Yesterday’s Weather

by drstephen

Recently I was helping my wife, Camilla, prepare a workshop entitled “Starting Well: Shape Your Children Today For Healthier Tomorrows.”  She asked me what I thought was the most important take-away message for the attendees.

I said “Yesterday’s Weather.”

Yesterday’s Weather is an expression that I learned from a behavioral expert who specializes in the field of software engineering. Social psychologists widely accept the position that the best predictor of tomorrow’s behavior is yesterday’s behavior.

As a New Englander, preparing for the brunt of yet another winter weather system, I can relate to the weather analogy. It turns out that despite all of the technology and gadgetry, meteorologists still consider better than 50% accuracy the Holy Grail – whereas if they simply said that tomorrow’s weather will be like yesterday’s, they’d be 72% accurate.

The most profound message for parents who are eager to give their children the best chance at better health and life outcomes is simply this: you create culture.

The culture of your home will shape your child’s choices…forever. Pick your battles.  Know the strategies that predict greater health, and insist on them. Be consistent and congruent.

Live these strategies out loud in front of your children. Embrace the most influential position that you will ever know: Role Model.

As I said once to a parent of five: you cannot possibly watch all of those kids all of the time. But they are always watching you.

Now go and create the future,

Dr. Stephen Franson

Do These Genes Make My Butt Look Big?

by drstephen

15 Pounds Healthier in 15 Weeks, Healthy Weight Loss

The belief that our genes determine our experience is arguably the most dangerous trend in modern thinking in regards to health.

It is easy to understand why this way of thinking is attractive and believable. Firstly, if our genes dictate the way that our body will look, feel, and function, we are immediately relieved of the enormous responsibility of lifestyle choice.

Simple question: in the before and after photos above, did Kendra’s genetic code change?

The answer is a resounding “no.”  Kendra’s genes did not change, but the way that her body looks, feels, and functions did – dramatically.

So ultimately, what changed? Her gene expression changed.

Your body, your thoughts, your health – your life – is dramatically altered by gene expression. Your genes determine your potential. Your lifestyle predicts your outcomes. The choices that you make every day regarding how you eat, how you move, and how you think will determine how your genes are expressed.

Everyone is handed a guitar – what they choose to play is up to them.

Go make beautiful music,

Dr. Stephen Franson

Choose Better Tomorrows Today

by drstephen

Quality of Life Trajectory

Quality of Life Trajectory

This graphic is highly flexible and could represent an infinite number of factors that are associated with QOL (Quality of Life): physical health, emotional well-being, financial security, happiness, and fulfillment…for the sake of this discussion, let’s keep it broad and general: Overall Quality of Life.

Not many people believe that the black line accurately represents the future quality of their life over time. This line’s trajectory would suggest that they would look, feel, and function at the same level throughout their later years as they do today – and then eventually expire.

The orange line represents the most common assumptions around QOL. This line implies a slow, steady decline over the decades, ending in a considerably poor state before your eventual demise.

In my clinical experience, I’ve met many who believe that the red line more accurately represents their expectations. Not very inspiring.

They believe that they are on a path that has been set – either by some genetic luck-of-the-draw or a penance for sins of the past. They also believe that they are doomed to a life that will be shorter and sicker than they wish; and there’s nothing that they can do about it.

The experts disagree.

As sited by Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage, it turns out that researchers have come to one hugely compelling conclusion: we should all be more optimistic.

Optimism by definition means that we recognize that our choices influence and predict our outcomes.

Want to experience the blue line? Make better choices.

Our behaviors will drive our experiences and shape our outcomes. Studies show that there is a consistent set of beliefs and behaviors that are common among these outliers. These behaviors are observable, definable, and – most importantly – reproducible.

If you want to be successful, do what successful people do.

Ultimately, this can lead to one very exciting conclusion: if I wish to be extraordinary, I should do what extraordinary people do.

The green line is illusive. It is hard to find, hard to walk, and harder still to stay on. But it’s there, waiting for you to enjoy.


Dr. Stephen Franson

Life Does Not Suck…It Pulls

by drstephen

Life Does Not pulls

Be careful how you define success. You will spend a lifetime chasing it.

I heard Pastor Bruce Boria make reference to a profound concept this past Sunday. He was commenting on the stress associated with lifestyle expenses relative to income. The discussion around cost of living keeping pace with – and often exceeding – earned income is not a new one. But what struck me was his use of the word “margin” in this context.

My friend Bill O’Brien once told me that it was a dire sin to hear a sermon in church and allow your mind to drift and shape the message into something “non-churchly.” I must confess – I am guilty.

I am hard-pressed to make it through a Sunday message without jotting down a note or two that might sprout into a blog post or workshop slide.

