Your Nutritionist Throws Up After He/She Eats

“Twenty percent of the dietetic majors indicated some degree of vomiting after they stuffed themselves. This was in contrast to the combined total of approximately four percent for the other two majors.”

This, according to a study article published in the Journal of Nutrition Education (1).

You might be seeking help to improve your eating habits. You might want to feel better about yourself and have better relationships with your body and eating. I understand that; I really do. And I warn you: Be careful where you turn for help.

According to a study article published in the scientific journal Nutrition & Food Science (2):

“Nutrition students had a low mean BMI [body-mass index] of 21.8 kg/m2 [kilograms per square meters]. Despite this, the majority (90 per cent [sic]) were dissatisfied with their body; with 83 per cent [sic] wishing to be thinner and 60 per cent [sic] overestimating their body size. The BITE [Bulimic Investigatory Test, Edinburgh] questionnaire [a measure of bulimia and other eating disorders] revealed that 30 per cent [sic] scored for disordered eating and 10 per cent [sic] scored for Bulimia Nervosa [sic].”

You might expect nutrition students, who are soon-to-be nutrition professionals, to be masters of eating well and to have very loving relationships with themselves, their bodies, and eating. This isn’t the case. You might expect nutrition professionals to be able to help you learn to eat well and to improve your relationship with yourself, your body, and eating. But a person can’t give you what they don’t have.

Keep in mind that this third or so that meet the criteria for disordered eating are only the leading edge of this problem. Disordered eating occurs on a continuum ranging from clinical eating disorder, to subclinical eating disorder, to various neurotic approaches to eating. Considering that fact that 60 percent of subjects in this study overestimated their body size, 83 percent wanted to be thinner, and 90 percent were dissatisfied with their bodies despite having a low body-mass index says only one thing: epidemic. Nutrition departments are both welcome homes and breeding grounds for these troubled people.

What’s being done about this? Not much according to a study article published in the Canadian Journal of Dietary Practice and Research (3):

“We developed a questionnaire specifically for this project and distributed 664 copies electronically, using contact information obtained in collaboration with Dietitians of Canada and the International Confederation of Dietetic Associations. Using the 101 questionnaires returned from 14 countries, we found that 77% of respondents felt eating disorders are a concern among nutrition students; however, only 15% of programs had policies/procedures to help address these disorders. Forty-eight percent of respondents thought screening for eating disorders would be a good idea; however, 78% of them believed screening would involve ethical issues. In conclusion, eating disorders are a concern in nutrition faculties around the world, and while most feel something should be done, ethical dilemmas contribute to confusion over the best approach.”

It appears the fox is guarding the hen house. The nutrition students of yesterday are the nutrition professionals of today and the cycle continues. It’s the blind leading the blind. The troubled leading the troubled.

And the troubled leading you. The leaders of eating well in our communities struggle in droves with body-image disorders and eating disorders. This means not only the direct services you might receive from these professionals, but also the articles, books, and all the media they put out are deeply tainted. Both highly dysfunctional approaches and overt disorders are being passed on to you, the consumer of eating advice.

This has been going on for decades according to a study article published in the scientific journal Health Education Research (4):

“As early as 1989, Betty Larson wrote about a new epidemic of females in food technology and dietetics training who were exhibiting characteristics of eating disorders, including body size overestimation and a pre-occupation with weight, shape and food. She then commented about the ethical dilemma of allowing these young women with eating disorders to study in such careers that revolve around food and health, both for their own well being [sic] and that of their future clients. Research in this area has since confirmed that body dissatisfaction, dieting and disordered eating behaviors as well as sub-clinical and clinical eating disorders are indeed more prevalent in this group of food and nutrition professionals.”

This is the very culture where diets, calorie counting, and ever-changing lists of “good” and “bad” foods come from. These are the epic failures the body-image-disorder-infested, eating-disorder-plagued nutrition profession have given us. This is the very culture, through the aforementioned practices, that’s created the epidemic of weight cycling (a.k.a. yo-yo dieting) and introduced a whole new eating disorder to the world in the last two decades: orthorexia.

I’m not criticizing any person for struggling with body image and eating. I’m open about my struggles with body image as a teenager and into my early 20s. I have great compassion for anyone who struggles in these ways. I coach many people, including many people you wouldn’t expect to struggle with body image and related exercise disorders and eating disorders, including world-class athletes, esteemed counselors, and yes, many nutritionists. They come to me referred by someone who knows I have both the sensitivity and acumen to help them learn to eat well on top of learning how to heal from their body-image disorders and underlying shame. Sometimes they come directly to me when they meet me and they can tell I have what they want: true, deep acceptance of myself and my body along with freedom to exercise and eat peacefully and joyfully from that foundation of acceptance. I’m not criticizing anyone struggling with these challenges.

My concern is that everything that comes out of the nutrition culture is created in this toxic petri dish. The aforementioned study subjects who struggle in droves with these matters are the very people working in nutrition laboratories, doing nutrition dissertations, giving nutrition talks, even shaping public policy around nutrition. Many physicians, without the expertise or time to help their patients with eating well, often unknowingly refer their patients to these same nutritionists. Many of them are unaware of the studies I’ve described here.

I invite you to question the primary products of the nutrition field: diets, calorie counting, and ever-changing lists of “good” and “bad” foods. Diets are also called cleanses, detoxes, and similar names. Calorie counting in other forms is counting grams of carbohydrate, fat, and/or protein or counting “points” of different food types. The “good”-and-“bad”-foods approach created the disastrous low-fat movement of the 80s and 90s and the disastrous low-carb movement of now. The common denominators are exclusion and restriction. That’s really what the troubled nutrition field has given us: exclusion and restriction (and now you know why!). Exclusion and restriction are insane approaches to the life-giving act of eating.

It pains me deeply when someone comes to me and says, “I’ve struggled with my weight and with eating my whole life.” If you’re one of these people, you have my fullest compassion. You must break away from the mainstream nutrition community and find someone to work with who can help you establish a loving relationship with yourself, your body, and eating. You must look more than skin deep. If you look only for a lean body, you’re not looking for the right stuff. Have a conversation with a professional and listen well. Do they have a loving relationship with themselves, their body, and eating? Do they truly understand your struggles? Are they genuinely compassionate? Do they possess a real acumen for helping you feel better about yourself and more confident in your ability to eat well? When you find such a person, breathe easy. You’ve finally found someone who can help you learn what you’ve been trying to learn all these years. Things are about to turn around for you.

Photo 154--Excited Woman

(1) Comparison of Eating Patterns Between Dietetic and Other College Students. Journal of Nutrition Education, 1985, 17(2), 47-50.
(2) Body Image Dissatisfaction Among Food‐Related Degree Students. Nutrition & Food Science, 2012, 42(3), 139-147.
(3) Dietitians and Eating Disorders: An International Issue. Canadian Journal of Dietary Practice and Research, 2012, 73(2), 86-90.
(4) Body Image, Dieting and Disordered Eating and Activity Practices Among Teacher Trainees: Implications for School-Based Health Education and Obesity Prevention Programs. Health Education Research, 2008, 24(3), 472-482.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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

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Food Shopping: It’s Big Fun If You Do It Right

I love food shopping! Seriously—I look forward to it every week!

Most weeks I start by going to the farmers’ market where I get to enjoy several of my favorite experiences all at once. I get to be outside, listen to live music (there are always musicians there), take in other beautiful art (especially the pottery that’s always on display and for sale), and spend time with my peeps. I always run into someone else I know from town too. I have some of my best conversations strolling through the market or sitting under a century-old oak tree while someone with a spectacular voice sings folk songs. I get to experience the seasons too as the food changes from sweet potatoes and kale to tomatoes and and cucumbers to delicata squash and pumpkins, all of which is life itself. Selecting food to buy and chatting with my farmers is big fun too, of course. I love food and this is my chance to bring home the brilliant goods I’ll cook and eat that week. There’s lots to enjoy at the farmers’ market, but the real reason I enjoy food shopping is because, to me, it’s an outing, not a chore.

“This is the real secret of life: to be completely engaged in what you’re doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize that it is play.”
–Alan Watts

And bored, I don’t do bored. I suppose if I were walking the aisles of a big-box store all by myself, I might want to get this whole thing over with. But if you go somewhere fantastic, with your close ones, how could food shopping be boring?

Photo 151--Farmers' Market

I also enjoy going to the fish market. I live right near the ocean and I get to walk to fish markets with fresh fish from a stone’s throw a way. I walk over and get some cod, oysters, scallops, or whatever looks good that week.

Photo 152--Fish Market

In the right seasons, my next stop is a farm just out of town where I pick my own strawberries, blueberries, and apples.

Photo 153--Blueberry Farm

None of this is a chore to me; it’s all an adventure.

Many people rush through chores (and all of life) thinking when they’re done what they’re rushing through, they’ll get to the good stuff. But this is the good stuff. Picking blueberries with your kids or your brother or your friend on a beautiful day is the good stuff.

Why would you rush through a chore—when right there, right then, you have food, your close ones, art, and nature—to get to somewhere else in the future? Where/when else do you want to go? These “everyday experiences” are the heaven religious people seek. Shoeless Joe Jackson and Ray Kinsella spell this out nicely for us in Field of Dreams. Heaven is here—in Iowa, in Maine, in Istanbul, or wherever you are—now.

Every day, people travel miles to go somewhere to spend time outdoors. Every day, people read relationship books, go on dating websites, undergo fertility treatments, and spend hours on Facebook, all to experience connection. Every day, people pay big bucks to go to concerts. Every week, I experience the beauty of nature, joking and teasing and deep conversation and laughing my face off, and all kinds of art, all while food shopping and you can too.

This is the good stuff and it’s available to us right here, right now, not when we’re done our boring chores.

“As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being. If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, ‘It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.’ How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?”
–Alan Watts

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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

Is Tom Brady Really That Sexy?

We’ve all heard the reports that Tom Brady is the first one to arrive at the Patriots’ training complex and the last one to leave. They say he’s a workout machine. He’s made it to the top of the National Football League and stayed there longer than anyone ever has because he works out so hard so the reports go.

But is he sexy?

Photo 150--Two People Kissing

Some might say I’m not in position to answer this, as a straight man who’s never owned a pink number 12 Pats jersey, but I’m going to take a crack at it anyway: He’s not sexy; the science says he’s probably not even that sexual.

In a study article published in Medicine & Science of Sports & Exercise, men who worked out at low and moderate loads were much more likely to have normal and high sex drives compared to men who worked out at high loads. (1) Here’s how the researchers summarized their findings:

“Exposure to higher levels of chronic intense and greater durations of endurance training on a regular basis is significantly associated with a decreased libido scores in men. Clinicians who treat male patients for sexual disorders and/or council couples on infertility issues should consider the degree of endurance exercise training a man is performing as a potential complicating factor.”

A study article published in the Journal of Endocrinology dug deeper into the hormonal underpinnings of the decreased sexual function in excessive exercisers. (2) Researchers studied men who exercised two hours per day five days per week at two different intensity levels. They found low testosterone and suppressed overall sexual and reproductive abilities among the subjects. These effects were worse in the high-intensity group. How bad was it?

“After 24 weeks of exercise, the subjects exercising with high intensity demonstrated significantly declined semen parameters compared with those exercising with moderate intensity.”

You might swoon for his dimpled chin, but TB12 might be all show and no go, along with other excessive exercisers.

Exercise is, of course, great for maintaining a high sex drive and there are countless studies backing this up. But the devil is in the details. Doing moderate exercise keeps us well in all ways and high sex drive is one marker of wellness. But excessive exercise makes us sick in all ways and low sex drive is one marker of sickness. Two studies on women drive home this nuance really well.

In a study article published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, women filled out questionnaires (this served as the control condition) or ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes then watched porn (the researchers referred to it as “erotic films” in the study article, but who are we kidding) or some boring shows (these were referred to as “neutral films” in the study article). (3) While they watched the videos, subjects’ levels of sexual arousal were measured. Running on a treadmill significantly boosted sexual arousal compared to the control condition. The researchers, who definitely can’t complain that their job is boring, reported in their study article (3):

“Several studies have demonstrated that moderate exercise increases genital response to erotic stimuli in women. The increase in genital arousal could be the result of various changes that can occur in response to exercise including changes in hormone levels, neurotransmitter levels, mood, and autonomic nervous system activity.”

But what happens when your exercise load slides from moderate to excessive? What happens when you go “hardcore”?

A study article published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility offers clear insight. (4) In this study, measures of time to pregnancy were taken from women who worked out at various exercise loads. In all women except those categorized as “overweight” or “obese” in the study, workout load was associated with time to pregnancy in a dose-response manner. The harder a woman worked out, the longer it took her to get pregnant. This statement summarizes the findings of the study:

“In this prospective cohort study of Danish women aged 18-40 years, vigorous PA [physical activity] was associated with reduced fecundability [the probability of becoming pregnant within one menstrual cycle] in all subgroups of women examined, with the exception of overweight and obese women (BMI [body-mass index] ≥25), among whom PA [physical activity] of any type either modestly increased or had little effect on fecundability [the probability of becoming pregnant within one menstrual cycle]. In contrast, moderate PA [physical activity] was associated with a modest increase in fecundability [the probability of becoming pregnant within one menstrual cycle] overall and did not appear to have any deleterious effect on fertility among lean or overweight/obese women.”

The authors of a study article published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology summarize this understanding about moderation very well:

“A healthy amount of exercise in men can be beneficial. Physically active men who exercised at least three times a week for one hour typically scored higher in almost all sperm parameters in comparison to men who participated in more frequent and rigorous exercise. Moderately physically active men had significantly better sperm morphology (shape) (15.2%), the only ones to be ranked above Kruger’s strict criteria [a measure of sperm morphology (shape)] in comparison to the men who played in a competitive sport (9.7%) or were elite athletes (4.7%).”

Those are some stats you’re never going to hear on ESPN!

“Physical activity has been shown to confer a protective effect on fertility when coupled with weight loss in obese women. However, excessive exercise can negatively alter energy balance in the body and affect the reproductive system.”

Excessive exercise simply diverts resources from your sexual and reproductive systems!

Being really fit is confused with being really well. We need a modest amount of fitness to thrive. The science on this is very clear. In a study article published in the prestigious Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the researchers report (6):

“Accumulating evidence suggests that exercise practices that are ideal for promoting health and longevity may differ from the high-volume, high-intensity endurance training programs used for developing peak cardiac performance and superb cardiorespiratory fitness.”

“From a population-wide perspective, physical inactivity is a much more prevalent public health problem than excessive exercise. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans call for 150 min/wk [minute(s) per week] or more of moderate-intensity aerobic PA [physical activity] or 75 min/wk [minute(s) per week] of vigorous-intensity aerobic PA [physical activity]. A recent survey of a half million adults in the United States reported that about 10 of every 20 people fail to obtain this suggested minimum weekly dose of PA [physical activity]. However, extrapolation of the data from the current Williams and Thompson study to the general population would suggest that approximately 1 of 20 people is overdoing exercise, potentially increasing the risk-to-benefit ratio. Individuals from either end of the exercise spectrum would probably reap long-term health benefits by changing their PA [physical activity] levels to be in the moderate range.”

“On the basis of multiple studies, it might be prudent to limit chronic vigorous exercise to no more than about 60 min/d [minute(s) per day]”.

“A weekly cumulative dose of vigorous exercise of not more than about 5 hours has been identified in several studies to be the safe upper range for long-term cardiovascular health and life expectancy.”

If excessive exercise is killing you, then it’s certainly going to suppress your sexual and reproductive wellness. In reality, you need only a modicum of fitness for thriving sexual and reproductive wellness. Think of all the people you know who’ve made a baby. How many were crazy fit? How many were not very fit at all? Once you’re fit enough to maximize your wellness, additional fitness isn’t going to make you any more well. This would be like trying to put 100 gallons of gasoline in your 13-gallon gas tank in an effort to make your car drive faster or further. Your car can only hold so much gasoline. In a person, pouring in more exercise beyond one’s capacity for exercise, uses up resources needed for vital functions, including making hormones. Low sex drive and poor reproductive abilities among excessive exercisers should come as no surprise, really.

I get where the mistaken thinking comes from. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you probably have images in your mind of macho men snapping towels in locker rooms raving about their sexual prowess. It’s part of our culture to think of athletic men as superheroes with invincibility, certainly not impotence. But the scientists and physicians publishing the findings of their studies in the likes of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the Journal of Endoncrinology, and the Mayo Clinic Proceedings tell us an entirely different story. (I assume similar tall tales are being told wherever women tell tall tales.)

I know I’m not winning any popularity contests by knocking Tom Brady off the false-god pedestal many people have placed him on. But I want more people to enjoy sex if they want to. And I’d want more people to have children if they want to. So I feel it’s important to tell the truth about “hardcore” exercise as it relates to sexual and reproductive wellness.

While I’m knocking down out-of-date paradigms, I think there’s another reason to challenge TB12’s sexiness. Do you find a person who’s living their own life alluring? Someone doing their thing? Being themselves? Being an original? I sure do. I’m drawn to people who are blazing their own trail, unafraid to be themselves. Frankly, I couldn’t think of a less original life path for a man in contemporary United States than to be a quarterback married to a model. Was that really his idea? He might be winning the matrix, but that means he’s firmly in the matrix. What’s sexy about that?

(1) Endurance Exercise Training and Male Sexual Libido. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2017, 49(7), 1,383-1.388.
(2) The Effects of Intensive, Long-Term Treadmill Running on Reproductive Hormones, Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Testis Axis, and Semen Quality: A Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Endocrinology, 2009, 200(3), 259-271.
(3) The Roles of Testosterone and Alpha-Amylase in Exercise-Induced Sexual Arousal in Women. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009, 5(4), 845-853.
(4) A Prospective Cohort Study of Physical Activity and Time-to-Pregnancy. Fertility and Sterility, 2012, 97(5), 1,136–1,142.
(5) Lifestyle Factors and Reproductive Health: Taking Control of Your Fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 2013, 11(66), 1-15.
(6) Exercising for Health and Longevity Vs Peak Performance: Different Regimens for Different Goals. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2014, 89(9), 1,171-1,175.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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

 

Pour Some Sugar on Me

It’s mid-afternoon. You’re not hungry, but you find yourself tempted to have those brownies someone brought into your office. “Nah,” you say to yourself, “I’m not even hungry. I just had lunch two hours ago.”

But they keep calling you, and calling you, and calling you…and you have a few, maybe more than a few.

You feel bad afterward. Sluggish, and mad at yourself. “Why did I do it again?” “What’s wrong with me?” you ask yourself in a condemning tone. You’re a disciplined person. You get to work on time. You get the oil changed in your car. You pay your bills on time. You have your life mostly under control. But brownies, cake, cookies—you just can’t stop yourself sometimes!

“That’s it, no sugar!” you boldly declare. There, you’ve sworn off sugar, again. And it sticks—for a few days. Then you’re back it it, kind of like a junkie. You just can’t stop. Yeah, you really do feel like a junkie.

You see a report on the news that sugar is as addictive as heroin. “Aha!” you proclaim. You knew it all along and now you have proof.

Well, this is the part of the article where I either burst your bubble or give you really good news, depending on your perspective: You’re not a sugar addict and sugar isn’t even addictive (and I can prove both of these facts to you). My proof: soldiers and rats.

Let’s start with soldiers. During the Vietnam War, United States soldiers become addicted to heroin in droves. When these soldiers left the war and returned home, very few of them continued to use heroin at all, let alone addictively (1,2). If heroin was addictive and they were heroin addicts, there’d be no way they could just stop. But they did, without intensive drug rehabilitation. All they did to stop was leave the war and come home. (1,2)

War is as stressful as life gets. You think your to-do list is daunting; imagine one like this:

  1. Make your bed.
  2. Clean your rifle.
  3. Kill Vietnamese people.
  4. Hold your friend while he dies in your arms.
  5. Breath in napalm.

Right?

We experience stress whenever we fail to meet our needs. Being at war is about as far as a person can get from meeting their needs. War is inhuman. It could be the definition of inhuman. Very few human needs are being met for anyone at war.

Something very important happens when we meet our needs. The levels of reward chemicals (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, etc.) in our brains, in our bodies, in us, go up. This feels good.

When we don’t meet our needs, of course, our levels of these reward chemicals drop. For those soldiers in the Vietnam War, their levels of reward chemicals were crazy low. This feels bad. Really bad.

These reward chemicals are very powerful. They’ve driven human behavior for millennia and helped ensure our individual survival as well as the survival of our species. In other words, it’s part of our nature to do that which boosts our levels of these reward chemicals.

What do you thinking taking heroin does? It rapidly and powerfully boosts a person’s levels of reward chemicals.

Here’s what happened with these soldiers:

  1. They were living in an extremely high-stress environment that failed to meet their needs as people.
  2. Their levels of reward chemicals dropped precipitously. They felt bad.
  3. They were offered a substance which, when ingested, dramatically boosts one’s levels of reward chemicals.
  4. They tried the substance and it boosted their levels of reward chemicals. They felt better.
  5. War continued to be stressful and failed to meet their needs. Their levels of reward chemicals dropped repeatedly. They felt bad.
  6. They took the substance again and the cycle repeated. (They were addicted to the substance.)
  7. They left the war and returned home. This new environment was relatively low stress and mostly met their needs. Their levels of reward chemicals were consistently relatively high.
  8. Their cravings for heroin went away.
  9. They stopped taking heroin.

Were these soldiers addicts? Perhaps they were situational addicts. They certainly weren’t always addicts or they wouldn’t have been able to stop taking heroin so easily when they returned home.

Is heroin addictive? Perhaps it’s situationally addictive. It’s certainly not always addictive or the soldiers wouldn’t have been able to stop taking it so easily when they returned home.

Perhaps there are addictive situations? Addictive environments?

Now let’s talk about rats, lab rats. For years, researchers conducted various studies in which they’d bring lab rats heroin and observe what happens. The rats would, in fact, become addicted. Once rats were given heroin, they’d keep taking it. If it was taken away, they would exhibit signs of withdrawal. Numerous scientific studies showed similar results. The researchers had all the evidence they needed: Heroin is very addictive.

In comes pioneering researcher Bruce Alexander. He made an observation: All the rats in these heroin studies were living, as lab rats tend to do, in cages. They were living in large columns and rows of cages. This meant their daily lives included no contact with other rats. They only people they saw were the people who brought the food, water, and, um, heroin, a few times a day for a few minutes of total time. Alexander hypothesized that this might have an impact on the results of heroin studies. (3,4)

Rats are used in scientific studies because their behavioral, biological, and genetic characteristics are similar to those of people. Rats are social creatures, just like us. We all know what happens when a person goes into solitary confinement; they basically lose their shit and go crazy. Like war, solitary confinement is one of the most stressful environments there is. And these rats were effectively living in solitary confinement for their entire lives. Again, Alexander thought this was important. (3,4)

So he made Rat Park. In his laboratory, he designed and created an area for rats to live. They had lots of space to move around. They had other rats to socialize with. They had plenty of food and plenty of water. They had toys rats love to play with. (3,4) Their needs were met.

Then he gave them heroin. (3,4) What happened?

  1. Almost all of the rats tried the heroin. (3,4)
  2. Most of the rats never took heroin again. (3,4)

Just like the soldiers from the Vietnam war, when they were in an environment that met their needs, heroin wasn’t appealing. They were quite content. Sure taking heroin felt good. But not any better than making out with other rats and playing with colorful toys.

Again, we can observe not addictive “people” (rats in this case) or an addictive substance, but an addictive situation, an addictive environment. These examples show us that war and solitary confinement, stressful situations, foster addiction. They also show us that situations that meet our needs lead to freedom from addiction.

The results of the Rat Park studies, which were conducted in the 1970s, were validated in a 2010 study of a similar nature (5). Here’s what the researchers from that study reported in their study article:

“Adult Wistar rats housed in short-term isolation (21 days) consumed significantly more morphine solution (0.5 mg/ml [milligrams per milliliter]) than rats living in pairs, both in one-bottle and in two-bottle tests. No differences were found in their water consumption. This effect was observed in both males and females and the results were also replicated after reversal of housing conditions.”

“We also found that as little as 60-min [minutes] of daily social-physical interaction with another rat was sufficient to completely abolish the increase in morphine consumption in socially restricted animals.”

Back to you and the brownies: Could this same phenomenon help you? I hope I have you at least considering the possibility of your long-sought freedom. If a rat hanging out with his/her rat friend for one hour can eliminate morphine cravings, certainly there are ways you can get free from your sugar cravings.

I witness it every week with my clients. I witness my clients getting free from “emotional” eating rapidly and powerfully. How do they do this? By meeting their needs.

Photo 149--Free Woman

“Meet your needs”, I know, sounds like the tagline for an all-women’s pampering retreat in the Berkshires. It sounds fluffy and intangible, I get it. But meeting your needs changes you “physically”. It changes the chemistry within your body. It gives you abundant levels of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and other reward chemicals. Just like it did for the soldiers when they left the war and came home and just like it did for the rats when they were released from solitary confinement and put up in luxurious Rat Park.

The most common unmet needs that lead to “emotional” eating are sleep, rest, time in nature, and connection. Contemporary Western culture is a petri dish of these unmet needs, so if this speaks to you, know you’re not alone. Imagine a person who got six hours of sleep, commuted for an hour by themselves on the beautiful (sarcasm alert) highways outside a major city, then put their earbuds in and got to work coding and occasionally instant messaging with their “team” in Pakistan. Shit, if that was me, I’d have a cupcake in the afternoon too. Sugar cravings and binges, however, can be nicely attenuated by simply making some changes to the environment in the petri dish you swim in. Creating a life with consistent good sleep and rest is huge. Add a regular dose of nature, even simply getting outside for 10-minute breaks during the day will help a lot too. And connection, that’s where the magic happens. Connection boosts levels of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and other reward chemicals like nothing else.

I’m in the business of reading, writing, and talking about scientific studies, not designing and implementing them, but If I were going to run one, here’s what I’d do. I’d recruit 1,000 subjects who really struggle with “emotional” eating and put them in two groups, an experimental group and a control group. The subjects in the experimental group would get eight hours of sleep per night. They’d also get two hours of rest per day on workdays and six hours of rest per day on weekends. They’d eat one meal per day together in a group of five. They’d exercise four days per week doing the type of exercise of their choice. They’d have the option of exercising with others if they wanted to. The men subjects would participate in a men’s group that met once per week. The women subjects would participate in a women’s group that met once per week. All subjects would take a course in tantric sexuality and be encouraged to practice with their lovers. The subjects in the control group would continue living their lives as they were. Measures of “emotional”-eating levels would be taken from the subjects at baseline, three months, and six months (post-study). Measures of dopamine level, serotonin level, oxytocin level, endorphin levels, and levels of other reward chemicals would be taken from the subjects daily.

My hypothesis is that the subjects in the experimental group would have much lower levels “emotional” eating and much higher levels of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and other reward chemicals. (They probably wouldn’t want to go home either.)

This study is unlikely to ever be conducted because it wouldn’t get through an ethical review board because it might impose excessive enjoyment of life (my sarcasm is flowing today; please excuse me) on the experimental subjects.

In any case, you could try this experiment in your own life. Perhaps you can’t live in my study paradise with me, but you could replicate it as best as you could (i.e., get more sleep and rest, spend more time in nature, and cultivate great connection).

The beautiful thing about this approach is that not only does it not have any side effects (that’s the trying-to-be-benign term pharmaceutical companies use for side problems), but it has side benefits. That is, enjoying more sleep and rest, enjoying more time in nature, and rocking your relationships won’t only curb your “emotional” eating, it’ll make literally everything in your life better. That’s thriving. As far as I can tell, that’s the real “go big or go home” we’re here for.

Author’s Note: The phenomenon of situational addiction relates to behavior addictions like being addicted to gambling or exercising, not only to substance addictions like heroin or sugar. These behaviors, like these substances, boost one’s levels of reward chemicals. in a person who’s not meeting their global needs, these behaviors can become situationally addictive and these people can become situational addicts.

Author’s Note: I put “emotional” in quotes when using the term “emotional” eating throughout this article (and with the word “physically”) because there’s no separation between our “physical”, “emotional”, and “mental” existence and our “physical”, “mental”, and “emotional” processes. This is made abundantly clear by the effect experiences like those described in this article have on chemicals (undeniably “physical” in nature even by those who hold on to the notion of division of a person into parts) that are us.

Author’s Note: Throughout this article I’ve referred to sugar instead of processed sugar because it made for less-clunky and sexier (to me anyway) writing. However, processed sugar is what we’re technically talking about here. No one I know is complaining of cravings for or binging on bananas, kiwis, and raspberries which are loaded with sugar. Sugar is a nutrient that naturally occurs in many real foods that are very nourishing.

(1) Narcotic Use in Southeast Asia and Afterward. An Interview Study of 898 Vietnam Returnees. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1975, 32(8), 955-961.
(2) How Permanent Was Vietnam Drug Addiction? American Journal of Public Health, 1974, 64(12S), 38-43.
(3) The Effect of Housing and Gender on Preference for Morphine-Sucrose Solutions in Rats. Psychopharmacology, 1979, 66(1), 87-91.
(4) The Effect of Housing and Gender on Morphine Self-Administration in Rats. Psychopharmacology, 1978, 58(2), 175-179.
(5) Social Isolation Increases Morphine Intake: Behavioral and Psychopharmacological Aspects. Behavioural Psychology, 2010, 21(1), 39-46.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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

Nourishment from Around the World

As I go about my life’s work of wellness and thriving, I’ve been studying how people from various places on Earth nourish themselves. I’ve found some very unique forms of nourishment we don’t have very much of in the United States that are helping some of our brothers and sisters from around the world. I present to you a three-course meal in worldly nourishment.

To start, I offer you a glorious dish called hygge, which is part of the fabric of Danish culture. It’s a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment. It’s an incredible mix of three flavors: relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude. Sounds pretty good, right?

After the hygge warms you up from the inside, I’m sure you’ll be hungry for some bistrai jane, a delightful Nepali dish. Bistari jane roughly translates to walk slowly. It’s often used among friends to say, “Let’s walk slowly.” It’s a wonderful way to live. It’s about taking your time. Savoring the experience. Smelling the roses. Enjoying life. You’re going to love this.

For dessert, nothing beats the ever-so-decadent Italian treat dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing. The sweetness of being. The sweetness of your existence. Does it get any better than that?

Yes, I played a trick on you. Because nourishment comes from much more than food. Yes, the standard American diet is nearly void of nutrients and eating well is an important aspect of wellness. But no amount of broccoli and salmon is going to give you the real nourishment you need if you’re living in the the standard American soil contaminated by busyness, pushing, rushing, and never-enough-time-for-that-which-really-matters.

Photo 148--Sandy Trail

I invite you to enjoy these nourishing dishes regularly. You might just find yourself proclaiming, as Costa Ricans do, “Pura vida!” (“This is living!”)

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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

Check Out Those Gams!

Aging is inevitable. Death is inevitable.

You might be thinking, “Gee, Jason, thanks for starting us off on such an upbeat note today.”

Don’t worry, we’ll get to the upbeat note quickly. And it’s very exciting!

I’m going to show you three pictures from a study article published in the medical journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine (1).

This is the first picture.

Photo 145--Gams 1

This is a magnetic-resonance-imaging scan of the upper leg of a man in his 40s. Look closely and you’ll see the femur, the upper-leg-bone, running through the middle. Outside the femur, you’ll see the muscles of the upper leg. Around the edge, you’ll see body fat.

This is the second picture.

Photo 146--Gams 2

This is a magnetic resonance-imaging scan of a man in his 70s. Look closely. Start with the femur. It’s much smaller. Now look at the muscles. They’re also much smaller. And, there’s much more body fat. I mean this in a descriptive, non-judgmental way: This is a decrepit leg. This is a decrepit person. This leg is wasting way. This person is wasting away.

Hang on, the upbeat note is coming. And it’s very exciting!

This is the third picture.

Photo 147--Gams 3

This is another magnetic-resonance-imaging scan of a man in his 70s. Go back and look at the scan of the man in his 40s. That one and this one look almost identical, right? How could that be?

The scans of the man in his 40s and the second man in his 70s are from people who are consistent exercisers. The scan of the first man in his 70s is from a sedentary person. That’s the only difference.

You and I are aging every day and you and I will die. (Those are actually very life-giving realities to embrace, possibly the most life-giving realities to embrace.) And we have more to celebrate today: Decrepitude is optional. Stated positively, robust vitality and wellness well into old age is natural and is ours to savor, if we chose to do so. As the authors of the study article (1) state:

“The good news, however, is that many of the diseases and infirmities exclusively attributed to aging are more accurately related to the effects of sedentary living.”

“This study contradicts the common observation that muscle mass and strength decline as a function of aging alone. Instead, these declines may signal the effect of chronic disuse rather than muscle aging. Evaluation of masters athletes removes disuse as a confounding variable in the study of lower-extremity function and loss of lean muscle mass. This maintenance of muscle mass and strength may decrease or eliminate the falls, functional decline, and loss of independence that are commonly seen in aging adults.”

Disuse. Misuse. Abuse. These are the factors that create deterioration. The mere ticking of the clock has little to do with disease.

“Exercise improves quality of life by decreasing body fat (BF) and obesity rates, increasing muscle strength, improving balance, gait, and mobility, decreasing the likelihood of falling, improving psychological health, reducing arthritis pain, and reducing the risk of developing coronary heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes.”

“It is commonly believed that with aging comes an inevitable decline from vitality to frailty. This includes feeling weak and often the loss of independence. These declines may have more to do with lifestyle choices, including sedentary living and poor nutrition, than the absolute potential of musculoskeletal aging.”

“In this study, we sought to eliminate the confounding variables of sedentary living and muscle disuse, and answer the question of what really happens to our muscles as we age if we are chronically active. This study and those discussed here show that we are capable of preserving both muscle mass and strength with lifelong physical activity.”

Aging and deterioration have been mistakenly linked by too many people for far too long. Aging is required, decrepitude is optional. Stated positively, aging is required, thriving is optional. Thriving is available to all of us who meet our needs. Our needs for nourishing movement, nourishing food, plenty of sleep and rest, fulfilling relationships, fulfilling work, and more. Needs we can meet with self-care. Are you with me?

There’s an important nuance to consider when taking in the findings of this study: It isn’t license to exercise excessively. Yes, exercise is beneficial, but only moderate exercise. Exercising excessively is as dangerous as being sedentary. (2) A study article published in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2) drives home this important point:

“From a population-wide perspective, physical inactivity is a much more prevalent public health problem than excessive exercise. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans call for 150 min/wk [minute(s) per week] or more of moderate-intensity aerobic PA [physical activity] or 75 min/wk [minute(s) per week] of vigorous-intensity aerobic PA [physical activity]. A recent survey of a half million adults in the United States reported that about 10 of every 20 people fail to obtain this suggested minimum weekly dose of PA [physical activity]. However, extrapolation of the data from the current Williams and Thompson study to the general population would suggest that approximately 1 of 20 people is overdoing exercise, potentially increasing the risk-to-benefit ratio. Individuals from either end of the exercise spectrum would probably reap long-term health benefits by changing their PA [physical activity] levels to be in the moderate range.”

“On the basis of multiple studies, it might be prudent to limit chronic vigorous exercise to no more than about 60 min/d [minute(s) per day]”.

“A weekly cumulative dose of vigorous exercise of not more than about 5 hours has been identified in several studies to be the safe upper range for long-term cardiovascular health and life expectancy.”

Wellness isn’t the result of excessive exercise. It’s the result of moderate exercise combined with meeting all of our needs, all of which can be a lot of fun. I wish you many years of thriving.

(1) Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 2011, 39(3), 172-178.
(2) Exercising for Health and Longevity Vs Peak Performance: Different Regimens for Different Goals. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2014, 89(9), 1,171-1,175.

Author’s Note: The study article this article is based on didn’t provide a magnetic-resonance imaging scan of a sedentary man in his 40s. I’ve shown you all three scans that are part of the study article.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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

 

 

The Motivation Mistake That’s Keeping You Trapped

Which of the following statements is most motivating?

  1. “I’ve been so stressed. I know exercise is good for stress relief, so I’m going to make some time to exercise this weekend.”
  2. “My physician has really been on me to exercise and I see her again in a month. I don’t want to disappoint her, so I’m going to start exercising again this weekend.”
  3. “I don’t want to get dementia like Dad did. I’m going to go for a run this weekend.”
  4. “It’ll feel so good to be in shape again. I know it will take a few months, at least, but I’m going to start swimming this weekend.”
  5. “I can’t wait to go paddle boarding in Rickles Cove with Eric.”
  6. “I want to get back to lifting this weekend. They say it helps prevent osteoporosis.”
  7. “I’m hitting the gym this weekend. I really want to look great by the time we head to Cancun.”

The answer is: “I can’t wait to go paddle boarding in Rickles Cove with Eric.”

Photo 144--Paddle Boarding

Here’s what 99 percent of wellness practitioners and 99 percent of people seeking to be more well don’t know:

  1. If you’re engaging in self-care because it’s good for you, you’ll likely do it for a while, and you’ll do it sometimes.
  2. If you’re engaging in self-care because you enjoy it, you’ve found the key to motivation superpowers.

Let me give you a quick look under the hood of motivation.

First, there’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, which you might have heard of.

Intrinsic motivation is motivation to do something for sake of doing it. For example: “I go rock climbing a few days per week because I love it. I love being on the rock wall and I love climbing with my friends. I love the whole experience.”

Extrinsic motivation is motivation to do something for what it will get you. For example: “I go rock climbing a few days per week because I want to have a stronger upper body.”

In either case, if you go rock climbing regularly (or do similar exercise), you’ll get a stronger upper body. But you’re much more likely to go rock climbing (or do similar exercise) when you’re intrinsically motivated.

Second, there are experiential and instrumental benefits, which take our understanding of motivation up a level.

Experiential benefits are the benefits you get that are an immediate part of engaging in an activity. For example: “Wow, I love these fresh blueberries you picked. They’re so delicious. Thank you. Let’s put them in the fruit salad.”

Instrumental benefits are the benefits you get 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 blueberries increase longevity and prevent 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.

What’s the magic of intrinsic motivation and experiential benefits? In a word: enjoyment. Fun. Pleasure. (I know, I added a few words. I did it because it was fun and gave me pleasure.) To tap into your motivation superpowers, the key is to tap into fun and pleasure.

Let’s back up a second and consider why extrinsic motivation and instrumental benefits are inferior motivation tools. Something very interesting happens when you try to motivate someone based on extrinsic motivation and instrumental benefits: YOU BUILD RESISTANCE. This is very common in teaching, coaching, parenting, management, and other forms of leadership, unfortunately.

When you say: “Fermented vegetables are a great way to improve your gut health,” the other person hears, “There must be something bad about fermented vegetables. They must be gross. Why are they trying to convince me to eat them?”

When you say: “You should come swimming with me. It’s great for your whole body,” the other person hears, “There must be something bad about swimming. It must be boring. Why are they trying to convince me to do it?”

The same applies to your relationship with yourself and your attempts to motivate yourself. Using extrinsic motivation and instrumental benefits as motivation is keeping you trapped. You don’t want to do what you’re being convinced to do (even by yourself). It’s like being sold to. No one likes to be sold to (even by themselves).

If you want to be free, turn up the fun and pleasure. How much? Turn it up to 11.

Seriously, turn up the fun and pleasure all the way! If you like hiking, make it even better by hiking with a friend. Make it better yet by hiking in a really beautiful place. When in doubt, make it more fun and more pleasurable. If you love to have potlucks with your friends and eat nourishing food, invite more people, invite someone who’ll play some live music, or do whatever would make it even more enjoyable for you. You’ll keep doing what you enjoy.

We live in a culture that promotes toil and preaches that the only way to get good feelings is to suffer for a period of time in order to get good feelings in the future. I invite you to challenge this outdated, Puritan notion. I invite you to go right for the good feelings. It’s super motivating.

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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