Josh Bowen: Stop Comparing Yourself

joshJudging by the title, you may not think this will not be a fitness or nutrition related post. I, however, believe fitness is 100% tied to our self esteem and how we feel about ourselves rather than actually picking up weights or doing cardio. We exercise to feel better about ourselves and ultimately give ourselves more self esteem and confidence. Why do you think so many people take gym selfies? Let’s be honest, its not a workout if you don’t record it right? I’m being sarcastic…obviously.

BUT…I am serious about fitness tying into our psyche. As our bodies improve our self esteem should improve as well, right? If you only compared yourself to yourself you would find  that you would be happier with your results and feel the momentum swing of results (no matter how big or small). The unfortunate part, as a general rule, we don’t compare ourselves to ourselves, we compare ourselves to society norms (whatever that is) and/or other people. This is a recipe for disaster not only in our results but also how we perceive our results. I truly believe this derails people from achieving their personal Mount Everest.

So many times, as a trainer, I am inundated with this:

“I want Jennifer Lopez’s butt”

“I want the Rock’s shoulders”

“How come my arms don’t look like some of your other clients”

I am just as guilty. I fully admit it. I often have to stop myself from looking at the Rock or some other athlete and thinking, “Damn I’m working hard but these guys are bigger and leaner than I am.” This thinking is futile. This thinking is a waste of time. This thinking will derail you off YOUR goals.

I feel bad for women in this scenario because of all the media messages and marketing that is thrown their way. The magazine stand with the perfect model on it can get in your head and think you are less than what your are. The Victoria’s Secret fashion show with the twigs walking around with no muscle puts a stigma in people’s head, that this is how you are suppose to look. It’s all bulls**t. YOU and you alone define what you want to look like, not society, not Vogue magazine, not Sports Illustrated and sure as not Hollywood.

So what do we do to stop this wasteful process? I have a few ideas;

Compare Yourself to Yourself

We are all born unique and different from everyone else. Therefore we should celebrate our individuality and not worry about what any one else is doing or looks like. Your journey is your journey, not the person next to you. Not what you see on television It is personal to you. It is futile for me to compare myself to the Rock. He has different genetics, different circumstances, different behavior patterns. We are no the same. We may train the same, but we are not the same. The same goes for you. Be different. Be you.

Skews your Judgement

The quest for the perfect body can often lead to extreme measures. Supplements, weight loss diets, extreme fitness routines, everything underneath the sun to be “perfect.” Well there is no such thing. This attempt can skew your judgement and start trying and doing things you often wouldn’t. Put the diet pills down, they are only hurting you. Eat real food and pick up heavy things, it works.

Psychologically Damaging

How we feel about ourselves is all we have. Our confidence in ourselves and our bodies is vitally important. When we follow the status quo we lose our identity and thus lose our precious form of self. Believe in yourself. Get 1% better everyday and let that carry you to your goals.

I realize this piece is all over the board and may not be for everyone. I also realize that most of us can be more happier with ourselves if we just stop comparing ourselves to others. Take this article to heart and maybe share with others.

Josh Bowen: What is Causing Your Headaches?

joshHope everyone had a great weekend and is ready to attack Monday like nobody’s business. The year is flying by and the holidays will be here before you know. The time to be consistent and focused is important. What you do now, will effect what you do later.

We have all had headaches at some point or another in our lives. Some literal and some figuratively (haha). But what is a headache? And more importantly, what causes a headache?

A headache is not actually a pain within the brain, or the brain does not have pain sensors. The pain is caused by a disturbance to pain sensitive tissues around the brain. Nine areas around the head and neck have these pain sensors (cranium, muscles around the neck, eyes, ears etc.). There are also 200 different classifications for headaches but they fall into one of two categories; primary vs. secondary.

Primary headaches are benign, reoccurring headaches not caused by disease or structural problems. Secondary headaches are caused by underlying disease such as; colds, ear infections, tumors etc.).

The causes of headaches is not 100% known but there are some research studies to suggest that your nutrition has a vital role in: determining how often you get headaches, how severe the pain is and how long they last. Here are 4 common nutritional deficiencies that may be causing your headaches:

Magnesium and Folate

If you do not get the recommended 320 to 420 mg of magnesium per day, it could lead to migraine like symptoms. Magnesium helps the release of several neurotransmitters (ACH, dopamine) that are vital to movement and stress reduction. You can boost magnesium in your diet by eating more green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Although it is rare, a deficiency in folate can lead to headaches as well. Unless pregnant or nursing, you should be getting 400 micrograms per day. Sources of folate are eggs, nuts, beans, and seafood.

Going Low Carb

We could argue at length about carbohydrates but going to too low carb for too long can lead to headaches. 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day is considered “low carb” and can significantly increase the likelihood of getting headaches because the brain is not getting its preferred fuel source, glucose.

Vitamin A and Zinc Toxicity

Too much of any thing is a bad thing. Especially Vitamin A and Zinc. Vitamin A a fat soluble vitamin that if taken above the recommended levels can cause health concerns. 10,000 IUs per day is above the recommended dosages for Vitamin A, this can lead to headaches. Too much Zinc, 40 mg per day can also lead to headaches. Usually this is from over dosing on supplementation rather than from food sources.

Food Allergies

Being allergic to something can cause mild to severe headaches. Wheat, dairy, nuts, eggs etc. can cause severe headaches if eaten by someone with an allergy. Proper allergy testing would be recommended if headaches are a constant to see what you were allergic too and possibly taking it out of your diet.

Bonus!

Dehydration 

Becoming dehydrated can lead to severe headaches in people. It  is a way of your body telling you to drink water. Making sure you are getting over 100 ounces of water per day will keep you from being dehydrated especially in the hot sun.

Headaches are your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t right. Look to your nutrition for the clues.

Josh Bowen: 4 Reasons Why Building Muscle Should be Your Top Priority

Summer has flown by and by the time we know it, it will be Christmas time again. I digress, however. Here is to a great week and continued great month of July.

Onto the topic at hands…muscle.

I posted the above picture this week on both my personal Facebook page and the Aspire page, to great feedback. It essentially shows six different bodies, who all weigh the exact same and are the same height. But how could that be? How could the same person weigh the same, be the same height and look completely different? Answer….MUSCLE. Muscle is the reason for the discrepancy in aesthetics. So muscle weighs more than fat? No. And every time someone says that it makes me cringe. One pound of fat and muscle weigh the same, as do one pound of rocks and feathers. Difference is, it takes more muscle and feathers to weigh a pound. Muscle takes up less space, therefore you can weigh the same and look dramatically different. You also carry less water when you have more muscle.

So does that mean the scale is lying to me? Probably. Your scale is not accounting for the amount of muscle you have on your body which can make the number on the scale irrelevant. In fact, just today I had a client text me that they had gained 12 pounds from when they started but dropped 9% bodyfat, making for a dramatic difference in physique. My question is always which would you rather have; less weight or better looking body? You know the answer to that.

So why is muscle so important and should be a top priority for everyone?

Muscle Fights Obesity

Less muscle equals more body fat. More body fat leads to insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity leads to diabetes. Both are inflammatory. Both will cause you to eat your muscle tissue up. Muscle increases your insulin sensitivity, keeps your body fat low and helps fight off diseases.

Muscle Fights the Aging Process

After the age of 25, in untrained individuals, you can lose up to 10% of your muscle tissue every decade. This will help lead to obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and many other diseases. Essentially without building muscle, you will end up fat and weak by the time you are 70-80 years old. Quality of life will be low and disease will be high. Correct that by adding quality muscle to your frame and keep doing it year after year.

Muscle Boosts Your Metabolism

The age old saying of “muscle burns 50 calories at rest for each pound versus fat.” is false. However, the more muscle you have on your body the more your body will need oxygen to recover from your workout, thus burning more body fat and upping your metabolism. This is called Excessive Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. This is the “after burn” after your workout that helps boosts your metabolism and decrease your body fat.

Side note: No one and I mean no one can survive, long term, on a diet of 1200 calories or less. Not a woman and not a man. It is a recipe for metabolic destruction and long term issues. DON’T do it! Eat to lose people, eat to lose.

Muscle Looks Good

Everyone wants to look good, period end of story. That is why we are here, to look good. Sure there are other reasons but ultimately we want to feel good and look good. Muscle looks good on everyone, literally everyone. No one has ever said that muscle looked bad on someone. Sure those freaky bodybuilders may have too much muscle but they look better than having too much body fat. Men, women whoever, all look great with muscle. Just how much is a personal decision. Muscle is sexy, period.

I joke all the time in the studio saying, “if you don’t have muscle, you don’t have sh*t.” It is a joke but there is a lot of truth in jest from time to time. Muscle is the driving force in our everyday lives from the time we get out of bed until the time we go to bed, muscle is involved. We must grow it an take care of it.

