It’s been awhile since I wrote anything.  Lots going on in the personal life, I won’t go into here – that’s another blog another day.  I’ll catch you up on a few pertinent details for now.

  1. Weight about the same.  Let’s just say I was carrying an extra 5+ pounds for my last weigh in that I am not concerned about much anymore.  I should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 190-193 for my final weigh in with the trainer in mid-November.
  2. I did a 5k and broke 30 minutes for the first time.  29:31.  Killed it, for me.  Many of you are running 6 minute miles.  I’m not there yet.  Ran 10k this morning at zone 1 and could have run a lot more.  Have a 5k around Thanksgiving.
  3. Got my bike up on the dumb trainer and working with Zwift.  Not nearly as much fun as riding on the trail, but it gets the job done.
  4. A big update for me – I just went to the doc’s and had a 101/63 BP and have a 49HR.  My HDL was 54 and my triglycerides were 70 for a 1.29 ratio.  Doc is happy with my numbers and the LDL was a little elevated at 158.

The main reason I’m writing this is because some of you may have people in your life that need to learn how to de-stress.  I was one of them.  I was always prioritizing my next assignment, my next deadline at work – and I didn’t prioritize ME.  I mean, I thought I did, but it was prioritizing my immediate gratification and what was needed immediately.

You need to stop and smell the roses.

I lead a rather large organization.  I have a 90 minute commute.  I’m a father, a husband, a son, a grandson.  I have significant levels of responsibility in my life.  And it’s why I posted my numbers above.  Just because you have responsibility and stress doesn’t mean you have to let it swallow you up whole.  Given that stress is a leading cause of death (heart attacks, strokes, etc), it stands to reason that how you let things affect you can directly impact your health.  I was there.  I made the rationalization of waiting until X to do Y.

But there are some things you can do to improve and manage your stress levels.

  1. Walk your dog.  I have a nice relationship with my dog.  When it’s time to take her out, I’ll do a lap with her, or about .6 miles.  P.S. How convenient is it that the builders made my lap exactly 1k?  I put on some tunes and just breathe in the air.  I usually just take her around my development – but sometimes go to the dog park, parks in the area, etc.  Your dog will love the exercise and you will love getting out and about.  Apparently, lots of vitamin D via the sun is really good for your health.  Go out and get some fresh air!
  2. Writing.  For me, this helps focus some of my thoughts and get the pen to paper, so to speak.  I just let it out.  I don’t focus too much on structure or where it’s going.  I might have a few general ideas I want to discuss, and I let it go from there.
  3. Music.  I have a trumpet.  I haven’t played in awhile, but it just draws the pain out of me.  If you don’t know how to play an instrument, learn online!
  4. Running.  I would not recommend anyone massively overweight to go out running tomorrow.  But if you have 50-100 pounds to lose, maybe you look into it.  My problem was I thought you’d have to smash yourself every time out.  Far from the truth.  Slow jogs with some tunes in really help clear my mind.
  5. Walking/hiking.  Find new places to explore.  Get a camera and take some nature shots.  If running isn’t your thing, try walking.  Of interest, walking is FAR better for weight loss than running.  I run because I feel amazing, not for weight loss.
  6. Biking.  Even if you start at 1 mile, it’s a start.  I started at 3 miles and couldn’t walk for a few days.  Turns out my tires weren’t inflated right.  Over time, you learn about bike sizing, bike weight, types of tires, etc.  I’m now up to 43 miles biking and could go even more if time wasn’t an issue.
  7. Cooking.  There is a ridiculous amount of content on youtube these days related to cooking.  No matter what types of foods you eat, there’s something for you on youtube.  Do some food prep once a week.  Get a freezer.  Figure out the macros you want to eat that week and do it.  Learn new recipes.
  8. Reading.  My guilty pleasures are magazines.  I do like health related books to dig into, but magazines can provide some short articles to get in and get out.
  9. Movies.  I don’t do this as much anymore, but for many years, these were a means of comfort to just drop into another existence.
  10. Hobbies.  I don’t do this much these days, but I also had a decent amount of hobbies and other interests.  One of the things I did with my dad when I was a kid was model cars.  The care you take to paint eat part and assemble – it’s very cathartic.  My wife does some of those paint nights with friends.
  11. Games.  I used to play a lot of chess.  I also loved Risk.  My guilty pleasures are Sim City 2000 and Civ 4.  You can disappear into these games and quiet your mind.
  12. Food.  I’m not going to get too much into it in this section, but the foods you eat are either nourishing you or killing you.  For example, vegetable oil is not what it seems.  It used to be an industrial lubricant.  Choose avocado or olive oil.  Look up inflammation and C reactive proteins (CRP).  Foods you eat are DIRECTLY causing your internals to be inflamed.  This is causing a lot of your high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues.  When you take pleasures in cleaning up your diet, you will find that shit starts to quiet down in your body.
  13. Taking a hot bath with magnesium.  People talk about “electrolytes”.  But many people don’t know what they are.  Magnesium was something that used to be abundant in foods many many years ago, but through modern farming, we don’t have nearly what we used to.  I supplement with magnesium every day, and it has a calming effect.  Get the big bags of magnesium from the store and fire a cup or two into your bath water.  Dim the room, light a candle, and put on some music and just drift.
  14. Get a solid 8.  When you go to bed, minimize your screen time.  Prioritize your sleep.  Apparently, those with low sleep hours every night are at highest risk for stroke.
  15. Put down the politics.  It’s not helping anyone.  It’s just pissing you off.

