Dwelling On Stressful Events Can Make You Sick

University of Ohio researchers have found that when people “were asked to dwell on stressful events, their levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of tissue inflammation, rose”. This is the first study to directly measure the physical effect that obsessing on negative events has on our bodies. “Much of the past work on this subject has looked at this in non-experimental designs. Researchers have asked people to report their tendency to ruminate, and then looked to see if it connected to physiological issues (ie cortisol levels). It’s been correlational for the most part,” said lead researcher, Dr. Peggy Zoccola.


In this new study, Dr. Zoccola et al recruited 34 healthy young women and “asked each to give a speech about her candidacy for a job to two interviewers in white laboratory coats, who listened with stone-faced expressions”.

Half of the group was asked to contemplate their performance in the public speaking task, while the other half was asked to think about neutral images and activities, such as sailing ships or grocery store trips. The researchers drew blood samples that showed that the levels of C-reactive protein were significantly higher in the subjects who were asked to dwell on the speech. For these participants, the levels of the inflammatory marker continued to rise for at least one hour after the speech. During the same time period, the marker returned to starting levels in the subjects who had been asked to focus on other thoughts.

What does this mean to you?

  • C-reactive protein is produced as part of the immune system’s initial inflammatory response. It rises in response to traumas, injuries or infections in the body. In these short-term situations, it’s a good thing.

However, in when elevated levels of C-reactive protein become a chronic, day-to-day kind of thing…it’s not so good. “More and more, chronic inflammation is being associated with various chronic disorders and conditions, such as….heart disease, cancer, dementia and autoimmune diseases.” Conclusions

  1. The result of a single study should always be judged with a critical eye. More research is necessary before mainstream science and medicine will get on board.
  2. You don’t have to wait for mainstream medical approval to make use of this research. We all have stressful situations in our lives…lots of opportunities to obsess and dwell on how we were screwed over by our bosses or that jerk on the highway.

The next time you find yourself dwelling over some crappy event in your life…pay CLOSE ATTENTION to how your body feels.

  • Pay attention to your breathing – are you holding your breath?
  • Pay attenting to your temperature – do you feel warm, cold, normal? Are your hands sweaty, clammy?
  • Pay attention to your heartbeat
  • Look at your face in the mirror…what do you see
  • Pay attention to your muscles – tight or relaxed?
  • Listen to your emotions – anger, sadness, calm, happy?

And after you have collected all that data, ask yourself a question…

  • Is dwelling on this particulary stressful event good or bad for YOU?




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The Cure for Stress?

Life is stressful…for all of us.

Unfortunately for most of us, stressful events can cause an unconscious response in our “lizard-brains”…


…leading to uncontrolled emotional states, anxiety, fear, depression, etc.

However, new research has uncovered how an eight-week beginners course in meditation can…

  1. Reduce activation in the right amygdala
  2. Improve your emotional stability
  3. Improve your response to stress

…which should lead to a calmer life, free of out-of-control emotions, fear, anxiety & depression.

And seeing as our lives don’t show any sign of slowing down & becoming more peaceful, this is some pretty important research.

The Science

The researchers studied the effect of two different styles of meditation.

  1. Mindful Attention Meditation
  2. Compassion Meditation
  • Three weeks prior to beginning the study, all participants participated in fMRI scans of their brains while “viewing a series of 108 different images of people in situations with either positive, negative or neutral emotional content”.

Meditation was not mentioned during this pre-experiment scanning session.

  • Three weeks after the scans, the participants were enrolled in one of two eight-week meditation courses – mindful attention meditation OR compassion meditation.
  • Three weeks after completing their meditation course, the participants returned for a follow-up fMRI scan.

As in the previous fMRI session, the participant viewed a a series of 108 different images of people in situations with either positive, negative or neutral emotional content while being scanned. Note – participants were not allowed to meditate during the scanning process.

Here’s what they found:

  • The mindful attention meditation group showed a decrease in activation in the right amygdala in response to all images – good, bad & neutral.
  • In the compassion meditation group, right amygdala activity also decreased in response to positive or neutral images
  • However, when negative images were shown to the compassion meditation group, right amygdala activity increased.

From these observations, the researchers concluded that:

  1. Both forms of meditation provide “enduring, beneficial changes in brain function, especially in the area of emotional processing.”
  2. “Since compassion meditation is designed to enhance compassionate feelings, it makes sense that it could increase amygdala response to seeing people suffer.
  3. Since increased amygdala activation was also correlated with decreased depression scores in the compassion meditation group, they believe that having more compassion towards others may also be beneficial for oneself.


  • To start getting the benefits of mindful meditation…the next time you find yourself with some spare time (waiting for the traffic light to change, sitting in the doctor’s office, riding in an elevator), focus on your breath…ignoring everything else…for just a few moments.

If you can do that…try extending the length of time…when you have the time.

  • And if you want to give compassion meditation a try (without signing up for a class), the next time you do a mindfulness meditation, try focusing on someone you love…and send out feelings of love out to them.

Kind of like a lot of us did as kids..


Change Your Body Language Change Your Life

There is a large body of research which shows us that your body language tells us lot about your state of mind.

In fact, we all make split second decisions about other people based on their body language each & every day.

  • Do we like that person?
  • Do we trust them?
  • Do they give us the creeps?

What you may not know is that…

And you don’t even need to believe me for it to work.

Because “our bodies change our minds, our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes.”


Spending 60 seconds in a “power pose” WILL increase your test, decrease your cortisol and make you feel and act like your best self.

Seriously…this stuff works.

Like Dr. Cuddy says…“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”


A Real Sophie’s Choice: Baldness or Suicide?

Baldness Sucks!!!

Unfortunately, according to a new study to be published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry….”men who developed persistent sexual side effects while on the anti-baldness drug finasteride (aka Propecia), have a high prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts“.

During their research, the researchers found that:

  • Most former finasteride users exhibited some degree of depressive symptoms
  • 11% had mild symptoms of depression
  • 28% had moderate symptoms of depression
  • 36% had severe symptoms of depression
  • and 44% reported suicidal thoughts

In the control group….

  • 10% had mild depressive symptoms with no cases of moderate or severe symptoms
  • and 3% reported suicidal thoughts.

Study author Dr. Michael S. Irwig concluded that “the potential life-threatening side-effects associated with finasteride should prompt clinicians to have serious discussions with their patients. The preliminary findings of this study warrant further research.”

And if that isn’t an understatement….


What to do when Life Sucks

Sometimes life sucks.

  • You have a bad day at work
  • You sat in traffic for hours
  • Your “fat clothes” are fitting way too tight
  • You’re sick of being single
  • You’re sick of being married
  • A dog pooped on your front lawn

In response, you:

  • Smack-talk your boss behind their back, or
  • Give the finger to the jerk who cut you off in traffic, or
  • Eat an entire bag of Oreos, or
  • Cry, scream, punch, swear, drink, etc…

And after all that…your life still kinda sucks…maybe even a little worse.

If this sounds like you (me) and you are open to breaking a few of your bad habits, you might want to listen to the words of Pema Chödrön – an American Buddhist who is the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.

In her book Taking the Leap, Pema Chödrön talks a lot about the Tibetan Buddhist concept of shenpa.

Shenpa is that feeling of being very uncomfortable and having an immediate desire to get away from that feeling as fast as possible. It’s kind of like we are like little kids stricken with a nasty case of poison ivy. The itch is horrible and all we want to do is scratch and scratch and scratch. Unfortunately, scratching makes poison ivy worse.

In real life, when we experience something unpleasant, shenpa kicks in and instigates a strong desire to do “something” to try and make the unpleasantness stop.

That “something” could include the aforementioned smack-talking, finger-waving, over-eating, bad tv watching, cigarette smoking, etc, etc, etc…

Unfortunately for you, giving into shenpa usually makes things worse in real life too.

  1. It relieves our suffering for only a very short amount of time, and
  2. After which, we return to the same problems we had before we inhaled those Oreos
  3. Only now we have to deal with the after-effects of our shenpa over-reaction.

Obesity, traffic tickets, unemployment, alcoholism, a punch in the nose, etc…

Chödrön suggests a different approach.

Instead of running away from life’s bad news….sit with it.

Pay attention to what has just happened and how it makes you feel. Don’t react. Pay attention. And then do what you can to make the crappy stuff a little bit better.

Kind of like putting calamine lotion on poison ivy instead of scratching it.

Childhood Obesity : A Primer for Parents

Having an obese child doesn’t make you a bad parent.

  • Uninformed : MAYBE
  • Bad : NO
  1. Processed food producers spend an ungodly amount of money learning what type of foods encourage overeating…and over-purchasing. Sugars, fats, processing techniques, flavor enhancing chemicals, etc.
  2. In addition to the bio-chemsitry, then spend big bucks on neuro-psychology to determine how your eyes and brain can be manipulated while you shop. Believe it or not, there is a lot of science behind product placement and purchasing decisions.
  3. Moving on to the science of manipulation, our food producers also spend huge amounts of money creating and delivering marketing campaigns aimed directly at your kids….knowing that if they get them while they’re young, they will have them for life. Creepy – YES…but also very effective.
  4. And if that wasn’t enough, they also spend a lot of money employing lobbyists to protect their interests within government, generate massive food subsidies and to block any legislation limiting their influence over our kids.

Put it all together and it’s not too surprising that our kids keep getting fatter and fatter.

Luckily, there are solutions.

  • Informed parents can make better food and activity choices for their kids.
  • Informed parents can tell their government that they don’t like advertising directed at their pre-pubescent children.
  • Informed parents can bring attention (thank you social media) to the political manipulation that makes a mockery of the Free Market.
  • Informed parents can talk to other parents and local government to improve access to healthy foods in their neighborhood.
  • Informed parents can take advantage of existing grants and support organizations to improve the walkability and “playability” of their neighborhoods

And how does a parent get informed?

Here’s a good place to start.

Other Resources

America's Lifestyle Diseases Cost the Economy over $153 Billion per Year

Lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and depression are costing the American economy $153 billion per year in lost productivity.

Based on data collected via the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, researchers concluded that chronic health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, asthma, depression and recurring physical pain resulted in 449,847,652 days missed from work… and an estimated productivity loss of $153,398,049,221 per year.

And it gets worse.

  • This calculation doesn’t include productivity lost when employees show up at work but are less productive because of their poor health.
  • As well, the Gallup people didn’t speak with part-time workers.

Previous research which included these factors found that America’s chronic lifestyle diseases cost the nation up to $1.1 trillion per year.

And that’s a lot of money.


Maybe enough money for the government to start throwing some cash into health promotion programs?




Why Do We Get Angry? – New Research

Why is it that some people get angry at the littlest thing while others have the patience of Job?

New research from the University of Cambridge finds that low levels of serotonin in your brain have a major impact upon how you react to that jerk who cut you off in traffic this morning.

Building upon previous serotonin/aggression research, this study is the first to show how serotonin helps regulate behavior in your brain as well as why some people are more prone to aggression.

The Science

In this study, healthy volunteers’ serotonin levels were altered by manipulating their diet.

  • On the serotonin depletion day, they were given a mixture of amino acids that lacked tryptophan, the building block for serotonin.
  • On the placebo day, they were given the same mixture but with a normal amount of tryptophan.

The researchers then scanned the volunteers’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as they viewed faces with angry, sad, and neutral expressions. Using the fMRI, they were able to measure how different brain regions reacted and communicated with one another when the volunteers viewed angry faces, as opposed to sad or neutral faces.

The research revealed that low brain serotonin made communications between specific brain regions of the emotional limbic system of the brain (a structure called the amygdala) and the frontal lobes weaker compared to those present under normal levels of serotonin.

The findings suggest that when serotonin levels are low, it may be more difficult for the prefrontal cortex to control emotional responses to anger that are generated within the amygdala.

Using a personality questionnaire, they also determined which individuals have a natural tendency to behave aggressively.

In these individuals, the communications between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex was even weaker following serotonin depletion. ‘Weak’ communications means that it is more difficult for the prefrontal cortex to control the feelings of anger that are generated within the amygdala when the levels of serotonin are low.

As a result, those individuals who might be predisposed to aggression were the most sensitive to changes in serotonin depletion.

What Does This Mean to You?

It means that if you don’t want to live your life being Mr. or Ms. Grumpy, you may want to take steps to avoid low serotonin.

These steps can include:



Is Senobi Breathing the Cure for Depression, Obesity and Asthma?

The Senobi Breathing Exercise has been shown to:

  1. Reduce the symptoms of asthma
  2. Reduce the symptoms of depression
  3. Reduce levels of obesity

Not too shabby for a simple breathing exercise that takes all of 30 seconds to do.

What is the Senobi Breathing Exercise?

The Senobi Breathing Exercise can be performed in a 4 different ways:

  • Standing
  • Sitting
  • Hands together & fingers intertwined
  • Hands apart

In the standing position, the exerciser stands still with the feet at shoulder width. The arms are extended firmly, initially without uniting the palms. The neck is bent into the back, and the upper body is bent so as to face the ceiling (Fig. 1). The exerciser must take care to avoid overexertion.

  • Air is inhaled for 5 seconds, then exhaled for 5 seconds.
  • This respiration pattern should be done three times;
  • therefore 30 seconds are spent in the posture described.

During this posture, the scapulas shut automatically, so breathing occurs mainly from the abdomen.

To achieve thoracic respiration, we can switch to the hands held together – fingers intertwined –  and the palms turned to the ceiling version. In this posture, the scapulas are open, so the breathing that unites the palms is thoracic respiration.

The seated posture is identical to the standing posture, except for the fact that you’re sitting instead of standing.

Check out this Senobi – Obesity Study

After 1 min of the “Senobi” breathing, substantial up-regulation of sympathetic nerve activity and increased urinary hormone secretion were observed in the overweight women but not in the healthy controls. Moreover, after repeating the exercise for a month, the obese patients showed significant loss of body fat. The “Senobi” breathing exercise was found to be effective for weight loss in obesity possibly by regulating the autonomic nervous system and the hormone secretion.

Senobi – Asthma Study

After 1 month of regularly performing this exercise, most patients showed a decrease in the frequency of asthma rescue medication use. They also showed a recovery of forced expiratory volume in 1 second. These results suggest that the Senobi stretch is a useful exercise for asthmatic patients to perform to achieve a desirable improvement in symptoms.

Senobi – Depression Study

After one minute of SBE, significant up-regulation of sympathetic nerve activity and increased concentrations of catecholamines, estradiol, and growth hormone were observed in OWD (depressed) group. After 30 days of SBE, the sympathetic nerve activity and hormone levels had recovered in OWD group, and the depressive state, as evaluated by the Hamilton Depression Scale, had ameliorated. The “Senobi” breathing exercise was found to be effective for amelioration of depression in obese women possibly through up-regulation of sympathetic nerve activity and hormone secretion.


While the Senobi Breathing Exercise seems a little too good to be true…..it only takes 30 seconds, it’s free and if you’re asthmatic, overweight & depressed…what do you have to lose?


Quiet your Busy Brain with Mindfulness Meditation

Researchers have found that the “positive effects of mindfulness meditation may result because of an improved ability to control a specific type of brain wave called the alpha rhythm”.

And it’s this alpha rhythm that helps you quiet your mind and protect it from the ‘noise’ of our crazy, over-stimulating world.

Mindfulness meditation allows people to modulate their alpha rhythm better & faster than non-meditators.

“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, co-lead author of the report. “Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”

Brain cells use particular frequencies or waves to regulate the flow of information in much the same way that radio stations broadcast at specific frequencies. One frequency, the alpha rhythm, is particularly active in the cells that process touch, sight and sound in the brain’s outmost layer, called the cortex, where it helps to suppress irrelevant or distracting sensations and regulate the flow of sensory information between brain regions.

The Study

The study tested 12 healthy volunteers with no previous experience in meditation.

  • Half completed the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program developed at the University of Massachusetts.
  • The other half were asked not to engage in any type of meditation during the study period.

The researchers then measured alpha rhythms in the brain area that processes signals from the left hand while participants were asked to direct their attention to either their left hand or left foot.

Participants’ abilities to adjust the alpha rhythm in cortical cells associated with the hand, depending on where their attention was directed, were recorded during the milliseconds immediately after they received an attention cue.

And by the end of the study, the meditators were able to make faster and better attention-based adjustments to the alpha rhythm than the non-meditators.


If your day to day life has you all stressed out, you may want to take a look at a mindfulness meditation course.





Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will make me fat

Purdue University researchers have found that people, especially men, who feel any kind of discrimination, are more likely to become obese.

“The study found that males who persistently experienced high levels of discrimination during a nine-year period were more likely to see their waist circumference increase by an inch compared to those who did not report discrimination,” said Haslyn E.R. Hunte, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology.

“Females who reported similar experiences also saw their waistlines grow by more than half an inch.

This shows how discrimination hurts people physically, and it’s a reminder how people’s unfair treatment of others can be very powerful.

Hunte is planning to investigate this further by studying biomarkers, such as cortisol, which is a stress-induced hormone, in relationship to effects of discrimination.

And as I mentioned in the following  posts, high levels of cortisol have been shown to lead to body-fat deposits around the belly.

Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if future research discovered that high levels of cortisol and feelings of discrimination are also related to alcoholism, drug use and all the other coping mechanisms that people use when times are tough.


According to Dr. Hunte:

“People who feel unfairly treated should be aware of this connection between the stress related to their perception and consider coping strategies like exercise or other healthy behaviors as a coping mechanism for such stress.

More importantly, as a society we must become more aware of how we treat people and that treating others unfairly matters beyond hurt feelings.”


My Emotions Made Me Fat

About 3 months ago, I tested my body composition.

  • Total body-weight was = 243 lbs
  • Lean body mass (bone, muscle, organs) was = 216 lbs
  • Body-fat was = 27 lbs
  • Body-fat percentage was = 11%

And since winter is my time to focus on strength and ignore body-fat, I was pleased with the numbers.

I was strong as a horse and would worry about the excess blubber in the spring.

And then my Dad went into the hospital.

At first, he seemed to be responding to treatment and we were expecting him home in a few days. Unfortunately, he picked up a couple of drug resistant infections in the hospital and things started to go downhill.

But since my Dad has always been a fighter, he went to war against the drug resistant staph & c-difficile. One day he would be getting better and we would feel hopeful. The next day, he would crash. This went on for over two months.

Until, on Feb 9, 2011, my Dad passed away.

Since that time, I have had the pleasure of organizing services, looking after my Mom and attending memorials and family remembrances.

I also went a little mental during the 3 months and gained 24 lbs of body-fat.

  • Total weight as of yesterday is = 267 lbs
  • Lean Body Mass (bone, muscle, organs) is still = 216 lbs
  • Body-fat weight is = 51 lbs
  • Body-fat percentage is = 19%

And it’s not like I went on some sort of cheesecake bender.

Instead of my normal Paleo diet of meat and vegetables, I was eating more like a normal North American.

  • A giant cookie with my Starbucks coffee
  • Sandwiches instead of salads or stir-frys
  • A can of Coke in the hospital cafeteria.
  • Hard candies and potato chips from my wife’s stash
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • and the occasional giant bowl of ice cream

Combine all this junk with my skyrocketing levels of cortisol and a bad case of the blues – and I have managed to pack on an extra 24 lbs of blubber and a newfound fear of my bathroom mirror.

And if that isn’t the perfect example of how emotions can make you fat, I don’t know what is.

Luckily for me, between my muscle mass and my ultra-casual personal trainer wardrobe, it’s hard to tell that I packed on the weight.

But, I know it’s there.


But not for much longer.


FYI – More info on Emotional Eating


The Dreaded Kraft Dinner Hangover

I did something really stupid yesterday.

It was just one of those days where I was:

  • short on time
  • running low on healthy food
  • hungry as a bear
  • and in a bad mood (crappy day, don’t even ask)

As a result of my crappy day, my stress levels were sky high and my serotonin levels were down in the dumps.

As a result of that, I began to have a wicked craving for carbs and was experiencing a generally crappy mood which also caused a craving for a great big dietary hug from Mom.

So, in a moment of emotional weakness, I ripped open a dusty old box of Kraft Dinner from the pantry.

And I ate that glow in the dark orange, mushy, creamy, full of chemicals, pasta slop.

And I loved every spoon/shovelful.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the evening I was craving carbs like a heroin junkie craves heroin.

And this morning, I woke up with everything aching…my head, my back, my muscles feel stiff and sore and I am still craving carbs and feeling generally like crap.

So, what did I do to get rid of my Kraft Dinner hangover?

  1. Exercise – at 4:30 this morn, I woke up and did 30 minutes of joint mobility and muscle flexibility exercises. Nothing too intense – just working the stiffness out of my body
  2. While exercising, I drank a serving of Athletic Greens
  3. I also choked down a Vitamin B Complex pill and another herbal adaptogen product to help get my hormones back in order.

The result:

At 6:30 this morning, I started writing this post and…

  • my headache is gone,
  • my craving for carbs is 82% gone,
  • my muscles feel normal – not optimal, but okay.


Overall, I feel 91% less crappy and ready to go train another 6 clients.


Just Say No to Kraft Dinner


An Exercise Prescription to Cure Depression

For the past 6 years, I have devoted a large part of my personal training business to clients suffering with mild to moderate depression.

Referred by a growing network of mental health professionals, people who have been suffering with depression (and to a lesser extent – anxiety) have had tremendous success reducing their symptoms of depression using a very simple yet labor intensive exercise prescription.

At first, it was very difficult to get mental health professionals to consider that exercise might help where drugs & talk therapy were failing.



But slowly, as scientific research began to catch up with common sense, exercise therapy for depression became a slightly more acceptable treatment modality.

Flash forward to 2010…and we see the director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University telling his peers that “exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health, and that the more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be.”

Speaking at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorder Association of America, professors Jasper Smits and Michael Otto reported that “individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger. Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors.

For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing.”

“Exercise can fill the gap for people who can’t receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don’t want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments,” he says. “Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged.”

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.

In a world where more and more “normal” people never find the time to be active, imagine how difficult it is for a person suffering from depression to begin and continue with a new exercise program.

It’s not as simple as their doctor telling them to take a few laps around the high school running track.

Dr. Smits believes that “rather than emphasize the long-term health benefits of an exercise program – which can be difficult to sustain – we urge providers to focus with their patients on the immediate benefits,” he says. “After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy – and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise.

Smits says health care providers who prescribe exercise also must give their patients the tools they need to succeed, such as the daily schedules, problem-solving strategies and goal-setting featured in his guide for therapists.

“Therapists can help their patients take specific, achievable steps,” he says. “This isn’t about working out five times a week for the next year. It’s about exercising for 20 or 30 minutes and feeling better today.”

In my personal, grassroots (entirely non-medical / non-scientific) opinion, that is a great start…but I would also recommend that if the patient wants to improve their odds of success, they…

  • Get the support of their family. Organize family outings that require physical activity, go for nightly walks, etc..
  • Get the support of other depression/anxiety sufferers. Organize regular exercise sessions. While everyone’s experience with depression is unique, fellow sufferers are going to “get you” in a way that your family never will. Sharing the exercise experience with them can also improve the likelihood of adherence.
  • Get the support of an exercise professional who is sensitive to your situation. For a lot of my clients who can’t afford one on one personal training, I provide training programs designed specifically for their needs.


If you need more info, check out Drs. Smits & Otto’s book on the subject.

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Doctors Ignore Obesity


So, how come “many overweight patients are not being advised to lose weight, diet, or exercise”.

In fact, when it comes to medical intervention in cases of obesity, the numbers are as follows:

  1. Having a doctor tell the patient about the health problems associated with being overweight (48.0%),
  2. Suggesting diet and exercise (46.5%),
  3. Referring the patient to a formal diet program (5.2%),
  4. Prescribing a weight loss medication (4.0%),
  5. Recommending a non-prescription weight loss product (1.8%),
  6. Recommending stomach bypass surgery (1.5%).

I don’t know about you, but considering that obesity is fast becoming the western world’s #1 health issue, I think that the global medical community should be taking obesity prevention/treatment much more seriously.

I don’t know if it’s a lack of knowledge or the threat of discrimination lawsuits or the frustration of being ignored by obese patients over and over and over, but if we want to reverse the tide of obesity related disease, real steps need to be taken.

The time for talk is over.


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The Link between Belly Fat, Depression, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

sad homer
sad homer

In a previous article, I wrote about the link between belly fat (visceral fat) and depression.

I have also written numerous articles on the links between belly fat and chronic disease:

Today’s post connects all of that research.

Today’s post is based on the findings of this study, which suggest that belly fat (visceral fat) “is an important pathway by which depression adds to the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

The Study

Visceral belly fat is the white stuff surrounding your organs. Subcutaneous fat is the white stuff on top of the muscles but under the skin

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center looked at over 400 women “who were participating in the Women in the South Side Health Project (WISH) in Chicago, a longitudinal study of the menopausal transition”.

They screened the women for depression and measured their visceral fat with a CT scan.

Even after adjusting for variables that might account for the accumulation of visceral fat, the researchers found a strong correlation between depression and high levels of visceral fat.

The women who showed signs of depression (assessed using the CES-D scale) had 24.5% more visceral belly fat than the women with fewer depressive symptoms.

No association was found between depression and subcutaneous belly fat (non-visceral).

So, what does this mean and why is depression linked to increased visceral fat, diabetes and cardiovascular disease?

Lead researcher Dr. Lynda Powell speculated that “depression triggers the accumulation of visceral fat by means of certain chemical changes in the body”.

Some of those changes could include:

Future studies are planned to address the specific glucocorticoid or inflammatory mechanisms responsible for the link between depression, visceral body fat, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

But for now, it’s going to have to be good enough to simply know that the link exists.


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Loneliness worse for your health than smoking and obesity

Picasso - the old guitarist
Picasso - the old guitarist

According to the research of Dr. John Cacioppo, loneliness has a major impact on your overall health – both mental and physical.

In his research, Dr. Cacioppo employed brain scans, monitoring of autonomic and neuroendocrine processes, and assays of immune function to test the influence that social connection has upon our health. His research showed how our perceptions, behavior and physiology are strongly affected by a loss of that connection.

In fact, Dr. Cacoppo’s research has shown that loneliness can cause:

  • an increase in your blood pressure

  • an increase in your level of stress and cortisol production

  • a negative impact on your immune system

  • an inability to get a good nights sleep

  • an increased level of depression and anxiety

  • an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease

  • a reduction in your will to exercise

  • an increase in your cravings for comforting foods high in processed carbohydrates

  • an increase in caloric consumption

  • an increase in alcohol consumption

  • an increase in the consumption of a variety of drugs…both legal and illegal, and…
  • a feeling of sadness that feeds upon itself, causing even more isolation and an even greater sense of loneliness.

These finding were presented by Dr. Cacioppo at the most recent conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

According to Dr. Cacioppo, “healthwise, the difference between a lonely person and a popular person was akin to “a smoker and a non-smoker”.

“That stunned all of us, myself and all my colleagues in terms of the effects it had,” he said. “It shows just how powerful it is.

“Loneliness lowers the ability to control yourself. It is really easy after a bad day to have a second scotch and a third to get some comfort.”

Dr. Cacioppo’s research has led him to believe that our need for connection can be traced back through our evolutionary roots.

In order to survive in the past, humans needed to bond to rear their children. In order to flourish, they needed to [increase their levels of altruism and cooperation].

Just as physical pain is a prompt to change behavior, such as moving a finger away from the fire, loneliness evolved as a prompt to action, signaling an ancestral need to repair the social bonds.

The problem of social isolation is likely to grow as conventional family structures die out, said Dr. Cacioppo.

People are living longer, having fewer children later in life and becoming increasingly mobile around the world.

Surveys also show that people report significantly fewer close friends and confidants than those a generation ago.

All of this adds up to more loneliness and more health problems because of that loneliness.

According to the good doctor, we need to realize that “human beings are simply far more intertwined and interdependent—physiologically as well as psychologically—than our cultural prejudices have allowed us to acknowledge”.

And if we don’t address our very real need for connection, we are risking our own psychological and physiological health.


“If you want to go fast,” says an African proverb, “go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”


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Santa Claus is Clinically Depressed


Poor ole Santa.

For all these years, we thought that he was jolly and full of Christmas (sorry, Seasonal Holiday) Cheer.

Little did we know, he has a dark secret.

Santa suffers from obesity, type 2 diabetes, clinical depression and may even have a drinking problem.


But how could we have known?

It really isn’t too surprising.

In a recent study, scientists in the Netherlands have proven that a link exists between abdominal obesity and depression.

And Santa does have a bit of a belly.

How about you?

The Research

In this 5 year study, Dutch researchers found that “older adults with symptoms of depression appear more likely to gain abdominal fat”. Interestingly, in this study, the link applies only to abdominal fat, not overall body fat.

This study builds upon previous studies ( here, here, and here ) that suggested a link between general obesity and depression.

santa-cokeSo, let me get this straight…not all fat people are jolly?

Well, that certainly messes with Coca-Cola’s Christmas marketing plan, doesn’t it.

What are we supposed to do with a depressed Santa Claus?

Get him a prescription for antidepressants?

Buy him some personal training sessions?

Lap Band surgery?

Study Conclusions

According to the experts, “There are several mechanisms by which depression might increase abdominal fat. Chronic stress and depression may activate certain brain areas and lead to increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which promotes the accumulation of visceral fat”.

“Individuals with depression may have unhealthier lifestyles, including a poor diet, that could interact with other physiological factors to produce an increase in abdominal obesity”.

My Conclusions

Depression may indeed be a cause of abdominal obesity.

Depression may lead to increased cortisol which may lead to increased abdominal obesity.


  • A typical 21st century lifestyle is loaded with stress
  • Stress is linked to anxiety and depression
  • The typical Western diet is a primary cause of systemic inflammation
  • Inflammation is linked to abdominal obesity
  • Depression often results in physical inactivity and unhealthy lifestyle choices

Perhaps, it isn’t the depression causing the obesity.

Perhaps it isn’t the obesity causing the depression.

Perhaps it is the combination of a stressful lifestyle, combined with a whole host of poor lifestyle choices that is causing the obesity and the depression.

But then again, what do I know?


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