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August 12, 2019

Midlife and prostate cancer with James A Hill

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Cancer is the scariest word for many of us. James Hill takes us through his journey with prostate cancer and by doing so gives us a solid approach for dealing with the disease and the thoughts and fears we'll face after diagnosis.

Allan: 02:28 Jim, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

James: 02:30 Thank you Allan. Glad to be here.

Allan: 02:33 Now your book, Midpoint, aptly named. You know, I'm sitting here at 53 and I'm thinking, okay all those things that I did as a kid, you talked about some of them in part of your book where you're riding your skateboard and then that happens and there's an accident and blood and scars and this happens in blood and scars. And I'm thinking, you know, when we get this age, blood and scars are actually really scary.

James: 02:59 Yeah. It's a remarkable a for me that this is the point in life for a lot of men, that really marks an inflection where we, where any kind of a, um, a brush with health can be more than just important, more than just a scar on your under elbow. It can be something a lot scarier. So, um, it is an important point for me to explore in the book.

Allan: 03:21 Yeah. But beyond the being scared part. I, you know, I think, I think what the purpose of this show and then when you're listening to this show, I want you to know why we're here. We're here because men tend to have this trait of pride and obstinance and wanting to be the provider, wanting to be that man that's out there doing these things. And many times, you know, we neglect those little things. We neglect doing the things that we shouldn't be doing to manage our health. Fortunately, even though you said you, you may have avoided screenings, not, not completely avoided them, but delayed them somewhat, you did make a point of making health screenings a part of your regimen.

James: 04:03 Very much so. Yeah. I mean I would describe myself overall as being a pretty earnest health care consumer. I always took my health pretty seriously. I work out, I've always been very focused on taking care of myself, but like, like so many guys there certain things I just don't want to be, you know, physical as being one of them. I talked about this in my book. I just never much cared for physicals cause I felt like they marked at least once I hit my forties and fifties, they started to mark a decline in my, in my physical strength and my, in my physical being. So I was probably not as earnest as I should have been on certain screenings. And then of course the PSA test, which my doctor eventually had me take, I should have taken more ownership and asking for it rather than just being a passive recipient of his recommendation to get it done. Because I was at an age where depending upon who you talk to, typically over 50 men should be getting their PSA.

Allan: 04:59 Yeah, it's part of my wellness testing, my, my PSA and so far I haven't had any, any issues, always less than that. And that's always been, that's been the case. It's always, it's always been below two well below two, well below one actually. So I feel pretty good there. But it was funny because for a long time as we looked at these tests, doctors were actually starting to pull away from them and saying, we don't need diagnostic tests because we get false positives and we ended up with people freaking out. We may even end up with procedures that we didn't need to do. But the thinking's turning around on that a little bit, isn't it?

James: 05:36 Yeah, it is. It's, you know, as I mentioned in the book, the, the subject of whether to get PSA testing is an enormous point of controversy in men's health. And it's one that I think has done men in general a disservice. You know when PSA testing kind of came on, the scenes became popular in the 90s. Everybody was recommending it to gives, it seemed like you're her first really reliable or, or reasonably reliable diagnostic for, um, screening methods available to men to catch, to catch a prostate cancer. And it does, it does. What a lot of people didn't come to terms with at the time is that there are multiple reasons why your PSA, your prostate specific antigen might be elevated if cancer is only one reason. And so what ended up happening is men who had BPH, benign prostate hyperplasia or prostititus, which is an infection of the prostate or other things that might cause their PSA to be elevated. They were rushing out and getting a, getting a biopsy which can, which can result in an infection and complications. And they had a lot of general adjuncts around the fear of cancer only to find out that they, they never had cancer in the first place.

So then the medical community pulled back from PSA testing and said, you know, if you look at it statistically, it's not saving enough lives. Well, I'm not a believer that any guy wants to be a statistic and I'm one of those people who had I not gotten my PSA tested, could have ended up very easily with metastatic prostate disease. So yes, the view has changed back and forth. I think that's why any man, I think over 50 and certainly over 55 needs to own that process, needs to understand what prostate screening or PSA screening is all about. Needs to consult with either his urologist or his physician about whether he thinks at a digital rectal exam is sufficient or whether he wants to get a baseline PSA and continue testing. But it's the one thing you shouldn't ever do is not have the discussion with your doctor needs to be something that you do in a methodical, calculated way. And at least if you make a decision not to be tested, at least you're owning the decision.

Allan: 07:54 Yeah. So for the first several years, you know, when your doctor was going through the standard of care, he was using the old rectal means of testing to see if there's any abnormal swelling or growths or anything like that. And you were checking out just fine.

James: 08:11 Yes. Every time. Yeah. We, we've been checking, I think since I was 50 and I was diagnosed when I was, I want to say 50, 56, almost 57 so yeah, the nature of that exam of course is that a digital rectal exam only has access to part of the prostate and it's a pretty good screening test if you have a capable physician or pa or nurse Practitioner who really understands what a prostate should feel like and can recognize a nodule or some irregularity. But again, if you've got a, if you've got a lesion on the, on the far side of the prostate that's not accessible through the rectum, that's not going to be detected through a DRE is as they're called. And that was the case with mind and why mine was, was had reached all the way to stage three before they ever found it.

And it also that very fact, even when I had my biopsy, they typically they take 12 cores, tissue cores in a biopsy, only two of mine, showed, showed cancer, which led them to a very reassuring diagnosis of stage one prostate cancer with a Gleason score of six, which is a, which is a very low grade cancer. Well, by the time we got through MRIs and everything else, we found out that I was actually stage three with a, with a high seven in which we can talk about it to like, but so I had to go all the way through MRI and eventually through the surgery to really understand the nature of the disease. So, you know, it's a process of understanding what you have is very much a process of choosing the right procedure and getting a more complete picture of what's going on down there.

Allan: 09:50 Yeah. Now as you went through the book and it was Kinda like you're walking us through some of the learnings that you had as you went through here, because prior to this you had no reason to know a PSA relative. You know, it just, if it's better or bigger than two or lighter than two, but you know what it means when it's excessively at higher than two. You learned what the Gleason score was and how almost somewhat, I'm not gonna say subjective, but there's a little bit of, we learn as we go because we, we probe further and you know, biopsies will do something MRI's will do something. But, even after the surgery, they're there, they're still coming back and trying to look at that data to say how aggressive was this? Do you mean because going to the Internet for some of this stuff, I guess you can be, should be scary as hell reading stories. But how does someone swim through all that information and get their head clear on, on the, the treatment that's right for them.

James: 10:47 That's a great question. And it's such a personal process, Allan. I mean, that's a remark. I get a lot from a lot of guys because maybe it was how I presented the process I went through in the book that made men thing. Geez, I don't know if I would have the desire or the or the staying power to do the kind of research I needed to do to make an intelligent decision. And a lot of guys don't. Honestly, you know, I've spoken to a lot of men who kind of went the, from the moment they met with their primary care physician, whatever that primary care physician recommended they did. And in some cases they have good outcomes. In some cases they don't. I'm a great believer in the whole model of the empowered healthcare consumer. I think it's critical that a man, as I said earlier, own his health and particularly in an area that is so fraught with controversy.

So what I did is I simply didn't believe everything I was told at first blush. Acknowledging that everybody in the healthcare system and all of the information on the Internet is to a certain sense. It's, you know, there's some subjectivity to it. There's certainly some controversy there. So I made it my job to talk to people. First of all, I knew who had been through prostate cancer themselves, what their processes were. I tried to find out where they went for information and what they had learned so I could kind of leapfrog or, or piggyback off of what they had they had done and if I could of saved myself some time by using their research I did. But I also, I very much guided myself by going to the best, the best resources online. So I was in my career, uh, prior to having cancer had been in content marketing where we published good clinical information on behalf of some major hospitals and hospital systems.

And so I knew who the, who the great cancer centers for example, were. So I tended to go either to.org or.edu sources online and you know, so names like Sloan Kettering or Mayo Clinic or Harvard health. And the more scientifically sound that information was, I found the more tended to align well. And the theme that I kept hearing over and over again is your situation's unique. You need to interact very proactively with your caregivers and be picky. And so I did a ton of research. I read up everything I could on PSA at Gleason scores, on staging, on radio radiation versus surgery versus what they call cocoa therapies, which are for early stage cancers. And I kept asking a lot of questions. I also happened to be very fortunate. My wife is a very smart and very capable partner and so she at the same time was challenging me and challenging doctors that I was meeting with and we just kept asking questions and challenging the kind of the prevailing wisdom until we felt like we had enough information to make a decision.

And I want to credit some of the doctors I met with for, for having said early on, look, because treatment plans and treatment decisions aren't always clear for a man because there are so many variables and there's so much unknown about prostate cancer. It's a, it has to be a collaborative process between the doctor and the patient. And I've even seen that taken to some ridiculous levels where some doctors will say, it's your decision, just tell me which one to do. The doctors that I dealt with were much more collaborative and said, look, here are your options. You know, here's what I would recommend, but you should go out and meet with people that you, uh, that you think and kind of eliminate the matter for you. So for example, I met both with a radiation oncologist and a surgeon and then of course a number of urologists and positions and PA's along the way. And my thought process eventually took me to surgery, but um, you know, for it, had I been 10 years older, I might've gone with radiation. It just depends on your, your particular situation. So it's, for me, it's all about ownership of the healthcare process and decision making process.

Allan: 14:49 Yeah. And, and beyond, you did something that I think a lot of us would actually find very difficult. You fired your first position effectively.

James: 14:58 I did, yeah.

Allan: 14:58 He wasn't supporting you in a way that, you know, we're not talking about a diagnosis or work. I mean, but the two of you just were not connecting on an emotional level where you felt comfortable with him. Can you talk about that a little bit? We're not going to name him cause he wasn't named in the book, but could you talk a little bit about that, that process of, okay, I've got a doctor that I'm asking him a question and he's sarcastic or belittling me in a way that I just don't feel like he has my best interest at heart.

James: 15:30 Yeah. And, and um, he, you know, he was, this doctor was, was honestly, I think a good guy and an excellent physician. But like anything in life, certainly in healthcare, which is such a, it's such a human interaction. I just believe that you need more than your expertise. You need somebody who respects you as a human being who understands that your approach to making decisions about your health care might be different from the other patient who doesn't. You know who, I don't care for sarcasm. You know, if somebody sitting with cancer, the last thing they need sarcasm. So this particular doctrine I simply weren't clicking. You know, as I mentioned earlier in the book, I had been advised early on to get an MRI before I had a biopsy and I push really hard with this doctor to do that because the idea is that an MRI gives you a visual picture of the entire prostate before you go in there and start poking needles because if you, if you don't have that visual picture of what you might end up getting is an incomplete diagnostic perspective, which is what in fact happened with me.

We only got two cores when in fact I had quite a large tumor. So I pressed this particular doctor for an MRI and he responded largely by saying he didn't think it was necessary, it wasn't the best practice and made me feel a little bit like a hypochondriac for asking. Well later when I was still considering using him as my surgeon, I subsequently went to Sloan Kettering and the first thing they asked me was, did you do an MRI before your biopsy? And I said, no, I, my doctor divided against you. They said, well here we wouldn't consider doing a biopsy or MRI. So you know, that entire view that I had taken was very much validated. And it was also just a manner in which he opposed me on that decision. It just felt like he was asserting his medical, I don't want to say supremacy but, superiority and I you're a patient, I'm a doctor. You need to listen to me and not acknowledging the fact that I had done my homework.

Allan: 17:39 Yeah. Well and, and realities, you know, are the generation before us and before that and then the white coat walked in and said, do this. We just did it. But now with the advancements in medicine and what's going on in the world, standard of care changes all the time and for the doctor gets you up to speed and say, no, this is, there is a standard of care. And if there's no reason to believe that doing an extra step is going to give you a better outcome. I was just surprised that when you said you were willing to pay out of pocket for this because you weren't, you know, you were told you would probably have to do that, that he just said no. Whereas it would just been a data point. And you know, again, I'm a big fan of the more data points you have, the clearer things can be as long as you just don't get overrun with it. But I think it would have been a point that you've obviously now hindsight definitely should've had.

James: 18:31 Absolutely. And the fact that it was validated the way it was and validated with really good information in the sense that the folks at Sloan Kettering explained that, you know, biopsies first of all, it not that you want to go back in and do, but also it causes bleeding because you're poking all these holes in the prostate. It causes bleeding, which obscures any subsequent MRI image for several weeks after that. So it actually impede the ability to get it to get a good perspective. So there's really a very practical reason to do an MRI beforehand. Now that you know, you mentioned standards of care. The problem with, I think with dealing with with prostate cancer is that standards of care are, they're changing, they're shifting back and forth as, as new data comes in and as doctors debate what to do. Another example of that would be the level of sedative or anesthesia they give you for biopsy and a biopsy is pretty painful. Either I'm a whimp or biopsys are pretty painful.

Allan: 19:30 No, I think 12 holes in the human body.

James: 19:37 Yeah, yeah. Particularly that area. Yeah. It's not, it doesn't feel good and the standard of care is to give you at most of a valium to calm you down and a local anesthetic. Well, when I asked the doctor after the biopsy was over, I said, wow, that really hurt. Has there been any discussion of putting guys under under general anesthesia? He said, yeah, I actually missed his credit. He said, I've been proposing that for a while, but it hasn't been adopted as a standard of care. And so that's one of those examples where it's an evolving thing and I think to a certain degree, medicine is always kinda catch up with what it's learning from patients. And frankly, part of my objective in writing the book was to educate doctors as much as patients about what the process is like so that when they realize, Oh gee, you know, these biopsies really hurt, or Oh gee, it makes it more complicated for a patient if we don't let them do an MRI beforehand. Maybe that's something we can revisit, whether it's on an individual level or on the standard of care level.

Allan: 20:36 Now you mentioned earlier three, three different approaches to treatment. You were passed one of those by already being a six, but do you mind going through those three and then in particular the surgery and the radiation. Spending a little bit of time talking about the pros and cons.

