LIMIT SUGAR AND STRESS — Consuming sugar found in processed foods, fruit juices, and sugary soft drinks creates a constant state of high Inflammation in the body. Prolonged levels of stress also create high levels of damaging inflammation. This type of inflammation wreaks havoc on the gut, and a number of other areas in the body. This depletes the microbiome of beneficial bacteria and greatly lowers protective immunity.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nora Tobin.
Nora Tobin is the Health and Wellness partner to Fortune 100 organizations across luxury hospitality, financial services, technology, and entertainment. Nora and her teams have scaled global wellness retreats, senior leadership summits, Nora’s Naturals culinary offerings, media campaigns, corporate consulting and wellness voyages on The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.
Nora is the Founder and CEO of Nora’s Naturals Coffee. She is a keynote speaker, Performance Enhancement and Nutrition Specialist, brand spokesperson, model and Executive Coach. She is certified as an advanced Scuba, Cliff, and Helicopter Rescuer, as well as a Del Mar Ocean Lifeguard. Nora has been a contributing editor to SHAPE magazine and Sports Illustrated. She grew up in South Lake Tahoe, California.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I grew up in Lake Tahoe where my family and I spent a lot of time together in nature. We would have an ongoing calendar on the refrigerator to see how many outdoor sports we could do in a day. It was a very fun game for my competitive family, as well as an amazing way to spend time together. This lifestyle made me feel like fitness was always fun, since it was outside with people I loved. I incorporated this mindset when I started building my business, trying to make each program enjoyable.
It can also be a way to step out of our comfort zone and discover new strengths. I will never forget a day skiing at Heavenly with the family. It was late afternoon and we were skiing back to the other side of the mountain to head home. I accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up very far out of bounds on an extremely steep cliff surrounded by dense trees. I looked up and it was too far to climb out of the predicament. I looked down and would have ended up on the highway if I could manage to ski straight to the bottom. The eight year old in me screamed for my mom and dad, but they did not realize I took the wrong turn. After what felt like an eternity, I began to build a snow cave. The sun was going down and I was lost.
After several attempts, I realized I should have paid more attention in the wilderness survival class. I finally made my way across the mountain horizontally to finally end up on a regular ski run. I found my way to our family meeting spot, and will never forget seeing my dad’s bright yellow suit. There were many tears and pizza afterward. I realized my strength that day, and think of that story often when faced with a physical or mental challenge.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My career started as an ocean lifeguard in Del Mar, CA where we were expected to swim into 15 foot surf, become certified as advanced helicopter and scuba rescuers and serve as an ambassador to the community. Being late to work, walking between lifeguard towers or failing to communicate well resulted in buoy swims and cleaning the shed.
The DM Lifeguards did an exchange program with the Muriwai New Zealand guards. We arrived on the stormy, intimidating West Coast of NZ for Zodiac rescue training. The confidence they had in us may have been unwarranted. We were given a rubber boat with an engine on the back and told to run ins and outs in the 12 foot messy surf. I did not time the wave well and went up the face before flipping the boat. Lost the engine, pushed down to the ocean floor and came up to see the boat being washed into the rocks.
I am happy to report that after three weeks of those types of experiences, we received our certifications. I moved forward from lifeguarding with many lessons that have been applicable to my wellness career. One of the most important has been the ability to try, even if the failure could be extreme. The risks from lifeguard training gave me the confidence to take chances- trying to create many different product lines until I finally landed on the right one, cold calls and sending handwritten presentations to executives, putting far too much on my credit card to insist on in person meetings, the list goes on… I would always remind myself that any type of failure in business was not death defying- I was not going to be held under in the ocean by a massive wave or have to save someone from drowning.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I may not go right to humorous when it comes to this story, but it was certainly an early lesson with a few embarrassing repercussions….
