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If You Don’t Use It. You Lose It.

“Mens sana in corpore sano.” – Juvenal  from Satire X

 

Since living in Guinea (West Africa) I could not help, as a coach and health guy, notice how many Guineans just naturally have bodies that we, in the West, seem to spend a great deal of money on trying to attain. Now there is a whole host of reasons for this. Diet, genetics, more genetics, and diet. But even with such admiration, the adults here fall prey to the same main issue we fall into. Lack of activity leads to a loss in flexibility, balance, and coordination. I made this discovery a couple weekends ago when I had the honour of being MC at the US Embassy’s inaugural “Fun-Olympics.”  A day with some fun physical challenges (Burpies, Chinups, etc.) Which included both American staff as well as Guinean staff. Overall it was a huge success and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was a great way to build comradery between both nations who work at the Embassy as there has been some turn over in US staff; as there tends to be every couple of years in the Foreign Service.

So here is what I noticed which is like home. The kids here are generally very athletic, light on their feet and play a lot therefore exhibiting those key fitness components of balance, coordination, flexibility and to some extent power. As adults, we lose this and it happens here as well. During some of the events we had more than our share with the adults experiencing scrapes and bruises, falling, tripping, and face planting into the pavement with a couple hamstring pulls in the final race event. The solution is obvious in avoiding this from occurring and, the good news is, if you have lost it, you can get it back. Don’t stop being a kid!  Really!  We should be sprinting intermittently while on our walks. Even if others think were nuts. Horse playing in our homes or in the yards with or without the kids. Sports help in this, but it is not necessary. Dancing is great for this too. The point here is as adults we do have to grow up (I suppose,) and keep growing, learning and developing both intellectually and emotionally striving for wisdom. But when it comes to play… Don’t grow up. Keep playing! That is what will help keep your body young and in good condition allowing grace and functionality as we climb in years.

Along this train of thought, I was listening to a podcast featuring Arthur De Vany. He has a PhD in Economics, but is most famous for his “Evolutionary Fitness” approach to diet and exercise resulting in being one of the “Grandfathers” of the Paleo movement. His Power Law Training, which emphasizes HIIT and specifically targeting our fast twitch fibers is also moderate regarding diet focusing on a plant based diet. (Links to both the podcast and a short PDF will be below.)  I gleamed a lot of wisdom from both and learned what he still does now as an 80-year-old that keeps him looking in good shape. He still plays Ultimate Frisbee during the week. It will be worth the time to listen to and read both. 

He also happens to provide a great example of the “Greek Ideal.”  I have been watching a lot of videos from the “SchoolofLife” YouTube channel created by Alain De Botton.  He has a wealth of material worth listening to, one of them being, “History of Ideas – Ancient Greece.” The ten-minute video discusses 5 key ideas the ancient Greeks were known for, one of them being, the “Greek Ideal” which extended beyond the mere proportions for body building and beauty, but also responsible for the mantra/belief that “A healthy mind could only reside in a healthy body.”

Milo of Croton was a famous wrestler of the 6th century BC, but he was also an associate to the great Mathematician Pythagoras. In our times, there has been a real division of these ideas. Computer programmers generally being guilty of such poor posture they can barely keep their heads up. Athletes being dubbed “Jocks” who take “Basket Weaving” in College to keep their GPA’s high enough to be allowed to play. Even our public schools, despite an overwhelming amount of research proving its value, cut P.E. and after school sporting activities in the misguided belief both the time and money would be better spent raising math scores through more class time, etc.

Although we are very aware of the mantra and throughout history great thinkers and philosophers point to the importance of having a healthy mind in a healthy body. We are currently failing, on-the-whole, to put this into practice. So, to conclude I’ll simply say, don’t grow up.

