Top 10 Fitness Myths

1. You Have to Eat Clean to Be In Shape

There is no such thing as ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ food. There is just food. Some foods have more key nutrients like protein, fiber, and vitamins & minerals, which make them more beneficial to your goals and harder to overeat. Some foods offer purely ‘empty calories’ in the form of simple carbohydrates and excess fats which make them less beneficial to your goals and easier to overeat. In my opinion, the best and most sustainable way to eat is “flexible dieting” where you eat mainly whole, nutrient dense foods but are able to treat yourself to less nutritious, more calorie dense foods sometimes.

2. Muscle Turns to Fat (And Vice Versa)

Muscle and fat are two separate entities. Both are natural and we all have some of each. Muscle is built from exercise along with increases in strength. Excess fat is the result of a caloric surplus. No one, not even the most ripped model or bodybuilder has no body fat. If you had no body fat you would die! Building up muscle with exercise is a healthy way for your body to increase its caloric requirements. If you were to stop the exercise, it is not possible for the muscle you’ve built to turn to fat. Likewise- if you had excess bodyfat and started working out, this fat could never turn into muscle. What will happen though, is you will burn body fat and build muscle simultaneously.

3. You Must Supplement (To Achieve Your Ideal Physique)

When used correctly, supplements can be helpful. Especially helpful is a supplement like protein powder which takes the place of other whole foods and adds to your daily protein intake. That being said- no supplement is necessary. Some are quite frankly almost useless. For example, BCAAs are completely unnecessary if you are getting enough protein throughout the day, and fat burners are completely null if you are still eating in a calorie surplus while taking them. For most people, supplements are not something worthwhile to delve into, especially with their high cost. If you are interested in some effective supplements- I recommend protein powder, creatine, and a caffeine supplement (caffeine is the main ingredient in pre-workouts and fat burners.)

4. You Can Spot Reduce

There is no such thing as spot reducing. If you have a gut you will not get rid of it by doing endless sit-ups. The only way to get rid of it is by decreasing your bodyweight with a calorie deficit achieved through diet and/or exercise. The same goes for any body part you want to decrease in size, whether it’s love handles, extra flab on the arms, face fat, etc. You must focus on decreasing your overall body fat- plain and simple!

5. Lifting Makes Women Bulky

Lifting will never make anyone bulky unintentionally. ‘Bulky’ women and men have manipulated their calories and training to an extreme extent to stimulate muscle growth and power (in addition to taking steroids, usually). Lifting weights along with a healthy diet will help women achieved the lean, toned figure they desire. Speaking of toning, another myth is-

6. To Get Toned, Do Cardio and High Reps

This may seem logical but this alone will only lead to two things: excess cardio will lead to your body adjusting its baseline calories to be lower and lower. Cardio is not a road to fat loss but a tool! High rep lifting will cause less muscle retention than low reps when aiming to ‘tone up.’ When your goal is toning you’ll want to maximize muscle retention with low reps. High reps (hypertrophy type work) has its place in muscle building (bulking) phases.

7. You Must Frequently Switch Up Workouts to Shock the Muscle 

Doing multiple different exercises daily and weekly doesn’t allow you to properly overload the muscle. The best results actually come from sticking to the same lifts week after week and only switching every 3 to 4 months or so. This way- you can see how you are progressing and be sure you’re gaining muscle.

8. Eating Late Causes Fat Gain (Don’t eat carbs after 6:00, etc.)

There is no specific disadvantage to eating late at night. The reason this myth is perpetuated and may have a hint of validity is that often eating this late in done in excess of your planned daily meals and snacks causing you to exceed your daily caloric requirements and balance. That being said, if eating food at this time fits within your diet, then, by all means, eat it without worry. 

9. You’ll Enter Starvation Mode if You Don’t Time Your Meals Right

The body is more malleable than we often give it credit for, especially your muscle. This myth centers around the body “eating away at muscle for energy” when you are hungry or when you haven’t eaten for a certain amount of time. In reality, our body works with whatever food we give it at whatever time. This is why I am a proponent of planning and tracking calories, especially on a weekly, as opposed to daily, basis. Research has shown that spacing protein feedings throughout the day (such as 3-5) is slightly more advantageous, but it’s nothing to get too concerned with.

10. Breakfast is The Most Important Meal of The Day

It sure can be if you choose! But- so can lunch, dinner, or a snack! The reason this myth exists is that oftentimes eating a healthy breakfast is a good way to jumpstart a nutritious day and keep one full so that he or she doesn’t gorge on food later in the day. That being said, there is nothing inherently special about breakfast. In fact- I’m a big proponent of fasting for fat loss which means not eating breakfast at all! The most important meal of the day is the one at which you choose to eat lots of nutritious foods. Maybe every meal is the most and equally important!

The Power of Being Present

You know the feeling.

You’re doing a normal daily activity like eating dinner and all the sudden you look up and wonder where the last five minutes went. Perhaps this even happens inadvertently while you’re driving. It can happen when you’re supposed to be enjoying time with family or even when doing your favorite activity. Its implications are everywhere.

Daydreaming, a wandering mind, whatever you want to call it.

Why does this happen?

You’re not being present.

A Harvard group study done by psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert showed that almost half of our thoughts at any given time are not related to what we are doing.

Simply put, we are often not being present.

So what does it mean to be present?

It means watching the game when you’re watching the game, doing the dishes when you’re doing the dishes, reading a book when you’re reading a book.

Sound simple?

It is. Yet simple doesn’t mean easy.

As humans, we evolved and survived by thinking about the dangers that confront us which often meant thinking ahead and thinking about the future. It’s rooted in us biologically.

So, to turn this focus inward on ourselves and to be more invested in every activity takes effort and discipline.

Where else does lack of presence manifest itself?

It extends past simply not being engaged. It extends towards anticipation. 

Anticipating what you will do when you get home from work, anticipating your next vacation, anticipating what will happen when you get that promotion.

Interestingly it extends to simple daily activities we don’t even think about like the angst of shuffling your songs and never being able to land on a “good” one simply because of the anticipation that the perfect song will come along, forgetting that every song is in your library for a reason and you enjoy it on some level.

It extends, in large part, to a major reason why we have so much obesity and health problems in America, eating is no longer mindful. We are not present with our meals, eating meals has become an activity often done with either haste and/or glutton.

Our natural tendencies when we are dissatisfied in life lean more and more towards lack of mindfulness and lack of presence which may be our unconscious mind telling us that we are taking the wrong direction in life. 

What’s most interesting is that the entirety of the presence dilemma can be traced back to one thing. Desire. A desire for something to be over with or done, desire for a situation to improve, or even desire during good times like the desire for a good feeling or moment to continue on and to last.

Beginning with feeling happy with yourself as you are in your current situation is the best remedy, but as I alluded to, coming into contact with your emotions and desires may lead to the uncomfortable realization that you need a change.

Just remember that though sometimes we tend to think that happiness is just one promotion, one vacation, one fixed relationship, or one little tweak away, this is never the case.

Speaking of desire, when it comes to this topic I am reminded of a piece of the movie Harry Potter.

This is not a result of my own thoughts, for I myself have not seen any of the movies or read any of the books, but I am reminded of a conversation with a friend about the Mirror of Erised.

The mirror is known to show “the most desperate desire of a person’s heart” (Its name, Erised, is Desire spelled backward). Dumbledore tells Harry “The happiest man on Earth would look into the mirror and see only himself, exactly as he is.” Harry becomes obsessed with the mirror as he can palpably see his family in it. Upon finding out, Dumbledore says “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”

Faced with the desire to be with his family, Harry becomes disconnected with his current mission and purpose as we so often do in the paradigm of desire and want.

So, I’ve been a little sporadic so far. You relate to these problems, but are unsure how to approach them.

Let me continue by giving you one simple step to become more present in your daily activities

Embracing meditation as a daily practice is a great start.

You may think meditation is a goofy or antiquated practice, or something uniquely eastern, but its roots and its purpose are pure, and its benefits tangible.

It teaches us to be present and tame desire, which, as I’ve stated, is the root of unhappiness.

It teaches us to become more comfortable with our emotions by realizing that they do not define us and are simply thoughts we are having.

It is also a great way to reflect on your path and what you really want out of life, as when you quiet the outside influences that are constantly present in our world you will be able to hear your inner voice again.

The cause of our angst is often not just due to internal sources but the complexities of the world.

Specifically, I point to technology, especially, our phones, as another culprit.

Having your phone, a device that can bring you any information instantaneously is not always a good thing. 

Just knowing it’s there constantly tugging at your willpower, creates a lack of cognitive alertness to what you’re doing.

How often do you find yourself looking at your phone whenever you can? During a quick bathroom break, while waiting in line at the grocery store, at a red light?

Phones can take away from experiences we genuinely enjoy as well, I know that I myself am often frustrated by being distracted while watching tv or a movie when I realize I’ve missed a large part while being on my phone.

I have researched and found on my own many ways to cope with phone anxiety and I have come up with-

5 Tips to Help Ease Cell Phone Driven Anxiety:

  1. Disable most notifications. Notifications are a huge distraction that offers little return. It is not necessary to know the things they tell us and they distract from living in the real world.
  2. When possible, do not carry your phone on your person. Having your phone in your pocket makes it all the more tempting to overuse it and check it. Put it away from you, and if you can in a separate room.
  3. Don’t be on your phone right before bed or right upon waking. This is a much more anxiety-free way to start and end your day and you will notice the difference in your mood. And, yes, this does mean you’ll probably have to get a real alarm clock. I promise they still exist.
  4. Don’t allow your phone into your bedroom. Have at least one phone free space. Often our bedrooms are our most personal and intimate space so they work well, especially because this will help you align with tip #3.
  5. Set time limits. Set limits on overall usage as well as singular usage. It is hard to come to terms with just how much we overuse our phones but this knowledge is power and will help us overcome our angst and improve.

So there it is, presence, a simple yet increasingly difficult concept to master. It is my hope that these thoughts and tips can help you become mindful, present, and at ease with your inner self.

Interesting video from Dan Harris, author of ‘Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics’ and creator of the ‘Ten Percent Happier’ App

Four Lessons Counseling Taught Me That Changed My Outlook on Life

One of the most famous movies involving counseling, Good Will Hunting

Hooray! My counselor let me out of my straight jacket to write this post!

I’ll start with what should be obvious but isn’t-

Too many people, myself included until rather recently, think that counseling is for crazy people. People that have something wrong with them.

Isn’t it funny how you would never think twice about a friend going to the doctor after having digestive issues or a pain in their knee, but for some reason you might think differently of that same friend for going and seeing a counselor if they feel emotionally unwell or have issues mentally?

Counseling isn’t for the damaged or the amiss.

Not at all.

Counseling is for people like you and me who want to talk about the issues they face in their day to day life with someone whose profession it is to help others cope and deal with stresses, as well as emotions, both good and bad.

It’s for self-admitted overthinkers like me who are in their own heads too much and just need someone to vent to that isn’t biased and doesn’t have any skin in the game that is my life.

It’s for every person who has ever experienced anxieties, worries, or regrets about their actions or what the future holds, which includes, well, everyone!

I believe at some point we all look at ourselves and ask just what the hell we’re doing with this crazy thing called life.

Before I went and saw a counselor it was something I’d thought about for over a year.

I knew it would benefit me but I always thought- how would I go about it?

I’d have to tell my parents about it and inquire about how it would be handled by our insurance.

I’d have to research the right place to go, make the call, mark the appointment on my calendar!

Step by step I’d be living out the admittance that I was, in fact, crazy! That something was truly wrong with me! That’s the only reason people seek counseling, right?

This brings me to the first lesson I learned in counseling-

  1. The stories that loop in your head are usually based on your own individual thoughts and feelings and not on reality.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our emotions and the stories we tell ourselves that we can forget what they may look or sound like from an outsider’s point of view or just a point of view that’s solely based on facts and reality.

A great tool I learned to combat overthinking and anxiety is to simply address a situation by asking “What are the facts?” It’s a great way to ground yourself and look at a problem in a different light.

Your thoughts and feelings are not reality, only your actions and the things you do whilst living out your life are truly reality.

Give yourself a break. It’s completely natural to frame situations in a certain way. Just make sure to give yourself an outlet to see things for what they truly are.

2. We’re not stuck. We have options.

At the end of the day, we are human. We need food, water, and shelter to survive. Luckily for most of us, we have family and friends that we are close enough with that even if all else fails we will not be without these three necessities for life.

This may seem like an extreme example but it’s just to illustrate that though sometimes the thoughts we experience make it seem like we are in a life or death situation, most of us will thankfully never experience that in our lifetimes until our time to pass comes, after a long, fulfilling life.

I think that too often people feel stuck. It can happen in a relationship, a job, a living situation, anything really.

Remember that you always have options, and like I discussed in the last point, no situation is ever as dire as it may seem.

We can recover from lost relationships and so can the others involved, we can leave our jobs and find new ones, we can move to new places and start new beginnings.

Life is much more malleable than we give it credit for.

3. You are not the only one with these feelings. You are not the only one who struggles with your thoughts.

Even though it may seem like you’re the only one who could think X crazy thought, or has X crazy worry, I promise you, you’re not.

When I first went to counseling I held back because I figured some of the things I was thinking and feeling were just too weird/awkward, but the more I opened up the more fluid and fulfilling the visits got and I eventually realized that any problem or stress I had, my counselor had already seen or heard in some form.

Even though we like to act like we’re all very unique and different, which we are in many ways, we are similar in just as many ways and especially in the way we experience distress and angst in life.

I remember once my counselor said to me that he had had patients admit that they’d considered suicide and that after talking through it, some were shocked to realize that there wasn’t some red panic button my counselor had to hit when the word came up that sent a psych ward in to take them away.

While again this is another extreme example, it just goes to show that whatever emotion or feeling you need to get off your chest is perfectly acceptable in counseling and it more than likely won’t be new territory for your counselor.

4. Trust your instincts, they’re there for a reason.

It’s my personal belief that we all have a voice inside us that’s telling us what direction to take, even if sometimes you want to say back to that voice “Really? This!?”

My counselor and I talk a lot about values. I believe that certain values are innate to each one of us based partly on our upbringing and partly on solely biological dispositions.

For example, I recently became more in tune with the fact that for me, a fulfilling and meaningful life doesn’t mean recognition, success, or monetary rewards. It means doing meaningful work that impacts others and following the things I am truly passionate about becauce I just can’t fake enthusiasm about things I’m not passionate about. It was a great thing to discover about myself and helped explain a lot of the stresses I had experienced up to this point.

I believe we all have some level of cognitive dissonance at times in our lives which is essentially having your thoughts and beliefs contradict your actions.

This can be a very hard thing to deal with and really will only go away from dealing with it in a forward and honest manner.

If you’ve ever thought about going to counseling, maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while now like I had but put imaginary blocks up as to why you couldn’t go, my best advice is to just try it out. You almost assuredly won’t regret it.

And please, reach out to me with any questions you have, I’d be more than happy to answer!

Nickelback Doesn’t Suck. My Take on Conformity in Today’s Society

It’s happened more times than I can count. I’m on the aux, absolutely killing it per usual. I like to mix early 2000s pop and rap with a little classic and punk rock. It’s a time-tested, winning formula. But then… Rockstar by Nickelback comes on. I’m pumped. This is one of my favorite songs!

But inevitably, people start complaining. Nickelback? Gross. Next, please!

mad questioning GIF

It’s an all too familiar scene and one that eerily mirrors the problem with society today.

We’re all too comfortable being conformists.

Have you ever took the time to truly listen to a Nickelback song with non-prejudiced ears? It’s great stuff, really!

But no, folks blindly hate Nickelback because they want to be like everyone else.

But that’s not the main point here, some people may genuinely dislike Nickelback for legitimate reasons, and that’s fine. I firmly believe that we’re all entitled to our own opinions.

The point is that too often in today’s society people blindly follow the crowd.

In history how often has it worked out well to follow the crowd? Let’s take a look.

Not much longer than 150 years ago WE OWNED OTHER PEOPLE. Yes, sounds a little more recent when put into this context. It was completely normal to own, buy, and sell slaves up until 1865 when finally, some realized, maybe it’s a little immoral/unethical to own another human being as property.

Need a more recent example?

How about the worst recession since the great depression? The 2008 Financial Crisis was spurred by those in the mortgage origination and securitization process turning a blind eye to the obvious risks of selling homes to buyers with poor credit scores as well as packaging these mortgages into securities which were passed off as stable investments, eventually leading to the U.S. economy’s demise. (Yes I watched The Big Short, yes it may have taught me more than my Finance degree.)

Most of the greatest crimes against humanity in history came at the hands of a leader who was able to leverage conformity around a specific cause.

May of 1940, the first Jews arrive in Nazi concentration camps. By May of 1945 when the Allies accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender, over 6 million Jews had been murdered. Around two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. This happened at the hands of Adolf Hitler in a democratic country where he was ELECTED. By conjuring up fear and anger, Hitler was able to come to power and propagate the German people into conforming to his wills and demands.

But enough of these depressing history lessons. There are plenty of non-conformists who paved and are paving new roads for humanity.

Martin Luther, an ordained Roman Catholic Priest, started the Lutheran Church in 1517 as a result of his conviction that salvation and eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through belief in Jesus Christ. This formation went on to be the catalyst for the start of the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches, among others.

“For to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” -Martin Luther

The Beatles encouraged us to open up our minds and think beyond the traditional views of society with their music. They taught young people to start asking questions and to stand up for themselves.

“Think globally, act locally.” -Sir Paul McCartney

Steve Jobs famously built Apple from his garage with Steve Wozniak after dropping out of college. When he showed people the Apple Computer which was nothing more than a circuit board with a chip on it, a TV set, a cassette tape deck, and a keyboard they thought he was crazy. He built Apple up to what it is today living his mantra, “Think Different.”

Image result for think different
Jobs famously said, “Your time on earth is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

In the present day, Elon Musk continues the innovator’s journey. He boldly and unapologetically ventures into the unknown pushing the boundary of what is possible letting his ideas spur from his originality.

Image result for elon musk tesla

Heck, if our very own Founding Fathers wouldn’t have adopted a non-conformist attitude we may very well still be under British rule!

The one thing all these individuals have in common is the never-ceasing drive to be different and to push themselves to contribute something meaningful to the world.

What I want to highlight here is that we can’t be led by emotions like fear and anger. These are emotions that were relevant to our survival in more trying times of human history when life or death scenarios occurred every day, but now that we live in a mostly stable environment we can’t use these emotions in the same way.

I often talk about the “Lizard Brain” or the Amygdala which is largely responsible for emotional response. It can make us do things we know are harmful such as promote negativity and wish for or actively pursue the demise of others around us.

So why is it so easy to get pulled into negativity and why is it so rare for individuals in today’s age to maintain a positive outlook?

It has to do with the fact that being positive, upbeat, and encouraging puts you in the minority! It’s so easy to be negative in today’s world whether it be about big or small things. To conform is to complain, to be unsatisfied. To resist conformity is to do what makes you happy regardless of other’s opinions, to maintain a positive outlook and attitude knowing that it will attract positivity back to you.

It also has a lot to do with the fact that we are always connected, making resisting conformity even harder! If you’re like most people you are on your phone periodically throughout the entire day, in addition to this you probably use a computer personally and/or professionally, and you watch tv at the beginning and/or end of the day. Recent studies have shown that Americans watch on average 4 hours of tv a day!

A.N. Turner said it best in Breaking the Feedback Loop: “New digital media collapses space and time allowing us to ward off insecurities by remaining in a constant state of communication.”

What makes our digital devices so addictive? It comes back to our emotions again and our Lizard Brain! TV shows and especially the news make us feel that we’re missing out if we don’t keep up, or they keep us engaged by conjuring up anger or anxiety (through telling us what’s wrong with the world and ourselves or telling us what we’re missing subtly or directly.)

If all we ever do is listen to what other voices and the outside world are telling us, we will never be able to explore and find ourselves, and therefore will never unleash our power to be creative and to innovate!

Social media sites on our phone, like Facebook, are designed to keep you online for as long as possible and use your emotions like anger and fear to make you stay on longer.

You know the feeling of seeing someone’s post on social media that just angers you. It makes you read more and stay on longer as a result, even though this seems paradoxical! It all comes back to basic human emotions.

This is a big part of why Facebook loves politically charged content.

At the core of all this is the very nature of how advertising online works through these platforms.

Social media, news, and similar outlets make you feel insecure by conjuring up emotions like jealousy and fear (FOMO) and then try to sell you a fix to that insecurity in the form of an ad. Feeling like you don’t get to travel as much as your friend? Buy this trip to Mexico! Feeling like you’re not as attractive as your cousin? Buy this new clothing item!

Now more than ever we are always connected unless we decidedly make it a point not to be.

Now more than ever it’s so important that we take breaks from our digital media.

In an effort to limit and control my own personal consumption, I try to make it a point to abstain from all forms of social media every Sunday.

Ultimately what we must do to combat our hindrances is be vulnerable. Come in contact with your true feelings and desires, be genuine, be open. It feels good to be vulnerable, to stop feeling insecure because nothing that anyone could say or do to you would have an effect on you, you’re comfortable with yourself and transparent.

Bob Marley said “Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pressure.”

Dare I say it, sometimes we just need to be… bored! Be bored and come in contact with your inner thoughts. Boredom does not have to be eradicated at the hand of constant technological stimulation.

I ask of you simply this- spend a little more time alone with your own thoughts, take some time away from screens, and seriously listen to some Nickelback without any predisposition, then if you still hate it, fine at least you tried.

I’ll leave you with two quotes that highlight how each individual’s journey is unique:

One I believe I heard from Tim Ferriss or on the Tim Ferriss Show but I am not positive of its attribution, anyway, it goes- 

“Find your world-class life, for every person it’s different.”

The second is quoted in the book I am reading, Quiet the Power of Introverts 

“I prefer to think that the planet needs athletes, philosophers, sex symbols, painters, scientists; it needs the warmhearted, the hardhearted, the coldhearted, and the weakhearted. It needs those who can devote their lives to studying how many droplets of water are secreted by the salivary glands of dogs under which circumstances, and it needs those who can capture the passing impression of cherry blossoms in a fourteen-syllable poem or devote twenty-five pages to the dissection of a small boy’s feelings as he lies in bed in the dark waiting for his mother to kiss him goodnight…” -Allen Shawn

How Restructuring My Approach to Fitness Changed My Life and The Story Behind JParkerFitLife

Ever since I was about 14 years old I was obsessed with bodybuilding. I don’t remember exactly when my original interest peaked but I remember that even as a child I always admired big bulging muscles and athletic frames. Psychologically though, I have a pretty good idea where this interest developed.

As a kid I always loved sports. I collected baseball cards, watched endless sports on tv, and played sports with my friends as much as possible. There was just one little problem- I was, overall, a pretty dreadful athlete.

This didn’t stop me from playing every sport as a kid though- I was on basketball teams for years amassing maybe a dozen points overall, I was a steady right fielder in baseball who was lucky to see any spot in the batting order besides 9, and I was so unskilled in football that I played lineman at a whopping 70 pounds because I couldn’t catch or hold on to a football if my life depended on it.

Yep, that was me, the sports fanatic without an ounce of athletic ability in his body. This was pretty disheartening as someone who hung around athletic friends growing up that led their teams- scoring runs, touchdowns, and baskets. I still remember when I was cut from the 7thgrade basketball team (yes that’s a real thing, and as some know its still a point of contention for me but that’s neither here nor there) I thought it was the most traumatic experience of my life at the time!

From there my athletic career came to a rather anticlimactic halt. Besides one more year playing second string on the football’s B team (they didn’t make cuts there luckily), and my slightly above average high school career playing golf, my athletic pursuits had ended. 

Why am I telling you all this? Because it goes back to the self-psychological analysis I spoke of.

I got into bodybuilding because I figured if I couldn’t be as athletic as my friends I could at least try to outdo them in strength and muscle. So I went off on endless boards to find out all that I could.

Now you might be thinking- well good for him, the dorky anti-athlete found another arena to exercise passion in and it helped him discover himself and find some meaning, right? Not so much.

I wound up confused and frustrated as I performed less than optimal workouts for many years. My physique improved somewhat but never to the level I wanted it to. I mostly just blamed genetics and cursed those who “just had it easier than me.” I was a living version of Einstein’s definition of insanity as it is quoted “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Before I go on I should explain something about myself.

Ever since I can remember I’ve been a worrier. I’d worry and worry about what bad things are going to happen, about what others are saying and thinking about me, and  just about everything under the sun.

This has led to a lot of anxiety in my life and its something I never really took action to combat until very recently. You can imagine what this did to the kid who wanted nothing more than to be an athlete but could barely shoot a jump shot. I beat myself up and asked “Why me?” when my efforts to improve athletically never came to fruition.

In the same sense, I took this attitude with me towards bodybuilding, only WAY more extreme.

I dove in head first. I wanted to get every aspect that I thought was important down to a tee! The only problem was- the fitness and bodybuilding industry is so saturated with bullshit that the things I emphasized were really small potatoes in the grand scheme.

So I ate 6 or 7 meals a day to “boost my metabolism.” I slammed my protein shake as close to the end of my workout as possible, I bought every supplement under the sun from fat burners to trash pre-workout, to BCAAs, glutamine, you name it. Only to end up frustrated and extremely unhappy with the constraints these measures put on my lifestyle.

And God forbid just one of these variables would go out of line for me. I would I have a freak out if one minor detail didn’t go according to plan. I’d go insane if I hadn’t eaten in over four hours because I was just sure that I could literally feel my muscle wasting away (for those of you who don’t know, one of the great bodybuilding myths centers around meal timing and having to eat every 2-4 hours so your muscles don’t go “catabolic” and start breaking themselves down for energy, which I now know to be very untrue.) I could make this whole article about silly things like that I used to believe, but I’ll save that for another time.

The point is that my predisposition to anxiety and worry was compounded horrifically during most of my years attempting to bodybuild. It never allowed me to be truly happy.

That all started to change about a year ago. I can still remember the day the light clicked on in my head. I had heard about this guy Mike Matthews and his brand Muscle for Life and finally checked out some of his content online.

He said things like- “You don’t need supplements to build a great physique.” “You don’t need to ‘eat clean’ to get and stay lean.” “You don’t need to stop eating carbs and sugars to lose weight.” “You don’t need to eat small meals every few hours to ‘boost your metabolism.’”

Which had me like. ^

I thought, this couldn’t possibly be true! He was basically saying everything I saw as Gospel for almost 8 years was BS!?

But it was.

The more I read and exposed myself to science-based and evidence-based training and nutrition principles the clearer it all became. I had it all wrong for years.

Did this realization that I had been self-sabotaging make me frustrated or angry? Quite the opposite. With this new power, I began to change the course of not only my physical wellbeing but of my mental and emotional wellbeing, and my life!

After a few months of absorbing and practicing new found knowledge, I started to see my body drastically change like it never had before, and this was after about 8 years of lifting weights! I was ecstatic. The best part about it was that it spurred so much growth in my life beyond physical measures!

I finally realized how easily small changes made consistently can add up and found myself entrenched in one of my now favorite mantras- momentum creates momentum! I was doing more, and I was more engaged in life than I had ever been.

As I said earlier I have always been someone who struggles with worry and anxiety. I always just accepted that that’s the way it is and the way it has to be for me. But after seeing how I could change my body with such relatively small realizations and changes, I started to wonder if I could do the same with my mindset. So I set off on more research delving into positive psychology and self-development. It was one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life. From here I learned about gratitude training, meditation, and counseling among other tools.

All of these steps completely turned my life around, with no exaggeration. I went from overthinking to doing, from self-conscious to self-confident. It’s no quick fix and I still struggle every day but I am beyond thankful for the changes I have made and it all started with redefining how I look at fitness.

This sparked an idea. I was very heavy into following fitness accounts on Instagram and I figured I could start one myself! This was the real test of my newfound self-confidence because as someone who worries, one of the major sources of concern is the criticism of others which I built up in my head as being a huge factor when it came to putting myself out there online. But I started anyway and it gave me the confidence to continue onto what is now an Instagram page, YouTube channel, Podcast, and Blog with JParkerFitLife!

This brings up another point that I’ve thought about a lot. Do I wish this could’ve happened earlier? Do I wish that I could go back and teach my younger self what I know now?

And the truth is- no, I don’t wish that at all. As Arnold Schwarzenegger puts it- “Strength does not come from winning, your struggles develop your strengths.”

If I didn’t battle with myself internally for years I don’t think I would ever feel the need to share my knowledge and story with the world in hopes that it can help someone else.

The best thing to come out of all this is that I finally stopped letting other people tell my story and started becoming comfortable with myself and my inner feelings and desires.

I can tell you that when you stop caring so much what other people think and stop trying to live the life you feel obligated to live you will have a newfound peacefulness and motivation that you’ve never experienced.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Ray Dalio from his book Principles “While almost everyone expects the future to be a slightly modified version of the present, it is usually very different.”

Here’s a link to Mike’s website, the foundation of my fitness knowledge!

