Strategies for eating healthy and improving your fitness

We all know we have to exercise and eat healthily. We are reminded when we drive by the gym on the way home from work and when that aching lower back pain resurfaces. Even though we know it, we just can seem to consistently eat healthily and make it to the gym.

If that is you, you are not alone. Many people struggle with the same thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few strategies that you can use in your life to help you move in the right direction.

Eating healthy and losing weight

If you want to lose body fat, you have to change your eating habits. You should be eating real foods. Meat and vegetables, mostly vegetables until you feel full.  This is probably one of the most difficult things for people to do. It is not only a matter of will power. Setting yourself up for success plays a huge role in whether you will be successful long term. Try the following strategies to improve your eating habits to help you lose those extra pounds.

  1. If you know you shouldn’t be eating it don’t have it in your house. You can’t snack on those cookies if they are not in the house.
  2. Meal prep in advance so that you spend less of your will power deciding what to eat through the day.
  3. If meal prepping is not your thing, try cooking extra for dinner to eat for lunch the next day. I found this is better a strategy for me because I have a hard time eating food that is several days old.
  4. Tell your friends, family, and significant other that you are eating healthier. It will hold you accountable. This is especially true with your spouse because it will make a huge difference when deciding where to eat out. Your partner is most likely to support you and maybe join you after they see your results. If they do not, at least ask them to not eat the cookies in front of you and not to bring them home.
  5. Take it one day at a time. If you did not eat how you wanted in one meal, recommit to your goal and correct it on the meal. Life happens, do not spend time feeling guilty, but don’t make this the norm. Remember it is a lifestyle change and you are in it for the rest of your life.
  6. If you can, find a community that has similar goals and values. The right support system will help keep you on track and consistent.

Fitness and exercise

Exercise has a lot of benefits both long and short term. The right exercise program will help you lose the extra pounds quicker as well as help you reach old age strong and healthy. If you are dealing with past injuries, a strength and conditioning program will help you regain your life back and live pain-free. Use the following strategies stick with your fitness program.

  1. Schedule your daily workouts on your calendar. It is a lot easier to commit when you have set time aside to work on your fitness.
  2. Make it as important as going to work. If you don’t make it a priority it will never happen. You work to make a living to enjoy life, not the other way around. The same is true for your fitness.
  3. Find a community that you enjoy exercising with. The right crowd makes exercising more fun and it helps you push yourself and achieve results quicker. It is easier to stay consistent when you do it with people you enjoy being around with.
  4. Make it the best part of your day. One of my favorite things about working out is that regardless of how my day went, I can always finish my workout and feel like I had a small victory. I did something difficult that I was not sure I was going to be able to do. It helps me start or end my day on a positive note.
  5. If you can, do it with your spouse/partner or find a friend who will join you on the journey. Nothing brings people closer together than a little suffering together. I love working out with my wife because it brings us closer. It is also one of the reasons I loved my time in the military. I made friendships that have lasted over a decade.

Final thoughts

Planning and placing yourself in an environment where you are most likely to succeed is one of the major factors for whether you will succeed. Remember, you are doing this for the long term, not just summer. Give yourself room to fail, shake it off, learn from it and correct it the next day.

Losing weight and keeping it off for the rest of your life

With so many fad diets and quick fixes to weight loss, most people are still confused about how to lose weight and keep it off. Most of us know someone who has lost 10, 20 maybe even 30 pounds only to regain them a year later. How many times have you told yourself, I’ll start eating healthy Monday? No worries we have all been there, and it is possible to shed the extra pounds and keep them off. The best tool we have to lose fat is knowledge. Once you know more about your body and how food affects it, you will be able to make wiser decisions that lead to losing weight and keeping it off for good.

What happens in my body when I eat?

To understand how our body responds to food, we first must understand macronutrients. All food falls under the following categories: Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates. Your body needs all three and each macronutrient causes a reaction in your body. Protein has many roles in the body, but it is primarily attributed to the repairing and building of body tissue as well as a source of energy. Fat is another source of energy and it is much more calorie-dense with 9 calories/gram compared to protein and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the bodies primary source of fuel. It is the quickest way to provide your body with energy and it is where we will focus on for the rest of the discussion because it is what leads to weight gain.

 

When we eat carbohydrates, our body converts them to glucose or blood sugar to metabolize them as energy. To maintain a healthy level of glucose in the blood, our body produces the hormone insulin in the pancreas. Insulin plays an important role in keeping healthy blood glucose levels in our blood system, as well as storing glucose as fat (Glycogen) throughout the body for use as energy at a later time. Too much glucose is bad and too little can be fatal because it is one of the primary energy sources for brain tissue.

 

The problem with eating a high carbohydrate diet, specifically refined or simple carbohydrates, is that insulin levels are constantly high in the blood system. Simple carbohydrates have a high glycemic index and complex carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index. The higher the index, the faster they raise sugar blood levels and the more insulin the body produces.  For the purpose of this article, simple carbohydrates are sugars, flours, and grains. Think of cookies, cereals, bread, pasta, sugary drinks, etc. Complex carbohydrates come from fruit, vegetables and other real foods that do not come in a box from the middle of the aisle at the grocery store. While a higher carbohydrate diet is fine to a point for professional athletes, for the rest of us trying to live a healthy lifestyle it leads to weight gain, specifically fat.

 

Because our body is very efficient, it produces more insulin that is needed. When insulin does its job and lowers blood sugar levels, the body eventually runs out of immediate energy. At this point the brain has several options, it can signal the release of energy in the body previously stored as fat by insulin or it can signal the body that it is hungry because it did not find any fuel. When the body tries to release energy, it produces the hormone glucagon. Glucagon stimulates the release of glucose as glycogen (temporary fat storage). Because the body previously released insulin and it is still in the blood system, much of that glucose is not released and eventually, the brain signals the body that it is hungry. Most people will eat another meal high in simple carbohydrates, restarting the cycle again. Repeated over a long period of time, it leads to weight gain and potentially chronic deceases like insulin resistance, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

Calorie restriction

Now that we have a high-level understanding of our body’s reaction to food, specifically carbohydrates, let us address the most popular approach to losing body fat, calorie restriction. When most people think of eating to promote fat loss, they think of restricting how much food they eat through tiny serving and reducing the amount of fat they consume. I’ve done it, maybe you have done it as well. It starts great, the first week is tough but you push through it. You lose a little weight, but the cravings eventually beat you and you go for the donut.

When you consume fewer calories than the body needs to function the body will react in two ways; You will walk around hungry for most of the time or if you do not supply it with fuel, the body will slow down in order to use less energy, also known as metabolism slowdown.  Fat stores stay the same, energy levels go down and activity level goes down. Long term you plateau and eventually regain the weight. Hungry people are grumpy and miserable.

 “If you simply cut your calories by eating less, your body will respond by burning less [calories]”

-Dr. Jason Fung

Eating too little does not lead to long term weight loss and eventually, most people regain the weight.

How much should I eat?

The answer to how much we should eat is until you are full. Chew your food well, slow down and eat enough until you no longer feel hungry. Remember under-eating slows down your metabolism which hurts weight loss.

What should I eat?

Cut out simple carbohydrates such as bread and sugars and replace them with real foods like vegetables. Eliminate sugary drinks and stick with water. In short, eat real food. Anything that you cannot buy at a butcher shop or pick from your garden should not be part of your diet. We recommend to our customers that they follow CrossFit recommendation in “Fitness in 100 words”. It is the one we follow:

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, clean and jerks, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row; hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

-Greg Glassman

Conclusion

Every person has different goals and factors that should be kept in mind when creating a plan to lose weight. What might have worked for one person may not work for others because of factors such as schedule, or preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.  Some conditions may require that your nutrition coach works with your doctor. Regardless of where you are and what your goal is, you need a plan. At CrossFit Rolling Thunder we focus on helping you set an individualized plan to reach your goals and provided a positive environment where you can thrive by making the lifestyle changes that will last you the rest of your life.

Your fitness is your health

My fitness is my health. The fitness that we pursue in CrossFit is not for the Crossfit Games. The kind of fitness that we are seeking is functional. It makes us better at everyday life. It’s the kind of fitness that allows a father or mother to pick up their child without throwing their back. It’s the same kind of fitness that our grandparents need to keep their independence and avoid a nursing home. It’s the kind of fitness that prevents chronic disease and reverses type-2 diabetes. The key word is functional and it means something different in different stages of our lives.

As a twenty-year-old I wanted to have the bragging rights of doing 60 push up. In my late 20’s and now 30’s it means keeping up with my kids. As I get older into my 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond, fitness will take different meanings. But the goal is the same, staying strong, keeping my independence and staying away from a nursing home as long as possible. My fitness is my health.

So what is health then? It depends who you ask. Ask the medical community and they may define it as something along the lines of “the absence of disease”. Ask the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, and he’ll tell you there is more to it than that. Can you call a person that has no illnesses but can’t walk without a walker healthy? What about if they can’t use the toilet on their own? Of course, there are medical conditions and orthopedic calamities that took some people’s ability to do those things. But image for a second that we are not talking about them in this conversation. We are talking about those people who simply lost the ability to walk because of a sedentary lifestyle.

If you consider your ability to do everyday physical tasks as part of your health, it then takes a whole new meaning. Do you know anyone in their 50’s who has back issues? What about someone in their 40’s with knee problems?  CrossFit can help them get their functionality back. In other words, CrossFit can help give them their health back.

It can also help you avoid any of those issues. All you have to do is considered your ability to do stuff as part of your health. What kind of stuff you ask? Consider lifting  a 5 gallon jug of water into your 70’s with ease. It can help you carry your 50lb son or daughter on your shoulders on the way back to your car after a day at the fair. If you can’t do that, you may have lost some of your health.

Health, according to Greg Glassman is “increased work capacity across broad time, modal, and age domains”. Sounds fancy, but it just mean to do physical stuff across many activities throughout our entire life.

How do we do that? Easy, we start by teaching people what healthy eating looks like, not diets. Then we add physical exercise as constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity. We do it in a CrossFit gym, we call it a box, and we do it with a group. The group classes makes it more fun and keeps us accountable to each other. We support each other through the process and welcome anyone who is ready to take their health into their own hands.

A CrossFit box is filled with your neighbors, some fit, some working on it, some young, some older, and most of us somewhere in between. There are families, couples, and there are singles too. The common denominator is that we have come to the realization that our fitness is our health. We are taking action into our hands to keep our health throughout life by doing CrossFit. Find a local box, and become part of the CrossFit community, you’re welcome here.

Is CrossFit Good For Me?

The short answer to this question is yes, CrossFit is for everyone. There is a 94 year-old man somewhere around the world doing CrossFit to maintain his physical independence. In a CrossFit gym somewhere in Texas there is a young woman with diabetes who through the CrossFit lifestyle lost over 120 lbs and reversed her disease. You may also find a young man who after the tragic loss of his mother, his health took a dive and at a point weighed over 350 lbs. He found CrossFit and used it to take control of his health and his life.

If after seeing these three stories you are still skeptical, or maybe a bit intimidated by some videos you may have seen of very fit people doing CrossFit, don’t worry, it’s normal. In a CrossFit gym you will find people at pretty much every level of their health and fitness journey. Some are just beginning and others have been at it for a while. Here are 3 reasons why you can and should join a local CrossFit gym.

CrossFit is much more than exercise

While exercise and movement is a large part of CrossFit, there is much more to it than the workouts. Nutrition is the foundation of the program.  Don’t worry, nutrition is not about going on a fad diet, or eating salads 3 times a day. In a good CrossFit gym, you will learn how to eat for a balance and healthy lifestyle, while you also learn about exercise.

The CrossFit  gym is also a community. Everyone is welcomed and everyone supports each other. You will feel at home and if you stick around you will make friends. One of the things that stands out about CrossFit gyms is that people stick around for much more than just the exercise. They enjoy the company of the people in their classes and love the community that comes with a CrossFit gym.

All the movements have different skill levels

At this point you may be thinking, “OK that’s great but I don’t think I can do some of the exercises I’ve seen people do.” I was once asked by someone looking into CrossFit if they needed to be in shape to be able to join a CrossFit gym. The short answer is no, but I would equate that question to someone asking me if they need to be clean before taking a shower. You jump into the shower to get clean, and you join a CrossFit gym to get fit and healthy. We all start at a different level and that is OK.

All exercise can be scaled to meet the needs of our grandparents or the needs of an olympic level athlete. Both need to be strong, but the level of their strength varies in application and degree.

“Our understanding is that the needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind”

-Greg Glassman, founder of Crossfit

In other words, you and I need to be strong to do life, to stay healthy and enjoy life, while a professional athlete needs to be the best at their sport. CrossFit works for both because while the person next to you may be doing pull ups, you and I might perform a variation that will help us achieve pulls in the future.

There is a coach every class

One of the traits of CrossFit is that it is constantly varied. This means that you will see exercised from different sports; Gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and many more. Some of these are advance, and it takes time and practice to learn them. For those who wish to learn the advance movements, there is always a coach around CrossFit classes that will explain the exercise and help you get better at them over time.

When I started, I could not do one pull up and probably less than 5 push ups, if that. Today I am not breaking world records in either, but with coaching, consistency, and practice, I am able to do much more. You too over time will get better at the movements because there will be someone coaching you in every class. It’s the closest thing to personal training in group classes, but at a much cheaper rate. Many gyms also offer personal training for those who feel they need one-on-one time to speed up their learning curve.

Last thoughts

CrossFit is for everyone and any level of fitness. I have heard stories of disabled individuals doing CrossFit to help them maintain their independence or regain control of their health. All exercises can be scaled for everyone, a beginner, someone with a disability or an advance athlete. There will always be a coach around to help you improve your movement to keep you safe and push the limits of what you can do. Finally, CrossFit gyms have a fun and supporting community. You will find that CrossFitters are some of nicest and most easy going folks around. Sure some of them might be a little crazy, but they are still great folks.