One of my goals was to be a professional beach volleyball player. I started training at P3 in Santa Barbara where a variety of NFL, NBA and MLS teams did their off season conditioning. I cleaned the gym in exchange for the ability to workout there. One day a marketing team came in to do a photoshoot with the top athletes for a new campaign. I was definitely not part of this shoot.
I went to FedEx to print an 8 x 10 photo and typed up a bio (very limited at the time). At the end of the day, I walked up to the marketing team and submitted myself. One month later I opened up ESPN.com and saw my photo! It would have been the best launch of my career, but they did not tell me they were going to use a false title in the ad that read- Nora Tobin, Professional Beach Volleyball Player. At this time, I was getting crushed in the qualifiers with scores of 21–7, 21–8. Brutal and far from being a pro.
Two days later a scathing article came out on CNBC Sports- ‘Why Are We Starting at Nora Tobin?’ It questioned my background and I was heartbroken. Some of the athletes in the volleyball world were upset (for good reason). I reached out to the reporter for a call. To my surprise, he got back to me. I was very nervous and thought it could easily backfire with another terrible article. We ended up having an excellent call where I got to share my true story. CNBC Sports ran a new article that ended up being terrific, and I am still great friends with the reporter and his family.
The lesson- I realized boldness is the right move, but has to come with clarity. I was just so excited about the possibility of being in a national campaign, I didn’t even ask what it would say next to my name. Opportunities come in all forms. I have to always remember that my credibility is not built in a day, but can be taken out in one ad.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
There are many phenomenal wellness professionals with vast experience across a number of categories. One exciting part of being in the wellness space is the lack of limitations. Since health and fitness is always going to be one of the most important aspects of our ability to thrive, there’s no limit as far as the number of experts who can help.
My focus is with business professionals- delivering actionable strategies to shift physiology to adapt to stress, optimize nutrition without deprivation, and enhance deep sleep for optimal performance. The Fit, Fueled and Focused program utilizes techniques that can be done within five minutes, designed for a 24–7 workweek. We use positive stress to make the body and mind have to adapt and become more efficient with fat burning, cellular turnover, and cognitive cleaning. Each aspect can be incorporated into a demanding schedule, all while creating an efficient system and slowing down the aging process.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have had many incredible people helping me throughout my career, and I couldn’t imagine doing it without everyone. My parents have made the most important impact on me and the path I chose. From a very young age, they had always assured me I was capable of anything and gave me the power to take risks. Growing up in Lake Tahoe, we had many close call adventures from skiing off cliffs in the blinding snow storms at age 10 to getting lost in the backcountry after deciding to take my own route home. Dad climbed the Golden Gate bridge three times, so there was nothing in his mind we couldn’t do.
This translated into the very first steps of building my career when Dad and I taught ourselves how to film and edit workout videos. We just started finding outdoor locations to shoot and did a number of iterations to pitch to SHAPE magazine, Sports Illustrated, and a number of other publications we wanted to create content for. After many, many pitches- I was able to join the team at Sports Illustrated to help create their Edge platform, as well as film the in room workout series for The Ritz-Carlton, Bacara. Dad and I kept up our filming at every level. He passed on July 1st. While I now do my own filming, I feel his immense power and enthusiasm for life in all I do.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
- Delicate Balance of Rewards vs. Satisfaction: Dopamine is the motivation molecule that grants us the short term pleasure when we do something as simple as check our phone. Due to lack of sleep, stress imbalance, too much screen time and poor gut health; dopamine can become out of balance in the brain. At the same time, serotonin (the satisfaction hormone) can become depleted. This leaves us feeling unsatisfied and not highly motivated to implement new healthy patterns.
- 25 Hour Weeks: No matter the industry, work can take priority when it comes to time allocation and health tends to take a backseat. It is not due to the lack of care about our health, but the idea of how much time needs to be spent to put any meaningful practice into place.
