Tagged: health

Authentic vs. Honest

A current hot catch-phrase in my industry is “are you living an authentic life?” I hear and read that slogan frequently and I always scream in my head what the hell does that mean? Are people running around living false lives? Well in a way, yes. The issue for me is that I think “truth” is a better and more easily applied word than “authentic.”

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One of Webster’s dictionary definitions of the word authentic is “representing one’s true nature or beliefs…” While that definition is easy to understand, it can be a hard put into practice. How does one represent their “true nature or beliefs?”

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Clearly I do understand the essence of this phrase – that many people choose to not follow their dreams or listen to their instincts, and end up living out circumstances that they never intended or wanted. But my issue is that to live authentically one must first really know and understand who they are and what they want. While some of us enter adulthood already having figured out who we are and what we want (and then spend the rest of our 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s refining that), there is a huge quantity of adults walking around who simply do not know the answers to those questions.

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That’s not a criticism mind you, it is a reality that not all personalities are able, or in some cases even willing, to set in stone the life they want to live. There is nothing wrong with going with the wind and currents and just enjoying where life takes you and how it shapes you, if that’s is who you are. So who then, is really living the “authentic” life? Is it people like me who have things all mapped out and goals firmly being adhered to, or is it those who fly by the seat of their pants? I think what it comes down to is if you are happy with the life you’re living. After all, either approach can leave a person feeling unsatisfied and/or lost.

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To me, what’s truly important is honesty. Are you honest with yourself and those around you – honest about who you are and what you want? Honesty can be much more easily applied to one’s life than authenticity, don’t you think? Perhaps then, the better way to state the catch-phrase would be “are you living an honest life?

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To that end, I leave you with the true essence behind this posting: if you are not living an honest life, if you are not being honest with yourself, remember that life (or time) seems to zip by very quickly (you know the other old catch-phrase life is short). Now I know how hard it is for many of you to be honest. Honesty is sometimes scary for while it’s freeing for the deliverer, it can be painful for the recipient. But honesty, as we teach our children, is always better than the burden of lying (or in this case, living a lie).

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So dig deep, don’t let fear stop you, and start being honest. Remember to take baby steps, and be patient, it will get easier, and that honesty must always be delivered compassionately (that includes to yourself). Honesty is the most powerful tool to altering your life’s course. Take heart in those that live an honest life for they demonstrate that when we live an honest life, we are at the very least, happier and able to breath just a little bit better.

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Respect Your Spine

In previous posts I have addressed the isues of postural distortions due to the rise of poor computer posture and too much slouched TV watching (What About Posture, Kids and Postural Distortions). Today I want to be a bit more focused on my pet peeve of poor posture by specifically addressing the spine.

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The spine is our the gateway from our brain to the rest of the of our body. While the fitness and medical industries direct your attention to healthy nutrition and regular exercise for improving one’s health and longevity, we often forget that the spine is as essential as the brain to maintaining health.

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If the spine is not cared for, you can suffer from a myriad of serious issues ranging from lack of joint movement due to nerve impingement; chronic pain due to compressed or bulging discs; and even lack of mobility if the spine suffers a major bone break.

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So how do we take better care of our spines you ask? Here are some helpful tips to address that question:

Reassess your standing and sitting posture.

From how you sit at your desk/computer to how you watch TV. and especially how you drive – you must always be aware to not slouch – to reduce the c-shaped curve you place your spine into when you slouch. Reclining is okay, and you don’t have to always sit like there’s a stick up your butt, but you should constantly be aware if your shoulders and/or hips are rounding forward. Straighten up, relax your shoulders while keeping them level and blood flow will course through your spine with ease.

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Stretch in opposition.

In layman’s terms, if you spend a large amount of time in a sitting position where you might assume the c-shaped spinal posture – spend time each day stretching in the opposite direction. The best way to do this is to lay on your back over a large stability ball, relax hips and stretch your arms out wide so that your spine is gently placed into a reverse c-shape. Yoga and other slow moving, spine lengthening disciplines are another way to reverse the effects of c-shape spinal compression.

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Enhance circulation through exercise.

Low-impact cardio exercise is a great way to increase blood flow through and from your spine. Even quick bursts of movement (like 10 burpees or 25 jumping jacks) are a great way to heat up and stimulate necessary circulation of blood and oxygen to and from your spine, with the added bonus of boosting your metabolism and energizing your brain, which in turn stimulates circulation through the spine (a non-vicious cycle).

