Monthly Archives for January 2012

Archives for January 2012

How Will Exercise Transform Your Life?

After dropping a significant amount of excess weight, one of my longtime friends experienced a dramatic transformation in her life. Because the extra weight prevented her for doing so much, a million new doors of possibility were now opened.

I remember traveling with her to one of Rhode Island’s coastal parks and climbing along the cliffs. In the midst of our jumping, laughing and playing, she realized it was all something she had never been able to do before. Because she was thinner, more athletic and in better health, she was able to experience many “firsts” in her newly transformed life.

When clients talk about motivation – or lack thereof – I encourage people to think about how life will change upon achieving their fitness goals. While the changes in my friend’s life were extraordinary, all of us can improve the quality of our lives through a healthier lifestyle.

Exercise prevents disease, improves your mood, boosts your energy, promotes better sleep, improves learning, reduces the risk of premature death, leads to better sex, lifts depression and improves self-esteem – just to name a few of the many benefits.

When you have trouble mustering up motivation to hit the gym or to embark on a new workout routine, refocus your attention on the benefits of exercise – and how these benefits can and will transform your life. Imagine the many ways in which your life would be different and visualize the enhanced quality of life that you’ll experience.

Hold on to this image with all your heart, and use it to fuel your motivation as you reach for – and achieve – your fitness goals.

How has – or will – exercise transform the quality of life that you experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Banning Junk Food Doesn’t Decrease Obesity.

The forbidden fruit syndrome: Does banning unhealthy snacks make them more desirable?

Growing up, the shelves in my family’s pantry were stocked with soda, chips and candy. Of course, there were healthy options, too – but my friends always loved coming over to indulge in the forbidden snacks that their parents didn’t buy.

Though I was overweight for a few years during my childhood, my sister was always thin. Though the unhealthy snacks were available to us, neither of us paid them much attention. Because soda, chips and sweets weren’t considered “off limits,” there was no satisfaction – as there was for my friends – in consuming them.

A new study, published by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, calls into question the effectiveness of banning unhealthy snacks – particularly, in schools. According to the data, there was no correlation – at all – between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available.

Researchers tracked the body mass indexes (BMI) of 19,450 students from fifth grade through eight grade. In fifth grade, some 59% of students attended schools with unhealthy snack bans. By eight grade, 86% of students were subject to bans.

Looking at the data, correlations were examined on a number of levels. Researchers even looked at differences in BMIs for students that moved into schools with bans and vice versa. But no matter how researchers sliced the data, there were virtually no differences in BMIs. In other words, the bans don’t work.

As was experienced by my friends during childhood, it may be the forbidden fruit syndrome. The action of banning something usually has the opposite effect than what is intended. Just look how American youth compare to their European counterparts when it comes to alcohol and the drinking age. Moreover, the more we concentrate on what we can’t eat, the more we want to eat it.

But if banning unhealthy foods isn’t the answer for the astronomical obesity rates in American youth, what is? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Lagging Muscles? Specialize Your Workout.

Use specialization to balance your workout.

Every Thursday night, I work with a Pilates instructor to help improve my flexibility and correct muscular imbalances. During last night’s class, we worked to identify some of the weaker muscles in my body.

Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time exercising and building stronger muscles – but not all of my muscles have developed evenly. As is fairly common with frequent exercisers, some of my muscles have become stronger than others. When working out, the problem is then compounded when those stronger muscles are used to compensate for the weaker ones.

For example, my shoulders are very strong. Even when training other muscles (such as my lats), my shoulders tend to fire and want to do the work. Of course, this only makes my shoulders stronger and my lats weaker. In order to avoid activating my shoulders, I really have to pay attention to my body’s movements. Moreover, without activating my shoulders, the amount of resistance that I’m able to use is greatly decreased.

Specialization is a technique that targets specific muscles that may be lagging behind others. It often means introducing new exercises that target underdeveloped muscles specifically. And, because you won’t be able to use a lot of resistance, it’s important to check your ego at the door. It’s better to perform the exercise properly with less weight than incorrectly with more.

