Stress kills, and here are the statistics from the American Institute of Stress:
Stress increases the risk of:
Heart disease 40%
Heart attack 25%
44% of overstressed people overeat and 44% lose sleep every night. Extreme stress events (i.e. divorce, jobs loss) reduces grey matter in regions tied to emotional and psychological functions leading future psychiatric problems.
And finally…stress causes up to 60% of all human diseases. Wow. Our stress is killing our bodies.
So lets look at the main culprit in our physiology that is causes havoc on our bodies, cortisol. Cortisol is the “stress” hormone. It is released during times of stress from our adrenal glands (glands that sit on top of your kidneys that also produce adrenaline amongst other hormones). Now mind you, our body looks at all stress the same, no matter if it is; psychological, physical or emotional stress. Either way the following happens:
1. An individual is faced with a stressor.
2. A complex hormonal cascade ensues, and the adrenals secrete cortisol.
3. Cortisol prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response by flooding it with glucose, supplying an immediate energy source to large muscles.
4. Cortisol inhibits insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored, favoring its immediate use.
5. Cortisol narrows the arteries while the epinephrine increases heart rate, both of which force blood to pump harder and faster.
6. The individual addresses and resolves the situation.
7. Hormone levels return to normal.
So what is the big deal? The environment of the typical American is such where we rarely take time off (raise my hand), are constantly moving without resting and have so much on our plate that we become overstressed and do not know how to manage it. Our bodies over produce cortisol and we are constantly in fight or flight. Put all that together with a lack of physical activity and poor nutrition and you have a recipe for disaster. Here are a few ways cortisol is destroying our bodies:
The repetition of cortisol release due to stress causes weight gain in many people, more specifically body fat retention. Cortisol can relocate stored triglycerides to visceral fat cells (deep and under the muscle tissue). This type of fat is what kills us. Cortisol also suppresses insulin release causing increased blood sugar levels leading to cells that are starved for glucose and signaling to the brain for the body to overeat and thus the unused glucose is stored as body fat.
Blood Sugar Imbalance and Protein Degradation
Under stressful situations, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein sources (dietary protein stored in the liver and muscle) and increasing blood sugar levels leading to diabetes. Cortisol essentially uses protein as fuel and can lead to burning up your muscle tissue.
Inflammation/Immune System Suppression
Cortisol functions to reduce inflammation in the body, which is good, but over time, these efforts to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system. Chronic inflammation, caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress, helps to keep cortisol levels soaring, wreaking havoc on the immune system. An unchecked immune system responding to unabated inflammation can lead to myriad problems: an increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses, an increased risk of cancer, the tendency to develop food allergies, an increased risk of an assortment of gastrointestinal issues (because a healthy intestine is dependent on a healthy immune system), and possibly an increased risk of autoimmune disease.
*****above taken from
4. Jones DS, Quinn S (eds). Textbook of Functional Medicine. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Institute for Functional Medicine; 2006.
5. Weinstein R. The Stress Effect. New York: Avery-Penguin Group; 2004.
So how do we combat this? Taking from my chapter in Jonathan Miller’s book, “12 Steps to Surviving a Crisis” http://therecoveringpolitician.com/12steps
Sleep/rest can aid in the reduction of stress thus reducing your overall cortisol secretion. Taking a day off or taking a vacation, sleeping and learning to let go of things that do not matter will contribute to reducing your stress. Also, getting people out of your lives that cause you stress and incorporating those that have you back always are good ways to kill your stress.
Same mentioned earlier, our hormones have a big impact on our bodies. Crisis and stress enhances that. Nutritionally we eat to survive but can also eat to thrive. Excessive cortisol production will cause our bodies to tear down muscle tissue and cause us to store unwanted body fat. It will also suppress our immune systems during times of stress. Not good. The American diet consists of too much processed foods, alcohol, wheat and sugar. Reducing these can help dramatically with your stress levels and body fat percentages.
