Category Archives: Health & Fitness

How Our Hormones Work Together to Control Our Appetite

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Hormones are chemical messengers secreted by various glands known as the Endocrine System within the body. They are circulated through the bloodstream to various organs and tissues where they play very specific roles. The human body is constantly seeking homeostasis or balance to function optimally. Hormones help the body find and maintain this balance but they can fall out of balance as well. Hormonal imbalances will lead to a variety of illnesses related to their individual function and role they have in the body. Hormones influence our growth and development, metabolism, immune system and reproduction. They start and stop processes, as in when we feel hungry or full, as well as some working continuously to perform a specific job. In today’s post, we will be talking about the two hormones that are well known to influence body weight/fat. They are the hormones Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and Leptin (the satiety hormone).

 

Ghrelin and leptin are the two hormones that are known to significantly influence our energy balance. Ghrelin is secreted by the empty stomach lining and is responsible for the infamous “growling stomach” sound heard when we are hungry. It is a fast acting hormone that once secreted travels to our brain, specifically the hypothalamus, via the bloodstream and triggers us to eat. It is highest before we eat and lowest after. Research shows that your mindset can play a role on ghrelin levels even more so than the nutrients in the food you eat. In the “milkshake” study, participants consumed the same milkshake except one group’s milkshake was labeled as “indulgent” and the other “sensible”. Those who drank the “indulgent” milkshake showed a sharper decline in ghrelin than those who consumed the same shake labeled as “sensible”. This showed that the participants satiety and physical response matched what they had read on the label. It proved the power the mind has over the stomach.

 

Now on to the next hormone involved in energy balance, leptin. Leptin is produced in the fat cells or adipose tissue of the body. It’s released in response to eating, traveling via the bloodstream to the hypothalamus signaling our brain that we can stop eating. Leptin’s negative feedback loop evolved to help us to not eat too much or too little thus ensuring our survival. The fat cells produce leptin based on their size. Leaner individuals who have less body fat have lower leptin levels. These individuals have increased appetites because their satiety hormone is low. Those with higher body fat, in obesity for example, will have increased levels of leptin resulting in higher satiety and a decrease in appetite.

 

So in a perfect world these two chemical messengers would work nicely together allowing us to maintain an adequate energy balance right? When we are hungry, ghrelin is produced and we eat. When we are satisfied, out comes leptin to shut down our eating so we maintain our ideal body weight and everyone lives happily ever after. We shouldn’t have the obesity epidemic we have today and losing weight should be pretty easy. Unfortunately we can develop hormonal imbalances which leads to the inability to lose weight effectively. Today, we have the issue of leptin resistance and the impact it has on the body.  In our next post, we will cover what this is and how you can deal with the issue to get things back in balance and achieve your weight loss goals and improve your health.

Why Your Exercise Selection May Be Working Against You

 

 

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Pre-historic man, let’s call her Katie, was a versatile athlete. Katie could run, jump, skip, hop, climb and crawl at will. And it’s a good thing too. If she wasn’t able to do these things, Katie wouldn’t survive (or his chances of surviving were greatly reduced). This was her exercise.

 

Nowadays, we have different modalities of training that allow us to do the things Katie did in her everyday life. Since our lives mostly consist of sitting, we aren’t able to utilize our body’s the way we did back in the day (Katie didn’t have to stretch and warm up every time it was time to run…her life depended on being prepared at all times!). We are, after all, the same animal we were 20,000 years ago when we were running from lions and tigers and bears (OH MY!).

 

So, knowing that our world consists of sitting, lying and random bouts of walking, we understand that it is important to exercise in order to function properly throughout our lives. Ironically, we usually don’t maximize our training efforts to work on the areas we need to work on. Most of the time, we actually do the opposite. Let me explain.

 

As we age, our body wants to slowly pull itself into the fetal position while simultaneously eating all the muscles off our bones. Muscles take energy to sustain and it also takes energy to stay upright and functioning properly. But a stiff, tight body and weak muscles is also what inhibits us from being able to walk without breaking a hip when we’re 70 years old. So we have to know what muscles to go after when it comes to staying loose and what muscles to go after when it comes to maintaining strength. These muscles are called Tonic and Phasic muscles, respectively.

