The Desire to Be Healthy

For awhile now I have been procrastinating on something I really desire to do. I have been putting off writing my first book on Personal Finance. Many of you are doing something similar with your fat loss goal, or other life goal you have.

Why do we do it? We say we want something then we don’t take the necessary actions to do it. A lot of it comes down to how strong our desire is, but even if we have a strong desire sometimes we still don’t accomplish what we say we want to do.

I know at least for me writing my book it has a lot to do with the fact that I want it to be perfect and I don’t think I can make it perfect. It seems so hard, such an impossible task, that I don’t even really start on it. Well I did start on it, but then I let minor frustrations get in the way of finishing it. Has that happened to you? You have started on a dieting plan, but some minor frustrations got in the way of you sticking with it?

Or maybe you are like me in another way? You started a daily habit of writing and kept at it for over a year, but you slowly let that habit get away from you. You lost interest. Except for you it was a strong interest in eating healthy and exercising, and you saw great results, but you just lost interest.

Both of these things can and do happen to anyone. You think to yourself, “It doesn’t matter what I eat, or if I just sit around all day, it won’t matter”, or something like, “I just don’t have the time or energy to eat right and exercise like I should.”

When you have a strong goal sometimes it seems hard to accomplish it, and maintain it once you got it, but there are a number of things you can do to make it easier.

1. Slowly develop the daily habit.

When you have an established habit it makes it all the easier to maintain it. Developing the habit can be hard, especially in the beginning. But each tiny success adds to future success. Each amount of discipline you can muster in a given day, adds to your future self-discipline. Learn to have that perseverance.

2. Gain support from similar people.

Having a good support group is key. These could be family or friends. What is even better though is being in a group doing exactly what you are wanting to do. Why do you think the people on the show The Biggest Loser are so successful? Cause each and every person there is DEDICATED to helping them lose weight. The trainers are dedicated to it, their friends and families are usually supportive, and they support each other. And for the most part, they don’t want the other people to do better then them! They are looking to win, and watching other people do it inspires them to do the hard work of losing all that weight that took them years to put on. Find some people dedicated to your same goals and you will be helped immensely by it.

3. Focus on the outcomes, not the setbacks.

No matter how hard you try you will always have setbacks. Things always pop up in life that prevents us from going as far and as fast as we want to. The key is to never let those things slow your momentum down to a stop. You can always keep going, in small ways, even in the worst of conditions. And through it all, remember what the outcome will be. For me, I know that writing a book is a personal accomplishment few people will achieve. And my hope is that the books I write will help a lot of people with what they are struggling with. For you, I hope you focus on all the weight you will lose, or how healthy you will be. How much energy you will have, how great you will look, and how wonderful you will feel. Imagine that and make it real!

I know the desire is there otherwise you wouldn’t have taken the time to read this. Yet no amount of reading will accomplish your goal for you. You have to take what you learn and apply it to make it happen. The hardest part is doing the world required the reach your goals. Increasing your desire to the point where you just have to achieve it! The choice is yours my friends.

This is our 37th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health

How The Body Actually Loses Fat

The most important thing we can do to become and stay healthy is to learn how keep excess fat out of our bodies. We already know that excess fat is the primary contributor to our poor health. And we all know that eating in excess is the primary way we gain fat, but most people don’t know exactly how we lose fat.

Sure you probably know that by eating less and exercising more you will lose fat, but it isn’t quite that straight forward. Fat gain and loss are highly regulated processes that we have for our survival, and losing fat is acting against our own bodies survival instincts if we don’t do it right.

There are actually two types of fat in our bodies: White Adipose Tissue (WAT) and Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT). WAT is the main type of fat we are trying to get rid of. It is primarily formed of triglycerides and is a great source of energy in out time of need. It is also not metabolically active which means it does not use energy at all.

Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) has a much higher number of mitochondria (the power house of the cell that uses energy) then WAT cells and also has a special protein that allows it burn energy in a non-efficient manner. This means that BAT cells produce heat instead of energy in a form of non shivering thermogenesis.

