MindBody Fitness

Golfing – A New Journey

Now that I have been playing golf for 2 years I have mastered enough of the art and science on the technique that allows me to get through a course reasonably well. Yes, it is an individual sport where you attempt to achieve the lowest score possible – meaning the fewest mistakes possible, vs a sport like triathlon where your objective though an individual effort is to complete the event in the fastest time and try to place in your relevant age group.

What’s striking is in golf you frequently play with different people who are all at different levels with variable skills. Vastly unique personalities and body types. Contrastingly, in tri you get to know who your competition is and what their particular skills and strengths are. Though it attracts a variety of people, it rewards speed and/or endurance. Though it is comprised of your 3 sports that you need to master it’s similar to golf in that training and preparation are needed for success and repeatability.

I miss tri competition and the training. Golf is a very mental game and doesn’t necessarily reward the biggest and strongest. Some guys can drive the ball 350 yds but have no finesse to shoot a low round. In fact, the mega hitters I have met typically get frustrated and lose their focus when they miss easy chips or putts. There is art and science that goes into building your golf game. Understanding the path of your club, making proper contact at the ball, the follow through to achieve proper ball flight to your target. Understanding, which club to use, how much loft ( angle of the face of the club ) to use if you need to elevate the ball to the target, reading the slope of the greens in order to chip or putt accurately to put that ball in the cup.

All golf courses are different with different challenges much like a triathlon course – different bodies of water where you have to navigate temps and currents, the profile of the bike and run course. Similarly, nutrition and hydration which are essential in an endurance racing it is also true for golf. I have seen in both sports how poor nutrition can ruin a race and a day playing 18 holes.

Most people I play with are clueless when it comes to nutrition and the impact on their game. I am careful not to preach but if the moment presents itself I will share some tips.

Both sports can attract and/or create obsessive personalities. I see myself gravitating in this direction. Overtraining or over racing is quite measurable in triathlon but often ignored. Golf is less causational but overuse can be manifested in poor play, lost focus and even clear frustration.

Though I competed often in sanctioned triathlon events I think I am going to keep my golf game less competitive and just enjoy the fun and comradery.

See you on the links

Overcoming The Covid Blues

The human toll has been extraordinary. As we move into the second year of the pandemic, there is much to be hopeful about. Biotechnology is moving quickly to produce virus combating vaccines and trying to keep up with the variance reality that can accelerate the transmission and its ultimate control. Until enough people get vaccinated which will push us toward herd immunity we all need to embrace the sensible covid protocols of mask wearing, physical distancing and keeping our social life to a minimum. What gets us to herd immunity is a collective and cooperative effort. Yes, it’s true that most of us will be fine, but sadly, many will not. What needs immediate attention is the impact this pandemic as had on our overall health – social, mental as well as physical.

Individuals as well as families have been forced to deal with restrictions on their lives never seen before. Stay at home – due to work or school policies has created some real challenges for people. Some have adapted better than others. The repetitive nature of staying at home, not being able to travel, missing out on a regular social life which are all great outlets that us humans thrive on and need has had profound effects. So what can we do to counter this social, mental and physical distancing. Here are some thoughts.

1. Get outdoors when you can. Despite the cold and bad weather which will pass soon, you need to get out of your home confines and stimulate your mind and body – walks, hikes or runs in the woods, day trips that are safe from large groups, etc.

2. Once you get vaccinated start planning a getaway. Hopefully, travel can resume soon, so having something to look forward to can pull you out of your funk and lift your spirits.

3. Try to mix up your daily routines. Being confined to your home which is also your office can take a toll on your motivation, focus and creativity. If you are stuck in a workout rut, download some cool workout apps, or invest in a peloton. Try, journaling or writing. You would be amazed how just the act of writing opens the creative process.

4. Experiment with cooking. Try new healthy recipes. Prepping your own food is often much healthier than eating out.

5. Gratitude – nothing heals the human spirit better. No matter how bored you are, how discouraged you become, or feel depressed or anxious, your situation can always be ameliorated by recalibrating your thoughts and attitudes. We are constantly reprogramming our brains whether you realize it or not. You can choose how that process goes. Your thoughts become your biology. Your biology than becomes your thoughts and on and on….

6. Mindfulness and conscious breathing – immediately reset your physiology. Most of time we spend our waking hours in a state of arousal and overstimulation ( sympathetic nervous system activation) – daily tasks, our jobs, working out, dealing with family issues or crises. Aside from sleeping where we shut this down we need to activate a more restful state ( parasympathetic nervous system activation) during the daytime. Meditation or mindfulness is very effective and can be done for 10 minutes throughout the day and really helps to reset your nervous system. There are many apps available to assist you with this.

Bottom Line: This has been a challenging time for many but if you take a moment to step back – take a deep breath and examine what is missing, what you can do and perhaps who else can help you or who might need your help, you can weather this tough time. We all have to manage adversity. We all are in this together. And especially for those living alone reach out to them or you don’t hesitate to ask for help the sooner life will feel more manageable.