 

http://getfitboomer.com/downloads/EvolutionaryFitness.pdf

http://tim.blog/tag/art-de-vany/

History of Ideas – Ancient Greece
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kix2L1j2cDc

Hating Exercise

“Whenever I feel like exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes.”
– Robert M. Hutchins

The article below discusses depression, modern civilization as a root cause, and how we can look to our ancestors and modern day hunter gatherers for the cure.  In fact, I’d really like you to read it first to help set the context for what I want to talk about.

http://returntonow.net/2016/02/24/the-caveman-cure-for-depression/

Okay so as you could tell.  Exercise is one of the best medicines. (Along with getting greater quantities of Omega-3’s, sunlight, healthy sleep, anti-ruminative activity and social connection. But as you also will have read exercise is not natural. We don’t like it!  Exercise for its own sake just does not seem be enough. (I liked his Hamster wheel example) All the intense and moderate activity Hunter Gatherers get is a by-product of living. Doing their “chores” so to speak, as they hunt and gather their food and water and other materials required for living. We can also add in that these cultures do dance a lot too (something that wasn’t discussed in the article or video.)

What can we do about it. How can we incorporate the physical activity into our lives in a way that gets us off the couch and moving while tricking our brains, since it can smell a treadmill a mile away?

I don’t have the answers but I do have some ideas. Ultimatley it will fall on us as individuals to figure out how we can trick our bodies into moving and therefore start gaining more of the benefits that exercise provides. Which are numerous.

First idea that comes to mind is what one of my former grade school teachers calls “Yard Play.” When he is out working in his yard, He’d create games for himself. How fast could he do something, how many times could he lift something.  Making it something of a “Strongman” competition with himself doing the various activities that needed to be done in his yard.

Another idea that comes to mind right away is joining  a sports team, martial art, a competitive individual sport or take dance lessons. With this the skies the limit.  But as I’ve mention in a previous post, for most of us, simply wanting to change our body image (as in get a six pack) tends to fail us as being a strong enough motivator. Where if you get into one of the above activities. Firstly, just doing the activity will lead to huge benefits, but depending on how competitive you are, you may find yourself willing to hit the gym to do a little extra strength training to build your body up to withstand and then thrive in that competitive environment.

The last one I have for this post is to build a reward system for yourself for after you exercise. And this could be anything, from fast food to the movies to anything in between.

Here is what I have done in the past and what I am doing now.  Before when I was either a highschool, then college athlete before  really getting into rugby, that took care of most of my conditioning needs. I happen to be a little competitive and had dreams of professional rugby, so I did a lot of extra training. (Initially too much as I’ve highlighted in previous posts.) I liked beer, but that can be very counter-productive if you aspire for the professional ranks, so that was generally limited to after games and some practices. In other words, I only drank when I felt I earned it.  If I had a social event in the off season and was going out with friends during the week? Well I’d hit the gym beforehand or workout with my kids. (Being a gym teacher lent itself quite nicely to being a “Hunter/Gatherer”)

Okay that worked for me back then, but right now I live in Guinea, don’t play rugby, and am not gym teaching.  Here’s what I’m doing.  Friday is my hard Dr. McGuff/Arthur Jones training day. My reward… We get Pizza afterwards! Then we grocery shop. Pizza is my reward and we only eat it after hard training. We now virtually never shop hungry which keeps us from buying too much crap. Hence the one can of Pringles and not five.  So that took care of one day, what about the rest of the week. Well I must do chores here.  We don’t have a washing machine. I do all the laundry by hand. We don’t have a vacuum cleaner. I must sweep and wash the floors by hand. It’s Africa, the city is dirty (Thanks Harmattan!) I have clean often. And lastly, and possibly because of  lifelong training habits as an athlete, I will do an additional 1 or 2 HIT calisthenics routines. But now I add it is part of my job description. I train and post a photo or two on to the app platform I’m now working for. (pumpup.com)

What I won’t tell you is that I also pretend to be a Samurai/Jedi Master and pretend to do Sword (Saber) fighting techniques in the spare room when my fiancé is not home.

So, in conclusion, if you hate exercise, you’re not alone. Most of us do. The trick then is to trick your brain and body into working at something you enjoy, or don’t enjoy, but know there is a wonderful reward at the end of all that physical exertion.

http://returntonow.net/2016/02/24/the-caveman-cure-for-depression/

Junk Food Paradox (Or is it Irony)

“Animals’ taste systems are specialized for the niche they occupy in the environment. That includes us. As hunters and foragers of the dry savannah, our earliest forebears evolved a taste for important but scarce nutrients: salt and high-energy fats and sugars. That, in a nutshell, explains the widespread popularity of junk food.” – Mary Roach

Would you spend money on a can of Pringles if it amounted to what you earned in a day?

Probably not. Junk food isn’t cheap here. In fact, only the wealthier can afford it. I can afford it so I buy a can once a week. (Part of my cheat day.) But the observation here is that the driver the University hired to drive my fiancé and I around the city is only paid a 1,000,000 Guinean Francs a Month. With the current exchange rate that works out to approximately $111.00 US. Being paid monthly that works out to $3.70 US a day.  (This is about, or slightly above what the average Guinean makes in a year.) My can of Pringles – $4.00 US.  I get vegetables and now fruit delivered to my house each week via a friend of mine who has a couple businesses over here. He charges me approximately $22.00 US for the 2 baskets and that lasts my fiancé and I the entire week.  I spend a couple extra bucks for some extra onion and potato and a about $3.00 for a tray of 30 eggs and we pretty much have our food for the week. But our total grocery bill will climb closer to the $80.00 to $90.00 range because we will buy some other items. A couple cans of beans, maybe some spice, dried cranberries, some cheap, but delicious, Rum imported from India ($5.00) and of course some junk food. The junk food is the most expensive portion of our shopping bill.  That is not the case back home is it.

The poor here are generally lean because they can’t afford the crap. Our poor in North America are experiencing an epidemic because they can’t justify spending their limited income on vegetables and fruits. Never mind organic!

I’ve been here nearly 8 months and lost 20 lbs. of fat. Largely because the junk food is more expensive and because of where we are living we just can’t run to the corner store to buy a bag of chips and a coke. The nearest market doesn’t sell that stuff. The guy I buy my bottled water from across the street doesn’t sell it. After my can of Pringles is gone while watching some French Rugby. It’s gone! That’s it for the week.  Along with lifting heavy once a week and incorporating a session or two a week of some high intensity body weight training (Lots of burpees) I have lost that 20 lbs. and Have a current resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute. (Yes I’m bragging.) The heart rate could be lower, but I do like my pan roasted Guinean coffee.

Now I’ve addressed the problem, but I do not have a solution.  Because will power is also not something you can count on! A couple weeks ago we house sat for some embassy friends. Because they are in what us outsiders term “The Embassy Bubble,” they have access to all things American. Foods, Amazon books etc.  So they just happened to have snack food around. Healthier than my Pringles, but they had some cheese and crackers and peanut butter and more crackers and a couple cans of canned Jalapenos and some more crackers.  Over the few days, my fiancé and I house sat… We binge watched Trueblood and ate almost all of it!  So much for will power…  It was there, so we ate it.  (Then we replaced most of it because we felt bad.)  What is in your control is to not have it in your house. If it is in your house you will eat it. My Pringles last me one day, and I as mentioned before, then that is it until the next big grocery run.  But how do we control it in society when so much of it is subsidized by the US Tax payer and made so frickin’ Cheap?  My suggestion is limit your purchase to only a one. (Two at the most.) And resist the temptation to walk or drive down to the corner store when it’s gone. This of course is much easier said than done I know.

What I do know is that we will be returning to North America this summer. The question and real test will be, can I keep these “rules” when I’m home and surrounded by the abundance of cheap, all the flavours you can imagine, Pringles? We will have to see.

How 5 Seconds Equals One Minute

“Being open minded; it doesn’t mean believing everything because you would like it to be true. Being truly open minded is about being prepared to change your beliefs based on the evidence, or the lack of evidence. Otherwise, you can be so open minded that your brain falls out.” – Darren Brown (Infamous, 2014)

In my last post I talked about fitness and health and making it a part of our identity. But that is easier said than done. Habits are hard to break, change, replace, etc. It just so happens that 2 days ago I came across Mel Robbin’s 5 Second Rule (link to a YouTube video below). After watching her in the video below and a podcast she did with Lewis Howes, I bought the book (Kindle version, ’cause I’m still in Africa) and I’m liking it. I am even starting to use it. It’s been a productive couple of days, even when the power is out. So I recommend checking it out and seeing if it works for you in helping make some key changes in your life. In case you’re wondering: yes, as soon as you get the impulse or thought to do something productive, count backwards from 5 to 1 and “blast off,” as she would say. It really is so simple, you will be wondering why you have never thought of it yourself.

