Get your goals in order – life’s for living

Thierry Sanchez has put up a great piece which is a nice antithesis to the standard new year goal setting fitness posts we are about to be inundated with.

Following a super strict hardcore food and fitness regime is not necessary for good health. Unfortunately, exercising and eating well enough to live a happy and healthy life, and using that health to spend time with people you love, isn’t a particularly sexy sell.

“I have a sustainable lifestyle and approach to training and eating. No privations, no cravings, no restrictive diets, no punishing training regimen, no expensive supplements. This is freedom!
I am never going to be super lean, super muscular, super strong, super fit, super famous. And I don’t fucking give a super shit about it, I choose to enjoy life instead, life where food tastes good, and exercise is a form of expression instead of an obsession.”


Shifting to primal/paleo eating – part 1

My family officially changed to primal eating a few weeks back. As an approach to eating it has always made a lot of sense to me. The final straw in making the change came from my wife as she is the primary food buyer and cook in our house. With two young kids the prospect of increased energy levels and a little fat loss was very appealing.

I’m going to write a couple of posts about it – this one will give a very basic overview of what primal/paleo eating involves, just in case someone stumbles across this post and hasn’t come across it before. In the second I’ll run through how I transitioned to the diet over a few weeks as I think it could be useful for someone who is also thinking about eating this way.

What does it mean to eat primally?
It is based on the idea that humans have not evolved to eat a vast number of foods that have become a large part of our diets since the introduction of agriculture. So, to remain healthy we should avoid those foods and aim to eat as closely as possible to how our ancestors did before large scale farming existed.

The hows and whys of this diet are covered in great detail elsewhere so I’m going to focus this post on the three main principles to follow – I’ve put some of my favourite resources at the bottom if you want more.

1) Cut out processed carbohydrate
Hey sugar, I’m looking at you here. You are everywhere, in everything and you are shitty for my body!

This one is difficult for me as I have a massive sweet tooth (I seriously love the cake). Sugar does lots of nasty stuff to you (go here for a scary list) but the must noticeable effect for me is to my energy levels.

The effect sugary treats had the couple of times I’ve had them since making this transition have been enough to make steer well clear since.

2) Cut out grains
No more pasta, rice, bread, quinoa, cous cous, cereals etc.

In addition to the grains themselves not being especially good for you, having them in your diet invariably leads to a pretty high intake of carbs. This makes your body over-reliant on carbs (sugar!) as a fuel and over time makes a mess of your body’s ability to regulate insulin. It is much more complex than that, but rather than repeat someone else’s good work I suggest you check out this Mark’s Daily Apple post for more. Or buy his great book.

Eat more fresh meat, fish and vegetables
This really follows on from the last two – if you’ve taken things out of your diet, you’re going to need to add some stuff in to fill the gap.

The end result is a diet higher in fat and protein but much with much lower levels of carbs. That’s not to say that we are not eating carbs at all. We still have plenty of root vegetables, fruit etc but the total volumes of carbs is far lower than if our diet consisted largely of pasta or bread.

Over time your body learns to use fat as its primary fuel rather than relying on a steady intake of carbohydrate. The is where people’s weight loss results come in as your body will use excess body fat as a fuel source.

Is that it?
Yes, kinda. You can make it more detailed and complex if you want to but by making these three changes you will probably see great results.

Some parts are not easy though, your friends and family may have trouble getting their head around it if they prescribe to the fat = bad philosophy (teach them otherwise!).

Plus buying food on the go is tough – as I mentioned earlier, sugar is everywhere.

Useful resources
Mark’s Daily Apple
Robb Wolf

Fitness attributes – freedom from illness

This is the next in the series on each of attribute in my What do you need to do to be fit? post.

I want to caveat this post by saying I have no medical training whatsoever and anything written below is the result of self experimentation. Although there are some basic principles we should all follow I would encourage you to experiment with your own lifestyle to see what works best for you – you might be able to get away with more than I can.

The germ theory of illness is very simple: there is a germ that causes an illness – you come into contact with that germ – you get sick.

As much as simple is good this doesn’t quite feel right. Do you ever notice when a bug is ‘doing the rounds’ a lot of people catch it but not everyone? There must be something else going on that means some people’s immune systems are doing a better job. Chris at Garage Gym Online has recently written a post about different theories on this topic.

I don’t know how you would train your immune system to be stronger but there are certainly things you can do to not weaken it.

Eat proper food
There is a lot of stuff in shops masquerading as food that doesn’t really deserve that label. If it has a long list of sciencey sounding words in the ingredients you should probably steer clear.

If you don’t understand the words, don’t eat the food. You can’t expect your body to fight off germs properly if it’s having to deal with that stuff.

Avoid sugar
This is really just an extension of the previous point. Sugar is pretty bad news and your body doesn’t like it.

“But I like cake” I hear you say. Yeah, me too. Lucky for me my wife has a knack for making treats with a lot of the naughty taken out. Lucky for you she writes a recipe blog, you should check it out. (note I said a lot, not all – there’s still some naughty in there)

Get some exercise, but not too much
Exercise makes your body stronger and more resilient (good thing). Too much breaks it down, and leaves you exhausted (bad thing).

Get enough sleep
A good nights sleep makes you feel great and, if you are sick, sleep can be the best medicine.

So, getting enough sleep has to help keep you well doesn’t it? It makes too much sense to not.

Late night TV is rubbish anyway. Turn it off and go to bed with a good book instead ( or a good woman/man 😉 ). You’ll feel better for it.

Avoid stress
The things mentioned in previous points could be counted as stress but here I mean emotional stress. Avoiding it can be easier said than done as often stress seeks you out.

Too much will wear you down, effect your sleep and ultimately your ability to fight germs. Fortunately exercise can help both relieve stress and provide a positive stimulus.

Most importantly, chill out – it’s probably not that important in the big picture. If it is that important, then share it with someone that you love.

I’ll be writing more on stress in a later post.

Change your mindset – decide to not get ill
Don’t worry, I’m not going to start writing about crystals and tarot but I do think the mind has more control over the body than perhaps we give credit.

One change I have made over the last few years is deciding to not get ill. I’ve no science to back up whether it has had an effect and I have changed more things than just this, but I know I haven’t been ill much since.

Wallowing in how sick you feel can make it worse. The opposite seems to work too.

Try it, just refuse to get ill.

Here is a Novel Concept

I very rarely (never?) write anything on nutrition. This post from Escape The Herd pretty much sums up my views.

There is more to cooking and eating than just the consumption of food. The kitchen and dining table are the centre of our family home and I hope it stays that way.

“Buy real food, cook it, and sit down as a family and eat it. This will improve the health and well being of everyone involved. Don’t have the time or desire to help your children thrive? Stop relying on others to prepare and cook your food.”