‘DO YOU THINK THE ABOVE PHOTO IS A TRUE EMBODIMENT OF HEALTH??’ In October 2011, I entered Mr. Ireland, my first and last bodybuilding competition.
This picture of me on the left which took 4 years to achieve is 16 weeks before the competition cut and on the right actually on competition day ( just to give an insight that it is a slow journey and quick fix transformations are not realistic or maintainable ). The photo does not portrait the real life story which is a true embodiment of fear, pain, obsession, and addiction as a result of childhood trauma. It is a reminder of how I was conditioned to believe that fitness equaled 6 pack abs and ‘perfect’ looking models. Smart advertising and companies cleverly using our idea of perfectionism to sell their products based on insecurities. This is a toxic perception of our world and can lead us to feel not good enough, empty and unfulfilled.
Being passionate about sports from an early age, all I wanted to do was be the best I could be and, more importantly, to enjoy the sport. Then came competition which is good once in balance to help develop, discipline and focus oneself but can be taken to the extreme if not monitored. Sport became no longer about playing for enjoyment and all the other positive benefits; it became about winning.
People volunteering as coaches may have felt the right motivation at the time was to impregnate into our young impressionable minds how we must win and be better than other teams. Motivation is healthy once used in a positive constructive way to bring out the best in a human. Maybe due to a lack of understanding or an ignorance of a higher truth – that we are all connected as one, we were actually being programmed to think we were separate from each other causing disharmony among more sensitive souls. The language that was used in dressing rooms and on the sidelines was very inappropriate and toxic. The unnecessary pressure that was put on us as teenagers was not right in my opinion and the true reasons for participating got lost along the way.
Coaching techniques were old school, delivered by people who were not qualified to coach. Because of this physical injuries became ‘normal’.
Poor coaching techniques led not only to physical ailments but also to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. When we didn’t get the desired win or did not meet the expectations of others, negative seeds were planted into our fragile minds with no real understanding or outlet.
So I began to educate myself and learn new methods that produced different and better results. However, EGO doesn’t like change, especially when you are younger than your peers and you try to guide them in a different direction. The more I tried to speak up the more I met resistance. My belief is to question every method and theory presented in my experience to see what fits right for the individual self in a healthy and safe way. Not to blindly follow the masses in all aspects of life but to use my own intelligence to question and draw my own conclusion in a respectful loving way. If we are blocked from expressing our opinions this can become an issue on so many levels. Children and teenagers in society today are a lot more evolved and actually have a higher understanding than a lot of their peers. If we practice listening deeply to their wisdom we can make great changes in our world as they show us how to break down limiting beliefs and barriers set by past traditions. Always keep an open mind and allow everyone the freedom of speech without negative judgment.
Having participated in different sports from 6 years old to 28 and then successfully competing in the art of bodybuilding from age 28 to 32, now my focus is on health and movement as a key to preventing injury and to live a happy mobile life. This is my opinion on exercise, fitness and the endless pursuit of trying to achieve perfection which is unattainable in this physical human experience.
Yes, we all need discipline, structure, motivation, passion, and goals within a flexible framework while practicing detachment to any expectations. We must incorporate balance, moderation, and fun into life. Some children and teenagers are being pushed too hard to achieve results. Understanding fully the science behind how our bodies work, parents would be alarmed at what damage is actually being caused. Children, in my opinion, are not meant to be ‘TRAINING’, they are meant to be learning new skills, moving and having FUN. With that in mind, children must be allowed to move in different movement patterns to keep them flexible, mobile and strong. For example, if a child is seated in school for most of the day to arrive home to do more school work ( which is too much in my opinion ) or sits in front of a computer for a few more hours, bad posture, lack of flexibility/mobility, possible weight and mood issues can arise. When adults start over controlling children’s needs, based on expectations to fit in alignment with their own beliefs, blockages can be caused in the mind, energy, and movement patterns, and can lead to an internal struggle in the future. Running from sport to sport, day after day, can have long-term negative effects on the body and mind. We must be mindful and monitor their recovery closely to avoid injuries. Children require good nutrition to support their energy expenditure and aid in full recovery.
My past negative experience as a teenage athlete was resurrected when a 17-year-old athlete came to me with an issue that his inter county coach requested him to resolve. This teenager was an extremely talented athlete. He was told that he needed to be able to produce more speed. His coach related his lack of speed to his weight and told him that he needed to lose at least 14 pounds to make him run faster. His mother was distraught explaining the circumstances. Looking at his physique, I was confused as to why he needed to lose ‘ weight’.
After an initial consultation and testing, his body fat was 11% lean, no fat to lose. The following problems were revealed. His diet was shockingly full of sugar and refined carbohydrates. He was playing multiple sports almost twice a day, using incorrect training methods that did not support power and speed development. He was studying for his final school exams and his sleep pattern was interrupted due to many hours on social media before bed, which affected his hormones and neurotransmitters triggering a stress and immune response and did not support a release of serotonin or melatonin required for deep relaxation and sleep. As a result of all these events and habits, depression and a body conscious fear causing him great suffering consumed him. The coach not being mindful or aware of the power words can have on a person, and how they may be interpreted given the state of mind that a person is in, triggered more anxiety. Unfortunately, because of time restraints, the best advice I could give this teenager was to focus on his education and to relax more, along with some nutritional guidance. A year later, he came back to my clinic searching for help with serious injuries and a fear of becoming fat. We need to be mindful about how we speak to children and teenagers as their minds are very vulnerable and open. We need to communicate in a way that is compassionate, loving, inspiring and honest. Before we speak we must look at our own character weaknesses before we think of advising or criticizing children and teenagers.
Always strive for health over fitness.Exercise and movement must be fun and always keep in mind that variety is the spice of life. Do not get boxed into one way of thinking. Have fun experimenting with new modalities and having new experiences. By doing this, new channels of creativity will open and more joy will flow into life. We learn more while being creative. If something has to be forced or negativity creeps into what is being experienced, then it may be time to change or this can lead to dis-ease within the body and mind.
Remember, we have a body to explore and experience life. Exercise and movement keep it flexible, strong and functioning properly so we can enjoy life’s gifts. Be careful not to abuse your unique body that can contribute to faster degeneration than is necessary. There are too many teenagers and young adults now needing hip replacements, shoulder surgery and developing lower back problems, arthritis and the resulted stress can lead to labels like depression and anxiety. Remember moderation and not to push too hard especially at an early age and support children’s needs with good exercise technique and nutrition to aid recovery, repair, and growth.
As previously stated, fitness does not equate to health. We have a perception that the perfect body is healthy and this can lead to obsession. Over the years, practicing pranic psychotherapy, I’ve had clients come to my clinics with different addictions. Exercise and the fear of not looking good is a common addiction. A feeling that unless one exercises a certain amount of times in a day or a week that the body will become fat or won’t look good enough and therefore not worthy of love is a very common misconception amongst men and women. Obsessing about the body all the time and not seeing that there is more to who we truly are and the beauty that is within and surrounds each and every one of us, can deplete our energy system and cause so much suffering physically, mentally and spiritually. A more serious knock on effect is, we are actually programming our children to take on the same addictive energy and beliefs through the transference of thoughts, words, and actions. Our children learn by example and are very impressionable so we do need to self-evaluate and reflect on our daily habits to become aware if they are having a negative effect on the ones we love.
By pushing our bodies so hard, striving for this level of perfection ( which is unattainable in the physical body ) we cause premature aging. Yes, it is important to be strong, flexible and be at a healthy weight for your individual self. What becomes unhealthy is the belief that a perfect body will bring you happiness.
Women in particular struggle with the heavy pressure to look perfect. The beauty industry’s message of what is perfection really manipulates how women value themselves and this creates a false image of health. In order to be perceived as beautiful or valuable, women have been influenced to think that they must be a perfect size or shape. Many women will go to extreme lengths to achieve this “perfect” look. It is rare that the value of self-love and acceptance are taught as one of the first requirements to start a journey to full health. Once we accept and love our true essence from the inside, the outside will automatically start to transform in conjunction with the professional coaching and guidance of a health coach.
If a person constantly thinks negatively towards any part of their body, they will subconsciously sabotage their desired results, causing a toxic build up in the system that leads to weight gain and further future disease. Again, remember that fitness or a perfect looking body does not always equal health. Fad diets and fancy products that promise miracle results end up leaving the body in a state of chaos, especially the hormonal and nervous systems which can trigger depression, anxiety, and other man-made diseases.
Our bodies are forced to endure long hours sitting at school, at desks, etc., which is an unnatural state for the human body. Bad posture can be the result of these daily routines. Let’s take, for example, an office worker. For the majority of the day, a seated position is considered ‘normal’. Being stressed with deadlines and in constant need of a quick boost of energy to get through the day, most people turn to caffeine or foods high in sugar for that fix. This can cause high numbers of insulin spikes and vicious cycles of sugar crashes leading to fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and irritability.
When work is finished after a stressful 8-9 hour day, going to the gym seems like a great idea. After being in a seated position, fuelling the body with poor food choices and stimulants, and deciding to de-stress by doing a routine workout believed to be beneficial for health can actually lead to some negative results if the correct programming, posture and technique is not executed properly. Constant stress is not mechanically, physiologically and psychologically good for the body that eventually can lead to a manifestation of an injury, pain or dis-ease. Most of us are pushing our body so hard it is the equivalent to driving a car with the accelerator on full throttle all the time. This eventually will lead to burnout. We do need to take a step back from time to time to analyze every area in our life to try and maintain balance. We need to have certain practices to achieve a state of relaxation and allow time for our own needs to be met in order for the flow of health to recharge us.
We were born to move and explore. It is our natural state. The problem arises when the body becomes stagnant or rigid due to a belief system that we have been programmed towards by our own perception of truth and society’s acceptance of normality. The human body is an amazing organism. How we treat it is a reflection of our understanding of who we truly are. Have you ever asked the questions: Who am I? What is my real purpose? What do I feel I deserve? Do I deserve a life full of health and deep happiness – or do I feel I deserve less than that? What am I trying to achieve in different areas of my life? What will the achievement or success really give me? Do I feel balanced?
My approach to exercise and movement is simple:
Step 1: Choose a hobby that is enjoyable and fun – for example, walking, jogging, team activities, weight training, yoga, etc.
Step 2: Whichever activity is choosen, understand how it affects your body through the different ranges of motion the joints must move through. As a physical therapist, I perform a structural balance test to see where weakness may be and work a plan on getting those areas stronger first, otherwise the body will be left open to injury long-term. Resistance training, either body weight or using equipment, is necessary for all humans to maintain a healthy musculoskeletal system. Think of the body like a house; strong foundations are required before anything else can be built on, otherwise the walls and roof will come crashing down. This is why so many people end up with serious injuries like lower back issues, shoulder and knee pain. Find a highly qualified physical therapist or personal trainer in your area to help access any structural weakness in the body before starting any type of exercise.
Step 3: A clear goal must be established. Let us take for example to reach optimum body weight. There is a science and an art to achieving optimal body composition that requires patience and professional guidance. Most people will look for a quick fix, go to the latest fad diet and try to lose weight aggressively. This can lead to long-term hormonal and psychological issues, not to mention the fact that weight will inevitably be put back on. The knock-on effect this can also have on the family as a result of the stress energy in the home environment from all of the obsessive dieting that the children witness, can lead to them becoming conditioned with weight and food phobias or disorders, manifesting in later life.
Once a goal is set, a strategic plan that maintains balance and moving efficiently must be put in place. For optimal body composition, I recommend eating healthily to fuel the body correctly, which will result in automatically eliminating toxins that may be causing fat storage. Eat 3 to 4 meals a day, when hungry to support nutritional requirements and physically exercise 2 – 4 times a week for no longer than 30 to 60 minutes. Sessions can consist of resistance training along with some interval training and yoga to help keep the body strong and flexible and to utilize the correct energy systems in order to achieve the desired result.
The focus and key to a successful journey is keeping in mind that exercise is enjoyable. Remember that quality exercise is needed rather than quantity. Doing more than what the body needs, leads to a catabolic state (body breaking down muscle instead of fat) and is a waste of energy. The end is fatigue, weight gain, obsession and injury. Choose a realistic timeline and open the mind to challenging the body to improve without getting obsessed about calorie counting, or numbers on scales. Look at clothes, mood and most importantly, pay attention to energy levels throughout the day. If the body is not feeling refreshed every day then something is out of balance. Tuning into the body’s energy level is the best indicator to keeping on track with goals. Our body is not meant to be abused or pushed to extremes; abuse leads to all sorts of health issues.
Step 4: Support goals with proper nutrition, rest, and recovery from exercise.
Important factors to successfully meeting any exercise goal are rest and recovery. Sadly, these factors can be hugely overlooked within the fitness and sports industry. Exercise is a conscious choice of stress to induce a metabolic reaction to achieve a certain physical goal. Like any form of stress, it needs to be monitored and kept in balance so it doesn’t cause a chronic negative effect of catabolism and fatigue. Remember, quality over quantity. The physical body needs rest and recovery to give it the time to adapt to the exercise stimulus for repair, growth and change to take place. Proper nutrition for recovery is widely misunderstood, especially for children. Through clever advertising, the media uses famous people to manipulate what is healthy for adults and children.
For example, sports coaches and parents need to be aware of how media is used for mind programming children to drink protein chocolate milk and other processed and unnatural products full of artificial sweeteners and sugars for recovery. This is sabotaging their health. Milk, for example, does not aid in recovery for the athlete; it can cause malnutrition leaving an environment for stress, fatigue, injury, and depression. A lot of children and teenagers end up in my clinic with digestive and respiratory dis-eases like IBS and ASTHMA. After performing thousands of very simple, non-invasive and inexpensive food intolerance tests, which cuts through the guess work to find the root physical issue, one of the main triggers found is milk. Most people have issues digesting the proteins and sugars found in milk, yet it is recommended by the media, medical and food industry as a necessary nutrient. If milk is toxic to the physical system, it will deplete vitamins and minerals especially calcium and magnesium from tissues and bones to support the detoxification and immune systems. Contrary to popular belief, dairy products can actually create the conditions for osteoporosis to occur and not prevent it as we are constantly led to believe. Question everything and we need to all do our own research regarding health. Our health is our wealth. Don’t believe everything we are being programmed to believe, not even what I am writing about here. Test and validate health suggestions for yourself.
Step 5: Learn how to breathe.
Without the breath, we do not live physically. Therefore, we need to teach ourselves and help children to remember how to breathe properly and consciously. Most of us breathe into our chest. Shallow breathing can trigger anxiety, stress, and tension. When we learn how to abdominally breathe, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and allows us to go into a deep relaxation that is essential for balancing our health.
Flexibility and relaxation are especially important for children. Through simple breathing exercises, we can restore balance in our body, which aids in repair and recovery and allows us to have the optimum energy for the next day’s events. This is extremely important. Gentle stretching, relaxation or yoga exercises keep us feeling young and fresh and will enable us to participate in other activities that we enjoy doing on a daily basis.
Try this simple technique thought by one of my teachers Grand Master Choa Kok Sui modern founder of Pranic Energy Medicine & Arahtic Yoga:
● Sit up straight. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders.
● Breathe through your nostrils into your belly for 6 seconds and hold for 3 seconds.
● Breathe out through your nostrils for 6 seconds and hold for 3 seconds.
This is one cycle.
Repeat this cycle 5 times.
Breathing properly will not only help with your body composition and sports performance but also improves your immune system, detoxification system, nervous system, muscular system, skeletal system, circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system and hormonal system. So proper breathing means stronger vitality and health on physical, mental and spiritual levels.
To finish, the fitness industry and society’s obsession with the perfect body has become religious. Our perception of perfection has been distorted by our conditioning, beliefs, and propaganda by the media and the fitness world. People believe blindly what is being portrayed as real in our world without questioning, researching and deeply understanding real motives for action. We came to earth as spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body. If we become obsessed with the physical body we become a slave to it, that can cause suffering and disease physically, mentally and spiritually. Free yourself by becoming balanced and let go of attachment and purify negative beliefs and habits from your systems.We must strive to keep our bodies ( physical – mental – Spiritual ) healthy by nourishing with good food and water, moving through different patterns via exercise & movement modalities, meditate, pray, be of service to other humans, internally forgive, love oneself and connect fully to your higher power, practice loving kindness and honour the divine spark within all beings. Enjoy a balanced life and let the inner child free. Live – Inspire – Fulfill – Evolve.
We wish you all love, health, happiness, joy, peace, prosperity, abundance and success in life.