Release Your Phone Addiction for Good

An addiction is something you can’t stop doing despite the fact that it harms you and doesn’t give you what you really need in the first place.

Addictive substances, behaviors, and thought patterns give you almost what you need. That’s what makes them addictive. They never actually satisfy you, so you keep going back to them to get more of what they provide. Over time, you need more and more exposure to get the same effect, and no matter how much you get, you’re always left craving more.

Young Cell Phone Addict Man Awake At Night In Bed Using Smartpho

That’s why your 10 minutes on Facebook so often turns into an hour and leaves you bleary-eyed and wondering, “Where did that hour go?”

That’s why you spend half an evening on Instagram, then put your phone down vowing to be done, only to pick it back up immediately.

Have you ever reached for your phone right after you put it down?

If so, you’re not alone. (This three-minute animated musical is so worth watching.)

Phones and the apps on them, like everything addictive, give you almost what you need. Phones and the apps on them give you the experience of almost connection. Almost community. Almost friendship. Almost family.

What these shiny metal faux-connection boxes provide is a simulacrum of connection. It’s virtual reality. Like a video game.

Someone sends you a witty text with a winky-face emoji. This is literally a simulation of the experience of being with someone who said something witty and lovingly teased you. It’s not the real thing. It never will be.

And you, me, all of us, we need the real thing as much as we need air to breathe. We literally need it to survive. Prisoners in solitary confinement go crazy in short order. Infants in orphanages who are kept in a comfortable setting and are given plenty to eat, but aren’t held, die within weeks.

As humans, we’re highly social animals and something very important enables our ability to connect with each other: our senses.

In a real experience, we look into the eyes of that specific person we love and they look into ours. We see into each other.

In a real experience, we give that specific person we love a foot rub or a hand rub or a neck rub in just the way that feels good to them. Or they pat us on the back, give us a fist bump, or hold our face in their hands, while telling us they love us.

In a real experience, we see that specific person we love winking, not like the emoji, but in that way that only they do. Or biting their lip. Or brushing the hair out of their face.

In a real experience, we hear that specific person we love laughing as only they do. Or sobbing as only they do. Or whispering in our ear at the movies to tell us something. We hear their voice that we know so well and feel their breath in our ear and feel their hand on our leg, all at the same time.

There’s no emoji for that.

Real connection is rich and deep. Real connection is full of texture and nuance. Real connection is personal. Real connection is real.

Real connection gives you what you really need and is the key to releasing your phone addiction for good.

Try an imagination activity with me.

Imagine you’re having dinner, or playing a board game, or otherwise doing something you really enjoy with three relatives you have deep, abiding bonds with. People you know through and through and who know you through and through.

Imagine your favorite music playing. Imagine the smell of soup simmering on the stove. Imagine the moonlight bouncing off the street outside your window. In your imagination, make it as rich of a sensory experience as you can.

Imagine greeting your cousin at the door and the way she hugs you and always holds on for just one more moment to make sure you really feel it. Imagine the way your aunt looks at you when she’s reading your mind and can tell you’re about to say something hilarious. Imagine the way your uncle calls you by your nickname and the way he says it because he’s from Jersey.

Take your time. Use my example and make this activity personal to you.

Really use your imagination and experience an evening like this evening as vividly as possible. Add any and all details you want to make the experience as rich and textured as you possibly can.

Stay there as long as you like. Bask in the experience.

Now assess how strong your drive is to pick up your phone to see if you have new e-mail.

If you’re like most people, that drive is probably very weak or even non-existent right now.

The feeling of connection with your peeps is so pervasive, and so satisfying, that there isn’t anything else you could possibly want right now.

These feelings of true bonding are a million times more powerful than the tiny, transient dopamine hits of a notification, text, or e-mail.

We’re made to overlap. To bond. To be better together. We’re made for interdependence. Not just with our life partners, but with our friends, our children, our parents, our siblings, and those in our communities.

This is why truly interdependent connection feels so good. It’s why the lack of it feels so bad.

And it’s why phone addiction is so common and growing at an alarming rate. It’s not because the phone and app makers are making their tools more addictive, it’s because substantive connection is increasingly rare.

Most people will tell you that the solution to your phone addiction is “discipline”*: “Just put it down!” they say in a stern voice.

Others will tell you that you need to outsmart your phone addiction. They think that the app on your phone that monitors your phone use is really clever. They can’t see that this is like when Phillip Morris puts out anti-smoking commercials.

No, you must outheart your phone addiction. The only effective way to get off-line more is to get on-life more. The more you immerse yourself in the real thing, the less you’ll crave the mere patina of connection your phone provides.

Our society is in a fallen state; there’s no doubt about that. None of us walked out of our homes this morning as members of thriving interdependent villages. It’s normal in our society for people to live alone. It’s normal in our society for people to be estranged from their parents/children/siblings. It’s normal in our society for people to be divorced. It’s normal in our society to be a child of divorce, often more than one. It’s normal in our society for children to spend most of the day with a hired caretaker instead of their family. It’s normal in our society for people to not know any of their neighbors. Layers upon layers of disconnection and separation from each other, and the ongoing breaking of bonds and loss of relationship, has become the norm.

As such, getting off-line and on-life requires a shift in mindset more than anything else. It starts by de-normalizing disconnection, separation, breaking apart, and loss and re-normalizing loving interdependence. This involves prioritizing deeply intimate, deeply harmonious connection and making commitment to community, friendship, and family important again.

Here are some ideas for putting this into action:

  1. Make it a practice to always maintain great eye contact with people.
  2. Make it a practice to always listen to people impeccably.
  3. Make it a practice to always lovingly touch your close ones when you greet and part.
  4. Meet one of your neighbors.
  5. With one of your friends, commit to spending time together at least once a week for a year.
  6. Ask a colleague to collaborate with you on giving a talk or writing an article.
  7. Before you fall asleep at night, tell your life partner one thing your grateful about in your relationship and ask them to do the same.
  8. Ask someone in your field who you respect who has more experience than you if they’ll spend two hours a month with you a month and mentor you in some aspect of your work.
  9. Ask someone in your field who you respect who has less experience than you if they want to spend two hours a month with you being mentored in some aspect of their work.
  10. In one of your relationships, ask for something you need and allow yourself to really enjoy it when it’s given to you.

What if you did two or three of these and made time for connecting in these ways for one year? How much better would your life be?

Oh, and that pesky phone: It won’t bug you anymore. You’ll be too immersed in life. Real life.

* I put “discipline” in quotes because the word has been hijacked in our society to erroneously mean making yourself do what you don’t want to do because it’s good for you. True discipline is knowing yourself really well, knowing what you really need to be your most alive, and settling for nothing less. True discipline has a spirit more like self-advocacy than self-punishment.

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.

Are You Hoping to Be Well?

I hope not. You can do a lot better than that.

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“Hope” is very tricky:

  1. Used well, hope is invaluable in keeping us going through the certain vicissitudes of life.
  2. Used poorly, hope is suffocating and absolutely crushes us.

As such, both of these statements are true:

  1. Hope is so powerful. Hope is a massively powerful catalyst for making things better. Hope is often the only thing that keeps us going during our darkest times.
  2. Hope is completely useless. More than useless, hope is extremely harmful. Hope cripples us and keep us from ever really thriving.

How can hope be simultaneously powerful and useless?

Hope actually can’t be simultaneously powerful and useless. Hope is really two entirely different experiences, both with the same name. That’s what makes it so tricky.

These are my two definitions of hope:

hope | noun | a spontaneously emerging feeling of the opportunity for better well-being

hope | verb | a distraction and procrastination tactic used by a person to avoid taking action to create better well-being

Noun Hope

We’ve all experienced noun hope. We’re in a tough spot. It feels like there’s no way out. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a powerful feeling emerges that we’re going to be okay. Even if we don’t know how we’re going to do it yet, we know in our heart there’s a way out.

Noun hope is incredibly valuable. It’s often the only thing that keeps us going when our life has become dire.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”
—Howard Zinn

Verb Hope

Most of us have tried to use verb hope. We want things to be better in one or more areas of our life. We have opportunities in our life to make things better. But instead of stepping into these opportunities, we keep hoping things will get better. Instead of taking action, we hope.

Verb hope is incredibly dangerous. It keeps use from the very things we want most, while allowing ourselves to trick ourselves into thinking we’re doing our best and that we’re on our way to getting them.

“Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue—if you care for yourself at all—and do it while you can.”
—Marcus Aurelius

The Trap

Because noun hope is so powerful, it’s very easy to accidentally give power to verb hope. Hope (noun hope) and hope (verb hope) are the same word after all. But let’s look at what happens when people give verb hope power.

In just the past month, I’ve witnessed people using verb hope in all of these destructive ways:

  1. “I’m hoping to start my own consultancy one day.”
  2. “I’m hoping he/she calls me so we can heal the damage I did to our relationship.”
  3. “I’m hoping I don’t get dementia like my grandmother did.”
  4. “I’m hoping to start a family one day.”
  5. “I’m hoping ‘we’ [‘the world’; anyone but me] fix ‘healthcare’.”
  6. “I’m hoping to finally lose this weight and keep it off.”
  7. “I’m hoping I don’t get divorced like my parents did.”
  8. “I’m hoping I don’t get diabetes like my dad did.”
  9. “I’m hoping to get really fit this year.”
  10. “I’m hoping ‘we’ [‘the world’; anyone but me] figure out how to fix climate change.”

