Over Christmas break I was able to meet up with my family in St. George, Utah! All of us couldn't wait to see Matt & Mica because they've been back east for the last 3-4 years. I was amazed when I saw them both. They looked AMAZING! I knew Matt had mentioned to me through text that they've been changing their food choices and also exercising more. I learned a lot from them both over the break. But I still wanted to have Matt (my brother) as a guest on my blog to share his experience of making some of those changes to his lifestyle and the motives behind it. I didn't know all of this about my brother so I too learned something new from him! So ENJOY!
Health Begins With Loving “You”
For me, nutrition and exercise are like a new pair of leather shoes: they look pretty sweet but I’m still getting used to them. It has only been during the last five years that I have really become motivated to take better care of my body. I mean, I’ve always stayed away from caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and stuff. But I always took my body for granted during my teenage years and into my twenties. Nothing stood between me and a cheeseburger back in those days (except for maybe an empty wallet). In fact, the only time I lifted weights in high school was during gym class. I ran track in middle school but that was the extent of my glory days.
The first time I actually hit the weights in college was with two buddies of mine, Adam and Dean. Adam was a former high school cross country runner who could eat anything and still look like a refugee from a war-torn country. Dean came from a family of giants. His brother played college football at Brigham Young University. So there I was on a weekday night in a smelly weight room on campus trying to survive the crushing force of gravity on a bench press when Dean decides to put more weight on the barbell. I grabbed the bar and, pushing with all my might, cried out loud “This is for the girls!!” I can’t remember if I cleared it but I do remember being quite sore for a few days afterwards.
Finally, after I graduated with a bachelor of science in psychology, I started to make time to exercise. I was still eating boxed, processed foods and staying up late, but I decided that it was time to build some muscle. After a free workout session with a personal trainer and scoping out what other guys were doing, I began to put together a patchwork plan of exercises that included some cardio and some strength training. It wasn’t much but it was something.
Meeting My Wife
It was not until I met my wife that I began to change the way I was eating. She introduced me to daily doses of fruits and vegetables, low-sodium meals, dinners using fresh ingredients, and lots of water. I also began reading a book entitled “The 7 Principles of Fat Burning”. This book really changed my perspective on the chain reactions that certain foods produce in our bodies. While reading this book, which was written by a chiropractor who specializes in weight loss through nutrition and natural methods, I learned about our incredible endocrine system that monitors the many hormones circulating throughout our bodies. The foods we put into our bodies can trigger hormones that lead to fat storing or fat burning. Also, I learned that fat burning can only physically occur at a maximum rate of two pounds per week but that water weight, which we all have, can be lost much more quickly. The author of this book, Dr. Berg, recommends a liver enhancement program (two weeks) that includes only vegetables, nuts, some fruits, and a special drink (cranberry juice, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and water).
The program is meant to improve the functioning of your liver and help you not only lose water weight but also begin to burn fat. This book has been the basis of my diet over the last year. Yes, there are definitely times that I grab some Ben and Jerry’s or take my wife out to Five Guys. But I am much more aware of what I am taking into my body. Overall, I frequently eat salads and a lot less sodium and sugar because those are the food additives that contribute to a lot of water and fat weight. I also do the liver enhancement program every few months. It’s especially nice after the holidays when my body is starting to take on more water weight due to all the salty foods. I also exercise 3-4 times a week. It’s tougher during the winter to brave the cold on the way to the gym so I sometimes will use a DVD workout.
Am I exactly where I want to be with nutrition and exercise? No, but I believe very few people are. You have to start somewhere and not beat yourself up or hold yourself to an unrealistic standard. Learning about food science and biology has been helpful. Knowledge is power and can make a difference in changing your perspective. It will not exactly motivate you but it will give you the information you need to make informed decisions. In the end, a lot of what changed my behavior involved loving me and my body enough to begin making changes. Once you begin to commit yourself to something that is important, like taking care of your one and only body, you begin on an incredible journey that can change your life.
My Current Health Plan
Here is my current health plan. Each morning I whip up a vitamin fruit shake and a health tonic. The shake consists of Reliv powder (a blend of vitamins, minerals, and protein), frozen strawberries, bananas, and blueberries, a dollop of natural peanut butter, a handful of baby kale leaves, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and sugar free Crystal Light juice. Ever since I started drinking this shake, I have only been sick once. The tonic consists of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, freshly squeezed lemon juice, water, and a tiny amount of Stevia powder. This drink helps to keep my liver and kidneys in great shape. During the week, Monday through Friday, my wife and I try to stick to salads that include kale, spinach, other vegetables, and eggs or chicken. On the weekend, we cook a large meal that we can use for lunches during the next week. I recently cooked this Chicken Divan and served it over a bed of rice. For some go-to snacks, I love eating sliced apples with natural peanut butter. An apple is the best fruit you can eat. I mean, the science behind it is almost overwhelming (apples can prevent a host of diseases including Alzheimers, Parkinsons, cancer, and heart disease). I also enjoy eating fresh, crunch vegetables with tasty hummus. Costco is the best place to buy inexpensive, great-tasting hummus. In addition, I exercise at our local gym 3-4 times a week. I don’t believe in exercising every single day especially since I lift weights. I choose to give my muscles time to heal and grow. My workout always begins with cardio. Usually this means that I lightly jog to the gym (about a mile from my home). Then I do 15 minutes of stretching and Pilates on a mat. This has really helped my flexibility and allows me time to work on my core (abs and back). Then I will lift weights for 20-25 minutes and end my workout session with more cardio (if I have the energy!). Most of my workout is the same although I work out different groups of muscles when lifting. I also change up my cardio by running faster or using a different setting on the treadmill.
I hope to share more stories from my Friends, Family and Co-workers to let them share their journey as well. I think we motivate each other and inspire each other MORE when we actually realize we're all striving for the SAME things in life---Good Health, Love & Happiness!