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You can do it. Here are some tips:

1. Eat Mindfully. In other words, don’t unconsciously munch on that candy bowl or leftover dessert just because it’s there in front of you. Choose your food. Actually choose every single bite. Look at it, and decide, “This is something I am going to eat. This is something I want to put inside my body and become a part of me.” Then enjoy it. When you eat mindfully, you will eat less, and enjoy more. Take charge of yourself, because  you can, in fact, choose to say no to a second helping of stuffing.

2. Eat your holiday feast in the middle of the day, not at night. Your digestive ability will be the best in the middle of the day and you will have less of a post-feast hangover. When you eat a big meal at night, your body will not be able to rest properly and go through its nighttime renewal rhythms, and instead you will more likely feel discomfort and restlessness as your body tries to process that pecan pie.

3. Eat slowly. Your stomach will send signals to your brain when it is full, but if you eat to fast, you can over eat before the stomach can get out his smartphone to send the brain a pic of that all that turkey you sent down there. Eat slowly and listen to your body. Don’t inhale your turkey. Chew. Each. Small. Piece. This goes hand in hand with mindful eating. Eat less and enjoy more.

4. Make a delicious health dish. Bring it to the holiday dinner. Put it on your plate. Eat it first. Need ideas? Have you heard of Pinterest? Even though the internet can provide you with all the ideas in the world and you don’t need mine, I will give you my favorite pumpkin pie recipe. It’s awesome. I invented it myself.

Pumpkin Pie

Best Crust Ever:

1/2 c almonds
1/2 c pecans
1 c oats
3 tbls coconut oil
3 tbls maple syrup (REAL maple syrup. no fake stuff allowed ever.)
tsp vanilla
pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, ginger)
dash of sea salt
bake nuts for 8 minutes at 350. turn up oven to 375. blend nuts and put in bowl. blend oats and mix with nuts. mix liquids together and add. press into oiled pie pan, and bake for maybe 10 min?
Filling:
about 21/4 cups of pumpkin
1/4 almond milk or coconut cream
2 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs agave
1/4 c maple syrup
2-3 tbs cornstarch or arrowroot powder (I used NON GMO cornstarch)
spices to desired taste
2 tsp vanilla
Mix together and put in crust. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered. bake for 10-15 more minutes covered in tinfoil. I think to prevent burnt crust edges.
This recipe is vegan and gluten free, but don’t tell anyone, and they will never know, and they will love it.
5. Eat extra healthy for all your meals besides the feast. Your body will thank you for not constantly cramming it with rich dense unhealthy foods.  Just do it once, on Thanksgiving Day, and don’t go crazy with it. Eat fruit and oatmeal for breakfast instead of pie for breakfast. Eat salad and veggie soup and whole grains for lunch, instead of more pie. Remember, you choose every bite; just because there is more pie, does not mean you have to eat it.
6. Exercise! You have a few days off probably, and a little free time on your hands, so get up in the morning and get moving! Go for a jog, lift some weights, or pop in that yoga dvd. Even better, plan an active 0uting with your family as a part of the festivities. My recommendation as a yoga teacher: do a lot of yoga with twists and compression poses. Many yoga poses are designed to aid your digestive organs, promote good elimination, and help detox your system.
7. Breathe. I wrote a whole post about this, but it’s worth saying again. The holidays can be stressful on more than your digestive system. Stress that comes from emotions, family dynamics, travel, or whatever else will affect your bodily processes, and also vice versa, an over strained digestive system will add to the stressful feelings about everything else. How do you combat both these things and keep stress of all kinds down? Breathe deep and slow through your nose into your belly. The breath will calm your nervous system, which affects everything you feel, and also how your body responds to your feelings and to your circumstances.
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Senator McGovern

“In early 1977, after years of discussion, scientific review, and debate, the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, led by Senator George McGovern, recommended Dietary Goals for the American people. The Committee recommended that the American diet

  • Increase carbohydrate intake to 55 to 60 percent of calories
  • Decrease dietary fat intake to no more than 30 percent of calories, with a reduction in intake of saturated fat, and recommended approximately equivalent distributions among saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats to meet the 30 percent target
  • Decrease cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day
  • Decrease sugar intake to 15 percent of calories
  • Decrease salt intake to 3 g per day”

