I write this rant today, 4 weeks late, for many reasons. It's about resolutions. I've made many myself as I'm sure you at home have. I made a bit of a resolution too. I've resolved to not let up on my vision for Woodstock Vitamins. I'm doubling down on pointing out the "fake news" of our industry and standing up for people so they get the natural products experience they're looking for. Words matter. As you read on, you'll see actions matter much more. Ya just gotta do something! So here we are - doing something. This is short, more ranty, but sweet.
This time of year always makes me a bit angry. I see all the new ways companies get people to throw their money away on resolutions and it gets me extra-ranty. Yes I'm a business owner, and yes selling more products would make my business grow. But I'm also a citizen and a consumer. In addition, I see behind the scenes of the natural products industry (an industry VERY guilty this time of year) and know how deceptive it can be.
January is time to prey on the newly motivated. Entire marketing programs revolve around getting you to take action (by spending money) with them. Diet programs, self-help services, cleanses and trendy new supplement regimens all begin to emerge, looking to separate you from your hard earned money. We all know gyms literally thrive on you buying a contract and going a handful of times. You want to "make a better you in 2017" and these companies line up to profit. Do they ever deliver on their promises?
This is what makes us rant. Not the fact that people make resolutions, but that the products and marketing systems actually sabotage you along your journey.What ever change you are resolving to make, using disciplined execution, new habits, common sense, and practical methods will help you achieve it.By reducing that all down to the newest method or widget, these companies create an environment where we believe we must find that one trick that works for us. Each year, the process repeats. Some gains are made short term, but nothing sticks. The only consistency is the loss of our money - and sometimes hope.
Proceed with the end in mind...
In a break from my usual format, I'm putting the punchline first. Grand resolutions won't stick. No company or product will magically deliver the results you seek. Even us. I'd argue we're more committed to helping than most, but we can't make you do anything. It's wonderful to want to make positive changes and look for a fresh start. You want to turn it around - please, do! What isn't wonderful are the gross, obvious tactics of many businesses to get people to spend their hard-earned dollars with them... These things will take you only so far.
Success takes a vision - a resolution - for certain. Whatever that success for you is, identify it. But there is no magic pill, no big break, no one linchpin that will make it all happen. It's making small changes and taking small steps every day towards your goals that will help you reach them. Consistency is what truly will make the difference.
The companies promise something seductive and easy. In reality, it is not. From a book I just read: "Why go through the swamp if someone is promising there is a shortcut around it." Sometimes it feels like the opposite of sexy - a drudging through the swamp of daily diligence. Consistent drudging, however un-sexy, will make it happen.
Ask my employees. I mention my (poor) shape frequently. In spirit, I'm serious about being healthier. But does eating 3 pieces of pizza and a bunch of wings Friday nights fall into alignment with my resolution?
So here's my message: Resolve. Resolve to behave differently. Set out to change. But also resolve to be aware of the tricks and gimmicks these companies throw out at you. They promise easy fixes, simple solutions, quick actions - for a price of course. I feel that they're really taking away something from you by making those promises. It takes work to change. And if you are resolving to change, you will need help. Pills and potions aren't the help you'll need. Don't devalue the true challenge that lays before you with a gimmick.
Don't ever feel like you can't accomplish your goals on your own, with your own will and determination. Pair it with a tempered set of expectations: a simple plan and achievable goals. Get REAL support when you need it. Any company who tells you otherwise is only looking to cash in.
That is why I changed up this month's rant format. I want to go through a few health-related resolutions people make and offer a more grounded, gimmick-free version. With this rant, I want to offer to help you create an action plan. If you want me to call you weekly to see how you're doing - to keep you on your resolution - I'll make 52 calls this year.
Resolution 1: Eat Healthier
One of the most common resolutions for a New Year involves weight loss. We've just spent months eating higher-than-average calories per day. Our macronutrient intake (carbs, fats, proteins) is unbalanced - tipping heavily towards simple carbohydrates or unhealthy fats. We either eat all day grazing or we eat huge meals at one time, instead of on a regular schedule. These things can be fixed quiet easily. We've held classes about this in the past, we've written papers about this, and we discuss this in almost every consult we give.
