Category Archives for "guest/interview"
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
|– Tim Alexander||– Judy Murphy|
|– Randy Goode||– Debbie Ralston|
|– John Somski||– Ann Lynch|
|– Wendy Selman|
Adaptogens and nootropics are becoming much more popular as the flaws in Western medicine become more and more apparent. David Winston has spent over 50 years studying herbal medicine. Today we discuss his book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief.
Allan: 01:02 David, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
David: 01:05 Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.
Allan: 01:07 You know, more and more, in the last 10 years. It just seems like it's a, it's kind of a building thing, which I think is really good, there's more discussion about some of the natural healing properties of plants and herbs. Looking back at some of the Eastern medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda from India, and actually adopting some of those now as treatments and protocols and not going with the chemicals. So your book Adaptogens really kind of gets into the history of this and to what they are and how we can use them. It's fascinating to me how much as out there and we're just still just kinda scratching the surface.
David: 01:56 Well, that's true. You know, it's interesting. This year is the 50th year since I started studying herbal medicine. And I joke a bit, but I'm not entirely joking when I tell people after 50 years, I now consider myself to be an advanced beginner. There is endless amount to learn whether we are talking about traditional Chinese medicine aryuveda, the middle Eastern Teb Al Nabawi, Kampo from Japan, et cetera, Tibet Medicine, American eclectic medicine, physio medicalism, all these traditions are rich in the use of plants for medicine. So these traditions in some cases go back at least 3000 years. Plus you then combine that with the vast amount of plant, medicinal plant research that is occurring throughout the world.
Very little unfortunately in the United States, but extensive amounts in China, India, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, France, Germany. So all around the world there is a tremendous amount of plant research and in many cases, this plant research, this modern plant research is confirming, although sometimes going well beyond the understanding that people have had for thousands of years of how these substances can help us to live healthier, better lives.
And one of the things that's really important to understand, a lot of people have this idea that it's sort of an either or situation. It's either Orthodox Western medicine or it's complimentary alternative medicine, herbal medicine, natural medicine. And honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. Where Orthodox medicine is strong tends to be where things like herbal medicine aren't that effective and vice versa. Where herbal medicine is really strong, tends to be in areas, especially dealing with things like chronic degenerative disease where Orthodox medicine often has little to offer.
So when it comes to the individual, the patient, the client, the real win-win is understanding which is appropriate in a given situation. Herbs are not the answer to everything. Adaptogens are not the answer to everything, but then nor does Orthodox medicine have the answer to everything. So understanding which therapy, which treatments are most effective, most appropriate for a given situation, for a given person is essential.
Allan: 04:36 Now an adaptogen is not just a chemical compound they're pulling out of a plant to, to make a new medicine with its, it's actually using the whole plant. Right? Can, you can talk about adaptogens, what they are and what they do?
David: 04:50 Absolutely. And this is going to get slightly complex. Um, but I will do my absolute best to keep it as simple as possible. So initially, you know, in all these ancient systems of medicine, there are tonic herbs. So in Ayurveda they're called Rasanayas, in TCM, in traditional Chinese medicine, they're known as Chi Tonics or kidney youn tonics or blood tonics. But these traditional definitions of a tonic remedy do not necessarily equate to what we today call an adaptogen.
An adaptogen is a modern scientific concept developed initially in the Soviet Union. The initial research was done by Professor Lazaroff starting in the late 1940s. If you think, wow, they must've been very, you know, forward-thinking to do this kind of research. The reality was this was initially military research and the Russians were, the Soviets were trying to do what cruise chefs said, and that was to bury the West. They were trying to find ways to make better soldiers, better cosmonauts workers so that they could outdo us and literally win the cold war.
Basically what happens is the research eventually goes from the initially started looking at chemical substances and with Dr. Breckman who is considered the father of adaptogenic research. He switches over to looking at plants and they eventually settle on a plant called, at the time in the United States, we learned about it known as a Siberian ginseng, but the proper name for it is Eleutherococcus senticosus and that's where the initial research starts. And what they did is they first promoted a definition of an adaptogen using a very simplistic three parameters.
Number one, the plant was nontoxic in a normal therapeutic dose. Alright, so that's, that's fine. The problem with that is that describes almost every herb in the material Medica. I mean they ask, there are some toxic herbs, but most herbs are relatively benign in a normal therapeutic dose.
Secondly, they decided that these herbs would create what was called a nonspecific state of resistance to stress. So that means they help you to resist stress, whether that stress is psychological, physiological, or environmental. But the problem there is that other categories of herbs including nervines, which we think of as nerve tonics, things that are common also help you to deal with stress more effectively. So that doesn't really mean that is absolutely an adaptogen.
And thirdly that they would have what is called an amphoteric effect on the body, helping to normalize function of multiple systems, especially the endocrine system, nervous system, immune system as well as the cardiovascular and digestive systems. So that was the initial definition. And that last started, I think that was, that definition came out around 1969 so after that and the intervening where now 50 years later, the definition has changed.
Now those first three parameters are all still true, but they have added to the definition. So in the 1990s they determined that adaptogens work primarily through two master control systems in the body. One is called the HPA axis, that's the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. This is the master control system of almost all endocrine function, much nervous system function, immune function and what also what deals with chronic stress in our lives. And then the second system is called the SAS, the Sympathoadrenal System. And this is your fight or flight mechanism, which deals acute stress. So in order for an adaptogen to be an adaptogen, there has to be evidence that it is primarily working through one or both of these two master control systems. Further research showed us that adaptogens also work on a cellular level.
So what does this mean? It means that they do several things.
Number one, they help reduce stress hormone production. So that's especially cortisol, norepinephrine, and they help prevent cortisol induced mitochondrial dysfunction. So for instance, some of the conditions associated with stress induced mitochondrial dysfunction include things like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome, which is one of the reasons adaptogens can be so useful as part of a protocol for treating those conditions because underlying those conditions is basically elevated levels of stress hormones, specifically cortisol, which shuts down the mitochondria, which are the engines of yourselves. So if your mitochondria are not working, you are going to have all sorts of problems with fatigue, with muscle weakness, with muscle pain, uh, with cardiovascular issues and et cetera, et cetera.
And they do this, not only do they shut down the excessive production of cortisol, but they do it by up-regulating certain stress modulators in the body. These are noticing heat shock proteins, fork head proteins and something known as neuropeptide Y.
So in order for an herb to be an adaptogen, it has to do every single one of these things. Of course the ancients had no idea about any of these things. So when they are talking about a Rasanayas or a Chi tonic, you know, those things, some of them actually turn out to be adaptogens, but of course, many of them do not because they don't meet the parameters of today what we know is an adaptogen.
Allan: 11:02 Okay. So kind of my key takeaways from this is that that one, adaptogens don't just address one part of the body. Like I think in the book you talked about how tumeric actually supports the liver, a single organ versus actually supporting the whole body through the, you know, HPA and through the SAS Yes. Right. And then the other piece of it is it doesn't just push us in one direction. It's sort of a balancing, getting us more towards homeostasis than pushing us in one direction just because we're stressed trying to push us unstressed. It's literally just kind of trying to find that balance.
David: 11:42 Correct. Now I will say that turmeric by the way of course is not in adaptogens. The turmeric, it just doesn't work on the liver. A tumor has much broader implications. In fact, the majority of herbs have a wider sphere than just working on a single organ. But adaptogens you could, yes, I think your, your definition, think of them as almost systemic remedies, but they're primary effects are on endocrine nervous system and immune function. That is where, because that's of course what the HPA axis and the SAS, those are the things that they are affecting. Now of course the reality is is that the SAS also and the HPA axis also affect skin function. They also affect circulation. They also affect reproductive function, both male and female. So again, very wide ranging effects.
And at the same time you'd mentioned homeostasis. Adaptogens work in a really interesting way. So think of it this way. We, we, anybody who has had anatomy and physiology learned about homeostasis, where the body tries to maintain its normal balance. So some things are maintained in very, very tight, like your serum sodium levels, your blood serum, serum levels of sodium have to be maintained with a very, very narrow range. And so the body will work exceedingly hard to make sure that it stays there. And the idea of homeostasis is everything's tries to stay the same. Well, in reality, there is a second process known as allostasis that the body uses to maintain homeostasis and adaptogens also enhanced allostasis.
What is allostasis? So any of your listeners who have ever gone surfing, and you don't even have to be a surfer, you could go skiing, you could go ice skating, skateboarding, anything where you need really good balance. So if you got up on a surfboard and you stand absolutely still, as those waves are moving you in every direction, you're gonna stay on that board for about a second. In order to stay on the board, you start moving and shifting your body weight to compensate for changes. That is allostasis. Allostasis is the body's ability to change in order to maintain balance and adaptogens help in that process.
Allan: 14:16 Okay. So most of the book we're talking about stress, so we're talking about our body is going through, it'll can go through acute stress, which just basically means, you know, I see a bear and Oh, I've got run, versus chronic stress where my CFO is the bear and he's on me every single day. And so that stress just sticks with me and my fight or flight is basically every waking moment. Adaptogens can kind of help us with that. Right. So can you kind of talk through the stress reaction process and then how adaptogens can support us as we deal with chronic stress.
David: 14:53 They're working on multiple levels and that's where it gets a bit complicated because, just to give you an example: I mentioned earlier that among these sort of molecular chaperones or stress chaperones that adaptogens affect, we have what are called heat shock proteins. These are molecular chaperones. And so these molecular chaperones heat shock proteins protect, mitochondria from stress induced damage. Then they also regulate a chemical called FOXO. It's a fork head protein and basically FOXO basically is a neuro. FOXO is upregulated and it promotes the synthesis of proteins that inhibit the effects of stress. It helps detoxify cells. It also has been shown to enhance longevity. I also mentioned it basically up-regulates in neuropeptide Y, which is a neurotransmitter which has been shown to relieve anxiety.
It's been shown to inhibit pain perception. It lowers blood pressure, it inhibits addiction, it inhibits cortisol release. So those are just some of the compounds that it is affecting and having a broad ranging effect on the body. So when we are under stress, there is a whole cascade of cellular and organ response in the body. And adaptogens are saying to the body, think of adaptogens as sort of like a stress vaccine. Some people call it a stress memetic. In fact, what adaptogens do is they say to your body, stress is coming. So let's get ready for stress. In that sense, it's a little bit like going to the gym. So many of your listeners probably work out, maybe some of them are runners. You did the first time you ran, you didn't run a marathon, at least not if you were smart the first time you start running a short distance and then the next day you run again and again, or you go to the gym and you start off with a low amount of weights and a small amount of repetitions and you gradually work your way up to where your muscles become stronger. We are more stamina, more strength and the ability to do more
Adaptogens work very similar to this. They basically say to your body, stress is coming yet ready. And so the body builds up so that it is more prepared to deal with stress when the actual stress comes, whether that is an acute stress or a chronic stress. The one difference between adaptogens and say going to gym is that if you go to the gym and you don't go to the gym for two weeks, you may lose a little bit of strength and stamina, but you still have a significant long-term effect adaptogens to be taken regularly because the effect doesn't have a long term effect. So these are things you would take on a regular basis. And of course, which adaptogens and individual takes are going to depend on the specifics of that person because it's important to note that adaptogens are not a one size fits all phenomenon.
A lot of people think, Oh, you need an adaptogens, just take any one. Well, that's not true. There are stimulating adaptogens. There are calming adaptogens. There are heating adaptogens, cooling adaptogens, drawing adaptogens, moistening, adaptogens, nourishing adaptogens. And so the key is, and that's more of course, one of the reasons I wrote my book, is that I wanted people to understand what I would call the personality of each of these adaptogenic herbs so that you can figure out which one or ones, because remember, traditionally in all of the great systems of verbal medicine, herbs are never taken as simple as meaning one herb at a time. They're taking in complex formulas.
Why? Because we are dealing with complex people with complex problems. And so the idea is which adaptogens or adaptogens and the sort of supportive herbs or companion herbs for adaptogens such as nervines Nootropics, we'll talk about this more later, or restorative tonics that you take with them to help create something that is actually going to be beneficial and work for the individual. Great herbalists don't treat diseases. We treat people.
Allan: 19:17 Let's go ahead and jump ahead then and let's have that conversation about the nervines and the supporting components and, and, and the Nootropics. Let's get into those. Just a little bit so they know what we're talking about.
David: 19:29 Okay. So we just, we've defined what an adaptogen is and we'll talk more about them. But there are other, and I include this in my book, there are other herbs that I would call companion herbs to adaptogens. They work really well with adaptogens.
And so the three categories of these, and the first is nervines are nerve vines in England and these are calming herbs. I mentioned that briefly before and they basically helped restore the emotional foundation. So for people who are especially type A personality, for people who are emotionally labile, for people who have number ten reactions to number one problems. Nervines can be really useful along with perhaps calming adaptogens. For a person like that.
Then we have water known as no a tropics. Now I have to define this because nootropics, some people call them smart drugs.There are three different categories.
There are the chemical smart drugs, which are often designer drugs created in the laboratory with no history of previous use and no record of safety. Uh, I am very leery about these substances.
Then there are the supplement, nootropics and these include things like L-carnitine and things like that which have a very good safety.
And then there are our herbal Nootropics and there are a wide variety of herbal nootropics. These herbs tend to be neuro-protective. They are anti-inflammatory on neuro anti-inflammatories. They enhance cerebral circulation, they enhance memory, focus, concentration. And there is some evidence that at least some of them may help at least slow, if not possibly help prevent something like dementia or Alzheimer's. But that is a very, very preliminary.
Then we have what I would call restorative tonics. And these are basically herbs that are nutritive. They help to enhance overall function, but they do not meet the definition of an adaptogen. So now I'll mention a couple specifically.
We have herbs like the goji berry. Very, very popular herb. And the Chinese herb astragalus. Herbs like this are wonderful nutritive herbs, but they are not adaptogens, even though a lot of people tend to throw them in that category, unfortunately, they just don't meet those definitions.
Allan: 21:58 Okay. If I came to you as a client and generally, okay, you're just a general description, over 40 and high chronic stress and you were going to kind of put together a general protocol, what are some of the things that would be included in that protocol?
David: 19:17 Well, unfortunately, that's not enough of a definition, a description that I could come up with something because I need to know everything about you.
You know, as is somebody who is a patient of mine. I need to know not only their age and their weight and their blood pressure. I need to know their medical history. I need to know, I need to know everything I can about them, you know, and they would bring in their blood work from their physician and their diagnosis is that they have from their doctor. And you put together a protocol that is specific to the patient.
Because remember as I said, great herbalists don't treat diseases. Medical men, Western medicine focuses in on disease. We don't focus in on disease. We focus on creating protocols to help people be well, to help people prevent disease. To help people to gain maximal health, strength, longevity, et cetera. So, but what I would look at is, for instance, if you were somebody who was deficient and depleted, I might include some stimulating adaptogens and stimulating adaptogens would include things like, perhaps, Asian Ginseng or Rhodiola.
On the other hand, if you were really depleted, deficient, exhausted all the time, then I want to make sure I include some of the nourishing adaptogens. So there may be something like American Ginseng. If you were a type A personality, you know, you can't shut your mind off, then we might consider some of your calming adaptogens such as Ashwagandha or Schisandra. And so there are different ones that we would use.
And by the way, not every single person gets an adaptogen. And I don't want people to think that adaptogens are panaceas. Adaptogens are incredibly useful. Don't get me wrong, I do use them a lot, but I'm using a broad spectrum of herbs. Adaptogens are just one part of that. And I need your listeners to understand. Adaptogens are not a replacement for the foundations of health.
Foundations of health are adequate, good quality sleep, a good diet, exercise, healthy lifestyle choices. So if you are eating fast food three meals a day, only getting six hours sleep, running yourself ragged, training for a marathon, working in incredibly stressful job, and smoking, I don't care how many adaptogens you take, it is not going to make up for the fact that you are abusing yourself. And in fact at best it's going to simply allow you to abuse yourself a little bit longer until you finally collapse.
It's kind of the whipping the exhausted horse. You can make it go a little further, but it's going to collapse. So adaptogens are not a replacement for the foundations of health, but for the average American who is overfed under-exercised, not getting enough sleep, especially when it's a situation where, for instance, you're actually trying to take care of yourself, but maybe there's a new baby in the house.
You're not getting enough sleep. Or maybe you just graduated from a law school, passed your boards and you just hired on to a new law firm and they're expecting you to work 70 hour weeks. Or maybe you are in college and you're having to pull all-nighters and study, which I do not recommend as it reduces comprehension dramatically.
But you know, adaptogens under those circumstances where you mentioned the example earlier where your boss is on your case all the time and it's incredibly stressful and maybe you don't have the option to change. Maybe you're in a situation where you live in a small town where there's only one employer and you don't have a lot of options. Adaptogens can be incredibly useful. Again, helping to prevent stress-induced cortisol elevation, helping to reduce the stress-induced anxiety, helping to reduce the stress-induced elevation of blood pressure and the resultant of course, mitochondrial dysfunction that comes with elevated cortisol levels.
And I will point out that elevation of cortisol can come from lack of sleep, obesity or stress And chronically elevated cortisol levels not only basically shut down the mitochondria in the cells. Chronic elevation of cortisol is proinflammatory and of course all of our chronic degenerative disease is inflammatory in nature. It raises blood pressure, it interferes with sleep, it interferes with digestion, it decreases the immune response, and increases the growth of tissue including skin tags, benign prostatic hyperplasia in men, fibroids, uterine fibroids in women cancer, chronically elevated cortisol is really not good. And so anything we can do to help our body to reset and be at a, you know, a healthier baseline on a regular basis is going to a long term have profound positive implications for our health.
Allan: 27:31 So I guess the way I kind of take this, as you know, you can't just say, okay, I need ashwagandha. I need a Chinese Ginseng or Asian Ginseng root. I need American ginseng root and everybody needs that. The reality is you're going to have to kind of put together a protocol for yourself based on your own personal needs.
David: 27:51 That's actually true. You know, they're there. First of all, as I said, not everybody needs adaptogens, period. But if you do feel you need adaptogens, and again, that's one of the reasons I wrote the book is so that each herb has its own monographs. You can read about it and say, wow, does this make sense for me? And I often mentioned like, I often use it with this or that so that people can kind of get a sense if they don't have access to a clinical herbalist or a naturopathic physician who's trained in botanical medicine or a medical doctor who knows herbs. If they don't have access to someone like that. They can at least educate themselves so they can decide which of these things may, would be most appropriate for them. And again, not everybody needs them, but I would say that, you know, discounting cultures where they're either people are actively starving, suppressed or at war, Americans are some of the most stressed out people in the world.
Allan: 28:51 Absolutely. That's why I moved to Panama.
I define wellness as being the healthiest fittest and happiest you can be. What are the three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
David: 29:07 Well, three, let's go back to the foundations of health that I just mentioned. In 1910, the average American slept slightly over nine hours per night. Now, the average American sleeps less than seven hours per night. In the intervening 100 plus years, we have not evolved to need less sleep. We're just chronically sleep deprived.
So number one, make sure that you get minimum seven hours sleep at night. Eight is definitely better. If you're sleeping more than nine hours a night, that suggests some issues. So somewhere between seven and nine hours is probably ideal. But the key important thing is when you wake up in the morning, do you feel refreshed? Do you feel rested? Because even if you're getting 12 hours sleep at night and you wake up in the morning and you feel tired, you're exhausted, then you have some type of sleep issue. And so it is absolutely essential that you figure out what that is.
Because, no matter what you have, if you have sleep issues, your chances of having a heart attack increase. If you have sleep issues, your chances of dying from cancer increase. If you have sleep issues, your blood pressure's going to increase. It gives sleep issues, your cortisol levels are going to increase. So sleep is foundational.
Number two, move and move a lot. We sit too much. We are not active. And of course some people are not as capable as you know, heavy exercise. I'm not talking about you have to run marathons, do what you can, whether it is swim, whether it is dance, whether it is practice yoga, move
Number three (I'm going to go beyond three). Eat a healthy diet and I'm astonished at what people think is a healthy diet. I have my patients fill out a three-day diet diary and I'll just sit there and scratch my head sometimes. Because people tell me, I think I eat pretty well. And so of course, food is foundational.
You know, they say as computers, garbage in, garbage out. Well, the diet is the same way. Garbage in, garbage out. You are dependent on your food for what Chinese medicines called the Gushi, the Gransha, the nutrients of that food to feed every cell in your body. And so eat healthy.
I am not a big fan of fad diets. I think that you need to figure out what works for you. And some people can be very healthy vegetarians and I've met people who just can't do that diet. So it's not like there's one diet that is good for everybody. You have to figure out what works for you. But what I can tell you very clearly is fast food, for instance, fried foods, a heavy, heavy meat diet, things like that are generally not good for almost anybody.
Then number four, emotional health. Emotional and spiritual health are, in my opinion, again, foundational. Having loved ones, whether it is anything from a companion animal to friends, to a life partner, to community, social networks. these are incredibly important. And I am a big believer in the power of a higher power, of having some type of spirituality in your life. I am not necessarily talking about a specific religion, but having something that you realize that you are a small part of something greater than ourselves. So having a meaningful ceremony, whether you think of it as the Gaia, the power of nature, God, or Allah, that to me is not as important. Of course for individuals I'm sure it is very important. Their spiritual and religious beliefs and that's great, but find something that works for you and works within your life.
And so for me, those sorts of things are absolutely foundational to health. And then we have other things that can add to that. And some of them, like nutritional supplements can be useful. Although I am much more interested in using herbs because I think they are more, much more bioavailable. And in a form that people can actually utilize more effectively. Those kinds of things. Stress reduction techniques are sort of built based on that foundation.
Allan: 33:49 Well thank you David. You know, one thing I'll say about the book is if anything and everything that you want to know about adaptogens, this is the book, that's called Adaptogens, but it literally you, you covered the history, you cover what they are, how they work. You know, all the different types. Cause there's, there's lots of them. You said there was 250,000 plant species that we've identified and we're just starting to learn how those can help us. But this book really, I think you could have called it the encyclopedia of adaptogens or the complete book with androgens. It really is comprehensive. And so if you're interested in adaptogens, I strongly suggest you check out David's book.
David, if someone want to get in touch with you, learn more about the book or things you're doing, where would you like for me to send them?
David: 34:33 Well, couple things. Number one, if anybody is interested in the book, they can get it. You know, simply from Amazon, if they like or their local bookstore. It's widely available. You can also contact me or reach me through to websites. There is my school, I have a two year urge studies program for people who want to train to be clinical herbalists and that is herbalstudies.net and then I also have a website which is an educational website where people can download free articles, information articles from my library, which is one of the largest private herbal research libraries in North America. Information on my classes where I'll be teaching around the world. I teach all over the US, Canada, Europe, occasionally central America, and that a website is herbaltherapeutics.net and those are the two are places that people can get additional information or contact.
I also have through, I believe it's herbal therapeutics website. I have a Facebook page where I do posts about every two weeks so people can tune into those posts and read the old posts every on thing. I'm mostly on the topic of herbal medicine and my travels and things like that. And so hopefully people will avail themselves. The book, Adaptogens, herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. This is the second edition and I think anybody interested in the topic will hopefully learn quite a bit and be able to make better choices for themselves in their use of adaptogens, nervines, nootropics, and restorative tonics.
Allan: 36:27 All right, you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/403 and I'll have the links there for the book for David's sites and all that.
David, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
David: 36:39 Thank you Alan. It's been a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
|– Tim Alexander||– Judy Murphy|
|– Randy Goode||– Debbie Ralston|
|– John Somski||– Ann Lynch|
|– Wendy Selman|
Rajshree Patel is a mind and meditation expert and an international self-awareness coach, trainer, and speaker. Over the last 30 years, she has taught hundreds of thousands of people in more than 35 countries the power of meditation, mindfulness, breath work, and other ancient tools for assessing the innate sources of energy, creativity, and fulfillment within. Today we discuss her book, The Power of Vital Force.
Allan: 02:06 Rajshree, welcome to 40 plus fitness.
Rajshree: 02:09 Thank you Allan. Happy to be here with you.
Allan: 02:11 You know, I was traveling back from the United States. I'd gone back to do a few things, work on my education is a personal trainer and then tried to get my house a little bit further shaped up so someone will actually buy it from me. And so it's been go, go, go, go, go. And then I had to drive cause I was trying to save a little bit of money on fly spirit, drive from Pensacola down to Fort Lauderdale. It's nine and a half hour drive. I do that drive and then I get on an airplane. I fly overnight, I arrive into Panama city at 1:30 in the morning, get to my hotel, go to sleep, wake up early. Cause you know, it's just normal wake up time. Uh, go ahead and do what work I can get to the airport, fly over to Bocas. And I got here last night and was just like, I just, I'm just drained, you know, all the, all of this is on me and I think we use that word a lot. Drains, you know?
Rajshree: 03:06 Yes, we do.
Allan: 03:07 And I think, you know, and when you, when you really kind of start putting that together and you say, well, okay, why is my back starting to hurt? Why is my posture suffering? Why do I, and why is my head kind of hurting? And it's that draining and so it is really, you know, we, we use that in the Western vernacular of, of force of energy, but we don't really break that down to think of it in terms of all the other aspects of our health and wellness.
Rajshree: 03:35 No, no, I don't think we do. To your point, I mean I was going through a similar thing at some point before I got exposed to what we're going to talk about it a little bit, this idea of a force or energy. I was a lawyer in LA doing all this stuff that anybody has to do. Going to court, managing my files, you know, family, friends. I had just moved from New York to LA, so I was isolated doing my own thing on my own and trying to find a place to sort of fit in, connect, so emotionally there were things going on. It was a lot of stress going on mentally in terms of a brand new job. It was actually my first job as an attorney and a new city and so on. I was somehow getting through things. I knew I was tired. Obviously I was waking up in the morning not bouncing out of bed and dragging myself and kind of wishing no, what the heck happened? How did this night go by so fast and to your point, I hadn't really connected the dots. When I say I'm drained or I'm wiped out or I'm exhausted, I was really talking about not being charged or fueled enough and your basic food or gym.
If I happen to have done it that day or that week just wasn't getting me through the day until by chance. In 1989 I discovered this whole notion of vital force and how really we have too fuel all the levels, you know, of our life in order to do what we have to and then some of the things we want to do.
Allan: 05:10 Yeah. You know, as I was kind of looking at myself and trying to, you know, kind of build a better me because I knew I kind of, same thing, I went the public accounting route and then into internal audit and worked my way up C suite and all of that. And when they finally let me go, uh, it was kinda like this gush of pressure of everything. It's like, Oh, and when I took some time kind of sit back, that's when it has kind of really dawned on me that I had never really gotten completely there because I had not really ever paid enough attention to the things that were going to bring me what I needed. So like I defined fitness as being the healthiest fittest, happiest person you can be. And, and even though I was doing things in my life, that brought me some happiness and some joy, I really wasn't getting all the way there all the time. And it was too many things pulling me, pulling me back into the abyss. Now in the book you talk about the three main pathways to happiness. Could you take a few minutes to talk about those? Cause I think this is, this is critical if we're really going to get to wellness that we address this, this first, you know, happiness. I actually did them in reverse order. I should uh, dealt with the happiness first and then started with the, the fitness and the health cause I think it would've been a lot easier.
Rajshree: 06:29 Oh sure. I mean, so I think everybody knows, you know, what it means to be happy at whatever level. But we never really break it down. There's this sense of happiness that we get. Just a quick thing, a momentary thing like you show up to play or watch soccer and you enjoy it. You want something, you get it and you enjoy it and you're happy about it. But the moment it's over, it's over. And that has its own impact in terms of how it wipes us out. Because if it's just that level, what I find is I need more and more of it, you know? Uh, I entertain myself with one thing and then the next weekend I want a little bit more. So yeah.
Allan: 07:08 I get depressed when football season ends.
