Body Incredible 101: Start Here

I’ve been thinking that it’s about time I put together a finite list of principles for optimal health. A ‘start here’ kinda thing that summarises my beliefs around health and the basic teachings of this blog.

Whether or not you’re new to Body Incredible you’ll probably have noticed that my posts are all interconnected in terms of style, basic values and beliefs, but there’s not necessarily a definite flow from one post to the next. I plan my writing a month out, and definitely include the occasional series such as this one on vegetarianism, but quite often chop and change from nutrition, to mindset and beliefs, to exercise, to funny stuff I’ve found on the internet, to updates on what’s working for myself and my clients … you get the idea. The long and short of of all that is that if you have the time to peruse the archives you’ll definitely get the gist of what Body Incredible is all about, and hopefully get to know me a little as well. But to make it just a little bit easier for you to get started, here are the foundation principles of this blog.

Otherwise known as what I believe to be good and true 🙂

1. Eat Protein. Do It Frequently. Mainly From Animal Sources.

I’m a huge believer in protein at every meal, and I believe it should come from an animal source 9 times out of 10. Pretty much every rule I have about nutrition comes back to eating food that is as close as possible to what nature intended, and in my opinion a caveman-type diet sums this up. I believe that the saturated fats which occur naturally in animal protein are crucial to your health and metabolism, and that regular protein intake is the foundation of a healthy body. It’s particularly important to eat protein in the morning, as it sparks detoxification. Another benefit of animal protein (always organic, grass-fed), is that it contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which is an important Omega-3 essential fatty acid. More on Omega 3 further down this list.

2. Cholesterol Is Good For You

The truth is that if you don’t eat cholesterol your body will go ahead and produce it anyway, using carbohydrate as a tool to do this. Cholesterol plays an important role in cell health, and actually protects your heart, as well as giving stiffness to the walls of your cells. This stops them from going ‘floppy’, which is one reason for lumpy or cellulite-infested skin. I recently read that dietary cholesterol intake has almost zero impact on blood serum cholesterol readings – increased ‘bad’ cholesterol is almost entirely a product of continually elevated insulin levels.

3. Saturated Fat Is Healthy And Necessary For Fat Loss

Do as Mother Nature would have you do, and that means eat fat. Plenty of it. When you eat pure natural fat (always from an organic source or else it will contain toxins), you give your body true satisfaction. Quality fats do NOT get stored in your fat cells but are used by your liver and muscle cells to provide lasting energy, and actually assist your body to burn stored fat. Click here to learn about eating fat to lose fat.

4. Avoid Sugar At All Costs

The diet and medical industry has conveniently overlooked a very important thing these past 50 years or so, and that is this – sugar is what is making us fatter, not fat. In fact, there’s a very clear correlation between decreasing fat and protein intake over the past 50 years, and increasing incidences of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Funnily enough, over the same time the amount of products being manufactured and even promoted as healthy that are ‘low-fat’ (read: high sugar and chemicals), has gone through the roof. If I see a label that shouts ‘low-fat’ I get moving in the opposite direction. Fast. Sugar causes the release of the hormone insulin, a prime role of which is to tell your body to create and store fat. Learn more about insulin here.

5. Move Frequently, And Do It As Nature Intended

I love the way Charles Poliquin summarises his take on exercise. “We were designed to throw a rock at the rabbit, not run after it”. Me, I believe we are built to be strong, lean and fit creatures. Anything other than this may certainly be partly gene-related, but for the most part we all know it’s lifestyle. My take on ideal movement? Lift heavy stuff. Do it often. Use everyday movements like squatting, lunging, pressing, pulling, bending, twisting. Sprint or walk rather than run or jog. Aim for at least 30 minutes movement each day, even if it’s incidental.

6. Less Is More.

Do you ever find you’re continually adding more to your to-do list? That you can barely enjoy the satisfaction of completing a task before 3 more come to celebrate at its funeral? It’s incredibly easy to become caught up in the never-ending question to achieve. To learn new things, explore new things, be ahead of the pack, be noticed. All admirable, but when it starts to take over your life, when your so busy doing all the things you ‘should’ be doing that you never stop to realize that your life is, in fact, happening and you’re only beating up on yourself for not having finished that list, then it’s time to stop. To re-evaluate what it is that truly matters to you. What’s really important? And how can you cut through the confusion of emails and admin and silly little tasks and just focus on the stuff that actually makes a difference. The stuff that (you want) to define you. Do you want to be known or remember yourself as the person who got stuff done and was always impressively busy or had all the latest toys? Or do you want to know that you truly discovered what it is that matters to you and that you were able to live your life in such a way that you enjoyed that thing and shared it with others?

7. Everybody Needs Supplements

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need supplements, but this ain’t no perfect world. Of course by no means is it okay to be lazy with your diet and think you can make it up with a magic pill. Nor should you place any hope in wonder pills such as fat strippers. Getting lean, looking and feeling your best, at the end of the day it comes down to getting the right nutrients in your body. A large part of that should be the right mix of quality organic foods. But everybody does need to back this up with some sort of supplementation. This is in part due to food quality – even the strictest organic diet does not allow for the same soil or food nutrition of 50 or 100 years ago. This is just an unfortunate fact of the world we live in. The other thing to consider is the effects of varied types of stress on your health – environmental stress, temperature stress, training stress, work or relationship stress. You get the picture. Stress depletes nutrition, which means you need to top it back up daily. Certain nutrients such as zinc, for example, have been found to be deficient in over 98% of people tested, including some extremely healthy eaters. Omega-3 is another supplement that everybody needs to take. Considering we need around 35-40 grams of the stuff daily, and that even the richest steak or salmon steak has less than 5 grams, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re not getting the full hit. To find out more about your unique supplement needs and how the right supplements can balance your hormones, increase your metabolism, and improve your overall wellbeing, consider a BioSignature consultation. Personally I use and recommend only Poliquin Performance supplements because I find them to be of the most superior quality in terms of both ingredient selection and quality/purity control.

8. Eat Fat To Lose Fat

I touched on this earlier, but it’s so darn important (and fundamental to the way I run this blog) that I just had to bring it up again. The good news is that it seems the low-fat craze has finally had its heyday. I’m guessing you already know about the importance of good fats in your diet, yes? But do you really know which fats are good, or okay, or definitely a no-no? The truth is that if you want to be in great shape, feel, look and function your best, you absolutely need to eat fat every day. In fact, at every meal. You’ve no chance of ever reaching your weight loss or indeed any physical goals if you don’t include enough fat in your diet, and – what’s worse – you run the risk of serious cell degeneration (leading to numerable possible diseases), hormonal imbalance, and brain dysfunction. Smart fats include omega 3, coconut oil, ghee, raw organic full-fat dairy, avocado, raw organic nuts and seeds, and even the saturated fat found in organic animal proteins. That’s right! Saturated fat is a good thing, so long as it’s from a clean (organic) source. Without saturated fat in your diet, your body will struggle to maintain a healthy metabolism, will be unable to maintain normal hormone activity, will be limited in energy and performance ability, and your mental focus and clarity will suffer.

9. You Get What You Expect

Like it or not, your life is a product of the choices you’ve made. You’re earning the money you expect to earn, you’re in the relationship you expect to have, and your body is in the shape you expect it to be. If you think that’s a load of hoo-ha, then think about this.

“When you sow a thought, you reap an action. When you sow an action, you reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you’ll reap your destiny” – Stephen Covey

It’s very logical, isn’t it? So be honest with yourself – where are your thoughts taking you? What do you believe about your future success? Do you have faith in your ability to create the body you want, to find the work you want, to live the life you want? It’s all up to you – those who think it can’t be done are continually being passed by those who are doing it. Don’t be one of them.

10. Avoid Sleep Debt

Sleep is severely underestimated as one of the most important aspects of overall good health. This is one of my favourite topics simply because insomnia is something I battled off and on for years. Prior to that I truly didn’t realise just how much a lack of sleep affects us, and since then I’ve researched the topic heavily. Some experts believe that obesity, heart disease and diabetes can be almost entirely attributed to poor quality sleep and disrupted sleep patterns, and I agree. We are made to sleep when it’s dark and be naturally alert and active when it’s light. The more you can strive to do this – even if just by adding 15 minutes sleep – the better. Read more on sleep here.

11. It’s smarter to pay your grocer than your doctor

Organic foods, quality supplements, gym memberships or personal training, books, memberships and consultations to further your education – none of these things come cheap, do they? But wouldn’t you rather pay your (organic) grocer and butcher now, and invest money in quality supplements, then live a miserable and below-par life and end up forking out the same money anyway on doctor visits? Being healthy costs money, but I believe being unhealthy ultimately will cost you far, far more – and you know I’m not just talking finances.

12. Eating Grains: A Fast Track To Poor health

Sorry to burst your comfort food bubble, but grains? They’re not your friend. And I’m not just talking about the highly processed white fluffy types, but even those oh-so-‘healthy’ whole-grains. While conventional wisdom would disagree with me here, I’ve seen enough cases of grain elimination resulting in rapidly improving health and rapidly diminishing waistlines that these days I won’t even consider them as part of a daily food plan. I believe the reason we (or at least, the very vast majority of us) do so poorly on grains is that they are a relatively new part of our diets, being that they’ve only been farmed for approximately 10,000 years. From an evolutionary point of view this is a very short period of time – especially as far as your digestive system is concerned. This is one reason why daily grain intake leads to frequent bloating, stomach upsets, weight issues, and ultimately to increased inflammation and food intolerance. If you do choose to eat grains, they absolutely must be sprouted.

13. The Smartest Carbs for health and weight loss

Cutting out grains such as all forms of cereal, corn, bread, rice, pasta, noodles, baked goods and even super-starchy vegetables (white potato being the obvious offender) does NOT have to mean you need to follow a no or even low-carb diet. Many people forget that vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of carbohydrate, and – what’s more – they’re chock full of nutrients rather than little else than farming pesticides and bloat-inducing phytates. When it comes to carbohydrate, choose seasonal green vegetables in large quantities, enjoy low GI fruits such as berries and stone fruits in small amounts, and incorporate a range of other coloured fruits and veg from time to time.

14. There’s No One Right Way

This one might seem a little contrary to everything else taught here, but it has to be said. If there’s one thing I’ve had driven home to me time and again over the past 11 years helping people, it’s that there is no one way to ideal health. In the same vein, there’s no one right way when it comes to nutrition, to exercise, or indeed to any aspect of our lives and how we achieve success. I’ve heard it said that what works for one person may do nothing for another, and could even harm a third. It’s important to remember this before you get too caught up in the success of a friend on any strict program, and it’s just one reason why you should consider working with on expert on individualised nutrition and hormone assessment. It’s just as important to remind yourself of this truth if you find you’ve hit a plateau and think you’re doing “all the right things”. Even if you are doing a bunch of great things, they’re only good for as long as they’re working for you!

15. Everybody Needs Fish Oil

Even if you eat the very best fresh food organic diet, there are a few basic supplements that you absolutely do need to take daily. For 99% of people, the 4 big guns are zinc, magnesium, a good B-vitamin complex, a multi, and a quality blend of fish oil. If you were living on the land in days of yore you’d naturally eat between 35 and 40 grams of omega 3 essential fatty acids daily. Omega 3’s are essential because your body cannot make them (you have to consume them), and they contribute to every aspect of good health. You can google Omega 3 and either general health or weight loss as well as any ailment or illness you can think of, and you’ll be up to your neck in research in no time. To learn more about Omega 3, check out my previous article on the topic.

16. The Cardio Myth

This has gotta be the biggest load of hoo-ha that is still perpetuated by the health and fitness industry. Cardio – endurance or purely aerobic-based cardio – will NOT help you to lose weight for longer than the approximately 6 weeks it takes your body to adapt to the new stimulus. What’s more, some research even indicates that repetitive cardio such as spin classes actually causes your body to increase fat stores! Personally I’m all for getting your heart rate up, but when it comes to results that are health, fitness and fat loss orientated stick to weight training and the occasional blast of high-intensity interval training.

17. Stress Really Can Make You Fat

You’ve heard the one about stress making you fat, right? Sounds a bit too easy to buy into though, doesn’t it? I mean c’mon – “it’s not my fault I’m fat; I’m just stressed” – it’s a bit of a cop-out. Except, of course, for the very inescapable fact that it’s true. The way it works is that every time you’re placed under undue stress on an ongoing basis (those last 4 words being key) your body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is one of your ‘get-up-and-go’ hormones; its job being to energise you in the morning and also in times of unexpected but short-term stress – such as running for your life and either escaping or, well, not. These days daily stressors such as too much work coupled with financial and relationship pressure lead to the constant release of cortisol, and being that it’s a survival hormone one of its primary jobs is to increase fat storage. There ain’t no fighting that physiology with low-cal or (worse) more cardio!

18. Toxins Are A Primary Reason Why You Can’t Lose Weight

My mentor and the man I most admire in this industry, Charles Poliquin, has a belief that a primary reason for today’s obesity epidemic is the toxic world we live on. When you consider the plethora of toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis (environmental, chemical, nutritional just to name a few) it’s not hard to agree that he’s on the right track. Especially when you understand that your body deals with toxins by storing them in your fat cells. Out of harms way for sure when it comes to protecting your heart, brain, and other vital organs, but not so helpful if looking hot on the beach is your goal. It’s for this reason that I firmly believe you should control your pesticide and toxin intake where you can, and one of the most powerful ways to do this is by choosing organic foods and environmentally friendly household and beauty products.

19. An Attitude Of Gratitude: The Missing Link To Success

Let me quite clear. There is virtually no way you will ever achieve your goals if you don’t take time to be grateful for what you already have, what you’ve achieved so far, and even for things that you are yet to enjoy. “You get what you think about most of the time” (Brian Tracey). Another way I recently heard it said (credit to Charles Poliquin) is “what you appreciate, appreciates”. I was brought up to say grace before every meal; to give thanks for the food about to be received, and whilst there’s sometimes more ritual than intent behind those words, if you think about it, it really is a beautiful way to start a meal. But why take time only to be grateful for your food (if you even do that)? My suggestion is to take just 5-10 minutes every morning or evening to think about or record the things you’re grateful for from the day before. You can most definitely be grateful for things that are still underway or yet to happen. Do it for 30 days and I promise you’ll be a convert – if nothing else it’s an incredibly powerful way to frame your thoughts for the hours ahead of you, but what I think you’ll notice is a slow increase in all the things you have to be grateful for.

20. Community counts!

Whew! 20 health principles is a lot, and making the effort to incorporate even 1-2 of these concepts into your life each day can be hard work at first. So why do it alone? Community counts, and it really does help to surround yourself with people who are like-minded in their approach to health and want to see you succeed. This doesn’t mean avoid contact with all people who have different views to you! But it sure is a good reason to visit this blog regularly and even to get involved with myself and with other readers through the comments section and (upcoming) members section. Having a ‘team’ – even if it’s one you may have never met – will make getting to your goals so much easier. And don’t be afraid to share those goals! My goals for this blog are not only to educate, inspire and support you through your journey, but also to keep me accountable to my own health goals and to future learning, and to open new visitors up to the truth(s) about good nutrition and healthy living. Every time you read a post here you support me in those goals; every time you share a post you support me as well as yourself and your friends, and every time you comment or otherwise get involved you’re also making yourself accountable to me and to other Body Incredible readers. Body Incredible is a community created expressly for those purposes. But you know what? I may have had the idea; I may be the one who posts most of the time, but without you I’d just be another lost and lonely blogger. This is your community, so make sure you use it!

That’s a long post, so thanks for sticking around for all of it. But now – over to you.  What would you add to this list?

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