When you survive a painful loss, you suddenly realize that that the answer to “what’s the worst that could happen?” is usually not as bad as you had imagined. You don’t come out of something like that unscathed, rather you see that your worst realized fears won’t kill you. The process indeed can make you stronger. My story, regardless of the details is the same as many other people’s. Whether it’s losing a relationship, a loved one, or the security of a job, loss is never easy. In my case, surviving the pain of the process broke my fear of change.
It destroyed my need for stability and comfort.
What a gift!
We all naturally get roped into seeking an unchanging, comfortable life that ironically and predictably never comes. Because life is dynamic, always moving and always changing. Why do we fear that so much? Why can’t we accept change as part of the normal human experience?
We end up exchanging our time earning money to pay for insurance policies against every conceivable change. Fire, auto, flood, disability, medical, property, life. Does anyone else find irony in the fact that we pay for policies that reward bad luck? (I’m not suggesting we ditch them all, it’s just an observation.)
The path to realizing that loss and pain can create an otherwise unattainable gift isn’t easy. It takes time and a spirit of resilience. Especially in the case of of being wronged by the universe or someone, because the allure of self-pity is strong. There’s something desperately powerful and indulgent about being the victim. We subconsciously feed off of the feeling that someone owes us…something. But if we can release the hidden strangulating power of the victim mentality, it frees us to see possibilities and opportunities.
In my case it took forgiveness. I finally got to the point where I no longer wanted the adrenaline hit of hate. It was stifling my growth and I wanted and needed to let it go. So I chose to forgive. And it immediately changed the course of my life for the better.
Interacting with patients one-on-one is an interesting process. As a doctor who tries to listen intently, I’ve started picking up on certain underlying signals when people describe their problems. Recently I had a woman mention her ex-husband four times during her five-minute case history review. It wasn’t that he had physically hurt her. But that experience had left an indelible imprint on her life. It became part of her identity and actually, holding those negative emotions was likely contributing to her pain.
I want to be very clear: I don’t bring this up to prove that I recovered ‘right’ and my patient did it ‘wrong.’ I don’t judge her. I have no idea the painful depths of that experience. And each person is on their own part of the journey.
However, I think this raises a lot of questions for your consideration.
What painful struggle or sudden change have you encountered? Did it stunt your growth or create an environment to cultivate new opportunities? Does change scare you or do you thrive in the shifting landscape of life? Are you holding anger, guilt, shame, doubt, blame, or other negative emotions that repress growth?
I’d encourage you to examine your life and talk with a trusted advisor.
Is there a painful part of your experience that you could repurpose into a gift?
I was listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer awhile back, and he was telling a story about being in California on a trip. (It’s been a while, and I can’t find the audio, but this is my paraphrase). He was out walking the coast and some folks recognized him and asked him what he thought about the area and the people out there. He said that they were wonderful, friendly and very hospitable and they reminded him a lot like the people where he had just been. The folks agreed and went about their day. A little while later a different couple approached him and during the conversation they said they moved from an eastern city to California because the people where they were from were so horrible. Dr. Dyer asked the couple what he thought of the folks in California and they said, “It’s the same thing out here! Everyone treats us poorly and we don’t like them much either!”
The moral of the story, of course is that no matter where you are, you will see the world and its people with the light and perspective that you bring. So if you expect people to be terrible, you will find plenty of evidence to support your viewpoint. Conversely, and much healthier I might add, is the expectation to find beauty, love, whimsy, and wonder in the world and its inhabitants.
I’ve written previously about the power of perspective. And while I don’t claim to understand why some people insist on seeing the world in a negative light, I can choose my own thoughts. It’s a daily grind sometimes, to be sure. Shutting out the negative and shining positivity can often feel draining. But there is no advantage to expecting and focusing on the worst this world has to offer. It really does us no good at all.
However, a truly remarkable thing happens when you approach the world with a purposeful expectation of good. You notice that positive things are illuminated and brought your way. It’s like when you buy a new car, and you start noticing how many other people have your same vehicle! Look – it’s even the same color! Cool!
The synergy is already there. Now you can see it clearer.
Sidenote: I can hear an objection hanging out there in the pessimistic wind. Something like: “But Dr. Scott, the world is full of evil. Isn’t this burying your head in the sand?” It cannot be denied that there is indeed plenty to be concerned about. I’m not advocating that we pretend it’s all rainbows and unicorns out there. However, if you approach the world with an intent to see positivity, you might just find amazing ways to use your talents to ease the injustices.
