Friday, June 29, 2012

Refuse Your Hate

Often we let anger get the best of us. We resist using harsh words such as hate in order to remain on the right side of the line. But inside, you have already crossed it. Publicly must you draw out and attempt to humiliate your opponents? We say nasty things about groups composed of individuals unlike ourselves because what they're doing frustrates us. And here we stoop to their level. Our harboring of ill will for others that allows itself to be spoken about them, behind their backs or in front, speak more strongly of ourselves than of our enemies.

Acknowledge your hatred for your enemy and you are nothing more than your own worst nightmare. Publicly lash out at those who offend you and surely you will offend another. Don't bicker among your opposition like immature children. When you were a child, you talked like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child. But when you became an adult, you put childish ways behind you. This cycle of darkness continues only if you allow it. You're better than this. You're stronger. 

Refuse your hate. It does not own you; in fact it has no place in your heart. And where there is no room excess mass is forced out, it's permit to enter disallowed. Fill your heart with love and hate has no option other than to flee.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Take Some (Healthy) Responsibility

We talked about body image last week and I had a good time. I bumped into someone at a party whom I'd never met before who said he'd seen my before and after fitness photos because a mutual friend had shared them. I was flattered. But the spark it set off was that results can reach out, and results of all types and sizes can inspire people you've never even met. Fitness aside, there are success stories from people overcoming and conquering all types of issues that can spread like wildfire to inspire others. So just keep that in mind. You are an example to not just those in your immediate circles, but to those you may never even meet.

In the past few weeks there's been a lot of headlines in the news about soda. NY Mayor Bloomberg has issued a ban on soda cups or sizes over 16 oz. with other states looking to follow suit, and some states now wanting to issue a soda tax of one cent per oz. That's pretty substantial. Consider how much soda people buy, in 12 or 24 packs, at 12 oz. a can, an extra penny taxed on each of those ounces. That makes a 12 pack of Coke a Cola cost an extra $1.44. It might not seem like much when you think of it only as an extra buck and a half, but for the amount of soda people buy on a weekly, or even daily, basis that's pretty substantial.

We've all heard, over time, parents suing (or trying to) fast food chains for making their kids fat. I remember the story of a San Francisco woman trying to sue McDonald's because it was encouraging her children to eat junk food by putting toys in their Happy Meals. That case got thrown out April 4th 2012.

If we did enough research, I'm sure we'd find countless stories based along the same lines, whether they pertain to fast food, candy, soda, chips, you name it.

Considering I spent most of last week suggesting we stop eating so much junk food and start taking better care of our bodies you might expect me to be all for these bans on big gulps, taxes on soda, and class action suits designed to help keep our kids healthy. But I'm not. A tax on sodas makes the most sense to me, sort of. If it acts as an encouragement for folks to start buying healthier options because soda is getting a little too expensive, then wonderful, I can see the logic there. But overall, it still seems a little ridiculous mostly because it makes me feel like I, and the rest of the country, are being told we're not capable of making our own healthy choices; that we need some law to force us to be that way.

A mom suing McDonald's because it makes her kids want to eat junk food has essentially said, "You're making it difficult for me to parent my children. Stop that. I don't like telling them 'no.'"

A regulation on the size of soda cups is like saying, "Well, considering you're not capable of making the right choices we're going to go ahead and make them for you. You're welcome."

The greatest part about the soda cup size ban is that it just means that's the regulatory size of cup restaurants must use, but a person is welcome to any refills they desire or are welcome to buy two 16 oz. drinks should they want 32 oz. of their favorite Fizzy Lifting Drink. So you could technically drink the same amount of soda you always have, but it's just being sold to you in a smaller cup. For your health!

Look, I'm all for smaller portion sizes, but I'm also tired of people not really wanting to take responsibility for what they've done to their body. If your kids are fat because of McDonald's Happy Meals, it ain't the Pikachu at the bottom of the bag making it happen, it's you allowing your kids to eat McDonald's food so often. If you're worried about McDonald's affecting their health then you, you know, just say no. You're their parent. If they kick and scream that they want that Happy Meal you do what a parent should.

There is an overabundance of junk food in our country and obesity is becoming a major problem. Part of the reason is because of the incredible amount of unhealthy options available to people at incredibly low prices. It has become a bit difficult to shop smarter and healthier considering fresh food that is good for us is more expensive than the dollar menu at the local Jack in the Box. But considering the amount of calories people take in, versus the amount they should take in, I'd wager that the same amount of money is spent on junk food because it buys more, which keeps them fuller, longer. If we spent the same money on less food, but healthy food, it'd probably force us to take in the more appropriate amount of calories we're supposed to rather than the extra thousand or more we consume each day.

But because of our choosing to be overabundant in junk, companies have taken advantage of our addiction to their product. That's why soda sizes get bigger and bigger, why you can get 10% more potato chips for the same price, or you get 2 egg McMuffins for the price of 1. If you're buying it, they're going to sell it to you. But don't ever forget, you're choosing to do all of this. When you stick junk food in your mouth and eat it, you're making a choice to do so. It's not the hand of Bob's Big Boy spoon feeding you blue cheese against your will. So because, over the past several decades, we've decided to make poorer and poorer dietary choices companies have Scrooge McDuck'ed the hell out of us and now swim in pools full of pennies. Because we make the choice to work for junk food companies, those companies "work for us" by making more junk readily available at more affordable prices.

Contrary to popular belief, these companies are not getting rich off us poor innocent folk; We're making them rich.

And that brings us to today, in a 64 oz. soda cup sized America, in a super size optional world where there's Toys put in our junk food to make our kids happy.

When I was growing up, I LOVED my Happy Meals. Some of those toys I actually still have, locked up somewhere in storage. But I can remember not being able to finish my fries after my Chicken McNuggets. I'd eat those five nuggets, make it to my fries, and not be able to finish them because it was too much food. As I got older, especially in High School (when I was eating at my poorest), when I finished that Big Mac and super sized fries I was still hungry. The extra large burrito, the In-N-Out secret 4x4 and Animal fries weren't enough. If there was food, I could eat it because I was always hungry.

But I chose to eat those things. And at that time, being in High School and even in College, I was lucky enough to have a Dad who paid for my groceries. It's not like I was trying to stretch my food stamps out to the maximum, or like my meager paycheck was paying for my grocery bill. I was pretty spoiled to have a parent who helped me pay for my food. And regardless of not having to pay for that food myself, I still bought junk. Why? Because I wanted to. Because I chose to. The food was tasty and amazing and I wanted it so I made it happen.

A recent study puts America as the #1 fattest nation. The world, collectively, weighs nearly 287 million tons. 15 million of which is due to being overweight and 3.5 million tons due to obesity. North America comprises of 6% of the world's population, but it makes up for 34% of the world's extra weight due to obesity.

You'd think, after all this, someone who felt this way about unhealthy foods would want some form of Governmental regulation to help limit the intake of this. Wrong. I want us to start taking some responsibility for our choices. Remember last week? Your genes aren't making you obese, there is no fat or junk food gene. We're making conscious decisions to eat bad food and now we're hooked on it. It's a drug. It's designed to taste so good, to fire off those happy receptors in your brain that you keep coming back for more. Now that we're starting to see the terrible toll it's beginning to take on the world we're trying to regulate people's poor choices instead of trying to teach people to make better decisions themselves, trying to help people overcome their addiction to junk food.

If McDonald's wants to put toys in their Happy Meals, good, let them. Those toys gave me many a childhood joy as they will for many other children, but I know when to say no. McDonald's is playing into the demand WE created for them and for ourselves. By making bad choices, junk food companies are only answering our call for more. Why? Because it sells. These aren't evil companies preying on our innocent children and making otherwise perfectly healthy people fat because of some nefarious plot, they're doing what WE have allowed them to do. They didn't let this get out of control, we did. We asked for the 64 oz. soda, the super sized fries, the triple cheeseburger, the triple sized, ranch soaked, bacon coated "salad". America has become the most obese Nation on Earth because, long story short, we've chosen to be that way. Because we demanded it, they've supplied it.

If you want smaller portions, smaller sodas, less toys, from all of these companies then you've got to start making some better choices. When the demand falls, the product ceases to be produced. Granted, that's an economic model that may require as much time to undo as it had taken to create, but that's the necessary process. If no one buys something, eventually, companies will stop making it. Why? Because they're not making a profit.

But we're buying. We're addicted. We're making the choice to buy, making the choice to eat poorly, making the conscious decision to fall prey to this. We're not the victims, we're the culprits.

Don't rely on some governmental regulation or class action lawsuit to help make you healthier, you've got to make the decision for yourself, summon the will you have to break that addiction. If you need outside influences to force you to make better choices that means we've work to do. It's okay, not everyone is capable of doing it on their own, sometimes it takes some prodding or outside help and motivation. That's why I'm here. That's why there's countless others out there willing to help the world get healthy the right way, by making the choice to do so.

