The other day I was reading through some old emails and came across this quote from Sam Parker, the author of "212 the Extra Degree".
I used to walk my dog every morning when I got up, but these days I have a very lazy dog and there is no guarantee that he'll want to get out for a walk the way that Jake used to.
This is not a habit that I've been in at all. In fact, taking time to read has really fallen off since I stopped traveling for my old job. When traveling for work there's all kinds of downtime on airplanes or trains when you can get caught up with your reading list, and these days I often feel too busy or tired to take the time to open a book, but I missed the benefits of reading. Reading is inspirational. It helps to stir up new ideas. It feeds the brain and creates a sense of accomplishment. But I admit I was struggling to find the time, and when laying in bed nice and warm in the morning, despite my stewing, I didn't feel motivated in that space to get up to read. So I started small.
I love my morning coffee, and these days it's light outside early in the morning, the birds are singing, and the thought of a warm, creamy cup of coffee was really appealing. So I started with just that - getting out of bed no later than 5:30am and taking some time to enjoy my coffee in the quiet of the early morning hours.
I've been working on my Corrective Exercise Certification, and the book is always nearby. I intentionally left it by the couch. Reaching for it was easy. I didn't have any commitment necessarily to read it at 5:30am, but it was there.
After about 10 minutes of sitting, relaxing, soaking in the morning sun and enjoying my coffee I already felt more awake. I reached for the book and started reading. Before I knew it I was 20 pages in and soaking in the new information, feeling inspired about how I could apply this knowledge to the benefit of my clients.
The next morning I remembered how great I felt after feeding my brain, but I still preferred the warmth of my bed, and still struggled with the challenges of the day ahead. But I thought about how wonderful my warm coffee would taste, and how quickly I'd start to feel more alive, and how this was going to inevitably lead to me picking up my book and feeling the sense of accomplishment and inspiration that the material provided.
Within just a few days it wasn't the coffee that motivated me but the excitement to see what interesting information the next chapter would hold, and that was what got me out of bed.
Now I have a routine of getting up each morning, brewing my coffee (after my morning mojo of course) and sitting down for 45 minutes or so to read.
I look forward to it. It's helping me refocus away from the feeling that I'm in some sort of twilight zone in this new COVID-19 world that we live in, and focus on how I can contribute to my community during this difficult time.
This in turn completely shifts my mindset. Starting my day inspired and thinking about how I can give back is far more productive than starting my day worrying about how the universe might give me another punch in the nose.
And when your mindset changes, everything else follows.
So what is my point? My point is that if I had focused entirely on a new morning ritual that seemed perfect to me at 5pm, but daunting to me at 5am, I would never have gotten there. But the simple act of just getting out of bed eventually led to something greater, more impactful, and more productive.
Don't think for a second that the smallest step could lead you to where you want to go. Getting up to read is just another small step in something bigger for me. Our current situation in this global pandemic is a big deal. I struggle with it every day, and I think it's important to admit that and to embrace it. It's not going away, and for me it's important that I am able to cope with the longer term implications of life as we now know it.
Getting up in the morning to read is one small step towards getting through what the coming months have in store. It gives me a sense of strength and control in the situation. It sets me up to make another one degree shift towards the implementation of new ideas that will allow me to support my clients and commit to my business during a time that is out right scary. As I identify those new ideas, embrace them, work towards implementing them, I gain traction, I create momentum, and I feel a greater sense of knowing that we will find our way forward in all of this. And all of this started with me just getting my butt out of bed in order to drink my warm cup of coffee.
What feels daunting to you right now? What small step can you start that will help you build momentum toward something bigger? Give it some thought....and if it still feels like it's too much, think even smaller. There's no such thing as taking too small a step. Any step is a step in the forward direction, and as long as you're moving forward you're making progress.
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Okay, full disclaimer here. I've been wanting to share some information with you about some really nasty stuff that's in our food, and when we created our "How to Crack the Food Label Code" resource guide I thought it would be a perfect opportunity. Well, I have to admit that my old scientist brain has gotten the best of me and I have included a lot of info in this blog post about SIX food additives that I think you should watch out for and avoid then as if your life depends on it....because it does!
If you want the cliff notes version than download our guide, but I hope you'll read on and take a bit away that just might change the way that you look at food labels and what food you consider acceptable for you and your family going forward.
For a long time I thought I was eating healthy, but I wasn't really paying attention to what was actually in my food! So much food is packaged to appear healthy, but when you start reading the ingredients you'll often find that's not really the case.