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Make spinal posture be a priority in the next few weeks and you’ll not only feel and see a difference, but you’ll soon replace bad habits with more healthy ones and the benefits will compound.  Respect your spine, and your health will benefit.

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Never Assume Nutrition

Very often when faced with that dreaded moment where you must choose what to eat that will be quick, tasty and healthy, we make assumptions that we know which option is better (i.e., more nutritionally healthy), and that assumption is usually based upon limited knowledge.

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For instance, the other day I was pressed for time for lunch (but as always wasn’t going to skip a meal or suffer inferior (fast) nutrition), so I hit my freezer and had two choices: a Trader Joe’s Chicken & Bean Burrito or an Amy’s Organic Mushroom Risotto. My brain riffled through my solid base of nutritional understandings and told me that the burrito was the way to go because it would have more protein, less carbs, and probably be lower in fat and calories as well. After all, Risotto is pasta-ish and rice-ish both of which are high in carbs and sugars, right?

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Well then the trainer in me took pause, and decided to read the labels and compare the stats. To my shock I found out that I was not only wrong in my assumption, but really way off on my perceptions. Here’s what I found:

THE RISOTTO:                                            THE BURRITO:
240 calories                                                     400 calories
8 grms fat                                                         12 grms fat
590 sodium                                                      950 sodium
35 grms carbs                                                  51 grms carbs
2 grms sugars                                                  1 grm sugars
7 grms protein                                                20 grms protein

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While clearly I was correct that the burrito had more protein (almost 3x as much), but it also had almost double the carbs and sodium, and 4 grams more fat! Who knew? To help you grasp this further, lets compare a typical Subway sandwich to one of McDonald’s supposedly “healthier” sandwich options than their typical Big Mac:

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SUBWAY 6″ COLD-CUT          McDONALD’S GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWHICH
350 calories                                                 350 calories
12 grms fat                                                   9 grms fat
1030 sodium                                                820 sodium
46 grms carbs                                             42 grms carbs
13 grms sugars                                            8 grms sugars
7 grms protein                                            28 grms protein

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While I vehemently oppose ever spending a dime in a McDonald’s, when push comes to shove, I have to admit while I (and many of you I suspect) would assume that a deli-style “cold-cut” sandwich from Subway would always out-health anything from McDonald’s, clearly the facts prove otherwise. In case you missed it, Subway’s sandwich while having the same calories, had far less protein, and more fat, carbs, sugars and sodium.

So the next time you make an assumption about what you’re about to eat, stop and get the real facts and then decide. Your body and fitness goals will thank you for it!

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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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Fretting over Feet

On the whole, people who are concerned with fitness and their bodies care about their heart, joints, muscles, bones, flexibility, strength, and body fat levels. Almost every body part is fretted over, toned, built, and stretched – every body part that is except the feet. Yet the feet are the gateway to everything we do except for sitting and sleeping.

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One of the first things I noticed back when I obtained my first PT certification was the rampant postural distortions of peoples’ feet and how they walked. Millions of people walk in an unstable manner, using only a portion of their feet which results in painful or harmful ramifications throughout their bodies. For example:

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If you walk on the outside rim of your feet (supinated) you put strain on the already thin muscles of the ankles which can transfer up into your hips and back.

If you walk tilting your feet inward (pronated) onto the inside or large ball of the big toe, you again can suffer from ankle strain and also can cause series knee pain.

Those who walk almost exclusively up on the balls of their feet (heels rarely touching or bouncing as they walk) can experience tightening of the calves and hamstrings which in turn pull on the lower back as well as painful ball-joint tenderness and swelling.

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Finally there is the duck walk or pigeon-toed options (toes pointing at 10 and 2 or inward with heels at 5 and 7) both of which misaligns the hips and can cause sciatic nerve pain and other hip, back and knee issues.  (Women in particular tend to duck-walk when wearing super high heels as it eases some of the toe pain.)

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For women obsessed with high heels, the ramifications of years of putting all your weight on your toes can result in irreversible foot pain, hammer toes, bunions, and serious knee and back strain. We weren’t meant to have our feet chronically (if ever) in the same position as Barbie dolls – it’s just not good for the body.

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So take a look at how you walk. Try to notice if your feet are turned out or in, or where you feel pressure when you take a step. An easy assessment to make is to look at the heels of your shoes – are they worn evenly or on the outer or inner portions only.

