The Importance Of Sleep

People often eat mindlessly and in general, mindless habits involve less healthy alternatives. For example, the amount of food that people eat often depends on the size of the dishes or containers, and on the size of the utensils. People served themselves 31% more ice cream when given larger bowls and 57% more when supplied with larger bowls and larger serving spoons.

How do we combat this?


Sleep is one of those overlooked healthy habits.

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When it comes to losing weight, most people find it hard to change the behaviors that got them into trouble in the first place. It's challenging to improve food habits, or get yourself moving instead of sitting on the couch.

Did you know that the amount that you sleep can have a direct effect on whether you’re a healthy weight or overweight? Are you aware of the minimum hours of sleep that you need, to give yourself the best chance at succeeding with a weight loss program? Today, the average night’s sleep is only 7 hours a night. I’ve often wondered why I seem to need 8-9 hours. Everyone is different and the key is to find the right amount for you.

When you sleep less than 6 hours a night, your body produces a "hunger hormone" ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite and causes you to crave carbohydrate-rich and fatty foods. Talk about a nightmare.

When you get enough sleep, your body produces a satiety hormone, leptin, which naturally curbs your appetite. Crazy, but true. Just imagine how much easier it will be for you to make healthy food choices if you just. get. enough. sleep.

There you have it: the optimal weight loss plan should start with getting enough sleep. My hope is that you'll discover that it's far easier to lose weight than you thought, because you're physiologically empowered to make better choices and eat less.

Weight loss isn't easy. I don't mean to make light of that fact, but there's no question that being more rested will help you win in so many ways.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Using Fitspiration As Motivation

Fitspiration is a term used to describe the inspiration behind someone getting up and working toward their physique goals.

Most of these supposedly motivational memes and pictures portray men and women working out or posing to show off their physiques. They are traditionally in spandex or cut off shirts. They are typically drenched in sweat and sport an amazing six pack or a great pair of legs and butt. They will have some slogan that encourages pushing through pain, exhaustion, and hunger. Some of them sound like this. 

"Suck it up now so you don’t have to suck it in later."
"The only bad workout is the workout that didn't happen."
"No Pain, No Gain."

Is this a good form of motivation?

My answer: NO!

There is no research confirming fitspiration’s role in helping people maintain a healthy, sustainable level of physical activity.

A desire to workout because you want to emulate the toned, muscular individual on a fitspiration meme can be a source of short term motivation. The issue with this type of motivation is that is has a short life span. You may enter the 'grind harder' mentality but lose your stamina after learning how much exercise and time it takes to acquire that physique. It sounds good in theory but what's wrong with staying in your own lane?

A huge component of your success in improving your fitness is for you to develop a good relationship with exercise. If you don’t actually enjoy the gym or exercise in general, your interest in engaging in exercise to lose weight or gain muscle will peter out pretty quickly. 

I see a lot of disordered thinking from people looking at fitspiration as a vehicle to to get to there goals. In most cases it actually fosters the motivation to exercise less because it makes most feel worse about themselves. That ultra-fit ideal may seem so far away from where you are now that it is just easier to stay in the same place and resist change.

Fitspiration could alienate people from engaging in exercise, since they’re led to believe that the only way to do so is some over the top program. Most of those memes portray some high intensity boot-camp program, a workout dvd that looks impossible to complete, or a body builder’s weight training routine from his hay day. These memes make a leisurely stroll, bike ride, or a easy swim look like a waste of time. But they aren't because they can help you improve your health and fitness too.

Let me explain something real plain and simple to you.
Real fitness isn’t about having a ridiculously low body-fat percentage.
Real fitness isn't about being able to run a mile in under six minutes.
Real fitness isn't about being the biggest or the most buff person around.

Fitness involves being active enough to get your blood flowing at least once a day.
Fitness is about maintaining your heart, lung, brain, bone health, and emotional well being.
Fitness is about taking pleasure in the ability your body has to move rather than sitting in front of a computer screen or television.

