Fact vs. Fiction: How To Boost Your Immune System The Right Way

COVID-19 put the microscope on the need for a robust immune system, but the desire to hack our way to health has been around for centuries. Let’s separate fact from fiction and help you fatten up your immune defences without thinning your wallet.

From cold remedies to Vitamin C gummies, there’s a pill for that (whatever that is).

But a burst of placebo notwithstanding, most of the over-the-counter stuff simply doesn’t reliably boost your immune system.

With a few exceptions, most vitamins and minerals won’t do anything unless you’re in an extremely susceptible state, and even then, are no substitute for lifestyle and diet modifications.

One Pill To Consider …

With that said, there is one vitamin that may be worth investigating based on recent findings.

More research is still needed, but a lot of emerging data — especially since the COVID-19 pandemic first struck — has found a direct link between Vitamin D deficiency and a compromised immune system.

One study found higher levels of vitamin D (in older individuals) led to a 40 per cent decrease in respiratory infections.

Plus, unlike many vitamins and minerals which can be produced by your body naturally or found easily in food, Vitamin D is harder to come by and deficiency is widespread in many populations (The sun isn’t strong enough during Winnipeg winters to synthesize Vitamin D).

To support your body naturally, try to get about 15-20 minutes of sun per day right now (of course, don’t overstay your welcome and burn yourself).

If that’s not a reliable option, look towards natural food sources fatty fish such as salmon, eggs, muchrooms and dairy products fortified with Vitamin D.

You can supplement if needed as well. I recommend getting a blood test to see where your levels are prior to going that route.

Too much stress can compromise your T cells (which keep you healthy)

How To Stress Less

If popping a pill (or three) likely isn’t the answer, what is?

If you really want to help your immune system, start by addressing your stress levels.

Look, I get it. Modern life is busy and you have responsibilities.

My wife and I have been without child care for 10 weeks and our self-care routine has taken a big hit. Stress is a fact of life.

But research has discovered that your T-cells (the fighters that protect you against everything from viruses to life-threatening diseases like cancer) decrease in the face of stress.

So how do you combat stress in the easiest way possible?

Meditation is great, whatever that looks like for you, but let’s make it even easier.

The act of deliberate breathing is my easiest, actionable tip to combat stress.

Box breathing involves controlling both parts of your breath (breathing in and out) as well as holding your breath. It’s called “box” breathing because you do each part of the breath for an equal amount of time (four counts), as if you are breathing around a square.

You exhale through your mouth for a total of four counts, then hold your breath for four counts, and then gently and slowly breathe in through your nose for four counts. And then hold your breath again, for four counts.

For a full session of box breathing, you simply repeat the cycle for a total of four times through.

Sleep – Long & Deep

Our culture too often devalues rest and leisure time, but taking time to get a good night’s sleep should be prioritized.

One way to do that is setting a reverse alarm on your phone 60 minutes before bedtime.

An hour before bed, you should shut off all devices (i.e. no more screen time – I’ll tell you the reason why below).

This routine will, over time, cue your body to start feeling tired. That’s exactly what you want.

TVs and cellphones produce blue light and “trick” your brain into thinking it’s daytime.

This, in turn, reduces the production of the hormone melatonin in the brain, which signals bedtime and gives you that sleepy feeling before bed.

The easiest and most effective way to avoid blue light is to wear amber-coloured glasses a few hours before bed.

They look ridiculous (OK, they’ve gotten better designs on the market in recent years) and your children will mercilessly make fun of you, but you’ll feel better for it.

These glasses effectively block blue light, so your brain doesn’t get the signal that it’s supposed to stay awake and suppress melatonin production.

Studies show that when people use blue-blocking glasses, they produce just as much melatonin as if it were dark. That said, many devices now come equipped with a night light feature to dim the screen as well.

Chronically bad sleep slathers on body fat, screws up your hormones, ages you faster, and suppresses your immune system.

One study by Prather et al showed sleeping six hours per night makes you four times more likely to catch a cold compared to sleeping seven hours per night.

Lastly, if you need help improving your sleep, stick to the same bedtime seven days a week.

Consistently going to bed and waking up at the same time throughout the week (and weekend) will do wonders for your stress levels.

Your body craves routine. If you’re constantly in a state of flux competing against your circadian rhythms, you’ll never be at peak performance and you’ll be exasperating your response to stress.

Maybe you could get away with it at 20, but eventually a lifestyle predicated on burning the candle at both ends catches up to you.

Do everything possible to stick to a routine. Boring? Sure. But very effective.

Move More

Recent research has found regular exercise helps the overall health of your immune system and decreases your risk factors for illness and disease.

It is widely agreed that regular moderate intensity exercise can help the immune system find and deal with pathogens.

In the long term, it slows down changes that happen to the immune system with ageing, therefore reducing the risk of infections and disease.

Some findings suggest too much of a good thing can be bad when it comes to exercise, but illness risk is typically only increased in athletes during periods of intense training and competition (think ultramarathons here).

You May Want To Skip The Night Cap

Debbie Downer section left for the end here, but despite the increase in alcohol sales during this pandemic, the research is strong linking drinking to poor immune function.

Too much drinking – too often – leaves you more susceptible to everything from upper respiratory infections to slower recovery from injuries and illness.

If you’ve found it harder trying to moderate your alcohol intake right now, you’re not alone.

Your best defense is to minimize the temptations by putting up figurative walls between you and the bottle.

Just like you shouldn’t have your kryptonite food in the pantry while on a diet, nor should you have your favourite beer chilled and at the ready in the fridge.

Designate a day to indulge but fight the urge to habitually reach for a brew (or three) after dinner.

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based weight loss coach. His last group intake of the “Healthy @ Home 30-Day Challenge” gets underway next week, helping you reverse the Quarantine 15, all from the comfort of your own home. Visit www.workwithmitch.ca or email mitch@mitchcalvert.com with the word “HOME” in the subject to get more details.