James: 20:53 Sure, absolutely. So the two most common forms of treatment for prostate cancer are either a prostatectomy, which is surgical removal of the prostate or, and by the way, it's always the entire prostate. There is no such thing as taking out part of our prostate, which was illuminating for me at the time. You had to take it all out or you're leave it in. The other option is is radiation therapy, which irradiates the prostate gland and potentially some of the areas around the prostate with radiation to destroy the the cancer cells. They've also developed for men who are very early in their, in it with a very localized cancer or small low grade cancer, have what they call a focal therapies, which are, they use all kinds of exotic things like cryoablation, where they go in and they actually freeze the cancer cell with a, with a needle.

Those focal therapies, as the name suggests, are very focused, therefore very well located small, early cancer. By the time they found my cancer, I was a stage three that the malignancy had moved out beyond what they call the prosthetic capsule or the envelope that is basically the membrane that whole step that surrounds the prostate. So I was by virtue of that the end, it was I think a two centimeter tumor. I was not a candidate for focal therapy. So for me it came down to either radiation or surgery. I should also add that for many men, particularly men who are potentially in their seventies or and who have a slow growing low grade cancer, they have what they call watchful waiting, which is simply to do nothing and to go and maybe every six months or so to get your PSA checked.

And if it's really not growing quickly, there's a great likelihood that men like that will die from some other natural causes before the cancer ever presents a real problem. And that is very much something that's being recommended for men who are older. I was not a candidate for that because I had a very high PSA and it was changing. In fact, it changed from about 15 to about almost 20 in the space of six weeks. So they immediately ruled out watchful waiting. And the fact that I was in my fifties so the decision for me came down to surgery or radiation. And surgery, I think I'd have to check this thing, but surgeries are more common. There's been a lot of push back among some doctors against surgery because they think it's too often proposed for people who could have avoided it.

And I think that probably was the case. It's less so now. But there are, there are various types of surgery that's performed. The most common now I think is a laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, which is the doctor uses a laparoscope that, that goes in basically through five small incisions in, in your abdomen. You know, they use laparoscopes on you know, for example, to repair damaged knees. It's a way of having a smaller incision and cutting less tissue to make repairs. So you get five small incisions into your abdomen. They go in with these kind of like robot arms and they with a doctor looking through, uh, through a video monitor, they removed the prostate that way and, and uh, fix things up and send you on your way. Radiation on the other hand is a process of going in I think typically for about six weeks, five times a day and lying under the beam and the pros and cons are with radiation.

They don't remove the prostate. So some of the side effects of not having a prostate are entirely avoided. So there typically is less with radiation, they are less issues with, with continents, less issues with, uh, post treatment potency. And a man still has his prostate. So physiologically he can still produce semen, which a man cannot live without his prostate. So for a lot of men who, who can, for whom radiation is an option, it's a good choice to give. They can, it has less of an impact on their sex lives. As an example, and my, my own brother-in-law went that route and was, was very pleased with it. The trick is, and this is what helped me form my decision with surgery, my, by the time we had my MRI results and they had, they kind of accurately stage my cancer.

They knew that I was stage three. They knew that it was aggressive and they knew that it had moved outside of the prosthetic capsule. It was likely, in fact, I was told I had about a 50/50 chance. My radiation oncologist explained I had a 50/50 chance of needing radiation after surgery as well. So if you have radiation as your first line of defense, the tissue is so substantially changed by the radiation that it really can't handle surgery Afterwards. Now Sloan Kettering is developing what they call a salvage radical prostatectomy where they will go in if necessary and remove the prostate. That's already gone through radiation, but it's very tricky and recovery is tough and there are a lot of side effects to it. So generally speaking, if you think you're going to need radiation later on as a followup, because maybe the surgery couldn't get all the cancer guys will go prostatectomy first radiation second. It's worth noting too that the cure rates are about the same for radiation and surgery. So making the final decision very much comes down to how bad is the cancer, how fast is it moving, how old are you, what's your life expectancy? All these variables that are unique from man to man. And it was that process for me that was really kind of essential kind of core to my experience with cancer, which was realizing that just because my brother-in-law got radiation and it worked for him and just because my best friend got surgery and I work for him, everybody's different and you cannot just make a decision based on kind of generalized views of these treatments. You really need to dig in deeply and understand your own cancer.

Allan: 27:10 Yeah. And I think that was, that was kind of the core because you had done some research and found surgery's gone really bad. And um, that like you said, the radiation could have done something and then it would've been much more difficult if there was a Reoccurrence. So it is something I strongly considered as far as you know, which you feel good about and you know, what the facts in your particular case are saying. I guess one of the parts of treatment that kind of, I guess I didn't really think a whole lot about, you know, I thought okay, well you have the surgery, they remove it, you know, you heal up from the sutures and you're on your way. That's not the case with prostate cancer. There's, there's a lot of uh, post treatment that needs to occur. Without going into all the gory details. I can kind of talk about cause you need, yeah, you need to buy this book if nothing else to read that story. But um, uh, can you go through some of the details, you know, some of the things that you have to do just to get yourself back to normal.

James: 28:07 Yeah, the main, and of course my experience is specific to the surgery. I can't speak to, to radiation, which does have it have its own side effects. What I didn't mention is that radiation can have side effects affecting potency. And, and I'm from continent, but they tend to be deferred by six months to a year. Whereas with surgery, those side effects of course are immediate coming out of surgery. But the typical things that, that a man needs to worry about coming out of surgery of course, is potency, which is, which requires obviously intact of nerves and in tact blood flow to that part of the body. And sometimes the two nerve bundles that make an erection possible are affected by the cancer and one or both have to be, have to be removed. Now you only need one, but if even one is removed, that's gonna require some post-surgery work, which we can talk about.

But under any circumstances, the trauma that's done to the body during the surgery, particularly the nerves and a man's groin send those nerves into what they call hibernation mode, which can last for one to two years where the nerves simply don't work properly, their healing and they just kind of let like a bear going into a cave. They just stop physiologically functioning during that time. The tissue down there that's required for an erection literally it needs to be regularly stretched in troll with blood. And if it's not, if that doesn't happen, there can be term long term effects on a man's potency. So, and then the other issue is incontinence, which is a very significant problem for man because during a prostatectomy, the urethra is surgically detached momentarily from the bladder to do the surgery.

Then it's reattached and that affects all the muscles down there and the ability to control urine flow. So the two things that are typically one thing certainly has done most commonly coming out of prostate surgery is they're going to recommend that men do with they call Kegel exercises. That's very well known to women who are advised to do with these after they have have a child because the muscles down, they're affected by childbirth. Same thing goes for men after a prostatectomy is literally just like clenching, clenching the muscles of the pelvic bed over and over again, like a workout. Honestly what it is. And in my case, I was advised to do these exercises before surgery and then to do them right after surgery to to just like anything else, you want to have strong muscles. So that's a big part of, of regaining continents.

And then in my case, Sloan Kettering has a group called the sexual health clinic, which is really pioneering ways to keep men functioning from a, from a, from a potency perspective, functioning well, while those nerves recover come out of hibernation mode and that's they, they have various ways of dealing with it. But the most, the way that they use most is an injection therapy where a man gives himself a shot that actually physiologically reproduces, creates an erection, which allows the tissue to be stretched and so forth and, and oxygenated until they heal on your own. So, unfortunately, that is not a therapy that is widely known about known by men, and it's not as widely recommended as, as it should be in the result of a lot of men. Too many men end up having potency issues when they didn't need to. They could have actually recovered normal, normal functioning.

Sloan Kettering is fabulous about that and I was actually part of a study, a 2-year study and following up with men on that and comparing the results of that therapy with men who didn't go through it. And the results are dramatic. I mean dramatic, the kind of improvement in that they see when you're on kind of therapy. And then of course the only other thing I would add, Allan, is that both going into a prostate surgery and coming out of it, the more you can be in good shape, eat well, not be carrying any extra weight, have good muscle tone, all of that prepares you for the what is a pretty significant assault on your body. I mean the prostatectomy takes four to six hours, it's a big deal and a lot of men don't realize it's one of the most complicated cancer surgeries out there.

It messes up the body in a pretty significant way for a while. And it takes a long time to do all the healing that's necessary. The more fit you are both before and after the surgery, you know the better you're going to handle it, the more quickly recover. Some of big proponent of be fit all the time, follow it, have a good diet so that you're not inadvertently helping the cancer or the cancer recur by eating the wrong kinds of foods. All those things. The same things that we're told anyway about being fit and healthy very much affect the outcomes of a prostate surgery.

Allan: 33:04 Yeah. And you know, as you were talking through that and you're getting yourself physically fit. I was, I was thinking about a quote that you had in the book, you talked a lot about how you didn't really see cancer as a battle or at least you didn't like that kind of that phrase of encouragement battles. But you did say this in the book. You said cancer cells are the terrorists of the human body, the weaponized bundles of angry, twisted cellular matter that have come unmoored in their restraints. And, and I thought about that in the basic ways of saying, you know, if we prepare ourselves generally for life, we're going to be strong, we're going to be generally healthy and that's going to put us in a better place. So it's not necessarily a battle so much as knowing, okay, we have this insurgency that uh, we now have to deal with and if we're physically fit and generally healthy, our bodies are going to be more resilient. And then there's always the mental side of this of, you know, terrorism is scary, not knowing when this could happen or if this will happen is scary. And in a sense it kinda changes the way we think about life when those scary moments happen.

James: 34:15 Yeah, yeah, very much so. I'm fortunate that I was always somebody who just was interested in staying healthy as much because I wanted to look good and feel good. But you know, it turns out that healthy has a lot of dimensions to it and you just don't want to go into a scary diagnosis like cancer with anything already compromising your health or that makes it just much more of an uphill battle. And I joked about it in the book about doing, you know, following that was so earnest about following the, the physician's advice for, or being prepared to physically put surgery. I followed advice they didn't even give me, but that's how seriously I took it. And you know, one of the things also that they push you to do, which I talked about quite a bit in the book, is walking right after surgery.

I mean they have you up walking down the hallway within four or five hours of the surgery and then walking subsequent to that while your catheters in and during that, that first 10 days or two weeks of recovery, physical activities so important and the more fit you are going into that process, the more quickly you're going to be able to resume that physical activity that is so central to your healing. The human body was made to move and we're not, certainly after a surgery like that, you might have fluid in your, in your lungs that you need to be able to call from. The stronger your body is, as soon as that can happen, the stronger your circulatory system, the more likely you are to replenish the blood flow to your groin. All of that benefits from being in a generally good state of health. I can't say enough about the importance of that and you know I honestly, I as hard as I've worked at it, there are even things I could have done a lot better. It's just a matter of doing everything you possibly can.

Allan: 36:03 Yeah. Now I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get in stay well?

James: 36:14 That's a great question. I would say from my perspective and within the very specific context of prostate cancer treatment, it's leading a fit lifestyle. Not when I say a lifestyle, it's not just, it's not just going to the gym, but it's maintaining good physical and mental health. So eating right, getting exercise, managing stress, making it an approach to life rather than something that you do when you're not stressed out about work. So I'm all about just making health and matter of lifestyle coming out of surgery also, I believe that the best thing you can do to, to regain that sense of wellness, just to be a model patient, doctors know what's required to, to return to a good state of health. And so I'm a big believer in follow exactly what they, don't be a c student, do everything they say you're supposed to do, ask questions and they know how to get you healthy.

And they're going to push you to do that and don't subvert that process and you know, something. The third thing I would say, Allan, is that a lot of men overlook, particularly in this context, the importance of psychological changes that happen during middle age and particularly during treatments for prostate cancer. It's a disease of the male reproductive system, which is central to our sense of wellbeing. And men need to, who go through this need to prepare themselves for those psychological shifts. How they see themselves, their relationships with the partners, uh, how they see the world around them now as they are some in some ways altered. So surrounding oneself with support, with loved ones who can, we can be there for you if you start to stumble or you feel down or if you're not pushing yourself as hard to recover. That's just as much about wellness as is staying physically healthy. And it's something I end on that point. Particularly think of the thing. It's something that too many men, particularly in the context of prostate cancer, come to, uh, not pay close enough attention to.

Allan: 38:12 Thank you for sharing those. Uh, I do want to kind of close this a little different because there was a quote, some advice that your father gave you that I want to share here because I think this is really important. And he basically told you, he said, make sure you live your life before the hard times come. And I think that's some advice we should take to heart and realize that you know, we should be living the fullest life we can possibly live because this type of stuff can to us. Stay healthy, stay fit and enjoy the life that we have while you can. And so I appreciated your father's advice and I appreciate you sharing that along with your entire story in this book, Midpoint. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book and the things that you're doing, where would you like for me to send them?

James: 38:57 Well thanks for asking. I have my website is www.jamesahill.com and that is both a place where there's more information on me, my book and I also blog regularly on issues related to this. And um, and also of course the book is, is uh, going to be released in a few days on July 30th on Amazon. Barnes and Noble is all the, uh, all the major booksellers online. So anybody who wants to reach me can certainly reach out to me through my, through my website contact page there.

Allan: 39:29 Cool. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/394 and I'll be sure to have links there to the book and to Jim's website and all of that. So Jim, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

James: 39:43 Thank you for having me on. I enjoyed the conversation.

Another episode you may enjoy

August 5, 2019

The Mindful Runner with Gary Dudney

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Thank you!

Our guest today not only walks the walk, he runs the run. He is a wonderful storyteller and I really enjoy my conversations with him. Even though his books are about running, I can tell you that you can get something out of this for pretty much any fitness endeavor that you want to take on and that was kind of my challenge in this episode was to make sure that that's exactly what happened. So even if you're not a runner, I think this is an episode well worth listening to. It's my pleasure to welcome back Gary Dudney, author of The Mindful Runner.

Allan: 01:14 Gary, welcome back to 40+ Fitness.

Gary: 01:17 I'm happy to be here, Allan.

Allan: 01:19 Yeah, it's been three years since we talked last. That was episode 131 this is episode 393 so I've gone through a lot of these, but I was really excited to see your book come out because I enjoyed the last book, the Tao of Running because you're such an excellent storyteller. I mean, you know, you're talking about a race and you're going through the details of it. You know the locations, you were the struggles and it's, you do a really good job of, even though I'm not doing ultras, putting me in the place, in the conditions and in your frame of mind, all in a really well told story.

