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Did you know that your body talks to you?

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Ok, my intention is not get all new age hippy dippy on you but once I got into the swing of things with strength training in 2013, it really did feel like my body was talking to me in a sidekick sort of way. When building your strength using compound movements that utilizes your body’s natural movements (like squats, deadlifts, pull ups), your body becomes, well, functional. Moving furniture becomes easier because, for example, you’re already used to the form of squats (legs bent, back straight, core braced) almost without thinking you get into that proper form and with your increased strength, you’re able to push or pull or lift. And you will feel like your body is helping you. Hence, the sidekick and the “talking” part.

I was helping my parents move a particularly heavy dresser drawer last fall when I first experienced this. I suddenly found myself getting into almost the deadlift postion (almost similar to the squat) and gripped the behemoth. And then another sudden epiphany. It was as if my body was saying to me “I’ve got your back. On three…”.

Since then, I was in tune with my body. I think I’ve finally understood what “aligning your mind and body” means.

Before I got into strength training, moving furniture was a clumsy ordeal for me filled with fear of throwing our my back and losing body parts.

Things are in harmony when you treat your body right. I was built this way to move this way. That’s why I’m such an advocate for squats, deadlifts, pull ups, all the compound movements which use your body’s natural movements. It’s a great feeling to be self-aware in this way.

My classmate, Danny Lombardi, happened to blog about a similar topic last week. In If you owned a Ferrari, would you use only first gear?, Danny talks about how we just aren’t made to sit all day in a vehicle on our commute to and from work, at a desk for 8 hours or so at work, or on the couch after dinner time. Danny uses his camping experiences to explain how our bodies are capable of allowing us to do “sustained, high-output work” and really amazing things (for example, look up calisthenics or street workout on YouTube for examples).

Your thoughts? Have you ever experienced a total awareness of mind and body in a way that you have never expected?

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How you’re being deceived by body transformation photos

For years I’ve been eagerly trying to get cut up, bulk up, push up, eat up, bla bla bla only to injure myself into feeling I have to work full time as a bodybuilder or, ugh, fitness model, and eat like a bird in order to achieve my goals. What average person has that kind of time?

I appreciate learning about the video above (hat tip to rosstraining.com). I’ve frequented bodybuilding forums over the years where everysooften a guy would share his experiences in posing for a bodybuilding product ad. The story was always the same – a few days before the photo shoot, the model would change his diet so he was down to a dangerous bodyfat percentage in the low single digits. Meanwhile, the rules for advertising a gym product dictated that the model had to have used it at least once. So a few reps or a scoop of whatever it was he posing with, and boom, you’re duped into thinking you, too, could have an impressive physique if you use the product.

Yeah, I used this thing to get all big and ripped. Right.

Genius video. I like how Furious Pete used the visual medium to show how anyone can make themselves look like a fitness guru. Even I experienced this myself. After a workout, I’d be quite pleased with my mirror reflection post-shower, pre-drying only to be saddened after a few days’ hiatus from the gym.

So here’s your takeway:

  1. Don’t bother looking at before and after pics as this is the PhotoShop/Lighting/Filter Effects Age, after all
  2. Eat clean
  3. Keep consistent with whatever exercise routine you choose

That’s it. And the only other products you need are time and patience.

Holy cats! I think I’ve kicked the sugar habit!

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If you live in Canada, you will no doubt recognize the evil temptress in the above photo as a box of Timbits from junk food chain Tim Hortons. I am both happy and surprised to say that I’ve actually resisted not one but TWO boxes of these on two consecutive days.

I also resisted not one but two cravings for hot chocolate on not one but TWO consecutive days.

How did I do it?

I simply kept in mind what my gym goals are. In other words, I manned up and did the proper grown up thing and took the responsibility that I knew I had set myself to take. After, what, 15 blog posts of me saying how I caved in to short term body destructive pleasures, the last thing I wanted to do was write a 16th repost.

See the vending machine below?

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I had change in my pocket for a snack before my night school course and I had my eye on a certain spicy plantain bag but that eye lingered over to the beautiful Coffee Crisp. Temptation was seductive.

“No. The coffee will keep me awake. And not to mention the nasty stuff the rest of the bar will do to me”. So I ordered the spicy plantain bag.

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No added sugar. No gluten. Bla bla bla. I wish I remembered the name (note to the branding department) but hey, I can always dip into the school for a fix.

So I think I’ve finally reached my goal of going back to where I was dietary temptation-wise. Snubbing sugar and enjoying the sense of personal accomplishment of defeating the temptress.

Have you recently reached a tough goal? Even if it has nothing to do with sugar or nutrition, I’d love to hear about it!

Regular exercise is good for your brain

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I’ve recently come to learn about a cool service called Buffer. It let’s you schedule your social media posts at times it calculates as the most ideal. The reason I bring this up is because to my surprise and delight, their blog talks about exercise! I love it when my interests collide.

Anyhoo, the Buffer blog talked about exercising’s affect on the brain. Spoiler alert: it triggers happiness. In a nutshell: our stress levels go up when we exercise so our brains release endorphins to do something about it. One of the side effects of endorphins is it helps with our memory and acts like a reset switch which then causes us to feel happy.  The pain of exercise is then blocked leaving us feeling great. The article explains it better. But you get my drift. Exercise makes us feel happy. 

The article goes on to explain how much exercise is needed to reach that happiness level. Turns out that it’s a mere 20 minutes.

Being an avid bodybuilder (not that kind of bodybuilder. A body builder. One who builds his muscles but not to monster proportions.), I’ve always read how shorter workouts are optimal. Coupled with this happiness factor, this can be a great motivator in getting started with a routine. “All I need is 20 minutes”. The key is to keep consistent. And as the article explains, you need to do this every day.

And if you’re having trouble getting started, begin with 5 minutes. Then increase. What a great idea. For me, one of my challenges was to get into bodyweight workouts. For some reason, I just can’t keep consistent with them. I’m a veteran with barbells and pull up bars which makes it easier for me to keep motivated and consistent. With bodyweight workouts, I’m a novice with too many choices. So I’m going to give this build-up-to-20-minutes trick a try.

Especially now that my physio is complete and I can go back into the weight room and lift. More on that next time. But for now, how did you go about starting a routine?

How to talk yourself into caving to a sugar craving

I walked into a gas station a couple of weeks back and noticed a 2 and a half pound (or was is a half pound?) Reese’s peanut butter cups. Actually, it as a marketed as a puck (it had the NHL logo on it, after all). It was a pretty large little box – yes, box – and I really wanted to sink my teeth into it.

But I was strong. I kept in mind that it was mostly high fructose corn syrup and who knows what other nasty chemicals that would do my body no good in the long term.

Instead, I purchased it as a thank you gift for a colleague at work.

Ok, maybe I’m a hypocrite. But remember, my goal isn’t to become “that guy”. That guy who preaches about his diet. No, I’ve become that guy who cheats on his diet.

I’m not going to confess or whine or say “o woe is me”. I chose the go down the wrong path and it’s my fault, my doing, I’m the only one to blame. Instead, I’m going to share with you the inner dialogue I had with myself as I drove home tonight. I mention a Patty. That is the pseudonym I chose for my colleague.

“Quite a stressful couple of weeks this way but we finished that project like a boss! Oh, I need to put in some gas. Hey, the gas station has that Reese’s Pieces puck. Maybe I could… NO! It’s full of sugar – especially corn syrup – and nasty stuff. Stay strong. I am strong. I don’t need that garbage. Besides, Patty felt a little sick after eating it and I will, too. Sinking my teeth into it will be so tasty. NO! Just this once. I can eat half of it today and half of it tomorrow. I’m going back to the gym tomorrow! NO! Why bollix things up even more? You haven’t exercised in 4 months, your health is shot and who knows what kind of crazy blood sugar levels you have. Well, Lent starts next week. I can be strong then. NO!”

Oh yeah, this went on. Temptation isn’t fun. Then another idea came in my head and that was it.

“If I buy it, I could BLOG ABOUT IT. Hey, I have an idea – I can write a post about this inner dialogue!”

So I pulled into the gas station.

“This is stupid. I’m deliberately cheating myself. But it would make a great blog post! Lent starts next week.”

I go to pay for gas and… they no longer sell the hockey puck of doom.

reese

Yeah, I was THAT weak. “Hey, this could make the blog post even funnier. I ended up buying the regular version. Oh look, there’s a king size. That’s hilarious!”.

Hilarious. What’s worse is…

reese-and-bounty

I didn’t stop at one. “This one has coconut!”

I took a look at the ingredients when I got home. The peanut butter cups were about 40g of sugar EACH. The Bounty had a lot less (if I remember correctly, it was about half) and hardly any nasty chemicals. Not even high fructose corn syrup. I ate both packages in pretty much 10 minutes. Of course I felt sick. My stomach still hurts after 2 hours. Of course I feel bad now for caving. Not sure what happened to my discipline but I can’t wait until I get back into the gym and take advantage of Lent to really get back in the game. More on the two in a future post.

Do you have any future dates you can use as goals?

When dumping sugar, beware of the binge

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Photo credit: Alesa Dam

I had a four hour meeting at work last week. We were notified ahead of time that treats would be served so I thought that since it was also casual Friday, I could fest things up and treat me with some hot chocolate. Healthy hot chocolate.

That was mistake #1.

I searched my fitness recipes pinboard on Pinterest and chose this hot chocolate recipe. It’s made with coconut milk, some boiling water, a few spoons of pure cocoa, a spoonful of honey and a dash of vanilla.

Except I replaced the water with more coconut milk and added some vanilla maple syrup since while cooking, the concoction tasted a little flat.

That was mistake #2.

Well, no. Mistake number 2 was drinking the hot chocolate and eating a croissant, carrot muffin and later a stick or two of chocolate covered wafers and nothing else. I didn’t drink water because I was too lazy to get up and walk over to another floor to the water cooler. Besides, I was in an important meeting and didn’t want to miss anything.

It was noon by the time I ate the chocolate covered wafers and that’s when it all hit me. BOOM! Major dizzy spell that got worse and worse.

I had to sit down. Close my eyes a bit. A colleague kindly filled my water bottle.

Sugar crashes aren’t cute

“Eat some protein and in 20 minutes you’ll be fine”, my colleague said when we sat down in the cafeteria. I ate my meat, avoided the fruits I packed and ate few leaves of the spinach and kale salad I prepared the night before. I kept my eyes closed for most of the conversation and thought about a new podcast I had recently began listening to last week.

Yes, this happened last Friday. I, Mr. Blogging About Dumping Sugar From His Diet did a little bingeing. At the time, I didn’t think of it as bingeing. After all, I was treating myself! Or was this a sign of emotional eating? Has something like this ever happened to you?

Treat yourself the proper way

The podcast mentioned above was Evil Sugar Radio. Despite it’s title, the show is about debunking diet fads. Including paleo. I listened to episode 2, The Truth About Carbs & Sugar,  and according to the show summary, sugar isn’t exactly as bad as everyone (bloggers, fitness gurus, etc.) makes it out to be. While I thought it was a weird claim to make and wondered if the podcast was sponsored/funded by a sugar factory, I thought I’d give it a listen.

I didn’t agree with some of things they said (mind you, I’m no food expert), but I did learn a valuable lesson. Table sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit sugar, high fructose corn syrup – they are all sugar. None are “healthier”. Sugar isn’t “bad”. It gives us energy. And our organs need energy. Only, sugar has no nutritional value on its own. The danger of sugar is eating too much of it.

And that is the problem with our society’s food consumption. Food is everywhere. And food manufacturers disguise sugar into practically anything and everything. We also eat a lot more than yesterdecade causing us to exceed our recommended daily intake of sugar.

I also learned that bingeing comes in different forms. Being an avid strength trainer, I’m all too familiar with the “cheat meal” concept. That’s when you eat healthy and clean all week then eat whatever you like in one meal. Be it pizza, chocolate ice cream, whatever. The popular belief is “otherwise you’ll go crazy”.  Some people even have a cheat day. According to the podcast, this is only driving you to binge on sugar to make up for what you’ve missed out on during the week. You go all clean with your diet then throw it all out the window once a week.

Ok, so what I did wasn’t exactly bingeing but I still messed up my blood sugar levels, spiked my insulin and overworked my liver and pancreasLesson learned. I ate too much sugar with nothing else over a 4 hour period. 

Back to the cafeteria… my colleague’s advice worked like clockwork. Twenty minutes later, the protein I ate made me feel better again.

But I had a healthy drink!

As I  said, sugar is sugar. There’s no “eat as much of X as you like and you will still be a good person!”. It all depends on what the sugar comes with. A spoonful of sugar is “healthier” than a cream filled donut only because the latter has who-knows-what-chemicals in it including even more sugar (well, the former has no nutritional value either, but you get my drift). A spoonful of honey is healthier than a spoonful of sugar because the honey comes with some nutritional benefits. Just don’t eat too much of it.

Some bodybuilders and paleo diet enthusiasts even avoid fruits because of the sugar in them. They are not only missing out on the vitamins, they are also missing out on anti-oxidants, fibre and other nutritional benefits. Just don’t eat too much.

It also depends on the individual

Are you diabetic? Then the rules are different. Are you active all week? Then chances are you’re burning off all that sugar energy anyway. Are you sitting at a desk all day for work like myself? Then we need to be careful about how we eat our food. More on this in future posts!