Transformation

Behavior Change, Lifestyle, Transformation

Habits Equals Success


Success in meeting our goals in life whether that be our weight, our lean muscle mass, our retirement or writing a blog comes from a simple formula. Simple doesn’t always mean easy, execution and follow through can be tough. We are all human and we all fail from time to time, even the best of the best are not perfect so please keep that in mind while we look at this  simple formula that helps people reach their goals. 

Here it is: Establish good habits! That’s it. Allow me to expound on how good habits allow us to reach our goals and find success. Let’s break this down. I didn’t say bad habits or wrong habits or just habits. I said “good” habits. Often the thing that takes us away from where we want to be with our health or any other goal is an incongruent habit. This does not mean the habit is bad in moral or ethical way, although it could be. It simple means it is not aligned with what we want and in this context I would define a bad habit as any habit that doesn’t serve you and where you want to be. Staying up late binge watching the latest Netflix series to me is a bad habit because I value the quality and quantity of my sleep and how that quality sleep impacts my health. The nightly Netflix binge also takes me away from reading and learning, which is something else that I value and enjoy. This does not mean that I don’t watch any TV or that I haven’t binged a series until midnight –– see above about not being perfect –– however is not my habit, or my default.

Habits are just that, our default behavior that takes place when there is a trigger or a cue. It can be walking into a dark room and you turn on the light switch 99% of the time. That is habit. dark room, switch, you and voila the lights are turned on. It can be the routine you use before bed, the route to take home from work or the store. These all become default habits. Some are great, some not so great and others can be indifferent. To reach our goals with our health we need to set up good habits that serve our health goals. 

Here are some areas that we can improve our habits that will pay off over time. After all, a habit is doing something consistently over time, which is also the definition I use for compliance. 

Consider your habits around the following things and ask if they are truly serving you, if not ask how can you improve them in small ways. 

Evening routine 

Bed time 

Morning routine 

How you eat your meals 

When you eat your meals 

Do you have a snack – if so why and what 

Workouts 

Moving frequently during the day

Going for a walk after dinner 

Going for a walk in the morning 

Meal prepping

Meditation and mindfulness 

Spending time with friends and family

The list can go on an on. The key point is to be intentional about the things you do and to build a good habits around them. The good habits will become the default and it will require less thinking and will power. The good habit becomes automatic like turning on the light switch and the benefits compound over time. Just remember bad habits compound over time as well. So take some time and evaluate some habits you may want to add, to change or to remove from your life and apply intention + consistency + time and you will get where you want to go. 

Habits take time to develop and it’s okay to start small, it’s okay to tinker with them until they work for you. And always enjoy the journey along the way and give yourself the permission and self love to know that you are not perfect and that progress is better than regression and stagnation. 

Best. 

Nathan Marsala | PHC 

Bison Health Coaching

Behavior Change, Lifestyle, Transformation

Getting Started


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A question I seem to get a lot is, Where do I start? With all of the information that is available and all of the “changes” that may or may not need to be made it can become overwhelming. Starting with an all or nothing approach can be for you if you are that person. Most of us are not, and we need to pick one item and ease into the changes.

I am an advocate of the minimum effective dose (MED) to make a positive change. The MED for week one is only becoming aware of the behaviors that you currently have. I am not saying you obsess over these items, but merely become informed. An example would be with food and meal frequency. I recommend that you write down everything you eat and drink and the time for one week, you do not need to count macronutrients or calories, this is just to become aware of the choices and decisions we make. If carrying a notebook is too much, use the camera on your smartphone and before anything enters your mouth snap a picture. The phone will time stamp and show quantity, and it is simple. This is a MED to become aware of one habit. After we have been able to bring awareness to the meal timing, and content we can then begin to work on making the positive changes.
Typically the next step would be to purge the pantry of any processed food, vegetable oils, sugars, and other simple carbohydrates and to go grocery shopping for real, whole foods. I emphasize green leafy vegetables, some fruit in season that is fresh for a sweet tooth, healthy meats and fats. We work on merely eating these foods over processed foods. Timing, quantity, and frequency will come next. Again each approach is tailored to the individual and what they can take on. For some, it may be easier to go all in and attack all aspects in one step. Understanding how much to change to take on at one time is something you need to play with to determine what the MED is for you. I don’t want clients to be starving or hungry at first. I want them to start focussing on better food choices. As quality foods become a natural part of their lifestyle, then we can start working on the MED for other aspects of health. These would be meal timing, quantity, understanding the difference between satiated and stuffed. After food, we focus on sleep, movement, exercise and stress resiliency. Regaining our health does not happen overnight, in a week or a month. It is a process that takes time. The time required is different for each person, and it has a lot to do with how long a person has been living in a way that was opposed to health. My journey back to health took over a year to get to a healthy weight and as my knowledge expanded so did the time it took. My weight loss and return to health were non-linear, and I am still working on making consistent changes as my goals and understanding progress. The principle of MED has not changed and is still there.

So where do we start? With becoming aware of what needs to change and then taking the minimum effective dose to start making that change.

By: Nathan Marsala

Behavior Change, Transformation

We All Struggle at Times


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It’s time to be real. I struggle on days to get up, to eat real food, to move and to lift heavy things. I struggle on days to shut down the mindless scrolling on Instagram––I recently deleted the app to work on this very item since I felt it was becoming more of a distraction than a tool.

I think we all have those challenging days where a lack of willpower, motivation or drive seems to take over. It is normal and natural to crave and desire things that play on our neurochemistry. Social media is engineered to get us to scroll endlessly and not leave their site. Food, as well, is engineered to the “bliss point,” an industry term in processed food and drinks that refers to the exact range that gets us to want to consume more. Not too sweet. Not too rich. Not too salty. It’s just right. It is on these days that we have to rely on habits that we have set up to help us. The discipline the follow through and to also have compassion and empathy for our shortcomings. Are we going to stumble and fall on days like this? Absolutely. It is human nature. The critical thing to remember is that when we do fall short and struggle, for a day or a meal, to not let that become a negative feedback loop that then becomes days and weeks of shortcomings strung together. Repeated struggling day after day is how we often find ourselves giving up and quitting on ourselves. Digging ourselves into a hole that can feel too deep to climb out of. I know I have been there. I have also learned from those experiences as well.

Take chocolate, for example, I love dark chocolate. The brands I prefer only have two or three ingredients, so I feel pretty good about having it as a healthy treat. But, I do not do well with moderation and chocolate––or sweets at all for that matter. I have tried to get the moderation concept to work for me, but I can still eat the entire bar without much effort and sometimes even while I am eating it saying, “Nathan, stop.”  Sweets and chocolate trigger something deep inside, and it becomes hard to stop. It could be a dopamine hit in the pleasure center of the brain or something a bit more emotional, fear of scarcity.  Either way, this area of struggle for me is real, and I know this an area I need to pay attention to If I am to guard against this behavior. I do this by making sure I am in the right frame of mind and have a limited amount of chocolate available to me if I am going to eat some. I also try not to keep it in the house. My goal is to set up the right frame of mind by making sure I am eating well, getting plenty of sleep and plenty of movement. If I don’t do these foundational things, then it becomes much harder. And when I am stressed and running on poor fuel and limited deep sleep, I am going to go crazy and end up devouring all of the chocolate around. So for me, if life is getting the better of me on a day with stress, lack of sleep, or something else, then abstinence is my friend on these weaknesses. I won’t tempt fate, it can be hard, and I’m not perfect. But as I mentioned at the beginning, I then have compassion and empathy for myself. I shake it off, get back up and start again with the next meal, the next day, the next time. The key for each us it to learn what these areas of weakness are and how to mitigate them.

If you are struggling, take a step back, breathe, and get some distance so you can evaluate why and the what. Be kind to yourself. None of us are perfect. Remind yourself to focus on the process.

