The Vitamin That Guarantees Weight Loss

The following is an amalgamation of dozens of conversations I’ve had with clients:

Me: What do you want to work on today?

Client: You know, I want to lose weight.

Me: Yes, let’s pick up on what we worked on last time. Tell me more about why this is important to you. What would losing weight give you that you don’t have now?

Client: Less pounds. Ha ha.

Me (smiling): What else?

Client: I’d feel better about myself.

Me: Say more.

Client: I don’t like how I feel. I feel ugly.

Me: What does that feel like?

Client: I feel like people don’t like me. People don’t like heavy people. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in.

Me: Outside of what?

Client: Life. The good life.

Me: Be more specific.

Client: Relationships. I want to be in relationships.

Me: And you don’t think you can be right now?

Client (getting a little emotional): No, not really.

Me: What does that feel like?

Client (after a deep breath): Scary. It’s my worst nightmare to be alone.

Me: What does it feel like in your body?

Client: Really stressful. I can feel my heart beating faster.

Me: Stay with it. What else is there?

Client: Well, the stress is starting to chill out a bit actually.

Me: What are you feeling now?

Client: I’m aware I’m not really alone. Olivia and I have been friends since high school. My parents have always been there for me. I like the people I work with. You’re super supportive.

Me: Even with that, the way you said that, I sense you’d like more from your relationships.

Client: Yeah, I want someone to really love me.

Me: Say more.

Client: I want someone to love me unconditionally. I want someone I can totally be myself with and it’s okay.

Me: You want to be accepted for who you are?

Client: Yes. I want to be with someone who considers me okay just the way I am.

Me: Do you feel you are?

Client: What do you mean?

Me: Do you feel you’re okay just the way you are? Do you accept yourself just the way you are?

Client (getting more emotional): No, not really. I’ve always hated my body. I’ve kind of always hated myself in some ways. I’m really, really hard on myself. I talk to myself in ways I’d never to talk to anyone else.

Me: Say more.

Client: I don’t like being fat. I mean, you know, we [women] are supposed to have these perfect bodies and look a certain way. I’ve been told that by everyone in my life since I was…as long as I can remember.

Me: What’s that like?

Client: Impossible. Impossible is really the best word. It’s like I can’t win. I mean, I might be able to lose the weight I want to lose. But I’ll still never be perfect. I mean, I’m 36. I already have wrinkles and a few gray hairs. Even if I lose the weight, I’ll always have flaws.

Me: It seems like you feel a lot of pressure to look a certain way.

Client (getting really emotional): It’s exhausting. Utterly exhausting.

Me: I can tell this is very intense for you. It feels like a really big load for you to carry. A huge burden.

Client: I hate it! I absolutely hate it!

Me: Let’s take a moment and pause. This is hard work you’re doing.

Client. Okay.

Me (after a brief pause): It seems like you’re fed up with this pressure to look a certain way. Is that accurate?

Client: Totally. What the fuck? I’m a hard worker, I’m intelligent, I’m a good person. And, yet, I feel like all that matters is losing weight. All that matters is looking good. For as long as I can remember, it’s felt like losing weight is all that matters. The pressure is eating me alive.

Me: Would you like to explore some other ways of approaching this?

Client: Yes! That’s why I’m working with you. Pushing myself to lose weight and get “a good body” hasn’t worked no matter how hard I’ve tried or no matter how many times I’ve tried and I don’t think I can keep doing that.

Me: I’d like to ask you to really look at your beliefs. Is that okay with you?

Client: Yes.

Me: What would it be like for you to accept yourself as you are right now?

Client: I had a feeling we were going there.

Me: What’s it like to go there?

Client: It’s a mixed bag. Part of me is feeling a lot of fear. For a really long time, I’ve felt that losing weight was the key to accepting myself. Giving that up feels a bit scary. But I also feel something else. It honestly feels bigger than the fear. A sense of relief. A weight off my shoulders. I mean, I think this is what I’ve wanted all along.

Me: What have you wanted all along?

Client (letting out a big sigh): To accept myself as I am. Damn, it feels good to say it. Really good.

Me: What does it feel like?

Client: Again, like a weight off my shoulders. Like I’m releasing a huge burden. I didn’t really know this was an option.

