NOTE: This article is not a substitute for sound medical advice. Please consult your primary care provider for any and all health/wellness relating questions.

The other day, I was talking to a buddy who is wanting to get back in shape. His asking my advice about cardio is what inspired me to write this. This article is an appeal to all to consider shadowboxing as a viable cardio option (either in addition to or in place of running). First and foremost, shadowboxing is more about visualization and creating a mindset of success than weight loss. It creates discipline and gets your mind and body in good shape. It is a great alternative to running. Here’s why:
Shadowboxing is low-impact on your joints, thus eliminating debilitating pain from running.
Shadowboxing also sculpts, tones and develops the upper body in ways that running simply can’t (e.g. developing the major and minor muscles of the upper body and trunk).
Shadowboxing also creates a sense of empowerment and self-confidence- in the case that you would need to, that you could hold your own in a fight. You get a better sweat going in a shorter period of time, plus you can pace yourself a little better in shadowboxing in place of running.

Running has been around since man learned he can get to where he wanted to go faster (or to escape dinosaurs trying to eat him). Running is almost unbeatable in its weight-loss potential. It’s also unmatched in its overall health benefits. Running can…
Strengthens bones and tendons
Improves heart health.
As you can see, both shadowboxing and running have great benefits. In my opinion, both shadowboxing and running can be used to give “the 1-2” to fat and health problems. Or you can use them separately as standalone exercises that will get you in shape. It takes a while and it takes faith in yourself, time to prepare and to begin. Both shadowboxing and running takes guts and mental fortitude. It’s not pretty most of the time. It hurts. It is inherently challenging. It’s not supposed to be easy. Then again, anything worth having or worth fighting for is not going to be easy at all. You can find a few free workouts online if you’re interested, starting with the links below.
In closing, no matter which one you choose, you will be better off if you are active and doing it. You will be better off for making health a priority. For those of you who follow and read my columns, blogs and articles… here it is.
Be disciplined, hungry and humble enough to learn more about you and your body. Don’t rely on articles, gadgets and trends to get it done for you.
Be astute and savvy enough to take workouts and diets and tailor them to your needs. It’s your body… it’s your life. Take ownership of your health.
Reading, doing and preparing are just three of the basics that will help you win in life.



Cutting Carbs Is a BAD IDEA

Ask someone how to lose weight quickly, and chances are, they’ll respond with “cut out carbs.” The reason behind that is the fact that cutting out carbs does cause fast weight loss. But that doesn’t mean fat loss, and cutting out carbs could be causing your health some harm. Fitness Expert Kente Bates gives you the skinny.

There’s no two ways about it, if you get rid of all the bread, pasta and potatoes from your diet, that scale will go down. Add so-called junk food to that restricted list, and the losses will be even greater. If you take it to the extremes of banning even “healthy carbs” like fruits and certain vegetables too, then you’ll drop kilos at a rate of knots.

And voila – all of a sudden you’re a weight loss guru. One guy mocked my assertion on hard work, gleefully and mockingly sneering “cutting carbs is all it boils down to”.

What most on the cutting carbs bandwagon fail to see… while cutting carbs does usually bring about weight loss, this doesn’t necessarily mean fat loss. And no carbs should cost you your good mood and high energy levels.

While there may be instances where you may need to cut down your carbs, there should never be any reason to take them out completely. Low-carb diets aren’t sustainable, and cutting them will end up making you fat.

Let’s look at why.

What are carbs?

We all know what foods contain carbs, but few of us actually know what carbs are – that is, one of the three main macronutrients, the other two being protein and and fat.

Your body uses carbohydrates as its main source of readily available energy. It can use protein and fat to make fuel, but this process takes far longer and is much less efficient. In other words, your muscles, organs and brain love the stuff.

When you eat carbs, they’re either used (more or less) immediately for energy, or they’re stored as glycogen in your muscle cells and liver.

Why a low-carb diet might seem like its working 

Ninety-five per cent of us will have tried cutting carbs before, and within this 95%, almost all of us will have seen weight loss in the first week or so*. While this seems epic, don’t fret – because weight loss isn’t fat loss.


When you cut carbs from your diet, your body turns to its stored carbohydrates (the glycogen in the muscles and liver we mentioned earlier). At any one time, you can have as much as 500 grams of stored glycogen, and each gram of glycogen holds around three grams of water with it. This means if your body has to use up all its glycogen for energy because you’re not eating carbs, you can lose up to two kilos (0.5 kilos from glycogen and 1.5 kilos from water) within a few days. But this is not fat loss.