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If you suffer from foot pain and/or pain radiating up from your feet (ankles, knees, etc.), you might want to spend some time diligently working on walking straight and even – stepping from heel through to toes, feet pointed forward. I would also suggest spending at least 65% of your week in comfortable, arch-supportive, flat (or no more than a 2″ heel) shoes.

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In the evening you should kneed your feet with your knuckles massaging your heels, arches, balls of the feet, and even your toes (or get a loved one to give you a well-deserved foot massage). Then spend a few minutes seated while holding your legs out and pointing your toes into a tight stretch (like ballerina feet) and then alternating with flexed feet (heels down toes up) again holding for a tight stretch.

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The feet are really the most essential body part to daily living aside from your brain and heart. Do not neglect or abuse them. You’ve only got two and if they get ruined, you’re chair-bound!

Heavy or Light?

I have been surprised lately to find that there’s still a bit of confusion surrounding how to properly choose and utilize weights when people engage in resistance training to tone muscles and lose body fat. On almost a weekly basis some woman will approach me and say that they only do cardio because they don’t want to bulk up, yet they’re frustrated at the lack of downward movement of the scale.

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As I’ve stated many times here in my blog – resistance training (weight lifting) is the key to successful fat reduction. While cardio burns calories, unless you are a career marathon runner, or at the least pay close attention to stay in the fat-burning zone with your cardio as well as what, how, and when you eat, cardio will only trim off a small percentage of fat before you plateau.

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Now the confusion about resistance training is in the idea that if a woman lifts heavy weights she’ll turn into “he-man.” Well I’m here to tell you first hand, that it takes a lot of very heavy lifting, and ingesting a massive amount of protein, for most women to really bulk up muscularly.  However, if your frame is already large, and there’s a lot of fat surrounding your arm and leg muscles – heavy lifting could definitely make you appear bulky – but once again, its all about understanding how and what to lift.

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Most people with any fitness awareness already know that heavy weight + low repetitions = increase in muscle size vs. light weight + high repetitions = toned and trimmed muscles. But there’s a bit more to it. First of all, using only one of these equations can still cause you to plateau (i.e., if you do not switch up your weight levels and lifting patterns you will cease to see results). Secondly, your specific body type and your body’s inherent muscle type (fast twitch or slow twitch) directly affects how your body responds to different types of lifting.

So at the risk of confusing anyone further, let me just state things simply:

Lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulk up

Lifting light weights a lot of times does not always help you to loose more body fat

“Then what do I do” you ask? The answer is you can either consult a trainer (like ME), or do some experimenting. Change up your routine weekly: lift light, fast and repetitive for one week, followed by heavy, slow and lower in reps the next.

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The most important element that makes resistance training actually work is to fatigue and breakdown (not injure) your muscles on a regular basis. No matter how much weight you work with, you’ve got to find the right recipe of repetition vs. intensity vs. weight to successfully exhaust your muscles. Then feed them well (lots of water, protein, and rest), and do it all over again. This is truly the best and most efficient way to lean up your total body.

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Please please please believe what I scream to the world almost every day — do not judge your goals by a scale!  (You could lose 2 lbs of fat and gain 3 lbs of muscle and if the scale is your focus, you’ll be discouraged at the 1 lb gain!)  Remember that muscle weighs more than fat.

Now go lift!

The Three “Planner” Bears

Once upon a time there were three bears: an “over-planer” bear, an “under-planner” bear, and a “well-balanced” bear.

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The Over-Planner planned out every single nuance of his life. He was rigid and uptight because everything had to go just right all the time, and when plans didn’t work out he pitched a big old grouchy stressed-out fit. There was little room in his life for spontaneity and he therefore missed out on a lot of opportunities. His family and friends labeled him difficult and controlling, and sometimes felt bullied by his insistence they always follow his choices or plans. Though he achieved most of his goals and got very far in his career and personal life, he was never satisfied and lost a lot of sleep as he was always planning so many steps ahead which left him missing out on many beautiful moments occurring in the NOW.

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Conversely, the Under Planner lived by seat of her furry pants. She refused to be tied down to any plans, preferring to go with the flow or mood and live life always in the NOW. While she was a fun and creative bear to hang around or work with, she ran chronically late and often annoyingly non-committal, resulting in a long tail of unfinished and underachieved dreams and goals dragging around behind her. Perceiving her as “flaky,” her friends and family to never place too much trust or reliance upon her.

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Lastly we meet the “well-balanced” bear. Bear in mind (pun intended) this cub is rarely born this way, but evolves through emotional maturity and life’s trials and lessons, to find balance between a structured life full of back-to-back plans and a frolicking lifestyle of blowing with the wind. They can get their responsibilities handled in a timely fashion, have time left for their needs and wants, and still have room for reacting to life’s curve balls without breaking too much of a sweat.

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Having worked hard to become a well-balanced bear in my life, I love the quote that I stole from someone somewhere: “I adore spontaneity as long as it’s carefully planned.” In other words, while I do live a pretty structured daily life, I not only leave room for sudden left turns (whether for fun or a crises), but I have time allotted in my life for “nothing.” That’s time when I can spontaneously choose something random to do – I can do absolutely nothing – and sometimes that’s the best of all!

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So my little bear-readers, which are you? More importantly, which one do you want to be? Just some spontaneous food for thought today. Cheers!

Surviving Thanksgiving

Every year clients and friends vent and lament to me about their anxiety over the upcoming Thanksgiving feasts and how this holiday ruins their fitness goals.  Every year I remind them all that Rome was not built in a day, nor was it demolished in one day either.

So I thought it best to repost my Thanksgiving column from November 2013 as the advice therein still holds true.  So take heart, enjoy the holiday and the food, be smart not reckless (with your nutrition), and as soon as your schedule will allow, get back to working out!

Does Thanksgiving give you anxiety?

I am amazed at how many of my clients have anxiety over the Thanksgiving holiday. They worry about what to cook, how to cook, when to cook, what to eat, what NOT to eat, and the biggie: how much weight they’ll gain.

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Okay, people, listen very closely to what I’m about to say….

DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT!

The reality is that unless you gorge yourself on crappy processed carbs, sugar and fats for 48 hours non-stop, you’re not going to do that much damage in one day/meal. Now I know some of you look at the Thanksgiving feast as just that … crappy processed carbs, sugar and fats. But I know that in reality most of the meal is not that bad for you if approached simply and with moderation.

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By moderation, I mean utilizing either healthy substitutions in your cooking, OR simply enjoying smaller (much smaller) portions/quantities.  Here’s a example of choices and/or substitutions that are quick and painless and can make the difference between a 1200 calorie meal and an 800 calorie meal.

TURKEY:  eat the white meat. Packed with protein, very lean. If you love the dark meat, just mix a small quantity in with the white meat.

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MASHED POTATOS:  substitute mashed sweet potatoes or mashed cauliflower.  Use olive oil and non-fat milk instead of butter and cream. If your starch tradition also includes yams covered with marshmallows – keep the portion ridiculously small.

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STUFFING:  hard to make substitutions here (gluten-free bread is one), but if you are a stuffing junkie – keep the quantity small. I make stuffin’ muffins, which allows for better portion control.

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GRAVY:  another one that’s hard to substitute in a way that’s health and tasty, but if you keep it as a garnish and not a soup-sized portion, you’ll be alright. You can also try using a veggie based gravy (onions or mushrooms) and leave out the cream, just add in the turkey drippings and whisk till well mixed and “creamy.”

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Veggies: skip the green bean with mushroom soup and Velveeta casserole, and just oven-roast your veggies with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper and your can fill up with these powerful green veggies loaded with vitamins and fiber.

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PIE/DESSERTS: what can I tell you, desserts are where most people have the hugest weakness. I make organic apple pie casserole (with no refined sugar) using crumbles of gluten-free granola on top (therefore no crust) but if you have no healthy options, keep the portion size small and skip the whipped cream or ice cream toppings.

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ALCOHOL:  being that I am NOT a tea-totaller, wine is definitely a part of my thanksgiving feast. But I keep it to Red (which has less sugar content and in general is healthier for you), and no more than 2 glasses — moderation of course!

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In conclusion, don’t sweat Thanksgiving. It’s a lovely holiday where friends and family gather to eat, drink, catch up and hopefully share a few laughs. Keep your nutrition in check but don’t micro manage it, and on Friday, work out instead of or before shopping (although walking the mall is good for burning a few calories as well).

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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Happy or Bah-Humbug?

