3 Reasons why You’re not Motivated and what to do about it!

steve austin

In the last part of our 3 part series on starting your health and wellness journey, we talk about Motivation. Thus far, we’ve covered Time and Money, both of which have a lot of variables. But, Time and Money can both be found by mixing things around and doing some prioritizing. Motivation, on the other hand, is internal (or at least it should be. You should NEVER, EVER, EVER do something because someone else wants you to.), and therefore much harder to find when you’re looking for it.

 

Although Motivation is an internal element that is dependent on each person’s situation and mindset, some of us can be effected by external factors to get us down the health and wellness path. For instance, maybe you have a wedding coming up, or a vacation, or maybe you’re pre-diabetic or have hypertension (technically these 2 are internal, but on a different level). These external factors could be a great building block for your health. For a lot of us, on the other hand, Motivation is just not there. I want to give you an idea of why your Motivation may be missing and what you can do to find it, so let’s get started…

 

Like I said before, Motivation is internal. But the majority of our internal Motivation is predicated upon our external environment and how we take it in. Let me show you how:

 

  • Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter show you how you need to look – Social media is riddled with images and videos of fitness buffs showing their guns or flexing their 6 packs. It’s hard to look at your Pinterest feed and not see a half-naked girl doing the next best “Shredder” workout. What you don’t know (and they don’t know…or probably care about) is that this is demotivating to the majority of the general population. You see this and think “How can I ever look like that?!”. With this constant negative feedback, it’s easy your mind to shut down any idea of working out.
  • Biggest Loser, Crossfit Games and America Ninja Warrior show us how we need to workout – As entertaining as some of these shows may be, it’s just not reality. Biggest Loser makes you think you need to workout a couple hours a day, as hard as you can, dropping weight at an insane (and unhealthy) rate in order to get healthy. This is TOTALLY and UTTERLY WRONG! We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that losing weight should be quick and your workouts should be long and painful. Again, more negative feedback to keep you planted on the couch.
  • It Works, HerbaLife and Advocare show us what supplements to take – Supplements, wraps, gels, sprays, enemas, you name it, they have it. Anything you need to get your weight off and get healthy QUICK! No need to exercise and eat healthy! Just take this pill, wrap yourself in saran wrap and you’ll be good to go! And guess what, we’ve all done it! And we all got results QUICK! And then the results went away just as quick. Short term fixes are never conducive to long term results.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of things out there that eat at your Motivation. It’s nearly impossible to go a day, or even a couple of hours, without seeing or hearing about one of the factors above. So now, we have to figure out what we can do to fight the good fight, to feed your good wolf and get you moving down the health and wellness path!

 

  • Just get Moving! – While television and social media and magazines would like you to think that you need to go straight from the couch to doing intense circuit training 8 days a week, the truth is, it’s all relative. For some people, working out is going for a 1 mile walk. For others, working out is going for a 75 mile run (seriously!). Keep it relative to YOU! If you haven’t done anything for a while, just get up and go for a walk. Then do it again the next day, and the next day. Movement has a funny way of getting us Motivated to do things we didn’t think we wanted to do.
  • Find something you LIKE to do! – I think that a combination of resistance training and interval training are the best way to get in shape and lose fat (if your nutrition is on point) for anybody. Does that mean you have to do these things? No, of course not. Do you like Yoga? Great, do it! How about Spinning? Sure, go ahead! It doesn’t matter what the world thinks you need to do! If you enjoy it, then do it! Movement is Movement. Now, does that mean you should enjoy it 100% of the time…not necessarily. But overall, your fitness and nutrition regimens should be enjoyable and easy to integrate.
  • Stick to the Program! – Look, obviously I’m not a fan of quick fixes. Health and wellness is simply not achieved in 6 weeks! However, if you sign up to do something for 6 weeks and quit in 4, you’re ingraining a negative feedback loop in you. Stick to the program, buy in and do it 100%. The biggest obstacle when you’re getting started is YOU. When you go to a Fitness Center to ask about memberships and walk out saying “I’ll have to think about it”, you’re not bought into your health…simple.

