What Can You and a Fitness Coach Learn From a Dog?

This blog post comes from a different angle.  One that is far from the topic of fitness, but more towards how we as coaches, particularly at Unity, aim to change the way fitness is done.

It is often said that you don’t choose your dogs (or pets), they choose you…The story stands true for our family’s dog, Babe.

A few weeks ago we believed that our time with Babe, our dog of 13 years, was coming to end.  Two weeks ago one of my brothers mentioned that Babe wasn’t doing well and she had blood in her urine.  It was evident that the end was near.  My family had rushed her to the vet for some testing to see if there was anything we could do.

Babe was calmly put to sleep on Friday afternoon, March 24th with the family there with her.   After a big scare about a year ago, we were thankful to have her around this long.  We aren’t entirely sure of her age as my step-dad brought her back from a Nebraska hunting trip in 2003.  She was probably a year or two old then, so we can estimate her at 15.

Regardless of her age, she was the “Momma” of our other family dogs.  She ran the show, she called the shots, and she was the first to greet you when you came home.  Babe was the comfort dog.  There wasn’t a bad bone in her body (I don’t think she EVER had an accident in the house or did anything “bad”) and she was there for you no matter how good or how tough the times were.

I think my sister has described her best:

“Many people do not know that Babe was actually a wild dog in Nebraska. Kurt went on a hunting trip and she befriended all of the hunters (for food) Babe was going to be shot (not by hunters) because she was seen as a nuisance, but boy she could not be any further from that…so Kurt said he wanted her and saved her. She was my “when you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark” through EVERY sucky life moment I have ever went through….We are so lucky to have you in our life. You are our protector and light.”

15 years ago I didn’t really understand how we as humans became so attached to our dogs and cats.  I had basically had a dog in my life since my mom met my now step-dad, but it was tough for me to realize the true value pets had on families and people (this is where you insert the crazy cat-lady and dog-lovers or bird collectors, right?).  It wasn’t until my growth as a human being that I started paying more attention to relationships and moments rather than superficial items and status.

I’m not saying that Babe changed that for me, but she was around for just about every major event our family has had (including my personal and professional growth), not to mention numerous other dogs we’ve had during that time (six to my count) for the last 13 years.  She was also “around”, always willing to give up her time to be by you and show affection and comfort.  Essentially she was always there to lend an ear.  She was noble, graceful, pure-hearted, kind, and fearless.  It’s hard to believe she came from “the wild” and was seen as a “nuisance”.

I wasn’t able to really think about all of what Babe offered to our family until this past weekend.  It’s absolutely amazing all that you can learn not only from dogs, but pets, if you stop to pay attention and cherish the moments and the relationship.  They say that in death comes life.  While this saying mostly pertains to human death, I say it is plenty suitable in this circumstance with Babe.  It’s also fresh in my mind, so I say it’s relevant, but at a different level of meaning.

I take Babe’s qualities of being noble, graceful, pure-hearted, kind, and fearless on through me with deeper meaning.  As a coach, we are listeners before we “actors”, just like Babe was.  I also take on her always-comforting, non-judgmental attitude, as I think are two high-quality traits any coach, whether fitness or otherwise, needs to possess.  The thing is, I was already doing those things; it just so happens that now they’re being done at a deeper level.  And it’s not just me…The best analogy I can give to this is how we coach our members at Unity:

We don’t judge.  Ever.  And we’re always there to comfort you and dig into the small victories and details that help you grow.  We’re always willing to lend out a hand (or an ear) or just be the shoulder to lie on.  We’re here to listen.  Regardless of what is happening, we are always here.  And we’re rolling with the punches with you and we’re taking action with you.

I would say that Babe represented what true friendships/relationships should consist of.

I’ve joked before that I think any of our Fitfam members could probably commit a serious crime and I’d still be there to support them (numerous times, actually).  I feel like that was Babe.

The day we put Babe down was unbelievably difficult.  There’s only a handful of other days in my lifetime that have made me feel like that.  It had to happen fast as she was losing strength to do just about anything – even just lifting her head required an enormous amount of strength and resulted in more fatigue.  After I saw the 8 missed calls from my cell phone and the gym phone on a late Friday morning, I had figured something was going on.  The day we put Babe to sleep is one I will never forget, but Babe will always be remembered.

Once again, my sister said it best when it comes to sending Babe off:  “’And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you. …I will find you’”

Thank you, Babe!

Recipe of the Week: Healthy Chicken Parm

Healthy Chicken Parm

Makes 4 Servings

  • 1 Large    Spaghetti Squash
  • 4, 4-5oz Chicken Breasts
  • 4 oz        Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 8 Tbsp   Low Fat Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 tsp      Parsley, dried
  • 8 Tbsp   Marinara

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut spaghetti squash in half, pit the squash, and spray squash meat with cook spray.  Dash with salt and pepper.   Place squash face down on cooking sheet with tin foil or parchment paper.  Add dash of salt and pepper to chicken breasts.  Bake squash for about 30-35 minutes (until tender), each half has 2 servings and bake chicken breasts at 20-25 minutes (also at 350 degrees).  Top chicken with marinara and both mozzarella and parmesan cheese (can bake an additional couple minutes to get cheese to melt).  Top with parsley.

Calories:        296
  Fat:                12 g
  Carbs:           16 g
  Protein:        31 g
  Fiber:            5 g

Recipe of the Week: Easy Egg Muffin

We’re sticking with another breakfast recipes for this Recipe of the Week installment, and this recipes happens to be a Unity Fitness staple meal for our members.  It’s a near-perfect recipe to enjoy guilt-free. Each muffin is packed with protein that will fuel your day and support muscle growth. Make a bunch of these and save them in the fridge for meals later in the week.  You can also customize these all you want with different choices of meats and veggies!
Servings: 6

Here’s what you need…

  • 6 omega-3, organic, free range eggs
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup of organic shredded cheese
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease lightly.
  3. Mix up the eggs, add bell pepper, cheese and seasonings. Fill 6 muffin tins.
  4. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the egg is fully set.

Nutritional Analysis: One muffin equals: 89 calories, 6g fat, 120mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, .16g fiber, and 7.5g protein.

Recipe of the Week: Smoked Salmon Omelet

Have you tried salmon for breakfast before, particularly smoked salmon?  Don’t know it, ’til you try it!  And we made it easier for you to try by combining it with some eggs and cream cheese.  This recipe is healthy, tastes great, and is ready in just a few minutes—what more could you ask for in a breakfast?  To make this scrumptious omelet a complete meal, serve it up with whole-grain toast like Ezekiel brand or Udi’s and a cup of fresh fruit.

Yield: 2 Servings

Here’s what you need…

  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 1/4 cup nonfat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz smoked salmon
  • Garlic salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk together the egg whites, cream cheese, garlic salt and pepper. Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Gently push the egg whites toward the center as they cook.
  2. When the eggs are almost set, place the salmon on top. Cover the pan and cook for 30 additional seconds. Remove the lid and fold omelet in half. Cut in half and serve.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals 124 calories, 1.8g fat, 2.5g carbohydrate, and 22.65g protein

Peanut Butter is Not a Protein and Other Tough Love Tips

Peanut butter is not a protein.  I probably could have just left this blog post with just that, but if you know me, you know that I like to start and explain the “why” behind everything I say and do.  So if you believe peanut butter is a protein it’s because you’ve been tricked by the clever marketing agencies out there that know you know that protein is becoming more important in our diet.

So let’s just slap a label on our peanut butter stating is has 7g of protein per serving and all of a sudden we have a new contender when it comes to choosing proteins!

Let me also explain that I absolutely love peanut butter, particularly Jif Natural (like in the picture above).  It can be Creamy or Crunchy – it doesn’t matter – as I tend to go through phases of which one I prefer to put in my mouth hole.

I do, indeed, heart peanut butter.

Peanuts are a type of fat.  In fact, they are a polyunsaturated just like fish oils, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, flax, and other foods.  Peanuts carry along some nutrients, not as many as other types of nuts, but enough.  One of those nutrients happens to be protein.  Again, a peanut is a fat, which is a macronutrient just like protein is a macronutrient.

Peanuts are a healthy fat that contains protein just like lean ground beef is a healthy protein that contains fat (I bet you don’t see labels on packages of ground beef stating “6g of fat per serving” like the labels on peanut butter display their protein per serving, right?).

If you believe peanut butter is a protein, you’ve been “gooped”.  You’ve been gooped just like the marketing gurus wanted you to be gooped because now you believe that peanut butter is a source of protein and qualifies as primary source of protein in your diet.  By the way, gooped means you’ve been had/tricked/hooked/taken advantage of.

There’s no question that peanut butter contains protein and you can benefit from the amount of protein in peanut butter.  However, it is not a primary source of peanut butter as there are actually foods out there like eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, beef, bison, venison, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese that are primary sources of protein.

I’ve said it a lot recently: I truly believe the smartest people in the word are working for the wrong team and I feel like those people are the marketers and organizations engineering all of the campaigns to drive us towards foods that aren’t healthy for us.

There are multiple movies/documentaries about this topic, movies like “Fed Up” go over this topic along with several others regarding how our society is struggling with nutrition and how it’s being manipulated by different sources (you’ll have to watch the rest of the film to know what I’m referring to, which I HIGHLY recommend you do – it’s on Netflix too).

