No Amount of Change Can Buy Change

Recently a potential client asked my opinion of a nutritional supplementation line used and promoted by many crossfitters and fitness enthusiasts. I have been approached several times about promoting various lines of products that include proclamations of, “sugar free sources of long lasting energy,” “all natural,” and,”chemical and toxin free,” on their labels. Regardless of the product it is my unrelenting conviction that the crusade for optimal health begins with behavioral changes in how we approach food. There is no product on the market today that forces anyone to make behavioral changes; we have to do that ourselves.

Without burying this post in a diatribe on the, “special ingredients,” that are responsible for selling hope to thousands of people, I can say with great certainty that the results people experience from these products are either short lived (show me the longitudinal studies – there are none), or the effect of embracing better nutrition and exercise habits. So, when we cut through the fat of what these products are promising, we find that real, lasting changes occur because of healthier choices, not because of a product.

The potential client did not like my response. His counter argument was, “Yeah but what about for real people. People who aren’t personal trainers and have to work in an office and have kids and busy lives?” Slightly offended that I don’t come across as a “real person,” my response is this: We all have the same 24 hours in the day. I often work 9+ hour days at various locations without access to proper nutrition. I have to pack a cooler of food to keep with me so that I can survive. The calories I require to teach classes, train clients and transport equipment is is often greater than the “real people,” sitting at a desk, which means I have to prepare even more food. While i have not personally been blessed with children, the time I invest into starting and growing a small business and all that entails (I won’t bore you with the list) absorbs my free time in the same way. When I grew up I ate what my parents made available to me or I didn’t eat. Those who see nothing wrong with poisoning their precious gifts from God (and I mean that sincerely because children truly are) with fast food and other such garbage for the purpose of convenience or pacification may want to re-evaluate some priorities.

Priorities are really what our behavior relating to food is tied to. Meaning, if something is truly important and a priority to you, you will find a way to make it happen, period. No excuses, no victim mentality.

Change is this nebulous area floating around outside our orb of comfort. Change means possible uncertainty, letting go of the fear of failure, faulty footing or low confidence at first. Change means letting go of bad habits and consistently practicing new ones even when it sucks and you don’t want to. Change means altering routine and choosing what is better instead of what is socially acceptable, popular or most convenient. Change means holding yourself accountable, ending the pity party and breaking free of the chains binding you to the spin cycle that has been the past. Change means taking one baby step and focus all intentions on the next step forward.

None of the above paragraph is available in a bottle, pouch, canister, vial, video, box, gym or even with a personal trainer! Yes, that’s right, your personal trainer can’t change you. But, the great, awesome, wonderful news is that YOU can. Yes you can. Everything you need to be the person, have the health and feel and function the way you want to is within you and no one or nothing else. Life is happening right now. What are you waiting for?

ae5c2ff09cba3a43db0d6b840530d02c

Advertisements

CARBS – What are they? Why do I need em? What’s the difference between slow, low, and no no carbs?

Several member of Treetop Training and myself are on a group quest to conquer The Whole30. All for one and one for all!!! Along the pathway it seems that some of us have stumbled upon some deep wells of low energy that seem too vast to escape. Hopefully this carbohydrate tutorial will alleviate some of the energy depletion and get everyone back into fighting shape to continue to fend off the terrible sugar dragon (insert eye roll here).

Carbohydrates are macronutrients; they are one of 3 ways the body gets energy (Calories). Fat and protein are the other two ways the body obtains energy. Carbs fuel the CNS (central nervous system – brain & spinal cord) which controls most of the functions of the body and mind. They are important for brain function, mood and memory. The RDA (recommended daily amount) is based on how much the brain needs to function properly. Thankfully, my brain is small and so I don’t need as many. Heh, heh, heh. Yes, an attempt at humor. The truth is, we NEED carbs to thrive and not be as lifeless as a bump on a log.

Carbs are simple and complex, much like most humans. Think about it simpletons can be fun, but are they really as interesting or riveting as a person with a little depth? Lets look at carbs the same way! A doughnut is simply delicious, and that’s about all the good we can say about it. As an example of simple carbohydrates the doughnut is digested and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream.  Simple carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs, not to mention that most foods composed of simple carbs are lacking in vital nutrients and therefore a total waste of calories. Examples of complex carbs are potatoes, yams, parsnips, carrots, swede/rutabaga, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash and other starchy vegetables. These vegetables are prime sources of vitamins and minerals that the body needs, as well as excellent sources of carbohydrates. Eating complex carbs like these promote sustained energy.

