“There is nothing you can do, just ignore it”with Dr. Piper Gibson

When it comes to optimal performance in a sport, know your limits. If you are injured, that is going to set you back, most likely to square one. When an athlete is aware of those limits, there is a level of caution. As your skills improve, you can then push those limits. Hormesis refers to adaptive response. […]

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When it comes to optimal performance in a sport, know your limits. If you are injured, that is going to set you back, most likely to square one. When an athlete is aware of those limits, there is a level of caution. As your skills improve, you can then push those limits. Hormesis refers to adaptive response. When we provide our bodies with a little bit of stress, it makes us stronger. For example, weightlifters have to lift more and more to get stronger, but they add weight over time to prevent injury. Just like rest and digest, recovery is where the healing happens, and the strength is built. If athletes do not give their body the downtime they need, they end up stressed, sick, and tired.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus,” I had the pleasure of interviewingDr. Piper Gibson.

Dr. Piper Gibson is a Board-Certified Doctor of Natural Medicine and is also a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. She specializes in children’s neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, Tics/Tourette’s, Anxiety, SPD, and ASD, and uses a natural, integrative approach to help her clients finally focus, function, and flourish.

After being told “there is nothing you can do, just ignore it,” Piper refused to write off her son’s health and navigated him through a neurological tic diagnosis. Dr. Piper went from stay at home mom to children’s holistic health expert. By using food, functional lab testing, and natural approaches, Dr. Piper has helped hundreds of clients all over the world regain control of their endless list of symptoms.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Ithink I was born a go-getter. I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t shooting for something that I wanted; I have always been very independent and remember more than one occasion that I had to wake my parents up when I was three years old because I had started a fire trying to make my breakfast. I wanted breakfast, and I wasn’t going to wait for anybody to serve it to me. I was goal-driven; if I wanted to be the gymnastics team captain or get that part-time job in high school, I was going to get it. I learned by watching what other people were doing, and I always felt if they could do it, I could do it too, or do it better. I realize that sounds cocky, but by watching other people, I could always see the room for improvement. That image of the child with the angel and the devil on the shoulder, that’s me; there is a part of me that plays the devil’s advocate. Even if it was an unpopular opinion, I wanted to look at both sides, analyze the data, and figure out the valid answer. I have an entrepreneurial soul and have never played small. Ambitious should have been my middle name.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My son was the driving force for me to pursue this career. I vividly remember sitting in the doctor’s office with my husband and my six-year-old son Whit, and the neurologist turned to me and said, “Just ignore it; I think your son just needs a good spanking!” I sat there with my mouth open, looking at my husband, astonished that this was even a suggestion! Our child could not control his movements, he had tics, and we were supposed to spank him? Symptoms were getting worse, and I remember thinking, “Ignoring it isn’t working; how could spanking him help? Is this guy crazy?”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Whit’s body was snowballing downhill, and nothing was working. We were at the neurologist to get to the bottom of his tics, and none of this was helpful! We had spent so much time in and out of many doctor’s offices in the last few months, and they were not our favorite place to be. Something was seriously wrong here!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

At that very moment, I committed to never going back there again. Ignoring it was unacceptable, and I vowed I would not go down this path any longer. If I only had the right information, we could get on the right track.

Out of desperation, I went back to school and relearned everything I thought I knew about health and wellness. Ultimately, we could transform his health using functional lab testing, food, and natural approaches.

If we had given up and decided that just ignoring it or spanking it out of him was a good option, I don’t know where we would be today. I can’t imagine, and it breaks my heart to even think about it. I wanted to give my son optimal wellness, and today the long list of symptoms he experienced has melted away! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My mom always said “when,” not “if.” When you go to college, when you get that job, when, when, when. The work “If” is ambiguous, it’s doubtful. For me the word “when” refers to time, in my opinion, that operative word is what gives that goal hope. She never told me I couldn’t do anything. She always let me try, and if I failed, she was there to pick up the pieces. She says, “I always gave you enough rope to hang yourself.” I was free to be independent until I broke a rule, or an arm, and then she would reign me back in. She encouraged me to go back to school and pursue something that would help my son.

Can you share the funniest or most exciting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

God told me to work with genes, and I thought he meant jeans. I didn’t start in health and wellness. At eleven, I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up, and that was the ultimate goal I was going to chase. I have a B.S. in Fashion Design and previously worked as a buyer and merchandiser for a denim manufacturer. When my son got sick, it changed everything for us. After we looked at my son’s genes, it was one thing that changed his life, but it also changed my career. Nutrigenomics is the study of genes and nutrition, and I feel that knowing your genes is one of the factors for optimal wellness. Genes became my passion, and I went from jeans to genes.

