Thursday, December 26, 2013

Make It More Than A Resolution

The New Year is approaching and fitness centers and professionals will be busy as many people plan to start the New Year off improving their health.   From January to March there is a boom in the fitness business and then it begins to taper off. 

The fact that a resolution is made is a declaration to make positive changes.  "Studies show that people who resolve to change behaviors do much better than non-resolvers who have the same habits that need to be changed," says University of Scranton psychologist John Norcross.

Americans most often resolve to lose weight; quit smoking; get more exercise; and reduce their alcohol consumption, in that order, Norcross says.

Statistics show that, at the end of January, some 64% of resolvers are still hanging in there; six months later, that number drops to 44%, according to Norcross, author of Changing for Good.

Here are steps toward a New Year’s resolution for better health:

Have A Plan

The habits and behaviors that led to anyone’s displeasure with their health didn’t develop overnight.  Adopting a healthy lifestyle will require a commitment to making changes to your eating and exercise regiment.  Every meal and exercise session is part of the plan.

Meals must fuel your workouts and each meal and workout is for a purpose.  Your exercise regiment should combine cardio vascular/endurance exercises and strength training.  For example, plan which days you are performing cardio vascular exercises and strength training during the week.

There are many applications and wristbands on the market that assist with tracking food intake and calories burned that are reasonably priced.  These can assist with documenting your progress and accountability as your work toward your goals.

Stay Committed

Whatever your health and fitness goals are they will not be accomplished overnight.  Commitment and consistency throughout the process is essential to achieve your goals.  Do not resort to an extreme diet or program because you are impatient.

Quick weight loss is usually not permanent weight loss, experts say. Diets that have strict rules, eliminate or severely restrict certain foods, or otherwise take a lot of effort are usually only successful in the short term. 

Your daily meal plan should combine carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, and vegetables.  A meal plan can have variety with tasty foods and still be healthy.  Research healthy recipes if you need fresh ideas on healthy and tasty meals.

Trust The Process

I have mentioned this in previous blog posts and it is worth mentioning again.  You must trust the process.  Adjustments to your meal plan and exercise routines will be necessary, but stay true to the process of adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  What does this mean?

Experts define it as the ability to trust that your life is moving towards what you want despite outward appearances to the contrary.

It starts with making a decision that you desire something different from what you are experiencing.  If being healthier is something that you want, be mindful that it will take steps and being patient with yourself to get there and maintain.

The discipline of healthy eating and consistent exercises can be a stressful transition that takes you out of your comfort zone.  Constantly remind yourself of why you are making these changes, for yourself and no one else! 

As President Abraham Lincoln profoundly stated, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” 

Losing weight and exercising more are common New Year’s resolutions.  Document your activity and progress.  Encourage friends and family to take the journey with you.  Reward yourself when you reach certain milestones.   Do not go into the process blind.  Seek help if needed so your desire to be healthier will be planned and with purpose.  Your program should be individualized for your specific needs.  Have a plan, stay committed, and trust the process and your changes for a healthier lifestyle will be more than a resolution.

Jamaal Piper is  Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer,,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Deal With The Pain

Getting started with an exercise program or introducing new exercises or intensity to your current regiment can lead to pain and soreness.  For those who have not exercised for an extended period of time or just beginning the pain and soreness can be enough for them to give up.

"Muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress when we exercise," says Rick Sharp, professor of exercise physiology at Iowa State University in Ames.
"Mild soreness just a natural outcome of any kind of physical activity," he says. "And they're most prevalent in beginning stages of a program."

Muscle soreness takes place for a variety of reasons.  You did an activity you're not used to like doing sprints instead of distance running.  You did eccentric exercises, in which you lengthened instead of shortened your muscle (like walking downhill or extending your arm during a bicep curl).  These changes to your exercise routine can lead to tiny injuries called micro damage in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. About a day or two later, you'll start to feel sore.

No one is immune to muscle soreness. Exercise neophytes and body builders experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
It peaks within about 48 hours, and then it will gradually get better.  I have had new clients slightly sore after 24 hours then it will increase 48 hours after their first workout then be gone the next day.
Many of us who have set and accomplished goals have been through pain, suffering, and disappointment.  In those instances the pain was emotional and psychological.  When it comes to achieving a healthier lifestyle the pain is also physical. 

It is easy to exercise just enough to reach a comfort level with minimal pain.  That is when fitness coaches and personal trainers are a great asset.  Working in a controlled environment individually or in a group will push you past your comfort level.  In my experiences clients can do more than they realize because on their own they did not want to push themselves too hard.

I recently saw an episode of “Shark Tank” on ABC.  The show has venture capitalists that hears pitches from entrepreneurs to invest in their respective businesses.  Robert Herjavec, one of the “Sharks” on the show told a business owner that she hasn’t suffered enough to take her business to the next level.  She had a steady job that paid her well and was not willing to put the time in and make the sacrifice that he would be willing to invest in her company.

He shared his story of how he lost his job and had to take care of his family that motivated him to start his business.  He articulated to her that when she was willing to put herself in a position to suffer then her business could be successful.

His painful experience gave him more appreciation for the success he currently has.  Herjavez explained how in order for the contestant to achieve the dreams of her business she had to be willing to deal with pain.   Achieving fitness goals is a painful experience as well. 

Our painful experiences in life make us stronger and wiser if we respond to them appropriately.  Dealing with the physical pain of an intense workout will make you stronger physically.  You just have to be willing to put yourself through the process.

Think about a recent setback you experienced. How did you respond? It probably did not feel good to go through it, but you knew in order overcome it you had to get passed it.  It is not that the pain can be avoided what must change is how you respond to it.

The muscle discomfort is simply a symptom of using your muscles and placing stresses on them that are leading to adaptations to make them stronger and better able to perform the task the next time.