Josh Bowen: Metabolism

joshOur topic for this week: metabolism. And more importantly how do we increase it. But first we must cover what metabolism actually is. Scientifically, metabolism is the amount of calories you burn everyday without doing anything. This is referred to as resting metabolic rate or basal metabolic rate (BMR). So essentially, it is the amount of calories you would burn while laying in bed for 24 hours. It is impacted heavily on the following: the size of the individual, the amount of muscle on the individual, hormonal factors such as T3 and T4 conversion and amount of testosterone and growth hormone release, also environmental factors such as sleep, foods we eat and alcohol we drink. Some of these you can control (amount of toxins you put in your body and sleep you get) and some you cannot (hormone factors).  So how do I increase my metabolism?  Eat more When someone wants to lose weight, the first thing you try to do is cut their calories. Unfortunately,this can back fire and crush your metabolism. For women, eating less than 1200 calories a day will kill your metabolism. It will put your body into a state of shock and at some point, everything you eat will be converted to storage because your body thinks it is starving. I’d say 1800-2000 calories for men is a baseline. If you are eating smart and eating the right whole foods, this will increase your metabolism and have a dramatic effect on your body fat.  Drink Water Researches have found that drinking water (at least 64 ounces a day) can help boost the metabolism to burn at least 50 more calories a day. That is 5lbs per year. I advise everyone to drink as much water as they can, at least 100 ounces per day, everyday.  Eat Breakfast Women who skip breakfast are 4 1/2 times more likely to be obese. That in itself is a reason to eat breakfast, everyday.  Eat Fiber Research has shown that eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day can increase the metabolic rate as much as 30%. Pick foods that are green vegetables like broccoli and kale over whole grain and wheat. Quest bars also have a ton of fiber in them.  Eat Organic Food

Canadian researchers report that dieters with the most organochlorines (pollutants from pesticides, which are stored in fat cells) experience a greater than normal dip in metabolism as they lose weight, perhaps because the toxins interfere with the energy-burning process. Other research hints that pesticides can trigger weight gain. Always choose organic when buying peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, and pears; non-organic versions tend to have the highest levels of pesticides. * From Prevention Magazine

Eat Protein in Every Meal Protein increases metabolism because it takes longer to digest (in most cases). Researchers have found that eating protein can increase post meal calorie burn by 35%.  Lift Heavy Things Best way to boost your metabolism is picking up heavy sh*t. Men and women should both be doing more lifting and spending less time on cardio machines. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so therefore the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is. You don’t build muscle tissue from the elliptical. Lift heavy things.

Bonus! Cut out the alcohol Alcohol KILLS your metabolism! When you drink you burn less fat and more slowly than normal, not matter how hard you workout or focus on weight loss. You can’t train hard and drink and expect to lose weight, your body won’t let it happen. Drinking the equivalent to two martinis you can decrease your metabolism by 73%. Something to think about here.

John Y. Brown, III: Fancy Farm in the Cultural Crosshairs: The War on Fancy Farm

JYB3This year, ironically, it was Fancy Farm itself that was the recipient of some of the most potent barbs from the speaking dais.

The annual Fancy Farm picnic is famous for hosting an annual platform for face-to-face political zingers, barbs and put-downs. It is unique to the nation and perhaps the last living remnant of the historic stump speaking tradition of political campaigns that preceded modern media and the current TV/Internet/Social Media dominance of political campaign messaging.

The old-fashioned way of political campaigning on display at Fancy Farm is, some are now arguing, a useless and corrosive relic that needs to be politely euthanized.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin began his speech by questioning the value of what he characterized as the mean-spirited vacuity of Fancy Farm rhetoric. “We are celebrating our divisions, and we’re doing it in the childish way that frankly does not resolve any of the issues we face.” Bevin then zigged and zagged with several variations of what strove to be a statesman-like speech, including the Pledge of Allegiance, but instead came off as more of a politically tone deaf misfire for what is expected at Fancy Farm.

The insurgent Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, has already defined himself as a successful critic of Kentucky political traditions. Bevin’s first major political pronouncement after winning the Republican primary was that the statue of Jefferson Davis in the state Capitol Rotunda, where it had been on display for over 50 years, needed to go because it was offensive and out of step with modern values. And Bevin’s leadership stock soared as most other Kentucky politicians –from both political parties –quickly agreed and also called for the removal of the Davis statue from the Capitol rotunda. Will Bevin’s declarations against Fancy Farm, the 135 year old political stump speaking picnic, meet with similar success or be viewed as an overreach? That is the question playing out now as the Fancy Farm relevancy discussion intensifies.

