PJ's Fitness Blog

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Perfect Pantry Purging Plan

IMG_0282X Gym members, clients and friends come to me all the time with continued struggles about eating “bad” foods at home. I first ask them why it’s still in their cupboards or fridge at all. The usual reply is, “Well, my spouse and or kid eats that stuff and when I see it, it’s easy and convenient, so I just grab it because I’m hungry.” Then my advice is to first get the support of that family member, starting with writing up a contract for them to sign that commits them to helping you get healthy. Next, put all that stuff in a lockable box somewhere, with a key that only those family members have access to, so you simply can’t get to it.

My next piece of advice is to clean out the fridge and cupboards of all the foods that do not contribute to your health and fitness Typically, the next comment that comes up is, okay, as soon as I finish all the food in there, I will restock those cupboards and fridge with the foods I should be eating, so I don’t waste that food or the money I spent on it.”

I then reply, “Okay, then how bad do you really want results? Let me know when you are truly ready to do these first two steps and we can continue this conversation then.”

They usually reply, “Okay, you’re right. I’m ready.”

Then I give then the following 3 step pantry purge plan:

1.) Go through the pantry, cupboards, fridge, freezer, garage and anywhere else you keep food, snacks or candy. Put everything that won’t make you healthier into a box or bag. This includes all grains, sugar, starches and processed foods with more than two ingredients, or ingredients that can’t be pronounced or recognized as food. While you’re at it, check for expiration dates and read nutrition facts on everything. This forces you to consider each item in your pantry, not just the obvious junk food. If it’s expired, purge it.

2.) Get rid of it. Obviously, it’s expired, trash it. Then donate non-perishable items to your local food bank. If you aren’t willing to take it to a food bank, just throw it out.

3.) After you’ve purged your home, make sure to change your shopping list so that food doesn’t make it back into your home. The side benefit of purging your home is that your shelves and fridge will be much cleaner, and you have the opportunity to better organize everything. All the expired food and junk will be gone, leaving you with a great foundation to eat healthier and make your new habits stick. Plus, now it will be so much harder to eat those unhealthy foods of the past because if you do, you’ll have to go get in the car and drive somewhere to do it and since that is such an opposite action of your goals and new habits you are forming, the likelihood of that happening is quite low.

P.S. I searched for a “healthy pantry/cupboard” picture on the internet and I couldn’t find ONE SINGLE IMAGE that I would want to use as an example here, so I just took one of my own cupboard. Wow, if that’s not a good example of why healthy, fit and lean people are so rare nowadays, I don’t know what is!

Food Crisis Prevention

4430273Have you ever felt so hungry that you feel frantic and then end up eating junk because that’s all that seems to be quickly available?

When your blood sugar drops, your brain is hard-wired to eat the nearest, quickest thing and that usually means something processed.

Thinking you can use willpower to wait until you can find something healthy contradicts how your brain is wired.

Willpower is a high energy resource, coming from the highest energy part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – so when your brain senses that it is low on fuel (blood sugar), it does two things immediately:

  1. Starts turning down activity and access to the high energy parts of the brain, starting with the PFC.
  2. Forces you to frantically eat the nearest, easiest thing to get blood sugar back up ASAP.

Bye bye willpower. Hello crummy (and sugary) food choices.

Then, about 15 minutes after you have eaten your crummy food choices, hello guilt and shame. The reason for this is because that crummy food did indeed give you some quick fuel, which enables your PFC and willpower to come back online and say, “Wow, I step out for a minute and look what you go and do!”

Then the cycle repeats (even as soon as an hour later) and you find yourself automatically overeating, bingeing or just eating whatever happens to be in front of you again, without even “thinking” about it (seemingly anyway, but now you know why).

This is what I call the crummy crisis cycle circle. I used to fall prey to it too, but not anymore because I’m “fat adapted” (more on that below), but there are very few of us who are nowadays. 5,000 years ago, we all were, but since the agricultural revolution and especially in the last 50 years, thanks to the sugar explosion, 99.4% of people now are sugar burners. So, since I’m most likely talking to a sugar burner here, below is a 4 step strategy to prevent the crummy crisis cycle circle.

1.) Be sure to have a crisis food pack handy at home and on the go. 

Here are some of my favorite snacks I have on hand at home and/or with me at all times:

  • Fitness chocolate in the fridge at home and in a cooler bag with me.
  • Canned wild salmon and Salmon Jerky.
  • Jerky (wild bison, grass-fed beef or organic turkey).
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds are the superstars).
  • Kale chips (Costco is cheapest).
  • Trader Joe’s freeze dried broccoli florets.
  • Hard-boiled eggs (from pasture raised hens if possible).
  • Pre-cut cucumbers, peppers and celery in Ziploc baggies (pair with guacamole or try this tomatillo salsa).
  • Avocado, right out of the shell with a spoon, with a little salt.
  • gRAWnola!
  • Any organic cheese snack and string cheese.
  • Valley Fresh 100% natural white chicken pouch.
  • Bumble Bee chicken breast pouch or pink salmon steak pouch.
  • Chicken of the Sea salmon pouch.
  • Organic sliced turkey breast and sliced cheese (roll them together for yummity goodness).

2.) When you do eat, eat slowly and mindfully. Your hunger/satiety mechanism takes 20 to 30 minutes to register that you are full, so when you eat slowly, you will have eaten less food during that 20 to 30 minutes, making overeating much less likely. Also, studies show that when you eat mindfully (taking time to chew thoroughly, savor the food, sense the taste, texture, etc.), your brain becomes more satisfied, which brings on feelings of satiety faster.

3.) Use the Hunger Scale technique, so you don’t let yourself get to the “frantic” point. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being on the verge of passing out from intense hunger and 1 being stuffed so full you think you might barf, rate your hunger at the moment. If it’s an eight or higher, you’re frantic. If it’s a three or lower, you just overate. I eat when I’m at a six or seven and then stop eating when I’m at a four (which is still a little bit hungry, but 10-15 minutes later, I’m at a three, which is satisfied, comfortable and content). When I do get to a seven, I tend to top out there and can stay there for hours without any mood changes or frantic feelings. How? Because I’m “fat adapted,” which leads me to the next step below.

4.) Become “Fat Adapted.” Once you are fat adapted. Your brain won’t get frantic anymore from sensing blood sugar drops, because it will have learned that it doesn’t need sugar as a fuel anymore. It’s learned that it needs fat instead and even an extremely lean person like me has days worth of fuel on my body sufficient to power my brain and physiology. Sugar on the other hand, has limited storage potential in the body, so the brain is always trying to replenish it quickly whenever it senses it doesn’t have enough. Fat adapted people are no longer slaves to the blood sugar cycle and can always think clearly, with plenty of willpower because they always have access to their PFC. Since fat stores are plentiful, the brain doesn’t go through the shutdown process of the high-energy areas like the PFC. When fat adapted, your hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin are also in balance and working properly, so that is the best long term solution by far!

Thanks to Dr. Hyman for his great post on this subject and inspiration to me for writing my own. Also, be sure to get his amazing book Eat Fat, Get Thin! I’m not getting anything from him to plug his stuff either. I’m just a big fan!

Finding Those “Gem” Restaurants on the Road

Travel nutrition can be difficult, but only if you think it should be.

It’s actually pretty easy with the right mindset and a web browser (smartphone or computer).

Last weekend, when I was traveling to Portland for a stair race with some friends, we asked the concierge at the hotel for a great healthy restaurant nearby. That’s usually a good first step, but in this case, he was worthless. He said he wasn’t from that area. What? A concierge who doesn’t know the area? Well, here’s an example of a hotel manager who doesn’t have the right people in the right seats on the bus.

So John and Casey got on their smartphones and Googled “grass fed beef restaurant.” This is a safe bet and certainly better than Googling something like, “healthy restaurant” because almost everyone tries to claim that in their keywords, hoping to snag some suckers. “Grass fed beef” on the other hand, is very specific and no one would put that in their keywords without running the risk of ticking people off and getting a bad online review. The search turned up several places, but the one we chose was called “Cultured Caveman” because we figured this would be legit paleo or primal style food. And it was. Check it out:

New Revolutionary Recipes

Check out HardBodCafe.com for some new fat-burning, metabolism-boosting VLOGs and recipes!


Is Fresh or Frozen Best? 

One Pot Fitness Pasta!

Chinese Cabbage Club Taco Sammich!

Everything in Moderation, Right?

©PJ-2014-Chocoholic-Fitness-Cake-sliced_crop_4260-720x489When I hear people say “Everything in Moderation”, it’s basically just an excuse to eat stuff they know is damaging to their health. Those people never look or feel like me either. They are paying the price for this philosophy and I’ll explain why here.

Is cyanide OK in moderation as long as it’s in something that tastes good? How about eating strychnine, as long as you are careful to space it out enough so it doesn’t kill you right away, or you build a tolerance to it over time, or you take antidotes every time you ingest it?

The food you eat either improves your health or damages your health. There is no “neutral” food. The “Everything in moderation” people are making an allowance for the foods that damage their health. Then, they are hanging on hope that the healthy foods they eat will act as an antidote to counteract the damage they just caused. Does this sound like a healthy lifestyle to you?

Then there’s the people who claim to eat healthy “most” of the time and only eat unhealthy “some” of the time, as part of a “balanced” diet. Dr. Mercola has a great answer to this one:

According to soda companies like Coca-Cola, sugary beverages can be safely enjoyed as part of a “balanced” diet and lifestyle. But what kind of “balance” are they really talking about? In essence, the “balance” referred to here is a balance between poison and nutrition. The idea they’re promoting is that if you eat a healthy diet, you can safely indulge in a little bit of poison every now and then. This is the only balance they can refer to, because when it comes to real foods and pure water — which is the only beverage your body cannot live without — maintaining balance is not really an issue. When you eat real food, it is beneficial and you don’t need to concern yourself with adverse effects like obesity and diabetes.”

The myth that “everything in moderation” is OK was recently busted through the publication of a study showing that eating only one junk food treat (aka poison dose) per day for just one month is enough to trigger metabolic syndrome in healthy people!

I submit that healthy foods can be just as “fun” and delicious and even more so, then unhealthy foods. In fact, I have found that all the healthy foods I eat and the recipes my friends and I have developed (many of them on HardBodCafe.com) are much more delicious than the unhealthy foods I used to eat. In fact, they are so much more delicious, I simply don’t crave any of those unhealthy foods anymore. Those poison food from my past don’t taste near as good as the healthy foods I eat now. Plus, I know that those poison foods would make me feel like crap, so  I just don’t touch them anymore. (more…)

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