Rajshree: 07:11 Yeah. Because it's, it's over like you need the next thing. And even in football you notice you want like the next game, the match has to be a certain way. And who the, who's really, you know, with each other, which player against what player, what coach with what team. So we want a little more of it. But then there's this other layer of happiness where you don't just watch, it's not momentary. A metaphor would be you actually go and play soccer so you engage, you participate. And that brings another level of joy or happiness. It stays with us longer. It has comradery too. More meaning, more engagement, you know, a sense of, Oh wow, I did something cause we kind of tapped into some part of ourself that we hadn't really expected. Perhaps we played well or something.
Allan: 08:01 To me, I actually do that now through tailgating. I, you know, obviously the college football team's not going to let me on the field. So I go to a tailgate beforehand and hang out with my friends and have conversations and all that. So that's, that's where that engagement comes in for me.
Rajshree: 08:16 Exactly. And it stays with you in a very different way because even when you go home, you're talking about the game and what you saw. But somehow that, that sense of belonging in this in a way is part of the whole picture. And then beyond that is this notion of coaching the game of soccer. You know, really getting involved in another level yet that's even more meaningful, more lasting. Where you contribute to somebody else's life as much as you contribute to your own joy. And I think that joy, that kind of happiness gives us, in my opinion, the resilience to get through a difficult time. It kind of boosts us from the inside out. It gives us a lot of energy and then we deal with the ups or the downs that are coming, you know, in the day.
Allan: 09:08 And I think that's why I so much more enjoy being a personal trainer and a coach then I did being an internal auditor. Yeah. I mean I'd go off for my weekend, you know, and I would, I would go to a college football game and I would engage with my friends. So I had the pleasure of being at the game. I had the pleasure of just the all of game time experience and then the time with my friends. And then yeah, there's the Facebook message group where we're all gonna be either really happy about the game or be really upset about the game or either side and everybody's arguing. And even that I like just kind of sitting back and watching all that, but then I, I kind of go to work and it's audit, you know?
Rajshree: 09:46 Yeah, yeah, exactly. But you know, there's another level to all this, which most people don't really connect the dots to. And that is like when we feel our best, when we feel like we have the most amount of life energy and doesn't matter what's going on outside, we feel really charged up. Like you come back from vacation, you know everything's still the same. You come home and all the things you have to do are still there. But somehow your outlook Monday is much more optimistic, much more positive, and you're ready to jump into the day knowing that it's going to be a lot of work cause you're out for a week or 10 days. And that kind of happiness, it's what I would call more innate. And it's directly, what I've discovered is related to how rested your mind is how much energy you really have. And I don't mean the caloric energy, you know, the food and, and the sort of your daily maybe green juice that somebody might do or coffee or sugar. I'm really talking about this thing called vital force, which you're sort of born with. Like if you look at kids, you know, they're not playing soccer, they're not watching and they're not hanging out. But there's a lot of joy and strength and stamina. And that's really what we're talking about when I say vital force.
Allan: 11:08 Yes. Now you got into a part in the book and as I went through it, I think I had to read it twice to kind of really walk myself down the line of, you know, the past, the present and the future. And how so many of us kind of get stuck in this loop and it prevents us from really kind of experiencing the joy the way that we could because of the things in the past that you know and, and the things we think are going to be in the future. And you kind of talk through that line because it, it's not a straight line. Like you would think like we had our past, is over. We have our presences now and then the future is there. But we don't live that way.
Rajshree: 11:51 No, no we don't. Um, so obviously depending on the event and how intense it was, you know, somewhere we store it in our system, our brain, our body, our mind, ourselves. Hold on. Two pleasant or unpleasant events and situations, you know, and we clearly know that if I bring up an unpleasant thing, depending on to what degree you've let go of it, you can have a reaction in this moment. And if we look when we're holding on to things, it brings with it a certain spectrum of emotions and we don't really realize it. But impatience, agitation, frustration, anger, regret, guilt, blame these emotions which are clearly not serving us, they're negative. That's what takes away our happiness are related to something that's already happened. It's done and gone. And if I asked someone, can you be angry about something that hasn't yet happened? Our general tendency is to say yes, of course.
But really if we examine it's not possible. If it's about something that hasn't happened, we're going to be afraid. We're going to be worried, we're going to be anxious, we're going to have doubts, insecurity. That's about something that may or may not happen. And I often like to use this, um, analogy of a, a computer. See a lot of times we're working on a file and in the background we have a lot of files open because we worked on something a week ago, 10 days ago, a month ago, and we kind of forget about it. But those files are still open in the background. They're doing something to our hard drive, our brain in the computer, the hard drive and what it's doing is everything from slowing it down, creating glitches, draining energy, taking the life away from the file, the moment that's in front of us. And a lot of times, you know, Allan, if you go to search something on a computer, you anticipate based on history, the computer anticipates based on your prior search and opens more options.
And I think that's really what's going on in our life. Our mind, our brain or body is filled with stuff that happened yesterday, year ago, 10 years ago in the moment we come in front of something. This moment, it anticipates all of that. We start hitting on those emotions and we're not conscious of it. And similarly the future, you know? I love to think that we have a future, but honestly we're so hardwired, we're kind of conditioned by the time we're 10 years old with through osmosis taken all kinds of things on with our friends and family and parents and school system that our future's really, us being anxious about, Oh my God, I hope what happened yesterday, last week or in my last job, it doesn't happen again. So it's really an anticipation of the past. Everybody talks about, Oh, live in the present moment and all of that. But we've never really broken it down to what it's doing when we are in the past or when we are caught in the future.
Allan: 15:09 Yeah, I, I was, as I was reading that, I was, I was kinda thinking back to like the last three years when I was, when I was doing the internal audit stuff and kind of the first year we came across like a downturn in the market and we got into November and the talks about layoffs started happening and then in December there was the layoff. And so I was like, okay. And it was, and that's horrible. If you've ever experienced that, I can tell you it's just as hard from the manager's perspective as it is from the employee's perspective because you're having these conversations that don't necessarily deserve to leave.
And then what happens is I got into football season and as we got closer and closer to November, which means, you know, September, October, when we're at prime of our football season, I just started getting this, this anxiety. As soon as football game was over and I'm driving back home, back to go to work on Monday, you know, my head's already into this funk. And so I didn't have that energy in that balance to go back to work. I had this dread and then you know, we got into November and these conversations started again. And then in December there was a layoff. And I can tell you kind the final year I was there, that dread started in July. And you know, I can't tell you how many wonderful things I did during that period of time that I couldn't be fully present for because of the anxiety I had for what my November and December were probably going to look like. There were no conversations about head count at that point in time. Everything was positive at the company. You know, we're going to do this, we're going to grow that. We're going to, you know, we've done this. All, all that was there. All those conversations were positive at work. I just had this looming dread that something bad was going to happen in November and I couldn't enjoy myself. Now what I had a dread for actually did happen. Um, so, you know, I'm not, you know, but, but there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. It was completely outside my control. And rather than kind of be rational about it and say, I can't stop this from happening, this is not my call, not my thing. All I can do is, but I missed for the better part of two years. I miss a lot of joy because I just kept letting that cycle play out in my, in my mind.
Rajshree: 17:41 To add to a little bit of what you're saying, it's true. You had no control over it. You know, you lost two years at whatever with all the other beautiful things that may have been going on in front of your life. I also believe if we have so much attention on something, we invite it at some level, you know, if we really have a lot of attention on something being positive and uplifting and it's going to be great, then somehow I feel like the universe smiles back at us and we invite at least the positive vibe of the moment. And if we're really anxious and were concerned, Oh my God, this is going to happen, this is going to happen, this is going to happen. Just our vibe sometimes invites that. And so we lose on on multiple levels. We're just not aware of it. Um, the time now, the two years that you mentioned and who knows, perhaps if the outlook could have been different, maybe a different kind of result could have happened. We just don't know because life is so much more than just what we see, touch and feel and, and I think it's important to see that we can't change our future and we can't change our paths.
But nobody really not at home or in school has ever taught us how to get the heck out of there and say, okay, what's in front of me and how do I reboot myself to look at this moment fresh and new.
Allan: 19:04 Yeah. And I think that's, that's where I struggled with it as I just, I kind of just put that all on my shoulders and carried it. Yeah. And it just got heavier and heavier and heavier until it was lifted off my shoulders by the layoff. And then I was like, okay, now I have a wide open future. And I can just figure out how to make this the best I can make it.
Rajshree: 19:27 Sorry, I was just going to say I'm in, I'm in the middle of a, uh, sort of a big personal challenge at the moment. Yes. This book is coming out, but going through a lot of family things and I see that my mind wants to lock into that, you know, and not the joy of whatever's going to happen as a result of this book. And I have to consciously bring myself back. I need to take a short pause to say that's there and your worst imagination doesn't mean that's what's going to happen. Let's see what you can do about it now and get busy and get active in trying to address it. So it is a matter of being conscious and inviting a pause into my life to say, what can I do about it rather than how does it help me to sit here and worry.
Allan: 20:16 Yeah. In the book you put together an actual exercise where someone can go through and methodically put together these things and walk through the positive, negative, the emotion, the past future, the now can you kind of just briefly talk about how that exercise works?
Rajshree: 20:34 Yeah, absolutely. And I really invite people to sort of take inventory. Um, I do it for myself, you know, every three months or so. What I'm asking myself to do is to say, okay, what's keeping me up at night? What is the thing that lifts for me in my head? And I, you know, just make a list of it. And I always invite myself to make a list of 10 things that are going on. So like before I woke up, I saw my mind was running on, Oh yeah, I have to connect with Allan and how's he going to go and where's it going to go? And it's just a recognition that's not something that's happening now. It's about the future. I'm concerned about my mom's health. So that would go on the list, you know. My niece going away to college and the struggles that she's having as she's leaving home for the first time. So I make a list about 10 things that are either keeping me awake or I find myself talking about or thinking about, you know, or continuously somehow coming back to, and the moment I do that, first of all I've put light on it. It's not going on unconsciously in the background. Like those open files and then the exercise, ask the reader to look and see is it generating a positive emotion, feeling or experience or a negative feeling or experience. So I'm planning my vacation and that's positive. And at the same time somebody could have in the background, yes it's great, but Oh my God, so much work is going to pile up, or how am I actually gonna end up paying for this because things are more expensive than I had hoped for.
So just asking the reader to put a plus sign or a negative sign next to it to realize how much of our mind our time, our brain is caught up in positive or negative. And then to kind of label it, you know, there's a lot of talk on emotional intelligence, but we don't really know how to get cognizant of it. And if you'll look, um, not just positive or negative, but to say, wow, this is something that's already happened. It's about the past. And, and putting that down next to it or this isn't going on now. It may never happen. It's really about the future. It's a year away, 10 years away or I don't even know if it's going to happen. Okay. It's about the future and just making a list, taking an inventory about what is it positive or negative. And then if you add it up to see out of 10, is 50% of your life for time positive or 50% negative or is it more 60, 70, 80%.
And the unfortunate thing is we as human beings are hard wired towards a negative bias. Meaning if someone gives us 10 compliments and one insult, we really remember the insult more, it kind of sticks to us more. It's just how we are hardwired. So similarly, if we look at that list, I find that most people, we'll discover that 80%, eight out of 10 things are not working for them. It's not positive and they weren't cognizant of it. And the moment they notice it, they see it's a, a sort of a rude wake up call, you know, to do something about it and make a shift.
Allan: 23:55 Yeah. I um, you know, I was kind of looking at things right now that just weren't positive in my life that I had some control over. Uh, you know what, I had control over what I didn't and, and I just started saying, you know, I've got it all this negative on my Facebook feed for all this political stuff, you know, and so I said, you know, they have this pause feature on Facebook. What if I just pause this person for the 30 days? What will that do? And I did that for, you know, probably about, I'd say about six or seven people on my feed and my feet got nicer. It got more positive. I started seeing, you know, positive affirmations. I started seeing joy in people's lives. I started seeing birthdays and all these things that were good. And so I kinda got a little addicted to pausing people, sorry, friends.
But all you're gonna do is talk about politics and how terrible life is on earth. Uh, I need to take a break from you. And I did that as a kind of an experiment about a month ago. And my feet just kind of really got nice and I enjoyed the interaction with the people, enjoyed seeing positive things in their lives. You know, grandchildren and births and marriages. And there was some sad, you know, a friend of mine lost his wife and things like that. But all in all, I saw a real life and, and not that. So I, you know, I think you're right with those 10 things, I realized one of my 10 things was this, this negative Facebook feed and you know, rather than just walking away with it from it because that's, you know, next to impossible. I just, well what if I just tried this tweak to it and it kind of gave me an opportunity to be more in the now with my friends and what's actually going on in their lives.
Rajshree: 25:43 Brought a lot of positivity to the other people who are in the feed. Right? It's not just you by that simple act of putting a pause for a few people, you uplifted and up-leveled you, your energy, your vibe, what's happening for you and enjoying that. But at the same time it brought more of that for other people and, and it kind of becomes a conversation we spoke about earlier in terms of happiness. You know, it's, it's going to the football game and having the barbecue outside first and engaging with it and then driving home and going home and saying, okay let's guys stop over and get a beer here and see what happens. So you in a sense became contagious. The happiness became contagious. And so I love that. You know, why not spread something more positive and why not become more conscious about how do I want this to look for me in my life?
Allan: 26:35 Absolutely. Now I've always been a big fan. Well once I, once I figured it out, a big fan of breath and breath work you the meditation cause that's what a lot of us in the Western world as we start kind of getting into this whole, how do we deal with stress? How do we take care of ourselves? It kind of always comes back to, well you know, meditation and that starts with breathwork for most of us. As I got deeper into the thought about breath, it kind of has the two things. One, one that you've kind of bring up in the book, but the other is the energy processes. In our bodies require oxygen. So if we're not bringing in the breath, if we're just, you know, because when we're stressed, there's little short little breaths and we're not really giving our body the energy, the force that it needs to be successful. But it does also give us this opportunity to be right here right now.
