Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why fight millions of years of evolution (Notes from downunder)

I have been thinking (and reading) recently about how our bodies process food and react to how we treat them.

Aside from a few loony religious fundamentalist creationists it is now widely accepted that we are as we are, through a process of evolution over millions of years. Homo Sapiens is thought to have started walking the earth around 60,000 years ago and our precursor species for millions of years before that. In terms of our experience of time even 60,000 years is almost impossible to get our heads around let alone millions of years!

The relevance of this to fat loss and fitness is that we have to put our current challenges into some sort of evolutionary context.

For roughly 55,000 of those 60,000 years mankind was a nomadic hunter gatherer (as indeed were whatever precursor species that came before,) which meant they got food where they could, followed the meat on the hoof and gathered berries and nuts at the right times of year.

Of course anthropologists and only guess on detailed lifestyles of early man but what is I think safe to say is that hunter/gatherer early man was not all the time surrounded by an excess of foods. Yes there will have been times when there was abundance but we can be sure that it was not year round.

We also know from the study of natural selection that it is those parts of the species that can survive though to reproduction age and successfully pass their genes on to the next generation. The rest die out.

So if you are early homo sapiens and your body contains a mutation that means you are more resistant to famine (i.e. your body is better at keeping valuable fat stores) you have much more chance of surviving hard times than someone with a genetic make up that does not store fat as well.

The same is true with those whose bodies are adapted to respond well to times where food is available but where it needs to support the finding that food through the production of muscle in order to run, hunt, throw, lift boulders etc, those people had the best chance of survival.

So my ‘guess’ is that we have inherited bodies that are ideally adapted to doing both of these things as it will have been those early men/women that could do this that would have survived through to adulthood and reproduced.

Fast forward to 5/6 thousand years ago when mankind started putting down roots and farming. Yes, we did start to have a little more control over our food production but due to climatic and other natural conditions we were still subject to periods of famine and most people had to put in a great deal of physical effort into keeping ourselves alive. For the vast, vast majority of mankind there was not a permanent surplus of food.

Fast forward further still until just 30/40 years ago. In the developed world we have been subject to a huge (and many would say dangerous) fundamental change to our food/lifestyle. For the vast majority of the developed world there is NEVER and shortage of calories. We are surrounded by a total overabundance of food energy. Even the ‘poor’ in the developed world have access to an abundance of ‘cheap’ calories.

At the same time many many more people are earning their daily bread by how they think and how they communicate rather than by the physical sweat of their brow.

Now I am NOT making a judgement here. What is, is and I am a great believer in playing the pieces on the board as they stand not as you would wish them to be.

However I think it is hugely useful to recognise that our surroundings (in terms of calorie availability) and lifestyles have changed beyond all recognition since WW2 but our bodies just cannot evolve in that space of time. Consequently we are creating a constant problem for our bodies to process levels of input that they are just not (for many of us at least) evolved to handle.

Does that mean we have to eat and behave like cavemen? To an extent I would say yes. Our bodies have evolved to process a certain amount of protein, natural fats (albeit that the animal type would not have been in overabundance, though nuts and seeds would have been at certain times of year), and carbohydrates from naturally occurring grains veggies and fruit.

What we know we have NOT evolved to do is process a constant excess of any food, nor have we evolved to be able to process large amount of process grains or sugars.

I am not suggesting that anyone puts on a loincloth and runs around hunting the local wildlife and gathering berries! However my experience is that life is a whole lot easier without conflict, and that is what modern eating patterns have created in our bodies – constant conflict with our evolved physical nature.

The same is true for physical activity. We have not evolved to sit in front of PCs TVs and computer games! We have evolved the need to use and develop our physical bodies, that need has not suddenly changed in the last 50 years!

Take from this post whatever you wish but the more I think about it the more I realise that if I respect my evolutionary imperatives I am working with my body not against it and that seems like the way to go for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Lots of people who are trying to lose weight/change their body composition talk about ‘getting toned’. Often in terms of lifting some light dumbbells two or three times a week! The purpose of this blog entry is to spell out in no uncertain terms that no such thing is possible! I don’t say that in any way to dismiss what people want but knowing that what ‘getting toned’ means and how to do it takes a good deal more work and knowledge and thinking about that would make much more sense than scoffing over the language.

What do most people mean when they talk about getting toned? For the purposes of this entry I will assume that what ‘getting toned’ means is where you can see more muscle definition and thus look leaner (because you usually are) and fitter (not always the case but likely!).

For most people definition is a combination of low (or very low) body fat and muscles that have sufficient size to create contours between them. The lower the body fat and the bigger the muscles the greater the definition will be.

Before getting into the physiology I want to give a real world example of why just building muscles will not automatically lead to greater definition.

Imagine a sheet of corrugated material such as is used for certain roofs. On it’s own it is clear what it is. It’s visual contours are easily apparent. So it is with muscle. If we took our skin and subcutaneous fat off, we would all look ‘well defined’.

So what happens when you put a two inch thick sheet of foam rubber over your corrugated plastic? If you stuck it down to the contours I doubt your would have much idea of what is underneath. What about a one inch thick sheet of foam rubber? You might see some definition but some would have been lost. Now imagine that same corrugated plastic with say a huge sheet of cooked lasagne, or a sheet of cling film!

That is what definition is all about. Subcutaneous fat (the stuff under your skin) acts on the contours of your muscles like foam rubber would on a sheet corrugated plastic, the more you have the less you will see of what is underneath.

What about the other side of the equation, muscle size? Well in many ways the extent of definition is not determined in any way by muscle size. Visit any ‘normal gym’ and go to the free weight area and you will see guys there that have built quite huge muscles but have little or no definition. Now I don’t know if that is what their objective is, I know some guys (doormen etc.) like to just have bulk so that they look a bit more forbidding, others will be working their little socks off lifting heavier and heavier weights and wondering why they are not getting better definition.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said great abs are made in the kitchen. So it is true of a defined body, you cannot get it in the gym alone, it MUST be done in conjunction with a good nutritional regime.

A good way to think in terms of what you might like to look like and how you will need eat and train to get there is look at certain types of athletes and how they train to get a steer on how you can do it.

What you need to do will be determine what outcome you are after, some things are easier than others:

The lean look with little muscle bulk:

This look is going to take lots and lots of cardio. Sufficient cardio burns fat but will take with it lean muscle. Take a look at competitive marathon runners. They will carry very little body fat but legs aside they will not have much in the way of muscle bulk. So yes, Paula Radcliffe has a six pack but is probably not what most people think of in terms of ‘toned’. No disrespect intended to ANY marathon runner as they have my total admiration!

This is not a way many non athletes would go to get a really toned look as it takes considerable dedication to get to that level as you are by losing muscle bulk decreasing your metabolism. Not a problem if you are training real hard and creating a need for calories in the way that distance runners do but for us in the real world the likelihood is that it will not be possible to get down to the levels of body fat required to look really ‘toned’ by this method.

The lean look with some muscle bulk:

This is probably the approach that most people who are interested in this subject from an aesthetic point of view will and to come at it.

