Chapter 1 - HWP™: Invest in Yourself
What is an HWP™?
If I told you a month’s worth of research effort would give you 5 million dollars at retirement, would you be interested? On the other hand, if I told you not to worry about your financial future, that Social Security would take care of you, most of you would laugh. Most of you recognize the need to take some control of your financial lives to make sure that your financial future has some legs to it. You do not just leave it to chance. You must also recognize the need to take control of the wellbeing of the physical legs that are going to be carrying you into the golden years. You could ignore your health, bank on the “Universal Health Aging Plan,” and hope that as time goes on you’ll just roll into a ripe old age with your health and mobility. Or you can develop a game plan, put together a Health and Wellness Portfolio™ (HWP™) and greatly increase the odds that you’ll move into retirement with a body that is healthy and mobile enough to enjoy your financial retirement portfolio. The real beauty of having a balanced and active HWP™ is that, unlike your financial retirement portfolio, you get to enjoy it as you build it. You will get to enjoy a body that is going to allow you to do more, have more fun doing it, be better able to deal with stress, and contain a mind that is able to function at its best.
Accept from the start that you may not be the thinnest or fastest, or look like him or her on the cover of this magazine or that billboard. And say to yourself, “Hey! That’s ok! I’m not doing this for them or anyone else. I’m doing this for me! I deserve to invest some time and energy into me, and if I don’t look like a super model or athletic stud in the end, that’s ok.”
I decided to put my life energy into this book and companion CD-ROM because I found myself as a personal trainer and coach answering many of the same essential questions over and over about the basics of how the human body works, what makes certain diets work better than others, and the importance and role of resistance, cardiovascular, range of motion, body awareness, and mental health training. With so much information available, many people do not know how to sort through the “junk mail” to get to what they want and need. So what I have done is create a means to answer all the basic questions and sort through the “junk mail” of the fitness industry that will continue to come your way.
When you take steps to secure your financial future, you piece together a financial portfolio with varying degrees of investment in different assets (financial tools) depending on individual goals and needs. Your HWP™, as seen in Figure 1, is simply a collection of the different tools you have available to take care of your body proactively, so that it looks, runs, and moves as well as possible. How much time and energy someone invests in a particular tool or area will depend on his or her individual goals and needs. Creating an HWP™ is just like a financial portfolio; it changes as your life’s priorities change, and the later in life you start to manage it, the harder it is to acquire maximum benefits.
Like many in my profession, I am often questioned by people about ways they can improve their physical appearance and well being. It has been my experience as a coach and fitness instructor that most people don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of improving their diets or activity levels. Yet, with all the information that is available and the great interest in personal health and well being, most individuals in our society are still far from enjoying the fruits of a healthful lifestyle. The major reason for this, I believe, is a matter of values.
Most people believe that the changes that would be required to enjoy the fruits of a healthful lifestyle outweigh the perceived benefits. The problem, as I see it, has two parts. First, many people simply lack the tools to put together an effective long-term game plan. They are like people who know they need to put money aside for their retirement, yet do not know where to begin, or just do what those around them do, never taking control for themselves. Second, many people have unrealistic expectations, both short-term and long-term, and give up because of them.
After addressing these two problems properly, I believe that most individuals will be able to see the overall life value of taking control of their Health and Wellness Portfolio™. Then along with the tools that they will acquire, will be able to make the needed changes to create a livable, healthful lifestyle.
Here is a quick outline of the tools you will learn to use:
Mental Health: “Cognition Excellence & Crazy Control” is a two part section that focuses on ways to create mental tranquility and optimize our brain’s potential for higher levels of creativity and problem solving.
Problems and Mindsets that derail and delay a healthful lifestyle.
1) Wrong view of exercise and diet: Burden or Blessing?
Lots of people approach exercise with one of two limited views: 1) “I am fat, out of shape, don’t like the way I look, and exercise can change that” or 2) “My doctor said that if I don’t exercise to bring my _________ under control, then I can start counting my days.” For some people, finding themselves in one of these situations, or fear of finding themselves in one of these situations, is enough to motivate them to begin some sort of regular exercise. However, for most people, either of these approaches takes them only so far.
