FeedBurner makes it easy to receive content updates in My Yahoo!, Newsgator, Bloglines, and other news readers.
If you’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other form of social media, you’re already all too familiar with “image crafting,” the act of carefully and deliberately constructing one’s social media content to control the way others view their life. Perhaps you’ve even fallen prey to the pressure yourself, un-tagging unflattering photos of yourself on Facebook, publicly praising every nice thing your spouse does, or adding #lovemylife to every. Single. Post.
As a result, our social media feeds read like a modern-day fairy tale, where every moment is wondrous, every interaction with our family is more precious than the last, and even the mundane (coffee with the girls! look at my lunch! stuck in traffic!) is a magical experience. Ever look at someone’s social media feed and think, “I just threw up in my mouth a little bit?”
We have too.
Ego, Pride, and Self-Worth
Don’t we all wish our lives were actually as amazing as they appear in our social media feeds? It’s normal to want to put our best face forward. Most people understandably won’t share the “What’s with my double-chin?” photo or the “My relationship is falling apart” status update—our pride and insecurities simply won’t allow it.
But image crafting isn’t just about filtering only the good news through. It’s about building a carefully constructed image that isn’t authentic, truthful, or even realistic—but sure does look good on paper, which is exactly why we do it. It feels good (at the time) to project this above-average version of yourself and your life into the world. You garner the admiration, praise, and envy of your social media network. You feel validated, your sense of self-worth and your self-esteem safe for yet another day.
The problem is that even though it feels good in the moment, over the long-term, image crafting hurts all of us—society, your friends and family, and you, the oh-so-careful image crafter.
Image Crafting Hurts Us All
When your friends’ social media feeds are full of perfect date nights, perfect workouts, perfect kids, perfect everything, it makes it really hard to feel like your imperfect life is good enough. Image crafting tells society as a whole that this perfect vision of life is not only attainable, it’s the norm—when nothing could be farther from the truth.
Comparison is the thief of joy, and constantly comparing yourself against a carefully crafted ideal is a surefire recipe for jealousy, disappointment, and malcontent with your own life—which, by the way, felt pretty satisfying before you pulled up Facebook. Nobody’s life is that perfect, but everyone’s collective image crafting makes it hard for society as a whole to develop and project more authentic expectations.
Even more damaging, the more people who image craft, the more pressure we feel to keep up—and the farther social media as a whole gets from reality. Do you want to be the only one in your social circle who doesn’t have the perfect wife/kids/job/house? Of course not. (We sense a “hashtag love my life” coming on.)
Image Crafting Hurts Your Friends and Family
When you carefully craft your social media feed with items designed to provoke admiration, envy, and idolization, you get just that—but at what expense? Friends compare their lives to your “life” and fall short in every area. You perfectly balance work and family. You always find time to exercise and eat healthy. Your hair is always perfect, your makeup always flawless, and your spouse is so considerate, thoughtful, and loving, they may just be a Stepford.
With your “perfect” life as a barrier, how likely are your friends to share their imperfect lives with you? It’s hard enough to admit to loved ones when you are struggling or failing, but sharing these things with you? Not gonna happen. Which means it is impossible to foster authentic, close relationships when you so carefully craft a perfect image of yourself.
Because of our image crafting, we lose the opportunity to connect authentically with those we love. Relationships become as fake as your feed: “How’s your job? Amazing! How are the kids? Amazing! How are your workouts going? Let me guess… Amazing!” No one shares the hard things, the real things, and your relationships never progress past the amazing fairy tale recitations for fear of disturbing the image you have so carefully constructed.
Image Crafting Hurts You
More than anyone, however, image crafting hurts you. The reason you image craft in the first place is because you feel like your life as it stands isn’t good enough, because the admiration of others feels really, really good, and maybe because your sense of self-worth is tied up in the opinions of others. These feelings are common, but they are also destructive.
The false image you have created of yourself and your life is unattainable by anyone—including you. The more you image craft, the more you realize you can no longer live up to the public image you’ve built. This makes you feel like a giant fake, an imposter in your own life—which creates intense pressure for you to not only keep up the image, but to constantly exceed it. Day in and day out, you have to be more joyful, more magical, more perfect.
And damn if that isn’t exhausting.
The more likes, the more comments, the more praise, the better you feel about yourself (in the moment), but the more the pressure builds. Your sense of self-worth hangs on the balance of the feedback you receive, and every single day is a new opportunity to fail. And when things in your life invariably get hard (because they will), what can you do? How can you ask for help when things fall apart, when you’ve been posing perfect for the last six months?
This behavior is isolating. It’s draining. You’re on a treadmill going faster and faster, and once you’ve image crafted so completely, you feel like there is no way off.
Are You Image Crafting?
