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The Health Impact Of Gravity

“It’s true that you can’t change your destiny, but still it helps knowing about gravity.” – Kedar Joshi

As residents of planet Earth, we have a love hate relationship with gravity. It is an ever present force, something that we take for granted. We seldom notice it unless we misuse its ever present power. Usually, someone or something falls. We break something plankimportant, receive a bump, bruise, or possibly even a more serious injury. Our interactions with gravity are usually instantaneous, unexpected, and remind us of the fragility of life and the sudden consequences that our actions can have. There are, however, other powers that gravity has over us that are not so sudden.

As we get older, mother nature reminds us in subtle, but definite ways of the persistence of gravity. Virtually any adult over the age of 30 carries the visible effects of gravity. Hunched shoulders, slouched posture, sagging muscles, and problems with digestion are all “normal” changes because of the impact of gravity. The average human shrinks 1/3 to 1/4 of an inch in height each decade from age 40 to 70, with the average man is a 1.3 inches in height during that time. Women are more victimized, losing an average of 3.1 inches by age 80. Gravity, although not the only factor, is the primary one. Bone shrinkage, poor posture, and lifestyle choices contribute to the decline. (see also “Preventing Age Related Shrinkage” http://mindbodycoach.org/preventing-shrinkage/ , “The Zen Of Being Sedentary” http://mindbodycoach.org/the-zen-of-being-sedentary/  and “Death By Desk” http://mindbodycoach.org/death-desk/  )

A study at San Francisco State University showed that poor posture caused by the pull of gravity is a major cause in depression and inability to manage stress, digestive problems, improper breathing, all types of back pain, and tension headaches. Much of what humans believe is the stress of 21st century life could be alleviated if we learn to work with, rather than against, the forces of gravity. Although we frequently associate gravity with its negative impact on human health, we can implement it in ways that are beneficial, healthy, and improve our quality of life. And, it is free, consistent, and available 24/7.

Gravity is a signal that tells the body how strong its bones and muscles have to be. Astronauts in zero gravity for long periods of time suffer detrimental effects from its absence. The body perceives that there is no need for strength and bone density, so atrophy sets in throughout the musculoskeletal structure rapidly. Muscle mass can atrophy at a rate of 5% per week, and supporting muscles such as the legs and back can lose around 20% of their mass during a typical spaceflight. Bones lose even more. For most astronauts the total loss in bone density is 40 to 60% for a month-long spaceflight.

AstronautEfforts to prevent physical deterioration in astronauts through exercise programs during spaceflight have only been marginally successful. Various types of exercise equipment have been tried during spaceflights, but the results have been less than spectacular. The reason? Lack of gravity. Without gravity is next to impossible to load the musculoskeletal structure to the resistance levels required to maintain strength and mass. Astronauts continue to use resistance bands, exercise bicycles, and treadmills while wearing weighted vests, but continued to lose muscle strength and bone density despite their best efforts.

With a little ingenuity, us earthlings can learn to use gravity to our advantage in order to stay fit and healthy. Here are some ways to use one of nature’s most powerful forces to your advantage:

Move! Every motion that you make is met with some degree of resistance from the pull of gravity. Simple activities such as walking, stretching, and even something as simple as getting in and out of a chair can become legitimate exercises if you do them consistently, paying attention to the pull of gravity.
Exercise slowly. Any exercise, even those without weighted resistance, can be beneficial for muscle and bone strength if performed slowly. Martial artists, yoga and tai chi practitioners, gymnasts, and dancers all know this. Try doing a set of 10 push-ups as slowly as you can and you’ll see what I mean. Muscles grow in response to resistance, not a number on a barbell plate. Your muscles don’t know if you’re curling a 45 pound dumbbell, they just know if they’re working hard or not. In fact, this is a trick that 19th-century strongmen knew well. In those days strongmen only used heavy weights for exhibitions, never in their day to day training routines. They knew that an injury would have ended their career, as orthopedic surgery as we know it did not yet exist. If you blew out a knee, or herniated a disc, your lifting days were over. They trained with moderate weights, moving slowly and made the weight feel as heavy as they possibly could.
Train to increase time under tension. Instead of performing an exercise for a set number of reps, do it slowly for a set length of time. Instead of curling a 45 pound dumbell for 10 reps, curl a 25 pounder slowly, in good form, for 90 seconds. Interval training can be done with resistance by alternating periods of effort and periods of rest. 90 seconds of effort followed by 30 seconds of rest repeated during a 30 minute exercise routine can create a solid and challenging workout. Forget about how many reps you’ve done, focus on the effort, muscular tension, and the pull of gravity. This is a great way to combine cardio and resistance work in one workout. Great for people who believe they don’t have enough time or are “too busy to workout.”
Add this some body weight exercises to your routine. Moving your body through space creates a body that is functional as well as fit looking. When the gym is closed or you don’t have equipment available, don’t make excuses. You’ve got gravity, you can get a workout in. Gravity can be as effective as any piece of exercise equipment despite the fact you’ll never see it on an infomercial.
Make an effort to harness gravity during the day. Take the stairs, walk a little farther to the train, stand while working at you desk, stretch during the day multiple times and engage in nonspecific movement as much as possible. Being sedentary is a choice, don’t make it!

You’ve been aware of gravity ever since you learned to throw food as a baby. Learn to use it to your advantage as an adult.newton

“What goes up must come down.” – Isaac Newton

Smart guy, that Newton!


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Suck It Up! : The Science Behind Peak Physical Performance

Suck it up Princess!” – Randy Couture

The human body is the most remarkable machine ever made. It is capable of incredible feats of strength and endurance, is remarkably resilient, and is adaptable to almost any climate and condition. The body of the human is far more adaptable and resilient than that of any other animal because of the mind’s incredible capacity to receive feedback from the body and make decisions on how to respond. What makes this amazing machine so adaptable is the mind body connection and our ability to decide whether to continue or not. While we all may not be able to become ultramarathon runners, climb Mount Everest, or even complete a 10K, we are all capable of far more than we believe.

Here are some examples of the upper limits of human endurance:

⦁ Rainer Predl, an ultra-marathoner from Austria, came up with an incredibly special challenge. He resolved to break the record of the highest mileage on a treadmill within a 7 day period. With 853.46 km, he managed to set a new world record. Predl ran 168 hours during that week while making do with just 15 hours of sleep. And, in case you’re wondering, that’s over 530 miles!
⦁ A special form of ultra marathon is the 24-hour run where participants run as far as possible in a 24 hour period The male world record is 188.6 miles, set by Yiannis Kouros. Mami Kudo holds the female record of 156.7. The mileage is accumulated by running consecutive laps over a flat, three quarters of a mile course.
⦁ Dennis Kimetto of Kenya was the first to beat the 2:03 hours, finishing the 26.2 mile Berlin Marathon in 2:02:57 hours. This breaks down to over 26 consecutive miles of just over forward a half minutes each!
⦁ Wim Hof, a Dutch endurance athlete who is commonly referred to as “The Iceman,” completed a 26.2 mile marathon north of the Arctic circle wearing nothing but a pair of sandals and gym shorts. He’s also climbed 19,000 foot Mount Kilimanjaro in less than two days while wearing gym shorts as well as completing a full marathon in the Namib Desert-without any liquids.

Scientists have studied what separates these endurance athletes from their athletic peers as well as the rest of us mere mortals. What makes them different is not just their physiology, but the way that they process physical discomfort. They innately know that fatigue is a mental perception way before it becomes physical.

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”-Vince Lombardi

The human body is designed to survive. Fatigue, at least in its initial stages, is a warning that things might get worse and that continued effort could result in damage to the body. It allows doubt to enter the mind, is accompanied by negative self talk and and an “I can’t do this” mindset which results in a person quitting prematurely. It serves a protective purpose and the act of quitting at that point in time insures that the physical body will be protected from damage. Simply put, we get scared because it hurts, so we quit. The body usually quickly recovers and a second layer of doubt sets in. We begin to question our decision to quit in a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” manner which is usually accompanied by a layer of regret.

Athletes that are able to push through the fatigue are usually no more physically capable than those that they defeat. Athletes and coaches marvel at their ability to “suck it up” and push through this fatigue barrier. Athletics is full of folklore and clichés such as, “victory will go to the athlete who wants it the most,” you quit too soon because “you didn’t want it badly enough,” or that you didn’t have the “will to win.” These criticisms are an oversimplification of what is really going on. Athletes that have this ability to push on instinctively process feedback from the body differently than those who give up too soon. While preparation in talent are undoubtedly a prerequisite for success, there are things the rest of us need to know in order to get to that next level.

Knowing how your brain works when faced with fatigue that is interpreted as a threat to its survival is one of the first things to understand. The central governor theory is a proposed process in the brain that regulates exercise in regard to a neurally calculated safe exertion by the body. In particular, physical activity is controlled so that its intensity cannot threaten the body’s homeostasis by causing anoxic damage to the heart muscle. This process effects athletes on all levels from elite Olympians to weekend warriors. It is how the athlete interprets these sensations that makes the difference, assuming that the athlete has done the proper preparation and is physically fit. It is when proper preparation and proper mindset merge that peak performances will occur.

An experiment done in Great Britain with college rugby players illustrates the point. The athletes were riding a stationary bikes and were told to maintain a certain RPM output. When they were active perceive limit of exertion, they were encouraged to pump it up a bit for five more seconds, “just five more seconds.” They were told that after those five seconds they would get a slight break. Every athlete was able to increase their RPM output by at least 40%, despite the fact that they believed that they were already at their limit. Their logic became “I can push harder for just five more seconds.” This is something that a recreational athlete in a spinning class knows. When complicated tasks are broken down to minute periods of time, the human body is capable of much more than mere perception. If you have ever been an athlete in training, had a personal trainer, or even participated in a formal exercise class now and then, you’ve probably had this experience. A coach encourages you to “push” a little harder for a small period of time. You dug down and found a little more effort than you thought you had. Why? This is a small example of how the human body is capable of more than perceived effort.

Naturally, before one pushes themselves to these levels they have to be in good condition first place. Pushing an out of shape athlete to this level of exertion is potentially fatal. However, if you know that you have prepared yourself physically, then practicing this during workouts now and again can increase your mental toughness and extend your physical capabilities. In a solo sport such as running, weight lifting, or a combat sport an athlete must do this himself. In a team sport like football, there may be a motivated team mate that elevates everyone’s game. As athletes, we’ve all witnessed this and even experienced it firsthand. We often forget times when we’ve had more in the tank than we thought. Train with this in mind and you will find an ability to replicate this experience over and over in your day to day training. Over time, the work you put in will be far more fruitful if you train with this in mind.

When feeling discomfort while working through perceived exertion, try to get specific about what you are feeling. For example, hunger is a different perception than thirst, pain is different from fatigue, and being out of breath is different than exhaustion. Asking yourself “what exactly am I feeling?” and pushing on can enable you to ignore and potentially misinterpret a physiological signal that may cause you to quit prematurely. Under extreme physical exertion, the mind becomes confused and this confusion can trick our bodies into quitting before we really need to. These sensations are often temporary and if a person breaks it down into small and manageable inputs, they’re often capable of much more and, in some cases, able to push right through it. Getting a “second wind” is not a myth. Training with this in mind, no matter what you are training for, will greatly increase your capabilities and your results.

Here’s how you can teach yourself to “Suck It Up”:

Make damn sure you are physically fit enough. Training in this manner is an acquired capability. Sucking it up is only possible if an athlete has done basic training diligently.
Learn to distinguish the difference between pain and exertion. Many athletes talk about the difference between “good pain” coming from exertion and “bad pain” which comes from injury. There is definitely a difference. Learn to identify in your training.
Master your self talk when things get tough. What do you say to yourself on a regular basis when working out? Are you usually positive, or negative? Use your internal dialogue to motivate yourself, making that internal critic a positive internal coach. Talk to yourself with the intention of pumping yourself up, rather than psyching yourself out.
Train to control your breathing. Breath control is one of the most critical components to alleviating panic, mental overwhelm, and physical fatigue. Breathing deeply from your abdomen can enable you to take in much more oxygen, allowing your muscles greater movement.
Train to control muscle tension. Learn which muscles are required in the performance of your sport or physical activity. For example, if you are a sprinter tensing up your shoulders and neck is counterproductive to developing speed. If you are boxing or hitting a heavy bag, a tight fist is only necessary at the moment of impact. Too much tension in areas that are not required will wear you out very quickly. Study your physical activity with the intention of becoming more efficient with your motion.
Break things down when you are training. Telling yourself things like “three more reps,” “just one more lap,” or “10 seconds,” during training conditions you to push through sticking points and when done consistently makes you far more mentally tough.
Do a little research about the nutritional requirements of your sport or activity. Make sure that you are properly hydrated and fueled before you try to suck it up in your training. There’s a lot of solid research on this available on the Internet, but there’s also a lot of BS out there as well. Choose your sources wise.

There’s always been a controversy as to whether or not athletics and physical training are character building. While that’s a debate for another time, I think you can see the benefit of being able to push yourself physically and mentally in your everyday life. Stop admiring RandywTowerthose athletes who have this mystical ability to “suck it up” and become one yourself.

“Well Princess, what are you waiting for?”-Randy Couture


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The Zen Of Being Sedentary

“Mind your actions, as they become you.”-Buddha

In the year 2015, the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report released statistics on health club memberships in the United States. The statistics, at least on the surface, are quite Couchencouraging. Here are their findings:
⦁ 52.9 million Americans over the age of six have gym or health club memberships.
⦁ 23.2 million Americans are referred to as “core” members, utilizing these facilities at least 100 times per year.
⦁ 43% of these gym members utilize group exercise classes.
⦁ There are 8 million personal trainers in the United States.

These statistics should be encouraging. From a percentage standpoint, that’s lots of people claiming to be gym members.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”-Benjamin Disraeli

Yes, the statistics are encouraging, yet why does it seem that there are more overweight, hunched over, depressed, and lethargic Americans than we ever had before? Why are millennial’s projected to be the first generation of Americans that will not outlive their parents? What’s really going on, if so many of us are engaging in formal exercise? With so many conspiracy theories circulating American popular culture, surely there must be some insidious forces at work, some agents of evil sabotaging the earnest efforts of hard-working Americans. Like a lot of conspiracy theories, the devil is in the details.

ScaleMost of us are aware of the impact of poor diet on our exercise programs. All that effort in the gym, hoisting heavy iron dumbbells and barbells, can be wiped out by a 3 ounce spoon of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream quite quickly. And, those “core” gym members who utilize the gym 100 times per year often will engage the gyms services daily from January 1 to the end of February, dropping off to a couple of times a month for the rest of the year. “Something came up,” “too busy,” or “I just don’t have enough time,” become the stories that a person tells themselves. “I’m going back next week,” becomes the excuse to keep that Planet Fitness membership card on your key ring. It looks cool, kind of a status symbol, and serves as visible proof that you will go back “next week.”

