Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Best New Years Resolution You Can Make

It’s that time of year again!  The holidays creep on us and before we know it, we counting down the seconds to the start of a new year!  New year, new me right?!?!  WRONG!  According to US News1 80% of New Years resolutions fail by February!  Honestly, I am sure we can all relate to this!  Whether your goal has been to lose more weight or save more money (2 of the most popular2) you are setting yourself up to fail by setting a goal without direction!

            The best New Year’s resolution you can make is one that spells out an exact concrete habit you can commit to on a regular basis.  For instance if your goal is to lose weight, make your New years resolution something like this:

1.     I am going to go exercise 1 more time per week, for 1 more hour, than I am currently doing.  I will do this for 3 months than reevaluate my goal and methods.


2.     I am going to eat 100 less calories everyday for 30 days.  I will then weigh myself and reevaluate my goal and methods.

If your goal is to save money your resolution could look like this:

1.     I am going to transfer 10% of every deposit into my savings account for 6 months then reevaluate my goals and methods.

These goals have a few things in common.

1.     They are concrete actions that require small consistent effort.

2.     They allow you to focus on something small and manageable.  Weight loss or money saving take time and we are bad at delaying gratification.  You know that these daily/weekly actions are going to eventually get you to your long term goal.  Focusing on accomplishing tasks allows you to, in a sense, forget the long term goal, making it less daunting.

3.     The option to reevaluate after a few weeks or months.  Our life, personalities, circumstances, and goals are always changing!  And that’s a good thing (read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance).  Sometimes our focused actions don’t get us the results we hoped for.  This allows you to make changes based off progress without feeling like you failed!

So this new year, make a smaller, focused, action based goal that will help you reach a big long-term goal!  The ability to maintain small daily habits is what lies at the very foundation of achieving difficult goals.  Focus on the journey not the outcome!

Steve Cornely
Triad Wellness Philly
insta: @ stephenjcornely
facebook: Triad Wellness Philly


Friday, November 30, 2018

Can Movement & Massage Provide Chronic Low Back Pain Relief

            Chronic low back pain is defined as pain in the lumbar region of the spine that lasts longer than 3 months.  According to the US Department of Health & Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention 20.3% of U.S. adults experienced low back pain in 2012!1  This is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders in the United States and yet there is still no easy answer on how to fix it!  (Note: Acute low back pain could occur from a serious injury or trauma such as a fall.  This is not the same as chronic low back pain and you should go get checked out by a medical professional immediately.)

The causes of chronic low back pain:
1.     Issue with an internal organ
2.     Muscle strain due to excess force during a movement
3.     Postural issues such as staying in one position for too long causing stiffness
4.     Disc issue
5.     Spinal cord issues
6.     Nerve pain like sciatica
7.     Breathing issues
8.     Emotional and psychological stress
9.     Issues with joints other than the spine

These are just some of the possible umbrella causes of low back pain.  As you can see, they are all very broad.  So what does this mean for you and how to manage your own symptoms? 

It means you should follow a path designed to treat YOUR specific signs, symptoms, and pathologies.  The first step you should take is to go see your primary care physician who can hopefully direct you to a specialist that can treat your specific ailments.  This could be a surgeon, a pain doctor, a physical therapist, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, or a personal trainer.

According to both WebMD2 & the National Institute of Health3, an appropriate exercise and nutrition regiment can help prevent and treat some cases of low back pain.  The important part is that a professional who can properly assess the issue comes up with a plan specifically for your pain.  There is no cookie cutter formula to treating this disabling issue!

At Triad Wellness Philly we specialize in assessment of not only the musculoskeletal system but also lifestyle and nutrition to help manage low back pain.  After assessment, a plan is formed between our trainers and massage therapists to help you feel better and get back to doing the things that you want to do!

Stephen Cornely LMT CPT
Triad Wellness Philly

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Some of what you want, some of what you need, and some of what you hate.

Some of what you want, some of what you need, and some of what you hate.
This thought/motto is one of the things I think about when designing a training program for my clients.  Below I will talk about WHY I believe this is helpful for making a well rounded program.

1.  Some of what you want:
            We all have fitness and athletic goals even if you cant think of any off the top of your head, they are in there!  As a trainer, it is not my job to decide what your goal should be but rather open your world to the possibilities and allow you to decide.  This is the most important question to ask a client because it will help them remain consistent in the beginning if they know they are working toward a goal that THEY PERSONALLY CHOSE AND DECIDED UPON!
There are two main ways people go wrong when deciding what they want:
1.     Not having a performance based goal.
2.     Having a trainer who is unrealistic with you about how difficult or easy your goal is.