If you have trouble identifying lagging muscles, try examining your body in the mirror – or consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions. Even if underdeveloped muscles aren’t visible, the trainer should be able to identify them through an evaluation.

No Longer Sore After Workout: Am I Doing Something Wrong?

Hi Davey,

I’ve been getting back in to shape lately by going to the gym 2 – 3 times a week. When I first started, my muscles would become sore 1 – 2 days after my workout. Recently I’m finding that my muscles don’t become sore in the slightest. I am increasing the amount I lift but I’m cautious because I’m still getting back into it and I don’t want to harm my muscles.

Does this lack of soreness or stiffness in my muscles mean I’m not working hard enough?

Thanks and much love,

Hey Eric,

Congratulations on getting back into the swing of things and renewing your commitment to exercise!

First things first, muscle soreness that occurs 12 – 48 hours after exercise is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – and it’s a good thing. Immediate muscle soreness or pain, on the other hand, is often related to injury – and immediate medical attention is encouraged. Since the soreness you experienced is the former, there’s no need for concern.

When exercisers start a new routine (just as you did), muscle soreness is very common. Since the new workout is a shock to the body, muscle soreness is a likely result. But, over time, the body will adjust – and soreness will tend to decrease. This is all very natural and part of the process.

Though many people become addicted to feeling sore after exercise, soreness isn’t required for muscle growth. Provided you have an effective strategy to target muscle growth, your muscles will continue to grow even if you don’t experience discomfort.

In this way, the age-old adage of “no pain, no gain” is certainly a fallacy.


What Are Net Carbs?

If you pay any attention to product packaging, you may have noticed a new advertising trend. It’s featuring an item’s “net carbs.” What does net carbs mean? And should you be paying attention to it?

First things first, carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables and in some dairy products.

Though they get a bad rap, your body needs carbohydrates – especially if you take part in regular activity. And although carbohydrates are important in your diet, not all of them are created equal. Wholegrain cereals and grains are much better for you than refined cereals and grains; they retain more of their nutrients, contain more fiber and don’t impact blood sugar levels as significantly.

Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates labeling, there’s currently no official definition for net carbs. But, in general, net carbs are defined as total carbohydrates minus the carbohydrates that don’t affect blood sugar levels (such as fiber or sugar alcohols).

For example, I buy wraps for my sandwiches. The nutrition information lists 13 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of fiber. As such, the packaging advertises only 7 net carbs. Because the fiber carbohydrates don’t result in a spike in blood sugar levels, advertisers subtract these carbs to calculate the net carb total.

If you’re insulin resistant, have diabetes or issues with blood sugar levels, it’s important to monitor carbohydrate intake. But, in today’s anti-carbohydrate world, it’s easy to get carried away. If you have tried a low-carb diet, you may have noticed feelings of tiredness, an inability to concentrate, a decreased reaction time and a feeling that every small task is hard to do. It’s because your body – and your brain – rely on carbohydrates to function properly.

Instead of focusing on carbs or net carbs, my advice would be to put your energy and attention on portion size and the number of calories that you consume.

Your Body Was Made to Move.

Depending on which expert you ask, there are anywhere from 640 to 850 muscles in the human body. It’s estimated there there are as many as 360 joints – and then several hundred more ligaments and tendons to hold it all together. In a short, our bodies evolved to move.

Ages ago, when we still lived in caves, our lives depended on movement. We had to hunt and gather for our very survival, and so our bodies evolved to support this necessity.

Thing have changed. Today, we can “gather” our food by plucking it off the shelves of a grocery store – or lifting a phone and ordering takeout. Though we’re all still blessed with the same engineering marvel – that is, the human body – as our cavemen forefathers, we tend not to take advantage of it. Instead, we sit in front of the TV. Or in traffic. Or at our desks. It’s like being given a Ferrari but never taking it out for a drive.

