This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
body, higher energy levels, more confidence, a longer life and a better life, why do so many people struggle interminably to exercise and eat right?
Today, a record 68% of American adults are overweight or obese. Seventy-eight million Americans—roughly one-quarter of the U.S. population—exercise zero times per year. Zero times per year. This widespread avoidance of physical activity, coupled with poor eating habits, have created an unprecedented health crisis in this country. The time for change is now.
This problem isn’t limited to adults. According to The National Institutes of Health, one in five U.S. children is overweight or obese—and that number is rising precipitously. Perhaps most striking is that this generation may be the first in human history whose life expectancy will be shorter than that of their parents. Think about that for a moment. This obesity epidemic threatens to wipe out other improvements in our children’s health and safety over the past three decades, a new report says. “Childhood obesity has risen to a point that it can be considered a modern day epidemic,” said a recent report by Duke University researchers. The overweight children of today are most likely to become tomorrow’s fat adults and place themselves at risk for a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes. Not to mention the terrible toll being overweight inflicts on a young person’s self-esteem.
Most puzzling is the quiet resignation of Americans, whose collective apathy towards exercise, and the disinterest with which we do it, marks the eyepopping escalation of obesity in this country. Some experts believe we are approaching a moment of unbearable physical crisis and that we are losing touch with our bodies and growing disconnected from our human nature. Many people are becoming imprisoned in their own bodies.
We know more about health and nutrition than ever before, yet we’re worse off than ever before. Each year, new diet and weight loss books flood bookstores with newfangled ways to lose weight and get healthy. In 2008, for example, titles such as “The Ultimate Tea Diet,” “The No Crave Diet” and “How to Eat Like a Hot Chick” (are you kidding me?) made big promises, but like most books, they will likely fail to deliver lasting results to many of its readers. Studies show that most people who undertake weight loss programs either lose some weight only to put most, or all, of it back on once the diet has concluded. People want quick results, but look where “quick fixes” have gotten us. As a result of being more overweight, we are suffering more from diseases and diminished quality of life, and our health care system is in dire straits. We need permanent results. Starting right now.
It’s time for a fundamental shift in how we how we eat, how we move our bodies—and how we live. We must abandon all notions of “quick fixes” and think in terms of an enduring lifestyle “shift,” something that will last for a lifetime. This “shift” can happen in seven steps. And, it’s easier than you think. Are you ready to shift?
STEP #1: MAKE THE TIME
“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” – C. S. Lewis
It is the one bonafide non-renewable resource in the world—and it is the one resource that most of us feel we don’t have enough of. Perhaps that’s why “lack of time” is the main reason why most people don’t exercise more or eat better. Regardless of who we are, where we live and what we do, there is one constant: We all have the same amount of time. Each of us has access to precisely 168 hours every week, and we can use that time any way we choose. The nature of time creates universal parity.
Perhaps it’s not that you don’t have the time to exercise or eat right. It may be that you are choosing, consciously or unconsciously, not to make the time for these things. This is merely conjecture, but I want you to assess your situation objectively. Be bluntly honest with yourself: could you have three to five hours a week to exercise if it was a matter of life and death? Because, it just might be.
The differences between us start to show in how we use our available time. Our subtle choices each day create strikingly different realities. The perception is that busier people don’t have the time to exercise or eat well. However, research shows that people who consistently work out and prepare healthy meals are just as busy as those who do not.
TIP: Turn off your television. This is the simplest and most surefire way to liberate more time for yourself, your health, your family—and your life! Admittedly, watching less television is exceedingly difficult to do. Television is an engaging media. The average American tunes in for a whopping of 27 hours every week. Programming is designed to keep you glued to the set, as often as possible, at all costs! For decades, TV has been a vehicle to sell products to a mass market, and it’s been carefully engineered to keep you engrossed. In order to “break” from TV, you must do it gradually. Start by choosing four days a week on which you can watch TV, and three days on which the tube stays off all day. This will give you more time to live your life more fully: you’ll have more time for your kids, more time for yourself—and yes, more time for exercise and healthy eating. Despite being on TV, I have been without television for over six years! It was one of the best moves my family made to improve our quality of life. And, I believe it would be for you as well.
The first step to making more time for your health is to decide that your well being is a genuine and top priority in your life. Then, you must create a little extra time each week to improve it. Here’s how:
TIP: “Pay” yourself first. As our daily schedules grow increasingly hectic, it is vital to re-focus on our most important life priorities, such as: family, health, career, community, etc. Not exercising is tantamount to not paying your health insurance. You may be able to dodge bullets in the short term, but it’ll catch up with you. Financial experts say that the best way to save money is to “pay yourself first.” What do they mean? Our money is constantly being channeled away to such things as: home costs, childcare, iPhones, etc. If we don’t allocate money for ourselves first each month, then that money will somehow find a way to be allocated elsewhere. It is the nature of money. The same goes for time. If you don’t take the time for your health first, the day will likely get away from you. Studies show that people who exercise in the morning are almost nine times more likely to do it consistently than people who don’t exercise. If you aren’t a morning person, or simply cannot work out in the morning, then you must commit to exercising immediately upon finishing work. Pay yourself first. You’re worth it.
TIP: Follow your passion. This tip is presented in greater detail below, but it warrants placement here, too: the fact is, in life, we make time for things we love and enjoy. Have you ever noticed that? If you are crazy about a certain television show, you probably rearrange your schedule to carve out time for it each week. If physical activity becomes something so important, and so cathartic, to you, you’ll similarly carve out the time to do it each week. That’s why it’s vital to start pursuing activities that you are genuinely passionate about. Approach physical activity in the same way children do -- as “play-outs” rather than “workouts” the time to exercise will magically appear. The same goes for healthy eating: if you are preparing sumptuous, healthful meals as a family—and having fun with it!—you’ll make the time to do it more often. We find time for things we love. Learn to love better health.
TIP: Get more bang for your workout buck. One way to effectively “expand” exercise time is to squeeze more out of your workouts. In other words, greater efficiency creates more results. Be smart and focused about how you work out; break down your aerobic exercise into four phases: • Warm-up (5-10 minutes) – ease in to your workout to boost blood flow, warm up muscles and enhance flexibility; • Listening (5-10 minutes) – tune into your body to decide how hard and how long you should exercise in that session; • Main portion (15 minutes – 2 hours) – keep your heart rates in a comfortable, aerobic “target zone” and use good technique in whatever activity you’re dong; • Cool-down (5-10 minutes) – use this time to allow your body to return to a more relaxed state. This brings your body back to homeostasis, flushes the body of metabolic waste and improves recovery time.
STEP #2: MAKE IT INTERESTING
“What we think, we become.” —Buddha The above quote, attributed to Buddha, speaks to an interesting axiom of human behavior: Our focus determines our reality. How we feel about something very much determines its reality for us. For example, if we grew up on a lake and enjoy fond memories of family gatherings there, then water will have a positive association for us. If, on the other hand, we nearly drowned as a child, then water will have a different association in our minds. In either case, the objective nature of water has not changed. It’s our selective perception of it that has. Most people have negative associations with healthy food and exercise. The mere mention of these words sends most people into an eye-rolling, guiltridden, Excuse-o-Rama! I know I should do it, but exercise is boring and painful, and healthy eating is tasteless and bland, and I don’t have pretty running shoes, and I can’t cook, and, and…I have a painful carbuncle on my foot…”
I’m a little hazy on what a carbuncle is, but I’m crystal clear on this: People who feel that way about exercise and healthy eating merely have had different experiences that have shaped their perceptions. The fact is: exercise can be invigorating, even cathartic. And, healthy eating can be delicious and energizing.
TIP: Start a “success journal.” Motivational quicksand: We’ve all been there. No matter how much you try to stick with your carefully constructed fitness plan, you instead find yourself rearranging your sock drawer for the umpteenth time or get sucked toward the freezer for an ice cream fix. Double scoop. How do you recapture enthusiasm for the eat-right and exercise goals that were so passion-driven when you first started? A simple, self-styled manual known as a “Success Journal” can prop you up on those off days and keep your passion afire over the long haul. Start a simple journal in which you record every success you
TIP: Do what you love. Research has verified that the only way people will remain motivated to perform an activity over time is if they associate more pleasure with it than pain. Makes sense! You needn’t toil on a treadmill in a dank, dreary gym to get in shape. You’re closer to your “exercise bliss” than you may realize, but you must be willing to break out of your routine and pursue activities you enjoy. That way, burning calories won’t be a focus of the exercise, but rather a natural consequence of the passion-driven activity. When you are not constantly checking your watch during workouts, you know you’re on the right track! The same goes for food: you must explore more healthful foods that taste good to you. I recently had an authentic Punjab meal, and I fell in madly love with the food—which is very healthful. Expand your horizons when it comes to diet and exercise. It’s well worth the effort.