 

Give yourself a chance when it comes to getting Motivated. Don’t get wrapped up in what other people are doing and focus on where you are NOW. Everyone has to start at point A, but point A is different for everybody! Buy in and go do it!

 

 

How to Sleep Better

sleep

In our modern world, we value productivity and being constantly busy. We never want to appear to others as being lazy and not hard working. The pressure to work longer hours, keep our children involved in lots of extra curricular activities and catch our favorite television show at the end of a busy day all lead to poor sleep habits. Poor sleep can lead to obesity and chronic inflammation in our body.

 

Today, one third of Americans admit to having trouble sleeping. Fifty one percent admit to having trouble a few nights per week, and a whopping forty three percent complain of daytime sleepiness that impacts their life. In 2010, prescription sleep medications generated more than 5 billion dollars in sales. MRI studies of the brain activity of sleep deprived versus well-rested individuals clearly show us what happens in the brain. They found that lack of sleep leads to increased activity in the reward center of the brain when the study group looked at pictures of high calorie foods while decreasing the activity in the area of the brain that controls behavior. Clearly, this explains why when we are sleep deprived we crave high calorie food and find it difficult to resist the urge to eat those comfort foods.  So what has changed in our society over the years that have created this problem? Let’s look at two possibilities and some techniques to try to correct the issue.

 

Recently, I read a book that discusses the concept of time compression syndrome. The idea is that we commit to too many things in a given time frame than can be reasonably done. Our to-do list is jammed back every day. If we don’t get everything scratched off the list we can just let it flow over to the next day. We suddenly find that we will never catch up. We also have entered a world of never being “disconnected”. Smart phones, laptops and now tablets allow us to constantly be available and engaged with the world outside. These “traps”, in my opinion, contribute to our inability to sleep. We go to bed but our mind never shuts down. We toss and turn thinking about that long list and how we can’t forget anything!

 

One idea, to help our mind “relax”, is to keep a small notebook at your bedside. Part of your bedtime routine can be to jot down anything that is pressing in your mind at the end of the day. It is like unloading your brain. You will have it on paper so your mind can relax and forget about it for now because it’s safe. Secondly, develop a bedtime routine where you start winding down 1 or 2 hours before your regular bedtime. You can’t keep running right up to the last minute and expect to jump into bed and fall asleep. It just doesn’t work that way.

 

Instead about 2 hours before bed begin limiting your exposure to electronics and bright lights. First you might just turn down the lights in your home to mimic what our ancestors did many years ago. After dinner, they sat around the campfire or by candlelight talking, telling stories or just sitting quietly. When was the last time you experienced silence? It’s difficult at first because we are constantly surrounded by noise but you will get use to it if you practice. Then about an hour before, lay down your smartphone, close the laptop, turn off the TV and really get ready to shut things down for the day. Here is where you would want to “unload” your mind of all those pressing thoughts into your notebook. Take the time to relax your body also by stretching or meditating. A nice hot bath works as well. Lastly, try to get to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This helps with our natural circadian rhythm for sleep.

 

On average, we need roughly 7-8 hours of sleep nightly for the best health. If you find you are in that group of Americans who are sleep deprived try implementing one of the above techniques to get yourself back on track. Let your mind and body know that it is time for bed and you might start to sleep better.

 

 

How to Save Money to Achieve Your Fitness Goals

Money background

Money background

As we continue down the path of breaking down the main barriers that hold us back when it comes to getting healthy, today we make a stop at the bank and see if we can make room for fitness in our disposable income. If you missed last week, we covered time and how we can adjust the things that we do in order to free up a couple of hours a week to get our fitness on.

 

Although time has its own variables, finances have even more from person to person and couple to couple. Every situation is different and can drastically change from month to month (depending on how mindful you are of saving…this is a totally different story). Debt alone is such a huge variable: some people have car loans, some have student loans, maybe you just bought a house or decided to get a boat. Then, of course, there are credit cards. If you have credit card debt, this should be your number one priority…but I digress.

 

Children are another variable. They cost money to maintain (is that a bad way to put it?). Then you have groceries to worry about, and essentials to maintain your yard and house cleaning products. Don’t forget about the animals, they cost money, too.

