5 Steps to Make a Life Changing Transformation

Change is going to happen. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, or what you do, change is inevitable. Many people struggle with change. The struggle occurs because the change happens to you, rather than for you. You are forced to change, rather than choosing to transform, and that lack of control can be uncomfortable, unnerving, and frustrating. It’s like being pulled by the undertow in the ocean; Fearing that you may never regain control and reach the surface again becomes very real.

The issue lies in the fact that we’ve never really been taught how to create positive change; We’ve never been taught that it’s a process that we can take control of it. During your schooling years from preschool all the way through college and post graduate studies, much of your self-development and growth occurs as a result of others guiding you through the learning and transformation processes. It teaches and conditions you to that change is done for you, rather than by you, making you feel like a passive participant in your own growth and development.

As you work your way out of school and into traditional life, the responsibility of personal growth and learning falls squarely on your shoulders. No longer are people intentionally guiding you to acquire more knowledge, build your skills, and develop yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is where most people stop developing almost completely and become stagnant in their life. They no longer consistently learn and grow, struggle to create positive change, and find themselves merely treading water. This is a scary place to be because it goes against our natural human desire to stay in motion and work to grow and achieve more. Even though change is scary, being stuck feels worse. Without that growth, without the positive motion moving us forward, we feel lost and struggle to find ourselves.

That’s where Intentional Change Theory can play a pivotal role. It’s a structured approach to self-development and personal transformation created by Richard Boyatzis. It was theorized and designed for use in the development of employees and growth in the business sector, but can work for everything from career improvement and emotional development, to physical transformations, relationship building and skill acquisitions. It helps guide you from where you currently are to where you want to be through 5 key steps:

  1. Connecting to Your Ideal Self
  2. Understanding Your Real Self
  3. Creating a Learning & Growth Agenda
  4. Implementing and Experimenting with New Behaviors &Habits
  5. Developing & Maintaining Close, Personal Relationships

With these 5 steps you will discover important things about yourself that will help you achieve personal growth and transform your life. Diving deep in the questions below, you will begin to uncover the truth about who you are; Your strengths and weaknesses, your dreams and aspirations, and your fears and personal obstacles will all be brought to the surface . This insight will guide you through building a structured transformation process and help you grow into the person you have always wanted to become, to develop the life you’ve always dreamed of living.

If you’re ready to take control of your life, seeking out and creating change intentionally rather than waiting for it to happen to you, continue reading this guide that will have you on your way to living your best life and becoming your truest self. 

Ideal Self:

What do you want out of life?

Don’t think about what you’ll tolerate, or what you think is possible; what do you truly want and desire out of life?

Who do you want to become? What does the very best version of yourself look like?

Most of us tend to live small. We plan small, dream small and live small. It’s safe and it keeps us from feeling the anxiety and fear of being truthful about our dreams and goals and chasing them feverishly. It keeps us from being let down if things don’t work out.

But living safe isn’t living life to it’s fullest. It’s living below your potential and accepting less than what you truly want and deserve. It leaves you always wanting more, left with feelings of dissatisfaction and irritation.

Your ideal self breaks through these societal and self-imposed limitations, smashes through the idea that you’re not worth the effort to go after want you want. It helps you tap into your deepest desires for yourself and the life you live. This is the part of the vision building process which works on something called “Positive Emotional Attraction” to create hope and inspiration for individuals to create change. Rather than focusing on external limitations and factors that can lead to feelings of negativity, visualization allows you to look at yourself and your situation in the most positive possible light.

When going through the questions above, it’s important to be aware of any of the limiting stories or ideas that come across your mind. These are the stories that the world around you has told you for years, driven by their own fear and limitations, that you’ve adopted as your own. If you start thinking, “I can’t achieve that”, “I’m not good enough for that”, “I’m not X, Y, or Z type of person” or anything sounding remotely similar, understand that’s not your own true thoughts and feelings, but rather the thoughts and feelings you have absorbed over a lifetime.

This section is where you let those feelings go, be truthful with yourself about what you want and need out of yourself and your life and start visualizing what that would look and feel like. Put aside your preconceived notions about what’s possible based on your current skills, characteristics, attributes, etc.; Turn your focus to what you want your life to look like if there were absolutely no limitations and anything was possible (hint: in many ways, it is possible).

Real Self:

This is who you truthfully are right now. How do you act? How do you see yourself? How do other people see you and feel about you?

Your real self is the person that you currently are. It’s the way you act and respond, the characteristics you embody, the skills you currently possess, and the life you’re currently living. This is a difficult area for people to dive into because we all have our own biases and protections for our egos. We struggle to see ourselves honestly, without outside influences or personal opinions distorting the truth about ourselves. However, if we are afraid to look in the mirror, we can never change the things we don’t like. Embrace the “ugly”. Be honest. Put aside your ego and take this dive into who you truly are as an opportunity for reflection, self-awareness, and growth.

As you work through the questions above, it can help to reach out to other people to gather their opinion on who you are. Choose people who know you well but aren’t afraid to speak their mind and be honest, without fear of hurting your feelings. You must also be open to the constructive criticism these people may provide and welcome it as a self-performance review. It will show you where you excel and show you where you can improve. if you adopt a mindset that sees honesty and growth as a positive opportunity, the ability to improve is invigorating and energizing. These people will play a pivotal role in your growth and development over your lifetime, so getting them involved early and often is important.

Ideal vs Real Self: Your Personal Balance Sheet

Compare your ideal self to your real self. Where do they align? Where are there gaps and differences between the two?

Where does your real self live up to your ideal self? These are the strengths that you’ll continue to build on and use to your advantage.

Where does your ideal self outpace your real self? These are the weaknesses or shortcomings where you will focus your attention and put energy into improving.

This works as a personal balance sheet designed to compare where your strengths lie, and where opportunities for growth can be found. It’s important to approach this process entirely judgment free, focusing on unconditional acceptance of self. Look at is as a chance to improve yourself and your life, rather than beat yourself up over your weaknesses or areas in which you aren’t living up to your potential.

It can be helpful to set up a Venn diagram comparing your real and ideal self and putting the overlapped areas in the middle to show where they align. You can then move onto the next section and start building a plan to bridge the gap between your ideal and real self, using your strengths to get you there.

Learning Agenda:

Your learning agenda is the plan you develop that guides you step by step from where you currently are, to where you want to go. It’s the map that leads you to the treasure chest of wealth that is your ideal self and life. It’s important to build a clear outline with goals that are broken down further into skills and practices/habits. This ensures that you’re giving yourself the best chance to succeed in transformation.

What do you need to learn to become your best self? What skills do you need to develop?

In what areas to you need to grow physically, mentally and emotionally to become the best version of you?

How can you take the information from above and break it down into manageable steps that can be achieved through daily action (habits and behaviors) over the course of weeks and months or even years?

