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Mind Over Body with Shawn Stevenson

Shawn Stevenson is the creator of The Model Health Show, which has been featured as the #1 Fitness and Nutrtion podcast on iTunes. A graduate of The University of Missouri – St. Louis, Stevenson studied biology and kinesiology. He later founded the Advanced Integrative Health Alliance, a company that provides wellness service for individuals and organizations worldwide. Stevenson has been a keynote speaker for numerous universities, organizations, and conferences. He lives with his family in Wildwood, MO.

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How do you use your mindset to change your body?

Everybody wants a healthier body, but it’s something many people struggle to achieve. You know how important it is to focus on what you eat and how you exercise, but you might be surprised to learn that one of the most fundamental elements holding you back is your thoughts.

On our show today, I’m very excited to have the host of the top health podcast in the U.S., Shawn Stevenson. He’s also the best-selling author of Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success and is here to talk about his newest book, Eat Smarter: Use the Power of Food to Reboot Your Metabolism, Upgrade Your Brain, and Transform Your Life.

When it comes to changing your body, before altering your diet or signing up for the latest exercise program, you have to address how you think and shift your mindset. If you’re ready to tackle your thoughts to reach your body goals, then listen in as Shawn shares his hacks to put your mind over body and make real change.

"You can make eating a more empowering event when you leverage your own psychology, placebo yourself, and create a new interaction and relationship with your food."

Shawn Stevenson

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Your Thoughts Are Chemistry

  • The first thing to understand is your thoughts create chemistry in your body.
  • Every single thought instantaneously creates chemistry.
  • It’s important to be aware of whether your thoughts are affirmative or detracting; or if they’re filled with stress, joy, or anger.
  • When you have an angry thought, or series of thoughts, you feel it in your body.
  • It’s often described as a burning sensation in your chest or your blood boiling.
  • There are a lot of phrases normalized in society around your thoughts creating chemistry, but they aren’t often acknowledged or explored.
  • Your thoughts are literally creating a change in your biochemistry.
  • Psychoneuroimmunology is what your immune system is doing.
  • Psychoneuroendocrinology is what Shawn is talking about today.
  • This is looking at how your brain—specifically your thoughts—affect your endocrine system.
  • Your hormones are in the driver’s seat when it comes to cellular communication and your overall health.
  • You can look at your hormones as little chemical messengers, or metabolic DM’s.
  • You want your cells talking to each other and to be on good terms.
  • Your cells stay in communication with each other through hormones.
  • So what happens when an email starts coming in too frequently?
  • Just like in your actual inbox, when your body gets an overabundance of a certain message, it can start sending it to spam.
  • If you look at something like insulin, that button keeps getting pushed so much, the messages keep getting sent because of the inputs you may be bringing in from an abnormal diet.
  • That message starts to go to spam, and you lose your sensitivity for that message.
  • You want to be able to whitelist insulin again by optimizing these messages.

Optimizing Your Metabolic Messages

  • These are some of the foundational tenets to understanding health.
  • Number one, your thoughts create chemistry in your body.
  • Number two, you want to optimize these metabolic DM’s.
  • Before we dive into number three, you need a real-world example to anchor this in.
  • The example Shawn uses in his book is the Milkshake Experiment.
  • This was conducted by Dr. Alia Crum and her fellow researchers at Stanford University.
  • They wanted to find out: can your thoughts affect your metabolism?
  • To do this they blended a number of milkshakes and divided them into different cups.
  • Each milkshake was measured at 380 calories, but they put different labels on each of the glasses.
  • One of the labels was marked as a 140 calorie sensible milkshake, the other labels were marked as a 620 calorie indulgent milkshake.
  • Again, all of the milkshakes were 380 calories.
  • Some of the participants received the sensible milkshake label and others the indulgent milkshake label.
  • Something interesting happened with their biochemistry.
  • In the people who drank the indulgent milkshake, because they believed this was a really rich, high calorie consumption, there was a dramatic change in their ghrelin.
  • This goes back to those metabolic DM’s.
  • Ghrelin is well-known as the “hunger hormone”.
  • When ghrelin is active, it’s driving you to eat. It signals to your body that you need caloric energy, you need nutrients.
  • Another thing ghrelin does is it turns on the programs that get your body to start using stored fuel—the burning fat phenomenon.
  • When people had the indulgent milkshake, their ghrelin levels plummeted as if they had consumed three times more than they actually did.
  • That driving force to get them to eat more was dramatically shut off.
  • The signal to their biochemistry, that tapestry of billions of cells, was that they were deeply satisfied and full—even though they only consumed 380 calories.
  • On the other side, the people who consumed the sensible milkshake barely had a budge in their ghrelin levels at all.
  • Their biochemistry, their biointelligence, believed they barely consumed any calories.
  • This means they are going to be hungry sooner rather than later, where the indulgent milkshake individuals will stay fuller longer.
  • People are doing this throughout their lives, every day with every meal.
  • It’s vital to change your perception about the food you’re eating.
  • Your thoughts have a dramatic impact on your overall metabolism.

Placebo Yourself

  • One way to use this knowledge to your advantage is to placebo yourself.
  • If you tell yourself that you’re eating a bad food, it’s going to have a negative impact on your biochemistry.
  • It’s even worse if you equate eating a bad food to a bad behavior, to being a bad person.
  • Those negative beliefs will trigger a series of events in your biochemistry which will have negative outcomes and your body will have a more complicated interaction with that food.
  • This means you’re going to have a higher likelihood of retaining the calories you consume and storing it as fat.
  • Shawn goes into this with more studies and examples in Eat Smarter: Use the Power of Food to Reboot Your Metabolism, Upgrade Your Brain, and Transform Your Life.
  • There is a different between eating whole foods versus processed foods. Your body will retain more caloric energy and create a hormonal clog when eating processed foods.
  • But part of that is the belief behind what you’re eating.
  • Changing your beliefs is the first thing you can do.
  • Number two, and this is something Shawn saw in his clinical practice a lot.
  • If you’re eating that you deem to be healthy food, but you hate it, or you’re on a diet you don’t really want to be on, it’s not going to have a positive impact on your biochemistry.
  • Just because a food is healthy, doesn’t mean it triggers the right biochemical message.
  • Changing your attitude towards food and dieting is important.
  • You can placebo yourself through the way you interact with food in that new way.
  • Shawn is a big proponent of joy.
  • Make sure the food is actually good, both in nutrition and taste.
  • But then tell yourself that this food is not just good for you, but it’s the most incredible experience you’ve ever had.
  • Believe that your green smoothie is indulgent.
  • Turn it into a really interactive event, where your mind and your body are interacting with this food in a positive way.
  • According to the data, what’s going to happen is your ghrelin levels—the thing driving you to eat—is going to be suppressed even more.
  • When you feel like you’re eating something indulgent, calorie rich, and nutrient dense, it’s going to create a shift in your biochemistry.
  • That is level one. There are other things to unpack but being able to placebo yourself is a powerful start.

Reclaim Your Relationship With Food

  • What you eat matters, but it’s also how you eat it—the state you’re eating it in.
  • Take time to eat your meal without distraction.
  • Remember: the goal is progress, not perfection.
  • Pay attention to the subtle flavors of the food.
  • Food is beautiful and dynamic and complex.
  • You have the capacity to be present with food and really enjoy it.
  • Some people live by the tenet that you eat to live, not live to eat.
  • But Shawn believes food tastes good for the sole purpose for enjoying it and eating it.
  • A huge part of lives as humans, even throughout our evolution, has had food as a centerpiece.
  • Think about how many cultures and traditions are centered around food.
  • When food tastes amazing and is a joyful experience, people feel compelled to eat.
  • You can do that in a healthful way, getting the most out of it nutritionally while also modulating ghrelin, lectin, insulin, and glucagon by eating smarter.
  • But you can make eating an even more empowering event when you leverage your own psychology, placebo yourself, and create a new interaction and relationship with your food.
  • Food is delicious and it’s nutritious, and a lot of that is the attitude you bring to the table.
  • Be mindful of what you eat and bring joy to how you eat.
  • Remind yourself that you are nourishing your body and your soul.
  • You can do this through a blessing or a prayer. You can create a ritual around eating. Or you can simply focus on enjoying food more.
  • Be sure to check out the unedited, extended episode on YouTube, here.

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