What I believe: Part 2 Section 2

In this installment I will talk about one key area that not many recognize or know how to properly deal with – stressors in our lives. 

In our modern age we are bombarded with stressors from all sides.  Not only from gadgets and gizmos which keep us “hyper connected” but simply from the fact our days and nights are not as cut and dry.  Our bodies are seemingly designed to operate around the circadian rhythm, the rising and setting of the sun, however with unnatural light abundant along with night shift work being normal – we simply don’t stay in tune with our bodies.  I used to think this was bogus, but I was a consistent night shift worker for about 6 years, and today I still often have to work night shift.  I can tell a huge difference in how I feel working nights vs. days, even when the shift is consistent for longer periods it takes a week or longer to feel normal again once back on days.  I simply think we would all be healthier if we returned to our old methods of working during the day and sleeping at night. 

But working nights is fairly minor compared to a lot of the other stressors in our lives.  For example the job we hate but take home with us, the consistent arguments and tension with loved ones, or just our general outlook on life.  All of these things can greatly hamper any changes we want to make, as well as our overall enjoyment of life.

At my job I once worked 80hr weeks, not just 80hrs in the terms of shifts but 80hrs at random.  I was on call at all times, I got called at all times – morning, day, evening, night, weekends you name it.  At first I handled this ok, it was just the hand I was dealt at my job, but over time this wore me out.  The calls were so intrusive, it started to make me loathe my job because I could never do anything in my personal life without some interruption.  I could not just “forget work and relax” because as sure as I would I would be called.  I discussed this with management, got some bones thrown my way, and tried to convince myself that it was worth it.  It wasn’t.  Things got worse, I complained more and got more pay, but again it didn’t solve the issue.  Eventually I was completely worn down and on the verge of mental collapse, I was hearing my phone ring when it wasn’t ringing!I simply had to change this situation and made one final plea with management before I was going to seek another job (economy has been tough, and I tend to be stubborn).  I had finally put my foot down, and they listened.  What I was once doing solo now had 5 headcount for the same job, after the initial training phase life became tremendously easier – and I even was getting paid more yet again.  It ended up being a WIN WIN for me, all it took was me to finally stand up for myself and voice my concerns in a matter of fact tone. 

My main point of this is, take note of the things in your life which are impacting you on a regular basis.  Once you have done this, try to find ways to alleviate these problems otherwise you simply won’t have the energy, the drive, or the will to see your plans through. 

If you have relationship problems, try to find out the root cause and then try to work together to resolve it – in the worst case scenario where you are getting nothing but losing a lot, perhaps you should let go of the relationship and move on.  This is difficult but it is nothing compared to living a life with someone you can’t stand, or someone who only drags you down. 

If you find yourself constantly looking at the negative things in life, why?  If you can understand the root of this, you can once and forever finally deal with it. A key here is recognizing your successes when they happen – the surest way to fail is to not recognize success.  I had a friend once that lost 200lbs in about a year, but he wasn’t happy and he kept saying “but who cares, I am still fat!” because he still had 50lbs to go.  Guess what…he eventually quit his diet and he has never reached his goal (so far, I am working on him!).  By not recognizing his HUGE success he had over his first year, he didn’t refuel his tanks to finish out his goals and he simply ran empty.

In short, every day is a new day.  Forget failures in the past, forget what you expect to happen, forget who you think you are or what you think others think of you, forget what you normally do – change yourself.  Just get up in the morning and make a change you want to make, see it through, recognize your success, revaluate your goals from time to time, and reinvest all that positive energy into more changes.  It works, it just takes a little faith and patience.

Lag in posting

There has been a lag in my posting, this is primarily due to work and things like wedding planning, taxes, and so forth.  I have more to post on my ideas, I just haven’t had the time yet.

