Reviewed by Gabrielle Fundaro, PhD, CISSN, CHC


“I can’t go out tonight, I’m… busy.”

If you struggle with gut health problems, you know this line is often code for one—or all—of the following:

“I have to stay close to the bathroom.”

“I can’t wear real pants right now.”

“My farts might kill you.”

Digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, and toilet troubles are common—and can be extremely disruptive (and not just to your social life).

But if you’re frequently plagued by these issues, all you really want to know is:

What will actually help my belly feel better??!

A lot, actually.

In the following story, you’ll discover:

  • How stress, exercise, and many other factors affect your gut health and microbiome
  • How to restore gut health after taking antibiotics
  • Whether you’re the kind of person who could benefit from extra fiber
  • If fermented foods live up to their hype
  • Which supplements might help symptoms like constipation, heartburn, and more, according to research

Most important, you’ll find five evidence-based, cost-effective ways to improve gut and microbiome health overall.

First, what the heck is the microbiome?

This community of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and and their genetic material) lives on your skin, in your mouth, in your lungs, and throughout your digestive tract.

Researchers estimate that between 10–100 trillion microorganisms live in your GI tract alone.

Which means: Your body is basically a human-shaped pile of bacteria.

Your microbiome is as unique as your fingerprint.

The amount and proportions (aka. diversity) of bacteria and fungi will also change throughout your life, depending on a variety of influences, as the image below shows.

The gut microbiome, and a variety of factors that can influence it. For example: genetics, age, body composition, diet quality, stress, illness and medication history, exposure to animals, hygiene, etc.

Many of these critters are like barnacles on a whale. They hitch along for the ride at no cost to you.

Many others are beneficial, helping to keep your skin, gums, and GI tract healthy. These friendly gut bacteria help:

  • Produce small amounts of nutrients, like vitamins B and K
  • Ferment fiber and resistant starch which create short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that help regulate your immune system, appetite, and stress response1 2
  • Keep the system moving (a.k.a. pooping regularly) by bulking up stool and increasing gut motility
  • Regulate inflammation and the immune system

Though there’s still a lot researchers don’t know about the microbiome, they do know this:

Your gut bacteria play a major role in your health and wellbeing.

With that in mind, here are five practical, science-based strategies to support these beneficial, hard-working little friends—and in turn, promote good digestive function, and overall health.

How to support gut health

These strategies can help you improve bacterial diversity and digestive function, as well as reduce the risk of disease.

1. Chew your food.

When you slowly and thoroughly chew food, you break your meal down into smaller, more digestible bits. The smaller pieces also increase the amount of surface area for digestive enzymes to work on and aid chemical digestion.

On the other hand, when you eat quickly, you tend to gulp down big chunks of food—and likely lots of air—which can lead to indigestion and bloating. Plus, those enzymes have a harder time digesting larger pieces of food.

If possible, give yourself a little extra time at meals.

Pay attention to your food (at least intermittently), pause to breathe every once in a while, and put your teeth to work, aiming for the texture of applesauce before each gulp.

2. Include many different types of minimally-processed plant-based foods.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, starchy tubers, beans, and other minimally-processed plant foods do two handy things for your gut:

  1. They feed gut bacteria. When bacteria chows down on fiber, it multiplies and contributes to short-chain fatty acid production as well as bacterial diversity.
  2. They provide bacteria with helpful phytochemicals (like polyphenols) that can be transformed into antioxidant and antiinflammatory compounds.3 4

(Want help choosing minimally-processed foods? Check out: ‘What should I eat?!’ Our 3-step guide for choosing the best foods for your body)

Meanwhile, if you eat mostly highly-processed foods (and not a lot of minimally-processed foods) the diversity and activity of your microbiome reduces.5

In rat studies, this has been shown to skew the overall environment toward bacteria that may increase inflammation and disease risk, hunger and appetite, and vulnerability to the effects of stress, like mood or hormonal imbalances.6

(To be clear, we’re not suggesting you cut processed foods out altogether. In the context of a healthy diet, indulging might actually be good for you. See: How to eat junk food: A guide for conflicted humans.)

Are fermented foods good for the gut?

Kombucha. Natto. Sauerkraut. Kimchi. Yogurt.

About a decade ago, food and beverage products with “live bacterial cultures”—and claims to improve digestion—exploded onto the market.

(Of course, many of these foods have existed for centuries as food staples in certain cultures. As many Eastern Europeans will tell you: “Kvass is old news!”)

But do they work?

We’ll cut to the chase:

Only fermented dairy (specifically, kefir) is supported by high-quality evidence. Even then, its benefits seem to apply more to cardiometabolic health than to digestive health.7

A recent study that’s gotten a lot of buzz implies that a range of other fermented foods may increase microbiome diversity, but more research is needed to determine whether this is due to the ferments themselves or simply the inclusion of new minimally-processed foods.

So, while lacto-fermented veggies and sourdough are delicious and can contribute to a varied, nutrient-dense diet, there’s no guarantee (and no indisputable evidence, to date) they’ll improve your digestion or elimination.

3. Add a fiber supplement. (Maybe.)

This might come as a shock:

Not everyone benefits from more fiber.

[Flings cardboard-like high-fiber cereal into the fire]

If you consume a diet rich in minimally-processed foods, your diet is already naturally rich in fiber. And adding even more of the stuff may not move the digestive needle much, if at all.

On top of that, some people are sensitive to compounds called FODMAPs—which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols—found in specific fiber-rich foods. When they eat these foods, they’ll experience gas, bloating, and loose stools.

The above caveats aside, there are a few scenarios where a fiber supplement can be a good idea:

▶ You struggle to eat minimally-processed foods.

This might be because you can’t readily access them, or because you can’t tolerate the taste.

Consider supplementing with a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. Also, experiment with adding whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes for more fiber and an overall nutrition boost.

▶ You eat mostly minimally-processed foods, but you avoid carbs.

In other words, you mostly eat non-starchy vegetables, animal proteins, and healthy fats.

If your gut functions well, you likely don’t need to make any changes.

However, if your poops are infrequent, hard to pass, or very small, consider adding more soluble fiber, either through foods like beans, lentils, oats, or sweet potatoes (if you’re willing to alter your macro split), or through a supplement like psyllium powder.

(For TMI on exactly what an ideal poop should look like, check out: Are your eating and lifestyle habits REALLY working? Just ask your poo)

▶ Despite eating a full range of minimally-processed foods, you still struggle with constipation.

Although psyllium (a soluble fiber) might help with constipation, it can actually worsen other problems like diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Before adding it, talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner to rule out food allergies, intolerances, or other causes of digestive distress.

(An elimination diet can be a great way to assess if you’re reacting negatively to certain foods. Here’s a primer to get you started: Elimination diets: How and why to do them.)

Crash course: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

If you’re interested in changing your fiber intake (maybe because you’ve heard it might help a digestive issue) it can help to know the difference between the two types of fiber.

▶ Soluble fiber absorbs water. This creates a gel that softens stool. Soluble fiber also feeds beneficial gut bacteria.8

Foods like whole grains, beans, legumes, and psyllium are rich in soluble fiber.

▶ Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It adds bulk or weight to stool, making it easier and often faster to pass. Because it helps improve bathroom regularity, insoluble fiber reduces the risk of GI symptoms9 and bowel diseases.10

Many non-starchy vegetables and wheat bran are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Note: If you’re currently eating a very low fiber diet and start incorporating more fiber—either through whole foods or supplements—sometimes there’s an adjustment period.

For a couple of weeks, you might notice extra gurgling, gas, and maybe changes in bowel activity. If it becomes too uncomfortable, scale back for a period of time. Reintroduce more moderately when you’re ready.

Eventually, most people adjust and find their appetite, digestion, and overall health greatly benefit from adequate fiber.

4. If you have to take antibiotics, add some good bacteria back in.

Antibiotics can be life-saving. And at some point, almost all of us will have to take them.

(Note: Only a doctor can decide when antibiotics are—or aren’t—appropriate.)

However, antibiotics are associated with less microbial diversity in the gut, as well as an increase of “bad” bacteria (think: C. difficile, Salmonella, and antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus).11

In healthy people, gut bacteria levels recover pretty well—but not perfectly—after taking antibiotics.

In one study, people recovered to close to their pre-antibiotic baseline within six weeks, but were still missing several strains of bacteria that had been present before the antibiotics six months later.12

In some cases, probiotics—supplemental beneficial bacteria—can help.

Especially in the case of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, supplements containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii seem to work well to prevent symptoms.13

Just bear in mind not everyone responds to specific probiotics in the same way.

Individual response depends on the bacteria you already have in your gut, plus whether the supplemental bacteria takes up residence in your GI tract or just passes through.

(To find out when probiotics are most useful, read: Do probiotics really work?)

5. Move.

Physical activity and cardiovascular fitness are associated with more microbial diversity and more short-chain fatty acids.14 15 16

(Recall: SCFAs do lots of good things for the body, from better immunity, to better tolerance to stress.)

Additionally, when you engage in mild-moderate exercise, you stimulate the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system.

Not only does this have an overall relaxing effect on the body and mind, but it also encourages movement (peristalsis) in the digestive tract, aiding both digestion and elimination.

(In case you’re curious, pooping well-formed, easy-to-pass stools anywhere from three times a day to every other day is a sign of good elimination.)

Extra credit: Supplements that can help with indigestion, gas, and pooping.

Unfortunately, uncomfortable digestive symptoms sometimes still happen to people who do everything suggested in this article.

If you have mild indigestion, gas, or pooping problems—and can’t find any obvious culprits (or solutions)—supplements might be the extra nudge to get digestion and elimination back on track.

Here’s a list of common symptoms, and the supplements that can help:

Symptom Evidence-based supplement
Excessive gas / bloating Specific digestive enzymes17 18
Select enzymes can help if you get symptoms after eating certain foods, such as alpha-galactosidase for beans and legumes, or lactase for dairy.

Enteric-coated peppermint oil19
While peppermint oil can reduce pain, gas, and bloating, it can actually make acid reflux worse, if that’s a symptom you already experience.
Heartburn Ginger, tea or capsules20 21 22
Ginger also helps with nausea.
Constipation Magnesium citrate23 24
Magnesium is safe for long-term use, unlike most laxatives, which are habit-forming and aren’t good solutions for chronic constipation.
Diarrhea Electrolytes & fluids25
Usually a sign of an acute infection, diarrhea is the body’s way of clearing out unwanted pathogens. For that reason, it’s often best to let it run its course. To reduce dehydration associated with diarrhea, hydrate with water, sports drinks, or over-the-counter rehydration solutions.

If any of the above symptoms are severe or persist for more than a few days, contact your doctor.

For most people, the basics can really help.

You might be tempted to skip the above advice with a harrumphing:

“Blah blah blah, I KNOW this already! Isn’t there some more innovative, cutting edge protocol I can try??”

(Well, maybe. You could look into fecal transplantation. We’ll wait here while you decide that actually, you’ll try the basic diet and lifestyle changes after all.)

As many of our coaches and clients have experienced:

The challenge isn’t knowing what to do. It’s actually doing it, consistently.

Our advice?

Lean into consistency rather than novelty.

As in, “How can I slow down a little more at meals, or be a little more intentional about my veggie consumption” instead of “What’s the next trendy substance or protocol that promises to supercharge my microbiome?”

And if you need some motivation:

Changes in microbiome profiles can happen even within 24 hours of switching up your diet.26

So, wherever you’re starting from, when you add some basic practices, your gut bacteria may benefit within a short period of time.

(Nearly) instant gratification!

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

  1. Dalile, Boushra, Bram Vervliet, Gabriela Bergonzelli, Kristin Verbeke, and Lukas Van Oudenhove. 2020. “Colon-Delivered Short-Chain Fatty Acids Attenuate the Cortisol Response to Psychosocial Stress in Healthy Men: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 45 (13): 2257–66.
  2. Wouw, Marcel van de, Marcus Boehme, Joshua M. Lyte, Niamh Wiley, Conall Strain, Orla O’Sullivan, Gerard Clarke, Catherine Stanton, Timothy G. Dinan, and John F. Cryan. 2018. “Short-Chain Fatty Acids: Microbial Metabolites That Alleviate Stress-Induced Brain-Gut Axis Alterations.” The Journal of Physiology 596 (20): 4923–44.
  3. Edwards, C. A., J. Havlik, W. Cong, W. Mullen, T. Preston, D. J. Morrison, and E. Combet. 2017. “Polyphenols and Health: Interactions between Fibre, Plant Polyphenols and the Gut Microbiota.” Nutrition Bulletin / BNF 42 (4): 356–60.
  4. Moco, Sofia, François-Pierre J. Martin, and Serge Rezzi. 2012. “Metabolomics View on Gut Microbiome Modulation by Polyphenol-Rich Foods.” Journal of Proteome Research 11 (10): 4781–90.
  5. Heiman, Mark L., and Frank L. Greenway. 2016. “A Healthy Gastrointestinal Microbiome Is Dependent on Dietary Diversity.” Molecular Metabolism 5 (5): 317–20.
  6. Zinöcker, Marit K., and Inge A. Lindseth. 2018. “The Western Diet-Microbiome-Host Interaction and Its Role in Metabolic Disease.” Nutrients 10 (3).
  7. Dimidi, Eirini, Selina Rose Cox, Megan Rossi, and Kevin Whelan. 2019. “Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease.” Nutrients 11 (8).
  8. Anderson, James W., Pat Baird, Richard H. Davis Jr, Stefanie Ferreri, Mary Knudtson, Ashraf Koraym, Valerie Waters, and Christine L. Williams. 2009. “Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber.” Nutrition Reviews 67 (4): 188–205.
  9. Lambeau, Kellen V., and Johnson W. McRorie Jr. 2017. “Fiber Supplements and Clinically Proven Health Benefits: How to Recognize and Recommend an Effective Fiber Therapy.” Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 29 (4): 216–23.
  10. Papandreou, Dimitrios, Zujaja Tul Noor, and Maitha Rashed. 2015. “The Role of Soluble, Insoluble Fibers and Their Bioactive Compounds in Cancer: A Mini Review.” Food and Nutrition Sciences 06 (01): 1–11.
  11. Dudek-Wicher, Ruth K., Adam Junka, and Marzenna Bartoszewicz. 2018. “The Influence of Antibiotics and Dietary Components on Gut Microbiota.Przeglad Gastroenterologiczny 13 (2): 85–92.
  12. Palleja, Albert, Kristian H. Mikkelsen, Sofia K. Forslund, Alireza Kashani, Kristine H. Allin, Trine Nielsen, Tue H. Hansen, et al. 2018. “Recovery of Gut Microbiota of Healthy Adults Following Antibiotic Exposure.” Nature Microbiology 3 (11): 1255–65.
  13. Blaabjerg, Sara, Daniel Maribo Artzi, and Rune Aabenhus. 2017. “Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Outpatients-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland) 6 (4).
  14. Clarke, Siobhan F., Eileen F. Murphy, Orla O’Sullivan, Alice J. Lucey, Margaret Humphreys, Aileen Hogan, Paula Hayes, et al. 2014. “Exercise and Associated Dietary Extremes Impact on Gut Microbial Diversity.” Gut 63 (12): 1913–20.
  15. Mailing, Lucy J., Jacob M. Allen, Thomas W. Buford, Christopher J. Fields, and Jeffrey A. Woods. 2019. “Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms, and Implications for Human Health.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 47 (2): 75–85.
  16. Ortiz-Alvarez, Lourdes, Huiwen Xu, and Borja Martinez-Tellez. 2020. “Influence of Exercise on the Human Gut Microbiota of Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review.” Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology 11 (2): e00126.
  17. Quinten, Thomas, Jean-Michel Philippart, Thomas De Beer, Stefaan Vervarcke, and Mieke Van Den Driessche. 2014. “Can the Supplementation of a Digestive Enzyme Complex Offer a Solution for Common Digestive Problems?” Archives of Public Health = Archives Belges de Sante Publique 72 (1): 1–2.
  18. Majeed, Muhammed, Shaheen Majeed, Kalyanam Nagabhushanam, Sivakumar Arumugam, Anurag Pande, Mahesh Paschapur, and Furqan Ali. 2018. “Evaluation of the Safety and Efficacy of a Multienzyme Complex in Patients with Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Journal of Medicinal Food 21 (11): 1120–28.
  19. Alammar, N., L. Wang, B. Saberi, J. Nanavati, G. Holtmann, R. T. Shinohara, and G. E. Mullin. 2019. “The Impact of Peppermint Oil on the Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of the Pooled Clinical Data.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 19 (1): 21.
  20. Ebrahimzadeh Attari, Vahideh, Mohammad Hosein Somi, Mohammad Asghari Jafarabadi, Alireza Ostadrahimi, Seyed-Yaghob Moaddab, and Neda Lotfi. 2019. “The Gastro-Protective Effect of Ginger (Zingiber Officinale Roscoe) in Helicobacter Pylori Positive Functional Dyspepsia.” Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin 9 (2): 321–24.
  21. Hu, Ming-Luen, Christophan K. Rayner, Keng-Liang Wu, Seng-Kee Chuah, Wei-Chen Tai, Yeh-Pin Chou, Yi-Chun Chiu, King-Wah Chiu, and Tsung-Hui Hu. 2011. “Effect of Ginger on Gastric Motility and Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia.World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 17 (1): 105–10.
  22. Giacosa, Attilio, Davide Guido, Mario Grassi, Antonella Riva, Paolo Morazzoni, Ezio Bombardelli, Simone Perna, Milena A. Faliva, and Mariangela Rondanelli. 2015. “The Effect of Ginger (Zingiber Officinalis) and Artichoke (Cynara Cardunculus) Extract Supplementation on Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomised, Double-Blind, and Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM 2015 (April): 915087.
  23. Mori, Sumire, Toshihiko Tomita, Kazuki Fujimura, Haruki Asano, Tomohiro Ogawa, Takahisa Yamasaki, Takashi Kondo, et al. 2019. “A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial on the Effect of Magnesium Oxide in Patients With Chronic Constipation.Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility 25 (4): 563–75.
  24. Dupont, Christophe, and Guillaume Hébert. 2020. “Magnesium Sulfate-Rich Natural Mineral Waters in the Treatment of Functional Constipation-A Review.Nutrients 12 (7).
  25. Rao, S. S. C., R. W. Summers, G. R. S. Rao, S. Ramana, U. Devi, B. Zimmerman, and B. C. V. Pratap. 2006. “Oral Rehydration for Viral Gastroenteritis in Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of 3 Solutions.JPEN. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 30 (5): 433–39.
  26. David, Lawrence A., Corinne F. Maurice, Rachel N. Carmody, David B. Gootenberg, Julie E. Button, Benjamin E. Wolfe, Alisha V. Ling, et al. 2014. “Diet Rapidly and Reproducibly Alters the Human Gut Microbiome.Nature 505 (7484): 559–63.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

You can help people build nutrition and lifestyle habits that improve their physical and mental health, bolster their immunity, help them better manage stress, and get sustainable results. We’ll show you how.

If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.

The post How to improve your gut health—without expensive supplements appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Reviewed by Gabrielle Fundaro, PhD, CISSN, CHC


“I can’t go out tonight, I’m… busy.”

If you struggle with gut health problems, you know this line is often code for one—or all—of the following:

“I have to stay close to the bathroom.”

“I can’t wear real pants right now.”

“My farts might kill you.”

Digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, and toilet troubles are common—and can be extremely disruptive (and not just to your social life).

But if you’re frequently plagued by these issues, all you really want to know is:

What will actually help my belly feel better??!

A lot, actually.

In the following story, you’ll discover:

  • How stress, exercise, and many other factors affect your gut health and microbiome
  • How to restore gut health after taking antibiotics
  • Whether you’re the kind of person who could benefit from extra fiber
  • If fermented foods live up to their hype
  • Which supplements might help symptoms like constipation, heartburn, and more, according to research

Most important, you’ll find five evidence-based, cost-effective ways to improve gut and microbiome health overall.

First, what the heck is the microbiome?

This community of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and and their genetic material) lives on your skin, in your mouth, in your lungs, and throughout your digestive tract.

Researchers estimate that between 10–100 trillion microorganisms live in your GI tract alone.

Which means: Your body is basically a human-shaped pile of bacteria.

Your microbiome is as unique as your fingerprint.

The amount and proportions (aka. diversity) of bacteria and fungi will also change throughout your life, depending on a variety of influences, as the image below shows.

The gut microbiome, and a variety of factors that can influence it. For example: genetics, age, body composition, diet quality, stress, illness and medication history, exposure to animals, hygiene, etc.

Many of these critters are like barnacles on a whale. They hitch along for the ride at no cost to you.

Many others are beneficial, helping to keep your skin, gums, and GI tract healthy. These friendly gut bacteria help:

  • Produce small amounts of nutrients, like vitamins B and K
  • Ferment fiber and resistant starch which create short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that help regulate your immune system, appetite, and stress response1 2
  • Keep the system moving (a.k.a. pooping regularly) by bulking up stool and increasing gut motility
  • Regulate inflammation and the immune system

Though there’s still a lot researchers don’t know about the microbiome, they do know this:

Your gut bacteria play a major role in your health and wellbeing.

With that in mind, here are five practical, science-based strategies to support these beneficial, hard-working little friends—and in turn, promote good digestive function, and overall health.

How to support gut health

These strategies can help you improve bacterial diversity and digestive function, as well as reduce the risk of disease.

1. Chew your food.

When you slowly and thoroughly chew food, you break your meal down into smaller, more digestible bits. The smaller pieces also increase the amount of surface area for digestive enzymes to work on and aid chemical digestion.

On the other hand, when you eat quickly, you tend to gulp down big chunks of food—and likely lots of air—which can lead to indigestion and bloating. Plus, those enzymes have a harder time digesting larger pieces of food.

If possible, give yourself a little extra time at meals.

Pay attention to your food (at least intermittently), pause to breathe every once in a while, and put your teeth to work, aiming for the texture of applesauce before each gulp.

2. Include many different types of minimally-processed plant-based foods.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, starchy tubers, beans, and other minimally-processed plant foods do two handy things for your gut:

  1. They feed gut bacteria. When bacteria chows down on fiber, it multiplies and contributes to short-chain fatty acid production as well as bacterial diversity.
  2. They provide bacteria with helpful phytochemicals (like polyphenols) that can be transformed into antioxidant and antiinflammatory compounds.3 4

(Want help choosing minimally-processed foods? Check out: ‘What should I eat?!’ Our 3-step guide for choosing the best foods for your body)

Meanwhile, if you eat mostly highly-processed foods (and not a lot of minimally-processed foods) the diversity and activity of your microbiome reduces.5

In rat studies, this has been shown to skew the overall environment toward bacteria that may increase inflammation and disease risk, hunger and appetite, and vulnerability to the effects of stress, like mood or hormonal imbalances.6

(To be clear, we’re not suggesting you cut processed foods out altogether. In the context of a healthy diet, indulging might actually be good for you. See: How to eat junk food: A guide for conflicted humans.)

Are fermented foods good for the gut?

Kombucha. Natto. Sauerkraut. Kimchi. Yogurt.

About a decade ago, food and beverage products with “live bacterial cultures”—and claims to improve digestion—exploded onto the market.

(Of course, many of these foods have existed for centuries as food staples in certain cultures. As many Eastern Europeans will tell you: “Kvass is old news!”)

But do they work?

We’ll cut to the chase:

Only fermented dairy (specifically, kefir) is supported by high-quality evidence. Even then, its benefits seem to apply more to cardiometabolic health than to digestive health.7

A recent study that’s gotten a lot of buzz implies that a range of other fermented foods may increase microbiome diversity, but more research is needed to determine whether this is due to the ferments themselves or simply the inclusion of new minimally-processed foods.

So, while lacto-fermented veggies and sourdough are delicious and can contribute to a varied, nutrient-dense diet, there’s no guarantee (and no indisputable evidence, to date) they’ll improve your digestion or elimination.

3. Add a fiber supplement. (Maybe.)

This might come as a shock:

Not everyone benefits from more fiber.

[Flings cardboard-like high-fiber cereal into the fire]

If you consume a diet rich in minimally-processed foods, your diet is already naturally rich in fiber. And adding even more of the stuff may not move the digestive needle much, if at all.

On top of that, some people are sensitive to compounds called FODMAPs—which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols—found in specific fiber-rich foods. When they eat these foods, they’ll experience gas, bloating, and loose stools.

The above caveats aside, there are a few scenarios where a fiber supplement can be a good idea:

▶ You struggle to eat minimally-processed foods.

This might be because you can’t readily access them, or because you can’t tolerate the taste.

Consider supplementing with a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. Also, experiment with adding whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes for more fiber and an overall nutrition boost.

▶ You eat mostly minimally-processed foods, but you avoid carbs.

In other words, you mostly eat non-starchy vegetables, animal proteins, and healthy fats.

If your gut functions well, you likely don’t need to make any changes.

However, if your poops are infrequent, hard to pass, or very small, consider adding more soluble fiber, either through foods like beans, lentils, oats, or sweet potatoes (if you’re willing to alter your macro split), or through a supplement like psyllium powder.

(For TMI on exactly what an ideal poop should look like, check out: Are your eating and lifestyle habits REALLY working? Just ask your poo)

▶ Despite eating a full range of minimally-processed foods, you still struggle with constipation.

Although psyllium (a soluble fiber) might help with constipation, it can actually worsen other problems like diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Before adding it, talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner to rule out food allergies, intolerances, or other causes of digestive distress.

(An elimination diet can be a great way to assess if you’re reacting negatively to certain foods. Here’s a primer to get you started: Elimination diets: How and why to do them.)

Crash course: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

If you’re interested in changing your fiber intake (maybe because you’ve heard it might help a digestive issue) it can help to know the difference between the two types of fiber.

▶ Soluble fiber absorbs water. This creates a gel that softens stool. Soluble fiber also feeds beneficial gut bacteria.8

Foods like whole grains, beans, legumes, and psyllium are rich in soluble fiber.

▶ Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It adds bulk or weight to stool, making it easier and often faster to pass. Because it helps improve bathroom regularity, insoluble fiber reduces the risk of GI symptoms9 and bowel diseases.10

Many non-starchy vegetables and wheat bran are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Note: If you’re currently eating a very low fiber diet and start incorporating more fiber—either through whole foods or supplements—sometimes there’s an adjustment period.

For a couple of weeks, you might notice extra gurgling, gas, and maybe changes in bowel activity. If it becomes too uncomfortable, scale back for a period of time. Reintroduce more moderately when you’re ready.

Eventually, most people adjust and find their appetite, digestion, and overall health greatly benefit from adequate fiber.

4. If you have to take antibiotics, add some good bacteria back in.

Antibiotics can be life-saving. And at some point, almost all of us will have to take them.

(Note: Only a doctor can decide when antibiotics are—or aren’t—appropriate.)

However, antibiotics are associated with less microbial diversity in the gut, as well as an increase of “bad” bacteria (think: C. difficile, Salmonella, and antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus).11

In healthy people, gut bacteria levels recover pretty well—but not perfectly—after taking antibiotics.

In one study, people recovered to close to their pre-antibiotic baseline within six weeks, but were still missing several strains of bacteria that had been present before the antibiotics six months later.12

In some cases, probiotics—supplemental beneficial bacteria—can help.

Especially in the case of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, supplements containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii seem to work well to prevent symptoms.13

Just bear in mind not everyone responds to specific probiotics in the same way.

Individual response depends on the bacteria you already have in your gut, plus whether the supplemental bacteria takes up residence in your GI tract or just passes through.

(To find out when probiotics are most useful, read: Do probiotics really work?)

5. Move.

Physical activity and cardiovascular fitness are associated with more microbial diversity and more short-chain fatty acids.14 15 16

(Recall: SCFAs do lots of good things for the body, from better immunity, to better tolerance to stress.)

Additionally, when you engage in mild-moderate exercise, you stimulate the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system.

Not only does this have an overall relaxing effect on the body and mind, but it also encourages movement (peristalsis) in the digestive tract, aiding both digestion and elimination.

(In case you’re curious, pooping well-formed, easy-to-pass stools anywhere from three times a day to every other day is a sign of good elimination.)

Extra credit: Supplements that can help with indigestion, gas, and pooping.

Unfortunately, uncomfortable digestive symptoms sometimes still happen to people who do everything suggested in this article.