 

Tonic muscles are muscles that naturally tighten (think “T”…Tonic and Tighten) as we age. There are 8 Tonic muscles:

 

  • Upper Trapezius

  • Pectoralis Major

  • Pectoralis Minor

  • Biceps

  • Psoas

  • Piriformis

  • Hamstrings

  • Calves

 

These are muscles that want to tighten as we age. As it goes, these are muscles that would’ve helped Katie climb a tree and hang on for dear life if running from a predator.

 

Phasic muscles are muscles that naturally weaken (I don’t have a good way remember this, except that weaken doesn’t have a “T”…that’s all I’ve got) as we age. There are 7 Phasic muscles:

 

  • Deltoids11

  • Rhomboids

  • Mid-back

  • Triceps

  • External Obliques

  • Glutes

  • Deep abs

 

Phasic muscles are the muscles that Katie would have used if she were trying to chase down some prey for lunch.

 

When you look at these 2 lists, there is one glaring problem that we see when it comes to most of our training: we continue to tighten then muscles that are naturally tightening and we don’t strengthen the muscles that are naturally weakening.

 

Let me explain a little better:

If you were to walk into the gym and observe the exercises that most people were performing, what would you see? My guess is you’d see a lot of bench press (tightening pecs), curls (tightening biceps), shrugs (tightening upper traps) and calf raises (tightening calves), just to name a few. So we’re basically performing a bunch of exercises that are helping to tighten muscles that are increase-bench_pressalready wanting to tighten. Since these are the “mirror muscles”, these are the muscles we want to get bigger and more defined, therefore we work them to a tightened frenzy.

 

Conversely, what would you say are some of the exercises you wouldn’t see much of? My guess would be squats (strengthen glutes), deadlifts (strengthen glutes), carries (strengthen glutes, strengthen external obliques), rows (strengthen rhomboids) and PROPER core training (strengthen deep abs, strengthen obliques). Since these are the muscles we don’t typically see in the mirror, we don’t care as much to work on them. Also, these exercises take much more effort to do. Try doing 8 bicep curls then doing 8 deadlifts and let me know which one makes you more tired.

 

Now that you understand why it is important to strengthen certain muscles and stretch certain muscles, think about how your program is laid out and evaluate what you can do to help fight the fight. Instead of going for start your 4th biceps exercise, trying doing something to strengthen your triceps. And please, stay away from the leg curl machine and hit the deadlifts, you’ll appreciate the work and results much more.

 

Next time we’ll go over the exercises you need to do to fight the Tonic and Phasic battle and how you can implement them into your workout.

 

How to Focus to Increase Your Productivity

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The average attention spam of adults today is five minutes. Ten years ago it was twelve minutes. What some believe has caused this decline is wrapped up in this quote. “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”  Today, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips every second of the day.

 

Since the development of the Smartphone, we have the ability to answer emails, surf the internet, text and call anytime. Smartphones are a huge distraction in our lives and this is just one example. Multitasking appears to be beneficial on the surface until you look at it deeper. Each time we mentally switch between tasks, we lose time and energy hence it actually drains mental energy. You will make more mistakes and lessen the quality of your work when multitasking. You might do three things at once but none are done exceptionally well. Experts agree that our brain cannot focus on two high level functions at once so today’s short article is about improving focus.

 

In the list of eight traits that successful people have number three is focus. Multibillionaire Warren Buffet moved to Nebraska from New York City because he couldn’t think amid all the distractions. Successful businesses don’t focus on providing five products or services at once but one done extremely well.

 

Focus is defined as the ability to stay concentrated on what you are doing and ignore distractions. Focus is like a muscle in our brain and the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes. So let’s look at what we can do help combat this decline. There are four basic steps and breathing is a good tool to use to start building focus.

 

  1. Focus on your breath

  2. Notice if your mind wanders and acknowledge

  3. Disengage from the thought

  4. Bring your focus back to your breath and hold it there

 

This will not be easy at first, but just start out trying to stay focused on your breath for thirty-seconds. Don’t get discouraged if your mind wanders after five-seconds. It’s all right because every time it wanders and you pull it back in, you are strengthening the focus muscle. Practice this every day and be patient.

 

In summary, improving your focus will spill across all aspects of your life. You will increase your productivity at work and home. Focusing better during training sessions at the gym will help you achieve better results. Being mindful or focusing while eating helps you make better choices and control impulses. Start out slow and work on it daily. Set your phone to silent when working, eating and at the gym but especially when doing your focus exercise. In a future article, we will discuss how focus helps us find Flow and its impact on our lives.

How to Use Small Habits to Create Big Change

 

Every January, gym memberships increase and facilities are packed with well intentioned people who have made a New Year’s resolution. They want to start exercising and eating better to lose weight and get healthy. So why after just a month or two are some back to sitting on the couch at night watching television and eating junk food? Their enthusiasm has died, motivation has disappeared and they have fallen back into their old routines. Statistics show that eight out of ten times that you attempt a new habit, you will fall back into your old routine. Don’t lose heart though because there are strategies to use to be successful. In today’s article, we are going to discuss one such strategy for success in making habit change.

 

When a person is excited about starting a new habit they want to or feel that they must do everything at once plus we are very impatient by nature. If exercising three times a week is what is recommended by a fitness coach then exercising five times a week will be better. Along with exercise, they feel they have to quit drinking soda, eat more vegetables and get up earlier to make breakfast. They might maintain this momentum for a few weeks or maybe a couple of months but suddenly they are overwhelmed and give up. They made the common mistake of changing too much at once and it became too difficult. They focused on doing too many things perfectly and wound up not doing anything very well. What would have increased their chance of success would be to start by choosing one thing to work on and do it well. For example, get your exercise habit established and the food will follow. One small area of focus to start the change and then build on the success.

 

 In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg calls this a keystone habit. A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. He explains that some habits matter more than others in transforming lives. A keystone habit influences how people work, eat, play, live, spend and communicate. They start a process that over time changes everything. Keystone habits are what begin the Domino Effect.  A better approach might be to start exercising one day a week and do this every week until it feels incredibly easy. Make it so simple that you can’t find an excuse to not be consistent. Once you experience success then build on it and add in another day and so forth. Before you know it, you will be exercising three times a week, eating and sleeping better plus have more confidence in yourself.

 

Research shows that the keystone habit of exercise spills over into other areas of life. People who exercise focus better, sleep better and eat better naturally. They also change their environment to foster success by being around like-minded people. To identify keystone habits, they must have three components:

 

  1. They give you small victories frequently. Making your bed daily is linked to increased productivity and better budgeting skills.

  2. They are the launching point from which other habits grow. Families who eat dinner together help children have better homework skills and do better in school.

  3. They are contagious and build confidence. A small success in one area helps build momentum and increase your desire to make changes in other areas.

 

 

These are just a few examples of keystone habits. They all seem very small but can have a major impact on other areas of life. Whatever change you desire to make, figure out the keystone habit and do it well. Be consistent, have patience and watch the ripple effect.

Why Humans are the Swiss Army Knives of Movement

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Movement is something that all living things do on a regular basis. Travel, in particular, is something all animals strive to be efficient at. What I mean by travel is simply starting at one point and ending up at another. No matter if it’s 1 mile or 100 miles, we want our travel to be as fast and efficient as possible.

 

In order to travel from point A to point B, we also have to expend energy. Depending on the speed at which we’re moving and the distance we have to travel, our energy expenditure will vary. The energy that is used up during travel can be thought of as Cost of Transport, the amount of energy it costs a body to move. In their book, Go Wild, John Ratey and Richard Manning explain this concept wonderfully.

 

Within this Cost of Transport, every species on the planet has a transport set point. A sweet spot. Imagine, if you will, a graph with speed on one axis and energy expended during motion on the other axis. For most species, this graph would show a “U” shaped curve, where the bottom of the “U” would be the “sweet spot”. This is where the animal is most efficient, where they are able to cover the most distance with the least energy. A car, for example, may be most fuel efficient at 55MPH, allowing you to travel the longest distance at this speed.

 

Homo Sapiens, humans, match this rule as well. Although, oddly enough, we only fit the “U” shaped curve when walking. Our efficient walking speed is about 6 feet per second. Running, however, does not allow us a cost effective speed. Our running curve would simply be a flat line. And this goes for any form of running. Whether you’re running uphill or downhill or backwards or sideways. All of these forms of running require different muscle groups and yet have no efficient speed at which to cover the greatest amount of distance for the homo sapiens species.

 

However, if, instead, you take the species and break it down into individuals, you have a different story. Homo sapiens as individuals have a cost of transport “sweet spot” for anything and everything. Some may be efficient at running long distance or short distance. Others may be efficient at tumbling and others efficient at climbing. Others, still, may be efficient at throwing a baseball while others are efficient at chopping wood.

 

There is no consistency for efficiency in movement across the human race. Our efficiencies are based on experience and conditioning. This cannot be said for any other species on the planet. You may say that some animals are “born to leap” or “born to gallop” or “born to run”. Are humans born to run? Sure. They’re also born to climb, crawl, roll, push, pull, throw, carry, chop, swing…you get the picture.

 

This is why training all of the basic human movements is important: push, pull, hinge, squat, carry and everything else. Throwing in some sprinting and climbing and swinging and throwing isn’t a bad idea either. This is unless you want to do something specific. For instance, if you want to lift heavy weights, then lift heavy weights most of the time, and do everything else periodically. If you want to be a runner, then run most of the time, and do everything else periodically. Note: these last two sentences DO NOT apply to anyone under the age of 18. If you fit the age range you should do everything, all the time, any time.

 

You want to be able to move when you’re 70, 80, 90 years old? These are the things you need to do. Be consistent with the basic human movements and do everything else variably. Movement = life afterall.

 

 

What’s the Difference Between Gluten Sensitivity and Intolerance?

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In last week’s article, we covered celiac disease and it’s linkage to gluten in our diet. This week we will spotlight gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS for short, is fairly new on the medical horizon. The exact number of people affected by NCGS is not clear but some believe the ratio to be 6:1. While celiac disease is a more severe health problem, the symptoms of each can be quite similar. Those with NCGS do not appear to suffer the same intestinal damage and they do not test positive for the antibodies against gluten. Today, there is no definitive lab test to detect if you have NCGS. Research is ongoing to study the many ways our bodies react to the proteins found in today’s grains to help develop specific testing. This will assist physicians to adequately diagnose and treat those with gluten sensitivity.

Now for a little bit of the science. Man discovered wheat 10,000 years ago and implemented it into our diet. While we advanced, we developed wheat to improve its taste and ability to make lighter and tastier foods than the original. With better tasting products, the amount of wheat consumed in our diet has skyrocketed. On average, a person ingests 132 pounds of wheat products per year in the form of breads, pastas, cookies and other processed foods. To better understand how wheat has changed over time, let’s use this comparison.

Wheat has six sets of chromosomes while humans have two. Wheat contains approximately 95,000 genes while humans have about 20,000. Genes directly dictate how proteins are built therefore the more genes, the more different proteins that could potentially be made. One can see that there could be hundreds of different proteins present in modern wheat and any of them could be a trigger for illness. Sounds complicated right? How is a person to know if they might have NCGS?

If you have been experiencing unexplained symptoms such as a daily headache, stomach upset after eating, abdominal bloating or lack of energy, you may want to do a Gluten Free Challenge. This requires you to remove all gluten from your diet for thirty days and note if your symptoms improve. If so, add gluten back into your diet while monitoring for your symptoms to return. If the symptoms return with the gluten reintroduction, you most likely have NCGS. While corn, rice and oats do not directly contain gluten, they do contain proteins which are very similar to gluten and can trigger a reaction. It is best to eliminate them as well during your thirty-day challenge. If the gluten free challenge doesn’t help your symptoms, it could be any of the many other proteins in wheat or possibly some other food. We will be posting about these in future articles. Testing for gluten is a great starting point for many people.