My sense in my conversations with these acquaintances is that they’re not very likely to ever experience what they want to experience.

Not that it might be a ways off, but that they’re never going to experience what they want to experience. Because they’re never going to take the action that would help create what they want to experience. They’re too busy hoping.

Life has limitations. The platitude “Anything is possible,” is very popular in our society and it’s patently false. You can damage a relationship so much that it becomes irreparable. You can get sick in a way that you can’t heal from. After 35, it gets really hard to get pregnant without significant risk to the child. You can’t live forever. No amount of hoping changes these facts. Some things aren’t possible.

When we neglect to make things right with someone we wronged, eventually they fade away forever. When we keeping hoping to someday lose weight and keep it off, it gets harder and harder each month we put it off, and someday never comes. When we put off starting a family, our window for being able to do so permanently closes. When our song, our book, our TED talk remains a dream, it eventually becomes a regret.

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior

Time runs out.

This isn’t mean, it’s the truth.

This doesn’t make life grim, it makes life sacred.

It means giving our gifts to our world really matters. It means our relationships really matter. It means our work really matters. It means our lives really matter. It means our lives really matter now.

This is what makes verb hope so terribly damaging.

Verb hope is a distraction and procrastination tactic. Distraction and procrastination tactics are things we do to make sure we avoid taking the action that’ll likely lead to experiencing what we want to experience.

What makes verb hope so tempting, and so common, is that it so easily gets confused with noun hope. And this confusion has led to verb hope being a highly socially endorsed distraction and procrastination tactic. Millions of people are running around every day patting each other on the back for hoping that there’ll be less cancer, for hoping Earth will come back into balance, for hoping countries will stop waging war on each other, for hoping less kids will suffer with anxiety and depression. This virtue signaling makes everyone feel like they’re living benevolently, like they’re involved in the healing that is needed so badly. But, horrifyingly, hardly anyone who is hoping is actually doing anything, and the healing that’s needed so badly isn’t happening.

Hoping is doing nothing with the pretense of doing something.

Because noun hope is such a beautiful, wonderful, powerful, life-giving experience, as a society, we’ve mistakenly transferred this beauty, wonder, and power to verb hope.

Since the only thing hope creates is complacency, this is a grave error.

We must use noun hope for all it’s worth and we must firmly avoid the trap of associating with verb hope at all. Verb hope is that “friend” (that lurks in our lives from middle school into adulthood until we firmly say “no” to them) that’s bad for us and leads us down dangerous paths.

Seeing the distinction clearly, we can now get out of this trap.

The Way Out

They way out is to drop hoping in favor of couraging.

If the wording is easier for you, the way out is to drop verb hope for verb courage.

Couraging is very straightforward. To courage (verb courage):

  1. Get deeply in touch with yourself. Allow yourself to be. Allow yourself to experience what is. Allow yourself to feel.
  2. Get deeply in touch with what you want. Not what you crave, like maybe a soda, or to check Facebook again. What you deeply desire. What you want more than anything you’ve ever wanted. What would make you feel whole. Alive. Deeply satisfied.
  3. Take one step into what you deeply desire. The one that’s immediately in front of you. That’s the only one step you need to take. Pick up the phone to call him/her. Write the first page of your book. Do one workout. Eat one nourishing meal. Do one courageous, loving thing for yourself and/or another or others that’s in alignment with what you deeply desire.
  4. Ask for and accept support from others. Ask for and accept every ounce of support you need. Don’t skimp.
  5. Keep doing that. (Couraging isn’t something you do in a moment. It’s a way of life. It’s being true to yourself. It’s living the life you’re here to live.)

It’s very important that you allow your deep desires to not only be okay, but to be sacred. Your deep desires are life itself. Your deep desires are your direct “interaction” with your spirit and the spirit of life.

You’ve likely been conditioned that your deep desires don’t matter. Worse, that they’re wrong. You might’ve wanted to be an artist, but your parents told you that you should be an attorney. You might want to go on an epic hike, but your spouse is threatening to divorce you if you do. Other people might be trying to squash your deep desires because your deep desires are inconvenient for them. Don’t let that happen to you.

It’s very important that you ask for and accept support. We’re social beings. We’re made to give and receive support. Mutual support is at the core of what makes us human.

You’ve likely been conditioned to pick yourself up by the bootstraps. You’ve likely been conditioned to keep a stiff upper lip. You’ll likely been conditioned that it’s a badge of honor to be stubbornly independent. To be able to do everything by yourself. All of this is a lie. Of course, no one is going to take the steps you need to take for you. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. No one who lives a full life does so on their own. Anyone who lives a full life does so with the help of wide, deep support systems. Get the support you need.

When you experience noun hope, let it be a spark that ignites you. But not into verb hope, not into hoping. That’s the trap. Let the power of noun hope catapult you into taking action and asking for and accepting the support you need.

Behind the Veil

Remember, hoping is a distraction and procrastination tactic used to avoid taking the action that’ll likely lead to experiencing what we want to experience.

Why on Earth would we do that to ourselves?

Three reasons:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of success
  3. Fear of feeling

We all want to be deeply satisfied. But yet it’s still very common to prevent ourselves from experiencing what we want. There are many ways we sabotage ourselves, and hoping is a big one.

We verb hope to avoid what it will feels like to fail, what it feels like to succeed, and what it feels like to feel.

It hurts to go for something we want and not get it. It just does.

Getting what we want can be hard too. It changes us. It often comes with more responsibility.

But our biggest fear is feeling.

We’ve all been hurt, that’s for sure. We’re all tempted to shut down, so we don’t get hurt again. But we can’t selectively numb ourselves. To live in a way that makes sure we never feel any true sadness (or anything else we don’t want to feel again) is to live in a way that we never feel any true joy (or anything else we really want to feel again). In shutting down, we don’t get something for nothing. We live a smaller life.

It takes courage to stay open. It takes courage to go for what we want. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying you can do it.

The truth is this: We will get hurt again.

But it won’t kill us. And with the support we need, we’ll be okay. And (to me is the coolest part), living with mutual support is an amazing experience in and of itself, regardless of what we do or don’t move into in our lives.

When we opt-out of hoping and opt-in to couraging we greatly enhance our chances of getting what we want (with hoping, there’s no chance) and we get to experience deep, wide mutual support. That’s good living.

Words Matter

Maybe I’ve done a good job today describing the folly of hoping and you can see the weakness in statements like these:

  1. “I hope to workout three times this week.”
  2. “I hope to be more patient and forgiving with my life partner this week.”
  3. “I hope to start writing my book this month.”

I’ve previously introduced verb courage as an alternative to verb hope. A more practical verb our language is “commit”. It’s important to keep couraging and verb courage in mind, because committing to something important to you, committing to yourself, takes courage, but let’s play with the word “commit” for a moment.

Consider these statements:

  1. “I commit to working out three times this week.”
  2. “I commit to being more patient and forgiving with my life partner this week.”
  3. “I commit to writing the first chapter of my book this month.”

How much stronger are these statements? They’re at least 100 times stronger, right?

Verb hope is very weak building material for a live fully lived. Using very hope to build your life is like using Styrofoam to build a bridge. Verb courage (committing), on the other hand, is like building a bridge out of the strongest steel on Earth. A commitment means something. A commitment is something.

I invite you make commitments. I invite you to write them down. I invite you to say them out loud. I invite you to share them with your close ones. This really makes them real and infuses them with mojo.

Pay attention to how it feels when you do so. You’ll likely feel something well up in you that feels robust and resilient. That’s what it feels like to be true to yourself. That’s what it feels like to be in resonance with who you really are.

In invite you to practice using only words that make you feel strong and to avoid using words that make you feel weak.

The words we use matter. The words we use create the lives we live.

The Outcome Is Out of Your Control

When opting out of hoping, some people make a well-intended mistake I need to warn you about: They make guarantees of outcome.

For example, someone might say to me, “I hope to write a best-selling book,” and I might challenge them to do better than hoping.

Oftentimes, the person will respond by saying, “I guarantee I’m going to write a best-selling book.”

This definitely isn’t hoping. But it contains a similar pretense because even if these person write’s an amazing book, the one they know they have in them, there’s no way of guaranteeing that it’ll be a best-seller, let alone that anyone will buy it. We can’t honestly commit to outcomes that are out of our control. What we can commit to our actions we’ll take. In being honest with ourselves, we have to allow for the uncertainty of outcomes.

Following this example, these are really strong commitment statements:

  1. I commit to writing one chapter a month until my book is complete.
  2. I commit to writing passionately about my experience and not holding back.
  3. I commit to talking with three anthropology professors by October 1stto complete the research I need to complete for my book.
  4. I commit to finding an editor for my book by November 1st.

These are commitments that can be honored. They greatly enhance the person’s chances of writing a best-selling book and they’re within the control of the person. These kind of commitments call the person to action.

Making these kinds of commitments kills verb hope, and also importantly kills the fantasy of controlling the outcome. This allows us to be deeply honest with ourselves, and to live with authenticity and integrity. And it gives us the best chance to experience what we want to experience. Making these kind of commitments is really powerful.

Living Fully

In a sense, the antidote to hoping is couraging or committing, but really it’s living.

The antidote to hoping is living fully.

Who’s with me?

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
—Oscar Wilde

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.

A Swede, a Kitavan, a Tsimané, and an Inuit Walk into a Restaurant…

Four friends get together for dinner at a restaurant.

Swedish Man: It’s really good to see you guys!

Inuit Man: Yes, it’s great to see you guys! And I’m glad we’re here. I’m really hungry.

Swedish Man: I already know what I’m gonna get; I’ve been thinking about it all day.

Tsimané Man: Let me guess: Steak and asparagus with lots of butter?

Swedish Man: What do you mean? Like low-carb or something?

Tsimané Man: Yeah, I know there was a big initiative in your country to get people to cut carbs. I thought all Swedes were on the low-carb diet.

Inuit Man: Seriously, we get together once a month and we’re talking about Swedish government initiatives and cutting carbs?

Swedish Man (with a smile): Yeah, we are, bro, until you have something better to talk about. I won’t be holding my breath.

Tsimané Man: Ignore him. It’s true, right?

Swedish Man: Not exactly, but I know what you’re referring to. In response to the fact that Swedish people had among the highest prevalence of cardiovascular disease in our world at the time, in 1985, there was a massive government initiative to get people to cut fat and add carbs. It was very successful, in the sense that the recommendations were widely adopted. Then, starting around 2003, and lasting for several years, there was a widespread, equally successful media campaign to get people to cut carbs and add fat. (1)

Tsimané Man: Oh, got it.

Swedish Man: From 1986 to 2010, some researchers followed a bunch of us Swedes. I volunteered. There were over 140,000 of us. For 25 years, they measured our food intake, our body weight, our blood-cholesterol levels, and more. (1)

Kitavan Man: So they followed you all during a period when the low-fat diet was widespread and during a period when the low-carb diet was widespread, right?

Swedish Man: That’s right. And this is one of the largest studies of food intake and wellness ever conducted, both in terms of number of subjects and length of follow-through. (1)

Tsimané Man: What did they find?

Swedish Man: First, over the 25 years, body weight of Swedes kept rising. First, we went low-fat, then we went low-carb, and we kept gaining weight the whole way through. On both diets, over time, we gained weight. (1)

Inuit Man: How about blood-cholesterol levels?

Swedish Man: First, let me say that we can’t claim causation from a study like this. All that weight gain, we can’t say it was caused by eating low-fat or low-carb. All we can say is that people just kept gaining weight during the periods of time when those diets were widely followed. With blood-cholesterol levels, there was a sharp bettering from 1986 until 2004, then they stayed about the same, then, in 2007, there was a sharp worsening. Again, we can’t claim causation, but as the low-carb movement really took hold, blood-cholesterol levels got a lot worse. (1)

Tsimané Man: So that’s why you’re not low-carb?

Swedish Man: I’m not low-fat. I’m not low-carb. I’m not low-anything. Well, I am low-dogma. No, at this point in my life, I’m firmly no-dogma.

The other men all smile.

Swedish Man: I don’t play those games anymore. Now just I eat real food and I really enjoy it. No weird exclusion of entire classes of foods required.

The server comes to the table.

Server: It’s great to have you all back. Are you ready do order?

Kitavan Man: We need a few more minutes. We’ve been talking.

Inuit Man (pointing to the Swedish man and teasing): He’s been talking.

Server (smiling): I’ll come back in a bit. Take your time, gentleman.

Kitavan Man: I just eat real food too. I grew up that way so it comes easy to me. I grew up on lots of fruit, all different kinds of tubers that are kind of like the sweet potatoes here, lots of fish, and coconuts. (2,3,4)

Swedish Man: Sounds good!

Kitavan Man:  Oh, yes. Island food is good, men! I’d love for you guys to come with me on my next trip back home.

Swedish Man: You don’t have to ask me twice.

Kitivan Man: My people are super well too. When I was a teenager, a bunch of researchers come to the island to study us because we’re so well. (2,3,4)

Swedish Man: What did they find?

Kitivan Man: Do you want to know what they didn’t find? Cardiovascular disease. Barely a trace. It’s almost impossible to find cardiovascular disease in a Kitavan. (2,3,4)

Swedish Man: That’s amazing.

Tsimané Man: Fruit and tubers are both really high in carbs. You all definitely aren’t on the low-carb diet.

Kitavan Man: No, not at all. Lots of fruit! Lots of tubers! (2,3,4)

Tsimané Man: I never knew all this about you. What’s crazy is that scientists came to study my people too. I don’t mean to brag, while yeah I do. (pauses an smiles widely) Let me brag: They found us to be the people with the lowest amount of cardiovascular disease ever observed, even less than you Kitavans. (5)

Inuit Man (pretending to be annoyed): Are you guys going to be ready to order soon?

Swedish Man: I’m ready.

Tsimané Man: Me too.

Kitavan Man: I’m ready.

Inuit Man (smiling widely): Thank goodness!

Swedish Man: What do the Tsimané eat?

Tsimané Man: We eat corn, manioc, plantains, and rice that we grow along with fruit and nuts we gather and meat we get from hunting (including fishing). (5)

Swedish Man: Like the Kitavans, it sounds like lots of carbs?

TsimanéMan: Oh yeah! About 72 percent of our energy comes from carbohydrate, 14 percent from fat, and 14 percent from protein. (5)

Swedish Man: Wow! Something is way off with this whole low-carb craze here in the United States. Both the Kitivans and the Tsimané have virtually no cardiovascular disease or obesity (2,3,4,5) and you’re all eating mostly carbs (2,3,4,5). Here, everyone is doing that crazy keto diet with no carbs at all and we’re sick as fuck here. Something doesn’t add up.

Tsimané Man: Yeah, in the study of my people, they did a direct comparison. The average 80-year old Tsimané had the heart of the average 55-year-old in the United States. (5) We’re doing just fine with our corn, manioc, plantains, and rice, thank you very much.

Inuit Man: Okay, that’s interesting!

Tsimané Man: Right? There are all these fancy schools here and all these people with advanced degrees trying to “figure out the optimal diet”. They’re like a bunch of dogs chasing their tails.

Kitavan Man: Then some of them fly over to study us. They witness with their own eyes how well we are. They do elaborate testing on us and they find out that we don’t get sick like their people do. But then they don’t even trust their own data, for crying out loud.

Inuit Man: They don’t trust themselves. They don’t trust nature. They live in great fear. My people, we’re one with nature. We don’t use nature. We don’t fight nature. We’re one with nature. We are nature. We never separated.

Swedish Man: What do the Inuit eat back home?

Inuit Man: Okay, I’ll play; this has actually gotten really interesting. And we have one of the most unique ways of eating on the planet, so you guys are going to find this fascinating. My people live in one of the coldest climates on Earth. We can’t cultivate any plants, so even to this day, we don’t do any farming. We hunt, mostly for seals, and for some inland animals too. And we gather a very small amount of plant foods when they’re available which is very rare. (7) You think the summer is short here in Maine? Go up to Canada. Then keep going up. And going. Until you reach the Arctic Ocean. That’s where I’m from. How do people say it here? Cold as fuck!

The other men all smile.

Swedish Man: Wait, so the Inuit don’t eat much carbohydrate at all then?

Inuit Man: Almost none. Carbohydrate-rich food just isn’t there. (7) If you want to study the effect of the low-carb diet and the keto diet, you want to study my people. We’ve been eating that way for a long time. We don’t have any weird artificially tanned people promoting it as a diet, we just eat that way because that’s what’s available for us to eat.

Swedish Man: And are your people well?

Inuit Man: Yes, we largely avoid cardiovascular disease, obesity, and the other chronic ailments common in the West. (7)

Tsimané Man: So you guys are basically eating like you’re on the keto diet that everyone around here in the States is doing?

Kitavan Man: Yeah, that’s what it seems like. I mean, your people must eat a lot of fat?

Inuit Man: We eat tons of fat, a moderate amount of protein, and almost no carbs. (7) Just like the keto diet.

Swedish Man: Well, then, maybe the keto diet works too. I mean, it seems to work well for the Inuit.

Inuit Man: Are you ready to have your mind blown?

Swedish Man: Oh, I can tell this is gonna be good.

Inuit Man: The whole premise of the keto diet is you eliminate virtually all carbohydrate from your diet. You do this to force your body into a state of ketosis characterized by the formation of ketone bodies. Advocates of the keto diet claim all kinds of benefits come from being in ketosis and the formation of ketone bodies.

Swedish Man: Wow, so the Inuit must be in like super ketosis or something! That must be why they’re so well!

Inuit Man: That’s what many people here believe. Many people make a big mistake and use the well-being of the Inuit to support the notion that getting into ketosis comes with all kinds of benefits.

Swedish Man: Wait, I’m confused.

Inuit Man: Hang tight; I’m getting there. (reaches for his phone) In 2013, a group of geneticists discovered that the Inuit have a widespread genetic mutation that prevents most of us from ever going into ketosis at all. (6) Hold on, I have it right here.

Swedish Man: This is really interesting!

Inuit Man: This is from an editorial written by three physicians recently in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine (7):

“The risks posed by the ketogenic diet may explain why the majority of, if not all, populations consume enough carbohydrates to avoid chronic ketosis. Despite popular misconception, even the circumpolar Inuit, who historically have subsisted on a diet of minimal carbohydrates, have a widely prevalent genetic mutation to circumvent the production of ketones. Although the reason for the genetic mutation is not known, it may have conferred a survival advantage, by minimizing ketone production.”

