Welcome back to the Healing Pain Podcast with Zachary Shannon Morris, MS, PT
In this episode, we will discuss the combination of physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle interventions with a physical therapist, Shannon Morris. Shannon has many years of clinical practice, which includes the prevention and rehabilitation of injury and chronic pain. She is an advocate for physical therapists delivering and combining movement, nutrition and lifestyle interventions. She believes that in addition to exercise and physical activity, real food is a must if you want to heal, strengthen and proceed with a pain-free and happy life. Shannon is also a graduate of the Functional Nutrition for Chronic Pain Practitioner Certification Program here at the Integrative Pain Science Institute.
You’ll learn all about Shannon’s professional journey through the world of nutrition and physical therapy, as well as which lifestyle behaviors affect pain, metabolism, weight loss, longevity and can increase your healthspan. If you’re a professional and you’re interested in learning more about how nutrition plays a role in reversing and treating chronic pain, make sure to check out the on-demand clinical training by the Integrative Pain Science Institute. This free masterclass will teach you how to reverse chronic pain, inflammation and disease using functional nutrition. It’s 100% free so you can check it out by going to the IntegrativePainScienceInstitute.com/masterclass. Let’s meet Shannon Morris.
Physical Therapy, Nutrition And Lifestyle Medicine With Shannon Morris, MSPT
Shannon, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you here.
Thank you for inviting me to participate.
Since day one, I have met you virtually through my course on nutrition. As soon as you entered the group, I was like, “We need you in the group. I’m happy you’re here. I can’t wait to talk to you more about nutrition, physical therapy, pain and all the great things that we’re doing to help people cope with pain and live a healthier life.” Tell me a little bit about your story. You have degrees in both Physical Therapy and Nutrition.
I started out in nutrition. That arose out of the fact that as a child, I was not fed the best. When I was born, out came the first TV dinner. That wasn’t a good start. Fast food started to climb. My mother became a single mom raising two kids. Out of convenience, she fed us a lot of fast, convenient foods. She was a good mom, but she was busy and we see a lot of those same things nowadays. I wasn’t that healthy. When you’re young, you’re given your food to you and whatever the school system has. I remember Tang, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and macaroni and cheese. As I grew up, I was never obese, but I was getting fat around the midline. That was the same year that Twiggy came out.
There was a lot of contra information there. You never felt good about gaining weight. All the food that was given to me helped put on some pounds. My interest in nutrition started. I thought that a pre-med degree was a good degree to get. I was primarily interested in it to get healthy myself. I went to school at the University of California Davis and got a degree in Nutrition there. I never did pursue the RD degree, but I went over to the University of Hawaii and I got a Master’s in Nutrition. That was during that low-fat movement. Everything was high carbohydrate. The pyramid was lots of carbs and I became a marathon runner. Thank God because I burned off some of that sugar.
I found nutrition difficult to work with people. We didn’t have all the knowledge that we have these days. A lot of knowledge we did get was influenced by the food industry. I got discouraged in nutrition. I felt my own health mostly improved through all the exercise I was doing. I decided to go back and get a degree in Physical Therapy. I left Hawaii and the beautiful weather and went all the way to the University of Wisconsin and studied physical therapy. Here I am, I’m working in an outpatient setting. I primarily see orthopedic patients, but I’ve always incorporated health and wellness, whether it be stress management or nutrition. When I saw your class, Functional Nutrition for Chronic Pain, I thought, “This is going to be great,” because I hadn’t kept up with the latest in nutrition and a lot of nutrition research was coming out.
It was fascinating how nutrition affects our brain and metabolic syndrome. It’s all relatively new compared to what I have learned in school. I couldn’t wait to take your class. It was fun to see that someone was bringing nutrition into physical therapy. PT, no doubt, had the best opportunity to help patients. In my practice, I work in a hospital setting, we at least get an hour to 45 minutes with each of our patients. That gives me plenty of time to treat them orthopedically, but also discuss health and wellness. They’re not sent to me for that, but there isn’t anyone anymore that comes in that doesn’t need help in this area. It’s because of our culture. I incorporate this into all of my patient interactions.
Let me make one thing clear. It’s important that we have safe nutritious food available. When I was a child, I’m not blaming my mother. She did the best she could, but these days, it’s hard because if it’s not available and it’s not around, we become victims. I was such a processed food eater in the past. It took three degrees and all those backgrounds to change my dietary habits. I’ve made it a passion of mine to work with patients in changing their dietary awareness and, hopefully, their food choices because we see all this coming with obesity metabolic syndrome. On occasion, once a month, I have to work in the hospital. There are many amputations. Someone was shooting up an opioid in the room. We have many chronic problems that to not look at this is shameful. I don’t see the doctors having the time to do this, so therapists have a prime opportunity.
As a physical therapist, it does fit well with our practice pattern. Is nutrition something that you’re discussing on the first visit with someone?
Oftentimes, it doesn’t take a tape measure around someone to waste to know that they have metabolic syndrome. Someone will come in and they’ll have in their history checked for depression. “I also have this knee and back pain. I know I had shoulder surgery,” and I’ll start bringing up information about, “What is your diet like? Would you be receptive to talking about a lifestyle change?” I always ask permission to most of them, but most people are receptive and do want to hear it. Sometimes they even say, “I’m shocked that I never heard any of this from my doctor.” Many times, I saw someone in the hospital with diabetes and they said, “We’re going to do diabetic training.” I was curious about what she was going to get. It was basically how to inject the insulin into our stomach. That was the diabetic training she got. Many people are not informed and they’re open to this. It’s important that we get it when we can. Even if they’re not, there are all kinds of stuff about sleep and stress. Who doesn’t want to hear about it? It’s important that we do start talking.
Processed food is something I’ve got a huge interest in helping people get off. I live in a poor county in Northern California, in Mendocino County. It couldn’t be more beautiful. We have the ocean and redwood trees, but we have high incidents of opioid use. We also have 68% of the population as obese. There’s a lot of addiction. There is processed food on every corner. We grow wine and cannabis. I call it Mendonesia because there are many people intoxicated with something. Processed food is an intoxication also. You saw my posts. It’s covered with items that are full of sugar. Hidden sugar is in 74% of all packaged foods. We know that 60% of the American diet is processed food.
We’re consuming so much sugar. Sometimes, I start out with talking about sugar. It’s in the media a lot. People go, “I’m going to give up the ice cream or cut down on the Winchell’s Donuts.” When you see how prevalent it is, that alone can change someone’s diet. It’s funny because I’ll be talking about things and I didn’t realize how big soda still is. Soda and liquid sugar are still huge and a huge intake. I had this show on the stock market. PepsiCo was increasing in its stock. You think people are giving up this stuff, but they’re not. Oftentimes, they’ll say, “Do you drink soda?” When I asked them to cut back or reduce their soda, it’s like I’m trying to take away their firstborn.
People don’t want to give up soda. This liquid sugar is killing us. A lot of times, I’ll start with sugar with patients. Let’s talk about where sugar is. Do we even need sugar? People think, “You have to have some added sugar.” It is hard to believe, but we don’t need any in our diet. It didn’t used to be in our food. Now, it’s in every food you can think of. Look at any of your dressings. You can look at spaghetti sauce. The other dad tried to find one box of cereal without added sugar, do you think that Kashi or some of these healthy foods don’t have added sugar? They are loaded with a lot of sugar. It’s hard to get through your life without a bunch of added sugar. When they say, “What are the upper limits?” the upper limits of sugar are a good thing to look at.
How much added sugar can you have?
The American Heart Association thinks that nine teaspoons or 38 grams for men and six teaspoons or 26 grams for women is safe and okay. That isn’t that much. They’re saying only 3 to 6 teaspoons of added sugar for children. That’s about 12 to 25 grams. What are Americans consuming? This is the scary part. Americans consume 57 pounds of added sugar a year. That’s like five of those pound bags of sugar every month or about seventeen teaspoons a day. That is a lot of sugar. It was Valentine’s day week. The hospital throws something on your computer, “Come celebrate Valentine’s day. We’re serving many cupcakes.” I’m thinking, “This is a hospital.”
Hopefully, they weren’t prepared by the dietician department.
They’re brought in like we have our little ice cream truck. Everything to reward the nurses and therapists for all their hard work. I couldn’t believe the line outside the door. It was a huge line. It was a fifteen-minute food frenzy. This is our culture. It’s food rewards and we see it everywhere.