The biggest conspiracy is the relationship between human nature and the convenience offered by the modern lifestyle. Many of those “core” gym members do, in fact, put in a lot of hard work in the gym. An hour per day, three days per week, is certainly a sufficient amount of time put in to keep in great shape… isn’t it? Well the answer is, like a lot of things Zen, maybe…

The reality is that there are 168 hours in a week. Our hard-working gym member utilizes 3 of those hours in hard and purpose driven exercise. They may have the greatest program available, an enthusiastic and inspiring personal trainer, and a 20,000 square foot gym filled with the latest equipment to motivate them. The problem is not with their effort, but with how they spend the other 165 hours during the week. The devil that lies in the details here is not effort, enthusiasm, or even willpower. It’s a lifestyle where sitting in chairs, working at sedentary jobs 40+ hours per week, and spending five hours per day hunched over in active cell phone addiction can sabotage these efforts.

If you ask a typical person who exercises whether or not they are sedentary, they are likely to tell you with a mixture of indignation and pride, that they certainly are not. They are likely to follow it with, “I go to the gym three times a week,” or some other impressive and true statement that validates the hard work that they know they put in. It’s frustrating to many people who put in the effort that they don’t look or feel all the positive benefits of their hard work.

Statistically, a sedentary lifestyle is defines as one where a person is sitting 5 to 6 hours per day or more. While there are no statistics on how many Americans are doing this, it’s safe to say that it is probably a lot more than those who claim that they are bona fide gym members. It’s also safe to say that many of these hard-working gym rats have jobs and a lifestyle that is sabotaging their best efforts. If you throw “Screen Time” – the amount of time a person spends watching television or hunched over a computer or iPhone into the mix, and you got a lot of well-intentioned people living an out of balance lifestyle.

The human body is a remarkably adaptive, ever-changing organism that modifies its shape to the activities that it does habitually. There is a reason that the village blacksmith had that huge right arm, distance runners have lean, sinewy legs, and that hard-working person at the gym has poor posture, sloped shoulders, and an out of proportion butt. Relatively speaking, we tend to physically turn into the activities that we engage in most of the time. Since most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our job and moving to Alaska to live the reality TV lifestyle, or the ability to distance ourselves from the social obligations of hanging out with our families, there has to be some kind of solution.

“Be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

Many philosophical traditions look at human development as a process of constantly becoming. Life is a process of growth, change, and development-whether we are conscious of it or not we are in a constant state of change and adaptation. The direction of our change is determined by those things that we believe, think, and do. We literally become what we do. In no area of human development does this happen more definitively and subtly than in our activities. We don’t think of being sedentary as an activity, but nothing could be farther than the truth. Our bodies conform and ultimately take their shape from the activities that we engage in most often. That poor posture, protruding abdomen, and the accompanying physical problems are the result of our sedentary lifestyle. While the physical toll that this takes is quite obvious, the mental health impact is equally as profound.

Most sedentary positions result in the body turning in on itself. Sitting in that Lazy Boy recliner night after night eventually results in a body that is hunched forward in the shoulders, internal organs that are condensed into the lower abdominal region, and a development of a disempowering posture. This posture, if carried into your daily activity, sends a message to your mind that says “I am weak and powerless.” This feeling is reflected in all areas of your mental and physical life. The sedentary lifestyle causes attitudinal changes which result in a person feeling that their get up and go is gone. Expecting that hour of exercise you get each day to offset the 23 hours of inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle is expecting too much.

What’s the antidote? What can the dedicated fitness enthusiast do to offset the debilitating impact of the inescapable sedentary lifestyle? The answer is to take a break:

Throughout the day, be cognizant of how much time you are spending being sedentary. For each hour that you sit take a five-minute movement break. The movement can be nonspecific – such as moving your arms, rotating your neck, stretching your spine, or it workcan be formal-engaging in a routine of stretching, chair yoga, or brief walking. Anything that gets you moving and loosens up your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings will be very beneficial.
If possible, lay on your back with your knees elevated some time during the sedentary period of your day. This flattens out your upper and lower back without putting undue stress on either. Research indicates that knee and back orthopedic issues are virtually nonexistent in cultures where people toilet and sleep on the floor. People in these cultures have more knee and hip flexibility and better balance in old age. Certainly, don’t give up that American Standard flush toilet or that memory foam mattress, but I think you get the idea.
When you do those formal workouts, try to do activities where you are moving your body through space rather than merely sitting on weight machines or recumbant bikes. Reading on the treadmill or any other cardiovascular equipment is a waste of your valuable exercise time. When working out, emphasize the working!
Constantly remind yourself, both on days when you have a formal work out and those in which you don’t, to engage in both specific and nonspecific movement throughout the day. Remember to ask yourself, “What are you doing for the other 23 hours?” This will help you to not sabotage the hard efforts that you put in at the gym.
Consider giving up your gym membership in order to work out without equipment. I know this sounds like heresy, but here’s the logic. Nineteenth century Americans were far more fit and vigorous than those of us in the 21st century. They didn’t live as long, not because they weren’t healthy, but because they didn’t have the luxury of modern medicine to prevent them from succumbing to catastrophic illnesses. The combination of an old-school attitude towards exercise and a life, combined with 21st century medical advances, could be the secret to a triple digit life expectancy. There are hundreds of workouts that a person can do with minimal equipment using body weight, household items, and equipment where your body uses its own kinesthetic senses to balance, work, and create resistance. If you have cable television, there is probably an exercise channel that could get you going in the right direction.
Consciously work on your posture. Working the rotator cuff muscles, upper back, core and abdominal muscles is imperative. A strong, flexible back and a tight abdomen are not vanity. There were necessity for health, longevity, and a vigorous lifestyle.
Have a formal exercise regimen that you adhere to. Work hard during that “sacred time” that you dedicate to this routine. Just don’t forget “What are you doing for the other 23 hours?” Remember, your body will shape itself to the activities you engage in most often. Sit in the chair, you become the chair.

Business man flying through the air kicking.Keep in mind that, in 2016, it’s virtually impossible not to become a victim of the Zen of being sedentary. We ultimately become the things that we do most often. This applies to all aspects of our behavior, the shaping of our character, and is a primary factor in our physical development. We are in a state of constant growth that develops in accordance with our actions. Life is a state of constantly becoming. Be a little more mindful of what you are becoming physically as well.


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Confirmation Bias : How To Avoid Those Uncomfortable Political Arguments

“How can I be sure in a world that’s constantly changing? How can I be sure?”-Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, The Young Rascals

This year is developing to be one of the most controversial political years of the past fifty. Americans are trying to select a president, political alliances are changing, gender roles are being redefined, the nature of social relationships are different than ever before, and BBWthe ways that humans interact are all in a state of flux. There is a ton of objective research out there on every topic in existence to be studied, processed, pondered, and considered before one makes an opinion on anything. It seems that virtually no one ever changes their mind once it’s made up. People are arguing with each other, ending long-lasting friendships, and I’m sure that more than a few family gatherings have gone silent when politics is introduced to the conversation. Misleading statistics, false accusations, and out of context conversations pervade the popular media, leaving us all in the dark about what’s really going on. Despite this misinformation, everyone seems to have an opinion that they are convinced of, drinking the Kool-Aid because of something that they read online or saw on TV. And, once convinced of that “truth” no one seems to ever change their mind or reconsider an opinion.

The human animal does not do well with uncertainty. This is an evolutionary trait, dating back to the time when humans had to make quick and decisive decisions in order to survive. Once primitive tribal culture made a decision, it was usually too late to go back. Decisions had to be made quickly and decisively, it was literally a matter of life or death. Over 200,000 years later, most of us still make important political decisions using this primitive tribal logic. “Here’s what I believe, now I have to find the facts to support it.”

“Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.”-Wikipedia

Cognitive and social sciences have studied confirmation bias since the 1960s. It occurs when a person has a long held belief that is usually accompanied with some emotional attachment. The stronger the emotional attachment, the more that a person becomes convinced of the belief. When challenged, rather than reconsidering the veracity of that belief, a person frantically searches for something that confirms it, rather than challenge it. If a person can quote or recall some out of context conversation, statistic or soundbite, then they can move on to other things, feeling secure that they are on the right side, have made an intelligent decision, and generally end up feeling pretty good about themselves and their beliefs. In many cases, confirmation bias is pretty harmless. In 2016, not so much. Pay attention to how many emotional arguments, political discussions gone bad, and friendships that are impacted this year. My hunch is that you won’t not to have to wait very long. We all know how it plays out. You’re at a social gathering, and some controversial idea such as politics or religion comes up. Two people, who would otherwise be friendly and respectful of each other, have different views. There is a brief, yet sharp, disagreement followed by a long and awkward silence as both realize what’s happening but just can’t stop themselves. Someone else will invariably break in to interrupt by changing subject. Interactions progress from there, but awkwardness will linger and perhaps ruin what otherwise could have been a great time for a lot of people who have a shared social history.

Confirmation bias has always existed, but it’s never been so easy to fall into. Before the Internet, social media, and 24 hour news stations, it was the exclusive domain of the intelligent, learned, and the philosopher. Through most of man’s history, confirmation biases held by a handful of political leaders led to war, misdirected efforts of whole civilizations, and mass executions. Even some well-known and respected historical figures were aware of it:

“For it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy.” -Thucydides, discussing The Peloponnesian War

“Opinion—hasty—often can incline to the wrong side, and then affection for one’s own opinion binds, confines the mind.”-Thomas Aquinas

“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion … draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects.”-Francis Bacon

When considering the seductive nature of confirmation bias, be sure to consider your own coupletendencies. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we know that this is something everybody does. It helps us rationalize long-held beliefs that range from complexities such as religion and the meaning of life, to what the best kind of diet for weight loss is, or what is the best form of exercise. Be careful what logic you apply to that person that you’re bound to encounter that holds a vastly different opinion than your own. Don’t be so quick to end a friendship or important relationship because of their view on the best candidate for the presidency, whether or not Great Britain should leave the European Union, or what their views on religion are. There used to be a saying that, in social situations, to “never discuss politics or religion.” Since that isn’t likely to happen, take an emotional step back when you find yourself, or someone else, in one of those awkward arguments that will inevitably flareup. If Thucydides, Thomas Aquinas, and Francis Bacon were subject to this all too human tendency, we’re all at risk, including your crazy uncle or your spouse’s best friend.

If you face confirmation bias this weekend, at work, or in conversation follow this three-step process:

⦁    Recognize it. If you understand what confirmation bias is, you may have that “ah ha” moment. “Here it is, confirmation bias.” Observe it as if it is some lake that you don’t have to jump into.
⦁    Accept it. Suddenly, it morphs from a heated and emotionally charged argument to a natural way that human beings process complicated and emotionally charged events. Remember, no one is ever going to change a strongly held political opinion because of something that you’ve posted on Facebook. Deal with it.
⦁    Let it go. By remaining focused on the relationship that you have with what you Boxingperceive to be a misguided and misinformed individual, you are avoiding the trap of your own biases. The winds of political and social change are likely to blow in a different direction soon enough. Allowing others to have their opinions, even if you think they are incorrect, is the healthiest for your sanity and sense of connectedness.

Confirmation bias has had a major influence in the areas of politics, religion, health, science, finances, and human history, often with dire consequences. Adopt a “wait and see” attitude in your personal life and in social situations.

It’s an election year, and you know it’s going to happen.

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”- Plato

Smart guy that Plato!


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Maximizing The Body Mind Connection

“Where the mind goes, the man follows.”-Proverbs 23:7

For thousands of years human beings have pondered the nature of human existence and the human experience. Because we are thinking beings, historically humans have believeddaydream that we are mind more than body. The mind-body connection is frequently thought of, and believed to be, mind over body, meaning that the mind is more important than the body. The mind-body dilemma has been studied by some of history’s greatest thinkers, as they attempted to understand the relationship between mind and body, thinking and action. Aristotle, René Descartes, and many Asian philosophies and spiritual traditions have dedicated volumes in an attempt to decipher the process. 21st century research has continued this study.

Most people have a natural tendency to consider themselves as more mind than body, a spiritual being that resides in a space just behind our eyes. Since we use our brain to think and interpret, many of us have a tendency to see that space in our heads as being where we reside, where our spirit, our essence, is located. Undoubtedly, this abstract essence, which we call the mind, is what tells us we are alive, our own command central that allows us to interpret, plan, control, and regulate everything that we experience. Our interpretations of events frequently get rather complicated, at times even overcomplicated. Our thoughts can be overwhelming and often paralyzing. Recent behavioral scientific research shows that there is a way to keep our minds in check and make our lives more fulfilling if we understand both sides of the mind body connection.

The mind-body connection is not a one-way relationship. Thinking about the mind as in control the body is running your life on half throttle. Recent research done at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and other research institutes implies that the relationship between mind and body is more of a reciprocal relationship than was once thought. While the mind undoubtedly controls the body, the body has an almost equal relationship in its ability to influence the mind. Understanding of these concepts can radically change and influence a person’s behavior, leading them to attain their full potential in multiple areas of their lives. Put in very simple terms, the mind controls the body, the body influences the mind.

“If you train the body, the mind will follow.” – Ross Enamait

Recent research done at Harvard University shows that people who are trained to use their body and physiology can create a better mindset going into stressful work-related situations such as job interviews, presentations, and confrontations with co-workers. Being optimally ready for these situations obviously requires mental preparation, visualization, and rehearsal, things that most of us do before these events. What frequently happens is that, just as we get to the critical point in the interaction, a little bit of doubt comes in, we accept the doubt as a truth, and both our bodies and minds run with it, causing us to perform not quite as well as we had hoped we would. Anyone who says that this has never happened to them is probably lying, we’ve all been there. If we’re lucky, we do okay in these situations, but deep down inside we know we could have done better. Our gut instinct is correct. These situations can be remedied by an understanding of how our physiology influences performance.

Researcher Amy Cuddy, from Harvard University school of business, suggests that prior to Confident businessmanstressful social and occupational situations that we engage in what she calls “power poses.” These are consciously practiced stances, body positions, and activities where we are engaged in expensive, expressive, and powerful body positions. (See how to power pose here: http://mindbodycoach.org/need-confidence-power-pose/ ) One of the simplest way to be in an empowering physical state is to be aware of posture – shoulders back and down, breathing in a controlled manner from the abdomen. This powerful physical position sends signals to the brain that we are in control, capable and powerful. Our performance in these social situations can’t help but be improved by the sense of body control that this posture gives us. Control your body and you will control your mind.