Regardless how I feel about our situation, my mission is to help educate and inspire you to better your life by helping you eat better along your path to moving better, feeling better, and looking better.  I’ve got a few other tough love tips I’ll share with you that will help with this.  These tips are game-changers when implemented into your food planning and food shopping routines.

Tough Love Tip 1:

Peanut butter is a fat, not a protein.  I know, I know, “you said that already.”  I’m just making sure this sticks.  You should be including other foods that are actually considered proteins to account for your protein intake (see the list from earlier).  These foods have way more protein and help with your protein intake way more than peanut butter or peanuts will.

One big nutrition habit we share with our members who are focused on weight loss is to have protein in every meal.  Peanut butter can be easily confused as a protein because of marketing, but as you now know it’s not a major source.

Tough Love Tip 2:

If a product has to tell you it’s healthy, it’s most likely not healthy for you.

There’s not a single food out there that good for you that has to tell you how good it is for you.  You know vegetables are good for you.  You know fruits are good for you.  You know nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews are good for you (those nuts carry more nutrients than peanuts do as well).  You know that eating lean meats is good for you.  You don’t need a label for that!  So why…why, why, WHY do you fall for labels like this:

The label is telling you pop-tarts has 7 Vitamins and Minerals…

(Yes, I know pop-tarts taste good and remind me of my childhood too, but did you know there’s 72 g of sugar in a package of pop-tarts (2 pastries)?  That’s as much and more than some sodas!)

Tough love tip 2 is my most important tip I’ll share with you today.

Tough Love Tip 3:

Choose “wild” over “farm-raised” and “free range” over “cage-free”.  You want your food to be as natural as possible.  Wild and free range foods are more natural than being raised on a farm or cage-free.  Gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy or that it will help you in your weight loss either; although eliminating gluten from your diet isn’t a bad idea to help you stay focused on fruits and veggies.

A product being gluten-free just means it doesn’t contain gluten.  Gluten is found in wheat and other grains.  Taking gluten of your diet can help reduce calories and find others sources of energy which will most likely be something that is a whole food.  Avoiding gluten all together could have other benefits.  Obviously if you have Celiac Disease (CD) you need to avoid gluten.  This isn’t my realm of expertise, nor am I legally able to tell you what to eat or not eat, so to see if you have CD or a gluten intolerance, reach out to your medical doctor.

Tough Love Tip 4:

Just because something is “natural” or “organic” doesn’t mean it’s healthy either.  It could mean it’s health-ier, but not necessarily healthy.  It could also mean it’s not healthier too!  That’s because of the FDA vague definition of what “natural” really means.   These foods could also be super high in sugar and full of loads of calories that you may be tricked to thinking are good for you all because of the label.

If you take another peak at the peanut butter picture from the beginning of the article you’ll notice I choose Jif “Natural”.  The only thing natural about the peanut butter is the ingredients and they can now use the word “natural” because they replaced any corn syrup with pure cane sugar or molasses.  Pure cane sugar is a natural form of sugar, whereas molasses is a bi-product of sugarcane, which can be considered “natural”.  (Did you know sugar has over 250 names for it, molasses is one of them.)  That means the only reason my Jif peanut butter is considered natural is because they don’t use corn syrup or any artificial/processed sweeteners and sugars..

The best form of peanut butter is to get freshly pressed peanut butter like some local co-ops might have in your area.  Better yet, choose almond butter for more nutrients!  There are even cashew butters and other nut butters available to us now.  You know it’s good when it has to be refrigerated after opening and contains no added sugar, just pressed nuts (ha!).

Other food can still be considered “organic” and not be healthy for you.  Foods labels or using the world “organic” on the label could still be filled with unwanted calories, boat-loads of sugar, and other ingredients that you assume will help with your health and fitness efforts, particularly weight loss.

Do you see how you’ve been “gooped”?

If you’re looking for foods that are natural and organic, revisit Tip 2 and focus on those as much as possible and purchase organic foods of those sources.  It should be noted, that not even all fruits and veggies labeled as organic means that they’re any better than non-organic grown produce.  A lot of our organic produce has even been shown to contain pesticides and other residue.   To save time on this post, just check out the Dirty Dozen.  The Dirty Dozen could be  a post on its own.  Again to save time and to avoid going down that road during this post, I’m going to wrap up this post with this:

Check to see where your produce came from.  Some stores will tell you what farm raised the produce.  Better yet: buy them straight from the farmer!!  You can also look for the non-GMO label when possible to help verify your decision on quality foods.  Again, look at the ingredients label.  If there’s more than 5 ingredients it is most likely processed.

In conclusion, I do not mean to write this to bash your current means of food prepping and shopping.  I am using it as an educational tool for you to develop more knowledge and make better decisions from this point forward.  Remember, health and fitness is a world of gray, not black and white (all or none).  You’ve come this far and now it’s time to continue the journey.  Use these tough love tips to help grow and get 1% better each and every day!