If you have mild indigestion, gas, or pooping problems—and can’t find any obvious culprits (or solutions)—supplements might be the extra nudge to get digestion and elimination back on track.

Here’s a list of common symptoms, and the supplements that can help:

Symptom Evidence-based supplement
Excessive gas / bloating Specific digestive enzymes17 18
Select enzymes can help if you get symptoms after eating certain foods, such as alpha-galactosidase for beans and legumes, or lactase for dairy.
Enteric-coated peppermint oil19
While peppermint oil can reduce pain, gas, and bloating, it can actually make acid reflux worse, if that’s a symptom you already experience.
Heartburn Ginger, tea or capsules20 21 22
Ginger also helps with nausea.
Constipation Magnesium citrate23 24
Magnesium is safe for long-term use, unlike most laxatives, which are habit-forming and aren’t good solutions for chronic constipation.
Diarrhea Electrolytes & fluids25
Usually a sign of an acute infection, diarrhea is the body’s way of clearing out unwanted pathogens. For that reason, it’s often best to let it run its course. To reduce dehydration associated with diarrhea, hydrate with water, sports drinks, or over-the-counter rehydration solutions.

If any of the above symptoms are severe or persist for more than a few days, contact your doctor.

For most people, the basics can really help.

You might be tempted to skip the above advice with a harrumphing:

“Blah blah blah, I KNOW this already! Isn’t there some more innovative, cutting edge protocol I can try??”

(Well, maybe. You could look into fecal transplantation. We’ll wait here while you decide that actually, you’ll try the basic diet and lifestyle changes after all.)

As many of our coaches and clients have experienced:

The challenge isn’t knowing what to do. It’s actually doing it, consistently.

Our advice?

Lean into consistency rather than novelty.

As in, “How can I slow down a little more at meals, or be a little more intentional about my veggie consumption” instead of “What’s the next trendy substance or protocol that promises to supercharge my microbiome?”

And if you need some motivation:

Changes in microbiome profiles can happen even within 24 hours of switching up your diet.26

So, wherever you’re starting from, when you add some basic practices, your gut bacteria may benefit within a short period of time.

(Nearly) instant gratification!

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

  1. Dalile, Boushra, Bram Vervliet, Gabriela Bergonzelli, Kristin Verbeke, and Lukas Van Oudenhove. 2020. “Colon-Delivered Short-Chain Fatty Acids Attenuate the Cortisol Response to Psychosocial Stress in Healthy Men: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 45 (13): 2257–66.
  2. Wouw, Marcel van de, Marcus Boehme, Joshua M. Lyte, Niamh Wiley, Conall Strain, Orla O’Sullivan, Gerard Clarke, Catherine Stanton, Timothy G. Dinan, and John F. Cryan. 2018. “Short-Chain Fatty Acids: Microbial Metabolites That Alleviate Stress-Induced Brain-Gut Axis Alterations.” The Journal of Physiology 596 (20): 4923–44.
  3. Edwards, C. A., J. Havlik, W. Cong, W. Mullen, T. Preston, D. J. Morrison, and E. Combet. 2017. “Polyphenols and Health: Interactions between Fibre, Plant Polyphenols and the Gut Microbiota.” Nutrition Bulletin / BNF 42 (4): 356–60.
  4. Moco, Sofia, François-Pierre J. Martin, and Serge Rezzi. 2012. “Metabolomics View on Gut Microbiome Modulation by Polyphenol-Rich Foods.” Journal of Proteome Research 11 (10): 4781–90.
  5. Heiman, Mark L., and Frank L. Greenway. 2016. “A Healthy Gastrointestinal Microbiome Is Dependent on Dietary Diversity.” Molecular Metabolism 5 (5): 317–20.
  6. Zinöcker, Marit K., and Inge A. Lindseth. 2018. “The Western Diet-Microbiome-Host Interaction and Its Role in Metabolic Disease.” Nutrients 10 (3).
  7. Dimidi, Eirini, Selina Rose Cox, Megan Rossi, and Kevin Whelan. 2019. “Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease.” Nutrients 11 (8).
  8. Anderson, James W., Pat Baird, Richard H. Davis Jr, Stefanie Ferreri, Mary Knudtson, Ashraf Koraym, Valerie Waters, and Christine L. Williams. 2009. “Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber.” Nutrition Reviews 67 (4): 188–205.
  9. Lambeau, Kellen V., and Johnson W. McRorie Jr. 2017. “Fiber Supplements and Clinically Proven Health Benefits: How to Recognize and Recommend an Effective Fiber Therapy.” Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 29 (4): 216–23.
  10. Papandreou, Dimitrios, Zujaja Tul Noor, and Maitha Rashed. 2015. “The Role of Soluble, Insoluble Fibers and Their Bioactive Compounds in Cancer: A Mini Review.” Food and Nutrition Sciences 06 (01): 1–11.
  11. Dudek-Wicher, Ruth K., Adam Junka, and Marzenna Bartoszewicz. 2018. “The Influence of Antibiotics and Dietary Components on Gut Microbiota.Przeglad Gastroenterologiczny 13 (2): 85–92.
  12. Palleja, Albert, Kristian H. Mikkelsen, Sofia K. Forslund, Alireza Kashani, Kristine H. Allin, Trine Nielsen, Tue H. Hansen, et al. 2018. “Recovery of Gut Microbiota of Healthy Adults Following Antibiotic Exposure.” Nature Microbiology 3 (11): 1255–65.
  13. Blaabjerg, Sara, Daniel Maribo Artzi, and Rune Aabenhus. 2017. “Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea in Outpatients-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland) 6 (4).
  14. Clarke, Siobhan F., Eileen F. Murphy, Orla O’Sullivan, Alice J. Lucey, Margaret Humphreys, Aileen Hogan, Paula Hayes, et al. 2014. “Exercise and Associated Dietary Extremes Impact on Gut Microbial Diversity.” Gut 63 (12): 1913–20.
  15. Mailing, Lucy J., Jacob M. Allen, Thomas W. Buford, Christopher J. Fields, and Jeffrey A. Woods. 2019. “Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms, and Implications for Human Health.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 47 (2): 75–85.
  16. Ortiz-Alvarez, Lourdes, Huiwen Xu, and Borja Martinez-Tellez. 2020. “Influence of Exercise on the Human Gut Microbiota of Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review.” Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology 11 (2): e00126.
  17. Quinten, Thomas, Jean-Michel Philippart, Thomas De Beer, Stefaan Vervarcke, and Mieke Van Den Driessche. 2014. “Can the Supplementation of a Digestive Enzyme Complex Offer a Solution for Common Digestive Problems?” Archives of Public Health = Archives Belges de Sante Publique 72 (1): 1–2.
  18. Majeed, Muhammed, Shaheen Majeed, Kalyanam Nagabhushanam, Sivakumar Arumugam, Anurag Pande, Mahesh Paschapur, and Furqan Ali. 2018. “Evaluation of the Safety and Efficacy of a Multienzyme Complex in Patients with Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Journal of Medicinal Food 21 (11): 1120–28.
  19. Alammar, N., L. Wang, B. Saberi, J. Nanavati, G. Holtmann, R. T. Shinohara, and G. E. Mullin. 2019. “The Impact of Peppermint Oil on the Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of the Pooled Clinical Data.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 19 (1): 21.
  20. Ebrahimzadeh Attari, Vahideh, Mohammad Hosein Somi, Mohammad Asghari Jafarabadi, Alireza Ostadrahimi, Seyed-Yaghob Moaddab, and Neda Lotfi. 2019. “The Gastro-Protective Effect of Ginger (Zingiber Officinale Roscoe) in Helicobacter Pylori Positive Functional Dyspepsia.” Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin 9 (2): 321–24.
  21. Hu, Ming-Luen, Christophan K. Rayner, Keng-Liang Wu, Seng-Kee Chuah, Wei-Chen Tai, Yeh-Pin Chou, Yi-Chun Chiu, King-Wah Chiu, and Tsung-Hui Hu. 2011. “Effect of Ginger on Gastric Motility and Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia.World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 17 (1): 105–10.
  22. Giacosa, Attilio, Davide Guido, Mario Grassi, Antonella Riva, Paolo Morazzoni, Ezio Bombardelli, Simone Perna, Milena A. Faliva, and Mariangela Rondanelli. 2015. “The Effect of Ginger (Zingiber Officinalis) and Artichoke (Cynara Cardunculus) Extract Supplementation on Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomised, Double-Blind, and Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM 2015 (April): 915087.
  23. Mori, Sumire, Toshihiko Tomita, Kazuki Fujimura, Haruki Asano, Tomohiro Ogawa, Takahisa Yamasaki, Takashi Kondo, et al. 2019. “A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial on the Effect of Magnesium Oxide in Patients With Chronic Constipation.Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility 25 (4): 563–75.
  24. Dupont, Christophe, and Guillaume Hébert. 2020. “Magnesium Sulfate-Rich Natural Mineral Waters in the Treatment of Functional Constipation-A Review.Nutrients 12 (7).
  25. Rao, S. S. C., R. W. Summers, G. R. S. Rao, S. Ramana, U. Devi, B. Zimmerman, and B. C. V. Pratap. 2006. “Oral Rehydration for Viral Gastroenteritis in Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of 3 Solutions.JPEN. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 30 (5): 433–39.
  26. David, Lawrence A., Corinne F. Maurice, Rachel N. Carmody, David B. Gootenberg, Julie E. Button, Benjamin E. Wolfe, Alisha V. Ling, et al. 2014. “Diet Rapidly and Reproducibly Alters the Human Gut Microbiome.Nature 505 (7484): 559–63.

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

You can help people build nutrition and lifestyle habits that improve their physical and mental health, bolster their immunity, help them better manage stress, and get sustainable results. We’ll show you how.

If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.

The post How to improve your gut health: 5 research-backed strategies appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

All over the internet, you’ll find magical-sounding solutions for anxiety, depression, brain fog, and fatigue.

Eat this ancient mushroom! Wear this crystal! Hang upside down!

If only feeling better were that simple.

Focusing on just one food or supplement is kind of like wearing a raincoat that only covers your left shoulder. 

It’s just not enough to help you weather life’s storms.

First, nutrition accounts for only part of the mental and emotional health picture.

Things like exercise, stress management, sleep, social support, and a sense of purpose are also crucial to feeling balanced, strong, and capable.

Second, mental and emotional well-being depends on many different nutrients from many different foods.

(That ONE ancient mushroom isn’t your nutritional panacea.)

In the below infographic, you’ll find ways to build a better mental and emotional health “raincoat”—one that’s durable (and full body).

If you’re a coach…

Remember your scope of practice: You can’t recommend specific foods, beverages, or supplements as a treatment for depression, anxiety, or any other medical condition. That’s what your client’s doctor is for.

Here’s what you CAN do….

  • Support clients as they put their doctor’s advice into practice
  • Listen with curiosity and compassion when clients tell you about their struggles
  • Let clients know about supplements that might help—and encourage them to discuss that information with their doctor
  • Recommend dietary patterns known for enhancing mental and emotional health

Download this infographic for your tablet or printer and apply the steps to create a diet that helps you think and feel better.

++++

If you’re a health and fitness pro…

Learning how to help clients manage stress and optimize sleep can massively change your clients’ results.

They’ll get “unstuck” and finally move forward—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

Plus, it’ll give you the confidence and credibility as a specialized coach who can solve the biggest problems blocking any clients’ progress.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

The post Nutrition and mental health: What (and how) to eat appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

The text message read, “Sorry—I have to quit. Life is just so crazy right now.” 

Tony tossed his phone down and sighed.

Tony Arreola, PN2, SSR, has been coaching for nearly two decades. In that time, he’s racked up plenty of success stories, body transformations, and loyal clients. Yet, despite his years of experience and education, certain clients were slipping through the cracks.

They stopped trying, canceled their coaching, or just ghosted him altogether.

After some reflection, Tony realized the commonality among these clients.

Stress.

Underneath every polite “Sorry, I can’t…” message was an iceberg of overwhelm and exhaustion.

But once Tony addressed the root cause, something awesome happened:

His clients started showing up differently. They displayed more grit, grace, and gains—even when life went sideways.

We spoke to several other PN Certified Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaches who reported similar stories, and they’ve shared their insights with us.

Here are four strategies to determine if stress is holding clients back, and if so, how to help them persevere, and feel better.

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Solve your clients’ biggest problems.

Become one of the first coaches

to specialize in Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery.

When clients are stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted, eating better and exercising more can be nearly impossible. To make progress, you first need to help people effectively manage stress, sleep better, and recover stronger.

The SSR Coaching Certification opens May 18.

<!– REGISTRATION

Registration open! Closes soon.

Become a Certified Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coach

Solve your clients’ biggest problems. Gain the confidence and credibility to coach SSR effectively.



–>

Strategy #1: Gauge clients’ stress levels early on.

“The people who quit never said they were too stressed out,” says Tony.

“They would say things like, ‘Oh, the kids are going back to school,’ or ‘We’re getting ready for this big thing coming up,’ or ‘My situation at work has changed.’”

But after becoming a PN Certified Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coach, Tony realized: “They’ve all been telling me the same thing. They’re stressed and overwhelmed and they don’t know how to cope.”

Jaylee Thomas, PN1, SSR, Pilates instructor, meditation teacher, and nutrition coach in Vancouver, British Columbia, mirrors the observation:

“Clients don’t say they can’t continue their coaching because they’re too stressed out. They just… stop. Stop checking in, stop doing the assignments I’ve given them, stop responding to messages.”

What does this tell us?

When it comes to addressing stress, don’t leave it up to your clients to ask for help. Take the lead.

Put it into action

▶ Include questions about stress in your intake.

Tony now asks all clients about their stress levels.

“When someone tells me they want to get in shape, I ask them two questions:

  • Question #1: What’s your current stress load?
  • Question #2: How do you manage your stress?”

This helps him understand what clients are dealing with, how much capacity they have for change, and how he can best help them.

(Want to help clients assess their readiness and ability to take on change? Get them to fill out the Change Capacity Assessment.)

Image of change capacity assessment document available for free download

▶ Help clients plan for inevitable stress.

A client might intend to hit the gym the moment they finish work, but what if their commute runs long? Or their kid has to come home early from school?

That’s where planning comes in.

“I help my clients plan ahead, because the ideal situation rarely happens, “ says Rob Klein, PN2, SSR, a health coach based in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

“I’ll say, ‘Okay, if things don’t go according to plan A, what’s plan B, plan C?’ Now we know if things don’t go perfectly, we’ve got an alternative.”

▶ Check in regularly about your client’s stress levels.

When you know where your clients’ stress levels are at, you can modify programming, and/or implement more recovery.

To do this, Tony monitors his client’s stress “temperature” as part of a weekly check-in.

“Along with questions about their sleep, movement, and nutrition, I’ll ask, ‘What’s your stress load for the week? Give me a number between 1 and 10.’”

Horizontal scale with very low stress at the far left, moderate stress in the middle, and very high stress at the far right.

Note: “Some clients get stressed out just by the word ‘stress,’” warns Jaylee. For them, you might phrase the question differently. Something like, “What’s going on in your life right now?” can invite your client to talk about challenges they might be facing.

If they’re hesitant, be patient.

“It can take time to build trust,” notes Shauna Hammer, PN1, SSR, a CrossFit and nutrition coach in Unity, Saskatchewan. “But if I offer continued positive support, show them that I’m here no matter what their life looks like, in time they open up a bit more.”

Strategy #2: Treat stress management as a habit like any other

Stress management is a skill.

And like all skills, it’s something you can get better at.

“When I ask new clients how they manage stress, many of them tell me, ‘No one can manage stress,’” says Tony. “But that’s not true.”

There are many techniques and tools you can use to help clients improve their stress management—starting with helping them understand it IS something they can improve.

Put it into action

▶ Aim for one percent better.

“Eventually stress management becomes second nature,” says Rob. “But we have to work at it, especially in the beginning.”

Tony recalls a client who’s been with him for three years:

“In the beginning, he was stressed to the max. Now he says to me, ‘My stress is still at a level 9 or 10, but I deal with it differently. I come home from work at a reasonable time, have a nice dinner with my wife, get a good night’s sleep, and move on to the next day.’”

“We did a lot of things to get to this point,” says Tony. “It doesn’t happen from just one method, but with many small practices over time.”

▶ Look for small ways to release the pressure.

“Stress is going to happen,” says Jaylee. “But we do have the power to release pressure from the valve throughout the day.”

The exact “pressure-releasing” practices can vary from person-to-person—but here are a few ideas:

  • Take a walk without your phone. (“Even walking one single block will start to relax your nervous system,” says Jaylee.)
  • Do a brain dump. (“Write down your thoughts on a piece of paper to get them out of your head, especially before bed,” says Rob.)
  • Focus on what you can control. (“Try a  ‘spheres of control,’ exercise,” suggests Tony.)
  • Do something fun. (“People think they’re being ‘good’ by being super focused on their eating or exercise, but they don’t realize that hyper-focusing is a form of stress. Life is short, so plan for some fun in your week,” says Rob.)

(Still feel like you’re “failing” at self-care? Read: Three self-care strategies that work—no bubble bath required)

▶ Breathe.

Breathing is a great place to start for clients of all levels. It’s easy, effective—and it doesn’t cost a thing.

If a client walks into the gym super stressed, Tony asks them to take a few deep breaths before getting started.

Inevitably, clients feel some relief. Tony tells them: “We’re not going to get rid of stress completely. But we can make it just a little better, bring a bit more calmness into your day.”

(Want our complete breathwork guide? Download it now at no cost.)

Image of breathwork guide document available for free download

Strategy #3: Help people be less of a jerk to themselves

We asked all the coaches interviewed for this article what their clients’ biggest stress point is.

Was it work? Relationships? Lack of sleep? The pandemic?

Nope.

Every one of them said “beating themselves up” was #1.

For many people, the biggest source of stress is… themselves.

“The number one factor in client success or failure is the story they tell themselves. If my clients beat themselves up, it’s going to be really difficult for them to change,” says Tony.

Shauna agrees. “Feeling bad about yourself just adds to your stress. If people have positive regard for themselves, they’re more likely to have the capacity for change, and to come back after a failure.”

Put it into action

▶ Relentlessly call out small wins and bright spots.

“When clients are struggling, they tend to be hard on themselves. I’m always on the lookout for small wins they might’ve missed,” says Shauna.

“For example, suppose a client emails me to say they’ve been too busy with their kids so they haven’t been able to check in, or get their food prep done, and they feel awful about it.

“I might say something like, ‘you’re so dedicated to your parenting. I really admire that about you, and the effort you’re making with your nutrition means you’re being a positive role model to your kids.’”

Rob adds: “If my clients feel like they’re failing, I ask them to pause and do a little reflection to see how far they’ve come.

“I might ask: What would your previous self be doing in this situation right now? What things have you improved since then? When they look back, they can usually identify signs of progress they might have missed.”

Of course, the trick is to do this without veering into toxic positivity. It pairs well with listening and empathizing, noted in Strategy #4.

(Tip: Use the Bright Spots Tracker to help clients record things that go well, so they have evidence of their success.)Image of bright spots tracker document available for free download

▶ Track other forms of progress (besides the scale).

“At the beginning of our work together, I have clients develop a list of things they want to pay attention to, besides weight loss,” says Jaylee. “It might be energy levels, mood, snappiness with people, and so on. Whatever is important to them.” 

If a client feels frustrated with a lack of progress, Jaylee has them review the list and notice changes.

“You can help your client take pride in things they might have otherwise overlooked. When we feel successful, we’re more likely to keep going.”

▶ Notice and name negative self-talk.

Changing your thoughts isn’t easy—especially if self-criticism feels like a grimy security blanket you just can’t quit. 

Sometimes, professional help is required. But coaches can still be advocates and role models for healthier self-talk. 

Jaylee recommends the notice-and-name approach:

“I tell my clients, you have to name it to tame it. If an overly critical or judgy thought pops up in your mind, just acknowledge it. You don’t have to change it, just pause. When you notice it, you can let it go and move on.”

Jaylee sees the results: “In time, my clients are less hard on themselves, or they’re hard on themselves for shorter amounts of time. And the less they beat themselves up, the more energy they have for other things.” 

(One of the best ways to disrupt negative self-talk? Self-compassion. Try a quickie here.)

Image of self-compassion quickie document available for free download

Strategy #4: Meet your clients where they’re at

In dark times, coaches can be a source of light and comfort—simply by showing up with empathy and understanding.

“I think what people need most is just to have someone in their corner,” says Tony. “I might be the only person who is really listening and empathizing with them in their lives.”

“I try to be very compassionate because it IS hard,” adds Jaylee. “People don’t have any extra bandwidth these days. They’re already so stretched. I don’t want to add to the stress.”

Put it into action

▶ Adjust habits to make them more doable in stressful times.

Many clients suffer from all-or-nothing thinking: If they can’t do their program perfectly, rather than scale things back—they quit.

Instead, coaches can help them learn to adjust their “life dials.”

(In the example below, the nutrition “dial” can be turned up or down according to a person’s capacity.)

Image of a dial representing degrees of nutrition habits ranging from 1 to 10. 1 represents nutrition habits that are very low effort, like replacing 1 meal with a less processed one. 5 represents nutrition habits that are moderate effort, like adding protein to each meal. 10 represents nutrition habits that are high effort, like having all meals prepped by a sports nutritionist and eating that food slowly mindfully.

Rob, who’s had multiple sclerosis for 23 years, is very familiar with scaling efforts up and down, depending on his symptoms. He shares that strategy with his clients:

“Imagine your effort on a scale from 1-10. Maybe you wanted to be working out at a level 8, 9, or 10 today but something happened and you’re only at a level 2. Fine—you’re doing something rather than nothing, and that’s always better.”

Tony adds that even when clients can only handle very simple tasks, they can still get results:

“I have one client who’s been so stressed out. I gave him just one habit to start with—drink more water. That’s it. It’s been four months, and he’s down 12 pounds.”

▶ Listen and empathize, without trying to solve.

Tony learned that sometimes, the best thing he can do is just be present.

“Before I took the PN Certification, I had a huge blind spot with this stuff. If clients were stressed, I basically would have said, ‘get over it.’ I see now that wasn’t very helpful.”

“These days, If a client is stressed out and needs to vent, I just sit in the fire with them,” he says. “I acknowledge what they’re going through. After a little while, their energy shifts and they’re ready to go forward.”

Sitting in the fire with a client is different than trying to put out the fire for them:

“I don’t try to solve their problems,” clarifies Tony. “I just listen and empathize. Nothing is going to get solved in our conversation, but they feel better because they’ve been heard.”

Sometimes, empathizing can involve letting your clients see your human side.

“I’m an open book with my clients,” says Rob. “I tell them about my MS. I explain that I can’t control my body and how it’s going to react and what it’s going to feel like on a given day.”

By sharing a bit of his own story, Rob’s clients know they’re not alone.

▶ Give people space if they need it.

Sometimes, people just need a break—and that’s okay too.

“I’ve had situations where something significant has happened to a client, a death in the family or a family emergency,” says Jaylee. “In those cases I try to give the person some space. I want to acknowledge their priorities have shifted. I let them know I’m here, but I don’t overdo it.”

Most importantly, Shauna remembers to keep clients in charge:

“I always think that the client needs to direct where they want to go and the amount of effort that they’re willing and able to put in. It’s my job to meet them where they’re at.”

If you’re a health and fitness pro…

Learning how to help clients manage stress and optimize sleep can massively change your clients’ results.

They’ll get “unstuck” and finally move forward—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

Plus, it’ll give you the confidence and credibility as a specialized coach who can solve the biggest problems blocking any clients’ progress.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

The post The REAL reason clients quit, fail, or ghost you—and what to do about it appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

On Wednesday, May 18th, 2022 we’re opening registration for the PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification.

It’s the only certification in the world designed specifically for health and fitness professionals who want to solve the biggest problems blocking their clients’ progress.

(Want to beat the rush? If you sign up for the waitlist today, you’ll get access to early bird registration—up to 24 hours before anyone else—and save up to 30% off the public price.)

This is your chance to…

  • Learn from the world’s leading sleep, stress management, and recovery (SSR) experts
  • Gain the confidence, credibility, and tools to coach SSR effectively
  • Receive our popular Recover Stronger Guide instantly—so you can start helping clients today
  • Save up to 30%!

To learn more about the program, see the frequently asked questions (FAQ) below.

 

 

Q: What’s a sleep, stress management, and recovery coach?
A:

When clients feel stressed and exhausted, everything else feels harder.

If you’re already a health or nutrition coach, then you know this problem all too well. Tired and wired clients struggle with movement. Their cravings are ridiculously intense—and they feel too overwhelmed to even think about making dinner, not to mention hit the grocery store.

Week after week, they complain: “I know what I should be doing—and I want to do it. But I can’t seem to accomplish even the tiniest things. What’s wrong with me?”

Enter sleep, stress management, and recovery coaching (SSR, for short).

People with this certification are trained to help people overcome the stress and exhaustion that blocks them from changing their behavior, their health, and their lives.

This part might be obvious but we’ll say it anyway:

SSR coaches help clients improve sleep, manage stress, and improve their resilience and recovery. 

Perhaps not as obvious, SSR coaches also help people…

  • feel more energetic, in control, and capable of taking action.
  • overcome the invisible issues that are holding them back.
  • change their mindset about who they are and what they can do.
  • change their ability to make choices and try new things—as well as to fully experience the world around them.
  • take small simple everyday actions that yield big effects for their overall wellbeing

Whether you’re working with regular folks who are juggling daily stressors while struggling to see results, or elite athletes and top performers seeking that extra edge, this certification will equip you with the tools to help clients get better quality sleep, manage stressors that come their way, and recover more effectively.

Q: How will I benefit from this certification?
A:

Everyone knows that movement and nutrition are important.

Now, more and more people are accepting that sleep, stress management, and recovery are crucial, foundational pieces of the overall health puzzle.

Those people include:

✅ Fitness and nutrition professionals who know that stress and lack of sleep affects what their clients are able to do in the gym—and in the kitchen (not to mention whether their clients show up for their sessions at all)

✅ Doctors, nurses, and therapists who know that stress and sleep are among the top issues affecting their patients’ health and wellbeing

✅ Athletes and fitness enthusiasts who see sleep, stress management, and recovery as important turnkeys to improved performance

✅ Massage therapists who continually work to release stress from their clients’ soft tissues, only to see that stress re-knot their clients’ muscles within a week’s time

✅ Yoga teachers who understand the physical and mental challenge of dealing with life’s never-ending curveballs—and value the practice of finding balance over, and over, again

✅ Health, life, and business coaches whose clients can’t afford to decrease their productivity—but have a hard time making time to recover from the stress of their responsibilities

For all of those professions—and more—understanding a client’s hidden stressors, sleep problems, and recovery issues serves as the key that unlocks positive steps towards progress.

Not only that, but once you address these core roadblocks—everything else in your (and your client’s lives) becomes easier.

  • Your clients feel heard, seen, and supported—and refer their friends and family to the person that gets it.
  • Your clients progress faster and easier through nutrition, health, and fitness goals because they have fewer cravings, more energy, a growth mindset, and a step-by-step action plan for how to positively cope with new (inevitable) challenges.
  • You become a credible, respected resource who can manage anything clients throw your way with empathy, grace, and understanding.
  • You retain more clients because you’ve mastered the rare skill of giving clients what they need—without overloading them with high expectations and demanding routines that only add more stress to their overflowing plates. 

Most coaches aren’t well-versed in this topic because, until recently, there hasn’t been a cohesive training on it. That has left clients on their own to wade through surface-level advice like “stop using your smartphone before bedtime,” “avoid too much stress,” and “meditate for 20 minutes a day.”

Your clients need more than Google to make real progress.

They need YOU.

Becoming certified in SSR will help you build a framework and a language for helping clients move through those invisible issues that hold them back.

The skills you’ll learn in this certification will help you become the go-to coach who can confidently guide clients through underlying sleep, stress, and recovery issues—that many others don’t know what to do with—and in doing so, set the bar for what modern health coaching looks like in the 2020s.

Q: Why should I trust PN?
A:

Since we first introduced our revolutionary nutrition and lifestyle coaching approach nearly two decades ago, our certification programs have become the industry’s gold standard for coaches who want to help people eat better, get fitter, and live healthier lives.

