Life Isn’t a Journey

“The future is no place to place your better days.”
Cry Freedom by Dave Mathews Band (Song)

Just after 6:30 this morning, I witnessed this.

Photo 170--March East End Sunrise, 2018 (3)

Not on Facebook, not on Instagram; I was there for this. I was sitting on a piece of driftwood among a huge pile of black rocks perfectly shaped by the tide over thousands of years. I sat in the quiet of dawn with two great peeps and started my day in awe. Of beauty, yes, but even more so, of my existence. Of our existence. Of existence.

The best thing about this experience was that I was firmly present.

Our culture is great at suggesting that we put our better days in the future. People pursue getting married, yet intimate, harmonious connection can only be experienced in the present. People pursue retirement, yet abundance can only be experienced in the present. People are seeking life partners, investing for their retirement, and missing what’s right here, right now. They’re always in pursuit.

This is a common trap. Many people put their wellness in the future. They think, “I’m going to eat a good breakfast today, so I don’t get sick when I’m old like mom did.” “I’m going to hit the gym three times this week, so I have a good heart for years to come.”

This is quid-pro-quo thinking. I do this now, so I can get that later. It’s no wonder many think this way. Most of us were literally programmed to think this way from birth. If you have a five-year-old in your life (like I do in my nephew Jack), ask him/her why they go to kindergarten. Many will tell you, “So I can go to first grade.” Ask a teenager why they go to high school. “So I can get into a good college.” Ask a 20-something why they’re dating. “So I can get married.” Ask a 30-something why they’re working so hard. “So I can buy a house.” And the cycle continues. Many people do what they do in an attempt to get a feeling down the road, never fully immersing themselves in their experience of life as it is here and now.

Wellness isn’t the result of self-care; wellness is concomitant with self-care. We could, in fact, say that wellness is self-care and that self-care is wellness.

Think of it this way:

  1. When you’re hungry, what do you do?
  2. When you’re lonely, what do you do?
  3. When you’re tired, what do you do?

A master of wellness has no gap between their experience of a need arising and meeting that need. In the present. For no other reason than meeting the need.

I really enjoyed my breakfast this morning. I had a scramble made of eggs, turkey, broccoli, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and garlic along with some fruit salad. Did I eat that breakfast in order to prevent cardiovascular disease? Did I eat that breakfast so I’d be prepared for a big hike this weekend? No. I ate breakfast because I was hungry. In the present.

Each of us has an amazing resource at our disposal that’s at least the best wellness coach on Earth and could be described as sacred or godly. It’s our instincts. Our animal nature.

Our animal nature is a big part of what keeps us alive and well and has done so for as long as there have been animals, including people. Our animal nature isn’t to be feared, it’s to be embraced.

Embracing our animal nature doesn’t preclude us from being thoughtful. In fact, a good model for navigating life and for thriving is to consider oneself, as I do, a thinking ape. It’s true, I’m an ape and so are you. Humans didn’t descend from apes; humans are apes along with chimpanzees, gibbons, gorillas, and orangutans.

When I’m hungry like a wolf, I eat a nourishing meal.

When I’m lonely like a chimpanzee, I connect intimately with others.

When I’m tired like a jaguar, I rest or sleep.

Photo 171--Resting Jaguar

I bypass rationalizing, overthinking, procrastination, and all forms of self-sabotage. I do what is directly in alignment with my needs. In alignment with myself. I don’t do this so that I can be well in the future. I do this because doing so is what it means to be well.

I didn’t invent this concept. Three very intelligent, very well-educated people I know of were thinking this way long before I figured it out.

“Be a good animal, true to your animal instincts.”
The White Peacock by D.H. Lawrence (book)

“Be first a good animal.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you wish to be a success in this life, you must first be a good animal.”
—Hebert Spencer

Being well is living in alignment with oneself in the present. Infants do this brilliantly. When they’re lonely, they cry out and get held. When they’re hungry, they drink their mama’s milk until they’ve had their fill. Not so they can grow up and be big and strong. Because they’re hungry. Not because breast milk is a nutrient-dense source of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Because they’re hungry. They never experience hunger and forgo their mama’s milk “because it’s not lunch time yet” or “because baby beach season is coming up”. No overthinking. No self-sabotage. Babies live without any gap between experienced need and met need. Babies are masters of being good animals in the present. We’d all do well to learn from them.

Photo 172--Baby Drinking It's Mother's Milk

“The future is of use only to those who live in the present.”
—Alan Watts


There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.



Yolks of Mass Destruction

“Eggs are deadly!” the narrative goes. We’ve all heard it a million times.

The authors of a study article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (1) summarize this piece of fiction well and then ask a great question:

“For over 25 years eggs have been the icon for the fat, cholesterol and caloric excesses in the American diet, and the message to limit eggs to lower heart disease risk has been widely circulated. The ‘dietary cholesterol equals blood cholesterol’ view is a standard of dietary recommendations, yet few consider whether the evidence justifies such restrictions.”

Is there evidence to justify the restrictions? President Bush, will you show us the weapons of mass destruction?




The eggs-are-deadly story, like many, is pure propaganda.

These same researchers did quite a bit of heavy lifting for us to expose the truth. They reviewed over 150 scientific studies that examined the relationships between egg intake, dietary-cholesterol intake, and cardiovascular disease conducted over the approximately 50-year period from about 1960 to 2010. Here’s what they found:

“Over 50 years of cholesterol-feeding studies show that dietary cholesterol does have a small effect on plasma cholesterol concentrations. The 167 cholesterol feeding studies in over 3,500 subjects in the literature indicate that a 100 mg [milligram] change in dietary cholesterol changes plasma total cholesterol by 2.2 mg/dL [milligrams per deciliter].”

“These data help explain the epidemiological studies showing that dietary cholesterol is not related to coronary heart disease incidence or mortality across or within populations.”

