At AHS 2012 (holy time flying that was more than two years ago now) I had the most perfect 30 second exchange of my entire life with Mark Sisson.
We were in complete agreement: the health industry, we said, was headed toward a major shift in focus. No longer will we need to worry so much about what to eat. We know that already. What we need to do is learn how to eat those foods. America’s problem with food isn’t knowledge — it’s loyalty.
We said all of these things exchanging about twenty-two words and fifty head nods apiece. I can’t remember how we did it.
In any case, I recently gave a talk (and quite an awesome one, if I do so say myself) describing my ten favorite tips for how to be loyal to a healthy diet. For those of you who have read this blog for a while now or who have read Sexy by Nature, some of the themes will definitely be familiar to you.
I argue, for example, that “the most important tool in any dieter’s toolkit is love.” I ask that you be partners with your body. I espouse on the virtues of self-love for several minutes. But some of them are most likely not all that familiar, and I manage to fill in explicit details and observations I’ve made in my consulting practice and in my own life that end up making it fairly entertaining.
Here’s part of the list of the ten ideas I propose:
Know What You’re Up Against
(Arming yourself with knowledge about the poison being peddled to you helps you make smart choices. Perhaps even more important, it gives you the indignance you need to help you say no.)
Make Cooking Easy
(Wherein I provide approximately 600 tips for turning your culinary life into a breeze. My personal solution is to do 90% of my cooking in the microwave. I know that’s not for everybody.)
Keep Healthy Food on Hand
(Wherein I talk about snacks, travel, work, and excuses.)
Make Healthy Food the Choice, Not the Rule
(Unless you’ve got an autoimmune disease, diets are guidelines, not rules. Forbidding foods = unhappiness.)
Love Your Body and Yourself
(“Change is not always easy. Yet the more you love yourself, the less willpower it requires. Love makes you want instead of feel like you have to eat healthfully.”)
Never Punish Yourself for What You’ve Eaten
(Wherein I get real about acceptance.)
…and more. (I’m simply not sharing all of them and in full because I’m pretty sure there are copyright issues involved.)
Read the full list of tips, watch a trailer of the video, and watch the complete 30 minute video at the Entheos Academy for Optimal Living here.
While we’re at it, I may as well tell you about what a stellar, life-changing business the Academy for Optimal Living is. (At least in my experience.) It’s basically like Netflix for your brain and your soul. You sign up (there’s a good-length free trial)-and receive access to hundreds of classes on topics ranging from the proper interpretation of Nietzsche to how to fuel your body as a triathlete. Their tagline is “optimize your life. change the world.” Awesome, I know, and I am so honored and grateful to be considered a “Professor” (alongside people like Abel James and JJ Virgin) and a “thought leader in the field of women’s health” by these giants of wisdom, and even happier to be able to take their classes.
The following is a guest post by one of my favorite storytellers, Camille DePutter.
Do you ever feel like there’s a part of you that goes unseen?
You may have all kinds of external recognition in your life from work, family, friends, the people who wave hello when they see you, and yet… you still wish to be somehow more ‘seen,’ more ‘heard,’ or more fully, demonstrably “you” in your life.
This feeling may be subtle, or it may be a loud, growing plea within. If you can relate at all to this sensation, you’re not alone. While we go about our lives, doing our work and fulfilling our responsibilities, we all have our private struggles and victories – the stuff we’re not supposed to talk about.
But if you have the courage to draw out these inner experiences and share them, even with the tiniest, quietest voice, they can actually help your true self claim more of the stage in your own life.
Personal stories have the power to either weigh us down, or to set us free. Let me be clear: I’m not talking about the same old stories, the ones that have been holding you back, telling you you’re not good enough. When I encourage people to tell their stories, I’m talking about cashing in the unhealthy, self-limiting beliefs that no longer serve us and in exchange for a re-write. I’m inviting you to re-craft your personal story to bring to light the insights and gems you’ve gained through your unique way of seeing the world.
I know what it’s like to find the idea of self-revelation very, very scary. Most of my life I carried a secret. In reality it was not a deep, dark secret worth writing about in a gossip column, but to me it felt big, it felt scary, and it felt shameful.
I was born with a heart condition. From a young age I fought the truth that my heart, though functional, was different. It beat more erratically and slower than a heart should. To me, as a young child, this meant weakness and fragility, and for much of my life I lived in denial of the truth. As I grew up, I worked hard physically to be on par with my peers so no one would notice a difference. If forced to reveal the truth that my heart was born flawed, I did so in tiny anxious increments. With each small reveal I felt exposed, anxious, and deeply vulnerable.
Over the decade of my twenties I began to claim more inner-acceptance, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago, when I took the opportunity to get onstage at a public speaking event and share my story with a large audience of strangers, that a bigger, deeper inner transformation took place. The most important part of this public “outing” was not so much my time on stage as it was doing the personal work to get there.
As I prepared the speech I gained a deeper awareness and appreciation for the relationship, still ongoing, between me and my heart. The process of writing and re-writing a speech about my heart allowed me to own the story of my heart; it enabled me to turn this past shame into an integral part of how I express myself in the world.
By sharing my imperfect truth, I uncovered a well of untapped strength. Today the story my heart is a central part of who I am: it’s integrated into my branding at camilledeputter.com, it’s a gateway for me to connect with others, and it’s even imprinted as a tattoo on my skin. In all honesty, telling my story still feels uncomfortable and a bit scary. But the more I share of myself, the more I get back in return. And I’ve made it my mission to help others do the same.
Do you have a story that is waiting to be told? Here are five tips to help you start bring your personal story into the light.
1) Tell yourself first.
You’ve heard the old financial adage ‘pay yourself first’? In this case, the currency is your own experiences, learned lessons and insights. Step one to claiming your story is to tell it to yourself. I encourage everyone to start by writing things down, with no one else watching or listening. I call this structured journaling: buy yourself a special journal for the express purpose of writing about the stuff ‘within’. Rather than writing about the day-to-day stuff, use this journal as an private forum to write about the experiences that have made impressions on you: the things that have hurt you, inspired you, transformed you, and challenged you to be who you are today, and the person you hope to be tomorrow.
2) Forget ‘let it go’. Try ‘let it in’.
