Stress is one of our biggest killers and a source of so much pain, unhappiness and as my field highlights, weight gain. The odd thing is that we are totally responsible for our stress as we create it in our minds. Naturally some situations are much more complex and challenging to deal with than others.
This short, comedic poem highlights how sometimes a simple deep breath and looking around can fix many of our more simple problems.
A women was waiting at an airport one night
With several long hours before her flight
She hunted for a book in the airport shop
Brought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see
That a man beside her bold as could be
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene
She munched cookies watching the clock
As this gusty cookie thief diminished her stock
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by
Thinking “If I wasn’t so nice nice I’d blacken his eye”
With each cookie she took he took one too
And when only one was left she wondered what he’d do
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh
He took the last cookie and broke it in half
He offered her half as he ate the other
She snatched it from him and thought “Oh brother
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude”
She had never known when she had been galled
And sighed with relief when her flight was called
She gathered her belonging and headed for the gate
Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate
She boarded the plane and sank in her seat
Then sought her book which was almost complete
As she reached in her baggage she gasped with surprise
We are always looking for ways to stay fit healthy and improve longevity. One of the current trends is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). The basic idea being you train at a very high intensity on and off for around 30 minutes. This can deliver fantastic results in body composition, muscle tone and cardiovascular health. However, for some people with particularly stressful lifestyles the last thing they need is the added stress that HIIT brings. If you are burning yourself out you can forget about burning fat and being healthy.
The answer can be in more gentle forms of exercise such as Tai Chi. De-stressing the body and mind and creating a more balanced lifestyle can make all the difference to your total well-being. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing Tai Chi as Karate for the elderly as when studied through an experienced teacher it can be a highly practical and effective martial art. The main difference with Tai Chi from other martial arts is that this internal style relies on overcoming strength with softness or softness with more force. The principle is based on the ancient Daoist philosophy, yin and yang which Tai Chi is built on. Tai Chi was born in Chen village around 400 years ago. The villagers would use their martial skill to defend the village from bandits while other members of the family made money working as body guards. The great thing about the Chen family’s martial system was that it also cultivated health and personal growth. It’s now spread around the world in many different styles with people practicing it for a number of Key benefits.
I’ve been practicing this incredibly rich system of health and self defense for a decade now, 7 of those under the guidance of Chen style lineage holder Paul Lockyer and his teacher Grandmaster Gou Kongjie. These are my 5 key reasons how you could benefit from this often misunderstood Chinese art.
The word Tai Chi will often conjure up images of elderly people practicing slow, graceful movements in a park. Although this style of practice is only part of the system it does show how accessible it is. It can be adapted to suit the young and fit as well older people or those who have never done any exercises before. It doesn’t require equipment, can be practiced at home, in a park, alone or in a group. Tai Chi practice should begin by practicing simple movements and develop to more complex forms. When the person is ready these movements can then be applied to martial practice and more intense training.
2. Chi development
This is a huge subject on its own and one I’ll cover in more detail in a later blog. In short “chi” is the Chinese way of explaining the body’s life force. It’s the energy inside us which makes us more than just skin, muscle and bone. Chinese traditional medicine is based on the principle that when chi becomes blocked or stagnant we become sick. Indian culture use the word pranan, Japanese Ki and Hawaiians refer to it as kahuna. All of these cultures share the view that it is the vital life source within us. Tai Chi exercises such as form training and standing practice can improve the body’s natural flow of chi and even increase it. Our western health philosophy is based on treating the sick. The Chinese philosophy focuses on cultivating health to prevent sickness which we can learn a lot from and Tai Chi practice can be a good place to start. Beginners first start to notice the improved circulation of chi with warming hands and feet while practicing Tai Chi. It’s later felt as a feeling of fullness in the body and can even be directed around the body when needed at the most advanced levels.
3. Body awareness
It’s Tai Chi’s slow graceful practice pace which makes it unique from other martial arts. The reason for it is to help the practitioner perfect full body connection and awareness. By slowing down and concentrating on the movement you will notice how the legs move the arms, how hips and shoulders are connected in movement, as are the knees and elbows. This whole body movement and awareness not only helps develop Chi and therefore improve health but also martial skill. It’s a bit like practicing shadow boxing in slow motion to perfect your skill and iron out weak spots in technique.