In other words, eggs aren’t part of a heart-attack breakfast. The science is clear that egg intake and dietary-cholesterol intake aren’t related to cardiovascular disease or mortality. No one can find the yolks of mass destruction anywhere. Not anywhere in a review of 50 years’ worth of scientific studies.

In a 2007, researchers tried really hard to find the deadly yolks (2). The researchers followed over 9,700 subjects in the United States for 20 years. Subjects were placed into three groups: those who consumed less than one egg per week, those who consumed one to six eggs per week, and those who consumed more than six eggs per week. There was no difference in the rate of cardiovascular disease among the groups. The title of the study article is a drop-the-mic moment: Regular Egg Consumption Does Not Increase the Risk of Stroke and Cardiovascular Diseases. The researchers concluded:

“Our study demonstrated that consumption of greater than 6 eggs per week or 1 egg or greater per day did not increase the risk of coronary artery disease, ischemic stroke, or all strokes in a cohort representative of US population.”

Another big effort was made just a year prior in Japan (3). The researchers followed over 90,000 subjects for five years and measured the subjects’ rates of egg intake and rate of cardiovascular disease. The found no correlation between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease. The researchers concluded:

“We found that eating eggs more frequently, up to almost daily, was not associated with any increase in CHD [coronary heart disease] incidence.”

These study articles are available to the public for anyone to read. It’s amazing how greatly the truth can get mangled.

Photo 169--Scrambled Eggs

Eggs, in their inherent undeadliness, are actually quite nourishing. Eggs are very satiating which make them a particularly awesome breakfast (or anytime) food. A 2017 clinical study (4) compared the effects of two different common breakfasts, an oatmeal-based breakfast and a two-egg-based breakfast. Here’s what the researchers found:

“The intake of two eggs per day as compared to an oatmeal breakfast promoted a shift in dietary intake patterns, did not lead to an increase in biomarkers associated with CVD [cardiovascular disease], and resulted in both subjective and objective measures of satiety in a healthy population. The results of the study are important to confirming eggs as a healthy habitual breakfast food with additional benefits of increased satiety throughout the day.”

If you want to find the “foods” responsible for heart attacks, you don’t have to look any further than the middle of any food store where you’ll find what I like to call the food-like packaged goods. This processed food, these food products, really aren’t food. Sure, you can eat them. And they’ll prevent you from immediate death from starvation. But they’re not the foods you thrive on. You thrive on whole, natural real, foods, like eggs, which are loaded with nutrients:

“As a whole food, eggs are an inexpensive and low calorie source of nutrients such as folate, riboflavin, selenium, choline and vitamins B-12 and A. Eggs are also one of the few exogenous sources of vitamins K and D. Furthermore, eggs are a source of high quality protein, and the lipid matrix of the yolk serves to enhance the bioavailability of nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin.” (5)

That’s quite a different narrative. That’s the absence of propaganda.

What can we do with this big helping of truth? I have three important take-home messages for you:

  1. Food is nothing to be feared. Food is to be enjoyed and eaten as nourishment. Food is life.
  2. We never had to fear food until there started to be fake food with the advent of industry. If you return to nature and eat the whole, natural, real foods your ancestors have eaten for millennia, you have nothing to fear. There’s nothing scary in an egg, a kiwi, an almond, a beet, a salmon, or a pumpkin seed. Food is life.
  3. Some people and organizations have certain agendas relating to food. Your wellness if often not part of their agendas. You can’t trust them. You can trust nature and you can trust yourself. Eat real food. Savor it like you savor this day. Food is life.

(1) The Impact of Egg Limitations on Coronary Heart Disease Risk: Do the Numbers Add Up? Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000, 19(5S), 540-548.
(2) Regular Egg Consumption Does Not Increase the Risk of Stroke and Cardiovascular Diseases. Medical Science Monitor, 2007, 13(1), 1-8.
(3) Egg Consumption, Serum Total Cholesterol Concentrations and Coronary Heart Disease Incidence: Japan Public Health Center-Based Prospective Study. British Journal of Nutrition, 2006, 96(5), 921-928.
(4) Consuming Two Eggs per Day, as Compared to an Oatmeal Breakfast, Decreases Plasma Ghrelin while Maintaining the LDL/HDL Ratio. Nutrients, 2017, 9(2), 1-12.
(5) Are the Current Guidelines Regarding Egg Consumption Appropriate? Journal of Nutrition, 2004, 134(1), 187-190.


There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

The Fine Dining of Brain Food

Dementia is a burgeoning epidemic. We all know someone who’s struggling with or has struggled with severe cognitive dysfunction in their later years.

Many people throw their hands in the air and say, “Aging isn’t for the timid.” They view dementia as an inevitable consequence of getting old. Their way of dealing with their fear of a similar fate as they age is pretending it won’t happen to them.

Let’s play a bigger game than that. Let’s live empowered lives. And let’s live on the leading edge. Let’s explore what we know about preventing dementia. I have something very interesting to share with you on this.

For starters, if there was a pill that reduced your chances of getting dementia by 28 percent and Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia) by 45 percent (1), would you take it?

Think about that for a moment. Because there is. But it’s not a pill; it’s an activity.

In a study article published in journal Archives of Medical Research, the researchers report (1):

“Epidemiological research shows a consistent relationship between higher physical activity levels and a reduced risk of developing dementia. In a meta-analysis of 16 prospective, epidemiological studies on the incidence of neurodegenerative disease, engaging in more baseline physical activity reduced the risk of developing all-cause dementia by 28% and of developing AD [Alzheimer’s disease] by 45%, even after controlling for confounding variables.”

This statement summarizes the plethora of research conducted on the relationship between exercise and dementia. The findings are consistent and robust. Exercise is brain food.

But wait, it gets better. Yes, there’s something even better than exercise at preventing dementia. How researchers figured this out is really cool.

We’ve known for decades that cognitive challenge prevents dementia. This is why you hear people recommending doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, and that kind of thing. Use it or lose it, so to speak.

Knowing that both exercise and cognitive challenge prevent dementia, years back, researchers began examining what happened when they exposed mice/rats to both exercise and cognitive challenges at the same time. They hypothesized there’d be a synergistic effect and they were right. Combining exercise and cognitive challenge is super effective in maintaining brain function and preventing cognitive decline in mice/rats.

“Animal research has shown that combining aerobic training with sensory enrichment has a superior effect on inducing neuroplasticity in the HC [hippocampus; a brain region] compared to physical exercise or sensory stimulation alone.” (2)

Then researchers made the observation that there’s a certain human activity that seems to very nicely combine various forms of cognitive challenge with exercise. Can you guess what it might be?

It’s dancing.

“From animal research, it is known that combining physical activity with sensory enrichment has stronger and longer-lasting effects on the brain than either treatment alone. For humans dancing has been suggested to be analogous to such combined training.” (3)

Over time, dozens of studies have explored the relationship between dancing and dementia and the results are simply astounding. Dancing is the fine dining of brain food.

“The results of our study suggest that participating in a long-term dance program that requires constant cognitive and motor learning is superior to engaging in repetitive physical exercises in inducing neuroplasticity in the brains of seniors. Therefore, dance is highly promising in its potential to counteract age-related gray matter [the darker tissue of the brain and spinal cord, consisting mainly of nerve cell bodies and branching dendrites] decline.” (3)

Photo 168--People Dancing

Pharmaceutical businesses are doing everything they can to try to create drugs to treat dementia. So far, they’re coming up empty. Real empty. Is it possible they’re looking in the wrong place? Is it possible the answer, at least part of the answer, is staring us right in the face? Is nature trying to get our attention with the hit pop song Shut Up and Dance? (If a carpenter can be a prophet, why can’t a pop band be here to tell us what’s what?)

It’s super interesting that exercise is a potent preventer of dementia. It’s even more interesting that dancing is an even more potent preventer of dementia. It speaks our beliefs about movement in our culture. Nature is telling us to dance. There certainly isn’t a hit pop song Shut Up and Get on the Elliptical Machine to Burn 300 Calories. It just doesn’t work like that.

Nature doesn’t want us to burn calories, nature wants us to move. And have a darn good time doing so. Most people who dance do so because it feels really good. The “no-pain, no-gain” exercise culture in our society has many people convinced that it has to suck to be good for you. As the science reveals, dancing, a type of movement most people do in a spirit of play, not a spirit of toil, is amazingly good for us.

The other notable thing about dancing is that it’s very dynamic movement. There’s a lot going on. When we dance, yes, we’re using our muscles and yes, we’re circulating our blood. In this sense, it’s just like most types of exercise. But there’s much more going on. We’re listing to music. We’re coordinating our movements to the music. We’re often coordinating our movements with those of another person or other people. We’re continually aware of our position in the space around us. We’re keeping our balance. We’re often learning new steps. We’re interacting closely with another person or other people, with this interaction often including touch, eye contact, and enjoying life together.

In scientist speak:

“In this respect dancing seems to be a promising intervention since it requires the integration of sensory information from multiple channels (auditory, vestibular, visual, somatosensory) and the fine-grained motor control of the whole body.” (2)

“Dancing is an activity that emerged from a need for social interaction and non-verbal communication, and it is a universal human expression consistent across generations, cultures, and social classes throughout the world. Compared to activities such as physical exercise or playing an instrument, dance comprises rhythmic motor coordination, balance and memory, emotions, affection, social interaction, acoustic stimulation, and musical experience apart from its requirements for physical activity. This unique combination of properties makes dance a potentially powerful interventional approach.” (4)

“Compared to activities such as exercising, walking or playing an instrument, dance has the advantage to combine many diverse features including physical activity, social and emotional interaction, each of them well-documented to have beneficial effects. This unique property might be one reason for its general acceptance and its high compliance. Our study provides strong evidence that dance promotes a wide-range of beneficial effects that are not limited to motor behavior, posture and balance, but covers also perceptual and cognitive abilities. Therefore, dance might be an appropriate approach for enforcing and maintaining plasticity processes in elderly populations, thereby contributing to successful aging.” (5)

Dynamic movement stimulates us in a way that simple calorie burning doesn’t.

Contrast everything that’s going on during dancing with what’s going on for a person who’s sitting still on a stationary bike watching a soap opera on the gym television. Right? There’s nothing going on there. No enjoyment and no life. Just passing time and burning calories.

We’ve evolved for movement with life in it. Fun. Pleasure. Connection. Learning.

Should we all be out dancing in the streets?

That sure wouldn’t be a bad thing for our society, but there are other options too. For the wallflowers in the crowd, some other types of really dynamic movement include:

  1. Hiking
  2. Game sports (ultimate frisbee, racquetball, soccer, etc.)
  3. Mountain biking
  4. Trail running
  5. Cross-country skiing
  6. Paddleboarding
  7. Rock climbing (indoor rock climbing is a great option if you live in a place with a long winter like I do)
  8. High-quality strength training (do total-body, free-standing, integrated, dynamic exercises; avoid single-muscle, supported, isolated, static exercises)
  9. Yoga (flow yoga is my favorite)

You’re the ultimate judge of what’s the best movement for you. I simply invite you to explore movement with as much life in it as possible. It feels great in the moment and helps keep a little more life in you for a little bit longer.


There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.



Jimmy Kimmel Is Making You Fat

You exercise well, you eat well, but you still don’t have the lean body you desire. You have some extra body fat hanging around your hips, your thighs, the back of your arms. There are two important players you’re likely not considering. They’re called ghrelin and leptin and they’re hormones.

Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by our stomachs when there isn’t much food in our stomachs. With high amounts of ghrelin, our brains send signals of hunger. Ghrelin can be thought of as the hunger hormone.

Leptin is secreted by our fat cells when we have a sufficient amount of body fat stored. With high amounts of leptin, our brains send signals of fullness. Leptin can be thought of as the fullness hormone.

There isn’t much you can do to make ghrelin or leptin work better for than they do naturally. (Although, trust me, the pharmaceutical companies are working their assess off and spending millions of dollars to try to make it possible to manipulate these hormones via drugs. Of course they are.)

But there are other people working against you with these hormones. Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert to name a few. Those late-night-television hosts who keep you up to 11, 11:30, oh I’ll just watch a little more, midnight! These guys are making you fat!

When you get great sleep, your body does a great job of using ghrelin and leptin to regulate optimal hunger and fullness responses. That is, you eat when you genuinely need to eat and you stop when you’ve genuinely had enough. But when you don’t get great sleep, say you skimp on an hour or two here or there, or you don’t sleep well because your sleep hygiene isn’t great, you completely mess up your ghrelin and leptin levels.

With poor sleep:

  1. Your levels of ghrelin rise!
  2. Your levels of leptin fall!

So you now have more of the hunger hormone and less of the fullness hormone! All day! Every day! Yikes!

Failing to get great sleep completely throws your body’s normal hunger-fullness response out of whack. If you’re someone who regularly isn’t getting great sleep, you don’t even know what your normal, optimal feelings of hunger and fullness are like.

The good news is the solution to this problem is simple, free, and feels good. That’s my kind of solution. You simply need to make getting great sleep a priority.

In terms of quantity, the best thing most people can do is ditch the evening television, Internet surfing, or whatever is keeping you up late. Most people can’t sleep later in the morning than they already are, but most people can get to bed somewhat earlier.

In terms of quality, here are the goods on how to set yourself up to sleep like a baby:

  1. Make sure your bedroom is very dark. The darker the better. Make sure there are no lights from any electronic devices. Your body perceives this light as daylight and this negatively affects the quality of your sleep.
  2. Make sure your bedroom is very quiet. Complete silence or white noise from a fan, humidifier, or a similar device is best.
  3. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable: not too hot and not too cold. If you’re too hot or too cold, you won’t sleep as well as you can. A bedroom at 60 to 65 degrees at night is best for most people.
  4. Avoid eating within a few hours of bedtime. Give yourself some time to digest your dinner before you to go to sleep.
  5. Don’t drink water in the evening. Drink water in the morning, and throughout the day between meals, but don’t drink water in the evening after dinner.
  6. Ideally, spend the few hours before bedtime resting. This makes it easy to wind down, fall asleep quickly, and sleep deeply.
  7. Avoid all screens for three hours before bed (or use the available blue-light-blocking filters). Artificial light, especially blue light from computers, tablets, phones, and similar devices, inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone secreted by our pineal glands that controls sleep and wake cycles.
  8. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex. If you associate your bed with things like paying bills and checking your e-mail, it can be tougher for you to wind down and fall asleep. Use your bed only for sleep and sex. When you get in bed, you’ll get a strong signal that it’s time to doze off (or have sex then doze off).
  9. Increase your exposure to light during the day. Keep the blinds/curtains open at work and at home to let lots of light in. Get outside during the day whenever possible.

The wellness benefits of great sleep are myriad and you’ll get a leaner body to boot. Sweat dreams.

Photo 167--Woman Sleeping


There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.

Nature Is Nurture

Imagine you and I both have shoulder surgery on the same day. After your surgery, you luck out and get a room with a wonderful view (blue skies, trees, birds, etc.). I’m not so lucky and they stick me in a room without much of a view (outside my window is the brick wall of the building next door). Other than me being a bit cranky, does it really matter?

A group of scientists and physicians decided to run a little experiment and see if anything else happened. (1) In their study, subjects were cholecystectomy patients and half were placed in what they called a tree-view group and half were placed in what they called a wall-view group. Any guesses on what they found?

I won’t keep you hangin’. Subjects in the tree-view group, compared to subjects in the wall-view group:

  1. Had shorter hospital stays
  2. Took less pain medication
  3. Had fewer post-surgery complications

Wow, right? It turns out nature is nurture(ing).

Photo 166--Flowers

Our bodies, hearts, and minds are one. There’s not really a body-heart-mind “connection”; it’s more like body-heart-mind unity. As we meet our needs, we thrive. And spending time in nature is one of our needs. We’ve evolved in nature for the entirety of our 2.5 million years of existence, with cities being only a few thousand years old and suburbs only a few hundred years old. As such, being back in nature does us a world of good.

A 2016 review study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health gives us both the good and bad news of our contemporary overly civilized way of life (2):

Here’s the bad news first:

“Rapid changes have also occurred in our environment over the last three decades, including the widespread use of computers. In 1984, American clinical psychologist Craig Brod coined the term ‘technostress’. Other forms of technologies that expose us to more artificial elements have also contributed to the exacerbation of our stress levels.”

And now for the good news:

“Scientific data assessing physiological indicators, such as brain activity, autonomic nervous activity, endocrine activity, and immune activity, are accumulating from field and laboratory experiments. We believe that nature therapy will play an increasingly important role in preventive medicine in the future.”

Spending time in nature isn’t just “nice” in some fluffy feels-nice-but-isn’t-based-in-hard-science way. Spending time in nature affects measurable physiological processes in our bodies.

A 2015 clinical study also published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is a great example of the vast amount of studies demonstrating clear physiological benefits, among other benefits, of spending time in nature (3):

“Pulse rate and salivary cortisol were significantly lower than baseline following forest therapy, indicating that subjects were in a physiologically relaxed state. Subjects reported feeling significantly more ‘comfortable,’ ‘relaxed,’ and ‘natural’ according to the semantic differential (SD) method. The Profile of Mood State (POMS) negative mood subscale score for ‘tension–anxiety’ was significantly lower, while that for ‘vigor’ was significantly higher following forest therapy. Our study revealed that forest therapy elicited a significant (1) decrease in pulse rate, (2) decrease in salivary cortisol levels, (3) increase in positive feelings, and (4) decrease in negative feelings. In conclusion, there are substantial physiological and psychological benefits of forest therapy on middle-aged females.”

“Several studies have shown that time spent in a forest can decrease blood pressure (BP), pulse rate, sympathetic nervous activity, and cortisol levels, while increasing parasympathetic nervous activity. Furthermore, forest stimulation decreased cerebral blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, and Bratman reported that a brief nature experience decreased both self-reported rumination and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC) [a brain region]. These studies suggest that accessible natural areas are a critical resource for improving mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.”

“It was also shown that a forest therapy trip can increase human natural killer (NK) cell activity and improve immunity in both males and females, and these effects were found to last for at least 7 days. Additionally, psychological studies have demonstrated that the negative mood was significantly lower and the positive mood was significantly higher after durations of stay in the forest.”

“Our study revealed that forest therapy elicited a significant (1) decrease in pulse rate, (2) decrease in salivary cortisol levels, (3) increase in ‘comfortable,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘relaxed’ feelings as assessed by the modified SD [semantic differential] method, (4) decrease in the POMS [The Profile of Mood State] negative subscale ‘tension–anxiety,’ and (5) increase in feelings of ‘vigor’ in middle-aged females. In conclusion, walking in a forest according to a standard ‘forest therapy’ program induced physiological and psychological relaxation. These results clarified the physiological effects of the forest therapy program and suggested a possibility of clinical use.”

Lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels! All from simply spending time in nature! That’s powerful stuff!  In other words, go for a walk in the woods when you have the chance. Step out for some fresh air every chance you get. Immerse yourself in nature whenever you can. It’s where you came from. And it does your body good.

“We need the tonic of wilderness.”
–Henry David Thoreau

(1) View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery. Science, 1984, 224(4,647), 420-422.
(2) Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy: A Review of the Research in Japan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2016, 13(781), 1-17.
(3) Physiological and Psychological Effects of a Forest Therapy Program on Middle-Aged Females. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2015, 12(12), 15,222-15,232.


There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.


The One and Only Guaranteed Way to Make Your Resolution Stick

Let’s start with a multiple multiple choice question (a favorite type of test question of one of my favorite college professors). In a multiple multiple choice question any of the answers can be correct, it’s possible that none of the answers are correct, and you have the option of writing in a correct answer as well. Your job is to pick all of the correct answers and write in a correct answer if it isn’t one of the choices. These are tough questions; they require you to really know your suff. Here we go:

Which of the following methods will help you make your new-year resolution stick?

  1. Setting realistic goals
  2. Embracing the support of my close ones
  3. Embracing the support of a professional
  4. Being hard on myself
  5. Working toward my goals together with a “buddy”
  6. Having fun
  7. Quitting when I have a setback
  8. Celebrating my progress along the way
  9. Other Correct Answer: ____________________

Photo 165--Woman Doing Yoga

You’ll have setbacks, so quitting isn’t going to help you. When you have a setback, move on and do your best the next step you take.

Being hard on yourself is one of the fastest ways to fail. Practice consistent self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-kindness instead.

The rest of the answers are correct!

Starting with realistic goals is key. Set goals that really matter to you and give yourself a reasonable timeframe to achieve them. When in doubt, give yourself more time. That which is built steadily and gradually over time tends to last.

Have fun with this journey you’re on as you boost your wellness. Celebrate your progress along the way. The more celebrations you have, the better.

Definitely share meals and do workouts with a “buddy” whenever it feels good to you to do so. This can be a big help.

People want to help you. Don’t just accept but fully embrace the support of your close ones and the professionals you’re working with. You’re not in this alone.

All of this will help you immensely, but none of it guarantees your success. Only one thing guarantees your success. Sometimes when I client comes to me, they’ve already crossed this important line. More often, they cross it at some point during the course of our work together.

It’s when they decide, with every ounce of their being, that being well is a lifestyle. A lifestyle, not a program. The self-care they’re embarking on isn’t a two-week program. It isn’t a two-month program. It’s not a program. There’s no graduation. They’ve committed to self-care for the rest of their lives. It’s big commitment, but paradoxically this is when self-care gets easy. When you’re in program mindset, you have one foot in. You have an escape plan. And this makes things harder. There’s always resistance. Committing to self-care as a lifestyle is not confining at all, but freeing. It’s a sweet surrender.

Keep doing the best you can each day. Play with any resistance you have to this sweet surrender. When you’re ready to let go, you’ll know.


There’s a place below to share your feelings on this article if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.


Are You a Bad Girl?

“I can’t believe you let me do that,” she said to me, blushing.

“You seemed to enjoy yourself quite a bit,” I said with a grin.

“Well, yeah, but I feel kind of bad now,” she said. “I’ve been really bad with you recently.”

We’d just had lunch together, as I often do with colleagues. I brought some guacamole I made and I had it with my leftover chili and some fruit salad. She had some too with the lunch she’d brought and she really liked it. But she felt “bad” about it.

Raise your hand: Have you ever felt “bad” about eating? “Bad” in this context refers to feelings of guilt, shame, or both? Have you ever said, “I’ve been really bad this week,” with the spirit of guilt and/or shame in your statement? Do you know others who speak like this about food and eating?

I do. In fact, in this past week alone, I’ve heard it dozens of times. Many people have told me they were “really bad” in the last few weeks “over the holidays”.

This is so common, this guilt-based, shame-based framework for talking about and relating with food and eating, that it hardly goes noticed in many circles. The way we form our beliefs about ourselves and the world around is a function of many complex factors. The prevailing beliefs that run through a society are one big factor. When we look closely at the cultural underpinnings of the United States, we see the deep Puritan roots that run through the fabric of many of our institutions. In particular, we have a certain allergy to enjoyment, fun, and pleasure. And we a strong conviction that restraint, abstinence, and delayed gratification are of utmost importance. If we keep free of the lures of pleasure, the belief system goes, good things will come our way in the future. One area of life where this stands out is food and eating. I witness, all the time, people feeling “bad” (guilty/shameful) about food and eating. I witness this particularly with women. That’s not a judgement, but an observation. I hear women call themselves “bad” about food all the time. I hear men say it occasionally, but not very often.

