Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Living with purpose in 2014!

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This isn't going to be a typical "set your New Year's Resolution" article. I'm not a fan of waiting until a specific time to make a change. I believe if you want to make a change, the best time to start is right now, instead of waiting until a later now moment. There's never a perfect time, if you feel you want to make a change, just do it, don't wait until the first of the new year.

That being said, the New Year brings a feeling of change. Even though we go about our personal and business lives constantly setting goals, accomplishing goals, and setting new goals; the feeling of change associated with the New Year is a great time to evaluate the previous year and look forward to what's coming down the road.

This should be done with the focus on the bigger picture. I am not saying short term goals are not important, they are, without a doubt. However, short term goals are stepping stones to a larger goal. What is your larger goal? For me I believe the ultimate goal is to determine your life's purpose.

When you realize what you are here to do, it makes all the rest of the stuff simple. If you know your life's purpose, all you have to do when considering smaller goals is ask yourself, "is this goal in alignment with my life's purpose?" If it is, then the goal is worthy of your time. If it is not, let go of it.

This works on any scale, whether it is a business goal, a personal fitness goal, a healthy goal, etc.

In business, if your goal is to get more customers and you are considering attending a workshop that deals with sales strategies for businesses, then it is probably worth the investment to attend the workshop.

If your fitness goal is to run a marathon, and you decided to focus on building a 3x bodyweight deadlift in the weight-room, you are doing your goal of running a marathon a disservice. While supplementing your marathon training with strength training is a good idea, trying to build a huge deadlift directly conflicts with the goal of running a marathon.

If your goal is to improve your health and prevent disease, and you're trying to decide between a green smoothie and a Snickers bar for a snack, it's pretty obvious which short-term goal is in-line with the greater goal.

This begs the question, why then do we waste so much time? Honestly I think it is because we do not have a defined longer term goal. This makes just coasting and wasting time very easy.

Consider that this lifetime is relatively short. You will not be here in this current incarnation for very long. If we are lucky, we will have 90-100 years (or maybe a little longer) to experience this lifetime. Why wait until the end of it to decide what the legacy we choose to leave behind is?

I suggest that for 2014 instead of trying to decide which deal of the day gym membership to get, or what diet to follow that will give me a 6-pack in 12 easy short weeks; we spend a day, or more, with ourselves get quiet and take a long look inside. What is your higher self trying to tell you? What is it you are drawn to? What are you really here for?

Once you have that defined, you will know deep down what you should be doing every day to get there.

I wish you nothing but health and happiness for 2014 and I sincerely hope, if you haven't already, you realize why you are here and what you are here to do; and that it helps and inspires more people than you can possibly imagine!

In Abundant Health,

Scott

scott@extreme-fitness.org
www.extreme-fitness.org
www.plantbasedperformance.org

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Jay Z and Beyonce: Vegan Power or Celebrity Hype?

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It was squat day today at the gym and my strength trainer, Scott Shetler, always provides me with various types of motivation to help me push through our intense workouts. Just as I was getting warmed up to step into the cage and turn up for ten sets of squats, he shows me the recent online article about Jay Z and Beyonce partaking in a three week vegan challenge. 

http://pitchfork.com/news/53212-jay-z-and-beyonce-pledge-to-go-vegan/

As I read through  we discussed what a good thing this was but Scott pointed out how there were so many haters and vegan purists chiming in on the comments as well as the negativity that they were spewing about the article. People were questioning the authenticity of Jay and B's choice to go plant-based like it was some big Illuminati ploy to undermine the true vegan agenda.

We both felt that those notions were ridiculous of course, but also symptoms of much deeper issues. Haters just can't recognize a good thing.

As a fellow hip hop artist, who is currently vegan, I can totally relate and resonate to his choice to try it out and see how it works for him and his family. With all the poppin molly references, sippin syrup advocacy, swimming in pools of alcohol advertising, and chronic weed abuse promotion that hip hop has become the modern day vehicle for, it’s refreshing to see health addressed positively from icons of Jay Z and Beyonce's status in the game. Jay is an uber relevant hip hop artist and yet also a maturing man in his forties who even his critics can’t deny has made successful decisions that have catapulted him to a position of great influence in popular culture; not just in hip hop, but in many sectors of entertainment, business, and lifestyle. Jay has been a trendsetter, a leader, and a pioneering force in pushing the presentation, perception, prestige, and power of hip hop to unprecedented levels of achievement; and Beyonce, just as much so in her phenomenal career.

With all of the hip hop artists and entertainers that have died from health related illnesses you would think that there would be a greater show of appreciation; if for nothing else that two members of our community are striving for healthier lifestyles and that in itself is good because it's good for them. It’s also good to get a break from the same old negative news that we hear about so much these days from the effects of the lifestyles of the rich and famous and unhealthy. But also, it is even that much more meaningful because they chose to share their journey via social media, which in this day and age has the potential to encourage millions and millions of people to perhaps dig into this notion of how beneficial plant-based eating is and maybe encourage many to research and see if it could be of benefit to them.

When Jay Z said 'change clothes', sport jerseys went out out of style and button downs came in. When Beyonce sang her lyric “let me upgrade ya", it cleverly coined the concept of being an asset and contributor to your partner's development and success in a relationship.  I know the power of the partner upgrade from my own experience. My wife is a nutritionist and holistic health counselor and was instrumental in my healing and shift to healthier living. It’s so important and powerful to have that unified spousal support for positive lifestyle changes and to help one another sustain those changes. I think their support for the vegan lifestyle is highly commendable and necessary. And it matters.

It should be no secret that I’m a huge fan of both Beyonce and Jay. We have worked together on the dead prez song "hell yeah" and have shared the same circles in many regards for years but I, like I'm sure millions of other people, admire Jay even more today for his leadership as a man of family, marriage, and fatherhood; and how he has literally laid a blueprint for the success of a maturing hip hop artist.   

