Health

The difference between motivation and discipline

motivation.jpg

Let's get a bit more philosophical in this post. After all, if you are serious about getting healthy then you are going to run onto some road blocks. I think that in order to change, you need to have a clear understanding of the underlying psychology and the science of change. The journey is a long one and it's easy to fail, or at least have a set back or ten.  One thing I found was that some serious self reflection and self understanding and especially self compassion really help. 

Motivation

Motivation is literally the desire to do things. We are motivated to do things every day. It's what get's us out of bed in the morning, it can make the difference between success and failure, after all, if we aren't motivated to do something we just won't do it. There are two types of motivation, internal and external, both with implications on our lives.

External motivation is related to factors outside ourselves. This could be things like a visit to the doctor and being diagnosed with high blood pressure. This could be our friends and family telling us they are concerned about our weight gain. The key here is that the motivational cues come from outside of ourselves, it comes from our environment. These factors often form the start of our journey and hopefully become internalised. 

Internal motivation, therefore, is from inside ourselves. It could be a disastisfaction with our bodies, a desire to recapture our waning youth or many other things. The point is until we internalise our motivation we won’t see results. After all, as well meaning as people in our lives may be, it’s us who actually have to get off our asses and sweat it out. And it’s hard to change. That’s where discipline comes in.

Discipline

So if motivation is the desire to do something, then discipline is the resolve to get it done.  In your journey this will count for a lot. There are days when you don’t feel like going to the gym or eating your broccoli. It happens. Discipline is what make you force yourself to do it anyway. Discipline is a behaviour. You either do something or you don’t. There is no grey area. The funny thing is, when it comes to your health, it’s consistency that counts more than anything. So if you exercise more than you don’t you will see results. If you eat healthy, whole foods more than you choose to binge on Ben and Jerry’s, you will begin to look and feel better. Simple right? That word "if" is a very big word.

What do I do if I fail?

First of all, don’t panic. Setbacks are bound to happen. All the time. A busy hectic schedule (hey it's called life), an unexpected injury or illness, a moment of weakness (or 5)  at the buffet line, or 5 days of binge drinking and next thing you know you feel like you have derailed your whole plan. I know. It's happened to me. Remember what I said at the beginning about self compassion. The mistake I made and I am sure many of you do too, is to be too hard on yourself. Don't. Permanent, life altering change is a journey not a destination. You will get there. Think back to your underlying motivations and get back your reslove. Pick up where you left off. It's OK to fail. What truly matters is what happens after you fail. You have a choice either to give up, or start again. Choose the later. 

Remember good health comes at a cost: time, energy, money sacfrifice and hard work. The cost can be even higher later if you don't commit and accept setbacks as they really are. Just set backs. 

Like this article? Hit me up if you want to get in touch with me. 

Alcohol: the good news and the bad news

alcoholgoodandbad.jpg

If you have been following this blog, you probably realise I like to talk about health, food and alcohol. Now my mission is to balance all three so I can be healthy and still enjoy life. Now on the surface this might seem pgradoxial, but I assure you it can be done. Good food, good drinks and a  healthy life. The key here is balance. We tend to look at things as if they were in silos, individual subjects, but they are not. There are many intricacies and relationships  among these 3 things. As a hedonist, I will never give up drinking entirely, but I am striving to be more scientific about it.

What is Alcohol?

First of all, what is alcohol or ethanol as it is known more scientifically? Ethanol is formed by the action of yeasts on sugar. Yeasts eat sugar and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide gas in a process called fermentation. The practice of fermenting has been around for as long as there has been recorded history. It will happen spontaneously in nature. It's in our DNA if you will.

Some problems relating to alcohol consumption

Now any research involving the effects of alcohol on the body will invariably point you to lots of complications and diseases due to over consumption. The key word there is"over". Alcohol abuse can lead to a fatty liver (treatable), permanent scarring of the liver (called cirrhosis and in-curable), brain damage, cardiovascular disease and even death (which is the least curable of all). Not to rain on my own parade but it's all true. Moving along, let's explore some very specific effects of alcohol and learn how to mitigate the damages.

Alcohol and body weight

As a regular drinker, one of my main concerns is weight gain due to alcohol consumption. While it is true, certain types of alcohol, like beer, can lead to increased weight gain, all alcohols add empty calories to your diet, However, the scientific evidence on alcohol and weight gain is mixed. Heavy drinking and beer are linked to increased weight gain, while moderate drinking and wine are linked to reduced weight gain. (If you want the data, hit me up in the comments)

Alcohol is rated to be 7 calories per gram, which is the second highest energy source other than fats. So even moderate consumption will affect your calorific balance (calories in minus calories out). This can lead to weight gain.

The basic formula to negate these calories is to add 10 minutes of Cardio for every drink consumed. So if you consumed 5 drinks, then 50 minutes of medium intensity cardio will burn off the calories. It's a lot.

Some good news

However it's not all bad. Moderate alcohol consumption may:

  • Raise HDL (the "good") cholesterol in the bloodstream 
  • Decrease blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease 
  • Lower the concentration of fibrinogen in the blood, a substance that contributes to blood clots 
  • Cut the risk of diabetes another major risk factor of heart disease.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety temporarily (THIS IS IMPORTANT)

Again there is scientific evidence to back this up, so hit me up if you want to read it.

How much can I drink?

This is not a dare. The trick here is to define what is moderate consumption, and pattern our drinking habits around that. The first step is to define a standard drink. The problem and confusion comes from the fact that different countries define a standard drink in a different way. In the US, one standard drink is any drink that contains 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol (ethanol). So that would mean: 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol. 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol. 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol. If you apply the calorie formula above then one standard drink would contain:

14 grams x 7 calories = 98 calories per drink. Hence the cardio.

Moderate drinking is defined as 1 standard drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men. At the other end of the scale, heavy drinking is defined as more than 3 drinks per day for women and 4 drinks for men. Aim for somewhere around 3.

Drinking patterns are also important. Binge drinking is a form of alcohol abuse and can cause harm, but responsible consumption is still considered OK.

The bottom line:

Drink in moderation, exercise more and eat well. That's it

I hope you enjoyed the article. Please help me to share, like and/or comment. I am working on an article about diet and alcohol, so look our for that, Cheers

Read more:

Pareto and what it means for you

pareto.jpg

Let’s start this article off with a quote:

Life isn’t fair...
— Everyone

if you think that’s bad, wait till I tell you mathematics isn’t fair either. (Gasp!!!!) Which brings me to today’s topic. Pareto. 

So then just what the heck is Pareto? Or more accurately, who the heck? The Pareto Principle is the original, underlying work of the more modern 80/20 Principle. Perhaps you have heard of it? It figures greatly in your (and my) pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

The principal asserts that a minority of effort, causes or inputs accounts for a majority of results, outputs or rewards. This phenomena was initially discovered by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, in 1897. He was studying the distribution of wealth in 19th Century England and he noticed that 80% of the wealth went to only 20% of the people. (I don't really think this is a surprise and is still true today). What intrigued him was that if he looked at other data sets, he could see the same pattern. Although he never really brought this work to light it was "rediscovered" in 1949 by a Harvard professor named George K. Zipf, who called it the Principle of Least Effort. He studied many different data sets and consistently found that there an imbalance between effort and results. And better still it was predictable!. The distribution is not always 80/20, it could be 70/30 or 60/40, but the principle holds true: there is an uneven distribution when comparing inputs and outputs.

So how does this work for you and your health? Simply put it is the realisation that it will be a minority of the things you do that will have a maximum impact on your health. The trick is to identify these needle moving activities and see how this principle can help us achieve our goals.

1. Active Exercise

Already defined as a conscious choice to engage in a physical activity, whether going for a jog or hitting the gym or the like. Now let's assume you go to the gym 3 times per week at a median time of 2 hours per session. That adds up to only 6 hours. Taken as a percentage of your weekly time, (7 x 24 = 168) would give you only 3.5% of your time is spent at the gym. Don't you think its plausible that this may account for a majority of your results? Expressed mathematically it look:

[(3 workouts per week x 2 hours per workout) ÷ (24 hours per day x 7 days) = 3.5% of your total time] = at least 80% of your results due to exercise

2. Diet and food choices

As already espoused as The Good Carb Diet, by cutting out evil carbs (refined and sugar) and replacing with complex carbs will have the same mathematical imbalance as above. Let's say you followed my advice and reduced your over all carb consumption. Now on any given day you may consume about 25% of your calories from carbs. if you consume 2000 calories per day that is equal to 500. In those 500 calories 80% of carbs you consume come from complex sources, then only 100 calories per day will come from evil carbs. I think this may have a significant result in fat loss, as low, healthy carb diets are scientifically proven to reduce fat in the body. Therefore 25% of your food choice is going to count for 75% of your results. Although admittedly it is more complex than that,

 

These are only two examples, but I think it illustrates the point that the Pareto Principle is very powerful when applied to your decisions and actions in the pursuit of health. This can be applied to many aspects of your life, as you compare your effort to your results. The real trick is to identify what specific actions are responsible. 

Do you have some thoughts about this? Anything to add? I welcome your comments and feedback. Let's get a lifestyle!

3 things to start doing

salad-2756467_1920.jpg

I've talked about what to stop doing in a previous post. The goal of this was to get you to be aware of less desirable habits in order to cut calories from your diet and begin thinking about healthier choices. But just to recap, the top 3 were:

  1. Stop drinking fruit juices and soft drinks
  2. Stop eating processed carbs and sugar
  3. Stop eating fried oily foods with unhealthy oils

 Now as important as that is, and as hard as it is, it's time to begin substituting good habits. You can (and should) do both concurrently. Let's explore what we should start doing.

1. drink more water

This is practically a no brainer. Drinking lots of water has many health related benefits such as weight loss, waste removal and general wellbeing. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate should become your new mantra. According to recommendations, a normal adult should consume about 2 litres of water per day. Although the science behind that is a bit sketchy. What is important that you consume enough to never feel thirsty. If you are planning heavy exercise or it's really hot outside, you should consume more. Before and during a workout it's especially important as being dehydrated can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, increased fatigue and make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally. And it's tough enough as it is. So drink more water.

2. eat more whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables

As you cut out the bad, you need to substitute the good. So instead of white bread choose whole grain. Instead of white rice, choose brown rice or other grains like quinoa. (actually I posted an awesome recipe for southwestern style quinoa). This list is endless, the rule of thumb is substitute processed carbs for whole carbs.  Remember your body does need some carbs for a normal homeostatic state. A low carb diet seems to work best. Eating some fruits and lots of vegetables will add tons of dietary fiber to your diet and are essential for good health. Fiber is incredibly good for you as it helps regulate your digestive system, keeps you full longer, and has been linked to certain types of disease control. So add as many vegetables to your diet as you can eat. As a guide, your plate should be 1/2 vegetable, 1/4 complex carb and 1/4 protein. 

3. Eat healthy oils

With the many types of oils available at your average supermarket, it can be a bit confusing. What you want to do is avoid any sort of Omega 6 containing oils. And that's most of them. The best oils to consume are coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and butter fat. Use these for cooking at home. The hardest thing to do is avoid deep fried foods when eating out. The best thing you can do is minimize the amount you eat. Never, ever upsize and exercise strict portion and consumption control. I always try to have a salad with dressing on the side first, as it tends to start to fill you up so you are not tempted to eat so much fried food.

The journey to health is exactly that. A journey. You need to make changes. If you follow the advice of what to stop and what to start you are already on the way.

I have lots more content to come exploring food, fitness and health. I hope you join me. As always like, comment or share. We can do this together.

So how am I doing? The results so far

bananaman.jpg

Ha! Do you know what a banana for scale is? Anyway, I thought I should give you all a progress report. Afterall, if you have been reading along you might be asking yourself what the heck is going on? Who is this guy? Why should I listen to his advice? 

I think it's important to tell you that everything I write here is based on my research and personal experience. I am my own guinea pig. If it's about drinks, I drink it. If it's about food, I make and eat it. If it's sharing my methods, I really do and think these things. My goals are to gain strength and lose fat. 

I am changing. I have changed my diet, began exercising and am beginning to see results. I want to (eventually) provide you with a system that works. I will cut through the clutter and give you actual results. I am hacking this for you. I am a healthy hedonist. (repeat after me)

Ok enough, let's put up the numbers based on my 2 month track record. 

November 2017

  • Weight: 86 kg (ouch)
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) : 26.2 (considered overweight, again ouch)
  • Percentage Body Fat (PBF): 23.7 (yikes)
  • Fat Control (ie how much I need to lose) 8.5kg (a lot but doable!)

January 2018

  • Weight: 78 kg (Net loss of 8 kg- wow)
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) : 24.6 (now in the normal range for my weight and age)
  • Percentage Body Fat (PBF): 20.5 (on the way down, hooray!)
  • Fat Control (ie how much I need to lose) 5.1 kg (getting there)

Those are the cold hard numbers. They are produced by a Inbody machine, considered very reliable. Why measure? Because it's the only way to track your progress. If something is working, it will show up here.

I also track against a series of free weight exercises (which I call the big 5) to track my real strength gains. (yes I go to the gym) I only count the heaviest weight that I am able to finish a full set of reps on. I haven't began to track my maximum. 

1. Bench Press

November 2017: 40kg →          January 2018: 60kg

2. Deadlift

November 2017: 70kg  →          January 2018:  110kg

3. Squats

November 2017: 60kg →          January 2018:  95kg

4. Overhead Press

November 2017: 20kg  →         January 2018:  35kg

5. Row

November 2017: 30kg →           January 2018:  50kg

Again, these are real numbers. And numbers don't lie. Unless you lie about the numbers. Which I don't. I track every gym session, writing down all my successes and failures. You should too. Nothing beats the feeling of setting your personal best. It's progress and you should celebrate. With a whisky. Or a protein shake.

But other than the cold hard numbers and dropping a couple of pants sizes, I have noticed other things too.