In addition to checking and choosing your thoughts, you can also choose (for the most part) the people you surround yourself with. Are they like-minded in their positive expectations? Or are they constantly complaining? Do they focus on the injustice in their own lives and how everyone else is attacking them? Or do they seek ways to improve, share, love and give to others? Are they naysayers or overcomers?
Here’s the cheat sheet for us short attention span millennials:
-Expect to see positivity, beauty and blessing.
-Choose your thoughts and actions.
-Check and choose your surroundings for that which uplifts.
That’s the short, but sweet message today. I hope it helps.
It’s been a little over a year since I launched this blog. I’ve been really thankful for all of the feedback and interactions that it has created. As a way to say thanks – I’m going to give away one of my favorite Paleo resources!
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan and grateful friend of Bill & Hayley from The Primal Palate. Not only do they provide amazing resources to the Paleo community, but they also introduced me and Diane! (Hmm, maybe they should launch a real food matchmaker service? )
Anyway, I was going through my bookshelves and realized I had an extra SIGNED copy of their epic first offering – Make it Paleo.
My goal is to educate and help, but turning toward the mirror and examining ourselves, our motivations, and our priorities can often be uncomfortable.
So take a deep breath. Because the goal is to equip and edify, but part of the message might sting.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is: “How can I afford the high cost of healthier food?”
Let’s not beat around the bush. There are increased up-front costs associated with eating well. It costs more money to eat real food, because it typically isn’t subsidized like cereal grain crops. It also costs more in time to shop frequently, seek out whole food vendors, and prepare food.
I’m going to touch on some sensitive subjects. And lest I run the risk of being labeled an elitist who “wouldn’t understand,” please realize that just because I have a website and some initials in front of my name doesn’t mean that I haven’t been there. You know – trying to decide between paying the electric bill or getting the coconut oil? I have been there and I’ll explain as I go.
But first I want to address the cultural beliefs surrounding money. Most of the world lives on less than $10 / day. So if you have more than that, if you have cable TV, a smartphone and a car (even a clunker), you are relatively rich!
We live in one of the most affluent societies in history. Unfortunately, we also live in a very materialistic culture. This often means we get sucked into working jobs we don’t love to buy things we can’t afford to impress people we don’t like.
But it’s not just things that can trip us up. It’s long ingrained belief systems. So the question “How can I afford to eat Paleo?” is a loaded one. It’s loaded with a belief system that supports paying $300-$500 per month in sick care insurance so that we aren’t obligated to take care of ourselves. It’s this underlying belief system that often discourages up front, proactive expenses in favor of deferring costs down the road in the form of reactive sick care, lost time at work, and lowered productivity. (Ouch).
An important question becomes “What are our priorities?”
Herein lies the answer to the first question. If we can establish health as a priority, then we can figure out better ways to pay for them.
Because once upon a time, I was living month to month.
I opened a new business on the heels of one of the worst economies in recent history. I was shackled by massive student loan debt on top of new business debt. I was working long hours to launch my dream. And nothing was going to stop me. But one day I woke up and realized I was putting in jeopardy the very thing I was instructing others to take care of – health.
So I sat down and prioritized. If I was going to help anyone, I needed to take care of myself. Side note: Self-care is not selfish! Hey moms – I’m looking at you! You can’t be your best for others if you’re chronically ill.
I knew I needed to eat better and join a gym. Where was I going to find the extra dollars that weren’t in the current budget? I needed a new budget!
I cancelled my cable and used the extra time to find healthier food at lower costs (I’ll tell you where below).
I used the money to pay for a gym membership and went on my lunch breaks. I made my own protein-laden salads and homemade dressing everyday.
I put some of the premium savings into an Health Savings Account in case I needed care (which I haven’t).
I then took the rest and put it toward the healthiest food I could afford.
I also simplified my life. I made a list of all my possessions and marked off whether I had used them in the past year. Almost all of the ones that had a “no” went bye, bye. I sold, gave or threw away at least one thing per week for about 3 months. It was seriously liberating. Try it. Please. Now I do an abbreviated version of this every 6 months or so.