The general public eat a crap-ton of carbs! Think about it – your typical breakfast might include toast, cereals or juice, sandwiches, wraps or bagels at lunch, plus sugary coffees, chocolate bars and fruit throughout the day, then some kind of starch with dinner. That’s a lot of carbohydrates.

By suddenly cutting these out, you’ll put yourself into a calorie deficit where you’re consuming fewer calories than you burn – and it’s creating a calorie deficit that causes weight loss, not the fact you’re not eating carbs.

The perils of swapping bread and potatoes for butter and pistachios 

Most people who cut carbs replace their starches and sugars with low-carb vegetables and proteins. That’s great. What’s not so great is when a low-carb diet turns into a high-fat diet because you’re swapping out your starches for high-fat foods such as coconut oil, nuts and seeds, avocados and full-fat cheese.


There’s nothing wrong with these foods per se, fats are far more calorie dense than carbs (containing nine calories per gram, whereas carbs have four calories per gram). So swapping out carbs for fats can be surefire way to reverse any calorie deficit and turn it into a surplus, undoing any work.

Two slices of bread, 100 grams of cereal, a medium sweet potato, a banana and a flapjack bar come in at 800 calories altogether. But the same calories from fats is a much smaller volume of food. In fact, 100 grams of mixed nuts and 1 and-a-half tablespoons of olive oil is all you’ll get for the same 800 calories.

The mistake low carbers make is to drastically ramp up their fat intake, and while it’s true you can eat a little more fat if you’re cutting carbs, it’s much easier to over-eat fat than carbs. And if you go into a surplus of calories, you’ll gain fat.

When you add in the fact that you’ll feel like crap for the first week or two of going low carb, and that low-carb diets are insanely difficult to stick to long-term, it’s safe to say that such a drastic approach is not a good one.

Why carbs are crucial

You can survive without any carbs in your diet, but there’s a difference between survival and getting what you want- results.

If you want to lose fat optimally, maintain your strength and energy, and lose weight and keep it off, carbs are critical. That doesn’t mean you can stuff your face with muesli, chips and spaghetti though. You need the right amount of carbs – and preferably at the right times.

How much should you be eating?

Your carb intake should be based on your activity level, as carbs are your main source of energy, the more active you are, the more you need. The best way to do this is to base your carbs off your total calorie intake.

For weight loss, men need roughly 24 to 30 calories per kilo of bodyweight per day, while women need 22 to 26 calories per kilo. The more active you are, the higher your multiplier, so guys training hard four or more times per week for instance should go for 28 to 30 calories per kilo. Within that, you can tweak your carbs to your total calorie intake.

While no food should ever be banned completely, it makes sense to choose more nutrient-dense carbs and ones that are higher in fiber – so whole-grains like brown rice and quinoa – as well as white and sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables. These should make up at least 80% of your carb intake, then you can have 20% leeway for more junk-style carbs.

Carbs can be eaten at any time, but for optimal results, eat most around your workouts. Before training they’ll be used for energy so you get a better session, and post-workout they aid recovery.

Carbs: your new best friend 

You will lose weight on a low-carb diet (at least in the first few days, which includes a large portion of water). But that alone doesn’t make this the best dieting approach. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy to gain fat when going low-carb, plus you’ll feel tired, irritable and hungry, all of which mean a low-carb diet isn’t only unnecessary, but potentially damaging to your long-term health and fat loss too.

Look at carbs as a macronutrient that will need manipulating from time to time, depending on your goals and activities. Don’t jump on the bandwagon of quick weight loss- always think for yourself. Get to know your body and what works best for it. Are you on the go all the time, training hard virtually every day and looking to get stronger and build muscle? Then carb up!! Carbs are not a bad thing!!

Are you on a fat loss quest, a little on the lighter side, and maybe not so active day-to-day? You can still eat carbs, you just may want to ease back on them slightly.

As always, the extreme approach doesn’t work. What works is a method that’s based on you – your goals, your body type, and your preferences. Knowing your body, label reading and hard work to achieve your goals are the way to win. These are the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!

Flu Season 2017-18: Stats and What to do About It

In the spirit of “The Total Self”, this article is all about health. The following stats and figures are from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA), Plus I throw in some pointers on how to avoid the flu this year.

NOTE: This article is not a substitute for sound medical advice. Please consult with your primary care provider for any and all medical or health issues.