Remember, it's your life and you've only got one. Quit trying to blame everyone and everything else. Don't point the finger and blame soda for making you unhealthy, point it backward at yourself and quit drinking so much damn soda. Junk food companies aren't making you sick, you are. The Government can't make you healthy, but you can. Analyze your excuses, really break them down, and if you're justifying why its not your fault and that it should be a laws responsibility to make people healthier, then you're disconnected from reality. For every decision you make in life, think it through. Bite the bullet and take some responsibility.

Friday, June 15, 2012

You'll Never Look Like This (And that's okay!)

Having gotten really involved in the fitness aspect of my life has taught me many things. The most important thing that I could never stress enough is how it makes me feel and how accomplishing things in the gym and at home has translated to the rest of my life. Because I stuck to what I told myself I would do, and accomplished it, it's become simple and clear how that attitude can and should apply to every day of my life. If you quit something, you don't get results. Fitness has become more a metaphor for everything else in my life, and it can and will represent the same for everyone if they see how much good it can and will do for them. Exercise makes you happy. Not kidding. They've done studies. Did you know joggers experience a release of narcotic like chemicals? Indeed.

What I would never tell someone is that they should do something. I'm not here to try and guilt trip you and make you feel bad if you feel like you've been lazy. You don't give people advice that they haven't asked for. But that's the joy of this blog; I get to share without fear of coming across as being "too intense". I'm not a personal trainer, I'm not a nutritionist, I'm not a professional athlete, I'm just a guy who decided to do something and it just so happened to change my life. And that's what I like to share and recommend.

So today we're talking about body image. (Yay! ...or nay?)

There's too many people who come at fitness and nutrition with the wrong mindset. It usually begins with wanting to look like this:

Or this:

I would be a liar if I said I never wanted to look like that dude up there. When I was a kid I grew up with Super Heroes and action movies, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, all those guys. It was my legitimate dream to be a Power Ranger when I was little. Superman is still my hero and my idol. Batman gives me hi-fives in my dreams. Captain America saultes me on my way to work in the morning.

But the one thing all of these people share in common is their impossible shape. Cartoon characters and Comic Book heroes get to look the way they do because they're drawn that way. They're fictional characters with a build loosely based on reality. As the Dark Knight Rises looms on the excited horizon, let's not forget that, on the page, Catwoman often looks like this:

(Is that pose physically possible? How is her ass out so far?)

Women get a bad rap in comics. They have impractical costumes. Even if they have armor it's scantily clad. If women were in real life how they were in the comics, they would die. Often. Because when you're dealing with intergalactic dangers you want a little something more between you and imminent death than your cleavage and a pair of leather underwear.

So all of this, all of what we're told and shown as kids is body image. Everyone has a body image, how you view your body and how you think your body should look or how you want it to look. When you look in the mirror every morning, are you happy with what you see? And beyond that, you assume that if you could just get that six pack and those big biceps, those nice calves and a toned tush that you would be happy and healthy and people would think you were good looking and successful.

But the amazing thing is, it seemingly never goes away. I've seen videos and documentaries of these massive bodybuilders who nit pick the muscles we never even knew existed on the human body. They talk about the tiny skin flap that hides the extra 1/8th of their lower right 8 pack ab. Even me, who has gotten into what I consider good shape, still wakes up and looks in the mirror and thinks, "No, it can be better than this."

It's dangerous. People think it's physically possible to look like that stud up there on a regular day to day basis, that that gal is how we can look all the time if we just work out a lot and eat right, that the shape of fictional characters is acheivable. But you can't. Look at them. Every time you see a movie or a magazine and you've got people in there who look like that, don't think that they look like that 24/7/365. First of all, they're flexing. Do you know how impressive those abs look when you're not flexing? Not that impressive. These people have makeup applied and they're lit properly to accentuate those muscles. A lot of male fitness models even use steroids. Bodybuilders who go to competition go through pretty extreme dieting and dehydration to get their skin pulled tight against their muscles so they look like human versions of the Hulk.

That's 2012 Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. You think those guys look like that every day? Go take a look at what they look like the next day. The next week. It ain't like that.

But how many people do you think walk around every day with the assumption that they can look like a Super Hero if they work out enough? A lot. When people say they want to get fit and get healthy, how many of them do you think begin with the sole intention of literally just getting healthy? How many people look in the mirror and say, "I don't care what I see. I just want to feel good." Some people may, but body image plays such a huge role that it puts those people in the minority.