As you can see, removing gluten can be the best thing a person can do to regain their health and vitality. It can be life changing for those with celiac disease or NCGS. It is NOT some magic trick for losing weight. Many gluten free items found on the store shelves today are still high in sugar and preservatives that play a much bigger role in obesity and chronic disease. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease then definitely follow a gluten free diet. If you want to see if it can help with some nagging health issues then give it a try for thirty days. You really have nothing to lose and potentially a new level of energy and health to gain.

How to Develop a System that Works for You

Instant gratification is something that most of us seek on a regular basis. Whether it’s at home, at work or in the gym, we want to see our efforts payoff as quick as possible. As good as instant gratification may feel in the moment, many times (or most of the time) having that as your ultimate goal leads to long-term self-destruction.

In our last article, we talked about the Progress Principle. In short, the Progress Principle tells us that we get sustained happiness as we make progress towards a goal. Reaching the goal itself gives us happiness as well, sure. But focusing on the path is what keeps up truly motivated and happy over the 9long-run.

 

See, the problem is, most of us see reaching the goal as an end point. Now that we’ve reached our destination, we don’t have a clear path as to where we want to go next. Many Olympic medalist have been said to become depressed after their win. This is because, now that they’ve accomplished what they were shooting for, they don’t know what to do with themselves.

 

This, my friends, is why systems are important to have in our lives. Goals are great to have. We will continue to make New Year’s Resolutions until the end of time, I imagine. If you want to maintain that success or have a deeper understanding of what it took to get to your goal, you have to put a system in place to build it into your life.

 

By definition (thanks to our good friend Google) a system is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done. Taking this literally, there is no question as to what we mean by putting a system in place to reach our goals. Although this may seem straight forward, it does take some time and effort to develop and maintain the system that works for you. To give you a hand at getting started in building long-term success, here is a quick guide to creating your system:

 

  1. Start with the Basics

 

You would think that starting with the basics would be a no brainer. Being the perfectionists that most of us are, we generally skip this step to move straight to the hardest, most advanced progressions we can find.

Take nutrition, for example. Many of us have body composition goals that we would like to achieve, be that losing fat, putting on muscle or increasing performance. When someone is trying to lose fat, it is not usual for them to ask “Should I be eating gluten?”. This is a quality concern and the answer may be yes. But first, if you’re drinking 6 soft drinks a day and having donuts for breakfast, gluten is the least of your worries.

Find the most basic thing you can implement TODAY and start with that. If we’re talking about nutrition, this may be as simple as drinking a glass of water in the morning. You want small victories to develop your confidence over time.

     2. Find a Pattern that Works for You

 

We are constantly looking for answers to our problems. If you’re stressed to the max, you are searching for any guru who can tell you how to calm yourself down (singing “I Feel Pretty” on a busy bridge in New York seems to do the trick for some).

And they’ll gladly share their input, for a nominal fee, of course. Where a lot of us get caught is finding a one-size-fits-all system and trying to fit it into our lives. It’s like the old square-peg-in-a-round-hole analogy.

Developing your own systems allows you to find a sequence that works for you. Square peg, square hole. Let’s look at nutrition again. Preparing your food may be one of the best ways to developing clean-eating habits. I prepare my food on Sunday. If I tell you that you need to prepare your food on Sunday, as well, but your Sunday is filled with Church, soccer games, grass cutting and family gatherings, then you don’t stand a chance. Maybe Wednesday will work for you, or Tuesday and Friday. Whatever it is, it has to work FOR YOU.

Remember, we want small victories, so don’t shoot for the stars just yet.

 

      3. BE CONSISTENT

 

I’ll keep this one short. Having systems is about being consistent with the system. Without consistency, it’s not a system, it’s simply something you do.

You’re allowed to make tweaks to your system. Just be sure that you measure the tweaks so that you know if it’s actually improving the process.

 

Remember to be patient during this process. All things that are worth doing, take time. If you allow yourself to develop a sustainable system to reach your goals, it will stay with you much longer and leave you happier in the end.

