Monthly Archives: January 2019
Monthly Archives: January 2019
Time management is one of the main reasons people give for why they can't eat healthy food. In her new book, Lose Weight With Your Instapot, Audrey Johns shows how this cooker can make short time of cooking healthy meals.
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Allan (1:01): Audrey, welcome back to 40+ Fitness.
Audrey Johns (1:05): Thank you so much for having me, Allan. I’m so excited to be back on the show.
Allan (1:08): I really do enjoy the approach that you have to cookbooks, one, because I went through the different recipes and they all look brilliant, and there are no cans of anything. It just makes me so happy that someone’s not saying, “Open up a can of this, or buy that.” In many cases you’re making your own stuff to fill in the gaps in the recipes, where normally the recipe would say, “Go buy a can of this or a jar of that.” You’re actually teaching people how to cook the whole meal.
Audrey Johns (1:45): Absolutely. One of the recipes that stands out to me in that is the red beans and rice. A girl growing up in New Orleans, I was so excited to be able to make red beans from scratch. And I agree – when you can make it for yourself, it’s going to be so much healthier.
Allan (2:03): It is. I knew what an instapot was; I’ve never really actually used one. The sad thing is I asked my wife because I was like, “I’m going to pull this out and try something.” We’re getting ready to move to Panama, so she sold our instapot.
Audrey Johns (2:19): Oh no! Well, you’re going have to get a new one. Are the electrical sockets different there? Is that going to be an issue?
Allan (2:25): No, the electrics are the same. The problem is that we’re lightening our load as much as possible, so we’re selling practically everything in this house before we sell the house, or as we’re still in the house. So, it was an easy sell for her. She listed it and got, I guess, what she wanted for it, and it went out in one of the first rounds of our selling. And I didn’t actually realize that until I started looking for it. Sadly, that was one of the few times I didn’t. When I was looking at the pork chops with the apple – that looks really good. What was so amazing was with some of the accessories, you can cook an entire meal in one. I didn’t actually realize how dynamic and how really good these instant pots are for, one, saving time, because you don’t have to be there while it’s cooking, but the other thing is, you can do so much with it.
Audrey Johns (3:13): Absolutely. The protein bowl for example – I absolutely love that dish. What you do is you put the quinoa at the bottom, and then you put the trivet, which happens to come with the actual instant pot, and then you put a steamer basket in there and within the steamer basket you put the chicken and all the other vegetables. You press “Go” and you walk away; and you come back and you have this perfect, amazing meal that all you have to do is just add to a bowl. You can do that with so many different items. You can have rice on the bottom and then you can have the steamer basket in there for your vegetables or for your protein. It’s one-pot cooking in a totally different way than what we’ve been used to in the last 10 to 15 years in the cooking industry. It’s exciting and it makes cooking more accessible to people who don’t really have the time to cook. I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about the instant pot. You know me – I love to talk about cooking, which is why I’m on the show. I go out and I’m talking to people about the instant pot. In fact, I had my car serviced yesterday and I was at the dealership, and the guy says, “Wow, I see here that you’re an author. What do you write?” I said I write cookbooks. “Oh, my girlfriend and I, we don’t have time to cook.” I’m like, “But you have an instant pot.” And there I am, selling the instant pot for the instant pot company.
Allan (4:30): They need to get you on retainer with a commission or something.
Audrey Johns (4:34): Yeah, that would be nice. But what I’m really excited about is encouraging people to stop going through the drive-thru; you can actually make a meal in the same amount of time that you go through the drive-thru. And while it’s cooking, you can kick off your shoes and turn on the news or some fun program, and help your kids with homework, and just relax. It’s so easy and it makes it so accessible. If you can learn how to use just three buttons, you’re set. That’s all you need to know to cook. That’s really exciting, and I feel like it makes it more accessible to the masses.
Allan (5:10): I’d seen it sitting on our kitchen counter. I just had never thought to use it. I have no problem cooking and I’m very good with the slow cooker, but it looked a little complicated to me when I first looked at it. Can you explain what an instant pot is and why it’s so versatile, why it’s such a good tool to have in your kitchen?
Audrey Johns (5:32): Absolutely. What I love about the instant pot is that you have all of these different options and there are tons of different buttons. And each instant pot they come out with is new and improved, there are more buttons. I love that, because it gives me more options, but I feel like it makes it more daunting for somebody who first opens it. And you go on these blogs and forums and there’s an instant pot community on Facebook that I’m a member of. And people are going on and they’re saying, “I got an instant pot last year for Christmas, 12 months ago, and I haven’t even opened it yet. I’m too scared to use it”. And it is daunting because there are so many buttons. However, there are only really three important buttons and if you can use just three buttons, then you’re set. What I try to do with Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot – my new cookbook – I try to only use those three buttons so it’s really easy. No matter which model you have, you don’t have to worry about finding the yogurt button or the egg button or any of that. All you really need to notice on your machine is the “Sautee” button, the “Pressure Cook” button, or “Cook” on some of them it says, and the “Cancel” button. That makes it more accessible for people who maybe don’t purchase the actual instapot brands, they buy an off–brand. Just find those three buttons and do the water test. When you get your manual, it asks you to do a water test, and basically, you can’t ruin water. You certainly can’t burn water in an instant pot; you can boil it. You do that one test and it kind of takes the fear out of it and it also makes sure everything is working correctly. Now that I’ve given you all of this information, maybe your head is spinning even more. To simplify it, to give you the most simple definition of what an instant pot is – it is an electronic pressure cooker. That’s it.
Allan (7:25): So basically putting the contents under pressure and then raising the temperature, and that allows it to cook faster while still retaining the moistness and not drying them out.
Audrey Johns (7:37): Absolutely. It’s kind of the polar opposite of the slow cooker. In slow cookers you cook it slow and low for as many hours as you like. With the pressure cooker, it’s a quick meal. Even on some of the recipes, like on an egg recipe, pretty much as soon as your instant pot has pressurized, you’re done. You just turn it off and you’re done. So it’s very fast, very easy. I’m a cookbook author and I love food. I cook all day, every day, and I am the first one to admit that pressure cookers are a little daunting for me. You hear these horror stories of them exploding. But with the instant pot, all of that fear, all of those issues are completely taken off the table because if something goes wrong, it shuts itself down. So I feel comfortable turning my instapot on and walking out the door and going and picking my kid up from school, and coming home and food is ready. You can’t do that with most other kitchen appliances, except for the slow cooker. It’s foolproof. And that’s what I really love about this new amazing… I mean it’s not that new, but it’s hot and exciting, and it’s very popular now. This is a great kitchen appliance.
Allan (8:51): Okay. So, we go out and we buy a pressure cooker or have Amazon deliver it to us, because Amazon, I’m sure, sells these things. It gets delivered to our house or we go buy it at a local store. We’re getting it out of the box and it’s going to walk us through doing a water test. That way we’ll know everything’s working the way it’s supposed to, and now we’re ready to start doing things. But besides buying your cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, what are some tips and tricks that we would want to know just to get started?
Audrey Johns (9:26): What I like to recommend is, pick something that you know you’re really going to love to eat. A lot of times people say, “What is the first thing I should make in my instapot?” Make something that you know your family is going to love. If you guys love mac and cheese, make mac and cheese. There’s a mac and cheese recipe here in my book. Don’t pick something completely over the top that you would never have made, for instance, the cassoulet. Make something simple and easy so it takes the fear factor out of it. Honestly, how hard is it to mess up mac and cheese? So, choose something easy and something you know the family will like. And what I always love to tell people is, in the kitchen, this is the only place in your life where you can completely mess up and you can call and order pizza, and that will fix your problem. So, get in there, get dirty and try it out. Worst case scenario, you’re pulling something out of the freezer or you’re calling for pizza. It’s one of those areas that you can really be bold and try something new. You can’t mess too many things up in the kitchen, especially with electronic pressure cooker. I mean you can’t even light a fire in the house, so it really takes any of the fear out of cooking. Also I know I had mentioned earlier on the podcast, a lot of people are really scared to take the instapot even out of the box. It’s so daunting. So I really recommend, don’t get overwhelmed by all of the different buttons on there. You can get to them later. Right now all you have to find is the “Sautee” button, the “Pressure Cook” button and the “Cancel” button, and that’s it.
Allan (10:56): Okay. Now, with the pressure, it’s going to have to let some of this pressure come off. Sometimes you can let it depressurize on its own, and on some recipes you need to go ahead and release that pressure. You encourage folks to use a wooden spoon to release that pressure because the steam coming out can burn you.
Audrey Johns (11:18): Absolutely. It’s extremely hot. I’m an Italian woman, so I have a collection of probably 200 wooden spoons. It is my preferred kitchen tool, if I may. I recommend using a wooden spoon. It’s not going to melt on you, it’s not going to get hot, like if you use a metal spoon. You go from the side, not from above, and you just knock the little dongle to the side and the pressure will come out. Now, if that scares you, another tip – don’t start your very first experience with an electronic pressure cooker on something that you actually have to release the pressure. It’s easy. I will admit the first time I did it, I was a little bit worried, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. It does make quite a lot of noise. But if that kind of thing freaks you out, don’t make an egg dish first off; don’t make something that you have to release the pressure, otherwise it will overcook. Make something easy. Make the sloppy joes in my cookbook. Make something that you can walk away from and two hours later when the pressure has naturally let itself release and it’s been heated up and it’s just been sitting and waiting for you, it’s not scary to open it up. I really recommend baby steps when it comes to using an instant pot, and then you won’t be scared of it and you’ll be excited and you’ll want to keep trying new things and you’ll get bold, and it kind of takes the fear out of it.
Allan (12:47): I guess most instant pots are going to have a “Keep Warm” feature. It keeps it warm for you. So if you said, “When I first get home from work I’m going to sit down and put all this stuff in there”, and then you go get into your comfy clothes for the evening, maybe take a shower or you go for a run or something, and then you come back in and it might’ve been in there for two or three hours before you get ready to eat, but it’s going to be ready.
Audrey Johns (13:15): Absolutely. The skinny sloppy joes in my cookbook come to mind when you bring that up. Last year I was the Girl Scout troop leader for my daughter’s troop, and I was testing the recipes for the book. I just had too much on my plate, to be honest. It was a lot going on, like, why did I decide to become a Girl Scout troop leader while I was recipe-testing? I don’t know, but I did. And so I made the sloppy joes and I left. That was the first time ever leaving the instant pot on and walking out the door, and it hadn’t even stopped cooking. It wasn’t that it was depressurizing on its own. It was still going. I walked out the door and two hours later, after we had done our meeting and all the kids had gone home and we had finally gotten home, they were the best sloppy joes I have ever made. They were warm and they were hot and they were ready for dinner. I barely had the energy to take my shoes off – 12 little girls and me, and I was already frazzled from cooking all day. It was perfect. This is perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time or who have a lot on their plates. My daughter will come home from school and I’ll start helping her with her homework and I’ll forget to cook dinner. And that’s me – a cookbook author – I will forget to cook dinner from time to time. And then I’m rushing to try and throw something together, but with the instapot I can already have it ready and I can just let it sit, or I can quickly whip something up. It’s amazing. I’m in love with my instapot. I am Audrey and I love an instapot.
Allan (14:51): You had me when you did a 30-minute marinara sauce, because when I make a marinera sauce, it’s a six-hour ordeal, easily. I’ll start in the morning and my wife’s like, “What are you doing on the stove cooking?” I say, “I’m making some marinara for dinner tonight.” She’s like, “Oh, okay.” It’s six to eight hours that I’m going to have to cook that marinara down, but in an instapot you can do it in 30 minutes. That’s pretty amazing.
Audrey Johns (15:20): I honestly felt like I was going to be struck down by lightning. I was worried about it. I’m like, “I am an Italian woman. My ancestors are going to be furious with me. This is not okay. You can’t cook marinara sauce in 30 minutes.” It was amazing, Allan. It was so delicious. I’m like, “Are you serious?” But it’s because it’s under pressure. It’s essentially giving you six hours’ worth of cooking time in 30 minutes. I still do prefer the long and slow method because that’s how my mom and my grandmother made it, but when I’m in a rush and I need a quick marinara sauce, that’s my go-to. It is so easy.
Allan (15:58): That’s a really quick meal when you think about a good healthy meal. You start the marinara sauce. You get some zucchini and make some zoodles and you’ve got a plant-based dinner ready for yourself in less than 30 minutes. That’s pretty cool.
Audrey Johns (16:15): Absolutely. And it’s delicious and it’s packed full of antioxidants. It feels like you’re splurging. There’s something about Italian food that even when you make it healthy, it just feels like you’re splurging. Or is that just me, Allan, because I’m Italian?
Allan (16:28): No, I enjoy Italian food, and that’s one of the problems. I don’t want to go out and eat it anymore, because I know what goes in it sometimes. You look at a label when you go to buy a pasta sauce and one of the first ingredients is going to be sugar or a high fructose corn syrup. And then you get to the bottom of the list and there’s 18 extra ingredients that I would never put in mine, but they have to put it in theirs to keep it on a shelf. So, you’re making good, high quality food. A good trip to the farmer’s market on a Saturday, and Saturday night you could be eating some of the best marinara sauce on whatever, whether you want to do pasta or zoodles. Boom! There you go.
Audrey Johns (17:14): Absolutely. And since you mentioned going to the farmer’s market and then going home and cooking – I did an entire chapter called Shred It Your Way. I want to find a way to be able to do an entire cookbook on this, but basically I did a recipe for shredded chicken, for pulled pork and for shredded beef. And then I had coinciding recipes that actually went with every single protein that I had put in the book, but specific recipes to go with the chicken, to go with the pork, to go with the beef. So you only had to cook one night a week. Or say, for instance, for the beef ragu rigatoni, all you had to do was basically boil water and you were done. I think that when you use the instapot and you cook in larger quantities, you could cook an entire week’s worth of food in two hours on a Sunday afternoon and then you’re set for the rest of the week. I’ve heard from a lot of people who love to meal prep that the instapot is their go-to, because it cuts down the time and you can do such huge quantities, especially if you have one of the larger instapots, like an eight or a six quart.
Allan (18:25): I harp on my clients about batch cooking all the time. One of the main reasons people will say they can’t eat healthy is that they just don’t have time to cook. Now, batch cooking with an instant pot is almost a no-brainer. If I want to do some batch cooking for the week, I’ll do three or four meals on a Sunday, put them in containers, put most of them in the freezer and then just pull those out the day before. I put them in the fridge and they’re good to go; I just warm them up. So yes, very, very good. Now, one of the things I do like about your cookbooks in particular is you take some time to throw in some really cool tips and things like that that might not have anything really to do with the topic so much. But you do include some tips about when we’re going to go out. This episode is going to air in January, but we’re always ending up at a party or at someone’s house and we’re having to make food choices that seem somewhat out of our control. Can you share some tips for when we’re going to go to an event or to a party on how we can structure our plate and stay healthy?
