I think everyone can agree that things look a lot different this year. We’re planning smaller holiday gatherings with just our immediate families.https://psychologyofeating.com/mind-over-food/‘>2 It all starts in your hypothalamus, which processes senses, emotions, and biological functions like hunger. When you feel guilty about what you’re eating, the hypothalamus transmits signals that slow your digestion and cause your body to store more calories as fat versus burning them for energy. In theory, saying to yourself “this will make me fat” becomes kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the flip side, when you enjoy food as you’re eating it, the hypothalamus releases pleasure signals that stimulate digestion so that you thoroughly break down food and more effortlessly burn off the calories.

So, it’s not just what you’re eating, it’s what you’re thinking about what you’re eating.

Not only that, negative thoughts can lead to other compensatory behaviours. In this study, researchers analyzed data from 3,177 people, examining the differences between those who experienced food guilt and those who didn’t.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201305/avoidance-coping‘>4

You Can’t Just Let Go of Food Guilt, Can You?

If you’re wired to see foods as good or bad, it’s going to take some unraveling, but it’s completely possible. It’s also completely worth it so you’re not white knuckling it through the holidays. Or worse, yet, beating yourself up about it for days. And as you let go of good guilt, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself eating more intuitively. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Challenge your food rules.

We all have them. It’s that little voice inside that says, “you shouldn’t have that” or “stop grazing” or “that’s going to go right to your thighs.” This is all based on your stories or beliefs you created through your experiences growing up. Once you’ve acknowledged one of your rules, confront it. You always have a choice to decide if it’s valid or just reflecting old, outdated programming and no longer serves you.

Step 2: Be curious vs judgmental.

How often are you judging yourself? And not just when it comes to what you eat? You might be so used to being in judgment mode that you don’t even realize when you’re doing it to yourself – or someone else. Try, instead, to be curious. Ask yourself why you think a certain food is bad or where these judgements are coming from. You might find that the beliefs you have aren’t even your own. Also, learn to approach these situations from a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. You can read more about how to do that here.

Step 3: Have a plan.

Nine times out of ten, if you walk into a holiday feast hungry, you’re going to choose foods you might not choose otherwise. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in advance. My go-to strategies for avoiding impulse binging are to: prioritize protein and fat, make breakfast your most calorically dense meal of the day, and always answer hunger with a meal. You might still indulge, but you’ll feel better about your decision if your body and brain are satiated.

Step 4: Know your triggers.

If you know you can’t pass up a bowl of candy when you’re hungry, don’t put out a bowl of candy (or don’t show up hungry). If you cope with stress by eating or drinking, find healthier ways to decompress. Getting clear on what triggers you is a game-changer in situations like this. And it can save you hours — or even days of grief afterwards.

Step 5: Practice self-compassion.

Being kind to yourself is a skill not everyone has. That’s why it’s so important to practice it on a regular basis. Self-compassion requires empathy and the ability to be fully present with yourself and whatever feelings you’re experiencing — without running away, hiding, or diving headfirst into a bag of M&Ms. You never need to be punished for your actions, so resist the urge to “diet harder” by eating bland chicken breast for three days straight or committing to a steady stream of chronic cardio for the next week. You deserve better.

How to Have a Guilt-Free Feast

It doesn’t matter if you’re paleo, keto, vegan, whatever. Letting go of food guilt is the healthiest move you can make. Use these steps to get to the bottom of your food fixation and get ready to enjoy your holiday feast guilt-free.

  • Challenge your food rules
  • Be curious vs judgmental
  • Have a plan
  • Know your triggers
  • Practice self-compassion

Do you experience food guilt? What strategies work for you?


The post How to Enjoy Your Holiday Feast, Guilt-Free appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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growth mindsetEver heard the quote, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work?”

Originally said by NBA all-star, Kevin Durant, this is a perfect example of utilizing a growth mindset — meaning your success can be cultivated by your efforts. When you operate from the opposite perspective (called a fixed mindset) you believe your talents and abilities are predetermined. Either you’re good at something or you’re not. End of story.

Maybe you believe you’ll always have a layer of fluff around your middle because you never stick with anything. Or you avoid working out because everyone in your family is uncoordinated. Or you’re “so intelligent” but can’t seem to figure out how the heck to lose those last ten pounds. If that’s you, congratulations, you have a fixed mindset.

When you start viewing things through a more optimistic lens, you move into growth mindset territory. And that’s where the magic really happens.

Let’s Define Growth Mindset

You can’t talk about this term without acknowledging the famous Stanford University psychologist who coined it. Decades ago, Carol Dweck published research that kind of changed the world.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17328703/‘>2 In this study, they taught one group about the brain and how intelligence can be developed, while the other group had no intervention. As you might expect, students who adopted a growth mindset were more motivated and got better grades than their fixed-minded counterparts.

Students with a growth mindset not only believed that their abilities could improve through effort and persistence, they actually made it happen.

Examples of a Growth Mindset

  • I’d like to get better at this
  • Mistakes help me learn
  • This has been a challenge, but I’m working on it
  • I haven’t figured out how to do this yet
  • This might take some time

Dweck’s research proved that changing a key belief about yourself can make a big difference. But clearly, it’s not just students who can benefit from this concept.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadellauses growth mindset tactics with his management teams to create an environment of constant learning…

Michael Jordan (who was initially cut from his high school basketball team and was passed up during the first two NBA draft picks) used it to persevere and become uber-famous…

I use it in my own health coaching practice to help my clients overcome their previous, self-described failures…

And you can too. You just need the right tools to shift your mindset.

So, What Causes a Fixed Mindset?

Anyone who shaped your childhood – parents, teachers, coaches – may have inadvertently had something to do with it. Research shows that the way children are talked to (both positively and negatively) can have a profound impact on their mindset. Maybe you were told that you were super talented growing up. Or that you were “so skinny” or “not strong enough” or some other trait-based comment.

This sends the message that what you can achieve is completely tied to something innate. On the other hand, if you were praised for your hard work, you might have gotten the message that your effort is what led you to your success. And that anything you want (looser clothes, better relationships, a better night sleep) is within reach.

Examples of a Fixed Mindset

  • I’m a binge eater
  • I just have a slow metabolism
  • I’d never be comfortable doing that
  • I’m bad at sticking to routines
  • I’m a night owl

Regardless of your upbringing, you’re not stuck with what you’ve got.

Moving away from a fixed mindset requires you to take a deeper dive into your beliefs and stories, the way you talk to yourself, and the actions you take. Keep in mind, no one stays in a growth mindset all the time. You could be inherently growth-minded but get triggered into a fixed mindset state by certain people or situations.

How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset

The key thing to remember here is that attaining a growth mindset isn’t about ignoring your past. Actually, quite the contrary. It’s about leaning into learning — taking educated risks, gaining wisdom from the results, and surrounding yourself with people who challenge you to grow. These are six strategies I use to help my own clients work toward shifting their mindset.

1. Check your self-talk. These are the (conscious and subconscious) messages you send to yourself all day long, and they have the power to motivate you or limit you. Your brain’s job is to protect you, so it sometimes enables negative self-talk to keep you safely tucked inside your comfort zone. So, if you’re used to telling yourself “I’m not good at this” try reframing it as “I’m learning something new every day” and see how that feels. And don’t give up. Rewiring your brain’s neural pathways takes time.

2. View challenges as opportunities. Asking yourself, “What can I learn from this?” is a huge part of self-improvement. Unfortunately, it’s easier to focus on the perceived failures. And a lot of times it leads to giving up before you even get going. When you fear getting it wrong or making mistakes or just flat out taking it as a sign that you’re just not cut out for whatever it is you’re attempting, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to grow. The more you can test your abilities, the more you learn about yourself.

3. Stop looking for approval. Or more appropriately, stop doing things to avoid disapproval. If you’re a self-described people pleaser, you know what I’m talking about. Whether you’re attempting to eat healthier, move your body more, or take better care of yourself in general, looking for outside approval can lead you down a path of self-sabotage because you’re always waiting to see if you got it right. Or worse, never starting because of the overwhelming fear of that disapproval. Instead, work on your underlying beliefs about yourself (i.e. your stories) and learn to trust yourself enough to see what’s possible.

4. Use the word “yet” regularly. This is a really powerful way to begin switching from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Using this word shows that while you might be struggling with something right now, it’s only because you haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. Try saying, “I haven’t conquered my sugar cravings yet” or “I haven’t woken up at 5am to meditate yet” and pay attention to what happens.

5. Develop more grit. According to Angela Duckworth, TED talk speaker and author of Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance, “grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.” She adds that while people are born with different degrees of grit, it’s a trait that develops through experience. And that can lead to a growth mindset since grittier folks are more apt to stay the course even when they struggle, falter, or all out fail. Here are a few APA-approved ways to build more grit.

