Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why do we quit a diet or training program?

I recently answered a question on Quora about why it is that people quit a training program or diet. For your reading pleasure I post the answer here as well. Happy reading!

To know why people quit you have to know why it is that they start a workout program in the first place. Sure, you can say that it's because they want to have abs, or they want to improve their fitness, or they want to lose weight to fit in a pair of jeans. But what are the feelings lying underneath all these reasons? 

People will only take an action to prevent them from feeling a certain way, or to gain feelings that they want to feel. Everything we do hangs around the feelings we feel when we do it.

People start with a workout program because of a feeling, either good or bad. Let me explain. Someone wants to fit in a nice pair of jeans. That may be because this person feels they'll get more attention and admiration if they can fit into a sexy pair of jeans and will thus feel admired or desired. Or maybe this person went shopping with friends and felt embarrassed or ashamed because the jeans don't fit. The outcome of both cases are that the person vows to go on a diet and to start a workout program. But not because they want to fit in the jeans, it's because they either want, or don't want, to experience certain feelings. The person either wants feelings of being desired and admired or wants to eliminate feelings of embarrassment and shame. In the end the jeans really has nothing to do with starting a workout program, its all about the feelings.

From these feelings come the desire to change. And that change will be brought on by participating in a workout program. In the beginning the desire is strong, so strong in fact that it seems you'll never lose motivation and even so strong as to temporarily boost willpower. Therefore in the beginning, when desire is strong and riding on the high of feelings, people have no problems with remaining on course.

But then, but then. 

Let's sidetrack for a moment here. Suppose the doctor tells you, if you don't go on a workout plan you'll die in the next week. What'll you do? Go on a workout plan off course! A case like this doesn't require desire, motivation or willpower, because you're going to work your butt off to stay alive. But now, suppose the doctor tells you that you need to go on a workout plan, but it'll also be OK if you don't. What then? Will you have the same amount of motivation to work out? Will you even do anything?

The point that I'm trying to make, is that human beings have this manner of convincing themselves that it's fine to live in a state that can be tolerated, even though it's far from the ideal life they wish to live. We all do this. How many people work in dead end jobs and how many wish with all their hearts for a chance to break out, to be free? Many and many and many. But do they do it? No, they don't. Because they reach a point where they've convinced themselves that their situation is not so bad and that they can tolerate it. "I'm working here for a paycheck" or "at least the money is good" or "at least I have a job" are common sayings we use to convince ourselves that less than ideal situations are OK.

This is not an exception, we all do it. I do it, you do and the person reading this answer also does it. (Yes you do!) The reason we do this is because it takes much less effort to convince ourselves than to go ahead and take action.

Well the same thing happens to the person who starts a workout program. In the beginning the feelings and desires are strong, motivation and willpower is at an all time high. But as time passes, the feelings wax and wane and all of a sudden excuses are being made in order for the person to convince himself/herself that it's really not that bad and that everything is OK and can be tolerated. Working out becomes too much effort. The person forgets how they felt that day when they were confronted with the jeans. As the feelings go away, so too does the desire and consequently levels of motivation drop and willpower becomes weaker. (By the way, I fully agree with some of the other answers that willpower can be used until nothing is left) If feelings go, willpower becomes weaker and less. It therefore becomes harder and harder to get up for a workout or to say no to a nice piece of chocolate cake.

And so the treadmill becomes a clothes rack, the dumbbells become first class dust gatherers, the gym membership becomes old and expires and the contents of the cupboards change from healthy food to sweets and snacks. The person is now totally convinced that where they are now is OK. A state that can be tolerated. And so they give up and quit.

Until the next time a pair of jeans crop up again. Then this whole cycle repeats itself. Feelings lead to desire which leads to motivation and willpower. Then the feelings are forgotten, desire dwindles away and so too does motivation and willpower. We convince ourselves that we are OK and we tolerated the less than ideal circumstances we live in. And then the jeans crop up again........

This endless loop repeats itself over and over and over every time. Just look at how many more people are in the gym on Mondays and how many are left on Friday. 

To be able to stick a workout plan out and see it through, you need to work on maintaining your levels of desire. Because only when you want something badly enough will you work hard to get it. So don't lose your desire. If you can have desire, motivation and willpower will come automatically and you'll be able to get the right things done.

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Isometric movements: A total body workout in your office chair!

Did you know that you're quite able to perform an awesome total body workout where you're sitting right now? A total body workout in your chair! It's all possible through the wonder of isometric exercises.

Isometric exercises:

What are isometric exercises? Isometric exercises are movements which create tension in your muscles, but without moving the skeletal system. Usually when we think of training we think of lifting weights, that is, picking up a weight and moving it with our muscles and bones. Weight training like this is not isometric training because there is movement of the skeletal system. 

When you push against a wall for instance, you're acting out an isometric movement. If you squeeze and clench your glutes (the butt muscles) you're performing an isometric gluteal exercise. These examples show that there is never any movement of the skeletal system, although your muscles were quite tensed and fatigued; you can feel them afterwards. In a nutshell therefore, isometric exercises are movements that tense and work the muscles without generating movement of the skeleton.

The magic of isometric exercises is that you can perform them literally anywhere. They are extremely convenient and versatile. Because there is no movement of the skeletal system, you do not need lots of space to be able to perform an isometric workout. That makes it possible to perform a workout even in your chair! But a chair is not the only place where a workout may be performed, you can literally get an isometric workout done while lying in bed, standing in the shower, driving in your car to work or even while standing in line at the supermarket or bank. The possibilities are truly endless and only limited by your imagination. But, because you can perform these exercises anywhere, you don't need to put aside a time period in which to do them. You can make these part of your ordinary activities and get your workout in at any time during the day!

In addition to being able to do an isometric exercise almost anywhere, isometric exercises will not make your muscles larger. Instead when performed together with a good nutritional program, they'll give the muscles you already have more shape and tone in addition to firmness and rigidity. This is good news for those not interested in building bulk and size and who would simply prefer to firm and tone up.

In this post I describe a great isometric workout plan that anyone can perform, anytime, anywhere. There are no limitations and you'd be able to firm up and tone your muscles nicely, while at the same burning lots of calories!

The isometric workout plan:

This isometric workout is developed to train the body from top to bottom. It does not take a long time to perform which means you can do this workout multiple times per session or per day. This program describes the movement from the neck downwards, however if you intend to perform this workout more than once, alternate between top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. Never do the exercise the same way twice or more in a row.

Start off by exercising the muscles of the neck:

1. Press with your hand against the side of your head and press with your head against your hand. The key is to keep the tension in your neck muscles, so your hand is effectively only there to hold your head in one place while you try to press your head as hard as you can into your hand.

Do this for 10 seconds toward each side of your head. Left, right, front and back.

Follow up the neck exercises with shoulder exercises:

1. Stretch out one of you arms and lift it upwards, to the front of your body, with the palm of the hand facing downwards. With your other arm, press the outstretched arm downwards. The tension should be in the shoulder muscles of the arm you're lifting up. Now press upwards with the outstretched arm as hard as you can, while holding it in place with the other arm. You other arm should not be tensed too much and should only hold the outstretched arm (the one you're lifting up) in place.

Hold the movement for 10 seconds and then switch it over to the other side.

If you're sitting at a sturdy desk, press upwards with your outstretched arm against the underside of the desk for the same effect. Keep a slight bend in your elbow to ease the strain on your joints.

Alternatively, if you find yourself standing against a wall, face the wall and press with your fist against the wall in such a manner as if you wanted to lift your arm upwards in front of you.

For added movement, twist your body to the side and repeat the exercise, although this time lifting your arm up towards the side of your body.

2. After that, pull your shoulders backwards and try to make the small of your back as small as possible. At maximum tension, hold the pose for 10 seconds, then push your shoulders forwards as far as you can, without hunching you back. Again, hold the pose for 10 seconds at maximum tension. Finally lift the shoulders upwards in a shrugging motion and hold at the top for 10 seconds.

After shoulders, move on the the muscles of the back:

1. Put your hands behind your head and interlock your fingers. Your elbows should be as wide apart to your sides as possible. Now try to bring your elbows backwards as far as possible, while your hands remain interlocked behind your head. At the same time as you try to move your elbows as far backwards as possible, attempt to pull your hands apart. You should not actually pull them apart, your interlocked fingers should keep your hands from slipping. At the point of maximum tension, hold the pose for 10 seconds and then release.

Follow up the back movement with chest exercises:

1. On a level plane in front of your body, put your hands together while bending the elbows. It should be as if you're trying to squeeze the juice from a lemon with the palms of you hands. Now push your hands together as hard as you can. At maximum tension, hold the movement for 10 seconds. After that, lower your hands into your lap and repeat the movement. Again, imagine you're squeezing a lemon between your hands. Hold for 10 seconds and then put your hands above your head. Again, squeeze together as hard as you can and hold for 10 seconds. 

These three isometric chest presses are extremely good for firming up the muscles of the chest as well as preventing breast tissue from sagging. Perform these regularly to stay pert and perky! 

Click here to see exactly how to perform an isometric chest squeeze.

The chest is followed by exercises for the abs:

1. While sitting perfectly straight, draw your lungs full of air. As you exhale clench and draw in your abdominal muscles as far as you can. It should almost be as if you're trying to touch your abs to your spine. This movement is also known as ab vacuums. At maximum contraction, hold for 10 seconds and then release.

From the abs move downwards to exercises for the legs:

1. With your hands push against the sides of your thighs. With your thighs, push outwards as hard as you can. Once again, you should only use your hands to provide a resistance to your leg muscles. The actual pushing should be performed by your legs. Push outwards with your legs against you hands and at maximum contraction, hold the movement for 10 seconds before releasing.

Once again, if you're sitting at a sturdy desk, or in a chair with sturdy sides, you can push outwards with your legs against the sides of the chair or against the legs of the desk. This may ease the strain on your arms and shoulders. Just be careful not to break your desk!

2. Repeat the same exercise but this time put your hands on the inside of your legs and push with your legs inwards. You could also use a pillow or a basketball or similar item between your legs and push hard against that. Hold the movement for 10 seconds and then release again.

3. Move your chair somewhat away from your desk. Then put your feet together and lift them until you legs are horizontal with the floor. You should be able to feel tension in your upper leg muscles. At the top of the movement, at maximum upper leg contraction, flex your muscles as hard as you can and hold the movement for 10 seconds, then release.

4. Sitting perfectly straight in your chair, clench the muscles of your backside (your glutes) as hard as you can. Imagine you're trying to bend a penny between your cheeks. While you're doing this, also tighten the pelvic floor muscles and the abs. It should feel like you're trying to squeeze off the need to go to the bathroom. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds then release. 

Squeezing the glutes like this firms and tones the backside which will give you a really nice round little booty. Tightening the pelvic floor muscles also helps to strengthen the muscles in the genital areas. For both man and woman, this may help to improve sex life tremendously.

5. Finally, with your feet put together and flat on the ground, lift your legs up on to your toes. At maximum lift, really flex the muscles of your calves and hold that position for 10 seconds before relaxing again. You should feel a nice warm tension in your calf muscles.

Follow up your isometric workout with some cardio:

I always recommend that everyone attempt to do some low intensity cardio after a workout. If you're strapped for time and cannot get to a gym or maybe go for a jog outside, don't fret too much. You can get great cardio workouts in just by tweaking the way in which you take on the day. These examples will show you how:

1. Walk to work or bike to work if you can.
2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
3. Do your job standing and minimize sitting time behind the desk.
4. Try to get a cordless phone, or a mobile phone and then take all you calls standing. Every time the phone rings, stand up before answering the phone. If you need to take a note and need to sit down, get back up immediately after the note has been taken down and walk around the office.
5. Go for a walk during lunch time.
6. Attempt to live an active lifestyle while not busy at work.

As long as you can keep yourself busy and moving, your heart will keep on pumping and your lungs will keep on breathing deep. This keeps your cardiovascular system going and continues to burn more and more calories during the day.

An isometric workout like the one described above is a great way to get your workouts done especially if you have hectic busy days. You could potentially perform your first workout in the shower in the mornings, and then another on your way to work. Then perhaps another during lunchtime or while mindlessly replying to the tons of emails you get everyday. Nothing stops you from doing another one on you way back home again and finally, you could end the day by doing one last workout in the shower, or while running your bathwater. You could even perform one of these workouts while lying in bed in the evenings! That's up to six mini isometric workouts per day! If you keep up a schedule like this, you'll definitely start to notice more firmness, shape and tone to your muscles and if you participate in a healthy nutrition program as well, you should soon start to see the pounds dropping like ice cream melting in the hot sun.

Fortunately, now that you've read this post, nothing stands in your way of getting your workout in anymore. You've seen just how easy it is to firm and tone your muscles and to burn more calories. Even just one quick 5 minute session will do wonders for your body. Now that you're armed with the right stuff, you know it is definitely possible to perform a total body workout in the comfort of your chair!

Have you tried and tested this workout? How do you find it? Is it easy and convenient? Can you see definite improvements? Are there any additions or improvements you'd like to make? All comments are appreciated. Tell us if you find this a good workout and if it works for you or not. 

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Never trust the scale!

Yes dear friends, you read it correctly, never ever trust the scale!

The scale reading is a very poor indicator of progress and performance, specifically if you're engaged in a nutrition program and training program that is geared towards losing fat and building muscle. Why is it such a poor indicator of progress and performance? There are simply too many factors at play that may influence the scale reading negatively. But what's more important than an inaccurate scale reading is how that reading makes you feel.

Imagine for a second that you're totally committed to a nutrition and training program. I mean TOTALLY committed. You're giving 110% effort and even attempt to put in that little bit more to gain the edge. You don't cheat on your nutrition plan, not even once. You put in an extra 15 minutes of work in the gym. You get up early for your workouts and give it your all. Basically, you eat, sleep and live nutrition and training.

All this hard work makes you feel great and you expect a significant reduction in weight. I mean that scale must show at least 2 kg's of fat lost, right? But when you step on the scale the reading is still exactly the same as the day you started! But how can that be?! How do you think that'll make you feel?

If you said it will make you want to quit, because what's the use of all the hard work, then you'd be spot on. But thing is, you have already made tremendous progress! There's no such thing as hard work that never led to anything. The only difference is that your measurement tool gave you the wrong readings. The actual truth is that you burned off tons of fat and built mountains of muscle. Can you see how dangerous it is to use the scale reading as the only measurement of progress? It can make you quit an effective program that had been working fine all the while!

This brings us back to the many factors that play a role in giving us an inaccurate scale reading. Let's take a look at them.

1. Muscle weighs more than fat

Fatty tissue physically weighs less than muscle tissue. The difference is about 160 grams per liter of tissue. That is, muscle weighs 160 grams more than fatty tissue per liter of tissue. What are the implications of this?

When you're on a healthy nutrition plan and a training program, you'll begin to lose fat and build muscle. Fat will be used for energy to fuel your training sessions and resistance training will build new muscle to replace the fat that's used. So in actual fact, you are transforming your body from fat to muscular. You are replacing fat with lean muscle tissue.

Because muscle is heavier than fat, and because you are transforming your body from fat to muscular, the scale reading you see every morning will not be an actual reflection of what is happening in your body. As you transform from fat to lean and muscular, the scale reading will eventually reach a point where it may stand still and even increase. This is NORMAL! Don't you worry even one bit about it. Remember friends that muscle is heavier than fat and consequently as you progress on the path of health and fitness, you may start to weigh more.

Let's look at two people who are at exactly the same height. One person has 25% bodyfat, the other only 7%. Person one with the 25% bodyfat weighs 71.3 kg. Person two, with only 7% bodyfat will weigh 73.4 kg. How has this been determined?

The average adult weight is 70 kg, and on average the human body has the same density as water, which is at 1 000 kg per cubic meter. The average adult will therefore have a volume of 0.07 cubic meter, or 70 000 ml. Person one therefore has 17 500 ml of fat, which weighs 15.7 kg and 55 650 ml of muscle which weighs 55.6 kg. In total then 71.3 kg. Person two has 4 900 ml of fat which weighs 4.4 kg and 65 100 ml of muscle which weighs 69 kg. Person two therefore weighs 73.4 kg. (for clarification, fat has a density of 0.9 g/ml and muscle 1.06 g/ml)

The example above shows that a person with leaner muscle mass will always weigh more than one with more fatty tissue. That's why the scale reading may stand still and even start to rise as you exchange more and more fatty tissue for lean muscle. Never let a misguiding scale reading throw you off.

2. Physical changes to your body influences the scale reading

Women, when they get closer to their period, will hold back more water in their bodies. That will naturally make them a little bit heavier when their time comes around. Also when we eat or drink, we'll be heavier. Food and drink may add up to a kilo (2 lb) to the scale reading.

The clothes we wear also influence the scale reading. Large shoes, boots, heels, wedges or other shoes may weigh up to a kilo and when worn with clothing like jeans or jackets will definitely add poundage to the scale.

In the mornings when you wake up and go to the bathroom, you'll most likely weigh up to 2 kg (4.5 lb) lighter. That's because your stomach and digestive system, your bladder and bowels are all empty. All the waste material in our bodies add up to a lot of weight and you can be considerably lighter after a good voiding of the bowels.

With food, drink and clothes adding up to 2 kg to the scale and weighing up to 2 kg lighter in the mornings, there is definitely a tremendous amount of play on the scale reading during a normal day. These factors can easily make the scale inaccurate by up to 4 kg (8 lb), which is a lot and definitely a reason for not taking the scale reading too seriously.

Now that we know of the influences on the scale reading (and how bad it may be), how does an inaccurate scale reading influence our lives for the worse?

1. Using the scale as a measurement of dress size

The scale reading has nothing to do with your dress size. Dress size is determined by the circumference of your body and only the circumference of your body. Consider this: Person A weighs 60 kg (132 lb), has 35% body fat and wears a size 10 to 12. Person B also weighs 60 kg (121 lb) but has a body fat percentage of 30% and wears a size 8 to 10. Would you have been able to tell the difference between the two dress sizes based on scale reading only? No, you wouldn't have. My point is that you cannot use the scale reading as an accurate measure of someone's size. It'll give you the wrong perception.

Because you cannot use the scale measurement for size, you cannot use it to compare one person with another. Therefore you cannot feel bad (or good) if you weigh a certain amount and cannot (or can) fit into a certain dress size based on the scale reading alone. The scale reading cannot be trusted to be the measurement of size since different sizes occur with different weights.

2. False perceptions about weight

People have this perception that the measure of fitness and health has all to do with how much you weigh. Let me state the following to you then: This person weighs 35 kg. Does she look healthy to you?

What about this person? She weighs 58 kg. Does she look healthy?

Which one of them is healthier? Isn't it the one that weighs more? Yes it is! What does that tell you? Can you say that the person who weighs less is the healthier one? No, you can't. And that's exactly why our perception of health with how much we weigh is so wrong. We believe that those who weigh less are healthier, but right now we've seen how wrong that perception may be.

This leads us to believe that if the scale reading is not decreasing day-by-day, we are not getting healthier and healthier. There will be times when the scale reading is going to stand still and even increase, but it does not mean we aren't lean and muscular and healthy. Again, such a thing may make us want to quit the program because we feel nothing is happening. And again, this is farthest from the truth ever. Again, this is why we cannot ever trust the damned scale.

To be able to accurately state that one person is healthy and another is not, we need more than just the scale reading. The factors above are always trying to skew the scale reading for us and therefore we need other measurements as well, lest we become discouraged while our plans were actually working. The measurements I recommend, which are to be used in conjunction with the scale reading, are circumference measurements and a good old progress selfie.

Every time you step on the scale, take your body measurements and also take a progress pic of yourself. You can take your measurements by having a friend help you with a measuring tape and measuring your body as follows:

Add all the measurements to get an overall measurement number. Then take a progress pic.

You must also use every measurement against those taken previously. A standalone measurement won't be able to tell you anything and may also be discouraging. It is only when you compare current measurements with previous measurements that you may get a sense of progress and improvement. So take your measurements weekly and then compare the numbers and pictures side by side. 

To make the most of the scale reading, always weigh yourself first thing in the mornings, right after you've gone to the bathroom, without any clothes on. Weigh yourself like this every time to get the most consistent readings which gives the most accurate reflection of your body weight and progress. 

It is only when you make use of these three measurements together that you may get an accurate picture of whether you're making progress or not. Remember the scale reading does not show you what's really going on because too many factors have an influence on the reading and that may cause you to quit a perfectly good program. But when the scale reading is taken together with progress pics and circumference measurements, and compared side by side to previous readings, you may know better what your current condition is. Then you'll be able to see the great progress you've made, which is a great motivator to stay the course.

Never let the scale reading throw you off balance!

Have you ever been discouraged by false scale readings? Share your experience and leave a comment below!

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The cost of unhealthy living

Most people will tell you that the cost of unhealthy living includes increased risks of obesity which leads to increased risk of deadly diseases like diabetes,  cancer, hypertension and heart and cardiovascular complications. Most people will also be able to tell you that unhealthy living and bad habits like smoking and drinking will cost you some of your life. This is basic information and something we all know by now, especially in this day and age.

But most people will not be able to tell you how much it actually costs, financially, to live unhealthy. In my experience, when people are confronted with the question of why they can't live healthier lifestyles, one of the biggest excuses are that healthy food costs on average more than less healthy food. Many people argue that they just cannot afford to live healthier lifestyles.

Well this may be a fact, but what many don't realize is that in the long run, it actually costs us, financially, much much less to live healthier lifestyles than unhealthy lifestyles. Sure, when you look at it, a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast costs more than say, a loaf of bread, but when one takes a whole nutritional plan and view it in its totality, then it suddenly becomes apparent that living healthy is also good for your wallet. 

In this post we'll be looking at two people living in the same circumstances, one living a healthy lifestyle and the other an unhealthy one, and we'll be able to see how much the chosen lifestyle costs each person. Through the lives of these two fictional people I'll show you that, in fact, living healthy costs much, much less than what you think and believe.

Introducing Franco Flab and Lenny Lean. Both men are in their early thirties, married with two wonderful children. They work at the same company and perform more or less the same kind of job, with more or less the same kinds of activities required. These two men are so alike, that the only way in which their lives may be distinguished from one another is how healthy or unhealthy they live.

Let's take a look at each.

Franco Flab

Franco Flab is really not into health and fitness. He likes his fast foods, candies, drinks and likes to take things easy. He doesn't want to exert himself too much and prefers to sleep late, and lounge around during the day whenever he can. Franco lets things rest until the last minute. He usually snoozes for a couple more minutes longer, until he has to get up, or risk being late for work. Then he rushes to get things done, rushes out of the house and rushes to work, without even giving any thought to eating breakfast.

While at work, he does the bare minimum, enough so that the boss doesn't take notice him. He often takes 15 minute smoke breaks and loathes every minute while at work. All he can think of is when he's going home so that he can kick back and relax with a cold beer in hand.

After work Franco goes home, he picks up a six pack and two pizzas along the way and plops down on the couch where he remains until bedtime. Then he repeats the entire cycle again.

Franco smokes a couple of cigarettes per day and likes to have two to three nice cold beers after a long day at the office. He knows that he is on the path to destruction but figures he has enough time to put things right. He knows that his lifestyle is unhealthy and he also knows what to do to make it right again. At this moment thinking about eating healthy and exercising is just too much effort however, besides, his favorite show is just about to start on TV and he doesn't like to be bothered while he's sitting back with a cold one, about to watch.

Franco does not spend much time with his wife or children. No for him that's effort. He'd rather just sit back and have them do their thing somewhere else, as long as it does not bother him or require him to get up to do something. For him, playing with his children or helping his wife around the house are chores. He had already put in his hard day at work so he feels that he had done his duty.

Lenny Lean

Lenny on the other hand wakes up early every morning, eats a healthy hearty breakfast, and helps his wife to prepare to get their 2 children ready for school. He kisses them all goodbye in the mornings and then its off to work. Lenny puts in a hard day at the office, and the boss notices his dedication and effort. Lenny will soon be promoted to floor manager, but he doesn't know that yet.

When Lenny gets home he takes a ride with his wife and children on their bikes around the neighborhood. Sometimes Lenny will take his wife with him to their local fitness club. There they exercise together and play some sports. After these activities, the family all sit down to a scrumptious,  healthy dinner that the family lovingly prepared together. Lenny makes sure that his children eat their vegetables.

After dinner, Lenny spends some time with his wife before they put their children to bed to call it a night. Lenny and his wife still have enough energy left to spend some time in each other's arms before drifting off to a deep satisfying sleep.

Lenny lives his life trying to make every second count. In order to do that, Lenny knows that health and fitness must take priority in his life. He doesn't smoke nor does he drink excessively. He lives a healthy lifestyle, eats healthy foods and regularly engages in activities and exercise because he wants to be a good example for his wife and children and wants to live to a ripe old age, where he'll be able to hold and play with his grandchildren one day.

How much different do you think these two men's cost of lifestyles are? Well, because all other aspects of their lives are nearly identical, the only differentiating factor is their diet habits. We can therefore take a look at how much it costs them to live the lives they've chosen by analyzing what they spend on food.

Let's take Franco's lifestyle first. Because he prefers to sleep as late as he possibly can, he rushes to get ready for work and totally skips breakfast. Usually, he stops at a Starbucks on his way to work to grab a bite to eat. While driving to work, Franco usually also lights up a cigarette or two while waiting in traffic. Franco's morning habit is described in the table below:

Franco takes a smoke break between breakfast and lunch and in that time he drinks a cup of coffee, smokes a cigarette and on his way back to the office, buys a cola from a vending machine. The coffee is supplied by the company and does not cost Franco anything.

Because he had to rush to get to work, he did not grab any lunch and decides to head out to the nearest McDonalds for a meal. He smokes another cigarette or two during lunch time.

Just before knocking off for the day, Franco's stomach starts rumbling again and he heads to the vending machine for a cola and a chocolate bar. While there, he smokes another cigarette.

On his way back home Franco stops at the local supermarket and buys a six pack of beers. He also orders two family sized pizzas from the nearby pizza joint. With booze and pizza in hand he heads home.

In total, Franco's lifestyle cost him $ 48.55 on this particular day. Let's for this discussion assume that this is the amount that Franco spends every day to fuel his unhealthy lifestyle. We can easily calculate that in one month, it could potentially cost Franco $ 1 456.50 to live like he does. In a year, that's $ 17 720.75 potentially.

Lenny on the other hand, gets up early in the mornings, helps his kids to prepare for school and eats a healthy breakfast of almonds, grapefruit juice, an apple and whey protein shake and a cup of coffee prepared at home.

For a mid morning snack, Lenny selects a packet of jerky from the vending machine and eats half of it. He saves the other half for later. Together with the jerky, he drinks a cup of green tea (which he brought from home) and has a glass of water.

For lunch, Lenny eats a tuna sandwich which his wife lovingly prepared for him this morning. He also drinks a cup of coffee, which is supplied by the company and has a glass of water.

Just before going home, he can feel his stomach rumble. He takes an apple out of his lunchbox, which he also brought with him from home exactly for this occasion. He also eats a couple of almonds and drinks more water.

At dinner time, Lenny and his family sit down to a meal of chicken, rice and broccoli. The whole family helped to prepare the meal. Lenny and his wife was it down with a glass of red wine each.

In total, Lenny's lifestyle cost him $ 14.72 on this particular day. Let's for this discussion assume that this is the amount that Lenny spends every day to fuel his healthy lifestyle. We can easily calculate that in one month, it could potentially cost Lenny $ 441.72 to live like he does. But let's factor in Lenny's monthly membership fee to his fitness club, which runs at $ 39.47 per month, as well. Lenny's cost of healthy living per month is therefore $ 481.19 and in a year, that's $ 5 774.25 potentially.

Now, its plainly clear to see that living a healthier lifestyle costs much, much less than an unhealthy one. Lenny spends $ 5 774.25 and Franco $ 17 720.75 a year for their lifestyles respectively. That means that:

Lenny spends $ 11 946.50 less on his lifestyle than Franco!!!!

This is the amount of money that Lenny saves every year, just by living healthy. Astounding, isn't it!? Even with Lenny's fitness club membership included, he spends less money on his lifestyle per week than the average person does! Compare this, Lenny's weekly bill potentially amounts to $ 112.28, while the average amount spent by an average person per week is $ 151.00! Can you believe it!

Apart from the financial cost, Franco's lifestyle is also costing his family dearly. His wife and children are desperate for his attention. A distance is slowly but surely developing between them which will have dire ramifications later in life if Franco does not do something soon. The junk food he brings home is also damaging the health and fitness of his family. They don't know of any better and accepts what he provides for them. Apart from that, his two young kids learn that it's OK to drink and smoke, because Dad is doing it. Franco makes no attempts to teach his children about healthy food, exercise and healthy living. He is in effect raising two people to be just like him one day and for them too, the cost of their lifestyles will be extremely high.

Lenny saves a lot of the money that he doesn't use on junk and unhealthy food. At the end of the year, he'll be able to take his family on a nice long vacation to explore the wonders of Europe. In a couple of years Lenny will be debt free because he will have used the money he saved to pay off both his car and his house. Besides, because Lenny is such a productive guy, he will have had two more promotions and pay raises, and will have the means to live very comfortably for the rest of his life.

Lenny teaches his children about the merits of a healthy lifestyle and they too will incorporate this into their lives and teach to their children one day.

I hope that all can see that there is no such thing that healthier food costs more and that people cannot afford it. If you're reading this, I have bad news for you. You can no longer use this excuse anymore. The only thing that's left to do, is to go out there and to start living healthier. Go and start saving more money, man! The proof is right here.

Are you a Franco Flab or a Lenny Lean? How much is your lifestyle costing you? Can you cut out more and more unhealthy food and junk to spend less and save more? What can you do right now? I appreciate your comments.

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!

(All the prices mentioned in this post have been obtained from online stores on the 16th of October 2014. The costs have been calculated as per serving. If a 2.2 kg bag of apples costs $ 1.00 then one 150 gram apple will cost 7 cents. It has been calculated thus: 100 cents / 2200 gram = 0.045 cents/gram then 150 grams x 0.045 cents/gram = 7 cents. All prices have been calculated thus to indicate the individuals lifestyle costs.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The mental and spiritual benefits of health and fitness

We all know at this point in time that healthy nutrition and exercise will help you to lose fat, build muscle and improve your health and fitness. But what we may not know quite as much about are the benefits to mind and spirit from living a healthy lifestyle and exercising. We discuss those benefits here and perhaps today, we'll all be able to learn and apply something new to improve the health and state of our mental and spiritual faculties.

It has been shown (although not entirely proven) that there exists a positive relationship between healthy nutrition, exercise and our state of mental and spiritual well-being. In short, eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis, can improve our mood, decrease stress and anxiety, fight depression and also improve our ability to handle stressful situations. It has been shown to be effective to such an extent that psychologists and psychiatrists have been prescribing healthy eating and exercising as supplementary treatments for patients suffering from depression, stress and anxiety for years now.

Stress, anxiety and depression have the potential to lead to serious illnesses and conditions like coronary heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidental injuries and in severe cases, suicide. We don't want this, not when there is so much excellent life to live and to experience! Exercise and nutrition are very effective in improving our quality of life and are powerful weapons in the war against mental and spiritual enemies. Examples of how we benefit from healthy living are explained below.

Mental benefits

1. Increased mental performance.

In other words, becoming smarter. How does it work? Healthy eating and exercising provides vitamins, minerals, nutrients, oxygen and improved blood flow to the brain and body. Exercising increases your cardiovascular ability, as well as your body's ability to absorb clean oxygen and expel carbon dioxide and other wastes. How? By increasing your lung capacity, the performance of the heart and by helping to keep your veins and arteries open and unclogged by cholesterol and other poisonous wastes for improved blood flow. With improved cardiovascular ability and improved oxygen uptake and waste removal, the brain may be supplied by good, healthy fresh streams of oxygen and nutrient rich blood, when it needs it the most.

By giving the brain good, healthy nutrients and oxygen, you effectively increase it's performance, like a high performance sports vehicle running on NOS. That's because when energy is required for thinking and reasoning, there are no problems or obstacles when oxygen and nutrients have to reach the brain for continuous optimized performance.

Your brain does not have to waste time and effort on byproducts and pollution (like in the case of junk food and drink). It'll therefore have an increased capacity for learning and becoming even smarter. Therefore, healthy living will see you obtain improvements in brainpower, memory and calculation capacity. No more misplacing those damned keys! No more looking stupid in front of the entire class!

2. Reduced stress and anxiety.

Healthy living and exercise will improve your mental performance such that you'll be able to reduce exposure to stressful situations. Because your brainpower has improved, you quickly learn when and where stressful situations may pop up. You'll also develop an intuitive skill that enables you to predict where stress and stressful situations will arise. Bring on the Spidey Sense!

In addition to that, your mental faculty will be improved to handle stress better. How? Because you'll quickly learn what to do to diffuse any stressful and harmful situation and with experience you'll be able to eliminate stress almost completely.

In the same vein, I'd like to add that not all stress is bad. There are stresses in live that help us to become better people. A daunting project at work, for instance, the completion of which will make you a smarter person in addition to securing that promotion you've had your eye on for a while now. Healthy eating and exercise will help you to handle these situations better as well. You'll be able to work harder, start earlier, finish later, anticipate changes, make corrections and finish the project with a bang. Bring on the promotion, bring on the celebration, bring on the champagne! (although moderation is key, don't damage your brainpower with booze)

3. Reduced risk of mental illnesses and improvement of mental conditions.

Like I mentioned before, exercise and nutrition have been prescribed for people with mental illnesses and other disorders like depression, anxiety, stress, Alzheimer's, dementia and a host of other disorders, as a supplementary treatment. While it's no cure for these disorders, the mental and spiritual benefits to exercise and healthy eating alleviates these problems significantly and can help to improve the quality of life for those who suffer.

Individuals who start a healthy eating plan and exercise routine early in their lives also have astoundingly low risks of developing mental illnesses and disorders. Take a pro-active approach and get active today. Prevent yourself from developing these disorders and take good care of your brain.

Spiritual benefits

1. Sense of well-being, of being in tune with nature and life around us.

Exercise and eating healthy produce a sense of well-being. This is in part due to the brain chemicals (endorphins) that are released during periods of activity and also part due to some other factors. If you take your jogging outside for instance, or hike up a mountain trail, you may experience a feeling of being in tune with nature. Together the stimulation from exercise and being outdoors induce a euphoric feeling which makes us happy and content.

If you perform your training together with a friend, the friendship and camaraderie will bring you closer together and more in tune with each other. This also induces more endorphins and more feel-good emotions and feelings of well-being.

2. Happier feelings and sense of euphoria and having fun.

Exercising with friends is always a pleasurable and fun experience. And what's even better, if you exercise with your spouse or significant other, you'll both start to get lean and slim. That means sexier bodies and improved libido's. Something that leads to even more fun and euphoria..........

3. Better, deeper rest and sleep.

Exercise and nutrition resets our circadian rhythm. That's our natural sleep cycle.  We'll go to bed at night when it gets dark and wake up again early when it's light again. Activities tend to fatigue the body which means come night time, you'll be tired and ready for bed. Healthy nutrition will stimulate the correct sleep hormones at the correct time which will ensure for deep, relaxing sleep and rest. You'll wake up the following morning refreshed and ready to take the world by storm!

4. Improved self-confidence and self-esteem.

Naturally, exercise and good, sound nutrition is going to help you lose fat and build muscle. Your body is going to look better, leaner, sexier and more muscular. This will improve your self-image and make you feel good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself definitely improves your self-confidence and self-esteem. With better self-confidence and esteem, you'll to do better in relationships, earn more respect and admiration from others and have good times with friends and significant others more often.

Not only will you develop the physical capability to keep up and participate in all the fun stuff friends and family do when they get together, but with increased brain performance and the release of endorphins comes a greater capacity to have fun and experience euphoria. Consequently more satisfaction, more happiness and a better quality of life!

All of these mental and spiritual benefits are not only possible for younger people but has been shown to significantly increase mental performance, quality of life and benefits in the older generation as well. There is thus no reason for you to start eating healthy and exercising today!

But how exactly does it work? Why all of these benefits from exercise and nutrition? I'm glad you asked.

Exercise stimulates the release of feel good hormones (endorphins) and also norepinephrine, an adrenalin hormone which helps the body to deal with stress. Endorphins like dopamine and serotonin have been shown to decrease pain and stimulate feelings of euphoria which are incredibly effective at combating stress, anxiety and depression.

But apart from endorphins, exercise and nutrition works against stress, depression and anxiety because it may put you in a social situation with others who are trying to do exactly the same thing as you. This instills a feeling of camaraderie and friendship, and provides and ear to listen and a buddy to talk to. People giving each other support and encouragement. Even if you just walk around a couple of blocks with you wife, children, a good friend, etc. the feeling of togetherness and just someone to talk to while participating in moderate activities are powerful weapons against mental and spiritual ailments.

Setting goals (losing fat, building muscle) and achieving them creates a feeling of being in control of your body and of overcoming the odds and of victory. Control is amazingly effective against anxiety, because there is less unknown to be worried about. And overcoming the odds and achieving victory boosts motivation, determination and willpower by huge amounts. These are all good feelings and make you more inclined to take on greater challenges and overcoming them which will make you even more immune to mental and spiritual disorders. Also, having a sense of direction and an end point takes away stressful feelings, depression and anxiety, once again because there is less unknown to be concerned about.

Physical activity serves as an outlet for stress. Usually, when we get stressed we keep all of that inside. I mean we can't just go and punch the difficult boss or co-worker, that'll get us fired. And yelling at your children or wife or partner will screw up relationships fast! So what can we do? Well, exercise is the perfect outlet for getting all that built up stress and rage out of your system. You can hit the weights with a vengeance, they won't care or complain and they'll take the beating gladly, of that you can be sure. After a good session, you'll feel relaxed and your stress-meter reset to 0.

So you see, proper nutrition and exercise is not only good for the body, but for the mind and the soul as well. Healthier bodies lead to happier people, and that's a fact. One word of caution though. In order for exercise and nutrition to be effective, you have to take it in moderation. Suddenly jumping into an intense training program and dieting like crazy will not help, it'll actually worsen feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. You should not set a standard that's so high, reaching it instills feelings of stress and anxiety. Also, I suggest you not take part in competitive sports, since these may instill feelings of embarrassment, poor performance and a feeling of not being good enough. This in itself will lead to more stress and anxiety. If you want to improve your mental and spiritual states and improve your quality of life, participate in moderate activities in which there is no expectation of winning or losing.

Finally, by making sure your children stay active and healthy, you protect them from developing stress, depression or anxiety related problems and/or disorders. Keeping them active will make happy little chappies now, and for the rest of their lives!

Are you feeling stressed, or tired, depressed or anxious today? Do you want to break out for a while? Do you want to feel happy and do you want to start having more fun in life? Well it all starts with a little bit of health and fitness.

What are your thoughts on the mental and spiritual benefits of health and fitness? Do you perhaps have first hand experience of an instance where nutrition and exercise improved your mental capacity and spiritual state? Please share with us by commenting below.

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!