Acculturated to feel “bad”, I witness many women, logically, seeking to feel “good” through eating. Following this Puritan ethos, a lot of women go on detoxes. You know, to get all the bad stuff out. Yes, men go on detoxes too, but according to an ABC News report, women consume 85 percent of the weight-loss products and services purchased in the United States. Feeling “bad” about food and eating, and responding with detoxes is particularly common among women.

Detoxes, like their close cousins cleanses, diets, and fasts, are primarily about exclusion and restriction. Most detoxes come with a firm list of what not to eat: the “bad” foods. No sugar. No milk. No soy. No meat. No this and that.

There’s a big problem here: We’ve evolved over millions of years to relate with food as something to eat, not as something not to eat.

In those same millions of years, we also never received a single message, not one, that the pleasure of food was to be limited or squelched in any way. It goes completely against our genetics in every way to limit our eating and keep ourselves from food.

“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you the acceptance of what is. Let it teach you Being. Let it teach you integrity—which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.”
–Eckhart Tolle

Very interesting things happen when we try to avoid things. Consider mountain biking. When I first started mountain biking, I was a bit timid. There were a lot of big rocks and gnarly roots to crash into and land on. When I was riding, I would say to myself, “Be careful. Don’t fall down. Watch out for the rocks.” What do you think happened? I hit my share of rocks and got my share of cuts and bruises. A more experienced rider got my ear one day and we talked about this. “You can’t think like that,” he told me. “If you focus on the rocks, your gonna hit the rocks.” It made sense and I adjusted my self-talk. I focused on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, not on what I wanted to avoid. “Nice and smooth. Ride through the clearings,” I’d say to myself and I’d ride a lot better.

This happens with eating bigtime! If you’re saying to yourself over and over, “No sugar, no sugar, no sugar,” you’ll start seeing sugary foods everywhere.

If you do a detox that has a list of restricted foods, off-limit foods, foods to avoid, foods to eliminate, or some other description of “bad” foods, you’ll start wanting those foods more.

This can be explained by the activity in a fundamental part of our brains called the reticular activating system, which can be thought of as a data filter. In any given moment, we’re flooded with “data” or “input” from the world around us. These are sights like colors, textures, and specific objects; sounds like music, machines operating, or specific people’s voices; tastes; smells; information; messages, etc. We’re exposed to up to two million bits of data at any given moment. A data filter is crucial. It filters out everything except what’s most important. If we had to tend to all of the input coming at us, we’d be paralyzed. How do our reticular activating systems know what to let through the filter? It lets through what we focus on.

A good example of this is when you’re in the market for a new car. You find a make and model you’re considering buying and, bam, you start seeing those cars everywhere, even in the specific color your considering. Before that, you hardly ever so those cars on the road. As soon as you focused on them, you noticed them all over the place.

Focus on sugar and you’ll see it everywhere. Same with junk food, carbohydrate, fat, or whatever else you’re avoiding. Just like when I tried to avoid the rocks and kept running into them on my mountain bike.

This effect is magnified by the prohibition principle or what I sometimes call the teenager principle. Tell a teenager, “Don’t be late. Be home by 10, or else,” and what happens? They often test their parents and come home at 10:15, or later. People don’t like to be controlled. We all know what happened when the United States government prohibited alcoholic beverages.

“A book whose sale’s forbidden all men rush to see, and prohibition turns one reader into three.”
–Italian Proverb

For all of our existence as humans, food has been something to eat to satisfy our natural hunger and something to enjoy to the fullest. Restraint and food don’t go together well.

A very interesting study (1) reveals a great deal about this.

In one part of the study, subjects read a one-sided message involving either a positive message (“All sugary snacks are good.”) or a negative message (“All sugary snacks are bad.”). After reading the straightforward message, subjects were given a plate of chocolate-chip cookies while they watched a short video.

Being warned that all sugary snacks are bad would result in less consumption of chocolate-chip cookies, right? Being told “All sugary snacks are bad,” would remind us to eat less of these foods, right?

Being given the authority to eat sugary snacks would result in more consumption of chocolate-chip cookies, right? Being told “All sugary snacks are good,” would lower people’s guards and they’d go off the rails, right?

That’s not what happened:

Subjects who read the negative message at 39 percent more chocolate-chip cookies compared to those who read the positive message!

The researchers summarized their findings as follows:

“This research shows when and how food-related warnings can backfire by putting consumers in a state of reactance.”

“Across three studies, we demonstrate that dieters (but not nondieters) who see a one-sided message focusing on the negative aspects of unhealthy food (vs. a one-sided positive or neutral message) increase their desire for and consumption of unhealthy foods. In contrast, dieters who see a two-sided message (focusing on both the negative and positive aspects of unhealthy food) are more likely to comply with the message, thereby choosing fewer unhealthy foods.”

“Our research suggests that negatively worded food warnings (such as public service announcements) are unlikely to work—nondieters ignore them, and dieters do the opposite.”

Let’s elucidate the salient points made by these researchers:

  1. Programs that label food as “bad”, “avoid”, “eliminate”, etc. put people “in a state of reactance” (1).
  2. Programs that label food as “bad”, “avoid”, “eliminate”, etc. make people “increase their desire for and consumption of unhealthy foods” (1).
  3. Programs that label food as “bad”, “avoid”, “eliminate”, etc. make people “do the opposite” (1).

Making foods off-limits makes people want them more. Detoxes, cleanses, diets, and fasts really screw up this understanding of behavior change and habit formation in major ways.