This leads to the second book I’ve read: Dr. Martin Gabala’s “One Minute Workout.” Spoiler alert! Your workout will take longer than a minute, but this book is all of his research on High Intensity Interval Training nicely compiled into an easy-to-read-and-follow document.

If time is your biggest excuse for copping out of exercising, he nips that one in the bud with his research. So, I suggest you get a hold of this book, too. If you have been following me for a while, none of what he writes will come to you as a surprise. I’ve been using his research since he first started publishing over 10 years ago, but it’s still a nice book to have on the shelves as a resource.

This is where I piece to the two together and get my totally mathematically-incorrect equation, because time is not the only reason for copping out. Exercise is hard. It’s difficult. When done right, it’s a real stress on the body. Who wants that? But we need it! If we really want to enjoy the benefits it provides, we have to suck it up and do it. That is where Mrs Robbin’s 5 Second Rule comes in. As soon as you think about jumping on the bike and doing a few sprint sessions, 5-4-3-2-1… get on the bike and crush it!

Something else I’ve been thinking about when it comes to Dr. Gabala’s research and time constraints has been clothing. A great deal of time can still be lost when it comes to getting to the gym, changing, getting out there, crushing your soul, then likely changing and showering again and then getting out of there. I’m as big a fan as having and wearing a nice tailored suit as the next guy. But the reality is, unless you’re Daniel Craig on a James Bond set where you have had Tom Ford make 50 of the same suits for you to do that fight scene in, we’re not exactly inclined to really move or work in our office clothes, risk them getting ripped and torn or too dirty, and need to have them replaced. Good suits aren’t cheap. This might just be a little overkill, but wouldn’t it be great to have clothing you could move in, move vigorously in, and still look good for the boardroom or that parent/teacher conference? I know there is clothing and shoewear out there that already exists, I just think I’m going to try some of it out when I get back and see how it feels and how it stands up to doing a ton of burpees, wind-sprints, and lunge jumps and my next job interview.

Billionaires and Perfect Abs

If information were the answer, wed all be billionaires with perfect abs.” – Derek Sivers

I was re-listening to a Tim Ferris podcast which featured the guest, Derek Sivers. He created CDBaby in the 90’s, sold it for a few million, has some Ted talks, and all and all tells a remarkable story of how he started and how he got to where he is now, while sharing some terrific tips and pieces of advice along the way. But this quote during the interview really struck a chord with me.

We almost all know that we should eat healthier (we even know what that actually means and looks like). We should exercise (there are a gazillion different ways and many will actually work). We know we either drink too much alcohol or eat too much chocolate, or can’t stay away from the potato chips. And yet, there we are doing it anyways, or not doing it, and not seeing results or being the person we wish we were or could be.

Ironically, there is also a boatload of information about habit formation. Creating new habits, replacing old ones, why we will often – even when doing well with a new regime – experience what psychologists call an “extinction,” where we seem to have a massive reversion to the old destructive habit.

So, science is figuring out the psychological tricks that can help us defeat that pesky sub-conscious mind that seems to derail us at every turn. Yet why are people still not billionaires with perfect abs?

This is where NLP practitioners (the most famous one being Tony Robbins) will talk about state of mind or being in the right emotional state. This is good, and they’re on the right track with this. There is a huge difference between knowing you should get off the couch and being in a state where you take action, and actually getting off the couch; being a mover and shaker; a doer and not just a bystander. But I think it takes more than just being in a resourceful state, or energetic state. This gets you started, for sure. But how can we avoid the ‘extinction?’ The reversion to the old way? “Falling off the bike,” so to speak?

If you are really serious about exercising, training, getting in shape, eating better…. It has to be part of your identity. You have to literally decide to be that which you want to become. People who hit the gym regularly do so because it is who they are; it has become a part of how they identify themselves. This is actually where ego is useful. Their ego will no longer support the idea of not doing these things. An athlete will identify themselves as that of the sport they do. They don’t row – they’re rowers. He doesn’t play soccer – he’s a footballer. I don’t play rugby. (Well okay, I do…) but – I’m a rugby player. She doesn’t practice kung fu – she’s a martial artist. Having this be their identity has huge implications for how they behave to the point of dictating their behaviors.

