Welcome to the Age of Living Smart

One year ago today, the readers of Bodysmart News and I began a conversation about how our lifestyles can become smarter.

One year into this new beginning, the signs of a smarter health conscious group of people in our local communities are evident. Smarter thinking is creating a more sophisticated mindset of what it means to be truly healthy.

People Are Questioning
Eating healthy, exercising consistently, and living life in the present moment, is beginning to take off in our local communities. People are questioning the effectiveness of quick fix dieting practices, outdated modes of exercise adherence, and wavering self help practices aimed at seeing life as joyful and satisfying.

Awareness, it seems, is all around us. “I’m tired of eating these so called healthy meals found in supermarkets and restaurants. They are overly processed and loaded with sodium”, says one client in St. Augustine whose trying to live a healthier cleaner life. “And exercise”, one Serenata Beach Club member remarks, “is getting to be too much of the same old thing.” “Stepping out of the box of the same old routine is a good sign that people are aware”, one fit looking member comments, “that there is a need to progress physically and mentally in different directions.”

A Local Physician Notes
And, a physician here in town, reminds me that, “the need is there to work from the inside out with people by inspiring a more enjoyable process for living healthier. Health coaches are miles ahead of the game.” And, he states, ”those coaches that are armed with a background in kinesiology, physical therapy or personal training, are going to be the leaders in the next decade when it comes to infusing a sensibility into people that is effective in treating lifestyle induced diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain, and premature heart disease.”

Two years into this conversation with Bodysmart readers, this new found perspective on health continues to take shape. Readers have progressed from asking, “What is the quickest way to lose weight?” to “What exercises should I be doing to be healthy?” “Is cardiovascular exercise better than weight training, and should I be doing both?” “I am exhausted after work, is it a good idea to exercise when I am so tired, as I have high blood pressure?” Questions such as these are inspiring to hear as they indicate a smart trend in thinking. A trend that recognizes that life is about feeling good about ourselves, our health, and what we can obtain that brings us a satisfying life.

Being Lean Makes Us Feel Good
However, as a trainer, I don’t want people to feel I am downplaying one’s desires to lose weight and look better. We all want this. Being lean makes us more feel alive, more in tune with life, more vibrant, and more satisfied with our physical appearances.

The reason I am so excited about this new trend in thinking is that positive psychology tells us that when it comes to weight loss, focusing on weight is futile, but focusing on behavior change is central to shedding weight for a lifetime. “With an emphasis on the power of mindfulness and positive lifestyle strategy planning we can actually begin to see people change their lives. In most cases body composition changes and people lose weight, feel better and become more satisfied with the way they are focusing their energies,” says health coach Sandy Moore of Boulder Colorado. “Health, Moore says,” is viewed more as changing behaviors vs changing body fat content.”

Changing Behaviors is Essential
In my 10 years as a personal trainer and health coach, I can attest to the fact that those that lose the most weight and keep it off, are the ones that have learned to change behaviors. In my practice people are aware of behaviors they do not want to change and they let me know. This is an important point, because we can’t change what we don’t want to change. And that’s OK. The important aspect is to get started on behaviors you feel ready to change. One should have no feelings of guilt. This is the old way of thinking. Just change what you want to change now, and keep it simple. You will progress. You will feel better. You will see results. There’s no hurry, but you must go into these changes with a positive spirit by making them manageable and meaningful.

Without a doubt this new focus on behavior strategies accomplishes the ultimate goal, which for most is losing weight. But many people still are not aware of how health coaches assist their clients. Everyone knows what a personal trainer does, but not everyone knows what a health coach does.

What is Health Coaching?
Health coaching can be described as a newly emerging profession that focuses on developing a partnership with individuals who are interested in improving their health status in order to enjoy a more vital and vigorous lifestyle. It has its roots in the findings of behavior scientists who have shown that one-to-one coaching is among the most effective approaches to helping people make and sustain improvements in their lives. A coach enables change by focusing on the client’s stated needs, values, vision, and personal goals in order to bring about his or her physical and mental best.

