2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 10: Supplements

This is day 10 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” – Haruki Murakami

Dietary supplements can be tricky. There is so much marketing around dietary supplement such as protein powder, fish oil, vitamin C pills, etc., that it is difficult to know what to take and what not to take. Dietary supplements are something that requires a lot of science to get to the bottom of.

If you don’t care about anything sciency, the bottom line is if you are eating a healthy diet, unless your doctor or dietician specifically says to take a supplement for an illness (such as an iron supplement for anemia), then you do not need to take any supplements to improve your health. I am going to go down the line and discuss common supplements and why you should, or why you shouldn’t, take them.

First is protein, the most common supplement you will find in sports and fitness. Protein can be bought almost anywhere in several different forms. The most common are pre-made drinks, powders, and bars. We have already talked a lot about protein because it is one of the macronutrients. So wait a second, if you are trying to cut back on your macros and calories, why supplement your diet with more protein? Protein is needed to rebuild your muscles, and consuming protein after a workout helps with muscle recovery. But, if your protein supplement is putting you over your daily recommended protein value, then you should not supplement protein. A typical protein shake will have about 200 calories, 20 grams of protein, and plenty of sugar. Instead, I recommend planning your meals and workouts so that you can eat some of your daily protein after your regularly scheduled workout.

Amino acids are another supplement you will hear people talk about. Amino acids are the byproduct of proteins once your body breaks them down, so your body does not need amino acid supplements when you are eating enough protein. With all the crazy names of amino acids such as L-Cysteine and L-Lysine, it can get confusing which ones to take. Most people who decide to take amino acids resort to buying an amino acid blend that contains about 20 different amino acids. If you decide to take amino acids, it shouldn’t hurt your goals like protein can, but it might hurt your wallet. Especially when you’re first starting out, the results of supplementing amino acids may not make a difference to your fitness, but you are still paying for the product.

Many of the amino acid blends you can buy have caffeine in them. I am sure you know what caffeine is and its effects, but a lot of people take caffeine before workouts for the boost. My advice, do what you need to do to wake up and get a good workout. That being said, stay away from excess doses of caffeine. A lot of pre-workout powders have two or three times the amount of caffeine per scoop than a cup of coffee. If you drink ten cups of coffee (roughly 1000mg of caffeine), that could be enough to overdose on caffeine. So if your pre-workout powder has 400mg of caffeine per scoop, you need to be careful not to overdose. Some sources of caffeine, such as energy drinks and soda, should be avoided all together.

I brought up pre-workout powders when discussing caffeine, but I do not recommend you use pre-workout supplements. Pre-workout powders often have dozens of individual supplements in them at 2000% of your daily recommended value. In short, they are not healthy. If you want to have something before a workout to give you energy there are natural, healthier alternatives. I recommend eating some fruit before a workout, the carbs/sugar will get you going and give you the energy you need. I always keep a banana in my gym bag. If you want caffeine, you can drink your favorite coffee (hold the cream and sugar, you don’t want to ruin your carbohydrate and fat values) an hour before you go, or drink an amino acid blend that contains caffeine.

You will hear a lot about many other supplements while at the gym or reading nutrition websites and blogs. Multivitamins, vitamin C, Fish Oil, CoQ10, and Iron are a few you will hear about. If you have a healthy diet, you do not need to spend money on supplements. You should only take what your doctor or dietician recommends, because often time your body won’t need any supplements, and you will get rid of them in very expensive urine. Even vitamin C which is supposed to stop colds has been proven to not have any effect on shortening the symptoms of the common cold.

My common stance on supplements is that if you are eating healthy, you do not need them, they are just going to burn a hole in your wallet. Supplements are marketed to make you think you need them, but typically you don’t, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Only take supplements if your dietician or doctor puts you on a supplement plan. Be skeptical if your personal trainer tries to put you on a supplement plan, they are not trained the same way as dieticians. If you take everything yourself, you will probably be disappointed in the results. So save your money and buy some fresh fruit instead of pre-workout, and chicken instead of protein powder. If you think you might be lacking in some areas, there is no harm in taking a multivitamin, but you don’t need to try to get specific with your supplementation.

Hopefully you learned something about the hype behind supplements, and why they may or may not be for you. Tomorrow is a short lesson about setting goals, a somewhat obvious but important part of losing weight and getting healthier.

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2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 9: Improving Your Diet # 2

This is day 9 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

If you get 1% better at something every day then it is a successful day

After yesterday I know some of you are thinking “I’ll just limit myself to eating one Big Mac meal and a couple frozen dinners today so I don’t go over on carbs and fats”, or something along those lines. On day 4 we discussed the MyPlate model, and your diet should look similar to how that plate looked, roughly 25% vegetables, 25% grains, 20% fruits, 20% protein, and 10% dairy, these number do not need to be exact. First, make your diet resemble the MyPlate model, then adjust your portions to meet your macronutrient needs. A well balanced diet is paramount, and often time when someone switches from a fast food diet or a meat and potatoes diet to a MyPlate diet (balanced died), they will automatically fall near the amount of macronutrients they need.

I won’t talk a lot about what to eat, but here are some examples of my favorite (simple to cook) meals that together make up the MyPlate model:

Breakfast – Egg White, Bell Pepper and Onion Omelet: Cook a couple egg whites in a skillet with olive oil, and sauté a cup of cut bell peppers and onion in another skillet. Add the peppers and onion to the eggs and you have an omelet. This recipe will give you some of your daily protein from the eggs (contrary to what some people believe, eggs are not dairy), and veggies from the peppers and onion. This makes for a pretty good sized omelet that has less than 200 calories. Add a little bit of cheese to get a serving of dairy, or a piece of whole wheat toast for some grains.

Lunch – Italian Chicken Salad: When you are making dinner the previous night, knock out lunch for tomorrow and throw some chicken in the oven for the next day, marinate with Italian seasoning. Then for lunch pull out some romaine lettuce, the chicken from the night before, Italian dressing, and any other veggies you might want. If you are going to eat pasta for dinner like in this example, be careful that your croutons don’t put you over your limit!

Dinner – Whole Wheat Pasta: Whole wheat pasta in moderation is a great food. Boil some whole wheat pasta and add mushrooms and onions to some crushed tomatoes. Cook ground turkey or chicken in a separate skillet and add to the sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy. This meal gives you grains from the pasta, vegetables from the sauce, protein from the turkey, and a bit of dairy from the cheese (dairy isn’t really necessary but tasty). Just make sure you don’t go overboard with the eating, just like all foods, watch your portion size. Many people believe the carbs in pasta are what make you fat, this is not true. A sustained calorie surplus makes you fat, so pasta/carbs will only make you fat if you eat too much of it, just like any other food.

Snack – Fruit Smoothie: I love making smoothies as a snack or sometimes for breakfast. You can put almost anything in a smoothie, but personally I prefer a tropical blend. Add a banana, a couple strawberries, some pineapple, mango, and orange slices into a blender. Add some spinach (it’ll turn it green but you won’t taste it), ice, and milk or water. Blend and enjoy! Commercial smoothies will often add simple syrup or sugar to their smoothies, so be careful when you buy smoothies from a restaurant or store. Adding sugar isn’t necessary because the natural sugars from the fruit will make it delicious without additives.

Some of you are probably saying “those foods sound gross”. That is why I don’t want to give recipes or tell you exactly what to eat, we all have our own tastes. But definitely experiment with and try new foods so that you can cook and eat great tasting healthy foods that won’t put you over your calorie and macronutrient counts.

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or another medical condition, you may need to add another layer to your healthy eating model beside just the macronutrients and the MyPlate model. I recommend if you have any questions regarding this area to contact a dietician or your doctor. Your gym probably has a nutritionist or dietician you can talk to, or they can at least can refer you to someone.

I try to only eat ‘healthy fats’ for my daily fat intake. ‘Healthy fats’ are actually needed for our bodies to stay healthy, but what’s the difference? When you read a nutrition facts label, essentially when you see trans fats, those are bad. These fats are found in processed foods and are not naturally occurring. Try to completely eliminate trans fats. Saturated fats should also raise a yellow flag. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as dairy and meats. Try to limit saturated fats due to its high calorie density without added health benefits. Unsaturated fats are often considered to be the good fats, and are often found in vegetables and nuts. Unsaturated fats can decrease your cholesterol and will improve your health if you consume these in place of the bad fats and in moderation. Try to get most of your daily fat allowance from unsaturated fats.

It is also important to plan your meals before you eat them. Before I go to the store each week I have my meals planned for the entire week, this prevents me from buying things I don’t need. Not only does this save money, but it keeps me from buying foods I don’t need for my meals. The more food you have laying around your home, the more likely you are to eat more than you need to. Sometimes I splurge and buy some chips or ice cream (which I never make as part of my normal diet), and before I know it I consumed 1000 calories of ice cream without realizing it just because I can. That is why I only keep the bare minimum at my house. You need to make your environment work for you. If your environment is full of unhealthy snacks, then you will likely eat those unhealthy snacks. If your environment is filled with healthy foods and only the foods you need for the week, then it will be easier to eat healthy.

Meal planning is also important so that when you when you start getting hungry, you know exactly what you are eating for your next meal. Without knowing what you are going to eat it becomes very easy to over snack and then miss the mark for the MyPlate model and your macronutrients for the day.

Eating healthy can be very difficult at first, but once you learn the basics and start experimenting with different foods and combinations, it will be fun. Eventually you will get so good at it that you won’t need to even think about the MyPlate model or even too much about your macronutrient needs, they will just happen. This transition will take some time though. The basics to better health can be learned in 2 weeks, but you will never stop learning new ways to better your health. This process is a marathon, but not a literal marathon, I don’t expect you to ever be able to run 26.2 miles. It takes a while to learn everything and even longer to implement what you learn, so be patient with the process but keep pushing yourself.

I hope you had/have a great workout today. Tomorrow is all about dietary supplements and which ones you should and shouldn’t take.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 8: Improving Your Diet # 1

This is day 8 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.

One of my favorite phrases is ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym’. Today we are going to discuss how to improve your diet starting with your calorie and/or macronutrient analysis from day 5. If you didn’t do this analysis yet, read this article, log your diet, and complete this after you have a solid log to look at. Please do not blow off the diet and nutrients part of this course, it is just as important as exercise.

Grab your food log and look at how many calories and/or grams of fats, proteins, and carbs you consumed each day. First, how do you feel about your diet and your monitoring process? My guess is that you tried to eat a little bit healthier just because you had to write down what you ate. That’s good, but now we are going to compare what you ate with what you should eat. I’m going to have you do another Google search. Search for “macronutrients calculator”. Select a couple calculators that you want to try out, there are a lot of them.

Enter the information it asks for, and click calculate. The output will be how many grams of fats, carbs, and proteins you should be eating per day. For example if you are a 35 year old, 200 pound, 5’ 5” female who wants to cut fat and is lightly active, according to one calculator you should be eating around 1,587 calories, 159 grams of carbs, 159 grams of protein, and 35 grams of fat per day. Every calculator will give you slightly different numbers because different calculators will prefer higher amounts of protein in the diet than others. These estimated numbers will not change as long as you maintain the same weight, goals, and activity levels. If there is any change to those three things, you will need to recalculate your recommended macronutrient values. Keep in mind, even if you have a hard workout and burn 500 calories, you can’t say “well I worked out, so I can eat more”. You need to stay at the activity levels that were calculated, and recalculate the amounts as you change your goals, activities, and weight.

If you are not very computer savvy, then you can use these values as a basis for your macronutrients and calories:

  • If you are trying to lose weight, consume 1.1 grams of protein, 1.1 grams of carbs, and 0.2 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day if you are male. Females should consume about 0.8 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of carbs, and 0.15 grams of fat.
  • If you are trying to maintain your current weight, consume 1 gram of protein, 1.6 grams of carbs, and 0.35 grams of fat per day if you are male. Females should consume 0.65 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbs, and 0.25 grams of fat to maintain.
  • To get calories based on these, know that every gram of carbs and protein has 4 calories per gram. Fat has 9 calories per gram. Fun fact, alcohol has about 7 calories per gram. You can calculate the macronutrients you need and then multiply them by their respective calorie densities to get calories.

These numbers are assuming you are working out at least a few days per week. They are also not an exact science. If you are still gaining weight and following this framework, then you will need to keep reducing your calories consumption by perhaps removing a couple dozen grams of macronutrients. If you are gaining weight, you may need to further reduce your calorie consumption.

Now that you roughly know how many calories, carbs, fats, and proteins you should be eating per day, compare what you should be eating with what you actually ate. Does it surprise you? If you found out you are consuming way too much or way too little of something then it is time to start changing your diet so you can achieve your goals. If everything is perfect then that is fantastic. You might not need to change anything, but it will be worth it to continue reading so you can try to better fit your diet into the MyPlate model so you can get all the micronutrient your body needs (have a well-balanced diet).

If you need to cut your fats, proteins, and/or carbs, then the next step is to figure out what to cut, and what to change all together. Just like an exercise plan, there is no perfect plan for everyone, but I am going to attempt to go through some common changes and cuts you can make to get your macronutrient values down to your desired amounts. Some of the sacrifices you will need to make for your health will be tough, but it is the hard decision to reduce or remove certain foods from your diet that will make you a stronger and healthier person.

First, avoid drinking your calories. Whenever you drink soda, lemonade, juice, sweet tea, and other sugary drinks, you are consuming large amounts of carbohydrates due to the sugar. By drinking nothing but water you can easily decrease your carb intake. Second, do not eat fast food, and avoid eating out altogether. For most people, a Big Mac meal will contain all the fat they should eat in a single day. Even the healthier looking meals at nicer restaurants can have a large amount of macronutrients based on the portion sizes and type of food preparation. Third, learn to cook. Having frozen dinners at home can be just as bad for your health as eating out. Also, frozen meals have a lot of sodium, which could lead to high blood pressure and other illnesses. By cooking your own meals you can have full control over what you are eating, and your macronutrient and calorie intakes.

This course is not designed to be about cooking, and I don’t want to tell you what to eat. If you Google “how to eat healthy” or “healthy recipes” you will find thousands of websites. What I want to show you is there is a certain number of calories, fats, carbs, and proteins you should be eating in order to reach your goals, whether the goal is to gain muscle, lose weight, or maintain how you are. If you are serious about reaching your goals, I recommend you constantly monitor what you eat. Since this takes a lot of time, perhaps don’t always do the macronutrient analysis, but keep a food log to keep yourself accountable, then do an analysis a couple times a week to ensure you are eating what you should be.

Even after years of practicing healthy eating, conducting a dietary audit of myself can yield surprising results. I recently ate a couple buffalo chicken ceasar salad wraps for dinner and calculated the macronutrients as well as the sodium in the wraps. Just by eating two average sized salad wraps I had already consumed twice the amount of sodium that the American Heart Association recommends we consume per day. The dressing and tortilla together were close to 1000 mg of sodium and the buffalo sauce was about another 500 mg. The recommended daily sodium intake is 2300 mg or less, with a preferred value of 1500 mg. With two salad wraps that I thought were near bullet proof healthy I had already consumed 3000 mg of sodium, and that was just one meal.

Getting back to calories, a rule of thumb is that it takes a 3500 calorie deficit to burn one pound of fat. This means if you are a female who needs to consume 2000 calories per day to maintain weight, then you need to have calorie deficit of 500 calories per day (3500 divided by 7) to lose one pound of fat per week. This deficit can come from either what you eat, exercise, or both. If you want to lose one pound a week, every day you would need to burn 200 calories exercising, and eat 1700 calories, or any combination of exercise and eating to reach a total intake of 1500 calories per day.

I know I said this course isn’t about telling you what to eat to reach calories or the grams of carbs, fats, and proteins you need, but tomorrow we will talk more about how to improve your diet. Macronutrients are great to monitor until you get all your daily fats and carbs from potato chips, which is not good. The goal is to eat a well-balanced diet while meeting, and not exceeding, your calorie and macronutrient needs.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 7: Take a Break

This is day 7 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you” – Anne Lamott

The last 5 days I had you doing some form of exercise every day. Today, I want you to take a rest day. After you exercise your muscles need time to rebuild, so taking days off during the week is necessary to achieve better health and fitness. Rest days, however, do not mean you get to sit around, be lazy, and eat cheese puffs. It is important to keep your momentum and mental toughness every day. There are five things you should do on your rest days. The first one is obvious, you should rest. This does not mean you can’t go play a sport, go for a short walk, or go to the park with your family, it just means take it easy. The second thing I want you to do is let your body recover. Rest will ultimately lead to recovery, but the main reason you are resting is so your muscles have time to rebuild. If you aren’t giving your muscles a chance to recover through resting, then you are doing yourself a disservice. So if your friends really want you to play golf on your rest day but your legs are sore, it may actually be in your best interests to rent a cart instead of walking the course so your legs are nice and fresh for the next day’s workout.

The third thing I want you to do on your rest day is hydrate. Drinking plenty of water is important to stay healthy and to allow your muscles to rebuild. Fourthly, you need to stretch. Light yoga is a perfect exercise for one of your rest days. If you are not into yoga, spend at least 20 minutes stretching at home to keep your body in tip top shape. Stretching reduces soreness and ultimately prevents injury, and nothing is worse than getting set back from an injury. Finally, I want you to reflect on your goals and motivations. You just went through several days of working out and you are probably worn out, so it is good to remind yourself why you did it. This is a good time for another motivational video.

I also want to discuss cheat meals. We haven’t gone over how to improve your diet yet, that will start tomorrow, but when you get into a healthy eating routine it is okay to cheat sometimes. Cheat meals are a good way to go out to eat with friends without worrying what you are eating. Aim for no more than 2 cheat meals per week, for example if you go out to lunch with a colleague from work on Tuesday and order a burger and fries, and you eat out with your family Friday evening and order your favorite comfort food dish, then you should not choose to eat poorly on Saturday and Sunday.

Just like you should aim for no more than 2 cheat meals per week, aim for no more than 2 rest days per week. If you are at risk of injuring yourself, then take an extra day or two off and get back into it. But, if you are just sore, push through it and focus on a different muscle group for a day.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 6: Tracking Your Workouts

This is day 6 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen.

Right now you are working hard, and I admire that you made it all the way to day 6. You are almost half way done with 2 Weeks to Health, and so far you have hopefully learned a lot, but you still have a lot ahead of you. Today is a short lesson, and tomorrow you get to learn about taking breaks. Yes, even breaks have a method to the madness. I hope your daily exercises and your food log are going well.

Just like you need to monitor what you eat, I want you to get into the habit of keeping a workout log. This log can be as detailed as you want it to be, but I recommend that it at least says what day you exercised, how you exercised (weights, walking, etc.), and for how long or how many sets you completed. For example, you should write down “Tuesday Jan 26 – 30 minutes walking, 3 sets bench press, 3 sets curls, 3 sets bench dips, 15 minutes of stretching.” This at least lets you know when you last worked out certain muscle groups. A more detailed workout log, such as the one included in this book, could have the exercise, sets, weight, and repetitions.

There are a lot of workout logs out there that you can buy that are already set up for you, but nothing is as useful as buying a regular notebook from any office supplies store and using that. There is no need to be too fancy, the goal is to keep yourself accountable for your workouts. Sometimes when you have a couple busy days you may need to skip a workout or two, and a log will make sure you can remember when and what your last workout was. You can also track progress with this log. It is always a great feeling to look back in your log and see how much you have improved over the weeks and years.

You can incorporate your workout log with your food log, and also log your weight if that is a goal. This way a single notebook can track your workouts, diet, weight, and any other health factors you may want to know such as heartrates, blood pressure, steps taken, miles walked/ran, medications taken, protein or vitamin supplements taken, water consumed, and anything else you can think of that related to your health.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 5: Monitoring Your Diet

This is day 5 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

The beauty of food as medicine is that the choice to heal and promote health can begin as soon as the next meal.

Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. To be healthy (and to look good), you need to understand what you are putting into your body. Yesterday we discussed the MyPlate model and introduced macronutrients (macros) and micronutrients (micro). Today you will learn how to monitor your intake of macronutrients. As a reminder, macronutrients make up your calories. Because of this, the first part of this section is going to discuss calorie counting. The second part, which I will consider optional but highly recommended, will discuss macronutrient counting. But why should you put in the extra work to count macronutrients? Like I mentioned in the note yesterday, everyone needs a slightly different diet, and some diets are better for weight control than others. By counting your macronutrients you can learn more about your diet and what works best for you.

When you buy any food from a store, there is a section on the package labeled ‘Nutrition Facts’. For the next couple days I need you to pay close attention to this label, we are going audit your current diet and discuss it on day 8. Anything you eat or drink you will be written down in a journal or piece of paper that I recommend you carry with you everywhere. This journal should keep track of every food you eat or fluid you drink in a given day. You also need to track how many servings of that food you ate, how many calories are in a serving, and then how many total calories you ate. Every day you should have a total number of calories you consumed in that day. This will give us a base for a discussion on weight control later in this course.

—-Optional but Highly Recommended—-

If you choose to do the optional macronutrient counting then you will need to keep track of the grams of carbs, fats, and protein you consume. In the back on this book there are workouts logs that you can use to help you with this, or you can make your own journal.

Whenever you eat or drink anything, you need to write down the food/drink, and look at the nutrition facts on the package, just like you did with just calories. From the nutrition facts write down the serving size, carbs, fats, and proteins. Then look at the serving size, the servings per container, and how much you ate. Determine how much you ate and write down how many servings you ate. Please be completely honest, there is no reason to lie to yourself. Make sure you are taking portion size into account.

Multiply the carbs, fats, and proteins by the number of servings you ate to determine the number of carbs, fats, and proteins eaten. Serving sizes vary from food to food so even if you believe you know the serving size, recheck it. For example, a bottle of soda usually has 2 servings in it, so you have to multiply everything on the nutrition facts label by 2 in order to know what you consumed.

At the end of each day, add up the amount of carbs, fats, and proteins you consumed, and start over the next day. The goal is to see how many grams of carbs, fats, and proteins you consume per day.

—-End Optional but Highly Recommended Section—-

If you eat out or eat something like chips, it may be difficult to accurately estimate the nutritional values of what you ate. For something like chips, take your best guess. For a restaurant, they often post nutrition facts on their website, so a quick Google search might tell you. For everything else I recommend using http://www.wolframalpha.com. If you search “nutrition facts [insert food here]” on Wolfram Alpha, it will most likely have an answer for you. So if you ate a hamburger at a restaurant, Wolfram Alpha will tell you the average nutrition facts of an average hamburger. If you eat a banana or some fruit, it will also be able to tell you the nutrition facts for those as well. It has a database of almost every food.

The next two days I expect you to log everything you eat to the best of your ability. The more accurate you are, the better we will be able to analyze your current diet in a couple days.

I hope you have/had a great workout today! Keep up the momentum!

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 4: Understanding Your Current Diet

This is day 4 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Today and tomorrow is all about understanding and writing down what you are currently eating and drinking. I am not asking you to change anything about your diet yet, instead you first need to understand whether or not your current diet is going to work for your goals. But why does your diet matter? Your body can be compared to your performance at work, you get out what you put into it. If you put in the time and effort at work to do a good job, you are rewarded with bonuses, promotions, and that great feeling of achievement. If you are the person who is reading this article at work and commonly procrastinates and does the bare minimums, then you should expect your pay check and nothing else. Just like work, if you put good food into your body you will be rewarded with better health, better performance, and even a happier mind. If you put in the bare minimums, i.e. eating unhealthy food, you should expect nothing but a pay check that will go straight to your thighs. And you probably will not like any bonuses you receive. A common rule of thumb is when you are trying to lose weight, 80% of your weight loss comes from your diet while 20% comes from exercising. You cannot discount the importance of nutrition.

Before you start changing your diet, I want you to understand the basics of food and what you are currently putting into your body. Do you remember learning about the food pyramid in your high school health class? Well, the food pyramid model was replaced by a new model called MyPlate. This model shows what your plate should look like in order to have a healthy, well-rounded meal. It splits your diet into fruits, proteins, vegetables, grains, and dairy, and visually shows you what you should be eating. One of the biggest differences between MyPlate and the food pyramid is the new model does not have a fats, oils, and sweets group. Many of the foods you already eat are prepared in fats and oils, so any additional sweets and desserts aren’t doing anything good for your health.

myplate

How does your current diet look when you compare it to MyPlate? If you are exclusively a ‘steak and potatoes’ eater then you are going to be a bit off balance. Also, if you’re a vegetarian it might be lacking in some areas. The goal is to have a well-balanced meal that benefits your overall health. But making your plate look like this one isn’t always enough, especially if you want to lose weight.**

You often hear about counting calories, and how if you only eat a certain amount of calories you will lose weight. Yes that is true when strictly talking about weight loss, and we will actually talk more about that later on, but for overall health you need to dig a little bit deeper into what you are eating. The calories you eat can be broken into three categories called the macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Proteins come from your meats, eggs, and dairy. Fats also come from meats, nuts, oils, sweets, desserts, and many other sources. Carbohydrates are in fruits, grains, vegetables, and sugar.

Depending on your health goals, you need to eat a certain number of calories from each of these macronutrients. We will talk about how to monitor these nutrients tomorrow, and we will discuss the specifics of your nutrient needs on day 8. For now, I want you to recognize that to be healthy, you need all of them, fats, proteins, and carbs. Many people believe that carbs are what makes you fat, or that fat makes you fat. This is untrue, an excess in calories are what makes you fat, and calories come from all of the macronutrients, protein included.

There are also micronutrients, which are your vitamins and minerals. We won’t talk about micronutrients much during these 14 days, but I want to bring them up because they are very important to remain healthy. If you follow the MyPlate model, the chances are you will consume enough micronutrients to stay healthy. If your diet doesn’t quite match up to the model there are plenty of companies that would love to sell you a multivitamin to supplement your current diet. Multivitamins are fine and often needed if you do not eat a balanced diet, but if you eat well then you do not need one. Unless your doctor wants to put you on a supplement for an illness, I recommend that you save your money and put it toward your gym membership and try to get everything you need through what you eat. The main exception to this is if you are a vegetarian then you may want to supplement vitamin b12, which is a discussion to have with your doctor.

Now think about your current diet again. Does your plate look like the MyPlate model? Are your calories primarily coming from proteins and carbs, not fats? Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables to consume enough micronutrients? We are going to learn the answer to all of these questions by monitoring your diet for the next few days. Tomorrow you will learn how.

Remember to keep working out every day!

**Note: The MyPlate model is the government’s guidelines on what you should be eating as part of a well-balanced diet. However, everyone is genetically and physiologically different. What you need to eat to maintain weight may be slightly different than other people. If you are trying to lose weight, a lot of people find that eating a higher proportion of protein and a lower proportion of grains will help them lose weight quicker. Other people such as vegetarians and vegans cut out meat altogether and will say a diet low in protein and high in starches will help with weight loss. Also, dairy is often not considered to be essential for one’s diet. This is why it may be beneficial to meet with a dietician to discover what works best for you. We will talk more about the individuality of diets as we go through this course.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 3: Getting into a Workout Routine

This is day 3 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

You’re never too busy, it’s just a matter of priorities.

Welcome to day 3! Today we are going to discuss your options for how to get into a workout routine. I’m going to go step by step and introduce you to the different tools you can use!

Gym Membership:

While it is not required to have a gym membership to exercise, and actually at least a quarter of my workouts do not take place in a gym, this is by far the most common method people take when they decide to improve their health. I see it every year at New Year. On January 1st people flood to the gym with their New Year’s resolution to lose weight, but they never know the commitment it takes and give up when they are two weeks in with no results. That is why it is important to remain mentally strong and to stay motivated.

If you have the money and the time to commute to the gym, I highly recommend you buy a membership and then take advantage of what the gym has to offer. A busy gym can be intimidating because you are waiting for machines that you maybe do not even know if you want to use. Because of how intimidating it can be, I recommend you work out with a personal trainer for at least the first week to learn the basics. If you can’t afford a trainer, I will give you a few tips to get you started (we will talk about more detailed workout planning on day 12).

When you go to the gym, your workout will depend heavily on the time you have and your current fitness levels. This means it would be impossible for me to write a workout plan for you without meeting you. It will be up to you to decide what exactly to do, but here is a skeleton outline of one possibility:

Monday: 5 minute warm up on an elliptical, 15 minutes of ab exercises, 20 minutes of jogging or walking, 5 minutes of cooling down, 10 minutes of stretching

Tuesday: 5 minutes of stretching, 15 minutes of chest exercises, 15 minutes of arm exercises, 10 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of stretching

Wednesday: 5 minute warm up on an elliptical, 15 minutes of leg exercises, 20 minutes of cardio on a stationary bike, 5 minutes of cooling down, 10 minutes of stretching

Thursday: 5 minutes of stretching, 15 minutes of back exercises, 10 minutes of shoulder exercises, 15 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of stretching

Friday: 5 minute warm up on an elliptical, 15 minutes of walking or jogging, 15 minutes on a stationary bike or elliptical, 5 minutes of cooling down, 15 minutes of stretching

This is a very basic outline and assumes you have about an hour to workout. Adjust it as you need to, but remember, right now I don’t really care what you are doing as long as you are doing something every day. Use these workouts as a guideline for now, and we will talk more about this when we discuss detailed workout planning.

Whenever I tell you to do a certain type of exercise (like arms or abs), I recommend you do a little bit of research online to figure out what workouts you can do for them. If you google “arm exercises” you will find thousands of websites and applications that want to show you, for free, a large variety of arm exercises. Just a little bit of research will point you in the right direction. I would have provided a comprehensive list of exercises in this book, but there are already so many great websites that are already doing this. Also, do the same searches for stretching. For example, if you have a bad back, Google search “stretches for a bad back”. It is amazing what loosening your body after sitting all day at work can do for your mobility and overall health.