Rajshree: 27:24 And both are valuable, right? They're actually synonymous. If you have a lot of energy, that's what allows you to be right here and right now. And the more you are in the right here, in the right now, the more energy you have. So it's a virtuous cycle. And to your point, when we're under stress, if we are caught in the fear, worry or anxiety or the anger or the regret, we notice that our breath gets shorter and shorter. The more stressed we are, the more we kind of hold onto our stomach muscles in a way we hold onto our breath and we naturally tell people, come on man, just breathe. Okay? Just breathe. You know, because we notice that physiologically the innate response to stress is to sort of shut everything down. What we call fear or freeze or flight, you know, and just that tiny awareness, Oh my God, I'm getting stressed.
Let me make my breath longer. Does exactly what you said. Both those things. I notice if I elongate my breath, I calm down, but then I feel refreshed again. If nothing else, you're dumping out the CO2 that's just sitting in the lungs, which makes you tired. You know, in a closed room, you go to a doctor's office or you're, you're sitting on that flight. This happens to me all the time. As soon as they close that door, there's not enough fresh air in the flight. I start to get drowsy, groggy, and I crash until they actually open up the vent and allow fresh air to come in. I don't know if people know that they kind of don't let enough air in until they reach a cruising altitude. You know, everything is is just the bare minimums. So fresh air has a lot to do with our perception our outlook. It kind of gives us a fresh way to look at things. So more energy, more present, more present, more energy.
Allan: 29:22 Yeah. I still tell you they don't, they don't have enough fresh air on that airplane.
Rajshree: 29:25 No they don't.
Allan: 29:26 I don't want to touch anything. I don't want to breathe, I breathe really shallow on a plane. Cause I just, I just know I'm going to get sick. I'm just like, I gotta be positive about it. But yeah. So, you know, I guess this was a disconnect I always had because did you get into the concept of breathing, meditation and mindfulness? That, in my head it's always been one thing. But in the book you kind of say, no, isn't it? Meditation and mindfulness are not actually the same thing.
Rajshree: 30:02 No. At least not the way we understand mindfulness today in the Western world. You know, it's, it's more of a noun rather than a state of mind. Mindfulness is become a name and the way we practice it here is really using more mental stuff, more monitoring, more, you know, labeling more attention to what's happening in the mind. And well, it's just really hard to do. If we could do it, we wouldn't need mindfulness in the first place. And unfortunately, or fortunately, of course there's a lot of value to it, but 60 years ago when it first came into the West, people went, you know, to the far East and went into monasteries, spent some amount of time there and they took a single thread of an entire system, which was to label and to monitor physical activity and what's going on in our head. And that had its value in that it gave us the ability to have more, what I call frontal cortex, meaning greater rational, logical decision making aspect to us.
And it was really necessary in those days because times were different. But today we're so hardwired with our computers in our cell phones, they're kind of like an extension of us, we are always on. So our thinking brain is always on, it's always processing. And so meditation, the way I'm using it is really letting all of that mental brain stuff to settle down, to get quiet, to shut it off somehow or another. And you'll see when I say we're always on, you see the sleeping industry is growing like crazy, meaning the pills and the pharmaceutical world. Because what was once natural isn't happening anymore. We're not sleeping. I know so many, many people, every course I do, students show up and if I ask how many of you feel like you go to sleep and wake up more tired in the morning, 60% of the room will raise their hand.
How many of you people feel like you had eight hours in bed but you're not sure it was I thinking all night or sleeping? 70/80% of the room will raise their hand feeling like, yeah, I just feel like I'm processing or thinking all night. And that means we're keeping that thinking brain on. And so what we really need to do now is to click off, not just close the file we're working on in front of us in this moment, but close the tabs in the back. So we conserve energy so that we give a rest to the whole computer. You know, the hard drive. And so mindfulness is good for something specific, but meditation is a conscious pause, a willingness to let the mind drift, not hold on, not be aware, not lock it into something, allowing it to drift, let it be as it is.
And that unwinding actually gives us deeper layers of rest. When we go to sleep, we kind of connect better with people in front of us cause where are we listening in instead of our own stuff that's going on in our head that's constantly on, you know, it gives us more energy of course, and so on and makes us happier.
Allan: 33:27 Yeah. I, you know, that was one of the challenges that I've, I had when I was, you know, kind of in my hyper stress state of how do I, how do I actually get my brain to stop this stuff? You know, I'm drinking out of a fire hose every day. How do I shut it off, you know? And that made sleep very, very difficult. And so I worked on things that, it started with breath work. It started with taking just short pauses during the day, uh, where I would sit down in a quiet office and say, okay, you know, and I had the Headspace app on and I'm kind of going through this process of, of getting mindful or at least, you know, being aware that all these thoughts were actually out there all at the same time.
And then I was jumping from one to the others before I even got to play out. One idea, one thought, one fear, one anxiety. I was onto the next one. So they were, they were just constantly looping in my head and I had never really figured out how to get somewhere else other than in those stress loops.
Rajshree: 34:28 But, but what if we didn't even have to figure out or even notice those thoughts? What if we had an on off switch to all this thinking, you know, that's really what I'm kind of talking about. Let's go past that. Having to be aware because the truth is, look, if you see parents tell their kids at a dinner table or while they're studying focus, you know, be here, be present. Come on, stop thinking about all those other things in focus. If that kid turns around and says, okay, mom, okay dad, how?
They really wouldn't have an answer to that question. If you ask adults to sit still for a few minutes, it's not easy. If you ask them to close their eyes, they're like, no, I can't do that. Right? Eight out of 10 adults will say to me, I don't know if I can sit that long. I don't if I can sit still, I don't know if I can close my eyes and so what I say is, okay, don't worry about it. Use the breath like an exercise. You don't have to close your eyes. You don't have to find, you know all the paraphernalia of sit well in, in a proper place, in a quiet place or anything. I just say three times a day create a pause. Any way you have to breathe. I'm just asking you to breathe consciously as an exercise, not as something that you focus or have to pay attention to.
And so first thing in the morning, as soon as you wake up, I tell people just lay in bed, doesn't matter or sit up and lean against your headboard and do 10 long breaths in and out. You're just consciously breathing. I don't care if your mind is focused or not focused thinking or not thinking. And you know, looping from one thought to another, just 10 long breath thing, it'll do exactly what you said earlier. Number one, it brings in more oxygen. We've been, you know, laying still, we haven't been active. Our lung and our breathing capacity has reduced. So number one, it brings in more oxygen. For number two are out-breath is an off switch to thinking. And a lot of times we wake up in the morning processing stuff that we were entering into sleep with. So 10 long breath, first thing. Second thing is I always say before lunch, if nothing else, you've ordered your food.
Maybe you're sitting down in your office cafeteria just before you eat or as you're walking to the cafeteria, nobody knows you're doing it. You don't need to close your eyes, do 10 long breath in and out because you're breathing. Number one energizes. It's going to bring in more oxygen, but number two on the out-breath, you're going to empty something from your head. You're going to lower the number of thoughts that are going on in your head and that's going to change how you digest food, how fit and well you feel around what eat. It's important that we absorb, we assimilate, we digest with a calm state of mind because we're not just our body. We are what we eat and yes, we eat carbohydrates and protein and all of that, but if we're sitting there stressed out, you're kind of chewing that stuff back in and in an old traditions, you know, there was a time when we sat quietly to eat, not just because, Oh, it was some ritual, but it did a lot.
And today we know about gut health, we know about biome, we know that friendly bacterias thrive when we're not under stress and when we're under stress there's too much acid. So we don't thrive. So again, if not every meal, at least before lunch, 10 breaths, then go ahead and eat. And the most necessary if you do it nowhere else is before bed because how you enter sleep is really gonna determine the quality of sleep. I just know that I could be so wired with so many things when I get into bed, say, okay, a day in a life is over. I did the best I could and then I start to take long breath in and out. By the time I get to my fourth or fifth breath, I'm asleep, I'm out. And what I'm doing is shutting off the would of could of should of, you know, the yada yada files that go on.
And if we enter sleep like that, our emotional brain, our unconscious or subconscious is going to be processing that. That is a computer that's getting drained and then we wake up feeling like somehow I just feel like I got up on the wrong side of the bed or I'm not so rested and I wish I had more time. So just these three pauses, nobody needs to know you're doing it. It doesn't matter if you've got your eyes closed or not. Honestly, if the listeners out there, you know, if they just do it, they'll say, wow, okay, this is something I'll not let go of anyway. I have to breathe. I'm going to do it consciously three times a day.
Allan: 39:40 If they listen to last week's episode, when I had Amy Serin on and I and Dr. Serin, We actually talked about this specific thing with the parasympathic nerve, that nervous system and the, and the stress switch and, and everything there. And so you're, you're, you're, you're talking right up my, I'll have, you know, we've got to turn this thing off. We've got to get our brain to think, okay, we're safe. We don't have no fight or flight to go on right now. We can go to sleep and actually get good rest.
Rajshree: 40:08 Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, and I don't think that, I mean when unfortunately we've never taught that. Like your breathing is connected between these two, right? The sympathetic stress response, as we say, fear, freeze or flight, which was meant for emergencies in life and it's connected to the parasympathetic meaning the rest, the calm, the happy, the loving state, the easy-going state. Internally body can be dynamic. But internally calm, I mean if you see any, you know, professional, any athlete, their mind has to be calm but their body is in high gear, high-performance mode and your breathing is connected in such a way that if you elongate your breath, if you make it longer, you move from, Oh my God, Oh my God to I'm going to do it. Your mind naturally shifts in attitude and so anybody can do it.
The kid or the adult, you know, as busy as we might be, you do it while you're moving in a board meeting. I often tell people, because by the time you leave an hour of a board meeting or any meeting for that matter, you just kind of sat there, wiring yourself up with, Oh my God, one more meeting. Why is this happening? Why do we need to listen to this? Oh, it's the same old stuff. All that's happening is we're getting wound up and then you gotta go sit at your desk and do all that work. And so I just say to them, just sit in the board meeting any, anyway, listening isn't gonna get taken away because you're breathing. So do both of those activities. Let the listening be there, but breathe a little bit long in and out. And you'll walk out of that meeting and say, okay, well that's that. Let me get back to what I have to do.
Allan: 41:56 Absolutely. I wish I'd had that advice three years ago. Um, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Rajshree: 42:13 So for me, uh, again, I say, you know, no matter what breath is your number one tactic to stay well physically, your body needs the oxygen mentally, it brings your mind in there, present in the here and now. To some degree it lowers thoughts depending on how well and how long you breathe. Number two, I always invite people and I do it every day when I go to bed, I really tell myself, you know, sometimes out loud, even my hand sort of lands on my chest and I say, this day is over.
It's like a life over. However it's been, tomorrow I invite new possibilities. I really consciously let the day go even if it's in words and a concept only. That's the second thing that I will always do. And the third thing is I invite people to say, no matter what, you're the driver behind your life. You got to take five minutes a day, morning or evening too, just quiet down and reflect. To be grateful to recognize that everything that we think isn't as bad as we think that you know, the universe is behind me. Just five minutes, maybe as you enter your, your bed, maybe as you get up in the morning after the 10 breaths, just to say, I'm going to make it a great day. It's a type of meditation. It's self-connection self-awareness saying I matter because I'm the driver of my life, I have to take a break. Five minutes.
Allan: 43:52 Rashree great. Thank you for those. If someone wanted to connect with you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Rajshree: 44:00 So certainly for the book they could just go to Amazon. The Power of Vital Force. Actually, I don't know how to make this available to your readers, but if they just go to my website, Rajshreepatel.com and put down that you came from your show. There is an online course with a lot of tools and tips available to people. It's 11 sessions. The last session is a live webinar. That could be a big bonus gift in terms of the book and how to use it. So the Power of Vital Force on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles or rajshreepatel.com.
Allan: 44:40 Great. Uh, well I'll definitely have links so let's stay in connection at that. Thank you so much for that gift. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/402 and, and I'll make sure to have those links in the show notes. So Rajshree, thank you so much for being a part of 40 plus fitness.
Rajshree: 44:59 Thank you so much for having me. Happy to share my morning with you. Absolutely.
I hope you enjoyed our conversation today with Rajshree. If you'd like to continue this conversation or talk about anything else, health and fitness related, I'd like to invite you to join us at our Facebook group. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/group. It's a really supportive group of people, not overly, you know, bombastic a have too many posts and whatnot, but just a nice group of people to hang out with, ask questions, have some support, have some accountability. I really enjoy interacting there. It's the best way for you to get in touch with me and interact with me. I'm on there every day talking to folks, so that's the best place to go. If you want to be a part of my community, go to 40plusfitness podcast.com/group.
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
Our guest today is a world-renowned neuropsychologist and stress expert. She's literally written the book on how to turn off your stress.
Allan: 01:50 Dr Serin, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Serin: 01:54 Thank you so much for having me. Allan.
Allan: 01:56 You know there was a quote in the book and sometimes I get stuck on numbers. I'm an accountant by trade before I got into fitness. So I get stuck on numbers. So you're hearing me talk about numbers and lists all the time, but every once in awhile I run into a quote and I'm like, okay, I need that quote in my life. This was, this was exactly what I needed to hear today. And this was one that was in the book.
“When you resolve trauma, reduce stress and heal, what lies beneath the layers of soot of suffering is pure beauty. When a person on covers this love and kindness towards the self and towards others is the only thing left.”
Dr. Serin: 02:37 Yup. That's the truth.
Allan: 02:39 You know, and it's funny because I sit back and I've said it many, many times, I wrote it in my own book is, you know, our journey to health, our journey to wellness, it has to include self-love. It has to start with self-love. And I think I struggled with stress so much I never really got where I to be because of the layers of soot.
Dr. Serin: 03:03 Well. Yeah, you know, and I think I, I think that we need to get to self-love in order to get to other things, but we cannot access self-love when we're stressed out. And this is, I think the big, you hit really the nail on the head. The big thing that we're missing and the big way that our thoughts about stress and our thoughts about our lives and who we are are misguided, is that when you are in a state of stress, I call it the stress, which when you're stressed, which is medium or high, you can not access self-love. You can not access love for other people, you cannot be your best self. And we, we think we are what we do on a daily basis. But if we have a lot of stress [inaudible] in our lives and I'm not talking about we have a crazy mother-in-law and we have a stressful job. If our nervous systems in too many moments or putting our stress, which is on high right? We cannot access the deeper parts of ourselves. We cannot access the goodness. And it doesn't have to do with who we are as much as it has to do with how much we're stress. And this is why, you know, this is the stress is the main thing that we need to look at and we need to reduce in order to have a better life.
Allan: 04:11 Now, I've had other authors on because uh, and you don't know a lot about my story, but I was, I was in corporate in the last three years of my corporate career was just a series of merry Christmas layoffs. And so I just was constantly going through this cycle. And so I actually, at that point I had started doing the podcast and I'm like, well, I have access to all of these authors and I would bring them on, granted, they all had value. They all brought value to me as I listened to what they had to say. Most of them though. What I found was that they, okay, kind of focus more on tactics and less on, you know, what are the things that are inside of us that we just need to know to actually resolve stress rather than cope with it.
Dr. Serin: 04:57 Right. And the tactics are great. You know, everybody wants recipes. Everyone, we're really hungry now for, okay, how do I follow this? The Paleo Diet. You know, how to like do this. The things we are culture of addition and we're a culture of doing. So we always want somebody to tell us, do this different, add this to your day, do all these things. And it's very easy to kind of bite off those pieces and think that you have something tangible that's worth doing. But honestly, we're completely misunderstanding stress. So while there are some tactics in my book, a lot of it is just I have to retrain you and understanding what this stress response really is and what it's doing. Because it's not what you think. You know, people are like, well I know it's you know about cortisol and it's about right hemisphere and left hemisphere and it's about debriefing and all these things.
And it's like, no you don't. There's a new neuroscience of stress that we've discovered. We have amazing brain imaging technology now and amazing the things that have just come on the horizon, the last three, five that people don't know about and we're still thinking about it in the old ways. And the result is, we're taking the tactics that people or telling us, and it's the same old stuff. Take deep breaths, meditate, exercise more, do yoga, but we're missing the point. And we're also giving people so much to add to their day that stress management becomes stressful. Because what that does is leave people feeling like, oh, I should have done all these 50 things today and I only did 20 of them and now I feel bad and now I'm more stressed out and I'm depleted. So we have to look at it a different way and we have to give people things to do in the moment to reduce their stress that are actually going to work. Because deep breathes are great, but they only work when you're mildly stressed. If you're moderately stressed out in the moment or higher than that, you cannot access the part of your brain and you cannot actually access deep breaths to override that system. It literally shuts down. So we're telling people in the moment that they need these techniques to use techniques that break down and then people are disappointed with themselves. It just doesn't make sense.
Allan: 07:00 Yeah. It's like you rush up to a 10 and you're, you're peaking at a 10, you know, red line all day, and then you say, okay, I'm to do this deep breathing and it gets you down to a nine, which is 10% better, which is, you know, in the moment it feels good. Uh, but you're still at a nine and you, you know, ratchet, right back up to 10 within a limited amount of time. Now in the book. And I like this, you kinda like walk us through, I guess for lack of it, the process of what stress is and you know, focus and core of our central nervous system. Could you take just a moment because I don't, I think I've ever really sat down with anyone and just talk through the central nervous system and how stress manifests there.
Dr. Serin: 07:44 Right? So stress is your body's in the moment reaction to a trigger. And so you have a network in the brain called the salience network. And what this network does is it's actually, it actually dictates what you get to pay attention to. So if you all, you know, whoever's listening, if you think about how you're feet feel right now, you were not paying attention to that a minute ago probably. And the reason why is because it's not salient. It's not important for what you're doing. If your salience network is working, you're mostly focused on this conversation with maybe distractions being woven in here or there, but if there's a loud sound, you will actually orient that loud sound as those and that becomes salient. And so the salients network is dictating how you pay attention to things because there's too many things going on in your environment versus how much you can consciously be aware of in the moment.
Okay, so it's funneling all the things that are getting processed and giving you a tiny little snippet to pay attention to. It's also turning up and down your stress, switch so you think about your stress switch like a dimmer is turning it up and down in the moment without your awareness based on what's coming in. So if you are listening to this conversation and you have a distract, a distracting thought gets automatically generated something like, oh no, I forgot to turn the oven off. Oops, I forgot to feed the dog. Your salience network is actually sending you that alert and it's also tacking up your stress switch so you will feel more stressed out than you did a moment ago because you had that automatic thought. Okay. Now this is being done for you in pre-conscience network. So we used to think, okay, I see a snake, I recognize the snake, and I go into fight or flight.
Nope, you see a snake, your salience network puts you into fight or flight, and then you recognize consciously after the fact what happened. It's two consciousnesses too slow of a process. That's why our bodies are biologically wired to go into fight or flight first. But what people don't realize is your body goes into moderate states of stress first without you even knowing why. And so then you have to go back and kind of explain why I think I'm stressed out because of this or that or this. You know, your heart's pounding and your stomach hurts and whatever else. And we're always trying to figure it out on the backend. But the reality is, is that these networks in the brain are automatically, and we call it the, that's why it's called the automatic system. It's automatic. It's doing it for us. And then we're trying to control it with the wrong networks.
And it doesn't work. So if your heart's pounding and you're in fight or flight and eat, you can even access the thought to breathe. You won't be able to breathe. So you can actually use breaths to bring your stress, which is from like a five down to a three but you really can't use that to bring yourself from a 10 down to a nine actually, because you can't access that you're hyperventilating at that point. And you're only all of your brain resources are focused at that moment is survival and sometimes it is a matter of survival. You know, I have snakes coming at me, right? And I have to run, but a lot of times it's my cell phone's ringing and I can't find it in my purse and I'm going into the state of fight or flight. That's not a matter of our survival.
But our nervous system is confused and it's turning on our stress, which too often, too much. And the result is poor quality of life, poor health outcomes, being irritable, lack of sleep, all these things that stress moderates.
Allan: 11:13 Now, in the book you talk about this, this concept called the pleasure principle. Could you take just a minute to go over. that?
Dr. Serin: 11:22 So when we're talking about pleasure, we're really talking about an in the moment. We are going to move towards things that have been pleasurable in the past or that are we think are going to be pleasurable,unconsciously. we're going to move away from, we're going to avoid things that are unpleasant. And again, these are choices that are being made for us. You think that your consciousness is doing all of the work, but it's not. So there's a lot of things people avoid and they don't even know why.Oor there's a lot of people, things that people do via the pleasure principle that they don't want to do. And this is where we get into addictive behavior. Um, you know, gambling, shopping, eating chocolate, you know, drinking, all these things. Anything that has brought us pleasure in the past and has regulated some of our neurochemistry, we are more likely to do in the future. So one of my biggest things when people say, well, if you know, let's say something terrible happens, like, um, your parent dies. Okay. What is your recommendation about behavior? And my recommendation is don't start any new bad habits because in those moments of despair, of grief, of stress, of whatever, if you start a new bad habit, then that is going to get locked into the, what we call the pleasure principle. And what it's gonna do is your brain is going to unconsciously signal you to keep doing that.
And so, and if you have an old addiction that's been dormant, let's say someone's been sober for 20 years and something really bad happens, they are way more likely at that point in their lives to go back into the addictive behavior. And this is why we get people relapsing after so many years, right? Because the need for regulation is so high. The need for relief, the need for feeling better because of the stress that people will look forward to in ways that are dictated by the pleasure of prince. So we want to understand that our behavior is not under as much conscious control as we think, but it's being controlled by the pleasure principle sometimes. And also distress, which and what it signals you to do. And when we understand that we can kind of do a better job of, staying away from some of those behaviors or regulating ourselves and also not beating ourselves up when we do do the things that don't make sense to us that have consequences.
Like, oh my gosh, I just, you know, went out and I'm on a diet and I just ate, you know, consumed a thousand calories of dinner and like, why did I do that? We have the answer. Well, you know, why you did that, you needed some regulation and your consciousness in that moment wasn't that powerful. But what we can do is we can hack into the stress system and lower the stress and then the cravings will go away. The likelihood of going into those behaviors go away. And even if you do the behaviors when you're not stressed out, you don't get that reward. Okay? So teachers know this, right? If teachers have a rough day with their class and they drink wine at the end of the day, it's really, really great. But if they have a fine day and they go home and drink wine, it's just like I could take it or leave it. So it's the in the moment reward that you're giving the brain. It dictates how good it feels, how likely you are to repeat that behavior.
Allan: 14:33 Okay. Now there's one final piece that I want to put together because what I'm kinda building a layer here, and you kind of did this in a book as well, which I really liked, was the 10 cognitive distortions. Can you kind of quickly go through those? Cause I think when you, when I put these three concepts together, you know, the central nervous system, particularly the salient network, a pleasure principles, and then these cognitive distortions. I think we kinda build a, the platform to understand why tactics alone really isn't enough when you're in that state.
Dr. Serin: 15:08 The cognitive distortions are basically ways of just thinking this is where we, we get consciousness in the mix. Now they said these other things we're talking about, well, very little to do with consciousness, but now we bring consciousness in and go, what is the quality of our thinking? Right? And if we can identify the cognitive distortions, we can lower stress through that and we can kind of put these all together. So an example of a cognitive distortion would be emotional reasoning. Well, and that's when you have a feeling and then you think it must be based on some kind of reality. And the reality is that we have feelings based on how much sleep we got that night or certain triggers.
I mean, we can show pictures of you, and or we can show pictures to people in psychological research. Let's say that they don't even encode visually. So you don't even know what you saw. But let's say if I flash really quickly a picture of an angry barking dog and a gun and something, you know, really like a, a terrible scene, you don't even know you've seen it. And then we start talking, you know, you'll have a more negative view of me. You'll have a different feeling about me than you would had I not done that or have you not seen those you know, preconscious pictures beforehand. So the brain isn't just this passive thing taking in information. We can prime the brain to go into all kinds of states. So if we think, oh, I have this feeling, therefore something horrible must have happened or this person might be bad or whatever.
We're using emotional reasoning and that can get us into trouble and increase our stress. The other thing we can do is, um, fortune-telling. We have no clue. Allan. No clue what is going to happen in five minutes tomorrow or the next day or in 10 years. We have no idea. And yet we all are making these predictions and depending on whether the prediction is negative or positive, we feel stressed in this moment. So we want to be mindful of, oh, that's me fortune telling again. And people with OCD and generalized anxiety, they have a really hard time with their brains automatically. Fortune-telling and also doing something called catastrophizing thinking that things are going to be horrible. Right.
So my mom has anxiety and my brother got laid off from a job a few months ago, he was a very high paid salesperson and she calls me going, oh, this is so he just, you know, his whole life is ruined. His wife's going to be so mad. He's not going to find a job… I said, stop, stop, stop. And I go, mom, go back to the book or put your touchpoints on because you have no clue how this is going pan out. And my brother's very intelligent, very resourceful, top in his field. Sure enough, within a week he had another job. He's doing great. Loves it. It's fine. Now, not everything works out fine. But the point is, is that in a moment you're making a prediction. You're fortunate telling you're catastrophizing. You're actually creating a tick up on the stress switch. So you may start off a three and then start to work yourself up and your thinking all the way up to a nine or a 10 or full-blown panic if you're not stopping yourself and realizing, oh, this is where my consciousness actually can help me when I'm a three, I can use my consciousness and this understanding to make it not go up to a seven or an eight at a level three you can take a deep breath and go, okay, I'm catastrophizing. I don't know how this is going to go. He's always had a job. He's resourceful. Things are okay, you know, and then your stress can stay at a low level. So sometimes our stress, which is our being turned up without our awareness and sometimes are conscious process is actually with our awareness, pushing our stress switch up. And that process is the one that we have the most control over. But all of the stress, which issues now can actually be hacked into with some new technology and some things that are not just thinking and paying attention and being mindful.
Allan: 19:17 Now, I had always, I, and I guess it's, you know what I've read what I've thought, how I've always viewed, stress is that it's, you know, it's just something you have to, you have to cope with it. Just something. But I guess recent research and particularly research that you've done, it's showing that, you know, we, we can actually flip that switch as you will, uh, the stress switch and cure stress from, from the perspective of putting ourselves in the position where we're in mildly stressful states that we can then through tactics deal with. Can you talk a little bit about that concept of curing stress?
Dr. Serin: 19:58 Right. So we need some stress. So, you know, when we're going to go perform, when we're giving a talk or if we're an athlete, we're going to, um, go into some states of stress. So we, this isn't to say that we're going to give people zero stress because zero stress means that you're dead, right? But we're talking about coping excess stress. I'm talking about that when your cell phone is in your purse and you cannot find it, you're not going into fight or flight because that's a waste of, that's a waste of stress, so to speak. Right? We shouldn't, you know, we should only be in the stress when we are in a life or death situation or when we're under, you know, extreme time pressure or things like that. And then we should go back to baseline. But that's not what's happening.
People's stress, which is are on, you know, maybe they're at a four or five pretty much day long, fluctuating up and down from that and their bodies are inflamed and they are, you know, their quality of their thoughts is automatically negative and those sorts of things. So what I'm talking about sharing, yeah, excess stress. I'm talking about a default level, a default stress, which motive of being pretty low. Okay. And then your stress will go up. If there's a really loud sound right now, Allan, or let's say a fire alarm went off and you and I both heard it, we would go into fight or flight. But we would go into fight or flight and our stress switches would be a 10 and then our bodies quickly lower it down to a default level, somewhere between zero and two that's what's ideal. This is what happens in nature.
