Week 1 Spark Insight: Coping Mechanisms

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Strategies for Successful Living

Critical Concept:  Coping Mechanisms
Fortunately, over thousands of generations, your body has developed incredible physiological coping mechanisms for adapting to stress. Unfortunately, this genetic adaptation didn’t involve adapting to chronic or long-term stress, with one exception - up until the last two hundred years or so, the only true chronic or long-term stress that man ever knew was famine.  Today, our seemingly never-ending stress is resulting in non-stop stress hormone production that is undermining our health in many ways..

The very same stress hormones that are released under the prolonged duress of famine or starvation course through our blood stream when we experience prolonged stress in our modern world.  These hormones change our global physiology and create a derangement of our metabolism.  In other words, chronic stress promotes fat storage, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, elevated blood fats, and compromised immune function (read obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer).  Specifically, a hormone called cortisol is released in times of stress.  Among other things, cortisol promotes the accumulation of the intra-abdominal or visceral fat called omentum – also known as “stress gut.”  The body’s creation of belly fat was originally intended for sustenance during the long, cold winter months when game was harder to come by.  Today, we face a veritable triple-whammy with drive-thru burger joints, a horrifically sedentary lifestyle, and an abundance of emotional or mental stress.

The take away for stress management:

  • FUEL: Eat Cleaner – lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and quality protein; no sugar, no grains, no processed vegetable oils
  • AIR: Move often – daily exercise to the point of exertion not only virtually erases the effects of stress, but will enable you to handle more stress before your body suffers from stress-induced breakdown.
  • SPARK: Go deep – get a handle on your sleep/rest schedule, your level of gratitude or thankfulness in your life, and feeding your mental/emotional self with ‘quiet time’, spiritual reading, and e-fasting (that’s deliberate periods no TV, computer, phone or internet)

Our modern ‘unnatural environment’ has led to an epidemic stress-derived chronic disease and the dreaded “stress-gut.”  Beyond aesthetics, omentum is considered one of the strongest predictors of heart disease and cancer. This fat actually increases our blood pressure by pressing up against our kidneys – influencing the hormones that regulate blood pressure.  Ironically, this same brilliant hormonal mechanism that helped man adapt and overcome the chronic stressors of yesterday is at the center of the number one killer of man today.

So what’s a human to do? Well people develop coping mechanisms.  It has long been recognized that journaling your life’s experiences is one of the most effective strategies to manage stress.  Each week you will engage your thoughts onto paper, answering thought-provoking and insightful questions to gain a greater understanding of how you think and the consequences of not only your thoughts but your reactions and how they affect all areas of your life, health and relationships.  The first week’s Spark Journaling Exercises pertain to the Seven Lifetime Value Accounts (please read this for a detailed explanation of this concept and process).

At the crux of almost everyone’s mental stress are the demands placed on our limited resources; namely our time, energy, focus and money.  The world seems to have an insatiable appetite for these things; everyday it seems that there are more demands and fewer resources.  In the economy of our lives, we must recognize the need for strategies that protect our limited resources.  If we are to be truly happy – and find peace of mind – we must strive to master managing these four assets.  For example, in the area of money or personal finances, creating a ‘Peace of Mind Account’is one of those coping strategies that lead to a desired outcome.

Well people don’t necessarily experience any less stress; they simply develop better strategies and coping mechanisms for dealing with it.  The Bonfire Health Program will empower you to choose healthier perspectives and responses to stress, as well as offering specific strategies and mechanisms for mitigating the effects of stress and reducing its occurrences.  The Spark Insights will equip you with best practices and vital behaviors that have been proven effective by everyday people in real world settings.

Life is full of surprises - get ready for them.

Week 1 Air Insight: Movement As A Nutrient

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Movement as a Nutrient

Critical Concept:  Exercise is not a luxury – it’s an essential nutrient
You have inherited an incredible genetic legacy.  One thing is for sure – you are the direct descendent of successful human beings.  The definition of success here is, of course, someone who survives long enough to reproduce.  Your genetic make-up can be thought of as a microscopic, “cellular blue print” for your health potential.  Your genes were shaped over thousands of generations by environmental pressures and the choices that your ancestors made in order to adapt and survive these challenges.  Not only was an active lifestyle a trait that all successful human beings had in common, but it is a critical concept to think of movement as a nutrient - just like water or hydration is critical to all aspects of cellular function, movement is an essential elementfor health. It’s not simply about “being in shape.”