Look in the mirror. Examine your strong, long legs. Admire your arms and torso. Your body craves movement. Your 640 muscles want to contract and expand. Your 360 joints want to glide, hinge and pivot. Your heart wants to pump. Your glands want to sweat and the human in you wants to bet set free from this cage of captivity.

Let him or her out! Press the pedal to the metal. Feel the wind in your hair. Take your Ferrari out for a spin.

Study: Don’t Take a Winter Break from Exercise.

Winter isn't a time for fitness hibernation.

It’s winter. The days are shorter, darker and colder. When it comes to exercising and working out, hibernation may seem like a tempting alternative.

But not so fast: Research shows that adults who work out consistently have significantly lower levels of depression. Moreover, pounds gained from gym hiatuses are very difficult to shed – even after you start exercising again.

When it comes to exercise, consistency is extremely important to achieve your fitness goals. It’s not about exercising for two months and then taking one month off; exercise is a lifetime commitment. But regular and consistent exercise is also important to experience the many other benefits of exercise – like improved sleep, increased energy, weight control and better moods.

To determine the impact of exercise regularity on depression, a 2010 study followed nearly 200 individuals for 2 years. Participants were put into two distinct groups of regular and irregular exercisers. Based on the findings, researchers found a significantly lower level of depression in regular exercisers – and thus concluded that consistent exercise is fundamental for improving mental health.

In another study, researchers studied weight gained during breaks from regular exercise. It’s no surprise that reducing physical activity can result in weight gain – but can that weight be lost by resuming exercise? According to the study, not easily. Weight gained because of reductions in weekly exercise in men and women “may not be reversed by resuming prior activity.” In other words, the weight gained during exercise breaks tends to be stubborn – and it isn’t lost by resuming your same workout a few months later.

The days are short and cold, and our schedules are busier than ever – but, to truly enjoy the many benefits of exercise, consistency is key. Keep honoring your body with the movement it craves. A day isn’t a day unless you’ve broken a sweat.

Treadmill Trick: Make Your Mind Work For You – Rather Than Against You.

Ready, set, go: Make your mind work for you - rather than against you.

I know you’ve been there: You’re 5 minutes into a 20 minute treadmill run. You’re already short of breath – and all you can think about is that you still have 15 minutes of running left. In your mind, you’re already defeated and there’s no way you’re going to finish the run.

I like to say that running is 75% physical and 25% mental. Sure, our ability to run is largely determined by our level of cardiovascular performance. But our mind plays a huge role, too. Running is, at least in part, mental. As such, we can use our minds to sabotage our running – or to help us push through.

One of the simplest and most effective mental treadmill tricks is shifting your focus away from the total amount of time left. In the above example, don’t put your attention on the remaining 15 minutes. Instead, consider that you already have five minutes under your belt. Focus on getting through the next minute. If that seems too much, push yourself another 30 seconds. Once you get there, extend your goal just a little bit further out. It’s just like the donkey and the carrot.

When I train with intervals, for example, I’m usually tired within the first few minutes. I often push myself to just finish the next set of intervals. Once I’m there, I realize that there’s enough figurative gas in the tank for another. And then so on. It works.

Your mind can be your biggest challenge or your biggest cheerleader. It can be a foe – or a friend. To get the results you want, it makes much more sense to use this powerful tool in your favor.

Should I Do Cardio and Weights Together or Separately?

Howdy Davey!

I’m starting your weight loss program and I was wondering if you could answer one of my questions.

I understand the three types of exercise (resistance, cardio, and stress reduction), but I am wondering if is best to set aside each day to do a different one – or should I cram them all in together?

Thanks for the help, and I’m loving the plan so far!


Hey Jake,

I’m so glad that you’re loving The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

For blog buddies that aren’t familiar with the program, it covers the three main types of exercise. There’s heart-pumping cardiovascular exercise (i.e., jogging on a treadmill), strength training (i.e., lifting weights) and stress reduction exercises (i.e., yoga, walking or anything else relaxing).