How the Progress Principle can Improve Your Results

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Many of us have goals, projects, events or games that we are working towards. Having the goal to lose 20lbs, for instance, or preparing for a big job interview. Our goals and aspirations are what drive us and keep us moving forward. Without them we would simply be creatures on a green planet with nothing to do. But achieving and accomplishing a goal doesn’t always lead to the euphoria that we hope for.

 

Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong aspect of attainment. Although the goal is what we’re hoping to achieve, maybe we shouldn’t expect the goal to be the thing that gives us the greatest happiness.

 

Shakespeare once said, “Things won are done. Joy’s soul lies in the doing”. If you break this down, it may look similar to other quotes you’ve seen, such as “Focus on the journey not the destination” or “The game is what counts, not the outcome”. Although these are great as motivational quotes, there is plenty of relative support to back them up.

 

Pre-goal attainment positive affect is the happiness that comes while progressing towards a goal. Think of this as the journey. While on the journey, your body receives shots of dopamine, a hormone that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Dopamine also helps us see and move towards a goal. So as we prepare for that big sales presentation, are bodies are constantly giving us shots of positive reinforcement to keep us moving forward.

 

Your body is built to reward you while you’re progressing and moving towards your goal. This is how the Progress Principle can help us. The Progress Principle says that we feel happy on days that we feel like we made progress on the work that means something to us. Moving towards something, or progressing towards it, gives us the pleasurable feelings that we seek when we complete our task.

 

This is why I’ve always been a big fan of systems. Although we have goals that give us something to shoot for, we should create and develop systems to ingrain the process of achieving the goal in our lives. Systems are truly a fundamental part of our lives, we just may not realize it.

 

Think of your morning routine, for instance. Maybe you get up and turn the coffee pot on, then go to the little girls room to unload your built up waste, head back to the kitchen to get some coffee and sit down and read the newspaper. This is your morning system. It makes your morning easy and predictable and is one less thing you have to think about.

 

Here’s another relative example. Many of us have the goal of losing weight. No matter if it’s 5lbs or 50lbs, we want to figure the fastest way to get it done, because we want to feel the joy of getting the weight off. Statistics show that, of the people that go on a “diet” to lose weight, 95% of them don’t achieve their weight-loss goals, and the majority of those go on to put their weight back on in 1-5 years.

 

Here’s the issue with “diet”. Diet is short-term. The word alone leads you to thinking quick results and having an end-point. Once you’ve reached that end-point, you can get off the “diet” and go back to eating the way you used to…the way that got you to where you were in the first place. So building a nutritional system that helps you move towards your weight-loss goal, AS WELL AS maintain your weight-loss once you’ve achieved it will lead to longer lasting results and therefore longer lasting happiness and pleasure.

 

Understanding that progress is what keeps us moving forward will not only help you achieve your goals, it will also help you develop sustainable systems in your life. Focusing on progress will lead you to be more efficient, more predictable with your results and more overall happiness with your life. Next time we’ll look at how to develop and maintain systems that will improve your life.

How One Habit Leads to Many Habits

The Domino Effect is defined as a situation in which one event causes a series of similar events to happen one after the other. Human behaviors are many times tied to one another. For example,sleep watching television in the evening can naturally lead to snacking and weight gain. Watching television is a common activity that most feel helps them unwind and relax. It is hard to not feel hungry though when every other commercial is food related. This means that if you watch 2 hours of television every night then you probably snack on junk food during those two hours. Overtime, you will find that you are less motivated to complete tasks, develop poor sleep habits and gain weight or have difficulty losing weight.

 

Now think about the flip side. You have been told you need to exercise for 30 minutes every day. You need it to be simple because you are busy. You commit to walk for 30 minutes every day. It will be best to do this right after dinner to make it easier for you to complete the task. You are committed and consistent over the next few weeks. You suddenly find you have more energy, feel less stressed, sleep better and have cut back on your evening snacking plus are losing weight. Your one small action, that became a habit, created the domino effect.

 

There are key points to keep in mind when you are trying to create a domino effect with habits.

