Better Man

*The title of this post was taken from the Pearl Jam song of the same name*

When my son, Jackson, was about to be baptized in the Catholic church, I went to my Dad to get a better understanding of what that all meant.

For the record, I grew up as something of a denominational mutt. My mother was raised Southern Baptist. My father was Catholic, raised by a Catholic father and a mother who was born in a non-practicing German Jewish family. After she served in the camps in WWII, she changed to Catholic to marry my Opa. Since my mother opted to not switch from Baptist to Catholic, a Baptist church in my hometown of Tennessee recognized their marriage in 1974.

Since we moved around so much due to my father’s career trajectory with Goodyear, we would attend Sunday services at any church where my parents felt the most connection. This led us to everything between Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and non-denominational churches over the years. During college, I fell out with the traditional mold of churchgoers and felt the need to distance myself for the time being.

My father, who was always fascinated with different religions, beliefs and cultures would frequently read about how others viewed their faith. As a result, I was raised in a family who taught me tolerance and what I believe was a desire to want to appreciate other’s differences rather than stay at arms distance because they were different than me.

So, my Dad bought me a book called Rediscover Catholicism.

One of the greatest takeaways from it was the notion of becoming the best version of yourself. This was something that resonated deeply with me because prior to that time, I would have hardly said I was living that way.

My father resembled everything that was great to me. He was kind, loving, compassionate, interested in nearly everything and could easily have spoken to a stranger about a myriad of topics. He showed me how a gentleman should behave, how a husband should treat his wife and how a father should raise his child.

Looking back, there is hardly a lesson I could have learned that my father didn’t try to teach me. My biggest regret, was mostly being too stubborn or disinterested to learn them so that he could see more of the man he wanted me to be while he was still alive.

March 23 will be seven years since he passed away and I am still aching with this regret.

That the man who gave me so much, sacrificed so much, asked for so little in return was shown gratitude by a child who was often too self-absorbed, defiant and distracted to pay attention.

At the risk of painting too bleak a picture, I loved my father more than I know how to express. We had amazing times together, he was my biggest fan and all he ever wanted was to see me (and my mother) happy.

My father truly believed in the concept of being the best version of you. And I know that because he lived it every day.

So, while I kick myself frequently for not being enough or showing enough of that while he was alive, I know that my Dad left this world knowing how much I adored him and looked up to him and he got to see me with Marissa (who I would marry after his passing) and he got to see me as a father.

As for being the best me?

For whatever distance I put between myself and the church, I believe there is a Heaven that holds my Dad. I do everything I can to be the man he wanted me to be because there is a lingering feeling that he’s watching me and I desperately don’t want to let him down now. That has not been a faultless journey but I do continue to work on it.

If I’m wrong and there is no Heaven, then I can find comfort in the fact that I spent the rest of my days trying to fill and fulfill the role he wanted me to have in this world.

I’ll live in a way that is closer to what I believe I should be so that, maybe someday, when my time has come, I can join him up there.

My father remains my north star. And for my mother as well.

It is my hope that you don’t have to lose someone you love as much as I loved him to realize your best version of you. You can be that person on any day and for any reason.

Because you deserve that for yourself.

Your family deserves to see it.

Your friends deserve to experience it.

And you’ve got one life to accomplish it with.

IMG_0428 (2)

Revolutionary You! #111-BONUS-Jeb Stuart Johnston: Becoming Brooklyn Strong

I am happy to have Jeb Stuart Johnston join me this week for a special bonus episode so you can be among the first to hear about and purchase his new book “Becoming Brooklyn Strong” on Amazon.com We talk about his motivations for writing the book and why he felt now was the best time to release it. I was privy to an advance copy of this and really loved Jeb’s approach to not only how he wrote the book but his philosophies on diet and training. To learn more about Jeb’s work, visit http://www.jebjohnston.com To learn more about your host, visit http://www.jasonleenaarts.com and like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryou Download, subscribe, share with your friends and please take a moment to leave us an iTunes review.

iTunes OR Stitcher OR iHeartRadio

revolutionary-you

Revolutionary You! #110-Julie Slowiak: Aligning Values To Goals

Behavioral scientist, Julie Slowiak, joins me in this week’s episode. She discusses her work as Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Minnesota Duluth and founder of InJewel LLC. We tackle the subject of aligning health goals to our values and why this is so important for the success we want to achieve. In spirit of many episodes of this show where the “deeper why” is covered, Julie has a fresh perspective on making sure that what resonates with us as individuals drives the actions we need to reach our goals. To learn more about Julie’s work, visit http://www.injewelcoaching.com To learn more about your host, visit http://www.jasonleenaarts.com and like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryou Download, subscribe, share with your friends and please take a moment to leave us an iTunes review.

iTunes OR Stitcher OR iHeartRadio

revolutionary-you

A Change Is Gonna Come

*The title of this post was taken from the Sam Cooke song of the same name*

Are your social gatherings and business trips getting in the way of your weight loss goals?

I can assure you, you are not alone.

Many of our clients are busy, working professionals. They attend charity events, business luncheons, and are frequently called upon to travel in-state and out-of-state to fulfill their job responsibilities. As you can imagine, this type of schedule can make it difficult to adhere to a diet plan.

Over the years, I’ve found a handful of strategies that can work well to keep you closer to your goals. These are by no means exhaustive but a place to start if you find that your work is getting in the way of your health.

Pack calorie controlled snacks. This can include meal replacement bars, protein powders, fruits (apples, bananas, oranges), jerky (beef, turkey, seitan), etc. If you’re flying, you may have to purchase these types of items at the airport as opposed to bringing them through security in your carry-on luggage.

Schedule your workouts. If you plan to get a workout in (strength training or endurance/cardio work), you may be less inclined to go off the grid with your diet. This applies whether you are at the mercy of a business luncheon or in a hotel. Making a commitment to your exercise can be a good mental cue to not let the diet get off track for the day either. As many of us are bound to our schedules and itineraries, if you see your workout scheduled for the day, it can be the positive reinforcement you need to keep priorities in place.

-Know Your Menu. You may have advance notice of the menu at any luncheon, dinner or charity event you attend. Start looking at it ahead of time so you know how to navigate the selections without letting hunger guide you once you arrive. Appetizers, alcoholic beverages, bread baskets, etc. can lead to excessive calories that weren’t previously budgeted for. If you can start telling yourself what you plan to have before you get to your destination, the decision making gets easier when you have to choose your meal.

-When In Doubt, Opt Out. Sometimes, the safest option you can go for is something heavy in lean proteins (chicken, turkey, fish, tofu) and heavy in vegetables that aren’t drowning in sauces, oils and dressings. This can include options like grilled chicken breasts with a side of steamed broccoli or a salad with dressing on the side and no cheese (which can add hundreds of calories alone.) Never be afraid to ask for substitutes of menu items or to see what preparation options are available for your meals. Just because something isn’t on the menu doesn’t mean it can’t be requested. Most importantly, if things like french fries are trigger foods for you, subbing out with something that is “safer” for you may be your best bet.

-Shrug Off The Saboteurs. It rarely fails, you’ll have the colleague or friend who sees your best efforts to eat right and teases you with questions like “Are you on a diet?” or “Are you sure you don’t want just ONE?” One of my favorite responses to this came from a former client, Mark who said “I’m not on a diet, I’m training.” To which his friends asked, “Training for what?” His response, “Training to get off my medications.” Reframing your mission so others understand where you’re coming from can keep you from making impulsive diet decisions because those around you aren’t on the same journey.

-If You Can’t Change The Circumstances, Change Your Actions. For many people, they just can’t escape the fact their jobs aren’t ideal environments for a healthy lifestyle. Rather than assume that the job will automatically require less travel or fewer luncheons someday, learn how to control your environment and behaviors so these job characteristics are less of a distraction. There will always be holidays, birthdays, and social gatherings to get in the way. Success comes from planning for, around and through them NOT by assuming they will adapt for us.

As with so many things regarding our health, fitness, nutrition and goals, change starts from within. Once we accept that, it becomes easier to plan accordingly with the external distractions that could otherwise derail us.

28700758_1820592191286641_7056760021744949033_o

 

Revolutionary You! #109-Ross Leppala: Mindset Strategies

I am joined this week by Reactive Training Systems Coach and elite powerlifter, Ross Leppala. Ross and I discuss simple and effective strategies for harnessing your mindset and preparing for success. In this, you’ll hear his thoughts on the power of visualization, underestimated power of gratitude and more. To learn more about Ross’s work connect with him on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/ross_RTS To learn more about your host, visit http://www.jasonleenaarts.com and like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryou Download, subscribe, share with your friends and please take a moment to leave us an iTunes review.

iTunes OR Stitcher OR iHeartRadio

revolutionary-you

Getting Better

*The title of this post was taken from the Beatles song of the same name*

Are you simply showing up or are you improving?