Exercise, fitness, and health is often being pitched to you under the guise of "Look sexy and strong and THEN you'll feel good." They urge you that it's about being healthy, but the photos they show, the guys who host the videos, they look like the Super Heroes, not like regular people. If you're not a paid athlete or fitness professional or trainer, or unless you have oodles and oodles of time, you can't look like how you think you could. Looking like those two fitness models just up the page, those people likely spend hours a day working out, their diets are perfectly tailored to them, and they get paid to have their picture taken with their shirt off. That's their living.

But what is your living?

Most of us work regular jobs, we like to eat food, we like to drink, we like to watch Television, all the while feeling envious of the "special" people who were "born with good genes" that look like Greek Gods, and we curse ourselves for being "born with bad genes".

Genetics play a hand, to a degree. But I've seen many an unhealthily obese person justify being so because they have bad genetics. Wrong. Genetics don't make someone obese. Just like they don't make someone look like Phil Heath on a day to day basis. Some of us have bigger or smaller bone structures, hips, arms, chests, legs, etc. Our muscles may grow in more prominenly in other areas whereas some people seem to be blessed with perfect shape and form, but what isn't genetic is making unhealthy choices. If you blame genetics, that would imply that, were you to give up all the scientifically engineered food you love to eat and started exercising, you'd still look, more or less, the same.

You wouldn't. You'd be healthier, you would feel better about yourself and, lastly, you would be in better shape.

Because of what body image issues have done to us, we place looking good on the top of the list when in actuality it should be at the bottom. That's something that, over the past year and a half, I've struggled with, and continue to struggle with, but have learned its importance and seek to remind myself of it constantly. Being healthy, eating right, and exercising is not about getting six pack abs and being ripped immediately, it's about taking care of yourself and finding a way to feel better about yourself. The shape you desire comes as an afterthought, a sort of reminder that, "Hey...this is working after all."

Junk food isn't just damaging the body, it's damaging the mind. People don't realize that by eating poorly you're depriving your body and brain of the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function properly. It's amazing how a majority of the issues we suffer from in the day to day that we have prescriptions for from the Doctor can be changed, reversed, and eliminated simply by changing our diet.

Evolution defined our bodies thousands of years ago. Soda didn't play a part in ancient mammals. Neither did fast food. We're not designed to be able to take in and properly deal with all the grabage we consume. Does that mean that you have to quit everything cold turkey and get on a sctrict minimalist diet because that's how science made us? No. Enjoy your life. But! Prolong your life by taking care of yourself. I have burgers and fries and ice cream and shakes, cake and pie and cookies and candy enough. But by enough, that means infrequently. I love all of those things because they have been scientifically engineered to be the most amazing tasting things you'll ever have. Check the ingredients on your favorite foods; to a degree, you're just eating a science fair project. And not evolutionary science like fruits and veggies, but man made science designed to make food and drinks so tasty that you've got to have more of them. That's how companies make money. It's not a rant against them, that's just how big business works. But it's hurting us. These foods are also designed to inhibit those little sensors in your tummy that send signals to your brain that says, "I'm full, stop eating." Junk food sort of puts those phone calls on the fritz and your brain dials back and says, "I'm not full, keep going!"

The more you eat calorie loaded, unhealthy junk, the more weight you gain, the more calories it takes for you to maintain that weight, the less full you feel when you eat more and more junk, the more weight you gain when want to feel full, the bigger you get, the more calories your body requires to maintain that weight, the more junk you eat...

I cringe every time I hear someone tell me they can't eat a certain healthy food because they "know their body." I can't count the times I hear someone reject healthy foods saying, "I can't have that. It makes me sick. I know my body." I would bet close to a million dollars most of these people have no clue about their own body. More often than not, we DO NOT know what's best for us and chances are healthy foods aren't making you feel gross, it's essentially your coming down from the junk food drug. What it does to your blood sugar, to your brain, to your cells, your heart and your arteries, that's what's making you feel icky. What we do is assume and tell ourselves we know, because it's our own bodies. But if you don't understand the science behind how the human body works, and the science behind what an excess of junk food will do, then you don't know a thing about your body.

That is not genetics. Junk food is not genetics. Sorry. So that's no excuse to throw health to the wind because "You'll never look like that" or "you just weren't born with those genes." Stop it. Sometimes things happen that mean someone's genes brings a very sick kid into the world who's going to have a rough time surviving. But I've never seen or heard a story of a kid born into the world with the fat gene who was obese because of it. Every time you see those three year old, 150 lb. kids? Their parents allowed them to get like that, their parents are responsible for making equally poor choices. Are certain people more prone to put on weight or have a slower metabolism? Sure, a lot of small factors. But again, junk food is not taken into account when genes are formed. There is no junk food gene.