If you want to lose body fat you will need to lose body fat. This can be done by a combination of running a calorie deficit, burning off the body fat you already have and maintaining/building your muscles. OK more detail:

How much Cardio? I am not sure there is a specific answer to this but certainly 30/40 minutes 4/5 times a week will (combined with good nutrition and resistance training) will see a measurable effect on body fat.

What sort? Again there does not seem to be a definite do this or do that. Research seems to point to working the body to the point where heart rate is raised to a reasonably high level and that activity is maintained for at least 30 minutes. I also believe it to be true that too much cardio exercise can be counter productive as after a certain point the body stops burning fat and starts catabolising muscle. Not a problem for long distance athletes but probably not what most readers here are after.

So having done your running/cycling/cross trainer what then?

If you do nothing else then you will lose muscle mass and while you might get a lower body fat and get more definition than you had you will not have much in the way of contour to be apparent, which is where progressive weight training comes in.

Progressive weight training is as the name implies ‘progressive’ on either number of repetitions and/or weight. Let us assume you start on dumbbell curls with 5kg in either hand. How many repetitions should you do? The consensus seems to be somewhere between 8 and 12 where it is becoming impossible to lift the weight fully on the 11th and 12th reps. (Lower reps higher weight will build more strength and muscle bulk, higher reps will build less muscle bulk but more endurance).

What you are aiming for is muscle hypertrophy, which in simple terms is stressing the muscles sufficiently that microscopic fibres ‘snap’ and need to be rebuilt. It is this ‘snapping and re-building’ that means the muscle gets stronger and under certain circumstances bigger.

If you are ‘failing’ at the 6th or 7th rep you might want to decrease the weight, once you get to the point where the 12th rep becomes ‘easy’ it is time to increase the weight.

The objective of progressive weight training is that you never let your body become used to what you are asking it to do. As soon as it can do what you ask it to do you ask it to do more.

One other vital note here the amount of weight you use should always be the maximum with which you can maintain good form. It is better to do the exercise properly with a lower rate than to do it poorly with a heavier weight. That way lies injury and poor results.

So you are happily burning off fat and weight training for muscle. But may women will say ‘but I don’t want to build huge muscles and look like a body builder’. Which is fair enough, however, if you are thinking that way let me put your mind at rest by pointing out three important points:

1) If you are in calorie deficit (and you certainly should be if you want to lose body fat) it is highly unlikely that you will build any appreciable amounts of muscle. Building additional muscle takes a good deal of energy and as you are not giving your body enough to maintain it’s current composition it is not going to find it easy to build more.

2) Muscle building require certain hormones the major of which is Testosterone, which women on the whole have much less of than men.

3) It takes a lot of very hard work with heavy weights over months with a very strict dietary regime of bulking and cutting (more of that later) to get a ‘bodybuilder’ physique. You will NOT wake up one day looking like Arnie!

What about the diet?

Anyone who knows anything about it will tell you that in terms of losing weight it is a matter of calories in calories out, which is true. You could just eat a Mars bar a day and lose weight. You would not be very healthy.

If body composition is what you are interested in then it is not that simple. In terms of body composition all calories are NOT created equal. If you are looking to get better definition and maintain/build muscle you WILL need to wise up on what to eat and when (now is not the place for that). As every I would recommend Tom Venuto’s Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle as an excellent guide on how to achieve your goals.

In terms of sporting role models, footballers will often have a lean but muscular physiques, think David Beckham or Daveed Ginola with their shirts off. For female examples 400 metre runners such as Kelly Holmes will have low body fat but will need decent upper body strength so are likely to have reasonably developed core, shoulder and arm muscles.

What about the very muscular very lean look?

Well if that is what you want (though personally though I admire those guys dedication it is not a ‘look’ that I particularly like’), you are going to have to put in a great deal of very hard work and dedication. Body builders go through periods of ‘bulking and cutting’. Bulking is a period of calorie excess where they will look to put on as much muscle as possible, but accept that at the same time they will also put body fat on as well. They will then go through a period of ‘cutting’ when through a combination of diet and cardio they will look to lose as much of that excess body fat as possible.

Examples? Any major body builder or the mens 100 metre runners will be an example.

So what is a healthy level of body fat?

We all have to have a certain level of body fat to stay alive, it serves a number of essential functions. It differs between men and women and will differ with age. But absolute minimums would be 2-4% in men and 12% in women. Healthy range in males would be somewhere around 15% for men and 22% for women.

So, still want to get toned? It can be done but it DOES take a good deal more time effort and attention than just doing 200 reps with a light dumbbell in the gym.

Is it worth it? Only you can know that but speaking as a 51 year old that can now wear tight fitting t shirts without looking like the Michelin man I would say yes!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Follow up to the Lean or Light debate.

I thought it might be useful to explain in a little more detail about what happens when we deprive our bodies of calories. Most people who look even superficially at the whole problem of weight loss/getting lean will have hear of the term ‘starvation mode’ and will have some idea of it’s effects. However starvation mode is really only a prolonged catabolic state. Catabolism as the article below explains is happening all the time, as is anabolism, it is really all about which gets the upper hand.

First some science. The following is reproduced from newsletter by Analytical Research Labs of Phoenix Arizona. I am not saying their information is any more or less accurate than others but the basic thrust of what is reproduced below is in agreement with much of the other research information available on the web, and as far as I can tell it not in dispute among the scientific community:

Article extracts start:

Anabolism And Catabolism

Metabolism, the sum of the chemical processes of the body, may be divided into two phases. Anabolism refers to chemical processes which are constructive, or synthesizing of body tissues, enzymes and other body components. Catabolism generally refers to those processes in which body tissues and components are breaking down into simpler metabolic constituents. These two processes always coexist, although one may dominate at times over the other. For example, at night during sleep, anabolic processes tend to dominate, while catabolism tends to dominate during the day. Childhood is a more anabolic time of life, while old age in general more catabolic.

Causes Of Catabolism

Anabolism and catabolism can become quite involved. Dr. Emanuel Revici based an entire metabolic typing system on these two aspects of metabolism. His system is somewhat similar, but not the same as Dr. Paul Eck's distinction of fast and slow oxidizers. When we refer to a catabolic state we are referring to a specific condition in which catabolic processes are dominant. The main cause of this is a prolonged stress response. In response to stress, the body secretes epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol and other hormones. The glucocorticoids (such as cortisol) have a catabolic action. That is, they suppress the synthesis of protein, glycogen and triglycerides. Instead, these are broken down into fatty acids, glucose and amino acids and mobilized from storage. This process is necessary to counteract a stress. However, if the process is prolonged, the resulting catabolism is very damaging to the body and causes excessive tissue breakdown. Also, a prolonged stress response suppresses the immune system, the digestive organs, growth hormones and other important body systems. There are numerous causes for a prolonged stress response. They include attitudes of fear, guilt, worry, resentment, frustration and hostility. Another cause is nutritional deficiencies. These can lower one's stress threshold and impair the production of cellular energy within the cells. When a body is not able to properly metabolize sugars, starches and fats for fuel in the glycolysis and Krebs energy cycles, it will digest its own tissue proteins in order to produce energy. Also, fatigue and other health conditions may cause a catabolic state.

Catabolism And Health

A catabolic or tissue breakdown state can affect any organ or body system, depending on one's particular weaknesses. For example, if excessive tissue breakdown occurs in the joints, the result may be painful joints or arthritis. If excessive tissue breakdown occurs in the stomach, the result may be an ulcer. If it is in the heart muscle, cardiomyopathy can result. Similarly, tissue breakdown can affect any organ or system. Correction has less to do with the particular affected organ and more to do with reducing stress and improving cellular energy production so that the tendency for catabolism or cannibalizing tissue can be reversed. This involves dietary and lifestyle changes and the use of nutritional supplements to help restore energy production.

Correcting A Catabolic State

Correction includes getting plenty of rest and sleep, learning to accept and trust what life brings and letting go of fears, guilt, worries and resentments. Diet can play an important role. Many people, for example, place great stress on the body by eating excessive carbohydrates and not enough protein. Natural therapies may also be very beneficial. Specific supplements are often critical to raise the threshold for stress and help improve cellular energy production. Often Limcomin will be recommended for a catabolic state. It contains zinc, an important nutrient for protein synthesis and manganese, important for cellular energy production. In addition it contains vitamins A and C, magnesium and vitamin B6. These are very important for energy production as well. Finally, it contains lymph, thymus and spleen glandular substance to support the immune system. Immune system dysfunction is common in the catabolic state. Copper and iron may also be added to the program, as these are important for the electron transport system, where most energy is produced. In addition, digestive enzymes are recommended to facilitate digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

End of extract.

What is clear that catabolism does not only occur when we go into ‘starvation mode’ . The body will become catabolic if any of us goes too long without food. Which is why missing out meals may be superficially attractive (as it saves calories) but will mean that catabolism has the upper hand for a while. This is particularly true of breakfast. As the article states sleep tends to be an anabolic time, which id why any athlete or body builder knows it is vital to get rest and sleep to let the body do it’s ‘repair’ work. Once we wake up and start moving around this stops and if there are no available calories around the body will go catabolic and start hunting for them from bone organ and lean muscle!

What is also interesting is that mental stress promotes catabolism therefore those that stress about weight loss are likely to become catabolic easier than those that do not.

I would also like to put right a misconception; it is almost impossible to build muscle while in a calorie deficit (before anyone argues, it IS possible but it is really not easy and you would have to work very hard at it with carb cycling).

So the aim is to be as anabolic as much of the time as possible and as catabolic as little of the time as possible.

What promotes anabolism? Clearly sufficient sleep, as little stress as possible and proper nutrition with sufficient macro nutrients required for anabolism. If you are promoting anabolism through weight training this will mean having sufficient protein available to your muscles while re-building is taking place.

Regular eating seems to restrict catabolism, as your body is in effect 'kept busy' with digesting food every three hours. All the evidence I have seen is that people have more success in losing body fat byeating between 5 and 6 smaller meals a day.

Such a method of eating also has the beneficial effect of meaning that you are never hungry. If you are trying to lose body fat hunger is to be avoided. the desire to eat (anything!!!) can more easily override the more sensible 'conscious' choices that we 'should' make.

Though I have not seen any specific research I would not be at all surprised if water comes into this. A body that is de-hydrated is stressed and more inclined towards catabolism. Proper hydration removes that stress.

Weight training is by it’s very nature catabolic as it stresses the muscle, however properly approached and with good nutrition the resulting anabolism will replace that lost muscle. If I can maintain my lean mass while losing fat I will be one happy bunny.

From a weight loss/leanness perspective what is important is that lean mass burns around 8 times more calories than fat!

From my point of view I have no doubt, I want my metabolic rate to be as high as possible because I am really not into being hungry! The higher my metabolic rate the more of the things I love to eat are available to me while maintaining a healthy body composition.

As that nice little meerkat in the advert says ‘simples!’

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lean Not Light!

Some of the threads on have moved me to write this blog entry for two reasons. Firstly there seems a lot of confusion out in the big wide world about the whole subject of weight loss, and more than a few mixed up ideas about how it all works.

Anyone who read this blog knows that I often refer to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). One of the things that John Grinder (one of the first developers of NLP) discovered was the effect that language and the language we habitually use has the way we create our ‘map of the world’ and how we interact with the world.

Which brings me to the word ‘weight’! Indeed the very site I use (and thoroughly recommend is call!

But is it weight we want to lose? If that were the case it would be easy we could hack off a limb and immediately be many pounds lighter!

Is it weight that is an indicator of poor health to come? I suggest not. I have seen no evidence whatsoever of increased heart problems or incidences of diabetes among bodybuilders and figure athletes, rugby union players, male sprinters all of which would be considered over weight by any conventional measure.

I suggest that what we want to be rid of is FAT. Certainly speaking personally my goal is for the first time in my adult life to be lean. I really don’t give a hoot what the scales say!

So what is the difference and why does it matter?

It matters because of all the research indicating obesity will lead to health problems and possibly premature death not one study I have seen indicates that an excess of lean mass is a problem.

Our bodies have not evolved to be fat! We evolved over hundreds of thousand of years to live in times of scarcity and then relative plenty. Therefore we have evolved mechanisms to both conserve resources (fat stores) in times of famine and lay fat stores down in times of plenty (just like many other species do). Our problem in the developed world is that in the last 40 years we have moved out of anything approaching that cycle into an era of super abundance! We are surrounded by calories! You cannot put fuel in your car without walking past racks of fuel for your body! However this has happened (in evolutionary terms) in a twinkling of an eye and there is no way we can evolve quick enough to adjust.

So consequently people are laying down more and more fat as we sleep walk through this eternal autumn of plenty into a train wreck of obesity in the future.

Luckily many have woken up. They know too much body fat is not good, either from a health or an aesthetic point of view. So what to do?

Firstly understand a little of how the body works. The body likes to store fat and it likes to hang on to it for as long as possible. It is programmed by evolution to do that.

Many people’s first thought when wanting to lose weight is to drastically cut down the intake of calories as after all it is an excess that is causing the fat isn’t it?

The problem with this is our evolutionary programming has equipped us with a mechanism so that when famine comes we give ourselves the best chance of survival. That is the processes of the body slow, neuro transmitters are produced that make us feel tired and lethargic so that we slow down activity and save our resources. The mechanism also releases a hormone that seeks to make up the deficit in our energy intake/output from our lean mass. After all if you are going to crawl into a corner and wait out the famine you won’t be needing all that muscle.

Also fat is natures energy store. That is why nuts and seeds are so calorie dense it is also why squirrels and birds like them so much! Nature stores what it needs the most.

And here is the kicker muscle is much more metabolic than fat. So every ounce of muscle we lose we lose some ability to burn food. Your needs go down and your ability to create a deficit goes down!