This taught me that even in the darkest, scariest moments when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, keep driving! You never know what is in store at the other end. We wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t kept driving.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

My advice for the younger generation is to clarify what you want and write down your goals. Don’t be afraid to imagine a life beyond your wildest dreams, because you can create your future. Post those goals someplace and look at them every day. Revise those goals as you go. They will grow and change over time, but they will set you up for ultimate success.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is one of my favorite books, and one of the reasons I find it so powerful is because it tells us to be mindful of omens and following our dreams. I am a big dreamer, but I feel that we are all equipped with a guidance system pointing us in the right direction. I didn’t know that my personal legend would lead me to where I am today. I had to go on a long journey to find out exactly where my treasure was. I have learned that following my dreams is exhilarating, and my inner voice keeps me moving in the right direction.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

On January 14, 2018, I opened up my You are A Badass desk calendar, and the quote for the day was, “You have one glorious and brief shot at being the you that is you on planet earth, and the power to create whatever reality you desire. Why not be the biggest, happiest, most generous, and fully realized humanoid you can be?

I snatched it right out of my calendar and tapped it to my mirror. It is now warped from the steam in the bathroom, but I read it every day. We have one shot at this, so why not go after what you want every single day? It reminds me that I can make things happen and I can do it while being an awesome human being; that combination gives me an edge.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am currently working on a 9-module course called Foundations to Flourish. It is designed to help families struggling with their children’s neurodevelopmental disorders. Studies show that 50% of parents whose children are diagnosed with a mental or developmental disorder experience grief and helplessness. I designed this program to help families create a clear plan so that they can step out of this emotional hurricane and gain control of their children’s symptoms in the face of a potentially confusing and worrying diagnosis. The program focuses on diet and lifestyle changes that support stress relief so that these children can focus, function, and flourish.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

As busy entrepreneurs and parents, we often put our health and wellness on the back burner. I used to be a drive-thru soccer mom; we would frequently stop at a fast-food restaurant on the way to and from one of my kid’s many activities. I am pretty sure my oldest son Whit could order chicken nuggets from the backseat by the time he was one. I know it sounds horrible, but I honestly didn’t know any better, and I didn’t know how much food mattered. Since birth, he had been chronically ill and had experienced everything from reflux and meltdowns to ear infections and sleepless nights. It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with a neurological tic, and I had gone back to school, that I realized how much our bad food habits had impacted his health.

When we started replacing bad habits with good habits, everyone’s health began to change. I realized that bad habits were affecting all of us, not just my son. As adults, our habits — both good and bad — trickle down to children and certainly impact them.

I know that creating good habits can change your life; I have seen it time and time again, not just in my own family but also in the lives of the families I teach. Over time, the positive habits that you create in your life add up helping you to achieve optimal wellness, focus, and performance.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Consistency is key, and if you fall off the horse, get back on. You have to keep going if you want to reach your destination; if you give up midway, you will never get there. Being a gymnast ingrained the practice of creating habits into my mind. You have to do the same thing over and over and over again to learn a new skill. I was an uneven bars specialist, and I did not start that way. It took years of consistency for me to get stronger, and sometimes I would fall off, and it would suck, but I had to get up and do it again.

Consistency is what creates habits; on average, it takes between 21 and 66 days to develop a habit. That means that you may have to do the same thing 66 times or more before it becomes a habit. To create a successful habit, you have to come to terms with the fact that you will repeatedly do the same thing.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Health and Human Services studies show that 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity every day, 29.2% of adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep, and 36.65% of adults consume junk food on any given day. Bad habits and unhealthy living are a dominant factor among many adults.

My number one action step is to write it all down. One cannot create a new habit without having a clear goal of what the endpoint will be.

When I work with my clients, we clarify, “What is the significant motivating factor, where do you want to be in 90 days, and what do you need to be successful?” These answers serve to create their ultimate goal and roadmap.

Each individual must also be aware of their negative habits before changing them. This requires creating a list of those bad habits: what do we need to change? When it comes to making the change from bad to good habits, you want to know, “Is my bad habit a skill problem or a motivation problem?” We may not have the skill to change some bad habits; for example, if you know nothing about eating healthy, you cannot make healthy eating choices, because you do not have the skills and knowledge to make that positive change. Sometimes we may need to seek out an expert to help us gain the skills we need. However, maybe that bad habit is fueled by a motivation problem. You know those potato chips are bad for you, but you are not driven to stop eating them. Perhaps you need an expert to come slap them out of your hand — or even better, stop buying them. We have to be mindful of how and why we have those bad habits in the first place. Once our habits are clear, we are then going to work on rewiring the brain towards focusing on the positive vs. negative. Each positive habit will replace a harmful habit, and those positive habits will become a pin on the roadmap. Over the next 21 to 66 days, the focus will be on one specific positive habit, whether it is an early bedtime, changing diet, or sticking to a supplement regimen. Post your map somewhere where you will see it every day and it will help you keep you anchored to your goal.

When it comes to making the change from bad to good habits, you also want to know, “Is my bad habit a skill problem or a motivation problem?” We may not have the skill to change some bad habits. Maybe that habit is a motivation problem. You know those potato chips are bad for you, but you are not driven to stop eating them.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Optimal wellness is near and dear to my heart, and since we have previously talked about goal setting, we are clear on how to set ourselves up for success. When it comes to optimal wellness, this is where I start.

There is no one size fits all diet: what works for one person may not work for you. We are all as unique on the inside as our fingerprints on the outside. In order to achieve optimal wellness, you have to know what foods are right for you. I figured that out in 2015. My son was sick, and nutrition was vital for his recovery. Changes started happening when we figured out what foods fueled his body. I have noticed that the same nutritional changes don’t have the same effect on everyone over the years, and that’s where we focus on finding what foods are right for each individual person.

In addition, breathing matters. We don’t usually think about breathing. It’s something all of us just do. But breathing is crucial for our health. In today’s rush to keep up, we spend a lot of time in fight-or-flight mode. We no longer have to run from the sabretooth tiger, but our bodies still react as if we did. When we focus on our breath, we can take our bodies from the fight-or-flight stage to a state of calm, rest, and digest. Rest and digest are where healing and regeneration occurs. I had one client in particular who was always in fight-or-flight mode; she could not stop her brain, and when it came time to go to sleep, she couldn’t shut it off. She had struggled with sleepless nights for years. When I taught her to use a 5–4–5 breathing technique before bed, she could get her sleep back. Breathe in for five seconds, hold it for four seconds, breathe out for five seconds, and repeat for 5 minutes.

Stress is everywhere. We associate stress as a feeling: “I’m feeling stressed.” As adults we associate stress with things — “Ugg, my boss is a jerk,” or “My kids won’t listen” but in actuality, four types of stress impact our lives. If you want optimal wellness, you have to focus on all four. Emotional stress is most associated with how you feel and can lead to anxiety and depression. Biological stress is the stress that is going on inside your body if you aren’t eating the right diet, you have insulin dysregulation, or your hormones are out of whack. Environmental stress: What is going on in your environment? What chemicals do you use in and around your home? What are you spraying on bugs or in the garden? What we are exposed to in our environments can have an impact. Physical stress: Do you sit all day at your desk? Are excess pounds or excessive physical exertion taking their toll?

For me, realizing that there was more than one type of stress was an a-ha moment. I had suffered from anxiety my entire life; I thought it was just part of who I was. When we started working on my son, it became apparent that I was dealing with more than one kind of stress. The food I was eating, nutrient deficiency, emotional stress, and an imbalance in my gut flora made me anxious. When I broke it all down and worked on the four different areas, I was able to kick my anxiety to the curb.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Keeping a journal and tracking your wellness habits is essential. We all think, “Oh, I can remember that,” but our brain only picks out the highlights, and some of us can’t remember what we ate yesterday. If you want to create optimal wellness habits, write it down!

For example: when I am working with a family on changing dietary habits, we first make a list of the foods which includes a red list of foods, and a green list of foods. They will avoid the red list, but we are not going to focus on them; we will focus on the green list, foods that we CAN eat. We are focusing on the positive. Second, when we write it down at the end of the day, my client can look back and say, “Hey, look at all the awesome food I ate today.” This is a small win for the day, but over time it becomes a big win because the habit of eating healthy food has become second nature.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

As I previously mentioned, consistency is key, and I feel that is true in creating any good habit. If you are pushing for optimal performance in sports:

1. Know your limits.

2. Push your boundaries.

3. Give yourself time to recover.

When it comes to optimal performance in a sport, know your limits. If you are injured, that is going to set you back, most likely to square one. When an athlete is aware of those limits, there is a level of caution. As your skills improve, you can then push those limits. Hormesis refers to adaptive response. When we provide our bodies with a little bit of stress, it makes us stronger. For example, weightlifters have to lift more and more to get stronger, but they add weight over time to prevent injury. Just like rest and digest, recovery is where the healing happens, and the strength is built. If athletes do not give their body the downtime they need, they end up stressed, sick, and tired.

When we are looking for optimal performance at work, the several keys include visualization, writing it down, time, and energy. We are all faced with big projects in our work lives, and they can make us feel weighed down. I think we all want to do a killer job on everything we turn in, but it isn’t always easy to make that happen. Start by visualizing yourself working on that project and making it a success. Starting with a positive visualization puts you in the right frame of mind. Write it down. You will hear me say this many times but when we can see our goals on paper, those steps become concrete. Next, you need to know how much time is going to go into whatever it is you are working on. That time frame might change but you will have a good idea of how much time you need to set aside and focus on. Finally, how much energy do you need to knock this workout of the park? Can you schedule your project for a time when you have the most energy so that focus is optimized ?

I have been working on my online program for several months and I needed to visualize what I wanted my end project to look like. I wrote down exactly what steps I needed to make that visualization a reality. I know that this project is going to be spaced out over several months, and I was able to set aside the time I needed to focus on it. I know that I need a lot of energy to record engaging content, and I would optimize the best time of day when my energy was at its peak to devote to my project.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Whether it’s weights, miles, or work, add a little every day. My husband always says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Little by little, you can change your habits and achieve your goals, one bite at a time. I used to run half-marathons, but there was no way I was going from zero to 13.1; I had to add a short distance to my run every day. By the end of 12 weeks, I was able to run 13.1. The next time I ran a half, I was able to focus on running faster. I had set myself up for success with the distance. Now that I had that beat, I could focus on speed.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Healthy Brain: For a healthy brain, you need a healthy body.

In the U.S., 43% of children have at least one chronic illness, with the top five being allergies, type 1 diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. There has been a 400% increase in chronic illness among children in the last 50 years. A diet high in unhealthy fats, processed foods, and sugar inflames the gut and the mind. Food matters when you need to fuel your brain. Your brain is an energy hog, and it needs the right nutrients to function at optimal levels. Most of the children I work with have focus issues; I know my son did. Their little bodies are on fire from all of the junk they are eating. When we change what these kids are eating, they start to focus because their brains are getting the nutrients they need. One of the staple breakfasts at school is crumb cake — full of sugar, unhealthy fats, and little protein. When we feed our kids a breakfast rich in protein, our bodies use the amino acids to create neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that help us feel good and focus.

2. Healthy Sleep: Sleep increases cognitive performance. A 2007 study shows that lack of sleep decreases cognitive performance, which worsens as we age. Rest is one of the foundations on which I work with all of my clients. I see many teenagers who stay up late playing video games, and their ability to focus at school suffers.

3. Take a Break: Breaks are important for the brain to recoup . Taking breaks is another important factor when it comes to optimal focus. A 1967 study leads us to believe that the brain can only maintain a state of focus for about 45 minutes. It’s essential to get up, stretch, breathe, and get some fresh air before starting back on your task. We know that physical education has far-reaching benefits when it comes to focusing, and when your children take breaks and move, they can return to their tasks with more focus. Studies show moderate to high-intensity exercise can improve cognitive function and behavior in children, including those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Schedule your work when you feel most focused. Figure out when you feel most energized and clear-headed. Is it in the morning, after a run, or later in the day ? Take advantage of your best time; put it on the schedule to work towards your goal when you are your best self.

I know I am most focused first thing in the morning; I get up early and get as much work hammered out as possible because that’s when I am at my best. Again, don’t forget to schedule a break time.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

When I think about everything I have done in my life, I see that Flow only happened in my life after I formed habits. I think about my years as a gymnast; when my routines flowed, I didn’t have to think about each piece because I had consistently done that same thing thousands of times. When habits become second nature, we no longer have to expend so much energy on focus. The more we embrace those positive habits, the easier it is to achieve the Flow.

OK, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

What our children are eating matters. Adults worldwide are sick and overweight, and this number grows by leaps and bounds every day. We need to focus on what the youngest generation is putting into their bodies to change their future health and wellness. Children are resilient, and I see the importance of making those positive changes now so that they become lifelong habits. No one is talking about the far-reaching impact of obesity on our children and what that means for their future. Not only is obesity detrimental, but the disease that is brought on by obesity will impact our children’s life expectancy. It’s time to have an open and honest conversation about how and what we feed our children.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, V.C. funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Dr. Mark Hyman because he has extraordinary ideas about how we can change our current approach to health. He is revolutionary in health and wellness, and he is putting a different face on food in America. I would love to have the opportunity to pick his brain about motivating change.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me on the I.G., Facebook, and on my website.

https://www.regenerating.health/

https://www.instagram.com/regeneratinghealth/

https://www.facebook.com/RegeneratingHealth

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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