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/html/G5_History.htm

Do you notice anything weird about this? I do, and so have some others. It doesn’t mention food.
No foods are mentioned. Only things like carbohydrate, monounsaturated fats, and cholesterol. Are those foods? Nope. They are nutrients (whatever that is).McGovern’s Dietary Goals were a key step in nutritional history that clenched the rule of “nutritionism” over food, and led the American public into a lot of confusion about what’s healthy and what’s not. Obviously we are still confused because statistics show that even though we have these nice Dietary Goals, obesity has been on the rise.
If McGovern’s Dietary Goals said something like, “eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less high fat meat, egg and dairy products,” maybe the public would be a little better off. Now listen close, because the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition gets scary fast. The truth is, McGovern proposed nutritional guidelines that listed foods. In fact, the quote above is part of McGovern’s proposed guidelines. More fruits, veggies, whole grains. Less meat, egg, and dairy. But that version did not get approved. Powerful people from the meat, dairy, and sugar industries, many from McGovern’s own state, would not have it. They demanded that the “eat less” language be removed, because THEY certainly did not want Americans eating less of those things. They would go out of business. McGovern was forced to retreat. The language was changed to the nutrient based guidelines above plus the recommendation to eat less fat and cholesterol and eat “more lean meats.” The meat and dairy industry managed to change the language to pin fat and cholesterol as the bad guys, and keep meat and low fat dairy as the good guys. The result is, we the people have a lovely set of guidelines telling us to “eat more” (low fat things), and so I guess we ate more, and more, and got obese. Of course there are many factors, known and unknown, that have led to the obesity problem, but this change in language is definitely one of the big ones. Here’s a few examples of the related public health issues:

1.  It has made it easy for marketers to sell their unhealthy processed food products with claims about the nutrients that fit in with the accepted nutritional guidelines. Little Debbie’s can claim “Low Fat.” Potato chips claim “No Trans Fats.” But they still make YOU fat. But marketing won’t tell you that.

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So Many Health Claims!

Butter imitations are a good example of this too. They rearrange the molecules every so often to keep up with the latest health studies: low fat, low cholesterol, no trans fat, etc. People then buy it, thinking they are being healthy, assuming that scientists have figured out all the necessary nutrients for health and they have put them into a plastic tub for you to spread on your toast. But this is not true. Scientists are not even close to understanding all the aspects of how food interacts with our bodies. Which takes us to number two.

2. It gives the illusion of complete understanding of food science. Just look at the history of margarine, or even better, of infant formulas. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_formula) The nutritionist just don’t know how to make it like the mommies do, even now, in the enlightened age of “nutritionism.”
The truth is, we don’t understand how food works, no matter what the health claims on the labels say. That doesn’t mean we don’t know anything though. What we do have is a lot of research that shows strong correlations between diet and health. For example, The China Study, has shown over 100 correlations between diet and health & disease. The China Study points toward this recommendation: eat plant based whole foods; don’t eat animal products. Sounds similar to McGovern’s original guidelines, doesn’t it. This brings us to number three.
3. Our current guidelines do not reflect research, but the concerns of the self-interested food industries. And things haven’t changed much since 1977. Even though the most comprehensive nutrition study we have (China Study) points to the fact that meat and dairy cause disease, you won’t see that story in your government approved dietary recommendations. The myth of the benefits of meat and dairy has successfully embedded itself into public consciousness. We think we need animal protein and we are convinced that milk gives us strong bones, while the latest observational and clinical research do not support these claims.

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It’s all marketing, not science.

4. Doctors don’t study nutrition, but they do recommend the recommended guidelines. At least, many and I would venture to say, most, advise their patients to follow those commonly known recommendations. Have you heard them from your doctor? You get the report back that your cholesterol is a bit too high. What to do about it, “eat a low fat, low cholesterol diet,” and they will also probably tell you to go on medication to lower your cholesterol. Because you know who else is making big bucks of this public confusion? Yep. The pharmaceutical industry. And hello, we have another big issue:

5. REAL CURES ARE HIDDEN from common knowledge due to the interests of the food, pharmaceutical, and medical industries. And I’m not just talking about cures for the common cold. I’m talking about the main killers of America: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. The best research out there shows that a plant based whole foods diet, with the exclusion of animal products, can prevent and reverse the diseases listed above.
Fortunately, word is getting out. There are many documentaries, books, blogs, and published research that are available to the public. We are realizing that we have to take our health into our own hands, because the recommended Dietary Goals have not helped. Don’t be fooled by the mirage of nutritionism and marketing. Do your research. Be smart and be healthy. Michael Pollan, in In Defense of Food, puts forth a nice simple guideline for you to start with: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

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Here’s my list of things that I read that would be Works Cited if I was being that formal in my writing but it’s really my Everybody Should Read This list:

  • The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Phd (full title: “The China Study:The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet Weight Loss and Long Term Health.” Epic.)
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
  • Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • Skinny Bitches (this book is so clever in its presentation. Its like disguised as a diet book for women who want to be skinny, then its like, BAM, dish out the dirt on the food industry like crazy!! Don’t read it if you don’t like curse words or being called a lazy slob.)
  • Forks Over Knives (Features Dr. Campbell from the China Study and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. If you do nothing else, watch this documentary. Its on Netflix.)
  • Food Matters (Documentary)
  • Food Inc. (Documentary. Reveals the gross terrible yuck behind your cheeseburger)
  • Dying to Have Known (documentary about Gerson Therapy)

Also some articles on the internet regarding the Mcgovern Guidelines:

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/html/G5_History.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_Select_Committee_on_Nutrition_and_Human_Needs
http://www.educateyourwaytohealth.com/1/post/2012/04/food-choices-matter.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/18/AR2010051800891.html

A Tuesday Evening Jog

A Tuesday Evening Jog
I went running on Fullerton Loop which is a trail that many other runners and mountain bikers often traverse. I was supposed to be running at a certain pace according to my running plan, but I forgot to charge my GPS that tells me my speed, distance, heart rate and stuff like that. So instead of tracking my pace, I tracked everything else around me, and then eventually turned back inward and came to ponder the deepest of existential question, “How does one become a Runner?”
The weather was ok, not too hot, and the trail was busy. Women seemed to outnumber men on the mountain bikes this evening. Indeed, women outnumbered men on the trail period. Let’s hear it for the female athletes! There were more runners than bikers, and more bikers than dog walkers, and more dog walkers than people doing yoga (2). I was the fastest runner on that particular piece of trail at that time, as far as I could tell. I passed all the runners I saw going the same direction as me, while no runners passed me. So I was the fastest. Go me. This was a little surprising because I am by no means an all star right now. I was just trying to keep up an 8 ½ ish minute mile pace for a measly 3 miles. The fact that I was the fastest tells you something about the kinds of runners that run on fullerton loop at 6pmish in the evening on Tuesdays. They are recreational runners, or fitness runners. More precisely they are people who are running, not Runners. Runners are another kind of being entirely. They are addicts. They will run miles and miles at 4:30 am. These recreational runners wonder at their diligence and self discipline. Runners on the other hand, have no idea that they are a sort of freak. Why? Because all the other Runners come out to run at the same time. Then they run races with 10,000 other Runners and become assured that this is absolutely the norm. Everyone wears short shorts and belts with pockets for energy gels and electrolytes. Everyone talks about PRs, the mileage on their shoes, and uses “easy” and “10-miler” in the same sentence.
But Tuesday nights at Fullerton loop is not for the Runners. It seems to be for those out getting their 30 minutes of exercise. I felt myself on the border of these two categories as I ran past the recreational runners. Having run a marathon and numerous half marathons, I have been initiated into the Runner’s subculture. For the past year though, I seem to have drifted away from the straight and narrow. The thing is though, once you’ve been In, you know what it feels like, and you lust to have it back. It draws you, taunts you. Your psyche groans for the hours of simplicity and singular focus. You wish you could put on your shoes and escape life for 10 miles and come back euphoric and hungry.
I miss being a Runner. I’ve been focusing on Yoga for the past year and running has slipped by the wayside. Now the problem is to get back In.
How do you get back into running? This is my question. Maybe another good question is, How do you become a Runner? I started running at age 9 when my older brother had to run a mile for a Boy Scout merit badge. I wanted to run too. I beat him. After that it was track in school, then the world of fun 5ks, and freshman year of college was my first half marathon. A friend signed up but got pneumonia and couldn’t run so I took her spot with 2 weeks to prepare. I finished with a decent time, despite not really training properly, and I was hooked. My running buddies and I ran a half marathon or marathon at least every year, sometimes more, all the way through college. So I’ve been running for, like, ever. I don’t remember how you become a Runner.
In order to help myself, and maybe help others, answer this question, I started a 5k running club at Work Out World. Maybe I can turn other people into Runners, and in the process, become one again myself. The regulars are beginning runners. I have started them on a run/walk plan to get them up to 5k. It seems difficult, and a long process, but they are making clear progress and are excited about it. We meet early on Saturday mornings, which maybe is not a very popular time slot for that group of people who might like to try running, but have not quite ever started. But we do it because that is the sort of thing that Runners do, and they love it. You have to be initiated sometime, right? Right or wrong, we have a small, steady group of new runners and the race is only a few weeks away. Let the endorphins flow!

Why should we want to be in better shape? Why should we strive for more?

Some good reasons:
So that we can do more
So that we can cast off limits
So that we can develop as a person by controlling our appetites
So that we will live longer and more gracefully
So that we can have more energy
So that our minds will be clearer
So that we can help other people more effectively
So that we can run, because running is enjoyable when it doesn’t hurt
So that we can experience the runners/athletes high
So that we can be happier
So that we can experience the joy and freedom of self discipline
So that we can be freed from bondage to food addictions
So that we can do cartwheels on the lawn
So that we can uncover our potential
So that we can honor God by living excellent lives

Some bad reasons:
because I hate my body
because if only I looked good, I would be happy
because I feel shame
So that I can have self worth
So that I can be at least better looking/thinner than so and so
because healthy isn’t enough
what else is there in life besides having a hot body to attract another hot body?
So that I can have control over a life that feels out of control
So that ________ will like me
So that I will get laid
To avoid dealing with my problems
Because no one has ever told me I’m beautiful
Because I have been secretly obsessing for years about my [stomach/thighs/arms…]
because I have the picture of my perfect body in my imagination and if I can only get there…

 

What are your reasons?