Swedish Man: Wow!

Kitavan Man: It’s as if their bodies know better. The Inuit eat in a way that would force chronic ketosis in everyone else on Earth and their bodies have adapted in a way that they don’t produce ketone bodies. That’s absolutely amazing!

Tsimané Man: Yes, that’s amazing!

Inuit Man: Isn’t that something? This is from the geneticists who did the original research those physicians were referring too. This is from the American Journal of Human Genetics (6):

“Moreover, the large amounts of n-3 polyenoic fatty acids in the traditional diet of these aboriginal peoples are known to increase the activity of CPT1A. In this context, the CPT1A-activity decrease due to the c.1436C>T mutation could be protective against overproduction of ketone bodies.”

Kitavan Man: So all these advocates of the keto diet, they’re making production of ketone bodies out to be some sort of holy grail…

Tsimané Man (finishing the thought of the Kitavan man): …But the only people on Earth who natural eat virtually no carbohydrate don’t actually produce ketone bodies? Their bodies have developed a way to avoid going into ketosis altogether?

Inuit Man: That’s what the science shows, my friends. (6,7)

Swedish Man: Wow, nature is wicked smart and seems to have a sense of humor at the same time!

Inuit Man: We are nature, men. The sooner we embrace interbeing and live as one with nature, the better off we’ll be. We need to stop trying to trick and hack and outsmart nature. That’s what these crazy fad diets are all about. They’re people trying to outdo and hack nature. That never goes well. Trust me.

The server comes over to the table.

Server: All right, is everyone ready to order?

Inuit Man: Yes! I’m so hungry.

Swedish Man (addressing the server): Before we get to that, have you seen a change in how people eat in the restaurant over the years? Have you seen people eating low-fat, eating low-carb, you know, that sort of thing?

Server: Oh yeah, I’ve seen it all. If there’s a fad diet, I see people jumping on it. Management even changes our menu to keep up with the latest fad diets.

Swedish Man (addressing the server): So what do you think of the keto diet and everyone avoiding carbs these days?

Server (surprised and thrilled to taking a shot at this one): You wanna know what I think? I see a lot of people come in and out of this place every day. It’s a little slice of Americana. I’ve seen it all. And I can tell you this. Our society is certainly very sick. We have broken families. Broken communities. We have junk food. Junk media. Junk art. Junk education. It’s a truly sick society. (pauses, looks down, then looks back at the others) With everything I’ve seen, and with everything going in in this country, do you want to know what I think is making people sick and fat in the United States?

Swedish Man (addressing the server): What?

Server: Not squash.

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With the citations for this article, I’ve added bonus information for you: quotes from the scientists, researchers, and physicians who conducted these studies. Don’t be duped by a fast-talking, fancy-talking bully selling a fad diet. Empower yourself with science. With truth.

Of course, there are a plethora of scientific studies showing the benefits of the low-carb diet and the keto diet. There are just as many showing the benefits of the low-fat diet. These are almost all short-term studies.

Any real scientific exploration considers all of the available knowledge. Choosing not to look at the other knowledge isn’t intellectually rigorous or honest.

“Stupidity is overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information.”
—Adam Robinson

It’s easy to say, “There’s science to support the low-carb and keto diets,” but stopping there ignores what Robinson brilliantly refers to as “conspicuously crucial information”.

All of this knowledge is available:

  1. There’s lots of data from short-term clinical studies showing benefits of the low-carb diet and the keto diet.
  2. There’s lots of data from short-term clinical studies showing the benefits of the low-fat diet (which is high in carbohydrate).
  3. There’s data from one of the largest studies ever conducted on the relationship between ways of eating and wellness (the one on the Swedes I described in this article).
  4. There’s data from studies of the Kitavans and the Tsimané I described in this article.
  5. There’s the knowledge of a widespread genetic mutation in the Inuit, a people who naturally eat almost no carbohydrate, that prevents them from going into ketosis. We don’t know why this genetic mutation exists. But the powerful implication is that chronic ketosis created by chronic carbohydrate deprivation is so dangerous that a genetic mutation has emerged in the Inuit to prevent it.

Something besides carbohydrate-rich food is making people sick and fat in the United States. Acorn squash, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and pineapple aren’t the problem. The low-carb and keto diets aren’t a holy grail.

Here are the references and quotes straight from the scientists, researchers, and physicians who conducted these studies that I promised:

(1) Associations Among 25-Year Trends in Diet, Cholesterol and BMI from 140,000 Observations in Men and Women in Northern Sweden. Nutrition Journal, 2012, 11(1), 1-13.

“In the 1970s, men in northern Sweden had among the highest prevalences of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) worldwide. An intervention program combining population- and individual-oriented activities was initiated in 1985. Concurrently, collection of information on medical risk factors, lifestyle and anthropometry started. Today, these data make up one of the largest databases in the world on diet intake in a population-based sample, both in terms of sample size and follow-up period. The study examines trends in food and nutrient intake, serum [a component of blood] cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) from 1986 to 2010 in northern Sweden.”

“Reported intake of fat exhibited two significant trend breaks in both sexes: a decrease between 1986 and 1992 and an increase from 2002 (women) or 2004 (men). A reverse trend was noted for carbohydrates, whereas protein intake remained unchanged during the 25-year period. Significant trend breaks in intake of foods contributing to total fat intake were seen. Reported intake of wine increased sharply for both sexes (more so for women) and export beer increased for men. BMI [body-mass index] increased continuously for both sexes, whereas serum [a component of blood] cholesterol levels decreased during 1986 – 2004, remained unchanged until 2007 and then began to rise. The increase in serum [a component of blood] cholesterol coincided with the increase in fat intake, especially with intake of saturated fat and fats for spreading on bread and cooking.”

“Men and women in northern Sweden decreased their reported fat intake in the first 7 years (1986 – 1992) of an intervention program. After 2004 fat intake increased sharply for both genders, which coincided with introduction of a positive media support for low carbohydrate-high-fat (LCHF) diet. The decrease and following increase in cholesterol levels occurred simultaneously with the time trends in food selection, whereas a constant increase in BMI [body-mass index] remained unaltered. These changes in risk factors may have important effects on primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

(2) Low Serum Insulin in Traditional Pacific Islanders—The Kitava Study. Metabolism, 1999, 48(10), 1,216-1,219.

“In Kitava, the intake of Western food is negligible and stroke and ischemic heart disease are absent or rare.”

“Low serum insulin may partly explain the low prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Kitavans and probably relates to their marked leanness.”

(3) Age Relations of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Traditional Melanesian Society: The Kitava Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997, 66(4), 845-852.

“The population is characterized by extreme leanness (despite food abundance), low blood pressure, low plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 activity [a marker of thrombosis related to the development of the metabolic syndrome (the cluster of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and related diseases) and cancer], and rarity of cardiovascular disease. Tubers, fruit, fish, and coconut are dietary staples whereas dairy products, refined fat and sugar, cereals, and alcohol are absent and salt intake is low.”

(4) Apparent Absence of Stroke and Ischaemic Heart Disease in a Traditional Melanesian Island: A Clinical Study in Kitava. Journal of Internal Medicine, 1993, 233(3), 269-275.

“On the island of Kitava, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, a subsistence lifestyle, uninfluenced by western dietary habits, is still maintained. Tubers, fruit, fish and coconut are dietary staples. Of the total population, 1816 subjects were estimated to be older than 3 years and 125 to be 60-96 years old. The frequencies of spontaneous sudden death, exertion-related chest pain, hemiparesis, aphasia and sudden imbalance were assessed by semi-structured interviews in 213 adults aged 20-96. Resting electrocardiograms (ECG’s) were recorded in 119 males and 52 females. No case corresponding to stroke, sudden death or angina pectoris was described by the interviewed subjects. Minnesota Code (MC) items 1-5 occurred in 14 ECG’s with no significant relation to age, gender or smoking. ST items [a measure of heart function] (MC [Minnesota Code] 4.2 and 4.3) were found in two females and Q items [a measure of heart function] (MC [Minnesota Code] 1.1.2, 1.3.2 and 1.3.3) in three males. Stroke and ischaemic heart disease appear to be absent in this population.”

(5) Coronary Atherosclerosis in Indigenous South American Tsimane: A Cross-Sectional Cohort Study. The Lancet, 2017, 389(10,080), 1,730-1,739.

“Despite a high infectious inflammatory burden, the Tsimane, a forager-horticulturalist population of the Bolivian Amazon with few coronary artery disease risk factors, have the lowest reported levels of coronary artery disease of any population recorded to date.”

“The Tsimane live a traditional forager-horticultural lifestyle, in huts of thatched roofs, typically in villages of roughly 60-200 people. An estimated 14% of their average caloric diet is protein, 14% is fat, and 72% is carbohydrate. Meat protein and fat are acquired by hunting with guns and bow and arrow, or fresh water fishing with arrows, hook and line, or nets. Non-processed carbohydrates are grown in the form of rice, plantain, manioc, and corn via slash-and-burn horticulture, and the Tsimane also gather wild nuts and fruits.”

“In this population-based study of the indigenous Tsimane population of Bolivia, we observed a very low prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis, as measured by CAC [coronary-artery calcification] scoring. The low prevalence of atherosclerosis extends to the older ages wherein up to 31 (65%) Tsimane octogenarians were free from atherosclerosis; only four (8%) of octogenarians showed moderately elevated CAC [coronary-artery calcification] scores. This makes the Tsimane the population with the least reported coronary atherosclerosis. This contrasts starkly with the US MESA population in which only 14% of the MESA [Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis] population had no CAC [coronary-artery calcification], and more than 50% exhibited CAC [coronary-artery calcification] scores of at least 100 Agatston units. These findings translate to a 24-year lag before Tsimane reach a CAC [coronary-artery calcification] score of above 0 and a 28-year lag before they reach a CAC [coronary-artery calcification] score of at least 100 compared with an unselected US population. By these findings, an 80-year old Tsimane possesses the ‘vascular age’ of an American individual in their mid fifties. These findings of apparent protection from coronary atherosclerosis in the Tsimane extend to old age.”

(6) A Selective Sweep on a Deleterious Mutation in CPT1A in Arctic Populations. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 2014, 95(5), 1-6.

“Moreover, the large amounts of n-3 polyenoic fatty acids in the traditional diet of these aboriginal peoples are known to increase the activity of CPT1A. In this context, the CPT1A-activity decrease due to the c.1436C>T mutation could be protective against overproduction of ketone bodies.”

(7) The Ketogenic Diet for Obesity and Diabetes—Enthusiasm Outpaces Evidence. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2019, published online on July 15, 2019, DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2633.

“The risks posed by the ketogenic diet may explain why the majority of, if not all, populations consume enough carbohydrates to avoid chronic ketosis. Despite popular misconception, even the circumpolar Inuit, who historically have subsisted on a diet of minimal carbohydrates, have a widely prevalent genetic mutation to circumvent the production of ketones. Although the reason for the genetic mutation is not known, it may have conferred a survival advantage, by minimizing ketone production.”

“Although the ketogenic diet has garnered much attention for the dietary treatment of chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, the evidence supporting its use is currently limited and the diet’s potential risks are real. Physicians and patients should continue to judiciously appraise the benefits and risks of the ketogenic diet in accordance with the evidence, not the hype.”

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.

What We Need Is Here

“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.”
—Jean-Paul Sartre

I hear often about people searching far and wide for the “cures” to cancer, to dementia, to depression, to type-2 diabetes, and more.

I hear often about groups of people spending millions and millions of dollars to fund research to find the “cures” to these and other ailments.

Life has become a search. A quest. A battle. A full-on war. Life, somehow, has become one big problem to solve.

It’s all steeped in fear.

That kind of fear has never created well-being and never will. And, besides, what we need is here.

Science and technology and “progress” can be great, but they have their limitations. Just look around.

We read articles about genomic medicine, but we aren’t close with our parents.

We have entire stores full of nutrition supplements, but less vitality.

We say words like isometric and ketogenic with ease, but we’re uncomfortable saying hi to our neighbors.

We have bigger hospitals, but less well-being.

We have more and more dating apps, but feel less connected.

We have bigger churches, but hungrier souls.

We have more and more diets, but bigger waistlines.

We have home security, airport security, and now cybersecurity, but more anxiety than ever.

We have enough self-help books to fill entire libraries, but very little sense of self.

We have an endless supply of information, but a tremendous void of wisdom.

We have more time-saving devices than ever, but not enough time to do what we value most.

We have increasingly rabid identity politics, but very little sense of identity.

We have 24/7/365 access to one another, but feel less connected.

The answer isn’t bigger, bigger, bigger. The answer isn’t more, more, more. The answer isn’t searching and fighting. The answer isn’t “figuring it out”. The answer certainly isn’t feeding the fear behind all this grasping.

The answer is total immersion into that which actually meets our needs and actually nourishes us.

We need clean, unadulterated food, water, and air.

We need one another in all of our human glory. We need the ongoing experience of sharing our gifts with one another.

We need to be in harmony with nature. And our nature.

We need adventure.

We need to feel alive.

And all of this is already here for us to savor because what we need is here.

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There are lots of ways to embrace all that is already here for us to savor.

We could spend some time savoring a wonderful meal, and less time reading fear-mongering tweets.

We could spend some time before we fall asleep saying out loud what we’re grateful for, and less time in a rabbit hole of YouTube videos.

We could spend more time being brave, and less time being “right”.

We could spend some time telling our lovers what we appreciate them, and less time bickering over to-do lists.

We could spend some time witnessing a sunrise or a sunset, and less time perusing other people’s do-it-yourself coffee tables on Instagram.

We could spend some time listening to our friends share their struggles, and less time struggling to swallow “the news”.

We could spend some time making something beautiful, and less time shopping for “beauty products”.

We could spend some time shopping for food at a farmers’ market or even a farm, and less time shopping for nutrition supplements online.

We could spend some time playing a game, or playing a song, or playing a sport, and less time playing politics.

We could spend some time in the ocean or a lake or a river, and less time in a mall or a box store.

We could spend more time living, and less time watching other people living on a television screen.

We could spend more time with our bare feet in the grass or sand or dirt, and less time shopping for shoes we don’t need.

These experiences are all here for the taking.

“What we need is here.”
—What We Need Is Here by Wendell Berry (Poem)

Author’s Note: I highly recommend Wendell Berry’s wonderful poem.

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.

 

You Don’t Have to Kill Yourself to Be Well

“Everything in excess is opposed to nature.”
—Hippocrates of Kos

We have a rather curious expression in our language. People say things like:

“Don’t kill yourself trying to get the report done tonight; it’s not due until next week anyway.”

“Will you please look for Maria’s onboarding documents? Don’t kill yourself. If you can’t find them, I’ll request another set from human resources.”

“Don’t kill yourself to get here exactly at 6. If you’re a little late, it’s no big deal.”

The implication is that there are times when it’s actually important to “kill ourselves” to get something done.

Interesting, right?

With the exception of war, and maybe work, exercise is the activity in which killing ourselves in the name of good is most socially endorsed:

“Boot camp* was good. Alexa nearly killed us, but it was an awesome workout.”

“I had a great run; I almost died at mile 9 though.”

“Sometimes it feels like my personal trainer Mike is trying to kill me, but he tries to keep things fun too.”

Considering the fact that most people engage in exercise to boost their well-being, it’s ironic that death language is so common when people talk about exercise.

This isn’t just semantics. It’s a firmly held belief by many that exercise has to suck in order to be beneficial. This belief is encapsulated in the common saying, “No pain, no gain.” This belief drives many to exercise harder, longer, and especially more. More like more, more, more!

More Isn’t Better

The no-pain, no-gain paradigm with its “more is better” ethos hurts people in two different, but equally damaging ways.

First, this ethos keeps millions of people from exercising. The belief that we have to do a shit-ton of exercise to get the benefits and that it has to suck keeps most people on the couch. I don’t blame them. We’re here to enjoy our lives.

Many people are scared off from exercise because it’s presented as pain and drudgery and something you have to do a lot to get any benefits from. This keeps them from reaping the benefits of exercise. Stated conversely, this keeps them sedentary which is well-known to be deadly.

Second, the “more is better” ethos drives people to exercise like crazy. This kills people in another way. I’m not speaking figuratively. I’m speaking literally. Excessive exercise is, in fact, deadly.

At this point, you might think I’m crazy. I understand that. In most circles, exercise is literally considered all good. The fact that excessive exercise is deadly is something that’s very rarely talked about in our society, even amongst wellness and medical professionals. Today we’re going to take a dive into the science of excessive exercise and bring all of this out into the open.

Even though it’s not often discussed, it’s very well-established in the scientific literature that excessive exercise has myriad deleterious effects (1). In fact, it’s well-established that excessive exercise is as dangerous as being sedentary (1).

A common finding from studies is that the benefits of exercise are best demonstrated by a U-shaped curve, an upside-down U in this case. That is, both low and high workout loads are associated with low wellness benefits and moderate workout loads are associated with high wellness benefits. (1)

To drive this point home, let’s talk about it in terms of sickness, the opposite of wellness. In this case, think about a U-shaped curve, with the U right side up. Both low and high workout loads are associated with high sickness rates and moderate workout loads are associated with low sickness rates. (1)

Very few people in the wellness world talk about this. Many are simply ignorant to these facts. Many have a personal agenda that benefits from promoting excessive exercise.

My only agenda in life is thrive as much as I possibly can and to help others do the same.

If you share this agenda, you need to know the truth about the relationship between workout load and wellness. Let’s dig in.

Our exploration will include a peek into studies exploring the relationship between workout load and five different ways of assessing wellness. (This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive review of the literature, but rather a concise summary of some of the most powerful data.)

Immunity

It’s well-established that exercise boosts immunity, but what happens when workout loads creep up?

Two large review studies sum up the empirical evidence from dozens of clinical studies aimed at answering this very question (2,3):

“Many physiological systems are affected by the process of overtraining and the OTS [overtraining syndrome]; but one system in particular, the immune, is highly susceptible to degradation resulting in a reduction in overall health and performance.” (2)

“In conclusion, numerous studies have shown an inverse relationship between exercise workloads and function of the immune system.” (3)

If something compromises immunity, it clearly will have ripple effects since our immune systems function to ward off ailments. With numerous studies demonstrating decreasing immune-system function with increasing workout loads, we have our first chink in the armor of the “more is better” ethos.

