Is Aspartame Dangerous

Aspartame is a popular artificial sweetener used in many foods and drinks. It is sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal for the most part. It’s also used widely in packaged products — especially “diet” foods, low-calorie juices and diet sodas. 
Contrary to what many people believe, aspartame does contain calories. It contains the same amount of calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates which are 4 calories per gram. However, seeing that aspartame is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, the amount required to sweeten food is so small the calories are inconsequential. Which makes it essentially calorie free.

Well, why are people saying aspartame causes cancer?

In 2005, a study found more lymphomas and leukemias in rats fed very high doses of aspartame. So the media did scared people with the findings and people labeled it a "bad" food as a result. 

The interesting fact is that the amount that it took for those negative side effects to happen was absurd. There is always a dose response relationship whenever something like aspartame is studied but no one tells the truth about that. You would have to take in over 1,000 cans of diet soda a day to reach the amounts that caused the negative health effects in those rats. 

I can't stand when "experts" cherry pick science to prove a point without giving the whole story. 

Aspartame has been approved for human consumption by regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries and received wide consumer acceptance with consumption by hundreds of millions of people over the past 20 years, representing billions of man-years of safe exposure. If it was truly as dangerous as the experts say, wouldn't more people be dying from it? Or wouldn't we see a higher prevalence of it being linked to death? Exactly! What I see is people always trying to place a label on something so they can belong to some group or frame of thought. Meanwhile, we are still getting heart disease, metabolic diseases, and obesity is at an all time high. But let's blame aspartame right? 

Some people will argue that aspartame causes weight gain. Which makes ZERO sense because aspartame is essentially calorie free. The amount you would have to consume would be astronomical. 

Things To Take Note Of:
1. Now there is some research that suggests that aspartame could negatively affect your gut bacteria but that is why we practice moderation. 
2. Some people say that diet drinks cause them to crave more sugar. If you experience this then I would shy away from drinking them or reduce your overall intake of diet drinks. 
3. Constantly consuming really sweet foods and drinks can change your taste palate. I know people who can’t drink plain water as they don’t “like the taste” and need to sweeten everything. This isn’t exactly ideal and won't lead to sustained lifestyle changes so be very mindful of how much you consume. 
4. Drink More Water.

Underestimating How Much You Are Eating

If you have been exercising regularly and resting 6-8 hours a night you are off to a great start. Weight loss can be frustrating when you feel like you are doing all the things necessary to see the changes you envisioned. You freak out when the changes you’ve seen on the scale begin to slow down, and then seemingly stop altogether. Don't be discouraged if this is your story or if you are currently experiencing this. 

Your weight loss can stall for a variety of different reasons. Less health conscious habits, diet is slipping by the wayside, or exercise schedule has dipped for the worse. It can be hard to identify the reasons for a weight loss plateau when you stick to the healthy lifestyle changes that have already helped you lose weight.

One of the things I want to point out is the importance of tracking your nutritional intake. It’s clear that excess calories can slow your weight loss progress. However, it can be difficult to estimate how many calories you consume and expend in a day. Research suggests that most people, including trained healthcare professionals, tend to overestimate calories burned through exercise and underestimate calories consumed in food. Even if you carefully keep track with a food journal or phone app, or wear an activity tracker, these methods can only provide a general estimate and are often much less accurate than you might expect. 

Mixed nuts are a very popular snack for someone on the go. Let's just say you decided to consume mixed nuts every day for your mid day snack. You may think you are consuming one serving of mixed nuts that you had which is about 30 grams or 1/4 cup which would equal around 200 calories for most brands. If you've never weighed or measured the serving size you may actually consume 2 servings for that particular snack every single day. Over the course of the week, you would have consumed 1400 calories that you didn't account for. Yes, nuts are a healthy choice but a calorie is still a calorie when it comes to being in a deficit and losing weight. 

I'm not saying that you have to track your calories daily to be successful at losing weight. But those tools can help you be a little more accurate day to day. Measuring food on a scale and tracking your intake may be stressful, or overwhelming to you. For that person, I would say it probably isn't something you are mentally ready for. A more practical approach is to look closely at your everyday habits and consider what potential impact they might have on your goals. For example, little “extras” such as sugar and cream in your morning coffee, or absent-minded snacking while you’re cooking a meal can really add up over the course of a day. A closer look at these habits might be what you need to get the scale moving again.

The key is to not ignore the details. That little candy bar you ate because your boss gave it to you, the small piece of candy you ate on the way home because you were starving, and the few scoops of ice cream that you had before bed can add up quick. 95% of your day may have been spent sticking to your nutritional plan 5% of the day that you were mindlessly consuming extra calories could be screwing up your weight loss goals. Sometimes it's all in the details. 

Can Depression Be Treated With Physical Exercise?

Depression afflicts about 5 percent of adults in all developed countries. It is a major cause of disability. The disability rate is even higher in those with mild depression. The main symptom
of depression is fatigue. Fatigue is a low level of physical and mental energy. 

People with depression often have other chronic medical issues, like heart disease. Over time, depression influences how people live. It can lower self-esteem and motivation. It can have negative effects on close relationships and can alter your relationship with food. In other words, depression makes everyday life harder. 

Current standard therapy for depression is drug treatment, the effectiveness of which is not well documented in older adults. 

Research shows that regular moderate or vigorous physical activity and exercise improves mental well-being. It also helps with other symptoms of depression. For example, active people are 45 percent less likely to develop symptoms of depression. The effects are similar to those after drug therapy. Exercise is a mighty depression fighter for numerous reasons. Most importantly, it encourages all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that elevate feelings of peace and well-being. It also releases endorphin's, strong chemicals in your brain that excite your spirits and make you feel good. Lastly, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Does the type of exercise make a difference? Most studies show that moderate to high levels of physical activity reduce symptoms more than lighter levels. There are many different modes of performing this type of exercise.

Moderate activity and exercise include but are not limited to the following:
* Walking at a moderate or brisk pace of 3 to 4.5 mph
* Low-grade hiking
* Roller skating
* Weight training
* Yoga
* Gymnastics
* Dancing
* Recreational games
Vigorous activity and exercise include but are not limited to the following: 
* Aerobic walking at 4.5 mph or higher
* Jogging or running
* Mountain climbing, rock climbing, backpacking
* Bicycling
* Circuit weight training
* Karate, judo, tae-kwon-do, jujitsu
* Boxing
* Competitive sports
* Roller skating or in-line skating at a brisk pace 

The research isn't clear on the minimal or best amount of exercise needed, but I do know that you don’t need a high fitness level to get the benefits. At the end of the day, being regularly active is more important than being fit.

I am empathetic to the fact that the last thing a person wants to do when they are depressed is exercise or be physically active. But I encourage you to try some form of physical activity that is comfortable. Even it is just cleaning your house or working in the yard for a little while. Even just a few minutes of physical activity is better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. 

The key is to commit to doing some moderate physical activity on most days. As exercising becomes a habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off.

How To Build Quality Muscle

Building muscle is no easy feat. But the majority of information out on the internet makes it seem like you can look like Hercules in 6 weeks. 

I am forever grateful for some of my mentors growing up. They instilled patience, discipline, and told me to always be a student rather than a guru when it comes to exercise and building muscle. 

The best piece of information I ever received was to seek perfection in your habits and in your movement skills. As your habits and skills improve, so will your results.

2 Keys to Increasing Lean Muscle

Quality
Mechanical tension is important and will forever be an important factor in building muscle. Putting more weight on the bar and increasing personal records on 5-10 rep maxes is essential to increase muscle size. Quality can refer to a number of things. When you are in the middle of a challenging set you tend to lose some common technical proficiency's. Your tempo increases, your body is less stable, and you use too much body English. Having a 315lb bench press is awesome but if your butt comes off the bench 6 inches then is it really doing you a lot of good? 
A set of 20 pull-ups with a half range of motion is good. A set of 10 strict pull ups with a full range of motion is great. 
A set of bicep curls that resemble a clean and press may make you feel a pump. A set of strict bicep curls with shoulder blades retracted and elbows at your sides will provide a greater stimulus. 

Stress
Stress is normally a negative when it is used in real world context. Training stress is simply the work/rest ratio of your training sessions. Metabolic stress is the burn sensation that comes when you do a grueling set that makes you cringe at the end. It is an important parameter in training but totally ignored by most lifters.

The main goal should always to get a little stronger over time. But another component is to perform a max amount of work in a short period of time. Gains are made when strength meets metabolic stress in a controlled and safe fashion. It is ignored by most lifters and not put in programs because it is uncomfortable and pushes you to your limit. But this is a challenge that you should welcome and also try to progress in. It will be to your benefit to include sets of 10-50 reps sometimes in your training program. Aside from the muscle building benefit, they help you create a form of grit and determination that will enrich all areas of your life. 

For anyone interested in getting bigger, or stronger the concept of progressive overload must be embraced. The simple act of adding weight to the bar each workout is a valid approach whenever you can pull it off. As a beginner, it works well but those days will fade and quite frankly you want them to happen sparingly for safety reasons. 

You should be open to all the possibilities to gain muscle.

Find Ways To Measure Progress {Video}

Does this sound familiar?

You decide you want to get in better shape. 
You go for a 3-mile run every day for a week and try to eat less food than you used to. 
You step on the scale every day for a week and the numbers continuously go down. 
You go to a social event on Saturday, step on the scale on Monday, and its higher than before!
You freak out, lose your cool, and fall off the wagon.
Your discipline is shot and you eat everything in sight that you have been missing out on. 
Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is what I hear a lot. That is because we have no way to objectively measure progress. In today's video, I talked about a few ways to measure progress. There are tons of different ways to keep tabs on how things are going during your journey. The key is finding ways that work for you and your lifestyle. 

Food Strict Or Food Flexible

Food is in your face all day long. You see it on commercials, ads, billboards, and every digital platform out there. These days it’s very easy to get hooked into eating without thinking. The abundance of food available can trigger the desire to eat when you’re not physically hungry. You will end up eating more than your body needs or over eat certain kinds of food because they’re just so appealing. The availability and advertising of food forces you to constantly think about food and create the desire to eat.

We live in a world that constantly encourages us to eat, drink, and snack. You walk in the mall and smell cinnamon rolls, and every street corner has a multitude of fast food joints. In the United States, the food and beverage industry spends over $136 million on advertising, and the restaurant industry spends over $6 billion.

Food is always plentiful for those of us living in the United States, food is always plentiful. Our appetite used to be guided by survival and sustenance. Rather than an aid in our survival, it has become a disruption to our health and well-being. Your appetite may make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride of restricting, bingeing, and chronic self-blame. And while a roller coaster ride may be a thrill we seek out at an amusement park, it is not a pleasant or useful way to live. No one chooses a pattern of disordered eating that damages health, self-esteem, and personal relationships. But that is what the power of food has done to our society. 

Food roller coasters get old. The needle on the scale that you watched descend just days ago inches back up again. A critical inner voice makes you feel guilty for your lack of willpower and plays in your head like a broken record. Leaving you with a feeling of hopelessness and shame. 

Depriving yourself of sweet, salty, or fatty foods is what sets you up for cravings. Cutting yourself off from these super-tasty foods causes stress that then leads you to soothe yourself by bingeing on them. Let me tell you something that you already know. Dieting doesn't work and depriving yourself of foods you love is exactly why diets don't work. 

