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Category Archives for "guest/interview"

April 29, 2019

Aligned for success with Brenda Shaeffer

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If you don't have your body in alignment, it is very hard to reach optimal health. Brenda Shaeffer is a physical therapist and the author of the book, Aligned for Success.

Allan: 01:50 Brenda, welcome to 40 plus fitness.

Brenda : 01:54 Thank you Allan.

Allan: 01:54 I have the specialty in corrective exercise and I see it myself. Someone will walk in and they'll start to lift and I'll be like, no, no, no, no, no. Let's do this right. I realize, okay, you can't lift weights right now. You need to get yourself fixed first because if you try to put load on the body and the frame, the way you're doing things today, you're going to break yourself. So I always go through with my one on one clients, this sort of evaluation just to see if there's any movement. I talked to him about any injuries they've had. But Yeah, you put together book pretty much will allow a lot of us to do that for ourselves.

Brenda : 02:27 That's right. And really over the many years that I've been a physical therapist, what I realized is that people actually limit themselves a lot more than they need to. And with our medical system, the way it's become over the, over the years that I've been practicing, which is over 40 years, what's happened is people have become defined by the diagnosis that they receive in their doctors office or as they've self diagnosed on the, on the Internet, and they've actually become very disabled. So I became very inspired by that and actually put together this book and actually have also developed a system of education that people can actually look at and learn to assess themselves and start doing corrections on their own in everyday activities and apply it to their every day activities to actually do more than they expect they should be able to be able to do. This is thank you to many of our good researchers and the technology available today that is proving what pain is and how our brain processes pain and actually how we move and also how the most common pain problems have happened in our muscles and bones.

Allan: 03:42 I'm really good about focusing on form while I'm doing the work, but, and your book, Aligned for Success. I kind of came up with this epiphany and I should have thought of this a long time ago. I was actually doing crossfit and I was traveling. So I was at a crossfit that I wasn't familiar with and the instructor came up to me and said, because we were doing one arm kettle bell thrusts. And so that's where you kind of squat down with the kettle bell by your side and you've only got one in one hand and then you basically do a squat and when you come up you thrust the kettlebell up in the air. When I was doing these thrusts, he said to me, he said, do you cross your right leg over your left leg pretty regularly? And I said, you know, I do that when I sleep. I said, my right leg actually goes behind an under my knees so I don't hyper extend my left knee. But I had never really experienced any pain. But that was kind of one of my original epiphany's and then seeing it in your book was just everyday normal things that we do can really affect the way our body moves, and then therefore later on particular if we put ourselves under load, we hurt ourselves, we feel pain.

Brenda : 04:49 That's exactly right and really again, the research that's now available. And again, thank you to the new technology that's available to measure how our brain is perceiving the inherent danger signals. What's going on is that what's most important for us as an individual to understand is that we need to be much more aware of what our alignment is, or another words, relative alignment of our legs, our core and our arms are during our everyday activity. That's actually as important or in my view, more important than when we're in the gym, when we're much more attentive to what our form is because that's, we're really in static positions where we're not getting as much circulation through our joints and through our muscles and our Fascia. And that's really where we're losing the battle and where we're creating the set up to have failures in our tissues. And that's where we're creating the problems that then we have failures in the gym. So that's kind of the message which we're looking at trying to teach people. And again, the body reset system, which is sort of the situational applications of how to learn how to use our bodies with proper alignment that the aligned for success book was a platform for that we've just launched, is actually going to show people how to to keep in proper alignment in everyday activities from texting, sitting around using your computer at home in a comfy chair. It shows you that you can be in proper alignment in everything that you do and that it's really once you learn a very easy three step method on how to look at yourself and make sure you're aligned from the ground up, from your feet, your shins, your thighs through your core and your arms, and then make sure you're supported in all of those parts of your body that you can sustain the best circulation and not have compression. In other words, have best health in both your structure, your circulation, your hydration, nutrition system, and also your electrical system, which are the three parts of your body. You can have best health so they can expect to have the best fitness level of your body at any stage, any age of your life.

Allan: 07:01 One of the things you said there that I think is really important for someone to understand, because a lot of people don't get this. They'll, they'll say, well, I feel pain in my hip or I feel pain in my neck. But it starts at the feet.

Brenda : 07:15 Absolutely. You have 26 bones in your feet and really you have to understand that unless you're in a very specialized job or you're a circus performer or something like that, most of us literally are always engaging with our bodies to move forward. We're doing things with our feet first and so when we're getting up to move, we're pushing. We're engaging with the ground first from our feet, so it's a chain reaction. Think of a domino effect. When you first hit the ground, the first thing that hits the ground is your foot, and then the chain reaction happens is the fancy word is kinetic, which means movement. The movement chain that happens is the first bone has the floor and then the next bone has to react to that and then it moves all the way up. So if one bones not in the right order, the next bone is going to have to react to that. But it's actually, it's all little sensors that are embedded in the ends of each bone. It's embedded in the ligaments, the tendons, the Fascia, everyone's heard about, which is just this sort of like a Saran wrap type tissue that's around every structure. Meaning when we're talking about muscles and bones and things, it's around the tendons, it's around muscles, it's around nerves that's also embedded in them little sensors that tell when things are stretching too far and it tells the brain that there may be danger if it stretched too far or there's too many toxins. In other words, there is a chain reaction of alert systems of information that go to and from your brain so the brain can make adjustments as needed. But at any rate, there is a chain reaction that starts at your feet and then your brain's adjusting muscles, circulation, and so forth as that chain reaction happens, it happens at your foot so that at the time it gets up to your hip, there was an adjustment. If you're hip has to be adjusted significantly by the time it gets your neck, there's even more significant adjustment. So you really need to make sure from the foot you have the best alignment possible. And if it's not there, then your neck will have to have an adjustment. Also, very often people say, well I just need you to look at my neck cause I just hold my stress in my neck. And I'll often say, well actually what you're doing is you're holding your foot up from your neck. So it really needs to be systematically a very, very much of a system that you're looking at yourself from the ground up. Are you in the best alignment? Again, to ensure that the information that gets to and from your brain and your nerves, your arteries and veins have the best position and they're free from compression and also from overstretching, so all that information and all the circulation, hydration, nutrition, and also the trash gets out back from your veins, get back in through your core to be processed. So all the systems of your body can be in their optimal function and again, so you can have the best health possible again at any stage. Any age of your life.

Allan: 10:06 Yeah. A couple things, I mean in general, as I looked at kinetic chain and I was kind of educating myself on this topic and then I saw it again in your book was I had an injury to my right ankle when I was 29. So a long time ago, it doesn't affect me in day to day life, but if I try to do a squat because my ankle is not functioning the way that it should, it's slightly tighter, my right ankle is slightly tighter than it should be, now my calves will compensate for that.

Brenda : 10:36 Correct.

Allan: 10:36 My calves get tight since my calves are tight, they're not allowing my leg to move the way that it needs to, which means my hips have to move differently. And then I ended up leaning forward on a squat and I have difficulty getting to proper depth on a squat. So what I end up doing is I end up spending some time before I'm going to do squats to really focus on loosening up my calves, getting my ankle as mobile as it will be under the circumstances. And then I'm able to safely do the work. A lot of people would go at this because if they start to feel pain, there's going to be this element of fear and then they're gonna move differently.

Brenda : 11:12 Correct. And again, this has been a long held misunderstanding about flexibility. I think one of the misunderstandings about flexibility, and this is coming from the world of training and physical therapy, particularly as we, I think in this field made people believe that flexibility is actually more of an exercise where flexibility is actually simply a measurement of how much mobility or how much motion we have at each one of the junctures of one bone to the next. And that's actually called a joint. And in your case if you actually had an injury to your ankle where you maybe never get full range of motion there or it's a difficult place to get range of motion or mobility. The concepts of, again thinking in threes, which is again a concept that I introduced in the book. One of the three things we think about is always having readiness before you do any of your activities. And in your case where you think about, “well, I really need to get the mobility that I need before I do activity.” You need to spend a little extra time and make sure you get that mobility with a little extra time and say, well, how much do I need to do my correct range of motion? And instead of being fearful of it and saying, well, I have pain. Remember pain's a positive alarm to make you pay attention and understand that tightness is even the warning sign before pain almost all of the time, you know what the injury was. So your expectation should be, oh well then I can expect that to be tight. And instead of thinking, “well I just need just stretch that” just know well if I just do a little bit of an active release, kind of one second on, have a little teeny bit of a stretch and a little bit off. Another second on a little bit off another little second on you'll notice that your brain says, okay, well I understand Allan, that I just need to let you move the little bit in a row release. I'm pretty soon you'll have enough mobility. There's no reason to be fearful when you understand that that tightness was just a little bit of a warning. If you didn't take that warning, you'll get a little pain and then your brain will understand that it's safe to move. It's just a new science that we know that that's what this means.

Allan: 13:22 And that self awareness is really critical when someone goes into a chiropractor because there's shoulder hurts or their neck hurts. Just kind of paying attention to the way you move and what what's going on with your body. Now you have this three step method that allows someone to kind of do that kind of self awareness assessment.

Brenda : 13:42 Right, and actually have a, what's called a flexibility. I still use that word because people tend to like it, it's actually a mobility checklist. Were really from the bottom up, I'm using sort of a general checklist that can get more specified in this. The book is actually an introduction to for a general, again, the question that that I think we've all missed in the past is, how much flexibility do we need or mobility for general activities. And the question is how much mobility do you need? And then I know we'll talk about this possibly in a in a minute, is what are your goals? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to be a gymnast or are we trying to be a Cirque du Solei performer? Or are we just trying to go out for a walk?

Allan: 14:25 Or walk down the stairs without pain.

Brenda : 14:28 Exactly! What are our goals? But say, if you're just going to get through a day and just, you know, go to the grocery store and make dinner and take care of your kids, you don't need, you know, a whole heck of a lot of mobility. So what I've introduced in a line for success, my book is just a general mobility check for everyday living. You know, just get through your day and mow the lawn and go to the grocery store and maybe go for a bike ride. But it's a mobility that checks to make sure that you have enough mobility for walking and picking things up off the floor and reaching overhead to get things out of your closets to fix dinner and load the dishwasher and so forth. But it's checking for side to side mobility of your legs, of all the joints and how much mobility you have to reach down and get things off the floor and look overhead and reach overhead and reach behind your head and reach up your back. But it's looking for a sequence of motion and that's also been missed. And secondly, can you do that motion with the speed force and finally the endurance that you need to move it. But within that, there were also looking for can you attain and maintain the proper alignment of all three parts of the skeleton structure that we have. And when we're looking at the skeleton part of your structure, there's also three parts. It's your leg, and then your core, which includes the three parts of your pelvis and includes the actual core, which is the lumbar and thoracic spine, which literally have almost no movement. And then finally the top part of your core, which is also three parts, it's your two sides of your rib cage and your breastbone. And finally the parts of your arms that you then have your hands hooked on the end, which have three parts, which are your arms, your shoulder blades, and finally your collarbones.

Brenda : 16:17 It's again looking to see can you maintain proper alignment and the method teaches you how to use your own hands to consistently and become confident and competent and being able to look and see if you can maintain, attain and maintain your alignment in both still possessions, in other words, still postures and also in basic movement patterns.

Allan: 16:44 Yeah. One example I really liked from the book that I think will give someone a really good visual of this. As you have someone sitting basically with their feet on the floor, they've got what you kind of call the three points of contact, effectively their butt and their feet, they're sitting comfortably, their arms are at a comfortable distance, a little bit away from the body. And then you have them put their hands on the kneecap with their middle finger basically pointing down the Shin Bone. And the idea is that your third toe should line up with your middle finger.

Brenda : 17:13 Correct.

Allan: 17:14 And so what this is saying is if you, if your feet want to splay out for one reason or another, then you're going to have an improper movement form. And that's going to go all the way up the kinetic chain. And so you can start training your brain to keep that foot where it's supposed to be starting originally when you're just sitting down and that's going to make it more comfortable to walk, it's gonna make it much more comfortable to run. And so a lot of the activities we want to do, we can start doing even static just sitting. We can start assessing to see if there's these things that aren't moving in the way that they were functionally designed to move.

Brenda : 17:49 And right away, I had a woman this week, she literally couldn't stand from her chair and her husband was there to help her get up. She said, well, I just can't do it. I said, well, you know what? Here's what you do. if you're sitting there, and we'll just joke sometimes, say there's that foot sticking out to the side again. If you put your middle finger right there in the center of your kneecap and it's aiming down, and it's not aiming at the bottom of your third toe, just lift the front of your foot up a little bit and move the front end a little bit. So now it's aiming at the the center of your third toe and I see we're going to call him a name, whatever, it's some sort of crazy guy moving back over there and it's just your brain has had to adapt over time for whatever reason. At some point, maybe she had sprained her toe and or maybe she had had a broken ankle at some point. Your brain is designed to help you survive at some point just to keep you going and if you don't reset your brain, your brain just continues to adapt. It's a positive thing. I've stopped using the word compensate because it's actually, there's a lot of research behind it, but it's actually in the English language. The linguists have figured out that the, the “c” sound is actually a negative sound to your brain and an “a” sound is more positive. We need to be positive and talk about things in ways we know our brain responds better and it will help enhance improvement in pain recovery. But if we actually know that it's a good thing, our brain has adapted. Speaking of adapt, by the time we're in our forties we'd be army crawling if we never got over it. I mean it's really cool how we actually can recover if we, if we allow our bodies to heal they will heal. So if all we have to do is lift our foot up and that makes our three parts of our leg lineup better, actually, if we go to stand up and we really just, instead of sitting there with one foot sticking out to the side and I have our knees together, we literally just put our heels out, the width of the chair lineup, our knees so we look down and go, oh wait, let's make sure we're aiming our middle finger towards our middle toe. Lean forward a little bit, keeping our core length, the right length and quickly stand up. Most people in stand up right away and they don't have pain. So that's something you do right away and you can become pain free almost immediately and feel strong. Alignment always comes before strength and you don't have to have perfect alignment.

Allan: 20:12 Well, the cool thing, alignment is going to help you avoid painful situations if you are doing something active. Alignments also going to help you properly apply strength. So as you're trying to come out of the chair, now that her feet are square, she has the base of support on the ground to actually get out of the chair. But it also helps with balance. So as we get older and people want to change, I'm going to use the word compensate.

Brenda : 20:39 Right! Adapted

Allan: 20:42 We adapt because of fear that we're going to fall. We changed our gate, we changed the way our feet sit on the ground. Those changes now go up our entire kinetic chain and actually are a problem. So taking some time to focus on this alignment from the ground up is going to do a lot for making sure that you maintain strength, maintain balance, and avoid pain.

Brenda : 21:04 Right?

Allan: 21:04 So in the book you had something that I thought this was, this was actually really, really good because most of us will go to a healthcare professional and the main goal is, oh, my neck hurts, so I'm going to go to a chiropractor and the goal is for my neck to stop hurting. But you agree we should set goals but not that kind of goal.

Brenda : 21:23 Correct. And that's actually approved by, it's not me, again, it's the researchers in the science labs have figured out that actually pain is not actually the goal. And I know that seems kind of mean of me to say the patients are also kind of surprised by it. So I kind of see why by having a little bit by having resources and references. It's not that pain is not important, but it's actually not, it's not measurable. It's measurable in each individual. But here's the thing, you need to actually have a goal that's measurable when relating it to pain. So you're much better doing an activity relating what you're doing when you have pain. So it's actually a activity related pain score. So I've included that in the book and that again is referenced, it's a researched scale where you actually just say, okay, if I have an activity that I have pain with, then you can actually start seeing if you have improvement and then you can start developing and adjusting what solutions you're actually attaching to how you're trying to solve your problem.

Brenda : 22:36 In other words, if you think, well, my friend Susan told me to go to doctor so and so the chiropractor instead of just going every single week, what you should see is if ahead of time you said, well, I'm going to go to doctor so and so, and the goal is get rid of my neck pain because I have neck pain every time I sit at the computer within 30 minutes. Well, if it's going to be a successful solution, you should notice that if you've said my goal is to get rid of my neck pain in four weeks and I'm going to go see this doctor so and so, you should say, well what's a reasonable time when you see doctor so and so that I should get rid of my neck pain cause I have neck pain within 30 minutes? Well he should be able to tell you how long it's going to take. And so first of all, if he can't tell you that. I would question why you're going to that person. But also that'll tell you A, whether he's the right person, but B, if you're not getting any results, why are you going back to that person? Because either one, you're not actually, maybe you don't have the right diagnosis or again, maybe that's not the right person. So you have to know whether you're, you're using the right tool to get better. It's why people don't get that, or either they don't have the right diagnosis or they're not applying the right tool.

Allan: 23:48 Well, the chiropractor is helping you from the perspective of dealing with some misalignment for a moment. If they're focused on your neck, they're going to fix that misalignment, but the next time you sit down at your computer, you're probably going to run into the same problem because you haven't found the root cause.

Brenda : 24:06 That's what I'm saying. Do you need to go to the chiropractor? That's actually a question.

Allan: 24:11 Or bring the ergonomic specialist in to say, let's look at my desk or can I get an adjustable workstation so I can sit part of the time and stand part of the time. And that might be part of the solution to get you in proper alignment.

Brenda : 24:23 Well, but again, you have to remember, and there's lots of stats on that and I've included quite a few of those in the book, but also in a lot of those are available and I've given references for that. There are a lot of statistics that prove that having the solutions in just changing equipment only takes care of 20% of the problem. Having a person learn how to change themselves, it takes care of 80% of the problem. So when you're looking at spending your dollars correctly, there's a huge benefit and learning how to take care of yourself. So I think one of the take homes needs to be to understand that you, the individual are the only thing that you personally own control and can adapt. So remember that ergonomics is only a field. It's a field of study and field of engineering human for humans that actually develop equipment and supplies for an average size person that is completing a task. So for example, if you're going into a public building, the architects and the designers for those buildings are designing the doors, the desks or whatever's being used for an average size person, it's called anthropometric measurements. It's still in this country because we have huge variances and people in sizes. Those measurements are still only be made for people between five foot five and five foot eight. So again, none of this equipment is alive. So it's not able to say when you sit down at something, it's not alive.

Brenda : 26:00 It's not going to change. It's still up to the individual user to be able to determine when and how to make changes. So again, in the book it talks about how to change that, and again in the body reset system, it provides you the participant in that system some examples on how to again change your use of the equipment. And it's kind of the next step of the three step method on how you then can reassess yourself and make the changes. But the statistics are quite clear. Again, it's your responsibility to learn how to become confident and competent that you can look at your own body with your eyes, your eyes tell your brain or the brain senses that tell your brain 80% of the information your brain needs to know how to assess the environment, about looking down and seeing, oh, is my body in the right position. The other sense that uses is touch and all the little sensors that are embedded in your, in your ligaments and your joints. And finally you memorize things by how things feel. So it's very cool and the new part of the information is so cool because it makes the next generation that are under 40, hopefully not have to suffer the need to have to have all the total joints and all of these things that the people now over 40 in particularly the groups that are in the 60s and over, that have had to have total joints. That's where regenerative medicine hopefully won't have to happen anymore.

Allan: 27:31 It's kind of staggering how many people are getting hip and knee replacements these day?

Brenda : 27:36 Well, I'm hoping, I'm hoping it's not going to have to happen on the under 40 group anymore. If we embrace this, this stuff is going to make it so good for the next generations. If we just understand that we can get control over our bodies and in this 85 to 95% of the musculoskeletal disorders, and this is a world health organization number, they are preventable. They're predictable and preventable. We just literally need to rethink what's happening. Understand that if we goal set differently, we recognize what's going on. We then reset our bodies and learn that we need to get ready to use our bodies differently. We need to recover and give time to repair. We can use our bodies optimally for a lot longer than we think we can. We have in the past.

Allan: 28:25 And I like that. I liked it that you have kind of this real true proactive approach.

Brenda : 28:31 Oh, its very exciting!

Allan: 28:32 So one of the other big things in the book that I thought was really, really important was that by empowering yourself to say, okay, I am part of the solution here, you're going to develop a team.

Brenda : 28:43 Absolutely.

Allan: 28:43 And so talk a little bit about the solutions team, what we should be looking for, how we should approach developing this team and evaluating this team to see that they're still serving us.

Brenda : 28:53 Well again, and I touched on it earlier in the book it comes on an electronic version or print. But anyway you do it I would highly suggest that first you really sit down and be very honest and goal setting. And that's also available in the book, and again, in the e-version or print, but really sit down and get very honest with your calls and depending on the stage that you are, where you're really ready to make a change. If you're not quite ready to actually figure out goals, still maybe start with a solution team and what in the stage one of solution team, you literally can just sit down and say, I already know what I want to do, but just sit down and write down every single person that you have been using for advice, whether it's paid or not, so it can include your best girlfriends or your book club friends .

Allan: 29:41 Or your book.

Brenda : 29:43 There you go. Anybody, whoever it is, or you've been going to a chiropractor or a naturopath or a card reader or whoever it is. I had a friend today go, I'm really embarrassed to tell you, but I've been calling this guy and in West Virginia and I didn't know any of his credentials, but he was sending me some stuff to put on my tongue. I'm like, Oh for God's sake! But at any rate, whoever it is and the way it's set up is to write down who it is, and you're the only one looking at this, but at least it will start telling you who it is, what their credentials are, and meeting credentials, anything you know about them. So you get a reality check on A, Do they have credentials or is this just literally somebody doing snake oil? Are they licensed somewhere? Have they had any validated education of any kind of, but most importantly, what kind of results have you had from this person and then does it match any of your goals at some point. And then the other thing is there redundancy. Sometimes people will just put down this person as, for example, bodyworker. Well, what is a bodyworker start saying? What are they doing? What does a body start specifying what they are? Because again, good for you if you have endless money, but at some point, what else do you want to do with your life? People come in and say, well, I just want to come in and work out. And I said, well, do love to work out in they're like not really. I mean that's fine if that's what you want to do, but if you want to do something else, like you want to play with your kids or you want to travel, then if you're having to work out all the time and go to all your appointments all day, what else are you doing with your life for the next 10 years?

Brenda : 31:16 So it's a way of sort of sorting that what you want to do and then get your goal specified. And then as you sort of work through actually what your goals are. And I have people write down their goals in three categories. Every day activities, what do you really want to be doing? And then in that section they also write down what they're doing now. And it has to be in specific measurable goals that can't just be, I want to get rid of pain again, we talked on that earlier, but I have them do it in three categories, everyday activities, things like driving, putting on my shoes, whatever it might be in recreation. Leisure activities. Whether it's you know, your high level sports person or or whatever it is, leisure activities, what do you want to do, knit, whatever it is. And thirdly, work related activities and if somebody is retired, I still make them write work activities. If you know anybody that's retired that the joke is, Oh I do more work now than I ever did before, so I still have them do work related activities and then the thing is that I have people then prioritize their goals and then when they do that and then they really figure out what's going on, they prioritize the goals. And then when they get those prioritized then they go back and redo their solutions team. Then they start figuring out what their actual solutions might be and what tools they might use. That way you get started on what you actually do want to do to get to your goals and put timelines on it. So as you get started, you put timelines, then you can start figuring out and reassessing if your solution team is actually helping you get to your goals so you can get the right team and not get redundancy.

Brenda : 32:48 And there's been a lot of studies about how many people should be on your solution team and you really want to make sure per the research that you keep your solution team down to about three people is really what the recommendation is. If you get more than that, you're getting too much in most cases, too many cooks in the kitchen. So again, you want to prioritize and try to get down to the smallest number of people on the team and you really want to get people that are really on your team and are really willing to work with each other. My advice to most people is if you get people sort of trash talking, others, you know, it's a big giant red flag. The too good to be true things, again, giant red flag. People that just say, trust me, or I'm sure you don't, can't understand this. Again, big red flag.

Allan: 33:33 You're on your solutions team too, so they have to listen to you and what you need and if they're not, then there's someone else out there that is.

Brenda : 33:42 That's exactly right.

Allan: 33:43 Brenda, I define wellness as being the healthiest fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Brenda: 33:53 Well again I think in my view it's again getting yourself back in the driver's seat and being most honest with yourself and getting out of waiting for everyone else to give you advice. And I think I touched on most of them. I think in, and I'm in the Musculoskeletal business I guess is more what I'm speaking to today and when I start writing this book, I started to go more into whole health but in my career of over 40 years I stayed mostly with musculoskeletal stuff because that's what I do. And in that, I think if you can continue to stay with understanding the body is interacting in all three systems and if you can continue to stay, as I talked about before, is when you are listening to your body and staying current with actual research and stain and understand that nothing is static in the body, it's very dynamic and understand you've been given a huge gift of a body and of a brain and I think understand that the whole thing will, the whole body will continue to heal itself and continue to operate if we continue to rethink and stop, rethink and continue to recognize what we need and then continue to reset and think of our life in chapters and keep us balanced as we can and then we will be able to to reach our optimal fitness for a lifetime.

Allan: 35:11 Awesome. I like those. Brenda, if someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book, Aligned For Success, where would you like for me to send them?

Brenda: 35:20 My regular website is www.brendashaeffer.comif you'd like to go for a little free giveaway at of the top 10 mistakes that people make. They cause pain and it's at the bodyresetsystem.com that's site and the book can be gotten on Amazon and it's an anywhere at this point. Again, it's electronic version and also print version. I'm always available to chat with anybody when they need to.

Allan: 35:50 And it's not just a book its a complete workbook section. It walks you through this whole process to get aligned and figure out what you need to do for yourself. So Brenda, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Brenda : 36:04 And thanks for inviting me. Thank you.

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Another episode you may enjoy

April 22, 2019

Dr Josef Arnould’s american diet revolution

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Dr Josef Arnould is declaring war on the Standard American Diet and he needs you to join his American Diet Revolution.

Allan: 02:15 Dr Arnould, welcome to 40 plus fitness.

Dr. Arnould: 02:19 Hello Allan. Thank you very much. It's my pleasure to be here today.