Sometimes the act of progress is being able to say “I did that” today and check it off the list. But sometimes, active improvement is what helps you take things to another level.

Late last year, I wrote a post about my new interest in cooking.

Around Christmas, my wife Marissa was considering looking into cooking lessons for me since I had taken such a liking to it. Because my schedule is so difficult to predict, it wasn’t easy for her to find something that would work for me.

Then I remembered that we have a client (Mary) who taught cooking classes locally for over 20 years. I asked her if she still offered lessons and thankfully she does. Now, Mary teaches out of her home.

We set up a time to get together and she asked me ahead of time, what I wanted to get better at. I told her that my first priority was getting faster at food prep. Her suggestion: work on my knife skills.

So, here I was, several months after finding a love of cooking going back to square one just to learn how to cut properly. However, it was more than that. It was learning how to hold the knife, why a 10-inch blade might be better than an 8-inch blade (size matters, as they say), how to hold my non-cutting hand, cutting board recommendations, more effective ways to cut vegetables, herbs, and tougher foods like parsnips all while we worked together to make an amazing turkey chili that would not only feed her family for the evening but mine as well. This took us just shy of two hours.

Personally, it was fascinating. I loved every minute of it. I have found cooking to be almost zen-like for me. I love being able to touch the food that will soon be my meal (beyond say, putting together a sandwich) and being immersed in the smells while everything is cooking.

But more than this, I love being in the infancy of learning things. I knew I had a lot to learn and in many cases, unlearn, and Mary was an awesome teacher.

While it’s going to take me some time to reach a fraction of Mary’s level, I can already tell that my prep time has decreased. A future step will be to graduate from my current 8-inch blade to a 10-inch that will have a long life of usage (good ones run over $100.)

Like so many things, I love the parallel this has to your health journey. For one, learning how to be a faster cook at home can put you back in control of portions and the calories you might be consuming. When you’re not at the mercy of restaurants, your waistline normally will benefit from the change.

Cooking aside, there’s a process one could get lost in with exercise where it’s less about loving the act of exercise (something I even find a chore) and more about finding a desire to move better, or to learn the idiosyncrasies of why your body moves a certain way.

Speaking for myself, I love seeing progress of any kind. Not just for me but thriving on the progress of clients as well. Watching people get stronger, faster, leaner, more intuitive in how they navigate their diets, more confident in how they treat their bodies is awe-inspiring.

Maybe you’ll take the step to get better at something that would make life or health easier for you. Sometimes it requires the help of others (as Mary has done for me) and sometimes it’s just about digging deeper within ourselves to say: “I have the tools, I know what to do.”

And doing it. 28337601_1811970442148816_8412067613332138116_o

 

 

 

Revolutionary You! #108-Heather Robertson: One Pound At A Time

Late last year, I was interviewed by Heather Robertson for her Half Size Me podcast. The episode was released earlier this year. Because I have so much respect for Heather and her work with her Half Size Me community, I knew I had to bring her on to not only share her personal story of how she has successfully kept her weight off but has continued to inspire others. If you are on a weight loss journey yourself or know someone who is, I cannot encourage you to listen to this episode enough. In addition, her show is excellent and a highly recommended listen. You can learn more about Heather at http://www.halfsizeme.com To learn more about your host, check out http://www.jasonleenaarts.com and like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryou Download, subscribe, share with your friends and please take a moment to leave us an iTunes review.

iTunes OR Stitcher OR iHeartRadio

revolutionary-you

50,000 Downloads Can’t Be Wrong

*The title of this post was inspired by The Fall album of a similar name*

Last week, upon the release of episode 107 with Mark Young, my podcast Revolutionary You! reached a milestone of 50,000 downloads. Depending on your perspective, that’s either a large or small number.

For me, it’s very special.

When I started the show, it was with the goal of not only learning more from the people in the fitness, health and nutrition industries who inspired me but to spread that word to as many people as I could organically.

So over the nearly two years since I started it, I’ve had no paid advertising nor have I accepted sponsorships to promote any brands on the show.

The show has grown little by little on the strength of my guests and those listeners who took time out of their day to share the episodes that had the most impact on them.

For that, I am extremely grateful.

Each week, I have been proud to present the very best people that I can get access to so that you, the listener, can hear the most realistic, educated, and forthright information that I can give you.

And very little has been off limits.

With the permission and candor of my guests, we have gone far beyond exercise and food into more sensitive topics like depression, suicide, addiction, sexual abuse and more.

And while those topics aren’t discussed with every episode, they are many of the topics I have been most proud to unveil because they remove the filter from the journey of self-improvement into the sometimes harsh realities of what many of us have to overcome and manage to see brighter days.

The show has been a true labor of love for me. I make no direct money by releasing it. It is my hope that it stands as a lasting testament of truly great people in my industry who I want to reach the masses.

I am anxiously looking forward to where the next 50,000 downloads leads us.

Thus far, it has been one of the greatest and most rewarding of my professional achievements and it is 100% free for you to consume at your leisure.

If you are an Apple user, you can download episodes HERE and if you are a Droid user, episodes can be found HERE. Or simply type Revolutionary You into your podcast app of choice and we should come up.

I am immensely grateful to all of you who made this milestone possible. I hope you have been equally inspired and called to action by my amazing guests.

Thank you for being a part of the ride.

And on the note of inspiration, I wanted to wrap this up with a picture of our resident “King Richard”, the 78-year young wonder who just pulled a 270lb PR last week in his traplift.

28235114_1807251299287397_860728353605582422_o

 

 

Revolutionary You! #107: Mark Young-Christ Centered Fitness

I am joined this week by none other than Mark Young, the head of Christ Centered Fitness. As spirituality is something that has only recently been touched on during the tenure of the show, Mark discusses why it was important to separate himself from the crowd and focus on faith-based fitness. We talk about some of the struggles clients might go through through the lens of spirituality and how they can still succeed on their health and wellness journey. To learn more about Mark’s work, connect with him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/christcenteredfitness To learn more about your host, visit http://www.jasonleenaarts.com and like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/revolutionaryou Download, subscribe, share with your friends and please take a moment to leave us an iTunes review.

iTunes OR Stitcher OR iHeartRadio

revolutionary-you

Being Simple

*The title of this post was taken from the Judybats song of the same name*

I have a client who I will refer to as Jane.

When we did our initial consultation, Jane requested that she not know or see what her scale weight was. Historically, I have not seen great results occur when clients prefer to go this route.

In my opinion, it removes a degree of accountability from the equation and can foster a certain sense of denial. Weight loss tends to succeed when we can face the obstacles head on and say “Ok, this is my starting point. Now I know what I’m up against.”

However, Jane did not want to know so I kept a log of her weigh-ins as a reference point. At certain points, she was comfortable discussing whether weight was up or down in relation to the previous weigh in but the door wasn’t always open for this either.

Along the way, we kept the conversation open to what was happening with food. Jane would be forthcoming and say whether she felt that she ate well over the weekend or not and sometimes she would mention that she had been more consistent with making better food choices.

We kept talking about strategies for eating appropriately for the goal and ways to navigate the weekend when the diet has greater potential to get messy.

Since weight loss has been moving at a slower pace than I think either of us wanted, it gave us time to just talk about habits, dietary patterns and maneuvering through life without letting guilt or shame dictate the end result.

Jane would frequently comment that she felt she had a terrible metabolism and poor genetics for weight loss. I would routinely push back against this notion and kindly say that neither of those would win in a battle against the right caloric intake.

And  a few weeks ago, we started talking about food in a different way. Jane had not really been tracking or using a journal but she started to develop a different mindset to her diet. You could see that something was starting to click.

We even started simplifying what a meal could look like so that she could focus on 3 meals set at an approximate amount. She could then change out meals that met the same caloric goal. She opted for some smoothie options for breakfast and started finding places where she could eat smaller portions in her other meals to hit the same numbers also.

She hasn’t been punishing herself with ruthless bouts of cardio and we rarely have a discussion about how much weight she’s lifting, how much she should be sweating, or how many calories she needs to burn in a given workout.

Jane has just been carefully nudging the needle across the spectrum and hit a new low in weight loss last week.

Many people make weight loss more complicated than it needs to be. While Jane’s path looks different than I would have wanted it to look, this was ultimately about what works for Jane, NOT what works for Jason. Jane is married with a family and a job. Her path needs to only make sense to her.

So, while the road has been unorthodox, Jane has found a simple path to success. One that won’t be hindered by the thought of poor genetics or a sluggish metabolism.

She has also found success despite not gluing herself to a treadmill or agonizing over fad supplements and diet trends. Her road to success has been paved through a non-judgmental look at meals, a consistent workout regimen that doesn’t beat her body up and a fresh perspective on what the end game can look like.

Are you ready to simplify your road to success?

27709519_1792765267402667_6011815287518944420_o