Course Correction

course correction

Hi guys.  I thought I would check in since it has been a week or so since my last post.  I have begun the process of course correction in an attempt to address the lack of work ethic and the 6 pound weight gain that resulted.

Before I could begin to right the ship, I first needed to understand where and how things went wrong this summer.  This is the time of year when I am most active and carry the fewest pounds.  Not so this year.

The first issue is that my aerobic exercise was way down.  At the recommendation of my doctor, I ceased competing in triathlons and, therefore, stopped training.  So swimming, biking, running and brick training went out the window.  At least to the degree that is required to be race ready.  I also strained a calf muscle and that had me sidelined for the better part of a month.

The second issue was that I did not adjust my caloric intake to reflect the decrease in aerobic exercise.  I continued my merry ways of eating, drinking, and snacking despite the fact that I was burning fewer calories.

I knew that, if I was going to get back on track, I needed to return to a healthy balance of resistance training, aerobic exercise, and smart dietary choices.

This past week, I returned to my normal resistance and strength training routine of working the major muscle groups in my arms, back, core, torso and legs.  No problem there.  Just a matter of focus.  I had to remind myself that we lose roughly 1% of muscle mass a year after age 40 and even more after age 50.  So if I am going to keep things tight in the middle ages, I need to be vigilant with regard to strength training.

To get back on top of my aerobic game, I ventured to my local running apparel shop to get properly fitted for running shoes. I attribute some of my running injuries to improper foot gear.  I was fitted for a shoe with proper width, some stability support and appropriate cushion.  I ran three miles without issue and felt pretty good.  I round things out with cycling, treadmill and plyometrics.

Perhaps the most important part of my course correction plan was addressing my inner demons.

Salt monster

Fans of the classic Star Trek series will remember the “Salt Vampire”.  You remember this chick?  Bones McCoy was whipped over her and ignored the fact that she was literally sucking the life out of the Enterprise crew.  Remember her?  Well that bitch lives inside of me.  Clawing at me from the inside, driving an insatiable need and desire for salt.  No manner of exorcism can expel her.  She sits inside me demanding chips, nuts, olives, crackers…anything with salt.  And it comes at anytime of day with unpredictable consistency.

This past week I attempted to limit my calories and alter my palate.  I adjusted to reasonable portions for lunch and dinner, eliminated salty snacks and added fresh fruit as a substitute.  I also added more lean and organic proteins to my diet for proper muscle building.  And I adjusted the point of consumption of wine downward from 7 days a week to 3.

While it is still early in the process, I have loss 2 of the 6 pounds that I have gained and my muscles feel tighter and stronger.  It is at least a sign to me that the ship is now headed in the right direction.

If you are willing to share, I ‘d love to know about your inner demons.  Do tell.

 

Have We Forgotten How To Have Fun?

Apes Laugh

Let’s face it. This stage in our lives can often be stressful. We have high pressure jobs that are demanding, vicissitudes in our economic situations, family responsibilities, sleep deprivation and overcrowded roads full of road-rage potential. Stress, as mentioned in my two previous posts, is a normal and damaging part of our lives.  Prolonged stress can pose significant health risks.

Stress

Your body is made to react to stressful situations in ways that would keep you safe from predators and other dangers. It releases adrenaline and Cortisol which increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boost energy supplies. When stressers are constant and you feel under attack, your fight-or-flight reaction stays on and your body reacts accordingly. The result can be in the form of anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep deprivation, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment. This according to the Mayo Clinic.

Audrey

 

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.

I’m always struck by that quote from legendary actress Audrey Hepburn because it is so true. Study upon study shows the health benefits of laughter and fun. Humor lightens our burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you rooted. We know this stuff.  It is not a new revelation. But somehow, it seems to me, that we have forgotten how to laugh, how to have fun. Our society is far more sensitive to racy jokes. Social media feeds the “gotcha” reaction to everything and anything considered not politically correct.  We are a more uptight people who need surgery to remove the stick from our collective asses.