Not every upbeat Instagram picture or Facebook status update is image crafting. It’s normal to want to share your “highlight reel” in public, saving the difficult or mundane parts of day-to-day life for in-person discussions with close friends and family. But if the image you portray on your social media feed is starting to feel like a ball and chain, ask yourself these questions the next time you post:
Lose the Ideal—Be Real
You may feel like getting off the image crafting treadmill is impossible, but it’s really just as easy as stepping off. This doesn’t mean you have to share every dirty detail of your life with the world (social media is not the appropriate platform for your recent bout with diarrhea or your wife’s irresponsible spending habits), but it does mean you have to start being more true to yourself in public.
Need some anti-image crafting inspiration? Check out what the awesome Lauren Fleshman (accomplished runner and part-time model) wrote after her Oiselle runway show.
Are you guilty of image crafting? (Don’t worry—we all are to some extent, so you’re not alone here.) Are you ready to get off the “my life is perfect” social media treadmill? Post thoughts, links to unflattering photos, and stories of your real life to comments.
From Whole9 South Pacific’s Jamie Scott and Dr. Anastasia Boulais. For more of their articles, visit the Whole9 South Pacific blog.
Just like your computer, phone, and nearly every other gadget in your life, you come with a factory setting: the way you are programmed to operate and all the software this requires. Let’s say that your basic factory-set operation requires you to eat only certain foods; move relatively frequently—at times fast, and at other times, under a degree of heavy load; recharge (sleep) for a certain period of time; keep synchronicity with the sun; to keep stressors intermittent; and to socialise regularly and in-person.
These all become your basic operating parameters. Not set in concrete—you can operate outside of those basic parameters for brief periods. But generally, these settings detail how you were intended to operate, honed over generations of testing.
What if, then, you begin to operate outside of your design specifications? You begin to add all manner of novel food-like substances into your system. You limit movement or cease it altogether. You inadequately recharge your system. You desynchronise your internal clock. You stress the system chronically. You spend more time online than outside in the real world.
Such a violation of your normal modes of operation would surely void your warranty.
In the computer world, it is a well-known fact that when you run multiple programmes on your system (particularly those which might be more novel, bug-ridden, or come from a third-party), some ‘conflicts’ or mismatches begin to occur. The system can run slow or even crash—blue screen of death, anyone?
Now, if you only recently loaded just one new programme, the fix for any conflicts or mismatches will be as simple as removing the offender. But what if you have multiple programmes causing multiple conflicts? Your food programme is conflicting your sleep programme. Your sleep programme is conflicting your movement programme. Your stress programme is conflicting your sleep, food, and movement programmes. And now your sleep programme is conflicting your food programme, causing a horrible negative feedback loop. Your system is sluggish, overloaded, stressed, and unstable, and it can no longer do what it was supposed to do (and used to do) out of the box.
One possible way of fixing such a scenario is to uninstall all of the problematic programmes and wind the system back to a point in time when it was functioning normally—in other words, perform a ‘system restore’ back to a known point in time when few, if any, conflicts existed.
In humans, this ‘system restore point’ is exactly the basis of the paleo/primal/ancestral movements. These movements, grounded in evolutionary biology, all assume that our best ‘system restore point’ is the one just before we started to make problematic changes to how we operate—a restore point made about 10,000-12,000 years ago at the end of the Paleolithic time period.
This system restore requires that we eat the foods which best approximate those of our ‘factory setting’—our ancestral past. The same holds true for our movement and sleep patterns, our daily synchronisation with light and dark cycles, and appropriate seasonal rhythms. It requires us to find ways to manage our stress toward a more intermittent ‘load – unload’ pattern and to socialise with a real face rather than a Facebook.
While this system restore can take many forms—the Whole9 Factors and a Whole30 reset, 10 Primal Laws, or 9 Steps to Perfect Health—the underlying purpose is the same: to reset your system as best we can and as closely as possible with your factory setting. The success of this strategy, and the time it will take to have an effect, will often come down to just how committed an individual is to taking all of the individual programmes (food, movement, sleep, etc.) back to those basic settings, and removing all of the novel and potentially problematic programmes (modern food-like substances, movement restrictions, sleep disruptors, etc.).
What is often missed in this system restore strategy is that some of the things which may have been causing conflicts can actually be reintroduced and tested once the system has been fully reset and stabilised. If you can’t imagine life without ever eating your most favourite legume, then the system restore process would require you to remove this food in the first instance, give your system time to settle back in to its reset point, and then add it back to test its compatibility with your system. If after a system restore you can successfully eat legumes without any problem, they can become part of your life again. If, however, there becomes a ‘compatibility’ issue with this food, you may need to reconsider their place in your diet, or accept that your system won’t run optimally if you leave them in.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Then why aren’t we all successfully restoring our systems after a long vacation, a stressful time period, or at any point when we realize our system is crashing? Too often we see people refuse to push the reset button in the naive hope they can instead find a ‘hack’—a shortcut around all of their lifestyle mismatch issues. (For the record, this doesn’t work long-term, and often makes things even worse.) Additionally, we see the fear and false belief that people can never go back to their favourite things ever again—even if these things prove to be 100% compatible with their system (like coffee). Still others become stuck in ‘system restore mode,’ too afraid to step beyond their restore point and test new things. (“I can’t eat that—it’s not Paleo!”)
Remember, a system restore is just a starting point—a place you know works well, a place from which you can confidently tweak and add on and modify your programmes to your liking. You’re not stuck with factory settings forever, nor should you want to be! There are so many programmes that will work well with your basic operating system, adding fun and excitement and happiness to your overall quality of life. So use the common guidelines of returning to eating real food whilst removing fake foods, moving every day whilst sitting less, getting adequate sleep by going to bed earlier (and so on) to restore yourself back to your factory setting. This will provide you with the best platform and opportunity from which to test the compatibility of new programmes in your life—and avoid your own personal blue screen of death.
Have you successfully “restored your system”? Or are you one step away from the blue screen of death? Let us know in the comments below.
Welcome to Ask Whole9 Canada, where Summer Innanen and Sarah Ramsden answer all of your health and nutrition questions. In this week’s episode, Michaela asks, “What are your thoughts on coconut oil, and its uses both internally and externally?”
Coconut oil is one of our pantry staples and is something we recommend everyone use in their cooking due to its stable saturated fat properties. If you search the internet, you will literally find hundreds of uses and benefits of coconut oil, both internally and externally. In this episode of S&STV, we discuss the primary benefits of coconut oil and our favourite ways to use it externally.
Got a question for Whole9 Canada? Send your questions about health, nutrition or where to find Whole30 approved sources of food (that you don’t need to import!) to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature you in an upcoming episode.
At a local seminar last week, an attendee asked Melissa, “Do you ever cheat?” There was so much to this question: We don’t call it a cheat, because we’re doing nothing wrong. We aren’t perfect eaters, because no one is, and we don’t expect you to be either. Yes, we indulge, when we decide it’s worth it. In essence, we practice what we preach.*
That brought to mind this post, originally written after a trip to Mexico in 2011. It’s a good reminder for those who have been following us a while, and a good introduction into our general nutrition philosophy for those new to the Whole9. Enjoy.
*For more on how we balance healthy eating with worth-it indulgences, re-read the “Life After Your Whole30″ chapter in It Starts With Food. Or read this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Because we’ve written about balancing healthy eating with special, delicious, worth-it foods so. many. times.
While on vacation in Mexico, we posted the following status update on our Facebook page: “Whole9 is grilling fresh mahi, making a giant batch of guac and kicking our heels up with some hand-made corn tortillas.” This was kind of a boring update, so imagine our surprise when almost 40 comments rolled in! (We’ve included a smattering of them here.)
We felt like this was an interesting subject for a post, given it’s not the first time this has come up. (We once admitted consuming some Nutella-stuffed French toast to a workshop crowd. The looks of shock and horror on our audience’s faces made us wonder if we actually said we ate a deep-fried kitten for breakfast.) The question is, does our standing as leaders in this community mean we have to be Food Robots, never eating off plan (or worse, doing it but never admitting it in public)?
Some may say we’re hypocritical for advocating the values of the Whole30 while eating the occasional corn tortilla or piece of French toast. We’d like to think we’re simply human, and doing a good job of actually practicing what we preach. So how DO you feel when you “catch” your nutrition educators eating less-than-healthy foods?
For those who are new to the site, it might be easy to believe that we are, in fact, food robots. The Whole30 program has been described as “militant” (among other things), and we understand it’s far more strict than a general Paleo or Primal approach. But please, do not confuse the Whole30 with living a Whole9 life.
The Whole30 is a short term (30 day) program. It’s designed to be a nutritional “reset” to help people get their metabolisms back on track, banish their sugar demons back into the darkness, and figure out the way the food they are eating is actually affecting them. But please note–it’s the Whole30, not the Whole365. And while there have been folks who have taken their program out an extra month or two, we don’t encourage anyone to stick with the Whole30 forever, and we don’t live Whole30 all the time, either.
Even if you haven’t read everything we’ve ever written (we’ve written a lot), it would be hard for you to miss the parts where we encourage you to take your Whole30 lessons out into the real world and create your own healthy, happy, sustainable lifestyle. That’s right–we think you should indulge from time to time! Constantly passing up Mom’s Christmas chocolate chip cookies, your own wedding cake, or a fresh, hand-made corn tortilla in Mexico because you’re trying to eat perfectly doesn’t sound very happy, balanced, or sustainable to us. On the other hand, hoovering every sweet treat you come across doesn’t sound very healthy, either.
We believe there is a perfect middle ground, which leans way to the side of healthy while still allowing you to enjoy the foods you really, truly love. And we have dedicated so much time and energy on the blog, in It Starts With Food, on our Whole30 forum, and in our seminars to helping you figure out what that looks like for you.
Here’s what we think is the most awesome thing about our program: We don’t decide for you what food may or may not be “worth it.” In addition, understand that “worth it” has nothing to do with how “bad” the food may be.
You, as big boys and girls, get to do your nutritional off-roading all on your own. If corn tortillas or French toast aren’t your thing, then skip ‘em. If your favorite food in the whole world is dark chocolate or hummus, then that becomes your indulgence. If you prefer tequila shots or a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries, then those are your things. We’re not here to tell you whether a food is worth it, or that it’s “too unhealthy” of a treat to even consider eating. We just try to provide guidelines for helping you determine how, when, why and how often to indule, and when you should just take a pass. And isn’t that the way it should be?
So here is our position, in a nutshell. Do the Whole30 a few times a year to push your nutritional “reset” button. Follow our helpful guidelines for nutritional off-roading and make your own educated, informed decisions about incorporating less-than-healthy foods based on what you’ve learned from your Whole30 experiences. And continue to refine your own “worth it” determinations as you expand your knowledge of your own healthy eating habits.
So, based on the above, what do you think? Are your nutrition role models hypocritical for not upholding their strictest standards 365 days a year… or are we simply human, enjoying all the benefits of our own Good Food programs in a happy, healthy, sustainable fashion? Discuss.
Welcome to Ask Whole9 Canada, where Summer Innanen and Sarah Ramsden answer all of your health and nutrition questions. In this week’s episode, Corinna in Nuremburg, Germany asks, “What are the common reasons for skin breakouts in adults?”
Unfortunately, many adults (especially females) suffer from acne, and the root cause is generally the result of things going awry inside the body. Acne that you find around your jaw line is often the result of hormonal imbalances, specifically low estrogen, high progesterone, high testosterone as well as any abnormal patterns in their rhythm. Adult acne can also be attributed to compromised digestion and poor gut health, as well as increased chronic systemic inflammation in the body.
In this episode of S&STV, we discuss the primary causes of adult acne and give you specific direction as to how to heal it.
Here are the key things to address when you are trying to heal adult acne:
Got a question for Whole9 Canada? Send your questions about health, nutrition or where to find Whole30 approved sources of food (that you don’t need to import!) to email@example.com and we’ll feature you in an upcoming episode.
Thanks to my first article (When Work Takes Over Your Free Time) you’ve recognized the value of separating work into work time and fun into fun time, you’ve improved your organization, you’ve stopped multi-tasking—all in the name of feeling less stress and finding more free time for fun.
Here’s a classic question: “What would you do with your day if you didn’t have to worry about money?” The question is meant to open up space to think creatively about how to use your time without the constraints of a job, finances, or cost of living. Very often, the things we’d find to fill our day are mostly things we find rewarding and fun—spending time with our kids, taking up a sport, traveling, or volunteering. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “Oh, I wouldn’t change a thing,” even if they loved their job.
But even if we were that fulfilled by our work, we would still need to make time for fun. There are needs in our spirit and our life that work cannot satisfy. Only the freedom, relaxation, and joy that comes from fun can fill that part of you up.
Why do you take a vacation? It’s money spent, lots of planning, and usually involves at least one hassle or snafu—but what it gives you is happiness, a time to recharge your batteries, memories you’ll carry for a lifetime, and possibly some incredible views of this great world of ours. You bring something like a vacation into your life because what it offers is of greater value than living your life the same as you always do.
But even vacations are hard to find time for, aren’t they?
News flash: You are allowed to feel at peace, relaxed, and one with yourself. You don’t have to be “on” all of the time. As a former type-A worker-bee, I can tell you, the pull of always being on the clock is a strong one. But that’s not what makes you human, and it’s not what makes you healthy.
I’ll be the first to admit, it’s easier to hang on to the routine of “all work, no play” than it is to explore what activities fill you up on other levels. I love my work—writing, seeing clients, being a part of the fitness world. But I had two intervals this past year where I worked (and worked, and worked) and took zero breaks to experience anything other than the feelings I had while working.
Where did that get me? The quality of my work degraded, because at that time, if my life were a song, there was only one note. There were no changes in tempo, no higher or lower notes, nothing that deviated from the singular sound of ‘work’. Our life needs to have opposition, tension, deviation, and range in order for it to feel good. Put another way, we appreciate the light because of the darkness.
Even if you love your work and are beyond happy with what you do and the financial or ‘feel-good’ value it returns to you, it will lose its value if it is not offset with experiences and actions that create novelty and variety.
‘Fun’ can look different to everyone, but the core theme of ‘fun’ is to have things in your life that are for taking time, even if for only a bit, to be carefree, not worry about outcomes, and to feel enjoyment in the moment.