Cardiovascular Disease

Getting more specific, what’s the relationship between workout loads and cardiovascular disease? Athletes have the healthiest hearts around from all the exercise they do, right?

Let’s really lean in now and consult three top medical journals:

From the European Heart Journal (4):

“This study demonstrates, for the first time, an association between endurance exercise of increasing duration and structural, functional, and biochemical markers of cardiac dysfunction in highly trained athletes.”

From the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (5):

“Long-term strenuous endurance exercise may induce pathological structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries. Emerging data suggest that long-term training for and competing in extreme endurance events such as marathons, ultra-marathons, ironman [sic] distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races can cause transient acute volume overload of the atria and right ventricle, with transient reductions in right ventricular ejection fraction and elevation of cardiac biomarker levels. Months to years of repetitive injury in some people may lead to patchy myocardial fibrosis, particularly in the atria, interventricular septum, and right ventricle, creating a substrate for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. Additionally, long-term excessive exercise may be associated with coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction, and large artery wall stiffening.”

From the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (6):

“Chronic excessive sustained exercise may also be associated with coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction, and large-artery wall stiffening.”

Not good. Not good at all. Clear, tangible, measurable heart damage from excessive exercise.

“Mental Health”**

What’s the relationship between workout load and “mental health”?

A large cross-section study explored this question in depth. (7)

What did the researchers find?

First, they found, as have many other researchers have, that exercise really boosts “mental health” (7):

“This study shows a meaningful association between exercise and mental health, in the largest cross-sectional sample to date, even after adjusting for several sociodemographic and physical health characteristics that themselves are known to contribute to mental health burden. Individuals who exercised had about 1.5 (about 43%) fewer days of poor mental health in the past month than individuals wo did not exercise, but were otherwise similar in terms of age, race, gender, marital status, income, employment status, education level, BMI [body-mass index] category, self-reported physical health, and previous diagnosis of depression.”

Second, they found that the “mental health” benefits of exercise are clearlydemonstrated by a U-shaped curve (7):

“We observed U-shaped relationships between exercise frequency and mental health burden, whereby individuals who exercise between three and five times a week had lower mental health burden that those who exercised fewer than three or more than five times.”

“More exercise was not always associated with better mental health, and we found evidence for optimal ranges of duration (45 min) and frequency (between three and five times per week).”

“This pattern of optimal duration was broadly consistent across many exercise types. In general, small reductions were seen for individuals who exercise longer than 90 min [minutes], and durations of more than 3 h [hours] were associated with worse mental health burden than exercising for either 45 min [minutes] or not exercising at all.”

For emphasis:

  1. Subjects who got the most “mental health” benefits of exercise worked out between three and five times per week for about 45 minutes each time.
  2. Subjects who worked out the most had worse “mental health” than those who didn’t workout at all.

Mortality

What’s the ultimate measure of wellness?

Living.

In epidemiology, they call that mortality, and the relationship between workout load and mortality has been well studied.

A prospective study with results published in the medical journal the Journal of the American College of Cardiology is one that makes that relationship very clear (5):

“In this prospective, observational study, which included 1,098 healthy joggers between 20 and 86 years of age who were followed up for 12 years, we compared the long-term all-cause mortality rates of light, moderate, and strenuous joggers with the long-term mortality rate of sedentary nonjoggers. We found a U-shaped association between jogging and mortality. The lowest mortality was among light joggers in relation to pace, quantity, and frequency of jogging. Moderate joggers had a significantly higher mortality rate compared with light joggers, but it was still lower than that of sedentary nonjoggers, whereas strenuous joggers had a mortality rate that was not statistically different from that of sedentary nonjoggers.”

“Our results, which were obtained by using a large random sample of men and women, showed that although joggers as a group appear to live longer than sedentary nonjoggers, light joggers and moderate joggers have lower mortality rates than sedentary nonjoggers, whereas strenuous joggers have a mortality rate that is not statistically different from that of the sedentary group. The U-shaped association suggests the existence of an upper limit for exercise dosing that is optimal for health benefits.”

“On the basis of current knowledge, if the goal is to decrease the risk of death and improve life expectancy, going for a leisurely jog a few times per week at a moderate pace is a good strategy. Higher doses of running are not only unnecessary but may also erode some of the remarkable longevity benefits conferred by lower doses of running.”

“Compared with more sedentary people, people who jog regularly exhibit a significantly lower all-cause mortality rate. Those who jog lightly or moderately appear to benefit more than strenuous joggers, whose long-term mortality rate is similar to that of sedentary people.”

You probably knew before today that being sedentary is deadly. Did you know that excessive exercise is equally deadly?

Fertility

We can see that excessive exercise kills those that are living, but how does it impact the creation of new life? How does workout load relate to making babies?

Let’s turn to the medical journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology (8):

Ladies first:

“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.”

“When energy demand exceeds dietary energy intake, a negative energy balance may occur and may result in hypothalamic dysfunction and alterations in gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) [a reproductive hormone] pulsality [the variability of blood velocity in a vessel], leading to menstrual abnormalities, particularly among female athletes.”

“Increased frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise were found to be significantly correlated with decreased fertility in women, including an OR [odds ratio] of 3.5 for infertility in women who exercised every day.”

“A study examining 2,232 women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) found that women who engaged in cardiovascular exercise for 4 hours or more per week for as little as one year prior to the treatment had a 40% decrease in live birth rate as well as higher risks of cycle cancellation and implantation failure.”

“Wise, et al. also found a significant dose-response relationship between vigorous activity and time to pregnancy.”

And now for the gentlemen:

“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 (15.2%), the only ones to be ranked above Kruger’s strict criteria [a measure of sperm function] in comparison to the men who played in a competitive sport (9.7%) or were elite athletes (4.7%).”

In men who workout the most, sperm function is less than a third as good as it is in men who workout moderately. (8)

In women, frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise are all associated with decreased ability to get pregnant. (8)

For the greatest chance of getting pregnant, from both the male and female angles, again, the “more is better” ethos simply isn’t serving us.

When nature wants to get our attention, it first whispers to us, then knocks on our door, and finally creates a calamity in our lives. The fact that excessive exercise prevents the creation of new life from being formed is a calamity. It means excessive exercise is not at all in alignment with well-being.

More Is Worse

That guy and gal at the gym with the “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever,” t-shirts. The ones who do 100-mile bike rides, and triathlons, and marathons, and adventure races. The ones who lift six days a week. The ones who workout twice a day. They might be able do more pull-ups than you. They might be able to run faster than you. You might envy their shoulders or their legs.

But, and this is a very big but, they’re not happier and healthier than you.

In fact, chances are, they’re sicker than you. Their immune systems are suppressed. Their hearts are compromised. They’re more likely to experience days of poor “mental health”. They’re on course to die sooner than you. And if they want to have a baby so they can get him/her a “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever,” onesie, it’ll be a lot harder for them.

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You don’t have to kill yourself to be well.

In fact, as logic dictates, with regard to exercise:

Killing yourself, does, in fact, kill you.

Exercise is great. But not only is more not better. More is worse. More is deadly.

Moving Forward and Thriving

We need to change our discourse around exercise. We need to say things like:

  1. Moderate exercise saves lives.
  2. Moderate exercise is the fountain of youth.
  3. Moderate exercise is so good for you.
  4. Moderate exercise makes you feel better.

If we leave the word “moderate” out, we’re simply not speaking the truth, and we’re hurting people.

We need to stop glamorizing excessive exercise.

We need to promote moderate exercise as part of a balanced lifestyle that meets our full spectrum of needs. That’s the only way to thrive.

Epilogue (How Much Is Too Much?)

A group of three researchers which includes two physicians wrote an editorial for the medical journal the Mayo Clinic Proceedings based on an exhaustive review of the literature on this topic. I’ll leave you with the CliffsNotes of that editorial as I think it’s an outstanding summary of the need-to-know take-home information on this topic (1):

“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.”

“Exercise is unparalleled for its ability to improve CV [cardiovascular] health, quality of life, and overall longevity. If the current mantra ‘exercise is medicine’ is embraced, PA [physical activity] might be best analogized as a drug, with indications and contraindications, as well as issues related to underdosing and overdosing. As with any powerful therapy, establishing the safe and effective dose range is fundamentally important—an insufficiently low dose may not bestow full benefits, whereas an overdose may produce dangerous adverse effects that outweigh its benefits. Fortunately, the exercise dose-response range that is safe and effective for improving CV [cardiovascular] health and longevity is broad. Although there is a concerted, research-based effort to reduce physical inactivity and prolonged periods of sitting, increasing data regarding the other end of the exercise continuum now suggest that it may be possible to have too much of a good thing.”

“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.”

(1) Exercising for Health and Longevity Vs Peak Performance: Different Regimens for Different Goals. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2014, 89(9), 1,171-1,175.
(2) The Immune System and Overtraining in Athletes: Clinical Implications. Acta Clinica Croatica, 2012, 51(4), 633-641.
(3) Does Exercise Increase the Risk of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections? British Medical Bulletin, 2009, 90(1), 111-131.
(4) Exercise-Induced Right Ventricular Dysfunction and Structural Remodeling in Endurance Athletes. European Heart Journal, 2012, 33(8), 998-1,006.
(5) Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2015, 65(5), 411-419.
(6) Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects from Excessive Endurance Exercise. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2012, 87(6), 587-595.
(7) Association Between Physical Exercise and Mental Health in 1.2 Million Individuals in the USA Between 2011 and 2015: A Cross-Sectional Study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2018, 5(9), 739-746.
(8) Lifestyle Factors and Reproductive Health: Taking Control of Your Fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 2013, 11(66), 1-15.

* The fact that it’s popular to call workout classes boot camp shows exactly how entrenched the no-pain, no-gain paradigm is. Boot camp? Where people go to learn how to kill others in war? That’s what we want to call our workout classes that are designed to boost vitality, fitness, and wellness? Are war and wellness comparable? Should killing programs and wellness programs share the same name?

** I put “mental health” in quotes because the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experience of life are one in the same. The fact that exercise (something reductionists consider “physical”) boosts what reductionists call “mental health” proves this fact.

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.

What Is Sugar Substituting For?

Just the facts:

  1. The United States has the highest per-person sugar consumption of any country in the world.
  2. Per-person sugar consumption in the United States is twice what it is Spain.
  3. The average person in the United States consumes 25 teaspoons of sugar per day.
  4. In 1915, the average annual per-person sugar consumption in the United States was 17.5 pounds. Today, it’s 160 pounds.

Yeah, sugar is a thing here.

What is all this sugar doing to us?

A study article published in medical journal The BMJ makes it clear that it sure ain’t good (1):

“These reports concluded that a high intake of added sugars increases the risk of weight gain, excess body weight and obesity; type 2 diabetes mellitus; higher serum triglycerides and high blood cholesterol; higher blood pressure and hypertension; stroke; coronary heart disease; cancer; and dental caries. Moreover, foods higher in added sugars are often a source of empty calories with minimum [sic] essential nutrients or dietary fibre [sic], which displace more nutrient-dense foods and lead, in turn, to simultaneously overfed and undernourished individuals.”

Cancer. Cardiovascular disease. Type-2 diabetes. Undernourished people.

Dystopia has arrived.

These dire consequences are common knowledge, yet sugar consumption is steadily on the rise.

What’s the disconnect? Why are so many people in the United States killing themselves with sugar?

Addiction.

Every single day, a person tells me that they’re addicted to sugar.

Usually, they take the typical stance about addiction:

  1. Sugar is super addictive and evil.
  2. I’m a weak, fundamentally flawed person that isn’t strong enough to resist addictive, evil sugar.
  3. I need to be a better person and try harder.

Sadly, there are many wellness professionals who take the complimentary stance toward their clients:

  1. Sugar is super addictive and evil.
  2. You’re a weak, fundamentally flawed person that isn’t strong enough to resist addictive, evil sugar.
  3. You need to be a better person and try harder.

How’s that working for you, United States?

Don’t answer that.

The answer is all around me. I can either pick up any medical journal and read the data on sugar consumption and sickness or simply go out into a public place and witness lots of sugar consumption and sickness first-hand.

The answer is loud and clear: The you’re-bad, try-harder approach doesn’t work at all.

It doesn’t work because it’s based on a complete misunderstanding of addiction.

In his brilliant TED talk Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong, Johann Hari deftly describes how addiction is straightforwardly and undeniably driven by lack of connection.

He eloquently lays out the empirical evidence that supports this truth and then delivers his take-home message succinctly and powerfully in the last line of his talk:

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.”

The beauty of this understanding is that it stops making people wrong. Instead it repositions people as people. People with needs, especially the deep-seated need for connection. This understanding completely changes the game from one of a waging war against the addictive substance to one of collaborating with others to meet our connection needs and theirs.

It changes the game from war to love.

Could this be true with sugar? Could lack of connection be driving our rampant sugar consumption? Conversely, could meeting our connection needs be the way to end sugar addiction?

Let’s lean into the science.

A group of researchers sought to answer these very questions when they measured both the levels of connection in a group of subject’s lives and their proclivity for sugar-laden beverages. Here’s what they found (2):

“Overall, our results confirmed that perceived loneliness was associated with elevated intake of sugar in the form of soda, cola and juice. High levels of relationship satisfaction, on the other hand, was negatively associated with all three types of sugary beverages. Other aspects of social connectedness such as being married, having supportive friends, and having a sense of togetherness at work were associated with lower intake of two out of three types of sugar-containing beverages. These associations were statistically significant, even after controlling for factors such as body mass index, weight-related self-image, depression, physical activity, educational level, age and income.”

There it is in black and white:

  1. Less connection = more sugar consumption
  2. More connection = less sugar consumption

Making this less formulaic and more heartfelt, do you want to know what I think we could use more of in our lives? Do you want to know what I think sugar is really substituting for in the United States?

Sweetness.

I think many people turn to sugar when they don’t have enough sweetness in their lives.

You know what I mean by sweetness, right?

Someone insists on dropping you off or picking you up at the airport even though you told them you can take an Uber.

Someone stops by out of the blue just to visit.

Someone makes you dinner and goes out of their way to make it an extra special experience.

Someone goes strawberry picking and leaves a pint for you on your doorstep.

Someone calls you to ask how you’re doing when you’re struggling even though you already told them you were okay.

Someone makes you a handmade gift they know will make you smile for years to come.

Someone remembers your favorite song or movie even though you only told them once.

Someone leaves you a handwritten note where they know you’ll find it by surprise during your day.

Someone makes sure to make a big deal out of your birthday.

Someone goes out of their way to express their appreciation for you.

Sweetness.

How good does it feel to find that handwritten note? To enjoy that special dinner together? To savor that hug at the airport? It feels like you have everything you could ever need, right?

What if we made sweetness a priority?

What if our relationships were characterized by sweetness?

What if sweetness was a hallmark of our culture?

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With more sweetness in our days, would we really need all this sugar?

(1) Ultra-Processed Foods and Added Sugars in the US Diet: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Cross-Sectional Study. The BMJ, 2016, 6(009,892), 1-9.
(2) Loneliness, Social Integration and Consumption of Sugar-Containing Beverages: Testing the Social Baseline Theory. PLOS ONE, 2014, 9(8), 1-8.

Author’s Note: In this article, I’ve referred to sugar instead of processed sugar to be in line with common parlance. Being technically correct, we’re talking about the processed sugar found in junk food. Although the sugar in fruit and other real food is chemically similar, eating fruit and real food that contains sugar is a very different experience, physically, emotionally, and mentally, than eating junk food that contains processed sugar. How many people do you know complaining about their uncontrollable cravings for raspberries or delicata squash? Don’t let the weight-loss charlatans convince you to avoid pears and spaghetti squash. That’s crazy. Whole, natural, real foods that contain sugar, like all fruit and many vegetables, are very nourishing foods.

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.

Before-and-After Weight-Loss Photos Mean Nothing

Imagine these real-life before-and-after weight-loss photos:

  1. For the before photos, imagine a group of 14 people that includes both men and women who weigh an average of 325 pounds.
  2. For the after photos, imagine the same 14 people, but at an average weight of 200 pounds.

These people lost an average of 125 pounds and they did it in six months! Wow!

Really imagine 14 people and how different they’d look if they’d each lost 125 pounds, give or take. They’d look like totally different people, right?

That’s completely true in the case of the photos of these 14 people. Most of them are hardly recognizable in their after photos compared to their before photos!

There’s something a little special about the 14 people I’m telling you about: They were participants in a season of the television show The Biggest Loser. Do you remember it?

As such, their experience wasn’t only captured in photos, but was out there for the whole world to see.

Millions of people watched the show, and after the dramatic season finale, many viewers declared emphatically, “I’m gonna do that!” By “that” they meant diet.

Based on the weight-loss results I’ve just shared with you, do you want to go on a diet? It sounds pretty good, right?

Before you do, I have some other information for you, that I think you should know. It’s something the show’s creators and the celebrity “wellness professionals” would really like to keep secret.

I’m going to tell you anyway.

There was something unique about the season of The Biggest Loser we’re talking about. A group of researchers had access to the show’s participants who all agreed to participate in a scientific study.

Really.

Hollywood met science and the “reality” of “reality television” came face to face with the reality of empirical evidence.

Dun, dun, dun! (Listening to this sound effect for a moment will greatly add to the dramatic effect of this article.)

The plot thickens, and from this particular study, we get an unusually large helping of truth because the researchers did something that’s almost unheard of in clinical studies of dieting: They followed the subjects for an extended period of time, a full six-and-a-half years in this case. They followed the subjects for the six months it took to film the show and for six additional years. This gives us some tremendous insight into the long-term ramifications of dieting.

You might want to sit down for this.

Body Weight

The first important piece of data from this study concerns the weight of the subjects in the six years following the filming of the show:

In the six years following the filming of the show, the subjects went from an average of 200 pounds to an average of 290 pounds.

They gained back most of the weight they lost.

This happens so often with dieters that I don’t even flinch when I hear results like this.

Cyclically gaining and losing weight is considered part of the game in the dieting world.

I met someone once who said to me with a completely straight face, “I know how to lose weight: I’ve lost 50 pounds five times.” He meant it. He was blind to the fact that his system of weight loss, which was entirely based on dieting, was the perfect system for gaining 50 pounds six times. This thinking is the norm in dieting circles. Very few people in the world of dieting consider the fact that the weight loss from dieting is unsustainable to be a problem.

It’s a big problem. Unsustained weight loss is no weight loss at all.

Resting Metabolic Rate

The next important piece of data from this study concerns resting metabolic rate.

Resting metabolic rate is a measure of how much energy we expend just from being alive.

The data:

Before the filming of the show, the average resting metabolic rate of the subjects was 2,607 kilocalories per day. After the filming of the show, and six months of dieting, the average resting metabolic rate of the subjects was 1,996 kilocalories per day. At this point, dieting suppressed their resting metabolic rates by 611 kilocalories per day compared to their pre-dieting state.

The researchers continued to measure resting metabolic rate for the six years following the filming of the show:

Six years after the filming of the show, the average resting metabolic rate of the subjects was 1,903 kilocalories per day. At this point, dieting suppressed their resting metabolic rates by 704 kilocalories per day compared to their pre-dieting state.

The researchers also compared the actual resting metabolic rates of the subjects at each of these moments in time with the predicted resting metabolic rates of age-matched, gender-matched peers to determine what’s known as metabolic adaptation:

At the end of the filming of the show, the subjects’ average metabolic adaptation was 275 kilocalories per day. Six years after the filming of the show, the subjects’ average metabolic adaptation was 499 kilocalories.

In practical terms, if your resting metabolism is suppressed that much, it means, as far as your metabolism is concerned, that:

  1. You eat a Big Mac every day of your life, before you get out of bed in the morning, without enjoying a morsel of food.
  2. You have to workout two hours for every hour that an age-matched, gender-matched peer has to workout.

This means you live with a Big Mac penalty every day.*

This means your first hour of exercise every day gets you nowhere.*

This means your metabolism is broken.

You need to know that this is what dieting does to you. It’s one reason why it getsharder and harderto lose weight on successive diets. It’s one factor that createsyo-yo dieting.

People who struggle on diets aren’t the problem. It’s the diets themselves that are the problem.

It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts

“The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.”
—Atiśa Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna

Before-and-after weight loss photos mean nothing: It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

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Don’t let a weight-loss charlatan sell you a diet with before-and-after photos.

Make sure anyone you work with has a true understanding of metabolism, and physiology in general. Make sure anyone you work with has a true understanding of what goes on inside of you, physiologically, over the long-term.

As the results of this study make crystal clear, there’s more to wellness than can be seen in before-and-after weight-loss photos from people on quick-fix, one-size-fits all diets.

Anytime a diet, detox, cleanse, or fast is marketed to you, ask the salesperson if they’re family with The Biggest Loser study.

Ask them if they understand what happens on the inside of a person, over the long-term, when they diet.

Don’t let them tell you that their program isn’t a diet. Whether it’s called a diet, cleanse, detox, or fast, if you’re required to restrain yourself from eating when you’re hungry, and/or you’re required to exclude entire classes of whole, natural, real foods from your way of eating, it’s a diet.

If someone shrugs off any suggestion that their diet, cleanse, detox, or fast might break your metabolism for life, insist on seeing their actual evidence. Insist on long-term evidence. The long-term evidence I’m presenting in this article isn’t a secret. The citation for the study article I’ve described in this article is below. I alwayscite the study articles I describe in my articles.

Being even more transparent, you can read the entire study article, including the raw data, for free, by entering the digital object identifier (DOI) for this study article (10.1002/oby.21538) into the search bar on the Sci-Hub website. This information is available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. It’s not a secret. Truth is free (in both of the common senses of the word).

“Things are not always what they seem; outward form deceives many; rare is the mind that discerns what is carefully concealed within.”
—Gaius Julius Phaedrus

The Natural, Life-Affirming** Way to Eat Well

Every person experiences hunger from the day they’re born until the day they die, with the exception of times when they’re very sick. Every person experiences desires for specific foods from the day they’re born until they day they die, with the same exception. Hunger and desires for specific foods are natural phenomena.

I distinguish desires from cravings.

Desires are deep-seated wantings for that which deeply satisfies and nourishes us.

Cravings are addictive wantings for that which that satisfies us on the shallowest of levels, always leave us unsatisfied and wanting for more, and harm us in some way.

Our hunger and our desires aren’t a problem. Our hunger and our desires work for us, not against us.

Dieting is the process of denying nature, and more than that denying your nature.

For example, let’s say you have lunch. You have the lunch that’s “on your diet”. Five minutes after you finish eating, you’re really hungry. You tell yourself to, “Be good,” and you ignore your hunger for five hours until you’re “allowed” to have your diet dinner. During this time, you suffer.

Or, you’re on a low-fat diet. You have your low-fat-diet dinner: Steamed asparagus, grilled chicken, and a baked potato. You finish dinner and feel incomplete. Like you’re missing something. Deep in your bones, you want some butter. You repress that feeling, that desire that’s been built into the very fabric of your being over millions of years of evolution. You stuff it way down. Fat is the enemy on your diet: “No fat! Get away from me, fat!” And you suffer. And you learn to deny your true self.

Or, you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet. You have your low-carbohydrate dinner: Steamed kale with olive oil, steak, and a handful of Brazil nuts on the side. Your friend offers you some of the blueberries he picked that day. You really want to have some blueberries, but you know you “can’t”. You repress that feeling, that desire that’s been built into the very fabric of your being over millions of years of evolution. You stuff it way down. Carbohydrate is the enemy on your diet: “No carbohydrate! Get away from me, carbohydrate!” And you suffer. And you learn to deny your true self.

Can you feel the battling going on in these examples? It’s you against food. It’s you against your hunger and desires. It’s you against you.

This is where this gets really interesting and goes far deeper than the physiology of metabolism. These is where we really go inside.

Any process which pits you against you does a number on your relationship with yourself. You against you is the antithesis of self-care.

Ironically, many enter the dieting arena as a step of self-care, but the game they find there isn’t conducive to self-care at all. It’s quite a bind to be in.

“You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.”
—Marcus Aurelius

The natural, life-affirming way to eat well is based on self-trust. Choosing from a variety of whole, natural, real foods:

  1. Really tune into yourself and eat when you’re truly hungry.
  2. Really savor your food. Eat slowly. Eat free of distraction. Really savor your food.
  3. Thoroughly enjoy the eating process, with others whenever possible.
  4. Really tune into what foods truly leave you feeling your best.
  5. Course-correct regularly. Learn, over time, to trust yourself more and more (trust is central to any loving relationship). Experiment. Notice when you feel great. Notice when you feel lousy. Adjust accordingly.

Over time, believe it or not, taste will actually become a useful guide for determining what is best for you to eat. As you eat more and more whole, natural, real foods and less and less fake food, the food the truly leaves you feeling your best and truly tastes the best will align. Believe it or not, you will start to want mostly real food full of nutrients and you will start to abhor fake food void of nutrients. You’ll fall in love with how good it feels to feel good. I witness this every week with my clients.

There’s obviously more to the process of learning to eat well, but a deeper dive in that direction is beyond the scope of this article. The key takeaway is to see through the folly of diets and their arbitrary rules that take you away from yourself. And know that you can come home to yourself and learn to eat well in a way that’s in harmony with yourself, no constantly, viscously fighting against yourself.

Back to metabolism, when you eat this way over time, and truly meet your needs, and truly nourish yourself, you’ll boost, not break your metabolism. Even if your metabolism has been broken, and this has happened to many people through dieting, you can fix your metabolism by eating well along with meeting your needs in other areas of your life, namely by getting great sleep, great rest, and reducing the amount of chronic stress in your life by optimizing your work life and your relationships. This can’t be done with a quick-fix, one-size-fits-all program. But it is the surest path to thriving and all people can thrive more and more, one step a time.

Weight Loss That Lasts

But, you say, “I have a lot of weight to lose. If I don’t do something drastic, it’ll take forever.”

The clients I coach who have weight to lose typically lose about a pound per week (sometimes a bit more if they have a lot of weight to lose). By the standards of diets, it’s not fast. But it lasts. And, it really doesn’t take that long to experience significant weight loss. About 25 pounds in six months. About 50 pounds in a year.

Most people who have 25 to 50 pounds to lose put that weight on over 10 or more years. Losing it in six months to a year, and keeping it off forever, really isn’t a bad proposition.

Which sounds better to you? Losing a lot of weight fast and yo-yo dieting for the rest of your life? Or losing 25 pounds in six months, or 50 pounds in a year, and keeping it off forever?

Remember, regarding weight maintenance, the standard with diets is yo-yo dieting. Remember the man I met who told me he lost 50 pounds five times? We can do much better than that.

Author’s Note: I didn’t show you the photos because before-and-after weight-loss photos mean nothing.

(1) Persistent Metabolic Adaptation 6 Years After “The Biggest Loser” Competition. Obesity, 2016, 24(8), 1,612-1,619.

* There’s a lot more to losing weight and keeping it off than energy balance (“calories in, calories out”), but it is a factor.

** In pop culture, metabolism is equated with body weight, body shape, and appearance. In physiology, metabolism is defined as the set of chemical processes that occur within cells, tissues, organs, or organisms that are necessary for the maintenance of life. For emphasis: necessary for the maintenance of life. A slow, broken metabolism doesn’t just mean some extra fat around one’s abdomen, hips, or thighs. It means less wellness and more sickness. It means less life. Conversely, a fast, high-functioning metabolism, which is naturally concomitant with a lifestyle that meets one’s needs, means more wellness and less sickness. It means more life.

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.