The benefits of leisure and recreation are clear but are we taking full advantage of that knowledge? Are we having fun? Are we laughing enough?  Or do we confine it to the one or two weeks of vacation time each year? Here are a few tips to get us back on the fun train:

Maintain a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re an uptight bore. Take a moment to laugh at the absurd things in your life.

Spend time with friends that bring out the laughter.

Engage your partner. Avoid bitching and complaining about your ass-hole boss or your annoying office mate. Share stories about amusing things that happened throughout the day. Like the dude that had toilet paper sticking out of his pants and no one told him.

Avoid laughing at the expense of others. Aside from toilet-paper-dude, don’t be cruel with your laughter. You’ll only feel guilty later.

Watch a comedy show or movie when feeling stressed. Sometimes, you need not follow up a stressful day with The Walking Dead.

Find a funny video on line and share it. There are a million of them out there.

Act like a child. Who knows better how to have fun than our children. Have a water balloon fight in the back yard or some other messy activity.

Run around the house naked and shake your butt in the mirror. Trust me it works. But only if you are home alone. Or maybe not. You decide on your comfort level with that one.

PryorShout out to those who spent a lifetime bringing out the laughter in us all: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Gilda Radner, Bill Cosby, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Cheech & Chong, Don Rickles, Phyllis Diller…the list goes on.

I’d love to hear about your idea of fun. What makes you laugh? Do you have a hobby? What are your silly moments? Can you make milk spill out of your nose? Show me.

In the meantime, enjoy this funny video. It breaks the rule about laughing at someone else’s expense but, he is a dictator so screw him.

 

Mood Indigo – Part 2

 

Green Lakes Park
Green Lakes State Park

I imagine that the things that cause sadness also cause stress. As noted in part one of Mood Indigo, we as a society are a pretty blue bunch. We find less joy in our careers than many other societies around the world. Most likely because most of us are not doing what we really want to be doing. Hell, it may not even be an option for some.

Given the sad state we find ourselves cocooned in, adding stress to the picture can only increase the fragility of our mental being. But there are things that we can do to counterbalance the negative affects.

This is not new stuff but it is stuff we often forget about. I’m speaking of the power of green space. Researchers are discovering, with each passing day, that surrounding yourself with nature can be one of the most powerful stress-relievers available. And its mostly free.

Did you know that those who live in areas with the most amount of green space show lower levels of cortisol and their self-reported feeling of stress is lower than those who spend more time in urban settings?  Catherine Ward Thompson, director of the OPENspace Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland says that getting outside forces you to get a little exercise which is a natural energy boost.

It is said that focusing on natural scenes gives voluntary attention a rest and allows involuntary attention to take over and recharge the human psyche. In other words…chill the f*#! out!  Cities with high numbers of parks are reportedly having more success battling obesity and diabetes.  Even relatively passive contact with nature-such as viewing it from a window- lowers blood pressure and anxiety levels.

So what do you do?  It’s as easy as a walk in the park really.

You must find your go-to spot. I have 2 of them. While I do have windows in my office, one is roughly 4 feet off the ground and looks onto another building. The other provides a view of the landscape outside our building. I need only glance over my left shoulder for a glimpse of leaves and flowers bending to the force of a breeze. But on a particularly stressful day at work, I take a stroll across my University’s quadrangle. The trees, grass and ivy covered buildings provide a sense of peace and calming.

Syracuse University Quad
Syracuse University Quad

On a sunny day, when it is quiet there, it’s like floating on a cloud. And the affects are far from ephemeral. The peace stays with me for quite some time for the remainder of the day. I am also fortunate to have a rose garden just two blocks from my office. There I think through issues or think about nothing at all. Nothing but the wonderful variety of roses to behold.