Weekly strategy planning with the client in a conversational setting is a large part of what a health coach does. At first glance, it often appears that “little work” is taking place. After all, most of us are conditioned to what we see on TV, for example, with the Biggest Loser television show, and how they have their clients exercise physically hard. It seems we are conditioned to think that the more physical exercise we do the, the more weight we will lose. This is rarely the case, and people are beginning to understand this fact. Don’t misunderstand me though, as health coaching involves quite a bit of strategy planning in exercise adherence. But for those that are most successful, balancing exercise with healthy eating changes is an absolute must in any successful weight loss plan.

Weight Loss is Best Accomplished in Collaboration With Others
For me personally, most of my clientele have a weight loss goal. “OK,” I’ll say, “you want to lose weight? Let’s set a three month weight loss goal. Now, forget about it!” Many look at me with questioning amazement. But only briefly. To tell you the truth, many are relieved. And that is exactly how I want them to feel. Think of all the times you were caught up in negativism while trying to diet. Wasn’t it a constant struggle of feeling good about yourself then bad about yourself? Now ask yourself if this is really the way you want to diet. Like so many things, learning new skills is best addressed with a positive spirit and with a collaborative partner that has an interest in you. Most successful businesses are those whose top people are coached and partnered in a collaborative effort to breed success. This idea, I am happy to report, is taking hold in savvy weight loss communities across the nation. And we fortunately, here in the Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine areas, are a part of that community.

Let’s continue to build a smarter community. Together we can realize a more abundant life. One that is free of obesity, lifestyle induced diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and all diseases that can be attributed to our lifestyles. Besides, looking good, feeling good and performing great is central to our continued good health!

What Artists Can Tell Us About Our Health

There is a story I’ve heard. And like many stories, the question is never whether it is real, but whether you can learn something from it. Here’s one such story that if you are aiming to improve your health and lose weight, you should read.

Picasso is touring a school with someone who wants to know why the institute of education is failing the children. Picasso asks a roomful of six-year-old children, “Who here is a painter?” All hands go up. “Who here is a dancer?” “Who is a singer?” All hands go up. “Who here is a storyteller?” All hands go up. He walks down the hall to where the seventeen-year-old children are taking classes and he asks the same questions. Few, if any hands go up. “There’s your problem,” says Picasso. “Schools train our children not to be painters, dancers, singers, and storytellers.”

The meaning of the story is something that we may relate to better in the midst of our careers, but it should have meaning to many of us, regardless of our ages, who are striving to improve the quality of our lives.

Few would disagree that we’ve become conditioned over time to believe that as we age, we must settle for less than optimal health. Like the older children in the story, we have become conditioned to expect less of ourselves and less of our physical bodies. I am not suggesting that we are ageless and this is not an article on how to live forever. This article is about living a healthy lifestyle that makes us look and feel our most optimal at any given age.

You Have What It Takes
When people tell me that they can’t lose weight and keep it off, I say that they most definitely can! What often happens is that most people buy into weight loss regimens, lose weight, and then gain it back. They buy products and weight loss tactics, that don’t appear gimmicky, but that are, and that lure them into believing they will lose weight, look good, feel better, and be happy.

It’s nothing new to understand that the role of promoters is to make us believe we can lose weight, keep it off, and live happily ever after. When this doesn’t happen, or if it does, and the weight soon reappears, dieters are left disillusioned in their weight loss abilities until… another book comes out, another product is marketed, or an improved weight loss tactic comes on the scene again, starting the whole dysfunctional process all over again.

Fortunately, many health coaches, including myself have been gaining traction in helping people understand the right way to lose weight and keep it off. Our successes are increasing, and many people, even those once previously anxious for quick weight losses are realizing the compounding effects of losing weight smartly. Theyuse less medications, have more energy, more vitality, more confidence, more lean muscle mass, better health numbers, and best of all, they’ve created lifestyle changes that keep the weight off for life!

Below is an illustration of our differences. See if it helps. Also, see if it helps you get a better understanding of why programs that don’t engage you mentally in the decision making process/personal responsibility fail. Savvy health coaches bring awareness. They help their clients strategize a system to help them not just lose weight, but keep it off for life!