 

With this…I’d also like to give you a list of what you can do, today.

I feel like most of my life, my problem was I let external factors with my emotions dictate my behavior.  I had an epiphany once playing my Sim City.  You want to control these variables and plan out the perfect city.  And then an earthquake wrecks your shit and you want to throw your laptop.  It was a microcosm of my life.  You try and control variables in your life A, which will then lead to happiness B.  The problem is, no one can control for variable C – and that’s the shit people bring upon you.

Rather than let emotions dictate your behaviors, let your behaviors dictate your emotions.  Meaning – years ago, I’d have a bad day and no one to come home to.  You buy a pack of smokes, get a six pack, order a pizza in, and put on Netflix.  It was an immediate reaction to a bad day.

But…bad days happen.  You cannot avoid these.  All of the planning you took the time to do will then be shot to hell in one moment.  But guess what.  That behavior I did adds up over time.  And…to make it worse, these behaviors then have compound interest.  Many of your days can then multiply.  Eventually, you find yourself dependent on these vices to address external stimuli in your life.

But what if your behaviors then dictate your emotions?  What if…instead of getting that six pack and pizza, you used some de-stressing techniques and decided to make up a recipe from youtube and read?  What if you had a gym session set up every Friday at 6.  You have a bad day on a Friday and instead of spiraling to shit on the weekend, you stick to a structure of the gym.  After you are done the gym – you seem to feel much better.

These behaviors can then allow you an automatic funnel to push stress to, without even realizing it.  Generally speaking, bad news rarely riles me up these days.  I know I have a gym session, a bike session, a run, a hike – something is already planned as part of my daily routine and I zone out.  By the time my runs are done (etc), I’m at peace with the world.   Now, I do have a massive elephant in the room in my personal life that close friends know I’m dealing with – but again, I address my routine and this allows me to function.  This allows me to take care of my health and have the reduced stress levels.  It’s not that I don’t feel these things, it’s that I have healthy means of addressing these issues these days that I didn’t 10 years ago.

So…how can you start?

No one is perfect, not even me.  Much of what you read on the internet is fake.  The 8 packs.  The wonderful lives of people.  The glamour shot your favorite Instagram personality took 3 hours to get with angles and lighting.  But – what can you do to help you move forward in your life to proactively deal with stress and positively affect your longevity?  See below…