Gary: 01:55 Well thank you. That's, that's really my goal was to bring, I was a writer before I was, I was running. So I'm not a runner who wrote a, wrote a book. I'm a writer who runs and, um, I thought getting the whole experience down on, on the page was the important part. And of course I, as you know, I use those stories to make my points about the mental side of running. You do. And so you know, this book is called the mindful runner and like I said, it sort of a,I guess I'd call it a second edition of the other book.

Allan: 02:31 It kind of takes it in a slightly different direction with I think a lot more of, you know, the other was about enjoy, I think more about enjoying running and then there are challenges and things like that, but that's part of the value of it. This talks about, I particularly like that you're talking more to the beginning runner or the person that's looking to try to start doing, performing a lot better. Maybe setting some higher expectations for themselves and the fact that they're going to have to push to make this happen. And that's all going to start with their, with their mindset rather than what their body's capable of doing.

Gary: 03:06 yeah. I had, I had a lot of material that I wanted to, um, include in a new book that I didn't get into the dow of running and a lot of stories and even some short fiction that I've published in the past that I wanted to put into a book for anybody who's interested in reading about running. And then my personal focus is of course on what's going on in your mind when you're running. And there's just so many different ways to be thinking about what to be thinking about while you're running and so many mental frameworks you can bring to it. And with each new mental framework you bring to it, you find a new richness and running and you get, you get more out of the experience. And so again, I wanted to capture all that in the new book.

Allan: 04:00 Yeah, I think so many beginners will go out there and you know, they're excited because they, you know, maybe this a new year's resolution or they get on the phone with someone, they get excited, they've signed up for a 5K and you know, they're all jittery and then they're going to go out and do their first training run. And once they start moving, their body just starts in the brain, start saying, stop this, this hurts.

Gary: 04:23 That's the first thing you discover is that it's pleasant for a little while. But then invariably if you push just well beyond your comfort zone, which you really need to do in order to improve then you get right into the mental struggle. You know, do I keep going? Is it worth all this effort? Surely it shouldn't hurt like this. Whereas it's very natural for things to hurt when you, when you're pushing yourself beyond your limits and improving. And it's actually a positive thing that you're feeling that way when you do because it means you're improving and that you're reaching your potential and you're reaching the goals that you're after. If it's coming easy, you're probably not pushing hard enough.

Allan: 05:11 Yeah. And you use, you used two words that I think are critical for any training. This is not just running, but anyone that wants to achieve a result from their body through physical training, resistance training, running, whatever it is that the words are patience and determination and they somewhat counterbalance each other, but they work very well synergistically if you know how to apply them, can you talk about how we can apply it patience and determination into our training to get the most out of it?

Gary: 05:44 Sure. Those are, those are two qualities that I've just found, you know, 30 years of running and, and 20 years of ultra running are just a critical component of succeeding at what you're doing. And it occurred to me that patience is starts right there with the beginner who is trying running out for the first time or going back to running. In variably it's not going to feel good at first. It takes, you know, it takes a couple of months of continued effort in order to start getting the benefits of being in good running shape. And I think a lot of people they read about how running is you know, such a pleasant experience and such a good way to stay healthy or their friends are telling them that and then they go out and they try it for a couple of weeks and you know, something, a lot of little pains will pop up and manifest themselves and then go away if you stay after it.

But I think a lot of people get discouraged right at right at the beginning when they've been working at it for two or three weeks and you know, they still feel awful at the end of their first mile. And so, You know, the beginner needs to show some patience in getting to that month mark or two month mark of regularly getting out there and running to get to the point where they start feeling the benefits and then they can expect to get that good feeling of getting out there and getting into a rhythm and being able to get through the middle miles without, without too much stress and discomfort and whatnot.

Allan: 07:37 Yeah, I think I've found that the folks that get really comfortable with running and enjoy it the most, they've reached a certain point of training where their bodies effectively trained and now they're not really pushing their comfort zone as much. They're just staying within their comfort zone because they're happy. You know, they may be a short distance runner or they may be at a middle distance runner, you know, they like half marathons or 10 ks and that's their happy place and they run it their comfortable training pace and then they race at a, maybe a little faster pace. But the folks that I, you know, hear the most or that I really enjoy in the running, they're not really pushing themselves to do something faster or harder. They're not that driven kind of person. They're more the, I just enjoy doing the run kind of thing. But it takes a while to get there.

Gary: 08:21 Yes it does. It takes a while to get there. Your body has to make a lot of adjustments. You have to build up your endurance and your stamina and that takes a while and if you can stay patient and, and realize that you have to stay patient, then it will eventually work out. But patience also plays into when you're racing or when you're doing a longer run, you get to a point where things are becoming uncomfortable and your first inclination is slow down or drop out of your race or whatnot. And at that point when your thinking is going negative, you want to try to use thoughts about being patient and determined sort of as a mantra. And you can just, if you're aware of the fact, Hey, I have to show patience here. I have to endure the way I'm feeling right now.

This is a normal thing that I'm feeling. And if I stay patient, I will be rewarded. You know, that's somewhere to go with your thinking instead of going into a negative frame of mind where you're thinking, wow, this is just too much for me. I should have trained harder. Maybe it's not my day. Maybe I could, you know, come back next year to this race and do better. All those are excuses for not reaching your goal. Whereas if you can block those thoughts and feelings, those negative thoughts and feelings and tell yourself, you know, patience will get me through this patience, the determination will keep me in this race and, and keep me after my goal. That's a nice positive thought. And then you can get back into your race and, um, and go from there.

Allan: 10:11 Yeah, the determination part I think is, is really, where the growth comes from, the patience is just kind of making sure that you're, you're there, you're showing up each day you're doing your training, you're in the race, you're going to stick with yourself and you're, you know, this, this is not just something that you're going to wax over. The determination is kind of that point where you're beginning to push yourself because you want to get done faster, you want to move further, whatever the, the goal is with this training or with the race. And so I do feel, and I actually, in my book, I use the word persistence, but I like your word better.

Gary: 10:45 Yeah. Determination is sort of the irrational part of your brain that is keeping you in there. When the rational part of your brain is telling you, you know, this is hurting too much, or I'm trying too hard. Or determination is if like ignore all the rational thinking that you're doing. You're going to stay in this and you're going to continue it and you're going to keep performing despite everything that you are, you know, your mind is telling you.

Yeah, it was, um, I was in the army and in basic training, they broke us up into platoons and they did it alphabetically. And so we were, you know, with the last name M I ended up in the third platoon and for one reason or another we were just, we were all just the worst. Every, every competition we went into, we came in last place and the fourth platoon, every competition they went into, they came in first place. And so we, by the end of basic had this chip on our shoulders. It's like, okay, who are these guys and why? You know, how, how did alphabetically, the top end of the, of the alphabet end up with so many, you know, somebody better soldiers or better athletes. And so we were going into the two-mile run and everybody was talking about, you know, one of the kids who he ran track in high school and was, so he's a track star.

And you know he had scholarships but decided to go into the Army instead. And so I'm like, okay, I want to see how fast this guy really runs. Cause they were telling me it was really fast. I'm like well I wasn't all that too shabby myself in the two mile when I was in high school. Probably not competing in his level but you know, I'll try this. And you know, you go through basic training, you're teaching your body in many cases to ignore the pain. You know, if you know it's not a pain that's going to kill you, do you tend to push through it? And so by this time I had done enough of this that I felt comfortable. At being uncomfortable now outside my comfort zone. So I was like, I wonder if I ran my quarter mile split at the start of the race, what I could do in two miles if I could actually hold that for all the two miles.

And so I did, I literally took off, you know, with about, I guess it's probably about a 1/15 split on the quarter and you know, the, a couple of guys in my unit are walking over cause they just seen you taken out there. So I finished like the second lap and they were like, what are you doing? You know? And I just was running as hard as I could run now because I was turning off all of the pain things and not thinking about it and trying to just really focus on my breathing and just continuing to go and not, not completely red line out. I actually pooped myself, running, he did actually beat me. But the thing I can say is coming off of that run, it was, it was the fastest two mile I'd ever run in my life. It was the first time, it was a first time I broke 11 minutes and, and so, you know, even though I came in second, I felt really good, at least personally, I had to keep running and go to the bathroom and cleaned myself up. But, uh, then that embarrassment, it was where I saw that kind of cutting out the pain of it and knowing that the pain was not something that was going to sideline me forever. I, you know, I knew I might be paying and paying for a couple of days, but I didn't have to worry about it. We were passing the PT tests. So at that point, running the, you know, running the two miles was the last athletic thing I had to worry about doing for awhile. Well I knew I had that in me. I wanted to see how hard I could push myself. I wanted to see how much I could push past. And that's when it Kinda hit me why a lot of the elite runners are who they are is because it's not because they don't feel the pain, it's that they ignore it. So how do we push past that pain when we're training and how do we recognize when it is that kind of pain that we should be pushing through?

Gary: 14:35 Yeah. Okay. I will address that. I just wanted to make a final point about patience and determination. And then, and then we'll, we'll talk about that. Allan, one of the things I focused on the book, the mindful runner in the title, mindful of is associated with mindfulness, but I also want you to take the title, literally the mindful runner in that it's a runner who is aware of what is going on in his mind, his or her mind. And I think that's what so many runners, they're always focused on the physical side of their workout, how far they're going, how fast they're going, that sort of thing. And when they think about, you know, what's going to happen in the race, they're just, they're thinking about, okay, I want to hold this, this pace, I'm going to do this particular distance, that, that sort of thing.

But they don't think about what's going to happen to me when things get really bad and my mental state starts to deteriorate. And my experience from all the running I've done in all the ultra running I've done, is that if you pay attention to the mental side of the equation and you practice the mental side of the equation then when you're in the, when you're in the race or you're deep into a long run or something like that, then you're much more adept at using mental strategies to keep yourself in the race and keep yourself reaching your goals. And so just having this understanding of what is the role of determination and what is the role that patience in what you're doing. If you're thinking about that and you're aware of it, then that's a very helpful tool that you have when you're in the race and things start start getting difficult for you.

And I think you're way ahead of the person who just thinks, okay, when things get hard, I'm just going to get it out. And that's the only strategy they have because when that strategy starts failing for them, then they have nowhere to go. But if you've got these mindsets and ideas in mind, when you hit that point then you have some, some resources to try out and you can cycle through different mental strategies for keeping yourself in the race. So I wanted to just say that being, you know, aware of these things are being aware of the importance of these things is very helpful. But one of those is pushing through the pain. And I think having one strategy or many strategies that you've practiced for that point of the race where things get really painful is really critical and really helpful.

And I say that from some experience because when I was, was working up through my ultra running career, I got to the a hundred mile race, which is sort of the holy grail of ultra running is to you know, do that a hundred mile race cause it's such an iconic distance and whatnot. And I started doing them and I had done eventually 26 of them. And if you look at my records for that first 2,600 mile runs that I did, I had sort of indifferent success. I was making it to the finish about two thirds of the time and about one third of the time I was dropping out. Then I did another 2,600 mile runs. So I had gotten up to 50 to a hundred mile runs. And in that second half, the second 2,600 mile runs, I never DNF, I never did not finish. I made it to the end of every single one of those runs and a lot of things happen in a hundred mile run that can knock you out of the race that are almost beyond your control.

So it's pretty amazing to have that consistent record of finishing. And I look back at that record of the 52 runs and the point where I started not ever DNF'ing was that point where in my career where I had really started focusing on the mental side of what I was doing and I started developing the mental strategies that would help me when things got, as they inevitably do, when they get painful in the race. So it convinced me that it was, you know, nothing else had changed. My training hadn't changed. My level of fitness hadn't changed. The types of races I was doing. Nothing had changed except that I had some mental strategies to rely on when things got very difficult out there.

Allan: 19:24 So let's, let's talk about a few of those.

Gary: 19:26 Okay. So pushing through the pain. The thing about when you start feeling stress or fatigue or you know, the aches and pains, especially in a long race, like an ultra, you know, your first inclination is to deny that it's happening to you or try to run away from it or escape from it or, or just not accept that it's going on. And that's usually not going to get you very far because you can put it out of your mind for a little while, but then it's gonna just reassert itself. And when you get to the point where you realize ignoring it is just making it worse, then you're in trouble.

So I think that the key to pushing through pain is to meet it head on. To acknowledge the fact that it's happening to you. I'm not as comfortable as I was before. I'm getting very tired. What objectively is happening to me here. You know, how exactly does this feel? How bad is it? And you sort of face up to it and in a way, just just that act of facing up to the fact that acknowledging that you know you're not feeling great anymore and you are feeling bad is going to take little bit out of this, of the sting out of it and take some of its control over you out of it.

And then you want to tell yourself, this is a normal way to be feeling at this point in this race. You know, I'm not, if I'm running a marathon and I'm at mile 20 you're not going to feel good. You're going to feel really bad and you're going to feel distressed that you have six more miles to run and that you're, it's very hard to hold the pace that you were hoping to keep. But that's a normal and a natural feeling. It's also a feeling that everybody else in the race is experiencing along with you. You are not alone in feeling badly. You can't train so hard that when you push yourself, you're not going to feel this pain. So again, accepting it as just a natural and normal part of what's happening to you. It's feedback to you that you are indeed pushing yourself hard and that you're getting to your goal and that you're doing what you're supposed to be doing.

So your job now is to find a way to accept what's happening to you. And like I said, you do that by, you can sort of sink down into it a little bit and just let it, how does this feel? How, how bad is this? And usually when you do that, it's not as bad as, oh, you know, you don't let the fear and the self doubt take over. Instead you let your sort of objective look at that pain be the what's uppermost in your mind. And then once you face that you try to get back into what are all the other experiences that I'm having here besides this pain. You know, what's, what's going on around me, what are there other people around me I might be talking to or you know, what is this part of the trail look like? What am I seeing? And hearing and smelling, I'm still, I could still be focusing on my breathing or on the rhythm of my arms swinging or there's a lot of sensations going on in addition to the pain.

And so you want to try to focus back on all the other things that are going on and try to let the pain recede into the background. And that's very helpful. You, you want to try to, you know, keep your thinking positive and not give into fear and self doubt about how the pain is going to get worse and worse and you're not going to be able to stand it. You want to go to a positive place. This is the normal thing to be happening to me and I need to accept it and then I need to move beyond it and think about what else is going on in the race and what else I might be doing that will help me stay in this race.

Allan: 23:42 Yeah. I think one of the things you said in the book that was, you know, that kind of helped me a little bit in this area was we're not going to see performance gains and we're not going to have our best race if we're staying inside our comfort zone. So the fact that you're feeling this discomfort is really just proof that you're right where you need to be.

Gary: 24:02 Exactly. Yeah. I mean, and that sort of mental Jujitsu on that pain has been for me, one of the really critical insights that I've had. Because now, I mean, it's hard to believe, but now when I'm in one of my a hundred mile runs for instance, and things start feeling really bad as they inevitably do, I sort of, it's not that I welcome it, but it's like, it's like it's an old friend. It's like, okay, I know this was coming and here it is. And uh, I've dealt with it many, many times before and so I know that now I'm engaged with the beast. I know that I'm getting the job done and I'm, I'm getting to that, I'm getting to the point where where the real meat of the run is. And, uh, I'm almost happy I'm there because it's, I'm getting to the, you know, I'm, I'm getting into the real contest now. And of course it's getting to the hard things that are so validating in the end. I mean, when you get to the end of the race, if you've gone through hell, then you're, you're really happy to be at the end of the race and you, you have the real set, you get real satisfaction out of it. Whereas if it, you know, if it was easy it wouldn't be as cherishable.

Allan: 25:24 Yeah, I have clients and I've had friends that, you know they'll set stretch goals, you know, and they'll want to get to those goals. Like I've, you know, my, my stretch goal for that two mile run was, was to beat the fastest runner. You train and you train and you train and maybe it doesn't happen exactly the way that you, you saw it in your mind's eye. So at one point you to it, well you told this story in the book at one point you were training to run a 40 minute 10k. Can you tell us about that experience?

Gary: 25:52 Yeah. I'm trying to remember the point I was making.

Allan: 25:56 Well I think the point being you trained hard for this, for this particular goal. It was it at the time it seemed very, very important to you and you didn't quite make it.

Gary: 26:04 No, I never did.

Allan: 26:05 The things you learned about yourself, things that you were then able to do physically, you did have some benefits coming out of that.

Gary: 26:13 Yes. That was, you know, having a goal is a, of course a great motivator and that was one for me to get under 40 minutes for a 10k and the journey that I went on in trying to do that was infinitely satisfying. Even if in the end I never got to the goal that I had set out. But working through the training, going to the races, giving it everything you had, all that was well worth the effort. Even if in the end I didn't make it.

Allan: 26:52 Yeah. And I think that's why it's, it is important for us as we're looking at our overall fitness to have that target that's maybe slightly above what we think we're capable of, that, that kind of scary thing we're after then we know it's going to take a lot of work, but if we dedicate ourselves to it, we use patience and determination and yeah, we push through and get outside of our comfort zones. The more and more we do that, the better we're going to improve our overall fitness. We're going to improve our mental toughness and that's going to help us in so many different ways.

Gary: 27:24 Yes. And I should say that quite a long while ago, I mean I'm getting up in age, I'm 66 now, but quite a long while ago I stopped running with so much intensity where, you know, I was trying to break old, um, 10k records and that sort of thing. And I shifted my focus, not so much on making a time goal for a particular race, but getting the most out of the experience of running. And the way I did that was I chose to run new distances so that, you know, it was a new kind of race that I would be running or I chose to move out of my neighborhood and you know, travel around the country and do runs that are exciting just because you know, you're there in a particular location like the New York marathon or the Chicago Marathon. And that's also, those goals are also a very rewarding goals and they don't necessarily require that you run with so much intensity that you are, you know, liable to hurt yourself.

Allan: 28:41 Yeah. Uh, you know, there, there are marathons, 10ks, 5ks all over the country. Uh, you know, I ran big Sur, I ran Washington DC, you know, I ran the blue angels down in Pensacola. So I mean, you know, there's tons of opportunities for you to make this more than just trying to complete a run. I mean, initially when you first start running that maybe it's a local 5k you want to finish, but you get online and you look for races and, and pretty much anywhere you want to go on any given Saturday, they're probably going to be a race somewhere nearby during the season.

Gary: 29:14 Yeah. I even have a chapter in the mindful runner, it's called Yo, I know you're in there, which is about, well, the, the first example I give is I was in Sacramento and I was doing a, I was doing a 50 mile there and the night before the race, I was in my hotel room all by myself. And suddenly I heard this pounding on the door next to mine and it was a drug dealer or something like that, who was a shouting at the person inside the room. And he was going, you know, Yo, I know you're in there. Get you, get Outta here, give me you giving my 20 bucks, you get the, you get the hell out here, give away 20 bucks. And it just went on and on and on. And this is in the middle of the night, about three o'clock in the morning.

And I called the front desk and they said, yeah, we're aware of the situation, but they weren't doing anything about it. And so the guy was at the door for about an hour shouting and screaming. So I wrote about that for a race report for Ultra Running Magazine. And I'm an editor of the magazine, wrote me a note back and said, I loved your race report, especially the part about the drug dealer. And it made me realize that the experience of running, it's not just the race itself, if you're going to travel to a race, it's everything that happens around, you know, preparing for the race and dreaming about the race and, and making arrangements to go there and then traveling there and the night before and trying to get to sleep and getting to the starting line and the race itself and then getting home and the satisfaction of having gone and done something like that. And the whole, it's an example of where running or whatever activity that you are using to get exercise is just, can be such a rewarding and rich experience for you if you think about all the things that go into it and not just the running itself.

Allan: 31:24 Yeah. I completely agree. You know this, the stories, the people you meet for the longer races that the pre-race meeting, you know, when you're just sitting around looking around at the other, the other athletes that are going to be doing this and you know, saying, okay, wow, you know, this guy's, this guy's 68 years old and he's going to be out on the same course I am. And I was when I was 29 and I'm like, this is, this is kind of amazing to see this breadth of people sitting in a room.

Gary: 31:48 Yeah. Now that guy is me.

Allan: 31:51 Well, you finished.

Gary: 31:51 I launched a goal several years ago to try to run a hundred mile race in every state in the union. And I'm up to 34 states now and hope to get to 50 in a maybe two years.

Allan: 32:12 Yeah. I guess the question is, does, does every state have a hundred mile race? Because I know Mississippi had a 50, the touchstone 50, but I don't even know if they have a hundred yet.

Gary: 32:24 Mississippi does.

Allan: 32:25 Okay, cool.

Gary: 32:26 There are a handful of states that don't have, you know, sanctioned 100 mile runs. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that. And maybe by the time I'm like you're going to be, there are so many runs popping up, who knows? Those states will come on board before I finish. But the point I wanted to make is that traveling to these races has, is so much fun and I've enjoyed so much seeing new places and meeting new people and getting to know the race director at every one of these events. It's been the most rewarding thing I've done in my life, I think.

Allan: 33:04 Yeah, absolutely. In the book he had a quote and I just have to share this. It's short, it's simple, but it's so right to the point that I just want to use this. “No one can do your running for you.” And I'm like, you know, that that's all you had to have. You know, it's like if for anyone that wants to go out and do something, they set a challenge for themselves. It's you, you know, and then the book is going to help you get in the right frame of mind to do this stuff. But in the end, when it comes to the training and it comes to the actual race day, it's you who puts one foot in front of the other.

Gary: 33:38 Yeah, exactly. And that was, I think I said that in the context of, um, there's a lot of ways to get help out there. When you're running, there's people who when you're sitting at an aid station and you're really discouraged and you want to quit, sometimes somebody can come along and say, just the right thing to you and get you up out of the chair and get you going on your way. Get your determination back. You can hook up with another runner and have a conversation and feel a lot better just because you're getting your mind off your own misery for a while. But in the end, it is all you that is going to get you to the finish line and nobody can do that for you. They can, you know, they can encourage you and help you along mentally, but they're not going to be the ones that get you there, which in the end is what makes running I think so wonderful and so satisfying is that it is very individual sport and it's something that you've accomplished and you know, once you've accomplished it, nothing can take it away from you.

Allan: 34:46 I agree. I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Gary: 34:55 You know, I think the key, it doesn't matter what discipline you're, you're doing triathlons, ultras, shorter races or whatnot. I think working towards some big goal is the thing that keeps you engaged in the activity and keeps you coming back over and over again. If you're only thinking, oh, I should, I should run every other day just to keep fit and you don't have anything in mind at the end of that, it's just, it's pretty easy to find yourself thinking, I, you know, not today. I don't really need to, you know, there's no reason why I need to go out today, but if you have a goal that you've set, there's a race, you want to do a half marathon, you've never gone that far before in the race or there's a marathon and in some distant city that you'd like to go to and you have that in mind.

Gary: 35:51 I think that's extremely helpful and extremely motivating to know that at some point the training that you're doing has a purpose and it's leading towards something and it doesn't matter if that goal is just you going off to have some experience. It's very helpful. And then I think it's helpful to have different goals that you, you know, if you've always been running marathons and that can get sort of stale after awhile if you decide, okay, well, you know, maybe I'll train for a 10K and see how I can do at this point in my life running a 10K or maybe I'll try a trail running instead of running on the road. Or I'll try, you know, a 50K ultra. Um, if you get off on some new quest, I think that's something that it's very helpful to reinvigorate what you're doing and you can find yourself more excited about the training that you're doing because you have this new goal.

Gary: 37:01 And then the new experience itself might be something that you know, you might, I know the first time I did any trail running, I was totally transformed from a road runner to a trail runner. Like the very first time I ran on a trail. Because I just found it so, such a wonderful experience to be out there in the woods jumping over streams and getting lost in the forest, you know.

Allan: 37:27 Yeah, that happens. A true story.

Gary: 37:29 That's a couple of things I'd suggest.

Allan: 37:31 Yeah. Thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?

Gary: 37:38 I have a website, it's called the taoofrunning.com and that's a tao, spelled t, a o and it's all one word, so the taoofrunning.com. And that's where I've gathered all my material that I've written for ultra running magazine over the years. All my race reports, all night articles with advice about running and the mental side of running and where I linked to my books and I linked to a lot of other running websites. The books you can get on on Amazon, The Mindful Runner or The Tao of Running. They're both available as paperback and Kindle and as audio books. And then also I write a regular column for Ultra Running Magazine and an online magazine called Endurance Sports and Fitness. I do a regular column for them as well. Those are all places you can find me.

Allan: 38:37 You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/393 and I'll be sure to have all of those links there. So again, Gary, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Gary: 38:48 Hey, I enjoyed it. Allan

Another episode you may enjoy

July 29, 2019

Mental Toughness with Michele Ufer

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  • Judy Murphy
  • Randy Goode
  • Debbie Ralston
  • John Somsky

Thank you!

With the techniques Michele Ufer shares in his book, Mental Toughness for Runners you can push your body to new levels. On episode 392 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, we share a few of those techniques. 

Allan: 02:00 Michele, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Michele: 02:03 Hi Allan. Thanks for inviting me to your show.

Allan: 02:05 You know your book, it's on mental toughness, it's on a lot of things and as I got into it, what I really appreciated was the way that you layered the information in there so that you gave me a really good foundation for understanding the mind over body. And then you just kept taking it to a deeper level and a deeper level and a deeper level and all these lessons and things that were in this book. I really liked how you related them to the event that you did. And so I'd like to kind of just start out with, could you tell us a little bit about that event and you know, why you thought 15 weeks was enough to train for an ultra marathon when you'd never done anything close to that and how you used mind over body as a basic way to do that.

Michele: 02:57 Well, when I signed up for this ultra marathon Atacama Crossing, I just realized, oh, it's just three and a half months to go. So I had no choice. And uh, all the people around me, they told me I'm crazy. I've never done a marathon or half marathon before. I'm not an experienced runner. I'm not even felt like being a runner and then signing up for such race in the driest place on earth and just people, just look at me like I'm stupid crazy. It was out of I don't know, they couldn't imagine and uh, yeah, but, but finally it was just very short amount of time and I said to myself, I told myself then you really have to think wisely how you spend these a couple of weeks. And, uh, my main goal was to get as fit as possible on the physical side, but not to train too much. I don't want to get exhausted when arriving at the start line. And a main or key point for me was the, was the mental training part, the metal training session, because I titled The whole project, an extreme mental self test.

Allan: 04:13 And it was, I mean, we're talking 240 kilometers and for, for us Americans, I'll kind of put that in relation. When I, when I did the 50-mile run, that was, um, to me that was extremely long. This is far in excess of 50 miles.

Michele: 04:30 MMM. Yeah, it was a 250. And during my training for this phase, the largest distance I covered was, I was shocked when I was looking at my GPS watch pad. It was 29k so I felt like, oh Jesus, do you really want to travel to Chile and started this race with the maximum distance of 29k in your longest training run. But then I said to myself, what if it's your hobby? It will be a great adventure. And uh, if you can't run anymore, you switched walking or trekking. So it will all be fine.

Allan: 05:08 Yeah. Yeah. So I want to start out because when people think about training, I think they think just like the physical aspects of it. I know I typically have and just figured, I don't know, maybe the mental toughness just comes from the fact that you are continually putting yourself through the long runs. You know, like, so someone's going to train for a half marathon or marathon they say on their day off their Saturday or Sunday, they're going to do the long run. And over time they inched that up to make it a little bit more and a little bit more. And then you know they tapered down for the race and the training has been their mental training even though they didn't really take the time. But in your book you're talking about actually taking time to train your mind, not just the running part of it, but to actually train your mind. Can you talk about that mental training, how it's going to help us improve our performance?

Michele: 06:00 Yeah. First of you, you're absolutely right. During your race or during the long runs, you have a lot of time to train your mind and even if you push yourself through it, this has a huge impact on your mental toughness. As you mentioned at the beginning. I'm not really a fan of mind over body. I rather think mind and body has to do kind of teamwork in order for you to achieve top performance or the goals you want. And for example, in German speaking countries where the book got published first, there is tons of books out there and they all focus on one thing, physical training plans. So they tell you when to run, how long to run, when to do cross training, how long the long run should be, when to do interval runs and whatever, and at the same time, all runners they say and confirm the mental aspect of performance is very important, but it's not represented in the training plans, so it's completely, it's not there.

Allan: 07:10 I was guilty of that too. You know, I've had clients that, you know, say, okay, I want to run, I want to run a 5k. I'm like, okay, well here's, here's a training plan for you. And it's, you know, it's the slow progression of the distance and then doing some speed work and you know, all to go up to a race day when I know they're going to be capable of completing the race. But you're right, I've never sat down and say, okay, we're going to need to do some mental training on top of this, make this a more enjoyable part. I give them that training, but when you're talking about a 5 k or something like that, most people within a reasonable amount of time, there's not a lot of pain and aches, but if they want to run a certain time, that's where this is going to come in. Or if you're, you know, I'm looking at this as a trainer and saying this applies to everything. If you want to, if you want to be able to ride your mountain bike further, if you have a little bit of this training even a little bit, I think it's going to go a long way towards helping you be more successful.

Michele: 08:12 Yeah, definitely. And I got a lot of feedback, although the book is dedicated to runners first, not especially or not just long distance runners or ultra runners, I got a lot of feedback from middle distance runners, 800 meters or whatever. They have to be mentally tough as well. And I even got some feedbacks from soccer trainer or tennis player or executive from a business corporations, and they say this applies to all kinds of challenges because the main goal of a mental training or mental toughness training is to work to achieve your goals maybe a bit smarter or to even achieve them at all.

Allan: 08:54 Exactly, and I really liked that you put that idea and so this is not just a sports performance book or a running book as you say. It actually can apply to a lot of part of our parts of our lives. Having that mental toughness to be able to push through when things get tough and maybe even have some fun when we're doing it. I love the story when you talked about Santana floating or floating or running when you first started this story. I thought, okay, Santana has me running along with them. And then you talked about the carousel and I was like, okay, but you had fun. You didn't just tough out this race. You had fun while you were doing it because of the mental training you had done.

Michele: 09:30 Yeah, exactly. It was a, the fun part for me was a key point. I really, when I, when I signed up for the race, 10 seconds later I started crying because it was such an amazing step for me. And uh, two minutes later I went into the living room and started listening to music. It was Carlos Santana. I was listening to some songs from seventeens, uh, one court revelations and the other one try a little bit harder or try a little harder. They fit perfectly to this project and they really become a very motivational for me. And when I sat there listening to the music, just automatically kind of mental training started, I started visualizing how to get to the finish line or the moment when I get to the finish line, how proud I would be, what I would feel like when I arrived at the finish line. And, but also, hey guy, now you signed up for this race. There's no return way and what is the key challenges in order to complete this event? And immediately a lot of things went through my head and I just started ordering, developing mental images, self-talk elements. And emotions and tons of things that were really very helpful.

Allan: 11:00 In the very beginning of the book. You put in an example that I feel like really resonated with me because it was just a simple little experiment, and you call it the lemon experiment and you can show us how, a thought a single thought and an image in your head can change your body. Would you take us through the limit experiment?

Michele: 11:21 Yeah. Yeah. I like to, it's very famous experiment and really wonderful example on, uh, to show how conscious thoughts or mental images effect our bodies really immediately in a minimal most of the time. So, dear readers, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to invite you now to those little experiments. Imagine holding an already peeled lemon in your hand. It's plump early ripening and therefore particularly sour lemon, very sour lemon. And imagine what the lemon surface feels like as you turn it over and move it around in your hand. And now imagine raising your arm and passing the lemon under your nose to smell it. And you begin to notice a pleasant, fresh lemon scent. And the longer you hold the lemon in your hand, look at it and sniff it and the stronger the lemon fresh scent becomes. And now imagine bringing the limit to your lips, opening your mouth and taking a big bite.

Oh, that's already there. This little exercise. For many people it works particularly well with their eyes closed and the more intense and detailed the attention that is focused on the mental image, the more senses or cognitive channels activated and generally, the more significant is the immediate physical reaction. So some people, they really shut it when they imagined themselves fighting into the solid limits or other facial muscles they contract or increase in production. So immediate impact, if just such a little image has, can have such a huge impact, then we can use this information to control our thoughts during tough moments. And I did that in the during the Atacama race really a couple of times, like you mentioned the Carlos Santana image, if you want, we can talk about this a, it was really funny, but it was also very functional. I use this image to change my, or to put myself in in a different state, in a functional state and to feel freshness and to have fun and whatever.

Allan: 13:41 Yeah, I think the one that would, the one I liked that you'd probably tell us about, you said you were running and I guess the ground was particularly rough. It was, you know, of course you're in the desert so it's very hot. You imagined water like on a beach washing up over your feet.

Michele: 13:55 Yeah, exactly. One of the key points for me during the preparation was during these ultra races, the feet, they carry you the whole way. They are crucial for your success and many people suffer from blisters and I dunno, the feet will swollen like crazy. There's always a lot of sand and stones in the shoe so it makes all time. Things get bloody and it find my feet to be most important and I was defining kind of a goal. I wanted to achieve a process goal for my feet. How do I want my feet to feel what do I think my feet should be like in order to carry me through the race. And I defined the feet should be, should feel fresh, really, absolutely fresh. And I was searching for an, for an image that presents this freshness. And uh, there came an image into my head when I'm walking at the seashore barefoot and uh, the water is just, I don't know how to say in English, gets over the feet and gets the waves, just get over the feet, get back when the waves getting back.

There is some wind who make feel the feed even fresher. And I really imagined this in a very intensive way and finally felt that my feet got more and more fresh and I have another image just walking, I don't know, in the mountains on fresh grass in the morning, still a bit baffled as well. And with my wife, hand in hand, very relaxed. And I really focused on this feeling of freshness. And finally I was able to activate this feeling during tough moments when, I don't know, we ran 80k and it was hot of course in the desert. But getting into this image, I felt my feet fresh and the result was I didn't have any blisters at all. And yeah, made it to the finish line finally.

Allan: 16:08 Yeah, it's, it's crazy. But it works, you know? And um, but I want to kind of jump on the other side of the conversation because I think a lot of us start there and it's, it's self sabotage. And so in the book you kind of really get into some of the words when we're talking to ourself, we're doing this stuff. There's words that we need to start avoiding.

Michele: 16:27 Yeah. Yeah. It's very interesting. Years ago I was invited for conference, a sport medical conference and it took place in, in the Alps, in a ski resort and in during the morning that people were involved in scientific lectures. And in the afternoon we had ski courses, ski lessons. And, uh, during one of my lectures I was presenting people with the techniques that have an immediate effect on their performance. And it was confronting them with the instructions or maybe self instructions that are very common whether we talk to ourself or we talk to friends if we want to help them as a trainer, whatever. There's a self talk, like don't put so much pressure on yourself or daunting to up when you run. Or maybe the participants in the congress were skiing, oh don't take the snow gun or don't ski staight at another skier. So very, very common self-talk I think. And I explain to people that it's really dysfunctional because it moves as exactly in the direction we don't want. So this is kind of the realization. They are all well intended, but they have the pitfalls and still lead to precisely the opposite behavior. The one we wish to avoid.

Allan: 18:02 No, I know they, they, they tell you, you know, if you see a police officers pulled someone over to the side of the road and you're passing by, don't look at the police car. Keep your eye on the road where you're, where you want to be driving because so many people are looking at the police car and ended up hitting the police car.

Michele: 18:19 Yeah, exactly. That's it. You, you, you, you move in the direction you're focused on. And this is a true also with the self talk if we're talking about don't do this, don't do that. The problem is our brain doesn't have any internal representations for denials. So when someone is talking to us or we are talking to ourself stuff like don't put so much pressure on yourself, then a lot of areas in our brain start working, connecting each other. This can be centers for cognition, image processing, movement control, whatever. And there's always the center for visual imagery, uh, affects and circumstances involved as well. So when someone tells me, don't stiffen up when you run, I have to represent this first in order to then deactivate it again. But uh, in this moment, the focus is already a guided into the wrong direction.

Allan: 19:22 Yeah. I can't remember the animal you used in the book right now, but it was sort of the concept of don't think about a polar bear, immediately whats her head gonna do. It's gonna think polar bear. And so now you've got to say, well I don't want to think about a polar bear. So you have to try to clear that image out of your head and it's very difficult.

Michele: 19:41 Yeah, exactly. We, well that's a, I don't know, [inaudible] we are very much conditioned to these negations, but they have the pitfalls. So what we should do, what were first the language that focuses on negative things on things we don't want or on mistakes leaped to these results that we wish to avoid. So we should rather learn to focus on goals instead or on things we really want instead of things we do not want.

Allan: 20:13 Yeah. So instead of saying don't put so much pressure on yourself, it's run relaxed, stay relaxed, enjoy. Then two other words that you use or that you talk about. Are the words, try and must.

Michele: 20:26 Yeah, if we use the word, I don't know if it's the same in in English speaking countries, but in German speaking countries they word must is very popular. But it's also very problematic because must always induce this kind of pressure and at the same time kind of reactions to do or to want the opposite. So imagine yourself telling, I must train today or for me it feels hard already and we should avoid this word and rather choose, something more productive. Like I will train today. Oh, I go, I'll go train today.

Allan: 21:05 Or better yet, I get to train today.

Michele: 21:08 Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And the word try feels like it will be hard. You have to put a lot of effort in something. So it would be a good idea to change it as well. Not I try to, I try to prepare the nice presentation for the meeting. No, I will prepare it and that's it.

Allan: 21:34 And yeah, so, so with this, you know, the focus is focused on where you want to go instead of the things that you want to avoid. But invariably, you know, we have these things in our head, they talk to us all the time. We can't shut them off. We call it self-talk, but it's the voice in our head and for a lot of us, we need to change. We need to manage it. And it's not as easy as just saying, I'm not going to necessarily, I'm not going to use these words. That helps. It definitely helps. But when you're in a tough situation and the self-talk is starting to move against you, what are, what are some training things that we can do to kind of make sure that we're in a position to turn that around, to change that self-talk because that's at a point where we're at our physical weakness, you know, we're weak physically, we're emotionally tired and fatigued and now we've got this, this internal dialogue that we need to turn around. What are some tools that we can use to make sure we're in a position to do that?

Michele: 22:28 Hmm. I think the first step is to be aware of your self talk and especially of negative self talk and a very easy strategy, which also is backed by science. It's proven and helpful is to start violating a little kind of diary. Just go through your last race, tough race maybe or situations. And I remembered the self talk you had. Was it positive, was it negative? In what moments do I have negative self talk and what exactly is the self talk like or what do I tell myself? And I can make a list and when I have a bit of time, maybe during the next long run and I want to combine running with some mental training, I can spend a little bit of time changing these talks, this negative self talks into positive ones and the next time I'm on a tough moment and maybe I realized, ahh okay, the inner voice is there.

Again, the negative inner voice is there. There's one very powerful strategy. It's a thought stop. So whenever I realize, Oh, I'm into negative self talk again, just tell yourself stop. Or maybe you can combine it with a kind of gesture or with an intern rhythm image of, I don't know, a button, the red button, which when you push it, it makes a solid like or whatever. But this technique is a very powerful to just, yeah to stop the negative thinking this automatism but then if you stopped it you have to offer your brain something else instead. Otherwise the brain could jump back to the last rather negative self talk again. So don't leave the brain in a kind of vacuum. Offer him as positive self talk and you could prepare this before race or once when you started working on your diary and you found this might typical self negative self talk in this or that situation and you have turned them into a positive one. You can combine it with the Stop Technique. So whenever negative self talk you'll stop, you make a thought stop and then you'll switch consciously to a positive self talk that is rather functional.

Allan: 25:00 Okay. Can you give us an example of how you've used this before?

Michele: 25:04 Easy example is last couple of days it was really hot in Germany and uh, people are complaining all the time and now you can go out running and start or let you in a voice complaint. Oh, it's so hot. It's so hot. But that's not really helpful. You suffer more than you might have to suffer. So you could just work with the thoughts, stop technique, maybe use your inner B or whatever and switch immediately to positive, hey, running in heat is a great opportunity for me to improve going through challenging conditions and I just adapt to speed and well get enough drinks or whatever or just enjoy the sun. Well, we are not in a very sunny state, so yeah, be happy. Finally, you have some sun, enjoy the sun, whatever. It's really very personal. And sometimes these self talk or images, they just pop out spontaneously, very spontaneously. But you should be open for this.

Allan: 26:14 Oh good, good. And then you know, I think one of the other things you talked about like you know to make sure there's no vacuum there is to maybe fill it up with something that's a little fun. You know where like you said the Santana thing or you know, water running over your feet or walking in a cool damp morning mountain air grass and those things where you're putting something into your head that's, that's there. That's going to keep those negative thoughts from returning.

Michele: 26:42 Yeah. Even another strategy might be in order to prevent negative self talk or images to occur, just fill up your mind with tons of positive self talk. For example, if you, that's a strategy I used. I've been in Russia two weeks ago at the race called TransUral. It's a race series, four races 160 280 kilometers each and the first day for me was very tough. There are difficult days and weeks before didn't sleep enough. I had to stop every couple of minutes to do some footage for TV documentary that will be broadcasted in a couple of months. It was hard for me. The next day I really switched my mind and I said, okay, you shared, you are here. It's free choice. So start enjoying the race while taking the footage and I started working with a self talk, very easy but which has worked for many years for me, the self talk was just I few fresh and relaxed, fresh and relaxed, fresh and relaxed.

I enjoy it being on the way, whatever. And I spent hours out there on the course just repeating this all the time, repeating, repeating. I run fresh and relaxed, fresh and relaxed. What happens was I started feeling fresh and relaxed, fresh and relaxed and there was no chance for negative self talk to enter my brain because it was completely full of this positive self talk. So nice way to avoid the occurrence of negative self talk and you might get into kind of a trance state if you use it like a mantra. Repeating, repeating, repeating, repeating.

Allan: 28:33 Yeah. I've, I've used mantras during particularly tough times. We had a, when I went through basic training in the military our captain was a green baret and so he loved this thing called a flutter kick and basically lay on your back and you lift your feet off the ground and you just start kicking your feet. Like you're almost like you're scuba diving upside down and you know, just kicking your feet and after a while, you know, you start feeling the burn and your abdominals and front of your top of your legs and it's hard to just keep going. So your body wants to quit, you're in a lot of pain. And I just, because I was in basic training and I was stubborn, I just, I can just, I will not quit. And that was my mantra as I'm kicking. And the more it hurt, the more I had to actually verbally say it versus just say it in my head so that it was getting louder and louder than what I was feeling. And he walked by and saw me and heard me and said, yeah, you won't quit. And we went for another few minutes and I made it through the entire time and didn't have to put my feet down. I felt it that afternoon because that was a tough workout. But it got me through it and it kept me going. When more likely than not self talk would say, Hey, put your feet down. He's going to come yell at you. And then you'll just lift him back up and start kicking butt. You can rest if you want. You know, you know that whole, he's telling me most and my brain is saying, okay, I don't want to quit. But turning it into a mantra and just continuing to repeat that just allowed me to push a little harder than my body would have normally let me.

Michele: 30:05 Hmm. Yeah. It just stays even some evidence from science that this works. For example, studies showing that, uh, people that enter into this kind of trance state, they might perform better but feeling less exhausted or what is the strain is less than what they objectively have to have to master or if to go through.

Allan: 30:27 Michelle, I define wellness as being the healthiest fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay Well?

Michele: 30:38 I'm not really, well, this is now the big question. The listicles, I've heard about it. People love listicles. The three top strategies, and normally when I'm talking to journalists, I tell them, sorry, I can't deliver because we are all very different. We have different goals, we have different concepts maybe of what being happy means. We are living in very different contexts. So it's really hard to offer the three magic strategies. I think one, maybe one, one advice, be love what you do. Maybe it's not the answer you are expecting.

Allan: 31:16 No, no, no. That is, that is a big part of it is I talk to people about fitness. You know, you don't necessarily want to have to look like a bodybuilder or a crossfit athlete or you know, an elite runner. That might not be your goal for fitness. Your goal might just be to be the best grandmother you can be and train for that, you know, make that your thing. Because now that's your, your why. That's your vision. That's everything you want to be. So yeah, I very much agree with that. It's um, to what you have.

Michele: 31:46 Yeah, I may add something else. We have fun while doing what you love and be aware of yourself and uh, what, what you really need, what is good for you in a certain moment. I really feel like many people, they, they lose a bit of context to there. Their buddies, they don't really listen to themselves. And so this might be a very basic strategy, but a powerful and some people really have to relearn, listen to themselves and to their bodies.

Allan: 32:15 Yeah. Your book, Mental Toughness for Runners I think is going to make me a better trainer with a lot of the lessons that are in there. I'm going to take the heart in my own work and training, but I think I'm also going to share a lot of that with my clients because I do think they're very powerful strategies when we're hitting those tough times. So thank you so much for coming on today and sharing this with us. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?

Michele: 32:41 Well, first of all, if they want to have a look at the book. Yeah, check out their local bookstore on the internet shops. Maybe people want to have a look on my website with some additional information on the book and some readers comments as well. And Yeah, I'm always very happy to receive feedback from readers and share success stories, so I'm really looking forward to get in touch.

Allan: 33:05 Okay. Do you have that link for your website?

Michele: 33:07 Yeah, it's Micheleufer.com

Allan: 33:10 Okay, well you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/392 and I'll be sure to have a link to his website and the book.

Allan: 33:18 Michelle, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Michele: 33:22 Thank you Allan

Another episode you may enjoy

When food is your drug with Kristin Jones

Patreons

The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:

  • Judy Murphy
  • Randy Goode
  • Debbie Ralston
  • John Somsky

Thank you!

The more time I spend coaching, the more I see how food is a very complex topic. Whether it is mindless eating, emotional eating, or full food addiction, we have to get control of our food or we'll never find wellness. Our guest today is Kristin Jones, the author of When Food is Your Drug.

Allan: 02:02 Kristin, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Kristin: 02:05 Thank you so much, Allan. I am so honored to be here and I'm really, really excited to share some knowledge and share some things with your audience site. I'm really, really honored to be here, so thank you again.

Allan: 02:17 Well, you know, I have the low voice so it's pretty clear I'm the guy on the show. But so you know, you're talking about emotional eating and to me in a lot of ways, when I first started getting into the book, I was thinking this is a predominantly female issue and it was a guy. Like you said in the book. We don't typically sit around talking about food, but I will tell you that I have male clients that have emotional issues with food and I have female clients that have emotional issues with food and we have those regular conversations. So it was really refreshing to kind of have a book like yours where you really, it's a concise book, but you really got in there and boar your soul and use that as a perfect example for someone to go these exercises to discover why they're having an issue with food that's not about the food as much as it's about what the food does for them emotionally.

Kristin: 03:10 Absolutely, absolutely. I actually, the process that I use in the book and that I used on myself and, and I use with my clients was something that was exposed to me when I actually did some work with a life coach in relationship to some money issues that I was having. And so we went through the process of accepting situations, forgiving and then rewriting and it was really, really powerful for me. And so it was one of those things where I kind of morphed that into what I knew had worked for me in regards to another issue. And I was able to then take that and use that with my own experiences and my own issues with food, which has gone back for me as early as, as early as I can remember, probably using food in a way that wasn't because I was hungry. That would kind of, I can say I can go back to maybe being seven or eight years old and remembering circumstances where food was used in a way that wasn't just about getting nutrients. It was, it was about making me feel better.

Allan: 04:16 Yeah. Obviously, you know we have to eat, you know, those who have alcoholism or they'll have a drug substance abuse or there'll be had a gambling issue or sex issue or something's going on in their lives where they're doing something they know is unhealthy, but they can't necessarily stop themselves from doing it. How does someone recognize emotional eating? What is emotional eating and how can we recognize if it's happening to us?

Kristin: 04:39 An emotional eating to a certain extent, there's probably, I would say probably most of the population, and this would include men as well, have had at least one instance where they have responded to something that has happened to them and their response was to instead of expressing, or maybe they even did express it, but they would use food as a way of making themselves feel better. So when we, when we think about it in very, very basic terms, probably everyone at some point has used food either as a celebratory device or used it to make themselves feel better. It's when emotional eating, when it becomes your regular go to option, instead of expressing your emotions instead of communicating, you turn to food instead of dealing with the situation directly. That's when it's done on a regular basis. It's something, it's, it's kind of your crutch that you use to get through life.

Kristin: 05:42 That's when it begins to be a problem. It's the same thing. Most of the population, a lot of the population drinks alcohol. It's when you can't get through a certain situation without alcohol that that becomes a problem. It's the same thing with emotional eating. If you can't get through an emotional episode or something in your life without turning to food on a regular basis, that's when you need to be a little bit more aware of like there might be a problem here. I might not be using my words. Instead, I'm using, I'm using food to get myself through certain difficult situations.

Allan: 06:16 Yeah, and you had said it in the book so aptly, it's like we don't go after Broccoli for this. There's no, we're picking, we're typically going after foods that are high fat, high sugar that are going to give us that rush that uh, almost a drug like euphoria, the, you know, the endorphins, the whole dopamine and all of that is when it's happening.

Kristin: 06:38 Absolutely. And that's, and that really is, that is the, that's that's is, it's a great kind of a great segue into the difference between emotional eating, emotional hunger and physical hunger because physical hunger gradually builds and when you're physically hungry you can have a salad, you can have, you can make that decision of I'm going to have my salmon and I'm going to have some rice and some Broccoli and I'm going to have a, a good well rounded meal and I'm going to eat it in a way that is, you know, sitting down eating at a table with a fork and a knife and, and that is a response to physical hunger. Again, there's a gradual buildup. You want to eat something, you can make a rational decision about what it is that you want to to eat. And in a lot of cases people make wise choices in that way.

Kristin: 07:26 With emotional hunger. Emotional hunger can come on almost instantaneously and it triggers in your body that response for the, you know, the high fat, the sugar because it needs that comfort and it needs those chemicals and that reaction in the blood sugar and you know the elevation of our blood sugar in needs that in order to make a person feel better. And so yeah, we're not going, we're not going for Broccoli, we're not going for carrot sticks and hummus when we have an episode of emotional eating is always going to be those things that are going to make us that or they're really going to be identified as comfort foods because that is exactly what it's doing. It's comforting us.

Allan: 08:10 Now you said something that was very important and I don't want to gloss over here cause I do think we need to dive in and the difference of sitting down at the table with a knife and fork versus hiding in the Pantry, squashing a box of cookies. Can you kind of go over that a little bit? Because I think that's a, there's probably gonna come up and one of your triggers, or at least you know and understanding that there's something going on. Can you kind of talk through that?

Kristin: 08:32 Oh, absolutely. When you use food in a way that, and I kind of always used the term inappropriately, when you use food inappropriately, not what, it's not what it's originally based upon, how it's originally should be used with our bodies. There is a certain degree, a person, I'm going to say, I'm going to make a generalization, but I'm going to say that in most cases people know that they're not, this is not right. Like I knew for me, I knew I had a funky relationship with food. I could not tell you what it was. I couldn't put a name to it. I knew I wasn't anorexic and I wasn't balemic but I knew there was something that wasn't right. But I, I didn't really, I didn't want to look at it. I just was like, this is just the way I do things. And so because I knew in my heart, kind of in the back recesses of my mind that this was not what other people did.

Kristin: 09:23 There was a degree of shame associated with it. And so with shame comes that need of wanting to keep that secret and wanting to not let people know what was going on and what you were doing. And so what happened, what happened for me was I became very much, I very much isolated myself and I would do, I would eat at night, I was a nighttime eater. I would, my family still laughs about it, we still joke about how, you know, if something, somebody thinks somebody breaking in the house, no, you better check. It's probably Krisin in the refrigerator. And that would be the truth that I would be getting up at one o'clock in the morning and going, you know, padding out to the kitchen and slowly opening the door of the refrigerator to check and see what, you know, what I could have at that particular moment.

Kristin: 10:09 And so there's definitely, like I say, a degree of shame and you, you isolate yourself because you one, you don't want anybody to see what you're doing and you also don't want to be called on it. You don't want to have, cause you don't want to have to face it. And so that hiding the shame, you know people who a lot of people will hoard food and I can remember doing that as well. I write about in the book how, because I was not, as a young person, I was not allowed to express my emotions if something, if I got in trouble or if something went, something went down in the house that I didn't agree with, I was not really allowed to say if I had disagreed. I wasn't allowed to disagree with an adult. And so if I got upset about something, I would be sent to my room because I wasn't allowed to say how I really felt.

Kristin: 10:59 So I would be sent to my room and I started to realize, well, if I'm going to be sent to my room and no one's going to come check on me and I'm going to be down here by myself and I'm feeling terrible, I should probably have some food in my room. So I know that I can take care of myself and I can make myself feel better. And so I gradually started making sure that I had what I would call rations in my room to make sure that I was taken care of during those situations when I was left kind of emotionally needy and, uh, would be able to take care of myself. So yes, absolutely there is, there's a huge element of secrecy and of isolation that you want to isolate yourself from others because you don't want people to find out what you're doing.

Allan: 11:40 And I think that's so hard because I guess subconsciously you're just doing this, you just, you, you don't want people to know. You pack up all these desserts from the event and you're taking them home and you don't want anyone to know that. But now it's time for you to kind of say, okay, well I've got to figure this out because you know if you're wanting to lose some weight or you realize that this behavior is really starting to adversely affect your overall health and obviously there's some happiness issues there as well. So your total wellness is really kind of can be devastated by this. We're looking for triggers, we're looking for what are the things that are making you do this? Because if you can, if you can figure those out, you can start putting together strategies to combat them to to make sure that you do don't go off the rails every time. Can you go through, in the book you have nine triggers. Can you go through those nine with us real quick?

Kristin: 12:32 Sure, absolutely. So I really would, I do with my, with my clients is I ask them and I think it's really helpful too. I asked them to think back to the last, the last time they felt an episode of emotionally or they can recognize when they were emotionally eating. What was the event that happened right before that? What was the circumstance that happened right before that. And when you can be aware of what your circumstances are or what things are said or what people you're around you can then become much more that oftentimes awareness is a huge thing because people just become, they become more mindful, they become more present. Because what happens is is emotional eating takes you out of that present moment and takes you to your proverbial happy place and you go there and it's, it's like, okay, I can deal with this now because I've got my ice cream, I've got my cookies and I can just, I can just be, and I can make myself happy. And so I ask my clients to really look back at what are those circumstances, situations? Is it an argument? Is it a person that you're around? So oftentimes, and then they can look at, okay, so when I'm in those situations, how can I prepare myself to better be able to cope with what my reactions are going to be to things that happen around me.

Allan: 13:47 Just just punch them in the face.

Kristin: 13:50 You know, at sometimes. And sometimes it really is recognizing that there are people that set you off and that there are people and oftentimes it just takes one time of telling of, actually it's more about communication than anything else. A lot of times it's people don't know, or people, for me it was, I wasn't allowed to really say how I felt and so I would just swallow my feelings. Well, when you swallow your feelings, there's gotta be something along there with you. You've gotta be swallowing something. And so for me, I would swallow my feelings and I would want food because I knew that I was keeping all this stuff inside me and it really, in theory had to be fed. And so I would keep all this inside. Then it gets to the point of being able to, how do you appropriately communicate with people?

Kristin: 14:34 Because if you've grown up and never known how to communicate with somebody or how to communicate appropriately, I know for me, I could keep it inside for a long time. And then I decided that, okay, now it's time for me to communicate. And I would come out like a Holler monkey and I would just start, you know I, there would be completely out control. So learning how to appropriately communicate with people is really important. But the nine, the nine most common triggers that based upon based on research they show the first one is a pretty obviously one and that's a lack of intimacy. And so when people are lacking physical touch, they're lacking close bonds and close friendships and close relationships. Food oftentimes can become a replacement for that. And that unfortunately can be something that somebody could have throughout their life. It could be situational.