Allan: 02:23 You know, when your publicist reached out to me, American Diet Revolution, I said, okay, something new. You've taken the concept of the American revolution and said we have probably something even more detrimental to, particularly the United States, but all western nations actually in the health crisis that's facing us.

Dr. Arnould: 02:46 Well, I try to make people aware of that, Allan, I just feel I should mention that I have had a clinic for almost 40 years now called strength for life in which I teach people how to exercise well, how to eat well, and if they need chiropractic care, deliver that to them as well. But I really feel that we face a real crisis and over the years, in my experience, people are losing their fitness as they age. And that's, that's really unfortunate. So, for instance, I'll take a patient to whom I might speak, start seeing in their twenties and by the 30s I can already feel on their spinal muscles that they're starting the gain body fat and lose strength. And those are two very disabling characteristics and things that I feel we have to do our best to try to avoid.

Allan: 03:43 Yes, I completely agree. Obviously I'm going to do this podcast and uh, you know, most of the folks that are we're talking to today are going to be in their forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and above. And they've let some of that stuff go and they've come to the realization, hey, we've got to fix this. But much like the American, or at the time I guess, you know, the colonists had the probably the mightiest army that had ever existed facing them down, which, you know, seems somewhat impossible if you think about it. We've got an opponent in this, this war that is, is even probably more formidable in which you call big Pharmo with a “Ph”. Big Farmo with an “F” and a the medical establishment, they are not helping us at any rate and actually making us worse. And I do agree with you, it's, it's a crisis because what 30 some odd percent of people who are obese and nearly 75% of folks are overweight. We've fallen a long way.

Dr. Arnould: 04:45 We certainly have, let me give you a statistic and I don't want to be labor statistics, but this is when I was in graduate school and exercise physiology in the late 1970 so, and this is from a text book and it said that the average American at that time between the ages of 25 and 55 that is 30 years loses about one half pound of muscle per year. And at the same time the average American gains about one and a half pounds of body fat per year in that 30 year span. So each year it says that we weigh one pound more, which doesn't sound like very much, but at the end of 30 years with that means is by age 55 we have 15 pounds less muscle mass and bone mass. And 45 pounds more body fat. So we weigh 30 pounds more on the scale, but in actuality, we're 60 pounds to the deficits. And that's, those are just statistics. What's really heartbreaking is how disabling this is. And that in an effect, really are our enemy. That which is colonizing us today is obesity. And that is what we all must try to get as much information as we can to confront that challenge and win that fight for our independence. Because if we lose our health, then we lose the freedom of good health. We just can't let that happen. Yeah, as you said, the statistics are staggering now, but here's the reason. Americans are either overweight or obese, two thirds of American adults. That's frightening statistic.

Allan: 06:36 It is. And, but, the cool thing, the good news of this is that this is, this is winnable battle by battle. And so if each of us realizes that we're, cause wars made up of several battles and you're gonna win some, you're gonna lose some. But each of us can win our own battles. And in the book, you give us five armaments. So we kind of have some tools to start facing this, this battle that's in front of us. Can you go through your five armaments?

Dr. Arnould: 07:03 Sure. Allan. And some of these may not. Some of these may seem obvious and some a little less obvious. The first armament by which I postulate we can begin to achieve our independence again, is what I call educating ourselves. And I'll give you a good example. Now, most of us who were 40 or older. Remember the Food Pyramid, which was published in 1992. Now, pretty much 10 or 15 years ago, that food pyramid was abandoned and there is no longer in operation. However, even the food and Drug Administration, which promulgated it originally has abandoned it. But for the past 35 years, I have taken nutritional diaries of my patients and exercise trainees, on a one week nutritional diet. And what I found is most people still eat as though they were following the food pyramid. Well, in other words, they're confused. And that's one reason, the major reason why I wrote American Diet Revolution is to help people not be confused.

Dr. Arnould: 08:11 Because one day we get information that coffee's bad. The next day coffee's in. Um, one day eggs are out, the next day they're in. So I tried to clarify that, but I don't expect people to believe just what I say I want them to, and include myself in this, we need to educate ourselves. We need to read 21st century nutritional dietary advice and nutritional research so that we understand what we're up against when we purchase and foods, the second armament, I call eating for wellbeing. And that's simply applying the information which we derive from our study of nutrition. Now we don't have to become nutritional experts, we just have to bring ourselves up to date. We have to disabuse ourselves of the misinformation to which we were subjected for so long, almost the last 50 years of the 20th century. And for a lot of us, that's a hard thing to do. But when we begin to realize, when we read some of the books of the 21st century, many of which I recommend in American Diet Revolution, then we begin to see nutrition in a different way. And we, uh, we have the ability to alter our own diets so that they foster better health and help us avoid accumulating excess body fat. And I should add losing our muscle mass as we age. The third armament is what I call economize. And by that I simply mean that we, in our society today, there's kind of a movement to get the best deal you can on everything we purchase. Well, we have to be very careful about that with food because it's very easy for sellers of food to manufacture cheap food, which is inexpensive to buy, but in the long run is very detrimental to our health. And I think anyone who's paying their health insurance premium knows that it's a lot more expensive to buy health insurance now than it was 20 years ago. And a major reason for that is the food. So we don't want to necessarily buy the cheapest food, we want to buy the best food. And in the American Diet Revolution, I try to help people begin to understand what qualifies as the best food. The fourth armament is what I call ecologize. And by that I want people to start to look at what we eat and a little broader context. And that means in terms of the environment, what we eat is our internal environment, what we dispose of outside and trash or plastic, that's our external environment. Well, in my opinion and in the opinion of many of the progressive 21st century nutritional writers, a lot of the toxic foods we're eating constitute internal pollution. They're causing havoc inside our bodies just as throwing plastics into the ocean causes external problems. And then the, fifth armament of liberation from, obesity and the loss of muscle mass is exercise. And of course that's my own prejudice. But I can tell just from talking to you and listening to your other podcasts that you are a strong advocate of exercising, not less as we age, but actually more and more intelligent. So those are the five armaments that I feel we can use to liberate ourselves from the obesity causing foods that we've been consuming for so long.

Allan: 12:08 Yeah, and you know, as I went through that. I was, I, you know, putting each of them in place and thinking about them, uh, from different perspectives and you know, the fact that they can make processed foods so, so cheaply. Uh, you know, if you made, if you actually made your own, bread, and we'll actually, we'll talk about grains in a minute, but if you actually major own your own bread, you would probably spend on ingredients four or five times what a loaf of bread costs. The reason they can do it is they're putting things in there that are cheaper substitutes for what is real food and that's actually costing you in health. And then kind of beyond that, you can sit there and say, well, okay, so I'm going to eat something healthy. Well, I'm gonna eat some almonds. Well I live in Florida? The almonds are grown in California or potentially somewhere else in the world and they're shipped here. So I'm an effect causing some other things to happen in the world that if I just shopped locally and ate what was in season and you know, it's not wrapped in plastics or shipped in a box. So I'm actually doing these things that are more beneficial to the world in general and I'm getting higher quality food to put in my own body that's more nutritionally dense. It's kind of this win win.

Dr. Arnould: 13:28 I agree Allan. I think you've hit on a very important concept and that is eating more locally grown foods, cutting down on the transportation pollution, but also supporting our local communities. The local growers, especially those who have gone to organic food raising and uh, they, they, they need to be celebrated. They are our local champions. They are the heroes of our local communities. And I think that's part of the whole revolution. If we think back to the American revolution, it didn't start as like a nationwide movement to liberate ourselves from England. It started in local communities where people wanted to exercise their own freedom, their own right to self determination or in the case of Boston, not to pay an excess in tea tax.

Allan: 14:23 Yeah, I think it was probably a lot more than just a tea tax, but that, that was a, you know, that was a good firing, you know, shot. And I think if you're talking to your doctor and your doctor's telling you, you know, you need to lose weight or your blood pressure's too high or your cholesterol is too high, this is your tea tax moment, you know, this is the moment to say, hey, I've got to do something about this. And, you said something that I think was really important in the education piece is that the science that was in place before the 21st century, much of that was, was produced by the sugar industry or by the grain industry or, or whomever. That seem to have a little bit of a bias. And I know now in the 21st century, we have a lot more independent speakers that are coming out and they're doing some really cool studies that are follow ups on what we were told that we should be eating. And that's why we're getting what really feels like conflicting information today in the book. And I don't want you to go through all 15 of them, but if someone was going to go when they're, when they're on Amazon or in your book, can you name a few other books that they should consider looking up as a, as a part of this education?

Dr. Arnould: 15:42 Sure Allan I'd be happy to do that. I think what I advise my exercise trainees to read first is a book by a cardiologist, William Davis called Wheat Belly Total Health. And the reason I think that's important is Dr. Davis reveals some very precise ingredients in, especially in wheats, that we as individuals always assumed were healthy for us, but which when we look at how they're digested by human beings actually cause havoc in our gastrointestinal systems. Now that sounds a little bit heavy handed. The book is actually a lot more practical than that, but if we want to understand why foods that we eat can cause us to become obese or cause digestive problems, I think that's a good place to start. A second book that I think is very important is The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, which was written in 2014 and the reason that I think that's an important book to read is that it demonstrates why in the 20th century there was so much confusion. Teicholz goes through in great detail, all of the sources of the information to which we were subjected in the 20th century, and she demonstrates very clearly that a lot of that advice was not honest nutritional research. That was research that was bought and paid for, as you say, by the sugar industry or by the grain industry. The reason I think that's important is in the 20th century, we were what I call accept doors. We accepted the information that the US Department of Agriculture gave us in 1992 the the, uh, so called pyramid. We never questioned why the Department of Agriculture, which really isn't a medical or a new human physiology organization, was giving us advice on nutrition. That advice was based upon what was good for the grain industry, not what was necessarily good for us as human beings to eat. So I think that's why I think The Big Fat Surprise is an important book for us to read. And then the third one, and there are many, but the third one that I think is really important is by David Perlmutter. And actually there are two books, one's called Grain Brain and the other is called Brain Maker. And in both of those books he goes into the, the detrimental effects of grains upon our nervous system. Particularly with the fact with the it's effects for causing dementia and Alzheimer's Disease of which David Perlmutter, who is a neurologist, his father who has a neurosurgeon, is a victim of Alzheimer's disease. So we need to understand those things. And I think those three books really crystallized for us a lot of the information that we never thought about before.

Allan: 19:03 Yeah. You know, I think it's easy for us to accept that sometimes, you know, the government's going to get it wrong. Uh, you know, when, when they were saying, you know, it's perfectly healthy to smoke and they were actually giving soldiers tobacco with the rations overseas, creating a whole generation of smokers. Everybody just at that point except that that is okay if our government was still passing out cigarettes to soldiers, people would be in arms and saying you can't teach an 18 year hold. It just joined the army to start smoking by giving them cigarettes while they're out in the field. So now we're saying, you know, now and the book, some of the books you've talked about, they kind of bring to the bare the fact that there were people influencing the decisions and it really wasn't based on science. As the science came in on tobacco, they obviously have come back and told you, you know, hey, don't do this. And we're just now kind of turning around in this century and getting the information that some of these foods are just not what they need to be or they've changed so much since maybe some of the things that we originally were eating, that they're not the same value. You have a pretty interesting quote in the book that I liked is you called grains are the fossil fuels of the human diet and we've talked a little bit about that, but could you just dive just a little deeper and why, why you feel that you know, this is, this is the big industry bad boy in our diet.

Dr. Arnould: 20:30 Okay. Well first of all, approximately 50% of the calories we consume in the United States come from grains, from what I call grain based food stuffs, crackers, bagels, bread, chips, etc. Muffins. And so they are obviously a major part of our diet. And what a lot of people think about, they're carbohydrated based foods that are going to give me energy. And that's true. It does give us energy. However, those foods when they in a sense burn inside of our bodies, when we, they go through the physiology of our digestive systems and produce energy, they also have a lot of residuals and I always compare it to like a burning coal in the basement of your house. Okay. You can do that to keep your house warm in the winter. However, the creosote and the and the other byproducts of combustion of coal are detrimental to your health.

Dr. Arnould: 21:37 Well, in grains and as William Davis points out in weak belly total health, there are a lot of residuals that cause damage, permanent damage in our bodies. One good example is a protein in wheat called wheat germ agglutinin. It's what's known as the lectin protein and is virtually indigestible in the human body and it accumulates. And if we look at what happens with these, these accumulating undigestable proteins, many of them combine with sugars in our bloodstream and eventually end up deposited in areas of our body that we don't want them. In our joints they cause arthritis, in our eyes, it causes cataracts, in our brain they cause dementia. Okay, this is not my finding. This is what science shows. In fact, there is a name for these byproducts of grain consumption and it's called Ages Advanced Glycation End Products. And what that means is this creosote, this abnormal protein from the incomplete digestion of grains, is accumulating in our body and diminishing our ability to function normally. Okay. And again, I mentioned earlier, David Perlmutter's book brain maker, he goes into great detail in describing what ages advanced glycation end products creosote does when it's inside of our body.

Allan: 23:16 I guess the sad part of this, and I'll tell this story, I used bread to gain weight when I was in high school. I was playing football and I wasn't heavy enough. And so bread was my goto fat fattening fuel. I knew that bread would, would basically make me fat. I mean, I knew it would help me put on weight. That was Kinda my thing. I knew that in milk and I just, I drink a lot of milk and I had a lot of bread. But looking back at it, I actually remember symptoms that were a part of exactly what you're talking about of what that bread was doing to me internally. I had those little skinfold thing, a little skin tags all over my back and I now know based on some reading, that was most likely caused by the volume and amount of white bread I was eating during that period of time. And if this has kind of really gets you fired up, I don't, I don't know what will, but if we're ready to go to battle and we've got our armaments in mind, you give us, uh, some principles for eating well because I think for a lot of us that's the easiest change to make. You know, some of us will sit there, you know, Well I have a bad knee or not feeling, you know, energetic and what not, if we change our food, I think that starts the ball rolling on a lot of this stuff so can you go through those principles for eating for well-being?

Dr. Arnould: 24:38 Okay. What I'd like to do Allan, if this okay with you, just to simplify it. Okay. There are two categories of foods which we want to consider for well-being. That is foods that we should eliminate from our diets and well as foods that we should add to our diets, which I call proactive eating. So first the foods that we should eliminate. There are two things that are the most important things to eliminate from our diet because they cause obesity and inflammation. The first one is foods that raise our blood sugar. Now, what foods raise our blood sugar? Well, if many of your listeners know of the glycemic index, that's a rating system developed in the 1980s by which they measured how much certain foods raised our blood sugar levels. Well, for instance, Blood Glucose, they assign the number 100 now the table sugar that we some people have on their tables, the white sugar that has a glycemic index of 59 so that means relative to blood glucose, white sugar will raise your blood sugar about 60% as fast as pure glucose. Now, here's a real staggering statistic. Whole organic wheat. What's the glycaemic index of that? 72! whole organic wheat will raise your blood sugar higher, faster, and longer than table sugar. Okay. What's the glycaemic index of oatmeal? 66 okay, got oatmeal, which most people, many, many people eat today. Their breakfast and consists oatmeal, raisins or bananas, a glass of orange juice and a piece of toast will raise your blood sugar higher, faster and longer than eating white table sugar. Okay, so we know just from science, not from fact or not from a food pyramid, that eating grains is going to raise our blood sugar levels. Now, what happens when that occurs? It causes the release of the hormone insulin. Insulin, as many people know, is what's associated with diabetes and those who lose the ability to manufacture insulin in their body become diabetic. Well, it's very clear that we need to avoid eating foods that raise our blood sugar because it causes the release of the hormone insulin and eventually we lose our ability to manufacture insulin ourselves or ourselves become resistant. Insulin insulin when it's released in the blood also has two other bad effects. It causes two hormones. One is leptin, which is the one that tells our brain, well, I've had enough to eat. It's time to stop now. That hormone is suppressed, so we continued to eat. We have one Bagel, uh it feels like I should have another one. And then the second hormone that insulin suppresses is Glucagon. And Glucagon is the hormone that tells our fat cells, okay guys, let's release some stored body fat for energy. So foods that raise our blood sugar are very detrimental and the champions of that are grains, especially wheat, corn and oats. Okay. Second thing we need to eliminate from our diet principles of eating well are foods that cause inflammation of the gut. In other words, they cause indigestion, gas, inflammation of our small intestine, ulcers, etc. What foods are champions of that? Well, the champion of all is wheat, why? Because there are indigestible proteins that ferment in the small intestine and cause gastrointestinal problems. So those are the two things we need to eliminate from our diet. But just as importantly, we need to add some good foods to our diet that haven't been there. Now, one of the premier examples of that in what I call proactive eating are foods that have beneficial bacteria. We have in our digestive system in our colon at any one time, somewhere between three and a half and five pounds of bacteria. We coexist with bacteria and have for about, at least since we've been homo sapiens, which is 200,000 years, but scientists can really take it back about 2 billion years. But the point is, those bacteria in our gut are essential for our lives. Okay? We don't operate efficiently. We don't digest food well. We don't stop viruses as well if we're deficient in beneficial bacteria, where can we get beneficial bacteria? One of the best places is Sauerkraut or other fermented foods and also eating organic foods. If we eat organic foods, they have a lot of these beneficial bacteria in them. If we eat foods that have been subjected to herbicides and pesticides in the field that killed a lot of the beneficial bacteria, so we become deficient in the bacteria we need to function normally as human beings. Okay? And then, uh, another example of proactive eating is making sure that we get the essential nutrients that we need for energy. And one of those essential nutrients are good fats as for instance, in Avocados or in egg yolks. And a lot of us have been brainwashed over the years to avoid fat to get, if you remember back to the eighties, seventies, they, they sold skim milk or low fat yogurt or Nonfat Yogurt. And still today you can get many of those products. But those products actually deprive us of the energy foods we need in order to function optimally as human beings. So those are just a couple of examples of foods that we should add to our diets and a couple of foods that we should, types of foods that we should eliminate from our diet.

Allan: 31:27 And I think that's really simple as you know, let's start cutting out the foods that are not serving our purpose, that are causing inflammation, that are causing excessive insulin release into our blood and causing problems. And that's why we have the weight gain. Also adding the foods that are going to give us, and like you said, that the good bacteria and the proper nutrition to make sure that our body has the building blocks and the energy to do what we do on a day to day basis. A lot of folks will sit there and say, okay, I'm going to make this change. And they start making the change and then this little problem called willpower starts to, starts to get in the way and it gets nighttime and they're like, you know, I just, I still want my little chocolate ice cream or, uh, you know, I want my little, little Debbie's cake at night or whatever. Whatever your thing is. For me, it would be a peanut M and. M's if they were in the house, um, I would, I would have some probably every evening. It's very hard for me to avoid them. There's actually some in the house right now and I've been avoiding them like the plague. I hit him in the Pantry so my wife can get them when she wants them, but I don't want them out. You have some tips in the book to help us avoid nighttime sweets.

Dr. Arnould: 32:37 Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up down. That's, that's good. Because we all face that challenge at the end of a day, maybe not feeling quite satisfied with all of the things we'v eaten or probably also staying up a little later than we should and getting the munchies. So one of the things that I've found over the years and helping my patients and exercise trainees with this problem, and it can be quite honest with myself too, is what I call the six nighttime weapons of fat mass destruction. And what they are is little techniques to not to deprive us of of food at night, but to alter the way in which we face our snacks. Okay. So let me just give you a couple of examples of the six nighttime weapons. The first thing we can do is after dinner, a lot of times after you've had the main course, you went, ah, I really shouldn't eat something sweet, but I just feel on the tip of my tongue I feel like it should have something sweet to kind of complete the deal here.

Dr. Arnould: 33:45 So one technique, I've tried this myself and it and it will work, and that is to have something sour right away. And the best, what I often do is just to have two tablespoons of Sauerkraut or a sour pickle. Now that sounds kind of crazy, but when you get a sour taste in your palate, it sometimes suppresses or even removes the, the desire to have something sweet. So instead of, you may want to have another pickle but that's not a problem or another, um, taste of Sauerkraut, but those foods of course are not going to cause us to put on body weight. The last thing we want to do is eat a lot of calories late evening that will then sit there over night while our foods should be digesting.

Allan: 34:40 And it's very hard to eat too much sauerkraut. I mean…

Dr. Arnould: 34:45 That's true and very, very good point. Now the second a weapon of fat mass destruction is what I call herbal teas. Now you could have black tea too, but that might keep you awake. And herbal tea is just usually made with herbs from botanical plants and flowers. And if you can find the tea that really pleases your palate. It will oftentimes satisfy that. Now in my own case, my favorite is licorice tea because it is sweet and um, sometimes, you know, just having licorice tea is just enough to really satisfy my desire for something very sweet. But other people may find a sour herbal tea. I think there's one called by celestial seasonings called Red Zinger. And uh, again, that will create a different, it's gives you a lot of flavor and I'll a lot of water at the same time. So it's kind of fulfilling and it, and it distracts you from wanting to get a dish of ice cream or a piece of cake or pie or something like that or some M&M's. The third weapon of fat mass distraction is having a good fat. Because a lot of times what we want is something that's flavorful and fat can often satisfy our pallets and not raise our blood sugar, whereas obviously sweet foods would. A good example is what are called high cacao chocolate. Now you can buy bars now that are up to 95% chocolate. To me that's a little bit too much. It's almost tastes like the Baker's chocolate that I tried to steal from my mom's cupboard and found out it was very bitter. But uh, there are the grades from about 60 to 65 to 70 to 75 to 80. And you can work your way up into the 90s. And the higher the Cacao content that is the more chocolate, the less sugars in them. A good high cacao content chocolate bar might be 85 or 90% cacao and have only two or three grams of sugar in half of a large bar. So that's not going to raise our blood sugar. So that's a good alternative, especially if you can kind of put it on your tongue and just savor it for a while. Another good example is dried coconut flakes or just fresh coconut. It has a sweet taste. It's very chewy and has a lot of beneficial fats in it, so it's very satisfying. Plus you have to chew it forever. By the time you get to have a few pieces of fresh coconut, uh, your jaws have had a workout and you don't really feel like eating too much more. Now, if all those tactics fail, then we can bring on the heavy artillery. One thing that I used to do in college when I had the munchies at night is I go in and I brush and floss my teeth. And just the onerous task of brushing and flossing my teeth made me much less likely to eat something else cause I didn't want to have to do it again before I went to bed. So there's kind of a disincentive in there to eat more than I should lay on. Now. if all those fail, the next thing we can do in the evening is to take a stroll. Ideally it'd be right after dinner. If we're exercising very lightly or even if we've eaten a little too much or a little bit more than we should, our blood sugar levels don't rise quite as high because we're using some of that blood sugar immediately to contract the muscles in our legs so that we can walk. So the old English tradition of a, of a walk after dinner has a lot, makes a lot of nutritional sense and it's an important weapon. And then the sixth weapon of fat, Mass Distraction. And that's a hard piece of advice to follow and that is to go to bed. If we stay up too late, we're going to get hungry, we're going to eat more than we should. If we're asleep, we can't be eating things. And you know, I know it takes discipline, but we all probably in our modern crazy society need a little more sleep than we give ourselves. So if we go to bed a little earlier or we don't stay up later than we should, or stay on the computer longer than we should, and we go to bed, we're less likely to eat foods that are going to raise our blood sugar and cause us to store body fat. So those are the six nighttime weapons of fat, mass destruction

Allan: 39:39 And those are, those are, those are great tips. Each and every one of them. You're going to find one of those that works for you most of the time and then you can always fall back on some of the others. The walking is definitely one of my favorites because there's actually scientific studies that have shown that if you do a short walk after a meal, your blood sugar doesn't raise as much. And a lot of that has to do with, like you said, the insulin, your blood. It's also responsible for shuttling the sugar, blood sugar into the muscles and the liver. So if you're using some of that glycogen, you're signaling to your body, hey, let's put it in the muscle first and then, and then we can store the rest of it. But if you haven't eaten that much to raise your blood sugar that high, that short walk, we'll do a lot to balance you out.

Allan: 40:28 So Dr. Arnould, 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. Arnould: 40:40 Okay. Um, well, we've talked about some of them. Um, I would say that first and most important one is to exercise. And I say that because I think in our modern technological world, we exercise far too little. Now, I talked a little bit about obesity before, but the other part of that equation when we lose a half a pound of muscle between the ages of 25 and 55, every year, a half a pound of muscle. And by the way, 40 is the mid point in that time. So those of us who are listening, because it's a 40 plus podcasts, take that to heart. 40 is kind of the turning point. That's a time when we can, uh, begin to make a change for the next 60 years of our lives hopefully. Now exercise in general is very important, but I think the thing that a lot of people are aware of this now, is strength training.

Dr. Arnould: 41:43 When we lose muscle mass as we age, the term for it is sarcopenia. SARCO means muscle. Penia means small and our muscles get smaller and weaker and that disables us. It doesn't allow us to do the things in life that we want to do, like hike, garden or play golf or tennis or that we have to do like shovel snow or rake leaves. So we need to build our strength as we age. And not just in our forties but our 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and onward. So a lot of people have gotten that message and it's very gratifying to see so many people now doing strength training. But that's why I put it in number one. Okay, exercise. Second, and we've already talked about this, and that's eating for wellbeing. Eating foods that enhance our digestive system, that get us the energy we need, the proteins we need to rebuild ourselves every day and eliminating the foods that are toxic to our bodies.

Dr. Arnould: 42:49 And then the third tactic, which, um, and again, I think many of your listeners are already thinking of this and that's what I'm going to call rest, relaxation and loving interaction with those who are around us. Our bodies need rest. We need to get enough sleep. We need to relax a little. But that the third element that there is loving relationships with the people around us. That is something that nourishes our souls and inspires us to keep doing all the things that we do and that we find meaningful in our lives. So those are the three most important tactics in in my opinion.

Allan: 43:34 Yeah, I like those. Thank you. So a Dr. Arnould, if someone wanted to learn more about you and what you're doing, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?

Dr. Arnould: 43:44 Thank you for asking Allan! The website of my clinic is called strengthforlife.com.

Allan: 44:01 Okay, well you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/378 forward and I'll be sure to have that link there. So Dr. Arnold, thank you so much for being a part of 40 plus fitness

Dr. Arnould: 44:15 Allan. It has been a delight and I really thank you for all your insightful questions and provocative questions. You really made this a very enjoyable experience. I appreciate it.

Before we get out of here, I did want to ask you for one small favor, would you go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/patreon. And there you'll find a page that will allow you to contribute something to the show. I want to continue to bring you this great show. This is how I'm making my living so to speak and I want to make sure that I'm able to continue to bring you the best content possible. And if you would just give even a dollar a month that would do so much to help me spread the word and keep this going. So if you want to be a part of the 40+ fitness podcast mission, just go to patreon and you can find it through 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/patreon and that'll take you to the page where you can contribute.

If you contribute at certain levels. There are things that I'll do for you. So there is some incentive there to consider a little bit more if he can, but my base level is just a dollar an episode. And if you can do that for me, really it means a lot to me. I'll acknowledge you on the website. I acknowledge all the patrons and I really appreciate those of you that have contributed, but if you haven't checked it out yet, please go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/patreon. Thank you.

Another episode you may enjoy

April 15, 2019

Ultimate age-defying plan with Ashley Boudet

Patreons

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

  • Judy Murphy
  • Randy Goode
  • Debbie Ralston

Thank you!

Before we get started today, I wanted to take just a moment to reach out to you and offer this special invitation. I’m opening up my calendar to give you a free 15-minute consult. During this consult, there’s no obligation. I’m there to help you reach your health and wellness goals, so we’ll talk about the things that are getting you stuck. We’ll come up with strategies that will help you be more successful and we’ll look for those little things that you might be missing on your wellness journey. So if you’re ready to do something special before the summer, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min. And I’ll be sure to have that link in the show notes. So, do go to the show notes if you forget this, but it’ll be out there – a free 15-minute consult with me; the same kind of consult that I would normally have with my clients. This one’s going to be for you absolutely free. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min. Thank you. 

We all want to look and feel our best. In her book, The Ultimate Age-Defying Plan, Ashley Boudet helps us use a plant-based diet to slow the aging process.

Allan (2:19): Ashley, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Ashley Boudet (2:22): Hi Allan. Thank you for having me.

Allan (2:24): Today we’re going to talk about your book, The Ultimate Age-Defying Plan: The Plant-Based Way to Stay Mentally Sharp & Physically Fit. I can say I have celebrated my 53rd birthday this year. That term “age-defying” starts to resonate with me as I’m kind of turning onto what I would call the second half of life. Age-defying is pretty darn important.

Ashley Boudet (2:51): Yeah. Well, you’re pretty young. It’s been so much fun writing the book and also learning. And it’s a little bit of a relief, I think, to learn that there are things that we can do to stay young. A lot of people look at me and they’re like, “What do you know about aging?” But I thought turning 40 would be a big deal. And I think that even though I try to ignore age, it doesn’t really matter that much. There was something about it a few years ago that was like, “What’s going to happen?” I thought it would be something big or a big change in it. It really wasn’t.

And I think my fabulous coauthor and I would both agree that we both have felt better later – 40s and 50s and on, than ever. So it’s turned into an opportunity in a way. Sometimes eating well, exercising and all of those things come easier when a person is younger and may have a different meaning when you get a little bit older. It’s more of an opportunity, and what I call it is self-care. We talk about this a lot in some of our classes, that the way we really do see the future of medicine is self-care, is learning to take care of yourself and bringing the power back. And that also includes cooking.

Allan (4:08): That’s what I really like, is your book’s unique in this perspective. I’ve seen doctors that have brought in folks to write recipes for them before, but this is a book that you could naturally tell the book knew what the recipes were because they’d eaten it. It was almost, I’m not going to say a love of food, but it really talked about how you can use food to nourish your body. And we’re going to talk about that acronym in a minute, but that food’s a big, big part of that; in fact, the first part of it. But as you’re going through the book, it was telling you if you’re looking at this stuff and you want to get these nutrients in, here are the recipes, here are the page numbers. Go after it. I thought that was really cool because it wasn’t necessarily a prescription. It was empowering someone, like you said, to do self-care.

Ashley Boudet (5:05): Exactly. As a naturopathic doctor, many times, and even in my early training, I would give people lists of things that you shouldn’t, or ways that you should eat or things that could help to support your body. But I learned that actually knowing what to do with those foods was so huge. Some people had no idea how to even make a food taste good. And Mark calls what he does “food activism”. He’s been in this vegan chef world for a long time and he’s very clear that it has to taste good for anybody to even try it, to even begin to bring vegetables into their life on a regular basis. What we also do in our classes, and we wanted this book to be similar to that, where it’s bringing up the experience of the food and the experience of how these things are medicines and how they work in our body.

Allan (5:59): I was looking at something as simple as wanting to get more dandelion root into my diet and saying it looks different; it doesn’t look like all the other lettuce and stuff that I would normally eat in a salad. How do I put it in there and make it a normal part? Some of that I’ve found works really well with smoothies, it also works very well with a salad. But it is a little intimidating when you’re looking at a particular vegetable that you’ve never cooked with before and saying, “Here’s this big purple eggplant. What do I do with it now?” There are some recipes in the book that will actually help me do that.

Ashley Boudet (6:35): Yes, exactly. And we like to encourage people to use these recipes as what Mark calls a “template”. So, to try this recipe and then to begin to get more creative and to bring in another food. Like if you’re doing a green salad or something with greens, how can I make this work with dandelion? And just to start experimenting more, but to kind of give you a place to start, so you can then have years and years of recipes that you can just come up with yourself.

Allan (7:04): There are 175+ of them in this book. So this is a really good start for anyone that does want to either go plant-based or at least make sure they’re getting more plants in their diet, because I think that’s important for all of us. You have an acronym in the book that I really like. I tend to go towards numbers and acronyms; it’s just something I love. You have a really cool acronym – NOURISH. Do you mind going through each of those pieces and what they mean for us?

Ashley Boudet (7:36): Sure. I love the word “nourish” itself, because I feel like it’s a very rich word. It kind of invokes the idea of really taking care of yourself. We like to simplify things. The book has seven ingredients or less; we want to make things really easy and doable for people. At the same time, the information and the idea of this age-defying plan – we want to keep it as simple as possible and to look at the things that we do every day that we feel could be the most powerful and healing. So, NOURISH is pretty easy to remember. I’ll go through them quickly.

N is nutrition – the basic nutrients that we need for our body to work.

O is oxytocin. And I love that. Oxytocin, not a lot of people know what that is, but it is what they call the “happiness hormone”. There was a study not long ago that I think was pretty widespread out there that was talking about how hugging for I think it was 20 seconds or something – like a long hug – actually would increase the levels of this pleasure or calming hormone in your body. There are so many things that also will increase oxytocin. This is one of the first actual studies that looked at the blood levels of the hormone, but anything that makes you feel good. So I put oxytocin in there, and that can be being outside, talking to a friend, even eating a really delicious meal, laughing, things like that. So, that’s the O.

“Use it or lose it” is all about using your brain and your body in the way that they want to be used. So, challenging yourself, getting rid of that idea that it’s too late to try something new. If maybe you thought you might want to do a triathlon – not that that’s something I would do – but use it or lose it. Always moving your body and never feeling like it’s ever too late. Also, challenging your mind as well. And we go into all of these in more detail in the book, obviously.

R is for relationship, and that is the importance of really nourishing your relationships and nourishing the idea of a connection to a community, to how we contribute to our community and how we share our stories with each other. That can be very nourishing.

I is for intention, and by this we mean knowing what’s important to you in life, having a vision for your life, knowing what you value and making choices from there.

Then the last two – pretty obvious, but super important on the top of my list really, are sleep and hydration. Sleep is the importance of getting your body that downtime to shut down and recuperate. In the book, I have some studies that are really interesting about how sleep helps us to detoxify as well.

And then hydration – this is simply getting enough water. This is something that, living in Colorado in a dry climate, I’m always having to remind people of. But really anybody can benefit from sometimes drinking a glass of water when they’re looking and wondering, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I feel well?” in many different ways. Also we talk about with hydration, using water as medicine. So this can be taking an herbal bath or jumping into a cool river and having our circulation react to that and really awakening our nerves and our cells in that way.

So, those are the things that we have learned both separately and together over years that have really helped us to stay healthy; things that are important to do every day. They seem very simple and they’re actually very powerful to us.

Allan (11:32): You put a lot of good detail in the book on each and every one of these; some considerations, some things you can do to get this. I really appreciated that this was not just a, “Here’s the acronym” and then, “Go do these things.” You actually provide a lot of guidance in the book on exactly how to do those things.

Ashley Boudet (11:53): Right. We wanted it to be, one, something simple that didn’t feel too overwhelming for people. We also have one page on NOURISH, so we were hoping that could be something people could take with them at the gym or something, just to remind themselves of what all these things mean.

Allan (12:14): Now, one thing that I have not really talked about a lot on the show, and it was kind of surprising because this is episode 377 – we’ve never really talked about kidney and urinary tract health. As I was reading your book I saw the section on that and I was like, “376 episodes leading up to this, we haven’t had this conversation.” So I was really glad that you got into it. The kidneys, obviously we know they filter our blood. We know that if someone gets diabetes, over time they are very likely to cause damage to their kidneys and perhaps need dialysis. Dialysis shops are popping up all over the country pretty much faster than weight loss clinics are. It’s just surprising to me how many there are now. We are not taking good care of our kidneys.

Ashley Boudet (13:12): Right. I wanted to put this in the book, and it’s kind of a small section in the book. I think from the naturopathic perspective, it’s less strange to talk about the kidneys as really important organs of elimination and balance in our body. Even if you look at Chinese medicine, the kidneys are central to health, and something that’s always looked at and addressed, kind of in a different way in Chinese medicine. I wanted to see what people are dealing with when they’re aging, and surprisingly, chronic kidney disease was one of the top 10. This was from the Council on Aging. I looked at the top 10 things that a lot of people are dealing with with aging, and kidney was number six. So it was right up there with heart disease and diabetes, and it’s because it’s connected to all of these things. In addition, all of these things that we can do every day, like drinking enough water and nourishing our bodies and our cells and exercising – all of these things are going to help to support our kidneys as well. So, the idea that I like for people to keep in mind is, it’s really scary to think of kidney disease. I’m not trying to minimize when someone has a very serious kidney disease, but all of these things that we do every day are also protecting our kidneys.

Allan (14:40): So, in many cases, kidney disease is also a lifestyle disease.

Ashley Boudet (14:45): Right.

Allan (14:47): Okay. Now, I’m someone who enjoys cooking. I probably don’t cook enough meals on my own, but as this is going on now and I’m down here in Panama, I’m going to obviously cook more, primarily because there’s not a huge number of restaurants within the distance and I would get very, very bored eating at the same ones all the time. So, I do tend to cook the majority of my meals. And I do recognize that one of the cool things about that is I actually now know what I’m putting in my mouth, so there’s no extra this or that getting snuck in there that I don’t want in my body. Can you talk about some of the value of when we cook our own meals? What does that do for us?

Ashley Boudet (15:36): Yeah, it’s huge. So, Mark has been teaching cooking classes for many years. And around the same time that I was doing my clinicals and telling people about nutrition and learning everything about nutrition was when I realized people need to learn to cook. I need to learn to cook. Honestly, when I was in school and in a doctoral program and was more stressed out, what really brought me to health, one of the main things was taking the time to cook for myself. It turned into really my time. So when we teach classes, I try to invite people to bring in all of their senses. As we’re starting to sauté the onions, to really smell those foods. And when we’re talking about which herbs we’re using, to smell those as well and to look at them and maybe even get a little bit more quiet and think about where these foods came from. So, using all of our senses and using all levels of experiencing that food is something that you can’t get when you just go and get takeout food or go to a restaurant. Some people talking about the prana in a food, and the prana is a very real thing. It’s the energy and you could say the love that someone puts into the food. That actually helps us with digestion and really contributes to our health as well.

Allan (17:00): What I found is that I get a lot of pleasure out of going to a local market, a farmer’s market, and literally sitting there with the person that grew the plant and asking them about how they grow this. You start seeing them just light up. I think they get more joy out of being a farmer at a farmer’s market than they make profit selling at a farmer’s market, because the food’s cheaper and better there. But you know that they picked this this morning. They got up at 6:00 in the morning to make the 7:00 or 7:30 farmer’s market time. They got up; it’s daylight, they picked it. It’s sitting right there. You take that home, rinse it off, and that becomes part of your dinner that night. To me, it’s so fulfilling to know that literally, this was a growing plant this morning and it’s on my plate tonight.

Ashley Boudet (17:56): Right. Isn’t that beautiful? It’s our connection to nature. Food is our medicine.

Allan (18:02): And it didn’t fly in from Chile. Not that there’s anything wrong with Chile, but that’s a long trip. The organic, locally grown produce is going to provide you better nutrition and you’re going to feel better about it when you’re helping out a local farmer with that purchase. A lot of times when I’m talking to folks, they’re saying, “I really struggle to cook for myself because I just don’t have enough time” or, “This doesn’t work out for me. I go into my refrigerator and there’s nothing there.” Can you give us some tricks – I know in the book you had seven – for meal prep and making it a snap?

Ashley Boudet (18:44): Yes. This is very important because it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks you should do; you have to do whatever is going to work in your life. We’re all busy and life keeps us going and going, so one is to think of it as something that you’re doing for yourself; so back to that NOURISH. I could go through the seven from the basic cooking techniques section, but it has to taste good and be easy and be something that you enjoy. This should be an experience that you enjoy. So some of the quick things that you can do to make sure that you’re prepared for having that good experience and it not being a stressful experience, are to prepare ahead of time, of course. We suggest maybe taking a weekend day and in a relaxing way to plan out a menu for the week and think about where you need to get these foods and what you need for that week, and get that ready. Then preparing ahead of time, and also creating an organized space. Maybe Marie Kondo can help – I know everybody’s talking about her these days. But really having a Zen space, is what Mark says helps so much to be able to make those meals more quickly and to have the preparation process be much more enjoyable. So, having a place for everything, knowing where to find what you need, and then planning ahead are some of the simple things that you can do to bring in both flavor and nutrition. We also have a few recipes in the book on making spice blends. The idea is that you can have different dried spices that you can blend together. You can put together parsley, basil, oregano and some other herbs and make an Italian blend, so we’re going to have Italian night. Or you can put together certain herbs with cayenne, and that can be more like a Mexican flavor or an Indian flavor. You can have those at your hand, and that way you can feel like you’re being more creative, but it’s also not too much work to have to do. 

Another thing is – and this is something big that Mark teaches in all of his classes – is the idea of the template. So, the first meal, or some people say, “What’s a go-to meal?” To get nutrition and to also have it be interesting and delicious would be what he calls the “monk bowl”. It’s the idea of a bowl that has a nice balance – so a grain, a green, and a protein. The grain could be quinoa or rice, or even rice noodles or pasta. The green just means any veggies. You want to go crazy on the veggies and have all the different colors that you can imagine, not just green. And then the protein, which can be for a vegan diet something simple, like quick roasted tempeh or tofu, or you can do lentils or beans or something that you can either do in a quick cooker, or even a can or something like that if you’re in a hurry. When you have that base, then you can add extra things. The things that we like to add are some toasted seeds or avocado or something raw, like some raw greens on top, or even sauerkraut or something like that. Those are pretty simple things that you can have in your pantry or in your fridge all the time. And then in a few minutes you can create a really delicious, really nutritious meal that’s not the same as one that you’ve ever had before, because you can mix and match all these ingredients.

Allan (22:27): I liked all of that because this is something like the salad in a jar concept. That’s great, because you could set that up the night before. In the morning when you get ready, you go. So maybe you had the salad for dinner, you had the extra that you put in that jar, and that’s your lunch and you’re set. Now, the one that hit me in the heart that my wife, when she does listen to this episode, she’ll understand – I just mess up so many dishes when I’m cooking. But you guys had the tip in there to try to use the same pan for more than one thing, and a lot of the recipes do exactly that. I thought that was pretty cool, because I’ll go make something and it’d be 15 pans, and forks and spoons and all that dirty. It got me to thinking I am spending time washing these dishes, and in some cases my wife steps in and does that since I did the cooking, but it is time consuming. There are things we can naturally look to that are going to reduce the amount of time. So if time is the issue, you can remove that issue.

Ashley Boudet (23:37): Right. And on other days, when you have a little bit more time, you can make the big mess in the kitchen and make it your art space and go crazy. But on a regular day-to-day, make sure that this can really be a part of your life and not something that you just do every now and then. That’s the person that we were thinking of in this book, and how can we make this as easy as possible?

Allan (23:59): And I liked that a lot of the recipes can be batch-cooked or batch-prepared, particularly with the spice blends. I had never thought of that. My wife thinks I have a spice fetish. We did the move to Panama; I’m throwing out all these spices or giving them away. I just collect spices, because I think they make the meals delicious. As I’m down here in Panama, I have less selection but I’m making it work. Ashley, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Ashley Boudet (24:47): I like that too. I like to break it down into simples. So three things. I’m going to go back to NOURISH, and I would say, nourish your body, one. So this is food, water, movement, challenging – all the things we talked about. Nourish your mind – so your brain, your emotional body – finding joy, quiet, spending time in nature. And then nourish your connections. So, nourish your body, nourish your mind, and nourish your connections. And that’s your connection to family and friends, community, maybe your connection to greater, to all beings that live, and even maybe extending beyond to something greater than yourself, because that’s where we can answer, “Why am I doing all this stuff in the first place?”

Allan (25:38): Those were wonderful. Thank you. If someone wanted to learn more about you and Mark, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?

Ashley Boudet (25:50): Mark and I together is Doctor and Chef, so our website is DoctorAndChef.com. And on that website you can find where to find the book, more information about the book, and we have some resources that are downloads and different information on certain topics that we talk about in the book that we go more in depth on.

Allan (26:11): I liked that there were a good many links to the resources section to dive deeper. The book is a great resource in and of itself, but you have some add-ons that they can go find. So the name of the book is The Ultimate Age-Defying Plan and you can find the links to all of that at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/377. Ashley, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Ashley Boudet (26:36): Thank you. It was great chatting with you.

Allan (26:43): I really love having conversations with folks like Ashley, where they’re stretching me to learn new things, to focus on things maybe a different way. It’s always great to get guests on the show that teach me something. I’ve really enjoyed this journey of podcasting, where I’ve been able to read all of these great books and have some really cool conversations. And one of the ways I think I can help you is by sharing that with you. If you find yourself stuck, you just want a boost to make your summer awesome – let’s get on the phone. I’m offering a free 15-minute consult. You go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min, and that will take you to my Calendly calendar. There you can book a time and we can get on a phone – it’s a Zoom conference line. Really easy, just you and I, 15 minutes. We’re going to set some strategies, we’re going to go over goals, and I’m going to help you make this fitness journey much, much better. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min. Thank you.

Another episode you may enjoy

April 8, 2019

Mariza Snyder on essential oils and hormones

Patreons

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

  • Judy Murphy
  • Randy Goode
  • Debbie Ralston

Thank you!

As we age, managing our hormones becomes more and more important and essential oils might just be a part of the solution. Our guest today is Dr. Mariza Snyder the author of the book, The Essential Oils Hormone Solution.

Allan (1:15): Dr. Snyder, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (1:19): Thank you so much for having me. How are you?

Allan (1:21): I’m doing very well. When your publicist Jimmy reached out to me any had the book, The Essential Oils Hormone Solution, I did a little bit of a double take. I was like, “Hmm, essential oils and hormones.” I want to have more conversations about hormones, because they are such an important aspect to overall wellness. If you don’t have your hormones in balance, you just aren’t going to be well. But I’d never really heard anybody talking about using the essential oils protocols or anything like that to affect hormones. I was really interested to dive into this book and get a better understanding of how essential oils can be used to help manage our hormones.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (2:03): Absolutely. I’m super excited to talk about that today and give some clarity around that topic.

Allan (2:09): The reason that this topic is so important to me is, as we get into our 50s and 60s, a lot of things are going on with our bodies, a lot of things are slowing down. For men, your testosterone’s going down; for women, your progesterone and estrogen start to decline. And that has some fundamental changes in the way that our bodies function. Not to mention, growth hormone, lower thyroid. Everything else seems to slowly be getting out of balance from what was making us feel young and vibrant. You use a term in the book, and I’ve heard this phraseology maybe not exactly this way, but I want to dive into this. You use the term “my body at war”.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (3:00): Absolutely.

Allan (3:02): Can you kind of peel the layers away from that a little bit? For someone that hasn’t experienced some of this stuff, I think it’s important for them to understand this feeling so that they recognize it. I know for men it happens kind of slowly, so I wouldn’t think of it so much as a war, as just a slow, gradual melting.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (3:25): A slow, gradual decline. I’d love to talk a little bit… When I was in practice, what I saw in practice a lot and then what I had personally experienced – as you know, we are hard wired for survival. That is the number one MO of the body. It’s how our brain functions, it’s what our metabolism is driven by. We constantly think about inside of the brain. A really important aspect of the brain, probably one of the oldest parts of the brain is the limbic brain, the limbic system. Your limbic system is driven by an autonomic response and we have two different ways that we respond. If you’re looking at it cut and dry, it’s going to be parasympathetic, which is rest, digest and reproduction. That’s really where we’re at when we are eating, we’re reproducing. Except the other MO is that not only do we have to survive, we have to survive long enough to procreate. Being evolutionary success means that we have grandchildren – that’s just how it’s defined in biological terms. So, we’ve got parasympathetic and then we’ve got sympathetic. Sympathetic nervous system can be in overdrive. We call it “sympathetic dominance”. And that is when our body is at war, if that system is constantly running on overdrive, because it’s survival. When your body is constantly running in survival mode, that’s where we kind of get in trouble. 

I always imagine a gazelle in Africa. You’ll see gazelles grazing inside of a pasture, just relaxing. They’re in parasympathetic mode; they’re just kicking it. Then someone spots a tiger lurking. Everyone gets the message, “fight or flight”, sympathetic nervous system mode kicks in and they start running like gazelles. And once they know that the danger’s gone, then they go back to grazing. Problem is that we are constantly perceiving so many of our environmental stressors as tigers behind us all the time. And when that happens, your brain and that neuroplasticity, which is driving a lot of the hormonal responses, becomes in a scenario of “my body at war”. We are in constant sympathetic nervous system mode and we drive important survival hormones like cortisol and epinephrine coursing through the system. Well, those have negative ramifications – digestive ramifications, reproductive ramifications, cognitive function ramifications. Things like even putting on weight in areas; that belly fat that we talk about. You can create a fatty liver because you’re constantly stressed. You can drive your thyroid into the ground. What I oftentimes see is that I don’t think we realize that when we fuel our life based on stress or the constant demands of everyone else’s priorities, when we’re all things to everybody else, we don’t realize that that fuel we’re running on is really lending towards chaos inside of the body.

Allan (6:25): Okay. I kind understood a little bit of that beforehand because I’ve gone and gotten massages, and the masseuse will occasionally use some oils or scents or something like that, have a diffuser in there. I’ve used some lavender to relax and sleep better. So I have used some essential oils. I like that your book actually has a lot of recipes, because I think that’s going to make it easy for folks to put together as a recipe to deal with various things. But before they go down that line: “I’m fatigued. I know I’m stressed. I know this is going on in my life”, it’s important for them to go get some hormones tested first to know which direction to go with this, right?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (7:12): Absolutely. I’m a big fan of knowing your numbers. I think that’s really, really important. We can make changes and make stride even without hormones if indeed it is stress-driven. We can disrupt this stress response and the resulting domino effect of that with natural solutions at your fingertips. But yes, I do recommend getting tested. If something else is going on, you want to know what’s going on in the body. Absolutely, it’s important. If you find that your hormone imbalances are being driven by a different root cause, like let’s say it is chronic stress – you could work on your hormones and your thyroid all you like, but if you’re not addressing the core root of the issue, which for some of us oftentimes can be the stress we’re dealing with on a day-to-day – our bodies go back to where they were. That was what was happening to me. I was trying to treat my stress with nutrition. I have a quote that says, “You can’t green smoothie your way out of chronic stress.” And I thought I could for many years. I thought I could exercise and green smoothie my way out of it, but it was my, I would call it the “operating system”. I was running on stress 24/7, and without changing the operating system, which I think oils can help to do, we find ourselves back in those patterns.

