Swimming In Systems…

Girthing Globally…

The so-called obesity epidemic has made headlines once again.  Another study released this week suggests that obesity on a global level is still on the rise.  In the days since this study was published, I have read a half-dozen feature articles and blogs about how we can reverse this generations-old trend.  Yet, for all the intellectual studies, discussion, and attention obesity gets, and despite all the good intentions behind solving the problem, obesity levels worldwide are still increasing.

When it comes to fighting obesity, as with many other consequences of our social and technical advancements, too often our thinking is narrow, poorly aimed, and most often searching for singular fixes in small areas which feel good to pursue, but are often demanding and fruitless.

What is largely ignored in all the conversations about solving obesity, is the entirety of the problem; the constant expansion of the many systems which have led to its existence.  Food systems.  Marketing systems.  Social systems.  Political systems.  Religious systems.  Educational systems.  Pharmaceutical systems.  On and on.

Any one of these systems could alone be considered a monster.  Together, they conspire to be a leviathan.  Like any good leviathan, obesity is going to go where it wants to go, and will only die when it runs out of the fuel on which feeds it.  I am reminded of two fleas attempting to steer the dog they sit upon.

complexity.jpg

Complexity begets complexity…

On the surface, solving obesity may seem like it’s all about calories in vs. calories out, changing portion sizes, providing better school lunches, CrossFit, Yoga, using a treadmill, going low-carb, low-fat or paleo, standup desks in the workplace, and even the use of qualified fitness trainers.  These may hold some value for some people at some times, but alone these aren’t going to change a thing.  The fact remains that scientific advancement and social awareness relating to obesity are at all-time highs, and our collective girth is still girthing.

How’s The Water, Boys…?

While in mid-thought this morning, as I was pondering obesity, it finally occurred to me that systems – all systems, whether they apply to the obesity epidemic, politics, consumer culture, or anything else, is the water that David Foster Wallace spoke of during his now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005.  Whether this was his intention or not, it seems to me that systems, invisible and everywhere, are the water which surrounds us.

If you’re not familiar with the speech above, please bookmark it for when you have time.

 We live within millions of systems.  We navigate and transcend them, never really seeing their entirety, and always under the influence of delusion, believing we possess some level of control.   We live, breathe, act, choose, survive, delight, frown, frolic, and even get fat as a result of our systems.  We select our presidents, career paths, partners, and even our gods as influenced by an invisible ocean, and like the young fish who replies to the older fish, “What the hell is water”, we are oblivious to it as we swim.

water

When I think about obesity in this context, or when I think about any disturbing social trend from air pollution, to engineered corn, campaign finance, political partisanship, landfills bursting at the seams, and even when I think about war, I tend to be more gracious these days in my judgement for both the victims as well as the perpetrators.  We are all born under water and begin swimming through our sea of systems immediately, most often with the best of intentions.  All the while though, we never really know we are swimming at all.  So, how’s the water today, Boys…?  Be well.  cc

______________________________________________

If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Procol Harum.  Enjoy…

Epidemicology…

Caveat: I chose not to cite any data sources in support of this essay. There is much conflicting data on the topic of obesity and health. The opinions expressed here are based solely on my experience in health & fitness, my observations, as well as books, data sources, and websites which, it turns out, all agree with me.

Not Really…

We are all familiar with the term, obesity epidemic. We see reports, studies, and media programming that remind us how dangerous yet widespread the obesity epidemic has become. We are led increasingly to believe that being overweight is unhealthy, avoidable, and wrong.

I’m not going to argue in favor of, or against obesity. I’m going step back and share my big picture perspective that obesity is less an epidemic and more the unavoidable result of our increasingly complex food system and shifting cultural values, and that fighting obesity on an individual basis will not slow or stop the expansion of the expansion.

The Flow…

While it is true that obesity, as defined by the CDC, has increased steadily over the last 6 decades, I believe that any large scale reversal of that pattern will not be the result of the individual mechanisms we use to fight obesity on a personal level, such as gastric related surgeries, liposuction, excessive dieting, excessive exercise, nutritional supplementation, and pharmaceutical support. With these means being more available and more used than ever, and obesity still being on the rise, that math does not add up. It simply demonstrates that, collectively, fighting individual obesity is not working to reduce obesity overall.

1mont

Though some individuals find success with using exercise, diet, and medical/pharmaceutical technologies to reverse or to avoid obesity, a majority of people who use these resources will not find success in the long-term. I believe any permanent change to the cultural obesity trend will be the result of both large and small changes in our food system, over time, which are organized and called for by society as a collective, similar to the changes in civil rights, animal rights, and global ecology that we have seen in recent decades.

Those efforts to change the food system are already forming and gaining traction, but the arc of their results is a slow turning. Examples of this are laws requiring calories to be included on menus, local food movements, transparency in food manufacturing & marketing, and social awareness created by the propagation of literature; books and documentary movies on the subject.

As It Relates To Health…

We have been fed the ideal over time that obesity is intertwined with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and the probability of early death – a lesser quality of life notwithstanding. Increasingly though, there is data that suggests that obese people who exercise regularly, and include reasonable amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diets are no more likely to suffer from these ailments than people of average body weight. Some call this fat but fit. I call it, doing one’s best within a failing system.

Still, many people who fall into this category of larger, but healthy, attempt to fight their obesity by the means mentioned above, because they feel a social pressure which suggests they are unhealthy and undesirable. Whether or not they are unhealthy is coming into question, and that fruitless debate continues. Being socially or personally undesirable is simply a matter of bigotry.

As It Relates To Vanity…

Yesterday I visited a friend in the hospital who, for the last 13 months, has been dealing with the severely debilitating consequences of a lap-band surgery gone bad. I am removed from the internal thinking which led to her to the decision to have lap-band surgery, but from the outside looking in, though she might have been overweight at the time of the surgery, she was attractive and seemed to be in good health.

That is, her surgery was as much about vanity and/or social pressure as it was about health. My friend will remain in the hospital for at least several weeks. Her life has been in jeopardy as a result of this failed surgery on at least two occasions, though it appears now she will ultimately be okay.

Wide And Prejudice…

The epidemic which scares me more than the so-called epidemic of obesity, is the epidemic of prejudice toward heavier people. If a person wakes up in the morning and fails to eat fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast, fails to remove the pile of clothes from the treadmill and put in a hard 30 minutes, or if they fail to stop at the gym on their way to work, they are not a bad person. And doing any or all of these will not make them a good person.

Being a good person is more related to mindfulness, kindness, and noble effort. Being a bad person, I suspect, is more related to disrespecting people, institutions, and animals – period. Body weight and body size have nothing to do with one’s character. Judging somebody for their shape size or weight does – period.

1mont2

The Slow Turn Of A failed System…

When I look at our social values as it relates to body image, male or female, young or old, and when I observe what it is that we revere and what we are willing to do in the name of looking better or being leaner, I often shudder.

I don’t fault anyone for wanting to pursue or maintain an attractive appearance, and I have certainly put effort into that ideal through the years. I’ll suggest though, for those who strive to improve their physical appearance, that before they begin, they closely examine the potential for cascading consequences which may result from the means they choose.

The quest for a smaller stature, and the emphasis we place on it is as old as culture itself, and I’m not arguing we abandon that pursuit. I’ll suggest though, similarly to civil rights, animal rights, ecology, and government, that the system we have allowed to place us here, and that we are all caught up in, is more in need of repair than any of us as individuals. I believe the arc of this system improving is on the rise, though obesity may still be a social issue for a few more decades.

That obesity is a contributory factor to poor health is, in my opinion, still just a theory. That we treat obese people with a greater guard, is simply a shame. Be well… rc

______________________________________________________
Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from the Dharma Violets. Enjoy!

Choose Your Trainer Wisely…

Do As I Do And Also As I Say…

I am proud to have mentored a handful of people into fitness training careers. Another friend and former client completed her initial NASM fitness training certification this week.

On her completion she posted the following question on her Facebook page:

“So now that I got my fitness trainer certification, do you think I should get in shape? I mean like for real?

This is actually a serious question. A friend of mine and I are having this ongoing conversation, in which I claim that a trainer is like a coach and needs to know how to teach fitness and how to motivate but doesn’t have to necessarily be an athlete him/her-self. Just look at the coaches of Olympic gymnasts, for example.

My friend disagrees saying that expectations of fitness professionals are different than those of coaches. There’s probably some truth to that. What do you think?”

The thread of answers to her question were more mindful and insightful than I would have expected. To extract the commonalities from the many answers suggests that being in immaculate shape should not be a requirement or even a consideration for her. However, being in reasonable shape should be attempted if not maintained. Below is my own reply:

“I think it’s important to be in reasonable aesthetic shape, and able to perform movements as well as, if not better than your clients.

You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be ripped, jacked, or shredded. You need to be able, and you need to be mindful.

Since you are both able and mindful, end of discussion.”

What Is In Shape…

Of course what lays at the heart of this question is the definition of in shape. I once defined my own belief on what constitutes in shape or fitness as follows:

“Physical Fitness is the sum of average or above average balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, and confidence. If these can be displayed while maintaining a reasonable aesthetic form, all the better.”

I stand with that definition today. Of course the terms average and reasonable aesthetic form are subjective.

What Does A Fitness Trainer Look Like…

I have been associated with dozens of fitness trainers through the years. They have come in all shapes and sizes, and though my place is not to judge, when I have judged other fitness trainers, I have done so exclusively based on 2 criteria; their knowledge, and their ability to communicate that knowledge. That, THAT is what a fitness trainer should look like!

Through my own career, my shapes and sizes have varied. I have been extremely lean at times when preparing for long distance races, bodybuilding, or living with longer bicycle commutes.

I have been bulkier at times when focusing on strength, relaxing my eating standards, or when I have backed off of (but never away) from my own fitness regimen. Despite what I have looked like, my knowledge base and my ability to communicate that knowledge has only increased. There have even been times when you might have looked at me and thought I might need a fitness trainer, and that’s kind of my point.

When the picture below was taken, I was not proud of my aesthetic shape. Nor was I ashamed of it. At the time this picture was taken, I was actually quite strong, as well as posting very good times on my bicycle and with my trail running, despite that the picture might indicate otherwise. In fact, at the time this picture was taken, I was very competitive within my circle of hardcore fitness friends. I was also working a full schedule as a fitness trainer.

When one friend saw this picture, he sent me an email stating,

“My god Roy, get that under control.”

Maybe I will, I thought, maybe not. That picture did not define, in any way, my client’s experiences with me.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer.  Circa 2011

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer. Circa 2011

Factual Selection…

I have read many times what to seek when selecting a fitness trainer, and I have also been asked this question regularly. Of course what is written by others, and what I believe are often in contrast with one another.

What a trainer looks like should be among the least of one’s considerations when choosing a fitness trainer. I also believe that education, certifications, and continuing education are not the most important factors in the selection process.

Teaching physical fitness; the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, and stamina is not rocket science. Though a basic education and some experience is needed to teach these qualities, it is the ability to communicate them and to effectively demonstrate them which matter most.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer.  Circa last month...

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer. Circa last month…

If you are looking for a fitness trainer I will suggest that communication skills and ability to demonstrate proper exercise matter much more than the shape of their arms, the size of their waist, or the titles they have won. Look past the electric tan and the hairstyle. Before selecting a fitness trainer, ask to watch them at work. Be well… rc

(please take a moment to scroll up and rate this)

_______________________________________________________________________________
Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights. Enjoy!

Confessions Of A Cutter…

I confess, I have been in a cutting phase lately. By “cutting” I don’t mean sitting in a dark room with heavy mascara on my eyes, listening to Bauhaus, and hacking away at my wrists with the jagged edge of a broken Coke bottle. Cutting, in the fitness vernacular, is a reference to the cutting of body fat. I want to bring mine down a few percentage points, so I have changed up my eating a little bit.

Great music to cut by.  Even for cutting weight...

Great music to cut by. Even for cutting weight…

When I (and millions of others) have done this in the past it has been with a protocol of eating twigs, kale, small amounts of brown rice, egg whites, fish and very little else. Those of us who have cut on such diets always seem to spend a great deal of time preparing less than glamorous meals, that we might be living in a lesser state of enjoyment for their tasteless deprivation. I have been there many times.

This time out, as I have in the past, I am getting as much of my calories as I can from vegetables, fruits, and animal protein sources such as lean beef, chicken, and sea food. However, this time out I’m a little too busy and a little too idontgiveafuck to go about things the way I have in the past.

Fine.  Really.  Just cutting calories...

Fine. Really. Just cutting calories…

For example, one thing I have been doing through this cutting phase that is very different from my past protocol is that I eat on the run much more. Rather than spend the 30-45 minutes preparing and eating my usual breakfast of eggs and steamed vegetables each morning, I’m keeping it simple with an Egg McMuffin on the way in to work. Yes, an Egg McMuffin. Take note, most days I get the regular Egg McMufin too, not the Egg White Delight. On the days I’m fortunate enough to eat at home, I’m partial to the Jimmy Dean bagel/sausage sandwiches.

You may not agree with me on this one, but I'm right!

You may not agree with me on this one, but I’m right!

Lunch these days is even simpler – almost always a Greek chicken salad at one of the local diners, or a salad bowl from Chipotle. Good ingredients, served up quickly, and usually under $10. I have things to do. When I do prepare my lunch ahead of time and bring it with me, it’s usually just frozen vegetables – well seasoned and thrown into a plastic container with some cut up chicken or pork on top and that’s it.

Under $10 at the local diner.  Oh, and a cute girl brings it to me!

Under $10 at the local diner. Oh, and a cute girl brings it to me!

And when I'm in a real hurry...

And when I’m in a real hurry…

My daytime snacks are taken mid-morning and mid-afternoon and usually include a cut up apple or grapefruit, accompanied by a cheese stick and a few Triscuit wafers.

Dinner for me is just as simple; usually a small grilled steak or piece of chicken with asparagus or broccoli, and a small salad. Or maybe just some quick-stirred ground beef tossed into a romaine leaf – always followed by a single spoonful of ice-cream.

Ten minutes - start to finish...

Ten minutes – start to finish…

Dessert -- one spoonful at a time...

Dessert — one spoonful at a time…

My last meal of the day is roughly 4 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt stirred up with a scoop of protein powder. I have this right before I go to sleep.

I have made the argument for a long time that our nation would be a MUCH healthier place as a collective if everyone who lives in a state of obesity simply ate an Egg McMuffin for breakfast, had a Smart Ones and a piece of fruit for lunch, and a reasonable dinner. I can make the argument just as easily and just as strong that those who wish to cut the vanity 5 or 10 pounds could eat the same way with great results. This is simply about portion control, ease of transaction, and commitment.

Whatever your feelings are about corporations, monoculture foods, and GMOs, please save them for another argument – that’s not my point. The point is that I have been successfully cutting body fat eating this way, and I haven’t had to think twice about it. Keep in mind I’m about 8 weeks in to this cutting phase and down about 10 pounds. Though I recommend losing no more than ½ pound per week for most people, my decline is more rapid due to my bicycle commute to work each day.

This eating protocol isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have a fancy name. It’s not trendy. It’s not endorsed by Reebok, CrossFit, or Dr. Oz. It is though, simple, inexpensive, tasty (a relative term, I know), sustainable, affordable – and it will work for anyone willing to commit to it. For me this about going from 180 lbs. to 165 lbs. There are millions of people though, who might benefit from such a simplistic because their lives depend on it.

Lastly, every couple of weeks I put it aside for a day.  Pizza, fish & chips, orange chicken from Panda Express — whatever.  I choose my battles always remembering that if I win 2 days out of 3, I’m ahead of the game.  If I win 3 days out of 4, that much more.  And even if I win 1 and lose one, it’s still a break even proposition.   Just some food for thought – so to say Be well… rc

A meal like this every couple of weeks does a soul -- and a body good...

A meal like this every couple of weeks does a soul — and a body good…

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Perry and the Travelers. Enjoy!

Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.

 mystic

When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Spain.  Enjoy…

Unintended Consequences…

This blog post has gone viral in recent days.  It has lit up the internet all week, gathering moss with a mob mentality that I’m not on board with.

I understand where the author is coming from, and why.  I’m in the fitness business too – I get it.  I have seen women cry in my studio far too often, and for all the wrong reasons.  In these times I have done my best to reassure them that nothing matters more than being a good mom, a good wife, and a good person in the community.

I say often that in the end none of us will be judged by the shape of our abs or whether we do sinister justice to a pair of skinny jeans.  The pressure women feel to be lean, sexy, ripped, etc., is severe, it’s increasing, it’s everywhere, and is completely unnecessary.

However there aren’t just two sides to every story or every idea as this blog suggests.  Like coastlines, ideas can be endlessly distilled with fractal geometry; the angles can be reduced to smaller angles, and smaller angles still, and are seemingly infinite.  As always, I suggest one be careful before choosing sides, or piling on a cause too soon.

Most of the memes, and sayings represented in this blog post seem to have been created, and shared in the spirit of raising one’s game.  I truly believe that, and I respect that.  I seriously doubt that any non-corporate individual would ever create or caption signs like these as a way to belittle women, influence them into behavior they don’t wish to participate in, or to shame them into state of emotional distress.

Memes like this are dangerous...

Memes like this can be dangerous…

This is not to suggest that it hasn’t happened, clearly it has.  These ideas can be dangerous.  But from the perspective of those who create, and share such memes, I’m sure there were no thoughts of the unintended consequences to be absorbed by women everywhere.

Does this mean they are “bullshit” as the author suggests…?  I don’t believe so.  For my part, I have tried hard to motivate, and inspire people without it use of such ideals.  Even my personal tag, Train Like An Athlete, Eat Like A Shark, Walk Like A God is found to be over the top by some, so I don’t use it anymore.  A little mindfulness and humility can go a long way.  However I can appreciate the kind of motivation, effort, and the positive changes memes like these can facilitate.

Conversely, spreading the idea that real women have curves might seem innocent, and even supportive, but that’s dangerous too.  I have seen many women through the years take unnecessary liberties with their own physicality, and abandon successful eating and exercise habits in favor of doing less for themselves because they have been told by others that it’s okay to do so.  Too often, the others influencing this behavior do so because obesity, like misery, loves company.

Just as dangerous...

And memes like this can be Just as dangerous…

The author refers to these ideals as, “irresponsible”.  I find that statement itself irresponsible inasmuch as he’s placing himself on a pedestal as a voice of reason.  Though he may be a voice of reason for some, he aims his passion and enthusiasm at many who are trying very hard to do good work, and for good reasons.

What further troubles me about this is that it also singles out, and belittles success – the success that many have experienced in finding or creating a new life.  Being championed by, or championing others is an honorable endeavor.  It’s unfair that many endeavors do have at least some unintended consequences.  But really, who is that on…?  I don’t believe what makes a woman real is six-pack abs or curves.  What makes a woman real is her priorities.

Where I am in agreement with the author, and where I do take exception is when corporations invest millions of dollars into sharing these memes because they ARE trying to guilt and shame women into spending lots of money on devices, supplements, and products that will offer little or no return for that investment.  These ad campaigns are aimed directly a woman’s self-esteem.  I find that sickening, if not completely ‘Merican.

This fever this blog post has created is just one more example of people choosing sides in this social media era, piling on, and muting the conversation before the conversation ever begins.  Ready.  Fire.   Aim.

The fitness industry is nearing the trillion dollar mark annually.  Every day of my life I think about walking away from it – yes, every single day.  On a very large scale, my industry is insincere, scheming, and false.  At best, it’s smug, and lacks decorum as a collective.

There are some mindful people though, out there every single day working hard to help others – without passing judgment one way or another.  Just knowing those people exist keeps me in the game – for now.  Be well… rc

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks.  Enjoy…

The inner light…

The inner light…

It took me a long time to have this picture taken.  That is, it took a long time during the photo shoot.  You see, I had to stop and cry a lot.  Taking my shirt of, and revealing the body shown below made me feel worthless – based on where that body had previously been.

Roy_Pig

Taken on 9/11/12. Ironic, as it looks as though I committed and act of terrorism — AGAINST MYSELF!

I had to come face to face with it though – with what I had allowed to happen to my body.

This photo was taken on 9/11/2012.  Ironic, as it appears I was in the process of committing an act of terrorism – against myself.

In truth, I just let my guard down for a while.  “For a while” could easily have turned into forever, but I didn’t let that happen.

No, I’m not going to insert of photo later on in this post of how I look today.  Trust me, I look fucking great.  That’s not my point.

I’m sharing this for two reasons:

1)  To let those who struggle with issues of personal fitness, eating, and body image know that we are all human, and we can all become vulnerable to life’s challenges – even experienced fitness trainers.

As a fitness trainer, former marathon runner, lifter, cyclist, bodybuilder, and life-time practitioner of daily action, I became vulnerable to all things which anyone else might find blocking their path; depression, relationship issues, self-loathing, junk-food-medication, alcohol, and more.

Once I when I realized I was down though, I chose to get back up, and here I stand.

2) To remind those prejudiced, zealot fitness assholes who think they know everything about life, about exercise and eating, about how to change the body, the mind, and the attitude, but who actually prize physical appearance above all other virtues, that at the time this picture was taken, I was still very active.

Shell shocked, but still functioning…

At the time the picture above was taken, I was running with my running pack each week, and fairing quite well.  I was lifting daily, and ahead of the game with my poundages.  I was still a good business man.  I could still crack a nice joke.  I could still turn a phrase like ringing a bell.  I was still a good father, a good friend, and a good citizen in my community.  And what I looked like didn’t have a fucking thing to do with who I was on the inside.

Yes, I want to look good – but looking good is only a shell.  Though my shell may ebb and flow through the rocky course of my life, so long as I live my intentions, who I am on the inside should never waiver.

I no longer look like the picture above.  If I did though, the only thing that would be changed about me, would be how I’m perceived by (some) people around me.

But that wouldn’t really be about me, would it…?  It would be about them, and their prejudiced tendencies with regard to physical appearance and beauty, which can be separate from functional fitness.

In truth, I do prefer the way I look today over the way I looked in that picture.  And trees are made out of wood.  I went to a party several weeks ago wearing a pair of jeans I could have worn in high school.  There was a confidence in doing that which escapes description.

The confidence that comes with looking better and possessing a higher level of personal fitness does, I believe, enable me to contribute better to all facets of my existence.  Perhaps that is the single greatest rationalization of my life.  I don’t know…

Looking good, feeling good…

This I do know: There is a difference between aesthetic fitness, and functional fitness.  Aesthetic fitness is simply the act of looking good – looking good is optional.  I believe all of us though, have a responsibility to be functionally fit – the progression of our society depends on it.

I won’t attempt to deny the superficiality that is behind my pursuit of being aesthetically fit.  I would rather go through life with aesthetic fitness than without it.  I try very hard though, not to judge any person for any reasons, least of all for what they look like or how they function.

In my day-to-day psyche I work very hard to remember that in the end, none of us will be judged by the shape our abs or whether we do sinister justice to that little black dress.

In the end, we will only be judged by the deeds of our minds, of our hearts, by our actions toward others, and that whatever we do, be done out of love.

Taking me back…

As far as getting back to my current level of conditioning an appearance goes, to change the landscape of the human body; both in terms of ability and in terms of appearance, there are not two more important words than:

–          Awareness

–          Discipline

I became aware of that which I wanted to change.  I applied the discipline required to affect those changes.

In fitness, I believe these are the only two words which matter...

In fitness, I believe these are the only two words which matter…

With a healthy respect for those two words, an entire attitude can be formed, and a body can be changed… Be well.  rc

____________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.
Oh, and there is this from Poi Dog Pondering.  Enjoy….

Left Behind…

I have seen it happen time, and time again.  A person falls behind with their personal fitness; either they have never had it, or they have had it and let it slip away as adulthood manifested and responsibility set in.  Some are fortunate though and are able to earn it, or to earn it back through hard work, perseverance, and consistency.

In a friendship, this can often leave a gap – some distance between the one who makes their personal fitness an increased priority, and one who views their body as a vehicle of forgivable sin.  There can be resentment, frustration an increased stress on the friendship, and even a feeling of being left behind by one party.

This always breaks my heart.  I can’t imagine not supporting a friend who strives to better his or her life.  Often times this increased focus on personal fitness is viewed, or rationalized, by the outside friend as an obsession.  Having been exposed to these situations so often, I rarely see this as a real obsession.  It’s an appreciation and a commitment; an appreciation of being able to do, feel, and experience more in life, and a commitment to the lifestyle which enables that appreciation.

"To live is to fly"  Townes Van Zandt

“To live is to fly” Townes Van Zandt   Me on Monserat Hill 12/9/12.  Fallbrook, CA

Here’s an open memo to the friends “left behind” everywhere:  Be supportive of your friend in pursuit of change.  Be understanding of the sacrifices required to make that change.  Perhaps, you could even be inspired by said fitness-obsessed friend, and make some changes too…  rc

Religiously Fit…

I often use the analogy of faith when speaking about a fitness lifestyle.  Matters of faith are where we often make our most mindful decisions.  Fitness dogma may sound silly, but there is a definite parallel between religious faith, and the realization of fitness objectives.

To succeed in fulfilling a fitness agenda there must first be curiosity. After curiosity, there must be structure, leadership, ritual, and obedience. Finally, there must be belief; the belief that something better awaits a person for adhering to the observance of the ritual. Sounds like religion to me.

I actually do celebrate my fitness as my primary religion, and I’m not ashamed to say that because it’s not where my true faith lies.  Exercise is however, where I’m best connected to my creator and to my potential.  Exercise is where the inner me and the outer me come together.

If one is going to toss stone tablets, one will need strength, balance, and a strong core…

If one is going to toss stone tablets, one will need strength, balance, and a strong core…

Suggesting that exercise be compared to religion may be offensive to some people, as suggesting that Toy Poodle be the other white meat.  Still, to be whole is to be physically reverent, not just spiritually reverent.  Be well.  rc

Dinner And Everything After…

There is an ideal in fitness – a false meme that can be a contributing factor working against a person with a weight loss agenda.  If I had to narrow my list of fitness pet peeves down, this one would be top 5.  What I would like to illuminate, and help people conquer is the age old idea that a person seeking weight loss should not eat after dinner.

Tina’s Energy Crisis

I will use the example of a 30-something female who I’ll call Tina:

Presumably Tina eats dinner around 6:00 in the evening – whatever Tina’s dinner might be is not too relevant.  If she’s an average American 30-something female, she’ll not actually eat breakfast until after 10:00 in the morning, and it will be scarcely healthy – enter the scone or the energy bar with a latte.

 

A slower metabolism is just a scone’s throw away…

 

As a 30-something, active female Tina requires about 1,800 calories per day to maintain her body weight.  This means Tina is burning approximately 75 calories per hour to break even.  To evoke a safe, sustainable weight loss, a calorie deficit of about 150 calories less per day would be recommended.  This will place Tina at 1,650 calories per day.  This means Tina will be living off approximately 68 calories per day on her journey to an  improved body.

Relative to Tina’s BMR, she will be burning slightly more than those 68 calories per hour while she is awake and active – even if she sits on her ass all day and does little.  What is often misunderstood about calories burned during the course of a day is that Tina will be burning only slightly fewer calories while she is sleeping – calories necessary for the energy it takes to sleep and recover from any would-be exercise or activity during her day.

If Tina stops eating at 6:00pm – after dinner, as is often recommended by the fitness media, and doesn’t eat again until 10:00am, then Tina has not fueled her body for a 2/3rds of the day – fuel which is required around the clock to bolster and enhance the metabolic effect for fostering weight loss.  A majority of the day spent not eating – not fueling.  How is a car supposed to make such a long journey without fuel…?

There is no shortage of published work suggesting hibernation theory; that by not eating often enough the body senses a decreased energy income.  In order to overcome that decreased energy income, the body slows the metabolic process down to use less energy.  Body fat is stored increasingly, and used only sparingly as fuel.  This is how bears get through winter.

A Smeal Is A Hell Of A Deal

In a weight loss endeavor there’s little difference between snacks and meals – I just call them smeals.  Every successful weight loss success story I have been associated with, male or female, young or not-so-young, has had several things in common, not the least of which is the rhythmic eating of smeals throughout the day.  A smeal after waking up in the morning, a smeal at bedtime, and a few smeals every three to four hours in between can add up to a loss.

Eating rhythmically throughout the day, the brain and body conclude that since more energy is on the way, it’s not as urgent to slow down the metabolic process or to store energy as quickly in the form of body fat.  That is, the motor runs fast, efficiently, and uses the best fuel.  Add to that, additional calories burned due to increased activity, and the energy reserves (body fat) are utilized.  This is one scenario in life when it’s good not to have reserves.

Sumo Slow

I often use the Sumo wrestler as an example of slowing down the metabolic process.  We envision these large men who hail from Japan, a predominately demure culture, as being able to eat whatever they want.  In part that’s true, Sumos take in a majority of their calories from a calorie-rich stew called, Chankonabe.   However, Sumo wrestlers coax their metabolism by eating great quantities of Chankonabe, but only do so only once per day.  This intake of substantial calories only one time per day enables weight gain at an exponential rate.  Sumos train, eat, and sleep in an environment called a stable.

Life in the stable. I wonder how stable is heart is…?

A thought:  For those reading this believing they will lose weight by eating just a little during the day and having a large dinner at night, remember Sumos live in stables, athletes dine at tables – and do so frequently.  Be well.  rc