Please welcome a very special guest blogger today. He is my go to guy when I am confused on fats or vitamins or how something works in the body. He keeps me honest and real. I had hoped he would start sharing his voice with all of us here for some time... So happy to share some of Patrick's words with you today, and from time to time. You'll see why he inspires me.
Life is about choices. We make thousands of them every day, most without even noticing. We are the physical, psychological and spiritual embodiment of all the choices we have made in our lives. Here are five choices you can make today that will improve your health immediately. They are good choices.
Drink more water
It seems like a no brainer, I know, but most of us do not drink enough water. Water is essential to life and we need more of it. I personally like to get things out of the way in the early stages of things, this will be a running theme. We are at our driest, most dehydrated point when we wake up in the morning. The spongelike disks that run up our spine are lacking so much moisture when we awaken that we are a quarter of an inch shorter than we were when we went to bed. This is a great time to take in some water. What I do is roll out of bed and while my coffee is brewing have a glass of water, 16 to 20 ounces of cold, cold water does the trick. Why as cold as possible? The colder the water is the more heat your body needs to produce to warm it to body temperature, more heat equals a higher metabolism. I take three swallows at a time and the glass is finished within a few minutes. How easy is that!
Now that’s not the only water you will need all day, but you will be much further along. The average person should take in the equivalent in ounces of 50% of their body weight of water per day. So a 150 pound person should be getting a minimum of 75 ounces of water per day. Start drinking water early, you’ll feel better for it.
Eat a Protein-Rich Breakfast
Of course this assumes you are eating breakfast. If you don’t, please eat breakfast. I’m not going to exaggerate the value of breakfast other than to say that people who do not eat breakfast tend to more than make up the calories missed by the end of the day, usually right before bed. Americans were healthier before we made an enemy of eggs and bacon for breakfast. Their replacements, cereal, bagels and waffles topped with strawberries and whipped cream have done little to improve cholesterol levels and lessen belly fat. In fact, heart disease and obesity rates have only gotten worse. Here’s why: cortisol. Cortisol is considered a stress hormone and is naturally highest the body in the first few hours upon waking. When the body is stressed it wants to store fat. When you combine cortisol with the massive insulin surge caused by a jelly donut breakfast you have the perfect environment for fat storage and inflammation.
In the morning you want to get your metabolism reved up but avoid the metabolic nightmare of combining cortisol and insulin. You do this by having a protein focused breakfast with as many vegetables as you want. A couple eggs on a bed of kale with a side of turkey bacon is a great choice for breakfast. If you don’t want eggs and bacon try black beans with raw cheddar grated on top with a side of broccoli. If drinking your breakfast is preferred try a handful of cashews, a half cup of plain yogurt, a couple leaves of kale or handful of parsley and 12 ounces of water, blend for 30 seconds, pour and drink. The good choices are endless. Make good choices.
Chose the Furthest Parking Spot
It makes me laugh to think of it, I used to belong to a gym and one of the trainers there would always park in the handicapped spot. It was wrong on a number of levels (ethically, karmically, legally) but here’s this guy, the picture of health, supposedly teaching his clients how to be healthy yet he wouldn’t walk the extra 20 steps to the gym door. I think we all get a little too caught up in considering the “best” parking spot the one that is closest to the door. For a lot of people the only exercise that they get is that short jaunt from their cars to the entrance of their favorite retailer. Why not extend that a bit? Are you in that much of a hurry? Really? Little things like this can add up, check this out: let’s say that you go to the grocery store a couple times per week and you start parking 25 steps further you you normally would. Doing so gives you 50 more steps per visit and 5200 extra steps per year and that’s just the grocery store! Think of all the places you go, all the extra steps you can take.
Not all aspects of our lives need to be the quickest. Much can be gained by making the normal things you do everyday more challenging.
Eat Vegetables First
I grew up in a family that served salad last at dinnertime which almost always meant I was too full for salad...or so I said. So with my Honey-nut Cheerio breakfast, my PB&J with Fritos, an apple and Little Debbies Swiss Roll for lunch and a meat/starch combo for dinner it is no wonder why we became so reliant on taking vitamins. I went from that to a macronutrient based diet when I started lifting weights again involving almost no vegetables. It wasn’t until Hannah and I moved out on our own that vegetables became a part of my life. You know what, I really didn’t like them, unless ranch dressing was involved. I could eat fruit all day long but vegetables were a struggle. What I did to change that was to start my day and start my meals with vegetables. Getting them in while I was hungry increased the amount of vegetables I ate. It also got them out of the way, so I could focus on the good stuff.
As time has passed I have grown to enjoy vegetables but I still eat them first. Some things don’t change. Here’s some of my favorite ways to eat vegetables: kale, parsley or chard in smoothies, salad or vege platter before dinner, any kind of roasted vegetable and blended soups. Vegetables of any kind are a good choice.
Hannah talks a lot about “breathing space” and for good reason, breath is the essence of life. Our lives have become so hectic that we barely breathe anymore; our diaphragms are withered and atrophied and our milk bottle lungs are used to take in shots of air. These tiny breaths we take cut the amount of oxygen in our blood stream which in turn causes the heart rate to increase to pump more of this less oxygenated blood through our systems. In some cases the blood vessels themselves constrict to assist in speeding the blood through the body. There is a lot wrong with that picture but the solution is quite simple, just breathe.
As many times a day as you can, use the full capacity of your lungs. Use your diaphragm and slowly pull in air until your lungs cannot expand any further, hold for a beat and release the air as slowly as you can until every bit of air is squeezed out, hold for another beat and repeat four more times. Find spots during your day to add this in: before you get out of bed, when you are getting in the car before picking the kids up from school, when you are going to the bathroom. Just make sure you are sitting the first few times to gauge how your body will respond. How will your body react? Immediately you’ll notice a lowered heart rate as you get oxygen to parts of your lungs that haven’t had it in a while. You might get lightheaded from the increased oxygenation of your blood and a drop in blood pressure caused by the dilation of your blood vessels. Mostly, you’ll feel better, more relaxed and calm. We can all use more relaxation in our day, it’s your choice to add it.
Why five easy pieces? Sometimes we need to start with the low hanging fruit. We need to recognize that health isn’t about following a particular diet or exercise plan, it’s about the choices we make all day, everyday. If we clean up the things we are already doing, we create a foundation that is better able to support the more life changing choices down the road.
Patrick Marcotti discovered his love for lifting weights in High School. He has worked as a personal trainer and studied food and how it affects our bodies, using himself as a guinea pig for most of it. He is now a Power Lifter who seeks to bring a Holistic approach to the sport and inspire others to find the exercise that makes them feel alive and powerful.