There is so much emphasis on the idea of ‘letting things go.’ I believe that we rarely, if ever, let transformative experiences “go” – as though they can somehow just disappear into the ether. Instead of trying to find strength to no longer care about the painful or emotional experiences of your past, try thinking of them as part of a bigger story. What was their role in your story? What is the meaning or message they have left you with? What is the lesson to be shared?
3) Challenge old beliefs
For years I held incorrect beliefs about me, and my body, because of my heart. Afraid of being weak or fragile or less competent I missed so much about my inner athlete, my inner warrior. Give yourself an opportunity to scrutinize old beliefs: Try journaling about one major self-limiting belief. Where did it come from? How has it changed you? Does it feel true today? How could it be re-written?
You may also choose to examine why you’ve been silent so far. Were you ever told you shouldn’t speak up about a personal experience – rather directly or by the tacit silence of society? What do you think would happen if you started to share your story? What would you risk? What might you gain?
Explore these kinds of questions – and any others that feel right – during your structured journaling time.
4) Embrace the work-in-progress
Remember that your story will never be really complete. The point of storytelling is not to capture everything about you, nor is it meant to resonate with every person who hears it. It is not something to put aside until you have figured out every lesson, or until you’ve earned enough credibility to have a say. Start where you are and see where it takes you.
5) Help others by sharing.
One of the most cathartic, empowering aspects of personal story telling is to help others. Whether through a blog, a book, public speaking or even private conversations you may be able to help someone who is going through a similar experience – or someone who is currently wrestling with a whole different set of demons but draws strength from your display of courage, honesty or creativity. Don’t feel obliged to provide cookie cutter lessons for your audience: let your truth speak for itself.
No matter who you are or what you have to say, your story matters. Dare to give yourself a voice here and now, wherever you are at in your personal journey. I can’t wait to hear your story.
[Stefani's note: this was a beautiful post, eh? I am proud to say I didn't edit it at all. Thanks for giving me an easy day of work, Camille!]
Camille DePutter – Bio
Camille DePutter is a communications specialist with a breadth of experience in marketing, branding, public relations, and corporate communications. Her work has been featured in countless magazines, newspapers and blogs, though often as a silent ghost writer on behalf of notable leaders and brands.
Most of all Camille is a storyteller. As an independent communications coach and writer, Camille uses her empathetic superpowers and love of language to help people put words to their own inner stories – helping them to express, share and celebrate the stories that are inside all of us.
You can check out her blog and her business at camilledeputter.com
It may not be a double-blind study, but this poll of thousands of Americans conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health has some pretty damning – and alarming – evidence in store for us Americans:
We are stressed out.
Not just a little bit.
But to a frightening degree.
I feel two very strong, antithetical emotions when I look at this data. On one hand, I feel so much sorrow for all of us stuck in vicious stress cycles. I am saddened, and hurt, and I wish desperately I could make it all better. On the other hand, it’s kind of comforting to look at this data, and to know that I am not alone.
50 % of respondents reported a major stressful event in the past year.
More than 25 % reported being significantly stressed within the past month. When we combine these two statistics, we get the very real conclusion that many people are under significant chronic stress.
There are many fascinating graphs over at the NPR website. I recommend you check them out. They’re good for learning. For example, one piece of data I find particularly interesting, and quite funny, even, is this:
By age group, it’s the 20-somethings who are the most stressed out by having too much responsibility.
I guess it takes some time to adjust to, but I’d imagine having a spouse, children, aging parents to take care of, mortgages, and empoloyees… many of the responsibilities that come later on in adulthood, is a fair bit more pressing than what most people have going on in their twenties.
Like making sure to buy groceries over the weekend and showing up for work on Monday.
Not like I can do any hating, since I am a significantly stressed 20-something. I’d like to excuse myself, on the other hand, or at least get a giant tattoo on my forehead about it, because the vast majority of my stress comes from my heart/kidney issues, which give me palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia.
And I know, I know, I can’t judge anyway. Life as an adult is hard, and it hits you like a freight train when you first try to do it.
Regardless, the source of my stress – my health – brings up the most important and relevant factor for the PfW blog. Of all the respondents surveyed, those who suffer from disabilities or health conditions are the most likely to be stressed. As we would expect, those with health conditions score the highest in reporting stress from their own health conditions (80%). But they also report the highest amount of stress from nearly all other sources, too.
|Overall||Chronic illness||Disabled||In poor health|
|Too many responsibilities overall||54%||53%||53%||63%|
|Problems with finances||53%||58%||64%||69%|
|Own health problems||38%||51%||65%||80%|
|Family health problems||37%||46%||50%||58%|
|Problems with family members||32%||38%||37%||26%|
|Unhappy with the way you look||28%||38%||33%||46%|
|Problems with friends||15%||16%||19%||n/a|
|Changes in family situation||10%||11%||11%||10%|
|Problems with neighbors||7%||5%||7%||4%|
(The graphs are prettier at NPR – go look!)
The far left column is “overall.” The far right is “in poor health.” Taking a look at the above graph, then, we see that, overwhemlingly, those in poor health rank far above the average in just about every category of stress.
It’s not just our health conditions themselves that directly stress us out…
but our health conditions that make everything else stressful, too.
Now, you might ask: is there not a problem in the inference I am making between correlation and causation? Am I drawing a cause and effect relationship where there isn’t one? Perhaps it is a coincidence that people in poor health are more stressed by all stressors than other people. Perhaps people who have stressful situations also develop poor health! Perhaps people who don’t have their shit together just don’t have their shit together, in all categories.
Perhaps, I’d say. Perhaps that is possible.
One piece of data that might support the hypothesis that “just not having your shit together” is the fact that people who earn under $20,000/year also report much greater stress than those who earn more. Without much income, it’s much more likely you’ll eat an unhealthy diet, develop health conditions, and struggle to get the medical and nutritional support you need. It’s also much easier to lose your grip on everything without money. Financial stress bears on the ability to do just about everything in society today.
Nonetheless what these stats and questions all invariably demonstrate is that stress and poor health go hand in hand. If you’re stressed, you might get sick. If you’re sick, you’re almost definitely going to get stressed out by it.
And, if you’re sick, there’s a good chance other aspects of your life will become more challenging, too. Sometimes it’s harder to work. Sometimes it’s harder to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. Sometimes it’s plain old harder to deal, such that even small stressors end up feeling like monumental weights. Poor health very quickly leads to “not having your shit together” syndrome.
And boy, oh boy, do I ever know what that feels like.
The evidence is in for health and happiness, and damning.
Is there a takeaway message? I don’t know.
The best I know that I can personally do with it is have forgiveness for the anxiety I feel, and to move forward working on my health issues with patience, knowing that easier times in many regards are likely ahead.
(Statistically, they’ve just got to be.)
The following is a guest post by a fellow health blogger – Kate – who had an infertility problem then fell in love with leptin.
I used to have a bit of a body fat phobia. Although at 13% body fat, I didn’t really have that much to worry about from what other people would think. I was impressive right?
Problem was, along with no body fat, I also had no period, no ovulation, and, no fertility. I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea. I looked “healthy”, but my reproductive dysfunction indicated otherwise. I knew I had to get this sorted, and fast, as my partner and I were trying to conceive.
I consulted a few of my health practitioner friends. They all suggested that maybe putting on a bit of body fat might help kick things back into gear. As a group fitness instructor who was paid to stand up in front of others in skimpy lycra, this was the last thing I wanted to do. Being the stubborn person I was, I needed justification as to why, and how, fat would help to restore my fertility. Cue leptin.
Leptin is one of the more recently discovered hormones and is often referred to as the “anti-obesity” hormone. In fact, the word “leptin” is derived from the Greek term “leptos” meaning “thin”. This little hormone, which is produced predominantly in adipocytes (fat cells), conveys information to the brain about the amount of energy available in the body. Leptin levels rise with increasing food intake, telling the brain “Yay! All is well. We have sufficient nutrients to do our thang”, and the fall in times of food deprivation, telling the brain “Things aren’t so good. Looks like we’re in a famine and need to shut off non-vital functions”. Unfortunately, reproduction is one of those non-vital functions. We do not need to reproduce in order to survive. Simple as that.
But really, it’s not as simple as that.
We now know that leptin acts as more than just an energy thermostat. Indeed there are over 19,000 papers that have been published on leptin (no, I have not read them all, sorry), showing that leptin has various physiological roles. But back to the case in point – aside from signaling energy sufficiency to my brain, how would body fat and, as a by product of increased body fat, leptin help me to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea and restore my fertility?
That depends on what’s going on during a healthy menstrual cycle.
During the first half of the cycle, otherwise known as the “follicular phase”, follicles (in the ovaries, which house an egg that has the potential to be fertilized) develop. The pituitary gland releases Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) to, as the name suggests, stimulate the follicles to mature and secrete estrogen, which will have the lovely effect of producing fertile cervical mucus. Sorry, we’re getting graphic now.
Once FSH and estrogen have things looking all fertile and sexy, the pituitary gland releases Luteinizing Hormone (LH) to stimulate ovulation, where an egg will burst out of a follicle and wait patiently (for about 12-24hrs…pretty impatient, really) to be fertilized. Meanwhile, the follicle that was left behind becomes the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone and prepares your body to house a mini-human (think pro-gestation).
So FSH and LH (also called gonadotropins) are pretty important. Without them, your sex organs would not receive the message to produce your sex hormones, or to ovulate, or to menstruate. But we are missing an important step. FSH and LH need a little encouragement too, and this comes in the form of another hormone – Gonadotopin Releasing Hormone (GnRH), which is released by the hypothalamus. Are you lost yet? Female hormones are confusing! Quick recap – GnRH stimulates the release of FSH and LH, which promote ovarian function and a healthy menstrual cycle.
Now here’s the kicker – leptin has been found to play a regulatory role on GnRH secretion and hence, overall reproductive function. Whether this is a direct or indirect role remains to be discovered. However, what we do know is that women with hypothalamic amenorrhea (when menstruation ceases due to dysfunctional signals between the hypothalamus and the pituitary) tend to have lower leptin levels than women with healthy, ovulatory cycles, as a result of low body fat and/or increased physical activity and/or insufficient food intake often found in amenorrheic women. These low levels of leptin then contribute to alterations in GnRH secretion, as evidenced by disruptions to LH secretion (Ackerman et al, Goumenoua et al). Interesting, right? Thought so.
Now I know what you’re thinking – what happens if we give someone leptin? Will that get things back on track? Well yes, Welt et al (2004) treated a small number (n=8) of women with hypothalamic amenorrhea with leptin over a period of 3 months and found that the treatment did restore menstruation, ovulation and hence, fertility.
Similarly, Mantzoros et al (2011) boasted this: “Our results indicate that leptin therapy resulted in resumption of menses….in 70% of the subjects [and] 60% of these women also ovulated”
Woo hoo! Let’s all go and get us some leptin to inject….
OR we could just eat more, exercise less and embrace our booty!?
[Stefani notes: You cannot get leptin over-the-counter, or have it tested for in a blood test. I’ve tried both.]
After 2 years of being in denial about the importance of body fat and desperately holding on to my 8-pack abs, which I had thought was my defining feature, I succumbed. I put on (quite) a bit of body fat. I ate more. I exercised less. And I realized that my friends and family probably loved me for more than just my body. Doctor Seuss was right after all when he said:
Smart man that Dr Seuss.
I put on weight. That was the goal, after all. And I definitely was no longer 13% body fat, as evidenced by my increasing bust line (yay) and decreasing (absent) thigh gap (also yay, I think – that shit is just not normal for my body.). One other lovely effect – my period returned. Hurrah! It just goes to show that with a little dedication and a (pretty big) mental shift, beautiful things can happen.
Ladies – your period is a luxury, not a right, and definitely not an inconvenience! If your lady holiday is MIA, see it as the canary in the coalmine and do something about it before the shit really hits the fan (think osteoporosis, heart problems and infertility). Stop trying to reach some warped perception of the “ideal” body and start embracing your natural feminine curves. And remember – you are so much more than what you look like. Be kind to yourself for once.
References for all you fellow nerds out there:
- Ackerman, K.E. et al. (2012) “Higher ghrelin and lower leptin secretion are associated with lower LH secretion in young amenorrheic athletes compared with eumenorrheic athletes and controls”, The American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, 302: E800–E806
- Goumenoua, A.G. et al. (2003) “The role of leptin in fertility”, European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 106:118-124
- Holtkamp, K. et al. (2003) “Reproductive function during weight gain in anorexia nervosa. Leptin represents a metabolic gate to gonadotropin secretion”, Journal of Neural Transmission 110: 427–435
- Mantzoros, C.S. et al. (2011) “Leptin in Human Physiology and Pathophysiology”, The American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, 301: E567–E584
- Moschos, S. et al. (2002) “Leptin and reproduction: a review”, Fertility and Sterility, 77(3): 433-444
- Quennell, J.H. et al. (2009) “Leptin Indirectly Regulates Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Neuronal Function”, Endocrinology, 150(6):2805–2812
- Rexford, S.A (2004) “Body Fat, Leptin and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea”, New England Journal of Medicine, 351 (10): 959-962
Kate is a Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach specializing in hormone healing. Kate has over 13 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. She is passionate about helping others achieve optimal wellness through nutrient-dense traditional whole-foods, adopting mindful and sustainable life practices, and moving in ways which rejuvenate rather than deteriorate the body. Kate’s goal is to educate, inspire and empower others to live life to the fullest each and every day. Kate can be reached at www.theholisticnutritionist.com
If you have been living anywhere other than under a rock for the last several years, you have probably heard the name Diane Sanfilippo. Diane is the author of two (!) New York Times selling books, Practical Paleo and The 21 Day Sugar Detox. She also happens to be one of the people I am indebted to for my success in the paleo world, as in my first few months as a blogger she brought me onto her and Liz’s podcast and told people to pay attention. Humbling, to say the least.
She’s an amazing and brilliant woman and an incredibly sincere, supportive colleague and friend.
And lots of other cool things I could keep listing.
Anyway. I’ve brought up Diane’s Sugar Detox plan before. When I was in the throes of recovering from a punishing, self-destructive 2 months of 3 hours of sleep each night… which took months of its own, by the way… I decided that I needed help overcoming my dependency on sugar. I knew that I needed sugar, to an extent, because my adrenals were taxed and I needed to fuel them as best as I could. I also knew that I needed to get off of it, as it was impeding my ability to have stable energy in the long run.
Thankfully I already had two copies of the 21 Day Sugar Detox. It was… the perfect friend I needed at the time. It told me a bit more than I already knew about blood sugar regulation, and it gave me the structure I needed to recapture energy I had lost.
So in the last few weeks Diane has amped up the resources available in those books to the 1000000th degree.
There are meal plans and audio support files and special guides for autoimmunity and athletes and extra cookbooks and special memberships and yoga guides and pilates guides and access to full-time 21 Day Sugar Detox experts.
Here is a picture of some of the stuff Diane offers:
And what I love most about it all is that this is a program focused on cultivating loyalty. It doesn’t just throw a list of paleo foods at you. Instead, it takes you by the hand, heals you physically, and in doing so helps heal you psychologically. It’s gets you off the sugar monster, and on the road to loving partnership and kicking ass with your body.
Pretty cool stuff.
You can read all about it (the website is stunning… I like to go look at it just to look at it)… here.
Also there appears to be a free 4 part video series?
Check that out @ here, or click the banner below:
One thing about being a health blogger that drives me nuts is being asked about supplements. Mostly I don’t like it because I never know what to do or say. According to some studies, certain supplements have certain benefits for certain people, but according to other studies the effects are more ambiguous.
How can I give a blanket recommendation? Even in specific cases I am wary. Some people need heavy doses and others need very little. Julia Ross says sometimes people only need to touch a pill to the tip of their tongues for the right dosage.
Another thing that I don’t like about supplements is the herbal class. Magnesium citrate — okay, yes, I know what that is and it’s specific chemical formula.
But chasteberry? Spearmint? Holy basil?
There are very few rigorous studies done on herbal supplements. This is particularly important for fertility, as just about every herb is recommended for some sort of fertility-related use, but only credible via anecdotal evidence and tradition.
The only thing I can say to people who want to try chasteberry for PCOS is “well, it’s said to have hormone balancing effects.”
Whatever the hell that means.
BUT – okay – we’re getting to the important part of the post now.
There’s one supplement I get asked about a lot, and I am always happy to answer, since its not only been shown to be fairly harmless and symptom-free, it also may in fact improve your health in a fair number of ways. It may:
Improve skin quality
Mitigate PMS symptoms like depression, breast tenderness, cramping, and weight gain
Lessen the severity of periods
Regulate hormone production
Improve insulin sensitivity
And best of all – cool systemic inflammation.
EPO is not a miracle cure — nothing is! — but there’s a lot of cool biochemical theory behind why it has its place in anecdotal cultural lore. Knowing the biochemistry is awesome because it can help you understand the whole omega6/omega3 relationship and why their balance is good for your health.
Here’s the skinny on EPO, and why you might want to experiment with it for your hormonal and inflammatory needs.
What is Evening Primrose Oil?
Evening Primrose Oil is a pressed plant fat – much like canola oil is. It’s composed largely of omega 6 fat. If this fact raises red flags for you – that’s good. Omega 6 fats, by and large, are fats worthy of trepidation. Most of them cause inflammation in the body. But not all.
In order to understand what’s good about EPO fats, we’ve got to take a step back and look at what your body needs in order to be healthy and happy.
Just about every body process is regulated by hormones and prostaglandins
Hormones are molecules that are made in one place of the body and that typically travel through the bloodstream to act on cells in another place. LH, for example, is produced by the pituitary gland. LH then runs south to tell the ovaries what to do.
Prostaglandins have the same bossy behavior as hormones… but they act entirely within the confines of a single cell.
Body functions that require proper prostaglandin regulation include:
-monitoring blood pressure and viscocity
-managing cell growth and division
-promoting a healthy metabolic rate
-supporting the immune system and
-regulating secretion of hormones
Prostaglandins are synthesized out of fatty acids
So we talked a bit about omega 6s before. Omega 6 and 3 are two kinds of essential fatty acids. Your body cannot produce them. You must consume them. These polyunsaturated essential fatty acids are therefore where it all begins.
Afer you consume a fatty acid, your body uses it to make prostaglandins. Prostaglandins each have different effects on the body. Therefore: the different kinds of fatty acids you consume directly impact your health via prostaglandin activity.
