Vigor Self-Test

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.

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt? Here’s an excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
1. Lose Weight
2. Get in Shape
3. Reduce Stress
4. Get Healthier
5. Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment. If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

In the last two installments, I explained WHAT vigor is all about and HOW we measure vigor – so now let’s see where you stand in terms of vigor and wellness right now. You can check your exposure to stress—and your risk for falling into the trap of unbalanced biochemistry and low vigor—with a simple questionnaire called the “Vigor Self-Test.” Because it can be very difficult to recognize the telltale signs associated with stress-induced health problems, such as those described in the preceding few paragraphs, this test can help gauge your overall exposure to stress. The “Vigor Self-Test” presented below is a version of the standard POMS test used for assessing vigor in countless studies. My research group has also used this questionnaire for several years to measure stress levels and the degree of biochemical balance or imbalance in the people who participate in our studies.

The Vigor Self-Test

* For each question, write your score in the corresponding column.
* For each answer of “Never/No”—give yourself zero (0) points.
* For each answer of “Occasionally”—give yourself one (1) point.
* For each answer of “Frequently/Yes”—give yourself two (2) points.
* For the last question (#16)—SUBTRACT 1 point for each of the words that closely describes how you have been feeling during the past TWO WEEKS.

Question—“How Often Do You…”
1. …experience stressful situations? ____
2. …feel tired or fatigued? ____
3. …get fewer than eight hours of sleep? ____
4. …feel anxious/depressed? ____
5. …feel overwhelmed or confused? ____
6. …have a low sex drive? ____
7. …put on weight around the belly? ____
8. …diet to lose weight? ____
9. …attempt to control your body weight? ____
10. …pay close attention to the foods you eat? ____
11. …crave carbohydrates (sweets or breads)? ____
12. …experience problems concentrating? ____
13. …experience tension headaches? ____
14. …experience digestive problems or heartburn? ____
15. …get sick or catch colds/flu? ____

SCORING (add above numbers #1–#15) ____ points

16. …feel lively, active, energetic, cheerful, alert, full of pep, carefree, or vigorous (one point for each, 0–8 total)? ____ points

TOTAL (subtract total for #16 from total for #1–#15) ____ points

Vigor Index
0–5 points High Vigor (Excellent Biochemical Balance)
You are cool as a cucumber and have either a very low level of stress or a tremendous ability to deal effectively with incoming stressors. Keep doing what you’re doing!

6–10 points Average Vigor (Acceptable Biochemical Balance)
You may be suffering from an overexposure to stress or an overactive stress response, and you are at moderate risk of being chronically out of biochemical balance, leading to reduced vigor. You should incorporate anti-stress strategies into your lifestyle whenever possible to maintain (and improve) your biochemical balance and vigor. But don’t stress out about it!

Greater than 10 points Low Vigor (OUT of Biochemical Balance)
The bad news is that you’re almost definitely suffering from an overactive stress response, chronically disrupted biochemical balance, and a low state of vigor—and you need to take immediate steps to regain control. The good news is that you’re not alone—literally millions of people are in the same situation.

If your test results show you have a low vigor score, you are not going to keel over tomorrow from a lack of biochemical balance—nor does it mean that the rare person with a high vigor score will necessarily live to a ripe old age. In reality, virtually anyone who experiences stress on a regular basis, gets fewer than eight hours of sleep each night, or is simply aging is on the fast track to being out of biochemical balance.

Therefore, everyone can benefit from targeted steps to maintain or restore their biochemical balance and to improve their personal levels of vigor. In times of particularly high stress—such as when you’re moving, switching jobs, or undergoing changes in close relationships—you will need to focus more carefully on efforts to boost your vigor. At other times, when you have less stress in your life—perhaps during a vacation—your attention to biochemical balance can wander a bit.

Ultimately, the reality is that living in the twenty-first century yields a certain amount of unavoidable stress. With that stress come disruptions in your biochemistry, such as elevations in levels of the hormone cortisol accompanied by suppressed testosterone levels. This means that the choices you make in how you deal with stress and the things you do to balance your biochemistry can make a critical difference in terms of your long-term health and the way you feel on a daily basis. So keep reading. Whatever your score on the Vigor Self-Test, this book has been written to help you improve your overall health—and feel better while you’re doing it.

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"?!?!

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