As I’ve preached many times before, losing weight is more about nutrition and lifestyle rather than working out.  So instead of setting this as your goal, think of a performance based goal.  Examples of this are doing so many reps of pull-ups, running a certain distance, becoming proficient using a barbell etc.  Remember you cannot out-train a bad diet and weight loss is about simply creating a calorie deficit!
So if you tell me that you want to be generally healthy, in my head I think we should be working on general strength in all ranges of motion, cardiovascular endurance, and work capacity/general physical preparedness (think about if I asked you to move a pile of bricks from one end of town to the other how quickly could you do it).  Once we start working on some of this stuff your goals will manifest themselves upon getting a better understanding of your likes and dislikes.
Someone with a more focused goal like, I want to run a half marathon better start getting their heart and lungs in top shape, their legs in shape for long cyclic motion, and their joints healthy and enough to bear the impact of running (most people focus on the first two but neglect the third leading to injury…more on this later).
The second point about the trainer being able to give you a realistic timeline is more difficult.  Everyone adapts differently.  Everyone has consistency and compliance issues.  There will be unforeseen issues and injuries along the way need to be dealt with.  Here is a rule of thumb though to guess how long it will take you to anything:
Step 1: take an educated realistic guess
Step 2: multiply it by 3

2.  Some of what you need:
            What you need is basically the stuff that the trainer and you know will help you accomplish your goal in a quicker, safer manner but it is boring or tedious.  It could also be something that you may not realize has a connection to your goal but the trainer knows the connection.
            Lets go back to the example of a runner.  Most runners when they start a program just start running.  Seems pretty obvious and understandable that this is how one would get into this because after all, humans were “Born to Run”.  Well unfortunately, you’re pretty far being human if you’ve worked a sedentary 9-5 job for 10 years after being in school for 15 years.  Your body didn’t evolve to be treated the way we treat it.  Its meant to move and unfortunately our lifestyle habits take that away.
            So if you want to start a running program you should probably start by assessing whether your joints can handle the new impact of all your body weight slamming into the ground over and over again.  Can your legs propel you forward efficiently? Can your tendons and other connective tissue adapt to the stimulus of starting a running program or are they so fibrotic (thickened/scarred tissue that doesn’t move well) that they don’t absorb force well?
            So what you NEED, is to probably start with strength and mobility stuff in a less load bearing situation than running.  A more controlled situation like a fitness center would be better.  At the same time as dealing with the things you need you can certainly still work on running as a skill but a good trainer would monitor the volume to mitigate injury risk.

3.     Some of what you hate:
And then there is this…… some of what you HATE!  I struggle with this part when dealing with my clients because at the end of the day I am a service provider. However, I continue to program it because I believe we learn life lessons in the weight room by doing things we hate.
            What do we learn by programming what we hate? 
            First and foremost, we typically hate what we suck at.  For various reasons, what you suck at also falls under the category of what you NEED because it displays a weakness. You are only as strong as your weakest link and your weakest link is most likely the part of you that will get injured.  The biggest culprit here is stretching and mobility work.  Its painful, slow, and longggg but it is necessary for any athlete or person with any goal to continue to maintain (and sometimes expand) end ranges of motion in every joint in their body!
              Another reason we tend to hate things is because we are fearful of them.  I program things people hate to help them overcome fear.  Sometimes they are so fearfull that I trick them into doing something they aren’t aware of.  For example, I had a client with a knee replacement.  11 weeks post op it was time for her to start squatting again (this is not a universal rule but rather an individual who made steady progress under my eyes and my expertise and her pain level told me her body was ready).  However, I knew she was scared to try squatting which is completely understandable. 
So what did I do?  I told her to sit on the bench.  She obliged.  Then I told her to stand up, which she did.  Then I told her sit again and I asked her how her day was going and she started telling me about it.  While she was talking I signaled for her to stand up and then sit back down again.  She kept talking and I repeated this until she had sat and stood up about 8 times.  After this, I interrupted her and asked her how her knee felt.  She said fine! I replied, “Great, you just did 8 squats!”
The final reason I will program things people hate is because I believe what we do in the weight room is metaphor for life.  It has certainly taught me so many life lessons!  In the weight room, the trainer controls your movements.  In life there will undoubtedly be things that we must do that we don’t want to do but another human forces us.  So when a trainer tells you to carry a sandbag up a set of stairs 10 times and you complain about it, maybe just power through with all your might it will be easier!  Wasting time and energy complaining about it never helped anyone. (Plus carrying a sandbag up a flight of stairs 10 times has carry over to literally every living human being’s current lifestyle so it’s not a complete waste of your time!)