 

  1. Start with an action or activity that you are motivated or excited to complete. Start small and do this consistently. Use the change ruler question–Ask yourself on a scale of 1-10 how confident you are that you can do the action or activity everyday for the next two weeks. If you can’t rate it an 8 or a 9 then pick something smaller but related. For example, don’t go for a 30 minute walk, start with 15 minutes. You just need to make one domino fall in the process.

 

  1. Once you have achieved one success, you will want to keep the momentum going. Choose another task right away that you are motivated to complete and repeat the steps. With each success, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and grow more confident in yourself.

 

  1. Keep things simple and small. Take on only one action at a time and keep moving forward. It is about progress not quick results.

 

 If an action or activity doesn’t lead to the next behavior, check that it is based on the three key components. By using the domino effect in building habits, you can make changes with minimal effort. You just need to focus on being consistent and patient.

Why Things aren’t as Complicated as They Seem

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Many of us have trouble trying to figure out the best option for our health and wellness goals. Turn on your computer or scroll through your social media feeds and you’ll see hundreds of different products and services ready to get you lean and mean. For instance, if you want to start exercising you have a range of options, from Zumba, Pilates and Yoga, to P90X, Crossfit and Parkor. On the nutrition side things are even more complicated. Should you do the Mediterranean Diet or Atkins? How about the Zone Diet or Paleo? Should you have gluten in your diet or dairy or carbs? The options are literally endless. And this is where our story begins.

 

Having choices is something that all of us enjoy. We want to be able to pick a brand name product over a generic product, or vice versa, because we hate feeling stuck with only one option. Ironically, though, there is a point on diminishing returns when it comes to choices. In actuality, when we get to a point where we have too many choices, we are generally unhappy with the decision we end up making. This is the Paradox of Choice. In a world of abundant options, we get stuck in this endless cycle of having to make decisions. And most of the time, those decisions lead us to be unhappy about our given choice.

 

Which brings us back to fitness and nutrition. We’ve already pointed out a few of the numerous options we have when it comes to health and wellness (and this is only the tip of the iceberg). So, knowing that having abundant choices typically leads to being unsatisfied with your decision, we are already set up for failure by not knowing which option to pick for our exercise regime or our nutrition plan.

 

The good news is; it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. We are all individuals, and as such, we have to figure out what works for us: what worked for your friend, Sally, may not work for you. However, there are general guidelines that all of us can follow to get moving in the right direction. And they are pretty consistent from one person to the next:

 

1. Drink lots of water

 

Water is the Liquid of Life. The vast majority of our body is either made of water or needs water to function. Without water, you can not properly assimilate nutrients, dispose of waste products or maintain quality muscle mass. It surprises many people when they increase their water intake and start losing weight. Give it a try.

 

2. Eat whole foods

 

If you look back to the beginning of human existence, our bipedal ancestors did not have the option to grab a Little Debbie snack cake or even a Hungry Man because they were in a hurry. Although there are some quality options when it comes to bars and powders and other snacky foods, whole foods have always been the tried and true source of quality nutrients.

 

3. Do basic human movements for exercise

 

We have certain movements that we perform are a regular basis throughout our daily living. These movements are called the Basic Human Movements. These are the types of movements you should perform while doing your purposeful training regimen. Here’s your list of Basic Human Movements:

Push

Pull

Hinge

Squat

Carry

Everything Else

Most of these are self-explanatory. The everything else category involves most anything outside of the other 5 categories. Decide what is important to you and do these movements often.

 

4. PLAY

 

It seems silly to hear the word PLAY when talking about staying healthy, especially for an adult. Play has been, and still is, one of the best ways to decrease stress and anxiety while staying active. But play doesn’t have to be what it was as a kid (although it can be that kind of play if you want). Play can mean going for a bike ride, canoeing, hiking, climbing trees, skiing, playing basketball…whatever you enjoy doing OUTSIDE of work. Make sure to play on a weekly basis AT LEAST.

 

Stick to these 4 basic ideas and you’ll be off to a great start with your health and wellness. These ideas could carry you through the rest of your life. Remember, always KISS (Keep It Simples Stupid) when it comes to your health. Don’t make things any more complicated than they have to be and you’ll be set.