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Persistence and commitment are admirable, but sometimes it’s time to let go. There’s life-changing wisdom in quitting when you know it’s the right thing to do. And even when you don’t.
Jobs, relationships, projects, businesses … you name it and I’ve probably quit it. You could even call me an “expert quitter.”
And one of the most important things I’ve learned is this: quitting needn’t represent a failure or a referendum on your value as a person.
In this episode of the Living Experiment Podcast I talk with my friend Pilar Gerasimo about our biggest life quits (Pilar quit a Fulbright Scholar program in Paris and the Huffington Post) and the lessons we’ve learned.
These days, it feels like most of us are just getting by. We’re surviving at a base level, just doing things to get through the stress of inhuman days … the result of our flashing screens, fast-paced lives, and isolating social structures.
Since we can’t change everything at once, it’s important to have coping skills in today’s world.
Here’s what we cover in this episode of The Living Experiment.
We’ll look at these, along with the physical, mental, and emotional dynamics of coping — from anti-inflammatory eating and sleeping to anti-insanity media habits.
The Living Experiment Podcast
Co-hosted by healthy-living experts Dallas Hartwig and Pilar Gerasimo, The Living Experiment has over 1,000,000 downloads and explores the fundamentals (and finer points) of being a healthy person in an unhealthy world.
Dallas and Pilar challenge the limiting norms, superficial obsessions and status-quo assumptions that can make healthy living harder than it has to be. With each new episode, they introduce a thought-provoking theme. They share their own insider insights and experiences, then offer up real-life experiments listeners can embrace on their own terms.
Give the podcast a listen — and if you like it, subscribe!
MEDIA ENCLOSURE: http://traffic.libsyn.com/thelivingexperiment/TLE-S10-E08_Coping.mp3
A lot has changed since we launched the Whole9 in 2009 — a lot.
I’ve also simplified the 9 Factors into 4 Keys.
The 9 Factors were really good, and if you addressed them all, you’re likely in a good spot as far as your health was concerned. But there were always questions like why 9 and not 10? Why not remove the one nobody understands and add 4 more in its place?
“What the hell is temperance anyway?”
So here are the 4 Keys to Living Better.
You’ll notice it doesn’t start with food anymore.
It starts with Sleep.
If you need “Stress Management” (Whole 9 factor #5), then you will likely need to be eating more nourishing food, be moving in ways which reduce rather than add to your total stress, you will need to prioritize your sleep, and perhaps most importantly, you will need to make changes with how you connect with the people and places which give the highest feelings of calmness, fulfillment, and emotional support (and maybe face up to those connections which add to your stress).
That doesn’t mean the way you Eat is not important. It’s just a prioritization of ideas for a new point of focus on the overall circadian rhythm of our bodies and how we connect to the rhythms of the world around us.
The way you Eat, Move and Connect will determine how you Sleep — the part of our lives that literally sets the rhythm for everything else.
If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, you’ll start your day tired and stressed. That sends you looking for cheap rewards like too much sugar and caffeine in your diet. Your movement sessions will be strained and less productive. And by the time you take care of all of that you won’t have any energy left to connect with the people you love. So you’ll just check social media and expose yourself to blue light — inhibiting melatonin release and leading to a late night.
More poor sleep. More stress. More difficulty eating, moving and connecting.
And the cycle continues.
I want to help you find a healthy cycle through understanding the depth of each of the 4 Keys to living better and how they work together.
Sign up for my newsletter to follow my exploration of the 4 Keys.
Weight Loss – The Living Experiment Podcast Episode 93
This week we’re talking about Weight Loss — the myths, the methods, and the massive struggle it represents for the majority of Americans today.
Starting with our own frustration with the muddled messages often broadcast on this topic, we strive to set the record straight.
From the madness of trying to control one’s weight through low-fat eating, calorie counting, and “portion control,” to the sensible strategies that work a whole lot better, we share what we know, and what we wish more people knew, about the keys to managing your weight in a healthier, happier way.
Pilar shares her Healthy Deviant approach to weight loss, and Dallas draws from his two New York Times bestsellers to help you rethink not just the way you’re eating, but also the way you are managing your thoughts, your energy, your daily patterns, and your biochemistry.
And of course, we offer you some experiments to help you recast your assumptions about weight, and weight loss, for the long haul.
For a lot of my life, I tried hard to pass for normal, to go along with what society told me would make me worthy, good, desirable.
That didn’t go so well.
I felt sad, sick, scared, heavy and slow — in both body and mind. I felt frazzled and anxious. I was stuck in all kinds of unhealthy ruts. I didn’t like who I was becoming.
So I decided to change things. I changed a lot of things, often just a little at a time.
Slowly, bit by bit, I let go of what the media and social norms proclaimed “right” and “normal.” I gave up fad diets and fitness crazes and counting calories and watching TV. I started studying and experimenting with smarter, better ways to live and be.
Basically, I embarked on my own Plan B. And then Plan C. And Plan D.
And as I experimented, my life got incrementally better. Dramatically better. I learned. I grew as a human. My life expanded in ways I could not possibly have predicted. I discovered that “normal” is overrated.
Much of my early experimentation was fun and wonderfully rewarding. But it wasn’t always easy. There were a lot of wrong turns, false starts and disappointments. There was confusion, self-doubt, self-recrimination, periodic hopelessness.
I wanted it to be easier and more rewarding — not just for me, but for others. And I still do. Because frankly, I really want to live in a world with more healthy, happy people. I want to be around them, and have them as friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, fellow citizens.
That, in essence, is what has inspired me to do a lot of what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years, including launching Experience Life magazine and RevolutionaryAct.com (along with its free companion mobile app, “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy”).
All of these are non-conformist projects aimed at cultivating healthy discovery, experimentation and expansion.
The Living Experiment is the outgrowth of questions that both Dallas and I have been asking — and living into — for a long time. Questions like:
Ultimately, both Dallas and I have been wondering: How can a whole bunch of us make our lives progressively better in a society where, for decades, so many measures of health and happiness have been getting progressively worse?
We know it can be done, because we’ve done it ourselves, and we’ve already helped hundreds of thousands of other people do it, too.
But we also know that it requires ongoing support, courage, perspective and encouragement. It requires continuous tweaking and adjustment. In other words, it requires experimentation.
The philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti said: “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
That could not be more true. And yet, it must also be acknowledged that being perceived as maladjusted to one’s society carries an undeniable social and energetic cost.
You don’t fit in. The default choices don’t work for you. Nothing is simple or convenient. You have to maintain a kind of hyper vigilance just to avoid getting sucked into the machine.
Sigh. Bummer, I know. The good news is, together, we can make it better. And that’s where our new podcast comes in.
If you’re interested in beating those odds, outwitting the statistics, and finding your own way to sustainable health and happiness, I think you’ll like The Living Experiment. Dallas and I would love for you to give it a listen.
Our first season includes episodes on some fascinating topics, spanning physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. From “Morning” and “Travel” to “Healthy vs. Hot,” “Pause,” “Fitspo,” and “Seasons.”
We even include our “Top 10 Biggies” — what we see as the fundamental keys to getting and staying healthy for the long haul.
If you’re interested, go to LivingExperiment.com to sign up for our e-newsletter. That way, we can keep you informed as each new episode comes out, hook you up with detailed show notes, links, resources, and more.
While you’re at the site, give the podcast a listen, and if you like it, please subscribe to it on iTunes or your favorite audio platform, give it a quick review, and tell your friends.
I’m still a bit new to the podcast world, but I’ve learned that subscriptions and reviews are a big deal, especially for brand new podcasts like ours, because they dictate the kind of ranking and reach we’ll have going forward.
And we really want this baby to reach a lot of healthy, happy experimenters. Starting with you.
Pilar Gerasimo is a health journalist and social explorer best known for her work as founding editor of Experience Life, a progressive, whole-person healthy living magazine that reaches more than 3 million people nationwide. Pilar is also the creative force behind the popular mobile app “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” and the author of an award-winning chapbook: Being Healthy is a Revolutionary Act: A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World. Pilar is currently working on a new book about healthy deviance. She lives on an organic family farm in Wisconsin with her pit-bull pal, Calvin. Learn more about her at PilarGerasimo.com and connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Adapted from A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, MD
Psychiatry, unlike other fields of medicine, is based on a highly subjective diagnostic system. Essentially you sit in the office with a physician and you are labeled based on the doctor’s opinion of the symptoms you describe. There are no tests. You can’t pee in a cup or give a drop of blood to be analyzed for a substance that definitely indicates “you have depression” much in the way a blood test can tell you that you have diabetes or are anemic.
