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10 steps to fall in love with your body

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in Blog, Body Image, Self-love-spiration | 0 comments

10 steps to fall in love with your body

 

Regular readers of this blog and my books may have an inkling that I am a proponent of self-love.

An inkling. 

Or something.

Just kidding. I do almost nothing on the internet other than teach people how to love themselves.

Today I bring this discussion to you in a 30-minute how to video, replete with my ten favorite tips. (Which are related to, but different from, the “10 Reasons to Love your Body” Youtube video I’ve got floating around the paleosphere.)

In this new class I share struggles and triumphs of my own life, what I loved so much about therapy, and how to stand up for yourself in the face of all that’s trying to keep you down.

The talk is located over at the Entheos Academy for Optimal Living (which I adore).

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Click here to jump to the site and view!

Here’s part of the list of the ten ideas I propose:

  1. Surround Yourself with the Love You Deserve

    (Before you improve your brain and heart, optimize your environment for success.)

  2. Deconstruct

    (Before you can build a shiny monument, you’ve got to knock down the crumbly, decayed pillars.)

  3. Appreciate

    (Chances are infinitely good that no matter how many failures you perceive in your body, the things it does right vastly outnumber the wrong.)

  4. Lessen Your Attachment to Your Looks

    (Wherein Stefani tells you you are awesome for many reasons and you need a healthy body in order to be so.)

  5. Set Realistic Expectations

    (Perfect just ain’t real.)

  6. Get Embodied

    (Practice being in harmony with your body by doing awesome things like dancing.)

  7. Fight

    (Get fierce! Say no to norms and yes to love.)

 

…and more.  (I’m simply not sharing all of them and in full because there may be copyright issues involved?)

Read the full list of self-love tips and explanations, watch a trailer of the video, and watch the complete 30 minute video at the Entheos Academy for Optimal Living here.

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Like so! (Or something)

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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.

 

 

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The best cookbooks of the summer

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

The best cookbooks of the summer

 

Alright everyone. Fasten your seatbelts. I’ve let all the great cookbooks pile up over the last few months. Today I am going to review them for you all at once. Ready…?

Set…?

 

First up:

Paleo by Season: A Chef’s Approach to Paleo Cooking by Pete Servold

paleo by season

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Pete and Sarah Servold are a rare team in the paleosphere. A lot of the paleo world is flashy, caught up in neon colors and knee-high powerlifting socks. That’s cool, it has it’s place. Yet what I love so much about the Servolds, on the other hand, is that they are just as vivacious and full of personality, but extraordinarily down to Earth.

They also happen to be extraordinarily talented.

Credit: Pete's Paleo.

Credit: Pete’s Paleo.

First, as founders of Pete’s Paleo, Pete and Sarah prepare and ship local, organic paleo meals all around the nation.

Second, as a highly trained chef, Pete has made it his mission to bring the know-how of chefs into the homes of paleo and nonpaleo people everywhere. Paleo by Season is remarkable in its instructional quality… one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s also – another part of what makes this book stand out as one of my favorites – highly focused on local foods. It teaches you all about the seasons, how to take advantage of produce at its peak, and how to eat in the “off” season, too.

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Credit: Pete’s paleo.

Best thing about it is that it’s all so simple. Simple ingredients (none of that “distilled arrowroot powder with gold flecks and unicorns” bullshit I can’t stand and see in so many other paleo cookbooks.) Simple steps. A “chef’s approach” does not mean “a complicated approach.” It means: teaching you how to do the important things right. Pete takes simple ingredients, shows you how to make them so many ways, and encourages you to really, this is my feeling, be at one with the food and the tools in your kitchen.

love this book. One of my all time favorite cookbooks.

Here on Amazon.

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The Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer & George Bryant

the paleo kitchen

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So everybody know’s George and Juli. If you don’t, welcome to the paleosphere in the 21st century.

George Bryant and Juli Bauer are two of the rockstars of the paleo food blogging world… maybe the most infamous ones of them all.

They teamed up – can you imagine two giants with one standing on top of the other’s shoulders? – to write The Paleo Kitchen, and, hell. Is it ever a masterpiece.

Which explains why it’s been on the New York Times Bestseller list since the first week it came out a few months ago.

This rockstar boasts of…

 

And all the personality, fun-loving, no-nonsense, extraordinary humor of George and Juli in one book.

Here on Amazon.

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Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman’s Guide to Cooking with Fire by Tony Federico

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Tony Federico…. okay, I know I say this a lot.  But Tony Federico is one of my absolute favorite people in the paleo world. I’m serious this time! He’s got this sort of.. soothing.. presence about him. That doesn’t stop him from being as sharp as a tack or outrageously funny in this insightful, understated sort of way.. nor from having the most delightful laugh.

Anyway. Tony. A good guy.