So if you do the standard ‘diet’ you will lose weight, of course you will! But what are you losing? Fat or lean?

Who is going to be healthier a 200lb man with 120lb lean mass and 80lbs fat or a the 260lb man with 240lbs lean and 20lbs fat (assuming the same height). I know which I would rather be.

What is the alternative? THINK LEAN!

I believe we need to have a radical shift of how we think about obesity and take ‘weight’ out of the conversation. Re-address goals. Rather than find out how to lose weight find out how to get lean! Rather than spend every day on the scales see how the clothes are fitting. Follow a PROVEN strategy for fat loss. The best people in the world for losing body fat are competition body builders and figure athletes. Not that I would go to the extremes they do, if only from an aesthetic point of view (it is just yuk!) However they can write the book on how to take fat off. So why not borrow a bit from these guys?

As I see it, if you follow the three paths of: cardio to burn fat, weight exercises (heavy enough to cause muscle hypertrophy) and nutrition such that you have a smallish calorie deficit but concentrating on giving your body the best nutrients you can there really is no way you will NOT get lean.

On this positive side of the coin our bodies have also evolved the mechanism that allows us to retain our lean mass and use up our fat if there is an adequate supply of food (even though it might be in deficit to our needs) as long as we are also using our muscles. In this circumstance a very different hormone is produced that allows the deficit to be made up from fat.

However I can almost hear people saying, but I am not a competitive body builder or a super fit athlete! To which I reply there is no need to be. I am not Jimi Hendrix but if I learn from the master a bit about guitar playing I will be a better guitar player!

We do essentially all have the same physiology. It is not as if when I take in excess energy it turns to fat and with someone else it turns to lemonade, is it? Of course there are different genetic types and some find it easier to be lean than others. However as one well known body builder was heard to remark “the more I work at it and the better I eat the better my genetics get!”

So let’s hear it for lean! Let’s get a bandwagon going ‘Lean not Light’.

There is a theory of memes which says that ideas can evolve spread and mutate like genes. I think this is a meme that we should set lose into the world!

I see so many people working themselves into a stew over a pound not lost this week, when I suspect it is not really even what they want. I suspect what they want is to be leaner, look better and feel better about themselves! And nothing wrong with that say I!

Of course the funny thing is if you do concentrate on getting lean, retain your lean mass and lose unwanted fat you will get lighter!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting ripped in 4 weeks!

Is anyone else sick and tired of seeing these ads all over the web? Virtually every page I load has spurious before and after pictures of a blob turned into six pack heaven!

There is no way known to man that will turn a blob of tummy tat into ripped abs in 4 weeks. If there was we would all be doing it.

As Arnie once said great abs are made in the kitchen not the gym.

Muscle tone is all about how much fat obscures the muscle shape. Imagine a piece of corrugated iron such as you might find in an old shed roof. Now cover it in a 1 inch thick layer of foam rubber. Even if you stick the foam as lose to the metal as possible much of the detail will be lost. Now cover the same metal with cling film. I think you get my drift.

The same is true across the rest of the body. At the gym I attend there are quite a few guys that lift quite prodigious weights but have little muscular definition. I wonder how much attention they are paying to their nutrition. Of course they may just want to look 'big and smooth' in which case good luck to them, but my guess is they are wondering why are not getting the definition they thought they would get from weight training.

Of course the asthetics of body building are highly subjective. Personally I am aiming for a lean look without huge muscles. I ahev never thought the extreme bodybuilder look is a particularly desireable one, but hey that is just me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I have to make a confession here! My journey to a happier healthier me has been quite an easy one, largely because I am male and I think in a very ‘male’ way.

Men tend to think in terms of strategies, that is to say there is a problem we need to find a way to fix said problem. (Classic Mars as someone put it!) I know it drives my OH crazy sometimes!

Where as women tend to think in a different way often with a more emotional content. (Classic Venus I suppose).

Now before people start putting barbed comments at the bottom, this is not invariable and it does not mean because you are a man you think that way or vice versa. Women can learn from men and men from women, and the greater the range of thinking processes you have the greater your chance of success. (The law of requisite variety)

But what I can say is that in terms of getting from A to B (i.e. when trying to get leaner and fitter) some of that strategic thinking really helps.

Firstly we all have them, (strategies that is!), though often we will not be conscious of them. If we go into a restaurant and are given a menu, we have to make sense of it. We have to differentiate between the dishes on offer, therefore we will have to access our memories and represent them to ourselves.

Some people will picture what they are thinking of, some will talk to themselves and tell themselves how much they enjoyed a particular dish last time, others will conjure up a representation of the taste, smell or the texture of a dish they have had before.

There is no right or wrong way, but it might be useful to get curious about how you do what you do!

What is your strategy for getting motivated to exercise? What is your strategy for convincing yourself that eating a bar of Dairy Milk is the best way of serving your long term goals (gotta say on that one that some people have brilliantly honed strategies for self-deception!). What is the process that happens internally when confronted with food choices?

Now once you have started to unpack the ‘how do I do what I do’ question, it becomes much, much easier to implement new more effective strategies.

Let me illustrate with one of my own examples.

I do not deal with hunger very well! When I get hungry any really rational strategies go out the window and I will override any rational thoughts of what is good for me in order to lose the feeling of hunger! Thus I would in the past eat very bad choices in order to lose that feeling. My strategy was very ‘feeling’ driven, I didn’t like the one I had I wanted to replace it with another (being full) and I really didn’t worry too much how I got there.

When I read Tom Venuto’s book ‘Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle’ and it came to the part about 5/6 meals a day I thought about my hunger strategy and realised that this new strategy of never letting myself get to that hungry stage is a much better way to go. So now the first signs of hunger are usually just a prompt to say that 3 hours have past and it is time to stoke up the boiler again! I am much more aware of and respectful to my hunger signal. I never ignore them or push them away, and unless there is just no way of getting something good to eat I never not act on them.

I could list many other examples. However the key is this. Humans do not act randomly. They act out of a sense of wanting something. If you have a behaviour you want to change as you don’t feel your current one is supporting your longer term goals, get curious about firstly what it is you are trying to get by doing what you do.

Get curious about what ‘strategy’ is in place that allows you to continue this behaviour. What process do you go through internally before the behaviour happens, because although you might not be aware of it and though it might be very quick you do go through a process.

If you want to change it that existing strategy slow it down, your thought processes, notice what you are doing to get to a certain action. Once you are aware of that you can ask yourself certain questions like: ‘what could I do differently that will give me the outcome that I want’ or ‘how can I get similar feelings in the short term with better results in the long term’. Please, do not ask questions, like ‘what do I always do this?’ If you ask ‘why’ questions your brain will deliver justifications, if you ask ‘what could I ‘ questions your brain will deliver you options and strategies!

We are all totally responsible for our own actions, however many of these actions are as a result of ‘auto-pilot’ programming and while they may have served a purpose once may not be serving what we want now. So switch out of automatic and on to manual for a while you might find it making life a whole lot easier!

Monday, October 19, 2009

OK I admit it I have been remiss!

