As I may have mentioned before, you shouldn’t be wasting your money on “stuff”.
But does that mean that all spending is bad? Of course not. I spend money where it has a high return on investment.
There is no better investment than your health. Its strange how much people spend on cars and holidays and how little on their own health.
I recently paid Daniel Kelly, a nutrition and fitness coach, for some coaching. His approach resonated with me because, although he uses data and the scientific method, many of his recommendations boil down to living a more natural lifestyle, keeping things simple and subtraction of the bad stuff.
Prevention is a million times better (and cheaper) than cure. But, for all its benefits, our health service is not set up for prevention. It’s set up to patch you up when something eventually breaks, falls off or stops working (i.e. you).
Daniel is helping people solve a problem that our health service is not dealing with: how can you optimise your health? Good health is more than just the absence of illness, its a state of high performance. This requires taking your health seriously before something goes wrong.
I invited him to write me a guest post about what he does and why.
The Escape Artist
My main goal as a health and fitness coach is to help people get into shape and feel good about themselves again.
Sometimes it’s about the way they look, i.e. they want to lose weight, gain muscle, etc. Sometimes there are other issues to tackle such as anxiety, gut or immune health.
People come to me because, for whatever reason, their health isn’t where they want it to be. These people seek me out because they’re aware there’s a problem and they want resolution.
The vast majority of the population are quite the opposite. Indeed, something that never fails to amaze me is how so many people these days tolerate feeling like garbage. And the strange thing is, they don’t even realise it.
“That’s absurd!” you say. “I’d know if I felt like crap and would do something about it!”
After all, we all live in our own bodies and we know when we don’t feel good, right? Sadly not. The truth is very different.
Just look around you. Despite the wealth of information at our fingertips, technological advances and our purported sophistication, we’re seeing all around us the diseases of modernity in epidemic proportions: obesity, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Here’s another that’s been ignored by the mainstream media – low testosterone:
I’ll talk more about this later. Suffice to say, most of these diseases are often avoidable.
So how does this happen?
The frog in boiling water is a useful metaphor here. The idea is that if you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out.
But (so the metaphor goes) if you place the frog in water at room temperature which is then slowly heated to boiling, the frog will not perceive the danger and will be boiled to death.
And this is what happens with many people’s health.
It’s getting hot in here…
Here’s the scenario that many people go through as they get older and their health declines.
Let’s say a few years ago when you were younger, you felt on top of the world. You were fit; you exercised regularly and watched what you ate. You had your ups and downs. But on most days, you leapt out of bed with energy and vigour; ready to take on the world.
You had less responsibilities back then. Gradually however, your responsibilities begin to mount. You met your significant other and decided it was time to settle down and have a family. Slowly but surely, you spent less time at the gym because you’ve got deadlines at work and you need to pick up the kids from school, clubs and activities.
You pay little attention to your diet. You’re stressed with all the things going at work and at home. Preparing your meals is out of the question because you’re short on time. It’s much easier to grab a sandwich, bag of crisps and coke “meal deal” on your lunch break and a supermarket ready meal on the way home. Why? Because you’re busy of course!
If you’re like most people, you continue in this routine for years.
One day you find yourself at home with some time on your hands. Maybe you come across some old photos of yourself. You look fit, toned and have a broad smile on your face. It reminds you of how good life was back then, and more importantly how good you used to feel.
Suddenly it dawns on you that you’re living a life of quiet desperation.
You feel low energy most days, and by mid-afternoon you’re completely washed out. Maybe you suffer with bad anxiety? Perhaps your libido has all but disappeared and you can’t remember the last time you had sex or even really laughed?
Seeing that picture reminds you of something. Namely, that you’ve forgotten what it actually means to feel good. You’ve felt this way for so long that it’s now your new normal. This is the lens through which you see the world (anxiety is often the result of imbalanced physiology).
Due to life’s obligations and responsibilities, you took your eye off what was important: your health. The change in the way you looked and felt was so gradual that it was almost imperceptible. You became the frog in the boiling water.
Let me share with you the story of how this happened to me.
I’ve always loved sports and exercise in general. At school I played hockey, badminton, football, basketball and rugby. I was a decent athlete, but not especially gifted.
When I became an adult and got a job, I had less time and interest for team sports and found a new passion instead: weight training. From the moment I picked up a dumbbell; I was hooked. I loved the idea of pushing and challenging my body to grow bigger and stronger. What I loved above all about it most was the fact that I, and I alone was responsible for my success.
Because of this passion, I spent a lot of time in the gym and the kitchen learning how to train and eat properly. But not only that, I spent countless hours reading books, attending seminars and seeking out mentors to improve my knowledge.
This process involved me getting rid of destructive habits including regular binge drinking which is an ingrained part of the culture. Our society glorifies alcohol because we lack emotional outlets. Talking about your mental health and emotions are still taboo in our society. It’s not manly to talk about your feelings…or so you’re led to believe. With mounting pressure from work, social isolation and no way of expressing our emotions in a healthy manner, people often resort to alcohol as an outlet for dealing with those repressed emotions.
Back to my story. I wanted to become the fittest, strongest and healthiest version of myself and it seemed like it was going pretty well until I reached the age of 28, when my progress came to a standstill.
Previously, I had made slow but steady improvements with my health and fitness goals. However, now I struggled to make gains in strength or size. I also struggled to lose body fat despite training like a demon in the gym.
I had no idea what the issue was. It was both frustrating and bewildering. Nevertheless, after much research, I concluded it could have something to do with low testosterone. I was sceptical because I was only 28 at the time, but I decided to take a blood test to find out.
The test results came back and I was staggered to discover that I had the testosterone levels of an old man!
At this point I realised that my life had been unravelling over the past year and I hadn’t even noticed it. Failing to make progress in the gym was the least of my problems. I had a daily, grinding anxiety over the smallest things, which made me physically ill. My libido was non-existent and I felt like I lived in a quagmire of negativity and depression. It was like a black cloud following me around all day long.
After taking the blood test, I recognised many of these things were a direct consequence of low testosterone.
For a long time, I hadn’t noticed it. Like the frog in the boiling water, these symptoms gradually crept up on me until they became my normal existence.
This is what many men go through today. They live an anxiety-ridden, low-energy existence that is often accompanied by man boobs (gynaecomastia) and belly fat. Through poor diet and lifestyle choices, and the low testosterone that results, they feel like crap. And to continue with our analogy – they boil themselves in the pan so to speak. They never notice it…sometimes not until a breaking point. They don’t realise that life doesn’t have to be this way.
After much consideration and research, I decided that testosterone replacement therapy was right for me. Fast forward a few months after initiating treatment and I felt AMAZING. My sex drive had returned, my anxiety had vanished, and I felt like me again. Cheerful, optimistic and full of passion for life. My progress in the gym accelerated.. Not only did I lose belly fat, but I also gained over 10 lbs of lean muscle mass.
The sceptics amongst you may now be thinking that I’m here to sell you a medical treatment or a supplement. I’m not. Although testosterone replacement therapy changed my life for the better, I work with men and women to help them live a naturally hormone friendly lifestyle. Wherever possible, I help my clients get these results without medical interventions.
There is an important concept known as Via Negativa. This means that the removal of the causes of disease is often far more powerful than adding interventions such as drugs or surgery.
I’m talking about removing things like alcohol, sugar, environmental toxins and stress. These aren’t flashy and don’t offer quick fixes. They involve doing the work to achieve personal change. Change can be difficult and, in my coaching, I help people with the accountability that they often need.
My personal experience illustrated a few things to me. It’s easy to bullshit yourself and convince yourself that everything is alright. You think you’re eating OK, exercising enough, etc.
When in reality you’re anything but OK. That’s why it’s so important to hold yourself accountable…whether that’s noting down ALL the food you eat on a free app like My Fitness Pal, or working with a coach who will be objective with you.
Blood tests are an excellent tool for keeping you objective and hence why I get many of my clients to take them. What gets measured, gets managed. Seeing how things really are can give you the kind of motivation and impetus to make changes to your health in a way no pep talk or insisting from your partner ever could.
This also taught me that when your hormones are out of whack, it can mess up your whole life. Why? Because your hormones, especially testosterone (for men and women) are vital to the processes of losing weight, overcoming anxiety or depression and generally feel good about yourself.
You always have a choice. Sadly, many people choose to remain in the pan too long and only take action once it’s too late and death and disease are knocking at their door.
There are so many conflicting opinions about good health on the internet that it’s enough to make anyone’s head explode. But, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Living a healthier, more natural lifestyle is simple but not easy.
Sadly, we are living in an environment that’s toxic to biological organisms. In particular, we are bombarded on a daily basis by endocrine disrupting chemicals that wreak havoc with our hormones and reproductive health.
People are (rightly) concerned about the huge amounts of plastic littering our oceans. It’s a highly visible tragedy. What’s less obvious are the insidious effects that some of those plastics and other industrial substances are having on our hormones and on our health.
So today, you must become the CEO of your own health. This means educating and informing yourself. Because our medical system won’t do it for you.
TEA: I bought Daniel’s book on how to live a healthy and hormone friendly lifestyle and it’s excellent. And, despite the title, it applies to men of all ages.
If you want to educate yourself and understand why hormonal balance is key to your health, check out his book on Amazon or visit his website www.optimizedarmy.com
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