 

Needless to say, there are a lot of things to take into account when it comes to your finances and getting healthy. However, there 3 aspects of spending that I would like to explore. This is where our true disposable income goes. And, as you’ll see, you might just be blowing more money than you thought:

 

  • Entertainment

How much is your cable bill each month? $60? $100 $200? And I’m assuming you have Netflix to go along with that, right? Oh, and don’t forget about Amazon Prime (Hello, this is basically the same as Netflix!!), most of us have that as well. We have smothered ourselves in entertainment possibilities, because we think we need them. How many channels do you actually watch on cable? The average person watches 3 channels from their cable package…3!! We just like to have the OPTION to watch other things. The fact is, you can get most of what you want to watch through some sort of other service, app or device, and it’s usually significantly cheaper than your $100 cable bill. Oh, or you can go outside and enjoy life!

  • Disposable Groceries

I use the word “disposable” here because these are things that we buy, but don’t need. Items that we like to have, but don’t need to have. They’re typically cheap upfront, however, they are easy to consume and the costs accumulate quickly. These are items like soft drinks, sports drinks, snacks, cigarettes, beer, sweets, juices, cereals, and power bars. I know, I probably just named the majority of what most people buy. All of these categories are things that you don’t need to have, but make you feel good either through sugar or nicotine or alcohol or convenience. This area can easily save a family $200 a month. Evaluate your cart and decide what really needs to be there. After all, eliminating these things will only help in your health and wellness endeavor.

  • The Night Life

This is another area where there is potential for HUGE savings. The average person eats out 3 days a week. If the average meal costs $12, that’s $36 a week. You can go ahead and quadruple (at least) if you’re a family 3-5. And this doesn’t take into account the drinks that you’ll have. A soft drink at a restaurant is about $2 I believe, so go ahead and add $6 to your $36. That’s about $170 a month for one person, and this is being VERY conservative. Not to mention the bar scene. The average drink at a bar costs somewhere around $3, and if you are simply drinking casually over the course of a couple of hours, you might have 5 drinks. So we can lump another $15 (if you only hit the bars one night a week) to our weekly total, which brings our monthly total to about $230. This is your choice to make, but the numbers are what they are.

 

Anybody can find excuses to not do the things they know they need to do in order to achieve their goals. If you truly don’t want to do something, you’ll find an excuse not to do it. If health and wellness is something you want to improve, whether it’s extrinsically or intrinsically driven, you can find a way to do it. You may have to eliminate some things that make you comfortable or give you a short term high, but in the long run (which is what we’re shooting for here) your body will thank you.

The Paradox of “Zero Calorie” Sweeteners

Artificial-Sweeteners

This is our final installment in the Sugar series for now (Part 1 and Part 2 covered other aspects of sugars). We have covered glucose, fructose and will talk about artificial sweeteners today.

There are five different types of artificial sweeteners and they are found in more than 6,000 products in the supermarket today. They are promoted to be a great substitute for sugar for diabetics, will help us lose weight and contain zero calories. They are put in everything from yogurt and sugar free candy to sports drinks. The truth is, they cause metabolic confusion setting us up for weight gain, worsening insulin sensitivity and disruption of the micro flora in our gut. All combined, they send us down the road to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and not to mention cancer.

You may know them by their more common names such as Equal, Splenda and Sweet One but they are often hidden by their chemical names on labels. Let’s cover a few of the more common ones today. Equal is the chemical Aspartame. Aspartame by far is the most commonly used artificial sweetener. It is 180 times sweeter than sugar but you see people putting 2 packs or more in their morning coffee. Sweet One is chemically known as Acesulfame-K and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Splenda or Sucralose is 600 times as sweet. Are you on sugar overload yet? What signal is all this sweetness sending to our brains? Not a very good one and here is why. When we eat something sweet our brain releases the chemical dopamine, which activates our brain’s reward center. Once we reach a certain level of calories from the food, the hormone Leptin is released telling us that we are satisfied and we stop eating. Enter the metabolic confusion caused by artificial sweeteners. Because of their sweetness, sugar on crack, they light up our reward center BUT contain zero calories. No calories, no leptin release. No leptin release, no brakes for your brain or appetite. You know where this is headed don’t you? Weight gain and decreased insulin sensitivity. Next, because they are so effective at stimulating the sweet receptors on our tongues, we will have to use more to get the same level of sweetness over time. We essentially put our sweet taste buds to sleep requiring more sweetness to wake them up. The vicious cycle of carbohydrate craving and overeating is born hence the addiction.

Next, let’s cover the “natural” sweeteners. There are some known “health benefits” to these that one could argue make them a better option. Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia plant. It has been used for centuries for its sweetness and for medicinal purposes. It is 200 times as sweet as sugar, has zero calories and has been shown to lower high blood pressure in some and blood sugar in diabetics. Stevia today can be blended with dextrose, or maltodextrin to help improve its taste. Check the label and look for additives and fillers that you want to avoid. Erythritol and Xylitol are sugar alcohols. Erythritol is naturally found in certain fruits but can be processed from corn, which most likely has been genetically modified in this country. It is 70% as sweet as sugar and contains less than 1 calorie per gram. Xylitol, made from birch trees, is as sweet as sugar and contains 2.4 calories/gram. If used in large quantities though they both can cause gastrointestinal upset.

The world of artificial sweeteners is complicated and complex. In a nutshell, avoid the artificial sweeteners completely. Limit the natural ones as much as possible but your best option is to use none. In a future article, we will discuss the healthy sugars like honey, maple syrup etcetera and are they a better substitute for sugar in our diets.

How You can find Time to Exercise in Your Busy Schedule!

time

Time, money and motivation. When it comes to exercise, these are the 3 biggest reasons for not being able to get started. While all of them have their variables, we need to break them down one at a time to see if there’s anything we can do to fight the fight. Today, we are going to start with time.

 

Time is the easiest factor to deal with, but also very complicated. Generally speaking, we all have the same sort of obligations. We all have related things that take up most of our time, but in a different way. Let’s take a look at some of the parts that take up most of our time and see if we can find some wiggle room:

 

  • Work – This is a variable from person to person, of course. Generally speaking, though, we can say that the average person works 9 hours a day (it’s supposed to be 8, but we are a country of workaholics), sometimes more, sometimes less. Work pays the bills and supports the family, so it’s tough to tell you to skip out on work. However, without your health, you have no work. Without work, you can always have your health.
  • Sleep Your recovery and rest are equally as important (if not more so) as exercising on a regular basis. So skimping on sleep is non-negotiable. You should always sleep for about 8 hours (some can get away with 7, others need 9. Any more or less and bad things can happen).
  • Family – There is no normal when it comes to family time. This is very dependent on you and your situation. Some of us have kids, some don’t, some have old parents who need tending to, some have spouses and others don’t. Let’s throw a number out say we spend 3 hours a day of family time.
  • Disposable Time – Ever hear of disposable income? Well, we’re going to call our leftover time disposable time. If we add up our numbers so far, we’ve used up 20 hours of our day working, sleeping or with family. And, generally speaking, this is where the magic can happen. Here’s what a typical disposable time slot may look like: Netflix for 2 hours, complaining about work for 1 hour and Facebook for 1 hour.

 

Now, granted, we all need some decompression time. Whether that’s when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed at night, it’s important to have time to unload your mind. Where we get stuck is thinking that exercise is a 2-hour event. Because of what we see on TV, social media and the news, we think we need to be working out 2 hours a day, 8 days a week in order to get in shape.

 

There is certainly an optimal number of days that you should exercise to efficiently lose weight or get stronger or put on muscle. However, it’s all relative. You have to look at your situation and where you are now. You have to say “Okay, if I start walking today, that’s more than what I did yesterday”. Doing something is ALWAYS better than doing nothing.

 

Tell yourself you are going to go to the gym 2 times a week for an hour. Weight training is the best course to fat loss, so it’s important to put some time in. 2 other days a week, spend 30-60 minutes at home doing a home-based workout. Need some help with that? Here, buy a kettlebell and do this workout:

 

Kettlebell Swing x 20

Pushups x 10

REST

Kettlebell Swings x 20

Pushups x 9

REST

Kettlebell Swings x 20

Pushups x 8

 

All the way down to 1 pushup. Or give this one a try (this is a good butt burner!):

 

Kettlebell Swings x 10

Goblet Squat x 1

REST

Kettlebell Swing x 9

Goblet Squat x 2

REST

Kettlebell Swing x 8

Goblet Squat x 3

 

Repeat until you reach 1 swing and 10 squats. Both of these workouts will take you 20 minutes or less, depending on how much you rest. They will also burn a considerable amount of calories and help you build some strength and muscle.

 

You have to make exercise work for you. Don’t try to fit yourself into Arnold’s routine of 2 workouts a day. Decide how you want to spend your Disposable Time. Do efficient, full body workouts. Then give allow yourself to decompress.

Are all Sugars the Same?!

hfcsIn last week’s article, we discussed glucose and it’s metabolism and effect on the body. This week, we will continue our series on sugar and be covering fructose in the same manner.

 

Fructose is also known as fruit sugar as it is the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits and vegetables. The fructose in whole fruit or whole foods is bound together with other nutrients. For example in whole fruit you will find it together with fiber, glucose and vitamins. This decreases the harmful effect on our body. The fructose in table sugar is bound to glucose. In high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) it is bound to corn syrup as in the name.  HFCS is twice as sweet as table sugar and will cause a similar spike in blood sugar. It is prevalent in packaged and processed food because it is inexpensive to make and you use less. This greatly benefits the food manufacturing industry by placing more money in their pockets but is detrimental to our health and well being.

 

To keep things simple, fructose is metabolized differently than glucose. It is almost entirely metabolized in the liver bypassing the gastrointestinal tract. It does not require insulin to enter our cells so it does not promote insulin secretion like glucose. Remember, insulin is our body’s way of regulating blood sugar and keeping it stable. Considering the differences, the type of fructose and the amount you are eating DO matter.

 

Today, Americans are eating more fructose than ever before. 70% or more of all processed food contain some type of added sugar or HFCS. This increase in fructose consumption is linked to the rise in obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. It is very easy to overeat this type of sugar because we generally do not compensate for the additional calories in our diet. Think about eating a Big Mac with super size fries and a soda. Yikes, I think I can hear your liver crying!  That’s just one meal in your day. This doesn’t happen with the fructose in whole fruits and vegetables. When you eat fruit or vegetables you will generally lower your caloric intake elsewhere. You get the benefit of additional fiber, vitamins and nutrients with whole foods.

 

The average American diet is about 16% sugar by calories. That is just average so the number is probably higher. Any sugar in excess is not healthy regardless of the type. Consider where you are getting your sugar from and what form the sugar is. Eat fruits, in moderation, that are lower in fructose like for example berries, citrus fruit and stone fruits (peaches, plums). Vegetables that are high in fiber and lower in fructose such as broccoli, spinach and cauliflower. These are excellent choices because they contain smaller amounts of fructose bound to other nutrients and are easily handled by the liver.  Avoid high fructose corn syrup and added sugar found in energy drinks, sodas, fruit juices and processed food. These overload our liver, disrupt our satiety hormones and result in overeating, cravings and poor health. We are what we eat so choose your food wisely.  

3 Core Exercises You should be doing

With Spring Break just around the corner, the volume of crunches, situps and Russian twists you will see in the gym will go up exponentially. Everybody is preparing for their moment of glory on the beach and the 6 pack (not the beer kind…at least not for our purposes) will lead the way. And although these may be the standard 6-pack-developing exercises, they may not be as effective as you hope. They also may be doing more harm than good.

 

While I can’t promise you that the exercises I’ll share in this article will lead to a shredded-wheat belly, I can promise they are more effective for the functional adaptation of the core. After all, we can do situps until the cows come home, but sadly, spot training for the sake of losing fat in a particular area doesn’t work (this subject will be left for another article).

 

The purpose of the core is to help you stabilize your midsection and connect your upper body to your lower body. The core is not limited to your 6 pack, though (the technical name for 6 pack is rectus abdominis). Also included in your core musculature are your obliques (muscles on the side of your abs), spinal stabilizers, glutes and lats. Yup, all of these muscles groups help stabilize your midsection and connect the lower body to the upper body.