My favorite thinking spot
My favorite thinking spot

Perhaps one of my favorite places in the world is Green Lakes State Park which lies just a mile and a half from my home. Acres and acres of woods, trails, two lakes and a championship golf course provide the perfect natural setting. I go often after work and on weekends to run, walk the dogs or quietly stroll and think. One of my favorite thinking spots is the bench pictured above.

The trail circles around both lakes and branches off too
The trail circles around both lakes and branches off too

A stroll on the scenic trail around Green and Round lakes is good for people watching or nature watching. Brief chats with other visitors is also an added benefit.

Fallen trees scattered about the shore line is beautiful in itself
Fallen trees scattered about the shore line is beautiful in itself

The park staff take great care in leaving things in their natural state which makes for a more authentic natural experience.

Good for family time
Good for family time

While I do enjoy my alone time, my more favored moments are when my family joins me on the journey. We talk and laugh and connect in ways that you can’t in front of the television.

These natural spaces need to be protected in order to preserve our own health. Our physical and mental health are dependent on them.

If you want less stress and more happiness in your life, don’t take green space for granted. In fact, be more strategic with how you incorporate it. Do anything that you would normally do inside on the outside. Eat a meal outside or trade a treadmill run for an outdoor run. Surf the net on your patio. Do you normally prescribe an afternoon coffee pick-me-up? Try walking on a nice day instead. Move a casual or work related chat with a colleague outdoors.

Spring and summers in the northeast are very short. I try to take advantage of as much outdoor time as I can. I am a much happier person when I do.

Do you have a go-to green space?  I’d love to hear about it.

Mood Indigo – Part 1

sadness

Hey guys.

If you’re feeling blue, you are not alone. A recent Galup study shows that American well-being has not improved in six years and actually took a tumble in 2013.  As a nation, we are a collective group of sad saps. Other reports suggests that 85 percent of Americans are unhappy in their current jobs. Where are you on the happiness continuum?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find rewarding, life altering work. I’m not talking about success here. Many of us are successful by obvious financial measures, career progression and the amount of shit we collect. Many findings highlight that high percentages of professionally successful people and those with significant wealth are actually not happy. It’s shown, too, that financial and career success could actually be hindering our happiness and well-being.

Jackie Ruka, author of “Get Happy and Create a Kick Butt Life!” says that as a society we have gotten it backwards: “it’s happiness that leads to success not vice versa.” Some forward-thinking companies like Zappos, Google and Pfizer work to include “happiness” as part of their company culture.

You are unlikely to make a drastic career move tomorrow so what can you do to eradicate the blues?  Ruka offers these scientifically studied happiness strategies:

  1. Savor ordinary events. Study participants who took time to do this showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.
  2. Avoid comparisons. Why are you worried about what someone else has? Focus on your own personal achievements instead of making comparisons to others will better impact your happiness and self-esteem.
  3. Put money low on the list. According to researchers Kasser and Ryan, those who put money high on the priority list are at greater risk for depression.
  4. Have meaningful goals.
  5. Make friends and treasure family. Social capital is important to well-being. Just make sure that they are genuine and meaningful. Lose the losers.
  6. Take initiative at work. Make your work more rewarding.
  7. Fake it until you make it. Act happy until you are happy. Studies show that this actually works.
  8. Keep a gratitude journal. I like to keep a mental running list of things I’m thankful for.
  9. Get Moving. According to a Duke University study, exercise may be as effective as drugs in treating depression.
  10. Serve others. Helping others, volunteering, donating goods and services results in more health benefits than exercising or quitting smoking.

So don’t wallow in the blues. There are things that you can do to improve your mental health while you develop a way to improve your career situation.  Have you found the secret to happiness? What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Part 2 of Mood Indigo will be about controlling your stress and mood through environment so please check it out.  Credit for much of this information goes to Stephanie Fisher at Kern Communications and Jackie Ruka, author of “Get Happy and Create a Kick Butt Life!”.

 

Protect Your Heart – It Could Keep You Above Ground

I recently lost a friend and colleague and, while the cause of death is yet to be determined, the speculation is that a massive heart attack removed him from this world and our lives and, as a result, the jazz world lost one of its most enthusiastic ambassadors.  Men’s health is nothing to dick around with hominids.  Black men in particular are notorious for ignoring warning signs that, with early detection, provide important indicators that all is not well but treatable.  Man Up fellas and take control of your health!

The Vitals

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • 5.1 million people in the US have heart failure
  • 1 in 9 deaths in 2009 included heart failure as a contributing factor
  • About half of people who develop heart failure die within 5 years
Risk factors include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking tobacco (though smoking crack is OK?), eating foods high in fat, cholesterol and sodium, not getting enough physical activity and being obese.  This is hardly new information but it is well worth repeating since many of us ignore the data despite our knowing.

Warning Signs

Researches have done a lot of work in recent years studying the signs and symptoms patients experienced in the months and years leading up to a heart attack.  Melanie Haiken, Senior Editor at Caring.com, reported on these common warning signs:
  • Erectile Dysfunction – ED is one of the best early warning signs of progressive heart disease.  Researchers at the Mayo clinic followed men ages 40-49  with ED and found that they were twice as likely to develop heart disease than those with no ED.  Why?  Narrowing and hardening of the arteries restricts blood flow to the penis.  So if you can’t get it up or keep it up, get to the doc and discuss your heart.  Don’t just seek treatment for the ED.
  • Snoring, Sleep Apnea and other breathing problems during sleep is another warning sign.  If you snore loud enough to make the dog bark, you could be showing signs of heart issues.  Those with sleep apnea were found to be 3 times more likely to have a heart attack within 5 years.  Why?  Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders that restrict breathing lowers the blood oxygen that feeds the heart.  If you suspect having a sleep disorder, ask your doc to set up a sleep study.  I participated in one about 5 years ago and it turned out to be one of the motivating factors that lead to my weight loss efforts.  Having to sleep with an oxygen mask on every night just wasn’t sexy at all.
  • Sore, swollen or bleeding gums.  That’s new information to me.  Experts believe that poor circulation due to heart disease could be an underlying cause of periodontal disease.
  • Puffy or swollen legs and feet.  If your feet swell enough to make your shoes tight or your ankles, wrists, or fingers are puffy, you might have a problem with fluid retention.  Why it matters?  Fluid retention occurs when the heart doesn’t pump strongly enough and blood doesn’t carry waste products away from tissues.  This is otherwise known as edema.  Talk to your doc about it.
  •  Irregular heart beat.  An early sign that something about your cardiovascular system is out of whack is irregular heart beat.  It may feel like your heart is beating too fast, pounding too hard or skipping a beat.  The most common cause of this is CAD (coronary artery disease) and is the leading cause of death for both men and women because it can lead to heart attack or stroke.
  • Constricting or aching in the chest or shoulder.  Angina is the most common symptom of CAD.  It is not a sharp pain but more like a heavy weight.  When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, it deprives the heart muscle of blood, making it feel squeezed.
  • Shortness of breath can be an early sign that something is wrong with a major bodily system.  It will manifest itself during exercise, exertion and stress.  It may feel like you cant catch your breath.  Again, when your heart isn’t pumping strongly enough, it prevents oxygen from circulating properly.  95% of women who had a heart attacks reported unusual symptoms in the weeks leading up to the attack.  40% of those reported shortness of breath.

Knowing Matters

Education and early detection is key to staying in tune with your body.  Listen to it.  More often than not, it is trying to deliver feedback and that communication process just might save your life.

Another man was taken from this world before his time.  His was a father, a husband and an advocate.  He was 57 years old.  He was cool.  He was positive.  He was a voice for jazz.  He’s gone.  RIP Bobby Jackson.  You will be missed brother.

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby!

Now that I having your attention I should mention that this post is not about you embracing your inner porn star.  It’s more about embracing fitness as an integral part of your sexual performance, thereby, ensuring that your partner or partners (whatever floats your boat my friend.  I’m not here to judge you) have a complete and enjoyable experience.  Simplified, we want to meliorate your bedroom swagger!

I don’t know what you talkin’ ’bout partner, I handle my business in the bedroom!” I have never in my life met a man that admitted to being a lousy lover.  I have, however, met plenty of women who have complained about mediocre Casanovas.  So somewhere, somehow there is a disconnect.  Well my dude, it’s time to Man Up and get real with yourself.  Are you fit enough to go the distance?

The Physical

It is no secret that exercise is good for you.  It keeps your heart healthy, increases stamina, strengthens muscle and enhances flexibility.  And it makes your sex life better.  Studies show that men and women who were more physically fit rated their own sexual performance higher.
Exercise means more sex.  I kid you not.  The reasons for this are not clear but research does show that the more a person exercises, the more sex he or she tends to have.  It also enhances sexual aging.  A study that examined sexual frequency and satisfaction ratings of swimmers age 60 found that their ratings were similar to those 20 years younger.
And then there is Erectile Dysfunction.  For many men our age, ED is more a reality than it is an office joke.  You can help avoid the condition if you keep the blood flowing to your “little buddy” (insert giggle here) without interruption.  Blocked arteries, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues can interfere with blood flow.  Regular exercise reduces the risk of ED by keeping the heart and arteries healthy.
Hitting the gym also boosts the sex hormone, testosterone.  A Baylor University study found that men’s testosterone levels were highest during the 48 hours after they lifted weights.  Additionally, a study conducted by the New England Research Institute documented that a man’s waist size correlates with his testosterone levels.  They found that a waist size larger than 41 inches was a better indicator of low testosterone levels than overall weight.
Being fit also gives you options in the bedroom.  A stronger, more flexible you leads to exploration beyond the missionary position.  If you’re doing it right, sex can be an intense, physically demanding activity requiring strength and endurance.  With increased strength and endurance comes the possibility for more varied sexual positions that require greater physical control.  Can a brother get an “amen” ladies?

The Mental

A key to good sexual experiences is actually feeling sexy.  Being fit helps you feel sexy.  People who exercise have an improved body image over people who don’t exercise.  Having confidence in your appearance leads to better and more relaxed sex.  You are less likely to think about the bits and pieces of your body that bother you and more likely to give attention to the task at hand…pleasing your partner.  Like most things in life, self-confidence leads to exceptional performance.  A study showed that more physically fit men and women rated their own sexual desirability higher than less active men and women.  80% of men and 60% of women who exercised two to three times weekly rated their own sexual desirability as above average.  If you don’t think that you are desirable, why should your partner?  They are going to buy what you are selling and if you are selling a sad state of affairs, the outlook for the evening will be pretty grim.
It’s never too late to start reaping all of the benefits of exercise.  Increased muscle tone, improved stamina, better blood flow, developed agility and self-confidence will lead to better sex.  My mission in the bedroom is to be the last one standing.  As I was fooling around with Mrs Lee trying to set some expectations for the evening, she looked at me, shook her head and said referring to my energy, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with your old ass.”  Mission accomplished.

 

You 2.0 Part Two – The Logo

You don’t want to look like this guy anymore than I do and, let’s face, we couldn’t if we tried.  He represents  an all day every day supplement ladened approach to working out that is not conducive to a normal life style.  Careers, family, social time, hobbies, volunteer work etc. is how we normal mortals roll.

We are looking for simple refinement to our company logo.  The previous post focused on the internal health of our organization (keeping with the corporate analogy again) and part 2 of You 2.0 will turn our attention outward to the brand identifier – our physical appearance.

The first step in the process of reshaping your body is to understand why you’ve failed in the past.  Information is a beautiful thing.  Some 88% of new year’s resolutions fail because of the limited way that your brain stores information according to Stanford professor Baba Shiv The brain cells that operate willpower are located in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for handling short-term memory, staying focused and solving abstract tasks.  That part of your brain is like a muscle that needs to be trained and it cannot handle the additional load*.

The most effective way to train this muscle and avoid the pitfall is to build a habit.  At the end of 2012 you resolved to lose weight and get in shape.  Your approach to fitness has been hit-or-miss.  You found time when you could with a treadmill walk here and some dumbbell lunges there, and by February the gym was a distant memory.  That is because your brain was overwhelmed with the amount of information (willpower) that you were trying to store.  But you don’t have an issue remembering or carrying out the things in your life that are a routine part of your existence i.e. going to work, grocery shopping, watching your favorite TV programs etc.  They are all on autopilot.  Your exercise program must become a habit.

Take small steps to build your habit.  I do so by attending a spin class (stationary bike) every Tuesday at my YMCA.  It serves as the foundation of my weekly routine.  From that point, I carryout a basic routine that concentrates on certain muscle groups each day and that I am able to repeat with ease each week.  Doing so ensures that my workouts are routine and very little thought is required.  For example, Wednesday is chest/tricep, Thursday bicep/back, Friday shoulders/legs,core and Saturday starts the whole thing over again with Monday as my day off.  I incorporate some kind of cardio in my daily warm up.  Again, the key is to make it as routine and consistent as possible to train your brain to include it in your daily schedule.  You need not live in the gym.  30-45 minutes a day can get this done!

So the good news is that you are not the lazy bastard that you thought you were.  The bad news is that you are running out of excuses to reach your goals. (By the way, you don’t want to look like this guy either)

Rebuild With Safety In Mind

Now that we know some of what causes us to come up short of our goals, it’s time to Man Up and and kick this thing into action.  But for goodness sake, start slow.  Don’t go rushing into the free weight room looking to display a prowess long bereft of action.  “A common pitfall guys make is doing too much, too fast” says Kevin S Heffernan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Syracuse University.  And as Director of the Human Performance Lab, I think Dr. Kev is worth a listen.  “Gone are the ‘go big or go home’ days, at least initially”, he says.  Heffernan recommends allowing a little extra time for the warm-up.  “Don’t just swing your arm around in a circle for 5 seconds and call that a warm-up like you did when you were younger.”  He suggest starting with cardio to elevate body temperature and blood flow to the muscle.  After the warm-up, begin with some light static stretching, holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds.  Kevin notes, “that even moderate exercise may cause soreness now so don’t get discouraged.”

Other suggestions from Dr. Heffernan include:

a. Incorporate rotator-cuff exercises in your routine (see video demo)
b. Don’t neglect the abs and lower back! (guilty)
c. Learn proper form for all exercises.
d. If you have an injury, don’t work around it and don’t train over it. (guilty here too).  Building a shoddy foundation can only lead to collapse.
e. Leave “no pain, no gain” in the 80’s where it belongs.
f.  Watch your breathing during resistance exercises. Don’t hold your breath.
g. Be aware of your surroundings (avoid walking into protruding equipment parts)
h.  Don’t be too proud to ask for help.  Use a spotter whenever you can.

Finally,” Kevin says, “recognize that you’re not off the hook for being considered ‘sedentary’ just because you’re going to the gym 30-45 minutes a day.  What good is exercise if your’re sitting on your butt/lying down the other 23 hours that day.  In addition to moving more, try to sit less.”

Don’t let doubt, perfection and restlessness get in your way.  All are barriers to achieving your goals.

I’m not just the president of Hair Club for Men…..

