Relational Mindfulness: A Handbook for Deepening Our Connections with Ourselves, Each Other, and the Planet by Deborah Eden Tull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If I could summarize the essence of this book it would be to stop and smell the roses, really smell the roses.
Deborah Eden Tull spent several years mastering the practice of mindfulness while living as a monk in a Zen monastery. Abandoning all her worldly belongings and living as part of a self-sustaining community built around simplicity, sustainability, and harmony with oneself and ones surroundings, Tull routinely practiced meditation and mindfulness.
After leaving the monastery, she embarked on a journey as a teacher, speaker, writer and activist to share what she refers to as relational mindfulness.
In a nutshell, relational mindfulness is the practice of abandoning the separatist state of "I" for the inclusive state of "We." It requires us to move beyond our innate conditioning and allow ourselves to experience the moment with curiosity and kindness. As we allow ourselves to feel connected to others and the world around us, we can make decisions that not only honor ourselves but also honor the world we live in.
So much of how we respond to life is reactionary, automatic, conditioned knee-jerk responses that often lead us to assumptions that are inaccurate, unfair, and overly judgmental. Rather than judging, Tull encourages us to simply consider what is with openness and curiosity. Mindfulness is simply the act of being present in the moment, fully and with compassion. It's about breaking free of expectations, learned responses, and critical judgements of ourselves and others. It's about making choices that honor our connectedness to each other, the world we share, and all the creatures we share it with.
The book itself is well-written and logically organized, and offers the reader insight that while not earthshattering is certainly something worth contemplating, especially in today's fast paced, social media driven, technological society, where our interaction with nature and each other has changed dramatically in a very short period of time, and that often leaves of feeling disconnected from ourselves, each other and the earth that sustains us.
The Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy, and Transform Your Health from Morning to Midnight by Satchin Panda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In The Circadian Code, researcher Dr. Satchin Panda, PhD explains the impact and significance of our internal clocks. A professor at the Salk Institute, Panda is also a founding executive member of the Center for Circadian Biology at the University of California, a Pew Scholar, and a recipient of the Julie Martin Mid-Career Award in Aging Research.
According to Patcha, daily rhythms are a driving force in all biological processes. Light exposure, exercise, and when and what we eat can all impact these internal clocks. As a result, the key to optimal health is to align our behaviors with these internal mechanisms to ensure we are working with as opposed to against our physiology.
A relatively new field of biology, the impact of these circadian rhythms has only recently been explored and accepted. And I think most of us intuitively understand and accept the premise. Clearly we've evolved to thrive in our natural environment, that until only recently hadn't changed all that much.
For example, we have a horse that literally turns into a wooly mammoth every year as winter approaches. The thickening and growth of his coat is signaled by the shortening days. In fact, since getting our horse I have learned that if you want to delay or prevent a horse's winter coat from coming in you can keep them under lights. This is because the continuous light exposure tricks a horse's body into thinking that it is still summer. The reverse process occurs during Spring, as the days lengthen. Horses will suddenly start to shed their thick winter coats.
According to Panda, humans are also very sensitive to light, and too much, too little or light at the wrong times can impact our body systems negatively since like the horse, humans have evolved with certain internal mechanisms that respond to our environment.
He blames LED lighting, computer screens and other sources of artificial light. as well as shift worker and other lifestyle changes made possible thanks to artificial light as a contributing factor to poor sleep and an increase in chronic diseases.
But it's not just our exposure to light that matters when it comes to keeping our internal clocks running smoothly and on time. Our digestive system is also a key player, with the timing of our meals being a significant factor. He claims that the ideal method of eating is one that restricts eating to less than 12 hours a day at a minimum with additional benefits seen if eating is restricted to 8 hours. He calls this "time restricted eating" or TRE, but it sounds an awful lot like intermittent fasting. He also suggests eating your last meal at least 3-4 hours before bedtime to allow the digestive system to do its thing. According to Panda, eating too close to bedtime causes our digestive system to kick into gear at a time when it wants to shut down. This can cause reflux/heartburn, poor inadequate digestion, a delay in the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) as well as increased circulating levels of insulin. It can also delay or minimize our fat burning capabilities while sleeping.
In fact, Panda spends a good bit of the book discussing TRE and its benefits as identified through his own research that you can sign up to participate in if you'd like and are willing to track your eating for the advancement of science.
It's certainly an interesting topic. We know that the calories in vs. calories out model of obesity is flawed. We also know that our weight problem also can't be fully explained by looking at activity levels. I think this adds another dimension to the discussion. If you believe Panda, many of his research participants report losing weight through TRE regardless of what they eat, leading Panda to conclude that what we eat may not be as important as when. That said, he does advocate for a healthy diet. Just saying.
Definitely worth the read.
The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable--and How We Can Get There by Vincent T. DeVita Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Like most people, I've seen firsthand the havoc that the big "C" can inflict not only individuals but also on their families. In addition to treating dozens of patients who suffered from cancer, I recently watched my brother-in-law lose his own battle with cancer at the age of 52.
It's always struck me as bizarre that when we hear about a mass shooting or terrorist attack, we are overcome with a sense of imminent fear. Our hackles are raised and we are on high alert. And we mourn the victims, memorialize their deaths. But the truth is that for most of us the real enemy isn't a deranged shooter or radical extremist. Our killer and our deaths won't make the evening news. Because for about half of us the real threat lives inside of us.
I've always wondered what would happen if the time and energy we put into the gun control debate were instead targeted toward a bigger threat like cancer. This is not to diminish the issue of guns and gun violence, but rather to put the discussion into perspective.
The thing that makes cancer so difficult to treat is that cancer cells aren't some external invader like a virus or bacteria. They are our own cells. Rogue cells that turn against us.
In The Death of Cancer, DeVita takes us on a journey that explores the war on cancer, a national initiative that started in the 1960s and one that has yet to be won. In the process, he highlights the obstacles that we face, many political and institutional, and some driven by egos, doctors stuck in the past and unwilling to move forward for whatever reason.
DeVita speaks with disdain about our inability to make the bridge between science and its practical application. And if there is a villain in his story, it is the FDA, which he paints as a huge barrier to our progress. He acknowledges the importance of some oversight, but accuses the FDA of a sort of group think that in an effort to protect people from an untested drug, deny them the one shot at life they've got. After all, as he points out, when it comes to treatment, these patients are going to die sooner than later, and many would take a chance on a drug that had yet to go through the grueling approval process if it gave them a shot at a cure, or even just kept them alive long enough for the next drug to be discovered.
He believes, and I agree, that when you are dealing with something like cancer, you've got to consider what is at stake. We are talking about patients who are fighting for their lives. You have to be aggressive and be willing to take a chance, for many a last chance.
DeVita started his career at the NCI (National Cancer Institute) where he eventually developed a chemotherapy cocktail for those with Hodgkin's lymphoma that led to a cure, building on treatments that were already being given to patients with leukemia. Back then, the idea of using a combination of chemotherapeutic drugs was considered aggressive and radical, barbaric even. Up until that point, tumors were removed with disfiguring surgeries or exposed to radiation as a means of eradicating the cancer with marginal success. Most cancer patients died, sooner rather than later.
DeVita seems to blame many of our missteps on egocentric doctors who either consciously or unconsciously saw these new treatments as a threat to their livelihood. He also attributes a lack of progress to good old fashioned bureaucracy and, at times, poor management of our cancer centers, and he should know. In addition to working at the NCI, he eventually became the director. He served as director of the National Cancer Program, chief physician of the renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the director of Yale Cancer Center. He is also a former president of the American Cancer Society and the coeditor of a cancer textbook.
Ironically, he is also a cancer survivor, after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and successfully treated at the end of his career.
This is really a fascinating read. In addition to providing the reader with a timeline and history for the evolving treatment of cancer, he brings attention to the many barriers, some physical and some ideological, some understandable and some ludicrous, that we've faced to get where we are. And while he admits that we haven't quite won the war, and that maybe we never will, we've still made significant progress, not only in establishing cures but also in developing treatments that keep people alive in the absence of a cure. In a nutshell, the prognosis continues to get better and better.
The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I will admit that the book is repetitive at times, and it does seem as if the impact of stress on telomere length gets more air time than it deserves, but I chalked this up to one of the two authors having a specialty in the field of psychology.
I also can understand why the conclusions are described by some reviewers as anticlimactic. Once again, we're being told to exercise, eat whole foods, get adequate sleep and destress. Ah, duh.
But, I think the strength of this book and the research is that while we've long accepted that exercise, eating whole foods, sleeping and destressing are good for us, we are only now starting to explore and understand the underlying physiologic reasons why. And anything that deepens our understanding is useful. I honestly don't know what people expect when they read a book like this? To learn that exercise, whole foods, sleep and stress management aren't good for us after all? Or maybe they are hoping for a magic pill...which is kind of the point. Magic pills don't exist.
Interestingly, despite an every-growing multibillion dollar health and wellness industry we've never been sicker or fatter, which may be in part due to the fact that the emphasis (sometimes misguided and sometimes on point) has been primarily on food and exercise. The role of sleep and stress is mentioned but almost as an aside. Yet books like this suggest that the latter as important, maybe even more important, and the telomere effect may be one explanation why.
In a nutshell, telomeres are a noncoding form of DNA that protects our chromosomes (the DNA/genes in our cells). Over time, the telomeres shorten to a point where they can no longer do their job. The result is cellular death and ultimately aging and disease. Research has identified various factors that impact telomere length. A large part of the discussion focuses on stress.
In the end, the research on telomeres only further strengthens what we already know: exercise, whole foods, sleep and stress management are all good for us. Surprise, surprise. But more importantly, it deepens our understanding of why those recommendations are valid and important.
We’ve all likely heard someone claim they possess the “old” age gene. Those select few who can boast a mother, father, or grandparent, maybe all, who lived into their nineties or beyond. And it is true. Our DNA does have the potential to impact our health, our longevity, and how we weather the years. For example, diseases like heart disease, type II diabetes, and many auto-immune disorders, all have genetic predispositions. However, having a genetic predisposition does not guarantee we will get the disease. Take type II diabetes. We know that type II diabetes runs in families. But we also know that the gene for type II diabetes needs to be activated by the environment. So these epigenes, or switches, exist but must be turned on in order to cause the disease to develop.
And when it comes to the changes most of us associate with aging, the story gets even more nuanced and complex. How we age and the level of health we enjoy in our golden years is linked to a type of non-coding DNA called telomeres.
DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is located on a structure called a chromosome that can be found in the cell’s nucleus. Each cell has twenty-three pairs, or forty-six, chromosomes. Best observed when they unravel during cell division, chromosomes contain the cell’s DNA (and your genes) which are responsible for the coding of specific proteins and that ultimately determine all our unique and even our not so unique characteristics.
The ability of these chromosomes to unravel and return to their tightly packaged original state is in large part a function of telomeres. These telomeres are also made of DNA, but they don’t code for anything. Instead they function much the way the plastic tips on a shoestring do. They cap the DNA and prevent it from fraying and becoming damaged.
Like most things, over time, the telomeres wear out. Specially, they shorten to the point that they are no longer effective. This degradation of telomeres has several negative consequences to the cell that will manifest itself as aging both on the inside and outside.
Fortunately, our body has a system for trying to keep our telomeres in good shape, which can prolong or delay the aging process. Telomerase, an enzyme our body is capable of making, can help repair and replenish the telomeres, extending their life and keeping us feeling and looking younger. Unfortunately, telomerase is often limited, which may sound like a bad thing, but that may in reality further demonstrate our bodies innate wisdom. Cancer cells, which are essentially human cells that have gone rouge, also benefit from telomerase. In that sense, what is good for our “good” cells is also be good for these “bad” cells. It is the potential to nurture cancer cells that has experts advising individuals against buying and consuming over-the-counter supplements that claim to increase telomerase. Still, scientists are currently exploring ways to increase and improve telomerase function in a manner that doesn’t also promote cancer. In the meantime, they claim there are natural and safer ways of boosting telomerase and telomerase activity which results in longer telomeres and a longer healthier life.
If you haven’t guessed already, it’s by addressing the four pillars of health. That’s right. Regular exercise*, whole foods, adequate sleep, and especially stress management, as stress and our reaction to it has been shown to have a tremendous impact on the length of telomeres, maximizes telomere length in several randomized clinical trials and thus slows and in some cases reverse the aging process.
*excessive exercise or overtraining was actually found to decrease telomere length
Body by Science: A Research-Based Program for Strength Training, Body Building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week by Doug McGuff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So, I'm going to start this review by adding some perspective. Mine.
A chunky 10 year old, early on I developed an interest in exercise. This interest ultimately manifested itself in a request for some weights that Santa brought me on Christmas. They weren't much, 5-10 pound sand weights. Enough to curl and press and make me feel as if I were doing something.
These weights were soon followed up with a Joanne Greggins exercise tape. We're talking about the late '70s so think thongs, leg warmers, sweat bands and high impact aerobics topped off with a gazzilion hydrants.
I have this vivid memory of aerobizing away as my mother, perpetually entertained by my efforts, sat and watched.
I'm not sure what spurred my interest in exercise. Maybe it was the fact that my mother was not only a Tom-boy, but an accomplished high school athlete. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that prior to having a growth spurt, I suffered through a chunky period. Whatever, the reason, it happened, and almost four decades later and I'm still going at it.
I joined my first gym at the age of 14. Dr. Lauber's Family Fitness. It was a small generic gym tucked away in a small generic shopping center that specialized in the martial arts but that also offered Nautilus machines, a free-weight room, and a nightly line-up of aerobic and martial arts classes.
