Stress

We found the Silver Bullet...

We know. We know what is killing us. We know how to prevent 80% of all chronic disease. Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity. We know where 84% of all health care dollars are spent. And we know how to stop it. But. We. Don't.

We know the five things that will save people:

  • moving
  • eating well
  • dealing with stress
  • sleeping
  • not smoking

They are the silver bullets. THE SILVER BULLETS. Yet, half of Americans don't exercise, one third of Americans don't eat fruit or vegetables, and 1 out of five Americans smoke. Our doctors aren't educated on exercise or nutrition, the USDA is mocked and ridiculed, the blog-o-sphere is ripe with "experts" and anecdotal recommendations.

Those of us that care, argue the merits of paleo vs vegan vs Mediterranean. We huff and puff over intervals vs long distance vs strength training. We push mindfulness and meditation, on the highways of facebook and twitter and instagram. We post pictures of harder, better, faster, stronger. Meanwhile, cardiovascular disease is costing us $315 billion, cancer $157 billion, diabetes $245 billion, obesity $147 billion and smoking $289 billion. BILLIONS.

We are sick, and getting sicker. Yet, rather than treat the root cause, we spend BILLIONS on treating the symptoms. Metformin, statins, anti-depressants, beta-blockers. Just to fight the inevitable. Bandaids.

Mozaffarian et al, Circulation, 2008

People, there is a better way. And, it's free. And it's going to take some grit and determination. And it is our only hope. But in order to make it happen, we have to stop fighting and come together. Doctors, scientists, personal trainers, nutritionists, health coaches, policy makers. We know how to keep people healthy. And we need to start working together.

In a recent lecture at a class I'm teaching at the Harvard Extension school Dr. David Katz said it best, "We need to stop looking at the differences in all these diets that work, and rather look at what they have in common. Habitual intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains...has the power to decrease 80% of chronic disease. Let us unite and tell the world that WE KNOW ENOUGH to keep people healthy". WE KNOW ENOUGH.

We know that lifestyle changes work BETTER THAN DRUGS for preventing diabetes.

DPP

We know that healthy lifestyle behaviors (not smoking, healthy BMI, exercising, and a diet rich in fruits/veggie/whole grains) prevent 80% of chronic disease. EIGHTY PERCENT.

Lifestyle Factors

We know that the key ingredients to a healthful diet include foods that are not processed, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some high quality meat and fish. Who cares if the cave men ate it or someone in Italy is drowning in olive oil?! If it's not in a package, is mostly plants, and you cooked it at home. EAT IT.

cooking

We know that sitting is terrible for you and that we need to move around! Just walk! WALK.

Walk

We know everyone's lives are stressful. If we could all give it up, move to a beautiful mountain-side retreat and leave it all behind we would. But we can't. So, we need to learn how to unplug and cope. STRESS RESILIENCE.

optimal-stress

Instead, we scare people. We make them think nutrients are killing them and that exercise is too hard or unattainable. We use flashy labels to get people to eat our "healthy take on an organic processed block of crap" or guzzle down our "highly processed all natural life sustaining drinks". We embrace more, more, more, now, now, now. All in a quest to find the silver bullet. Enough already! We already have the silver bullet! And it's not sexy or flashy or in a shiny package.

It is beautifully simple.

We know. We know movement is essential. We know food in its natural form is healthiest. We know sleep and stress management are crucial. We know. So let's do it. Let's unite and spread that simple message.

Because, we know.

 

Stress...not so bad, after all.

 We all talk these days about how stressful our lives are.

“Ugh...you have no idea how stressed I am.”

“I am SO stressed out, I need a vacation!”

“Dude, chill...you’re stressing me out…”

But is stress always bad?  As it turns out, stress - both emotional and physiologic - can often be good for us.

Admittedly, consistent and uncontrolled stress is not good for your mind or body.  Clinical and epidemiological studies have identified stress as a risk factor for the progression of several diseases including cancer and alzheimers disease and is associated with weight gain and obesity.  

But, as it turns out, some stress is actually good for you, and is even necessary for your body to function properly.
On a psychological level, stress can often be important for performance - at work, athletically, during times of immediate danger.  One of my favorite thinkers, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, writes that in order to achieve your highest accomplishments (he calls it Flow) you must be challenged.  You must feel stressed in order to achieve (granted, you must also meet this stress with skills and confidence otherwise you end up feeling anxiety).  But honestly, how often do you put something off until the deadline because  “you work best under pressure”?  Stress can be a total motivator.

Model of Flow

Recently, a new school of thought within the sphere of positive psychology is emerging called Post Traumatic Growth.  Richard Tedeschi, PhD and his colleague Lawrence Calhoun, PhD have developed a research team at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, examining the idea that “positive change [can be] experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or traumatic event.”  While there is a plethora of evidence demonstrating that traumatic events can produce negative consequences, it seems as though these same events can lead to perceived benefits: a sense of new opportunity, a change in personal relationships, an increased sense of one’s own strength, a greater appreciation for life, and a deepening of spirituality…all for the better!

 

www.notsalmon.com

Stress is also necessary in your body.  While we often think of the physiological consequences of stress - inflammation and free radicals (reactive oxygen species) - as bad, they are actually essential for intracellular communication in your body.  For example, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is necessary for proper insulin signaling in your body (to maintain blood sugar and feed cells) as well as determining which cells live (because they are healthy) or die (because they are not).

 Inflammation results in remodeling and healing muscles.   After you exercise, old and damaged muscle tissue signals through these molecules that your body should, literally, chop out the junk and replace it with new stronger tissue.

So, next time someone tells you they are “so stressed out” tell them, “I’m really happy to hear that!” (and then be nice and ask them what's wrong...).  It’s easy to treat stress as the enemy, but remember it is helping you to survive and become a stronger you!  Take it in stride, have a positive attitude, and just keep going.