In order to shift to a better lifestyle, you must rewire your associations of exercise and healthy eating. That starts with doing, and eating, what you love.
have in exercise and healthy eating. Identify what works and what doesn’t and keep track of your progress. The fact is we are motivated and energized by what we do well—and we get sapped by things we don’t do well. And because success breeds success, you should strive to build on those successes over time. For a template of a “Success Journal” and more tips on how to get the most from this tip, visit: www.organicfoodbar.com/lifestyle. TIP: Get with others. We are social creatures. Creating a network of people dedicated to getting into shape will spark, and sustain, your enthusiasm to exercise and eat right. Research shows that “social facilitation” is a powerful driver of human behavior. It’s much easier to skip a workout if it’s just you than it is when your friends are waiting for you! Choose “exercise friends” who are: slightly fitter than you, fun, reliable and motivating. The same goes for eating. Our dietary habits are largely influenced by the people with whom we spend the most time. If some of your co-workers like to get fast food during lunch, dine out with other co-workers! In order to shift, you must consider the people with whom you spend the most time, because we naturally gravitate to the company we keep.
TIP: Compete for a cause. Human beings have a tremendous capacity for gallantry. We read stories about this all the time: regular people who are called to extraordinary circumstances and rise to meet incredible challenges. Each of us has that fire in us, but daily life doesn’t often present us with the chance to feel heroic. That’s why doing something active for a worthy cause can be so empowering. It taps into our fundamental desire to be great, and believe me, the resulting motivation is unlike anything you’ve experienced. I suggest that at some point along the way to becoming your fittest self, you enter a race or participate in some form of activity benefiting a cause near and dear to your heart—something to which you have a deep emotional connection (perhaps you lost a loved one to a particular illness, you adore animals or want to help children in need). The more emotional you can make your daily exercise and the event itself, the more motivated you’ll be—and the more the process will impassion you. Most people lose their excitement for exercise, at least temporarily, because it’s not rewarding enough. Make it emotional, and you will not be stopped. “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” –Albert Einstein STEP #3: MAKE IT EASY
If Albert Einstein were your personal trainer, he would ask you to simplify your routine. The man, whose last name is synonymous with genius, hatched some of the most jaw-droppingly complex ideas of our time, yet he aimed to keep everything as simple as possible.
Einstein’s affinity for simplicity relates to exercise in this way: We often over-think it, over-do it or over-complicate it. We struggle to work out because we literally get in the way of ourselves. In order to make exercise and healthy eating a durable and fulfilling part of your life, you must simplify things. The more barriers and obstacles that dot the way between you and your workouts, the less likely you are to exercise. Physical activity must blend seam-
TIP: Exercise smart, not hard. One of the most prevalent, and counterproductive, fitness myths in America is the “no pain, no gain” approach to exercise. Over time, labored or awkward workouts can erode your motivation by breaking down your body and causing mental fatigue. It’s not necessary. Slow down. Take it easy on yourself. Exercise should feel energizing, not enervating. Subjectively, you should never feel “out of breath” when you do aerobic exercise, and you should only “comfortably challenge” yourself when doing strength work. It may be helpful to use a heart monitor to keep the effort level in check. This will increase the utilization of body fat during exercise, bolster immunity, limit sugar cravings, track progress, reduce post-exercise fatigue and make exercise feel less painful! Now, those are some serious payoffs! TIP: Prepare simple foods, deliciously. One reason why most people opt for “fast food” is because they feel they don’t have the time to prepare healthful meals. This is a misperception and a dangerous one at that. There are lots of cookbooks available that demonstrate how to prepare simple, healthy foods in creative and delicious ways. Start here: “The Weeknight Survival Cookbook: How to Make Healthy Meals in 10 Minutes’ by Dena Irwin. If you are in a hurry, then choose healthier “fast food.” Keep one box of ORGANIC FOOD BARS in your car and one box at work. That way, you can eat something healthy and delicious while on the go. This tip is all about making smarter, healthier choices. For more healthy eating tips, visit: www.organicfoodbar.com/lifestyle.
TIP: Organize! “If you can’t find your sneakers, you aren’t taking a walk,” said Dr. Pamela Peeke, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and the author of “Fit to Live” (Rodale, 2007), which devotes a section to the link between health and organization. “How are you going to shoot a couple of hoops with your son if you can’t even find the basketball?” Most people are terribly disorganized when it comes to physical activity. Start to organize your “exercise life,” by gathering equipment together in one place, getting rid of old, dated apparel—and here’s the fun part: go shopping for new gear if you need it. Remember: when you look good, you feel good!
lessly into your day, and it must be easy and enjoyable—or you’ll start to view exercise and healthy eating as more trouble than it’s worth. Then, it’s all over. The same goes for healthy eating: keep it simple, natural and delicious. Don’t overthink these things: move your body more, and eat healthier food. It really is that simple.
