How to Use the Latest Technology to Boost Your Wellness

Start by getting into your car. Drive to the nearest dumpster and throw in your Fitbit. And throw in anything you use to count calories too.

Really, you don’t need this stuff and, frankly, these types of devices and apps could really mess you up. According to a recent study article published in the scientific journal Eating Behaviors (1):

“Individuals who reported using calorie trackers manifested higher levels of eating concern and dietary restraint, controlling for BMI [body-mass index]. Additionally, fitness tracking was uniquely associated with ED [eating disorder] symptomatology after adjusting for gender and bingeing and purging behavior within the past month. Findings highlight associations between use of calorie and fitness trackers and eating disorder symptomatology.”

For emphasis: “Findings highlight associations between use of calorie and fitness trackers and eating disorder symptomatology.”

You might find this surprising because there’s a pervasive paradigm that exists that tells us that anything that gets a person to eat less and move more is helpful. This is a faulty paradigm. (Stick with me for a few minutes; I’m going to tell you about a much better one.)

I’m not surprised that the use of movement trackers and calorie counters is associated with the development of eating disorders. Nor are many of my colleagues (physicians, other wellness coaches, and other wellness professionals) when I talk with them about the results of this study. To those of us who work closely with people on adopting great wellness habits, this is a no-brainer. We’ve seen these types of approaches fail miserably more times than we can count. We also see them cause a great deal of harm on a regular basis.

What did you think was going to happen when you rewarded people for taking steps and for not-eating? This is a simple Pavlovian effect. Each time they step, bing, they get a reward. Each time they not-eat, bing, they get a reward. It might sound pretty good to you so far, but in practice, this gets real ugly real fast for many people. There’a an important perspective you must take to really get what can go wrong here: Anyone with any insecurity (there’s a lot of that around here), could have trouble stopping. They’ll keep stepping away and not-eating away while you throw them doggie treats. And if I can take 5,000 steps, maybe I can take 10,000. Maybe 20,000. Maybe 50,000. If I can keep myself under 1,500 calories, maybe I can stay under 1,400. Maybe 1,300. Maybe I can fast one day per week. That’s a zero-calorie day. Then I’ll be doing really good.

This thinking happens. All the time.

Sure, most people using these methods don’t develop full-on eating disorders. However, millions of people live with an inordinate amount of self-oppression as they become calories-in, calories-out automatons. (If this resonates with you, hang tight. There’s a much better way to take care of yourself and that’s where we’re headed. By the way, I wouldn’t actually call the “calories-in, calories-out” approach a method of self-care; I’d call it a method of self-domination.)

“Eat less, move more” is the mantra of this often well-intentioned, but thoroughly misguided paradigm behind these devices and apps. Most people say it like this to themselves: “Eat less (you gluttonous pig), move more (you lazy bastard).” The part in parentheses isn’t usually said in words, but it’s often very much there in spirit. People often say to me, “I know what I need to do: Eat less (you gluttonous pig), move more (you lazy bastard).” I can feel their self-loathing when the say it.

I never like hearing this. Honestly, it always makes me very sad. I was a fat teenager. And when I didn’t get any support from the adults in my life, I turned to our society for the solution. Our society shouted back meanly, “Eat less (you gluttonous pig), move more (you lazy bastard)!” And since no one was offering a better solution, or any other solution at all, “eat less, move more” became my mantra.

Those were some hard times. My self-talk transformed from that of what you’d expect of an adventurous, life-loving young man to that of what you’d expect from a harsh taskmaster. I wasn’t in harmony with myself at all. I was controlling myself with a berating tone. I wouldn’t wish that kind of experience on anyone. In fact, I’d like to turn it around or prevent it for as many people as I can.

Of course, discipline is a useful trait, but it so easily slip-slides into self-domination and self-oppression for so many as studies are revealing. Another 2017 study article published in the scientific journal Eating Behaviors (2) looked at the calorie-counting feature of the My Fitness Pal (I think you need better friends) app. Here’s what the researchers found:

“We found that a substantial percentage (~75%) of participants used My Fitness Pal and that 73% of these users perceived the app as contributing to their eating disorder. Furthermore, we found that these perceptions were correlated with eating disorder symptoms. This research suggests that My Fitness Pal is widely used in an eating disorder population and is perceived as contributing to eating disorder symptoms.”

For emphasis: “This research suggests that My Fitness Pal is widely used in an eating disorder population and is perceived as contributing to eating disorder symptoms.”

Science is bringing a very important issue to the forefront. “Eat less, move more” is extremely dangerous. Besides, it’s a faulty paradigm based on entirely false premises.

First, it’s based on the premise that human nature is to eat more than one needs to eat and cause themselves great harm and therefore people need massive restraint and the tools that teach massive restraint in order to eat well.