By: Nathan Marsala

 

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Transformation

My Story Part 1


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Today  2018

300 Pounds
The Old Me in 2010

When I first started my journey back to what I call “healthy” I started from a place that seemed too far to travel back from. I was wrong, dead wrong. My journey back to health began in 2010. As I neared by 30th birthday I had taken a quick trip to San Diego with friends from college. Digital cameras were the thing, take a photo, use the viewfinder screen to review your new photo and no waiting for the film to develop. On that trip, I saw photos of me taken earlier that day and it deflated me. I honestly think I may have ruined the trip for the other three who were there because my mood changed from “on vacation!” to “WTH!” What I saw I didn’t recognize. It was a very large overweight 29-year old that looked miserable inside. I was miserable, I was depressed, lost and obese by any measurement, I didn’t know I had gotten so big. Or perhaps I did and I just not to see it. I knew before the trip to San Diego that I was not thin or fit and had a few pounds to lose. In fact, I had attempted many times to lose weight for a decade prior to this trip. I tried it all, the lemonade detox, zone, beach body, starving, low fat, no fat, you name it. I lost some weight on all of them and gained it all back and a little extra for good measure. In the course of my journey, I injected my self with hormones (I tried testosterone and the HCG diet), I restricted my diet to a handful of foods, suffered and gave up multiple times until I decided to educate myself. At my largest point, I was tipping the scales at just over 300 pounds, squeezing into a 44″ pant, looking for clothes at a big and tall store because most stores around me only went to XXL and 42″ waists. I was written prescriptions for high blood pressure and statins for high cholesterol and told by my doctor that I would not likely see my 40th birthday if I did not change. The doctor’s visit came about a month after the trip to San Diego, when I determined I needed a physical because the home DVD warm-up for the work out almost killed me and I felt I needed a doctor. That trip to the doctor showed  I had all of the bad biomarkers, extremely high triglycerides, low HDL levels, hypertension.  I never started the prescriptions that were given to me. It felt odd having those slips of paper handed to me, it seemed wrong, “eat better” and “take these” was not enough for me. Now I had questions, lots of questions. What does “eat better” really mean? Seriously, is there a more confusing and nebulous term? I spent the next year losing some weight about 40 pounds while I was starting to learn and find my way through what it meant to restore my health. I moved back to my home state, ended a long-term relationship, found people who could really help me navigate this journey and joined a gym that gave me anxiety. How a gym gave me anxiety will be

The San Diego Photo
The San Diego Photo

another part of this blog post series, but in short, the first time I went to the gym, I walked out, I was too embarrassed by my size to stay.  I learned that restoring my health was not something that I could just do. I tried that for a decade and failed every time by every measure of the word failure. Fast forward to today, 2018, I have a family, friends, eight years worth of reading, studying, applying and learning about health. I maintain a healthy life, it is not hard or stressful to do this either, it is natural. I average 12% body fat, I weigh 190 pounds and I am an active father, husband, business owner and a curious person who keeps growing and learning. I did not do this journey alone, I met a lot of wonderful, smart people along the way. Some of them have joined me here at Bison Health Coaching where they continue to inspire others. I am grateful for them, I am grateful for what I have, my life back. Here is what I can tell you, it is about more than just what and when you eat, or how much you workout. It is about how you do everything. Don’t let that sound daunting, it’s not when you have a coach that can help you navigate the way and empower you to make the changes needed. I learned what is really required to make lifelong lasting, healthy changes. The first step is knowing you want to make a change, the second is asking for the help to make the change. I will be posting more about my journey back, the mistakes I made, and how I have managed to not return to the 300-pound version of myself. If you want to make the change if you want to know what it feels like to be the best you then I encourage you to reach out to us on our contact page and start taking your health to the next level.

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Nathan Marsala

By Nathan Marsala – Founder of Bison Health Coaching

July 2018