The learning agenda is a guide; it’s the Yoda to the Luke Skywalker that is your personal growth and development. It acts to not only show you the path to your highest self and form of living, but also to motivate you by proving that it’s actually possible to achieve. Focus on the key aspects of your personal growth, the areas that will bring you the most drastic change the quickest. Then, narrow your lens view as you achieve those major changes.

A large portion of your focus will be on bridging the gaps between your ideal and real self, but attention should also be paid to strengths and areas in which you are already succeeding. This works to reinforce those strengths and to ensure that you continue to maintain them as you move forward. This gives you a boost of motivation by working in an area where you already excel. Working on weaknesses and constantly struggling to build upon them can become a grind, so it’s necessary to affirm your strengths.

But while it is important to focus necessary attention on those areas, don’t become lost in that. It can be easy to be absorbed by the good feelings and comfort of the “pat on the back”. Acknowledge what you’ve done well, and what you will continue to do, but don’t let it take you away from the process of transformation.

Practice and Experimentation with New Habits and Behaviors:

This may be the most important step in this entire process. Without the previous three steps, however, it will fall far short of its potential. This is where you take the planning, motivation, and insight built over the first three steps and put them into action.

What habits and behaviors must you adopt if you wish to become your ultimate self?

How can you implement the practice of those behaviors into your current life?

How will you ensure that failure in practicing or creating a new behavior doesn’t end up in you quitting the improvement process entirely?

It’s important to understand and accept that change doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just decide to become a better person, to live a better life, and then wake up expecting it to happen. It takes hard work and a level of dedication that gets you through the low points. But if you keep your eyes on the end goal while believing in your ability to achieve it, the work will come naturally. Though difficult at times, it will be well worth it. Focus on what you do daily as a way to weigh your success in the process, working for consistency rather than perfection. Measure those habits up to the check points you’ve set for yourself, and continue to do this process over time.

It’s also necessary to remember that your ultimate self is probably unattainable– meaning, perfection is something that will never happen. You will never do every single thing you set out to do daily. It’s about a majority win. When good habits prevail 90 percent of the time, you’re winning. The idea that your ultimate self won’t be 100 percent achieved shouldn’t dampen your emotion but rather keep you level headed as you work towards it without ever truly achieving it.

Development and Maintenance of Close Personal Relationships:

Picture of friends smiling and sitting in a cafe having coffee together.

Humans are built for connection. It plays on our need for survival. Those who are connected with others and work well in groups typically survive better than lone wolfs. It also works with our desire to reproduce, as connection is a vital component to create relationships and families. Though our needs for survival have drastically changed throughout human history, there is still a large need for human connection and support in achieving anything of worth, especially a massive transformation. You can go at this journey alone, but your chances of success and the speed at which you succeed will fall greatly without the assistance from people close to you.

The relationships that we have with individuals and groups work two fold. They work as a support system, providing feedback on your progress, and helping you through your struggles so you don’t revert back to old behaviors. They also help develop your identity. Because of this, it’s important to surround yourself with people who will be honest and challenge you, those who believe in your vision for your life and live their lives in a similar manner. Working toward personal growth and aiming to live the best life possible is so much easier when done together.

Your personal relationships include friends and family, but expand outside of that small circle to encompass people you wouldn’t normally expect. Bosses and mentors, coaches who have already achieved what you wish to work for, and anyone else willing to invest in your process of change are all people you should keep close to you. Start looking within your life to find people who fit the criteria of being a supportive member on your journey, and then expand outward searching for coaches or mentors who can help guide you where others cannot.

Remember that the relationship should be mutually beneficial. You will be gaining something from them, and giving something in return. Enter the relationship in such a way that ensures you’re not simply taking.

Change is Your Choice

Change is going to be tough no matter how it happens. Whether you change as a result of difficult times that force change, or simply decide that you’re going to dedicate yourself to the betterment and improvement of your life, it’s going to be difficult. The difference between intentional change and the change that happens to you and is forced upon you, is that the former makes you feel empowered with the ability to create change, while the latter leaves you feeling out of control and at the mercy of life. It’s your choice and responsibility to decide who you want to be and the life you want to live, and it starts with your approach to your own development and growth.

Do you want to accept life as it is, always at the mercy of the inevitable difficulties that life throws at you? Or would you prefer to grab the reins of change, take control of your life and grow into the person you’ve always been capable of becoming?

Ultimately the choice is yours and I can’t fault you for not wanting to put forth the immense amount of effort it takes to create change for yourself and work toward a better life. But the truth is that your time on earth is limited and you’ve already been living a small, underwhelming life, so isn’t it time to try something new?

P.S. If you’ve been struggling to make a change in your life, especially if it’s related to health, nutrition, fitness or mindset, contact me at achievefitllc@gmail.com to discuss my coaching process and how I can help you implement some of the tools from this article and ensure you make the changes you desire and start living the life you have always wanted!

COVID-19: The Ultimate Mindset Shift

I remember getting the notification about gyms closing due to COVID-19 and being both worried and upset. A place that I considered a second home, was being closed down for 2 weeks (which turned into 4) in an effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve. I felt like I had lost a best friend, something that has been a daily part of my life for over 12 years, and I wasn’t sure how I would get by.

Writing it out like that, it seems silly. The gym, my best friend? But in many ways, no matter how sad that sounds, it’s true.

The gym was the place I went to when times were good, bad and especially when they were ugly. It was the place I felt most comfortable and free. It was always open, always available, and always gave back more than I put in. When I had no one else, I always had the gym, so the loss of it left me grieving. As such, I went through the various stages of grief.

Denial, anger, depression, and bargaining.

Finally, I came to acceptance and realized that regardless of how I felt, the situation was not going to change and the change that needed to happen was in the way I looked at and approached the situation. Sure, I didn’t have the same equipment that a commercial, or even private gym has, but I did have some equipment and that was far better than nothing. I may not be able to workout in the same way or capacity that I was used to, but I could still workout and get many of the same benefits.

By changing my mindset I went from worrying about losses in muscle and strength, to focusing on the gains I would make in other areas of fitness. I thought about how this setback could be an opportunity to become a more well-rounded athlete and a better fitness and nutrition coach. I went from angry, anxious, and depressed about the situation, to excited, energized and hopeful about what could come of it.

If you want to change your mindset about your fitness and training during this time and go from complaining about what you lost to focusing on what you may gain, continue reading. If not, do your best just to “grind through” until the gyms open, whenever that may be.

The New Status Quo

The most important step in making the most out of this situation is treating these changes like they’re the new “normal”. Stop waiting for things to get back to normal, stop trying to control the uncontrollable. Instead, adjust and adapt to the situation as it is, rather than how you’d like it to be. This is not only going to be a powerful mindset shift for your training, but for your life as we learn to operate within the guidelines. It does you absolutely no good to put energy into and dwell on what was or what could be. Instead, focus on what is and what still can be.

How can you make the most of the situation as it stands? If this situation was permanent, or at least for the next 6 months, how would your approach to training, nutrition and your daily life change?

These are important questions to answer if you want to change your approach to your fitness during this time and make the most out of a poor situation.