First, my moods have changed. I feel energized, positive and motivated. And I mean all the time, from the moment I wake up (OK after my 3rd espresso) all the way through the day. Everything seems somehow easier. Btw, it is well documented that exercise positively affects your mood, and oh boy it's true.  Every time it is a workout day, I can't wait to hit the gym. If I miss, I feel awful, depressed even. I can't miss a day. 

Second, I sleep better. I used to wake up 2 or 3 times a night. Now I sleep right through. This might be due to exhaustion, but also I just feel sleepier.  My whole body rhythm has changed. It feels great.

I will tell you this though. The first 6 weeks were excruciating. I mean painful. I had to kick my own as* to go to the gym. I could be sore for days after. But every time I went it was a victory. Slowly things began getting better. Change takes time and perseverance. Soldier on.

Like it? Send me a comment. Hate it? Send me a comment. Or connect with me on social media. Cheers

 

 

 

 

3 things to stop right now

Thingstostop.jpg

First of all, don't pay any attention to that photo. It's meant to make you hungry. A temptation. In all of its gooey cheeseburger-y goodness. 

So let's start exploring diet.  In the battle of the bulge, (the one around our midsections, not the WW2 battle), the theory is this: what you don't do is just as important as what you do do. Come again? What I mean is, in the Baby Step Method, we start by cutting things out of our diet that we don't need and are adding unnecessary calories. If this sounds easy, I can assure you it's not.

Let me share my experience. I am a junk food junkie. There, I said it. I loved (and still love) my junk food. I would buy and eat several bags of chips (especially Doritos), cookies (Chips Ahoy) and 4 liters of soft drinks (normally Coca Cola) every week. It was part of my habit. Stress made me want to eat, so I would gorge myself on these items 3 or 4 days per week.  Add to that a love for all things deep fried and I was in big trouble. I weighed over 90kg. If you think that's bad enough, you can add alcohol to the list. I would consume on average 2 or 3 drinks per day. That is a lot of calories. I mean a s***load. So what did I do? I changed. It was hard and painful, and took some time. I began to reduce my consumption of my favourite junk food, weaning myself off slowly. It took 6 months. But I did it. 

When starting out, reduce don’t cut
— Jamey Merkel

In this post I am advocating reducing and then cutting only 3 items. I didn't and probably never will cut the alcohol. I did reduce however. I enjoy it too much. And as long as you think moderation, there is nothing wrong. Remember, I am a hedonist. So here are the top 3 things to stop.

1. sugary drinks

This should easily be your number one priority. Especially soft drinks. They add so much sugar and calories to your diet with zero health benefits. I mean zero. If you are like me and love these sugary elixirs, expect some withdrawal symptoms. But you will save yourself several hundred calories a day. The other thing you should cut is fruit juice. But fruit juice is healthy, you say. The truth is that although juice does have some vitamins and minerals, it is also loaded with fructose, another type of sugar. The worst offenders are the ones you buy at the grocery store. Freshly squeezed juice is a bit better, but still contains a lot of natural sugar. But far worse is that juicing removes all the fibre from the fruit or veggies. And you need fibre.

2. refined carbs and processed food

This one is a bit tougher. Refined carbs are everywhere. You can also add to this processed food, as they are a very good source of both refined carbs and sugars. So white rice, plain pasta, white bread, all desserts, muffins, cookies, most granola bars, power bars, energy bars, etc. By reducing these items (and more, the list is too long) you cut more empty calories. Instead of thinking of what not to have, which is most aisles in your average grocery store, it is easier to think of what you can have. Now don't get me wrong. your body needs carbohydrates. So you need a source. Think whole grains, legumes, sweet potato, nuts and seeds, etc. A good rule of thumb is that the less human hands touch it the less refined it is. Again take baby steps here. When I started, I cut my Doritos and Chips Ahoy. I did feel like crying most days, and trips to the grocery store were fraught with peril. 

3.  vegetable oils

This one is tough as well. All vegetable oils like canola, rice bran, safflower, sunflower, peanut, etc etc. Include ALL deep fried foods, most stir fried foods (unless you do it yourself), potato chips and other fried snacks. Reduce your consumption here. Its ok to have the occasional french fry. Your diet can have a small dose of cheat meals. Because after all, why suck all the joy out of life? The question then becomes what oils should you consume? I have a list of only three: butter, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. That's it. If you prepare the majority of your food at home, you should have no problem sticking to this.

Starting off by cutting what you don't need out of your diet is the easiest way to reduce your calories and start thinking about consuming healthy alternatives. If you followed my advice and kept a food journal, you already know where it is easiest to cut. Set a goal and do it. You might start by cutting only one item to make the withdrawal easier. Then move on to the next and the next. Remember your baby steps.

Like this article? Hit the button or comment or share. Sign up for my newsletter. Hit me up on social media. I am here to answer your questions. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

 

More about Health: