Sunday, January 27, 2013

What to believe out there

What to believe……..
There is so much information out there about health, weight loss, nutrition etc.  It is frankly very overwhelming, conflicting, and confusing.  So how do you know who or what is right?  Well I will attempt to express my views of the information I hear and how I make my own decisions.  At the end of the day, you have to make your own decisions.  If you continue to listen to all the information out there then you may end up back where you started and will not make any positive changes in your life.  Do not make dramatic changes based on an article or a book, or some theories, listen to reason and be careful.
There are 3 points I want to make before I begin:

First: Anything the government supports or tells you should be questioned.  I am a very political person and a very suspicious one.  Most of what the government tells you related to health and nutrition is determined by greed and special interest groups.  The food pyramid that most of us where taught has now been replaced.  In addition, just look at what they feed kids in school and call it nutritious.  If that does not scare you then you may want to stop reading this because nothing else I have to say will have an impact.  When special interest, big food and the Meat and Dairy Industry are deciding what is best you had better be careful.

Second: Our medical community is awesome at emergency care; however, they have failed society in proving proper information about staying healthy and preventing disease.  I am not stereotyping all those in the profession, many are overwhelmed, and their patients simply do not listen to them.  Look at it this way, there is very little difference between the health of those in the profession and the rest of society.  I am not saying they are intentionally misleading us, I am just saying that they are not providing all the right information to make us healthier.  Most healthcare professionals get little training on nutrition and there are few in the profession that make the connection between diet and chronic disease.  We have become the society of the pill to fix us.  Medication hardly ever cures anything, it only mask the symptoms.  How many people take heart medication and are cured?  The only cure is to change your lifestyle. 
Third: Studies, Studies, Studies!  You know there are tons of studies out there; however most of them focus on a particular food, nutrient or chemical!  The problem is we take an idea, demonstrate the value of that one idea and then we think this is the way to good health.  No matter what you hear, you cannot take a single food item and let it be the cure for all the other bad habits we have.

Ok, now on to interpreting all the information!  Here is my reasoning process.  First, I believe that God has given us the capability of living long, healthy lives and we can sustain ourselves on the food he gave us to live on.  If you accept this premise then the rest of this will make sense.  There is a bit of a conflict here, I have decided not to eat meat and limit animal base products (dairy, eggs, etc).  Others believe that God gave us animals and we should eat them and their products.  I will not argue that point here so you have to make your own decisions on that reasoning.
If we go back to nature and eating natural products then we would consume lots of fruits, vegetables and nuts in their natural state.  Today we take these foods and process them and make them into foods devoid of almost all of its natural nutrition.  Now we put nutrients back into the food in the form of chemicals and then say it is healthy.  Our bodies will only thrive when food is eaten in it natural state or lightly cooked!  Because of all the processing and additives, our food has changed.  In addition, the food industry has taken things like Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup and they are adding it to everything!  We must go back to basics and not rely on the industry to provide the information about our food.

When you hear about diets, fads or trends you have to ask yourself if the information supports a natural whole foods position.  If not, then for me it is a false claim! 

Going back to nature will always be the best option.  We cannot read labels that make health claims and assume it is true, you must look at the ingredients.  When you start to read the back of packages then you will be better educated.  When you see labels with more than 5-7 ingredients then be careful.  If you see ingredients that you do not understand, be careful.  When you see sugar, high fructose corn syrup then it has been highly refined or modified.  Many products that we have become a staple are simply horrible for us, examples include margarine, low fat milk, cereal, soy (because it is genetically modified, aka GMO), white flour, white rice, and many more.
Keep your meals simple, reduce the meat and dairy, limit sweets, and do not cook from boxes/packages.  I heard once that if your grandparents would not recognize the food or ingredients then you should not eat it.

I know this is very hard to do, we are inundated with processed and modified foods but with a little effort, it can be done.  One thing that helps me is taking my own food wherever we go.  Fruits, nuts, salads, healthy natural snacks, etc.  Plan ahead and enjoy the journey.

Where to start….

Where to start….

Ok, so you have decided that you want to make a change, now what!  First of all, congratulations on deciding to make a change.  I am always encouraged by those who are willing to do something to improve their own lives.  Keep in mind it is a journey.  It will take time, so stay off the scale, do not expect immediate results in your weight loss and be patient.  You are making life long changes.  Always know that quick fixes are short term and are not sustainable for the rest of your life.

For me, I started by making a few small changes, it is very hard to change everything at once, that creates frustration and disappointment.  Who wants to go from eating all the bad stuff to only eating the good stuff all in the first week!  Small changes that are easy to keep will encourage you to make much larger changes as you progress.