Work on Weaknesses
We’ve all got them. That side of your body that isn’t as strong, that exercise that’s a massive struggle for you, or the area of fitness you’re lacking. Use this time to not only build awareness of your weaknesses, but attack them ferociously so when you get back to your typical gym routine you’re stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Where do you biggest weaknesses lie? What exercises and/or types of workouts give you the most trouble or do you avoid (because they’re hard or “suck”)? What have you been avoiding because it isn’t fun, sexy or doesn’t play up to your strengths?

Answer those questions and then get to work!

Get Creative
Challenge yourself to find creative, new ways to workout. Maybe you decide to use heavy objects around the house, like laundry detergent, milk jugs, or back packs loaded with books or cans. Maybe you have weights but need to find ways to challenge your strength because of the limitations of equipment or amount of weight you have access to, like using offset loads or training unilaterally. No matter what your specific limitations are, take it as an exciting new challenge rather than a setback.

What objects do you have around your house that you can use for exercise equipment?

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, turn your sights on what you do have and how you can make use of it.

Try New Types of Exercise
Is there a workout class or fitness program you’ve been curious about trying? Now is a great time to jump in and give it a go! Find free workouts online through Google of YouTube, join a live class (I run 3 each week live through Zoom, if you’d like the info comment below) or reach out to a coach or trainer you trust who specializes in the type of exercise you’re interested in. Expand your fitness knowledge and improve the way that your body moves (while working on likely weaknesses from #1) to become a more well rounded human and athlete.

There’s no better time to try something new, and the internet offers you a great opportunity to find all sorts of free or inexpensive options from the comfort of your home. Figure out what interests and excites you (or challenges you), head to YouTube or Google, and find exactly what you’re looking for (and more).

Focus on Mobility and Recovery
You probably have been meaning to get around to fixing that knee pain, improving the depth of your squat, and working on your mobility for years now. You’ve had all the right intentions and may have even found a routine that you started, but I’m going to guess that you’ve never actually put in consistent, intentional time on your mobility. I get it though. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t show as well on social media or in conversations the way a deadlift PR or longest run does, but it’s a necessary component to a fitness program and your physical health. Take this extra time (and likely lack of equipment) to focus on an area that will benefit you not only immediately, but also over the long haul.

For my daily mobility routine that you can do anywhere and anytime, follow this link. It can be done in 20-30 minutes and will touch on every joint and muscle in the body to ensure that your body moves and feels better than every. Start taking care of you body and improving your mobility so that when you get back to your normal training, you’ll be stronger than ever before.

If you want to spend your time upset about the loss of gyms and the change in your typical workout and routine, that’s your choice, but you’re far better off accepting the situation as it is and choosing to find the silver lining. You’ll be happier, healthier and much more productive as a result.

P.S. I am opening up spots in my group coaching program to anyone who is looking for accountability and support in addition to some awesome workouts and training resources. If you’re interested, leave a comment and let me know so I can get you signed up. The best part: it’s entirely FREE! Join today!

“Brain Dump” Your Way to Better Sleep & a Happier Mind

It’s not uncommon for people to struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. For some, this may be a result of unused physical energy (that idea of your body being tired), while others may have a hard time turning their mind off and settling in. Thankfully both are (relatively) easy to rectify with a bit of action, but for today’s sake let’s focus on the mental side of things as this is where more people, in my experience, tend to struggle.

My favorite tool I have clients use to clear their mind, slow down their thoughts and find mental peace to make sleep easier to find is called a “brain dump”. It’s an unscientific term I use to describe the process of dumping everything that’s on your mind and keeping you awake, down onto a piece of paper. It acts as “save button” for your brain, allowing your mind to be at ease knowing that you won’t forget anything important that you’re currently focused on.

You see, the reason that your mind races and doesn’t allow to you sleep is because it deems the information that it’s dwelling on to be important. Things to do, bills to pay, checklists to cross off, these are all things that are important and thus your brain doesn’t want to forget them for fear of messing something up or missing something. To make sure that we reduce the fear, and simultaneously the thoughts tied to it, we use a brain dump to pull those thoughts out of our head and put them down on paper to review later. This gives our brain a bit of relief and can ease some of the mental thoughts and tension that otherwise would be there.

Similar to moving files off of your desk top (your brain) and into a folder (the piece of paper for your brain dump) brings you peace of mind, so to does the process of going through a nightly brain dump. So take all of those stressful, nagging thoughts and life’s annoyances, grab a pen and paper, and get to dumping them out to worry about later.

Here’s how you perform a brain dump:

  1. Pull out a blank sheet of paper, notebook, etc
  2. Grab a pencil, pen or other writing utensil
  3. Write down the first thought that comes to your mind, something that has your focus, then follow it with the next thought and the one after that
  4. Don’t try to work through the things you write out, figure out a solution or anything of that nature, just put it down and hit a figurative “save” button on those thoughts so you can pick them back up the following day
  5. Spend roughly 10-15 minutes doing this (less if you have less on your mind) and reap the benefits of a peaceful night’s sleep
It doesn’t have to be neat, organized, color coded or anything else, just get those thoughts OUT

That’s the basics of a quality brain dump. It’s pretty simple and straight forward and is a very useful tool to help calm down your brain, clear your thoughts, and put yourself in a good position for a restful night of sleep. Sleep is a key component of health, arguably the most largely overlooked, so use this tool frequently to build quality sleep habits and ensure that you’re doing the most you can to improve your sleep and overall health.

How to Calculate Your Macros for Weight Loss Success

How much should I eat? What should my macros be?

Two of the most commonly asked questions that I receive and with good reason, when it comes to weight loss how much you eat is all that really matters. You could eat the healthiest “superfoods” the world has to offer, but if you’re eating those foods in excessive amounts, you’ll be unable to lose weight.

Calories are the regulator for weight. Eat too many, you’ll gain weight. Too few, you’ll lose it. That is an indisputable fact, one of the few that we have when it comes to nutrition and health.

If you’re looking to lose weight, gain weight, or even maintain weight, you HAVE to know how much to eat. And I’m going to show you exactly how to figure that out in the article below.

Step One: How many calories do I need?

The first thing you need to figure out, even before you calculate your calories, is your goal. Are you looking to lose weight, gain weight, or simply maintain where you’re currently at? Answering this question will help guide you in calculating your caloric needs. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to approach things from a weight loss perspective.

Next, you’ve got to figure out how many calories your body uses (roughly) on a daily basis. This is your TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. It accounts for everything from the basic functioning of your body aka Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR (breathing, digestion, circulation, etc.), physical activity including exercise and non-exercise activity (NEAT), and the Thermic Effect of Foods or TEF (how food effects your metabolism). For our purposes we will focus on BMR and activity, as these will have the greatest effect on your caloric needs, and if you enlist the strategies for macros below, you’ll take full advantage of the thermic effect of food as well.