Psychiatry is infamous for saying “oops!” It has a long history of abusing patients with pseudoscience-driven treatments and has been sullied by its shameful lack of diagnostic rigor. Consider, for example, the 1949 Nobel Prize winner Egas Moniz, a Portuguese neurologist who introduced invasive surgical techniques to treat people with schizophrenia by cutting connections between their prefrontal region and other parts of the brain (i.e., the prefrontal lobotomy). And then we had the Rosenhan experiment in the 1970s, which exposed how difficult it is for a doctor to distinguish between an “insane patient” and a sane patient acting insane. Today’s prescription pads for psychotropic drugs are, in my belief, just as harmful and misguided as physically destroying critical brain tissue or labeling people as “psychiatric” when really they are anything but.
My fellowship training was in consultation-liaison psychiatry, or “psychosomatic medicine.” I was drawn to this specialization because it seemed to be the only one that acknowledged physical processes and pathologies that could manifest behaviorally. I noticed that psychiatrists in this field appreciated the role of biological actions such as inflammation and the stress response. When I watched fellow psychiatrists consult on surgical patients in the hospital, they took these brain-body connections much more seriously than they did in their Park Avenue offices. They talked about delirium brought on by electrolyte imbalance, symptoms of dementia caused by B12 deficiency, and the onset of psychosis in someone who was recently prescribed anti-nausea medication. These root causes of mental challenges are far from the “it’s all in your head” banter that typically swirls around conversations about mental illness.
The term psychosomatic is a loaded and stigmatized term that implies “it’s all in your head.” Psychiatry remains the wastebasket for the shortcomings of conventional medicine in terms of diagnosing and treating. If doctors can’t explain your symptoms, or if the treatment doesn’t fix the problem and further testing doesn’t identify a concrete diagnosis, you’ll probably be referred to a psychiatrist or, more likely, be handed a prescription for an antidepressant by your family doctor. If you are very persistent that you still need real help, your doctor might throw an antipsychotic at you as well. Most prescriptions for antidepressants are doled out by family doctors—not psychiatrists, with 7 percent of all visits to a primary care doctor ending with an antidepressant prescription. And almost three-quarters of the prescriptions are written without a specific diagnosis. What’s more, when the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health did its own examination into the prevalence of mental disorders, it found that “Many individuals who are prescribed and use antidepressant medications may not have met criteria for mental disorders. Our data indicate that antidepressants are commonly used in the absence of clear evidence-based indications.”
So we have overprescribing, but we also have some very sick women struggling in ways that are dismissed as “psychiatric”. In 2014 Scottish researchers addressed the gap between what the science says about the causes of depression and what patients experience when they find themselves caught in the default web of psychiatric care. In their paper they highlight the value of what I practice: psychoneuroimmunology. Indeed, it’s a mouthful of a word, but it simply refers to examining (and respecting) the complex interplay between various systems and organs of the body, especially those that syncopate the nervous, gastrointestinal, and immune systems in a brilliant dance that in turn affects mental well-being. These researchers point out that many patients who are told they have psychiatric conditions originating in their head or related to some (fictitious) brain chemical deficiency actually share real biological imbalances related to their immune-inflammatory pathways. These patients show elevated levels of inflammatory markers in their blood, signs that their body is on the defensive, activating processes that can result in unexplainable physical symptoms and that are diagnosed as psychiatric rather than biologic. And rather than treating the underlying biology, they are instead relegated to a lifetime of therapy and medication, to no avail.
The idea that depression and all of its relatives are manifestations of glitches in the immune system and inflammatory pathways—not a neurochemical deficiency disorder—is a topic I explore at length throughout my book, A Mind of Your Own. This fact is not as new as you might think, but it’s probably not something your general doctor or even psychiatrist will talk about when you complain of symptoms and are hurried out of the office with a prescription for an antidepressant.
