Week 4 Spark Insight: Creating Change

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Creating Change

Critical Concept:  The Creative Process
Change can be hard – especially if you do not know how to change.  Most people can tell you exactly what they don’t want or what they don’t like.  They can easily describe their dissatisfaction with their current job, relationship, body, health or situation.  Unfortunately for most people, they cannot so readily describe what they do want – what they would like to experience, become or create.  According to author Robert Fritz (The Path of Least Resistance – Learning to Be The Creative Force in Your Own Life), this is exactly why most change efforts fail.

You cannot create what you want by moving away from what you don’t want.

The human psyche has great difficulty sustaining a “negative goal” or breaking a bad habit.  This is why it is so difficult to quit smoking or to lose weight.  Start a good habit instead.  Try setting a positive goal, and move toward what you want; for example:  to be a non-smoker or to become healthier.

Fritz outlines an equation for creating the life that you want.  Basically, you must learn how to identify exactly what you want (your objective) and compare and contrast that to what you currently have.  The difference or contrast between what you envision as your “desired outcome” and your current “perceived reality” creates a natural tension that will serve to create the Path of Least Resistance toward your goal and fuel your change effort.

We must then identify what specific behaviors have led to our current situation (what we have) and what specific behaviors would lead to what we really want.  It is critical to “own” the reality that our behaviors have natural consequences and that these outcomes are remarkably predictable.

The old saying “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting” has been proven to be true in Behavioral Psychology.  In order to get different outcomes, you must adopt new behaviors.  Now here’s the rub:  new behaviors can be awkward and difficult.  You simply must practice new (better) behaviors until they become easier.  Repetition is the mother of mastery.  Clinical research shows that new habits can be formed through repetition.  Our brain cells actually create novel connections and new habits are formed.

“Successful change leaders are more likely to set behavioral goals,” say authors Chip and Dan Heath (Made to Stick and Switch).  When it comes to personal or organizational change, “to create movement you must be specific and concrete about what it is that you are trying to accomplish.”

Successful change agents have taught us some powerful best practices for adopting new behaviors.  Changing the environment is easier than changing people.  The key concept is to help make “good behavior” easier and “bad behavior” more difficult.  For instance:  keeping your treadmill in your bedroom versus in your basement, or keep the ice cream out of your house by not buying it at all.  Additionally, changing things is permanent; changing people can be an on-going process.  Examine your support group:  who do you spend your time with and what behaviors do they promote?  Where you spend your time and with whom can be two of the most influential forces in your change effort’s success – or failure.  Choose them well.

Ultimately, you have the power to create incredible positive, lasting changes in your health and life with the right skills and know-how.  The Bonfire Program is filled with influence mechanisms and strategies that will equip and support you every step of the way.

Dr. James Chestnut puts it best when teaching this Wellness Principle“Don’t move away from a negative, move towards a positive.”

Decide exactly what you do want to create and get to it.

Week 4 Air Insight: A Constantly Varied Approach

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Functional Fitness – Part II

Critical Concept:  A Constantly Varied Approach
Variety is the spice of life – and of true fitness.  The key to extraordinary fitness is diversity.  In order to achieve optimal health, one must achieve optimal fitness.  In other words, to move toward greater health, you must move toward increased fitness.

Fitness is defined by Crossfit Founder Greg Glassman as having optimal physical competence in all ten physical skills (cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, flexibility, strength, power, speed, coordination, balance, agility and accuracy).  If you desire to become healthier, you must desire to become more fit.  These ten “Pillars of Fitness” should be considered a virtual “wish-list” that outlines your approach to exercise and activity.

Most people today train or exercise with a very narrow approach to fitness.  They do one thing (like running, rowing, yoga, biking, etc.) and do it repeatedly for years.  There are fantastic benefits to be gained from each of these individually, but on their own will not produce a well-rounded, truly fit person.  These activities produce “specialized athletes” with a limited scope of fitness.  It is not hard to expose a marathon runner’s weaknesses:  simply ask them to demonstrate a strength maneuver, challenge their flexibility, or simply jump for height.  Similarly, ask most power lifters to run down the street.  It is easy to expose the limitations created by specialized training.

If your goal is optimal fitness, you must vary your training constantly.  You must expose yourself to a wide variety of challenges and activities.  You should regularly recruit constant low-grade activities (such as walking), periodic high intensity activities (full exertion), pick up heavy things occasionally, and get plenty of rest in between.  Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, has it right:  “Move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things and sprint once in a while.”

So where do you start?  Start where you are.  If you are not exercising at all, anything that you add today will simply move you towards greater health.  Out of everyone, you stand to gain the most.  According to a Harvard study, the greatest gains in health and fitness are achieved in the population that goes from zero exercise to 3 times per week.  So get to it.

For those that consider themselves “super-fit,” audit your fitness levels and methods against the 10 Pillars of Fitness; find your weaknesses or over-sights and have at it.  You will never achieve your fitness potential if you do not expand your definition of fit.

For everyone else in between, do what moves you.  Get creative.  Find new ways to exercise or add activity.  Break through old boundaries, get out of your rut, and get into a groove.  A vital behavior is to train a different way every time – never repeat a workout.  Your body thrives when it has to adapt to a variety of stressors.  Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, tone your body, or increase your energy, you will find that your results will accelerate under a wider variety of challenges.

Train movements, not muscles.  Train for health.  Train for life.

Summary Checklist

  • Add activity every day in every way
  • Calculate Energy Balance
  • Add Functional Training
  • Add variety and activity patterns to your exercise

Week 4 Fuel Insights: Carbohydrates and Insulin

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Carbohydrates and Insulin

Critical Concept:  Hormone Balance
Did you know that every time that you put food in your body there is a hormonal reaction?  Hormones are potent chemical agents that create sweeping changes in your physiology. Insulin not only plays the leading role in how food nourishes the cells of our bodies – it is the star of the show – it’s also one of the most powerful and significant hormones in regards to our health, period.  Insulin is also a primary stress hormone - its physiological influence is broad and varied, but for the sake of this lesson plan, we’ll focus on its most common moniker: The Fat Storage Hormone.

Carbohydrates are reduced to sugar during digestion and metabolism.  In the bloodstream, sugars trigger the release of insulin.  Insulin reduces blood sugar by acting as a carrier or transport mechanism, bringing sugar into the cells to be burned for energy.  Once energy needs are met, excess sugars (or calories) are stored as fat.  The presence of insulin promotes fat storage.

All carbohydrates stimulate insulin response, as do excess calories from any source.  Eating refined carbohydrates (think pasta, breads, cereals, crackers) or overeating causes “over taxation” of this insulin response.  Over-stimulation of the insulin response cascade results in chronically elevated blood insulin levels, which lessens insulin sensitivity, which in turn stimulates more insulin production.  This describes the common downward spiral that leads to what is called Metabolic Derangement.

Ultimately, this derangement leads to obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids and Type 2 Diabetes, and Coronary Artery Disease - all of which combined are referred to as the now common Syndrome X.

A food’s glycemic index is an indicator of its effect on blood sugar levels, but more specifically, the resulting blood insulin levels.  Foods that have a high glycemic index are considered the culprits in our current national eating disorder and resulting obesity and chronic disease dilemma.  The top offenders are all sugars, grains and dairy products.

The research is clear and compelling.  We must return to eating only the foods that were available to our ancestors during the period of time in which our biological needs (and genetic blueprint) were determined.  We must get back to eating an abundance of nutrient dense, fiber-rich carbohydrates: fresh fruits and vegetables as foundational elements of a health-promoting diet style.  Nutritious whole foods must replace the nutrient-poor, low-fiber, high-calorie refined carbohydrates that now dominate our modern disease-promoting diet.

As it turns out, our food pyramid needs to be reworked again.

Healthy people follow a simple, but profound diet style:  a “Paleo gluten-free diet,” consisting of vegetables, nuts, seeds, some starch, a little fruit, and quality protein; notice what’s absent:  grains and dairy – they both cause insulin spikes and gluten-containing grains cause chronic inflammation throughout the body.  This best practice will ensure that you are eating “live” whole foods, high in enzymes and nutritional components like anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, and avoiding foods that cause abnormal insulin spikes.  Using a high quality Whole Food Supplement is an excellent strategy to supplement a nutritious diet style, especially for those whose busy lives make it hard to get the recommended 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Because it has become increasingly difficult to find wholesome, nutritious foods “on the go,” packing your own lunch is a vital behavior.  Always ask:  “Where are the plants?,”Where is the fat?” and “Where is the protein?” when prepping your meals.

Proteins and fats moderate or mitigate the insulin response associated with carbs and sugars, so make sure to include them with every meal.

Always shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, even a whole foods store – this will keep you away from most of the refined carbohydrates and processed foods.  Nudge the scales in your favor.  Buy and prep healthy snacks and pre-empt the “crunchy-salty munchies.”  The battle is won at the checkout counter:  If you don’t buy it – you won’t eat it.

Week 4 Summary Checklist:  At this point you should be….

  • Drinking water as your predominant beverage
  • Eating lots of plant foods, and eating them first
  • Eating adequate amounts of high quality, lean protein
  • Consuming high-fiber, whole food carbohydrates (that’s vegetables!)