That is why the only way you will be successful at living a healthy lifestyle is occasionally including foods you enjoy. It's not too good to be true, nor is it unhealthy. Incorporating a broad range of foods within your daily caloric and macronutrient allowance can still enable progression towards your health & fitness goals. Flexible Dieting allows for a shift in thinking whereby foods are not recognized as "good" or "bad" and instead the science of how the body deals with macronutrients and calories from any food source is regarded. Quite simply, the body recognizes different foods for the food's macronutrient and caloric value, including proteins, fats or carbohydrates. If you're consuming less energy than you are expending (eating in a calorie deficit) you will lose weight. If you're consuming more energy than you are expending (eating in a calorie surplus) you will gain weight. Of course, you don't want a full day of eating to be consumed with refined sugary treats but you should not feel guilty if you work a small snickers bar into your caloric intake for the day. 

Stop labeling food with "clean" and "junk" labels because the diet you saw on the internet told you to. All diets lead to the same goal. A calorie deficit or a calorie surplus. Flexible Dieting focuses simply on eating to fulfill designated macro nutrient targets, or "hitting macros", each day. Try to fill your day with nutrient dense colorful foods and work in something from your "guilty" list from time to time and watch how much easier it is to adhere to your plan. The scientific principle surrounding calories in vs calories out are paramount to the success of Flexible Dieting. 

Learning how to eat right for your body, goals, and lifestyle takes time. But your consistency will only increase as you learn how to be flexible in your approach. 

Choose Wisely

You have the free liberty of making choices every day. What is a good choice? Good choices are decisions that keep you heading in the direction in which you want to go. Bad choices, on the other hand, end up being counterproductive and can quickly begin spiraling into stress, confusion, and despair.

Some of the trickiness of choice-making arises with options that may be pleasing in the short-term but may incrementally steer us off course over the longer term. Just taking that one extra serving of dessert or staying in bed for only another hour more can be choices like this. Some decisions can be a bit dreary or difficult at the time but lead to better directions down the track. Staying home and preparing your own meal instead of going out and risk overeating or completing another session at the gym are examples of short-term discomfort for long-term benefits.

My Top 11 Choices that will always lead to a better long-term outcome: 

  1. Choose consistency, not perfection.
  2. Choose strength and performance, not exhaustion.
  3. Choose to focus on the things you can control, not those you can’t.
  4. Choose to shut up and take action, don’t be a complainer.
  5. Choose for health and fitness to be a part of your life, not something that takes over it.
  6. Choose self-compassion as a response to your things not going as you planned, not condemnation.
  7. Choose flexibility, not obsession.
  8. Choose to adapt to the circumstances, don’t give up entirely.
  9. Choose to become the best version of yourself every day; don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  10. Choose consistent, small improvements; don’t lust at the idea of overnight success.
  11. Choose the process as its own reward, don’t rely on the destination to provide happiness.

Why I Hate The Term "Bikini Body"

I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July. I certainly enjoyed mine. While I was working out yesterday I overheard a few ladies talking about getting their bikini bodies back. And shortly after that I heard a male trainer tell his female client that she needed to work harder because she has to earn her six pack.

I have no issue with anyone wanting to work hard for their fitness goals. I do believe that our individual perspectives of how we view fitness will dictate how long we will be able to sustain "motivation".

I cringe when I hear women talk about their fitness goals and the main reason for them wanting to get in shape is for a bikini body. Trainers in the fitness community are largely to blame for this train of thought though. It is a marketing ploy to get in your pocket books. Bikini body is a play on words so you can visualize yourself comfortable and sexy so they can sell you the next weight loss plan, strict diet, detox supplement, or 2-a-day workout plan.

When people tell you it’s time to start working for a “bikini body,” they’re not doing so because they’re concerned for your health. All that bikini body talk does is reinforce the toxic notion that women’s bodies must conform to a certain shape. A shape so you can feel accepted or feel confident in public. Aiming for a “bikini body” is much more likely to lead to destructive feelings of body shame than a sustained commitment to caring for your body. Taking good care of your body shouldn’t have a season. Our bodies deserve our care every day of the year.

One of the best ways to feel at home in your skin is to exercise regularly.

Fitness centers are so busy trying to get you to believe that you can look like a fitness model that they are dropping the ball on the true benefits of exercise. They tell us that fitness is something you see instead of something you feel, that it’s not about what you can do, but whether you can count your abs.

Physical activity has a number of well-documented psychological and physical benefits. But it requires a change in mindset. 

Researchers have found that women who exercise to increase their health rather than to change the way they look actually enjoy exercise more. They stick with it longer. Another study out of the University of Michigan found that women who exercise with weight loss as their goal engage in less physical activity than those who exercise for a sense of well-being or stress reduction.

When you shift your focus off of aesthetics good things happen. You start to notice the things that matter. Energy increases become apparent, sleep and recovery feels at an all time high, and your clothes start to feel better than they did before. The time investment of your workout time isn't judged on what you see in the mirror but how you feel day to day. That is what this lifestyle is all about.

Does Healthy Food Taste Disgusting

The health and fitness information on the internet is astounding. If you want to know something you can definitely find it within seconds on the internet.

But even though we have so much information at our fingertips, the average weight of Americans continues to rise. The average weight of women is as much as the average weight of American men in 1960. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the average American male weighed about 166.3 pounds in 1960. The average weight for American women in 2010 was 166.2 pounds, which marks about a 18.5 percent increase. The average weight for women in 1960 was 140 pounds.

Why is the continuous rise in body weight happening but we essentially have more information on how to be healthier than ever before? 

There are some annoying fitness fanatics out there that try to tell people that eating healthfully tastes as good if not better than eating junk food. That couldn't be further from the truth. Of course a cookie will taste better than an apple. Of course the french fries taste better than green vegetables. Pie and cake are going to be more comforting than fiber rich fruits. It is time we stopped the crazy talk. We need to re-frame the way we think. 

