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5 Steps Toward Better Sleep

As health sciences continue to progress, it becomes increasingly clearer that we do not put sleep on the pedestal it deserves. While feeling tired and groggy all day may be why you hate not getting enough sleep, that only scratches the surface of all the associated negative side effects.
 
Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even decreased sex drive are just a few of the health issues related to not getting enough sleep. What’s even worse? There’s a good chance that many of you reading aren’t getting enough sleep.
 
While sleep needs can vary from person to person, Matthew Walker, a leading scientific figure on healthy sleeping habits, says that most people actually need 7-9 hours of sleep/night. Sound like a little more than what you get on average? You’re not alone.
 
We can do better, and we deserve better! I’ve done some research and practiced on my own, and I’ve found these 5 steps you can take toward getting better sleep:
 

  • Go to bed & wake up at the same time every day

After some basic research, this simple idea significantly impacted my sleep schedule once I implemented it into my life and stayed consistent. It has to do with our circadian rhythm– aka our inner clock.

Aside from biological reasons, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day provides a level to consistency to your life that may not happen anywhere else. Self admittedly, I follow this plan during weekdays only, usually waking up at 7:00 AM. However, since I’m usually up later on weekend nights, I allow myself to sleep until 8:30 on Saturday and Sunday to make up for the lost sleep.

If you’re interested in learning more about waking up at the same time to support your natural circadian rhythm, check out Brandon Peter’s thoughts on why this is important and how to make the habit stick.

  • Daily exercise (preferably not right before bed)

Sleep and exercise are like PB&J, cheese and crackers, or whatever cliché pairing comes to your mind. While sleep experts and researchers are not sure of the exact mechanisms that relate the two, studies show that exercise decreases insomnia and other sleep complaints.

We know that moderate aerobic exercise increases “slow-wave” sleep, also knows as “deep” sleep. It also raises your body temperature and releases endorphins, which can help stabilize and prepare your mind for rest at night. However, the release of these endorphins can create brain activity, which may keep some people awake. Not everyone struggles with sleeping after a workout, so this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

But, if you are finding it difficult to fall asleep at night, AND choose to workout in the late afternoon, then you may want to try exercising earlier in the day and see if your sleep improves.

  • Limit your caffeine intake

If we want to optimize our sleeping schedule, it’s probably a good idea to not pump our bodies full of a drug which stimulates alertness and mental performance. The funny thing is that caffeine and sleep have an inverse relationship: the need for one goes down when the consumption of the other goes up (or at least that’s what we may think- in reality, sleep negates caffeine, not the other way around).

We’ve all been there- cramming for a final all night or working around the clock to meet a deadline. We don’t get enough sleep, making it difficult to stay awake, and so we reach straight for the coffee, Red Bull, Monster, or whatever your energy fix may be. We do this, and repeat, and repeat again until we’re in a quick downward spiral consisting of way too much caffeine and too little sleep.

If we aren’t careful, our normal lives WITHOUT trying to rush to meet a deadline can go down this path. The caffeine not only makes us feel more alert, but it actually resets our circadian clock. If we want to maximize the benefits we receive from sleep, then it’s an excellent idea to limit the coffee, energy drinks, etc.

  • Develop a nighttime routine

We are creatures of habit, and using this natural inclination to stick to a schedule can provide some serious benefits for falling asleep. Developing a normal nighttime routine allows your mind and body to decompress from the day, relax, and prepare for a good night of sleep.

There’s no one specific routine to which you must adhere in order to have a solid nightly routine- just pick something that works for you. You probably want to look for activities which promote peace and calmness rather than chaos, so jamming out to your favorite music or watching a big game (while certainly warranted on occasion) isn’t the best way to settle down.

If you’re struggling to come up with ways to end your day, watch Tim Ferris’evening routine video to help spark some ideas:

  • Turn off screens 30 minutes before bed (I’m TERRIBLE at this)

 
To be perfectly honest, I feel like a hypocrite even typing this out, because I am absolutely horrendous with this one. Probably 5-6 nights a week, I fall asleep while watching YouTube videos or some other form of entertainment. You don’t have to do much digging to find out that there’s not much worse we can do for our sleep schedule.
 
(In case you don’t have time to “dig”, here are a couple of sources:
 
Sleep.org
Harvard Health
Science Daily
 
There you go- check them out!)
 
If you are struggling to fall asleep or get enough sleep at night, then this is an excellent place to start. Shutting off screens a few minutes before bed may be just what your mind needs to shift gears into relaxation mode.
 
While we all have 24 hours in a day, sometimes it can seem quite difficult to get our necessary 7, 8, or 9 hours. However, science clearly shows that we should place sleep on a pedestal of significant importance rather than supplementing our poor sleep schedule with stimulants.