The decision to simplify ‘bought’ me more free time, more money and less distraction. This meant I was more productive at work and more successful. Then I could afford healthy food and basic cable
So back to the question of priorities. What are yours? Health, or keeping up with the Joneses? Health, or the newest gadget? Health, or 200+ TV channels? Using vacation time or deferring rest and recovery till retirement for a couple of extra bucks?
Money is probably one of the toughest subjects to tackle, because everyone’s situation is different. I fully realize that my situation (at the time) as a single 30+ year old professional with no dependents isn’t the reality for many of the folks reading this. I realize that my example above may have nothing to do with your situation. There are a lot people experiencing legitimate hardships and I’m not here to minimize that. But for many of us, the issue of healthier choices that cost more is an opportunity to check our priorities.
So, we’ve determined that a lot of us need to (re)establish healthy priorities, but also address the legitimate concern of making healthy food more affordable. Here are my top 5 tips for lowering food related expenses:
Cow and Pig Shares – This year I connected with a small local farmer who raises 100% grass-fed beef. I ended up paying an average of $4.77 / pound and filled my freezer with a quarter cow worth of steaks, ground beef, bones (to make broth), and organ meat. As the demand for ethically, sustainably raised animals increases there are more and more farmers offering options like this. In most cases the cost is substantially less than a similar product at the grocery store. Not only that, but eating healthy animals improves your chances of less health expenses in the long run. Find local suppliers at eatwild.com
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – Similar to the animal shares, these contracts with local farmers provide weekly shares of seasonal produce. For about $15/week I went to a local farm and picked up 100% organic produce through the growing season. More info at localharvest.org
Plant a Garden – While not feasible for those without space, and certainly a time commitment, a garden can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your healthy food transition. You can also turn this into a community or family effort. You can compost your organic kitchen waste to fertilize the garden and then sell, can or give away extra produce (who needs 3 dozen zukes?). Don’t discount this option if you’re in an urban setting either – urban communal gardens are becoming more popular and even growing your own herbs can help pinch pennies.
Cook More, Dine Out Less – Sometimes I forget what it was like to be scared of the kitchen and feel like I had such limited options. Eventually, this fifth and final tip simply develops into a rhythm and habit. You learn how to make new, fun, and delicious recipes. Utilizing the plethora of books and online resources available, you get creative so you don’t feel like dining out is such a treat anymore. For many, less dining out means a substantial boost to the budget. I also encourage people to plan out meals in advance which eases the strain of constantly figuring out everything on the fly. Plan ahead. Crock-pot it. Make double portions and freeze for later. You get the idea.
Your situation is probably different than mine…how have you made it work financially? I’d love to hear reader tips on this one, because my hunch is that for many of you I’m preaching to the choir about priorities. You’ve already made healthy food a priority…how have you made it affordable?
I’m woking through trying to answer some of the most frequently asked questions I receive from people about eating a Paleo or Primal diet. Up next is for those who are just starting to shift their eating habits. I’m often asked “What are the easiest and most important changes I can make?”
AKA “I’m a newbie, where do I start?”
Switch Fats – One of the easiest changes you can make is switching from unhealthy oils and ‘frakenfats’ to healthy, real food fats. Without going into too much detail, ditch vegetable, man made overly processed oils and switch to stable fats like ghee, coconut oil and olive oil. Diane over at Balanced Bites has an awesome free guide for this very purpose. She also breaks down which are best to cook with.
Easy Swaps – It can be really tough for those who feel attached to bread & pasta or rice and beans (or both) to eliminate grains & legumes. One of the ways we can get headed in the right direction at the beginning is to look for simple swaps to lessen the burden. We call these lateral shifts as they seem to be easier for us to make. For an extended version and great reference – I recommend 3 Phase Paleo by the Paleo Parents. Their first phase is swap!
Shop(right) – You can’t eat junk if it doesn’t end up in your cart. Healthy eating starts with buying real food. Changing shopping habits is vital to a big change in eating habits. Start by looking for better choices in the places you already shop. Then start looking for other ways to acquire healthy food. Utilize farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture, co-ops, cow/pig shares and grow a garden if you have the space.