How you build your workout routine – and how you break up or combine the different types of exercises – really depends on a number of factors.

There’s nothing wrong with doing cardio and strength training together. In fact, that’s what I do at the gym. The big advantage to this approach is that it is efficient; you can get a full-body workout each day. Moreover, research suggests that combining strength training and cardio results in a greater calorie burn than doing either separately. Whether you work out once a week or six times per week, this approach can work well to help you achieve your weight loss goals.

Alternatively, you could do cardio one gym day and then strength training on the next. For example, you may decide to do cardio on Monday, strength training on Tuesday, cardio on Wednesday and so on. The advantage to this strategy is that you may have more energy for each type of exercise. If, for example, you followed the previous approach and combined both cardio and strength training into one workout, you may be fatigued from the cardio even before you start strength training. By separating the exercises out onto different days, you’ll never be fatigued before you start your strength training or cardio. But because you’re training each muscle group less frequently, I’d only recommend this approach if you exercise four or more times per week.

Some diehards do go to the gym twice each day. These motivated individuals might do cardio in the morning and then strength training at night (or vice versa). Going to the gym twice per day is not necessary – and it’s not something that I’d recommend for most people starting out on a new routine. Is it hard to sustain and balance with other life commitments. It’s not for everyone.

Lastly, we must consider stress-reduction exercise. Stress reduction exercise comes in many varieties – and it can be performed almost anywhere. You may wish to perform stress reduction exercise at the gym by relaxing in the pool or participating in a yoga class, but there’s no advantage to combining it with your other exercises. Think of it as a nice excuse to pamper yourself (as if we need an excuse for that), and fit it in when and wherever you can.


Paula Deen’s Diabetes Diagnosis: A Teachable Moment?

Paula Deen: I have diabetes, y'all!

When Paula Deen disclosed her diabetes diagnosis, the world didn’t seem too surprised. Deen is the queen of deep frying foods and famous for her decadent desserts and use of butter. In one popular YouTube video, Deen even deep fries a cheesecake. Indeed, Deen’s diet seems like a recipe for health issues and complications.

While Deen isn’t getting much sympathy from the blogosphere, it seems to me that we can use this diagnosis as a teachable moment – and dispel some of the common myths about type 2 diabetes.

For one, not all overweight or obese people develop type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), “Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role.” Weight isn’t the only risk factor and most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes. And, indeed, many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight.

Second, sugar isn’t necessarily to blame. While Deen’s cakes and dishes contain no shortage of confections, that notion that sugar causes diabetes is a common myth. The ADA states, “type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories, whether from sugar or from fat, can contribute to weight gain.” Having said that, Deen’s unhealthy diet may have played a role – but other factors are almost certainly involved.

Third, people with diabetes can still eat sweets and desserts. Deen’s diagnosis doesn’t mean that she can no longer eat her own recipes. When consumed as part of a healthy meal plan and when combined with exercise, desserts and sweets aren’t entirely off limits. Moderation is key.

I’m not defending Deen and her diet of deep-fried lasagna, Krispy Kreme burgers and deep-fried stuffing on a stick; she’s responsible the unhealthy recipes that have become her hallmark. But I hope that the visibility surrounding Deen’s diagnosis can be used as teachable moment to learn more about a serious disease that affects 25.8 million Americans.

Is The TV The Center of Your Home?

Yesterday, I shared two interesting studies linking TV ownership and “screen time” to heart attacks and premature death. The link isn’t so much with the television itself; instead, it’s the sedentary lifestyle that TV watching helps to support.

When I graduated university and moved to Washington, DC, television wasn’t a priority. Because money was tight, I wasn’t interested in paying a monthly cable bill. Instead of watching TV, I engaged in a number of activities that greatly improved the quality of my life – like reading books, going on adventures and taking yoga classes.