After Bevin’s speech some commentators seemed sympathetic to Bevin’s questioning of the modern value of Fancy Farm. They asked, What value is there, really, from candidates running for high political office congregating in deep Western Kentucky for one weekend in August each year to simply throw hard political punches and cutting verbal jabs at their opponents?

Fancy Farm seems to invite and even celebrate the most frivolous of political maneuverings and machinations. Observers cheer and jeer their candidates and political party –often jeering more than cheering. The criticisms being leveled at Fancy Farm are largely high-minded appeals that liken Fancy Farm to a political form of Internet bullying or vicious Twitter insults, which likewise have no role in our public discourse and shouldn’t be tolerated or encouraged.

Certainly, there would be value in better ensuring that the speaking and politicking at Fancy Farm more closely honor the historic practices Fancy Farm seeks to celebrate. It’s hard to disagree that, at times, Fancy Farm rhetoric and activities get derailed into something more akin to a vaudeville act than old-timey political stump speaking. I’m not suggesting a sanitized version of Fancy Farm. That would miss the point. One of the great values of Fancy Farm is that it provides a political forum that is unsanitized, as political commentator Scott Jennings aptly put it.

Citizens and voters today are bone weary of the modern consultant-controlled and remote TV/Internet/Social Media political campaigns. More than bone-weary, they are starving for authenticity and spontaneity. Something extinguished by the modern political campaign machines. Fancy Farm offers a glimpse, even if only a crude and momentary one, to voters seeking genuine human contact and real unscripted interaction with political candidates. The opportunity for that kind of “old fashioned” political interaction is rare and seemingly on the cusp of extinction. Fancy Farm, in it’s own rambunctious, rakish and rube-like ways is trying to fan that flame before it gets extinguished entirely.

At bottom, Fancy Farm may be a brutish attempt at trying to preserve something noble in politics: the genuine human element. An attempt, by the way, that all well-mannered and high-brow efforts to retain have failed to preserve. And, oddly, the raw carnival nature of the way Fancy Farm captures this voter-to-candidate connectedness may be what helps it succeed.

The chief complaint from Fancy Farm critics seems to be that the weekend picnic late each summer brings out the worst in our political instincts by encouraging candidates to say harsh, personally cruel and caricature-ish things about one another that demeans and diminishes our political process and needs to be eliminated rather than celebrated.

Ironically, the harshest barbs hurled against gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin weren’t originated at Fancy Farm but were quoted directly from television, internet and radio ads (our more modern campaign tools) by Senator Mitch McConnell when Bevin challenged Senator McConnell in the Senate primary last year. And the same can be said for much of the harshest Fancy Farm rhetoric—it is merely a repetition of what has been (or will be) run for months as paid political advertisements on television, radio and the Internet.

Ironically, then, what really makes Fancy Farm appear so crude and cruel isn’t what is actually said or done from the dais. Rather, it is simply because it is being said face-to-face rather than said more palatably by an actor in a soft voice-over for a paid political television advertisement.

Perhaps, what is truly shocking about Fancy Farm is that it reminds us of just how uncivilized, coarse, bizarre and ridiculous our “modern” political campaigning methods have become. And how it is actually these modern political campaign tactics that may be the real relics that are corroding our political process and need to be politely euthanized.

I believe Fancy Farm is a jarring reminder of that fact. But understanding the bigger problem requires looking beyond Fancy Farm and connecting dots that are much bigger and much more worrisome than a little picnic in the recesses of western Kentucky. Eliminating Fancy Farm won’t eliminate coarse political insults from the political process. It will only relieve candidates from ever having to say it to their opponent’s face.

This doesn’t justify the excesses of Fancy Farm but does help put them into a more honest perspective.

We should all work to find ways to provide authentic political events that better provide a vehicle for citizens to interact face-to-face with their political candidates. Any move away from the “modern” political campaigning practices of spending billions of dollars annually (that’s right, billions) for paid political advertisements featuring sanitized viciousness and nonsensical blather should be encouraged.

Crude and unsavory political insults should never be the bread and butter of our modern political discourse, but until we as a society are ready to have a serious discussion about really changing that very serious and chronic malignancy in our body politic, it’s hard to take seriously those focusing in on a once-a-year annual picnic that, at worst, merely caricatures in a fun and festive way –and allows us to laugh at it— the kind of political debate that we as citizens and voters have to endure remotely and pretend to take seriously as “real political campaigning” the rest of the year.

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