Physical Activity and Movement Part 3

Once you understand the benefits of a daily movement habit, it will be hard to resist engaging in the process to create this new routine. The benefits are innumerable. In my book, Authentic Health, I talk about the fact that if I could bottle all of the benefits of physical activity and place it in a capsule, and then sell it as a prescription, that everybody would want it. I talk about how people would be willing to pay the price, no matter how much. Then I remind them that the great news is there is no price. It’s free for you. All you have to do is take advantage of it.

Once you understand the benefits of a daily movement habit, it will be hard to resist engaging in the process to create this new routine.

How Does Movement Help Me?

Because our bodies are designed for physical activity, we experience a lot of positive benefits when we use our bodies properly. Creating a habit of movement provides results like these:

  • Lowering blood pressure;
  • Lowering resting heart rate;
  • Reducing insulin resistance;
  • Improving blood sugar control for people with diabetes;
  • Providing a metabolic signal that can assist with maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight;
  • Reducing your risk of atherosclerosis and having future cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke;
  • Boosting the health of your metabolic systems, your cardiovascular system, and your mind;
  • Increasing blood flow to the brain;
  • Enhancing a sense of wellbeing, including positive emotions like joy, peace, and gratitude;
  • Activating neuroplasticity, the ability to create new pathways in your mind to enhance your experience of this world and create new habits;
  • Alleviating emotional stress responses by reducing fear, anxiety, worry, irritability, and other negative emotions;
  • Improving your ability to get to sleep and sleep deeply through the night;
  • Refining the conditioning of your muscles, the ability of your body to use energy properly when needed, the health of your connective tissues, and the density of your bones;
  • Reducing your risk of injuries and falls;
  • Helping your balance by improving proprioception and how your body sends input to your brain to understand where you are in space; and,
  • Enhancing cognitive functions, allowing you to think better.

Bicyclists and runner outside exercising together

You get the idea. There’s an incredible amount of benefits to physical activity, and it’s for a clear reason: our bodies were designed for it. Not getting physical activity is similar to not sleeping, breathing, hydrating, or eating. Now, it’s not quite the same, because obviously without breathing you’ll die very quickly, and without drinking water, you’ll die pretty quickly as well. But nonetheless, the absence of physical activity will slowly deteriorate your body and lead to earlier death.

Sounds Good, Right?

I imagine that everything that I’m describing is something you want. You may already be engaged in a very healthy foundation for physical activity. If so, that’s great. Keep doing it, and let this reinforce it. But if you’ve struggled with being regularly physically active, if you’ve had ideas about it that it’s painful, and hard, and tiring, we’re going to correct that. It’s going to give you energy and reduce your pain. You’re going to feel better. And you’re not going to have to make yourself hurt to do it.

Yes, it requires some action, some initiative, and occasionally feeling a little uncomfortable. But I promise you it will not be hard.

There’s an incredible amount of benefits to physical activity, and it’s for a clear reason: our bodies were designed for it.

How to Begin …Today!

Think about starting today. Today, use your body a little bit more. Pay attention to your body and how it’s feeling. Move your shoulders, your neck, your hips. Feel your toes and fingers. Pay attention to your body, your posture, your breathing. Take an opportunity to walk for a few minutes, or just stand a little more. Take the opportunity to squat, kneel, lunge, hang, push, pull, or walk up the stairs. Whatever it is you’re capable of doing.

Man standing on stairs smiling wearing vegan tshirt

Rather than looking at two trips up the steps as tiring and something to be avoided, look at it as your trip to the gym. This will work for you. Embrace this paradigm of physical activity. You’ll not regret it.

In the post ahead, we’ll begin to outline the holistic approach to a movement habit that provides good health.


 If you have questions about a personalized path to your wellbeing, contact us. You also can like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

The Lake Logan Conference Center holds its uniquely relaxing and informative annual Healthy and Holy Retreat the weekend of February 22-24, 2019. This year’s presenters include family doctor, Dr. Gus Vickery, M.D., and yogi Rosie Mulford.

Dr. Gus Vickery returns for the 2019 retreat following his warm reception in 2018 and informative down to earth talks. This year you can expect him to dive deep into discussions around chronic illness and reversal, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight without dieting, and incorporation of actionable steps for leading a life of health and feeling good. Dr. Vickery’s approach is influenced by mindfulness and incorporating spiritual practices into our daily lives.

Together with experienced yogi Rosie Mulford, you will learn how yoga is a powerful practice that integrates body and spirit. Through daily practice, the mind becomes calmer, and the connection to the divine becomes clearer, leading to better overall health and wellness.

