Category Archives: lifestyle design
Dedicated to health, intentional decisions, and the good life.
Here’s a link to a new AP article that discusses the new finding that fructose, a sugar that finds itself throughout the American diet, may lead to chemical changes that spur overeating:
This is nothing surprising for those that follow the Livtastic Health Plan, but it’s always good to get some more scientific research to support our findings.
This is the story of US Navy Pilot, Captain Jack Sands. Some say this story is an urban legend, but it is not.
Captain Sands was a pilot that was shot down during the Vietnam War, and subsequently was captured and became a Prisoner of War (POW). He spent seven years in Hanoi, the prison camp sarcastically and famously known as the Hanoi Hilton. Most people know of the Hanoi Hilton through the story of Senator John McCain and his own POW experiences.
Captain Sands, like other POW’s, was confined to absolute isolation. There was no physical activity permitted, and any human contact was very limited. He “lived” in a five foot by five foot cage for seven years in isolation. Most of us, if we were honest with ourselves, would not come out of that situation at all, and if we did, we would not be sane. What Captain Sands did to survive can help all of us transform our lives.
Though he was confined physically, he realized that he didn’t have to be confined mentally. And so he started the process in his mind of constructing a beautifully perfect golf course. He created this image in every detail, including all of the sights, smells and feelings. He imagined the grass, the trees, even the clothes on his back, and created a mental image of each of the 18 holes. Then he set out to play the course.
Every day for seven years, Captain Sands stepped foot onto that golf course and played a full 18 holes, stroke by stroke. He experienced, in his mind, the wind, sounds, smells, and how it felt to make each of those swings at the ball. And since this was his course, and his game, he hit every stroke perfectly. Each swing was perfect, each approach shot was perfect, and each putt was perfect. Captain Sands had the luxury in that five by five box of enjoying a perfect round of golf every day.
At this point in the story, you may already feel like there’s a lesson learned. We can all paint a perfect mental picture in our heads, and use it as an “escape” from our daily lives and enjoy something great, if only in our minds. Yet that’s not the lesson we are going to learn from Captain Sands. See, Captain Sands was a casual golfer before he became a Navy Pilot, occasionally playing the game and always shooting around 100. After seven years of perfect mental golf, however, things changed. After he was released and made it back home, Captain Sands scored a 74 on the first round he had played in over 8 years. He had not only not played a round of golf, he had had no physical activity under the harshest of treatment and conditions, yet he shaved over twenty strokes off of his game. Really?
Yes, really. The lesson learned is that reality is largely formed in your mind. Superstars in any activity expect to win, regardless of the conditions or the situation. It is that expectation that sets their course, and results in superior performance. And it’s something that you can use in your life — in whatever you do. Take time each day to create the perfect performance picture in some area of your life — your job, your marriage, your health — and in exacting detail, experience it fully in your mind. Experience how it feels, how it looks, and how it smells. Imagine the likely obstacles in your way and picture how you will overcome them and come out victorious.
We have all heard of mental imagery, positive thinking, and focus. Yet this is different. This is creating the full “video” in your mind in exacting detail, from start to finish, and replaying it over and over. It’s not doing it one time or every once in a while. It’s taking time each day to do it, until it becomes your mental reality. That mental reality will transform the actual one. It seems simple in concept, but very few of us will take the time, every day, to do this.
It’s critical to not overextend yourself, thus creating a larger challenge than your day, or your focus, can handle. Take one area of your life that you can visualize in exacting detail in 15 to 30 minutes a day, and visualize it. This doesn’t need to be some kind of meditation event, where you need to isolate yourself in a soundproof, dark room to become immersed. This is an extension of your imagination, and can be done in your bedroom, office, subway train, or cubicle. Don’t get caught up on the process, get wrapped into the scenario you create.
I have learned some important lessons in my life, but one of the most important is that I truly am limited by my own mental weakness more than anything. I wasn’t physically unable to lose weight, I was mentally unprepared. People are guided, more than they know, by their fear to fail. People come to the assumption that they are average, or maybe even slightly above average, because it’s a safe and comfortable assumption to make. The people who don’t assume that go on to do great things, far beyond their expectations. Those great things are measured in different ways by each of us, but determine what it is that you think is great, perhaps nearly unachievable, and start to visualize yourself accomplishing that goal. That’s it. Do it every day.
HarvardHealth Article Unintentionally Highlights the Problems with Modern Healthcare!
Today in the Harvard Health Blog from Harvard Medical School, an article was posted entitled “Doctor groups list top overused, misused tests, treatments and procedures“. This sounds like a great thing to do — find those tests and treatments in the system that are overused or misused. This can only help, right? But what’s the underlying cause of this? The answer reveals the intent of the research, which is to reduce and eliminate treatments to reduce medical costs. No doubt there’s a need to review, revise and eliminate many practices, but let me provide an excerpt from the article to set the context of the problem:
“Take an exercise stress test as an example. It involves walking on a treadmill while monitors record the heart rate, heart rhythm, and blood pressure. It’s a useful test for people who have symptoms that might indicate heart disease, like chest pain when they are active or under stress. But as with many tests, it isn’t useful just to ‘check under the hood’ in people who feel fine.”
This highlights the problem of focus in modern medicine. Doctors are focused on reactive treatments for existing conditions, and not on proactive health plans to avoid problems to begin with. With an increasing focus on reducing healthcare costs, doctors will become even more reactive, instead of doing what they should to truly reduce costs and improve health — develop proactive, long-term plans for their patients. Using the heart stress test as an example, you won’t have the opportunity to take the test until you’re already showing significant symptoms of heart problems. Why not try and avoid those problems in the first place?
Proactive healthcare could be easily achieved. Annual physicals could be given to patients that include blood tests, scans, and stress tests that not only provide detailed and accurate information, but could also be compared year-over-year to find potential areas of negatively affected health. Furthermore, doctors need to be more aggressive in recommending and monitoring strategies for optimal health. Here are what I consider to be the Big 4 (in order of importance) to health, most of which are not handled well by modern medicine:
1. Diet – The percentage of overweight Americans in encroaching territory that makes the movie Wall-E look like a documentary, and clinically obese Americans are now 40% of the population according to several studies. The simple overconsumption of food is burdening our healthcare system beyond belief. Not only are we overeating, we are eating foods loaded with chlorine dioxide, high fructose corn syrup, and a processed amalgamation of synthetic preservatives, additives and sweeteners. A proactive diet can change your life, and I’m living proof of that. Doctors will prescribe medicine for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. They do a horrible job of having honest conversations about eating, and particularly about offering effective strategies for results.
2. Sleep – Your body needs good sleep for everything from digestion, hormone distribution, and mental health. Poor sleep, sleep apnea, and a lack of REM sleep are contributing to poor physical and mental health. Body fat affects sleep and breathing, so the bigger you get, the more likely you will develop problems with sleep. A lack of good sleep will result in a likelihood to gain more weight. This vicious cycle is hard to break, and should be handled from two angles: 1) Start a proper healthy eating plan; and 2) Go to your ENT doctor and get a sleep study if you snore heavily, may have sleep apnea, or are having trouble sleeping. At one point, I went to my doctor with extreme fatigue (falling asleep while driving in the middle of the day) and depression for no apparent reason. He prescribed me anti-depressants. It was on my own that I discovered I had a severely deviated septum (which required surgery) and severe sleep apnea. Getting a simple breathing machine and having the surgery completely changed my life. I completely eliminated both the fatigue and the depression within four days of using the breathing machine when I slept.
3. Biology – I’m sure you’ve had a workup and blood test from your doctor to check on your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and in some cases the functioning of your liver and kidneys. Great! That information is critical to optimal health. What doctors often fail to check are areas that can help prevent many future problems from arising such as hormones. What are your testosterone and estrogen levels (yes, men and women have both!)? Low testosterone in men can lead to everything from depression and low energy, to increased risk for disease. And hormone levels in women may provide insight into the same risks, as well as autoimmune issues. Getting a complete picture of your health is critical. Instead of prescribing medication to lower your bad cholesterol, there should be a focus on not letting it get there in the first place.
4. Exercise – The Livtastic Health plan makes a clear distinction between exercise and activity. Activity is the act of doing things that you like to do, as well as just getting around in the day. If you like to ride your bike, then ride your bike — that’s activity. Exercise is a specific physical process with a specific purpose and goal. First, you should determine your health goals, and then engage in specific and targeted exercises to achieve those goals. This will eliminate a lot of wasted time in doing things that are not really focused toward a particular goal. Do you want to increase your muscle mass or definition, increase your cardio, eliminate your back pain, or run faster or jump higher? By developing key exercise goals, simple and targeted exercises can help you achieve them. Your goals should also be realistic. Do I want six pack abs? Of course. Do I want them bad enough to do the extra work to lower my body fat percentage to 6-8%? Probably not. Getting healthy is much easier than most people think, but top conditioning takes top performance techniques and behaviors that you may not be willing to sustain long term.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Everything in my life that has resulted in substantiative changes to my health I discovered on my own! Unfortunately, you can’t rely on the medical professionals to provide you with a proactive health plan — the system is just not set up that way! Find people around you that have achieved their goals or who live healthy lifestyles and ask them what they’re doing. Read articles on the internet about healthy foods and healthy eating. Most importantly, take control. Demand from your doctor what tests you would like to take and what information you would like to see, and work with your doctor to develop a balanced approach to your health. If the tests or numbers don’t make sense to you, ask what they mean! Modern medicine is great for many things, and you certainly cannot discard any current health issues you may have and the impact they will have on any diet or exercise plan that you do.
The secret lies in finding a plan that will provide the greatest results for the least amount of effort involved. A simple plan will be easy to follow and adhere to, and will also be easiest to maintain long-term. Can an insanely intense DVD program give you ripped abs in 90 days? Maybe. Are you willing to do an insanely difficult workout six days a week for the rest of your life to maintain them? Probably not. Can crash dieting help you lose weight fast? Yes. Is it healthy for you? No, and the results likely will not only not last, you are likely to ‘rebound’ to a heavier weight than before. Simply stated, you need to proactively find a healthy, sustainable, and easy to follow plan for your overall health.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain. Don’t let Harvard scholars or your doctor intimidate you, and don’t succumb to following the behaviors of the majority of your peers. Both are fatal mistakes. What is good to sustain a massive number of people is not necessarily good for the individual. Discover what’s best for you!
I am a fan of mixed martial arts, which under the umbrella of the UFC is the fastest growing sport in the world. I have found that this combat sport is a lightning rod of opinions, however, with some who are convinced that it is art in motion while others believe it’s a brutal form of human cockfighting. Regardless of your opinion on the sport, the fact remains that the competitors are some of the best conditioned athletes in the world. Their cardio, strength, flexibility, and timing top all of the athletic performance charts. To get to the highest levels of performance, these athletes follow health and diet plans that exceed those in any other sport today.
One of the legends of this emerging sport is former Middleweight Champion Rich “Ace” Franklin. A former teacher with a Masters Degree in Mathematics, he is very bright, and the systematic approach he has taken to manage his diet provides some valuable insights. He recently posted an excellent piece on artificial sweeteners, with a particular emphasis on Sucralose (found in sweeteners such as Splenda). Rather than regurgitate his blog, I’ll point you there! Click on the link to read about the problems with artificial sweeteners and their effects on your health.
As a delicious side dish to any lunch or dinner, roasted broccoli is both easy to prepare and delicious. Follow these simple steps to make a delicious vegetable side dish:
- Cut up fresh broccoli heads to the desired size. (Frozen broccoli is fine, too, but fresh is always better!)
- Toss the cut broccoli in a bowl with enough olive oil to coat the broccoli.
- After the broccoli is coated, mix in some minced garlic and a splash of lemon juice or zest, as well as a couple of dashes of salt and red pepper flakes.
- Toss in the bowl to coat and evenly spread the mix.
- Evenly spread the broccoli on a sheet pan and place in the oven.
- Roast the broccoli in a preheated oven at 400º F for 12-15 minutes
- Remove and Enjoy.
This temp and roast time should keep the broccoli crisp and delicious. In our family, we have enjoyed this at lunch and dinner, and it has been an easy and quick way to make something different that both the kids and the adults enjoy.