The pace of modern life versus our cavewoman biochemistry: Dr Libby Weaver at TEDxQueenstown


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Cristina Bufi-Pöcksteiner Thank you so much. There is a crisis facing women’s health, and it affects everyone around us: our partners, our fathers,
our brothers, our children. And it is critical that we get
to the heart of the matter and resolve the ‘why’ behind it. Not that long ago
in the evolution of humanity, women were given the opportunity to do what has traditionally
been their fathers’ jobs, but they’ve maintained what were traditionally
their mothers’ responsibilities. And so what has unfolded
for far too many women is a frantic double shift
of work day and night, and this never ends. They so desperately need rest. But when we live in this frantic pace,
living on adrenaline, trying to be all things to all people, it can have dire physical, mental
and emotional consequences. And it breaks my heart because these women
walk through the doors of my office and they say to me that they scream at their children
and they hate themselves afterwards, that they feel like
they have no control over it. They tell me that if they don’t do it,
it won’t get done. They tell me that they’re exhausted,
that they’re tired but wired, that they can’t cope, that they wish there
were more hours in the day, that they can’t remember anything, and that they have
absolutely no bandwidth left. But we won’t let you see any of that because we keep
our smiles firmly in place. So why do we do it? We do it because we care so much
for the people in our lives. It comes from such a beautiful place. It comes because we have beautiful hearts. But even deeper than that, it comes because we made up a story
a really long time ago that we aren’t enough the way we are, that we aren’t good enough, tall enough,
slim enough, pretty enough, brainy enough, on time enough … that we’re just not enough
the way that we are. And so we spend our lives
trying to please everyone in our realm, trying to make sure
that they love us and appreciate us so that we never ever
have to feel rejected or ostracized. But it’s not just the physical health
consequences that concern me for women, it’s that they live their life
so out of touch with those beautiful hearts and in the cloud of false belief
that they aren’t enough. Too many women have lost
their sense of place in this world, but a return to that sense of place
is right at hand, a return to true presence,
to true connection to one another, to our land, a sense of real gratitude, a place where there’s calm,
a place where there’s no anxiety, a place where there are no migraines
and where there’s no PMT, so that we scream at the people
that we love the most in the world and regret it afterwards. That time is at hand. It is time for the dawning
of a new era for women; it has to be. And that new era
is going to begin right now. Cave woman up there on the left,
she represents historical woman; and juggling woman on the right,
she represents modern woman. Now, these two girls,
they’re made of the same stuff. They’re both made up
of about 50 trillion cells. Now, 50 trillion is a number that can
go over our head with its enormity, so I’ll use time to paint the picture
of just how big that is. One trillion seconds ago
was 32,000 years ago. But we have 50 trillion cells
inside our body, and the only way they work,
they all want to talk to each other. And they need nutrients
to be able to communicate. And the only place we get
our nutrients from is from our food. And I’m deeply concerned that when
we live life at such a frantic pace, we can compromise
the way we nourish ourselves and not get enough nutrients for these basic biochemical
processes inside of us. I went to university for 14 years, and whenever I say that out loud,
I know it makes me sound really thick, but I loved it, I loved learning, I still do. And while I was doing
my PhD in biochemistry, I had all of the biochemical pathways
of the body mapped out on the biggest
pieces of paper I could find plastered all over my bedroom walls. I was like a nutty professor. But it was the only way
I was ever going to learn it. When you see the body
mapped out like that, you get such a deep appreciation for the critical role
that nutrients play in our body because they convert
substance X into substance Y. Might be zinc that’s needed for that,
and if you don’t have enough zinc, substance X will accumulate and you might not then
have enough substance Y, and that might impact your happiness, or your stress hormone production, or your ability to sleep, or your ability to burn body fat. But you don’t just get a deep appreciation
for the vital role nutrients play. When I saw the body mapped out like that,
and that’s what I want everyone to see, is you see the absolute
miracle that we are. Miraculous. If you knew who you truly are,
you would be in awe of yourself. So let’s make that happen right now. (Laughter) So when cave woman ran,
she ran to escape from danger or maybe to pursue her next meal. But juggling woman, she runs with her conscious mind knowing
that it’s in the pursuit of fitness, but her subconscious mind, the part of her body that she can’t
instruct with her own thoughts, the part of her body
that she can’t communicate with, it’s the part of your body that governs
how quickly your heart beats, how quickly your hair grows, how quickly your fingernails grow. If you cut yourself,
you don’t have to stand there and have a conversation
for the next three days with that cut saying, ‘Hurry up and heal.’ Your body has the resources
to send what it needs to that particular point to heal it. And every time I say that out loud,
it blows my head off my shoulders. That’s miraculous! But that’s our subconscious. But juggling woman, when she runs,
she has cave woman technology. So she’s asking her body
to create a different meaning for the first time ever in the entirety
of human evolution that she’s okay, that she’s running for fitness. Her conscious mind knows it, but her subconscious mind creates
the meaning that it’s always created. So science suggests that we’ve been on the planet
for about 150,000 years. And you can see the blue line over here
represents 2,000 years ago, so roughly how long we’ve had a calendar. You can see that that’s a blip compared to the other 150,000 years
that we’ve been on the planet. The red line right beside time zero
represents the last century. So it’s a miniscule fraction of time
that we’ve been on the planet, and that’s expanded out here
across the bottom so that you can visually see
the enormous change that’s happened just in the last century alone, let alone in the last decade. So in 1914, what was life like
for women then? Around World War II, even the postage stamp had started
to change what women were about, telling us that we could do it
as women entered the workforce. In the 1960s, it wasn’t just
that the fashions were changing and our skirts were getting shorter, the media announced to the whole world that there was now
a birth control pill available to all. Through the ’80s, we showed that we could
match it with men in every arena, with a woman being
the global head of power. And then in 2014, here’s juggling woman, working day and night
at this frantic pace, asking her body
to make a different decision, to make a different meaning
from the entirety of human history. And to cope, to get the energy
to do what she wants to do in a day, too many women warm up with caffeine
and cool down with alcohol. We forget that our body
can do that on its own. And when we regularly
overconsume those substances, you actually take
the edge off your energy, you take the edge off your vitality, and you take the edge off your greatness. And you can miss
the absolute miracle of your existence and how magnificent it all is. So this is a transition period. We’ve got to learn
how to live in this new way because we’re not going back. We’ve made progress
in more areas than others though. So for a couple who are married
and they both work full time, and they have one child, research clearly shows that the woman does twice the amount
of housework that the man does, and she does three times
the amount of childcare. So she essentially
has three jobs and he has one. So not only is it the dawning
of a new era for women, but what dawned on me
as I created this talk that brought tears to my eyes
and covered me in goosebumps, is that it has to be for our men as well. So what drives juggling woman? Plug your ears because
some of you don’t want to hear this – because it’s adrenaline. It’s caffeine leads the human body
to make adrenaline, and it’s also her perception of pressure. Now, you’ll notice
I put the word ‘perception’ in front of the word ‘pressure’,
and that’s because it is. So when I would ask people many years ago where they felt there was stress
and pressure in their lives, they would often describe to me a scenario
where someone they loved was very ill, and they were deeply concerned. But now when I ask people, ‘What stresses you?
Where do you feel the pressure?’ They’ll say, ‘I had a week’s holiday, and now I’ve got
600 new emails in my inbox and I don’t know when I’m going
to get the time to deal with them.’ But again, we don’t tend to see it,
but if you pull back the curtains on that, it’s because you care so deeply. It’s because you don’t want to let
the people who have written to you down by not getting back to them. You don’t want them
to think that you’re inefficient. You want to please them,
you want to look after them, you want to make sure
they feel like you care, so it comes from a beautiful place. But it comes from being a good girl. Most women are raised to be good girls
and to please the people in their lives. And when we create that story, and we will have done it
a very long time ago, that we aren’t enough the way that we are, whatever it is, unfortunately,
another consequence of that can be that if you don’t believe you are enough,
you never feel like you have enough. So you also live your life in the pursuit
of having and gaining more and more. So it’s time for that cloud
of false belief to end. So with juggling woman,
with her nervous system, when she’s living on adrenaline, in that fight or flight response, with all that intensity, to counterbalance that,
we want to activate the green zone, which is the calming aspect
of our nervous system, and that’s what a long, slow,
diaphragmatic breath does. That’s how you activate that. And when we are living
in that beautifully calm place, we burn our body fat
very easily as our fuel. But when we’re living in the red zone,
living on adrenaline, your body has no choice but to believe
that you life is literally in danger. It needs to power you
to get out of that danger, and it needs a fuel, it’s got to supply you with fuel
to get out of that danger. So take a wild guess, between
your body’s fuel of glucose and fat, which is the fast burning one? It’s always going to be glucose,
or sugar, to power you out of there. So when we are calm,
we burn our body fat very readily. And I’ve seen this
countless times with people. A woman completed
