Almost no one’s happy with school these days. Kindergarteners are sitting in front of devices for 4-5 hours a day. Teens are dreading daily online meetings and getting prescriptions for “Zoom fatigue.” Some of this is growing pains—kids, teachers, and parents are being asked to completely change the way they do school on a moment’s notice, and change like that doesn’t come easily. But that’s not the only reason.
There just aren’t many great options left. Parents don’t want their kids stuck on the computer all day, nor do they want them in class masked up and unable to touch or play with their peers. There are big problems in every direction.
Change is in the air. People are fed up with the new way of doing things and realizing they don’t like the old way all that much either. I don’t have kids in school anymore, but I do have a grandkid who will be in school soon. Besides, everyone who lives in a country has a stake in the school system of that country. The schools shape the people who become the adults who shape the nation. That affects everyone. Something needs to change.
If I could wave a wand, how would I change school?
Here’s what I’d like to see:
Later start times
8:30, 9 AM. This would give kids extra sleep. Everyone needs sleep, but kids need it more than anyone. It helps them consolidate memories and recently learned skills.http://www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/‘>2 for schools. as kids especially need a lot of sleep. Kids are staying up later and later than ever before. Particularly in studies using teen subjects, delaying school start times by 25-60 minutes can increase total sleep duration by 25-75 minutes per weeknight.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23834604‘>4 This is a travesty, not only because recess (and PE) increase physical activity and step count, but because physical activity improves learning and reduces acting out. In one Texas grade school, implementing four 15-minute recesses a day reduced bullying and tattling, improved focus and eye-contact, and even stopped the neurotic pencil chewing teachers were noticing among their students. The kids are testing ahead of schedule despite less actual classroom time and test prep. Recess improves academic performance, and physical play improves subsequent learning capacity. Give a kid a 15 minute play break for every 45 minutes of book learning and he’ll learn more than the kid who studies an hour straight.
Recess needs to be longer. The absolute daily minimum is 45 minutes (spread across 1-3 sessions including lunch), though I’d like to see the entire day spent outside with movement interlaced with learning/lessons.
Hold classes outdoors
The benefits are immense and irrefutable:
- Kids with ADHD can focus better after exposure to green spaces.
- Kids who frequently spend time outdoors get sick less often and show better motor skills and physical coordination.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494401902415‘>6
- For kids dealing with stress at home (who isn’t?), nature can act as a buffer.http://rer.sagepub.com/content/76/1/1.abstract‘>8 Instead of giving five year olds an hour of paperwork to complete or 15 year olds four hours of work, give them open-ended suggestions.
“Read a book with your parents and tell the class about your favorite part of the story.”
“Find 7 leaves, each from a different tree, and bring them to class.”
“Start a business. Come up with a business plan, a product, and marketing materials.”
Enabling deep work and deep learning during the school day would make most “busy” homework pointless.
Bring back “tracks”
Only don’t limit these tracks to “academics.” It’s not that you split the kids up by “smart” or “dumb” or “advanced” and “behind.” You allow the kids to establish their own track based on interest and aptitude. You get more specific with the tracks.
Someone wants to just do math all day? Let them focus on that.
Someone shows promise as an artist? Let them draw and paint to their heart’s content.
Someone’s obsessed with video games? Let them learn to make their own.
Obviously, even a math-obsessed whiz kid should also read great literature, but I’m not sure the math whiz kid needs to be writing essays on “Brave New World.” Simply reading it is probably enough.
More doing and playing
Humans learn best by doing. Everyone accepts that we learn languages best by speaking it or being thrown into a foreign country, not by reading language lessons. But learning through doing works for everything. Learning the fundamentals matters, but only if you also practice them. I learned to write by reading and aping other writers. This even works in subjects like math. One American educator, Benezet, showed that children who delayed formal math instruction in favor of natural math instruction (doing) until 8th grade quickly caught up to and outperformed kids taught the traditional way.
You could teach (or reinforce) grammar by playing MadLibs. Or just giving kids cool things to read.
Don’t just bring back the old woodshop and metalshop. Introduce full-blown apprenticeship programs. Paid ones.
- And so on
Name a profession and you can probably figure out an apprenticeship program. Heck, this already exists in many states. Check out the listings for California apprenticeships for an idea of what’s possible. Many high schools can even set this up. I bet there are guidance counselors who currently do it, or have. But is it the norm? No. It should be.
Lots of kids would really benefit.
Teach basic competencies
There are basic physical skills everyone should learn.
- Self defense
- First aid
- Physical fitness (running, sprinting, climbing, strength standards)
And other “non-physical” core competencies:
- Bill paying/taxes
Home economics, in other words.
Segregation by age makes little evolutionary sense (until the public school system arose, children had historically hung out with other children of all ages). As a kid, whenever we weren’t in school I’d rove around my neighborhood in age-desegregated packs. It was all very fluid. We’d have the bigger kids leading the way, the smaller ones tagging along, and because everyone pretty much lived in the same place their whole lives, kids would graduate into different roles and new kids would always be coming up in the ranks. Without age mixing children miss out on many benefits:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986467/‘>1 on the risks of eating processed foods, grains, and industrialized oils, there are just as many folks panicking when you pass on the rolls. It’s even harder when those folks are your spouse or significant other.
If you’ve ever heard your partner say…
“I’d die if I couldn’t have bread.”
“One cookie isn’t going to wreck your diet.”
“Your body needs sugar!”
“You’re having bacon again?!”
…then you know what I’m talking about. As a health coach, I see this more often than I don’t. One half of a couple decides they’re done feeling foggy and carrying around extra fat, while the other feels “fine” and finds no reason to change how they’re eating — even though they’re pre-diabetic and their blood pressure numbers are sky high.
Signs You’ve Got a Difficult Partner
As you take steps toward improving your health and growing as a person, you might find that, instead of support, you’re suddenly on the receiving end of someone who’s sabotaging you, acting irritated and jealous, or just not willing to grow with you.
Your partner may come home with armloads of chips and cookies and refuse to eat anything that resembles a vegetable. Or make you feel bad when you ask for your burger lettuce wrapped. Or look at you like you’ve got two heads when you grab the full-fat yogurt off the grocery store shelf. Sound familiar? These are all signs that you’re dealing with a difficult partner. Here are some other indicators:
- They’re quick to blame you for their actions
- They seem to try to sabotage you
- They’re controlling
- They avoid or resist conversations with you
- They minimize your wins or your progress
- They judge you based on their beliefs
- They use guilt as a way to control the situation
Here’s the thing though. You can’t change other people. I don’t care how right you are, how much progress you’ve made in your own health journey, or how much time you spend cooking epic protein-forward meals. People only change when they want to change. That said, you don’t have to let someone else’s resistance derail your own goals.
How Difficult Partners Affect Your Health
Aside from it being downright frustrating to live with someone who refuses to take responsibility for their own health, it can increase your risk of certain health conditions.
One study from Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre evaluated the environmental factors, social habits, and eating and exercising patterns of couples and found that participants had a 26% higher chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes when their partner had the disease.https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo2008150‘>3
All of which suggests that what you do can influence your partner. And vice versa.
9 Ways to Deal with a Difficult or Unsupportive Partner
These are the same tactics I teach my health coaching clients. They’re powerful ones you can use in your own life to avoid frustration, discouragement, and potential derailment, while helping inspire your partner to pursue their own holy grail of good health.
1. Don’t just set expectations, make agreements
A source of conflict in many relationships is the disconnect between expectations and agreements. You might tell your partner you’ve decided to follow a ketogenic diet or pursue a Primal lifestyle, but unless you get clear on your expectations and lay out an agreement, that line can get fuzzy.
For instance, if your significant other brings home fresh baked bread when you’re abstaining from grains, you may feel like he or she is trying to sabotage your efforts. But if an agreement hasn’t been laid out and agreed to, all you have is the expectation that your partner shouldn’t be doing that. Perhaps they don’t know how important it is to you to not have bread in the house. Or they think they’re being supportive by bringing home a treat. Getting clear on your expectations and agreements allows you to focus on your health goals without the pressure of assuming your partner knows what you want or need.
2. Have empathy toward your partner
It’s easy to be irritated by a partner who’s still dragging their butt out of bed, sucking down sodas to stay awake, or praising the virtues of Meatless Monday — especially when you’re feeling amazing doing the opposite. But it’s important to consider the emotions they’re going through during this time. There’s a good chance they’re jealous, fearful, or uncertain about your future together. After all, if your favorite couples’ activity used to be laying around, binging on junk food in front of the TV and now you’re hitting the hay earlier, jumping out of bed in the morning, and making time to cook up a nutrient-dense breakfast, they may not be sure how they fit into the picture.