Having been told off by two people on WLR for not updating my blog here I am as instructed!

I suppose I didn’t update as in the past I have tended to do it when something specific came up, and not much has in the last six weeks so perhaps it would be good for me to just update how things are going on my personal journey.

I will admit that I have had something of a re-appraisal of my goals. When I started out at nearly 16 stones I set my goal at 11 stones. Why because some chart said that this was the ideal weight for someone of my height!

So I had a re-think on goals. In fact my question to myself having got this far was ‘how would it be if I lost no more body fat/weight’ the answer is that it would not make much difference at all. So what should I do give up and go back to my old ways/lifestyle? Not on your Nellie!!!

So that prompts the next question “what would it be like to maintain my healthy eating and exercise for the rest of my life?”

The answer is that it would not be difficult, I am eating better than ever before, I am fitter than I have been for years and perhaps most importantly I am feeling better (in terms of my overall health) than at anytime I can remember.

So no going back from here, whatever the outcome from here in terms of fat/weight loss the goal now is to maintain the very healthy eating I have adopted (for most of the time there will be times when it is just not right to be to over fussy about food) and more importantly continue enjoying the exercise!

Finally a promise not to leave the next update another 6 weeks!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Do we think on more than one level?

Earlier today I unleashed something of a firestorm (or was it a storm in a tea cup?) on by suggesting that those looking to a healthier lifestyle found it easier once they had changed their beliefs about the sort of lifestyle they want to lead.

The purpose of this blog is to give some background about the power that beliefs and the higher levels of our thinking have on the way we behave.

The anthropologist Gregory Bateson first posited the model of the Neurological Levels in the late 60’s and a good deal of work has been done since particularly by Robert Dilts.

What are the Neuro Logical Levels?

It is a model allowing us a structure to understand the ‘levels’ on which a particular thought is taking place. Is it infallible? No, but I think as I explain further it is a useful tool in allowing us to determine where the ‘blockage or problem’ is that needs to be changed or removed before we can get to where we want to be.

There are essentially 6 levels:

Environment – that is time and place is determining our thoughts and actions.

Behaviour – What we do and how we behave

Capability – what we are able to do

Beliefs and Values – What is important to us and what we believe to be true in the world.

Identity – Our sense of self

Beyond Identity – our sense of purpose and our impact on the wider world.

This is sometimes shown as a pyramid, with purpose at the top.

There is very good reason for the levels being in the order that they are in that the higher levels have the greater influence over the lower levels.

For example someone who does not eat meat might say ‘I am a vegetarian’ which is an Identity Level statement. Therefore it is unlikely that if you taught them how to cook and eat meat it would change their behaviour!

On a belief level someone might say ‘due to the my religion I do not eat pork’ so it is likely that though they are perfectly capable of that particular behaviour they will not do it, even at a time and place where it would be quite acceptable.

Where it gets really interesting is when you are trying to get someone to perform a behaviour, or they themselves are trying to get themselves to consistently perform a behaviour which conflicts with a higher level!

I have been involved in sales training quite extensively in my life and I can tell you that teaching a salesperson to do cold calls will NOT mean that they will now happily do them (in the vast majority of cases).

In much the same way teaching people which foods are healthy and which are not will not mean that they only eat the healthy ones!!!

In the first example (the cold calling) it is usually (though not exclusively) a question of the person having a value that says I do not like to be rejected, and a belief that a rejection from a prospective customer is personal!

On the healthy eating front people know the right behaviours to practice, but often there are some very deep seated and conflicting beliefs held about food (food as comfort, food as a means of control, the value of immediate pleasure certain foods can give etc. etc.)

What generally results is we want to carry out a particular behaviour and we know this on a conscious level but ‘something’ stops us. Generally this is because there is a conflicting belief which is exerting more force on our actions.

However Einstein said ‘a problem cannot be solved on the level on which it was created’. Therefore you have to go to a level ‘above’ that on which the problem exists in order to help resolve the conflict.

While this is not the right place to solve all problems, in many many cases the conflict between beliefs and behaviours can be resolved by going to the levels of Identity and Purpose.

In the negotiations between the ANC and the Nationalists in South Africa the talks were deadlocked until one of the facilitators ‘chunked up’ the problem to the higher level and got both sides to agree that what they wanted was ‘peace, security and prosperity for all the children of South Africa and all the following generations’ Once this had been achieved there was clear purpose and when any conflicts arose at the lower levels they could be referred back to this highest purpose.

The same is true of individuals, if you are clear on purpose and how you want to be in the world conflicts between belief and behaviour will be much easier to resolve, you just go back to find which of the conflicting belief best serves your true purpose.

When you align all the lower levels with your purpose you achieve congruity. (Though I would hasten to add few people are fortunate enough to be totally congruent all the time and I am certainly not one of them!)

That is to say there will be no conflict within you about what you think you want or don’t want, and your behaviour will flow from the ‘alignment’ of your upper levels.

OK some will poo poo this and say it is ‘self help’ clap trap, but is it?

Think of anyone you know well who seems ‘sorted’ look at them closely and I think you will find they are congruent in themselves, What they do and where and when they do it is guided by their capabilities, which is guided by their beliefs and values which is guided by their sense of self, which is all ultimately guided by their sense of purpose.

Does this men there is only one way to do things? Absolutely not it means that there are as many ways to do things as there are people, however those who seem to do things effortlessly and successfully seem to be the most aligned and congruent among us.

How do we all get more congruent? Start at the top and be clear on purpose, if that is not clear then really nothing that follows is likely to be easy. Is the purpose in line with your sense of self, your beliefs and values? Do you have the capabilities to carry out your purpose and manifest the behaviours that will serve your ultimate purpose? And lastly do you do those behaviours in the right time/place.

Personally I have found this model hugely useful.

People ask why I have undertaken this course of weight loss and getting fit the answer is that for the last ten years or so my purpose has been very much to enjoy life and family as much as I could, with little real consideration for health and fitness. That has changed and it is now to enjoy life as much as possible for as long as I can, which means to achieve this purpose I have to be aware of what will keep me healthy and fit..

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A strong, strong recommendation.

One of the people on put me onto the Ebook, Burn the Fat Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto. (BTFFTM)

Having read it cover to cover (do you do that on an Ebook or should it be top of screen to bottom I can only say WOW!

This guy has it covered. Firstly he is not selling anything, (apart from his books of course!) as far as I know he is not marketing protein shakes or any other sort of gadget, gizmo or lazy man’s (or woman’s!) way to leanness.

Secondly he tells it like it is, that there is no magic bullet to get healthily down from 19 stone to 11 in three weeks. It takes time perseverance self discipline and exercise.

He explains the science (and gives references) about the evidence for his BTFFTM system. Indeed he is honest enough to say it is not his system just the threads of scientific evidence and his own experience as a champion body builder drawn together in an easily understandable way. If you want to know how do do something ask someone who clearly is successful at it!

For those that have never seen the book (apologies to those that have) There are four main areas that he concentrates on:

Goals and motivation, drawing heavily from NLP he is quite right in saying if your goals are not big clear and compelling you will find success harder.

Nutrition. A good chunk of the book is given over to this. Think of your body as a performance engine, why would you put duff fuel in it? He also details why those who seek to have very low body fat eat at least 5 times a day! He also covers in detail why water is so important to us.

Cardio for fat burning – he explains the science behind what happens when we take our heart rate up

Resistance training to keep lean mass as high as possible during a calorie deficit stage.

I started this phase of my life about 3 weeks ago and while I knew about body fat % and BMI etc. I was probably as focussed on weight as anyone else. Since I read BTFFTM my focus has changed completely. My focus now is to maintain as much lean mass as possible during this fat loss stage. Consequently I have cleaned up my diet, sworn off alcohol entirely and have started to plan meals and eat 5 times a day.

What can I say? It only works. While I have not been near a scale for nearly a week, I feel better, brighter, with more energy, no cravings for any rubbish. My goals are big clear and real to me.

Unfortunately it has got me into a bit of trouble for being a bit evangelical on WLR. I have been told this is not the only way people can achieve their goals.

That is true.

There is more than one way to cross the road.

You can do it with your wits about you taking into account as much information as you can take in. You could ask someone who has been successfully crossing the road for years how they do it. You could close your eyes and hope. You could walk backwards with your eyes tight shut. All of these methods could get you to the other side.

I have a very simple way of looking at it - which gives me the greatest chance of success? Thank you Mr Venuto for doing all the hard work for me!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Big, clear, objectives!

The funny thing about the human being is that if they really really want something they will go after it and get it.

I don’t care who you are it is true, whether it is positive (say sporting or business success) or negative (a junkie in need of another fix) if the desire is great enough we move heaven and earth.

So how come we sometime have difficulty in motivating ourselves to get something we know we want? The answer is we just don’t want it enough!

So do we just give up? Not on my watch matey!

There are some very simple and very easy techniques that can be used to make that goal more compelling.

Firstly, if you have read any of this blog before you will know that beliefs play a huge part in human behaviour.

So I would say choose your belief and ‘act as if’.

To expand on that a bit if I tell my self I can’t do something my body acts to fulfil that belief. I will give up easily as I have already accepted I won’t succeed. Which, surprise surprise is why people with a can do attitude tend to succeed in life.

So if you want to be leaner, tell yourself you are going to be leaner!

If you want to succeed at least give yourself the chance by telling yourself you are going to succeed. Then act ‘as if’ you are going to succeed. It may feel a bit strange at first (a little unnatural and you may have doubts, however believe me the more you tell yourself and the more you act as if the more your body will ‘somatise’ that belief and take it on board.

Now get clear on your objectives. Now once again regular readers will know I am not a great one for obsessing about scales. My guess is that what virtually everyone trying to lose weight wants is not to lose weight as such, but to be leaner/fitter/healthier/happier. Am I right?

So if those are your objectives be clear on them!

We all make sense of the world through our five senses (and for the purpose of this next section we are going to deal with just three) Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic (feeling). We represent the world to our brain through these sense. Without going into too much detail (I got told off for that the other day!) different people prefer to use these senses in different proportions.

It will soon become clear to you which is your preferred system when we get on the next sep of the exercise.

So having thought about your objective, what would it be like when you achieve that goal? Take a moment to imagine, what you will look like, what you will hear others say or what you will say to yourself, and imagine how you will feel!


If you are visualising how you will look make the picture bigger, make it brighter and make sure it is in colour!

If you are hearing what people are saying or you are congratulating yourself, put some more enthusiasm in that voice even add some cheering and clapping to the sound track!

If you are imagining how you will feel when you reach your objectives, intensify that feeling really ramp it up! Notice where it is in your body and what the nature of that feeling is.

If there is any negative self talk going on about ‘well chances are I will never get there’ ignore it. This is imagining you have. You can imagine whatever you like!

The key is in intensifying whatever you imagine to the point where it becomes compelling and something you can go back to at any time if your resolve starts to weaken.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Locus of control, where is yours?

If there is one thing that has affected me more than leaning about where I decide my locus of control to be I'm not sure what it is!

What i s a 'locus of control'?

Without going into the full psychological explanation it really means do you control your world or does your world control you?

I wrote a piece about this on WLR when I first joined about cause and effect. It is essentially the same thing.

Those whose locus of control is internal believe that how they feel (so by definition how happy they are is determined by themselves (internally). Those who have an external locus of control believe that events beyond them determine their state of mind.

Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People describes it as three concentric circles the first one being very small. This is us and it is where we have most influence (control?). A little further out there is another circle which is our immediate world (family, work ect.) and beyond that there is a much bigger circle which is the rest of the world.

It really does not need a genius to work out the further away you are from the centre the more powerless you will feel.

I can honestly say that I have never met someone who has a very external locus of control who is generally happy. Because they are trying to control a world which is way beyond their control, and the more they try the more powerless they feel.


Spend more of your time 'closer to home'. Deal with the world from a point of cause rather than effect, as at cause you have the greatest influence and therefore the greater feeling of power.

Sade on WLR asked me to relate more of this to my own experience. So here goes..........

I first came across the idea of living at cause or effect/locus of control when I was studying NLP. It made so much sense I really just took it on board and started to 'live out of that belief' and noticed the difference it made to me and those around me. My studies also (in a round about way led me to the philosophy of Taoism, which almost takes this idea to an extreme!

Essentially every experience I have had since learning about cause and effect has underpinned what I now know to be true. I am happier knowing that I work at controlling my world not the world.

Interesting day!

It has been an interesting day with a bit of negative feed back on the WLR site where I sometimes post, though it is nice to know that the positives come in at about 5:1. So on balance I would assume there are people who are benefitting from these posts and this blog.

It does surprise me to an extent that anyone should have a problem with what someone is posting on a web site forum, last time I looked it was not compulsory to read anyone's posts!

One of the members on WLR asked me to post something about 'Locus of Control' which I am happy to do so watch this space!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What is happiness? (part1)

How do you do happiness?

Do other things/people make you happy? Or is it you that decides what makes you happy or what does not?

Not easy questions are they?

The older I get the more I am adjusting my ideas about what makes me happy. There was a time when I thought was money and possessions, but when I think it through what that was really connected to was me wanting the world to see me as successful! But life has taught me that (with the best will possible) most of the rest of the world really does not give a toss if I am successful or not! Those who really care about me do so because of who I am not because of what I own.

Don't get me wrong, I do like the finer things in life, and I am not one of those that wants to wear sackcloth and ashes. But what I have learnt is that once you have enough, what you get on top is marginal and not always worth the extra effort.

My wife (the wise Mrs F) summed it up nicely with this piece of wisdom "the difference between having a car and no car is huge, the difference between having my little Fiesta and a big BMW is not so great". The difference is certainly not doubled!

This could be applied to anything shoes, food, houses, etc, etc, etc.

What it does not transfer to is relationships. Of course the difference between having one loving relationship in your life and no one who cares is huge. However having two people who love you is a doubled and a third means it is trebled.

So give me the choice between money and wealth and those who are important to me and I know which I would choose every time.

The paradox is that I do not and cannot own any of those that bring me such joy, so I own nothing that is important to me but I have so much of it.

The funny thing is for years and years I had know idea it was that way around!

Change of title!

I have changed the name of this blog because I am going to concentrate on exploring ways in which people can lead a happier healthier life.

That does not mean that I know exactly how to do it, I am still finding my way like everyone else, but I do know I have learnt a few things along the way that mean that I have reached place in my life where I can say, yes I know how to be happy, and I know how to deal with most of what life throws at me.

Now the last thing I want to do is come across as smug! But when I joined it was clear that there are quite a few people that might appreciate a little help.

So..... this blog is not about look at me and what I have done it is about what I have learned along the way of my journey and if by passing some learning on I can help just one person then it makes any effort worth while.

I think the truth is I like happy people, I like to be around them. I like positive people they are able to give without diminishing themselves. I like kind people, they know that to be kind does not cost them indeed they gain from it.

Not really sure how often I can add something or indeed how much effect it will have on anyone, but so far I have had some good responses so who knows!

Feedback Loops

(No they are not the latest breakfast cereal!)

What are feedback loops?

One answer is that they can be the most powerful motivational tool you have.Start with the basics.

The human being is a very very complex cybernetic system. That is it takes in information and adjusts it's behaviour according to the information taken in. It then checks that adjustment to see if it has reached the desired state and adjusts again if not.

An easy way to think of it is a central heating system - when it is turned on the boiler fires because the thermostat tells it that the water is not at the required temperature then continues to turn off and on depending upon whether the required temperature is reached. now all know about cybernetics!

How does this apply to becoming a 'healthy me' ? To put it very simply (and this is very simply) in behavioural terms we humans get into what are termed positive feedback loops or negative feedback loops.

Example of a positive feedback loop in this context: You go to the gym in the morning, you feel good about yourself, yours self esteem is boosted, your resolve is boosted, at work someone offers you a doughnut but you politely decline, you tell yourself that was a brilliant thing to do, your self esteem goes up, you smile more, someone says to you you are looking well, yours self esteem goes up, so you make good food choices at lunch time, so you feel good all afternoon........... I think you get the picture.

Example of a negative feedback loop in this context:

You eat something you you know it would be better not to eat, you feel bad about yourself, so you tell yourself you are rubbish a worthless human being, so you are in a bad mood, because you are in a bad mood you snap at a colleague which leads to a row, so you feel down and reach for your old friend chocolate bar, which picks you up for a bit but as soon as you have finished you are telling yourself you are not only bad but stupid, which makes you feel even worse..........familiar?

And surprise surprise all this happens without really thinking about it as we do not need our conscious minds in order to do all this.

What can we do about it?

Firstly be aware of the power of feedback loops and take control of them! You are now!

Consciously start your own positive feedback loops by asking the question what could I do today that might start a positive feedback loop? It need not be anything strenuous, just resolving to smile and say hello to everyone you meet is likely to start a positive feedback loop as others will be nice back and that will start you feeling good about yourself!

Be aware if you are slipping into a negative loop and break the pattern. You can do this by changing your thinking or changing your physiology. You can just say to yourself when you see a familiar negative pattern emerging "no I am not going to do this again, I am going to do something different, not sure what yet but it will be different, what can I do to get the outcome I want"
(Always frame outcomes in the positive - i.e. what you want not what you don't want).

Hope that is useful, you are living in feedback loops whether you know it or not, much better to know it and take some control eh?
The difference between objectives and goals

I notice that some people get a little down because they are not seeing their weight change quickly enough (which is of course understandable) you have set a goal and want to achieve it.

However the amount of weight a body loses in say a week or month is not directly in our control. We can of course influence it and there is nothing wrong with setting a long term goal. However setting very short term goals and not hitting them can be very de-motivating.

It is not a question of setting ourselves up to fail but it is putting success outside of our direct control in the short term. Therefore if the goal is not reached we often tell ourselves we have failed!

So what about instead, setting short term objectives that really are in our control and will lead us to the long term goal such as:

This week I will:

go to the gym 4 times

I will do X minutes cardio and Y weight routines.

I will eat my target number of calories and I will stay within my nutritional guidelines +/-X%.

I will weigh all foods as accurately as I can whenever I can.I will not beat myself up.

I will ask myself 5 good questions every dayetc etc.

Tip. Always set objectives in the positive i.e. I will do ABC. NOT this week I will not do XYZ. The brain works in whichever way you point it, so point it to the positive!

These objectives can be whatever you want them to be, but I hope the distinction is clear between objective you can set and control as opposed to goals that you have set and move towards. If we set ourselves objectives which perhaps stretch us but which are totally within our power to achieve imagine how good we will feel when we achieve those objectives week after week! As for the goals they will follow as sure as eggs is eggs!

‘Weight’ frame or ‘Healthy Me’ frame?

What do I mean by ‘weight frame’ or ‘Healthy me’ frame.

Well first let’s start with frames and filters.

Whatever happens, happens. It has no meaning until we ascribe it. The human being is a meaning making machine, we ascribe meaning to everything. However we do not always give the same event the same meaning. If my team loses I do not feel the same about it as a supporter of the other team!

In order to create this ‘personal reality’ we use what are called ‘filters’ or ‘frames’. That is we use the filter of our experience, beliefs, values and sense of self to ascribe meaning to everything that happens.Therefore the filters we use will have a massive effect on our experience of life.

If you have the belief that people are on the whole good and kind you will have a very different experience to life than if you believe that people are inherently nasty and out to do you harm.

On a more light hearted note have you ever noticed if you have bought a new car you suddenly notice how suddenly there are many of them there are on the road! Of course that is not true you are just filtering for them.What we focus on will tend to determine our experience of life.

So what does this mean in the context of becoming a 'healthy me'?

There are some who think in a ‘weight frame’. That is everything is focussed on what the scales tell them, and if the scales do not tell them the right thing it can have a very negative effect on their mood.

I am not saying this is wrong as such however I wonder if it gets people to where they really want to be.

If I were to ask anyone here ‘what would you get from being your goal weight’ the answer might be something along the lines of; ‘I would get a great deal of satisfaction’ or ‘I would feel I had achieved what I once thought impossible’ or even ’I would start to like myself again!’

What is for sure no one here is trying to lose weight just for the sheer fun of it.

We are all doing it for what it will give us and ultimately that will be an emotion.However the ‘weight frame’ is a very narrow frame. It means that someone using that frame will be ecstatic when the lose and often very down when they do not! But is this really the best frame to use?

An alternative would be the ‘Healthy me’ frame. This frame filters using the basic question ‘does whatever I am doing take me closer to being the ‘healthy me’ I want to be? This frame can prompt some very useful questions:

What really is a ‘healthy me’?

What would a ‘healthy me’ look like, sound like, feel like’

How would a ‘healthy me’ deal with setbacks and disappointments?

What sort of food choices would a ‘healthy me’ make.

What sort of exercise would a ‘healthy me’ do? And how often?

What sort of a relationship would a ‘healthy me’ have with myself? And with others?

What sort of weight range would a ‘healthy me’ live in?

There are plenty more but this gives just a flavour of the questions someone who lives in a ‘healthy me’ frame.

Of course I am not telling anyone how to think, everyone is free to live using whatever filters and frames they like. What I do know having used both is that narrow succeed/fail frames tend not to be conducive to a happy stress free life. In fact only this morning my wife told me that I am a much nicer person to know than I used to be. Whichever way anyone has been in the past does not mean that they cannot be different in the future.

If you are one of those who having being living in the weight frame and not enjoying it much, there are alternative ways to be that will make a life a good deal more enjoyable with fewer grey moods!


Have you ever stopped to think how much what we believe about the world affects our behaviour?

Beliefs are essential to us as without them we would have to learn the world a new each day and from an evolutionary point of view this would not work. You have to believe going too near the edge of the cliff is dangerous if you are going to get to breed!

Our beliefs are also inextricably linked to our values, and together these things have an enormous effect on our behaviour.

Let us look at avlues first. Most of us value the feeling of being loved, it is something we seek from our very first breath and it never really leaves us, we might value honesty, integrity, fun, warmth, comfort, acceptance all manner of things.

On the other side of the coin their are values that we do not like that usually we move away from such as pain, humiliation, hatred, embarrassment, discomfort.

If you stop and think about it everything we do is to either get or avoid these things, and in the end that all comes down to a feeling, an emotion that we are either seeking or trying to avoid.

The belief part is the 'if' part of the 'if, then' evaluation that we are subconsciously going through all the time.

To give an example, if I am approaching a door that has a lever handle, (even though I have never been through that door before) I have a learned belief, which is that if I push that handle down then I will be able to get through the door into the toilet beyond which lies a feeling of comfort that I am looking for!

Or I believe that if I stand at the right bus stop the right bus will come along which will allow me to get to my significant other, and when I do I will feel soooooooooo good!

So I do a certain behaviour because I believe if I do I will get a feeling I want or avoid a feeling I do not.

Of course we do not think these things consciously as we go about life or we would bearly be able to funcition. I use the examples to show that it is our beliefs and values that underly all our behaviour.

Indeed I have a belief that no human behaviour is random everything we do has a positive intent. Now some people will be saying 'OK Will I have been with you until now but not all human behaviour is positive'. That is not what I am saying the key word here is 'intent'.

Excessive drinking or drug taking is definately unhealthy and negative for our well being but people do it with a positive intent, though it often starts out with that intent to get the good feelings such substances can give, it often ends up being done usually to numb the pain that not having the drink or the drugs brings.

So how does this relate to healthy eating?

Well our beliefs about food will have a huge effect on how much we eat and what we eat. I once new a woman who only really ate boiled chicken and steamed veg. It wasn't that she was slimming or anything it was just she did not like food very much. Consequently she was stick thin but a bit boring!

Now speaking personally my beliefs about food have definately led me to where I am today! As a child money wasn't plentiful so clearing my plate got me praise from the two people whose approval I sought above all else - mum and dad!

I also grew up with the belief that generosity was a value worthy of aspiring to that to feed someone was an act of friendship, even love, and that small portions were mean and meanness was without doubt to be avoided.

So perhaps you can see what I am getting at here we all have learned beliefs that lead us towards certain behaviour in many areas of our life not least with food.

To complicate matters we do not just have single beliefs on any particular subject we can hold many, some of which can be very much conflicting, and that is where the problems really start.

Take our old friend chocolate. Many people reading this will hold the belief that eating too much chocolate is not a healthy thing to do. However those same people will probably also hold the belief that eating chocolate is extremely pleasant and enjoyable and makes me feel feel good while I am doing it!

So what can you do???

Firstly become aware. The key to success is calm awareness. I say calm awareness as if you are in an aggitated or upset emotional state you are unlikely to make good choices on food or anything else.

Secondly, don't beat yourself up about what you have done in the past. everything you did was with a positive intent even if it gave you a negative outcome!

Thirdly take some time to sit down and write down ALL the beliefs you have about food and link them to the value you will get by doing that behaviour.

e.g. eating chocolate is pleasant (belief) as it gives me a real buzz when I am actually eating it (value).

The more you can write down the better.

Then look at if any of these beliefs are conflicting. I suspect there will be a few.

Now there are techniques that can deal very effectively with conflicting beliefs but it is not something I can take you through on here.

However I believe that by just bringing your beliefs and values into your awareness is a big start.

Once you are aware of the effect that your beliefs have on your eating behaviours you can start to develop strategies to make you choose the healthy option rather than the unhealthy when it appears before you.

If anyone want to know more on this subject or any of the others covered on here please do not hesitate to let me know.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What is a Healthy Me?

To be honest there is no one answer to this question as we will of course all have our own evidence about what constitutes healthy!

As a fiftysomething realistically I cannot set health goals at the level of say my son who is 25. Or can I perhaps I cannot reach his fitness levels but perhaps 'health' is not something that is determined by age.

Also is a 'healthy me' determined only by fitness or by how much I weigh? I'm not even sure the medics would say it is. To me being healthy is having a good relationship with myself, both physically and mentally, also can I really consider myself healthy if I do not have healthy relationships to those close to me and to the wider world.

Perhaps it is true that it does not matter how 'fit' I am if I have an unhealthy or abusive attitude to myself, those around me or to the wider world.

The more I think about it healthy is much more than fitness or good food (though those things help!).

So if these ideas interest you bookmark this page and I will add more thoughts as they occur!

Hello all

Some of you visiting here might have read some of my posts on (wlr)and know that one of my interests in life is helping people understand how they get the results they get and how if they want to get different results they have to do something different!

Now although I have used 'they' in that last sentence it applies to me as much as anyone else.

Thought that doing a blog might give me the chance to do more of these thoughts (without clogging up the wlr message board) and also they would remain accessible for those that want to view them again for longer than on the message board.

You will have to bear with me but I am a bit new to this bogging lark so I will be learning as I go. Still I do believe that if you have stopped learning you have stopped living!

Why the title 'Healthy Me'?

It comes from a post I did on wlr that contrasts what it is like living in a frame that focusses on how much you weigh as opposed to living a healthy life.

I have always had an interest in sport and exercise but like most people my devotion to a healthy lifestyle has waxed and waned often in line with what is going on in my life. Interestingly the times when I have exercised less and eaten badly have been connected to bad times, when in fact that is the time when it would be better to take more care of myself!

Oh well lesson now learned.

So I am back at the gym and back making sure that I only put good fuel into the engine. So yes I am now thinking more about a 'Healthy Me'.

This blog will be part a journal of what I am up to and partly my thoughts as to how others might reach some of their goals because I believe that none of us are counting calories or doing exercise for the sheer fun of it we are doing it as we would like to feel better about ourselves, and if I can help in any way at all that is alright by me!