You are working in a hospital, in a county where obesity is above average, where there’s addiction happening. There’s mental health disability happening and the hospital is rewarding people with high calorie, sugary, processed, chemi-curated food.
It’s cheap and we fall for it. It’s hard because mothers always bring in cupcakes for their kids. It’s a culture. It’s a bigger problem. If you’re not partaking, sometimes you’re the weirdo. “There’s the anti-sugar Shannon.”
I’m always the weirdo on lots of things. I always look at people and I was like, “I am totally fine being the weirdo here. I’ll be the weird guy here because I’m going to be healthy.”
I refuse to fall into that because if you travel, it’s not like this all over the world. There’s a growing trend of American culture going everywhere, but sugar frenzy is not everywhere. The most harmful is liquid sugar. That’s where it started with a lot of the patients because 36% of the added sugar that we do consume tends to come from Gatorade and soda. Look at Starbucks. Do people go on there and have coffee? Coffee is one addiction, but they’ve gone in there to have the frappuccino with the sprinkles and the chocolate caramel sauce. Kids walk out there every day. I don’t care how big they are. They have the extra-large frappuccino sugar-sweet drink. That’s scary.
Making a shift in beverage can be the first step for many patients. If you’re a professional and you’re getting into nutrition counseling, someone on a beverage change can be a positive behavior change. What recommendations do you provide for people regarding beverages that have less sugar in them or potentially no sugar instead of soft drinks and other processed drinks?
Fortunately, the hospital does sell some seltzer waters. It is bubbly and there’s a hand to out there. They have a big thing of water full of fruit, fruit-infused water and drinking a lot of water every day too. I think these are all things that help, but there’s no question there’s an addiction-related or a craving for sugar. If you think about it, one soda has 42 grams of sugar in it. That’s above and beyond what we’re supposed to have for one day. What about one flavored yogurt? Only in America, we take sour milk and turn it into a sweet dessert. That’s called flavored yogurt. You can get cheesecake or blueberry pancake yogurt or whatever. We take everything and turn it into a dessert.
Even juice, people drink a lot of it. Although the sugar isn’t added to juice, it’s quickly available to the liver. One cup of juice can have 30 grams of sugar that are quickly absorbed into our liver. The sugar that Americans are consuming at this time is toxic. This is where I meet with people sometimes and I don’t recommend artificially sweetened sodas. That’s got a whole other problem, but that might be one area to start looking at hidden sugars. Let’s look at why we’re consuming so much sugar. Sugar is connected to the dopamine reward pathway, much like all the other rewards such as gambling, sex and pornography. Sugar is right up there with cocaine and other drugs. It’s purified.
You don’t find that much sugar hanging on in nature. You might get some fruit, an apple or some berries, and they tend to be seasonal. Sugar didn’t use to be readily available, but now it’s everywhere. It used to be thought of as a condiment. We would have it as a special treat. Oftentimes, when I go out to do a hike across France, we would have sugary treats, but it was special. That was a small amount. It was after a whole day of hiking and we’re sharing it. We’re not stuffing Hostess or Twinkie cakes down our mouth. This was a special event. It’s like in America, we had a constant reward system. It’s a nonstop system and this fires up the dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s released in the ventral tegmental area of our brain and it creates cravings and wanting. It’s the person who’s at the grocery store going up and down the huge ice cream aisle looking at all the different flavors after a cannabis hit. That’s dopamine, our craving, wanting and desiring. It’s a long list of nurses who are outside, stressed out waiting for that little mini cupcake as a reward for the day. That’s sad, but that’s the truth of it. It’s cooked to the reward system. When we are constantly firing up that dopamine, that receptor hits an area of our brain, the pleasure area called the nucleus accumbens and opioids are released. We get a pleasure response. We don’t see it the same thing with fat, vegetables and protein. Do you ever get up in the middle of the night and have any craving for broccoli? I don’t think so.
These highly purified, intense foods, which are consumed all day long by Americans create this dopamine curve and our nucleus accumbens can’t survive it. It down-regulates so you need more and more of a substance to get the same response and pleasure so it facilitates that overeating. It facilitates more craving and wanting. I saw this myself. Someone would bring chocolate and have it in this big container at work. I would have a little piece of Doug’s Chocolate. Soon, that one piece was turning into two pieces. I find myself stopping at Costco to buy that super bag to fill it up because I felt guilty about eating all their chocolate. We get this neverending craving and wanting. I find it better. I said, “That’s not my food.”