Instead of thinking that healthy food should taste as good or better than high-calorie junk food, we should accept that it doesn’t. This isn’t a bad thing. The healthy food doesn’t need to be disgusting either. But hoping that your grilled turkey burger will be as savory as your favorite burger from Five Guys is a little crazy. This sort of thinking can also lead to a poor relationship with food too.

We need to accept that while it is not as pleasurable as the decadent high-calorie savory food, the healthy food aligns more with our values.

I'm not trying to say we can’t have the junk food once in a while. A small amount can fit into pretty much everyone’s diet. A bowl of your favorite cereal isn't going to cause you to have a metabolic syndrome. You aren't going to get fat off one donut every now and then. A couple slices of pizza can fit into your caloric structure from time to time. However, think about what you value, then freely choose which food aligns more with that value.

Do you value being a good role model for your children? If so, you have the ability to choose that piece of fruit instead of the cookies and chips. Sure those cookies and chips would be super pleasurable especially when you’re super hungry after a day of hard work, but while that apple isn’t as pleasurable, it aligns with your values.

Do you value your health? If so, you will do what is necessary to manage. When we ignore managing it or fail to make it a priority we face the consequences of those actions, and so do our loved ones. You don't want to leave them with the responsibility to take care of you for something that could have been avoided.

If your health is important to you, align your actions to match those values.

Are Carbohydrates The Enemy

Carbs are bad right?

I'm sure you have been apart of a carbohydrate debate before. Avoiding carbs is the go to strategy in most of the diets that are out there today. You see all the celebrities promoting low carbohydrate diets and tons of professionals swearing that sugar makes you fat. More and more health conscious individuals are ditching carbs and opting to eat more fat.

What should you believe and what advice should you follow?

Let's get something straight first. Any macronutrient consumed in excess will result in weight gain. It could be 10,000 calories from the healthiest fat you can find or leanest protein out there. Eating above your maintenance calorie intake over time will start to add pounds to the scale.

Carbohydrates are not the enemy but they get the blame because of there inherent structure.

The conventional wisdom suggests that there shouldn’t be any difference in whether or not weight loss is achieved by cutting calories from either carbs or fat. If a calorie equals a calorie, then reduction of energy intake from either should lead to weight loss. We know that some foods react different in the body. Some foods are more nutrient dense than others. We are just talking about energy balance right now. 

Some have argued that carbs could cause more weight gain due to their effects on insulin. After all, insulin is the hormone that promotes the accumulation of storage of adipose tissue (body fat) as a result of overeating carbohydrates.

But while the carbohydrates effects on insulin propose that replacing carbs with fat should reduce insulin secretion leading to greater fat burning, this logic hasn’t quite held up to scrutiny when put into practice in scientific studies.

Does this mean carbohydrates are off the hook for weight gain? No, because it’s also well known that the majority of expendable calories do come from carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods, drinks, and desserts. You can't eat twinkies all day and not expect to pay a cost for it.

Additionally, there are some individuals who might benefit from low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. There is some merit for those that struggle with Type II diabetes or epilepsy to try a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. But this doesn't mean that everyone should be on a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet. 

The research does suggest that it’s important that a balanced approach toward reducing calories is warranted for healthy weight loss. Carbs and insulin are not inherently fat producing on their own. The context in which carbs are consumed matters, in terms of energy balance.

Eliminating an entire macronutrient from the diet not only could have a person miss out on foods with important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber, but also may not be any more effective for weight loss.

Don't Be A Weekday Dieter

The weekday dieter.

That is actually a real thing. I can't tell you how many times I have met someone who eats good on the weekdays and throws everything healthy out the window on the weekends.

Let's talk about reducing calories for the goal of weight loss. 3 things everyone should consider prior to losing weight is:

  1. Not eating enough protein.
  2. Over restricting calories.
  3. Restricting calories for too long.

For today's blog we are going to focus on over restricting calories. The more restrictive you are with your diet, the more likely you are to engage in binge eating and have higher body weight.

What you have to take into consideration is that no matter what kind of diet you’re on, you need to actually be able to adhere to it.

If you can only stick to a your diet during the weekdays then you need to rethink your strategy.

Dietary adherence is the most important determinant of weight loss success.

There is no magic formula out there that is going to elicit some special result. I know that there are pills, powders, formulas, and potions out there that some people claim to be weight loss guarantees. But the truth is they don't exist. The one thing that is proven to give the best results is consistency.

I run into people who feel that they have to restrict calories in the 1000 - 1200 calorie range all the time. These are the same people who suffer from Last Time Syndrome. When the weekends come around they will tell themselves, "This is the last time I will cheat on my diet." or "I'm only going to have one cheat meal this weekend." That last time or that one cheat meal turns into a weekend of over eating there favorite foods and the emotional guilt of throwing all their hard work away.

Have you ever heard someone say this before? “This is the last chance I get to eat this [forbidden food] until next week, so I’d better eat as much as of it as I can!” In a study performed in 2002 researchers found that restrained eaters (those who had been told to diet for several weeks) consumed significantly more of a ‘forbidden food’ during a taste test than unrestrained eating (non-dieters).

Most trainers will tell you "try harder” or “be more strict” when it comes to dieting to your goal weight. But I assure you it is rarely ever the answer when it comes to achieving diet success.

Successful weight loss is about developing new healthy diet habits through conscious patterns of behavior that we repeat frequently, until they become unconscious! It takes a while to practice and develop a new pattern of eating. But you can do it.

