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The Cycle of Stress Eating

This past week I was talking with a trainee about their progress.  This trainee has made excellent progress but seemed to be having difficulty staying away from foods she knew were not healthy for her.

We discussed a wide range of issues.  One of the things I asked her to do was to reflect on what she was thinking and feeling when she made the decision to eat something that’s not on her nutrition plan.  Not just “Oh, I’m hungry, I think I want a whopper with fries.”  What was the motivating thought and feeling for her to eat fatty, greasy non-nutritious foods.

What we came up with is that she eats out of stress.  The way that she’s always dealt with stress, anger, sadness, hurt, fear or any other feeling is to eat away those feelings.  By eating away her feelings she can literally “stuff ” her feelings and never have to address them.

Here’s the deal, we all have ways that we cope with life and the feelings we experience.  Some people use food.  Others use alcohol, drugs.  Others even use relationships as a way to mask feelings.  No matter what a person uses to turn off their feelings, they will continue to act out in the same manner, unless they can directly confront why they are avoiding the issues that need to be dealt with.

The cycle of acting out to avoid the uncomfortable feeling looks something like this:


Each part of the cycle leads to the next and when a person is in this cycle, they have an extremely difficult time removing themselves.  The individual has to stop themselves in the fantasy stage and question what is causing them to romance the idea of eating something that is going to make them feel bad emotionally, mentally and physically.

The best way to get out of this cycle is to stop and think about what is going on right now and what the person is feeling.  Many times stress is a major factor.  Loneliness is another feeling that triggers acting out.

For whatever reason, the person experiences a void in their life and they usually try to fill that void with food.  Filling a void with food can cause lots of negative consequences.  It’s not the rapid type of consequences that someone who uses drugs and alcohol.  It comes on over a long period of time and can be just as devastating.

Sometimes it’s not just the physical aspect of weight loss like exercising and eating properly.  We also have to consider what is going on mentally and emotionally.

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Think Of Yourself As An Athlete

Everyday these two guys come into the gym together.  They’ve been coming for awhile and working out together.  So when I saw one of them working out by himself I asked him where his buddy was.  He said “he won’t be working out for awhile.  He’s not doing to good.”  I was with a trainee so I didn’t push him for more information.  He gave it to me anyway.  “He had a stroke.”  I was shocked because even though the guy is overweight he is still young.  I asked him how old his friend is and he said 37.

37 years old is way to young to be having a stroke.  But this is not the whole story.  Later on I find out that on his way home from the hospital this guy stops off at Wendy’s for a hamburger and fries.  His friend said that his justification for stopping at Wendy’s was “my eating has nothing to do with me having a stroke.”

Am I missing something?  How in the world could anyone think that their nutrition have nothing to do with their health?  It’s hard for me to even conceive that someone would have that much denial about their choice of food intake.

Nutrition and exercise have everything to do with a person’s health.  Sure this guy was coming to the gym and “working out”.  The one thing I notice about his workout was the lack of intensity.  I never saw him break a sweat.  The gym seemed more of a social setting for him.  Which is okay, if you are challenging yourself while you are training.  If not, then it’s just a waist of time.

And if you are not eating properly and going to the gym you will never see a change in body composition.  You can fool yourself into thinking you are taking care of yourself, but in the end it’s all about what you put into your body and how that is used to support your energy needs.

We all teach a lesson.  Some of us teach others the way to be strong and healthy and others teach how to fail at being strong and healthy.

I have to put myself into a frame of mind.  I try to picture myself as a athlete in training.  Not just someone that is working out everyday and trying to eat right.  What I eat has a direct effect on what I do while training.  What I do while training has an effect on how I eat.  I eat carbs and fats for energy and protein, fruits and vegetables for muscle repair and body function.

When I think of myself in terms of being an athlete in training, I have to stop and ask myself “how will this food affect me while I’m training?”  Will it add to my goals or will it take away from them.

I know that I am not a athlete.  But having the mental attitude of being an athlete in training gives me the discipline I need to eat in such a way that it compliments what I do in a workout.

Think of yourself as an athlete.  You are  strong and getting stronger.  Your body needs proper nutrition to compete everyday in the competition of life.

There is no reason anyone should be having a stroke in their 30’s.  It is all about nutrition and exercise and how they relate to each other.

For more information on FC-Nation Training Programs visit FC-Nation web site.

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Boot Camp Madness

This is the best Boot Camp in Anderson, SC.  People are losing pounds and inches like crazy.  The energy from the participants is totally incredible.

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Beth's First Training Session

Check out Beth’s first workout session.  She did great.  Always remember to eat something like a carb or quick digesting protein before a training session.

For more info on Personal Training in Anderson SC please contact me at


Overcoming The Skinny Fat Syndrome

Have you ever seen some one who has lost lots of weight by just dieting and no exercise?  Most of us have ran across individuals who were by some freak of nature able to accomplish weight loss just through lowering their calorie intake.


Think Jared from the Subway commercials.  The guy was able to lose lots of his weight simply by changing his eating habits and walking everyday.  While this may seem to most to be the ideal situation, it has a tremendous amount of drawbacks.

Jared is what we call Skinny Fat.  Skinny Fat is a condition that occurs when a person drops a lot of weight but has done little or no strength training or conditioning.  The person looks better because of the weight loss but when you look at their muscle tone they are completely lacking.  Why is this a problem you are asking.  Simply because while you have lost all the weight, without lean muscle mass you have also lowered metabolism.  Lowered metabolism leads to the body storing fat instead of using it as fuel.  All the weight that was lost will come back and will be harder to lose.

In order to lose the weight and keep the weight off you have to raise metabolism.  And raising metabolism means building lots of lean muscle mass and eating the right kinds of food at the right time.

Building muscle to destroy the Skinny Fat Syndrome

Optimal muscularity requires, well, muscle.  The more muscle you have, the better you’ll look.

The system I typically use to add muscle as quickly as possible starts with the following:

1. Perform three total body workouts per week with at least 48 hours rest between each session.

2. Perform an upper-body pull and push along with a squat or deadlift in each session.

3. Use different variations of each movement throughout the week, with single-limb exercises being employed at least half of the time.

4. Change up the sets and reps with each training.  Typically I have trainees do 3 x 12 on Monday, 4 x 6 on Wednesday, and 2 x 20 on Friday.

Those four parts comprise the base of the system. What you add, and where you add it, is specific to the person. Curls, side raises, calf raises, etc. only come into play if time and energy allow for it.

Eating The Right Foods At The Right Time

You should provide your body with the energy that it needs and can use at that particular time, but no more. As you do with your vehicle, fuel your body based on what you are about to do or what you’ve just done.

Because carbs and fat both provide energy, it’s important to manage the amounts of each that you consume.

For example, your first meal, along with your pre- and post-workout meals, should have more carbs. Your fat intake should be low in these meals to avoid providing your body with too much available energy at one time, which would cause some energy to be stored as body fat.

You should consume ample carbs post-workout to maximize recovery from that workout. It only makes sense to fill the tank up after you just emptied it, right?

Another meal that warrants higher carb intake is your pre-workout meal. Remember, carbs are training fuel. You need more fuel when you have just trained and when you’re about to train. So adjust your carb intake accordingly.

Consume More Carbs…

• Upon awakening
• Pre-workout
• Post-workout
• First half of the day in general

Each meal, and this means six meals per day, should contain a lean protein such as chicken breast, turkey, fish or extra lean beef.  If you have access to grass fed beef and/or bison, these are excellent choices.  Protein is essential to muscle growth.

Virtually all of the protein you eat will be used as building blocks. Very, very little will be available to produce our body’s energy currency, glucose. Even less would be available to create fat, largely due to the inefficiency of this process.

When you consider that protein is very unlikely to cause fat gain along with the fact that protein consumption boosts metabolic rate by about 25%, you can see why it’s a important in the building and maintenance of lean muscle.

Vegetables are free and can be eaten at each meal.  It’s going to be important to get as much fiber in you diet as you can.

Developing lean muscle mass will not only raise your metabolism and stop you from adding body fat the moment you stop dieting, it will also make you look and feel great.  The name is the game is not what the scale says.  It’s all about total body fat and lean muscle mass.

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Contempt Prior To Investigation

Almost everyday I have a conversation similar to this one:

“No, I don’t like that!”

So you have eaten it before and you didn’t like it?  “No, but I know I wouldn’t like it.  It just sounds gross.”

If you’ve never eaten it before, how can you say you wouldn’t like it?  “Oh I know, I just wouldn’t like it.”

Deciding you don’t like something before you even give it a chance is what I call “contempt prior to investigation”.  Many of us get stuck in only doing things that we are familiar with and avoid things, situations, challenges that we are not familiar with.  The problem with never taking risk and trying new things is that we fall into a rut and life gets stale.  We continue to do the same things over and over.  Then when we get tired of doing the same things over and over, the action needed to change our behavior becomes tremendous.  We then find ourselves caught in this vicious cycle of doing the same thing we have always done because it’s familiar to us, wanting to change and do something different, and falling short because changing old habits and behaviors requires lots of work.

It’s hard work changing the way we have always thought about ourselves and the world around us.  A lifetime of telling ourselves we don’t like to eat healthy foods takes a toll on us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  How we treat ourselves by what we consume and how we treat our bodies usually takes time to change.

I could have swore that I hated cabbage.  I know that when I was growing up, the smell of cabbage would make me gag.  The same was true of cooked carrots.  When I made the decision to change my eating habits and got serious about being fit, my attitude started to change towards vegetables.  Cabbage, carrots and even beats tasted different.  I had spent an entire lifetime telling myself I didn’t like something and really it was just my attitude.

The great thing that I have learned is that I have the freedom to change.  I am not stuck with who I was.  I experience more of life and see things today from a whole new perspective.  Who I was 10 years ago is not who I am today.  For that matter, who I was last year is not who I am today.  I am free to not only make the decision to change, but to take the necessary action to make that change possible.

This is what changing your body composition and your nutrition is all about.  Being free.  Not stuck being the same person you’ve always been.  Change is a wonderful thing.

The best indication of life is change.

It’s time to be alive.  And the only way to do that is through change.  The choice and the action is yours.

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Be Your Own Fitness Hero

While I was in Texas a couple of weeks ago, I came across this statue of Sam Houston near the medical center in Houston.

Statue of Sam Houston

Sam Houston was general of the Texas army during it’s battle for independence and defeated Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto.  That battle lasted only 18 minutes and was won in spite of the fact the Mexican Army outnumbered the Texans nearly four to one.

There are two possible reasons for me telling you this story.  One is that a true Texan could never go long without telling anyone close enough to listen, the incredible story of how Texas won it’s independence.  The other is to use this story as motivation for you fitness goals.

No matter what your goals are, you can obtain them.  No matter what the obstacles or hardships you have to endure, you can reach you goals.  The only thing that stands between you and your fitness goals are the limits you put on yourself.

Looking at that statue and remembering what Sam Houston went through to accomplish his goals filled me with inspiration and a determination I haven’t felt in a long time.  That’s what people of courage and conviction do.  They inspire us to do great things in our lives.

But here’s the better part of Sam Houston’s story.  Earlier in his life he had run for office in Tennessee and had lost his race.  Despondent and depressed he made the decision to end his life.  Sam Houston decided he was going to jump from a bridge to end his life.  He climbed up to a spot where he would jump from the bridge.  Just as he was about to jump, a bald eagle swooped down in front of him.  This he took as a sign that his life was not yet ready to end.

Is this a true story?  Who knows.  Probably one made up by a Texan who was moved to elaborate more on one of the hero’s of the republic.  But really, who needs to elaborate when that person beat an army four times larger than his in only 18 minutes?

Be your own hero.  Be inspired by others, but work everyday to get closer to your goals.  Find that person or thing that motivates you to be your best.  The only thing that gets in the way of your goals is yourself.  No one can deny you unless you allow them.

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