Food Quality & Cost – One of the toughest parts of switching to whole foods based eating is the expense of eating well. It’s a shock to our wallet and there is no sense in pretending it doesn’t cost more to eat well. I’ve briefly addressed the underlying cultural implications of this concept, but basically we need to pay more for healthy habits. It hurts at first, but as our priorities change, we find ways to cover the expense. One of my favorite graphics in Practical Paleo is Diane’s food quality choice breakdown. Using the standard of “Good, Better, Best” – figure out what you can afford and shop accordingly. Prioritize based on what the most healthy version of your shopping list would be. We’re looking to maximize nutrients per dollar spent. You can also use the dirty dozen and clean 15 chart as a quick reference that can help you figure out which foods would be better to buy organic based on pesticide contamination.
Resources – A lot of people who are just starting Paleo get lost in the pandora’s box of internet resources and information swirling everywhere. I think it’s important to have variety in our information intake, but I’m a big fan of picking a few trusted go-to sources to minimize my wasted time. Here’s a subjective, yet effective list of my favorite Paleo resources.
Practical Paleo – If you have to pick just one book, make it the best selling, best reviewed Paleo book to date. This has the background science in an easy to read format. It contains condition specific meal plans and a bunch of great recipes. Sidebar – I recommended it to my patients before I was engaged to the author
Make it Paleo and The 30 Day Guide to Paleo Cooking - One of the first and biggest Paleo recipe books out there was Make it Paleo and it consistently ranks as a newbie favorite because of the sheer volume of recipes. Bill and Hayley of Primal Palate crushed it right from the start. They also saw a need for a beginner’s guide, which is where The 30 Day Guide fits in. Both are great options to jumpstart a Paleo eating plan.
Balanced Bites - It’s probably how you found me! Tons of FAQs, forums, great blogs, free 1 page guides that go with Practical Paleo, and much more.
Mark’s Daily Apple – One of the first, and certainly most trafficked paleo/primal sites, Mark Sisson’s team has done a great job bringing together science, practical application, forums and more into the Paleosphere. It’s a great place to get clarity.
Chris Kresser – For the folks who really want research based info, Chris does a great job of tackling some of the toughest topics with ease. He’s a functional medicine practitioner and has an awesome clinical perspective.
Primal Palate – I adore Bill and Hayley, it’s no secret. I use their website on a weekly basis. It has been recently updated and I love their meal planner, recipes and app which help guide my shopping and cooking.
Balanced Bites - I know, I know…I’m super biased on this one. Set aside the fact that I recorded the music and voiceover for the intro, because this podcast is seriously awesome! Diane and Liz (of Cave Girl Eats) have a style that is funny, informative and current. They answer TONS of listener’s questions and interview the best in the field.
Well, I’d say that’s about as much as we should tackle for this FAQ. I hope that gets you started off on the right foot. Feel free to chime in on the comments if you have helpful suggestions!
The logic goes something like this: If we avoid risky behavior, we’ll all be just fine and live a longer, better life.
Unfortunately, it’s a lie. Is Kevin’s story a horrible tragedy? Of course. Are there lessons to be learned? Yes. But that’s not what this post is about. (I’d suggest this article for more.)
By this logic of risk avoidance, no one should ever drive a car. Or get on a plane to explore the world. Or age. All of which increase our risk of death. Heck, you could die in your sleep!
We are all going to die! If you want to build a bubble and avoid risk at the expense of experiencing life – go for it. I have no intention of living in fear. I did that for a a few months and it made me wish for death.
My coach likes to say that how you do anything is how you do everything and that how you handle a bar is how you handle life.
Are you going to leave the bar racked for someone else? Or get on that thing and learn and progress and explore and fail and get up and try again?
After my divorce, I swore I’d never let anyone in that close again. It hurt too much. Life and love were too painful. Had I stuck to that fatalistic oath, I would never have met Diane. And that would have been the biggest mistake of all.
There’s no way to live a risk-free life. Life is inherently dangerous and at the same time an amazing blessing.
While I spend most of my time helping others learn how to live healthier lives (and thus decreasing risk of disease), the ultimate goal is to be healthy enough to live a full life. Healthy enough to engage in the activities you love for as long as you are blessed to wake up each day.
In my opinion, a life without risk is no life at all.
Yours in Health,
PS: For those who are bold enough to embrace the struggle and are unfortunate enough to fall…please consider helping them out. In Kevin’s case, he is going to require funds for his recovery. Please check out this link and his story and see how you can help.
Nothing will put a damper on a beautiful vacation quicker than getting ‘glutened’ and missing out on an adventure or much needed leisure. Here are a few tips on how to navigate eating well out on the open road.
Define Your Line
My hard line is gluten and soy. While I don’t have Celiac disease, I am pretty intolerant to gluten and I avoid it strictly. Same for soy. However, I can tolerate dairy (especially hard cheese & goat milk products), corn and rice without too much trouble. These are not a part of my regular intake at home, but if I’m on the road and there’s goat cheese on a salad, I’m not going to make a big deal about it. If, however I am ordering eggs benedict (no muffin, extra potatoes), I will ask if there is flour in the hollandaise. There shouldn’t be, but one time I didn’t ask and I lost a morning in Kauai to the porcelain gods.
Set your boundaries and order, shop, and ask questions accordingly. Is it ok to ‘relax’ your restrictions a little while traveling? That’s up for you to decide. Just realize when you’re eating out at restaurants, it’s almost impossible to avoid seed oils. You have to be ok with that for a short period of time – or find a way to make all of your own food. Which sort of defeats the purpose of vacation (IMO).
There’s An App For That
When I travel (which is a lot lately), I use Urban Spoon, Yelp or Google to find restaurants, grocers and markets that fit my lifestyle. I plan ahead, call ahead and make reservations if needed. I look at menus online beforehand. Use the following search terms to narrow the results: Grass fed (burger), Paleo friendly, Organic, Farm to Table, Gluten Free Friendly. Have fun with it! I have discovered some of the best food and awesome people doing this. Recently, Diane and I ended up at a new farm-to-table restaurant in Connecticut on our
Photo Credits – Primal Palate
way back from a book signing. The waitress said something like “All of our ingredients are local, organic, and we don’t have a freezer.” The chef/owner came out after and we chatted food for a while and left a copy of Practical Paleo. Yeah, it was awesome! There are new places popping up all over to meet the demand for cleaner food. Don’t discount food trucks either! There are Paleo food trucks in a lot of areas like Cultured Caveman in Portland, for example.
Crowd Source For the Win
Ask your peeps or a page you trust. “Hey, I’m going to be in Austin, Tx – where can I grab a clean bite / grass-fed burger?” My friends Bill & Hayley of Primal Palate have a huge crowd-sourced resource started on their page for this purpose. It’s a city-by-city tour de yum. When you find a great place, be a Paleo pal and add it to their list! Also, make sure to review great places you find on social media using those keywords I gave you above. That way, when someone searches “Paleo Friendly”, your review of that place will come up. Recently on my way through San Francisco airport, a recommendation sent me to Napa Farms Market in terminal 2 where I filled up on pork shoulder, roasted carrots and fingerling potatoes for $12.50.
Preparing some healthy snacks ahead of time is key. Getting stuck on a plane or in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat leads to being hangry and that leads to buying Slim Jims and pork rinds (could be worse). I always pack a few Epic Bars or Nick’s Sticks when I travel. There’s no substitute for clean protein. I also usually pack some nuts, fruit or grain-free granola. Having a small bottle of olive oil & Redmond Real Salt on hand can save you seed oil exposure when ordering salads sans dressing. If you’re trying Asian cuisine, bringing a bottle of coconut aminos is also a smart option. Please use the awesome reference on page 55 of Practical Paleo for tons of great travel friendly foods.
Be Ok With Being ‘That’ Guy/Girl
Look, if you want to eat healthy you need to ask questions. At restaurants, you’re going to be the one asking about ingredients and special ordering off the menu. It’s fine. People really don’t care as much as you think they do. Unless you’re being a jerk. Be comfortable and confident, but not pushy or snotty. Keep it really simple. When the staff asks if I have any questions about the menu I say, “I’m trying to avoid gluten, so if you can help me out, I’d really appreciate it!” 99% of the time, if you’ve done step #1 right (choosing a good place), they’ll be happy to help. Look for easy substitutes and swaps. Recently, a friend I was dining with wanted the lamb, but not the gnocchi it came with. We noticed another dish on the menu had scalloped potatoes. Boom! Easy G-free swap.
Eating well on the road certainly takes some planning ahead. Just like life at home. But this is your health we’re talking about. Try to find a happy balance between analysis paralysis and a spontaneous junk food fest.
Hope that helps! Feel free to add your ideas in the comments – I’d love to hear what has worked for you.