A multitude of studies now show an undeniable link between gut dysfunction and the brain, chiefly by revealing the relationship between the volume of inflammatory markers in the blood and risk for depression. Higher levels of inflammatory markers, which often indicate that the body’s immune system is on high alert, significantly increase the risk of developing depression. And these levels parallel the depth of the depression: higher levels equates with more severe depression. Which ultimately means that depression should join the ranks of other inflammatory disorders including heart disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, cancer, and dementia. And it’s no surprise, at least to me, that depression is far more common in people with other inflammatory and autoimmune issues like irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, insulin resistance, and obesity. All of these conditions are characterized by higher levels of inflammation.
To really grasp the fact that depression is not a disorder primarily rooted in the brain, look no further than some of the most demonstrative studies. When scientists purposefully trigger inflammation in the bodies of healthy people who exhibit no signs of depression by injecting them with a substance, they quickly develop classic symptoms of depression. And when people with hepatitis C are treated with the pro-inflammatory drug interferon, as many as 45 percent of those individuals develop major depression.
So when people ask me about why we’re suffering from what appears to be an epidemic of depression despite the number of people taking antidepressants, I don’t think about brain chemistry. I turn to the impact of our sedentary lifestyles, processed food diets, and unrelenting stress. I turn to the medical literature that says a typical Western diet—high in refined carbs, unnatural fats, and foods that create chaos in our blood sugar balance—contribute to higher levels of inflammation. Contrary to what you might assume, one of the most influential risk factors for depression is unstable sugar. Most people view diabetes and depression as two distinct disorders, but new scientific findings are rewriting the textbooks. One game-changing study published in 2010 that followed more than 65,000 women over a decade showed that women with diabetes were nearly 30 percent more likely to develop depression. This heightened risk remained even after the researchers excluded other risk factors such as lack of physical exercise and weight.
Personalized lifestyle medicine that accounts for the role of the environment in triggering inflammation and the manipulation of the immune and endocrine systems is the most sensible way to approach those individuals who would otherwise be candidates for multiple medications. It turns out that it may not all be in your head—but rather in the interconnectedness among the gut, immune, and endocrine systems.
It’s time we rewrite the textbooks. And it’s time we treat depression for what it really is.
Kelly Brogan, MD, is a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist, author of the book, A Mind of Your Own and co-editor of the landmark textbook, Integrative Therapies for Depression. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from MIT in Systems Neuroscience. She is board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, and is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. She is a mother of two.
Whole9 guest post by Peter Hirsh, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years
I have written a few posts for Whole9 about getting started with kettlebells. Kettlebells are an excellent fitness tool and can provide benefits that few other fitness tools can. These benefits include building true core strength, increasing flexibility, and unifying the mind and body. They are also a great way to train all of your muscles and cardio at the same time. Unfortunately, in my ten years of training and teaching with kettlebells, I more often than not, see them being utilized improperly and therefore not providing people with the true benefit that they are capable of. Today, I would like to address the most common mistakes I see people making when training with kettlebells.
This is the biggest mistake I see people make with a kettlebell. While it is a very versatile tool, it is not meant for muscle isolation and is ideally suited for power phase training. Before you learn the true versatility of the kettlebell, master the three primary kettlebell lifts, kettlebell swing, kettlebell clean&press, and kettlebell snatch.
People today are stuck on the idea of isolating their muscles when they train with exercises such as bicep curls and leg extensions. A kettlebell is a functional training tool and therefore its main focus is to use your entire kinetic chain with each movement. People often grab too light of weight because they are used to lifting with one muscle at a time. Your whole body working together as one can lift a lot more than just one muscle on it’s own. When people underestimate how much weight they are able to train with, they don’t get the full benefit from their training. When you are first learning to kettlebell train, you may need to use a lighter kettlebell for technique. However, once you have that down, don’t underestimate the strength of your body working together as one unit. Review my kettlebell weight selection chart to see what weight I recommend you use depending on your athletic ability.
Swinging the bell too low, or letting it get too far out front of your body are generally the culprit here. Remember, with everything but the swing, there will be a pulling upward of the bell to keep it on an up and down course so you don’t shoot it out front. Always remember that when kettlebell training you are trying to be as efficient as possible so you can maximize your potential. This is generally done by keeping the kettlebell as close to the plumb line of your body as possible.
This is the number one reason people are unable to lift to their potential, they are too tight. When I say tense, I don’t just mean inflexible, but also that they don’t know how to relax their muscles to maximize their movements. This tension is usually in the hips and shoulders and can manifest itself a number of ways. Kettlebell training when done properly is a very fluid practice and should almost look like an art form.
This is the most common misinterpretation of a kettlebell move I see today, and it’s generally done on purpose which is why I am pointing it out. In the past decade, a swing has developed in America that drives the bell overhead, an up and down movement. While I am not saying this isn’t safe and effective for certain people, it isn’t a kettlebell swing. A kettlebell swing is a front to back lift, not up and down. When you swing a kettlebell that high over your head you are not able to use nearly as much weight as you are when you utilize your hips and accelerate the bell forward to shoulder level.
It takes a long time to develop proper technique with all of the various kettlebell moves and beyond. Failure to take the time to develop the techniques from the ground up makes the practice not just pointless, but quite likely, detrimental. Train with intention and stay focused on every little move and breath. Kettlebell training is more than just mindlessly repping weights, it’s a practice that you can better with each one of your workouts.
I often tell people that kettlebell training is like driving a stick-shift for the first time. There is a lot to think about as you try to coordinate at first but after a short period of time your body learns the motor patterns and is able to do it somewhat unconsciously. However, instead of moving into mindless repetition mode, use the new found coordination to make each movement smoother. Kettlebell training, when done properly, is as much about learning to use your body than anything else.
Below is a video I have put together with all of the basic kettlebell moves and how to properly progress the. If you are just getting started with your kettlebell training or want to perfect your technique I highly recommend this workout.
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Connect with Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.
Whole9 guest post by Coach Rut, who has over a quarter century of fitness coaching experience and holds academic degrees in biology and physical education, and Master’s degrees in exercise physiology and sports biomechanics.
If you read the reports and the statistics, most people aren’t really getting more fit or any healthier. On my 5:00 a.m. commute to work, I pass four big chain pharmacies, all with a waiting line at the druggist counter. In spite of even more evidence pointing to lifestyle related illness and the benefits of movement (exercise), we are moving sideways at best.
Sure there is more conversation, more medicine, more tracking, more cookbooks and more gyms opening. However, much if not all of this lack of progress in improving overall health can be attributed to the afflictions of a modern world and technology. We simply don’t have to move as much in order to exist.
Our forefathers (or primal man), had a simple daily agenda. At the risk of offending all the Primal and Paleo experts I see it through the following lens:
The everyday routine for primal man was hunt or be hunted, gather or starve.
No gym memberships were available or needed. Life and exercise were an integrated experience. Today, we separate the two. We have our gym visits and we have… everything else.
Don’t get me wrong. Going to a location to have a structured approach to conditioning is awesome and valuable, but there are ways to integrate more activity that isn’t necessarily credited as exercise related.
I would like to suggest eight ways to make your every day more Primal and increase your daily level of activity.
This sounds amazingly simple because it is.. If possible walk to meals you’re eating out, to the market or other errands. There is a huge movement built around a magical 10,000 walking steps. You’ll up your game by carrying home your groceries in a back pack. Own a canine? His health will improve when he joins your walk. Walking can also get you sunlight, a dose of vitamin D, and helps to sync your internal clock.
This ties into the first, but I’m constantly amazed at how folks will prowl the parking lots hoping to upgrade their parking spot. I’ve informally done a study on this and have noticed that parking quickly beats the Rockstar-parking-lot-prowling approach. Park on the edge and hike in.
My cardiologist friends have been saying this for years. There is health in those steps. Thumb your nose at the elevator/escalator riders.
My daily office time is short compared to many of my clients but I don’t sit at all during the day. Part of that involves using a stand up desk at my office and in my home office. According to JUSTSTAND, I burn an additional 368 calories over the course of an 8 hour day. I’m not really into crunching calories during a workout, but this is going to exceed 50 % of ‘exercisers’ output.
Squatting is just so primal I can barely type! But you can really increase the benefits to your body by squatting instead of sitting. If I’m not standing to eat a meal, I’ll squat and eat. Lots of times I’ll squat and talk on the phone. I’ve even been known to squat and watch a television show.
For decades, I’ve been telling zealous parents to install a doorway pull up bar for their children. Have them earn entrance and exits performing pull-up(s). You can do the same at your home or if allowed, the office. Nothing screams primal like pull ups. If you can’t do a pull up, you probably would not have survived in the Paleolithic era.
These last two are a little bit influenced by my coaching world (sorry), but it a slick way to integrate more movement into your day. Simply set your alarm to go off every hour. On that hour stop what you are doing and perform some desk jockey stretches, wall push ups, squats (again), lunges or walk/jog/sprint to the drinking fountain. If your employer allows, get outside and hightail it around the building. You’ll probably find a rush of energy and creativity from the experience.
I’ve participated in and coached athletes from a number of athletic backgrounds. I’m convinced that all the engineering that has gone into footwear hasn’t been beneficial. I believe in the ‘zero’ midsole concept of footwear and encourage a barefooting lifestyle. Start slowly and increase your barefoot time at home. You can do everyone a favor by getting a pedicure too.
Becoming more fit and primal can be seamlessly added to your daily and weekly routine with only a minimal amount of effort and planning. You will conservatively triple your daily movement and increase your primal score. Have at it.
Michael Rutherford (a.k.a. Coach Rut) has over a quarter century of fitness coaching experience including working with competitors from the ranks of international, Olympic, collegiate, high school, middle school and elementary school aged athletes. Coach Rut also has worked in hospital wellness environments and rehabilitation clinics. All of these experiences have allowed him to bridge the gap between the needs of the competitor and those of the man, woman and child seeking enhanced personal health and fitness. Coach Rut’s Boot Camp Fitness program is the area’s largest and most established group exercise program and his training services have assisted thousands of Kansas City residents over the last two decades. Coach holds academic degrees in biology and physical education, and Master’s degrees in exercise physiology and sports biomechanics. He is a certified Club Coach by the United States Weightlifting Association and is a CrossFit level III certified coach.
If you want to create a habit change in your life that sticks, one crucial element is the belief that you can do it. But what is “believing in yourself”? You can’t measure it. You can’t see it. There aren’t foods or supplements that give you more of it. Evolving your Self, or ‘personal growth’ as it’s called as one of the 9 factors here at Whole9, is virtually impossible to measure tangibly, but you know it when it’s happening
When you’re getting better in your heart and head space, you notice yourself enjoying and handling and life better. The stresses, challenges, and nuances of life all become easier to when you’re handling yourself better.
Do you believe that a better version of you awaits you on the other side of the habit you’d like to change?
[Resistance is] a repelling force, it’s negative, it distracts us and prevents us from doing our work…it’s what keeps the entrepreneur from making cold calls he needs to make to get his business going, it keeps the writer away from the blank page, it keeps us from going to the gym…it comes as a voice in your head telling us not to work today and gives us a reason…this is not self-talk, it’s self-sabotage.
Sound familiar? It does for me.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I realized I had a longstanding belief about myself that I would end up overweight and sick. It “ran in my family” to have health challenges – so why wouldn’t I end up that way too? I’d been an athlete all my life, loved fitness & movement (so much so I got my degree in Exercise Science), and got a job in the field. As that belief came to the surface, I realized I had been white-knuckling my own fitness and nutrition choices, gripping tightly to workouts and a nutrition plan as a way to man-handle what I was certain my genetics had in store for me in the future.
I got up at 5am to workout before a no-less-than 11 hour workday. And I definitely wasn’t in bed at 9pm to make that 5am wake-up more reasonable. I doubled up on workouts on the weekend because if I was going to be a runner and lift weights, how else was I going to fit it in? Before I found out I had non-celiac gluten sensitivity, I’d plan to eat my own dinner before going to a social function and then just have a drink or an appetizer out because then I knew I was on track with getting all the right nutrients in.