Brown Adipose Tissue research is still coming out, but it looks as if exposing yourself to slightly cool temperatures (just cooler then what you are used to without shivering), will help stimulate the growth of this tissue and help improve your ability to lose fat as it uses up a lot of fat to keep you warmer.

While that is good to know, it probably isn’t as important as knowing how we reduce the size of our White Adipose Tissue cells. Fat loss is primarily a hormonal action with the main hormones being epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, ghrelin, growth hormone, and testosterone.

Through a series of chemical interactions these hormones cause fat to be split apart into triglycerides (fatty acids) that are then deposited into the blood stream and taken to the cells that need energy the most. So anything that helps to increase the hormones above will theoretically also increase fat loss.

It is also good to know what causes us to gain fat in the first place. Primarily the hormone insulin is responsible for helping to transport nutrients into cells (in this case fatty acids into fat cells). An increased blood glucose level is one of the causes of increased insulin so anything that reduces overall blood glucose levels should help reduce insulin as well.

One of the most effective strategies to lower blood glucose levels is to limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Carbs significantly increase your blood glucose level because they are so rapidly absorbed, and thereby cause your insulin to spike when you do. This isn’t always a bad thing. If you have just recently exercised then this will rapidly restore the level of glycogen (a polysaccharide or complex sugar) in your muscles. If you haven’t recently exercised and therefore have used up your muscle glycogen your body will begin storing the excess energy as fat.

All forms of exercise increase the amount of hormones listed above that help contribute to fat loss. Weight lifting however, increases growth hormone and testosterone more than any other exercise making it the preferred exercise for fat loss.

One final way to lose fat is to selectively fast for periods of time to allow the body time to metabolize fat. This is best accomplished by intermittent fasting or eating within a window of time. In other words, fasting for 18 or more hours and eating in a 6 hour window (1pm-7pm). This allows for maximum fat burning ability, but the effects wear off over time. To get the benefits without the downsides it is recommended that you have a “carb refeeding” once a week where you eat a ton of food to “up-regulate” your fat burning hormones.

To put it all together the best way to lose fat is to:

1. Keep blood glucose levels down by limiting carbohydrates, especially highly refined foods such as bread, pasta, etc.
2. Fast on a regular basis to allow for maximum fat burning time (the simple rule is that when your body runs low on energy from food it must burn fat).
3. Include a carb refeeding time at least once a week so that your fat burning hormones don’t permanently “down-regulate”. (Fast for too long though and your body adjusts itself to compensate.)
4. Try to eat the bulk of your calories and carbs after a workout, not before.
5. Include weight lifting in any exercise program you do. (Bodyweight squats count as weight lifting for instance)

These are the basics. There are obviously whole books on the subject but you only need to know a few things to understand how fat loss works. And if you follow the five things listed above you will be well ahead of most people when it comes to both knowing about fat loss and actually losing the fat you want to lose.

This is our 36th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , |

Grazing vs. Gorging (Food Timing Strategies)

Three square meals a day is the right way to go, isn’t it? At least that is what most of us have been brought up with. The BBC recently published an article called “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner: Have we always eaten them?” It is an interesting read, but the truth is that we haven’t always eaten them, and for a long time people really only ate one meal a day.

And we come to the modern era where we have almost limitless food choices. We have a large variety of types, textures, qualities, and quantities. And we can practically have food at any time of the day. While convenient, this abundance of food has certainly contributed to the additional layers of fat on our bodies.

So is there an optimal eating strategy? Could food timing have as big an effect, or a bigger effect, then the amount of calories we consume? And science continues to say the answer to this question is yes.

First there is the “grazing” strategy which is a meal plan revolving around eating approximately six meals per day, all of which only have about 200-300 calories. The idea behind this was that eating more often would stoke the calorie burning fires and you would burn off more calories during the day. Science has recently proven that this simply isn’t true. (Source)

The real reason to eat six meals a day is to help control hunger and cravings. By allowing yourself to have small snacks during the day you can help alleviate the hunger pangs that would normally cause you to overeat when it does come time to finally have a meal. Some people do still overeat with this strategy, but with proper planning you can always have the appropriately sized snacks available when you need them.