In 2009, I finally cracked and bought a TV. But in placing the screen in my home, I was certain of one thing: I wouldn’t make it a focal point.

In so many homes, clusters of chairs and couches surround television sets in the same way that benches and stools once surrounded campfires. Or, the way that pews might surround an altar. The focus of the room – and in some cases the entire home – is the almighty television set. That’s not for me.

In my home, the television is more of an afterthought than a focal point.

In my home, the television is more of an afterthought. My living room is furnished to support conversation and face time. The seats face each other – not a screen. In fact, there’s really no good seat from which to view the television. And I like it that way.

Let’s be real: Televisions aren’t going anywhere. I don’t think it’s realistic or wise to wage a crusade against something that some few of us are willing to throw away. But, simply by shifting the way we organize and furnish our homes, we’re able to lessen the role that the TV plays in our lives. Instead of building homes that encourage sedentary lifestyles, we can use design to help facilitate the things we really value. Like each other, and our health.

ATTN Couch Potatoes: Television Ownership Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attack.

Calling all couch potatoes...

In building a healthy lifestyle for you and your loved ones, would you consider throwing out the television? According to a new global study published in the European Heart Journal, simply owning a television and a car increases your risk of a heart attack by 27%.

Of course, the television and car – in and of themselves – aren’t to blame. Instead, it’s the sedentary lifestyle that both instruments serve to support. Televisions and cars are markers of sedentary lifestyle.

One can assume that without a television, individuals spend increased leisure time in other activities like walking, hiking, sports, etc. Similarly, without a car, people spend more time traveling on foot or biking. These instances of physical activity help improve cardiovascular function and serve to lower the risk of heart attack.

In a separate, soon-to-be-published study in Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers measured the impact of television and computer “screen time” on heart disease and premature death. They concluded that “people who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen – primarily watching TV – are more likely to die of any cause and suffer heart related problems.”

In fact, spending 2 – 4 hours a day in front of a screen increased mortality by 48%. Spending 4 or more hours increased the mortality rate by a shocking 125%. Moreover, the associations were independent of traditional risk factors such as smoking, social class, exercise, etc.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise every adult to get at least 150 minutes of physical exercise per week, but the European Heart Journal study suggests that cardiovascular benefits can be reaped even at lower levels.

The bottom line: To support a healthy lifestyle, minimize sedentary time and maximize your active time – even if it’s just a few extra minutes a day of movement. And turn off that TV!

Still See My “Fat” Self in the Mirror?

I recently came across the following email in my inbox from a blog buddy named Tom:

This year I grew tired of being obese decided to make a complete lifestyle change. The weight came off very fast. I am now nearly 60 pounds lighter, and I am enjoying and have embraced my new healthy lifestyle. I am very close to my personal target weight. My friends, family and co-workers all comment on my new slimmer me. How come I am having trouble seeing that person? I am well aware of my weight loss and that old clothes do not fit me as they once did so how come I still see a fat person in the mirror? What can I do to help see the new me that everyone else can?

Having struggled with my weight for many years during childhood, I immediately related to and understood Tom’s situation.

I sent Tom’s question to Diane Petrella, MSW, my good friend and contributor to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program. Diane is a renowned psychotherapist, author of The Inspiration Diet and a weight release coach – and I knew that she would have some great insight and recommendations.

Diane noted that, for Tom, the weight loss was rapid:

That’s great on one level, as seeing rapid results inspires confidence and motivation. At the same time, our minds have to “catch-up” with the changes made to our bodies.

According to Diane, Tom’s experience is not unusual. And, speaking from personal experience, I can attest to it; even after losing weight, I continued to see myself as chubby.

Diane continued:

Many people see themselves as “fat” even when they release a significant amount of weight. This is because the inner images we hold of ourselves are very powerful. Even when there is concrete evidence, as in the numbers on a scale, our mind can distort that reality to fit our self-perception.