A weekend of irresponsible eating can absolutely erase a whole week’s worth of hard work. I’m sure you or someone you know has been through this before. It’s a slippery slope to an endlessly frustrating cycle of restrict, binge, restrict, binge. What’s worse, you don’t make any forward progress. In fact, you may even find yourself regressing. This is why it’s so crucial to keep everything in check.

Choices & Consequences

It's Friday night, you had a long day at work. You skipped lunch and food has been invading your thoughts like a bad dream.

It comes down to good old choices. You inherently have the free liberty to make day to day nutritional choices. Those decisions have consequences regardless if you think about them or not. Everything we eat has a trade off. This means that sometimes the food choices you make could give you substantial energy or possibly make you feel like crap. The choices you make could add to weight gain, weight maintenance or weight loss. The choices you make may ultimately take you down a path of a lower quality of life or they could benefit your health immensely.

The personal conversation of "What am I going to eat and how will it make me feel" needs to happen daily. The hardest part of this question is separating the emotional decision from the physical one. The emotional decision is often times the easiest one, or the decision that speaks to how we feel in that moment. The physical decision can take some problem solving and may require more time. It might be the less exciting one or the least spontaneous choice. But often times it's the choice that will benefit you long term.

These choices could vary but typically look something like this:

  • Go out to eat or stay in and cook.

  • Order take out or eat left-overs.

  • Stop for some fast food or or wait to eat the food you meal prepped.

  • Eat a three course meal with family and friends or watch portions and say no to some possible favorites.

  • Stay out late drinking with friends or limit your intake and leave an it earlier than others.

  • Hang out with friends at happy hour or eat your scheduled snack and get to the gym.

We tend to not weigh those decisions but they accumulate into something negative or positive depending on what we decide. Often times they are the deciding factor if we reach our goals or not.

When your willpower is depleted, you are even more likely to make decisions based on the environment around you. After all, if you’re feeling drained, stressed, or overwhelmed then you’re not going to go through a lot of effort to cook a healthy dinner or fit in a workout. You’ll grab whatever is easiest.

Set yourself up for success with these decisions so you're armed to face them head on.

Here are 5 tips that help me fight off giving into food choices that don't benefit my overall goals.

  1. Have a healthy snack alternative to hold you over on your ride home.

  2. Pace healthier foods in more visible spots in your refrigerator, pantry, and around the kitchen.

  3. Tuck away cookies, treats, and other unhealthy choices down on the lower shelves.

  4. Have your meal already waiting for you in a container so it is easy to grab and less time to wait when you get home.

  5. Plan out a day or two that you will have a treat so it's worked into your week. That way you aren't going over your allotted calories for the day or week and you have something to look forward to instead of feeling guilty about.

5 Tips To Help Stay On Track While Traveling

Is there a trick to traveling and managing your nutrition?

Many of my clients travel often for work. They say, "I can't be healthy this week because I have to travel for work". Or "This week is going to be rough because I have to go out to eat a lot for work."

Of course when you are thrown into the unknown things will be challenging. I know it will not be easy for you to stay on track with nutrition but it is doable.

Here are 5 tips to help stay on track while traveling:

  1. Be prepared.
    By planning ahead you will find yourself staying much closer to the path of wellness when on the go. The first stop you should make is at the grocery store. There are tons of great snacks that travel well so you can have nutritiously dense food to take with you. I've brought protein bars, raw nuts, fruit, and my empty water bottle so I can fill it up once through security that way I have more than enough. Those tiny little cups they give you on the plane might as well be a shot glass.
  2. Be boring when choosing your meal.
    Eating out at most restaurants can be very difficult. The portions are likely too big, the healthy options are limited, and they cover just about everything in inflammatory oils. When your calorie friendly choices are limited order a salad with dressing on the side. I dip my fork in the dressing then take a stab at the dry salad and I typically use about half as much if they poured it over the salad for me. Pay the extra money to add protein if it doesn't come with it. The extra protein can be satiating and may keep you from ordering dessert or eating too much past what you should. Steamed vegetables with lean proteins like chicken or fish are available at almost any place you go.
  3. Keep tracking.
    If you're already tracking your food in some sort of log or app keep doing it. Don't stress out if you go over your normal amounts but by tracking you will be more cognizant of what you're doing and you will inevitably make better decisions or choose smaller quantities. You may not hit the target carbohydrates, protein, and fats you want but you can make sure that you don't go over the allotted calories you have during that time.
  4. Fast food.
    Sometimes we simply can't avoid it when traveling. You're with 3 co-workers who all could care less about the things they put in their bodies so you're outnumbered. Don't freak out and don't starve yourself in this situation. One of the few changes we have seen in recent years is restaurants actually telling us the nutrition info. Keep an eye on the fats and aim for something that is high in protein. The fats is where they tend to get us because they douse the food in the worst kind of oils imaginable. If you do happen to overeat because you had a lack of choices then consume it guilt free and move on with your day.
  5. Enjoy it.
    We can't expect to be perfect and life is all about controlling the flow. I try living by the 80/20 rule. Make good nutritional decisions 80% of the time and the other 20% I enjoy life! Exploring new cities is fun so don't let it go by without having one mouth watering meal, beverage, or both!

How To Avoid The Diet Hamster Wheel

Unhealthy lifestyles create a self-perpetuating and vicious cycle. It begins with feeling like you don't have enough time, energy, strength, or emotional wellness to make any lasting changes. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle seems like a daunting task. Diving into a journey of uncertainty is challenging. I get it.

But when you neglect healthy living you end up feeling even worse. And of course, feeling worse makes it harder to exercise, take time to cook, and make other good choices. Thus by abandoning healthy living, you can find yourself trapped in a cycle of plummeting health. I call it the diet hamster wheel.

The only way out of this is to find a way to incorporate healthy changes, however small, over time.