How You Can Learn More About Yourself From the Lives of Others

We can learn a great deal about ourselves by learning about others. This may seem contradictory, but when you realize that all of our experiences in life are similar in so many ways you can begin to understand how one person’s journey is not so different from another’s. It’s easy to look at the great personalities, leaders, and innovators of our time and of history and assume they are just built differently than us. This is, however, not the case. Every human being throughout history has similar fears, anxieties, worries, and difficulties. It is simply a matter of finding passion in your life and rising above negative influences.

I love hearing stories about famous figures from the past, from Presidents to scientists, athletes to philosophers, social rights activists to entertainers. One of the common themes in their lives is that they do not follow the crowd. They find what they are passionate and convicted about and they follow those feelings relentlessly. They see the world and its ideas as malleable, realizing that each individual has a unique perspective and that no one person has all the right answers. Great thinkers are hesitant to believe anything told to them and want to figure things out on their own. Aristotle was the first man to suggest that the earth is not flat, an idea that now even young children know is preposterous. This shows the importance of not falling victim to the age we live in and the notions of popular culture or society. If you believe in something fully no one has the right to tell you that thing isn’t worthy or just. We all have specific reasons for being here that will expose themselves in the long run and we never reach our full personal fulfillment without thinking as an individual. As Victor Frankl says in Man’s Search for Meaning “I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run- in the long run, I say!- success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.” The brightest minds realize the importance of long term thinking especially in the age of limitless instant gratification we live in today. Bill Gates says “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Just as valuable as what to do, the stories of others can teach us what not to do in life. Reflection on life’s mishaps is insightful and powerful. All successful people have failed. Failure is synonymous with success in this way! Too often in today’s culture, people are scared of starting or pursuing something new and challenging for fear of failure but this is simply the only way that we learn and grow! Regrets do not come in the form of action but of inaction. One of my favorite quotes which my mom shared with me is “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” One does not often regret the goals reached for and not attained but the lack of effort in getting there. It’s always the better course of action to just go for it. Of course, reaching for your dreams is scary but if you fail, the pain is in the anticipation of what others will say and think and not in reality. You will learn that others are too focused on themselves to mock or degrade your work. Comedian Patton Oswalt said “My favorite failure is every time I ever ate it onstage as a comedian. Because I woke up the next day and the world hadn’t ended. I was free to keep fucking up and getting better.”

Other’s experiences are kindle for our own ideas. The more you learn about what others have done and how effective their pursuits have been during the course of a lifetime the easier it will be for your brain to register and consider new ideas. Every person that is blessed to make their life’s work through creative pursuit is endlessly learning more about people and the world surrounding them. This is the source of ideation and innovation. Now, this isn’t to say that we should live freely and on the whim of our fleeting ideas. Creativity is a muscle only strengthed by consistency so whatever it is you’re going after you must put in the effort day after day to improve! Ideas create more ideas and as Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

So how can you learn about other’s lives in a full scope that allows you to think and reflect, compare and contrast? A great way is to start including biographies in your reading. Biographies can take you through one’s life in its entirety encompassing the pearls of wisdom, mistakes, and insights they have gained. What an opportunity we have to live the lives of so many through stories! My favorite biography and one of my favorite books is “Total Recall The Biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger” I find his story fascinating because he has had the opportunity to devote to three very different pursuits in his life but approached them all with the same tenacity and principles to become successful, those being a world champion bodybuilder growing the sport at the time from the ground up at a time when bodybuilders were often seen as eccentric or homosexual, transitioning to acting and becoming one of the most famous actors of our time with a frame those in the industry called too big, an accent they called too thick, and a name they called too complex. Then in his greatest pursuit, he led the state of California as governor. He did this all as an immigrant to America from Austria!

If you haven’t seen the ten principles from Arnold’s biography check them out on my Instagram page @JParkerFitLife

I leave you with some quotes and a YouTube video from the great Austrian Oak:

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”

“The worst thing I can be is the same as everyone else, I hate that.”

“Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn.”

“For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.”

“Don’t go where it’s crowded. Go where it’s empty. Even though it’s harder to get there, that’s where you belong and where there’s less competition.”

“When people said to Arnold ‘We never want to look like you.’ Arnold replied ‘Don’t worry you never will.”

Arnold on Success and Hard Work