Over the past few years I've taken a greater interest in understanding what's in my food, and learning why some of the ingredients that are listed can be particularly bad for you.
I try to eat a whole foods based diet - in other words, food that is just the way mother nature intended for it to be. Unadulterated, fresh, and natural. This includes lots of fruits and veggies, whole fat dairy, lean meats and seafood, whole grains, nuts, and beans.
I'm sure you've heard that when you grocery shop you should shop the perimeter. This is great advice! That's generally where all of the fresh, whole foods are located.
It's when you start working your way down the aisles that things can get a little hairy. But packaged food has a place in our lives, and I admit that I enjoy a number of products that are packaged such as crackers, rice and other grains that include a convenient spice packet, snack foods, breads, nut butters, ice cream, and so forth. One rule of thumb that I use in my shopping is to look for packaged foods with 5 or less ingredients. Generally speaking, when there are fewer ingredients they are all ingredients that you're familiar with....and are the ingredients that YOU would use if you were to actually prepare the food yourself. For example, my go-to crackers have THREE ingredients....Whole Grain Wheat, Safflower Oil and Salt. That sounds like what I'd use if I were to actually make these crackers myself!
I've looked at labels in the past....but funny enough I always looked at the number of calories and less at the ingredients. Who knows what I'm talking about? But we have to acknowledge that all calories are not created equally. For example, 100 calories of almonds is NOT the same as 100 calories of Oreo cookies! So the number of calories is probably the least useful piece of info on the label.
These days I look at the ingredients, and how much ADDED sugar is in the food. It seems silly to me that there is added sugar in something like mayonnaise. I don't know about you, but when I get all crazy and make mayo myself I do not add sugar to it!
Now, I admit, I love me some snack foods and other packaged foods that have a few more ingredients included than if I were to make it on my own, but there are SIX ingredients that I really look out for and I will always put the item back if any of these are in the ingredients.
#1: Artificial Sugar: This is an absolute NO WAY in my diet. These products are pure chemicals, do not exist anywhere in nature, and NOT good for you at all because your body simply doesn't recognize them as food and this can really wreck havoc on your metabolism and health in general. If I want a little sweet in my food or drink I'll add a little local honey and it hits the spot. It's all about moderation.
There are three main types of artificial sugar that you may use in your coffee or baking, or that you'll find in your food.
One of my favorite stories that I came across is about a chemist named Constantin Fahlberg, who in 1879 accidentally discovered saccharin (a.k.a Sweet-n-Low). Fahlberg was in his lab working with a chemical called toluene, a clear, colorless liquid produced in the process of making coal. Its sweet aroma is often recognized in gasoline or paint thinner. Yeah, right! I'm serious! Look it up! Fahlberg accidentally spilled some and got it on his hands. Given that clean laboratory practices weren't quite what they are today back in 1879 he went off to lunch without washing his hands and noticed that his food tasted sweet...and that's how saccharin came to be invented! Count me out!
I'm sure you've heard of aspartame. Aspartame is what Equal and Neutra-sweet is made with. This artificial sugar has received some more significant mainstream coverage about the potential health concerns. The FDA once listed 92 different symptoms associated with the use of aspartame, that were confirmed through controlled studies. These symptoms include depression, irritability, heart palpitations, diarrhea, joint pain, memory loss, confusion, aggravation of diabetes...the list goes on for 84 more symptoms!
Sucralose is the newest to come to the market in the form of Splenda, and what really blows my mind about this chemical sugar substitute is actually starts out as sucrose (a real sugar) but undergoes a complex five-step chemical process that involves many caustic chemicals, which selectively substitutes the three atoms of chlorine for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sucrose molecule, creating a substance that is called a polychlorinated compound. I don't know about you, but I don't want to eat anything that is a polychlorinated compound! Other polychlorinated compounds are insecticides, such as DDT, which can accumulate in the body's fat and tissues.
Need I say any more?
#2 MSG: There is no doubt that food containing MSG tastes really good. I totally admit it! For many years I knowingly ate foods containing MSG because I just loved them so much. My favorite packaged rice and beans that I used in burritos contained MSG as did my all time favorite beef jerky. But once I started to learn about the harmful effects of MSG I became quite strict about eating anything containing it.
There are all kinds of problems with MSG. First of all it's highly addictive, and I'm sure that is why even though I knew it was in some of the foods I was eating I really loved those foods and didn't want to stop eating them. I think that speaks for itself!
MSG is a flavor enhancer that lights up our tasted buds and not only makes us eat more, but also makes us eat faster. The foods that contain the most MSG are highly processed foods that are fat free or sugar free. This is because when you start stripping out the natural sugars and fats from food they start to taste not so good....so the manufacturer has to trick our brains into liking it. This is one of many reasons why you should eat foods in their WHOLE form including naturally occurring sugars and fats.
Both MSG and Aspartame are called excitotoxins and are linked to serious diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases. I have Alzheimer's in my family history, so I want to do anything possible to prevent developing this terrible disease, and one way of doing that is to avoid these two chemical food additives.
You have to be careful when it comes to MSG, because it's often hidden in the ingredient that is listed as "seasonings". It is nearly impossible to be sure if there is MSG in the ingredients because the FDA does not require food manufacturers to list it as an ingredient. MSG is one of the ingredients used to make a number of other food additives, and only the name of the new chemical needs to be listed. Some MSG ingredients you may have seen on ingredients lists includes autolyzed yeast, anything hydrolyzed such as hydrolyzed soy protein, or hydrolyzed yeast, maltodextrin, isolated soy protein, textured soy protein, yeast extract, and natural flavorings...which brings me to #3...
#3. Artificial Flavorings & Natural Flavorings: This is a tricky one because one sounds far less harmful than the other, but the reality is that both are made in the laboratory. There is a BIG difference between Natural Flavors and Natural Flavorings...and it's important to keep them straight in your head.
What's crazy about artificial flavorings is that they are made up of a laundry list of ingredients, and the FDA does not require companies to disclose the ingredients that are used to make the artificial flavoring as long as the chemicals used are "generally regarded as safe", which is a whole other subject of what defines a chemical as "generally regarded as safe". Anything that is "generally" safe is suspect to me and I'd rather avoid it and eat the real flavors that mother nature blesses us with in whole foods!
Natural flavorings are also made in the laboratory. They have the same or similar chemical make up of natural foods, but they are not naturally occurring or derived from actual food. An example you may be familiar with is real vanilla extract vs artificial vanilla flavoring. Both smell and taste almost alike, but the latter is made in a laboratory. I'd rather have the real stuff that Mother Nature gave us.
#4. Sodium Nitrates and Sodium Nitrites: It can be really hard to find certain foods that don't contain sodium nitrates or nitrites. They are commonly added to cured and processed meats. Their primary purpose is to prevent botulism and improve color and flavor, which sounds like a decent enough reason for adding them to food, but they're also linked to cancer, including childhood brain tumors and leukemia that has been linked to hotdogs containing nitrates.
There are a lot of nitrate free options available for sandwich meats, bacon, sausage, etc, and it's worth a little extra money to make sure that the option you choose has zero nitrates or nitrites in the ingredients.
#5. BHA, BHT and TBHQ. These chemicals are FAKE antioxidants. The term antioxidant can be a bit misleading because normally we consider antioxidants to be really good. Colorful foods like blueberries are known to be high in antioxidants, and this helps to fend off free radicals that attack the cells in our bodies. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are all around us, so eating other foods high in antioxidants is kind of like the anecdote. But the so called antioxidants in BHA, GHT and TBHQ is quite the opposite! These are man made chemicals that are added to food to prevent oxidation, which in turn preserves fats and prolongs shelf life.
The problem is that these chemicals are linked to cancer, and repeated studies demonstrate that these chemicals accumulate in the body, cause liver enlargement, and retard cell development. Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a diet specialist in the 1970s, found through his studies that BHT could cause hyperactivity in children, so it's disappointing to find this in the ingredients of foods that are mainly consumed by children, such as breakfast cereals, lunch meats, and snack foods.
#6. Trans fats: Last but certainly not least on my list of additives to look out for is Trans Fat. We have all heard about trans fat, and I think many of us already try to avoid it, but we're often tricked into thinking that foods are trans fat free when in fact they aren't. Did you know that a manufacturer can claim that a food product contains ZERO trans fat as long as there is less than 0.25g per serving? The problem is that the serving size can be manipulated to hit this target when in fact you will most likely eat the whole package that is likely to be 2.5 servings or more. So in reality, the serving that YOU ate did contain enough trans fat to make you worried.