It’s not my food because when I have some of it, I want more of it. When I want more of it, I start thinking about craving and wanting it. This dopamine pathway is alive and strong. I say to some of my patients, “You might need to go cold turkey because that brain needs to heal.” You need so much of it. It’s interesting that oftentimes, obese have larger nuclear accumbens. They also have greater food cravings. I could see a McDonald’s ad all day long, but it must work because our fast food lines are out the door.
This is the reward system. It’s instant, visceral. We crave and it’s common. We need some rewards. This is what I do tell people. You can use these as rewards, but if you get off sugar, sometimes it needs to be a cold-turkey to heal your brain. Once you’re up, “Does that mean I’m never going to have a bite of anything rewarding again?” “No.” I do have an occasional treat here and now, but it’s certainly not every day. I keep it as a special occasion because I know of the harm that it can do.
Do you find that counseling people to go cold turkey versus slowly weaning down is more effective or it depends on the person?
It depends on the person. For me, I could not wean down. I think of it as the same pathway as maybe a cocaine addict, just a little intense, but it’s the same dopamine pathway, the same brain that needs healing. For me, it was either a have it out of the house. Not have it, not eat it, that’s not my food. It took a while to do that, but after I did it, I don’t crave it or seek it out or want it. I enjoy it if it happens to come into my life. If someone says, “I can’t do it,” we look for other options. It’s important to be flexible. For me and maybe a food addict, if you’ve looked at Susan Peirce Thompson, she wrote Bright Line Eating. She was a cocaine addict, food addict, and a sugar addict. For some people, it’s better to say I’m not going to have any. It’s easier not to have any and to not think about it. For other people, moderation works fine. I think it’s dependent on the person.
In times, where I have fallen off the wagon and added in more processed foods, sometimes they pop into your diet without you realizing it. At times, I found that cold turkey is better for me. It’s difficult to wean off slowly. We don’t slowly wean people off cocaine and heroin once they decide to go on a detox and relatively rapidly with support. That’s what we’re there for. We’re there to support people as they’re coming off sugar and to help them with healthier choices.
If you look at food addiction sites, there are two things they won’t let people leave. One of them is you have to commit to not eating any sugar. The second one they ask you to commit to is not eating any flour products. It’s interesting that most food addiction sites, even all of them have those two substances as, “Let’s get off of these.” That might be related to that reward pathway and that drive that we have. We lose control. I was a sugar addict and going cold turkey helps many people. Sugar is toxic in many other ways. Not even a reward pathway, but sugar leads to metabolic syndrome. That is probably the worst. Strangely, the last thing I would have thought I would’ve ever had was pre-diabetic.
I became pre-diabetic. This was even after giving up a lot of sugar. It is because of years of eating sugar and having exposure to processed foods. I’m careful with my carbohydrates, but rarely do I have to measure someone’s girth. They come in. I’m not bringing out my tape measure. It’s obvious if somebody has metabolic syndrome, especially in my town. We talked about how visceral fat is much more toxic to us than subcutaneous fat. No one died from too much subcutaneous fat, but that visceral fat right around our belly is the deadly fat. This is the fat between the organs that creates insulin resistance. It is the harmful fat. I call that the sugar belly.
You’ll see it in kids and adults. It’s everywhere. That may be a source of discussion. People often say, “You don’t know. You’ve always been lean. Look at you, you’re thin and fit.” It’s like, “I’ve always been fairly thin, but I was thin on the outside, fat on the inside.” I had visceral fat. When people understand the difference, then I tell them, “You can get rid of that. It’s metabolically active and it’s going to be the first to go.” It gives them some hope that there’s a reason for that. It isn’t the middle-aged man with a big beer belly. Sugar is related to a lot of this.
