Sunday, April 23, 2017

And now a word about "Creating Happiness" from the Surgeon General of the United States on TED-MED

And now a word from our former Surgeon General about "creating happiness" through the powerful practices of gratitude, meditation, and social connectedness (community).
In summary: We can CREATE HAPPINESS in our lives, and this can lead to change our health behavior and health outcomes.
Positive physical health outcomes can result from practicing gratitude, and we have the power to touch other peoples lives through simple gestures or kind words. This will increase our happiness factor at the same time.
The Gratitude Study: 3 Randomized Groups
Gratitude group: Participants were asked to daily write down 5 things they were grateful for.
Hassle group: Participants were asked to daily write down 5 things that hassled them.
Control group: Participants were asked to daily write down 5 things that happened, without a positive or negative slant.
At the end of 10 weeks, the "Gratitude" group had a greater level of optimism, and had more positive view of life. They also exercised for 1.5 more (on average) hours per week (then they had at baseline), slept better, and had fewer physical symptoms of pain, nausea, headaches.
Study Conclusion:
The simple practice of gratitude had the power to increase their happiness, and to change their health behavior and health outcomes.
Do you focus on the things you are thankful and grateful for? Or do you focus on the things that hassle you? Where do you direct your attention? If you practice gratitude regularly (rather than focusing on things that hassle you), studies show you will decrease your risk of heart attack or stroke, increase your chance of living longer, decrease your chance of your kids using addictive substances, and increase your chances of losing weight! Yes. You read that right.
WE can focus on gratitude, instead of focusing on hassle, which always leads to anxiety. We CAN creating wellbeing and happiness in our lives, AND pay it forward into other's lives through the daily practice of gratitude. WOW.
My own added thoughts and contemplations:
Perhaps these Bible verses, then, represent powerful advice not just for spiritual health, but for medical and emotional wellbeing as well! WE can guard our minds, direct our thoughts, and choose what we focus our attention on:
Philippians 4:6-8
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Thessalonians 5:15–18 — Thankfulness, God's will for you. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Ephesians 1:16
"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,"
Colossians 3:15
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Practical tips - Things to START doing, and perhaps things to STOP doing:
1. START taking a few minutes each day and think of all the people and circumstances you are thankful or grateful for.
2. START practicing small gestures of kindness, or giving words of encouragement, to others.
3. Consider the Apostle Paul's advice about learning to BE content in any circumstance you are in:
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." - Philippians 4:12. Notice he said "learning to be content". BEING Content is not a default state for us humans, it is a learned and practiced skill.
4. Pay it forward by helping others enrich their lives in some way. Help others create happiness. Be of service to your neighbor, to your friends, to strangers. Practice the golden rule of "doing unto others as you would have others do unto you". And guess what, you don't even have to feel like you are "in the mood" to do this! The Bible explains that if we are sad, if our hearts are downcast, SERVE OTHERS and that will CHANGE! Serving others can actually LIFT our spirits, boost us out of a depressed state! Truly! I know this to be true, and have seen it first-hand!
5. Get IN to community. Connect with others. Don't isolate, but reach out.
Here are some practical ways you can STOP FOCUSING on hassles. Choose to "look away" from them! How do you do that?
1. STOP following friends or acquaintances on Facebook whose posts ALWAYS seem hassled, offended, harried, negative or angry. You don't need to unfriend them, they'll never know you have turned off notifications to their page or unfollowed their news feed.
2. Reconsider where you source your news from. Maybe it's even time to take a short of long break for awhile from the doom and gloom of what passes for "news" these days? Do you fill your mind with the headlines several times a day? Is the world going to evaporate if you unplug from the news for a day? A week? A month?
3. What about that drive to and from work? How about leaving 10-15 minutes early for work so that the rush-hour traffic is less of a frantic, hectic hassle because you now have more time to get where you need to go?
4. What do you listen to on that commute back and forth to work? Talk radio? Peddlers of pessimism? Try changing to an audiobook or listening to your favorite music.
Try these things for a few days, a week, or a month then reflect on the changes they can make in your life.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


I love talking to people about health.  I love meeting someone for the very first time, and more often than not, at some point in the conversation the topic will just come up.   Sometimes I mention it, sometimes they mention it.  Many times the conversation turns to THEM letting me know all the reasons about why they aren't/couldn't be/don't have time to/ begin a journey towards health.
And heaven knows I don't judge.  I DO listen, however.  I listen with intent to try to find out what they TRULY want.  Do they want me to agree with them that they can't do it?  Are they looking for a solution? Do they just want me to listen?
It's hard to discern sometimes what exactly to say to someone who is giving a litany of reasons why they would prefer to remain in their current state of un-health or even chronic disease brought on by their obesity.
Do these sound familiar? Have you, when you've told someone what you are doing to get healthy, gotten some of these responses?
"I could never do that!" (OK I believe you!)
"Well, you've probably never had a weight problem in your whole life!" (Ya got a minute?  Or an hour?  Let me talk to you about that LOL!)
"I just love food too much!"  (How is that working out for you?)
"I don't have the time do to that!"  (Eat 1 meal of protein and vegetables, and then 5 times pre day rip open the wrapper of a bar and eat it?)
"I don't have time to go to the gym!"  (That's GREAT!  This program doesn't require you to!)
"I'll just gain it back again!"  (Our program gives you the tools to choose NOT to do that, but it will depend on what instructions you send your body every day in Maintenance. Are you living the habits of health daily? Or are you eating what you ate before the program?)
"My Birthday/Anniversary/Son's Wedding/Easter/4th of July BBQ/Cruise in 4 months/Dog's Friend's Sister's Husband's Bachelor Party/Superbowl 2018 is coming up and I don't want to start anything before then!"   (Um....Ok....)
"What would they say about me at work?"  (Well, after 1 week on the program they would likely say that you have a certain glow, an energy, an optimism, and a joy about you that you didn't have up to a week ago. They'd say "something's different about you, and some will beg you to tell them what it is? They'd SEE that you are transforming your life. That is what they would say, and if they aren't saying it you can be sure they are thinking it).
The funny thing is that I've had a number of those "reasons" MYSELF in the past, reasons I put out there as to why I wasn't willing to take that risk, the risk that maybe I actually COULD live the healthy life I'd always dreamed of.
And I listened to MYSELF every time.  Until I STOPPED giving those excuses the time of day.
What made me stop?  Because I'll tell you if there was a magic fairy dust you could buy on Ebay called "excuse overcomer" EVERYONE would buy it, one would THINK. Or, would they?
Are we comfortable with our reasons for not stepping out and making the decision (followed by the effort) to make a change in our lives and health? I mean, let's face it, our reasons may be killing us over the long-run but they are EASIER in the short-term, and while we are just barely surviving through our days (as opposed to THRIVING), these reasons are comforting because they are familiar. Kind of like when a baby sits contentedly in a soiled diaper, "it's warm and it's mine, no need for a change".  At least we know where we stand when we are unhealthy, because we've been that way much of our lives. Fear of change can be a paralyzing force, truly. And for some people, life may always be about what they could have, should have, but DIDN'T do.  

I was done living that way. I made the decision that although I didn't know where this journey was going to take me, I was going to be an explorer, an adventurer in my own way, and FIND OUT! The road was uncertain, that mountain looked ominous, but I really wanted to know what it felt like to get to the top, to climb the mountain, to see the world from a different view. In other words, I stopped WONDERING what it would be like to be healthy someday, stopped WISHING I could do it someday, stopped PLANNING on maybe doing it someday, stopped doing lots of RESEARCH about what was the BEST way to do it...someday...and I made the decision to step forward into action.
I decided WHO it was that I wanted to be, then I began to DO the DO I needed to DO in order to BECOME that person.
"First, say what it is you would be.  Then do what you have to do." - Epictetus
I don't see any excuses or procrastination in that simple quote. It is a "First Say-Then Do" scenario.  

Decision followed by action.
So if you could strip off every excuse you have given yourself as to why you aren't making this a priority in your life, and just go with "Why NOT?" that would be my advice. Truly, what's the risk of taking that step towards health?