The popular weekend respite includes delicious and nutritious meals, private accommodations, intimate talks with attendees and presenters, and a relaxing environment for meditation and devotion.

Participants are urged to register early for this unique retreat as it is expected to sell out! You MUST register to attend!


 There is a simple and understandable truth about health. Find out more at www.healthshepherds.com.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 11

Let’s talk briefly about the reward system and food. The reward system in our brain is meant to promote our survival. It works off of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This neurotransmitter is associated with motivation and desire. In addition, when the reward system triggers, we get a bit of adrenaline, which creates a small rush, a feeling of stress, perhaps positive stress.

Once we are able to access whatever the reward system is motivating us to pursue, we get pleasure from something known as endorphins or endogenous opiate peptides. We actually feel that sensation of pleasure for just a moment.

But our reward systems have been manipulated. We now pursue behaviors and substances that actually work against our survival.

This is meant to call our attention to whatever we just encountered, because generally speaking, it was something that would promote survival. If we encountered it again, we would pursue it. But our reward systems have been manipulated. We now pursue behaviors and substances that actually work against our survival.

How Do We Take Charge?

The marketplace sells us addictions and sickness. However, the same marketplace sells us the opportunity to be healthy and well. Ultimately, we have to take charge of our minds. As long as your reward system is running the show, you’ll have no choice. You’ll do what it tells you to. Again, this is true for me, and it’s true for everyone. Our reward systems respond to different cues, so it’s different for all of us, but if you’re struggling with your eating behavior, then this is what you’re dealing with.

You really don’t have control over your reward system. It has control over you. But you do have control over your higher mind, and you have the ability to foster the desires to be your best self. As you do that, you begin to have some control over your choices, and you can choose to eliminate the foods, substances, and behaviors from your life that actually make you sick, and do not take you where you want to go. You do have this ability, but it takes desire, willpower, support, and accountability. You have to want this for yourself.

Person slicing zucchini on cutting board

The Doctor’s Conclusion

In our series on willpower, we outline a process to deal with urges and cravings. It involves cultivation of mindfulness and your higher mind. We explain this in more detail in that series. I’ve also written a paper that is available on our website, healthshepherds.com, that outlines a 4-step process using mindfulness to overcome urges and craving. I would encourage you to read that paper.

You really don’t have control over your reward system. It has control over you. But you do have control over your higher mind, and you have the ability to foster the desires to be your best self.

Our reward systems are important. They give us pleasure, and they reinforce behaviors that can be good for us. But when they’ve been manipulated by those who want our money and don’t care about our health, then the system is no longer working for us. You have to be aware of this. You have to set yourself free.

I’ll give an example of how strong the reward system is in our next post.


If you’re interested in personalized healthcare, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Please enjoy the free resources available to you. For those deeply curious about their most authentic health, I also recommend my book, Authentic Health

Physical Activity and Movement Part 2

Before we get into the details of the movement program, I want to emphasize that this is meant to be fun. You have to drop your previous thoughts about exercise as work. This program cannot be something you ought to do, or should do, or have to do. If that’s the case, you’ll always have to apply significant willpower to get started. And we know from my other teachings that willpower can only take you so far.

Where Do I Start?

If you’re on a quest for your best health, then you have to start with a strong desire to experience your best health. Desire is the rocket fuel for reaching your goals. Desire is based on intrinsic inspiration. With that comes intrinsic motivation. You’ll not have to motivate yourself, it will just become what you do. It will feel natural and good. In fact, it will be hard not to follow this program once you make it your habit. It will become such an automated part of your daily behavior and habits that it will feel strange not to apply these principles.

When you’re taking the long view of movement, there is no rush.

This is supposed to feel good and be fun. You have the freedom to take it very slowly. We’re approaching this from the long view, not the short view. The short view is what feels good in a particular moment, and we often end up giving up our long-term goals to whatever will help us feel better in the moment. I’ve discussed this at length in my blogs. It’s why I’ve emphasized the role of mindset, habit formation, understanding your desires, and how to develop willpower so that it can assist you in hardwiring your new habits of health.

When you’re taking the long view of movement, there is no rush. You don’t have to drop 30 pounds in 6 weeks, flaunt six-pack abs, or complete a competition by a particular timeline. You’re just simply thinking about how to wake up each day a little healthier. You’re thinking about how 5 years from now, your body will be working well for you, and you’ll delight in what it can do for you.

The long view does not take heroic efforts. It simply takes a little daily focus. That’s the wonderful thing about this. I think you’ll appreciate the small, simple steps that you’ll be able to take that will reduce pain, improve function, give you energy, improve your sleep and mood, and help you experience your best health.

Visualize Your Movement

So Step 1 in this program is to do a little visualization. We’re going to stop and close our eyes, breathe easy, and just relax for a moment. I’ve provided other blogs that talk about the power of visualization and how it awakens our creative mind and integrates both hemispheres of our brain. When it’s combined with positive meditation and contemplation, it creates a powerful thinking and feeling state. The more we visualize what it is we wish to become, the more likely we will be to achieve that goal. It’s a simple principle that’s been proven over and over again. It does not take long.

The long view does not take heroic efforts. It simply takes a little daily focus.

You’re going to close your eyes and breathe, take a moment and just relax. While you do this, I want you to smile. Smiling will immediately make you feel better. Regardless of whatever limitations you have, think about how grateful you are to have this body and that you’re able to experience life through this body. Think about how it works for you, and how you want it to work for you. Think about how good it would feel, every day, to have this body be able to work to its highest potential for you, again, regardless of whatever limitations you have.

Woman with long hair reflecting while sitting and looking at waterfall.

Begin By…

While you do this, do a scan of your body. Feel your fingers. Move them. Feel the muscles and the tendons in your fingers work properly. Wiggle your toes. Bring your attention to your jaw, and relax it. Relax your neck. Feel your breathing, and the muscles of your chest and your diaphragm assisting you in your breathing. Feel your core muscles and how they hold your body up against gravity. Experience the feelings in your hips and legs as you gently pedal them back and forward. Take delight in this physical body.

In your mind…

Picture how good it feels to get up and use your body, how nice it feels to move it through space and to experience its function.

Think about how good it would feel to swim in cool water, or hike up a challenging slope to an incredible vista.

Reminisce about how good it feels to take a walk in nature, by yourself, with friends or family members, or with a beloved pet.

Recall how good it feels to experience the world through this body.

Now you’re going to imagine what it would be like to do this every day. What would it be like to use your body to improve your own health? What do you need to do to maximize the experience of enjoyment of your own body?

You’ll Need Awareness

It’s very important that you begin to get in touch with your body, feel your body, and understand your body. You have to have awareness of your own body, and awareness of what you desire for it, if you want to achieve your goals.

One of the foundational principles of daily movement habits is simply biomechanical awareness, or kinesthetic awareness.

It’s the sense of your body working rightly for you. It takes a heightened level of intentionality and awareness to notice this and begin to cultivate the movement patterns that help you to feel good. But you can do it. And as you do it, it takes less and less energy. Eventually, you won’t have to think about it at all. Your body will just function as it is meant to.

Doctor’s Conclusion

So I want you to think about how much fun this is, how relaxing it is, and how enjoyable it is. I want you to think about how maximizing the health of your biomechanical frame, and your mind, will give you the ability to experience life in the best way possible. You’ll get to go to the places and see the things that you desire. You will not be limited.

With this positive intention, we’ll move forward into some ideas about what it will take to optimize the health of your body through a physical activity habit.


Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 10

We discussed the characteristics of foods that trigger the reward system and override our control of eating. It’s important to note these foods also allow for a disruption in the hormonal processes that would control our eating. These types of foods appear to interfere with leptin doing its job of regulating our energy balance. They also may contribute to chronic inflammation in our brain which impacts our mental function and can create resistance to the leptin we secrete to naturally regulate our body weight.

These foods do not satisfy you. They do not satiate your desire for nutrients nor give you nourishment. They actually make you sick and sabotage your efforts to feel good…

Ultimately, when we eat these foods, we get a little blip of pleasure, but it doesn’t last long. We actually feel less satisfied and we want to eat more. Then our bodies actually fight us to hold on to the weight we gain, even though it’s making us feel bad.

These foods do not satisfy you. They do not satiate your desire for nutrients nor give you nourishment. They actually make you sick and sabotage your efforts to feel good and maintain a healthy weight by directly working on the physiological controls of your weight and your energy, regardless of how you feel about it.

The Truth About Food

The good news is that natural foods, whole foods, and nourishing foods actually reset the system. It takes time, but they do. If you choose the foods that are high in fiber and nutrients, moderate in palatability—meaning they taste good, but not unnaturally good—and lower in calories, you’ll begin to effortlessly control your own appetite and begin to change the regulation of your energy balance back to the one that you desire.

There’s a truth about food. It serves a purpose for us. It is meant to both nourish us and give us pleasure. When we choose the right foods, they will serve their purpose for us. Ultimately, if we choose the artificial foods, the foods that are making us sick, we actually get no pleasure at all, and we get no nourishment.