It’s easy. No thinking involved It’s manageable. Let’s put a plan together individualized for you.

You will be sexy! Health is sexy! Continuing to lose and gain is not sexy.

Just buy these products. Just use your gray matter.

It costs only $2.00 a day. Reduction/elimination of meds is possible.

Eat whatever you want. Eating for enjoyment and health is possible.

You Have What It Takes
You are a singer and a dancer and a storyteller and an artist. You are all the various things you want to be. You might never play ball like you did as a child, but you look good – you feel good- you are a living breathing being, living at your most optimal level for who you are today! You might never play for the NBA but why should that keep you sidelined in silence?

You choose how your days are spent. You know in your heart that being your healthy best comes down to making solid lifestyle choices, using your gray matter, and changing your behaviors. You know that most lifestyle plans featured today are just diversional tactics, keeping you from doing the real work of being lean and fit. You know, that any “feeling good plan”, that does not engage you, challenge you, and question you, is not going to work. And you realize that like a young singer, dancer, painter, or storyteller, you can’t be seeking the nostrums of the promoters. This is your day though. What is it going to be?

Why Positive Environments are Key to Health Living and Weight Loss

The NYC metropolitan museum of art has an exhibit on how movies affect our reality. I have not seen it yet, but can only imagine that it has to do with how our realities are shaped by what we see, and in turn how we interpret these realities into our own lives.

Recently it seems, within the past couple of years, many people have chosen to read or watch the news in small doses. For many of them the thinking in favor of limiting news time is based on the idea that too much negativity inhibits positive emotions. Similarly, many people believe positive awareness creates positive emotions. I am embarrassed to admit that in the past, I have disregarded this type of thinking and instead opted for a more unyielding stance that no one can alter my emotions except myself. I think some people today have a similar stance. Unfortunately for us, such a rigid state of mind puts one at a severe disadvantage in our social everyday lives of work and play.

Emotions Are Affected by Environment
I’m glad to say, I’ve since softened my position on this “positive psychology stuff.” And, I might add, it comes at a good time because even though scientists have known for many decades that emotions are affected by our environments, it is now common place thinking to pay attention to how we can alter a healthier state of mind through positive thinking, and brain rewiring. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not referring to the Pollyanna personality where one may get run over by a truck and instantly see the positive points of being flattened by tons of metal. I’m referring mainly to what the scientists are now saying about how we can rewire our brain circuits to alter a multitude of habits that we would like to change. As of lately with books like The BrainThat Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D. and Perception, Memory and Emotion:Frontiers in Neuroscience edited by T. Ono, health professionals, including myself, are taking the brain circuit behavior change theory much more seriously.

In my case, I’ve used it not only on myself successfully, and continue to use it to replace non beneficial behaviors with added new healthful behaviors, but on people that I coach in creating more healthful meaningful lives. In fact, I feel so strongly about the use of it that it has formed the basis of my coaching. I no longer shun the idea of positive psychology as a gimmicky self help approach, but instead believe that the strength of positive thinking, because of it’s scientific proven credibility, is an approach that is going to gain momentum in the world of healthy living and healthy aging for many years to come.

Positive Psychology is Not Just Positive Thinking
Many people think that users of positive psychology simply add positive words to their vocabulary, and eliminate negativity in their environments to invoke behavior change. Perhaps this is why positive psychology advocates have often gotten a bad rap. Positive psychology like many concepts is part of a much broader manner of being. It may start out as simply changing thoughts from the negative to the positive, such as replacing the words,” I cannot pass up a donut at the office because everyone is eating them” to, ” I can pass up this donut at the office because I have the capacity to say no.” In actuality, the use of positive psychology is constantly evolving as the person is able to handle more difficult challenges. Such is the case with one of my clients who has made huge strides in weight loss. He is at a standstill. He is intuitive enough to know what is getting in his way of continuing to lose weight, but isn’t taking the leap to the next level. A positive approach to this as a health coach is to be patient and stay with him as he figures it out. Everyone learns differently and at different paces. The best approach is not to offer advice such as what a spouse or family member might try to offer, but to offer an ear and inspiration. Too often we may think we are helping by offering advice, but positive psychology is not about telling the person what to do. He knows what to do. In situations, such as with my current client who is at a weight loss stand still, letting him figure it out in a positive approach environment is central to continued progress. Positive approaches might include filling the gaps of information that he may not be aware of, but more often include approaches that get his brain thinking on another level that includes more right brained creative thinking and less analytical left brain thinking. For example, as will be the case with my current client, helping him connect with people that are similar in age and whom have succeeded in similar circumstances may be all he needs to move on to the next weight loss level. Inspiration within a positive and non judgemental context is often all that is necessary to help people continue to thrive with their healthy lifestyle efforts!