Allan (8:35): That’s a big driver to our move to Panama, is to kind of get into that lower gear lifestyle. I was corporate for so many years and the last few years with the layoffs and everything was really damaging to me. I knew that was the one last thing I needed to fix the puzzle. I’ve gone to doctors and the doctor will say, “We’ll do labs.” And then you get the labs and start trying to do, I guess a little bit of doctor Googling to figure out what this is actually telling you. You start doing some of that research and it’s like, “I just got this test, but this article is saying I really should have gotten a more broad panel.” Like, you got TSH, but you didn’t get T4, T3 and reverse T3. If someone’s going to go in and put together a panel for hormone testing, what would you recommend that they go get?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (9:34): Absolutely. Inside the book too, I do such a great job of really giving people all the testing that they should be asking for, because as you know, we really have to become our own advocate for our own health these days. There are a lot of different reasons why that’s the case. I would recommend if I were to go into my doctor… And your traditional doctor may even say “No” to these, and it’s really worth looking for a functional medicine doctor or a naturopath – someone who’s really willing to look at everything. Clearly the big one is a complete blood panel. I think everyone should be tested for thyroid. With the thyroid there’s so much that can go wrong there – toxic load, stress, adrenal deregulation. The thyroid tends to be one of those very delicate endocrine glands that just takes a beating. Any autoimmune or allergy issue, the immune system is like, “You know what? Let’s just go after the thyroid too. Why don’t we just knock that one out?” So, I always recommend running a thyroid panel. The thyroid stimulating hormone, free T3, free T4, reverse T3. I also want you looking at antibodies because if it’s hypo thyroid, 80% to 90% of the time it’s probably Hashimoto’s driven, meaning the immune system is causing the problem. So, TPOAb, then the antibodies as well, the antiglobins, so that is going to be the TgAb as well. Then I want you to look at the adrenals or at least look at cortisol levels, and that is throughout the day. So, morning before 9:00 AM, afternoon, evening, and before going to bed. That’s that diurnal cortisol test that I’m looking at. I also like total testosterone and DHEA levels. I think those are important. Progesterone, specifically on days 21 to 23 because that is when progesterone is at its height. That’s when we’ll really know what’s going on with progesterone. I also want to look at estrogen levels as well, see where they’re at. Fasting insulin, glucose, HDL, hemoglobin. I want to look at the growth factor of the growth hormone. And then also important – nutrients. I want to look at vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate, ferritin, iron. Those are things that I want to be looking at as well, because nutrient depletions can have a profound impact on what’s going on with those hormones. So those are the things I’m looking for in a real, comprehensive lab test. Unfortunately, right now a lot of traditional doctors are not running these levels of tests.

Allan (12:16): I actually have an agreement with a lab. I’ll put a link in the show notes for that. You can go and get your own tests and request what you need. And men, you’re not going to see progesterone, so that’s fine.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (12:29): You don’t need to test for that.

Allan (12:31): But you do need to check for estrogen because we can get too much estrogen and then you’ve got moobs and you’re not feeling really manly. So, you do need that. And women, it’s important for you to also test your testosterone, because women do have some and need some to have a good, solid libido. So, I like that list and that’s in your book. Just getting that list makes this book a pretty valuable resource. In the book, you go into the five pillars. Because I come from an accounting background, whenever I see a number, I’m immediately drawn to it, like, “Oh good, a list!”

Dr. Mariza Snyder (13:06): I love a list.

Allan (13:09): So, you have the five pillars of a foundational lifestyle. Do you mind going through each of those?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (13:14): Absolutely. I have, as you mentioned, five pillars, and this is what I’ve learned in practice that really moves the needle. I’m not going to lie, Allan, I feel like a lot of why we can get ourselves in trouble is lifestyle. We don’t realize the implications of lifestyle until we realize the implications of lifestyle. And usually we start to feel those things around 40 years old. I know very often when people were walking into my office, that was when they were like, “Something isn’t right.” Things start to chip away. So, number one, and this is going to be of no surprise to anybody, is nutrition. We know that nutrition is fuel, we know that nutrition is information, and our bodies are taking in that information. So you vote for what goes on and what happens in your body, the conversations and communication that goes on in the body, with every single fork. That is so important, so that’s number one. Number two is exercise, moving your body. The benefits of exercise are so far reaching, but even stress, getting your body out of that “my body at war”, reducing stress levels, supporting the cardiovascular system, helping to boost cognitive function, respiratory system, boosting mitochondrial function. Even having more receptor sites on every cell for your thyroid hormones is important and driven by movement. We are seeing those implications far and wide. Number three is stress management. Stress comes in a lot of forms. It’s perceived, it’s emotional, it’s chemical, it’s physical. But I’m really concerned with the unrelenting perceived stress that we’re dealing with every day and the repercussions that we talked about. Four Is reducing the toxic burden. Recently, in the last six months, I’ve had five friends of mine diagnosed with breast cancer or thyroid cancer under the age of 45.

Allan (15:13): We have a friend that’s going through chemo right now herself, and she’s not even 50.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (15:19): It’s insane. That’s the worst of the spectrum of what happens when toxicity or toxic burden is high in the body. But hormones can deregulate because of toxins; gut issues; even the thyroid. It’s usually a combination of things that are happening with the thyroid, and toxins do play a major role there. So looking at reducing your toxic burden. And then number five, which I think oftentimes is put to the wayside, is going to be self-care. How do we build in self-care every single day? How do we build in the breaks and the pauses so that we can manage the life that we’re living?

Allan (15:59): I just want to say, with something like these five pillars, this is not something where you say, “I’m going to fix the first pillar and I’m going to be good.” The reality is, you need to be working on all of them. They all need to be a part of what your lifestyle is going forward. Anything you can do to improve those, you need to be slowly chipping away at getting that done.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (16:20): And the beauty of it is it really is possible to do each and every one of these things every day. It’s the mindset in which we live. I think about how my day started today. I was using oils, I drank my big glass of lemon water, I made a green smoothie, I went outside and ran. I have a really big hill that I live in, so I even start my day running that hill a couple of times. I journaled in my book. Lunch was a big salad. We made this really beautiful veggie frittata and sauerkraut for gut support. I took all of my supplements. And I have little breaks built in into my phone for those moments to take a pause. So, we are hyper productive over here; yet, all of the decisions I’m making for my health or for my body are based on those five pillars.

Allan (17:11): Yes. I think you have to do that at some level, but they do snowball. That’s one of the cool things about this. If you’re eating higher quality food, you’re going to have more energy. And when you have more energy and you’re moving around, your lymphatic system is functioning better, you’re getting rid of toxins easier. When you get rid of the toxins, you’re sleeping better. And as you start feeling better about yourself, the self-care and the reduction of stress become easier. So, it’s a self-fulfilling, self-building kind of thing here when you are taking the time to make sure you’re focused on these.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (17:48): Absolutely. And I think when you start to feel great and you start to feel good, you really don’t want to regress back. And you’ll notice when you start to not… I know if we’ve taken on a big project or we’re working harder than normal, there are signs and we’re really mindful of those things. So, I’m quick to get right back on track, knowing what it feels like to not be on track. I think sometimes we don’t necessarily know what it feels like to feel really great all the time, or at least a good chunk of the time. But I promise once you get to that place, you’re going to want to sustain it because you’re not going to want to feel anything different than that.

Allan (18:28): I completely agree. As people are getting into essential oils, you’re the second guest. Of 374 episodes, this is the second episode that we’ve had on essential oils. It was really because of the compelling nature of the hormone and essential oils, and I really want to dive into that a little bit. But before we get there, one of the things that I do know from my previous guest is that it’s very important for you to focus on the quality of your essential oils. This is not just to go find a scented candle from Walmart, light it and sit in the bathtub. There are some quality issues from some manufacturers and you really have to know your product. Can you talk a little bit about what makes an essential oil high quality?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (19:18): Absolutely. So, an essential oil once upon a time was a plant. And just like we’re concerned about the plants that we consume, like the blueberries, the kale and the carrots, it’s really important if you want to use these for therapeutic benefits, you have to be really mindful of where these plants come from. You want plants coming from their indigenous location. So for instance, frankincense should come from Somalia or Oman, cardamom should come from Guatemala or the Middle East, melaleuca, tea tree should come from Australia. The province of France and Bulgaria is where lavender should come from. It’s important that there are different parts of the world that only grow these very specific plants. Anywhere else you’re losing the chemical constituents. Let’s give an example of myrrh. A high quality myrrh oil, the sesquiterpene content on that needs to be above 60%. That’s going to be a high quality. Where are we going to get myrrh with a 60% chemical constituent content of sesquiterpenes? That’s the level of research that needs to go into these oils. Same thing with frankincense – the monoterpene content needs to be above 35%. So that’s what I’m usually looking for. If they’re disclosing where the plants come from, how are these plants treated, are these local farmers? It really matters how these plants are grown. Then on top of that, after these plants are grown and harvested in a sustainable and beautiful way and they’re distilled for their benefits, how are they being tested? We’ve got testing like gas chromatography, mass spectroscopy, chirality testing, microbial testing. As a biochemist for many, many years before I became a practitioner, this is where I was really fascinated. I always recommend that people do their due diligence and make sure that you just go and look them up. If you’re buying from a company, you want to make sure that they are disclosing where their oils come from and they’re disclosing the type of testing that they are doing on their oils.

Allan (21:18): And not just the oils. Each oil typically isn’t just the oil. Isn’t there’s typically a base oil?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (21:27): It depends. No, not normally. If there is a base oil in it, like let’s say a fractionated coconut oil – that must be disclosed as well. What we call oils that have extra stuff in them besides the pure version of it – they are adulterated. That means they’ve been tainted. I’ll give you an example. A 5ml bottle of rose oil takes about 8,000 rose petals. Those roses are grown in Bulgaria most of the time. A 5ml bottle of rose oil is about $800, give or take; $500 to $800. But there are companies that will dilute pure rose oil in fractionated coconut oil or something like that, and they have to say that. And that oil may only cost $75 or $100, but they’ve got to disclose that information. But a pure oil, unless you’re dealing with a rose or a jasmine or a neroli, where it would be hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to get that bottle of oil – they should normally be just literally that essential oil, that chemical constituent.

Allan (22:35): Okay. As I was going through I wanted to figure out how this is affecting my hormones and how we are going to use essential oils to help heal ourselves. I liked that you did this kind of walk across where you talked emotion, hormones and essential oils. Particularly I like the way you told your story about the first time you used wild orange. Do you mind telling that story and explaining from that context how all this works?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (23:09): Yes. So, wild orange was one of the first oils that I met and that I fell in love with. Actually, wild orange is sitting right here next to me in this interview. We’re kind of best buds; we hang out a lot. Wild orange and most citrus oils, like grapefruit, lemon and lime – each and every one of those have different chemical constituents. For the most part, what we’re looking at is a limonene content, which is in a family of monoterpenes. Limonene in wild orange runs about 85% to 90%. That’s what we’re normally looking for. And wild orange is known as the oil of abundance, but what we can demonstrate is when you breathe in the chemical constituents of wild orange, these chemical constituents have a no holds barred directly into the limbic system. What a lot of people don’t know is that our sense of smell is hardwired to our sense of survival. So if you smell a fire, you run, or you smell gas, you run. Our sense of smell has always been tied into that wiring. So we are leveraging the power of these chemical constituents. They bind to the olfactory bulb, then they’re binding to other receptors that send messages to the limbic brain. But what we know about limonene content is that it boosts serotonin and dopamine production in a really balanced way. So it has a profound impact on our neurochemistry, specifically on those neurotransmitters. We also know that serotonin is a hormone, so it’s got two different properties. And we can actually shift the way the limbic brain and the limbic system is working by merely breathing in this oil. I always say you cannot stay angry or mad breathing in wild orange. It literally shifts the chemistry in the brain to go from an angered state to a much more… I wouldn’t say that you’re going to be happy, but you’re at least not going to be feeling super, super angry. You’re going to feel more neutral after breathing in this oil.

Allan (25:04): Okay. And as I said, I’ve had exposure to lavender oil, primarily to sleep. It’ll help you sleep kind of thing. Can you talk through how some of these oils work? You’re throwing a lot of terms out there that I know as a biochemist you love.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (25:24): I can break it down to simpler terms. Let’s give lavender a go. I think, Allan, what I want people to understand is that a lot of people are like, “Oh, it’s woo woo. If you have good intention, it’s kind of calming, but I don’t know what it is.” The cool thing about it is there’s a lot of science that backs all this up. And as you saw in my book, I have 40 pages of bibliography.

Allan (25:48): That’s the thing I was going to say at the end. The bibliography is there, so there are studies after studies. You can just go down that rabbit hole and spend a long, long time reading about how they’ve proven a lot of good qualities from these oils.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (26:04): Right. What’s so cool is that Europe’s a little bit more ahead of us than we’d like, in terms of holistic medicine, and lavender is one of the number one recommended solutions for anxiety in a lot Europe. They take it orally in a little capsule. And oftentimes naturopaths and functional practitioners here in the States will also literally in a prescription form. They are these little teeny capsules, like you would get in a prescription, and people take them for lowering anxiety levels. It’s because we know that there are properties in lavender that will calm down an overactive limbic brain when we’re having that anxiety or we’re feeling really overwhelmed. In a nutshell, lavender is all things calming. It’s designed to calm the brain, it’s designed to shut off the mental chatter. It’s even calming for a mosquito bite. It’s great for a sunburn – a really minor sunburn. Lavender is just very soothing to the body. But lavender is very deceptive. It’s a deceptive woman, a deceptive flower. She is very powerful, she’s very potent, and sometimes she knocks people on their butts. So I always tell people to be really mindful. I love the potency of oils, but every oil is going to be a little bit different for you. For some people, lavender is the bee’s knees. Other times lavender may be a little much. You may want to soften it up with Roman chamomile or cedarwood, something that lavender is very complimentary to. But yes, ultimately lavender is designed to shut down those worries and those anxiousness and that mental chatter that could be happening when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Allan (27:43): Okay. And there are lots of others. You had multiple recipes. Can you go through a few more to kind of give us some ideas, particularly those ones that are directly related to hormones and health?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (27:55): Absolutely. We’re talking about stress levels. My go-to stress blend – I call it “stress be gone blend” – it’s a combination of two oils. I’m going to keep it simple on the podcast. Some of my recipes get a little bit more complex, but I love simplicity. So, it’s just a drop of lavender, a drop of bergamot. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, just by rubbing those two oils together, rubbing your palms together and taking some deep belly breaths, you’re going to reset that system. You’re going to disrupt the stress response. Another blend that I talk a lot about – people are concerned about brain fog and cognitive function, working memory and alertness. Rosemary has been researched over and over and over again for boosting working memory by 75% by simply breathing it in. I love a combination of wild orange, peppermint, rosemary and frankincense. You could do a drop of each or you could do it in a roller. I don’t have the exact blend in front of me. It would be, let’s say, 8 drops of each of those oils – frankincense, wild orange, peppermint and rosemary. And that is what I call the “get it done blend” or the cognitive boosting blend. So if things aren’t firing 100%, you’re not feeling like you’re on top of your game – you just breathe that blend in and it’s profoundly incredible for that. Now, for hormones, my go-to hormone oil for regulating testosterone and estrogen is going to be clary sage. Lots of research there, because it helps to bind two receptor sites in the adrenals and beta cells, it helps to get rid of xenoestrogens and false estrogens inside of the system by cleaning up receptor sites. I have a hormone blend that is a combination. It’s called “my hormone synergy” blend. I’m going to pull it up for you guys right now. And that is in a 10ml roller – 10 drops of clary sage, 8 drops of lavender, 8 drops of geranium, because also geranium is great at helping the liver detoxify excess hormone metabolites; 4 drops of bergamot and 4 drops of ylang-ylang. Ylang-ylang is the ultimate libido booster. It has profound benefits on testosterone. I really love this blend because it does tackle a lot of the hormone systems that we’re looking at in the reproductive system.

Allan (30:21): Cool. And the book even goes into how to make your own roller. This is a great resource for someone that wants to learn more about essential oils and actually get into using them. I guess we’ll go ahead and close out with my last question. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (30:44): I love it. So, the first tactic I think is a must, must, must, is you’ve got to have a morning ritual. Set the tone for your day. It can be 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, where you are on your own agenda and not somebody else’s agenda. Strategy number two – use your oils for those emergency moments. You need more energy – grab an oil. You need to win the staredown with that cupcake or that stale donut – get peppermint out. It’s a powerful craving suppressant. And then number three is, also have a wind-down routine. It is so important to rest and shut down the brain, get decent sleep. The reason why so many of us are just slogging through the day like zombies is we’re not getting enough sleep. We’re working overtime or we’re choosing that last episode on Netflix. When you set an intention for an evening routine, using calming oils or reading a book before bed, shutting off the computer at 9:00 PM – you will recharge and that missing energy will come back for you.

Allan (31:51): Cool. I like those. Dr. Snyder, if someone wanted to learn more about you and what you’re doing or the book, The Essential Oils Hormone Solution, where would you like for me to send them?

Dr. Mariza Snyder (32:06): I think you have the link for this. I have an amazing cravings, fatigue and stress cheat sheet that we’ll make sure we get the link for you. You guys can go and check out. I do have a podcast myself. It’s called The Essentially You Podcast and it’s all about helping you to become the CEO of your health. I know I spotted off a lot of recipes and I know there are a lot of recipes in the book, but sometimes just having that little cheat sheet to address those core issues that I see so often, is a step in the right direction. I can get that for the listeners so that you guys have that and start making some amazing progress.

Allan (32:45): Okay, cool. This is episode 376, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/376 and I’ll be sure to have that link there. Dr. Snyder, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Mariza Snyder (32:59): Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Allan (33:07): Are you stuck with your health and fitness journey and just need a little push? Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Consult, and that will take you to a link on my calendar where you can schedule a free 15-minute session with me. We can discuss your goals, we can talk about what you want to accomplish, how you can accomplish it, and a lot more. So if you need a little push, maybe a little bit of accountability, please go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Consult for your free consultation today.

Another episode you may enjoy

Lyn Lindbergh takes us from couch to active

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Our guest today is so much fun! Lyn Lindbergh is a health coach and the founder of the Couch to Active community.

Allan (1:10): Lyn, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Lyn Lindbergh (1:13): Hello, Allan. Thanks. Good to be here.

Allan (1:17): I always like interviewing podcasters, because I know, one, you’re going to make it very, very easy for me from a sound and quality perspective.

Lyn Lindbergh (1:27): Or will I?

Allan (1:29): Or will you? Remember, we’re doing mine first and then I’m going to record on yours.

Lyn Lindbergh (1:35): I’ll be good.

Allan (1:35): It goes both ways. But the cool thing is, your book is called Couch to Active and that’s also the name of your podcast. I really, really like that. I think so many people today get locked into this concept of, “I’m not going to look like that person, so maybe I shouldn’t even try.”

Lyn Lindbergh (2:04): Yeah, that’s it. That’s a tough thing for people because I think we all have that image in our head of either the bikini body or the sweaty, ripped six-pack abs. Most of us will never get there, even if we do train exactly by the book and do everything by the book. But the thing about Couch to Active is, that’s not the point. And we recognize that for most of us, that’s not even what we want.

Allan (2:33): I agree. I’ve always tried to tell my clients, because some of them want that look. And I say, “If it’s a look you’re after, that’s great. You can aspire to that, you can work towards that and I’ll do what I can do to help you get there.” But what I’ve found is in the end, when I start really digging in with them, it comes down to, what do you want to be able to do? That’s where the “active” concept to me comes in. Active in your mind could be being able to run around with your grandchildren at the zoo, whereas active for someone else could be they want to go do a Spartan.

Lyn Lindbergh (3:11): Exactly. I found that at the core, I want to live a life I love. I want to love my life. If I’m going to the gym for an hour a day, doing a workout that I hate and dread every day, just so I can look a certain way, that doesn’t make me happy. That doesn’t make me find any joy at all. That’s where it falls apart for most people because really, it’s that internal feeling that we want of joy and peace and happiness.

Allan (3:48):  think the other side of this is, you’ll see a training program, like Couch to 5K or something like that that’s put out there. Someone will get out there and start doing it and then all of a sudden something gets thrown in their way. It could be a health issue, an injury. How do you coach, how do you talk to people about dealing with those health issues that just pop up and get in our way? It’s never going to be a straight line, but we want it to be a straight line. How do we deal with that?

Lyn Lindbergh (4:19): I want it to be a straight line. If you find it, call me. I’ll give you my number. That’s the interesting thing. There are, as we know, a gazillion workout programs, pills, potions, lotions, gyms, you name it. Anything that you can give your wallet to, it’s out there for you. In and of themselves, for the most part, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, but most of them are designed for when life is going good. The problem is, like you just said, what happens when the cart gets upset? What happens when you have chronic illness or surgery, or God forbid, we age? I have found that a lot of times one of the big things that we forget about is compassion, and compassion for ourselves. Part of my journey was I got a couple of chronic health issues that I’m really public with. I’m missing 30% of my lung function and I’ve got fibromyalgia and another mysterious disease we’re still trying to figure out. It keeps me in the back of the pack all the time. And I had to pause and really look at it and say, “Why am I beating myself up trying to get the faster 5K time when I can’t? Why is this so important to me?” I redefined success as doing what I can do today and honoring what my body can do today. And if today all I can do is a 30-minute walk and maybe 20 seconds of jogging, and I do it – that’s success. Or if today I’ve got a big flareup and all I can do is grocery shop and then take a 4-hour nap – if I honor my body and what it can do one day at a time, one hour at a time – that’s my new success criteria. For me and for tons of people I’ve worked with, that becomes so freeing and so liberating. Then you can begin to really have that incremental success and gain strength, because you’re not torturing yourself over the things you can’t do that you used to be able to do, and instead you’re focused, or I’m focused, more on that positive what I can do. It’s just a better, happier place to be.

Allan (6:59): Yes. I like how you started that out with the word “compassion”. I’m in the process of reading a book that’s set up so that each day there’s a verse and it’s based on stoicism. It’s called The Daily Stoic. Each day there’s a little passage from Seneca or Marcus Aurelius or one of the original stoics, and then he writes his little blurb, his little bit about it to get you thinking about things. The first section of that is clarity. As I’ve gone through it and then I read in your book, I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to how much negative self-talk I have.

Lyn Lindbergh (7:44): Oh, it’s huge.

Allan (7:45): I called myself “fat”, and I guess I was fat. I considered myself to be fat, so I used that word. And every time I noticed myself slip up, the negative self-talk would kind of step right back in. What are some things we can do to get that compassion back for ourselves?

Lyn Lindbergh (8:08): Just push the “Happy” button and you’ll feel happy.

Allan (8:12): Where is that button?

Lyn Lindbergh (8:13): I’ve been looking for it. It doesn’t exist. I won’t give up hope, I’ll find it someday. No, you’re exactly right, Allan. That compassion piece is huge, because our generation – when I say that I mean 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s – we were just drilled with that concept of “No pain, no gain. Grit, self-discipline. Try harder, try harder. Live like you’ll die tomorrow.” We’ve all heard these thousands of times and it just puts more and more pressure on us and we end up feeling bad. Like you said, we feel fat and out of shape and ugly. So, part of it is to really start paying attention to what that brain is thinking. When you put on the pants in the morning and you look in the mirror, what is that brain saying to yourself? For me, a lot of it has been just talking to people about body image. If we talk about body image, for example, it’s an issue for – I’ve discovered and learned because I hang out with a lot of bodybuilders and a lot of women that you would call “tens”. We all have body image issues and we all are hard on ourselves. It’s really that awareness of, “I am beautiful. I am handsome.” The reason I’m dancing around this is the work is just huge to do around it. One thing that helps me is to realize if I ask myself the question, “Who are the best friends in my life? Who are the people that I have the most respect for? Who are the people I most admire?”, none of them fit on the cover of a Cosmopolitan or a Vogue magazine at all. When I bring that back to myself, it helps me remember this body external thing really isn’t that important. It helps me give myself compassion. That’s the external piece of it.

Allan (10:35): I’ve found that it really comes from a practice called gratitude. You sit down and you think about the things that make you happy, those moments of joy when you can sit back and say, “This was good.” And what I’ve found is if you are eating the right foods, you can be grateful that your body’s using that food to improve your health. Like you said, you go out and do that 30-minute walk with 20 seconds of jogging. When you’re done with that, that’s something you should celebrate. You should be happy that you had the capacity to do that and that you’re doing something to improve yourself. And when you find yourself starting to go down that negative thought path, that’s when you want to turn it on and say, “Okay, I might not have eaten very well today, but I kissed my wife in the morning, I called my daughter and told her I loved her.” All those different things that you do, you can feel gratitude for. And if you keep practicing gratitude and keep looking for joy, a lot of that negative self-talk goes away.

Lyn Lindbergh (11:45): It really, really does it. And then possibly too is to take inventory of who’s in your social circle. They say you’re the composite of the five closest people around you. Whether that’s true or not, everyone’s saying it, so it must be true, right? So, what are those folks around you saying? Are they helping you with a positive mindset?

Allan (12:12): And it’s not on Facebook. Everybody’s presenting their best front side image in Facebook and filters and all the other stuff. Just realize that you don’t have to keep up with them; you just have to keep up with you.

Lyn Lindbergh (12:27): Yeah, what do they say? Don’t compare your inside life to everybody’s outside life or public life. Absolutely.

Allan (12:35): Exactly. Which is also why I’m not on Instagram. I might be the only personal trainer that’s not on Instagram.

Lyn Lindbergh (12:43): I’m barely on Instagram, because of the peer pressure.

Allan (12:48): I can’t do it. Plus it’s a phone thing. You can’t do it on a browser. I’m too old for that.

Lyn Lindbergh (12:55): Yeah, what is that? Okay, good thing. 40+, not too many of us are on Instagram, so we’re good.

Allan (13:05): Now, as we go through things, I think this is where a lot of people start to struggle, and you talked about it a little bit with your lung issue – we’re going to hit these barriers. And they’re natural barriers, because if we were all meant to be six-pack abs, bikini body people, then everybody would be, if it was easy. But it’s not easy. There’s an overabundance of food and there’s overstimulation where it’s easy to sit on your couch and never leave. Literally if the pizza guy would walk in the house and put it down in front of me, on the coffee table, I would never leave the house.

Lyn Lindbergh (13:50): I’ve got teenage boys. That’s exactly the life they would love.

Allan (13:54): “Hey, come on in!”

Lyn Lindbergh (13:56): “Right here, Mom. Just put the pizza right here, I’m good.”

Allan (14:00): So there are all these things that are going to distract us and keep us from getting where we really want to be. How do we break those barriers?