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5 Tips to Maintain Mental Clarity

In between work/school, friends and family time, and all of the other activities which make up our days, it can be difficult to stay clear “upstairs.” It certainly doesn’t help that the most distracting and addictive device the modern world has ever seen, our cell phones, are always easily accessible.
 
In a society predicated on scientific and technological advancement, we strive to create a better tomorrow for our children and their children’s children. While most of us no longer have to be scared of physical ailments like polio or measles (looking at you, anti-vaccination crowd), we have developed a whole new “disease” which is equally as frightening to us: being alone with our own thoughts.
 
I believe mental clarity to be a modern-day human superpower, and a key identifying metric in those who become wildly successful. Not to say “success” is financially driven- If you wake up a happy person every day, then you are successful. However, this can be a tall task when we lack a clear vision or goal in our minds. Here are 5 tips I have recently used to help maintain mental clarity throughout the day:
 

  • Stop eating complete garbage

What we put into our bodies has a significant influence on what our minds create. I’ll repeat: What we put into our bodies has a significant influence on what our minds create. 

We can protest this fact and hate it all we want, but it doesn’t change its truth. I was not a total believer until I began taking my health more seriously after graduating college. Which, if I was truly paying attention, shouldn’t be the case. I should’ve known this to be true while in school, because once my relatively healthy diet and exercise routine ceased to exist, the pounds started pouring in, and I was constantly tired.

Nonstop soda, chips, candy, fried food- the whole deal! Wow, I wonder why I wanted to nap by 3:00 Pm every day? I’m not saying that you have to go vegan in order to maintain mental clarity, but you should take notice of the kind of foods you are consuming. If you see negative patterns, try switching up your diet and make notes on your results.

  • Actually, seriously, get adequate amounts of sleep

Why does the best advice, repeated most often, still manage to be ignored? Perhaps it’s because we just don’t listen, but in reality, I think it’s because we don’t actually believe the facts or the science behind sleep. If you are not convinced that you should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, then I certainly can’t convince you.

However, I recommend that you take some time this week to listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Matthew Walker, Founder & Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. If you listen to this podcast, research Matthew’s website, and STILL think 4-5 hours of sleep/night is enough for you, then you are in a very small demographic.

Sleep matters, and getting enough of it will drastically improve your mental clarity throughout the day.

  • De-clutter your physical space

A cluttered office can easily creep into becoming a cluttered mind. Again, I’m not an expert, so don’t take it from me. Rather, check out the findings of Dr. Sherrie Carter, where she shows 8 different reasons why “mess creates stress.”

The normal workings of a day will fill our minds with just about all they can handle, so the extra clutter of random items on the counter or floor unnecessarily adds to the “clutter” in our mind. This fix may be as simple as you cleaning up once a week, although if you truly have too much stuff, then it may be time to explore minimalism!

Think of minimalism as a lifestyle choice to live intentionally. One of my favorite minimalist content creators is Anthony Ongaro, founder of the Break the Twitchpodcast, website, & YouTube channel. Check out Anthony’s “easy ways to start decluttering today” video here.

  • Use time-blocking to schedule your day

Time blocking is a habit which has transformed my life in less than 1 year. At the beginning of 2019, I set a simple goal to start making a schedule for every day of the week, including weekends. Why? Partly because I wanted to be more productive, but the largest recognized benefit I’ve received has been the mental clarity which comes with it.

I no longer have to stress about remembering meeting times, deadlines, or project ideas. I type them into a Word document, put them into specific time blocks, and print my schedule every morning when I get to work. This has made a substantial difference in my mental clarity and allows me the best chance to make each day productive.

For a more in-depth look at time blocking, check out my blog post “5 Ways Time Blocking Changed My Life” (link).

  • Stop multi-tasking

 
Multi-tasking is not a skill, nor does it make you more productive. In fact, it has the EXACT opposite effect, which is a bit counterintuitive. Naturally, you’d think that getting multiple things done at the same time is the best way to stay productive, but the data suggests otherwise.
 
Dr. Cynthia Kubu and Dr. Andre Machado, both neurologists at the Cleveland Clinicshowed in Time magazine in April 2017 that we are wired to be mono-taskers. According to their referenced study, as little as 2.5% of the population can actually multi-task effectively. That is a very, very small percentage compared to the amount of us that think we’re good at it.
 
In order to maximize our mental clarity, we want to examine ourselves as a whole to see different areas which could change to our benefit. Maybe this week you cut down on the sugar or caffeine. Perhaps the week after you begin to de-clutter your home or office. Maybe, and this is a BIG maybe, we all actually decide to go to sleep at a decent hour?!
 
There’s no 1-size-fits-all formula to maintain our mental clarity, but one thing is certain: we have the power to be mentally clear if we proactively make decisions in favor of our wellbeing.

