The past 19+ months have provided us with more than a few challenges, but they’ve also allowed us to reflect on what’s working in our lives and what could use a major overhaul.
An unexpected benefit of all the cancelled happy hours, closed gyms, and remote offices is that it automatically created boundaries for our personal and professional lives. Too exhausted to go out on Friday night? No problem, the bar isn’t open. Don’t feel like going to spin class? Yoga at home sounds better anyway. Have trouble telling co-workers “No” in person? Being off site makes it easier to say you “Have a conflict.”
If you’re wondering if you’re a perfectionist, I’d say there’s a good chance you are. Or at least have perfectionist tendencies. I know I do. After all, who doesn’t want to be perfect? Who doesn’t want to be the one who gets the gold stars, the big wins, and the admiration?
Perfectionism is one of those traits people typically see as a positive, but underneath it is often self-defeating thoughts and emotions, low self-esteem, stress, and chronic anxiety, which actually make it harder to achieve your goals. And, if I’m being honest here, it makes it harder to function in general.
As a health coach, I see this all the time, and I know what it feels like. The procrastination, the all-or-nothing thinking, the unrealistic standards. My clients get so wrapped up in trying to “get it right,” that it defeats the whole purpose of working with someone to get their health on track in the first place.
Hey folks! In this week’s Ask a Health Coach, Erin is answering your questions about eating primally on the road, what to do when you feel like you’re forcing yourself to exercise, and the role coherent breathing plays in reducing anxiety. Got a question for Erin? Post it below or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group.
“I have a predicament. I’m a small business owner and drive a lot during my day. I don’t get a lot of time for lunch, I just eat when I’m driving, so for the last 3 months I’ve been eating sandwiches (NOT primal, at all). All of my symptoms have come back in full force (migraines, acid reflux, etc.), and today I stepped on the scale and have gained 20 lbs!! What can I pack for lunch that can be eaten while also driving?”
Ok, so I’m dying to know. If you own the business, can’t you schedule time to eat? My guess is that you’re the one who makes the schedule. So, in theory, you could arrange to give yourself a 30-minute break in the middle of the day for a satisfying, satiating meal, where you’re not driving, multi-tasking, or taxing your central nervous system with added stress.
Chances are, you’ve experienced intrusive thoughts. I’m talking about those odd or disturbing thoughts that pop into your head seemingly out of nowhere. Usually, they involve imagining yourself, just for a moment, doing something dangerous, harmful to others, or socially inappropriate. It’s not that you want or intend to do so, but you realize that you could stand up and yell obscenities in church, kiss a stranger on the bus, or ram your car into the car in front of you at the stoplight.
We don’t talk about intrusive thoughts all that much, probably because the content is often violent or sexual in nature. Yet, research suggests that intrusive thoughts are a near-universal human experience. More often than not, people simply dismiss them because they’re so “out there.” A particular thought may make you pause long enough to ask yourself, “Whoa, where did that come from?!” but then you move on.
For some folks, though, intrusive thoughts become incredibly disruptive because they arise with great frequency, or because the person finds them so disturbing that they have a hard time letting them go. Sometimes both.
People who struggle with intrusive thoughts can become sidelined by shame, guilt, or anxiety. They worry that these thoughts reflect who they “really are” deep down. They believe that friends and loved ones will reject them if they knew. When the same intrusive thoughts run on a loop in their heads, they may fear that they are willing those bad things to happen or creating self-fulfilling prophecies.
Often, these individuals are reluctant to seeking help despite their profound distress. Intrusive thoughts are incredibly normal, but they shouldn’t interfere with your quality of life. While banishing them is easier said than done, some techniques show promise for helping people deal with unwanted thoughts and the angst they cause.
In part one of this series on improving vagal tone, I explained that the vagus nerve is the information superhighway of your autonomic nervous system. It connects your brain to organs and glands throughout the body and acts as the main conduit of your parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”) nervous system. Vagal nerve activity touches just about every system in the body, including respiration, immunity, cardiovascular activity, digestion, and the gut microbiome.
The term “vagal tone” refers to how active your parasympathetic nervous system is. Ideally, we want high vagal tone, because that indicates a generally relaxed state where the body can focus on growth and repair. When vagal tone is low, the sympathetic (“fight-flight-freeze”) nervous system is dominant. That’s no good. The sympathetic nervous system should kick in when we need to respond to an acute threat or stressor, but we don’t want it running in the background all the time.
Unfortunately, a chronically stressed, sympathetic-dominant state is the norm for most people nowadays. Scientists are always on the hunt for ways to alleviate that stress and reduce the medical burden associated with it. Some researchers are investigating pharmaceutical means of improving vagal tone, along with protocols for using electrostimulation. You don’t need these high-tech procedures, though. Once you start digging into the science of the vagus nerve, you realize something cool: Most of the things we promote in the Primal community probably improve vagal tone.
Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term orthorexia (“right appetite”) more than two decades ago to describe what happens when health-conscious diets go too far. Although it still hasn’t been accepted as an official medical diagnosis, orthorexia nervosa is a proposed eating disorder that involves an extreme obsession with eating a “correct” diet. People with orthorexia nervosa strive to eat only foods they consider healthy and strictly avoid foods they deem to be unhealthy or impure. Their obsession with eating a healthy diet takes over their lives, eventually impairing their mental, social, and even physical well-being. The topic of orthorexia is controversial within health circles. On the surface, it can be hard to distinguish between folks who are simply health-conscious and those who have crossed the line into disordered eating. Any diet—even relatively mainstream ones like Mediterranean or paleo—could veer into orthorexia depending on the individual. People who raise concerns about orthorexia often get accused of “fit-shaming.” Then the straw man arguments begin: “Oh, so I guess it’s healthier just to eat Twinkies and Big Macs, then?” No, obviously not. Orthorexia starts with food rules or following diets, but it’s much more than that. To be clear: Wanting to be healthy is not orthorexic. Neither is believing that some foods are healthier or more nutritious than others. Cutting out certain foods, tracking macronutrients, or following a specific diet is not inherently problematic. However, those behaviors can be stepping stones to orthorexia, so this is a conversation we need to be willing to have. What is Orthorexia Nervosa? Orthorexia nervosa is a preoccupation with healthy eating that ultimately interferes with health and well-being. The first stage involves setting rules and restrictions around what foods you will and will not eat. Specific rules vary from person to person. An individual might avoid gluten, food additives, GMOs, dairy, animal products, nightshades, sugar, artificial sweeteners, grains, or whatever they deem to be unhealthy. Before you get defensive, understand that food rules are only step one. They are necessary but not sufficient for developing orthorexia nervosa. Many people follow set diets or restrict certain food groups without developing orthorexia. Diet behaviors don’t cross the line into orthorexia nervosa until they start to interfere with quality of life. Definition of Orthorexia Nervosa Eating disorders and other mental health disorders each have a set of diagnostic criteria. These are like checklists that help doctors and therapists decide when a particular diagnosis is warranted. Currently, orthorexia nervosa is not recognized as an eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). That means there are no agreed-upon diagnostic criteria. Nevertheless, researchers and practitioners need to be able to differentiate an ardent healthy-eating enthusiast from someone who has crossed the line into disordered eating. Experts have proposed various ways of defining orthorexia nervosa. While the specifics deviate somewhat, they share common features: Behaviors: Obsessive preoccupation with eating only foods one deems “healthy.” Strict avoidance of foods deemed “unhealthy.” Negative effect on mental health or well-being: Behaviors and/or thoughts … Continue reading “Orthorexia: Where to Draw the Line Between Healthy Eating and Obsession?”