Your Car = Your Body?

This may sound odd, but the condition you maintain your car reflects a lot about the condition you keep your body. Even more importantly, there’s often a direct correlation between those of you who do not keep your car clean and free of clutter and your inability achieve your fitness goals. Sounds debatable? Well here are my reasons behind this week’s blog:

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Raise your hand if your car’s interior is cluttered with litter and things because in your hectic daily life you and/or your kids eat in the car, get changed or apply make up, and/or have all the seats and door pockets stuffed to gills with “stuff” you or the kids “need.” Now raise your hand if your weekly workouts take a “back seat” to the rest of your “priorities.” I bet 95% of you who acknowledged the first hand raising, also raised your hand for the second.

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If you don’t keep a vigilant check on your car’s oil levels, tire pressure, wiper fluid, etc., then you likely don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying over your water intake or if you’ve ingested enough protein today. The bottom line is that if you only see your vehicle as a device that aids in you getting things done, but you have little respect or care for it’s internal condition, the same is probably true for your body.

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Now you might say I could use the same analogy for messy or chaotic homes, but I specifically focus on the car example because a car filled with loose change, straw wrappers, receipts, papers, odd random devices, toys, shoes and clothes is indicative of a person who is always running a touch late, racing from commitment to commitment, and therefore is probably going to leave exercise and nutrition off their “must do list.”

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As you know if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, exercise and nutrition MUST be on top of your “must do list” (not your “to do list”) if you want to achieve a healthy body (and mind) that will support the rest of your hectic life for years to come.

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So the next time you hop in your vehicle, notice the state of your interior, and think about how that reflects upon your life. If it’s a mess and you’re lamenting that you’re not eating right or exercising enough … perhaps the place to start making a change is in how you treat your car. A clean car = a life calm enough to not have to do non-car chores outside of the car – including proper nutrition and getting in those workouts.

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Food Prep 101

Successful fat loss goals are achieved 70% in the kitchen, 20% by how well and often you move your body, and 10% from your mental state. Today I want to focus on the kitchen end of things.

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Food prep is where so many well-intentioned fat loss seekers (people who want to “lose weight”) drop the ball. For you to succeed at your fitness goals excuses like I have no time to cook or I didn’t know what to eat and was hungry so I just grabbed something must be removed from your lexicon!

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Now I’m not going to give you a meal plan to follow (although [shameless plug here] you can order a customized meal plan from my website www.workouts247.com and I’m not going to reiterate what I’ve stated numerous times herein about eating 6 small meals/snacks a day, and avoiding overly processed, sugary and salty foods. What I am going to address is food prep because that is the most time intensive aspect of nutrition and the area that usually intimidates people the most.

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As you embark on the journey to change your nutrition there are four (4) important steps you need to understand. The first step is to have a meal plan in place complete with recipes or “meal concepts” for each day of the week. The second step is to prepare a comprehensive list and then shop for the requisite ingredients. The third step (which I am focusing on today) is to prepare as much of the food in advance so that step four – the eating at regular intervals step – can be easily achieved.

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I always advise my clients to set aside one day for grocery shopping (which, if your list is in hand, should only take one hour at most), and a chunk of time for the food prep (can be the same day as shopping or a day or two later).

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Food prep can take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending upon how many meals and/or snacks you are preparing. The essential key here is to lock in the time required as a firm appointment you keep with yourself. Using cookbooks, Pinterest pins, or just your imagination, you can create several recipes ahead of time that will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Meals needed for the later in your week can still be made ahead of time and frozen until needed.

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The most important aspect to all of your food prep is to enjoy the process (do not see it as drudgery). As you become more comfortable with the planning and preparation process, you can expand your variety and pretty soon you’ll enjoy entire weeks of healthy, lean, flavorful meals and the “I have no time” excuse will be a thing of the past. Also, cooking together as a couple or family is a great way to spend quality time (without any electronics in front of your faces).

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Here are a few timesaving tricks to follow, and of course, if you desire more specific advice, direction or a meal plan, contact me directly:

Veggies can be cleaned and sliced and placed in a ziplock bag or food storage container for use later in the week.