Foods shown to reduce cortisol production are eggs, lean beef, sweet potatoes, fruits, and lots of vegetables. Raw, organic vegetables are preferred because of the high amounts of vitamin C, a cortisol reducer and anti-inflammatory. Almost including foods high in fiber (not bread) will help level out blood sugar levels.
The human body does not know the difference between “good” stress or “bad” stress. So any stress put upon it will cause hormone secretion. Resistance training (lifting weights) is a stress to the body, however it allows your body to strengthen and grow your muscles and strengthen your bones. Very important in times of crisis. Also, will allow you to blow off much needed steam.
If you are a beginner start with 3-4 days of resistance training. Make sure you give your body 48-72 hours between body parts before you hit them again. As you progress you can start incorporating Tabatas, plyometrics, cross training into your program. Make sure you get ample rest and nutrition, as this you will your recovery and reduce your stressful situation.
It is said that the heart is your most important muscle in your body. That is correct, without your heart most processes in the body could not take place. The heart transports blood, oxygen, and waste amongst other things. It cannot take heavy stress over a long period of time. Diet, exercise and reduced stress play an enormous part in the hearts health. In times of crisis the heart takes a pounding due to increased hormone secretion, high blood pressure and increased anxiety.
Strengthen your heart by training, not just cardio. Cardiovascular training will help increase the amount of blood pumped in a heart beat, thus making it more efficient. 3-4 days of vigorous activity is best. Beware, over doing cardio also causes stress to the body. Keep it simple in times of crisis.
Taking into account more than just practical medicine, holistic health is a huge part of well being during a crisis. Here we will concentrate on herbs that will reduce cortisol production and holistically improve your body versus turning to practical medicines.
Black tea, green tea, ginkgo all have cortisol reducing properties. Implement them into your diet and watch your stress levels and cortisol production decrease.
As discussed earlier rest and relaxation play as big a part of crisis control than fitness. Being able to relax and meditate will increase serotonin production to relax the body.
Take 15-30 minutes per day and shut out all the distractions and just let your mind/body relax. If need be get a massage!
Yoga/meditation/massage all have similar outcomes on the brain. Allowing you to relax and shut out the worlds problems. Becoming more flexible will reduce the amount muscular stress on your body thus will help the overall stress.
Take a yoga class or just take time to do some dynamic movements like lunges or body weight squats will do wonders for your flexibility, joints, tissue strength and stress levels.
Fitness is the vehicle to get you to your goals. Use it wisely during times of crisis and stress.
My blogs/newsletters/fit tips/whatever you want to call it, are usually meant to educate and inform and not concentrate highly on the technicalities. It is difficult to show form and function of movements in an email and have them received on a great level. However, today I thought we would try it and see how it turns out.
So here we go.
This week I shot a video on proper shoulder warm-up. My friend and chiropractor Dr. Tim Rogers has been working with my left shoulder for months now to get it to behave. We have put these distinct shoulder warm-ups into my workouts to ensure my shoulder progresses. I also am staying away from bench press and shoulder pressing because it increases the inflammation in the tendons and causes irritation the day after workout.
Now I made the video because I saw a gentleman warming up the other day at the gym and he was circling around with a 10lbs dumbbell repeatedly, trying to warm his shoulder up. I see this a lot in baseball as well, circling the bats around “warming up” the shoulder. Now why would this be dangerous? What issues could this cause? A lot! We could write on this topic all day and I could break out the extensive anatomy and biomechanics but the reality is no one reading this cares.
You want simple, education, So I will break this down as simple as I can make it. Your shoulder joint is the most complex joint in the body because of the amount of range of motion it has and the fact so many different muscles and joints insert or originate from it. It also is surrounded by very thin muscles that rotate it, also called the rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscabularis and teres minor). Big words, little muscles. In fact they are about as then as a piece of paper, yet we take a heavy weight and do a circular motion with it and expect it to be ok time and time after we do it.