Mind Changing Benefits of Exercise
The biggest reason that you should take the time to gain a understanding of diet and exercise is that no matter what you are doing or want to do, having a fundamental understanding of your body and the role of exercise and diet will allow you to do it better!!! Better Sex! Better Golf! Better Hiking in the Woods or Mall! It all just gets better.Let us stop and take look at some of the other benefits of, and reasons for, regular exercise:
1) Raised metabolism: And they try to sell it to us in a bottle.
2) Increased energy: Who can’t use more?
3) Increased bone density: Very important as we age.
4) Increased good cholesterol (HDL): You have only one heart.
5) Improved moods and sense of well being: Nature’s Prozac.
6) Reduced stress and anxiety.
7) Improved muscle tone.
8) Improved muscle strength: Making everyday tasks easier.
9) Decreased risk of common “everyday life” injuries.
10) Improved balance and posture.
11) Increased flexibility and Range of Motion (R.O.M).
12) Lowered blood pressure.
13) Increased sense of control and understanding of your body.
14) Social outlet: Kill two birds with one stone.
15) Reduced risk of some cancers.
16) Improved problem-solving skills.
17) Ability to do more every day.
18) Ability to participate in recreational activities.
19) Ability to play with your children or grandchildren.
20) Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
21) Better sleep: We all could use a little more.
22) Improved reaction times.
23) Loss of extra fat stores: And all clothes that won’t fit.
24) Better skin.
25) Moving meditation.
26) Athletic improvement: Golf, Running, Skiing, you name it.
27) Better sexual performance.
28) What do you want to do better?
The important thing to remember is that your reasons for exercising can and will change. If you have ever exercised on a regular basis in the past, take a few minutes to list some of the reasons or attitudes that helped you to do that.
Using your own list of past motivators ask yourself, “Is there a way to modify them to fit my current situation?” Things such as being motivated in the past by exercising with friends could be replaced with finding a group exercise class or sport club to join. Wanting to improve in athletics could be replaced with learning a new skill or sport, while having to get into a dress could be replaced with wanting to get a new dress.
Looking at some Mindset Differences
Most people spend less time working to understand their bodies and how they work than they spend thinking about what they want or are going to give during the holidays. Isn’t it time you gave your body and yourself a present?
2) Too much information: Junk Mail engine Google will give you over 4 million matches for diet, and almost 8 million for exercise. Every week it seems that there is another “expert” or “fitness guru” telling us what we’ve been doing wrong all these years, while providing their magic formula to fix it. Add to all of that the sound bytes of information we get from passing news programs, friends, family, strangers on the bus, and it is easy to get overwhelmed with it all.
With so many different diets and exercise programs telling us to do this and that, and all the experts seeming to contradict each other, where is one to begin?
The real problem is not so much that there is too much information, but rather that people do not know the right questions to ask to be able to separate good information from misinformation. We all know how to identify and sort through “junk mail” to get to the mail we want and need. Using the information found in this book, you will gain the tools to sort through all the “junk information” to get to what you need and gain an understanding of the never-changing laws and principles that regulate your body.
3) Creating groupies: Following Blindly & Pacifying
Let me begin by saying that I do not have a problem with anyone’s following the advice or program provided by some guru or medical professional. There are thousands of qualified experts who can help you reach your goals, and I encourage you to seek them out. The problem with many popular diet and exercise programs is that they tell the participant to do XYZ exercises and eat only XYZ foods and do not tell them why, or the participants do not take the time to understand why. This is a problem because it leads to inefficient and sometimes counter-productive activities by those people who are following blindly.
It is as if they are given a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with almonds and they can follow the recipe, but do not understand the importance or role of each ingredient. So they start making their cookies, realize that they do not have any almonds or do not like almonds, and add an extra stick of butter instead. This doesn’t make any sense to someone who understands the role of the almonds, and might rather substitute with peanuts or walnuts.
The beauty of the Health and Wellness Portfolio™ is that it is an easy-to-follow recipe, and you will also understand the role of each ingredient so that you can create a personalized recipe while maximizing all your efforts.
On a more cynical note I have seen trainers, “gurus,” and the diet industry do what I have termed “Pacifying.” They dole out information on a very limited basis and create an urgent sense of dependence that keeps the person coming back for more, to the point where he or she is afraid to go anywhere else.