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Pre-cooked snacks (like my quinoa, black bean, and spinach egg muffins for example), fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, and dried meats (like turkey jerky) can all be individually wrapped in bags or containers that you can “grab ‘n go.”

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Breakfast items can be made the night before and simply reheated in the morning when there is less time to cook (i.e., breakfast burrito, overnight oats, etc.).

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Crockpot (slow cooker) meals are a great way to easily create enough food to serve several lunches or dinners, and the prep work can be done the night before, then plunk everything into the pot, set it and forget it until you get home for dinner.

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Always have a few fast-but-healthy items on hand (fridge, freezer, pantry) such as turkey burgers, salad veggies, cans of tuna or salmon as all of these can be turned into quick meals.

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More time intensive items like brown rice, quinoa, or gluten-free pasta can be pre-cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to four days. Then on any given night simply oven-roast or sauté your pre-sliced veggies and protein, sprinkle them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and any of your favorite herbs and spices, then toss them all in one large pan and roast or sauté until done. Add in the already prepared side (rice, quinoa, etc.) and you’ve a dish that can serve for two family-sized meals (with correct quantity planning).

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Men And Women Are Not Equal

Despite not enjoying the American past-time of watching any sport teams on TV, when it comes to the Olympics I’m obsessed. I DVR every single moment of coverage and for two-weeks every two years I’m glued to the set. As a personal trainer, it should not surprise you to know that I’m also addicted to the show American Ninja Warrior.

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But lately, as I watch ANW and the Olympic trials I have noticed that comments to the likes of “that’s incredible for a woman” or “women can’t usually do that as well [fast or strong] as men” are thrown about constantly by commentators. At first I got my feminist panties in a bunch, until I remembered that they’re right. Even if you compare apples to apples – a professionally trained woman and man of equal size, weight and body composition percentages (muscle and fat), the men will still likely be a touch faster and stronger simply because of the difference in our physiology.

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While there are always exceptions to every rule, the reality is that women’s bodies are not built the same as men’s and those differences come strongly into play where sports are concerned. Our pectorals (chest muscles), forearms, and grip strength, even on a superior female athlete, are never going to be stronger than most men’s.

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Look at Olympic sprinters: men still hold faster world records – why? Well you take the length and girth of their leg muscles compared to a women of even the same height, and they will simply have more muscle strength to speed them down the track. It’s physiology, not sexism.

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Olympic weight lifters have the same issue – the men constantly lift heavier than women. Again, that doesn’t mean that many women can’t lift more than many men, but it does mean pound for pound the men will always be able to lift past our strongest women.

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As for ANW, clearly if you take an professional female rock climber and put her next to your average body builder, she can out maneuver him on any obstacle course. But put her next to the top male rock climber and the odds are against her being able to be as strong as him. (But it’s important to note that sometimes cleverness and agility wins out over strength in those areas women often prevail!)

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On Monday night’s ANW episode Jessie Graff went farther than all but one man (out of 28 men and 2 women). She did this through strength, agility and using her brain to overcome an obstacle that scores of men had been defeated by. The commentators praised her though their voices held such shock: “Jessie just bested all those guys!” As annoying as that was, I full well that it is rare that a woman goes further than 99% of the men. Every year only one-to-three women even get to the finals in Las Vegas, and it’s not because of lack of training or trying.

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When women’s inequality generalizations are bantered about we must also remember that often the women competing are not apples-to-apples to their male counterparts.  Over 95% of the women who compete on AMW are under 5′ 7″ and weigh less than 125 lbs, while the average male competitor is 5′ 9″ and weights 155.  It’s simple math to know that the men’s muscle weight will help them go further (endurance-wise) than the women, and their arm and leg length being longer also helps.  Again, I am not saying a tiny woman can’t go far in this (or any) sport — look at 5′ 0″ 95 lb Kacy Catanzaro the first woman to beat the 14′ warped wall obstacle and earn a place in the Las Vegas finals.  Take that men!

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While it’s disheartening to my gender to hear constant quips of our inequality (which on all other issues is bull), on this issue I think it best that we continue striving to be better, faster, and stronger, but let go of the idea that we need to be equal to men.