I got this book in the mail right in time for summer in Cambridge (I happen to be one of the few with a back yard.. even if its just a 4×4 square of concrete.) I live with several grill aficionados and when this book came they poured over it for hours, happily debating techniques and obviously seeing Tony as one of their own. I remember one even said “I bet he just take techniques he reads about on the internet and doesn’t really know how to grill himself.” Then I saw him hogging Paleo Grilling on the sofa for hours the next evening.

Sometimes its hard to make paleo an easy, social, acceptable way of eating in public. This book makes it the star. There’s no need to be ashamed – it’s time to bring paleo into the limelight! You can eat paleo and have the most amazing dishes, with zero sacrifice at all. In fact, with this book, grilling goes so far beyond the standard. It made mine and my roommates a summer of lessons learned about prepping meats, using the right tools, and giving the right treatment to the right cuts, never leaving out the vegetables and other amazing grillable sides. An amazing book for bringing out the best in what is so very paleo about the whole paleo thing.

Here on Amazon.

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 Digestive Health with Real Food by Aglaee Jacob, RD

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Digestive Health with Real Food: The Cookbook comes on the heals of Digestive Health with Real Food. Aglaee Jacob is a gut, IBS, inflammation, leaky gut and hormones specialist (and registered dietician). She first authored DHwRF, which was a smash hit that literally saved lives, detailing precisely how to eat an elimination diet guided by paleo principles and autoimmune science. Aglaee understands FODMAPs, SIBO, gerd, acid reflex, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, Celiac, other autoimmune diseases… and how to navigate them. If you need a guide for your gut, you can’t do better than Aglaee.

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So thus arrived the cookbook. Clocking in at 117 recipes, DHwRFTC (hah!) provides what I think is one of the most fun and simultaneously practical paleo cookbooks out there. To be clear – this cookbook isn’t just paleo. You won’t expect to find foods outside of Aglaee’s elimination diet in these pages. But you will most certainly see tons of ghee, coconut products, grass fed animals, seafood, veggies, and other low-FODMAP plants.

What’s so fun about this book is that it’s a bit flexible. Aglaee says “any of these eight vegetables works great in this dish” while simultaneously telling you her own personal favorites and techniques for cooking them. She recommends different substiutions after many of the recipes because she knows that each person’s digestive needs are unique. This is a guide becoming your own guru and healer in the kitchen – and I really could not put more endorsement or excitement into this idea. I love it. 117 recipes for gut healing, and all the happy benefits that come from it.

Here on Amazon.

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ZenBelly Cookbook: An Epicurean’s Guide to Paleo Cuisine by Simone Miller

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Simone Miller brings us another homerun that bridges the gap between paleo foods and professional cuisine.

Whereas Pete Servold’s Paleo by Season focuses on fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, Zenbelly brings a down-home, entertainment aspect to paleo cooking. Miller provides all the tips and tools you need to make simple, quick meals during the week …something I personally appreciate very much. She also likes to talk about how to entertain. My favorite aspect of that whole discussion is not the delectable appetizers mouthwatering as each photo is… but rather the ways she teaches us to cut corners and shave time without sacrificing quality.

My kind of woman.

One more thing I love about this book is one of the sentences on the dust jacket: “With a focus on quality ingredients, technique, and balancing flavors, this book will take the reader on a journey that will leave any feeling of restriction behind.” Boom. With more than 100 recipes, I certainly can’t say no to that.

Here on Amazon.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do fitness

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

There is a right way and a wrong way to do fitness

 

The majority of my fellow bloggers went to AHS in Berkeley, California the weekend of August 7. A big part of my heart desperately wanted to, too. Berkeley is one of my favorite places in the world, and that weekend it was filled with some of my favorite people in the world. Nonetheless I chose to expand my horizons differently this August weekend.

Instead of  flying across the country to AHS, I drove a few hundred miles up the Atlantic coast to Auburn, Maine. There’s not a whole lot up there in the middle of Maine – aside from rivers and trout and good people and grass and serenity – but what is there, is astounding.

I am talking about Wolfpack FitnessYou may have heard me singing Wolfpack’s praises on Facebook before. This past weekend, however, was my first opportunity to actually see what this awesome community of women, men, and children has going on in real life.

August 7-9 marked Wolfpack’s second annual Strong is Beautiful celebration.

At Sib2 I got to witness, finally, a real life gym that does fitness right.

 

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Here is what I got to witness while I was there:

-Scalable workouts that are possible for anyone of any skill level.

-Short bursts of high intensity exercise that never leaves anyone over-drained.

-1-3 intense workouts a week, and no more.

-Workouts that focus on abilities rather than on numbers on a scale.

There are no tens, twenties, or fifties at Wolfpack Fitness. There are, instead, cinderblocks, iron chains, buckets full of bricks, and tractor tires. There are no treadmills, but instead bear crawls. The Wolfpack leader, extraordinary energizer bunny Luke Robinson, celebrates being fit enough to keep up with toddlers, push a stalled car, or help friends move from one side of town to the other.

-A focus on strength rather than appearance

All body types are welcome and celebrated at wolfpack fitness. No one applauds anyones physique, nor denigrates anyone’s rolls.

-Community support

Members of Wolfpack fitness – at least so far as I can tell! – do not compete or try to tear each other down. They cheer for each other, chant each other’s names, and hug each other out of exultation and pride.

-Family

Members of Wolfpack fitness treat each other like their own.

-Fun Workouts are accompanied by fun outfits, pop music, and – admittedly bad, but appreciated nonetheless – jokes by leader Luke.

-Seriousness about health.

People at Wolfpack fitness focus on health first and foremost. While so much of what they do is about having fun, it is fun focused on healing the body and the spirit. This community is 100 % about empowerment. Nothing like a number on a scale.

-Community involvement and outreach

Wolfpack fitness won Robb Wolf’s farm-to-gym challenge for good reason. They are loyal customers of and advocates for Nezinscot farm, an organic farm with grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle, pigs, goats, and poultry. (If you’re in Maine, a visit to Nezinscot farm is a must!)

-Sustainability

Wolfpack fitness runs it’s own garden, completely directed and sustained by its members.

-Inclusivity

All with a positive attitude are welcome as one of their own at Wolfpack fitness – an incredible feeling I can personally attest to.

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At Wolfpack fitness, there was no:

-Body shaming

-Food shaming

-Putting each other down

-Injury-prone exercising

-Obsessive fitness mentality

-Competition

-Hopelessness

-Calorie counting

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Before I drove up to Auburn, I suspected the Shevoles of Wolfpack fitness would show me that all the good fitness stuff I’ve always dreamed of is possible. Boy, oh boy did they ever deliver. I am so glad I went, even though it meant I had to miss AHS. And while I have moved work outs out of my own life to help me minimize body image issues, the Wolfpack had me charmed. I knew that if I lived in Auburn, my life would be enriched by joining, no questions asked. I wouldn’t be drawn into body image issues. I’d be held as a member of loving community.

So at the very least, I returned home with a warm, grateful feeling in my heart.

Wolfpack is a community focused on strength — which includes physical, mental and spiritual strength — that delights in each other’s spirits and capabilities of their physical bodies. This is how fitness should be done. If you are a fitness instructor, junkie, or participant, read through this list again. Check out Wolfpack’s Facebook page. Maybe you’ll be inspired them. I sure as hell was.

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All photo credits go to Luke Robinson of Wolfpack Fitness.

 

10 Steps to Be Loyal to a Healthy Diet

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

10 Steps to Be Loyal to a Healthy Diet

 

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:

  1. 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.)

  2. 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.)

  3. Keep Healthy Food on Hand

    (Wherein I talk about snacks, travel, work, and excuses.)

  4. Make Healthy Food the Choice, Not the Rule

    (Unless you’ve got an autoimmune disease, diets are guidelines, not rules. Forbidding foods = unhappiness.)

  5. 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.”)

  6. 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.

 

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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.

 

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It’s time to tell your story

Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Blog, Self-love-spiration | 0 comments

It’s time to tell your story

 

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

 

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Evidence: You need Physical Health in order to be Happy

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Evidence: You need Physical Health in order to be Happy

 

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%
Work problems* 53% 60% n/a n/a
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.)

I think.

Leptin and Why You Should Love Your Booty

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Blog, Hormones, HPA axis | 0 comments

Leptin and Why You Should Love Your Booty

 

The following is a guest post by a fellow health blogger – Kate – who had an infertility problem then fell in love with leptin.

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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.

 

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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:

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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.

 

-x

 

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

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Kate!

 

 

The best resource for being loyal to a healthy diet is finally HERE!

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

The best resource for being loyal to a healthy diet is finally HERE!

 

Ladies.

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:

21DSD offerings

It’s kind of mind-blowing, actually.

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

Balanced Bites

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Also there appears to be a free 4 part video series?

Wicked.

Check that out @ here, or click the banner below:

21dsd video series

Coool.

 

Evening Primrose Oil for Acne, Estrogen Dominance, PMS, and Inflammation

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in acne, Blog, Hormones | 3 comments

Evening Primrose Oil for Acne, Estrogen Dominance, PMS, and Inflammation

 

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.

Ambiguous, indeed.

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.

It’s  Evening Primrose Oil.

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?

A lovely night flower.

A lovely night flower.

 

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.

But prostaglandins?

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.

Posted by on Jul 24, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

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.

madelyn 3

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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.

Pourquoi?

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.

yes.

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.

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