If your ancestors didn’t move, they didn’t eat.  In fact, if they didn’t move, they were eaten.  Early man lived an incredibly demanding lifestyle – hunting, gathering, fishing, defending; life was active.  This genetic legacy that we’ve inherited expects and requires an extraordinary level of movement.  In fact, genetic experts agree that our genome has remained nearly unchanged over the last ten thousand years, yet our lifestyles today are nearly unrecognizable to the world that shaped them.

When was the last time you chased down your lunch?  And we don’t mean with a diet soda.  Did you fetch water today?  Build a shelter or collect wood?  In all of man’s history, there has always been an intimate relationship between energy acquisition and energy consumption (read:  getting food and eating food).  Today this is far from the case.  In the modern world there has been a divorce between securing calories (finding food) and consuming calories (eating food).  This has created a devastating energy imbalance that has led to an obesity epidemic that is at the root of our world’s chronic illness crisis.  At the epicenter of the chronic disease epidemic is a lack of regular movement as part of our lifestyle.

Your Paleolithic Stone Age hunter-gatherer ancestors never had the option of sitting down at a restaurant and ordering a nutritious dinner off of a menu – never mind driving up to a take-out window and have someone throw a bag of fast food into their car.  This lack of calorie-burning activities such as hunting and foraging has been compounded by the toxic and deficient food choices that we make.  This “disconnect” between our active genetic design and our current sedentary lifestyle is killing us.

Bottom Line:  Your cells require and expect movement to be healthy.

Our ancestors did not work out; they did not “exercise” – their existence was exercise.  This is not the case with us.  We must supplement our comparatively sedentary, movement-deficient modern lifestyles with exercise and activity.  The first place to start is to add activity to every area of your regular life. Best Practices include: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to school, or biking to work.  Parking your car as far away from your destination as time allows is a vital behavior.  Remember, research shows that all activity is cumulative; it all adds up.  In other words, three ten minute walks are the energy equivalent of one thirty minute walk – so get to it!

Week 1 Fuel Insight: Just Add Water

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Just Add Water

 

Critical Concept:  Water is it.
Your body is designed to be healthy.  The best definition of health is optimal cell function.  If you provide the elements that cells require for function and avoid those elements that are toxic by nature, you have the best chance of experiencing your true health potential.  Water is at the top of that list; water is one of those essential elements.

Water is critical in almost all of our bodies’ functions, including but not limited to:  digestion, circulation, respiration and healing.  Symptoms of dehydration include constipation, dizziness and fatigue, as well as skin, hair and nail issues.  As with all essential elements, water should not be thought of as a “treatment” for dehydration or a way to avoid constipation; rather, hydration is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle.  Air is no more a “treatment for suffocation” than water is a treatment for thirst.  Ideally, we should rarely, if ever, experience thirst.  We should simply drink water – and drink often. Hydration is critical.

The Innate Daily Requirement (IDR) for water will vary according to your body weight.  A good rule of thumb or Best Practice is to consume at least 50% of your body weight (pounds) in fluid ounces of water (and an additional 50% in healthy food choices – fruits and vegetables).

Optimally, we should drink pure spring water from our own well/land.  The a good alternative water source for the modern city dweller is Reverse Osmosis, but there is an entire spectrum of quality for your other water source choices.  An effective nudge for having and consistently (and easily) consuming clean water is to install an in-home Reverse Osmosis Filtration System.  This makes is far easier for you to make better choices and have the cleanest water source – on tap!

The trend in healthier water consciousness today has led to an unfortunate trade-off for the environment – plastic pollution.  Millions of plastic bottles end up in landfills and in the oceans every day.  In fact, there are toxic stews of plastic flotsam clustered on the surface of the ocean that are so thick that in some areas the concentration of plastic particles is higher than the level of plant and animal plankton.  One such cluster, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is reported to be twice the size of state of Texas – and still growing.

We have a solution to both problems.  Buy a cool canteen.  One of our favorite Best Practices in the Bonfire Program is to invest in a reuseable stainless steel canteen.  In our practices we found that when patients purchase a non-disposable canteen that they love, they keep it (and their water supply) with them at all times.  This increases water intake substantially.  You get all the health benefits – saving yourself and the planet, all at once.

Good job, you.