Appreciating Food

As a nutritionist I have confession to make.

I can’t look at a plate of food without seeing it in terms of nutrients.

Dinner isn’t a plate of roasted garlic and onion sauteed up with some spinach and tomatoes. Vermicelli noodles piled high with slow roasted chicken bought from a farmers market. Top it off with a slice of fresh lemon.

Nope. Instead it’s:

40 grams of protein. Check

60-80 grams of carbohydrates. Check.

10-20 grams of healthy fats from olive oil and meat. Check. 

Lycopene in the tomatoes, iron in the spinach, and all these other micro nutrients, vitamins and fiber.

In his great book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollen summarized this perfectly.

We eat food. Not nutrients.

This is where the true enjoyment comes. Turning food into math and back into food sucks the very life out of what it means to gather ingredients, prepare it by hand, cook it with precision and share with your family or friends over a nice bottle of wine.

People wonder why they fall off of diet after a couple weeks or months.

Maybe the best decision they could make is to just live by a rule such as, “Eat mostly whole, nutrient dense food while minimizing intake processed foods”

From there, just create amazing, tasteful meals.

I wonder what would happen? Just to try this habit for a couple of weeks and honestly see what happens to our bodies and the way we feel.

As a man who loves food and everything involved in the process from eating to sharing stories with a friend over it, I have a confession to make.

I am truly happy.

The Cost of Doing Business

While getting ready to make a cup of coffee, I spilled my entire bag of beans onto the ground. This wasn’t some cheap bag either. I found it when I went to the United States with my girlfriend a couple weekends ago.

Normally I would have been furious, shouting some absurdity. But as I grabbed the broom to sweep the mess up I found a phrase running through my mind.

This is just the cost of doing business.

If I want to make cups of coffee that requires slow-dripping, weighing beans and burr grinding them by hand, shit is going to happen.

I will burn my self.

My slow dripper will tip over.

Beans will fall.

All I can do is control myself and take as much care with each action as possible. Any problem that occurs from here on after is a normal problem and at least a lesson to be learned.

This isn’t a lesson on being clumsy. This is about knowing where hard work – and the right kind of work – will take us.

Realizing that negative events will happen in advance can help alleviate anxieties and anger – allowing us to see situations for what they really are without clouded judgment.

If we want to play in the big leagues, it requires skin in the game. As soon as we do that we become vulnerable but we must accept it. If this is where we want to be, accept that we will be mocked and criticized.

Sure, we will fail. However, it is much better to know that anything outside of our comfort zones offer us extraordinary opportunities to learn.

Now if you will excuse me I must get back to sweeping these beans off of my floor.

This is the cost of doing business.

The Worthy Work

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Today I quit my job.

I had it for almost 2 years. It was meant as a job to pay the bills while I went to university. Shortly after, I dropped out of school. The job still stayed and some days it made me miserable. But I wouldn’t let my emotions be swayed.

Pretty much from the beginning, I decided I wouldn’t let a label dictate who I was as a human being. My job title made me the “Site Maintenance” guy for a petroleum company.

But that wasn’t who I was.

I had to find a way to turn shit into sugar – and you do too. We all have 24 hours in a day. It is how we utilize this time that is crucial. I realized that a huge portion of my day was comprised of driving between various locations around Winnipeg. This served as a huge learning and thinking field for me. I bought an auxiliary cable, subscribed to Audible, got the app on my phone and started to listen to audio books every time I stepped foot into my work truck.

On the surface, I was a steel-toe booted, dirty jean wearing maintenance man. But underneath I was striving for something bigger than myself. It is the only reason I got up every morning. If I built the necessary skills in a field I enjoyed while not letting anything hold me back, I knew I would succeed.

Along my journey I began to notice that whenever I grew exhausted and wanted to be left alone, those were the times I wasn’t working towards my future version of myself. My thoughts would be all over the place and in my mind I wondered why I wasn’t moving in the direction I wanted to. Only when I became present, relaxed, turned the book back on, interned (at my new job) and continued to teach people did I really feel alive. I had to find and do the worthy work.

I’m not writing this to brag that I got out of my comfort zone and got into the field I am truly passionate about. I’m here to serve as your catalyst if you are having trouble to become your own.

Understand: If you care, things suddenly become hard. The wonderful thing about this – it is also extremely rewarding. 

I didn’t have to read every single day.

I didn’t have to start a blog (which I am still learning the ropes) and practice writing every day.

I didn’t have to reach out to people in the fitness industry and ask for advice.

