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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How do successful dieters make weight release permanent?

Recently a new study was presented at the Obesity Society  ( a subset of the National Weight Control Registry ). 3000 people who successfully  managed their weight were asked to answer yearly questionnaires over a 5 year period. These 9 techniques seemed to stand out:

1) Tracked their food intake.
2) Counted calorie or fat grams or used commercial weight-loss programs to track food intake.
3) Ate about 1800 calories a day, and less than 3000 calories a day.
4) Ate breakfast regularly.
5) Ate similar foods regularly and didn't splurge much on holidays or special occasions.
6) Walked about an hour a day or burned the equivalent calories on another activity.
7) Watched fewer than 10 hours of TV a week.
8) Weighed themselves at least once a week.
9) Limited the amount they ate out ( average of only 3 times a week).     

click here for description of Your Wellness Buddy  coaching package designed to help with sustaining change

Why is saliva important?

Saliva begins the digestive process and keeps the mouth lubicated. During one lifetime, a person can produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Do women's hearts beat faster then men's?

Yes, they do because women tend to be smaller then men and also have less mass to pump blood to.  Medical research has also found that many treatments (for heart attack) that work for men have to be adjusted to work for women.  

Do our feet have sweat glands?

Feet have 500,000 sweat glands which can produce about a pint of sweat a day. THis may help explain why gym shoes can smell. Men also have more sweat glands  then women do.  

How many functions does the liver have?

It is said that the liver has over 500 different liver functions, and is one of the busiest organ in the body. It produces bile, helps in the decomposition of red blood cells, synthesises plasma protein, and aids in detoxification, and many more.  

How fast is a sneeze?

We can sneeze at speeds of 100 mph, which is a good reason to cover our mouths when sneezing. Have you ever tried keeping your eyes open when sneezing?  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How often does the stomach lining replace itself?

The reason why the stomach lining keeps replacing itself, every 3 to 4 days,  is that it would, otherwise,  dissolve due to our strong digestive acids.  An ulcer is when the stomach acids burn through the lining quicker than it can replace itself. Ouch!! 

Does physical activity trump genetic expression?

The Institute of Metabolic Science in the UK report that even small amounts of exercise (30 minutes a day for 5 days a week) can counter the DNA predisposition to obesity. This physical activity can include walking the dog, gardening, or commuting to work by bike.

This study focused on the FTO gene which was first linked to obesity in 2007; people with this gene were measured to have a 30% higher risk of obesity. This gene is common: 74% Europeans, 76% African Americans, and 44% of Asian descent carry this gene.

They found that if people exercised the risk of obesity could drop by 27%.

In order to confirm this statistic, the researchers went back to all FTO gene studies (both published and unpublished) in order to standarize the data.  They found that more than one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a week, was enough to influence this particular gene.

The researchers were not able to determine how exercise trumped the effects of genes, just that it did.        

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's the difference between being trapped and being stuck?

A most respectable psychologist, Ben Michaelis, recently pondered on the difference between being trapped and being stuck. He wrote that being trapped, is when struggling to get free, sinks you deeper into ignoring debt generates even more debt via fines, interest, and penalties.

Being stuck, though, even though it may feel as if trapped, still allows one to get free with enough patience and effort.  

Dr Michaelis's three tips to avoid falling the trap of feeling trapped is to:

1) Reframe the situation. Say, "I am not trapped, just stuck".  say it over and over again.
2) Take one action. Do one small thing to begin getting unstuck. One small step is a reminder that change is within reach.
3) Commit to doing one thing the next day. Write it on a piece of paper and  put it somewhere prominent so you will sure to see it.   

Repeat numbers 2 and 3 each day until momentum is yours and the feeling of being trapped has faded. 

What is the best way to keep hunger hormones balanced?

Hunger hormones are leptin and grhelin. Permanent weight control involves maintaining balance between these two hormones. Here are the 7 ways to keep hunger hormones balanced:
1) Eat 3 meals a day
2) Space calories throughout the day; no food bingeing.
3) Pay attention to hunger.
4) Sleep 8 hours a night.
5) Exercise.
6) Ger treatment for stress, depression, pain, and substance abuse.
7) Never stop. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How many blood vessels does the human body have?

The human body has about 60,000 miles of blood vessels. The distance around the earth is 25,000 miles.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How large is a human lung?

The surface area of a human lung is equal to a tennis court. The lungs are filled with thousands of branching bronchi and clusters of alveoli
which oxygenate the blood.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What is stomach acid ?

The hydrochloric acid found in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve many kinds of metal. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Which is the largest internal organ?

The small intestine is 4 times as long as the average adult is tall. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How much energy does the brain use?

The brain uses as much power as a 10 watt light bulb, even when asleep.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How smart is the human brain?

The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How much heat does the body generate?

The body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil. The body gives off a large amount of calories to keep us at a steady 98.6 degrees.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Are there ways to improve self-control?

Yes, there are ways to improve self-control.

A main way to maintain self-control is in how we think.

Psychologists have also found that self-control is strongly linked to successful behaviour, higher self-esteem, better interpersonal skills, and better emotional responses.

Dr Fujita from Ohio State University studied ways to improve self-control and came up with the following 3 ways of thinking:

1) Global processing: Those focusing on the big picture (the forest rather than the trees) found self-control easier. For a person wanting to improve diet, this might mean to focus on the goal of good health and how each individual decision about what to eat contributes (or detracts) from that goal.

2) Abstract reasoning: Those focusing more on the end rather than the means. For someone wanting to stick to exercising this might look like focusing on the vision of ideal physical health, rather than the details of the exercise.

3) High-level categorisation: Those focusing on why they were doing something rather than how. This might look like breaking a project into stages and focusing on the goal/why of each stage, rather than specific task of that stage.

The researchers found that those able to stay in touch with the big picture were better able to:

  • Avoid instant gratification.
  • Make a greater investment to learn more about their health status.
  • See temptations as beer & TV as negative (ie distracting from health/exercise).   

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Every day an adult body produces 300 billion new cell.

Why is change so difficult?

This has to do with basic brain physiology. When learning something new we use our "working memory" which requires much energy to function and fatigues easily as it has limited cognitive resources.  Because the "working memory" can easily get overwhelmed, it pushes repetitive  activity into the basal ganglia (or automatic pilot parts of the brain). Once this happens we have a new habit, we can do the new activity without thinking. This frees up cognitive resources for the "working memory" part of the brain.

Forging new brain circuits, as in learning something new, is exhausting. It's like walking through a huge snow bank, rather than
taking the already shovelled trail. We have to go slower, pay more attention, and put in much more effort. Consequently, some people give up learning new things.   

What is the "What the hell effect"?

This phenomena was studied by Dr Polivy at the University of Toronto. Dieters and non-dieters were tricked to think they had over eaten pizza during the experiment.  The non-dieters ate fewer cookies for dessert, and the dieters ate more cookies.

Why? The researcher explained this as the "what the hell" effect. The dieters, thinking they had already blown their diets thought they might as well make the most of it, and splurg on the cookies for dessert.

The non-dieters, thinking they had overeaten pizza, felt they should take it easy on the dessert.

The moral of the story?  Diets don't work because dieters learn to ignore internal cues like hunger and satiety, because the focus becomes more on  counting calories,  points, and/or portion control. Diets leave little room for instinct, a necessity for long term healthy eating habits.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Can you make it easier to understand stress management strategy?

It can be overwhelming or confusing to know how to select the appropiate stress management.  I've divided all stress management strategies into 4 main categories. Focus on the category which seems to make the most sense for you, exhaust it's possibilities before moving onto another category. This may work better than feeling scattered over numerous stress management techniques, which could cause more stress than help alleviate it:

1) Increase body's resilience to stress:

A certain amount of stress comes with normal life. If you don't take good care of your body, you will feel the effects of stress more than someone who takes good care of themselves. Taking good care of your body means to stay hydrated, eat nutritious foods, sleep well, exercise, and reduce coffee, sugars, alcohol. Eliminate tobacco and other harmful addictions.

2) Change the situation:

It's very difficult to inoculate the body against stress if the situation/s are constantly toxic. Abusive relationships, overwork, bullying bosses, overspending, high risk behaviors should be changed if at all possible.  It may not be possible to quit a job, in the moment, in which case working on increasing body's resilience to stress would seem the next best option.

3) Change how you think about stress:

Critical, negative thinking patterns result in more stressful interpretations of events or situations. If you are the type of person who always sees their glass as half empty instead of  half full, it may make sense to challenge your thought patterns. This is easiest done with the help of a counselor. Practising turning lemons into lemon aid, or keeping a gratitude journal may also be useful, if counselling is not available.

4) Reduce the stressor response:

People who have suffered trauma, or grown up in war zones or in highly conflicted homes have sensitive stressor responses. This means their body's are triggered into "fight or flight" mode more easily than others. The "fight or flight" response generates physiological responses which eventually create stress related physical conditions, especially if chronically aroused.  Activities such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, prayer, acupuncture, Tai Chi, etc. serve to reduce the brain's stressor response if practised diligently over time.  

How much water is in the brain?

Our brain is 80% water; it's not the firm, gray mass we think it is. It's more like jelly with a high water content. Therefore, it's important to keep the brain hydrated.

How much oxygen does the brain use?

Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen that enteres your bloodstream, yet only makes up 2% of  your body mass. This makes is very vulnerable to oxygen deprivation.

Keep deep breathing to keep your brain working at it's best.

This explains why we stop thinking clearly when anxious, as in fight or flight,  as our Central Nervous System sends more available oxygen to our limbs. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Is procastination always bad?

Much has been written on procrastination but little on the paradox of productive procrastination.

We tend to think of procrastination as a negative behavior. But not necessarily. It can also been used as productive.

There are two sorts of productive procrastination: structured and unstructured.

Structured procrastination is avoiding something you really need to do,  but alternatively attending to things which are important but rarely get done such as:

Organizing receipts,  desk clutter, closets, or email inboxes.

Networking with acquaintances, colleagues, friends often neglected.

Planning the day timer, vacation schedule, or thinking about doing something other than what you should be doing.

Running errands which never seem to get done.

Filing  bills, assorted paperwork, magazines, photos.

Unstructured procastination is also a good way to keep busy, but not necessarily productive, in the short term.

Exercising has benefits of creating energy.

Daydreaming can generate great ideas.

Relaxing is necessary for productivity, in the long run.

Reading a good book can expose you to others' good ideas.

Surfing the net can also generate ideas.

What are hunger hormones?

The three hunger hormones are


They must be kept in balance for healthy weight management.

Insulin is the hormone which allows the cells to take sugar/glucose from the blood and use it as energy. If your body is insulin resistant , meaning that the cells don't take up sugar/glucose from the blood, the pancreas will secrete more insulin after eating a high sugar meal, because the cells aren't getting their glucose. The "starving" cells generate the signal to eat more carbohydrates, which is experienced as a carb craving, sweet tooth, or a gnawing desire to eat.

Ghrelin is the hormone which makes you feel hungry. Leptin lowers appetite. If your diet ( protein, fat, carbohydrates) is out of balance,  the body does not receive proper signams to stop eating.

A study from the University of Washington in 2007 (David Cummings) found that proteins suppressed appetite, fats had no effect on appetite, and carbohydrates initially lowered appetite but then rebounded with a much stronger appetite.

Researchers also found that sleep deprivation altered appetite. Essentially that sleep deprivation increases hunger levels as well as slows metabolism.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How can I plan to sustain my motivation to change ?

Many people think motivation magically arrives and is sustained by itself. The truth is that the more thought and planning we put into a new goal, the greater the possibilities of it's achievement are.

It makes good sense to commit to the techniques of sustaining motivation. Click here for a worksheet on Planning for Sustaining Motivation.  Download the sheet and take notes as you read this.

One Goal: Many of us take on too much at once. The best way to make a lasting change is to focus on one goal at a time. Put all of your change energy on this one goal, until it becomes more of a habit. Focus on one goal at a time.

Inspiration: To be inspired means to feel mentally or emotionally stimulated to do something. The more stimulated you feel, the stronger your chances of success. Many of us go to motivational speakers or read stories of successful people to nurture our inspiration.  Stock up on sources of inspirational material to keep you going as you pursue your goal. Use this as your bedtime reading as you continue to work on your goal.

Passion & Excitement: This is a tad different than inspiration. Once stimulated to make a change, we also have to create enough energy to continue with it. One very good way is to visualize success, visualize as often as possible, make a vision board, talk to others who are excited for you. Find a way to keep this energy going. See it, smell it, feel it, hear it.

Anticipation: Looking forward to the day you start working on the goal will help build energy and motivation.  How do you feel when looking forward to a party, or a trip, or a nice dinner out?  You can generate this same feeling of anticipation when planning to start a new wellness goal. Mark a date a week, or two, in advance and spend that time preparing for the big day.  Make sure you plan all aspects of implementing your new goal.

Advertise: Post your goal. Make a simple sign of only a few words, and put it all over your house or office where you will be reminded of your focus. Get creative. Use pictures, words, email reminders, anything will do as long as it helps build your excitement.

Public Commitment: Hold yourself accountable by making public statements to friends, family, community. It's much harder to back down knowing others are cheering you on. Find or even create your own support group.

Daily Thought:  Find a way to remind yourself daily of your goal. Do one small thing everyday towards your goal. Send yourself email messages.  Get friends to take turns phoning or texting you.

Support: It's much more diffucult achieving a goal alone. Make sure you have people you can call on if you're feeling discouraged or unmotivated. Make these arrangements ahead of time. It's best to find a support group or system to help you sustain your motivation.

Ebb and flow: It's normal for motivation to come and go. Don't give up if feeling discouraged. All of the planning you are doing will help sustain you during the times of ebb.

Benefits: The painful or uncomfortable aspects of  change are much easier to think about than the benefits. Train yourself to focus on benefits. Post lists of the benefits throughout your home or office. Create some way to help you remember the reason why you are wanting this change.

Positive Thinking:  Watch your thoughts and notice if you are going towards negative thinking.  Take the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Affirmations can help. Post-its can help. Snapping rubber bands on your wrists can help. Be creative. Have fun.

Start Small: When setting your goal make sure it is small enough to be manageable. Your coach will make sure your goal is well articulated using the SMART system. It's too easy to get overwhelmed by lofty goals, and then just give up completely.

I know some of the above points can be overlapping, but it makes sense to tease out every aspect of your new goal, so that should the going get have backup already prepared.

There is nothing wrong with finetuning your plans as you go. You may have new ideas,  find better ways of support, or need to rethink the goal. Remember there's always a Plan A, and a Plan B, and a Plan C.

Why don't exercisers crave their workouts despite "runners high" ?

Why is it that many have to force themselves to work out, even though exercise releases feel good hormones such as dopamine and endorphines? A UBC researcher (Matthew Ruby) recently asked the same question and surveyed numerous gym members to find out.

People are generally bad at predicting how they'll feel in the future.  The early unpleasantness of exercise causes a short-sightedness so that people tend not to focus of the future "high" of working out, but remain reluctant due to the initial discomfort.... and therefore often forgo their exercise commitment.

So how can this research be useful for those wanting to step up their exercise program?  First of all, to focus only on the good feelings that come later in the routine. Secondly, to rearrange the routine starting with  favourite exercises.  Both these strategies can increase motivation to stick to the routine.

What is a coaching sheet?

 A coaching sheet is a worksheet completed by yourself before you meet with your support group, coach, or mentor. It forces you to clearly articulate what you are doing or not doing towards your goal/s. It also provides a guideline for your coaching discussions, to keep you and your coach on track.  Download this sheet and start formulating the goal you's like to start working towards.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wht don't people like to tell their doctors if they're depressed?

A team of University of California psychologists surveyed 1,054 adults in California to ask what might keep them from talking about depression with their doctors.

23% said they didn't want to take antidepressants.
12% said they didn't want to be labeled as a psyche patient.
16% said they didn't think psychological issues were a primary care issue
15% said they were concerned about medical record confidentiality.

This helps explain why about 25% of people with depression go undiagnosed, and therefore untreated. 

What's the best way to commit to a goal?

It's relatively easy to get distracted from our goals mainly due to lack of commitment. People don't commit to goals they don't expect to achieve. Psychological researchers (Oettingen et al., 2001) found that the most effective way to force people to decide whether their goals were achievable was to contrast the positive vision of the problem solved with the negative aspects of their reality.

The "contrasting technique" seems to work because people don't like inconsistencies between what they have, with what they want. There's something about focusing on this difference either confirms that achievement is either possible or not. If not, they let the goal go. If achievement seems possible, commitment follows.

The other two goal attainment techniques
1) positive visualization of problem solved, and
2) dwelling of negativity of the present

were not as effective as combining the two.  Psychologist call the process of  combining incompatibilities as  cognitive dissonance.
This mental contrasting makes people ask themselves if the goal is really something worth pursuing.

Here is a goal committment worksheet to help you work through the process described above.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What is Neuroadaptation?

This term refers to the process  of our senses getting used to sensations because of the way our sensory nerves and brain interact.  When we ease into a tub of very hot water, we slowly adapt until the temperature feels normal. When we enter a room with a humming fridge, we soon get used to the irritating buzz and forget about it.  We all eventually get used to accustomary smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and tactile sensations.  

Unfortunately  taste buds have maladapted (gotten used to ) to our industrialized diet of high sugars, fat, and sodium.  A diet without the stimulatory effects of the Standard American Diet (SAD) tastes bad.  A health promoting diet of no sugars, less animal fats, less salt is not as enjoyable to the palate used to the excess stimulation of refined foods, artificially concentrated delights, and hormonally  engineered meats. "Ice cream is an extraordinary invention for intensifying taste pleasure- an artificial concoction of pure fat and refined sugar". (The Pleasure Trap by Douglas Lisle and Alan Goldhammer)  French fries and potato chips are by far the most popular vegetable in our Western society.

A major obstacle in changing to a "clean" diet is this concept of the neuroadaption to artificially intense foods.  A change to  less stimulating foods can result in a reduced pleasure experience, hence many people continue to crave their former diets.  

Scientific research shows that re-sensitization of taste nerves can take 30 to 90 days of consistent exposure to less stimulating foods.
And during this period most people experience less pleasure from eating food. It requires more motivation and self-discipline to re-calibrate the taste buds, hence the frequent relapses to former ways of eating.  Most Western citizens are addicted to processed foods and many feels that a switch to clean food is being condemned to less pleasurable eating.  

Some people manage this "food addiction" by allowing their palates to detox. Experiences have shown that a one week water  only fast is enough to re-calibrate the taste buds. After this detox week,  clean foods can actually tastes better than artificial and processed ones.

Others,  just knowing, that food will once again become pleasurable in one to three months,  is enough to stay on course.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Are there different types of exercise motivation?

Why is it useful to understanding your motives for wanting to exercise? Because knowing what drives you to want to exercise helps you choose the best exercise plan for you and may help solidify your committment to developing an exercise habit.

The most obvious reason why people start exercising is to loose weight or build muscle or shape the body.

But there are 2 other motives: psychological and social motives. Psychological motives would be to improve mood, reduce tension, or manage stress.

Social motives have to do with liking competition and social contact.

Dr James Gavin further subdivides each of these 3 exercise motives into the 6 following subcategories.

Body Motives:

  1. Vanity
  2. Sexuality
  3. Addiction
  4. Weight
  5. Health
  6. Youth

Psychological Motives:

  1. Self-esteem
  2. Achievement 
  3. Moods/tension
  4. Stress
  5. Meaning
  6. Playfulness
Social Motives
  1. Sociability
  2. Anger
  3. Assertiveness
  4. Competitiveness
  5. Relationship
  6. Power

A worksheet will be posted shortly. 

What is "The Longevity Project" ?

In 1921 Lewis Termin (Stanford University psychologist) surveyed 1,500 elementary school students on lifestyle habits. He continued to follow them until his death in 1956. Other academics continued the study and in 1990 Howard Friedman and Lesie Martin analyzed the data looking for factors contributing to lengthy life spans. They came up with 5 factors more astonishing traits:

1) Those who engaged in service work and helping others  lived the longest.

2) High achievers, despite high levels of stress, lived longer then underachievers.

3) Moderate exercise is as beneficial as grueling workouts, in fact, may be better for longevity.

4) Some worry is better than too much optimism, as it forces one to be prepared for adversity.

5)Women who most often reached climax,  also lived the longest.    

What is intrinsic motivation?

Motivation is the drive which pushes people to take action. The stronger the motivation the stronger the intention to follow through with decisions. Action is always preceded by motivation

There are 2 types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is when drive comes as a result of some sort of inner reward, as opposed to extrinsic (outer) rewards such as trophies, approval, medals, money, rewards, etc.

Intrinsic motivation comes when someone has fun doing what they do, it makes them feel good,  they like the activity.

Too many extrinsic rewards can end up undermining intrinsic motivation.