#357 The 90-Day Health Challenge!

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He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

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The 90-Day Health Challenge

By Steve Edwards

Spurred by the company president and P90X® graduate Jon Congdon, Beachbody® has just begun an in-house quest to practice what it preaches. Over 80 percent of the company's employees have signed on for a 90-day health challenge to get in the best shape of their lives. The kitchen's been transformed, you've got to book ahead of time to use the gym, and the employees have replaced their soda and caffeine fixes with Meal Replacement Shake. Let's take a look at what promises to be one of the fittest—if not the fittest—corporate environments in the world.

Jon C. "before" and "after" photos and The 90-Day Health Challenge

"Carl [Daikeler, Beachbody's CEO] and I have always lamented that we can get millions of Americans to exercise, eat right, and change their lives," said Beachbody President Jon Congdon. "But we've never found a way to successfully get it done inside the company. We looked into lots of ways to do it, and this voluntary challenge seems to have struck the right balance. I can't tell you how excited I am, not just that most of the company has joined in, which is great, but even better is the energy and buzz it has created around the office."

Sure enough, on my recent trip to the office, I noticed things had certainly changed. On my visits to Los Angeles, I'm usually so busy that I barely find time to squeeze in a few sets of pull-ups between meetings. This time, however, working out was an important part of everyone's daily checklist. I rode my bike as much this week as I have all year. When I accepted Carl's lunch hour bike ride invite, I thought it was going to be a casual jaunt to the beach. It turned into a time trial to see how many miles we could tick off before his next meeting. Priorities had definitely shifted.

Abney Gil"The 90-Day Challenge appealed to me because I've been waiting for some motivation," said The People Department Director Abney Gil. "After having a baby, your entire life focus changes, and while you'd think you would be super-motivated to stay fit and healthy to take care of a new child, it's very easy to make excuses NOT to take care of yourself. You get run down quickly and stay there. I needed accountability and a starting point."

Jon describes how this challenge began.

"Really, what inspired the company challenge was something that I started with our Top Coaches in Mexico, at the end of March," said Congdon. "I was hanging out with [Coaches] Jason Scheff, Doug Couch, and Pete Peña and remarked that none of us was in quite the shape we wanted to be in at that moment. And I said, 'If you guys don't mind getting your butts kicked, let's do a 90-day challenge and see who's got the stuff!'

"It was basically a little bit of Tequila-induced trash-talking, but something beautiful was born at that moment. A few feet away were Jonathan Gelfand [Beachbody General Counsel] and Jim Saunders [VP of Coach Operations], who wanted in, and by the next morning, our group was over 15 strong. We kept up on our promises when we got home, and a challenge went into full swing. I was loving the energy of the challenge [and] the combination of competition (good-natured), and [the] camaraderie (very good-natured) was inspiring everyone to really go for it. Getting the company to do something similar seemed like a natural extension, perfect really."

Hydrostatic Body Fat Testing MachineCongdon then enlisted Bryan Carney, Manager of Employee Experience, to spearhead the effort. Carney set about the task of organizing and motivating the employees to join the challenge. Beachbody set up free hydrostatic body fat testing for both employees and their families, revamped the gym and the kitchen, and began serving ultra-healthy Friday breakfasts to teach people how they should be eating. Congdon even signed and personally delivered pledge badges to every employee who decided to participate in the challenge.

"Where else can you find a company where the president hand-delivers something to hundreds of employees?" said Carney. "The commitment is over-the-top."

As is the case with Beachbody's Push Play attitude, employees were encouraged to focus on starting the challenge, not the final outcome.

"My goal was to just get started," said Abney. "I wish I could say that my goal was to lose 40 pounds and get chiseled in 90 days, but I've been here before and I know that's not realistic. A year and a half ago, I had just reached a 3-year goal of losing 60 pounds and running a marathon. I know how much dedication and hard work it requires and how taking that first step is the hardest, and ultimately, the most important."

A few weeks into the challenge, Carney upped the ante with a ceremonial "dump the junk" day that took place in Beachbody's main kitchen. Carney dumped all of the processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other junk food items, including Coffee-mate®, and replaced them with natural alternatives like honey, agave nectar, and stevia. Daikeler then gave a short presentation on the health benefits of the change, closing with, "in 10 years, you'll realize the importance of what we're doing today."

Bryan Carney

"Most of the people that originally complained about the lack of artificial sweeteners have come back and said they were wrong," said Carney. "They really like the new healthy ones. In fact, several used the words 'love' in describing them."

Prior to the challenge, finding the time was the crux for most employees. The office is a bustling place, and most days, you'd find the gym empty and people working long past closing time. Priorities needed to shift, none more than for Abney, since she'd recently had a baby.

"I've had to force myself to make time for myself," she admits. "I haven't made huge, drastic changes. I've started watching what I eat and just walking for 20 minutes a day, but I've already lost 8 pounds! I know I'll have to ramp it up soon, and when I need to, I'll have been practicing a little each day to make that happen. When I first decided to commit to the challenge I thought, 'How the heck am I going to find 20 minutes in the day to go walking?' But I've already made it happen by just deciding to do it. Eventually, I'll be P90X'ing, Turbo Jamming, and Rockin' my body back in to shape!"

Carney describes the excitement in the Beachbody air:

"Literally, everyone is talking about it every single day," says Carney. "They talk about what they eat, what supplements to take, how their programs are coming along. There are no more office doldrums. People are talking about bike rides, walks, hikes, dresses they can fit into. I get questions about exercises and diet every day."

Tony HortonTony Horton has held two workout sessions for the employees. Brett Hobel, creator of the new RevAbs™ program (look for it in the coming months!), came last week to work out with the employees too. The response was so enthusiastic that Carney moved the workout outside—the gym proved too small to accommodate all the employees who participated. But Beachbody is still a business, and the challenge will only be a success if the company continues to get its work done. So how is the challenge affecting the work front?

"The difference is crazy," says Carney. "Everyone is talking about their increased energy. One employee came to me telling me that [by] cutting out the soda and drinking more water, he does not have the afternoon 3 PM lull. People are saying that they're communicating better with peers. There is an increased feeling of camaraderie. People are managing their time better and zipping around the office. And we're only in week 4!"

Related Articles
"7 Common Factors of Successful Weight Management"
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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, June 1st, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve Edwards If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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5 Ways to Keep Cortisol Under Control

By Denis Faye

A few years ago, a wave of supplements hit the market vilifying the stress hormone cortisol, claiming that it caused an accumulation of excess fat. While this "fact" helped companies like CortiSlim® sell plenty "cortisol blockers," there was a tiny problem. It's complete hogwash. So let's set the record straight, shall we?

As it turns out, the marketers failed to mention that this fat accumulation only happens if you suffer from a medical condition called Cushing's syndrome, against which the vitamins and herbs in these blockers are no match.

Body and CortiSlim

In 1997, the Federal Trade Commission nailed these companies for false advertising. They had to pay millions to consumers, which is a happy ending of sorts, except no one remembers this part. They just remember Anna Nicole Smith telling us that cortisol—which is actually vital to human survival—will make you fat.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that secretes into the bloodstream from the adrenal glands, primarily in times of stress. It also spikes in the morning, possibly to get you moving, and drops in the evening. New research comes out daily showing health issues that seem tied to a lack of morning cortisol, including chronic fatigue syndrome and Asperger's syndrome.

Cortisol has various tasks. It's instrumental in controlling blood pressure, and it also supplies emergency energy to the body. It does this by decreasing insulin sensitivity and stimulating something called gluconeogenesis, the creation of new glucose from amino acids. Unfortunately, these amino acids come from the breakdown of body proteins through a process known as catabolism. In other words, during times of stress, cortisol aids in breaking down muscle mass for use as energy.

Yeah, I know. Now you hate cortisol, but before you try to chop out your adrenal glands with a butter knife, remember that if you didn't have cortisol, your tweaked blood pressure would induce hypotention and you'd die. Furthermore, there are numerous ways around catabolism.

  1. Limit workout times. Cortisol kicks in after about 45 minutes of hard exercise, so limit the length of your workouts. Many Beachbody workouts, including some P90X workouts, go longer, but when you consider the warm-ups, cooldowns, and breakdowns, the hard bits are well below that number.
  2. Working OutKeep Pushing Play. Eventually, your body will adapt to the fitness regimen of your choice. When your body adapts, your stress level drops and your results skyrocket. So once you start, you want to hang in long enough to get through the adaptive process.
  3. Carb up. Catabolism increases when you don't have enough blood sugar to do the job, so keep your levels up. One trick is to fill your water bottle with P90X Results and Recovery Formula and sip it throughout your workout. Also, given that cortisol is most prevalent in the morning and after a workout, that's also when it's vital to get some carbs in your system.
  4. Rest up. Lack of sleep and general fatigue have been shown to dial up cortisol levels—make sure to get the rest you need. Furthermore, cortisol levels are at their lowest during the deepest stages of sleep. Take advantage of that by getting your full 8 hours of sleep. If you can't sleep for a full night, an afternoon nap will greatly help recovery.
  5. De-stress. It is, after all, a "stress hormone." Chill out! What's the rush, anyway? If you exercise more and eat healthily, your body will fall in line and get thinner, stronger, and healthier. Worrying about it isn't going to help, and now you know it's going to hurt. Relax, enjoy your day, and trust that your workout program, whether it's ChaLEAN Extreme®, Slim in 6®, or any other workout program you choose, will do you right in the end.

Related Articles
"8 Fitness Myths"
"The Truth About Diabetes and Carbs"
"P90X® Results and Recovery Formula: Not Just for After Exercise"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, June 1st, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Denis FayeIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Medical Term IQ!

By Daniel V. Donatelli

It's funny how doctors have a way of saying things that are completely foreign to the rest of us. We say "tomato"; they say "Lycopersicom esculentum." It can lead to a lot of misunderstandings, so it's best to be on top of your medical game when discussing things with your doctor. Match the following technical diagnoses with their more common names.

  1. Myocardial infarction—Heart attack. Heart attacks are no laughing matter. Myocardial infarctions, however, are hilarious. The other day at the gym, this dude staggered up to me and said, "I think I'm having a myocardial infarction." I said to him, "Don't let your wife find out."
  2. Lou GehrigAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis—Lou Gehrig's Disease. Lou Gehrig considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." He must have had a different definition of luck than most people. Being a legendary athlete diagnosed with a pernicious degenerative neurological disorder in your thirties—a disease that makes you eventually die of suffocation because your musculature atrophies to the point you can't even muster the strength to breathe—is some of the worst luck I've ever heard of. And I'm from Cleveland!
  3. Androgenic alopecia—Male-pattern baldness. Speaking of bad luck, I started developing "androgenic alopecia" when I was 16 years old. Consequently, I started noticing some things (when I wasn't crying). For instance, I've noticed that bald white men in the movies and on TV are only allowed to play certain characters: villains, incompetent villain lackeys, angry police officers, creepy guys, and Kojak.
  4. Ishihara Test for Color BlindnessMonochromatism—Color blindness. My roommate is color-blind, and he argues he should qualify for handicapped parking. Funny stuff, but I still feel bad for him. If I couldn't see the difference between green and red, I'd never forgive myself.
  5. Varicella—Chicken pox. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which I believe is also the scientific term for "cooties." And according to the latest studies, the only cure for cooties is to find the disease carrier at recess and rub mud in his or her hair.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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