I wasn’t meeting Resistance and overcoming it. I was running scared from Resistance and I was chucking into my path behind me all of my healthy habits in the hopes it would slow down the inevitable “I got ya!” moment when my genes and beliefs caught me and I was turned into the sick, unhealthy weight person I feared becoming.
Beliefs. Those things that you think are true about yourself and the world. Beliefs created in your mind might be: ‘the world is getting worse’, or ‘the world is getting better’, ‘I deserve (X)’, or ‘I am not deserving of (X).’
You could be sitting next to someone right now who holds the exact opposite belief in their head – and has “proof” to back up their belief, which is directly contrarian to proof you have that backs up your belief. Beliefs The things we believe about ourselves become so ingrained that you rarely think about them, but they affect the way you think and interact with the world every moment of every day.
When was the last time you took stock of your beliefs, and compared them to what you actually know to be true? Not just a passing glance either, but a full-frontal look at exactly what you believe to be true, and comparing it to what you’re actually experiencing. If the two don’t match up, you’ve got work to do. This is where personal growth work comes in.
However you choose to tackle personal growth work (religious teachings, philosophers writings, new age, Tony Robbins, or otherwise) is of course up to you. What matters is that you make progress along your journey.
It was with my own personal growth work that I realized this: I do not have to hold on to beliefs that I’ve proven to be false.
Without personal growth work, it can be difficult to get to a place where you’re ready to notice that reality isn’t matching up with your old beliefs. It can be difficult to see that you’re carrying around your old beliefs like a security blanket. Personal growth work helps this process because you’re able to to untangle emotions from beliefs and see what’s actually there. It can be tricky and requires a mental headspace that is ready to take on that task. Make a more eyes-wide-open appraisal of things, and start realigning from there. It isn’t easy, but …so worth it.
In my story, I realized that my belief that “no matter what I did I was going to end up sick and broken,” was also making it hard for me to fully adopt the ‘eat well, move your body’ habit. I was getting exercise in and eating nutritious food, but I was treating as something outside of myself that I was doing to achieve an end-goal, instead of adopting it into myself as just a part of who I am.
Old belief: “I must workout and eat well because I need to keep my future disease at bay for as long as possible before it overtakes me.”
New belief: “I am someone who moves my body and eats well and I don’t have to force myself to do any of it because there’s nothing I’m working toward, this is just what I do, and my body will respond accordingly.”
The in-between space of getting from my old belief to my new one was made easier by remembering that I don’t hold on to beliefs I’ve proven to be false. Whenever my mind would wander back to “but you gotta get your workout in today or else (insert all the scary things here)”, I’d take a quick inventory of reality and inevitably I’d find that I was still strong, still fit, still capable of keeping a consistent routine and still able to miss a workout and not get thrown into a tailspin.
The white-knuckle control I was trying to use in the past was a crude tool compared to the sharp ax of deep self-trust I now possessed. Knowing, at the deepest of levels, that I was a person who cared for her body, who gave it the space it sometimes needed to not workout in favor of more restful, “working-in” activities, and that all of it would add up to a body that was healthy, fit, and full of vitality.
Getting to a deep level of self-trust and self-knowledge requires work on your part. Personal growth work can start as easily as this: get a journal and a pen, and start writing down what you believe to be true about yourself. Then write down whatever realities you have that support that belief. Dig into any beliefs that seem to not have a lot of support in reality to back them up.
Personal growth work is like the food processor of meal prep. It makes it easier to get to the end result. Rarely do you have clear answers. If you did, you would already have implemented those answers into your life. As you are creating new habits, and removing old ones, dip your toes into the waters of Self Development. It can provide you with new tools, and sharpen your old tools, in order to help you continue your journey of growing into an ever-better version of yourself.
Kate Galliett is the creator of Fit for Real Life where she brings together body, mind, and movement to help people become highly-charged and fit for real life. She coaches clients in-person, online, and through her foundational strength & mobility program, The Unbreakable Body. She holds a BS in Exercise Science and has worked as a fitness professional for 12 years. Her secret ingredient is always smoked paprika.
(Photo credits from DeathtoStock)
A Whole9 guest post by Emily Deans M.D., a board certified psychiatrist with a practice in Massachusetts who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
One of the reasons mental health problems can be so difficult and debilitating is that they tend to start when someone is quite young. Adolescence is a key developmental stage of the brain, which is not fully “adult” until the early 20s. Babies, children, and adolescents of all species need more sleep than their adult counterparts, mostly because it is thought to facilitate the growth and maturation of the brain. Those teenage years in humans, however, is when getting enough sleep can seem impossible.
The general scientific consensus is that teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep every single night to be fully rested. Unfortunately, only 40% of middle schoolers get their 9 hours, and that figure steadily drops to just 14% of 9th graders and less than 5% of high school seniors. 17 year olds average 7.5 hours of sleep a night, and while that may seem close to the 9 hours that is needed, a chronic deficiency of even one hour of sleep has negative impacts on thinking, alertness, and functioning.¹ Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with physical signs of stress like higher blood pressure, low heart rate variability, and obesity. Mental health problems often go hand in hand with insomnia and decreased sleep; it’s not a coincidence that the teenage years are often when the first signs of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and even schizophrenia begin. While mental health problems definitely cause sleep problems, longitudinal studies of children and adolescents show that sleep issues tend to come first and may be causative in kids. For example, kids who sleep poorly have much greater risk of anxiety and depression as teenagers, but little kids who have anxiety and depression are not more likely to have sleep problems as adolescents.
The reasons for the lack of sleep in adolescence are obvious and numerous. Increasing hours of homework, greater after school activities, clubs and sports, along with the advent of part time work to make some extra money or pay for the first car. There is now the ever present allure of electronics (in the past, teenagers had a reputation for talking for hours on the phone and watching TV well into the early morning… now it has morphed to texting, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Snapchat). Teenage years are when many first begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol with their generally detrimental effects on sleep quality and sleep cycles.
Teenagers are known for being “night owls” as well, finding it far harder to get to sleep at night. This issue is actually a part of brain maturation… as the neurons undergo their final “pruning” the amount of so-called sleep pressure that builds up during the day, making one drop off to sleep at bedtime, is considerably less in adolescents than it is in pre-adolescent children, so some may find themselves having consistent trouble getting to sleep for the first time. The overall sleep deficiency also leads teenagers to try to “catch up” by sleeping much later on the weekends. Unfortunately this practice contributes to more and more phase shifting, later bedtimes, and zombie-like mornings on school days.
So how do we fix the problem and get teenagers to sleep more and get to sleep earlier? Studies show (perhaps not surprisingly) that parental sleep patterns and limit-setting strongly influence adolescent sleep. Adolescents with a strict bedtime of 10pm were 24% less likely to be depressed and 20% less likely to have suicidal ideation than adolescents whose parents allowed them to stay up past midnight.² Only 33% of 13 year olds in one study reported they had a set bedtime, dropping to 0% of 18 year olds.³
Telling parents to get their kids to sleep is far easier than the actual practice successfully establishing a strict bedtime. It is a natural part of teenage life to develop more autonomy and parents of teenagers must pick their battles. Managing electronics, keeping bedrooms free of bright LED lights that disturb sleep, and trying to keep a limit on after school activities might be some of the battles worth fighting.
Conversely, scheduling morning activities on the weekend may help adolescents keep a better sleep cycle, and leading by example by demonstrating good, consistent sleep patterns as parents can be helpful. “Catch up” sleep doesn’t wreck the sleep cycle as much if it happens as a 60-90 minute afternoon nap rather than sleeping late. Because sleep is so core to physical and mental health, prioritizing sleep makes all the different cognitive and physical challenges of adolescence that much more efficient and easier.
My previous two articles on sleep here on the 9 blog, Improve Your Mental Health With Sleep Part I and Part 2 give very specific advice on how to make sleep better, and the same strategies that work for adults can be adapted for children and adolescents. Quality of life and mental health are much better with sufficient rest, and it is up to us to teach the next generation about the importance of sleep.
Emily Deans M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist with a practice in Massachusetts and she teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She writes articles about nutrition, lifestyle, and mental health at Psychology Today. You can also find her on Twitter at @evolutionarypsy. (Please note: she can’t give medical advice over the internet, so please don’t request it.)