To move forward, Diane recommends a strategy of recording your success in a weekly log. By keeping track of your weight, changes in clothing sizes, compliments and other improvements, you’re able to use these as evidence of your new weight.

Moreover, Diane encourages people like Tom to make new affirmations:

When you catch yourself saying, “I’m fat”, tell yourself, “Stop. That’s an old way of thinking. I release that thought. I am healthy and fit.” When you first say this, it may feel contrived. That’s OK. Say it anyway. Act “as if” it is true, which, in fact, it is as confirmed by the physical evidence you have. After a while saying these positive affirmations, and seeing yourself as thinner, will feel more natural.

Like so many things in life, it takes time. Diane recommends a prescription of gentleness and patience, noting that “it takes time to change your thoughts and beliefs to support your new self-image.”

If deeper issues are involved, such as trauma or abuse, professional support may be necessary. And if a distorted self-image becomes emotionally crippling, such as body dysmorphia disorder, seek out professional treatment.

Can you relate to Tom’s experience? If so, let me know in the comments below.

Lacking Results in Group Classes.

Hey Davey Wavey,

A couple of years ago, I started attending fitness classes and have increased the amount of classes I do over time. I now do 6-8 classes per week, each at an hour. Some of the classes involve weight training and others are cardio.

While the classes helped me slim down and build some muscle, I’m at a stand-still and am not noticing any changes. Am I doing something wrong?


Hey Peter,

I’m not at all surprised by your situation – and it’s actually very common. Fitness classes are fun, informative and a great way to get started or to add variety to your workout. But because it’s in a group setting, it’s hard to build a class around one person’s specific goals.

Your goal may be to build muscle. The person next to you may be looking to lose weight. Moreover, your ability levels could vary greatly. Ideally, the instructor would be working with the two of you very differently – but, in a class, everyone gets lumped together.

Breaking through fitness plateaus involves taking your workout to the next level – but, since new people are always coming into a class, it’s unlikely that the instructor will increase the intensity of the program. With classes, participants tend to get more of the same, day after day and week after week. If you’re just looking for maintenance, then this is great. But if you’re looking to build on your results, group classes almost always fall short.

If you’re serious about building muscle, then you’ll want to spend some time training with machines and free weights. Because free weight exercises are so specific, take time to setup (i.e., loading the weights, etc.) and require space and equipment, most classes exclude them. You might find a class with light dumbbells, but I’ve yet to see a class that incorporates, for example, the bench press.

It sounds like you’re ready to take your workout to the next level – and, if I were in your shoes, I’d scale back the number of classes that I take in exchange for some individual workout sessions. Ideally, it may make sense to higher a trainer for a week or two to help put together a customized program.

Having said that, group classes are still great for adding variety to a workout, and an effective way for gym newbies to get acclimated to exercise.


3 Shoulder Exercises Without Weights.

Working out with a friend makes things more fun – especially if he’s the impossibly sexy Chris Nogeic. While working on an upcoming project, Chris wanted to share three of his favorite shoulder exercises that you can try at home. Check out the video.

While these exercises are demonstrated with a partner, there are plenty of ways to improvise if you’re flying solo. For example: If you’d like to try the handstand push-ups, but don’t have a partner, try performing the exercise against a wall. Or, alternatively, keep your feet on the floor and pike your body by folding at the waist and keeping your upper body in the handstand position. This will also make it a bit easier.

Want to see more of Chris? I know I do. Let me know in the comments below!

Am I Really Hungry? Use the Hunger Scale.

Drinking water is a great way to curb appetite.

Last week, I launched the hugely popular Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program and I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback and questions. One of the more common questions is about identifying true feelings of hunger.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger is the body’s need for food whereas appetite is more about psychological desires for food. Because of appetite, we consume food when we’re not really hungry – often as a way to cope with stress, to deal with boredom, to self-sooth, etc.