Me: Take some deep breaths and enjoy the feeling. Savor it. Take as long as you like.

Client (after a minute or so): This feels really good, but I feel awkward keeping you waiting.

Photo 140--Woman Reflecting

Me: Ha ha. I get it. I think that’s probably good for now.

Client: It just feels so good. It’s like when I need a nap and I let myself take one. Or like when I’m craving a certain food and I have it and it’s perfectly fulfilling.

Me: Yeah, acceptance is super nourishing. You need it. I need it. We all need it. It’s like a vitamin. I sometimes call acceptance vitamin A. We need acceptance like we need vitamins and other nutrients. It’s essential to our wellness. And vitamin A might be the most important nutrient there is. Without vitamin A, life can be really hard.

Client (smiling): I like that analogy.

Me: So as we move forward, are you starting to see a new way of approaching weight loss? Instead of weight loss as a path to self-acceptance, you have the ability to accept yourself now, and always. And you can build exercise habits, eating habits, and other wellness habits on top of that self-acceptance foundation. Does that approach sound good to you?

Client: Yes! It already feels like it’ll be easier. Like I’m not doing all this stuff to lose the weight so I can accept myself, since I’m already in the process of accepting myself as I am. I have to say, I think this accepting myself as I am will be a work in progress for me. But like I said, it already feels good. And it feels like everything else will be easier and more fun.

Me: Of course, yes, it’ll be a process. Big changes like this can take some time. We’ll work on it together. You’re well on your way by being willing to open the door today. This is great work you’ve done today! Really great work!

Client: Thank you.

Me: And, yes, now you’ll be free to exercise well, eat well, and otherwise take care of yourself without being in this box that you’re doing it only for weight loss and with weight loss as they only way you can accept yourself. Let’s work together now to make your THRIVE plan [wellness plan] for the coming weeks with all of this in mind. Are you ready to do that?

Client: Yes, that sounds really good.


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



The Parent (Wellness) Trap

“I’d love to get more sleep, but with the kids’ schedules, it’s just not possible.”

“Breakfast? I’m lucky to grab a granola bar on the way out the door to bring the kids to school.”

“I was in great shape until we had Juliette. It’s really hard with kids.”

“My sorority sisters and I used to go to the Outer Banks for a long weekend every fall, but most of us don’t really have time for that anymore with our kids.”

“I could really use a bit of time to myself each day, but my kids need me all the time.”

In my conversations with people about wellness, kids come up a lot. Specifically, many parents perceive their children, and parenting, as obstacles to their wellness. I coach many parents too and they all have one thing in common: They love their kids tremendously. I often hear them say, “I’d do anything for my kids.” It’s a powerful experience to be around a parent who would do anything for their child. That said, in doing anything for their children, many people give up some other things of value to them: sleep, rest, solitude, friendship, nourishing workouts, nourishing meals, and more. What they give up is self-care. What they are giving up is wellness.

When a parent gives up self-care in this martyr dynamic, it’s a lose-lose situation. First, yes, obviously the parent’s wellness suffers in both the short- and long-term. That’s clear. And important. Second, and maybe less obvious, the child’s wellness suffers, potentially into adulthood and for their whole life. How’s that possible?

Kids model themselves after the adults in their lives, especially their parents.

Kids don’t do what we say; kids do what we do. More so, kids become their parents. Kids who grow up with parents who model thriving relationships are much more likely to experience thriving relationships in their adulthood. Kids who watch their parents work 60-hour workweeks are much more likely to make long workweeks a value they carry into adulthood. Kids who sit down with their whole family for dinner are much more likely to become adults who gather their whole family to sit down together for dinner. Kids who hear their parents groan about how exercise is a drag are much more likely to also decide that exercise is no fun.

“You gave me life; now show me how to live.”
–Show Me How to Live by Audioslave (Song)

Of course, as adults we make our own choices and don’t necessarily live just like our parents did. But it takes a lot of effort to break the momentum of our upbringing. For a child, It’s a huge help, a great head start, to have thriving parents model wellness for them.

Kids don’t want us to do things for them, then want to us to show them how to live. They’re new(er) to this world and don’t have the experience we have. We’re their models. They watch everything we do. They listen to everything we say to one another. They absorb our values and habits. It makes sense; absorption of the life around us is the most expeditious way to learn and grow.

