Week 2 Spark Insight: Restorative Sleep

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Restorative Sleep

Critical Concept:  Go to Bed
For thousands of generations, the cycles of the sun and daylight dictated the rhythm of our lives.  When the sun went down – so did we.  The world was a dangerous place in the dark, so our ancestors would grab their mate, head back to the cave, and call it a day – early.  There was no modern appliance or electronic technology to keep them up – so nightfall signaled the end of the day.  Very often in the modern world, sunset simply marks the beginning of the second half of the day.

Late night television, the internet, 24 hour drive-thrus, and 60-hour work weeks have created a cultural norm of nocturnal living that is unrecognizable to our ancient hard-wiring.  If you are like most people, your body expects and requires more sleep than it gets.

In fact, Dr. John Medina author of Brain Rules says that 90% of Americans are chronically over-tired.  Although this has noticeable implications in our day-to-day lives, like midday head bobbing and black circles under your eyes, the silent damage you’ll experience with sleep deprivation is a real killer – literally.

Our body uses sleep to rest and repair our tissues.  Our brain requires sleep to process the information from the day.  Critical sleep cycles involve hormone balancing that affects everything from your energy and moods to your metabolism and ability to regulate your body weight.  Sleep deprivation is actually a predictor of obesity.

Healthy sleep patterns promote complete sleep cycles.  Your brain goes through different sleep phases when you rest.  REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) involves dreaming; non-REM sleep is the deepest and most critical phase of sleep.  This is the time that your most vital repair and recharge takes place.  The more complete sleep cycles you experience, the better.  For most of us, that means getting back to the cave – earlier.

In order to ensure maximal complete sleep cycles, humans thrive best when we follow the Circadean Rhythm that is coiled deep inside your DNA.  Dictated by the light of the sun, this rhythm is a physiological set point that has promoted early to bed, early to rise, for millennia.  Getting to bed before 11 p.m. is a best practice followed by the healthiest, most energized people in the world.  Tallying seven hours or more of quality sleep has been shown to increase longevity.  And, lo and behold, the afternoon nap turns out to be one of the most effective and productive methods for increasing energy and improving cognitive skills and focus, while mitigating the adverse effects of chronic stress by lowering circulating stress hormones like cortisol.

Try going to bed fifteen minutes earlier for 21 days.  Studies show that a new habit can be formed within 21 consecutive days.  Repeat this every 21 days until your target “bed-time” is reached.  This vital behavior is effective in conquering the late night habit that leaves you nodding off at the wheel.

Help nudge yourself into bed on time by creating a sleep sanctuary.  Invest in a quality sleep surface, a high quality pillow, and comfortable pajamas.  Practice an eFast (no electronics) 30 minutes before bed – in fact, keep the TV, Blackberry and computer out of the bedroom all together.

Avoid foods or drinks, such as caffeine or alcohol, that disturb healthy sleep patterns.  Keep conversations relaxed and loving; discuss or focus on the things that went well that day; never argue before bed – emotional upset is the most common cause of “social insomnia.”  Journal, pray or visualize a better tomorrow and be grateful for today.

Week 2 Air Insight: Energy Balance

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Energy Balance

Critical Concept:  Net Calories
Our bodies thrive when we operate at a Net Zero or Net Negative Energy/Cal balance

The Energy Crisis
We inherited a genome that expects and requires energy expenditure through movement.  Our genes are best thought of as an owner’s manual.  Science is revealing more every day about how to read this double helix code book to unlock the instructions on optimal living.  If we wish to be truly healthy and function optimally, we must follow the manual.  We must eat by design, move by design, and think by design if we intend to maximize the quality of our lives.  We must live by design.

Truth be told, if your ancestors didn’t move, they didn’t eat.  As a hunter and gatherer, if you didn’t hunt and gather, you didn’t eat.  Every cell in your body is stuffed with a genetic legacy that has been shaped over thousands of generations of successful adaptations to environmental stressors and the behaviors that promoted survival and reproduction.  One key behavior that left an indelible imprint on your genetic owner’s manual is movements.  The most active humans won in the greatest contest known to man:  life.

Before the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, all humans had to spend energy to secure energy.  In other words, you had to burn calories to find, hunt, chase, fish, carry and prepare everything that you ever ate or drank.  Have you ever carried 5 gallons of water across your office or kitchen to replenish a water cooler?  You should try it.  Now imagine walking a mile to fetch water every time you needed it.  Compare that to turning on the faucet.  Once you’ve got your water, go find, chop and gather wood for a fire.  How does that compare to adjusting the dial on your thermostat?

Your cells are hard-wired to expect movement.  All of your body’s physiology, especially metabolism, is geared for regular exertion (read:  intense activity).  Movement is as much a cellular nutrient as vitamin C or an essential element as oxygen.  Any deficiency in oxygen is readily apparent – it is an acute essential element.  Movement is a latent essential element – deficiency is not immediately apparent, but the effects are just as devastating.

The divorce that now exists between energy acquisition and energy consumption has led to an energy imbalance – better thought of as an energy crisis – that has produced the greatest threat to mankind’s health today:  chronic disease.  Although we have been designed to adapt magnificently to famine, we have no physiological defense against abundance and abuse…except intelligence and free will.