One Additional Note
The very nature of rewiring our brain circuits is not a quick fix plan. I like that it is a more sophisticated, long lasting, and intelligent way of changing ourselves, our habits, and our brain structures. I believe, that in the next five years, the idea of rewiring our neuropathways through progressive behavior changes to better our lives, is going to stand apart from all of the quick fix diet, lifestyle, and exercise gurus that we’ve been inundated with in the last twenty five years. The editors of USA Today wrote that 2008, is the “Year of Living Smart.” Can we envision that living smart in 2010 will include this more savvy positive approach to healthy living and healthy aging.

Five Tips For Aging Well

Thankfully, there’s an ongoing awareness that aging well requires being physically fit. But many people are unsure of what being physically fit actually means. Does being fit mean that you can run a mile in 8 minutes? Or does it mean that you can touch your toes or do 25 push-ups in one minute? There are five prime components to being physically fit and regardless of age, extending oneself in these five key areas of health are critical to healthy aging. There are additional areas not traditionally considered part of physical fitness like balance training and mental training but will be considered in upcoming articles.

Keep in mind that aging well is an ongoing process so although we may get specific testing data on where we should be performing in each fitness category based on gender and age, truly aging well requires expending energy in these five key areas over a lifetime.

Cardiovascular Fitness
Minimum 20 -30 minutes 4 days a week
Heart rate at minimum of 70 %. Formula is 220 minus age multiplied by .70 = HR minimum. Example for a 71 year old minimum at 70% is 104 beats per minute while exercising the heart. *Those on beta blockers will not use this formula and should consult their doctor on exertion levels.
Exercise must use leg muscles and be a continuous motion to be considered cardiovascular in nature. Ex. walking, biking, stair climbing, jogging, elliptical trainer, cross country skiing.

Muscular Strength
How much upper body can lift for one repetition. How much lower body can lift for one repetition. * Should not try this one rep maximum especially if you have not been training. There are rules that apply to this depending on the age of the person.

Muscular Endurance
How many repetitions upper body can lift in one minute. How many repetitions lower body can lift in one minute.

The range of motion in such areas as the hamstrings ( back of legs), upper and lower back areas, shoulders, hips, neck, and quadriceps ( front of thigh.)

Body Composition
Being at a weight that is comfortable for the individual given his lifestyle needs. It includes being at a weight that does not contribute to elevated blood sugars, lack of energy, cardiovascular risks, osteoarthritis, and other increased body fat health issues.
Includes being at a body fat that is considered within normal range. This varies but typically men should look at a range from 10-18% depending on age and lifestyle needs and women at 18-26%.
Regardless of age, extending ourselves in these five key health areas, studies have shown, reduce premature aging and are vital for aging well.

Smartly Use the Power of The Mind For Aging Well

In his book, The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge, M.D. writes, “competitive plasticity explains why our bad habits are so difficult to break or “unlearn.” Most of us think of the brain as a container and learning as putting something in it. When we try to break a bad habit, we think the solution is to put something new into the container. But when we learn a bad habit, it takes over a brain map, and each time we repeat it, it claims more control of that map and prevents the use of that space for “good habits.” That is why “unlearning” is often harder than learning, and why early childhood education is so important-it’s best to get it right early, before the “bad habit” gets a competitive advantage.”

