Living Healthy – ish

Who are you?
March 21, 2017

Living Healthy – ish


I have been a Personal Trainer for over 23 years trying to motivate people who hate eating healthy and hate exercising to go against every fiber in their being and do the opposite.

I’ll admit, it’s not an easy job. But, I truly believe there are few things more important than eating healthy and exercising. It not only helps you live longer, but allows you to live a life full of energy, vitality and maximizes all that life has to offer.

One of the things that has made me successful as a trainer – is the fact that deep down inside I’m really a fat kid (at age 12, I was 5 foot 4 inches, weighed 180 pounds and wore pants 3 sizes larger than the ones I wear now). I never really enjoyed eating healthy and I only fell in love with exercise when I learned exercise could be fun and not torture.

Exercise and nutrition doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation.

First, let’s discuss exercise…..

Many people feel as though it’s pointless to exercise if ….

  1. They aren’t eating healthy…. “I’ll come back to the gym when I can get a handle on my diet.”
  2. They can’t make it to the gym 7 days per week… “If I can’t workout every day, why bother?”
  3. They are inconsistent with their training…. “I can’t get into a groove, why bother?”
  4. They don’t have the time…. “Kids, work, etc… just can’t find the time.”
  5. They are too stressed…. “I’m too stressed to focus on exercise.”

All of those above are actually reasons why you SHOULD exercise! First of all – exercise is especially important for those who aren’t eating right and who are stressed. Exercise will burn off excess calories while reducing stress. Furthermore, waiting until you have an unlimited amount of free time to become fully “committed” to an exercise program is never going to happen. Even making it to the gym once per week is still better than sitting on the couch.

Just like making a poor food choice shouldn’t ruin your diet for the day – you get right back on track for your next meal. Training is the same thing, if you miss a workout – don’t let it affect your week, make it up another day. Just keep battling. Its fine if you miss, life happens. If you can accept that and not get discouraged – you will have much more success in the long run…. leaving you much healthier than those who choose to do nothing.

Let’s discuss nutrition…..

I grew up in the late 70’s – early 80’s, when eating a bag of Ruffles for breakfast wasn’t frowned upon. The healthiest way my Grandmother would make eggs, was when she would fry them in the grease leftover from the bacon she just cooked.

So, I can sympathize with my clients who say they find it hard to eat healthy – because I still struggle to this day.

When I competed as a Bodybuilder, I would have to stay on such strict diets for 4-6 months. After my show I was so tired of eating healthy – I would go completely the opposite way. Like a true food addict, I always had a hard time stopping. 2 weeks would turn into 4. 1 month to 2. Next thing you know, I have all the weight I lost back on.

The funny thing was, when I was dieting for a competition I was aware of how much better I felt; more energy, better attitude, and much stronger. I would even say to myself – “now, Paul, this time when the show is done – we are not putting the weight back on!”. Unfortunately, it usually took less than 24 hours after the show for me to finish my first dozen of crispy crèmes before I remembered my pledge.

Now that I don’t compete anymore and I don’t need to be so “strict” – it is actually a bit easier to eat healthy knowing I can have that Oreo if I so desire. When you are not “allowed” to eat certain foods it seems you crave them even more.

Being extreme in one direction can lead to being extreme in the other.

I eat healthy now because I want to, not because I have to. I am in tune with how food makes me feel. How it affects my work, my workouts, and my moods. I eat healthy because I want to be healthy. I want to be around as many years as possible to enjoy time with my wife and 2 kids. At 44 years old, I want to look my best as I approach my 50’s. These are my motivators now, and they can be different for each person.

My empathy for my client’s struggles with food, I believe, helps me be a better trainer. The addiction to “unhealthy” foods and the natural deterrence to “healthy” ones is something I am very familiar with.

When eating clean for an extended period of time, I seem to have no desire for fried foods or sweets. Almost like a detox, my brain shuts off those desires. The problem is, like most addicts, when I do let myself have a “cheat” sometimes I spiral out of control and those triggers are activated making me crave bad food more and more.

So the question is – how do we deal with that?

That’s just it – you “deal with it”. You fall off, you get right back on. You don’t just lay there stuffing your face. You’re human, you slipped up, it’s ok. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”, live in moderation. The key is to not over-indulge.

The following tips can help you be your best and win those battles you have with yourself…..


  1. Stay within Caloric Intake – Mindy Kurzer – nutrition scientist, University of Minnesota, suggests rather than focusing on “good food” or “bad food”, focus on your overall dietary pattern (macro-nutrients).

Ideally, the more you stay with a certain ratio of protein/carbs/fat, the better you will feel. But, if you have days where you can’t or if you cheat – try to stick within your daily caloric intake and you can minimize the damage.

I suggest focusing on a “seven day” average and don’t go over that. So, If your average daily caloric intake should be 2,500…. and you have a 3,500 calorie day – don’t beat yourself up, you can make up the difference on two other days eating only 2,000.



  1. Don’t say “f*#k – it” – Too many people throw their hands up in the air and say “I give up” when they cheat. No, your whole day isn’t ruined because you had a slice of pizza. That doesn’t mean you should follow it up with Ben and Jerry’s and make it a “free for all” Your human, you can make mistakes, hold yourself accountable and stop there….. don’t have a chocolate covered, nougat-filled landslide wipe out your otherwise healthy week.


  1. Plan ahead – You know you are going to get hungry, so why didn’t you prepare your meals? If you go too long without eating, bad things happen….can you say BINGE? You should plan to eat every 2-4 hours. Bring meals to work, eat breakfast every morning. Keep protein bars, nuts, and shakes in your office or car for those times you get hungry so you don’t get famished and end up in a fast food drive thru.


  1. Know your triggers – don’t have much willpower like me? Then stay away from restaurants that have your favorite fun/bad food. Having a cheat meal? Don’t choose something that you can’t control yourself around. For me, that’s pizza. If I have 1 slice of pizza – it turns into 8…. Always. If I go to the movies, I am popcorn and twizzler junkie, I make sure to have a protein shake or small meal before I go so that I am not tempted when I smell that beautiful combination of popcorn and butter. I’ve tried the alternative….. you know, starve yourself all day so that you can have a treat. Guess what happens when you do that – your blood sugar is low and your starving (bad combo)….. you end up over-indulging without any ability to slow down.


  1. Pay Attention! – Pre-food and Post-food. How do you feel when you eat well? How do you feel when you eat badly? When you do eat badly, ask yourself why? What was the trigger? Are you eating because you are hungry or is it emotional? Paying attention to your body and your mind will help you get a handle on your eating habits. Eating should make you feel “fueled”, not want to take a nap.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You will slip up. You will not eat perfect every day and that’s ok. Keep the big picture in mind – a healthier you.

A healthier you is a constant work-in-progress. It is not something you do for 3 months and abracadabra you’re done. You keep at it.

Unfortunately, the human body is stubborn. It is either losing weight or gaining it, so you have to be on your game and pay attention to not only how you feed it, but how you train it.


by Paul Dexter