We must recognize that in our modern industrialized world, most things are done for us.  Previously obligate activities like running down your lunch are no longer on your daily planner.  We must remember that “busy” does not equate active.

We burn fat or store fat based on the simple but profound energy equation:

Calories In (consumed) – Calories Out (burned) = Net Calories Stored or Lost

Your body has an extraordinary tendency to store excess energy (calories) as fat.  Too many people think that they can do a few extra minutes on the treadmill to burn off the latte and muffin that they had in the afternoon.  The only thing more shocking than the realization of how long it would take them to burn off that snack is the net result of a year’s worth of muffins and lattes.

Although exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, it should not be reduced to a weight loss modality.  Exercise has an overwhelmingly positive effect on cellular function, circulation, hormonal regulation, immunity, cognitive skills, bone density, muscular strength, balance and metabolism – to name a few.  If exercise were ever sold as a “pill” – the definitive research consensus would drive it to the top of the all time block-buster hits.

Always exercise for health gain, not weight loss.  Eat to sustain an active lifestyle and train to burn the fat.  If achieving your Ideal Weight requires that you become lighter, a Best Practice is to aim for one pound of fat loss per week.  That’s a net negative of 500 calories per day (3500 calories in 7 days).  This is best done by reducing your intake by 250 calories (try smaller plates) and increasing your output (activity) by 250 calories.

Our ancestors moved as if their lives depended on it – and today, ours still do.  If you wish to be truly healthy, you must become truly active.  Build activity into your everyday life:  park far away from the building, bike to work, take the stairs, change the water bottle…down the street.  Just do something.  Just move.

Do what moves you!

Week 2 Fuel Insight: Eat Plants First

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Eat Plants First

Critical Concept:  Plant-Driven Diet Style

The modern world is facing a chronic disease crisis.  The current traditional or allopathic paradigm is based on a sickness and disease treatment model.  With the exception of the incredible and heroic work done in trauma and emergency (i.e. heart attack, stroke, injury) care, the current model is failing. Despite the tremendous effort made and incredible resources invested, our people continue to get sicker.  The impending tsunami of a chronically ill Baby Boomer population promises to collapse an already teetering system.  Although valiant work is done to keep people from dying, our system is woefully incomplete in truthfully and effectively addressing prevention and health promotion.  It is time to address the cause of the problem.

Our health is simply the genetic expression of our environment.  The environment determines how genes are expressed.  Our lifestyle choices create our internal environment – and therefore greatly determine our health experience.  Genetically incongruent lifestyle choices create sickness.  At the center of the chronic illness menace is the obesity pandemic – Globesity.

We are faced with the perfect storm of obesity today.  The confluence of three factors has created the obesity and sickness epidemic:  first, the resulting energy imbalance that is a consequence of our relatively sedentary lifestyles; second, the toxic burden from the regular consumption of modern processed foods that are inherently poisonous to our cells; and third, the deficiency that results from making these toxic choices instead of eating the healthy foods that our bodies require and expect.

Food is a great source of pleasure – the taste, the social element, the satisfaction.  But when we make food choices, we must think beyond these things and also consider our food’s nutrition.  Think of eating as feeding your cells.  Your cells have very specific needs, essential elements or nutrients, which must be provided by the choices that you make every day.  These nutrients include the countless phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, micronutrients, trace elements, vitamins, minerals and fiber found in fresh fruits and vegetables; essential amino acids found in lean meat and foul; and the essential fats found in wild fish and game.

Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is predominately filled with calorie-rich but nutrient-poor processed foods, vegetable oils, and simple carbohydrates (i.e. grains).  These choices have resulted in an over-weight, under-nourished population suffering with allergies, fatigue and chronic disease.

You are going to choose differently.

Well People choose to eat the most nutritionally dense, fiber-rich foods, in abundance.  We know that it can be tempting to scarf down everything in sight when you’re hungry, but one simple Vital Behavior will keep the hungry horror-driven choices at bay while assuring your cells all the nutrients that they desire:  eat plants.  Every time you eat, make sure to start with a plant-based appetizer – preferably something raw:  a fresh salad, some chopped vegetables, or sliced fruit.  This simple practice will prevent a multitude of sins and provide an enormous deposit into the longevity account.

This healthy appetizer will not only provide vital nutrients, fiber and water for your cells, but will also curb your appetite and prevent you from filling up on the wrong stuff – or simply overeating.  As an added bonus, you can eat as many fresh, fibrous foods as you want.  You simply cannot over-eat the good stuff.  A Best Practice taught by Dr. Barry Sears, creator of The Zone, a must-have for your wellness library, is to cover two thirds of your plate with plants and one third with some lean protein.  A favorite nudge is to serve a plate of olives and veggies with a healthy dip.

The results from simple changes like these will surprise you.  Whether you are trying to achieve your ideal weight, normalize blood sugar levels, or improve digestion, adding the right things first is the essence of the Wellness Paradigm and one key to its profound health benefits.

Bon apetit!