I didn’t have to work two jobs while not getting paid for my interning.

I didn’t have to study for fitness and nutrition certificates even though I had no job to apply them too.

I needed to.

Get ready to sweat an push into your fears.  But get ready to be happier than you ever have been in your life.

Here are two books that changed my life. I hope they change yours as well. These are here to serve as guides on your quest to learn whatever it is that you want to eventually teach and do for a living.

Mastery by Robert Greene

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Limiting Factors

“Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capability to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When it comes to living healthy, bringing clarity to our goals can come in the most unconventional ways.  Normally, we envision our goal and then go about trying to achieve it by overhauling all areas of our lives. We lay a new routine over top of the one we have followed for months or years. This works extremely well, for about 10% of  people. Most will fall off the plan and regress right back into their previous state. 

In this post, I jump around between multiple topics and opened myself up for much discussion and debate. I simply had to get this idea out there, and see where it leads. As with most of my posts, I have an extremely hard time putting them into words. I try to write from my experience and what my thoughts are as I carry out my actions. This is the negative aspect of preverbal concepts – not being able to share it in a comprehensible way. All the more fun for me to try and share things with a unique outlook. It is easy to say, “This muscle does A, B and C because of X, Y and Z.” It is much harder to explain why a fleeting thought of mine came back on numerous occasions as I performed something and then it transformed the way I perceived myself taking that action. It also does not sound as sexy.

When asked how he created the masterpiece David so flawlessly and beautifully from a huge slab of marble, Michelangelo answered he simply removed everything that was not David.

The story of Michelangelo creating David, and the story of David overcoming Goliath offer us valuable insights.

David triumphs through sheer creativity, and destruction of the status quo. What it meant to fight – the rules, the style, the weapons – were mostly common knowledge among those during their time. You see this huge beast of a man summoning David to come and fight, who was much, much smaller and not wearing any armor. And who prevails? What was it that David possessed that so few others could not grasp themselves?

A great book to check out on this topic as it relates to the modern human condition is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.

Note: There is a story in here from a family in my city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. This was completely eye-opening to me and was proud Gladwell could craft a deeply touching message out of such a sad topic.

We have this notion that to get into shape everything must be direction, strategy, follow the orders, listen to the experts. These methods can work but they are also very intimidating. If we don’t achieve our definition of success we feel this huge burden of blame come over ourselves. I am going to tell you right now that if you were to come to me for health advice on nutrition or strength training, I would not assume the role of the traditional expert. This is not because I lack knowledge or confidence. There are simply too many things that we do not know (about the human body), and underlying changes due to unpredictable events. So with this  I cannot say with absolute authority I know everything.

Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition has brought the spotlight onto this area, and one that he traced back to a book titled, Motivational Interviewing. The roles we assume not only as coaches, but of ourselves in our everyday life should be guiders. Not directors. The majority of the population needs help relative to their situation factors. However, the few of us in the elite and highly motivated category such as Olympic athletes,  professional sports, will need direction and guidance. They need truly specific information and steps to move their bodies forward physiologically and psychologically. They don’t need one small habit at a time. They need nutrient timing, amounts, breakdowns, etc to make the smallest incremental differences in performance that lead to the highest reward. A split-second quicker. Half of a pound more.

For the rest of us, we can follow a few basic rules to get us on the right track.  What I offer may work extremely well for some and not well for others. But the main thing is that we give it an honest shot and see how it impacts our lives – and I hope for the best.

The Elimination of Limiting Factors

What is the one thing that can be tweaked or eliminated from your daily routine that is causing your body to not function optimally or in the way you wish it to? Here is where a great coach can come in. If they are open enough, they can listen and get a clear picture of you entire life. Not just particular situational factors but a holistic outlook on why you aren’t achieving your goals.

It only makes sense that before you start, you best know what your goal is.

Are you trying to get more muscular, increase your strength, be able to do one chin up, burn fat, join a fitness competition, look great for a wedding? Whatever it is,  your goal should be big, audacious and emotional. Emotions drive us to take action. Few of us will achieve anything worthwhile if we haven’t even decided for ourselves that it is. Anything other than that is just stale.

From here, we need to address everything in your life that doesn’t help you attain your goal.  These lists can be extremely long, ranging from not having the right foods in your fridge to your close group of friends not being healthy themselves. That is why we will only focus on 1 or 2 crucial limiting factors. The ones that are pulling you down the hardest.

One key reason for following so few habits at once is that to change one large habit, requires many smaller habits to change. We need to understand that beneath these fundamental principles and habits we follow, there are fundamental emotions and behaviors that shape and form our actions. We cannot assume as coaches, health nuts, or fitness enthusiasts that giving a person a hand out will lead to them achieving the results they desire. Superficially these offer value. Adhere to them and you will see results. But in truth, we are asking these people to change their lives. Their definitions of it and the habits, events and thoughts it was comprised of.

Instead, let us just try to look at things a little different.

Before every action – every chip of the chisel – we must ask ourselves, “Does this serve my higher purpose?”

Remind yourself, “This action will make me a little better, or a little worse.” Doing this makes that chocolate bar not look as seductive.

But as any coach has learned either quickly or by years of experience, there are much deeper rooted reasons and causes to the actions of ourselves and the people we train. It is up to us to look at the subjects objectively but at the same time consider subjective measures.

No, I don’t think we are supposed to be psychologists and try to figure out our clients desires by questioning them about all areas of their lives.  Being mindful of where they are coming from is something we should at least be aware of though. So in honor of this, I want to help you get on track. email me at paulmkeefe@gmail.com with the subject Limiting Factors and I will help you find yours. Also, don’t be afraid to share what your limiting factors are in the comment section below. If other readers see what others are sharing, they might be able to relate easier and find their factors much more quickly. I want to leave this post extremely open-ended and depending on feedback,  see if I should elaborate more on this way of viewing our tasks.

Remember:

You are David overcoming Goliath, and as you do this you are slowly chipping away until you reveal the reward itself.

What excess will you remove?

Training With Mindfulness

As I moved a lacrosse ball under my foot my friend asked, “What do you think about when you do that?”

I almost answered, “Nothing.”

But this couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was the easy answer. It was just too passive for my liking however. Almost as if what I was doing was a complete waste of time.

So I replied, “Just this movement. All of my focus is on finding tight spots, feeling the muscles and connective tissues reform, bend and contort with the pressure I apply against the ball.”

Did this really serve any more purpose than if I had not been thinking about the task at all?

Yes. A thousand times yes.

I am with this moment. I am learning my body. How it reacts to the environment and the different stimuli I impose upon it.

I am here, and I am connected.

As I warm up before my work out, I become consumed by understanding my bodies signals. But not overwhelmed. I simply accept my bodies reaction. Realizing that whatever reaction I sense is because of the actions I made leading up to this event.

I don’t have energy because I haven’t moved as much lately.

I am tight because I haven’t stretched.

I am weak because I have over trained or have not progressed strategically.

I do not judge these thoughts. These are my bodies feelings due to my actions and I must accept them.

If I want to continue to feel like this, I will know what to continue to do.

Likewise if I want to improve, I know what needs to be done.

Step One

“Don’t depend on the enemy not coming; depend rather on being ready for him.” – Sun-tzu

There is somebody in a similar position to you right now. The exception is that they are studying more, training harder and teaching many. When you two meet, you may lose.

Not because of intellect, strength or compassion, but because they showed up everyday and sat down to actually do the work. All you did was talk about it.

Like the poser who calls himself a writer at social gatherings who has never wrote a word. They are simply dreaming of writing. To become a writer, you must write.

The amazing thing is, as soon as they put the pen to the paper and form words to sentences, paragraphs to pages, a writer is born. Being better at creating readable material than others doesn’t matter. That comes through practice. Instead, they focus on the main element – writing – while seeking advice from others.

For health just chuck out the junk food, go for that walk, or drink that glass of water first thing when you get up. Just take the first step already. You will be healthier than your previous self and you can actually tell people the journey you are embarking on. Not saying that you want to be healthy, but that you are becoming healthy. 

So when it comes to competing against the tangible opponent you might just lose. But you beat the enemy.

He was inside of you all along.

My Job

“Your task is to focus on the action, with the utmost enjoyment and respect for the process. Do not get discouraged if you can’t make the last rep. As long as you show up you will fail sometimes – understand that. Each day, just lay out your best effort. If you show up with honesty, goodness and heart in your actions – then I shouldn’t have to ask for more.”

As a mentor I have to create an environment of learning. To make the student realize that what counts is hard work, effort, and the right mindset. Natural talent, and fast learners will get the same treatment as those that learn at a slower pace. Effort will triumph over ability. The most innovative companies know this. Hire for attitude, train for skill. It is easier to change behavior with the right attitude. I must teach my students and myself to:

Learn from criticism.

Step up and face obstacles head on. 

Have people to be inspired by.

Don’t take anything personally.

Do these things and you will grow. All I did was merely listen and nudge you when needed.