The creature comforts of modern living, for all their conveniences, tend to create disempowering physical states that, unfortunately for all of us, have become the norm. Not too many of us get up in the morning to moderately demanding physical activities such as gathering eggs, milking cows, tending to domesticated animals, and starting a fire for the day. These tasks, although tedious and difficult, would set you up for a feeling of control, take charge, and “can do,” starting you off in a more powerful and assertive mindset. These physical activities would send a signal to your brain that you are capable, competent, and able to handle whatever that day would throw at you. There are, however, ways that these basic human activities can be replicated:

⦁    Morning exercise. Human beings were built to adapt to physical stress. We’ve known this for a long time but have only realized recently the impact that morning exercise can have on our mental health, motivation, and feelings of competence. Yeah, I know many of you are saying, “I don’t have time to get to the gym before work.” You don’t need a gym to engage in some power producing morning rituals. Stretch before getting out of bed, bang out a few sets of push-ups and sit-ups, open your window in engage in some deep breathing where you stand upright and fill your torso from the abdomen upward, throwing your arms back and upward powerfully. Five minutes is enough time to set your brain in a powerful, more confident, and assertive mindset.
⦁    Be conscious of your body position throughout the day. Many of us sit at desks, have long commutes, and sedentary jobs where machines do all the work. Be sure to get up every hour and take a five-minute or so break. Engage in some sort of mild physical activity during these breaks, making a conscious effort to improve your physiological state. You will return to work not only clearheaded, but feeling more capable and more likely to utilize your full potential and work capacity. (See also “Death By Desk.” http://mindbodycoach.org/death-desk/ )
⦁    Become aware of your breathing throughout the day. Breathing is obviously a necessity for life, but it is a way to control your emotional state. When we are stressed, deep control breathing sends off a signal to the brain that we are okay and will survive. It creates feelings of physical calm and control. Remember, control your physiology and you control your mind.
⦁    Smile! A smile has been proven to be in instant mood elevator. It’s very difficult to be sad when you are smiling. In addition to the obvious rapport that it will build with others, research indicates that it can improve your life span. (See also, “Smile, It’s Good For You.” http://mindbodycoach.org/smile-good/ )
⦁    Be aware of your hand and arm gestures as you communicate. Good communicators instinctively know that physiology conveys more information than words. Numerous studies have suggested that perhaps as much is 90% of human communication is nonverbal. Powerful hand gestures, arm movements, and pauses in speech not only are good for your audience, but also sends signals to you that you are confident in your material, you know what you’re doing, and you believe fully what you are saying.
⦁    Warm up like an athlete. Prior to stressful situations, engage in some warm-up style physical activity. There are reasons that all athletes stretch before competition, baseball Box Guyplayers swing weighted bats, and boxers shadowbox. These reasons are not merely physical. Before a stressful situation, find a quiet space where you can engage in some physical activity to help set yourself up for success, go for a brief walk with some deep breathing, or find someplace to practice power posing.

It’s pretty common that most people can identify with feeling better during the warm summer months, particularly if you live in an environment that has a full range of seasons. People tend to be less depressed, more physically active, and enjoy a greater sense of well-being that most attribute to sunshine and warm temperatures. While warmth and sunshine are beneficial to this feeling, don’t underestimate the role played by the increase in physical activity at most people engage in. Find ways to engage in meaningful physical activity regardless of the season or climate that you are in.

When considering the mind body connection, don’t forget to also consider the body mind connection. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

“Action beats reaction every time.” – Tony Blauer


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The Dunning-Kruger Effect And Why It’s More Important Than Ever To Make Up Your Own Mind

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” — Bertrand Russell

Any observation of 21st century culture can’t help but give one the impression that there are a lot of incompetent people in the world doing stupid and often dangerous things. It’s hard to tell if this is some kind of epidemic, man as a species is evolving towards more sawing_tree_limb_man_stupidity, or if instant access of modern mass communications puts a spotlight on isolated instances of stupidity and broadcasts them around the world. Humans, undoubtedly, are the most complicated and bizarre animal that inhabits planet Earth. There is some scientific research that has tried to solve this puzzle. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect takes its name from two Cornell University researchers, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, social psychologists who have the interesting job of studying the puzzling question of why people do the things that they do. They determined that some people have a cognitive bias whereby they fail to adequately assess their level of incompetence at performing a task, erroneously considering themselves to be far more competent than they are and, in some cases, more competent than anyone else. They have a lack of self-awareness, depriving them of the ability to critically analyze their performance. As a result, they may significantly overestimate their own abilities. In simple terms, they are too stupid to know that they are stupid. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is one of the more common cognitive biases. There is a corollary to this effect which is called the Imposter Syndrome, where competent people underestimate their abilities but, unfortunately, Imposter Syndrome is far less common.

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”—William Shakespeare

Dunning and Kruger postulated this theory after a series of experiments started at Cornell in 1969. They tested students in a number of areas such as humor, grammar, and logic and compared the actual results of the tests with student estimates of how well they did. Those who scored well on the test consistently underestimated their performance, while those who scored the lowest “grossly overestimated” their scores. Dunning and Kruger found a correlation between the lowest scoring students and the degree to which they overestimated their ability. Dunning and Kruger explained it this way:

“This overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”

While many view the Dunning-Kruger Effect as being somewhat tongue-in-cheek humor, bungled-personal-flight-attempt-1this phenomenon has been something that has fascinated great thinkers throughout the ages. Socrates, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin, and Bertrand Russell all have notable quotes that undoubtedly refer to the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The work of Dunning and Kruger is nothing new, this cognitive bias has existed throughout time. In previous eras of human history it would have been passed off harmlessly as the behavior of a village idiot, an eccentric old woman, or some nondescript character that society could avoid. In the 21st century, it might be more insidious.

Instant access of information has made people less likely, rather than more likely, to do their own research when it comes to political, economic, and social decision-making. Many are influenced by celebrities such as actresses, actors, athletes, and comedians when casting a vote or taking a stand on topics that impact contemporary society. But here’s a sobering thought: What if some of these celebrity sages are suffering from the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”—Isaac Asimov

2016 is an election year in the United States. We also live in a time when accurate donald-trump-hillary-clintoninformation is accumulating exponentially. There’s no reason that anyone needs to trust someone else’s opinion on issues of social and political importance. Before you surrender your opinion to the bias of someone else, do your own research and make a conscious effort before you decide on which village idiot to support.


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Conscious Consumption : Why A Good Diet Isn’t Enough

“You are what you eat.”-John De Cola

I first heard this quote from the French physician Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in the year 1969. At the time I was an impressionable 15-year-old high school sophomore working out at a local gym in Framingham Massachusetts preparing for my first varsity football fat-guy-workoutseason. I heard it from John DeCola, the gym owner and 5’8″ human anatomy chart who was working out himself that summer for the 1969 professional Mr. America competition. As part of your membership, he did an analysis of new members, gave you your own program, and gave nutritional advice. I remember him telling me that I had “long clavicles,” which I could tell by his enthusiastic tone of voice was a good thing. He also told me that I had to lose my “spare tire.” I didn’t know what a spare tire was, but I could tell by his expression this wasn’t too good. John went on to win the 1969 Mr. America title and I’ve been fighting to keep that spare tire flat ever since. I also remember him telling me that “70% of this game is diet. It’s very important. Remember, you are what you eat.”

Today research indicates that John’s advice is still true. There are, however, a lot of other things that we consume that can sabotage our best efforts at maintaining our health and wellness besides diet. Certainly, we consume much more today than ever before. Food, although very important, is only part of what we consume. We not only eat, but we drink, breathe, and consume massive amounts of news and information. All this input contributes to the state of our health and well-being. What we ingest becomes the fabric of who we are, what we think, our values, and how we live our lives. Today the best way to be sure we are healthy and happy is to engage in conscious consumption, being more aware of what we are taking in and consuming.

Here are a few things you may be consuming that you may want to pay a little more attention to:
⦁    News and information. A recent article published in the Huffington Post suggested that as little as three minutes of news watched each morning could negatively impact a person’s day for the next eight hours. Three minutes! Negative news stories contribute to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, as people get overwhelmed by stories that they can exert no control over. Human evolution has wired our brains to be on the alert for potential danger and threats. We are more likely to think negatively than positively and, as a result, we gravitate more towards negative sensory inputs. This means we are more wired to remember news stories that threaten us with terrorist attacks than that story about the kitten that was rescued from that tree. It also explains why we can’t turn away from that car crash we drove by on the way to work. Sigmund Freud referred to this fascination as our “death instinct.” Our brains are designed to notice these and retain them as a warning for ourselves. In 2016 the average person consumes as much information in one week as a person would in a lifetime a century ago. For more see http://mindbodycoach.org/media-madness-media-influences-mental-health/
⦁    Gossip, celebrity news, and social media. We also have only so much bandwidth for empathy, concern, and emotional connection. Getting involved in the latest drama from the lives of the rich and famous is like consuming junk food. It fills us up emotionally, but has no lasting value. It also diverts our attention from potentially important relationships in our real lives, such as our spouses, partners, children, and family. We probably better off spending time with our actual friends and family than our virtual friends and our social media contacts. It takes more time to nurture the real world relationships, but the benefits are certainly much more significant.
⦁    Screen time. Since the 1950s social scientists have been concerned with the amount of time that we spend watching television. We’ve come along way from three channels that you marveled at in 1960. We still have television to contend with, but we also have iPhones in our pockets, Netflix, streaming video on demand, and jobs that require us to spend eight hours a day staring at a computer. Research indicates that all this screen time not only can cause eye strain and migraines, but that it also contributes to metabolic syndrome, difficulty processing emotions in the real world, and is as escapist as consuming moderate amounts of psychoactive drugs. As people spend more time engaged in the fantasy dramas of others, they are becoming numb to events occurring in real life. Excessive screen time has been linked to the rise of bullying in American children and has become a primary factor in most divorce cases. It also has been shown to rewire the brain and a negative and non-productive way, causing us to experience difficulty regulating our emotions.
⦁    Air. Not only is the air that we are breathing today far less healthy for us than it was for man-breathing-fresh-airour great grandparents, but most people don’t know how to breathe correctly. As we spend less time being physically active, more time hunched over computer screens, and leading lives that are more psychologically stressful, we have begun to breathe inefficiently. Ask the average person to “take in a deep breath,” and you’ll notice that they take an unproductive breath as their upper chest and shoulders expand. Proper breathing involves expanding the abdomen and lower lungs with virtually no involvement of the shoulders. Breathing is by far the number one most important consumption activity that we engage in. It is said that a human can go three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without breathing. For a How To on breathing properly see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iypetAkg_pY
⦁    Water. Yeah, we all know that we should consume approximately 8 glasses of water each day. Most of us like to think that we do, but do we really? We have so many beverage choices that many people grow up consuming very little water. In fact, many Americans have the belief that “water tastes gross” and drink very little of it, substituting all kinds of other liquids in its place. There has been a lot of research published recently that shows Americans are becoming more aware of the negative health impacts of cola and soft drinks, but there are many more culprits flying under the radar. Many sports drinks, energy drinks, juice drinks, and other beverages are hidden sources of sugar, empty calories, and chemicals that we could do without. The bottled water industry has become one of the most productive businesses the world. Unless you live in a third world nation, your tap water is probably okay. Learn to develop a taste for it. The human body is 70% water, so what we drink is as important as what we eat.
⦁    Food. By food, I mean real food, the kind that Great Grandpa had waiting on the table for him after a long day at work. There are a lot of reasons that Americans are more impatient, fat, lethargic, and unhappy while living in the most abundant time in human history. John DeCola was 100% correct, we ultimately become what we eat. Every cell in the body regenerates within a seven-year period of time. That means that every seven years our physical body is entirely new. How well our cells reproduce is determined by what we eat and consume. Many people pay more attention to the motor oil that they put in their cars than the food that they put in their mouths. Your body is your most important vehicle. Fuel it carefully. For more see http://mindbodycoach.org/sugar-sugar-compulsive-eating-conspiracy/ and http://mindbodycoach.org/food-mood-connection/

“Garbage in, garbage out.”- Unknown

Ultimately, we are what we consume. That which we consume literally becomes who wedecola2 are. And, it is very important. Be aware of what you consume, food and otherwise. Conscious consumption should be a governing principle for all of us. Be discriminating about what you take in. Your life is guaranteed to be a fuller and richer one..

“We consume so we never have to answer the hard questions. When we are bored we eat. When we are lonely we watch a movie, read the newspaper, jump on social media. Each time we do we cover up our real emotions and keep throwing another layer of confusion and anxiety on top, making it almost impossible to dig ourselves out of the hole, or at least see which way is up.” – Evan Sutter, Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change the World


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Sugar, Sugar : The Compulsive Eating Conspiracy

“Sugar, ah honey honey,
You are my candy girl
And you’ve got me wanting you.
Honey, ah sugar sugar,
You are my candy girl
And you’ve got me wanting you.” – Sugar, Sugar, the Archies

In 2016, it is virtually impossible to not know what a person needs to do for their health. Turning on your computer usually leads to a homepage that is bound to throw some health related suggestions, recent study, or some exercise program at you that is doable and should fit your lifestyle. Research indicates that most people do, in fact, give many of those suggestions a try. Fewer of us are smoking, most claim we are exercising, and Fat Gymvirtually everyone says they are watching their diet. If you look around carefully however, it doesn’t look that way. Most people, despite their efforts, are overweight, lethargic, and sluggish. Some, in fact, are quite miserable. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2009–2010 indicates that two thirds of American adults are considered overweight, one out of three adults are considered obese, and three out of four American adult males are obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that poor diet and exercise has now surpassed smoking as the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the generation labeled as the Millennials, those reaching adulthood around the year 2000, will be the first generation in history to not outlive their parents. What the heck is happening?

The answer to this may be one of the most under discussed conspiracies of our time – the role of the food industry in creating a generation of Americans addicted to food. That’s right, addicted. We all must eat, that’s biological fact, but many of us are addicted to foods that are unhealthy, yet more compulsively consumed than tobacco or alcohol ever were. And, it appears the food industry is putting as much effort into this perpetuating this addiction as the tobacco industry did in the 1980s, sabotaging the sincere efforts of millions of Americans to take care of their health and wellness. In fact, numerous studies have shown that food addictions are more shackling than addiction to cocaine! This explains why, despite the fact that more of us are trying to take care of our health through diet and exercise, we are a lot worse off in many ways than the World War II generation. For example, in 1960 the average body weight of a woman age 20 to 29 was 128 pounds. By the year 2000 it was 157 pounds. For 40 to 49-year-olds, it rose from 142 pounds to 170, coincidentally the same weight as a American male in 1960. Men didn’t fare any better during those years either. Today’s American male weighs as much as 1.5 American women from the 1960s.

If you are one of those that has been trying hard to get your weight, health, and energy levels under control and are failing, it may not be your fault. If you find yourself frequently eating when you are not hungry, craving foods that you know are not good for you, or eating mindlessly at times, you may be addicted. Breaking free of this addiction is the only way for you to get your weight and health under control. Like all addictions, this is both behavioral as well as chemical.

One of the biggest reasons for this addiction is that we are no longer eating real food. woman-snorting-doughnuts-largeThe food industry has found ways to manipulate three nutrients that the human body craves: sugar, fat, and salt. These three taste sensations are compulsively sought out of biological necessity. Our brains crave these so that we are compelled to eat enough for survival. In earlier history humans were wired to eat only when they were hungry, not out of boredom or for recreational purposes as we do today. Of course, their lives were a greater struggle and they were more active than modern man. Sugar, salt, and fat activate the reward center of our brain as definitely and surely as any illicit substance, in fact, even more so because we must eat regularly to survive. When these nutrients are combined they become addictive, meaning the more of these foods that you consume, and the greater the tendency to crave even more. This explains why many of us compulsively eat things well after the point of satiety.

As an example, in studies done of the addictive qualities of dairy products, researchers found that test subjects consistently rated products more highly with regard to desirability if the natural fat from these products was needlessly supplemented with moderate quantities of sugar and salt. The food industry will often sneak in sugar and salt in other forms calling them “preservatives.” While they may have some preservative capabilities, they are also highly addictive and researchers who produce these products are fully aware of what they’re doing. If something is on the label of the food that you buy is something that you cannot pronounce or is labeled as a preservative, it is probably a hidden source of sugar, salt, or fat. If not, it is probably something that your brain will interpret that way leading to compulsive overeating. If something is labeled as a food “product,” a cheese product, for example, as opposed to real cheese, it probably falls in the same category.

The addition of sugar is one of the easiest ways that the industry increases our compulsion for food. High fructose corn syrup, fructose, lactose, and other forms of simple carbohydrates are added, giving our brains that fix that we crave. It is estimated that modern Americans consume as much sugar in five days as a typical American did an entire year in the early 19th century! While all carbohydrates will be converted to glucose in our bodies, these sources of carbohydrates enter the bloodstream in quantities that can be addictive. As an example, you’re better off having real orange juice than that juice drink that contains “10% real orange juice,” and, you’d be much better off eating an orange rather than either because of the combination of vitamin C, natural sugar, and fiber. Food denuded of fiber does not fill you up, and that and the combination of high sugar content leads to addictive consumption.

Thee are a number of subtle ways of sneaking in excess amounts of sugar and salt into our diets that you wouldn’t initially consider. Some examples are in condiments such as ketchup, ready-made foods such as canned spaghetti sauces, quick “grab and go health foods,” such as granola bars, power bars, and protein bars, and the obvious Snicker’s bar or bag of chips. Of course, the modern lifestyle lends itself to grab and go eating. Opening a can of Campbell’s Soup for the family after a long day at work makes clear sense, unfortunately, the sodium content from that can does not.

The food industry will argue that these methods of producing food are necessary as the population of the earth is now over 7 billion people and food must go from production to table much more quickly than ever before. In the process they have created food that is mostly processed rather than natural, contain more simple sugars and simple carbohydrates than natural, and has been robbed of healthy fats and replaced with unhealthy. These changes not only are impacting our weight and physical health, but also our mental health. A study done in 1999 said that there had been a 100 fold increase in the prevalence of depression worldwide over the course of the 20th century. While nutritional changes cannot be blamed for all of this, it may be a factor. The Western Diet now has and imbalance of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats, a critical factor in the development of symptoms of depression.

Today, the Standard American Diet, or SAD, is:
⦁    High in processed foods. If a food is packaged, prepared, or boxed it’s probably not the best choice.
⦁    High in carbohydrates. Breads, pasta, rice, and sugar in excess are all bad choices. Even pasta, whole grain or not, will be converted to sugar by the body. While you don’t have to give these foods up, it’s probably a better idea to prepare these naturally and consider them to be a side dish.
⦁    Low in plant-based foods, fiber, natural antioxidants, and plant-based nutrients.
⦁    High in animal and unhealthy fats. Fats that are saturated and hydrogenated are components of an inflammatory and unhealthy diet.
⦁    Low in healthy fats such as omega-3’s, which reduce inflammation. Supplementing your diet with a good source of omega-3 is a simple solution.

A healthy diet is much more than calories in and calories out. Many studies indicate that the best way to lose weight permanently is to make wiser food choices rather than the traditional counting of calories. Calorie deprivation is not the healthiest thing for your body or your brain. The human brain consumes more calories than the rest of your body combined. No wonder that a calorie deprived diet leads to cranky and sometime in erratic behavior. A natural diet of real food is the best way to keep weight off permanently.

The overconsumption of foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat is one of the joys of Choicelife. No one is suggesting that you become a nutritional Nazi and deprive yourself of the occasional doughnut, bowl of ice cream, or glass of beer. Just pay a little more attention to what you consume on a regular basis. If you find yourself compulsively overeating and low in dietary willpower, it just may not be your fault.

Eat like your life depends upon it, because it does.

For more on this topic see also:


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Mental Models : Be Careful What You Build

“A mental model is an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person’s intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences. Mental models can help shape behaviour and set an approach to solving problems (akin to a personal algorithm) and doing tasks.” – From Wikipedia

As a child growing up in the 1960s, that golden age before computers, videogames, and too much technology, one of the great joys I had was building models. Airplanes, boats, boy_modeling-370x263aircraft carriers, and cars were common models that boys of my age built. The boxes depicted colorful and exciting pictures of planes and boats of World War II and the hottest cars of the decade. My mother would buy me about one per month, and I spent the next week or so tediously putting it together. In those days the directions inside were usually pretty accurate, and it was simply a matter of laying out the parts, matching them to the directions, and following directions meticulously, one step at a time. Just be sure to use enough, but not too much, glue!

Today directions that come in a box to build an item are seldom accurate. They usually written to generally follow the product that you have purchased that was built by some person being overworked in a foreign factory. It’s pretty common that some of the parts will be missing and that the directions will be a rough approximation of how that item will look when done. I often find myself so frustrated that I give up, call one of my adult sons on the phone and have them come by and help me put it together. Hard to believe that I was once that kid that put together the USS Enterprise in 1966.

As adults, whether we realize it or not, we are still model builders – mental models. A mental model is a internal representation, an expectation, of how something is going to play out in our lives. For example, today is Sunday and most people are building a mental model of how they believe their Monday is going to go. At the beginning of each day, usually while doing some mundane and routine task like brushing your teeth, shaving, or putting on makeup, you are mentally building a model, a plan, of what you expect will happen that day. As you are building this model you are visualizing, feeling emotions-both positive and negative-and setting yourself up for either success or failure. The emotions that you have going into that day become the devils that hide in the details and can either set you up for success or failure in the next 8 to 12 hours.

Human beings are thinking and planning animals. This is our most useful survival daydreame1370487424948mechanism, something that sets us apart from all other creatures on the planet. The problem is that our thoughts are often programmable and our decisions and feelings often result from the mental models that we have previously built rather than the events that are happening right in front of us. We react in the moment not to the moment itself, but to the mental models that we built earlier that day, while going through our morning routine, or daydreaming while at a traffic light.

The mental models that we build, much like the directions in that great item you bought that was made in Taiwan, are close approximations and not entirely accurate. Realizing this is important or you may inadvertently set yourself up for failure by building a negative mental model. If the mental model you’ve built is a negative one, you will begin to follow those negative directions as soon as you feel uncomfortable. Automatic pilot will kick in, you’ll start putting the parts together in a way that doesn’t fit, become overly frustrated, lose valuable time building it, or giving up altogether. The mental model that you built prior to any event can either set you up for success or failure.

How does one build better mental models? As with all complicated models (remember that aircraft carrier?) directions that are as accurate as possible are necessary. It’s also helpful if you are flexible and maybe have a “Plan B” set of directions in mind. Here are some suggestions of how to build better directions for those mental models you build:

1. Make sure you have the tools needed. Maybe you have a presentation that you are doing at work or school. Are you prepared? Do you have the necessary facts, tools, and research? Lay these out in the same manner that you would if you were building a model airplane. Do they match the images that you are visualizing?

2. Use visualization to your advantage. Realize that, when you visualize, you are predetermining what you will do at a future time. Positive visualization is more likely to allow you to function the way you would like to when confronted in real time. The human mind cannot tell the difference between that which is real and that which is imagined. When you visualize yourself succeeding, performing well, and completing tasks as you wish, you are rehearsing success. Your mind cannot tell the difference. If you doubt this, think about what happens when you have a nightmare. You wake up with a racing heart, anxious, in a bed covered with sweat. Why? Your brain has convinced your body that something horrible has happened. When you visualize failure as you build your mental model, you are setting yourself up for failure when that moment of doubt arises. Visualize success when you put your directions together.

3. Use more than one sensory modality to design your directions. A “to do” list, diagram, or visual can help you plan more graphically in advance. Just remember to be flexible when the time comes.

4. Prepare for the emotions that are likely to get in the way. Emotions are the saboteurs of success. Fear, doubt, and negative self appraisal are likely to pop up as you go through your day. These thoughts are most likely to be incorrect, but you may believe them because they are yours. We all like to think that we have such self-awareness that our thoughts about ourselves are accurate. They are not. Be careful not to believe your thinking, particularly if it is negative and is about your performance. Thoughts are not facts and only sometimes do they reflect reality. Prepare for these emotions in advance, realize that they are likely to pop up, and act the way you planned when you wrote your directions.

5. Plan to relax. When putting your mental directions together, build in moments where you pause, take a breath, and slow down. A brief pause of 3 to 5 seconds may seem like an eternity while under stress, but it just may be enough time to allow you to follow those directions accurately.

6. Build mental models often. Chances are you are doing this anyway, whether you realize it or not. Consciously building mental models on a regular basis will improve these skills, build confidence, and lead to more successful outcomes. Success builds upon success,  and confidence grows from the positive reinforcement of a plan coming together as you imagined and hoped.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all model builders. Consciously building the modelshannibalsmith that you desire may take a little time and effort, but you are doing it anyway. You’re a grown up now – and you don’t have to plead with your mother to buy them.

” I love it when a plan comes together.” – Colonel Hannibal Smith


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Do The Next Right Thing : The Multitasking Myth

“F**king two things up at the same time isn`t multitasking.”-Dick Masterson

You probably think of yourself as being a pretty busy person. You got multiple things to shavedo each day, try to do the best you can, and occasionally you do get things done. Because you’re so busy, you tend to combine a lot of things. For example, you’re pretty good at driving while talking on the phone. Yeah, you know you’re not supposed to drive with the phone in your hand, but it’s okay. You do it all the time and nothing’s happened…yet. You do some simple things, like shaving while listening to the news, talking to your spouse, or giving advice to your children. Sometimes, you even are able to sneak out a text message during that meeting at work. You believe this ability is something special that you developed. You’re a multitasker, you get things done. It’s what you do, and you’re pretty good at it, or at least so you think.

Neuroscience and empirical evidence would disagree vehemently with you. Research indicates that multitasking is a myth, an idea developed by 21st century man as an excuse to do multiple things at the same time-none getting the proper attention that they may deserve. We’ve long known that the average person’s short-term memory is capable of holding seven items at any one time, plus or minus two. Most of us, however, think that we are better than average. Chances are we are not, and the quality of our work and life suffers from this belief.

The term multitasking was coined in 1965 by computer scientists working for IBM to describe the capability of the fledgling computer. Scientists have always had a tendency to compare the human brain to the latest technology. The mind has been compared to a water pump, steam engine, television, and most recently a computer. It’s not. It is a living and intuitive organ, highly unpredictable, highly distractible, and very difficult to harness. It can only process and attend to one task at a time.

Research has shown that, when the brain switches between more than one task at one time, there is a refractory period, a brief period of reorientation before the mind can attend to that second task. When more tasks are added, there is a bottleneck effect where processing suffers and certain aspects of each individual task is indiscriminately ignored so that the mind can continue its attempt to juggle more than one task at a time. No one is immune to this effect, despite what most of us think. Dr. Edward Hallowell, an expert on attention deficit disorder calls multitasking a “mythical activity in which people believe that they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.”

As a result of this multitasking myth, the quality of work suffers, tasks that are BBSelfcompounded take longer than they would if tended to individually, and the quality of our personal and social relationships suffer, as people are trying to connect through their iPhones, telephones, and email with people miles away while ignoring the people that are right in front of them. People are attending social activities, eating in restaurants, and attending athletic events, all the while trying to record it on YouTube and on camera. The purpose is to view it later or share it with friends. The problem is that they are missing what is going on in the present moment. For example, if you are a major league baseball fan, you probably notice that in the past year there has been an increased incidence of people injured at games from foul balls and bats that end up striking fans in the stands. Is the game more dangerous, or is it that people are less focused on the activity on the field and simply not paying attention? One would have to wonder if these injuries would be more preventable if people were paying attention to the game and not distracted by the desire to share it through selfies that they post to create envy among their Facebook friends.

Yeah, I can hear the protests now, “But how do you expect me to do all the things that I need to do every single day?” There are some internal and external things that one can do in order to juggle more than one thing at a time. Here are some suggestions that neuroscience and behavioral science have that can be beneficial:

1. Compartmentalize. This means to separate multiple tasks into distinct processes with a definitive start and ending. While you may not complete the task entirely, want to have stopping points that you “bookmark” before turning to another task.
2. Operate from A to Z whenever possible. If you can complete a task from start to finish then do so. This prevents drifting from one test of the next without completing either. Having a To Do this that you stick to can help you do this.
3. Learn delayed gratification. Train yourself to put off impulsively pursuing that which is not important. For example, that email on your iPhone. Does it really need to be read and answered while you are driving down the highway at 65 miles an hour? Probably not. Learn to let it wait.
4. Prioritize. Obviously, there are some tasks that are so simple, rote, and unimportant that they can be combined. Of course, it’s okay to shave while listening to the radio, and listening to a podcast while driving to your job. Just be aware that the ability to attend to these equally is not possible. Breakfast while reading Facebook makes sense, breakfast while driving does not.
5. Set aside quality time for the important people in your life. Your children, spouse, partner, and friends are all in this category. Give these relationships your undivided attention. Have a no phone, text, or interruption rule.
6. Practice mindfulness and consider a mindfulness meditation practice. Train yourself to focus on the present moment by cultivating a daily practice of meditation. You don’t need to spend a lot of time, 10 minutes a day can do wonders. If you don’t know how to do this, use the search box to the right of this post or search the Internet for helpful hints. See http://mindbodycoach.org/washing-lifes-rice-bowls/ for some simple suggestions on how to implement this into your daily routine.
7. Consciously limit your access to technology. Your smart phone may be a necessity, but it is not necessary as frequently as you would think. It also has an off button which you should consider using as much as you can tolerate. While this technology contributes much to the quality of 21st century life, it has an equal and potentially greater negative impact, causing us to miss a lot of events that are going on during the here and now.
8. Use social media sparingly. Do your 424 Facebook friends really need to know what you’re having for lunch today? Is anyone ever come over to your side on a political issue after a heated exchange on Twitter? Despite what you may think, the answer to these questions is no.

Remember, it is okay to be busy, just don’t fall into the trap of confusing being busy with being productive. Modern life and technology has created a generation of dopamine junkies trying to juggle multiple tasks and obligations while trying to pursue the latest shiny object. While you may feel productive, research indicates that we are less productive than would be if we tended to one thing at a time.

Q: How do you eat an elephant?elephant
A: One bite at a time.

Like an old TV commercials used to say, “Eat well, but wisely.”


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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