TIP: Rest! Did you know that the positive changes from exercise occur in your body during periods of rest and recovery? It’s true. It’s better to exercise four or five days a week and take two days completely off. That will allow your body to come back into balance and recover, so that you can get more benefit the next time out. Taking time off is also an important way to stay mentally revitalized. You might want to consider taking a week off every month. This will allow your body to fully recover and you’ll avoid injuries better that way, too. Many elite athletes do this; it’s called “periodization” and it works!
TIP: Make fitness a family affair. A recent report published in the medical journal Pediatrics suggests that children who are overweight at any stage of their growth before age 12 are more likely to be overweight by the time they reach puberty. Further, there is a high likelihood that those heavy-set adolescents will remain overweight as adults and place themselves at risk for a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes. Who's to blame? Researchers point fingers at genetics, diet, TV-watching habits and the parents. Experts believe the children in this generation may be the first in history to die before their parents because of health problems related to weight. Think about that for a moment. These are perilous times for our kids. A recent report by The Journal of American Medicine found that the rates of child obesity in this country are rising due to record low levels of physical activity: the average American child now exercises less than one hour per week. Meanwhile, parents are busier than ever, have less time to exercise and are in worse physical shape than ever before. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: These two serious and pervasive problems can be improved simultaneously with one simple strategy: Exercise with your children more often. It’s not enough to simply tell your their kids to "get active." You must get active with your kids. Whether you believe it or not, you are their most influential role model. “Integrating family and fitness is probably the single most effective way to boost your children’s health and liberate more exercise time for you,"” says Steve Bennett, author of the best-selling book 365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child (Adams Media Corporation, 1996). Our children are our most precious asset. Take the time to set good healthy habits in place for your kids. It’s good for them—and good for you. STEP #4: GET ENERGIZED “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
That goes for getting in shape, too. Most people are ambivalent about exercise and eating well which is why the results don’t come. However, there are numerous stories of regular people who, after reaching a mental breaking point, proceeded to achieve their goal weight in a healthy way—and remain there. It begins with a genuine desire, an ironclad will, and getting, and staying, energized.
The quote by Margaret Mead, one of my favorites, speaks to the breathtaking power of human will. Consider our determination to land on the moon or to eradicate sinister diseases. When we set our hearts on doing something, we humans are rarely deterred.
TIP: Move! Motivation to exercise does not spontaneously occur. It follows action. We get motivated to move, once we’re moving. If you want to get inspired to exercise, you simply must rouse yourself and begin. Here’s a technique some elite athletes use: It’s called “the five minute rule.” However exhausted you feel before you exercise, simply clear your mind of the pre-workout mental debate and commit to starting and moving for five minutes. Here’s the catch: you needn’t complete the entire workout, just the five minutes. If after that time, you still want to stop, then stop. However, you’ll most likely end up finishing the entire workout. That pre-exercise feeling of exhaustion is usually mental, not physical. Once the body is moving, a cascade of positive biochemical processes get underway, and that can change how you feel almost immediately. This technique really works.
TIP: Go organic. The adage “you are what you eat” is not just good motherly advice; it is a bonafide fact now verified by science. The quality of the life you live is largely determined by the quality of the food you eat. These days, the marketplace is flooded with foods brimming with pesticides, preservatives -- and other dreadful ingredients! – that are eroding our health and draining away our energy. If you want to experience true, radiant health and consistently higher energy levels, you need to fuel your body with the cleanest sources of fuel that you can. That begins with eating more organic food. Plain and simple. We must cleanse our bodies of the harmful toxins that have been building up over time. Eating organic foods, grown without the use of chemicals, will go a long way to elevating your energy and helping you live your best life. Some find “organic” a strange way to eat. But, if you think about it, adding harmful chemicals to food is a strange way to produce food! Bite into a fresh organic piece of produce and see how it makes you feel. As far as the added expense of buying organics, well, you’re worth it. Your health is your most precious asset; start investing more in it. To learn more about organics, visit The Organic Trade Association at: http://www.ota.com/. To learn more about the best-selling organic bar in the world – and for more healthy living tips, visit: http://www.organicfoodbar.com/lifestyle.com.
TIP: Tap your intrinsic motivators. Research shows that people who are long-term “exercise maintainers” stay with it because they have learned to want to work out, rather than doing it because they know they should. “The secret to these maintainers is called ‘intrinsic motivation,’” says Jay Kimiecik, Ph.D., author of The Intrinsic Exerciser. “People who are intrinsically motivated perform behavior for its own sake rather than for the rewards,” he says. One way to develop an intrinsic exercise motivation is to shift your focus from the outcome to the process. Instead of setting long-term goals that relate to outcomes such as weight loss, set goals that relate to participation (i.e., how many times you will work out this month, what type of exercise you will do). That way, the weight loss comes as a result of the participation-centric focus. Intrinsic.