One day I stood in front of the mirror with a sad and sour look on my face and my wife asked what was wrong.  I complained to her about the way I looked and she responded with four simple words, “do something about it.”  It was so simple and so matter-of-fact yet it felt like a pimp-slap across the face.  It was a sobering moment.
If you don’t like the way that your corporate logo is designed, redesign it.  Build an active lifestyle and embrace it.  Don’t have a bicycle?  Buy one.  Have a bicycle?  Then ride it.  Walk when you can.  Build up to jog and then a run.  Create challenges for yourself.  You say you’ve never competed in a 5K run?  Well do it.  You’ve tried the hit-or-miss approach to working out without success.  Create a routine that fits well into your daily schedule and stick to it.  Be a creature of habit.  You want to get to a point where you feel guilty for missing a workout.  Track your progress and take pride in your accomplishments.  Be patient.

It’s important to increase your metabolism to lose weight and weight lifting can help you accomplish that.  Muscles are an important factor in increasing your metabolism as a pound of muscle can burn up to 20 calories a day.  Since lifting weights helps build muscle and burn fat, it has a dual benefit in weight-loss programs.  Always remember to lift more weights than your muscles are used to.  If you are completing 20 reps of any exercise with relative ease, then you don’t have enough weight.  Shoot for 8-12 reps where the last rep of each set causes muscle fatigue.  In order to burn fat, build muscle, shape your body and lose weight, most experts recommend weight lifting at least 3 times per week.  Incorporate cardio exercises and a healthy diet for quicker results.

Equally important in burning fat and building muscle is getting the proper amount of zzzzzzs.  If you are sleep deprived, your metabolism cannot function properly or efficiently.**  We generally require 7.5 hours of sleep per night.  If you are sleeping an extra half-hour or so over that, you won’t see any improvement.  You are getting enough.  However, if you are only getting 4-5 hours of sleep per night, improving that to 7.5 – 8.0 per night will likely produce noticeable weight-loss results.  

I realize that we are busy little hominids and that there are only so many hours in a day.  Something has to give to in order to create room for the transformation that is to take place.  Perhaps it is some of the extra time you give your employer or maybe it eats into some family time.  In the long run, I believe that all parties that have an interest in you would be willing to give up a little time with you now so that they can experience more days with you down the road as you work toward longevity and improved quality of life.

Thanks to Syracuse University’s Kevin S. Heffernan PhD for his time and valuable contribution to this post and thank you for reading.  Now go get busy!  Part 3 of You 2.0 will put some final polish on your brand as we take a look at punching up your style.
*Credit blogger Leo Widrich, Buffer
**Credit Denise Mann, Web MD feature writer

You 2.0 Part 1

Nearly two months into the new year and let me guess…your New Year’s resolution is already history.  You resolved to lose weight, get in shape, ride a unicorn and quit smoking.  Why?  Because it’s what we do after the holidays.  It’s as much a part of the festive season as Christmas tree ornaments and, like those ornaments, the resolutions get tucked away in a decorative box and stored in the closet until we dust them off next year. I know this because this is the time of year that the equipment in the gym becomes more available as the “resolutioners” begin to fade into the abyss.

These failed resolutions are all about change right?  There is something about ourselves that we dislike and changing that one thing puts us on a path to feeling better about who we are or how others perceive us.  Why piss around with it one fault, one vice or one imperfection at a time.  Why not create a whole new you?  Reinvent and re-brand yourself holistically?  The next three Man Up posts are dedicated to exploring You 2.0.

Think of yourself as a corporation.  Your physical stature is your corporate logo.  How you look, act, speak, and treat others influence the attitudes and perceptions that others have about your brand.  And like a corporation, the relative health of your organization has a direct impact on those who rely on you.  Your family, employer, charitable organizations, little league team that you coach etc. are all affected when your health is in serious decline.  With that in mind, we are going to challenge ourselves to redefine and reshape our brand and get our own personal corporations in the healthiest state possible.  We will consider health, fitness and style as we work to create You 2.0.

Healthier You

Losing weight and getting healthier usually tops most list of popular New Year’s resolutions so that is where we will begin.  Let’s face it.  Many men over 40 are ensconced in a lifestyle that neither promotes longevity or instills much self-confidence.  We drink too much, eat the wrong foods, have poor sleeping habits, and are engaged in stressful jobs; a recipe for major mid-life health issues.

