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Bemovelive.com Blog features the latest fitness and clean eating advice from John Holley, MS, CSCS. Blogs focus on exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress reduction and getting the most out of your workouts.

HEALTH MYTHS THAT MUST END

John Holley

Welcome to get-fit-quick season! Advertisers are working as hard they can to pitch you everything from ab crunching widgets to weight loss pills to miracle diet plans and you’re buying. I predict it’ll be another big season for the diet and fitness industry. The fact that most of the widgets, pills and diets will not be the answer you’ve been looking for won’t be remembered in a year. My aim with this article is to dispel a few myths before you start making your 3 easy payments.

Crunches, situps or (insert the device here) will give you a 6 pack. Enough already! You can do crunches all day long and not have visible abs if your body fat is not low enough. Besides, situps and crunches with bad form, can lead to back pain for people who do not follow a sensible workout program. You can’t spot reduce!

More exercise is better. Sure, if you want to get hurt and have to deal with cravings and lose your friends because you have no time for them anymore. Look, we are made to move, but let’s use some common sense about intensity and frequency. Your body needs time to recover and this becomes more and more important as you age. Insomnia, an elevated heart rate upon rising, general aches and pains, irritability and headaches are all symptoms of overtraining.

Want to find a balanced and effective workout plan?

5 ESSENTIAL WORKOUTS

available on Amazon.

All fats are bad. First of all, this is basically marketing hype leftover from the 80’s when the low-fat/no-fat movement was in full force. You need fat as part of a healthy diet and to live. It is important for normal bodily repair, energy, absorption of certain vitamins, and protection of your organs. The key is to get as many healthy fats as possible from sources like grain products, fish, beans, fish oil and nuts. While saturated fats from animal sources should be kept to a minimum, the only truly “bad” fats are trans fats, which you’ll find masquerading as hydrogenated oils in boxed and convenience foods.

Carbohydrates are bad. This is another marketing misnomer, which has just enough truth to it, to give it legs. Refined (white) carbohydrates are best avoided because they are stripped of all nutrition and will spike your insulin levels. Sugar also should be kept to a minimum because of the affect it has on your cravings and your waistline if over-consumed. What are important are complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit.

The point I’m making is the only “secret” to weight loss and long-term vitality are moving every day, eating quality foods, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night and living your life with purpose. Everything else is hype to sell you something.

MINDFUL WEIGHT LOSS WORKSHOP

John Holley

One of the very best things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

-Luciano Pavarotti

Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. However, if you do anything multiple times a day, every day, it tends to get stale. Eating is no exception; and in an age of distraction, feeding ourselves has become our most unconscious activity. To prove my point, ask yourself, what did I eat last night for dinner? Or, what did I eat in the car on the way home from the grocery store? Another good question is how many cookies did I eat while reading in bed?
 
If you can answer those questions, congratulations! You know what you ate. However, were you eating with mindfulness? Try to answer these questions:

What were the textures of the food?

Did the aroma remind you of anything?

Were the colors on your plate inviting?

I wager that most people cannot recall their last meal, much less describe what they ate in the car, during the meeting, at the game, over the sink or on the couch.
 
You are invited to join me at the Cohn School in Nashville on Thursday, June 28 at 6pm for Mindful Eating and Weight Loss. In this interactive workshop you will  experience mindful eating and learn practices to reshape your relationship with food.

 

DON'T ACT YOUR AGE

John Holley

Better Every Day.jpg

My dad lived 81 very active years. Carpentry was his profession and he also spent his nights and weekends remodeling the homes we lived in when I was a boy. Later in life, the 14 acres he owned in east Tennessee required year-round maintenance and he took pride in doing it himself.  This was the key to his good health. Despite the fact he smoked for 40 years and ate too much of my mom’s cooking, an active lifestyle protected him from many of the ravages of time. Here’s a decade by decade look at how you can stay in yard work shape at any age, from Better Every Day.

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.

(William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice)

The 30’s aren’t old unless you’re a professional tennis player or a supermodel, but they are important because of the foundation you can create for your health and fitness in later life. Your energy is still high, even with the kids, the career and the spouse all pulling at you. Your metabolism has dropped by as much as 10% from your 20’s, so the burger and fries you love might start to cling onto your waist. Simply watch your portions and limit your indulgences, while trying to maintain a healthy weight. A four or five day a week regimen of strength and cardiovascular training will protect you from injury and strengthen your heart.

You never slow down, you never grow old.

(Tom Petty)

The 40’s are when your lifestyle starts to affect your life. You still feel like a kid, except when you play touch football with your kids and can’t move the next day. If you’ve been working out in your 30’s you may have held off some of the 17 pounds the average person gains between age 30 and 40. However, the intense workouts you once pushed yourself through may require a little more recovery time. This doesn’t mean you can’t make fitness gains, but be sure to include flexibility work and balance exercises in your workouts to lessen the chance of injury. Also, since you require about 120 fewer calories per day versus a decade ago the food you eat needs to be more nutrient dense. So learn to eat your veggies!

Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.

(Bob Hope)

The 50’s are when even the youngest at heart have to admit they’re not 17 anymore. No matter, because your kinesthetic awareness (bodily sense of space and movement) and biomechanical efficiency are still high, although your muscle mass and bone density losses may accelerate. The good news is a strength training regimen can prevent much of the loss. A three-day-a-week strength training regimen focusing on the major muscle groups is the best prescription. However, vary your routines by changing the exercises you perform and the repetitions and sets every 3 or 4 weeks. Your cardiovascular workouts may need to slow down and hydration is more important than ever because your kidneys aren’t as young as they used to be. According to the Institute of Medicine, nutrition recommendations for someone in their 50’s would include a daily calcium intake of 1200 milligrams and three to five servings of leafy green vegetables each day. 

Old age is always 15 years older than I am.

(Bernard M. Baruch)

The 60’s are when many people start thinking about their health again. Whether it was a lack of time or a lack of interest before now, it’s not too late. Whenever you start a regular exercise program you can make strength, flexibility and cardiovascular gains. These gains can help you ward off disease and improve your balance to prevent the falls which occur with a loss of strength and balance. Also, lifting weights can ease the discomfort of arthritis while you build muscle. Activities such as yoga or tai chi can help you maintain or regain your full range of motion. While foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids can also aid in reducing joint inflammation.

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.

(Doug Larson)

The 70’s have been thought of as the decade when it all falls apart. Then again, maybe that is because we haven’t had a good sample of active, fit 70-year-olds to study until now.  A study which tracked a six-month weight-lifting program for people over 70, found subjects gained 60 percent in quadriceps strength. A separate 12-week study measured even greater increases in power.

Of course, research has confirmed that consistent exercise can add years to your life. More importantly, an active lifestyle lowers your biological age regardless of your chronological age. If you stay fit and healthy, you’ll never act your age.

MINDFUL EATING AND WEIGHT LOSS

John Holley

Can you describe what an apple tastes like? What is the texture of a sweet potato? What does the smell of baked chicken bring to mind? Too often a busy day leads to mindless eating, which means you might not remember how much you ate or even what you ate at your last meal, or while sitting at your desk or in the car. If you have a goal of losing weight, or improving your health or becoming more present, start with the manner in which you nourish yourself.

MINDFUL EATING IN 5 EASY STEPS

Slow down by chewing eat bite slowly and you’ll find more flavor and more satisfaction from the food you eat.

Be hungry when you eat. Eating at regular intervals is a good way to maintain your energy and avoid overeating, but be aware of whether or not you are hungry or simply eating out of habit or boredom.

Understand your cravings by allowing each one to arise and pass. I’m not saying you can’t satisfy the craving, but do so with awareness.

Be satisfied but not stuffed. The Japanese practice of hara hachi bu encourages eating in moderation. In Ayurveda, the rule is to fill the stomach with one-half food and one-quarter liquid.

Be grateful for the nourishment you are enjoying. Whether you pray or not, awareness of the texture, smell and sound of the food you eat is central to conscious eating.

If you'd like to know more about how mindful eating aids weight loss, check out John's latest book, MINDFUL WEIGHT LOSS.

IT'S THE SIMPLE THINGS

John Holley

The world of health and fitness is a cacophonous blend of good science mixed with bad ideas and topped with greed. Every year a new parade of ab machines, testosterone-enhancing pills, weight loss shakes and diet books appear, many of which purport to be the “answer.” So how’s that working out for you? Seriously, go to a thrift store and see how many diet books and unused exercise machines you see for sale. Or maybe check your pantry and pull out the unused shake mixes, protein powder and vitamins. Let’s look at how a new (old school) approach could make a big difference.

 Simply Eat

There are a lot of diets, which may help you lose weight, but many of these methods leave you hungry or taste funny or give you bad breath. Of course, you have to eat, so instead of using your precious time and energy to jump through the hoops of whichever diet is trending on Facebook, maybe keep it simple:

1.     Lose the white stuff like added sugars and processed carbs in the form of white breads, rolls, candy, juices, etc., which stimulate secretion of insulin and the storage of fat in your body. A benefit of fewer sugars and starches in your diet is fewer spikes in your blood sugar, a reduction in cravings and less bloating.

2.     Listen to your mom and eat your vegetables. Oh yeah, don’t forget clean protein and healthy fats. If you have vegetables with every meal, a clean source of protein and some healthy fats with every meal you will have all of the vitamins, minerals and fiber you need. Check out Clean and Simple: Healthy Recipes for Your Busy Life for these kind of recipes.

3.     Slow down and enjoy your food. Your body takes about 20 minutes to register fullness, so wolfing down that burger will leave you unsatisfied and craving more. Moreover, if you are driving, working or watching tv while you eat, you are prone to indulge more than if you just eat when you eat.

Simply Sleep

Are tired all the time? Are you gaining weight and you don’t know why? Do you find yourself irritable and forgetful? Adding more sleep into your life might be the solution to your troubles. Here are three reasons to turn off the tv and put your phone on silent a little earlier tonight:

1.     Sleep well and be well. Study after study shows link between insufficient sleep and serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. These issues might take years to manifest, but consider this one: Researchers have found those who sleep less than seven hours a night are almost three times as likely to get sick when exposed to a cold virus.

2.     Sleep and brain function are linked because sleep loss affects your cognition, attention, memory and decision making ability. Furthermore, too little sleep has a negative impact on your emotional regulation, so you will be more apt to snap at your spouse, burst into tears or laugh uncontrollably.

3.     Sleep is essential to losing weight. The precious seven to eight hours of sleep you need serves a purpose beyond keeping the dark circles away. One part behavioral and one part physiological, a good night’s sleep will stave off cravings because the levels of the fullness hormone, leptin, rise after a good night’s rest.

Simply Walk

 You didn’t see this one coming, did you? I’m not going to advocate the latest HIIT, plyo, CrossFit or yoga regimen. Rather, let’s discuss taking a walk:

1.     Walk away the pounds may sound like a slogan for a wellness program, but it is true. The HHS recommends striving for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which can be split into 10-minute segments. My friend, Barry, has lost almost 100 pounds through a better diet, going to the gym a few times a week and daily walks.

2.     Track your progress using an app on your phone, a wearable device or a pedometer. Compare this to the amount of time it takes to complete the same number of steps and watch yourself get in better shape.

3.     Enjoy yourself when you walk. Just like any other activity, you are more likely to stick with it long-term if you enjoy it (even a little). Listen to music, walk in a park, take a friend along or follow the example of my friend, John, who listens to podcasts as he walks.

The lesson here is simple. If you want to have more energy, perform better every day and maybe lose some weight, eat clean, sleep more and take a walk.

 

DO YOU BELIEVE IN PERFECTION?

John Holley

There is a moment in every trip I’ve taken with my sons that is perfect. One was during a monsoon in New Orleans when we were huddled together under an overhang waiting for the squall to pass. The storm changed our plans for the day and the din of the rain and the wind made it impossible to talk, but being with them watching the oaks sway and the rainfall was somehow perfect.

I’m not writing this to laude my parenting skills (far from it!). However, these moments do make me wonder how many perfect moments are overlooked every day because they don’t look like we think they should. How much energy and angst do we invest in trying to steer the people and events in our lives a certain direction? Moreover, how do we whip ourselves for not performing to an arbitrary level?  What about all of the wasted regret over what we didn’t do or say?

As addictive as guilt and regret can be, there is only one way out and that is forward. You are welcome to stay right where you are, but if you desire a different outcome, you have to do something you’ve never done. That may sound obvious, or terrifying, or confusing, and the time to start is now.

What’s the next right thing to do?

 I love this question, which I am borrowing from Mathew Kelly, the author of many books including The Rhythm of Life. When I am stuck and unable to see any kind of perfection around me, asking this question can reveal the next step. Taking that next step is the practice, which can lead to perfection.

The next step can become a ritual you can rely on to take you where you want to go. Do you want to lose 20 pounds? You can’t do it in a day, but you can walk for 30 minutes every morning and not eat after 7pm at night.

Do you want to have more energy? You can establish a ritual of turning off the tv and taking a bath every night before bed, so you sleep better.

Do you wish to finish a half marathon? Today you may have to walk, but eventually you will run if you do the next right thing.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

To me, being caught in the rain with my sons that day was a perfect moment. This is a perfect moment because I am able to write this for you (and me). You know the next right thing to do, and even if every moment isn’t perfect, the practice of moving forward  will bring you a little closer to your perfection.

WHAT'S NEXT

John Holley

This last installment of our Better Every Day series asks, what's next? No matter how long you've been exercising and eating right, you're not finished. This is a lifelong journey and requires you to accept the changes which will come your way, adapt to these new realities and allow yourself the time to adjust. The most important thing is to find a way to keep moving!

FEEL BETTER

Focus on the way different foods make you feel. Are you energized after drinking a smoothie or eating a chicken breast? Do you ever feel a craving for carbs, eat them, and then feel lethargic? Observing how food affects your energy level, and even mood, can teach you how to use it for your benefit.

EAT BETTER

A great way to control what you eat at work is to make the choices beforehand and bring much of your food with you. This takes the temptation of restaurants, convenience stores and the vending machine out of the equation. However, if finding time to put together a lunch and snacks before each workday is a challenge, try preparing and freezing each day’s food the weekend before. Then it will be done for the week and you’ll have one less thing to do at 7am.

MOVE BETTER

Once you meet your fitness goal, what will your new goal be? It could be as simple as maintaining your weight, or you might want to consider completing a 10K or entering another competitive event. Another approach is to promise yourself (in writing) you will exercise every day. Always having a concrete goal is another key to maintaining your fitness level.

CONSISTENCY CONSISTENCY CONSISTENCY

John Holley

FEEL BETTER

Consistency is the key to success in any endeavor and that is always true when it comes to maintaining your level of fitness. No matter your gains (or losses) to this point, now is the time to start preparing yourself to keep the weight off and the muscle on. The key is to have a written plan in order to maintain your results. The plan doesn't have to be complicated, in fact, the simpler the better, but written goals have the power to help you stay consistent with your workout and healthy diet.

EAT BETTER

Smoothies are an easy and tasty source of nutrition any time during the day. More than that, you can “hide” some good-for-you foods and supplements in them and not even know they are there. Try wheat germ or a few greens in the next smoothie you make, or even add some Omega 3 or flaxseed oil to pump up the nutrition without changing the taste.

MOVE BETTER

Try putting yourself through your own 30-minute workout on a weekend day. Take some of your favorite exercises and do 15 minutes of strength training and 15-20 minutes of cardio. Remember to keep moving for the entire session.

SLEEP TO FEEL BETTER

John Holley

One of the most effective actions you can take to feel Better Every Day is to do nothing. Give yourself the rest and sleep you need to recover and watch your performance improve.

FEEL BETTER

Sleep is an integral component to overall health. Most of us require 7-8 hours each night to be at our best. The REM cycles in particular are vital because this is when human growth hormone is released and muscle repair and growth occurs. Sleep is also important if you want to keep your metabolism burning at a high rate.

EAT BETTER

…something “healthy” other than salad. Think of the all the broiled, roasted and baked options you have so your new and improved diet doesn’t bore you. For instance, roasted vegetables are a tasty option any time of the year. Try frozen bananas or blueberries in a smoothie. And if you don’t like veggies, puree a few and cover the taste in that same smoothie.

MOVE BETTER

As your cardio intensity increases, form becomes more important. The knee is an amazing joint and handles enormous pressure with every foot strike, but it is also the place where overuse injuries can first occur. Remember to keep most of your weight in your heels on the elliptical machines or bicycles and try to keep your toes pointed forward, while landing on your mid-foot, when you walk or run.

TAKE CONTROL

John Holley

So many Christmas parties, so little time...One of the best things about this time of the year is spending time with family and friends, and that time is almost always spent with delicious food made by someone else. No problem, a little planning can go a long way.

FEEL BETTER

Eating at restaurants doesn’t have to sabotage your diet, if you know what to expect when you open the menu. So, the focus this week is on taking as much control of the situation as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how food is prepared. Also, remember to go with baked, broiled, grilled and steamed options with sauces on the side.

EAT BETTER

For a satisfying and nutritious afternoon snack, try a handful of almonds or walnuts. Besides being a great source of the good omega 3 fats, they possess protein and fiber to take the edge off your hunger until dinner. Remember, a serving of nuts is a small handful.

MOVE BETTER

Once you have lost a significant amount of weight, made big strength gains, or cut time off your personal best, your progress may plateau as your body seeks homeostasis. Shake things up by adding new exercises (like the ones below) to your cardio and strength-training routine. 

THE NEXT LEVEL

John Holley

FEEL BETTER

Eat every three to four hours. From the time you get up in the morning until 7pm, eating small meals every three hours will keep you feeling full all day long. This will keep your energy level up and reduce cravings. A bonus is your body will be burning more calories throughout the day as it digests the food.

EAT BETTER

You can eat great tasting and healthy food like that found in The Art of Clean Cooking. Read your food labels and look for these nutritionally superior substitutions for higher-calorie foods:

Turkey bacon

Skim or 1% milk products

Whole or unrefined grains

Spinach

Flank steak, roast beef or tenderloin (with the fat trimmed)

7% fat hamburger or ground turkey

Natural peanut butter (fatty, yes, but the good kind without the sugar)

All fruit jellies and spreads

Sherbert or frozen yogurt (just watch the sugar content)

Marinara sauce

Baked chips

Thin crust or whole wheat crust pizza (two slices max)

California or tuna rolls

MOVE BETTER

Continue with your cardio, but instead of only going for time, try taking your workout to the next level during a shorter cardio session. Aim for an 7 or 8 on a scale of 10, with 10 being all-out effort. You will burn more calories and make your body adjust to something new.

TRY SOMETHING NEW

John Holley

Our focus this week for part 3 of Better Every Day, is try something new. So, if you haven't read labels in the past, or tried a clean, simple recipe for dinner, or you have no idea how an interval workout can burn a lot of calories in a short time, give it a go this week.

FEEL BETTER

Remember to pay attention to serving sizes and portion control. In short, focus on eating the right amounts of quality food. Junk food, i.e. foods with added sugar or fat or made with refined grains, delivers little sustenance and leaves you craving more, which leads to eating too much.

EAT BETTER

If you want to fill up with a low-calorie, but nutritionally potent dinner, combine baby spinach with a broiled or microwaved chicken breast. Top this with fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and vegetables, such as cucumbers and tomatoes. If you’re still hungry, try a baked sweet potato topped with plain, non-fat yogurt. This is a great source of Vitamin A, protein and fiber. 

My first cookbook, Clean and Simple, is filled with even more delicious, nutritious recipes.

MOVE BETTER

Cardio up to six days a week, and try new forms like trail hiking or dancing to add variety for your head and your muscles. Remember, the body adapts fairly quickly and will work more efficiently, thus fewer calories are burned. Now, click here that interval workout I teased.