There’s a ton of calculators for TDEE out there, all performing similar equations so it’s not so much about choosing the “perfect” or “best” calculator, but rather choosing one and sticking with it. Ultimately this number is only going to be a starting point anyways, so it’s just a tool we use to simplify the process. You can search “TDEE calculator” in google, or follow this link to find the calculator that I use for myself and clients.

Enter in your specific information, including your sex, age, height, weight, and activity level to get an estimation of how many calories your body needs on a daily basis. Leave the bodyfat percentage empty, unless you’ve recently had an accurate bodyfat testing procedure, like a DEXA scan, performed. In regard to activity level, always underestimate your activity to be safe. Choose a selection that is one level of activity less than you believe it to be, as most people grossly overestimate how active they are throughout their daily life. For instance, I typically workout 5-6 days a week and have an active daily life, but I choose moderate exercise (3-5 days per week) rather than heavy exercise (6-7 days per week) to be on the safe side.

Once you hit submit, the calculator will spit out a large number in bold black lettering on the left side of the page. This is your maintenance calories and the starting point for the short self experiment you will perform for the next two weeks. Before we get into that, it’s important to break down and calculate the individual macronutrients as well, as these can play a role in weight loss, performance and health.

Step Two: What should my macros be?

Macronutrients, or macros for short, are the separate categories of nutrients that make up the calories that we eat. They each perform different functions vital to our health. The 3 macros are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Without going into much detail, the functions of each are laid out below.

Protein

The primary purpose of protein is to build and maintain bodily tissue. The most common tissue we think of is muscle, but protein also impacts the eyes, hair, skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and much, much more. Protein contains 4 calories per gram. It is an essential nutrient, meaning that your body cannot live without it and you must get it through your diet.

Fat

Fat plays a role in energy storage, protection of vital organs, transportation and absorption of nutrients, and hormone production, among many other functions. Fat is the most energy dense of all the macros containing 9 calories per gram. Like protein, fat is an essential nutrient and it must be eaten consistently to survive and have good health.

Carbohydrate

Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source and provide fiber that’s necessary for digestion, immunity and overall health. Like protein, carbs contain 4 calories per gram. While carbs aren’t necessarily essential, meaning that you don’t have to consume them, they are a part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Now that you know a bit about each macro, let’s get into the specifics of how much to eat of each.

Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient, especially in terms of weight loss. It has the highest thermic effect of food, meaning that eating protein increases your metabolism much more than eating carbs or fats. Couple that with the fact that protein is the most satiating and filling macro, and it makes sense why it is most important for weight loss.

The most common and simplest calculation for protein intake is 1 gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight that you have. If you’re like me and around 200lbs, this means that you would need to eat 200 grams of protein every day. The truth of the matter is that optimal protein intake is, like most things with the human body, a range or continuum rather than a specific number or calculation.

The upper limit for protein is almost non existent, with studies showing no ill or adverse effects on protein intake up to 1.5g/lb of bodyweight (Antonio, 2016), so instead of setting a range, I like to use a minimum and an ideal goal. The minimum protein intake for an individual is .75g/lb of bodyweight. Again, taking a 200lb male as our example his minimum protein intake would be 150g/day. The optimal intake of protein is the more common number we see, 1g/lb of bodyweight, or 200g/day for a 200lb individual.

It becomes more important to hit that optimal intake number if you’re in a more extreme deficit (500 cals or more), longer deficit/diet period (12-16 weeks or more), and/or you’re pretty lean already (sub 10% BF for men, 15% BF for women). For most people though, getting at least 3/4 of your bodyweight in protein will be plenty.

After calculating your protein needs, it’s time to figure out how much fat you need in your diet. Again, I don’t set specific numbers him but I do give a minimum intake for health related purposes. That minimum is .3g of fat per pound of bodyweight. The 200lb individual will need to eat a minimum of 60g of fat daily for optimal health and performance purposes. Beyond that, the amount of fat that you take in is personal preference and will only be effected by how many carbs you eat.

Finally, we need to take a look at our carb intake. When it comes to weight and fat loss, carb and fat intake are interchangeable and make no difference in how much weight or fat is lost. This has been shown in numerous studies where protein and calories are equated, so it really comes down to personal preference and figuring out what makes the most sense in your life.

Are you someone who enjoys plenty of carbs like rice, potatoes and bread? Or do you prefer nuts, avocados, cheeses, and oils?

Do you feel and perform better in both your workouts and daily life with more carbs or more fat?

Answering these questions will ultimately decide how to break down your carbs and fats. As long as you hit that minimum fat intake and can stay within your calorie range, the way that you decide to consume the remainder of your calories, whether from fat or carbs, is entirely up to you and will not negatively effect your weight loss.

Protein:

  • .75 x bodyweight = minimum intake in grams
  • 1 x bodyweight = optimal intake in grams
  • Take the number from above (whichever you use) and multiply by 4, the number of calories in a gram of protein. Subtract this number from your total calories you calculated in step 1 of this article

Fat:

  • .3 x bodyweight = minimum intake in grams
  • Take the number above a multiply it by 9, the number of calories in a gram of fat. Subtract that number from the remainder of calories after

Carbs:

  • Fill in with the remainder of calories after calculating protein and fat, splitting the remaining calories between carbs and fats in a way that fits your lifestyle, preferences and needs

Example (Myself)

  • 204lb, 6 foot tall, 29 year old male, moderately active
  • Maintenance calories = 2989
  • Optimal protein intake = 204g x 4 = 816 cals
  • 2989 – 816 = 2173 cals remaining
  • Minimum fat intake = 204 x .3 = 61g of fat x 9 = 549 cals
  • 2173 – 549 = 1624 cals remaining to be split between carbs and fats based upon personal preference

In the example above those remaining 1624 calories can be split in anyway that you see fit. Truthfully, I don’t set specific carb or fat numbers (besides the fat minimum target) and just track protein, fiber, and total calories. This reduces the fixation that many people have with specific numbers, while still allowing one to reach their goals successfully. It works especially well if you’re using a food logging app like MyFitnessPal (MFP), where it does all the adding and subtracting for you. I’ll talk about how to set everything up and optimize your use of MFP in another blog installment coming soon.

Step Three: How do I know if I’m in a deficit?

This is where the self-experimentation comes into play. You will spend the next 2 weeks diligently tracking the foods that you eat and trying to get as close to your maintenance calories daily and weekly as possible. The more accurate you are with your calorie and macro intake (namely protein), the more accurate the experimentation will be which will guide you going forward.

You may be asking “If I already know my maintenance calories and how to calculate my macros, why don’t I just reduce my calories a bit to create a deficit?”

The answer is that the human body is extremely complex and there’s so many minute variations that go into the different processes that effect our absorption of energy and nutrients, metabolism and use of nutrients, that it would be nearly impossible to calculate caloric needs with 100% accuracy. We use the TDEE calculator as an initial estimation of caloric needs, a starting point, eat according to the TDEE number we calculate, and then monitor the way your body weight responds over the following 2 weeks.

Use the scale to gather data. That data allows you to make informed decisions to better reach your goals.