Not the case.
Not only to we have the shoulder joint to be concerned with, we also have the hip joint to worry about. See when we have an injury we cannot just look at the site of the pain, we have to evaluate where the source is coming from. Interestingly, poor flexibility and improper glute activation on the right side can cause injury to the left shoulder. This is because often times, injuries happen in diagonals. Walking or gait is about rotating at the hips and swinging through with the arms. If anything in that motion is restricted, injury could occur. This is why it is crucial to warm your shoulders and your hips up together for proper function of the both joints. So without boring you anymore with shoulder function and mechanics, let me explain the exercises on the video below.
The first exercise is the one you DO NOT want to do. This could cause long term damage to your shoulder. Just stop doing it.
The second set of exercises has to do with a band, the first I am standing, lowering my shoulder blades, squaring my shoulders, with my grip so that my palm is facing the other wall. I pull with my elbow down and squeeze an depress my back. This aligns my shoulder correctly and incorporates my glutes on the opposite side because as I said before, injuries happen in diagonals.
The third exercise is the band pull aparts. This is great for horizontal training of the shoulder blades and the muscles that attach. Straighten your arms and sit up nice and straight. Pull the band till it touches your chest, with your arms straight.
The fourth exercise is the monster walks. Get a band and place your feet, wider than hip with the part. Step to the left and right as wide as you can go and drag the other foot back to the starting point. This warms the hips up, which going back to what I said earlier is just as important to the shoulder as warming the shoulder up. You should feel this in your butt.
Last but not least is the kettlebell swing. Grab a decently heavy kettlebell and drive your hips back and hinge at the hips. This is great for getting your glutes involved and ready to lift upper or lower body. I hope you enjoyed that tutorial of the shoulder warm ups. Until next time…
Fear is paralyzing. The fear of failure. The fear of success. The fear of being looked at as abnormal. These can all avert us from achieving things in life. We condition our thoughts to drive us or to sink us. We can choose to go workout when we “don’t have time” or we can choose to apply for a better job, inversely we can choose to make excuses that we don’t have time or that we are not qualified for that position. Either way, you choose to do it or don’t. We choose to avert the situation or you choose to ascend to great heights and try without fear of failure. The choice is ultimately yours.
Either fears win or freedom wins.
Excerpt from the book Motivational Manifesto by Brendon Burchard:
“Why are some people more driven by fear than freedom?
It can only be because in the past they were conditioned to be fearful, either by those around them or by their poor application of mental faculties. There is no genetic curse or personality trait that permanently condemns one person to fear more than another even a genetic predisposition for anxiety can ultimately be flipped on or off by mental conditioning. We are not slave to our history; we can be freed by our conscious thoughts and disciplined habits.
This is not to blame our past or excuse our fears. When people choose fear as an adult, they are choosing not to manage or overcome it. This is difficult work for many because fear has become their default impulse. The thoughts ruling their minds and their self-talk replay the cutting barbs of the critics and misguided caretakers who once demeaned them. The good news is we can change this conditioning. When we awaken to responsibility, we realize that nothing can be done about our past but to see it from a new perspective. We can release ourselves from its grip. We cannot control how others treated us yesterday, so let us work instead on understanding how we are currently dealing with those who stoke our fear today. The great efforts to move our lives forward always come down to a new moment when we interrupt our fear and activate our freedom by choosing how to feel, interpret, and direct our lives.
Part of the mastery of life comes from anticipating that the same kinds of characters that sought to instill fear yesterday shall be met again today or tomorrow. Knowing this, we become wary of people who chip away at our freedom. These are the worriers, weaklings, and, in rare cases, the wicked.
From the above you can see certain situations and people can have an effect on ourselves, preventing us from being who we want to be. The worriers, weaklings and as he says in rare cases the wicked, steal our freedoms and instill fear in us. Lets discuss these three:
The most common are the worriers. These are people that without knowledge, are often the people who induce the most amount of fear. The are not unkind or malicious but always extra cautious and always reminding us “be careful” or “are you sure you want to do that?” or “thats not who you are, you cant do this.” These people can disrupt our ascension to greatness. We must tune them out and listen to ourselves. You can do this. This can be you. And being careful never created greatness.