Ok Readers, it’s time for me to weigh in on the monkey feet toe shoes. I think I have given them a fair trial now, and due to my experience and research, I consider myself an authority on the matter. I have had a pair of Vibrams for over a year now, and on top of that, I’ve read lots of articles, watched youtube videos, and even gone to a barefoot running lecture at REI, all trying to convince myself to keep wearing them after that time I was standing at a stoplight during a run and the car next to me pointed and laughed in my face. Or rather at my feet.

These are the kind I have.

But you know what, they are worth the point-and-laugh. They are that awesome.
I feel I should mention at this point that I was a skeptic, and I was tricked into getting a pair.  My friend Shelby, (a Toesie from birth), saw these things and knew right then that her phalanges must be coddled into their own pockets in order to flourish. She bought a pair. But she was mis-sized at the store. Due to the newness of the whole idea, and the precision of the sizing, it’s not surprising, but it was a sad thing to have a new pair of toe shoes that squash your toes. This is where I come in. Shelby’s shoes shoddily sized, slipped onto my small sausages splendidly. Out of concern for Shelby’s little piggies, I was persuaded to buy them from her at a discounted rate so that she could get a new pair in the proper size. So because of my charity, and to be sure, curiosity, I bought Shelby’s pair of Vibrams. So I used them.
Here’s how I’ve used them and what it was like:

1. Hiking/walking: This is where the toesyness took my heart from the beginning. I went hiking at Eaton Canyon in Pasadena soon after getting my Vibrams. There’s a creek and a waterfall there, and my toes splashed about free and happy and grippy and no slippy. I felt like I was experiencing a whole new world with my feet. I wrapped my toes around every obstacle and conquered. My feet became investigators and journalists, instead of tourists in the bus of a hiking boot.

2. Running: After the hike I was so excited about toes that I had to run in them too. I read a bunch of articles about barefoot running, and about being careful, and starting slow, so I took it slow. I ran a mile at first, then a couple more, even though my average run at the time was more like 5 or 6 miles. My feet and the muscles around my arches, ankles, and calves were all a little sore, but it felt good. So a couple weeks in, I couldn’t hold back anymore, and 5 miles it was! By the end I was blistered to bits on the balls of my feet. I was hobbling in the grass. Whoops. While it lasted during that run, I was fast and it felt great! But my poor feet were used to the lush padding, arch support, and elevated heel of my Asics. Lazy gits. That was a little discouraging, but after my feet recovered, I was back at it. They changed my stride just slightly, and I got faster and faster, as my feet and body became accustomed to the forefoot strike. Now I only run in Vibrams. It took a few months to get the hang of what it’s supposed to feel like to run lightly on my forefoot like all the people in the youtube videos. But now, going back to the Asics and the other running style feels just stupid. My feet feel stupid because they can’t feel the ground, my legs feel stupid because they are just clodding forward hoping that the feet know what’s going on down there, and I feel stupid because more likely than not, I didn’t wear the Vibrams because I thought they would look stupid and the people at the stop light might point and laugh again, and is that ever a good reason to do something? No, says the toes.

3. Climbing stuff:
Now I’m not really a hard core rock climber or anything, but I do like climbing stuff, and monkey feet are great for that. In fact, here’s a really awesome picture of myself wearing the shoes, while climbing a tree, back when I had dreadlocks. So you can just see with your own eyes what fun it is to climb things with your toes.

Toes. Tree. Dreads.

4. Backpacking:
This post has been instigated by the backpacking instance. Last weekend I went to Yosemite. With my Vibrams. I also went with 3 friends who’s feet were remorsefully contained in ankle-supporting heavy hiking boots, and one friend with a cheap knockoff pair of toe shoes. He only got four toe pockets for his money though. Apparently that brand can’t count and left out the pinky toe. He said that he liked them because he didn’t want his pinky toe lonely anyway, so it was a good bargain. Our plan was to hike about seven miles in with our packs, make camp, and take day hikes from there. A pretty chill trip, nothin to crazy. Not going up Everest or anything. Therefore a perfect test for the toes. On day 1 I wore the Vibrams with Ininji toe socks for slightly more padding and rub resistance (a mistake of mistrust. I thought the Vibrams alone would surely not be enough). After 3 or 4 miles, my feet felt some discomfort, some rubbing, and so I put on my emergency hiking boots for the second half of the hike. I thought, “Ok pretty good, the toes lasted for half the hike.” At this point, the other feet in our hiking crew were not super happy either. More than one hiking boot wearer pulled out the moleskin already, so I felt good about myself and my feet in comparison. Putting on the boots after the Vibrams was like trying to walk while wearing a Hummer. I was suddenly more afraid of twisting an ankle despite the high tops because I couldn’t think with my feet at all! You just plop’em down and hope for the best.

My feet are hidden, but I promise, I was wearing the shoes.