You may not play a sport and I don’t want to get into the identity crisis issues that can come from when you retire from some of these sports. But the point here is that while you don’t have to be a martial artist, you can decide to identify yourself as someone who is strong and fit. Someone who could handle themselves in a sticky situation, or be counted on when it comes to helping your friend move that damn piano.

Creating this identity, pretending to be ‘super-human,’ or an action hero (James Bond) will help dictate the type of behaviors which will help you first become, then protect, that identity.

I’ll finish this post with a fun little experiment: I want you, for a minute, to simply think about raising your hand up like we were in school. Just think about it. Imagine it moving up over your head, imagine the shoulder muscle contracting, feel your back stretch as your hand goes higher up. Just think about it…

Now, actually do it.

It feels different. There was less thought and you just moved. It is that same idea with making a lifestyle change. We can think about it all we want, but ultimately… Move.

This post is just one long quote, but its really good! Happy New Year 2017!

I have read in the blogging universe that if you really want to make it, you need to come up with original and sometimes controversial content to get noticed and gain readers. That makes a lot of sense and naturally we all benefit from original thoughts being shared and not simple copy cats or people plagiarizing the content passing it off as their own.

But, this is just too good not to share. I got “Tools of Titans” for Christmas and this is his final thoughts before moving on to the next section of the book. Even though I wanted to avoid really jumping on the “New Year’s Resolutions” band wagon.  Well, you will see what I mean once you read it.  Happy New Year! (Links to both the book and Coach Sommer’s website will be below.)

Coach Sommer— The Single Decision

“We all get frustrated. I am particularly prone to frustration when I see little or no progress after several weeks of practicing something new. Despite Coach Sommer’s (page 9) regular reminders about connective-tissue adaptations taking 200 to 210 days, after a few weeks of flailing with “straddle L extensions,” I was at my wits’ end. Even after the third workout, I had renamed them “frog spaz” in my workout journal because that’s what I resembled while doing them: a frog being electrocuted. Each week, I sent Coach Sommer videos of my workouts via Dropbox. In my accompanying notes at one point, I expressed how discouraging it was to make zero tangible progress with this exercise. Below is his email response, which I immediately saved to Evernote to review often. It’s all great, but I’ve bolded my favorite part.” – Tim Ferriss

Hi Tim,

Patience. Far too soon to expect strength improvements. Strength improvements [for a movement like this] take a minimum of 6 weeks. Any perceived improvements prior to that are simply the result of improved synaptic facilitation. In plain English, the central nervous system simply became more efficient at that particular movement with practice. This is, however, not to be confused with actual strength gains.
Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence. In fact, it is essential and something that every single elite athlete has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it. In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration, due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process.
The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home.
A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge. Refuse to compromise.
And accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.
Certainly celebrate the moments of triumph when they occur. More importantly, learn from defeats when they happen. In fact, if you are not encountering defeat on a fairly regular basis, you are not trying hard enough. And absolutely refuse to accept less than your best.
Throw out a timeline. It will take what it takes.
If the commitment is to a long-term goal and not to a series of smaller intermediate goals, then only one decision needs to be made and adhered to. Clear, simple, straightforward. Much easier to maintain than having to make small decision after small decision to stay the course when dealing with each step along the way. This provides far too many opportunities to inadvertently drift from your chosen goal. The single decision is one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox.

Ferriss, Timothy. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (p. 162). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/

 

Anti-resolutions

Holidays and New Year’s Resolutions… Again…

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”     – Reinhold Niebuhr

If you have been following my blog over the past year+, you might remember how last year I encouraged that one should only make small changes and only add something new to their routines every couple of weeks or so. If you choose to make health and fitness your resolution and goal for 2017, you will be able to look back to my writings and suggestions from January of 2016.  But because I know the gyms do get ridiculously busy come January, I am more inclined to encourage my readers to take a couple weeks off. Enjoy your holiday! You’ve earned it! But then get back into the swing of things near the end of the month. Don’t overeat, or overindulge with the eggnog and wine and you’ll discover that you will bounce back into darn good shape quickly. You will also find that taking the time off will be a great restorative and healing period for your body.  You might be pleasantly surprised how strong you feel and how successful your next workout will be in the new year.

I will sum up this last post of the year with saying that it has been an exciting one! 2017, with all its potential uncertainties and opportunities, will likely be just as, or even more, exciting. So, there will be many things beyond our control. Since we can’t control it, don’t worry about it. There are also a lot of things we can control and can do something about it, so don’t worry about it. Our health and our fitness is completely within our control. Take some time off to relax, heal, and rejuvenate, then get back at it.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

Be safe! But have a lot of fun too!

Slave to Hunger

“Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.” – Voltaire

It was a conversation about food and an observation about both ourselves here in Guinea and the local population. When my partner goes to work, she is there all day. No shocker there, but her schedule really doesn’t lend itself to being able to eat between her classes. So, she doesn’t eat until she gets home. I simply decided to follow suit. But the conversation we had was about her colleagues who also teach full loads and never seem to have time to grab a bite to eat. In fact, at her institution, she hasn’t seen anyone eat, or really drink that much for that matter. They just carry on. But what we have discovered is that we really don’t experience hunger pangs as frequently. When we do, it isn’t a drop-everything-and-eat. We can eat later. What we have now is a weird feeling or sensation of freedom. We can eat when it’s convenient or when we want, but not because we are uncomfortable, cranky, bitchy, or all-out miserable. How often have you experienced that? Or do you know someone that becomes a real pain in the ass because they’re “hangry”?

It goes along the lines of one of my earlier posts regarding the curse of abundance. In the West, it is so easy to stop and get a meal, or a snack, that we have come to expect our needs to be met immediately. Teachers get lunch hours and labor forces get their allotted breaks in the day. I’m not against contracted schedule breaks, but I am aware of how we behave when we don’t get them. In doing so we have become a slave to our needs. When our needs aren’t met, we become irritable, cranky, and demanding. Even as adults, we can become quite childish in our behaviors when it comes to feeling hungry or thirsty.

It isn’t that people in the bottom billion don’t get hungry or thirsty. They do. What I have witnessed here amongst them, and myself, is that you can carry on normally and eat when the time comes or the food is available. I now eat when I want to, not because I must. There is a difference, and it is a rather liberating feeling to have. My partner and I no longer get cranky just because we are uncomfortable feeling a little hungry.

Some cool tricks that will help, if you realize you get cranky when you are hungry, is to begin a practice of intermittent fasting. Also, by cutting out a large portion of the junk food and other sugar-rich foods and switching to a nutrient-rich diet (vegetables, some fruits, some nuts and meat, etc.), will cut those cravings and pangs considerably. One of the chief reasons for the discomfort and “hunger pangs” in our society is in fact not real hunger, but withdrawal symptoms. You’re “nic-fitting” and in truth, because of the abundance of food in our society, I’m willing to bet we don’t know what real hunger even feels like. Experts say we can go weeks without food, but have we ever gone a full day? Probably not. So, this will be about not being a slave to your food cravings. It will be about, over time, overcoming those cravings completely and getting to the point where you eat, not because of an addiction, but because it is necessary to our survival; eating to live, rather than living to eat.

Being Uncomfortable

“Hunger forced me to try things I’d never seen before” – Benjamin Ajak

This will be a cold painful truth. But if you seriously want to lose weight, or build muscle, or make any change you must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is cliché and lots of people say it. But it’s true. If you want to get in better shape, you need to experience real discomfort when you are working out. I mean, it sucks! It burns, your arms and legs will feel rubbery, you might be sore the next day or two, but if you are not willing to pay that price and feel that discomfort, your body has no reason to change.

The same holds true for diet. There is so much out there about dieting and doing it without starving yourself.  In some ways, they are right, we don’t want to starve ourselves. But we do need to be uncomfortable. To lose weight no matter what the fad diets promise you, you must take in less. You do need to eat whole and nutritious foods, but compared to what you used to eat that got you fat, you need to eat quite a bit less. This means you will feel hungry and you will want to satisfy those cravings. If you are serious about losing weight, you must get comfortable with feeling those hunger pangs.

I don’t expect you to be training to be a world-class bodybuilder competitor, but contrary to their poise on stage and in the magazine shoots, to get that lean for competition, they dial back the calories. They feel hungry most of the time. Dorian Yates talks about how miserable you can feel and how much it can suck to feel that way and know you still have a work out to do. These guys must make sacrifices to get that lean! It is this stage in the training that is what often separates the true champions from the other would-be victors. Could they get this phase of their diet right and stick to it?

Again, this is not about starvation; that never works. But if you are serious about losing weight, you will need to go through a period of discomfort. This also should not truly go away once you reach your target either. We have all seen people yo-yo. (Been there myself.) Once we reach our targets, it does not give us permission to then give in to every food and drink desire we have. It is amazing how fast you can undo all that hard work.

There it is: the secret to losing fat. Cut out the crap, eat less than what you have been used to, and get used to feeling uncomfortable with doing so.

Now, if only figuring out the equations for warp drive were this simple….

The Curse of Abundance

“Victory has defeated you!”  – Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

I moved to Guinea in West, Sub-Saharan Africa. So for the time being I have suspended my private training studio while my partner and I have the adventure/experience of living over here for the next 10 months or so.

We’ve only been here two weeks and are already losing weight. More accurately, inches from around our waists. Admittedly, I had fallen into the all-too-common trap of indulgence this summer. It began with farewell parties in Puerto Rico, where I was drinking more than I’d like to admit (as a fitness professional), and continued on in Canada as we lived with my parents while we got all of our paperwork and vaccines taken care of. We also went to Italy for a wedding, where I consumed large amounts of Tuscan food and wine. I also went to Ireland to visit friends. That holiday was wonderful, but every venture to go and sightsee ultimately turned into impromtu pub crawls and vast amounts of Guinness.

I tell you this because my slick 32.5/33-inch waist turned into a 35.5-inch waist as I finished my last-minute packing and prepared to move here. In other words, in only the span of about 3 months, I had put on approximately 10 (or so) lbs. and it was not the lean and mean kind.

I’ve been here now 2 weeks and I’m already back down to a 34.5-inch waist. Why? I am drinking much less. And I am eating less. There is less here! Less at the shopping market. Less space to store it here in our apartment. We have not seen a “fast food” restaurant since we have arrived and, despite it being a third world country, our food is not at all cheaper than what we had in Puerto Rico. Also, because we cannot drink the tap water, a much larger portion of our grocery expense is on buying water. It is not expensive, but we have basically had to plan out what we buy to try and last us a week for drinking water, water to cook with, and water to brush our teeth with. It would be easy enough to call our driver and just go whenever we needed something, but it’s a half hour (when the traffic is good) to get there. So that makes it an hour roundtrip to grocery shop. I honestly don’t feel like doing that unless I have to.

Anyways, the ultimate point I wish to make is that our own abundance back home is, to a huge extent, our downfall in the weight management department. My folks had a ton of food in the house, and it got eaten. While in Puerto Rico, my lady and I bought less, had less in the house, and as a result, were in pretty good shape right up until the end. Then, we went home, and food was everywhere. Despite being totally aware of it, we ate too much and could see ourselves getting pudgier. Again, moving here and having to “ration” a bit more and shop smarter, we have already seen some big changes.

I suppose my solution would be to buy less at the store, take the time to plan each meal you are going to eat in the week, and purchase accordingly. But that is easier said than done. Once you get there and see how much food is available, it’s hard! I know. It’s been easy here so far because our market is about the same square footage as a typical 7/11. Our options for snacks are very limited.

So, as Bane says to Batman in the third installment, “Victory has defeated you!” Our very success as a “first-world” society is defeating us. Statistically, only about 5% of the population would fall under the category of being overweight here in Guinea as opposed to the 35-40% in North America. I doubt I will see anyone obese here. Most here are very slender, lean, and – truth be told – most seem to just naturally have bodies that most Americans would love to have and many spend hours in the gym trying to obtain. Yes, race and other genetics do play a factor. But they also just eat less. They are certainly not on a “2,000-calorie” diet. Since living here, neither are my lady and I. We have a couple of eggs for brunch. We may have a can of tuna for our afternoon meal. Dinner has consisted of 1 can of vegetables with some chicken or lentils and some rice all stewed up in the pot. We add some seasoning (curry) and that seems to do the trick. I bought a bag of chips for the weekend, had some Friday and Saturday, and finished the bag on Sunday while watching rugby. I’m out until the next time we go shopping (Friday).

Living here has imposed moderation on us. We are already seeing the results from this.