Programming what you want will help keep you coming back for more.
Programming what you need, will help you keep doing what you want.
Programming what you hate will help defeat your greatest enemy… yourself.

-Stephen J Cornely
Triad Wellness Philly
@stephenjcornely – instagram
Stephen Cornely - facebook

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Functional Range Conditioning Provider Course Review

            I just returned to my hotel room after spending the past two days learning the Functional Range Conditioning method of mobility and joint training.  If you are unsure of what that is, below is the website where you can find more information:

Below I will provide a brief review about the course.  In the first part, my review will be directed towards instructors in the fitness industry thinking about taking this course.  The second part of the review will be directed to the client that may be thinking of going to a Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms) for coaching. 

For the Coach:

            First of all, I purposefully traveled up to Woburn, MA for this course for 1 reason. Dr. Andreo Spina (the creator of the method) was teaching this course and I believe it’s extremely valuable to learn from a primary source.   Dr. Spina surely did not disappoint.  It is very powerful stuff when you hear a person talk about something they themselves created.  It is a system he believes in, practices daily, and knows like the back of his hand.  His assistants were great and I do not want to take anything away from them but I believe once things get passed down, personal interpretation can change the way the message is delivered.
            As for the course and content of it, the information provided is so valuable that I would recommend that this be the next course any fitness instructor or coach takes.  If it is your job to produce a better functioning human being, take this course!
1.     It teaches you a system of how to create a healthier and more mobile joint rather than a bunch of exercises given to you to try with your clients.
2.     It can be modified for any demographic because it is a system and NOT just a bunch of exercises
3.     It is based upon the two most important principles of human exercise physiology: SPECIFICITY & PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD
4.     It will get you outside of your comfort zone on how to think about movement or what you think you know about the human body.
5.     You get access to all the online material (live lectures of the seminar) on the website so you can continuously review after the 2 day seminar.  *This may be one of my favorite parts because its so ridiculous to think that a student could remember everything that they learn in 2 day seminar and try to put it into practice*

Cons: (kind of)
1.     You need to be an intelligent trainer/coach to use this stuff.  You are not going to learn how to program this stuff into an existing routine.  You know why?  Because that’s your job as a trainer or coach to decide what, and how much of this your clients need.
2.     Some of the information is going to conflict what you think you know.  This is only a con if you’re a person who is closed-minded, stubborn, and unwilling to learn.  However, if you enjoy making decisions based off various information from multiple sources this will surely not be a con.
3.     This shit is hard and it will make you feel like all the training you’ve done has been a waste of your time.

For The Client:
            This section will be directed toward clients who are thinking of going to an FRCms provider.  (Please note, I have not worked with any clients using these principles yet but I do have 10 years experience as a trainer doing a bunch of different modalities and systems and think I have a clear understanding of how clients will respond.)

1.     If your goal is to increase your usable ranges of motion in your joints and for your joints to remain healthy (or get healthy), I believe this is the most scientific backed way to do it.
2.     It feels amazing.  Seriously, most of you don’t move your joints in all the ways they can move and when you do, you will be like “WOW!”
3.     Its focused on specific joints, which can yield results, you want relatively quickly!
4.     You can decide how far you want to go down the rabbit hole.  It is a system and if you tell your provider that I want this amount of motion and that’s all, the system can be made to fit your specific mobility goals.
5.     You don’t need any equipment and you can do it anywhere, in any clothing….even at work!

Cons (kind of):
1.     Parts of it are hard.  Strength training itself is hard, but now when you focus on end range strength training, its really hard.
2.     It’s not sexy.  No one on Instagram is going to like pictures of you doing joint work.
3.     It’s very focused.  A lot of people like to workout so they don’t have to focus (in my opinion this is a terrible idea) on their life for an hour.  They like full body, task oriented, high intensity movements that crush their souls for 1 hour.  This will surely crush your soul but in a different manner. 