Another interesting study specifically examined dichotomous thinking about eating and its effect on one’s ability to stay lean (2). Here’s what these researchers have to tell us:

“Results showed that eating-specific dichotomous thinking (dichotomous beliefs about food and eating) mediates the association between restraint eating and weight regain. We conclude that holding dichotomous beliefs about food and eating may be linked to a rigid dietary restraint, which in turn impedes people’s ability to maintain a healthy weight.”

Dichotomous means a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different. “Good” and “bad” foods or “avoid” and “include” foods in a detox program epitomize dichotomy. This study revealed that dichotomous thinking about food and eating “impedes people’s ability to maintain a healthy weight” (2).

Another interesting study specifically examined the relationship between restraint and binging (3). Here’s what these researchers have to tell us:

“Discusses the association between binge eating and dieting and presents sequence data indicating that dieting usually precedes binge eating chronologically. The present authors propose that dieting causes binging by promoting the adoption of a cognitively regulated eating style, which is necessary if the physiological defense of body weight is to be overcome. The defense of body weight entails various metabolic adjustments that assist energy conservation, but the behavioral reaction of binge eating is best understood in cognitive, not physiological, terms. By supplanting physiological regulatory controls with cognitive controls, dieting makes the dieter vulnerable to disinhibition and consequent overeating.”

Another study examined how rigid, restrictive approaches to eating compared to flexible, inclusive approaches (4). Here’s what these researches have to tell us:

“The study found that individuals who engage in rigid dieting strategies reported symptoms of an eating disorder, mood disturbances, and excessive concern with body size/shape. In contrast, flexible dieting strategies were not highly associated with BMI [body-mass index], eating disorder symptoms, mood disturbances, or concerns with body size.”

“These findings suggest that rigid dieting strategies, but not flexible dieting strategies, are associated with eating disorder symptoms and higher BMI [body-mass index] in nonobese women.”

Food is very simply meant to both nourish us and be a source of great pleasure. Simultaneously. You can’t put nature in a box. Nature must live and breathe. And in nature, that which we need most feels amazing. Nature brilliantly couples nourishment with sensory, sensuous, sensual pleasure. If you try to get nourishment without pleasure (e.g., living off detox potions), things go haywire. If you try to get pleasure without nourishment (e.g., living off junk food), things go haywire. Loaded messages about “healthy” and “unhealthy” and “good” and “bad” foods really mess with people.

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden.”
–Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain (Book)

“So great is man’s hunger for forbidden food.”
–Metamorphoses by Publius Ovidius Naso (Poem)

Human nature isn’t new and we don’t need scientists to teach it to us, as these two writers from about 200 and about 2,000 years ago make clear. A lot of this stuff is common sense.

It isn’t only telling people to avoid “bad” foods that really messes with them. Telling people to eat “good” foods doesn’t work either as another brilliant penperson Geoffrey Chaucer warns as he reveals even more about human nature:

“Forbid us something, and that thing we desire; but press it on us hard and we will flee.”
–The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (Poem)

Wrapping up today’s literature class, let’s return to the science, and explore the “pressing” Chaucer refers to.

In one study, subjects attending a conferenced were exposed to baskets of apples at the registration booth (5). One of three signs were placed in front of the apples and the signs were rotated unobtrusively every 20 minutes. All three signs had the following words: “Honeycrisp Apples. Developed at the University of Minnesota in 1974,” as well as additional content reflecting the experimental condition. The control sign’s additional content read: “Minnesota’s State Fruit” and had an image of the Minnesota state seal. The explicit health message included the words “A Healthy Choice” (instead of “Minnesota’s State Fruit”) and the same image of the state seal as the control sign. The subtle health message had the same words (“Minnesota’s State Fruit”) as the control sign, but instead of the state seal image, it had an image of a red heart with a white check mark on it. What happened?

“Participants were more likely to choose the healthy food when it was labeled with the subtle health message than when it was labeled with the explicit health message, which itself was not more effective than the control message.”

Being told directly that the apples were “a healthy choice” didn’t increase their consumption over the control condition. But the subtle message did. The researchers concluded:

“Explicitly—as opposed to subtly—labeling a food healthy may inadvertently license people to indulge, imply that the food tastes bad, or lead to reactance.”

When you teach people to eat food because it’s “healthy”, “good for you”, or anything like that, people hear “It must not taste good.” People don’t like to be sold to. And with food, and its inherent link to our taste buds, when you tell someone to eat something for it’s down-the-road wellness benefits, they think it must taste lousy, and you push them away from it.

In the world of behavior change and habit formation, this can be understood by the contrast between experiential benefits and instrumental benefits.

Experiential benefits are the benefits you get right away when engaging in an activity. For example: “Wow, I love these blueberries you picked. They’re so delicious. Let’s put them in the fruit salad.”

Instrumental benefits are the benefits you get at some point in the future as a result of engaging in an activity. These benefits can be a reward and/or the avoidance of a punishment. For example: “Thank you for bringing me these blueberries. I’ll put them in my smoothie tomorrow. Did you know eating blueberries increases longevity and prevents dementia?”

In either case, if you eat blueberries (and other whole, natural, real food) regularly, you’ll help yourself live longer and prevent dementia, but you’re much more likely to eat blueberries (and other whole, natural, real food) when you’re seeking experiential benefits.

As we see in this apple study, motivation via instrumental benefits usually backfires. People don’t like to be told to eat something “because it’s good for them”.

Another study examined what happened when the same foods (various foods were used in the study) were labeled as “healthy” or “tasty” (6). What happened?

“Imposed healthy eating signals that the health goal was sufficiently met, and thus it increases the strength of the conflicting motive to fulfill one’s appetite. Accordingly, consumers asked to sample an item framed as healthy later reported being hungrier and consumed more food than those who sampled the same item framed as tasty or those who did not eat at all. These effects of healthy eating depend on the consumer’s perception that healthy eating is mandatory; therefore, only imposed healthy eating made consumers hungrier, whereas freely choosing to eat healthy did not increase hunger.”