Different prostaglandins and their cellular effects
In general, omeag 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids go on to participate in production of either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Omega 6 prostaglandins are usually “series 2 prostaglandins,” which inflame the body hard and fast. This is their job. They help with acute swelling, clotting, and dilation.
In small doses, the series 2 inflammation that comes from consuming omega 6s is a good thing. It helps heal wounds. Most of us do not just consume small doses of AA (the culprit omega 6 fatty acid), however. Estimates of American consumption of fatty acids put omega 6 fatty acid consumption, on average for Americans, between 10 and 30 times the amount it should to be.
It is worth noting at this point that saturated animal fats like eggs, butter, and lard can also contribute to series 2 prostaglandin activity. The majority of paleo leaders, however, consider prostaglandin activity in series 2 from natural animal fats to be a perfectly appropriate part of a healthy diet, and I count myself as one of them.
Omega 3 fats like EPA and DHA cause the production of “series 3″ prostalgandins, which slow down the inflammatory response. Most researchers and authors who write about these things liken series three prostaglandins to the “slow lane” of inflammatory activity. Series 2 are the fast lane; series 3 the slow lane.
Series 3 prostaglandins are synthesized out of EPA, which is the omega 3 oil found in fish. Now you can see why it’s so important to keep omega 6 and 3 fats in proper balance. You need your rate of inflammation to be just right. You need some inflammation, but not too much! So eat fish plentifully for its slow-healing effects.
(Do not, however, consume fish or fish oil to extremes, since it’s ideal to keep total omega 3 and 6 intake reasonably low.)
In addition to these two basic categories of prostaglandins, there is one more type. It’s called “series 1″ by some thinkers. Instead of simply participating in fast or slow inflammatory processes, series 1 prostaglandins actively block the fast inflammatory processes of the omega 6 series 2 prostaglandins.
In sum: how Series 1, 2, and 3 prostaglandins interact
Series 2 prostaglandins inflame the body quickly; Series 3 prostaglandins slow the inflammation process down…
and series 1 prostaglandins put the breaks on series 2.
Series 1 prostaglandins can actively halt the hyper-inflaming, hyper-stimulating activity that comes from series 2.
(Hint: guess which series evening primrose oil supports?)
The relationship between Evening Primrose Oil and Prostaglandins
Evening Primrose Oil is composed of fatty acids.
Now, Evening Primrose Oil is mostly omega 6 fatty acid. BUT, one kind of omega 6 found in EPO is pretty special. It’s called Gamma-Linoleic Acid. Evening Primrose Oil contains more GLA than any known substance. GLA may comprise 75 percent of the fatty acids in EPO (!). Other estimates put GLA in the oil at only around 30 percent, which seems a bit more reasonable. Regarldess of the variance, Evening Primrose Oil is one of the only sources of GLA around.
Other good sources of GLA include blue-green algae, hemp, and black currant oil. I am probably not going to be eating any of these any time soon.
GLA is the fatty acid most supportive of series 1 prostaglandin activity. Remember, this is the stuff that can help put a break on inflammation in the body.
GLA is anti-inflammatory and may promote healthy hormone production
Series 1 prostaglandins help prevent hormones from going into hyper-drive, since they down-regulate the frenetic activity of series 2 prostaglandins. This means that estrogen levels – if estrogen dominant – may be able to come down some, and that insulin and testosterone levels can also be brought back down into check.
Now – this is all based off of biochemical theory. No significant studies have been done regarding the effects of EPO on people’s health. Nonetheless the biochemical theory is fascinating, and it seems to support hundreds if not thousands of years of people using EPO to increase fertility, to increase lubrication in their vaginas, to reduce PMS, to clear their skin, to support uterine health, to reduce headaches and to sooth joint pain.
So therefore Evening Primrose Oil…
-has been recommended by people like Robb Wolf and Liz Wolfe (no relation, by the way, if you never knew that) to sooth acne
-is thought to reduce PMS symptoms and heavy periods
-may help blunt insulin resistance
-can help the body regulate its immune response and sooth gastrointestinal inflammation
-can boost fertility via calming insulin and testosterone production, and keeping estrogen and progeterone in better balance
-may not do anything at all, but who knows?
You can check out some EPO on Amazon @ here. I’m not trying to sell you on the stuff, honest. It doesn’t matter to me. I personally don’t take it. Then again, however, I don’t take any supplements save for the occasional magnesium. It’s only that I’ve been asked about EPO a lot, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it. I am also excited to share the fatty acid information with you, which is helpful for understanding what everybody means when they say “systemic inflammation” and advocating omega 6 and omega 3 balance – bearing in mind that there is of course a lot more to the whole story.
Featured image from wethechange.com.
Two more secret podcast interviews! Stefani’s secret to enduring happiness, why we’re attracted to people, and way, way more.
Last month, I shared with you three podcasts I had kept secret for the last few months.
I’d like to be able to tell you this was because of some grand plan or awesome surprise, but it was really just carelessness and sloth and doing my best (and almost succeeding) to keep up with life.
My apologies, sincerely, to all involved.
Today I bring to you TWO MORE podcasts. These were.. well. epic. And not in that “I’m trying to sell you something that’s actually kind of boring so I’m calling it ‘epic’” kind of way… but actually epic in the epic kind of way.
(Btw – I just wasted ten minutes of my life looking for an “epic” photo to insert here and all I found were “epic boobs” and “epic fails.” Culture ugh.)
See for yourself.
Mind Body Musings
Mind Body Musings is the up and coming podcast of up and coming serious love and health advocate Madelyn Moon. Madelyn used to be a fitness competitor — one of those on a stage and with minimal body fat and stunningly well done photos fitness competitors — but it was killing her.
She was unhappy.
So, she figured out what made her unhappy (hint: it had something to do with the fitness competitions), and she changed it.
Now she records a podcast that focuses on the connection between the body and the mind, and she and I talked all things:
-our own struggles and how hard it is to move away from body image norms
-what’s so punitive and terrible about being a fitness competitor
-how unfulfilling fitness competitions were for Madelyn
-the real kinds of things people are attracted to
AND, one of my favorite ideas ever posed to me on a podcast ever,
-why saying “I am enough” is NOT enough.
(A very smart idea right from the brain of Madelyn Moon.)
So listen in @ here. It’s a wonderful podcast for perspective on taking a self-love journey no matter what stage in it you’re at.
Keep Health Alive
Ok. I don’t want to disparage any of the podcasts from last week, or this week, or any of the podcasts I have ever done (eg, the ever famous one with Liz Wolfe earlier this year), for that matter….
BUT: I am going to go ahead and say that Keep Health Alive was the most enjoyable podcast I have ever recorded.
Justin – the host – is – first of all – a riot.
He’s a day-seizer. A laugher. A go-getter.
We first met (Justin tells this story in great detail in the podcast) at paleo fx. On the very last night of the conference, after several long days of working and networking, I had lasso’d some friends into coming out to salsa dance with me (the only six people from the conference still out partying, I think.) Justin showed up about mid-late evening, so 12:30 ish or so?, coming just because he had been invited… and why not?
Then leapt onto the floor and got down with us with abandon.
For a little bit, anyway.
So one of my favorite introductions, so far as introductions go.
The podcast starts there and moves on. We cover some serious as-yet untrod territory, with topics such as:
-why does Stefani love dancing so much?
-what is the concept of “flow” and how is it one of the keys to being a happy person?
-what is “epistemology”?
… a question to which Stefani responds by giving a quick rundown of the history of Western epistemological thought… I promise it’s not boring, but awesome.
-why I might be moving to Paris
-what my next book is all about
and then some tried and true but awesome favorites, like what it means to be sexy, how to view yourself with a more objective lens, and my favorite tips for overcoming acne.
Check out Justin and me in his top rated “new and noteworthy” podcast @ here.
The following post is by one of my absolute most beloved health professionals in the paleo scene, Summer Innanen. You can read all about Summer in her bio at the end of the post. Suffice it to say for a brief introduction now, however: I loved this list she drew up. It helped me. Forgive her Canadian spelling. She’s smart. Listen.
One of the most important components of cultivating self-love is changing your self-talk. We do this by censoring the negative criticisms that we so often slander ourselves with, both consciously and subconsciously. However, these negative criticisms can manifest in ways that you may not be aware of.
In our culture, it’s perfectly acceptable to defame yourself in front of others. In fact, it seems totally normal to say something like, “I’m so fat”. However, if you say something like, “I look sexy in this swimsuit”, you are considered conceited or a bitch. [Stefani comment: yikes!] It’s no wonder we are so quick to put ourselves down.
The first step to changing your self-talk is by being aware of when you say these things and eliminating negative statements from your internal and external dialogue. Statements such as “I’m so stupid” or “I look so gross in this outfit” are harsh words of self-hate. When you stop saying them, you begin to stop thinking them and can more easily reprogram the feelings about yourself. We have the power to change our beliefs and thoughts, which is a powerful mechanism when it comes to feeling sexy and confident as the woman you are today.
The second part of this equation is to censor negative judgments and criticisms of others. As a culture, we seem to tolerate and even find humor in shaming other women about their appearance, their habits and the way that they do things (ranging from criticizing a woman’s driving to the way she raises her children). The areas that we are quick to criticize and judge others are usually areas where we feel vulnerable ourselves. We use this as a way to make ourselves feel better, however doing so only feeds our insecurities and feelings of unworthiness.
The judgments we make of ourselves and others can manifest in less obvious ways that you may not be aware of. It’s important to recognize the various things we do that feed our insecurities in order to deconstruct our core issues and foster self-love, while promoting a culture that no longer considers it acceptable to put other women down.
Here are 5 less obvious habits that we have, which prevent us from cultivating self-love:
#1 – Deflecting Compliments
How many times have you deflected a compliment from someone? A friend tells you that you are beautiful or talented and you reply by negating it or blowing it off. We do this because we feel that it conflicts with the way we feel about ourselves or that the person didn’t really mean it because you don’t believe it.
Rather than deflecting a compliment, simply say “thank you”. Then use this as an opportunity to reflect on why your initial urge was to react by denying it. As long as you continue to deflect or deny compliments, you will perpetuate negative feelings about yourself.
#2 – Changing Your Actions
We often change our actions in response to our fear of being judged. We order a different item on the menu when we are out on a date. We set up our yoga mat in the back corner so no one can see us. We put on makeup before going grocery shopping because we want to appear more put together. We put three layers of self-defense over our bathing suit so people can’t see our ‘flaws’.
The reality is that you cannot change or control other people’s perceptions. You also don’t need anyone else’s approval or acceptance in order to love yourself or feel worthy. In fact, if you rely on gaining approval to feel worthy, you will never actually love yourself.
It’s important to practice being more real and owning your uncool self. Be willing to fall over in yoga class, eat a burger and fries with your hands on a date (if that’s what you want to eat) or show up with your hair out of place. Make every effort to show up as yourself and never change your actions based on your fear of being judged.
If you feel yourself resisting this task, then ask yourself why. It’s important to use these moments as a cue to dig deep and think about why you feel this way. Also, know that you are not alone and women feel this way all the time!
#3 – Seeking Validation
Many of us are perfectionists who seek out approval and validation from others in order to feel worthy. However, this prevents us from feeling worthy because we cannot control the way other people view us. We need to love ourselves first before we can receive love from others.
Pay attention to whether your words or actions are the result of a need for validation. Do you put yourself down in order to receive compliments? Do you rely on social media ‘likes’ to feel better about yourself? It’s OK to enjoy being validated and receive compliments, however this should not be used as a primary vehicle for self-love.
#4 – Comparing Down
We look for people who we perceive as ‘worse’ than us in order to feel better about ourselves. For example, we feel better at the beach because we are not the ‘fattest’. We feel better at the gym because we didn’t ‘finish last’. We feel like we have more self-control because we didn’t eat dessert. This is ridiculous!
This only feeds a cultural standard where judgments are acceptable and promotes our reliance on what other people may think in order to grow our self-worth. Work towards eliminating your desire to compare down in order to feel better about yourself.
In addition, practice being more vulnerable and willing to be the person who ‘finishes last’. Celebrate your imperfections and own the person that you are today.
#5 – Creating Excuses And Apologizing For Your Actions
How many times have you apologized for something that you actually could not control? Our apologies act as a buffer that prevents us from thinking that the other person may be judging us negatively. We apologize before they can think something negative about us (which they usually never are).