5 Tips For Improving Sleep Quality

We can all agree that sleep is important. Well I hope we can at least. The benefits of sleep are unquestionable. But an increasing amount of research indicates that when we don’t focus on sleep we lose out on other parts of our life. When we routinely get enough quality sleep good things happen. We’re much more likely to make healthy food choices, we eat more vegetables, and we experience far fewer cravings. When we don't get enough sleep our appetites are out of control, cravings run wild, our inflammation increases, and our will power tank decreases. 

In short, when we get enough sleep, everything else has a tendency to fall into place.  And getting enough good sleep may be the single best thing we can do to help ourselves keep up with nutrition, fitness, and weight goals.

Through personal experience and reading through tons of research I've rounded up 5 small tips that will help you improve your sleep quality.  

1. Make A Bedtime
I feel like captain obvious by saying this. But it needs to be number one despite how easy it seems. Adults need a bedtime just like children do. That might mean committing to an hour less of television, coming home earlier from a social gathering or simply telling our partner that you are calling it a night! Aim for 6 to 8 hours a sleep. The formula to do that is pretty simple. Set a bed time 6 to 8 hours before you need to wake up. That may wind up being an early bed time. But your rest should be a priority. 

2. Turn Off The Gadgets
The rise of electronic screens means that it’s almost impossible to imagine an evening without a phone, television, iPad, e-reader, etc. Screens emit too much blue light, which harms our dim-light melatonin production. Either turn off screens to protect this sleep promoting hormone or switch your gadgets to night mode. Most new devices have this feature. 

3. Don't Forget To Exercise
Inactivity causes poor sleep. By exercising, we unleash a hormone-regulating effect throughout our bodies. Regulated hormones equal better sleep. This does not mean you should go outside and run miles on end. Neither should you try to punish your body in the gym with hard workouts. In fact, there’s evidence to support the idea that less-strenuous exercise is actually more beneficial for hormones. 30 minutes of walking each day can improve your sleep!

4. Keep Your Home Cool
Sleeping in a cool environment is an easy way to improve sleep. Ever notice that you wake up sweating during the night? Our bodies are designed to sleep best in an ideally cool environment. Try turning the temperature down to about 65-68°F and see how your sleep improves! If you are too cold then add blankets.

5. Wind Down
Taking 30 minutes each evening to wind down by reading, stretching or taking a relaxing bath can help your body transition from the hustle and bustle to sleep-sleep-sleep. This might mean cutting out 30 minutes of television every evening, or pushing your bedtime back by just a bit. But the peace of your evening routine will pay off!

Commit to one of these today and watch how your sleep improves.

Why Variety Is The Perfect Plan

In today's society driven by social media, filtered selfies, never ending marketing, and contradicting dogmatic beliefs it's no wonder people get lost in the world of nutrition in hope to look like the model from [fill in the blank with your favorite instagram account].

People everywhere are telling you they have found the perfect plan or cure all to get rid of stubborn belly fat. Paleo, vegan, ketogenic, as well as all the pharmaceuticals you're being advertised to buy... The list goes on and on.

I don't like to speak in absolutes. There are many factors, variables and exceptions to every rule. The fact of the matter is there is no plan or quick fix that works the the entire human population. Period. If someone is telling you this they're likely are trying to sell you something.

All this chaos started about half a century ago with the low or no fat diets based off anecdotal evidence. We've since come to realize these claims hold little merit. There is little evidence actually proving fats or cholesterol derived from our diets translate to body fat or cholesterol levels in our blood. In fact, we need fats for a ton of daily functions such as fuel our brain, create cell membranes, sex hormones, and more.

Then we came to the conclusion carbohydrates were the root of all evil. And though you may lose weight for a few weeks or months by cutting back, it can actually cause a ton of long term damage, especially for women.

This is when many people simply say the hell with it. I'll just eat as little calories as I can stand and I will lose weight and be healthier. Right? Not so fast, that causes a whole other host of problems.

