Vigor Self-Test

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 http://amzn.to/1eju3wu 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

Directions:
* 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.

Validating Vigor (Profile of Mood States)

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 http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Four Pillars of Health
When you tap the secret of vigor, you’re not just making short-term cosmetic changes to your sense of well-being—you’re uncovering the root causes of exhaustion and excess stress hidden in the biochemistry of your cells. The best way to balance your biochemistry is to strengthen the “Four Pillars of Health”: manage oxidation, control inflammation, stabilize glucose, and balance stress hormones. Here’s a list of these pillars for your quick reference:

The Four Pillars of Health
1. Manage Oxidation
2. Control Inflammation
3. Stabilize Glucose
4. Balance Stress Hormones

Each of the Four Pillars of Health describes rather complicated biochemical processes that are explained in more detail in Part II of this book. For now, the important thing to understand is that you need balance within and among these four processes to develop and maintain vigor.

Vigor in Ancient Medicine
Besides recognizing the role of your biochemistry in the pursuit of health, it can also be helpful to have another way to think about vigor, because the term “vigor,” as used in psychology research today, actually has very old roots. The modern scientific concept of vigor is somewhat comparable to the ancient descriptions of vitality and wellness from traditional medicine systems around the world. Nearly every ancient culture has typically held a common belief that true health stems from a strong “life force” in the body.

Other names for this life force, or vigor, include:

* Qi (traditional Chinese medicine; pronounced “chee”)
* Ki (Kampo/Japanese medicine)
* Prana (Ayurvedic/Indian medicine)
* Ka (Egyptian medicine)
* Mana (Polynesian medicine)
* Pneuma (ancient Greek medicine)

Practitioners of traditional medicine might have restored “life force” in their patients by improving their nutrition or administering herbal medicines. These natural therapies often “worked,” and patients felt better as a result. What these ancient healers did not fully appreciate was “how” their therapies were working to actually alter biochemical processes in the body and modulate the internal interactions that I’m calling the Four Pillars of Health.

In modern times, millions of people attempt to temporarily reduce fatigue with energy drinks or other stimulants. However, that approach does not restore vigor and is actually more likely to sap vigor in the long term. These temporary “fixes” are inadequate solutions, because they do not address the underlying cause of low vigor: biochemical imbalances between and among the Four Pillars. Although this book highlights current research on vigor and health, it also incorporates the guiding principle of traditional medicines—that true wellness results from a comprehensive, balanced view of the human body, not one that focuses on fragmented, short-term “fixes.”

Validating Vigor: Profile of Mood States (POMS)
As you continue reading, one key concept you will discover is that chronic stress has a significant impact on your level of vigor. Chronic stress—and the underlying biochemical imbalances that it leads to—undoubtedly plays a major role in many of today’s modern diseases, particularly depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and obesity. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization:

* 80 percent of North Americans have enough daily stress to cause health problems.
* Stress contributes to half of all illnesses in North America.
* 70–80 percent of all doctor visits are for stress-related illnesses.
* More than half of all deaths in people under the age of sixty-five result from stressful lifestyles.

The good news is that by naturally restoring biochemical balance, you can dramatically reduce feelings of stress, cut fatigue and depression, boost physical and mental energy, and significantly improve vigor.

How can I make these claims about improving vigor? Because, in labs and clinics, researchers can actually measure vigor using a scientifically validated research tool called the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire.

The POMS is a psychological rating system that measures specific transitory moods in a variety of populations, including medical patients, psychiatric outpatients, and athletes, among other fields. It has been used in more than three thousand research studies, making it the true “gold standard” for assessing changes in mood state and vigor following different interventions (such as exercise programs, nutritional regimens, stress-reduction techniques, and intake of dietary supplements).

The POMS assesses six primary psychological factors—tension, depression, anger, fatigue, vigor, and confusion—by asking sixty-five adjective-based questions scored on a “0–4” intensity scale (with intensity being gauged as 0 = not at all and 4 = extremely). The sixty-five adjective responses are categorized into the six psychological factors, tabulated, scored, and analyzed. The output of the POMS questionnaire is an assessment of the positive and negative moods of each subject at baseline and at various intervals throughout the study intervention (typically four, eight, and twelve weeks later).

Over the past several years, my research group has conducted a series of human clinical studies in “stressed” volunteers. In these studies—some being as short as one week and others lasting as long as twelve weeks—we have been able to significantly improve vigor by 25 to 30 percent following a restoration of biochemical balance. This means that, although chronic stress disrupts biochemical balance, we now know that restoring biochemical balance can help improve feelings of vigor quickly (sometimes within the first week of the study period). We’ve also found that these changes persist for months thereafter, indicating a unique and lasting improvement in overall well-being that is far superior to the fleeting and temporary effects of energy drinks and related products. These clinical trials have been presented at some of the top peer-reviewed scientific conferences in the world, including the American College of Nutrition, American College of Sports Medicine, the International Society for Sports Nutrition, and the American Society for Nutrition.

It may be hard to understand how something as simple as stress can cause so many problems—from depression to heart disease to weight gain. But the fact is, your body’s response to everyday pressures—including deadlines, traffic, money concerns, family conflicts, irritating coworkers, and other worries—is actually a chronic-stress response. And that response to chronic stress causes an immediate and profound change in a variety of hormones and related biochemicals in your body. Further, those compounds are distributed throughout the entire body, where they influence the function of every organ and cell.

Initially, the effects of chronic stress are subtle. On the hormonal level, cortisol goes up, and testosterone goes down. Although you are hardly likely to detect such hormonal changes on a daily basis, what you might notice is that you experience a few extra pounds of weight, a slight reduction in energy levels, a modest drop in sex drive, or a bit of trouble with memory. Even then, you probably brush off these health signals as “normal” aspects of aging. However, as you’ll read in The Secret of Vigor, these traits are actually the earliest signs of depression, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, obesity, diabetes, impotence, dementia, heart disease, cancer, and many related conditions—and chronic stress can trigger all of them. Indeed, researchers are discovering that stress may well be the key factor in the very process commonly recognized as “aging.”

Still, it can be hard to accept the idea that the stress you go through every day can have such a detrimental effect on your long-term health as well as your daily level of vigor. But once you understand the relationship between modern stressors and your biochemical balance, I am certain that you will be motivated to do something about getting your biochemistry back into balance.

You can measure your own level of chronic stress and vigor using a simple Vigor Self-Test that I’ll post in the next excerpt – stay tuned!

Secret of Vigor – Intro

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:
Lose Weight
Get in Shape
Reduce Stress
Get Healthier
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 http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

What Is Vigor?
Chances are, if you’re like most other people living in any industrialized country anywhere in the world, your daily routine is hectic and stressful. You may suffer from constant fatigue, rarely sleep well, or continue to gain weight, and you’re at least occasionally moody. In fact, you may be experiencing what we often refer to in psychology research as “burnout.”

But what if things were different? What if you could reverse burnout—or avoid it altogether? Suppose, instead of fatigue, you felt energized? What if you enjoyed a restful eight hours of sleep every night, maintained a healthy weight, and generally stopped feeling tired, stressed, and depressed? If you achieved such a level of wellness, your condition could only be described as being the antithesis of “burnout.”

This state of well-being—the opposite of burnout—has also received a name from psychology researchers: “vigor.”
Outside the research community, however, very few people have heard the term “vigor” used as a measure of health. And in your own vocabulary, the word may only turn up when you’re talking about vigorous exercise or reading cookbook instructions that tell you to shake liquids vigorously.

But “vigor” actually has an official definition in scientific circles: “a three-tiered sustained mood state characterized by physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being.” The chart below may help you see this definition a little more clearly—and it also underscores the differences between vigor and burnout.

Vigor vs. Burnout

Vigor is a true measure of wellness, because it encompasses much more than simply feeling “energetic,” being in a “good mood,” or having a “sharp” mind. People with high levels of vigor are those “can-do” individuals who feel like getting things done—whether they are running a marathon or just cleaning out the garage. They’re motivated and have the capacity to accomplish what they set out to do, because they’re not weighed down by feeling sleep deprived or exhausted all the time. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, “vigor” is a state that they have not experienced in many years, but that does not mean they cannot reclaim it. These are the people I wrote this book for—because I know from my research and experience with countless clients that people can build and maintain the vigor that may be missing in their lives.

The Secret of Vigor: Biochemical Balance
When it comes to improving your well-being, you often hear limited “one-dimensional” advice that focuses on a single aspect of health. You know: “…eat this super-food!” “…do this special exercise!” “…take this pill!” Many aspects of Western medicine, in fact, address isolated symptoms instead of the overall condition of your body. To understand how to improve your level of vigor, it is important to appreciate the intricacies of the human body as a whole system. Biochemistry can help you gain this appreciation, because it is, essentially, the study of those intricacies—the processes going on within your body that make it possible for you to live. And, crucially, your biochemistry holds the key to your level of vigor.

To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, take a moment to imagine the most complicated, beautiful machine that you can think of. Did you envision a supercomputer? An automobile? A satellite? The International Space Station? Certainly, these are all very complex machines, and perhaps they’re even beautiful from an engineering point of view. But their complexity pales in comparison to that of the human body. The body is a dynamic, ever-changing, always-adapting collection of intricate structures and systems.

Sometimes it works perfectly on its own—your lungs fill and empty, your heart beats, and your eyes blink—all without your having to remember to “work” them. But sometimes your body breaks down. In most circumstances, the damage is only temporary, because your internal repair mechanisms jump into action to fix the damage and get you back to full function.

Sometimes, however, the damage persists. You accumulate little bits of damage and dings and creaks over the years, and you find yourself waking up one morning with physical ailments, such an aching knee, a stiff back, or a generalized pain through your entire body.

Sometimes the ailments are more “psychological” in nature, such as depression, fatigue, brain fog, lack of motivation, or outright burnout.

Whether physical or mental, all these ailments have their roots in problems with the biochemistry of your body. Specifically, I’m referring to the biochemical activity among hormones, blood-sugar levels, brain signals, and the other internal interactions that take place below the surface of your skin that you are hardly aware of—until something goes wrong. When the balance between hormones, such as cortisol and testosterone, or between neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, is disrupted, you can be left feeling “blah” or even burned out. If internal imbalances lead to burnout, then reestablishing biochemical balance has the opposite effect—it produces vigor.

Quite simply, the “secret” of vigor is to balance your biochemistry.

Or, as I sometimes say to people who want a simple way to remember this idea: Balance your biochemistry to beat burnout!
In my years of research on this subject, I have found four basic biochemical processes that need to be brought into balance for anyone who wants to improve their health and vigor. I’ve labeled these processes the “Four Pillars of Health.”

Let’s take a brief look at them in the next post…

2013 Endurance Recap

Not a bad year!

 

We just got back from the last race of the year – Ironman Cozumel. Feeling great after a personal best time at the Ironman distance! Total time was 11:20, so even with the shortened swim (1.9 miles instead of 2.4 miles because of wind/currents), I feel good about the day. I finished in the top 20% of my age group and overall.

 

Here are some pictures of the event.

 

I tried a new training method for this one (my 16th Iron-distance event) – because I was traveling like crazy leading up to the event, I had extremely limited time to train. During September and October, I was away from home more than I was at home – so my total training time and distance were severely compromised. I’ll be writing about my training, nutrition, and supplementation plan in my upcoming new book, “Weekend Ironman” – which will be out in 2014 and I hope will help other regular folks to complete an Iron-distance triathlon with limited training.

 

Earlier in the year, I also had these results:

 

  • June 9 – Ironman 70.3 Boise – (“half-iron”) = 5:04 (3rd place age group)
  • July 27 – Vineman “Full” (Iron-distance) Triathlon = 12:19 (with a flat)
  • August 10 – Katcina Mosa 100k Trail Run = 15:40 (14th place)
  • Sept 6-9 – World’s Fittest CEO – 2nd Place Overall

 

The Vineman event was a great race that I can highly recommend, but I was disappointed with my performance there (the flat tire really took the wind out of my sails). I felt really good about my performances in the 70.3 Boise (3rd place in AG and qualifying for World’s again), Katcina Mosa (testing our new Energ-Ease formula – coming soon!), and especially my “A” race for the season, the World’s Fittest CEO (2nd place overall after 3 days and 6 endurance events).

 

Without sounding too “commercial” I really feel that Wicked Fast supplements have helped me to get the most out of the limited training that I’m able to do. Between a very demanding work and travel schedule, trying to be a good husband and dad, not getting nearly as much sleep as I need, and generally feeling pulled in a million different directions, the fact that I can still get solid endurance-specific nutrition (Intense Defense), emphasize intensity over duration in my workouts (Energ-Ease), and recover as fully as possible between training sessions (Recover-Ease), I feel very satisfied with how my body and mind performed throughout 2013.

 

For 2014, I am planning:

 

  • March 1 – Ironman New Zealand
  • March 29 – Austin Rattler (100-mile mountain bike)
  • June 14 – Bryce Canyon 100-mile trail run
  • July 19 – Speed Goat 50k trail run
  • August 3 – Ironman Boulder
  • September 18-22 – World’s Fittest CEO

 

I think that with Wicked Fast supplements, I’ll continue to be able to get thru these extreme endurance events in good shape and with a big smile on my face – which is why most of us are out here doing these silly events in the first place, right?!?!?!

 

As always, thanks for reading, and I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, Holiday Season!.

 

Shawn

 

About the Author: Shawn Talbott is MonaVie’s Chief Science & Innovation Officer. He holds a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry (Rutgers) and a MS in Exercise Science (UMass). He trains for iron-distance triathlons and ultra-marathons in Utah – and is always sure to keep himself in biochemical balance and high vigor.

 =============================================

Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACN, FACSM, FAIS

Nutritional Biochemist and Author

www.shawntalbott.com

 

Follow me at:

YouTube

Amazon

Twitter

LinkedIn 

Facebook 

ShareCare 

 

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  http://www.KilleratLarge.com

▪    The Cortisol Connection – Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House) – FREE text at http://www.cortisolconnection.com/

▪    The Cortisol Connection Diet – The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House) – FREE text at http://www.cortisolconnectiondiet.com/

▪    Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection – The All-Natural Inside-Out Approach to Reversing Wrinkles, Preventing Acne, And Improving Skin Tone (Hunter House) – FREE text at http://www.cortisolcontrol.com/

▪    Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living – Lasting Relief for Flexible Joints, Strong Bones and Ache-Free Muscles (Chronicle Publishers – Currant Books) – http://painfreelivingbook.com/

▪    The Immune Miracle – The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012)

▪    The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkens)

▪    A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements – an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press)

 

Depression, Fatigue, and Belly Fat – the triple threat of Holiday Stress

The average person gains about 5-10 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s Day, but then only loses a few pounds over the rest of the year. This gradual accumulation of “holiday weight” is related, of course, to over-consumption of treats and sweets during the myriad holiday celebrations, but stress also plays an equally-important role.

 

Any type of stress, including holiday stress, can lead to overexposure to cortisol, our primary stress hormone. Cortisol is a potent appetite signal for the brain (specifically increasing cravings for sugar), as well as for fat storage in the abdominal region (belly fat). This is why most of us who study stress-related weight gain simply refer to belly fat as “stress fat.” In many ways, cortisol control is AS important for weight loss as regular exercise and proper diet – for many people struggling with weight loss, it’s the missing piece of the puzzle.

 

Here are two recent television segments where I talked about battling the holiday bulge by reducing stress and balancing cortisol.

 

KUTV – Salt Lake City (CBS) = http://www.kutv.com/news/features/guests/stories/vid_2173.shtml

 

WFXT – Boston (Fox) = lnkd.in/dfG3mdk 

 

Thanks for reading…

 

Shawn

 

About the Author: Shawn Talbott holds a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry (Rutgers) and a MS in Exercise Science (UMass). He trains for iron-distance triathlons and ultra-marathons in Utah – and is always sure to keep himself in biochemical balance and high vigor.

 =============================================

Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACN, FACSM, FAIS

Nutritional Biochemist and Author

www.shawntalbott.com

 

Follow me at:

YouTube

Amazon

Twitter

LinkedIn 

Facebook 

ShareCare 

 

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  http://www.KilleratLarge.com

▪    The Cortisol Connection – Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House) – FREE text at http://www.cortisolconnection.com/

▪    The Cortisol Connection Diet – The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House) – FREE text at http://www.cortisolconnectiondiet.com/

▪    Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection – The All-Natural Inside-Out Approach to Reversing Wrinkles, Preventing Acne, And Improving Skin Tone (Hunter House) – FREE text at http://www.cortisolcontrol.com/

▪    Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living – Lasting Relief for Flexible Joints, Strong Bones and Ache-Free Muscles (Chronicle Publishers – Currant Books) – http://painfreelivingbook.com/

▪    The Immune Miracle – The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012)

▪    The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkens)

▪    A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements – an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press)