Audrey Johns (19:37): Absolutely. Like you said, I always add these fun things to my book, and this book happened to have a holiday chapter. So this is in the holiday chapter, but all of you listening in January, this goes for all events. It goes great for company events and going to a party. It’s simple. First of all, if you know you’re going to go to a place that’s going to be full of junk food, eat beforehand. I think that’s a go-to that’s really, really easy. But say for instance you didn’t know, and you get there and you’re completely overwhelmed, there’s tons of food, you don’t know what’s in it, you don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not – I really recommend starting out with the vegetables. All three of my books have always talked about your plate equation, and I always recommend following the 50 /25 / 25 – 50% vegetables, 25% protein and 25% carbohydrates. That gives you the opportunity to have something yummy, have a roll or a potato or something. You’re at a party. You want to make sure that you are splurging a little bit, but not too much. So I recommend starting out with the vegetables because if you start out with the protein or the carbohydrates, you’re going to end up filling up your plate really fast. Best case scenario – get a salad, because you know what’s in it; you can actually see what’s in it. If you end up getting some heavily cooked dish, you don’t know if there’s an entire can of cream of mushroom soup and two pounds of cheddar in it. Just because it happens to be a green item might not necessarily make it healthy. So I recommend going for your vegetables, ideally going for anything raw. Go for the veggie tray, the salad, those kinds of things. And then move onto the protein.
Now, because this is a holiday chapter and I’m modifying it for your listeners, I talk about how much I adore turkey. Any kind of white meat, chicken, turkey – anything like that is a great option. You’ve got that big old salad; you can chop it up and put it on top of the salad, you can put it on the side. Go for the protein next because you definitely want to feel full. I don’t know if I’m the only one who looks at food like this, but it’s like that’s the best deal there. You go out to dinner, and the steak and the chicken is the same price – I’m getting the steak; I’m getting the best deal. When I look at a holiday gathering, I don’t want to be cheap and only have the $0.25 salad. I want to have a piece of that chicken or I want to have some yummy steak. So, have a little bit of protein, and then finally go for the carbohydrates. And let’s go for something that’s more nutritious, if you can. I know a lot of people look at potatoes and they think starch, fat. But if you’re thinking about nutritional value, potato versus a roll – you’re going to get so many more nutritious elements from the potato. So have a baked potato. I make in my book the scallop potatoes; they’re absolutely amazing. They’re really healthy and low calorie. But fill up on the vegetables, then protein, then carbohydrates.
Another really great tip – if it happens to be a potluck, bring something healthy, bring something you know you can eat and you know that if you get there and everything is absolute junk and it’s going make you feel sick and reverse your weight loss work, then you know you can fill up on that. Then finally, what I always recommend is, you’re at a party – have the dessert, have a drink. Just have it in very, very small quantities. For dessert, I always recommend splitting it with somebody. So if you go to a party and there’s a great piece of pie or a cookie or a slice of chocolate cake – my favorite – split it with somebody or take half of it home or ask for a very small slice. When it comes to drinks, when you arrive at the party, don’t go straight for the champagne or a glass of wine. Wait until you’re actually sitting down with your meal. So, start with water, end with water and only have that one cocktail or that one glass of wine while you’re eating, and you’ll be less likely to splurge the entire time.
Allan (23:43): Yes, absolutely. You also got into another topic that I think is really important, because I get this question all the time: “Allan, what kind of exercise can I do to lose weight?” Every time I hear it, I let out a little internal sigh because they’re not going to like my answer. But just so they’re hearing it from someone else, can you answer that question for us?
Audrey Johns (24:09): I hope that I’m going to answer it the same way as you do. I am a firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen and not in the gym. Sure, you can burn some calories at the gym, but most likely you will end up thinking, “I just burned 300 calories on the elliptical machine and now I can go have a slice of chocolate cake.” I think that exercise is so, so important for our bodies. I am literally still sitting here in my Pilates clothes because I am a Pilates fanatic. It makes me feel strong, I carry myself better. I do look thinner, because I have better posture because of Pilates and exercise and because I’m stronger. But I am a very firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen. It’s all about what you put in your mouth. So, go for the exercise, but don’t expect it to do all the work for you. You actually have to start working on how you eat.
Allan (25:01): I am complete agreement with you there.
Audrey Johns (25:05) I’m so glad!
Allan (25:06): It surprises them, because I’m a fitness guy and they’re like, “You can teach us exercises and we can do these different things.” And I’m like, “Yes, but that’s for fitness. That’s to make you a better grandfather or grandmother, or make you better at tennis, or able to finish that 5K that you want to do in a couple of months.” That’s what exercise or training should be about, is helping you do those things. And then yes, if weight loss or fat loss is what you’re really wanting, that’s going to come from what and how much you eat. So, I completely agree with you that we’ve got to get our kitchens going if we want to get our waistline down.
Audrey Johns (25:45) I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, Allan. Why is that so hard for people to, not grasp, but to change? I do enjoy Pilates, but I was dragging getting there today, and I don’t always want to go. For me, I’d rather cook a nice healthy meal. I was trained to understand that and I think it’s daunting for people to think they have to give up something they love. They would rather add something. I don’t know that that is necessarily the easiest thing to do, adding something, especially something that strenuous. But I think if your listeners do think it would be easier to add an exercise versus change how they eat, maybe we change the way we look at it and instead of taking away things you can’t have, adding in things to your diet that you should be having. It’s kind of in that same mentality, that you’re adding exercise. Instead of adding exercise, why not add a plant-based meal, one meal a day? One entire meal that’s completely all natural, and then go from there. And then keep increasing the amount of vegetables and healthy proteins that you’re eating,
Allan (27:03): I think what it comes down to is, we were handed this really simple equation called “calories in, calories out”. So everybody thinks, “I can increase the calories out by doing this work and I still get to eat what I want to eat.” They may make some changes to what they eat, but in a general sense they don’t, because they want to eat their cake, they want to eat their bread, they want to have their M&M’s, because they get a dopamine fix on that. A lot of us get into exercise and realize it feels really good to exercise. Once you get into it, the endorphins and things are happening for you there, so it’s a feel-good. It’s kind of hard to tell someone, “I want you to somewhat deprive yourself”, if that’s the right way to say it, “of not having things while you go on this diet. To me it’s always the higher the quality of the food you’re putting in your mouth, the less of it you’re actually going to end up eating, because you’re getting all the nutrition your body needs. You’re not going to have these urges to go and eat a whole bunch of bad foods, because your body has what it needs. It’s not going to be telling you, “We’re not getting everything. Go eat everything.” That’s just not going to happen for you, and that’s why I think it’s really valuable for these cookbooks that are coming out that are using whole food ingredients, because this is simple. Once you get past that learning curve and get into it, it’s quick, it’s easy. As I was reading through the recipes, I thought just about anybody can do this. They’ll need some different pieces, the accessories in some cases, but once they have that kit and they get comfortable with this, it’s almost like an automatic. There are five or six ingredients in a dish, or in some cases just three or four. You put them in there in the way that they’re structured, just set the timer, and 15 minutes, 30 minutes later your meal is complete. It’s so easy that I think things like this are going to make it easier and better for people to get into the kitchen and do what’s right for their body.
Audrey Johns (29:17): Absolutely. I’m in complete agreement with you. The instapot will open up healthy cooking to the masses just because it’s so simple. And you can find them everywhere now. They sell them at my grocery store. I’m seeing them absolutely everywhere. So, I’m sure the majority of your listeners who’ve never heard of an instant pot, it’s going to be like once you see an orange car and then all you ever see is orange cars. You’re like, “Wow, I did not realize there were so many orange cars on the road.” Now you’re going to start seeing instapots everywhere. So, everybody can say “Thank you” to Allan and Audrey for this.
Allan (29:54): I think it’s a great tool. When I get settled down in Panama, we’ll probably be looking for one. I’m like you – not the Italian piece, but I actually like sitting in the kitchen and cooking. I’ll do other things while I’m cooking because it’s not always “you have to be on it” kind of thing. I pick dishes that are easier for me, but I love getting out on the grill, grilling some meat, protein, and then getting something going in the kitchen and moving around and using my kitchen, because it’s how I can get good food in my body. I’m not going to necessarily get that if I try to eat out all the time.
Audrey Johns (30:33): Absolutely. Since you brought that up, the instapot is such a great tool to have when you are barbecuing, because you can cook a side dish. For instance, I’ve got the scallop potatoes in here, or the bruschetta, or these amazing spicy brussels sprouts with bacon. You can have that cooking and you can go outside. You don’t have to worry about lighting a fire in your kitchen. It’s great for that. Even when you are in your kitchen… It’s cold here right now and I’m not going to be barbecuing in 20-degree weather, but I can be working hard over the stove top and know that my rice dish or my potato dish or my brussels sprouts are not going to burn and I can just concentrate on the one item, the one main dish and let the instant pot do the side dish. So you don’t have to use it for the entire meal. You can use it for a side dish. You can use it for an entire meal. I have a whole breakfast chapter. I even made low calorie brownies in the instant pot. That seemed very wrong, if I’m being completely honest. I complained about it to everyone I knew, because I love to bake, Allan. So I complained. I was like a child. I was pouting. I was not okay with having to bake in the instant pot. I’m like, “That’s a recipe for the book I’m not looking forward to.” I made it. I will never make brownies in the oven ever again. They were the most moist and delicious brownies. And that’s not easy to do when you are eliminating a lot of the fat in the dish. And so, you can really make just about anything in the instant pot. And my cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, it’ll give you tons of ideas. I actually make ginger ale in there as well. Low calorie ginger ale – I think it’s something like 17 calories per glass. You’re basically burning that off as you’re drinking it, it’s so low calorie. I really recommend anybody who has the means to purchase an instant pot or borrow one from somebody, just to make sure you love it first. And check out my book, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. It’s easy, it’s delicious. They’re going to be all natural. And I tried to make something for everybody in here, so I think everybody will really, really love it.
Allan (32:40): There’s a lot of variety in there for sure. Audrey, one last question. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Audrey Johns (32:53): I have to say eating all natural by far. You’re going to feel better, you’re going to be fit, you’re going to feel happy, just because you will always be satiated and you’ll look your best as well. Your skin just glows and you always end up looking younger when you eat healthier. Same with water. I recommend to drink as much water as you can every single day. I drink on average about a gallon of water a day. I know that sounds like a lot. The closer you can get to that, the better. You’ll be full, your metabolism will be roaring. Your body is mostly water; you’ve got to give back to your body. And finally, no negative self-talk. I know I’m speaking to a man here and I’m sure that you men do have quite a lot of negative self-talk, but for women…
Allan (33:39): Maybe not as much as women, but yes, we do it too.
Audrey Johns (33:43): As women, and as men, we hold ourselves to this really high standard of how we look and we talk negatively about ourselves. Being healthy and taking good care of your body is hard enough. You don’t need to be putting yourself down. With that said, I was recently on the cover of a magazine. I didn’t recognize myself. I was so heavily altered on the magazine. So don’t believe what you see out there. Don’t hold yourself to really high standards of heavily Photoshopped pictures. Just be proud of yourself. Be proud of yourself that you’re trying, be proud of yourself that you’re strong. Try to find things that you love about not just your body. It is great to have a good self-image of your body, but about your mind – how kind are you, what a great parent or grandparent you are, how much you care about the people around you – so much more important than what you look like. I think that’s so important when it comes to being happy and healthy, is that you only use positive self-talk on yourself.
Allan (34:47): Excellent. Thank you for sharing those. The book is Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Audrey, if someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Audrey Johns (35:00): My Facebook page is a great place to start. It’s Lose Weight By Eating With Audrey Johns. You can also check my blog out at LoseWeightByEating.com, and that will also showcase my other two books, Lose Weight by Eating and Lose Weight by Eating: Detox Week. Those will be non-instant pot cookbooks. Also check out Amazon. The reviews are absolutely amazing for Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Visit Barnes & Noble and flip through the pages if you like. If you’re in the Boise area, I regularly go and sign all of the copies, so you may see me there with my sharpie marker. There are lots of places to check me out. Also, HarperCollins.com as well.
Allan (35:40): Okay. This is episode 366, so you can go 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/366 and I’ll be sure to have all the links there in the show notes. Audrey, thank you again so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Audrey Johns (35:56): Thank you, Allan. I always love coming on the show and I can’t wait to come back at the next book.
Allan (36:02): Outstanding. Yes.
So, do go check that out – having an instapot as a quick and efficient way for you to eat good, healthy food. And Audrey Johns makes it really, really easy with some great recipes in a beautiful book. You should check it out.
There’s still time – one week, approximately – for you to get your signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound edition, or go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you’d prefer the paperback edition. I’m only going to be able to do this for about another week, because I am headed down to Panama in February and I won’t be able to ship books from there. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.
Also, there’s time right now for you to go out there and get your lab results from YourLabwork. I’ve gotten a partnership agreement with them that allows you to get your discounted lab work – whatever labs you want to get done – and it allows you to track your progress. I had a full lab workup done before the end of the year, which I’m going to use to compare the things that I’m doing for my health and wellness and see what that’s going to do with what the results are. I’m not going to be looking at the scale because the scale doesn’t tell me the right numbers, but my lab work does.
So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab. They offer really affordable tests. You can have the tests done that you want. A lot of times doctors try to talk you out of getting tests. They want to get the tests that they know and they can look up and answer to. Here you’re able to get the whole picture. Like I said, I got the full workup, but you can pick and choose the lab work that you want to measure yourself on. So be it your hormones, your cholesterol – anything that you’re interested in knowing about as far as your wellness, you can get those numbers. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab to get your lab results today. Thank you.
Do you suffer from a bloated belly, IBS,
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Allan (1:00): Tamara, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Tamara Freuman (1:04): Thank you.
Allan (1:05): Your book is called The Bloated Belly Whisperer. I know from reading the book why you now have that, for a lack of a better word, nickname, but that’s also what you’ve called your book. Can you give us a little bit of the backstory on that?
Tamara Freuman (1:20): Sure. I am a dietician and I work in a gastroenterologist’s office in New York City. And pretty much from day one when I started working there, patient after patient would come to me complaining of bloating. Early in my career I really had no idea what this thing was. It’s not something you read about in your textbooks when you’re learning in dietitian school. I just had to ask a ton of questions and understand what was going on, and it became very clear to me very quickly that not all of these people were talking about the same experience or the same problem. As my practice progressed and as my career progressed, I understood that bloating really meant many different things, but there were about 10 causes that I kept seeing over and over again, and they started to look very familiar. It got to a point where within the first 10 minutes of talking to someone who was bloated, by asking certain questions and gathering certain information, they were clues that would lead me very quickly to the right cause and therefore the right treatment. Once I figured out how to figure it out, I thought I’d better put this down in writing so that other people can really benefit from this knowledge.
Allan (2:30): And that’s what I think is really cool. Having written my own book, I think as a writer you’re like, “Gosh, I really do hope they read this first chapter”, because this first chapter is really critical. I know so many people are going to say, “I have constipation so I’m just going to flip to that chapter and get to the rub of what I need to do.” But you start off the book with a quiz. The reason I like the quiz is, it’s looking for those other signs that someone might be missing because they have the most significant symptom in mind, versus they might actually have two of these things going on at the same time and the quiz is actually going to help them do that. You kind of define how you started developing this quiz, but can you tell us about the quiz, how it works and why it’s valuable for the reader to take some time to go through it?
Tamara Freuman (3:28): The reason I developed this quiz is because the way that it works when a patient comes into my office is I have an hour to sit with you and ask you a million questions. And I do – I ask everything, and you’ll answer something, and that will lead me to another question. There’s sort of this brain algorithm thing going on that leads me into this “Choose your own adventure” decision tree, and then I land at the answer. I can’t do that in a written book, so what I had to do is come up with the next best thing, and this quiz really is that. It’s, how do I distill that very complex diagnostic back-and-forth into something that you can take by yourself at home and that will lead you to, if not the most accurate answer, the top three. And then maybe you can pick from the top two or three things that you sound like and recognize your own experience. So the quiz is the best chance that I have to approximate an in-person patient consultation with a reader sitting in their own home.
Allan (4:24): I really enjoyed going through the quiz and looking at the questions and the potential of what I would have answered at certain times in my life. I have the great fortune right now – I’m very clean with what I eat, so I don’t tend to suffer from bloating much. But I can say in my past, I definitely have had multiple symptoms of bloating, constipation and those types of things. I recognize the nature of it, so it was really cool to go through and say, “Yeah, that’s what I felt. That’s how that was. That would’ve been my diagnosis at that point in time.” I do want to go through what I think are some of the more common ones that I hear from friends and family and sometimes from clients. The first one that got my attention, and I have a couple of questions as we dive into it, is indigestion.
Tamara Freuman (5:18): Yes.
Allan (5:20): I see commercial after commercial after commercial of, “Take this pill, take that pill. This is quick; that’s going to take forever, but that lasts forever.” And go back and forth. Can you talk about the symptoms someone would have and then what some of the treatments are that they can do?
Tamara Freuman (5:37): Sure. Indigestion, the way I talk about it in the book, is the sour stomach bloat. And that’s really any kind of acid-related malady. This is one of the more common types of bloating that originate in the stomach. One thing I try to do in the book is really separate bloating that originates in the stomach, which is its own beast and it has its own remedies, versus bloating that originates in the intestines, which has other causes and other remedies. So, of the types of bloating that originate in the stomach, indigestion, acid-related issues are a problem. And what’s tricky about them is they can be very situational. Patients have a really hard time identifying what’s going on and whether there are food triggers, because they’ll say, “Sometimes I eat this food and I’m fine. And then another time I eat that food and I’m miserable. Am I intolerant to that food or not? What’s going on?” And the issue is, our stomach’s reaction to food is very contextual. It depends when we last ate. Has it been five, six, seven hours since we last ate and we are empty in acid? Or did we just eat three hours ago a big giant fatty meal and we’re still a little bit full from that meal? You could eat the same food in either of those contexts and have a really different reaction, versus you’re on a normal meal schedule, it’s been about four hours since you’ve eaten, you’re a little bit hungry – not over hungry, not over full. You eat that meal and you have a third reaction. And so, this idea that your body can overreact with acid, or you could have a loss of pressure in that muscle that separates your stomach and your esophagus, because you ate a lot of fat or you had some alcohol with the meal and that meal is refluxing on you. The trick to classic indigestion is really understanding the foods that trigger it, the contextual triggers of it in terms of your hunger level or fullness level, and therefore how to manage it with food choices, with supplements, with medications.
Allan (7:33): Okay. I like how in the book you’re very clear with, “Let’s start with the ‘How’ and what we eat.” You went through a process of saying if you suffer from indigestion, you’re going to want to eat more regularly, smaller meals, those kinds of things. And if that doesn’t quite solve all the problems, then there are some medical things we can do, as far as over-the-counter and prescription stuff. Can you walk through the food choices, the size and timing of meals, and then some of the other treatments?
Tamara Freuman (8:08): Definitely. As a dietician, the way that I would typically approach people with acid indigestion is I’m looking for foods that empty the stomach rather expeditiously. The way I describe it is your stomach is basically a food blender. Its main job is to liquify your meal, so that that liquid meal can trickle out of the stomach and move on into the digestive journey. I tell my patients, “Envision how much stomach acid does your stomach need to secrete, and how much time and churning does your stomach blender have to churn in order to liquify a giant kale salad versus to liquify a kale smoothie.” Same food, same ingredients, very different physical properties. So, you can envision what type of work and what kind of time and what level of acid will be required to liquify certain textures of foods, certain volumes of foods as compared to others. So the first thing that I’m really looking at with my patients is how much volume do we eat in a sitting and what are the physical properties of that meal? Can we tame the texture? Can we tame the volume? Break it up – instead of having a big lunch at 12:00 and then nothing again until dinner at 7:00, can we have a small lunch at 12:00 and then the second part of your lunch at 3:30 or 4:00, and then another small meal at 7:00, so that you’re never too hungry and overeating and then never too empty and starving, so you’re going to overeat because you’re starving. So, that’s one thing that I do. The second thing as a dietitian that I care about is fat. Fat really does have an effect on the sphincter muscle that keeps your stomach contents in the stomach and prevents them from refluxing into the esophagus. Really high fat meals can relax that pressure so that food is more likely to reflux. So for a patient who does have that classic indigestion, I’m looking at fat, I’m looking at frequency of meals, volume of meals, and texture. For many, many patients, that gets them really far in terms of symptom control, even without any medications.
Allan (10:20): You also threw alcohol in there, because that can be symptomatic as well, right?
Tamara Freuman (10:25): Absolutely. Alcohol has a very similar effect as fat in terms of relaxing that muscle, and that can make reflux more likely.
Allan (10:35): Most of the medications that are on the market actually reduce the stomach acid at some level. But I’ve read, and maybe it’s wrong and I’m misreading something here, that sometimes we would have some of these symptoms because our stomach’s not producing enough acid.
Tamara Freuman (10:54): That’s a really common Internet misconception that’s out there. I know that there are a lot of beliefs that we’re not having enough stomach acid and we should take apple cider vinegar or other things to acidify the stomach, or even supplements. There’s one called Betaine HCL that I see people use a lot. There’s really no evidence to support any of this; in fact, there is some pretty strong evidence to support the contrary. Frankly, if you ask any person who has suffered from chronic acid indigestion or more serious chronic acid reflux disease, they feel better when they take a TUMS, they feel better with acid reducers. So, I haven’t really seen any evidence to support this idea that not enough stomach acid would cause acid indigestion.
Allan (11:41): Thank you for that. Like I said, that kind of confused me when I was reading through. I thought we were supposed to go away from the TUMS and go towards taking HCL to push our stomachs to do the digestion faster, if you will. But I guess not. Thank you. The next one I want to talk about, which I think is also very common and actually very uncomfortable for a lot of folks because it makes it sometimes difficult for them to feel comfortable leaving the house, is constipation.
Tamara Freuman (12:12): Yes, constipation is a big one. It’s really common, and also I think a lot of people who are constipated don’t recognize that they’re constipated. I have a lot of patients who will come to me and they’re complaining of bloating, and when I go through my little back-and-forth algorithm in my brain, it sounds very much like what I call “backed up bloating”, or being full of stool. And they’ll say, “No, no, no, I’m not constipated. I go to the bathroom every day.” There’s this idea that if you move your bowels every day, you couldn’t possibly be constipated. And that’s not true at all. You could move your bowels, but move them incompletely, and still move your bowels every day and wind up having a very high stool burden or a very large backlog of stool hanging out in your colon that’s unable to really be passed. And so, sometimes people can be constipated and they don’t even know it.
Allan (13:02): Okay. So how would someone know the difference between normal constipation and something where they’re not completely getting rid of all the poo?
Tamara Freuman (13:12): The classic constipation, what most people recognize as constipation is, I don’t go every day. I might skip a day, I might skip two days. My stools are really hard. There are these hard little balls, or I have to strain incredibly much to go. And when I go, I feel like I didn’t get it all out. That’s the typical experience of constipation that most people who have that will recognize that they’re constipated. But there could be people who have extremely high fiber diets, for example. They’re putting a lot of stuff into the pipeline and they go to the bathroom once a day. And it’s like a smallish to medium, formed normal size stool – in other words, putting more stuff in than is coming out. Someone on a really, really high fiber diet might need to go to the bathroom three or four times a day to keep up with the input. Sometimes if you’re just going one time a day with a very high fiber diet, and it’s not an incredibly large amount of stool, you might be falling behind. That’s something people might not recognize is going on and then they don’t understand why they’re so bloated.
Allan (14:17): That’s because the fiber’s picking up extra water and making up some girth to what you’re digesting, versus not.
Tamara Freuman (14:27): Right. Fiber by definition is indigestible, so fiber that goes in must come out. We cannot break it down, we cannot absorb it. With fiber, what goes in must come out, and if a lot is going in and not a lot is coming out, then you might be outpacing your ability to eliminate it, which could happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have a slow colon, which can happen. Maybe your pelvic floor muscles aren’t working optimally and you’re unable to pass large amounts of stool. There are lots of reasons that could happen.
Allan (15:01): I actually had a green smoothie yesterday for lunch, and I’ve already gone twice today. So, I think the fiber is working its way through me quite quickly.
Tamara Freuman (15:13): It is. And I love that we’re at a place in our relationship where we can share these things with each other. That’s so great!
Allan (15:21): It’s funny, because actually there’s another author that I’m interviewing and he’s pretty heavy into the fiber stuff. Even though I do the keto, I’m going to work a little bit more on getting my greens in, particularly the leafy greens with the fibers. I did do a fruit smoothie yesterday, I’m going to do a smoothie today and see how that works for me.
Tamara Freuman (15:43): Excellent.
Allan (15:44): Alright. So, someone comes to you and they are in fact constipated. What can they do now to help themselves?
Tamara Freuman (15:53): The trick with constipation is, it’s really important to understand, if you can, the nature of the constipation. You can be constipated for more than one reason, as I alluded to before. For example, one thing is you just don’t eat enough fiber. That’s the low hanging fruit – nothing in, nothing out – so, that’s a more straightforward fix. Some people are constipated, like I said, because their colons are really, really slow; it takes a really long time for stuff to move through them. And the longer waste spends in your colon, the more dried out it can become, so that can be a cause for constipation. Some people, their motility is fine. Things move through them at a proper pace, at a normal pace, but the muscles involved with defecation aren’t coordinating properly – they can’t relax and let the stool out, or their muscles are too weak and they can’t propel enough force to get the stool out. There are all sorts of reasons that someone could be constipated and typically a dietician or a doctor will start with some of the more likely causes. They’ll look at the fiber, they might do a little bit of an-over-the-counter laxative thing and see if that does the trick. And for many people with a slow transit constipation or inadequate fiber, that is a really quick and easy fix. But if you’re someone that is on a high fiber diet and you’ve taken magnesium supplements or MiraLAX or a senna tea or something – those low level laxatives, and literally they haven’t done a thing for you – then we have to start wondering whether your musculature can really support healthy defecation, and maybe get an evaluation from a gastroenterologist of your pelvic floor function to see, because all the laxatives in the world and all the fiber in the world aren’t going to help if there is some faulty plumbing and things can’t get out.
Allan (17:47): Okay. Typically I’ll have some coffee in the morning, and that seems to be a stimulant that gets my whole digestive system working rather quickly. So, that is something they could also consider – some caffeine in the morning?
Tamara Freuman (18:05): It’s actually not the caffeine. It’s the coffee. There’s a compound called chlorogenic acid that is in regular coffee and also in decaf coffee, and that is what stimulates the colon to kind of perk up and move along. You could get that benefit from both a regular coffee and a decaf coffee. Whereas even a caffeinated tea will not have as strong of an effect because it doesn’t have the chlorogenic acid. I know a lot of people don’t drink coffee because they say, “I’m caffeine sensitive. The caffeine doesn’t agree with me, so I can’t drink coffee and therefore I can’t benefit from the gut stimulating properties of coffee.” And I always tell them decaf works too. If you enjoy the taste of coffee and you’re willing to have a decaf, get on that because it will help.
Allan (18:51): Cool. That was in the book; I just actually forgot about it. I guess the other question that came up as I was reading through, because I had a guest on once that swore by coffee enemas. I know enemas are a way to help with constipation from time to time. What are your thoughts on coffee enemas?
Tamara Freuman (19:11): Enemas in general will promote emptying. I’ve had patients who’ve needed to use enemas regularly because their pelvic floor muscles don’t work well or because they have extremely pathologically slow transit, and enemas on a regular basis are the only way that they’re able to get some relief from their bloating – enemas, whether it’s coffee or water or salient or whatever. My understanding for the few patients I’ve had that have done coffee enemas – it was really about an alternative delivery system of caffeine, because they were not able to tolerate coffee by mouth. Once I had a patient who had these terrible migraines and caffeine really helped her with her migraines, but she couldn’t drink coffee; it gave her this awful, awful acid reflux. So, she happened upon the solution of coffee enemas as a delivery system for caffeine, and that seemed to work for her. So my understanding of a coffee enema in terms of constipation relief – it probably has much more to do with the enema and probably a lot less to do with the coffee.
Allan (20:12): Okay. Any other thoughts if someone’s going through constipation that they can do besides the changing and making sure they’re getting plenty of fiber, maybe taking some of the soft laxative formula or perhaps enemas, that we could consider if we’re looking for treatment options?
Tamara Freuman (20:32): What I would say about the fiber question is, if you are someone who does have a pelvic floor function disorder, eating less fiber until your pelvic floor muscles have been rehabilitated through treatment might actually make it better, not worse. The fiber is a little bit tricky, which again comes back to this idea of, if more fiber doesn’t feel better, there may be a reason for that. And for some people less fiber may be better. There’s another thing that is a little bit underrecognized with constipation, and that is position on the toilet. There is something out there called a Squatty Potty, which is basically an overpriced stepstool that you put in front of your toilet and it raises your knees so that when you’re sitting in a toilet, you’re in a more squatting position. That is our body’s more preferred natural position for pooping. The pelvic floor muscles are optimally aligned when we are in a squatting position. Particularly for people who have pelvic floor problems, getting those knees up with a stepstool of some sort while you’re going to the bathroom can really make a difference.
Allan (21:34): I should reiterate, because I think a lot of people stop their squat real early. So just being seated is not necessarily the squat position. We’re talking about your bottom being a little lower, so that the hip crease is below your knees. And yes, the Squatty Potties put you into that natural position while you’re on the toilet if you are having some issues. That’s actually why the guy invented Squatty Potty. I think he said his mother was having some issues and that’s why he came up with it. It’s cool, but it is just a stool. And then I guess the last area I really want to get into, as far as some of the things that we would deal with that I see from time to time, is carbohydrate intolerance. Can you get into that a little bit?
Tamara Freuman (22:23): Sure. Carbohydrate intolerance is any time that you have digestive distress because of a poorly absorbed carbohydrate. There are these different families of carbohydrates that human beings may be inclined for one reason or another not to absorb very well. And I think the one that most people are familiar with is lactose intolerance. I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that for a large segment of the population, once we’re out of our teenage years or out of our 20s, we start producing less of the digestive enzyme lactase that we need to absorb milk, sugar or lactose. As a result, when we have too much dairy, especially high lactose dairy, we can get really gassy, we could get bloated, we can have diarrhea. That’s one that we’re very familiar with, but there are other carbohydrates that we could also be intolerant to. Another one is fructose. There are these special transporters in our gut that are supposed to take fructose out of the gut and some people have more of them than others. So if you have a really high load of fructose and you don’t have enough transporters to take it out of your gut, you’re going to have very similar symptoms as lactose intolerance. And the trick to some of these carbohydrate intolerances is the symptoms don’t onset immediately after the lactose or the fructose or the offending carbohydrate. It takes at least four hours and typically closer to six to eight hours, because the symptoms of malabsorption don’t happen until that sugar or carbohydrate makes it all the way to your colon, and that takes a while. So what can happen is someone might experience the onset of gas at 3:00 p.m. and they’ll look and be like, “What did I just eat?” But really what they should be looking at is what did they eat for breakfast? And there are other carbohydrate intolerances that I’m seeing more and more of as well, especially with some of the special diets and the new products coming out that are sugar-free, low carb. There’s a lot of use now of sugar alcohols – things like sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol. People like them a lot because they’re natural or naturally derived. They have no calories, they don’t raise your blood sugar, and so you’re seeing them in a lot of sugar-free, low carb, even some keto products. The problem is when you have a lot of them in your diet, they can exert a very similar effect as a lactose intolerance or a fructose tolerance because human beings don’t absorb them well. So, those too can produce gas, bloating, diarrhea, things like that. There are these different families of carbohydrates that can produce those symptoms.
Allan (24:51): That’s going to be a function of doing a food log and looking at symptoms and trying to find that connection.
Tamara Freuman (25:01): Definitely. What I tell people is a food and symptom journal for a week, 10 days, where you record the time of what you eat, everything, and the time of onset of symptoms. And what you’re going to want to do is look back at four to eight hours before your symptom onset, because very often that’s where it originates. That’s especially so for carbohydrate intolerance. Not necessarily for other types of bloating, but for a carbohydrate intolerance a food and symptom journal is terrific. It really provides the data. You need to figure it out.
Allan (25:33): In the book you went through several supplements that we can use to help our digestive system do the things it’s intended to do so we don’t have these plumbing issues, for a lack of a better word. Do you mind going through a few of your favorites that would benefit most of us to consider having as part of our diet?
Tamara Freuman (25:57): Definitely. I’m not a big pill pusher, I’m not a huge supplement pusher. I’ll start there.
Allan (26:03): I’m not either, but I’ll tell you, I get more questions about what supplements they should be taking. I tell them, whole foods first.
Tamara Freuman (26:11): Definitely.
Allan (26:13): And if there are some other issues and you want to optimize, that’s when you can start looking to these things.
Tamara Freuman (26:18): Absolutely. If I had to pick the top two that I recommend the absolute most often and the top two that give the most of my patients… If I could only have two supplements to recommend for the rest of my life, which two would they be? They would probably be magnesium and soluble fiber. Starting with magnesium – it’s an electrolyte, it’s a mineral, our bodies have a need for it. It’s something that we need anyway, but when we take it in higher doses of 350 milligrams or more, it has what we call an “osmotic laxative effect”. That’s a fancy way of saying it draws more water into the bowel and speeds up bowel transit so that people who tend to be on the slower, more sluggish side, people who tend to have harder stools that are difficult to pass, it’s magical for them. You take it at bedtime, usually in a dose of 400-500 milligrams, sometimes a little bit higher if needed, and the next morning, it really helps regulate bowels for people who are constipated. And it’s really safe, it’s really cheap, it’s really available. It’s something that I recommend a lot, and it’s just a lot of bang for your buck.
Allan (27:29): I use a ZMA supplement from time to time, but I would caution folks with magnesium. Walk your way into it. You might wake up in the middle of the night and have a “hurry, go” kind of situation. But I do use a ZMA occasionally. The other thing I’ve noticed about the ZMA is it gives me these really cool lucid dreams from time to time. I just dream better, and I think probably I’m sleeping better with the ZMA. It is also relaxing and helps you sleep.
Tamara Freuman (28:01): Interesting. I don’t have all that much experience with it, so it’s really interesting to get that feedback. I would say that the other supplement that I use a lot is for people with the opposite problem – diarrhea; people who are really prone to diarrhea and this pattern of running back and forth to the bathroom four or five times every morning where they feel like they can’t get out of the house. For that, a soluble fiber supplement in the mass market – things like Citrucel and Benefiber; in the more natural market you’re looking at things like acacia fiber, Heather’s Tummy fiber, things like that. Taking that in the evening at bedtime can really regulate the bowels in the morning, calm down that spasmodic back-and-forth, consolidate all these little pieces that aren’t coming out at once into one or two complete, calm, normal formed stools that you get out easily and you get on your way. I have to say that for my patients with irritable bowel syndrome that are diarrhea-prone and spasmodic – soluble fiber is just magical for them; they do so well with it. So, I rely heavily on that in my practice.
Allan (29:08): Okay. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Tamara Freuman (29:19): I love that definition of wellness and I think it’s so similar to my own. One thing I see that I think undermines a lot of people’s ability to achieve that definition that you’ve described, is there’s a real dogmatism about diet. We kind of adopt these dogmas that, “This is bad, this is good. You should eat this way. We all should eat that way, because so-and-so told me that and so-and-so eats that way.” There’s this black and white thinking as if all human beings have to eat the exact same diet. I like to really encourage people to step back and take a more global perspective, which is, there are populations all over this big planet of ours who have extremely healthy lives that live into their 100s without chronic disease very, very well, and they eat really different diets. There’s not one diet that all human beings have to eat. And one diet that works for you or for your personal trainer or for your aunt or for your best friend might wreak havoc on you, in terms of digestively, or might be miserable for you because it makes you gassy or you hate the foods on it or it’s inconvenient for you. There are a lot of reasons why we don’t all have to eat the same diet, and I think allowing yourself and opening yourself to the possibility that you could have a very healthy diet and I could have a really healthy diet, and we could have completely different diets, and that is not a conflict. I think that’s so important. So that’s the one thing, to be a little bit less dogmatic about diet and really be open to the possibility of different paths to good health.
There’s another thing I see a lot that really has a negative impact on people’s relationship with food and eating, which I think impairs wellness. It’s this real emphasis on what to avoid, what to eliminate, what’s toxic, what’s bad, and placing foods into these categories of dietary demons and defining your diet based on what you don’t eat. What I’ll say is I’ll have a patient who could come to me and say they follow a vegan diet or a plant-based diet. That doesn’t tell me anything about whether it’s a healthy diet, because potato chips are vegan, apple juice is vegan. So, defining your diet and good health by what you don’t eat, I think is a lot less useful than defining your diet and its helpfulness based on what you do eat. What’s actually going in your mouth? I don’t care if you’re a vegan, Mediterranean, keto, whatever kind of dietary pattern you follow. It’s less about what you avoid and more about what you do eat. You could avoid 50 things in the world that are supposed to be terrible for you, but if you’re not eating any vegetables or you’re not eating anything with vitamins, your diet’s not going to be healthy. And so really focusing on putting good stuff in your mouth rather than being so fearful of being poisoned by something that might not be perfect going in your mouth, is I think a really healthy, constructive way to look at your diet.
I think the third one is the importance of routine. We think about diet as being this main key to health, but I think we also forget that sleep plays a really big role. Movement and activity play a really big role. And ultimately for optimal health, our bodies want us to be in a rhythm of consistent meal times, adequate rest, regular movement. When any one of those three pieces of the puzzle are missing, it’s going to be really hard to have true and complete health and wellness. We talk a lot about diet, but then we stay up too late, messing around on YouTube, and then we get five hours of sleep. Or we skip meals some days and then try to compensate by eating a super healthy lunch, but we didn’t have breakfast. I think the best way to really be kind to our bodies and give our bodies what they need is to pay attention to consistent rhythms, routines, meal times, sleep times. Our bodies thrive, I think, when we have these set schedules and our organs know what to expect and have that predictability.
Allan (33:26): Tamara, those were excellent. I love all of those, so thank you for that. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book The Bloated Belly Whisperer, where would you like for me to send them?
Tamara Freuman (33:39): I have a website – TheBloatedBellyWhisperer.com. There’s information about the book. I have a lot of my old newsletters, where I sound off on things that are on my mind and important to me. There are links to things that I’ve written. I write a lot online for U.S. News and for Self, and so links to a lot of those articles are on my website. So I think my website’s a great place to start.
Allan (34:01): Excellent. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/365, and I’ll be sure to have a link there. Tamara, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Tamara Freuman (34:13): Thank you for having me. It was so fun.
If you've been struggling with gastrointestinal issues, you know it’s a big pain. Now Tamara in her book has given you a quiz that’s going to help you have the right conversations with your doctor to get this taken care of once and for all. So, I do hope that you’ll go out and check out that book if you have any issues with your stomach at all.
Also, I’ve been telling you this past couple of weeks, during the month of January, I am offering to sell you a signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound to get a hardbound edition of the book, or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback to get a paperback edition of the book, a signed copy mailed directly to you. I can only do this during the month of January because in February I’m moving to Panama, so hurry up while supplies last, because I did get a shipment of books in and I’d like to get them in your hands if you’re interested in having a signed copy. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.
Did you have a New Year’s resolution to go on a particular diet? How’s that working out for you? Our guest today is a holistic weight loss coach and one of the first international food addiction counselors. She’s going to give you some tactics and strategies to help you along with your diet. Her name is Erin Boardman Wathen, and the book we’re going to talk about is Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?
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Allan (1:10): Erin, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Erin Boardman Wathen (1:14): Thank you so much for having me.
Allan (1:16): Your book, Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?, I think is extremely timely, because we’re in the new year here and this is the time when people start their new diets, and it’s also the time when they quit their new diets. The word “diet” to me actually means what you’re eating. If you look in the dictionary, that’s what you’re eating. But we’ve kind of morphed the word over the years to mean a temporary state of eating, a restriction of doing something different than what we were doing before, almost with the intent that we’re going to go back to that later.
Erin Boardman Wathen (1:56): Yes.
Allan (1:57): But your book’s not about that.
Erin Boardman Wathen (1:59): No. My book is about how the fact that we go on diets is why we can’t stick to them, because it’s the way that you’re going to change your life, change your body composition, change all of those things, so you have a long-term approach. The reason why so many of us could not stick to our diet was because we went on a diet – the term that has become relevant, not the actual Webster’s Dictionary term, because we go on it like a Ferris wheel for example, where we always intend to get off of it at the wedding, the reunion, see the magic number, without any real commitment to the rest of our lives. And what I’ve noticed is a very important key to all of this is how and why we gain the weight in the first place. And it’s very often I hear this time of year, and I’ll hear it more in January: “I just enjoy the holidays.” There’s way more to it than enjoying the holidays. You also are eating cookies 24/7. So, we also need to really do a deep dive into why you gain the weight, how you gain the weight, and not just chalk it up to “That’s how life is.”
Allan (3:21): There was a point in the book where you said, “Looking back on it, I was not suffering from a lack of morals, nor was my life insufficient in some major way.” That sort of hit me in the chest, that we get into these episodes where we’re not living the way we want to live, and we then become the judge and jury of ourselves, and can be pretty harsh. Someone read the introduction to my book and they were like, “Allan, you’re way too harsh on yourself.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t think I was harsh enough.” But can you tell us a little bit about your backstory, because it was kind of fascinating to me? You shared so much, which was amazing, because it really opened my eyes to how we look to ourselves, how we’re perceived by others and how that all makes us into this stew of not living a whole life.
Erin Boardman Wathen (4:25): Yeah, no problem. I was definitely one of those kids whose mother had the right intention of never ever letting us have sugar, but when I had it, I was so enamored with it, I couldn’t eat it quickly enough and I had to get more, and had a very emotional and chemical reaction, looking back on it, from an early age. I distinctly remember my brother and I – he was years younger – Easter morning, I ate all my candy before we got to church, because there it was. I got older, I started dieting, but the sugar was very prevalent, especially in the ‘90s. For those of you who are younger or older than me – fat–free was what we were told was the way everything needed to be. Dean Ornish wrote a great book in the ‘80s talking about a certain type of diet for heart patients that somehow got distorted into everyone eating buckets of SnackWell’s. We used to when I was in college. So, the combination of my own predisposition to loving sugar, and everything having so much sugar at that time, because we took all the fat out. So, my weight definitely fluctuated; not enough that anyone ever really talked to me in a medical sense, or there was ever an intervention or anything like that. I was always under the radar because I, quote unquote, “looked normal”. I was a normal size and I always exercised, so my weight wasn’t too out of the normal range. But through all those years, I can look at every picture from my life and tell you how much I weighed, because I was always obsessed with how much I ate, “Can I be skinny by Friday? What’s going to fit?” It was this constant mental chatter going on constantly, constantly. I call it the white noise machine; it was always on, drowning out other things.
I didn’t understand intellectually as a person that it wasn’t because I was a bad person, it wasn’t because I was weak. It was because I was flat out addicted to sugar. I would catch myself having a disagreement with a friend or a family member and eating ice cream on the phone while I was arguing with them, in between bites. I would be getting in my points while eating fish food and standing in front of the refrigerator. Those episodes really made me realize there was way more to it than just “Erin likes sugar”. Everyone always thought it was so cute how much I liked sugar, like, “It’s so funny that you like sugar so much because you’re skinny.” And I’m like, “Well, I’m not skinny, but okay, fine.” But it was never a thing where anyone ever spoke to me about it seriously; none of my doctors, even though I was still getting acne and cavities in my 30s. No one ever asked me what I was eating, which is crazy to me. So, it definitely reached a point where on all those levels of acceptance I had to understand the reason I wasn’t the weight I wanted to be or the reason I was always kind of short with my husband, even though he would say I still am sometimes, is because I was always in some stage of sugar, either my blood sugar’s spiking, my blood sugar’s rising. I was constantly on this rollercoaster of sugar and Diet Coke. And the problem with diet soda, which a lot of us don’t understand is, the reason why we like it is because it tastes sweet, but it really messes with our brains and we end up needing, wanting, craving sugar even more. So it was a lot of sugar, artificial sweetener and a range of other symptoms.
Allan (8:31): I used to really have a bad addiction to Diet Coke. It wasn’t that I went around hiding it from people, because that just seemed to be normal. You’re walking around with a 44-oz Diet Coke. Why not? There are no calories. It’s not the lifestyle we really want to live, but it doesn’t register with us that we’re hurting ourselves. Whereas with candy, sugar and those types of things – and I think your favorite was the gummy bears – was that you had these in the console of your car, you had them stashed in places around the house. And even though you knew you wanted to get away from them, your body wouldn’t let you. Can you talk a little bit about sugar addiction and your experiences with it?
Erin Boardman Wathen (9:18): The thing about sugar addiction is, when you look back upon your life, you probably have pictures in your house, or your mother does, of you and your first birthday cake. We’re all celebrating, “Yay! Allan’s one! He’s going to get sugar. We’re going to light a candle.” So most of us have our first taste of sugar when we’re really, really young, way before we can even really understand it. And it’s so normalized. A lot of the food we eat currently for the average American person, so the standard American diet, is chock full of sugar we’re aware of. Most people will acknowledge there’s sugar in ice cream, for example. But sugar we’re not aware of, in things like hamburger buns or even juice. There’s orange juice or whatever fruit, and they add sugar into it to make it even sweeter. So, if you’re someone who is addicted to sugar, you could cut out the ice cream and the gummy bears, but unless you’re really aware of everything you’re eating, those hot dog buns are going to trigger your body to want more sugar. There are a lot of chemicals involved and dopamine receptors and a lot of science, but just to summarize it, which I think is easiest – the more sugar we eat, the more sugar we want, because like any drug, our body gets a tolerance going. For example, if you used to be able to only, quote unquote, “need” a medium Frappuccino, over time, the next one looks pretty good. That’s because your body’s craving more sugar. We might not even be aware of what’s going on, but that’s the behind the scenes science of why people end up with these gigantic drinks or smoothies or whatever, because “That sounds okay, but the bigger one sounds a little bit better.” That’s the sugar talking; that’s not your body talking.
Allan (11:30): All that time, I thought it was the caffeine talking, which it probably was, because that was my primary source of caffeine. I decided to give up the Diet Cokes, but I still relapse every once in a while, but not very often. I decided I needed the caffeine, so I shifted over to black coffee. And it took me a little while. I actually had to use fruit as a bridge to get me over to drinking black coffee, but I was able to eventually get out from under what I would call a Diet Coke addiction.
Erin Boardman Wathen (12:07): I distinctly remember the same thing. I kind of prioritize which Diet Cokes meant the most to me, body-wise, craving, that sort of a concept. But that 4:00 p.m. one, I used to have when my kids would come home from school and everybody is in a bad mood. I’m making dinner or going to soccer. There’ll be times now where all of a sudden, out of the blue, I need a Diet Coke. I’ll look at my watch and it’s 4:00 or 5:00. It’s been years, but I’ll still have that, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! A Diet Coke would help!” And the thing is, if you are someone who’s got a problem with Diet Coke, it’s really easy to get one. You could just send your kid into the grocery store and they could bring you one out. We have a problem with these sorts of foods and drinks in our current environment, with the way the grocery stores are set up, and even things like going to get paper and there’s a row of candy before you check out at Staples. You really have to make a conscious effort to be aware of where all this stuff lies, because it isn’t like alcohol that’s in bars. Sugar is in everything, it’s everywhere. People love to give it to you as gifts, as “Thank You’s”, samples at Costco. But being aware of everything it’s in, or saying “No, thank you” until you know otherwise is something I’ve had to learn over time. Sugar addiction is one of those things where it’s so easy to trigger it again, even if you’ve been off of it for weeks and months, because your body is still kind of longing for it a little bit. And then there’s also the psychological component of, “A 4:00 o’clock Diet Coke would really help my kids be less irritating. It would fix it. My kids would whine less if I had a Diet Coke, the homework would be easier.” So, the physical and all the other aspects of when we get in these habits. And then our body is also interested in having it. It becomes a lot more of a process than just not having the ice cream. It also becomes reading every label and being very aware of what’s in your salad dressing, because even if we have the greatest intentions, if we’re always triggering ourselves for sugar without even meaning to, with a Diet Coke for example – it’s really hard to get away from it.
Allan (14:47): I like how in the book you’ve given us basically four guidelines, because the way I look at it is, one, I believe humans are opportunistic eaters. When we were foraging and hunting, that was perfect. We came upon a field of blueberries in the spring – it’s time to fatten up for the fall and winter, so go ahead, gorge yourself on the blueberries until they’re gone. And then they’re gone. But today you walk into a grocery store and 95% of it is sugar-laden crap.
Erin Boardman Wathen (15:17): Totally.
Allan (15:18): Your four guidelines give what I feel is a really good, solid base model for someone to go through their daily eating and figure out how to make it work for them. Do you mind going through your four guidelines?
Erin Boardman Wathen (15:31): Yeah, no problem. A food plan is something you stay on, it’s how you live your life. It’s from here till whenever. It’s not the “skinny by Friday” concept, or the reunion. It’s just how you’re living. I really thought a lot about all my nutrition knowledge, all my behavioral knowledge, all those things, and how to summarize it as quickly and as succinctly as possible. And I got to the four fundamentals because I think anything less than five on your hand is easy to remember, but also because if you stick to these things you will pretty much be okay. Even though they’re very simple – the amount of words or the amount of numbers – it doesn’t mean that it isn’t broad in its scope. So, first of all, stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. If you think about your average American grocery store, there’s fruit and vegetables on one wall, meat is always on the back, by the freezers, and the other wall is usually dairy. And you have oils and stuff in there somewhere. But we don’t really need anything in the middle. That’s where the Wheat Thins live, and the Granola, and all of the things that trip us up, that just decrease our quality of life. So, the first one is always stick to the perimeter or the grocery store, not just when you’re in the grocery store, but also in life. So if you’re going out to dinner and they put the bread down, you don’t really need the bread. You don’t need all of those refined carbohydrates.
Allan (17:19): I get really weird looks when I go to a conference and I pass the bread and I don’t take one. And then I don’t eat my dessert, and they’re just looking at me like…
Erin Boardman Wathen (17:30): Like, “What’s wrong with that guy?” Also, when I was doing my food plan, it was really important to me to have it not be ridiculous for normal people. By “normal people”, I mean average budgets in average parts of the world, not people that are going to go to five different grocery stores to get all the ingredients and spend hours in the kitchen and having a ton of extra cash. I’m talking normal food like chicken, broccoli, olive oil, things you can get in a regular grocery store. So, stick to the perimeters is always the first thing. The second is, three meals a day. Now if you’re an intermittent faster, you can say your coffee is one of them. But we don’t need to snack. We’re just in this habit of three meals a day and two snacks, and you always have dessert, like you were saying, or the bread. If we’re eating the right amount of food and the right portions, we can go very easily from lunch till dinner. We’re just used to having a snack, because everyone was always telling us we had to have snacks all the time. And look, there are so many snack foods available. So, we don’t need to be eating as often. And almost always the snacks we go to are some sort of chips or a bar or something that’s not really nutritious. It’s just empty calories, empty bag, empty everything.
Allan (19:12): The real thing here is, once people get off the sugar, they’ll start to recognize that the reason they were hungry at 10:00 and then again at 3:00 was the low blood sugar. They had a high blood sugar before, after they ate breakfast, because it’s orange juice, a bagel and a cup of coffee with three teaspoons of sugar in it. Their blood sugar spikes, and then by 10:00 their blood sugar’s plummeting and their body’s screaming at them, “Give me more.” So once you get to that whole food, like you said, walking around the perimeter of the store, that’s actually going to make this three meals per day a whole lot easier.
Erin Boardman Wathen (19:49): Absolutely. The reason why people are ravenous at 4:00, a lot of it is because they didn’t eat enough fat at lunch. It all kind of goes together – we’re not eating enough in one meal, so then we have a snack in between. It’s this whole domino effect with one bad choice leads to another bad choice, leads to you’re eating from the time you get home from work until you’re asleep. You had the best intentions in the world at 6:00 that morning and you’re going to bed at 10:00 and you’re like, “What did I just do?” Because you’re eating sugar all day long. And it’s really easy to keep eating it, because it’s in everything. I’ve had clients who had two or three barbecue potato chips and are craving sugar for a week, and they’re like, “I don’t know what I did to myself.” I’m like, “Tell me everything you ate.” It’ll come down to a couple of barbecue chips, because there’s sugar in there, it triggered them. They, for whatever reason, weren’t cognizant of it. Next thing you know, they’re stealing their kids’ Halloween candy. It’s a slippery slope sometimes.
Allan (21:00): It’s the parent tax.
Erin Boardman Wathen (21:04): Yeah, Dad tax, right? So, you have three meals a day, the perimeter of the grocery store. I also talk a lot about meal planning, and not just “On Sunday I make batches of chicken” sort of thing, which is great if you do that, but also not making any food decisions on the fly. You should pretty much know what you’re eating every day, because it follows your meal plan. But also if you know you’re going out somewhere, look at the menu ahead of time if it’s someplace new. You shouldn’t be looking for excitement in your food. Your food shouldn’t be entertainment, it shouldn’t be your fun, it shouldn’t be your friend. It really is all you need to get from A to B in your lives, but we’ve made it into something else. So, meal planning is making sure you have all the right stuff in your house, but it’s also knowing the night before what you’re going to eat tomorrow. Not just what you feel like it going to the grocery store when you’re starving. Next thing you know, you have five cups of ice cream because it seemed like a really good idea. So, planning ahead and having that awareness, not when you’re in the moment of, “I’m not going to have dessert at that conference, because it never serves me. I feel really tired afterwards and I can’t do my work back in my hotel room or at the meet and greet or whatever.” When you chose not to have the bread and the desert, you probably made that decision a long time before you were in that situation.
Allan (22:40): I know when I walk into a conference, if it’s a buffet, there are tables I can select to go to or not go to. But if they’re bringing the food out, I know 99% of the time they’ll come out with a bread bowl, then they’ll bring out your salad, then your dish. And your dessert’s sitting right there in front of you the whole time. I don’t even look at the desert as a food item. I look at it as decoration on the table.
Erin Boardman Wathen (23:04): It’s entertainment, right?
Allan (23:05): It is. And I know everybody else is trying to chow through their food so that they can hit that cake. I’ll easily pass the bread and the butter. It took me really a long, long time to train myself to do that, and it kind of touches on one of the things you talked about in your four guidelines. I make sure, in a normal sense, that I’m getting enough fat. I’m not eating low fat. I’m eating high fat, low carb. I’m eating whole foods and my body is pretty much nutrient-dense because I’m making sure to get good, high quality food. I’m planning for that. I’ll go on to Thrive Market later today and order some organic meat shipped to my house, because that’s what I want to have. My local grocery stores are not really good at having enough variety of meat. So I’ll order my meat, they deliver it to my house in a few days, I’ll start thawing it out and that’s my food for next week. I like how you put all those together because I do think they give us a really good foundation moving forward. Now, we’re always going to run into the folks that say you can still have your cake, you can still have some bread; you just have to do it in moderation. It’s all calories in, calories out. This is another unique thing about sugar addiction – just like with all addictions, some of us can get off of an addiction really quickly and some of us cannot. Moderation might work for one out of 100 people, but tell me why moderation is not really the route that most of us should be taking.
Erin Boardman Wathen (24:48): First of all, moderation is like the unicorn. It’s rare that someone can just have a bite of cake, just a bite. Odds are they’re going to eat half of the piece, all of the piece, many more pieces. We need to look at food not just as beautiful and nutritious; it’s also a chemical reaction that happens. When we chew it, we start digestion. All these things happen internally when you just think you’re eating lunch. So, when we invite those chemicals into our body – and cake is a good example because you have sugar and flour, so you’ve got double dose – our body is going to think, “This is a really great idea.” Our pleasure sensors, dopamine, is very excited by this introduction. So that one bite is sort of like, “What do you mean? That’s it?” Kind of leaving it high and dry. Where if you never go there in the first place, you might see the cake, acknowledge the cake, be aware of the cake at the conference. But having just one bite and not going into a full-fledged sugar thing later, or bread, depending on who you are, is very, very unlikely, just based on the chemicals. Now, some people don’t care about that kind of thing. Some people don’t care about sweets, but they really can go for bread, like pizza, donuts, whatever. And it’s the bread. The way that we’ve gotten flour and sugar too nowadays – it’s so ground, it’s so refined, it’s so processed. It’s pretty close to our brain, because they’re both quick acting carbohydrates. What a lot of people don’t understand is that everything we eat, at the end of the day, has to fit under three macronutrients – carbs, fat, or protein. Sugar and grains are both carbs, and they’re quick acting carbs, compared to broccoli, which is slower. Not as exciting as cake. It’s also a carbohydrate, but it’s not one of the ones that will jack up your blood sugar and create this whole craving thing and have you start drooling. While a bite of cake, most of the time for most people, they’ll have a very difficult chemical and I guess psychological reaction to only having a little bit of it. If you notice all those mini muffins get eaten just as quickly as the big muffins, if not sooner, because they seem so innocent and because they’re little and cute.
And I remember moderation. Moderation was very big in the ‘90s; it still is very big with a lot of commercial diet plans. Even the whole “cheat day” concept is a take off of moderation. But to have all of those things reintroduced to your body and say it’s only going to be at that one meal is very difficult. Also, when we’ve been using food as entertainment, as our friend, as whatever emotional need we had at the time, you’re also bringing that up and up again with those foods. Chocolate cake could have also been what your grandmother used to make when you went over there on holidays or whatever. So there’s a lot of stuff around the chocolate cake that isn’t just the chemicals; it’s also going to be how you remember it. And what’s really interesting too is there’s this thing that happens when we get off of sugar and then we have it again. You’re probably used to the concept of a relapse with an alcoholic or a drug addict. But this thing is called “euphoric recall”. So, if we’re off of sugar and then we decide to have the bite of chocolate cake, because moderation is this thing we all believe in – it will actually taste better, because our body will want us to indulge more. That’s why when people relapse on any of these substances, it’s so much harder for them to get off of it than it was the first time, because your body is working against you. So, my take is, just stay away from it completely because moderation, like I said, is like the unicorn. It doesn’t really exist.
Allan (29:33): That takes me back to my concept of opportunistic eaters. They didn’t come up on a field of chocolate cake and start binging on it. There was some true nutrition in the berries, the fruits or whatever they found in that valley. Yes, for a period of time they went nuts because, like you said, it tastes wonderful because they’ve been seven, eight months without having any of it. And now here it is in abundant supply. Go ahead and eat it because at that point it was very, very healthy. I can tell you there was probably no moderation whatsoever if they were traveling around forging and found a big field of fruit. They would go nuts, but they needed to. That was a survival mechanism. And today we don’t really need that. Foods that are around us are not as nutritious as necessary, so moderation is going to be something that is not going to work for the vast majority of us. It’ll be, like you said, the unicorn that went out there and did it and said they can still have their cheat day and they’re fine. But for a lot of people, once they have that cheat, that little slip, then they start this rationalization of, “Well, I did have the cake, so I’ve kind of blown today. I guess I’ll go ahead and order a regular Coke and I’ll go ahead and get some popcorn at the movies.” They wake up the next morning and they’re like, “I really want to stop by Starbucks and get a Frappuccino.” And so the slip, while it was a single event, it now becomes a cascading mess. Can you talk to us a little bit about slips and how we can deal with those?
Erin Boardman Wathen (31:15): The thing about a slip is – let’s use the chocolate cake thing because it’s nice and easy. It seems like it’s no big deal, but we need to be very aware, like you said, the foragers. We’re not that far away in our bodies from that mindset. We have technology, and isn’t it great we can get everyone on our smartphone? Our bodies are still thinking “feast or famine” and “Is this fight or flight?” when you’re in a car accident. All these evolutionary responses kick in because we still have a lot of them lurking around. With a slip, when we reintroduce the sugar, our body is really, really happy about it, and then our brain decides, “We’re going to make it taste even better to her just to get her to eat more of it.” So here comes euphoric recall, yay! And then we start the internal nonsense of, “I’ve already blown it” or, “It’s okay to have dessert. It’s normal to gain weight in the holidays”, “Well, I’ve already gone there today, so let’s go there more.” The whole, “I have one flat tire; let’s make them all flat.” Next thing you know, we’ve talked ourselves into an entire crazy amount of food that we didn’t really think about eating. We just find ourselves eating it, because that cheat slip or that moderation slip, whatever you’re going to call that bite of chocolate cake, can easily morph into a cheat meal, a cheat day, a cheat weekend, a cheat week, just cheating. If we have that first slip, which is known to happen, it’s how we handle it. If we have the whole, “We’re going to flatten the other three tires because one tire’s flat” in our brains – that is not your best interest talking to you. That is the primal need for having stuff, and the hunting and gathering, all that other sort of analogies. That is not your best interest. Your best interest is to go brush your teeth, get some water, get away from the cake, and be very aware the next couple of days are not going to be very pleasant because your body is going to be jouncing for sugar. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you have to follow through though. But if you make that chocolate cake that you’re a bad person, there’s no point trying to eat right anyway, it’s normal… When you start talking yourself into how it was okay, then you’re definitely off in the wrong direction.
Allan (34:04): I’m going to steal that three car tires analogy, because I really do like that. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Erin Boardman Wathen (34:23): I thought about this before you asked me, so I definitely have a bit of an answer planned. We didn’t get to it, but my last fundamental of eating is to always have fat, protein, a low glycemic carb and fiber every time we eat. That will do a lot of good things, but it will also help regulate our blood sugar. When our blood sugar is not like a rollercoaster, when it’s nice and slowly processing food, it’s a lot easier to stay in that mental space. So we’re thinking about how to stay well. We’re in a place where we make the right decisions, where we’re going for the water and not the Diet Coke. Having a good handle on your blood sugar is a really good place to start, as far as staying well. Everything starts with our thoughts, right? If we’re thinking that we’re going to beat the system with sugar because we’re going to be that one person that’s going to be able to only have a bite – that’s going against own best interests. So, having a really good handle on your blood sugar is a very good place to start. So that’s number one.
Number two is to really spend a lot of time and think about how you want to feel and how you want to look six months from now, a month from now. All those dates and times just seem to happen to us, but actually, we have a lot of time before. For example, January 2nd is a notorious big dieting day, because the holidays are over and all these other things. Everyone’s pants are kind of tight. What if back in early December you sat down and thought about, “How do I want to feel on January 2nd? Do I want to feel like a busted can of buscuits, like I have all the other years before, or do I want to feel like I’m starting off 2019 with my best foot forward?” Think about both scenarios, because both scenarios are available to you, but one is going to put you in the right direction for a higher level of wellbeing, and the other one is going to get you where you’ve always gotten, which is probably breaking your diet by February 8th, which I think is the usual date most people fall off the wagon with their year-end resolutions. So really having a lot of mindset work, visualization and being realistic with what result you want and how you’re going to need to get there. You can’t feel your best on January 2nd if you’re eating nothing but cookies and drinking chocolate martinis the month beforehand. That’s not how it works. So, visualizing and thinking about what your future self really wants and needs is not for you to completely go off the wagon and go crazy over the holidays, and then January 2nd decide you’re going to starve yourself and do green juice, which is putting yourself in another extreme tailspin. So, that’s the second one.
My last one would be to be really cognizant of portions, because often times we have no idea what a serving is. We just think it’s till the bowl’s full, or whatever they serve us. If when we’re home, we weigh and measure all of the things we’re eating, we have an idea of what exactly six ounces of beef looks like. So when we’re in a restaurant and we see this huge piece of meat, we know it’s not one serving, even though they gave it to us on a plate. There’s actually enough meat for three meals there. So just being aware of that, like you said, opportunistic eaters, that if someone gives us a plate with a giant steak, a lot of people will try to eat it all, because it’s expensive or it’s special or it’s your birthday, when actually you’re eating three times the amount of meat you would be eating if you made it at home. So being very aware of portions and how crazy our portions are right now. A really good and cheap way to get a hold of this is regular old measuring cups when you’re at your house, and get a food scale, because when we’re out in the world and we’re presented with these gigantic portions, we understand that there’s no reason for us to finish it. But there’s this tendency to do it just the same.
Allan (39:08): I agree. Those were wonderful. Thank you for that. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book, Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?, where would you like me to send them?
Erin Boardman Wathen (39:18): The book is going to be in bookstores on December 18th, but before then you can pre-order it on Amazon or BarnesAndNoble.com. And they can get in touch with me on my website. It’s pretty easy – it’s ErinWathenWellness.com. All my information is right there. My Instagram – same handle, Facebook – same handle. It’s pretty streamlined.
Allan (39:39): Good deal. This is episode 364, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/364, and I’ll be sure to have all the links there. Erin, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Erin Boardman Wathen (39:52): Thank you for having me.
I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. You know I’m not a big fan of diets and weight loss procedures, things that we’re doing to try to lose weight. I think there are other health markers that are much more important, like your lab results. Now, if you haven’t had labs done in a while and maybe you just don’t want to go to your doctor or your doctor doesn’t really order you the kind of labs that you’re interested in knowing about, you can go to YourLabwork.com. It’s a company that will actually do the labs you want them to do. You tell them what you want, they get a doctor involved, the doctor does the things that he’s supposed to do. You show up at a Quest Center and they take your lab works. I have an agreement with them. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab – very good prices on their lab work. And they give me an education piece so I can do a little bit of deep diving into what the labs mean. I went through and had a full panel done, so really, really deep cholesterol, hormones, pretty much all of it, and got all the way down to the particle counts. Really, really detailed information; more information than my doctor would normally go for. I have that now as a benchmark for the year, so as I do things for my health and fitness over the course of this year, I now have a really good benchmark to measure my performance as we go. So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab and order any kind of lab work that you want
Also, I got my books in. If you would like a signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound edition, or go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you would like the paperback edition. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. I’m charging the same price you’d pay on Amazon. I’m eating the shipping. But I will send you a signed copy during the month of January, because remember, I’m moving to Panama in February so I can only do this through the month of January. And I’m going to do this until the books run out. So, go ahead and get on and order that: 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.
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Often when we’re trying to lose weight, we end up getting into a stall or a plateau. Our guest today in his book, The Setpoint Diet, is going to tell you why that happens and what you can do to break the cycle. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Calorie Myth and I’m pretty certain The Setpoint Diet is also going to make that bestseller list. With no further ado, here’s Jonathan Bailor.
Allan (1:14): Jonathan, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Jonathan Bailor (1:17): Thank you so much for having me.
Allan (1:18): When I was really getting deep into my self-education of what I needed to do for myself, I came across The Calorie Myth. It was an eye-opening book, to say the least, for someone who really had been brought up in the mantra of calories in / calories out, just eat less, exercise more. I’d get on the treadmill or I’d get on the elliptical and I worked my butt off, and then I’m starving all day. Then you eat more calories to get your calories back. I’m like, “I’m eating at a deficit and I’ve done this for a while and it’s not working.” I think a lot of people run into that fact of, they’re doing everything right, and their body just doesn’t want to get rid of the weight.
Jonathan Bailor (2:06): It can be extremely frustrating, Allan. It gets to the root of my whole team’s work, and really, we stand on the shoulders of giants, articulating research done by the top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, at Johns Hopkins, UCLA, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic over the past 60 years that’s been buried from the mainstream. And this definition of, you’re doing everything right – what we’ve found is, the definition of what is right is wrong. It’s analogous to when we look at obesity and diabetes as diseases, which they are, as classified by the American Medical Association, that if you were to go to a doctor with a broken arm and the doctor were to prescribe you cough syrup, and you took that cough syrup correctly. Chances are your arm wouldn’t get any better and you would feel very helpless. It’s a condition called “learned helplessness”, because you’re doing everything you’re told, but the treatment for the disease you’re suffering from or the medical condition you are suffering from is simply incorrect. And that’s what we found over the past now 15 years, that this prescription we’ve been written for both obesity, overweight, and diabetes is simply wrong. What we have been told is right is wrong, and that is evidenced by the catastrophic impact it’s had on our culture.
Allan (3:26): Yes. I do have to say this also – in your book, The Setpoint Diet, you really got deep into the science. Each point you had in there was supported, and I really, really liked that. It was so much support, you couldn’t put all the bibliography in the book. You have to link to another website if you really want to go down the rabbit hole. I did. I spent a lot of time in that rabbit hole, because it was really fascinating stuff. Our body has this setpoint, and I talk to my clients about it all the time as they plateau. They’re working hard, they’re doing some of the right things, or most of the right things, but their body’s going to somewhat hit this setpoint. You call it a setpoint; I call it the body’s happy weight. We might not be happy with it, but our body is. Can you talk a little bit in detail about the setpoint and why we have a setpoint?
Jonathan Bailor (4:17): Allan, the term “setpoint” – a lot of your listeners may say, “I’ve heard of that term before.” And there is a bit of an irony here. In 1983, there was a book published called The Setpoint Diet – literally the exact same title of my book. But you can’t copyright a title. And that was also the year I was born. So I don’t know if fate had the destiny in store for me. The concept of “setpoint” has been around for a while, but the thing that’s happened over the past 7 to 10 years, which has been so revolutionary is, it’s gone from the setpoint theory to, we’ve now proven this. When I say “we”, I mean the broader scientific community, not me personally. For instance, if you look at even Wikipedia and you look up diabetes – the medical condition diabetes is defined by the breakdown in the body’s ability… This is according to Wikipedia; I’m not saying that Wikipedia is like God’s truth, I’m just saying that even Wikipedia is acknowledging this. It says that diabetes is the breakdown of the body’s ability to homeostatically, a.k.a. automatically regulate blood sugar around a healthy range. You do things to raise your blood sugar, your body does things to lower it. You do things to lower your blood sugar, your body automatically does things to elevate it. There’s never been a question, ever, that there is a setpoint around your blood sugar. There’s also never been a question, ever, that there is a setpoint for blood pressure. The breakdown in that homeostatic regulation of blood pressure is called hypertension. The breakdown in the homeostatic regulation of blood sugar is called diabetes. And we’ve now proven, over the past 7 to 10 years, that the breakdown in the body weight setpoint, which is as irrefutable as the blood pressure and blood sugar setpoints, is known as the disease of obesity or overweight. And it’s no more debatable than that your body regulates body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar. Once you understand that, it changes everything about how we approach weight gain and weight loss.
Allan (6:43): Right, because if we don’t reset our setpoint, basically we are not going to be able to, in the long term, keep that weight off.
Jonathan Bailor (6:53): That’s exactly right, and it would be just as absurd. Once someone gets the following point, it’s a little bit like seeing life in color for the first time. It will change the way you see everything. So, if you went to your doctor and you had diabetes, and your doctor said, “Eat less”, you would say, “Wait, what?” Eating less does not fix the problem with your pancreas, the problem with insulin secretion. The underlying root of the breakdown of the blood sugar setpoint can’t be solved by starvation. If you went to your doctor suffering from hypertension – again, the breakdown in the blood pressure setpoint – and your doctor said, “Eat less, you lazy glutton”, we would say, “Hey, wait a minute. There’s something else happening.” It’s the same thing with body weight.
Allan (7:55): Right. Now, in the book you mention three hidden factors that are basically setting this setpoint. So if I want to fix my setpoint, these are the three areas I need to think about, right?
Jonathan Bailor (8:09): Exactly. The term, again, “setpoint” has been around for quite a bit of time, but what has changed recently is a concrete definition and identification of what makes it up, how it breaks down and how we can fix it. So, what determines your body weight or body fat setpoint is the interaction of three key elements of your biology and physiology – your brain, your gut, and your hormones; and very specifically, when there is inflammation in your brain, when there is dysregulation in your gut microbiota, and when you have hormonal imbalances. Your first brain and your second brain – your gut – communicate via hormonal signals to automatically regulate appetite, to automatically burn calories. It’s not that calories don’t exist, and it’s not that calories in / calories out is like unicorns. It’s that your body is brilliantly set up to automatically regulate calories in and calories out so that you maintain this body weight setpoint. But when that system – the brain, the gut and the hormones – breaks down, that setpoint creeps up and obesity ensues.
Allan (9:30): When people say “calories in / calories out” or they want to keep that paradigm, they just want to keep sticking to that simple rule, I say there are periods of time when our ancestors had no food, and there were times when the food was abundant. I’m guessing that our bodies probably weren’t designed to allow them to get obese over the summer and then whittle away over the winter. There are some metabolic changes that are happening during those periods of time that are allowing them to continue to survive.
Jonathan Bailor (10:01): That is correct. The thing that is essential to understand is that at the most basic level, the only thing that we need to prove from a scientific perspective to say that the setpoint is an irrefutable fact is if you feed people more calories than they need, does their body automatically burn more calories? The answer is “Yes”. If you feed people fewer calories than they need, does their body automatically burn fewer calories? The answer is “Yes”. And you can even look at it from a different perspective. You could say if someone exercises very heavily earlier in the day, does their body work to conserve calories later in the day? The answer is “Yes”. We’ve all experienced that – you have a really tough workout; how do you feel for the rest of the day? Tired. That’s your body automatically working to balance calories, and as a consequence, your weight, as calories are a component of that; not the be-all-end-all – they are a component, automatically.
Allan (11:02): I’d say tired and very hungry.
Jonathan Bailor (11:04): Exactly.
Allan (11:06): Now, I want to deep dive a little bit into each of those three factors, because I think there’s a lot of value in understanding how each of those affects our setpoint. Can we start with the brain inflammation and work through the three and talk about how that really impacts the setpoint?
Jonathan Bailor (11:24): Inflammation in your brain, or very specifically areas around your lateral and ventromedial hypothalamus… We’ll take a step back. There are a couple of parts of your brain. The one that is relevant for our conversation here is called your hypothalamus, and your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that has to do with allowing mission-critical functions that must take place 24/7, 365, without conscious control to happen. For instance, if you had to consciously think about regulating breaths in and breaths out, you could not function as a human being. We could not function as a species if our conscious brain, our neocortex, had to worry about beating our heart, or blinking our eyes, or shivering when we got cold, or prompting the sensation of needing to use the restroom when we consume excess liquids. There’s a part of your brain that is 100% dedicated to taking care of those life-sustaining, constant, mission-critical functions. That’s called your hypothalamus. When inflammation exists in the hypothalamus, those signals of, you need to use the restroom, or you need to breathe, or you need to slow down or speed up, can become compromised. And we know this irrefutable fact that there are certain substances completely independent of calories – take MSG for example, that have a detrimental impact on the hypothalamus, causing inflammation in the hypothalamus. And there are foods, such as certain Omega-3 fatty acids which reverse inflammation in the hypothalamus. So if we’re having a conversation about weight and we are not discussing inflammation in the brain and we are not discussing the hypothalamus, we are essentially having at best incomplete and at worst counterproductive discussion about weight.
Allan (13:27): Okay. Now, foods and things that are going to help us with this brain inflammation – you mentioned Omega-3, so I’m assuming fish, fish oil is going to help us; processed foods are going to hurt us.
Jonathan Bailor (13:42): Yes. When it comes to brain, gut and hormones, the good news is, as fate would have it, not dying is relatively simple. If it was extremely complicated, we probably would not have survived and thrived as a species as well as we have. So the way that we need to eat to optimize the health of our brain and our gut and our hormones is the same, which is important because I don’t want you to have to memorize, “I have to eat these foods for my brain, and then I need to set aside this part of my plate for my hormones, and this part of my plate for my gut.” We can cover what to eat all at once if you’d like.
Allan (14:23): We’re going to get into the SANE modeling in a bit, so we’ll get into that then. Cool. So let’s step into the microbiota.
Jonathan Bailor (14:35): One of the most shocking things when I talk with people about this casually is understanding that about 90% of the cells that exist in what you call “you”, are not yours. They’re cells of microorganisms that live in or on you. That which we define as a human being is actually trillions of little beings put together. We’re learning more and more about that, the mainstream is talking more and more about that. But when you look specifically at body weight, the research is so clear that there are certain types of bacteria which are much more prevalent in the gut of individuals who struggle with overweight than there are in individuals who are naturally thin. We can even go so far as to say there are certain types of microbiota that crave – these little creatures crave different foods. So while you think you might have a craving for sugary and starchy foods, it is literally true that you don’t, but rather these microorganisms that are living in your gut do. If you want to enlist billions of little bacterial helpers to help maintain a healthy weight and to literally crave the SANE foods that facilitate that, you can. And you’re not an army of one; you’re an army of trillions working towards this lower setpoint, the SANE lifestyle, and really feeling great and craving the foods that help you to feel that way.
Allan (16:23): Cool. And then the final piece is the hormones.
Jonathan Bailor (16:27): Hormones – talked about ad nauseum, but still not given enough attention. We can’t talk too much about hormones, because when you go to a gym and when you look on the television screens and when you look at the ads, it’s not going to say things like, “Do this exercise because of its hormonal impact.” It’s going to say, “Do this exercise because you burn this many calories.” At the end of the day your body does what hormones tell it to do. Period. This is so important to understand. Let’s use a simple example that most people are familiar with – anabolic steroids. Why do anabolic steroids work? Anabolic steroids work because they are essentially a hormonal messenger that tells your body to build muscle, therefore your body builds muscle. We know testosterone communicates X, and your body does X. Estrogen communicates Y, and your body does Y. We know that. So if we are talking about eating and exercise, if we’re talking about weight loss without talking about the hormonal impact of what we’re eating, or the hormonal impact of how we’re moving – again, we’re just missing… I’m going to try to think of an analogy on my feet here, but if you went to the eye doctor and the eye doctor was like, “Let’s talk about how your feet are doing”, you’re like, “Doc, I can’t see, and we’re not even talking about my eyes, we’re talking about my feet. What?” If you are not having a conversation about hormones while you are discussing your weight and your overall health, it’s a little bit like going to the eye doctor and have a conversation about your feet, because your body does what your hormones tell it to do. So if you don’t know and if you haven’t been empowered with the information you need to control that conversation and to get your body saying what you want it to say, a.k.a. “Burn fat and help me feel energetic”, but rather you have hormones getting triggered that are saying, “Store fat and make me feel tired” – it doesn’t matter how little you eat or how much you exercise. That conversation will probably only go worse and make the problem worse.
Allan (18:39): I was going through the hormones section of the book and going through each of them, there were some that came up that we don’t talk about much at all. We talk about insulin, we talk about leptin and ghrelin, we talk about testosterone, cortisol. But after that there are some of these other ones, like CCK, adiponectin and glucagon. There’s a lot of them. In my mind, as I’m getting into it, I know what most of these do fairly well and I know how to balance and manage a few of them, but I think the cool part of all of this was that your SANE method actually addresses all of them.
Jonathan Bailor (19:23): I appreciate you saying that, Allan, because that is the key thing here. The thing that I really don’t like is when people are made to believe that their bodies are fundamentally broken or stupid, and unless they micromanage these mission-critical biological functions, they are doomed to a state of obesity and disease. I think that is a diabolical way of looking at the human body, that unless we intervene and micromanage, our bodies are destined to be fat, diseased, diabetic, cancerous wastelands, which when you think about it is really what a lot of the fitness and diet industry says: Unless you know what every single hormone is doing at every single point in time, and what your calorie count is, and exactly how many steps you’ve taken, etcetera, things are going to go off the rails and you’re going to be in bad shape, which cannot be true. Why? Before we had any of the problems we have today, nobody did those things and everyone was healthier. So, by definition, it cannot be required to micromanage every aspect of your input and output in order to achieve effortless health, as evidenced by the fact that radically more people enjoyed effortless health in the past than the present. I’m not talking about hunter gatherers; I’m talking about in the ‘50s or in the ‘60s, when no one went to a gym, no one was focused on calories, and everyone was just healthier. What’s beautiful is, we can read The Setpoint Diet. I would appreciate if people read The Setpoint Diet, I think they will live radically better if they read The Setpoint Diet. But even if you remember no names of any hormones, if you simply remember to eat SANE foods in such high quantities that you’re too full for inSANE foods – all the brain stuff, all the hormone stuff, all the gut stuff will take care of itself and you will live radically better.
Allan (21:18): That’s one of the messages that came out of the book that I was really happy to see. Up until maybe about a year or two ago, diabetes was a progressive disease – you were going to die. You were going to lose feet, you were going to lose your kidneys, everything. And now we’re saying, no, if you make lifestyle changes, you can reverse your diabetes. The other thing was obesity – you’ve got some genetic problems. We can work out and we can cut some of the weight, but you’re always going to be big boned and overweight. And now we’re finding, no, if you make substantive lifestyle changes, we can reverse obesity. You talked about the SANE foods, and I definitely want to get into that. What are the SANE foods so we can stay away from the inSANE foods?
Jonathan Bailor (22:08): We came up with the… Well, that’s actually a bad way of describing it. It was more as if the universe presented this acronym, SANE, to me while I was doing this 15-year research journey. I stumbled upon it. I was doing all this research and it seemed like there are these things that are not commonly discussed and they’re not in any way, shape or form controversial in the scientific community. These are things like how much foods fill you up and how long they keep you full. Studies have been done for decades on, “Let’s feed people 1,200 calories of this type of diet and feed people 1,200 calories of this type of diet, and see which keeps people fuller longer.” That existed and that’s called satiety. And then the research around the different impact on hormones that foods have – this is sometimes discussed in popular literature as glycemic index or glycemic load, but it’s much broader than just insulin or just some of these sexy hormones that are discussed. So, the way I defined that is I just said “aggression”, because it looked like it was very clear in the research that there are some foods and some lifestyle decisions in general that caused these wild, aggressive swings in your hormones, and you can imagine that’s not great. And then the nutrient density – this is something that’s extremely important and is talked about a lot, but unfortunately is not talked about in the most optimum way, which is the ratio of essential nutrients – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids – to things that are nonessential and / or toxic, like sugar. So, someone looks at the cereal aisle, they see Honey Nut Cheerios and it says it’s healthy because it’s enriched with vitamins and minerals. But if you put a vitamin pill in a can of Pepsi, I don’t think anyone would say that that can of Pepsi has now become healthy. So it’s essential that we look at the ratios.
Allan (23:58): Please don’t tell PepsiCo about that vitamin, because they will do it.
Jonathan Bailor (24:05): Yeah, they might do it. So, we’ve got to take a different look at nutrition. And then there are also different macronutrients that are processed differently by the body, more or less efficiently stored as fat. As the universe would have it, we have satiety, aggression, nutrition and efficiency, and that happens to spell out the acronym SANE. And what’s really cool is that all four of those factors can be objectively measured. You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. It’s not my opinion, it’s not any researcher’s opinion. There’s a scientific method to measure them. So we can look at any food and say, “How satisfying, aggressive, nutritious and efficient is it?” And then we can say, “These are SANE foods, these are inSANE foods.” To the extent that you choose to eat SANE foods, you will live extremely well, and to the extent that you choose to eat inSANE foods, you will not live as well. And we can empower people with that information.
Allan (24:54): Now, you laid out several of the SANE foods and several of the inSANE foods. I don’t want to go through an exhaustive list, but there was one that came up and your approach to it was very different than anyone else. You’re not a big fan of olive oil.
Jonathan Bailor (25:17): I can’t give away the farm on this show by definition, because it’s a long book, but I’ll give away some of the farm here, which is SANE foods fall into four categories: non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense protein, whole food fats, and low fructose fruits, in that order. And one of the biggest, coolest new things about the new book is we actually subdivide those into optimal groups. So these are the optimal non-starchy veggies, optimal nutrient-dense proteins. These are the things that are most therapeutic to lower your setpoint. The common characteristic amongst SANE foods and amongst all those food groups is the presence of three things: water, fiber and protein, which is beautiful; this all becomes very simple. Basically foods that are high in water, fiber and protein are saner than foods that are lower in water, fiber and protein. If you look at vegetables, non-starchy vegetables are very high in water, fiber, protein. That’s why if you put spinach in a blender, it blends and becomes a liquid, whereas if you put crackers in a blender and blend them, it becomes a powder. Crackers, don’t have liquid in them; spinach is primarily all liquid, it just doesn’t look that way. It’s also shockingly high in protein. We all know that vegetables have a lot of fiber. Anyway, if we look at fat, we have been told a lot about, first of all, fat doesn’t make you fat, which is 100% true. And then we’ve also heard a lot about olive oil, like slather your food in olive oil and it’s fantastic to use olive oil. Without question, olives contain more water, fiber and protein than olive oil. The point that I make in the book, and the point that I would encourage people to think about, and the point that people in the same community have found to be so transformational for them in breaking through plateaus and in living well is, if coconut oil is good for you, which it is, relative to other oils, if olive oil is good for you, which it is, relative to other oils, you know what’s even better for you? Coconut. You know what’s even better for you? Olives. We call these “whole food fats” because they have more nutrients. They have more water, they have more fiber, they have more protein. I am not anti-olive oil; I’m pro complete scientific information. So, if one were to say that olive oil is a healthy oil and olive oil is a SANE oil, I would 100% agree with that statement. Now if someone said, “I think you should get 600 calories per day from olive oil, because fat is good for you”, I would say if you got 600 calories per day from whole food fats, because fat is good for you, you would live radically better than if those 600 calories came from a low water, low fiber, and low protein fat source such as olive oil.
Allan (28:07): Absolutely. Now, you did a spin on the MyPlate, and you call it the SANE plate. You’ve already laid out the elements of what we should be looking for, as far as fiber, water and protein, but you’ve actually laid this out now on a plate, so we know how much of the non-starchy vegetables, how much of the protein and how much of the low fructose fruit we should have on the plate. Can you talk about what that percentage is and what that looks like?
Jonathan Bailor (28:41): Really important to think in terms of a plate, because I don’t know anybody, myself included, who goes to a restaurant or to a dinner table or to the grocery store and says, “Where can I find the fiber?” or, “What is the protein that we’re going to eat right now?” or, “I want some water on my plate.” It doesn’t make any sense, right? Those are scientific terms that don’t really help us at the dinner table. So when we sit down at the dinner table or at a restaurant, what should our plate look like? It’s extremely simple. Half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are vegetables that you could, but you don’t have to, eat raw. This is a really important distinction, because a lot of people have been told that things like corn and potatoes are vegetables. They’re not; they can’t be eaten raw. They’re starches. Non-starchy vegetables are plants which are generally quite colorful with a few exceptions, which could be eaten raw. Think any green leafy vegetable, think things like peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, zucchinis, broccoli, asparagus, so on and so forth. I want you to fill half your plate with those, and I don’t care how you prepare them because what’s most important is getting them into your body in a way that you enjoy and can keep up forever. So if you hate the taste of raw vegetables, please don’t try to force yourself to eat raw vegetables. Use olive oil in that context to sauté those vegetables and make them taste great, because getting the vegetables into your body is priority number one. Just please don’t deep fry them. That is the only form of preparation that I would advise against.
The next big portion of your plate – about a third of your plate – is going to be nutrient-dense proteins. It’s really important that we focus on nutrient–dense proteins because you hear a lot of things about meat – it’s good, bad, etcetera. It’s just people being imprecise with language, which is unfortunate because certainly things like spam, hot dogs and processed meat are not good for us, much like, for example, processed sugar, which is a plant, is not good for us. Processed anything is not good for us, whether it be meat or plants. So we want to eat nutrient-dense proteins. These are generally humanely raised animals and / or wild-caught seafood. Canned is fine, frozen is fine, and having a big chunk of that on our plate because of the therapeutic impact of those nutritious sources of protein. And then the remainder of your plate can be low fructose fruits, like berries or citrus fruits. These are going to provide you the most of what you need to thrive and the least of things you don’t, such as fructose or other forms of sugar. And / or whole food fats, such as nuts and seeds. But what we’ve seen a lot of people do to make this even simpler is make half your plate non-starchy vegetables, half your plate nutrient-dense protein, and then use whole food fats and low fructose fruits for dessert. That’s when this gets really fun, because no way of eating that is disgusting or unappetizing is a way of eating that I would recommend anyone engage in for life. Life is about being here, being present, being happy, enjoying oneself. So, what’s beautiful is things like coconut, coco, almond flour, berries, all these types of delicious, decadent foods – these can make up the backbone of cakes, cookies, pies, ice creams, puddings. Pretty much any baked or dessert food you can think of, we can SANE-itize using whole food fats and low fructose fruits. Then eating becomes so simple – just pack your plate with non-starchy vegetables and nutrient-dense protein, and then eat some SANE dessert, and you will drop your setpoint and live extremely well.
Allan (32:20): Hallelujah! Now, I want to shift gears a little bit. You got into a series where you were talking about mindset, and you got into goal setting. You made a clear delineation about the types of goals we should be setting for ourselves, and I thought that was just brilliant. Could you take a moment to start talking about goal setting and the types of goals we should actually be setting for ourselves?
Jonathan Bailor (32:49): We talk a lot about mindset in The Setpoint Diet and it’s extremely important because where your head goes, your body follows. How many of us have said, “I’m going to do this!” and get really excited? And motivation wanes and it doesn’t materialize over time. There is tremendous research that has taken place that can help us, just like we know more about nutrition. The realm of positive psychology is so powerful. Like a lot of what we’ve been told about nutrition is just wrong and counterproductive, a lot of what we’ve been told about goal setting is wrong or counterproductive. For example, the way that we are generally told to make goals is what’s called “results goals”, and we’re generally told to do big results goals. Let me give you an example. I want to lose 100 pounds. That’s a big goal, and it is a result – 100 pounds is a result. The reason that that is bad – in the scientific research we define “bad” as “ineffective”, meaning it’s not going to yield the outcome you want. First and foremost, you don’t have ultimate control over the speed or ability to lose 100 pounds. There are things outside of your control that influence that, so making a goal that you have limited or no control over is not helpful, because if you can’t control it, that’s not helpful. But the other thing that’s even more important for a lot of people that we’ve worked with, is when you set a goal like that, you will feel like a failure every second of every day, because you haven’t reached that goal. And you’re not even close to reaching that goal. So you’ve now set yourself up. Your brain is going to say, “Alright, I’ve got to lose 100 pounds. Have I lost 100 pounds yet? No, failure. How about now? No, failure.” You wake up tomorrow: “No, failure.”
A much more empowering and effective approach to goal setting instead of big results goals… Which are fun; they’re like mental junk food: “We’re going to go to a conference, and I’m going to lose 100 pounds. And I’m going to make a million dollars, and I’m going to get married and have five kids. I’m going to do that all in the next three weeks.” And for the next 12 hours I’m going to be super excited, just like I ate a bunch of sugar, but then I’m going to crash and be like, “How the hell am I actually going to do any of that?” So it’s like junk food for your brain. A much more SANE approach is to create small process goals. What is a process goal? A process goal is something that you do and something that you have complete control over – so a process goal of, “I am going to blend a SANE green smoothie” – you have control over that, and it’s a process. I am going to do that, and it’s small. I’m going to do that right now. And it’s not super sexy, but what we’ve seen in the research, which is quite clear, is if you start stacking up process goals, if you start taking tiny actions that you can control daily, consistently, there is very little in life that will be outside of your reach. We know that’s true. Small, consistent change over time is the only way anything has ever happened in any of our lives, barring winning the lottery. We just need to recognize and embrace that and treat the way we eat and exercise in the same way.
Allan (36:17): You’re going to be happy to know that I did set a SANE goal and yesterday when I went to the grocery store, I bought a lot of leafy greens and I actually made your blueberry blast smoothie yesterday. And my goal is to do that each day now.
Jonathan Bailor (36:34): That is absolutely fantastic. That’s an example of some process goals that I can write down, I can check off, and I can do. I’m going to go to the grocery store and buy these ingredients. Allan, that’s an important point, because we really want to break stuff down into, what is the next action? It’s one thing to be like, “I’m going to make a SANE smoothie.” Okay, what are you going to blend it with? “Crap. Don’t have a blender. Don’t have the ingredients.” You want to just back up and say, “Where do I start?” You start where you start. Try to describe to me if you tried to teach someone how to walk. No, explain with words how to walk. You take one foot and you pick it up, you put it in front of the other. At some point we need to reduce stuff down to the simplest state: “I am going to get in my car. I’m going to drive to Safeway. I’m going to go to aisle 3. I’m going to pick up a bag of spinach. I’m going to go to the checkout.” That seems silly, but it’s like a blueprint. It’s like code for your life. There’s a reason computers work. The reason that computers work when they work is because instructions have been laid out extremely clearly, every step of the way. We need to do that for ourselves in our lives.
Allan (37:56): When you’re doing coding, you’ve got to think, “What’s my next step? What’s my next step?” And this is very similar. I already had a very good blender. It’s not the Vitamix that you recommend. It’s called Ninja, but it’s still a very good blender. And then I knew I need to get some more leafy greens, I need to pick up the lemons. I didn’t actually use the erythritol. That’s what I did skip out on because I didn’t think I’d need it with the lemon in there. And then I made my smoothie with some blueberries. It was awesome.
Jonathan Bailor (38:27): And that’s a huge win. Again, it seems like a small thing, but imagine that that became a habit. That’s another thing we talk about in the book. So let’s say that, Allan, you make that a goal and you say, “I’m going to consciously take steps to buy these ingredients to make these smoothies every day.” And you do that for 21 days, or 30 days, or so on and so forth. What you’re going to find is that next month instead of it taking effort to make that smoothie, it will take effort to not make that smoothie, because it will become a habit. When it can be easier to perform SANE, healthy habits than it is to do unhealthy, inSANE things, that’s when the magic happens. And that absolutely can be the case. We know thousands of people within the same family who crave green smoothies. It’s happened to me and my wife. We go on vacation, we go on a cruise where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait till we can get home and drink our green smoothies.” We’re in the midst of all this decadent, all-you-can-eat food, and we’re in the habit of drinking SANE smoothies, so we’re like, “I love the cruise, but I hate that I can’t have my green smoothies.”
Allan (39:42): I’m thinking I picked up spinach and I walked past all the other stuff. I’m like, “I could have put some dandelions in here. There was so much more I could have put in here that would have been interesting.” So I’m looking at it as an experiment. I’m looking at it as, “This is going to be fun because I’m going to experiment with different fruits, different berries, different flavors, and just have some fun with it.”
Jonathan Bailor (40:04): It is a great canvas on which to experiment in that way, with what we would call “optimal” non-starchy vegetables. If I’m like, “Hey, eat more dandelion greens”, you’ll be like, “Uhhh…” But you can just take a handful of them, toss them in the blender with some other stuff. You can toss a handful of all sorts of things into the blender. We’re not a smoothie company, this isn’t called The Smoothie Diet. But we have found that drinking the appropriate type of SANE green smoothies can be one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to SANE-itize your diet and lower your setpoint.
Allan (40:41): I think it was five ounces of spinach that I put in there. I went a little overboard. I made a whole lot, but I drank all of it. It would have taken me a lot of effort to eat that much in its whole food form.
Jonathan Bailor (41:00): 100%. I get probably 80% of the vegetables that I eat in smoothie form, simply because you could drink it at your desk, take it with you in the car, and that’s great. They’re raw. You don’t need to use a lot of olive oil in a green smoothie, for example. And then you can do all sorts of fun stuff. You can use avocado to help make it more creamy, so you get your whole food fats in there. It’s also a great place in which to try some nutrient-dense protein. You could have some whey protein or casein protein or pea protein or rice protein or hemp protein, some pasteurized egg whites. It’s a canvas on which you can really create something beautiful.
Allan (41:39): Yes. You get into another concept that you call “implementation intentions”. And I thought those would be extremely valuable to talk about.
Jonathan Bailor (41:48): Implementation intentions are the natural byproduct of the process goals, the small process goals we talked about earlier, where you really start to flesh out a plan. For example, rather than saying, “I have the small goal of drinking a green smoothie tomorrow”, an implementation intention will take it further and say “if, when, then”. So, “If it is the morning, when I am hungry, then I will make a SANE green smoothie.” So there are three components to it and it’s almost like making the decision ahead of time. This is really important. I don’t think we talk about this in the book, but you can be in what’s called a hot state or a cool state. Not to digress too much, but if you’ve ever found yourself in a context of passion with another human being, it’s one thing if you get cut off in traffic to say, “Calmly on my couch, I will behave this way.” But when someone cuts you off in traffic or jeopardizes the life of your family members in your car, you become emotionally aroused and your decision-making process changes a bit. Implementation intentions help you to act out and create an entire game plan for how you’re going to act in certain situations before those happen. So if I get home from work and I am stressed out, and I open the refrigerator, then I will grab the container of pre-washed sugar snap peas and I will binge on those. You literally have a plan for situations where you find yourself making inSANE choices. You have yourself set up, you have a game plan in place. You get that written down in a very simple formulaic way, and you are now empowered because you have made the decision and created the plan before you need to, so that when you need to, you’re ready.
Allan (44:00): It used to be at the office, they would bring these donuts called Spudnuts, and they’re literally made out of potato flour. So probably the most inSANE food on earth, because they’re coated in sugar and they’re potato flour. And when they bring them in the office, it’s like watching sharks be chomped. They’re all over the break room. So, I had this strategy, which was similar. It was this intention where I’d say, “If they brought Spudnuts, I’m going into my office and I’m going to eat a bag of nuts. I’m going to stay out of the break room until lunchtime.”
Jonathan Bailor (44:36): And the reason, Allan, that that is so powerful is, contrast that with the goal of, “I’m not going to Spudnuts.” That’s actually more of a result – the result of, “I’m not going to eat them”, but how am I going to not eat Spudnuts? These goals without “How’s” are meaningless, especially when you ask the question of, “I’m going to lose 100 pounds. How?” It quickly falls down. Implementation intentions force that “How” in an elegant way,
Allan (45:15): Absolutely. Now, you get into something else in the mindset part of the book that I just love, because I think it’s an underutilized aspect to wellness, and that is the concept of gratitude.
Jonathan Bailor (45:29): Gratitude is one of those things which research has shown without a shadow of a doubt that to not leverage gratitude is to your psychology like not eating vegetables is to your biology. There’s basically a dose-dependent relationship in the amount of gratitude that you proactively seek to express, and your mood. So gratitude journaling, consciously setting aside time to, once a day, tell people you love, “I appreciate how you emptied the dishwasher today, “I appreciate how you noticed my new socks.” It sounds simple, but so does “Eat your vegetables.” Sometimes the most profound changes in life come from the simplest practices in life, and gratitude is one of those.
Allan (46:16): I for the longest time struggled with stress. I was actually fortunate to get laid off, and now actually I’ve had a year of what I would call healing, so that I can make 2019 my complete “whoosh” of trying to get as distressed as possible. But one of my eye-opening moments was when I came to the realization that when you’re experiencing joy, you don’t feel stress. And to me gratitude is one of those self-inflicted joys. When you start actually thinking about how good things are, even the little things, it’s like you’ve taken in a bit of self-induced joy in that moment, and it’s a complete de-stressor.
Jonathan Bailor (47:05): That’s been my experience as well, Allan, and I will give the listeners to this an advanced technique that is actually not in the book, simply because we were so over the word count. It was supposed to be 80,000 words. We already went so over, we had to start cutting some stuff. But some people hear “gratitude” and they’re like, “Okay, what?” There’s a different way to approach gratitude that I’ve found to be helpful for some people, which is, while it may not feel great… Let’s say you have a cat that you really like, and you’re like, “I like my cat, I like my cat, I like my cat. This isn’t doing anything for me. Why did I listen to that podcast?” There’s a different approach. This sounds a little bit morbid, but it has a long track record historically; it’s just not talked about a lot. Imagine that something happened to your cat, as deeply as possible. Not for a long time, but just take 60 seconds and literally play through in your mind that something bad happened and you no longer had your cat. Then stop and hug your cat. You will instantly feel more grateful for your cat than you did before. So, there are two approaches. For some people based on their personality type, they’re like, “Hey, Snookums, I love you. I’m so grateful for you.” That works, and if that works, please do it. For other personality types that does not work, and all you need to do is close your eyes and imagine if Snookums wasn’t around, graphically. Then open your eyes and hug Snookums. In either case, you’re going to get that sense of joy that is so helpful with stress.
Allan (48:45): Absolutely. Now, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Jonathan Bailor (48:58): Drink SANE green smoothies every day. Sleep at least seven hours, and prioritize your life so that you can do that. Love and contribute as deeply as possible.
Allan (49:13): Those are wonderful. I adore those. Thank you for sharing that. Jonathan, if someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about The Setpoint Diet and the things you’re doing, where would you like for me to send them?
Jonathan Bailor (49:26): Please go to our website, which is SANESolution.com. That will give you all the information on the book, a bunch of free resources, wonderful miniseries coming out, tremendous coaching programs, all sorts of good stuff. SANESolution.com.
Allan (49:46): Awesome. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/363, and I’ll be sure to have all the links there. Jonathan, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast.
Jonathan Bailor (50:00): Thank you for having me, Allan.
I hope you enjoyed that interview as much as I enjoyed having that conversation. Some really good information for you to take into your January. I am very happy to say that I have finally, finally received copies of The Wellness Roadmap so that I can do some signed copies. If you would like a signed copy of the book, all you have to do is go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound version, or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you want the paperback edition. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. I can only do this during the month of
Also, I wanted to let you know that I have partnered with a lab company called YourLabwork.com.
I did the full workup, so I have a complete particle count on my cholesterol, I have all the hormone checks, all that stuff done. I do that