We all have to make this choice together, and we have to do it in a way that encourages one another toward our best selves. We can’t wag fingers at each other or promote shame or guilt. This happened while we weren’t looking, while we weren’t aware. No one’s been telling us the truth about this, but it’s out there. This is all based on published and reliable scientific studies.

It makes sense that if we eat the foods that are natural and provide us sustenance, we’ll get back our health. If we try to shortcut that with foods that artificially create pleasure, ultimately there’s a price to pay. The price we’re paying is our health, and our children’s health.

We all have to make this choice together, and we have to do it in a way that encourages one another toward our best selves. We can’t wag fingers at each other or promote shame or guilt.

There are companies profiting off of making us sick, and making us addicted. We never used to think of food this way. We were clear about nicotine, and alcohol, and opiates, and many other substances that we encounter that are clearly addictive and make us sick. But our food wasn’t supposed to do this. It’s been modified.

Doctor’s Conclusion

We know that you have to walk away from the added substances, but you can’t just walk away from food. You have to eat. Therefore, we have to help one another. We can do this together, and we can be set free.

The food industries that sell us our food will honor this. If we insist on foods that give us health, they’ll provide it. In fact, there are numerous companies, farmers, and food producers out there that are bringing nutrient-dense foods to the marketplace that will give us life and give us health. Let’s give them our support. Let’s make new choices together.


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Physical Activity and Authentic Health Part 1

This is my new series on the many benefits of physical movement. Our bodies and minds are designed for activity. Just think about how we’re made: muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, connective tissues, extremities. It’s clear that the physical use of our bodies is integral to the design of our body.

Use Your Body Properly

If you think of this from an ancestral standpoint, you’ll see that the human body adapted over millennia to engage in physical activities that promoted our survival. I’ve prescribed physical activity or exercise to my patients for the entire scope of my practice. Virtually everyone knows that they should exercise. The challenge is that it’s a form of work, that it can be fatiguing, that it can feel hard. For some, it also feels embarrassing. Many have bad memories from middle school or high school gym classes. A lot of people don’t enjoy being in gyms.

Being well-conditioned can be associated with good health, but it is not a definition of good health.

We tend to view the health aspect of physical activity as that of being exceptionally well-conditioned. Pop culture uses images of aesthetically pleasing physiques with six-pack abs performing incredible feats and training themselves in very intensive ways. Being well-conditioned can be associated with good health, but it is not a definition of good health. You don’t have to be exceptionally defined to be physically healthy; you just simply have to use your body properly.

People dancing

Why Adopt a Daily Movement Practice?

Throughout this series, we’ll describe what it means to adopt a daily movement practice that gives you back your best health. That’s the goal of this series. If your goal is to get your best time for an IronMan competition, or to win at the CrossFit Games, then this series isn’t going to be your primary source of information. There are many other professionals writing and producing excellent training programs for that level of fitness. This is about promoting and protecting your authentic health.

The pattern of activity I’m going to describe will feel refreshingly simple and liberating to many of you.

My suggestions are geared toward providing a way to your longest and healthiest lifespan, and enjoying how you feel in your own body. This is not going to be directly related to your weight, although it will help you maintain it. It also isn’t specifically related to how you look in your bathing suit, although you’ll certainly improve the odds of looking the way you want to by adopting these habits.

This is about feeling good every day and feeling good about yourself. The pattern of activity I’m going to describe will feel refreshingly simple and liberating to many of you. Even well-conditioned individuals I see in my practice who’ve exhausted themselves with intensive exercise have often felt liberated when I’ve explained this paradigm of physical activity to promote their best health. They feel like they finally have the freedom to just relax a little and take it easy, not to always push themselves to their edge.

Is This Movement Something I Can Do?

I occasionally will suggest that we push our limits. That is a part of maintaining good health. But it will not be nearly as often as you think it has to be, nor will you have to join a gym or buy exercise equipment to follow this program. This is done with just your body and whatever your environment allows for you.

People road biking on mountainside

 

I understand that many people have limitations based on prior injuries, or perhaps conditions they were born with. Not everybody has the freedom of movement that a completely healthy, and normally developed human body would have. Some are confined to wheelchairs, some have conditions or injuries that really restrict their ability to use their body to the fullness of its design. That does not matter. This is for everyone. Whatever your current context of physical health and capability, you can apply these principles to improve your health. It will still work for you.

This series is the truth of physical health. It is based on our body’s design and genetics. You can then take it as far as you want to go. If you want to become a high-performing endurance athlete, or a powerful gymnast, then by all means, go for it. But this program is for everyone to serve as a foundation for good physical health.

We focus on overall body movement with a few key principles about how to maximize your use of your body and the potential that’s integral to its design. Follow along with us. There is so much to learn!