 

Kenny rediscovered himself on the way to losing 20 pounds

I want to introduce you to Kenny.

Kenny was a busy family man who worked an erratic schedule (often nights) and slowly saw his weight climb as he got older.

He never had much trouble keeping the weight off in his younger days, but the challenges of balancing a career and family commitments caught up to him and he realized he needed to make a change.

That’s when he reached out to me.

We took him through our system to decipher what foods work best for him so he could sleep well, have great digestion, good energy, and lose weight along the way.

He still enjoyed a few cold ones but with the strategic cheat day protocol clients get to enjoy every week, he still managed to lose 20+ pounds and a couple pant sizes in less than 12 weeks. He’s now in maintenance mode (a necessary step) before making another push on his own here soon.

I feel the best I have in years, and with hard work and your help, I have reached this point.  Thanks for the motivation and resources to get to where I am and to keep me going with my goals.

Why might you have been skeptical of joining at first? 

Did not know if it was what I wanted with the online part I’m a face to face person

What was your BIG breakthrough from the coaching? 

Seeing the person I could be and have never been. I lost weight and had more definition then ever before

How much weight did you lose? 

Over 20 lbs

How did your measurements change? 

I lost about 2 pant sizes

What were 2 non-scale victories you experienced working with Mitch (compliments, sleep improvements, pants fitting etc.) 

Clothes I have not fit in for a long time we’re loose. Definition throughout my body.

If someone is thinking of joining up with Mitch, what would you tell them? 

Do it, he is a great coach.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready, here’s how I can help you lose fat without sacrificing family time or going through the same frustrating cycle of weight loss followed by weight gain.

I’m opening my doors to work with 10 people who are ready RIGHT NOW to reduce stress, skyrocket their energy levels and come out the other side of this pandemic in the best shape of their life in my “Corona Quarantine Transformation Challenge”

I’ll give you the exact custom nutrition and exercise blueprint built for your “new normal” at home.

I’ll show up for you on weekly virtual sessions to keep you honest and accountable and motivated.

I’ll give you my best Belly Blast Blueprint™ tools to predictably and consistently lose inches where it matters.

Ultimately, this is the best way I can help you maintain your health and sanity and set you up for massive success during this pandemic and beyond.

But let me be VERY CLEAR about who this is and is not for

This invitation is ONLY for you if:

1. You are ready to drop a pant size or two and NOT use this pandemic to put on the “Quarantine 15”

2. You have tried many diets/programs without lasting results

3. You are open to trying something new and have 30 minutes per day to commit to this (all done at home for obvious reasons!)

4. You are friendly and coachable

5. You can keep a secret

Now here’s the guarantee: We’re going to set a goal together and if you don’t reach it, I’ll refund your investment.

Send an email to me at mitch@mitchcalvert.com with ‘CRAZY’ in the subject line if you meet my criteria above and you’re ready to get started right now. I’ll send you the next steps as soon as I get your email.

Coping with COVID-19: The Ultimate Fitness Guide

You’re probably hunkered down at home with no clear end of this in sight.

And you’re likely wondering how on earth you can make it to the end of your quarantine with your sanity and health in tact.

I know I am.

I’ve befriended one of my dumbbells – let’s call him Weider – who has kept me company when I need a break from the kids.

He calls me out if I don’t lift him enough. I tossed him outside after he got on my nerves and immediately regretted it.

Here’s how it went down from my recollection:

Weider! WEIDER I’m sorry! Weider, I’m sorry! I’m sorry! WILSON! I mean… Weider. I CAN’T! WEIDER! WEIDER!”

Long story short, I’m never watching Cast Away while in my own isolation again.

While you may be feeling stressed and anxious about what the future holds, there is always a silver lining.

I’m going to give you your “silver linings playbook” so none of those dumbbells in your basement collect dust (don’t worry, you don’t have to give any of them a pet name). Easily the No. 1 complaint I get from clients is the amount of social and work functions that lead to hard-to-track calories and poor food and drink choices.

Dining out, work lunches and events, social functions.

Well, guess what? Those are currently off the table. This is a “forced” boot camp where you control what you eat. You have a serious opportunity (once you figure out a routine with the kitchen three steps away and the kids at home) to make a lot of progress.

Diet Tips Under Quarantine

You’ll need to control your food environment to make this work. I’m still figuring this out.

Normally I work from home but I’m in “work mode” until the kids come home and I don’t spend much time in the kitchen.

Now I’m preparing their meals and snacks at all hours of the day, and it’s the little bites I’m taking that add up.

Here’s how to setup your environment:

If it’s not immediately in your environment, you’re probably not going to eat it: So keep it out.

Yes, you may need to stock up on snacks for the kids.

But limit your exposure to your kryptonite foods. For example, I have a hard time moderating red velvet cake, so the rule is if it doesn’t come home with me it won’t get in my mouth and lead to weight gain. Problem solved.

If it has to be in the house, put up “walls” in front of it. Make it harder to indulge. Keep the junk food in less visible and less convenient locations.

For example, if you need it in the house for your kids, keep ice cream in the downstairs freezer and hide it under a stash of frozen vegetables if necessary.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, take down the “walls” in front of making healthy food choices.

For example, keep a fruit bowl out on the counter, not a bowl of candies.

Keep refrigerated vegetables on the front and middle shelves of your refrigerator, and keep more “off plan” refrigerated items near the back (or perhaps in the drawers).

Keep to a schedule of planned dinners you prepare and food prep some lunch essentials ahead of time (particularly proteins and starchy carbs, which can’t really be figured out on the fly).

Exercise Tips Under Quarantine

Just as muscle mass is not gained quickly, it is not lost quickly either. It takes a prolonged period of inactivity to lose a noticeable amount of muscle mass. So if you can’t hit the gym as regularly, it’s not doomsday here.

You can get moving by walking around your neighbourhood (if you avoid crowded spaces, don’t touch things and wash your hands before and after).

Then, if time allows, you can do a lot with limited equipment or simply your own body at home.

The six movement patterns to focus on are:

  • Vertical Push
  • Vertical Pull
  • Horizontal Push
  • Horizontal Pull
  • Hip Hinge
  • Squat

A pair of dumbbells will allow you to accomplish all of these movements in some fashion.

Here’s a quick example dumbbell only workout.

Circuit 1:

A1. DB Presses Overhead – 15-20 reps (Vertical Push)

A2. Pull up (or assisted pull up using bands or a chair) – 10-12 reps (Vertical Pull)

A3. Goblet squat – 12-15 reps (Squat)

Go through the entire circuit once and rest for two minutes before repeating the circuit again for a few more rounds.

Once you’ve completed all the rounds, rest for two minutes before moving onto circuit two below.

Circuit 2:

A1. DB floor press – 12-15 reps (Horizontal Push)

A2. DB Single Arm Rows – 12-5 reps per arm (Horizontal Pull)

A3. DB Romanian deadlift – 12-15 reps (Hip Hinge)

Go through the entire circuit once and rest for two minutes before repeating the circuit again for a few more rounds.

No dumbbells? No problem.

There are a variety of bodyweight-only exercises you can do to perform these movement patterns, just consider increasing the rep range to up the degree of difficulty if necessary.

A1. Push up – as many reps as you can (Horizontal Push)

A1. Bodyweight Squats or Archer Squats– 15 reps (Squat)

A3. Inverted Rows (using towel or bed sheet) – 12-15 (Horizontal Pull)

A4. Pike Push Up – as many reps as you can (Vertical Push)

A5. Chin Up (or assisted chin up using band or chair) – 6-10 reps (Vertical Pull)

A6. Single leg or dual leg Hip Thrusts – as many reps as you can (Hip Hinge)

An easy way to do this circuit is to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and do as many rounds as possible before the buzzer sounds.

Lifestyle/Immune Boosting Tips During Quarantine

There is no food, diet, or supplement that will prevent you from catching the virus or curing it if you’ve caught it despite what the hucksters are pedaling on social media.

However, you can help ‘maintain’ your immune system. Aadam Ali shared these guidelines from The International Society of Immunonutrition:

The general advice is to eat a diverse and well-balanced diet rich in coloured fruit and vegetables (to increase the intake of antioxidant and associated nutrients) to support immune function.

Specific advice in relation to the elderly is to increase the intake of Vitamin E (134 mg – 800 mg/day), Zinc (30 mg – 220 mg/day), Vitamin C (200 mg – 2 g/day) and particularly for those people with low serum vitamin D status, Vitamin D (10 μg – 100 μg/day).

These nutrients have been shown to enhance T cell and B cell (antibody) immunity in human studies including in the elderly.

There is no specific evidence these nutritional measures can help protect against, or even lessen the effects, of, COVID-19 infection.

Stating the obvious, but intelligent weight training and regular cardiovascular exercise will take you far here. However, there is a point of diminishing returns.

Just as too little movement has a negative effect, so too does too much. Taken to extremes (ultra endurance training) may compromise your immune system for days afterwards.

In the end, do not give into the temptation to eat junk, binge-watch TV, get into social media fights, go to bed late and skip out on exercise.

You must control what you can (your physical and mental diet and daily habits), you must cope with what you can’t control (take the right precautions to deal with the outbreak), and you must concentrate on what counts (your family, your future).

Go to bed on time. Get up on time. Walk. Continue to work (read, study, think).

In my client coaching groups, we’re doing a daily five-minute “body” workout (physical) and a daily five-minute “mind” workout (meditation, reaching out to a friend in need, gratitude) over the next 30 days.

Sticking to these daily habits will get you through these moments stronger, safer, and saner than anything else.

Just as your muscles need daily work to prevent atrophy, your mind needs the same. It defaults to negativity if you let it. Plant good things early.

Read or listen to positive information in the morning, move your body, do things that bring you joy.

Get out in nature with sunshine – socially distanced, of course – when possible. Twenty minutes a day of fresh air makes a significant difference.

Breathing work is the most overlooked wellness “secret” in the world.

You can control your body’s physiology and feeling simply through how you take in air through your nose and exhale from your lungs.

Slow things down for at least five minutes. Something like inhaling for four seconds through your nose, seven-second hold, eight-second exhale, rinse and repeat.

It’s a good idea to find little things to be grateful for, too. It’ll help your mental state. Every day list 5-10 things that make you thankful. A roof over your head. A healthy family.

You can choose to see the worst of this or find a silver lining and make the best of it.

You have a real chance here if you look at this with the proper mindset and framework.

While your friends will come out of this with the “Quarantine 15” (you can send them my way when we’re back to normal) you’ll be going the other, positive direction. A positive outcome amidst the chaos and disruption.

Some will do this. Some will not. Those who do will be rewarded.

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based weight loss coach. He’s a regular contributor to Men’s Health and Muscle & Fitness, among others. If you’re ready to work directly with him, he’s running a “Coronavirus Quarantine Challenge” coaching program for those stuck at home who want to reduce stress and stay fit (physically and mentally) without leaving the house. Email mitch@mitchcalvert.com with the word “Interested” in the subject line to get more information.

 

Celebrity Weight Loss Secrets (Not What You Think)

Since the Super Bowl half-time show aired, I’ve been getting questions about Shakira and J-Lo’s abs and buns.

Lots of these questions came with caveats like “I wish I could afford a live-in chef and personal trainer like they can”

Sure, they do have advantages you and I don’t, but there are lots of articles freely available on the internet that go into their daily routines and fitness regimens, and this is a short-list of the common threads posted by my colleague Derek Stanley:

  1. They both stay active daily and have been dancing for 30+ years.
  2. They both eat a lot of vegetables and lean protein.
  3. They both drink a lot of water — and they don’t drink alcohol (even socially).
  4. They both prioritize sleep despite demanding schedules and having kids.
  5. They both do a combination of cardio and strength training
  6. They both minimize sugar consumption.
  7. They both focus on their mental wellbeing.

So, sure, it’s not fair to compare yourself to them because being rich and having incredible genetics gives them a leg up.

But, at the end of the day, the biggest key to their success is the habits they’ve developed over the years.

In this article, I’m not going to give you J-Lo or Shakira’s workout routine to try to duplicate, because that’d be setting you up for failure.

Instead, we’re going to focus on the foundation of change. That’s where the battle is won and lost, and it has nothing to do with your diet or exercise plan.

Be Kinder To Yourself

First of all, I’m going to tell you something super important.

Move in closer.

Closer still.

OK, it’s just me and you now.

You need to stop being your own worst critic.

Easier said than done, I get that. I have a tendency to be very critical of myself. Far worse than any anonymous internet troll could be.

But, please stop stressing so much about the scale… the pace of change… the desperation to get “there” (wherever there is) and cut yourself some slack.

I’m reading a great book called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. It’s not about ego or delusional self-belief, but rather understanding the process of change and growth in any area is only possible when you love yourself.

When you don’t love yourself, negative emotions lead to negative outcomes. Most of the time our reality is self-constructed.

We create one, long negative feedback loop on repeat in our head. Your job today is to develop new “loops.” Rewire your subconscious for good through positive belief, and the outcomes you want will become easier to achieve.

I know this is a bit “woo woo” and guru sounding, but hear me out. Imagine a thought loop as a pathway laid down by constant use. Visualize a downtrodden path through the field.

If you have a thought once, it has no power over you. The field looks unchanged, almost like no one walked through it.

But repeat these negative thoughts over and over again and the path becomes so downtrodden that it becomes your reality and controls you.

My old loop on repeat was “I’m an introvert and I can never talk on stage in front of people”

Squashed that.

Many years before that it was “I’m destined to be the fat guy forever”

Squashed that a long time ago, too.

But everything is a learnable skill, and you can change any aspect of your life with belief and effort. But it starts between the ears. For better or worse.

Any of the following are negative loops stuck on repeat.

“I know I’ll never be skinny”

“Ugh I hate working out, it’s so hard”

Instead try this:

“I’m on my way to being in better shape because I know I’m worth it”

“I used to hate working out but I found a way to enjoy the process and the benefits of doing it”

Always phrase things in a positive light.

When you look in the mirror each day, do you dissect your imperfections? If you do, even the slight day-to-day changes won’t register for you and you’ll miss the signs of progress.

The funny thing is, when you accept yourself now for where you’re at, the whole process of change becomes easier.

It’s less pushing to see a number on the scale and more naturally doing the things that lead to better health (and a leaner body as a by-product).

Because, let’s face it, the more we desire something, the further out of reach it becomes.

(Think of the needy ex texting you every few minutes…)

So embrace the process, cut yourself some slack and love yourself for who you are. You damn well deserve it.

The Domino Effect

OK, hopefully, you now understand the mental state you need to be in to create lasting change.

Now, you have to follow belief with action, and it starts with small changes.

One workout has zero effect. You intuitively know this. However, working out 150 times in the next year will.

Visualize a line of dominos, where each sequential domino gets progressively larger.

Get a small win today and knock over the first little domino. Maybe that’s a quick walk before work. Opting for a side salad instead of fries. Finding time for the gym.

These are all little dominos, but when you add it all up, they have a major impact on your health.

When you start your weight loss journey, the very first domino knocked over is tiny. When it drops, nothing is felt or heard. You see no change in the mirror.

However, its velocity is enough to knock over the next, slightly larger domino. As the dominos get bigger and fall, suddenly you start hearing and feeling their impact.

You notice your pants are fitting differently. You look and feel younger. That snooze button isn’t getting near the same workout every morning.

The process continues until the last domino tumbles over, a gigantic domino symbolizing your goal— and it started with a tiny, insignificant domino.

It’s the little things that cause the big things, so start by doing something today. And be kind to yourself in the process. It’s truly the magic formula to success. You’ve got this.

Mitch Calvert is a weight loss coach and regular contributor to Men’s Health and Muscle & Fitness, among others. If you’re ready to get direct mentorship from Mitch, his next intake of the Drop 2 Sizes pilot program opens Mar. 3.  Send him an email mitch@mitchcalvert.com with the word “Interested” in the subject line to get more information.

How to stop self sabotage by eliminating debt

Do you ever stay up late and curse yourself the next morning when your alarm clock goes off?

Is it often paired with a box of Oreo’s and tall glass of wine? It’s a far too common problem I see clients make.

But you seem unable to see the big picture in the moment, right?

Fittingly enough, watching the Netflix documentary Jerry Before Seinfeld past my bedtime, he addressed this failure of adulthood.

(Paraphrasing Jerry’s words)

“I’m Night Guy. I stay up as late as I want.

“Just one more episode, another sleeve of Oreos”

‘What about getting up after five hours sleep?’ Oh, that’s Morning Guy’s problem. That’s not my problem.

…Then you get up in the morning, the alarm rings, you’re exhausted, groggy… Oh, I hate that Night Guy!

See, Night Guy always screws Morning Guy. There’s nothing Morning Guy can do.”

Research shows that when we think about ourselves in the future, it’s like we’re thinking about another person.

So Night Guy goes out drinking with his friends and Morning Guy gets stuck with the hangover.

There’s Hungry Guy who leaves Heavy Guy with a beer gut, Young Guy who doesn’t save enough money for Old Guy to retire and so on.

What can you do? How do you become more investment-minded, able to put off immediate gratification for your own best interests?

That’s what this article aims to help you with, so let’s get right to it.

Responsibility Debt

I first heard the concept of responsibility debt from Aadam Ali and it immediately resonated not just with me but for a lot of the people I work with.

Basically, it’s when your past/present self deflects responsibility to your future self.

But your future self already has pre-existing responsibilities and now you’ve just thrown a ton more onto him or her.

For example: Let’s say you decide that you’re not going to the gym today because it’s been a tough day mentally. You promise yourself you’ll go tomorrow and pass on responsibility to the future you.

But then tomorrow rolls around and your boss says you need to work late, so the gym session gets passed on again. You see where this is going, right?

It’s hard to be empathetic to something like your future self.

It’s similar to trying to motivate yourself to lose weight to prevent heart disease or diabetes.

Basing your efforts on what-ifs and hypotheticals don’t tend to drive us like hard, more immediate reasons do (like losing pounds to fit that new dress just right or trimming the belly so it stops over-hanging our favourite jeans etc.)

So, how do you become more self-aware and empathetic to your future self?

Because that’s the thing about weight loss.

The longer you wait to make a change, the more difficult you’re making the process on your future self when you do pull the trigger.

How To Empathize With Your Future Self

Researchers suggest you can change your thinking on this by introducing yourself to your future self.

One clever way they have done this is to show people pictures of themselves that have been digitally aged (you know the Russian-based app that took the world by storm a few months ago?)

To take this further – use pictures of yourself with a few extra pounds added digitally. (I’m sure there’s an app for that).

When you see older/heavier versions of yourself you’re more likely to see your current and future selves as the same person.

As the researchers said, “these types of interventions help people realize that their future selves are ultimately dependent on the choices that they make today.”

If that doesn’t work, you can imagine your future self as a close friend. Would it be fair to put all your responsibilities on this person?

“Oh, right, I have a dinner appointment tomorrow which means I’ll have an even harder time getting in a workout. I should go today.”

Start confronting the ramifications of your choices in real-time, and become more self-aware – and leaner – as a result.

Make Health A Priority

Every Sunday I put my personal workouts into my Google Calendar along with all my other non-negotiables. If you don’t schedule the important things into your week, you won’t do them. When I don’t do this, I’m reactive to the day and workout adherence drops.

So, identify the area of greatest need and start scheduling it in with equal importance to your work meetings.

If it’s food prep, block off a half-hour on Sundays to prepare some lunches and map out your dinners for the week.

If it’s general inactivity, block off a few short windows of time to go for a walk.

If it’s limited sleep, set a ‘reverse alarm’ to go off every night at 10 that reminds you to put the phone away and turn off the TV.

Eat The Frog

As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

The frog is that one thing you have on your to-do list that you have absolutely no motivation to do and that you’re most likely to procrastinate on. Eating the frog means to just do it, otherwise the frog will eat you meaning that you’ll end up procrastinating it the whole day.

Once that one task is done, the rest of the day will be an easier ride and you will get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment at the beginning of your day.

Think Less, Act More

Whenever you begin to talk yourself out of doing something, that’s the time to do it.

“Folding this laundry can wait.” Do it now. “I’ll exercise after I finish watching this documentary.” Do it now. “I’ll write this article tomorrow.” Do it now.

Take action despite that inner voice in your head telling you not to bother.

As Mark Manson writes, most have this backwards. Action isn’t the effect of motivation, but the cause of it. Take a little step forward, gain momentum and inspiration, and be motivated to do more.

If you’re waiting for the right time or motivation to spark on its own, you’ll be sitting around a lot.

Are you talking yourself out of exercising every morning?

Do this. Lay out your gym clothes the night before and make sure they’re staring at you when you wake up tomorrow.

Step 1 – Instead of your work clothes, put on the gym clothes.

Step 2 – Get in 15 minutes of exercise. If that snowballs into more, cool, but it doesn’t have to.

In the end, every our choices today shape your future – good or bad.

Every choice you make is either moving you closer or further from the healthy, fit version of your future self.

Start confronting the ramifications of your choices in real time, and become more self-aware – and leaner – as a result.

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fat loss coach for men and women like his former self. Obese in his 20s, he now helps clients find their spark and lose weight the right way and keep it off for life. To inquire about his all new 2020 pilot program coaching intake, visit workwithmitch.ca 

 

Mitch’s Super Duper Dining Out Guide

Let me know if this sounds familiar.

After a good week of eating and exercising, Friday rolls around. You get invited to happy hour, which leads to a big dinner out and more drinks.

Then you wake up Saturday feeling rough and use comfort food to recover, only to do it all again that night. Rinse and repeat.

“Oh well, I’ll just start again on Monday”

I mean, it’s not your fault, you tried. Maybe it’s just not meant to be when everything is against you, right?

This weekend is Super Bowl, so you’ll be presented with even more challenges.

So, let me ask you this: Do you actually want to be like everyone else?

Because everyone else is carrying around a few too many pounds with rock bottom energy and bloodwork that makes their doctor prescribe more and more pills with each visit.

Or do you want something better?

Because, deep down, I’m sure you want a fit, athletic body, more energy, unlimited confidence and the motivation to crush everything life throws your way.

But when we fall into this weekend cycle of self-sabotage, it just adds time and effort to the process and we start to lose momentum and belief.

I’m a big fan of creating a bigger calorie deficit Monday-Friday and “breaking even” on the weekend.

That’s not a bad strategy.

But I challenge you to weigh-in Friday and again on Monday or Tuesday.

If the number is consistently up on the second weigh-in (yes, we account for water weight by waiting for Tuesday), you’re only really giving yourself three days to lose fat each week.

My client Sean knew weekends were sabotaging his efforts.

So now he messages me a pic of his scale weight on Friday and again on Tuesday. If the number is even or up, there are consequences.

So, with that little rant out of the way, this article is about finding that middle ground. Having your fun without the fat so to speak.

First, The Grim Statistics

The average number of calories in one meal at non-chain restaurants is 1,200, according to research conducted in the U.S. and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Three of the most popular cuisines (American, Italian, and Chinese) had the highest calorie averages (1,495 calories/meal).

That number doesn’t include appetizers, drinks or desserts. The three poisons that really push calories up.

When you include those, you could easily be consuming 2,000 calories in one sitting.

So, if you’re a person who requires 2,000 calories to lose weight, the average meal out could contain the majority of your day’s calorie budget.

But, I bring good news in today’s article.

You can go out to eat, enjoy yourself, and still lose weight. It just takes a bit of planning.

Most make the mistake of going out to eat and then trying to make a healthy food decision while staring at a menu full of mouth-watering photos of burgers and deep-fried delights.

With the Work-Backward Method first introduced by Carter Good, you fix this issue once and for all with a couple simple steps.

Step 1: Pick Your Meal Ahead of Time

To the best of your ability, go in with a plan.

Every restaurant posts their menu online. Many include the nutritional information.

Your job is to google the restaurant and find an option that fits your fancy and your diet.

If it doesn’t include the calorie count, look up a similar meal from a chain restaurant and assume you’ll be in the ballpark.
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Step 2: Make Your Other Meals Fit

The “work-backward” part comes in now.

If you’ve chosen something a bit hefty in calories off the menu, you’ll just need to create a bigger buffer the rest of the day by eating light before. Think lean protein and vegetables.

I’d advise against going to the restaurant starving. Even a big glass of water and a protein shake an hour before can help.

10 Bonus Dining Out Swaps

Here are 10 swaps you can make to reduce your calorie consumption further.

Pick your poison. Choose one of the 3 poisons mentioned earlier, drinks, dessert or appetizers (that dreaded bread bowl). You either get two drinks, a serving of dessert (better if you share with a loved one), or a couple slices of bread, but you can’t have all three. Pick your one poison and enjoy it.

Always order sauce/dressing on the side. These add a lot of calories and are typically used in excess. You can better control intake by asking for them on the side. Dip your fork in with each bite rather than free pouring.

Always opt for the side salad. You often have the choice of fries or salad. Choose wisely.

Request low-fat cooking methods. You can get your meat grilled or broiled (ask without oil) rather than deep-fried, battered or breaded.

Ask for a double order of mixed vegetables instead of a full serving of pasta or rice.

You can ask for side protein. You can pay a bit extra and get a side of grilled protein (chicken, salmon, etc.) with just salt and pepper to fill you up.

For breakfast, instead of hashbrowns, ask for sliced tomatoes or a side of fruit.

Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of bread or a bun.

Go Halfers. Split an appetizer and entrée with your dinner partner. Save calories and cash.

Eat slowly. Enjoy your company and conversation. Slow eaters are generally leaner than their fast-eating counterparts.

BONUS: Super Bowl Game Plan

1) Get your day off to the healthiest start possible with a quick protein-rich smoothie.

2) Next, hit the gas on your fat burning metabolism with this quick workout…

Superbowl Survival 10-Minute Pre-Game Workout
– Go through as many rounds of each exercise for 30 seconds each

  1. Jumping Jacks
  2. Thrusters (or squats if you don’t have dumbbells)
  3. Plank
  4. Wall Sit

3) Your meals in the early part of the day should be both high protein and high-fiber.

According to research, when you consume protein and fiber at breakfast, you end up being LESS hungry for the rest of the day. That means you’ll eat less at lunch and you’ll have fewer cravings at dinner, making it so much easier to pass on another plate of wings or pizza.

Later on, have a late lunch. And make sure this is high protein and high fiber, too. You’re better off not going to the party ravenous.

4) Have a plan going in

And now it’s time to start getting your “game face” on. Time for you to treat it like the players and have a game plan.

Pick your poison (1 treat to enjoy), decide on what you’re willing to indulge with and what you aren’t and you’ll have no problems limiting your SuperBowl supper and snacking to under 1,500 calories.

If you do that, you’ll keep your SuperBowl Sunday calorie intake at 2,500. Yes, you may be up a bit in weight on Monday, but it’s short-lived.

Final tip: Don’t drink alcohol after half time. That will interfere with your sleep. And if you get a good sleep then you can expect to get right back to your diet the next day.

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fat loss coach for men and women like his former self. Obese in his 20s, he now helps clients find their spark and lose weight the right way and keep it off for life. To inquire about his all new 2020 coaching intake, visit workwithmitch.ca or email him directly at mitch@mitchcalvert.com.

How To Reach Your 2020 Fitness Goals (The D.A.D. Method)

I’ve probably talked to people about food — and heard their struggles with diet — more than anything else in 2019.

Enough times to see a few trends among those who succeed at this diet stuff and those who don’t.

So what have I seen work amongst my most successful transformations? It’s simple. You just need a roadmap (your diet and lifestyle blueprint with a goal in mind), a determined mountain climber (that’s you), and a Sherpa (a coach or accountability buddy to guide you). ⁠

Of course, you must first believe it will work. If you’ve failed a lot at this stuff in the past, you’re going to have some mindset barriers to overcome.

But once you believe, it boils down to working at the stuff I preach about often in this space.

Manage calories.

Eat more protein and vegetables.

Move more.

Strength train relative to your abilities.

Have patience and dust yourself off when you fall off.

If you can nail the basics for a long while, like many of my most successful clients, you’re going to change your identity, change your relationship with food and understand how it works at the most basic level.

That’s how you get results that last.

For those who never make any permanent progress, it’s usually because they hit a little snag, see an ad for some magic pill and start over.

You probably just need to stick to something long enough for a change.

When you commit, you’ll see progress because you’ll have no choice but to be patient.

You’ll quit self sabotaging.

You won’t overreact after a holiday where you’re up a few pounds of water because you get how the body works.

But it can’t be a side hobby in the early stages if you have plenty of weight to lose. Maintenance comes later.

It’ll be forced at times and you may curse my name (luckily it rhymes well with bad words).

But pretend you have no other choice but to succeed here.

When you prioritize health like you would going to work, results magically happen.

Because consistency is the only way. You’ve seen success in other areas of your life by doing the work when you didn’t feel like it. It’ll take the same effort with fitness some days. You won’t always be motivated.

But it’s worth it. And here’s why I say that, because I’ve been there. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

“Too heavy to ride”

That’s what I figured he was thinking as the “carny” tried to push the guard down over my belly.

I was probably too old to ride the “Dumbo Flying Elephant” anyway. But too heavy to ride? That stung. Rock bottom, or so I thought.

But there were a few more rock bottom moments that came after (like that time in senior year gym class when I had the worst bodyfat among the guys in the class).

You see, at this point in my life, back in the early 2000s, I had tried losing weight a number of ways.

I wasn’t blind to the fact I was overweight. It consumed my thoughts every day.​

I starved myself, only to binge and repeat each week. I ran for miles, only to look skinny fat and put all the weight back on after I stopped running.

So what changed that last attempt? The one that made it all easier from here on out?

I fell in love with lifting weights, and it changed my genetic blueprint. Muscle was the X factor.

You see, that’s the problem with relying only on cardio or calorie-cutting to lose. You can’t continually add more and more cardio and take away more and more food forever.

Most get so fixated on the scale that they sacrifice that metabolism-preserving muscle in the process.

But you want to maintain muscle as you diet down, otherwise, you’ll be in a world of hurt when you end the diet with a skinny-fat bod.

Yes, “scale weight” will drop slower with this approach, but you’ll look and feel better during and after the diet and maintaining your results will come easier.

This is the shift I made that led to my success.

It took emphasizing weight training first and foremost.

It took a diet with sufficient protein and carbs to fuel the workouts.

You need to build up the good stuff in the gym and burn off the bad through diet.

 The D.A.D. Method To Reach Your Goals

Now that you know what to do in a general sense, it’s another thing to actually do the right things consistently.

You can’t leave things to chance and hope it works out.

Your challenge is to set a fitness goal you will accomplish in 2020 and tell the world about it.

And in so doing, you will demonstrate to yourself and to those around you that you are in it for real this time.

What does that goal look like? Well, that’s up to you.

What do you most need to change?

Losing 30 pounds?

Adding 100 pounds to your squat?

Getting your blood pressure or blood sugar down to a healthy range?

Any kind of fitness or health goal will do. But whatever it is, just make sure it is something specific—and something you are slightly skeptical about achieving.

The point of this exercise is to become a person who commits to themselves. Big goals take big actions.

The idea of losing a lot of weight can be daunting.

I’ve been there.

But it’s a hell of a lot better than staying where you are, and that’s what it ultimately comes down to.

From The Daily Stoic blog:

“Don’t be surprised if so great a goal costs you many a sacrifice.”

But when you get to the point where it no longer feels like a sacrifice, you’ve won. When your identity changes to someone who makes good choices on autopilot, weight re-gain is unlikely.

So here’s how I suggest you map this plan of action out in 2020 using the D.A.D. Method.

Deadline

The first D is the deadline. If you give yourself all the time in the world to do the thing, guess what?

That stupid human trick of procrastination will rear its head early and often and you’ll go in circles.

So set a hard deadline around the primary fitness goal you came up earlier: “By Dec. 2020 I want X”

Then break it down into 90-day target goals along the way to keep the hills to climb manageable.

Last year, I set a goal to help 150 new clients lose 10-30 pounds and my coach knew about it. Guess what happened? (176 clients to be exact)

But had I left it to chance and only had myself to hold me accountable to a goal I didn’t set, what do you think would’ve happened?

Accountability

Next comes accountability. This is why I encourage you to tell others about your goal.

If it’s only shared in secret, it’s very easy to quit on yourself.

But if there’s someone involved who you don’t want to disappoint, you’re more likely to see it through.

In the end, who cares if you don’t quite reach your goal in the end?

The fact you committed to try will get you a lot further along the racetrack than if you didn’t set a target in the first place.

Direction

Direction is the final D and this just means having a blueprint to follow.

While your goal and the deadline are the macro targets, this one focuses on the micro targets, like the things you can do today to move you forward.

Your attention must shift to implementing the daily and weekly actions to achieve your goal.

Simple things like setting up a schedule and putting workouts in the calendar as reoccurring appointments.

Committing to a diet that aids your performance in the gym.

Prep a lunch instead of grabbing on the go.

Stick to a drink limit when you go out.

Don’t have your kryptonite food in the pantry.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

The “process” action steps are ultimately most important, but it needs to be fuelled by a driving force (your reasons for wanting to change and the end goal you’ve set).

All the best in 2020!

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fat loss coach for men and women like his former self. Obese in his 20s, he now helps clients find their spark and lose weight the right way and keep it off for life. To inquire about his all new 2020 coaching intake, visit workwithmitch.ca or email him directly at mitch@mitchcalvert.com.

Five things to do less of in 2020 (and get better results)

After a holiday season full of indulgence, you are motivated to start 2020 off on the right foot.

Regardless of all that enthusiasm, most New Year’s resolutions fall off by mid-February.

The statistics are grim — according to U.S. News & World Report, 80 per cent of New Year’s resolutions fail before Valentine’s Day.

I have worked with hundreds of men and women, many of whom have shared similar stories of setting goals to improve their fitness, failing to reach them and being left to blame their lack of willpower.

Your willpower is not the reason you’re not achieving your goals. The problem is the unrealistic plan of action.

Luckily, this year you’re going to do things differently with a better approach.

This is the year you make sweeping changes and love the way you look, feel and perform.

Toss aside the pink dumbbells, scrap the fad diets and let’s do this thing right. And it starts with lifting heavy weights.

Thanks to the popularity of Crossfit and celebrities such as Kate Upton adopting weight training, it’s becoming more commonplace as a means to lose weight.

But there’s still many who won’t step foot in a weight room for fear of putting on too much muscle.

So, let’s dispel that myth right off the bat.

Muscle is very hard to put on.

You could deliberately make every effort to bulk up and end up getting toned instead.

(Yes, the changes you want would come fastest if you attempted to put on muscle, funny enough).

Any muscle you do gain is gradual so there will always be plenty of time to adjust the plan if you’re fearing size gain.

But don’t confuse the burn in the gym and the pump that follows with actual muscle gain. It’s not that immediate.

But here’s why you should make building muscle a focus in 2020.

Muscle helps get (and keeps) you lean.

As Charles Staley wrote in an article for T-Nation, there are a host of benefits to working to put on muscle.

The training required to build additional muscle requires calories and carbs, both to perform, and also to recover from.

Once put on, this new muscle requires you to expend additional energy on a daily basis simply to maintain it.

When you have more muscle, all activities are easier to perform, making it likely that you’ll do more of these activities, which of course, requires additional energy.

Gaining as much muscle as possible has a powerful impact on metabolic rate. Do it for the carbs if nothing else (lol).

With that theme of 2020 in mind, here are five things to do less of this year and get better results.

1 – Don’t Be Scared Of Getting Bulky (Hint: It’s not that easy to do)

I’ve worked really hard over the years to get women to focus on getting strong, but a lot of them still fear lifting weights because of this myth they’ll end up looking like a steroid-filled bodybuilder. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Heck, look around your commercial gym and see all the men actively trying to bulk up who aren’t getting anyway (they should get a coach ;)). It takes a lot of time, effort and food to add appreciable size.

You won’t get “toned and tightened” (for lack of better words) if you’re using super light weights and never challenging yourself.

You will see those changes over time when you lift weights relatively heavy for you.

Use weights that allow you to do between 8 and 15 reps per set on average, ending up close to failure on the last set.

2 – Stop Focusing Only On Weight Loss

If your goal is weight loss, you’d actually benefit from focusing on fat loss, and the way to do that is a good diet paired with weight training and less fixation on the scale itself.

The optimal way is to lose MOSTLY fat and MAINTAIN (or even gain) muscle. This sets you up with a higher BMR than if you’d just starved yourself to reach a number, and you’re less likely to rebound that way.

You do this by pairing a calorie deficit with strength training and a side dish of cardio. Plus, weight training can double as cardio if done in a way that challenges you.

When you’re lifting heavy (relative to your own strength again) and moving your body through space, your heart has to work just as hard as it does on the treadmill.

That isn’t to say that cardio doesn’t deserve a place in your workout routine. But it shouldn’t be the only focus.

3 – Stop Obsessing Over Your Abs

Breaking news: everyone has a six-pack; you just have to whittle away enough fat to uncover it, and that’s typically driven by diet.

With heavy strength training, your abs get a ton of work as it is. Try squatting without bracing your abs (actually, don’t, because you’ll fall flat on your face).

If you want to train them to improve your core strength, simply finish your workout with an exercise or two for a handful of sets in the 15 to 20 rep range a few times a week. No need to dedicate an entire day to abs.

Take caution when training your abs with weights, too.  Oddly, I see a lot of this in the gym. But the waist is comprised of muscles and muscles respond to heavy weights by getting bigger gradually over time, so you may be hurting your cause if a thin waist is the goal.

Stick with bodyweight ab exercises or machines that allow you to do 15-30 reps per set at a moderate weight.

4 – Spend Less Time in Group Fitness Classes

Remember, you want muscle in 2020 for the reasons listed above, and excessive aerobic exercise isn’t building you up in that fashion unless there’s a weight component.

By all means, keep doing it for the cardio and social element, but you’d benefit from spending a bigger chunk of your time lifting weights and walking.

This is particularly relevant for women in menopause who have lowered progesterone and estrogen. Your body can’t handle the stressors of high intensity exercise classes for long durations like it may have been able to in your 20s and 30s. You need to manage stress and take a “less is more” approach to exercise.

For more on the approach I’d recommend for women in menopause, watch this video

5 – Don’t Punish Yourself With Exercise

Exercise shouldn’t be used as a tool to burn calories alone.

In fact, even if you track how many calories were burned during a workout, it’s often wrong.

A study at Stanford University took a look at seven different devices to check their accuracy. The results showed that the most accurate of them was off by an average of 27 per cent and the least accurate by 93 per cent.

The bigger issue? Many users think they can “eat back” the calories burned from exercise. Do you see the problem with that? The number isn’t accurate to begin with, and that’s now how metabolism works anyway. It’s not a simple input:output mathematical machine. The human body is complicated and no one is the same as another.

The point here is this – exercise to better your day-to-day life, not as a punishment tool to lose weight.

There’s a mountain of evidence linking weight training to improvements in strength, mood, anti-aging and metabolism.

There’s no better example of this misguided viewpoint of exercise than the recent backlash over Peloton’s holiday ad—depicting an already fit-looking mom who is just a little too excited to get a stationary bike for Christmas.

Optics being what they are, I think the ad is completely misunderstood. Many have cast the husband as an abusive partner who forces his thin wife to exercise obsessively in order to shed a few pounds.

Photo courtesy retailmenot.com

Seriously? That is how limiting people’s view of exercise is – it is seen as a vehicle to lose weight and nothing more. But an active lifestyle is about so much more than that.

It’s about reducing stress and increasing productivity. It’s about respecting the body we live in to treat it right. It’s about mental and physical health.

The actor, so far as I could tell, was enjoying the bike for her own reasons, to feel strong, gain energy and confidence. It’s not about weight loss – or at least, it doesn’t have to be forever.

Maybe that’s what gets you started – shedding weight to lose some pounds and fit your old pair of jeans – but the “promised land” of fitness is something completely different.

The promised land is where exercise becomes a part of your identity – where you can take on any challenge life throws at you.

Exercise is the launching pad to a life fulfilled in many ways.

The majority of my clients are committing to fitness for themselves, because of its health benefits, allowing them to get off pharmaceutical drugs, reducing blood pressure and anxiety, and lowering the risk of disease.

The nice thing is, when you approach fitness in this way, the weight loss takes care of itself and you end up loving the way you look.

So, this year, go lift more weights and thank me later.

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fat loss coach for men and women like his former self. Obese in his 20s, he now helps clients find their spark and lose weight the right way and keep it off for life. To inquire about his all-new Beach Vacay Belly Blast coaching intake this month, visit workwithmitch.ca