TIP: Address your “energy crisis.” Research shows that exercise can help to combat chronic fatigue syndrome—but if you’re tired all the time and find that activity still leaves you exhausted, see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions such as thyroid disease or anemia. Also, make sure you’re eating enough (calories are energy and if you’re crash-dieting you’re going to crash; see chapter seven for more on the importance of consuming enough calories), that you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep (7-9 hours a night, per the National Sleep Foundation) and that you’re doing whatever you can to minimize stress in your life. Taking certain vitamins, like an iron supplement or a B complex that includes B6 may also help. Limit the amount of caffeine you consume. While caffeine does provide a short-term boost, over time, it can take its toll on your adrenal system, and this can reduce your daily energy levels. Focus on foods that alkalinize your blood like almonds, tofu and most fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to maintain steady blood sugar levels. Do this by grazing on healthy, low glycemic foods every two to three hours. Keep a healthy supply of ORGANIC FOOD BARS in your car, at work and in your purse or bag. You’ll thank me for this tip when you’re descending slowly, inexorably into hypoglycemia and need a delicious, healthy snack in a pinch!
TIP: Eat with more reverence. Of all the things we do “on the go,” eating may very well top the list. We’re always rushing the act of eating. I actually saw a man walking down the street with a sandwich in one hand and a cell phone in the other! Some experts believe that this “mindless eating” is why the quantity of the food we are eating is going up—while the quality is going down! Now, I’m not going to tell you what to eat. You’ve got enough people (and books and TV shows) telling you that. This tip is about how to eat. Here are a few suggestions: • Make simpler, healthier home-cooked meals, and sit with the family for every dinner. • Eating in front of the television is an instant disconnect between you and your food. Don’t do it. • Set the mood: comfortable lighting, relaxed attitude, good company. • Chew well: the digestive process begins with chewing. You will extract more nutritional value from food, and allow the “fullness response” to kick in, if you eat more slowly. • Experience the full magnificence of food. Eating should be a complete experience: the anticipation, the presentation, the aromas, the company. As you begin to appreciate what food does for you—that it brings us joy, binds us closer together and nourishes our bodies—you will be inspired to treat food and eating with more reverence. TIP: Create a healthier home. In an ever more chaotic and stressful world, our homes as physical and mental sanctuaries become more important. Home is where we go to shake off the stress of life and to recharge our bodies and minds. Since we spend roughly two-thirds of our lives at home, the health of our homes largely determines the quality of our lives. “Many people simply are not aware of how unhealthy their living environments might be,” says Debra DaddRedalia, author of five home health books including Home Safe Home (Putnam, 1997). “Individually, things such as toxic cleaners and reduced air circulation may have only a small impact, but collectively, they can have devastating effects on one’s long-term health,” she says. Here are a few simple steps to boost the “health” of your home: 1. increase air quality and circulation. Your body depends on a rich, clean supply of oxygen to function
TIP: Work with a pro. The health and fitness industry, unfortunately, is filled with anecdotal evidence and unqualified “experts” who dispense unsubstantiated advice to an unsuspecting population. To achieve a positive shift, you must find a bonafide health and fitness expert to lay out a simple, effective and enjoyable exercise program for you based on your body, your background and your goals. The program should be rooted in the scientific principles of physiology, periodization, intensity, strength-training, aerobic exercise and rest. This will maximize results, minimize fatigue and solidify your long-term motivation, all requirements for a positive lifestyle shift.
A detailed exercise program is a roadmap for lifelong health and fitness: it cannot ensure good weather, but if you follow it, it will get you to your destination. Few people have such a plan which is not surprising given that few people achieve lasting results. The American Council of Exercise reports that 91% of those who work out consistently are following a specific program. Novices who don’t follow a plan, in a combination of enthusiasm and impatience, wind up doing too much, too soon. To get to where you want to go, you need a well-conceived plan.
Most people work out haphazardly. They jump on a treadmill at lunch and just start running at a “hard pace.” Most people feel like they know enough to get into shape.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble; it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” —Mark Twain
STEP #5: FOLLOW A PROVEN PLAN
properly. But, in an effort to conserve energy, many homes are equipped with airtight windows, heavily insulated walls -- even gaskets that seal up doors and windows. While these advances are effective at keeping in heat and keeping out cold, they also trap contaminated, stale air inside your home. And that’s not healthy to breathe. Open your windows to increase cross-ventilation. 2. Store strong chemicals and cleaning supplies outside. We are all subjected to varying levels of air pollution each day. It’s unavoidable. But did you know that air pollution in your home can be up to five times worse than air pollution outside? This is due to two things: the products that we use to clean our homes and the fact that the fumes those products release cannot easily escape. This is known as “off-gassing.” Our bodies are not equipped to neutralize the chemicals used in many household items, and that may suppress our immune systems, leading to higher incidences of illness and fatigue. 3. Go green. Health expert and best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil says: “Houseplants, especially spider plants and Boston Ferns, can help reduce formaldehyde and other airborne pollutants in your home.” Remember, plants use carbon dioxide (CO2) as fuel and release oxygen -- which is the opposite of human metabolism (we breathe oxygen and release CO2). That’s why plants make perfect additions to your home. Pick up a couple Boston ferns and spider plants and spread them liberally throughout the house. You will breathe noticeably fresher air in a matter of days.
