Monday, August 25, 2014

What's Behind The Struggle?

With all of the products, programs, professionals, and technology available our society is still struggling with obesity and adopting a healthy lifestyle.   All of these advances need to be utilized to make healthy living truly a lifestyle.  While financial health has a bearing on physical health, the correlation is a complicated one. Culture, gender, education, biology, and even politics play a role. 

Many experts predict that health and wellness will be a trillion dollar industry by 2017, yet childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.   In 2013 the adult obesity rate in the United States is 27.2 percent, which is the highest the obesity rate has ever been a year since Gallup-Healthways started tracking it.

Here are four observations I’ve made as to why a healthy lifestyle continues to be a struggle in our society.

1.  Lack of Motivation-Many desire to be healthier and look better, but do not want to do the work necessary.  The thought of changing their eating habits and having to exercise consistently is draining.  Procrastination occurs for a variety of reasons including feeling overwhelmed, being depressed, feeling anxious or fearing failure among others. When procrastination becomes a habit, it may appear that a person is not motivated in succeeding.

2.  Stress-It takes up a significant amount of cognitive and emotional bandwidth. Some people cope with stress and feeling overwhelmed by avoiding starting to change their habits or finding triggers to engage in bad habits. Lack of sleep due to stress can make it difficult to feel motivated even with proper eating and consistent exercise.

3.  Time Management- One of the excuses I hear often is, “I don’t have time to exercise or cook my own meals.”  Time management requires setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and monitoring where your time actually goes.   With the amount of resources available it is becoming more difficult for that to be a legitimate excuse.

4. Dealing With Discomfort- Changing old habits requires getting out of your comfort zone.  Changing your diet means your palate will have to adjust and consistent exercise means your body will go through fatigue and soreness that you are not accustomed to.

Exercise, healthy eating and sleeping patterns all help in improving your mood, anxiety and stress. By alleviating some of the roadblocks being motivated can become easier.

For long-term improvement of motivation issues, try to identify the root cause. Addressing this underlying issue is the best and most successful way of improving motivation. If you are unsure of your root cause take the time to attempt to identify it.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From The Inside Out

The emphasis to adopt a healthy lifestyle can easily be on outward appearance.  It can be looking at old pictures or a celebrity/model of what you want to go back to or get to whether it is to lose weight and/or build muscle.   Your progress starts internally before you will see any results on the outside.  Remember that this is a process and changes will not come overnight.   There are countless advertisements of drink this or take that and you’ll lose weight in a short period of time.  Begin respecting the process and not a product.  Supplements are meant to complement your diet and can be of great assistance.  Depending on them may generate results in the short term, but in the long term will not be beneficial for your health.

Scientists have recently discovered that years of eating – and overeating – the typical American diet actually changes the brain. More specifically, it damages the signaling pathways in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates metabolism.  This can be overcome by changing your diet. “It’s about biology,” says Louisse Aronne, Director of the Comprehensive Weight-Control Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.  While some damage to the hypothalamus may be permanent, it’s possible to reverse much of it. “If less fatty food comes in, it reduces the rate of damage,” he explains, noting that it doesn’t matter so much which specific diet you follow, as long as it’s one that cuts calories, reduces fat, and reduces simple carbohydrates.

If you have taken a good look at a newly constructed or recently remodeled McDonald’s lately, you have seen the effect that fast-casual restaurants have had on fast food franchises, which are incorporating some fast-casual concepts into their models in order to meet the competition.   Taco Bell recently opened a new chain called US Taco Co.  Among those fast-casual concepts in the Top 30, Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panda Express posted healthy sales gains of 12, 17 and 11 percent, respectively, according to Technomic's 2013 report.  Cooking your own meals is ideal, but food chains are noticing that consumers want better options. 
Psychological disorders which obesity may trigger include depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, and low self-esteem.  Advertisers play on those emotions by offering quick fixes.  There isn’t a short cut.  Consistent health eating habits with exercise will improve your overall health, strength, and endurance.  You will feel the changes such as more energy and the ability to do more during your training sessions before you see any changes.  The key is to trust the process and be patient and diligent.   Enjoy the journey while you are pursuing the end result.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Reaching The Next Level In Healthy Living

Adopting a healthy lifestyle requires a commitment and consistency.    Even after making the choice evaluating your progress can become frustrating.  The pace of weight loss has slowed down or is not happening at all or you reached your desired weight/size, but now you want to focus on certain body parts or reach a new milestone.  The original program that has gotten you to where you are will not be enough to take you to the next level.  In order to do that a few things need to be examined before you panic.  A drastic change may not be necessary or it could be?  Before making that decision do a self-evaluation in a few areas:

Nutrition:  The first thing to examine when reaching a plateau is to examine your nutrition.   Are you getting enough protein, carbs, sleep, and drinking enough water.   Are you skipping meals, large gaps in between meals, too many calories, or too little calories?    If you're looking to lose weight, you might turn to a low-carbohydrate diet. However, carbs are a biologically important nutrient, so significantly reducing your intake can have negative effects of varying severity.  You may have reached your goal in size and weight and are getting stronger and conditioning is improving.  Increasing your carbohydrate intake will not set you back.  Just make sure they are the “good” carbs such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grains.  Be mindful of the sneaky carbs such as yogurt, fruit, and nuts.  The body slows down its metabolism in response to a lack of food or excessive amounts of exercise.  Make sure you have the right balance. 