Let’s look at table sugar. It is glucose and fructose. It comes into the blood and insulin is released. Glucose is used by every cell in our body practically. We’ve got the brain, the liver and the kidneys use glucose. What’s interesting is only about 20% of the glucose goes to the liver and of that 20%, a large amount is stored as glycogen. Insulin is released. We store the glucose as glycogen. Athletes and all of us like glycogen. We need that. That’s a source of energy for later. There’s a huge difference between the glucose and the fructose, but the glucose, 1/50th is turned into fat and goes into the fatty liver or excluded from the liver in terms of VLDL. The problem is fructose. Fructose is similar in structure to glucose, but the metabolism is so much different. This is the real key to understanding how metabolic syndrome occurs.
Fructose is metabolized primarily if not all in the liver. It’s a toxin like alcohol is metabolized primarily in the liver. The thing about fructose is you won’t find it alone in nature. It is super sweet. It’s in fruit, but fruit and glucose, fruit sugar, our saving factor is fiber. Insoluble soluble fiber decreases that flux of sugar into our liver. Without that fiber, we’re talking processed food, we have all this fructose bombarding our liver. It’s horrible because once it goes in there, it’s converted to pyruvate, which goes right to the mitochondria. Our mitochondria are overwhelmed with a large influx of fructose and produce a lot of citrates. Citrate then stimulates fat formation, de novo lipogenesis fat formation. We get fat that is in the liver and sent out to the visceral creating hyperinsulinemia because we have insulin resistance. Our organs become insulin resistant and it’s because of the overload of fructose.
When you understand, “How would you reduce this?” Number one, you only get your sugar from fruit, ideally. We can handle some history to the liver as we can with alcohol, but both fructose and alcohol metabolite is similar in the liver. Alcohol goes to the brain also makes us different in the brain, but with fructose, it’s like the kids’ alcohol. You see kids’ fatty bellies and it’s extremely sad because that hyperinsulinemia on high insulin changes many things. It makes us sick, but it’s overloading our mitochondria is what’s dangerous.
As far as fruit, let’s say one serving of fruit, how many times a day? Are there fruits that you steer people toward more versus others?
As we learned in your class about the glycemic index, certain foods create more insulin response and other ones. I try to promote more berries and blueberries because they are anti-inflammatory, antioxidants and inflammation-reducing because the fructose creates ROS formation and inflammation. How much fruit is enough? A lot of it depends on somewhere between 2 and 3. If you’re an athlete, you do a marathon or you’re running every day, then that amount can go up without taxing your liver. If you’re more sedentary, for me, I’m happy with two pieces of fruit a day. I think if you’re even more metabolically challenged with diabetes or you might think of a more ketonic diet. A lot of it is individual and the berries and fruits that are high in antioxidants would be the ones to choose if that’s ideal. Bananas have a high glycemic index, which is probably why I like them so much.
Also, dried fruits. If I’m going on a long bicycle ride, I might put some dried fruit in my pocket because it’s high in sugar. I’m not going to do it if I’m going into the movie theater. It depends on the patient, their needs and their metabolic statuses. The other thing I wanted to mention is that this fructose created this nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The prevalence is high globally as one billion people having this in the world. In the US was about 80 to 100 million individuals or about 31% with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. People don’t know that. They’re not going in for these kinds of tests. We talked about their central obesity. If you have that, there’s a good chance you also have this nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
It is one of the most important health epidemics that we should pay attention to.
It is on the rise. The incidence has doubled since the 1980s. It’s all related to all this processed food. Finally, I wanted to talk a little bit about how that hyperinsulinemia also affects appetite. In an ideal world, we put on fat and this releases leptin. It tells our hypothalamus, which is a major control regulator in the brain that says, “You’ve had enough food.” We then stop eating or not wanting to eat. If we have high levels of insulin, it’s interesting to note that the prevalence of non-diabetic high concentrations of insulin has increased by about 35% since 1990.
Everyone has hyperinsulinemia or more insulin was being released than before. This affects our appetite in our storage of fat. We’re storing insulin causes fat storage as does cortisol. Two things create fat storage. I’m simplifying, but in some like in cortisol, when I talk to patients, I try to give them hope. When your insulin levels are high, you’re going to store. I had one patient who blew up from the doctor giving him insulin. His blood sugar jumped so high and he probably gained about 30 pounds. I also see it on Prednisone. People getting Prednisone are blowing up and they start storing a lot of fat. Excess insulin also drives the dopamine. When our insulin is high, the leptin is inhibited.
If we don’t have that feedback loop in the hypothalamus, our brain thinks we’re starving. That’s why I think a lot of times people finish a meal and they’re still hungry. We have that sensation that, “I’ve just had a big meal.” How many people say, “I’m looking for something sweet?” It’s a combination of high insulin and dopamine. It affects our appetite. When we start to have all this high insulin because of our problem with storing. In our metabolic syndrome, we have insulin resistance, then we have hyperinsulinemia which starts to create this on fat storage that’s above and beyond, which should be. That’s also driving our appetite. We have two things, dopamine and the high insulin. All of these are driving us to eat more.
The final thing I wanted to bring up was cortisol because we’re all more stressed. The other day, we got a new boss and the productivity has to jump up by quite a bit and breaks are taken off. Soon, our lunchtime is tapped into. Everything is productivity. It’s all about money. Even fast food or convenience food, it has a profit margin of 45%. These people are not going down easily. They’re promoting it. It’s the same way with work. We have so much stress. We get these traveler physical therapists. They can’t afford anywhere to live. They have a $100,000 worth of school debt.
They’re not getting paid all that much. They’re finding creative ways like you to start with coaching, health and wellness because the world needs it. The stress level is amazing with people. They can’t work. They don’t have jobs. They tell the cannabis growers, which was our main industry, can’t get legal because it’s too hard of a process. Everyone is hugely stressed out and what cortisol does is it raises our blood insulin. It also drives the dopamine so we’re in search of that highly palatable food. Metabolic syndrome is bigger. Our insulin release is greater than our fat storage. It’s a neverending vicious cycle. A lot of times, it feels hopeless. People come in and have all these problems and we have to get over.
We’re not going to fix anyone. We’re going to help everyone. We give them the information. I look at a person, “Are they stressed? Are they getting enough sleep? If there’s stress, what can we do? What can you do to start to reduce your stress? Why is stress dangerous?” Looking at their diet, “How can you cut back on sugar? How can we exercise a little more, given your limitations? How can you incorporate mindfulness into eating? How can you incorporate exercise into your life?” These are all little things. This doesn’t take a PhD in nutrition to teach. We all should be teaching this. Not only do we offer this to our clients, but we need it. We’re doing it for ourselves. How do we manage our stress? How do we not overload our livers? How do we protect our brains? It’s all great information.
That’s why the course is great. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping others. It’s like being on an airplane, if you take the mask, you have to first put it on yourself before you put it on someone else. Understanding all of this, learning how to improve your diet and your health, and how to incorporate this into patient care is a blessing. Not everyone is going to embrace it. Some people will come back and I’ll see them 30 pounds slimmer. “Shannon, I got off sugar. I’m glad you told me. I feel much better. Thank you.” You get enough of those that I know I’m making a difference and I enjoy it.
What’s useful in what you said is that, oftentimes, people have different levels of wanting to change. When someone comes to see a physical therapist, they are aware that they’re going to be doing some movement and exercise, which is essential. I’m not saying that as physical therapists, we should not be counseling on exercise because it’s our bread and butter. Every once in a while you get someone resistant to the movement exercise part, but they are more open to the nutrition part. Let’s add something in for people who need a nutrition intervention, but also add something in for people who don’t want to exercise. You can win them over and get them started on nutrition and then work your way back to exercise. There are different ways to skin the cat here.
If a person feels horrible, they have no energy and they have brain fog, exercise is the last thing they want to do. Oftentimes, that desire to exercise will change as your diet changes. It’s all one-on-one. A lot of people come in feeling ashamed. Their doctor shames them. They’ve always been fat. I was fortunate to go to college and study and I wanted to improve things, but a lot of people don’t have that opportunity. They’re told they’re fat and are always going to be fat. When I start talking about biochemistry, I said, “It’s not your fault. This will do this to anybody. It is in the world. We live in a culture of consumption. It’s a culture of instant gratification. They go to the doctor. They get the cortisone shot. The new diabetic gets the insulin shot. You have it. It’s instant gratification. It’s all driven by that instant reward. That’s our American culture.