TIP: Hone your skills. People naturally gravitate to things they do well—and avoid things they don’t. I’m a dreadful windsurfer, and despite living in the San Francisco Bay Area and having lots of friends who windsurf, I avoid the sport like the plague. The thing is: if I learned how to do it, I would probably love it. Improving how gracefully you perform a skill—from running a mile to cooking a healthy meal to windsurfing!—will enhance your motivation to do it. After all, if you can run with expert form, you’ll get injured less and burn more calories. Likewise, if you whip up healthy cuisine like a gourmet, you’ll crave those good-for-you foods and eat them more often. When you become more of an expert in these areas, you will perform at higher levels and that’s motivating. Spend some time working on your “technique” in the activities you do and the food you prepare. It’ll go a long way to motivating you to want to do it more and more, and that brings about a positive lifestyle shift. TIP: Variety is the spice… A consistent workout routine nets better health, a clearer mind and a more beautiful body, but if your workouts become too much of a routine, you’ll likely hit a plateau, which can draw the enjoyment out of it—and hamper results. “The human body is wonderfully adaptive,” says Todd Weitzenberg, M.D. a sports medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, California. “But if you place the same exercise stress on the body each day, it won’t change its shape,” he says. The best way to keep the fire alight in your exercise program and diet is to constantly “vary the ingredients.”
TIP: Change your plan over time. If you perform the same activity day-in and day-out month after month, eventually your body will adapt to the demands of your program. It’s important to change your plan every month or so to include new strength sessions or new cardiovascular workouts. The idea here is you want to positively stress the body in different ways every month or so. That’s how you will achieve better results over the long-term. STEP #6: ELIMINATE PAIN AND INJURY “The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure but to avoid pain.” – Aristotle
While I don’t entirely agree with Aristotle on the first part of this particular quote (pleasure is something we could all use more of, and should strive for), I’m completely with him on the fact that steering clear of pain is one of the smartest things you can possibly do, especially if you’re trying to achieve a greater level of fitness and want to continue to do so for years to come. Unfortunately, most people tend to shrug off whatever it is that’s ailing them - from seemingly minor headaches or illnesses to soreness in the back or various joints like the knees and elbows. Admit it: How often have you felt a nagging pain somewhere, been coming down with a cold or worse and simply popped a couple of pills (or just dismissed the issue altogether) so you could get on with everything you had to do that day?
It’s understandable. Most of us have full lives and don’t feel like we can slow down for everyday ailments: “I can’t let a little case of the sniffles or a migraine or—insert your illness of choice here—keep me from my important business trip or weight-loss workout or family reunion or—insert immediately pressing obligation of your own here!” But what we fail to realize is that carrying on with our lives at the same harried pace, rather than giving our bodies the requisite rest and recovery when we’re hurting (and even periodically when we’re not), is only going to complicate the problems that are plaguing us, often turning them into chronic issues and/or making them worse. We typically wait until we’re literally immobilized by an injury or serious illness—until we have no choice but to stop and heal. And at that point, alarmist as this may sound, it may even be too late to resolve. Mom’s advice was right on in this respect: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Take action to avoid pain and injury, and if you have it, strive to banish it from your life once and for all. It’s a necessary step to shifting. TIP: Check with a health expert (even if you don’t think you need to). Consulting a doctor before embarking upon any new exercise program isn’t just sound advice, it could save your life. Also, if you’re experiencing any sort of aches, pains or illnesses (even if they seem minor right now), you should make injury-prevention and optimum health your top priority. You simply cannot achieve a positive lifestyle shift or accomplish much of anything in your exercise program—never mind take it to the next level—with a body that’s experiencing even a modicum of misery. Stop living with pain and injury and “band-aiding” the problems. Get at the root of the pain or injury and strive to eradicate it from your life. Taking this step will liberate you and allow you to shift to a better life. For life.
TIP: Choose the right shoes. Your athletic shoes determine how much impact and stress your body absorbs, because when you take a step, energy is transmitted from the ground up through your body. Athletic shoes protect your feet, ankles, knees, hips, even your back from the stresses of any given sport. Got pain or injury? Want to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts? Maybe it's time to get the right pair of shoes. Each sport has shoes designed for specific demands. For those of you who workout for general fitness and perform a variety of exercises such as weight-lifting, tennis and walking, "cross-training" shoes will provide all the protection and comfort you need. “[Cross-training shoes] have the characteristics of running, walking and court shoes all together and are appropriate for running, aerobics and court sports such as tennis," says Dr. Sam A. Labib, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University and a specialist in foot, ankle and sports medicine. "If you run a mile a day, go hit some balls and go for a short walk, a cross training shoe will do fine," Labib says. However, if you perform a particular sport more than three days a week – particularly running – then, sport specific athletic shoes are the route to go. Shoe manufactures make shoes specific not only for the demands of the sport, but also for the needs of your body. Take the time to get the right shoes for your chosen activities, and you will reduce your risk of pain and injury.
TIP: Build comprehensive strength. It amazes me that some people still don’t realize the importance of resistance exercise—thinking it’s something you only need to do if you want to bulk up and look “muscular.” These people will sweat through cardio classes day in, day out, or go jogging for months on end and they’re convinced that’s all that they need to keep their bodies strong and healthy. Not so. Strength training is arguably the most beneficial exercise there is, and it’s an absolute must for preventing injuries—as well as for improving your performance in all those aerobic workouts you love so much, among other things. Cardio simply won’t strengthen your body effectively enough on its own. And did you know that if you don’t strength train at least twice a week, you’ll lose roughly a half-pound of lean muscle mass each year after the age of 30? That not only slows down your metabolism, but can contribute to poor posture and osteoporosis, among other things. Several studies have also found that strength-training can help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It may also help decrease your risk for developing diabetes. For the ultimate in injury-prevention and optimum performance, your goal shouldn’t just be to develop sheer strength. It’s important to incorporate multi-muscle exercises—like those you perform with free weights or your own body weight—into your program. This kind of “functional” training improves the kind of muscle strength, endurance and coordination you use as you go about your everyday life. That means you’ll be less likely to hurt yourself while exercising and doing pretty much anything—from lifting groceries to bending down to walking around, even getting up off the couch. Functional exercises also help to promote joint stability and muscular balance—a good thing since most soft-tissue injuries are caused by imbalances rather than weaknesses. Invest at least 20 minutes twice a week in functional strength training. You’ll be glad you did.
TIP: Focus on form. Paying attention to your exercise technique—no matter what kind of activity you’re doing—will not only help you to achieve faster, more impressive results but decrease the chances that you’ll hurt yourself. For example, an excessively high vertical bounce when running can cause knee pain or injury because you place too much impact stress on your body each time you land (this type of injury is so common it’s actually called “runner’s knee” and is characterized by pain around or under the knee cap at the front or side of the knee). There are so many potential ways to perform exercises incorrectly, it would benefit you to seek the advice of an athletic coach, personal trainer or a group exercise instructor if you’re not sure that you’re using proper form—particularly if you find that you’re experiencing strains, aches or pains in your joints, muscles or tendons while performing a particular activity (beyond what would be considered normal). At that point, you should also probably consult a physician as you may be in need of medical attention.
TIP: Ease in, ease out. Warming up and cooling down are crucial components of each and every workout you do, whether it’s strength-training, cardio, yoga, Pilates, playing a sport—really, anything that might qualify as physical activity. In fact, warming up for 10 minutes can reduce your risk of exercise-induced injuries by as much as 80 percent, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. What kind of warm-up is best? Stick with light aerobic activity that gradually raises your body temperature. This can be as simple as walking, marching in place, or simply performing the activity you’re about to do at a low intensity. This serves to literally warm your muscles so that they’re more flexible and resilient – and because nerve messages travel faster at higher temperatures, your muscles will react more quickly, consequently reducing your risk of injury while engaging in the more intense exercise that follows. Your muscles simply can’t function safely or effectively when they’re cold.
“Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.” –English author Oliver Goldsmith
STEP #7: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
There’s nothing more disheartening than setting out intrepidly to get into better shape, and working hard at it—only to come up short of our expected goals. It’s a devastating feeling, and each successive “failure” is a very real blow to our self-esteem. Most people who fail to achieve their weight loss or fitness goals become fatalistic and give up. This is precisely what not to do. It may sound trite, but it’s true: believing in yourself is the key to productivity, in any area of your life. There’s even research to substantiate this. In a study sponsored by The National Institute on Aging, two groups of sedentary women were given a fitness test. Regardless of how they had actually performed on the test, one group was told they had scored in the highest fifth, while another group was told they’d scored in the bottom fifth. When the women subsequently worked out, the ones who’d been told they’d scored well reported feeling better and more energetic about the exercise than the women who were told they’d done poorly on the test. So clearly, if you believe you can succeed, you more than likely will.