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5 Ways to Maintain Consistency at the Gym

Wanting to get in shape? You’re not alone. ReportLinker, a French technology company, conducted a survey which showed that while ¾ of Americans consider it “very important” to look good and be in shape, less than 1/3 of those people exercise regularly.
 
Obviously, as a culture, our work ethic/habits are not meeting our ambitions/goals/ideas. Truth be told, many of us (including me) have struggled to consistently exercise. In the last few months, I have been able to “crack the code” for my personal consistency in the gym, and believe that some of these principles can help you, too!
 

  • Establish WHY you want to go to the gym

Classically, I’ll start with Simon Sinek’s famous quote (and book) “Start with WHY.” This goes much, much deeper than “I want to lose weight” or “I want to look good.” You need to dig way deep down, be honest with yourself, and find your “WHY.”

For me, it was a combination of wanting to improve my overall health/appearance so that I could be intellectually honest with myself and occupation. As many of you know, I co-own a sales and distribution company within the health and wellness space. As the CEO, I usually find myself being the “face” of the company in the US, often making in-person meetings with buyers, nutritionists, consumers, etc.

When I started, I DID NOT look the part. Coming in at a towering 5’8, there was definitely no reason for me to be 210 lbs. This body did not reflect the person I was inside, nor the person I wanted to be seen as among my peers and colleagues. However, it was 100% my fault, because the unhealthy habits I formed in college caused me to be overweight.

So, for me, THAT was the spark which ignited my health journey. That idea alone gave me the motivation, but I needed much more than that to sustain any long-term results.

  • Start “smaller” than you think you should

If you think you can go to the gym 4 days a week, start with 3. If you think you can go 3, start with 2… and so on.

Often times when we first set out to accomplish a goal, we are super pumped at the beginning because it is fresh on our minds, and the motivation is still there. However, as I will reference many times, James Clear once said, “We do not rise to the level of our motivation, we fall to the level of our systems.”  

Life gets in the way- it’s just a fact. Why do you think so many people buy gym memberships in January and don’t sniff the gym again after mid-March? It’s because their motivation runs out before they’ve implemented sufficient systems. 

Starting “small” allows it to be much easier to develop the habit/routine of daily exercise. What starts out as somewhat difficult becomes easy surprisingly quickly. Once 2 days a week in the gym becomes a breeze, move to 3, then to 4, etc. While this method may not get you “abs in 60 days” as those infomercials tell you, it will allow you to establish exercise habits that, when done correctly, can last a lifetime.

  • Sprinkle your daily diet with a “reward system”

Everyone likes rewards! This one is pretty simple, yet I have found it very effective. To make this as easy as possible to understand, I’ll give a personal example of how I’ve used this tactic to motivate me in the gym and to stay consistent.

During the week (Monday – Friday), I do what is called intermittent fasting. That’s a topic for another blog, but this essentially means that I fast from 11 PM until 5 PM every 24-hour cycle, and have an eating window from 5 PM to 11 PM.

I always break my fast on weekdays around 5/5:30 with a meal consisting of chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli mixed together in a bowl with some type of sauce concoction. While this isn’t the most exciting meal ever, it delivers key nutrients which I miss during my fasting hours. This practice would be absolutely miserable if I did it every day, but I’ve found that limiting that restriction to the weekdays, while giving myself the weekends to basically eat whatever I want, has worked fantastically.

Summary: Find a “reward” that helps you stay consistent without ruining all of your hard work.

  • Set a normal routine and stick to it

Setting a normal routine will be your absolute best friend when trying to establish regular exercise.

Do you have a “morning routine”? Everyone’s may be a little different, but most people I know drink coffee in the morning. Rest assured- snow, sleet, or sunshine- their morning will start with a cup of coffee. Why? Because it’s routine.

You get used to the way that the coffee tastes, as its warm goodness soothes your throat. You love the rush that the caffeine gives you, so much so that it can lead to caffeine addiction. Imagine this: You can feel the SAME WAY about going to the gym!

It seems crazy, but many fitness enthusiasts will tell you that the way exercising makes them feel is just as addicting as that morning cup-a-joe or that lunch break cigarette. In order to get to that point, however, you need to develop a routine and stick to it!

  • Forced accountability (you don’t HAVE to have a gym partner)

 
Today is the day that you get rid of the excuse that you can’t go to the gym without a gym partner. That is complete, utter, absolute, good-for-nothing HOT GARBAGE!!!
 
* Calms down *
 
Seriously, I say this as earnestly as possible because I used to 100% believe it. I believed that I couldn’t go to the gym without a gym partner, and I’d use any excuse in the book to convince myself of it. Yes, I’m talking to YOU! You cannot use the excuse that you “don’t have a spotter” to not go to the gym. If you actually think about it, how absolutely insane does that sound?
 
