I’d argue that mindfulness is one of the biggest health trends of our time. It promises less stress, more inner peace, and a solid dose of self-awareness. It’s also a multi-billion-dollar industry, from apps that dole out guided meditations to full-on retreats in tropical locales.
But before you download the paid version of Headspace or investigate roundtrip fares to Bali, ask yourself this important question: Am I ready to stop operating on autopilot, repeating the same less-than-healthy patterns over and over again?
I’ll let you ponder one that for a minute.
What Is Mindfulness, Anyway?
Mindfulness is a 2,500-year-old practice. It’s the ability to be fully present, where you’re totally tuned into what’s happening, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it — in the moment and without judgement.
A lot of my health coaching clients are convinced they’re being mindful when it comes to their eating habits, yet somehow, manage to polish off a bottle of wine or wheel of cheese without realizing it. Now, I’m all for hedonistic behaviour, but if your choices leave you full of regret, shame, and guilt, it’s probably worthwhile to pursue a different strategy.
Mindfulness isn’t for the faint of heart. It also isn’t great for perfectionists (if you’re determined to “get it right”), those with limited patience, or anyone looking for a temporary fix. Or if you don’t believe change is possible.
I think everyone can agree that things look a lot different this year. We’re planning smaller holiday gatherings with just our immediate families. There are restrictions at stores and restaurants. And, in some places, limited supplies of groceries and household items. One thing that looks the same (at least with my health coaching clients) is the internal dilemma of whether or not they’re going to stick with their healthy eating habits or say “Screw it!” and dive into a plate of real bread stuffing, cornstarch-thickened gravy, and multiple slices of pecan pie. On one hand, there’s the philosophy that holidays are a special occasion and should be treated as such. And that includes all the traditional carb-laden goodies. On the other hand, there are people who are 100 percent committed to their Primal lifestyle and prepare their holiday feast accordingly. Let me emphatically state that there’s no right or wrong answer here. Just Don’t Call it a ‘Bad Food Day’ Honestly, I don’t care if you indulge in several servings of green bean casserole or marshmallow-crusted sweet potatoes. What I do care about is the level of guilt you carry around with you after doing so. What does guilt have to do with food? Guilt is the feeling that you’ve done something wrong. At a young age, most of us are taught the difference between right and wrong. So, in a general sense, you might feel guilty if you stole something, hurt someone, or got caught up in a lie. On the other hand, you might have been rewarded or praised for doing something right (i.e. getting good grades, helping a neighbor, doing chores without being asked). Examples of Food Guilt: I shouldn’t have another piece Dessert/bread/wine is unhealthy Once I start, I can’t stop I’ve totally blown it I don’t want to see the scale tomorrow Diet culture tells us to feel bad if we overeat or indulge in *forbidden* foods. It says that a higher number on the scale is equal to lower self-worth. Don’t get me wrong, certain foods come with consequences. Depending on your bio-individuality, foods with higher amounts of sugar, industrialized oils, and artificial ingredients might leave you feeling foggy, fatigued, bloated and on the fast-track to chronic disease. But moralizing foods for their good vs bad qualities always backfires. Metabolism is Influenced by State of Mind In addition to the heavy emotional baggage you have to carry, deeming certain foods as negative actually discourages metabolic activity. It all starts in your hypothalamus, which processes senses, emotions, and biological functions like hunger. When you feel guilty about what you’re eating, the hypothalamus transmits signals that slow your digestion and cause your body to store more calories as fat versus burning them for energy. In theory, saying to yourself “this will make me fat” becomes kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the flip side, when you enjoy food as you’re eating it, the hypothalamus releases pleasure signals that stimulate digestion so that you thoroughly break down … Continue reading “How to Enjoy Your Holiday Feast, Guilt-Free”
Ever heard the quote, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work?” Originally said by NBA all-star, Kevin Durant, this is a perfect example of utilizing a growth mindset — meaning your success can be cultivated by your efforts. When you operate from the opposite perspective (called a fixed mindset) you believe your talents and abilities are predetermined. Either you’re good at something or you’re not. End of story. Maybe you believe you’ll always have a layer of fluff around your middle because you never stick with anything. Or you avoid working out because everyone in your family is uncoordinated. Or you’re “so intelligent” but can’t seem to figure out how the heck to lose those last ten pounds. If that’s you, congratulations, you have a fixed mindset. When you start viewing things through a more optimistic lens, you move into growth mindset territory. And that’s where the magic really happens. Let’s Define Growth Mindset You can’t talk about this term without acknowledging the famous Stanford University psychologist who coined it. Decades ago, Carol Dweck published research that kind of changed the world. In the study, Dweck and one of her colleagues gave puzzles to 400 fifth graders. After completing the first puzzle, the children were either praised for their effort or praised for their intelligence. The group who was praised with statements like “you must have worked so hard!” ended up choosing a more demanding puzzle next time around than the ones who were told “you must be so smart!” Years later, Dweck and other researchers tested the theory again, following 373 seventh graders to find out whether or not mindset could predict their grades over the course of two years. In this study, they taught one group about the brain and how intelligence can be developed, while the other group had no intervention. As you might expect, students who adopted a growth mindset were more motivated and got better grades than their fixed-minded counterparts. Students with a growth mindset not only believed that their abilities could improve through effort and persistence, they actually made it happen. Examples of a Growth Mindset I’d like to get better at this Mistakes help me learn This has been a challenge, but I’m working on it I haven’t figured out how to do this yet This might take some time Dweck’s research proved that changing a key belief about yourself can make a big difference. But clearly, it’s not just students who can benefit from this concept. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadellauses growth mindset tactics with his management teams to create an environment of constant learning… Michael Jordan (who was initially cut from his high school basketball team and was passed up during the first two NBA draft picks) used it to persevere and become uber-famous… I use it in my own health coaching practice to help my clients overcome their previous, self-described failures… And you can too. You just need the right tools to shift your mindset. So, What Causes a Fixed … Continue reading “Having a Growth Mindset Can Be a Game-Changer for Your Health”
Who can help you reach your health goals every time? Nope, it’s not me. Although health coaches are a great resource for helping you set goals, overcome obstacles, and get out of your own well-intentioned way. For the record, that person is also not your spouse, your roommate, your friends, or your kids.
The one person who can make you reach all your health goals is YOU.
I see you out there working hard, swapping your typical yogurt and banana breakfast for a protein-rich meal of eggs and bacon. I see you squeezing in a few sprint sessions a week and limiting blue light at night. You’re committed to doing everything right. Until, something goes wrong.
Tell me if any of these statements sound familiar.
“I’ll start over on Monday”
“I guess I’m not cut out for this”
“My husband/wife/kid keeps sabotaging me with sugary treats”
How bad is working and eating late at night? Wondering why you’re not losing weight? And what if you don’t want to go back to the gym? In this week’s edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin is back to answer more of your questions. Keep them coming in the comments below or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group.
“My nighttime habits are the worst. I stay up too late working, then I’m hungry and go looking for a snack at 1 or 2 am. I don’t think I should be working and eating that late, but how bad is it really?”
Your intuition is spot on here, Jacob. The late-night artificial light. The late-night insulin spike. The stress of a disrupted sleep cycle. It all comes down to your circadian rhythm, which as reiterated in this study, can lead to a myriad of metabolic ramifications. For those not familiar with circadian rhythm, it’s basically your internal, 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes.
“I went off the rails this weekend…” “I feel like I lost all my progress…” “I couldn’t make it a day without eating a piece of bread…” The path to success is often paved with setbacks. And the fact of the matter is, if you haven’t had one yet, you probably will sometime in the near future. Is that a reason to freak out? No. But it is a reason to arm yourself with the tools to, as they say, make the comeback stronger than the setback. Changing behaviours takes time and patience. Trust me, I see this with most of my health coaching clients. And, like I always tell them, there is no expectation to knock a massive lifestyle change right out of the park on your first try. I don’t care if you’re trying to change your diet or your workout routine or your sleep habits — it’s never a linear journey. There’s always a combination of successes, plateaus, and setbacks. What Is a Setback? By definition, a setback is an event that delays your progress or reverses some of the progress you’ve previously made. It can be frustrating, humbling, and can likely trigger some negative self-talk. After all, you put time and energy into this endeavor. Maybe you spent money. Or you told all your friends and family what you were doing. And now what? Listen. A setback, or even a few setbacks, doesn’t have to be the end of your story. In fact, quite the opposite. A setback might be exactly what you need to get where you want your health to go. Can Setbacks Make You Stronger? Researchers in this study conducted in-depth interviews with 85 elite athletes and coaches, seeking to understand the motivating factors of what breeds success. Turns out, most of the top athletes interviewed had suffered a significant setback early on in their career. That’s what fueled their success. They found a way to turn the defeat of a setback into a reason to push themselves further the next time they competed. In another study, UVA economist Adam Leive compiled a database of medal winners in Olympic track and field events to see how their lives played out after winning. He found that the athletes who just missed out on getting the top podium spot were more ambitious in their post-sports careers than their gold medal counterparts. The trauma of not securing the top spot actually seemed to have made the athletes stronger. And, they actually lived longer. But it’s not just athletes who are able to reap the rewards of setbacks. Researchers have studied diverse groups from students to scientists and found the same thing — failures along the way can make you stronger than those who never had a stumble. 4 Steps to Overcoming Setbacks In light of this research (and about a decade of helping my clients through inevitable setbacks of their own), I wanted to share my personal strategy, designed to take you from setback to success. … Continue reading “What to Do When You Have a Setback”
Today we welcome guest author Dr. Ronesh Sinha, internal medicine physician and expert on insulin resistance and corporate wellness, author of The South Asian Health Solution. He is a top rated speaker for companies like Google, Oracle, Cisco and more. Check out his media page for lectures, interviews and articles from Dr. Sinha. Most of us have been sheltering-in-place for a few months now, and we have evolved into an unprecedented state of fear and hyper-vigilance in this pandemic. After a long period of being cooped up, we are now gradually released into the wild, which introduces us to a whole new level of anxiety. Public health recommendations appear to be flip-flopping regularly, and we are learning on the fly as the situation evolves. In today’s post, I’d like to share some thoughts on how we can regain some control of our lives. Rather than duck and cover for several more months, we can face this beast head-on. I don’t mean being careless and reckless and not following social distancing and hygiene protocols. Instead, we can adopt a mindset that we will do what is necessary to minimize our risk of a severe COVID-19 outcome. I titled this post “Training for the COVID-19” to help you reframe this pandemic in your mind, and view it like a warrior approaches an enemy on the battlefield or an athlete faces an opponent in a competition. Stay on track no matter where you are! Instantly download your Primal and Keto Guide to Dining Out Cognitive Reframing Coronavirus: From Fear to Readiness Cognitive reframing isn’t just some touchy-feely behavioral technique. Viewing the world through a more positive lens has a beneficial impact on your immune system, which is potentially relevant to COVID-19. One study shows that participants who were cognitive reappraisers, identified by a 10-item Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, and then exposed to an experimental cold virus (rhinovirus not coronavirus) had reduced nasal cytokine release compared to individuals who were emotional suppressors. As you’ll learn in a moment, excessive cytokine release is a crucial mechanism by which COVID-19 imparts significant lung and tissue damage. As with rhinovirus, the nose is a primary portal through which coronavirus accesses our body. So as you read this post and continue to keep getting bombarded by pandemic news media, remember the lens through which you view this content. Your external world has a direct impact on how your immune system might respond to an infection like COVID-19. Let’s start by summarizing COVID-19’s basic operating system for you. Fear of the unknown is one of the single most significant stressors to our nervous system. I want you to read this with the attitude that “I will acquire the knowledge I need to understand this virus and defend myself and my loved ones against its effects.” Rather than, “Oh my God, the extra fat around my waistline will be the death of me.” One way I view our pandemic and its relationship to our individual health is by splitting it into external … Continue reading “Training for “The COVID-19””
Let me be the first to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you. You may have some patterns to unlearn, some self-love to embrace, and some new behaviors to embody, but seriously, there’s nothing wrong with you. If you want to change your negative self-talk, you’ve got to first understand where it comes from. There’s a famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi, that, in a nutshell says, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. And your words become your actions.” So if your actions include binging on sourdough (again), rolling your eyes at your rolls and wrinkles, or subconsciously sabotaging your sleep cycle, you can go ahead and thank your belief system for that. You can also take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. On any given week I’ll hear my clients say that making a protein rich breakfast takes too much effort. Or that they’re too busy to work out. Or they can’t stop eating desserts. These are all beliefs. And, as we’ll be breaking down here in a second, there’s a big difference between beliefs and truths. Your Brain’s Role in Self-talk Here’s the deal. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe. Because of this, it will always choose what’s familiar and comfortable over working toward a change that’s different. Even if that change is in the best interest of your health and happiness. What’s familiar is safe and what’s unknown has the potential to hurt you. At least from your brain’s point of view. And so, it automatically creates negative thoughts (and negative self-talk) to keep you nicely tucked into your comfort zone. Examples of Negative Self-talk Here’s a scenario to illustrate what I mean. Say you’re thinking about ordering take out. Will it be a large, extra pepperoni pizza or a thick steak and roasted veggies? Depending on your past experiences and your personal belief system, your brain will automatically assign a meaning to that choice. If you choose the pizza, your self-talk might be, “well, I guess I’ll be heavy my whole life” or “I never make good choices” or “life’s too short not to eat pizza!!” Unfortunately, that reaffirms your negative beliefs, which you’ll continue to repeat unless you do something to change them. Other examples of negative self-talk might be: I’m always out of shape I’m too lazy Why bother I never have enough time Nothing ever goes right for me That’s impossible When will I learn It’s my fault I always mess things up Overcoming Negative Self-talk Reframing is a psychological technique used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Also known as cognitive restructuring, it allows you to reprogram your brain, changing your pattern of negative thinking — and the way you feel about certain situations, people, places, and things (including yourself). This is important because, as noted above, your thoughts end up becoming your actions. And negative thoughts very often turn into self-destructive actions. “I’ll never be able to stick to the Primal Blueprint” quickly spirals into you speeding through … Continue reading “7 Ways to Change Negative Self-Talk”
Hi folks, welcome back for another edition of Ask a Health Coach. Today, Erin discusses how trusting your instincts might just be your best bet during these uncertain times, how finding your ‘why’ can help you stick with long-term goals, and the one thing you need to do to change bad habits for good. Got more questions? Keep them coming in the MDA Facebook Group or down below in the comments.
“I’ve definitely felt the pressure of having more time on my hands lately. Everywhere I turn I’m hearing people say, ‘what will you do during the quarantine?’ And ‘how will you come out of this better?’ What’s your take on all of this?” – Andrea
From my perspective, there are just as many people shouting “MAKE YOURSELF BETTER!” as there are “TAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF.” Honestly, I’m team DO WHATEVER THE HECK FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU.
We all have a new normal right now, even those of us who are used to doing the work-from-home thing. Your new routine might have you feeling unproductive, fearful, or totally out of it. Or it might have you living your best life enjoying extra hours of glorious sleep, a reinvigorated sense of creativity, or desire to learn.
Around here, we talk a lot about the stories we tell ourselves. You know, the limiting beliefs and thoughts that constantly dance around in our brains, preventing us from achieving our health goals. “I’m a terrible cook.” “I never have time to exercise.” “I’ll always be heavy.” Or, “I’m too lazy to stick to a plan.”
Why do you create limiting beliefs?
As humans, we’re wired to create narratives that string together the picked-apart aspects of our lives in a way that rings true for us. It might be things we heard our parents say or experiences we had growing up. Or even interpretations of those things and experiences. According to psychologists at Northwestern University, the narratives we create become a form of our identity — an identity that not only reflects who we think we are, but also what we believe we’re capable of achieving.
Just FYI, these are the false narratives and limiting beliefs you tell yourself and anyone else who will listen. As a veteran health coach, I know this drill firsthand.