4. Develop a new level of power
The Tai Chi classics use the image of a cat as a perfect example of how a Tai Chi practitioner should develop and display power. Watch a cat jump, you’ll notice it suddenly explode, not through strength and tension but a relaxed, soft power with full body connection and grace. This explosive power or ‘fa jing’ as it’s called in China can only be perfected by relaxing the body and mind. If you try and force it, it won’t happen. When it comes to martial application this fa jing is Tai Chi’s deadly weapon. Take a look at this video of Grand Master Chen Xiawang which shows how full body connection can produce this explosive power with effortless grace. The Fa jing is after 2 minutes 20 seconds but I’d recommend watching from the beginning. Chen Xaiowang demo
5. Improved balance both physically and mentally
Ok I’m cheating a bit here, as its two benefits under one banner. Tai Chi develops balance from both a physical and mental perspective. Good balance at its most basic physical level simply means being able to stand without falling over. This is one reason why it’s so good for the older population. For those who train for self defense reasons will appreciate that falling over in combat is really only going to end in one way. A key skill in Tai Chi is to practice rooting. If you have ever had a domestic cat jump on your lap you may have noticed its feet dig into you as it sinks its weight to stay balanced. By constantly practicing rooting as you move in Tai Chi you develop a sure footedness and awareness of your movement. A simple practice technique I use is to freeze at random points in my practice to check I feel balanced form all angles and if I can adjust to improve it. For the frantic business person whose mind is like a hive of bees the concentration and calmness involved in Tai Chi practice can be the perfect compliment to a busy day. By working on full body connection and flow the overactive mind can soon be stilled which lowers stress levels bringing a huge array of health benefits. The mind also needs to be balanced and relaxed for optimal martial application. It’s not enough to just keep practicing the same technique again and again and hope for proficiency in a stressful situation. Imagine a task you perform every day such as unlocking your front door. Try doing that same simple task in a panic; you end up fiddling and dropping the keys.
Tai Chi’s foundation is built on Daoist philosophy and is an incredible way to help understand this rich spiritual side to ancient Chinese culture. Over time, you begin to notice how the form demonstrates principles of change which can be a real eye-opener on your outlook of health and life. If you would like to find out more about Tai Chi you can contact Stuart Ward from Kinect Method.
My journey into health and fitness started as a 15 year old lad who just wanted to lift heavier weights than his mates. 20 years on I’ve found myself immersed in this world of wellness. It’s led me to some funny things such as a mission to seek out raw milk, making home made protein bars to take with me to a festival, preparing and fermenting vegetables to make sauerkraut and Kimchi. I’ve also recently started practicing yoga in 40 degree heat! This fascination has now escalated to a new oddity, brewing a weird hippy folk drink called Kombucha. It makes me laugh at the thought of what I’ll be into another 10 years down the line?
So this latest blog is about that weird hippy drink Kombucha. To me it sounds like a cute, fluffy Japanese creature. Maybe a bit like a Pokemon? Or Ferby? Unfortunately describing this fermented tea to people seems to get a very different reaction to a cute Pokemon, more often the screwed up nose look. The thing is this fermented tea is actually really, really, really good for you! And tastes bloody lovely!
As I’ve delved deeper into the confusing and contradictory world of nutrition and wellbeing I’ve become more aware of the importance of gut health. Science is finally catching up with common sense and has demonstrated how connected the gut is to the brain as well as digestion and the rest of your body. Think of you’re “gut instinct” or “butterflies” in your stomach. This enteric nervous system is now often considered by scientists as the “second brain” as it plays a big part in releasing some 100 million neurotransmitters and has a huge impact on mood. The obvious question should now be how can I look after my gut?
Your not what you eat but rather you are what you digest – Dr John Berardi
Kombucha brewing is thought to have started around 2000 years ago in ancient China and was referred to as “Immortal Health Elixir?” It has a rich anecdotal history of health benefits like preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.
The first real research was carried out in the first half of the 20th century in Russia. Russian scientists found that huge regions of their country seemed to be immune to cancer. It turned out that the people in these regions were guzzling what they called “Tea Kvass” and what we in the west now call Kombucha.
To my knowledge there hasn’t really been any solid medical research since then. I can only assume it’s because no drug companies stand to make any money from it? Pfizer and Merck & Co wouldn’t be too happy if we could fix ourselves by simply drinking fermented tea which can easily be made at home for pennies.
That aside there has been stack loads of research done on the various nutrients, acids, antioxidants, enzymes and bacteria found in abundance in this fluffy sounding health tonic.
As I mentioned earlier it’s all about gut health, and it’s this collection of goodness and bacteria in komucha that your gut is crying out for. When your gut is happy and healthy you also get these benefits.
Easier for the liver to detox
Faster healing joints and arthritis prevention
Improved digestion and nutrient uptake
Improved mood with reduced anxiety and depression
Turbo boosted immune system.
The body is designed to be perfectly good at healing itself. It just needs the right goodness to do it. One glass a day of kombucha goes a long way to giving it what it needs.
The key thing in Kombucha brewing is the “Scoby” which is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. This colony or culture of yeast and other microorganisms looks like a sort of mushroom pancake.
When this scoby is grown in a blend of tea and sugar, it transforms the liquid into a refreshingly lightly sparkling, sweet and sour drink. I’ve heard people describe the taste as a mix of Champagne and vinegar. Personally it reminds me of cider but rather than giving you rotten guts and a headache it’s full of health giving acids and nutrients. This is mainly because the Scoby culture feeds on the sugar. In return for this sugar it kindly produces the whole host of valuable substances which you can guzzle at will. It will also reproduce, growing a new scoby and why it’s also called the “mother”.
How to make
To get started with your home Kombucha brewing you will need the following:
1 scoby which you can buy online. However if you ask me very nicely and send me a few ££’s for postage I’ll give you one.
1.5 litre glass container or jar. It’s important not to use metal or plastic as the kombucha will react with it.
Hankerchief or kitchen towel and rubber band. Kombucha needs the air but you also need to keep the flies and bugs out. I think they are the only creatures that like Kombucha more than I do.
4 Organic tea bags. These can be green or black. Don’t use tea with spices or oils in though. For example the bergamot used in Earl Grey has antimicrobial properties. Not good for the scoby.
120g of organic granulated sugar. Don’t worry about all this sugar, most or almost all gets eaten by the scoby and converted into acids.
1 glass bottle to pour the Kombucha drink into
1) First boil the kettle with around 1.5 litres of water in.
2) Put the 120g of sugar and 4 tea bags in to the glass jar.
3) Pour the boiling water into the glass jar over the sugar and tea. Remember not to fill the jar all the way up as you’ll need the extra room for the Scoby.
4) After 30 minutes take the tea bags out and leave the tea to cool. This usually takes a few hours because of the large volume of water. The scoby hates hot water.
5) Once the water has cooled to a temperature that you can comfortably put your finger in add the scoby.
6) Cover the lid with the hankerchief or kitchen towel and secure with the rubber band.
7) Leave the glass jar in a dark place that’s normal room temperature. I normally leave my jars of brewing Kombucha in a spare room and throw a towel over to shield it from the light.
8) Leave for 1-2 weeks. I usually wait until a second scoby has grown on top of the Kombucha drink.
9) Pour the Kombucha drink into the glass bottle. Its best to store the Kombucha in the fridge to drink chilled. Never worry about it being “off or out of date. Just as with every food item trust your nose. If it smell vile its gone bad.
Any questions drop me a note in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer.
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “my son, the battle is between two “wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is Good. it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith”.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Every moment of the day we choose which “wolf” to feed. In our mental and emotional well-being, our health, our relationships and our work. Every choice we make feeds who we are.
Michael Carroll was only 19 when he won £9.7 million on the national lottery in 2002. It took just 8 years before he blew it and was back to his old job as a bin man. He wasted his fortune on cars, parties and jewellery and has nothing left other than some funny stories to tell.
I know most people would be quick to judge him as a total idiot. Before you do, think about it for a second. How could you expect a young lad to know what to do with a fortune other than throw it at childish dreams? He didn’t understand the value of money or know how to handle it because he didn’t have to earn it.
There are stories like this all over the world. People whose lives are ruined by break-ups, drug addiction, debt and trouble with the law all because they won a stack of cash.
I often notice how clients of mine who have created successful business are always careful with their money. They realise its value and treat it with respect as they have worked hard for it and earned their success the hard way.
They have made mistakes and recovered, taken calculated risks and developed strategies with all the life lessons it brings and wisdom that comes with it. If they lost it all they would, given enough time be able to build it back as the process has taught them so much.
Now think about the fad diet. You drink a shake a few times a day and eat an evening meal. You lose some weight and feel a bit better for a while. How long do you think you can keep that up? If your really determined maybe a few months? You will soon get sick of the taste of those disgusting boring diet drinks, realise that they make you feel rubbish as they contain little real nutrition or can no longer afford them.
A lady I know who endured it for a year wasted £2600 on powdered drinks, put the weight back on and gained nothing from the experience. In my eyes this is a bit like the lottery winning story. You get results for little effort without the life lessons you need to maintain it and it all goes wrong.
There is a great Zen story of a young man who trains to be the best archer he can be. When he finally perfects his art after 20 years he gives it up and never draws the bow again. The training taught him everything he needed.
The most overlooked benefit of hard consistent training and nutrition is the attitude it forges~ Elliott Hulse
As soon as you start training with the Kinect Method your gains have started to happen. Healthy habits are being built from the inside out along with discipline, persistence, courage and sensitivity. You learn to cook healthy food, learn to listen to what your body needs, learn to plan, improvise and most importantly learn what it’s like to feel great! It’s not easy but it is sustainable and the process will make sure the results last.
Strength training offers such a huge variety of benefits, improved bone density and muscle tone with a faster metabolism for a start. You’ll develop more robust joints offering greater protection from injury, improved posture and a massive sporting advantage. Leading strength coaches such as Dan John, Steve Maxwell, Andy Mckenzie, and Paul Chek all comment how well it reduces the typical aging problems too. Yet many women are put off as they worry they will get “bulky” If only I had a pound every time I heard a client say “I don’t want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger” My only response can be good luck!
A few years back I went to train at the OLF training centre in London. Fern Adele a personal trainer there with a tiny dancer physique was training the pop star Rachel Stevens. Both were using 20kg kettlebell’s with a hefty Bulgarian bag. The pop princess is anything but bulky and has a figure most women will kill for yet she is as strong as an ox!
I weigh between 59 and 61kgs and will pick double that weight off the floor for reps. I don’t have bulky muscles and still have the flexibility to perform Joseph Pilates original mat routine with ease.
The women who do start strength training with me soon notice how joints and muscles become looser as they rebalance and let go. Joints don’t hurt so much, arms, abs and arse get firmer and equally as important they don’t need to ask men for help with their shopping! Clients of mine who play tennis and golf soon hit the ball further and harder as another welcome side effect.
Bodybuilders have bulky muscles because they train specifically for bulky muscles as it’s their sport. It is completely possible to build a high level of strength with all of its benefits without looking like a bodybuilder.
One of the finest strategies I’ve come across which builds lean strength is Pavel Tsatsouline’s “grease the groove” program. It’s specifically designed for athletes who need to get strong without going outside their weight division. It also works perfectly for people who want to look lean but get all the benefits extra strength brings.
It’s pretty much the opposite of the typical gym program and teaches you to view strength as a skill and something which needs practice and not a by product of “pumping iron”. Pavel insists that his training program will drastically improve strength while avoiding any bulking up.
I used Pavel’s program myself in preparation for the Solent Kettlbell clubs opening day competition. To do well in the pull-up phase I knew I needed to get around 20 pull-ups. I’ll use my own training example for this to explain how “grease the groove works”
Proffessor Vladimir Zatsiorsky a Russian strength expert says “strength is a skill”
Like any skill it needs frequent practice to improve. If I tried to do my maximum amount of pull-ups every time I trained I would burn myself out and get nowhere. By practicing and improving technique more nerve force reaches your muscles and your strength improves.
At the start of the program I could do a maximum of 10 pull-ups. So to practice I would do just 5-6 pull-ups in one go. I would repeat this for 4-6 sets spaced out through the day. This was no problem and I would feel stronger and still fresh after the set. I repeated this 5 days per week. I didn’t plan rest days just took a day off if I felt tired. If I felt good one day I would do 6 sets if I didn’t feel so good I would do just 4 sets. I was only putting in 50%-60% effort every time.
Specificity + Frequent Practice = Success
This practice grooves technique and your nervous system becomes better adapted to the movement allowing more efficient contraction of the muscle and improved strength.
I trained like this for 4 weeks as a supplement to the rest of my training. On competition day I managed 20 clean reps.
If I wanted to improve this further I could add some weight to my chin ups so I would still only be able to do five reps at a 50% effort. I would want to stick to the lower rep range to keep the nervous system active and avoid too much of a muscle pump which is better for muscle growth.
“Success begets success and failure begets failure”
Dr. Fred “squat” Hatfield
Don’t worry if you don’t live in the gym like me you could always do one 50% effort set at the beginning of the workout, and then another 3-5 spaced out throughout it.
I use this style of training for my personal training clients who want to be able to do other bodyweight exercises such as press-ups, pistol squats or handstand push ups. It also works well for single arm presses, Turkish get ups and kettlebell swings.
It can work for deadlifts, squats and bench presses although I haven’t personally had much success this way. I find the bigger, heavier lifts too draining with this amount of frequency. If I drop the weight even lower than 50% I don’t seem to get enough stimulus for improvement. I feel it’s better suited to lifters who are new to these lifts and invariably use a much lighter weight. This frequency would do a great job of developing technique.
As with all training ideas put it to the test. If it works great, if not don’t use it again.
Lunch can be the tricky meal where many people slip up on their healthy eating plan. The food diary mistakes I typically see are people grabbing whatever they can when hunger strikes due to poor planning. This impulse lunch usually comes in the form of a pre packed sandwich with packet crisps at best. I can ramble on all day about the negative effects pre packed sandwiches and bread have on you’re health. Instead I challenge you to eat a sandwich and really observe how it makes you feel through the rest of the day. This isn’t an easy task as at work we can be so caught up in our heads we don’t notice how the body is getting on and miss its warning and distress signals.
We only really learn when we experience, not when we read an article in the newspaper. This simple challenge will teach you all that you really need to know about why bread with poor ingredients is bad for your health.
The immediate question I expect to be asked is “what should I eat then”
A good quality, thick, filling homemade soup is a good place to start. Hear are my 5 reasons why.
To be fit, lean and full of energy you must nourish your body. This process starts with creating the healthy habit of preparing a nutritious lunch for your day ahead. Soup is an easy place to start before working on more adventurous recipes.
Take 15-20 minutes out of your Sunday evening to make a big batch of soup which can last you through the week. Use a big pan to cook the ingredients, then bled into a soup. Pour the soup into 4-5 separate containers 1 for each day. You can heat a portion and pour into a flask before leaving for work or heat it at work. If you have to use a microwave heat it in a china bowl as cooking with plastic can allow the toxins to leak into the food. Better still heat on the hob and avoid the microwave altogether.
2. A warm lunch is satisfying
There’s just something supremely comforting about a big bowl of hot soup on a cold day. Anything which truly makes you feel good is going to be good for you. People sometimes get confused about this as they think lots of chocolate makes them feel good. If they were to really listen to their bodies they would notice the sickly feeling, energy swings and sugar rush. Not good feelings. Listen to your body as funny enough it knows best.
Try dipping some homemade gluten free bread such as almond and flax meal in it for an extra comport feeling.
3. Good way to stay hydrated
We are around 50% – 70% percent water and physical and mental performance will be hampered if our water level drops by just 1%. The problem is we often don’t feel thirsty until we have lost 2%-3% water. Soup only helps to hydrate the body as its more liquid based.
4. Helps you Load up on the Veggies
Vegetables are without doubt the most healthy promoting food group we can consume. You certainly don’t get fat and unhealthy from eating too much veg. Soup is extremely adaptable and can be created out of whatever vegetables you have to hand. Just mix with coconut milk or homemade stock.
5. Can be tailored to your taste
I know not everyone likes their veggies, especially if they are served in ways that don’t match your personal flavor preference. If you love spicy food (like me), you won’t like veggies served plain; or if you love simple, earthy flavors, veggies covered with rich sauce won’t appeal. Soup can accommodate all tastes with a wide selection of healthy ideas below
Hear are some of my favorite soups. Click to be taken to the full recipe.
“the formula for change is when the desire for change is greater than the resistance for change”
I’ve spent around 15 years researching and applying various training and nutrition plans to get people into their best shape and feel amazing. It’s literally all I’ve done during my working life. Research, trial the training plan on myself and then put it to the test with my personal training clients. Despite my best efforts my finely tuned Kinect Method just won’t work for some people. Although they will turn up reluctantly and train with me I just can’t get them to do the home work to make real change. I’ve come to realise that if I want my lifestyle philosophy’s to work consistently for people I’ve got to get clients to approach it with the right mind-set. Exercising the body isn’t enough we need to exercise the mind as well.
According to self-help guru Anthony Robbins you can’t make changes in you’re lifestyle until you change the sensations you link to certain experiences in the nervous system. The lucky few do this without realising and are the ones who succeed. Others need guidance and training to get into the right frame of mind. Luckily we all have the ability to do this quickly and powerfully.
Picture the 2013 John Lewis Christmas advert. It has cute animals, with a short, simple, heart warming story. This is all set in the perfect example of a winter wonderland to the beautiful sound track of Lily Allen covering Keane’s somewhere only we know.
Now think about the emotions the advert stirs up in you. Even the most cynical Ebeneezer Scrooge will get a slight warm fuzzy feeling and the advertisers know it. Its genius marketing as it hasn’t even got anything to do with the store or products it sells, or maybe I missed the animals of farthing wood section?
The advert is just a pleasurable association with the brand and it makes it highly desirable.
Although it was used to create the most horrendous outcome a similar tactic was used in Nazi Germany to bring hatred towards the Jewish community. German politicians broadcast adverts with footage of Jewish people. The film would then quickly switch to rats crawling through the sewer to depict the Jew’s as social vermin. The Jewish homes were staged to look filthy with cockroaches crawling on the walls. Sinister music played in the background while groups of Jewish families huddled together looking shifty and untrustworthy. Hitler managed to rouse feelings of fear and disgust while linking them to the Jewish community, helping him build widespread public hatred towards them.
“Nature has placed mankind under the government of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure…they govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think”
Now imagine spending an hour with an over-enthusiastic, newly qualified Mr or Miss Motivator. The thoughts of endless repetitions of crunches, burpees and drill sergeant shouting will have most people running to the gun cabinet. The odd few will eagerly exchange their hard earned paper pictures of the queen for the uplifting experience.
Each time we experience a significant amount of pain or pleasure, our brains search for the cause and lock the memory away in our central nervous system to help us make better future decisions. The most obvious example is sticking your hand in the fire. The brain remembers the painful association to warn you from doing it again. This pattern continues right down to subtle smells, sounds, tastes and life experiences which trigger memories and feelings. I still love deep house music simply because I relate it to some amazing nights where I danced all night. If the early 80’s song, come on Eileen happens to get an airing on the radio I’m hit with flashbacks of tacky £1 a pint student nights which to this day send shivers down my spine. Others will have the complete opposite view.
There are a couple of key things we should be aware of with this pain pleasure idea when it comes to motivation.
1. We will do more to avoid pain than we will to seek pleasure. This basically means we will run faster from a rabid dog chasing us than we will run towards a bag of money. It’s this fact that will drive all of our decisions and thoughts, and why some are destined to succeed on fitness plans and others fail.
2. We all interpret what pleasure and pain is based on our unique beliefs and experiences through life.
3. We have our own unique set point as to how much pain we are willing to tolerate before we make a change.
This is why as unique little snowflakes we often make very different decisions. It’s all based on our own individual perceptions of pleasure and pain.
“The primary orientation of life is towards pleasure and away from pain”
Alexander Lowen, M.D
As much as we would like to deny it we don’t often make intellectual choices.
After all robots or machines wouldn’t wallow about knee deep in pizza boxes boasting how “The diet starts on Monday”
The efficient little robots would just get off their backside and do what needs to be done. As emotionally driven humans, deep down we know what’s good for us but often decide the pain of going through fitness plans and change is worse than any pleasure that might be gained. As I mentioned earlier we avoid pain as a priority.
It’s a sad fact but the reason why many people stay in unhappy relationships. They believe the pain of ending it and moving on is worse than any happiness or pleasure that could be gained. To some individuals it’s just not worth the upset and the unknown is related to pain.
It can be the same thing when it comes to weight loss. The pain of giving up Oreo cookies and starting to exercise can be too great. Some people have such a negative attitude they don’t even think it will work and won’t risk the pain.
Just like an unhappy relationship it takes a tipping point where the pain gets so bad that the fear of separation is dwarfed by the pain of being in the relationship. This pleasure pain perception switch quickly becomes the most powerful motivator to take action.
The classic example I see in my fitness world is the bride wanting to be in shape for her wedding. She will train and eat like an Olympian for her big day. She will happily only eat dust to escape looking like a heffalump in her wedding pictures. This image overshadows any fear of diet and exercise. The same can be seen with celebrity’s getting back in shape for a photo shoot after having a baby. For personal trainers it’s as easy as it gets; they don’t need motivating. Just tell them what to do and they’ll give 100%
For some this pleasure pain switch takes something as extreme as having to pay for a second plane seat. For others it’s having a favorite pair of jeans feel a bit tight. Yet they both set the same course for drastic action.
So how do we attempt to harness this power?
Write down the actions you want to take for example losing body fat or improving muscle definition.
Under the action write down the answer to this question.
“Why haven’t I taken action in the past? What pain have I linked to losing body fat?”
Answering this simple question will help you understand what has held you back from taking action in the past.
Write down all the pleasurable experiences you have had by indulging in negative patterns which keep you from achieving the actions you want.
Write down what will happen if you don’t take action and lose body fat. Think health, self-image and relationships.
Write down all the pleasure you’ll get from taking action now.
Make the list huge so that you notice there is more pleasure to be gained than pain.
Tell as many people as possible about your goal. This will make the embarrassment and pain of not achieving it worse than working for it. One of the strongest forces in our personality is the drive to preserve the integrity of our identity.
It’s how slimming clubs achieve weight loss. It’s easy to moc their prehistoric nutritional strategies, but the bottom line is the group meeting and the not wanting to lose “face”
By simply being aware and recognising the power that the emotions of pleasure and pain have on your decisions and being mindful of your thoughts can be a very powerful tool. Start to notice how images, sounds and words effect your emotions and what activities you link to pleasure and pain.
Try to recognise that short term pain will offer long term pleasure. The cheesy phrase I often hear on twitter from, the #fitfam is “nothing tastes as good as thin feels”
As much as I’m sick of hearing this it’s an important point which sums up the idea of short time pain for long term pleasure, to recognise it and embrace it.
Notice positive pleasurable things about your diet and exercise. Be mindful and recognise how you feel after workout. Notice how good it feels to nourish your body with real food. Tell yourself it feels good and take note of the good feelings to cement the idea.
Remember you run faster from the dog than you do towards the pot of gold.
I have to give my friend Karen credit for this philosophy I’ve adopted.
Before you decide that you don’t like something you must try it 10 times. More often than not after 8 visits to the food you have developed a taste for it.
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage and doesn’t sound the most appealing food to anyone living outside of Germany or Poland, and perfect to put this 10 times philosophy to the test. I thought id use this post to explain why the stinky fermented jars of cabbage could be what you’re missing for optimal health and wellness.
After a trip to Egypt my stomach was left in a whole new kind of distress. Naively I went shopping for some probiotics in the hope these would help add some friendly bacteria and speed the recovery from this Egyptian belly. After looking at the label of the leading brands of probiotic yoghurt drink I put them down in disgust. The amount of added sugar made these probiotics more like liquid cake than a health drink.
As always if you want something done you’re better off doing it yourself.
This started my research into the world of fermented food as a way of boosting the healthy bacteria levels in my gut.
Fermentation is a traditional food preservation method to help the summer’s harvest last through the winter. Our modern world has mostly forgotten about this practice with the boom of international food shipping and supermarkets. Want strawberries in December? No problem.
It turns out this is yet another example of us becoming disconnected with our health. Fermenting the summers harvest offers a whole host of hidden benefits. Lactobacilli; the living bacteria produced in the fermentation process helps to aid digestion, improve the immune system and rid the body of toxins. If that isn’t enough the fermentation process also creates isothiocyanates which has been shown to prevent cancer growth. Of course cabbage itself is full of vitamin c, manganese, vitamin b6 and folate so this is an added benefit.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of a healthy gut. When you think about it though it makes perfect sense. Your food is digested and processed in the gut, if it’s not healthy you won’t breakdown and absorb the goodness from the food you eat. The phrase you are what you eat is only partly true as in reality you are what you absorb.
Of course the shop brought stuff has nearly always been meddled with. In the case of sauerkraut it is often been pasteurised killing off the useful bacteria which offer all of these extra benefits. The simple answer is to make your own as Sauerkraut is the perfect introduction to this fascinating world of fermented foods.
Once you feel comfortable with sauerkraut you can then begin to look into the Korean staple Kimchi or even try making your own yoghurt. The fermented tea drink Kombucha is also regaining its popularity and something I’ll cover in a future blog.
This topic is particularly relevant at the moment as a number of food companies including Morrisons, Subway and Nestle have pledged to cut the amount of saturated fat in their foods. The Department of health said that this would make a huge difference to the population’s health for two reasons:
It causes heart disease
It’s calorie dense and will make you put on weight.
1. Heart disease
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong”
I was talking with a friend of a friend recently who just finished training with the school of modern naturopathy to be a qualified nutritionist. Through the conversation I asked her what the tutors said about saturated fat. As I imagined she was told that it should be avoided. Of course I had to ask why? Her reply was “because it blocks up your heart” I politely smiled, nodded and then changed the subject.
In a BBC News article the Department of health said that cutting the amount of saturated fat in people’s diets by 15% could prevent around 2,600 premature deaths every year from conditions such as heart disease and stroke. I would like to know where they pulled this crazy figure from?
The truth is there is not one single piece of research to suggest that saturated fat causes heart disease. Yet for some reason the NHS, British heart foundation, department of health, doctors and nutritionists scream and preach that saturated fat causes heart disease. Despite there being no evidence they hang onto this idea like a dog with your socks.
If you were to speak with a leading heart surgeon about this (which I have) you will be told that fat does not cause heart disease. It’s a far more complex problem of inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Arteries do not get blocked up because you eat eggs, butter and meat. Food companies don’t care if this is true or not they know people like the low fat story so naturally capitalise on it by offering everything and anything in low fat.
The man responsible for making our mums feed us margarine instead of butter, drink weird water/milk and trim the fat of bacon is Ancel Keys. His project during the 1950’s was the birth of the low fat madness. In hindsight it’s easy to criticize his work as something which would fail GCSE course work.
Heart disease was (and still is) a rapidly growing problem and it was Ancel Keys who was assigned the task of finding out the route cause. In his mind he already had the answer so he did some research to prove himself right. That’s a rookie mistake for any scientist. Keys got started by studying the diet of 22 countries. It’s easy to prove yourself right and he naturally found some country’s that had high fat diets with high heart disease rates.
Of course there were other country’s which also had high fat diets but very low heart disease rates so he took them off the chart as it didn’t fit his hypothesis.
This 22 country study then became known as the 7 countries study. In 1956 it was presented to the American heart association. His advice based on this research was that the public should reduce its fat consumption especially saturated fat. This started the boom in margarine and vegetable oils, later came the low fat and fat free products as food companies jumped on the band wagon.
Now use some common scene. Do you think mother nature would put something which kills us into a food which is also loaded with vitamins and minerals?
Saturated fats are not only not bad for us they actually have a key role in our health according to Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions:
Good quality saturated fats enhance the immune system, protect the liver from alcohol ingestion, have antimicrobial properties, and play a major role in bone modeling by protecting the calcium depositing mechanism in bones from free radical disruption. Fats also affect the nerves, and why a low fat diet may contribute to depression. Fat is also vital for hormone production and making you feel full.
After all the is brain is 70% fat and every single cell in our body is made from fat. Why on earth would you buy a low fat product?
This isn’t brand new information, as a species we have eaten this way for some 2 million years. It’s only over the last 50 years that this low fat diet has been promoted. Has it helped our health? I don’t need to answer that for you.
Eat eggs, meat, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and nuts and enjoy the health benefits they bring.
The only fats I would recommend you stay away from are the ones found in processed foods. This includes hydrogenated fats and trans fats. They are used in most packages products to help them last longer and apparently taste better. The phrase you can’t polish a turd comes to mind.
When you understand that our body is built on the fats you eat you can imagine the damage done when it’s forced to grow on these Frankenstein fats. That means cell mutation which means cancer for a start.
2. Its calorie dense and there makes will put weight on
Yes gram for gram fat contains roughly (8.7-9.7) twice the calories of protein and carbohydrate. This observation was taken out of context with the mysterious calculation that 3500 calories is equal to 1lb of fat. The legend states that if you were to cut you daily calorie content by 500 calories per day for a week you would lose 1lb of fat at the end. It would make sense to then cut out fat to make this calorie deficit easier. Although you will see this calculation printed in most diet books and NHS weight loss leaflets the mystery to where it comes from is only surpasses by the Loch Ness monster.
It also ignores the fact that it takes energy to break the macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate and fat) into energy with carbohydrate being by far the most efficient.
Finally you have to remember that fat makes you feel full up. Think how easy it is to demolish a packet of Doritos or fat free cookies. Try and eat the same number of calories but with fillet stake….no chance. Without fat in the meal, we can keep on eating, ending up with many more calories than we would have had with some fat. If your body doesn’t get what it needs it will grave more food until it gets it. It needs fat to rebuild, repairer and transport. So give it what it wants. This can simply mean adding an extra bit of olive oil in a salad or using avocado more often.
I never thought I would quote Joey Tribbiani in a blog but his comments on fat free mayonnaise “Its not mayonnaise” is completely accurate. Fat is flavor and fat free is flavorless. This is why food manufactures will add sugar, flour, thickeners and salt to compensate.
To make mayonnaise I use 1 egg, some olive oil and mustard. That’s probably about 98% fat. So what on earth is in the fat free version?
Read the label and you’ll see starches, cellulose gel, added sugar and soybean oil. These empty calories with rancid oils add up to a product that is so far removed from the healthy image it hides behind. The same goes for most fat free products.
My starting recommendation is always to simply eat real food. This sounds easy but our lifestyle has become so entwined in convenience and nutritional nonsense it takes a while to break free.