Kristin: 15:23 Somebody has a breakup, they use food as a way to comfort themselves because their partner's no longer there. But some people, if this has gone on for most of their, of their life, and this is something that they were, they didn't have a lot of physical intimacy or emotional intimacy when they were young. This could be a problem that is that they never, they've never learned the skills to be able to allow themselves to be intimate with, with another human being. But they can be intimate with food. So, um, the second one is, as I talk, I talked about feelings of shame that can be feelings of shame based upon circumstances, trauma, feeling that they've done, a person feels that they've done something horrible and they can't forgive themselves. And so that they end up feeling like they need to continue to punish themselves. And so that's what they, that's how they end up.

Kristin: 16:08 They end up using food in that way. Again, very, very closely parallels what alcoholics and what drug, you know, drug users do as well. Because again, food can be and is for many people in addictive substance, fear of challenges. Oftentimes people, if they are in a situation where they don't, and again, a lot of it is avoidance. If they want to avoid a situation that makes them uncomfortable, they turn to food. So a lot of people who are, who are, have a fear of failure, they don't want to be confronted with challenges. And so instead of actually facing a challenge they receive back and they just, they find comfort in avoiding it and using food as, a way of avoiding. Again, fear of judgment is probably this, this really parallels eating disorders pretty significantly. I mean, I consider emotional eating and eating disorder and it's really, the fear of judgment by others is actually a fear of judgment for your, you're judging yourself in when it comes to your own body.

Kristin: 17:12 And oftentimes people have such high expectations for themselves that they are so hard on themselves and they fear judgment and it's not the, it's what they want their bodies to be perfect. They want their bodies to look in a certain way. I know I really felt that was really important. And so then the question is, well, why would you sabotage yourself by eating these things that you shouldn't be eating? And the answer for me was, well, I want to be in control of that. I want to make the decision that if I'm gonna go off the rails, it's my decision. It's not going to be because somebody else caused me or because somebody else made me feel badly. So a lot of it has to do with control as well. Again, which is a common threat with people with eating disorders and the fifth one is a conflict avoidance.

Kristin: 17:53 Often times when you don't want to have an argument with somebody or you don't want to face up to emotions and circumstances, it's much easier to hide in a meal or hide in a bag of potato chips or hide in that ice cream. So that is another, another very easy and common way for people to distract themselves from actually facing uncomfortable emotions. Probably the most common one is boredom. I think that a lot of people use food as a way of just getting themselves through the day because they're bored and they don't want, a lot of times they're bored and they're again trying to distract themselves from not wanting to deal with difficult situations. I have to say number seven, self sabotaging beliefs. That kind of goes along with the shame. When you sabotage yourself, then no one else. It's not because somebody else, you're in control of it, you're doing it yourself.

Kristin: 18:45 And that is something that, again, control comes back to being a huge, a huge issue. I know for me, there's a portion in my book about the issues in my family growing up where there was food that I was not allowed to eat, and I really believe that when we deny anyone of anything, it makes us want it even more. That's why I really, I have kind of an issue, not kind of an issue. I do have an issue with diets only because when you deny somebody something, they want it so much more. So I think if someone's going to go on an eating plan or an eating, eat their meals, they have to have some indulgences, a little bit of something, because when we completely deny ourselves things, oh gosh, we want them so much more. And so rebellion for me was because I was denied these foods when I was a child.

Kristin: 19:35 It made me want them so much more. And they became a reward. They became like a treat when I really wanted to, when I really wanted to feel better. And the last one is kind of goes along with the with shame and that's people who are victims of trauma, whether it's physical, sexual or emotional trauma. Again, there's that degree of shame that they feel they have to continually punish themselves for something that was completely out of their control, but it makes them feel, it just makes them feel better. And again, they're doing it themselves. They have that control piece and um, no one is doing something to them. So those nine triggers, again vary. They can manifest themselves and present themselves in a very different way for each person. But what I would recommend to anyone is look back at the last couple of times where you realized that you probably ate some things that you didn't need to eat or that you ate for reasons other than hunger. And what were the things that proceeded that and what were the emotions that more than anything, the emotions that proceeded it.

Allan: 20:40 I found myself kind of having to have those triggers that, you know, back in the day, the first thing, boredom. When I was, you know, when I was working a hard job and I was traveling a lot, I get home and I'd run by the grocery store and I'd pick up a bunch of crap. And then Sunday morning, you know, I'm just sitting there watching infomercials and uh, those talk shows, political talk shows and just, you know, I'm just gonna lay here and use my thumb and finger and other thumb to just eat this bag of Tostito's, you know? And it was that he was, I considered it relaxing. I considered it lasting, but it was the, it was the comfort of the food. It was the comfort of my couch

Kristin: 21:23 and the reward of that hard of a hard week at work. And absolutely.

Allan: 21:27 And then another time that I kind of found myself, you know, going off the rails in different ways was whenever I had to deal with the CEO of our company, it was just a brutal, brutal person. We're wired very much the same way. So the two type A red guys, you know? And so whenever we were having a conversation, you know, he had to be right and I had to be right and you know, you, you get through with those situations and it'd be like, I just want a beer or five, you know? And that's what I found is that those were the nights where I basically just went over to a restaurant called Portico and had me some beer, you know, because I just felt like I needed to reward myself for not killing him that day.

Kristin: 22:10 Absolutely. Absolutely. And I as a teacher, I was a former middle school teacher and I can't even tell you how many times one of the teachers at my school, there would be like an SOS email sent out to everybody. Like who has chocolate in their room? I just got done talking to the most horrific parents and please does someone have some chocolate? And that was a perfect, and at the time we didn't even think twice about it. If you know, five people would be like, oh, I've got it. I've got candy in my room, come on over. And so we would take care of each other in that way, but not realizing that those reactions were so were such an emotional reaction and it wasn't that we needed, we didn't need the food. It was just, it was going to make us feel better that chocolate was going to take care of things and it was going to reward us for having to go through that horrible interaction.

Allan: 23:00 Yeah. Whereas I would've been so much better off to just go home, meditate for about 10 15 minutes, fix myself a sensible dinner, and then turn on Netflix and forget the day, you know, exercise. But you know, you have to dive deep like that. I think this is kind of the core concept of your book is you're not going to get there until you do this deep dive and you've got these great exercises that people can get a journal, sit down and just really start examining what's going on to kind of find those things that are, that are making this happen. Why, why you are the way you are, because you are the way you are. Which kind of leads me into the kind of the process that you take to kind of get through this because we're not gonna, we're not gonna cure ourselves. This is a lifetime emotional disease for a lack of a better word, but you use three words that I think are really concise and really kind of say, this is, this is the approach and it's except forgive and rewrite. Can you take just a few minutes to walk us through that process?

Kristin: 24:07 Sure. Thank you so much for asking. The process again, throughout the book, I take my clients through a very deliberate, slow moving process in a sense of this is not something that can be dealt with in an hour. It's not something that can be dealt with in a day. This has to be gradual because there are so many emotions that are associated with it, whether it be guilt, whether it be shame, embarrassment, that sort of thing. So my clients go through a process of not only examining where their triggers are, also what their limiting beliefs are about themselves and limiting beliefs about who they think they are and then who they know they are because so oftentimes, and in most cases we are told who we are by other people or people tell us, you know, what, what they see in us.

Kristin: 25:03 And in most cases that's not who we really are. And so we have these limiting beliefs and oftentimes the limiting belief can be, well, I'm just big boned or I'll never lose weight or I never keep weight off. I always gain it back. And when you constantly have those tapes playing in your head, that's what you're going to manifest. That's what's going to to continually come back to you. And it's not a surprise when we really think about it. Why the Diet industry is so popular and will continue to be so popular is because people lose weight, they change their lives, they make decisions, they, they do what they need to do. They lose the weight. And then for some reason, why do they go back to those habits? We'll, our minds are so incredibly powerful that if you have that negative tape playing, it's, it's going to come back.

Kristin: 25:55 It's going to continually play whether you want it to or not. And so what I really take clients through is that idea of I need to accept that this is what happened in my childhood or what happened in my life in whatever circumstance it is. I need to, I first need to accept and face that this is what happened. Because so oftentimes I don't think we even acknowledge that these things happen because we all want to have a great childhood. We all want to have a great life. And so sometimes you just think, well, if I ignore it, then it'll go away. That it really, it really didn't happen if I, if I ignore it. And so having to peel back those layers and have to look at, okay, so what were these things that happened that I need to look at and say, okay, yes, I acknowledge that did happen.

Kristin: 26:36 And that felt really, really bad. And I really didn't like it and it was because of sometimes it's because of a caregiver. Sometimes it's because of some person in your life and we always have to remember that every person is doing the best they can given their circumstances and given where they are. And I don't believe that at our core that anyone is a bad person. It's, we all are trying to get by based upon the information, the knowledge, the education and the upbringing and the modeling that we've been given to us. And so when people do things that aren't very nice, it's almost always a reaction because somebody has done that to them. That's been their learned behavior. And so we have to then forgive when people have done things to us, we need to forgive because we are not forgiving them. We're not condoning their behavior.

Kristin: 27:28 We're not saying it's okay and we're not even forgiving for them. We're forgiving for ourselves. Like when we forgive somebody, it's about us letting it go because for most people who have emotional eating issues and issues that have come up in their childhood related to food, they are holding onto that. And when you hold onto something and you keep it in your body like anything else, it has to be fed. And that's where that relentless need for food comes in. And often times people don't understand why, and I'm sure you've heard this before with your clients, you give them a meal plan and they say, Oh my God, I'm hungry all the time like I this is not enough food. I can't not. I'm always hungry. That's when as a trainer and as a person, people need to stop and go, okay, are you really hungry or is there something else going on?

Kristin: 28:16 So it's that we need to forgive to get that out of us. We have to almost purge ourselves of those of those emotions in those things that we've held onto. And so once we can accept it that it's happened and we forgive the person for, or the, or the circumstance or the institution or whatever it is that we forgive, then we can actually take whatever's happened and rewrite it. And I'm, I'm not saying go to la La land or you know, the Pollyanna, you know, like, Oh I, I had this great upbringing, but you have to look at circumstances and you, there is not a circumstance in anyone's life that they can't find something positive or something good that they got out of it. So when I look at the circumstances, when I was growing up and when I was sent to my room and I wasn't allowed to express emotions, I can look back on that and say, Oh Gosh, my dad did this to me and I don't know how to express emotions.

Kristin: 29:14 What I did learn was I learned that there was an appropriate time and there was appropriate place for me to express emotions. So I am not a person who goes into circumstances and just flies off the handle. I'm not one of those people who goes to a store and starts yelling at somebody because they're not going to give me my money back. I have learned that I need to control my emotions. There's a certain time and place for me to express my emotions and I will do that in a place that's appropriate where I don't hurt another person in the process. That's what I can find positive about what happened in my childhood that really wasn't very good. But I can look at it and I can say, you know what? I got some really, I got a really good quality out of that and I can turn that around and make it something that's gonna benefit me.

Kristin: 29:59 And every person has things that have happened to them that we've all, every opportunity, every circumstance is a learning opportunity. And if we don't take the opportunity and we don't take the time to find what the positive is, we are one, completely missing out on growing as human beings. But also we're keeping ourselves in a really negative place. And so it's really about learning to look at circumstances and say, okay, what, what thing can I positive thing can I glean from this circumstance that I can then make a benefit for me? And that's, that's what I do as I take my clients through and I have them recognize where those things that appear to be really negative. How can we find a positive? How can we make that something that is a good thing for you and you, and it totally will change how you look at those circumstances.

Allan: 30:49 Yeah. I'm like maybe the world's biggest introvert. Yeah. And I was, you know, I was raised in military brat. We moved all over the place. So I, you know, just people and then, you know, I made friends but not close friends, not until I was in high school. So I don't have any friends from before high school because that was when we settled down and I actually got to spend significant time with anybody and I only have a few really close friends and they know who they are. But that being an introvert also, you know, if I want to, I could look at it that way and say it's very negative. I don't like going into group situations. I don't typically like parties and events and things like that. If there's going to be a lot of people, particularly if the people are going to be close together.

Allan: 31:29 That's just something I get very uncomfortable with and that, you know, that emotionally affects me. But on the positive, if I want to rewrite that, what I do have is this capacity to be comfortable in my own skin and be alone. You know? I don't have to have people around me to make me feel comfortable. I can sit in a room by myself, read a book, write something, watch a show, go for a walk. I used to have whole days where I tried to avoid hearing a human voice, you know? And so I see that as a positive and that I don't have to have someone around me 24 seven to feel good. I do that for myself. So just kind of taking your approach there with the rewrite. That's, you know, that's my, my rewrite on, on that piece.

Kristin: 32:16 Absolutely. And as you were speaking, one, we sound incredibly alike. Um, because I'm the same way. I don't like, I don't, and for me, I recognize that social situations are a trigger for me. I am very uncomfortable. I don't like, because I've, I've had addiction issues in my family. I lost my brother to alcoholism. And so I don't like being, I don't like being around a lot of drinking. And so when I, you know, when there's social situations, I know going in, all right, this is going to be something that's going to be challenging for me. And oftentimes it can be a trigger for me to have an episode of emotional eating. And so I really have to be really, really aware of it. But as you said, what I have learned is because I was sent to my room and had to be alone So often I've learned to be able to be alone and to be very, very comfortable and very happy by myself and not that need, that constant need to have to have interaction or have to have people validate me all the time. I can be comfortable, you know, just doing my own thing. And in a lot of circles they call it Fomo, the fear of missing out. Oh, I do not have the fear of missing out. I'm fine, I'm fine being home. I don't mind. I don't mind that at all. But it really is, it's all, it's all in your perspective and it's all in how you choose to look at a given situation. I write about in the book about how, like in the late nineties there were all those talk shows where you know that, you know, Sally Jesse Raphael and, and Geraldo and they'd have people come on and they would talk about, you know, I was abused or something happened to me 25 years ago and they're still so angry.

Kristin: 33:50 And I think, oh my gosh, like you've lost 20 years, 25 years of your life being angry and holding all of that inside of you. And it's like we, as a society, I think sometimes that's why there's, there's so much unhappiness at times because people are just not, they're holding onto resentments and anger and things that have happened to them. And if they just would let them go and just move on, life could be so, so much better and so different for them. So it's really, it's a, it's a pretty powerful process and I really, and it can be applied to any area of anyone's life.

Allan: 34:25 Yes. Kristin, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Kristin: 34:35 I am a firm believer that wellness 100% comes from the inside out and it comes from how we feel about ourselves that if we don't truly love ourselves and, and love who we are, that has to be the basis of anything we do. I mean we can, you can work out at the gym seven days a week, you can eat clean, you can do all these fabulous things, but if you have those negative tapes playing and your buying into the limiting beliefs that other people have put on you and you are not truly in love with yourself, all that stuff is just on the surface. It's all, it's all a shell and it's all protected. We have to get to truly being good with ourselves and loving ourselves. Totally. So I would say the three strategies that can make that, they can facilitate that to happen. You mentioned one of them. I am a strong believer in meditation and in prayer and in quiet time and really being comfortable with yourself and being still and just allowing your mind to slow down and, and turning off those negative tapes. So often that we, that we have playing in our heads. So meditation is one.

Kristin: 35:51 The second one is I am an absolute firm believer in a daily dose of affirmations and positive things that we say to ourselves about ourselves and reinforcing those beliefs and those qualities within ourselves. We cannot look to people on the outside to make us feel good, and we can't look to people that tell us how wonderful we are. We have to believe it and we have to tell it to ourselves. A great strategy for, for doing that is my cousin used to have index cards and she would write her affirmations and strategically placed them around her house. So sometimes you'd open up the refrigerator and there would be an affirmation hanging in the refrigerator, not about food, but just about her as a person and what she was striving for and what goals she was working towards.

Kristin: 36:37 And she'd have them in random spots around the house in places that she, she frequently, you know, there was frequent traffic for her and she was able to reinforce those beliefs that she has about herself. So I strongly believe in affirmations and then the last thing, the last strategy that a person can do is daily gratitude and being grateful for what we have because the more we're grateful for what we already have, the more that's going to come into our lives and the more we're going to, we're going to send out that energy of gratitude and love and the more of that good stuff and that love is going to come back to us. The better we feel about ourselves that just in turn then makes us want to go to the gym, makes us want to eat healthy. It makes us want to be kind to other people and help those around us and it just is that ripple effect that that just can I for me can't be on it. It just can't be diminished. It's just the center of of where we need to go as a society.

Allan: 37:30 Kristin, thank you so much for sharing that. I really enjoyed that. If someone wanted to learn more about you, about your book, When Food is your Drug or the coaching that you do, where would you like for me to send them?

Kristin: 37:41 Absolutely. They can go to my website, www.KristinJonescoaching.com. There's a couple of different ways you can spell Kristin Jones is pretty easy, but Kristin is k, r i, s, t, i, n. And there is a quiz there about emotional eating. It's a great place to start to kind of get an idea about whether or not emotional eating is something that maybe you're dealing with. Maybe you have thought maybe that could be something that's going on with you. So there's a quiz you can take. There's information about me and about what I offer. I love, love, love. Like I said, I was a teacher for 17 years. So at my heart I am an educator and I love just working with people and and really getting to those places where people can really look at the things that they are doing and how they can not, it's change, but it's that, It's getting back to who we really are. And I think sometimes we forget who we are because of all of the other things that go on. I have one-on-one private coaching. I also do some group coaching programs as well. And I also have aspects of my business. I do a nutritional guidance, I have workouts, I'm a fitness instructor as well. So whatever someone needs to create their best life and feel the best that they can feel about themselves every single day. That's what I want to do and that's what I want to bring to people's lives.

Allan: 39:15 Cool. Well you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/391and I'll be sure to have a link there to Kristin's website. Kristen, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Kristin: 39:26 Absolutely. Thank you so much Allan. I think it's wonderful what you're doing and just, you know, again, thank you so much and thanks to the listeners and uh, if anything I've said has resonated, please don't hesitate to come to my website. I would love to love to spend some time with them. So thank you again.

Conquering our food issues is a huge first step in finding wellness. It isn't easy, but it is something you can do, especially if you have the support you need. Now is the time to take action. And I'm here to help. Go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/now and book a complimentary 15 minute consult. I'll share a three step process to ensure you know where you're going and the right way to get there. Do this before you forget. Go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/now.

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I am human

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Thank you!

Hello. This is going to be a solo episode and it's going to be slightly different than most of the other solo episodes that I've done. I want to start this one with a quote, I'm reading a book for an upcoming podcast episode. Really looking forward to talking to this guy and I know you're going to get a lot out of that conversation, but he has a lot of quotes in his book and this is one that just really resonated with me at this point in my life.

It is easier to provide wisdom to others than to ourselves.

~ Francoise de la Rochefoucauld.

Now the reason this one kind of hits me in the gut is, you know I've been doing the health and fitness thing for a while now that the podcast has been going on for over three and a half years. This is episode 390.

So I've had a lot of conversations about health and fitness. I've had a lot of solo talks with you about health and fitness and you know, I feel like I know my thing, but just to be bluntly honest, over the course of the last couple of months I haven't been doing things for myself the way that I preached to you that you should be doing for you. And so, you know, I effectively call this my slide and over the course of the last couple of months I've kinda been on this slide and there are a lot of things that I could put out there and say, this is why it happened. This is the cause, you know, when this goes away then things will get better. But I need to go ahead and address this. And in addressing and going through the mental processes of, okay, getting myself mentally ready to change this, to solve this problem.

I've come across some things that I think would be valuable to share with you. So I'm going to take this step back and kind of talk about what's been going on over the last few months to kind of set the stage for where I am right now. As you know, my wife and I decided to move down to Panama. We put the house on the market in December thinking it would sell fairly quickly. It was a hot market. Everybody is telling us our house was in a prime location. Everybody would want to see it so we didn't expect the house to stay on the market very long. And we planned our trip to travel down in February, but unfortunately the house did not sell before February. In fact, it's still on the market, which is this little concerning. But you know, it is what it is. We just have to deal with this.

But we decided to go ahead and go back to the United States to get it to get better organized because we were afraid if someone came in and wanted to close, we'd be running into a time crunch of getting movers in, getting cleaners in, getting everything organized. So we wanted to do a few things to get organized for a move. To make it a little bit easier for us when the time does come. And then we also wanted to get our dogs. We had two dogs, Joe joe is our Chihuahua and Angel is a German shepherd. We wanted to get them down here to Panama with us cause we miss them a lot. And so we traveled up there to do some work on the house to pack up some things, you know, dealing with the movers, getting all that organized.

So about 99% of the things that we had in the house had been moved out into a storage. And we are going to figure out what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of over the course of the next several months. Unfortunately our oldest dog, Joe joe the Chihuahua, had kidney failure and we had to put him down. So it was a very difficult few weeks at home. Then we did manage to get Angel down here. But I can tell you transporting a dog from one country to another, is extremely difficult. You have to follow a very meticulous process and if you mess it up, they could send the dog back. And so it's kind of expensive to make sure that you've lined everything up. We hired professionals to make sure that it all worked out and we got her here.

She's happy and settled in. So that's, you know, that's a good relief that that's happened. And then of course you probably know that I bought the gym and so I bought a local gym here and I've been putting a lot of sweat equity and time into, you know, getting the gym back up to a better standard. I've been buying equipment, getting the place painted and cleaned. So there's been a lot of work that's been being done that's kept me kind of busy, you know, keeping that up, keeping the podcast up. And then of course, serving my clients and, you know, just trying to be the resource that I need to be and do the things I'm supposed to do. Unfortunately, like I said, over the course of that time, I let myself fall back into old habits.

I let myself become less than who I thought I should be. And I'm very disappointed in myself.

I have a very high standard for who I am. And I'm not walking the talk, you know, I'm not doing what I'm telling you to do on a day to day, week to week basis, and that's very disappointing to me. I'm disappointed in myself. Now I can continue to sit and wallow in this self pity aspect. I can continue to be mad at myself and in the end that would not solve my problem. You know, my problem is I've kind of used, I'm doing these chores and moving equipment around, I'm doing this stuff as thats my exercise when it's not adequate. I've been avoiding, you know, worrying about what I'm eating for the sake of convenience of, you know, freeing up time if I'm not shopping for healthy food, which is not a big, big deal.

But I can tell you when I actually do a really good shopping trip here, it requires me to walk to about five different stores to get the things that I want to get good, you know, good healthy vegetables, to get good eggs, to get good meat. It requires me to check out several stores to get the best, freshest foods that I can get. So it's an effort. It's not just a, it's all ready for you to walk into one place and it's all there. And I haven't been doing that, haven't been really focused on that. And I've let that slide. And then from a joy perspective, I'm very happy with my situation here. I've got my wife here, I've got my puppy here. Very, very happy being in the jungle, looking at the monkeys and the birds and you know, living close enough to the beach that I can just walk straight down to the beach and enjoy that.

And then, you know, I love the fact that I have access to and I own a gym. It's something I had thought, you know, and dreamed kind of about early in my life many, many, many years ago. And so it's something that's kind of come to fruition at a perfect time in my life when I'm ready to be a gym owner and it fits with who I am as an individual. So the joint components are there, but I still kept hearing the old voice, the voice I wrote about in the book, the fat bastard. He keeps rearing its ugly head and with the negative self talk and all of that. So I knew I needed to nip this in the bud and I came up with a fairly simple set of steps to describe what I'm in the process of doing.

And I do believe these steps are very effective because they kind of intertwined and finger very well with the GPS process that I go over in the book and that I've talked about on the podcast several times. The first is forgive, then it's action plan, and then it's execute. So the best way I can put this together, and if you think about it in terms of let's say you missed your turn and you should have taken a left and you didn't take that left, and as a result, you continuing down the road and you're now on the wrong road and maybe you've been on that wrong road for a long time. You know, my slide now has only been a few months, but it dovetails with my feasting periods. So it, it actually was not the optimal time for me to have a slide.

So I'm doing this slide and I need to turn this around. What do I do? Well, the first thing I have to do is forgive myself. It does me absolutely no good to continue to talk down to myself, to reprimand myself, to feel bad about myself. For those inactions and actions that I did that were not in my best interest, not in the interest of me being well, not in the interest of me being the person that I see in my vision and not being true to my why. I could continue to beat myself up about that, but I have to I have to finish that. I have to be done with that if I'm ever gonna do anything about this. So the first step is to forgive yourself. And this can often be the hardest step because, you know, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect.

And that's another reason why I wanted to call this episode, “I Am Human” is that we got to get past that perfectionism. If we want to see progress we really have to sit back and say, look, I'm just a human being. I'm going to make mistakes. There's going to be slides, there's going to be injuries. That's a part of the journey. And overcoming those quickly, getting myself back on track. That's really the best course of action for me right now, which leads us to the second step in this, which is an action plan.

So if we're driving in the wrong direction, it's pretty simple. Look for the next exit so you can turn around, or look for an opportunity to do a u-turn and find that opportunity and take it. So having an action plan, you know, what are the things that I can do to get myself back on track? And I know what they are. They've worked for me in the past. They'll continue to work for me. I need to get myself back into ketosis. I need to get my body moving. I need to start moving heavy weights. I need to do the things that worked for me that have always worked and in everything that's going on for me right now, everything that I still want, my vision and my why are still intact. I've evaluated those again and said, okay, they're still intact. I still want to go where I wanted to go. I don't want to go down this road. So I have to turn this around. And that's where the action plan comes in. Figuring out what you have to do to turn it around and get yourself back to moving in the direction that you want to move.

And then the final part of it is execute. You can write all the plans in the world. You can say, I want to start lifting heavy again, I want to get back in the gym and start doing that thing. But you gotta show up. You gotta go do it again. Now it might mean that you backtracked a little bit. It might mean that you've got to use a little bit less weight. It might mean when you go to do your cardio training you're a little bit slower or the distance you're doing now is a little bit less. That's fine. We'll get back onto that progression, the gentle nudging, all the things that we know work for us. It's time for us to do that. So it's forgive, action plan and execute. So if I missed my term once, I know that I've done that, it's time for me to forgive myself for doing it.

Find the opportunity to turn the car around and then start driving back in the direction I should have driven in the first place. So I hope you took something valuable, but before we go, I wanted to close with another quote that's in that book. Like I said, I think you're going to enjoy this episode that's coming up with Michele. But this one's a little bit longer, but I wanna I wanna go through this.

“Pay attention to your thoughts for they will become words. Pay attention to your words for they will become actions. Pay attention to your actions for they will become habits. Pay attention to your habits for they will become your character. Pay attention to your character for it will become your fate.”

Talmud

That quote means a lot to me today. Since I've forgiven myself, I've set an action plan and now it's time for me to execute.

And what I know is the thoughts that I'd been having are now going to be positive thoughts. They're going to be affirmative. I can get this done. You know, I may pull out my journal and start reviewing that again each morning. Setting my intentions for each day to make sure that my thoughts become my words, my words become my actions. And then you see where the rest of that goes.

If I begin regular actions that put me back on the proper path, then I will begin to develop the habits that will get me there. That will put me back into the frame of mind of being successful and being who I want to be. And that's going to define my character. And then obviously if I'm doing the things that I'm supposed to be doing more often than not, then I'm going to have a much better fate than if I stay on this slide and don't follow through with the process of forgiving, action plan, and execute. So if you're not feeling it, if you're upset with what's going on in your life right now, realize you can do something about it. Follow these steps and they will get you there.

If you didn't take anything else away from this lesson, but this one thing that the journey to wellness is actually not a destination. We don't ever really arrive there. Our lives are gonna be filled with twist and turns. It's going to be field with injuries and slips. And it's gonna happen to all of us and none of us are above being human.

If you're on this path and you're really struggling to one, either forgive yourself, two, to come up with a good plan or three execute. I do want to be a part of that solution and I want to help you. So if you would go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/human that'll take you to my calendar. We can book a free, It's completely complimentary, no obligation 15 minute call. And on the call we can talk about where you are in your health and fitness journey, what help you might need, what decisions you need to make, if you need to forgive yourself, the opportunity to do so, and how to go about doing that and then the plan and the execution. I want to be there and be a part of that solution. If you'll go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/human you can book your call today and we can get you on your path straight away. Thank you.

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