I literally just got back to my hotel and wrote this so it is not a long thought out review.  It’s an immediate after thought.  I’m sure I’m missing some stuff and forgetting some stuff.  I plan on running a 12 week program in which I use the concepts I learned this weekend to increase my active range of motion in a few joints (tbd) which will be the subject of a later blog.  I’m Sure this will give me greater insight on how I feel about the system and can update you then.

      What I do know, is this: the seminar is easily worth the price of admission and if you are a client who has achy joints or who wants increased range of motion in any of your joints or an athlete looking to perform better, YOU NEED TO AT LEAST TRY THIS STUFF OUT!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Clean your room!

Have you ever woke up one morning knowing that you had to clean your house/apartment /basement/garage etc?  That unexcited feeling we all get when we have chores to do, but don’t really want to.  However, we end up talking ourselves into it because we know its for the best.
  Its hard to get started but being the responsible and sensible adult that you are, you get off your butt and start moving.  You are a little choppy at first: not sure where the cleaning supplies are, what part of the house to clean first, where to store things you thought you had lost etc.  Then you start to get in the zone.  Things move like clockwork.  You know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going.  It flows.  Time flies because you are focused on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.  You want it to look nice, feel nice, and have the ability to operate properly…..after all its YOUR home! 
And then, just like that, you realize that you’re done.  You’re tired but you feel accomplished.   You realized how simple and painless it actually is.  You realized that you’re actually pretty good at it too!  Most importantly, the organization that you just created makes EVERY SINGLE PART of your life that much easier.  Things work easier, you know where you stored things, you can move around the space more efficiently and effectively.  And for the amount of work you actually had to do, you appreciate how worth it, cleaning was.  Finally, you think how silly it was that you were anxious and annoyed about doing it in the first place.

So why don’t you just treat your exercise routine the same way?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Law of Diminishing Returns

Warning: this blog post is longer than I expected.  If you don't feel like reading it skip to the bullet points at the bottom .

When step counters like the Fitbit came out, everyone was counting their steps thinking it would lead to weight loss, more activity, and a healthier lifestyle!  And to be perfectly honest, in most cases, it did just that!  For the extremely sedentary, getting a certain number of steps each day increased their physical activity enough that it created a caloric deficit(weight loss benefits), a release of endorphins(mentally pleasing), and in increase in heart rate due to exercise(heart healthy).

However, just like any fitness gimmick (yes, the Fitbit is a gimmick as well as every single new invention that comes out promising to help you lose weight) the effects that it has on all the systems of the body starts to diminish after of few weeks.  Why though? I am still getting in my 5000 steps per day!  Shouldn't I still be losing weight, feeling more mentally alert, and making my heart healthier and stronger??  Actually NO. At some point in ANY exercise routine, you stop reaping benefits (making gainz for all you meatheads) and you actually start to increase risk of overuse injury.

In order to understand this, I will start by giving you an example of how over doing one form of exercise stops working after a while, then I will attempt to explain basic anatomy and physiology adaptations, how they can beneficial for a time and then detrimental at somepoint, and finally how we can fix this issue that is inherent to EVERY SINGLE exercise modality.

I would like to introduce you to "The Mailman Paradox" also called "the Train Conductor Paradox".  I need to state that I did not make this up and I read it on another fitness blog years ago but cannot remember exactly where.  Therefore, I am not taking credit for this as an original idea and if anyone knows where this is from please message me and let me know so I can site it!  The mailman paradox specifically refers to mailmen & mailwomen that walk for miles everyday around city streets delivering mail.  Their Fitbits might explode from the amount of steps they take!  They must be the healthiest group of people on the planet!  Well not to take anything away from anyone in the mail service industry as I am sure there are plenty of healthy people that work for USPS but what about the mail people who aren't super thin, don't feel the endorphins being released after their walks, and are on the verge of having a heart attack?

Why at some point do the benefits of doing the same thing over and over again start to decrease and the risk for negative effects increase?  The body adapts specifically to the task it is required to do.  In this case, it is required to walk a certain number of steps every day, and eventually the systems of the body that are required to do this task will adapt to make this task less taxing on the body and able to be performed more efficiently.  It will continue to make it easier until you become a master at walking that specific amount of steps.  And then what happens?  There is no reason for the body to continue to drop weight, increase heart rate, or release endorphins because walking is no longer a difficult task, it's just part of the normal routine. 

So then what about all the people that continued to walk the same amount of steps every day even after they have reached their peak performance?  They must surely still be doing something healthy for themselves and maintaining a certain level of health!  To the statement that they are maintaining some level of health, I AGREE completely.  However, if the question is, "are they doing something healthy?" I argue that in most instances, the answer is NO.  If the person continues to do the same exercise (in this example walking), without change or addition of supplemental exercise, over and over again, it will actually become detrimental to their health in the long run!  Remember, the body is composed of systems so although it may be keeping the cardiovascular system at a good homeostatic level,  think about what its doing to the connective tissue system, or the muscular strength system, or the the lateral movement system.  Read on to find out!

In order to understand this we must understand some basics of anatomy and physiology.  The body is composed of hundreds of "systems" all having the possibilities of carrying out various tasks.  In everyone, some systems are highly trained and some are not.  When one system gets really strong due to focus of training another system naturally has to be neglected and possibly even weaken.  You cannot be the best at everything people! This is why generally the best marathon runner wouldn't be the best power lifter.

So what systems need to be strong in order to walk?  Well to put it simply, we need to be good at moving in a forward in a straight line, without any external load, presumably over a basically flat surface.  Our foot, ankle, calf, and spinal muscles (with the help or detriment of our shoes) need to stabilize our body while our shoulder, hip and pelvic muscles move in a repetitive pattern.  This number of steps also requires the muscles to be more endurance based (type 1) rather than power based (type 2), and finally long walking requires our cardiovascular system to become very good at moderate intensity long cardio which taxes the aerobic system(as opposed to anaerobic).  Without getting too deep into gait pattern and theory, the repetitive movement associated with walking also makes the motor control aspect of walking become very efficient.  Therefore, your brain becomes really good at sending and coordinating signals to certain muscles to contract and relax in a certain order so that it becomes second nature and requires less effort.

What systems become weak if your exercise routine only consisted of walking?  First, any lateral or backward movement.  Not only does your body become less coordinated to do those movements but the stabilizing muscles mentioned above become weak in those planes of motion.  So think you have to side step or back step out of the way of a moving car, you may be more likely to roll an ankle since the joint hasn't been trained well to accept load in the direction.  In terms of individual muscles, typically in walkers, we will see "tight" calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.  This may limit range of motion or ability to walk up stairs, walk inclines, sit and stand from a chair or the floor.  Repetitive walking on hard surfaces (concrete) also puts a lot of stress on the joints leading to increase in osteoarthritis if proper deload weeks are not programed to allow for regeneration of these tissues.  Finally since there is theoretically no resistance in walking on flat surfaces (physics would argue this) your muscles learn that they can be produce a relatively small amount of force and still be succesful at what is required of them.  They become weak and as soon as I ask you to walk with a 20 pound backpack or with a 130lb dog on a leash, your spinal muscles crumble,  the intrinsic muscles of your foot collapse, and your shoulders and neck have stressors on them never experienced before.  Another life example is this: as soon as I ask you to lift a 10 pound box from the floor and put it on the top shelf of my closet, you cannot produce the force to lift it, the movement pattern required to get something from floor to overhead is foreign to you, and the stabilization required to maneuver the box hasn't been trained.

Lets be clear, this is an extreme example, and the negative effects of walking will take years to manifest themselves as pain or dysfunction in the body.  If you can, take this walking example and connect it to sitting.  The act of sitting in itself isn't bad but rather its the amount of sitting that we do that causes anatomical and physiological changes over the course of years with the absence of physical movement.  This is exactly why sitting gets a bad reputation.  We overdue it, it gets to be highly detrimental to some systems of the body, and may lead to chronic pain. However, the example of overuse with walking or sitting can be applied to ANY AND ALL exercise routines performed continuously over the course of years: yoga, powerlifting, bodybuilding, gymnastics, running, Cycling, boxing, pilates, crossfit, swimming, circuit training, etc. 

So what is the fix to this problem of diminishing returns? Crossfit got it partially correct in explaining that variance in programing is key, however where they go wrong is to much variance day to day doesn't allow for the body to learn or improve at anything.  So you just stay mediocre at everything and never get any better.  However, if you were to focus on something in particular for a certain amount of time, lets say 4 weeks (the length of a standard mesocycle), or enough time to grasp the concept and become somewhat proficient at the movement you could theoretically learn a new skill and then progress it.  The following 4 weeks could be something relatively similar to build on the original skill or something completely different that eventually could be combined with the original skill to form a completely new and advanced skill!