A wise man told me once, “don’t argue with fools because from a distant you can’t tell who is who.” This couldn’t be more correct. Weaklings will speak out against your hard work. They will ask, “why do you workout so much?” They will say, “you can have just one piece of pizza, it won’t kill you.’ They downplay hard work and dedication because they are not hard working or dedicated. We must not give these people our ears and keep moving.
We have all met someone (or lots of someones) that are just out to tell us we cannot do something. Or are so malicious in their intent, it only disrupts our flow and our attaining greatness. These are the people of the world who do not want you to succeed because it will make them feel better about themselves. The wicked are the people on social media watching your progress in life just hoping you will fall off the wagon and return to your previous state. We must rid our lives of these people. Listen to your heart, gut and soul not some one who can’t do what you are doing.
Victory can be ours if we stay true to ourselves, trust the process and keep a positive attitude. We must also eliminate people who are not contributing to our mission or do not see the our goals as important or attainable.
I love myths. They are fun to me. This wild and wacky fitness world provides us with a LOT of myths and the problem lies in the fact people believe them. Quite frankly, sometimes I get caught up in the myths. It is very easy to do with all the magazines, fitness gurus and my favorite the internet trainers, dispelling all this wonderful information to the world. EVERYONE is an expert these and its hard to decipher what is correct and what is not. And truth be told, there are no absolutes, sometimes it just depends. So, let us take a stroll down my four favorite nutritional myths, shall we?
If you eat after a certain time, it turns to fat
This one is predominant and would be willing most people believe this. There is no clock on your stomach that says after 8pm everything that is eaten will go straight to your fat cells. It is a fallacy. For example I eat after 10pm (because of my long days and nights) nearly everyday. I workout late at night and my body needs fuel to repair my muscles and replace what was lost. If this myth were true, people in different time zones would be in massive trouble. Its not so we are all safe. However, people who tend to have a regular schedule (eat dinner around 6pm) who cut off their snacking or eating before 8pm tend to take in less calories and do not tend eat out of boredom. However, there is nothing wrong with having a protein shake or some type of protein packed food prior to bed time. In fact, it can be very beneficial while you sleep.
Cholesterol causes heart disease
It has not been until recently that this has been questioned. Most, for a long period of time, have been under the assumption that cholesterol had a significant impact on the increase of heart disease. Now that is starting to be questioned http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/why-cholesterol-may-not-b_b_290687.html. The fact that 75% of people who have heart attacks have a normal cholesterol (whatever that means) damn near debunks this myth. If I had to put something in jail as the culprit for the rise of heart attacks and heart disease, I’d lock up sugar. There you have it.
Eating less calories means I will lose more weight
False. False. False. In the short term this could work, in the long term this will cause metabolic turmoil and can cause you to gain weight because your metabolism is screwed up. We are predesigned to be grazers and eat periodically, even though we had to “eat what we killed” we still snacked on fruits vegetables. My advice, do not play the calorie game, eat whole foods and give your body what it needs to survive. 1200 calories or less or anyone is not going to make that happen.
Whole grain bread is better than white bread
Not necessarily. There is a minute difference in the following: color, fiber and micronutrient content. But this is minute. Even thought white bread goes through more processing and is stripped of its vitamins and minerals, many white breads are later fortified with those same vitamins and minerals. The fiber amount is not that different and you can do a lot better by eating high fiber vegetables than you can eating wheat bread. Simply put, if you are eating wheat bread as a substitute for white bread and to increase your fiber per day, you are better off eating neither and concentrating on your vegetable intake. For more information check this link out http://examine.com/faq/is-whole-wheat-bread-better-than-white-bread.html
Pain is a unique thing. It often comes out of nowhere and in some cases for unknown reasons. We often push it off as arthritis or old age (guilty) in hopes that it will get better. We stretch (not recommended), foam roll, apply Rock Sauce, take NSAIDs etc. to decrease our pain. These are are all great thing and do have some effect on our pain levels but they only deal with the site of our pain, not the source. We often can look to our diets for the reason we are in so much pain.
Make no mistake about, inflammation can be deadly. Whether in the muscles, joints or in the organs, when our bodies become inflamed we are under serious distress. In fact, excess inflammation can cause obesity and diabetes. For more information on that check out this article http://chriskresser.com/how-inflammation-makes-you-fat-and-diabetic-and-vice-versa/.
Now that I have your attention, lets look at five ingredients that cause inflammation:
Processed sugar can go by many names on an ingredient list. Just look for anything ending in “ose” like fructose and lactose. The ingestion of sugar causes the body to send messengers to elicit an inflammatory response. Do you best to stay away.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Not to be confused with the anti-inflammatory Omega 3, Omega 6 fatty acids are still essential but when too much is eaten in the diet, an inflammatory response happens. These are commonly found in; corn, salad dressings, sunflower oil, soy and mayonnaise.
White flour products such as; bread, instant rice, mashed potatoes, cereals are high glycemic and stimulate the production of AGE which causes inflammation.
Many people who try to go sugar free will opt for the diet sodas and many diet drinks or calorie free drinks. Problem is many of the drinks contain aspartame and that can increase the inflammatory response even more. Aspartame is neurotoxin which means it effects your brain and your body will instantly try to get rid of it, causing an inflammatory response.
Alcohol is the liver’s enemy. They do not get along. It is a foreign substance that should only be used sparingly. Excessive use weakens the liver and other organs the liver interacts with, causing inflammation.
Fact is, when trying to decrease body fat and be “healthy” inflammation is not our friend. When trying to decrease your pain, the foods above and others do not serve us well. Do you best to rid these and watch the body fat and pain go away.
OK lets have some fun. As I sit down to write you today, I can’t help but want to write something that will make you laugh and make your day a little easier. For the serious, educational content click here . To laugh your ass off, continue reading.
So I went to workout today, I couldn’t help but find some humor. The gym is usually serious time for me but today I just took a look around and had fun with and decided today’s piece should lighten our spirits a bit. So, in great humor and fun, here are MY 10 rules of the gym. Have fun! Here we go (print these off and take them with you!):
- No one is staring at you…they are staring at themselves.
Not really a “rule” but a statement! Believe it or not, people are not staring at you working out, in fact they are staring at themselves. Why do you think they put mirrors up? To check our form? No! To check if we are showing definition in the triceps. Duh!
- Re-rack Your Weights
One of the first rules we learn as a child; if you bring your toys out, you have to put them back where they came from. You take the 5lbs dumbbells across the gym to do hammer curls, take ’em back Jack!
- No Grunting Unless you are Lifting Something Heavy
Squat 500lbs, grunt all you want, curling 55lbs, not necessary.
- Get Off the Cell Phone
You are here to workout not talk. Ditch the phone Paco!
- Proper Workout Required
Shorts, pants, t-shirts etc. Not a full leotard with open front. Could get drafty and appalling.
- Don’t Do This…
- No Curling in the Squat Rack
Just don’t do it!
- Dancing on the Treadmill Could be Dangerous and Otherwise Silly Exercise
- Use a Towel in the Locker Room
- Don’t Join Here
I am a firm believer in make everything I can, simple. The more complex things are, the more I struggle with it. So I will work to simplify anything if it will save me time and a headache in the long run. Fitness is no different. I work with a variety of clients and they all have differing opinions on what works for them or in some cases they are trying to figure that out and need my help. I will always attempt to simplify the situation and give them a small number of things to concentrate on to chip away at the goal at hand.