Amazing, right? “Imposed healthy eating” (6) made people hungrier and led to greater consumption later in the day. Telling people what not to eat because it’s “bad for you” and telling people what to eat because it’s “good for you”, doesn’t work

Eating is a natural activity and trying to force it, control, restrain it simply doesn’t work. Since it’s messing with a person’s nature, it’s also pretty cruel. The science we’ve discussed here makes it clear that restraint is unnatural and ineffective in a myriad of ways.

Free from our shackles, how do we move forward? How do we learn to eat naturally, free of harmful neuroses?

The way I teach people to eat well is called Goot’s Not-a-Diet. I can’t describe it fully in an article because it’s personalized to each individual who uses it. As the name makes clear, it’s not a diet. Nor is it a cleanse, detox, or fast, or anything like that.

Goot’s Not-a-Diet is based on inclusion and nourishment, not exclusion and restriction. In short, I teach people to approach each meal with a few simple, powerful guidelines:

  1. Eat a certain amount of veggies (personalized to their needs). This amount is a minimum. This includes all non-starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables are considered carbs.
  2. Eat a certain amount of building-block foods (personalized to their needs). This amount is a minimum. Building block foods include meat, eggs, and/or vegetarian sources of the building blocks that make up each cell in our bodies.
  3. Eat a certain amount of carbs (personalized to their needs). The amount is a minimum. Carbs refer to carbohydrate-dense foods like sweet potatoes, fruit, and quinoa. I did not have this guideline when I started using this system 20 years ago. But I added it shortly thereafter when the low-carb craze took hold. Thriving people living active lives including exercise need some carbohydrate with their meals.
  4. Eat anything else you like in any amount you like. This means you can have more of the items described in these first three guidelines and you can have anything else you like. Anything at all. In any amount. As long as you’ve met the requirements for the minimum intakes for the first three guidelines.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into all the details of how this all works physically, emotionally, and mentally in its entirety. The take-home message for the purpose of this article is:

  1. This approach is based on eating, not on not-eating.
  2. This approach releases you from the grips of the prohibition principle/teenager principle. Because you’re not prohibited from eating anything nor limited in how much you can eat, you don’t have much desire to eat more than you need or eat junk food.
  3. This effect is magnified because you’re eating whole, natural, real food, that’s very nutrient-dense, giving your what you really need from food, with every meal.
  4. In sum, it frees a person to eat naturally and it frees a person from the torture of being “on” and “off” cleanses, detoxes, diets, and fasts.
  5. In six months or less, most people are able to fully adopt what I call attuned eating. This is eating based on your own bodies cues. It’s eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. It’s eating the foods that make you feel your best and thoroughly enjoying eating and doing so without any rules, but truly naturally.

Again, this is nowhere near a complete description of the approach I use to help people learn to eat well. I present the very basics as a way of letting you know there is another way besides the exclusion-based, restriction-based unnatural, harmful cleanses, detoxes, diets, and fasts. There is another way. There is a better way. This better way might sound crazy to you because it’s different from anything you’ve ever heard. That’s a good thing. Because everything you’ve heard and everything you’ve tried isn’t very effective. People are getting sicker and fatter at an astonishing rate around here. The status-quo methods aren’t working.

Outdated paradigms have a way of sticking around long past their due date.

“The most dangerous phrase in the world is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.”
–Grace Hopper

Emerging paradigms always seem crazy when they first surface.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
–Arthur Schopenhauer

Photo 164--People Sharing a Meal

In addition to the sound reasoning I’ve shared with you, I’d like to leave you with some more information from some other sources to help you make the most well-informed decisions you can for yourself going forward.

In this WebMD article reviewing detoxes, the conclusion is:

“We’ve heard a great deal about detox diets in recent years. But it’s all hype with no health benefits.”

In this Berkley Wellness article (produced by the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health) reviewing detoxes, the conclusion is:

“There’s no evidence that any of these detoxing methods actually rid your body of harmful substances. And if your goal is weight loss—a benefit promised by most if not all detox plans—evidence suggests that detoxing can actually thwart your efforts in the long-term.”

In this Harvard Women’s Health Watch (produced by the Harvard Medical School) article reviewing detoxes entitled The Dubious Practice of Detox and their follow-up article entitled Detox Diets, Procedures Generally Don’t Promote Health, the conclusion is:

“A seemingly infinite array of diets is available for detoxifying the whole body. However, studies have shown that fasting and extremely low calorie intake—common elements of detox diets—cause a slowdown of metabolism and an increase in weight after the dieter returns to normal eating.”

I’ll leave you with information from one last scientific study that sums things up concisely. In a study article entitled Detox Diets for Toxin Elimination and Weight Management: A Critical Review of the Evidence published in the esteemed Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (7), the researchers conclude:

“Although the detox industry is booming, there is very little clinical evidence to support the use of these diets.”

(1) Messages from the Food Police: How Food-Related Warnings Backfire Among Dieters. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2016, 1(1), 175-190.
(2) How Does Thinking in Black and White Terms Relate to Eating Behavior and Weight Regain? Journal of Health Psychology, 2015, 20(5), 638-648.
(3) Dieting and Binging. A Causal Analysis. American Psychologist, 1985, 40(2), 193-201.
(4) Rigid Vs. Flexible Dieting: Association with Eating Disorder Symptoms in Nonobese Women. Appetite, 2002, 38(1), 39-44.
(5) Brief Report: Effects of Subtle and Explicit Health Messages on Food Choice. Health Psychology, 2015, 34(1), 79-82.
(6) When Healthy Food Makes You Hungry. Journal of Consumer Research, 2010, 37(3), 357-367.
(7) Detox Diets for Toxin Elimination and Weight Management: A Critical Review of the Evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 2015, 8(6), 675-686.


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