Example 1:  Charles walks for 4 weeks gradually increasing his speed but keeping his distance the same.  Then he deadlifts for four weeks with the goal of increasing strength and force production of his legs.  Finally, in his 3rd mesocycle (4 week cycle), he is stronger and he knows he can walk a certain distance for x time.  So Charles decides to find out if with his new strength he can run that distance in an even shorter time.  Lo and behold he can because running is dependent on force output from the legs and proper gait patterning similar to walking.  Combine walking and deadlifting, you should theoretically get better at running (over simplification but hopefully you get the point)

Example 2:  Mary has been sedentary for a year.  She started beginners yoga and has done it every day for 8 weeks.  Her body feels great to move again, she has become more mobile in her joints, and she has lost body fat.  But now Mary has plateaued in weight loss, she doesn't get the same mental stimulation from yoga as she did before because she has become more proficient at the movements, and she finds it difficult to move heavy boxes around her basement.  Mary should probably start a resistance training program and try to put on some muscle on her frame.  This will help her stabilize her new found range of motion from practicing yoga, learn new and exciting movement patterns that are different from the ones she has been doing for 8 weeks, and increase her resting metabolic rate(a product of more muscle mass) to push through the weight loss plateau.  She also becomes more independent since she is more mobile and stronger allowing her to lift a heavy object from the ground safely!

Example 3:  Joe has always been strong however he started seriously powerlifting a year ago.  His numbers in the 3 lifts increased quickly but now he is always sore, stiff and achy.  This is probably related to the fact that the 3 main power lifts (squat, dead lift, bench) are simple, linear movement patterns and since Joe has gotten really good at them relatively quickly he neglected the thousands of other movement patterns and hundred of other systems the body uses to operate.  The fact that Joe's numbers increased quickly it is likely that his neurological and muscular system adapted but his connective tissue (ligament, tendon, joint capsule, cartilage, fascia etc) system didn't have adequate time to adapt (some estimate it takes 9x longer for these tissues to adapt to a stimulus when compared to muscle tissue).  First, Joe should think about doing some calisthenics in order to lighten the external load.  Next, Joe should work on mobility since he is probably immobile in all of his joints except in the required range of the three movement patterns that he over trained for a year.  He should not neglect strength but just continue to train it in other ranges and planes of motion that powerlifting typically neglects.

This blog post has already become much longer than expected and taken me way too much time to write.  So here are the basics to take away from it:
1. No movement or exercise is inherently bad or good for you!
2.  Movement or exercises are like drugs, at a certain amount, they can be very beneficial, however if you take too much, they can be highly detrimental!
3.  Your body operates using hundreds of systems coordinating functions together.
4. These systems can grow stronger or weaker depending on how they are used and trained.
5.  Try different modalities of exercise as they all have benefits and they all have detriments.
6.  Find a trainer or movement specialist that "trains the body not the exercise" (quote from an a beloved teacher of mine and a brilliant trainer Mike Smaltz).
7. Finally, if you suck at or hate a certain movement or exercise or modality it probably means you should work on it for a while to bring your limiting factor up to par with all the things you're good at.

Questions, comments, concerns?

-Steve Cornely
Triad Wellness Philly

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Nutrtional Cleanses: Truth & Lies

Nutritional cleanses seem to be all the rage in today's world.  They are popularized by the health and fitness industry as a way to rid the body of “toxins”, lose weight quickly, restore the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut, or just as a general “reset” button for various physiological functions in the body.  
            In this blog I will only tell you the truth and the lies and allow you to make your own decision on whether to do a cleanse!