Stop apologizing for things that you could not control. Unless you legitimately did something wrong (like knock over a kid’s juice box), there is no need to apologize.
We also tend to make excuses before we do something to protect us from other people’s judgments. For example, before we are about to do a presentation at work we say, “I haven’t prepared for this at all” or “I didn’t sleep last night, so I’m not sure how well this is going to go”. We set the bar low to protect us from other people’s scrutiny or to seek validation. Both of these things imply that we are not good enough, which fertilizes the negative feelings we have about ourselves.
As you practice self-love in your everyday life, it is imperative that you begin to bring awareness to the various ways that you continue to hold yourself back.
I challenge you to commit to 7 days of censoring these habits. Bring awareness to your negative self-talk (in all of the aforementioned ways that it can manifest) for one week and you will start to realize how much this permeates in your life. From there, you can start to deconstruct the rationale behind your negative self-talk in order to move forward.
Not only do we need to do this for ourselves, but we also need to shift these types of behaviors and conversations amongst our peers. The reality is that we cannot control other people’s actions or perceptions, but we can make every effort to change our culture by leading by example.
Awesome, right? Let Summer know in the comments!
I’m Summer Innanen, Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Body Image Coach, specializing in emotional eating. More importantly, I’m a diet rebel and food lover on a mission to help you feel hot-damn fearless in your body. I roll with straight-talk, tough love and wicked humour to help women all over the world with my one-on-one and group programs. I empower women to ditch their diet demons, rock their bodies, and start caring about things that actually matter (like grabbing your dreams, spoiling yourself silly, and remembering how holy-powerful sex makes you feel). Check out my podcast Fearless Rebelle Radio and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. If you’re ready to break the rules, grab your sledgehammer and get my free guide here.
The featured image is a photo of Summer, thanks to SarahRamsden.com.
I recently became a bit obsessed with gut flora research via a long story:
I began getting migraines again this winter after eating a lower-potassium diet to help with my electrolyte problem. Low potassium is associated with migraines. It didn’t help that I was visiting my father, who likes to cook with MSG. To help with the migraines, I took Aspirin, which is an NSAID. It worked, so I began taking Aspirin for my regular headaches, and that helped, too. However: NSAID’s are notoriously bad for your gut flora. My skin began breaking out a little bit. This could have been caused by anything (I thought: weight loss, fiber in my diet, increased progesterone, poor sleep, dirty towels… skin is complicated!), but I thought “maybe it’s the NSAIDs depleting my gut flora.”
I went to Whole Foods post haste and got kombucha on tap.
(My favorite brand available both in stores and online is THIS one)
I’m drinking a couple of jars a week.
My skin looks great – I’m not sure if its from the kombucha.
Something I did most definitely notice, however, is that my cravings for food, and particularly sweet food, have somewhat dramatically decreased. After just my first few gulps, I felt a difference. These days I walk around during the day, not even thinking about food, and I stop eating meals without needing willpower, and I wonder: is this how ‘normal’ people feel?
So I asked myself if there was a connection. Could my increased freedom from cravings be a result of kombucha’s notorius bifidobacterium?
Turns out, it most certainly can.
How it works: your gut flora
Gut flora–which are the bacteria that live in your gut and that number in the trillions–are responsible for a whole host of functions in the body. They play a role in digestive comfort, in being constipated or having diarrhea, in immune system health, in depression and anxiety, in insulin resistance, in obesity, and in inflammation. Because these critters are so significant for these issues, they are significant for just about every noncommunicable disease you can imagine.
Why are gut bugs so important? Because your gut is the barrier between you and the outside world. Good gut flora help you process nutrients and protect yourself from toxins. When good gut flora populations decrease (as mine may have with my aspirin use), and/or when bad gut flora infiltrate the gut and outnumber the good guys, health problems ensue.
How it works: gut flora and cravings theory #1
One theory for how gut flora influence your gut – and there seems to be reasonable evidence for this – is that your gut flora condition you to continue to feed their own specific populations. Carrot-loving gut bugs beget carrot-loving gut bugs, for example (if a fair bit oversimplified.)
So gut flora from particular foods may make you continue to crave those particular foods. This is great if you eat a lot of natural, healthy foods. This is less good news if you eat a lot of processed foods. The more processed foods you eat, the more bad bacteria will reproduce. They will hijack your cravings, and you’ll crave even more of the same old bad food.
If you are a processed food / sugar junkie, it may be hard to switch your diet, but being sure to include good, natural, healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, animal products and fermented may help you crave those more and more.
How it works: gut flora and cravings theory #2
The second theory, which is not exclusive but complementary to the first, is that good gut bacteria like bifidobacterium (these are the famous good guys) cause the body to produce satiation hormones.
Glucuagon-like-peptide-1 is one such satiation hormone. It increases in the “colonal mucus” (sexy, right?) of rats fed oligofructose, a laboratory carbohydrate that resembles the carbohydrates found in many fruits and vegetables. PYY and ghrelin, two other satiation hormones, may also increase in response to oligofructose. Rats that consume oligofructose spontaneously eat less, cease creating fat cells, increase insulin sensitivity, and improved glucose tolerance.
As for humans…we already know that probiotics help with obesity. This happens via biochemical modulation of fat metabolism. Yet it also appears to probably happen via increased satiation and spontaneously reduced food intake.
The more bifidobacteria and other good gut flora you have, the more satiation hormones they will create in response to a meal.
Moral of the story
There are a lot of different physical and psychological components of food cravings.
For one – you need to eat food. I talk way too much to women who want to reduce food cravings but are eating 1200 calories a day. So be sure you eat when you are hungry all of the time, probably at least 1800 calories a day (though this varies widely), before you address any other issues.
Second, emotional issues should be dealt with. Is food your mother? Your addiction? Your stress-relief? Your boredom? Your celebration? Or do you eat because you spend so much willpower trying not to eat that you end up overeating in the end? Psychological issues with food are also supremely important.
Third, you may consider physiological approaches. Sometimes the issue cannot be resolved psychologically because there’s an underlying problem. Amino acid therapy — boosting serotonin and dopamine levels by consuming precursors 5HTP and tyrosine — can help regulate appetite if your serotonin and dopamine levels are low.