4) False body images, hopes and expectations: Men and Women.
We live in a multi-media culture that bombards us with images and ideas about who we are, who we are not, and --more importantly--who we could and should be. Stop for a moment and define beauty. Take your time and define it as broadly as you like……....…Now ask yourself this: “Does my definition of beauty include me?” If not, why not?
This is not just an exercise for women, but for men too. Women activists for years have pointed to the exploited and unrealistic body images portrayed in the media that are poisoning and distorting the female self-image. However, men have not been left unmarred by the growing media blitz on the male body image. Although many men may not look at themselves using the term “beauty,” they do have an ideal to which they compare themselves. John Cloud, in the April, 24th, 2000 edition of Time magazine, posed this “Pop Quiz”: “Who are more likely to be dissatisfied with the appearance of their chests, men or women?” The surprising answer was that 38% of men wanted larger pecs, while only 34% of women wanted bigger breasts. He went on to report a study by Harrison Pope and Katharine Phillips, professors of psychiatry at Harvard and Brown, and Robert Olivardia, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.
The purpose of all this is to get you to stop for a moment and ask yourself if you are chasing a false image. We will talk later in the fat section about body contour and what we can and cannot do about it, but without even getting into all of that, if you are 5’4” and your definition of beauty only has room for people over 5’11,” then it is time to reconsider. If your joint structure gives you wide hips and narrow shoulders, and you have an ideal of wide shoulders and narrow hips, let it go. Yes, you can change your body shape to a point, but only to a point. There are things in life that we have the power to change and can do something about. Life is too short to pour energy into trying to change things that we can not. Socrates, the Father of Greek Philosophy, challenged those of his time and us today when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” As you examine your life, ask yourself if your body-image aspirations are realistic. What has molded your ideal of beauty, a healthy realistic view or an unrealistic view influenced by multi-billion dollar companies and ad campaigns that create insecurities and other false emotions to gain your consumer dollar?
5) Taking for granted and not fully appreciating and enjoying our bodies:Most people spend more time and money buying and taking care of the clothes that cover their bodies than they do for their bodies themselves.
Have you ever twisted your ankle or stubbed your toe doing something stupid? Perhaps you wrenched your back reaching for something, and then spent the next couple of days or even weeks hobbling around, forced to change the way you did even the smallest task to accommodate your injury? Like a lot of things in life, we take our bodies and what they do for granted until something tragic happens or it is too late. This problem is compounded by the mentality held by many that they can ignore or abuse their bodies and then expect a doctor to give them a pill or some treatment to “fix it.” I talked to a doctor once about his disappointment and frustration with treating people with medical conditions rooted in lifestyle choices. His comment to me was, “They come to me, Hank, after abusing their bodies for 40 years and have this expectation that I can ‘fix’ them, but I can’t.”
The sad truth is that many people lack the simple understanding of what it takes to build and maintain a healthy and functional body. Using the tools and principles found in this book, you will gain a self-empowering understanding of your body and what it needs. The Health and Wellness Portfolio™ will help you develop a personalized game plan that will meet your goals within a livable, modified lifestyle.
However, if you want to keep the pharmaceutical companies in business, pay for your doctor’s beach house, and be stuck in a chair for the last 20 years of your life, you do not have to worry about managing your Health and Wellness Portfolio™.
6) Free Will:So you think you are eating what you want to eat.
The word “diet” to most people does not bring up good feelings or thoughts. The idea of changing one’s diet is even worse. There are a million reasons why people say they can not, or do not want to, change their diets. The question that I want to pose to you is this, “Are you really free to eat what you want, or are you a slave to your cultural and social habits or food superstitions?” People tell me that they like the taste of this or that and do not like the taste of certain other foods. Though there is, to some degree, a genetic tolerance or intolerance that some people have above and beyond the general population, most taste preferences are acquired through habit and association. Most people who have a taste for beer or coffee did not take their first swig and say, “Man, that is one fine cup of Joe!!” or “Boy, this sure is one tasty domestic pilsner!” Over time and repeated exposure, one may acquire an association of enjoyment for the smell and taste of a cup of coffee (not to mention the caffeine buzz), but for most the first few cups go down with some force.
As kids, most of us did not have real choice in what we ate. Our parents or guardians controlled our food choices, and from them we gathered a list of likes and dislikes. For most people this means that their food choices were limited to a very small social, cultural, and economic spectrum and range of experience. It is from this limited experience base that many of us continue to limit our food choices. Some people take a defensive posture when you start talking about their dietary habits with comments such as, “Well that’s just the way I was raised. I can’t help that I like this or that.” They totally shut down: “I can’t listen to this. He’s going to ask me to give up Mom’s double chocolate pudding pie! I can’t do that to her.” When I bring up the fact that many of us remain limited because of our upbringing, I am not judging how you were raised. I am simply asking you to recognize some of the reasons why you may eat and drink some of the things you do.
When you say that you like the taste of certain foods, is it really the taste you enjoy, or rather some positive psychological association that you have when consuming them? A man sits back in his big leather chair at the end of a long day of wheeling and dealing and enjoys his favorite scotch. This pleasure is more than the taste; it involves what that moment symbolizes to him, taking the tiger by the tail and enjoying a fine scotch at the end of it all. A young women feeling the pressures at the end of a semester finds herself having a bowl of ice cream at the end of each meal and for a late night snack. She chooses it because it tastes good and because she knowingly or unknowingly associates it with the bowls of ice cream she would eat on the porch with her grandfather on a relaxing summer evening. A young man praised in his youth by his parents and grandparents for being “such a big eater” still looks at a meal unknowingly as a performance and regularly takes the largest portion size he can. Scotch, ice cream, steak…… you make your own list.
A slave is not free, because his choices are limited. His actions are, for the most part, dictated by his master. I am going to define freedom as the presence to form and act upon a choice between two or more options. For a moment let us take a walk in the fun philosophical world of hypothetical characters and situations with a typical young man named Norman.
Norman walks into a diner famished and has to eat and the only thing that is available is green eggs and ham, nothing else, so he eats it. Even if he likes it, we could not say that he had any real freedom in that choice, or that it was a choice at all. Yes, he could choose not to eat it, but that is really not a choice since it would ultimately lead to his death. Now, if Norman walks into the diner famished and has three options: green eggs and ham, sweet potato pie, or a jumbo sprout and tuna steak salad, and he picks the green eggs and ham, many would say that he was free to make that choice in the presence of two other options. I disagree.
In the second example I would not agree that Norman has the freedom of choice simply because the sweet potato pie and jumbo sprout and tuna steak salad were made available to Norman. “How so?” you ask, “He was given more than one option and could have picked any of them.” Just because there are multiple options available does not mean that there are multiple choices available for Norman. If we assume that Norman, like most of us, makes his food choices because he “likes what he eats,” and these likes are built on a limited cultural, social, and economical food history intake spectrum, then not all choices create the same “like” value or option. Norman, in this case, has never had sweet potato pie or a jumbo sprout and tuna steak salad. However, he has had, and knows he enjoys, green eggs and ham. He makes his choices from a “like” value scale; he is forced to eat the green eggs and ham because the other two options are not choices for him. In spite of having apparent options, he is a slave to his eating history and “like” value scale. One way to give Norman his freedom of choice is to add another option that he has a history with, for instance a turkey sandwich on rye with a pickle spear. If with this additional option Norman picks the green eggs and ham, we could say that he was free to choose it, because he had a true pair of options to choose from.
Another way that we could expand his freedom of choice is to give Norman another value scale to base choices on besides “like.” Then he would have the freedom to choose between value scales and options. If we added the value scale of “eating more vegetables” to the first scenario options of green eggs and ham, sweet potato pie, and a jumbo sprout and tuna steak salad, we can see how he now has a freedom of choice. His options now all are choices, depending on which value scale he choose to make his choice from. If he goes with the “like” value, green eggs and ham are an option. If he chooses the “eat more vegetables” option, then both the sweet potato pie and jumbo sprout and tuna steak salad become viable options for him.