1.     Your body is constantly working to rid itself of “toxins” and non useful byproducts of various physiological reactions.  It does not need help in doing this.  The best example I have for you is this:  after a night a drinking, all the alcohol is out of your system in 24-48 hours and you feel normal again.  Another example is if you have done drugs at some point in your life, you are still able to pass a drug test at some future point in your life because the body is fully capable of ridding itself of harmful substances without the help any nutritional supplement.
2.     A cleanse generally makes people feel better because they make a DRASTIC LIFESTYLE CHANGE!  Lets face it people generally eat like shit.  Even the people who think they eat healthy are eating like shit because what is considered “food” in our culture is laughable.  Going on a cleanse usually means:
a.     More water/less salt: less bloat=feel and look thinner
b.     Compared to before the cleanse begins, less calories are being ingested.  This means stabilized energy over the course of the day. (Only because people overeat and it makes them sluggish).
c.      Less processed food and more real food
3.     Drastically changing the way we eat is an extremely difficult task.  Eating is a daily habit for humans and create change in what we eat and how much of it is challenging.  However, the fitness industry has led us to believe the rewards are numerous and worth the challenge. 
Indeed, at the end of the cleanse period most people feel an extreme sense of accomplishment.   For some, this is a psychological boost to help us stay on a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately for others, it’s an end to a period of suffering and they run back to McDonalds for a Big Mac and a frosty!  They fall off hard and they feel like a failure and back to the beginning.
4.     The things we eat on a daily basis come from years of habit.  The way to change habits that have become ingrained in us psychologically(emotional eating), physiologically (how our taste buds respond), and evolutionarily (yes, what you eat has been dictated by evolution) is to make small changes over the course of time.  Cleanses are not small changes

1.     Excess vitamins and minerals DO NOT make your body more efficient at clearing toxins.  Your body uses what it needs and pees out the rest.
2.     There is no such thing as healthy vs. unhealthy gut bacteria.  The diet you eat dictates what kind of symbiotic bacteria will live in your gut.  So if you do a cleanse for 4 weeks, yes your gut bacteria will change but as soon as you go off the cleanse, your gut bacteria will again change.  It is impossible to say that every human should have the same make up of gut bacteria and that this mixture of food and supplements will give you that forever!
3.     When most people say they want to lose weight they actually mean, I want to lose fat.   During a cleanse, it is highly unlikely that you are doing that for the following cascade of events is what actually occurs:
a.     Significant calorie reduction
b.     Stress time (starvation mode) for the body
c.      Lose water (less bloat)
d.     Lose fat free mass (muscle mass) because it requires a lot of energy to sustain
e.     Retain fat because fat is a valuable source of stored energy that can help get you through a famine (or any period of time of reduction of calories)
Unfortunately our cultural appreciation for being skinny goes against our evolutionary development as a species to value fat storage as a necessary part of survival!  We tend to hold fat at all costs until the very last moment when energy is absolutely necessary. 
Therefore, if you don’t mind being skin and bones – meaning you don’t care about muscle—go ahead and fast, the number on the scale will drop!
4.     Your body does not have a reset button.  It is constantly adapting to stimulus from the environment.  Change occurs over a period of time (that period of time depends on the system of the body we are talking about) not instantly at the push of a button!

Cleanses do not do much for your body in terms of creating long term physiological change.  Sure, they make us feel skinny and less bloated.  They give our various subsystems of the body a rest (digestive system, endocrine system) from the craziness that occurs from our daily eating habits, and psychologically we feel accomplished and like we are starting a new!  However, most people reach that high and then eventually over the same amount of time the cleanse happened they revert back to old habits.
      I wish that someday people could see that the fit and healthy lifestyle that I try to lead is a choice of daily habits I’ve created for myself.  Much like the daily habit of brushing your teeth, taking it to an extreme for 2 weeks and then not brushing for 2 weeks doesn’t make your teeth any cleaner or healthier in the long run!  The average lifespan of a human Is somewhere around 80 years.  Why do we think that a cleanse for 4 weeks is enough to completely change how our body will operate?!
      I don’t think that cleanses are inherently bad.  They can be used as tools to make us feel better psychologically and get us back on track.  I personally have used them in this way.  For example, on Mondays after a weekend of excessive partying, eating and drinking, I feel better if I only drink water and black coffee for about 12 hours.  Then I typically work out and I go back to eating my normal meal of protein and veggies.
The fitness and health industry is riddled with lies and elixers that promise a better you.  Remember, what you truly want and decide whether a nutritional cleanse could be a useful tool to help you get to your goal.  Use critical thinking skills, ask someone you trust for help, and experiment on yourself without setting such high expectations that lead you to failure.  What most people want is a lifetime of feeling good about your body.  In my opinion, the best way to do this is to create healthy daily habits that are enjoyable and eventually become easy!

Yours in the quest for feeling good!

Steve Cornely
Triad Wellness Philly
ig: stephenjcornely
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