Why Health Is Killing America

Every year in America tens of thousands of people make the decision to get fit, get in shape or get healthier. Every year gyms are primed to sell you memberships and great deals on personal trainers. While this is all well and good, there is a darker more dubious monster lurking within the confines of the bigger, stronger, faster you market.

We live in a privileged time. Our movies and shows are on-demand. Our coffee comes custom made through a window, foods prepackaged and ready to eat. Never before has it been easier to be…picky. The same goes for the Health Industry in this country. From catchy, clever marketing to overhyped flavors and benefits. Walk into any store and you’ll no doubt see entire sections no smaller than 4 feet all the way to 15+ feet dedicated to making you a healthier you. Right?

Why, in our advanced time, are obesity rates so high? The prevalence of obesity was 35.7% among young adults aged 20 to 39 years, 42.8% among middle-aged adults aged 40 to 59 years, and 41.0% among older adults aged 60 and older. – CDC

Truth is, the health industry is just that, an industry. With profit margins and quarterly projections. Is that necessarily bad though? No. What is bad however is that the products their selling you are just as overly processed as the cereals and packaged foods one more aisle over that your not supposed to eat.

Obviously not all products produced under this category are this way but when you get packaged goods, your buying long shelf life, enhanced flavors and colors, thickening agents and “natural flavors.”

Things to look for to avoid:

•Sugar and/or High fructose corn syrup. Aside from adding extra unnecessary calories, they also affect blood sugars and creates cravings.

•Artificial sweeteners. While they might seem like a slam dunk for a lower calorie option, studies are starting to link artificial sweeteners to obesity and diabetes.

•Soy. I know your thinking, soy isn’t that bad. The majority of soy used in processed products is highly genetically modified and contains large amounts of pesticides. Not to mention it’s an allergy for a growing number of people.

•Casein and/or Whey. Just because it’s not soy-based doesn’t make it good. Low-quality over-processed dairy can be just as bad.

•Chemical and artificial additives to enhance flavors, textures and shelf life. Your liver is trying to process these and your body is absorbing them.

Fun fact: clean label project did a piece on the levels of heavy metals in protein powders. Most plant-based products, including organics ones, tested high in heavy metals, BPA’s and other chemical additives. Higher than normal.

The same goes for food bars. A quick trip into any “health food” section has the big names: Luna bar, thinkthin, Larabar, cliff bar and more. Most of these are packed with preservatives and the ones that don’t, scarcely have the nutritional properties to warrant the money for them. I use these brands as examples but they alone don’t shoulder the weight. These are items designed and marketed to health aficionados, but what about the everyday person whose life doesn’t revolve around BCAA’s, Casein vs Whey and pre-workouts?

The term “natural” is so abused that it’s made its way into the category of words so generic that I abhor hearing them. Words like “value” “wholesome” “nourishing” and the like. Truth is it’s just catchy marketing. Let’s take granola bars for example. Most of the time the level of sugar is nearly half your RDA if you follow those. If your smart you know your RDA of sugar does not include highly processed ultra-refined sugars. Cereals, preflavored oatmeal, watered down sugar rich yogurts. All this designed to make you feel like you eating right, but your not. It’s the Whole Foods version of McDonald’s.

The average consumer is being sold synthetic garbage at premium prices with flashy labels with slogans like “protein-packed” “high in vitamin C” or “fat-free.” Truth is, chemicals, artificial coloring, and flavors take a toll on your body. Studies show a connection between artificial sweeteners and obesity/diabetes. For the sake of keeping this article from being epically long, I’ll say this: all these are designed to stimulate your dopamine receptors.

Supplements then? Honestly, most supplements also fall into this category. BCAA’s, Proteins, vitamins. It’s meant to supplement when you can’t rightly get what you need, no to replace. Which is my Segway into what you should be doing and my challenge for you.

