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Do You Have To Practice Meditation To Live A Happier And Healthier Life?

January 20, 2018

The idea of meditation makes total sense to me. There’s science that’s proven its value. Adding more calmness and stillness to one’s life is absolutely something that I believe is important. Yet, I’ve never downloaded a meditation app, I’ve only tried meditating (in conventional ways) a few times, and I’ve always felt a tinge of guilt about not having a meditation practice.

Let’s be honest, we all want to feel happier on a day-to-day basis. Everyone could enjoy any additional percentage points of happiness in their lives.

So why don’t I just shut up and meditate (and why don’t you?)

While you may have thought the revelation-on-the-mountaintop would come at the end of this story, it’s actually going to happen right now…

I actually do have a daily meditation practice—it’s just not conventional.

I don’t sit cross-legged on the floor.
I don’t focus on my breathing.
I don’t wear super baggy clothing (that’s more just a fashion choice these days).

But I do consider it meditation. What’s more, you might already have a meditation practice, too.

You see, here’s the funny thing about life as a human being. You don’t have to subscribe to anyone else’s definition of anything. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I’m living the best life I can for myself when I’m doing things differently and on my terms.

I can feel a churning in my gut whenever I’m told I’m supposed to do something in a certain way. It honestly feels like part of my body is being torn away if I’m forced to do something a certain way. Call it a resistance to any authority ever, or just call it my own biology, but I know that’s what holds me back from conventional meditation practices.

Let’s discuss the point of meditation for a moment…

From some extensive Googling, almost every resource I could find that explained “why you should meditate” touched on these outcomes:

  • You’ll sleep better
  • You’ll have less overall stress
  • You’ll eat a more mindful diet (less stress or binge eating)
  • You’ll be able to reduce pain and heal faster
  • You’ll be able to beat anxiety or general worrying
  • You’ll smile more
  • You’ll have a more relaxed outlook on all things
  • You’ll enhance your love life
  • You’ll feel more successful and achieve more goals

These things are FANTASTIC. We should all strive for improvements in these nine areas of our lives (and probably way more). But, who says we can’t improve those things and get the same benefits with non-standard forms of meditation?

Do we have to feel guilty if we don’t want to meditate in the common ways in which meditation is respected? Is it possible we can get similar benefits and amazing results even if we take a different approach?

I should mention that I have absolutely nothing against widely accepted meditation practices, and there are apparently thousands of ways you can meditate. From another quick Google search, you’ll find that I’m definitely not the only one customizing meditation in a way that works for me. If you’re looking for a new way to tackle your life and business, meditation of some kind may be the answer you’ve been looking for! I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for the Headspace app (and their design is beeeeautiful!).

Headspace App

But what does it mean to meditate, anyway?

I wonder sometimes if the thing that scares people (like me) off from meditation, or prevents them from keeping it up consistently, is some arbitrary idea about the “right” way to do it. In many ways, this is the same limiting belief that will prevent people from all kinds of things: taking risks, quitting their businesses, worrying about competition, whatever.

But if you look at the dictionary definition of meditate, which I did just for you, it might surprise you: Merriam-Webster says that to meditate is simply “to engage in contemplation or reflection.” That’s it. It doesn’t mention incense, saying “Om,” or wearing head to toe Lululemon (although, I looooove my Lululemon pants #sorrynotsorry). That’s one way to do it, but it’s not the only way.

Coming to that realization has opened a whole lot of doors for me, and maybe for you, too.

Where did I create my own form of non-conventional meditation to feel happier and healthier on a daily basis?

Answer: My weird morning ritual. I’ll let you read about my weird morning ritual in its entirety if you like (and the story of how it came to be), but here’s the part of my weird morning ritual that has become my own form of mediation:

Every morning of my life I handcraft a cup of coffee while doing nothing else. I get the water boiling. I carefully measure the amount of beans (50 grams). I freshly grind the beans. When the water is done boiling I rinse the unbleached paper filter while also warming the Chemex coffee maker. I pour the fresh coffee grounds in the filter and saturate with 100 grams of water for 30 seconds. Then I start a 3-4 minute “brewing” process where I add 600 grams of water. I do nothing else during this 7-10 minute process until I have a gloriously delicious steaming cup of meticulously made coffee.

This is my meditation. This is the thing I do on a daily basis, no matter what, that lets my mind wander free of any other thoughts. This is the time of my day that I have all to myself and I’ve enjoyed the benefits of this “practice” for years.

Jason Zook Chemex Coffee

(Also, let it be known I never have my phone near me while I’m making my morning coffee. That time is free of all technology.)

I’ve been doing this morning ritual since 2014, and I can directly tie improving all nine of the meditation benefits listed above to it. Sure, there are many other things in my life I’ve done since 2014 besides making coffee that have helped me become happier and healthier, but couldn’t you say the same thing if you’re meditating in the widely accepted ways people meditate?


How you can create mental space and a calming daily habit

You don’t need a fancy pillow. You don’t need the perfectly lit room. You don’t need any special beads. You don’t need any apps. You just need to spend time every day allowing your brain to rest in whatever way works best for you (then rinse, and repeat – hah, you catch that coffee filter rinsing joke there?? Yeah you did.)

Please, by all means, try any of the more commonly used meditation practices: Transcendental Meditation, Heart Rhythm Meditation, Kundalini, Guided Visualization, Qi Gong, Zazen, or grab the Headspace or Calm apps. If they work for you, awesome. I’d love to hear about it. If they don’t, shrug it off and try something else.

You don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t meditate like everyone else. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it is proven that intentional quiet space for mind increases your happiness and your health.

Namaste.

(Just kidding. Or not?)

90-Day Challenge: COMPLETED! How I Lost 44 Pounds and 15% Body Fat in 90 Days

August 29, 2012

It is with a ton of excitement that I introduce you to the completely reinvented Jason Zook! After turning 30 years old and being upset with the way I looked/felt, I embarked on a 90-Day Challenge.

I lost 44 pounds, nearly 15% body fat, and 6″ off my waist in just 90 days.

Let’s not waste any time, here are comparison photos of what I looked like at the beginning of my 90-day challenge: From the front, back and side. The photos below have not been edited whatsoever and were taken on a Canon T4i by my loving wife, Caroline.

Jason Zook Front Before After

Jason Zook Side Before After

Jason Zook Back Before After

Jason Zook Day 90 Stats
 

HOLY CRAP, RIGHT!?

I can distinctly remember taking the before photos and thinking, “I’m out of shape, but it’s not that bad…” But with the comparison photos, it really shows how out of shape I let myself get over the years. My posture was suffering, my bathing suit was about to pop off at any given moment, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much better I felt at the end of the challenge! Well actually, I can:

 


Why Did I Do A 90-Day Challenge In The First Place?

First and foremost I’d like to admit to you that I used to be in pretty good shape in my 20s. I played basketball at the collegiate level in the early 2000s, but those days were left behind when I tore both ACLs in my knees. I used to be a gym rat when I worked a normal 9-5 job in 2004-2007, but when I started my IWearYourShirt business in 2009, fitness and nutrition took a backseat.

I thought I knew what eating healthy was, I thought I knew what a good workout was, and it’s obvious that I was wrong and let those things slip away.

Almost everyone has seen a friend do some sort of health and fitness challenge, and heck, I have to say I was super inspired when I read David Siteman Garland’s 90-Day Transformation. I figured if 90 days was working for lots of other people, it wouldn’t hurt to try it for myself. I had just turned 30 years old (May 15, 2012) and knew I wanted to do something to get back in shape.

It all started with a public declaration: I sent out a tweet that I was fed up and I put a post on Facebook that said I was determined to take action.

Shortly after my virtual proclamations, a previous business client named Tyler Ford emailed me. Tyler, and his awesome wife Mimi, were Body by Vi coaches, but had no interest in trying to sell me on anything. Tyler wanted to help me set goals for myself, have supplements/products at my disposal and be a coach in my corner to cheer me on. After an hour on the phone I was even more excited to get started, and Tyler and Mimi Ford were going to be my official 90-Day Challenge sponsors (what can I sponsor next, right??).

I had 90 days to change my thought process about food, to structure my day around exercise, and to lose weight and get back in shape.

Was it hard? Absolutely. Were there times I wanted to give up? Of course. Am I glad I stuck with it? HELL YES!

Ready to start a 90-Day Challenge of your own and get all my secrets, tips, tricks, workouts and more?

At the request of many people, I finally wrote an awesome detailed guide book (that’s only $10!) to starting and succeeding with a 90-Day Challenge. This proven ebook walks you through the first 30 days of your challenge, day by day, step by step. I share my exact workouts, nutrition plans, daily motivation tips, and more. For just $10 you can kickstart your own journey to losing weight and getting in great shape!

 


What Was My Diet Nutrition Plan During The 90 Days?

You can spend hours on Google and fitness forums reading secrets, tips, tricks, and lots of other junk. The information that keeps coming up no matter where you look: Eat smaller portions (you shouldn’t feel full after a meal), eat more often throughout the day (5-7 meals), drink over 100 ounces of water a day, carbs should be limited to fruits and veggies (they do make veggie pastas), no processed sugar (honey and stevia are your friends), no soda, less salt, and for me no dairy or alcohol.

By this point you’ve probably thrown your hands up in the air and said, “I can’t give up my…” or “You work from home Jason, it’s easy for you.”

Both of those statements are absolute garbage. If you want to make a change in your life, if you want to feel better, you need to change the way you think about food and about your daily routine. Not only can you save a butt-load of money each month by eating healthier (I saved about $1,500 a month, no joke), you can spend 1-2 hours and prepare your meals ahead of time for an entire week.

I started my 90-Day Challenge thinking I was going to change my eating habits for a few months, but I realized it’s a lifestyle change. When something awesome happens, you don’t have to celebrate with cake or a night of drinking with your friends. We’ve been trained as a society that food/drinks are rewards and they shouldn’t be, because the types of food we reward ourselves with are the worst ones for us.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox and focus more on what you should eat. This blog post outlines exactly what I ate, with slight variations, for the last 30 days of my challenge. A couple things to note:

  • It took me 60 days to fine tune my “diet” and figure out what worked best for my schedule and for my body.
  • I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have headaches or food withdrawals when I started.
  • I often felt like I was hungry all day long, but it takes time to reset your body and break your habits.
  • For years I’d pretty much eaten three large meals a day with a couple snacks (not healthy ones) thrown in.
  • Years after completing this challenge I’ve switched to a 100% vegan diet and have never felt better!

In less than 90 days I retrained my body to a new schedule that made me feel and look better. The human body is pretty awesome.

I didn’t do cheat meals during my challenge. Why? You don’t need it. You may crave the heck out of cheat foods, but give yourself the chance to work hard for 90 days and then think about doing cheat meals/days. Stick with eating healthy for just 90 days and I promise you’ll survive without pizza, Chick-Fil-A, beer, ice cream, etc, etc. When you want a cheeseburger, make a black bean quinoa burger (without a bun). When you want chocolate, eat some fruit. Find healthy substitutions and your palette will quickly adjust.

Here are my three (cheap) nutrition essentials that helped me lose weight:

Magic Bullet Blender

Plant-based protein

Vegan BCAA Powder

 


What Were My Workouts During The 90-Day Challenge?

Ahhhh yes, everyone wants to know how many crunches I did in the 90 days right? Well, I can tell you exactly how many I did: ZERO.

The new Jason Zook physique was made in the kitchen. Okay, so not totally made in the kitchen, but I firmly believe that 90% of getting in shape is your nutrition and the other 10% is fitness. At least I tell myself that so I eat healthier.

Having worked with different personal trainers in the past, I knew there were tons of different things I could do or try, but I wanted to keep my workout routine simple. Not only because I’m busy and don’t have two hours to spend in the gym each day, but because you don’t need to work out for multiple hours every day to see results.

My typical weekly training regime

For the first 60 days of my challenge, I casually worked out 4-5 days a week and maybe one of those days was a cardio day (maybe). Which day did I do my ab exercises? No days. A typical week of workouts looked like this:

  • Monday: Weight training chest and back
  • Tuesday: Weight training arms and shoulders
  • Wednesday: Pickup basketball (cardio)
  • Thursday: Rest day
  • Friday: Rest day
  • Saturday: Weight training legs and plyometrics
  • Sunday: Rest day

When I started I wanted to do workouts that slightly resembled Cross Fit workouts, but without the destroying of my body and therefore my spirit. I would focus on doing weight training for one or two muscle groups (chest and back, arms and shoulders, chest and legs, arms and back, chest and shoulders, etc) and in between each set I might do 50-100 jumping jacks or jump ropes. My workouts lasted about 20-30 minutes, usually longer if I worked out with my supportive wife, but I always worked up a great sweat and focused on what I was doing.

If you don’t know much about weight training, you should definitely think about getting a personal trainer (it’s worth it!). None of these workouts were rushed and every movement I did with a weight in my hand was purposeful, in perfect form, and with 100% of my strength and effort.

This progression photo shows my progress throughout my challenge:


 

I lost 30 pounds and 9% body fat in the first 60 days.

Not bad huh? But then something bit me in my slightly smaller ass – I wanted more. For some reason the thought got in my head that I wanted to get down to 10% body fat by day 90. In fact, I professed this goal on Facebook. I knew that losing 6% body fat in 30 days would be tough, but that I could do it!

I increased my cardio workouts, setting a 1,000 calories burned goal along the way, and streamlined my weight workouts to one muscle group per day (chest, arms, shoulders, legs). I also upped my water intake to over a gallon per day, but nothing really changed in my diet. Towards the very end of my challenge I did cut fruit out of my diet, but that was really only for the last week.

To burn 1,000 calories in one cardio workout I did incline treadmill walking. The incline was set at 15% and I walked at a 4.3 mph pace for 60 minutes. I hit 1,000 calories at the 59 minute mark!

I can honestly say I’m proud of myself for hitting that 10% body fat goal, even if it was only by .1%.

I never set out to “get ripped” or “have a 6-pack” when I started this 90-day challenge, I just wanted to feel and look better.

I am, however, very proud of what my body looks like and I don’t want this to go away…

Jason Zook 90-Day Challenge Smile

Jason Zook 90-Day Challenge Back

Jason Zook Workout

Don’t be afraid to think differently about your workouts, but be realistic when you’re getting started. The more you can get in the gym and get workouts done, the more you’ll want to get better at it. The less you dread working out, the easier it will be to make time for it, and everyone has 20-30 minutes a day to get some exercise (with or without a gym). Think of a gym membership (or personal trainer) as an investment in your health.

Here are a couple workout things I love and recommend:

The Perfect Pushup

Resistance Bands

Bose Soundsport Headphones

Bowflex Dumbbells

The Best Microfiber Towels

 


Biggest Challenges During The 90-Day Challenge?

Now let’s talk about the hurdles I overcame while doing my 90-day challenge. Yes, I do work from home, but I have a very busy schedule and a very active Google Calendar. One of my biggest challenges was to disconnect throughout the day to make myself food, to get to the gym, to take showers, to sleep, etc. When you work at a 9-5 job, you have structure. I had almost zero structure. It can be hard to convince myself to put on pants some days, so you can imagine it was even harder to cook meals.

I also did a bunch of traveling during the 90-day challenge. Trips to Anaheim, Nashville, NYC, Memphis and Cape Cod. It’s REALLY hard to stick to a nutrition plan while fending off TSA agents and visiting the BBQ capital of the world. But I did it. I packed protein powder/shakers in my bag, I brought snack bars in case of long flights/layovers/emergencies, I picked the healthiest options off menus (or just didn’t open the menu and asked for grilled meat and veggies), and I avoided temptation where I could. I’d by lying to you if I didn’t slip up here and there or didn’t have a bigger meal than normal for my wife’s surprise birthday dinner in NYC, but I stayed on track.

Another big challenge? Oh you know, just completely restructuring my company during the challenge. Dealing with website redesigns, letting people go, finding new clients, creating new processes, and all the stress that goes along with all of that. Yeah, that was tough.

But you know what? No matter what it was, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to give up. I wasn’t going to break down.

I have my family, friends and my online community to thank for that. Lean on your friends and family and don’t be shy to ask for help. Heck, I’m happy to lend a helping hand to anyone, just don’t give up!

 


Final Thoughts And Thank Yous!

My wife Caroline was amazing throughout the 90-day challenge. Not only did she made changes along with me, she pushed herself to keep up and kept me from breaking down and skipping a workout or eating a bad meal. Thank you Caroline!

Thank you to my Mom for understanding that I do love her homemade mac-n-cheese, but I don’t need it in my life. Thanks for all the support, Mom.

Thank you to my t-shirt wearing partner in crime, Sean Ely. You were a huge help while we traveled to get me to work out, to keep me from ordering something bad off a menu, and to continue to encourage me. You’re like the red-headed brother I never had but always wanted. Gracias mi amigo.

Thank you Tyler and Mimi Ford for reaching out to me and holding my hand on this journey. It was pretty awesome having such a supportive and helpful sponsor throughout my journey.

And to everyone who commented, Liked, tweeted, emailed, shared any of my 90-Day Challenge posts: THANK YOU! Honestly, your support helped me get over so many small hurdles and kept me focused and determined. The IWearYourShirt community was fantastic and I really appreciated you guys letting me share my personal goals right alongside by business goals.

So, what are you waiting for? Ready to start your 90-Day Challenge today!

Have you tried other diets?

Are you tired of not seeing results?

Are you ready to invest a tiny amount of money to make a HUGE change in your life?

If you’re ready to start your own 90-Day Challenge and have $0.30 to spend a day for the next 30 days, get all my diets, workouts, habits, tips, and tricks sent to you via my proven 30-Day Coaching Guide Book for only $10.