 

Now that we have a basic understanding of what muscles are really involved and what the core should be doing, here are some exercises that will help develop the system (and have a better chance of giving you that 6 pack as well):

 

The Suitcase Carry

 

While all of the carries in the carry family are important in their own right, the suitcase carry seems to help with overall core development at a higher level. Because of the contralateral weight distribution, your body has to stabilize from side-to-side. While holding the weight on side, the opposite side oblique, glute and lat have to really turn on to keep you from falling over. For most back-for-your-buck, use a decent size weight and move slow with your walk. Reminder: pretend like you’re walking a tight rope. If you fall off, game over!

 

Deadbugs

 

 Yup, you read that right. This is an actual exercise and it will humble the strongest among us in a heartbeat. Again, the goal is to be methodical with your movement. The deadbug does not allow you to simply fly through it because it also requires some thought. Moving your opposite arm and leg independently of each other requires a crosslink connection in the brain that most of us don’t use on a regular basis. Give it a try and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Reminders: keep your head up and don’t move your other arm and leg!

 

TRX Fallout

 

The TRX is used in a variety of ways. However, sometimes it’s the most obvious ways that can be overlooked, especially when it comes to try functionality. The fallout is a great anti-extension exercise. As you extend your arms out at the bottom of the fall, your core has to engage more and more. This is more real-life than something like a plank (which are awesome, don’t get me wrong) where you simply hold the position for an amount of time. If you do the fallout correctly, it will “teach” our core to activate on demand so that it can stabilize when it needs to. Reminder: keep your glutes tight while in the extended position!

 

Start training your core to be useful, not just pretty. Ironically, the useful exercises are better at the 6 pack effect than situps and crunches. However, they require much more effort.

The Great Sugar Epidemic: Part 1

 

carbs

Are all sugars the same?

 

To our taste buds, sugar from fruit, potatoes or candy all taste the same. Inside, though, our bodies metabolize and use sugars differently based on their type. Today, we will be discussing in very basic terms glucose.

 
Glucose is by far the most common simple sugar we extract from our diet and one used immediately by our bodies as a fuel source. Many of the foods we eat are broken down into various amounts of glucose. Carbohydrates are by far the biggest contributor to our amount of circulating glucose. Simple carbohydrates such as refined sugars, flours and grains are rapidly digested by our digestive tract and sent quickly into our blood stream. This results in a rapid rise in our blood glucose level. Our body has a strong regulatory process in place to help bring this elevation back under control. The pancreas, sensing this rapid rise in circulating glucose, releases the hormone insulin.

 

Think of the glucose molecule as a car and insulin as a traffic cop. When our blood glucose is elevated continuously like during rush hour on the interstate things get all jammed up. In comes the traffic cops or insulin to help disperse the cars and get them to where they need to go. Insulin unlocks our cell’s doors to take in glucose.  We need glucose to enter our muscle cells and liver cells to fuel our daily processes but we have limited storage capacity in these areas. Once these are filled, the rest goes to fat storage.

 

Exercising helps to deplete these storage areas quicker so they need to be refilled again. By not choosing your food or fuel wisely, you can short circuit this process over time. By constantly eating a heavy simple carb based diet, you will over work the pancreas causing it to essentially “burn out”.  It will not be able to keep up with the chronically high glucose and your cells will become less sensitive to the insulin produced. This is what is known as insulin resistance and leads to diabetes, obesity among other chronic diseases. Being chronically inflamed from our food intake, lack of sleep, stress etc just compounds the situation.  It is a very sneaky process and you will not feel this occurring in your body until these chronic diseases present themselves. There are several things you can do to help your body better utilize glucose and prevent these chronic diseases.

 


Eliminating all processed and refined carbs from your diet will prevent these rapid and high levels of glucose from occurring and placing added stress on the pancreas. Exercising regularly will also help to burn off any extra glucose and empty the storage areas so they need to be refilled more frequently. Keeping tight control on your blood glucose (sugar) will help prevent cravings and help you lose weight. While we do need glucose, we need to be aware of the amount and type we are taking in to help us improve our health and well being.