6. Appreciate the journey more than the destination. Your end goal might be to lose 15 pounds or get super ripped, but when you have a “journey mindset” as researchers call it, you benefit from the opportunity to learn and grow from your actions. Plus, studies show that you’re more likely to continue the new behaviours you’ve adopted even after you’ve reached your goal.

6 Strategies to Shift Your Mindset

I’ll tell you firsthand that believing your abilities are carved in stone will send you down a path of trying to prove yourself over and over again — and not learning from any of it. Even if you grew up with a fixed mindset, it’s never too late to grow. Do me a favor. Whenever you hear yourself say things like “I can’t stick with this” or “I’m terrible at sprints,” give these strategies a try:

  • Check your self-talk
  • View challenges as opportunities
  • Stop looking for approval
  • Use the word “yet” regularly
  • Develop more grit
  • Appreciate the journey more than the destination

What do you think? Do you have more of a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset?


The post Having a Growth Mindset Can Be a Game-Changer for Your Health 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.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14724662/‘>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, https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/89/1/128/2840303)‘>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.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12566476/‘>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.


The post Ask a Health Coach: Sleep, Weight Loss Stalls, and Skipping the Gym appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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how to recover from a setback“I went off the rails this weekend…”

“I feel like I lost all my progress…”

“I couldn’t make it a day without eating a piece of bread…”

The path to success is often paved with setbacks. And the fact of the matter is, if you haven’t had one yet, you probably will sometime in the near future. Is that a reason to freak out? No. But it is a reason to arm yourself with the tools to, as they say, make the comeback stronger than the setback.

Changing behaviours takes time and patience. Trust me, I see this with most of my health coaching clients. And, like I always tell them, there is no expectation to knock a massive lifestyle change right out of the park on your first try. I don’t care if you’re trying to change your diet or your workout routine or your sleep habits — it’s never a linear journey. There’s always a combination of successes, plateaus, and setbacks.

What Is a Setback?

By definition, a setback is an event that delays your progress or reverses some of the progress you’ve previously made. It can be frustrating, humbling, and can likely trigger some negative self-talk. After all, you put time and energy into this endeavor. Maybe you spent money. Or you told all your friends and family what you were doing. And now what?

Listen. A setback, or even a few setbacks, doesn’t have to be the end of your story. In fact, quite the opposite. A setback might be exactly what you need to get where you want your health to go.

Can Setbacks Make You Stronger?

Researchers in this study https://news.virginia.edu/content/who-needs-olympic-gold-batten-researcher-finds-silver-medalists-live-longer‘>2 UVA economist Adam Leive compiled a database of medal winners in Olympic track and field events to see how their lives played out after winning. He found that the athletes who just missed out on getting the top podium spot were more ambitious in their post-sports careers than their gold medal counterparts. The trauma of not securing the top spot actually seemed to have made the athletes stronger. And, they actually lived longer.

But it’s not just athletes who are able to reap the rewards of setbacks. Researchers have studied diverse groups from studentshttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12189-3‘>4 and found the same thing — failures along the way can make you stronger than those who never had a stumble.

4 Steps to Overcoming Setbacks

In light of this research (and about a decade of helping my clients through inevitable setbacks of their own), I wanted to share my personal strategy, designed to take you from setback to success.

1. Look at the big picture. Sure, you had a setback, but my guess is you also had some successes along the way. Despite slipping back into your toast-and-cereal-for-breakfast routine or discovering that your favorite pants are currently too tight, ask yourself what’s gone well over the past few days, weeks, or months. What changes have you made that have contributed to a more metabolically flexible lifestyle? What habits have you implemented since you began your journey?

Also, take an objective look at what didn’t work. Was there a stressful event or period of time that interfered with your progress? Did you get overly hungry or not eat enough protein? Get really honest with yourself and write down your successes and your struggles. Seeing them on paper without emotion can help you move forward more easily.

2. Recognize your obstacles (and have a plan). If summer BBQs trip you up, have a plan. If vacations make you loosen your commitment, have a plan. Key takeaway here? Have. A. Plan. Figure out what situations, places, or foods are your triggers and learn how to navigate them. Or avoid them all together until your confidence around your ability to choose gets stronger. It’s one thing to consciously enjoy a cookie at your favorite coffee shop; it’s a totally different story if you accidentally ate one and decided you “screwed up” so you might as well binge on sweets for the rest of the day.

Keep in mind the theory of cause and effect too. Binging on carbs over the weekend will likely send your brain begging for more pastries, pizza, and pasta come Monday morning. And if you’re someone who subscribes to “food as a reward,” those pints of Ben & Jerry’s can look awfully tempting after a few weeks of “being good.” Acknowledge your obstacles and find a way around them.

3. Surround yourself with support. In a world of whole-grains-this and low-fat-that, not to mention old-school doctors who whole-heartedly believe that saturated fat will send you right to your grave, it can be a challenge (to say the least) to get the support you need to make lifestyle changes that last.

That’s why it’s so important to have a network of people who have your back, whether it’s our community here on Mark’s Daily Apple, a health coach like one from the Primal Health Coach Institute, or a group of friends and family members who understand the science behind why your heart won’t explode by following a diet free of refined carbs, sugar, and industrialized oils.

4. Take a step forward. Ditching your whole efforts or punishing yourself with a grueling workout after a setback won’t get you any closer to your goal. As I mentioned earlier, the journey is never linear. It might feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back, but eventually you will get there. Your path is still there. There’s always a next step. You just need to choose to take it.

Think about what you can do right now to start making progress. It doesn’t need to be a huge sweeping change either. It can be as small as going for a walk, preparing a big-ass salad, or getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Having a long-term goal is great (and something I highly recommend) but getting there requires you to take the first step.

Remember, setbacks can actually make you stronger. So, if you’re in the midst of a massive change and wondering what to do to get back on track, put aside your frustration and follow these four steps:

  • Look at the big picture
  • Recognize your obstacles
  • Surround yourself with support
  • Take a step forward


The post What to Do When You Have a Setback appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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training for COVID-19Today we welcome guest author Dr. Ronesh Sinha, internal medicine physician and expert on insulin resistance and corporate wellness, author of The South Asian Health Solution. He is a top rated speaker for companies like Google, Oracle, Cisco and more. Check out his media page for lectures, interviews and articles from Dr. Sinha.

Most of us have been sheltering-in-place for a few months now, and we have evolved into an unprecedented state of fear and hyper-vigilance in this pandemic. After a long period of being cooped up, we are now gradually released into the wild, which introduces us to a whole new level of anxiety. Public health recommendations appear to be flip-flopping regularly, and we are learning on the fly as the situation evolves.

In today’s post, I’d like to share some thoughts on how we can regain some control of our lives. Rather than duck and cover for several more months, we can face this beast head-on. I don’t mean being careless and reckless and not following social distancing and hygiene protocols. Instead, we can adopt a mindset that we will do what is necessary to minimize our risk of a severe COVID-19 outcome. I titled this post “Training for the COVID-19” to help you reframe this pandemic in your mind, and view it like a warrior approaches an enemy on the battlefield or an athlete faces an opponent in a competition.

Cognitive Reframing Coronavirus: From Fear to Readiness

Cognitive reframing isn’t just some touchy-feely behavioral technique. Viewing the world through a more positive lens has a beneficial impact on your immune system, which is potentially relevant to COVID-19. One study shows that participants who were cognitive reappraisers, identified by a 10-item Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, and then exposed to an experimental cold virus (rhinovirus not coronavirus) had reduced nasal cytokine release compared to individuals who were emotional suppressors.https://www.culturalhealthsolutions.com/beware-of-the-covesity-covid-obesity-pandemic/‘>2 Specifically, it’s the central visceral fat (aka “belly fat”) that is an especially insidious storehouse of proinflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which fuel the cytokine fire.

Another reason fat cells may increase risk is through the ACE-2 receptor shown in the above image. Fat cells have an abundance of these receptors, and their affinity for COVID-19 means they may serve as a viral storehouse. So fat cells not only provide more entry points for COVID-19 but also ready access to an ammunition supply of cytokines.

ACE-2 also puts the brakes on the enzyme angiotensin II, which, if left unrestrained, can contribute to the more severe manifestations of COVID-19 (like acute lung injury, heart damage, etc.). Angiotensin II levels appear to rise in severe COVID-19 infections due to a downregulation in ACE-2 (the “brake pedal” for Angiotensin II). In the case of obesity, angiotensin II increases further by visceral fat cells that secrete angiotensin II in addition to the cytokines we just discussed.

So fat cells provide the fuel to ignite the cytokine fire and release excess amounts of angiotensin II, which can further provoke damage and destruction of vital organs. We also know that obesity increases our risk of chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, which are additional risk factors for a more severe COVID-19 infection.

Again, I don’t want this information to set you into a state of panic if you are struggling with extra weight or other COVID-19 health risks. I assure you that this is not a disease where the only people left standing at the end of the pandemic will have single-digit body fat percentages and 6-packs. Fit, lean individuals who are experiencing chronic stress and sleep issues might have a higher risk than slightly more substantial, less fit individuals who are physically active and better manage their sleep and stress. No matter where we are in our health journey, we need to identify our own gaps (physical, mental, social, etc.) and make key changes that will markedly reduce our cytokine load and overall risk.

One common question I get during lectures and in the clinic is, “how do I know if my fat is the inflammatory type?” This is an important distinction. Some of us might be above the recommended BMI (body mass index) cutoff, but not have as much inflammatory adipose tissue. In contrast, others might be underweight but have visceral fat cells packed with proinflammatory cytokines. This is why body weight and BMI can often be a misleading marker. Some clues that you might have more inflammatory adipose tissue are below. Just a reminder that NLRP3 is the alarm sensor that COVID-19 turns on and triggers the cytokine surge.

  • Increased belly fat: ethnic waistline cutoffs are here and to learn more about body fat and the impact of ethnicity, read my post here.
  • High triglycerides: aim for triglyceride levels to be closer to 100 mg/dL or below
  • Low HDL (healthy cholesterol): males should target an HDL>40 mg/dL and for females, HDL>50 mg/dL
  • High triglyceride/HDL ratio is even better than looking at individual triglyceride and HDL, aiming for a ratio of less than 3.0 (lower the better)
  • Elevated blood glucose (prediabetes, diabetes)
  • High blood pressure: More recent research is showing that hypertension may be an inflammatory condition and the NLRP3 inflammasome might be a key switch as discussed in this study.https://www.culturalhealthsolutions.com/is-your-liver-fat/‘>4 This mouse study 5 is linked to NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and blockade of this pathway leads to regression of fatty liver.
  • Elevated hsCRP: this is a test for inflammation that is not indicated in all patients and can give an elevated result for various reasons. Many of my patients with insulin resistance have elevated hs-CRP, and research https://www.culturalhealthsolutions.com/metabolic-syndrome-what-cholesterol-guidelines-should-really-focus-on/’>7 whose root cause is insulin resistance. Many of us have become disconnected from our health care providers and systems as a result of shelter-in. I strongly encourage you to track the risk numbers applicable to you. For example, I’m putting a growing number of my at-risk patients on continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), especially given studies https://mi-psych.com.au/what-your-brain-doesnt-know/‘>1 Because of this, it will always choose what’s familiar and comfortable over working toward a change that’s different. Even if that change is in the best interest of your health and happiness.

    What’s familiar is safe and what’s unknown has the potential to hurt you. At least from your brain’s point of view. And so, it automatically creates negative thoughts (and negative self-talk) to keep you nicely tucked into your comfort zone.

    Examples of Negative Self-talk

    Here’s a scenario to illustrate what I mean. Say you’re thinking about ordering take out. Will it be a large, extra pepperoni pizza or a thick steak and roasted veggies? Depending on your past experiences and your personal belief system, your brain will automatically assign a meaning to that choice.

    If you choose the pizza, your self-talk might be, “well, I guess I’ll be heavy my whole life” or “I never make good choices” or “life’s too short not to eat pizza!!” Unfortunately, that reaffirms your negative beliefs, which you’ll continue to repeat unless you do something to change them.

    Other examples of negative self-talk might be:

    • I’m always out of shape
    • I’m too lazy
    • Why bother I never have enough time
    • Nothing ever goes right for me
    • That’s impossible
    • When will I learn
    • It’s my fault
    • I always mess things up

    Overcoming Negative Self-talk

    Reframing is a psychological technique used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Also known as cognitive restructuring, https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jsep/33/5/article-p666.xml‘>3 What they learned is that the athletes didn’t need to be reminded of what to do to play better or even psych themselves up to do it. They were the most successful when they told themselves what a great job they were doing.

    The language you use creates your reality. So, when you say you hate exercising, do you really hate it, or do you just dislike the workouts you’ve done in the past? If you say healthy food is disgusting, is it really gross or not as delicious as a cheeseburger and fries? If you indulged too much over the weekend are you a failure or are you learning what you need to do differently next time? See where I’m going with this?

    It’s all in the way you talk to yourself.

    But you don’t have to do a complete 180 right out of the gates. Turning “I want to eat healthier, but I don’t know where to start” into “I want to eat healthier and I don’t know where to start” is a great first step. Changing the but to and allows you to acknowledge your experience and create room for opportunity.

    How to Turn Negative Self-talk Into Positive Self-talk

    Our brains are often hardwired to see the negative side

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