Eating out often and not knowing all the ingredients and calories can set you back as well.  Frequently eating out usually happens because it is quick, convenient, and it tastes good. However, if you want to eat healthier or lose weight, making meals at home is often a healthier choice. Cooking your own meals can be just as fast, or faster, than restaurant eating when you factor in waiting for your order to be taken and food to be prepared.   It will require preparing meals ahead of time and not being an impulsive grocery shopper and eater.  Learn quick recipes for nutritious and healthy meals.  Eating healthy does not mean it has to taste bad.  You also have to give your palate time to adjust to the changes in your diet.  You did not acquire your taste buds overnight so they will not change immediately.

Do not fall into the trap of relying too much on supplements; they are called supplements for a reason.  Supplements fill the gaps in your whole food diet and help you get more from your efforts in the gym. They are not intended to be a replacement for a proper diet or hard work.
A diet of basic whole foods, supported intelligently with basics such as protein, fish oil, and pre-workouts are sufficient.
Make sure that your diet is nailed down before you start adding anything more than those to your routine. You'll get better results by mastering basic nutrition than if you have a subpar diet with superior supplementation.

Training Program:  Most of us have a picture in our head of the ideal body that we have seen before, "I'd like to look just like him/her. They look great!"  If you are close to your ultimate goal or progress has slowed on the way take a step back and reevaluate your training program.  Are you training as hard as you can?  Are you doing long cardio sessions and very little weights, long weight sessions and very little cardio?   Your ultimate goal may require a change.  Have you been doing the same routine with the same reps and weights for months?   Running the same distance in the same time?  It is great that you have been consistent, but some minor adjustments could be needed.

It could as simple as using dumbbells instead of barbells for a particular exercise.  Increasing the weight for the same amount of reps because you have gotten stronger and do not realize it.  Change is good, but how you change is even more important.  You should not panic.  In my opinion certain exercises are irreplaceable and should not be abandoned such as pushups, pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, and dips.    Bouncing back and forth between routines can cause some parts of your body to get overdeveloped while others remain undertrained.  Know what your body needs and what body parts need more attention than others.

Accountability is key with someone else and/or yourself.  Tracking your food intake and results each day will help you help you stay on course.  Your training sessions should be planned each week with a focus of what you want to accomplish in each session.  Use apps or spreadsheets to document food intake.  If you don't do this, it is just too easy to let the carbs and calories creep up.  It's a pain, but if you really want to make your weight goal, I think it's necessary to record what you are eating, and use this information to stay on plan.

Health Issues/Medication:  A food sensitivity can impact weight loss and muscle mass. For instance, some people find that dairy products stall weight loss, or perhaps gluten in some form is being eaten (low carb pasta, protein bars or some other processed low carb food).  Low nutrient levels in the appetite center of the brain can trigger a ravenous appetite and uncontrollable cravings! Our brain’s appetite center has receptors that know if we are deficient on key nutrients like iron, vitamin D, or B-vitamins.   It is easy to get consumed with counting calories and not focus on getting the necessary nutrients. 

If you are trying to lose weight prescriptions such as steroids, drugs for mental health, and beta-blockers can slow down the process or even cause weight gain.   Steroids such as Prednisone may cause weight gain, as steroids affect the metabolism. Approximately 25% people who are taking antidepressants gain weight as a result. Paxil and Zoloft are two of the drugs commonly mentioned in this regard. Weight gain may not be sudden but gradual, over weeks and even months.  Beta-blockers, which are prescribed for hypertension, may bring on fatigue. You may be less eager to be active as a result. Another side effect is water retention. Moderate amounts of weight gain have been observed with some of these beta-blockers.  

You can achieve whatever fitness goals you desire.   It is important to that you set realistic expectations about your progress and the timeframe required to achieve it. If you don't, you'll get discouraged, and that can take all the fun out of your lifestyle. I’m sure you have heard it over and over again, to be healthy, look good, and feel good, it is a lifestyle.   It is not a certain lift, program, or dietary trick that will lead to results.  If you have questions consult your doctor, fitness professional, and nutritionist.  If you are currently working with a personal trainer and/or nutritionist keep the lines of communication open and be honest about your habits away from the time you are with them.  That will help them help you.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer