Don't just get healthy. Stay healthy.

Aristotle is credited with having said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” For too many people today, getting in shape and being healthy is an act, something they can accomplish once and it’s over. This is what leads people to try fad diets and exercise programs that they know they cannot maintain in the long run. But having a healthy body is not something that can be achieved and then forgot about. In order to truly become healthy and stay healthy, you must implement a diet and exercise program that is sustainable for your entire life. And that requires not just a permanent change in your relationship to food and working out, but also a change in your mental state, how you perceive eating and exercising.

So, let’s take a good look at those three elements: food, exercise, and mental perception. But first, a note on something that ties together all three of those elements...

Listen to Your Body

Obviously, you are going to spend your entire life with your body, so it is important to form an ongoing relationship with it. And like any good relationship, you need communication. That’s the most important point for implementing changes in your health. Only you are in total contact with your body’s senses, and only you know exactly what your body is trying to tell you. So, when you are adjusting your diet or work-out regimen, always remember to listen to your body.

Building a healthy, communicative relationship with your body can be seen as the link between the mental aspect of health and its physical manifestation, and should come naturally to you, especially once you are consistently making healthier decisions in your eating and recreational habits. As for some of the other mental aspects of health, well, that’s the first element we want to look at...

1. Mental Perception

The Mental Aspect of Body Composition

It's not all physical when it comes to body recomposition. You also have to consider the mental aspect of body composition, and ask yourself what motivates you to follow through on your fitness goals. There are a lot of great reasons to improve your health through diet and exercise. Increased energy, a better appearance, reduced likelihood of injury or disease, all of these are strong motivators for self-improvement. Using any item of positive reinforcement is going to help you achieve the results you want. But remember, those results don’t represent a finish line where you can then revert to poor dietary choices and a sedentary lifestyle. Also, any fitness regimen is eventually going to level out in terms of noticeable results. If you have reached a plateau in fat loss, muscle gain, or improvement in an adaptive skill, you have three options.

A) You can settle into that plateau.

B) You can backslide into poor dietary or fitness choices.

C) You can work to overcome that plateau and reach a new level of greatness.

Often, reaching that next level is not a matter of what else you can put into your training, but what you can take away.

One of the biggest mental hurdles that most people will face when attempting a proper diet and exercise regimen is coming to terms with just how little clock-time is necessary to see significant improvement. It is also surprising to some that only a few key dietary changes can drastically change their body composition for the better. For example, improved strength can often come from reducing the amount of time spent in the gym, and increasing the amount of time given to recovery. For many, this simply does not jibe with preconceived notions of how exercise works. Put simply, the process of exercise is the triggering of a catabolic state in the body, using enough exertion to tear and break down muscle tissue. It is only in the recovery, or anabolic state, that you will actually experience any gains in strength. Proper sleep and food intake repairs muscle tissue, and you have to get enough of each to get over any training plateaus.

Another mental hurdle many people will have to face on the path to good health is a desire for foods they know are bad for them. If you crave junk food, soda, and other processed food items, it may not be easy to just set them all aside forever and replace them with a diet of vegetables and legumes. Surely, at some point in the future, if you want to reach a level of peak physical condition, junk food will have to go, but the good news is, for right now, you only need a few minor changes to really improve your health. Which takes us to our second element of healthy body composition...  
Weight Scale(93537)

2. A Proper Diet

If you could only change one thing about your diet and still see a vast improvement in your health and appearance, it would have to be eliminating corn. That’s it. No corn. Sounds easy, right? Of course, you may have noticed, corn is in most every processed food you can buy. Corn syrup and corn shortening are ingredients in just about every food that has been packaged, including soda, candy, pasta, and most anything else you will find in the center aisles of your local grocer. The irony is that the corn grown in America is not even edible right out of the ground. It has to be processed before you can even digest it.

Listen to your body when you eat foods that include these corn-based derivatives. Are they satisfying you? Are they providing you with nutrients or meaningful energy? Or do they encourage you to eat more and more without healthy satisfaction, so that you resort to stuffing yourself compulsively until the package is empty? This is the nasty nature of marketing-driven food consumerism. Items like corn chips or soda do not hold an inherent nutritious appeal to your body, so they have to be relentlessly advertised to make them subliminally appealing. Even if you cannot remove corn completely from your diet, at least replacing soda (even diet soda) with water as your drink of choice will make a world of difference.

The following are some lists of foods both to seek out and avoid. While not comprehensive, I hope this can serve you as a good starting point for finding a proper diet that works best for you.

Foods that are always good for you. Eat in any amount without fear:
Fish (especially Tuna and Salmon)
Beans (be careful of sodium content in some cans)
Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Mustard Seed)
Baked or Broiled Chicken
Green Beans
Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews

Fresh Fruit, ideally Banana for potassium

Carb-Heavy, Adjust these items for fat loss or gain as desired:
Whole Milk: If you must have dairy, this is a better choice than skim milk. If you do not crave dairy, replace this with unsweetened almond milk.
Steel Cut Oats

Whey or Hemp Protein Powder. Hemp is preferable because it contains all necessary amino acids, including the 9 that your body cannot produce on its own
Creatine (6-8g daily)
Branch-Chain Amino Acids
Vitamins B, C, D, and a multivitamin
Fish Oil (3 times daily for joints)
5-HTP for mood
Green Tea Extract (325 mg daily, contains EGCG for fat loss)

Avoid these processed foods at every turn
Refined Oils, such as Vegetable Oil, most brands of olive oil, and palm oil. Replace with coconut (MCT) oil
Flour (the White Death)
Soy Products (processed from the rapeseed, which contains known toxins)
Salt (try sea salt instead)

Remember, you do not absolutely need to eliminate all processed foods from your diet. If you eat healthy as a rule and eat heavily-sugared or salted snacks as an exception, you should be fine.  Especially if you regularly engage in the third element of healthy body composition...

3. Exercise

A lot of people think that being active is exactly the same as exercising. However, a clear demarcation can be drawn between the two. Exercise should be treated as a chance for total exertion, a triggering of an intense metabolic effect in the body. A real workout is so intense that your continued health relies on it only be attempted intermittently (say once every week or two). Any “exercise” that makes you feel better immediately after you have finished is not exercise, it is recreation.

Now, that is not to say that recreation isn’t important. In fact, in terms of the joy it brings to your life, it could be considered more important than exercise. But proper intense exercise is what creates a foundation for being able to best perform any other physical activity. Therefore, whatever recreation you like to do should be done in addition to the following workout, which is a brief strength-training regimen that requires a total time investment of less than half an hour a week.

To attempt this workout, it is best that you have access to five different weight machines. They are

A) Seated Row
B) Overhead Pulldown
C) Shoulder Press
D) Incline Chest Press
E) Leg Press

As you can see, these are two pulling exercises and three pushing exercises. You can perform all of these motions on the same day, one a day for five days, or any variation that you think is best. Change it up, experiment, and see what you like.

For your first workout, determine the weight stack on each machine that you can do comfortably by doing five quick, controlled reps. Add 10 lbs. after each set until you cannot complete five reps. Now set the weight stack to 70% of the weight of your last completed set.

Failure = Success

Now go to FAILURE (absolute, gun-to-your-head, no physical ability FAILURE, not being TIRED) on one set of each machine. You must do this to trigger growth mechanisms in the musculature. Only you will know if you have truly failed or not, but some clues will be at least two instances during a set of intense burning in the muscular tissue as reserve ATP and Fast-twitch glycolytic fibers are tapped for emergency strength.

Use a criminally slow cadence on your failure sets (7 up, 7 down). The number of reps in the set will vary (expect 7-9 reps average). Numbers are not as a important as the principle of lifting to failure.

When lifting, neither tuck nor flare arms or legs. Try to move within the natural plane. Do not stop or lock-out joints at extension, keep a smooth cadence at all times. Concentrate on keeping your shoulders tucked down and back when performing arm movements.

That’s it. That’s the entire workout, and the metabolic effect it will have on you will be huge. Believe me, if you perform this right (especially doing all five movements in one day) you will be feeling the burn for days. That is why it is best not to perform this workout more than once a week, as if you do it two or three times a week, you might be consistently operating under a baseline metabolic performance as your body tries to recover from the intensity.

Once you have done this workout a few times, you will likely become much more energetic and interested in engaging in recreational activities. With this workout as a foundation, it should be easy and fun for you to remain active doing what you love, whether that is riding bikes, jogging, ultimate frisbee, basketball, or anything else.

In Conclusion

Not everything here may be exactly what you want or need in your diet or exercise plan, and that’s perfectly alright. If you are honest with yourself, and remember the most important rule, always listen to your body, you will be able to use these tips as a guide to more effectively chart your path to personal physical well-being.