A more recent food trend is what I would call “gorging”. This is basically where you go long periods without food and possibly only eat one meal a day, but that one meal continues all your calories and nutrients for the day.

This trend has become popular along with other trends such as the Paleo Diet, “ancestral health”, and intermittent fasting. While the research is slowly but surely coming to support it, the results speak for themselves. People are getting super lean with this eating strategy.

While both eating strategies seem to work for helping people lose weight, neither is full proof. You can still overeat either way, and what works well for one person doesn’t always work for someone else. You should experiment, keep good notes on the effects, and decide which works best for you.

Personally I have always been a big fan of eating breakfast, but I switched to only eating two big meals a day (sometimes one), and it seems to be working for me. I’ve been slowly losing some fat and gaining some muscle from my workouts. I also have much better energy levels after giving up high carbohydrate breakfasts.

If you research “intermittent fasting” you will soon discover some of the health benefits associated with it. One article that explains it really well is “Ready, Set, Fast” over at The Art of Manliness website. He also provided links to all the National Institutes of Health studies on the health benefits of fasting including lowered blood pressure, better cholesterol numbers, controlling blood sugar, etc.

So do a little research, do a little experimentation, and see what works best for you!

This is our 35th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , |

What is a Healthy Diet?

Recently I have been challenged on what I believe to be a healthy diet. After all my research I thought I was getting everything dialed in. I knew what foods to eat and what not to eat. I knew how much to eat to eat. I knew when to eat. I knew where to eat.

I knew who I wanted to eat with. And I knew why I was eating…

I thought all my questions were practically answered. Then I realized that their are general guidelines that we can all follow when we eat, but there was no formula that applied to everyone.

Genetics are weird. They make us do weird things. Or should I say they make our body do weird things.

Let me get to the point…

I have thought for a long time that eating meat is great for you. That it is healthy and practically needed in our diet. The protein and fat you get from meat is better than any other plant source. And meat tastes great. Yet there are some people that are allergic to meat and apparently aren’t able to eat it without suffering consequences like acne, lethargy, etc.

The solution that works for some people, even most people, doesn’t work for everyone.

The above statement might seem like common sense to some people, but not to a scientific minded individual looking for a solution that can work for everyone.

So what is a healthy diet? It is the diet that works for you.

It is a diet where you feel energetic most of the time. It is a diet that doesn’t cause you to hold onto excess fat. It is a diet that helps prevents most or all of the diseases of modern civilization. And it is a diet that makes you happy. Because if you don’t love what you eat then you probably aren’t going to eat it for long.

So how do we get there?

After all my research I would say most people are half way there to begin with. Very few people eat junk food all day everyday and get away with it for long. They eventually have to listen to what their body is screaming at them. “Give me real food!”

The key is to remove some of the worst villains from your diet (trans fats, refined carbs, etc.) and add some of the better heroes in your diet (vegetables, wild caught fish, grass fed meat, etc.) Remove a few here, add a few there, and pretty soon your diet looks amazing.

That is what a healthy diet looks like. Less and less bad things over time. More good things added over time. And the results will speak for themselves.

This is our 34rd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , |

Top 10 Posts From Insight Writer: 2011-2012

Time again for the 4th annual Top 10 from Insight Writer. Hard to believe we are going on 4 whole years. Lots of ups and downs. Recently Google hit my pageviews pretty hard with their “Panda Update”, but I’m sure things will pick back up again soon. Google always changes things to help me or hurt me, and it comes out even in the long run… Regardless, for those that are wondering Insight Writer topped out over 100,000 page views last year so I am pretty happy!

So here are the past three years worth of Top 10’s…

2008-2009
2009-2010
2010-2011

And without further adieu here are my top posts sorted by traffic for the 2011-2012 year!

1. How to Boost Testosterone Naturally
2. The Personal Finance Challenge Series
3. The Personal Health Challenge Series
4. On Being House Poor
5. How To Live To Be a Centenarian
6. Chronic Inflammation is the Real Killer
7. 10 Stubborn Exercise Myths That Won’t Die
8. The Benefits of Fasting
9. Drink Mostly Water
10. Focus on Fat Loss, Not Weight Loss

Honorable Mentions:

1. The Metabolism Myth
2. Minimize Your Stuff
3. Weight Lifting and Workload

Well there you have it. Another year down! It’s no surprise both my challenge series have a lot of pageviews as people go back and forth between articles. What is a surprise is just how many people are searching for things like how to boost testosterone naturally. Go figure…

I always like to think about how these Top 10 every year really reflect the most important topics and situations in our lives. I hope I can keep hitting the nail on the head with the articles I write. Off to the next topic…

Cheers,
Jeremy

Posted in Blogging, Diet & Exercise, Interesting Things, Personal Development, Personal Finance, Personal Health, Top Content Tagged |

How Should We Cut Health Care Costs?

With a presidential election coming up it is hard to avoid hearing about the issue of rising health care costs and what politicians are planning, or not planning, on doing about it. I figured it was worth sharing some of my thoughts on the matter and the best research I have found so that you can make your own decision.

Before we get into any details I must stress that I am talking from the perspective of a U.S. citizen talking about the U.S. Health Care system as it stands in 2012. I am also talking from the perspective of someone who believes that the U.S. has one of the best, if not the best, healthcare system in the world. And by best I mean has some of the best patient outcomes, regardless of price in the world.

I specifically use the word price as well because I think to a certain degree you get what you pay for. You want the best healthcare, you have to pay for it. On the flip side, I do believe that some of the best treatment methods also cost the least.

When looking at healthcare costs you have to look at a number of things. The administrative cost, hospital costs, doctor costs, equipment costs, drug costs, etc. For the most part nearly all these things have very competitive market based prices that can’t really be lowered without sacrificing quality.

Some of the biggest costs in the medical systems are paid for new drugs and new technologies, all of which are optional for the doctor and patient to choose. While these contribute to overall costs in the medical field I don’t think anyone wants to sacrifice our research and development.

Perhaps one of the biggest costs of the medical industry is misdiagnosis. Doctors aren’t perfect, and I won’t even begin to try and say how they can get better at diagnosis. What I will say is that some tests and procedures are very expensive and oftentimes unnecessary in diagnosing a problem.

For instance, one doctor did a scan on the shoulders of perfectly healthy baseball pitchers and found that nearly 90% had abnormal cartilage and tendons that many doctors would have recommended surgery on. Sports Medicine Said to Overuse M.R.I.’s Remember that these are people with no injuries and no pain.

That is one example among many where expensive procedures are used that end up costing everyone more in rising insurance and Medicare costs. We really need to find a way to discourage both doctors and patients from doing unnecessary procedures.

At the end of the day though, whatever laws get passed, I think we all need to focus on preventive medicine.

Here is a list of the Top 10 most expensive conditions to treat

“Heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, trauma-related disorders (anxiety and stress), osteoarthritis, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, back problems, and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).” While not all of these are preventable, there are many risk factors for each and every one of these conditions that we can lower and eliminate altogether.

Did you know that if we could get people to stop using tobacco so much we would limit cancer deaths by 22% a year? (Source: World Health Organization)

Besides mental disorders and trauma-related disorders nearly all the rest are easily and successfully treated and prevented with good dietary interventions. Yet for some reason we keep using expensive procedures and tests that may or may not help us in the long run.

No one wants to admit it, but to lower health care costs we need to move toward a value based system. In other words, what will give me the most effect for my dollar. What will be more cost effective in the long run? Spending money and time on getting the best possible food in my diet, or suffering through test after test and procedure after procedure to ultimately realize this was all preventable in the first place? The choice is yours.