“I don’t have a spotter to help me lift more weight than I can on my own, so I will do the safe thing and sit here on my couch instead of going at all.” LOL- STOP IT! You’re using the same excuse I was by going down that road, and you’ll probably get the same results I did, too! (and if you need a spotter, just ask someone kindly in the gym :D)
 
At the end of the day, YOU are the only person who can develop consistency in your exercise routine and lead the healthy life to which you aspire. While I can’t do it for you, I truly believe that if you adopt these habits, you will see better results! You owe it to yourself, friends, and family to be the best version of you!

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5 Tips to Develop an Exercise Routine

We do not rise to the level of our motivation, we fall to the level of our systems.” – James Clear

Exercise! For some of you reading, that word gets you FIRED UP! You LOVEthe gym, the intensity of a great lift, or the grind of a long endurance run. Working out makes you feel energized, focused, and mentally stable.
 
For others, the paragraph above could not be further from the truth! You HATE the thought of going to the gym, and even if you did, you’d have no idea where to start. You are overweight, or at least not making healthy choices. You find yourself drinking extra coffee, energy drinks, etc. just to stay awake during the day, and eventually crash anyway.
 
That’s where I was in June 2018. I was finishing school while traveling the Southeast trying to grow our other business (which funny enough is in the health and wellness industry), all while routinely making poor dietary decisions. On top of all that, I allowed the excuse of work/school to keep me out of the gym.
 
In July 2018, I said no more. I was tired of being unhealthy and out of shape, so I decided to make a change.
 
These 5 tips are what I found to be most helpful to develop a consistent exercise routine:
 

  • Establish WHY you want to exercise

I’m quite a fan of Simon Sinek, who is famous for his book (and movement) Start with Why. I love it because it was one of the first pieces of “bingo” content I ever read in the business/personal development world. Essentially, the idea is that before you can truly commit to something and be fulfilled by it, you need to understand WHY you are doing it.

Before you just run into the gym, take a step back and figure out your WHY. Are you wanting to look better for your spouse? Are you trying to attract a spouse? Do you want to get healthy for yourself? Do you have a medical condition that requires you to lose weight?

The beauty of your WHY is that it is YOURS, and yours only. It can be different from everyone else’s, but it needs to be so deeply planted in your mind that the thought of not achieving it makes you sick.

  • Develop specific goals around your WHY

After you’ve solidified your WHY, it’s time to set some specific goals. If you’re WHY is that you want to look better, then set a goal conducive to that. If you’re overweight, set a goal (with a deadline) to lose x number of pounds. Skinny? Time to hit the weights, and set specific weight goals for each lift.

This point may seem elementary, but a goal not written down is ONLY a wish. Write your goals down or type them as a reminder on your phone. Wherever you put it, make sure you can see it daily.

  • Consult with a trainer/doctor to determine what exercise you should be doing

All of our bodies are different! So, why do we get so tied to one specific workout routine or diet? Does the Keto work for many people? Yes! Does intermittent fasting help some people burn fat quickly? Yes (it did for me)! Does eating 8 meals a day help some people build muscle? Of course!

However, that doesn’t automatically mean that we should immediately flock to one specific dietary or exercise regimen. We all have different needs, so it is my #1 recommendation to grasp a better understanding of your body by setting an appointment with a doctor and/or nutritionist/trainer. Understand where your biggest health issues arise, and put together a proper schedule to work on those.

  • Start with less volume than you think necessary

If you can go from zero exercise to 7 days/week in the gym, more power to you! However, most of us can’t, so this point will be for us.

Matt D’Avella is a filmmaker who puts out consistent content on YouTube and Patreon, and also hosts his own podcast called The Ground Up Show (named after his affinity for a good cup of joe- aka the best method, a pour over). On episode #083, he and James Clear discuss how setting the bar lower for yourself early on can actually be beneficial rather than restrictive.

I’ve linked the episode for you to watch, but the idea’s basic premise is this: Let’s say you currently do not exercise, and then you set a goal to go to the gym 5 times a week. The first step is to ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that I will go the gym 5 days a week?” This is where brutal honesty with yourself is absolutely paramount- lying doesn’t help.

If your answer to that question is 7/10 or less, then drop the # of days by 1 day. Do this until you are confident in the chances being 8/10 or higher, and then STICK TO IT! This will help you create momentum moving forward, and will allow you to get several “wins” in the gym without being overwhelmed. The beautiful thing is, once this gets easy, you can add more!

In July 2018, I had to start small. I had tried the “all or nothing” approach before, and I ended up with nothing every single time. So, I started going to the gym just 3 days a week. While there, I would just do 15 minutes of cardio, and then 20 minutes or so of lifting. Then I’d leave!