Just How Independent Are You?

In light of America’s Independence Day having just been celebrated, today I thought I’d address independence. What does independence mean to you? The dictionary defines it as: freedom from the control, influence, support, or aid of others [or things].

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As I’ve discussed many times within my blog, if you obsess about anything (or everything) — whether it be your food intake, your workouts, your relationships, or your general state of unhappiness – then I must tell you, you aren’t very independent. You are not free from control or influence – you are a slave to your obsession (i.e., your brain).  We can all become bound to our worries by focusing exclusively on what we perceive is “wrong” in our personal lives. If you break those chains, then you might just achieve true independence from the crap that has been keeping you down.

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When it comes to nutrition, you must remember to not use words like diet, cheat, or avoid. These words trigger negative emotions in your brain that will sabotage your maintain a healthy nutrition. Eating in a manner that supports a long and healthy life with energy and acceptable levels of body fat is not achieved by restricting your cravings or temporarily suspending your willingness to act upon those cravings. Cheating implies you’ve done something wrong, and eating a single slice of chocolate cake after a great day of lean healthy clean nutrition, is not wrong. Eating three slices isn’t even wrong, but it is a poor choice and you’ll likely feel very bad physically after (not to mention mentally).

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Fitness too, needs to be handled in a way that becomes a constant and reliable part of your daily/weekly life. Berating yourself because of a missed workout (or even a week) is not the end of your world, but giving up when it gets hard or you’re a little sore is not the right approach either. Stressing over how many (or few) calories you’ve burned in a day is a waste of negative emotion, and definitely does not make you a relaxed and independent person!

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All of us have issues that consume our attention at one point or another, but giving up other aspects of your life to focus strictly on those issues is allowing self to be dependent upon something or someone that ultimately isn’t bettering you or your life. Remind yourself that you have the freedom of independent thinking and independent will (free-will),and that no one thought can control you.

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So take a moment and analyze just how independent from obsessions are you? To truly be independent in a healthy way, you have to find balance in your life, which cannot be achieved until you stop giving control of your body to your emotional state of mind!

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The first step towards that is remembering my mantra everything in moderation, even moderation!

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Is Fast Fitness For You?

There’s long been a debate in the fitness industry as to whether rapid fire or slow paced workouts are better. As a Personal Trainer I know that both styles have pros and cons in their affect on our bodies, and in fact I employ both styles with my clients and my own workouts. There’s a time and place to perform high intensity, light weight, heart-rate racing routines and the same for heavy weight, slow, low muscle fatiguing routines, and a lot depends upon your body type and goals.

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But despite having already written herein about the benefits of HIIT-high intensity interval training (see Sometimes Less Is More), and marketing my practice on 30-minute high-results routines, I still find many people unsatisfied with how long they have to spend exercising. They want to change their bodies for the better in as little time as possible. So the fads continue, whether gear or groundbreaking new approach — each one is designed to make workout quick and painless, and each one fails.

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It started with 6-minute abs DVD’s and now there’s 2-minute workouts all over the internet (2-minute arms, 2 minute glutes, etc).  At this rate I should create the 1-minute workout DVD’s and retire a year from now off the proceeds. Humor set aside, there’s only so much you can do to trim off time while speeding up the workout and still see results (and avoid injuries).  The reality too is that whether you spend 2 minutes or 60 on your abs, unless healthy lean nutrition is involved and consistent workouts with proper techniques you will NOT have washboard abs.

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But in the interest of exploring new levels of fitness, I offer you speed-minded peeps (or exercise hating folks) who want to fire off a super-fast workout and then get on with your life, an opportunity to try my new Fast Five Fitness Workout!  Get the job done in only 5 minutes!

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I have created four routines – the idea being that you would exercise four times a week, each one delivering slightly different assaults on your muscles and stamina. So here’s the first. If you need a detailed explanation of these exercises or more importantly if you want all four routines customized to your specific fitness levels and goals, then contact me. (My blog followers will receive a 10% discount.)

