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My struggle with Chronic Inflammation

Chronic Inflammation impacts more people then we realize. It can go on for years without being diagnosed or even considered to be the cause of any issues. Research has shown that Chronic Inflammation can often be linked to the cause of various aches, pains, and specific health conditions (such as arthritis, tendonitis, colitis, etc..).

One of the major health issues that I quietly fought for years was Chronic Inflammation and it was not until I fully embraced the Primal Blueprint that I found relief from this pain.

About 6 years ago I knew something was going on. I was waking up with lots of pain in my joints and the pain in my toes would flare up every time I tried running. It got so bad that I stopped running and was often using pain relievers to address the issue. Running had become a huge part of my fitness journey during that time. I was passionate about competing in races, mud runs, and obstacle courses. O376942_4283290081034_869409659_n (2)ne of the hardest things I did mentally was to take a step back from running and competing and address the pain. I spent a few years trying various remedies to address the pain before I finally found a doctor in the area that would run the right blood work, so that we could take a deep look into what some the issues were.

Once we got the blood work back, one of the issues that came to light was chronic inflammation; Sure I suspected this, but getting the confirmation was actually a relief. Working with my doctor, on how best to address this, we identified the Primal Blueprint as a tool that could help me face this issue.

Chronic inflammation, which is believed to be the possible root cause of many common health problems and serious diseases, can be triggered and exacerbated by overly stressful lifestyle practices (sleep deprivation, chronic cardio, hectic daily schedules) and poor dietary habits (excess carbohydrate intake, unfavorable omega-6: omega-3 ratios). Looking back at with the long work hours and big stressful changes happening at work, all which helped to lead to poor diet choices through intake of high carbs and sugar, it is now clear that I was in the perfect state to have this flare up significantly.

Taking on the Primal Blueprint strategy, I was quickly able to address my inflammation. What really surprised me is how quickly I started feeling better, a big win was the arthritis pain in my foot was gone. This was further confirmed when I got my blood work re-checked at the six month mark and found that my inflammation was in fact gone.

I had a number of strategies that I learned through the Primal Blueprint that assisted me in actually controlling and eliminating my inflammation. To this day I find if I continue following these principles that the pain, from inflammation and arthritis, does not come back

What I have found, that has made a big impact on my chronic inflammation, is that it can be moderated through diet and exercise modifications, which resulted in improvements of my various aches, pains, and arthritis.

Primal Blueprint strategies that impact my inflammation:
1. Moderate carbohydrate intake/insulin production. Ditching grains, sugars and legumes in favor of Primal foods helped moderate blood glucose and insulin levels. This excessive glucose and insulin in my bloodstream caused me to be pro-inflammatory. So, by reducing the process that can spike insulin it had a significant impact.

2. Normalize O6:O3 ratios: Eliminate grains and PUFA oils, moderate intake of all nuts, and increase intake omega-3 oil capsules. Be careful of the omega-3 you use. Not all omega-3 supplementation is good nor do all of them have the full spectrum of omega-3s. It is very easy to take an over the counter omega-3, but have that capsule actually do nothing for you. I would be glad to help you get a quality omega-3, just message me and I will be glad to h31649356_10215443199253716_5404558816882720768_nelp.

3. Eliminate Chronic Cardio: I was a big runner and put in some significant distance during the week. I have eliminated this long distance. I still run with a focus on shorter distance, but I like to spend more of my time focusing on strength trainings and walking/hiking which I found has matched up better with my overall health goals.

 

How I measured success in controlling inflammation:
1. I retested my blood work after 6 months to see if what I was doing actually had an impact.

2. I also actively tracked my O3:O6 dietary ratio at regular intervals, inputting my food intake into an app on my phone.

3. Another strategy I used was paying attention to my pain level. I have learned to listen to my body and if it is telling me I need more rest time to recover from a workout then I do that.

4. This does not mean I have eliminated challenging workouts, but when I do plan them into my workout I also measure that performance and how it directly affects or inhibits any inflammation.

29063234_10215016968198206_918980893761077248_nIf you would like to lean more about how the Primal Lifestyle can help manage a variety of health issues then do not hesitate to reach out to me HERE . This success, I had with inflammation, was one of my driving motivators to become a Primal Health Coach.

 

Being Primal while traveling.

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One of the major obstacles that people can face while living a Primal Lifestyle is staying true to the Primal life while traveling. We all have times that we have to take a business trip out of town or having to be on the road locally due to work. It can be hard to maintain a Primal Lifestyle when your faced with eating out due to work. There are a few ways to make sure you stay true to a Primal Lifestyle while on the road.

1. Plan ahead. If you do know where you will be staying or where you will be eating check the websites out. A restaurant’s website can be a great tool in figuring out what is best for you before you get there and are rushed to make a decision. If you are going to another town, do a little research online to see where the hotel is and what restaurants are around it.

2. When you have to eat out and do not have time to check the restaurant out beforehand then ask for a gluten free menu. Keep in mind though, just because it is gluten free does not mean it is healthy. The gluten free menu can be a better option and easier to adjust to make sure you get what you need. Also, look for small local restaurants. These great and unique spots are often more willing and able to customize a meal to match our Primal life.

3. Be careful of the evening activities. When we are out of town for a work function it can be fun to see our favorite co-workers and spend dinner time catching up. However, these can easily turn into happy hour drinks and late evenings. Do your best to avoid these while still having fun with your co-workers. Make excusing yourself early in order to get a full night sleep a priority. When your tired the next day it is easier to make poor choices.

4. Plan on taking as much food with you as possible. On road trips take a cooler with hard boiled eggs, avocados, lunch meat, or nuts. If you’re going on a flight take jerky, meat sticks, and/or nuts. Be creative and think outside of the typical sandwich box.

5. While traveling make getting in movement a priority. It is easy to catch yourself sitting all day due to being in meetings or from driving from one place to another. Try to get a workout in first thing in the morning to prime yourself for the day ahead. If you’re staying in a downtown area try walking to the office, to the hotel, or to the restaurant. Movement can be a game changer when trying to maintain a healthy life on the road.

The key is to plan ahead. Take opportunities to meal prep for a trip and have a cooler ready the night before. If your rushing around in the morning and trying to get out the door chances are you might grab the easiest route – which often is not the healthiest.
For a more ideas about being Primal and eating while traveling check out Mark Sisson’s article: What to Eat When Traveling, On the Road, Camping, or in the Middle of the Ocean

Primal Fitness: practical, sustainable, and holistic

IMG_1649In today’s media and sales you often hear about the latest fad exercise video or get “abs” quick item. The majority of these center around intense workouts that are often designed to destroy you and leave you exhausted. The goal is often to make the workout so hard you have to be burning fat, right? The other fitness advice you often see is “start running” because everyone knows you lose weight running. Both of the approaches may work to some extent in the short term, but they fail to set you up for long-term health and can actually have a negative impact on those long-term goals.

I fell into all of these traps early on in my fitness journey. I ran a lot – I mean a lot! Here is the crazy thing, I hate running! I ran because that is what your “supposed to do”. Then on days that I did not run I did high intensity workouts in the gym. The upside is I lost weight, the downside is I also lost a lot of muscle. I was the skinniest I had every been in my life. I went from overweight to “You lost so much weight. Are you feeling OK?” Not exactly the response I was hoping for. I realized that although I could run a marathon, I had really not reached my own fitness goals and was actually far from it. I had lost all the muscle that I had put on through my youth playing hockey and my time in the army. That is when I realized I needed to re-asses my approach.

At that time I started to lift heavy – I mean REALLY heavy. Strength training was everything – low reps, heavy sets, no intense cardio. After a few years of this I had some blood work and genetic testing done and found out that I had chronic inflammation. The lack of proper recovery and the years of over training had all started to add up. The little aches and pains would not go away, I started to gain weight, my sleep was suffering, it was a perfect storm heading towards a major crash.

This when I got a fitness coach. Even though I understood what I need to do and what would have the best impact, I needed a coach to make sure I would follow a program that would make the most sense for my goals and help keep me on track for long term health. I am grateful for the time I spent with my coach.

These days my fitness routine centers around being practical, sustainable, and holistic in my approach. I still lift heavy, I still do cardio, and I take recovery a lot more seriously. Through the Primal Blueprint I have found a program that works bests for me. Sure I have made some adjustments to fit my lifestyle, but the base is still there and is the foundation of all my workouts.

With the Primal Blueprint I follow three basic rules: move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy objects regularly, and perform occasional all-out sprints. This functional full body training has done amazing things for me. Sure, I still have work to do to hit my fitness goals, but I can lift heavy without pain, I can run when I want to (although I still hate running), and I feel fantastic.

Finding your fitness does not have to be painful, it does not have to be a grind day after day, it does not have to be a chore to accomplish. Following the 3 simple rules from Primal Blueprint will make accomplishing your fitness goals practical, sustainable, and holistic which will help you have a major impact on your overall health.

The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid gives us a breakdown of these rules.