We’re marketed to 24/7 either food, gambling, sex, or something. People expect that. When you start educating them about something different, the only way that we can be free of this instant pleasure, consequence, gratification routine we’ve got going is to break free of this. I’ve got the three Cs. I got this from Dr. Lustig’s book, The Hacking of the American Mind. I try to incorporate all this into my patients. One is connection. I put my computer down. I’m listening to everything they say. I may find out, “When did this start? How are you feeling? Do you get enough sleep at night? Are you stressed? What about your water intake? What did your diet look like?” I listen to their story. I try to connect. I also encourage them to connect. “Put down your cell phone. Connect with your kids and your spouse. You can join a Meetup.” If we’re not connecting, we’re unhappy. If we’re unhappy, oftentimes, we are seeking those instant pleasure responses.
The second thing is getting people to cook more to eat real food because 40% of Americans don’t cook. They don’t know how to cook. I find that amazing. I say, “If you can do anything, pick one meal that’s going to be real food.” I try to keep it simple. I might give a handout. We might talk about healthy proteins and healthy starches, how to cook some of these things. How do you use an Instant Pot or a Crock-Pot for that instant cooking? Cooking is important. Another thing is coping stress management. This is one of the chief factors in dealing with stress and how important exercise, meditation and deep breathing to deal with stress. In my handout, I try to encourage people to breathe deeply throughout the day, every hour. When we exercise, people hold their breath. I encourage deep breathing and body connection. Finally, what I’m doing now is contributing. Contributing to other’s lives and giving back. It’s worth to be on a show and prepare something for that. Everything you do here takes work and effort. This is what we do. This gives us that contentment, that happiness, that we’re contributing to the lives of others. I take these three Cs into my practice with my patients in trying to help to improve their lifestyle.
You’re passionate about what you do and it comes through wonderfully on the show. People are going to love this. You’re going to get lots of good responses from it. I love those three Cs. Often, we’re interested in, “Tell me the biochemistry. Tell me what’s happening in the body. Tell me how to put this into practice.” You can also take that and start to stretch it out into the bigger picture, into cooking, that community and connection, and serving other people. The technical name for many of those types of things that you’re talking about is social determinants of health that have an impact on our health, but starting someone cooking is a good way. Talking about food, Crock-Pot, Instant Pot, how can you make a meal without sitting in the kitchen for 60 to 90 minutes? It’s possible to make delicious food that is healthy for your body in an easy way.
That makes it fun. If you can hand out a few little recipes here and there, people enjoy it. Not everybody, but it’s okay. Most of all, as physical therapists, we like to have fun. We like to have fun with our patients and adding nutrition to your practice makes for a good time. It helps people. This is real life. Connecting, Cooking and Coping, this is everything we all need to do. When we talk about it, it’s nice. People like to talk about their stress and how they work night shifts and how they have to get up at 2:00 in the morning. They want to be heard.
Sometimes people will say, “That was such a great session.” It’s not because I had some special shoulder mobilization. It’s because I listened to them, I hear their story and I understand their stress. That’s what makes us a good therapist. Nobody complains about Shannon like, “She told me about sugar. I don’t want her to tell me anything else.” I’m not making anybody keep to anything, but I’m interested in who they are and how they got there. Patients like it and it’s fun for me too. It’s fun for me to study, to learn this stuff and to try to make it simple for my patients. It makes physical therapy a lot more enjoyable.
I want to give Shannon a big thank you for appearing on the show. I’ve been waiting for her to come on. She tiptoed in the beginning and I was like, “You’re going to be great. You’re going to have so much information,” as you can tell. She is a world of information. She’ll leave you with those three Cs, which are connect with someone you love, cook yourself a good, healthy meal and develop stress coping mechanisms so you can alleviate some stress in your life. Make sure you share this episode with your friends and family. Whether that is another health professional who works in the world of health, dealing with someone with chronic disease or chronic pain and needs help on counseling around those lifestyle behaviors. If it’s someone you know who has either a physical or mental health condition, oftentimes these overlap. I’ll see you in the next episode.
- Shannon Morris – LinkedIn
- Bright Line Eating
- The Hacking of the American Mind
About Shannon Morris, MS, PT
My name is Shannon Morris, MS PT. I am a physical therapist and nutritionist, with over 25 years in practice.
I love and study movement. I am dedicated to the prevention and rehabilitation of injury and pain.
I strongly believe REAL food is a must if you want to heal, strengthen and proceed with a pain-free, happy life.
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