Planning your workouts to give body parts appropriate rest will help you deal with the pain and soreness.  For example, if you primarily worked on your upper body one day, the next day work on your legs or do cardio.  Several remedies can assist with addressing the pain in between workouts such as ice, rest, anti-inflammatory medication, massage, heat, and stretching.

Do not get discouraged or delay your exercise routine because you do not want to deal with the pain.  The soreness and pain should not prevent you from performing daily activities associated with living and work.  That is overtraining.  Also, it can psychologically deter you from continuing to workout.

Push yourself pass your comfort level, but not to the point where you are not able to function.  This can be trial and error.  View the pain as progress as it is a reminder that you are on the right path.

Jamaal Piper is  Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer,,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Relationships, Race, and Leadership

With the recent developments with the Washington Redskins and Coach Mike Shanahan, his status with the team, past history with Donovan McNabb, and shutting down Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the season has stirred up a variety of emotions.  The racial component of Shanahan's relationship with McNabb and now RG3 has primarily been on social media websites, blogs, and been the talk in the Washington, DC area, aka “Chocolate City”.  It has been recently discussed by Michael Irvin on NFL Network, Pardon The Interruption and First Take on ESPN.  

Washington, DC and surrounding suburbs are one of the most diverse in the United States.  Washington, Atlanta, and Charlotte have many black fans that attend games and buy merchandise.   Primarily because there is a black middle class that can afford the tickets and merchandise.

Black fans not only come to the stadium to support the team, but also black owned businesses purchase suites at FedEx Field.   Witnessing the relationship between Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb go sour and now apparent issues with Robert Griffin III has raised eyebrows, especially in the black community.

Joe Gibbs and Doug Williams
When it comes to ‘Skins fans this is the city where Doug Williams, the first and only black quarterback won a Super Bowl.   Coach Joe Gibbs called on Williams to lead the team in the playoffs.  Williams only started two games that season, both losses.  But came in to replace Jay Schroeder three times to lead the ‘Skins to victory.

The same Coach Gibbs was his offensive coordinator his rookie season in Tampa Bay when Doug Williams was the only black starting quarterback in the NFL.  Williams was the first black quarterback to be drafted in the first round and finished fourth for the Heisman Trophy in 1977.

When Gibbs was the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay he visited Grambling to scout Williams. The Bucs needed to know if Williams’ abilities were worthy of a high choice and if Williams could handle the scrutiny such a history-making choice would engender. Former personnel man Ken Herock had Gibbs spend the week with Williams.

“Joe comes back after a week and we ask him, ‘What do you think?’” Herock stated. “Gibbs says, ‘All I can tell you is he can do it. He is a number one draft pick and will be a good quarterback.’”  From that a relationship was formed.

Williams went through ups and downs as a professional.  Williams was out of football when the USFL folded and Gibbs was the only coach in the NFL that offered him a position as a backup for the 'Skins to Jay Schroeder in 1986.

This city witnessed a great relationship between a white coach and black quarterback that evolved working together with two franchises.  After winning Super Bowl XXII Williams reflected on his lowest moment as a professional.

"I'll tell you one thing I'll always remember," Williams said. "When I was with Tampa Bay and we lost to Dallas in the (1981) playoffs and I got sacked four times, I got this beautifully wrapped package with a nice bow on top. When I opened it, there was a rotten watermelon inside. The note said, 'If it wasn't for your black ass, Tampa Bay would have won.' You don't forget things like that."

The beautiful thing about sports is that it is a microcosm of society and reveals the good and bad that exist including race relations.  The lack of relationship that Mike Shanahan had with Donovan McNabb and currently with Robert Griffin III have a racial dynamic and speak to the comfort levels that people have when forced to work together. These kinds of topics can fuel different emotions without context because it can strike a nerve.

Looking over Mike Shanahan’s head coaching career he never had a starting black quarterback, an offensive or defensive coordinator, or report to a black general manager as a head coach.  These are all leadership positions. 

Shanahan did not want McNabb because he felt his best years were behind him and Griffin III because of the draft picks it would cost Washington to move up to draft him.  These reasons have merit strictly on football terms.  Once they both were on the roster he had a hard time establishing a relationship with them and in my opinion many factors of those factors were not related to football.

The quarterback position is viewed and expected to be leader on a football team.  Owners/management, coaches, teammates, media, and fans have that expectation.  For the first time in what appears to be in his adult life Mike Shanahan had to deal with two black men in a leadership position even though they reported to him, and that could have been a major contributor to their disconnect.

Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan
McNabb and Griffin III have had white coaches and successful relationships their entire football careers prior to Shanahan so the fact that their coach was white was probably irrelevant to them.  Another common thread that McNabb and Griffin III share are two men that grew up in middle class homes, with two parents, well socialized, confident, and outgoing.  From my experiences playing and being around athletics white and black coaches in some instances do not deal with a player with that background well or view them differently.  Very few elite black athletes have that background.

A close friend of mine played college basketball for a black head coach.  The coach’s experience was mostly with young men from the inner city and single parent homes.  My friend had two educated parents and went to private diverse schools.  The coach treated him differently and with some resentment because he didn’t “need” the coach like the other players did.  He did not have the social experiences of dealing with a variety of players in his coaching career and it showed.

During a 4-4 season in 2010 Shanahan pulled McNabb down six points in the final two minutes of a game vs. Detroit for Rex Grossman, whom he explained understood the two-minute offense "terminology" better than McNabb.  A player at the time that felt the tension between McNabb and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and that McNabb's bootleg and play-action talents don't exactly mesh with a meticulous West Coast scheme.

To publicly question McNabb’s understanding of the offense was viewed by many as questioning his intelligence.  With the history of the black quarterback, to publicly insinuate anything of that nature was irresponsible by Shanahan regardless whether it was true or not or knowing what he was attempting to accomplish by revealing it.

Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan
This season with Griffin III coming off a major injury and not having as successful a season as his rookie campaign leaks to the media have been about Griffin’s preparation, insecurity about the backup quarterback, and missing reads.  Shanahan made the decision to shut Griffin down the remaining three weeks claiming it was to protect him from injury.

It appears to be self serving to play Kirk Cousins the remaining three weeks.  If Cousins plays well Shanahan could be a candidate for another head coaching position and Shanahan recently mentioned that Cousins talent warranted him be traded for a first round pick.  

Shanahan has never been pleased with a quarterback since John Elway retired.  Former quarterback Jake Plummer, who is white, had his issues with Shanahan in Denver, even after a 13-3 season. 

"It's not a fun situation and I feel for RG3 -- a great kid, a really, really great football player -- he'll bounce back, get healthy and persevere through this,'' Plummer told USA Today. "I see great things in his future. But I think it's going to be with a new coach.”

"[McNabb and Plummer] had our own styles, and it didn't mesh with what Mike wanted. What I see happening there isn't the same, but it is similar," Plummer said. "Mike definitely rubbed me the wrong way in some ways. Also, he did some great things in resurrecting my career. Overall, I was grateful to be coached by him. But I was a square peg in a round hole. I didn't fit what he really wanted me to be, and he moved on to somebody else."

The Washington Redskins fans had to suffer through a season of Rex Grossman and John Beck.  He benched Grossman for Beck then went back to Grossman.  Never through that process were any negative leaks about them to the media.  Playing or not playing them appeared to be just about football.  With McNabb and Griffin III it was different.

For 10 years Donovan McNabb played for Andy Reid in Philadelphia.  They came to Philadelphia together in 1999.  Reid and McNabb had a strong relationship over those years.  Reid took a chance on Michael Vick after being released from prison and Vick had a MVP caliber season in 2010. 

Black quarterbacks have recently been benched, traded, and waived. In most of those instances it was never discussed that race played a role in those decisions and it probably didn’t.  In this situation in Washington it appears to be that a coach, who has a record of poor interpersonal skills, not dealing with a situation he has never been in before well.  That combination was a bad mix.  Quarterbacks are looked at differently.  Shanahan’s relationship with other black players on the team or before his arrival in Washington is not an accurate barometer of how he would deal with a black quarterback.

This season a record nine black quarterbacks has started for NFL teams.  With the other eight franchises besides the Washington Redskins there has not been any discussion about the relationships with their respective coaches.   But all it takes is one situation to stir up conversation on the topic.  Black quarterbacks no longer stand out.   For Mike Shanahan having to coach one was a new experience for him that he did not handle it well.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Get Started And Have A Plan

Starting the process to adopt a healthy lifestyle can become daunting and the thought of it can delay the process.  The adult obesity rate so far in 2013 is 27.2%, up from 26.2% in 2012, and is on pace to surpass all annual average obesity rates since Gallup-Healthwayst began tracking in 2008.  

Gallup did research during 2012 and discovered that engaged employees are deeply involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Those who are not engaged may be satisfied, but are not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are less likely to put in discretionary effort.  Employees who are actively disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace and jeopardize their teams' performance.

Studies have shown that a healthier lifestyle benefits children’s behavior and performance in the classroom.  Also, school-based health centers have reduced inappropriate emergency room use. They have reduced Medicaid expenditures. And they have decreased absences and discipline referrals.

In order to achieve a healthier a lifestyle some practical steps must be taken to achieve that goal for adults and children.

Get Educated

Once you make a decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle it is imperative to learn the proper steps so your efforts can be maximized.   Some basic principles that have been proven such as eating 5-6 times per day, monitoring calories, fat, sugar, and processed foods.   Exercising to reach fitness goals and improve conditioning and strength.   In theory the concepts can seem simple, but there is a method to the madness.

There are countless resources for weight loss and exercise.  Before choosing any of them I highly recommend getting expert advice from a health and wellness professional such as a physician, nutritionist, and personal trainer.  Inquire about food allergies and find fitness activities that you will enjoy that combine building strength and endurance.

The most difficult aspect of adopting a healthy lifestyle is nutrition.  An exercise program can run you into the ground and the rest of the day can ruin it with a poor diet.  There are many programs advertised of methods to lose weight with shakes, snacks, meal plans, etc. that can become overwhelming.  Many of these are good programs, but what consumers must do is educate themselves on why they are eating certain foods at certain times. 

Before all of these new companies and product lines that were in the marketplace basic methods of eating and exercise worked.  They were successful then and will be today.

Have A Plan

A healthy lifestyle requires planning.  Meals and workouts must be scheduled like everything else.  Foods should be consumed as close to their natural source as possible.  Unprocessed grains, unprocessed meat, fresh fruits and vegetables are all whole foods. Whole foods are foods that stay as close to the natural food source as possible. They are unprocessed and unrefined. Nutritionally, they are usually superior to processed foods, and we receive the greatest nutritional benefit by consuming them.

"Aim for five small meals a day, and plan everything in advance," says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., YouBeauty Nutrition Advisor and wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic. "Prepare your meals on the weekends when you have time, and never go more than 3 ½ hours without putting something in your mouth. Carry a low-sugar energy bar, trail mix or an apple so you're not tempted to buy a snack from the office vending machine."  Being a spontaneous eater mostly leads to poor decisions. 

Trust The Process

Eating small meals and consistent exercise has been tried and tested and it works.  Not trusting the process and inconsistency will cause frustration and doubt whether you are choosing the right path to reach your health and wellness goals.