It’s important to create a picture of what you’d like to do in your fun time, even if that time doesn’t yet seem to exist. You will use this picture to combat the daily drudge that sets in when your work/fun balance is off. It’s much easier to hold to a stopping point for work when you’ve got driving forces like excitement and joy waiting for you on the horizon.
To bring fun into your life, you must figure out what things (or what feelings) you value above the satisfaction you get from work. What things have you done in the last few months that made you feel satisfied, alive, enriched, or joyful?
Still don’t know what you’d like to really do in your free time? Here are a few questions to help you get started:
What have you always wanted to do? It’s okay if initially all you can think of is “chill out.” Before I started cultivating harmony between work and play in my life, the only thing I could picture feeling better than work was how it would feel to lay on the couch. So I did that for a while. And then that got boring. I started noticing what non-work things made me feel “chilled out” but also alive with fresh energy. Then I started doing those.
What has caught your attention time and time again? Nature. Cooking. A recreational sport. Anything you loved doing as a kid that you could pick up again? You’re never too old, ya know.
What brings you deep joy? This can be a tough one to answer if you get satisfaction from keeping to a schedule and staying on-point with a plan. Deep joy can be felt when a big plan comes together, but there are often only a few ‘big plans’ in one lifetime. Learn to find deep joy in actions you can make a regular part of your life.
If you’re not sure of these answers, then what a perfect thing to do during your first “fun time”—the very act of exploring what leisure activities bring you the most excitement, passion, and joy. Remember, there are no “shoulds” regarding fun. If books are your thing, then read for fun. If hiking in nature is your thing, then do that. If underwater basket-weaving really gets you fired up, then grab a snorkel and go. (Unless you’re at work, in which case, organize yourself, stop multi-tasking, and make time for underwater basket-weaving as soon as possible. Your work quality will be all the better for it.)
Remember, fun keeps you moving forward. It motivates you to accomplish work tasks and duties, provides a reward of emotional satisfaction, and reduces stress. But regular doses of fun are also a necessary part of staying balanced, healthy, and happy. Don’t write fun off as frivolous—make it as much a priority as work, and you’ll find all the areas of your life (work included) will benefit.
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 also owns ProKine Performance, a strength and conditioning gym in Saint Charles, IL. She and her team build intelligent, comprehensive, fitness programs for their members, and provide strength coaching for a large portion of the local endurance community. She holds a BS in Exercise Science and has worked as a fitness professional for 11 years. Her secret ingredient is always smoked paprika.
Welcome to Ask Whole9 Canada, where Summer Innanen and Sarah Ramsden answer all of your health and nutrition questions. In this week’s episode, Lisa on the East Coasts who asks, “I have been paleo for over three years but continue to have food sensitivities. Is there a way to get rid of them?”
We always encourage you to do your own self-experimentation after you have completed your Whole30 in order to determine what foods you may be sensitive to. However, if you find that you are sensitive to a certain food, this does not always mean that you will be sensitive to it indefinitely.
In this episode of S&STV, we discuss the following:
Sarah has many recipes for fermented foods on her website here.
Got a question for Whole9 Canada? Send your questions about health, nutrition or where to find Whole30 approved sources of food (that you don’t need to import!) to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature you in an upcoming episode.
Today, we’d like to talk about recovery. No, not economic recovery—though that would be lovely—but physiological recovery from the stressors placed upon us by our modern physical world.
These two words, “rest” and “recovery,” have distinctly different meanings when applied to health, fitness or athletic contexts. Recovery can encompass many different behaviors and strategies, but it is fundamentally different than just resting.
Rest is simply the absence of effort or movement—the absence of exertion. Think taking a day off from exercise or sport, napping, chilling on the couch, rotting your brain with Jersey Shore or Lost reruns, and going to bed nice and early so you get adequate sleep. All of that is fine and good, but resting is only one small part of true recovery.
Recovery is the restorative process by which you regain a state of “normalcy”; healthy and in balance. (If your “normal” is not “healthy,” perhaps you should spend some time considering that.) Recovery is far more than just taking a day off from training. Genuine recovery includes adequate rest, but also must include the engaged, deliberate execution of a cogent plan to offset the (physical and psychological) cost of your training.
In his 2010 All Banged Up post, Whole9 founder and physical therapist Dallas Hartwig wrote:
“I see more sub-acute and chronic injuries resulting from inadequate recovery from exercise (especially with high-intensity programs), than resulting from an acute or traumatic incident. The primary fault lies with inadequate or improper recovery from exercise, not the type or intensity of exercise. (To put it another way, it’s not that you’re hurting yourself doing pull-ups – more often than not, it’s because you’re not properly recovering from those pull-ups.) I believe that a high-intensity exercise program is both effective and sustainable life-long only when combined with good nutrition and recovery practices.”
Merely taking a day or two off from exercise when you’re feeling overtrained (or All Banged Up) is, to put it bluntly, the slacker’s version of “recovery.” One of the many things that was underscored during our training with Rob MacDonald of Gym Jones is that recovery requires just as much (or more!) discipline as training itself. Which means if you’re training hard, a case could be made that you should spend more time focused on recovery than you do on training itself.
Don’t have that much time in your busy, stressful life? It might mean a little less training and a little more time spent on recovery.
Still don’t think that’s really necessary? Maybe you just don’t realize how stressful your life really is.
Let’s review the biological concept of hormesis as it relates to recovery. Hormesis is an adaptive process that occurs as the result of a specific “dose” of a stimulus. In simple terms, you could summarize it as “the dose makes the poison” meets “what doesn’t kill you might make you stronger.” Hormesis describes the dose-specific response to a stimulus; whether something’s net effect is beneficial, harmful, or neutral depends on the “dose.”
Another way to put it is, “some is good, but more is not better.” Hormesis is at the core of our favorite refrain, “context matters,” and is reflected in our Whole9 Health Equation as the balance of Stress vs. Recovery. Why all the focus on stress?
“Psychological stress and physical stress are virtually indistinguishable in the body.”
We wanted to give him a standing ovation for that. So what does that mean, in terms of hormesis and our Health Equation? If you’ve got a ton of psychological stress, that costs you something. It costs you recovery capacity. It cuts into your reserves. In fact, being chronically psychologically stressed is probably more damaging than overtraining or under-sleeping, though those are obviously poor behaviors, too.
Think about your own life. Ask yourself if your “dose” of a stressor is appropriate for your context. There are lots of examples of stressors: intermittent fasting, high-intensity exercise, under-eating, cold showers or acute exposure to cold, sleep restriction, caffeine intake, eating extremely hot peppers… the list is long.
A “stressor” isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but the application of that stressor in that dose in a context already saturated with a high stress load may be detrimental to your health.* If you’re a parent with an infant (and thus some degree of sleep deprivation/disturbance), a busy job, and some financial stress, do you think the net effect of getting out of bed at 5:00 AM five days a week to do high-intensity exercise is positive? Likely not. (If we just described your life, please… just stay in bed.)
*This is one of the reasons why we rarely recommend intermittent fasting to our consulting clients. Unsurprisingly, most of them are on the “too much” side of the stress scale, rating their daily stress at an average of 8 out of 10. These folks don’t have any “reserve” left to offset an additional stressor, which means adding IF on to their current health equation would do them more harm than good. IF may be a perfectly appropriate tool for other folks with different contexts, but it’s not for everyone.
Exercise is an excellent example of hormesis in action. An appropriate “dose” of physical stress provokes a positive adaptation in your body (you get fitter), but dosing progressively larger and larger amounts of exercise can be seriously detrimental to your health. Make no mistake – excessive training (or, perhaps stated more accurately, under-recovering) can and commonly does have serious health consequences. And what look like “reasonable” training for one person might be way more stress than a different person has the capacity to adapt to.
Clif Harski and Eva Twardokens, among other Smart People we know, talks about the “minimum effective dose,” that sweet spot on the hormesis graph. This is where healthy adaptation is occurring, but you’re on the safer side of the stress curve, not revving at the redline day in and day out. In the case of exercise, doing none is pretty unhealthy, but doing too much is unhealthy too.
The real key is to find that sweet spot, where you’ll have optimal adaptation to the stressor without reaching the point of diminishing returns–or worse, when the exercise “takes” more from your health than it gives back. Like with other stressors, exercise is dose-dependent, and the appropriate dose for you depends almost entirely on you, your context, and your goals.
Are you Under-Recovered? Here are a few things to look for:
Any of this resonate with you?
So how does all this connect back to actual recovery? In order to progress forward with health, there must be a relative balance between Stress (such as exercise) and Recovery. Otherwise, you’re writing checks your body can’t cash, eventually ending up beat down and “overdrawn.”
In case you’ve not experienced this eye-opening phenomenon firsthand, take our professional word for it: it takes a lot longer to recover from an overdrawn state than it took to get you there in the first place. Like paying off debt, it’s a prolonged and generally miserable process. We’re not trying to scare you – we’re simply sharing what we know in the hopes that it will save you some heartache. Take it or leave it.
You don’t get fitter when you are training. Whether you are weightlifter, do Zumba, swing kettlebells, or run marathons… you get fitter when you are recovering from that training.
Being committed to recovery means that sometimes you don’t train hard, even if you really want to, and even if everyone else is doing it.
This is real recovery, and this is where this is where you reap the benefits of your hard (training) work.
Finally, a few last words from your recovery sponsors.
“Aerobic” is not a dirty word.
If you’re passing on lower intensity, longer duration activity and exclusively working at a high-intensity, we think that’s a short-sighted perspective. For our clients, we recommend regularly spending at least a half-hour doing easy activity as part of your recovery practices. Riding the Airdyne, walking, swimming, or biking for 30-90 (long, slow, boring) minutes expedites recovery from hard training, improves metabolic efficiency (especially in folks on a low-ish carb, high-ish fat diet), and improves cardiovascular health.
Don’t confuse durations over a half hour with “chronic cardio” – the long duration, moderate-to-high intensity stuff that really nails you. To be clear, no one was ever harmed by a two hour hike or an easy spin on the bike with their kids. Keeping the intensity low is the key to recovery activities, and including some long, easy stuff in your routine improves health and recovery from hard training—which ultimately will improve performance in your higher-intensity sport or exercise program.
Regardless of how you choose to step your recovery up (perhaps, in part, by stepping your training down), it’s time. Summer’s activities are just around the corner, and if you play a sport, participate in outdoor pursuits, or simply like comparing your physical capacity to others (or yourself!), now is the time to invest in yourself. Now. Not tomorrow, or next week, or after a few more workouts. Now.
You owe it to your Future You not just to rest, but to recover.
A Whole9 South Pacific feature.
Performance does not equal health. Many of you will be well familiar with this adage, or (if you’ve attended one of our seminars) the health versus performance curve. This curve shows two paths (performance and health), rising gradually together and very closely following each other for a good amount of time—until at some point, the paths diverge. Performance continues to increase, while health decrease. In simple words, as you strive for peak performance in your chosen sporting endeavour, you may have to take steps which may take away from your health. Having worked with semi-elite to elite athletes in the past, we are well aware of this phenomenon.
However, our recent experience made us realise that with effort and diligence, health and performance can continue on together, hand in hand, for much longer.
We met the 22-year-old fighter Sam Bastin (www.sambastin.com) and his coach Jason last year. Through their exposure to the Whole9 approach to nutrition, both improved their diets moving towards more wholesome food with good quality meat, fresh vegetables, seasonal fruit, and healthy fats. When they approached us for nutrition advice prior to Sam’s next fight, we knew that Sam was already starting from a good baseline.
However, the task before us was not an easy one. Sam was going to fight in a new weight class for him: Featherweight, with a cut off weight of 66.5kgs. At the time of our first talk, Sam was walking around in his lean fit frame of 82kgs. Dropping 15kgs in 10 weeks is hard enough, however we also needed Sam to maintain his fitness, his muscle mass, and his fighting edge.
The traditional way Sam used to drop weight was to do lots of cardio, reduce his overall energy intake, eat low-fat everything, and rely on significant fluid losses in the days directly before the fight. We asked ourselves if we could do things differently: have Sam eat real food without counting calories or choosing low-fat processed junk. We used the Whole30 program as the base and made a few modifications to allow for twice-daily training and steady weight loss. Pasta, juices and cereals were out. Sweet potato, lots of eggs, and fatty meats were in.
Sam’s coach Jason was all-in… with some concerns. “We decided to take a gamble on this one. Sam needed a structured approach since he has never dropped that much weight before the fight. We weren’t sure if this was even possible.”
We could not wish for a better guinea pig. Sam was diligent and hard working. He took our advice on board and followed our program to the letter. As the weeks were passing by, he was hitting his weekly weight targets while maintaining his conditioning and energy levels. Cutting days just prior to the weigh-in are notoriously brutal, but Sam’s determination won through. At the end the water weight came off without a hitch and Sam weighed in at 66 kg.
Hungry and dehydrated, he had 24 hours to get ready for the fight.
Sam’s previous diet immediately after a weigh-in resembled that of a starving kid in a candy store. He used to replenish his empty glycogen stores by stuffing himself full of cakes, pasta, chips, and soft drinks. Once again we needed a different tack. After weeks of gruelling training and nutrition regime we did not want to lose the game because of poor refuelling, increased inflammatory load, foggy sugar brain, and gastrointestinal upset.We worked out a 24-hour plan designed for optimum rehydration, glycogen repletion, and an energy boost, all without powders, supplements, or medications.
REAL FOOD ONLY.
We were on the edge of our seats awaiting the fight result—but we needn’t have worried. Sam’s skill, fitness, grit, and determination carried him through to win the fight and become Combat 8 Featherweight Champion!
We are incredibly thankful to Sam and Jason for giving us the opportunity to prove to the athletic world that you don’t always need pricey supplements, pills, shakes, and tricks to achieve your sporting goal. Sam says, “I am enormously grateful to Whole9 South Pacific for all their help. I never felt hungry, I had lots of energy, but at the same time the weight was coming off. I couldn’t do it without these guys. Thanks heaps for your knowledge and your support.”
Jamie and Anastasia are currently scheduling Whole9 Nutrition Seminars in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. Bring them on to teach your clients and athletes how to apply real food nutrition protocols in their daily diets, training diets, and compeitition day diets to maximise both health and performance. Email email@example.com for more information.
I was talking with my newly-retired mom when she mentioned she was tired and feeling like she wasn’t getting a break. My ears perked up immediately because I’d heard her say those same things when she was working full-time—but I didn’t expect to hear them again once she retired. What was keeping her time from being her own? So I asked her.
She explained her daily schedule to me and how she felt like she was always going, never getting free time to go do what she wanted. So why did my mom have no time for fun, despite having just retired from her full-time job? From what I could tell, it was Parkinson’s Law in action: “Work expands to fill the time allotted for it.” If given ample time to complete a task, we will find ways to make it take the full duration of the time allotted, even if the task could be completed in less time.
How does this happen to one who is retired? One issue is that Mom had no timeline for completion of her work items, nor did she create a set list of tasks. If we don’t set firm boundaries for when things needed to be completed, Parkinson’s Law takes over, and the work permeates our entire life, creating the illusion that there is no “free time” for fun. And that means stress.
Parkinson’s Law is a major co-factor in the game of stress management. Failing to set boundaries for work tasks is stressful. You’re never ‘off duty’. The work just hangs over your head all the time, and the fun never seems to materialize.
So in an effort to get more work done faster, what do you do? You end up multi-tasking your life (trying to do more than one thing at the same time). Great. Now you’re working on lots of things at once, but still not committing to completing any one thing. And we all know how well multi-tasking really works. (Spoiler alert: not well at all.)
The outcome? Mom had far more time on her hands in retirement, but the busy-ness seemed to consume just as much time as when she was working full-time.
So how do you avoid Parkinson’s law sucking all the fun and play out of your busy life?
Create a list of “work” items with deadlines, so that you can see what’s really on your plate. As the saying goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Simply saying “I have work to get done” is unspecific and thus, unfocused. When you can clearly see the specific work that lies ahead, you can then begin to itemize your time accordingly.
Stop trying to multi-task, and stop procrastinating. Allow for complete focus on one item at a time, rather than halfway dealing with three items at once. And stop doing all those menial tasks that need to be done but aren’t as important as the big stuff—procrastination further fosters that cloud of dread hanging over your head.
Hold firm on your deadlines. Deadlines mean nothing if not adhered to, and while our word is good, external reminders are better. This could be as simple as writing down the work to be done on a sticky note with the targeted completion date, and sticking it somewhere you’ll see it regularly.
Of course, this last one isn’t as easy as it sounds. As much as I love a good “to-do list” on a sticky note, for me, it’s too easy to avoid. So let’s talk about some strategies for working more efficiently, and preserving your fun time.
Schedule clearly defined work times. When you can look at a situation objectively and logically, you’ll be able to set boundaries for the ‘work’ without any associated emotions of guilt, worry, or “should”ness (the act of continuing to work on an item because you feel like you “should”). You could go day-by-day, take a week overview, or do both. Ahead of each day, set specific time periods each day for working, and when the time is up, it’s up. You can now rest easy and enjoy your free time because you know you’ve put in solid effort on the work, and you’ve earned some fun.
Use an app like “Remember the Milk” to help with work scheduling. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this app has changed my life. Within the app, you can set up time-sensitive to-do lists and the app will email, text, and track exactly what you’re supposed to be working on at that specific time, as well as put looming deadlines right in front of your eyes. You have to note whether the item is low, medium, or high priority, and physically check off once you’ve completed the task. And if you have to postpone the deadline, there’s a section for notes to remind you at a later time where you were at in the project and what you were working on.
Set rules for yourself about checking email or social media. We know just how distracting the near-constant checking of apps and emails is to your train of thought. If you’re regularly taking breaks from your work to check email or scroll through a social media app, you’re bringing ‘free’ time into ‘work’ time, and thus diluting the quality with which you can focus on completing the work. After reading Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Workweek, I implemented his suggestion for having designated spaces for checking email, and not checking email outside of those times. This allows you to stay on your schedule, not on the schedule of the email and its sender. I found that if I checked emails first thing in the morning, my creativity was hampered for the rest of the day. But if I did two hours of creative work first thing, then checked and replied to emails mid-morning, I could be productive while still being timely in my email responses.
Once you start bringing focus and clarity to your work and fun times, you’ll likely notice your stress levels going down. All you have to do now is follow the plan you’ve set forth—and we know having a good plan makes your brain happy.
As for my mom? She’s committed verbally, with deadlines, to a few tasks she is going to complete on her ‘work’ end of things. It is my hope that with that set in place, she will now have time to start exploring what incredibly fun things she can start making time for in her life.
Read Kate’s follow-up post (What Really Makes You Happy?) and take the next step in building fun into your life.
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 is also the owner of ProKine Performance, a strength and conditioning gym in Saint Charles, IL. She and her team build intelligent, comprehensive, fitness programs for all of their members, and are proud to provide strength coaching for a large portion of the local endurance athlete community. She holds a BS in Exercise Science and has worked as a fitness professional for 11 years. Her secret ingredient is always smoked paprika.