If you’re a parent struggling to find your self-care mojo, I offer this discourse as a new form of inspiration, possibly one you haven’t thought of. When you make time for self-care, it’s not only not selfish, it’s one of the best things you can do for your children. And you’re already amazing and doing great things for your children. I’m simply presenting another way of thinking about doing great things for your children. A way that leaves guilt at the door and fosters deep wellness for everyone involved. Exciting, right?

What can you do for yourself today? And are there ways you and your family members can exercise together, eat together, and otherwise nourish yourselves together? Those can be big win-win situations.


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

The Lie That’s Stealing Your Productivity (And Much More)

Take out a piece of paper and get something to write with. Yes, we’re going old school for this demonstration. Get something to time yourself with too.

You’re going to do a task twice. You’ll do it a bit differently each time and you’re going to time yourself each time.

Ready for the first task? When I say go, you’re going to write the sentence: “Multitasking is the biggest lie.” Then, underneath it, write the numbers 1 to 27 (1, 2, 3 … 25, 26, 27). Time how long this takes you and write down the time.

Ready? Go.

Ready for the second task? When I say go, you’re going to again write “Multitasking is the biggest lie,” and write the numbers 1 to 27. But now you’re going to write one letter, then one number, then one letter, then one number, and continue in that fashion. “M”, then “1”, then “u”, then “2”, etc. You’re going to write the same sentence and the same list of numbers, but you’re going to do it by alternating writing the letters and numbers. Time how long this takes you and write down the time.

Ready? Go.

How’d that feel? When I do this, I feel like there’s sludge in my mind. I can’t think properly at all. You? And how long did it take you to do the second task? It takes me more than twice as long to do the second task than it does to do the first task.

This is multitasking, better named switchtasking, because what we’re really doing when we work like this is continually switching from one task to another. This is how we operate when we’re trying to do two things (or five things) at once. We get all sludged up. If this is how you always operate, it can start to feel normal. But it’s far from optimal.

Switchtasking steals your productivity. And your joy, peace, and wellness. As this demonstration makes clear: We can’t do two things at once. And it’s really stressful to try.

Here’s your three-part antidote:

Photo 138--Thriving Worker

Work in focused blocks of uninterrupted time. Take periods of time and designate them for specific tasks. For example, you might decide to write an article from 8 to 10 and work on marketing from 10 to 12. When you’re writing, write. When you’re working on marketing, work on marketing. Think back to how amazing you were in the first part of the switchtasking demonstration. This is how you’ll be when you’re writing, and only writing. You’ll be clear and sharp. And relaxed.

You might be wondering: “But what if I get a call?”

Schedule your interruptions. Schedule when you reply to calls, texts, e-mails. For example, designate an hour at 8 and an hour at 1 for replying to people. Like a college professor who holds office hours, let the people in your life know when you’re available.

If this sounds like taking control of your workday, you’re right. It gets better too.

Take rest breaks. You’re not a machine. You need breaks. You can insert breaks into your workday in many ways. They work really well between tasks. For example, say you were planning to meet with a colleague from 8 to 9 and read the latest research in your field from 9 to 10, you could modify that so you have your meeting from 8 to 8:55 and read from 9 to 9:55 with five-minute rest breaks built into each hour. The best breaks involve completely getting away from your work. My favorite break is to go for a walk. Sometimes I meditate. Sometimes I stretch. Anything that feels good to you and gets you fully away from your work is a good break.

A break isn’t doing nothing. It’s nourishing you. Like you need air, water, and food, you need rest. When you come back from a break, you’ll do your best work and you’ll feel better.

Working this way allows you to do more with more. There will always be only one you, but you’re your best you when you’re well-nourished.

Most work cultures, even completely self-imposed work cultures, seem to be about getting a person to do more with less. It’s like starving a plant and expecting it to grow faster. It makes no sense at all. When you’re trying to do multiple tasks at once, allowing yourself to get interrupted all the time, and working non-stop without any breaks, you’ll be like a drunk ship captain. You might not be running into any icebergs anytime soon, but you’re surely not at your most effective.

This comes down to self-care. When you nurture yourself, you set yourself up to thrive in your work. You and the people you serve will get a lot from that. I invite you to give it a try and see how you feel.