The number of value options is limitless. “Lean protein source,” “High fiber,” “High EFA source,” and “Nutritionally dense” are a few of the values that can be added to your value options as your dietary knowledge increases and goals change. By using this book to develop your knowledge base, you will gain new value options that will empower you in making healthier food choices. The purpose of this section is to get you thinking about why you eat what you eat, so you begin to recognize that likes can be changed and, by adding options beyond “like” for eating, your food choices can greatly increase.
Some could argue the freedom of choice between the two value scale options “like” and “eat more vegetables” and any other added options. However, this illustration is not meant to be a tightly-sealed philosophical dissertation on free will, but rather an illustration that many people who make the claim to be “free to eat what they want,” are not.
7) Who is watching out for you?
Take a moment and reflect on the consumer culture we live in and ask yourself this question, “Is my long term health and well-being really the goal of the majority of companies that provide my food supply?” Which scenario do you believe is more plausible to take place at some big company, with all the major decision makers sitting around talking about a new product they wish to be “consumed” by you, the “consumer”?
a) “This is a great product, even though the profit margin is below market average. I really like the fact that it tastes great, has limited processing, provides the body with the building blocks for both long and short term health needs, and promotes healthy eating habits to a broad spectrum of consumers.”
b) “This product seems like a winner: an above average profit margin, few manufacturing adjustments to get it up to full distribution needs, and high marks on taste test. All indicators predict that it will help win back our market share in this category. The FDA gives us a thumb up and our new processing will save us another .09 cents per unit. I think it is a go.”
I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not saying that there is a room where men with dark suits and big cigars sit around and talk about ways to profitably poison the American public. I will leave that fight to someone else for now. The beauty of the market economy is that if enough consumers band together, things can change. This is starting to happen with our food suppliers. Slowly, little by little, consumers are demanding food that is closer to the first scenario above. Health food stores, once a fringe subculture, have begun to grow into suburban-sized supermarkets and more and more traditional supermarkets are stocking items once found only in the side-street health food stores and farmers’ markets. Again I am asking you to take a look at your food choices. What sort of choices are they? What sorts of questions do you ask yourself about the food that is marketed to you? What are we to think when the breakthrough product marketed to us is merely a cheese puff with a new shape?
8) Healthy Eating and Good Grades:Health Nut = Nerd?
How would your react if your child came home and said, “Mom, Dad, the kids at school tease me and call me a nerd because I do my homework and do well on tests, so I’ve decided the effort required to do my homework and the social ribbing I take for getting good grades just isn’t worth it.”
If this did happen, most of us would not stand for it. In whatever way we could, we would try to motivate and encourage our child to see the long term benefit of doing well in school and standing out because of it. If that did not work, a more militant, drill sergeant approach might be taken to make sure that academic excellence was maintained despite the social pressure to do otherwise.
The funny thing is that I see adults cave in to the same type of social pressure when they begin to make dietary changes that are in their best interest and separate them from their peer group. They begin to pack a lunch and snacks instead of relying on the vending machines at work to get them through the day. Passing on dessert from time to time and limiting the trips to the buffet, they make fresh fruits and vegetables a center piece to their diet. They start taking risks and try other items not generally eaten in their circle of family and friends. Walks before dinner and a semi-regular attendance at the local gym become noticeable. And where does this get them? Being the punch-line and brunt of jokes from family and friends.
Many people taking positive steps toward their health are met with ribbing, stares, and name calling. I’ve been laughed at and called a “Health Nut” by co-workers, as if it were a bad thing. I’ve been ribbed for “eating healthy,” but if “healthy” is associated with “good for you,” why would I not want to do what was good for me? Since when did self destructive behavior that causes obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes become a good thing? Don’t let others keep you from being where you need and want to be.
9) Try until
I picked up a very powerful life principle from performance coach Anthony Robins. During a seminar, he talked about the power of trying “until.” He gave examples of Colonel Sanders starting KFC at the age of 65 and hearing 1,000 rejections before his first sale and of Thomas Edison finding countless ways not to make a light bulb before he found the way to make a light bulb successfully. The illustration that sticks out most in my mind is the example of a child walking. To paraphrase Robins, he asked, How many of you, when your baby tried to walk the first time, let her try, and when she failed stopped making her try? None of us would think of having our children quit after trying just once to walk; we would make them “Try Until” they learned how. Sadly enough, many of us have forgotten this simple lesson of success.