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You’ll need a little walking room (enough to do a few lunges forward and back), a yoga or cushioned mat, and a pair of dumbbells ranging from 8-15 lbs. Keep the pace as fast as you can with NO rest until completion (should take ONLY 5 minutes depending upon your speed). Good luck!

  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 20 DB lunge walks with shoulder presses
  • 20 jump squats
  • 20 DB biceps curls combo’d with prone DB alternating arm rows
  • 20 Running mans
  • 20 Alternating Leg Up DB biceps “hammer” curls (10 on each leg)
  • 20 Prones to Planks (10 right lead, 10 left lead)
  • 20 v-sit side-to-side DB taps

Mirror Mirror

The quest for simplistic happiness is a never ending pursuit for many of us. We read self-improvement books, attend guru-lead conferences, learn to meditate, make don’t sweat the small stuff a mantra, and yet that inner peace still eludes us. Well I’ve figured out the key to removing at least 50% of our daily stress. Stop looking in the mirror!

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Sounds silly, but let us not forget Narcissus who lost his ability to sustain his life after being unable to pull himself away from his own reflection in the river. How many times a day to you check your teeth, hair, makeup, clothes, etc? More importantly how many times does your reflection change your mood? I have come to realize that there’s a lot of daily negative emotions that are borne from what we see in mirrors.

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On any given day a woman’s mood can be tarnished if they think their hair isn’t looking up to snuff. Passing by a mirror you catch a glimpse of your butt or tummy and immediately fall into a funk because you’re “still not thin enough.” When you look at your reflection do you shrug dejectedly because you don’t like the way you look, or do you smile more radiantly because that self-check just responded back with approval. How much power can we give one polished piece of glass?

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Even the popular trend of selfies is still “looking in the mirror.” Pursing your lips to make your cheeks thinner and your lips fuller; changing the angle of the photo to catch your “better side.” It’s all so silly and so wasteful of our time and energy.

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Have you ever been so busy that you haven’t looked at your reflection in several hours. Your day is speeding by, your mood and energy are up and focused. Then you finally happen into the restroom or home to your closet to change and BAM it hits you. Like Narcissus you stare in the mirror and are horrified to see your hairstyle has flattened, you’ve got stuff in your teeth, or a stain on your shirt. That little moment can ruin all the success of your day.

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I have known a few people who are so discouraged by their appearance they avoid mirrors and photographs at all costs. While they may not suffer the little insults the mirror hands out to those of us who love analyzing our reflection, they still have issues with the idea behind a mirror. To avoid one is still negatively time consuming.

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Another detrimental aspect of all this mirror gazing is that each subsequent generation picks up the narcissistic habit.  My young daughter has asked me a full-length mirror and I’ve not complied.  Her self-esteem is going to be tested enough come middle and high school, she doesn’t need to get that self-obsessed yet.

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The bottom line is mirrors are a useful tool but they have no power – except what you the user give them. Sure we all want to walk out of the house feeling comfortable with the external package we present. But remember that a mirror cannot change the way you feel. Only your reaction to it can. So if what you see is causing you angst – make sure there’s a real problem to be dealt with (i.e., dental floss or tucking in your shirt) – but don’t let it be a downer. If the problem is larger (i.e., fat loss, acne, bad hair cut) – be proactive and focus on solving the issue, not just lamenting that the damn mirror isn’t your friend. Take your power back – you’ll be less stressed and find more happiness if you just stop checking the mirror.

Dear NRA: Guns DO Kill People!

Sunday’s horrific mass murder in Orlando of 50 innocent victims at an LGBT Night Club has me almost tongue tied in anger. I was raised to not see color, to not judge “wrong” those who have a different lifestyle or appearance. Most of all I was raised to view any person or group who believed that their beliefs justified prejudice and violence as narrow minded bigots worthy of contempt.

Whether it’s a lone-renegade Isis-praising twisted soul or a group of abortion clinic bombers, I simply cannot tolerate the ignorance of anyone who murders another because they don’t believe in your God or your views.

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Why is this the subject of my blog today, you might wonder? Well, it’s not so far afield of my normal ramblings – that of living a healthy life with your body, mind, and heart. Anyone walking around with that much hate directed towards someone just because they think or act differently cannot be living a balanced and healthy life!