If your bodyweight increases, you are in a caloric surplus and will need to reduce calories (300-500). If you bodyweight holds steady, you’re eating at maintenance levels and will need to reduce your calories slightly (150-300). If your bodyweight decreases, you’re in luck because you’re in a calorie deficit and can continue eating at that amount to lose weight. One caveat, if your weight drops excessively (more than 4lbs, or 2.5lbs for lean individuals) you may want to increase your calories slightly to make weight loss a bit healthier and more sustainable.

That’s the basics of calculating macros for weight loss. The same would be held true if you’re trying to gain weight or muscle, but reversed. Instead of reducing the number of calories from your TDEE, you would increase them and look to gain weight during your self-experimentation rather than lose it. In either case, the numbers that you punch out from the TDEE is just a starting point and it’s best to use the scale to monitor your progress and help guide your calorie intake.

Now that you have the tools you need to calculate your calories and macros to meet your goals, you have all the information you need to start reaching your goals it’s just a matter of putting it into action. So start planning and prepping meals, work to improve your mindset around food, and stay active throughout the day!

Antonio, J., Ellerbroek, A., Silver, T., Vargas, L., Tamayo, A., Buehn, R., & Peacock, C. A. (2016). A high protein diet has no harmful effects: a one-year crossover study in resistance-trained males. Journal of nutrition and metabolism2016.

Getting Lost to Find Myself: Part Two

Monday, I wrote a blog detailing the last few months of struggle in my life and how it lead me to embark on a solo adventure in Costa Rica on a whim. Today I want to switch gears, move away from the slightly heavy, slightly depressive talk about my struggles, and onto the beauty seen, lessons learned, and growth I achieved while traveling alone in a foreign country.

International travel by itself is a marvelous adventure where you not only learn a ton about the people, culture and places that you visit, but even more so about yourself. Add in traveling solo to a foreign country, and the learning and growth is increased exponentially. You learn more about yourself than you could ever imagine. Why you do or don’t do certain things. What makes you get up in the morning. And the things that truly bring you peace, and joy.

Solo travel may seem scary and/or lonely at first, but I promise you that once you embark upon that journey, regardless of where it is, you’ll understand it when I say that EVERYONE should take a trip alone at some point in their life. I grew more in the 8 days spent in Costa Rica than any other time in my life to date. I was challenged every step of the way, mentally and physically, and overcame each and every one of those. Below are some of those challenges and triumphs, lessons learned, and steps taken toward growth. After reading through them, I hope to inspire you to take more trips, traveling both with friends and on your own, and challenge you to live life reinvigorated with overwhelming excitement for what’s to come.

Learn to Enjoy Your Own Company

When I told people that I was traveling alone to Costa Rica, I received a lot of different responses. The two most popular responses I received were that it would be scary, and even more popular, that it would be lonely. Both of these responses are normal, as it can seem both scary and lonely traveling by yourself.

You’re all alone in a foreign country, with no one to reach out to for help or conversation besides yourself. That level of independence and self-reliability is difficult for many people, myself included at one point, to fathom. We’re not used to being outside our comfort zones. We aren’t used to being without the people, places and things that act as security blankets, and it can send our internal alarm systems into high alert.

Sometimes that alarm system is well intended and correct in causing you to pause and think about the journey ahead, while other times that alarm system can hold you back from experiencing life on a different level and growing to new heights. When it comes to traveling alone, I think most of that fear and worry is misguided.

That’s not to say that there aren’t inherent risks or things to fear, but that those risks are far overshadowed by the benefits that foreign travel provides. Traveling alone forces you to spend time with yourself, learn to rely on yourself, and grow comfortable in your solitude.

I remember sitting at dinner the first night in Costa Rica, surrounded by a beautiful landscape, I was also surrounded by many groups of people. Couples, families, and friends were all around me. Everywhere I looked, somebody had somebody. And it started to weigh on me.

Who would I talk to? How would I make it through an entire dinner without anyone around? How weird do I look as the only person sitting alone in a crowded restaurant?

It was far too easy to get lost in those negative thoughts, drowned by anxiety for a situation I wasn’t used to, and rethink my decision to travel alone. As the sun began to set, creating an intense canvas of red, orange, and yellow hues fill with the shadowy outlines of palm trees dotting the rain forest, I realized how crazy that was.

Was it really that bad to travel alone? Did I really need anyone to keep me company or make me feel satisfied? Wasn’t it enough to simply take in the natural beauty around me, internalizing all that I saw and capturing that moment forever?

From that moment forward, being alone stopped bothering me. I didn’t question how much better the trip would’ve been with another person, or how “weird” it may look to people seeing me eating, hiking, and adventuring alone. I stopped caring about what was expected, or what was optimal, and started focusing on what was right in front of me: the natural beauty of the world around me. Pulling my thoughts away from what could be, to what was, allowed me to fully immerse myself in my travels and make the most of every single second.

I recently read a quote that said, “Solitude is the celebration of your own company.” Costa Rica taught me about solitude and the differences between lonely isolation, and enriching solitude. Traveling alone allowed me the opportunity to reconnect with myself and remember how good it feels to enjoy one’s own company. I challenge you to spend more time alone, free from distractions that make you feel less alone, and absorb the world around you. Take in the world’s beauty, analyze your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and start building a quality relationship with yourself that will bleed positivity into every other aspect of your life.

Viva la Pura Vida! Live the Pure Life!

Costa Ricans have a saying, “Pura Vida”, which translates directly to “Pure Life”. Pura Vida is far more than just a saying, and rather it’s a way of life for them. It means to take risks, enjoy the moment, live your best life, be thankful for what you have and the life you’ve been given. It means to climb mountains, traverse through jungles, and be one with the world around you. Pura Vida is a way of saying goodbye, hello, thank you and so much more.

Not only do they use that saying judiciously, they live it even more fervently. Everything that Costa Ricans do is done with a fervor and joy that is hard to explain. The people smile at you everywhere you go. If you say hello to someone, they will return the favor and likely spark up a conversation. The offers for rides and help, even though you’re a foreigner vacationing in their country. It just seems like they’ve got life figured out when it comes to being happy, joyous, and at peace.

Traveling through Costa Rica I quickly adopted this same mentality. It’s hard not to when you’re surrounded by so much positivity and energy. It gives true meaning to the idea that you pick up on, feed off of, and adopt the energy and mindset of those who are around you. The Pura Vida idea seeps into your soul and you’re unable to fight it, not that you would want to.

During my travels I realized how much of my life had been spent living without gusto, excitement and joy. I noticed how much of my energy had been wasted on negative thoughts and behaviors. I understood how easily I had fallen prey to living outside the moment, focusing on mistakes of the past or worries about the future.

As I traveled through Costa Rica, adventuring through the jungles, laying on the beaches, and hiking up its mountains, I realized that life was about more than external indicators of success and happiness and rather, it was about defining your own success and happiness and then creating it. For too long I had lived by the rules, ideas and values of others, forgetting that the ones that matter most are my own.

