Tag Archives: Sleep

The Power of Rest

1 May

Here at FIT, we are always encouraging clients to set goals to work towards.  In the busy world that we all live in, however, these goals are unfortunately often undermined by “life events” and other time constraints that derail us.  It’s amazing though, that sometimes these life events are just what we need to help push us over the edge in our performances and other goals.

Be it fat loss, a faster 10k time, or bigger numbers in the gym, it is important to set realistic and attainable goals.  All of us are familiar with the S.M.A.R.T method goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  We systematically help our clients work towards these goals with what we do in the gym, as well as guidance for the other 120+ hours per week outside of the gym (and sometimes even with homework).  Recently though, we had a client who took a three week vacation and still managed an incredible feat when she returned to her workouts: a 15% increase in her deadlift!


This client had just gotten back from a 3 week vacation overseas, with nothing more than the occasional run as her mode of exercise; along with lots of eating, drinking, and touring through western Europe.  What wasn’t astonishing was her admission that she her body weight hadn’t changed at all while gone – this is actually pretty common – but rather her performance that day.  She warned me that, “this is my first workout back, so be gentle on me.”  If any of you know me, you’ll know that I’m always looking for the best possible performance out of our clients (the best of what they’ve got that day).  We started slowly with the deadlift, but gradually she started to put more weight on the bar, and get closer to her prior 1 repetition max (1RM).  When all was said and done, she had surpassed her old 1RM of 100kg (210lb) and topped out at 120kg (242lb)!!  That’s an incredible improvement any day, but after being gone for three weeks?  That’s amazing.


This performance really got me thinking, and my response was, “That’s the power of rest.”  While that got a good chuckle out of the rest of the Crossfit class, it was very true.  While exercise enthusiasts often use exercise to “destress” from the daily bombardment of emails, errands, kids, etc., we coaches are keenly aware that exercise is itself a stressor.  Now, it can definitely be a beneficial form of stress, but as far as the body is concerned, stress is stress.  What this normally hardworking client didn’t totally recognize, was that by taking those 3 weeks off to relax, recharge, and divert her attention to other endeavors, she was lowering her total stress load.  What that meant was that upon returning to the gym, she was totally re-invigorated to workout, and her body was ready (and able) to take on the stimulus of a hard workout and make extraordinary progress.  In physiological terms, this is what is called super-compensation: resting after a period of intense training results in improvements beyond the previous trajectory from the training stimulus.  Translation: allowing one’s body to rest after continued bouts of hard training may result in even better results than expected.

This client definitely benefited from super-compensation, but there are other “feel good” reasons for her improvements: she was more enthusiastic to hit the ground running upon returning to the gym, and her body wasn’t stiff, sore, or tired from recent workouts.  It’s a common thread that I try to repeat to clients: you can’t just keep beating the body up and hoping for improvements.  Rest, recovery, relaxation; these are all important aspects to making gains (whether increases in weight lifted or decreases in pant size).  Our stress levels have a chance to return to normal, all our bodies’ aches and pains subside, and our enthusiasm to challenge ourselves increases.


So…next time you are sitting down with your coach to discuss your goals or upcoming plans, keep the power of rest in mind.  Good luck with your next challenge!

FIT Buddies Take 5

29 May


Coach Jen’s class shows us how to Take 5–simple strategies to stay healthy and happy. Watch the video. It will definitely be worth your time.

Just in case you forgot, here’s the 5!

Take 1 Eat Well

Take 2 Move Around

Take 3 Drink Water

Take 4 Sleep

Take 5 Have Fun

We love what Coach Jen is doing with the FIT Buddies program. What’s more, the life habits she is helping to form in her kids are applicable to all of us.

So Take 5, and be ready to follow the lead of our FIT Buddies!

The Art and Science of Training for Health

12 Dec

The Art and Science of Training for Health
(or: The Art and Science of Living a Healthy Life: how to eat, sleep, train and relax for health and longevity)
by Mike Nichols, M.D.

Training for speed, strength or size has been written about, often very well, for a over a hundred years.
No sound overview of training and eating specifically aimed at improving health exists.
There is a vast difference between training for ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ and training for health.
Most of the advice given for patients who want to be healthier is generic to the point of useless and in some cases is vague enough to be actually harmful.
Some very general principles need to be introduced and from these very specific recommendations will be given that make sense not only of the science of exercise and diet but the art of exercise as well.
When I say ‘the art of exercise’ I mean the actual esthetics. The body is so complex that it is literally beyond analytical description; this is a demonstrable mathematical fact. In such a case ideas of grace and beauty become the most direct way to describe in a synthetic understandable way important physical training concepts. There is an underlying demonstrable science that explains why physical activity well done ‘just looks right’ or is ‘so beautiful.’ Once I have laid out the connection in some physical detail between the analytical science and the actions that appear to be beautiful you will see that my appeals to beauty, grace, and elegance are very powerful shorthand for a great many important scientific facts that affect health and thus define the type and intensity of training.  As far as diet and exercise go, briefly put: grace is tightly linked to effect.
Which brings up a note about science. Anyone who has read books which treat science issues has noted how selectively studies are quoted or used to further the author’s agenda. Even when honestly trying to present data in an objective way the selective vision of bias, often called attention blindness, gets in the way.
In this case the application of every principle I will here describe has been associated with measurable improvement in markers as diverse as bone mineral density, testosterone, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation.
In other words I will not be citing and quoting specific studies from different disciplines and telling you that put together in this unique way the science supports better health outcomes. No, in the case of this book, the principles are the generalized interpretation of a vast array of studies put together to form a coherent training, eating and living pattern with known, that is measured and verified,  health benefits. Measured in over two hundred patients the bone mineral density, the testosterone, the exercise capacity, the inflammation, on and on, got better and meaningfully so. There is no other coherent pattern of life behavior that has been studied, put into practice and proven to improve every measure of health. Come let us reason together.
Chapter One
The Beginning
Eleven days before the World Trade Center towers were destroyed I left my medical practice of many years. In the turmoil of that time I sat in an office loaned to me by a friend and began the process of realizing my dream of many years: I would build a medical practice devoted solely to the treatment of disease by lifestyle intervention. Come what may, diabetes, coronary artery disease, cancer, osteoporosis, we would treat problems through calibrated , precise changes in patient’s diet, exercise, and relaxation behavior.
I was not a doctrinaire vegetarian, running guru, Hindu philosopher or charismatic supplement salesman. I believed then, I believe more strongly now, in the biological diversity of people enough to know that the path to health was unique for everyone. The only way to both respect that and to honor that in practice was to measure, to calibrate, to discover and define what was unique about each patient and to then, in a coherent, linear fashion, change behavior step-by-measured-step and to measure the result and to make course corrections as the data, the blood work, the bone density, the coronary calcium dictated.
Oddly enough this methodology goes by the strange name of ‘science.’ Bizarrely enough I proposed to see each patient as a precious experimental subject and that only they could be an adequate control for the experiment of their return to health. Who ever heard of using science to practice medicine?
Now I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself; those last sentences actually mean something and that something needs to be well understood.
The medical and scientific literature is full, is rich, is awash in the importance of various measurable blood and other physical markers and their association with disease, longevity, with vigor, with suffering, with, after all, the human condition. Yet, these markers are not part of the practice of medicine. Their use is limited to large-scale epidemiologic assessments. A simple example: there is no question that knowing your coronary calcium score- we will get to this later- tells you much more about your annual risk for a heart attack than knowing your total cholesterol. However the test is more expensive than cholesterol testing so, in the jargon of medical research, the cost per life saved is prohibitive so measuring it is not routinely recommended. Still…if the life saved were your own or your son or daughter…it would be a bargain. The recommendation against measuring coronary calcium is not cynical as it is based on the knowledge that even if most people knew they were at increased risk of heart attack because of their score that knowledge itself does not fix the problem. And that is fair. Insurance or government should not pay for everyone to be tested for all known risks because the cumulative cost would be overwhelming and a poor use of resources because…’insurance companies are evil’…’we do not have universal health care due to the social injustices spawned by capitalism’…’doctors don’t really care about their patients.’ No, none of the above; because most people won’t get better even if they know with certainty that they should. All of us have grown distrustful of all of the purported changes we should make: eat low fat, eat high fat, run, no lift weights, lose weight but fat people live longer, meditate, pray, whatever. Wave after wave of fashion, of diets, of advice changed the next day or week or decade. Skepticism combined with inertia, denial, and the rigors of life leave most people unresponsive to more precise information about their health because they won’t do anything about it anyway.
Yet some of you will or would if you knew precisely what to do and how to do it. There is a way to know these things. Your body would love to tell you; you only have to know it’s language. It speaks in mg/dl, in VO2 max, in foot speed. It speaks in a precise knowable language about exactly how to improve your life, health and well-being. It does not respond well to vagaries like “eat right and exercise” because we are all unique and require a very personal recipe or roadmap for each element of the behavior that will restore us, will heal us, will prolong and enrich our lives.
You will find in the conventional practice of medicine that no problem is realized, or admitted, unless and until there is a simple remedy. In that last sentence read ‘pill’ for ‘simple.’ I do not believe the conspiracy theorists that traditional medical practice is in thrall to, the conspiracy theorists term, “Big Pharma.” Rather I believe the conspiracy is actually a collusion of interests and reality; Doctors want to fix problems and drug companies wants to sell and profit from solutions. Sure there are bad men doing dastardly things and colluding to sell by the proverbial ‘hook or crook’ all of the drugs they can manufacture. But this does not drive the desire of patients, physicians and institutional medicine to have a simple, elegant disease/drug/cure model of behavior.
The perfect example: get pneumonia and take an antibiotic and get well; get well rather than die as did our Grandparents generation. Wow! How cool is that? The problem is not all problems are as simple as ‘death or a pill.’ While things are not that simple our thinking is; our thinking is hypnotized by the prospect of such a simple equation for everything, for every proposition, that looks like “death or a …fill in the blank.” “Pill” looks more interesting than change your diet, your work habits, your type and intensity of exercise, your tendency to rest, prayer, meditation and drinking binges.
The fly in the ointment, the error in logic, is that most forms of death and disease are not as simple as a single agent cause, like a bacteria, and an inadequate treatment like an antibiotic. To be entirely fair even in the case of pneumonia it is not as simple as that or there would not be such a  high percentage of those who recover from even the severe pneumococcal pneumonias (some of the killer kinds). Still the point remains that this paradigm of disease/drug/cure is a very compelling sell; to both the doctor, the patient, insurance companies and the government.
If you are one of those who already see the fallacy of ‘cut, burn and poison’- the pet name for mainline medicine of chiropractors and other alternative medicine advocates- then you are ready for the information I will present in this book. But full disclosure: I am the occasional advocate of that very model of ‘cut/burn/poison.’ Sometimes that is as good as it gets; but not always and not often if you look at the broad overview of most people, most of the time, with most health problems. Those people and their problems need a much better treatment; they need a better life!
Chapter Two
I previously mentioned that there was a large collection of measurable variables that when improved lead to a longer healthier life. Most people have not heard of these variables or have read about them only in glossy adds designed to encourage the purchase of supplements, vitamins, miracle foods, or weird electromagnetic devices. More magical thinking, more ‘death or a pill’ thinking tricked out in self referential gloating about not being hornswoggled by ‘Big Pharma.”
Basic medical science is genuinely interested in discovering the causes and cure of disease, suffering, aging and even death. Thousands of people, pure of intent, of keen intellect and purpose work long hours in labs, in offices, late in institutions to unlock the processes of disease and the mechanisms of possible cure. If you don’t believe this what I will say won’t make much sense; won’t motivate you to take seriously the work of these scientists, these benefactors of mankind.
Why do I take you back to whether or not you have a basic belief in scientists and the scientific method? Because as a practicing physician for many, many years I’ve grown accustomed to the fog of beliefs, doubts, skepticism and confusion most people work with in their perception of medical science and physician’s recommendations. I well understand the problem but need your essential conviction that real science well done can and does discover things that matter. This is not as silly as it first seems. If you believe, most doctors do for example, that your cholesterol number, whatever that might be is one of the most important things in the world and that behaving in such a way as to drive this number down is all that matters, trumps everything, is the be all and end all of heart disease, risk for stroke and the like then I cannot be of help. For reasons big and small, all of the basic medical literature has always been clear about this, cholesterol is just one number among many and those then are nested together to evaluate your relative risk of vascular disease. If this notion of multivariate relatedness is too much to swallow then what I will say will sound like little more than questioning conventional wisdom- the Holy Grail is Lower Cholesterol- when what I will be trying to do is put this one number in the context of many others that matter as much or more but for which there is no pill to fix or change them and that for this reason you will not have heard as much about these other numbers. The wonderful thing is you have an enormous amount of control over these other important variables; actually much more control than over your total cholesterol number.
With this background in mind I need to make a few other conceptual points before I get to the actual things you can fix and why.
Let me introduce you to three ideas:
First is the idea to be skeptical about what matters. For example: something might change a number related to disease but not affect or, in some cases, might adversely affect a more important endpoint like death; lowers blood pressure but happens to increase your chance of death or lowers your blood glucose/sugar but not the diseases or death associated with diabetes. Over the years many drugs have been withdrawn after discovering just such problems. An everyday example: most of the common anti-inflammatory and pain medicines like Advil have been around for decades and work very well for the endpoint of pain; the endpoint of death happens to be increased in those who take these medications for they are associated with an as much as 40% increased chance of heart attack in regular users. Be careful how you choose your desired endpoint. Another example: high homocysteine is associated with stroke, heart disease and premature mental decline, take an array of vitamin B’s and your homocysteine goes down but not the homocysteine related risk for stroke, heart disease and premature mental decline. Oh and there is a known risk of colorectal cancer and prostate cancer if you take the B vitamins.
Second is to note or watch for abuse or misuse of statistics: you will often hear that use of Lipitor and related drugs ‘reduces heart disease by 30%.’ What this actually means is that 1,000 people need to take the drug to prevent heart related problems in about 3 people. If 1,000 people do not take the drug and 11-12 of them have heart related problems and 1,000 people take the drug and only 8 or 9 people have heart related trouble then that ‘reduces heart disease by 30%. The perception and the facts don’t add up. A reasonable person thinks that “30% reduction” means if 10 people take the drug then it will save 3 people’s lives. What it actually means is that 1,000 people risk the side effects and as of yet unknown long term effects of a drug so that 3 people might not have a problem. Fine, let’s help those 3; eating peanuts three times per week has been shown to have about the same statistical impact as Lipitor yet no one, rightly, has claimed that ‘eating peanuts three times per week reduces heart disease by 30%.’
Third is ‘number needed to treat’: how many people have to take a drug or change a behavior to have a measurable benefit for one person. For example: on the order of one person has to take an antibiotic to be of benefit to one person; this is stretching the case but is true to the nearest rounded integer. For primary prevention, that is to help a population of otherwise seemingly healthy people, at least 200, that is two hundred, 200 or more people have to take Lipitor to be of benefit to one, I said 1, person. The others just get the cost and side effects like memory loss. As you will have noted NNT and misuse of statistics are related and reveal each other. By comparison 7 people need to raise their exercise capacity by 1 MET, I will get to this, a very reasonable thing to do, to help 1 person avoid the same end point, heart attack and so on, as the 200-300 who take Lipitor to help 1 person.
Now with these ideas in mind you can both police my claims and be a better consumer of pharmaceutical and other medical advice. Let me summarize those three points.
NNT: number needed to treat
Abuse/misuse of statistics
Meaningful ‘clinical endpoints’: ‘am I dead or not’ and not ‘some number went down’ that may or may not matter when treated.

Chapter Three
The Body Always Makes Sense
Traditionally it is thought that there are two kinds of reasoning: deductive and inductive; from facts up to principles or from principles down to facts. This is a flawed dichotomy but will be a starting point to highlight that we will be ‘mixing’ these kinds of thought patterns to tell a coherent story about the human body.
The fundamentals of human anatomy, human physiology, of the structure and function of the human nervous system have been stable, broadly genetically stable for over 10,000 years. We were designed, do not get lost in any silly dialectic about evolution vs. designed as I am using the term the way BOTH an evolutionary biologist AND creationist would use it to characterize form and function, we were designed to run, jump, throw, fight, kill, sleep for long winter nights, to rest and contemplate our fate in the quiet of dark caves of refuge, to procreate and nourish, to love, be loved, to hope, plan, wonder and long; long for Spring, the full moon, the return of our children, our parents, the wonderful berries that grow in Fall, to remember the thrill of beauty beheld. To experience gratitude, passion, pleasure, victory and strength.
Sitting in an office by the hum of florescent lights, after a meal of synthetic ‘mystery meat’ and nutrient empty ‘pasta salad’ we forget these things. We forget what a wonderful ‘machine’ we were given at birth. We forget that we are basically hard and strong and violent and mystical and euphoric beings by breeding, by genetics, by design, by at the end of the day true then as now, we are these things by dint of will.
The reason I want you to remember, remember in your limbs, in your genetic memory, that we are animals and King of Animals is that this memory is the source to power the Will to return to health. Diabetes, obesity, hypertension, coronary artery disease are all degenerative diseases of the modern world. They are the ‘degenerate’ results of a degenerate lifestyle. I am not making a moral argument, though I think one could be made, rather I am conjuring the idea of degeneracy to cast a light on the path back to health. Degenerate is the unwinding from a ‘generate’ place; wind it back, walk it back, return it to its source: get healthy again.
And here is where the body makes wonderful fantastic grateful sense: almost every single chemical reaction, every hormonal effect, is reversible. Not as some Indian Metaphysician would entrance you with tales of the transcendent, immaterial nature of pure or divine thought but actually, really the way a modern Western scientist understands the thermodynamics of chemical reactions, and covalent and chemical bonding. The body and its healing begins to make sense because it is all- almost all- really, really reversible. Got osteoporosis? Don’t take a drug that might give you esophageal cancer (Fosamax), fix it, fix it, make your bones stronger the way the body was designed to make bone when you were a baby; the mechanism is still there and, amazingly, still ready to do its job. If, I said if, if you Will it to do so.
The fine grain of how the body makes sense is almost beyond imaging. To see the logic, the kind of sense the body makes, take almost any function, look at the details, and you will see an exquisite, self-regulating, well balanced, self-renewing system that can make or unmake, remake or destroy any function; but always with an analyzable intelligible end in view: purpose if you will. The body can make, or stop making testosterone, bone, new muscles, new ligaments, new brain cells; you name it. Medical science once ‘believed’, notice the scare quotes, once believed that you didn’t get new heart muscle, or brain cells; turns out you can and do. ‘Believe’ is the operative word. Once you look deeper into the mechanisms of cell renewal it begins to make sense and with enough attention engenders more ‘belief’ in the body’s universal ability to regenerate itself than its inability to do so. The former apparent truth that the body goes only downhill and not uphill, that the body only wears out and doesn’t renew itself, is based in statistical observations across populations; people tend to get biologically older and ‘fall apart.’ Yes but take the individual, push/pull/train/feed him well and correctly and you begin to see the body renew itself and you see also that aging was just the body ‘making sense’ of the sedentary, poorly fed, artificially lit, sleep deprived life of the body before demanding that it renew itself. You see the body hates waste, it hates excess manufacturing capacity: you don’t need that testosterone or dense bones, or much of your balance and coordination to sit at a desk and go for a jog once in awhile so the body takes away the unneeded excess energy, strength, libido, passion, memory; for that matter it takes away your smile. After all a sense of humor is not necessary to dominate in business, in writing technical books, or to design an airplane late into the night.
Training Principles
First Principle: The Body Always Makes Sense
Second Principle: The Body Wants To Heal
Third Principle: Mitochondria, Mitochondria, Mitochondria
Fourth Principle: The Structure of Health Comes From Rhythms, Cycles, and Seasons
Fifth Principle: Eat and Sleep to Train and Train to Eat and Sleep
Sixth Principle: Relaxation is More Important Than Exercise
Seventh Principle: Systemic Ballistic Exercise
Eighth Principle: Emphasize Concentric and Deemphasize Eccentric Exercise
Ninth Principle: Big Stuff Early, Small Stuff Later
Diet Principles
First Principle: The co-evolution of the Human body and available foods have created an unbreakable interdependence
Second Principle: Eat Whole, Real Micro-Nutrient Dense Food
Third Principle; seems odd but: Avoid Conspiracy and Apocalyptic Accounts for Poor Foods
Fourth Principle: Eat for What You Are Going to Do, Not For What You Did
Fifth Principle: Do Not Graze
Sixth Principle: Let Your Blood Tests Calibrate You Discipline
Seventh Principle: Different Foods For Different Bodies
Relaxation Principles

Give Back By Giving To Yourself

6 Dec

I recently read a story where a rabbi was quoted as suggesting that by giving an EXTRA ONE percent of daily effort, one could self-improve 365% by years’ end!  Everyone defines success differently, but fulfillment is almost always a primary component.  With the goal of giving one extra percent of effort a day towards our own personal success, we can ensure that we are keeping our eye on the ball and maintaining our commitment to leading a fulfilling life, not just a life that’s full.

The same rabbi also said, “People who are fortunate enough to have a partner who loves them, kids who idolize them, and friends who support them, MUST take this one percent for themselves.”  In essence, there are two forms of giving: giving of thyself and giving to oneself.

Ever notice that you are generally in a better mood on the days you workout?  That you sleep better?  That you are more fun to be around?  When you give to yourself, you nurture yourself, which in turns rejuvenates your soul and enables you to have more to give.  In the end, rather than feeling completely tapped and depleted, you will feel good about yourself AND good about all you were able to do for others.  You give, you get.

Think of it this way; if you only succeed in giving the extra 1% a day, for a third of the year, you will still be approximately 100% better off.  Think of the benefit of that 100% if it’s split between all the things that matter to you. All of a sudden, you are a better spouse, mother, friend etc… You will then be setting an example for those around you to follow the same principles and in effect, giving them the same gift that you allowed yourself to receive.

Having never really considered the origins of these holidays, it was recently brought to my attention that most are related to the celebration of light during the dark days of winter, so on that note, on behalf of all of us at FIT, we are thankful to the light that you bring to our days and wish you and your family a happy, healthy new year.

Mindfulness During the Holidays

6 Nov

The season for gluttony has begun and as your resident fitness experts, we want to encourage you to enjoy it.  Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the earth’s bounty and be grateful that we live in a world of plenty, not to feel guilty about a piece of pumpkin pie.  The December holidays, along with Thanksgiving, are a time when after all the pre-holiday hustle and bustle, people typically sit down to share a meal together, which we know benefits overall health and well being (allthingsfit 8/10/10).  It’s also a time when routine is disrupted, and stress escalates. Social engagements surrounding food and libations are plentiful and taking care of one’s self is more easily overlooked.

In the interest of simplifying at least part of the holiday season, and hopefully maximizing your experience of this festive time of year, here is list of tips and reminders that might come in handy.

•   Get good sleep – never underestimate the impact of good rest on mood and efficiency.  Although 11 p.m. might seem like the only time you can prepare this or wrap that, getting good sleep will improve your stamina. You might find tasks take less time to accomplish and you enjoy doing them more.  Additionally, you will have more energy to keep up with the next day and the day after that.

•    Stay hydrated – regular consumption of water is not only good for overall health, it also increases your sensation of fullness making you less inclined to reach for whatever goodies might cross your path.  Carry a water bottle with you when you are out and about.

•   Enjoy the goodies – rather than thinking of I can’t have this, and I shouldn’t have that, go ahead and have a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Not every day and not at every opportunity, but rather taste mindfully.  Savor the taste, hold it on your tongue, imagine tasting whatever it is for the first time and think about how you would describe it.  Much like a new article of clothing or a gadget you look forward to owning, holiday treats are worth indulging in, but should be special and not taken for granted.

•    Look out for your own best interests – keep quick, healthy snacks on hand and around the house.  It’s impossible to experience the months of November and December without feeling more rushed than normal, so plan for it.  Keep a bag of nuts and some beef jerky in the car.  Keep the house stocked with fruit and cut veggies so you can grab something on the fly.  Package leftovers in individual containers so you have ‘one pot’ meals readily available.  If you are bringing a dish to a gathering, make it something you will feel good about eating as you can safely bet someone else will bring treats.  If you are heading to an open house or cocktail party, be sure to have something to eat before heading out.

•    Remove the food or remove yourself from it – the longer food is available the more likely you are to eat it.  While most people enjoy sitting around the table and enjoying company, most do not enjoy the discomfort of overeating.  Clear the food off the table or move the gathering to another room.

•    Ensure that the good food is REALLY good – seek out heritage, organic and/or sustainably raised turkey.  Not only are these birds more flavorful, they are better for you.  You can find a local supplier by visiting (http://www.eatwellguide.org/search/advanced/).  In my experience, you can typically order locally from Whole Foods and Mollie Stone.  Whenever possible, stick to local, seasonal produce.  If you belong to a CSA, you can typically request extra items but beware that even the farmers may take a little time off so you may have to place your order early.  Mountain View and California Ave farmer’s markets are year round but go early the week of a holiday as they get crowded fast.

•    Lighten it up – not by using low calorie substitutes, but by utilizing nutrient dense alternatives.  As a substitute for traditional mashed potatoes, try cauliflower mash.  Or breadless stuffing made with vegetables, squash and/or beans.  Serve crudités with appetizers and fresh fruit with dessert.

•   Take time out – as easy as it is to get swept up in the excitement, the key to maximizing enjoyment of the holidays is to take a few moments for you to reflect and relax.  Go for a walk, sit by yourself in a quiet room, take a few deep breaths . . . whatever you do, don’t let the holidays pass by in a flurry of events and activities – enjoy the connections you have with others (which is believed to be central to longevity), savor the delights of the season and take time to truly be grateful for the gifts in your life. This may be the best gift you can give to yourself. The expression of gratitude is believed to be vital to the quest for happiness.

Better Sleep and Increased Productivity

1 Oct

Eight hours of sleep.  That is the mantra that has been ingrained into all of our heads since we were little kids.  Remember those days?  No small child ever wants to go to sleep when mom or dad tells them to – there are just too many exciting things that might be missed.  Well, that feeling seems to have hung around long into adulthood; there is always something else that could be done before bed.  Not only does this postpone the time that you fall asleep, but can actually impair your quality of sleep.  I’m not hear to preach about getting enough sleep – everyone knows they should get 7-9 hours of sleep – what I hope to do is convey some methods to help you get BETTER sleep, and increase productivity through the day.

One of the potential time stealer in a person’s morning is meal planning and preparing for the day’s events.  While this might seem pretty straight-forward, getting everything ready the night before – when you probably have a little bit more energy and are more alert – will decrease the time it takes to get ready in the morning (not to mention decreasing the likelihood of forgetting to pack something).  This includes your food for the day.  What makes a better lunch than that delicious dinner you had?  It takes no more time when preparing dinner to throw a couple extra pieces of chicken onto the grill, or roast another broccoli floret so that you can have lunch the next day already prepared.  Casseroles and stews also make great pack lunches, as they are easy to make, take little preparation as leftovers, and can actually taste better after a day of resting.

Another way to increase productivity is the almighty to-do list.  I’m not talking about the grocery list length itinerary of tasks to complete each day, but a simple, concise list of 2-4 “big ticket” items for the day.  By focusing on these larger tasks, more will get done in the long run, as well as completing the tasks with the most significance.  Make these count!  Leo Babauta (author of the books “The Power of Less” and “Zen to Done”) recommends just One Thing.  By focusing on completing fewer large tasks, friction and inertia don’t get in the way of your efficiency.  All the smaller routine tasks will fall in line, but only AFTER the big goals for the day are completed.

Finally, the best way to improve productivity and energy is to limit time-suck activities (TV, web-surfing), especially late at night when they not only cause you to go to sleep later, but also affect the quality of your sleep.  Mark Sisson (marksdailyapple.com) recommends eliminating anything that emits blue light after dark (TVs, laptop computers, etc.)  If this can’t be done, there are applications such as f.lux (http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/) that can be installed for free to cut blue light emissions.  Other things that may affect sleep are late night exercise, eating, or caffeine.  Exercise and eating can suppress melatonin, altering sleep cycles, and the late night effects of caffeine are pretty straightforward – nobody wants the alert jitters right before bed.

So, if quality sleep, energy, and productivity are hot topics in your household, try these five tips:

•    Decrease the morning madness by preparing lunches for the next day at dinnertime.
•    Maximize your time and energy during the day by focusing on only 2 to 4 big tasks a day.
•    Exercise regularly and earlier in the day.
•    Minimize caffeine intake and late night snacking.
•    Participate in pre-bed relaxation activities that do not involve watching television or computers.

Waist-to-Height Ratio May Replace BMI

2 Jun

This appears to be a step in the right direction. We need the research to start to use this more often and have some support develop as evidence.