Therefore my simple but non-bullshit message to everyone today is to stop judging what’s different than yourself, and more importantly, stop hiding on whichever side of the issue you stand on. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian – let your voice be heard that America needs to stop being a place where anyone can purchase a gun regardless of their past crimes or mental state and then wreak havoc on innocent victims simply because the NRA’s slogan says guns don’t kill people – people kill people.

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Gun control needs to happen in this country which is NOT saying that anyone will lose their 2nd Amendment rights. But something must be done to stop lunatics and religious fanatics from being able to kill at will those they deem inferior. If you want a gun that badly aren’t you willing to wait a month? Aren’t you willing to have your fingerprints run? I know I would happily do both if I wanted to own a gun. Worse yet, if someone is on the damn FBI watch list – don’t hire him as a security guard! (Who’s the hiring idiot who made that call?)

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Hey, avid NRA supporter former Vice President Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter. I wonder how he’d feel if she’d been in the line of fire Sunday night?

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Ok, I’m dropping the mic now and getting off my soap box.

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Tastebuds & Your Brain

We humans are the only creatures living on Earth who have elevated our need for sustenance to something close to worship. We obsess over food, turn it into art, and attach emotional elation to substances that pass over our tongue and into our system. The downside of this food obsession is that we actually give up much of our self-control to one of the tiniest parts of our bodies – the taste buds.

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Taste buds are tiny microscopic hairs that send messages to our brains detailing how something tastes – i.e., bitter, sour, sweet or salty. Our brains then send us a message back (and this is where we differ from all other creatures save for maybe primates) and somehow we’ve assigned emotions to those messages. Food was not designed to be a vehicle for emotions, yet we humans combined the two nonetheless.

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The problem is that we forget that WE are in charge – not our minds, not our tastebuds – and so we indulge and indulge and indulge. With so many foods being processed with sugars and salts that electrify the tastebuds and then the brain, we find it difficult to stop eating what tastes soooo good! Because of this, America in particular has suffered the worst affects from these over-indulged tastebuds, as we have the highest rates of child and adult obesity in the world!

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Now scientists, nutritionists, and personal trainers like myself have been telling the masses for sometime that if you give yourself 5-10 minutes after completing a moderate sized meal or snack, that gnawing message from your brain to eat more WILL cease.

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Our amazing systems also initiate a message from our stomachs to our brains when we are full. However, unlike the hyper tastebud the stomach’s signals cruise at a much slower speed, there’s a lot going on in the digestive track after all. Thus if you wait the recommended 5-10 minutes, the message finally gets through and the brain tells the tastebuds to calm down – we’re full.

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So the next time you relish that decadent chocolate dessert or delightfully salty bag of chips, remember that your tastebuds are NOT in charge. Moderation is key, and after a few weeks of this “retraining” you’ll find the reward in your waistline!

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Is It Wrong To Be Right?

My patience as a parent is continually tested by my 10-year old’s need to be right. I engage far too often in a test of wills as we battle for who is right. I know in the back of my mind that right isn’t necessarily what’s important. Being honest, being compassionate, being reliable – those are traits to strive for. Being right, well that’s really about the ego.

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Obviously we all love being right when it comes to matters of fact or real life importance, but most of us lock horns when we are obsessed with being right on matters of the heart – things we feel passionately about. But our egos truly get in the way when they push us to stop listening or seek a compromise because only being right will do. This is most evident with the current HUGE ego standoff between republicans and democrats.

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Trump is nothing but an egomaniac who is driven 24/7 with being right even when he is clearly wrong (even when just the day before he said he was right with a completely opposite stance). Many people believe to their bones that they are right about Hillary, that she’s a duplicitous power hungry bitch who cannot be trusted when she smiles and says she’s right. Because of our need to be right, we have all been subjected to over 12 months of rhetoric and mud slinging just to be on the side that gets to say they’re right (the winners).