Working out with consistency is important for your physical health. An intense workout one day only to avoid exercising for the next two weeks will only leave you feeling sore. It is too straining for the body to experience sporadic spurts of strenuous exercise. For optimal results, you will want to build up to higher and higher levels of cardiovascular strength, flexibility and strength training. A gradual increase in intensity will allow your muscles, tendons and ligaments a chance to adjust to the strains and challenges of a fitness regimen.  That will take time and consistency to reap the benefits from exercise.

The statement, “you are what you eat” is true. You can’t become healthy on a poor diet of highly processed nutrient deficient foods. Transform yourself with a balanced nutrient rich diet that you eat during the day, when you need the nutrition the most. Eat foods as close to the source, and stay away from processed foods.  Eat thoughtfully when you are hungry, and not mindlessly late at night. If you condition your body to expect the right nutrition when you most need it, the results you get from your fitness program will be great.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

They Must Be Led

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that has short and long-term affects.  The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.

According to the Center for Disease Control and prevention obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.  The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese.

With parents having busy schedules with work and other commitments it is less likely that a parent is preparing meals for their children like generations before them.  It is easier put something in the microwave or go to a drive thru.  Children’s free and leisure time is consumed with video games and television instead of physical activity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and teens exercise at least at the intensity of a fast walk, about 5.6 kilometers per hour (3.5 miles per hour), for 60 minutes every day.

Recent research reported by The Children’s Obesity Fund, which has been reported in the Journal for Pediatrics, indicates that a lack of physical exercise is the big reason for the rise in obese children.
A recent study of 13,000 young people found that, on average, obese teens consumed fewer calories than their slim friends. According to Dr. Michael Omidi and his brother Julian Omidi and their non-profit The Children’s Obesity Fund, this finding underscores the importance of an active lifestyle.
The findings from The Children’s Obesity Fund complement the data from The Physical Activity Council which reported that in 2011, 170 million Americans – nearly 70% of the country -- were not active to healthy standards, i.e. 30 minutes of exercise at least three days a week.

For the past two school years I have worked with a nutritionist at middle schools in Montgomery County, MD in an after school Food and Fitness Program.  Every week after the exercise is completed they learn how to prepare healthy snacks and meals such as green smoothies, mixed green salads, grilled chicken and turkey burgers.  Each week they are requesting seconds and thirds.  Fitness activities have included relay races, kickball games, and introductions to exercises they can do on their own.

It is an example of when healthy options are presented to children there are foods they will eat and physical activities they can enjoy.  Recently I asked them to tell me what they had for lunch and the cost.  The next week they all received a handout with a shopping list and recommendations of what to purchase at school.  The list illustrated how a healthier lunch could cost $3.00/day with the right shopping choices and preparation.

It was refreshing to receive feedback from the students’ that their parents purchased items on the list and are helping them make better choices.

Children are dependent on adults to make decisions for them including what foods they are introduced to and activity levels.  At an early age foods that are high in sugar and fat are used as a treat or reward.  Parents have bad habits and they are passed down to their children.  Advertisers market specific foods for children that are high in fat and sugar.

 Dr. David Katz, Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital recent editorial eloquently stated how adults view the nutrition and activity of their children:

“Most mammals seem to take the basic care and feeding of their offspring very seriously. Most mammals seem to recognize childhood as the time to cultivate the dietary aptitudes and attitudes that will shape a lifetime of sustenance. Our own species, or at least its currently prevailing culture, seems inclined to treat the feeding of our children as something of a joke. We seem inclined to confront the prominence of junk food in the diets of our children with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, as if it were at worst cute—at best, a legitimate food group in its own right."

Parents can easily have the attitude toward feeding their children in the manner in which Dr. Katz stated because that is how they take care of their own temples.  With children their behavior is taught and caught.  Unintentionally parents condition their children to eating habits and activity levels.

Healthy and unhealthy school lunches.
Researchers have found adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if their parents do. Contrarily, teens whose parents eat fast food or drink soda and are not active are more likely to do the same.
First Lady Michelle Obama Let’s Move Campaign is a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity.  It includes the first ever task force on child obesity and her championing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. A Congressional majority passed the legislation, which required meals in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to have fewer calories, more fruits and vegetables, fewer processed items and less sodium. And today the school lunches that 31 million kids eat are more likely to include a whole-wheat vegetarian pizza than sloppy joes.

The program has been scrutinized in some areas for being too rigid.  Districts in states including California, New York and Texas have dropped the program because their students simply weren’t eating the healthier foods and they were losing money on the lunches. 

The NSLP is still going through the trial and error process.  The program is making efforts to improve lunches, but breakfast, snacks, and weekend meal choices are up to parents.  The older children get the harder it will be for them to adopt a healthy lifestyle because the habits they develop now will become more engrained in them.

Environmental factors cannot be ignored.  Many communities are food deserts with limited options of healthy foods, walking trails, parks, and fitness centers. Low-income families are on reduced lunch programs and many children are stuck with the unhealthy choices at their schools.

In 2009 Robert K. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the California Endowment stated, "The research shows us that one of the keys to solving the teen obesity crisis starts with parents, but we must also improve the abysmal food environments in many low-income communities.  While parents are the primary role models for their children and their behavior can positively — or negatively — influence their children's health, it is also essential that local officials representing low-income communities work to expand access to fruits, vegetables and other healthful foods."

The private sector and government must do a better job of creating communities regardless of income that are more conducive for a healthy lifestyle.  The relationship between parents and children is perfectly designed to enable children to watch and learn.  Parents and caretakers must do a better job of setting the example for children and establishing habits while they are young.   Healthier parents will lead to healthier children; they are depending on the adults to step up to the plate for them.

Jamaal Piper is a Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's In Your Way?

Our entire society is struggling to find balance with work/school and family.  This impacts men, women, and children.  Some of the issues overlap, but others are very unique to the respective groups.  In this first installment of a three part series “Overcoming Roadblocks To Health”, I will focus on the unique challenges adults face to find balance with their personal responsibilities and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Men and women’s perceptions to being overweight or struggling to be healthy are different even though it is a concern for both.  The way it is internalized by men and women are different, but both sexes deal with the emotional and psychological contributors.

It has been documented that there are gender differences in eating habits. Specifically, a study conducted by Foodborne Disease Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) found that men tend to eat more meat and poultry and women were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the sexes find comfort in food, but approach this aspect of food in very different ways.

Dr. LeBel of Cornell University in a study conducted in 2005 Journal Physiology & Behavior (Vol. 86, No. 4) found that men were more likely to use food in celebration, and they will seek out higher protein foods such as steak. Whereas, women use comfort foods to cope with negative experiences and choose higher calorie sweet snack foods such as chocolate or ice cream.

Harvard Medical School’s Publication reported in 2012 research that suggested a gender difference in stress-coping behavior, with women being more likely to turn to food and men to alcohol or smoking. And a Finnish study that included over 5,000 men and women showed that obesity was associated with stress-related eating in women but not in men.
From my experiences as a personal trainer men have a more difficult time asking for help and if so they are usually older.  A woman is more inclined to seek help regardless of age.  Nutrition is always the biggest hurdle.  Body part emphasis varies between men and women.  Men mainly comment on their upper body and muscles.  Women on legs, it can be difficult for them to understand the importance of the entire body needing attention. 

Men and women have to keep their progress in perspective when attempting lose weight or just improve their health.  Men are larger and have more muscle than women due to the hormone testosterone. They are genetically designed to have a higher percentage of muscle and less fat -- which works in favor of keeping them fit and allowing them to consume more calories.

Weight is distributed differently between the sexes.  When men deposit fat, it most often goes to their mid section, while women's excess weight tends to settle below the belt and in the middle.

Leta Shy posed the question in 2011, “Does Your Beauty Routine Prevent You From Working Out?”  Shy stated how US surgeon general, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin spoke at a hair convention encouraging women to stop using their beauty routines as an excuse to skip exercise. "Oftentimes you get women saying, 'I can't exercise today because I don't want to sweat my hair back or get my hair wet," she said. "When you're starting to exercise, you look for reasons not to, and sometimes the hair is one of those reasons." The balance between maintaining your health and not having a bad hair day must be found.
1978 was the first year of the ABS standard Labour Force data series. Women accounted for only 35% of the workforce. After a massive surge during the 1980s and slower incline since then, women now account for just over 45%.  The three occupations with the strongest growth since 1996 for women are Professionals (91 %), Community and Personal Service Workers (83 %) and Managers (75 %).

These increases in responsibility add physical, emotional, and psychological stress.  "One of the biggest problems I see in my practice is women coming in with multiple physical signs of stress," says Nancy Molitor, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. In fact, a new study found that stress and other negative emotions were consistently linked to poor physical health in more than 150,000 people in 142 countries.

Marcelle Pick, OB-GYN NP and co-founder of Women to Women’s Personal Program states that 80% of her patients have some form of issues with food.  Socioeconomic status is not relevant; rather what varies among these women is how they learn to respond to stress.

What must be distinguished is the difference between emotional and physical hunger.  When you’re physically hungry, healthy options such as fruits and vegetables sound good. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush.

Obesity rates have skyrocketed in the United States over the last three decades.  In 1980 no state had an obesity rate over 15%, in 1991 not over 20%, 2000 not over 25%, but in 2013 41 states have an obesity rate over 25%.  Men and women have virtually identical obesity rates today (35.8% and 35.5% respectively). Ten years ago there was a difference of 6 percentage points (women 33.4% - men 27.5%).

Since 2000, male obesity rates have been rising faster.

Even reaching a goal for weight loss can present challenges.  "It's a fantasy, that when we lose weight, everything wrong in our lives is going to be right — that means our relationships are going to be right, we're going to feel completely differently about ourselves," says Geneen Roth, a New York Times bestselling author of books on eating who also leads retreats and workshops, and who herself lost between 60 and 70 pounds in her late twenties. "People are shocked to find out that this thing that they've been longing for and waiting for and working for is not what they thought it was."

Have you ever watched The Biggest Loser on NBC?  The emotional and psychological drain the contestants go through illustrates how impactful weight gain and loss can be.

Attempting to adapt a healthy lifestyle is an emotional and psychological process for men and women.  Habits become ingrained in our minds to the point where you cannot live without some of them.  That can be your favorite meal or lying on the coach instead of exercising.  It is disheartening to see people content with being unhealthy. 

Education, career pursuits, family, hair maintenance, time management, extra curricular activities are just a few examples of what can impede a healthy lifestyle.  Regardless of a negative doctors report, that favorite outfit not fitting anymore, or the displeasure with the reflection in the mirror, many would rather stay in the comfort of their current habits than make the necessary changes. 

Obesity rates continue to rise with a marketplace over saturated with tools to assist.  There are home video systems, publications, websites, personal trainers, nutritionist and other health professionals.  Even after getting professional assistance and learning and experiencing what is required to become healthier and in better shape the sacrifice of changing their eating habits, the fatigue and soreness after an intense workout is overwhelming.   Returning to the status quo just feels better.  What has to be recognized is that men and women are faced with responsibility and stresses.  Taking care of yourself will help you cope with the inevitable, the trials and tribulations of life.  Get healthy, be healthy, stay healthy, it will be worth it!

Jamaal Piper is a Health and Wellness Consultant and Certified Personal Trainer

Thursday, November 14, 2013

You Can't Pick A Spot

In my experiences in the health and wellness industry I have done many consultations with clients and had friends and family ask questions regarding them reaching certain goals.  A question that is raised on many occasions is, “how do I lose weight here or tone up there? ”, usually pointing to a body part they are not pleased with.  It is usually the gut with men and with women it can vary from dangling triceps, back fat, or  legs.  Areas to lose fat cannot be targeted, but targeting an area to build muscle can.

Fat and muscle are totally different body tissues.  The fat visible is sitting on top of muscle.  Age, gender, genetics, physical activity, and nutrition are factors that contribute to where the fat is stored.  When you lose weight, you are unable to choose the area in which the reduction will occur. Your body predetermines which fat stores it will use. For example, someone can do sit-ups that will strengthen their core, but will not take the fat off of their stomach.

Bat Wings
Bat wings are a common complaint amongst women.  Bat wings are the flabby skin hanging along the triceps.  With age, our skin gets thinner and less resilient, which means our parts just hang differently. Women in particular are subject to this because their skin is thinner to begin with.  To tone up the triceps area include compound exercises in your regiment that work the chest, shoulders, and triceps, such as push-ups and dips. 

With age symptoms of sarcopenia can develop.  Sarcopenia is when your muscles are deteriorating due to aging and neglect.  According to WebMD people who are physically inactive can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you will still experience some muscle loss.

Dr. Oakley Jordan, a Memphis Internal Medicine physician associated with Methodist Hospital, stresses to his patients to be aware of sarcopenia (sarco for "muscle" and penia for "deficiency") and how to battle muscular deterioration.
Oakley is 62 and does cardio every day and resistance training every other day. He says sarcopenia is "normal attrition." Muscles regenerate slower and slower as we age, but working out, particularly with resistance training, turns regeneration up a notch.
"Women particularly need to work out with weight training because they carry more body fat. They have to hang on to their muscles."
All of these factors are why it is important to focus on overall fat loss and increase of strength.  Problem or target areas can be addressed with exercises to build muscle.  Losing body fat requires a combination of cardio vascular exercise, strength training, and a clean diet.   Cut processed foods from your diet.  Avoid sugar in all its many forms and very common in beverages. Try to eat only one-ingredient foods - in other words, eat foods in their most natural state, and combine them when you're cooking, instead of buying foods that have already been prepared. This is the same prescription for all fitness goals and that “spot” you want to address.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Boycotts To Lawsuits: What Does All This Mean?

Coming off the heels of my father’s recent induction into the Grambling Legends Hall of Fame the current situation at Grambling hits close to home with me with him being a former athlete, alumnus, administrator, and athletic director at the time of his passing.  Grambling's recent boycott was over many well documented issues including the condition of their facility.  I remember 16 years ago my father lobbying for the facility during coach Eddie Robinson’s last season so Grambling could have comparable facilities to other institutions’ that the state supports.  As he shared with me, “Just give me what is mine and not a stick in a fight in the competitive recruiting of college athletics.”
Grambling Football Players'

Grambling’s football players are not the only student athletes taking a stand for their rights.  Former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon is leading a case against the NCAA regarding current and former athletes likeness being used in video games and other licensing deals for profit without the players receiving compensation. 

In September players from Northwestern University, Georgia, and Georgia Tech had “APU” on their wristbands.  "APU" is short for All Players United, a NCAA protest and reform campaign led by the National Collegiate Players Association, an advocacy group comprised of current and former college athletes and supported by the U.S. Steelworkers union.  This campaign is more than about compensation, but also the NCAA and its institutions handling of injuries and guaranteeing scholarship renewals amongst other issues.
These issues cover two extremes.  The Grambling football team is fighting for issues such as better travel arrangements and facilities and most of the former and current athletes in the O’Bannon case are fighting for compensation in an industry that uses their ability and likeness to generate billions of dollars.  Both have legitimate arguments.

The root of the issue at Grambling is that in 2009 when offered stimulus funds for the state of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal rejected them.  That same year, Jindal cut $219 million in state funds for higher education, including $5 million that would have been earmarked for Grambling. In January 2012, Jindal announced an additional mid-year budget cut of $50 million for higher education, with Grambling losing out on nearly $1 million of that total.  

Other institutions’ have been able to deal with the budget cuts better because of increased tuition and fund raising, but are still impacted.  Grambling’s issues reveal a bigger issue of what is currently taking place with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Enrollment is down at many institutions and many black families are impacted with cutbacks with state and federal financial aid support.  All of these issues trickle down to the athletic department.

"Colleges, especially public [ones], face enormous pressure to replace lost state revenues by seeking more full-paying and out-of-state students," said Rodney Morrison in 2011, associate chancellor for enrollment management at Rutgers University. "With the loss of state and federal financial-aid support, we are rapidly eroding access for future students."

Spelman College, a small a historically black women's college in Atlanta announced in November 2012 that it was returning to the old model and doing away with intercollegiate athletics. The school said it would use the nearly $1 million that had been dedicated to its intercollegiate sports program, serving just 4 percent of students, for a campus-wide health and fitness program benefiting all 2,100.

On the other hand, athletes at major institutions’ see the multi-billion dollar industry that intercollegiate athletics has turned into.  Debates have increased on whether they should be paid or not.  The Ed O’Bannon led lawsuit has forced the NCAA to end their relationship with EA Sports who produced video games and EA Sports reaching a settlement with O’Bannon’s group.

Johnny Manziel Jersey
This past summer ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas called out the NCAA over several tweets in regard to the hypocrisy of selling current and former NCAA student-athletes jerseys on their website.  Names are not tied to student-athletes jerseys, simply searching “Manziel” revealed a strong correlation between his name and Johnny Manziel’s # 2 Texas A&M jersey.   The NCAA removed the feature the next day.  Athletes such as Manziel receive a full scholarship including room and board, tuition, coaching, training, tutors, use of state of the art facilities and more, but universities benefit from selling merchandise attributed to specific players and sports without the student-athletes receiving compensation.

Johnny Manziel, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner reportedly was worth $37 million in media exposure.  Texas A&M University raised a record-breaking $740 million in donations and pledges over the last fiscal year, potentially the most ever raises by a public university, the Bryan Eagle reports.  The University is in the process of funding $450 million in upgrades to their football stadium.

With the current collegiate athletic system, players have virtually no rights. Athletic scholarships are up for renewal at the discretion of the coach every year, meaning that a student's place at a college or university is not secure beyond one year. Coaches and athletic directors just have to give a student-athlete notice that their scholarship is not being renewed; collegiate athletes can find themselves out of the athletic program and out of a chance at an education.

These statements by student-athletes address the broad scope of issues in intercollegiate athletics and reveal many issues that HBCU’s face.  HBCU’s must realize that they’re targeting a small segment of the population that have many choices pertaining to where they want to further their education.  Attending a HBCU may not be the first choice as it was for previous generations for prospective black students.  Some HBCU’s have the reputation for poor administrations and organization must change.  They have to adapt to the current financial climate and have leadership that are visionaries with fresh ideas to keep HBCU’s relevant with an emphasis on quality customer service to potential students, current, and alumni.   Some HBCU’s are moving in that direction and have for many years. 

In November 2012 Hampton University entered into a partnership agreement with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. The HU-UPenn Biodental Program will allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology at Hampton University and a doctorate in dental surgery from Penn.  Milwaukee Public Schools established a partnership with Morehouse College in June 2012. That partnership netted $800,000 in scholarships and will send the largest-ever group of Wisconsin to Morehouse College.  These kinds of innovative approaches will position HBCU’s to attract students.

As Samuel Freedman noted on since 2008, when, Grambling has had to cut the number of its academic degree programs from 67 to 47, lay off 127 employees, and defer more than $24 million of maintenance and rehabilitation for classroom buildings, dormitories, the main library and the football stadium.   Grambling and other HBCU’s do not have a T. Boone Pickens (Oklahoma State) or Jerry Jones (Univ. of Arkansas) to pump millions of dollars into the university and athletic programs.
For example, LSU and their athletic department can withstand cutbacks with television deals and bowl game appearances.  Grambling has an endowment just more than $5 million; LSU's, in comparison, stands at $437 million.

The class and race issues cannot be avoided.  Most student-athletes come from poor families and are minorities.  Calling home for $100 is a sacrifice for many players’ families.  Alabama safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dixon was suspended two games this season for borrowing money from an assistant strength coach on staff.  A player in a revenue-generated sport should have enough cash available to not resort to those actions even though he knowingly violated a NCAA rule.

The Grambling’s of the world do not generate enough revenue to even entertain compensating players.  When a student-athlete decides to play for a Grambling they understand it is not as big of a stage as LSU or Texas A&M.  They should have formidable facilities, travel arrangements, uniforms, and overall care.

The day is coming soon where student-athletes benefits above the scholarship will be in place without taking away from the non-revenue sports.  Grambling should not have been in the predicament that facilities are in a condition that has students’ safety and the quality of their education in jeopardy.  The recent statements by student-athletes in both spectrums will lead the charge that change is coming!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Surviving In The Desert

A food desert is an area where affordable healthy food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile.  Food deserts are also noted in rural areas and are most likely to be found amid low-income communities.   Food deserts can be at our schools and jobs because healthy food options are not accessible.  In some circumstances food deserts can be difficult to overcome because of environmental factors, in other instances better choices and preparation can overcome your environment. 

Most of us spend the majority of our time at our places of employment and with children at school.  During the course of a typical day, time can be limited in terms of eating lunch and snacks.  The food options that are accessible near your job or children’s school are usually unhealthy such as fast and processed foods.  That is why it is important to evaluate the environment you spend the majority of your time.  Preparing meals and snacks ahead of time to bring with you to work and/or pack for children’s lunches will help.

Meals should be planned just like everything else on your schedule.  Being a spontaneous eater will lead to poor choices.  Deep-fried popcorn chicken, tiny taters, bread, ice cream, ketchup, milk. A high-fat, high-sodium, low-fiber menu is a typical lunch at a typical American elementary, middle, and high schools.  In July 2012, school meals were required to offer fruits and vegetables to students every day under standards issued by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Huffington Post reported in April 2013 that after just one year, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.

Children are not forced to take the vegetables and fruits onto their plates; the standards require that the various food groups be offered.  That is why it is important that healthy food choices are taught and exemplified at home.

With busy schedules at home and work people are more inclined to go to drive thrus and eat out rather than prepare meals at home.  Preparing meals at home is better for your health and your wallet.  Cooking at home can lead to a 31-48% savings from your total food bill.  Preparing meals in bulk will be a time saver and help you be prepared each day.  Meals can be prepared for lunch and/or frozen to eat later.

For those living in low-income communities surviving in a food desert is more challenging.  In the Washington, DC area there are cases of food deserts that are impacting families and children.  Approximately 18,000 D.C. residents live in food deserts, where there are also high concentrations of children. In one such food desert, 39 percent of residents are children. And although Prince George’s County, MD has more food deserts, D.C.’s deserts have higher concentrations of children. In fact, only two food desert Census tracts in all of Maryland and Virginia have higher concentrations of children than any of D.C.’s food deserts: Norfolk, Va. and Anne Arundel, MD according to Elahe Izadi’s report in DC Centric in March 2011.
The pink areas are food deserts.

Prince George’s County, MD is reportedly the most affluent county in the United States for African Americans.  There is not a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s in the county and very few farmers’ markets. In March 2010 Wegman’s opened a store in Woodmore, MD, which is strategically located in the center of the county and visible and accessible off of a major interstate 495.  Wegman’s is considered a high-end grocery chain and offers their own brand of many products at competitive prices.  The Woodmore location has exceeded expectations with their success over the last three years.