There are a lot of specialized websites and applications you can use to learn more about workout planning, and I encourage you start learning what does and does not work for you. I caution you, many of them will say ‘get [insert word here] quick’. Don’t be tricked by the get fit quick craze, this isn’t about quickness, it’s about long term sustainable results.

Personal Trainer:

I highly recommend you hire a personal trainer for at least the first week or two if you can afford one. A personal trainer will give you workouts that will push you and match your fitness level. Also, by setting an appointment with a personal trainer you will be less likely to miss a workout. Your gym will have personal trainers available for you to hire. Personal trainers will keep your goals in mind, show you new exercises, they are great to talk to, and they are often great to look at.

Classes:

Signing up for classes is another great way to hold yourself accountable and have fun while working up a sweat. Your local gym will have a class list available, and there may be smaller gyms around town that focus on a certain type of class. Some classes to look out for are Yoga, Bodypump, Zumba, Bootcamp, spin classes, CrossFit, and TRX. Talk to a representative at your local gym to see what they have available!

Friends:

Ask your friends what they are doing to stay in shape, and ask if they want to be your workout buddy. Be careful about what friends you ask. If you have a friend who is pretty fit and frequents the gym, they would be a good person to ask to tag along with. This way you knock out two birds with one stone, you catch up with a friend and fit in your workout for the day. You should avoid working out with friends who are less fit than you are, or friends who know less about health and fitness than you. You want to work out with someone who is going to push you, not someone who will hold you back.

At Home:

If you can’t afford a gym membership or you are stuck in the house then don’t worry. In a recent survey, we discovered that only 29% of people who reach their weight loss goals had a gym membership. There are plenty of ways to get fit at home. First, I encourage you to go for walks or jogs outside when the weather is reasonable. From my personal experiences, there is almost nothing that feels better than completing an outdoor run when the weather is beautiful (especially if you are finishing it at sunrise). If you have the money you can also buy home gym equipment such as a stationary bike, a treadmill, or free weights so you never have to leave the house to workout.

Calisthenics are also very easy to do at home. Some of the most difficult full body workouts I’ve ever completed occurred without any weights or equipment. You would be amazed at how much you can improve at home from 30 minutes of calisthenics. If you are struggling to fit in a workout during the day, then if you have 5 minutes a few times per day, spend that down time doing some sit-ups, lunges, or jumping jacks, or just something that gets your heart rate up.

Another at home workout method is to purchase a workout DVD or application. There are hundreds of DVDs and YouTube videos that you can exercise along with at home. With so many it can be hard to decide on which one to buy. I recommend trying out P90X, but other brands are definitely worth trying. You can find recommended workouts in the 2WeekstoHealth.com store.

If money is a significant concern but you want to spice up your workouts, there is very cheap exercise equipment you can buy to use at home. A jump rope only costs a couple dollars and is a great way to get your heartrate up and to exercise your legs. A medicine ball can increase the effectiveness of your core workouts, and add some additional challenge to your upper body workouts such as push-ups. Also, you can exercise almost every one of your muscle groups with a set of cheap resistance bands.  These can also be purchased in the 2WeekstoHealth.com store.

If you have a smartphone then there are several applications that you can exercise with. Go to your app store and search for fitness applications, and you will find they have workouts for almost everything! Also, video websites such as YouTube have thousands of videos posted by personal trainers that take you through full workouts. Definitely take advantage of all the free workout videos online.

Time Management and Prioritization:

Your day is already packed and it can be difficult to make time for working out, which is why it is important to properly manage your time and prioritize your workout. Whatever you currently do to manage your daily schedule, make sure you physically write in a time to exercise. By putting your workout plan in writing you will be more likely to complete it. If you are having trouble finding time to exercise, then this is where it becomes increasingly difficult. The solution to not having enough time is making sacrifices for your health. Think about what you are currently doing and what can be moved or eliminated so that you have the proper time to work on yourself. For example, maybe you don’t need to go out with your friends 4 days per week, watch hours of Netflix, spend time on social media, or even sleep a full 8 hours per night. Some things you will need to sacrifice to improve your health, even if you need to lose an hour of sleep (although don’t go below 7 hours of sleep).

Heart Rate:

Regardless of how you are exercising, you need to keep your heart rate up. If you are unsure if your heart rate is getting high enough, then I encourage that you buy a sports watch that shows your heart rate. Your target heart rate is a factor of your age, so if you are 30 years old you have a different target than if you are 50 years old. Here is a guide by the American Heart Association that tells you what your target heart rate is when exercising.

Age Target Heart Rate Zone (50-85%) Average Maximum Heart Rate (100%)
20 years 100 – 170 beats per minute 200 beats per minute
30 years 95 – 162 beats per minute 190 beats per minute
35 years 93 – 157 beats per minute 185 beats per minute
40 years 90 – 153 beats per minute 180 beats per minute
45 years 88 – 149 beats per minute 175 beats per minute
50 years 85 – 145 beats per minute 170 beats per minute
55 years 83 – 140 beats per minute 165 beats per minute
60 years 80 – 136 beats per minute 160 beats per minute
65 years 78 – 132 beats per minute 155 beats per minute
70 years 75 – 128 beats per minute 150 beats per minute

Do these sound too difficult?