I ended Day 1 of packing with no blisters, feeling good, but with enough soreness that left me wondering whether my feet could handle 3 days of day hiking with my toes exposed and alone. I also wondered whether the toe socks were the culprit to blame for the rubbing, and whether the Vibrams would fare better bare. The next day we hiked and climbed and scrambled down the valley, following the waterfall, all day, and my feet did great. Mr. FourToe Kenny wore his knockoffs to much success as well. We were speedy trailblazers and canyon climbers with our nimble, intelligent grip on the ground. Mine dried much faster though. He had to avoid the water. I wore my Vibrams constantly for the entire duration of the rest of the trip without one blister, or any other foot issues for that matter. By the time we hiked back out, I put full faith in the little toesters, and wore them sockless for the 7ish miles with the pack. Conclusion: for warm weather backpacking all you need is Vibrams. No boots. No socks. Just toes.

Have you tried Vibrams or other minimalist footwear? What do you think?

Tips For A New Routine

 

 

The Anatomy of a Fitness Routine - Vibram Five Fingers

I found this infographic on the Vibram Fivefingers site and thought I would share! Vibrams are great btw. I don’t run in anything else, and I even wore them backpacking this weekend. Maybe I will write a whole post about that soon.

 

I’ve been thinking about transformation today. It comes up a lot in two of the realms I spend time in: literature and health. Interesting, right? What do literature and health have in common? Well now you know – it’s transformation.
In the health and fitness industry, body transformation is the word of the day. Before and After pictures show how so and so went from overweight to super hot with the help of a new diet, training plan, health product, or whatever. So many of us want to transform the body that we have into an optimally healthy body. Sometimes the transformation claim becomes an annoying marketing ploy to get you to buy some crackpot diet product, but often there are inspiring stories of people who had given up on life and and health, but something or someone moved them to make a change, and then they persevere to truly transform their health.
In novels and movies, it works like this: characters in stories face conflict and challenges of some kind and by the end, whether they win or not, they are changed because of it: transformation. For example, I just recently saw Brave, the new Pixar movie. It was cute and enjoyable, and what was the main theme? Yep, transformation, literally, as characters keep getting turned into bears and back. Also the main character faces conflict, learns something, and by the end, finds change in herself and in her family.
I think we can learn something from this similar theme that crops up in these seemingly dissimilar fields. The desire for transformation must be something that humans hold onto tightly. But why is this? Why do we desire transformation? Why do we want to change ourselves from what we are now? Whether we are talking about the stories we like or about our bodies, I think it comes to the same question. And the same answer:
There is something wrong with us. With you, with me, with all those people buying Total Transformation Workout videos, with all the people who rush to the movies or the bookstore to consume stories of transformation. Something is wrong and we know it. Hate to say it, but there must be. Or else, why would we desire change? Look inside yourself, and you too will find that there are some things, whether internal or external, that you would like to change. There’s something wrong. This is not the happy thing that you want to hear, I know, but here’s the good news. If you realize it, look it in the face, and confess it, then you can stop pretending that you’re perfect. You can stop faking it, take a breath, and relax. Honesty with yourself and others feels so much better than striving to look like you’ve got it all together. Before you can even start transforming, you have to own up to who you are right now, even the parts you don’t like.
We in the fitness industry should take a look into the literature world for some advice on how to deal with our imperfection and desire for change. Here’s a couple points for those trying to transform their health:
1. Transformation comes through conflict. It’s hard. It will never come with a magic pill that will instantly change you, and if it does come in a magic pill, it might have unintended dangerous side effects. In Brave, the main character wants to change her mother instantly with magic. And she does! But she also turns her into a bear. True change, body and character, is no easy road. So accept that, and prepare yourself to face it.
2. Transformation comes at the end of the story. You are in the middle. Think about a comedy or a fairytale you’ve read or seen. It’s like that. Terrible and ridiculous stuff happens to the characters all the way through the middle of the story, but it comes out alright in the end. You never want to be the guy in the middle of comedy, and you never want to be Cinderella with nothing but a missing shoe. But eventually if you stick through to the end, you learn something through the conflict, and are transformed from a slave to a queen.
3. Transformation doesn’t equal perfection. You will be changed. But you probably won’t be perfect. This is not to discourage you, but to let you know the truth: you are not in charge of the end of your story. The end may not look like how you imagined it, and when you think you’ve reached it, there’s probably another chapter to go. In new stories like Brave, and old stories like Beowulf, the heros slay the beast and thereby cause societal change, so that’s great and all, but what happens next? Everyone has to muddle through the new order to figure out what life looks like now. That said, don’t hesitate to celebrate the small stories of conflict and transformation that make up the bigger story, and keep persevering to the end.

What’s your story of transformation?