Also, if you are ON the program but are struggling with staying on plan after a week or two, or a month or two, and you ask me the question "but how can I stay on plan?"  here is my response. I don't have "the answer" but YOU have your answer.  YOUR answer is your WHY.  
Not "Why I have to-need to-should lose weight". 
Not "I'm just in so much emotional pain and conflict, and so miserable where I am now, that anything is better than this." 
Not "My doctor told me I needed to lose weight (but, curiously, gave no guidance on HOW to do that). 
You long-term deep down and truly unique-to-you WHY is NOT a reason attached to FEAR, FORCE or FACTS. 
Now, these things may have initially gotten you ON the program in the first place, that much may be true. In fact, many people do get involved initially with a "diet mindset" which brings with it concepts of deprivation, buckling down, wondering if they'll have the willpower etc. To this I say "Hey, whatever it takes!" to BEGIN. To overcome that obstacle you've placed in your brain that has, until now, kept you in the chains of inaction, the "behavioral procrastination" you have experienced in the months or years leading up to you making the decision to change. "Whatever it takes!" to allow you the courage, or maybe even desperation, to begin seeking "a solution". Even though, at the beginning, the solution you are seeking is "to not feel miserable anymore. And hey, we for SURE have you covered in this area (as soon as ONE WEEK after starting our program you will be feeling amazing)! 
You need a REASON to do something that may be outside your comfort zone.  If you don't HAVE a REASON, and a compelling on that inspires you to DO something, then you'll always find your reason why NOT to. And that reason is exclusive to you. It is yours. You own it. You may have misplaced it for awhile, or left it in the back of the sock-drawer, but let's go find it again. You may also have never really allowed yourself to dream down the road of getting healthy because you feel like you've tried everything and are always left disappointed. Either way, let's get busy and find your WHY. 
Our goal in the process of the program, and with the help of our educational component and healthy community component, is to help you move from a "diet mentality" to a "creating health mentality". Our goal is to help you develop and remind yourself daily of your REAL why. Your inspiring why. We want you to begin to dream of a life of health and begin to harness that deeper, inspirational, life-giving WHY, that WHY which will draw you IN to that life of health. If you do not begin to cultivate THIS kind of why, chances are as soon as you are down a few pounds you will begin to struggle.
If you've been on the program and find that you are struggling, examine your WHY. You will likely find that your "WHY" is still attached to the desire to get AWAY from the emotional conflict and pain which initially drew you to the program, and because you are feeling AMAZING even a week into our program, and your emotional pain and conflict has indeed lessened (and trust me, we WANT that! In fact, we want you to feel even MORE amazing and energized as the program continues). But if your motivation is tied to feeling awful and wanting to get AWAY from that state, and you remain in that "diet mentality" then as you start "feeling less awful" you'll find your motivation to continue the program will decrease as well. Your actions will follow, you'll be taking "BLT's" (bites, licks & tastes) of foods that are not on the program, and (oddly enough) you will find you aren't getting results anymore. This will discourage you further, and you will assume "well, the program just stopped working for me." No, you stopped working the program. The program's effectiveness did not change, but your consistently following the program did.
It has been my experience that those (including myself) who find themselves struggling with the PROCESS, the HOW of doing the do simply need to either develop initially or connect back to their WHY.
If your HOW isn't "taking care of itself," with your healthy routines you have established, then you'll want to revisit your WHY.
Rinse and Repeat!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Oh Where, Oh Where Did my Motivation Go? Oh Where, Oh Where Can it Be?

These words are so true!

Disclaimer: This is a long post, grab a cup of coffee or your water bottle and settle in!

When we start down the path to living an optimally healthy life, it is usually directly preceded by an event or a moment of clarity where we just KNOW we want to do it! We are motivated to get started, and even change our ways - temporarily. But motivation is a limited resource, and soon runs out. This is why we stress learning HABITS of HEALTH. The biggest question I get is "will I gain IT back?" Well, if your emphasis is on simply LOSING WEIGHT and you stay in a "Diet Mentality" then your focus is always on losing weight. You define success as how much weight you lost this week, last week, in the last 4 hours (LOL), and what happens when you are at your goal and aren't losing weight anymore? I've been there and done that with that mindset, and I have to tell you it's almost anticlimactic, because since I have no more weight to "lose" how am I going to feel successful anymore? Well, if that is my only measure of success, if that is what I have pinned my emotions to, then the only alternative is to gain weight BACK so I can LOSE it again in order to feel successful! It sounds nuts, I know! Habits can be UNHEALTHY too, and if you are finding it hard to stay on program during the weekend, for example, It is simply because you are in the HABIT of going off program every weekend, and that is what compels you to continue doing it. It isn't BECAUSE you lack motivation, which you very well might since, in my experience, it usually disappears on Friday, around 3pm, and returns Monday morning when the alarm goes off (and is usually accompanied by other emotions like guilt, shame, regret, and a sense of hopelessness).

What to do?


Break the habit loop. It will be hard the first weekend you determine to break that habit, but truly, it is also SIMPLE. There is no circumstance in the normal course of our daily lives which is KEEPING you from remaining on program during the weekend. Any circumstance that you can think of is simply a concept. The exceptions would be if you are in jail, in the hospital, or have been duct-taped to a chair by captors and force-fed by gunpoint, so if you find yourself in any of THESE situations then yes, it's likely any of those three circumstances could prevent you from controlling what and when you eat.The focus of OUR program, the program that has the potential to bring an INCREDIBLE and STUNNING transformation of your health and, in the process help you develop a healthy mind as well, is to begin living an "Optimally Healthy" life. One of the ways we move into an optimally healthy life is that we learn and master the Habits of Health (Dr. A's book) and internalize them, truly develop the healthy habits that will carry us forward. Believe me, MOTIVATION is not one of those habits. Motivation is simply an EMOTION and can COME and GO! It always will! There is nothing wrong with you when you lose steam and think "Where did my motivation go? How can I get motivated again? I'm just not motivated anymore!" Of COURSE it disappeared! You are chasing an emotion, you a chasing a feeling that is elusive, by nature! The solution is not to put yourself in a position where you are always just looking for "more motivation" to prop yourself up. Believe me, motivation is hard to find on a Friday or Saturday night, especially when you might not even be LOOKING for it by then. The solution is to make a fundamental decision that you will begin learning and practicing habits of health (which do NOT rely on motivation). Developing a healthy mind is not about "really really really wanting to lose weight", which can lead to "really, really FEELING like losing weight". It may START there, but it cannot END there, because even if you can "hold your breath" all the way to your "Goal weight" you will then find you will need to come up for air. What does coming up for air look like? It isn't pretty. In this scenario it means you will likely be back to your old unhealthy habits from BEFORE you started the program, which usually results in regaining the weight. Since you viewed the entire process as a process of "deprivation" (which is, again, indicative of a "diet mentality"), you will be DONE with "depriving" yourself. After all, you've "reached your target," right? You may even skip the all-important "Transition" phase (step 3) of our program because, hey, you made it! You did it! Well, if your goal was "to lose weight" then yes, technically, you reached your goal, if this was always a diet to you. But, did you know that "losing weight" is not even one of the phases of our optimal health program?
Here are the (verbatim) phases of our program (see the Optavia Guide):
1) Preparing for your journey
2) Getting to a healthy weight
3) Transition to healthy eating
4) Living the habits of health
5) Optimizing health for your age
6) The potential for living a longer, healthier life
The purpose of OUR program is truly to LIVE an optimally healthy life. If you determine to switch your focus from a "diet mentality" to a mindset of "Living an Optimally Healthy Life" then you find yourself on a JOYFUL journey (because you are seeing real results, weekly, sometimes daily, from your dedication and action), instead of a FRUSTRATED journey (pining over all those yummy things you tell yourself you can't have, daily) that has nothing to DO with deprivation, or even your up-and-down levels of motivation! If you began to master the skill of daily practicing the Habits of Health in phase 2 (getting to a healthy weight) then you HAVEN'T arrived at your "goal" because we will ALWAYS be moving towards optimal health! Sure you are now out of the "Getting to a healthy weight" but you will joyfully move in to the "Transition to healthy eating" phase confidently! And, six weeks later you will then move into the "Living the habits of health" phase, which then include optimizing health for your age and in sum total these phases will give you the potential for living a longer, healthier life.This doesn't happen on it's own, automatically, it takes utilizing the four components of our program, which are the following:
1) HEALTH COACH: Actively engaging with your health coach - did you know I still talk with MY health coach every week, almost without exception, and have done so for the last 6 years?
2) HABITS OF HEALTH SYSTEM: Actively engaging with the Habits of Health System - reading Dr. A's Habits of Health systematically and regularly, and working through the "Living a Longer, Healthier Life" workbook. Habits of Health are not some nebulous concept, they are clearly defined in Dr. A's Habits of Health. They are simple to understand, and we can get you on the path to truly embracing and living them.
3) COMMUNITY: This means living your own journey out loud to the degree that is comfortable (and sometimes uncomfortable) for you, which creates a support systems from the people around you in your daily life. It also means, in many cases, bringing people along with you into optimal health, people you care about and want to do life with. Basically, engaging with and becoming part of a community of like-minded people pursuing health.

4) FUELINGS: Utilizing the fuelings as are appropriate to the phase you are in. If you are still getting to a healthy weight, this means you are on the Optimal Weight 5&1 Program. If you are transitioning to a healthy weight, it means you are following the transition guide and over 6 weeks are moving to a 3:3 program. If you are in the last 3 phases you are eating 6 times a day, in a structured way and with healthy nutritious foods, with 3 meals and 3 healthy fuelings (not product dependent, but many people do continue to use the fuelings due to convenience).
So my advice today?
First, do a "mindset check". Is this a joyful journey because you have set you mind on living an optimally healthy life? Are you moving through the phases of the program in a way that can ensure predictable transformation? If so, keep doing what you are doing, continue learning and mastering the habits of health, continue building community and engaging in community of healthy-minded people.
Is this a frustrating journey because you can't seem to make your actions align on a consistent basis with what you have SAID that you want? Well, if you are simply wanting to "lose weight" and this is a "diet" for you, then let's talk because you CAN work towards shifting from a diet mindset to a mindset of attaining and living in optimal health. If you view this as a health journey already (not a diet) and are struggling, then let's talk, because you CAN reduce your frustration by taking the actions that will take you where you want to go!
How DO you do that?
1. Make a fundamental decision that you want to create optimal health in your life. This is a decision, a commitment, and isn't swayed by emotions or circumstances.
2. Put all of your goals and dreams regarding your health goals at the TOP of a piece of paper. This is where you are headed, where have decided to go. It may look different for everyone, because our goals and dreams regarding our health are always individual. But they are YOURS. And you have DECIDED you will go there. These are measurable goals, not one's like "I want to feel better and have more energy". That will happen on day 4 of our program, so that isn't a measurable goal.
3. Write an OBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT of your CURRENT HEALTH REALITY (where you are now) at the BOTTOM of a piece of paper. Don't be harsh, but be accurate. Remember, this is NOT subjective, it is objective.
4. Starting from the bottom (current reality), and moving UPWARDS towards your goal write down the ACTION STEPS you are going to take to move from your current reality to your health goals. Be detailed in these steps, and make them action-oriented. We can do all the studying, preparing, learning, wishing, praying, dreaming, and hoping that we want to do, but if we do not STEP into ACTION then nothing will move forward.
If you would like some help with this step, please let me know! Sometimes it's hard to talk nuts and bolts with action because we've lived in the hoping and dreaming arena for so long it can be hard to quantify these steps into actual action.

And most importantly of all, WHY are you doing this, anyway? Why did you begin the program? Do those reasons still exist? Are they still important to you? Reconnect with your WHY, and then learn and master (practicing daily) your Habits of Health, and utilize ALL the components of our program.
Happy Sunday!