This flu season has been one of the more brutal ones in recent memory. Maybe you got the flu shot and it didn’t affect you. You may have been among the many who swear against the flu shot and you didn’t get sick. In any case, here are a few statistics on the 2017-18 flu season compiled by the CDC:

  • Only 2 of 5 Americans in the U.S. received the flu shot by early November 2017.
  • 6% of all persons 6 months and up received the flu shot.
  • 8% of all children 6 mths-17 years old received the flu shot.
  • 5% of all adults 18 and up received the flu shot.

Among children, flu vaccinations were similar across the board of all racial/ethnic groups with one exception- non-Hispanic children of other/multiple races had higher flu vaccination coverage than non-Hispanic Black children.

  • Among adults 18-49, vaccinations decreased by 3.7% in the 2017-18 flu season compared to the same period of time in the 2016-17 flu season.
  • Among Hispanics, vaccinations decreased by 7.7% in 2017-18 compared to 2016-17.
  • Unvaccinated people are at a higher risk of contracting the flu virus and transmitting the virus to others, some of who are at risk of having the flu/severe illness.
  • 3 of every 5 people 6 months and over in the U.S. were not vaccinated by early November 2017.

Here are statistics on mortality rates due to the flu:

  • A total of 101 influenza-related deaths in children occurred throughout the 2016-2017 flu season, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the first time since the 2014-2015 season that the number has exceeded 100.
  • Each year, between 4,000 and 50,000 people are specifically killed by influenza, and most commonly it’s caused from a variation of an influenza A strain virus.
  • Influenza B strains tend to occur later in the season and be of the more mild variety.
  • Influenza claims between 3000 and 49,000 lives annually.
  • Over 10 billion USD is spent yearly combatting and treating the flu.


With these statistics, what can be done about this? Here are a few pointers to help you not get sick:

  • Your body needs sleep. Your immune system will not function properly without proper rest.
  • Eating healthier. Your body needs the proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals to ward off the flu.
  • Water Intake. Increasing water intake is crucial. During the winter months, water intake falls precipitously. Go beyond the government-recommended 8 glasses of water per day. (I would estimate a healthy 200-lb adult male would need at least 12-15 glasses of water daily). Alternately, try snaking on water-based foods also to keep hydrated.


In closing, and I am sure you’ve seen this already by now- the flu is no joke. This flu season has been brutal! Stay healthy people. Optimum health is fundamental to a vibrant life.

Staying healthy is a huge part of the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN.





Depression in Humans: What are the differences and HOW to defeat it



Is depression different amongst humans, whether they be male, female or nonbinary? In so many words, yes. As far as symptom patterns tend to play out, they will usually fall in line with the two major genders. For women, the symptoms are more readily visible (i.e. crying, overeating) as for men, the symptoms are more subdued (i.e. working to excess, drinking/abusing drugs, working out to excess). In any case, the symptoms of depression may in fact hit men harder due to lifestyle choices and extracurricular activities.

Here are the top 5 signs of depression for men:

  • Self-medication (abuse of controlled substances, abuse of alcohol and abuse of medications)
  • Escapism (working more, working out to excess, retreating into more ‘childlike’ pastimes such as video gaming, LARP, etc)
  • Irritability
  • Risk-taking becoming a regular part of life (reckless driving, driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol)
  • Becoming controlling, violent and/or abusive



Studies show that women are 3X as likely than men to be diagnosed with depression than men are and are at least 2X as likely to seek treatment for it. Here is a list of the top 7 causes/triggers for depression in women:


  • Puberty (biological and social fallout from it- not fitting in, body image, etc)
  • Premenstrual difficulty
  • Pregnancy
  • Postpartum depression
  • Perimenopause/menopause
  • Trials and tribulations of life itself
  • Accompanying conditions of depression (anxiety, substance abuse and/or eating disorders)


Why the differences?


Obviously with traditional gender roles for the main two genders being as they are, women are afforded more avenues to get help and to communicate their feelings. Men are taught to “man up”, to be “strong” and to shun help. For men, them seeking help is often a result of not being able to function correctly (in some cases not at all) as the symptoms of depression interfere with life itself.


What to do about it


Whether you’re male, female, nonbinary or anywhere within the gender spectrum, the treatment for depression is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Please know that it will take some research, patience and working with your mental health provider to develop the action plan to defeat depression. You and your mental health provider will have to figure out what works and what doesn’t work moving forward. As for the side effects of the medication(s), most of the side effects will go away on their own, usually within the first 3-6 weeks of taking them. As always, listen to your body and alert your mental health provider in lieu of any complications.




Gorman, J.M. “Gender Differences in depression and response to psychotropic medication”. Gender medicine 3.2 (2006): 93-109

Winkler, Dietmar et al. “Gender-specific symptoms of depression and anger attacks”. The Journal of Men’s Health & Gender 3.1 (March 2006): 19-24

“Male Depression: Understanding the Issues”. Mayo Clinic (2013)

“Depression In Women: Understanding the Gender Gap”. Mayo Clinic (2016


In keeping with The Total Self, this article is a continuation of an earlier article I have written about this topic.I have spoken about mental toughness on, my own blogs and other social media platforms. I have given speeches about this also. The number one thing I believe that is holding people back in life other than broken focus and a solid plan (plus the willingness to execute) is a lack of mental toughness. It is not necessarily a bad thing that most people are not “hard”. You need people who are a tad softer, normal people in this world. This world would be in bad shape if it were just “Type As” all over the place. But you can learn from the Type A. Learn how to not let things stop you, how not to be a victim, and how not to allow things that have tormented you for years have any more control over you.
Mental Toughness has many definitions and is not limited to athletic performance and pain tolerance. I have known many men and women throughout my life who I would define as “mentally tough”. From an 85 year old gardener to a high school football friend, who it seemed neither ever had a bad day. Much of mental toughness is simply attitude and self-determination. If you do a quick search online on the subject, you will see a variety of mental toughness techniques, articles, stories of remarkable physical performances to brave acts of heroism overcoming insurmountable odds and fear.
On a personal note, mental toughness is a way of life. It is quite simple to me. To not allow any voices, anyone or anything to stand in the way of my goals. To be able to withstand setbacks, controvesy and many other troubles that life throws our way.

For the purposes of this site and its readers, I will also say that through somewhat challenging workouts and introspection and study of this topic, you will cultivate a mentally tough mindset. Again, my philosophy works for ME. As I have often said in my articles, take what’s said and make it work for you. For example minutes of non stop punching in a boxer’s case. In my case, heavy lifting and running for miles will create increased energy levels and an increased pain tolerance through training in the pain zone. You really have to get the body to know what pain is so you can endure it longer. PAIN is not injury, but if you push too hard through pain you will be setting up for injury, so knowing your training limits is necessary as well. Studying mental toughness (or at least how others go over) will shed some light on what you may be lacking. On the days when you feel like crap and you have to WILL yourself to go to work or to hit the gym. THAT too is mental toughness. Persistence and determination are all factors as well. Other terms used to describe mental toughness is inspiration, self-motivation and confidence.


There are many examples of those who bring themselves out of horrible childhoods of poverty, neglect, and illness to become heroes, mentors, millionaires, and presidents. That takes mental toughness in MY book.

Mental Toughness! How do you get it? Are you born with it? Can you acquire it? Arguments to this question have occurred long before our modern world came about. I am of the opinion that through tough physical training, proper mindset, and a high level of maturity that mental toughness is born. This toughness is what propels you through the storms of life and all that brings How do you get that?

Take for example, the Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong. He had endured one of the toughest diseases by beating testicular cancer. After his battle with cancer, he came back mentally tougher and was once considered the greatest cyclist ever. Maybe he had it all along, who knows? Mental toughness is not measurable and is completely internal. But I believe hard work will get you there. When Lance Armstrong was asked by reporters “What are you on?” referring to performance enhancing drugs. Lance stated, “I am on my BIKE – busting my hump (paraphrased)for 6-8 hours a day!!”

So the question is do you get mental toughness by attending special workshops, or by being in the military/police or by playing sports? Is it by going through hard situations in life and learning from them? I would say the answer is a comination of all that. You can definitely become mentally tough by training and overcoming the trials and tribulations life brings, but ultimately it will be by the determination you make to be unstoppable and make the world a product of you.

I have seen a lot of people not win at life due to cracking under pressure. These daily gut checks that tend to make cowards of us all is something to behold. The pressures we all face tend to beat us down, and send us to our breaking points- that will cause us to lose focus and that’s how we fail. Not because of lack of talent, but because of broken focus. The break in focus becomes a turning point in your struggle/campaign.
This is the biggest difference in those who win in life and who do not. Everyone will have their nemesis or weakness. The key is to BECOME someone who rises to the occasion. Someone who will plow right through very arduous situations and come out with their heads held high. To deal with setbacks and not let them affect you.
In closing, I would like to say that Mental Toughness is definitely one of the basics. One of the master keys to winning in life. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!!