The word to look out for on ingredient lists is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. This is the fancy word for trans fat. What I find most interesting is what trans fat is from a chemical perspective. If you had to take a chemistry class in high school or college you may remember that molecules exist in either a cis or trans configuration. Naturally occurring fats exist in the cis configuration, which allows for a little bend to occur between a couple of carbon and hydrogen molecules. These fat molecules actually attach to receptors on the surface of cells which allows things to flow in and out of the cell. The problem with trans fats is that the trans configuration of the molecule results in the inability for the molecule to bend the way that the cis version will, and it also becomes much more rigid. It's similar enough to the naturally occurring cis-fats, so they can still attach to those receptors on the cell, but instead of function the way that it should it can block the cell from opening up those pathways for everything to move in and out. This includes the ability for LDL cholesterol to move into the cell from the bloodstream so it builds up in the bloodstream leading to high cholesterol and heart attacks. And prevents sugar from flowing out of the cell and into the blood stream to get used for energy, resulting in diabetes. Additionally, that rigidity in the trans fat molecule causes a stiffness in the cell making your cells stiff, where as the cis fats will allow our cells to be supple and pliable. Because your cells are stiff and not functioning optimally the good essential fats that you're eating aren't able to be properly utilized because the trans fat blocks them from being incorporated into the cells.
The blockage of these cell receptors can lead to all kinds of problems. Trans fats have been linked to cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and diverticulitis among others. They also weaken the immune system, and decrease the response to insulin, another catalyst for diabetes.
It can be difficult to avoid foods that contain these ingredients. These types of chemicals are in a lot of the foods on the grocery store shelves, but it's worth being extra diligent and at least being aware of where they exist. Even if you can't resist some of the delicious foods that these additives are in, I hope that knowing how harmful they are will help you eat these foods very, very sparingly. They should most definitely NOT be a part of your regular diet.
I hope that you'll be able to use this information to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and feeling their very best. Don't forget to DOWNLOAD our "How to Crack the Food Label Code" resource guide. It will help set you on the right course and you choose the healthiest, most nutritious foods and avoid the added ingredients that can be a real hazard to your health.
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When I first realized that it would be necessary for the gym to physically close due to COVID-19 I immediately started to think about how I could best support the WILCOX Community if we were unable to be together in person.
Zoom was an obvious consideration right away, but it was hard to imagine what personal training would look like in a virtual space, where the trainers are unable to make physical contact to assist in corrections of movement, and where we'd be distanced from each other with a screen between us.
I continue to find the opportunities that our current situation provides to us each day. Although COVID-19 has created a great deal of hardship and devastation for so many, I continue to look for and find the small blessings that also exist. I think it's important to find the balance....the yin and yang...in our current situation, otherwise we may just go mad. I am so fortunate to have an incredible community of people who truly have my back during a time that is so terrifying for so many business
where needed, ensuring that everyone is supported and feeling confident throughout their entire Live Stream Training Session.
Sure, we aren't using equipment, and at first this felt it would create a major set back, but in fact, it has created yet another opportunity!
All of our Live Stream training sessions are designed to utilize body weight only. There is a lot to be said for body weight movements. Not only is it convenient for the purposes of working out at home and in a small space where some equipment isn't practical, we've also found that focusing on body weight movements provides us with a unique opportunity to truly connect with our bodies.
In the absence of equipment we must look to our own bodies to create the resistance. In doing so we need to really tune into which muscles are being used, and through engagement of those muscles create the resistance and the challenge that we would normally rely upon a weight to create.
Additionally, in the absence of equipment we are free of distraction. As a result we are able to focus more on how our bodies are moving.
There is no greater satisfaction than hearing about how the movements that we practice in the gym benefited the way that a person moves when doing work around the house, during a run, hike or other sport, or when playing with pets or children. Helping people make these connections with their body is what we do! Our whole mission is focused around enabling people to live their best lives free of limitations, and learning how to move our bodies effectively is a big part of what we do. So you can imagine how excited we were to realize that the perceived limitation of having to work in a virtual setting was actually a benefit.
artificially create resistance and challenge, and better yet....the wisdom and experience to know the difference.
Supporting our community during this challenging time is important to us!
We know that being active is good for us in so many ways! It not only keeps us strong and feeling our best physically, but staying active also helps maintain our mental health, improve sleep,
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Hi! My name is Allison Hopkins and I am the owner of Wilcox Wellness & Fitness in Brunswick, ME. I am excited to bring WILCOX to Brunswick and share in my passion for living a great life through health and fitness.