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The base of your fitness is all about movement. Rule #1 – move frequently! This means go for walks. I include movement everyday through morning hikes with my dogs. This provides a way for me to get outside in the morning and get my heart rate going. This is also a great way to warm up for other more intense activities and for recovering from more intense activities. Moving more is fundamental to your overall health and is critical to include in any fitness goals. The best thing you can do for your fitness is to get outside and go for walk every day.

The next focus is strength training. Rule #2 – Lift Heavy Things. I still really enjoy a great strength building workout. For me this means 3 times a week I lift heavy. My workouts all breakdown into push (like an overhead press), pull (such as barbell row or pull up), squat, and hinge (deadlift). The starting recommendation for this is to look at hitting 2 strength workouts a week. A strength workout is very specific to the individual and personal preference. These can be bodyweight workouts, group training sessions (such as Crossfit), free weights, barbells, kettlebells, etc.. The key is to pick something that you will stick with. Sustainability in strength training is key for long-term success.

The final focus on the Primal Blueprint is intense all out burns. Rule #3 – Sprint. These are short bursts of intense movement. Brief, all-out sprints are the most effective when trying to optimize hormone balance, stimulate lean muscle development, and accelerate fat metabolism. If your stuck or in a plateau with your body composition then add in some sprints to bust through it. Sprints take many forms. What I tend to focus on is running sprints, sled drags, speed jump rope, high rep kettlebell swings, and hill sprints (when I can). Warning – this is where most people over train. They go to long with the sprints or add them in their routine too often. When sprints are done right, then you should really look to do them every 7-10 days.

The above is for general overall fitness. There will be times when you have a specific goal you need to train in specific way. An example of this is a marathon or a competitive weightlifting competition. In cases as these it is best to get a coach that specializes in that activity to enable you to fully reach those specific goals. However, when your goal is overall long-term health that is practical, sustainable, and with a holistic approach then you can not go wrong with the Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid.

Items that I am reading this week.

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One of the focuses I have throughout the week is to keep on top of the news in the health community, especially news relating to the paleo/primal lifestyle that has had such an impact on my own health. As with a lot of what I do I take a holistic approach to my continuing education in the field. So, when I review the articles, blogs, research papers for the week I look for three key areas – health, fitness, lifestyle so that I can take what I am learning daily and apply it to my own life and to my coaching.

Here are some the best articles, blogs, and highlights of what I have been reading for the past week. I hope these articles can add new insights to your continuing health journey. All of this is intended to help you look at things in a new light and challenge yourself to try something new.

My first highlight is “Primal Recipes on a Budget” hosted on Mark’s Daily Apple. Investing in your health is the by the far the best investment one can make in themselves, but the reality of real world finances can sometimes keep people from jumping into this new lifestyle. This is a great article for strategies around keeping a budget while going primal. Helpful recipes that will not stretch your bank account. You can find that article here: Primal Recipes on a Budget

Here is an article that gives me another reason to love pickles. I am big fan of fermented foods and you will often hear me talk about the benefits of including fermented food in your diet. One of my favorite fermented foods is pickles and “Fermented Pickles Benefit the Gut, Skin, Brain & More” by Dr. Josh Axe adds to the many reason on why I like them. Dr. Axe takes a deep dive into the health benefits of including pickles in your diet, the history of pickles, types of pickles, and offers up an easy recipe to make your own. I encourage you to learn more about the benefits of pickles here: Fermented Pickles

My friend Scott Iardella, of Rdella Training has a great blog on “3 Rules of Training”. If you workout or are thinking about getting back to it this is a great place to start. Scott highlights 3 unbreakable rules: #1- train safe, #2 – don’t break rule #1, and #3 do your best. You can find more on this at: The 3 Training Rules That Matter Most

Finally, back to Dr. Axe. My father suffered from Dementia and I take this issue very seriously. I look at every way that I can to make sure this has little or no impact on my own health. Dr. Axe breaks down 8 simple ways to help combat Dementia that not only will help, but will also have a positive impact on your overall health. You can find more this at: Dementia

Hope these articles feed your desire to learn more and continue your own health journey.

Understanding the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid

PB-Food-Pyramid-2016update-7-20

During my weight loss journey (and still today) I have a heavy focus on the food that I eat. I’ve heard it repeatedly from books, coaches, and interviews that 80% of body composition is really determined by what you eat. I have come to really understand this and to fully believe that this is the case. For real weight loss, to increase energy, and have vibrant health it all starts with what you eat.

 
The Primal Blueprint has provided a solid base on how to manage food in my lifestyle. By taking a closer look at the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid we have a starting point that enables us to fully optimize our genes for total body transformation. This is certainly different from other food pyramids, my plates, etc.. What you will not see on this is grains. “Grains are merely a cheap source of calories that are easily converted into glucose. They have minimal nutrition value, stimulate excess insulin productions, and contain ‘anti-nutrients’ that compromise digestive and immune functions, promote systemic inflammation, and inhibit absorption of vitamins and mineral.” – Primal Blueprint, Mark Session.

 
Here are some of the issues I faced during my journey – diagnosed with being insulin resistant and pre-diabetic, having chronic inflammation, and all the signs of being celiac. So, taking out grains was not a matter a choice for me, but more of a matter of wanting to truly re-capture my health.

 
The Primal Blueprint offers the ability to follow both a sustainable and a practical plan for long-term health. Using the lessons learned and understanding the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid has been a key aspect of re-capturing my health and creating a strong desire to help others do the same.

Here is a breakdown of pyramid:

Vegetables – this is the base of the pyramid. What has worked well for me is to make sure I am getting in significant number of veggies. Since I am also low carb and ketogenic at times (due to my insulin issues) I make sure that I am choosing vegetables that have a low impact on my carb intake. This still means that I am getting a lot variety in my diet. Much of my focus has been on lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, broccoli, peppers, onions, olives, bok choy, avocados, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, etc… When choosing vegetables your first choice is locally grown, in season and organic. If you must choose between organic and locally grown always go with locally grown. Small local farmers may not be certified organic, but typically will still be selling cleaner and fresher vegetables then those shipped in from another country or state.

Meat, Fish, Fowl, Eggs – by far my favorite category! I can not say enough of the importance of choosing your items in this area wisely. Partner with local ranchers/farmers that can deliver quality meat, fowl, and eggs. Look for grass-fed, pasture raised, or certified organic. With fish avoid farm raised and always look for wild caught. There is significant difference in the health of the fish between farm raised and wild caught. The healthier the animal was in life the healthier the meat will be for you.

Healthy Fats – Use fat to cook with or to season a dish. You can enhance the flavor of the dish and increase your access to healthy fat by using grass-fed butter, animal fats (sourced from the above areas), avocado oil, or coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil (just to name a few). Include foods that contain healthy fats such as grass fed meat, wild caught fish, avocados, coconut products, seeds and their butters, and olives. Do yourself a big favor and avoid anything with canola oil or soybean oil – these can have a dramatically negative impact on your overall health.

Moderation Foods – this is the area that I can get into trouble in. Anytime that I see myself gaining weight I re-asses this area and see if there is something that I am eating too much of. The food areas in the moderation foods are fruits, high-fat diary, nutritious carbs, and dark chocolate. It is easy to find myself eating too much full fat yogurt or adding in to many sweet potatoes during dinner. By themselves these are not bad, but if you add them in too often you can easily see yourself starting to gain weight. Especially if your body has hard time processing carbs, such as myself.

Herbs, Spices, Supplements – the top of the pyramid. Herbs and spices are great for adding flavor and texture to dishes. Focus on ones that add nutrition to your meals. I use supplements to help me close the loop on areas that I may be lacking in. I can not stress how important it is to take a quality multi-vitamin with no added junk in it. Also, look for quality prebiotic and probiotic to really help your gut heal for optimal health. I will get into vitamins and what to look for in a later blog post, but if you have questions on what you should look for please let me know.

The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid is a practical way to really prioritize my food. As time has gone by this has become easier and easier and really has developed a sustainable way to eat. My hope is that you will find it as useful a tool as I have.

Sustainable, Practical & Holistic Coaching

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I owe a lot to those individuals that have entered my life as a coach.  I have had the opportunity to work with some great people over the years that have played this role.  The major take away I learned from these great people in my life has been the ability to help understand the overall impact we are making on ourselves and others & the long term goals vs the immediate short sighted results.

With these coaches I have been able to break down their teachings into 3 categories.  Now they may not have approached it this way, but I feel that a strong coach looking to help people make a lasting change will focus on these three key areas.  I have based my own coaching and approach to health and fitness on these three areas.

These areas of my Primal Health Coaching focus are making sure it is sustainable, practical, and holistic.  Working as a team (my client and I), we will look at making a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable for them, that they find practical, and we will look holistically at maximize the lifestyle.

Sustainable

We are looking at making a lifestyle change.  Someone can follow a strict diet or do an intense work out program for 90 days, but what happens on day 91?  Do we go back to our old routine and wait for the weight to come back on and then do the next exhausting challenge? By looking at it sustainably we look long-term; we see how this lifestyle can be done for the long run.  We may use a 21-day body transformation plan, but this is not a plan where you complete the 21-day program and then return to your old lifestyle.  This plan, a blueprint, is to re-set your genes on the path to optimizing your health and fitness long-term.  As a coach I will work with you to make sure we approach this lifestyle in the most sustainable way possible.  My goal is to make this approach a long-term lifestyle change that you find so sustainable that eventually you will not need assistance to maintain this approach for a life time.