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What’s wrong with all this is that 99% of the time being right doesn’t make a bit of difference. Clearly the majority of American’s thought they were right to elect Obama. The Republican controlled House and Senate however, thought they were right to deem every one of his acts or proposals as wrong. The end result is that almost nothing has improved in the last four years, and whether Trump or Clinton wins, the next four years are likely to be just as stagnant as the last. Sadly, being the right person for the Presidency this year won’t change what’s wrong.

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Forget about politics, how about the entertainment industry? Kanye West is so certain that everything he does is right, he had no compunction interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech a few years back to inform the whole world that Beyonce was the right winner. His wife Kim Kardashian believes she was wrongfully attacked because she posted a nude photo of herself as a “mother with nothing to wear.” Who’s right, the outraged women of the world, or the self-obsessed media whore who was exercising her right to free speech?

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What I’m trying to teach my child is the difference between “beneficial rightness” and “detrimental rightness.” When we correct a friend, spouse or parent as they’re telling a story and their facts are little out of order, does interrupting and/or correcting them serve any purpose?  Does it make the story better?  Does it make them feel better or you?

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Conversely, when you correct someone (like your kids) on something like the spelling of a word, or a math equation, that benefits them. When you correct their behavior or their nutrition, that benefits them. When a candidate denies lying about their past, if there are validated facts that prove them wrong, we as a people should learn what’s right (i.e., true) — that benefits us.

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So who IS right, or when is it right to be right? Who cares! Ultimately being right doesn’t get the job done – real listening and compromise is what’s needed in this world.

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Too much Right can be Wrong

Everyday my Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest pages are filled with posts promoting clean eating, paleo recipes, fat-burning smoothies, raw and vegan recipes paired with photos of girls in their early 20’s with 14% body fat and super flat tummies. The psychological ramifications of these posts are far reaching – girls and women subliminally ingest that this look is desirable and vow to strictly adhere to clean, raw, paleo, or vegan diets to obtain this ideal that most of them will probably never achieve.  They enter into a vicious cycle of strict micro-managing of their food and exercise, followed by depressed binging when they fail to achieve their goals.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that following these nutrition plans isn’t a good idea – for many Vegan or super-clean (nothing processed) diets are essential to keeping them healthy and illness-free. The problem occurs when your day is spent tenaciously focused on every minutia of what you eat. The daily glamorous photos of raw fruit and veggie smoothies, or oatmeal bowls laden with peanut butter, chocolate and chia seeds may look enticing and suggest a path to fat reduction, but don’t be fooled. Both the photos below depict a meal or snack that can be 400-600 calories each.

Piña Colada Green Smoothie | www.kitchenconfidante.com

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As always, I am not a proponent of counting calories, but I mention this to make a point. Sometimes even eating “right” can be wrong for you. The sugar in an average kale and fruit smoothie can be 35-65 grams (depending upon the size). The American Heart Association recommends only 25 grams of sugar in a day!  The facts are simple, have too much sugar in your body (i.e., fuel not spent) it will be converted and stored as fat.

Fruit-loaded, nutrient rich meals are better than any fast food meal – always, but you can still be eating too much of a good thing! Not to mention that preparing meals of raw clean food is often very time intensive (if you’re not a good time manager) and can be more costly than one’s budget may allow.  That’s not to say that eating healthy is hard or expensive like many people use as an excuse, but it does take a little more thought and energy than just grabbing whatever from wherever.

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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you are well aware that my philosophy on all things fitness is moderation. While to maintain healthy lean nutrition does take some forethought, planning, and preparation, it should not occupy 40-70% of your day or mind.  Yet for many their obsession over nutrition does just that – consumes upwards of 70% of their mental energy and free time. That’s too much if you ask me.

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So please, eat clean and lean, but don’t make your world revolve around food. Life’s too short.  If you don’t have time or money to prep and enjoy a fresh kale, pineapple and chia seed smoothie – just grab a small glass of fresh OJ, a banana, and a handful of almonds. Both are great for you, though one is a clearly less time intensive, and while they both can help you get/stay leaner, neither is the secret to that flat stomach you’re desiring. That only comes from consistency and moderation with your nutrition, effective cardio, and sweat equity.

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