To become more aware of the difference between cravings and true hunger, many nutritionists recommend using a hunger scale. While you can use any range of numbers, I prefer scoring hunger and fullness on a scale of 1 to 10 as follows:

  1. Insatiably hungry
  2. Seriously hungry
  3. Stomach growling hungry
  4. Slightly hungry
  5. No longer hungry but not yet satisfied
  6. Comfortably satisfied
  7. Starting to feel full
  8. Feeling quite full
  9. Starting to get a stomach ache from so much food
  10. In actual pain from overeating

When you feel yourself reaching for food, rate your hunger. If it’s a 4 or higher, maybe you can just have a tall glass of water with lemon to hold yourself off for a half hour. Or maybe, if you’re somewhere closer to a 3, an apple might hold you over until your next meal.

Ideally, you’d like to stay somewhere in the 3 – 7 range. If you become insatiably hungry, for example, you’re more likely to overeat (as it takes up to 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that is full). To do a better job of self regulating, it’s just as important to rate your fullness after eating.

Using this hunger scale, you’ll slowly learn to both identify true hunger and do a better job of differentiating psychological desires for food.

For more information about losing weight and keeping it off, download The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

How to Lose Weight with Your Dog.

My dog, Chipotle, and I.

Owning a dog can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

The health benefits of dog ownership are tremendous – and they’ve been getting quite a bit of coverage in recent news stories. We’ve known that dog ownership is linked with lower body weight, longevity and lower blood pressure – but, just recently, NBC Nightly News did a piece about therapy dogs being used to help depressed and overstressed law students. Law students are disproportionately affected by depression – and the simple act of petting a dog can make you feel good.

A recent study about pets, undertaken by physiologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University, was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The findings? Pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more fit, less lonely, more conscientious, more extroverted and less fearful.

In the first part of the study, researchers surveyed 217 people and found that pet owners were pet owners were happier, healthier and better adjusted than were non-owners. In the second part of the study, researchers discovered that dogs increased their owners’ feelings of belonging, self-esteem and of a meaningful existence. Lastly, pets were found to help their owners deal with feelings of rejection (take that, Ben & Jerry’s).

I rescued my adopted greyhound four years ago, but I always say that it is my dog who rescued me; I’m the lucky one. And as we learn more about the benefits of pet ownership, I can’t help but think that the $45 billion we spend on our dogs and cats each year is money well spent.

7 Strength Training Mistakes for Beginners to Avoid.

Beginners: Avoid these 7 common strength training mistakes at the gym!

It’s early January, and the gym is filled with new members trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. I admire their motivation and I’m impressed by their commitment to create a healthier life.

But if you’re new to lifting, you’re bound to make a few missteps. To help keep you on track, here are 7 common strength training mistakes – and how to avoid them:

  1. Don’t try to impress anyone. This morning, I was doing barbell bicep curls next to a newbie. He was curling with 10-pound plates on either side of the barbell – and he was holding his own. I loaded my barbell with 110 lbs of plates; the newbie added another 25-pounds to each side. His form collapsed and it looked like he was going to hurt himself. A competitive spirit is great – but we all started somewhere. Check your ego at the gym door; when it comes to working out, you have to do you.
  2. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Not sure how a machine works? Have a question about an exercise that someone is performing? Don’t be afraid to ask. Regular gym-goers are usually very passionate about fitness – and they’ll be happy to help you out and demonstrate.
  3. Don’t believe everything you hear. On a related note, many well-intentioned gym-goers will also be happy to pontificate workout and fitness advice that isn’t necessarily true. Unless you’re working with a certified personal trainer, don’t believe everything you hear. If you have doubts about something you heard, go home and do research. There are many scientifically valid studies on most aspects of exercise.
  4. Don’t expect overnight results. While you may notice some changes within a month or two, know that it takes time, energy, effort and dedication to totally transform your body and achieve your goals. If you expect quick results, you’re setting yourself up for frustration; be in it for the long haul.
  5. Don’t wing it. Walking into a weight room without a plan isn’t a good idea. If you’re new to exercise, it’s worth hiring a personal trainer – even if it’s just for 3 sessions – to help you put together a routine that targets your goals. He’ll help you determine exactly which exercises will work best for you and even ensure that you’re maintaining proper form and good technique. Or, you can always start with my Ultimate Guide to Working Out to create a comprehensive plan.
  6. Don’t be that guy. Yes, you’re new to the gym – but it’s no excuse for poor gym etiquette. For example, don’t pass in between an exerciser and the mirror. Wipe down equipment after use – and don’t rest on it in between sets. Talking on a cell phone while working out is usually prohibited and always rude. Putting your weights back after each use is a must. And, for the love of God, please don’t spit in the drinking fountain. Take some time to familiarize yourself with your gym’s rules and guidelines.
  7. Don’t forget about weight collars. Using free weights is very effective – but it can also be very dangerous. When first starting out, and getting accustomed to bench pressing and lifting, it’s not uncommon for beginners to lift the barbell unevenly. If the weights aren’t secured with a weight collar or clamp, a dangerous accident can result. Using weight collars is important for everyone – but especially for newbies.

Those are the top 7 strength training mistakes that I see at the gym – but the list is far from comprehensive. Anything that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Is Raw Sugar Healthier?

Someone please tell him that there are better things to suck on.

Let’s be clear: Sugar is not healthy – and most of us eat way too much of it. When we compare raw sugar to regular, white table sugar, we’re really just examining the lesser of two evils.

In the refining process that creates white table sugar, minerals and vitamins are removed. These include Phosphorus, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and Potassium. In addition, the refined sugar is treated with a number of chemicals and added ingredients to create the final product.

From an environmental standpoint, the less processing the better; it means less waste, less energy and fewer chemicals.

It’s also worth noting that, contrary to popular belief, brown sugar is not raw sugar. Brown sugar is refined white sugar with the added ingredient of molasses. Environmentally, it’s the least Earth-friendly.

Because of the nutrients, vitamins and smaller environmental impact, raw sugar is a slightly less detrimental choice – but it certainly doesn’t make raw sugar healthy. Regardless of the amount of processing, sugar isn’t a wise choice – and most of us have no need for the added sugar we consume. We get plenty of sugars through the fruits and vegetables we eat, and our bodies can create sugar from carbohydrates.

The bottom line: Rather than focusing on the type of sugar we consume, we should pay attention to the amount of sugar we consume.

When and How to Get Started?

Start here, and start now. 6 months from now, you'll be very glad you did.

It’s the new year and you’ve made a resolution to live healthier. Great! But when and how do you start?

The when is easy. The answer is, of course, now. The present moment is the only moment in which you’ll ever live – try as we might to live in the past or future. All decisions are made in the present moment and all actions are taken in the present moment.

And if you do act right now, in six or twelve months, you’ll be very glad that you did. Just think if you made (and stuck to) this resolution a year ago; you’d already be enjoying a transformed life. But instead of looking back, let’s stick to this present moment and know that the time for change is now.

The how can seem trickier. And indeed, the how will be different from person to person, and it really depends on your goals. As I’ve mentioned a million times, I advise my clients to commit their goals to writing (it makes it official!) and abide by the S.M.A.R.T. philosophy of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely goals.

But while the details of what you need to do to make your S.M.A.R.T. goal a reality can seem overwhelming, remind yourself that all you need to do is take the first step. The realization of a goal is really the sum total of many small steps – and you just need to take the first one. It doesn’t seem so daunting, does it?

So the bottom line is this: Right now, take the first step. Just one step – whatever it might be for you. It might be the hardest step to take, but it’s also the most important.

P.S. There are only 48 hours left to use discount code “youtube” and save 25% off The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program. It’s been my most successful product launch ever – and I’ve been getting tons of great feedback. Snag your copy today before the discount ends!