Source ALL your body’s needs from food. Why food? This is 2019 after all. Shouldn’t we be more advanced? The short of it is, fake foods are often so highly processed or downright synthetic that your body scarcely recognizes it. From heavy metals that flow to your brain to food coloring that is a known carcinogen, real is always better. The enemy of eating truly natural is a lack of variety. We can be so dogmatic that we eat the same foods week after week. This is why I advocate for seasonal eating. Your body was designed to operate certain ways during certain times of the year. Feed it what it needs based on your genetics and the season.

Not to mention that the average health impacted individuals, whether, from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or any other ailments from poor diet and lack of exercise more often than not choose a pill over effort. The health industry, which includes Big Pharma, seeks to make it “easier” when in fact they make it unhealthier. Eat your proteins, eat your eggs. Eat your vegetables and greens and non-GMO grains. Spend one week making every meal and see the difference.

I know this seems simple but it often beard repeating. So as an added bonus I’m going to present you with a challenge

Post your results. How did you do?

Tell me how it goes and what you think. Thanks for reading

5 Week Diet Clean Up

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.

Mark Twain

Why 5 weeks? Why not 30 days or 7 days? Studies on how long to break or make habits vary anywhere from 18 days to 254 days! So we went for five weeks. It will be five individual steps to change, changing one thing per week.
A large percentage of failures don’t come from it being impossible, but from doing too much too fast. All I’m asking for is one thing, one significant thing each week. For one week change one habit or add one new habit and leave everything else as is. By the end of the five weeks, you should undergo significant enough change to lead to lasting health and wellness change. Do this journey together. Blog about each week as I do them; experiences, thoughts, outcomes, etc.

So let’s get started! I’ll list them week by week and give some examples and experiences I’ve had so you’ll know what to expect.

– Week 1: Add REAL fruits and vegetables to every meal
Bet you thought I was going to start all crazy at first like “give up your firstborn.” No. Why this? Why not something more dramatic? It starts simply enough to give you the best odds of making it stick. Truth is, most of us lack the basics. We eat plenty of starches and proteins (all the good stuff) but not the veggies and fruits. So for the first week, every meal and I literally mean Every Meal, you should include fruits and/or vegetables. Preferably both. This will start pumping in those much-needed nutrients and will also show you that change is possible.

Eating Real Foods

– Week 2: No more fast food. We all have our favorites and we also probably make that choice more often than we should. The first week was simple, eat a salad with your Big Mac. Now I’m asking you to ditch it altogether. This might seem hard, but it becomes easier as the week progresses, especially if you’re a busy body. Where it gets hard is in one of two places. 1) Going out with friends or family or being a busy professional (this includes parents, that is the oldest full-time job) and needing something quick. This is where it becomes real. I’ve made it pretty far on this one only to be cut down by the dreaded blade of convenience. Some solutions I have are Meal prep the heck out of it. This is especially easy if your doing it just for you but is also completely possible with a busy life + busy family. My other solution is Crock Pot! Love me some crockpot meals. A cursory glance into Pinterest and you’ll find more crockpot recipes than you can shake a digital stick at. These are just a few examples, it’s completely achievable. The will is strong within you.

– Week 3: This one is going to be a tad bit harder. Hopefully, by this point, you’re accustomed to changing. Week by week making more sense now? This week we’re going to let go of Processed Bread and Grains. I think I heard the clicking of the exit. It makes sense though. Don’t take my word for it, Medical News Today says “The highly-processed flour and additives in white, packaged bread can make it unhealthy. Consuming too much white bread can contribute to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Buying bread with the word “whole” as the first ingredient still does not guarantee a healthful product.” Bread is a tough one but it can be done! This is especially useful if you have gluten allergies or just want to lose weight. Note: this also includes cereals. Give Ezekiel bread a try or any other sprouted bread. There are many alternatives out there but know that in the day and age we live, just because it says “natural” or is an alternative doesn’t mean it isn’t highly processed. Do your own research before indulging.

– Week 4: Substitute fruits and vegetables for snack foods.

“Every 10 percent dietary increase in packaged snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, and other highly processed foods boosts the risk for cancer by 12 percent, new research suggests. Breast cancer, in particular, was associated with greater consumption of mass-produced, ultra-processed foods, according to the study.” – WebMD. We all know they taste good but that comes with a price. Fact is these over-processed easy consumables take a toll on your body. The artificial flavors and colors are hard for your liver to process. Additional chemicals for flavor and shelf life are also hard-hitting. If you are a once in a while-er, probably means nothing, but if you are eating these on the daily, it’s time to cut the cord. One of the biggest reasons to make this sacrifice this week, the enhanced flavors (usually chemically enhanced at that) actually stimulate your dopamine receptors giving you that “ah yeah” feeling. Overstimulation means you have to feed it more to get that feeling. It also means physical withdrawals when not present! Not to mention, the explosive flavor meant to satisfy you makes real foods like fruit taste bland and “boring.” A reset in this area will do you some good.

There are foods not highly processed that will stimulate the dopamine receptors:

  • Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Unprocessed meats such as beef, chicken, and turkey.
  • Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel.
  • Eggs.
  • Fruit and vegetables, in particular bananas.
  • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts.
  • Dark chocolate. This is different from regular chocolate as it contains more of the real cocoa and less of a sugary mixture.

– Week 5: Let’s Go! Homestretch. If you made it this far, congratulations. The best and for some, the hardest is yet to come. Week 5 is one thing but has haunted people for decades. Although by now you’ve cut out and replaced so much, now it’s time to cut deep. Time to let go of Soda and other sugary/sweet-tasting drinks.

When you drink sugar is a liquid form, without any fiber to slow the absorption, it’s a straight shot to your liver, nearly instantly spiking blood sugar. If you are diabetic or have insulin resistance, this is a bad idea. If you think going diet is a good idea, think again. One article in U.S. News cited a study showing a link between artificial sweeteners and obesity and diabetes. There are alternatives like Zevia that use Stevia, a plant-based sweetener that doesn’t have an effect on blood sugar, but you would be just drawing it out. Best to try and cut them out. Honestly, the number of calories in soda alone will put most people in a deficit, leading to weight loss.

There you have it. It’s obviously not an exhaustive guide. The more in-depth look would start to explore making your body more alkaline, adding in supplements to help speed up the repair process and bring back a healthier gut. By and large, though, this is a great first step to repairing leaky gut, boosting your immune system, dispersing brain fog, bringing back natural energy. Can we talk about that? Wouldn’t you like to wake up and not have to mainline caffeine to get motivated. The Standard American Diet (SAD for short) has you in a funk. It’s time to take back control of your body. Please leave comments if you’re going to try this, have done it and what your experience was.

Thanks for reading.

Finding Your Program

“The best teachers are the ones that tell you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” — Alexandra K. Trenfor

So you want to make a change. Change your diet, change your body, change…well, you. You found your decision and you’re ready to find your time…but now you need to find your program.
In this article, I’m going to briefly go over specific types of fitness programs on how they affect your body and how it can help you achieve your goal. Spoiler alert, nearly every goal can be achieved through one specific type of training. More on that as we go further.

Programming is crucial. Why? With proper programming, you do complementary movements instead of opposing movements. Say for example Push-Pull program that packs a pushing and pulling movement into one workout. By doing one of each you cover more ground and don’t exhaust either movement so your form won’t degrade leading to either injury or over training. Moreover, by using proper programming you also make it easier to track your progress. That’s what we’re here for, after all, progress. If you did whatever you felt like, you would eventually lose track of how much or how heavy. So, what’s the right program?
For some time I did primarily in endurance training. Running specifically. I spent the better part of a year doing nothing but mastering my running form. The infamous forward lean, run with your butt, perfect cadence form. With the advice of some seasoned runners, my Hal Higdon progression program, and my Strava, I wouldn’t have known if I was getting better. The same goes for resistance training.
I’m not going to split hairs here, I’m just going to give you my opinion, you can run with it as you see fit. What I do know from experience, what fitness professionals will mostly tell you, if you are NEW to weight training, DO NOT DO A BRO SPLIT.
What is a bro split? It’s training one body part one time a week, usually adding up to six days of training. This method was made popular by Professional Bodybuilders who were juiced up on steroids and truly only needed to do just that. For the average, none genetically gifted such as myself, a Full Body 3 day per week program will do wonders. If you stay faithful and align your diet, 1 hour a day, 3 days a week will blow…your…mind. Resistance training combined with a clean diet shows most potential for long term success as well as plethora of health benefits:

• Increased bone density

• Better blood sugar regulation

• Better digestion

• Better fat metabolism

• Lower cholesterol

• Balanced hormones

• Better or repaired cognitive function

I’ve done them all: hypertrophy, PPL, PHUL, GVT, Strong Lifts, Madcow, even Sheiko (that was crazy) and the one thing that made the difference for me was hitting Compound Movements, Heavy with minimal accessory work. If I had to start someone off anywhere, I would say either Strong Lifts 5×5 or Starting Strength as it will lay a firm foundation, ignite your metabolism and replace fat with lean muscle. Once you go from rookie to novice to advanced novice to advanced novice you can get increasingly more complex splits as your body’s adaptation has begun to make it harder and harder to make gains. The same goes for running or cycling. You’ll want to start with shorter distances, focusing on form and cadence before you worry about logging long miles. Time laying groundwork will make the building way more stable. Regardless of your preferences, be aware, you want to focus on learning movements before worrying about progression. Just doing the work will add muscle and burn calories.

How to boost your metabolism along with the training? Let’s talk about food! Paleo, vegan, keto, vegetarian, carnivore. Which should you do to better assist you on your way? The studies are clear, everything listed had both positive and negative effects on your body.

For example; if you are on a standard American diet and suddenly went vegan, you would feel amazing. The nutrition you were missing with a highly-processed diet would fill in. The downside, studies show that long term vegan diets can lead to deficiencies as there are some nutrients that only come from meat sources. Does this mean veganism is bad? No. It’s just not long term sustainable. The same goes for carnivore diets. In fact, the closest long term sustainable diet is Paleo as it doesn’t exclude vegetables, nor proteins. However, it is very restrictive, can be overly dogmatic and since becoming a fad has itself become overly processed. Bummer, right?

So what to do. There is a simple solution to what seems like an overly complicated problem. Eat what’s in season.
Your body had a rhythm. Seasons have a rhythm. The foods grown in specific seasons are better suited for your body at that time. Just the breaking up the old chicken and rice constantly will be nice, the change in nutrients will be refreshing to your body. A better explanation is this: drink caffeine in excess and you lose your sensitivity. Stop for a while and you get it back. Same goes for protein, carbs, fats, etc. Even meats have seasons!

So let’s wrap it up.

• Strength train

• Train the movements first

• Balance in cardio.

• Eat seasonally not dogmatically.

Above all, keep it super simple. If it’s really hard to do, track or plan, move along. Keeping it simple makes it obtainable and more easily fits into your life. Change one thing at a time, make it a habit, then change another. Don’t overthink it. Use tools to help you along the way like My Fitness Pal or Fat secret to track your food. Strava for Map my Run for running/cycling or Personal Training Coach for weight lifting.

Remember change happens over time not overnight. Constantly be reinventing or remember you why and be flexible. Routines get interrupted but that doesn’t mean they get abandoned. Health & Wellness is a Lifestyle, not a fad.

That’s all for now. Please leave a comment and follow for more.