You may be reading this thinking ‘there is no way I can do any of this’. If this is you, then do what you can, but remember to do something every day. Start by walking up and down the stairs a few times, or walking a couple blocks outside. Slowly increase your intensity, and make sure you are reaching your target heart rate. You will slowly start getting stronger, and you will go back and read this knowing that you are ready for the next step. No matter what your starting point is, you can finish in the best shape of your life.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 2: Start Now!

This is day 2 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

Thinking and doing are two very different things.

Yes, you read today’s title correctly. Stop reading this and go to the gym, go for a walk, run up and down the stairs, play soccer with your kids, go do something active for at least ten minutes and then come back and read the rest. (If you’re at the office then I suppose it is okay to read this first and then go do something active after work.)

—– Go get some exercise, then continue reading. ——

Welcome back, how are you feeling (excluding my friends at the office who should be doing work and not reading right now, but I don’t blame you)? Tired? Sore? Accomplished? Probably all of the above. That’s how I want you to feel: tired, sweaty, but ready for the next workout because it makes you feel fantastic. Now that you completed the first workout with this two week course, I need you to continue to exercise every day. You may be asking ‘what should I do? All of these machines at the gym are so complicated’, or ‘I don’t even have a gym membership, how can I work out at home?’ We will talk more about workout planning tomorrow, but today you already accomplished the first two goals.

The first goal was the biggest step, not letting me scare you on day 1. Congratulations, you are already beating most of my readers! The second goal is starting now. The biggest challenge most people have is starting and then keeping their momentum. Depending on your goals and your current fitness level, your workouts will differ from your friends, family, and the gym rats. But the secret is it doesn’t matter what workout you are planning to do if you don’t do it.

Today you started, and I am now challenging you to workout/exercise every day until I tell you to (spoiler, it is day 7). I want you to have at least twenty minutes of activity from day 2 through day 6. If right now you can only squeeze in 5 to 10 minutes of exercise then that’s okay, but you can’t take a day off. The goal is to build momentum and to begin to form healthy habits. Once you get into a routine you should feel accomplished from your workouts and you will want to keep exercising. You are going to start feeling great just because you are committing yourself to your health.

Tomorrow we will discuss some of the basics of workout planning and the options that are available to you. In the meantime, have you ever wandered into the cat section of YouTube and been trapped watching kittens for hours? Me too, but there is an equally great motivational videos side of YouTube that you should check out.

2 Weeks to Health 1st Ed – Day 1: Mental Preparation

This is day 1 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” -Art Williams

Life is hard to balance, I understand that. Between juggling family, work, hobbies, and other interests it can be difficult to find time to exercise and eat healthy. With it being so hard, why try to be healthy? The benefits of being healthy are vast: you feel better, live longer, spend less money on healthcare, gain better mental clarity, and are often happier. What you should do first is determine why you want to become a healthier individual, because it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it. The ‘why’ is the core of intrinsic motivation. Regardless of your reason for wanting to live a healthier life, hold onto it. The people who never lose sight of why they are exercising and eating healthy will ultimately be the ones to reach their goals.

Becoming healthier starts with your mentality and your motivation to succeed. Something or someone motivated you to read 2 Weeks to Health. Whatever it may be, harness that motivation and don’t let it go. Motivation is what will get you on the path to physical health. However, there are no short term solutions. It is not as simple as a month of dieting, going for a couple walks, or going to the gym to read your favorite book while riding a stationary bike (you know who you are). You need to be mentally prepared for the challenge, or you will never push yourself to achieve the results you want.

Do not let this scare you away, you’ve had this drive before. Think about what your passions are, or what you have thrown yourself into, giving everything to succeed. Maybe it’s your work, your family, or even back in the day when you were a high school athlete. That same drive and passion you had needs to be the drive and passion you have for your health. I am not doubting you will make some positive difference by giving minimal effort. Nonetheless, you will not see the results you are capable of if you don’t put your heart into it.

You should train your mental toughness by always maintaining a positive attitude, clarity of your goals, commitment to yourself, passion for your health, simplicity in your scope, and maintain a firm hold on reality. Your ambition to succeed, knowledge, self-belief, persistence, and adaptability are what will allow you to reach your goals. When things get hard, turn toward your motivation which we will talk more about on day 11.

You should also practice self-discipline when trying to reach your health goals. To do this, prioritize your health, do something every day to maintain your momentum, set small incremental goals, never procrastinate, record your progress, and ultimately, have fun while doing it!

There is nothing more important than mental preparation before starting a path to a healthier life. While this can be a very fun and fulfilling process, for a variety of reasons many people fail to achieve their goals. You shouldn’t be afraid of failure, what you should be afraid of is never starting. There will be days where you will not meet a goal but you will learn from every failure, and that is what will make you succeed.

The two weeks of tools I am going to give you will change your life only if you read them knowing you can achieve your goals. You owe it to yourself not to stop when it becomes difficult or when it hurts, but to stop only when you’re done. This two weeks will assume that you are a mentally strong person and that you want to make a change to improve your health. This starts here on day 1 with nothing but mental conditioning. So get ready for the most rewarding change of your life. I’ll see you tomorrow.