Here are a few reasons why we’re the obvious choice:

  1. This is the industry’s first-ever comprehensive certification that gives coaches a reliable, repeatable process for helping their clients sleep better, recover more effectively, and become more resilient to stress. At the moment, you can’t gain these skills and tools anywhere else.
  2. We’ve gathered some of the world’s biggest experts in the physiology and psychology of sleep, stress, and mental performance, along with leading health and fitness coaches to contribute to this world-class program. Now you’ll know what the experts know, so you can get better results than ever.
  3. We’re the only certification company that actively coaches people every single day (100,000+ to date). We help them eat better, get fitter, sleep more, recover more effectively, and live healthier lives. We take all our learnings from coaching and put them into our certification programs. That means everything you’ll learn is based on hands-on results in the real world.
  4. We invented behavior-change coaching. Learning the science is important, but it only matters if you can actually help someone change. That’s what we began specializing in behavior change nearly two decades ago (long before anyone else). And it’s why we’re trusted by over 150,000 health and fitness professionals around the world.

Bottom line: If you want to learn the latest science of sleep, stress, and recovery—along with a proven process for coaching your clients to better results than ever—you’ve come to the right place.

Q: What will I be able to do once I get certified?
A:

By the time you finish the program, you’ll have a pro-level understanding of the science behind sleep, stress, and recovery—along with a reliable, repeatable step-by-step playbook for coaching your clients through it all.

When working with clients, you’ll be able to…

  • Fully assess their situation—What kind of stress load are they under? How’s their sleep? What’s standing in the way of their goals? What, if any, recovery practices do they already have in place?
  • Help them identify and articulate their goals—How can they limit some stressors while better managing others? How can they incorporate useful recovery practices into their daily life?
  • Develop an individualized sleep, stress management, and recovery plan that fits seamlessly with any existing nutrition and fitness habits they’re practicing. You’ll provide a roadmap they can easily follow—even on tough days.
  • Help them navigate the inevitable ups and downs of change—as you highlight bright spots and discover new opportunities.
  • Strategize, troubleshoot, and adjust their plan along the way—based on what’s working for them—as you help them achieve better results than ever before.

All of the above means better results for your clients, in all areas of their lives—from their health and fitness, to their relationships, career, mindset, emotions, and resilience.

And it means a stronger business for you, as you help clients achieve better, and deeper, results than ever before. You’ll develop deeper, more valuable relationships with your clients—which naturally leads to better retention and more referrals. And you’ll stand out from the competition like never before, because you’ll be able to help your clients in ways that 99% of other coaches simply can’t.

What certified SSR coaches CAN and CAN’T do

This probably won’t come as a surprise: This certification won’t allow you to put an MD, PhD, RD, RN, or CNRP after your name. As a result, once you are certified, you won’t be able to…

❌ diagnose people with sleep problems or stress disorders

❌ prescribe something to directly treat any medical condition or health concern—especially medications or supplements

❌ offer targeted advice that could reasonably be considered part of medical therapy, such as asking someone to “hold off on antidepressants until you try…”

❌ claim to “diagnose,” “treat,” “cure,” or “prescribe” as part of your practice

❌ claim to magically eliminate all human suffering with your wondrous coaching plans

The above aside, however, you’ll still be able to do a heck of a lot. You can still be a part of your clients’ support team and care community. In that role, you can…

✅ make general suggestions about healthy lifestyle practices in most jurisdictions

✅ share healthy lifestyle education using materials from a public or well- known entity such as the American Sleep Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and, of course, PN

✅ actively listen, and empathize with clients’ struggles

✅ help clients’ understand their own situation better, and potentially come up with their own solutions—thus inspiring and empowering them to take action on their own behalf

✅ provide accountability, structure, and support

✅ help clients advocate for themselves with their medical team—for instance, by helping them gather data about what they’re noticing, so the conversation with their health care providers can be as productive and informative as possible

✅ share reputable, evidence-based, and helpful resources for them to discuss with their medical team

✅ help clients implement the plan put forth by their medical team. For instance, medical guidelines can be hard for clients to do consistently in daily life—they may need help with skills like planning, preparation, prioritizing, and breaking tasks down into smaller, more manageable segments. You can help with all of this.

✅ provide complementary, behavior-based coaching to help them develop fundamental nutrition, movement, and lifestyle skills and practices that support health care providers’ medical advice

Q: What will I learn?
A:

This first-of-its-kind certification program gives you the comprehensive science and the advanced coaching methods you need to guide your clients (and yourself) to improved sleep, effective recovery, and more resilience to stress.

This program digs into the physiology and psychology of how your body responds to stress, as well as how it naturally heals and grows. This cutting-edge understanding will help you coach for higher- and lower-level needs that the world—and your clients—really need right now.

The program is broken into 4 comprehensive units—all easily accessed online, from any device. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included.

Unit 1

This introductory unit sets up your coaching fundamentals. You’ll gain insight into…

  • what makes a great coach
  • how to set yourself up for the best learning experience
  • our deep approach to coaching that transforms lives, not just bodies
  • how to help people change—in a way that works for them
  • our proven framework for helping anyone achieve their goals

Unit 2

We’ll dig into big questions like: What is stress? What is recovery? And how do they relate to the 6 dimensions of “deep health?”

You’ll dive deep into…

  • physical stressors such as an illness or physical fatigue
  • mental or cognitive stressors like information overload
  • emotional stressors like grief and loss
  • social stress in your relationships
  • existential stress during a life transition
  • environmental stressors in your workplace

Unit 3

Here we’ll take a deeper look into the science of sleep. Plus we’ll look at the four key areas where we can focus our recovery efforts: Sleep, nutrition, movement, and stress management. You’ll discover:

  • how to track progress in improving recovery behaviors such as sleep
  • what nutrition habits can support recovery
  • what types of movement can help improve our long-term physical performance
  • which mental skills could help us manage and even embrace stressors, when we can’t reduce them
  • the complexity of sleep and its role in recovery

Unit 4

This unit brings everything together by showing you how to apply what you’ve learned—so you can create personalized sleep, stress management, and recovery plans for yourself and your clients.

You’ll climb into the driver’s seat, test things out, and experience the process in real time. Rather than more information, you’ll get experiments, activities, reflection questions, and challenges.

Each unit offers plenty of “learn by doing” opportunities, including case studies based on real-world clients, and simulated coaching conversations to hone your skills.

By the end of the program, you’ll know how to apply our reliable, repeatable 6-step process for helping yourself and others make sustainable changes to how they sleep, manage stress, and recover.

Q: How long does it take to get certified?
A:

This program is self-paced, so there’s no deadline. You can take as much or as little time as you like.

If you’d like some guidelines, however, the pace that seems to work best for most of our students is completing 1-2 chapters per week. That means:

  • Reading the chapter
  • Supplementing your learning with audio and video
  • Completing “learn by doing” activities that deepen your learning and put your new knowledge into practice
  • Taking the chapter exam (for most chapters), once you’re ready.

If you follow that structure, you can expect to spend about 2-3 hours per week on the certification materials. Since there are 30 total chapters, you’d earn your PN1-SSRC Certificate in about 4-6 months. Although you can move more quickly or slowly depending on your situation.

But here’s the best part: You don’t need to wait to get certified in order to start coaching your clients to better rest, recovery, and resilience. Since you’ll be learning and practicing from day one of the program, you’ll be in a perfect position to start helping your clients immediately.

Q: What are the exams like?
A:

There are 25 short exams with 10-15 questions each (280 questions in all). Questions are either multiple choice or true or false.

The exams are delivered online; they can be accessed whenever you’re ready. Also, each exam corresponds with the chapter you just studied, and completing the exam unlocks the next chapter.

For instance, if you read Chapter 2 of the program, watch/listen to the video and audio, and tackle the study guide questions, you’ll be ready to take the Chapter 2 exam. Once the Chapter 2 exam is completed, you’ll instantly see your results.

Q: What grade do I need to pass?
A:

At least 75%, which most students easily achieve or surpass.

By the end of the course, you’ll have completed 25 short, 10-15 question exams, for a total of 280 questions. Get at least 210 of the questions correct (75%) to earn your PN Level 1 Certified Coach credentials in SSRC. We’ll send your official certificate immediately after you pass.

Q: What if I fail?
A:

Your score for the course is cumulative. So if you do very poorly on a few exams, you can still  pass the course as long as you answer 210 out of 280 questions by the end of the course.

If you don’t earn 210 out of 280 points in the course, you can take a re-do exam at the end of the course.

Q: Is this certification eligible for CEUs?
A:

Yes! Here’s a breakdown of CEUs you can earn with Level 1 SSR Certification:

  • ACE: 4.0 CECs
  • ACSM: 40 CECs
  • AFAA: 15 CEUs
  • CrossFit: 20 CEUs
  • CIMSPA: 10 CPD points
  • CPTN: 14 CECs
  • EREPS: 10 hours
  • ISSA: 20 CECs
  • NASM: 1.9 CEUs
  • NBHWC: 15 CEs

Don’t see your certification organization listed? No problem. Many organizations accept our course for CEUs on a one-off basis.

To do that, you’ll just submit a summary of the course and a copy of your certificate to the organization for review once you’ve graduated.

Q: Will I get a textbook?
A:

While we’ve offered textbooks for some of our courses in the past, this certification is 100% digital to align with the way our students tell us they prefer to learn.

(BTW: We’re always open to hearing from our students about how we can improve our offers to help them learn best.)

The digital format also allows students to take their learning on-the-go, wherever they are.

However, to accommodate different types of learners, we’ve recently added:

  • A printable PDF package for all 70+ worksheets included in the course
  • Printable study guides, for people who prefer to reflect on their learning with pen and paper
  • Bookmarks for chapter activities (so you can always come back to the gems you found throughout the course)
  • Estimated time to completion—so you can budget your studying accordingly

If you’re a health and fitness pro…

Learning how to help clients manage stress and optimize sleep can massively change your clients’ results.

They’ll get “unstuck” and finally move forward—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

Plus, it’ll give you the confidence and credibility as a specialized coach who can solve the biggest problems blocking any clients’ progress.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

The post FAQ: PN Level 1Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification: Frequently Asked Questions. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

It was 2016, and UFC champ Michael Bisping had recently posted a photo of a chicken burrito to his Instagram, along with the caption:

“…by order of my nutritionist Dan Garner….”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Mikebisping (@mikebisping)

This was just the latest shoutout from the world of MMA, where an increasing number of fighters were saying that Garner’s lab-based nutrition protocols could speed recovery, unlock power, and help them win.

Not everyone was impressed.

‘Probably another guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing,’ thought Andy Galpin, PhD, professor of kinesiology at Cal State Fullerton and sport performance coach known for his work with boxers and mixed martial artists.

A skeptical person by nature, Dr. Galpin figured Garner was a pseudo expert who cherry picked findings from tiny, poorly-designed studies and presented them to athletes as “ground-breaking performance enhancers your doctor won’t tell you about.”

To confirm his hunch, he checked out Garner’s bio.

Sure enough, there was no mention of a PhD, MD, or even a master’s degree.

‘Yup,’ Dr. Galpin concluded, ‘wackadoodle.’

Things changed when Dr. Galpin listened to one of Garner’s podcasts.

Soon Dr. Galpin was playing The Garner Report for students in the graduate level courses he taught at Cal State Fullerton. Then he was messaging Garner, “Dude, why aren’t we working together?” Eventually Dr. Galpin brought Garner onto his team at CSUF as an advisor.

Today Garner’s roster includes superbowl champs, Olympic medalists, PGA stars, hall-of-famers, the mega wealthy, and Hollywood celebs, such as actor and comedian Bryan Callen, who credits Garner with curing his psoriasis.

Photograph of nutrition coach Dan Garner sitting at a desk in front of a laptop computer.

Dan Garner is a strength and nutrition coach for athletes in 13 different sports, including superbowl champs, Olympic medalists, PGA stars, hall-of-famers, and Hollywood celebs.

So how did a guy with no advanced degrees earn recognition as one of the go-to nutrition and strength coaches for pro athletes, celebs, and the wealthy?

And what can you learn from him?

In this story, you’ll discover…

▶ how Garner leveraged social media to attract high-profile clients

▶ the principle he uses to catapult athletes to the next level

▶ how he overcame educational gaps (and how you can, too, especially if you lack advanced degrees)

But first, a caveat:

Though you’ll hear from a few clients who agreed to talk about their experiences with Garner, don’t expect lots of name dropping. In this business, privacy is important to many clients and, as Garner notes, his job is to serve his clients, not the other way around.

++++

This is Garner’s origin story

The average cruise ship hosts more people than Dan Garner’s hometown.

Lambeth, Ontario’s two biggest attractions include corn and the hockey arena where Garner learned to skate and, eventually, compete.

He discovered bodybuilding at age 14 when his father lugged home a dinky weight lifting set and assembled it in the garage. Though he poured his attention into fitness sites and magazines, in school, he did the bare minimum, earning 50s and 60s—just enough to pass.

“I had no idea what I wanted in life,” Garner says. “I was lost.”

Upon graduation, Garner landed a job as a machinist at a factory that made airplane parts. There he worked in a giant hangar, surrounded by the scents of chemicals as well as hundreds of unhappy coworkers.

As he operated a machine that sliced through metal, Garner secretly read fitness and nutrition articles, periodically glancing at the reflections in a piece of broken glass to see if his supervisor was coming up from behind.

“I was a pretty miserable dude,” he says. “The end of the day couldn’t come soon enough.”

Becoming “Bodybuilding Dan”

His coworkers noticed his physique, lit-from-within energy level, and the chicken and avocado he packed for lunch. Soon they were asking questions.

“What should I eat for breakfast?”

“What should I eat after a workout?”

“How do I lose fat?”

Garner became the machine shop’s unofficial personal trainer.

“Being valued… that was new for me,” says Garner. “They were so receptive and thankful. That helped me gain more confidence and purpose.”

When the machine shop laid off half its workforce, Garner got the chance to build a career he enjoyed.

In 2010, he got accepted to Mohawk College, roughly an hour’s drive away.

During his commute, he listened to health and fitness lectures he’d burned onto CDs. After class he visited his professors to chat about muscle growth, and did extra reading to deepen his understanding. In the evenings, he studied for and earned several sports nutrition and strength training certifications.

He not only got the best grades of his life, he also became a sought-after mentor for other students, who referred to him as, “Bodybuilding Dan.”

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health, wellness, and fitness.

His first job post graduation: personal training at a Gold’s Gym.

To attract clients, Garner regularly posted content to social media, as well as built and maintained a hockey training website called hockeytraining.com. For this site, he wrote weekly articles and filmed YouTube videos about nutrition, mindset, and fitness.

Back then, just two people hit the “like” button: His mom and his wife.

“It was a grind,” he says.

As the months passed, Garner collected more than 20 certifications, including both Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Coach and Level 2 Health Coach as well as one from Functional Medicine University, which, he says, taught him how to use lab work to understand humans on a cellular level.

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The email he’d been waiting for

Over time, Garner’s client list, online following, and income grew.

Still, after several years, something was missing.

He wanted to coach pro athletes.

What Garner didn’t know: a performance coach for dozens of pros— including members of the NHL, NFL, UFC, and CFL—was reading his content.

His name was Scot Prohaska.

One day, in Garner’s inbox, there was an unexpected email.

Prohaska wrote: “Hey man, would you be interested in working with a goalie for the Anaheim Ducks?”

Garner sat back in his chair, his palms against his skull.

Of course he was interested!

From one pro athlete to dozens

By hockey standards, at 15 percent body fat, the goalie was a hefty guy. Yet after 12 months with Garner, the goalie’s body fat was down to 8 percent and his game had dramatically improved—so much so that the Toronto Maple Leafs offered the goalie a $25 million contract over 5 years.

Soon after, Prohaska invited Garner to fly to California to help coach NFL and NHL athletes during the 2015 off-season. The referrals came in from all over after that.

It’s been seven years since Garner broke into the pros.

He’s traveled the world, trained dozens of elite athletes, and taught seminars.

He now works from a home office in London, Ontario.

He only takes on a small number of clients. People pay thousands for a consultation.

What Garner learns from poop (yes, poop)

If you talk to Garner, his clients, or the experts who refer people to him, you’ll eventually hear stories.

Person A suffered from a chronic problem that other professionals hadn’t been able to solve.

Garner was their Hail Mary. Their last shot. Their “I don’t know what else to do.”

Upon Garner’s request, Person A tracked their food intake, filled out several questionnaires, and trotted off to their closest lab to deposit the requisite amount of blood, hair, urine, and stool.

Garner loaded the lab results and other info into a software program.

Then, for hours, he’d stare at color-coded charts and graphs displaying Person A’s sleep, diet, body comp, hydration status, micronutrient status, emotional stressors, inflammatory markers, gut bacteria levels, and hormonal profile, among many other variables.

He noticed elevations in the stress hormone cortisol, bilirubin (a waste product), and magnesium and wondered how those related to the dips in the hormone melatonin and elastase-1 (a pancreatic enzyme) he was also seeing. After hours of plotting, thinking, and scribbling, everything came into focus..

Person A then received an extensive report coupled with an hour-long video from Garner that explained what was going on and why a specific protocol—a mixture of supplements and personalized nutrition—would help.

Person A followed Garner’s advice. Their problem cleared up.

Graphical depiction that shows color-coded bars for visible and hidden stressors. Visible stressors include sleep, diet, hydration, body composition, physical, emotional, psychological, and X-factor. HIdden stressors include gut health, micronutrient status, immune function, inflammation, cellular health, hormone profile, toxic load, C02 tolerance, and X-factor.

Sections from a report that Garner created for one client. BTW: “X-Factor” is a catch-all for visible or hidden stressors that don’t fit into the other categories.

What the doubters are saying

These Hail Mary stories can sound like fodder for made-for-TV guru land.

That’s partly because the emphasis on lab testing is rooted in functional medicine, a relatively new field that has attracted its share of critics.

Started in the early 1990s by Jeffrey Bland, PhD, functional medicine emphasizes personalized nutritional and lifestyle changes that target “the root cause” of someone’s health issues.

Several years ago, the Cleveland Clinic elevated the field when it opened a Center for Functional Medicine, and launched a handful of studies to test the method’s effectiveness.

Still, the profession’s image has been marred by several physicians who lost their medical licenses for prescribing dubius treatments and misdiagnosing their patients.

On top of that, industry watchdogs have heavily criticized functional medicine practitioners for prescribing “reams of useless tests.” The word “quackery” gets tossed around, too.

And yet, one wonders:

If functional medicine’s lab-based approach helps clients feel better—and doesn’t harm them—does the criticism really matter?

Be like the owl

The skepticism about functional medicine can poke at Garner’s imposter syndrome. It also stirs up regret over not earning a PhD.

That said, he sees functional medicine as no different from other professions.

In any given field, he says, you’ll find superstars and quacks, pearls of wisdom and slices of baloney.

(Example: Traditional medicine doctors once swore by bloodletting.)

Garner offers the analogy of an owl, which will swallow an entire animal whole. Several hours later, the owl regurgitates the bones and other substances that it can’t digest.

“That’s the way I’ve approached my career,” Garner says. “Every professional sector has something to say. It’s up to me to curate it, keep the good, and remove the bad.”

A self-taught expert

Whether you buy into the functional medicine approach or not, it’s hard to argue with Garner’s grasp of physiology.

That’s what attracted Dr. Galpin to Garner in the first place.

“He’s completely obsessed with the field and almost nothing else—way more than I am,” Dr. Galpin says. “His grasp of the research literature and high-detail physiology, despite him having no advanced degrees, would challenge a lot of people with doctorates.”

Driven by a relentless curiosity to learn, Garner spends up to two hours a day reading medical research. That daily homework allows him to rattle off study references and describe complex biological processes with enviable ease.

If you listen to him answer live audience questions, you’ll understand why one YouTube commenter referred to Garner as “a walking encyclopedia”—as well as why Olympic bronze medalist Chris Knierim describes him as “hella smart.”

Screenshot of a series of comments. They read: “Awesome episode. Coach Garner always shares great information.” “Mind blown! Dan is a walking encyclopedia!” “Dan Garner, man, epid addition to the podcast!! Thank you for getting him on!!” “Dan is the Man. Glad y’all teamed up with him. Next level shit!”

Comments from a podcast where Garner was a guest.

“Just from listening to him, you can tell he knows what he’s talking about,” says Knierim, who recently posted a series of photos to Instagram to show how his body transformed with Garner’s guidance.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Chris Knierim (@chris_knierim)

“He’s legit. He’s seen and done what he’s talking about,” Knierim says. “He’s not just regurgitating stuff someone else said.”

In addition to his daily immersion into the National Library of Medicine, Garner also leans into what he’s learned from the questionnaires, food logs, and the more than 1,000 labs he’s analyzed.

“I treat evidence from experience with equal value as I do from Pubmed,” says Garner. “I’ve got metrics of each client over time, so I can see what worked and what didn’t,” he says. (Get our guide on how to read scientific studies.)

How to read scientific studies: A free guide.

Why athletes trust him

There’s something about Garner that makes people think, “I want what he’s having.”

Like many trainers and coaches, he’s fit.

But what really sets him apart: His gusto.

It’s almost as if the simple act of being awake fills him with joy.

This high-energy vibe is partly what helps athletes put their trust in him—because he clearly takes his own advice.

Of course, referrals from other athletes as well as shout-outs on the Joe Rogan Experience don’t hurt.

MMA fighter “Sugar” Sean O’Malley sought Garner’s expertise in 2019, after hearing Bryan Callen telling Rogan that Garner helped clear up his psoriasis.

At that time, “I knew I could’ve felt better,” O’Malley says.

He’d never undergone lab analysis before—and hoped Garner could give him an edge.

After studying O’Malley’s lab results, Garner designed a meal plan tailored to O’Malley’s unique needs, along with a supplement protocol for gut health and stress recovery.

Within two weeks, O’Malley messaged Garner: “I feel like a machine!”

“I could kill a workout and my body recovered so much faster,” O’Malley says.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sugar Sean O’Malley (@sugaseanmma)

O’Malley went on to win his next UFC match by knocking out his opponent in the first round. He’s worked with Garner ever since.

Lauren Murphy, currently ranked #4 in the UFC’s flyweight division, also noticed a dramatic change in energy, sleep, and recovery after working with Garner.

“Lucky” Lauren Murphy

“I could sustain a higher pace for a longer amount of time and I was less sore afterwards,” she says. “I could train harder. My mood was better. I could sleep better. When you’re trying to gain a percentage of improvement, things like that are big deals.”

Introducing the Theory of Constraint

A nutrition or health coaching certification doesn’t give you the qualifications to order and analyze lab work. Unless you’ve undergone additional training, creating meal plans to treat a condition is also out of scope.

That said, there’s a lot you can still learn from Garner.

To pinpoint problems and zero in on solutions, Garner uses something called the theory of constraint.

Developed by Israeli physicist Eliyahu Goldratt, it goes like this:

Every process is limited by a constraint, sometimes also referred to as a bottleneck or weakest link.

Removing the constraint offers the most effective and fastest path forward.

Graphical depiction of a bottleneck. The graphic shows a tube with a narrower section in the middle of it. An arrow points to the narrower section with the text: "An improvement here yields the biggest result."

The theory is often used in business settings, as a way to increase manufacturing output or productivity.

“I look at physiology through this lens,” says Garner. “That’s how I’ve made a name for myself. It’s not an exact macro count that I’m using. It’s not an exact calorie count or hydration or supplement protocol. Yes, I have those things in place. But none of my athletes can reach their potential without removing their weakest link.”

The problem behind the problem

Often, according to Garner, that weak link is a stressor—such as a food sensitivity or a mild deficiency—that’s taxing the immune system, making it harder for someone to recover. Blood work and other labs allow Garner to find these weak biological links with precision, but regular folks can do something similar, albeit a lot less high tech: Look for limiting factors.

Ask yourself: What’s working against you (or your client)? What weak links are stopping you or your client from moving forward?

Let’s say you’re working with someone who wants to exercise, but feels too tired to do it.

What’s the problem behind that problem? In other words, what’s the root cause of “too tired”?

To find the answer, you’ll want to start with a good initial assessment that asks clients about their lifestyle, health limitations, mindset, and physical function and capacity. (Get the intake form we use with clients here at PN.)

Get a free client intake form.

Maybe, in the intake, you notice that your client is a vegetarian who’s been diagnosed with a GI issue.

Great, now you’ll want to dig into that, doing some research to better understand how both factors might affect your client’s health. Perhaps you discover that their GI condition interferes with nutrient absorption, especially of B vitamins. There’s a clue.

And maybe, during your conversations, you glean that relationship problems are keeping your client up at night. Could lack of sleep be siphoning off the energy needed for workouts? And causing them to eat more?

Now you’ve got a path to investigate.

Greetings matter

If you get stuck, Garner suggests changing how you greet clients at the beginning of your sessions.

If you ask, “How are you?” your clients will most likely reply, “okay” or “fine”—even if they feel pretty crummy.

Instead, Garner starts conversations with this question: “Hey, what’s the story?”

The open-ended question nudges clients to offer what’s really on their mind. Says Garner, “Their answer to that question often leads right to the constraint.”

When the cat gets in the way

In many cases, the limiting factor has to do with not sleeping, not recovering, or not managing stress.

“Often the problem is right in your face,” says Garner, who offers the story of a fatigued client who, Garner noticed from an intake questionnaire, was sleeping in the same bed with his cat.

After getting the cat to sleep somewhere else, the client’s sleep improved, resulting in more energy for exercise and meal prep.

“All I did was remove a cat. Sometimes it’s really that simple,” says Garner.

You may wonder: How do you know if you’ve zeroed in on the true limitation?

Garner suggests using energy as a gauge. “If your physiology is responding well to the program, your energy is going to go up,” says Garner. “That’s how you know you’re on the right track.” (Get our worksheet to help identify your (or your client’s) liming factors.)

Use this worksheet to identify limiting factors.

You won’t always get it right

Even with everything he’s learned, Garner admits he makes mistakes.

That’s because human biology is the opposite of simple.

“I’m not right 100 percent of the time, but I’m always learning,” he says.

Here’s the thing: Even if you’re wrong about a client’s ultimate problem, they’ll likely still make progress. That’s because most people benefit from the same repertoire of behavioral changes: more veggies, protein, stress management, and sleep.

“If I don’t nail it, I’ll still get you from a two to a five,” he says.

“But if I nail it I’ll get you from a two to a ten.”

For Garner, a 10 means someone has high energy, a healthy sex drive, and the wherewithall to pour their attention and effort into reaching their goals. They’re, as he puts it, “vibrating at a different intensity.”

“That’s what people come to me in search of. That’s where I personally want to be—and that’s what I do. I take them from good to great.”


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

You can help people build nutrition and lifestyle habits that improve their physical and mental health, bolster their immunity, help them better manage stress, and get sustainable results. We’ll show you how.

If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.

The post How a laid-off factory worker became one of the world’s top nutrition coaches. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

If you’re a health, nutrition, or fitness coach…

Your clients need more from you than ever before.

Maybe they haven’t said that outright.

But they might be telling you in other ways:

  • “My life is SO crazy right now.”
  • “I just want to feel like myself again.”
  • “I can’t stick to anything.”

These aren’t just passing complaints. They’re code for:

“I’m stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted.”

Images shows 1) a frustrated woman talking on the phone while holding a crying baby, 2) a stressed out-looking man, hands on head as he leans over his laptop, and 3) a women sleeping at a desk with her hand on a cup of coffee. They're the embodiment of stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

While these clients might come to you for help with their physical health or appearance, they may struggle to achieve their goals until they address their mental and emotional health.

For many of these folks, focusing on nutrition and exercise alone is no longer near enough.

It might not even be the right place to start.

Instead, they may first need help dealing with life stressors, poor sleep, and insufficient recovery.

These problems frequently lead to the behaviors and mindsets that knock people off track—or keep them from getting started in the first place.

But by improving in these areas, they feel better, stronger, and more capable. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too.

And that creates the foundation they need… for taking the consistent action that results in meaningful progress.

On the left side of the image, we see a woman looking unhappy, lacking confidence, and perhaps frustrated. Arrows point from the woman to icons that suggest improvements in mental health, sleep, and recover. From the icons, arrows point to another illustration of the woman (on the right side of the image), now looking happy, confident, and fit.

That’s why we created the PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery (SSR) Coaching Certification.

We believe that, like exercise in the 1980s and nutrition in the 2000s…

This is truly the next frontier of health and fitness.

And now’s your opportunity to be an early adopter, give more clients the help they really need, and set yourself apart in an industry that’s evolving beyond “food and fitness.”

The PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery (SSR) Coaching Certification opens Wednesday, May 18th. 

Put your name on the waitlist now, and receive a FREE gift—our popular eBook, Recover Stronger.

The PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification: Get on the waitlist!

In just over a month, you can register for the industry’s first-ever comprehensive certification program of its kind—by the only certification company in the world that coaches real people every single day.

This paradigm-changing program gives you the unique skills to help people solve the sleep and stress problems… behind their most frustrating health, nutrition, and fitness problems.

You’ll gain the tools and knowledge you need…

… to help anyone effectively manage their stress, improve their sleep, and optimize their recovery—so they can finally achieve the results they deeply crave (and deserve).

No matter if they’re just starting out, struggling to make progress, or totally stuck (and about to give up).

And, yes, you’ll get the credentials to show for it.

Your “SSR” certification will tell the world you’re leading the charge into a new era of health, nutrition, and fitness coaching.

Image of a certificate that reads "Certified SSR Coach."

In case it’s not clear…

You ARE the right person for this job.

Helping people with sleep, stress management, and recovery shouldn’t feel beyond your skillset or outside your comfort zone.

It should be an integral, reliable, and extraordinary part of your health, nutrition, and fitness coaching toolkit.

And now it can be.

When you join the waitlist, you’ll get: 

✅ A free eBook to help you bounce forward from the past two years: Recover Stronger, 6 Steps to Building Your New Normal

✅ Sneak peeks of the curriculum and exclusive tips from our expert co-authors

✅ A chance to register for the certification early (and save up to 30%!)

⭐ Plus: You’ll be taking the first step toward gaining the confidence that you can solve client problems in a way few other coaches can.

Join the waitlist and get your FREE Recover Stronger guide!

Why this certification… NOW?

Stress and sleep problems have always created obstacles for people.

We’ve seen that consistently in our own coaching practice, where we’ve worked with over 100,000 clients.

It’s the very reason we teach the basics of stress management and sleep coaching in our Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.

But like so many other coaches have learned, the last two years have shown us that the basics often aren’t enough.

Not in today’s world.

Based on insights gathered from scientific research, experiences with our own clients, and interviews with thousands of coaches, one thing has become increasingly clear:

Effective sleep, stress management, and recovery coaching is the “missing link” for many people.

What’s more, it’s a crucial skill for any coach who wants to stay ahead of the curve as the health and fitness industry evolves.

After all, people have become more stressed-out and sleep-deprived, not less.

Images shows: 1) 20% of people say they're sleep-deprived; 2) 35% get less than 7 hours of sleep per night; 3) 48% of parents say the level of stress in their life has increased.

That’s made it harder to help them using ONLY nutrition and fitness strategies—regardless of how effective that approach may have been in the past.

Plus, all those popular “sleep, stress, and recovery hacks”? Without a deep understanding of how to help clients change their sleep, stress management, and recovery behaviors, they almost always fail.

That’s why our in-house PhDs and behavior change experts teamed with some of the top minds in sleep, stress management, and recovery.

In all, more than 20 experts contributed their deep knowledge and insights to this one-of-a-kind program.

This incredible roster of educators includes one of the world’s leading sleep scientists at UCLA, a renowned sleep medicine doctor who advises MLB, NBA, and NFL teams, and a former member of an elite Special Operations unit.

All to help you elevate your coaching skills to better match people’s needs.

The PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification: Get on the waitlist!

Because there’s no getting around it…

For people with poor sleep, out-of-control stress, and inadequate recovery, meaningful health and fitness progress can feel nearly impossible.

Until you help them address these issues, they’ll keep hitting the same barriers over and over again.

Here’s why…

► Reason #1: When people struggle with stress…

… they focus on surviving, not thriving. So they do what helps them feel better in the moment.

Only this often leads to negative health behaviors—binge-eating, excessive drinking, skipping workouts—that conflict with their food and fitness goals.

(Just look at the harmful effect the pandemic has had on health behaviors.)

Image shows a bar graph of how the pandemic has negatively affected people's health behaviors. 1) Decreased exercise time: 32%; 2) Increased screen time: 60.4%; Increased fast food consumption: 22.6%; Increased alcohol: 23.2%

Plus, stress can wreak serious havoc on sleep.

► Reason #2: When people don’t get enough sleep…

… it affects how they think, feel, and behave. Poor shuteye drains their energy and motivation, crushes productivity, and actually causes them to eat more and move less.

And, as a “take that!” bonus, lack of sleep also increases stress levels. This creates a vicious cycle that makes just about everything you do harder.

Image shows "How the vicious cycle of poor sleep can work. Illustration 1: Woman is drowsy; Illustration 2: Women is sitting in front of laptop being less productive than usual; Illustration 3: Women is now feeling stressed out because she's not as productive; Illustration 4: Because of stress, the women sleeps poorly. From illustration 4, an arrow points back to illustration 1, where the women is drowsy again. And the cycle starts all over.

► Reason #3: When people don’t prioritize recovery…

… they can experience “burnout syndrome,” a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. This can make them feel “stupid,” “lazy,” and “broken,” none of which are true—but all of which make it harder to change.

Also: Guess what feeling bad about yourself does to stress and sleep?

A graph shows that as stress increases, quality sleep decreases.

See where this is going?

Faced with any of these factors, let alone all three, who wouldn’t struggle to achieve their health, nutrition, and fitness goals?

The PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery (SSR) Coaching Certification gives you the power to better help these folks RIGHT NOW.

By joining the waitlist now…

You’ll be one step closer to becoming the rare coach who can inspire deep-seated change and unlock client capacity like no other…

Plus: You’ll get early bird access on Tuesday, May 17th—a full 24-hours before the certification opens.

Join the Waitlist!

With the PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification, you’ll…

► Learn from the world’s leading experts.

► Save time and energy researching your own solutions.

► Gain the confidence, credibility, and tools to coach SSR effectively.

Images highlights the educational materials you'll get when you sign up for the PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification.

The payoff…

Thrilled clients: People will progress faster and easier through their health, nutrition, and fitness goals.

More referrals: Your clients will feel heard, seen, and supported—and tell friends and family about the coach who “gets it.”

Rare skills: You’ll help clients achieve better overall well-being—which can improve just about every aspect of their life. 👈 true story

The PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification: Get on the waitlist! Join the waitlist for: early bird registration, up to 30% savings, exclusive sneak peeks and boneuses.

If you love the practical, real-world advice and ground-breaking science behind PN’s certifications—or if you’re brand-new to PN and looking for new, more profound ways to help your clients…

The Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification is the perfect next step.

You’ll add a rare skill to your toolkit, round out your foundational coaching skills, and become the coach all your clients need right now.

Join the waitlist to get more information, and watch your inbox on Invalid date. That’s when we’ll officially open our doors—but only to people on the waitlist.

The post Opening: The PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, & Recovery Coaching Certification appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

“Everything in my life is hot garbage.”

Okay, sometimes it sure feels that way.

But objectively speaking, it’s just not true.

Statements like, “My entire life sucks” or “I’m never going to be happy” have a name: Cognitive distortions.

Or, thoughts that feel true, but aren’t.

If you have thoughts like this, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.

Cognitive distortions just reflect how the quirky human brain works. Our highly-evolved (and woefully error-prone) brains naturally tend to:

  • Over-focus on perceived threats and negativity
  • Make judgments with only partial information
  • Over-generalize, taking facts about a single, specific situation and applying them to everything

(Anyone else raising their hand in recognition?)

However:

While normal, cognitive distortions create a TON of—often unnecessary—stress.

If you often feel annoyed, anxious, or stubbornly pessimistic, you’re probably mired in these kinds of thoughts.

This is actually good news.

Why?

Because it probably means your life isn’t 100 percent hot garbage. Your thoughts just need some adjusting.

(Most people feel a tremendous amount of relief when they discover this.)

In this article, we’ll describe 11 cognitive distortions that humans tend to get stuck in. This list was developed by David Burns, MD, psychiatrist, pioneer of cognitive behavioral therapy, Stanford University professor, and author of the best-selling books Feeling Good and Feeling Great.

Read through the list, and see if you relate to any of these thought types.

Being aware of your thought distortions helps you see your circumstances more clearly and realistically, helping you reduce stress and feel better.

Keep an open mind, and let’s go.

11 cognitive distortions that’ll make you feel like you’re doomed (even when you’re not)

You can read through this list, or better yet, pull a specific thought—preferably one that causes you distress—from your own brain to analyze as you go.

Does your thought fit into any of the below categories? How do you feel once you learn that?

(For a printable, shareable, condensed PDF version of this list, check out: Checklist of common cognitive distortions)

1. All-or-nothing thinking

You see things as all-or-nothing, either-or, usually in extremes (like “perfect” or “horrible”). There are no options between those two categories (like “okay” or “reasonably good”).

For example, unless you follow a diet or workout perfectly, 100 percent of the time, you’ve failed. Call it the “I ate one spoonful of ice cream so I might as well give up on healthy eating” effect.

Examples of all-or-nothing thinking:

  • “I missed my deadline on one assignment… I’m going to get fired!”
  • “I skipped a workout this week. I’m going to lose all my gains.”
  • “I tripped over my words at one point—my whole presentation is ruined!”

2. Overgeneralization

You view a single, negative event as a continuing and never-ending pattern of defeat by using words like, “always” and “never.”

You likely also discount other—possibly conflicting—pieces of evidence and make sweeping conclusions based on one piece of information.

Examples of overgeneralization:

  • “I sprained my ankle while I was running. I’ll never run properly again.”
  • “I forgot we had a coaching appointment. I’m always letting people down!”
  • (When stood up on a date) “I’m always getting rejected! I’ll never find love!”

3. Negative mental filter

You highlight and dwell mostly on the negatives and generally ignore the positives.

Like one drop of ink that colors a whole jar of water dark, or an unwashed tuna can that stinks up your whole kitchen, your overall impression of reality becomes very unfavorable.

Examples of negative mental filter:

  • “My workouts have been consistent and I’m recovering pretty well. Only, I still can’t seem to do a single chin-up… I can’t be strong with noodle arms!”
  • “I cooked this beautiful meal and it actually tasted good! Of course, my toddler hated the green bits so I definitely won’t be making that again.”
  • “Everyone said they liked my performance, but I saw that one audience member grimace when I said one of my lines. I must’ve been terrible.”

4. Discounting the positives

You insist your achievements or positive efforts “don’t count.”

This is particularly painful because even when things in life are going well, you don’t really let yourself enjoy it.

Examples of discounting the positives:

  • “Sure, I managed to practice my new walking habit pretty consistently, but—pfft—even my dog can do that.”
  • “My coach is only telling me I did a good job this week because she’s trying to be nice.”
  • “I spent some time organizing my kitchen, but who cares? There’s still Cheerios under the couch and peanut butter handprints on the walls.”

5. Jumping to conclusions

You assume things are going badly without facts to support this.

There are two subtypes of jumping to conclusions:

▶ Mind-reading: You imagine what other people are thinking, often assuming that people are reacting negatively to you.

Examples of mind-reading:

  • “Look at me fumbling around with these exercise bands. Ugh, everyone must think I’m such a boob.”
  • “When I told my coach all the stuff that’s been going on in my life lately, I know he must’ve thought I was such a screw-up.”
  • “I decided to dress up a bit but I bet everyone at work thought I looked like a pathetic try-hard.”

▶ Fortune-telling: You predict things will turn out badly—without having evidence to support this.

Examples of fortune-telling:

  • “I’m never going to get better.”
  • “I studied hard, but I just know I’m going to blow this exam.”
  • “I’m destined to be an unmotivated sloth who sleeps on their parents’ lumpy basement futon forever.”

6. Magnification or minimization

You blow problems or imperfections way out of proportion, or minimize your successes or admirable qualities.

When you consider other people, you might do the opposite: Emphasizing their favorable aspects and brushing aside their flaws. When you compare yourself, you always come up short.

Examples of magnification and minimization:

  • “All the other people in this class seem to be following the choreography but I keep making mistakes.”
  • “Everyone else has their eating and exercise all figured out. I’m a hot mess.”
  • “My sister can pull off the disheveled mom look and still look cute, but if I so much as have a wrinkle in my shirt, I look like a zombie.”

7. Emotional reasoning

You base your account of reality on your feelings: “I feel bad, so I must be bad.”

This is the extreme end of “going with your gut,” where you don’t consider perspectives or evidence other than your own feelings.

Examples of emotional reasoning:

  • “Swinging kettlebells looks super scary and intimidating. It has to be dangerous.”
  • “Learning how to cook just feels so overwhelming, so it must be really hard.”
  • “I feel so insecure. I must be a loser.”

8. “Mustabatory thinking” or “Shoulding all over yourself”

You torture yourself or other people with “musts,” “shoulds,” “oughts,” and “have tos.”

Instead of identifying your own deeper values and following your “inner compass” of principles or truths, you focus on a set of external (often imagined) obligations, duties, and “rules.”

Always wishing that things were different by some imaginary arbitrary standard, you make yourself feel guilty and frustrated, and others feel defensive and unappreciated.

Plus, you’re always exhausting yourself swimming upstream against the tide of how things really are.

Although “shoulds” are usually meant to motivate yourself (“I should go to the gym”) and others (“You should take my advice”), they usually do the opposite, provoking rebellion and resistance.

Examples of “mustabatory thinking” and “shoulding”:

  • “People who care about nutrition shouldn’t eat cookies.”
  • “Fit people ought to look like _____ or do _____.”
  • “I have to drink—it’s what fun people do!”

9. Labeling

Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you apply a global label to yourself and say, “I’m an idiot” or “I’m a loser.”

When you (or others) make mistakes, you attribute it to a problem with your (or another’s) character, instead of an isolated thought or behavior error.

When you label, you confuse who you are with what you do. This leaves very little room for normal learning curves, missteps, or human imperfections.

Examples of labeling:

  • “Did you see that guy run a red light?? What a jerk.”
  • “I can’t believe I cried in front of my trainer. I’m such a basket-case.”
  • “Ugh, I ate too much pizza. I’m just a worthless, undisciplined failure.”

10. Personalization

You imagine you’re directly responsible for others’ feelings and responses, and take everything as a personal commentary on your value as a human.

However, by assuming everything that goes wrong is because of you, you’re actually more likely to overlook the actual cause of the problem, preventing learning and growth.

Examples of personalization:

  • “My kid’s grades are low… I must be a terrible parent.”
  • “This diet is driving me nuts… must be because I just don’t have enough willpower.”
  • “If I were a better coach, my gym wouldn’t have had to close down.”

11. Blame

You find fault instead of solving the problem.

Just like personalization, blame prevents learning and growth: You’re always pointing a finger at someone or something else, rather than being appropriately accountable for the things you can control, and working to change them.

Examples of blame:

  • “I didn’t stick to that exercise program, but only because I had a lousy coach.”
  • “I’m having trouble getting my business off the ground. People in my town just don’t seem to care about health and fitness.”
  • “I only eat this way because my kids are super picky and won’t even look at a vegetable.”

Notice your thought errors, and feel better

Did you catch yourself thinking thoughts that fell into one (or more) of the above categories?

Us too.

Now that you know these distortions exist (and that they’re normal), the work going forward is to continue to be aware of your thoughts, and notice when they’re distorted.

When your thoughts don’t reflect the complicated sometimes-hard-sometimes-beautiful nature of reality, that’s okay.

So what’s the alternative?

Become aware of your (or your client’s) thought habits.

Keeping a thought journal can be helpful. Sometimes thought distortions are more obvious when we see them written down (or spoken out loud).

If you hear a client saying a distorted thought, try repeating it back to them in a reflection (“So you’re saying if you eat a piece of pizza, you’re a terrible human”) and see if they respond with something like, “Gosh, it sounds so harsh when you say it back!”

You can also try our Cognitive Flexibility Self-Assessment Worksheet. This assesses how well you’re able to think in creative and nuanced ways, and respond effectively to reality.

Recognize realistic thoughts.

Realistic thoughts not only acknowledge complexity, nuance, and uncertainty—but also your own resilience.

Realistic thoughts sound like this:

  • “This part of my life is really hard right now, but things will probably change. Plus, there are other things in my life that are going okay.”
  • “I do worry that things might go badly, but there’s also a good chance they might turn out alright, especially if I think proactively and plan ahead.”
  • “Although I might not like the outcome of X, I can probably deal with it.”

Here’s a more detailed rundown of what realistic thoughts are—and aren’t—to give you a better idea:

Distorted thoughts are… Realistic thoughts are…
Rigid, often based around made-up “rules”:
“Fit people can always bench press their body weight.”
Flexible and nuanced:
“There are many ways to be fit and strong.”
Stale, reflecting old beliefs:
“I’ve never been a high-energy person; my parents always said I was lazy.”
Fresh, reflecting the here-and-now:
“I’m noticing I have less energy in this moment.”
Pervasive, taking one bad thing and extending it to every aspect of your life:
“I had trouble falling asleep last night. I’m a terrible sleeper.”
Specific, keeping events in context:
“I had trouble falling asleep after I stayed up watching upsetting news on TV.”
Simplistic, with all/none, always/never, and good/bad types of binary thinking:
“I was so bad! I ate all the dessert! I can’t stick to a healthy eating plan at all!”
Nuanced and complex, using a continuum and allowing more than one thing to be true simultaneously:
“I ate dessert, and I savored it. It was more than I typically eat, and also not an everyday thing.”
Biased, most often towards the negative:
“I missed 2 out of 5 planned workouts this week! I suck!”
Less biased (as all perspectives are partial), trying to be objective as possible and looking at things from many perspectives:
“I got to the gym 3 out of 5 times this week! Considering I started at zero workouts, that’s a big improvement!”
Imagined, “story”-based:
“Everyone in this gym is looking at me and noticing how out of shape I am.”
Evidence-based and continually tested against reality:
“Looking around, no one’s giving me more than a brief glance. Realistically, everyone’s probably focused on their own fitness.”

Notice how you feel when you think more realistic thoughts.

(Usually, we find this helps folks feel anxious, and more open, curious, and positive about the future.)

This practice of noticing and modifying takes time and practice, but you and your brain can work together.

Like a toddler with a pair of scissors, your brain’s intent isn’t to harm. Even so, it too benefits from wise adult supervision.


If you’re a health and fitness coach…

Learning how to help clients manage stress, build resilience, and optimize sleep and recovery can be deeply transformative—for both of you.

It helps clients get “unstuck” and makes everything else easier—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

And for coaches: It gives you a rarified skill that will set you apart as an elite change maker.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

Want to know more?

The post The thought tool that can lower your stress instantly appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

With stress at an all-time high, taking care of your health is harder than ever. Many of us need more than “just do this” nutrition and fitness advice.

This guide can help. It goes beyond conventional advice so that you (or your clients) can start making positive progress right now. How? By helping you overcome the mental and emotional barriers that are holding you back.

The post Free Guide | Recover Stronger: 6 Steps to Building Your New Normal appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Why is it so hard to say, “No”?

Well, for one, disappointing people feels horrible.

(You hate to be a flake.)

Maybe your star employee status depends on you saying, “Sure, I’ll stay late.”

Also, saying yes just feels easier, a lot of the time.

For example, when you say “yes, I’ll drive you to rugby,” it means a kid who gets to practice on time, and you returning to a peaceful house.

However:

Every time you say “yes” to one thing, you’re saying “no” to something else.

For example, when you say “yes” to:

  • Watching the kids because you feel guilty asking your spouse to trade off, you also say “no” to that gym membership you paid for, but rarely use
  • Your boss’s midnight requests, anxiously checking your work email until late, you also say “no” to a full, restful night’s sleep
  • Everyone else’s demands (hi kids, aging parents, and the PTA), you also say “no” to those appointments with your dentist or massage therapist

The result: You feel like a ragdoll, pulled and tossed towards whoever needs you most. With no sense of your own priorities, or the respite to tend to them, you’re left feeling overwhelmed, overburdened, anxious, and stressed.

(Also: Hello, resentment.)

But try a thought experiment with us:

What if you flipped your responses—saying “yes” to yourself a little more often—and in turn, better tending to your own needs and goals?

And, what if you said “no” to more of the things that get in the way of that?

In the following article, we’ll offer three challenges to help you do that.

You’ll learn how to choose—with intention—when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”

One better: You’ll build the skills to turn down requests without feeling so guilty, insecure, or uncomfortable.

And don’t worry:

This isn’t a 90’s talk show-style confrontation with your loved ones. You don’t have to “complete makeover” your life. Or tell someone where to shove it.

Instead, you’ll inch along a continuum of “no,” at your own pace.

With practice, you’ll find a place for YOU on your to-do list, translating to better health, deeper recovery, and more energy.

You can’t control other people’s requests of you, but saying “no” is within your power. And it’s one of the most effective things you can do to manage stress.

Ready to try it? Let’s go.

Challenge #1: Track your time, energy, and attention

One reason you might agree to do too many things:

You may not actually know where your time, energy, and attention are going.

Without a clear sense of how much time you have in a day—and how you spend it—it’s easy to believe things like:

“Oh, of course I can train that new employee!”

OR:

“Most days, I don’t even have five minutes to myself.”

You might both over- and underestimate how much time you have in a day.

This challenge will help you see—on paper—where your time is going. With this information, you’ll be able to more consciously decide where you want your time to go.

To do it:

Pick a tracking method.

Download our Planning and Time Use Worksheet, use a time-tracking app, or create your own time-tracking system by using a notebook or calendar.

Record your daily activities.

Pay attention to what drains your energy and attention—as well as what boosts it. This information will come in handy in challenge #2.

Analyze your data.

After tracking for at least a day, look at your diary.

Any patterns or surprises? Is your time, energy, and attention going where you’d assumed? Are you spending more (or less) time on certain tasks than you thought? Finally, do you feel good about where your time, energy, and attention are going?

While you do this, be honest, but also kind to yourself. Chances are, this task will reveal some uncomfortable truths.

Here’s an example of a typical day that a client—a middle-class parent with a full-time job and three children under 10—shared with us.

6:30 AM-8:30 AM Jump out of bed after hitting snooze, wrangle kids, prepare breakfast while checking work texts and emails from phone, get kids off to school and daycare
8:30 AM-2:30 PM Meetings and calls. Skip lunch, work straight through
2:30 PM On phone to insurance company while answering work emails
3:30 PM Pick up kids from school; scarf handfuls of their uneaten lunches while driving home to make 4 PM work meeting
4 PM Work meeting while making kids after-school snacks and putting in a load of laundry because youngest needs clean soccer uniform for practice at 6:30 PM
5:30 PM Rushed “dinner” (inhaling food while arguing with spouse about who has to drive)
6:20 PM Hop in car while yelling at kids to hurry up; speed to three different practices and lessons, one for each kid
7:30 PM Answer work emails and texts while on sidelines and sitting in car waiting for kids
8:15 PM Back home; discover one kid needs cupcakes for a class birthday tomorrow. Bake something from a mix while trying to bathe and put kids to bed, review homework, make lunches for tomorrow
10:30 PM Sit in bed exhausted, half-watching a true crime show with spouse, still answering work texts and emails
12:30 AM Lie awake worrying about tomorrow

As you can see, she’s left zero space for… herself.

Not surprisingly, this client feels exhausted, overwhelmed, and anxious.

For many people, the above challenge is transformative.

It helps them see—sometimes with painful clarity—what their lived priorities are.

For example, the above client didn’t think of themselves as a “slave to work.” But her time diary revealed differently.

Challenge #2: Choose (intentionally) how to spend your time

Another reason you might say “yes” as a default response:

You don’t fully understand the tradeoffs.

In other words, when you say “yes,” you’re not aware of everything you’re saying “no” to at the same time.

This challenge helps you get real with those tradeoffs, and come up with a balance of “yeses” and “nos” that better reflects your goals.

To do it:

Create a chart that represents your current reality.

Take your data from challenge #1—and create a pie chart that shows how you spend your time, energy, and attention on a typical day.

Your pie chart represents 100 percent of your total capacity. Just like you can’t negotiate a 26-hour day, you can’t do more than 100 percent.

Your time is finite.

But as you start adding up components, you might notice that you’ve been trying to stuff 48 hours worth of stuff—or more—into one 24-hour cycle.

Or maybe you’ve been thinking your day is mostly devoted to productive activities that are aligned with your broader values and goals…

… But then you discover you spend at least an hour a day fighting with your wardrobe (why does nothing fit?!), and then another two hours scrolling through “aspirational” fitness accounts, making you feel even worse about your too-tight pants.

In other words, before doing this challenge, you might assume that your day looks like the fantasy below:

In reality, however, it might really look more like this…

No wonder you feel crummy. (Most shocking: Wiping your kids’ / dogs’ butts is the least of your woes!)

Decide if your pie slices are allocated to things you truly care about.

Consider each section of your chart, and ask yourself two questions:

  1. How much time, energy, and attention am I giving this right now?
  2. How much do I WANT to give? In other words, do you want that pie slice to be… bigger? Smaller? Or—poof!—gone? What are your hopes here?

It can help to think about these questions visually, as the below graphic shows.

Create your dream pie chart.

This represents how you want to spend your time, energy, and attention. Maybe your new reality looks something like the below.

Still wiping butts (hey, needs to be done).

But here, there’s a balance between output (you caring and providing for others) and input (you recovering, filling your own cup).

(And remember: Your time is still finite.)

Of course, the above is just an example.

Your pie chart will reflect your own priorities, goals, and values. (Your values are the things you consider most important, and often drive choices and behaviors.)

It might take you a few tries to get your pie chart the way you want it.

Play around with it. Experiment with making some slices a little bigger or smaller until you end up with something that’s a good fit—for you.

Most importantly, looking at your dream pie should inspire a feeling of “ahhhh.” A sigh of relief, but also a sense of excitement and energy.

Next, you’ll work towards how to make that “dream pie” more of a reality.

Challenge #3: Practice saying no

With your ideal pie chart in mind, you now have a visual that can help you decide what to say “no” to and what to say “yes” to.

But now, you’ll need to put it into practice.

And that means learning to actually say “no” to an actual person whose opinion matters to you.

Gulp.

But we’ve got your back, with a practice from Pam Ruhland, one of our in-house PN supercoaches, that’ll help you ease into saying “no” with more confidence.

To do it:

Imagine some “no” challenges.

Think about how you’ll turn down requests for your time, energy, and attention that sit outside of your “pie chart of priorities.”

Go through some hypothetical scenarios and come up with alternative responses to them. It can help to think of past obligations you took on that you ended up wishing you’d said no to.

How do you wish you would’ve responded?

Sometimes, you might want to keep your answer short, saying “No, I don’t have the bandwidth for that.” Or simply, “No.” (Yes, “No” is a full sentence!)

Other times you might want to combine a “no” with a “yes”—a compromise of sorts. For example:

▶ I can’t make that meeting [no to request]. Can we do it at X time instead? [yes to an alternative, or compromise]

▶ I can’t take on that project right now [no to request], but I know someone awesome who has a bit of time right now and would love the opportunity [yes, but for someone who wants to say yes].

▶ I can’t speak at that event if I have to travel [no to request], but if I can be a virtual speaker, I’d be happy to participate [yes, but only under certain conditions].

Consider situations in the past where it’s been hard for you to prioritize your needs, and think of where along the continuum of “no” you wish you’d responded with.

Try some mirror practice.

Look at yourself in the mirror and practice some versions of saying “no.”

Maybe, imagine that person you care about that’s really stretching you thin right now—and say “no” to them.

Allow yourself to feel that uncomfortable feeling that comes up for you when you turn someone down. Say “no” kindly and respectfully, but firmly.

For example:

  • “I completely sympathize with your situation; I’m just not available.”
  • “It’s really thoughtful of you to ask, but I can’t do it.”
  • “Oh wow, that does look delicious. I’m full though.”
  • “As I said, I’m not available after 6 PM.”
  • “I’ve chosen not to drink right now. Please respect my choice.”

This exercise might feel silly (hello, you’re talking to you—in your housecoat no less) but it still might bring up some emotion.

You might feel guilty, self-indulgent, or hear the echoes of a parent who used to tell you it was impolite to turn down dessert, or lazy to turn down work.