I understand that 30 minutes of exercise or taking some time to prepare meals ahead for a few days is plain hard in some cases. Sometimes it's helpful to envision the benefits though. A healthier lifestyle could afford you the possibility of living a longer, pain free, enjoyable life.

The flip side of that would be the person that tells me, "Kelvin I'm living my life to the fullest already. I eat what I want, do what I want, and we all have to die sometime. I might as well go out on my terms."

If you are wondering if someone has told me that then the answer is, Yes. I have actually heard it many times. And to some degree I understand it. Truth is, a unhealthy lifestyle takes up more time than you might realize. The doctor's appointments due to being over weight and poor lifestyle conditions can take a toll on you. Being slowed down because chronic pain due to a sedentary life, and getting sick more often takes away time as well. Unhealthy habits such as emotional or stress eating, endlessly refreshing social media feeds can also eat away at time that could be spent doing something more useful.

If you want to make lasting lifestyle changes then you have to be prepared for it to take time. Contrary to what you may have been told, you don't have to join a gym, devote two hours a day to cooking, and spend all your time exercising. Instead, small decisions can add up to big changes over time. Focus on achieving your health goals in small, manageable chunks.

Here are 5 of my favorite tips for helping people start improving their lifestyle.

  1. Replace one unhealthy snack with a healthier option each day.
  2. Commit to cooking at home at least two days per week.
  3. Dedicate five minutes a day to exercise. You can increase this number over time. But you may also find that after a five-minute workout, you're motivated to go for 10, 20, or even 30 more minutes.
  4. Be mindful of your automatic negative thoughts and focus on re-framing them into more positive ideas.
  5. Schedule some "me time" each week so you can decompress in ways that make you happy and recharge your batteries.

Our society is busier now than ever before, so no matter how committed you are to living a healthier life, odds are good something is going to rob you of your time. One of the most important keys to long-term health is finding time for healthy choices even in the midst of chaos. The demands our world places on us are bigger now than ever before, but this doesn't mean you have to give up on healthy living. Indeed, making healthy lifestyle choices may be the best thing you can do to manage the chaos of an increasingly challenging world.

Are You Stuck With Your Current Body?

The human body resist weight change. Losing weight disrupts your bodies ability to maintain balance. 

As you get older your body settles into a comfortable weight. This is called your body weight set point. The body weight set point theory is simple: it hypothesizes that the body uses hormones, hunger, behavior changes, and other physiological mechanisms to “defend” a certain range of body weight (and body fat in particular). A simple way to think of this is as a “thermostat” or “cruise control” system for body weight and fat levels. Whatever numbers are set are what your body strives to maintain.

If you've ever tried to 5 pounds or 60 pounds you have experienced this resistance in some form. The further we push our weight away from our set point, the more intensely the body fights its way back. This isn't solely the reason for yo-yo dieting but it is definitely part of the conversation. 

The command center for the body's weight management system resides in the hypothalamus. The argument could be made that it wants to preserve fat, not eliminate it. Leptin is produced by the body's fat cells and signals the brain to regulate your appetite and satiety. Since leptin has that responsibility in the body we can conclude that this has a lot to do with our weight. 

If you lose body fat, leptin triggers hunger and the urge to eat; if you gain fat and increase leptin, you eat less. The more leptin your body produces, the leaner you tend to be; the less leptin you make, the higher your set point and the fatter you stay. 

The bottom line is it’s well established that our bodies do have a complex system for regulating body weight. I like to use a slightly different term than "set point" because "set point" implies that your body weight is fixed when that is not the case. A more accurate term would be "settling point." 

What are the factors to this "settling point"?

  • Yes, there are genetic variants that can predispose us to higher or lower body weight set points, but their effects are small. Research shows that certain “obesity genes” can be “turned off” through exercise alone. While genetics can predispose you to a certain amount of fatness, you can overrule them with the right behaviors.
  • If you chronically feed your body more (food) energy than it expends you will create weight management issues. Even if only by 200 calories per day which is an apple and banana. If it is more than you expend you will slowly but surely gain weight.

Lowering your body weight set point takes patience, discipline, and consistency, but it isn’t particularly hard. Just takes work!

One of the best ways to combat this settling point and change your body weight for good is to increase your muscle mass. Nothing helps maintain a low body weight set point like adding a substantial amount of muscle to your frame. Muscle is a “metabolically active” tissue, meaning it increases the basal metabolic rate. The increase may not be much, but even if it is 100 extra calories burned per week, it is worth it. At the end of the week that is an extra 700 calories burned while doing nothing. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body burns while at rest. And the more energy your body burns while at rest, the more food you get to eat every day without gaining fat. Research shows that the more muscle you have, the less fat you gain in response to overeating. This means that the more muscle you have, the less you’re “punished” for eating too much. I call it 'wiggle room". If you have a little too much at your parents house over the weekend then you might be able to get by because a large amount of muscle allows you that freedom. Simply put, the more muscle you have, the easier it is to get and stay lean.

Adding more muscle to your frame and coupling that with a nutritional program that allows you to be in a calorie deficit is your best bet. They key here is that you have to consciously manage your energy balance because your instincts are likely to lead you to overeating. Practicing and getting better at proper meal planning and discipline to avoid overeating is key. 

The longer you remain at a given body weight, the easier it becomes to stay there. The healthier your body is, the better its hormones will support your efforts to stay lean. Use your exercise and nutritional regimen to maintain health and body composition.

Becoming More Self-Aware

Do you think that you are self-aware? I find that there are a few categories that most people will fall in. Some people either don't give self-awareness any thought or think that they are perfectly self-aware when in fact they are very much the opposite. Many avoid any thought or mention of self-awareness because they are aware of their short comings and don't want to be reminded of them.

Self Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.