the New York Marathon and came to see me afterwards because she’d run
between 40 and 90 miles every week for nine months,
eaten amazingly and gained 12 kilos. How is that possible? I had my own experience with this. While I was at university,
I used to be a mad cane runner – I would run for two hours
virtually every day. But then I got a job
running a health retreat, and I had to get up at 4:20 in the morning to be to work on time to wake the guests, and by 6:00 in the morning,
we were doing tai chi for 30 minutes with very slow, gentle arm movements, but you diaphragmatically
breathe for 30 minutes. And then I would take the guests
on a very gentle walk, and my eating remained the same
across this period. I went from being little miss crazy runner
burning bucket loads of calories to little miss tai chi hardly burning any, and my clothes got looser
and looser and looser, even though my food stayed the same. And it completely fried my brain because if the calorie equation held true,
the exact opposite was supposed to happen. And it was that experience that led me to go back
to my geeky biochemistry textbooks with the question in my mind: What leads the human body to get
the message that it needs to burn fat? And what leads the human body
that it needs to get the message that it has to store fat? But that’s a story for another day. So understand that when we are calm,
we use our body fat so readily as fuel. The other body system
that can be so enormously impacted upon when we are living in this frantic state
is our sex hormones, progesterone in particular. It does reproductive things in our body. But it does other amazing things:
It’s an anti-anxiety agent; it’s an antidepressant
and it’s a diuretic. But we make our progesterone
in the first half of the menstrual cycle from exactly the same place
where we make our stress hormones. And when we’re juggling
everything in our world, we churn out adrenaline,
which says our life is in danger, and we churn out another
stress hormone called cortisol that says there’s no food
left in the world. And your body links
progesterone to fertility. And so the last thing it wants
is for you to bring a baby into the world, where it feels you’re not safe
and there’s no food. And so your body thinks
it’s doing you a great big favor by shutting down your adrenal
production of progesterone. And in my opinion, that is the biggest biochemical challenge
facing women’s health today. That scenario, with low progesterone
and too much estrogen, that is chaos for us
and everyone around us. Good luck being patient and kind
to the people you love most in the world when you’ve got that going on. (Laughter) And I know that first hand. When my work first got busy, I would stay up until
1 or 2 in the morning doing emails. I would then get up again
about half past 5 or 6 in the morning, get back on emails, go to work
and see patients back to back, all day, then clear the messages,
return the messages, then go and buy the groceries, come home, cook dinner,
spend some time with my beloved, and then get back on emails. And I lived like that for four months
before he and I had a conversation that the way I was living
was unsustainable. So even with all of my knowledge
and all of my rituals, I still fell into the trap of trying
to please every single human in my realm, and wanting them to like me. And if you think about that scenario, there aren’t even children in that mix. And that’s because
I’m not brave enough to be a mother. Because I can’t imagine being
the mother that I would want to be while still doing
my mission in this world. I can’t imagine how I would do that. But it was that experience that led me to go back again
to my geeky biochemistry textbooks and come to diagnose what I have
come to call rushing woman syndrome. And we don’t need to live like that. It’s time for us
to put our oxygen masks on first. We have to give ourselves the oxygen
before we can be of service to others, and to allow us to live our missions, and for me that is to educate and inspire,
and enhance people’s health and happiness, and ignite a ripple effect
that transforms the world. It is time for the dawning
of a new era within ourselves. Supply yourself with that oxygen. I want you to picture
in your mind’s eye a little girl – cute little girl wearing a pretty dress, and she’s on her own
in her own little world, and she’s spinning around
going ‘la la la’. She knows that she’s precious. She lives every moment from that place. And we were all born with that knowing. But we lose it. And I believe we spend our entire lives
trying to feel like that again. Only we do it using means and substances
that sometimes harm our health: too much food, or not enough food; too much alcohol or caffeine; or spending beyond our means; or running ourselves ragged
trying to be all things to all people. Where on earth did it enter our psychology
that we need to sacrifice our health to make everybody else happy. It is beautiful to contribute. It’s a win-win, but never at the expense
of our own health, and I do not want it to take
a health crisis to wake you up, to remind you of how precious life is. So I want you to begin to explore
how you eat, drink, move, think, believe and perceive. The minute you change your perception,
you rewire your entire chemistry. It is time to get back in touch
with your breath. It is time to remember
the absolute miracle that you are and get back in touch
with the magnificence of your existence. Please remember that life is precious, and that you are precious, and to treat yourself accordingly. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *