Mike Mandel and I (Chris Thompson writing) have been long-time advocates of a healthy lifestyle. But as hypnosis trainers we’ve focused most of our energy teaching people how to run their own brains more effectively, and how to communicate with others.
The stuff we teach helps people change their lives, but when it comes to making change in any aspect of your life you need to have the right resources available. When it comes to physical wellness, specifically, you can do everything right in terms of peak mental states and still screw things up if you don’t eat the right food or move your body on a regular basis. In other words, you can do everything right with your brain, but if you lack the necessary education, you won’t know what to do with your body and your results will be poor, leaving you assume it must be your poor metabolism, or poor genetics, or whatever.
This blog post marks a significant change for us. Together, Mike and I have decided to start getting more involved in giving you the resources you need – in the form of education – to build on the mental aspects that we already teach.
We’re choosing to use the word “wellness” to encapsulate every aspect of physical and mental health.
Wellness as a D-A-M
That’s right. D-A-M. Like the famous Hoover dam bordering Arizona and Nevada. We’re using this metaphorically because dams are structures that hold back enormous quantities of water. It speaks to the idea of what’s holding you back. It also speaks to potential, because a dam can be a resource where water is collected and drops (through gravity) to generate energy. Finally, I like the dam metaphor because it’s a beautifully simple Acronym:
DAM = Diet, Activity, Mental Game.
Mike and I already cover the mental game quite thoroughly in our free Brain Software podcast series, along with our incredible training courses such as The Architecture of Hypnosis and the Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy.
So I’d like to leave you with a few tips around the other two components: Diet and activity. Keep in mind that Mike and I are not medical doctors, so these tips represent what we do. We’ve invested thousands of hours (and a good chunk of cash) in our own education on these subjects and much of what we do flies in the face of traditional nutritional recommendations. Now why is that?
Because traditional advice is making people fat and sick. What follows is no doubt a controversial topic, but rest assured it’s easy to find huge numbers of legitimate medical doctors who recommend this to their patients all day long. Follow along if you wish.
Your diet is what you eat, so let’s talk about it.
1. Wellness isn’t about food restriction.
Too many people hear the word “diet” and equate it to what is technically known as “semi-starvation”, i.e. purposefully eating fewer calories so you can lose weight. When we say “diet” we mean the fuel you use to power your body on a daily basis. Our diet is a part of our lifestyle. It’s just how we eat. It’s not some temporary plan.
2. You can STOP counting calories.
Traditional advice still says that you must eat fewer calories than your body burns in order to lose weight. This is scientifically true but absolutely useless information. It’s like explaining that a classroom is full because there are no empty seats. We know the room is full but the explanation isn’t really an explanation. It doesn’t add any information because we don’t know what caused the seats to fill up.
One hundred years ago nobody knew what a calorie was. They could not be counted. Surprisingly, obesity was dramatically lower than it is today.
The truth is that our fat storage is controlled by hormones. Our bodies are constantly seeking balance, and will either store or burn fat to achieve that balance. Hormones will make you feel full or hungry as your body’s way of telling you what to do. This process of staying in balance is called homeostasis.
We don’t count how long it’s been since we last urinated. Nobody sits with an internal voice saying “Hey, it’s been 2 hours since I last peed. I better go find a toilet.” Of course not! What about jogging? We don’t consciously count how many breaths we take and worry about whether it’s enough to keep us from passing out due to lack of oxygen. We just … breathe!
And yet … somehow in the last hundred years since the calorie was invented we are supposed to count them to stay lean? Every other process in our body works fine on its own without conscious intervention but we better count those calories or else we’ll wind up obese? It’s NONSENSE.
The solution is to just eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you aren’t hungry anymore. BUT – you have to focus on high quality foods that don’t screw up your body’s hormone levels (among other things). This is discussed more below.
3. Dramatically reduce wheat and sugar in your diet.
Sugar seems obvious to most people, but wheat? Allow me to explain. Wheat is a complex carbohydrate that breaks down into sugar (specifically glucose) when eaten. All complex carbs break into glucose during digestion but wheat happens to be BY FAR the single biggest source of carbs in the modern diet. Other examples are rice, oats, rye, quinoa, corn and potatoes. But if you read the ingredients of most packaged foods you’ll discover that wheat is in almost everything. Why? Because it’s really cheap. Corn is quite common too. Note that corn is not a vegetable. It’s a grain.
When complex carbs are broken down into sugar, your body is FORCED to react by releasing large amounts of a hormone called insulin. When insulin levels are high your body goes into fat storage mode.
That, in a nutshell is why so many people put on excess body fat. The modern diet is packed with processed carbohydrates which results in huge insulin spikes in the body. This makes people fat.
Most people are already well aware that candy, soda, chocolate bars and gummy bears are bad for them. But all those “healthy whole grain” breads, muffins and bagels are even worse! Why? Because they break down into sugar super fast in your body and most people don’t realize the harm that does. These foods are health disasters.
Consider this experiment: Get rid of the wheat, and reduce major sources of carbohydrates. What if you try that for 4 weeks? Worst case scenario? Nothing happens (doubtful) and you go back to whatever you were eating before. Our bet? You’ll love the results and stick with it.
Mike and I typically eat no more than 100 grams of carbs in a day (that’s 400 calories worth, if you care). We do not advocate eliminating carbohydrates. We get some carbs in whole fruit, vegetables and other natural foods. We also don’t count carbohydrates (just as we don’t count calories). Counting is useful in the beginning until you have a good sense of what’s in the foods you choose.
4. We eat much more high quality fat.
Yes, we eat a lot of fat and we do not shy away from saturated fats! Mike and I eat plenty of eggs, butter, fatty meats, full-fat cheese and heavy cream for our coffee. We drink full-fat coconut milk (smoothies) and eat full-fat plain yogurt. We eat avocados and even bacon. We appreciate the immense flavour that fat brings to food.
Why so much fat? Simple – we are not on a starvation diet. If you are going to reduce wheat and other grains while not attempting to cut back on calories (i.e. just eat when hungry), then what’s left? Fat and protein. We don’t worry about protein quantity because we get plenty from the fatty foods we eat.
Isn’t all that saturated fat going to give us high cholesterol and heart disease? The science seems to point to one very clear answer. No.
I don’t have space to get into the discussion in this (already lengthy) post, but suffice to say that people who eat like this seem to surprise their traditional doctors with blood cholesterol profiles that are shockingly good.
Triglycerides will typically drop, and HDL (what most doctors typically call “good cholesterol” ) will usually go up. Both of these outcomes are considered positive. Because fat does not require the body to release insulin (the fat storing hormone), a high fat diet actually encourages weight loss. This is counter-intuitive, but once you realize how satiated (i.e. satisfied but not stuffed) you feel on a diet like this you’ll understand how it leads to appropriate eating not OVER eating.
Mike and I both firmly agree with the writings of experts such as Gary Taubes, Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. William Davis, Nina Teicholz and many others. Fat is (mostly) good for us. It’s what the body was designed to burn for fuel.
Why did I put “mostly” in parentheses? Because some fats are flat out dangerous. Mike and I stay away from vegetable oils such as soybean, canola and corn oil. They were not part of the human diet for most of history. We are not meant to eat these oils. They are health destroyers. It SHOULD scare you that the technical name for these oils is “solvent extracted oils”. They do not exist on their own in nature. We have to chemically extract them (and the food industry does it because it’s very cheap, NOT because it benefits your health).
5. Build your meals around vegetables.
We love making salads like the kind The Primal Blueprint author Mark Sisson referrs to as the “Big Ass Salad”. But we also toss raw or cooked veggies to of all sorts on our plates to supplement meat, fish, eggs, or whatever else is our major source of energy for a meal. We do not discriminate! We eat all colours of the rainbow and benefit from all of the micronutrients found in nature.
Remember that potatoes and corn are NOT vegetables. The former is a tuber, and the latter is a grain. Both are carbohydrate-rich foods, and for that reason we just don’t build meals around. And we’re not saying “never eat potatoes”. That’s silly. Potato or sweet potato, for example, is a nice side dish to enjoy in moderation.
Activity is how you move your body. Today most people sit in cars to drive to work, then they sit at a computer all day long, and sit on the couch to watch TV. No wonder so many people feel weak, tired, and sad.
6. Move around a lot.
Our bodies have evolved to move, not sit around all day. Even if you just add more walking to your daily routine, you’ll probably start too feel better. Park farther away from the entrance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for walks during daily breaks. Pick a coffee shop that is a couple of blocks away instead of the one right in your office building.
7. Do body weight exercises.
Use your body as a weight, and lift that sucker several times per week. Mike and I do a wide variety of exercises that require almost no space and no equipment. I workout at a local gym (it gets me out of the house more) and Mike works out at home. We do pushups, squats, kettlebell swings, pull-ups, and plenty of other movements that build core strength and flexibility.
Most people think it takes a lot of time and dedication to work out. It does take dedication but it does NOT require much time. If you are just starting out it will probably take you 5 minutes to do some pushups, squats, and perhaps a couple of other exercises. I’ve been working out since I was 16, and I’m in my 40s now. Guess how long I spend in the gym. One hour? Less than that? More? My average gym visit is about 20 minutes. That’s it. When I stay longer it’s because I’m having fun, trying new exercises, or talking to other members of the club. But you don’t need a gym membership. You already own your own gym. It’s your own body and the floor beneath your feet. No excuses.
8. Turn off the TV.
This is a big one. TV is a huge time waster along with mindless YouTube and Facebook surfing. Limit the amount of time you waste and you’ll be amazed how much extra time you have for walking, working out, cooking, great conversation and yes … SLEEP. So many people are sleep deprived, so unplug the TV and get more sleep. Think of sleep as a nutrient.
Wrapping it All Up into SIMPLE Advice:
This stuff isn’t complicated. Your personal wellness is a combination of diet, activity and your mental game. If you’re struggling with body fat you can probably get amazing results simply by eating REAL foods, eliminate bread, muffins, crackers, and other junk. Eat more nuts, seeds, vegetables, fish, meat and some reasonable amount of whole fruit (instead of drinking juice).
Move regularly and use your own body as a source of resistance by doing workouts a few times per week for no more than 5-10 minutes at the start. That’s really all you need! And finally make sure to implement all of the wonderful mental game strategies that we teach. Check out the Brain Software podcast if you’re not already a listener.
Need Our Help?
This is stuff that is absolutely possible to implement on your own. But if you’re looking to join us and a group of like-minded participants in a 4-week coaching program, we’re running the Wellness Academy very soon. Start by checking out this simple video we made to explain everything.