- Power of the Package: The action packed schedule lends itself to efficiency, reaching for fast fuel from packaged foods that deliver quick satisfaction (raises dopamine). The hidden sugars and processed oils can affect our insulin response, creating a feedback loop in the brain to want more. We may be eating enough, but not ever feel satisfied by lack of nutrient dense foods.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
Perform 10 Minutes of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
One of the best ways to take care is to incorporate mindfulness based stress reduction practice each day. This can include deep breathing, yoga, or any form of meditation. This type of healing is essential to combat the negative effects that come from anxiety and prolonged stress. In a stressed state, we are more susceptible to illness and increased risk of chronic disease.
“Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. It can dampen the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other common infections. It can contribute to asthma, digestive disorders, cancer, and other health problems.”
– Harvard University, Harvard Health Publishing
A Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience study has shown MBSR to enhance emotion regulation in patients with anxiety disorder, creating higher levels of satisfaction and enjoyment. Additionally, a Stanford University team found that MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of anxiety.
3, 3, 5 BREATH TECHNIQUE
A simple option you can incorporate any time of day is the 3, 3, 5 breathing technique. You can even set an alarm to breathe at the top of each hour. The breath technique is simply to inhale for 3 counts, hold breath at the top for 3 and exhale slowly for 5. This type of breathing puts the body into a calming state, and lets the brain know it is safe.
10-MINUTE YOGA SESSION
Another option is a daily yoga practice, synching breath to movement. Try the above routine each morning or any time you need to uplift your spirit. Take deep breaths as you do so.
Boost Gut Health
The gut microbiome is genetic material made up of bacteria, fungi and other elements that aid in digestion, regulation of the immune system and protection of pathogens. A staggering 70+% of our immunity is created in the gut and 90% of our serotonin (happiness hormone) is made there. In order to maintain optimal immunity and a joyful state of mind, it is crucial to keep our gut as healthy as possible. The two systems are completely linked.
Our immune system has co-evolved along with a diverse gut flora, not only to create defenses against pathogens, but also to develop tolerance for beneficial microbes. As a consequence, the immune system and the gut microbiota developed a mutual relationship, regulating one another and cooperating to support each other. Taking care of our gut health will have a direct impact on our immunity.
LOAD UP ON PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS
Prebiotics are a specific dietary soluble fiber that feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. Soluble fiber comes in different forms but the most common in our diets are insulin and oligofructose (both complex carbohydrates). Some of the foods that contain the highest levels of prebiotics are sweet potatoes, leaks, asparagus, bananas and onions. Enjoy one sweet potato a day with grass-fed butter to get the daily prebiotics.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that provide immense health benefits when ingested. These are gut bacteria that create a healthy environment that increases immunity. Forms of probiotic foods include sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kimchi. Aim for at least one serving per day. Another option is to take a probiotic in supplement form. I like the Garden of Life brand, since the probiotics are in their whole form.
LIMIT SUGAR AND STRESS
Consuming sugar found in processed foods, fruit juices, and sugary soft drinks creates a constant state of high Inflammation in the body. Prolonged levels of stress also create high levels of damaging inflammation. This type of inflammation wreaks havoc on the gut, and a number of other areas in the body. This depletes the microbiome of beneficial bacteria and greatly lowers protective immunity.
Quick Swaps To Cut Sugar
Swap Soft Drinks for Matcha Green Tea or Club Soda with Citrus
Each of these swaps provides a refreshing option to soft drinks without the negative effects. Matcha green tea has the added bonus of delivering a potent antioxidant called EGCG that has been shown to greatly reduce inflammation and elevates immune response.
In a recent study conducted by Stanford University, researchers found that matcha shifted cancer cells towards a quiescent metabolic state and stopped their spread at a relatively low concentration. They also found that matcha could affect the signaling pathways that promote cancer stem cells. Diseases thrive in acidic environments. Matcha helps to create an alkaline state in the body.
Swap Packaged Snacks for Nuts, Seeds, Apples and Almond Butter, Hard Cheeses, Hard Boiled Eggs
All of the above provide protein and fiber that curb cravings, lower blood sugar and provide the brain with healthy fats essential for cognitive performance and immune strength.
Swap Candy for Dark Chocolate
The U.S. National Library of Medicine found cocoa strengthens the cardiovascular system. Polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant high in cocoa, improves blood circulation and mitochondria health. Cocoa is also a top source of tryptophan- precursor to serotonin (happiness hormone).
Increase Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a critical role in the efficiency of the immune system. The powerful vitamin works as a light switch in the body, turning on or off genes that maintain optimal health. It is sent to different areas in the body (immune cells, brain and bones) that all have vitamin D receptors.
In terms of immunity, vitamin D turns on specific peptides in the immune system that triggers a microbial response. This can effectively turn off invaders and pathogens before they affect the body.
“Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection.
One report studied almost 19,000 subjects. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables including season, age, gender, body mass and race.”
– London Journal of Medicine
Vitamin D is obtained from diet or it is synthesized in the skin from sun exposure. Stand or walk outside for 20 minutes daily without sunscreen. Since vitamin D is not found in many kinds of food, it can be helpful to take a Vitamin D supplement. 2,000 IU per day in liquid form is recommended.
Oxygenate the Lungs
Deep breathing can be a great healer and detoxifier for the body. By taking deep breaths, we greatly strengthen both the respiratory and lymphatic systems. Both play significant roles in protecting the body from bacteria and viruses, as well as open up the airways to regulate oxygen.
Around 70% of toxins are released through the breath. We are able to get rid of the carbon dioxide (natural waste product of the body’s metabolism) and create much needed oxygen for our cells. Deep breathing also increases circulation to the heart, brain and organs.
The majority of us take short, shallow breaths throughout the day that don’t allow for enough oxygen to enter the lungs. This type of breathing is heightened in a stressed state, which can hinder the immune system from working at full capacity. There are a few simple breathing techniques that will ensure the body is getting enough oxygen, strengthen the lungs and allow the immune system to do its job properly.
The respiratory system can be quickly strengthened by taking deep diaphragmatic breaths. This simply means longer inhales and exhales from the diaphragm (right below the ribs) instead of the chest. By placing hands on ribs and breathing in and out deeply, you will feel the ribs expand and contract. This oxygenates the body and pushes out toxins. Perform 10 deep slow breaths. Repeat at any point you feel stressed or overly anxious. This will immediately calm the nervous system.
WIM HOF BREATHING
Wim Hof method demonstrates that the sympathetic nervous system (stressed state) and immune system can be voluntarily influenced by breathing techniques and cold therapy. In a recent study by The National Academy of Science, participants who incorporated the Wim Hof breathing had fewer flu-like symptoms and increased plasma epinephrine levels.
Try this method once per day:
•Sit in a comfortable place, take 30 quick, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
•On the 30th breath, exhale all your air. Hold breath out for 30 seconds or until you need to breath in.
•Inhale again, as deep as you can, and hold it for 10 seconds. Exhale slowly.
•Option to repeat series two more times. You will feel powerful!
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
Any type of exercise will have a number of physical and mental benefits. This includes slowing down the release of stress hormones, elevating metabolism to burn fat more efficiently, improving deeper stages of sleep, and boosting the production of hormones responsible for mental wellbeing.
As exercise specifically relates to immunity, there are a few additional ways this practice can greatly improve your wellbeing. Exercise immunology focuses on the ability to regulate the immune system through exercise, and slow down the effects of aging. Recent studies conducted by the Journal of Sport and Health Science, shows that immunity can be remodeled during the aging process. Daily exercise has resulted in lower inflammatory response to bacterial change, longer telomere lengths (the protective caps found on the end of chromosomes essential for healthy cells), increased T-cell proliferative activity, and enhanced vaccination responses.
