morning routineStarting your day with a deliberate movement routine that you repeat every single day can be life changing, because it creates the leverage and the power to become a more focused and disciplined person in all other areas of daily life. Contrast this with the disturbing stat from IDC Research that 80 percent of Americans reach for their phones as the first act upon awakening.‘>2 Julie Morgenstern, renowned productivity consultant and author of Never Check Email In The Morning, explains that when you reach for your phone first thing, “You’ll never recover. Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless… there is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”

The Dope On Dopamine

The reason you’ll never recover is because your morning foray into hyperconnectivity is creating a dopamine addiction.‘>4 Alas, when you hijack the dopamine pathways too often with the aforementioned folly, you down-regulate the serotonin pathways in your brain so you become wired for quick-hit pleasure at the expense of long-term happiness.

The Magic Of Morning Movement

Extricating from this mess starts first thing in the morning! Since most of us have tons of sedentary influences during the day (commute, office work, evening screen entertainment), I’m going to suggest a mindful routine of exercises, poses, and dynamic stretches that build flexibility, mobility, core and muscle strength. Your morning routine will help you naturally awaken and energize (especially if you can do it outdoors), improve the fitness base from which you launch formal workouts, help prevent injuries, and boost your daily movement quota especially if things get hectic and you don’t have time for formal workout.

I’m not a big routine or consistency guy and never have been, so amassing a four-year streak of doing a template routine every single day may be more of a revelation to me than to big-time creatures of habit. If you’re already good at self-discipline and consistency, applying your skills to a morning movement routine will pay big dividends; you’ll likely increase your level of sophistication and degree of difficulty over time. If you are a “go with the flow” type of person, the morning routine will serve as a much- needed anchor for a focused, disciplined day—especially against the formidable foes of distraction and instant gratification.

The original impetus for designing a short morning movement routine was my frustration with recurrent and lingering soreness and stiffness after every sprint workout. I realized that I wasn’t adequately acclimating my body to doing all-out blasts once a week, because nothing else I did approximated what happened on sprint day. Perhaps many weekend warriors can relate: If you never approximate your most difficult workouts or do preparatory drills and exercises consistently, your big efforts are going to beat you up and require extended recovery time. I figured if I could raise the baseline from which I launched these tough workouts, via better core strength, hamstring and hip flexor mobility, and so forth—the workouts would be easier to recover from. I noticed these benefits right away and excitedly shot a video back in 2017 of my original routine. That’s when I learned the sequences actually took 12 minutes instead of five! I also did lots of the moves in bed (to make sure I’d do them right away) until I later discovered that the core stimulation is much more intense on the floor than on a soft mattress.

As I accumulated an impressive streak one day at a time, I started to realize some amazing physical and psychological benefits. My first few steps out of bed in the morning (that is, before starting the routine) were light and graceful—no more limping, creaking and cracking my way to the bathroom. My post-exercise soreness pretty much vanished—something I’d struggled with after every sprint workout for over a decade. Since I typically pair my morning routine with an ensuing chest freezer cold exposure session, the one-two combo gave me a sense of stability, focus and self-discipline that was missing, since I’m not part of rituals like rush hour commuting or an 8-to-5 office workday.

My routine has evolved quite a bit over the past four years. Buoyed by the confidence that I can carve out the time to execute every day no matter what, I continue to add more custom-designed moves to my template, increasing both the duration and degree of difficulty. Currently, the session lasts for a minimum of 32 minutes. Often, I will transition right into a proper strength training session since I’m so warmed up and fitness focused. This video shows the exercises and repetitions comprising my current routine, with an explanation of each.

Yeah, it’s time consuming and some of these moves—especially the grand finale Bulgarian Split Squats—are not easy! It’s important to note that I’ve progressed naturally and gradually from a modest starting point four years ago. If you are ready to take action, here are the important parameters to honor:

Start Small

Design a routine that is simple and do-able every day. Don’t make it too strenuous or too long in duration out of the gate. You must strive for consistency, convenience, and low stress. If five minutes is all you can spare right now, start with that. Over time, when the routine has become integrated into habit, you may choose to increase the duration and degree of difficulty in a manner that feels natural and fun.

Daily Commitment

Place extreme importance on doing your routine as soon as possible upon awakening every single day no matter what. The goal is to establish a streak that will become as natural as current streak of brushing your teeth every day. If you typically have to visit the bathroom, brew coffee, tend to children or pets, or check the stock ticker as your first acts upon awakening, insert the movement routine into a recurring slot in your morning pattern: bathroom, coffee, hit the deck sounds great! If a particularly hectic morning prevents you from doing your routine, perform a makeup session later in the day to honor your commitment to the project.


Perform the same exact sequence of movements and repetitions every time. You don’t want to have to apply any creative energy or waste precious cognitive resources deciding what exercises to do or how many reps to complete. Repeating the same sequence will make it easier to program your routine into habit. Over time, feel free to modify your template by adding or subtracting exercises, but always have a working template in place. Don’t listen to the folklore that you need to confuse your muscles with ever-changing exercises. Let’s check back in 20 years and see how not confused your body is from completing a great routine every day.


Doing the same thing every day adds a meditative aspect to the experience. I focus entirely on proceeding through the rep count for each exercise, which is synchronized with my breathing on many of the moves. I’ve made the mistake a few times of trying to listen to a podcast or take a phone call during my routine, and it invariably causes me to lose count during one of the sequences. That’s when I established a penalty of having to start the reps of that particular exercise over if my mind wanders. That will keep you focused! Now my morning routine is a time to enjoy the view of the trees, the sound of birds, and the mind- body connection that comes from sequential movement—as you might enjoy in a guided yoga class.

Outdoors (Sunlight, Fresh Air, And Maybe Even Cold!)

Research suggests that exposing your eyeballs to direct sunlight as soon as you awaken can have a powerful effect to entrain your circadian rhythm. The sunlight hits your retina, travels down the optic nerve to the all-important suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. The SCN is considered the master clock of your circadian rhythm, and directs all manner of light-driven hormonal processes.‘>6 In the winter months, my routine doubles as cold exposure as I’ll wear only shorts in temperatures freezing or below.


Design exercises that support your fitness goals, address any muscular weaknesses or imbalances, and counter sedentary lifestyle patterns like being hunched over at the car and computer. My leg swings and hamstring extensions are contemplated with sprinting and high jumping in mind, since these muscles take a lot of impact trauma when sprinting. The difficult yoga wheel pose is directly applicable to bending over the high jump bar!


There are all kinds of expert-recommended exercises that I’ve tried and discarded since I didn’t enjoy them or they don’t work for me. I did the familiar “pigeon” stretch from yoga for a while but I believe I sustained a knee injury from it, so it’s out. I have a few other cool exercises not shown on the video, such as monster walks and shuffles with Mini Bands. I’m tempted to officially add them to the routine, but I prefer to keep them as optional add-ons. With my current routine at 32 minutes, I occasionally experience a bit of time stress to get it done if I have a busy morning planned. I don’t want that feeling to happen more than occasionally, so I’m hesitant to add anything else at this time.

At first, it will be very helpful to write down each of the exercises and number of repetitions as you strive to lock in an ideal template. In particular, you want to discover a rep count that’s a bit of a challenge, but not too strenuous to have you fretting and sweating over it. As I mention on the video, when I first integrated the challenging Bulgarian split squats, I took each leg to the point of mild muscle burn that occurred at 20 reps. Today, I experience that same mild burn after 45 reps. So the degree of difficulty and mental strain have not changed, but I am validating my fitness progress over time. All of your progress with increasing reps and increasing the overall duration and degree of difficulty of your routine should happen gradually and naturally. Today is a good day to start your streak, so try stringing together a few of your favorite moves and get on the books! Good luck, and let us know some great suggestions in the comments section.


The post Developing our Empowering, Energizing Morning Routine appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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relationship with foodHi folks, today we’re back for another edition of Ask a Health Coach! Erin is here sharing her strategies for making good health a priority during the pandemic, plus what to do when you feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort without a lot of reward and what she eats in a typical day. Got more questions? Keep them coming in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group or in the comments below.

Annie asked:

“I love the way I feel when I eat clean, but meal prepping always takes a backseat to all the other things I need to do, especially now that I’m working, parenting, and homeschooling. How do I carve out time to eat healthier?”

You’re not alone in feeling the pressure of doing it all. With all of our waking hours being consumed by work and family responsibilities, making time for the non-essentials like exercise and eating well (which I would argue are essential), seems nearly impossible.‘>2 It turns out that their time constraints were an illusion.

The pressure of what we have time for and what we don’t has more to do with the things we assign value to rather than how many hours there are in a day.

That being said, everything we do in life is a choice – what we eat, say, and do, where we spend our energy and our money – they’re all choices. And, as you might guess, there are consequences of those choices.

There’s no doubt that your life is busier than ever right now. You’ve probably never worn more hats in your life, but instead of looking at food as an afterthought, or telling yourself you “don’t have the time,” I suggest you try giving it a little more attention.‘>4 But I get it. You’re diligently putting in the work, day after day, and not seeing the outcome you’re looking for.

There could be a few different factors at play here, but one you might want to consider is a phenomenon called discounting, which basically means that the more effort you put into something, the less valuable the reward becomes. In a study published in Cognitive Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, researchers had participants do two simple tasks that would be rewarded with a cash prize.‘>6 It’s the part of the brain that’s in charge of the reward circuitand is based on two essential neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin. So, in a nutshell, it’s just how we’re wired.

Does that mean you shouldn’t put in the effort? It depends. In general, I don’t subscribe to the typical diet culture where everything is weighed, evaluated, and overanalyzed. I opt for teaching my clients to have an effortless relationship with food where they eat satiating, satisfying, nutrient-dense meals when they’re hungry without micromanaging every detail.

But if you take pleasure out of reading labels and managing your macros as you’re doing, keep doing it. I’ve found that in situations where people actually enjoy the effort they put in, the journey ends up being more rewarding than the destination itself.

“I’ve been following Mark’s diet for several years and I love seeing posts about what he eats during the day. But what does your day look like?”

Let me start by saying that knowing what works for you and your body is nutrition gold. It really is. You can read every nutrition book in the world, follow dozens of “healthy” food bloggers and influencers, and copy Mark’s diet (or mine) to a tee, but since every human is unique — and responds differently to different foods, it’s important to know what works for you.‘>8 Most nights you’ll find me with a grilled ribeye and plate of steamed veggies smothered in butter. Maybe a square or two of dark chocolate. But sometimes, I’ll have an evening where I partake in some good old-fashioned carbs and dairy. For me, nothing beats delighting in a few perfectly crispy, salty roasted potatoes accompanied by a thick dollop of rich, organic sour cream.

I know exactly how my body responds to foods like these. And armed with this information, I can choose to treat myself without any fuss or worry. I encourage you to find what works for you too. When you start your day with eggs and bacon do you feel satiated or starving? When you drink coffee are you wired or alert? When you indulge in carbs do you get sleepy or energized? Like I said, everyone’s different and no amount of researching how other people eat will give you the same answers as listening to your own body.

Got thoughts? Share ‘em in the comments below.


The post Ask A Health Coach: How’s Your Relationship with Food? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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back on the wagonThings are going great. You’re eating well, moving your body regularly, lifting heavy things, getting good sleep. Then wham! Something happens, and all your best laid plans are out the window. Maybe it’s a crisis at work, the loss of a loved one, a vacation, or, I don’t know, a global pandemic that changes everything. Sometimes it’s nothing memorable, you just sort of… stop trying.

What do you do when you realize you’ve fallen off the wagon?

It’s simple. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and climb back on.

Were You Really “Off the Wagon?”

Before talking about how to get back on the wagon, it’s worth asking yourself if you were really off in the first place. It’s one thing to lose your way for a while and make choices that erode the health gains you’d made. It’s another to allow yourself to enjoy a decadent dessert at a fancy restaurant, or to have one stressful week at work that leaves you with no time to meal prep or go to the gym.

There’s no set timeline where you can say, “Now I’m officially off the wagon.” There’s no set number of lenient meals, sweet treats, or sedentary days in a row that determine that you’re not “in” a healthy lifestyle anymore. It’s subjective. There’s no membership card.

The point of this exercise is to avoid the temptation to make a big deal over minor blips. Diet culture is all about “cheating” and “failing” and “starting over.” That’s not the spirit of living Primally. We strive to make day-to-day choices that support health while also allowing for life to happen.

It’s the 80/20 principle, remember? Self-flagellation or shame spirals aren’t part of the plan. Sometimes dessert is just dessert.

That said, there are times when you’ve well and truly fallen off the metaphorical wagon, and you’re ready to get back on track. Let’s break this down into three parts: what you need to do immediately, in the short term, and making plans for the long term.

Stay on track no matter where you are. Instantly download your Primal and Keto Guide to Eating Out

What to Do Today to Get Back on the Wagon

Just start. Make your next meal a healthy and satisfying one. Pick one of the Primal Essential Movements and do one set. Set a bedtime alarm on your phone and actually hit the sheets when it goes off. Whatever success looks like to you, take one concrete step. That’s it.

Fasting to Get Back on the Wagon

“Start by fasting for a day”—it’s common advice. I’m of a couple minds here.

On the one hand, fasting offers a quick jumpstart. A 24-hour fast (eating dinner one night and then not eating again until dinner the following day, for example) burns through glycogen, accelerating fat burning and putting you on the road to ketosis if that’s your plan. It’s also symbolic, marking your commitment to making today a changing point.

On the other hand, this probably isn’t a good strategy for people who have struggled with disordered eating behaviors in the past. Fasting isn’t inherently problematic, but it can be, such as when someone gets into a cycle of “cheating” then fasting to atone. Also, if you’ve been eating a standard high-carb diet for a while now, you might not be equipped to fast comfortably, at least not for 24 hours. Don’t do it if you’re likely to get discouraged and quit again if you find yourself white-knuckling it through the first day.

If fasting isn’t your thing, no problem. A high-intensity exercise session also burns through glycogen and ramps up fat burning, especially if you don’t replenish with carbs after. You can commemorate your first day by starting a new journal, circling the day on your calendar in red marker, preparing a special meal, making a public commitment to friends and family, or hiring a health coach. Or, as I said, you can just take the first step and not look back.

If fasting does appeal to you, a shorter fasting window, say 16 hours, is also fine. There’s no reason to go longer; a three-day long fast is overkill for this purpose. Twenty-four hours is plenty.

Bask in Your Initial Victory

Once you’ve eaten one healthy meal or done one workout, congratulations, you’re back on track. Now you have to stay on track, but take a minute to commend yourself.

If your inner critic tries to tell you that you won’t really be back on the wagon until you string together 30 sugar-free days, or you’re deadlifting your previous personal best, shut that voice down. Those are great goals, but you don’t have to achieve them before you are allowed to feel proud that you took the first step.

What to Do in The Short Term to Stay on the Wagon

Once you’ve taken that first step, there’s more work to be done. You don’t want to immediately veer off course again! This means getting some systems in place to keep you moving in the right direction.

Start Building Better Habits

Building better habits boils down to this: Make it easier and more rewarding to do the things you want to do. Make it harder and less appealing to do the things you don’t want to do.

Simple, right? Sure, but not always easy. Start by identifying some basic things that, once done, will increase your chances of success. Things like:

  • Stocking your fridge with on-plan foods, and tossing or donating foods you don’t want to be eating
  • Picking a few basic recipes to get you through the first few days, or starting your week with a meal prep
  • Getting your home workout equipment out of the closet and putting it someplace prominent
  • Buying those new running shoes and leaving them where you see them first thing in the morning
  • Moving the TV and the phone and tablet chargers out of your bedroom

Ask yourself:

  1. What is my biggest obstacle, and what can I do today to remove that obstacle, or at least make it easier to avoid?
  2. What are two or three things that I can do today to make it easier to stick to my goal?

Do those.

For more guidance on building better habits:

Keep A Journal, Food Log, or Calendar

This is optional but recommended. Keeping written track of your behavior is uber-helpful for two reasons. One, it gives you a visual representation of your progress. Just like earning gold stars in kindergarten, you get positive reinforcement from seeing your “good days” accumulate. Two, it allows you to troubleshoot when necessary.

Basic food and exercise logs work well for accountability. They’re even better when combined with journaling about your internal states—hunger, stress, emotions—plus sleep, menstrual cycle, and any other relevant details. The more info you have, the easier it is to spot patterns and make connections. For example, you might learn that carb cravings increase at certain times of your cycle, so you decide to experiment with carb-ups. Or, you might realize you often eat poorly two days after a bad night’s rest. That tells you that you need to work on sleep, not just diet per se.

What to Do in The Longer Term to Stay on the Wagon

One silver lining to falling off the wagon is that it’s always a learning opportunity. That’s what we should all be doing—learning and adapting. It doesn’t mean you’ll never fall off the wagon again, but hopefully you can avoid repeating the same patterns over and over.

Sometimes it’s obvious what happened. You went on vacation, or got sick and stopped working out, but never returned to your healthy habits. Other times it takes some more digging and soul searching to understand how you got derailed (again). It’s never just a lack of willpower or desire. There’s a root cause that needs to be addressed.

Some common reasons people fall off the wagon are:

Caving to social pressure

It’s hard to stay on track when you’re surrounded by naysayers, or if you’re frequently in situations where your willpower is tested. Develop strategies that allow you to deal with these people or situations constructively, or avoid them if you must.

Not managing stress appropriately

If you change your diet, but everything else about your modern, high-stress life stays the same, you’ll inevitably falter.

Digging yourself into an energy hole

Not eating enough, not eating often enough (too much fasting for your body and activity level), and not sleeping enough will land you in the red, energy-wise. Your body will respond with hunger and cravings that become impossible to ignore. Motivation to exercise plummets, as does performance. Chronically depriving yourself of the fuel and rest you need is a recipe for disaster.

All-or-nothing thinking

You’re guilty of all-or-nothing thinking if you make one “bad” choice and then decide, “Forget it, I blew it. Might as well just give up.” The actual health consequences of your choices were probably small to negligible; the resulting guilt and shame spiral are what really hurt you. With all-or-nothing thinking, you create unrealistic standards of perfection, when what you should really strive for are progress and growth.

Trying to live a life that you don’t actually enjoy

Falling is inevitable if you don’t enjoy your food or your workout routine, your choices are causing friction with your partner, or you’re otherwise missing the joy in life. Sure, you might choose to suffer through a period of restriction to lose weight, especially if you have hardcore physique goals. Making short-term sacrifices in the service of a larger goal is one thing. Trying to commit to a “lifestyle” you hate is quite another. There are many roads to health. Find one that works for you.

Do the Deeper Healing Work

If self-sabotage is a repeating pattern for you, there is deeper work to do here. Therapy is fantastic for people dealing with unresolved past trauma, disordered eating tendencies, or feeling unworthy. You deserve to live your healthiest, most vibrant life. It’s your birthright as a magnificent human.

Psst, It’s Not Really a Wagon

This is where I admit that I’m not a fan of the whole “falling off the wagon” analogy. If you fall off a wagon — and I’m assuming we’re picturing a haywagon or something of that like, not a child’s wagon — it keeps going without you. If you don’t get back on quickly, you miss your chance. Your health gets more and more out of reach, and it gets more and more discouraging.

I think a better analogy is falling off a bicycle. When you fall off, the bike is still there, ready to be ridden at any point. Some falls are pretty gentle, like tipping over at low speed into soft grass. Some falls are pretty spectacular, like flying over your handlebars and tumbling down an embankment. In any case, though, you can usually climb back on and peddle away, if gingerly perhaps.

At the same time, bike owners know that the longer a bike sits unridden, the more work it requires to get it in tip-top shape again. It’s better to keep riding it and do regular maintenance.

It doesn’t really matter which analogy you use, of course, as long as you feel empowered to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and set your sights on the road ahead.


The post Getting Back on the Wagon appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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self-efficacy health goalsWho’s that person? Nope, it’s not me. Although health coaches are a great resource for helping you set goals, overcome obstacles, and get out of your own well-intentioned way. For the record, that person is also not your spouse, your roommate, your friends, or your kids.

The one person who can make you reach all your health goals is YOU.

I see you out there working hard, swapping your typical yogurt and banana breakfast for a protein-rich meal of eggs and bacon. I see you squeezing in a few sprint sessions a week and limiting blue light at night. You’re committed to doing everything right. Until, something goes wrong.

Tell me if any of these statements sound familiar.

“I’ll start over on Monday”

“I guess I’m not cut out for this”

“My husband/wife/kid keeps sabotaging me with sugary treats”

The thing is, there’s a big difference between people who think it would be really cool to reach their goals and those who unapologetically knock those goals out of the park. Trust me, I know this scenario firsthand. I’ve worked with hundreds of men and women with a desire for the latter, and a mindset for the former.

If you’re in that camp too, there is a solution. And it starts with having a deep-down belief that you have what it takes to show up for yourself each and every day and accomplish the tasks you set out to do, no matter what happens. This is what’s called self-efficacy.

What Exactly Is Self-efficacy?

According to Albert Bandura, the social psychologist responsible for this theory, self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute the behaviors necessary to achieve specific results.‘>2

How to Improve Your Self-efficacy

So, how do you get more of it? According Bandura, your self-efficacy stems from four distinct sources, including:

  • Mastery Experiences – having previously mastered a task or skill
  • Vicarious Experiences – seeing others who you consider a role model succeed
  • Verbal Persuasion – being told by influential people in your life that you have the right stuff
  • Emotional & Physiological States – this is the idea that depression or chronic stress can lower your belief in yourself

Taking those sources into account, I created 8 strategies that allow you to improve self-efficacy by focusing on certain areas of your life that could use a boost. These are the same strategies I use with my own clients to help them believe they’re as insanely badass as they really are.

Strategies to Improve Your Self-efficacy

Even if you have a history of being told you don’t have the right stuff or you’ve struggled to master anything short of boiling water, you can start improving your self-efficacy right now by following these steps:

  1. Start small
  2. Get inspired
  3. Avoid comparison
  4. Do the work
  5. Watch your self-talk
  6. Know your triggers
  7. Adopt an “I never lose” mindset
  8. Add up your successes

Let’s unpack these steps.

1. Start small. Choose goals that are easier to achieve. Rather than attempting to not touch another piece of bread for the rest of your life, say “I’m not eating bread today.” Need it to be even smaller? Try this on for size: “I’m not eating bread at this meal.” Smaller goals give you easy wins.

2. Get inspired. Know someone who’s totally crushing their goals? Show your support, ask them questions, and remember that if they can do it, you can too. While it can be hard to celebrate other people’s wins (especially if you’re having a tough time achieving yours), allow yourself to get inspired by their success.

3. Avoid comparison. If scrolling through your Instagram feed or chatting with your neighbor who dropped 4 dress sizes causes your self-confidence to plummet, don’t do it. Comparing yourself to others who are at different parts of their journey isn’t a good plan for anyone (see strategy #2).

4. Do the work. Be consistent with your healthy habits every day — even when you don’t want to. Sit down to an epic protein-forward meal or make movement part of your routine without expecting an immediate result. Some days will feel awesome, others won’t. Your job here is to continue to show up and put in the work.

5. Watch your self-talk. Be aware of how you talk to yourself when the going gets tough. If you constantly beat yourself up for giving up on your workouts, try turning that negative talk into something more neutral, without emotion like, “right now, I get really tired during my workouts.” It’s just a neutral awareness. For more tips on overcoming negative self-talk, read this.

6. Know your triggers. The deli with the awesome hoagie rolls? The bakery case at your grocery store? Backyard BBQs at your neighbor’s house? If certain places or situations test your ability to stay on track, avoid them for now. Or better yet, have a plan that allows you to be successful, like not going grocery shopping hungry or bringing your own Primally-friendly foods to the party.

7. Adopt an “I never lose” mindset. I’ve always loved the quote by Nelson Mandela, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” Pretty powerful, right? This kind of mindset allows you to look for the opportunity in every situation. Instead of an all-or-nothing, win-or-lose mentality, it helps you see what you can learn – and what you can do differently next time if something didn’t go the way you’d anticipated.

8. Add up your successes. This is a key factor in building up your self-efficacy. Start keeping track of your wins, no matter how small you think they are. Grab a journal and write each one down. You’d be surprised how fast they add up.


The post Self-Efficacy: Reach Your Health Goals Every Time appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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How bad is working and eating late at night? Wondering why you’re not losing weight? And what if you don’t want to go back to the gym? In this week’s edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin is back to answer more of your questions. Keep them coming in the comments below or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group.

Jacob asked:

“My nighttime habits are the worst. I stay up too late working, then I’m hungry and go looking for a snack at 1 or 2 am. I don’t think I should be working and eating that late, but how bad is it really?”

Your intuition is spot on here, Jacob. The late-night artificial light. The late-night insulin spike. The stress of a disrupted sleep cycle. It all comes down to your circadian rhythm, which as reiterated in this study,‘>16

Late-night snacking can make the problem worse. Not because “eating late at night causes you to store fat” (as our misinformed culture likes to tell us), but because, in a manner of speaking, your body can either produce metabolism hormones or sleep hormones — not both at the same time. The production of melatonin will slow or cease in order to metabolize your evening snack. This study from scientists at Universidade Federal de São Paulo in Brazil backs it up, finding that men and women who consumed high amounts of calories right before bed spent even less time in REM sleep.‘>18

I admit that the scale is the easiest way to measure your progress, but it’s not the most accurate. Most often, when the number changes, it’s due to fluctuations in things like water, glycogen, and waste. Even if the number is consistently going down, there could be a good chance you’re losing lean muscle tissue, not fat!

So, instead of focusing on an utterly pointless number that’s not moving — or moving in the wrong direction — there are better indicators that your body is losing fat. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Your pants feel looser
  • Your tops close more easily
  • Your face looks slimmer
  • You’re sleeping better
  • You’re less hungry in between meals
  • You have more energy
  • People are asking if you’ve lost weight

If you’re really interested in knowing how well you’re doing, go ahead and get out the measuring tape. I had a client once who would measure herself consistently each Sunday, keeping an Excel spreadsheet of every single change. From week to week, she was seeing only small changes, but when she looked at the data over the course of a few months it was pretty mindblowing.


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smart goalsAvoid inflammatory, processed foods. Get plenty of sleep. Move your body on a regular basis. It’s the trifecta of good health. But if this was everything you needed to know, we’d all be metabolically flexible with rock-hard abs and proper blood sugar levels.

That’s because knowing what to do and how to do it are two entirely different things.

Too often, I’ll get messages from new clients saying they’re ready to drop all carbs, get better sleep, start intermittent fasting, cut out fast food, buy blue blockers for everyone in their family, workout more…

In other words, they’re all in.

You’d think I’d be super psyched about their level of motivation. But to me, it means they need help reeling it in. My job as a health coach is to show people how to get from point A to point B, and having broad, sweeping goals with no clear direction doesn’t work. Ever.

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How to Make Goals Achievable

To really succeed, you’ve got to know what you’re changing and how to measure your success. Want to sleep more? Eat more veggies? Exercise more? Yep, me too. But real goal setting requires getting smart about it. And that’s where SMART goals come in. Originally credited to Peter Drucker in his 1954 book, The Practice of Management as well as George Doran and Dr. Edwin Lock, and used by everyone from professors to Primal Health Coaches, SMART is an acronym that stands for:

Specific. What specifically do want to achieve?
Measurable. How will you quantify your results?
Attainable. Do you have the tools to make this happen?
Relevant. Does this goal align with your lifestyle?
Timely. What’s your deadline on this goal?

NOTE: If you’ve seen different versions of this, just know that there are a few different variations out there. Sometimes the ‘S’ stands for significant or simple, the ‘M’ for meaningful or motivating, the ‘A’ for achievable or agreed upon, the ‘R’ for realistic or results-based, and the ‘T’ for time-sensitive or time-based.

Examples of SMART Goals

Want a better night’s sleep? Your SMART goal might be:

S: To get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
M: I’ll use a sleep tracking app to measure my progress.
A: I’ll wear my blue blockers for any screen time in the evenings.
R: Being in bed by 9:30pm is doable for me.
T: Every night until my vacation in the fall.

Want to work out more? Try:

S: I will walk 3 miles every morning.
M: I’ll track it with my Garmin.
A: GPS watch? Check. New sneakers? Check.
R: I have to walk my dog in the morning anyway, so this works.
T: For the next 4 weeks.

Remember, SMART goals are designed to be quantifiable and have a defined end point, which helps you get clear about what you’re doing to reach that goal and how you’ll know if you’re successful or not. For example, in a 2005 study,‘>1 in routine or diet or job is normal. That said, choosing to stay overwhelmed is a choice.

Often, I’ll hear my clients say, “I can’t do this.” Sometimes it’s in the week after enrolling them in my health coaching program. But honestly, a lot of times it’s even sooner — like the moment I’m telling them the good news that they can reach their goals with a few tweaks in their diet. You can feel the panic setting in.

“I can’t” has become such a common phrase in our vocabulary. And it’s complete BS. You absolutely can do it. You may not want to, but you certainly can. No doubt in my mind.

You can do anything you set your mind to, even during the quarantine.

Can you load your plate up with protein and veggies instead of the refined, starchy carbs that make you feel all bloated and sleepy? Yep. Can you commit to starting your day with a nutrient-dense breakfast instead of eating grab-and-go snack foods from the pantry? Sure can. Can you dial down your sugar intake? Go for a stroll around the block? Put on a yoga video? Yes, yes, and yes.

Sure, buying groceries is a little more challenging right now. And exercising when your whole family is around may not be ideal. But using the excuse that a change in routine is keeping you from your health goals is nonsense.

It may be more difficult to make these changes, but I know without question, that you can make them. You can do anything if you decide it’s worth it.

My family and close friends are supportive of my Primal journey, but whenever I post about it on Facebook, I get a lot of negative comments. What am I doing wrong? -Annette

First of all, I love hearing that you have a great support system in your family and close friends. But here’s the deal with “online friends,” everyone’s a critic. It might be jealousy or trying to get your attention, or whatever. But the bottom line is that your journey is your journey — and every moment of it is worth celebrating. Every. Single. Moment.

I’ve learned the hard way that the jerks on social media are just show-offs who want to seem like they know more than you do. They’re always scavenging for the newest data and next-level research, and basically diminishing anything anyone else is doing. They want to appear bigger so that you feel smaller. Am I right? And they typically have nothing constructive to add to the conversation. Just know, when I say typically, I mean never.

What someone else has to say about your Primal journey, whether it’s online or in-person, has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.‘>3 is physically active every day. What’s worse is that research shows they’re getting up to 8 hours of screen time daily. And I’m sure that number is even higher now.

A recent study

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