These communities are not only food deserts, but exercise deserts as well.  Fitness and community centers, fields, and programs are not in these respective communities.  Crime in some areas makes it unsafe for children to play outside.   Poor nutrition and lack of exercise in theses communities impact children’s cognitive skills and health.    They live in these communities all their formative years and the lack of exercise and proper nutrition impacts their long-term health.  

We can fall into two different categories: not having the information to understand what eating healthy means and having that information and then choosing to eat unhealthy.  For those of us that have the information better choices and preparation is the answer.  It is debated whether government should get involved in school lunches and assisting communities.  Something has to be done!  It will take a combined effort of government, schools, health and wellness industries, and other in the public and private sector working together to improve communities.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

NFL: Will Greed and Hypocrisy Ruin The Game?

Junior Seau

The NFL is the most popular professional sport league in the United States.  The league generates annual revenue of $9.5 billion compared to Major League Baseball, the second-highest grossing league, had an annual revenue of $7 billion in 2012 and the NFL more than doubles the National Basketball Association and their revenue of $4 billion.    After watching the PBS documentary League of Denial:  NFL’s Concussion Crisis this week it was very disturbing of the circumstances that forced the NFL to be proactive regarding the issue.  What the documentary revealed is how it took bad public relations including lawsuits and a prominent player such as Junior Seau committing suicide caused from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease, which can only be definitively diagnosed postmortem in individuals with a history of multiple concussions and other forms of head injury.

Jonathan Vilma and Drew Brees
This pattern is concerning because the NFL has become a public relations machine for the good and bad.  Current commissioner Roger Goodell has an apparent disconnect with the players' that was evident during the most recent collective bargaining negotiations in 2011 and other recent issues.    The New Orleans Saints in 2012 received unprecedented punishment for their bounty program.  As Dan LeBetard of the Miami Herald stated, "Goodell chose to reveal it and then punish it with iron-fisted overindulgence, gift-wrapping the media an easy and noisy story in America’s most popular sport. Goodell, faced with the oxymoronic task of making a violent game safe, decided to scapegoat the Saints for something that was about as old as football."
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the season and later had is suspension lifted by an appeals court, but the damage was done to Vilma and his team.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees stated after the decision, "If someone would just come out in the league office and admit, ‘You know what? We could have handled this situation better,’ it would go such a long way with both players and fans. People would really come around to realize what this thing was all about because right now the league office and Commissioner Goodell have very little to no credibility with us as players."

Roger Goodell works for the NFL owners and is the messenger for them to the players’ and the public.  There is one thing that many NFL owners and Goodell share, they have very little in common with the players who participate in the game they oversee.  It is expected for many owners to have that disconnect.  Hiring competent executives in their football operations can fill that void.  The Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and New England Patriots are examples of having a reputation of a culture that produces quality teams. 
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
The position of NFL Commissioner was Goodell’s dream job, evident in his letter to then Commissioner Peter Rozelle in 1981 after his college graduation seeking an opportunity to work in the NFL.  He is the son of the late United States Charles Ellis Goodell and competed in football, basketball, and baseball in high school.  His story is compelling and inspiring, he went from an intern to COO to Commissioner in over 24 years. 
In a USA Today Poll released in January 2013 of NFL players 61% said they disapprove of the job Goodell has done overall, with most focusing on the increased fines of players for dangerous hits on defenseless receivers and quarterbacks and the perception of the commissioner's investigation into the New Orleans Saints bounty matter.
Perception is the public’s reality.  His lack of popularity will not impact his job security.  NFL owners are pleased with the job he is doing because the league is continuing to be profitable.  My concern as a fan is when will the rule changes, punishments, and fresh ideas finally catch up with the league to impact the product on the field.  Some will argue that it already has.
Even causes are being used for profit.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  NFL players and officials are wearing pink with their uniforms.  According to the League, 100% of the proceeds from the specialty auction go to the American Cancer Society, but the total percentage of purchases of officially licensed gear that actually goes to FINDING A CURE is only 5%.   The players wearing pink are basically walking billboards.  NFL products are sold at a 100% markup and only 5% of sale proceeds go to the American Cancer Society, then the NFL is pocketing 90% of sales of Breast Cancer Awareness products. 
NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign
Breast cancer has impacted many individuals in one form or another, but men are vulnerable to prostate cancer.   According the American Cancer Society prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men, other than skin cancer prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, behind only lung cancer. One man in six will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. And one man in 36 will die of this disease.  The NFL does not have a campaing for prostate cancer because it is not as sensitive of a topic. 
The NFL appears to be full of hypocrisy and greed.  It implements changes for player safety, but to open the 2012 football season the Baltimore Ravens played four games in 17 days.  This season Thursday night games were increased to 13 meaning more weeks of short rest for many teams.  The most recent proposal from the NFL is for expanded playoffs and shortening the preseason from four to three games.
Goodell’s disconnect with the players most likely will not improve over time.  He will not be motivated to make any changes for two reasons, the league will keep selling product and fans will keep buying it.   The NFL knows how to market its product even when dealing with bad public relations. 
What compounds a situation with leaders is when they do not relate with a group, but think that they do.  Athletes know when they are interacting with people that do not “get’ them or their culture.  Within an organization the coaching staff and front office serve as the messengers.  As Commissioner he does not have an intermediary to serve as a communicator.  As Stephen Covey says, “It takes humility to seek feedback. It takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it and appropriately act on it.” 
Goodell was given the keys to a Roll Royce and told don’t crash it.  The continued growth of the NFL has more to do with increased television coverage and great marketing of the sport, which for the last 30 years it has been great at.  Hopefully rule changes, concussion lawsuits, additional games, and damage control public relations will not damage the game loved my many.