Exercise increases the white blood cell count, which are the body’s immune system cells that help fight pathogens. Additionally, the respiratory system is strengthened during physical activity and flushes out bacteria in the lungs and airways.
The Harvard Alumni Health Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the importance of keeping a consistent exercise regime. The participants who started and kept up an exercise program had a 23% lower risk of disease than those who started a program but eventually stopped.
The Department of Physiological and Brain Sciences at Boston University has proven that exercise can help treat depression, while low activity can be a major contributing factor to depression. Moderate daily exercise increases brain derived neurotrophic factor (critical protein in the neural network of the brain) and serotonin (fulfillment hormone), both essential for lowering anxiety and influencing mood.
Perform 20 minutes of daily HIIT training, walk, strength training, bike, swim, yoga… any type of movement you enjoy. Put 20 minutes of movement as an ongoing appointment in your calendar.
If you’d like a guided workout, here are a few options:
LEG WORKOUT PLUS ABS
This lower body workout requires no weight and is excellent for all levels of fitness. Perform each set three times with breaks for water in between. You can up level by incorporating any type of cardio exercise for 2-minutes between sets. This can be high knees, mountain climbers or jumping jacks. Go get em!
UPPER BODY WORKOUT PLUS ABS
The upper body workout tones the arms, strengthens the back and improves posture. Perform each set three times with breaks for water in between. If you want to up level, perform any type of cardio exercise for 2-minutes between sets. This can be jogging in place, burpees or jumping jacks.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
I would recommend bridges, planks and squats. All three of these movements protect the low back, help to negate the effects of sitting and deliver results for a toned physique. Try to incorporate three sets of 20 reps for the bridges and squats each day, and two minutes of planks (breaks in between 30 second holds).
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
One of my favorite books for the journey of life is The Alchemist. I originally read it when I took a gap year between highschool and college. I was traveling alone in Southeast Asia and doing my yoga training. There were a number of moments on that seven month trip that made me feel lonely and somewhat lost. I read the book at the time, and have a few times since then, realizing the simple moments can be the most extraordinary and there is no straight path to success. Our energy is a constant output in either direction. The more we put out the positive, the more the universe conspires in our favor.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have always believed that cultures are all connected in the most important of ways- to love, be loved, have purpose, all the important aspects of our lives are shared by many across the world. Our health and wellbeing is one of those shared needs. I think we can learn a lot from one another. I would create a Wellness Around the World movement that would deliver daily content, global events, unique products and a television series highlighting the specific wellness practices in each region. Wellness is the unifier that brings us together, and we have the ability to share what makes each place special with the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My dad used to do a cheer with my older brother and I on our way to elementary school. We kept this tradition up… even saying it aloud as I walked down the street of New York before a keynote speech…
I feel fine. I feel great. I feel terrific. Why? I’ll tell you why. I have faith, hope and enthusiasm. Faith in myself, hope in the future, and enthusiasm for life!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Oprah, for many reasons. One being her remarkable feat in a multitude of business endeavors. Her work ethic and sheer willpower is a day in and day out commitment. It is clear how much time she has taken to build her empire. I love that she’s been in the depths of it, not skipping over any step. She never seemed to shy away from the hard work and countless hours it must have taken to create a global force of good.
I have always been in awe by her dynamic skill set as a business woman, as well as her sincerity of the soul.
The closest I have come to connecting with her was when I was zipping around Santa Barbara, trying to pitch my first product to stores. I was pulling into a parking spot way too fast and hit the car of Oprah’s chef. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and we jumped into conversation. I ended up sharing my idea for the book proposal- Abs Are Made in the Kitchen. We decided to create it together.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
I’d love to connect with you! Please join me on Instagram @noartobin for daily workouts, wellness tips and tools to thrive in a busy workweek.
I would also be thrilled to share my new organic coffee- grown in the Finca Isabel mountain range of Nicaragua and roasted right here in Montecito. Visit www.norasnaturalscoffee.com and use the code Nora20 for 20% off.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!