This workout certainly would not impress any Hollywood bodybuilders, but it’s what I did to get started. When it got easier, I added on more volume. Then, I started to see change. I took progress pics every month (which I highly recommend), and let those tell the story of my journey rather than the scale.

Today, I lift weights 5 days a week, and exercise in some form every single day. I feel great, and certainly look much better (believe it or not, 210 lbs didn’t look great on my 5’8 frame lol).

  • Allow yourself 3 months of little to no progress

 
This point is about playing tricks on your mind. Will you go the gym for 3 months without seeing any results? No. (If you see no results after 3 months, it may be time for another doctor’s visit).
 
If you consistently exercise over 3 months, you will see results. Depending on the severity of your current health issues, you could potentially see HUGE results. Regardless, the key is to give yourself a 3-month time span to not worry about immediate feelings or results. This is the time for you to just put your head down, focus on your goals, and stay consistent!
 
For me, this was the biggest point out of all 5. I had gone to the gym off and on essentially all of college, and it wasn’t until I adopted this mindset that I finally developed the consistency necessary to sustain long term results.
 
The clock will continue to tick regardless of whether you exercise. If you are not happy with the way you look or feel, then now is the perfect time to do something about it. Start small, stay consistent, and see results!

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5 Steps Toward Developing a Better Morning Routine

If you have been using the internet for, say, the last 5 years, then you have probably come across a few “life hack” videos explaining how to set up habits which help you win the day. While there’s plenty of great content out there, I think sometimes that message gets thwarted by pushing specific ideologies around HOW to do this.
 
Probably the most overused idea I see all over the internet is the huge “wake up at 4 AM” craze. Now, before I get any hate mail, please note that I am not saying this is a dumb idea. Many people have found a vast amount of success in starting their mornings very early, and I am not qualified to attempt to discredit those testimonies. If it works for you, then go for it!
 
However, I think the message lacks a bit of nuance. If you’re waking up at 4 AM, then you are probably having to go to sleep very early as well in order to get enough rest- which isn’t necessarily being communicated well. Aside from that, there’s no “secret” that you unlock by waking up that early. Again, may work for some, but we certainly don’t have to do that to be successful.
 
What we need are not ultra-specific rules, but guidelines. Here are 5 steps I’ve recently taken which has enhanced my morning routine:
 

  • Schedule your day the night before

I’ve found that scheduling, or “time blocking” my day into distinct segments has allowed me to become far more productive. Even more so, far more intentional, which I believe is just as important. If you take a few moments each day to view tomorrow in a macro-sense, it will allow you to construct your schedule in much more meaningful ways.

Setting a schedule takes the stress of spontaneity off your shoulders- you don’t have to think about what to do! You’ve already taken the time to step back and think about the most important things which you need to complete; now all you have to do is DO IT!

  • Wake up at the same time every day

BEFORE YOU GET DEFENSIVE… this doesn’t necessarily have to include the weekend (although, Brandon Peters, MD would say you should).

However, if you’re trying to get this habit to stick early on, it’s not a bad idea. Nonetheless, setting this normality in your sleeping schedule reinforces your circadian rhythm, aka your 24-hour biological clock. This sets normalcy in your everyday routine, and more importantly, gives you the best chance to get the best sleep of your life.

I adopted this habit in 2019, and it has significantly impacted my sleeping schedule, as well as how well rested I now feel in the morning.

  • Establish your “morning wins”

What are the 2, 5, 9 things that are under your control every morning that you would feel great about accomplishing? They can be as simple as making your bed or doing laundry. You can devote time to developing physically in the gym, mentally through meditation or reading, or whatever it is that makes a positive impact in your life.

How many times have you felt like your day was ruined before it even started? I’d be willing to bet that you didn’t give yourself ample time to wake up, exercise physically and mentally, eat a healthy breakfast, and prepare for the day.

Yes, it’s easier said than done. But we have to crawl before we can walk and run. What are 2-3 things you can implement into your morning routine which help you jumpstart your day?

  • Develop a vitamin and supplement regimen

No, you don’t need to spend $200 on protein powder every month. Truth be told, you can survive off of absolutely zero supplements if your diet is good enough. Eating whole, organic foods filled with nutrients is always the best way to stay healthy, and makes for an amazing breakfast!

However, many of us simply do not maintain a diet that receives the necessary vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, etc. necessary for our bodies to be functioning at optimal levels. This is where having a limited number of natural supplements in your daily routine comes into play. If you’re interested in a basic supplement plan, check out our recent post: 5 Health Supplements Any Adult Should Consider Using (needs link once blog is posted).