Second, it’s based on the premise that human nature is sit around all day long and therefore people need every form of carrot and stick possible to get them off the couch and doing something for crying out loud.

People, like all other animals, have evolved to enjoy and nourish themselves with food and to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. That’s our nature. Two factors of modern life have converged to create the possibility and the reality of overeating for many people.

The first factor is fake food. Fake food, junk food, industrial food, whatever you want to call it, is 95 percent of what you find in food stores, including places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market by the way. It’s all of the lifeless, barely perishable “food” that makes up almost all of the over 45,000 “foods” sold in most food stores. Fake food is so adulterated that it never truly satisfies. There’s a reason No One Can Eat Just One. There’s a reason you can’t stop eating fake food. It isn’t providing your body, you, with what you need. When you eat fake food of any kind, your body “says” to you: “Thanks for the energy. I appreciate it. But I also need some magnesium, some zinc, some vitamin A, and could you pick up some vitamin C on your way home, honey. We’re way low.” When your body needs nutrients, it “speaks” only one language: hunger. Since fake food is extremely nutrient-sparse, and can never truly satisfy you, it will always leave you hungry. Real food, on the other hand, is extremely satisfying. I dare you to even try to eat two pounds of broiled salmon or four pears or a whole bowl of guacamole. You won’t be able to do it (unless you push hard past your body’s clear signals that it’s satisfied and had enough which I obviously don’t recommend). Your body will “tell” you in no uncertain terms that you’ve had enough. When you eat six or eight or 10 ounces of salmon or maybe some scallops, or when you eat two apples or maybe a big bowl of berries, you stop wanting them. It’s the exact opposite effect of eating LAY’S Potato Chips. Back to guacamole (a dish usually made from real food like onions, tomatoes, and garlic, along with avocados of course). You might be thinking that you could eat chips and guacamole all day long. And, alas, you have seen the light. Chips, even the organic, gluten-free ones, are fake food with very few nutrients. Fake food never satisfies. Real food (like real community, real friends, and real life partners by the way) always satisfies. Always. Fake food (and all things fake) never satisfy and always leaves us wanting more. The invention of fake food created the phenomenon of overeating.

The second factor is chronic stress. Chronic stress, most commonly stemming from relationships and work lives that don’t meet a person’s needs, alters one’s normal appetite-satiety response via “emotional”* eating. This is eating when one is bored, lonely, stressed, and/or tired, but not hungry. Chronic stress isn’t an aspect of modern life, it is modern life for far too many people. In short, chronic stress lowers one’s levels of reward chemicals (dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, etc.). That feels bad and these bad feelings are your body’s way of nudging you to meet your needs. You might need more intimacy in your friendships. You might need more meaning in your work. Both of those would boost your levels of reward chemicals and have you feeling good. But eating some cookies does the job too. Really. Food makes you feel good. And, sugary junk food makes you feel really good really fast because it rapidly increases your levels of reward chemicals. But the high only lasts a few minutes. Then you need more. So you overeat. The invention of fake food created overeating, and the expansion of chronic stress as a way of life took overeating to a whole ‘nother level.

Now let’s talk about movement. When I visit my brother Jeff’s family, this is how it typically goes down. I pull up to their house and before I can put my car in park, my niece Julia and my nephew Jack are running toward my car. I get out and pick them up and hug them and in about 60 seconds flat, we’re into our first activity: the bouncy game. That’s the one where I hold Julia and bounce her up and down on the couch. Then Jack when he shouts, “My turn!” Then Julia again, upside down this time. I sit down to rest, and Jack asks excitedly, “Want to put out some fires, Uncle Jason?” We run through the house together. He’s on Engine 34, I’m on Ladder 12, and we find fires all over the house one after the other. As soon as we get our trucks back into the firehouse (the one we made out of blocks), Jack shouts, “Fire in the kitchen!” and we’re off again. This continues nearly all day. I get small breaks for reading them a book or putting together a puzzle, but most of the day, we’re running around, wrestling, putting on a rock concert, or something like that. My point: It’s human nature to move around. It’s only the sit-down, shut-up factory-education system and other cultural factors that train us to be sedentary. Labor-saving devices have created the notion that there’s really no reason to move around and use our bodies to do something, when a machine can do it. But even this doesn’t take away most peoples innate desire not only to move around, but to enjoy moving around. What are people doing in retirement communities? People who have all the time in the world to do whatever they please? Many are playing golf, swimming, going for walks. Most people like to move around throughout the life cycle, from childhood to old age.

People don’t need to be forced to “Eat less, move more!” They don’t need to be poked and prodded. It’s harmful and it’s not even necessary.

In other words, we don’t need to “whip ourselves into shape”. Let the spirit of that phrase really wash over you for a moment. Consider the use of the word “whip”. Does this paradigm serve us? Is it even humane?

So if you’re not as lean, fit, happy, and healthy as you want to be, and if “eat less, move more” isn’t the answer, what are you to do? What are you to say to yourself?

I offer you the wellness mantra of the 21st century: “Nourishing movement, nourishing food, nourishing life!”

You leave self-domination and self-oppression at the door and you nourish yourself with movement, food, and lots more. You truly care for yourself.

Let’s get specific:

  1. Identify some types of movement that you enjoy. I know you enjoy some movement. Just like Julia and Jack, you were born to move. Strip away all the bullshit “no pain, no gain” programming you received from physical-education classes, sports, terrible gym programs, your parents, and your culture at large. Underneath it, what forms of movement do you enjoy? Still not sure? Try some new things. Go for a hike. Take a dance class. Learn to play racquetball. Walk to work. Or walk with your family after dinner. Don’t settle until your doing movement you enjoy. That’s nourishing movement. You see the clear difference, right? You’re not doing this to burn calories. You’re not doing this to prove to yourself or anyone else that you can suffer. You’re doing this to nourish yourself with movement. This is no-pain, all-gain exercise.
  2. Start eating lots of real food. Shop the perimeter of the food store. Or do like I do and shop at the farmers’ market where there isn’t any fake food to be found. Turn your kitchen into a farm-to-table restaurant. Make dishes you find delicious. Savor them with your close ones. That’s nourishing food! The difference is clear here too, right? You’re not doing this to limit your caloric intake. You’re not doing this to be “on” some rigid diet/cleanse/detox/fast. You’re doing this to nourish yourself with food. This is dogma-free, enjoyment-full eating.
  3. Take care of you. Yes, you. Get the sleep you need. Get the rest you need. These next two parts are very simple, hardly ever easy, but so worth it and key to your well-being. First, go for, and create what you really want in your relationships. Second, go for, and create what you really want in your work life. How fulfilling your relationships and work life directly impacts your well-being in massive ways. You’re so much more than a calories-in, calories-out automaton; you’re an amazing person. Seriously, you rock, and no one deserves to have their needs met more than you do. Meeting all of your needs—all of your needs—is what wellness is about. Embracing your humanity and meeting your personal needs for meditation, solitude, time in nature, creating art, taking in art, hobbies, volunteering, relaxation techniques, and spirituality all play a role in you being your best, in you thriving. That’s nourishing life!

Doesn’t that sound a whole lot better?

This is self-care. This is doing things for yourself, not to yourself.

I invite you to reflect on this new paradigm and consider how it feels to you.

I know for some of you, this will definitely resonate. Others will still be tempted by the “eat less, move more” paradigm, it’s devices and apps, it’s pervasive advertising. I know the person in the Fitbit add has a great ass and a great smile to boot. They look so healthy and so happy. I get it. Do you remember the Marlboro man?

Photo 173--The Marlboro Man

People in cigarette ads always look life their lives rock too. Can you say emphysema, lung cancer, and premature death? Ads can be (often are) deceiving. Don’t be fooled by the Fitbit ads. Listen to the science. Twenty years from now, it’ll be mainstream knowledge that these devices, apps, and approaches are terribly damaging. People doing it today are just like the physicians who used to smoke in their offices. We know better now. (The scientific studies I’ve described and cited in this article make it perfectly clear.) I’m saving you 20 years on this one by letting you know now. Stay on the cutting edge with me. Be free. Live well. Enjoy life. Thrive.

Author’s Note: I’m not attacking the businesses or products mentioned in this article. I have no interest in attacking people, businesses, industries, products, or services. I have great interest in dismantling harmful ideas and paradigms and introducing life-giving ideas and paradigms and presenting them as an option for people.

Author’s Note: Children are being harmed by the antiquated, failing paradigm of “eat less, move more” too. Check out this important article put out recently by the National Eating Disorders Association.

*I put “emotional” in quotes in when using the term “emotional” eating because there’s no separation between our “physical”, “emotional”, and “mental” existence and our “physical”, “mental”, and “emotional” processes and “emotional” eating clearly has overlapping emotional, physical, and mental components.

1) Calorie Counting and Fitness Tracking Technology: Associations with Eating Disorder Symptomatology. Eating Behaviors, 2017, 26, 89-92.
2) My Fitness Pal Calorie Tracker Usage in the Eating Disorders. Eating Behaviors, 2017, 27, 14-16.

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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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

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.

 

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?

Crickets.

Silence.

Nothing.

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.

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 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.

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.

 

 

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

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.

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.

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 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.

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.