The first step is to do some analysis to understand the current health of your company.  What’s your current weight, body mass index and blood chemistry and blood pressure?  These are all very important data points that you will need to know in order to establish some goals.  Schedule some blood work through your doctor’s office to know what your cholesterol, blood glucose, sodium etc. levels are.  Calculate your BMI (body mass index) to know your percentage of body fat.  Get your blood pressure read.  Just as a company’s key performance indicators can give an accurate picture of corporate health, these health indicators can deliver a picture of your relative state of being.  The top 5 killers of men are 1) heart disease, 2) stroke, 3) suicide, 4) prostate cancer and 5) lung cancer.  Knowing your blood chemistry, blood pressure and BMI gives you the data to protect against many of these.

Are you carrying a good amount of belly fat?  Know this – belly fat is the worst fat and not just because it eclipses your new shoes.  Deep belly fat churns out proteins and hormones that make all kinds of bad things worse including bad cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides.  It’s time to stop feeding that beast!

What Are You Shoving in Your Pie Hole?

Take a week to track the number of calories that you consume in a day and measure that against what you should be consuming.  There are a number of apps and web site tools that can easily give you the calorie count for the foods that you consume if they are not listed on the packaging.  As middle aged men, our metabolism slows down as we become less active in life.  The average 35-55 year old man should consume somewhere between 2,300-3,000 in order to maintain a healthy weight depending on your level of activity.  You will obviously adjust those numbers down if you want to lose weight.  While you are tracking the calories that you consume, also track the number of calories that you burn.  Again, there are a number of apps and web sites that can help you do this.  Armed with this information, you will be in a better position to determine what will get you on the right path to controlling your blood chemistry and dropping a few pounds.

5 and 5

Here are 5 foods that you should incorporate into your diet to reduce certain health risks like diabetes and 5 foods that you probably don’t realize are pretty harmful if over consumed.  The good:
1) Beans – a unique food because their starch component is made up of mostly digestible starch and resistant starch.  Pass the gas!
2) Greens – almost non existent effects on blood glucose and packed with fiber.  Skip cooking them to death in pork fat and try sauteing in extra virgin olive oil.
3) Non-starchy vegies – mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, peppers etc.
4) Nuts and seeds – they have minimal glycemic effects and promote weight maintenance.  Eat in moderation and go for low or no sodium.
5) Berries – are rich in fiber and antioxidants.  They also have powerful anti-cancer and blood pressure reducing effects.
The bad:
1) Barbecued meats, processed meats and commercial red meat.  Red and processed meat consumption is now considered a convincing cause of colon cancer.
2) Full fat dairy products (cheese, butter, whole milk) and trans fats (margarine).  These are calorie-dense foods that are loaded with saturated fat and contribute significantly to weight gain.
3) Fried foods and baked goods.  Fried = no good.
4) Soft drinks and artificial sweeteners – produce dangerous spikes in blood sugar.  And did you know that sweetened foods perpetuate the desire for sweeter foods?  The safety of artificial sweeteners is being question in new studies.
5) Processed foods, white flour products, white rice, etc. can produce harmful nutritional deficits and cellular inflammation.  Skip the white bread and white rice for 100% whole wheat bread and brown or long grain rice.
This is just the beginning of your journey to assessing your current condition and making the necessary changes for a healthier you. A healthy balance sheet if we are continuing with the corporate analogy. And keep this tucked under your hat:  Skip fad diets and stick to the basics.  You want your weight loss to be gradual and natural.  Be patient.  Rome wasn’t built in a day neither will be your sexy new frame.  Learn portion control and measure (don’t eyeball) your serving size.  It’s about creating and maintaining healthier eating habits.
Part 2 of You 2.0 will focus on the logo redesign – a leaner meaner you.