Margin: the space between cost and gain. That critical space. That often thin and barely recognizable air between what you must give and what you have. The space where our wants relentlessly press up against our means.  A space that we must guard and defend.

Life has a distinct pull. We can all feel it. Our roles, our jobs, our friends, kids, spouse, hobbies…they are all vying for the time, energy, and focus that we divide and deal out off the top of a new deck every day. These things cry out, some louder than others, like baby birds in our nest, hoping to get the meal dangling from our beaks.

Given this dynamic, balance is illusive, but a worthwhile pursuit. Harmony, however, is within arm’s reach at all times.

Why do you do what you do?

The honest answer will fall into one of four categories: Self, Service, Stuff, or Status.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the pull of this life, remember: check your margin.  This little space between cost and gain is where you’ll find Peace of Mind. The larger the area, the easier it is to find.

One Girls’ Journey

by alexis

Preparation is important, but execution is everything. –Dr. Stephen Franson

I’ve been working with the Bonfire Health team now for a little over three years. I can tell you pretty much all you need to know to live a healthy, vibrant, optimally functioning life – eating, moving, and thinking like a rock star. But there is a vast difference between knowing the facts, and practicing them.

You’d think that after three years of working for a phenomenal wellness program, I’d have everything down. That I wouldn’t battle keeping my workout schedule regular.   That I wouldn’t stay up late, screw up my sleep patterns, and mess with my hormone balance; That I would never consider looking at sugar because I know of its life-threatening effects – the insulin secretion, the fat storage, the blood sugar overload, etc.

But it’s funny…our health is such a fabulously dynamic thing: a progressive, ever-changing entity, shaped daily – hourly! – by our lifestyle choices, in a culture with countless unnatural options. With new flavors and fixes and temporary calms offered, and a pace that offers little space for thoughtful choice, I struggle. Our culture lives in such a state of “Choose-now! – Fill up! – Quench your cravings!” – at times I still find myself caught in its whirlwind. Then after I’ve craved and caved, I’m off my good rhythms and looking for my next fill, weaker and sadder than I was before.

Every day, with every choice, I know I am shaping the only life I’ve been given to live. The opportunity stands, readily available to me as it is to you – to give life to our bodies; to grant them health and nourishment; to bring to life the soul beneath our skin and build into our remarkable existence! Or to give in to what we’re sold.

 “Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”  Ann Voskamp

I know all too well the bafflement that comes with feeling like the body you are in is not your own. When your senses have grown numb to the interactions of the day. When excitement has been replaced by the monotony of routine. When your body craves movement, but no part of you can muster the courage (or find the clothes) to grace the gym with your months-of-unexercised presence. And if you do get there, your feelings could equate with those much like an elephant on a trampoline. And that’s just during the warm-up.

But I also know the beautiful life of vibrancy that lives inside my body – that comes out when I’m making right choices and giving my body the essential nutrients it needs. I’ve tasted of the freedom that fills those days. The lightness on my feet and extra room in my jeans; the puffy cheeks replaced by a vibrant, genuine smile; the sore knees replaced by strong quads; the ease with which I can lift my favorite little toddlers, juggle grocery bags, or jog to my car; the clearer thinking and greater capacity to be present with the people I love – with all of my senses attuned.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is – touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it. Because in the last analysis – all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”  Frederick Buechner

So, humbly, I’ve decided to begin again. To choose what I know is best for the body I’m the only steward of. To choose those things that give life to my cells! To no longer let that which I’ve allowed to stress my head, stress my health – nor rob me of the life I know I have full capacity to live. To step into the gloriously optimal functioning life I talk so much about.

….And I’d love for you to join me. 

My Three WHYs:

… Because I long to be authentic. Truly authentic. To live what I teach and teach what I live. Period.

… Because this season deserves all of me. Transitioning from one great season of life to another, I long to be fully present. For my senses to be fully awake and able to deeply relish sweet moments with the precious people around me; for a clear head and well-rested heart; for the capacity to articulate my gratitude for the treasures of this last season; to unwrap each of life’s gifts slowly and with full awareness of their value.

… Because wellness is more than just fitness for fitness sake. It’s about learning how to live life well and care for the body I’ve got, in order to discover all that a healthy body can do! What kind of capacity it’s got when it’s unburdened by lethargy and sickness, drugs and disease! The people it can serve! The lives it can touch! The calls it can answer! I want to discover what the healthiest version of this body can achieve…

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life 
I was a bride married to amazement.
 I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it is over, I don’t want to wonder 
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
 I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”  Mary Oliver

Let me encourage you – before you start – to consider your WHYs:

Why are you really doing this program?

Where are you now?

And where do you want to be at the end?

Here is a Bonfire Health_ Initial Assessment to guide you through the process of setting yourself up.