A few months ago, I wrote on the Wall of Aspirations a list of four things that I thought were vitally important in achieving any fitness related goal, no matter the size. I felt like if anyone concentrated on these four items, a lot of their problems would be minimized. Of course, there is no “one stop shop” when it comes to these things, some things work for some people and some don’t. Life will always be life and there will always be exceptions to the rule. However, I write to you today to expound on this list of four, with the hopes it will simplify your fitness quest and help you achieve better long-standing results.
Prepare Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
You either prepare to succeed or you prepare to fail, there is no in-between. If your nutrition is your limiting factor, focusing on preparing your own meals versus eating out or not eating at all, sets you up for success. It is a lot to ask of someone to do this. Most people wake up as late as they can get by with and scoot out the door on their way to work or school. If that is you, prepare yourself something in advance or make something simple like a shake or have a Quest bar (no Power bars Coby!). Regardless of your choice eat something. There is too much research that says eating breakfast, particularly protein packed breakfast, aids in boosting metabolism and helps fat loss. Like Nike says, Just Do It.
Drink 1 Gallon of Water
No matter how you slice it, water is important. It has zero calories, keeps your hydrated and decreases the hunger mechanism. Drink it and drink a lot of it. My advice as always been at least 100 ounces a day, but if you go that far you might as well go with a gallon (128 ounces). If you drink that much, you will feel SO much better, that I will guarantee you.
Workout at Least Four Times
I ask my clients to be active at least four times per week and bare minimum work with weights at least two of those days. We need activity in our lives. And on half of the days during the week we need vigorous activity (i.e. lifting weights). Make this a priority and make time to be active or you will have to make time to be sick and tired. The choice is yours but the outcomes could be so much better if you follow the rule.
Here is the big one. The one no one talks about as it relates to fitness. Sleep. If you lack sleep or quality sleep the following can happen; elevated Cortisol levels leading to increased fat retention, impaired Glucose control leading to irregular blood sugar levels and retention of body fat, and increased adipose tissue retention, basically meaning you will hold on to your fat longer. The part about sleep that people forget is the release of growth hormone, a hormone that decreases body fat and increases muscle tissue aiding recovery. 7-8 hours of sleep is optimal but if you cannot do that, napping has its place as well. To be your best, you must sleep…period.
Simplifying things will more often than not make things better and I hope this list helps a few of you out. I would love to hear about it! Shoot me an email if you’d like.
Let me set the stage for you…
After finishing my last client for the day (shout out to Lauren) I quickly get ready to go work out myself after a long day of clients and before a super packed Friday. I get in my car and go workout at Lexington Athletic Club, a few hundred feet from Aspire. I finish my workout, get in my car, and as I do every night go back to Aspire; re-rack the weights, clean up and turn the lights out. At this time it is 10pm. I get in my car to go home, get something to eat and go to bed before my 5am appointment. I go the same way I always do and pull out of the studio and I am the first in line at the red light to turn left to head home. I am no more than a football’s throw from Aspire.
As I am sitting patiently at the stop light, out of my left ear (my good ear by the way) I hear what sounds like a freight train, I glance to my left and I feel the most vicious impact, almost like Ray Lewis has clotheslined me and hit me with a 2 x 4. I am disoriented, I smell smoke and I panic. I cannot get out the driver’s side door, too much damage. I rip my seat belt off and climb out the passenger side door, still not sure where I am or what just happened. I get out and the most confused I have ever been in my life (that is saying something) there is no car to be found. I start to think, “am I dreaming?” I know I was just hit by something and where is it? There is nothing and no one. After a few seconds and me evaluating my situation I realize my body is shook up and this could of been much worse but not sure how much worse until…
Bystander from the across the street comes to see how I am and leaves me with these words I will always remember, “Hey man, I saw it all from across the street and you my friend are lucky to be alive.” It was real at the point. This could of been it. It could of been my last workout, my last client and my ride on earth. But thankfully the car that hit me, going at 80 mph so the guy said, only got me at the corner of the driver’s door instead of the middle, where it would have T-boned me and I wouldn’t be writing this email. I survived with very minor injuries compared to what could of happened. The driver was never found and was probably drunk, as he/she was so out of control they probably had no idea what happened. Still yet, I am alive and will be able to continue life as I always have…except I have a new found appreciation for time.
