Change can be hard and as I look back on my life it's hard for me to believe that I have become the person I am today. I am so very different than the fat, heavy smoking, alcoholic, caffeine-addicted, junk food eater. I have dramatically changed both mentally and physically. As I look back at who I was I recognize I was extremely insecure, self-sabotaging, and focused on external salvation.
I am a changed person. I look at life as a quest for my own personal growth and the only measure I have is against my former self. I am always working on my physical health as a reflection of my internal state. I just want to see what I can do with this life. I used to think this meant doing something significant by society's standards. I now believe that this is a day to day internal quest. There is no useful external recognition in it.
Here are some tools I use to measure and promote change and growth:
Tracking progress- I now realize that real change happens incrementally, one step at a time. When I was first getting into health I thought that one magic thing would make me superhuman. Instead the best changes have been small but consistent and I no longer struggle with so many of the issues I once had. The point of this is to say if you are trying to change something in your life track it. Pay attention to the little changes everyday. This will give you some personal accountability but will also allow you to see the small victories and how real change happens over time.
Mini goals - Have a small daily goal of doing the same or better than the last day. Having big goals is fine but often people set an overwhelming and unattainable goal just to make it easy to give up on. Set a daily goal, do the task every day. Make it a habit, chip away at it. Every real accomplishment teaches you patience. This may be working out even if its a 10 minute walk after you eat. It may be going until 10:00am without coffee. I am in a phase where I am trying to get stronger at the gym. I'm not innately prone to muscle gain, but it amazes me how some days I feel so weak and others I have a breakthrough. Once you hit a new best it is easy to make that common. This can apply to relationships or any goal you may have. Don't look at others; compete with yesterday's you. I see these muscle guys on steroids, pictures photo shopped with the best angles and lighting, and I'll never look like them. I just want to have fun seeing what I can do that is sustainable and natural so I can realize my personal full potential. Learn something new every day. I started late but if I continue to do many of the habits I currently have year after year it will really pay off.
Be an optimist- It is hard for me to even type that as I tend to look at the down side of things. When life gets tough, we tend to look for ways to avoid future pain instead of having gratitude and hope for what's coming that's great. When I say be an optimist I mean believe that it will pay off in the long run. I studied economics in collage and I believed the system would collapse any day. The fake currency was being inflated so fast, there was no way it could continue in my mind. Then my senior year of college 9/11 happened and I remember thinking it was all over. As we know know, it wasn't. I then spent years in real estate buying and selling houses, all short term thinking the market would crash, and it did. I thought it was the end. Once again, it wasn't. Had I been more optimistic and realized the amazing potential of human resiliency, ingenuity, and potential against all odds, well...let's just say I'd be in a very superior position to where I am today. I learned my lesson and I'm not giving up. I may be late to start but I have to start somewhere. I have invested so much of my time and money in health and I see that it will pay off. What can you start doing today that will be huge 20 years from now if you stick with it?
Avoid hype- I have always been drawn to the hype; chasing the illusion. I now believe that if something is too good to be true than it just might be. I trust the process and am so glad that so many of the fake people and business attempts I made in the past didn't work out. I now have character and can simply say "wait and see." The alternative health world is filled with hype and people want to believe it so bad. Bogus devices, ridiculous products claiming to do it all, a person muscle testing people in her home for money, and so on. As an example: How do you loose weight? Eat less and move more for 6 months. People are making a tremendous amount of money off people who have more money than sense. Think critically and walk away. Do some homework, you can always come back later.
Focus on sleep- Go to bed by 10:00ish and get up at 6:00ish. Adjust this to your life but get good sleep (at least 8 hours). If you do, everything in life will get much easier. I have a ton of suggestions on this at the Resources page - how to sleep. Fix this first before anything else and everything else will be easier. Be consistent.
Connect- Find a person or group that will encourage you in your process.
I could go on but the truth is start something today. Small goals turn into big victories down the road. Look at the trend and not the failure or victory in isolation. The trend is what matters. Start now, don't wait for the new year.
Salt, You Need It
When I was young I was overweight and prone to becoming over-heated. I remember getting light headed, profusely sweating, and feeling weak often. When I became over-heated it was hard to think clearly. I wasn't able to do the things other kids could do, so the weight gain continued.
I grew up in a home where iceberg lettuce drenched in dressing was considered a vegetable, fake butter was considered real butter, and salt was considered the devil. Our house was full of canned, processed foods, and a freezer full of microwave pizza. Healthy fats and red meat was always avoided. I ignorantly stopped eating red meat as a teen which wisely picked back up a few years ago. I had so many health issues growing up but on my quest towards better health they have all become quite clear. It's apparent to me now that I burn through many nutrients faster than most people and this may be a result of being taken from my biological mother at birth. I'm sure I was not given the best nutrition in the womb along with massive stress of being passed around.
I now eat meat, healthy fats, and avoid refined sugar, breads and processed foods. I haven't used a microwave in years. My current diet is basically the polar opposite of what I grew up on. Until recently I was using sea salt on a lot of my foods but sparingly as I thought it could compromise my health.
I have never done well with heat. I had a sauna for a while and despite the benefits most people experience, I always felt worse. I never liked the heat and struggled with workouts that left me feeling weak and dizzy. This time last year I was cutting weight while consuming a lot of caffeine and intermittent fasting. I was happy with my weight loss but am now off caffeine for good, which has changed my life. I thought it was just the reduction in anxiety from being caffeine-free but it turns out caffeine actually reduces the ability to absorb many nutrients and causes mineral depletion.
What is the point of all this? Salt
b;As I continue putting the pieces together I have had major breakthroughs not just with diet but in understanding the vital role of mitochondria and beyond. I am currently working on putting on muscle so I've been searching for new ideas and methods. I stumbled upon a power lifter and body builder named Stan Efferding. My interest was peaked as this was a very strong person who was saying things that were off the beaten path. He does not promote the standard mix of caffeine, chicken and broccoli for lifters. I'm no body builder but I was interested in the fact that he promotes red meat, no caffeine and a massive amount of salt. I was already a fan of red meat and off the caffeine, but large quantities of salt as a pre-workout? I have used sea salt in place of table salt for a long time and have tried to keep the amount down.
Stan claims sodium is so important that most people should take far more than what's recommended. He points out that intermittent fasting, caffeine, heavy exercise, heat, and even clean eating can all cause depleted sodium levels. I know about the sodium/potassium pump on cell walls as I have explained how toxins accumulate when this pump shuts off due to low charge many times in multiple previous blogs. I immediately started looking into salt and found a great book: The Salt Fix by Dr. James DiNicolantonio.
I won't go into too much detail about this powerful information but I will recommend you read it for yourself. I have been listening to audio books on my drive to work and I went through this one so fast, I couldn't stop listening. He proves that sugar, not salt is the substance to be avoided. It helped me connect so many dots about the health issues of my youth. I was most likely extremely sodium deficient and craved salty junk food to make up for it. In my efforts to be healthy I knew salt was necessary to some degree but was not using it as an actual health supplement. I now look see salt as the essential life giving substance that it is. I started throwing back some salt before my workouts and can say it feels truly amazing. My strength and endurance have gone way up.
I see how caffeine (which was causing spells of dizziness) may have been making me even more sodium deficient. Humans evolved consuming very high quantities of salt to cure meats as a preservative until refrigeration became available. The more we restrict salt, the worse our health will be. This doesn't mean to eat salty junk food, just use sea salt on unprocessed REAL food guilt-free. Try adding a 1/2 teaspoon to a warm glass of lemon water before a workout or during a fast as well.
The book does a great job of explaining how salt can even help you loose weight and how easily the body can excrete excess sodium. I look at this new piece of the puzzle as important one. I don't agree with everything Stan Efferding promotes but I am so grateful for his stance on salt and introducing me to this valuable topic. Check him out and check out the book. You will be glad you did and I bet your health will improve and your food will taste better once you start meeting your legitimate sodium needs. It is more dangerous to have low sodium levels than to have too much. As you age your ability to retain sodium drops, so it is even more important that you don't go on a low salt diet in your later years.
As always I wish I had learned this sooner but am glad I know this now as it has shown to be an important piece of my health puzzle.
Avoid wireless tech in your immediate environment, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. Get frequent small doses of sunlight, a magnetico sleep pad, healthy fat, clean meats, vitamin C and far more salt than what the mainstream consensus is telling you.
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Rob Alexander is on a journey to learn not just about health but everything else.
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