The fact of the matter is the human body is very adaptive and can survive in some of the most extreme conditions but doesn't mean your body is healthy. Not sick and healthy are not interchangeable terms. Fitness and health is not black and white, it's a spectrum.

Do not risk your health in pursuit of the abs seen on the cover of the magazines. A lot of the times the models you see do a ton of harm to their bodies to reach that point and only look that way for a few days a year.

Next time you find yourself reaching for magic pills, powders, or potentially poisonous potions. Ask yourself a simple question, " will this make me healthier?" If you're even considering it, the answer is likely no. Aim for longevity by eating real, earth grown nutrient dense whole foods.

Having well balanced nutrition includes eating lean meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruit. Highly refined foods aren't bad but should be consumed in moderation.

Be careful with all the extremes you see today. Always air on the side of BALANCE.

What is the perfect plan? Variety.

Fitness Doesn't Define You

You’re not your diet or nutritional plan.

You’re not your workout program.

You’re not the size of your bra, shirt or jeans.

You're not the number on the scale or your body fat percentage. Health and fitness habits should not define you.

The ultimate goal for any health and fitness goal should be to create the best version of yourself that you possibly can. Exercise and nutrition are the vehicles to get you there but they are just that. Tools that give you the ability to live a more awesome life with no restrictions. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look better. I’ve built my career off helping people lose fat, improve fitness, and gain muscle. Everyone wants to feel confident and like how they look. But how we eat and work out should not consume our lives and dictate our every move.

Fitness shouldn't stress you out.

Fitness shouldn't overwhelm you.

Fitness shouldn't make you feel bad about yourself.

Fitness shouldn't be always be about chasing a lower body fat percentage or new personal best on bench press.

Fitness shouldn't be about arriving at some state of “perfection”.

If you feel any of those things then it is time for a change. The outcome isn't pretty if you continue down that path. It can lead to disordered eating habits, and uncontrollable binge eating. You could experience exhaustion from long and grueling workouts, a terrible obsession over a number on the scale, and constant dissatisfaction with your body. This is not a good road to travel down.

Your happiness shouldn't be predicated on you reaching your health and fitness goals.

Fitness should enrich your life. It makes your life better. Improving your fitness should build you up and help you to reduce your stress. It should make you appreciate your body for how it looks, but also the amazing things it’s capable of doing. Think about something for me. When's the last time you stopped to appreciate that you are better today than you were yesterday? Or the last time you stopped to think the amazing things your body can do instead of trying to change how it looks?

It is easy to look at what you lack. Make a different choice. Things could always be worse. If you have the ability to exercise in order to improve your lifestyle then you are fortunate. So to place your happiness based on the number on the scale is disastrous. 

When your health and fitness becomes a lifestyle it will no longer consume you. There is a learning curve because you have to gain all the skills necessary to make that transition but it will happen if you are consistent.

This won’t resonate with everyone, and I don’t expect it to. To some working out and eating well is only about, and will only ever be about looking good. That’s fine and completely understandable. But as you dig deeper in to this lifestyle you will notice that there is great carryover from your fitness routine that will impact everything you choose to do in this life. You will see that your relationships improve, your financial discipline sharpens, and you will start to have revamped look on life. A healthy lifestyle is much bigger than most give it credit for.

Gary Keller states in his book The ONE Thing, “Your body is an amazing machine, but it doesn’t come with a warranty, you can’t trade it in, and repairs can be costly. It’s important to manage your energy so you can do what you must do, achieve what you want to achieve, and live the life you want to live.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Have you ever felt like making a change was hard unless you were forced to make it. It seems the more we need to make a significant change, the harder it is to get going on it may be. 

Striving to do things differently is energizing and difficult at the same time.  An idea for a fresh start occurs to us and we revel in excitement at first. The commitment to it can even feel good too. But then comes the difficulty of following through. And this is where the rubber hits the road. Quitting a smoking habit is going to be hard. But improving your lifestyle so you can see your kids grow old is something that you are passionate about. But that won't be enough. It's a lifelong commitment and you have to have all your ducks in a row. In order for you to be successful at quitting you have to manage stress a different way, and approach your day to day with some flexibility. Because initial excitement will wear off. 