The Kids Are On Crack

by admin

If you’re following natural sleep patterns, you probably didn’t catch Jimmy Kimmel Live last week. (Its airs a bit late to accommodate my generous sleeping habits.) However, Jesse and I randomly caught this clip on Hulu. Jimmy asked people to videotape their kids’ reactions when parents jokingly told them that they had eaten all their Halloween candy. The results were hilarious. They are also very telling of the kind of hold that sugar has on our kids.

You would have thought you were telling some of these kids that a nuclear war was breaking out. What kind of news would you have to receive in order for you to react like that?

Can we really blame the kids? We know that food is essentially manufactured to be addictive. Its power over some is similar to street drugs, hence the name of this post. I have a particularly strong sweet tooth, myself.

Are there any mothers out there that indulged in sweet cravings during pregnancy? Or even breastfeeding? Eating something processed to be sweet during pregnancy, or “sugar bombs” as we call them around the office, can impact your children’s desire for sugary foods later in life. That third scoop of Cherry Garcia after a long day in your third trimester isn’t looking so justified anymore. The good news is that tastes can change, even our kids’.

So how do we get the kids off the sugar or at least loosen its drug-like hold on them (and us)?  Even though it sounds extreme and tough to manage, the best bet would be following in Gisele Bundchen’s footsteps (never thought I’d say that). People reacted in surprising ways when she announced that her son “thinks broccoli is dessert”. People thought she was depriving her child of something; cake on birthdays and a bucket full of sugary crap on Easter. But maybe that’s not so crazy. Think about how much easier it would be to be healthy if we simply didn’t have the desire to ingest sugar. What if some fresh blackberries or a few beets completely satisfied our sweet tooth? Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have “fun size” snickers bars or freeze pops, and they didn’t have any problems with diabetes.

My advice? Focus on progression, not perfection. Start talking about healthy snacks like they are coveted treats around the kids. Get them excited about nutrition. Teach them the difference between sick and sad foods and happy and healthy foods. Make them understand that food is fuel for their bodies. If we’re honest with ourselves, its probably a good reminder for all of us.

Positive Influence – Inspiring Success in Yourself and Others

by admin

Influence can be likened to a liquid that flows into and out of all of us. The character of what flows into us directly affects our internal state and affects what flows out of us, inevitably impacting what gets into others around us.

People, places, and experiences that provide positive influence are those that help us move nearer to our desired results and help us to be better today than we were yesterday. Many if not all of us can recall times of positive change in our thinking that enabled us to move well beyond what we initially anticipated. Some of us may even have enjoyed the privilege of watching others process inputs we provided and move themselves to better lives. More

Create the Life you Want – How to Inspire Lasting Personal Change

by admin

“Fake it ‘til you make it!” they say, but where’s the long-term value in that approach?  If we spend energy just faking progress, how will we ever actually arrive at our destination?  It sounds much like the experience of people who sit in what look and feel like race car drivers’ seats, but after exhilarating, high-intensity video game simulations, find that they’re a dollar short and no further from where they were when they began. More

Dietary Guidelines and the Food Pyramid

by admin

Can you think of a time when you couldn’t find any food to buy or eat?  Believe it or not, a little over 100 years ago, there were a lot of people in the United States who didn’t have enough to eat.  Food was not widely available.  There weren’t multiple grocery stores in every town, and they certainly didn’t have 24 hour convenience stores.


Hunter-Gatherer Cultures, Movement and Health

by admin

This is the abstract from a research article describing our innate needs for movement:

The model for human physical activity patterns was established not in gymnasiums, athletic fields, or exercise physiology laboratories, but by natural selection acting over eons of evolutionary experience. This paper examines how evolution has determined the potential for contemporary human performance, and advances the experience of recently-studied hunter-gatherers as the best available (although admittedly imperfect) indicator of the physical activity patterns for which our genetically determined biology was originally selected. From the emergence of the genus Homo, over 2 million years ago (MYA), until the agricultural revolution of roughly 10000 years ago our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, so the adaptive pressures inherent in that environmental niche have exerted defining influence on human genetic makeup. The portion of our genome that determines basic anatomy and physiology has remained relatively unchanged over the past 40 000 years. Thus, the complex interrelationship between energy intake, energy expenditure and specific physical activity requirements for current humans remains very similar to that originally selected for Stone Age men and women who lived by gathering and hunting. Research investigating optimal physical activity for human health and performance can be guided by understanding the evolution of physical activity patterns in our species.

Cordain L, Gotshall RW, Eaton SB, Eaton SB 3rd. Int J Sports Med. 1998 Jul;19(5):328-35. Physical activity, energy expenditure and fitness: an evolutionary perspective. Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80323, USA.