You know, I'm a predator, starts chasing a zebra and the zebra runs away, goes into fight or flight and as soon as the Predator's gone, the zebra goes back to, well we call homeostasis low stress and then it starts grazing and hanging out and doing all that. The Zebra is not sitting there thinking, well what a lion that was, oh my God, I nearly escaped and I'm sure going to die tomorrow. These things. And so this is sort of the price we pay for consciousness. So we owe it to ourselves to create a low default stress switch, and depending on who you are and what you've been through, the prescription for that is different. But the technology that I talk about that I developed to prevent PTSD is one of the first steps. So you can actually have this technology on your body. It's noninvasive. It's just haptic micro vibrations that vibrate back and forth. And believe it or not, that adds an input into the salient network that's deciding what to do with your stress switch. And it lowers your stress switch. So the research is that it will lower your stress about 62% in 30 seconds. And that's with the sample of over a thousand people. And so if you have access to this, it can bring your stress, which down very, very quickly. And then people spot use it throughout the day to keep their stress low.
So we use that and then we also have people, the other, you know, cure part of this is a base of healthy behaviors and that's where you come in, right? A base of healthy exercise and diet and sleep regulation. And I don't mean when I say diet, I think people freak out. They're like, oh my gosh, I have to start counting macros and I need to, you know, go on the LCHFdiet, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about a reasonably well balanced diet where you're not drinking two sodas a day, right? You're never ingesting things that have a huge spike, create a huge spike in insulin. You're not binge eating. You're not only eating white and brown foods. I'm talking about very basic, healthy diet principles. Okay? So you don't have to add two hours of obsessiveness to your day trying to maintain a healthy diet. Right? But just the basics, okay. You have the basics of the exercise, the Diet and sleep regulation, and then you add the technology and then you add some of the knowledge in the book. And I think that is all the recipe that you need for success unless you've been extremely traumatized or have PTSD, had a terrible upbringing. If that's the case and there's a lot of trauma in your childhood, then we add to the prescription things like EMDR therapy and maybe neurofeedback in our clinics. And so, um, but whatever the reasons or the case or however bad it is, we can cure the excess stress.
Allan: 24:23 Yeah. And I think, you know, as, as you know, as I talk to a lot of people come to clients, you know, on online, uh, just the conversation. I'm actually, I mean, I used to have this mindset that, you know, there can't be that many people with, you know, PSTD but I guess I'm coming to understand that as the world and the technology and everything has, has moved forward at this pace, all that kind of piled on to potentially childhood trauma to you know, just major things that are going on in our lives right now. Um, we're just over, we're over done. And it's really pushed a lot of people over that line to a point where yes, you need proper nutrition. Just make sure you're getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs, the protein it needs to rebuild and do the things you're getting, the proper sleep, so that your body can heal and recover and you're moving, you know, you have a movement practice where you're building a fitness level to be the kind of person you want to be.
And do the things you want to do. If you, if you're doing all of those behavioral things right, you still might find yourself just not able to flip that switch. Um, so I do want to talk a little bit about the technologies. So let's start with the EMDR. What is that? What's that kind of therapy like? And um, you know, if someone really does, they've got, they know they've got trauma, they've tried all the tactics, they aren't, they're eating well, they're exercising, their sleep isdisrupted because of the stress more than likely and maybe haven't figured out the sleep part, but they just know they're not getting where they need to and it's time for them to consider some therapy. What is this like, what would that be like for them?
Dr. Serin: 26:08 Yeah, I get patients like this all the time and you know, some of them have been to therapy. Some of them have been to talk therapy and while it was moderately helpful and they liked their therapist, they're still having these responses and it's not getting resolved. We have to resolve it at the level of the nervous system. If we don't do that, every time you get a trigger that's associated with something, your stress, which is going to go up to what it's default is for that trigger. So I think about, you know, someone goes, well I think about my ex-husband and it goes up to an eight and then I, and, and we're not, again, consciously trying to think about it. It's just sometimes the thoughts happen automatically or sometimes we get an email from them and then boom, eight, eight, eight, right? We want to change that.
So the EMDR therapy incorporates a lot of the ingredient of some other therapies. So it's sort of like cognitive behavioral therapy plus the therapists will use eye movements and also similar technology or the technology in the touchpoints which you can now use at home. Um, and those are just the vibrations that bring down stress. And so you process the trauma or whatever happened and sometimes you didn't even know what it is. All you know is that when something happens in your life now it creates such a stress response or panic that we start there and then you will start processing everything in your memory networks associated with that, whether or not you think it makes sense and then that gets resolved in the nervous system and then it doesn't take your stress switch up anymore. So it's that simple.
But we are so obsessed with consciousness and convoluting things and thinking that, you know, defining ourselves as our anxiety or this or that, that that I just need to whittle it down for people and say if we were thinking of something, and while you're thinking of that, you can get your body calm instead of the stress that becomes your new normal for that thing and then that will generalize to other things. And that's how we heal trauma. And that's how we create a different default in the stress switch. And the EMDR therapy does a beautiful job of that. In fact, research shows that if someone's got post traumatic stress disorder from a single incident, like let's say a near death experience or one combat experience, then they actually only need about six sessions of EMDR to cure it.
Allan: 28:31 Okay. And then the blast technique, which is the bilateral alternating stimulation tat tie, which you kind of talked about the touch points, it's, it's Kinda tapping into the salient network. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that works? Cause that's something that someone can use at home as, as needed, right,
Dr. Serin: 28:50 right. So if you think about, you know, if you in a loud, if you're at a conference and or a restaurant even and it's really loud and there's all these jarring sounds, you're going to feel more stressed out because your salience network is ratcheting up your stress switch based on all of that sensory information. But if you are in a dimly lit room with music and with calming things, your stress switch is actually going to be turned down for you because of that sensory information. All the blast does. Bilateral alternating stimulation in tactile form. I know that's a mouthful. Nobody, nobody's going to be tested on that. So we just call it blast. All that is is it's a better sensory input that will lower stress faster than let's say listening to a calm song or in a bathtub or something like that.
We're using a sensory network to downgrade the stress response in real time and we can do it very quickly with these alternating vibrations. It's amazing. So people can use those in situations where they're normally stressed out. So we have people using them during tests for test anxiety. Or, um, parents often struggle with kids who are sitting down to do homework and they hate homework and you pop it on the kids for kids and Tantrum or for cravings. Remember, if you're stressed out, you're more likely to want to reach for a donut versus a salad. But if we lower your stress, those cravings, will go down because there's no stress to regulate in that moment with a donut or alcohol or something else. Um, so there's all kinds of applications at home that you can use this technology for. And what I like about it is you don't have to stop what you're doing.
People go, well, what do I have to do? Like leave my desk at work and you know, meditate for five minutes and then go back. And I'm like, no, you, you don't need to do that. Um, in fact, good luck leaving your desk and trying to meditate for five minutes. You're probably not going to be able to willfully get your stress down enough to get into a meditative state. If you can that's wonderful, but most of us can't. So at your work desk is something stressful. You just put them in your pockets because they just have to be on one side or the other side of the body. So you can put them in pockets, socks. You can hold on to them with your hands. They come with a wristband so you can wear them on your wrists, but a lot of times people want to hide them so they don't want them on their wrists. Anyway you want.
Allan: 31:19 Yeah, someone's going to ask, why do you have two watches on,
Dr. Serin: 31:22 right? What is going on? Right? And actually we're using these incorporate wellness. So in a, in some companies now it's just sort of like, you know, everybody just knows what they are. It just becomes part of the culture. Like, Oh, I'm using my touch points, you know? And, or if HR has to deliver some bad news to people, they put the touch points on to lower their stress. So there's becoming a part of some companies, cultures, and it's becoming kind of this normal thing that you would do. Um, but for most culture companies it would be like, what are these weird vibrating things that you have and you know, what's going on? But the cool thing is, is that I'd had some, you know, mavericks in their companies just go, hey, think of something stressful. And people are like, okay. And they go hold these. And then people are like, wow, you know, and then they get it. So it's so instantaneous. It's relief that people get from it, that it's very, very easily, um, demonstrated. It's harder to explain than it is to just get these in people's hands and they feel an immediate relief and then it's very easy to understand, you know, why the person next to you ask these on. So,
Allan: 32:26 Yeah, I think if I, when I was in corporate and you know, as I was reading through, I was thinking I would just need wear them 24, seven one I was when I was in corporate, but, uh, hopefully they would, they would act a little bit faster than that, but I would have no qualms telling them, okay, look, you guys stress me the heck out. So, uh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna wear these on, on both of my wrists and a pair, all my ankles if I had to. But it's very interesting in the technology. It's very interesting, you know, kind of where we're going with this and just to say, okay, if the tactics aren't working for you it's probably because your stress switch is just way too high and some of these therapies are just something that you're gonna need to consider as a means of getting their stress point down to a point where you can actually use the techniques and get some benefit from them.
Dr. Serin: 33:13 Right. And not procrastinate and not avoid them too, you know? I mean, how many workouts have we not done because we wake ups, we're stressed out and we're like, oh, I just can't handle it today. Those are all cognitive thoughts that aren't true. You know? Of course we can handle it because if somebody forced us to do it, we could absolutely do it. Right.
Allan: 33:34 If a bear showed up you'd start running.
Dr. Serin: 33:36 They would run right? Oh, I can't run today, right? No, you can run today. But this is what you're telling yourself and what you're telling yourself is exactly correlated with where your stressed switches and that moment. So again, a lot of people think, oh well I think something and then I get stressed. It's not true. Your body is stressed. And so then you think something. So a lot of times with just the technology, you know, in touchpoints and certainly with things like EMDR therapy, positive, spontaneous spots are increased. just from that, so we know that it's not a one-way street where we're, it's not a top-down process of, Oh, I'm either going to choose to think positively or negatively. If you're stressed out, you can not, a lot of times you can choose to think positively. You don't have access to that level of thinking, but as you lower the stress switch, the positive thoughts suddenly emerge.
Things like, well, I guess I could handle that. I can do that. You know, I'm, wow, that's interesting. I had that thought that I couldn't run today, but I absolutely can and I know I'm going to feel better if I do it. So I'm going to do it. You know those things spontaneously re-emerge it's just way too hard to try to white knuckle this from a top-down perspective all the time. And just try to use consciousness, consciousness, consciousness to produce what we want. Um, we have to kind of fight ourselves to create these new habits. And it's really hard. We know it's really hard to tell people to change their behavior without some other kind of intervention.
Allan: 35:06 Dr Serin, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Dr. Serin: 35:15 So the, the overarching principle is do things with high impact, right? So the first strategy I would say is to look at, um, the top three things, sleep, diet and exercise. And what would create the biggest boom, you know, what create the biggest impact you, if you were to shift. So a lot of people are only getting five or six hours of sleep a night. And if that's the case, the no brainer in that is seven to nine hours of sleep every night. And you know, make that a goal. So that's the first strategy I would use is to kind of tackle the big things, the big things that have the highest impact. Um, switch those up. Okay. And if your sleep is off, that's the absolute number one thing as you get your sleep back on track, if you can't get yourself sleep by on track, just by putting down your cell phone or know turning off the TV at a decent time.
There's other things you can do like ad orange glasses that will block out the artificial light and things like that. But you know, we don't need to get too detailed with it. So slay the major dragons is kind of the first thing. The second thing I would say is too, you asked me for three, right? Okay. So the second thing I would say is too pay attention. And this is in my book. Pay attention to how your choices perpetuate your own stress switch. So a lot of times, like I said, your stress, which is being turned up and down for you, that's not necessarily a choice. What is a choice is if someone does something that I don't like, it's a choice for whether or not I have three phone conversations that night to kind of complain about that to other people. That's me actually consciously ratcheting up my own stress switch.
Yeah. I want people to agree with me. Can you believe she said this and did that? Yeah, I know. That's terrible. Oh, you know, that's, those are the things that you can consciously cut out of your life. I'm not going to spend time complaining right, to other people. I'm not going to try to get other people upset about the things I'm upset about. I'm not gonna watch people fighting on the news. Right. That's a conscious choice. When you watch people fighting on the news back and forth, that's actually a conscious choice that you're making to be embroiled in upset. Okay. And anger and all these emotions while you're stress switch gets turned on. Okay. Why do you want to be in that state?
Right. You, I'm telling you right now you don't, it's terrible for your health. It's terrible for things that you have no control over. Like the political climate, unless you're in politics and all these things, why do you want to spend an hour or two a day surrounding yourself with people that are stressed out that don't need to be in your lives cause they're on TV. Right? And so paying attention to when am I choosing to engage and get other people riled up and what am I choosing to become riled up by things I can't control. And then you wipe that out and then you have energy to do things that are more positive. Right. Okay. So that's two. And you asked me for one more. I'm trying to think of one more. I think that my advice be if your default stress switch is high, if you're somebody that wakes up and it's high in the and you do have sleep disruptions and you can't seem to just choose all the healthy behaviors that you want to choose and maybe you had a traumatic childhood or you know, have had really traumatic things go on in your corporate life or whatever your family life, then I would consider therapies like EMDR, um, and really getting some professional help not because you're damaged but because you want to be well.
Allan: 39:07 Absolutely. So thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness Podcast. If someone wanted to learn more about you, your book and uh, touchpoints, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Serin: 39:19 So I have a website at amyserin.com that's amyserin.com and there's links to the book and or just touchpoints. Also, the book is available on Amazon. In fact, it hit number one for preventative medicine in kindle on Amazon a few months ago. Thank you. Yeah. And then I have clinics too. I'm at serincenter.com so if anybody's interested in working, you know with more of that cutting edge neuroscience and some of the treatments we talked about, then I do have clinics and um, would just love to help anybody that is seeking a more fulfilling, happier life.
Allan: 40:01 We'll have the full show notes 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/401 you can find all those links there. So Dr Serin, and again, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Serin: 40:13 Thank you so much Allan.
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
One of the best ways to see a significant change in your health and fitness is by adopting healthy habits. Elizabeth Rider through her book, The Health Habit, helps you set those healthy habits and provides over 300 recipes to make it even better.
Allan: 01:10 Elizabeth, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Elizabeth: 01:13 Hey, thanks for having me.
Allan: 01:14 You know, I'm really excited to talk about your book, The Health Habit: 7 Easy Steps to Reach Your Goals and Dramatically Improve Your Life. And kind of the subtitle of that is actually what is so attractive to me because I know from experience and working myself and with my clients is once something becomes a habit, it's just this automatic thing that you do and it makes staying healthy so much easier. The more of these health-based type things that you stack on top of each other. So I really appreciate having the opportunity to talk to you about this book in particular and then about habits and kind of approaches here.
Elizabeth: 01:55 Yeah, I'm thrilled to be here, thanks. I love talking about habits, I'm all about habits that people enjoy. So this, the book was really a quest for me with my online audience and now my book to find a way to build habits that we truly enjoy and look forward to and not create something that feels too restrictive or like a prison every day. So this book is 10 years in the making and I'm really excited to share it with everyone.
Allan: 02:24 And yes, with 10 years in the making. Wow, it's very well put together. It's very well structured. It's a very easy read. I really enjoyed that part of it too. Like you're just kind of your common sense approach that if we go at this too restrictive, we're setting ourselves up.
Elizabeth: 02:43 Yeah. I mean, I've been a health coach for, oh gosh, seven or eight years now and I've been blogging for over 10. I started blogging before Instagram was even invented before influencers were a thing. I've just been blogging for a long time, which led me to do, um, to host online programs. And this book really came from pouring over the feedback forms of over 10,000 women who have done my online program and really trying to get at the root of, we know how to be healthy, right? We know that every woman on the planet knows that blueberries are better for you than snickers. We know how to be healthy, but why is it, why does it feel hard and why aren't we doing it? And really when I pour over the feedback forms, the overwhelming majority was that people, just women especially I think men too, but you know, I work mostly with women feel so restricted and that they know they can stick to a quote diet for a short period of time, but they always fall off. So what I, what my work has been is how do I help these women build habits into their daily life based on what they already enjoy instead of just prescribing a completely new way of living. Because that, you know, that's difficult for people. Again, we can, anybody can do anything for a week or even 28 days, you know, a certain period of time. But we eventually slide backwards into old habits. So instead of prescribing a completely new lifestyle, how can I help you look at your current lifestyle and just make tweaks to make it healthier.
Allan: 04:08 Yeah. Most people, you know when they're going to make a change. So there's, okay, I want to get healthy. Or the doctor tells them, you know, hey, you need to lose some weight, or there's a family member that that gets sick and has a chronic disease. And they're like, okay, I don't want that to happen to me. So they kind of have this immediate kind of wake up and then they're going to set goals for themselves, but we suck at getting to our goals. So in the book you talk about 4 reasons that we're not meeting our goals, do you mind going over those four reasons?
Elizabeth: 04:39 Yeah, no, I'm happy to. For me, what I've noticed with people with goals is, and I have a business background. I came from corporate America before I became a health coach. And what I started to notice, what I started to notice was, and I think this process works in all areas of life, but what I was noticing in health especially is a woman who would say like, I would say, well, what's your goal? And she would say, well, I want to lose 15 pounds, or I want to sleep better, or I want more energy. And those are great places to start. So it's not telling people no, you're wrong. But really at the root of it, those are desired outcomes and goals need to be daily and actionable. And we learned this in the context of business. Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Elizabeth: 05:22 And we don't need to get businessy, you know, in the context of our daily habits. But we do need to set daily, actionable goals. So you still want to have an outcome in mind. If it is, you know, you know you feel better at a certain weight and you want to achieve that. If you just need more energy during the day, if you want to sleep better, if you want to reverse symptoms of a condition that you have, those are all great places to start with their outcomes. And we need to work backwards and figure out what are the daily actionable goals that you can have to actually achieve that. So for instance, if somebody wanted to lose weight. A daily, an example of an a daily actionable goal would be no matter what the first thing you eat in the morning has to be low in sugar because if you spike your blood sugar in the morning, it's proven that you can eat up to two to three times more food during the day or engaging in time restricted eating, which is a horrible word.
Elizabeth: 06:10 It's a form of intermittent fasting. It's way easier than it sounds. Just reducing that window, not reducing the amount of food you eat, but reducing the window during the day in which you eat your food. For instance, you eat from like 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and then you're done eating at 6:00 PM and then you don't need to get until 9:00 AM the next day. So you're just giving a longer window for that fast that we do overnight. And in the book there's a ton of resources and ideas to meet a variety of different goals. But I want people to get out of the idea that a goal is this like big accomplishment that at the end of something, and we don't even know how to get there. The goals have to be daily and actual. So that's the first thing is just people confuse outcomes with daily actionable goals.
Allan: 06:53 Yeah, and I liked in the book you talked about, so basically we have, we have what we call I guess desires and then we take that over to actions and then we have outcomes. And so if your goal is desire bound or outcome bound, it makes it that much more nebulous and difficult for you to know that you're on track.
Elizabeth: 07:12 Absolutely. I think that's, you know, the second mistake I talk about with people is that they misunderstand the feeling that they desire. So any action we take is driven by desire. And I think sometimes on the surface, and I'll use, I don't, you know, I'll just tell you a side note real quick. I really did not want to write a weight loss book. And I intentionally wanted to keep this book out of the weight loss category because I think women are bombarded with this idea that we have to lose weight and it's generally not true. However, I think that we all know as individuals that potentially we feel better at a certain weight or there's been a time in our lives when we felt better at a certain weight and there's nothing wrong with that. So I'm kind of neutral to weight loss, it's not a good thing.
Elizabeth: 07:51 It's not a bad thing and you can have your own desires. But I intentionally wanted to keep this book out of the weight loss category and Amazon chooses the categories, the author and the publisher do not choose the categories that goes into. And of course the first category went into is the weight loss category. So, you know, we can't control everything and that's fine. But, um, so I'm using weight loss as an example here, but you could use these for, you know, energy or sleep or any of the other things that we talked about when it comes to weight loss specifically, I think a lot of women think that they desire weight loss because they'll feel better. You know, they'll, they'll have higher self confidence or something will happen and then we lose the weight or something happens and then we realize that it didn't meet any of the desire, that we don't feel the way we thought that we would.
Elizabeth: 08:35 And when it comes to weight loss specifically, I think focusing on vanity is not a bad thing. It might be like the first thing that you think of. Like I want to look a certain way in my clothes, which again, there's nothing wrong with that, but it has to be driven by a deeper desire to feel good. I know for myself, if I let vanity drive any of my goals, they all fizzle out. So really understanding what do you desire, how do you want to feel? Do you want to feel confident? Do you want to feel accomplished? And I go through a lot of different desired feelings in the books. You can really determine how you want to, how you desire to feel, because that will drive what your daily, actual habits are.
Allan: 09:11 Yeah. You know, I tried to tell my clients, so, you know, vanity vanity is not bad when you, it's based on work that you've done. So if you've gone out and spent 20 weeks of training your body of watching what you eat and you've gotten to, you know, body composition that you're just really, really proud of, be proud. Uh, but the, the vanity that you see a lot of times on, particularly on the social media where they're comparing themselves to someone else, you know, that's often kind of the struggle is, you know, I'm not going to look like, uh, you know, Dwayne Johnson, no matter how much training I do, uh, you know, but that said, I can be a better person myself and I can feel better about myself if I'm doing the right things for myself.
Elizabeth: 09:57 Absolutely. And Vanity. I'll just say I think women, women especially, I know I've had this internal struggle a lot and I've talked to a lot of women about this and it's taken me a while to overcome it, but you know, on the surface we start to feel like, oh, vanity is bad. So once we, once we kind of say, okay, I can't just be driven by vanity, then we start to, we swing the other way and we think the vanity is bad and really just like weight loss. It's, I hope that women can come to a more neutral, men to a more neutral position where vanity is part of your biology in the sense of not, you know, putting Mascara on and lipstick and that type of vanity. But all animals groom themselves. You know, when we look a certain, when we look healthy, when we look a certain way, it attracts a mate. And that's a biological process. It's ingrained in us to want to look good. And so I just want women to know like it's not, it's not bad to want to look good, it's just part of your biology. It's like you just said, it's not going down that comparison rabbit hole because, hey, look, I'm friends with a lot of Instagram influencers and I know that they take 500 shots to get the exact pose together to get it. Hey, you know, there's that too, but we can't compare ourselves to that.
Allan: 11:02 Yeah, yeah. And then, then they, they dehydrate themselves and fast for three days before they do a photo shoot and then, you know, Yeah. So we've gotta we've gotta be realistic. Um, another area you went into the, in the book that I really enjoyed was you started talking about vision boards. Could you get a little into that?
Elizabeth: 11:20 Oh, yeah. I mean, visualization is a proven technique to help you achieve what those desired outcomes and goals are. It's what, you know, if we even at a higher level, like Olympic athletes are our coach to visualize themselves winning because it is proven that that can help accelerate their progress. So visualization is so important. When something is in our mind, we gravitate towards it. I mean, the most simple example, we know this if like if I tell you today or I'm really into red cars, now all of a sudden when you're on the road, you're gonna notice a lot of red cars, right? Because it becomes, it comes to the forefront of our mind. So anything that you look at all day, every day, and this is why your environment is so important. I talk about this, your environment in the book as well. If you are in an environment where there is a bowl of candy on the counter all day or at your desk or whatever it is you're looking at all day, of course it's going to be the only thing on your mind. You're looking at it all day. A Vision Board is a similar thing where when you can take what you want to achieve and actually physically put it in front of you, your mind will naturally gravitate towards whatever it is that you've put up there.
Allan: 12:29 Yeah. Like if you visualize yourself being able to scoop your grandchild up when they come to visit over the summer and be able to walk the zoo with them with no, you know, not without having too much fatigue where you're just pooped out and have to sit on the bench. You know, those are visions that you can have for yourself and then they're going to somewhat manifest in the activities that you start doing because that's what you're, that's what you're preparing yourself for. It's more like training than work.
Elizabeth: 12:56 Yeah, absolutely.
Allan: 12:57 Now you use a concept in the book that I just adore. It's called the qualitarian. And so it's effectively saying, you know, however you're choosing to eat or what, like as a way of eating via Keto or Vegan or some of the other things that you might use, like Mediterranean or dash or all those different titles or labels that we have for the different diets that are out there. Most of them diets are intended, okay, you're going to do this for awhile and then you're going to quit. But you're looking at it more from the lifestyle perspective and that leads us to qualitarian, what is it? And you have some commanding principles that I think are really crucial for us to know.
Elizabeth: 13:38 Yeah, the qualitarian weight is, you know, I've been, like I said, I've been a health coach for a long time. I've literally seen every diet and eating style available and something I'll talk about really quickly, I talk about this in the book and people can go through this to determine which one they are both before the qualitarian wayeEven just understanding are you an abstainer or a moderator? Because one of the biggest problems right now that I see in health and wellness is that coaches don't understand the difference between somebody who does well in an abstainer model and somebody who does well in a moderator model. And if somebody gets into a program that, like if you're a moderator and you are trying to follow an abstainer way, it's going to be very difficult and same the opposite way. If you're an abstainer and somebody is trying to tell you to moderate, it's going to feel difficult.
Elizabeth: 14:23 And really you just can determine that by which one makes you feel more free. So an abstainer would be somebody that follows something like the whole 30 or Vegan or some a very strict diet label that you feel more free with fewer choices and some people feel that way. And I'm sure there are people listening to this right now that are going, yeah, yeah, I do feel better when I have a very strict rules that feels good to me. I know exactly what I'm doing. I like that black and white structure.
Allan: 14:49 You actually described me, I'm an abstainer.
Elizabeth: 14:51 Okay, great. Yeah, that's awesome. And then there are people, I'm a moderator. There are people like me who that makes me feel so heavy and restricted and it makes me feel like I'm in prison. I hate that feeling. I do really well on a moderate or model where it makes me feel more free to know like I'm going to follow a certain way of eating a qualitarian and I'm going eat real food, high quality food. And occasionally if I want to have pizza, I'll still have really high quality pizza, you know, made from the best ingredients. But I don't, if I have one slice of pizza, I'm good. That makes me feel more free. I don't need to have more. Right. I don't, it doesn't, it's not the model of like, you can't just have one. I'm like, yeah, actually can just have one. Um, but everyone's different. So like you just said,
Allan: 15:37 I'm eating half or the whole pizza, just depending on how good it tastses.
Elizabeth: 15:40 yeah. Yeah. So really determining, you know, which, which model do you fall under? And because if you're a moderator, like I don't label my eating habits. I think if somebody hung out with me for the week, they would think I was Vegan because most of the food I eat is Vegan. I gravitate towards that. I really don't do dairy or animal products. However, I might be out at dinner with a girlfriend, um, you know, and have a glass of wine. We might share like a flatbread or something. And, and that feels good to me, but some people, like you just said, you're an abstainer, you know, that is you just like the black and white rules. That feels better too. So really we have to find which of those things work better for us. And then within that model, the qualitarian way means that no matter what, whatever food you decide to consume, whether it's, you know, your salad or your pizza or you know, your bowl, your smoothie, that you choose, the highest quality food that you have access to. Meaning, one thing that I see a lot, and I think you know this too, everybody's on the Gluten Free Bandwagon and hey, I don't eat a lot of gluten either. But what happens is people end up buying gluten free, junk food, right? And gluten-free junk food is still junk food, you know, packaged, processed. Just because it's gluten free doesn't mean it's not made with stabilizers and preservatives and denatured oil and high amounts of sugar.
Allan: 16:57 Yeah, I've watched this cycle so many times. You know, something will come out like gluten free or like keto. And so this idea comes out and everybody wants to try it and then all of a sudden you start seeing the freezer section in your grocery store has a little section of it now and then it gets bigger and bigger. And then there's a whole section over, you know, what they call the health foods section, where you're going to have all of these Keto friendly foods or these gluten free foods and you look at the label and it's not food anymore. It's, it's basically manufactured, um, calories.
Elizabeth: 17:34 Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, under the current qualitarian model, the qualotarian way, I think the most important question to ask, whether it's plant based or animal based, what's the quality of this food? Am I eating the highest quality food that I access to? And when I say that I have access to, you know, I've lived all over the world, um, and all over the US and right now I'm currently on the coast in Seattle. Big cities have access to more food. And I realized that I'm from a small town in Montana and I realized that not every single place in the world has access to, uh, you know, free range, uh, air chilled chicken, right. Or whatever it is that you want to eat. So, and budgets are also a concern. So whatever it is. Um, and I give a lot of tips for, you know, budgeting and eating well on budgets in the book, but just choosing the highest quality food you can.