And remember, there’s a big difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is feeling bad or sorry for someone, where empathy is feeling those emotions with someone.
When you’re feeling unsupported, it can be hard not to nag, shout, or give your partner the silent treatment. However, learning how to communicate effectively can help you get over this hurdle and any others that can (and likely will) come up.
Open up about what you’re going through, why you’re shifting your lifestyle, and why you’d really appreciate your support — without putting blame or shame on your significant other. Then, take a step back and hear what they have to say. Listening is as important a skill as talking when it comes to communication. Be aware of your body language too. Things like crossed arms or legs or tightly clasped hands give off a defensive or closed-off vibe.
4. Be a role model
Just by doing what you’re doing (purchasing unprocessed foods, cooking at home, getting out and exercising), you’re planting a seed in your partner’s mind about the importance of good health. Your positive actions have the ability to influence and motivate, without saying a word.
However, the biggest factor in whether or not they’ll be inspired lies in their own beliefs. According to a study, participants who felt like certain results were attainable to them were more apt to see a role model as inspiring. And participants who believed they couldn’t achieve more than they already had started to view themselves more negatively.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2787021/‘>1 or forwarding Mark’s Daily Apple links will convince them otherwise.
Our food choices have become as controversial as talking about politics or religion. And most people have a hard time seeing that their diet and their health issues are connected. They just go about their day, slurping down their ginormous sugar-laden coffee drinks and processed convenience foods and then running to the doctor when a health issue arises (which it always does).
Unless they’re paying a lot of attention, people become so disengaged from their bodies that they don’t realize eating certain foods is causing them to feel like crap. They don’t realize that being bloated or having indigestion all the time is fixable.
It’s not your job to fix them. But it is your job to stand up for what you and your kids believe in. Eating high-quality protein, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, and fruits and veggies is how our ancestors ate — before chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease became staples in our healthcare system.
You know that eating this way works for you and your family. That’s why the best advice is to lead by example. As your siblings see you indulging in red meat and big ass salads and forgoing grains and processed desserts, they’ll also start to notice that your weight is staying stable (or you’re losing weight) and you’re avoiding the typical illnesses that plague Standard American Dieters.
Whenever you get together with family, keeping eating like you always do without making it a big deal. Who knows? Maybe one of these days you’ll notice they’re slathering up their dinner with real butter instead of spraying on the fake stuff.
“I’ve been Primal about 2 years and I’m still struggling with how to eat healthy at parties when there are limited food options. I always end up eating what’s there because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Got any advice?”
Let me ask you this. What’s more important, your health or the host’s feelings? If passing on chips or cake makes you feel bad, you might want to dig a little deeper into why you’re choosing to eat Primally in the first place. I use an exercise called WHY x 5 with my clients that works wonders when it comes to gauging their deep-down motivating factors for change; and all you have to do is ask yourself WHY five times:
- Why is living a Primal lifestyle important to me?
- Why does that matter?
- Why is that important?
- Why would that be great to achieve?
- And (to address any remaining questions) why?
My guess is that when you eat processed junk, you end up lethargic and bloated. Maybe you feel foggy, your cravings are out of control, you don’t sleep as soundly at night, and you don’t feel as rested in the morning. When you eat protein-forward foods made with real ingredients and healthy fats, you probably feel like a million bucks.
I get it though. It’s really hard to pass on a dish that someone has made from scratch and is being offered from the goodness of their heart. But here’s how you do it. Just say “no.” Or “no thanks” if you’re feeling extra polite. You don’t need to come up with an excuse to justify your answer either. You don’t have to say you aren’t hungry or that you don’t eat grains. All you have to say is “no, thank you.” So liberating, right?
Here’s another technique I use personally and recommend in my own health coaching practice. Bring a Primal-ish dish https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5644785/‘>1shows that you’re more likely to stick with a new diet and exercise routine by making small changes. However, this study https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-53430-9‘>3 that takes the edge off a stressful day. It makes staying at home under quarantine a little more bearable. And gives us a jolt of dopamine, even if it’s only temporary.
The reason we crave it so much is because it allows us to cope. It helps us change our reality (or our perception of our reality) in the moment. That need to want to change where we’re at is so strong sometimes, it overrides our innate knowledge that sugar is bad for us.
Three main reasons we crave sugar:
- Stress. The more stressed out we are, the more intense cravings can be. Think about healthier ways you can relieve your stress like doing a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201912/the-connection-between-sugar-and-your-sleep‘>5 before most people log into their first Zoom meeting of the day. When you eat sugary meals like pancakes, cereal, or even a fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, you’ll end up feeling more tired as soon as your blood sugar starts to crash.
- Emotions. What thoughts, emotions, people, or places bring on your cravings for sugar? The more awareness you can have on these subjects, the better off you’ll be — and the fewer cravings you’ll have to deal with.
“Ok. I’ve really let myself go these last few months. Any tips for getting back on track? You know, for when I have to wear real clothes again?”
Here’s an idea. Love where you are, right now. And if you can’t do that, try giving it some respect. Now, before you start rolling your eyes, hear me out. The human body is an incredible, multifaceted, miraculous organism that keeps you alive. It effortlessly adapts to the nutrient-dense foods and fresh air you give it — and just-as-effortlessly course-corrects when you inevitably mess it up. So, the least you can do is show it some appreciation.
Micromanaging your macros, obsessing, or forcing your body to look like it did 10 years ago or 10 weeks ago is a serious waste of time. Trust me.
I spent way too many years wishing some parts of my body were smaller, wishing some were bigger, and hating on my stretch marks and dimples; and I regret those years of lost joy. It can be hard living in a world that’s obsessed with “perfect” physiques, but here’s the thing. Your body is already perfect as-is. It knows how to breathe. How to pump blood through your veins. And how to let you know when it needs fuel. Frickin’ amazing!
The time we spend bad-mouthing our already perfect bodies is unbelievable. So what if you’ve gained a few pounds or got softer in a few places? Instead of focusing on the parts that might have changed over these past few months, start loving on the ones that have kept you alive all these years. And if you can’t love on them, at the very least, start respecting the hell out of ‘em.
The post Ask a Health Coach: How to Go Primal, Why We Crave Sugar, and Loving Your Body As-Is appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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A while back, I developed an interest in the “archetypal postures” of ground-based sitting, squatting, and kneeling. My interest persisted, and I thought a full-on post about the potential benefits and logistics of floor sitting would be fun and helpful.
I’ve found that there aren’t very many studies examining the effects of floor sitting, kneeling, and squatting on health, posture, or pain. You’ve got the “stability ball literature” (long story short: sitting on a stability ball tends to “increase the level of discomfort”), 7but sitting on an inflated unstable sphere is more physiologically novel than a regular chair. I’m not sure there’s much benefit and it looks pretty silly. There’s also a brief study8 that showed sitting in a backless chair improved levels of consciousness in patients with prolonged consciousness disturbance. For the most part, though, it’s a pretty barren landscape of research.
I think that’s okay. I’m not entirely convinced we always need research to confirm what we already (should) implicitly know.
As Babies, We Start on the Floor
Sometimes hard data isn’t really needed, especially when you consider two unassailable facts about our relationship with the floor. First, individually, we all start out on the floor. As babies, we lie there, essentially kicking things off as eating, pooping sacks of wiggling, basically immobile flesh. Then, we graduate to flipping over onto our stomachs, lolling our heads around (once we develop sufficient neck strength), crawling toward vacant electrical sockets, hesitantly standing, and finally walking. It’s on the floor that we learn to move. We may not be doing terribly complex or impressive stuff down there, but that first year or two is incredibly formative for the rest of our movement lives. We’re building a foundation made primarily of contralateral crawling and “tummy time.” Graduating beyond the floor to full on bipedalism doesn’t mean we should totally ignore where we came from.
Chairs are a Recent Invention
Second, chairs only recently became part of our lives. Folks as early as the ancient Egyptians had them, but they were a luxury item reserved for the upper classes. Your average Neolithic human sat on chests or benches until chairs became a mass-produced staple that everyone could afford. Earlier than that, for most of human history, formal-sitting furniture simply didn’t exist. Paleolithic posteriors surely rested upon rocks and logs and stumps when the opportunity arose, but those aren’t the same as having permanent fixtures that allow you to take a load off whenever you want. Human bodies were not designed with chairs in mind. We did do a lot of lounging around – I’m not arguing we never stopped moving or anything – but we did so on the ground, rather than on a bunch of folding chairs.
Sitting down in a chair does funny things to our bodies. It stretches out our glutes, making them inactive, loose, and weak. People by and large no longer know how to activate their butt muscles due to excessive amounts of chair sitting. Sitting in a chair also keeps the hip flexors in a short, tight, contracted position for extended amounts of time, which can inhibit full hip extension and lead to that hunched over position you often see older folks shuffling around with. And that’s not even mentioning the extensive (and growing) literature showing how sitting for too long increases mortality and degenerative disease, which I’ve covered in plenty of posts and Weekend Link Loves. This post isn’t really about that, anyway.
What might be most important, though, is what sitting in a chair doesn’t do. It doesn’t allow us to rest in the full squat position, an ability we’re born with but quickly forget how to do. It doesn’t let us do much of anything. Sitting becomes a totally passive act, where we’re slumped over, shoulders rounded, feet twisted up and resting on the chair legs, totally dependent on the structure of the chair to support our weight – rather than using our musculature and arranging our skeletal system in such a way that we support ourselves. Doesn’t it seem inconceivable that an animal – any animal – would evolve to require furniture in order to rest comfortably without incurring a disability?
That’s partly why it makes some sense to hang out on the floor more.
6 Floor Sitting Positions to Better Align Your Body
We need the “stress” of supporting our own body weight and making sure our structures are in alignment. Here are a few positions to try out:
- Half kneel
- Crossed legs
- Crossed legs variation
- Make up your own
Squats are the default resting position of humans. Kids can do this easily, but once they start going to school and sitting in a chair for six hours a day, they lose it. The goal here is to get your heels on the ground. Resting on the balls of your feet is easier, but it’s harder on your knees and thighs. The heels-down squat, which requires more flexibility but distributes the pressure across your hips, is far more sustainable.
Seiza is the formal way to sit in Japan, resting on the lower legs, butt on heels. Placing a small pillow or rolled up towel under your knees can make the transition easier, especially if you have a bad knee or two.
Like seiza, except one of your feet is on the ground, heel down, in front of you in a squat position. Like these guys.
For many people, this is the most comfortable, natural way to sit on the floor. You can place your feet flat against each other, cross at the ankles, or place your calves against each other. You can even go full lotus.
Crossed Leg Variation
This is one my favorite ways to sit. From the basic crossed leg position, place one hand flat on the floor and lean on it. Bring the opposite leg up and place the foot flat on the floor. Your opposite leg will be in a squat position. Switch hands and legs if it gets uncomfortable.
Make Up Your Own
Human limbs are funny, bendy things. We can contort ourselves into lots of positions, and as long as you’re on the floor, supporting your own weight and feel comfortable doing it, it’s difficult to hurt yourself. Our bodies are good at giving feedback before things go really wrong. If your arm starts to go numb or your toes get tingly, switch it up! Try coming up with some of your own variations for sitting on the ground and report back.
Floor Activities for Improved Body Alignment
- Crawl. Contralateral crawling is one of the most fundamental ways to move. It’s a strong developer of shoulder and hip mobility and strength, and it’s simply a fun way to see and experience the world.
- Watch TV on the floor. There’s nothing inherently wrong with TV. Sure, it can be taken to the extreme and crowd out active living, but it’s arguably a golden age of television as far as quality goes. The couch sitting, though, is what gets you.
- Eat dinner on the floor. This isn’t something I created out of thin air; plenty of cultures eat dinner on the ground.
- Try different positions. You’ll probably find that floor living is a constantly shifting existence, where instead of remaining in the same position for hours at a time, you’re moving around all the time without even trying. You’re switching from the right arm to the left arm to the right elbow to the full lotus position to the half kneel to the full kneel to the full squat just in the first two hours.
- Practice moving between positions. Go from standing to a half kneel to a kneel to a seiza to a kneel to a half kneel to standing.
- Practice standing up. We can’t live on the floor all the time. Sometimes, we need to stand up and get on with our lives. A smooth transition between floor living and standing is key to health and mobility. For an example transition, check out one of my buddy Erwan’s (of MovNat) methods.
Spend at least an hour a day sitting on the ground and another fifteen minutes practicing different ways to move between positions and another fifteen practicing how to stand up and sit back down. Shoot for ten minutes of crawling, too. You can do most of these things while doing other things, like watching TV or reading or talking, so it’s not like you’re wasting time. My guess is that you’ll take to this like a fish to water.
Why is this so important?
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