Some people do not like to make health and fitness goals because it makes them have to step outside of their comfort zone. It's easier to stay the same. The effort to lose weight, change a unhealthy addiction, or be discipline about going to the gym can be challenging. 

What makes us change then?

It turns out that some people make changes when they have to, not when they want to. Of course this isn't always true. But making the uncomfortable decisions on a daily basis to bring about change can be a daunting task. It’s just that the changes we most desire are hard, involving emotional responses that can be tricky to identify and challenging to unseat. We often need urgency to bring about change. For example, let's say you had a doctors appointment to get blood work done. The results came back showing that you now have Type II Diabetes. Your doctor informs you of all the health implications that come along with the illness and you are now scared straight. You immediately go home and start to examine what you haven’t wanted to see.  You realize all the mindless snacking you partake in, the liters of soda you consume daily, and the unhealthy choices you make on a consistent basis. You immediately start to put forth the effort to bring about change. A crisis often supplies the right kind of push and readiness. Necessity is a more powerful motivator than preference, willpower, or even a loved one’s begging. That is a sad truth. 

My father would always tell me to do things that make me uncomfortable until they become easy or comfortable to do. Some people may have the capacity to force themselves over the hump of deep hesitancy, but most of us take the path of least resistance day by day.

Everyone has the capacity to become mentally stronger.  And everyone has room for improvement. Changing the way you think, feel, and behave isn't an easy task. It takes dedication and commitment.

Just like going to the gym a few times won't make you physically strong, developing your mental muscle is also a lifelong process. Mental strength takes years to build and a lifetime to maintain.

Not everyone wants to improve their lives. And that's OK. Some people are afraid of the hard work, and others doubt their ability to create positive change. But if you want to challenge yourself to become the best you can, increasing your mental muscle will take you to the next level. I've seen it early in my career of 1 on 1 personal training, through virtual coaching with my clients through WebFit, and in my own life.

Your mind can be your biggest asset or your worst enemy. When you learn how to train it well, you can accomplish incredible feats. But it starts with doing what is hard on a regular basis. 

Philosopher William James said, “Do at least two things every day that you don’t want to do, for the very reason that you don’t want to do them.” 

Practice being uncomfortable. 

4 Benefits Of Having A Pet

The day Tiffany told me that she wanted a dog I was a little apprehensive. I hadn't had a dog since childhood so I wasn't sure I had what it took to be a good dog owner. But I wanted to be supportive and I was willing to study, learn and try my best to embrace the opportunity. I knew I had the raw ingredients to provide a good home for any pet. Patience, a kind heart, and the mindset to set proper rules, boundaries and limitations. We did our research and found the perfect match for our family. We decided on a lilac Miniature Chinese Shar-Pei. We traveled to Bonaparte, IA and picked up Mr. Sylas who was just a little over 8 weeks old. He rode home in my lap and from that day forward I knew everything was going to be okay. 

I was surprised that this creature was capable of so much empathy and love. It was like he could read the thoughts of me and Tiffany and wanted us to know we were loved in the midst of whatever is going on.

He continues to be a supportive presence in my life and helps balance Tiffany's stress levels. 

A substantial amount of evidence shows that pets improve our mental health and well-being. I've read great stories of pets improving the lives of many almost on a daily basis. 

Here are 3 ways pets improve our health that can be backed up with significant research. 

1. Pets can alter behavior. 
I can spend my entire day sometimes talking to clients about the ups and downs of the healthy lifestyle journey. You would think all my conversations would be sunshine and rainbows. But it isn't. Anytime someone is trying to change their lifestyle things can be dark sometimes. But when my Sylas walks up to me and pats at me for some attention things suddenly start to shift. So I kneel down and pet him. He licks my face, and I smile. He altered my behavior. I am no longer thinking about anything else but being in that moment with him. We calm down when we are with our pets. We slow our breath, our speech, and our minds. Pets take us out of our heads and into another reality. There reality is one that only involves food, water, affection, and maybe an animal butt. It’s tough to sit in negative feelings when your dog is breathing in your face.

2. Pets need routine and consistency.
Your healthy lifestyle journey is about establishing a solid routine and maintaining consistency over time. Pets love routine. Taking care of a pet brings structure to our day. Sylas wakes up at the same time everyday. Sleeping until the sun comes up is no longer a possibility unless I want to spend an hour cleaning up the next day. Staying out for long periods takes proper planning and some forethought. For you to be successful at living a healthy lifestyle requires the same qualities. 

3. Pets offer a soothing presence and unconditional love. 
Studies show that watching fish lowers blood pressure and muscle tension in people about to undergo oral surgery. Other research shows that pet owners have lower blood pressure and heart rate both before and while performing stressful mental tasks. Individuals recovering from heart attacks recover faster and survive longer when there is a pet at home. The mere presence of a pet is beneficial.

As far as we know, pets are without opinions, critiques, and judgement. Even if you smell like you just got home from the gym, they will snuggle up next to you. And I know for a fact I can spill the beans to Sylas about what I am feeling and divulge my innermost thoughts and not be judged.

4. Pets promote touch.
The healing power of touch is irrefutable. Research shows a 45 minute massage can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol and optimize your immune system by building white blood cells. Hugging floods our bodies with oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure and heart rates. And, according to a University of Virginia study, holding hands can reduce the stress-related activity in the hypothalamus region of the brain, part of our emotional center. The touch can actually stop certain regions of the brain from responding to threat clues. It’s not surprising, then, that stroking a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and heart rate and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine.

There are no pitfalls to owning a pet. Just extreme commitment, love and sacrifice. You could say the same about living a healthy lifestyle. 

Your Willpower Sucks

I had a deep conversation with one of my clients about willpower yesterday and I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts on it.

Willpower touches on nearly all aspects of healthy living. Eating right, exercising, avoiding alcohol, reading more, working harder, and spending less.

Our willpower is not at some constant level all day, waiting around for us to use it. Nope, it gets weaker with each decision we make. Ever wondered why you give into that late night dessert after resisting sweets all day? You said no to the cake at work, and you didn't go to lunch with the crew. But when you got home and ate dinner you couldn't turn down the cookies that were left over from the party last weekend.

Where was that willpower to bail you out then?

Roy Baumeister, a prominent psychologist, has researched the phenomenon of decision fatigue. This is the idea that our willpower decreases with each decision. Decision fatigue is what leads to analysis paralysis. This is why it is tough to make good decisions when your brain is low on mental energy.

The key to making a healthy lifestyle change is achieving more with less will power. Well how in the world do you do that? I'm going to tell you!

I've got two easy hacks that will help you reach your goals without relying on willpower alone.

1. You should plan your day the night before or days before.

Have what you are going to eat planned out and prepared the night before. You can easily take the stress of 'figuring it out' away. Most people are exhausted before they even get to work in the morning. You woke up trying to think of what to wear, what to eat, and how you were going to fit in your errands after work. You are mentally exhausted before you even got in the car to drive in the terrible traffic. Your efforts to avoid eating sweets all day won't last long with that type of daily mental fatigue.

Pack your gym bag and place it in the car the night before. Scrounging around for your sports bra or Under Armour tights in the morning when you are running late can be mentally exhausting. Lay out your clothes and make sure they are ready to go will eliminate some of that decision fatigue. 

Research from Harvard Business School shows that when we make decisions for our future selves, we make better decisions.

So, the night before, plan out as many decisions as you can.

2. Commit in advance.

I often hear, "I"m going to wait until I get off work to see if I 'feel' like going to the gym. Let me be the first to give it to you straight, nine times out of ten you aren't going to feel like going. Your feelings are always going to take the more comfortable route. Committing in advance takes the question out of whether you will do something or not.

This is sometimes why having a trainer to hold you accountable comes in handy. Deciding to hit the gym or get your home workout in can be hard when you are on your own. But if you know your trainer is going to be asking you, "How did the workout go?" then you will be more inclined to get it done.

It may be because you parted with your hard earned money and you want to hold true to your commitment. Or you may have a deep respect for your trainer and don't want to let them down. Whatever it may be, it all comes down to committing in advance.

These are just some strategies that may help you when have a healthy lifestyle goal you want to achieve. Don't get caught in the crossfires of believing that your willpower will get you through.

You see, it’s much easier to have discipline when you set things up in your favor.

Your 2017 Mantra

As we enter the start of 2017 millions of people will sit down with a pen and pad to lay out the goals and expectations for the year. We rarely think of the wonderful accomplishments of the past year. Instead, we focus on the improvements we want to make in the year to come. The new year is always an opportunity to start fresh.

I want to offer a new frame of thought. Weight loss is a popular New Years resolution because we associate it with all kinds of other things. Starting new diets are often something I have to deter people from doing when the new year begins. It is the single biggest mistake when trying to change your lifestyle. It is a battle that you will never win because restriction at high levels is not a smart approach.

I have written a mantra that you may find helpful. It is more like a shout that ends in a cry because I'm so passionate about you taking a different route. I hope you find it helpful in your journey.

"I will not diet in 2017. The reason I am sitting in my current state is not because my diet has failed me. I recognize that diets do not work. The shelf life of me being super strict is short and the most predictable outcomes of me partaking in a diet are disordered eating, weight regain, and loads of emotional/physical stress."

"I will work diligently to accept my body for the way it is. I understand that practicing self love doesn't mean that I can't strive to make improvements in my physique. I will not judge my self worth by the number on scale but by the quality of my character."

"I will make strides daily to improve my health. I understand that a healthy body comes in various shapes and sizes and I will be happy with the one I have. I will make it a priority to eat mindfully. I will not use food as a strategy to help me handle the stress of daily life. Moving more and exercising on a consistent basis will be how I honor my body. I will listen to my body and trust the process because my health is important."

Why I Believe Gyms Exist

There is a gym in every community now. I was curious on how many where in my community. So I did some research to see how many gyms were in a 10 mile radius of where I lived. 

Twenty-One gyms in a 10 mile radius from my home. Wow!

Why are there so many fitness facilities? 

I can't speak for all fitness facilities. I can only hope that they have a clear vision in how they will play their part in guiding their clientele to a healthier lifestyle. 

The gyms that are around my community all have different reasons for why they preach certain principles. Some are CrossFit Boxes, yoga studios, corporate ran facilities, old school mom and pop gyms, and community facilities like YMCA's. 

I have my own personal opinion on why gyms exist and I think more gyms would be successful in helping the public improve their lifestyles if they adopted this train of thought too. 

All facilities are open for one simple purpose when you break it down to the core. To practice and improve movement. 

Yes, we live different lives than we did from our ancestors. We don't move as much. There were no gyms back in the day when we walked more, and had more labor intensive jobs. There was no need for them because people were lifting heavy objects, squatting down, and put things up over our heads numerous times in a day. They also stood for most of the day. 

In today's age we have to practice movement more. We are missing it in our professional lives. Which is not a bad thing. But time needs to be set aside to make the gym a priority so we can improve our ability to move. I believe that many of us take movement for granted. We wait until something hurts, or put up with pain until a healthcare professional shines a light on it. 

How many times do you squat down to pick something up off the ground vs how many hours you are sedentary? 

We sit down to put our socks on. We prop our feet up to put our shoes on. We get the closest parking spots we can find and we opt to take an elevator over stairs. 

Gyms exist so we can work on our movement patterns and improve our bodies so our quality of life stays high. These places that are filled with equipment are open so we can correct movement patterns, improve our strength,  and increase our performance. When you feel the ache in your lower back, or the pain in your feet from long walks; it happens because of weak muscular systems and faulty movement patterns. How else are we supposed to manage the way we were designed to move? Most jobs certainly aren't conducive to helping you age gracefully. Something has to give. 

Make it a point to practice movement. It will make you stronger, more mobile, and pain free. It just so happens that the gym is a really good place to practice. You have all the tools that you need at your disposal. It is up to you to use them to your benefit. 

Is "Fit Shaming" A Thing?

It shouldn't be a thing!

Unfortunately, it is a thing but people that have accomplished a high level of fitness need to get over it. 

Having a fit body is still revered in society. I've seen it first hand. 

Having a fit body gives you confidence, provides the ability to move pain free, and grants you many health benefits. Individuals that are experiencing weight issues often have negative self images, adverse health conditions, and in some cases a pessimistic outlook on life. Society sees fit people as attractive, energetic, successful, and focused. Someone who is undertaking body weight struggles are viewed as lazy, unhappy, destructive, and unkept. 

I find that to be unfortunate because most of my best friends are not gym rats like myself and they are amazing. They are some of the smartest, most beautiful, honest, and driven people I know. Yes, they have a personal battle with health and fitness. Who doesn't have some sort of personal struggle? They are still worthy of love and respect. 

From my point of view "fit shaming" is pointless. It is making a claim about something that is petty. Which is insulting to the millions of Americans struggling with body weight struggles, obesity, and societal standards. 

I understand that in certain circumstances being fit will be weird to some people. I hear negative comments all the time but I deal with them the correct way. 

"You're obsessed!" Yes I am. I love the way this lifestyle makes me feel and the opportunities it gives me outside the gym. 

"Meal prep is a waste of time!" I like to etch out some time on a weekend day to prepare for the week so I don't have to think about what I should be eating next. 

"Lifting heavy is bad for you!" Losing muscle is bad for you. You can lose up to 15% - 50% of your muscle mass between the ages of 25-40. What do you think will happen when you lose half your muscle mass?What are you doing to slow this down?

"You have a lunch bag everywhere you go?" Well if there were more quality options for me to eat then I wouldn't have to. 

"Muscles look gross!" I can take my groceries in the house in one trip. Equal trade out. 

Will people look at fit people weird? Of course. Will fit people fit in with all crowds? No, people judge subconsciously all the time. Are people going to bounce their own insecurities off of you? Heck yes. Give them a little grace. 

What they are experiencing on a day to day basis is far worse than you hitting personal best in the gym and training for an hour to two hours a day. 

When you accomplish a high level of fitness you need to understand a couple things. Everyone won't understand you and everyone won't accept you. But you will be okay. 

I'd like to live in a world where people were not judged on their appearance but by the content of their character. Our society doesn't seem to be moving in that direction. My best advice is to continue to love yourself and don't allow others to decide your value. 

Why Can't I Look Like That

Wake up. Shower. Brush teeth. Mirror. Endlessly Stare.

“I wish I had a different nose and bigger lips”

 “Ugh, I hate my arms.”

“Geez….those eyes look more like the amazon.”

“I look too muscular… no guy will like me.”

“Why can’t I look like the fitness model on my Instagram?”

“I wish I was her/him.”

 When you peak inside the brain of a girl or maybe some guys, you may find these horrible and detrimental thoughts that have been eating and tearing away at their inner and outer beauty. Their negative thoughts are brought to them by comparison.

I have fallen victim to the callous act of comparison.

I truly believe that social media has accomplished more insecurities and concerns amongst my generation.

Nowadays we aimlessly scroll through our Facebook and Instagram only to compare how we look or how we don’t look to others.

There is so much animosity between girls and even some guys, which is just so crazy to me because it use to not be like that.

 When people compare themselves to others, they are immediately starting a losing battle.

We cannot change into another person, but you can change your health status, physical appearance and the way you perceive yourself. This is done by sticking to an individualized exercise program, meal plan and managing stress.

No. You will not look like Jane Doe in you Instagram photos nor will anyone look like you. We are all individually and uniquely made. 

Stop feeding into a vicious cycle of comparing yourself or trying to be like someone when you are so special in your own way.