When my wife and I started down the Primal/Paleo path we knew we were making a commitment to lasting change.  We did not want a quick fix diet, we did not want a short-term plan, and only to go back to the lifestyle that was so bad for us to begin with.  Through planning, trial and error, and intentional living we have discovered that this way of life is completely sustainable.

Practical

My second goal of coaching is to make this lifestyle change practical.  Working together we will look at how to make this lifestyle change not only sustainable for the long-term, but also practical.  I found in my journey that if something was to complicated, had to many rules, or restrictions then most likely it was not practical and I could not sustain it for any significant length of time.  Over the past decade of living the Primal/Paleo lifestyle I found ways to make this incredibly practical.  By spending time in the beginning focusing on what you can do with the Primal lifestyle, we will quickly realize how practical it really can be and how we can make this sustainable for life.

Holistic

Finally, we will look at this approach in a holistic way.  This lifestyle change is not only about food and what you eat, but truly is about a way of life.  What has helped make the Primal/Paleo lifestyle both sustainable and practical for myself and my family is that we approach everything in this holistic manner.  I have discovered you cannot reach the goals your set for yourself by focusing only on one small aspect and ignore other potential road blocks.  Taking an approach where we identify the goals and then work towards a holistic plan to not only achieve those goals, but to make them sustainable and practical, will set us up for long term success.  When I wanted to lose weight, it was not just about food, but also about sleep, movement, and stress.  We will look at diet, movement and fitness, sleep, technology, and managing stress while approaching all these holistically so that you complete the program being able to sustainably and practically live the most optimal life.

To get started with coaching please request a discovery call.  We will take a look at your health and fitness goals, explore your current situation, and begin the process of identifying obstacles. You’ll learn if health coaching with me is the right choice for you, and if so, we’ll create a plan to move forward. Click here to request a discovery call.

My Primal Health Journey

“What happened?  How did I end up here?”  I remember vividly asking myself those questions a decade ago.  I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life.  I had this vision of myself as being fit, healthy, and active, then I realized that was gone.  On top of this realization was that my youngest daughter was about to be born and I was the unfit overweight father I did not want to be.  Right then I decided to make a change for the better.  To focus on getting healthy not only for myself, but to be the best father and husband that I could be.

I committed right then to restore my health and recapture my fitness.  I immediately launched into a diet routine.  I cut calories, I ran (a lot), and went back to the gym.  This worked, but I did not realize what I had done to myself.  I lost a lot of weight! The calorie cutting and the running turned me from a fat dad to a skinny fat dad….

That is when I realized I miss something in my transformation.  I lost the weight (great!), but I was missing something.  Around this time, I started to gain weight back, I developed arthritis in my foot (which stopped me from running), and I ached & hurt in general.

Three years ago, I just did not feel “right”.  I decided to get some blood work done.  I was shocked when I got the results.  Looking back, it all made sense (the slow weight gain, arthritis, pain).  The warning signs where there but I just thought it was part of getting older.  I learned a lot from my blood work, but the two items that had the most impact on me mentally was that I had chronic inflammation and I was pre-diabetic. I could handle the autoimmune issues, I could handle the MTHFR gene mutation (a whole additional story).  What really hit me mentally was the inflammation and being pre-diabetic.  Basically, my genes did not process carbs efficiently.  Which was part of the reason that I had started to gain weight back.  Even though I was eating healthy, eating all the right things, it was not working.

It was devastating to me to hear “pre-diabetic”.  My father battled being a diabetic most of his adult life, it took his leg, it brought on a host of other medical issues, and it attributed to him passing away this past year.  I was not going to be victim of my genes, I was not just going to manage these conditions, I was going to change my genes.

Enter the Primal Blueprint.  By following the Primal Blueprint, cutting my carbs out, and really focusing on healthy fats, I have been able to regain what I had lost.  After 6 months of being on the Primal Blueprint I lost the weight that I had put on, I did not even feel the arthritis anymore, I can run when I want to now, and my chronic inflammation was gone!  When I got re-tested at that 6-month time frame I had completely changed my genes.  All those symptoms were gone, I was no longer pre-diabetic.

It has been nearly 3 years now and I have found the Primal lifestyle completely sustainable, practical, and holistic.  My entire family follows that same path and it has truly been a blessing for us.  After nearly a decade of living the paleo lifestyle, and now after building a solid foundation with the Primal Blueprint, I am excited to be working with others on helping them to reclaim their health.