, something you know isn’t good for you, and it becomes second nature to turn down dessert or not order it. Once that habit has been established, you can move on to the next one.
The article has some great advice in it and I highly recommend you read it if you are thinking about significant weight loss or are struggling to find success. I also think it is important to dream big and set large, seemingly unattainable goals. Know that achieving those goals will take time. As your journey continues remember to celebrate your successes and look back on where you have come from. Sometimes just remembering the former struggles can provide the motivational boost you need to get over your next obstacle. Success in weight loss is a result of compounding efforts over time. Be better today than yesterday and success will surely find you.
I had an interesting conversation today with a client. He spent the previous week traveling from one coast to the other and back again. In the middle of his trip he got bad news about a close friend’s mom. She had been diagnosed with a form of cancer about 6 months ago and had just recently passed. I expressed my condolences and then asked him a question.
“Do you think it’s better to know when you’re going to die or have it be a surprise.”
His first response was typical, “I want to just go to bed and not wake up.” Don’t we all. I pressed him a bit as I am a pretty curious kind of guy. My thought process was wouldn’t it be better to be told you have x amount of time left so you can pack that time with meaningful things. I was thinking that it would really be tragic to die and have the last days, weeks, months, or years of your life spent doing things you don’t like.
Our convo quickly changed because no one wants to talk about death while you train. However, my mind kept wandering on the topic. I have a family history of diabetes, heart issues, and a litany of other things. I started thinking about how the last days of my parents will be like. I have friends whose parents battled disease and health issues only to finally succumb and die. I couldn’t help but think that given the opportunity they would have much rather spent those last weeks and months spending time with family and friends. Teaching their grandchildren the ways of the world and how to irritate their moms and dads. Seeing long lost friends or traveling the world seeing the wonders of the world surely would have been better than spending time in hospitals, in pain and discomfort, or restricted from doing the things they want to do.
So what does any of this have to do with fitness and personal training.
Well according to the Center for Disease Control most of the leading causes of death (heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, etc) can be controlled, reduced, or eliminated with proper diet and exercise. So in a very real way your health habits today can impact how you spend the last of your days. Eating right and exercising can help reduce the risk of disease and thus help you steer clear of the emergency room and hospital beds in your future. Exercise and nutrition habits are compounding. A cheeseburger today won’t kill you, but continual consumption over time can lead to health complications. On the flip side eating right and exercising compound too, and can keep you healthy well into your twilight.
Aside from simple disease prevention exercise and nutrition, or the lack thereof, can have lasting impact on your independence as you age. Many seniors are limited by skeletal and joint issues that limit mobility. The use of walkers and wheelchairs provide a level of independence for this population but still limit to what they can do. This might not seem like a big deal but think about how you life your life now. Can you get up and go when you want? Do you need help to do basic things? Your fitness habits compound over time and can lead to independence or the need for assistance as we age.
As I write this I can’t help but think of someone I know very well. He would immediately point out that pizza, pasta, and doughnuts taste so good he would rather be able to eat them and die then live eating broccoli. I have to admit that I too love pizza and doughnuts and am not a real big fan of broccoli. However, I want to be clear that in order to live healthy doesn’t mean you can’t eat those tasty treats. It just means that those things should be rewards for good behavior and good habits and not the norm. It is tough to have a big picture view when you’re young or when your twilight years are so far away. However, keep in mind that the decisions you make today concerning your nutrition, your health, and exercise can have lasting impact on your future. You don’t have to make every change right this minute, but start improving your life and health now reap the benefits in the years to come. Start by being better today than yesterday and you will surely be in control of your life in the future.
Whether your goal is to gain weight or lose it, metabolism is something that you need to understand. The word itself is often an explanation or a justification for someone’s shape. “She can eat anything, she must have a high metabolism.” Sometimes the word is used in nutrition advice “eating 6 small meals will speed up your metabolism.”
So what is your metabolism?
The Merriam-Webster definition is : the chemical processes by which a plant or animal uses food, water, etc to grow, heal, and to make energy.
So your metabolism is the sum of all chemical processes that our bodies use to break down food into usable nutrients, convert those nutrients to energy, then use that energy for bodily functions. To make that digestible for non chemists of the world, metabolism is generally broken down into three components.
BMR- Basal Metabolic Rate- Your BMR, also called RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate, is the caloric needs of your basic life functions. Think breathing and maintaining body temperature. Your BMR can make up 50-80% of your daily energy expenditure. Your BMR is mainly affected by your lean body mass, or fat free mass. Increasing your BMR can be achieved by increasing the amount of lean mass your body has (muscle mass). The more fat and less muscle mass the lower your BMR.
Energy Used During Physical Activity- All activity requires energy and therefore the more active we are they higher our metabolism. All activity requires muscle activity. While at rest muscle activity accounts for at most 20% of energy expenditure but exercising that can increase up to 50 fold. Increasing exercise can have a drastic effect on the energy needs of the body.
TEF-Thermal Effect of Food- This is the energy it takes to digest, break down, and metabolize (turn into energy) food. Different foods have different effects on TEF. Nutrient dense foods increase TEF while nutrient deficient foods can reduce TEF.
So what does a high or fast metabolism mean?
Since BMR makes up the vast majority of your metabolism when someone has a “high metabolism” they generally are saying they have a high BMR. High metabolisms require lots of energy and as a result can give people the appearance that they can eat whatever they want and not gain weight.
Six small meals vs 3 meals?
The truth here is that eating 2000 calories at once or spread out throughout the day has little to no effect on your metabolism. It takes the same amount of energy to digest and metabolize 2000 calories no matter how you distribute it.
Side Note: 6 small meals can have a positive effect on dieters who suffer cravings. Eating more frequently can help stave off hunger and cravings. It just doesn’t affect metabolism.
So how do I increase my metabolism? In theory this is quite simple: change your body composition. Increasing lean body mass (muscle) and decreasing fat body mass (body fat) will increase your metabolism. However, in practice it is not always so easy. Here are a few tips to help you out:
Eat whole foods - Fresh fruits and veggies, fresh cuts of meat and fish, and nuts and oils provide your body with the proper nutrition to build lean mass, nourish the body, and they are harder to digest - burn calories while you eat!
Increase Activity- Adding physical activity to your lifestyle will increase your daily energy expenditure. Find hobbies that take you off the couch and away from the TV. Sports, hiking, dancing, etc can all be fun and also add to your energy expenditure.
EXERCISE- Cardio exercise will help you burn body fat while strength training will help add lean mass. Do both to increase your metabolism.
Now that you have a better idea of what metabolism is you are better armed to achieve your goals. Resist advice that advertises a simple solution to increasing your metabolism, if it doesn’t talk about diet and exercise it's probably not true. Be Informed, Be Fit, Be Happy