Fitness starts in your mind. Ask any athlete or fit person what the number one secret is to his success at fitness, and he will tell you it is commitment.
Commitment means that you are in it for the long haul. Commitment rises above bad days, hectic schedules and volatile emotions. Commitment hangs in there when you don’t want to do it, when you don’t feel like doing it and when you don’t have time to do it.
True commitment doesn’t depend on how you feel. It depends on your integrity and on living for the purpose you have set for yourself.
Are you committed to get fit?
Fitness starts in your mind. Ask any athlete or fit person what the number one secret is to his success at fitness, and he will tell you it is commitment.
Forward from hereToday you start fresh and leave the past behind. Yes, you may have quit during your previous attempts to be healthy. That doesn’t matter now. What matters is what you do today, tomorrow and next week. The following tips will help you make a strong start and make this time different. “Do not be afraid of the space between your dream and your present reality.” This is where patience and courage comes in. What is your dream or your goal? Do you want to lose 20 pounds? Do you want to run a mile? Do you want to eat a diet that energizes you? Maybe you want to exercise for 6 days a week. Do not let the distance you have to cover cause you to give up before you even begin. Recognize that this will take some time. Every single fit person you know started somewhere short of where they are now. How did they get to their present condition? By taking it one day at a time, celebrating every victory and getting up when they fall down. You can do the same. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” -Alan Lakein Have you ever heard of the tyranny of the urgent? It means that if you don’t have a plan, the matter that seems to be the most urgent at the time will get attention, at the exclusion of the others. Without a plan, your own health will always take a backseat to what seems the most important at the moment—and that could be as simple as a television show that you want to watch! Having a plan will keep less important things from creeping in and sabotaging your health. Count on it: if you do not plan for fitness and health, it simply will not happen. This time, make a plan. Before you even start your new healthy lifestyle, decide: When and how you will get your exercise (bootcamp? running in the mornings? treadmill at the gym after work?) What foods you will eat and how you will ensure that you have access to those foods (do you have a small cooler that you can take along with you? What will your breakfasts consist of? How much caffeine will you allow yourself?) How you will arrange your schedule so that you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night (do you need to get the kids in bed sooner or prepare your lunches on the weekends to save time in the morning? Without a strategy, you set yourself up for failure. Plan on succeeding! Take some time right now to jot down some ideas to overcome the obstacles that you know will arise. Be prepared for them, and you will breeze through them. No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it. -H.E. Luccock It is no secret that the biggest predictor of whether a person succeeds in their fitness and weight loss efforts is whether or not he has accountability. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: getting fit is not easy. If it were, we would not have our current epidemic of obesity. If it were easy, more people would be doing it! In order to make sure you succeed this time, get some support. That support could come from a few friends who are making a new beginning with you, a personal trainer or a boot camp instructor. The people in your support system will be genuinely interested in how you are doing. They will encourage you when you lose your motivation. They will cheer when you get up early to exercise. They will talk you out of eating those brownies. They will expect you to tell them how you are doing. And they will not let you fade out of the program: they will come after you if you start slacking. Are you ready for your New Beginning? It is within reach.
Tips for Turkey Day
The good news is that you don’t have to forgo your favorite holiday foods. There is room for a little indulgence at a holiday feast! The secret is to have a plan as we head into the holiday season. By staying on top of both your calorie intake and your physical activity, you can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and emerge on the other side just as fit as you are now.
Plan your meals. If you know that you are going to be having some heavy, celebratory meals in the upcoming days, limit your intake at other meals to help keep your diet balanced out. Don’t skip meals, but make them lighter and be sure to include plenty of healthy, lower calorie foods. For instance, if you are going to have a big lunch, eat a smaller breakfast and dinner.
Look at the big picture. Keep up with how you eating during the several days surrounding Thanksgiving. It’s not a good idea to indulge at every opportunity that presents itself. If you splurge heavily one day, take it easy the next.
Keep moving. The last thing you need this time of year is a slowed-down metabolism. Staying active is a great way to give your body a fighting chance to negotiate the extra calories you will be consuming. To get the biggest bang for your exercise-buck, do regular strength training moves. Even after your strength training session has ended, your metabolism and calorie-burn remains high when you do strength training! Here are some simple strengthening exercises you can do no matter where you are—whether in your office at work or at the in-laws:
1. Push-ups If you aren’t used to doing push-ups, start with your hands on a raised surface such as a desk. As you gain strength, you can gradually move to doing them fully on the floor.
2. Lunges For extra credit, hold dumbbells or other heavy objects in your hands while lunging.
3. Squats To do a proper squat, lower yourself just as though you are about to sit into a chair, then raise back up.
4. Step-ups Find the nearest step and with alternating legs, step onto the step with one leg then lower yourself back down. Again, holding heavy objects in each hand will increase the effect.
There is no need to pack on the pounds this Thanksgiving. Figure out your strategy now, and then when the festivities start, just work the plan!
Reset Your Circadian Clock
If you suspect that your natural, circadian rhythm is disrupted, don’t despair. There are several things you can do to reset your clock so you can start sleeping better at night and waking up more refreshed in the morning.
Try the following tips:
Reduce stress. Easier said than done, I know. But many times our stress levels are correlated to our response to stressful situations. Learning how to cope with stress more effectively may be all it takes to balance your cortisol.
Be consistent. Going to bed and getting at the same time each day will help to regulate your circadian rhythm. Practice this habit to slowly coax your body into a schedule.
Use light wisely. Since your circadian rhythm is partially controlled by light, darken your room well when you go to bed, and flood it with light when it is time to get up. Try using a full spectrum light in the mornings.
Avoid naps. If your circadian clock is off, you may find that you get very sleepy in the afternoon. However, taking a nap may make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Try to resist naps.
Eat most of your calories early. If you can eat the bulk of your daily calories earlier in the day as opposed to later in the day, you may find that you can recalibrate your circadian rhythms more easily.
How too Much Cortisol can lead to Decreased Health and Increased Belly Fat
Some have called it the “master” of all hormones. Others curse it for its ability to wreak havoc on our body’s fragile endocrine balance. In spite of the mixed opinions one thing is certain: cortisol is a powerful hormone necessary for life. But if its level is not optimal in your body, your health could suffer.
What is Cortisol?
The hormone cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and is primarily responsible for regulating blood sugar, helping to metabolize fats, protein and carbohydrates and assisting in managing our stress response. We all have times of stress in our lives, and cortisol helps us to function during these times.
When the stress goes up, cortisol kicks in and delivers help. We get a quick burst of energy, our memory sharpens, our immunity increases, and our sensitivity to pain decreases. These are all important and natural functions of cortisol and ensure that we are able to weather the curve balls that life throws at us.
However, if the stress doesn’t let up, neither does the cortisol. Unfortunately, what is healthy in small bursts becomes dangerous over the long term. If you have persistent stress in your life, then you have cortisol levels that are out of balance: your body makes so much cortisol that it detrimentally affects your health. This leads to adrenal fatigue.
When you have prolonged, high levels of cortisol in your bloodstream
you will crave foods that are high in carbs (like cake and cookies),
you will gain weight in your abdominal area (which increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes), and
you will have trouble sleeping
Cortisol and the Circadian Rhythm
Our bodies produce different chemicals during the day and night that control our sleep, energy and mood. The natural rhythm of this cycle is known as the Circadian Rhythm, and cortisol is a key player.
Under normal circumstances, your body produces cortisol in amounts largely determined by the clock. Levels tend to be higher in morning—triggered by the emerging daylight–giving you a boost of energy to jumpstart your day.
As the day wears on, cortisol levels should drop, helping to prepare you for a good night’s sleep. Likewise, Melatonin (another hormone that affects your energy and sleep habits) levels should be lower in the morning but as the daylight fades, they should increase, helping you to begin relaxing and preparing for sleep.
However, if you are under constant stress or if your adrenal glands are not functioning properly, your cortisol level may not drop off during the day. Instead, it may actually rise and stay at a dangerously high level. By the time bedtime rolls around, you will not feel sleepy. You will feel “tired but wired,” and be unable to relax and fall asleep.
Fall is here, and that means that cold and flu season has arrived. Have you ever noticed that some people seldom get sick? Or maybe you have wondered why after being exposed to the same virus, one person gets ill while the other remains well.
The reason lies in the strength of the immune system. And the strength of your immune system is largely dependent upon the condition of your digestive system.
When you are exposed to bad bacteria or viruses, it is up to your immune system to protect you from being infected. If your immune system is strong, your body will fight off the threat. If your immune system is weak or compromised, you may end up sick.
Microbes: the good, the bad, and the ugly
Inside your digestive system are many microbes. Microbes are live organisms that affect your overall health.
Some of these organisms are beneficial and protect you from disease. These good bacteria recognize when illness-producing intruders enter your body; they promptly attack the intruders so you do not get sick. If you do not have enough good bacteria in your gut, you will be more susceptible not only to infections such as colds and stomach flu, but you will also be at risk for autoimmune diseases such as colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and Chron’s disease.
Ideally you have a large supply of these good microbes living in your gut. But they can easily become depleted. If you have recently taken antibiotics, you have had not only the bad bacteria wiped out, but also the good bacteria. Antibiotics are not selective in their destruction.
Antibiotics are not the only way that good bacteria become depleted in your digestive system. The chlorine in your drinking water can destroy them, as can the pesticide residue on the food that you eat.
Once the supply of beneficial microbes in your intestines dwindles, bad microbes such as yeast, fungi and disease-causing bacteria begin to take up residence. When the scale tips in favor of the bad, your immune system becomes compromised.
If you think you might be deficient in good microbes, it is not difficult to remedy the problem. The solution is to take probiotics. Probiotics are good microbes that you can consume in your diet. They then settle in your digestive system and get to work protecting you from illness and destroying the bad bacteria that may be living there.
Probiotics are available in capsule form, but you can also replenish the good microbes by eating yogurt. Check the label on the yogurt that you buy to make sure it says that it contains active cultures—those are the good bacteria that you need to eat.
Take action now and get a head start on this year’s cold and flu season. You can get ahead of the game by improving your gut function and fighting illness.
When you think of a typical older person, one thing likely comes to mind: frailty. Even if you can’t really identify any obvious illness, there is something about most elderly people that communicates frailty and weakness. They probably walk slowly, move carefully and let others do many things for them, rather than doing those things themselves.
What is it?
It’s muscle loss, otherwise known as sarcopenia. And if you are 25 years old or older, it is happening to you already.
But you don’t have to take it sitting down (pun intended).
What is sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia refers to the process of losing skeletal muscle mass and strength. “Sarco” is the Greek word referring to flesh, and “penia” means a reduction in amount. Thus, the word describes a progressive weakening of the body caused by a “change in body compensation in favor of fat and at the expense of muscle.”1
Everyone, beginning around age 25, starts to lose muscle mass, though the actual symptoms of this loss do not usually begin showing up until around the age of 40 or so. The process begins really picking up speed after the age of 65. In fact, around the age of 40, most women will lose almost a half-pound of muscle every year and replace it with fat.2
The result of this gradual loss of muscle is an insidious weakening of the body, loss of balance, loss of confidence upon walking, and a reduced ability to recover from near falls. As we lose strength, we become more inactive. This makes sense, because if we have less muscle, it takes much more effort to move, and we fatigue more easily. But also, with loss of strength comes loss of balance and stability. The fear of falling keeps many people sedentary. And a sedentary lifestyle opens the door for chronic illness.
Take back your muscle
And now for great news: you can delay sarcopenia and even reverse it. How? By lifting weights. Even though you cannot grow new muscles cells to replace the ones you have already lost, you can develop the ones that you have left. In fact, you can become stronger than you ever have in your life by simply beginning a strength training program.
No matter how old you are, it is not too late to start. Even patients in nursing homes have seen transformation. After strength training, bedridden patients were able to begin walking with walkers, walker-dependent patients graduated to canes, and so on.3
And no matter how young you are, it is not too early to start! By starting early, you can significantly delay the effects of sarcopenia.
As you begin lifting weights, you will notice a transformation in your body. You will have more energy, you will perform everyday tasks with noticeably more ease and your clothes will begin sagging on you, because you will be building muscle and burning up the fat deposits. You will have greater balance and more confidence.
And perhaps best of all is the insurance policy you pay premiums on every time you choose to lift, because you are laying a strong, solid foundation for your later years. You are laying up health, independence and the ability to live well, not just long.
Don’t let another day go by that you are losing muscle. Take it back, and get ready to feel better than you ever have!
1 Biomarkers by William Evans Ph.D. and Irwin Rosenberg M.D. Page 23.
2 Strong Women Stay Young by Miriam E. Nelson Ph.D. Page 22.
3 Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley and Harry S. Lodge M.D. Page 178
Power Over Habit: Why Mindset Matters
If you have ever tried to ignore a box of doughnuts at work, you know how hard it is to keep your hands to yourself and walk on by. And once you walk on by, the battle isn’t over. Even if you are in a different room and down the hall, you can’t stop thinking about those doughnuts.
Why is it so hard to resist something as small and seemingly innocent as a doughnut? It has to do with habit—and mind set.
The draw you feel from that doughnut goes way beyond just a mild interest: you are wired to want it, and resistance is hard. In his book, The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler MD explains the breakdown:
When you taste foods that are highly palatable (such as foods containing excess sugar, fat and salt), your brain releases opioids into your blood stream. Opioids are brain chemicals that cause you to have intense feelings of reward and pleasure, as well as relieving pain and stress. The pleasurable effect is similar to the feelings that morphine and heroin users experience. The desire may be so intense that you keep taking one bite after another: it can be hard to stop.
That explains why you keep eating. But why do you give in and approach that doughnut box in the first place? Why not just refuse to take that first bite?
The answer is another brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for motivating you to seek out the doughnut so you can get the opioid release. You remember how good it tasted and how great it made you feel. Dopamine energizes you to work for that doughnut. It causes you to concentrate on it and drives you to seek it out.
Once this process happens a few times, the whole cycle becomes a habit that is very reward focused, very ingrained and very hard to break. Your brain’s circuitry has become mapped and wired to want the doughnut. And you don’t even have to be near the doughnut for this process to start–the dopamine can kick in even when there are no doughnuts in site: ever made a run to the store for a treat that you just had to have right then?
From weekend warriors to Ironman finishers, performance is directly tied to diet. If you want to train at the peak of your ability and recover quickly, you must be intentional about what you eat, taking care to feed your body what it needs. Trying to work out with a body that is starving for essential nutrients will end only in frustration; and frustration eats your momentum and resolve with a voracious appetite.
Make the most of every minute you work out by fueling your body sensibly. Let’s look at the basics.
Nutrition 101: the foundation
The big three nutrients that you need to be concerned with are carbohydrates, protein and fat. An eating strategy that balances these three macro-nutrients will skyrocket your fitness results.
Carbohydrates: Some have argued that carbohydrates are the most important nutrient that an athlete consumes, because carbs fuel muscle. Every time you move one of your muscles, you are using carbohydrates. Your body breaks down carbs into sugars and then stores them in your muscles and livers. If you eat more than can be stored in either of these two places, the excess is stored as fat in your body.
Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.
Protein: In order to build muscle, you must have protein. Muscle is the foundation of every athlete: without a solid muscle base, you will be ineffective any fitness pursuit. Muscle also plays an important role in protecting you from diabetes. The more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body can uptake glucose from your bloodstream.
It is important to eat protein daily, because your body cannot store protein very easily. Protein from animal sources is the easiest way to get complete protein, but plant-based proteins can be combined to provide complete protein as well.
Fat: It is unfortunate that fat came under such fire during the last decade or so. Fat is essential and you need a lot of it. The key is to know what kind of fat to eat. Avoid anything that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. These fats are also called trans-fats and are very unhealthy. Instead try to get the majority of your fat from olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, wild-caught fish and free-range animal products such as butter, cheese, yogurt, beef and poultry
Remember, all things are created twice – first in the imagination and then second in the physical world. Study this excerpt from Napoleon Hill’s famous book, Think & Grow Rich:
The law of autosuggestion, through which any person may rise to altitudes of achievement which stagger the imagination, is well described in the following verse:
“If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.
“If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will—
It’s all in the state of mind.
“If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
“Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!”
Observe the words which have been emphasized, and you will catch the deep meaning which the poet had in mind. Somewhere in your makeup there lies, sleeping, the seed of achievement which, if aroused and put into action, would carry you to heights such as you may never have hoped to attain.
Just as a master musician may cause the most beautiful strains of music to pour forth from the strings of a violin, so may you arouse the genius who lies asleep in your brain, and cause it to drive you upward to whatever goal you may wish to achieve.