You see tomorrow is not promised, hell today is not promised. You never know when its your time to go. So why do we waste time not doing the things we want to do in this world? Or why do we waste time being with people who do not make us better? Or even more importantly why do we put off doing the things that make us happy? It could all be over tomorrow. Your time is not promised. I was not even driving my car, I was parked at an intersection, patiently waiting for my turn to go home and I was violently hit by a car that could of killed me. But it didn’t.
I write this to you all today because every situation we go through in life should teach us about ourselves. Life is not perfect, we are not perfect and one day this will all come to end. I will leave you with this advice:
Leave it all on the field
If you want to do something, now is the time to do it. Not tomorrow. Not next week. NOW! What are you waiting for? There is literally no excuse you can come up with for why you aren’t chasing your dreams. You will not live forever, but you legacy with people will.
Leave something to be remembered for
Not to be morbid but I thought about my funeral the last couple of days. What would people say about me? How many people would be there? This may sound negative to a degree but I cant help but think about it. I still have time to make a legacy for myself and every day counts. Make every day count for yourself. Its not a popularity contest, you know who means the most to you and who will remember you when you are gone. Leave your best for them to remember.
Don’t waste time on people who do not belong
If someone does not add value to you, they are a detractor and they need to go. Not everyone belongs in your life. Surround yourself with people who push you, who add value to you, who will remember you when you are gone. Money and possessions come and go but when you die, your memory with people and how you affected them will carry the longest. Ditch the negative and embrace the positive.
The time is now. What are you waiting for?
No apologies. No regrets. Just greatness.
“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”
The quest for perfection. The perfect body. The perfect life. The perfect marriage. The perfect job. We all want what we consider to be “perfect.” When something isn’t good enough for us, we drop it and move to something else and then the viscous cycle ensues. Nothing is good enough for us anymore. We are chasing perfection in an imperfect world. We want what we can’t have and once we have it we don’t want it anymore, because its not “perfect.”
The Nirvana Fallacy, is a concept that is defined by, “comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives.” It simply means we chase perfection and perfection is not attainable because perfection does not exist. My career as a fitness professional has been spent training and getting to know a vast variety of clients, all of whom want to make some type of change. Every so often, I will find someone who is never satisfied and is always chasing, in their mind, the perfect something. In most cases it would be the perfect body. They will do and try anything (within reason) to attain such an unattainable quest. It can be frustrating and in a strange way admirable that people will go to such lengths to get something they want. I find it somewhat difficult to “harness the reigns” on some people because they give it their all and their all is not adding up, in their mind, to what they want. Perfection does not exist.
The media is great at the projection of perfect. Go to any magazine stand and pick up a Cosmopolitan or Women’s Health or some other vanity focused magazine and you will see the following, “perfect abs in 30 days,” “10 ways to a perfect relationship,” “perfect love making for you and your spouse.” So we as a society think we have to chase this concept of perfection because if the magazines say its possible, it must be. This leads to trouble especially when it comes to people’s body image and concept of who they are.
We have a selection of our population turning to fad diets, crazy supplements and in some cases drugs because of the attempt to have the perfect body. Look at some of the most popular Instagram pages and you will see “fitness pros” who look like they are carved out of granite rock performing exercises and showing you what they do. They look outstanding and in some people’s minds, perfect. However, we all need to eat some humble pie and realize these people are not perfect, we have no idea what they did to look like that, and how long that is sustainable for us long term. I am here to tell you, where there is smoke there is usually fire. No movie star has added 30 lbs of lean muscle tissue without some help. No music artist has six pack abs in their 40s unless they are blessed genetically or have had some surgery. That is a fact jack.