  1. Go get your numbers at your doctors.  See where you are.  Get your lipid panel.  Get your HbA1C checked.  If you are pre-diabetic, you need to cut the carbs.  Get your BP.  Understand where you are starting.
  2. Cut the shit.  If you smoke, finding means of stopping smoking will yield the best return on your investment early.  I know it’s hard.  I quit 80 times.  I’m now at 4 years this time, and once when my son was born I had quit for 3.  With all of my running now, I couldn’t even think about doing it today.   Cutting the shit also means drawing back the booze.  If you drink a lot, you need to really re-evaluate what you’re doing to yourself.  No, you don’t have to quit.  But really drawing back is a great start.
  3. If it comes in a box or a package, don’t eat it.  Now, there will be some items of convenience, yeah.  And I’m not perfect with this either.  But I used to eat the frozen pizzas, the hot pockets, the cans of soup, the breads, pastas, crackers – hell, I think I was legit addicted to hamburger helper in my 20s.  Go to the produce section, the meats.  Eat whole foods.  If you look at a box and there’s more than 4 ingredients, think twice about it.  Again, there will be exceptions, but this is also a great bang for your buck.  Try to stick mostly on the outside isles of the grocery store.
  4. Draw back on your sugars.  Anyone who got this far knows I’m a keto zealot, but I’m now moving towards the off ramp of “primal” (via Mark Sisson).  I used to have maybe 60-70% carbs every day.  Maybe you don’t want to do keto for the rest of your life.  But there is a MASSIVE value in keeping your carbs under about 150g per day.  Put down the juices, the candies, the cakes, the sodas.  The main issue people have with drawing back the sugars is…”but I don’t have any energy”.  That’s a whole lot of bullshit.  The problem with this is that because you have pounded yourself with Oreos and chocolate milk your whole life – you have trained your body to eat carbs and sugars.  Then, look around your waist at the 50 pounds you have there, and wonder…”why do I get hungry every 3-5 hours when I have 50 pounds right there”.  If you can realistically understand the answer to this, you’re on the right track.  The main problem you have going from 400g to 150g per day is you haven’t trained your body to burn fat efficiently yet.  You then feel fatigued.  Your body is looking for carbs and can’t find them, and doesn’t want to burn fat too well.  IT wants CARBS!! So out go the hunger pangs.  Well…if you did keto for 2 months and then gradually took your carbs up to 100-150g, it’s easy and very sustainable.  This then allows your body to eat the fat on your waist and you rarely get super hungry.  So…draw back your sugars and carbs and you will feel 10 years younger.
  5. Put down the vegetable oils.  And flour.  Vegetable oils are not this thing that you think they are.  They are a refined product made with chemicals and are called “seed oils”.  If you want good, real oils to use, use olive and avocado oils.
  6. Try learning about omega 3/6 ratios and inflammation.  This is where you hear the difference between “grass fed beef”, “farmed vs non-farmed salmon”, “organic” chicken.  Some of this stuff is much more expensive than it’s dirty counterpart.  But that’s where a lot of this gets a bad name.  Think back 200 years ago.  Cows ate grass instead of grains.  You actually caught fish in the wild rather than raised them in a pool of their own shit.  When populations rise, methods of feeding those populations….get more efficient.  Costs are reduced in order to feed people.  But the methods of how to produce these foods actually deliver a TON more omega 6s than 3s.  You guys all know about the eskimos and their healthy diets of omega 3 oils.  And the Italians with their olive oils.  Stop eating anything deep fried…like now.  Having it once a month?  So be it.  4 times a week?  Certain death.
  7. Understand the glycemic index.  Not all fruits are created equal  Weight Watchers should be sued, Tarred and Feathered, and hauled into court for advising people they can eat as much fruit as they want.  Including my type 2 diabetic mother.  Criminal.  Fruits have been grown and bred over the last few hundred years to be sweeter, to have less fibrous parts, to yield more.  Look up what watermelon and bananas looked like hundreds of years ago.   Today, they are sugar delivery vehicles.  Keep your fruit limited.  Keep your starchy veggies limited.  I used to only eat corn, peas, limas, and potatoes.  That’s it for veggies.  About the worst ones you can eat.
  8. Eat salads.  GIANT salads.  I make these epic sized salads.  I heard about it first from Dr. Berg (a chiropractor) and later Jonathan Bailor as part of “the calorie myth”.  If you eat giant salads, good luck to you.  I CRAVE these things.  It’s probably 90% of what I eat these days.