Now, I'm certainly no advocate for Jay's alcohol promoting ventures, to keep it all the way 100, nor am I trying to overlook anything that critics may find contradictory, no one is perfect in the eyes of another. There are enough people standing in line to point out others’ faults and contradictions. I got my own to keep track of. But I just feel that when a person takes a step in a positive direction to improve their health, that it is worthy of supporting and celebrating; later for the haters.

Hip hop is a global phenomenon with the power to literally move the masses of people. So many of the negative aspects of the culture get put on blast and so, in instances like these, it is an opportunity to appreciate the positivity that hip hop is capable of in the right hands with the right messages. This is why I created what I call the first ever "fit-hop" album, The Workout, which fuses veganism and hardcore fitness training with authentic hip hop lyricism and hard core beats into one seamless lifestyle. I think that the notion of hip hop equating to degenerative lifestyles of poor health, drug abuse, and early deaths has gone way too far. My album The Workout, is just another example of how hip hop can respond positively to the health crisis in the US, as well as around the world, and help influence a healthy shift towards practical, proactive solutions in the lives of everyday people.

According to holistic nutritionist and vegan Afya Ibomu (who just happens to be my wife) "Eating a well balanced plant based diet decreases the risks of cancer, obesity and heart disease, saves animals from unnecessary mistreatment and slaughter and decreases the harmful effects that the meat industry's air and water pollution has on the environment."

I recently shared my story of transformation from being a young hip hop artist with a poor diet and self destructive lifestyle suffering from gout in my leg to a plant-based martial artist, runner, and fitness enthusiast; and how the healthy shift re-inspired my commitment to hip hop, in my trainer Scott's book Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness.

http://plantbasedperformance.org/store.html

Scott is a vegan himself, a former kettlebell sport and powerlifting competitor, a student of qigong and Taijiquan, and a trainer to many elite athletes; and he offered these comments on why veganism is gaining more and more popularity.

"I think one of the reasons we are seeing such a “boom” in the popularity of plant-based diets is due to the fact that many of the myths associated with them, such as: you cannot be strong, build muscle, perform well athletically, be healthy, etc.; have been completely debunked. The stories featured in my recent book, “Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness” are firsthand accounts of the benefits of plant-based nutrition from 78-year old Ironman competitor and cancer survivor Dr. Ruth Heidrich (who was also featured in the book “Born to Run” and on the documentary Forks Over Knives); top UFC MMA fighter and Season 6 Ultimate Fighter Champion Mac Danzig; “the Plant-Based Dietitian” Julieanna Hever; vegan strength coaches Sabina Skala and Mike Mahler; and many others. 100% of book sales go to benefit Mercy For Animals, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies. "

It goes without saying that Jay Z and Beyonce are two powerhouses of pop culture. Their embrace of the vegan lifestyle, whether for a trial period, or a lifetime, is a positive step not only for their own lives but for all those who their actions impact and influence. In the article about the power couple's vegan shift, Jay asked for assistance from any pro-vegans, so I'm putting together a care package with a copy of Plant-Based Performance, the Workout, and my wife's book The Vegan Soulfood Guide to the Galaxy. My homies have teased me with the nickname 'Jehovah's Fitness' because of how much I knock on metaphorical doors about the good news of health! But Hova himself, getting down with vegan power; with the celebrity hype to spread the wealth of health? Now that's the new Gangsta!

by

Khnum "stic of dead prez" Ibomu
with Scott Shetler, NSCA-CPT

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Less Meat, More Fruits and Vegetables Cut Diabetes Risk: Study

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*Scott's note - this blog is a repost from www.ctvnews.ca.

A large-scale new study finds that cutting down on meat and dairy products in favor of fruits and vegetables could dramatically reduce the risk of diabetes.

Dr. Fran├žoise Clavel-Chapelon's team at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in Paris found that animal products, including meat, cheese, and egg yolks, trigger stomach acids linked to the disease. Yet fruits, including acidic fruits such as lemons and oranges, reduce the stomach acids before they can cause harm to the body.

"A diet rich in animal protein may favor net acid intake, while most fruits and vegetables form alkaline precursors that neutralize the acidity," said Clavel-Chapelon.

"Contrary to what is generally believed, most fruits such as peaches, apples, pears, bananas and even lemons and oranges actually reduce dietary acid load once the body has processed them."

The study involved nearly 66,500 women (from the French center of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) over 14 years, with findings showing that those with acidic diets were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Scientists gave the subjects PRAL scores, referring to the potential renal acid load in their diets, with those with scores in the top 25 per cent having a 56 per cent greater risk of getting diabetes than those in the bottom 25 per cent.

Meats can have a PRAL value as high as 13.2, cheeses 26.8, and fish 10.8. In contrast, fruits and vegetables have negative PRAL values.

The findings, announced this week, appear in the latest issue of the journal Diabetologia.

###

Stay Strong AND Healthy,

Scott
scott@extreme-fitness.org
www.extreme-fitness.org
www.scottshetler.com
www.plantbasedperformance.org

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Just Another Week of Juicin’ (The Healthy Way!)

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I recently accomplished a major health goal that I’ve been working on since February of this year-I had the final four amalgam fillings removed from my mouth. I had the first four (YES I had eight amalgam fillings - that’s what I get for not paying attention to my orthodontist regarding dental hygiene when I had my braces as a kid) removed in April.

What’s the danger with amalgam fillings? Amalgam (silver) fillings contain about 50% mercury along with a combination of silver, tin, and copper. Mercury is a neurotoxin and at certain levels can cause neurological issues, autoimmune disease, chronic illness, and mental disorders (http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/toxic-teeth-are-our-amalgam-fillings-safe).

Personally, I don’t care to get into the debate as to whether or not amalgam fillings are safe, it’s been shown that amalgam fillings release from 1-3ug up to 27ug per day, and this can be made worse by drinking carbonated beverages, chewing gum, and grinding teeth in addition to normal daily eating and drinking habits. When you couple this with the fact that in 2008 Scandinavian countries banned the use of amalgam for environmental and health reasons that is absolutely enough for me to know I don’t what this crap in my mouth!

The one thing I wanted to do once I got the fillings removed was to do a good week long juice cleanse to assist in detoxifying and follow it up with a round of supplemental chlorella, which according to Dr. Mercola binds with heavy metals (including mercury), chemicals, and pesticides while NOT binding with beneficial minerals like zinc and magnesium! (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/02/01/is-this-one-of-natures-most-powerful-detoxification-tools.aspx)

I generally do a juice, or a raw foods cleanse, every year and held off on this years until after the mercury was removed from my head.

I started my cleanse on Saturday, 10/19/13 weighing 183lbs. and finished on Saturday, 10/26/13 weighing 169lbs. This cleanse went surprisingly well. Usually I have a 2-3 day period of mental fog and headaches due to cutting out the coffee and green and pu-ehr teas I consume on a regular basis, but this time it was only on day 1 for the second half of the day. From the minute I woke up on day 2 through the end of the week it was smooth sailing. My energy was awesome, I never had any hunger pangs, and I experienced a tremendous amount of clarity and calm. Real time seemed to be going in slow motion even though I had an incredibly busy and tedious week, it was awesome!

Here is an outline of my daily schedule:
  • 1st thing in the a.m. (I usually wake up between 3:30 & 5:00am depending on the day) 32oz. of clean spring water with a lemon or lime juiced into it
  • dry brush my entire body before my morning shower
  • hot herbal tea (decaf, usually peppermint or a cleansing blend)
  • 4-6oz shot of wheatgrass
  • morning juice: 16-32oz of a more fruit-heavy juice (something like blueberry, grapes, pineapple, lemon, ginger, kale, dandelion greens, & another green like collard or spinach)
  • afternoon juice: after the morning juices the afternoon and evening juices were more veggie heavy - I stuck with a guideline of 80% veggie and 20% fruit daily. This might be carrot, apple, cucumber, celery, ginger, lemon, kale, spinach, dandelion greens for a 32oz juice.
  • evening juice: this was basically the same as the afternoon juice except I added a beet to it and again had about 32oz. of juice.
  • later evening I might have another 16oz juice (same blend as the afternoon juice) or another hot herbal tea.
  • in addition to the juice and decaf herbal teas I consumed a gallon or more of clean spring water daily.
  • I cut out intense exercise this week. I know many people who continue to lift weights and run when juice cleansing but I thought that if I’m truly trying to rest my body and let it repair this would be a good week to set my barbells and kettlebells down. It worked! My body felt amazing and I was dying to get back in the gym by the end of the week. However, I did a lot of stretching daily and kept up with my daily Taiji, qigong, and meditation practice. My body felt like a million bucks and the newfound flexibility felt great. No more nagging shoulder pain and I finally got my right hip flexor/piriformis to release!
  • In addition to the above and to assist with the detoxing, I did a daily enema (and sometimes a couple) to further clean out the colon and intestines. Some people argue this and say that the colon does not hold fecal matter and that the body is constantly detoxing, etc. but everytime I do it I seem to get plenty of crap out, so to speak!
That was it, after one week I stepped on the scale and was down from 183lbs. to 169lbs. This is my all-time low since I began my transition to a high-raw vegan diet back in mid-2011 when I was weighing 220-230lbs. Now, after a week long cleanse and literally cleaning out my intestines, I know what the 169lbs was going to be short-lived and sure enough I’ve been hanging around 173-175lbs since I’ve been back to solid foods, but I’m still keeping up with my new flexibility and have felt great in the gym. In fact after Monday’s squat workout I wasn’t nearly as sore as in the past.

One side effect of a plant-based diet with everyone I talk to tends to be exceptional recovery. My legs were a little sore, but I did not experience the dreaded 48 hour DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) that is usually associated with a squat workout after 10 (or more) days out of the gym!

So that’s it! The plan was to celebrate getting my amalgam fillings removed with a week-long juice cleanse and it was a huge success! If you are interested in juice cleansing I strongly suggest looking into it. Keep in mind, this is not a long term solution. Granted people do sometimes cleanse with juice for up to 90 days or more, they are usually doing it for health reasons NOT for weight-loss or cosmetics. If you cleanse and go back to eating a crappy diet, such as the Standard American Diet (or SAD), the work you did on your cleanse will be pointless. People juice fast and cleanse all the time to help heal from chronic disease and improve their health, but it is imperative that you transition into a healthy nutrition plan to continue to keep your weight down and your health up!

Here are some great juice cleansing resources if you would like to learn more about this practice. Ultimately, take your time to learn about it inside and out and plan well in advance before you decide to try it. The first couple of days can be tough, but stick with it, it is very rewarding!

http://www.justonjuice.com/
http://juicefeasting.com/
http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/

In addition to these great resources be sure to check out the article “The Power of Juice Fasting” by, Amy Dumas in my latest book, “Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness”. This book is a collection of articles from vegan athletes, trainers, and health and fitness professionals about how plant-based nutrition has positively affected their health, fitness, and sport performance. All book sales go to benefit Mercy For Animals, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

Get a copy of “Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness” here:

http://plantbasedperformance.org/store.html

Be sure to share your experiences juice cleansing, or if you have any questions, in the comments below!

Stay Strong AND Healthy!

Scott
scott@extreme-fitness.org
www.extreme-fitness.org

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Musashi's 21 Maxims.

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Miyamoto Musashi: ?, 1584 - June 13, 1645

Wisdom from arguably one of the greatest warriors of all-time, Miyamoto Musashi.

Musashi’s 21 Maxims

1. Accept everything just the way it is.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
6. Do not regret what you have done.
7. Never be jealous.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.
10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
11. In all things have no preferences.
12. Be indifferent to where you live.
13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
15. Do not act following customary beliefs.
16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
17. Do not fear death.
18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.
21. Never stray from the Way.

Stay Strong and Healthy,

Scott

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Meditation - All Day, Every Day?

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One of the concepts I used to struggle with concerning meditation was "am I doing it properly"? Meaning, am I sitting correctly, perfect posture, is my mind completely blank, sitting, waiting, oops-there goes a thought-ok, blank mind, GO!, no wait, that was a thought! WAIT! That was another thought! NOOOO! I'll never get this!!! Enter what my Shifu likes to refer to as "the Monkey Mind".

It can be a tough thing to grasp-but wait! There's that word-grasp. If we grasp, are we searching? And if we are searching are we being still, empty, and free? Why is this stuff so hard! Then it hit me - it doesn't have to be.

Meditation is as simple as just being. Being present. That's all. I mean think about it (wait! Don't think!!! Take no thought!) if all there is, is the present-the now-we should really be in meditation all the time, right?

That's it! How many of us truly live in the now-right here-in the present? Do you? Ask yourself this question-how many times today did you dwell on past events or worry about future events? How many times were you daydreaming about your weekend plans, or your trip next month? What about when you took that water break this afternoon, were you completely present and aware as you took that sip of water? I believe this is a perfect illustration of all the opportunities we have every day to be present, and all the opportunities we miss.

I think we pass meditation off as sitting in the Lotus position with a completely blank mind, zoned out. While seated meditation (or zazen as it is referred to) is extremely important, and should become a daily practice, that is not the only time meditation should occur.

You see, meditation is not a "zoning out". Meditation is the supreme state of awareness, with a mind like glass, or better yet-perfectly still water offering nothing but reflection, peace, and stillness. It is in this stillness, with a completely quiet mind, that the "now" the "present" may be totally realized.

If meditation is a supreme state of awareness, where we are totally present and totally in the moment, why can't we meditate each and every day of our lives? Forgetting the past, not living in the future, just being now-we've already established that now is all there is, correct?

I address this idea in my book "Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit" that there is only now, there only was now, and there will only ever be now. Think about it, the past is what? A series of now moments that have already occurred kept alive by your memory. The future is nothing but a series of now moments that have yet to happen-and when they do happen it will be now.

If we agree that from an experiential standpoint there can only be now, doesn't it make sense why people become addicted to things like adventure sports? Consider the rock climber hanging off the face of a share cliff by his or her fingertips-I promise you (as I have been in that very position myself) the only thing you are focused on is the right now! That test next week, or the stack of papers on your desk waiting for you Monday morning is not occupying any space in your mind at that point in time.

I'm happy to tell you that you don't have to be an adrenaline junkie to experience the now-do this, take a deep breath into your belly, focus on your Dantien (your energy center about 1-2" below your navel), now breath into that point. Do it 10 more times, counting backward from 10 to 1, and on that final breath just be. Clear your mind and sit. Don't worry about for how long. Just stay clear and allow your mind to relax, if a thought comes into your mind, notice it and let it pass, but do not hang on to it.

This is much easier said than done! The first time you try this you may only be able to maintain this state for a minute or two-ugh but wait! We've just assigned meditation to the world of time and space taking it out of the now!

NOW-do you see what I am trying to get at here? All day, just be present, in everything you do! Don't neglect your seated meditation practice, there is no finer way to gain control of your mind, but when you aren't sitting on your cushion in the Lotus position battling your monkey mind for supremacy of your being, bring your attention fully into the present. Whether you are exercising, walking up the stairs, or having a conversation with a family member or co-worker, take the time to meditate all day, every day.

If you do this I'm sure you will discover that you will be able to speed up, and calm down, and you will be well on your way to a happier, healthier and more enjoyable life-and after all-isn't that what we are truly here for?

Be well!

-Scott

Monday, September 23, 2013

What is Abundant Health?

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The whole idea for my latest book, “Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit”, came about because I feel that there is a serious separation of health and fitness in the fitness industry now-a-days.

Around the turn of the century, those involved in “fitness”, took part in what is referred to as “physical culture”. You see, back then, they felt it important to develop not only the body, but the mind as well. The focus was on total human development, not just the physique and strength.

Back then there were no strongmen, powerlifters, weightlifters, bodybuilders, or what have you. Iron weights of all types, barbells, dumbbells, clubs, and kettlebells or ring-weights, were lifted for the development of strength. In addition mobility exercises, exercises performed with very light weights, body-weight exercises, stretching, and other forms of personal care were practiced for restoration and health.

For instance, George “the Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt states in his book “The Way to Live in Health and Physical Fitness”, “I have already pointed out that increase of strength means betterment of health and increase of comfort, so that every man must profit by such increase of strength, even if he does not intend to acquire it for professional or other pecuniary purposes.”

Foods were eaten in their natural state, and from what I’ve read the focus was on fresh, raw, and whole food consumption.

Hackenschmidt goes on to say, “I believe I am right in asserting that our Creator has provided food and nutriment for every being for its own advantage. Man is born without frying pan or stewpot. The purest natural food for human beings would, therefore, be fresh, uncooked food and nuts.”

In addition to sound nutrition and physical practices, Hackenschmidt thought is was of the utmost importance to develop the mind. The following is another passage from his book, “The Way to Live in Health and Physical Fitness”:

“One ought to avoid all unnecessary worry and exciting thoughts, and to cultivate a firm tranquility of mind. I have formed the conviction that all unnecessary sorrows and cares act in all circumstances harmfully upon one’s constitution. Melancholy reflections will in no way influence Fate, whereas one may weaken the constitution by the waste in energy while indulging in them. The best is to do one’s duty conscientiously, and to leave the rest to Him who guides our destiny.”

To me this is the basis of Abundant Health, developing a strong mind, body, and spirit. The founding fathers of the physical culture movement had it right. Half a world away, the monks of the Shaolin Temple practiced a similar lifestyle, they devoted equal time to the development of the mind, body, and spirit. Throughout time and history there are many examples of people and groups who have practiced this, unfortunately though, it seems like we are getting further and further away from this idea.

Today people are more disconnected and disengaged than ever. Due to technology, we have more access to health and fitness information, yet the waistlines are expanding and obesity rates are on the rise. Not to mention horrible diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are more commonplace now than ever before.

So what gives? I asked my Taiji teacher this question. His reply was that people are not developing themselves internally. Fitness is very superficial, it’s all about 6-pack abs, bulging biceps, and a massive bench press. Why do we believe the fallacy that it is impossible to be healthy, strong, and possess a lean and muscular physique? Why must we choose to be a “strength specialist” or a “physique specialist” or an “energy-work specialist”? I see no reason why meditation, qigong, yoga, and weightlifting, have to be mutually exclusive.

If we truly want abundant health, we must first strengthen our minds and commit to it’s attainment. Then we must begin our “body work” on the inside. We must learn to cultivate and conserve our energy, we must learn to de-stress, relax and allow our energy to circulate freely. Once we have cleaned up the inside, the outside will take care of itself and we will radiate health, strength, and mental / physical / spiritual well-being.

I propose what I believe to be a very effective plan for the attainment of abundant health in my latest book. It seems that many have the proper physical training habits in place, but are neglecting the mental development, energy work, and proper nutrition. If this was not the case, people would be living longer, healthier, and more vibrant lives free of the diseases and ailments that we’ve come to accept in the later stages of life.

I hope you consider adopting a lifestyle dedicated to the attainment of abundant health, just as the founding fathers of the physical culture movement did.

I guess sometimes we have to look back in time in order to move ahead into the future!

-Scott

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Reminder to Myself Why I Stopped Eating Meat, and Started Eating Plants!

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Lisa and I were driving from Atlanta to State College, PA yesterday for the Arts Festival at Penn State and to visit her family in Pittsburgh.

Along the drive I saw something that was a quick reminder about why I chose over two years ago to stop eating meat, switching to a plant-based diet and a much more compassionate lifestyle.

On the highway ahead of us was a huge truck with some "farms" logo on the side. It had about 6-8 levels and small slits along the side so you could see in. It was a horrible site. It was full of tiny baby pigs packed on top of each other.

Some of their noses were sticking out of the openings, some of their legs were hanging out. There was no room for them to move, and they were literally piled on top of each other. It was one of the most saddening, disturbing things I've ever seen. You see the videos and pictures online, and in documentaries, but to see it up close and personal was horrible and something I will not easily forget.

This was a painful reminder of why I chose to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle and a plant-based diet.

I try so hard not to sound like I'm standing on a soapbox, as I ate meat for many years. Once I realized what was involved with what was ending up on my dinner plate, I had enough, the idea that we have to have meat to survive is just that, an idea. There are plenty of people, from regular health-conscious people all the way up to highly competitive athletes that not only survive, but thrive, on a plant-based diet. In addition there is plenty of evidence backing up the health benefits of this way of eating.

Like I said, I try not to get too preachy about this stuff, as I was a meat eater for a long time. But sometimes when I hear the arguments of why we "need" meat, I shake my head, as I used to be the one making those arguments. Plus I can't see how people can say they are animal lovers yet still eat meat. I see no difference between the life of a pig or cow and my dog Kizar. I guess some people are brainwashed that some animals are food and others aren't. These same people get disgusted by other cultures who eat animals we consider domestic pets. I find it all disgusting personally.

Sure people like to talk about how even vegans who eat a plant-based diet disrupt the eco-system due to farming practices, and some animals end up losing their lives in the process, but are you going to honestly tell me that a family of moles that is forced to relocate due to farming land is the same thing as slaughtering pigs and cows? Sure, there is an indirect effect on the environment, and it is very hard to get through daily life without coming into contact with some type of animal product related commodity. But the heart of a conscious change to a cruelty-free lifestyle is doing the best you can to cause the least amount of harm. I even had someone one day trying to tell me there was no difference in the life of a plant and the life of an animal. Somehow picking an apple off of an apple tree was just as humane as killing an animal to him.

I try to tell myself that right now, everyone is just doing the best they can at the level of consciousness they have attained. But when I see things like I saw yesterday, and realize the horror that goes on in the modern farming industry-and please save me the argument about "sustainable, organically farmed meat", any animal that has a pre-determined expiration date is NOT humanely treated-it makes me very sad.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man. I feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants. I do not regard flesh-food as necessary for us at any stage and under any clime in which it is possible for human beings ordinarily to live. I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species." -Mahatma Gandhi

-Scott

Saturday, September 21, 2013

True Health - Integrating the Mind, Body, and Spirit.

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If you've read my book, Abundant Health, you understand that the underlying concept is that for the attainment of true health we must integrate the mind, body, and spirit. A health & fitness program that neglects one is incomplete.

I've got no problem with lifting weights to build muscle, or training to improve your 1/2 marathon time; I just think that time should be spent on the other aspects of the self if the goal of true health is to ever be obtained. This is a concept I touched on in a previous blog post titled "What is Abundant Health?".

When the mind, body, and spirit are developed together true health is experienced which can ultimately lead to self realization. Often when the goal is narrow, for instance exercising for superficial reasons such as appearance, there is a deeper issue that needs to be dealt with-possibly some type of physical insecurity-and even when all the fat has been stripped away from the mid-section the person still is not content. This is why it is imperative to focus on the attainment of true health.

Integrating the Mind, Body, and Spirit
In Abundant Health, I propose a very simple program that requires only one hour a day to perform. I refer to this program as the "Mind, Body, and Spirit Power Hour". Twenty minute segments are allotted to various exercises put together to bring balance to health and self-development.

The first twenty minutes are a series of Qigong exercises that allow for the cultivation and circulation of energy (or Qi); the second twenty minutes are set for more vigorous physical activity to strengthen the physical systems of the body; and the last twenty minutes are dedicated to stretching or yoga and meditation.

I honestly believe that the Mind, Body, and Spirit Power Hour will change the way people approach self-development, health, and fitness.

Mind and Spirit
Most people usually have the physical development in the bag, the mind and spirit are often neglected. My favorite activities for mind and spirit development are meditation, Qigong, and the internal martial art of Taijiquan. These exercises promote energy cultivation, energy flow, relaxation, calming the mind and body, and most importantly encourage the concept of being present and in the moment.

These are the things that I enjoy, however there are other activities that can be applied here, yoga, prayer, spending time in nature, the possibilities are endless!

Body
Most people are fine when it comes to physical development, and most anything will fit the bill. Weight lifting, running and other forms of cardiovascular exercise, core exercise, pilates, yoga, you name it-if it challenges the body and you enjoy it, go for it!

Integration
Once you have your favorite activities and exercises in place, all that is left is to do them! The important thing to remember is do not let one area dominate. Do not expect that five minutes of Qigong or yoga a day will balance out two hours of intensive strength training. The key is to find out how to balance these in your life to bring about the great possible results.

If you need help, I offer a few different options in my book, Abundant Health. If you do not have a copy you can get one here: click here for Abundant Health also, please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section of this blog.

Until next time, be well!

Scott

Friday, September 6, 2013

Breathe from your abdomen for optimal health and relaxation.

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Look at the way a newborn baby breathes. Watch as it lays there, on it's back, as its belly rises with each inhalation, and falls with each exhalation.

Now watch the way a typical adult breathes. Seriously, next time you're at the office watch a co-worker on a call with a client, or in a staff meeting. Watch the chest rise and fall with each short breath.

What's the difference? A baby doesn't have a care in the world. All it needs is nourishment and love from it's mother. The typical adult has many cares, many forms of stress, and usually a less than optimal way to deal with life's stress.

If you know me, or have read my book, Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit, you know that what I propose for optimal health involves a program that develops the mind, body, and spirit. The best way to accomplish this is through a holistic program. I recommend eating a healthy diet (preferably a high-raw plant-based nutrition plan) and coupling qigong and other energy cultivation exercises like Taijiquan or yoga, with vigorous exercises such as strength or cardiovascular training, and meditation.

This might be a tall order for many people and too drastic of a lifestyle change initially. To simplify things I created the "Mind, Body, Spirit Power Hour", a way to fit optimal mind, body, and spirit development into a simple to follow, sixty-minute program. You can read more about it in my book or in the following blog post:True Health - Integrating the Mind, Body, and Spirit.

I realize that even committing an hour a day can be too much initially for some people, so that leaves the question; what can you do that will begin to have an immediate impact on your health, that requires little to no time or effort? Simple. Breathe. Breathe deeply, calmly, and relaxed. Breathe from the belly, just like a baby.

Short, shallow breathing from the chest is not healthy. Long, deep, relaxed breathing from the belly is very healthy.

According to WebMD, "Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax." (Click here to read more from WebMD.)

Breathing is something we shouldn't have to think about, we are born knowing how to do it. Unfortunately, as we grow older and enter into our professional lives, we encounter more and more stress and sacrifice our health for our livelihood. In doing so, we forget what our body instinctively knows.

How to breathe correctly
  • Calm down
  • Breathe in deeply through your nostrils
  • As you breathe in, draw the breathe deep into your lower abdomen about 1-2" below your navel (referred to as the lower dan tien)
  • To assist in breathing into the abdomen, visualize a balloon filling with air in your lower belly as you inhale
  • Gently exhale through your mouth, allowing the "balloon" in your belly to deflate
  • Do not force the exhale, let it happen naturally
  • At no point hold your breath, let it flow in and out, continuously without effort

Breathing is that simple, but you will be surprised at first how difficult it is to adopt this practice. Be consistent, work on making this process second nature, your stress-levels, and more importantly your health, will thank you for it!

Be Well,

Scott

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Where do you get your protein from?

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This is easily the most frequent question I get from people since I stopped eating meat over two years ago. Now, for a while I continued to eat fish and eggs, but eventually have turned to a plant-based nutrition approach.

It's been shown time and time again that not only is it possible to meet your nutritional requirements on a plant-based diet, but it is possible to excel athletically following this type of nutrition plan.

Athletes such as ultra-runners, NFL football players, MMA fighters, powerlifters, bodybuilders and more have shown the typical image of a skinny, weak, and frail vegan is completely false.

There are many arguments about how humans are omnivores, designed to eat meat (actually when you compare our digestive tract to a carnivore and true omnivore's digestive tracts you might be surprised), the B12 argument (by the way, B12 is made by bacteria not animal flesh, and animal-based foods are a hotbed of bacteria), and many more arguments about why humans should eat meat. Pretty much all of that can be debunked by clicking this link: Humans are naturally plant-eaters according to our bodies a very informative article at michaelbluejay.com.

Protein is found in all plant-based foods, in fact T. Colin Campbell has stated that a diet consisting of a wide-variety of whole plant foods will provide the body with all the essential macro- and micro-nutrients in the correct ratios the body needs. Keep in mind what that last sentence stated "wide-variety" and "plant-based". Did you know Oreos are technically considered vegan because they contain no animal-based products? I'm sure that you know plenty of vegetarians and vegans who don't eat healthy.


It is pretty easy to follow a plant-based nutrition plan, and not only have I dropped a lot of unhealthy body-fat (about 50 lbs.) I'm currently leaner, and healthier than I've ever been. This was confirmed at my last physical, the first time I've ever had perfect lab results. In addition to becoming much healthier, I came out of a two-year "retirement" from kettlebell lifting and after only a few months of dedicated training I exceeded my training and competition results in the event I compete in, the long cycle (clean & jerk of two kettlebells). My previous best lifts were in 2009 with the 20kg bells - 71 reps in training and 65 in competition at about 225 lbs bodyweight; and just recently at about 180 lbs bodyweight I made 72 reps in training and 67 in competition at the 2013 Punch Gym Sarasota Kettlebell Sport Championship with the 20kg bells.

What I Eat

This is a typical daily meal plan for me.

4:00am: 32oz. of water with lemon squeezed in.

4:30am: fresh-made juice; usually 4-5 carrots, 2 apples, handful of greens (parsley or kale), lime, and beet with a tablespoon or two of raw apple cider vinegar.

5:00am: black coffee w/ 1 tbsp of coconut oil

6:00am: green smoothie; 2-3 handfuls of greens (usually kale, dandelion greens, collard greens or swiss chard), a banana, 1 cup of mixed berries; blended in 2 cups of water or almond milk - I sometimes throw in a scoop of brown rice protein or a veggie protein blend

8:00am: usually a couple pieces of fruit, apple, pear or berries

10:00am: bowl of cereal (ezekial or ancient grains w/ 1/4 cup of raw oats, 1 tbsp of flax meal, cinnamon and almond milk) OR brown rice rice cakes with peanut or almond butter

1:00pm: almond or peanut butter sandwich

5:00pm: brown rice and black beans - sometimes with tempeh or tofu added in; I might also eat a salad or add vegetables to the rice and beans

8:00pm: another green smoothie like the morning one - 2-3 handfuls of greens, 2 fruits and 2 cups of almond milk or water

*post workout: after training I usually have the following blended smoothie - 2 cups of almond milk, 1 banana, 1 scoop of brown rice protein or veggie protein blend

I also drink about a gallon of water a day, and usually have hot tea once or twice a day - green or puh ehr usually. I will usually mix in other things like goji berries, nuts and seeds, other fruits and veggies, or different things in the cooked meals, but this gives you a general idea. A lot of the time I just have a juice, 2 blended smoothies and 1 cooked meal a day, snacking on raw fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds in between meals. The above is pretty much how I was eating when training for the 2013 Punch Gym Kettlebell Sport Championship when I posted my best kettlebell meet numbers.

What about eating out? Generally my wife and I hit Asian restaurants so that's easy. Today in fact we were at Rusans in Alpharetta, GA and I had hot green tea, a tofu dish, a peanut maki (roll), a tofu maki and sometimes I'll get a seaweed salad. It's really tough for me to stay away from the fried mochi (rice cake) and red bean sauce dessert too!

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Competing in the long cycle event at the Punch Sarasota Kettlebell Sport meet!

Hopefully that answers some of the questions about how I eat! I can honestly say I've never felt better and been this healthy. Currently my goals are to continue to focus on plant-based nutrition and I would like to get back into regular lifting competitions, mainly to see if I can better my past performances from heavier weight classes in both kettlebells and the power-lifts (I've still got this deadlift monkey on my back I haven't shaken yet) while not sacrificing my health like I did in the past! Time will tell but things are going great so far!

Stay Strong and Healthy!

Scott

Monday, July 29, 2013

KettleGuards - for more than just kettlebell lifting, but why?!?!?

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Wow! What a crazy weekend it's been! I'm thoroughly convinced kettlebell forearm protection is the source of a LOT of drama in this crazy sport, and man, the weekend I've had only confirms it! I'm so glad my awesome new KettleGuards arrived in time for the potentially life-threatening whirlwind of craziness that ensued this weekend!

I've used many different types of wrist protection during my short time in putting iron balls with handles attached overhead, from ACE bandages, to a brand that uses a solid piece of plastic inside a wrist band similar to a tennis sweatband, and now to KettleGuards.

I have to say the KettleGuard is by far the best I have used-period. Here are just a few of the reasons I think KettleGuards are the best in their category of accessories for kettlebell sport and fitness:

1) 360 degrees of protection: unlike other styles that only provide protection on one side of the band, KettleGuards have protection all the way around. This prevents the guard from shifting on the arm-this is very prevalent with people with smaller wrists and forearms as forearm protection is usually one size fits all.

2) Thin and Flexible while STILL providing protection: in kettlebell lifting it is important to feel the bell on the forearm, as where the bell sits in the rack and overhead is crucial when building technique. If you want a safe lockout and more importantly, the ever elusive fixation, you must possess solid technique and be able to feel the correct position. It's like when I was competing in powerlifting, my coaches and handlers always wanted to call my depth in the squat, but I preferred to feel when I was below parallel and not leave my depth up to someone, or something else!

3) Adjustable or removable - how about BOTH! The inserts in KettleGuards allow you to make them thicker for more protection, or remove all together once you establish excellent technique and require less protection and just require something to keep the area dry

4) Developed by lifters for lifters. I really don't think I need to brag about the accomplishments of the Ice Chamber team here. If you know kettlebells and haven't heard of the Ice Chamber, well, you don't exactly know kettlebells then. They are the most accomplished team and deepest talent pool in the US. Sure, there may be some individual lifters with greater achievements, but as a team? Not a chance. They know what it takes to develop and achieve high levels of success in both kettlebell sport and fitness. They are incredibly passionate about what they do and how they do it, and this reflects in their products.

This reason alone should be enough to get you to check out KettleGuards, and if it's not, I decided to put KettleGuards to the test and see what else they could possibly be useful for, since apparently kettlebell forearm protection should serve other purposes.

Now, if you know me, you know I do anything BUT take myself seriously, so PLEASE kids-don't try this stuff at home!

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So after my training session I had to hang some awesome posters up in the powerlifting room of my training center but forgot my hammer! No problem, with KettleGuards I was able to get the job done! Caution, go light, the wall may be demolished if you hit it too hard!
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On an unusually cool summer day in the ATL I decided to open up the door to the warehouse to get a nice breeze in from outside, but alas! I think my neighbors at Forklift Express "borrowed" all of my doorstops! Wait - got KettleGuards? Then NO problem! The sheer power and awesomeness of these kettlebell lifting devices held the door open with ease! Again, thank you KettleGuard for making my life easier!
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If you know me, you know I'm one of those severely atrophied morons who doesn't believe in consuming animals for food, like I know brah, where DO I get my protein from??!?!? Well, this does not sit well with many of the local "box gyms" in the ATL that worship the Paleo-gods. I mean, they don't understand why I don't like to get into my Lambo and "hunt and gather" my prey down at Whole Foods or Kroger, or train in bright colored knee-socks. So I am constantly being ridiculed and coming under attack from these kippers. Sometimes my security system isn't enough to keep them out of my training center, and just yesterday one of these wandering Paleo Ronin Modern Day Spartan Warriors had enough of my BS and attacked me with his katana - but thanks to KettleGuards I was able to fend off the attack and save myself, and my flats of wheatgrass, from the cannibals that harass me on a daily basis!
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But seriously people use the BEST tools for what you are trying to do; if you want to knock down a wall-use a hammer. If you want to defend yourself against a sword get a shield (or run really fast), and if you want to lift kettlebells there is nothing better than KettleGuards!

Click here to get your KettleGuards NOW!

Also, HUGE thanks to KettleGuard for sponsoring the upcoming 2013 AKA / IUKL GA State Kettlebell Sport Championships!

Stay Strong and Healthy!

Scott

*Editor's note - the above listed, non-kettlebell lifting uses of KettleGuards are completely fictitious and meant to create laughter or get some panties twisted in a bunch. They are not real nor should you attempt to duplicate them.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How I Lost 50 Pounds in 4 Months with 4 Simple Steps!

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After years of struggling with weight-loss diets, supplements, and training programs, I discovered the secret to easy weight loss, increased energy, and overall abundant health. In fact, it had such an impact on me that it has been the focus of my most recent work as a health and fitness professional, and became the topic of my new book, Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit; and what I consider to be the new paradigm in the health and fitness industry.

I believe that health and fitness suffered a bitter divorce a long time ago, and that today, the things that people do in order to become fit are actually far from being healthy. My good friend and colleague, Dr. Lou Pack, loves to say, “Health is something we go through on the way to fitness.”

It doesn’t have to be that way!

Here is what I did to lose an easy 50 pounds in 4 months, and experience greater health than I have in years.

Step 1 - Detoxify and Eat Raw, Living, Plant-Based Foods
This undoubtedly has been the biggest reason for my easy weight-loss and increased health. After switching to a predominantly raw, plant-based nutrition plan, my body began to detoxify at a rapid rate. When we consume raw, vegan foods (uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds); we assist our body’s ability to detoxify.

When we dump toxins, we lose weight rapidly. In addition to accelerated body-fat loss, we experience many other benefits, our eyes get clearer, our skin becomes clearer, our energy soars, and I believe we begin to develop a deeper connection to all living things. I am constantly being told how much younger, healthier, and more vibrant I look. I’ve even been asked what products I use to have such nice skin. People are astounded when my reply is fruits, vegetables, and energy promoting exercise!

In a nutshell, dump animal-based foods, eat a plant-based diet making sure to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and be sure to focus the bulk of your food consumption on raw, uncooked, plant-based foods. I recommend what Kevin Gianni, in his book “High Raw: A Simple Solution”, refers to as the high raw diet. Basically shoot for 75% raw plant-based foods, 20% cooked plant-based foods, and 5% of “free foods”.

Step 2 - Strengthen the Mind and Spirit

It is just as important to strengthen the mind and spirit as it is to clean up the nutrition, and strengthen the body, when true health is the goal. For me this came about by adding additional stretching and joint mobility exercises, Qigong and Taijiquan training, and meditation to my exercise program. This type of exercise teaches us to become present and promotes the cultivation and circulation of energy. This is essential as stress is becoming more prevalent in both our professional and personal lives.

Any low intensity exercise that promotes energy cultivation and a calm mind, combined with meditation will work. Some people may prefer Qigong or Taiji, some may prefer yoga, or even just deep, relaxed breathing exercise. The key is to find what you enjoy and will make a regular part of your daily practice.

Step 3 - Strengthen the Body

Vigorous exercise that challenges the body’s muscular and cardiovascular systems is essential. I prefer strength training with free-weights; such as barbells, kettlebells, and Indian clubs; and cardiovascular exercise from running, or performing strength exercise in a circuit fashion to challenge the cardiovascular system.

What’s interesting is that I actually backed off on the intensity of my exercise, but increased the frequency. Instead of training really hard 3-4 times a week, I was performing moderate exercise daily. I firmly believe it is better to perform moderate exercise daily then go balls-out a couple times a week. I’m not against an intense workout occasionally, but as one of my mentors, Dr. Ed Thomas likes to say, “Fitness shouldn’t hurt.”

Step 4 - Integrate All of the Above
Once I combined a high raw, plant-based diet, with moderate daily exercise that focused on the development of mind, body, and spirit; the results came faster than anything I had ever tried. By focusing more on cleaning out the inside of my body through plant-based nutrition that promotes detoxification, and exercise that promoted the cultivation of energy, the outside of my body reflected it almost instantaneously. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the opposite approaches I had tried in the past.

Here are some photos that show the physical changes.

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More important than the physical changes were the health changes I experienced. Here are the lab results that just confirmed that I knew that I was on the right track.

Before Stats

  • Bodyweight: 220-230
  • Blood Pressure: 125/85 - 135/90
  • Total Cholesterol: 220 mg/dL
  • HDL: 41 mg/dL
  • LDL: 130 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: 135-300 mg/dL

After Stats

  • Bodyweight: 178-182 lbs.
  • Blood Pressure: 102/67 - 112/72
  • Total Cholesterol: 151 mg/dL
  • HDL: 43 mg/dL
  • LDL: 95 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides: 65 mg/dL

Losing weight and getting healthy does not have to be difficult, as long as you are willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Remember to focus on health first, and everything else will fall into place.

If you haven't checked out my book Abundant Health, please do so. It will give you a more in-depth look at the things I've presented in this article, as well as options on how you can best incorporate these lifestyle changes into your daily routine. I can honestly say that this is the most surefire approach to losing weight and improving your health that I've ever come across-and over my 15+ years in the fitness industry I've seen and tried everything.

Check out my book here: click here for Abundant Health! and please don't hesitate to contact me at scott@extreme-fitness.org if you have any questions about my experience!

Stay Strong AND Healthy!

Scott