Sometimes carbs get a bad rap for weight gain, but eating the right kind of carbs can actually help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. This happens because many good carbohydrates, namely the ones WITH skin, are loaded with  fiber. Fiber makes us feel full! Good carbs are also linked to better mental health because they possibly help with production of serotonin in the brain. PASS THE POTATOES PLEASE! “Carbs may help memory, too. A 2008 study at Tufts University had overweight women cut carbs entirely from their diets for one week. Then, they tested the women’s cognitive skills, visual attention and spatial memory. The women on no-carb diets did worse than overweight women on low-calorie diets that contained a healthy amount of carbohydrates.” (Livescience.com)

Not getting enough carbs is BAAAAA-D. Without carbs, we won’t feel energized, ever. Without glucose from the good carbs, the CNS can be disrupted and cause dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, disorientation and hypoglycemia (HANGRY-NESS). Without enough carbs, the body will go after protein as its next fuel source and start chowing down on all the beautiful muscles we’ve worked so hard for.

In closing, if you are doing The Whole30, do not just assume that this is the new and improved Dr. Frankenstein, excuse me Atkins, diet. Your goal is not ketosis. Your goal is to replace simple carbohydrates with enough complex carbohydrates to fuel your brain and body. This requires work, yes, as most things worth having do. We must prepare our carbohydrate sources in advance as vending machines, fast food and cafeterias are not guaranteed to provide us plain baked sweet potatoes or plain baked butternut squash when we feel faint. Please. please, please do not look at this as a “low carb” diet. This is a balanced way of eating full of delicious and nutrient dense carbohydrates that we are made to enjoy!

Whole30 Review

whole30

For the past 30 days I have been following the Whole30 method for my nutritional intake. Here are the general rules:

Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.

Do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking. (And it should go without saying, but no tobacco products of any sort, either.)

Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on. Again, read your labels.

Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).

Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream… with the exception of clarified butter or ghee. (See below for details.)

Do not consume carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.

Do not try to re-create baked goods, junk foods, or treats* with “approved” ingredients. Continuing to eat your old, unhealthy foods made with Whole30 ingredients is totally missing the point, and will tank your results faster than you can say “Paleo Pop-Tarts.” Remember, these are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, regardless of the ingredients.

See more at: http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/#sthash.73bdlvmR.dpuf

Today is my 30th day following this style of food intake, so I would like to provide a review of my experience with it. Here are the highlights:

First 10 days were pure hell. I had been sugar free except for honey and maple syrup which I obviously was severely addicted to.

After that everything settled down and became the new normal.

I struggled with binge eating before, and I had a few fruit binges (which I attribute to over exercising and not refueling), but overall my chronic bingeing is subsiding.

I don’t weigh myself, ever, so I don’t know the before/after on that but all my clothes still fit the same.

While I don’t feel smaller, my skin feels tighter and my muscles are more visible through my skin, as if maybe I lost some fat.

Never having stuck to any eating plan, except paleo, this was a great accomplishment for me.

Learned that I thrive off of protein way more than carbs, and that I need a proper balance for my body type/activity level at every meal. This means, there is no longer room for mindless consumption. I have to be awake and aware of proportions.

Increased my water consumption to almost 100 oz. a day which is effortless to drink

Experimented with lots of new to me vegetables and meats

Became glaringly aware of my abuse of food and dependance on it as a coping mechanism

Whole30 is as transformative as each person wants it to be. For me it’s been about adopting a healthy and grateful relationship with food, at a higher level of awareness than before starting it. I will continue to practice this way of life indefinitely.

So, overall I think it can be a very beneficial method for identifying food intolerances, creating awareness of mindless eating and learning how to be present in food selections, and it can also help with weight loss. Having gone 30 days with eliminating all of the items listed above, for me the next step is better meal balancing between carbs, fat and protein. Additionally, I feel that I do still have a problem moderating sugar intake, so moving forward to the next 30 days I will be eliminating fruit for at least 5 days out of 7 per week. Food intake will only consist of meals and will not include snacking. Intermittent fasting will also begin in this next 30 day cycle, which for me, means no eating after 7pm and no eating before lunch on certain days of the week.

I am not a nutritionist, so I will not advise that anyone follow this program. I can only say that it is working for me which encourages me to continue to practice and perfect it to my individual needs. With that being said, if you are longing to see the gym results and you have been consistently busting your butt without seeing them, then you need to put your food intake under a microscope. If you continue to do what you did, you will continue to get what you got. Nutrition is the part of the fitness equation that allows your hard work to be seen, so put your fuel on trial and get rid of whatever may be holding you back.

Endurance

Thirteen months and thousands of miles of training had all brought him to this moment. He approached, for the fifth time, the blue tarp, makeshift tent adorned in Christmas lights, welcomed by a blue dinosaur wearing a Santa cap. The volunteers working the aid station were tired, but cheerful, trying to keep each runner that passed through their establishment as comfortable as possible on their quest to reach 100 miles. This landmark was the 15.5 mile marker on a 20 mile loop and this was his last time approaching it, putting him at mile 95.5.

The thrill of the race had been lost to the trail hours before. Every step was pure agony. The repetitive impact of feet meeting trail, rock and root had taken its toll on every ligament and bone. The well of adrenaline was dry. The desire to be done was overwhelming, but the thought of taking just one more step inconceivable. At this point in the race, even with all the effort, determination, focus and training the thought of stopping is there. It’s human response to this type of physical exertion.

So what then, when all the glory of the finish seemed like a mirage, and the pain of enduring 4.5 more miles felt crushing, transpired to propel forward motion? The answer to that question is the topic of this post.

Any time we set a goal, or take on a new project the excitement and newness of the challenge generates an energy that almost effortlessly moves us forward. We are on track, getting it done, proud of our work, patting ourselves on the back and the goal seems well within reach. As time passes we see some results of our efforts and those results fuel the focus to keep pushing. Often the gains that we may have experienced early on begin to slow down, the going gets tough. The option of quitting is there beckoning us back into the hole of a comfort zone we crawled out of in the first place. We question why we ever thought we could do this, how bad do we really want it, is it even possible, we make excuses and we procrastinate. This is the brain’s defense mechanism against doing something it knows is going to be uncomfortable or difficult.

When the newness wears off, the results go unnoticed or unseen, and we arrive at what seems an insurmountable wall separating us from our own personal finish lines, practicing endurance is what eventually delivers the dream. Endurance is the ability to resist, withstand, recover, and have immunity from hardships, disappointments, fatigue and boredom. Developing endurance is achieved by placing ourselves in situations which require us to practice overcoming the aforementioned obstacles little by little. No one who wants to be successful jumps straight into a 100 mile race. Months of training at shorter distances, building endurance is what allows finishers to run, walk or crawl across the line.

The pursuit of any goal in fitness, relationships, career or nutrition requires endurance. Maybe you have been “good all week,” with your nutrition plan and suddenly someone brings your favorite dessert into the office or friends suggest a night of heavy drinking. Perhaps you’ve been busting your butt at work for recognition and a promotion that doesn’t seem to be happening, so you feel like giving up and rationalizing mediocre work. What if you’ve been putting a ton of effort in with your spouse only to feel like there is no reciprocity and you are tempted to resign yourself to a lackluster relationship for the sake of harmony? Those situations are in that moment your mile 95.5. What will you do? Will you exercise endurance and finish the race, or will you disqualify all that you have already invested for the sake of what momentarily feels more comfortable?

Peace, love and running.

FullSizeRender

Gobbling vs. Chewing

Digestion begins in the mouth and ends in the anus. Take a moment and allow that to marinate in your mind. Every time something passes through the oral orifice it embarks on an awesome winding, topsy turvy journey through 25-30 feet of digestive conduit, efficiently and ingeniously packed into the human machine. Below is a diagram of the digestive system:

 

 

595px-Digestive_system_diagram_en.svg

And here is a breakdown of what happens at each mile marker in the process:

Functions of the Digestive Organs
Organ Major functions Other functions
Mouth
  • Ingests food
  • Chews and mixes food
  • Begins chemical breakdown of carbohydrates
  • Moves food into the pharynx
  • Begins breakdown of lipids via lingual lipase
  • Moistens and dissolves food, allowing you to taste it
  • Cleans and lubricates the teeth and oral cavity
  • Has some antimicrobial activity
Pharynx
  • Propels food from the oral cavity to the esophagus
  • Lubricates food and passageways
Esophagus
  • Propels food to the stomach
  • Lubricates food and passageways
Stomach
  • Mixes and churns food with gastric juices to form chyme
  • Begins chemical breakdown of proteins
  • Releases food into the duodenum as chyme
  • Absorbs some fat-soluble substances (for example, alcohol, aspirin)
  • Possesses antimicrobial functions
  • Stimulates protein-digesting enzymes
  • Secretes intrinsic factor required for vitamin B12absorption in small intestine
Small intestine
  • Mixes chyme with digestive juices
  • Propels food at a rate slow enough for digestion and absorption
  • Absorbs breakdown products of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, along with vitamins, minerals, and water
  • Performs physical digestion via segmentation
  • Provides optimal medium for enzymatic activity
Accessory organs
  • Liver: produces bile salts, which emulsify lipids, aiding their digestion and absorption
  • Gallbladder: stores, concentrates, and releases bile
  • Pancreas: produces digestive enzymes and bicarbonate
  • Bicarbonate-rich pancreatic juices help neutralize acidic chyme and provide optimal environment for enzymatic activity
Large intestine
  • Further breaks down food residues
  • Absorbs most residual water, electrolytes, and vitamins produced by enteric bacteria
  • Propels feces toward rectum
  • Eliminates feces
  • Food residue is concentrated and temporarily stored prior to defecation
  • Mucus eases passage of feces through colon

 

 

The description of the processes above all involve the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food so that our bodies can absorb the nutrients of what we eat. The very first part of the process begins with chewing, and that is the focus of this post.

BEEP, BEEP. BEEP, BEEP!!!!!!! The offensive sound waves emitted by the electronic reminder of how nice it would be to sleep in come crashing mercilessly against our bleary eardrums. And with that a new day is born. Maybe we got up in enough time to prepare breakfast, or maybe a granola bar or banana is snatched up on our blind rush for the door. It’s breakfast; our first foray into fueling our engines and initiating this day’s digestion. Many times getting the kids and family ready to get out the door, or even just getting ourselves ready can be a task. The thought of sitting in a quiet, relaxed space and calmly chewing our food into a liquified state is laughable.

We blaze through the morning stoked up on caffeine and adrenaline, and maybe a mid morning snack, arriving at lunch with either no appetite (due to coffee overdose) or completely ravenous (due to insufficient caloric and water consumption). So, either we skip lunch, force ourselves to eat, or inhale whatever the option is for that day. Again, taking the time to turn down the noise and truly look at this food as a gift, one bite at a time isn’t on our list of priorities.

At some point in the day this routine of indifference to our food and lack of recognition of its value will catch up with us. It could be around 3pm when we start craving something salty or sweet, or we just need a diet soda to hold us over till dinner. It could be when we get home into our comfort zones and graze or binge on anything available as a way to relax and “enjoy” our time to eat. If the act of sitting down and mindfully eating a meal from start to finish doesn’t seem like a conscious decision, then I urge you to monitor your behavior the next time you eat something. What did you eat, why did you eat it, when were you satiated, how quickly did you consume it and were you mentally present in each bite?

When we mindlessly eat for reasons other than hunger we abuse food. When we use food as a coping mechanism, it loses its importance as our fuel. When we keep going back for more of what we do not need, we are unconsciously practicing ungratefulness and taking for granted that which we are beyond blessed to have at our fingertips.

So the challenge is to wake up and stay checked in as you are eating. Instead of gobbling it up like there could not be a next meal, slow down, be thankful for every single bite, be awake in every single bite, and make every meal as special as you possibly can. We were given the cognitive ability to choose what, when and how we eat. The only person ultimately responsible for those choices is us. Choose well and chew longer.

Lunches and Dinners on a Time Budget

Instead of a video for lunches and dinners, I decided to spell it all out for convenience and printing purposes. Before we get into it the first thing that has to be addressed in regards to preparing meals for yourself is that it takes time and effort, and you are 100% absolutely worth that time and effort. You are worth more than sitting in a drive thru line, your body is worth and deserves more than questionably prepared food, overprocessed chemical laden imitations of food and food portion sizes that frankly, as a society we ought to be ashamed of. We’ve got to redirect the way we look at food prep. No it’s not fun, honestly I don’t enjoy it and wish I had someone to do it for me, but it is an exercise more vital to the fitness equation than any weight lifting or cardio workout. So lets look at food prep as one more workout we need to represent the well-rounded, (maybe that should say defined instead of rounded ;)) fit and healthy person that truly embodies who we are.

By bedtime Sunday night make it a goal to have your meals in question ready to go. If you know you will have time and won’t mind making your lunch or dinner on certain days, then there’s no need to prep for those days. But, if you are not a morning person, or know you are in for some long and stressful days that may lack time to acquire a healthy lunch or energy to prepare a meal for dinner, then here are some options.

Basic Shopping List (look at recipes for specific ingredients):
1 organic rotisserie chicken
Choose from the following veggies:
asparagus
onion
kale
garlic
whole green beans
1 large sweet potato
broccoli (can be frozen plain)
1 spaghetti squash
2 large tomatoes
Frozen wild caught salmon or other fish (Aldis)
organic vegetable stock
lean ground turkey

Turkey Meatloaf Muffin Cups – You can buy all these ingredients at Aldis, including the seasonings. This recipe makes 10-12 muffins which is enough to supply 4-5 meals for 1 person.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the muffin tin
¾ cup finely diced onion
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 package of ground turkey (around a pound)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin tin with olive oil or cooking spray
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions, mushrooms and peppers for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the beef, the reserved sautéed vegetables, eggs, thyme and garlic powder. Stir in  the tomato paste, mustard,  rosemary, garlic and pepper.
Spoon the meat mixture into the greased muffin tin and bake for 25  minutes.

Now what? If you are prepping at the start of the week, while the turkey muffins are baking get to work on your side vegetables. Bake large sweet potato in microwave. Cut into 4 pieces when it’s done and remove skin. Each piece of a large potato is about 4 ounces and that is a serving size.

Sautee sliced onions and kale, seasoned with garlic  in a skillet coated with cooking spray – enough for however many meals you want that as a side
Boil an inch of water in a pan, throw in the fresh-cut green beans, seasoned with garlic and put a lid on it. They’re done when bright green and still slightly crunchy. You can throw some carrots in with them if you like carrots.
Do the same procedure with the asparagus and the broccoli.

By the time your turkey loaf muffins are done, your vegetable prep should be just about done. Remove everything from heat and set it aside. When you’re done cooking you can assemble one-two cups of veggies per meal, and 4-5 oz. meat into  individual meal containers.

Frozen salmon filets can be cooked from frozen per the instructions on the box. Bake them in the oven, when they are done remove and squeeze lemon juice over them and season with dill and garlic.

Rotisserie Chicken dishes

1. Remove all skin from chicken and throw it away
2. Remove all meat from chicken and either use the carcass to make your own chicken stock or toss it
2. Weigh out 4-5 oz. portions of the chicken and separate them into baggies or microwave safe plastic containers, or set  aside to use in chicken spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients
Spaghetti Squash
2 cloves pressed garlic
A few dashes of basil and oregano
Sea salt to taste
Chicken from rotisserie
1-2 tomatoes
1/2 c. Vegetable stock
Green Vegetables from what you prepped

Directions:

Stab holes on all sides of the spaghetti squash and put in the microwave for around 15 minutes. I stab the holes using the pointy part of a meat thermometer. The length of time in the micro depends on how big of a squash you’ve got. While that is in the micro put your seasonings and vegetable stock with the tomatoes into the blender. Blend it until it’s liquidy, it will look pink and foamy and that’s ok!. Heat it in a pan until the spaghetti squash is done. Take the squash out, make sure it’s a little soft on the outside, if it’s still hard as a rock put it back in, if it’s a pile of mush then it cooked too long but it’s still edible and you’ll know for next time. The squash is going to be crazy hot on the inside. Put it on a cutting board and cut it lengthwise in half. Scoop out all the seeds and guts (like a pumpkin). Then scrape out the long string like pieces of squash. Mix the squash with the sauce you made and add in your green vegetables. About a cup to 1 1/2 of this mixture per meal is good. Add one of the 4 oz. portions of chicken to each portion of squashgetti. This is good for 4 meals.

Whatever chicken you have left you can put into containers with your other veggies and sweet potatoes.

Ok, that’s all for now. Honestly guys, this shouldn’t take more than an hour. Just consider it part of your workout and I promise you will feel empowered and like you did something really great for yourself. Yes it sucks sometimes, but no one is going to take better care of us than we have the ability to. We just have to decide, “Yes, I’m worth it!” I love you for reading this, now go keep being awesome!