Finding Your Time

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” — Charles Buxton

Every day we make decisions that take up time. Time for family, time for work, time for this and time for that. In my previous post, I talked about making your decision. After you decide “I will be better, I will live better” you have to figure out, how does one place this new element in a life that is pretty dang well full? Interestingly it’s not too difficult. What is difficult is purging the time-consuming parts. So, what has to go, so we can get to getting? I guess that all depends on your goals.
Initially, a good place to start is with the foundation of all health. This requires some adjustments. The foundation, in this case, is your diet. This is where it starts and for many, where it ends.

Why is it so important? Why has it derailed and obliterated so many from achieving their simple desire of being healthier, fitter individuals? The short of it is, whether it’s fat loss, muscle gain, lower cholesterol, clearer skin; without a stable and clean diet, you will only get so far. Yes, it is a numbers game for the extreme; if you wanted to lose 10lbs and not care if after you gained it and then some back, just burn more than you eat. If you want to make lasting change, this is where you start. Begin with eating breakfast if you never do or doing intermittent fasting a few days a week to get the benefits of autophagy. There are too many methods and styles of eating to start in on. That is a whole article to itself. I will touch briefly on it in my next article in this series “Finding Your Program.”

Let’s say for the sake of argument you did this, you are on track with cleaning up your diet and want to add-in fitness, but you have 2 kids, a spouse and work full time. Well, the answer is super simple and might be slightly defeating at the same time. Please refer to the quote at the beginning of the article. “You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” The above scenario is me. Kids, work, etc. I get up at 5 am in the summer or 5:30 am in the fall/winter to do my training 3 to 4 times per week. Doing this I dedicate all my time after work to my family. I simply decided that getting up a little earlier than what I would otherwise do to achieve the best results I can and I find it works perfectly.

This obviously might not suit you and it’s obvious that it’s not a new revelation. Consider it a challenge. A call to arms, or abs, or whatever. The length of time differs based on what study you read but the average is 21 days. 21 days to make fitness a habit and by habit, I mean normal to you. What 21 days won’t do is get you up to shave off seconds from your 5k time or add 10lbs to your high bar squat. That’s the beast within you that you need to unleash, feed and keep kindled. You want it. Just like the bad habits you have now, it takes work. You have to in some cases reinvent yourself but it’s completely worth it. Your health will benefit, your relationships will benefit. Even the discipline that you use to get up daily to work out and meal prep spills into your personal and professional lives, leaving a positive mark on those around you.

If you want it, earn it. Take it. Most of all fall in love with the process.

The next article will discuss various programs to get you started!

Please leave a comment and follow for more content.

Finding Your Decision

Keeping Ideas Simple

We’ve all had that moment. That moment when we tell ourselves “it’s time to get healthy” and for most of us, that’s as far as it gets. The lure of the everyday routine we’ve built is too great, the disruption too much to deal with. What if though, you are a step passed that. Not all in but not ready to back out. Now it’s time to find your decision.

For some, it’s a more complicated decision than most. The time, money and commitment. It can seem daunting. I have work, kids, a husband or wife, school, hobbies, friends, etc. I don’t have time to fit this in. Yet we instinctively know it’s importance. Why? Your body is talking and for a long time you’ve been ignoring it, but now your paying attention. You might feel sluggish, constantly tired, overweight, overstressed, weak or just lacking.

My biggest hurdle when I started was the feeling of self-consciousness. Not that I was out of shape, which I was, but how I felt when I did a workout. It felt awkward and almost unnatural. I felt vain like it made my body look disproportionate. All these things were telling me to stop….so I did. Why do we tell ourselves this? In a way, we’ve made the fitness realm just that, it’s own side niche where only “those people” belong. It’s not a bad hobby to have but it’s not “normal” either.

Truth is, we were made to move. Made to lift, bend, stoop, carry, throw, jump and climb. The advent of better and better technology has crushed that natural tendency to the point that we have to seek out physical activity instead of it being a part of our day-to-day lives.

   Finding my decision happened when I had my first son. I knew right then that I wanted to be around as long as possible and be able to play with him as much as possible. So I started. First with running which then was a Segway into lifting. It was awkward but I found my reason to make the decision.

