The Three P's and Learned Helplessness

mental health Dec 17, 2020

"Two Lists"

I recently heard an interview with Corey McCarthy, who experienced significant trauma growing up in Buffalo, got mixed up with drugs and alcohol abuse, and spent many years in prison.  He has subsequently become clean and sober, has been released from prison, and ministers to those stuck on a similar journey.

One of the ideas he spoke about, and which I loved, was the idea that we all have "two lists" we read from. The first is the list of all the negative things that might hold us back - childhood trauma, lack of money or education, genetic risk, etc. Reading from this list tempts us to place blame and avoid responsibility for the choice we get to make for how we respond. When the "check engine" light comes on in the car, it's saying, "Why does this always happen to me?"

The second is the list of things we could be grateful for. It's the list of people who support us, opportunities we have, maybe even the opportunity to use the mess in our own...

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Dietary Fatigue

What is dietary fatigue?

I've often discussed the difficulty we all have in making healthy choices consistently, and the need to build a personal system that helps you make "the healthy choice" on a regular basis. Without this, most programs rely on willpower, and therefore eventually fail.

On the Sigma Nutrition Podcast, I heard a fascinating discussion with Gregg Slater. He is head of education at Lift the Bar, a company which educates fitness professionals, and a former PE teacher and Physical Training Instructor for the Royal Air Force.

This interview resonated with me as he focused on providing solutions for the decline in adherence, the ability to stick with a program, that invariable occurs over time. For weight loss, he called this dietary fatigue, and introduced the concept that:

  • Dietary Performance = Energy Deficit - Dietary Fatigue

That is, the result that you would see with your weight loss program is equal to the calorie deficit you intend to create minus...

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2 Sleep Hacks

sleep Dec 02, 2020

Sleep and Metabolism

When I talk to people about controlling blood sugar and/or weight loss, I like to focus on 3 key elements needed for an Optimal Metabolism - Quality Movement, Quality Nutrition, and Quality Sleep. So what's up with sleep and metabolism? It turns out that people who are short on sleep tend to put themselves into a "metabolic storage mode" and have difficulty losing weight effectively. If you are curious, check out this interesting study.)

Unfortunately, as we get older, our sleep quality tends to diminish. For me, I usually fall asleep pretty easily but often I awake at 3 am and can't get back to sleep. The "monkey brain" starts going and my thoughts jump around from this to that, faster and faster, and sleep becomes elusive. So, I am always interested in strategies to help get back to sleep when I hear them.

Sleep Hacks

I like listening to and reading material from Gretchen Rubin, who writes about habits. I heard these 2 sleep "hacks" on her Happier...

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Revisiting the Blue Zones

My great aunt Barbara is 98 years old. She lives alone, still plays bridge, does her own shopping, and really seems to enjoy her life. She's fairly agile, and one would have a hard time calling her frail. She gets to enjoy 3 generations of descendants in her family. She really enjoys her life.

While none of knows how long we will live, I suspect most of us would agree that we would like to live whatever years we have with a minimal degree of disability, pain, and limitation. We'd like to live our years as healthy as possible.

If that's true for you, you need to know about the Blue Zones.

What are Blue Zones?

I think this research is really cool. Dr. Dan Buettner and his team have identified 5 areas in the world where people seem to live, on average, significantly longer and healthier than the rest of the world, and they have studied what makes these people unique. The story goes that they originally circled these 5 areas on the map in blue marker, hence the name Blue Zones...

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Who are Your People? (Or, Creating Your Own Microculture)

Who is Your Tribe?

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with."

This quote has been attributed to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, and I believe there is a truth to it. The people you spend time with greatly influence your behavior - both in positive ways as well as negative ones. Your sister who always seems to say the right thing when you are down, to help you get back on your feet, that is positive. Your brother-in-law who keeps encouraging you to eat one more hotdog after you already declined ("C'mon, it's the weekend, live a little") is a negative influence.

So what does this have to do with health? Stay with me for just a moment.

Your World

Culture can be defined as "the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group." We can think of human culture, American culture, or even culture built around sports teams or dog breeds. Any time a group of people like to spend time together and have a...