It was thanksgiving weekend 2012. I was visiting my girlfriend and she wanted me to come workout at her CrossFit gym. A little background on me: I’ve been a lifelong athlete. I played 4 varsity sports in high school, men’s intercollegiate club volleyball, I’m a 12 handicap golfer, I mountain bike, snowboard, and have been lifting weights a few times per week since 10th grade.
This is all to say that coming into Brazen Athletics (CrossFit Link), I felt pretty prepared to get in a workout of the day (WOD).
I was wrong!
I finished dead last in that first WOD. It was one of those where you have multiple rounds of 4 different movements for time. I remember everyone coming around me cheering me on as I finished up. At the time I was wishing everyone would ignore my ineptitude and anguish. My lungs burned, my legs ached. What the heck had I gotten into?
A little while later I visited the gym again, this time as an onlooker/cheerleader. The members were competing in “The Open.” If you’re unfamiliar, this is a competition that anyone can enter, as long as they complete the weekly workouts in an authorized facility. It’s also the qualifier for regional competitions that ultimately determine who gets to go to the CrossFit Games.
It was this experience, watching and cheering on the members that got me hooked. It all felt like a team, a family supporting each other to achieve their best. Pushing each other to the brink of exhaustion. It was crazy and loud and beautiful.
I wanted in.
Since this time of year everyone is making lists, here are:
5 lessons I’ve Learned in My First Year of CrossFit
The ‘Right’ Box is All About the Right People – I’ve been to a number of gyms (called ‘boxes’ in CrossFit) over the past year. Brazen spoiled me as my intro to CrossFit. In my opinion, the key to CrossFit isn’t the workouts (although – see point #3). The key is the people. The coaches. The members. The support. The family. I know one of the knocks on CrossFit is the sort of ’cult’ feel it can have. Whatever. To me, it feels like family. A family of odd balls and contrarians. The kind of family that’s trying to kick life in the butt and get better together everyday. The kind of family that has “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World” painted on the wall and emblazoned on their hearts. Shout out to Limitless BigJ and Link for creating such an amazing place.
Check Your Pride Before You Fall - When I started, I couldn’t overhead squat a PVC pipe properly. Meanwhile, the girl next to me was crushing out reps of 115#. I know another criticism of CrossFit is that it supposedly has a high rate of injury. As a doctor and athlete, I have a pretty unique perspective on all of this. First, I can’t afford to be hurt. I use my body as a means to earn a living. Second, no activity (or inactivity) is without risk. What I learned pretty quickly is that if I let my ego dictate my intensity or load, I was more likely to hurt something. My coaches and I emphasized proper form and technique over intensity and load, and I have remained un-injured this year while still improving every area of my fitness. Don’t let your pride in a class setting get in the way of improving yourself by suffering a serious injury. For more in limiting injury risk – check out this blog post.
The Proof is in the Programming – Earlier, I said the people at CrossFit are more important than the WOD programming. I stand by that. However, the programming is extremely important too. The thought process that should go into programming weeks, months and even years of workouts is vital to membership success. By success I mean improving movements, fitness, and progressing while limiting injury risk. I went to one box to check it out and their intro class (for all non-members) was one of the worst WODs I’ve ever done or seen. We all got absolutely crushed by multiple rounds of 200 yard lunges. Real nice first impression doofus.
Help – One of the best things I did early on in my CrossFit journey was to ask for help. Even though I have a pretty high level of understanding of how the body is supposed to move, I couldn’t see all of the things I needed to work on without help. There’s only so much coaching that can happen in the middle of a WOD. Take advantage of one-on-one coaching. If you’re serious about getting better, pony up for a few sessions with a coach you trust. Also, get some video taken of your baseline movements and be okay with them analyzing and helping you.
Thrive, Not Just Survive – I’ve put on a healthy 15 pounds this past year and I’ve never been stronger. My functional movement has improved significantly. I’ve found things to work on I never knew about. Most importantly, my passion for exercise has been rekindled. Before CrossFit, I had hit a really pathetic plateau and wasn’t progressing. Now I have tons of new and challenging movements and goals to work toward.
I have no delusions of being on ESPN, but I’ve found an awesome box, with amazingly talented coaches and supportive members who are all working to get better. Better at CrossFit, yes, but better at life.
And that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned in my first year of CrossFit.
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive via the blog and social media is, “How do I find a good chiropractor?”
I use to get annoyed by this, because I thought it was sort of demeaning to the profession. But as I’ve been in practice a little while now, I’ve changed my mind. I think people really mean, “How do I find the right chiropractor for me?” Besides, don’t we do this for almost all aspects of life? Especially in this digital age of crowd-sourced everything. My Facebook feed has daily questions like “Who has a good camera repair guy?” “Where can I go for the best deal on ______?” “Who can recommend an honest car repair shop?”
You get the idea. We’re relying on social proof a lot these days. So here is a collection of my recommendations for what to look for in the right chiropractor. Please recognize that this is my opinion and thus a subjective set of values.
“Did you go to Palmer?” This is a question I’m often asked by older patients. Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa was the first chiropractic college in the country. They have a great reputation and once upon a time it was probably fair to equate a degree from Palmer to be superior to other colleges. However, these days all chiropractic colleges are governed by a national accreditation body through the federal department of education which sets standards that ALL schools must meet. We all have to pass the same national board exams to get a state license. Bottom line, we all have the same basic education. Graduates from various schools may rightfully argue the virtues of their particular school, but honestly a chiropractor’s true education comes from their own self-motivated study, beyond what most chiropractic schools offer.
What to ask or look for: What additional specialty, education, certification, diplomate, or experience does the chiropractor have? Does it match your needs as a patient? For example, I tend to attract more athletes and active people because of my background in athletic training, my MS in Exercise Science and my certification in Active Release Technique. I also tend to get folks seeking a paleo/primal practitioner. Maybe you need someone adept in Functional Medicine or pediatrics. Whatever the case, do your research and match your needs with the doctor’s expertise.
Personality / Office Structure: Like most businesses, chiropractic offices have a structure, feel, and ‘personality’ to them. You can tell a lot about the doctor by how the office is run. Here are a list of positive attributes that will help you decide if you’re in a good place.
Friendly, knowledgeable staff – Obviously, the support staff should treat you very well. They should be able to answer questions, fight insurance companies with you and generally make you feel welcome.
No long waits – There is no reason you should have to wait more than 15 minutes to be seen. I’ve had and upheld this policy in my office for 3 years. Just because someone makes you wait an hour doesn’t mean they’re the best. It means they are inefficient and have a flawed system. If you have a scheduled appointment, you should be seen in a timely manner. However, if you just walk in, all bets are off!
Education, not high pressure sales – Look, if the DC has to scare you into care, get out of there! They should be teaching you and explaining their findings, their plan for your case, and should be upfront about the time, cost and commitment they expect from you.
Table-side manner – The very heart of chiropractic is hands on care. You want to be comfortable with the doctor putting their hands on you.
The Art of Adjusting - Speaking of hands…there are a lot of techniques out there. There are fancy instruments and modalities. Each may be useful. However, for my money, I want a chiropractor that has skilled hands and uses them in a healing manner. The adjustments may not be comfortable at first, but they shouldn’t hurt. And if they do hurt, you should feel comfortable enough to speak up and say so. The skilled DC will not be offended and will adjust their technique to better suit you.
Resources: Here are some links to techniques, associations and provider resource sites that can help you in your search for a good the right chiropractor.
Active Release Technique – the provider finder tab at this technique site can help you find a local practitioner in what is consider to be the Gold Standard in soft tissue techniques.
Chiropractic Neurology – This is a specialty that has gained popularity recently due to the profoundly positive effects it has on a vast array of conditions. Common conditions such as headaches, traumatic brain injury (concussions), neuralgia, and fibromyalgia, as well as musculoskeletal complaints have all responded well to this type of chiropractic care. Here are a few different accreditation and educational bodies: The ACNB, The IACN and The Carrick Institute which qualifies candidates to sit for the ACNB exam.
Functional Medicine (FM) – Many patients are seeking practitioners skilled in lab analysis, therapeutic diet, detoxification, and supplementation. Chiropractors specializing in FM, like my good friend Dr. Will Cole in Pittsburgh help people with diabetes, hormone dysfunction, adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia (to name a few). Here are a few ways to find a functional medicine provider in your area: Institute for Functional Medicine and Functional Medicine University.
Nothing Trumps Trust:
Regardless of post graduate certifications, techniques, abilities or an efficiently run office, there’s nothing better than finding a provider you can trust. Trust is a bit nebulous to define. After all, it’s just a feeling. But a trustworthy doctor is one that knows who they can help, but also when they are not the right one for your case. A good doctor knows their limitations and isn’t afraid to send you to someone else.
One of my goals for this blog is to help elevate the level of respect for and importance of care for the spine and nervous system. Chiropractors are the only practitioners that dedicate themselves to this specialty. I truly hope this article helps you connect with a chiropractor in your area that you can rely on.
This post is for the neuro nerds. My bio buds. The manual therapists, the weekend warriors and the supple leopards. It’s also for the moms and dads, and the generation they are charged with raising.
This post is about proprioception. And it’s for all of us.
I am going to use the term ‘proprioception’ loosely in this post. Normally, we use it to simply talk about our own awareness of body position. Here, I’ll lump it in with other sensory information as an all-encompassing way to describe the combination of impulses directed from the body to the brain via the nervous system. It can be from neurons, mechanoreceptors, proprioceptors, golgi tendon organs, muscle spindles, Pacinian corpuscles and tons of other things most people don’t care about.
But I care about them. Because they are essential to life. And most of us are stifling the message.
So here goes (if you’re still with me). Our body is littered with sensory neurons and organs that send signals to the brain for interpretation. Proprioception is mediated in the cerebellum (the hindbrain). Other sensory information is computed in the cortical region of the brain. Here, a physical representation has been created to depict the density of sensors in parts of the body. It’s called the sensory homunculous, which means ‘creepy little dude.’ (See picture below) You see that the lips and hands are huge because they are the most sensitive parts of our bodies, and thus have the most dense innervation allotted to them.
But I left out another big one. Our feet!
Yes, our feet are packed with senory neurons and proprioceptors and are supposed to give our brains tons of feedback about the nature of our environment. I say ‘suppose to’ because everyone is suppressing this important feedback with fashionable functional casts shoes.
Yes, your shoes are killing you. Or at the very least decreasing the quality of your life and health. Killing sounds more compelling though.
One of my favorite authors, Dr. James Chestnut likes to talk about proprioception as an essential ‘nutrient’ for your brain. Think about all of the childhood behavioral and brain disorders. ADD/ADHD for example is partly a sensory input disorder. The brain isn’t getting sufficient feedback from its environment and thus ‘asks’ for more. More movement, more activity, more stimulation, more nutrients. And yet we have a society that puts shoes on our kids, has them sit in tidy lines in class all day and wonders why so many kids are struggling. And yes the food is partly to blame. But this post is all about movement and proprioception.
The Hard-Level Floor Theory
From an ancestral health perspective, this all makes a lot of sense. Back in the day, we would spend a lot of time moving about the ground, connected to the earth. Mark Sisson talks a lot about this in his newest book The Primal Connection. We would have been on uneven surfaces and naturally had strong feet and tons of sensory input from our feet to our brains. Nowadays, we must make a conscious effort to get off of hard-level floors and out of shoes to feed our brain the proprioceptive nourishment it requires. Could the modern trend of something as common as shoes be contributing to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, depression, ADD, etc?
What to do?
We can’t very well go around barefoot all day. It’s true; our society is setup to dissuade a full complement of sensory feedback from our feet. Translation: no shirt, no shoes, no service!
Below is what I recommend to patients and what I have personally done. Not only will you help nourish the brain, these strategies can help to alleviate plantar fasciitis, shin splints, IT Band syndrome, patellar tendonitis and chronic ankle sprains.
Whenever possible, take off your shoes and walk around on the grass.
Daily “Foot drills.” These are simple exercises to strengthen and rehab the foot muscles. (see video below)
Gradually shift all footwear to barefoot or minimalist style.
When weight training, I’ve opted for Inov-8’s, which are less restricting than a full-blown lifting shoe. Depending on your level of involvement, pick something that will protect, but also create a more ‘natural’ environment.
When at work, I find a minimalist flat from Vivobarefoot is ‘dressy’ enough to get by.
(Please note the video is not mine. Credits can be found in the YouTube link.)
I wouldn’t recommend doing all of this all at once. It takes time to strengthen the foot enough to transition safely back to our original nature. Especially if you’re a runner. DO NOT simply take of your shoes and pound the pavement. Go slow and steady to build up your innate foot strength and proprioception.
After all, we’ve been in walking casts most of our lives.