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

Boot Camp? Really?

United States Army Basic Combat Training (“boot camp”) is a program with one purpose: to create soldiers. Soldiers for war.

The entire purpose of a war is to kill. The entire role of a solider is to kill.

Every system in boot camp is designed to turn ordinary United States citizens into killers. Efficient killers.

The schedules, the terminology, the clothing, the psychological games—the entire culture facilitates this transformation. It’s all designed to take a person with no innate desire to hurt anyone and turn him/her into a killing machine.

That’s a fact. Like it or don’t like it, it’s a fact. Boot camp is killing training. Let that really sink in.

Photo 137--Soldier Shooting a Gun

So here’s my question for the wellness professionals who run boot camps:

Is the ethos used to create efficient killers, the same ethos you want to use to help people feel great and live live long, happy, healthy lives? Really think about that.

How’d we get here? Who thought the attitude of boot camp was just right for helping people live with greater vitality, fitness, and wellness? Does the same mindset used to turn people into killers serve well as the mindset to help people live happier, healthier lives? Really, how’d we get here?

Imagine a few wellness professionals sitting in a park on a beautiful day drinking smoothies discussing how they could help more people. Perhaps they were (justifiably) burdened by the increasing rate of lifestyle disease in our society and wondering “What can we do about this?” Did one of them have an aha moment and say, “I’ve got it: boot camp!”

Is that really your best idea? I’m not a rocket surgeon, but I can’t think of too many things counter to wellness than mass killing. I also can’t think of a less-productive relationship between a wellness professional and a client than the kind of abusive and manipulative relationship between a drill sergeant and a recruit. But maybe that’s just me.

To me, words matter. The words we use affect how we think. When you go to boot camp, you’re expecting to be “whipped into shape”. You’re expecting a drill-sargeant-like figure to yell at you and insult you. Yelling and insulting, you’ve been taught, is what it takes for you to exercise and be well. This is based on the erroneous belief that your natural inclination is to sit on the couch all day and destroy yourself. Nothing could be further from the truth. Watch young children. It takes a drill sergeant to get them to sit still. Our natural inclination is to move. As soon as we can crawl, we love to move. This, again, is a fact. You can witness this in any home with young children.

So I say keep your whip. I’ll move around because I like it. In fact, I love it and always have. And really, how long do you think I’m going to put up with this yelling and whipping.

You see, free people like to make choices for themselves. You can force some people to do some things for some period of time, but never indefinitely. They’ll inevitably resist at some point. This is why the main portion of United States Army Basic Combat Training lasts only 10 weeks. It’s not sustainable for any longer than that. And that’s a big problem in exercise programs: sustainability. People start and stop exercise programs all the time. We need to teach people approaches to exercise they’ll do for the rest of their lives.

Boot camp also reeks of co-dependence. I come to you because I can’t get myself to exercise on my own. You make me exercise. But what happens when you’re not there? You’ve now made it even harder for me to exercise of my own volition. I need you to get myself to exercise. That’s co-dependence.

Here’s a different approach:

  1. Understand that people inherently love movement. Sure, if a person hasn’t exercised in years, they have some momentum working against them. But I haven’t met a client yet, that once they start to overcome this momentum, doesn’t start to tell me they look forward to exercise. Those who continue long enough all get back to the inherent love of movement they had as kids.
  2. Create cultures that foster sustainable exercise. Do this by treating exercise as fun and pleasurable and something to be done in moderation, not too little and not too much. Consistent movement throughout our lives keeps us well. Everything you can do to minimize starting-and-stopping and foster consistency is huge step in the right direction.

My sense is most people who run boot camps have good intentions. My sense is most are kind people. My sense is most aren’t abusive and manipulative like drill sergeants. But words matter. We can name our wellness programs with more inspiring, life-giving names associated with life giving, certainly not like taking away.


Hey Sweetie, I Made You Breakfast

My breakfasts this week so far have included all of the following unusual, some might even say weird, “breakfast foods”:

  1. Mashed potatoes
  2. Salad
  3. Sauerkraut
  4. Pan-fried scallops
  5. Steamed asparagus

Why did I have these foods for breakfast? It’s simple: I enjoy these foods.

If you’re making a yuck face, I get it; most people do. There’s an expectation in our culture that breakfast is supposed to be sweet. Most of the acceptable “breakfast foods” are sweet: pancakes with maple syrup, oatmeal with raisins and honey, Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs, granola, smoothies made primarily from fruit, toast with jam, etc.

You might really like salad, scallops, and asparagus, just not before 12 p.m. It makes sense. Since before you could walk, you were eating sweet foods for breakfast and saving savory foods for lunch and dinner. Your palate has been primed for decades in this fashion.

So what’s my stink with sweetness? Nothing in the absolute. I deeply enjoy all of the flavors of food. And the sweetness built into real foods like blueberries, mangos, and pineapples is wonderful.

But sweetness balanced with other flavors has faded away for many people and turned into exceedingly sweet breakfasts. In addition, much of the natural sweetness like we enjoy in blueberries has turned into the processed sweetness of Nutri-Grain bars. And these super-sweet breakfasts have ramifications. When a person eats a sweet breakfast, they tend to:

  1. Feel less sated.
  2. Have greater fluctuations in blood sugar and energy throughout the day.
  3. Be hungrier and eat more throughout the day, especially at dinner and in the evening.
  4. Crave and eat more junk food throughout the day, especially at dinner and in the evening.
  5. Store more excess body fat.

Does any of that resonate with you? Do you find your energy crashing in the afternoon? Do you find yourself reaching for junk food in the evening? If you struggle with this issues and you’ve been mainlining fructose and sucrose for breakfast, you can remedy that with savory breakfasts. Here are a few of my actual breakfasts from this past week to show you it’s possible.

Photo 134--Savory Breakfast 1

This is a salad made of mixed greens, red cabbage, sauerkraut (fermented green cabbage) and olive oil on the left and a scramble made of eggs, white onion, and Swiss chard on the right.

Photo 135--Savory Breakfast 2

This is steamed asparagus, scrambled eggs, and mashed potatoes made from local heirloom potatoes with some olive oil and Swiss chard mixed in.

Photo 136--Savory Breakfast 3

This is a mixed-greens salad, pan-fried scallops, and mashed Yukon Gold potatoes with some olive oil and white onion mixed in.

You don’t need to eat these foods to “go savory”. The sky is the limit. Basically any savory foods you typically eat for lunch and dinner make great options. And you don’t have to avoid sweet foods altogether to get the benefits of savory breakfasts. I often include sweet foods in my breakfasts. This weekend, I’ll be picking my own strawberries and they’ll surely be part of my breakfasts next week, for example. In essence, I eat breakfasts that are just like my lunches and dinners. I eat a wide variety of whole, natural, real foods I enjoy. I don’t specifically target savory foods and avoid sweet foods. I’ve simply dissolved the “prejudices” that breakfast should be sweet and that salad and fish are for later in the day.

Our palates change with exposure. There are dozens of foods I never ate growing up that I now love. Avocados, broccoli rabe, garlic, and oysters to name a few. Our palates aren’t set in stone. And there’s nothing about us anatomically, physiologically, or any other way biologically or scientifically, that makes us averse to “lunch and dinner foods” in the morning.

The best judge of what ways of eating help you feel your best is you. I invite you to play with a little more savory and a little less sweet in your breakfasts. Pay attention to how you feel and calibrate accordingly. Some great savory foods to include in your breakfasts are vegetables, meat, eggs, nuts (and nut butter), seeds (and seed butter), and avocados. Bon appétit.


When Is It Okay for You to Thrive?

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
–Seth Godin

Did anyone ever tell you college will be the best time of your life? For me it was, in fact, a truly remarkable time. I absolutely loved school, especially my physiology-related classes. I loved going to class, studying, taking tests, writing papers, all of it. I also enjoyed layer upon layer of amazing community and friendship. I had ample time to do everything I wanted to do. I worked out with friends often. I ate meals with friends daily. I studied with classmates all the time. (I even won, with my friend Matt, our school’s annual horseshoe tournament. Now I’m just bragging, and rubbing it in to all my classmates who’ll read this article and, um, didn’t win the way Matt and I gloriously did that day.) Writing about this time brings a big smile to my face.

What makes me frown like a champion, however, is the thought that they were right! Was college truly the best time of my life, of anyone’s life? Is it all downhill after that? Or is it possible to flourish that way throughout life, or at other times anyway?

Society offers one answer: Retirement. When you retire, you’ll have time to do what you love, to travel, to spend time with your family, to really take care of yourself. Retirement is a construct created by the masses for the masses to keep people from completely giving up on life when they’re far from thriving and wondering, “Is this it?” Instead of really looking at themselves and their lives, and considering how they could really live, many people comfort themselves with the fantasy of Retirement. They accept their lot and use the analgesic of dreaming of playing golf, traveling to Europe, or opening up a cute bed and breakfast (many years into the future, of course) to ease their pain. All the while, they muck and mire away, putting their better days down the road, far down the road.

Retirement is just one costume Someday wears; there are others. Take Heaven. Many people believe the life of their dreams awaits them after they die. I’m a “disciplined” person in many ways and land on the strong side of the bell curve of delayed-gratification skills, but heaven seems like too far off of a reward, even for me. Then there’s Vacation. Vacation is micro-heaven—less singing angels, more fruity drinks. It’s a potent pacifier. These false gods can be very powerful, but they’re not good friends. They’re enablers that suggest we forgo thriving, and opt instead to expect mediocrity, or worse, from life and from ourselves. But do we really live in a world where college, vacation, retirement, and heaven are what we live for? Is the rest just passing time?

I don’t buy it and I don’t want you to either. I offer up a very important proposition for you to consider:

Would you like to really live now?

Photo 133--Sunset

Take a moment, as long as you like, and reflect on this possibility. Imagine living with great vitality and fitness. Imaging living with fulfilling work and fulfilling relationships as part of the day-to-day fabric of your life. Imagine loving your life. Imaging feeling amazing. Now. Not in the future, because as Dave Mathews Band wisely sings to us in their aptly named song Cry Freedom:

“The future is no place to place your better days.”

What would it be like for you to thrive now? What can you do today to make this your reality?



President Trump Spouts Unexpected Words of Exercise Wisdom!

Donald Trump recently said some pretty silly things about exercise that have been all over the news. He’s also quoted in this same GQ article saying something that’s pure exercise genius, in line with recommendations made in prestigious scientific and medical journals, and yet lost on most personal trainers, sports coaches, physicians, and others we’d all like to believe are in the know regarding exercise.

From the GQ article:

“When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, ‘You are going to die young because of this.’”

Donald Trump’s words again:

“You are going to die young because of this [training for an Ironman triathlon].”

Among the sea of truly ridiculous statements he’s made (not just about exercise), it’d be easy to disregard this comment as nonsense. Add to this the fact that exercise has been touted as nothing short of a cure-all and fountain of youth, this could sound truly crazy.

The truth: This statement could save lives! (That’s why I’m choosing to expound upon it.)

In fact, wellness expert Dave Asprey says almost exactly the same thing in his popular TED talk Hacking Yourself:

“So if you think you are going to be hedge-fund manager and an Ironman triathlete at the same time, you probably can do it, and it’s probably gonna take years off your life.”

The truth: Moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Being sedentary and doing excessive exercise are equally deadly. Yes, deadly.

In a study article published in the American Journal of Cardiology (1), the authors state:

“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.”

The key line:

“…strenuous joggers had a mortality rate that was not statistically different from that of sedentary nonjoggers.”

This might be a shock to you since you’ve been led to believe athletes and fitness enthusiasts are the pillar of wellness. It just ain’t so. In a study article published in Sports Medicine (2), the authors state:

“While the words ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’ are often used synonymously in everyday language, the terms have entirely separate meanings. Fitness describes the ability to perform a given exercise task, and health explains a person’s state of well-being, where physiological systems work in harmony. Although we typically view athletes as fit and healthy, they often are not.”

Excessive exercise has become a significant enough public-wellness problem that physicians are recommending upper limits on exercise. I know it seems out there, but it’s happening. In a study article published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (3), the authors state:

 “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.”

The Donald isn’t so crazy after all (on this issue). Excessive exercise can, in fact, lower your life expectancy just like being sedentary can. Imagine a scene where a few really fit people are talking with a few really sedentary people. The fit people are disgusted by the sedentary people and telling them they’re killing themselves the way they’re living. The sedentary people believe the fit people are just plain nuts for exercising the way they do and have no hesitation saying so. It turns out, both crews are equally right.

People have become increasingly sedentary since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1700 C.E. The subsequent lack of nourishing movement in people’s lives has been, without a doubt, a major factor in the development of lifestyle diseases (a.k.a. non-communicable diseases) such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, dementia, cancer, and related diseases. The development of exercise has been an intelligent response. The development of extreme-exercise movements like triathlon, all endurance sports, many other sports, and many fitness movements, however, hasn’t been so intelligent as the science reveals in no uncertain terms.

Creating dangerously sedentary lives isn’t the only wellness-diminishing fallout of the Industrial Revolution. It’s also taken people out of nature, and more so out of their nature as people. It’s turned people into factory workers. Today, most people, whether they’re putting tuna in cans or performing appendectomies, work in factories. Yes, some people are very well paid, have elaborate vocabularies, and work in workplaces that don’t look like factories, but they live like factory workers. That is, they do one very specialized job over and over and they do it a lot: most of the day, most days of the week, and every week of the year minus only a few. The Industrial Revolution has also changed how people relate to themselves. They no longer relate to themselves as beings, but rather as doings. As producers. Ask people in your life at the end of the day how their day was and notice how often you hear something like, “It was good. I got a lot done.” Getting a lot done has become a primary definition of a good day, of a good life. Getting stuff done is important, no doubt, but when being industrial becomes of utmost importance, it tends to crowd out other needs which keep us well like sleep, rest, and fulfilling relationships, to name a few.

Photo 132--Smiling Man

Getting really fit by exercising a shit-ton isn’t the antidote to the problems caused by the Industrial Revolution. Living a live that meets all of your needs is. I offer some suggestions of how to truly be, to truly come back into the balance of your being that’s been knocked off center since the advent of industry, and to truly thrive:

  1. Do moderate exercise you enjoy, or better yet, absolutely love. As the science makes clear: No pain, no gain is bullshit.
  2. Do non-exercise movement. This is the only movement people did before the Industrial Revolution. Walk or bicycle to work or other destinations. Garden. Dance. These are incredible ways to move that also keep you in touch with art, food, nature, and others.
  3. Get outside. The Industrial Revolution brought us inside. Most people live their lives inside homes, offices, cars, stores, and other buildings. Get outside in ways that fill you up. Immerse yourself in nature.
  4. Get plenty of sleep and rest. If you relate to yourself as an industrial production machine, sleep and rest probably feel like a waste of time. Sleep and rest are underappreciated in our culture, yet big keys to wellness. To up the ante, I introduce one of my favorite ways of being: lingering. When’s the last time you had a meal with someone and you didn’t feel like you had to rush off and do the next thing? When you lingered there and enjoyed every bit of the experience? You can linger in the shower, on a walk, while having a chat, or doing almost anything. The essence of lingering is doing something fully, something that feels really good, for as long as you want, without feeling like you should be getting something done instead.
  5. Find out who you really are. Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been increasingly trained how to fit into and be a cog in society. In the present day, children go to school from about five (or younger) to about 17 (or older), and are taught how to be. Such intensive training during such a formative time creates adults who have no sense of who they really are. So it’s not an odd question to ask yourself at 30 or 50 or 70: Who am I? What do I really value? When do I feel most alive? Doing some personal reflection around these questions can do a great deal to boost your wellness.

There’s more to being well than doing a lot of exercise. Being well goes hand in hand with living well.

(1) Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2015, 65(5), 411-419.
(2) Athletes: Fit but Unhealthy? Sports Medicine, 2016, 2(24), 1-4.
(3) Exercising for Health and Longevity Vs Peak Performance: Different Regimens for Different Goals. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2014, 89(9), 1,171-1,175.

Author’s Note: I don’t identify as a Democrat or Republican. I’m an unenrolled registered voter. I registered as a Republican in 2008 so I could vote for Ron Paul for President of the United States in the Massachusetts primary. I registered as a Democrat in 2016 so I could vote for Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the Maine caucuses. Otherwise, to this point in time, I’ve remained unenrolled. The present pick-a-side-and-argue political game is both dysfunctional and boring. I prefer heart-centered discussions on how we can live well together, both locally and globally.