Covid-19: What Have We Learned

 

Putting aside any political discussion there’s much we have learned and not learned about this virus and it’s profound and far reaching impact.

What we know:

 – The virus is highly contagious. Mask wearing and physical distancing is effective in stemming its transmission and spread. Yes, the virus is invisible, as such it becomes a bigger challenge to combat.

 – It appears to impact individuals more with pre – existing conditions ( diabetes, hypertension, obesity, compromised immune systems)

 – It can impact younger populations but at a lesser rate.

 – It’s impact on the human body can be quite variable – this could be attributable to the individual’s age, biology and immunology, genetic predisposition, the viral load exposure and the degree of social responsibility one takes.

 – The virus won’t simply disappear.

 – It will mutate in order to ensure its survival.

 – The virus wants to invade the human body but not destroy it. It needs you in order to exist.

 – The virus itself doesn’t cause the real damage but rather our response to it. The cytokine storm as it is referred is the body’s immense immune response seems to be implicated in more of the severe cases and deaths. The virus copies itself quickly once inside a cell. The cell immediately sends out SOS signals. Once a cell detects something is wrong it’s natural response is to kill itself to protect other cells from the invader.

 – Certain cytokines trigger cell death. When you have many cells doing this at the same time you get lots of tissue that can die. In the case of Covid, it’s primarily the lungs. The cytokine storm causes the cell death.

 – When the lung becomes damaged respiratory distress syndrome follows. Then other organs start to fail.

 – This can lead to kidney failure, heart arrhythmia and stroke. These other medical crises still remain a bit of a mystery and need further study.

 – This virus behaves differently than other viruses, especially common viruses. Most people who get infected with influenza or Epstein-Barr don’t mount a response like this.

 – Researchers are looking into possible drugs that don’t block cytokines themselves but rather chemicals called catecholamines that tigger their release. They say they know that before the cytokines become so excessively elevated, there is a surge in catecholamines. If you can prevent that surge, the immune response is minimal. If you prevent the cytokine storm it seems likely you can prevent the damage from the virus.

 – Bolstering your immune system will have a profound impact on your capacity to avoid and / or manage the effects of the virus by adopting new behaviors – through healthy nutrition, stimulating exercise, managing stress levels and getting adequate and restorative sleep

 

What we don’t know:

 – When we will get a safe and effective vaccine and one that can be developed and distributed.

 – What are the long term effects of Covid? Only time will give us a better clue on what the long term effects will be and whose susceptible.

 – Can you develop long lasting antibodies and avoid a relapse from the virus.

 – Can we build and sustain herd immunity.

 – How do we convince anti-vaxxers to take the vaccine?

Busting The Myth Of Fruit

Fruit has been given a bad name in some nutrition circles. The sugar in fruit- fructose is very different than other forms of sugar – especially processed sugar.
Processed sugar, sucrose, lactose ( and artificial sweeteners) as we know feeds obesity, viruses, fungi, cancers and a whole host of degenerative diseases.

Unprocessed fructose, found naturally in fruit, is a blend of life-creating and life-sustaining phytonutrients and phytochemicals that actually fight disease and promote longevity.

There is only a fraction of sugar in fruit – mostly made up of water, minerals, vitamins, protein, fat, pectin, fiber and antioxidants. The current low- carb diet shuns and discourages fruit consumption.

Why would you want to eliminate a gift from nature? Why would you want remove antitumor, anticancer antioxidants, vitamins , minerals, bioflavonoids and polyphenols from your nutritional arsenal? Humans have cultivated and eaten fruits for thousands of years.

You can eat healthy organic fruit year round. It doesn’t just have to be in season. Fruits are in season year round – just need to get them from places where they are grown. Eating fruit really helps to eliminate cravings for other sugars.

It’s best eaten by itself or paired with raw vegetables like leafy greens. They are both digested rather easily. Cooked vegetables, protein, fat, complex carbs take longer to digest.

Fruit doesn’t not promote or feed cancer like processed sugars do. Much like vegetables they are anti-cancerous. Numerous studies indicate that cancer feeds off of sugar. As we know insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are also diseases driven by sugar – mostly found in sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. It’s now believed that Alzheimer’s may also be linked to excess sugar that drives neuro inflammation.

In addition, fruit can destroy viruses and bacteria. It is also vital to gut health. For example, pectin in apples and fiber in figs and dates are effective at destroying and clearing out your intestinal tract where fungi like Candida, parasites and worms thrive.

Fruit doesn’t hinder liver function. Fatty foods that are high in sugar are the biggest culprits driving fatty liver and liver disease. Fruit actually protects the liver by providing the organ with glucose reserve it needs in order to function and to stabilize blood sugar.

Bottom line: Fruit prevents disease, kills pathogens and repairs the body. Fruits prevent oxidation which drives inflammation and ultimately aging. Fruits are naturally rich in antioxidants.

My favorites:
Apples
Mangos
Berries
Kiwis
Papaya
Melons
Figs
Dates
Avocado

Bio Hacking

What is bio hacking:

Addressing the internal and external factors that influence and shape our biology. This involves identifying those factors that have a positive and life changing impact on our mental, physical and spiritual health and longevity. This in turn, can alter our gene expression (epigenetics) – the actual turning on or off of certain genes. Our genes, which consist of DNA, are only part of the equation. It is the impact that various internal and external factors have on our genes and how they are expressed or altered that drive our biology. You can change the course and direction of your life. It begins with the belief and understanding how it works. Bio hacking is an effort to optimise and upgrade your mind and body. Great examples include: meditation, mindfulness training, intermittent fasting and gut cleansing, engaging in new fitness challenges and new sports. Your body is the vehicle that gets you through life. Your mind is the driver that sets your path and direction. The beauty is that both are not fixed and can be reset and recalibrated.

Let’s explore the impact of our thoughts, beliefs, mindset and behaviors around foods we consume and the impact on our gut microbiome and brain – also how sleep, exercise and stress and our exposure to metal and chemical toxins directly affect our health and longevity. Our beliefs and behaviors are the real drivers of inflammation, disease and ultimately aging.

Thoughts, Beliefs and Mindset:

We are the product of our thoughts and beliefs. This in turn shapes our mindset. Many factors influence how we see ourselves and the world around us. We are shaped by our early childhood and experiences – family dynamics, how we are nurtured and loved, formation of self confidence, nutrition, level of activity and sports, education both in school and out of the classroom and eventually into adulthood (college, work, relationships etc). Did you grow up in a positive and supportive environment? Did you excel in school or sports? Did you have a positive social life? Are you in synch with your passions and strengths and living your life purpose?

Our early years are very impactful. Our genetic history is equally powerful. But it is the really the life choices that we make that has the greatest impact on our health and longevity. Our mindset is influenced by a multitude of factors and is reshaped constantly. Our brains, it turns out, are quite malleable and plastic ( neuroplasticity) which allows them to change and re-program (neurogenesis). This process is manifested in many ways and can occur throughout our lifetime. Tonic thoughts produce tonic chemicals in the body. Toxic thoughts produce toxic chemicals in the body. Our body has its own intelligence. Feed it right and reap the rewards.

Positive Thinking – simply is focusing on and believing in positive outcomes. It is formed by trying new things, facing fears and phobias, developing new skills and hobbies. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who support you and believe in you.

Positive Beliefs- develop when you see yourself succeed. Failure is part of the process and without it you cannot grow and succeed. It’s pushing through barriers and self doubt. Success doesn’t come from what you accomplish but rather what you overcome.

Positive Mindset- is the evolution of your thinking and beliefs. It’s the manifestation of all your experiences. A positive mindset is an open and learning mind. Moving beyond your comfort zone and moving past self doubt and familiarity, practicing gratitude, slowing down and being more present all assist in forming a positive mindset.

We Are What We Eat And What Our Foods Eat:

There is no escaping this fact. Food is energy and essential to life. If it is a positive source than our body and brain benefit. If it is a negative source it damages our systems and can lead to inflammation and disease. Increasing healthy fats ( ex: wild caught cold water fish, avocado, chia and flax seeds, grass fed beef,cage free eggs and virgin olive oil and coconut oil ) organic vegetables and fruits, ( phytochemicals and ployphenols) pre- and probiotic foods while decreasing processed foods and sugars, artificial sweeteners trans fats, hydrogenated oils, GMO’s and any food source impacted by herbicides and pesticides, is energy producing and reduces inflammation.

Unhealthy fats, GMO’s and processed foods and sugars directly impact our gut microbiome. Our gut houses billions of micro organisms that play a crucial role that impact immune and brain function. The gut and brain share a bi directional pathway. What you eat affects how you think and what you think affects your gut and microbial diversity. In effect, you have 2 brains that drive your biology and overall health. In addition to healthy fats, and clean sourced proteins and carbs, supplementing with vitamins and minerals supports healthy brain and body function – ex: vitamin D and C, B-complex, magnesium, omega 3’s.

Intermittent Fasting:

Is a time based restricted eating pattern ( ex: eating from 8 am – 4 pm). During the break your body is resting . The benefits include elevated growth hormone which helps boost your metabolic rate, reduces insulin resistance, lowers LDL cholesterol, boosting cognitive function, reduced inflammation and increased cellular autophagy ( cellular waste removal) and improved sleep.

Sleep:

Sleep is crucial to our brain and body functions. During sleep both our brain and body recharge and cleanse themselves of toxins. Growth hormone is released during sleep. It’s essential to the production of other hormones and allows the body to recover from physical and mental stress. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation has been associated with immune and hormonal dsyfunction, cognitive impairment, poor decision making and reduced mental focus, weight gain, insulin resistance and many other inflammation based conditions.

Building healthy mental and physical habits supports optimal sleep by establishing sound circadian rhythms. In turn, restorative sleep helps support clear thinking, mental focus, healthy food choices and energy for, and interest in, physical activity.

Exercise:

Might be the single best way to hack your biology. Whether you are taking long nature walks, doing yoga, participating in cross fit, endurance racing, body conditioning classes – building your fitness benefits both the body ( weight loss, regulating blood sugar and heart function, balancing hormonal and immune function) and brain ( improving cognitive function, memory, alertness, neuroplasticity and reducing onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s). Exercise, in addition to restorative sleep, has also been linked to preserving teleomere length that has been associated with aging by reducing inflammation and the effects of oxidative stress. Exercise also prevents cellular aging which in turn boosts mitochondria production – the true energy producers of the human body.

Stress:

Stress is a part of life. It comes in many forms both positive and negative. How we react and respond is what defines the stress effect. A strong and positive mindset like a strong and resilient body can navigate difficult and stressful events, while a weak and compromised mind and body succumbs to it. Building resistance to stress requires mental agility and flexibility, self-awareness, good food choices, healthy sleep habits and a commitment to regular exercise. Meditation and deep breathing helps to integrate all of these.

Healthy nutrition, regular exercise, restorative sleep, mindfulness and meditation assist in down regulating the sympathetic nervous system and up regulating the para sympathetic nervous system – in other words reducing an agitated state and elevating a restful state allowing for better stress management.

Toxin Exposure:

Metals ( arsenic, aluminum, mercury and lead ), cleaning and health/ skin care products ( ammonia, chlorine, sodium hydroxide, parabens, triclosan, phthalates, synthetic colours) and over use of pharmaceuticals can be quite toxic and can ultimately trigger inflammation. Reducing your exposure is an essential component to bio hacking.

Metal and chemical toxins have a direct impact on microbial diversity and function and are big players in driving the development of certain cancers.

Pathogens ( bacteria, viruses and parasites) can also play a big role in creating toxicity and inflammation.

Real Protection From Cognitive Decline

Much like our ability to slow down and reverse the aging of our bodies the same applies to our brain.

Adopting specific lifestyle behaviors in our 30’s and 40’s or in our 50’s and beyond can have a profound and tangible effect on how well we age. And the opposite holds true – neglect and destructive habits will compromise both our bodies and brain as we age.

As we age a build up of toxins such as tau proteins and beta amyloid plaques have been correlated to aging process and cognitive decline. This process which seems to be a natural aging process can be increased by many negative factors. Stress, lack of sleep, inactivity and neurotoxins ( including alcohol) can accelerate this process.

Neuroplasticity – defined by 3 mechanisms ( synaptic connection, myelination and neurogenesis) allows our brains to change and develop during our lifespan. Neurogenesis – the birth of new neurons is the real key to resilient aging.

This activity happens in the hippocampus – a region of the brain responsible for new memories. We store new experiences during the day and store them during sleep. The more we experience new things and activities and challenge new learning the greater the possibility of neurogenesis.

3 Ways To Turn On Resilient Aging By Activating Neurogenesis:

1. Aerobic Exercise and HIIT – helps to build BDNF ( brain derived neurotrophic factor) which encourages neurogenesis and minimize beta amyloid plaquing. Individual or group sports / activities are both effective.

2. Healthy Eating and Intermittent Fasting – research indicates that calorie restriction and intermittent fasting both encourage neurogenesis. Reducing refined sugars and processed foods help minimize oxidative damage to brain cells which has been linked to higher risks for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Restorative Sleep – new research has proven that sleep helps promote the brain’s neural “cleaning” glymphatic system which helps flush out the build up of tau proteins and beta amyloid plaque. Sleep deprivation leads to memory deficit and other cognitive impairments.

Brain resilience is supported by sufficient quality and length of sleep. The brain responds best to regular circadian cycles that are best promoted by consistent sleep habits (getting to bed and waking at the same times).

Consistent exercise, healthy eating and managing one’s stress levels ( best done with mindfulness and breath-based meditation) all improve sleep quality and consistency.

The key is building these new habits and until they become a regular part of your life.

Good Sleep Prep

As we all know good quality sleep is essential to optimal health. Irregular sleep and sleep deprivation are linked to a variety of compromised health issues: memory loss and lack of energy, focus and concentration, mood swings and emotional stability, depression, metabolic, digestive and immune system dysregulation.

Researchers have now pinpointed some good bedtime strategies and routines that help facilitate a solid and restorative night sleep.

1. Create and adhere to a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking at the same time is best way to create good sleep habits – even on weekends. This establishes consistent circadian bio -rhythms.

2. Electronic shutdown. Turn off all devices one hour before bed. After dark, the blue light from screens can prevent adequate melatonin levels needed to sleep. If you cannot unplug entirely, consider a light dimming app f.lux ( Apple) or Twilight ( Android). Also keep your bedroom dark and cool.

3. Bedtime rituals: Read a book, take a warm bath, creative writing all engage you without the negative impacts of your devices or TV. Over time, these rituals will help signal to your body and brain that it’s time for sleep.

4. Mind clearing: It’s imperative to quiet your brain before sleep. Layout workout clothes, prep your breakfast or lunch, complete a to-do list.

5. Relax the body: Adopt some deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation techniques to help release tension and stress.

6. Consider getting a sleep number bed – where you can adjust the bed angles and firmness to meet your individual needs. Supportive and high quality pillows are also essential.

Small Steps To Long Lasting Well-Being

Health and, ultimately, longevity are very much influenced and shaped by many small choices we make. Long lasting health is the summation of the food we eat, environmental influences, the level of activity, the quality of your sleep and the social/ personal relationships we create and maintain.

Most experts agree that reaching the goal of optimal well-being beings with starting small. Successes build on themselves. Healthy changes over time lead to increases in energy, confidence, clarity which power you on the create new healthy habits. Additionally, your personal successes inspire and motivate others.

1. Eat Right

Choose high quality whole-foods. Aim for organic, non-GMO foods. Eliminate or minimize refined sugars and processed foods. A well-balanced diet might include the following:

50-70% non-starchy vegetables ( dark leafy greens, crucifers, squash, onion and garlic). These provide vitamins, enzymes and phytonutrients, build energy and support detoxification, reduce inflammation and reduce cancer risk. Fermented vegetables help build and support a balanced microbiome.

10-15% high quality proteins (grass fed beef and organic poultry and eggs, wild caught fish, organic dairy, nuts, seeds and bone broth). These proteins contain amino acids – building blocks for the body, muscles and support immune function.

20-30% healthy fats ( coconut oil, olives, avocado, nut butters and grass fed butter). These fats balance hormones and absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. They support skin, brain, help in digestion and support satiety.

2. Sleep

During sleep our bodies and brain detoxify. The brain’s glymphatic system is similar to the body’s lymphatic system. This process only happens during sleep. The removal of proteins help to maintain normal neurological function. Build up of these proteins has been linked to brain fog, poor memory in the short term. Long term effects suggest a link to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Sleep is not a luxury but rather a necessity. Regular sleep helps to balance your circadian rhythms – expose yourself to early morning light, get outdoors throughout the day, turn off devices 2 hours before bedtime, keep your bedroom cool and dark.

3. Movement

Our bodies are designed to move and built for many different activities. It’s also designed to be stimulated by changing physical planes ( pivoting, turning, lunging, pushing, pulling and hoisting). These activities keep muscles strong, joints and tendons robust. Movement also has a protective purpose has muscle tissue to produce proteins called myokines that have important disease-preventive and anti-inflammatory functions.

– Move as much as possible at work. Walking meetings, standing desks, etc.

– Take frequent walks, pick up a new sport, try yoga. Find a friend or training partner to join you in your activities.

– Walk before lunch each day ( get some natural light, decompresses your digestive system, helps reset your nervous system in prep for eating and builds alertness and reduces cravings for sugar).

– Try mini sessions ( 10-15 minutes of any kind of exercise or movement)

4. Address Toxicity

Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins – chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products, chemical based skin and health care products.

– Avoid GMO’s and processed foods.

– Epigenetics: The environment around your cells directly influences whether disease causing genes get switched on or stay turned off. Toxins and an inflammatory diet create the worst of conditions. A healthy diet and lower toxin exposure help the body to keep the disease-causing genes turned off.

5. Mindfulness And Deep- Breathing.

Learning to unwind and turn off the stressors is essential to good health and longevity. Most of us live in the “on” state – demands of work, relationships, pressure to perform, produce and succeed,etc. It’s challenging to find quiet and down time away from our devices and the above demands.

One way to find stillness and shut off the noise and down-regulate our nervous system is to adopt a meditation or mindfulness practice. As one expert suggests: “just as night follows day , stillness should follow activity – they are 2 sides of one whole.”

– Try deep / diaphragmatic ( belly) breathing

– 4-7-8 breathing ( Place tongue behind your front teeth at gum line, exhale through your mouth making a whooshing sound, close your mouth and inhale though the nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts and exhale though mouth for 8 counts). Repeat 10x.

What Drives You ?

What motivated me to write about this was in fact looking back on my years of racing triathlon. Specifically, what was the driver and impetus not to start racing, but rather, what was pushing me more and more that ultimately forced me to examine why and could and should I stop?

So it occurred to me that there are 2 different forces at work – desire and fear. Initially, my desire was curiosity and excitement of discovering a new sport – to get fit, get stronger and faster and get more competitive. All of which seemed positive in nature. As the years went by and the more racing I did, the harder it became to slow down in my efforts to get better and faster. What I was losing sight of as I was pushing to my limits was how hard it was to accept the reality that I couldn’t stop.

My desire was slowly being replaced by fear – the fear of slowing down or being less competitive. The sport and triathlon community can drive your decisions if you allow it to. Much like anything in life – what is your why?

What I also realized was how sports imitates life and vice versa. I started to examine what else in my life was being driven and dictated by desire or fear? My work, personal relationships, travel, exploring new hobbies.

Thankfully, being a curious student of human nature and working in the field of preventive medicine I was able through much self-exploration to get clarity on this issue.

Much of my behavior was fear – based. What would happen if I trained and raced less? If I took off a season to explore other hobbies? The fear of the unknown or even if I came to the realisation that I was always pushing myself so hard – a part of me didn’t want to stop and take notice.

Fear is a negative motivator. We are held hostage of its grip. Your thoughts often begin with – I must.. I should.. If I don’t… As opposed to desire – I want to… I look forward to…. There’s very little in this world that brings us pure joy that is fear-based. It’s often been said that success is not what you accomplish but rather what you overcome. Getting over and out of fear-driven thinking leads us to real gratification. The greatest athletes of our time, were and are, driven by an unwavering desire to win and compete. They use powerful visualization techniques that propel them to excellence with little room for doubt or fear.

I have always been an optimist – having a positive outlook on life and trying to see the best in people and myself. I was a “glass half -full” person. So, I knew that I could trust myself in making the right decision but arriving at that decision was tricky.

We are all impacted by so many internal and external factors that influence our thinking and behaviors. As such, it’s important to get clarity on your why.

Gaining Clarity

1. Do you see yourself through the eyes of others.

2. Do you feel the need to please others.

3. What are your personal goals.

4. Are your goals your own and are they realistic and attainable.

5. Do you have hard time saying no.

6. Are you adventurous and like to explore new places, meet new people and try new things.

7. Failure and not reaching your desired goal is part of growth and should serve as an incentive from which to learn.

8. Do you battle with self-doubt.

9. Are you curious by nature.

10. Are you a source of motivation for others and take initiative.

Clarity

Clarity empowers you to move forward on your decisions. It gives you strength and a path to reaching your goals. It helps you to get around obstacles as you move forward seeking out the path of least resistance.

Injuries in sports or conflicts in relationships are signs not to be ignored. Manage them and don’t ignore them. Use them as learning experiences.

Repetitive overuse injuries tend to be correlated with reoccurring thinking and rigid behavioral patterns. We are products of our thinking and beliefs. Your body has its own mind and once you tune into it and pay attention the easier life is to manage.

Life After Triathlon

After 19 yrs and 135 triathlons I have decided to move on. In fact it has been a gradual unwinding process. The sport gave me so much and taught me a lot about human potential and how hard work and dedication can pay huge dividends. I developed interesting and diverse life-long friendships as well as travel to many cool destinations. But, more significantly, while I was getting faster, stronger and more competitive, I was slowly shifting my life balance. It was this realization that was the impetus for change and my eventual decision to move on.

As I look back on my triathlon years I have many interesting memories, thoughts and feelings. I met some amazing athletes, from elite and professional triathletes to individuals that sought out the sport to test their ability and to overcome self-doubt to working with combat injured marines who overcame physical disabilities to PTSD. I realize that multisport racing, was and is, a huge commitment and not for everyone. I transformed my body going from 185 to 150 lbs so I could train and race competitively. This was an arduous process that challenged me on many levels – but was a necessary evil in order to compete at a high level. Sacrifices were many, including a healthy, long-term relationship because I was so all consumed with the triathlon lifestyle. Most of the travel I did was centered around training or racing. Looking back, I know that I wasn’t really available to be in a healthy and balanced relationship. At the time, triathlon was my priority. It was like a drug, and unless you didn’t partake like I did, I was quick to disengage.

Today, I have a healthy and balanced relationship with my wife, take more time to travel, ( I still seek out where the nearest pool or open water and great running trails are located) pick up new hobbies or revisit old ones. I can share my experiences with others and help them avoid or learn from my mistakes. While I do miss the endorphin high I’d get from a hard -earned podium spot or reaching new levels of fitness, I was conflicted with the seemingly never ending pursuit of excellence. Was the sport putting these demands on me or were they self-inflicted? Was I ever truly satisfied with my accomplishments and how much did they really define me?

Today, I’m not so connected to my watch and the need to measure my performance and output. I see many of my friends who still race and it seems some are built for the sport and its demands, while others struggle to stay healthy and cannot divorce themselves from racing. Their bodies, whether its nagging injuries, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, food cravings, immune system issues, are screaming for attention. I refer to these athletes as “sick-fit.” While they exhibit the ability to race and push their bodies, their underlying systems are failing them. They have taught themselves to ignore symptoms of fatigue and over-training. I tell my clients and friends once something no longer brings you joy and feels like you are pushing a boulder up a hill, you need to ask yourself if it is time to re-evaluate your life and your commitment to your sport. Are you in control or is the sport in control of you?

If you are new to the sport or new to endurance sports, join a triathlon club or seek out a well-known coach so you get off on the right foot and hold you accountable. There’s much to learn and much to gain. If you have any questions or need some advice you can reach out to me. As long as you stay in balance and listen to your body, you can have a very rewarding experience and reach goals you may never thought possible.

NFLD – Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

NFLD a condition whereby fat accumulates in the liver and compromises function. It is, in fact, an increasingly growing problem that is often left unchecked and overlooked. The liver performs about 500 functions – critical in detoxification, hormone balance, blood sugar regulation, helps in storing vitamins and minerals, facilitates blood clotting and immune system modulation. It’s often referred to as the “stealth organ” – functioning quietly until problems arise. It’s now considered in the medical community as the “silent killer.”

It doesn’t just afflict obese and diabetic individuals. Liver disease is often associated with excessive alcohol use. NAFLD doesn’t have to be triggered by alcohol use.

NAFLD is dangerous because the triglyceride fats released by a damaged liver are in fact a better predictor of heart disease than LDL cholesterol. It’s closely linked to metabolic syndrome, which involves high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and weight gain – a precursor to stroke, diabetes and cognitive impairment.

Left untreated, NAFLD can progress to NASH ( nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) – liver inflammation. This can lead to liver fibrosis which can lead to cirrhosis, and ultimately, liver failure.

The good news: all factors that lead to NAFLD are lifestyle related. Changes in your diet, levels of activity and reducing environmental toxins can significantly improve the health of your liver.

Artificial Sweeteners and Processed Foods

NAFLD can be fueled by artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates. High consumption of these foods has a profound effect on fatty liver. Oddly, it’s not fat intake that drives up fatty levels in the liver. Excess fat in the liver comes from either surrounding adipose tissue (where elevated insulin triggers fat storage) or is created in the liver when we consume high levels of fructose ( also known as de novo lipogenesis).

When we consume fructose it is processed in the liver. The body’s preferred fuel storage substance is glycogen, but the liver cannot easily convert fructose into glycogen. Since fructose has to be stored somewhere, the liver converts it into fat – the body’s other energy storage molecule. Alcohol and fructose are metabolized the same way. Sugar has been termed the “alcohol of a child.”

Accumulated fat in the liver then leads to two possibilities – the fat can return to the bloodstream as triglycerides, which can stick to the artery walls, leading to atherosclerosis, or it can remain in the liver and disrupt liver function.

How NAFLD progresses to NASH:

According to Dina Halegoua-DeMarzio, MD, ” The presence of fat in the liver causes stress to the liver cells surrounded by the fat. The new fat cells move in next to healthy liver cells, irritating and inflaming them. Then those irritated liver cells lay down scarce tissue, and that decreases liver function.”

Additionally, before steatosis starts, liver function deteriorates, leading to problems throughout the body – reducing elimination of toxins and hormone byproducts and weakening the immune system.

Blood sugar dysregulation also occurs. Once the liver becomes fatty from too much fructose, the pancreas starts to over compensate for the weakened liver. It releases more insulin to aid the liver but ends up creating new fat. This makes fatty liver disease both a “trigger and a result of metabolic dysfunction, in which fat burning slows and insulin becomes dysregulated, leading to a host of other health issues.”

Frank Lipman, MD, states: “I never think of fatty liver as separate from metabolic dysfunction.” Metabolic dysfunction, similarly, cannot be separated from the conditions that result from it: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Other Triggers of NAFLD

Choline Deficiency – choline is a nutrient that helps transport fat throughout the body. Great sources are eggs and liver. If someone is deficient in choline, fat gets into liver but cannot get out.

Sedentary Lifestyle – is also a factor. Simply put, exercise burns fat.

Toxin Exposure – the liver serves as the body’s main detoxification organ. The toxic load from environmental and industrial chemicals on our bodies is immense. The exposure and accumulation of toxins is a huge challenge to the liver. Limiting our exposure to these toxins, combined with improved nutrition will vastly reduce the stress on the liver.

Steps To Prevent And Reverse NAFLD.

1. Stop consuming high fructose corn syrup found in processed foods and sodas. A nutrition plan that focuses on whole foods – vegetables, pastured-animal proteins, nuts, seeds, low-glycemic fruits (blueberries, cherries, grapefruit).

2. Consume fructose from fruit with other foods. Fruits do contain fiber, pectin and phytonutrients which are good for the body.

3. Get daily fiber – fiber prevents the intestines from absorbing fructose too soon, avoiding high impact on the liver. Eat fruit with fiber like chia or flax seeds, nuts and nut butters, avocados and leafy greens.

4. Embrace healthy fats – oily fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts abs seeds, grass fed – animal proteins, coconut oil and glee.

5. Avoid fast foods – high in trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.

6. Increase choline – found in eggs and liver. You can also supplement with choline if needed in the form of phosphatidylcholine.

7. Minimize pharmaceuticals – frequent or overuse can harm the liver ( ex: acetaminophen).

8. Minimize toxin exposure – avoid insecticides like DDT, chemicals used in large scale industrial and agricultural operations, common herbicides like atrazine and glyphosate, heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic. So eat organic foods when possible, avoid lawn chemicals, industrial cleaning products, chemical based skin and health care products, use a high quality water filter for your shower and drinking water.

9. Exercise – lowering your body fat can drastically improve liver function and reduce fatty liver. High intensity interval training (HIIT) produces the best fat- burning results.

The Integrative Approach To Treating Depression

Integrative medicine approaches depression very differently than traditional medicine, which focuses on treating symptoms with pharmaceuticals. Physicians often prescribe SSRI’s to handle the dysregulation of neurochemicals like serotonin.

More recently, healthcare professionals are viewing depression as a symptom of multiple underlying issues – including faulty gut health, vitamin deficiencies, genetic factors, toxin exposure, thyroid problems and sleep disturbances. Pharmaceutical treatments can have short term benefits by manipulating brain chemistry. But, longer lasting changes really come from rebalancing and rebuilding integrative systems that impact the brain and body.

Heal The Gut

Serotonin might be the single most important neurotransmitter which is mostly manufactured in the gut and impacts many other neurochemicals. Leaky gut which is triggered by food intolerances and toxins and unhealthful gut bacteria can disrupt the production of serotonin. Additionally, leaky gut can trigger systemic inflammation which also leads to depression. Research shows that treating leaky gut often helped reduce depression significantly. The brain and gut are connected a bi-directional pathway.

Healing the gut and microbiome includes introducing fermented foods ( kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut), taking prebiotics like onion and garlic which help fertilize the good bacteria, lower the consumption of refined carbs and sugars and increase the intake of healthy fats ( cold water fish, flax and chia seeds, avocados, olive and coconut oil).

Address Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin B is crucial to mood regulation. Low levels of B-6, B-9 and B-12 are all correlated to depressive symptoms. B vitamins are critical to the methylation process which supports the body’s production of beneficial neurotransmitters and detoxification process.

Omega 3 fatty acids ( DHA and EPA) are essential to brain function. Recommended dosages are 500 mg of DHA and 1000mg of EPA. If these are low you significantly increase the probability of developing mental illness. Omega 3’s can also be found in cold water fish and flax seeds.

Minimize Toxin Exposure

Exposure to chemicals like pesticides, herbicides and glyphosate found in commercial agriculture and toxicity from heavy metals like mercury and lead have been linked to a variety of disorders including anxiety, panic attacks and clinical depression. Many of these toxins can pass through the blood brain barrier and impact the brain directly. Therefore, eat certified organic foods, drink filtered water, use air purifying filters, replace cleaning and health care products with organic and chemical free ones. Exercising regularly also helps to boost the body’s detoxification process.

Thyroid Function

The thyroid secretes hormones that affect every part of the body, including the brain. Hypothyroidism, indicative of low thyroid hormones as been linked to depression. It is often triggered by an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the thyroid tissue thinking it’s an invader. Gluten is often a trigger- which has been shown to imitate thyroid tissue. Resetting the thyroid involves a combination of diet and lifestyle interventions.

Genes

SNP’s ( single nucleotide polymorphisms) are genetic variations which are passed through generations. It’s been estimated that up to 40% of our population carry the MTHFR SNP which impairs vitamin B production which impedes the methylation process – needed for detoxification and the production of neurotransmitters needed for mental health and mood stabilization. It’s the SNP for methylation that get passed on not a gene for depression. The good news – we can treat methylation. Protocols for treating depression include methylated B vitamins and increasing exercise.

Sleep

Sleep deprivation and over sleeping can be a strong trigger for depression. It’s during our sleep that the brain and body detoxify. Every cell is in the human body is essentially a molecular machine that has evolved to function on a 24 hour cycle called circadian rhythms. Our neurochemistry is correlated with our circadian sleep cycle. Our bodies and brain function optimally when we go to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light and ideally at the same time every day.

Additionally, healthy and regular social interactions are as important as diet, exercise and sleep in impacting and managing depression. We are all very impacted by the people we engage and spend most of our time with!

Mindfulness and meditation practices have also been shown to be powerful antidotes to managing stress that is often a trigger for depression

New Treatments For Depression

Probiotics – help boost and promote beneficial and diverse bacteria in our gut, where most of our serotonin is produced. What’s good for the gut is good for the brain.

Light Treatment – has been used successfully to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and non – SAD conditions.

Movement Therapy – rhythmic movements have been shown to elevate mood enhancing neurochemicals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – this therapy has been used to help calm people before bedtime and ensure better quality sleep and reducing insomnia.