   If you are still on the fence, it’s time to do some soul-searching. If you are reading this, you are ready.
The anxiety of joining a gym, of telling the people your with of your decision or the amount of effort it will take on your part to fit it in and make it work does not compare to the feeling of accomplishment and sense of self-worth you will gain when you decide to quit waiting and get to work.

Wrapping it up: there are many reasons to start living a healthier Lifestyle. More than reasons not to. When you take yourself seriously people will take you and your decisions seriously. Once you begin you’ll see how amazing it is and how much better you feel about yourself right away. It doesn’t have to consume your life or completely derail your existence. It simply has to begin…and it begins with a decision, one that you have to find for yourself.

In my next two articles, I’m going to discuss finding your time: how to fit it all in and the motivation to do so as well as finding your program; what’s right for your goals as a beginner or someone with decent ability but isn’t quite sure where to start. We’ll keep it simple and as effective as possible.

Please feel free to contact me, leave a comment below and follow me for more content.

Training & Your Immune System

We’ve all heard it before “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We know now that there is more to it than that, just as we are still learning that the affect’s fitness has on our bodies, namely in this article your immune system.
I thought this appropriate since we are heading straight into the dead of cold and flu season. In my previous post, I spoke on how to Prime your immune system ahead of time so you have the best chance when you do run into such viruses. Now I want to discuss what effects regular fitness has on it as well.
   I do use the word “fitness” like I’m attempting to be general but let’s be honest, I mean working out or for the more enthusiastic amongst us, Training. For the record, although I don’t compete, I prefer “training” as well.

   If you don’t exercise, the benefits might seem obvious…a better lifestyle, better diet and weight/fat loss and of course my system is going to operate better…..but what if you already a pretty active person? Take me for example, I haven’t logged less than 15k steps at work in more than 10 years, but I continuously get sacked by sickness each season. Mind you I work in direct contact with the public so it’s pretty easy.

   The short of it is, well…there isn’t a short (insert sad emoji)

There are two main complications with this subject:
1) It’s widely known that regular exercise does have a benefit to boosting your immune system.
2) Research is…well…not quite sure how.

There are several theories. However, none of these theories have been proven. Some of these theories are:

Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.

Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. However, no one knows whether these changes help prevent infections.

The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)

Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.
More on that study Here.

It is said that when you train, you create an inflammatory response, especially with resistance training, which leads to muscle growth and while your body is attempting to repair that damage, it is more susceptible to invasion.
   An article in Science Daily titled “Research debunks ‘myth‘ that strenuous exercise suppresses the immune system” basically says that the immune suppressing response is a myth. Mind you this was done on endurance athletes.

That moment…

So what’s a person to think? Well, for one thing, if your sick don’t get your snot on the gym equipment, that’s gross. Secondly, although its debatable on the overall intensity of the response, what isn’t a debate is that one happens.

The obvious is that you prevent some serious problems by performing regular exercises:
• Heart disease
• lower cholesterol
• increased bone density (resistance training)
• improved lung function
Side note — You ever see those people riding a bike and smoking? Yeah. Their not doing it right.

So we know it helps…how much is or just how is still under research. So let’s say you are sick and are just not feeling it. I’m going out on a limb and just say a dead lift PR is not happening…but that doesn’t mean your routine is scrapped.
Try focusing on what can benefit you when you do get back up and running. My favorite is Mobility Training or straight up Flexibility work. This can be done just sitting in a room, on the lawn, your bed…wherever.

Wrap it up!
• Workout Regularly to increase immune system.
• listen to your body.
Keep it simple. The general rule of the gym jungle is “if its from the neck up, go for it. Chest down, take some time off.” I think this is pretty good advice. If you are just not feeling it, don’t push it. Loss of gains, strength or inches is so minimal that it’s not worth it.

*As always, It’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine. He or she might have advice on what exercises are safe and any precautions you might need to take while exercising.