I would suggest two initial changes to start.  First, drink water; give up the sodas, juice packs, kool aid, and anything with sugar or other additives.  Do not drink your calories, it will not satisfy you and only makes you crave more food.  If you cannot give it all up at once, then change something.  Drinking water will help to cleanse your body; this will satisfy your thirst and not add empty calories to your waistline!

Next, I would eat lots of fruit, especially for breakfast and mid-day snacks.  Never start your day with a heavy breakfast that will slow you down.  Fruit is best eaten by itself.  If you eat it with other foods, it will not digest properly.  You can mix different fruits together, just do not add cereal, bread, eggs or anything that is not fruit.  This will help your body get off to a good start.

Other changes can include the following options:

Eat smaller meals

Limit deserts & sweets

Reduce or eliminate fried foods

Limit meat consumption
Reduce packaged foods like crackers, sweets, or snacks, just remember you won’t find any health food in a convenience store.

When you eat better you will eat less becasue you are proviing the body with the nutrition it needs.  I never skip meals and I do not go hungry.  If you do, then your body will do everything it can to hold on to the fat becasue it does not knwo when you will eat again.
To help get you going you also need to start moving, while exercise helps with weight loss it will not make up for a bad diet.  Start with running, walking, biking, rollerblading or anything that will help you sweat!  If you are not sweating then you are not raising your heart rate up to a point to work out aerobically.  While lifting weights is ok, it will not help you lose fat as well as aerobic activity will.  You MUST exercise 20-40 minutes at a constant rate.  Be careful not to go out to hard, you never want to be in a state of huffing and puffing.  If you are, then it means you are working out anaerobically and you are not helping yourself.  Anaerobic activity is useful for gaining speed but it is a short-term exercise.  Start with aerobics – just go get your sweat on!

The benefit of small, slow change is you will start to feel the results in about a week and it will actually help you do more.  As you feel better, you will become motivated to do more, trust me on this.  If you go all out and overdo it then you will quit from exhaustion or injury.
Good luck!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Diets…..Are you freaking kidding me?????

Note the first 3 letters of Diet is DIE!

I am so tired of hearing about diets and trendy fads.  These diet programs are not sustainable and the worst ones are the ones that sell you food, or have you count calories or some other gimmick that is pointless.  I am all for programs that have support systems, but most of those are bundled around plans things that do not really work.  We all know that most dieters return to their previous weight or gain more once they quit these programs.

Here is the plan and simple truth: IF you make lifestyle changes and eat the right types of whole natural foods then you will lose weight, PERIOD!!!  Our bodies are very complex in nature but eating should not be.  I am not sure if I ever heard stories about previous generations or eastern cultures that were healthy counting calories or over complicating food options.  The best thing we can do is keep it simple.

Your worst enemy is the food companies that try to sell you healthy packaged foods.  It is very difficult to find packaged foods that are actually healthy, you must eat fruit and vegetables in their natural state (or as close to it as possible) and if you are going to eat meat and dairy then get it as unprocessed as possible.

Most diets make you restrict your calorie intake.  Do you know what your body does when you restrict calories?  It views this calorie shortage as a threat (not having enough food), it hangs on to the fat stores that we have, it reduces your energy levels so it can conserve energy and then your body starts to crave more food!  Is that any sustainable way to live?  How can we expect to live healthy and starve our bodies of nutrition, it does not work and I encourage you to save your money on those programs and go out and buy nutritious healthy food!

I did not lose 60 lbs. by starving; I ate all I wanted until I was full and satisfied.  The trick is to change what you want to eat!  We also need to listen to our bodies.  It will tell you when you are thirsty, it will tell you when you are hungry and when you are full.  We do not listen to our bodies or we feed it non-nutritious food, then it craves more trying to get the right food to sustain us.

What drives me even crazier are the weight loss “programs!”  These programs offer to sell you food so they can restrict the calories for you, however as noted above the same results will occur at a much higher price.  Supplements or foods claiming to replace meals are also a problem.  Just because the label says it has the right nutrition does not mean it is healthy or even good for you.

When you see those celebrities showing off their before and after pictures, keep in mind the companies that hire them also hire them chefs, trainers, etc.  Most of these people go on these programs because they are paid to, just as they are paid for an acting deal.  Have you EVER seen Kristie Allie keep the weight off? J

I am shocked at how desperate we are as a society to lose weight and take cut short cuts.  I am not pointing fingers here; I have tried a few gimmicks myself but I quickly realized that do not work.  Part of the problem is no one makes any money telling you what you should already know.  If you do not know what to eat, then you can quickly learn it and not have to buy anything.  There is no profits to be made when we eat sensible natural foods.  These people must bottle up the magic and sell it to the victims!

