Friday Share – Why studies don’t necessarily apply to you

This comes to be via Scientific American in an article titled “Psychological studies are not about you“. Author Jamil Zaki presents a wonderful explanation of how the interpretation of scientific studies points to trends within a population…and not necessarily within single individuals.

Continue reading “Friday Share – Why studies don’t necessarily apply to you”

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Book Review

SaltSugarFat“Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” is the first book from Pulitzer-prize winning author and journalist Michael Moss. It’s a fascinating look at the politics, economics and demographic trends that shape our food culture, and the ways that big food companies capitalize on them. Continue reading “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Book Review”

The 7 Minute Workout – A critical analysis

There’s a lot of hype lately on the internet surrounding the new, miraculous 7 Minute Workout.The 7 Minute Workout

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the American College of Sports Medicine published an article in their Health and Fitness Journal titled “High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment“. It details a focused, high-intensity seven minute workout that gives you the same caloric burn as a lower-impact workout three times as long.

That sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Although I am a fan of bodyweight exercises, and even a bigger fan of saving time, I still felt the need to dig through the original article and discuss some of the details that are being glossed over in the mainstream media.

Consider the Source

The two authors of the article are both employees of the Human Performance Institute, a US-based center of performance psychology and physical training. That in itself isn’t a big deal. As well, the authors state that they have no financial attachment to the publication of the article. However, understand that clients of the Human Performance Institute are shelling out $5000 for a two and a half day “Corporate Athlete” course which is described as follows:

The 2 ½-day Corporate Athlete Course is the Human Performance Institute’s premier training offering. Backed by decades of science-based research and results, the course is our ultimate in performance training. Designed to create leading high performance teams and individuals, the Corporate Athlete Course begins by emphasizing the connection between personal purpose and daily behaviors to help ensure alignment. Aligning energy investments with one’s deepest values and beliefs represents a critical component to skillful energy management. Participants in the course are taught how to train like an elite athlete, a Corporate Athlete, to strengthen and align energy across all four dimensions: body, heart, mind, and spirit. This multi-disciplinary approach helps them to become physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and completely aligned with whatever mission is most important to them.

Although the goal of the course isn’t terribly clear, it looks like it’s designed to help people with money cram some physical activity into their already busy life, and to make them feel good about not hitting the gym every day.

I’m not faulting the Institute for their program offerings; they have quite a list of high-profile clients and some incredibly experienced trainers on staff. But keep in mind that this exercise program was not designed with the common person in mind. It’s designed for a very specific niche – people who have already achieved a premium level of fitness and need to maintain that level in their busy professional lives – and are willing to pay big bucks for the privilege.

Contrast With Human Physiology

There’s a school of thought that says it’s not the food we eat, not the air we breathe, but rather the huge lack of physical activity in our lives that is slowly killing us. (Says the guy sitting guiltily at his desk writing this.) I’m a little skeptical of any program that tries to whittle down physical activity to mere minutes a day.

If you read the actual article, you’ll see this little statement at the end of the description of the 7 minute workout:

The circuit can be repeated 2 to 3 times.

That statement right there should be enough to make you realize that this isn’t a pure 7-minute workout. It’s a description of a 7-minute circuit. CIRCUIT. You don’t do a circuit just once. You repeat it.

So take a 7-minute circuit, repeat it three times, and you’re already up to 21 minutes of exercise – the bare daily minimum that’s recommended for all adults. Could most of us do this circuit three times without stopping? I highly doubt it. Most would probably bail after the first circuit because our bodies would be near failure. And by bailing, you wouldn’t get the full benefit of an extended workout that builds not only muscle and strength, but endurance.

Almost anyone, regardless of fitness level, can sustain short bursts of high-intensity exercise. Watch any episode of The Biggest Loser if you don’t believe me. But while you’ll burn a bunch of calories and feel pretty sore the next day, you won’t build any capacity in your body to endure long bouts of physically demanding exercise. Your body can, and will, get used to the gruelling seven minutes. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into increased endurance.

Stop Calling it a Study!!

The 7 Minute Workout is an article, not a study. A study involves some sort of experimental element, with trials, samples, and results. This is simply an article highlighting the program that the Human Performance Institute has designed for their clients. Is it a scientifically sound program? Sure. Does it get results? Probably. It’s better than sitting in your desk chair all day, for sure. But it’s not a study. Please, Internet, stop calling it a study.

However, the frenzied life of the Internet journalist sometimes glosses over the fact that not everything published in a journal is a study. This is quite true of last year’s scare that iced tea caused kidney stones – a claim laid to rest by some simple fact-checking by Jaylor Kubota in this wonderful blog post.

That’s one of the problems I have with a lot of health reporting on the Internet – the actual context and intent of an article published in a journal is often lost by the time the popular media boils it down to the “selling essence” – i.e. the bits that make great headlines. “7-Minute Workout” is such a media-friendly headline it’s no wonder you see this reposted, reblogged, retumbld, and retweeted all over the social media landscape.

Bottom line? Yes, exercise is good for you. Yes, high-intensity circuit training and high-intensity interval training can produce some great results. Yes, bodyweight training is effective and convenient. No, you can’t work miracles with just seven minutes a day.

But if you’re currently doing about zero minutes of exercise a day, you need to start somewhere. But not with the 7 Minute Workout, I’m afraid. Try a seven-minute walk instead and go from there.

Cheers,

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Low-Cost and No-Cost Gear

Wellness Rebels the world over know that there are really no excuses when it comes to sticking to their fitness routines.

That’s why I was so excited to see the picture and the caption below from my good friend Meghan, who is a wonderful embodiment of the phrase “No Excuses”:

Today I added a new exerciser to my routine. It is for those days I don’t want to leave the house… or even wear pants. I put my laptop on the table at the top of the stairs and then proceed to walk UP and then DOWN the stairs for a whole episode of something I really want to watch. At the moment I can only manage a sit-com, roughly 22 mins ’cause there are no commercials but I am hoping to work up to a full episode of The West Wing.

I’m a big fan of using stairs as part of my fitness routine, but this goes WAY beyond anything I’ve done before. It’s ingenious on two levels; one, it makes use of a great piece of “equipment” that most people have in their homes, and two, you’re earning that TV time with every step.

Gravity is one of the cheapest, and most effective, resistance trainers out there. With each step you take up the staircase or up the hill, you’re lifting almost your entire body weight with each step. It’s a great example of making thousands of little actions add up over the course of time.

By my rough calculations, that’s well over a thousand steps – 500 up and 500 down – so you’re burning around 250 calories for that ONE episode of watching TV. Pretty decent tradeoff, I must say.

How do you keep fit inside, when the wintr’y winds blow?

Being Accountable in the Digital Age

If you’ve been following this site for a while, then you know that it started as a little project to keep me accountable for what I was eating. As many things on the internet, though, it soon took on a life of it’s own.

However, sometimes I think back to the simple beginnings of this site and how it kept me (more or less) on track with the goals I had set out for myself. The simple act of sharing something online makes you think very hard about how your activities will be perceived by someone else. Case in point – have you ever stood in front of the fridge with the door open, snacking on things, while someone else was around? (If so, then you have a spouse or roommate of above-average tolerance for things like that).

But, if you’re like most people, you won’t behave in that sort of manner when you know people are watching. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years as a coder, it’s that the possibility that someone might look at your work that makes you super-diligent at making it as perfect as possible.

It’s easy to start your own blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other site. There are tons of tutorials that will walk you through that process, so I won’t bore you with the details here. However, I will share with you a few things that I’ve learned along the way!

Make your goals D.U.M.B.

Although most people will tell you that goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound), I encourage you to do just the opposite – make them D.U.M.B. — (Drab, Unfocused, Malleable, and Broad). Post a vague fluffy, pie-in-the-sky goal on your blog or social feed. “I’m gonna start losing weight. No idea how long it will take me, or how I will do it, but I’m starting.” Or, “I’m going to start running! I think I need to buy new shoes first.”

Does this seem counterintuitive? Yup, I bet it does. But here’s the thing. The more specific your goal, the less likely you are to achieve it. That’s because the winding path (or paths) that lead you to your goal are what will focus your efforts and bring you some level of success. If you set a specific goal, you’ll lose the potential side benefit of discovering other side paths that lead you to a goal of equal or greater value to your wellness lifestyle.

For instance, perhaps in learning to run, you find that you really, really enjoy off-trail running, and completing a freestyle 10K run through the woods — no matter how long it takes you — is more satisfying and motivating than trying to get your 5K time under 30 minutes. You need to leave yourself open to opportunities; shifting goals does not mean that you have failed.

Don’t shoot your food

Your Facebook friends DON’T want to see a picture of your goddamn meal every single time they check their feed. It’s GROSS. Yes, I did it for a while, and so have some of my other friends that have followed the recommendation of Tim Ferriss in his book “[amazon_link id=”030746363X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The 4-Hour Body[/amazon_link]” to photograph every single meal you eat. But, really, seriously, no one wants to see that. Trust me, when you look back at the food you’ve eaten, photographed in less-than-flattering light, you’ll quickly get grossed out by the pictures.