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How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Metabolism

Sleep is Important for Your Metabolism

It might not be a shock to hear this, as the importance of sleep has been in the news more frequently, but proper sleep is important for your metabolism. Short sleep makes it harder for you to lose weight, and can increase insulin resistance and cause glucose levels to rise. This week I'll highlight two hormonal changes that occur when you don't get enough sleep - increases in ghrelin and decreases in leptin.

Ghrelin and Leptin

Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones discovered since 1994 which have important effects on metabolism. For our discussion, think of leptin as a hormone that signals when you have sufficient energy - caloric intake and fat stores - and works to decrease appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the stomach and is known to increase hunger.

In a classic study, researchers studied 12 healthy young men, and found that when they slept 4 hours nightly for 2 nights, compared with sleeping 10 hours, they had decreased...

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When Is The Best Day to Plant a Tree?

healthy lifestyle Oct 21, 2020

My father, before he passed away, often said things like "if I only knew then what I know now." He might be giving advice about working with a difficult boss, navigating the dating world, or taking care of his body.

It seems true in life that as we make progress on our journey through life, we make discoveries that would have been exceedingly valuable if we had taken action on them year prior. 


You may have heard the adage that starts, "When is the best day to plant a tree?" Answer: 20 years ago. When is the second best day to plant a tree? Today.

This week's thoughts were prompted by a study that showed the rates of 6 obesity-related cancers are on the rise in young adults. Specifically, the rates of multiple myeloma, colorectal cancer, gallbladder cancer, kidney cancer, uterine cancer, and pancreatic cancer were increasing in adults ages 25-49 years old. While the exact cause of the increase is not known, one hypothesis is that the rising rates of obesity...

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Success Leaves Clues - Lessons from the National Weight Control Registry

"Success Leaves Clues"

I'm borrowing a quote this week, from personal development speaker Jim Rohn. The long version is “Success leaves clues. Be a better observer of the winners and the losers, those who are doing well and those who are falling behind. Take mental notes and say: ‘I’m going to adjust what I’m doing based on what I see.'"

By studying those who have already gone where you desire to go, you can "shortcut" the process and learn from their success (and their mistakes) so as to speed up your progress.

You may have heard that losing weight and keeping it off is difficult. In fact, there is a whole movement called Health at Every Size that states that we should stop encouraging folks to lose weight and instead focus on health. I do agree with the sentiment that we should not stigmatize overweight, and that people of any size can get healthier through nutrition, movement, and sleep, even if they do not actually lose weight....

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Are You Living By Design or Default?

healthy lifestyle mindset Oct 07, 2020

The Brain-Behavior Gap

Have you ever had one of those moments where you stop all of a sudden and wonder, "when did I stop doing that?" I know meditation is good for me personally (I tend toward racing thoughts), but the habit of meditation has never been very "sticky" for me. Recently I had a busy week, and somewhere in the midst of it, my meditation habit fizzled out.

Do you have a recent experience like this? If so, let me share some insight from Kyra Bobinet, MD, a researcher at Stanford who I heard discuss behavior change on the Sigma Nutrition Radio podcast.

She tells a story of interviewing a woman in a weight loss program who was excited about the progress she was making, but then said, "I know what I should do and eat, I just don't know why I don't do it." That is a thought I've heard repeated in my clinic over and over through the years. Anyway, this thought motivated Dr. Bobinet to delve deep into what she termed the brain-behavior gap. That is, the gap that...

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Can You Use Food to Decrease Inflammation? A Look at Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Nutrition and Energy

In last week's post, we focused on energy production, and one of the points introduced was this:

  • Think about inflammation and healing. Your body works best when its repair system is functioning well, and excess inflammation can impair the healing process. Excess inflammation is associated with many adverse health outcomes including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Ways you can help:
    • Choose unsaturated fat over saturated fat (there is controversy about saturated fat currently but the scientific literature clearly supports that unsaturated fat has greater health benefit)
    • Choose quality carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, whole grains)
    • Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I received several inquires about omega-3 fatty acids, so let's take a deeper look.

One way to improve your nutrition, and therefore your health, is to simply start thinking about food quality, and looking for ways to "upgrade" what you eat....

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