  • DRINK WATER


Nope, I’m not your mother. But science tells us that each morning, your body wakes up slightly dehydrated. Rachel Lapidos of Well + Good interviewedPaula Simpson, a holistic beauty nutritionist, about this very topic. Simpson said that drinking water in the morning rehydrates your body, allows for better digestion, helps to fuel your morning workout, and famously hydrates your dry skin.
 
As much as we coffee lovers hate it, it’s best to stick to water upon waking up. Let our bodies wake up, hydrate, and get going before we flood our system with caffeine. Again, easier said than done, but we’re trying to get 5 minutes better today, remember?!
 
Developing an excellent morning routine could be exactly what you need to propel your personal life or career to a new level. Win the morning, win the day!

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5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t “Crash Diet”

Obligatory reminder: I’m not a doctor, so you shouldn’t treat me as one. If you have specific health issues, don’t listen to me, consult with your doctor, physician, or nutritionist. I write from personal experience, not a medical background!
 
Weight Watchers, Atkins, Paleo, Keto, & Low Carb are just a few of the popular diets readily available for anyone to start right now. Famous backers for these diets, such as Oprah with Weight Watchers or Joe Rogan with Keto, also aids in their popularity.
 
Please understand that I am NOT saying these diets are inherently bad. Most of them have plenty of great health benefits, and they can be a great way to change your life if you’re willing to stick to them. But, THAT is where the line is drawn- “if you’re willing to stick to them.”
 
My position is not that these diets are bad, but rather that our interpretation of “diet” is bad. Here are 5 reasons why we shouldn’t crash diet:
 

  • Crash diets give a short-term solution to a long-term need

The longer we stay healthy, assuming no external issues, the longer we live. Health, then, is something we should view through a macro lens rather than being super worried about day-to-day progress. This desire to see immediate change is usually the #1 thing keeping us from actually seeing it through over a longer period of time, and crash diets (in my humble opinion) feed this unhealthy desire for many people.

We want 6-pack abs, and we want them tomorrow. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. If it did, do you think close to 2/3 of Americans would still be overweight?

This short term desire to be healthy, plus my laziness in not setting up proper systems for myself, is the main reason why I was 40lbs overweight for most of my time in college. Want to be healthier or look better? Put in the work and the time!

  • The goal of health is happiness, not weight loss

There is a sense of clarity and accomplishment that comes with gradual progress in the gym and the kitchen. Over a longer healthy journey, you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know before. You get a good sense of what works for you, what doesn’t, and where your strengths/weaknesses lie.

This does not happen in a crash diet. Honestly, you don’t really learn anything other than to say “no” to any type of balance. There’s also a bit of a misconception in that stars who subscribe to certain diets, such as Joe Rogan with Keto, do this ALL THE TIME. It’s his lifestyle, not a 2-month sprint.

Your goal shouldn’t be to lose weight, but to be healthier and happier. Usually, they go hand in hand, but only when your motives are clear.

  • You can lose weight and still be unhealthy

Obviously, losing weight often leads to you looking better- which is great! However, if the goal becomes weight loss, you can do some pretty unhealthy things to meet your goal. A person’s weight just isn’t that great of a metric to truly test how healthy they are.

Those that have been exercising and eating healthy foods for a long time can vouch for this: your nutrition matters more to your overall health than exercise! If you had the option to workout every day and have a diet of potato chips and soda, or never work out and eat healthy foods, you’d find that the 2ndmethod will give far better results for both your physical and mental health. Fortunately, that’s not a choice we have to make!

Losing weight is a metric to track your progress, but should never be the only goal.

  • Ultra-restriction leads to binge eating

Those who have military-levels of discipline might be able to go on a super restrictive diet and be fine. If you can do that, awesome! Do that! However, I cannot, and know this because I’ve tried it many times.

Sure, I might go a couple of weeks while only eating grilled chicken and broccoli, but eventually, I’m going to give in. I see the chocolate muffin, I JUST eat one of them, which leads to eating 4 of them, which leads to washing it down with a large coke, etc. etc. Ultra-restriction leads to binge eating, which is yet another reason why crash diets are not ideal.

Again, while some of you might be able to stick to a very strict diet for a long period of time, I’m willing to bet that most of you reading fall into the same category as me. If that’s the case, why not just accept that fact, and adopt a long-term approach? Food for thought (pun intended).

  • Even if it works, what next?

 
Alright, let’s say your crash diet actually “works” (whatever that means to you). Perhaps you drop some weight very quickly, so you build some momentum and start feeling better about yourself. You FINALLY lost the weight- now what?
 
This is my biggest issue with crash diets– they help you lose weight, but they don’t really teach you how to live a healthy life. They show you how to quickly correct your poor choices, not how to sustain lifelong good choices. A crash diet may teach you some discipline, but it doesn’t teach you practicality, nor will it equip you with sustainable habits. 
 