Have you ever found yourself hating exercise? Have you ever forced your body to go workout because you know it’s good for you? You peel yourself out of bed and stumble onto the treadmill just until you reach that time limit or target heart rate. You get out there and do it anyways, no matter how much you hate it. It’s good for you. Mind Over Matter, that’s what they say.
Have you ever had a trainer or instructor push you to exhaustion? I have known trainers to run people through workouts until they are about to puke. Both client and trainer often end the session satisfied with the hard-core workout. Push to the limit, then try to recover the next day. Mind Over Matter, that’s what they say.
Have you ever known a coach with a team of excellent athletes, conditioned to the max, trained for competition, with every bit of their energy spent on this sport? You’ve known those athletes, too – well familiar with how to wrap ankles, use knee braces, and manage their sore muscles. They push through the pain, sacrificing their body for the sake of victory. Mind over Matter, that’s what they say.
I ask, is that the best way? Is this the only way to get results in exercise, training, and sports? Mind over matter seems to be a prevailing fitness philosophy of the day. It’s popular because those who can stick to it get the prestige of being that kind of person who can push through pain, that hard-core, no-nonsense, bad-ass. We want to feel like that, we want to know that we can do it, that we can overcome limits and take on the world. But at the cost of what?
Mind over matter: what does this accomplish? This is what’s really going on – the mind creates conflict with the matter and tries to make it submit, causing discord that forms a rift in the self; Mind vs. Body. The mind sets itself to accomplish something, which is a good start, but then it uses and abuses the body to get there. To follow through with this philosophy, the mind must disconnect from the feelings of the body and beat it into shape. Just take a look at most gyms, and you will see it. In the gym, the upbeat music blasts, giving people an external beat to distract them from the beating of their own heart, and the beating their body is feeling. On top of it, a lot of people even bring their own music players and headphones, using their own favorite songs to keep their mind and emotions distracted, so that they can push through the workout. The trainers too, encourage and often enforce the cycle of mind over matter, pushing their clients to exhaustion, not allowing them to listen to their bodies, but instead listening to the trainer. There are many quality trainers out there, so I don’t want to lump them all together, but it’s true that not all trainers know everything about the body. Actually, none of them no everything about the body, because no one does. And many of them have certifications that mean, well, something, but not a whole lot.  Trainers can help you with learning new exercises, proper lifting form, and their plans can be great to keep you motivated to stay on a regular schedule. But they aren’t the all knowing authority on your body and what’s good for you.
I am advocating for a different mindset. Not Mind Over Matter, but Mind Unified With Matter. In exercise we should seek efficiency, effortlessness, and enjoyment. Instead of driving our bodies to the ground with an impatient, over-ambitious mind, we should listen to the signals of discomfort and fatigue that our body gives us. Only if we listen and respond can we learn what efficiency and effortlessness really feels like, and only then will we enjoy exercise. This is what yoga has taught me. Exercise is not about beating your body into shape, it should be about growing in self-knowledge of the movement and possibilities of your body in that moment. That’s what makes it enjoyable: living in the moment, enjoying the present movement and breath, paying close attention to the sensation of each posture. Yoga means “union,” union of mind and body, union of breath with movement, union of self with the divine. Whether or not you go to yoga class, this mindset is something that can be carried into all physical health pursuits.
The best part about it is that it’s not just spiritual crazy talk. You can actually take specific steps to increase your mind/body connection, that will make physical activity of any kind more efficient, effortless and enjoyable. You could change your entire workout experience into one of bliss. You can actually train yourself to go into the “runners high” zone, in which you have heightened performance that feels effortless and euphoric.
Here’s the first step: breathe through your nose. Yes, I just wrote a post about breathing through your nose, but I had to bring it up again. It’s changing my life right now. Just try it! Take 5 deep breaths through your nose right now and pay attention to the quality of the breath and how you feel. Then take 5 deep breaths with your mouth and note the difference. This is the first step in listening to your body. This is the first step of getting out of the Mind Over Matter injury/pain/fatigue trap. Learn to pay close attention to your breath. It is your life and your energy. Turn off your iPods, your tvs, any other distraction, and meditate on your breath. Breathing with focus through the nose calms the sympathetic nervous system that controls your stress mechanisms, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system that keeps your body running in a smooth, efficient, stress free patterns. Your brain too. With nose breathing, your brain waves will settle into a calm meditative state instead of an erratic stressful state. by learning to listen to your body and breathe correctly you can control your nervous system. This is a huge part of being able to intentionally enter the “runners high,” whenever you want. You might have to start out slow. You might not be able to go at the pace you want at first, but have patience, listen, learn, and most of all, enjoy.
Have any of you tried this before? If not, give it a try and let me know how it feels!Image


I have been doing a lot of breathing lately. In fact, just today I took some inhales and exhales. Yeah, I would say I’m pretty dedicated to breathing. I do it pretty much constantly, which has taken a lot of practice. I’ve been at it my whole life.
Ok, so yes you too probably took a few breaths yourself today, so I shouldn’t go and get myself an award for breathing achievements. But here’s few things you might not know about breathing that could help you exercise and train with more results.
1. Get Efficient. Breathe through your nose.
Your nose is better designed for efficient breathing than your mouth. When you breath through your nose, the air goes straight to the lower lobes of your lungs and fills them from the bottom up, giving you more oxygen. Also the alveoi in the lower lobes of the lungs have a higher concentration of blood than the upper lobes, which means that you oxygenate the blood more efficiently. The more oxygen to the blood, the more good stuff the blood carries to all your cells. Happy cells!
2. Don’t Stress. Breathe through your nose.
You can use your breath to affect your body’s stress mechanisms. Pay attention next time something startles you and you will find that you took a quick shallow inhale through the mouth. That is a part of your body’s flight or fight mechanism that tells your body, “Danger! React now!” The shallow breath sets of the stress receptors in the upper lobes of the lungs, and your body goes into emergency mode. This is a good thing when you are actually in danger, but when you continually keep your body in emergency mode when there are no real dangers, you just keep yourself unnecessarily stressed and tense. Many people unknowingly stay stressed because they are breathing short shallow breaths. Fortunately, we can have control over this! Breath deeply, and slowly through your nose into your belly and you will calm your nervous system. Give the breath signal to your body that you are not in an emergency, and you will handle the craziness of life with calm.
3. Burn fat. Breathe through your nose.
When your body’s stress mechanism is alerted, you go into conservation mode. Your body says, “Emergency! Hold on to all the emergency fat stores! Don’t let them burn!” So instead, you just use up the quick bursting energy of the sugars in your blood instead of your stores of fat. All your energy gets directed toward your extremities and away from your digestion, so it throws off your peace-time metabolic processes as well. Have you ever known or been that person who says, “I keep doing my cardio everyday, but I’m not losing weight! In fact, I gained!” Many factors may be involved, but certainly a big one is failing to breathe through the nose while exercising.
4. Train Better. Breathe through your nose.
Studies have shown that breathing through the nose will reduce your perception of the exertion you are putting during exercise. Subjects who performed a cardio exercise with mouth breathing rated the level of intensity at a 10, but when they performed the same exercise with nose breathing they rated the intensity at a 4. What a difference! Athletes, this can take your training to the next level! This makes sense when you consider the fact that nose breaths are so efficient. Your body does not have to strain to get the oxygen it needs. Also, one study reported on the brain activity of those exercising while breathing with the nose compared with the mouth. The brains of the nose folks had similar patterns to meditation, while the brains of the mouth folks had erratic stressful brain waves. It’s like the runner’s high that athletes experience. They feel calm and focused, it feels effortless and exhilarating, but they are actually performing a high impact and high intensity exercise. Bring the focus of meditation to your sport, simply by using those two little holes in your nose!

Summary: Breathe through your nose= happy cells, crazy calm, fat burn, and tip-top training.

Uh-oh, you get to the gym, you try it, and It’s hard! It’s uncomfortable! Your mouth keeps gasping for air! No worries, that’s normal. If you are not used to breathing with your nose during exercise, it can take some lung training. Try this simple exercise and you will soon be a pro nose-breather.

1. Walk on the treadmill or outside taking deep breaths through your nose.
2. Lengthen your inhales and exhales so that each one lasts 8 steps. Pay attention to the short space in between your breaths that indicates your body is not straining for more air.
3. Speed up your pace, or increase the incline of the treadmill while keeping the same breath rhythm. Once you reach the point of exertion where your body wants to speed up the breath and gasp through the mouth, slow back down, and regain your breath rhythm.
4. Repeat 3 for a longer distance or a higher incline. You will probably be able to see your progress right away!
5. Repeat this process a few more times, increasing the intensity of your walking each time. Practice regularly and you will soon be a stress-free, fat burning fiend who runs, cycles, or whatever, with super awesome efficiency!

Sources: John Douillard. Three Season Diet, and Mind, Body, Sport.

The Good

Do you know the Good when you see it? Do you choose the Good when you see it? Does my question even make sense? As a teenager growing up, I did not think about the concept of “good” much at all. “Good” didn’t mean much to me. When the word came up, it was usually associated with one of two things. Good either referred to a certain kind of behavior that was expected of me as a teenager and that usually banned me from most things cool and desirable, or “good” was used to describe something and ended up really meaning “good enough” or “slightly better than satisfactory but not excellent,” like in a survey: “rate your experience with such and such service/product: poor, satisfactory, good, or excellent.” Since good had these two contexts, I didn’t exactly  have positive meaningful connotations associated with the word.
Now, I think that’s a problem. Many of  us grow up without a robust understanding of the Good. If you are like I was, then you might wonder why I would worry so much about this word. Well, it has to do with what we choose to value, follow, and pursue. It has to do with whether we will choose to live life making the easy choices that give us instant gratification, or whether we will make hard choices in pursuit of something truly, well, Good.
Here’s what I mean when I use the word Good. It’s not merely a behavior commanded of us such as, “no smoking, no drinking, no elbows on the table, no dogs in your apartment complex, and always tuck your shirt in.” That makes good seem like just a removal of things, a negation. Just stop doing things and tada! you are Good. Nope. Though that way of thinking does turn into religions sometimes I think. I just learned about one called Jainism, where they took the principle of “non-harm” to the extreme. They couldn’t hardly move for fear of squashing a micro-organism. (I might be oversimplifying Jainism a lot, so sorry if I got it wrong, and also I guess I don’t want to rag on the Jainists too much because one of the reasons that I am vegan is because I don’t want to cause harm to animals so that’s kinda similar). My point is, that’s not good. That’s just avoiding bad.
Now imagine you are 100 and about to die, and you reflect on your life and you think, “Well, for the most part, I did my very best to avoid bad stuff.” Wouldn’t that be a little lame? I think so. I would rather live a life devoted to pursuing Good for yourself, your community, and the earth. The Good is not just about avoiding bad things, or avoiding pain. It has to do with wholeness, fulfillment, and self-knowledge. It has to do with knowing your identity and place and purpose in the world. It has to do with seeing your potential, and seeing it come to reality. It also has to do with what’s beyond you. Because Good is beyond us. Do you find many people or groups who are perfectly good, perfectly excellent, perfectly everything they should be? Something always gets a little twisted, even with good intentions. We can’t seem to capture the Good, hold it down, and force it to tell us what exactly Good means, and how exactly to proceed. It’s beyond us.
But it’s also accessible. Why? Because the Good says, “You are good because you are.” Existence is Good. The fact that you are alive and you are you is so incredibly Good! So relish it, enjoy it, and make the most of it.
Here’s where we get to the part that makes this relevant to a blog about health and fitness. I think a lot of us let our bodies get in the way of pursuing the good. If your body is unhealthy, that’s like a distinct lack of good. It keeps you on your couch,  instead of out enjoying good existence. Having an unhealthy body affects the mind and emotions as well. It can put a negative spin on how we see ourselves and what we are capable of.
I think our lack of a solid concept of the Good affects how we approach getting in shape, too. We see our fitness plan as something that’s restrictive: no candy, no soda, no laziness, no eating what you want, a diet.  If you just don’t do certain things, we think it will suddenly produce good health. I think that kind of perspective will mostly produce frustration instead. Instead, remember what you are going for: the Good! When you make each food choice, don’t restrict yourself, just always choose the Good. When you are faced with the choice of giving into laziness, or going out and developing a skill in your body, choose the Good. When you are faced with a choice between a soda(read, poison) and a fresh fruit juice(read, nutrients and enzymes), choose the Good. Why would we choose anything but Good for ourselves?
But somehow we don’t choose it all the time. Somehow we bog ourselves down with other things that hurt us, slow us down, inhibit us, and prevent us from growing into our potential. So ask yourself this question: Why do you choose against the Good? Be honest and really examine your answers. Journal it out. Then don’t beat yourself up over it. Just acknowledge who you are right now, and next time, pursue the Good.

Edit: Trying to Find the Good with Google: Ok, so after writing this post, I was like, “I need a picture to add to this,” but let me tell you it is tricky to find a picture of the Good, so naturally I didn’t have one on hand.  I turned to Google to see what it had to say. I typed “the good” into my search bar, and I was so pleased with the top hits that came up when trying to find The Good with Google that I thought I would share the results with you. Number 1: thegood.com. Its an amazing interactive website company. I ended up spending a lot of time looking at their site. Number 2: The Good Wife on CBS.com. Uummm…right. Number 3 & 4: both have to do with a movie called The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. Number 5: The Form of the Good, article on Wikipedia. Plato talks about the Form of the Good in some of his dialogues, including the Republic. This is actually what I had in mind when I was writing this article to begin with. I didn’t read the article though, it looked super boring and long. Might as well read the Republic itself; its like a nice story of some friends having a conversation. Anyways, Number 6: Thegoodpizza.com, haha. Number 7: thegood.org, some kind of musicians. Number 8: Thegood.is – now that’s a clever url. This one’s pretty cool! It seems to be a news site of sorts, but they also have a page called “Good Maker” and the tagline is “Good Maker is a tool to help you make good things happen.” I think we found some Good with Google, everybody. Number 8: this is where Google suggests its image search, which is really what I was interested in. Google’s personalized searching style is pretty great, because the first two images that popped up had my friend Peter Gross’s name on them. I was like, what! I know him! And he’s a hit 8 on my Good search! Well I guess I am connected to him on Google Plus, which like totally factors into search results. The images came from the site for the summer camp he works for called Wheatstone. Which totally makes sense. It’s like learn-how-to-live-Good-philosophy-and-culture camp for highschoolers.

Ok sorry if you don’t find search engines as magical as I do, and you found that an odd addition to a post. Anyways, Keep pursuing the Good in real life, that’s probably a better idea than pursuing it on Google.