Pack Your Meals! Tips On How To Succeed

containers-stacked-for-storageAnyone who knows me well is aware of the fact that I am consistent about packing clean meals and toting them around with me throughout the day. It can be cumbersome to pack food, especially when I know I will be out of the house for most of the day, but by doing so I have peace of mind knowing that I will be able to stay on track with my meal plan no matter what. Competitors and fitness professionals practice this habit and can attest to the power of clean eating in maintaining a sculpted, muscular physique.


However, I realize that many of you who do not compete or have an involvement in fitness may be wondering if there is any point to packing meals if you are an average person. There are a multitude of benefits to be gained from packing meals for the day:

• Portion Control – If you measure and weigh your portions before placing them into containers, you will have full control over your intake.

• Cooking Method – Steaming, baking, boiling, grilling and poaching are easy cooking methods which also enable you to prepare food without adding unnecessary fat.

• Save Money – By purchasing food at the grocery store and preparing it yourself, you will save a significant amount of money.

• Maintain A Low Sodium Diet – Restaurants often add significant amounts of sodium to enhance the flavor of their dishes. If you are trying to keep your sodium intake low, you are better off preparing your own food.

• Accommodate Medical Dietary Restrictions And Food Allergies – Restaurant meals may add ingredients which are forbidden from your meal plan due to medical conditions or food allergies. Instead of taking a risk, you are better off preparing your meals and packing them with you.

When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me (https://youtu.be/GQltYTRLTC4) and had meals from Icon Meals (https://iconmeals.com/) with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!

I always recommend tempered glass storage containers over plastic, since heating up ingredients in most plastic containers carries a risk of deranging the plastic and releasing harmful chemicals into the food. I make an exception with BPA-free containers, and recommend the types which have locking lids to prevent leakage of food.
6-Pack-Bag_Details-small
The BEST meal packing system out there is made by Six Pack Bags:
https://www.sixpackbags.com/bags.html

By adopting the habit of packing your meals, you will be on the road to better health!

Consistency (Updated Post)

As a physician, I am as much a therapist as I am a physical healer, and am well aware of the vital connection between mind, spirit and body. I have also seen how closely linked emotional stress is to development and exacerbation of physical ailments. What concerns me is when people abandon healthy habits during times of adversity, because it is at those times that some structure would provide balance to their lives.

A common question I hear from patients, clients, and strangers I meet is, “How can you maintain a regular exercise schedule and pack your food all the time with your busy careers?”, to which I respond, “I just do it.” Working out and eating right are as essential to me as sleeping and brushing my teeth. It never occurs to me to abandon healthy habits during stressful times. I recently went through a particularly difficult month during which I took a rigorous board certification exam, went through a residential move, and traveled to four destinations (two for my medical career, two for fitness and bodybuilding) over a two week period. Though I didn’t work out my usual six days per week, I did manage to train four to five days per week, every single week. The regular workouts gave me structure and balance which helped me to burn off some of the stress I was under, regulated my sleep cycle, and just plain felt good. In addition, I traveled with clean foods and lots of water, packing them and making sure I stayed on track.

Why would I push myself like this? Because I know that consistency is key to maintaining balance in one’s life. When I am consistent with my workouts and food, I maintain structure and focus and do not allow excuses of an insanely busy schedule to deter me from my mission to live an optimally healthy lifestyle. I know that if I were to deviate from a healthy lifestyle, I wouldn’t have the energy to push through my to-do list, and I certainly wouldn’t be very happy either. No matter whether I am traveling, working, or enjoying a rare free day for myself, I make sure to invest in myself every single day.

When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me (https://youtu.be/GQltYTRLTC4) and had meals from Icon Meals with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!

If you make an investment in yourself by being consistent with your exercise and meal habits, you will be rewarded with greater balance in your life and better health. Don’t you deserve that?

How I Stay In Shape These Days


Image shot by Tim Sevard in October of this year.

Since many people have been asking me about how I have been keeping in shape these days, I decided to devote a blog post to the subject. Though I am retired from competing, and am no longer bodybuilding stage-ready, I model frequently, and I also hold myself to very high standards when it comes to body conditioning. The most important factor in staying lean year round is FOOD, so I make sure to eat clean about 95% of the time. I consume about 100 to 120 grams of protein daily, all from whole foods rather than protein powders, and I drink plenty of water throughout the day. I limit my consumption of sugar and avoid processed foods.

Supplements are also an important part of my daily life. Most of the supplements I take have been in my daily regimen for many years, and I rarely miss a day’s dose. They are what I rely on to keep my body healthy at the cellular level. My goal is to maintain my health without ingesting prescription medications. In fact, the only prescription substance in my regimen is bioidentical progesterone cream.

I continue to challenge my body with frequent exercise, and still rely mostly on weight training for the bulk of my exercise. However, I incorporated aerial classes into my regular routine a couple of years ago for an extra challenge. At one point, I had been taking aerial classes 3 to 4 days per week, but my body was screaming out in agony. After a visit with my orthopedist, we discovered that I had arthritis in both elbows and my neck, and numerous issues in my shoulders, so I decided to back off from the intense aerial schedule I was following. These days, I only take a lyra class once every couple of weeks.

I have also been attending kundalini yoga classes on average of one day per week, and I love the unique physical, mental, and spiritual challenges which they present. Though kundalini yoga is a highly meditative form of yoga, the movements (called kriyas) are INTENSE, and I must often take breaks during these movements. I highly recommend this form of yoga for anyone who wants an intensely spiritual experience.

As for weight training, I train an average of six days per week when I am in town. I have adjusted my weight training to support aerial arts movements like straddle mounts, single knee hangs, pullovers and splits, and work my posterior chain (back, glutes, hams) more vigorously than my anterior chain. I usually follow a split consisting of three leg days and three upper body days which are further split (eg, back/arms, delts, chest/abs). I have also been changing the exercises, rep ranges, and lifting styles on a weekly basis to keep myself challenged. It’s definitely worked, because I am getting delayed onset muscle soreness from almost every workout.

Two Breaths

Regular meditation practice has shaped my life for the past eleven years, and I honor and value all it has bestowed upon me in terms of balance, harmony, calmness and peace. When I began practicing meditation on a consistent basis, I was at a low point in my life as a result of a long-term relationship which had suddenly terminated. As fate would have it, I met a wonderful person who became my meditation teacher, my spiritual guide, and my dear friend. He invited me to become part of a local meditation group which met one to two times per week, and I gladly accepted. Within a couple of months, I began to learn how to sit in silence, let thoughts and feelings go, and focus on being completely in the moment. I quickly realized what a gift it was to fall into awareness during these sessions.

After my meditation teacher passed away in April of 2014, I went through a rough period in which I was so grief-stricken by his death that I was paralyzed, unable to meditate for several months. When I returned to meditation practice, it was alone, without the comfort of a group, but I was able to quickly fall into awareness during my sessions.

At the beginning of this year, I encountered another difficult life challenge, and instead of shying away from my meditation practice, I decided to sit daily. One tool which kept me accountable with daily meditation practice was a phone app called Insight Timer, which I still use. It is no longer a struggle for me to sit daily in meditation, and I have noticed profound changes in my demeanor and my general outlook on life.

In an effort to fortify my spiritual practice, I added kundalini yoga, and have noticed even more profound changes in my energy and my physiology, especially in my breathing. A few days ago, I had noticed that my respiratory rate had become much slower, so I decided to assess it while I practiced relaxation breathing. I was astonished when I discovered that I am now able to slow down my breathing to two respirations per minute. The breaths which I take during meditative and relaxation sessions are very slow, with a pause at the end of both the inhalation and exhalation phases.

Most people are so accustomed to shallow respirations in their daily lives that they assume that 12 to 14 respirations per minute is considered acceptable. As a physician, I regularly encounter a respiratory rate in that range, and am trained to consider that normal. However, in my spiritual practice, I know that in order to take 12 to 14 breaths per minute, the breaths tend to be quite shallow.

Modern society keeps us on the hamster wheel and fosters anxiety, but it is vital to step off the wheel, slow down, and allow the trappings of daily life to fall away so that we can truly let go. If you find yourself constantly wound up, try slowing down your breathing on a consistent basis. It has beneficial effects on your mood and blood pressure, and decreases muscle tension.

Keep That Body Running Smoothly

I’m willing to bet that most of you who are reading this article keep up to date with scheduled maintenance on your vehicles so that they will run as smoothly as possible. I also know that many of you insist on using a certain brand or grade of gasoline to optimize your car’s performance. Do you take care of your body in the same way, putting healthy, nutritious food into your gullet every day? Do you exercise regularly? If the answer to either or both of those questions is no, then you are neglecting your body’s needs for optimal function, fitness and health. Over time, such bad habits have a cumulative effect and can manifest in countless diseases and dysfunctions, including potential killers like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Just as additives in gasoline can hinder the performance of a car, processed foods will interfere with optimal body functions, and your body must deal with breaking down, eliminating, or storing the chemicals found in packaged meats and other junk foods. The preservatives and artificial colors and flavors which are added to packaged foods trigger production of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules which damage the cells of the body and contribute to the development of cancer, atherosclerosis, and aging in general. In contrast, foods which are rich in antioxidants offset this harmful cascade. If your meals regularly consist of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, beans and lean meats, you will be filling your body with clean fuel, providing nutrients which will optimize your health.

Another important component of optimal daily body maintenance is regular exercise. If you can commit to a consistent exercise schedule (and you CAN), you will reap a myriad of benefits, including improved circulation, better cardiac output, improved muscle tone, better concentration, and more energy. Your body is an amazing machine, and just like any machine, will begin to malfunction if it is mishandled or neglected. Regular exercise can be compared to running the engine in your car regularly to keep the pistons and gears running smoothly.

Weightlifting And Aerial Arts: A Winning Combo

I am approaching the two year mark for my foray into aerial arts, and not only have I stuck with it, I have stepped up my game by taking classes several times weekly. After taking classes at a local aerial studio (www.PinkPoleParty.org) two to three days per week, I recently increased my frequency to four to five days weekly by adding other studios into the mix. Thanks to Classpass, I now have the opportunity to visit facilities all over the Los Angeles area and take classes with other instructors.

I have learned that my body prefers the rigidity of hardware, like lyra and aerial cube, over software like silks and hammocks, so I now confine my aerial activities to lyra, pole flight (a combination of silks and pole), and aerial cube. I am by no means an expert in any of my aerial activities, and I wish I had the incredible flexibility which I see in other aerialists. Yet I think I do decently well, and my upper body strength serves me well whenever I am up in the air.

I honestly think it’s a good idea to experience other studios and other instructors as a means to infuse variety into the regimen. Though I at times think I must be nuts to inflict such challenges on my poor joints and tendons, the overall physical and mental benefits of aerial movements make it all worthwhile. The conditioning aspects of aerial arts have enhanced the v-taper in my back, and have developed my delts nicely. My abdominal muscles are far stronger than they were before I began taking aerial classes, and I am also enjoying enhanced flexibility, balance and coordination from my airborne pursuits.

Weight training is still, and always will be, a staple for me. I faithfully hit the weights five to six days per week, and cannot imagine ever wavering from that schedule. At this point, I truly feel that weightlifting and aerial pursuits complement each other. Bodybuilding imparts strength, aids in preservation of muscle mass, guards against bone loss, and allows me to go into beast mode, while aerial arts provide an outlet for creative expression, challenge my body to become more elongated and flexible, and increase core strength.

If you are in a rut with weight training, why not consider adding aerial arts to your regimen? They are challenging, inspiring, and fun!

Why The Gym Is Essential For Me

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Though I consider myself blessed to have a full plate, my schedule requires me to move at a frenetic pace every single day, switching gears constantly, and trying to pack as much as I can into each day. My determination, organization and just plain stubbornness usually ensure that every single item on my to-do list gets done, and that certainly includes my workout regimen. I work out five to six days per week, and I also take 1 to 3 aerial classes each week. It’s downright challenging, fitting all of my workouts in, while also attending to my career, family, and personal responsibilities. So why not just abandon the crazy gym schedule? Not a chance!

When I go to the gym, I have a perfect opportunity to recharge my body. I push myself to train harder and heavier with each day, and I love getting to that point where I may question whether I have the energy or strength to complete the entire routine (I always do though). The time I spend in the gym is my personal time, ME time, and allows me to take care of myself without worrying about anyone or anything else in my life during that small pocket of time. It’s like putting the oxygen mask on myself to ensure that I will be able to help others. My daily workouts keep me on a consistent schedule and provide structure to my day.

Another wonderful benefit of training as hard as I do is that I get to beat the aging process. Instead of wishing for a magic pill to keep me young, I rely on regular exercise to do the job. One of the joke statements I often make is that I am aging like a fine wine. What amazes and inspires me is the fact that there are many people in the fitness industry who are doing the very same thing. The population may be aging, but the newer crop of people over 40 who have embraced clean eating and regular resistance training looks better than ever and enjoys better vitality and health than the over 40 crowd from previous decades. It can be quite a guessing game to accurately determine someone’s age by looks alone these days!

Make Regular Exercise A Priority

inspiration-4

I freely admit that I chuckle to myself whenever I hear people say that they wish they had the discipline to work out on a consistent basis. It’s not that I am insensitive to the rigors of busy schedules, because I spend my days running from place to place, multitasking and barreling through tons of tasks, errands and responsibilities. But I set aside about an hour per day, six days per week, to go to the gym, and I train HARD and HEAVY every time. In recent months, I have also managed to fit in two aerial hoop classes each week. The main reason why I am so consistent about exercising consistently is that it is a priority, as important as brushing my teeth and showering on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I look forward to my gym sessions as a way to begin each day, which is why Sunday, my rest day, is a bit rough for me and throws me off my usual daily pattern of waking up and heading straight to the gym.

Perhaps you are one of those people who believes that there isn’t time to work out, and you continue to allow your schedule to annihilate any chance of working out. The thing is, if you actually made working out a MUST instead of something to fit into your schedule as it allowed, you would find a way to get your butt to the gym and follow a plan. I have definitely noticed that people who want to reach certain fitness goals are much more successful in reaching them when they follow a specific regimen which provides guidance and structure. Making promises to yourself like, “I will go to the gym on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6 am to 7:30 am”, or “I will drive straight to the gym after work every day” can be a great start to adding discipline and consistency, but you need to follow through and hold yourself accountable.

I am not kidding when I say that you need to put your workouts into your schedule! Enter your workouts on your iPhone or your Google calendar so that you have the time blocked out in your schedule. Don’t allow other things to interfere with the time you have allotted for exercise either, because when you do that, you reinforce the idea that exercise is not that important and can be pushed off. Those of us who are committed to a fitness way of life don’t allow life’s little hiccups to interfere with our gym time. It’s that simple.

I Really Do Train Four To Six Days Per Week

rest days

Have you ever run into people who are such die-hard weightlifting fanatics that they are restless during their rest days? I am one of those people, and I suspect that I will remain that way for another few decades. There are a few people who have asked me why I continue to train four to six days per week, EVERY week, despite the fact that I am not in prep for a contest. Why would I continue to work so hard at maintaining or building muscle if there is nothing specific to train for? The main reason is because I train for LIFE. I have no intention of allowing my gains to diminish simply because other people think I am too old for such “nonsense”.

How do I stay so consistent with such a frequent training schedule? I make going to the gym an essential part of my daily routine, and it is so important to me that it only comes second to brushing my teeth and putting on gym clothes before I head to the gym. Food and showering are always done afterwards, first of all because I plan to sweat when I am at the gym, and secondly, because I might throw some fasted cardio into the mix before I hit the weights.

I will never understand gym-goers who spend several minutes between sets chatting with others, checking text messages, and finding other distractions which deter them from starting the next set. I train rapidly, resting only 30 seconds between sets or supersets. That is part of the reason why I do NOT want to chat at the gym. I am so focused on my next set while I am resting that I often don’t hear others, especially because I listen to music while I train. I try not to allow random thoughts to creep in, because such thoughts can throw me off, especially if they are anxiety-provoking. When I am in the gym, I push distractions and worries aside, and truly enjoy the physicality of training. Besides, I have the rest of the day to address issues and responsibilities.

Whether you choose to train four days per week or more, or you prefer training fewer days per week, just make sure you are CONSISTENT. Make your time in the gym a time to decompress and tune into your body.

Making Regular Exercise A Priority

I wish I had the time

I freely admit that I chuckle to myself whenever I hear people say that they wish they had the discipline to work out on a consistent basis. It’s not that I am insensitive to the rigors of busy schedules, because I spend my days running from place to place, multitasking and barreling through tons of tasks, errands and responsibilities. But I set aside about two hours per day, six days per week, to go to the gym, and I train HARD and HEAVY every time. The main reason why I am so consistent about hitting the gym consistently is that it is a priority, as important as brushing my teeth and showering on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I look forward to my gym sessions as a way to begin each day, which is why Sunday, my rest day, is a bit rough for me and throws me off my usual daily pattern of waking up and heading straight to the gym.

Perhaps you are one of those people who believes that there isn’t time to work out, and you continue to allow your schedule to annihilate any chance of working out. The thing is, if you actually made working out a MUST instead of something to fit into your schedule as it allowed, you would find a way to get your butt to the gym and follow a plan. I have definitely noticed that people who want to reach certain fitness goals are much more successful in reaching them when they follow a specific regimen which provides guidance and structure. Making promises to yourself like, “I will go to the gym on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 6 am to 7:30 am”, or “I will drive straight to the gym after work every day” can be a great start to adding discipline and consistency, but you need to follow through and hold yourself accountable.

I am not kidding when I say that you need to put your workouts into your schedule! Enter your workouts on your iPhone or your Google calendar so that you have the time blocked out in your schedule. Don’t allow other things to interfere with the time you have allotted for exercise either, because when you do that, you reinforce the idea that exercise is not that important and can be pushed off. Those of us who are committed to a fitness way of life don’t allow life’s little hiccups to interfere with our gym time. It’s that simple.