Keep practicing in the mirror until the yucky feeling subsides (although it may never go away completely).

Acknowledge how difficult it can be to so clearly state your boundaries, and give yourself a pat on the back.

It’s showtime! Say “no” in real life.

Revisit your time diary and choose someone / something to say “no” to.

Know this: The first time will be the hardest. Start small, in situations you feel confident you can handle.

Sure, some people might not be happy with your response. After all, they liked having someone to bail them out—anytime, anywhere.

However, you’ll probably find that most people will accept your answer and still like you—and some of them will respect you more.

But the bigger payoff?

You take back some control over your life.

Instead of waiting for your kid, your boss, or a magic fairy to say to you, “You know what? You deserve some YOU time,” you take the reins.

You decide what’s important, and elbow that time out for yourself.

When you do, you give yourself a better chance at the kind of life you’ve always wanted—one with less stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, and more intention, energy, and joy.

That’s not only good for you, but for everyone.


If you’re a health and fitness coach…

Learning how to help clients manage stress, build resilience, and optimize sleep and recovery can be deeply transformative—for both of you.

It helps clients get “unstuck” and makes everything else easier—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

And for coaches: It gives you a rarified skill that will set you apart as an elite change maker.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

Want to know more?

The post How saying “No” can change your life appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Meet Raul.

Or, to be clear, pre-pandemic Raul.

He starts his days with green tea and makes most of his meals from scratch, right down to the corn tortillas. He hits the gym five days a week, too.

Avatar Raul waves hello.Like many of us…

Raul’s life changed during the pandemic.

Fortunately, his loved ones are okay. And his job is secure. (Phew.)

However, when his gym closed, he took a little break. This turned into a longer break, and now it seems he’s just… on break.

Without workouts to anchor his days, other habits unraveled, too.

He’s replaced his morning green tea with a doom-scrolling session on Twitter.

Kind of like an old lover, he wistfully thinks of those homemade meals from time to time, but doesn’t actually do anything with them.

Instead, he’s relying on takeout (and donuts, if he’s being honest) as his main source of calories, usually eaten in front of the TV.

Why can’t Raul motivate himself to do what once came so easily?

(And why can’t so many of us do the same?)

In this story we reveal the surprising answer, using what happened to Raul and his friend Chen as an allegory. By the end, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand your current struggles (if you relate to Raul) and
  • Fortify your fitness and nutrition efforts—so they remain intact (or mostly intact) during future life upheavals.

Before the pandemic, Raul’s world was more or less stable and predictable.

This helped him—probably more than he realized—maintain his fitness and nutrition habits, and even see gains month after month.

Most nights, he slept like a bear in January, and his stress was low. After all, life was pretty good.

Avatar Raul stands on top of a solid pyramid of fitness, nutrition, and stress management amid peaceful surroundings.

Then…

The pandemic shook the ground beneath everyone’s feet.

Raul’s sense of ease was replaced with a pervasive backdrop of uncertainty: Was it safe to go outside? One mask or two?

His CrossFit box closed, and his work moved from a dynamic “let’s blow off steam with a Nerf gun battle” office to an eerily-quiet-home-alone vibe.

His weekly family dinners were put on hiatus; he couldn’t risk getting his parents or his abuelita sick.

Even basic stuff—like finding chicken breasts or toilet paper at the grocery store—wasn’t so certain anymore.

As a result, Raul felt incredibly stressed.

His sleep began to suffer, his anxiety increased, and the habits that used to feel so natural now felt almost impossible.

Avatar Raul falls off of crumbling pyramid while ground shakes beneath him.

If you relate to Raul, we’re going to share some insights that might help you feel better. Before we do so, however, we want to introduce you to someone who weathered the pandemic a little differently.

Meet Chen.

Avatar Chen waves hello.

Like so many of us, Chen had his struggles during the pandemic. But mostly, he surfed those rocky waters with admirable strength and resilience.

He even improved (what?!) in some areas.

He read a book a week for an entire year.

He learned to make sourdough.

He deepened a walking-based friendship with a neighborhood buddy.

He taught himself French.

Tell us your secrets, resilient person.

Before the pandemic, like Raul, Chen was adept at planning and preparing healthy meals, and prioritizing vigorous exercise.

Unlike Raul, Chen also practiced a variety of stress-regulating, recovery-oriented techniques:

  • He had a solid bedtime routine, and knew how to quiet his mind when he noticed it obsessively chewing on worry.
  • He regularly practiced mindful eating, experimented with breathing techniques and, on really crappy days, journaled to sort out his thoughts.
  • He had a realistic, but positive mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities to develop self-compassion, learn, and grow.

These sleep, stress management, and recovery-related habits helped Chen maintain his health and fitness not just when life felt predictable and easy, but also when poop hit the fan.

Avatar Chen stands on top of solid pyramid of fitness, nutrition, and stress management while ground shakes beneath him.

When the pandemic disrupted life, Chen had lots of coping strategies.

To be clear, Chen experienced some bad pandemic days.

He sometimes felt scared and stressed.

Like all of us, he retreated to his bedroom for a few (okay, way more than a few) ugly cries.

He woke some mornings wondering if pants were worth the effort.

Still, compared to Raul, Chen felt less overwhelmed and more capable.

And, his healthy habits mostly stayed in place.

End result: In some ways, Chen feels stronger than ever.

Meanwhile, Raul feels like he’s digging himself out of a pile of rubble.

Avatar Chen stands on top of solid pyramid and throws lifesaver to Avatar Raul who stands next to crumbling pyramid.

When it comes to health, most people focus on exercise and nutrition.

But as Raul and Chen’s examples show, sometimes fitness and nutrition aren’t enough.

To support fitness and nutrition habits—especially during major life upheavals (like a pandemic)—most people need solid sleep, stress management, and recovery skills.

Pyramid shows how fitness rests on top of nutrition, which rests on top of stress management, sleep, and recovery.

If your habits crumbled during the pandemic (or during any other stressful life event), it’s NOT because you’re lazy or broken.

Rather, your foundation of sleep, stress management, and recovery skills may not have been strong enough to support your nutrition and fitness.

Fortify your sleep, stress, and recovery foundation now, and you’ll increase your chances of achieving and maintaining your health and fitness goals, no matter what shakes your world.

(Disclaimer: You’ll still hurt and struggle and snot and cry when your world goes Richter 7.0, but you’ll also get back up quicker.)

Below, we’ve got a short primer to get you started.

Use these resources to handle tough stuff

We won’t promise these tools will fix everything, but they might help you gain some positive momentum, and figure out what to do next.

▶ Worksheet: Focus on what you can control—not on what you can’t.

Many of us are familiar with the Serenity Prayer that cautions us to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Easier said than done, right?

This short exercise can help. By sorting your worries into three categories, you’ll gain the perspective needed to truly let go of the stuff that’s out of your control as well as do something (if you choose) about what’s in your control. By continually orienting your focus toward your “I’ve got this” zone, you’ll feel more empowered and less anxious.

▶ Infographic: Use the dial method to scale your health and fitness habits up and down.

Too many people think of their healthy habits like an on/off switch. They’re either exercising everyday—or they’re not exercising at all. They’re eating whole foods 100% of the time—or just not bothering.

You get the idea.

This all-or-nothing thinking makes it difficult to maintain momentum when your day, week, month, or year goes sideways. (BTW: it can also raise your risk of depression and anxiety.)

To break free from this destructive mindset, you’ll want to practice its opposite: flexible thinking.

Our infographic can help you think of your healthy habits like a dial rather than an on/off switch. That way, you’ll be able to adapt your habits (without fully abandoning them) when life feels busy, out of hand, hairy, or all of the above.

▶ Worksheet: Try a self-compassion quickie.

Self-compassion (giving yourself the same kindness you’d offer to a friend) can help ease depression, anxiety, stress, and self criticism, finds research.1

This worksheet walks you through a brief exercise to try it yourself. You’ll be surprised how being kinder to yourself (instead of beating yourself up) can dramatically change how you feel.

▶ Worksheet: Showcase your wins.

This tool can help you train your brain to find—and build on—your wins, however small. You’re probably doing more right than you realize. See how many small successes you can spot in a day. Even tiny efforts (“I did one wall pushup!”) count.

▶ Exercise: Move toward goals you can achieve.

Many people think they need to feel motivated before taking action—but life doesn’t always work that way. (Case in point: How motivated were you to get out of bed this morning?)

A better strategy: Build the habit of taking action, regardless of your level of motivation. Action drives behavior. So by doing something, even if it seems too insignificant to matter, you’re building positive momentum.

We challenge you to look for very small opportunities—what we call “5-minute actions”—to carve out a little more recovery and resilience TODAY. Even tiny actions taken today can build towards a brighter future.

Here’s how to start

If you currently relate to Raul, then our list of resources might make you feel all, “UGH, now I have MORE stuff to do?!”

That’s normal. It can feel intimidating to work on new stuff when you feel you’re barely pulling yourself off the couch.

Keep in mind: This doesn’t need to be a huge project. For now, just…

  • Read through the list
  • Pick one resource that looks interesting to you
  • Spend five minutes reading or working through a worksheet

Done.

Tomorrow, you can spend another five minutes, either continuing to work through yesterday’s resource, or choosing another to explore.

When you feel ready, decide how you’ll apply what you’ve learned to your life.

That’s how you build a strong foundation. Brick by brick.

Avatar Raul and Avatar Chen both stand on top of their own solid pyramids, and give each other high-fives.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Ferrari M, Hunt C, Harrysunker A, Abbott MJ, Beath AP, Einstein DA. Self-compassion interventions and psychosocial outcomes: A meta-analysis of RCTs. Mindfulness. 2019 Aug;10(8):1455–73.


If you’re a health and fitness coach…

Learning how to help clients manage stress, build resilience, and optimize sleep and recovery can be deeply transformative—for both of you.

It helps clients get “unstuck” and makes everything else easier—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

And for coaches: It gives you a rarified skill that will set you apart as an elite change maker.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

Want to know more?

The post You’re not lazy: The real reason your health habits crumbled during the pandemic appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Good nutrition isn’t about following the rules.

The healthiest people we know aren’t cardboard cut-outs of perfection.

In fact, you might be surprised how they eat.

That’s because instead of following someone else’s diet advice, they’ve developed a personal food list based on their own dietary quirks.

You couldn’t predict their lists if you tried.

They take into account not just nutrition, but also their individual taste preferences and how foods make them feel.

This approach leaves room for ice cream and tortilla chips and gummy bears—and doesn’t require them to eat “healthy” foods they can’t stand (or aren’t able to tolerate).

And you know what? The method works really well.

It allows these folks to eat nutritiously, enjoy their meals, and feel “in control” around food—without feeling restricted or deprived.

The best part: Anyone can do this. (In fact, we’ve been successfully using it with our clients—over 100,000 people—for more than a decade.)

Introducing the traffic light eating method.

Before we continue: If seeing the name of this method makes you A) recoil in anger, B) roll your eyes, or C) look for the back button, hear us out.

Yes, it’s a little controversial. The reason: Some companies use a similarly-named approach to provide a set of food rules that apply to everyone.

This isn’t that.

Using our system, you’ll define your own “green light,” “yellow light,” and “red light” foods based on how they work for you. (And spoiler alert: “Red light” doesn’t mean bad.)

As you’ll see, nutrition-quality is an important element in choosing foods—but it’s not the only one. Your likes and dislikes, habits, goals, and physiology all play a role, too.

Let’s walk through it.

Green light foods = anytime, anywhere foods

These are foods you eat regularly and with ease. You can eat them normally, slowly, and in reasonable amounts.

Whole foods usually make up most of this list, but it may also include foods that you enjoy purely for pleasure, in amounts that work well for you.

Nutrient density isn’t the only criteria here: Your “green lights” are foods that you enjoy, align with your culture and lifestyle, and make your body and/or mind feel good.

And, while we encourage mindful eating, green light foods are ones you don’t have to think too much about. You just eat and enjoy them: simple as that.

Yellow light foods = “sometimes” / “maybe” / “small doses” foods

Your “yellow lights” are foods you might eat occasionally, with a degree of caution or mindfulness.

Maybe they trigger a bit of indigestion (but not a full-scale emergency trip to the restroom).

Perhaps you prefer to enjoy them in small, bite-sized doses. Or only on certain occasions, like out at a restaurant with friends.

It’s worth noting that yellow light foods don’t have to be “problem” foods.

They might be nutritious foods you incorporate into your diet, sometimes.

Maybe you’re “meh” about eggplant, but you’ll eat it when your partner cooks it, or it’s part of a restaurant dish.

Or you’ll eat tofu once a week on “meatless Mondays.”

Or you cook okra, but only on the weekends when you have time to make it just right.

We’d consider these yellow light foods.

As you can see, “yellows” can be any type of food. Alcohol and certain “junk foods” might wind up in this category, but heck, so could kale.

Red light foods = foods you typically avoid, minimize, or make less available

Red light foods aren’t bad. They’re just foods that you choose not to eat (at least most of the time).

Red light foods may not work for you because:

  • They don’t help you achieve your goals
  • You always overeat them
  • You’re allergic to them
  • You can’t easily digest them
  • You just don’t like them

Ultra-processed foods often fall into this category since many folks find that, once they start eating them, they can’t stop. Some people even call them “trigger foods,” because after taking a single bite, they blink, and the couch is covered in Cheeto dust and empty ice cream cartons.

Again, this doesn’t mean you avoid these foods all the time.

For example, you might not want to keep the freezer stocked with cheesecake, but perhaps you’ll happily enjoy a generous slice on a special occasion.

At the same time, so-called “healthy” foods can wind up on the red light list too.

If broccoli makes you gag, put it on the red light list. (Because who wants to eat foods they hate?)

If apples cause you to break out in hives, that’s a red light.

If plain, baked chicken breast makes you feel like a deprived dieter, you guessed it—red light food.

Worth reiterating: Putting something on your red light list doesn’t mean you can never eat it again. In fact, unless you have severe allergies, it can be worth experimenting with now and then.

You might grow to love something you currently dislike. Or become better at eating it in moderation.

Hold up: Couldn’t the traffic light system promote shame, guilt, or disordered habits?

Our answer: It depends on how you use it.

The idea behind the PN traffic light system isn’t to label foods or follow a particular system “perfectly.”

The purpose, rather, is to build awareness about which foods work best for you, and which ones don’t. So you can make informed decisions for yourself.

But not all traffic light systems are created equal.

Some programs out there use the traffic light system too, but they use it differently than PN.

They use it based purely on their interpretation of nutritional value, to indicate which foods should make up the bulk of your diet (green), which foods you should eat in moderation (yellow), and which foods you should eat infrequently and in small portions (red). And the list is the exact same for everyone.

Our approach is different, for a couple of reasons:

First, we don’t want to suggest that certain foods are “bad” or off-limits.

The data we’ve seen (and our experience working with clients) tells us that restriction often leads to more problematic eating behaviors, not less.

And while we do offer tools to help people make more healthful choices, our big intention is to help clients make improvements and adjustments that feel right for them.

What’s more, when used as an awareness-building tool, we’ve found the traffic light eating method can actually help people move away from disordered habits, and experience a greater sense of self-efficacy, flexibility, and enjoyment with their food choices.

That can feel life-changing.

When you know which foods work well for you, which ones are “meh,” and which ones cause unwanted issues, food choices become easier.

Plus, you can adapt your traffic lights at any time. They evolve with you.

Better still, you make decisions based on YOU. Your body, your mind, your health. Not someone else’s diet, meal plan, points, or rules.

Your nutritional choices become less rigid and more flexible. Food becomes less stressful, not more.

A special note for coaches

If you’re a coach, we highly encourage you to start gathering information about your client’s food preferences right from the start.

In PN Coaching, we do this as part of our client intake. We learn from the beginning about our clients’ likes, dislikes, allergies, intolerances, and so on.

It’s important to know your client’s starting point before making any nutritional recommendations.

After all, there’d be no point in recommending meat to a vegetarian, or peanut butter to someone who’s allergic to nuts, or seafood to someone who lives in the desert, or something “soooo tasty” to someone who’s undergoing chemotherapy and can’t taste a darn thing.

Personal preferences aren’t the only factor to consider.

If you’re a nutrition coach, you’ll still want to teach your client which foods are most nutritious and will be most suitable for their goals.

(Our food spectrum infographic can be a really useful tool for that.)

Over time, your client may develop more appreciation for healthful foods.

If their diet currently contains a lot of highly-processed foods, they might not have many whole foods on their “green” list right now. But tastes can change. Many people find that as they start to eat more minimally-processed foods, they find them more palatable.

For example, if your client categorizes all vegetables as a “yuck / barf,” perhaps you can help find a vegetable or two that fits their yellow light (and maybe eventually green light) list.

(To help your client develop a taste for veggies, check out: What to do when you don’t like vegetables.)

Want some examples? Here’s what our traffic lights look like.

Again, there is no set traffic-light list for every person. While in general, whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins are a good idea, when it comes to specific foods, you might have a different list.

To help you better understand how that works, here are a few personal examples from folks at PN.

Let’s start with the authors of this article.

Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, Director of Nutrition and Performance at PN

Image shows "Brian's Traffic Light Foods" and gives the reasoning for each. They are as follows: Green: Chicken thighs, salmon, Greek yogurt, eggs, tofu, sirloin, shrimp, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peppers, cauliflower, bananas, strawberries, apples, oranges, potatoes, pasta, whole grain breads, black beans, avocado, roasted almonds, peanut butter, dark chocolate, coffee Reasoning: Enjoys a diverse and omnivorous diet. Has no major eating restrictions, and is willing to try most anything! Yellow: Broccoli, blueberries, milk, wine, beer, guacamole, ice cream (especially french vanilla), chocolate chip cookies, green tea Reasoning: Enjoys broccoli, blueberries, and milk, but large portions cause digestive upset. Enjoys wine and beer with spouse and/or friends, but mindful of overall consumption. Likes guacamole (and french vanilla ice cream / chocolate chip cookies) too much, and can over-consume if not mindful. Drinks green tea for its health benefits, but much prefers coffee! Red: Reese’s peanut butter cups, potato chips (especially if combined with friends and alcohol), fresh brownies Reasoning: Will definitely overeat Reese’s and fresh, moist brownies (but not ones with cake-like texture)! Will mindlessly munch on chips.

Camille DePutter, PN Coach and Adviser

Image shows "Cam's Traffic Light Foods" and gives the reasoning for each. They are as follows: Green: chicken, tofu, kale, broccoli, sweet potato fries, eggplant, red pepper, mushrooms, eggs, sashimi, berries, yogurt, ice cream, hot sauce, herbs, tomatoes, dark chocolate, coffee, whey protein powder, gefilte fish, brisket Reasoning: Appreciates a wide variety of foods and flavors. Feels best on an omnivorous diet; tolerates dairy well; likes spice; loves to eat from the garden. Enjoys foods from her partner’s Ashkenazi Jewish culture. Yellow: dried and canned beans, white bread, bagels, bagged chips, candy, cocktail, glass of wine, parsnips Reasoning: beans and white bread products cause digestive discomfort in large or regular doses. Enjoys processed treat foods and alcoholic beverages but easy to over-consume. Not a big fan of parsnips. Red: mussels, yellow lentils, red lentils, oreo cookies, cheesies, chips with dip. Reasoning: Allergic to mussels. Extreme digestive discomfort from lentils. Will over-consume certain treat foods (indulges, but more rarely).

Now here’s a list from Krista Scott Dixon, PhD, Director of Curriculum at Precision Nutrition.

Image shows "Krista's Traffic Light Foods" and gives the reasoning for each. They are as follows: Green: chicken, steak, bbq ribs, grasshoppers, snails, fish, assorted eggs, seaweed, kale, berries, coconut, avocado, white rice, oats, cob of corn, almonds, soybeans, tofu, dark chocolate, white potato, yam Reasoning: Appreciates a wide variety of foods and enjoys an omnivorous diet. (Will try anything once, especially while traveling.) Can digest/tolerate these foods well. Yellow: dried beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, popcorn, whole peaches, apples Reasoning: Can't tolerate beans or legumes well; intolerance to FODMAPs (okay in small doses); popcorn (triggers digestive issues in large doses); oral allergy to raw stone fruit and raw apples (okay if cooked). Red: Kimchi, wine bottle, milk carton, whole grain bread, watermelon, chips, milk chocolate, chili pepper, dried fruit, lobster Reasoning: Yeast and mold allergies, histamine intolerance, dairy intolerance, grain intolerance, intolerance to spice, dried fruit and melon, hates the taste of certain shellfish

What about a scientist? Here’s the list of Helen Kollias, PhD, Science Advisor at Precision Nutrition.

Image shows "Helen's Traffic Light Foods" and gives the reasoning for each. They are as follows: Green: Cup of coffee, green super shake, steak, trout filet, quinoa, wild rice, oranges, navy beans, spinach, oregano, feta cheese, broccoli, sweet potato, edamame, carrots, chickpeas, string beans, chicken breast, pork ribs, brussels sprouts, berries Reasoning: Enjoys foods of her Greek heritage; no allergies or major intolerances; pretty easy-going eater; aims to eat a nutritionally balanced diet without too many rules or regulations. Yellow: gin and tonic in a nice cocktail glass with ice in it and a straw, Tortilla chips and salsa, milk carton, pasta, baguette Reasoning: enjoys an occasional cocktail with friends. (If drinking at home buys a single can of tonic as to not over-consume.) Enjoys tortilla chips and salsa; can digest corn chips better than potato chips. Dairy may cause congestion if over-consumed; white bread / pasta doesn’t sit well in large amounts Red: Large bottle of tonic water. Whole green pepper. Sour cream & onion chips, ketchup chips, fish crackers. Chili pepper. Lamb Reasoning: Will over-consume tonic water, potato chips and crackers, and doesn’t feel good after. Hates raw green pepper. Doesn’t do well with spice. Not a fan of lamb.

 

Want to build your own list—or help a client with theirs?

Start by using our Red-Yellow-Green Foods Worksheet.

To put your list into practice, here’s a tip: Keep mainly “green” foods handy and available. You’ll naturally eat more of them.

And, if you want to consume fewer foods on your “yellow” or “red” light list, you can make your life easier by simply not buying them. (That way you have to exercise less willpower when you get home.)

That said, you can also choose to eat foods that DON’T work for you. Unless you’re deathly allergic, eating from your “red light” list is always an option.

Either way, you’re in control, and you know what to expect. (Read: “If I go ahead and eat this red-light food, I might eat a whole lot of it versus choosing something from my green-light list. Right now, I’m okay with that.”)

When used as a way to get to know yourself better and make mindful choices, this system isn’t restrictive. It’s liberating.

For more insight into how this works, here’s a look at how PN co-founder Dr. John Berardi chooses his foods, from lemon water (“green light”) to red peppers (“red light”).

Your relationship to certain foods will change over time—and that’s a good thing.

The only constant in life, and human beings, is change.

Your tastes may change as you age. Your priorities may change, too. Sometimes new allergies and intolerances form. (And if you’re really lucky, some may go away.)

Don’t let your “traffic lights” define you or keep you stuck.

Instead, consider them an opportunity to get to know yourself better as you evolve and grow.

As Alice said while in Wonderland, “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

We’re all a bit like Alice. Might as well enjoy the ride.


If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

You can help people build nutrition and lifestyle habits that improve their physical and mental health, bolster their immunity, help them better manage stress, and get sustainable results. We’ll show you how.

If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.

The post The traffic light eating method: Diet goldmine—or landmine? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

You don’t need a quiz to tell you there’s stress in your life.

That’s true always and forever.

But it can be helpful to better understand how that stress makes you feel—and how well you’re coping with it.

Because there are no “objective” stressors. Whether it’s work, finances, family, health, or any other potential life challenge, everyone will experience the same struggles differently.

That’s why this quiz measures your perception of stressors.

How you experience them. How you navigate them. And what they mean to you.

Because it’s your stress response—how skillfully and robustly you can navigate challenges, return to baseline, or even grow—that actually determines the outcome.

You can’t control what life throws at you.

But you can master the skills of working through it.

You can practice anticipating and planning for expected stressors, such as work or a new baby. And you can learn to adapt and grow stronger from unexpected stressors, too.

Over time, with repeating key self-care and stress-management behaviors, you’ll get better at handling life’s many curveballs—and ultimately, build enough resilience and reserve to tackle bigger aspirations that may feel far off right now.

Take this quiz to gauge your stress perception. Then keep reading for a proven strategy that can help you get on the path to feeling better.

++

1. In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?

  • Never – 0 points
  • Almost never – 1 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 3 point
  • Very often – 4 point

2. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?

  • Never – 0 points
  • Almost never – 1 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 3 point
  • Very often – 4 point

3. In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed?

  • Never – 0 points
  • Almost never – 1 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 3 point
  • Very often – 4 point

4. In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all of the things that you had to do?

  • Never – 0 points
  • Almost never – 1 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 3 point
  • Very often – 4 point

5. In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control?

  • Never – 0 points
  • Almost never – 1 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 3 point
  • Very often – 4 point

6. In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

  • Never – 0 points
  • Almost never – 1 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 3 point
  • Very often – 4 point

7. In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?

  • Never – 4 points
  • Almost never – 3 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 1 point
  • Very often – 0 point

8. In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?

  • Never – 4 points
  • Almost never – 3 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 1 point
  • Very often – 0 point

9. In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?

  • Never – 4 points
  • Almost never – 3 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 1 point
  • Very often – 0 point

10. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?

  • Never – 4 points
  • Almost never – 3 point
  • Sometimes – 2 point
  • Fairly often – 1 point
  • Very often – 0 point

Your score: out of 40

On a scale of 0 (“I’m chillin”) to 40 (“I’m freaking out”), the stress score1 above represents your stress management baseline. It’s a good indicator of your overall stress load as well as how effectively you’re coping with it. Make sure you answered each of the questions so your score is accurate.

Now, what do you do with your stress score?

If you feel ready, you can try to improve it. Here’s a strategy to get you started.

Try the stress audit:

Sketch out three columns.

▶ In the first column, list all the challenging or stressful events you’ve experienced in the last year or two.

Some of those were probably really hard to go through. While you were “in it,” it might have been hard to see your way out. But here you are.

Others may have seemed “silly,” and you might wonder why they bothered you so much. Don’t judge what upset you. Remember, there are no “objective” stressors that feel exactly the same to everyone.

Just capture what happened, with an attitude of compassionate curiosity.

▶ In the second column, note what you learned from these events.

What skills were you forced to develop, and what wisdom did you gain from them?

Did these events ask you to “rewrite your life story” or update some core beliefs? How so?

▶ In the third column, list the resources that helped you (or could have helped you) manage and overcome these challenges.

What knowledge, personal strengths, emotional resilience, or social support did you draw on?

What gaps remain—for example, what support do you wish you’d had but didn’t?

Which resources are personal (such as your own daily habits) and which are larger or structural (such as the neighborhood you live in, or a community group you belong to)?

Consider what you have in front of you.

Sure, there are some experiences we would never wish to repeat, and not all stressful events make us stronger. (It’s very important to distinguish between healthy stressors and burnout or traumas.)

But you might notice that many challenges—even the unwelcome ones—serve you in the long term, making you more compassionate, gritty, or wise. They’re opportunities to “revise and refresh” stale old stories that no longer serve you, or to look at life in new ways.

When you consider current or future challenges, draw on this list.

  • What can you borrow from previous experiences that might help you?
  • Are there any areas that you might want to develop to help you feel better equipped?
  • How could you use your experiences to help alleviate the suffering of others?

When you believe your ability to cope matches or exceeds the demand of a situation, you’re more likely to look at that situation as a challenge rather than a threat. Put another way: That stressor doesn’t feel so… stressful.

Feeling prepared and well-resourced helps you approach growth opportunities—like setting health and fitness goals or finally planning that trip that got postponed—and make life’s inevitable flash storms feel a lot less scary.

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References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

1. Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R. A global measure of perceived stress. J Health Soc Behav. 1983;24(4):385-396.

The post What’s your stress score (and why should you care?) appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

In the fitness and nutrition community, nuts can be a polarizing topic.

Team Pro-Nuts says:

“Nuts are a nearly perfect food! Full of protein, heart-healthy fats, and hey—stop picking on peanut butter!”

Meanwhile, Team No-Nuts says:

“Nuts are overhyped. They’re not that high in protein, and besides, they’re hard on your digestive system. Plus, watch out for all those calories!”

Both sides have valid points:

Nuts are calorie-dense, and can cause digestive upset in some.

However, nut consumption is associated with better health outcomes, and can add necessary protein to otherwise low-protein diets.

So, how do you (or your clients) decide if YOU should include nuts in your diet—and beyond that, how much, and what kind?

In this infographic, we’ll explain:

  • The health benefits of nuts
  • How much protein various nuts contain—and how they compare to other protein-rich foods
  • What makes some nuts more digestible
  • When nuts can aid weight loss, and when they make it too easy to overeat
  • And what the heck is the difference between a nut and a drupe anyway?

This is going to be nuts.

Check out this infographic to learn more about nuts, and when you should consider adding then to—or limiting them from—your diet. (Or, download the file to refer to whenever you need it.)

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

You can help people build nutrition and lifestyle habits that improve their physical and mental health, bolster their immunity, help them better manage stress, and get sustainable results. We’ll show you how.

If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.

The post 4 nut debates, settled [Infographic] appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

“Why don’t we start with the elliptical.”

It was 2012, and my first session with a personal trainer.

“Okay, sure,” I thought. “A warm up would be great…”

Then he continued:

“…since the weights will be too hard for you.”

“Wait what?” I wondered, “Too hard? Why would you say that?”

He kept talking: “After all, we need to work that tummy off!”

Mortified, I glanced down. My tummy. Like the rest of me, it was large.

It wasn’t, however, why I’d signed up for training.

My fingernails stabbed my palms.

Maybe, I thought, if I explain things to him, he’ll understand my background and my goals. My desire to please, however, stopped me from talking.

Instead, I got on the elliptical.

“See you next session,” he chirped when the workout was over.

“Sure,” I said.

But there was never going to be another session—at least, not with him.

Photograph of Kelly Fucheck, a certified health and CrossFit coach who is obliterating stereotypes of people in larger bodies.

For over five years Kelly Fucheck has coached CrossFit, showing how anyone can move their body and be powerful no matter their size. Connect with her at A Size Strong.

Several months after that personal training session, I walked into a CrossFit box.

When I saw the barbells—and the people using them—I lit up.

I knew, instantly, that this was the type of strength training for me.

When the instructor told us to set up and showed the class how to deadlift, I loaded my barbell and looked at those 125-pounds of iron with anticipation.

Then the trainer walked toward me and removed one plate, then another.

Confused, I asked, “Is something wrong?”

“I’m not sure if you’re quite strong enough for that yet,” he said.

Heat rushed to my face.

I was more than strong enough. Possibly stronger than the smaller-framed people in the class.

He didn’t know that because he hadn’t asked.

Seeing my body, he’d assumed there was no history, nor personal bests.

He looked at me and he saw a beginner, both in his class and in fitness in general. Again, I said nothing. At that time in my life, I had no confidence.

I just wanted to fit in. I did as I was told.

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Many people get a lot wrong about larger people like me.

They tend to associate a large body with weakness.

They also mistakenly think we’ve never tried to change our shape or size, which is rarely the case.

Not long ago, I settled onto an examination table for a wellness check.

Before asking about my history, the new doctor said, “How do you feel about trying to lose weight? Losing 10 percent of your body weight could…”

My stomach churned with anger, shame, and disbelief.

In the flimsy paper gown I felt exposed. I stared at him, blinking faster and trying to process how I was going to tell him that I’d already lost 50 pounds. That was more than 10 percent of my body weight already.

Again, this health professional hadn’t asked about my history or my current habits. He just assumed.

My background might surprise you.

At age 8, I was, as people say, a big girl—but that’s not what my dad saw when he looked at me.

He saw my potential, my strength, and my beauty.

Dad had huge brown eyes that welcomed people in, a roaring laugh that could put a smile on the grumpiest person’s face, and a contagious can-do attitude.

As he often said: “There’s no reason you can’t. Can’t never could.”

Several times a week, he invited me to join him at the firehouse where he worked. In the TV room there was a weight bench, a set of dumbbells, and a Smith machine. With the scent of spaghetti, chili, and cornbread wafting in from the nearby kitchen, Dad cranked the music and asked, “You ready?”

In each of those sessions, he encouraged me to do things that, initially, I thought weren’t possible.

At least, not for a girl.

Especially not a big girl like me.

Each session left me feeling strong, capable, and proud.

Inexplicably, I didn’t stick with it.

My parents divorced. Dad moved out. I grew into a self-conscious teenager and young adult who smoked.

By my 20s, the scale read 284 pounds and my doctor described me as “morbidly obese.”

I swore I’d never weigh myself again.

Then, in my 30s, I suffered a stroke, and I vowed to get healthy.

My wellness journey began with walking on the treadmill for two minutes.

It involved daily battles with self doubt and depression.

There were slow, awkward improvements with diet and the treadmill—and, eventually, a love affair with the barbell.

By the time I met with that trainer in 2012, I was down 30 pounds and running half marathons. When I met with the second trainer at the CrossFit box, I was down 50 pounds—and able to deadlift 125, easily.

And now?

I can deadlift 250 and power clean more than 130.

I’m also a certified health coach and CrossFit instructor.

I’m no weakling. Not physically—and not mentally.

Kelly Fucheck presses 125 pounds overhead during a barbell clinic.

Kelly Fucheck presses 125 pounds overhead during a barbell clinic.

Losing weight and keeping it off ranks as one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

And it’s right up there with walking into the gym.

No matter how strong I become, people continually underestimate me—based solely on my appearance.

Some people might wonder: What keeps me coming back?

I face the gym partly because I don’t want to have another stroke. I don’t want to leave my kids motherless. I don’t want to weigh 280 pounds again, either.

On my hardest days, however, it’s my dad who gets me through the doors.

Back in 2014, he was rushed to the hospital with pancreatitis. Three weeks later, at age 57, he died.

I still mourn his loss. Every single weight session helps to keep a part of him with me.

“I’m going to do this and I don’t care what anyone else says,” I tell myself whenever self doubt tries to stop me.

“Can’t never could. Can’t never could. Can’t. Never. Could. I’m walking through this door.”

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time—I’d be louder, advocate, educate.

Instead of swallowing my words and doing as I was told, I’d explain to those health professionals there’s more to me than my size.

“Hey, I’ve lifted before,” I imagine myself saying, “I’d love to show you what I can do.”

I’d suggest that doctor take a full history before skipping straight to the advice.

I also wouldn’t mind telling dozens of people, “I know you’re staring at me.”

And that those “good for you, honey” comments can really sting.

Mostly, though, I want anyone with a body like mine to know this:

Keep your purpose in your pocket.

When you’re scared, intimidated or feeling unworthy—and you will be—remember why you’re doing this. Keep it close to you and know you can do anything.

Your why will keep you going. And I’ll be right there with you.

<!—Snippet to hide June 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

–>

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

<!—Snippet to hide March 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

–>

The post Shamed and continually underestimated: What it’s like to go to the gym in a larger body appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Many people will tell you that to be healthy, you have to cancel certain foods.

The offending edibles: Those brightly-packaged, cartoon-endorsed, highly-refined, ultra-delicious foods often found in center aisles of the grocery store.

According to popular opinion, these “junk foods” come with lots of calories, but hardly any of the stuff the human body needs for good health.

And yet:

This isn’t a “don’t eat these terrible foods” story.

That’s because…

  • Delicious food serves a purpose, even if it contains little to no nutritional value.
  • Low-quality foods can actually be good for you.
  • 100 percent abstinence isn’t necessary (and usually backfires).

Those statements might seem controversial. That’s why we’re going to back them up—using what we’ve learned from coaching over 100,000 clients, and some fun charts.

Plus, we’ll reveal a 5-step process that can help you savor the foods you love, without guilt—and without harming your health.

First, a disclaimer.

We don’t like the phrase “junk food.”

Junk food isn’t garbage.

As you’ll see below, foods can offer near-zero nutritional value and still improve some aspects of overall health.

Plus, referring to food as “junk” creates a “good food” vs. “bad food” dichotomy that does more harm than good. (Read more: We’ve Told 100,00 Clients That There Are No Bad Foods)

We use the phrase “junk food” simply because that’s how people talk in real life.

Our use of this phrase doesn’t mean we think these foods are bad, wrong, or worthless. They’re anything but.

Let’s find out why.

Three good reasons to embrace junk food

Although there are exceptions out there—the people who actually prefer carrots sticks to BBQ chips—the vast majority of us delight in the ultra-flavorful, often neon-colored world of processed foods.

This article isn’t for the carrot-eaters. (Y’all are doing awesome. You’re freaks, but you’re awesome—and don’t need to change a thing.)

This article is for the majority, who love these foods but also often experience an internal conflict around them: On the one hand, they taste SO good; on the other hand, you don’t want to ruin your health.

Our pitch: If you love junk food, you CAN include it in your diet, without feeling guilty or worrying that it’ll ruin your health.

We’ve got three reasons why.

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Reason #1: You’ll likely eat junk food anyway.

If you’ve ever said, “That’s it. I’m never eating this stuff again!” you probably assumed your future would look something like the Zero-Junk Fantasy.

Graphic showing an X/Y axis. X equals time and Y equals junk eaten. Using pink donuts, the graphic shows that people mistakenly think that saying no to junk food will automatically lead to 100% abstinence.

In reality, aiming for 100 percent self-restraint often goes more like the Screw It” Cycle below.

You say you’ll never again eat donuts with pink frosting. Then you eat one. That leads to, “Screw it! Give me all the donuts!” At some point (perhaps January 1, or any given Monday) you try again with a new declaration of abstinence, and the cycle continues.

Graphic showing an X/Y axis. X equals time and Y equals junk eaten. The graph shows that trying to never consume junk food often leads to somewhat regular gorging of junk food, in a vicious cycle.

Imagine how things might change if you ate half a pink-frosted donut on a regular basis, and didn’t feel guilty about it. In other words, you welcomed a little bliss into your life, every day.

Graphic showing an X/Y axis. X equals time and Y equals junk eaten. It shows that eating a small serving of your favorite foods regularly can help prevent you from overdoing it.

As you can see, when you eat your favorite foods regularly and intentionally, you’ll likely consume less of them than when you eat a lot, then none, then a lot, then none. (Plus, you’ll feel a lot less spun out and defeated.)

For most people, including a bit of what you love regularly actually helps to curb cravings and feel more satisfied.

However, you know yourself best.

If a certain food makes you feel totally out-of-control—you have trouble managing your portion, or feel mentally and/or emotionally “checked out” while eating it—sometimes it’s easier to abstain from it completely, at least for a period of time.

(If your eating behaviors often feel compulsive and hard-to-control, check out: Food addiction: Why it happens, and 3 ways to get help)

Reason #2: Junk food won’t stop you from progressing toward your health goals.

You don’t need to eat perfectly 100 percent of the time to make progress.

(In fact, aiming for perfection usually backfires because of Reason #1.)

From coaching over 100,000 clients, we’ve learned that while there’s no “magic” percentage, generally all you need to improve health, athletic performance, and body composition is to:

Eat a diet composed of about 70 to 80 percent nutrient-dense minimally-processed foods.

And that’s your end goal.

(If that guideline sounds unrealistic, you can improve your health by just slightly tipping the ratio toward more minimally-processed foods—wherever you’re starting from.)

Even if you’re trying to become your healthiest and fittest ever, you never have to aim for 100 percent “virtuous” (a.k.a. no treats ever).

That’s because as food restriction goes up, so can other problems such as food obsession, anxiety, and disordered eating.

For a visual, check out the graphic below.

A graphic showing three plates of food. The "zero whole foods" plate shows a supersized fast food meal. The "mostly whole foods" plate shows a small burger, big salad, handful of fries, and three squares of chocolate. The "100% whole foods plate" shows salmon, a big mesclun salad and fruit. The continuum shows that as food gets progressively healthier, anxiety goes up. As food gets less strict, anxiety goes down.

Due to the steep costs, we only recommend highly restrictive diets for clients who are prepared for the tradeoffs.

These people—the pro athletes, physique competitors, and celebrities among us—often earn their living based on how their bodies look and perform. (And also tend to be surrounded by people who help them make it all happen.)

Even so, our pro clients only occasionally reach the 90 to 99 percent mark—and often only during the time leading up to a competition, event, or role.

Then they shift to a more sustainable approach.

(Want proof that perfection isn’t required to progress? Read: Nearly 1 million data points show what it really takes to lose fat)

Reason #3: Reasonable amounts of junk food can boost health.

It’s true that consuming high amounts of low-quality foods likely worsens your physical health.

However:

Your physical health only makes up a part of your overall health.

As the graphic below shows, your relationships, sense of meaning and purpose, mental clarity, emotional wellbeing, and surrounding environment round it out.

At PN, we refer to these intersecting aspects of wellbeing as deep health. While certain foods in certain amounts likely harm some aspects of deep health, they may actually improve others.

Wheel-shaped graphic that shows the six dimensions of deep health: Social, Physical, Existential, Emotional, Mental, Environmental

(If this is confusing, we promise it’ll make more sense in about 30 seconds.)

To understand how this works:

Think of the deep health dimensions as a battery pack.Graphic depiction of six deep health dimensions shown as batteries: Social, Existential, Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Environmental▶ Some choices and experiences charge some batteries; others drain them.

▶ If you charge more than you drain, you feel great.

▶ If you drain more than you charge, problems happen. Maybe you develop a health issue, struggle to get out of bed, or just feel kind of “blah.”

Too much junk food over time can drain your physical health battery.Graphic depiction of six deep health dimensions shown as batteries (Social, Existential, Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Environmental), showing that the physical battery gets drained by too much junk food.Depending on how much you consume, low quality foods might also bring on brain fog and sluggishness, draining your mental battery. And this often leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and frustration, draining your emotional battery too.Graphic depiction of six deep health dimensions shown as batteries (Social, Existential, Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Environmental), showing that too much junk food can drain your physical health as well as your mental and emotional health.HOWEVER… if you move regularly, sleep well, manage your stress, and center the majority of your diet around lean proteins, veggies, fruits and other minimally-processed carbs, and healthy fats, you can keep those physical, mental, and emotional health batteries pretty well powered up.Graphic depiction of six deep health dimensions shown as batteries (Social, Existential, Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Environmental), showing that healthy eating and exercise can help to charge your health batteries, especially your physical health battery.You can help minimize the negative effects of junk food by maintaining overall good health habits.

But here’s something most people miss: Junk food can actually charge other batteries—assuming you consume it intentionally.

By intentionally, we mean:

You choose to eat the food on purpose (not just because it’s there), with joy and contentment (rather than guilt), in an amount that aligns with your overall health goals, and after weighing and accepting the tradeoffs.

Do all of that and you might see an increase in…

✅ Social health if you consume the food with a friend or loved one

✅ Existential health if that yumminess alights your soul with pleasure—and doesn’t make you feel guilty (cookie dough for the soul, anyone?)

✅ Emotional health if small, intentional indulging helps you feel content, relaxed, and satisfied (rather than deprived and, eventually, resentful)

The result: that ice cream excursion may actually boost overall health (even if it doesn’t directly benefit physical health).Graphic depiction of six deep health dimensions shown as batteries (Social, Existential, Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Environmental), showing that connecting with a friend can help charge up your health, even if you're eating ice cream while doing it.Want to ensure your favorite foods power your health batteries more than they drain them? Use this 5-step process.

Step 1: Decide whether the benefits are worth the tradeoffs.

Think about your favorite treats—and how they affect your deep health.

Then ask yourself:

Is this food worth it?

It might not be if, in addition to draining your physical health, the food also drains your:

  • Emotional health (because you feel ashamed and guilty)
  • Social health (because that shame causes you to retreat to a lonely parking lot or hidden corner of your house to eat)

On the other hand, the food might absolutely be worth it if it adds meaning to your life, is part of a social ritual, and/or helps you cope with stress (along with other adaptive coping skills and strategies).

Only you can decide.

After thinking about the pros and cons, make an intentional choice to either include the food (or not).

Step 2: Notice and name any negativity.

Let’s say you’ve decided to include those crunchy, cheezy snacks in your dietary repertoire.

Then you hear it: A voice in your head bellowing, ‘NOOOOO! DON’T TOUCH THE ORANGE DUST! BAAAD!’

And yet, two minutes after you’ve scolded yourself like a disobedient puppy, you’re up to your forearms in a fine layer of sticky orange powder.

Despite its insistence, that judging, bellowing voice isn’t so effective.

Instead of scaring us into doing the right thing, that voice usually just provokes us to do the opposite:

Eat more.

Why?

Well, for one, no one likes being told “No.”

A big, scary, finger-wagging “NO” causes your inner teenager to rebel and eat the whole bag instead.

Or, it causes you to feel so ashamed that you shove a bunch of food in your mouth for comfort—often in secret away from the judgment of others.

To work with this voice and the feelings it provokes, try a simple technique called “notice and name.”

How to do it

Noticing means paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Consider:

  • What are you doing… right now?
  • What are you thinking… right now?
  • What’s around you… right now?

Naming means you describe the situation to yourself.

When you notice and name negative thoughts about your food choices, it might sound like this:

“I hear the ‘this is bad’ voice in my head right now. Noticing that. I’m also feeling kind of ashamed and in a rush to eat the whole thing and get it over with.”

Awareness gives you time to respond.

From there, you can consciously decide what to do next.

Maybe you crunch away anyway.

Or maybe you just sit with the voice, and see if anything changes.

For example, if you sit with it long enough, that voice that initially seemed so angry might shift into a voice that’s more scared and concerned:

“I’m just afraid that if you eat too much, you’ll get some terrible disease.”

If you sit with it further, that voice may reveal a deep sense of self-love and care:

“All I really want is for you to be happy and healthy. I’m just looking out for you.”

And that’s a much easier feeling to work with.

Step 3: Set up guardrails.

Impulsive eating often goes something like this:

“Ooooh, Sally brought homemade brownies!”

[Cue zombie-like binge]

Chances are, you walk away from that sort of experience with a yucky feeling—and crumbs on your face.

Guardrails can help you navigate tempting opportunities with some control, so you can rein in those impulsive experiences.

To set them up, use a framework we teach our clients. It’s called the 3S framework—S stands for systems, structures, and schedules.

(We know that sounds about as exciting as a trip to a paper clip factory, but trust us, this is a golden framework that can make any goal more achievable. Stick with us.)

Design a junk food system

Systems are practices and rituals that help align your actions with your intentions and goals.

To set up a system to make intentional eating easier, you might ask yourself:

What will make it easier to eat intentionally—and harder to eat impulsively?

Maybe you…

  • Do a weekly grocery run and/or weekly meal prep to have healthy foods accessible and ready-to-eat.
  • Buy family size bags of snacks, then re-portion them into individual serving containers. Or, only buy pre-portioned snack sizes of these foods (e.g. 100-calorie snack packs).
  • Consume your favorite low-quality foods after your largest meal, so you’re less likely to overeat those foods from sheer hunger.

Add some structure

Structures are the environments that contain us, and shape our habits. They include our homes, workplaces, and other places we go.

To create an environment that supports mindful eating, ask yourself:

What needs to be around me to help me eat with intention?

Maybe you decide to:

  • Stock your kitchen with healthy food that you like, is easy to eat, and is visible. For example, fresh fruit in a basket on the counter.
  • Turn your home into a “safe zone” (with limited tempting foods) so you don’t succumb to impulsive eating when you’re having a bad day. (And keep those tempting foods out of sight.)
  • Take the long route to the bathroom at work, both to get in more steps as well as to avoid seeing a coworker’s candy bowl.

Schedule it

Schedules create a time-specific “container” for certain behaviors, so they don’t bleed into your life 24/7.

To help make junk food more intentional, ask yourself:

When can I schedule indulgent snacking so that I enjoy it but also feel less guilty and anxious?

Maybe you decide to…

  • Create a flexible weekly meal plan that includes a base of healthy meals, plus intentional pleasures—a fun size candy bar after lunch or a small bowl of ice cream after dinner.
  • Schedule your snack for the same time every day, such as a 3 pm luxurious work break, with a few squares of chocolate, a cup of decaf, and zero distractions.
  • Organize a weekly or bi-weekly evening with your friends, complete with chips and booze—netting a social and existential health boost.

The small changes above can help you eat junk food without feeling deprived or restricted. You’ll be able to consume it because you want to, and not because it’s just there.

Step 4: Enjoy it.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but we’ll say it anyway:

If you’re going to choose to have something delicious, you might as well…

Savor the experience.

In addition to increasing enjoyment, savoring can also help you feel more satisfied with a smaller amount. To do it:

▶ Pay attention to the experience of eating. Consume treats in a setting that allows you to enjoy every bite. So…

  • Step away from your computer, TV, or phone.
  • Take a few deep, slow breaths before the first bite, to calm distracting thoughts and anxiety.
  • Use your senses—sight, smell, taste, touch—to fully enjoy it.

▶ Eat slowly. That makes the deliciousness last longer, and also helps you to feel calmer. (See why this practice is the bomb: The 30-day slow eating challenge that can transform your body)

▶ Swap guilt for pleasure. Use the notice and name technique to uproot any guilty thoughts. After bringing awareness to any negative feelings, shift your focus to your senses again, and how goooood this tastes.

“My portion is gone—and I’m bummed!”

Thanks to a combination of out-of-this-world flavor and brain-altering chemicals, certain foods are super hard to stop eating.

Like a 3-½ minute massage, they leave your brain begging for more.

We’ve already told you about a few things that can help.

But sometimes, those practices aren’t enough.

Even after mindfully eating an intentional portion, you might still feel like a toddler tantruming: “More! More!! MORE!!”

Or maybe other painful feelings come up: sadness, emptiness, anxiety, even anger.

The tough news: Sometimes you can’t avoid these feelings, and you just need to sit with your discomfort.

As you surf these uncomfortable sensations, try using self-talk that’s compassionate, rational, and kind:

“Wow, my brain REALLY wants more right now. This food is delicious, but if I eat more it WON’T keep boosting my existential health—and it might drain my physical, mental, and emotional health. This feels hard and uncomfortable, but I’ve reached the point where this food can no longer nourish me and I’m choosing to stop.”

In addition to speaking to yourself kindly, you might also take a kind action: Turn on your favorite music, make some tea and get cozy on the couch with a book, or whatever helps you feel nourished and cared for.

(Why are some foods SO hard to stop eating? Read: Manufactured deliciousness and overeating)

Step 5: When you mess up, move on.

The truth is:

On occasion, you’re going to eat impulsively.

We ALL do this sometimes. (Erm… including everyone who wrote and edited this piece.)

When you catch yourself mindlessly inserting things in your mouth, call it out, and do a little detective work to explore what’s going on.

Ask yourself…

  • What led to this moment?
  • Has this ever happened before? When?
  • What might I do differently in the future?

(Psst: Our Break the Chain worksheet can help you with the above sleuthing, especially if a behavior is a persistent problem.)

Once you’ve gained some insights, wipe the slate clean.

What you just ate a few moments ago no longer matters. It’s over, and no amount of negativity is going to undo it. Learn from it, and move forward.

Take a positive step in any dimension of health: Go for a walk (physical health), snuggle your pet (emotional and social health), relax in a beautiful, awe-inducing setting (existential health), or write about what happened in your journal (mental and emotional health).

We all deserve pleasure.

Trying to be too perfect often leads to diminishing returns.

So, instead of denying—or demonizing—junk food, approach it like you would that wild friend you had in college.

You might not want to live the party life 24/7, but darn, it sure is fun in small, regular doses.

<!—Snippet to hide June 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

–>

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

<!—Snippet to hide March 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

–>

The post How to eat junk food: A guide for conflicted humans appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Too much stress, or the wrong kind, can harm our health.

Yet stress can also be a positive force in our lives, keeping us focused, alert, and at the top of our game.

It all depends what kind of stress it is, how prepared we are to meet it — and how we view it.

+++

People often think of stress as a dangerous and deadly thing.

Yet stress is simply a normal physiological response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your equilibrium in some way.

When you sense danger — physical, mental or emotional — your defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight or flight” response, aka the stress response.

The stress response is your body’s way of protecting you.

When working properly, the stress response helps you stay focused, energetic and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life or that of others — giving you the extra strength to lift a car off your child, or spurring you to slam the brakes to avoid an accident.

The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress keeps you sharp during a presentation at work, increases your concentration when you need it most, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be out with your friends.

But beyond a certain point, stress stops helping and starts damaging your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Stress and the allostatic load

Grab a piece of paper and write down all the things in your average day that could possibly be a stress on your body, mind, and emotions.

We’d guess your list probably looks something like this:

  • Boss yelled at me
  • Rushing around to see clients
  • Worrying about money
  • Commuting
  • Crummy weather
  • Kid woke me up early
  • Girlfriend/boyfriend snarked at me this morning
  • I think I might’ve eaten some bad shrimp salad

If you’re like most people, you’re a camel carrying a big load of straw with these combined life stresses.

Now imagine what could happen if you start piling on more straw with worrying about your body image, with physical stress from your workouts, or with restricting your food intake. Eventually… snap.

The pile of straw — the cumulative total of all the stuff in your life that causes physical, mental, and/or emotional stress — is known as your allostatic load.

the-straw-that-almost-broke-the-camel-s-back

Good stress, bad stress

Some stress is good stress (also called eustress). Good stress pushes you out of your comfort zone, but in a good way. Good stress helps you learn, grow, and get stronger.

For example, riding a roller coaster is fun and exciting. It lasts a short time, and you feel exhilarated afterwards. (That is, if you like roller coasters.)

Exercise can be another form of good stress. You feel a little uncomfortable but then you feel good, and after an hour or so, you’re done.

Good stress:

  • is short-lived
  • is infrequent
  • is over quickly (in a matter of minutes or hours)
  • can be part of a positive life experience
  • inspires you to action
  • helps build you up — it leaves you better than you were before.

But let’s say you ride that roller coaster constantly, or lift weights 4 hours a day, every day. Now it doesn’t seem so fun, does it?

This is bad stress, or distress.

Bad stress:

  • lasts a long time
  • is chronic
  • is ongoing
  • is negative, depressing, and demoralizing
  • de-motivates and paralyzes you
  • breaks you down — it leaves you worse off than you were before.

One key feature that distinguishes good from bad stress is how well the stressor matches your ability to recover from it.

The stress “sweet spot”

Since stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, everyone experiences stress differently.

Each of us has a unique “recovery zone”, whether that’s physical or psychological, and our recovery zone depends on several factors.

Just as important as the stress itself is how you perceive and respond to it.

Some people go with the flow and can adapt well to what others would perceive as highly stressful events. Other people crumble at even the slightest challenge or frustration they encounter.

There are many things that affect our tolerance to stress, such as:

  • Our attitude and outlook — People with optimistic, proactive and positive attitudes are more stress resistant. And people who view stressful events as a challenge, and realize that change is simply a part of life, have a far larger recovery zone and are far less vulnerable to stress.
  • Our life experience — Past stress can build us up or break us down, depending on when the stress happened and how powerful it was. Moderate stress at a time when we can handle it generally makes us better and more resilient. However, stress at a time when we’re already vulnerable (such as during childhood, or piled on top of other stressors) can actually leave us worse off.
  • Our genetic makeup and epigenetic expression — Some of us are genetically more “stress susceptible” than others, especially if we meet environmental factors that then epigenetically “switch on” or “switch off” those crucial genes. For instance, one study found that older people carrying a certain gene polymorphism suffered major depression only if they had something bad happen to them in childhood. The folks with the genetic variant who had normal childhoods were fine.
  • Our perception of control — Stress becomes most traumatic when we feel trapped. If we’re able to successfully fight or flee, we tend to recover better. But if we feel unable to change the situation, we’ll go to the next-stage stress response, the “freeze” response. This is when we feel helpless, hopeless, and paralyzed. We may also get more stressed if we’re “control freaks” — constantly trying to grip, grab, and grasp everything tightly.
  • Our natural personality type — If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stressful events in stride. People who are more vulnerable to stress tend to feel like they have no ability to influence the events around them. They might also be highly empathetic and thus feel “pushed” and “pulled” by the needs and wants of others.
  • Our support network — A strong network of supportive friends and family members (which can even include pets) is a powerful buffer against the stress of life. Conversely, loneliness and isolation worsens stress.
  • Our ability to deal with our emotions — If you can’t calm and soothe yourself when feeling stressed or overly emotional, you’re more vulnerable to stress. The ability to level out your emotions will help you better handle adversity.
  • Our environment — Natural environments (e.g. outdoors, spaces with lots of windows and natural lighting, etc.) calm us down, as do secure and safe environments (such as your comfy living room). Industrial environments full of stimuli (e.g. noises, machinery, artificial lights, threats coming at us quickly, etc.) amp us up and put us on edge. We also feel more relaxed in environments we think we can control, such as our homes; we’re more anxious in environments we think we can’t control, such as large public spaces or most worksites.
  • Our allostatic load — The larger the allostatic load (in other words, the more stuff we’re dealing with at once), the more it wears down our resilience, and shrinks our recovery zone. How we respond to stress is critical, but the cumulative load of excess stress can wear down even the most resilient and positive person.

Generally, the “recovery zone” looks like this:

If the stressor is too low — not enough to cause a reaction — then nothing will happen. You’ll go along the same as before, no better or worse.

If the stressor is too high — too strong, and/or lasts too long, outpacing your recovery ability — then you’ll eventually break down.

If the stressor is within your recovery zone — neither too much nor too little, and doesn’t last too long — then you’ll recover from it and get better. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Balance the demands

We want enough “good stress” to keep a fire under our butts, but not so much that we break down and burn out.

(This applies to our own exercise and nutrition as well as our family lives and overall workload.)

That optimum zone depends on your allostatic load, as well as how you perceive and respond to it. Remember, this is your individual stress zone — nobody else’s.

And remember that the allostatic load is everything: mental, physical, emotional: that email from the boss… your hangnail… the weird paint smell in your office… your shockingly high phone bill… everything goes on to the “stress pile”. So consider this holistically.

If your existing pile of straw is already heavy, then it’ll take only a few more straws to break you. And if you view your pile of straw as being too large and heavy, regardless of its actual size, then again it will only take a few more straws to break you.

Thus to manage stress, we must do two things:

  • learn to balance our life demands, workload, and exercise/nutrition responsibilities; and
  • view these responsibilities as an achievable challenge or an interesting problem to solve, rather than some insurmountable obstacle.

Manage your allostatic load

To lead a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life, you must manage your allostatic load.

Here are some activities you can do immediately to boost your body’s happy chemicals, activate your “rest and digest” nervous system, and start building your stress resilience.

  • a relaxing walk (especially outside);
  • being out in nature;
  • getting moderate sunshine;
  • listening to relaxing music;
  • mindfulness practice and meditation;
  • massage;
  • deep breathing;
  • laughing;
  • snuggling a loved one or pet;
  • yoga, gentle mobility, and/or slow stretching exercises;
  • gentle swimming or water immersion (such as a hot tub);
  • relaxing in a sauna;
  • having sex (seriously);
  • physical, non-competitive play;
  • moderate, occasional drinking — 1-2 drinks for men, and 1 for women… enjoyed slowly and mindfully;
  • drinking green tea.

In other words, think of de-stressing as purposefully chasing relaxation.

By the way, some recreational activities don’t count, such as:

  • watching TV or movies;
  • playing video games; or
  • surfing the internet.

Electronic stimulation, while fun, is still stimulation. So, anything involving a screen is out.

Lets dig a little deeper into a few of these.

Meditation

Meditation is one of the best stress-relievers.

Research on regular meditation shows how incredibly restorative it is, as it:

  • lowers blood pressure;
  • lowers heart rate;
  • lowers stress hormones;
  • lowers inflammation;
  • boosts immune system;
  • improves focus, mental clarity and attention, even when not meditating;
  • improves mood; and
  • improves sleep.

Being chronically over-stressed can negatively rewire your brain, increasing your risk for anxiety and depression.

Fortunately, meditation is like magic. When done regularly, it can rewire your brain in the opposite direction, to do all kinds of awesome stuff.

For example, meditation can contribute to:

  • neurogenesis (growth of new neural connections and brain cells);
  • emotional regulation (in other words, your ability to manage your feelings);
  • memory and recall;
  • development of the brain’s gray matter (even after only a few weeks); and
  • our ability to regulate our body clock.

So how do you actually go about doing it?

While people sometimes think of meditation as an arcane practice best suited to adherents of the Hare Krishna sect, it’s actually pretty easy to do, and you don’t have to look or act like an aging hippie to benefit from it.

  1. Find a comfortable, quiet, private place.
  2. Sit or lie down, whatever seems most convenient. The position doesn’t matter, as long as you’re relaxed.
  3. Get a timer going. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and then forget about counting down how long it’s been. That’s your timer’s job. It’ll take care of you.
  4. Close your eyes.
  5. Start with a quick 30-second “body scan”. As you scan down your body from head to toe, think about consciously relaxing each muscle. Let everything sink downward. In particular, let your face droop.
  6. Now, focus on your breathing. Breathe in through your diaphragm, pushing your belly in and out. Observe how the air moves in and out.
  7. Count 10 breaths, observing each one.
  8. Let thoughts drift in and out. Let them wander in, then shoo them away. They’ll be back. You don’t need to hold on to them.
  9. Observe only. Don’t judge. There is no “should”. If you think of something, no worries. Don’t fret. If you hear a noise, or have an itch, simply think, There’s a noise or I have an itch. Make a note of it; then move on.
  10. Keep coming back to your breathing. There’s no rush; just keep wandering back to it. What’s it doing now?
  11. Repeat until your time is up.
  12. Finish with 5 good belly breaths to “bookend” the session.
  13. Open your eyes.

That’s it. Pretty easy right?

Green tea

You already know that drinking green tea has tons of health benefits. At PN we have been singing its praises for years. And now you can add one more benefit to that list.

A large study in Japan found that regularly drinking green tea lowered the stress levels of those found to have high levels of psychological stress. This is thought to be due to L-theanine, a non-protein amino acid in green tea (and, to an extent, in other teas).

L-theanine is a proven stress reducer and calming agent. It inhibits cortisol, which our body releases in response to stress, and also lowers your blood pressure and heart rate as it chills out your sympathetic nervous system. And it causes all of these actions in as little as 30 to 40 minutes after consumption.

L-theanine may even change your brain function. During most of your waking hours, your brain is producing beta brain waves, which can affect concentration and focus. Green tea consumption will actually stimulate your brain to emit alpha brain waves instead, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness, similar to what you can achieve through meditation.

This may occur because L-theanine is involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA influences the levels of two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, producing the key relaxation effect.

Sipping a few cups of tea throughout the day can help to lower stress, increase focus (even more effectively than coffee), suppress appetite and improve your health. Not too bad.

Should you banish this harmless-looking substance from your pantry?

L-theanine, found in green, is a proven stress reducer and calming agent.

Exercise

Regular exercise is a great tool to help you handle stress. Exercise often allows you to blow off steam, and exercising regularly can boost your stress-tolerance.

However, remember that all stress fits in one bucket — i.e. the allostatic load. If you have a super-stressed out life, training your ass off 6 times a week is only contributing to that, as training stress goes in the bucket too.

Instead, balance your exercise approach. It’s not all about high-intensity, high-volume lifting combined with high-intensity intervals all the time. Training intensely as your sole approach to exercise will continually jack up your sympathetic nervous system and compound your stress symptoms.

Instead, do a mix of intense weight training, some intense conditioning, and plenty of restorative exercise — exercise that leaves you feeling more refreshed and invigorated after doing it, not drained and exhausted. This would include activities like:

  • walking outside in sunshine (BSP’s favorite, especially with the dog);
  • yoga;
  • gentle mobility, and/or slow stretching exercises;
  • gentle swimming or water immersion (such as a hot tub);
  • a casual bike ride; or
  • a casual hike.

This exercise is meant to stimulate some blood flow, get you outside if possible (because sunshine and nature are proven to improve mood and lower stress), burn a few calories, and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system.

Your parasympathetic nervous system is known as the “rest and digest” system (as opposed to the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system). Engaging your parasympathetic nervous system is key to lowering your stress.

There’s nothing wrong with kicking butt in the gym, but don’t let your only form of exercise be balls-to-the-wall high intensity training, especially if you already lead a stressful lifestyle.

Allow yourself some quiet and gentle exercise: You’ll lower stress, improve recovery, and — as a side benefit — you’ll also improve your intense lifting.

Other tips for stress management

  • Establish a routine and some order in your life. While scheduling yourself too strictly can be confining, too much reactive spontaneity can be stressful as well. Find a balance between the two that works for you.
  • Eat plenty of omega-3 fats. Eat fish, pasture-raised animals, flax seeds and chia seeds, and take fish, krill or algae oil.
  • Know your limits. Know how much stress you can handle. While you can increase your stress tolerance and lower your stress by following the preceding tips, simply knowing that you can’t be everywhere at once, or everything to everyone, will also take some pressure off. Be reasonable about your individual capabilities and expectations. Remember that each person is different.
  • Single-task. We often think that multitasking lets us do more work in less time. Research consistently shows the opposite: When we focus on multiple things at once, we do each of them less efficiently and effectively. Each time you interrupt one task, your brain takes about 15 minutes to get back to optimal processing speed and efficiency. Most of us don’t do anything for 15 focused minutes, so our brain never has any time to settle in and get ‘er done. Do one thing at a time, do it well, and then move on to the next.
  • Unplug from the digital world. There’s constant electronic stimulation in our lives. Unplug from it once in a while. Turn off your phone. Close your computer. Go read a book, play games, and get social with other humans.
  • Change your stress story. Drop the negative self-talk and work towards a more positive attitude. Telling yourself, and other people, how busy you are and how much you have to do only makes yourself feel busier, chaotic and more stressed. On the other hand, a positive attitude can actually lower stress levels. Simply telling yourself you can manage something can give you more confidence to manage it. This doesn’t mean that you can never be frustrated or sad, it simply means you shouldn’t wallow in it.

What this means for you

Don’t get stressed out by trying to incorporate all these tips. (Ha, ha.) Just focus on two key points:

1. All stress — life, work, family, financial, training, good, bad — fits into one bucket, creating your unique allostatic load.

To stay healthy, lean, and fit, you must manage this load. Find the strategies that work best for you, and practice them on a regular basis. And keep in mind that what works best for you at this particular stage of your life may not work for you in other stages. Be willing to evolve your strategies as your life, and allostatic load, evolve.

2. Just as important as your stress load is how you respond to it.

View stress as a challenge or an interesting puzzle to solve. Roll with the punches and have a Plan B (or C, or D). Stay open, flexible, and creative. This attitude helps you handle your allostatic load better, and mitigate the potential harm it could cause you.

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References

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Bonfiglio, Juan José, et al. The Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Network and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis: Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms Involved. Neuroendocrinology 94 (2011):12–20. DOI: 10.1159/000328226

Bremner, J. Douglas. Does Stress Damage the Brain? Understanding Trauma-Related Disorders From a Mind-Body Perspective. New York: W.W.Norton, 2005.

Chen WQ, et al. Protective effects of green tea polyphenols on cognitive impairments induced by psychological stress in rats. Behav Brain Res. 2009 Aug 24;202(1):71-6.

Daitch, Carolyn. Anxiety Disorders: The Go-to Guide for Clients and Therapists. New York: W.W.Norton, 2011.

Davidson, Richard J.; Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, Rosenkranz M, Muller D, Santorelli SF, Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine July/August 2003 vol. 65 no. 4 564-570

Emerson, David, and Elizabeth Hopper. Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2011.

Fernandez-Rodriguez, Eva, Paul M. Stewart & Mark S. Cooper. The pituitary–adrenal axis and body composition. Pituitary 12 (2009):105–115 DOI 10.1007/s11102-008-0098-2

Gallwey, Timothy, Edd Hanzelik, and John Horton. The Inner Game of Stress: Outsmart Life’s Challenges and Fulfill Your Potential. New York: Random House, 2009.

Groeneweg, Femke L., et al. Rapid non-genomic effects of corticosteroids and their role in the central stress response. Journal of Endocrinology (2011) 209, 153–167.

Grossman, P., et al. (2004). “Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefitsA meta-analysis”. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 57 (1): 35–43.

Herman, J.P. et al. Neural regulation of the stress response: glucocorticoid feedback mechanisms. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research (2012) 45: 292-298.

Juneja LR, Chu D-C, Okubo T, et al. L-theanine a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans. Trends Food Sci Tech. 1999; 10:199-204.

Kerr, Catherine, et al. NeuroReport 16: 1893-1897.

Keller A, Litzelman K, Wisk LE, et al. Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychol. 2012 Sep;31(5):677-84

Lazar SW, et al. (May 2000). “Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation”.NeuroReport 11 (7): 1581–5.

Mason R. 200 mg of Zen; L-theanine boosts alpha waves, promotes alert relaxation. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 2001,April; 7:91-95.

McEwen, Bruce S. Brain on stress: How the social environment gets under the skin. PNAS | October 16, 2012 | vol. 109 | suppl. 2: 17180–17185.

Palmer, AC. “Nutritionally Mediated Programming of the Developing Immune System.” Adv Nutr 2, no. 5 (2011): 377-95.

Peng CK, Mietus JE, Liu Y, et al. (July 1999). “Exaggerated heart rate oscillations during two meditation techniques”. Int. J. Cardiol. 70 (2): 101–7.

Spijker, A.T. and E.F.C. van Rossum. Glucocorticoid Sensitivity in Mood Disorders. Neuroendocrinology 2012;95:179–186. DOI: 10.1159/000329846

Steptoe A, et al. The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Jan;190(1):81-9.

Tang, Yi-Yuan, et al. Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010.

Urbanowski F, et al. (July–August 2003). “Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation”. Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (4): 564–570.

Valdés, Manuel, et al. Increased glutamate/glutamine compounds in the brains of patients with fibromyalgia: A magnetic resonance spectroscopy study. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 62 (2010): 1829–1836. doi: 10.1002/art.27430

Venkatesh S, Raju TR, Shivani Y, Tompkins G, Meti BL (April 1997). “A study of structure of phenomenology of consciousness in meditative and non-meditative states”. Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 41(2): 149–53.

Yehuda, Rachel and Jonathan Seckl. Minireview: Stress-Related Psychiatric Disorders with Low Cortisol Levels: A Metabolic Hypothesis. Endocrinology, December 2011, 152(12):4496–4503.

Zunszain, Patricia A., et al. Glucocorticoids, cytokines and brain abnormalities in depression. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 35 no.3 (April 2011): 722-729.

Kraly, F. Scott. The Unwell Brain: Understanding the Psychobiology of Mental Health. New York: W.W.Norton & Co., 2009.

Loehr, James. Stress for Success: The Proven Program for Transforming Stress Into Positive Energy At Work. New York: Times Books, 1997.

Maté, Gabor. When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Wicks, Robert J. Bounce: Living the Resilient Life. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010.

If you’re a health and fitness coach…

Learning how to help clients manage stress, build resilience, and optimize sleep and recovery can be deeply transformative—for both of you.

It helps clients get “unstuck” and makes everything else easier—whether they want to eat better, move more, lose weight, or reclaim their health.

And for coaches: It gives you a rarified skill that will set you apart as an elite change maker.

The brand-new PN Level 1 Sleep, Stress Management, and Recovery Coaching Certification will show you how.

Want to know more?

The post SSR: Good stress, bad stress: Finding your sweet spot appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

Starting a successful and sustainable health and fitness business isn’t as simple as finding a niche market and telling people what you offer.

It’s way more daunting than that—which is why most people never do it.

The good news: We’ve broken the entire process down into bite-sized tasks anyone can master.

With this free, step-by-step blueprint, you’ll learn how to:

✔ Start a health and fitness biz now (even if you have “entrepreneur challenges” like a mortgage to pay and children to feed)

✔ Create products and services you’re proud of (and that your clients are ready and willing to pay for)

✔ Optimize your workflow (so you can maximize your income without sacrificing your family or health)

✔ Delight your clients and create raving fans (so they do most of your marketing for you)

Even if entrepreneurship isn’t for you, this how-to guide is jam-packed with amazing tools and resources that can help you both work and live better.

For example, through a little partnership magic, we’re providing you with a $700 personality test you can take for FREE, no strings attached. The results will help you better understand what you’re good at and what challenges you—insights that can be invaluable no matter what your career path.

Ready to dig in? Let’s get started.

Step 1: Consider your context

You already know a client’s personal life and responsibilities will influence how much time and effort they can put toward their health and fitness goals.

The same is true for you and your entrepreneurial goals.

For example, if you have little to no savings—and dependents who rely on you—quitting a stable job for an entrepreneurial endeavor may not only seem scary, it could be the wrong thing for you.

So don’t beat yourself up if you’re finding it hard to “take the leap,” or if “now isn’t the right time.”

There are other ways to get started.

First, you can apply entrepreneurial practices within an innovative company, as part of your current (or new) job.

Often called “intrapreneurship,” this allows the creation of new products and services within an existing organization. And it’s becoming more and more popular. Indeed, you just might be able to find the creativity you’re looking for while also having the benefit of a stable paycheck.

Second, you could keep your day job and start a side business. (It might stay a side business, or maybe it eventually becomes your main source of income.)

We recommend this approach for most budding entrepreneurs who already have a stable income and want to test the market with their new ideas.

We’ll go deeper on this later in the guide, but for now, it’s important to spend some time learning about yourself.

Step 2: Gather relevant self-knowledge

One of the best ways to decide whether starting your own business is right for you is to learn more about yourself and how you work.

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. While some folks’ superpowers align perfectly with what entrepreneurs need to succeed, other people’s skill sets may not be a good match.

How can you know if you’re well-suited to starting your own business?

We’ve created two assessments to help you decide.

Assessment #1: The Workview Assessment

Whether you want to work inside or outside the entrepreneurial realm, this two-minute assessment will help you:

  • Understand how you view your work and the role it plays in your life
  • Establish your own success metrics and use them to guide your daily decisions
  • Outline the key steps to take so you can live a more meaningful and fulfilling life

Click here for the Change Maker Academy Workview Assessment

Assessment #2: The Caliper Assessment

This personality test will help you figure out how to take advantage of your superpowers, mitigate your kryptonite, schedule your time more effectively, and collaborate with others in more mutually beneficial ways. In fact, at Precision Nutrition, every single job candidate is required to complete this assessment.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This assessment is robust and will take about 60 minutes to complete. While it normally costs $700 USD, it’s yours, right now, totally free. Once you complete it, you’ll receive a comprehensive report—with a breakdown of your personality and work insights—within five days.

It’s the most data-driven hiring tool on the market, and we’re excited to share it with you.

Click here for Caliper for Health and Fitness Professionals

Step 3: Map out what “starting” could look like

Let’s say you’ve done the assessments above and feel entrepreneurship is a good fit for you. (If it isn’t, that’s okay too.)

Our advice: Start small.

(Or, at least, start with “experiments” you can refine over time.)

Just as you’d likely recommend your clients ease into new health and wellness habits—and then build bigger ones as their skills and confidence grow over time—we encourage you to do the same when it comes to entrepreneurship.

You don’t need to go from zero to hero. 

Like anything worth doing, building a business takes time.

Unless you’re well-funded and have lots of free time, you might consider starting your business as a side hustle—something you do in addition to your primary work.

This has two benefits.

First, you’ll still have the peace of mind—and the ability to pay your bills—that comes from a steady paycheck.

Next, you’ll be able to test that what you want to offer is something people are willing to pay for—before you expect your business to deliver a reliable income.

While you might have to dedicate some evenings and weekends to make this happen, it’s amazing what can be accomplished in two to three hours of highly-focused, deep work.

Ask yourself this: What would “starting” look like if it didn’t have to be perfect?

Write out a plan for that approach. Even if you decide to “go big” with your first attempt, it’ll be useful to have a map for what it would look like if it were “easy.”

Step 4: Make a list of what you might offer the world

Once you’re ready to start your side hustle (or full-time new business), brainstorm a list of products and services that:

  • You’re interested in offering
  • You actually have the skills to pull off
  • You have access to the necessary resources for, or you have the ability and connections to acquire them
  • You think others might be willing to buy

The list can start long—and that’s fine. Brainstorms are best when lots of ideas, even bad ones, are allowed to emerge. You can prune the list later.

Here’s an example of what your brainstorm could look like:

Notice how there are hundreds of possible business ideas in this mind map.

It’s better to begin with too many ideas than not enough.

Step 5: Talk to people who have a track record of success

Once you have your seed ideas, find a few people who have done what you’d like to do—and have gotten paid for it—and ask them if you can interview them.

If they’re willing to talk to you for free, great. But don’t be afraid to pay them.

Paying to learn from smart, believable people is a great investment.

How much do you even offer? If you know their hourly rate, offering that amount is a safe bet. If you don’t, look up the salaries for similar roles—a quick Google search will do the trick—and use that as your guide.

Lastly, if you’re still feeling stuck, offer a generous amount (say, $100/hour). While it might seem like a lot, getting great advice will save you hours—if not weeks —of your time.

If they’re willing to share, ask more about:

  • where they list their services
  • how they find clients
  • how they get paid for what they do

(Make sure you’re not asking for client leads, pressing for new business opportunities, or asking for money. Remember: You’re just interviewing them about their own thinking, strategies, and tactics.)

Try to get a sense of what their average day looked like when they were building their business—and what it looks like today—to see if you’d actually be interested in the lifestyle that may be waiting for you.

Also, if you trust them with your ideas, consider asking their thoughts on your potential business concepts. Inquire as to which ones they think have potential, which may not, and why.

But…

Choose your sources wisely.

It’s sometimes difficult to tell who is actually doing well in the health and fitness space. For example, some of the best entrepreneurs we know don’t have a big public profile. They’re in the trenches every day working on their craft and motivating their teams.

So, unless your goal is to grow a large social following, we encourage you not to use someone’s number of followers (or public visibility) as your only criteria.

Likewise, some of the people making a big show on social media, or through PR campaigns, don’t have a business that matches their public performance. So, again, make sure you know whether the person you’re turning to for business-building advice is truly believable.

If the person does have tangible success, it’s important to make sure their version of success matches yours. For instance, if you want to create success online through creating sustainable client results, don’t copy someone who’s made money selling short-term (and possibly scammy) solutions.

Step 6: Narrow down your options

After you’ve had some discussions to get a better sense of what others have done to succeed and what they think of your options, begin to narrow down your choices.

Consider which potential business options seem more reasonable, which have a higher probability of success, and which you’re most excited about.

Do one or two rise above the rest? If so, consider setting aside the rest and fleshing out those with the most potential.

Step 7: Organize your ideas into a Lean Canvas

The Lean Canvas is a one-page business-plan template that’ll help you deconstruct your idea into its key assumptions.

Unlike detailed business plans that often take weeks or months to craft (and barely get read), the Lean Canvas takes 20 minutes to create and helps paint a good picture of your business at a glance.

Click here for the Change Maker Academy Lean Canvas Template
(with step-by-step instructions)

We recommend you fill this out to the best of your ability to get a general sense of what your idea entails, what assumptions you need to test, and what steps might be required to take your idea from vision to reality.

You can think of it as a working document that you can update every month or so as you find more evidence and test your idea in the real world.

Step 8: Talk to potential customers

In order to figure out what your potential clients want, and are willing to pay for, you need to talk with them, gather insights, and craft your offering to meet those needs.

Most businesses fail because they assume they know what clients want—and spend lots of time and money building it—only to find out later that no one actually wants what they’re selling.

To better understand your potential customers’ wants and needs, we recommend learning about a research methodology called Jobs To Be Done.

Jobs To Be Done helps you assume less, ask strategic questions, and listen deeply to figure out the real reasons people buy what they do, when they do.

It also helps you map people’s decision-making timelines, like this:

And the forces that push and pull them into making decisions, like this:

A full description of Jobs To Be Done goes beyond the scope of this article. However, here’s a good overview of the process.

Step 9: Create a prototype

Once you’ve collected enough data, distill what you learned from your prospective clients into a written product or service offering so that you can gather more feedback on a real pitch.

For example, you might sketch out the concept of a new gym or fitness center and its offerings. Or you might develop an outline for a 6-week coaching program and describe the benefits. Or you might create an overview of a new online tool or app.

Also write your elevator pitch as follows:

{Name of my product/service} helps {kind of person} 

to {action/benefit} so that they can {brighter future/more inspiring benefit} 

For more on this approach, here’s a fill-in-the-blank template for you:

The Perfect Elevator Pitch: A Template for Health & Fitness Pros

Once you have it, share your elevator pitch and product/service details with potential clients. Then ask follow-up questions like:

Keep tweaking your offering—and your language—based on feedback until it resonates with the people you’d ideally like to hire you.

Step 10: Try selling your offering

Once you have something you’re proud to offer, try actually selling it.

While you can use complicated marketing approaches, we recommend starting off simply. Just reach out to people in your own community by talking to them the way people talk to one another (in person, over the phone, on video conferences, via email, through direct messages).

This is a great way to get started as it’ll feel more natural. Plus, if you can’t get people who already know, like, and trust you interested in what you’re offering, you shouldn’t expect strangers to give you more of a chance.

However, if you’d like to float your idea out to strangers, you can also post your offer on digital platforms like social media, upwork.com, and freelancer.com to see if anyone is willing to inquire about your products and services without actually knowing you.

Trying to sell something is one of the best ways to find out if what you have to offer is valuable to others and is recognized as such. If it is, great. If not, iterate quickly here. Gather more feedback and make changes.

Note: Don’t expect to get paid very much out of the gate.

The amount you make is highly correlated with your level of experience. Early on, some of the best remuneration you can receive comes in the form of feedback and testimonials.

If folks are willing to be your guinea pigs—while providing you thoughtful, structured ways you can improve—embrace it. If you serve them well, they might be willing to provide testimonials afterward, giving you extremely valuable social proof.

Step 11: Deliver the thing you promised

If the previous step worked out well, you’ll be bringing on a few new clients. Congrats! Now it’s time to deliver on what you promised.

That, of course, is an entire article unto itself, so we’ll have to save this advice for another day. For now, we’ll just assume you already have the required skills to produce the products or deliver the services you’re selling.

However, it’s worth mentioning that, in the early stages, it’s important to spend extra time with customers so you can keep on top of problems that arise and really nail the experience.

If it’s your first time selling a product or services, you might even give them a price discount in exchange for feedback every step of the way.

The Thinking Aloud Technique is a great approach to collecting that kind of feedback, and we’ve used it with great success.

Step 12: Reflect on what you’ve learned

After offering your services to one person—or to a small group of people—reflect on how it went.

Specifically, ask yourself questions like these:

Give this some serious reflection. If you discover that you don’t like doing what you thought you’d like, that’s fine. Better than fine, actually. Because you can now stop moving down a path that was headed for disaster.

At this point, you can tweak your idea, choose an entirely different idea, or go find work that better aligns with your new sense of what could bring you meaning and contentment.

Step 13: Keep practicing

When you’re new at something, you’re going to suck. Instead of resisting that reality, embrace it.

If you see every new opportunity as a means to hone your skills and become the ultimate Change Maker, and trust your ability to learn and aggregate thoughtful feedback, you’ll get better.

The key, however, is to hunt feedback. Don’t just make yourself open to it. Go out and gather it. Aggressively. In all formats.

If you’ve struggled with asking for feedback in the past, or struggled with your emotions in response to feedback, these three strategies will help:

Mastering Feedback: Use These 3 No-Nonsense Strategies To Give and Receive Feedback Like A Pro

Step 14: As you have success, scale up

Once enough people are paying you for your services, you feel confident in your ability to generate enough income to support your current lifestyle, and you’re sure you have systems in place to service an influx of new clients—take the plunge. Dive into your business.

At this stage, it might be best to hire a good tactical business coach who can teach you how to price your services and create high-converting web pages and social media pages that will show up for your target audiences, tell your story, and turn visitors into leads.

You may also want to test a few ads for attracting people to your pages and capturing their email addresses. This will allow you to keep in touch with them and share more about your products and services.

(Again, get some coaching: Without some know-how, paid ads will largely be a waste of money.)

As you collect new leads, be sure to keep in touch with them. Some people call this “email marketing” but we prefer what Giovanni Marsico of Archangel Academy says here:

“In today’s notification-filled, busy-busy world, your dream client will need to be reminded approximately 27 times before they have enough information and confidence to be able to actually pay you.

Entrepreneurs who only care about the bottom line might see this as a bad thing because they don’t want to put in the work, but I see it as 27 opportunities to send marketing love notes to my future clients, imbuing them with information and inspiration to support them in their goals.”

And remember to do your math.

If it takes, say, 30 impressions to get an inquiry, and, say, 10 inquiries to set up a consultation call, and you close 50 percent of those calls, that means you’ll need to be exposed to people 600 times to get one sale.

And that presumes you’re able to get on the phone with people. If you’re in the digital game, assume even lower conversions.

A general guideline we use is that, for every 100,000 people you reach through social media, you can expect less than 1 percent of them to click through to your website (1,000 people). For every 1,000 people who click, less than 20 percent will give you their name and email address (200 people). And, for every 200 people who give you their name and email address, less than 10 percent of those will buy something (20 people).

So expect to put in a lot of reps before you earn clients.

Use the experience to tweak your marketing message and your service offering to see what gets you more visitors and which approach converts more of these visitors and inquiries into more clients.

Step 15: Effectively manage your time

Now it’s time to think about your schedule.

When you were working full time, you may have had 2-3 hours—if you were lucky—to devote to your side business. You might assume that when you quit, you’ll be able to multiply your effort by three to four times.

This is not always the case.

The thing about restricting your time is that it often restricts the work that you’re able to do, which forces you to focus on what matters most and minimize procrastination.

With a whole unstructured day ahead of you, it can be easy to get in the habit of sleeping in, working on low-leverage tasks (as a means to avoid doing the tasks that are challenging but actually matter), and spinning your wheels.

Alternatively, you may experience work-life blur, where you’re never sure if it’s “work-time” or not.

To help mitigate the transition, we recommend making a schedule that includes when you’ll be doing what.

Block off time for sleeping, eating, exercising, walks outside, and time with family and friends. Also, block off time for different kinds of work tasks.

In some ways, starting your own business means becoming more schedule-bound. The nice part, though, is that you—in collaboration with colleagues and loved ones—get to come up with the schedule.

Step 16: Create a business structure

As your business grows, you’re also going to need to set up a workflow that’s:

  • repeatable (so routine tasks become more automated)
  • scalable (so adding twice as many clients doesn’t double the work)
  • measurable (so you can quantify what’s happening in the most important aspects of your business)

This is done by looking at your overall workflow, highlighting the components that drive the most value in terms of revenue, and acknowledging which components can be outsourced or let go of altogether.

For example, a high-level workflow of a health and fitness professional working directly with clients as a fitness, nutrition, or health coach might look like this:

Looking at the above workflow, you can see that you’ll need to wear many hats. You’ll need to engage in sales and marketing (so you can attract the type of clients you want in the first place), you’ll need to understand your clients’ needs and help them change using both physiological and psychological methodologies, you’ll need to collect payments, and more.

The good news is that the more often you thoughtfully repeat this cycle, always looking for ways to automate the process, the more skilled and efficient you’ll become.

Over time, you might even find ways to minimize the future effort required for some of your tasks, by creating nutrition templates, information sheets, and more that you can tweak and reuse later.

And, when you can afford to, you might even decide to outsource some of your activities to someone who is more skilled in doing so, or bringing on team members with skill sets that complement yours.

Step 17: Create a customer journey map

As you get more reps at delivering your products and services, a great way to improve is to create a customer journey map.

This is a way to outline the experience your customer has from the time they initially engage with your organization, through the delivery of your services, and beyond.

By taking the time to map out your customer’s journey with you, you can identify and address points of friction.

For example, maybe you discover that your clients are confused about how to purchase your services on your website. You can then spend time making this process seamless, so they don’t get frustrated and walk away.

It can also be used to highlight moments where there are opportunities to delight your customers or create special moments for your clients.

For instance, you might notice that your personal training clients’ journeys tend to look something like this:

As a result, you might plan to give them:

  • a gift card and a handwritten note to make them feel welcome
  • dog biscuits for their beloved dog’s birthday
  • a mid-point spa package to celebrate their progress
  • a trophy for making it through the “Valley of Despair” and building confidence
  • a personalized journal and a high-quality pen to thank them for their referral

In the end, everyone wants to feel special. So you’re either going to need to find a way to make people feel special yourself, in your business, or you’ll need to work for someone else who does.

A customer journey map can help you eliminate friction points as well as find opportunities to surprise and delight your clients and customers.

Step 18: Make your business remarkable

There are three simple rules that govern any business:

  • Find out what people really want and are willing to pay for
  • Do something awesome to deliver it
  • Tell everyone about it

If you want a business that scales, you’ll make something so great (by doing steps one and two) that your clients will want to tell everyone about your services for you.

If you can find ways to meet not only your client’s surface-level needs (like losing weight or getting jacked) but also delivering upon their deeper needs (like helping them become a more present parent or partner) in a seamless fashion, eventually, clients will be coming to you with very little marketing effort.

For a free lesson in which Dr. Berardi details the three steps above, with lots of examples, check out this video:

Customer Research, Product Development, and Marketing with Dr. Berardi

The Entrepreneur’s Opportunity

Fun fact: There are more entrepreneurs today than at any time in history.

This means there are endless opportunities to start a health and fitness business of your own—from creating in-person coaching services, to offering online coaching services, to selling app-based or wearable health and fitness technologies—doing work that you’re passionate about.

Work that can change lives. (And, possibly, the world.)

Of course, no single article can help you figure out everything you need to succeed in business. However, we hope this one provided some tools that you can implement to minimize your risk and maximize your impact.

To get all these tools in one place, for free, check out:

The Change Maker’s Guide To Starting A Health & Fitness Business (Free Download Bundle)


<!—Snippet to hide June 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

–>

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

<!—Snippet to hide March 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

–>

The post The Change Maker’s Guide to Starting a Health and Fitness Business appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

What if I told you I start my morning with a glass of lemon water?

Maybe you’d think:

‘Who cares?! Why does it matter what Berardi drinks first thing in the morning?’

You wouldn’t be wrong.

But if you’re a certain type of person—the kind who loves to geek out on nutrition science—it might spark your curiosity (and maybe a little FOMO).

Perhaps you’d ask:

“Why add lemon? For digestion? Liver detoxification? Antioxidant protection?”

In other words:

“Does lemon contain some sort of biochemical superpower I haven’t yet learned about? And, if so, should I be including it myself?”

If you’re another type of person—more skeptical in nature—you might be less curious and more annoyed:

“Ugh—more detoxing BS?!? Detoxing isn’t even a thing. I thought you were evidence-based!”

If you’re super up-to-date on the latest research, you might even say:

“Lemons, really? Haven’t you done your research? Don’t you know that [enter nutrient/supplement du jour] has proven to be more effective?”

So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s the real reason I drink lemon water in the morning:

I wake up thirsty. And I like the taste of lemon in my water.

(Cue anti-climactic music.)

Yep, that’s it.

That’s the big secret behind my beverage choice.

I’m not trying to support liver detoxification or digestion.

Nor am I trying to add antioxidant power or alter my body’s pH.

(I’m also not an “industry shill for Big Lemon.” Promise.)

I simply like the taste.

Now, if that answer disappoints you—or you were already halfway to the store to pick up some lemons—you might need to hear what I’m about to say.

Because I think it’s time we stop over-nutritionalizing our food.

Before we go any further, I have to admit something.

I’ve been guilty of the very thing I’m critiquing in this article. In fact, if you like, you can blame the whole problem on me. 

Early in my career, I wrote A LOT, perhaps too much, about the biochemical and physiological properties of food.

I churned out article after article examining various signaling pathways in fat and muscle cells, and the specific nutrients that could alter them.

Now, I didn’t intend to start a trend of over-focusing on the scientific properties of food. To be honest, I didn’t really think much about my intention at all. (That was kinda the problem).

I was just really into biochemistry and physiology.

As a PhD candidate, publishers gave me a platform to share what I was learning, what I was experimenting with (in the lab), and what I found intriguing.

And when I co-founded Precision Nutrition, I was able to reach and influence even more people.

Along the way, readers took a cue from me.

Coaches, trainers, and fellow “nutrition nerds” fell down the rabbit hole too. They followed my interests. They started focusing on the biochemical and nutritional details of food. And, like me, they shared their interests, thoughts, and experiments with others.

It started a chain reaction.

Yet, as Precision Nutrition developed, my perspective changed. 

My understanding of food broadened.

I came to believe (as I still do) that food is not merely fuel. That no single diet is universally superior. And that there are a lot more considerations to eating than “how does nutrient X affect pathway Y in my body?”.

Don’t get me wrong: Understanding the scientific properties of food is helpful—to a point.

There’s a reason why PN teaches the science of nutrition in the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification: because it’s useful to understand the “why” behind nutrition recommendations before you start doling them out to clients.

But when I look around these days, I see a lot of people hyper-focused on the biochemical and physiological aspects of food. 

Call it over-nutritionalizing, over-intellectualizing, or over-sciencing. Whatever name you give it, it’s characterized by an almost obsessive interest in the nutritional and physiological aspects of a given food.

And we need to tamp that down. Or, at least, balance it out.

People always ask me, “Why’d you choose THAT food / ingredient / supplement?”

Sometimes, I share pictures of what I eat on Instagram.

Either a single meal or an entire day of meals.

People are always asking me how I eat so, occasionally, I oblige by sharing my own meals or what our family is eating.

But every time I do, the same thing happens: People send a barrage of questions, most of them having to do with the physiological or health value of a particular inclusion (or exclusion). I try to answer the queries, but frankly, it’s hard to keep up.

Photo shows Dr. John Berardi’s breakfast, with callouts that identify each item, questions he gets about the item, and quick answers he gives to people. Item 1: Steel-cut oats + raw mixed nuts + frozen mixed berries. Q: Why steel-cut oats? A: I like the texture better. Item #2: Chicken bacon + 1 cup egg whites + 1 whole egg + hot sauce. Q: Why chick bacon? A: I like it best. Q: What chicken bacon? A: Whatever I find at store. Q: Why egg whites? A: More protein without extra cals. Q: Why only 1 egg? A: I get fat from other sources too. Q: Why hot sauce? A: I like it. Q: What hot sauce: I like all kinds. Item 3: Caffeine-free herbal tea. Q: Why no caffeine. A: I don’t like how it makes me feel. Item 4: 1 Liter water + 1 scoop green drink + 1 scoop collagen protein. Q: Why greens drink? A: Tastes goo, extra nutrients.

This is a photo of my recent breakfast, with annotated captions to give you a small taste of the back and forth. You can see the entire Q and A in my original Instagram post.

No matter how much explanation I provide, the questions keep coming. Here’s a sampling from recent posts of various meals.

  • Why do you add lemon to your water?
  • Why don’t you eat yams or brown rice or (my favorite starchy carb source)?
  • Why don’t you eat pineapple, watermelon, or (my favorite fruit)?
  • Why don’t you drink milk, eat cheese, or (my favorite dairy)?
  • I see you eat sauerkraut. Why not kimchi?
  • I see you use collagen protein. Why not whey?
  • You take a vitamin or a protein supplement or a probiotic? Which brand? Which strain? For what benefit? But what about the research that says X or Y or Z?

You get the idea.

Hence my lemon water example from earlier. Every time I show a meal with a glass of water with lemon, people are deeply concerned with the “health value” of the lemon.

In essence, it feels like everything the nutritionist eats MUST have a scientific reason for its inclusion.

Folks seem disappointed or dissatisfied when I tell them I add it because I like the taste. Or it’s one of my favorite foods. Or it’s all I had available that day.

Similarly, if I don’t include a particular food on a given day, like brown rice or mangoes or coffee, folks get really wrapped up in whether I think the missing food is somehow “bad for you.”

Heck, everything the nutritionist doesn’t eat MUST ALSO have a scientific reason for its exclusion.

But here’s the truth:

Not every food decision I make is grounded in science.

Sometimes I eat foods because I like them. (Shocking, I know.) Or because they make me feel good. Or because our children want me to share a particular food with them.

Likewise, I often avoid other foods that I don’t like. Or that make me feel bad. (Yep, even the “healthy” ones.) Or that aren’t easily accessible to me.

Here’s an example I posted about recently.

I’ve learned, through the process of self-experimentation, that tomatoes and peppers seem to cause flare-ups in the osteoarthritis that bothers my knees.

So, most of the time, I avoid them.

Even though I like to eat them. Even though there isn’t much data to suggest that nightshades like tomatoes and peppers are problematic. I minimize them in my diet because they make me feel bad.

Now, just because I’ve stopped eating them…

Am I saying that tomatoes and peppers (or other nightshades) will affect everyone with osteoarthritis?

No.

Can I tell you for sure that it’s the biochemical properties of the tomatoes and peppers that affect me and not something else (like the placebo effect)? 

No.

Am I suggesting that other people should stop eating tomatoes and peppers? 

Definitely not.

They just don’t work for me.

So, what’s wrong with nerding out on nutrition?

Like I said, I’m a science guy. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your facts.

But this hyper-nutritionalizing can be problematic in a few ways:

#1: Your “research” may not be all that good.

It’s time to get real about something.

Nutrition science is complicated, and relatively early in its evolution. This means there’s a fair bit of research out there that’s open to interpretation.

(And very few absolute hard and fast rules that apply to everybody.)

As a result, it’s not hard to find research that justifies our own preferences.

Imagine this…

Suppose I enjoy a glass of lemon water in the morning. So I think to myself, “Hmm, maybe there’s a health benefit to this. Let’s find out.”

So I visit PubMed (the world’s largest index of biomedical research) and search for scientific studies that support the use of lemon water.

Or I Google something like: “health benefits of lemon water in the morning.” (Try it. You’ll get lots of results.)

Bingo. Now I can start spreading the news of the virtuous lemon water—and give myself a pat on the back for enjoying my superior morning beverage.

See the problem here? 

We’re biased. This type of “research” is often a desire to justify our preferences and natural inclinations through “evidence.”

That’s a dangerous practice, one that breeds self-justification and a certain kind of “evidence blindness” to research that doesn’t support one’s preferences.

It also signals the end of curiosity, which is at the heart of scientific inquiry.

And it happens all the time, even to smart people and good thinkers.

They let their personal preferences lead their information search, instead of legitimately trying to get to the bottom of what humans do know (or can know) about a particular subject. Then, once they’ve found the research that supports what they were going to do anyway, they proselytize it as “proven” or “evidence-based.”

But “knowledge” that was gained in this fashion is, at best, incomplete.

At worst, it isn’t really knowledge at all.

#2: Food is more than its biochemical make-up. (And so are we.)

When we get hyper-focused on the science behind our food intake, we miss out on other benefits of eating, like:

  • Cultural practices/traditions
  • Enjoyment and pleasure
  • Expressing hospitality or spending time with family and friends over a meal
  • How they make us feel, physically or otherwise

Just as “health” is more than “not being sick,” food is more than just nutrients.

And, for that matter, humans are much more than our biochemical and physiological makeup.

Whether or not a food “works for us” in the context of our daily lives has to do with more than just research.

It also has to do with our goals, our preferences, our lifestyle, our cooking skills, our cultural background, our eating and living situation, our access to certain foods, our taste buds, our social determinants of health, and so much more.

Sure, there are some general nutritional basics that work for most of us, but that doesn’t mean that someone is doing it wrong if they prefer regular whole oats to steel-cut oats.

#3: It breeds judgment and the moralization of foods.

In a recent Instagram post, I mentioned that I’ve been “zero alcohol” for three years now and that I think it’s contributed, in small part, to some positive health outcomes, particularly around hormonal health.

This statement was interpreted as a win for those with a “clean eating” or  “virtuous health” or “why would you put that poison in your body?” mindset.

Many folks gave me a virtual pat on the back for this choice—as in, “Exactly! Alcohol is poison!”

Meanwhile, others took it as a personal affront. Like I was attacking their decision to drink.

But for me, not drinking isn’t a moral decision. Or a tribal one. I personally abstain because avoiding alcohol seems to help with my autoimmune disease.

And, to be honest, I never enjoyed drinking that much anyway. (Alcohol makes me irritable and sleepy which, alone, is annoying and, in social settings, makes me want to go home.)

But just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean I search for all the info I can find about why alcohol is bad for everyone and then proselytize against it. I understand it serves different needs for different people. And that some of those, on balance, could be healthy… in the right context. (For examples, check out: Would I be healthier if I quit drinking?)

Bottom line: ⁠⁠I’m not anti-alcohol, nor am I pro-alcohol; I just made a decision that felt best for me. And my point here is this:

Someone else’s food choices—whether scientifically supported or not—shouldn’t send you into a tailspin. 

Nor should your personal food choices be the basis for telling others what they should or shouldn’t do, regardless of what your self-directed scan of the research tells you is “right” or “wrong.”

If you find yourself doing either, it’s time to back up and gain some perspective.

I can’t recommend a “best food” or a “best diet,” but I can recommend this.

Try to stay open-minded.

It’s up to you to find foods that you enjoy eating, and that help contribute to your goals, whatever they might be.

And if you’re a coach, it’s your job to help your clients find those foods—and those goals—for themselves.

A healthy relationship with food doesn’t require you to nitpick over every small decision or have a scientific justification for everything you choose. 

In fact, once you understand the basics of how various nutrients work in the body, a healthy relationship with food might mean the exact opposite… broadening your perspective on eating beyond the “scientific benefits.”

Yes, it can take time and practice to understand what works best for you, your body, your family, and your lifestyle. And to enjoy those foods without overthinking them.

That’s the balance here.

To recognize that, at the beginning of your “healthy eating journey,” you might actually need to spend more time learning about your food to help facilitate better, more thoughtful choices.

But then, at a certain point, you might need to step back and try to integrate that new knowledge into the context of your real life. To situate it within a broader, more robust framework for making eating decisions.

Because, if you go too far here, your ideas about food can end up mired in superstition or “sciencestition.” When that happens, it’s difficult to be objective. Difficult to stay curious and open-minded. Difficult to learn anything, for yourself or for your clients.

So that’s your first experiment.

Back away from the research database. Make yourself a meal without overanalyzing it. And while you’re at it, pour yourself a glass of water. Lemon or no lemon? The choice is yours.

<!—Snippet to hide June 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

–>

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

<!—Snippet to hide March 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

–>

The post Superstition, sciencestition, and how to stop overthinking your food choices. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1

“Look into whether health coaches need insurance” is one of those lines that many of us put at the bottom of a to-do list—and that’s generally where it stays.

Day after day.

The thing is:

Getting up to speed on coaching insurance doesn’t have to be painful.

This article walks you through a straight-forward three-step process that won’t require a legal degree to understand. You’ll learn whether you need insurance, as well as the types that work best for health coaches.

One note:

This content focuses on the needs of health and nutrition coaches in the U.S. and Canada. If you live in another region, you may or may not need the type of insurance discussed here depending on your local laws. When in doubt, check with an attorney, other coaches in your area, or a local insurance company to find out what they have to say.

What kind of insurance do coaches need?

To figure out whether you need insurance, consider your personal vulnerability to malpractice claims and license complaints.

Both issues are usually covered by professional liability insurance—the most common type of insurance for health and nutrition coaches.

(FYI, we’ll tell you about other types below.)

Let’s start with malpractice issues.

(Check out the video below yo see a more detailed discussion—with an actual attorney—of some of the legal issues coaches encounter.)

All health professionals are vulnerable to malpractice claims.

That means if a client gets injured or sick, and believes it’s the result of your advice, they could make a malpractice claim against you. In other words, you could get sued.

If you’re self-employed and don’t have professional liability insurance, you’ll be responsible for your own defense as well as any judgement against you. That means all of your personal assets are fair game: your house, your car, and your savings account.

Professional liability insurance protects those personal assets.

(FYI, if you started a business, like an LLC, to protect your personal assets, liability insurance for your business may be a good idea.)

Some health professionals are also subject to license complaints.

This is mostly a concern for coaches who need a license to practice some of their services, so think:

  • health coaches who are board-certified
  • mental health professionals who also do health or nutrition coaching
  • nurses, pharmacists, and physical therapists who coach as a side-gig

Let’s say you’re a physical therapist and a health coach. You get a DUI, and your neighbor finds out. Your neighbor complains to the health coaching and physical therapy organizations where you’re licensed. Those organizations will investigate whether to revoke your license.

During that time, these organizations might put your licenses on probation, so you can’t work. And you may have expenses related to defending yourself during the investigation. That’s when your insurance policy will kick in.

All this might sound a little far-fetched, but these things do happen.

The benefit here? Insurance should pay for the costs related to the investigation (up to the limit on your policy).

The top five types of coaching insurance

If you’re looking into insurance, you have several types to consider.

▶ Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance, kicks in if you need to defend a malpractice suit or license complaint. This may offer the best match for nutrition and health coaches. (The bulk of this article looks at this insurance type.)

▶ General liability insurance protects you from third-party claims. So if someone trips over a kettlebell in the gym you own and gets hurt, or they damage to the space you rent, this type of insurance would cover the fallout. General liability insurance may make the most sense if you’re working with clients in a physical space.

▶Cyber liability insurance protects against any fallout from client data breaches. If you coach online, you may want this type of insurance.

▶Commercial property insurance covers the contents of your commercial office space or gym from things like water damage or theft.

▶Commercial auto insurance covers anything that happens while you’re driving for work. It might come in handy if you ever drive clients in your own car (for example, to go work out at a nearby park), or if you’re transporting lots of heavy workout equipment in your car on a regular basis.

An employer’s insurance policy may not completely protect you.

If you work for a hospital, gym, or company that provides insurance coverage, do you need your own personal insurance policy?

Potentially, yes. 

Generally, your employer’s insurance priority is your employer and not you. That usually means no coverage for those license complaints. (Reminder: License complaints are where you are at risk for getting your license revoked.)

An employer’s policy may also leave you vulnerable to certain types of malpractice claims.

For instance, your employer’s insurance probably won’t cover situations that arise when you:

  • Casually give coaching advice to a neighbor
  • Perform coaching volunteer work
  • Coach clients outside of work

What’s more, personal liability policies may insure you for a higher amount, and will usually stay in place if you change jobs,.

In fact, some organizations require that their employees (and independent contractors) have their own personal liability insurance for exactly these reasons. That means you might be required to carry your own insurance even if an organization covers you under theirs.

What if my clients sign a waiver? Should I still consider insurance?

Having your clients sign a waiver or disclaimer is a very good idea.

The waiver brings attention to the idea that there’s always risk in taking nutrition, fitness, or health advice from another person.

Most waivers for health coaches make it clear that:

  • It’s the client’s responsibility to run any changes to their routine by their primary care provider.
  • The client accepts responsibility for the advice they follow.

(For an example of a standard disclaimer, see our client intake form.)

So… if your client has signed a waiver, why would you need insurance? The short answer is that a waiver can’t protect you from every type of claim. And in the US, different states have different laws about how much a waiver protects.

Bottom line: Still ask your clients to sign a waiver or disclaimer, but don’t write off insurance. Think of it like double protection, just as your car has seatbelts and airbags.

If you decide you want health coaching insurance coverage, use these steps to get started. 

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Over 150,000 health & fitness professionals certified

Save up to 30% on the industry’s top nutrition education program

Get a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Step 1: Identify potential providers.

You have several options.

Option 1: Use a health coach-specialized insurance company.

Quite a few insurance companies work specifically with health professionals.

Some examples include HPSO and Alternative Balance. (Full disclosure: PN has partnered with HPSO to provide a smooth application pathway for PN Certified coaches).

Some PN graduates also find the policies they’re looking for with insurers that specialize in all types of small businesses, such as NEXT Insurance and Hiscock Insurance.

If you’re having trouble finding a company that provides coverage in your area or for your specific type of coaching, ask around. Other coaches in your area or niche can most likely provide solid leads.

Option 2: Find out if any of your professional associations provide insurance.

Many personal training certifying bodies include an insurance option when you pay your membership dues.

For many people, this is the easiest insurance route.

Option 3: Check to see if you your existing insurance provider can cover you.

If you have homeowners or vehicle insurance, your provider might be able to add a rider that covers your home-based business as well.

Similarly, if you already have professional liability insurance for another health profession—for instance, you’re a pharmacist with a nutrition coaching side-hustle—you may be able to add health or nutrition coaching onto your policy.

One quick note: Insurance companies can decide whether they want to insure you. You can be declined for coverage based on any number of factors, including which certifications you have/don’t have, where you’re based, and the type of coaching you do.

If one insurer won’t cover you, don’t get discouraged—there may be another that’s a better fit.

Step 2: Be clear and honest when collecting quotes.

Insurance companies can only make a payout on a claim if you’ve provided them with accurate information when applying for your policy.

Be prepared to answer questions about:

  • The services you provide: Do you only do nutrition coaching? Or also personal training?
  • Where you practice: Do you have a home-based business? Do you do virtual coaching? Do you go into clients’ homes?
  • Any other certifications or qualifications you have: Are you also a therapist, nurse, or any other type of health professional? Insurance companies need this information in order to give you an accurate quote.

Most of the time, you apply for insurance and get a quote online.

Step 3: Compare your options.

Once you’ve collected quotes, look at the fine print.

What’s covered?

Take note of whether the policy covers malpractice claims only, or whether it also includes licensure complaints (if that’s relevant for you). Will you be covered if your client’s data is breached? Or if they slip and fall while you’re training them?

If you’re not sure, call the insurance company and ask. Pose hypotheticals, asking about certain situations and whether they’d be covered under the policy you’re looking at.

How much insurance coverage will you get?

It can be tricky to figure out how much coverage you actually need. Insurance companies stay up to date on the average legal fees and settlement payouts related to each profession they cover. They use this information to recommend minimum coverage amounts to their clients.

For instance, HPSO’s standard health coach policy covers $3,000,000 aggregate, and up to $1,000,000 for each claim. That means if you had 3 claims against you in one year, you’d get up to $1,000,000 in coverage for each one. It also covers up to $25,000 to defend your license.

If you think you might need more than the standard coverage, however, talk to the insurance company about your specific needs.

How much will it cost?

Know the premium (what you pay up front) and deductible (how much you pay out of pocket before the policy kicks in). Some policies offer lower premiums, but higher deductibles—and vice versa.

What’s the company’s reputation?

Ask other coaches about their experiences with the insurance companies you’re considering. Check each company’s Better Business Bureau profile, or look them up on TrustPilot. See if you can find out how easy it is to file a claim, and how people’s experiences interacting with the insurer have been.

From there, all that’s left to do is choose your policy.

How much does insurance cost?

Probably not as much as you think.

In general, health coaches can expect to pay between $100 and $500 per year for professional liability insurance.

  • Where you fall on that spectrum will depend on what type of work you do with clients, which certifications and licenses you have, and how your business is set up. For example: Some companies have lower rates for employed coaches (as opposed to those who are self-employed).
  • If you’re only coaching part-time, you could pay less than a full-time coach.
  • If you started your own business entity to protect your personal assets, like an LLC or S-Corp, your rates could be higher than the range mentioned above. That’s because you’re being treated as a business, not an individual, and businesses have higher risks in an insurance company’s eyes.

3 ways to get the most from your health coach insurance

So now you’re insured. What happens next? Hopefully nothing. But here are some tips to keep in mind in case something does happen.

1. Document anything weird.

Let’s say a client gets injured in a session. Or says a supplement you mentioned made them sick.

Write down what happened, and include as many details as possible. You can also give your insurance company a heads up.

Particularly if it’s something serious, it’s good to get everything documented as soon as possible while the incident is fresh in your mind.

2. If you receive a formal complaint, call your insurance provider ASAP.

This gets the process of defending you started, and leads us to…

3. Don’t ask any random lawyer for help.

You don’t want to use your divorce lawyer down the street for a malpractice lawsuit or a licensure complaint.

First, that divorce lawyer probably won’t be an expert in this area of law.

Second, lawyers can be really expensive. If you’re looking at $500 an hour, you could drain your defense coverage pretty quickly.

Insurance companies usually have lawyers they work with that are experts in defending against these types of claims and complaints. These lawyers also generally have a relationship with the insurance company that makes them more cost effective.

Most people get insurance hoping they’ll never have to use it. And in most cases, that’s exactly what happens.

So sit back and relax, because you’ve got it covered.

<!—Snippet to hide June 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.

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If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

<!—Snippet to hide March 2021 launch

If you’re a coach, or you want to be…

Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.

If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.

–>

The post Do nutrition and health coaches need insurance? appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

Source: Health1