So why all this? Because it's important for you to remember that the goal of eating right and exercising isn't to look like Superman. It's to find out who YOU look like, inside and out. The muscles and the tone and all that stuff are a BYPRODUCT of good decisions. They will come in time. But if you just want to look ripped, and you start a diet and you hit the gym  solely for that, chances are it's going to fail. Because you're head isn't in the right place. You're focused on looking pretty, not on feeling good. How you feel on the inside reflects on the outside. No joke. When you find what it means to be healthy, you find that you do in fact get in better shape. Why? Because you're taking care of yourself.

Beat up your body image by embracing the idea of feeling good about yourself. Don't focus on looking a certain way, focus on feeling the right way, focus on being healthy. And remember that moderation is key! There's a lot of wonderful things to enjoy in life. Good food, wine, what have you. There are a lot of things I partake in because...they make me happy! In-N-Out Burger rocks the hell out of that double double and fries and when I eat it, it feels like my brain is exploding. But I do it on the ocassion because it makes me happy. Dairy Queen is my buddy. That blizzard or that chocolate soft serve? Love it! But not every day. Not every week. Once in a while. And when I treat myself to things I don't have all the time they become more important and become a reward. And on the flip side, I've discovered how incredible real food is. People hate fruits and veggies because "they're boring" and don't taste like junk food, but that's because junk food has abused their palette. You forget what honest to God food tastes like. It doesn't taste genetically engineered. It shouldn't taste like a science fair project, no matter how tasty that science fair project may be.

You be you. That's most important. Drop the desire to look like a Super Hero or someone else. Seriously. I've spent a long time now focusing on trying to leave behind the body image mentality and focus on the feel good mentality because I know that it leads to a physical change as a result. What happens when I do that, when I remind myself of what I've accomplished, those visual results are that much more rewarding, not because I was born with good genes and I can eat whatever I want, but because I've taken care of myself and worked my ass off to get there. When people tell me, "We can't all look like you and eat whatever we want." I say, "I don't eat whatever I want and I didn't always look like this. I wasn't born this way. Apparently you never saw me in High School. I look like the me I do know because I found the will to do it and didn't quit."

It's hard work, I won't kid you. No amount of pills or powders or shakes or "lean" cuisines and "smart" or "healthy" choice frozen meals will make you look like the photos in this blog. Real food and doing the research it takes to understand your body will get you where you want. You'll have more energy, you'll be happier, healthier, and yes, you'll even start to get in better shape. And when you notice those results last of all, let them be the motivation to push you further. It's working, keep it up!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Weekend Challenge!

It's been a few weeks since the last post. I was trying to make it every Friday, and I did there for a long while, but the past couple weeks has proven a much needed break to do some other reading and writing, but now I'm back! And this time I have a challenge for you. Are you ready for it? It's a lot harder to do than you might think, but I think you'll find that, if you can do it, you're going to notice a BIG change in the quality of your day to day, I promise.

You might not see it immediately, but you will see it.

Here's the challenge!

This weekend, try and do something kind for three random strangers each day, both Saturday and Sunday. That's only six people. And don't think it has to be massive. Drop a buck into the hands of a hungry man, compliment someone you've never met, hug a new friend you make, donate to a charity, volunteer, anything! Just try and do three good deeds, big or small, for three different strangers both Saturday and Sunday.

If you do, and if you can, the biggest part of the challenge comes here; don't tell a single person about it. Don't post it to facebook, don't tweet it, don't blog it, don't pin it. Don't tell your Mom or your Dad, your sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. Don't speak of it to anyone. Just do it, and continue on with your day, with your life.

In fact, never share it with anyone for the rest of your life.

Why such a weird challenge? Because the more you do good without the need for recognition, the more rewarding your life becomes when you recognize those rewards come from life, not from what we think it does, which is acknowledgement from our peers.

People's words can make our good deeds feel noticed, recognized, and more important, but the idea is to build up the confidence you have in the decisions you make which, of course, builds the confidence you carry with you through life.

Good things will come to you, in fact they surround you each day, but we get so caught up in thinking our lives are dull, boring, sad, and worthless that we lose sight of where real reward comes from.

All life's real rewards comes from being a loving person and doing good deeds. The greatest gifts will come from the knowledge that what you did and what you do can make a difference, and that's enough.

If you know that about yourself, how can you be anything but a success? And if we can acknowledge in ourselves that were are successful, what more credit do we need?