Here we'll give you the short version:
My favorite analogy is comparing food to campfires. It works in a few ways, but we'll stick to the most basic here. Our goal with a campfire is to stay warm for as long as possible.
If you piled kindling, the small sticks and twigs and lit it - you'd have a very hot, very bright fire that doesn't last very long. To make a campfire that burns for a while, you can't just use kindling. You have to use some mid sized sticks and even some bigger logs. This balances the campfire - early energy, then a slow burn - and allows it to go for a few hours. The thing is, even the best campfires fade. You have to regularly replenish the fire to get a consistent, lasting burn.
This is the same concept you should keep in mind for food. You need the three types of healthy food - complex carbohydrates (kindling), proteins (mid sized sticks), and fats (logs). Bread and starches are like leaves and pine needles - lots of very quick fire, lots of smoke, angry fellow campers. The three macronutrients (types of wood) need to be balanced in a proper campfire (meal or snack). The campfire must be replenished, or it goes out, we get cold, and our toes fall off due to hypothermia.
With this in mind, let's dig in a bit. Here's my quick guide for eating healthy:
1. Redefine the words food, meals, and snacks
We're going to use two broad categories here. Healthy Food and Junk Food.Healthy Food is anything that is rich in one or more healthy macronutrient.Eat more healthy foods, avoid junk foods.
- Eggs are a healthy food because they are rich in protein and fats
- Fruits are a healthy food because they are rich in complex carbohydrates
- Natural peanut butter is a healthy food because it is rich in fats and proteins
- Many yogurts are NOT healthy foods because they are rich in simple carbs and have little proteins and good fats
- A McDonald's burger, while calorie rich, lacks good fats, proteins, or complex carbs - so it's junk food.
About calories - they matter, but not as much as most people think. So for now, we'll ignore them. Let's focus on getting you a good understanding of how to eat healthier, for real.
A meal is a bigger snack. A snack is a smaller meal. A snack or a meal is a combination of foods that give you a balanced amount of good protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates. Whenever you eat, balance the macronutrients to a proper meal or snack. How much? A loosey-goosey rule of thumb - 50% complex carbs (fruits and veggies), 25% good fats and 25% proteins. Let's not split hairs, let's just get to the ball park on this one.
- Having cereal for breakfast is not a meal as it is just usually simple carbs. No proteins, fats, or complex carbs
- A veggie omelette for breakfast is a meal because it's protein, fat, and complex carbs.
- Having peanut butter and an apple for a snack is healthy because of the protein, fat, and complex carbs. Eating just the fruit, while a healthy food, is not a healthy snack or meal.
In summary, pick good lumber (healthy foods) and build a balanced campfire (healthy meal or snack). Now, let's get to replenishment through the day.
2. Get the timing right
If we continue our campfire analogy - imagine you are camping somewhere cold and wait 3-4 hours before starting your first fire. Again, bye-bye toes. It is crucial we start our days with a healthy meal to get our campfire going for the day. Eat breakfast within 30-40 minutes upon waking.
We have to tend to the fire throughout the day. If a fire lasts 3 hours and we restock it every 6-8 hours, we're going to be cold most of the day and have to work harder to get the burn going again. Eat every few hours alternating balanced meals and snacks. Meal-Snack-Meal-Snack-Meal-Snack.
3. Eating less is eating more.
Understanding what makes a food healthy is the first crucial point. Balancing macronutrients when you eat (and understanding why - think campfire!) is the second crucial point. Eating more frequently is the final crucial point.
Most people will flat out tell me they feel full more often and feel like they are eating way more than before. This is because their body is satiated. They are utilizing the macronutrients better, burning more smoothly throughout the day.
The final step then, is to reduce the portion sizes down to meet calorie goals. The simple answer is eat the same or slightly less than you need for a day. We can help you figure out what that is.
Resolution 1 Summary
The big diet take away is that it is more important to build the habits BEFORE we worry about losing weight or calories or portion sizes. It is WAY harder to make multiple habit changes, so take it one step at a time. Build better campfires and commit to tending to them more frequently and you'll be WELL on your way to being healthier. Reduce down the calories (with help from an expert like us) and you'll be shedding weight without feeling hungry in no time.