As the year winds down and the holidays rear their busy, caloric, stressful heads I want to take a moment to remind you to be accepting and compassionate – OF YOURSELF! Clearly all of us should be accepting and compassionate of others, but I find that so many people can give love and compassion to others but NOT to themselves. Therefore, this time of year that type of person is even tougher on themselves which leads to more stress and less enjoyment of what should be a wonderful time of year. Is that you?

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The most typical topics that we you might beat yourself up about are:

  • I didn’t reach my goals
  • I didn’t get in shape
  • I’m still at the same dead-end job or relationship
  • I have to buy so many gifts and have no money

So listen what I am yelling at you right now: STOP IT!

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If you didn’t reach your goals because you didn’t try, okay, so now you must see that inactivity and/or indecisiveness clearly doesn’t work. So find stronger motivation and perhaps an easier goal to reach (i.e., the first step towards the total end goal) and come January, get off your ass and start moving towards that goal!

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If you didn’t get in shape because you didn’t stick with healthier nutrition and an exercise regiment, again, nothing will change until you do. But you are human and not alone in this – so stop beating yourself up about it. Just follow this blog, join a gym, find a trainer, or whatever it is that will MOVE you (pun intended) toward your fitness goals in the new year.

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If your job still sucks the life out of you, and/or a relationship has run itself into the ground with no hope of revival, then decide if you’d rather be exactly where you are NOW one year from now, or somewhere else. If you can’t bear the thought of still being STUCK this time next year, then again, get off your ass and do something about it. There’s ALWAYS a choice that can be made and implemented.

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Lastly, as for the dreaded cost and stress of holiday shopping – I know for a fact that most of us would really rather spend quality time with our friends just sitting around being together, drinking wine, playing cards, watching a movie, having a meal, etc. Same goes for fun or funny homemade or gag gifts that break no one’s bank. A token present or little joke gift to remind someone that they’ve got a friend who cares is really the best gift of all. No one wants a gift when the giver has stressed themselves out over it or incurred debt. The only person who truly demands a certain amount of money spent or certain high quality of gift is usually YOU, the giver. Otherwise, they’re not a person you should be hanging with anyway.

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So do what you can to be happy and not bah-humbug this holiday season, and get your ducks in a row to hit the ground running come January. Remember, you’ve got me in your corner – I’m always happy to help keep you motivated!

 

 

 

Are you giving up already?

Six weeks into the new year and I see many people/clients who were energized and committed to getting into shape (i.e., losing body fat and making healthier nutritional choices) already giving up. My standard motto is “you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make them drink.” This is highly applicable to those of you who are not fully resolved to the goal of taking healthier care of your body. No matter how many routines I create for you, no matter whether you follow one of my meal plans, or join Jenny Craig, if you are not absolutely committed to changing your body inside and out, then you have probably given up already – or are close to it.

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With that said, I hope to offer a little in-your-face re-motivation, and get you, or keep you, back on track. So let’s look at the WHY of your decision to get into shape. Did you decide to “diet and exercise” because you wanted to fit into a smaller size of clothes? Were you tired of having less stamina and energy? Was your health at risk according to doctors? Or were you simply being nagged by worried family and friends? I can tell you now that all of those reasons are not enough.

If I told you that you had one month to live unless you did 50 jumping jacks every morning and never ate another french fry again would you do it? Probably. That seems do-able, right?

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But if you could stave off death by spending 30 minutes three times a week at a gym and eating healthy small portions six times a day for five days a week (eating and drinking your favorite foods for the other two) would that be too much of a change to your lifestyle to commit too? The answer appears to be yes for many of you.

It all comes down to how badly you want it. Obviously none of you reading this are facing imminent death (presumably) so again the stakes seem less tangible – more immortal if you will. But I assure you, they’re not. If you have body fat levels of 30% or more you are in serious risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and a significantly reduced life span. But like many humans, unless death is knocking blatantly on our door, we don’t consider the future when it comes to caring for our bodies.

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So if you’ve given up your 2015 quest for health, I implore you to dig a little deeper, make the stakes more urgent and personal, get up off that chair and just DO IT. Same goes for those of you who are starting to slack off on your motivation and giving your goals less importance.

As the quote goes from one of my favorite movies (Galaxy Quest) “never give up, never surrender!” The journey from fat to fit is tough but the end result is so worth it – and if you stick with it, you might just thank me when you’re 80!

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