Allan: 18:23 Yeah. I think that's critical. If it's not whole food, um, you have to, you know, you have to realize that it was manufactured to, uh, to make you want more.
Elizabeth: 18:33 Yeah, absolutely.
Allan: 18:35 Now you have a process, I guess a method that you've put in the book. And I really like this one. It's called the book end method.
Elizabeth: 18:44 Yes. I'm glad you liked that.
Allan: 18:46 I do like that.
Elizabeth: 18:48 Yeah, you know, I have an online membership for health and I was putting together, um, one of our monthly bundles and I was just thinking about morning and evening routines because I've been getting a lot of questions about this and I think there were some confusions, we all have heard probably by now that it's really great to have a morning routine and then an evening routine. But I think people were getting confused of what those things are. And I started talking about it's really important to book end your day with, even if it's 10 minutes, you know, five, 10 minutes, you know, maybe 30 minutes, whatever it is, Everyone's different of intentional self care because that sets you up to make better choices during the day. And what came out of that as the book end method.
Elizabeth: 19:29 And really what the book end method is is like I just said, you have something in the morning and morning routine or ritual, even if it's just five minutes. I know a lot of people have kids, they have jobs. There's so much happening. You don't have to spend two hours every morning in the morning ritual, 10 minutes, 15 minutes that you can in the morning, 10 or 15 minutes in the evening and they have different purposes. In the morning you want to choose things that increase your energy, that set you up to make great choices during the day and the evening you need to set yourself up for better sleep so they actually have different purposes and they're not interchangeable but in the morning, and there are some things that you can do in both of them, you know, journaling, some type of meditation, whether it's mantra based meditation or mindful mindfulness meditation, even just deep breathing, stretching.
Elizabeth: 20:15 There are some overlap, but really in the morning, how can you healthwise set yourself up to make better choices during the day? Because we know that how you start something affects every choice that you make. It's why if you look at, if anybody's ever done theater or you know something in a theater group, there's always a prayer circle before the big show. It's how you start something. It's why, uh, in sports teams there's always the big huddle before the show, right? How we start something dictates how it goes during the day. So if in the morning, if you can just commit to 10 to 15 to 30 minutes of very mindful intentional health practice, you will make better choices during the day. And that brings us to the evening. If you can dedicate five, 10, 15 minutes, whatever it is to setting yourself up to sleep better. Sleep is so critical to health. But I would even say sleep is as critical to health as what you eat. I think sleep is completely underrated and quality sleep, right? Not Junk sleep where you're tossing and turning. You can't sleep at night. Um, and there are things you can do to set yourself up to sleep much better. I've been on a quest for better sleep for the last 10 years and I'm finally sleeping really well. But yeah, just book ending your day with two practices can make a world of difference in your health.
Allan: 21:27 Right? So now someone gets your book cause yeah, there's lots of, there's a lot in here of different things that we can do different approaches and so someone starts setting goals and getting action and they're starting to develop these habits. In the book you go through a series of tools that we can use to help us stick to the habits. In other words, quite a bit there. So I, you know, I don't want to ask you to share all of it, can you go through just a few of whatever your favorite tools that would help us stick to the healthy habits that we're getting.
Elizabeth: 21:59 Yeah there are, there's quite a few in here. I think one of the biggest thing, just the mindset shift of the crowd out method. Meaning instead of, if you're on the quest for healthier habits and you want to start with food, think about adding things in, not taking things out. So again, that's kind of the moderator of sooner model where you know, people want to be gluten free or dairy free or Vegan or whatever it is, which is not a bad thing. But what that model does is it removes things where the credit method introduces things. So instead of telling yourself like, I can't have you know, Tacos or whatever it is that you want, add things in so you know, I'm going to eat a giant bowl of veggies or salad or whatever it is, something that you know is healthier. I'm going to eat this, I'm going to bring things in instead of taking things out and that will naturally crowd out the bad things.
Elizabeth: 22:45 I think that's one of the best places people can start for healthy eating. Instead of saying, I can't ever have something again. Say what will I have today and if I still want that other thing. Sure. And usually you know you're full by the time you have the thing that you said you were going to have, so you don't even want the other thing. I think the crowd out method is absolutely key to building healthier habits. I think something else that's really, really important. We alluded to social media a little bit. I love social media. I use it, don't bite the hand that feeds you. I think social media is a great way to connect. But I also, um, you know, throughout the book, something I'm really encouraging people to do is to understand that how you do one thing is how you do everything.
Elizabeth: 23:26 And that's why I talk about environment and I talk about, you know, detoxing your laundry and all these different things because how you do one thing ends up to be how you do everything. So if you want to change your food habits and you're having a difficult time making great choices, start in other areas of your life, right? Once you start to clean up other areas of your life, it's easier to clean your food. So one thing would be curating your social media feed. I, you know, have gone through periods of time where I'm following someone, even a friend, someone who I know and I just find myself comparing myself to that person a lot. You can curate your social media feed, unfollow accounts. You don't have to, unlike, or you know, it doesn't have to be with any haste, but you can mute accounts, you can unfollow accounts, don't let your social media feed be filled with things that make you feel less, because if you're allowing, it's that little tick and your mind every time you see that that brings you down. And of course the more you feel down, the worst choices you're going to make.
Allan: 24:23 Yeah. I took one my work, uh, related, uh, Twitter accounts and I just went through and I said, okay, if someone posts something political, I'm just going to unfollow them. And I did that for like three days and after about three days, there were, there was no political posts on my Twitter feed for, you know, when I was working during the day. So if I went to check Twitter, I wasn't getting bombarded by it, all the political conversations. So it became a very peaceful, zinful feed because it was filled with people who were positive and and talking about health and wellness and not going off on those daily Tangents of negativity that were starting to impact the way I felt about the world. I'm like, no, when I'm doing this, I want to think about health and fitness.
Allan: 25:14 I want to think about wellness. I want to think about joy and I'm not getting it from these people. Even though a lot of what they put out there was extremely valuable. It was just, there was just, I wanted, I needed to get rid of that other piece, and so when I did that, it's like that feed is my kind of my little goto zen place. Every once in a while I'll log in there and just read what people are saying there rather than other places because I know I'm just going to get hit and bombarded with things that are gonna just be negative.
Elizabeth: 25:40 Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, no one, no two people's social media feeds are identical because the algorithms know based on what, even if you slow down to scroll, even if you don't like something, they know what you like or that you're at. You think they know where your attention goes and then your work feed is filled with more of those things. So I've, I've hear from a lot of women who are like, Oh, have you seen this? It's all over Facebook. And I'm like, I haven't even seen that. And like you like it because you're going to websites that are talking about that and you're liking things. You're slowing down on those posts. So they're giving you more of that. So I really, you know, especially women who are newer to social media in the past like five or 10 years, the reason your, your feed looks like that, no one else's does. It's because you're gravitating towards that. And you can curate that. You can change that by unfollowing or unliking things. And then really making sure that you're liking or commenting on things that lift you up. You know, your social media feed really should be a place that gives you inspiration, lifts you up if you're ever feeling down after you look at your social media feed, you need to curate it.
Allan: 26:40 Yeah, absolutely.
Elizabeth: 26:42 Yeah. And then I think, you know, a big thing too is that I would leave people with is that good health is not all or nothing. And I think we are bombarded with the idea that if you do one thing that's not on your plan, it's all for not. And that's not true. Your health changes in cycles and seasons in life you'll change. You know, the average person eats around 2000 times a year. If you're eating like three to five times a day, let's say you're going to eat 1500 to 2000 times in a year. And I don't know a lot of people who can get something 1500 out of 1500 or 2000 out of 2000 right. That's you know, I know some pretty high performers. I don't know if I can find anybody that doesn't, there's not any error in that. So, you know, I think what we need to understand is that we constantly need to be moving the needle towards better health.
Elizabeth: 27:35 I do believe that we need to eat real food. We need to, we need to learn what it feels like to feel good. Because once you feel good, you don't slide back into unhealthy habits and recognize that we should be always searching for progress, not perfection. Because perfection is a complete illusion, it doesn't exist and it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Now I don't want that to be a get out of jail free card to just, you know, go eat fast food or something because we need to stay away from food that is harmful to us. But good health is not all or nothing. So if you are at, you know, your sister's house or your friend's house and they make this big feast and it's not necessarily within the way that you eat and you want to enjoy the party with people, go ahead and do it. It's what you do the next day and the next day and the next day. It's not one meal that's going to sabotage everything that you've done.
Allan: 28:25 Yeah, I completely agree with that. Um, you know, something I've been paying a lot more attention to really in about the last two years, particularly since I started writing my book, um, back aways it was that words have such a profound meaning beyond what you would just attribute to them if you were reading a book. You know, like if you're reading through a sentence and the word I can't comes up. Yeah. And it just seems like a simple word, but you know, for, for the person like you, that's a moderator and this is, this is one of your, your hints here, your, your tools is, is to replace I can't with, I don't.
Elizabeth: 29:05 Yes. Yes. This is another scientifically proven mindset trick that takes the pressure off the burden off or the heaviness off of, you know, oh, I can't have ice cream after dinner. Whenever you tell yourself you can't do something, it is going to be at the forefront of your mind with, I don't eat ice cream after dinner or I don't eat ice cream after dinner unless it's Friday. Sure. On Fridays, whatever, whatever day you pick. Maybe you like your ice from on Tuesdays, um, or maybe you make your own. There's a recipe on my blog for healthy homemade ice cream out of coconut milk that's really low in sugar and you want to some that every night after dinner, go for it. For me, I use time restricted eating. I generally don't eat after seven o'clock so for me it's not that I can't eat after seven o'clock sure.
Elizabeth: 29:51 If I'm hungry, I can eat. I just don't eat after seven o'clock and I don't do that. And again, as a moderator, intermittent fasting is proven to work if you do it at least five days per week. So on the weekends, sure, if I'm invited out, I'm not going to tell my friends I'm not gonna eat after seven. Right. So I, I still have that balance and that flexibility in my lifestyle. But in general, when I'm at home, I don't eat after seven. And just that simple trick of using, I don't, instead of, I can't put you back in the driver's seat and it gives you a position of power instead of a position of why can't have that.
Allan: 30:22 Yeah. And the mindset is so critical in us. That's why I really liked that tool was because I think a lot of folks just feel so restricted when they go in and say, okay, well I'm going to, you know, I'm going to go ahead and try this Vegan Diet and they're not thinking of it as a way of eating. They do see an end point there, but now they're like, well, I can't have a hamburger. And then, so now they're in the shop looking for fake Burgers, uh, you know, to kind of appease this thing. And so it Kinda sends them down the spiral path of I can't, and I can't and I can't. And they just want it that much more.
Elizabeth: 30:56 Right, right. Absolutely.
Allan: 30:58 Now, I define wellness as being the healthiest fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Elizabeth: 31:08 Oh Man, I think so much of it has to do with mindset. If I could pick three things, two of them would probably might be mindset based because if again, if we're just, if we're skipping the mindset piece and then we're just going straight into the food, we're always going to stop at some point. It has to be mindset based. I think the first thing for women that I've noticed that I would say is in getting your mindset right is realizing that you are constantly changing and evolving and nothing is ever set in stone. If you want to be thinking your whole life, great and that works, I think it's great, but what works more I think for a lot of women is that to understand, I mean women are cyclical by nature, right? We have our cycles by nature. You might want to eat different at different points in your cycle every month you might feel better vegan, meat free one week and you might realize that you need a little bit more protein and you gravitate towards animal protein another week.
Elizabeth: 32:02 Also the seasons change. The seasons are cyclical, right? Um, you might find that in the summer you like more raw and cooked food and in the winter you gravitate towards more, you know, heavier cooked food and then the cycles and seasons of your life change, right? You know, the teenagers, adolescents then we turn into uh, you know, young adulthood into this like more mature area of life. So the first thing for women, what I would say in order to be healthy and well is realize that you are free to change course at any point in your life. And that's a mindset trick. You are afraid to make a change. If you've been labeling your eating habits and that no longer feels good to you, you are completely free to change anything in your life. So I think that would be the first thing is just realizing that life is cyclical and you can make a change at any point.
Elizabeth: 32:49 Um, the second thing to be healthy and well I would say is to visualize it and that goes back to the vision board and create an environment. So this is mindset and you know, starting to get into like something physical you can do, you have to create an environment that supports your healthy lifestyle. And that has to do with how you, you know, whatever's in your home, whatever, how are you set up your day? You've got to create an environment for yourself that feels good to be healthy and well. Because if you don't have the environment to support your lifestyle, it's going to feel very, very difficult to be healthy and well. And I think the third thing is just really goes back to food. Understanding that there's one, not one right way for everyone to stop searching for silver bullet diet because it doesn't exist. Um, and really just follow the qualitarian way. Those would be the three things that I would tell people.
Allan: 33:39 I really appreciate those. Those were excellent. Thank you. So if someone wanted to learn more about you and the book, The Health Habit, where would you like for me to send them?
Elizabeth: 33:49 Oh yeah. Um, my website, Elizabethrider.com and there are over 300 recipes. There are, there are a ton of healthy living resources and with the book coming out we are giving away free downloadable book bonuses. I'm with checklists, downloads, cleanup items are so many fun things to download with the book and that's at Elizabethrider.com forward slash book or it's really easy to find on my website but I would love to send everyone there so they can grab those bonuses with the book
Allan: 34:14 Outstanding. This is going to be episode 395 so you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/395 and I'll be sure to have the links right there. So Elizabeth, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Elizabeth: 34:28 Thanks for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. I appreciate it.
Let me ask you a question: Have you lost your edge? Do you just not feel as sharp as you used to and things aren't going your way at work or in life? Maybe you just lack the energy you once had that got you where you are and you want to get that back.
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
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.