Week 8 Spark Insight: Living in Alignment

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Living in Alignment

Critical Concept:  Genetic need for congruency
Coiled deep inside of our DNA are needs, wants and requirements of all kinds.  These needs range from the obvious to the obscure, but all define the environment in which we thrive as human beings.  One of the most abstract, but profound and most essential of elements is the need to live in alignment with our innate values.

The origin of these values can be credited to a God planting the seeds that drive an ingrained moral law, or chalked up to critical social qualities that developed over the millennia because they conferred a reproductive advantage.  Regardless of orientation, most everyone agrees that we live by an internal compass that guides our behavior with feelings of good and bad, knowledge of right and wrong.

We flourish when we live in alignment with our innate value system.  When our behaviors are congruent with our values, we feel satisfied, confident and at ease.  When our actions are at odds with this internal guidance system, we sense disconnect, anxiety and restlessness.

People perform best when given clear standards.  Standards provide clarity, accountability and the opportunity for feedback.  With qualities as abstract as “innate values,” role models are the best standard.  When we can identify a particular person who clearly embodies a given trait, we can better relate to that quality.

Dr. Guy Reikman describes a best practice for alignment being the creation of your own Virtual Board of Trustees.   Your Virtual Board of Trustees (VBT) is populated by individuals who best represent or role model “successful traits” in each of your Life Value Accounts.  This group can include people you know well, celebrities or even fictional characters - whomever you choose.  Mentally access this VBT whenever faced with a question of appropriate behavior or response – for instance, “What would Yoda do here?”

Week 8 Air Insight: Benefits of Movement

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Neurological Benefits of Movement

Critical Concepts:  Lack of movement promotes stress.
There are many well-understood benefits of movement and activity, including improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, lean muscle mass and strength, balance, tone and appearance.  Science is now grasping the depth of the role of exercise in the realm of prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, CVD and obesity.  The latest research is now painting a broader picture for the benefits of movement in the realm of neurology, development and optimal health.

The primary purpose of movement and activity is to develop and condition the brain (Dr. John J. Ratey, Spark).

Our nervous system is an incredibly complex network of communication fibers and junctions that allow us to relate and adapt to our internal and external environments.  The nervous system, made up of the brain, the spinal cord and miles of nerves, depends on movement to restore the body to homeostasis – or a state of general balance and equilibrium.

This resting state is critical to health and healing.  Our lives have become frantic.  We rush through our days, seemingly never having enough time to complete tasks, slow down to eat, or relax and unwind.  So often we are stressed out in traffic or sitting in front of a computer or on the phone.  Most people spend far too much time in the “Go State” – fight or flight.  This constant Sympathetic Stress State keeps stress hormones coursing through our veins, wreaking havoc on our health.

One vital function of movement is its ability to “re-set” our nervous system from a “stress state” to a “rest and repair” state.

The cerebellum is the area of the brain that monitors movement.  The “body sense” that is derived from movement is called proprioception.  This body sense provides more data to our brain than all of our other incoming senses combined.  It is described by Nobel Prize Winner Roger Sperry as a brain nutrient.  The information is derived from the compression of spring-like mechanoreceptors in your joints.  When you move, they send signals to your brain.

This cerebella stimulation from movement of our joints will actually drive the body away from a stress state and back toward a rest and repair state.  This critical homeostatic mechanism is responsible for returning your body to a state of equilibrium.  In other words, movement reduces stress.

Lack of movement promotes stress.

If you live a sedentary life, you miss out on this effective “stress-buster.”  People who exercise regularly report less stress in their lives and experience fewer stress-related health problems.  Exercise has the additional benefits of increasing neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that promote happiness, better sleep and increased sex drive.

Poor posture and fixed positions can create stress in the body.  Toxic and deficient movement patterns promote core weakness, muscle strain, inflammation and structural dysfunction.  When joints do not move properly, they create irritation to the nervous system that acts a lot like “static” or noise in our communication network.  This noxious stimulation or nociception changes the brain’s function and influences the body’s chemistry.  This type of joint dysfunction and associated nerve irritation is called “subluxation.”

Subluxations can occur in any joint, but the most devastating are found in the joints of the spine.  These spinal misalignments can be caused by trauma or bad habits (or both), and their ill effects on your health can be profound.  A distinctive quality of subluxation is joint fixation.  When a joint is fixed or “stuck” and not moving through its normal range of motion, a host of problems can arise.  Joint decay and degeneration (arthritis) occurs when a joint is not moving properly.  If a joint is fixated, proprioception (Body Sense) is reduced and nociception (noise) is increased – both of which promote stress in the body.

Healthy people practice regular spinal hygiene by utilizing the Life Extension Exercises.  A Bonfire best practice is to implement these into your daily routine to combat stationary work and postural stress.  Best results are achieved if you do this one-minute routine at least once every two hours at the computer or work station.  Nudge yourself into better habits by auditing your workstation for postural stress (read more here).  Make it a regular habit to get up and walk during your day.  It is very unnatural for you to sit for extended periods of time – no matter how important the project.  Dr. James Chestnut suggests a brilliant nudge: position yourself perfectly while sitting at the wheel in your car and then adjust your mirrors.  If you slouch during your drive, the mirrors will remind you to sit up.

A vital behavior for optimal health and function is to have your spine and nervous system evaluated regularly by a qualified chiropractor.  These doctors have a unique training and specialization in locating and correcting spinal misalignments that contribute to spinal stress.  This safe and effective method has been practiced widely for over one hundred years, and is now the second largest form of health care in the world.

Your brain and body expect and require movement for health – for life.  Get to it.

Summary Checklist

  • Add activity every day in every way
  • Calculate Energy Balance
  • Add Functional Training
  • Use variety in your workouts
  • Focus on the Intensity of your workouts
  • Gradually progress to a higher intensity
  • Adopt the Buddy System
  • Get your Spine checked by a chiropractor

Week 8 Fuel Insight: Energy Balance

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Caloric Energy Balance

Critical Concepts:  Optimal energy intake and output
The human body functions best with a net zero or net negative energy (cal) balance. We are faced with the perfect storm of obesity today.  The confluence of three factors has created the obesity and sickness pandemic that is sweeping our nation:  first, choosing to consume foods that are inherently toxic to our cells; second, the deficiency that results from making these toxic choices instead of eating the healthy foods that our bodies require; and last, the resulting energy imbalance that is a consequence of our relatively sedentary lifestyles.

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.

Every cell in your body is stuffed with a genetic legacy that has been shaped over thousands of generations by 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 movement.  The most active humans won in the greatest contest known to man:  life.

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.  In fact, busy usually equates “stressed” – which in turn means more chronic low-grade inflammation.

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.

If you are trying to lose pounds to reach your Ideal Weight, there is one equation that you must understand:  calories consumed – calories burned = calories (weight) lost or gained.  We do not promote that you spend a lifetime counting calories and measuring food.  In fact, we promote the opposite for the long-term.  But, we do recommend building a critical skill set:  the ability to eyeball your food and have a working estimate of its caloric value.  If you gain an understanding of the caloric value of your typical foods along with an understanding of the caloric value of your typical exercises and activities, you will be empowered to influence your body weight and overall health.

An excess of calories triggers the release of Insulin – the Fat Storage Hormone.  Remember, chronically elevated insulin is the enemy.

When it comes to food and longevity, the research shows that reducing your (net) calorie intake increases the length of your life.  The Bonfire Ideal Dietstyle promotes balancing the energy budget of your body by increasing your activity output first and then looking at your caloric intake.  A good rule of thumb is to eat enough to fuel an active life and support plenty of lean muscle mass – and no more.

Best practices for achieving your ideal weight include simple things like using smaller plates, smaller portions, or pouring yourself a serving instead of eating out of a bag.  Avoid mindless eating – sitting in front of the TV while snacking is a fast track to over-eating.  Be careful who you eat with.  The research shows that your company can influence your portions by as much as 100% or more.

Keeping a food log and activity journal has been proven to be a vital behavior to those trying to master their energy balance.  Understanding the number of calories in our foods and activities is a powerful way to make the “invisible” visible.  When people realize that they would have to spend 66 minutes on the treadmill to burn off the blueberry muffin that they’re considering, they tend to make better choices.

Summary Checklist: At this point you should be:

  • Drinking adequate water
  • Eating plants first
  • Eating lean cuts of high quality protein
  • Consuming high-fiber, whole food carbohydrates
  • Increasing your healthy fat intake
  • Taking your Bonfire Essential Supplements
  • Taking 3 deep breaths before you eat to reset your state
  • Maintaining a net zero or net negative calorie/energy balance