As you develop self awareness you are able to make changes in the thoughts and interpretations you make in your mind. Self awareness is one of the attributes of Emotional Intelligence and an important factor in achieving weight loss success.

I believe that it is safe to say that most of us live our lives on autopilot. In a way it makes a complicated and busy life easier to deal with. In a world where we have so much going on around us and it is hard for us to be present, we seek out ways to help us stay on autopilot. We allow ourselves to develop habits, many of them don't improve our health, in order to cope. In a lot of what we do we become automaton like, and life floats on by. We get up in the morning and take stimulants to get us through the day. We go to work and sit for 8 hours, come home and sit for another 4 hours and then go to bed only to start over again tomorrow. We fail to notice what's going on around us. We don't notice very much at all, particularly about ourselves. Things just happen to our health and we seem to lose track of them. Something common I hear when talking to a client who wants to lose weight is, "I don't know how I got overweight, I sort of woke up one day and knew I needed to make some changes."

When occasionally we are made to confront the real world, or the world we have unknowingly created for ourselves, it makes us so unhappy that we usually crawl back into our shells and continue on as before. It can be scary for someone to hear they are prediabetic and it is easier to just stay on the course that they are on and hope for the best rather than trying to change.

The secret of successful weight loss, and permanent weight loss in particular, is self-awareness. The only way to lose weight permanently is to make personal change. If you are not aware of your bad habits and of what has to be changed, then the task is almost impossible. If food is a coping strategy for when you are stressed but you haven't been real with yourself and admitted that, then true change can't take place.

Becoming more self-aware is not difficult but it does take work. Here are a few helpful tools that could help you improve your self -awareness.

1. You should develop a daily practice of setting aside at least twenty minutes to reflect on your life. This practice enables you to focus on the important things in your life, not just the immediate. Reflection takes many forms. Some keep a journal, some pray, and others take a long walk or jog. I use my workout time as a time of reflection.

2. Ask friends to call you out when you are doing a behavior you already know you want to change. For instance, “Look, I know I will be motivated to go to the gym on Monday but by Wednesday I will make excuses not to go. Can you text me and ask me if I have exercises Wednesday through Friday?"

The more self-aware you become, the more self-confident you will feel. You will be in a far better position to take informed, responsible decisions about your health and your weight. Being able to lose weight and keep it off will very soon become a reality.

How To Prevent Weight Regain

Weight regain seems to be something that is more prevalent now days. If you have ever had a personal conversation with me you will know one of my sayings is, "It is relatively easy to lose weight, but the journey begins in keeping it off.

It is no secret that people have a tough time keeping it off. It has been well researched that only 17% of Americans are able to maintain a 10% weight loss after 1 year. Many people have repeatedly lost weight, only to regain it again and again. I meet people all the time who have lost the same 25-50 lbs all the time. Dieting to lose weight only to regain it is a common occurrence in America.

Change in body weight is caused by an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. Your body loves to stay in balance. We also know that your body tries to resist weight change and correct this energy imbalance. For example, if you eat 2000 calories per day and suddenly decrease it to 1000, you will lose weight, but you will also get hungry in the process. This hunger drives you to eat more to bring you back into energy balance. This is one of the reasons why maintaining long-term weight loss is so difficult.

Your body has some other protective mechanisms. Your body can resist a negative energy balance by not only making you more hungry, but by decreasing the number of calories you burn. The extent to which this happens in humans is not clear but studies show that it does occur. One of the challenges of successful long-term weight loss could be partly because our bodies reduce their energy expenditure to the point that it makes it very easy to regain the weight.

When you lose weight the amount of energy you use decreases because you have less weight to move around. That is pretty easy to understand. But what if the body becomes more efficient as a whole because of weight loss. This means you could expend less calories for maintaining the proper function of your organs and you could expend less calories for the same movement(s) that helped you lose weight in the first place.

It is clear from research that metabolism (in terms of resting metabolic rate) slows with weight loss. This means if you were to sit on the couch and not move all day, you would burn less calories than when you were heavier. This decrease can even be present even when someone has maintained weight loss for more than a year. However, the slowdown of metabolic rate is not the primary culprit for why it's so easy to regain weight, but it does play a major role.

The main reason why we have the decrease in energy expenditure with weight loss is because we become less active. This doesn't mean we exercise less, either, as exercise is a conscious choice. It means we unconsciously reduce our NEAT and spontaneous activity. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, washing dishes and fidgeting.

We also become more efficient in the activity we do; we expend less calories for the same movement. In fact, 35% of the decrease in activity energy expenditure can be attributed to an increase in efficiency. Overall, we move around less, and we become more efficient at the movements we perform. This is not only why weight loss eventually plateaus, but also why weight is so easily regained.

So how do you combat this? How do you make sure that the weight you lose stays off? How do you break plateaus when weight loss stalls?

You have to remember that physical activity doesn't have to include formal exercise. NEAT makes up the majority of your activity energy expenditure, and thus has the greatest ability to impact it. In fact, walking at only 1 mile per hour will double your energy expenditure over sitting. Anything that you can do to accumulate physical activity throughout the day will dramatically improve your chances of maintaining weight loss long term. Small things add up. Here are 5 things you can put into practice today that will improve your NEAT:

1. Park further away from your destination.

2. Take the stairs rather than an elevator.

3. Work in the yard a couple times per week.

4. Take a short walk during lunch break.

5. Talk on the phone at work while moving around.

Since activity can decrease on an almost unconscious level, you need to make a deliberate conscious effort to get as much activity as possible in throughout your day, every day. Or you will notice weight regain and more weight loss plateaus.

What You Can Do To Help Fight Childhood Obesity

I need for you to know the shocking statistics that face children today. Not to make your jaw drop. But I do want to bring about some awareness of the issues children face and how we, as adults owe it to them to guide them through such troubling times. The mental disorder with the highest mortality rate isn't depression. Nor is it schizophrenia. It's eating disorders. Up to 20 percent of those with eating disorders cave in to their illness.

More than 90 percent of those who develop bulimia or anorexia, or some combination of the two, are young women in their teens and 20s. The sad part is that most develop the disorder in adolescence (ages 13-19). American colleges report that all three disorders are growing on campus, oppressing up to 40 percent of students at some point during the student years.

At any one time, about 2 to 3 percent of adolescents have bulimia, and 0.5 to 1 percent of adolescents have anorexia. According to child psychiatrists, 13 percent of high school girls purge.

Eating disorders have doubled in incidence since the 1960s, and increasingly they are striking in younger age groups. They also increasingly occur in diverse ethnic and sociocultural groups.

I'm starting to see weight issues arise at a younger and younger age. I'm sure you know that self-esteem issues go hand in hand with having weight related issues. Studies show that girls as young as 5 are affected by how others perceive them.

When children start to experience weight gain parents often restrict the child's food choices because they are trying to "help" them in their weight loss efforts. I understand the premise behind it. But what ends up happening to the child as a result is quite sad. They start learning to place labels on foods. They will repeat what is being taught at home. Since they have restricted nutritional choices they will start to label foods as "healthy" and "unhealthy". Sure, you would think that is a good thing, right? But what happens when that child grows up and then binges on that food choice that was labeled "unhealthy" all there life. Can't this behavior be avoided by parents being more inclusive rather than exclusive? Would it be beneficial to teach children what portion control is?

There's much information in the media about childhood obesity. Parents should spend more time finding ways for their kids to be more active, what a portion size is, how to include more nutritiously dense food and enjoy the more refined options in moderation. This behavior wold be more beneficial for children in the long term.

How Sleep Deprivation Effects The Waistline

Since when did not getting enough sleep become a bragging right? "Dude, I only sleep 4 hours a night!" Congratulations. While it may be needed to skimp out on sleep from time to time because of your lifestyle. Let's not make it a habit of choice.

Inadequate sleep doesn't make you tough, but it certainly affects your efforts in the gym. While you may be able to "function just fine" on a few hours of sleep, doing so still short changes your body composition goals.

It is easy to overlook sleep as being important for you reaching your health and fitness goals. When you have a tough work schedule, children at home, or school deadlines to meet, sleep is put on the back burner. Did you know that not getting enough sleep might affect your waistline?

Current research suggest that on average, those who are sleep deprived consume about 385 calories more than they normally would per day.

The researchers found that not only did subjects consume more calories the next day after being sleep deprived, but they also found that the majority of those calories came from foods that were proportionally higher in fat and lower in protein.

The extra calories a day is equivalent to topping off your normal daily nutrition with four and a half slices of bread. Or eating a slice and a half of pizza, two servings of ice cream, or a few candy bars. With no offset from physical activity you can guarantee that the added scale weight is coming.

Research also suggest that chronic sleep loss could be a driving force of obesity across the country.

A lack of high quality sleep appears to impact on physiological drivers of energy balance. Specifically appetite, hunger and energy expenditure. Along with this, sleep deprivation adversely affects the body’s ability to handle glucose and may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

So what is considered sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation defined in most studies is getting only three and a half to five hours of sleep per night.

Seven to nine hours of sleep is the optimal amount one should get each night. If you have trouble sleeping you may need a little help by making better sleep habits and maybe taking quality supplements like melatonin every night.

4 Reasons Why Smoothies Are Amazing

When was the last time you had a smoothie? And I'm not talking about one from Smoothie King or some milkshake-like dessert from your favorite fast food joint. If the first thing that came to mind when I mentioned smoothie is ice cream then shame on you.

I'm talking about a whole food nutritiously dense smoothie!

Smoothies alone won’t fix a poor nutritional habits. But they can be an amazing addition to your diet. Smoothies offer a lot of great benefits, but one of the best things about them is that they are awesome for people who may not be consuming enough fruits and vegetables. They may be helpful in upping fruit and vegetable intake as well. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are 4 great facts about why you should consider adding a smoothie to your meal plan.

1. A Variety Of Fruits & Vegetables
Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables. When was the last time you met the USDA recommendation of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can incorporate a cup or two of greens and a serving or two of fruit easy. Fiber is an important part of any nutritional regimen. It prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol and makes you feel full longer. Fruit or vegetable juices can sometimes have a lower fiber content for various amounts of reasons. But the fiber in a homemade smoothie is still in tact.

2. High Amounts Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are involved in the prevention of cellular damage. That sounds like a big fancy term but it's not. Cellular damage is a common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases. Point being, you don't want cellular damage on a large scale. The goal is to prevent it. You can pack plenty of vegetables and fruits which are rich in antioxidants into your smoothies.

3. Fun Experiment That The Whole Family Can Enjoy
When I was younger there were certain vegetables I just didn't want to eat. Texture was a major thing for me then. But when my mother started making smoothies for me and hiding the spinach, kale, and other nutritious vegetables I had no problem chugging it down. Smoothies can be a fun way to get your family to eat whole foods and can be a fun experiment for the entire family. If you don’t normally drink green smoothies, try starting off with incorporating just a little bit of greens with a lot of fruit, and increasing the amount a little bit over time.

4. Unlimited Add-On Options
I love to use smoothies as a way to throw in extra nutrients that I might not be able to get in during the day. Things like honey, greek yogurt, flax seeds, hemp seeds, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Of course there are many more you can add in that list but those are just some of my favorites.

Smoothies are great drinks filled with fruits and/or vegetables and other nutrient dense ingredients.  They make wonderful options for a meal or a snack when made with natural items. When you have a good blender and quality ingredients, making a delicious, healthy smoothies is simple and easy.