If you really, really want to lose weight then you have to change your lifestyle.  Slow steady change will work best as I have described in other blog post.  It took me about 12 months to lose the weight that I had gained over the last 12 years!  The other challenge with this approach is it is a fairly slow process.  Your body has to adjust to the changes.  Once your body starts to heal and it realizes the change is permanent then you cross the threshold and the weight comes off faster.

Good luck in your journey, enjoy eating the right types of foods and enjoy a healthy life!!!!       

Friday, January 18, 2013

Alcohol & Training

The effects of alcohol on training

When I started on my journey, I consumed alcohol on a regular basis.  I would have a few drinks a few nights a week and a little more on the weekends.  When I decided to get serious about my training, (just before marathon training began) I decided to give up the alcohol completely.  I did this back in 1996 when I ran two marathons in the same year and I had great results.  In March of 2012, I went cold turkey as they say and frankly, because of my commitment to my training it was actually very easy.  The hard part was convincing others I was NOT going to have a drink while being with them.  My goal was to give it up while training, I never told myself I would never drink again and I have stayed with that philosophy even now.

I wanted to share this story because there are many implications if you drink alcohol and want to change your health for the better.  There are the obvious one we know about – the alcoholism, sleep deprivation, the expense and the overall control it can have on your life if you let it.  Growing up with parents who were alcoholics taught me firsthand how bad it can be if you let it.  I will not dwell on these issues but rather focus on how I benefited from this change.

First, when I gave up the alcohol, I dropped about 12 lbs. in a month.  This was my fastest weight loss period in my journey to good health!  I did not realize the implications of the drinking until I did more research.  What I learned is alcohol has a seriously negative effect on training.  It does two major things; first, the alcohol prevents your body from oxygenating as efficiently while you are working out, even on the day after having the drinks!  Secondly, if you drink after your workout, your accelerated metabolism goes way down after the first drink, therefore counteracting on the positive benefits for your workout.  Essentially the fat burning machine you fired up is now doused in water and goes out!

The other benefit for me personally is when I drank I made poorer decisions when it came to my eating.  I did not make the best food choices when I drank and I probably ate more than I needed because the drinks hampered my judgment.  I also discovered I could now get up earlier to work out because I felt so much better in the mornings.  I also sleep better and do not snore anymore!

I know there are tons of articles about the positive effects of wine/beer for your health, but I firmly believe my decision has had a more positive impact than having a drink or two could ever have.  As they say, you can make anything look good on paper in a study!

I did not write this to sway you to give up all your alcohol, but instead I just wanted to share with you what I gained by doing it.  I hope that you have gained some tidbits of information that can help your overall progress to good health and active training.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mile Marker 26.1

This is a copy of my Facebook post in December posted just before my Marathon.

Mile Marker 26.2 (12/07/2012)

Well on Sunday I will have completed my goal of running a full marathon after a 14-year hiatus from the sport I loved so much. During those 14 years I let life happen, I gave up on running, I gave up on proper nutrition, and I let myself become a physically wreck. I focused on the job, the kids and everything else going on around me. I am not sure what changed 18 months ago, but I just got tired of being the way I was. I was on track for an early visit to the grave, or cancer or some other life altering illness. Nothing particular happened, I just wanted something better.

So 18 months ago I began a journey. I started with the little things, some walking/running, making better food choices, etc. As I began to change, I realized I wanted more. I began to learn more about nutrition, revisited my old running habits and so on. I kept things quiet, just making small changes here and there and I began to see a huge difference on the inside, which eventually showed on the outside. I did not even start going to the gym until a year later.

So what did I do over 18 months, well I have logged over 1200 miles of running, changed my diet to vegetarian, quit smoking cigars, gave up the alcohol and now I am working towards a completely plant based diet! By now you may be thinking there is no way I could do all that, well I am here to tell you it does not happened easily and it literally took 18 months to get here. I did not just wake up and change everything at once. There is no diet fad in the world that would support what I have done; it is all about lifestyle changes and doing things that are sustainable over the long run.

If there is one thing I can share with people who also want to change is do something, don’t wait, and don’t live a life that is sickly. You have control, and you can be who you want to be. I have come to realize that too many of us just go around and accept our fate, let life happen to us and fear a future of illness and disease. Well I have realize it does not have to be that way and I hope that in some small way I have inspired a few folks to join the journey at some level.

I want to thank my family and friends for your support, especially my wife Amy, because without her support I would not have been able to make the changes to become an athlete again and make as much progress as I have!

I can’t wait for mile marker 26.2 on Sunday!