This is our 33rd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , |

Health is Wealth

Back when I was writing my personal finance challenge series I wrote an article called Invest in Health.

Basically it was about not being afraid to spend some money on good preventive health practices such as spending a little more on quality food.

I was reminded of this concept when I walked in the gym the other day and looked at the poster they have on the wall in there that says “Health is Wealth”. Now I look at this poster every day when I go to the gym, but it hit me in a new way recently. Just how valuable is our health?

If you really sit down and think about it health is practically everything. Without health we are slow in mind and body. The things we enjoy to do eventually become hard to do with poor health.

And have you ever really truly thought about what it means to be wealthy? I think there are multiple ways to be wealthy and I am sure you think the same thing too. We can be wealthy in mind, spirit, and body just as we are wealthy in money.

This is mainly a thinking and feeling challenge for you. To really consider the value of health. To think of all the costs to having bad health. And to maybe start do something about it. Or to continue what you are already doing to invest in your good health. This is an encouragement to continue on.

Remember to count your good health the same way you count your wealth.

This is our 32nd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , |

Keep a Food Journal for Weight Loss

The title is “Keep a Food Journal for Weight Loss”, but this article can easily be used for any diet plan. Dieting isn’t simply for weight loss. You can also form a diet plan to improve your health, to gain muscle and get stronger, or to improve your athletic performance.

When you think about it, we really are what we eat. Good food goes in, and our bodies become good machines that allow us to do what we want. Bad food goes in, and our bodies start breaking down and don’t allow us to accomplish what we want to do in life.

Just think of the body as a biological machine. I have always loved the car analogy in this regard. A car needs the appropriate gas for the engine. It needs regular oil changes. Fluids need replaced periodically. It needs cleaned on a regular basis both inside and out.

Put the right stuff in on a regular basis and your car runs at top performance. Neglect any of these things and your cars performance begins to suffer. It is the same with our bodies.

Food gives us energy to run. Food helps us to lubricate our joints and ligaments. Food helps us create new blood cells and adds to all the other things we need in out blood. Food also have a cleansing effect for cleaning out any harmful things in out body.

Now if food can do all that the opposite should hold true as well. Bad food can make us feel lethargic, gum up our joints and ligaments, destroy beneficial things in our bloodstream, and just make our whole bodies a garbage dump.

Food is important. And I will emphasize over and over again, we really can’t get anywhere with our health and fitness goals if we really don’t have a handle on what we are putting in our mouths. And it all begins with a food journal.

What is a food journal?

Simply this…

It is a record of everything you put in your mouth. The type and amounts of food as closely as you can measure them. Recorded every time you eat, no matter how small it is. With the time of day, and preferably how you feel before and after eating.

The knowledge you get from doing this is priceless.

A week of doing this will open your eyes like never before. A month doing this will set you on the right track to meet each and every health and fitness goal you have. A year of doing this will change your life forever.

To start buy yourself either an actual journal or a day planner that has a page per day and possibly includes the hours in the day. A journal entry doesn’t need to be long and drawn out. Here is an example of a journal entry:

Friday July 13th, 2012

7:30am – Woke up feeling pretty good this morning and drank my normal glass of water.
8:00am – Ate a bowl of greek yogurt with raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Put in my normal 3 scoops of yogurt using one of our bigger spoons (equals roughly 1/4 of the container and 250 calories) I used a handful of each type of berry. (This equals around 50 calories per handful or 150 altogether). My breakfast this morning is 400 calories and makes me feel full for a long time.

You get the idea. Try to get a rough idea of how many calories the food has, and how it makes you feel in a very general sense. And remember to add every little snack and drink. Brewed coffee and tea don’t have many calories until you add milk and sugar, but add them anyhow so you can write down how you feel using them.

Once you write everything down you might be surprised how much you are eating everyday. For instance, maybe you never really eat a big meal, but you are snacking on food way more than you realized. Or maybe you are the opposite type of person that skips breakfast, but eats large portions later in the day. You might be surprised how many calories you can actually eat in one meal.

In any case, a food journal is the foundation for any food planning you will do in the future, and is a very practical necessity.

This is our 31st challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , |

Control Your Food Portions, Control Your Waistline

Recently I have been reading a book about making decisions and the psychology behind it. Actually this book is more about neuroscience than psychology but more on that later.

One of the studies in the book talks about how we automatically eat more when we don’t control our portion sizes. It was a study done by the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

The researchers placed candy and pretzels in a variety of public places and studied the effects of how much people consumed depending on the serving spoon or serving size available. As you can probably guess people ate more when the serving spoon was bigger even though they could have eaten more by using the smaller serving spoon multiple times.

Perhaps we are culturally ingrained to eat everything on our plate. Waste not, want not, right? Unfortunately when it comes to food, by eating all the food on our plates we eventually want to lose weight.

In a “super-size” world, controlling our portions isn’t easy, but it can still be done.

First we need to realize that this is something we need to think a little about before we are hungry at the dinner table. Eating food is pretty much an automatic event for all of us. We develop patterns of eating over the years and don’t really think much about what we are doing. Until we want to lose weight…

Whenever someone asks me for help in losing weight (or any type of diet plan), I always tell them to start a food journal or log. This is the single most important tool you have in your arsenal. Don’t even think about starting a diet plan without one.

The second most important tool in your arsenal is all the people who support you. Sometimes it is hard to stick with a plan when it is up to ourselves. Our minds are weak for chocolate cake. Surround yourself with supportive people and you can achieve almost any goal.

If you have the two things above in place, then the next couple of practices should come easily…

First you should never eat directly out of a container that has more than a single portion size you have determined beforehand. The slogan for Pringles potato chips really speaks the truth, “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” Measure out correct size portions into plastic baggies, or whatever container works, and only eat that portion.

Recognize what a serving size really is. As I mentioned in my article “How To Read Nutrition Labels“, serving sizes really can be deceiving. There are a lot of great articles on the internet that show you in pictures what a real serving size looks like. I previously wrote about this in my article What Does 200 Calories Look Like. And here is an example of What 300 Calories Looks Like. A Google search for similar terms should give you some good results.

Finally you should do some food planning. You don’t need to plan every meal, but when you are first starting out you should plan a whole day or week worth of food, calculate the serving sizes, and calories consumed. Once you get enough practice doing this, you should be able to reasonably estimate how much calories you are eating at any meal, and then adjust you serving sizes accordingly…

This is our 30th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…

Posted in Diet & Exercise, Personal Health Tagged , , , , |

Back From The Colorado Trail

Hi All,

This is just a quick message to let everyone know I am back. I recently completed a month long trip hiking the Colorado Trail. It was an amazing experience. I met a bunch of great people and I learned a lot.

Here is a link to my personal website if you are interested in reading about it…

Thru Hiking the Colorado Trail by Jeremy Day

And here is a link to some of my best photos from the trip…

Colorado Trail photos on Google Plus

I eventually will write a book about my experience on the trail. It will be a mix of “how to backpack”, details about the Colorado Trail, and my experience of it. If you are interested at all please follow the link to my website and sign up for the email updates so you will know when the book comes out.

As far as Insight Writer goes I do plan on getting back to a regular posting schedule. At least posting once a week and hopefully more.

In the coming months I will finish the Better Health Challenge Series. My current goal for the release of a book on this topic is January 2013.

I originally planned on releasing my Personal Finance Challenge Book by this time, but my focus was taken away by my interest in the Colorado Trail. And I honestly lacked the motivation to write about the subject. One way or another I will finish it, and my current goal for release is also January 2013.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Or suggestions to make this website better. There are a lot of things in the works as you can tell, and this website is more or less on cruise control at the moment. But I do hope to keep improving it and making it better.

Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,
Jeremy

Posted in Interesting Things, Personal Development, Personal Finance, Personal Health Tagged , |