Resolution 2: Exercise
I put this one in the middle because we have less to say about it. The only thing I can say is that you have to commit to it. I don't know what the answer is, as I'm struggling now with this myself. Between work and family, it's difficult to carve out time to go for a walk or do a proper workout regimen. Go slow. Do something. Even if it is just 5 minutes a day.
It's important to keep muscles, including the heart, nice and healthy. This helps with metabolic rates. It makes you nice and svelt. Know this. The best exercise is eating less, as like 85% of weight problems "start in the kitchen." Exercise will help jump start your metabolism. When combined with healthier eating habits, you'll be on your way to a much healthier you.
Resolution 3: Take Supplements
People take too many supplements. Every January, people start on more and more products or regimens to offer "cleansing/detox", or start taking important things such as fish oil or a multivitamin. A very important step to being healthier is supplementing with quality products when you really need them. We've ranted about cleansing and detox. We've talked about the problems with fish oil. We've even told people to throw away their multivitamins.
Here's our long-standing advice on supplements, especially as it pertains to resolutions:
1. Resolve to take less stuff. No matter the time of the year, we should have an attitude of reductionism - what supplements can I get rid of? Here's a great litmus test for your supplement regimen: Can you answer this question - Why am I taking each of my supplements? If you can't, there's a good chance you are taking too much. I recently talked about this in a video here.
2. Figure out if the products you take (or are thinking about taking) are what you think they are. The industry is weakly regulated and enforcement is poor. Many products aren't what they say they are (stay tuned for next month's rant to learn about Vitamin C and bioflavonoids for more on that!). You may know that you are using fish oil for heart health, but are you getting a pure form at the correct amounts to make up for dietary deficiencies? Your probiotic may have helped with some symptoms, but does it contain strains that humans shouldn't take?
All in all, the mantra of "make a plan" holds true - even more so - at New Years. Consult with us. We will go through your regimen and give you an honest, thorough assessment of your regimen and offer advice to fill in any gaps. Don't forget - medicines and supplements can interact, and we are the experts in helping people navigate this complex relationship.
Suggested Resolution: Resolve to Ignore Fake News and Information
One point I'd like to make is about the "fake news" chatter going on. The concept of misinformation and fake news is everywhere, rightfully so. We are seeing the impact of the changing media model, and the unfortunate outcome of creating echo chambers of misinformation. It's something we've been dealing with in the natural products industry our whole lives. It is a billion dollar industry set on feeding bad info to people, to get them to buy bad products, that may or may not do anything for them. We say that and we're fans of the supplement industry. We know there's gold in them hills, but it takes more rigor to separate the "fake news" from what's real. So, our 2017 resolution was that we'd be a bigger thorn in the sides of the fake news people of our industry.
You are aware of fake news being a real issue. I am highlighting that fake news thrives on and is the foundation of the supplement industry. Make a resolution to consume better information. Have a question about herbs? Look at the American Botanical Council. Have a question about a disease? Check out the medical group's national organization, like endocrine.org or heart.org, instead of some random celebrity doctor's website.
The point I'm really driving home here is that being healthier (this year, this January, or whenever) can be accomplished in many ways. I want to encourage you, our customer family, to be aware of the gimmicks and tricks entire industries use to tap into your motivation spike.
If you really want to understand how to form lasting habits, you should understand them better. Recently Charles Duhigg wrote about all the recent research - definitely a cool read.
A little aside note: if it works - don't stop! We often hear "I started taking the product and I felt better, so I stopped taking it." If you are executing well and have found something that helps - keep going!
No matter what you are trying to accomplish, whether it's being healthier this year (and hopefully forever), being a more engaged parent, or pushing through a vision, the secret is disciplined execution.
We can resolve all day with lofty visions. It takes disciplined action on a daily basis to get it done. It doesn't matter what I resolve. For us, our resolution won't stick unless I write, make videos, and create systems to have members of my team help us spread the word. One foot in front of the other.
Though we are through January and "resolution season" is close to ending, I'd suggest you follow my lead. I didn't get this out in time. I wasn't able to complete all my other goals for this month. I've made a better effort and I have started building better habits. Your execution may not be perfect, but at least you are executing. Just do something. And know this - we've got your back.
Just trying to keep it real...
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth