The New Science of Feeling Your Best

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Do you ever feel that you’re working harder and harder but still getting further and further behind in terms of your health, your stress levels, and your economic status? If so, you have a lot of company. Recent research shows that we’re working longer, enjoying our lives less, and dying sooner.

            A big part of the kind of research and education that I do centers around the idea of helping people to “Feel Their Best” – which is much more important than “just” having abundant energy or a good mood. Feeling Your Best means an overall sense of well-being where our stress is controlled, our mind is sharp, our physical energy is high, and our emotional outlook is in that place that we often call “the zone.” This feeling is what we measure in research studies as “vigor” – and it represents a unique feeling of motivation that many people have not experienced in a long time.

            The reason I get out of bed in the morning is because I want to help others to achieve that state of high vigor and motivation that indicates they’re Feeling Their Best. Why? Because when you feel good in your mind and feel good in your body, you’re more likely to “do good” in your world. You’re more likely to be a better mom, or a better dad. You’re more likely to have the motivation to excel in your career, or even build a business of your own. You’re more likely to volunteer in your community or in your church. In short, “Feeling Your Best” is about living a more meaningful life for yourself, for your loved ones, and for anyone that your life touches.


Shorter Lives, Poorer Health

Research shows that the average American workweek has mushroomed from forty hours to fifty hours in the past twenty-five years. That level is higher than in any European country and equal to that of Japan. Those extra ten hours of work, however, have not gained workers very much. In fact, U.S. workers today are behind in their ability to maintain the same overall standard of living enjoyed a generation ago.

In addition to a declining standard of economic status, the United States is far behind its “peer nations” in overall health and longevity. According to a recently-released report (January 2013) from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC), Americans are dying at younger ages than people is almost all other high-income countries. This trend toward poorer health and earlier death has been getting worse for three decades – and is expected to continue its trend with Americans falling further and further behind. The average American man lives for 75 years (17th out of 17 countries) and the average American woman lives for 80 years (16th out of 17 countries). As a nation, we have more health problems related to drug use (chronic stress), obesity/diabetes (poor diet), and heart disease (antioxidant deficiency). American kids are, on average, in worse health from the moment they’re born, compared to children in other high-income countries.


Generation Stress

As a nation, our stress levels – primarily financial stress from jobs and money – are at the highest levels ever recorded. When the American Psychological Association (APA) released its 2010 report Stress in America, it showed that the picture of an “overstressed nation” is as bad as it has ever been. One of the most striking conclusions from the APA survey was that “stress is not only taking a toll on our personal and physical health, but it is also affecting the emotional and physical well-being of children and our families.” The report highlighted the fact that children today are more stressed than in years past and also found that kids easily recognize and identify their parents’ stress levels as a key source of their own stress.

As you might imagine, the most common sources of stress identified in the APA survey were money (76 percent), work (70 percent), and the economy (65 percent). But “family responsibilities” also emerged as a significant source of stress (73 percent).

On February 7, 2013, the APA released their 2012 report on Stress in America – and the results are even more dismal than they were in 2010. The new report found that “Millennials” – young Americans between 18-33 years old – are even more stressed out than the rest of the population. Like other age groups, the primary source of stress is from jobs and money – with a whopping 49 percent indicating that they are not managing their stress well.

Health experts identify a “healthy stress level” at about a 3 to 4 on a 10-point scale, with 1 representing low stress and 10 indicating extreme stress. The average stress level reported in the APA studies was 5.5, with 24 percent reporting stress levels at 8 to 10 (on the 10-point scale). Those with “more stress” (average of 6.2) tended to have poorer overall health, while those with “lower stress” (average of 4.9) tended to enjoy a very good health status. Individuals with even higher stress exposure (in the 8 to 10 range) tended to have significant problems with their weight (especially belly fat)—very likely due to problems with biochemical balance and especially to an overexposure to cortisol and its associated increase in appetite for “comfort foods” and consequent storage of belly fat.

Americans across all age groups and geographic areas generally recognized that their stress levels are “too high” (69 percent) and that stress is not good for their health. However, a majority of respondents also reported facing significant challenges in actually practicing healthy behaviors, such as reducing stress, eating better, exercising, getting enough sleep, and losing weight. Primary obstacles to those healthy behaviors included “being too busy” (22 percent) and a “lack of motivation or willpower” (29 percent). In fact, the most interesting aspect of both APA surveys (2010 & 2012) was the clear indication that Americans know what they should be doing, but that they are not doing a good job of achieving their health goals. For example, if you look at the “gap” between knowing that something is important and actually doing it (achievement), we see the following pattern:


Aspects of Well-Being: Importance vs. Achievement






Getting enough sleep




Managing stress




Eating healthy foods




Getting enough exercise




Having good relationships




(Source: American Psychological Association—Stress in America Report [2010])


Clearly, people know they should be doing something to maintain their health in the face of poor diet and chronic stress – and they clearly want to do something, but they’re having trouble – and need help.


Nutrition for Better Health and Vigor

On February 1st, I was happy to announce the release of my 11th book – “Vigor DietThe New Science of Feeling Your Best” – with all proceeds being donated directly to The MORE Project children’s charity. I would love for you to buy a copy of Vigor Diet – read it, review it on Amazon, share it on Facebook, and help us spread the message of “Feeling Your Best” around the world.

There is no doubt in my mind that Vigor Diet can help you feel a lot better than you do right now. Perhaps even help you feel better than you ever have before. Why? Because most of the reasons that we feel “off” and not at our best, are due to subtle disruptions in our body’s biochemistry. It might be overexposure to a stress hormone such as cortisol – or excessive fluctuations in your blood sugar – or even imbalances in your antioxidant protection – but each of these can lead us to feel “blah” in certain ways. We might feel stiff – or fatigued – or we’re gaining weight – or we’re just stressed out – but these are all merely signals that our body is out of balance.

One of my specialty areas of research is called “vigor” – which is defined as an overall measurement of “physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional wellbeing.” The opposite of vigor is “burnout” (physical fatigue, mental confusion, and emotional exhaustion). Vigor Diet is about eating and supplementing in a way that restores biochemical balance to your body – and in doing so, helps us to reclaim our natural levels of energy, vigor, and vitality. The four areas of biochemistry that I focus on are:



Biochemical Imbalance


I’m Feeling Stiff & Sore

Oxidation (Free Radicals)


I’m Feeling Fatigued

Neurotransmission (Neurotransmitters)

“Slow” Sugars & Flavonoids

I’m Gaining Weight

Glycation (Blood Sugar)

Balanced Macronutrients (protein/carbs/fat/fiber)

I’m Feeling Stressed

Allostation (Cortisol)

Anti-Stress Herbs (adaptogens)


The Dr. Oz Show

On January 29th & 30th I spent the day within NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza filming with Dr. Oz.

Last year, I appeared on The Dr. Oz Show to talk about how having low testosterone (which often accompanies high cortisol) can lead to exhaustion. That show featured my earlier book, The Secret of Vigor, that educates about balancing cortisol/testosterone to help you feel better (with higher “vigor”). Since that show, I’ve written articles for Dr. Oz’s ShareCare website and consulted with producers on numerous segments related to nutrition and dietary supplements (you could say that I’m a huge fan of Dr. Oz and his mission of educating people about health).

The most recent show was about “Dr. Oz’s Flat Belly Plan” and my part of the show discussed diet, exercise, supplements, and stress management techniques to help you control cortisol and lose stubborn belly fat – but also to feel good while you’re doing it.

I talked with Dr. Oz about how unrealistic it is to “avoid stress” and how instead, we need to educate people about helping their bodies to mount an appropriate stress response (with anti-stress adaptogenic herbs), and how to reduce oxidation and inflammation with natural antioxidants (such as carotenoids and flavonoids).


The show aired on February 5th as part of Dr. Oz’s “Weight Loss Week” – and you can watch the show at these links:




I don’t think I could be more energized about the possibilities ahead of us for expanding on the Science of Feeling Your Best. Nobody is going to wake up 10 – 0r 20 – or 30 years from now and decide that they want to feel worse! Even if we feel great now, we want to do whatever we can to remain that way. Unfortunately, however, most people don’t feel great – they feel “off” – and by restoring biochemical balance in their body, they can begin Feeling Their Best again.


Thanks for reading,





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My books related to stress, cortisol, vigor, and Feeling Your Best:


  • Vigor Diet – The New Science of Feeling Your Best


  • The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy


  • Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic. FREE versions at





About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

  • Thank you once again Dr. Talbott for knowledge you share we us. I am learning so much from you and excited about spreading the word of Feeling Your Best! I have vigor and I love how I feel! 🙂 Cathy

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