P.S.: Post Race Update – I successfully completed the race in 4:43.  I accomplished my goal of beating my first Marathon time from 1995!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Foods

I am asked what DO YOU eat these days?  While I am still adding new foods to the routine and getting more consistent about plant based foods I thought I would give a high-level overview of where I am today.  Many of you may think, “How can he run a marathon and train everyday eating so little of “these” food?”  Well the answer is very very simple, when you eat the right foods you provide your body the nutrition it needs then you do not have to eat as much to satisfy your hunger.  Believe me I do not go hungry, count calories or any of that, I have learned to listen to my body, feed it when it is hungry, drink when I am thirsty and take note when I am not a 100% and look at my most recent food choices to consider what is not making me feel more energized!

Keep in mind I did NOT make all of these changes overnight.  It has been a journey, as I learn more about food, then I make changes along the way.  I will admit that I do still have a weakness for sweets, whether it is peanut butter M&M’s, sugar in my coffee, the occasional ice cream, or other deserts, it is all about consistency over the long haul!

Water, Water Water!  Nothing will quench your thirst like pure water will.  I do drink coffee in the morning (working on cutting this one out) but I avoid any other drinks throughout the day except water (sometimes with lemon), coconut water or fresh squeezed juice.  No concentrates for me, the juices that are packaged have been cooked and devoid of their natural benefits.  Packaged juices normally contain added sugar/fructose and are very acidic due to the pasteurization process.  I also avoid sports drinks, even while I am training.  I never had a Gatorade or similar drink while training or running my marathon.  As a side note, the whole 8 glasses of water a day theory is a result of our diet.  If we eat foods that are plant based then we can listen to our bodies and drink when we are thirsty.  When we are told to drink this much water no matter what, it is because we eat foods devoid of natural water, i.e. eat more fruits and veggies to stay hydrated! 

Breakfast:  I always eat fruit in the morning – period!  I will have a cup of coffee, especially if I am headed to the gym or going for a run, I find the caffeine helps to get me going.  My fruit choices include apples, bananas, grapes, melons, strawberries and oranges.  Fruit is God’s perfect food, it contains many of the nutrients our body needs, it is very high in water so it helps the body cleanses itself and it takes very little energy to digest it.  Many of the fruits out there are zero calories to our bodies, meaning it takes as many calories to digest the fruit as it contains.  Be aware, fruit should really only be eaten by itself.  Mixing fruit with other foods, especially cooked or packaged foods create a toxic environment in our stomachs.  The fruit, which is readily digestible, becomes acidic and ferments in our gut if it is slowed down by our bodies digesting other foods at the same time.  Just look at how quickly an apple turns brown – now just imagine mixing an apple with scrambled eggs and letting it sit for an hour…….YIKES right?  Fruit should also be avoided as a desert after dinner for the same reasons above.

Lunch: Well this one really depends on my day.  If I am out with customers or eating out then I normally eat cooked veggies, salads and potatoes.  I avoid all meats, including fish.  Look at it this way, if it poops then it is meat and that includes fish!  You may think this is hard to do, but I have yet to find a restaurant (not counting fast food) that does not have grilled/steamed veggies, potatoes and salads.  Your best bet is to eat the greenest salad on the menu, i.e. mixed greens or spinach over iceberg.  Choose vinaigrettes over creamy dressings; have them hold the eggs, cheese, and bacon.  If possible, choose grilled veggies over smothered or creamy ones.  Limit the butter and other toppings on potatoes.  Try salsa on potatoes, it is an excellent topping.

If I am not eating out, then I usually stick with more fruit, nuts, or cliff bar for lunch.  If you need more than this, then add some beans, rice or pasta to help fill you up.

Dinner: this one changes depending on what is going on.  At home, I will eat some of the following choices:  Beans, rice, grilled veggies, potatoes, pasta with marinara, homemade veggie pizza, fresh breads, and salads.

Snacks: My snacks include fruit, cliff bars (or other similar options that are not processed with lots of sugar and flour), nuts, popcorn, dried fruit etc.

What to avoid:  While this could be a long list, I will just say this, if it is packaged then be cautious.  Your focus should be on fresh foods, those given to us by God naturally.  Our government has allowed the food industry in to tricking us – if you doubt me then consider ketchup is now be considered a vegetable and french fries are counted as a potatoes meeting some dietary requirements.  If you can focus on a plant based diets, no meats or animal products, several things will happen.  You will lose weight, feel better, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce your chances of chronic illness such as heart diseases, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, etc.!!!  

Our medical community is just now making the correlation to diet and many chronic diseases.  Consider for a moment who funds the training, journals and the massive advertisements?  Drug and food companies……and do drug companies make money by telling you to eat better?  Do they benefit from you being healthy?  I am not trying to be paranoid but just think about it and make your own conclusions.