Not Surprisingly We Are Conditioned to Fail

Often we are conditioned by advertisers to believe feeling better, looking better, and achieving a vital vigorous lifestyle are easily achieved tasks. Unfortunately, this type of thinking leads many people astray and more apt to act quickly,rashly, and consequently with a high failure rate when looking to overcome various adverse health habits that have been learned over a lifetime.

Slow, Progressive, Consistent Behavior Achieves Results For a Lifetime

The reason many people eventually fail in their weight loss and other health goals is they have not achieved a healthy, slow, patient, and consistent behavior change process that allows the brain to adjust to it’s new neural pathway patterns and brain map. Mr. Doidge proposes we must make space for our new habits, but not only must we make space for these habits, we must emphasize the manner in which we do so. Care and consideration for how we implement changing our “bad” health habits is paramount to making lasting lifestyle changes, and fortunately many of today’s savvy consumers are not buying into self denial, superhuman willpower, and hard to sustain dietary and exercise routines. These smart consumers are leaving many of these “dark age dieting techniques” to their unaware counterparts.

Think about this analogy the next time considering losing weight or making behavior lifestyle changes: An amateur or professional golfer and tennis player learns not in one day, but over a lifetime of practice, can you consider that the future of our wellness is no different. We learn and unlearn best like the golfer and tennis player who practices and “unpractices” his skills for a lifetime.

Why we Fail at Changing Lifestyle Habits

“Most people would agree that our body would rebel if we asked it to go from an eight-minute mile run one day to a six-minute mile run the next. Yet in our fervor to diet down to the perfect weight, we ask our brains to do the same by drastically changing our lifestyle habits in one day. Consider that our brains, like our body, will break down under similar demands.” Kim Miller

I only ask that you think about this. It takes more than willpower to change our habits. It takes thoughtful consideration for who we are, patience, and strategic planning for us to make lasting lifestyle changes. Consideration for small incremental lifestyle changes is an absolute must for long lasting behavior changes. Let the old way of dieting be out and the smart way to a healthier life be in! You can do it. There’s no hurry.

Aging Well-Living Long-Living Well

There are groups of people throughout the United States and the world that organize and meet with the sole intent of supporting each other to live to be 100 years and older.

Humans, according to Robert N. Butler, M.D. founding director of the National Institute on Aging, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Why Survive? Being Old In America, have about 110-120 years at the outside of their genetic life span. This information is encouraging.

The question that appears for most of us, however, is not so much how do we live longer, but how do we live healthier?

“The two it seems”, writes Lenny Guarente, PH.D. and Novartis Professor of biology at M.I.T and author of Ageless Quest: One Scientist’s Search for Genes That Prolong Youth, “should go hand in hand. And they often do because we can tip the odds in our favor by our lifestyles and by avoiding things that we know are bad, like smoking, like transfat, like excess body fat, like high blood pressure.”

Most people would agree that if we can extend health span the extending lifespan is just an extra bonus.

Many of us do not have a vision of the life we could live happily, productively, and disease free, as we get older. Part of the reason for this is that we are not exposed to seeing those people that live happily, productively, and relatively disease free well into their 90’s and 100’s.

There are other reasons why we do not have a vision for living well into our later years. Three of the most significant reasons are:

1. We believe that healthier lifestyles and specific lifestyle habits are too difficult to change so we abandon the idea of living as a centurian.

2. We are unsure if it is too late to make lifestyle changes due to age and health circumstances.

3. We are unsure whether the payoff of healthy living will increase our life’s quality and longevity to the degree that we would like.

These are legitimate concerns. Lifestyle changes take time. Lifestyle changes take effort. And lifestyle changes are difficult to implement on our own.

If you have simply thought about changing your lifestyle for a better life quality, then you have a vision. It may not be a fully developed vision, but it is a vision. And a vision is a start. Keep it! Develop it! Don’t let it fade away. I can assure you that if you’ve implemented the lifestyle habits that you know are necessary for a more healthy, vigorous and vital you, then you will not be disappointed.