  9. Eat your greens, and cruciferous.  I have learned to love green veggies over the last few years, as well as cauliflower.  I never really had these on my plate my whole life.  Now I will crush copious amounts of roasted broccoli with garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.
  10. Watch your calories.  Take your body weight, and times it by 10.  That should be about the caloric intake you need to lose about a half to one pound a week.  If you aren’t even tracking your shit, then you stand zero chance of improving your situation.
  11. Understand you want to lose body fat rather than “weight”.  If you dip calories too low, or exercise too much, you risk burning precious muscle or overtraining.  HIT YOUR PROTEIN.  I shoot for about .6-.8g of protein per pound of LEAN body mass.
  12. Walk.  Everyone thinks to lose weight that you have to do endless hours of cardio.  Yes, it can assist in weight loss, but if you are overweight by a lot, you risk a lot of injury.  And…this then will set you back.  Walk.  Hike.  Walk your dog.  Enjoy a stroll on the beach.  On a path near you.  Dating??  You don’t have to go out to dinner and stuff your pie hole or get shit faced.  Take a stroll on a path with someone.
  13. Seek out support.  I love training alone.  But others like groups.  There’s group fitness.  Swimming.  Biking.  Walks.  Find groups for tips.  Maybe you are BRAND NEW.  Seek out the advice of a respected trainer.
  14. Write out your goals.  If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s hard to plan on getting there.  My total loss right now is about 173 pounds.  Give or take, depending on the day.  When you first start out, you may lose 2 pounds a week.  As you get closer to your goal, maybe it’s 1/2-1 pound per week.  Find a celebrity you might want to look like and make that your goal.  For example, I lived most of my adult life over 300 pounds and being the largest person in the room.  MY idea of fitness is triathletes.  Lean, toned, 165 and low in body fat percentage.  Others may have grown up skinny and picked on and want to be a 265 pound wrecking ball with 22% body fat.  Others want to be 200 and ripped to beat someone up at a bar.  Who knows.  Define where YOU want to be, and go from there.  Early on, my goal was to lose weight.  That evolved over time from general fitness to a more specific performance goal.
  15. Meal prep.  Maybe you aren’t going to be perfect day 1, but maybe you can meal prep to make 75% of your meals “healthy”.
  16. Join a gym.  I know this is sort of cliché.  However, building lean body mass and getting moving will help your mood.  Most gyms have free training for a session or so. Take advantage.  Maybe this person can help guide you to your goals.
  17. Say NO.  This is the most powerful tool in your arsenal.  LEARN IT.  This goes along with prioritizing yourself and your well being.  Do you want to go out to eat fast food?  NO.  Do you want to go out drinking? NO.  It’s Phil’s birthday in the office.  Do you want cake? NO.  This is where you will catch the most shit in your life.  But guess what.  That cake has vegetable oil, sugars, trans fats, and flour.  Maybe you have a piece once every 3-4 months.  But every week?  NO.  Your brother’s 40th?  Sure.  Some random Tuesday for Phil in accounting?  NO.
  18. Reduce eating out.  You don’t know what the hell they made that with.  What oils did they use?  Was it grass fed beef?  What was the quality of the food source?  I eat out maybe once a month or so, and I usually stick with a ribeye and broccoli.  I crave my foods.  Every now and then, go out.  But don’t make it a 5 night a week thing.  Certain death.
  19. Be firm.  People will try and get angry with you.  Too bad.  You want to live.  They want to die.  NO.
  20. Move.  I know I wrote a few things about this above.  If you are like 400-500 pounds, consult a trainer.  There’s specific types of movement you should be doing, and not my 6 mile runs.

 

Above all….take stock in your life.  Be grateful for things.  Stop and smell the roses.  Literally.  Take that 10 seconds out of your life and experience it.  Take time for YOU.  Prioritize YOU.  Remember what they say about the plane going down and you are with a child – you are supposed to grab the shit so you can save you AND your child?  This is the same thing here.  Most of my friends…all of us in our early 40s, no longer have our fathers.  Do you think we wished they took a little more time to help themselves so they could be around until 80 or 90?  Same for you.  If you want to be around for your kid’s wedding and grand kids – you need to really prioritize your health.

You will not be perfect.  Don’t try to be perfect.  Just do better than yesterday.  And be better tomorrow.