So what the hell are we doing? Why are we killing ourselves chasing something that does not exist? And why do we quit when we realize what we wanted either isn’t achievable or too hard to make work? These are great points to ponder. I suggest the following:
Chase Progress Not Perfection
With your body, your marriage, your relationships. Work on improving things, not being perfect. No situation is perfect. No solution is perfect. So why focus on it. Everyday get a little bit better. This will make a world of difference.
Walk Your Walk
Guess what? Some people won’t like you. Not every one will like you or love you. You aren’t the perfect human being. You are human. Welcome to the land of imperfection. We all live here. So why not relish in the fact we aren’t going to make everyone happy, but we can make ourselves happy. Walk your walk and forget what everyone else says. You know who you are, no one needs to have an opinion on the subject matter.
I leave you with this….
“Why, when we know that there’s no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No – the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.”
Be authentic. Be you.
When life imitates art its time to take a step back and evaluate the situation. For some reason it always takes me a few days to get over hard losses, whether its just my passion for Kentucky basketball or I view it as an outlet or some other reason that is not apparent, I take loses to heart. But with every loss there is time to reflect, not just on the season at hand but also on you the individual. For the players, they evaluated where they sat skill and NBA readiness wise and as a fan I evaluate what I learned from the season. I took this; nothing and no one is unbeatable, sports as in life aren’t fair, team work and hard work conquers all and finally do your best to make everyone around you better.
So I am just a crazy Kentucky fan right? Maybe. But I do have an ability to learn from literally every situation and that is a skill I pride myself on. (By the way, this piece will have no fitness related advice in it, I am still on the motivation/inspiration tip this week.) So as I am reading this week, preparing for what I am going to write about, I see a picture with seven statements on it. It is essentially a code of how to live your life to the fullest. So I feel the need to share those seven principles with you tonight. So, here we go…
Make Peace with Your Past
I raise my hand and admit there are some things in my past that are hard to left go of. BUT to look to the future, you cannot be concerned with what happened in the past. Past failures do not predict the future. If there is something back there that needs tending to handle, if not keep moving forward.
What Other People Think of You Is None if YOUR Business
Easier said than done, but what some one thinks of you is just that, a thought. Lets take Kentucky’s coach John Calipari as an example. A hall of fame coach, multiple final fours, one national championship, produced some of the best NBA talent in the game today. Yet, he is vilified and thought of as a cheater. Truth is, he is the best at what he does and his approach is about helping others more than helping himself. What is so bad about that? Nothing. He doesn’t care what anything thinks of him, as long as he is doing his life’s mission, that is all that matters. We should all practice the same.
Time Heals Almost Everything
It may hurt today and tomorrow, but give it a few weeks and the hurt will subside. All you need is time.
No One is in Charge
No one is in charge of your happiness. No husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend, car or purse. Literally nothing on this earth can make you happy but you. Usually unhappiness comes from lack of purpose, if you are feeling that way think about your purpose. If you don’t have a purpose, find one and chase it.
Don’t Compare Your Life to Others
This can work a variety of ways. We all have problems but when it comes down to it, we would keep our problems instead of trading them with someone else. It can always be worse. On the flip side, comparing yourself to someone else is a waste of time. You don’t know their struggle and what they are going through.
Stop Thinking Too Much
Face it. You don’t have all the answers. No one does. So if you can’t control it, why are you worried about it? I like to use the adage, “Don’t think, just do.” Over the years I have seen clients and friends crippled by their own thinking. It is necessary. Do not let your mind run roughshod on your life.
I know, I know. You are sitting there saying, “this dude never smiles.” I get it. I need to and I will continue to improve on this aspect. However, even through all the dark days the easiest thing to do to make a difference is a simple smile. Try it. I will.
It is all so simple yet all so complicating. It’s life. It was designed this way. It is a grand challenge but remember your purpose and be driven toward it.