If you’re overweight or unhealthy, I empathize with you. It makes you uncomfortable, and can genuinely get in your head and kill your confidence. However, while you may not want to hear it, a crash diet is most likely not the best thing for you right now (unless you are severely overweight. In that case, you shouldn’t be listening to me anyway, and should consult with your trusted physician.)
 
Make a promise to yourself, and just try it for 6 months. Get your nutrition in check, but look to incorporate foods which you can enjoy without feeling guilty. Start exercising, and add a little more every week. If you’ll commit to that for just 6 months, I think you’ll be very surprised by how much progress you can make!

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5 Misconceptions About Mental Illness

Mental health has recently come to the forefront of public discourse, and it’s long overdue. Here are just a few facts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
 

  • Mental illness costs America $193 billion in lost earnings per year
  • Mood disorders are the 3rd most common cause of hospitalization in the US for ages 18-44
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the 2nd leading cause among ages 10-34
  • More than 90% of those who die via suicide show symptoms of mental illness

Numbers don’t lie, mental illness is a serious issue around the world, especially in the United States. While plenty of research is being done today to change these stats, there are still many misconceptions about mental illness. I’ve listed 5 popular ones here in hopes of creating a discussion around how we can better serve our peers:

  • Mental illness affects a small portion of the population 

False!

Fact1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness every year, and many of them do it in complete and utter silence. While these various mental illnesses can have a wide range of severity, each of them should be taken very seriously.

If you have more than a couple of friends/co-workers, there is a very good chance that at least one of them suffers from a minor form of mental illness, even if you have no idea. This is not some “minor issue”, ladies and gentlemen. It is a widespread problem that affects millions of people every single day.

If we want to empower our friends with mental health issues to come forward and get help, then it’s time for all of us to stop acting like it’s a rarity, because in reality, it is commonplace. 

  • Mental illness not as serious as “concrete” illness 

FALSE!

There are now more patients suffering from mental diseases in the United States than from all other diseases combined. So, why do many of us still treat them almost like a 2nd hand illness?

By 2nd hand, I mean just not quite as important or serious. When we hear that someone has cancer, we panic, usually for good reason. But when we hear someone is suffering from mental illness, it doesn’t hit us the same way. Why? Some would argue it’s because “we can’t see it”, but I disagree. You can’t see a cancer patient’s cancer without proper equipment, but you can see the side effects. In the same way, you may not be able to see someone’s mental illness, but you can see the dark fruit it bears.

It can be completely debilitating, and in some very unfortunate cases, life ending. It’s not fun to talk about, but more important now than ever. Mental health has serious implications on our lives, and we should be willing to do whatever it takes to work on ourselves so that we may help others.

  • Mental illness stems from personal issues/character flaws

FALSE! 

This line of thinking is very harmful, whether you have a mental illness or not. If you don’t, it inhibits your ability to genuinely help others because your perception of their issues is completely wrong. If you do suffer from them, the consequences can be far worse.

Do not blame yourself for an issue you cannot control. That doesn’t give you an excuse to not get help, but there’s no need for self-deprecating thoughts or speech.

  • It’s rude to ask friends/family about their mental health

It might be awkward or uncomfortable at first, but it’s certainly not rude. If anything, your concern could be the first step toward drastically changing that person’s life. Or, in severe cases, save it.

Think about this with me: Sure, mental illness can be a very sensitive topic, carrying with it years of baggage and circumstances which you cannot control or change. However, isn’t it still worth it? Isn’t the risk of a little awkwardness worth showing those close to you that you care about them? Of course, it is!

I don’t know very many people who would say that it’s not worth it- so why aren’t we having these conversations? Maybe it’s because we don’t think it’s that serious, or maybe we aren’t paying close enough attention. Whatever the reason may be, we should get passed allowing awkwardness to keep us from checking in on the people we care about.

  • Mental illness has to last forever

Many mental illnesses are completely curable! And even if there is no complete cure, treatment can make a world of difference in your life! Due to the recent spike in interest and research surrounding mental health, today’s treatments are more sophisticated and accurate, and they are constantly evolving to get better!

Researchers, scientists, and mental health specialists are doing amazing work in this field right now- don’t let their work go to waste! They are doing this to help you, just as they have helped millions of other people. If you are struggling, that’s okay, but don’t stay that way. There are people who care about you and have access to a plethora of resources which change lives all over the world.

I want to end this with some resources which you can use to help yourself or someone you know struggling with mental illness:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

  • If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-877-726-4727

  • Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

Participate in a Clinical Trial

  • Want to be a part of the solution to mental illness? Visit ClinicalTrials.gov to learn more about how to participate, refer a patient, or learn about studies

 
Better Help:
Their mission: Making professional counseling accessible, affordable, convenient – so anyone who struggles with life’s challenges can get help, anytime, anywhere.

