The Importance of Hamstring Training

I've always been a gym rat. I fell in love with the process of lifting weights from the first time I was introduced to weight training more than 15 years ago. However, I wasn't privy to the information I know now and ended up suffering an injury that would change my life for the better in 2003. I tore my ACL and MCL playing football in high school. I was a very quad dominant athlete in high school. My workouts for lower body consisted of squats, power cleans, leg press, lunges, and step ups. There was very little hamstring work involved in my training. The lack of attention to training my hamstrings is what I believe sidelined my athletic career. The injury helped me in more ways I can express in this post. It shaped and molded the habits that I still have today. I'm grateful for that experience because I'm better for it today. 

Tearing an ACL is one of the most dreaded injuries an athlete can suffer. It can sideline you for months and involves a long, hard recovery process. Female athletes need to be especially careful: they're six times more likely than males to sustain an ACL injury.

The difference between ACL injuries in females and males comes down to anatomy. That's why the frequency of women vs men is so vastly different. Several characteristics of the female body, including knee/hip alignment, knee bone structure, ligament composition and hormones, may increase their risk of ACL injuries. Since you can't change your anatomy, you must take proactive measures to reduce the risk.

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Developing hamstring strength is the key to prevent ACL injuries in both males and females. The hamstrings (the large muscle group on the back of the thighs) are often underdeveloped and relatively weak compared to the quads (the large muscle group on the front of the thighs). This, along with other risk factors, can place excessive stress on the ACL and cause it to severely be strained or tear. However, if your hamstrings are strong, they provide stability across the knee joint and help relieve your vulnerable ligaments from unwanted stress.

Because your hamstrings cross the knee and hip joints, they bend your knees and draw your hips backward. Your hamstrings contribute to functional motion, such as walking, jogging and sprinting. They also help you to achieve speed, power, and agility in many sports. When you’re running downhill, the lengthening (stretching) of your hamstrings helps you to control the speed of the descent. This ability to properly decelerate lowers the amount of pressure on the joints in your lower body and prevents injury.

Personally, I love hamstring training now. My rehab sessions for my knee were about 2-3 hours in length and a great deal of the time spent rehabbing focused on me training my hamstrings and glutes. Most people don't understand the work ethic that goes behind training muscles that can't be seen in the mirror like hamstrings, glutes and the back musculature. It takes a certain focus, mental preparation, and exercise execution to stimulate the hamstrings properly. 

There are 4 different types of hamstring exercises. 
1. Legs in a Semi-Straight Position while Standing and Extending at the Hip. (Romanian Deadlifts, and Good Mornings)
2. Straight Leg on your back or stomach and Extending at the Hip. (Back Extensions, Reverse Hyperextensions, Glute Bridges with a Straight Leg)
3. Isolated Knee Bending {Flexion}. (Lying Leg Curls, Seated Leg Curls, Standing Single Leg Curls)
4. Simultaneously Holding the Hip in Extension and Bending the Knee. (Glute Ham Raises, Stability Ball Leg Curls, TRX Leg Curls)

For best results, developmentally speaking, I recommend performing all types of the hamstring exercises listed above in all rep ranges. The hamstrings can be effectively trained 2-3 times per week to make this kind of variety possible. The key is making sure you recover with sound nutrition and rest between sessions. 

However, if your hamstrings are exceptionally weak, there's no reason you can't perform a couple of sets of hamstring exercises every day until they're up to par. 

War On Clean Eating

It is not uncommon today to hear someone talk about how they're starting a healthy journey lifestyle that is accompanied by 'clean eating'. 

Every time I hear that word being uttered from someone's mouth I cringe. Literally. 

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What does it even mean? Are you washing your food with Windex? Maybe you're preparing your food differently than me? I don't know. But the term "eating clean" is really popular in today's society. 

If you ask a group of people, who would consider themselves clean eaters what the term 'eating clean' means, you will get some different answers. The answers may include responses like no processed food, low-fat, low-sugar, low- calorie, low-glycemic index, or only foods our ancestors ate and a variety of other answers.

There is no set definition of the trendy term taking the health and fitness community by storm. Foods that are processed aren't inherently bad anyway. We should all try to eat more whole foods like fruits, vegetables and minimally processed whole grains and protein. And I usually eat mainly whole foods. But I also don’t freak out about foods that aren’t ‘clean’ because I know that the majority of my diet is pretty nutritious and I like to enjoy my food whether it is healthy (usually) or not (sometimes).

While labels on diets can be a good thing at times (obviously gluten-free is essential for those with celiac and those who use a certain type of diet, like low sodium, to manage a health condition), but for the most part, I think labeling your diet is stupid. Especially if you need a ‘cheat day’ from your so-called diet. 

Labeling your food clean implies that other foods are dirty or have some negative result on your health waiting to be unleashed. ‘Clean eating’ may have started with good intentions, but it has gone too far. It has turned into yet another food shaming diet fad that fuels terrible eating habits. 

Clean eating is used to sway people toward certain foods as well. It has a health halo effect on people. The “health halo” effect occurs when a food that has some healthy attri­butes is perceived as being virtuous in all respects. For instance, many people mistakenly think that organic foods are more healthful than their conventionally grown counter­parts. Couldn't be further from the truth. You can eat an organic cookie all you want. Guess what? If you eat too many of them, you can still gain weight. Calories are still KING regardless if you're eating organic or not. 

‘Clean eating’ can lead to an unhealthy obsession with food. With social media making it possible to be constantly immersed in a culture of health food and fitness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison and thinking that your food is not healthy enough because it doesn’t look like the health and fitness guru you follow on social media. It’s a slippery slope that can lead to disordered eating patterns or full-blown eating disorders. 

Clean eating has no set definition. What’s considered a clean or nutritious food differs from person to person based on their situation, preferences, and goals. Don't put yourself in the box of 'clean eating'. You will find yourself finding ways to "cheat" and will end up down the yo-yo dieting path that you don't want to be a part of. 

 

The Power Of Emotional Eating

Do you put others' needs before your own? That may be a part of the job for you.

Whether you’re a high-powered professional, a mother, a caregiver, a partner, a worker, a daughter, a son, a friend, or all of the above and more.

We live in a busy world today. Many of you spend your days putting out fires, handling to-do lists, wiping little noses, meeting deadlines and making sure other people aren't going hungry, feel safe, and happy.

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The stressors of life can literally beat a person up. If they go unattended too long they can destroy relationships with food and lead to a series of events that prevent a person from living their best life. Emotional eating is real and if we don't heighten our awareness around it, we can easily fall victim to it. 

In some cases, the story goes like this. 
Life stressors become too much to bear. 
You get drained mentally and emotionally.
The time you used to invest in your health and fitness has disappeared.
The clothes that you felt comfortable in are now fitting tighter than you would like. 
The sugar and junk food cravings seem much stronger.
The gym membership you have isn't being utilized and the home gym equipment you have is gathering dust.
The bathroom mirror and scale are avoided. 
You end up putting your health and fitness goals to the side because changing it feels like the roller coaster ride that never ends.
Food becomes the way you deal with stress. 
Food becomes the gateway to helping you feel better. 

At the end of a long and hectic day, a big bowl of ice cream can be especially effective in temporarily soothing our exhausted, hard-working selves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You can feel healthy, fit, and good in your own skin.
You can regain control of your schedule and your body. You can overcome emotional eating and cravings.
You can show love and appreciation to others while still taking care of yourself.

Emotional eating can be a direct result of not being conscious of what or why you’re eating. Therapists call this unconscious eating. Unconscious eating is when you’re done with your meal and you continue to pick at it, slowly eating the remaining portion that you intended to leave behind. It can also be putting chips, crackers or any other food in your mouth, just because it’s in front of you.

Possible Solutions

Find other ways to reward and soothe yourself besides food (and other self-destructive behaviors.) Will these other ways be as effective at soothing you as food? Absolutely not!  The things you come up with will help somewhat,  But, In order to truly give up emotional eating, you are also going to have to practice tolerating difficult feelings.

Try to remain mindful of what and when you are eating. It sounds crazy but you have to be intentional about asking yourself a series of questions so you can be more mindful of breaking the cycle. 
Why am I eating this?
What am I thinking?
What am I feeling?
Who am I with?

Emotional eating is a powerful and effective way to find temporary relief from many of life’s challenges. If it didn’t work so well, no one would do it. In order to stop this cycle of emotional eating, you have to make a commitment to reach deep inside yourself to find a place of grit and strength to break the cycle. 

Hopefully the above reminders can assist you in your journey.

The Truth About Corn

Corn has an undeserved reputation as a fattening, carb-laden, genetically altered food. Add to that its association with high-fructose corn syrup and you may find yourself wondering if corn on the cob deserves a place at your dinner table this summer. 

Information bullies live on the internet and lure on the people who are on the fence about tons of different nutritional topics. They scare us by using our indifference against us. I personally can't stand an information bully. They live to sway you to their camp or belief system. I always tell people who I come in contact with that the truth is somewhere in the middle. There are no absolutes in this lifestyle. 

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Let's break down this corn phenomenon. The short of it is you should enjoy corn guilt free. 

Admit it, there’s nothing quite like a crisp piece of corn on the cob. There seem to be a few myths that surround corn about the healthfulness of it as a vegetable. After all, something so sweet and delicious surely has to have a downside, right?

I often hear people say, "Humans don't digest corn."

Dietary fiber, the indigestible part of plant material, is made up of two main types. Soluble fiber easily dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the part of the gut known as the colon. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.

Corn has high amounts of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the kind of fiber that goes through the body intact and gets those bowel movements going. if you eat a lot of corn, you might see some of it in your stool, but insoluble fiber has been shown in research to help feed the “good” bacteria in our gut. If we’re looking at getting lots of good fiber in our diet, it’s good that [corn] has a higher ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber because it feeds the good gut bacteria in our body.

Vegetables like kale and spinach may have better reputations as nutrition all-stars, but corn has something to contribute, too. Corn contains certain B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as magnesium and potassium. Yellow corn is also a good source of two antioxidants, zeaxanthin, and lutein, which are good for eye health.

I've also heard the comment, "Corn is high in sugar." 

You don’t steer clear of bananas because you think they’re high in sugar, do you? Then why should you do the same for corn? A banana contains about the same amount of calories as an ear of corn. Both of them are around 110 calories. Guess what? A banana has more sugar than corn.  A cob of corn has around 6 to 8 grams of sugar, while a banana has about 15.

Don't let food bullies sway you one way or another. As you have heard from me before, there are no bad foods.

Improving Patience

One of the hardest things to learn when you embark on living a healthy lifestyle is patience. 

Being on a ranch a lot growing up and being introduced to weightlifting at a young age taught me the power of patients. 

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The purpose of building patience will impact your lens on living a healthy lifestyle, self-confidence, and strength. Improving your patient abilities also improves your relationships, professional success, and coping with stress. We can all work to develop more patience. An important idea here is that developing patience is just that. Developing a skill. We aren't born with it. It comes with time. 

After all, we can't just come out the womb knowing how to drive a vehicle and maneuver through traffic without ever learning the basics of vehicle safety, and driving practice. We practice and practice some more until we get it down. 

I have to talk about the importance of patience all the time to family, friends, and clients on a weekly basis. When they are exhibiting habits of impatience the evidence of their actions can be detrimental to their success in achieving whatever goal they may have. 
1) Bouncing from diet to diet. One week they're Keto and the next week they are on the Mediterranean diet. Or one week they want to lift weights and do cardio and next week they want to practice yoga and walk 10,000 steps. Having the patience to see something through is tough when you are looking for instant results. 
2) Being unkind to themselves for not being "perfect" on whatever regimen they are following. Or comparing their success to others. Being patient enough to stay in your lane and remain on course when you see others passing by seems hard in theory but doable with enough patience. 
3) Having a judgemental attitude. Impatience leads them to believe that there is a one size fits all approach. 

"Comparison is an act of violence against the self. " ~ Iyanla Vanzant

One of the first steps in growing patients is to get in touch with the addictive quality of the opposite of patience. Things like anger, irritation, blaming, shaming. The opposite of patience typically starts with a slight discomfort and tensing in the stomach area that goes along with the interpretation that things are not going our way. We even start to play a little storyline of certain sayings like,
"I have never seen such a thing..."
"How could they..."
"They did this on purpose..."
"I can't believe this happened to me..."
"I'm stuck with..."
"I look terrible because..."
You know the rants. We all have them. And we can grow beyond them.

So many of us have the belief that being "comfortable" is the only state we will tolerate. I have a good friend who wanted to stop using tobacco a while back. He had learned to say to himself, "This is merely uncomfortable, not intolerable." It helped him enormously to break his habit. It is okay to be fine with the circumstances that may present themselves from time to time and still seek change. 

Pain has its purpose in our lives. It pushes us to find solutions. Improving our patience is an inside job. Embrace it. 

Resilient Mindset

In my personal experience overcoming challenging events take a lot of resilience. Overcoming problems and troubleshooting will be something that you have to deal with on a daily basis when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. 

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a challenging event or overcome a series of obstacles that have gotten in the way of an individual achieving their goals.

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I believe that resilience and mindset have a strong connection.  A person's personal outlook can affect how they react when problems exist. 

Psychologists have studied the difference between “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”, and how these affect one’s ability to achieve success.  Those with a “fixed mindset” tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, and ignore useful negative feedback. On the contrary, individuals who possess a more “growth mindset” have been shown to embrace challenges, endure in the face of adversity, and learn from criticism.  It is easy to see how those who possess more of a “growth mindset” will be more likely to carry traits of resiliency like patience, compassion, gratitude, and letting go. Those that have a growth mindset tend to bounce back from challenging events more effectively.

Having a fixed mindset can derail you from achieving your goals. It will show up in many ways throughout your journey. I have had several coaching sessions about this topic but here is an example of a fixed mindset and how it can be detrimental to your healthy lifestyle journey. 

It's not easy to be physically active in society today. We have the convenience attitude when it comes to most tasks because we feel like we are saving time. So things that could actually aide us in being physically active we will avoid simply because it doesn't fit perfectly into our schedule and it may be challenging to add anything to it. You would be surprised how much your daily activity stepped up if you did tasks like cleaning your car by hand, cleaning your home without the assistance of a maid service, washing dishes by hand, and walking to get the mail instead of stopping by it in our cars on the way home. 

Resiliency is extremely important because obstacles will always arise in an effort to derail you from your goals.  For example, I am a health coach and my job is to help clients achieve their fitness goals.  Some of these include increasing strength, losing weight, gaining lean muscle, and improving health in an effort to get off medication. I am confident in my abilities to design a well-researched, high-level program to help them get there. The actual implementation of the program presents its own set of problems. Some clients have young children to take care of, while others have most of their time consumed by work and travel.  While children, work, and travel all demand unique attention, none of them allow my clients to spend more time in the gym working on their health and wellness.  Hence, these variables, while very important in life, are often obstacles that get in the way of one achieving their goals.

I would be remiss in my coaching duties to allow my clients to continue to let these variables derail them from making themselves healthier.  Therefore, we plan around these other demands in search of what I like to call, “areas of opportunity”.  Many people tend to dwell on all of the time they don’t have to exercise or prepare food (fixed mindset) as opposed to the time that they do have (growth mindset).  I love to ask the right questions and have a conversation about identifying areas of opportunity for people to commit to their health and wellness goals.  I promise there's always a way to create time to hit your goals. You may just have to be very strategic in how you go about it. Once you identify this, you can set up an action plan to implement into your program in a more manageable and realistic fashion.

But you have to make the mental shift to a growth mindset and be resilient when problems present themselves. Because they will, just wait. 

2018 Resolutions

Let's talk statistics. I want to give the bad news before we talk about a solution to the problem. 
* 25 percent of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions after one week.
* 60 percent of people abandon them within six months. (The average person makes the same New Year’s resolution ten separate times without success.)
* Only 5 percent of those who lose weight on a diet keep it off; 95% regain it. A significant percentage gain back more than they originally lost.
* Even after a heart attack, only 14 percent of patients make any lasting changes around eating or exercise.

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I need to get something off my chest. You may or may not agree with me and that is fine. We can talk about it. Just keep an open mind as you continue to read (hopefully). 

Setting new goals can be depressing. I've witnessed this mindset with clients, friends, and family I've worked with over the years, and I've even felt the same way personally sometimes. On one hand, we take stock of all we didn't do that we thought we might during the current year, and on the other hand, we face another year and wonder if we can muster a shred of hope to make things different. 

What should we do instead? Should we throw out all the sticky notes, do away with making a list of resolutions or what? 

I can tell you what I've done that has drastically changed at how I set goals, and achieve the things that I want to do different year to year. 

Did you know that research shows that people who focus on the process of achieving the desired outcome are more likely to achieve it than those who simply think about the outcome itself? The key difference is focusing on the process of achieving the desired outcome, not just thinking about the outcome.

Last year I wrote about having a new mindset and creating a mantra for the year. This year I want to discuss a new way of framing the things you want to achieve. 

1) Write it down. 

Sounds simple, right? Don't jump ahead on me yet. Let me explain. 

Life is hard. It is particularly difficult when you aren’t seeing progress. You feel like you're working yourself to death, going nowhere. But written goals are like mile-markers on a highway. They enable you to see how far you have come and how far you need to go. They also provide an opportunity for celebration when you attain them. Writing into your future further engages your imagination, emotions, and other problem-solving faculties so that you more fully assimilate the process ahead.

2) Tell someone. 

There are two problems with trying to lay out your goals and then attain them alone. One, isolation. A major contributing factor to people feeling blue during the holidays is social isolation. Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. We seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have the fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals. We function best when this social need is met. It is easier to stay motivated, to meet the varied challenges of life. When we share our goals with a trusted person in our life we will be held accountable and have the opportunity to share the ups and downs of the journey to reach our goals. Finding accountability groups, masterminds, or other circles can help us attain our goals. Such circles provide inspiration for getting new ideas, gaining strategy for meeting challenges, and celebrating when milestones are reached.

Mindset, a strong will, and positive action all help us manifest our vision, goals, and intentions.  You should get started, right now.

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!