When you’re traveling alone, in a foreign country full of life you are instantly reminded of this. There’s no one to ask permission or come to a compromise on what to do or eat, you simply have to turn inward and ask yourself what you would like to do/eat. You have no one to rely or depend upon to make decisions, or help make decisions, for you, so you quickly learn to listen to yourself and trust what you hear.

Memento Mori: Remember You Will Die

I nearly died white water rafting in Costa Rica. That may be a bit of a dramatization, but it certainly felt like it at the time. Those 10 seconds I spent submerged under water, fighting to reach the surface and the air that would give me life, were 10 of the longest seconds of my life. Every sensation hit me all at once, not seeing, but rather, feeling my life flash before my eyes. Each time I reached for the surface, only to hit the bottom of the boat I felt death creep closer. When I finally reached the surface, the overwhelming joy and gratitude I had for the oxygen in the air around and my life in general was nearly too much to bear.

Nearly drowning during white water rafter was one of the scariest moments of my life, but also one of the greatest. After coming to the surface, getting back into the raft, and continuing down the river, a smile reached my face that never left.

Why was I smiling when I nearly died?

I smiled because I realized what those 10 seconds had shown and taught me. Those 10 short seconds, where I wasn’t certain I was going to live, reminded me of how short life is. It showed me how much of my life I had taken for granted. And it quickly taught me that if I wanted to live a life of purpose, a life I could not only be proud of, but also enjoy, I needed to stop taking life for granted and start living with respect for this life.

If you’re like me, you spent a lot of your life living as though you were invincible and would live forever. You wasted time and energy on people, opportunities and situations that weren’t serving you or your life goals. You took risks, but not ones that would benefit your life.

Sometimes, you need a wakeup call to remind yourself of your own mortality and get back to living life in a way that moves you forward and helps you grow. This could mean something small, like getting sick, injured, or having a minor life crisis happen, or something more major like a debilitating/life changing injury or illness, death of someone close to you or major life crisis. I have never been one to pick up on the subtleties that life sends my way, joking that I could bang my head against a brick wall 10 times before realizing I’m not getting through, so it’s no wonder that my mortality hit me like a slap to the face that rang out across all of Costa Rica.

Maybe you don’t need to have a near death experience to make the realizations that I did. Maybe just reading this shook enough of something loose to help you start respecting your life, and as a result, living it to the fullest. That’s my hope.

And if not, I hope you do something about it. I hope you realize how short and precious life is. I hope you find a way to begin respecting your life for the gift that it is, and putting the quality, positive energy and effort into it, and yourself, that it deserves. I hope that you realize this before it’s too late. Before you’re on your death bed, wondering where all your years went and regretful for all that you missed out on.

Trust Your Harness

I did a lot of fun, exciting, awe-inspiring, and frankly, crazy shit while in Costa Rica. One of those “crazy shit” experiences was rappelling and canyoneering in the rainforests near La Fortuna. It was my first time doing either, and it was an experience that’s difficult to put into words. Bluntly put, it was cool as hell!

Imagine yourself repelling down 30, 50, and even 200-foot canyons and waterfalls, feeling like a bad ass special forces operator as you jump off the wall of the canyon and gracefully bound and rappel your way to the ground. Okay, so maybe I didn’t look exactly like a Navy Seal or Marine, but in my head, I was a total rock star living out a Mission Impossible fantasy.

The funny thing about the whole adventure is that the actual rappelling and lowering down the waterfalls and canyons wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was the initial set up process where you had to turn your back to the drop off, plant your feet on the edge of the cliff, and lean into your harness. As much as I knew that harness was sturdy and tested against weights and feats much greater than mine, it was still a total mindfuck to lean into it.

This is a lot like life. We tend to fear taking that first step, not knowing what’s over the edge waiting for us, and preferring the comfort of our feet safely on trusted ground. The problem is that if we lived our life this way, never trusting our harness and always choosing the safe route, life would get stagnant pretty quickly. We would never meet new people and make new friends. We wouldn’t be able to grow our careers and find success in them. And we would miss out on a mountain of opportunities that could bring us everything we’ve ever wanted and needed: a life worth living, full of energy, excitement and happiness.

What we tend to forget, or don’t realize, is that we all have a built-in safety harness. Our safety harnesses have been built and developed over the course of our lives as we have overcome challenges, adversity and dealt with everything that’s come our way. Your safety harness is your strength, perseverance, tenacity, grit, determination, emotional intelligence, problem solving, and every other skill, trait and characteristic that makes you you and allows you to continue moving forward despite what difficulties come your way.

If you’re like me and tend to play it safe in life, preferring the paths you’ve traveled endlessly, do yourself a favor and shake things up a bit. Take a new path, or better yet, carve one out that’s all your own. Don’t worry about what’s around the corner, over the edge, or through the woods, just trust the safety harness that you’ve built internally throughout your life and take that first step. I promise you that excitement, happiness, and internal peace are just on the other side of your fears, waiting for you to explore and embrace them.

Forget Doing, Start Being

On my final full day in Costa Rica, the power of being instead of doing culminated within me. I woke up bright and early at 5:30am, as I had been the entire trip. I looked at my plan for the day and built excitement for what was to come. I cleaned up, showered, and got ready for breakfast. During breakfast it began to rain. Not rain like a few drops here and there, but a torrential down pour that left the ground muddy and your clothes soaked.

This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I was staying right near the rain forest, so rain is a part of the program, but typically it’s a quick drench and then it’s over. I spent some extra time at breakfast, hoping for the rain to let up, with no such luck. After spending nearly two hours at breakfast I decided to head back to my room.

Back in my room I became extremely antsy, beginning to feel the initial stages of anxiety kick in as I realized my last day may be spent in a small hotel room, watching the rain. As I paced wall to wall in my room, I couldn’t help but feel like my final day was ruined, like maybe I should’ve left a day early to avoid this. I’m not really sure what happened, but I finally stopped pacing, laid down on the bed, and just focused on breathing. Listening to sounds of the wind and rain battering against the metal of the roof like a therapeutic sleep song, I realized how absurd I was being.

So, what if it rained on my last day? Did that negate all of the beauty I had seen, the things I had experienced, or growth I had accomplished?

I realized that the issue wasn’t so much that the rain was throwing my day off, but more so that I had this deep, unending desire to be “doing” something because that’s the way life is in the U.S. It’s all about maximizing your time, fitting in as much as possible, and the idea to always be doing something. I felt like because I was doing nothing, meant that I had somehow failed at my vacation.

How crazy is that? How does one “fail” at a vacation?

You don’t but you can certainly feel that way if you get caught up in the nonstop go, go, go and more, more, more of life. I sure have been, but that last day in Costa Rica, and several other smaller, less apparent moments, I learned to stop worrying about always doing something, and start focusing on being something. Being myself, being with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and being alive and part of the moment.

Though it was the hardest lesson for me to learn, it was easily the most beneficial as it’s given me a peace of mind for my life and an ability to enjoy each and every moment as they come. I’m still working to fight the urge to always be doing something, I think that will always be a part of me, but I’m finding a balance between doing and accomplishing things and turning inwardly and learning to just “be”.

If you struggle with anxiety, or even just thoughts that life should be a constant series of doing and go, go, go, challenge yourself to slow things down, enjoy the moment, and be one with yourself. That alone will bring you a level of freedom and peace that many don’t experience because so much of their lives are driven by the act of doing.

Solo Travel = Growth Acceleration

Traveling solo is a whirlwind adventure that teaches you loads about yourself and the world around you. You learn to rely on and depend on yourself, expand and grow within yourself, and develop a respect for yourself and your life that you may not otherwise.

If you’ve ever thought about traveling alone, I urge you to take that leap of faith and trust in yourself to figure it out as you go. That’s kinda what life is about anyways, taking leaps of faith, trusting in your ability to figure things out, and following through on the journeys you embark upon.

If you have any questions about traveling solo, what to expect, or just want to work through some of the feelings you may be having toward it, please comment below or reach out via email at achievefitllc@gmail.com and let’s talk further!

Getting Lost to Find Myself: Part One

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you likely know that I spent 8 days traveling alone in Costa Rica recently. On Instagram I posted an endless amount of pics documenting the natural beauty of Costa Rica and sharing all the animals that I encountered along my journey (I’m a bit of a nature and zoology nerd). On Facebook I shared my reflections on my journey and the growth that inevitably came my way as a result of that journey. What you probably don’t know, regardless of if and where you follow me, is why.

Why did I travel to Costa Rica, alone and out of the proverbial blue?

The why for this trip has been a long time coming. The past year, hell even the past few years, have been really rough on me. That’s not to say that I’m unlucky, or life’s unfair, I don’t believe either to be true, but I have dealt with internal struggles that few people know about. The culmination of these struggles was self-admittance to the psychiatric ER after a bout of depression became too much to handle on my own.

I wasn’t suicidal, but I stopped caring about life and whether I woke up the next morning. It’s what they define as passively suicidal. I got to a point where life became extremely dark, like I was living in a hole, trying to dig myself out, but every time I dug the dirt just fell back on top of me. I was hopeless and apathetic, not caring about any of the things that usually matter to me.

On the outside you wouldn’t be able to tell. I was going to work and putting on a happy face. I was keeping up with physical appearances and hygiene, which is one of the key signs they use to determine someone who’s depressed. I didn’t miss any workouts, sleep in late, or any of the normal symptoms that we equate with depression. In short, I didn’t fit the mold for depression, but inside, I felt like I was dying. Like someone had taken a heavy, dark blanket and used to it cover my mind and heart. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, and I couldn’t live on my own terms.

That loss of control in my life was nearly too much. Thankfully I had and have some very supportive and amazing people in my life and despite feeling alone in my battle, I never was. Those people helped me get through one of the darkest periods in my life and helped me keep from spiraling entirely out of control. Unfortunately, the depression wasn’t the only issue in my life.

About 6 weeks ago, my girlfriend of 2.5 years and the person I loved more than anyone outside of family, and I broke up.

A little over a week after my trip to the psych ER, something still wasn’t right. I still felt overwhelming feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. I still felt like I had lost my vigor for life and was struggling to feel like myself. Standing in the shower one day, the emotions were too much. I collapsed, sitting down, letting the water pour over me, and cried. I cried because I was depressed, but more so, I cried because I realized what was necessary for me to be able to be me again.

Despite knowing how much it would hurt both of us, despite not wanting to in the least, I walked out of the shower and explained to my then girlfriend that things weren’t right. In my life, in my head, and in our relationship. Something was off, pieces were missing, and I couldn’t help feeling like we were going in different directions. I expressed that it had nothing to do with how I felt about her, didn’t detract from how deeply I loved her, but that we had been fighting an uphill battle, staying together out of comfort and convenience, rather than progress and growth, and it had become too much for me to bare. I wanted her to be happy and I knew that ultimately that would not and could not be with me, so I needed to let her go, allow her to grow on her own, and find happiness in herself and with someone else.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Deciding to give up something good, or good enough, for something better, great, and quite possibly amazing. To give up on someone and something that I had worked on and with, fought tooth and nail for, for the last 2.5 years, it broke me. I felt like I was quitting, and that’s something I take pride in not doing. I don’t quit, I don’t give up, especially when there’s no glaringly obvious reason for it.

We didn’t have the typical problems that plague most relationships, my previous ones included, like lying, cheating, or incessant arguing that usually precludes and makes a breakup easy to see and follow through on. We loved each other deeply, and despite that, it wasn’t enough. And that was the hardest part, realizing that despite loving each other, despite wanting to be together, it simply wasn’t enough, and it was time to move on for both of us.

I’m grateful and thankful for the 2.5 years I got to spend with that amazing person. We taught each other so much about love and life and helped each other grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible had we not found each other. We supported each other through some of the most trying and difficult times of our lives, that we may not have been able to handle alone. For all of that and more, I am thankful, and I will always have a place in my heart for her and I hope that she finds peace, happiness and everything her heart desires in this life.

The most amazing part about the breakup is that it showed me that I could still FEEL. I still had emotions, I still had life and energy inside of me, it had just been lying dormant and slowly dying. Instead of just living free from emotions, or only feeling and living with anger, I could actually feel again. The world became a bit brighter, life became a bit more exciting, and the tears that I shed were not only for sadness at what I had lost, but for happiness at what I had gained: the ability to feel.

Shortly after our breakup, it dawned on me that that there was still work left to do. I had done a lot of adding and subtracting in my life, doing my best to get back to being me, but I still needed a spark, something that would ignite change and spur growth.

Less than two weeks after the breakup I found that spark, or rather, I created it. I booked a trip to Costa Rica on a whim, traveling alone for the first time. I knew that it would be difficult, as traveling alone gives you no one and nothing to fall back on but yourself, but I also knew it was exactly what I needed.

I couldn’t tell you exactly how I knew it was what I needed, but something in my gut was pulling me towards a solo trip, specifically to Costa Rica. I needed the beaches to soak up the sun and re-energize, the mountains to give me an elevated view and assess my life as a whole, and the jungles and rainforests to allow me to get lost, both in their trails and my mind.

Although it wasn’t the best time for me to be taking an international trip, or any trip for that matter, it was the right time for me. I needed to get away from the life and situations I was so used to, get outside my comfort zone, and really force myself to do some deep thinking, work on myself, and create intentional growth. And somehow, the trip to Costa Rica provided all of that and more.

It gave me an opportunity to breathe, think, and live clearly, not worrying about all the responsibilities and the life I left back home. By turning my life upside down for a little over a week, I was forced to assess my life and able to see it from a different, clearer perspective. Costa Rica will always have a special place in my heart for its natural beauty and wildlife, but even more so for the mental and spiritual journey that I went through on its beaches, in its forests, and upon its mountains.