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5 Misconceptions About Weight Loss

Let’s talk about weight loss! As with any health and wellness article I write, please realize that I am not a health expert, nor do I claim to be. Any changes you make to your daily diet or workout routine should be because of your own research and/or recommendation from your trusted physician or nutritionist.
 
With that being said, there were many ideas I had about weight loss which I later found to be either inaccurate or 100% false. There’s so much information on the internet, and that can make it difficult for us to truly understand what to do. Below are just 5 of these common misconceptions:
 

  • Following a crash diet is not ideal for long-term results

This isn’t a “knock” on some of the popular diets in 2019. For many people, different programs like the ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting work very well (I have personally been intermittent fasting for the last 10 months).

However, it’s a HUGE knock on those trying to sell you a SUPER restrictive diet for a few months just so you can lose some weight and go back to your less-than-ideal eating habits. This approach is absolute garbage! I should know- I tried it all 4 years of college.

I gained roughly 40 pounds within my first 1 ½ years while in school. That’s not “stress”, that’s having no self-control, and I fully admit it. What made it worse? I tried to lose weight once or twice a year and failed every single time because I was thinking about it the wrong way.

The truth is that if we want to become healthy long-term, we don’t need a diet, we need a lifestyle change. We need small habits which over time deliver big results, not a crash-course diet which deprives us of everything we enjoy eating. While some people find success with that method, most of us quit after a couple of weeks. Remember: If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. 

  • Eliminating all fats from your diet is not healthy

“Fat makes you fat” is scientifically false- there’s no other way around it. FAT IS NOT YOUR ENEMY!

Contrary to popular belief, SOME fat actually promotes overall health (and specifically heart health). Monounsaturated (found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts) are excellent for heart health. In fact, one of the most common polyunsaturated fats are Omega-3s, which are the essential nutrients found in fish oil.

Fat doesn’t make you fat- too much bad fat makes you fat. Understand the difference, and then eat your avocados! 😀

  • You cannot target weight loss in specific areas of your body

Spot reduction does not exist outside of liposuction. This is another HUGE idea which I did not understand until recently. Fact: It does not matter how many crunches, sit-ups, or leg lifts you do- if stomach fat is covering your abs, you will NEVER see them!

Literally, never, ever, ever!

That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true, and the moment we accept it is the moment we can take necessary steps to get that 6-pack (or at least lose some belly fat). The trick is quite simple, and it’s been true since the dawn of man: If we want to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume. 

Before you go out and buy the newest Ab Blaster Deluxe 5000, take a look at what you’re eating. Understand how much cardio you are doing every week. Get a baseline understanding of how many calories you need to burn a day in order to be in a caloric deficit.

After that, you can look to specifically target your abs (or any specific body part). Don’t misinterpret my intentions- ab exercises are EXCELLENT for developing solid core strength and overall aesthetics, but doing them alone will probably not get you the results you want.

  • All calories are not the same- WHAT we eat matters!

Having a daily caloric intake goal is a nice way to keep track of your progress and keep yourself accountable. However, if that goal becomes your sole focus, you may fall behind in your weight loss journey.

Think of it this way: If your goal is to consume 2,000 calories a day, you can do that by eating 2-3 good sized meals filled with protein, healthy fats, and some carbs. Alternatively, you can eat 13.33 Twinkies (roughly 2,000 cals) and meet your caloric requirements that way.

Did both options meet your calorie goal? Yep! Was the 2nd one a good idea or even remotely healthy? Nope! Obviously, your situation may not be that extreme, but using an extreme scenario gets the point across. What you eat matters to the way you feel and look, so make it a goal to incorporate healthy foods in your life rather than just trying to hit a specific calorie intake.

  • Make incremental changes rather than changing everything at once

 
This is the biggest mistake I made when trying to lose weight in college. While this may be counterintuitive, and perhaps not as motivating as going as hard as you can from the very beginning, making small changes to your lifestyle at the beginning will create the best chance for your success.
 
When I wanted to lose weight, I’d say to myself, “Alright, Sean. Starting today, you are going to eat nothing but clean calories, do 45 minutes of cardio a day, lift weights 5 days a week, and find the cure for cancer by next Thursday.”
 
Ok, the last one was a joke, but in all honesty that method was going to get me about as close to my weight loss goals as it was to me curing cancer (while I’m a ‘jokester’, cancer kills people every day. Check out the American Association for Cancer Research to donate and learn about cancer research being done today!).
 
Rather than trying to do everything at once, start with small goals like going to the gym 2-3 times a week, limiting yourself to 1 treat/day, and then go from there. Will this take longer than a crash diet which deprives yourself of any enjoyment? Yes. Will you have a better chance of actually losing weight and gaining physical/mental health in the process? You bet!