Gut bugs can also help, as we’ve seen. (They can also boost your serotonin levels! Two birds with one stone!)
Consume fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, or grass-fed yogurt or kefir. If those are not available to you, consider a probiotic supplement that contains at least bifidobacterium, as well as other varieties.
You can also try a probiotic supplement. I prefer whole foods since they provide they provide a high degree of variability of bacterial species. Nonetheless probiotics have been shown to reduce weight loss and support mental health in studies, so if you go this route (like this option or this one) you can also benefit.
You can also support your gut flora population not only by eating the bugs themselves – which is what you do with the fermented foods – but by consuming their preferred foods. Gut flora love to eat fibrous fruits and veggies, particularly those which contain inulin. These are greens, summer squash, onions, garlic, leeks… and jerusalem artichokes are also a particularly good source. This article demonstrates just how effective this strategy is.
Kombucha (linked to my favorite brand on Amazon) is really helping me. I can’t say if it will help you. Really, I cannot. We all have different bodies and we all have our own unique cures. But I love how much more stable my blood sugar feels and my meals are. I no longer feel so much like I must eat a sweet with every meal. I love my gut bugs very, very much. For this reason, as well as for so many others.
Loving your body is one of those things you are supposed to do. You are supposed to cherish it. You are supposed to appreciate it. You are supposed to enjoy looking at it in the mirror. We are all supposed to do these things. Hell, I’ve written a whole book on them.
Right? I’ve worked on body love so much I even know how to help you do it.
From all of that experience, I know that there are good ways to do it, and there are bad.
I (obviously!) do it all the good ways. I love my body because of what it does, and because of gratitude for what it provides to me — like the abilities to breathe, and to laugh, and to be happy. I love my body because it is my home. I love my body because it does its best to make me healthy. I love my body because the number of things it does right far outweigh the number of things it does wrong. I do not love my body based on shallow, transient characteristics like the circumference of my abdomen or the semi-linearity of my almost-white teeth. (I do, admittedly, really enjoy having orange hair.)
I love my body in all the right ways and for all the right reasons.
(there’s got to be a “yet,” right?)
Sometimes I do not love my body.
Sometimes, in fact, I hate it.
Sometimes I fear it.
Sometimes I resent its limitations so fiercely I dig my nails into my mattress and sob until I run out of breath.
Here is why:
My body works, but not the way it is supposed to.
My body sleeps, but never for more than four hours at a time and sometimes not at all.
My kidneys process potassium, but at a much lower rate than other peoples’ do.
My heart beats, but faster and harder than a healthy heart beats.
My skin protects me from the outer world. It looks pretty good these days. But one sweaty workout, one bite of vegetables fried in butter, one handful of nuts, one small period of fasting, one ten-minute exposure to UV rays, and I will most certainly have acne the following morning.
My eyes work, but are photophobic, which means that I get migraines from any lights brighter than a desk lamp. I always wear sunglasses outside, and sometimes I even have to wear them inside. This is not a whole lot of fun in ballet class.
My metabolism burns, but slowly. Just one “off” day and my pants are noticeably tighter. If not careful, I’ll put on five pounds in a week.
My ovaries now work better, thanks to serious efforts and healing on my part, but I also experience weight gain and quite depressing PMS like clockwork every 27 days.
My muscles contract, but those in my back more than other people’s, which means I get headaches if I have poor posture or sit down for too long.
My eardrums are great at detecting quiet sounds. Their sensitivity can be helpful. It can also be opporessive, since loud sounds and pressure from the wind give me headaches. I always have a pair of ear plugs on me in case I need them.
My body works, but is limiting.
My body works, but I cannot necessarily fix it.
My body, in fact, often stops me from being able to visit friends and relatives. It prevents me from enjoying meals that my friends make. It forces me to leave all rooms with fluorescent lights. It doesn’t let me sleep. It makes my heart beat too fast. It gives me anxiety. It makes me chronically exhausted. It erodes my faith in my ability to ever be able to have a stable health and happiness.
In these moments, do I love my body?
Well, deep down, yes. I know that it is my only home. It is my shelter, and my partner. It does many good things. I do know this.
But sometimes its just f*cking impossible to feel it.
It is my firm and loving opinion that it is unrealistic to demand of ourselves that we always feel positively about our bodies. My solution is to stop doing that.
I don’t put any pressure on. I do my best. Life is hard. Health is hard. I no longer need to be perfect, in this as much as in other things. I simply cannot do it. As much as I do genuinely love and appreciate my body, I am a human being who struggles. I have good days and bad days. On bad days, I am so unhappy with my body it physically aches.
And to be honest, since I have accepted the pain and frustrations and patience required for living in my body…
it has all gotten easier. Permitting my negativite feelings space has allowed me to heal. I’ve got at least three degrees of acceptance here working in my favor. I enjoy thinking of myself as intelligent, so let’s call it Meta-Acceptance. It’s 1) okay that my body is so delicate, 2) also okay that I don’t like that my body is so delicate, amd 3) also also okay that I don’t like that I don’t like that my body is so delicate.
These days when I’m scared or pissed off about my body, I let myself be angry. My mom will call me and I’ll say – hang on, I’ve got a big cry to let out, I’ll call you right back. And I do it, and I’m unhappy, but I’m fine, it’s actually all fine. I go back to the tasks and rhythm of my Monday. The more I have accepted these moments and feelings, the easier they flow through me and out of my life.
It’s kind of nice.
…Even though (!) the point of this post has NOT been to teach you a lesson on how to heal.
Sure – yes – acceptance has been powerful. Woooo. Go acceptance!
What I really want to do here more than anything is to “come out” – so to speak. It is to be a blogger who cares about body love, who has literally written the book (one of them) on it – and to still be someone who isn’t always overbrimming with joy and love.
More and more acceptance all the time, sure. Stuff is what it is, and that’s that. But life as a human animal is hard and imperfect, and here I am saying, do your best to be loyal to and embrace your body, but – well. Whatever. If you don’t always feel it, more power to you. You need more than just the easy stuff to make life worth living anyway.
It’s all okay. Good day, bad day, how much you are capable of accepting limitations. Whatever.
Sometimes I don’t feel love for my body.
No big deal.