The Power of Gratitude



From an early age we have been told to count our blessings.  To be thankful for what we have.  To be grateful for what we are given.  Maybe your parents told you that there were “kids starving in Africa” when you didn’t want to eat what was on your plate.  I know it sounds crazy, but that’s really a statement of teaching gratitude.

Gratitude helps us put things into perspective.

It becomes a silver lining.

We all go through the seasons of life.  Some seasons are filled with joy and happiness.  Others are filled with stress and anxiety.  But regardless of what season we are in, our mindset controls how we will show up in the moment.

Thinking of what we are grateful for literally changes how our brains and bodies function.  Everything is tied together.  Our thoughts will influence our feelings.  Our feelings will influence our hormones.  And our hormones will influence our physiology.

I don’t want to dive too deep into the neuroscience here, but trust me, your thoughts are powerful things.

So, when we think about what we are grateful for, it starts a chain reaction in our brain.  Therefore, a mindset of gratitude can influence the parts of the brain involved in reward, positive social interactions, and empathy.

Gratitude can build a buffer that will help you cope with difficult times.  The research has shown that it will lower the feelings of stress and anxiety.

This is why gratitude works as an antidepressant.  As I mentioned about with our feelings, gratitude will trigger the release of neurochemicals in the brain.  Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin all will have a calming and positive effect on our bodies.

This doesn’t mean that if we think happy thoughts everything will be rainbows and unicorns.

Difficult situations are part of life.  Gratitude just helps us work through those times without feeling as stressed, overwhelmed, and frustrated as we may otherwise feel.

As a bonus, gratitude can also help us be more successful.

The field of positive psychology has found that our brains work best when they are in a positive and optimistic state.  Yes, we become more successful in all walks of life when we are happier and more positive.  If you want to dive deeper into this, I recommend you read the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor.  Shawn is known as the “happiness guy” and he explains in detail the WHY behind the connection between happiness and success.

So what next?

I recommend bookending you day with gratitude.  Start you day with as little as 5 minutes thinking of what you are grateful for.  Every morning I have an alarm on my phone go off at 6am that says, “Think of 5 things you are grateful for.”  It’s my cue to stop and make gratitude a priority.  It doesn’t matter if I woke up feeling like a million bucks or on the wrong side of the bed.  There is so much I am thankful for.

And then at night end your day with gratitude.  Think of 3 good things, no matter how small, that happened today.  What this does is it causes your brain to scan for information and actively seek out positivity in your life.

And consistency is key.

The more consistent you are in thinking about gratitude, the more powerful it becomes.  Just like having a salad instead of a cheeseburger won’t make a big impact on your health.  Or setting aside 10% of your paycheck one month won’t make you financially free.  One day of gratitude won’t have a dramatic change on your mindset.

But stick with it.

The compound effect reminds us that our outcomes lag our actions.  The seeds we plant today will become the flowers of tomorrow.

To your health,


Book Review: The 5 Second Rule

Book Review: The 5 Second Rule

By Mel Robbins

About The Author: 

At the age of 41 Mel Robbins felt like she was losing control of her life.  She was unemployed, facing bankruptcy, and dealing with a downward spiraling marriage rooted in resentment.  To cope, she had turned to alcohol and avoidance to the point where getting out of bed every day was a struggle.  In an act of desperation, she counted backwards “5, 4, 3, 2, 1”.  She didn’t know why it worked.  Just that it had and she was able to take action despite feeling trapped.

Since developing The 5 Second Rule, Mel has been able to bounce back from rock bottom.  Her career made a turn for the better she has been able to help countless others who struggle a place similar to where she was.  Her marriage has been revitalized and is now thriving.

Today Mel is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and TV host in addition to working as a legal correspondent for CNN.  Her TEDtalk, “how to stop screwing yourself over” has been viewed over 19 million times. In addition, she inspires millions of people daily through her social media channels.

The Big Idea:

        The 5 Second Rule is a tool that can be used to transform your life by taking action and overcoming self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty.  And while it doesn’t make things easy.  It does make things happen by creating a 5 second window between an initial instinct and the brain’s efforts to stop us.

The Details:

We all want changes in our life.  Better health.  Improved finances.  Stronger relationships.  Frequently we know what we need to do but we can’t make ourselves take action.  This is why change is so difficult.    Change requires us to do things that feel hard, scary, or uncertain.  And that takes a lot of courage and confidence to step outside of our comfort zones and make changes in our daily lives.

Part 1 focuses on what the 5 Second Rule is and why it works.  Change comes down to the 5 seconds right after you have a thought or instinct to act on a goal.  It’s during this 5 second window that you must physically act or your brain will stop you.  This is because we have developed a habit loop that is designed to keep us safe from fear and uncertainty.

Regardless of the instinct, we stop ourselves from taking action by following the same sequence of events.  We have a thought and then instead of immediately taking action, we hesitate.  This hesitation locks ourselves in mental jail by sending a stress signal to the brain.  It’s a red flag that sends our brain into a “protection mode.”  We rationalize all the reasons why we shouldn’t act.  It’s becomes paralyzing as we get stuck in our current reality.

By counting backwards. “5-4-3-2-1” we are interrupting our brains focus as we are mentally having to shift gears.  The counting distracts us from our excuses long enough to refocus our attention on what we need to do.  This interrupts the habit loop long enough to give us a push toward action.

Part 2 of The 5 Second Rule examines the power of courage.  Everyday life is full of moments that are scary, uncertain, and difficult.  And facing them to unlock opportunity requires a certain amount of courage.  Courage is a push toward taking action that is inside all of us.  We just need to give it the chance to work.

We all have been guilty of thinking about something we should be doing that is line with our values and beliefs.  But then we fail to take action.  This is the push moment when you have 5 seconds to take action.  Otherwise our brains will talk us out of it by telling us “it’s not the right time.”

Change is simple.  But it is not easy.  Logically, we know what we should do, but our feelings about taking action make the decision for us.  The truth is we seldom will feel like taking action by doing something that seems scary or uncertain.  And how we feel in a specific moment is almost never aligned to our dreams and goals.  You can’t control your feelings.  But you can always chose to act.  And by taking action confidence is a skill that is developed over time.

The final three parts of the book detail how having the courage to act can change your life.  Self-confidence is built through acts of everyday courage.  It builds when you act by strengthening your belief that you are in control of your life.  And over time momentum will compound your actions develop into increased confidence.

The Bottom Line:

        Stop thinking about how you feel.  Because your feelings won’t allow you to change into your “future self.”  The only thing that matters is what you do.  Thinking about getting healthier by itself doesn’t make you healthier.  You must act.  Count backwards, “5-4-3-2-1” and let courage give you the push you need before your mind can talk you out of it.  Start small.  Take action.  Build momentum.

My 2 Cents:

Since reading The 5 Second Rule I have been able to overcome my fear of uncertainty and the possibility of failure in my own life.  Sharing my story through my social media has been difficult.  Often I want to write a post or share a story that I know can inspire others who are struggling at a place in their life where I once was.  But my fear of judgement wants to hold me back.  Do I still get scared? Absolutely.  I’ve learned that courage isn’t the absence of fear.  But the ability to take action in the face of it.

During the past two decades since graduating from college I have dreamed about improving my health and fitness to a point where I was proud of who I saw in the mirror.  That I was confident to be at the beach or pool in just my bathing suit.  And I was inspiring to those around me.  Along my journey I made more than my share of mistakes.  I started and quit on myself many times.  And doubt would set in that maybe it wasn’t the right time or the right circumstances.  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

I can tell you that reaching my goals was 100% mental.  The body won’t go where the mind doesn’t tell it to go.  For several years I let my feelings dictate my actions, especially when it came to my nutrition.  I would procrastinate, rationalize, and sabotage.  It wasn’t until I got the support I needed from a coach and a group of others that I was able to build momentum and gain confidence as I started to see results.

I believe that’s why over 95% of people fail when they try to change their health and fitness.  They try to go at it alone before they have built up the courage to overcome how they feel and take enough of the right actions for long enough to see the results they desire.

Do you need help getting started?  If you would like to connect with me on Instagram and Facebook I’d love to be your “guide on the side” through your personal journey.

Book Review: The Calorie Myth

Book Review: The Calorie Myth

By Jonathan Bailor

About The Author: 

Jonathan Bailor is a New York Times best-selling author, nutrition and exercise expert, and CEO of the wellness company SANESolution.  For the past decade he has been collaborating with doctors from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the Mayo clinic, and UCLA as he has been developing a permanent solution for the growing problem of diabesity.

During college Jonathan began working as a personal trainer.  It was here that he began seeing firsthand that the conventional wisdom of “eat less and exercise more” didn’t work.  With frustration, he quit his job as a trainer and began a 15-year journey into the scientific research of metabolism and how the body gains/losses weight.

The Big Idea:

Your weight is controlled by your “set point”, the amount of fat your body is working to maintain by controlling your metabolism through the coordinated efforts of your hormones, genes, and brain.

The Details:

        Your body is designed to maintain homeostasis, or a stable internal environment, to work for maximum efficiency.  This stability is much like a thermostat in a house regulating the temperature.  If your house gets too warm the thermostat turns on the air conditioning to cool the house until it reaches a desired temperature.  Likewise, when it’s too cold the thermostat again goes to work and heats up the house until the preferred temperature is met.

Homeostasis also explains why you have a difficult time losing weight.  Much like the thermostat stabilizing the temperature in your house, homeostasis creates a “set point” for the desired weight of your body.  This is generally a range of 10 pounds where your body speeds up its metabolism (the converting of food into chemical energy) or slows it down to keep your weight stable. Unfortunately, we are now beginning to understand how certain foods create a “hormonal clog” and send our body messages that raise our set point causing us to slowly, but consistently store fat and gain weight.

To reverse this trend, we need to focus on food quality, and not just food quantity.  By eating high-quality foods, our bodies set point will lower as the hormonal clog is removed and the body can adjust the messages being sent through hormones to our cells.  High-quality foods include non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole food fats, and low-fructose fruits.

The first section of The Calorie Myth explores the current beliefs, or myths, surrounding weightloss.  The first calorie myth examined is that weightloss can be calculated simply by the equation, calories in minus calories out.   It is false because it assumes that our body doesn’t do anything to counterbalance our efforts to manipulate calorie intake.  There are four major problems with the traditional quantity-focused (calorie focused) fat-loss approach that are detailed in this section.

The second calorie myth confronted is that a calorie is a calorie. There are four criteria that can be used for assessing the quality of the calories in our food so we can distinguish high-quality food from low-quality.  The acronym SANE is used to describe the high-quality foods that will make up our diets as the hormonal clog is removed and the set point is lowered.

The “S” stands for satiety.  High-quality foods should fill us up quickly and keep us full for an longer period of time compared to low-quality.  The “A” stands for aggression.  High-quality foods should not be aggressively be stored as fat by the body.  The “N” stands for nutrition.  High-quality foods should be dense in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids.  The “E” stands for efficiency.  High-quality foods should not be able to be efficiently stored as fats.

The third calorie myth is that all foods are fine in moderation.  The reality is that calories from sugars and sweets trigger a ridiculous amount of insulin to be released into our bloodstream.  Insulin is a hormone that will block the burning of fat and increase the storage of fat by removing the sugar from our bloodstream and storing it in our adipose (fat) cells.  High sugar levels are what cause the body to release more and more insulin into our bloodstream and is the foundation of what is known as insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance then becomes the backbone of our hormonal clog and causes our set point to increase.

Section two of The Calorie Myth focuses on the solutions to the current problem of havening an inflated set point.  It focuses on an approach that gives the most results with the least amount of time and money invested.  To simplify the process further, ten principles of SANE eating are discussed.  These go beyond simply what to eat but also focus on the mindset needed to creating lasting results, not yo-yo dieting.   This section also goes over six principles of smarter exercise which work in tandem with SANE eating to adjust your set point and get better results faster.

The Bottom Line:

The caloric approach to weightloss has been tried for decades with embarrassingly poor results.  The reality is that 95% of people who begin a diet gain back the weight initially lost.  And often they end up weighting more than when they began the diet in the first place.  Combined with the data that currently seven out of ten American adults are overweight or obese significant evidence exists that we have a problem and our methods for fixing it is not working.

Instead of believing the calorie myths that we have been told countless times, focusing on SANE eating and smarter exercise will remove the hormonal clog caused and allow our bodies to lower our set point so we can burn fat instead of storing it.

My Two Cents:

Peer-reviewed scientific research is showing that much about what we have been told about losing weight from the past several decades are in fact myths.  If the goals is fat loss and long term health. then we need to work with our body’s genetics, brain, and hormones to readjust our set point.  Doing so will switch us from fat storage to fat burning by allowing the chemical signals in our bodies to burn more calories as fuel instead of storing them as fat.

I agree wholeheartedly that the foundation of any sustainable lifestyle designed to lose weight and burn fat needs to be primarily focused on nutrition.  Learning from my own mistakes a decade ago, you can’t outwork a bad diet.

Despite working out for hours every week and trying to reduce your calories, your body will quickly adapt after an initial drop in weight and will fight your efforts to maintain homeostasis based on its internal messages.  However, if you adjust your set point, your body will keep the weight off by maintaining homeostasis through your newly lowered set point.

Over the next three months Danielle and I will be putting these principles to work as we are going to be making further changes to our diets.  We will be sharing our story on both Instagram and Facebook if you’d like to follow along or get assistance as you are working on your own journey.  Combined we have lost over 140 pounds and kept it off for the past 5 years.  However, we have not reached our personal goals yet and are excited to take all we have learned from this book and others and put it into practice.

Book Review: GRIT

Book Review: GRIT- The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth, PhD 

About The Author:

Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the founder/CEO of Character Labs, a non-profit that uses psychological science to help children thrive. In 2013 she was awarded a McArthur Fellowship.  With over 5 million views on YouTube, her TED Talk on GRIT is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

Prior to her career as a university professor and researcher, Angela taught math and science in the public schools of New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.  It was here that she began learning firsthand that it took more than just a high IQ to become a high achiever.

The Big Idea:

        A combination of passion and perseverance is what makes high achievers special and separates them from everyone else.  They have GRIT.

The Details:

Society often gets distracted by talent and forgets that effort is also needed for achievement.  Angela Duckworth calls this the “naturalness bias” and explains that we have a hidden prejudice against those who have achieved because of hard work.  Too often we want to look at a great achievement as the result of God-given talent.  We describe musicians, artists and sport stars as “naturals” for instance and look at their talents without recognizing the tens of thousands of hours they have invested in deliberate practice to get to where they are today.

Dr. Duckworth goes on to explain that effort counts twice when it comes to achievement.  Without effort, simply having a skill won’t get you very far.  But with effort, you can reach your potential.  She gives the following equations to help explain this idea.

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

          The book is divided into three sections.  The first section answers the question of what GRIT is and why does it matter.

If GRIT is the culmination of passion and perseverance, then it is important to understand what passion looks like. The word passion is often synonymous with infatuation or obsession.  But in high achievers, the focus is not just on the intensity when describing their passion.  High achievers also explain their consistency of their passion over time.

Enthusiasm is a common occurrence with passion.  But endurance is rare.   “Passion isn’t just something you care about.  It’s something you care about care about in an abiding, steady, and loyal way.”  GRIT is about having the same ultimate goal for a very long period of time.  And this is where perseverance comes into the equation.

The second section looks at how to grow GRIT from the inside out.  Dr. Duckworth examines four stages of developing GRIT: Interest, Practice, Purpose, and Hope.

Developing interest is all about having fun and doing something you love.  Before investing hours and years refining the skills of a passion, one must try new things in an unstructured and low-pressure scenario to discover what they like.  Practice is built upon the interest with the desire to improve and grow.  Therefore those who become experts have done so by focusing their practice on areas of specific weakness, always looking for challenges they can’t yet meet.  Over time these subtle improvements add up to achievement and skill mastery.  Purpose develops with the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.  By developing a sense of purpose, high achievers can persevere more and continue to improve their craft.  And hope is tied to GRIT through the belief that individuals can make tomorrow better then today.  Again, it ties into their perseverance to keep going despite the obstacles and setbacks they face along the way.

The third section examines how to grow GRIT from the outside in.  Dr. Duckworth looks to answer the question of how to inspire and encourage GRIT in others.    She uses the tern “wise parenting” to describe how parents can be both demanding and supportive of their children in an effort to foster GRIT.  This combination of traits separates parents from being permissive, neglectful, or authoritarian.  Teaching GRIT involves encouraging kids to spend at least part of their time doing hard things that interest them.

There is also a connection between culture and GRIT.  A culture is defined by the shared norms and values that define a group of people.  It can be explained in the how and why certain things are done.  A great example is the Marines.  Marines are known for their GRIT.  Every year thousands of teenagers join the Marines after high school and learn a set of values that become part of who they are.  If you want to become grittier, join a gritty culture.

The Bottom Line:

So how should we summarize GRIT?  According to Angela Duckworth, “to be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal.  To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice.  To be gritty is to fall down seven times and get up eight.”

And there isn’t a single way to develop GRIT.  It can be grown from the “in side out” when daily habits connect with a purpose that is beyond yourself.  And It can be nurtured from the “outside in” through the support of parents, teachers, friends, and community.

One final thought shared by the author is that success is not the only thing to think about.  You also want to be happy.  And while success and happiness are not the same, they are related.  In another blog I discuss the advantages of happiness and how it is not the result of success, but actually a prerequisite.

My 2 Cents:

While reading this book I stopped frequently to reflect on my own life, the lives of our three children, and the thousands of students I have taught during my 20-year career teaching high school science and physical education.  I also thought a lot about my wife, Danielle.  She is by far the grittiest person I know.

If you don’t know Danielle’s story she was born with severe asthma (she was officially diagnosed at age 2) and told throughout her life what she couldn’t or shouldn’t physically do.  At the age of seven doctors began testing several experimental drugs on her in efforts to control her asthma.  It was at this time she was prescribed prednisone (synthetic cortisol) when she took daily for the following 14 years. One of the unfortunate side effects is weight gain because the hormonal messages it sends in the body as cortisol works in tandem with insulin to tell the body to store fat. At her heaviest Danielle weighed 265 pounds despite trying to eat healthy and exercise.

Through her passion and unwavering perseverance, Danielle has lost nearly 100 pounds and gotten off all the medications she was told that she couldn’t live without.  She exercises daily and can do so without having to stop to use an inhaler or take a preventive medicine before starting.  She has developed her GRIT both from the inside-out and from the outside-in.

It has taken years of consistent effort to get to where she is today.  She began with a desire to lose weight and get healthy which turned into the deliberate practice of learning how to eat and exercise for results.  She then connected it to a purpose and has the hope that she can help others who are also struggling.  She is now a certified nutritionist and mindset coach who helps other women that struggle with obesity and a resulting lack of confidence.

She has also connected with a community of like-minded women for support and accountability.  It is her gritty culture that has helped her develop her GRIT.  They assist each other so no one feels like they must go on their journey of better health and fitness alone.

If you would like to connect with Danielle she can be found on both Instagram and Facebook.

Book Review: The Obesity Code

The Obesity Code

By Jason Fung, MD


 About The Author:

Dr. Jason Fung is a Canadian nephrologist (kidney doctor) who’s personal goal is to eradicate the problems of obesity and type 2 diabetes.  He is a leading expert in the areas of intermittent fasting and how to use low-carb nutrition plans to reverse the effects of insulin resistance.

In his early years, he followed much of the advice taught through conventional medicine.  He prescribed medicine.  He counselled patients to reduce their fat and calorie intake.  He encouraged his patients to exercise more.  But his patients did not see lasting results.  This lead Dr. Fung to look for alternate explanations for why his patients and a majority of the adults in North America are experiencing so many health complications as a result obesity.

The Big Idea:

Dr. Fung explains that obesity is not an issue of caloric dysfunction, but an issue of hormonal dysfunction.  As a result of hormonal messages, the body’s “set weight” is set too high and obesity results.

The Details:

Because obesity and many of the associated diseases aren’t the result of a caloric issue, focusing on calories isn’t a viable solution.  Dr. Fung details five false assumptions that most people believe to be true.  And explains how there is evidence to show that our misunderstanding of these assumptions contributes to our lack of success in fighting obesity.

  1. Calories in and calories out are independent of each other.
  2. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is stable.
  3. We exert conscious control over the calories we consume.
  4. Fat storage is unregulated by the body.
  5. A calorie is a calorie.

The reality is that the total energy expended by the body on a daily basis is the sum of six different events: BMR, the thermogenic effect of food, non-exercise activity, thermogenesis, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, and exercise.  As a result of our daily energy expenditure being much more complex than most people give it credit for, we tend to generalize and make assumptions about how many calories we can burn each day.  We also overemphasize the effects of exercise directly on the prevention of obesity

Through the process of homeostasis, the body works to find an equilibrium or “set weight” to manage both what it consumes and expends each day.  Dr. Fung gives insight that the key to understanding obesity is to understand what regulates the body’s “set weight”, why it is set so high, and how to reset it lower.

Since Dr. Fung is referring to obesity as a hormonal dysfunction, he proposes that we must have a better understanding of how our hormones effect obesity and our “set weight.”  He details the roles of Insulin and Cortisol as two hormones that have been shown in multiple scientific studies to cause people to gain weight and store more fat on their bodies.  As a result of high insulin levels, the body becomes insulin resistant.  From here a vicious cycle beings as insulin resistance triggers even more insulin to be released and the process continues.

The Bottom Line:

Dr. Fung gives a solution to the problems of insulin resistance, obesity, and the associated diseases through a three-pronged approach.  He explains the importance of understanding what we eat and how much we eat as triggers for insulin release.  He also goes on to explain that when we eat is equally important to reversing these issues.  He details a solution through the use of intermittent fasting to help reverse insulin resistance.

My 2 Cents:

As someone with a background in biology and fitness, I believe Dr. Fung is on the right path to reversing the effects of obesity. Danielle and I have lost a combined 150 pounds and we have kept it off for over 5 years.  Our success is a result of changing what we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat.

From experience we have learned that knowledge and application are two different things.  And while people know what they need to do, getting started and staying consistent are much more difficult tasks.  And when you add in the stress of life today (work, family, kids, etc) lasting results without the help of a coach are not very common.

Danielle has gone on to earn multiple certifications in mindset and nutritional coaching while I have become certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS).  Our knowledge and experiences have opened the doors to coach hundreds of people through the same process we used to achieve our results.

If you would like help getting started or if you have hit a plateau and need assistance we would love to help you reach our goals and live your best life possible.  In fact, we offer FREE 30 minute consultations where we can offer our advice and support.  It’s our way of paying it forward.

You can always reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram  let’s set up a time to chat about your goals and how we can help you reach them.

To your health,