On the other hand, if you lack confidence, reaching your goals can become a challenge – if not downright impossible. And if you’re like a lot of people attempting to achieve a higher level of fitness, self-doubt can creep in at the most inopportune moments. Even if you’re bursting with buoyancy right now, it’s important to plan for times when that might not be the case—whether it’s in the face of adversity or simply manifests as a slight twinge of uncertainty about how to proceed. As Helen Keller once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Whether that sunny disposition eludes you or not, it’s always a good idea to have some self-assuredness exercises and strategies in your exercise arsenal. Here are some of my favorites:
TIP: Know that each failure moves you closer to success. Setbacks in your life can either discourage you, or solidify your resolve not to make the same mistake again. The choice is yours and yours alone. Keep this in mind: humanity’s most prolific figures all experienced defeats at one time or another. It was their willingness, and ability, to shrug it off and propel them to greater heights. With respect to your health and fitness, look at the big picture here. Even if you’ve tried a dozen times to lose weight, and not achieved your goals, you put in a lot of good effort there. Rather than become fatalistic, examine what went wrong and what went right, then strive to diminish the former and make the latter preponderate. That way, you’ll stand a far greater chance of succeeding the next time out! The crux of this is, as Winston Churchill said: “Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
TIP: Set your anchor aweigh. There is a mental technique known as anchoring—and it’s a simple and well-established method for developing confidence. This time, though, you must steer your mind not just to the situation at hand, but to prior successes (it’s okay to reflect on the past when you’re drawing upon positive experiences). “Anchoring involves focusing your attention, quieting your mind, drawing inspiration from past events in your life and then bringing those feelings of confidence and optimism to the present moment,” says Kate Hays, a Toronto psychologist and author of Working It Out: Using Exercise in Psychotherapy. In the context of your fitness, you’ve obviously experienced workouts that went fantastically well—whether you lifted more weight than you thought you could, stuck with your program for a full week or month, ran faster than ever before, simply showed up for kickboxing class. Whatever your past successes have been, think of at least one of them and remember how you did it. Then realize that if you could achieve your goal then, you can do it again now. That’s what anchoring is all about. The three most important words when it comes to achieving a positive lifestyle shift are resilience, fortitude and self-belief. We’ve spent years putting habits in place; making a fundamental change in how you live takes time and effort. It’s not if setbacks occur—they befall everyone—it’s what you do in response to them. There is one universal characteristic of everyone who succeeds in living a healthy life, and it is this: they never give up. In the darkest days of World War II, against impossible odds, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: “Never give in. Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” That intrepidity is likely what led to victory; and, it should be your mantra in shifting to a healthier lifestyle.
TIP: Silence your inner critic. If you suffer from low self-esteem, or are constantly berating yourself, I firmly believe it’s important to see yourself through the eyes of someone else. In doing so, you’ll be able to quiet that negative inner voice and realize what’s truly possible. The next time you’re coming down on yourself, try this: Pretend your harsh words are being said in reference to someone you love (and hello: you should place yourself in such high esteem!); then ask yourself if you’d let someone else say such berating things about the person for whom you care that deeply. Chances are you’ll realize you’re being unreasonable and you’ll stop that self-deprecating, self-defeating chatter.
TIP: Swap “goals” for “missions.” We’re told to “set goals” when we want to lose weight or get into shape. But, over the years, “goals” have lost some of their luster—and effectiveness. Consider this example: “My goal is to lose 10 pounds.” Does that provide stirring motivation for you? Not likely. Missions are emotionalized goals. Here is the goal restated as a mission: “My mother recently died of breast cancer. Beginning tomorrow morning, I am going to train for a 10k run that benefits breast cancer in honor of my mother.” See the difference? Goals are passive, listless. Missions are active, emotional. Set health-minded missions for yourself and it will light a fire of genuine self-belief in you.
If you have a week or two (or ten!) in which you do not exercise or eat as well as you’d like, the worst thing you can do it give up on yourself altogether. The best response is to wake up the next morning and re-commit to living a healthier life. It’s that simple. Millions of people have woken up and decided to change their lives. And, then they did. If you are deeply committed and passionate about living your best life, you will get there. Never give in. And, the rich rewards of shifting to a healthier lifestyle will be yours. For more tips and strategies on “shifting” and living your best life, visit: www.organicfoodbar.com/lifestyle.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?