I have also not been at home as much, so getting my results week to week has not been easy.  My diet is mostly on track and I seem to be hovering around 195lbs with measurements remaining about the same.  I may be at a plateau for now, or possibly re-compositioning as I am still doing crossfit and martial arts training.  I do know I am getting much stronger, for example I have never really dead lifted before and I was able to lift 405lbs Monday night.  I was surprised for sure as I am up there with some of the stronger guys in the bunch.  Based on previous experience with similar lifts, I was only expecting maybe 325-350 and 400lbs was an actual goal I had planned to work towards.  My new goal is 450lbs, and my longer term goal is 500lbs or at least 2.5x body weight depending on what I end up weighing in the long run.

But much more then strength I am developing my overall abilities such as balance, endurance, speed, etc… all areas are getting better.  It seems like I am constantly sore, which is a new feeling for me as my other workouts I must have adapted too because I rarely ever felt soreness.  I am sure this will pass with more time, but there are so many different workout types they do it may take time.  Overall I really like crossfit, and I also really enjoy the people at my gym.  They are competitive but helpful like a community instead of individuals out for only themselves.  Also there is such a wide array of abilities and diversity, its just all very interesting because there is always someone really good at something which shows you there is so much room for personal improvement.  It is also inspirational to see people who never really work out get better and better as they develop their skills and body over time.  All in all very glad to have joined the gym.

2/20/2013 Checkpoint

Here are my results from the past week compared to my start date of Jan 1st:

1/1/2013 2/20/2013 Difference
Weight 202.5 196.1 6.4
Stomach 39 36.75 2.25
Waist 36.75 35.75 1
Bicep 13.5 13.25 0.25
Thigh 24.5 23.5 1
Calves 16.25 15.75 0.5
Chest 40.5 39 1.5
Total Inches

6.5

This is one of those odd checkpoints for me, I actually gained 3lbs from last Wednesday, yet I am down another inch in my total measurements.  I have been doing strength training + crossfit, plus I did 6hrs of martial arts training this weekend on top of my normal day to day routines, so I have been quite active overall.  It is possible that I have put on muscle, but to me that just seems like a big number difference.  Maybe it is just a hydration issue, or something along those lines.  I am not going to be tripped up by this, I just find it interesting how body weight fluctuates and its another testament to not using the scale as your sole checkpoint.

Crossfit is going great, I am getting better at running myself at high intensity for the duration of the WOD, and in our strength training sessions I am getting better as well.  Last night I added 40lbs to my push press PR, a lot of this is just gains from getting familiar with the technique (never done this movement before).  I actually think I have some more left in the tank, but we ran out of time and I am taking this somewhat slow anyways.  Plenty of time to crush PR’s in the coming year 🙂  I was also able to clean the weight back up to the rack each time with no issue also, overall was a good workout.

My fiancee is also doing great at this, I am so proud of her as she has never done any type of weight lifting or heavy exercise other then running, but she seems to be really enjoying it and each week she gets better at the movements.

Our actual WOD was (for time):

10/1  (start at 10 of each, then count down to 1 of each, so end total 55 reps each)
Double wall balls (20lb ball, deep squat and toss up ~8-10 feet, do another deep squat while its in the air, then catch)
Pushups

Again doesn’t sound like a lot but its the for time part that gets you, I got this done in a little over 5 minutes, but was breathing/sweating hard during (which is great).  I was happy I was able to do full pushups the entire time after the strength work earlier because I haven’t really done any pushups or bench press type activities in a very long time, though my arms were tiring at the end for sure.  My legs were surprisingly shot also, after the WOD and I had recovered some, I tried for fun to do some plyo’s on the boxes and found my legs had very little strength left to jump.

All in all, I feel I am still on track and making good progress.

What I believe: Part 2 Section 1

In this part of the series I will talk about working through your mental or emotional baggage, along with dealing with stressors in your life.  In this first section I will focus on working through the mental or emotional baggage we all seem to carry with us.

But first, lets talk about why its not good to hang on to these negative emotions.  The main thing to consider is, holding onto negative emotions does nothing good for you.  Sure some of us feel more comfortable with ourselves if we dwell in our own pity and sorrow, but quite frankly that gets us nowhere in life.  We have a finite amount of time on this earth, there is no sense in clinging to the past 24/7.  Every day is a new opportunity to grow, learn, and achieve successes in our lives – why throw that away?  Sorry if I sound like a motivational speaker here, but honestly it is the truth, try not to be too attached to your “past or current story” that you cannot live and create the story you would rather be living.