Instead, if you are hell-bent on taking pictures, here’s a few ideas of what can constitute and engaging and interesting picture without resorting to food:

  • A shot of the restaurant menu, showing what you’ve chosen to eat
  • A picture of you trying to master chopsticks in your goal to eat more slowly
  • A picture of you making the food, decked out in oven mitts and a snazzy apron (add a chef’s hat for bonus points)
  • A picture of where you’re enjoying your food, if you’re eating outside and you’re looking at some beautiful scenery

Automation is death to your posts

Fitocracy, Nike+, MapMyRun and other users of services that integrate with your social feeds — I’m looking at you. I have tried a few of these, and nothing is more tedious than “I just earned 750 points on Fitocracy by flexing my muscles in front of a mirror OMGLOL!!1!!!11!!” If you really want to drive engagement, don’t let the applications post for you. Do it yourself, and make the posts personal and engaging.

Take a shot of your GPS watch and post that instead, with a great comment about it being your best run ever. Tweet about and share a pic of the cute dog that followed you on your run. Link to a recipe that helped you lose those first 5 pounds. Do something that shares with the world your personal take on your wellness journey. People want to hear about YOU, not from a service that posts automatically. It’s worse than Farmville. Seriously.

Post the fun stuff. Not the important stuff.

Never, ever, commit to daily updates. Why? It’s the same psychology as not weighing yourself every day. To go through the mental anguish of looking at the scale’s numbers every day is the best way to burn yourself out and get de-motivated. Blogging (or tweeting, or Facebooking) is the same way. Do it too often, about the same subject, and you’ll rapidly run out of things to say.

However, don’t just wait for milestones to post, or you’ll get frustrated. Post about the fun parts of your journey. Post about the heartbreak. These are the things that people are truly interested in. Remember the old saying about “getting there is half the fun”? It’s true. The “getting there” is also infinitely more interesting to read about. It’s also more fun to write about. How many different ways can you write “Hey! I ate on-plan today and lost 1.7 lbs this week?” Jesus. No one wants to read that.

Make your mark

Whether it’s really for your own benefit, or if you manage to corral thousands of viewers, you still need to let your own personality shine through in your journalling. If readers of this blog think I’m arrogant and driven, then I’ve done a great job of letting my personality shine through! 🙂

Have a site or page that details your journey? Share it below!

So What is a Wellness Rebel, Anyway?

I’ve had this site up for a little while now, and I’m starting to receive some great feedback.

The most popular question I’ve been asked?

“So what is a Wellness Rebel, anyway?”

That’s actually a good question, and one that I haven’t really spelled out in great detail.

The concept of a Wellness Rebel is something that I’ve had rattling around in the back of my mind for about a decade now. I’ve tried a lot of exercise programs, I’ve been on a lot of diets (some sane and some not so sane), I’ve done a lot of research on the psychology of motivation, and I’ve always been left with a nagging feeling that I was just not fitting in with the common themes that we see in most approaches to fitness, weight loss, and wellness in general. I could power through a gruelling 20km bike trail through the back woods, but I couldn’t find the strength to not eat a third helping of spaghetti with meat sauce. My BMI has been at a low of 21 (130 lbs) and a high of 30 (180lbs) . I’ve suffered through Weight Watchers, Jillian Michaels workouts, countless gym memberships, and yet I still have the same problems I had 20 years ago.

Clearly, things that worked for other people were just not working for me.

Continue reading “So What is a Wellness Rebel, Anyway?”

The Modern Contrarian’s Guide to Change

One of the founding principles of Body Moment, and one quality that all Wellness Rebels share, is that we are non-conformists. We’re not content with the standard answers that are given to us; we have a driving need to search out our own answers. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t receive some odd comments from time to time with the unconventional path that I follow in my wellness journey.

So it was with some excitement that I read a recent guest post by Jay Cross —  “The Psychology of Putting Effectiveness Before Ego“. Jay Cross is a proponent of forging your own educational path through life (à la the Do It Yourself Degree) and a champion of informal learning. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

 

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Book Review – You Are Your Own Gym

I’m usually a fairly vocal critic when it comes to “fitness programs”. I’ve been searching for years for a program that is simple, effective, and doesn’t require anything beyond basic equipment. Dear readers, I’m happy — no, ecstatic — to report that I have found the program of my dreams. It’s a deceivingly simple program called “You Are Your Own Gym” by Mark Lauren. Before you go thinking that this is a paid review, let me assure you it’s not. I got the book for Christmas, and I’ve been doing the program since early January. And I’m hooked in a big way.

Mark Lauren has served as a trainer for some of the world’s most elite Special Forces soldiers. Early on, he recognized that some of the best results in any fitness program were the result of simple exercises that could be performed “anywhere, anyhow, anytime”. The premise behind the book is best summed up in the words of the author himself, in the introduction to the book: Continue reading “Book Review – You Are Your Own Gym”