A well-developed and muscular 14 year-old girl who was sporting the curves of a woman, I was kind of a novelty, and there were no shortage of male members coaxing me into the free-weight room. Needless to say, it wasn't long before I was completing my first bench press with the bar.
Around the same time, I became friends with another fitness-focused classmate. She was a dancer, but her mother taught aerobics and her brothers and father were power lifters, and at sixteen we both joined a hard-core powerlifting gym called "The Training Center." It was tucked away in an dumpy, otherwise abandoned strip mall, and it attracted a certain type of fitness enthusiasts, big, muscly, sometimes roided-out guy, who was super serious about lifting some very heavy weight. I'll never forget the first time I saw a guy literally crap himself during a lift. Or the time another guy busted his head open on the bar, psyching himself up for a lift.
Ah, those were the days.
As you can imagine, there were few women in the gym which meant my friend and I got a lot of attention. We never had to worry about finding a workout partner. And boy did we work out. We lifted with the big boys (literally and figuratively) and somehow kept up. Super setting till our legs burned so bad, we could barely stand. Leg day. Back and Bi day. Chest, shoulders, and Tri day. Repeat. But it was all good. I learned a lot about lifting, for which I am still thankful.
By age 18 I was teaching aerobics and really any type of fitness class you could imagine. A teenage girl growing into my adult body, cardio seemed necessary to keep me slim and trim, or at least I thought so. Still, I never stopped lifting or lost my passion for the weight room.
Fast forward almost 30 years and I still lift weights on a regular basis. Over the years, when it comes to fitness, I've pretty much taken it, taught it, or at least sampled it. Yoga, kick-boxing, step aerobics, spin, physioball classes, Zumba, Cross-fit, Red Zone. Seriously, the list goes on and on and on.
During the past thirty years, I've also completed a degree in the Nutritional Sciences as well as a professional Masters of Physical Therapy. I've worked as a sport's and orthopedic physical therapist for almost 25 years. I've also worked as a massage therapist and personal trainer, eventually teaching a personal training certification course at a local community college.
So when I read books like this, I do in the context of my lifelong personal experience with fitness, my professional education and training, as well as my observations of patients and peers along the way. I consider the claim being made, look at the research cited, and then ask myself how it fits in with my years of experience and observation.
I can honestly say there's some good stuff here.
Basically, the author(s) offer a science-based approach to training that not only takes less time than most traditional training programs but that also appears to yield superior results.
I agree with the author, that many people approach fitness haphazardly. There is this Rocky Balboa mindset that more must be better, even though we know that this is never true. The reality is that "smarter" will trump "harder" every time.
I also think that the topic of recovery is relevant. I have spent years watching people working against themselves, sometimes to the point of injury.
I totally agree with the sentiment that fitness is not synonymous with health. In fact, I constantly remind my athlete patients that training isn't necessarily about promoting better health. It's about optimal performance, and the two aren't always one and the same.
Finally, I think the "12-minute" once a week work out appeals to the average person who believes that fitness and health require hours and hours in the gym doing burpees.
The authors do discuss how their approach to training factors into sport, which requires a certain level of fitness, but ultimately requires skill that is part genetics, part specific skill-development.
And while they spend a lot of time poo-pooing steady state endurance activities like running, it's more to build a contrast between what people think and what science tells us, I think.
For example, I love to walk. I walk on average 7-10 miles a day. I would argue that it contributes to my health and well-being. What it doesn't necessarily do is tax my system sufficiently to increase my cardiovascular health. But that's not really the goal, at least not for me. Then again, I also lift, sometimes heavy, and tend to focus on the "big five" they outline in the book. Still, after reading this book, I'm going to experiment with their protocols.
All in all, there's a lot here that is scientifically based and that should make any "gym rat" stop and pause. They may enjoy their grueling cross-fit style workouts. They may live for "hard." "Hard" may even be working for them, but that doesn't mean there isn't a better, smarter way.
ICED! The Illusionary Treatment Option - Second Edition by Gary Reinl
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
So one of my all time favorite writers is Shirley Jackson who happened to write my all time favorite short story that also happens to be the most anthologized short story ever.
"The Lottery" is a chilling tale that speaks to the darker side of tradition. The story begins with what appears to be preparation for some sort of seasonal celebration. Yet little by little the reader begins to understand the true sinister nature of the event called "the lottery." As part of this longstanding ceremony the people of this community draw straws to see who in the small, simple, little community will win the privilege of being stoned to death by their fellow citizens.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that many of the townsfolk are beginning to tire of the strange observance, most completely oblivious to the origin of the ritual, but no one particularly motivated to question its existence, let alone abandon it.
Interestingly, the story was so provocative, as is much of Jackson's writing, that when it was first published in 1948, the New Yorker was inundated with letters from readers wanting to know if the community in question was a real place and this bizarre "lottery" an actual celebration. Others, excepting it as fiction, simply wanted to know what the story meant.
Shirley, however, refused to break it down, stating only that the story spoke for itself.
In the end, I believe she was commenting on all the things we do, from the silly to the downright barbaric, that have no real justification other than they have always been done.
And that is essentially the premise of "Iced" which speaks to the unsupported use of ice to treat injuries.
According to the author, the practice not only lacks any real scientific support, its origin, using ice on an injury, had nothing to do with controlling swelling, pain, or treating acute injury. It came about as a means to preserve a severed limb so as to allow a reattachment.
And like many things that have no scientific basis but are nonetheless perpetuated, the practice of icing quickly caught on, eventually becoming the go-to treatment for any acute injury.
Reinl argues that not only does ice not help, it may actually be detrimental in that it retards healing, and he bases his argument on our understanding of how the body heals. He claims we use ice to reduce swelling, but all we really accomplish is to delay the inflammatory response (an essential component of healing) and make it harder for the lymph system to get rid of swelling (or the back up of waste that is associated with the inflammatory response). The only way to promote healing and to increase circulation and lymph drainage is through muscle activation. In that regard it would seem the advice to "walk it off," is more than simple conventional wisdom.
As a PT and as a person who hates cold, I've never been a big fan of icing, and I have always been an advocate of movement. That said, ice is everywhere in the rehab world, except, thanks to Reinl, in professional team training rooms around the country.
He makes some good arguments against the use of ice. Unfortunately, his alternative is muscle stimulators, as it appears they are the next training room panacea. He spends a lot of time offering useless protocols that seem like a waste of space as they are all pretty much the same, and basically offer little to the reader who wants to know why they shouldn't use ice. I wish he would have spent more time providing the science for his stimulators so as to distinguish it from unsubstantiated treatments like cold.
The book is long-winded with way too much fluff, boasting, and name dropping, so let me sum it up and save you a few bucks and a few hours. Just because we do something and have done it for a long time, doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. Throw your ice packs away. Icing an injury works against the healing process, is neutral at best and harmful at worst. Buy stock in muscle stimulators because if Reinl has his way and ice is no longer so nice, trainers around the world are going to have to fill their now empty training rooms with something.
I have mixed feeling about Reinl's claims. I agree with the idea that icing may actually work against the inflammatory response. It's like taking ibuprofen or Tylenol when you have a fever. You may feel better, but you ultimately interfere with the body's natural response to an infection or virus. The reality is if you can bear it, in many circumstances you may be better to let your body do what it has evolved to do. But taking Tylenol when you have body aches so that you can get some rest doesn't necessarily mean you won't get better. In fact, the rest you get might be critical to your recovery, despite the meds having suppressed the fever. It's sometimes the lesser or greater of two evils. Likewise with ice, there are times where I think the pain relief ice offers may actually support more movement which is ultimately a good thing. Basically, I think Reinl's argument is just a little too simplistic and idealistic. And of course, that means it will spread like wild-fire in the fitness community. All the fitness gurus seem to love debunking one "fad" to make room for another. Trainers will gladly ditch their ice machines for muscle stimulators and the guys peddling the ice paraphernalia will switch gears and be happy to sell it to them.
Ironically, Reinl repeatedly reminds us that the who's who of the sports world is on board with his anti-icing mantra, as if that somehow means anything when you consider these are the same elite group of guys who bought into icing, even perpetuated it, in the first place. I'm not sure their stamp of approval means squat.
There you go.
My evolution into a health coach has been a long one.
In retrospect, it probably started when I was ten and asked for my first set of weights. Santa came through with a set of 5 and 10 pound sand weights.
They were perfect.
By twelve, I had my very own Joanne Greggains tape, which I enthusiastically performed daily. Think thongs, spandex, leg warmers, sweat bands, aerobics and a gazillion hydrants.
Next, at the age of fourteen, came an official gym membership. Dr. Lauber's Family Fitness, a small, generic family style fitness facility located in a small, generic shopping center a short walking distance from my high school.
By sixteen, thanks to my best friend whose father and brothers were powerlifters, I was introduced to The Training Center, a hard-core powerlifting gym tucked away in an otherwise abandoned and dumpy strip mall. Bad for retail, but good for muscly, sometimes roided-out, head-banging, loud-grunting lifters who lived, it seemed, to lift heavy weight. Very, very, heavy weight. But I learned a lot from these massive mountains of men with their protein-packed powders and no-holds-barred approach to training
Fast forward to age eighteen, and I'm not only in college but I'm teaching group fitness. You name it and I taught it or took it, usually both. It is during these years that I also worked as a personal trainer, way back when only rich people housed in huge mansions had trainers.
In college, I pursued a Bachelor's Degree in Nutritional Sciences, followed by a Professional Master's in Physical Therapy. Throughout these seven years I continued to teach, train, and even received my first official personal training certification.
After graduation, I started my official career as a physical therapist, working in outpatient orthopedics and sport's medicine, but I also moonlighted as a massage therapist and as a personal trainer, again at a time when neither profession was particularly prolific nor well established. By all accounts they were in their infancy. And I was there, watching them take their first, wobbly steps.
Throughout the years, I've taught over a dozen personal training certification courses in conjunction with the local community college, conducted approved continuing education for licensed massage therapists, served on advisory boards for massage therapy and personal training licensing and certification boards, published articles with well-known formats like LIVESTRONG, treated thousands of patients, worked with hundreds of clients, and, most importantly, continued to advance both my knowledge base and fine-tune my skills through reading, continuing education and clinical practice.
And at the end of the day, all roads have led me here.
I can't speak for every health coach, but in regards to my role I would say think personal trainer, nutritionist, health advocate, best friend, biggest supporter, caring partner, competent teacher, and positive role model, all rolled up into one.
My decades of experience have taught me that the best way to cure disease is to prevent it, and the best way to prevent it is through consistent, positive lifestyle choices.
And the secret to losing weight? That's easy. Don't focus on weight at all. No kidding. Unfortunately, I've rountinely observed people win the battle of the bulge only to lose the war. I can't tell you how many pounds I've witnessed being lost and regained over the years. Statistically speaking 95% of all people who lose weight on a "diet" will gain it back within 2 years if not sooner. Sometimes, they even end up heavier as a result of this chronic yo-yo dieting. That's because weight isn't the problem. It's the symptom.
Coaching is based on the realization that lifestyle choices (the real problem) supported by habits are at the root cause of all dietary successes and failures.
Most people are obsessed with the scale (the symptom), and they approach weight-loss with a "I want the weight gone yesterday" mentality. What they forget is that in many cases there would not be weight to lose were it not for a dysfunctional, obsegenic lifestyle.
As a health coach, I give my clients the benefit of my decades of knowledge, experience, and continued studies. I understand that whether your goal is to lose weight, have more energy, get healthy, or all of the above, a road paved with good intentions and quick fixes will usually lead you right back to where you started.
Making healthy lifestyle choices isn't hard, but changing habits is. Anyone can follow a restrictive, one-size-fits-most reginmen for 6 to 12 weeks. But that's not lifestyle change. That's a diet, and diets don't work longterm.
As a coach, I advocate for eating better not less. Exercising smarter not harder. I educate clients on the role of sleep and stress management. But most importantly, I work with them to implement meaningful change that supports their health and wellness goals. Coaches offer accountability, structure, motivation, and problem-solving. Most importantly, they offer ongoing support. They don't pretend the process is easy or quick or always fun, but they also don't make it more difficult than it has to be. And they don't accept your excuses, no matter how convincing you think they may sound.
I chose to transition into coaching because I saw a disconnect between the science of diet and exercise as it relates to weight loss and health and the practice of diet and exercise as it relates to weight loss and health. For all our efforts, we're sicker, fatter, and less fulfilled. Too many people are confused or overwhelmed by the process and struggling with the choices.
And I know I can help.
In short, I know the best way to solve a problem is to actually address the underlying causes. A quick fix might provide the illusion of success, but it's short-lived. Just look around. How many people do you know that lose weight only to gain it back? How many people do you know who are tired, sluggish, carrying too many extra pounds that they hate, and who are generally dissatisfied with their appearance? How many people do you know who are suffering from diseases that are related to poor lifestyle choices? How many of your friends, family members, or coworkers erronesouly believe that a health lifestyle is either too expensive, too time-consuming, or otherwise unattainable? These are the people who can benefit from coaching.
Okay. But what exactly IS health coaching?
1. a personalized process
2. customized to the individual
3. focused on the individual and their goals
3. the creation of SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed)
4. strategic planning
5. education, support, and problem solving to remove barriers to success
During a private session:
We meet. We talk. We discuss your goals. We strategize based on your needs. We develop an action plan together. We discuss your failures/successes and build on what works for you. I provide a detailed summary to solidify everything that was discussed as well as to make sure each client has a clear plan for the week(s) ahead.
During a group session:
As a small group we meet. We talk. We discuss goals. We strategize. Individuals develop an action building on what has worked for them in the past. I provide a general summary of the meeting.
The number of sessions required really depends on the individual. Remember, this is not a one-size-fits-most style of programming. I am also available to clients via text and email between sessions which means you can take advantage of my knowledge and experience any time you need it.
You will walk away from each session with:
1. a clear focus
2. SMART goals with respect to diet, exercise, sleep and stress management
3. a specific action plan
4. a sense of empowerment
You will ultimately:
1. develop new habits, better habits that support your goals
2. achieve long-lasting results
3. learn the difference between eating a healthy diet and dieting
4. achieve the best version of yourself that is possible
5. understand that self-care is not selfish but essential because you can't give what you don't have
Exercise is often touted as the ultimate "magic pill" as it has been linked to numerous health benefits and has even been demonstrated to reverse aging at the molecular level in at least one groundbreaking study published in the Public Library of Science. Whether the elusive fountain of youth or not, regular exercise is good for us.
Yet, more recently, the role of exercise in weight loss has come into question. On a very basic level, exercise burns calories and logically speaking, anything that creates a calorie deficit should also assist in our weight loss efforts. The problem seems to be that while exercise does burn calories, it also stimulates appetite, and there have been several studies that show that exercisers tend to overestimate the calories they burn while exercising and underestimate calories consumed while eating. So a 300 calorie deficit which is achieved via a three-mile trek on the treadmill is often rewarded with a 500-700 calorie meal.
Anyone who's ever spent an hour sweating it out on the elliptical has at one point or another marveled at how hard it is to burn calories, but how easy it is to eat them. For example, a single serving of pumpkin pie (about 1/8 of the pie) provides roughly 350 calories, which could take anywhere between 30-45 minutes jogging/running to burn off.
This discrepancy exists because the majority of calories we require in any given day is primarily a function of our basal metabolic rate (calories our body burns to maintain itself) and not our activity.
But doesn't exercise build muscle, and doesn't increased muscle mass increase our metabolic rate?
Actually, the type of exercise recommended for weight loss (aerobic exercise - think jogging, biking, walking) isn't that great at building muscle. Building muscle takes a stimulus (usually a weight and/or load) that overtaxes the system. And building muscle requires adequate recovery, which can sometimes take up to a week or more.
Bottom line, exercise can keep the machine fine-tuned and running smoothly, but contrary to what the mainstream fitness industry claims, as a stimulus for weight loss, it falls short.
For example, a 150 pound person burns approximately 130 calories per mile while running. (Obviously, there is a range but for argument's sake work with me). A person running a marathon will use approximately 3,380 calories. Add to that the post-exercise burn which is estimated to be 10-15 calories for every 100 calories burned during the activity, you get another 500 calories using the larger number. This is a total of 3, 880 calories.
Sounds pretty impressive, right?
Of course, you have to take into account the resting metabolic weight, which represents calories that would have been burned regardless, 60-130 calories per hour for someone who was sitting and 100-200 calories per hour for someone standing. So let's assume that the marathon took about 4 hours to complete (which happens to be the average.) And let's assume that had the runner not been running they would have spent 2 hours in a standing activity and 2 hours in a sitting activity. That's about 480 calories. So the net calorie burn for the runner is now 3,400 calories.
Still impressive you say?
Now let's assume that you, the runner, go out to celebrate your accomplishment. You head over to your favorite Italian restaurant to refuel, because let's face it, running a marathon is a big feat for most people and you not only need those calories, you deserve them. You order the calamari as an appetizer (670 calories), and the eggplant parmigiana as your main course (1060 calories). You usually pass on the breadsticks, but you've just run a marathon for goodness sake. Those glycogen stores aren't magically going to replenish themselves. Still, you limit yourself to one (140 calories). You're not a glutton after all. You also drink two glasses of wine (250 calories). When asked about dessert, you decline. You're stuffed, and no reason to overdo it. Thanks to this one meal you've now replaced 2,120 calories. And this doesn't take into consideration the extra calories you are likely to eat over the next 24 hours. That's a lot of work, time and wear and tear on your body simply to end up with a few hundred calorie deficit, if you end up with any deficit at all.
The moral of this story?
Clearly, exercise is important, so go ahead and run the marathon if that's your thing. Depending on the type of exercise you engage in it can help to build and maintain muscle which protects joints and enhances performance. It can improve cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and flexibility. It can increase our cells' sensitivity to insulin, help to regulate hormones, and boost our metabolism. It can elevate mood, help us manage stress, and promote better, more restorative sleep. It can also help us to maintain a healthy weight as clearly demonstrated by an ongoing initiative called the National Weight Control Registry, a study that originated in 1994. The goal of the registry has been to identify behaviors that are associated with maintaining weight loss. Apparently, just because exercise isn't always a big help when it comes to winning the battle of the bulge, doesn't mean it isn't essential in ensuring we win the war.
You will never out-train a bad diet, so why try. Exercise because it's good for you and the awesome machine that is your body. Period. When it comes to weight loss, focus on your diet, the bulk of which should be non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains, and quality meat and dairy as tolerated. Processed foods, sweets, soft drinks/liquid calories including alcohol, and anything that comes in a box or is made in a plant should be kept to a minimum.
The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better by Jonathan Bailor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After many years of formal education and practical hands on experience, I have come to the conclusion that both diet and exercise are as much an art as a science.
The premise presented in The Calorie Myth is that we need to rethink how we view weight and weight loss. Clearly, not all calories are created equal, yet there are still many people out there, a number of my health coaching clients included, who seem to believe that they are. Misled by labels that tout "fat free," "reduced calories," "whole grains," and "natural" to name a few, they are genuinely confused. Case in point, I recently had a client who was concerned about eating a baked potato, but viewed "whole grain" "low-fat" crackers as a "health food."
Bailor addresses this misconception and emphasizes the importance of quality calories. Luckily, it's a message that many health and wellness professionals have finally bought into but that still has not made its way to the average person.
He references the set point theory, the idea that our bodies naturally gravitate to a set weight range. They do this by becoming either more or less efficient with the calories we do consume. The set point theory is thought to explain the high failure rate of weight loss that is achieved through dieting (95% of weight lost on diets will be regained).
He claims that the only way to change your set point is to unclog the body's metabolic pathways. This clogging is the result of poor lifestyle (particularly dietary) choices. Bad foods clog the system, whereas good foods help to unclog the system and keep it from clogging in the first place.
He ultimately recommends a diet high in non-starchy vegetables (at least 10 servings a day), 3 servings of low sugar fruits, and high quality fats (like nuts and seeds) and protein (animal and/or plant). He particularly likes cacao powder, flax seed, chia seeds, seafood, and green tea.
And as far as exercise goes, he seems to think we are wasting our time with low and moderate intensity cardio like jogging and running. He thinks our time would be better spent with HIIT, and specifically with weight training that emphasizes eccentric loading. Eccentric is the lengthening phase of an exercise where the muscle is generating force to control the lowering of a weight. Some people refer to this as the negative.
He provides a fairly impressive reference section as well as a rather long list of authors whose work has influenced his ideas.
I don't agree with every point he makes, but agree with his overall approach and message.
Clearly, anyone eating his suggested diet is going to find it hard to also eat the crappy processed stuff. Furthermore, there is a lot of science out there to support the numerous benefits of a whole-foods plant-based diet, which is basically what he is recommending.
I also think he's onto something with the analogy of a clogged drain. I often work with people who are barely eating, yet still they struggle with their weight. Sometimes even when they are eating healthier foods. It's as if they are metabolically sick and/or metabolically inflexible from years of bad choices. And it can sometimes take a while doing the right thing to see an improvement, which is frustrating for the average person, since most people want results as of yesterday.
As far as his thoughts on exercise? I think they are interesting. I've always included weight training into my fitness regimen, and even though I'm a woman, I've never shied away from lifting heavier weights. I also often use eccentric training as a PT helping to rehab patients as it's well understood that we are stronger eccentrically. For this reason, it's a good way to build strength, particularly in situations where strength is significantly impaired.
All in all, I felt this was a great read. There is a lot here that resonates with my professional experiences as well as my personal experiences. Of course, I'm reading this from the vantage point of someone who has a Nutritional Sciences degree, a physical therapy degree, and close to 3 decades as a clinician with too many continuing education classes on various diet and exercise topics to count. I have not only been certified as a personal trainer, I teach a certification course for future personal trainers. My point is that I appreciate the complexity of these topics in a way that others may not. I've also been around long enough to see the health and wellness industry in action, for better or worse. Interestingly, in my personal life, my diet looks very similar to what Bailor recommends, and I've had a lot of success with it. I tend to eat huge volumes of delicious, gourmet foods (with an emphasis on fruits and veggies) and yet have no trouble with weight (or any health problems) despite having had four children, being female, and in my 49th year of life. The traditional practice of "dieting" doesn't even register on my radar. The idea of not eating something I wanted whenever I wanted is foreign to me. In fact, I am often shocked when I talk to a new client and find out how little they are eating, yet still struggling. Of course, I don't want to eat McDonalds. The very thought of eating at a fast food restaurant makes my stomach turn. And why on earth would I ever eat crap like that when I can eat the most scrumptious and sumptuous foods whenever I want?
Bottom line: I think Bailor has much more right than wrong.