You see our minds are essentially computers we program with our thoughts, what we think about the most is the program that is running.  If you always tell yourself your fat, ugly, weak, weird, or simply just not good enough – that is the goal your brain is seeking to fulfill.  It doesn’t understand that you wish to be different, it just keeps hearing the same thing and over time locks you into that mold.  Same goes with positive thinking, if you constantly tell yourself you are fit, good looking, strong, normal, and good enough for whatever you need you will start to reap rewards of this way of thinking.  It is very hard to accomplish a task such as fat loss, while still telling yourself that your too fat or not deserving, at some point your brain will over ride your willpower and you will fail, and not be able to bounce back.  It all starts with the real desire to lose the fat and get healthy, but you must persevere and obtain those goals by changing the way you look at the world to a more positive view which allows you to see the good with the bad.  When you see the good, you can use this energy to leapfrog you forward, to get back up if you fall down, or to simply maintain where your at currently.  If you never see the good, well, you will always have too many reasons to stop trying.

To give one brief personal example of how much the mind controls things, in middle school we were lifting weights during football one day.  A we had 185lbs on the bench press and a few of us were trying to lift it etc.…  One of my “scrawny” friends came in, who had never bench pressed more then 125lbs, he didn’t really pay attention to the weight on the bar and asked us how much it was and we all said 125lbs.  He tried it and lifted it with relative ease!  We were shocked, he asked us what is wrong and we told him its 185lbs…he didn’t believe us at first, but then added up the weight and was also shocked.  He tried this again and it sank like a rock and he could not barely get it off his chest…now that he knew it was more then he normally lifts he couldn’t do it.  Amazing I say, our brains can play tremendous tricks on us, we limit ourselves all the time with simple thoughts, instead of just trying something new and seeing what happens.

And for those that keep comparing themselves to others, this is not good either, the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.  Sure, it is fun to compare yourself at times to others to see where you stack up and of course its fun to be 1st at things, but remember in any of these comparisons it is a one dimensional comparison that has relative low value.  That guy at the gym that lifts 100lbs more than you, might not be able to sprint as fast as you.  The super intelligent coworker may not have common sense which may get them into awkward situations.  That person with the super hot body you envy may be so vain and arrogant that nobody can ever get close to them, so they live lonely lives.  It is all relative, we are a sum of infinite data reference points, to focus on one point of data from one point of time is simply ridiculous, and besides this we never know what our true potential is until we keep trying to reach it.  Yes some things we simply won’t be able to change, but again there are INFINITE things that go into our being that we do well and should like and acknowledge.

But there are other reasons other then just the logic and reasoning behind keeping an open and optimistic mind, what we feel mentally and emotionally impacts our physical state of being as well.  Everyone has heard of the fight or flight response, it’s a protection mechanism when we are confronted with danger to either gear up to run away or fight.  Well what most people don’t understand is that even non tangible items can cause this response, if your constantly unhappy and angry at the world your body responds to this similar to a pack of wolves chasing you.  Perhaps at a lower level, but the thing to be aware of here is that type of response is almost on 24/7 for some people versus a short term event like out running a pack of wolves.  This response is supposed to be brief to help us survive confrontations, its not supposed to be 24/7/365.  When it is long duration, it tears down the body because it requires tremendous energy to remain at this alerted state.  You will start to crave sugar to try to keep the system running, you will tear down muscle lowering your metabolism setting you up for gaining fat, your immune system will take a hit leaving you vulnerable to diseases, and in the long term your mental health will also decline.

So what do you do about this?  I have found the best thing is to channel this into something else, such as exercise.  I found martial arts really helps keep me grounded because its something I can do and take my mind off everything else (moving meditation), and also strength/crossfit type workouts help keep relieve any excess energy I am dealing with along with letting me regularly see successes and gains.  Meditation, yoga, hiking, walking, or really any other (healthy) hobby in which you can get engrossed into helps.  We all need downtime, and I believe we also all need (some) exercise for optimal health – we just seem wired that way.

In closing, this is really a keystone to your success, you can do a lot of things and gain a lot of ground with shear willpower.  However, to lock in your successes, and to reach your ultimate potentials, you simply must have the right frame of mind.  Do not underestimate this, let go of things in the past that may have hurt you or dragged you down.  Life is too short to be obsessed about things we cannot change, lets focus on things we can change, work to change them, acknowledge successes we make, and ultimately become the best person we can be.

What I believe: Part 1 Section 3

In this final section of part 1 I will mainly talk about initiating your journey to eating better.  I am not going to bore or detail out several days of foods, but try to give you some concepts that will help you find your way.  I personally haven’t quite reached my “ripped physique” yet, but I am within ~15lbs of that for sure and I know the weight I am at right now is healthy.  I have lost over 70lbs now with very low effort (compared to all the other methods I tried), and I am pretty sure that doesn’t tell you the whole store in itself because I believe I have put on at least 15lbs of muscle during my journey (if not more, never been stronger in my life).

If your just now wanting to start to change your diet, the first things I would say to you are:

  • Be ready to put in more effort to eat proper foods
  • Get the sugar out
  • If at all possible, plan for the unexpected
  • What your going to eat will never be “perfect” 100% of the time

Be ready to put in more effort to eat proper foods

First thing is first, most of us wanting to get healthy, fit, or lose fat have probably been living eating drive in to restaurant to pre-packaged store bought meals for a very long time.  Sure it is easy, quick, and requires very little brain power other then deciding what would taste good at the time.  The problem here is its dreadful for our bodies, it loads us with toxins, throws off our hormones, makes us fell bad, and sets us up for disease on down the road.  Whether you believe it or not, what you do or don’t do does eventually come full circle in later years.  Keep in mind it is not always just how long we live either, but the quality of life we have at the end of our years.  Do you want to grow old and be bed ridden and taking handfuls of meds to stay alive?  Or do you want to be so active that you may even offer a challenge to the young whipper snappers?  The choice is really up to you, but you make that choice at young age, not when you get old.  Yes, you can dramatically change your life with proper diet when your old, but if you have 60+ years of damage done already, your starting very far back in the pack to ever get there.

So having said that, just be prepared to think more about what you eat.  This can be frustrating, especially at first when you have no “go to meals” and are still confused about what to eat.  My advice is hang in there, find things you like to help you get through this phase, and keep trying new things.  I believe in varying your diet, we probably ate a lot of different things when we wandered the land and lived off it.  However if all you like initially are a few things – eat those to keep you on track.  Once you establish this new way of thinking/eating, and have spent some time with it so your more comfortable, you will start to find all sorts of things you like.

Also don’t underestimate how your taste can change over time, once you get the chemicals and sugars out of the system, things will taste different.  So don’t be afraid to try something you did not like before, after you have had the processed junk out of your diet for a while.

Expect to be tired initially since most likely your going to not be eating nearly the same amount of carbs that you have been, your body is not used to relying on fat for energy, it takes some prodding and time to adjust but it will happen if you can remain consistent.  Once it does you will feel better then you ever did living carb meal to carb meal.

So basically, be prepared to put in some effort, remember that all change requires effort.  Also be willing to be patient and to give this some time, and if you need to pick a few things you like to eat to keep on track with, do so but be open to try or retry new things.

Get the sugar out

I can’t say this enough, if you don’t get the sugar out you will always have issues with fat loss.  Insulin shuts off fat burning, sugar spikes insulin, spikes of insulin make you tired and groggy and lead to bad decision making skills.  If you simply must have some sugar, please try to make it only after intense workouts.  There is some science behind this, your muscles are normally insulin resistant so insulin primary works on fat cells, however if you have just worked out intensely (within 30-45min or so is optimum) your muscles become very sensitive to insulin.  So theoretically if you have your sugar post (intense) work out all of that (within reason) will go into the muscles as glycogen – much better then fat.  This is not a free pass to eat sugar though, if you don’t consume this sugar you will burn more fat over time (usually the goal we are after) replacing the glycogen through gluconeogenesis.

And when I say sugar, I mean all sugars including fruits (especially juices).  Wait, but you said I can have fruit before right?  Yes, some fruit in moderation is fine, especially after your at your goal body fat percentage, but there is building evidence that a lot of fruit can be bad for you:

Mercola Fructose 1

Mercola Fructose 2

Mercola Fructose 3

Probably best to eat fruit in moderation, or to cycle it in and out of the diet, remember with fructose your liver is required to process it.  When the liver is tied up processing fructose its not going to be burning fat.

I’d even suggest removing any sugary items from your cupboards and panty, I know if you live with others this might not work but if you can do so.  You won’t be as tempted to eat bad things, and even if you are you will have to perform some activity to get them (get up, get dressed, drive somewhere, etc..).  Often if you just add in some “work” to getting an item like this, its enough for you to realize you don’t really need it.

Basically sugar will be a down fall, avoid it as much as you can initially, eat fruit in moderation or cycle it, and if you simply must have it -have it only have it after an intense workout.

Plan for the unexpected

Not easy to do, but if you can come up with some staple “go to” snacks and meals you can take a lot of the stress out of unexpected life events.

Say you come home and need to rush off somewhere unexpectedly, but you haven’t eaten dinner yet and what you had planned to eat takes too long to cook.  If you have a go to snack on hand you can snack till later when you can cook, keeping you from reaching for junk because your in a hurry.

Another one is when the office decide to take you out for lunch, dinner, or whatever.  Initially it may seem like you can’t eat anything, however most restaurants have salads or some form of meat and vegetables without the carbs (even if you have to ask for it that way).  For example tonight I will be going out with some work friends to a Mexican restaurant, I’ll order carne asada (flank steak) with grilled vegetables, hold the rice and beans, and a side order of guacamole.  Event the worst places like pizza joints usually have salads.

Another thing to do is keep groceries around that let you make quick meals, all you need is a protein, some salad mix, some olive oil and vinegar (flavored is nice), and various veggies to make a healthy meal.

What you are going to eat will never be perfect 100% of the time

This final part I just want to say, don’t obsess or go too crazy with this.  Yes you need to eat healthy, yes you need to avoid processed foods, yes this is all very important to your life.  However, its not easy to find “perfect” meals, occasionally your going to eat something that’s processed or has chemicals in it (salad dressing at a restaurant for example).  Occasionally you may just slip up and eat a roll, biscuit, or other gluten like item, or maybe you want a dessert and just can’t resist.  It happens, don’t give up because you slipped up, but also don’t let your eyes wander from your goals either.  If you obsess over how bad you did, that’s negative energy that does nothing to further your goals, simply let go of it and move ahead.

I personally think its even probably healthy to slip up every now and then, it reminds me how horrible I used to feel, and each time it is getting further and further between as well as it seems to purge a little of that energy from coming back the next time.  Maybe some day I’ll never eat off course, but for now I think it’s a balanced approach to greatly limit it.  I try to focus it around social events like major holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and the like.

One thing I had to deal with personally is that when I slipped on my diet, I would start telling myself things like “The day is lost, lets eat everything we aren’t supposed too today to get it out of my system, and just restart tomorrow.”  Sounds logical and rational right?  It is hogwash because every time I would do this I would not be back on track for up to a week afterwards.  It also tricked me into going off my diet more often, sooner in the day so I could eat more crap, and it was also extending my time to recover the more it happened (as well as stalling out results).  I have found if I go off track for one item, then stop and resume my normal regime, its easy to restart the next day and I really didn’t do much harm anyways.  But if you go off track for a 1/2 day, your setting yourself up for having to confront your demons all over again, but this time perhaps with less resolve then when you first beat them back.  At some point this can start to feel hopeless, totally counterproductive to your goals!

Hope this has some useful information, my next blogs will talk about dealing with “baggage” and “stressors” in your life.