If you’ve read this far, I want to thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about me and support me as I navigate through all the struggles and triumphs that this life has to offer. If you’re interested in reading more, I will be releasing the second and final part of the this blog on Wednesday, detailing more about my actual journey in Costa Rica, everything I learned along the way, and how I am going to use that newfound knowledge and growth to start living my life in the way that I’ve always wanted.

Stay tuned, and if you have any questions or comments regarding me, my life, or the trip to Costa Rica, please comment below as I would love to connect with you and answer them!

Health Doesn’t Have a “Look”

Have you ever looked at a person and thought to yourself, “wow they’re really fit (aka healthy)”? Or maybe the inverse has happened where you’ve looked at someone less fit and made the judgment that they were unhealthy. Don’t worry if you have, it’s pretty normal and you are not alone in this regard.

There’s this misguided ideal that you can tell whether a person is “healthy” from the way they look. See a fat person = unhealthy. See a skinny person = healthy. See a fit person = super healthy. While size, shape and/or look can sometimes give insight to health, it isn’t the sole determinant of health and there’s so much that goes on beneath the surface.

This is a common image, I went through hundreds, if not thousands, of similar images all depicting the idea that health and weight/size are the same thing.

Size doesn’t show how active a person is, whether that person smokes or drinks excessively, or the general lifestyle that a person lives. Size doesn’t tell you whether that person is living with an illness or disease, or whether they’re happy or sad. And most of all, size doesn’t tell you how dedicated vs lazy a person is. Weight and size only tell you that, weight and size.

Someone told me something that put things into perspective in this regard. Imagine driving along and noticing somebody walking down the street. This person is noticeably overweight. Many people would look at that person and follow a train of thought similar to the opening paragraph. The person was unhealthy and unfit, maybe going so far as to call them lazy or uncaring about their health. What you may not realize, or may not be able to tell from looking at them, is this person has been on a weight loss and health focused journey for some time, losing 100lbs already. They’ve been active during their daily life, spending 3-4 days per week in the gym, and have improved many of their lifestyle habits to improve their health. So, while their physical appearance may not show it (or tell the whole story), they are living an active and healthy lifestyle that has led to marked improvements in their health. Remember that the next time you make a snap judgment about someone based on the way they look (and remember that it’s ok, judging is natural but we should be mindful of and redirect those judgments).

Now, I want to point out that there’s a lot of research that points to the contrary, making weight and thus, size, the sole predictor of health. Head over to PubMed and check out the meta-analysis (data gathered from numerous studies/research following certain criteria for accuracy to weight a large bulk of evidence) titled: The Medical Risks of Obesity. In it they have gathered data from numerous studies between the years of 1995 and 2008 to draw a clearer picture on the risks of excess weight and disease (one portion of health). The stats are staggering, showing that the risk of nearly every disease is increased with an increase in BMI (body mass index) past a “healthy range”. This study, along with numerous others, paints a pretty clear picture: obesity is linked to health risks and disease. [3]

This chart shows the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and “other” causes. The top chart is for men and the bottom chart is for women.

The problem with BMI is that it’s a very basic and simple formulation for generating a number on health, which is anything but basic or simple. Health is a culmination of so many variables, including but not limited to, how active a person is, how much stress they have and how well they manage it, a person’s nutrition and hydration, how well a person sleeps, overall mental health, and much, much more. To sum up health with a number that is based entirely off of weight in comparison to height, while necessary for the medical and research fields, is a bit flawed.

For instance, I am 6 feet tall and currently weight about 213lbs. That puts my BMI at 29, making me “overweight” and just short of the “obese” cutoff of 30. Anyone who knows me or takes a look at me (there we go with judging a book by its cover again), would laugh at me being classified as overweight, much less nearly obese.

In fact, for me to get into the “normal” BMI classification I would have to lose nearly 30lbs and get down to 184lbs. Not only would this be terribly unhealthy in practice, it’s likely impossible without losing about 5-10lbs of muscle, which would mean losing a vital component to health. Muscle aids in metabolic function (improving insulin resistance and sensitivity, and increasing caloric expenditure), reduces the likelihood of osteoporosis, and increases chances of survival from critical illness or injury, like cancer or extreme burns. So, while losing weight may be a good thing, losing muscle certainly is not. [1,4]

While BMI can give us some indication on overall risk of disease and health, it’s not a conclusive depiction and thankfully, researchers have realized this and found alternative ways to measure health. In another meta-analysis, researchers looked at a different variable on the link to risk of disease: cardio-respiratory fitness. And what they found was interesting. Through the analysis researchers found that cardio-respiratory fitness was a better predictor of disease risk than BMI. In fact, “compared to normal weight-fit individuals, unfit individuals had twice the risk of mortality regardless of BMI. Overweight and obese-fit individuals had similar mortality risks as normal weight-fit individuals“. [2] What this means is that regardless of size, those who were considered fit from a cardio-respiratory aspect had less risk of disease than those who were “normal weight” individuals but lacked cardio-respiratory fitness. In other words, playing the part of health and fitness proved more important than looking the part.

It’s hard to say which basis of information is right. Is health a result of your weight or your cardio-respiratory fitness? The truth is, it’s a combination of the two with lifestyle factors and environment playing a large role as well. That’s why it’s important to remember that health is extremely nuanced, and rarely a black and white topic. The most important point to remember when it comes to health it isn’t so much about what you look like, but rather it’s more about the actions that you take, the habits you maintain, and the lifestyle you live. So, rather than worrying about looking a certain way, or being a certain weight for health purposes, focus on living a healthy life, which includes:

  1. Eating a diet rich in whole foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats
  2. Exercising and moving in your daily life. Aim for at least 3 days of specific exercise each week (45+ minutes), and move throughout the day.
  3. Drinking plenty of water and stay adequately hydrated throughout the day. Your pee should be a lightl yellow color most of the day.
  4. Sleeping at least 6 hours a night. 7-9 is the preferred range, but anything less than 6 comes with increased health risks.
  5. Managing stress. Read, go for a walk, listen to or play music, draw, meditate, etc. Find activities that help you reduce and manage stress and make sure you do them frequently.

If you’re looking to improve your health in a safe, healthy and manageable way, something that you can enjoy and sustain for life, send an email to achievefitllc@gmail.com to discuss a plan that will help you feel your best, be your healthiest, and enjoy your life to the fullest!

Citations

[1] Abramowitz, M. K., Hall, C. B., Amodu, A., Sharma, D., Androga, L., & Hawkins, M. (2018). Muscle mass, BMI, and mortality among adults in the United States: A population-based cohort study. PloS one13(4), e0194697.

[2] Barry, V. W., Baruth, M., Beets, M. W., Durstine, J. L., Liu, J., & Blair, S. N. (2014). Fitness vs. fatness on all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Progress in cardiovascular diseases56(4), 382-390.

[3] Pi-Sunyer, X. (2009). The medical risks of obesity. Postgraduate medicine121(6), 21-33.

[4] Wolfe, R. R. (2006). The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition84(3), 475-482.