If you’re interested in learning more about physical movement or a more personalized approach to healthcare, order the book Authentic Health, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram!

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 9

We have made it very clear that your conscious control of eating actually has far less power over your eating behavior than you perhaps previously thought. We’ve talked about the underlying physiological influencers of hunger and what these mean for our eating choices. When we find ourselves drawn to foods we know are bad for us, but can’t stop eating, we recognize that we are dealing with addiction-like cravings that are hard to control. We have to wake up to this reality. Our strong attachments to these foods are not due to our true desires.

This post is very important. This is one to absolutely remember.

Thus far, we discussed how:

  1. Your body is designed to signal satiation and satiety;
  2. Leptin can signal to your brain that you have adequate fat storage, i.e. stored energy, and;
  3. This whole process can be disrupted.

Here’s the major point: it’s certain types of foods that actually disrupt the normal regulation of eating behavior.

Yes, we eat too much, and yes, we eat too frequently. But that is not the primary problem. The primary problem is in the foods we choose to eat, and what they do to our brain and body.

When we find ourselves drawn to foods we know are bad for us, but can’t seem to stop eating, we have recognized that we are dealing with addiction-like cravings that are hard to control.

Remember this: foods that are hyper-palatable—meaning they taste unnaturally good—and hyper-rewarding—meaning they activate our reward system in an unnatural fashion—are heavy in calories while containing minimal nutrients and fiber. These foods will override your normal stop signals.

Hands reaching for burgers and frieds

These foods are the processed foods, junk foods, fast foods, and foods we think we all prefer. But we don’t actually prefer them.

Why Do I Eat What I Know to be Unhealthy?

You see, early in our lives, we were exposed to them when our brains were developing. It’s no different than if our brains were exposed to nicotine or alcohol or any other addictive substance. Foods that contain these characteristics will trigger your reward system in such a way that it will override any control of eating you thought you had, as well as your body’s natural regulatory functions.

These foods are unnatural. We are not adapted to them. Our bodies adapted to foods that were high in fiber and nutrients, were lower in calories, and were moderate in palatability. High palatability means something tastes really good. Moderate palatability means it still tastes good, just not in an unnatural way. The food industry figured this out years ago, and they began to concentrate certain flavors in food that will trigger your reward system in such a way that you cannot stop eating them.

Now, not everybody is susceptible to these flavors. Our genetic susceptibility to addiction does vary from individual to individual. However, we know for a fact that foods that contain high quantities of fat, salt, sugar, and glutamate, which is a substitute for proteinaceous flavors, trigger the reward system powerfully.

Our genetic susceptibility to addiction does vary from individual to individual.

There’s a reason for this. Human beings used to deal with food scarcity. Fat was an abundant source of energy. Sugar signified honey and fruit, which was also a good source of energy and nutrients. Salt indicated minerals which are vital for survival. Glutamate flavors indicated protein, which we need. Essentially, we are programmed to binge eat when we encounter these flavors.

Let’s get that clear: we are programmed to binge eat when we encounter these flavors.

Where is My Willpower?

No natural foods contain all of these flavors in a super-concentrated form. Super-concentrated, meaning we have unnaturally concentrated these flavors. Our reward systems cannot manage that input. We are adapted to binge eat those foods. So when you encounter one of those foods, you will inhibit your willpower, literally turn it off. Not only that, but you’ll also override normal satiation function, meaning you can eat far beyond what you normally would.

You don’t have willpower when you encounter these foods because you actually don’t have willpower. The switch was turned off. I’m going to repeat this one more time:

Unnatural foods are concentrated in flavor elements that trigger your reward system in such a way that you cannot control your own eating behavior.

That’s true for me. It’s true for you. You were exposed to them, as I was, before you were at an age where you would even know what your preferences were. Your brain became habituated to these flavors long before you were making conscious choices about what foods you truly like. These have never been your preferences. You were conditioned to crave them, and it benefited the food industry that sells us a lot of these foods.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Ultimately, we have to tell the truth about these foods for ourselves, our children, and our communities, and we have to create a new future. The good news is that we can.

Throughout this series, we remind you that there is a way out. There is a path of freedom, a path that will empower you to gain control of your eating behaviors and choose the foods that give you health. For now, just remember that as long as we’re exposed to the foods that are concentrated in the reward system flavors—foods that lack fiber and nutrients, and are high in calories—we will overeat, and we will struggle with our health, regardless of our weight.


Are you searching for a more integrated approach to healthcare? That’s what Health Shepherds delivers. If you have questions about a more personalized path to your wellbeing, contact us. You also can like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.