Lyn Lindbergh (14:09): When it comes to breaking barriers in fitness, one of the things that I like to share a lot is when you think about your biggest barrier, it’s not a gym membership. It’s not cash to throw at a personal trainer. It’s not all kinds of things. It’s the couch. The couch is our biggest competitor. Then we look at, what are our barriers to getting off the couch? And I say that metaphorically, because I know some people are listening to this and saying, “But I’m not on the couch. I’m just so busy.” One of the things that we do and teach, we call the “breaking barriers list”. The reason this exercise, the “breaking barriers list”, is important and impactful is because it helps you get crystal clear on what your real barriers are versus imagined barriers. And then it helps you get really laser focused on what you can do that requires the least amount of work to have the biggest impact on your ability and motivation to exercise. So, this is what I do to get people there. You could even start this right now. You just get any old piece of paper, or if you prefer to type on your computer, and you think of every single barrier to exercise that you can think of. And there are the big barriers: “I broke my leg”, “I got really sick”, “I have an aging parent I’m caring for”, “I have a job that I can’t quit”, “I can’ just quit my job or retire. I’m not there yet.” And then there are all the little, tiny barrier, like “I’m just busy” or “My kid called and I needed this this afternoon when I was going to work out.” This happened to me once – I showed up at the gym with two right tennis shoes. I forgot my left tennis shoe. List them all out; then go through that list and really ask yourself objectively, “Of all of these barriers that I see, which ones can I actually impact today, or which ones can I impact in the future?” You take the ones you can impact today, pick one and say, “Of all these barriers…” Take this stupid example of two right shoes. I can pack my gym bag earlier and leave it in the car and it’ll be there for me. Pick one and just work on breaking that one barrier, and let all the rest go. Maybe the next day or the next week, pick another one and let all the rest go. And just work through that list. Then the next question that always comes up really naturally is, what do you do with the barriers that are here to stay? So myself, for example, missing 30% of my lung function – that’s there to stay. It’s probably only going to get worse the rest of my life. You’ve got to make peace with those. That’s the real hard work, and it goes back to that compassion piece: “What can I do, given this barrier?” Sometimes it’s really easy to try to think, “Life should be perfect, life should be perfect. I’ll never give up, I’ll never give up.” And it’s not giving up; it’s just facing reality head-to-head and getting yourself in a real positive mind space and a positive mental space around it. So, that’s the whole “breaking barriers list” piece that we work through in a nutshell.

Allan (18:10): To me it comes down to self-awareness. If you can do this exercise, this is groundbreaking for getting you on track to really accomplish some great things, because once you start understanding what those barriers are, you eliminate them. I learned the same thing. I had to pack my gym bag the night before, or invariably I would forget my shoes or my socks, or just forget the bag. I literally packed the bag and set it by the door, so I’d almost have to trip over it in the morning to get out the door.

Lyn Lindbergh (18:46): You and a million people every day.

Allan (18:49): And I’d double check. You have to put those little strategies in place for the things you know are going to trip you up. I walk into the office on Friday and I see the sharks chumming in the break room. I know they brought donuts. I’m staying away from the break room.

Lyn Lindbergh (19:06): That’s a hard one. That’s an advanced skill.

Allan (19:14): It was funny. These were particularly weird – they were called Spudnuts. They were made from potato flour, so probably even worse than regular, from a sugar high. They put your blood sugar through the roof. And I loved them too. Then I was like, “Okay, I’ve got to get away from that.” So, I’d have nuts in my office and I’d see them be just like sharks chumming. I decided I can’t go there. I’d go to my office and sit in my desk and not go into the break room until lunchtime, because they would usually be gone by then.

Lyn Lindbergh (19:51): That’s great.

Allan (19:54): That was a practice of self-awareness and understanding what the barriers are that are going to keep me from getting what I needed. That was one that would come up every once in a while. I can’t keep them from bringing donuts in, but I have to know myself to deal with it.

Lyn Lindbergh (20:13): Absolutely. It’s funny how this moment of shame is coming back, which I must let go. When I worked in a corporate office for 20 years, sometimes I would even be good at leaving those donuts alone until everybody was gone and it was only me.

Allan (20:35): When nobody is looking, it doesn’t count.

Lyn Lindbergh (20:37): Exactly. And part of that mindset and self-awareness, one of the things to break through that usually gets people really excited and helps them feel young and alive again – it’s really looking at your stereotypes. When you’re looking at breaking barriers, really challenge your stereotypes about who does what kind of exercise. So much of the time we think yoga is for the skinny girls and aqua aerobics is for fat and injured and out of shape. That’s so, so wrong. If you can break through your stereotypes of what kind of exercises you do as a person and try something new, it’s amazing how creative you can get. I had one woman who came to me and she was so excited. I had no idea how this came about exactly, but she said, “I was listening to your thing about breaking through stereotypes, because I’ve never exercised in my life.” She was almost 50 and she’d never exercised in part because she didn’t see herself as somebody who would exercise. And she said, “I finally found it and I love it. I got a treadmill. I put it in my dark basement downstairs with no windows. And every morning I read a book on the treadmill.” I just had to laugh because I told her that would be torture for me. I would hate it. She loved it though. She said, “I can do this.” So what if everybody else hates a treadmill in the dark by yourself? She loved it and that’s what got her to make a breakthrough.

Allan (22:36): I think what’s really cool is that you’ve got to find your place. I could tell you you should be doing all this lifting and you should be doing some cardio. We can go through the “shoulds” and there’s a valid reason for each one. You should be working on balance, you should be working on mobility, all those different things that we do need to make sure we’re maintaining. But how you get there can be your own unique joy, your own unique path.

Lyn Lindbergh (23:05): That’s really where the “smile” factor comes in in a big way. I’ve got folks who back country ski, folks who sword fight. For real, that’s a real thing.

Allan (23:18): I know, fencing. I envision this old lady beating the crap out of somebody with a sword.

Lyn Lindbergh (23:28): She just turned 50 and she’s so excited. “You won’t believe what I’m doing.” But we all know body doesn’t know or care if you’re on a treadmill or walking. To your body it’s movement. So, if you’re moving and it’s exercise, it counts. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a gym or not.

Allan (23:49): Very much. Now, every once in a while something is going to come along – a car accident, you’re out going for a walk or a run and you slip on some ice and you twist your ankle or mess up your knee or break an arm, and now dealing with this setback. And a lot of times it’s, “I can’t use my leg because I twisted my ankle.” So they stop exercising. They figure since they’re not exercising, they’ll just eat what they want to eat, go back to their old ways, and they end up with this setback. What was an unplanned detour now becomes a, “Let’s turn around and drive back home” kind of thing. How do we deal with that?

Lyn Lindbergh (24:35): The setbacks is a really interesting, tricky one. One of the things I love that you said, Allan, is “when” you have a setback, not “if” you have a setback. I think that’s an important piece, is realizing that setbacks are normal, they happen. They happen to all of us, they happen to me. Some of the setbacks that really trip us up the most is a lot of times we get in our mind that we’re going to finally be a person who exercises, and now all of a sudden I’ve got my plan and it’s all perfectly laid out. But that’s not the way it is; life changes. Those are the tricky ones, when like you said, you’re moving to a new home. So, new routines, new everything.

Allan (25:23): The gym on this island that we’ve moved to is not really a gym. They have some dumbbells, they have a leg press. I would call it more of a fitness studio. They do classes. I’m thinking if I go there I’m probably going to have to do the classes until I get my equipment here, which is going to take me a little while because you have to put it on a container ship, it has to go on a boat. It’s going to be a while before I see that stuff. So, that routine is completely thrown out; I have to come up with other things. I even asked if they have tennis courts. There are no tennis courts on this island. Unless I want to build my own. I could build one and then charge people to use it. That might not be a bad idea. A lot of the things I was thinking my lifestyle was going to entail when I move down here, it’s not here. So I have to change and I have to adapt. I’m doing a lot more body weight stuff, I’m doing a lot more walking. Those types of things are the things I’m putting into my regimen. I’ll probably lose a little bit of muscle mass because I’m not lifting like I was lifting. I lost a little bit of strength, but I can do what I’m going to do until I get my equipment down here.

Lyn Lindbergh (26:42): That’s exactly it. I would say for any of those setbacks – whether it’s a broken leg or moving to an island with no tennis court or, quote, unquote, “real” gym – one of the pieces to start out with first and foremost is that compassion piece again. Start first from a place of compassion for yourself and realizing this is normal. Setbacks do happen. And when you get there, which it could take you 10 seconds or two weeks, it depends, then you can start talking. If you live with someone, talk to them about your goals and your desires. If you make a new friend, talk to them about your goals. You’d be amazed at how people can help you find resources to make it happen. Really, at our core, most of us want to be exercising. Most of us want to have a buddy to work out with. That’s where I usually have folks start. And again, back to breaking through that stereotype of, what kind of an exerciser am I? What do I do? I can get massively creative to start really focusing on what exercise is going to meet my goals and make me smile? And those three things really are that sustainable piece that helps you stay in a good mindset for it all. Because again, Couch to Active – I’m all about living a life you love more than just creating out workouts you hate.

Allan (28:22): Yeah. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Lyn Lindbergh (28:37): I would say for me in my life, because getting and staying well has been complicated and I know I’m not the only one – education is huge for me. I’m an avid reader, constantly reading. I tell you, for anything, if I Google “Is keto good for you? Is keto bad for you? Are oranges good for you? Are oranges bad for you?” – the amount of data out there is just ridiculous. The more education you can have on everything, the better. The second one for me – a huge piece of physical wellness is also mental wellness. I think our generation has been raised with a lot of anxiety, a lot of pressure to perform and a lot of that negative self-talk. So I think a huge wellness piece of that is to not be afraid to crack that door open. If something inside of you is saying you need to look at mental health, look at it. And then the more simple one is, get the junk out of your kitchen. That’s what I had to do. If it’s there, I want to find the “Happy” button and the “Unlimited Willpower” button. If you find those, let me know, Allan, because junk’s got to stay out of the kitchen.

Allan (30:09): I’m pretty much the same way. My wife bought some Life cereal the other day and she was like, “Don’t judge me.” I’m like, “I’m not judging you.”

Lyn Lindbergh (30:18): Food shame!

Allan (30:20): But at the same time I knew I would end up in that box at some point. I knew myself. I almost said I’ll just eat it all so it won’t be here anymore. I didn’t go that far, but I did actually eat some of the cereal. Lyn, I want to thank you for being a part of 40+ Fitness. If someone wanted to learn more about you and learn more about the book, Couch to Active, where would you like for me to send them?

Lyn Lindbergh (30:54): Just have them Google Couch to Active and head over to the website, www.CouchToActive.com, and everything’s there.

Allan (31:04): Excellent. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/374, and I’ll be sure to have links there. Lyn, again, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Lyn Lindbergh (31:15): Thank you. It’s been a ball.

I hope you enjoyed that interview with Lyn. Really fun character, very goofy, but has a lot of fun with life and that’s a big, big part of the wellness formula. You have to be happy with what you’re doing. I love how she brings that to the table and it bears in her podcast and in her book. Do check those out.

Spring has sprung. As this episode goes live, we are into just the spring season starting up. And you know what that means – that means we’re going to be wearing a little less clothing, revealing a little bit more of our bodies. This is a perfect time to really start working on your health and your fitness. So if you’re looking for a coach and you’re interested in getting things done in the most efficient and effective way, without injury, I’m available to be your online coach.

You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programshttp://40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programs, and from there you’ll be able to see the various programs that I offer. I have group, one-on-one, and I do have some “Do It Yourself”, if you are so inclined to push yourself. I do have programs that have been proven effective for losing fat and for gaining muscle. So if you’re interested in training with me, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programs. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programs.

Another episode you may enjoy

Finding your balance between health and a life with Nathalie Botros

March 18, 2019

Dr Jaime Hope shows you how to habit that

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Dr. Jaimie Hope is an emergency room doctor who knows a thing or two about building life-long habits. In her book, Habit That! she teaches how you can change your habits and create a healthy lifestyle.

Allan (1:18): Dr. Hope, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Jaime Hope (1:21): Allan, thank you so much for having me here today. I appreciate it.

Allan (1:25): The book we’re going to talk about today is called Habit That! And I talk to a lot of people about habits and things that we do. With my clients I’m talking about it, we talk about it on the podcast from time to time. I’m a big fan of exploring your habits and understanding what they’re doing for you or against you, depending on the nature of it. So I really did enjoy this deep dive into healthy habits.

Dr. Jaime Hope (1:53): Thank you. It’s so important. We have a lot more habits in our lives than we realize. It finally took me some time to discover if we can hack human nature and use it for good instead of bad, we can actually get a lot healthier.

Allan (2:09): Absolutely. I kind of equate it this way when I’m talking to folks: Did you drive to work today the same way you drove yesterday? It’s a habit. The first time you drove to that office, you probably didn’t know exactly where it was and you had to think about it. And then over time you may have actually developed a shorter route where you figured out, “It’s best for me not to get on the express way because it’s going to be backed up, so it’s easier for me to go this route.” Then once you have that notched in, you’re almost on autopilot.

Dr. Jaime Hope (2:36): Yeah. Have you ever gotten home and realized you didn’t remember any of the drive?

Allan (2:40): It’s scary.

Dr. Jaime Hope (2:42): It’s a little scary, but it’s because it was such a habit. You took the directions off your cognitive load and you were able to listen to a podcast, sing along to the radio, curse at the drivers in front of you. Please don’t do that. That’s what’s so interesting about habits. Once you remove it from that level of conscious thought, it’s really good, except when you’re driving, of course.

Allan (3:07): We all want to get to a certain spot, and having that notched in for us makes it that much easier. But as people go, we’re going to have folks that are going to have objections, and in your book, you go through six major objections. Could you take a little bit of time and go through each one and what we can do if that’s what our inner enemy, or frenemy, is going to do for us? How do we get the right mindset to overcome those objections?

Dr. Jaime Hope (3:40): That’s really common. We start with this great idea, “New Year’s! Hooray! Happy New Year” or whatever time of year it is. Like, “Yes, I want to be healthy, I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to do these things.” And then immediately it’s that other voice inside your head that is like, “Well, this and this and this.” I’ve been practicing medicine for 13 years, so rest assured it’s not my first day at this. And with all the patients I talk to, there were a lot of objections that kept coming up over and over and over. Those are the six that I discuss in the book. So let’s dive into number one. People talk about “the knowledge”: “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to use the knowledge that I have. I don’t know what’s a good source of knowledge.” So some people take that very easy objection and just say, “Well, I don’t know, so I give up.” Clearly those people weren’t very deeply connected to why they want to do what they want to do. That’s an objection and it’s legitimate, but the example I use in the book is, you’re at the gym and you don’t know how to use the squat machine and you want to. You can quit the gym, quit fitness altogether, or you could go ask somebody how to use the squat machine, or look up a video on YouTube.

Allan (5:01): And I’ll tell you right now, if you find a personal trainer that’s on the floor – when you work at a gym like that, you get assigned to the floor – they will help you. They don’t want you to get hurt. Just ask us.

Dr. Jaime Hope (5:14): They want to help you. They don’t want to see you screwing it up. In fact, I had one very politely come over and say, when I was doing an exercise, “May I offer a suggestion?” I knew that this was going to be something good and useful since clearly I was doing it wrong enough that they came over. So I was like, “Of course, absolutely.” And of course they were right. Like you said, Allan, they don’t want you to use the machine incorrectly. They’re not going to charge you $1,200 to answer a question.

Allan (5:41): No, no. They’re also not going to train you for free, but there’ll be glad to tell you, “This is how you use this machine” or, “This is how you do this lift properly.” And probably make some other recommendations that are going to keep you safe.

Dr. Jaime Hope (5:54): Yes. I’m very pro trainer. I’ve had physical trainers. I usually do multiple sessions a year and keep on an ongoing thing to make sure that I’m doing it correct. So by all means, if you can, definitely get a trainer. So, talking again back to this objection about knowledge gap. Sometimes the gap is, “I don’t know what to eat. This website tells me this is healthy and this website tells me if I eat this, I’m going to burst into flames. What am I supposed to do?” It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. You’re going to see so many conflicting things out there. Now there’s a new fad diet coming up every week, it’s hard to know what’s healthy and what’s not. So, I help teach people about, number one, common sense. If somebody is telling you that donuts are the healthiest food because they happen to be the author of the Magical Donut diet – that seems a little bit suspicious. It’s pretty hard to argue against things like broccoli, for instance. So really any diet that’s saying that’s completely horrible for you is ridiculous. So, applying your common sense to it. Then looking at, what are the qualifications of the resource that’s telling you this information? What type of bias might be playing into it? It’ll help you decide what’s going to be the best information. So, on to objection number two. Are you ready for this one?

Allan (7:17): Yup.

Dr. Jaime Hope (7:18): Okay. So, this one I get: “Why bother trying your new thing? I have tried a million other things and it never works, so I quit.” Allan, have you ever had clients that have said that?

Allan (7:31): Typically no. I’ve had people that didn’t become clients for that reason. I’m talking to them and they’re wanting to work out and do something to lose weight. And I say, “First let’s talk about what you’re eating.” And they’re like, “I’ve been on every diet and that just doesn’t work.” Like you said, they tend at that point to say, “I don’t need your help. You’ll just tell me to take another diet.” I’m not actually talking about a diet. I’m talking about something different. I can’t help someone who’s not interested in really making the change, so I can’t help them overcome this objection. I can’t convince you to not eat the donut if you want to eat the donut.

Dr. Jaime Hope (8:23) Right. Short of walking around with a fly swatter and smacking people’s donuts, which I also don’t recommend.

Allan (8:29): Which we don’t do. We’re there for three to five hours a week at most and then you’ve got a whole 170 odd other hours. So you have to overcome this objection yourself.

Dr. Jaime Hope (8:40): You really do. This is a mindset objection, and in a lot of ways they’re not wrong. Sometimes they have tried a bunch of diets and they all failed. But then if you go through their history and look at the diets they’ve tried, you and I both know this – they’ve all been crap. They’ve been some ridiculous gimmicks, some unhealthy fad diet. So they go into it, they lose a bunch of weight, then they go back to the way they were eating before and gain all the weight back. Rinse and repeat, over and over and over. So what I’m trying to talk to people about this objection is, we’ve got to get off that train. This isn’t about a quick fix or rapid weight loss or gimmicks. And interestingly enough, that’s why people are like, “That’s not sexy. This won’t sell.” Because I’m talking about slow, long-term, sustainable healthy habits. We all want to lose 100 pounds by next week, but these are the people who have tried it all and it doesn’t work. What I’d like to say is to completely throw out that old type of mindset and try something new. Just focus on nourishing your body and being healthier and taking care of the four pillars of health, and eventually people will start to see substantial differences. They just have to be willing to change the way that they look at this. This isn’t a rapid thing, this isn’t a crazy thing. This is the real thing.

Allan (10:07): The way I look at it when I’m talking to folks is, let’s look for that lifestyle. And there’s nothing sexy about it. I can’t sell it. If you write a book, I could write the same exact book, and on the over, I could call it “The Misner Diet”, or I could call it “The Misner Lifestyle”. And the diet book is going to sell a hundred fold more. Mine is The Wellness Roadmap. If I called it “The Wellness Diet”, probably would’ve sold more. But that’s not where my head is and that’s not what I want for my clients.

Dr. Jaime Hope (10:42): I think yours and my values are aligned in a lot of ways. It’s about your overall wellness. It’s your lifestyle, it’s your long-term type of thing. And you’re right, it can be a little bit more difficult to sell. I was told the same thing: “You could call this a diet book.” Absolutely not. It’s not. It’s the anti-diet book. So that’s objection number two, and I think you and I are very similar in the way that we feel about that. Alright, are you ready for number three?

Allan (11:11): Yes.

Dr. Jaime Hope (11:12): “I am doing everything right and I am still not seeing changes.” The way that I dive into this with patients and clients is, find out what exactly it is they are doing that they think they’re doing right. In the book I use the example of this guy. He was very strenuously objecting, saying, “Your healthy food ideas make me fat”, and this and that. And he didn’t understand. When I actually sat down with him and understood what he considered “healthy”, it was crystal clear why he was gaining weight. He had heard that whole “Milk. It does a body good” slogan, heard it was good for you. So he was drinking up to two gallons of whole milk every day. I was astounded by the amount of liquid, first of all. But in his mind he was doing everything, quote, “right”, because he heard that milk was a health food. So sometimes just diving into that makes a difference. But what I also find with patients is maybe they actually truly are following what you and I and a scientist would consider a healthful diet, and maybe they are exercising. But when you step back and take a look at their lifestyle as a whole, they are stressed to the max and they’re not sleeping. And when they’re not taking care of those pillars of their health, the body still stays in that “fight or flight” mode and that long-term chronic stress mode, and even if you are doing everything right, it’s extremely difficult to lose weight. It’s like pushing a ball uphill. That’s the nice thing about having expertise, so people can really look at that. That’s why I specifically go into the four pillars of the book, not just diet and exercise, so people can read for themselves and decide what areas they need to work on the most. And people are sometimes surprised. Alright, objection number four. Are you ready?

Allan (13:03): Yes.

Dr. Jaime Hope (13:05): You’ve probably heard these ones: “I don’t have the time” or, “I don’t have the money.” It’s all about the time: “I’m so busy, I don’t have time to get healthy.” We tend to be very overscheduled in this modern era. We’ve got work, we’ve got friends, we’ve got family obligations. But if people realistically look at how they’re spending their week, I think we’re spending a lot more time on things like TV and social media than people realize. So there are ways to carve out time. I’ve even told people, quite frankly, I would rather they do five minutes of something than to do nothing towards their health. It’s just the way to gain that momentum, to start going, getting into the habit. When my kids were very little and napping, I used to try and exercise when they were napping, except for I still had to do laundry, I had to do writing, I had to do charting and all these other things that were eating into my time. What I realized is that when you have two very active children, instead of trying to schedule around them, I just started scheduling it with them. Incorporate it into your day and into your time. And it’s fun. We have crazy jumping dance parties and we run around the yard. So now I’m getting double duty because I’m getting quality time and fitness time, plus the added bonus that I have healthy, active kids who are seeing how important this is to our lifestyle. So instead of going against your grain, try incorporating it into something you are already doing and already like. If you’re not willing to miss your favorite show, exercise during your favorite show; then you’re getting that time back. So there are a lot of different ways we can play around with time.

Allan (15:01): There’s actually an app now that comes with the iPhone that will tell you how long you were on your iPhone for the week. And my wife is astounded because I’m typically under two hours. I almost never have been on my iPhone in a given week for more than two hours.

Dr. Jaime Hope (15:19): Good for you!

Allan (15:25): If you have an iPhone, go look at that app. It’s how much time you’ve been spending on social media, because that’s probably where you’re spending most of that time. I bet that’s what you’re going to come across, that you actually have a lot more time than you give yourself credit for. And that five minutes that you spent on social media, if you spent that walking up and down the stairs at work or walking out to the mailbox when normally you drop off on the way out, or all the different things that you do, parking a little bit further from the entrance of where you work. All those different things are going to add another three minutes here, another five minutes there. And those little things can make a big difference.

Dr. Jaime Hope (16:05): People get intimidated or they just quit because they don’t have an hour to dedicate to the gym every single day. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t fit stuff in. I absolutely like that, definitely. Do the stairs, park farther away. All those little things start to become habits and you gradually develop a more active lifestyle. I’m sure you’re very well aware of this – the more active you are, the more energy you have. It sounds counterintuitive. People say they are too tired to exercise. But once you can get them over that hump they realize the more you exercise, you actually have more energy and feel better. All those five minutes add up here and there and will give you the energy you need to take it to the next level. Now, of course, the other part of that objection was money. I hear people say they can’t afford a personal trainer, they can’t afford a gym, those types of things. But I think people are sometimes forgetting the amazing amount of free resources that are out there. If you can’t hire your own personal dietician or expert or coach, listen to their podcasts, read the book. Look for videos on YouTube where they’re helping teach you how to do specific exercise. Turn on the radio and dance. You can squat in your living room for free; you could go up and down the stairs for free. So there’s a lot of stuff. People are underestimating what they can do with limited or no resources. 

Allan, I actually work with a homeless shelter in Detroit. This is a shelter that’s specifically designed for people with families – men and women with children, to help get their independence back. So when I go down there and talk to them about how they can also focus on getting healthy, you’re talking about folks that have zero financial resources. They can’t go buy organic, they can’t go join a yoga studio or a gym or hire a trainer. They’re trying to make sure that they have enough food to feed their children for that day. But I bring fun activities that we can do, games that they can play with their kids and get active and silly and fun in the context of the lobby of the homeless shelter. And all of a sudden people see there are things they can do and still accomplish this. It’s very awesome to see that light come on, and it’s very empowering for people to realize they have more resources than they think they do, even if they have no resources.

Allan (18:29): Yes.

Dr. Jaime Hope (18:31): Alright, so on to number five. I hear this: “Now is not a good time.” We’re always busy or there’s something going on in our lives. So, everything had been great except for now things are crazy at work. In my case, one of the examples I use – my mother in law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and moved in with us full-time while I was working two jobs and the kids and everything else. It would’ve been very easy for me to say, “Now is not a good time to be healthy.” But in reality, that was the time when I needed it the most. When you are under that much stress and busy and everything else, that’s how you get released. That’s how you help your body be strong enough to handle the crazy stress and the things that are going on. So whether you’re taking care of a sick family member or things are really bad at work or you’re going through a financial crisis or something like that, having these healthy habits as your stable base is going to give you the physical and emotional resources you need to meet these challenges, and you’ll actually feel better and not worse for it. So whatever is going on in your lives, I encourage you, even if for five minutes, do something. Self-care isn’t selfish and you can’t carry the weight of the world with a broken back. So it’s really important to keep focusing on these things.

Allan (19:58): I liked the story you told about your father when that was going on, and how he saw that now was absolutely the time. Probably the time when he felt like he needed to be very much more a caregiver, that actually became his fuel.

Dr. Jaime Hope (20:14): Yeah, it’s interesting. This is a man who I adore, who had never been focused on his health in any way. And then suddenly when his wife, my mother in law, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer… This is long hours – sitting there for eight hours during the chemotherapy infusion, hospital visits, stuff like that. He couldn’t even carry her suitcase, he was so out of shape. So that became his reason. He could’ve just sat there and ate donuts in a hospital chair indefinitely, but he knew that he needed help to get stronger for her. And his transformation has been remarkable. He lost 65 pounds.

Allan (20:53): That’s good. That’s really good.

Dr. Jaime Hope (20:55): Yeah. He lived with me, and he’s the kind of stubborn person that’s the last person I was ever going to give advice to. But he started watching what I was doing and doing some of those things; going for very short walks at what his abilities were. He’s 70 years old and he was overweight, and then slowly got stronger and stronger. And as he got that momentum, he started feeling better and better. I forgot the last time he told me over the last two years, he’s logged well over 1,000 miles walking and just making those habits and the differences in his life. Yeah, it’s never a good time. We’re never going to have all the time and money we need. So I say, it’s a random afternoon – why not start right now? 

And the last objection is about, “It just doesn’t fit who I am.” It’s very interesting how we get these mindsets and these labels of ourselves. I talk about somebody who I grew up with, that as he got older, teenage years and beyond, started gaining some weight and he started calling himself “the fat kid” as a joke. He actually wasn’t even fat, but it kind of became his thing; he would juggle his belly. It was interesting the way he started incorporating that label into who he was. Like, “Hey, do you want to go for a bike ride?” “No, I’m the fat kid.” “Three weeks ago you liked going on bike rides. What gives?” I’d had watched him embrace this label so much that he started to behave in a way that was consistent with that label he had given himself and actually gained more weight after that. I talk to patients a lot about what their mindset is. How do you see yourself? Because however you see yourself is how you’re going to act. If you see yourself as a diet failure or a yo-yo dieter or somebody who just can’t stick to something, you’re going to act like that. I love to give people a whole brand new label for themselves and I just say “healthy person.” I don’t like the label “skinny” because skinny isn’t always healthy. When I was growing up, I ate nothing but Cheetos and grilled cheese. I was a terribly unhealthy eater, but I was skinny. They don’t necessarily have to go together. But if you start to see yourself as a healthy person, then you’ll start to treat yourself as a healthy person. And that mindset, that label, sometimes is that first domino that you can knock over and really help move you forward down the right path, instead of calling yourself the wrong thing and then continuing to act consistent with that negative, incorrect label.

Allan (23:45): Absolutely. Now, in the book there was something else that was very, very interesting. I’m very familiar with SMART goals. In fact, I actually even cover that in my book, but I had never had it put together the way you did, calling it SMARTER goals. Could you go through that acronym, what that means and how that is going to help someone effectively have better goals?

Dr. Jaime Hope (24:09): Absolutely, I love this. So, I’m an assistant professor at our medical school, teaching motivational interviewing and behavior changes, as I’m sure you know. And the person who used to do the lectures before me was a lovely person, but also being really boring. Goal setting doesn’t have to be that complicated. So I started looking up the SMART acronym, and depending on which source you look at, it can mean something slightly different. But I was specifically teaching health protective behavior changes. So I changed it to SMARTER to add the additional elements that were consistent with the teachings that I wanted to get across. And so far it’s gone really well. 

The S is “specific”. I don’t mean “I want to lose 40 pounds”, not that kind of specific, because that is an outcome. What is the specific action that you are going to do? I have a SMARTER goals worksheet and I truly encourage people to put one goal per sheet. Say for instance your bigger goal maybe is that you want to lose 40 pounds, but the action that you’re going to take, this SMARTER action is that you are going to exercise for a minimum of 15 minutes, five days a week. That’s very specific. I’m talking I want granular, I want to know all of those different pieces. M is for “motivation”. So, why is it that you want to achieve this particular goal? We all know that we should make healthier habits, in the same way that smokers know they shouldn’t smoke. I mean it says it right there on the pack. This is not a surprise to anybody that these are bad for them, but people do it anyway. If you really want to make a true change, you have to be connected with your motivation. What is your real “Why” for quitting? In the 13 years of talking to patients about this, very rarely is it something like, “Because I care about my cholesterol” or something like that. It’s more of very personal things I’ve heard people say: “I want to be comfortable having sex with the lights on without a T-shirt.” “Every man in my family died of a heart attack in their 40s and I don’t want to do that.” “I was playing with my kids and I was so winded I had to sit down and it made me feel awful. It’s not the kind of example I want to be for my kids.” So it needs to be something that you are deeply connected with. You can’t assign it to somebody else. They have to choose their real “Why”. And then every time you start getting off of the habit of doing this, reconnecting with that motivation is going to be the thing that helps keep you going. The A is for “action plan”. You’re going to use action-oriented statements, so you’re going to say, “I will work out for 15 minutes, at least five times a week.” You are going to be specific. I want to know the time, I want to know the location, I want to know the equipment. Who, what, when, where, why, how are you going to do this? And it’s going to increase your chance of success. You need to look at your schedule and say, “How am I going to fit this in for five times this week? This day I’m going to go for a walk. This day I’m going to do home exercises while I watch my favorite TV show.” Fit it into your schedule and into your lifestyle because that’s the only way you’re really going to make it work. 

R is for “roadblocks”. Also, I like to call it “reality”, because things happen. People, time, circumstances are going to come up and make it more difficult to achieve your goal. Say your goal for next Tuesday was to walk outside for 15 minutes, and then it happens to be a torrential downpour. You don’t say you’re not going to exercise at all. You just have to know that was a potential possibility, so what’s your backup plan? I like people to list every possible thing that could go wrong in achieving their goal. In this case, the example of exercising five times a week – what could go wrong? Your car could break down, you could sprain your ankle, you could get bit by a dinosaur on the way to work. You never know. So, say your car breaks down. What’s going to be your plan for that? Say you sprain your ankle. How do you still want to be able to work out? You can do a rowing thing, you could do an upper body type of thing. If the dinosaur bites you, I feel like that would be very interesting and you could probably make a lot of money with that story. Then use that money to hire a trainer. So I get people in the habit of pre-anticipating common roadblocks and knowing what they’re going to do about it, so when it does happen they’re ready for it. It’s another mindset habit. Then T is for “timetable”. The goal should be, I like to call it grounded, yet ambitious. So if your goal is to do two sit-ups in 2019, that’s specific and you’re very likely to achieve it. But that’s not really going to do anything. If your goal is to do 2,000 sit-ups every single day in 2019, that’s going to be a little bit more difficult, especially if you’re starting from a baseline of zero. So I want the goal to be something that you’re stretching a little bit to, but not so unrealistic you have absolutely no possibility of achieving it. And then breaking it down into specific time. What can you do today? What can you do in a week? What can you do in a month? And what do you want to accomplish in a year? It just makes it seem so much less intimidating than trying to tackle the whole thing all at once. We’re almost done. We already did SMART; now we’re on the ER part. E is the “evaluate and evolve” type of thing. So if your original goal was working out 15 minutes a day for five days a week and you find that while you’re exercising, you’re usually going longer and you feel great – expand your goal. Make it a little bit longer; that’s okay. If it was too easy, make it harder. If it was legitimately too hard, dial it down. It’s okay to make adjustments based on the context of your life, because still your biggest overall goal is to be a healthy person. That’s the focus, so this exercise goal that you’ve set is specifically aiming at that ideal. And then just helping keep up your enthusiasm. The last one, the R, is “record and reward”. Anything that you do that is measured improves, and anything you do that is measured and recorded improves exponentially. So I encourage people to, whether it’s on a plain piece of paper or through an app or any other way, when they make the goal, I want to see you recording it, writing it down, and then you can preset rewards into that. So, if your goal is that number of workouts and at the end of the month if you hit that, choose a reward. And choose a reward that’s consistent with a healthy lifestyle. I’m not saying to go eat a dozen donuts as a reward for working. Buy a new pair of shoes, buy a great workout outfit, do something like that. So, finding that way to write it down. And give yourself credit for all the amazing things that you’ve been doing. I put it all out on a sheet for people and it’s in the book. If we work smarter, not harder, as they say, it makes it so much easier to reach our goals.

Allan (31:53): That’s one thing I liked about your book Habit That!, was in the back you basically put all these different tools to help us go through. So the appendices are extremely valuable.

Dr. Jaime Hope (32:02): Thank you. And I have free PDF versions on my website as well. It’s all open access. It’s free, it’s available. Download it, print it out, use it however you want. I want people to have this information.

Allan (32:15): So they’re setting SMARTER goals.

Dr. Jaime Hope (32:17): Yes, exactly.

Allan (32:20): One of the things that I think has really gone haywire in America is that we have kind of lost context of what a serving is. A lot of people will say, “I’m eating the right things. I don’t think I’m overeating. I might have a little bit of this or a little bit of that, but I’m not eating that much of it.” And when you get to talking to them, you realize that was probably more than a serving, because the bag has three servings and you ate the bag. Or we go to a restaurant and it’s’ like, “Here’s a 12-ounce steak.” And I’m like, “That’s three servings of beef. Box, please.” You use the hand, which I thought was really, really good. If someone wants to understand what a portion of something is, how can they use their hand as a base guideline?

Dr. Jaime Hope (33:11): I’ve seen products over the years where you can purchase different sizing things for a serving size, but can you imagine taking that into a nice steakhouse? Nobody’s going to invite you to dinner anymore, let’s just put it that way. I always say the power to portion control is in the palm of your hand. So, if you look at your closed fist, that’s generally about a half cup. Looking at servings of grains, if you eat grains and stuff like that; half cup vegetables. You generally want to do at least double that. But that’s approximately the right size. Stretch out your index finger and from that last line, that last joint, till the end – that’s about a teaspoon. So when we were looking at toppings and spreads and stuff like that that are less healthy, sticking to that guide. Now, I’m like you – I’m all for healthy fats. We used to say, “Limit fats to that size”, and I disagree with that; I think we should have healthy fats in more abundance. But if you’re going to have something that’s an unhealthy fat, that’s what you would aim for. And if you look at your thumb, from that line at the end to the end of your thumb – that’s a tablespoon. So you’ve got about a teaspoon on your first finger and a tablespoon on your thumb. And then your open palm is generally about the size of an appropriate serving of meat for your body size. My son is five years old, so if I gave him the size of meat serving for a grown adult, that would be crazy. You can just look at their hand and that’s approximately the size you’re looking for. So if you’re staring down that 12-ounce steak or heaven forbid, the 42-ounce porterhouse…

Allan (34:58): I’ve done that.

Dr. Jaime Hope (35:02): Aiming for something that’s about that size. And what I do at restaurants is, like you said, box. I really do. I will cut the appropriate serving size that I’m going to eat, put the rest in a box and then eat my dinner. Because the longer you sit there in front of it, the more you tend to want to nibble and go. And then we do that thing: “Well, I’m almost done with it, so I might as well finish it.”

Allan (35:23): “There is no sense taking these last three ounces home.”

Dr. Jaime Hope (35:26): “It’s not worth saving, so I might as well eat it.” It’s this hilarious mindset. I have a graphic for this. It’s in the book and it’s also open access. It’s available, so people can take a look at that and see.

Allan (35:38): Cool. And I think that’s really helpful as you’re looking at this, because in a general sense when people are talking about the calories and all of that, if you are off by serving sizes, you can be way off. I’m not going to say “calories in, calories out” is this perfect model, but there is some basis to it. If you eat more calories than your body needs, it has to put it somewhere and it’s going to be putting it as body fat. So, if weight loss, or fat loss is a better term, is something you’re after, portion control is going to be a part of it. That means knowing what portions are and then eating slow enough that your body can say, “Hey, that’s probably enough.”

Dr. Jaime Hope (36:20): It truly has gotten out of hand. If you just go to your average coffee house and order a muffin – those giant things that they’re telling us is a muffin – that’s about four servings. Who cuts up a muffin into quarters and shares it? We have; we’ve gone off the rails. And like you said, we eat it so fast we don’t have time to register that we’re full until it’s a little bit too late. And then we’re stuffed.

Allan (36:44): Now, talking about muffins, you have this term, and I guess it comes from a meme that I hadn’t seen until I read your book, but it’s called “muffin moments”. And I think all of us will relate to these events that happen to us that you call muffin moments. Could you give us a little bit on that?

Dr. Jaime Hope (37:06): I have a fairly ridiculous sense of humor. I love memes, I think they’re hilarious. I’m never tired of seeing them on Facebook. Unfortunately, sometimes I’ll find myself in a rabbit hole of time, just flipping through memes. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I just spent 15 minutes doing that.” But I remember I saw one that was so hilariously ridiculous. It was this giant muffin that had landed on and crushed someone’s car; like a meteor, but a muffin. And the caption of the meme said, “Suddenly, a muffin!” And I remember laughing so hard. That’s how life happens sometimes. You’re driving along and you think, “Worst case scenario, I’m going to get in a traffic jam. And suddenly, a muffin! I wasn’t expecting that.” I’ve definitely had some muffin moments. One of them, I was on the squat machine at the gym and unfortunately I didn’t ask somebody how it worked. I thought I knew what I was doing, I wasn’t pressing that much weight. It was the end of my workout, I was just killing a few more minutes. And my back felt a little stiff while I was doing it. And then as I got off the machine, I could hardly walk. I slipped a disc on the squat press machine at my gym, like an idiot. And I had this great workout plan. I’d had all these things on my calendar, I was super excited, and now I could barely walk. Now I’m 39, I turn 40 this year. This was a couple of years ago, and I’m like, “I’m in my middle 30s and I need a walker. This is awful and ridiculous.” I certainly wasn’t expecting that. That was a bigger muffin than I had planned on. I did the thing where I figured I can just push through it, and made it worse. And then I finally was like, “I’m a very well educated physician. Perhaps I should take my own advice that I give to my patients, rehabilitate this properly.” And even when I was writing this book, I had a two-hour phone call scheduled with my editor and I emailed him in the middle of the night saying, “I just had an emergency appendectomy that I wasn’t really expecting, so can we change our appointment?” So, those things are going to happen. Some of them you can anticipate when you’re doing the roadblocks in your SMARTER goals, and sometimes stuff is just going to hit you. And if you’re really connected with your “Why”, why you want to do this, and that big overall picture of being a healthy person, it makes it easier to stay on track. When I hurt my back, my goal wasn’t to be an Olympic athlete, it was to be a healthy person. So some days all I could do was go for a walk. I went from being a runner to a very slow walker, but not overdoing it, because that’s not consistent with being a healthy person either. So when you’ve got a stable foundation of those, it makes it a lot easier for you when those muffins come along.

Allan (39:55): I had one of my muffin moments. I was training for a Spartan. I’d hired a coach, a personal trainer, Dave. Coach Dave was helping me get stronger and stronger, because I really wanted to make sure for this Spartan, I was able to do the strength part of it. And then I was doing the other stuff because in the Spartan when you can’t do an obstacle or you fail at an obstacle, you have to do 25 burpees. I did a lot of burpees. But what happened was right before the race, about probably two weeks out from the race, I tore a rotator cuff.

Dr. Jaime Hope (40:36): Oh no!

Allan (40:37): And I knew it was torn. I knew it was completely torn when it happened and I knew exactly what I was feeling. Instead of saying all is lost, I said, “What can I do?” So I stopped doing pressing movements and shoulder movements, because those were aggravating the shoulder, but I could still do pulling movements, I could still do all the other lifts that I wanted to do. I just didn’t do the presses as much. We moved it over to the Smith machine. I’m not a huge fan of the Smith machine, or machines, unless you need them for recovery. So we did move to machines; it helped me. I went and I did the Spartan. It was not fun but I got it done, because it was my goal. It was something I really wanted to do. I also skydived that weekend, so it was really cool.

Dr. Jaime Hope (41:35): That’s a great reward!

Allan (41:36): But as soon as we finished the race, I did the skydiving, then I went to the surgeon, did the MRI. I had the surgery on a Thursday, I was meeting with my physical therapist on Monday. So three days later, I’m in PT. And because I had kept moving, I had much better range of motion in the shoulder than he said he’s seen from anyone with a tear close to mine.

Dr. Jaime Hope (42:04): Good for you!

Allan (42:06): And he was used to dealing with college athletes, Division I football players and whatnot. So, I felt pretty good about that. And then I did everything he told me to do. I did all my homework, I did all of it to get my shoulder recovered. So, just realize that these muffin moments are going to happen. You still can find a path forward. You’re going down the highway, the interstate. It’s great to be able to drive down the interstate at 70-75 miles per hour if you’re within the speed limit. And then there’s a traffic jam and your app is telling you to take the next exit and go on the frontage road for five miles. That’s going to slow you down. You’re going to be later than you thought you’d be, but you’re still moving forward.

Dr. Jaime Hope (42:50): That’s a perfect analogy. And one of the reasons that you were able to recover so well was that you had this healthy base. You were already living healthy, so as those things come along, you’re ready. I love how you kept your goal, and I love, on behalf of all clinicians everywhere, that you did your homework. That makes me so happy!

Allan (43:09): I did my homework. I’m a personal trainer and I’ll be the first to admit that – and you have the four pillars in your book – food is probably the most important one relative to health. I even put stress and sleep above exercise, because I’ve seen those hold people back so much more than exercise can move you forward. But if you hurt yourself, go to the doctor, get it fixed, don’t think it’s just going to fix itself. A slipped disc, a torn rotator cuff – we’re going to deal with those things, those muffin moments. Get it fixed. See the physical therapist, get yourself well, and then it’s time to go back to training. Make sure you’re doing the things to heal yourself before you try to tough it through. This is not a grit contest; you’re not going to get any points for grinding your way through things in life.

Dr. Jaime Hope (44:11): There’s no trophy if your arm falls off just because you were too stupid to go get it checked.

Allan (44:18): This is all about taking care of yourself.

Dr. Jaime Hope (44:20): Yes, absolutely.

Allan (44:23): I’ve got one more question. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Dr. Jaime Hope (44:37): I love this. This is so fun. So, my number one thing is sleep. Please, please, please, sleep more. We are not getting enough sleep. We’re not getting quality sleep. We’re interrupting our sleep with electronics and lights and all this other stuff. Like you said, it’s hard to exercise if you’re exhausted. It’s hard to lose weight with diet if you’re exhausted. It’s honestly hard to function. When you’re sleep deprived a certain number of hours, it’s like taking a shot of whiskey. That’s not how you want to live your life. You’re not having this high level cognitive function, you don’t recover as well, you get sick more often and you can’t hit your other goals. I think it’s that secret one that people don’t focus on enough, so I’m choosing that as my number one – sleep.

Number two – I love to remind people that self-care isn’t selfish. We have this crazy idea that we have to run ourselves into the ground and work a billion hours, because people actually do reward you: “Oh, you worked 60 hours this week. 100 hours? Oh, you’re so amazing! High five!” That’s crazy. If you’re trying to run a high level company or take care of your children or a sick parent or anything, if you’re taking care of yourself and your health is solid, you’ll be so much better able to do all those other things. So you have to make this a priority. You can integrate it in your family time. There are tons of different ways you can do it, but self-care is not selfish.

And number three is, look for the experts. Unfortunately, the diet industry, the whole weight loss health industry, they say 40 billion – I think that’s a conservative estimate. If you’re looking for quackery and gimmicks and crap, I assure you you can find it. So, looking for experts in what you’re doing. If you need help with exercises, talk to a physical trainer, even if you hire them for a few sessions. If you hurt yourself, go to a doctor, go to a physical therapist. Go to the people who know what they’re doing so you can learn how to do it correctly, instead of spending substantially more time trying to fix the mistakes that you made on the backend. So absolutely, the experts are experts for a reason. Listen to audio books, listen to podcasts. These people like Allan are out there. I’ve been listening to the other podcasts and I think this is really helpful. So use the resources of the experts; it’s all at your fingertips.

Allan (47:15): Awesome. Thank you, Jaime. If someone wanted to learn more about you or the book, Habit That!, where would you like for me to send them?

Dr. Jaime Hope (47:24): My website is DrHopeHealth.com. That’s where I’ve got the free PDFs for the SMARTER goals, the 12 reasons, a bunch of different things that you can print out for free. I run a Facebook group called The HabitThat Tribe for regular, realistic people who are trying to incorporate healthier habits into their lives, whether it’s about stress or diet or anything like that. It’s a supportive tribe for people who are just looking to get healthier. I’m on Twitter @DrHopeHealth, and the book is available on Amazon.

Allan (48:04): Awesome. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/373 and I’ll be sure to have links to all of those there. Dr. Hope, again, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Jaime Hope (48:16): Allan, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for what you do. It really matters and I am very grateful to be a part of it.

Allan (48:22):Thank you.

I hope that you enjoyed today’s episode and that you took something valuable from it. I work hard to try to bring the best possible guests to the show. Typically, that’s me reaching out to them. Occasionally, publicists will also reach out to me. But it does take some time to get them scheduled and get them on the show and make sure that we’re giving you the best possible content that I can from their book and from what their thoughts are. And I do hope that you’re getting some value out of each and every episode, because I do put a good bit of time into making sure that happens for you.

And if you are, I am just going to ask you for one thing. Would you become a patron for the show? It’s not very expensive. It can be a dollar a month, I don’t care. I’d love to have your support. There are support levels on the Patreon page. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon, and by going to that page, you’ll be able to make a monthly donation. If you make a $4 donation, I do acknowledge you. That’s pretty much a buck a show. If you think the show is worth a dollar – please, please do go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon so you can support the 40+ Fitness podcast. Thank you.

Another episode you may enjoy

Get healthy and fit with commitment, strategy, habits, and tactics

March 11, 2019

Lisa Davis | clean eating dirty sex

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Thank you!

The food you are eating could be making your life less enjoyable. In her book Clean Eating, Dirty Sex, Lisa Davis shows us how to eat to improve our health and libido.

Allan (1:15): Lisa, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Lisa Davis (1:18): Allan, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you so much.

Allan (1:21): Your book is Clean Eating, Dirty Sex, and I’ll start off with saying it’s not so much about the dirty sex; it’s just making sure that you are having some. When we get over 40, that seems to be one of the areas where a lot of folks struggle, be it ED or just libido. I think a lot of it traces down to what we’ve done to either be healthy, to be fit or to be happy, because if we’re not taking care of our body, that’s actually one of the first symptoms. That’s one of the first things that seems to want to conk out on us.

Lisa Davis (2:00): That’s so true. And that’s why I’m so happy with this book, because it’s a roadmap in a way. It helps guide you on finding your “Why” and getting the motivation that you need and figuring it out. I think if we want to make changes, you really have to have a direction, don’t you think?

Allan (2:18): Yes. In my book, The Wellness Roadmap, that’s exactly where I start – you have to have a “Why”, you have to have a direction, and a big part of it is just wanting to have a good, happy, healthy, long, fruitful life. And if we’re not doing the right things for ourselves, then we don’t get there. I like that you start with the eating part because I think so many people want to exercise and continue to eat the way they want to eat, they want to live the lifestyle they’ve been living, and that’s not serving them.

Lisa Davis (2:51): No, it’s not. I struggled with clean eating and I share my experience in the book that I was a dirty eater. My Gosh, the amount of cookies I hid in my room was pretty remarkable.

Allan (3:04): I realize that too. Girl Scout time is now passing us as this is going live. I don’t want to go to the grocery store because they’re sitting out there, basically drug pushers, as far as I can figure.

Lisa Davis (3:19): The ingredients are horrendous. You’d think after all these years, you can’t take out the trans fats? Really? Come on, Girl Scouts.

Allan (3:26): And I can’t not eat a whole roll. Just put them in individual packets or something, please. But I would sit there and open each one, I’m sure. Can you go through the process and explain when you say “clean eating” and “dirty eating”, what exactly do you mean by that?

Lisa Davis (3:45): Clean eating to me is eating foods in their whole form. A meal that I really enjoy is if I get a little bit of organic grass-fed beef, a big salad, a yam, an avocado, some olive oil for dressing, maybe a little balsamic. That’s a really good meal. It’s really satiating. You’ve got the healthy fat that satiates you, you’ve got the protein from the meat, you’ve got the good carb from the yam. There’s nothing processed in that meal, versus if I’m going to go and get some type of Rice-A-Roni or one of those types of things, where I can add my own meat. Why don’t you make your own meat and just have a huge salad with it or something else, rather than relying on the standard American diet, packaged foods, which are full of disgusting things and things you can’t pronounce and things that hurt your arteries. Because when it comes to sexual health, I’m talking blood flow, Allan. That’s what I’m talking about. So I summed it up, clean eating and dirty eating. And when I was a kid, like most kids, they love junk food. My grandmother was the original health food nut, and then my mother became a health food nut. I rebelled in every way possible, and then eventually I thought, “Wait a second. All this junk isn’t working for me, so something’s got to give.”

Allan (5:01): I remember growing up, obviously I’m the generation when this all started. My grandfather and grandmother, great grandmother, great grandfather, all the folks that I knew from the generations before, my mother, never had problems with weight. But when you went to their house, it was corn he picked that day, green beans he picked that day. You recognized everything that was in the meal because it came off of a farm, and in many cases his farm. Today it seems we’ve been introduced to this stuff. If your grandmother walked into the grocery store today, she wouldn’t recognize much of what’s in there as being food.

Lisa Davis (5:49): Exactly. And it’s not. That’s what’s so sad. SAD – Standard American Diet. It’s aptly named. I’m sure you’ve heard that before.

Allan (5:57): I like the term you use, that you’re a wholefoodatarian, because it kind of blanks out the whole mindset of, “I want to be a vegetarian” or, “I want to be a vegan” or, “I want to be Paleo”, because in the grand scheme of things, wholefoodatarian encompasses all of those.

Lisa Davis (6:15): Exactly. It’s funny, because I love that term, I’ve been saying it for years. I should probably trademark it one of these days. If it’s whole food, I’m going to eat it. If it’s processed food, I’m not going to eat it. I’m not Paleo, I’m not vegan, I’m not flexitarian. There are so many things right now. Although I would say I do tend to go more healthy fat, protein and lots of veggies. But my body just doesn’t do well with grains. I’m not telling people to stay away from whole grains. If it works for them, that’s great. For me it doesn’t work. But I am saying to people, stay away from the white stuff as much as you can.

Allan (6:50): I do a thing I call a feasting season and a famine season. During my feasting season I’m okay to have some grains and I drink beer, and I’ll do that during my feasting season. But when I get to my fasting season or famine season, then I cut all of that out. And what I’ve found is that with grains I’m going to gain weight. If I do grains, I’m going to gain weight. If I get off the grains, I lose weight. That’s just an experiment I’ve done for myself and I know that’s how I’m wired. I also know that most of the grains that I’m going to get are somewhat processed. The less processed something is, I think the better it is for you as well.

Lisa Davis (7:33): Definitely. My husband eats a lot of whole grains, but he exercises like a madman, so he stays fit and lean. If I ate the way he did, I would be in trouble. I exercise, but not… It’s been 4 degrees here, and he went running. And I’m like, “What are you doing? You’re going to come home frozen.” Sometimes he can be too dedicated.

Allan (7:56): Well, yes and no. I think there’s this balance in your life and everybody has to find their own balance.

Lisa Davis (8:03): Yeah, I just like to tease him.

Allan (8:06): You touched on something that I think is very, very important: He can, you can’t, I can’t, she can’t. We’re all wired a little different.

Lisa Davis (8:18): That’s very true. If I ate the grains, I just get really tired. And it’s a bummer because I used to love some brown rice and some whole wheat pasta. I’ll have it every once in a while, like if I know that the next day I have a mellow day, because it kind of gives me what I call a “food hangover”. There are a lot of people out there who have headaches or brain fog or sore throats or sinus issues and they’re not really sure. It’s a whole another topic, but I definitely recommend food rotation or just taking things out for a while, taking out the allergenic foods, wait a few weeks and then put them back in. Then when you get a big reaction it’s like, “Okay, so I don’t have to go around feeling foggy headed all the time. I thought this was just me.” That’s what happened to me.

Allan (9:00): So unless you do either a rotation or some form of elimination for a period of time, you’re not going to know those things. It’s not that we’re saying any one food group is not good for you or bad for you. It’s just going to be unique to yourself.

Lisa Davis (9:14): Yeah, I think so. Except for the trans fats and things like that. They’re obvious; I know you know that.

Allan (9:23): I do, I do. Trans fats are not whole food. They were manmade, hydrogenated whatever, so that they stay stable on the shelf for a long, long time. Pretty much if it doesn’t fade away really quickly, if you can leave something on your counter for months and months and months and it’s still good, it’s probably not something you want to put in your mouth, unless it’s salt. Now, you tell this story about Betty, and you have your BYOB, which is “Be Your Own Betty”. Can you tell us that story?

Lisa Davis (9:59): Betty had a friend that she was trying to help. I think this was interesting – she said, “You’re staying with me, I’m going to make you your food. You can still eat what you like to eat, but you have to eat what I make you first.” And he found that what she made him was satiating and that he felt better and lost weight, and eventually moved to that way of eating. I think by being your own Betty, you need to take the time, like we just talked about, to figure out what works for you, first of all. And then find the foods that are healthy, that give you energy, that make you feel good, that perhaps get you in the mood. We can talk about that later. I think it’s so important to do that, because sometimes it’s just overwhelming with everything else we have. So I always say if you can get a little help from a friend or a trainer or somebody, it makes a big difference.

Allan (10:46): It probably wasn’t for him that big a change. The first couple of days probably were a little weird, because all of his food was being prepared for him, which that’d be awesome.

Lisa Davis (10:56): Wouldn’t that be great?

Allan (10:57): She’s a really good friend. And within a reasonable amount of time he starts noticing changes, and then that snowballs because he recognizes that this is working, and now he’s changed the way he eats.

Lisa Davis (11:15): Exactly, and I think that’s the thing, when you feel the difference. When I went from dirty eating to clean eating I felt better, and then when I figured out my food sensitivities I felt so much better. It’s like this cloud lifts and you’re like, “Whoa, I see the light and I can feel good and have energy and want to have sex and just feel better about myself.”

Allan (11:37): So let’s get into that. When we get into our 40s, 50s and 60s, changes are happening. Women probably experience a little bit more of this, but men do too. And most men don’t want to talk about it, because it’s just not a topic they want to bring up around their friends.

Lisa Davis (12:02): That’s so funny.

Allan (12:03): So, we’ve got these things in our bodies, these little messengers called hormones. There are the sex hormones, there’s cortisol and there’s thyroid. Can you talk about how those are interfering with our abilities or libidos and all the different things that are going on, and what we can do to somewhat give them what they need?

Lisa Davis (12:23): Alright. So, when you’re younger – 20s, 30s – your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone are usually going pretty well. If there’s something that’s going on, if you’re missing periods or there’s something erratic, you can talk to your gynecologist. But for the most part you’re doing pretty well. Then you hit perimenopause and I have to say, and I share this in the book – it was like a switch, Allan. It was crazy. I turned 43 and my PMS was insane. Never had it before. I wanted to rip everyone’s head off. And I’m a really happy-go-lucky, positive person.

Allan (12:53): You sound exactly like my wife right now.

Lisa Davis (12:56): My husband and daughter were like, “You are a monster. What happened?” My libido, which has always been really strong, weakened. My face was breaking out with this cystic acne on my chin. I would sweat like crazy. I’m like, “This is absolute hell.” So I went and got my hormones tested and I found out that I had estrogen dominance. Now, when you have estrogen dominance, that’s going to cause problems with your other hormones because again, you want to have a balance. So, that can be a problem. When you have estrogen dominance, this brings in the thyroid. That will affect your thyroid function. It blocks it or slows it down, and that leads to weight gain, depression and other things on top of that – wanting to rip everyone’s head off and, the acne and the sweating. Now I was gaining weight, and I’ve always been thin. Now I’m curvy, I’ll say that. It was kind of shocking. I’m like, “My pants don’t fit. What is going on?” Once I was able to get tested, I was able to get a little bit more testosterone, a little bit more progesterone to balance me out. Now, one thing when you’re thinking about the thyroid – that’s the center of all hormone communication between your brain and your adrenal gland, that has to do with the cortisol. And it manages your stress hormones and your ovaries. So, if your thyroid is out of whack, which can happen to women at perimenopause and menopause, that’s going to make everything out of whack. So you want to get your thyroid checked and get your hormones checked. If you only do one or the other, you might be missing part of the puzzle. Once I was able to get, I actually do take hormones, because when I was 49, I had to have a complete hysterectomy. I don’t share this in the book, but I had a cantaloupe sized fibroid sitting on my bladder and my uterus, and I go to the bathroom enough as it is. It was lucky because I didn’t slam right into menopause, because was already taking hormones just a little bit. Then when I had the hysterectomy, they bumped them up a little, but it was really nice. Now, that’s not for everyone, but that’s something that I do. I know there’s controversy and different things, but they’ve had different issues with that. There was a big women study that said they were bad and then that was contradicted. Again, this is something you need to talk to your own healthcare provider about. For me, it’s been a godsend. But again, that’s just for me; we’re all different.

Allan (15:16): I think that’s the point of it. There are so many things that are in your control, like your food, your exercise, your sleep, your stress response. Those are within your control and those are the things that you should be focused on day-to-day. But there are going to be these things that happen to our bodies as we age that are outside of our control – injuries, hormones and those types of things. So, just recognizing that you’re going to have to make some health decisions on what’s going to be the best path for you and whether you agree with it or disagree with it, that’s your choice to decide how you want to manage your health. Choosing to go on bioidentical hormones is a choice we all now, fortunately, have an opportunity to make.

Lisa Davis (16:03): That’s true. There are some things you can do food-wise. I interviewed over 40 experts. Dr. Steven Masley, I think is fabulous. This is a quote from the book: “Guys on an ultra low fat diet can create sexual dysfunction by dropping testosterone levels 50 to 75 percentage points, because you need healthy fat.” So, if you’re skimping and you’re still doing a low fat thing from the ‘90s, you’ve got to get onboard the healthy fat train because you’re going to be hurting your testosterone. There are also things you can do with not spiking your insulin all over the place, which is why you want to stay away from those white foods to keep your insulin more balanced. Again, where healthy fat is great is things like avocado, olive oil, because they’re satiating. I find that to be incredibly helpful when I’m eating. I’ve been making this really good thing lately of rice, cauliflower, sautéed in avocado oil; leaks and mushrooms. Then I’ll cook yam and I’ll add some chicken sausage or a little bit of grass-fed beef. It’s super satiating and it fills me up for hours. It’s like, “Whoa, I didn’t even have any grains.” It’s really good.

Allan (17:08): You actually have a recipe in the book that I’m eager to try out. I cooked duck last night, so I couldn’t do it this week, but it’s the shrimp with cauliflower mash with garlic kale.

Lisa Davis (17:19): That is so good.

Allan (17:21): That is definitely coming up soon for us.

Lisa Davis (17:23): Good. And the cauliflower mash and the garlic kale goes perfectly with the spice chicken thighs. That’s one of my favorite recipes. Erin Macdonald, who did the recipe, is the nutritionist and dietician for Clean Eating Magazine, and she knows food and spices. When I decided I wanted to do a recipe portion, I didn’t think everyone wants to eat my cauliflower concoction, so I went to her. I knew that if I gave her the foods that enhance your sexual health, she’d be able to do some dynamite things with them, and she did.

Allan (17:53): There are some really, really good recipes in this book, I can tell you that.

Lisa Davis (17:57): Thank you. It was very fun making them and eating them all. My family loved them all too, so that was good.

Allan (18:06): That’s why I really liked this book, because it takes you through the process of saying, “Here’s the definition of clean eating. You can do this, and here’s an approach.” It talks about what the benefits are, particularly as you start getting into your overall lifestyle and your health. It does blend in to the whole concept that I have for the show now, which is, how do we find wellness? So with that, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Lisa Davis (18:38): I think the first one is finding your “Why”. You’ve got to find your “Why” first. If you think, “I’m going to a high school reunion and I want to look really good” – that’s nice, but how long is that going to last? At this point I’m 51; I’ll be 52 this year. I want to be functional. I want to be moving around and doing stuff. I want to be able to feel active and good in my body, and I don’t want to focus anymore as much… Not that I don’t want to focus on the aesthetics, but I want it to be more about function. I see people in walkers and people hunched over that are like 65 and I think, “No, no.” I want to be like those people you see who are 85, like my father-in-law. You know what he’s doing right now? He’s 85 years old. This is his 10th year at Red Sox Fantasy Camp. He plays baseball for a week with guys half his age. He still rides his bike around town, when it’s not 4 degrees, unlike my husband. So for me, you’ve got to find your “Why”. So that’s my “Why”. I know these are not that original, but this is big to me. You have to find an activity you enjoy. I remember I knew someone who said they hate exercise. And I’m like, “Really? There’s not one thing you can find that can be enjoyable?” Just take a Zumba class, try a yoga class, try Pilates. There’s something called Zynga. There are a lot of different things. And even if you don’t absolutely love it, can you see yourself finding something in it that motivates you enough to do it and that maybe you can learn to enjoy it? So try to do it. And the other thing is to combine an activity that you like while listening to a great podcast like yours. I have an exercise bike, because I won’t ride outside at this point when it’s this cold. And I listen to podcasts that I like while I’m riding my bike. So, if you can do something you like at the same time. Those are my tactics.

Allan (20:25): Those are really cool. Thank you for that.

Lisa Davis (20:28): Sure.

Allan (20:29): If someone wanted to learn more about your book, Clean Eating, Dirty Sex, or learn more about you, where would you like for me to send them?

Lisa Davis (20:37): There are two places, if that’s okay. You can go to CleanEatingDirtySex.com. There you can get the book and you can also listen to my podcast, Cleaning Eating, Dirty Sex, which at point is 99% health, because honestly, you can be celibate and still benefit from this book. And I also have many other shows. I have an NPR show on regional NPR in Texas, and I have a beauty show and a show called Naturally Savvy. You can find all of those at ItsYourHealthWithLisaDavis.com.

Allan (21:12): Okay. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/372, and I’ll be sure to have those links there. Lisa, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Lisa Davis (21:23): Oh my goodness, thank you. It was super fun. I’m excited to have you on my shows.

Allan (21:27): Absolutely. Thank you.

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Kind of a different topic for us, but I think it’s important for us to have a good breadth of things here that you can be thinking about as far as your health, fitness and wellness. And sex is actually a part of that, so it was good to have that episode and be able to have that conversation with Lisa. If you enjoyed today’s show, I am going to ask you to just do one thing for me. Would you go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA, and that will take you to the Author Academy Awards vote page? From that vote page, you can go to the “Health” category and my book, The Wellness Roadmap is on that page. You just click on the cover copy, and that will be a vote for me. I really do want to make the finals.

I think this was a great book. I’m really enjoying the feedback that I’m getting on it. At this point it has more than a dozen reviews and everyone seems to like it. Feel free to go out on Amazon if you’ve read the book, and give me a review. I appreciate that. But I also want your vote for an Author Academy Award. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA, go to the “Health” category and vote. 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA. Thank you. 

Marla Heller and the DASH Mediterranean Diet

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  • Judy Murphy
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Thank you!

Two of the most studied diets that are successful for weight loss and better health are the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. In her book The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution, Marla Heller shows us how to use both of these ways of eating to optimize our health.

Allan (1:14): Marla, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Marla Heller (1:17): Thank you. I’m really glad to join you.

Allan (1:19): I have to say I’ve seen study after study after study and it’s always interesting to me there are certain diets that always end up at the top of the list. I think I first heard about the Mediterranean diet probably 15 years ago or better. It’s a long, long time people have been talking about that diet. The DASH diet is something that’s a little bit newer, and there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. But I have to be honest with you, I never really deep dived into either of them. And what I’ve found with your book was I had a lot of general misconceptions about what they actually were.

Marla Heller (2:01): Interesting. Tell me about those.

Allan (2:05): When I think Mediterranean, I don’t know why, but my thoughts always go to Italy. And Italy is one of the countries that would fit that concept, but I just think about all that pasta and pizza. There’s no way I can eat like that. I’ve eaten pasta before when I was younger. That’s pretty much how I put on my weight. So, if I’m going to eat like the French and the Italians, other than the fact that I know, having been over there, the quality of their food is a lot better than what’s available here sometimes, I just thought I’m not going to eat bread, I’m not going to eat the pasta. That’s the white foods that pretty much I need to stay away from.

Marla Heller (2:51): That is a very common misconception, that it’s all about having platefuls of pasta and lots of bread at the table. Actually that’s not the basis of the Mediterranean diet. That’s a more Americanized idea of what it is. And I will also mention that it’s where people get off-track with the Mediterranean diet, because it’s not absolutely defined. People take their own interpretation and as you say, they may get really off-track with that.

Allan (3:29): I think that’s why I never really dove into those and said, “I’m going to do that.” What I took out of it for my part is that they don’t do as much GMO, they don’t do as much of this other stuff over there. They have access to local produce because they grow it there, so I was thinking more in terms of, they’re eating higher quality foods. And I can sit there and put someone on a high quality carnivore diet and a low quality carnivore diet, and you’re going to see a difference in their health, just based on the quality of the food. But getting into your book, like I said, it opened my eyes to some depth that’s there. Another thing I really liked about the book was that you go with this approach of, “Don’t tell me what I can’t eat. Let’s focus on what we can.” If we’re filling ourselves and getting the nutrients we need from the foods we can, we’re going to be so much better off.

Marla Heller (4:25): What a concept that you should enjoy how you’re eating! And still be healthy. That’s absolutely something. If people can’t enjoy what they’re eating, they’ll never be able to stick with a healthy plan. That was actually one of the things that motivated me. This is my second career, and it motivated me to go back to school and become a dietitian. I was working with people who were having heart attacks at relatively young ages, including in their mid 30s. And after they had the heart attack, they went on living the way they lived because they didn’t think that eating in a healthy way would be satisfying enough that they could really enjoy their lives. And they still wanted to enjoy life. I knew from watching people in Europe, because I was traveling a lot in Europe, that they enjoyed how they were eating but they were still taking care of their health. And I thought somebody needs to bring that where you show people you can enjoy eating and be healthy at the same time.

Allan (5:30): My disconnect with those diets was along the lines of misconceptions. So, I’m really happy to have an opportunity to have this conversation with you. Could you take a moment and go through what the DASH diet is, how it came about, what it includes, and then go about the same thing with the Mediterranean diet?

Marla Heller (5:53): The DASH diet was originally developed by people who were working on different kinds of approaches to help people lower their blood pressure without medication, because they knew that some people who ate in particular ways had lower blood pressure naturally, and one of those ways was being a vegetarian. They saw that people who were Seventh-day Adventists, who were primarily vegetarian, had significantly lower blood pressure than most Americans. And they’re eating from the same food supply; there’s nothing different. They had the same kind of lifestyle and so forth, but the vegetarian diet seemed to be very helpful for lowering blood pressure. However, they didn’t I think that most Americans would actually go along with that, because we are a country of meat eaters. So, they wanted to take the best parts of a vegetarian diet and create one that was more flexible. First of all, I must say people could still be a vegetarian and follow the DASH diet, because it really does emphasize lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds. It includes things like mostly whole grains, but not overdoing them, and lean meats – fish and poultry, if you choose to include those in your diet, along with the heart-healthy fats. So, vegetarian or not vegetarian, it’s something that people can really fit into their lives. When they did the first research, they saw that people did lower their blood pressure as much as the first-line medications would do. And it did this in just 14 days. In fact, I have support groups on Facebook who are following this book, and people are seeing their blood pressure drop in as little as seven days. That’s very, very impressive.

Allan (7:51): It is. But you do caution folks about this – if you’re on blood pressure lowering meds and you decide to change the way you’re going to eat, have a conversation with your doctor, because that might be a moment when your doctor needs to know you’re doing this and you may need to be able to call in to him or her and say, “Doc, I’m checking my blood pressure each day. It’s just fallen off a cliff here. What do I do?” And they’ll help you taper down your meds the way that you need to. 

Marla Heller (8:20): Exactly.

Allan (8:22): You say in the book it’s not so much that food is the medicine, but food sets a platform for us to get healthy, if we’re putting the right foods in our body.

Marla Heller (8:32): And that is one thing – when they go around the world and they look at places where people live exceptionally long and stay healthy that whole time, they found that they tend to have similar ways of eating that are really strong on the plant-based foods, but you can also still have some of the fish, meat, lean poultry and so forth. That is something that we really do want to emphasize, that you can stay healthy your entire life.

Allan (9:03): That’s the DASH diet. So, what is the Mediterranean diet and how is it a little different?

Marla Heller (9:09): The Mediterranean diet, the things that are really beneficial are much like DASH – the vegetables, the fruit, heart-healthy fats, which would include things like cold water fish, from which you get the fatty acids, the fish oil, things that actually help to improve your heart health. They also include olive oil all around the Mediterranean, not just in Italy and Greece. All around the Mediterranean olive oil has been the basis of their diets. That’s what they use. One of the things we talked about earlier is that people tend to get off-track and it gets all about having lots of pasta, lots of bread and it’s white bread and so forth. But it’s really those vegetables that make the heart of the Mediterranean diet. So, that’s something that’s kind of interesting. In fact, they’ve even found that on some of the islands in Greece and Italy where they were studying and saw that they did tend to have a lot of people who live to be over 100 and were still very physically active and socially active – they were eating lots of different types of greens. They would actually go out in their fields and collect some things for making a salad and so forth. And they think that that may have been one of the advantages. So having a variety of greens can be a really good thing, hidden benefit. Also the red wine seems to be pretty much protective as well. And it’s not something that people have to go out and start drinking red wine. It is really high in antioxidants, but there are also a lot of other fruits and vegetables that are very high in antioxidants. So, if you do drink wine, a little bit of red wine with dinner is a really great thing, but we’re not encouraging people to start drinking. But you do want to make sure you’re getting enough fruits in your diet as well. Those are some of the hidden things in the Mediterranean diet that most Americans aren’t aware of, and it’s probably one of the reasons why some people may try to follow a little bit of a Mediterranean diet and then it doesn’t feel like they’re getting a lot of benefits. I think it helps to focus on the core foods that are really going to be making you healthier, which would include things like fruits and vegetables, mostly whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry. And again, that’s the same thing as in the DASH diet. And in the Mediterranean diet, they also have a lot of nuts, seeds and beans as well. So the vegetable proteins are also really helpful for keeping people healthier on a long term.

Allan (11:59): Okay. Now, you mash these up to come up with the Mediterranean DASH diet program. One of the things that I saw in there that I have to say was a little surprising was that milk, dairy kind of plays a fairly big role in this.

Marla Heller (12:17): Actually in the first DASH study, they did one group where they didn’t give them extra milk and dairy, and they did not see as much blood pressure benefit as people did who were including a little bit of extra dairy. With the Mediterranean diet when they have dairy, it tends to be fermented, such as with yogurt or cheese. All around the Mediterranean, you’re going to see people using yogurt as a basis for sauces, for salads and so worth. That is something they include a lot of. It’s a little bit of shift in how you might do more of a Mediterranean-oriented DASH, but it’s certainly super delicious. So, that’s a good thing to do.

Allan (13:05): It is. So what we’re saying here is you put these all together and the basis of it, like you said, is going to be fruits and vegetables. The bread that you eat is going to be whole grains. And one of the dangerous myths that you have in the book is that it’s not 12 servings per day.

Marla Heller (13:23): That was something that actually came out in the late ‘80s in the United States. They recommended that people have between 6 and 12 servings a day of bread, or some kind of grain food. That is a lot, and that was precisely at the time when people were becoming much less active in their lives. So, we ended up with this epidemic of obesity based on these food guidelines of eating lots of grain and cut back on the amount of protein foods that you eat. And actually the one thing that we’re not getting enough of, and especially as we get a little bit older, is the protein-rich foods. You need that to maintain muscle, because the more muscle you have as you age, the younger your body is.

Allan (14:11): We’re going to get some of the protein from the vegetables. That’s one of the things that I’ve really been looking into lately. If you’re eating leafy greens, there’s protein in there. Now, your body’s got to get the other essentials that it’s not getting from that, and it’ll get those from other food sources. So, you can include lean meats in there with this. You’re going to get some protein from the dairy that you’re going to be eating. Like you said, for the most part it’s going to be fermented. If you’re getting cold water fish, you’re going to get fish oil and then also adding the olive oil, which I think most people know if they’re getting good quality olive oil, they are getting the right things their body needs. You put those altogether and now here’s this Med DASH program. But we started down the road of talking about these dangerous myths, and one of them was the 12 servings of grains. I think Kellogg’s or General Mills drafted that one and said, “Shove this one in here. Let’s make this the base of the pyramid.”

Marla Heller (15:08): It was actually based off people in some primitive areas whose blood pressure stayed at a normal level even as they got older, and they stayed healthy that whole time. They thought that part of the reason is because they were eating all these grains. Most Americans aren’t doing a lot of whole grains. Also, they stayed healthy because they were very physically active and they were not eating huge amounts of calories. So, combining easy access to food and lots of quantity, that turned out to be a really bad combination to have those recommended 6 to 12 servings of grain every day. That was really off-track.

Allan (15:52): There were others in there. Can you go through a few of, for a lack of a better word, favorite nutrition myths that are out there? I have a couple I’ll probably follow up with as well.

Marla Heller (16:03): Okay. One thing is that if people are thinking about losing weight, and at this time of year people are thinking about, “I ate too much during the holidays and I want to lose a little bit of weight”, they think that the weight loss itself is the goal. And it really is not. You want to lose fat, but you don’t want to lose muscle because if you lose muscle, you slow down your metabolism and it also can make you feel a little bit weaker. You actually want to focus on losing fat. And that’s one of the focuses that has been off-track. Actually having a diet that’s high in those grains, as we get older and if we’re not too physically active, it will tend to build fat. So the grains actually get broken down in digestion to sugar, and that sugar we don’t need for our activity gets stored around our belly, especially as we start going over the age of 40 or so. That can really get people off-track. We’d like to get rid of that excess belly fat especially, because that seems to be associated with a whole lot of diseases, but you want to maintain muscle. That helps you define what kind of foods you’re going to eat.

Allan (17:30): Absolutely.

Marla Heller (17:32): Another thing that we’ve all been way off-track on is thinking that if you just cut calories and you’re a little bit more active, you’re automatically going to lose weight. If people are in an ideal situation – for example, they have places where people can go in to lose weight and they’re trapped in the location and they’re very limited in how much they can eat and they do watch what they’re eating. But most of us are free living, free range people, and we can go around and do whatever we want to. It really helps to think about there are certain kinds of foods that actually will help us burn a little bit more calories. They have recently found out, although some researchers knew earlier, that when you’re digesting proteins, it takes a little bit more calories to actually digest it. You don’t get quite the same impact in terms of increasing your weight if you’re having enough of the protein foods as compared to if you’re having a really high starch or high sugar diet. So that’s a really helpful thing for people to know. And that was one of the things that was off-track, let’s say, in the ‘90s where as a dietician, we were trained to cut calories proportionally across fats, starchy sugary foods, and the protein foods. Actually you want to cut the starchy sugary foods and maintain the protein-rich foods and the heart-healthy fats, because they actually help to quench your hunger. And the protein helps to keep you feeling full longer. They really weren’t focusing in on how people work in a real life situation where they’re trying to moderate their food intake and to have it be something that they can actually sustain in the long run. So they would get off-track, they would not feel that they’re being successful in the diet, so they said, “I might as well go back to the way I was eating because this isn’t working.”

Allan (19:50): I agree. I’ve seen that. My thoughts on that one are that technically, yes, we are going to expand calories and if we’re not getting enough food, our bodies will begin to burn fat for that excess energy. But our bodies are really designed well to make sure that we don’t starve to death. So, what’s going to end up happening is your body will say, “You’re not eating enough, so we’re going to start cutting off certain processes that we don’t need as much. We’re not going to produce as much of this enzyme or we’re not going to make as much of that hormone. We’re going to start cutting out systems that don’t keep us alive.” So, your metabolism actually slows down.

Marla Heller (20:35): Actually it can happen that you do cut off things that are essential for survival. One of the things I’ve noticed is if people go through a really rapid weight loss and they’re not getting enough protein, your body will start breaking down even heart muscle, and that can be a problem. Actually, since you mentioned the starvation – when they set the RDAs for protein, it was based on preventing starvation in Sub-Saharan Africa. It wasn’t based on people who are not as physically active and eating a more sufficient diet. So, the protein RDA is a lot lower than it actually needs to be, and they recommend now that most people should probably have about… I know I’m getting into dietician talk, but instead of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, it should be up around 1.2. Or if people are physically active and as they get older it could go up to 1.6. So it’s a fair amount higher than what we were recommending in the ‘90s.

Allan (21:49): To put that in pounds, roughly what I would say is you’re going to need to eat somewhere between half a gram of protein per pound of body weight, and maybe just a little higher than that. That’s about the same range when you’re talking about kilograms.

Marla Heller (22:04): The minimum that they had from the old guidelines, for an average woman it would be about 65 grams per day. First of all, I will say people don’t eat grams of protein; they eat real food. So I tend not to emphasize the components of the food and really talk about getting a balanced diet, because when you sit down to eat, you want to enjoy it, you don’t want to be having to think about all these other components in the background. But if you get in the habit of having a variety of foods, you’re automatically going to be getting the right stuff.

Allan (22:42): Your body is pretty good about that. Once you sit down and you start putting your food together, you realize you’re going to need a protein source. A serving of fish or a serving of chicken is going to roughly give you about 25 to 30 grams. If you’re eating that about three times a day and maybe having a little bit of protein with your snacks, like cheese…

Marla Heller (23:04): Some yogurt or cheese or hardboiled egg for breakfast.

Allan (23:09): So thinking through that you’re getting protein with each meal is going to help with the satiation. Not being afraid of olive oil, because it’s not the bad fats for you. It’s actually very good for you if you’re getting a good quality actual olive oil. I hate reading those stories where they go into the grocery stores and test what’s on the shelves and find that a large portion of it doesn’t actually have olive oil in it.

Marla Heller (23:33): That is pretty scary.

Allan (23:34): I just shake my head. One that I found very interesting, because I recently had another guest on and he is a big fan of smoothies, so I tried his smoothie recipe and it’s actually pretty good. I made some adjustments to it and tweaked it a little bit here and there. And what I saw was this is a great way for me to get in a full five ounces greens, which would be difficult with just sitting down and eating them like a salad. I add some spirulina and chlorella in there, so I’m getting more greens, some celery or cucumber or something like that to bulk it up a little bit more, because there’s more fluid there now. But in your myths – I really have to ask you this – does the blender actually break down the fiber in the plants to a point where you’re not getting the benefit of that fiber?

Marla Heller (24:30): Yes. Again, I’ll apologize for getting maybe a little bit too chemically oriented, but the molecular weight of the fiber is really essential to allowing it to do its job. And along with pulverizing the vegetables, especially the longer you go, it actually does cut up those fiber molecules and makes them so that they’re much less effective. I will also say it’s a great property of vegetables and fruits that they are bulky and filling, and it is hard to overeat when you get a lot of them in your diet. That’s a benefit. And that’s one of the things we’re missing when we go towards the smoothies and so forth. We’re missing the whole point. And one of the things I really focused on with this book is re-teaching people how to eat. You might be thinking, “I know how to eat. I know how to put things in my mouth.” But it’s that balance between having some foods that are bulky and filling and relatively low calorie, like the vegetables and whole fruits, and having along with that something with some protein, something with some heart-healthy fats, because those give you that satiety that allows you to stay full longer. Bulky, filling to get filled up, and then the protein and the fat to feel full longer. That helps people with avoiding overeating without having to think about it.

Allan (26:10): I do agree with that. If I sit down and I have a salad, I’m usually pretty basic with my salads. I might chop up a boiled egg and put some olives on there, and I’ll make my own vinaigrette, and that’s it. Or I’ll do a can of tuna or something like that on a salad. So it’s fairly basic foods the way that I eat salads, but they fill me up. I could still take that same five ounces; it’s just really tough to get it all in. What I found with the smoothie was the convenience that I can sip on it over the course of an hour or so while I’m working. It’s portable.

Marla Heller (26:52): On the other hand, then you never know when you’ve had enough. People will say, “I’m a grazer. I like to graze.” But you have to stop and think, how do you know when you’re done? If you’re always continually eating, how do you know how much you’ve actually consumed? Whereas if you sit down and have a snack and let’s say you have an apple and a yogurt and maybe some nuts, you’re going to finish that up and you’re going to feel satisfied for a long time. That’s a way of making it really easy to stay with your goals of getting the right foods. And those happen to be things that are all on the DASH diet, all on the Mediterranean diet, so you’re automatically eating the right things.

Allan (27:40): Okay. You had another one in here that shocked me a little bit because it kind of goes contra to what I think most of the advice out there is, and that was that small changes are best.

Marla Heller (27:52): That’s been the philosophy for, I would say almost 30 years, but people get discouraged so easily. Sometimes making a big change can make it much easier to sustain. Actually that’s one of the reasons that we have the jumpstart portion of the plan in this book, because we want people to refocus on how they eat. And that is one thing I keep hearing over and over again from my online groups. People say, “I’m not hungry” or, “I don’t know how I can fit in all of this food.” Whoever heard of a diet plan that you’re saying, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got too much to eat here”? So, that really can be a big help in getting people going. And what they start to see is their blood pressure goes down right away, that they’re starting to lose weight around their waist and all of a sudden their clothes fit much better. That’s reinforcement to keep going.

Allan (28:56): I think that’s one of the cores of this, and that’s where it hit me. We tell people to take a small step, it’s better than nothing. It’s like if you want to start a walking program, maybe you’re doing five minutes the first day and that’s all you can handle. That’s a step, and then you’re going to do a little bit more. But what you’re saying, particularly as we start looking at food is, let’s do something drastic so we see that payback and we’re reinforced fairly early, and we don’t have those drag-on effects and things. We just finished up a Sugar Challenge as this episode’s going live. When I deal with the differences of people, I’ve always had three levels in that. I know these numbers are going to scare you, but one of them is to cut your sugar to 50 grams per day. And for some people that’s already drastic enough. Then I have a 30-gram level, which is the intermediate, and then a 20-gram, which is the advanced. So I say we’re going to get our bodies to be able to understand and taste the sweetness of foods already. I remember as a kid, we would get strawberries and we would put extra sugar on the strawberries. And today I can’t even fathom doing that, not because I think that sugar’s inherently evil. When I eat a strawberry, it’s about as sweet as I can take. I really don’t want to add anything to sweeten the strawberry, because it’s already perfect.

Marla Heller (30:26): Exactly. That was something that was completely common, and now you can’t understand at all why they would do that. Actually I will say one of the things with sugar that comes from whole fruit is that you’re going to absorb that more slowly because you do have the fiber and the cells and so forth, and they hold trapped things and help it digest a little bit slower. So, having the whole fruits doesn’t give you the same impact as having a Snickers bar, for example.

Allan (31:01): So you’ll go online and you’ll look up the sugar in that and say, “Would I be better off eating the Snickers bar than I would be eating this fruit?” And that’s not actually true. You actually would get more beneficial nutrients, phytonutrients.

Marla Heller (31:14): It’s going to stay with you longer if you had the whole fruit.

Allan (31:18): There’s still a lot to be said about “You are what you eat”, because your body is remaking your cells all the time and food is affecting how your genes are expressed. Do you really want Snickers to be the one giving those signals?

Marla Heller (31:35): It doesn’t mean you should never have something like that, because you still have to have a real life. But there are many ways to satisfy that sweet tooth. In fact, if you keep the right foods on hand, if you’ve got your refrigerator full of fruits and vegetables and so forth – you may think you’re getting up to get a snack, “Maybe I would like to have a candy bar or something.” But then you go open the refrigerator and you see some whole fruit and some raw vegetables, you’re thinking, “I could do that instead. I could have this yogurt.” That really makes it super easy to stay on hand, when you keep the right foods on hand.

Allan (32:18): Absolutely. Now, there was something else you put in the book and I want to talk about this a little bit. I didn’t really put it on the plan, but it was in my thought process as I was going through this, because we’ve talked about yogurt a lot. You walk into the grocery store and the low fat yogurt or zero fat yogurt, they typically add sugar to it to sweeten it up or make it taste good enough for someone to want to eat it. But you said in the book that not all of that sugar is digestible or available, because of the bacteria. Can you talk through that process, because I really didn’t absorb it the way I wanted to?

Marla Heller (32:58): Okay. When you take milk to make yogurt, they have bacteria in there that help to digest the lactose. Lactose is the milk sugar. It helps to digest that and it breaks it down and it turns it into lactic acid, which is what gives you that “Tang!” when you’re eating the yogurt. The same thing also happens during manufacturing cheese. So, when you look at a food label of yogurt, it still shows the amount of sugar that was in the original milk. That gets really confusing because it really isn’t sugar anymore. However, they are changing the food labels, so now they will show you how much is added sugar. And it’s not all sugar that you want to avoid. Like I said, with whole fruits you still want that. But if you can look at the yogurt on one of the newer food labels and see regular milk would have 15 grams of sugar and this one has 23 grams of sugar and it shows me that eight grams are added sugar – that makes it a lot easier to understand. Again, with the yogurt it’s really confusing because they make the manufacturers say that it’s sugar, even though it isn’t anymore. So you have to go on faith and try to choose one that has low added sugar.

Allan (34:31): Okay. Now, in the book you do give plans. So, if someone is really concerned about not knowing what to eat, because there’s a lot of variety of what you can eat… I like that that’s part of the focus of this whole thing, is what you can eat. You do go through a period of what you call the “jumpstart”, but you make that optional. Can you explain what the jumpstart is about, why it’s optional and how it would fit into the ongoing plan after that? Because this is not just a diet; this is really a lifestyle.

Marla Heller (35:05): Yes. One of the things that happens in most people’s daily lives is they have a breakfast or something and then their blood sugar crashes and they’re hungry again. You kind of get on this sugar rollercoaster. I will also say that starch breaks down to sugar as well, so it’s not just raw sugar that makes a difference. It’s also how much starchy foods you’re eating that causes blood sugar to surge and then to crash. So, during the first week or two you can do this jumpstart program that gets you off the sugar rollercoaster and it also teaches you to eat in a way that is filling and satisfying. I really focus in on the vegetables, learning how having some protein along with the bulky filling foods helps to keep you feeling satisfied longer. That’s what people say when they start going through this after a few days, that they’re not as hungry and they’re not eating as much of their meals as they used to. It is a natural way of keeping your blood sugar on a more even keel and keeping your energy level more consistent throughout the day. So, people can do that and that becomes a foundation when you start adding back in the fruits, some whole grains, things like that, because you’ve already learned how satisfying it can be when you combine those healthy foods.

Allan (36:47): Basically we’re dropping the fruit, or at least substantially reducing it, and the grains.

Marla Heller (36:54): And the non-fermented dairy.

Allan (36:57): Okay, non-fermented dairy. So you’re making some pretty big cuts there, some eliminations for this first little period, and it is going to be not the funnest eating opportunity. You’re going to have to get a little creative, which is really cool, because the book also comes with recipes.

Marla Heller (37:14): Think about it as one day at a time, or one hour at a time. “I can do this for this next period of time. I can keep going.” Just in little bitty steps, because you are re-learning how to eat, and this is going to be the benefit for the rest of your life.

Allan (37:30): Absolutely. So, after you’ve been on this for a while, then you can start adding in some grains and some fruit, and that’s going to give you some great information. Anytime you do an elimination diet like this and then you add those foods back in systematically, you’re able to see how well your body uses that for fuel, for building materials. If you have any sensitivities to dairy, you’re going to notice it. If you have any sensitivities to sugar, you’re going to sense it. If you have any issues with grains, be it gluten or whatever, you’re going to figure that out when you go through a process like this.

Marla Heller (38:11): A lot of people tell me that when they’re going through this jumpstart phase, their heartburn disappeared, they didn’t feel as bloated. As you say, it’s food sensitivities that people are eliminating that were causing them to not feel as good. That also makes this something you want to keep doing, because you want to feel good.

Allan (38:35): And sometimes that’s the wine. Wine can cause the acid reflux and that heartburn kind of feeling. That’s another thing that’s not in the jumpstart; there’s no wine for that first little bit.

Marla Heller (38:48): If you have some wine, it can also reduce your inhibitions, so you’re thinking, “Well, maybe I’m going to start eating sugar.”

Allan (38:55): “Let’s make some chocolate chip cookies.” Like I said, I really appreciate the opportunity to go through and get a better feel for what these diets are and where they can add value. I also appreciate when they’re put together and they give you a comprehensive program, because they tend to be number one and number two in the health studies that are out there of best diets. When they do the polls of what’s out there, what the science is showing, those guys are always on the top of those lists.

Marla Heller (39:30): Absolutely. It is because they are fundamentally good and they’re something that people can follow for a lifetime to stay healthy. We all want to live a long time, but we also want to be healthy that whole time. We don’t want to start losing our ability to do all the things we want to at a relatively young age.

Allan (39:53): I agree. And food is a big, big part of that, so getting your food right is really the first step in regaining and maintaining your health.

Marla Heller (40:03): Absolutely.

Allan (40:04): Marla, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Marla Heller (40:14): One of the first things is to ensure as you get older that you’re having a little bit more protein in your diet, because that is something that helps your body maintain muscle. And the more muscle you maintain as you get older, the better you feel. And it helps to prevent disabilities and so forth. If you can do the things that you want to do and feel like your body is young, then you’re going to be happier. A lot of times it’s these disabilities that really grind on people, whether it’s something where they have a pain syndrome or a bunch of chronic health problems, that can be a problem. One thing we didn’t really talk about through this is a situation called metabolic syndrome, where people tend to gain more weight around the waist, they may have high triglycerides and low HDL, which is a good cholesterol. Their blood pressure may be higher than they would like it to be, and they might not respond as well to insulin as they used to, so their blood sugar may be more on that rollercoaster. All of these diseases go together and they increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. All of those are challenging to deal with through your life. So if you’re choosing a diet plan that helps to naturally lower your blood pressure, naturally healthy with not having your blood sugar be as high, it helps you with keeping your good cholesterol at a good level. Those are all things that are going to make you feel better and help you have a better quality of life for the rest of your life.

Allan (42:04): Good. Marla, thank you so much for that. The book is The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution. If someone wanted to learn more about you or the book and get the book, where would you like for me to send them?

Marla Heller (42:18): The website is DASHDiet.org. That will take them to the site and they can learn about it. We also have the Facebook page that is also The DASH Diet. And we have some support groups for people who are trying to follow the diets. Some people have all kinds of great ideas, they have questions and so forth. The Facebook groups are DASH Diet 2, and the other one for the Mediterranean diet is Med DASH Diet. Those are all good ways.

Allan (43:06): Okay. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/371, and I’ll be sure to have the links there. Marla, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Marla Heller (43:18): Okay. I really appreciated having the opportunity to talk to you.

Allan (43:22): Thank you.

I hope that you enjoyed today’s episode and that you took something valuable from it. I work hard to try to bring the best possible guests to the show. Typically, that’s me reaching out to them. Occasionally, publicists will also reach out to me. But it does take some time to get them scheduled and get them on the show and make sure that we’re giving you the best possible content that I can from their book and from what their thoughts are. And I do hope that you’re getting some value out of each and every episode, because I do put a good bit of time into making sure that happens for you.

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February 25, 2019

Ruby Warrington is sober curious

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Thank you!

In the book Sober Curious, Ruby Warrington explores her relationship with alcohol.

Allan (1:14): Ruby, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Ruby Warrington (1:17): Allan, thank you for having me.

Allan (1:20): I was really happy to be able to review your book, Sober Curious, because a little over a year ago now I did an alcohol challenge. I do like to do challenges for the listener, so I’ll go out there and say, “Let’s do this squat challenge” and I’ll get people to sign up, or, “Let’s do a sugar challenge” and people sign up. I posted for the alcohol challenge and basically the challenge was to not drink for 28 days. I got very interesting feedback from people and it put me into a lot of, I guess what you would call the “sober firsts” – all the uncomfortableness that can happen with that. So I experienced a lot of what you talk about in the book just by doing my 28 days. It was very interesting. But I think what was, I guess, the most tragic was how many people were posting they could never, ever go 28 days without drinking. Even though they knew that the health benefits would be substantial, they just couldn’t take that step. And that’s why I think your book Sober Curious is actually a very good book in the approach that it’s taking, which is very different from a lot of other models that are out there. I guess I want to start with, beyond the basic health aspects and what not, what are the positive side effects that you’ve experienced going through your journey with sober curious?

Ruby Warrington (2:54): First of all, thanks for sharing your story and for sharing the kinds of feedback that you got. I think it’s so interesting, as you pointed out, how we’re prepared to invest so much time, money and energy in looking and feeling great and putting everything into our fitness and wellness regimes, and yet when it comes to alcohol, people are so reluctant to even consider taking it out. I think that just speaks volumes to our emotional attachments to alcohol, whether or not we might perceive ourselves as having a problem with drinking. I think that the thought of 28 days out of your entire life without alcohol, which is a minute in time, I think it speaks volumes really. I guess the biggest benefits for me have been… There are so many, I’m not sure even where to start. I’d say one of the biggest benefits is feeling overall more energized. I think that’s a result of getting repeatedly night after night of properly restorative sleep. I didn’t really realize how poor my sleep quality was until I removed alcohol and began to get properly restorative sleep most nights. I wouldn’t say that that happens every night; of course there are other factors that play into the quality of my sleep, but by and large, my sleep is so much better. And that has a knock-on effect, in terms of my overall energy and vitality. But not only that – the knock-on effect of having that much more energy is I feel more confident, I feel more inspired, I feel more capable, I feel better equipped to deal with whatever my day might want to throw at me. So, better sleep leading to more energy and an overall sense of feeling more like, “I got this!”, just more confident and capable in my life. Those are some of the biggest wellbeing benefits, I suppose. Specifically speaking to fitness I guess, I’m much more inclined to actually get my workouts in. I’m not losing days or letting things slide because I’m feeling hung over or because I’m out drinking. One of my favorite Saturday activities now is to go and do a longer workout in the gym with my husband. Whereas before we might have gone and had a boozy lunch, I suppose. So it gives me more commitment in terms of my overall fitness goals as well. But then you kind of zoom out and all of these things have their own knock-on effects in other areas of my life.

Allan (5:33): Yes. I can see it as a journalist or someone who’s running a business or even just at work, you’re going to be sharper, you’re going to be able to think through things a lot better. Then the other side of it that I think a lot of people dismiss is how much alcohol dehydrates us, and all the downstream effects of being dehydrated. Your kidneys need that liquid to operate properly, so your kidney function is just not there. Obviously we know that there are some liver function issues as well if you’re drinking all the time. There’s so much out there. Now, one of the things that I thought was really important, and you brought this up in the book, was that we need to be careful as we’re going through this. I think this is with anything that we do, where we’re working to improve our health, is to not want to be that person that’s out there evangelizing. Everybody expected me to do that. We’d go out for dinner and I’d order water. Everybody kind of got squeamish about what they were ordering and how much they were drinking and thinking I was watching them. I was like, “No, you do you, I’m doing me. I’m not out here to change you unless you’re interested in joining me on this journey. But this is my 28 days and I’m not here to do anything different.” Can you talk a little bit about that impulse to want to be the evangelist, so to speak, as it comes to this?

Ruby Warrington (7:05): Even I think in traditional recovery circles, there is a phase that’s recognized that’s known as the “evangelical phase”. I think it’s like with anything, if we discover something that has a really amazing benefit to us, we naturally want to share it with the people that we love and we care about. If you discovered a new workout that you’re feeling so psyched about, you would probably…

Allan (7:28): Like the CrossFitters.

Ruby Warrington (7:29): Right. Like I used to be with Bikram Yoga: “You’ve got to try this. It feels so amazing. You’ll love it. You’ll love every minute. It’s going to change your life.” It’s a very natural urge, but I think with something that is so emotionally fraught for a lot of us and can bring up a lot of judgements, be that judgment of other people, judgment of ourselves as well – you have to tread very carefully. I talk in the book and also in my own life, I’m very careful to always talk about this within the context of my own experience, because the other thing that’s important to say is, everybody is different. The way my body processes alcohol and the negative impact that I wound up realizing it was having on me will be very different from the next person. So it’s not really my place, especially considering I’m not a fitness or a medical professional, to go around telling everyone else what they should be consuming or not. All I can really do is just, like you said, live by example, and if someone is intrigued and wants to ask me more, then great. You could also then say, “Well, you just went and wrote a book about it.” But that was largely because since being really open and discussing freely and without shame and without judgment my experience with alcohol, both the problems I realized it was causing me and the benefits I’ve experienced since not drinking, a lot of people have come to me to, not exactly confess, but to say, “Thank you for sharing. Thank you for talking about this openly, because actually now that you mention it, alcohol is not making me feel great and I don’t really feel like I’m a candidate for AA. I don’t feel like I’ve got a problem with drinking. But also it can be really difficult not to. What can we do about this?” So, the book is really for anyone who finds themselves on any level questioning their relationship to alcohol and wanting to investigate further.

Allan (9:30): I think the fact that you wrote a book is a little different than, you’re out with your friends or you’re riding on a bus or driving. I used to always, when I had something important to tell my daughter and I wanted her attention, I would just do it when we were in the car on trips, so she really didn’t have any other distraction. She just hated sometimes going on long trips with me because she knew there were going to be some lectures. But when you put out a book, it’s a little different because someone has to actually make the investment and the time to seek out that information and then go through that content. It’s not like you’re pushing this on them; you’re saying, “Here’s some information. Use it to your benefit where you see fit.”

Ruby Warrington (10:09): This is true. And there are actually very few people in my life that I have even suggested they may benefit from cutting back or stopping drinking. But at the same time, if I see someone struggling, not necessarily struggling with alcohol, but struggling with stress or struggling with a difficult transition in their life or struggling with finding their sense of purpose, I will gently offer the invitation to see what the clarity that comes from not drinking could bring to them. For example, my husband is now sober curious and doesn’t drink too, but that was not at all the case when I first stepped away from drinking or began to cut it out. But through being able to witness how much calmer and more competent and confident I felt about dealing with the problems in my life, he was like, “You know what? I’m going to try this.” Because he was going through a very stressful period at work at the time, and within a few weeks was feeling so much calmer and so much more able to deal with those stressors. So, I think it goes back to that thing, just really living by example, leading by example, which also brings it home to, if people have questions about why you’re not drinking, why you made this choice – be honest about it, be open about it. The more we make excuses or shy away from having a really honest conversation about why we’ve made this choice, the more we make it something to be ashamed of and the more we keep it as a separate experience from everybody else’s experience. But if I can openly stand up and say, “You know what? The hangovers felt really terrible. They were preventing me from feeling like I was living a life that was aligned” – that actually opens up a conversation and most of the time people I find are curious to hear more, because it sparks something within them also.

Allan (12:04): Yes. It may come off as a big surprise – I am a podcaster, but I’m probably one of the world’s biggest introverts in the world. Quite literally, if I go out with my wife to a party, I could go the whole night without speaking to anyone. I listen. I’ll sit back and just listen to people. They think I’m mad or something because I’m just sitting around not talking. But you put a couple of drinks in me and I lighten up, loosen up and I actually let out some more extrovert vibes and am a lot more comfortable in that social situation. That was one situation where I tend to have some alcohol. And another situation for me was stress. I went through a few years recently with deep, dark seated stress every single day at work as we were going through layoffs and things were just a struggle. And I found that a couple of drinks to be a part of a party was okay for me. It didn’t really push me over where I felt like I was not in control. But coupled with the stress was when to me alcohol became less than healthy. I think when people are looking at alcohol, it’s hard for them to see and it’s, “Of course I don’t have a problem.” But I think there are some things we can see in our health and our wellness that would particularly be warning signs that something’s wrong. Do you mind taking a little bit of time to talk about the relationship of your health and wellness and alcohol, and where you can start to see those chinks in the armor?

Ruby Warrington (13:46): I think the story that you just shared is actually a really great example of how alcohol can begin to have a negative impact on our overall quality of life. And I think there is a distinction to be made between using alcohol to kind of amplify fun or, like you said, make it easier to be social. And I have the same problem as you. It’s not a problem, it’s just…

Allan (14:13): It feels like a problem when you’re at the party and it’s like, “Why are you mad?” I’m like, “I’m not mad. I’m just listening.”

Ruby Warrington (14:20): Exactly. I mentioned Susan Cain’s brilliant book on the power of introverts in Sober Curious and talk about how in America particularly there is this sort of extrovert ideal. We’re taught that to be extroverted is to be loved and to be social is to be great. And if you’re not those things, then there’s something wrong with you. Actually no. Many of us I think are probably more introverted than we are allowed to be or than is appreciated. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us or that we’re weird, we have two heads. But I think a lot of people use alcohol for that same reason, as a way to kind of loosen up a little in social situations and make it easier to engage in the kind of small talk that’s not necessarily that interesting to us. That was certainly one of the things that I used it for. But then when we start using it as a way to mask or numb out or press “Pause” on more negative feelings that we’re experiencing – stress, overwork, overwhelm, fear, these sorts of things – is I think when it can very quickly become more of a partner than just a friend, something that we feel like we need and are relying on to feel good or to feel relaxed. Then there’s more of a likelihood that we’ll become negatively attached to it, I suppose. Not to say that we can’t form an emotional attachment with alcohol when we’re using it for, quote unquote, “positive drinking situations” also. This is speaking purely anecdotally, for me and for many people I know, if I’m drinking to suppress negative emotions, when the alcohol wears off and the hangover sets in, it all comes back feeling 10 times more overwhelming. I often say unprocessed feelings never die; they just come back like zombie feelings that want to eat our brains. And I think anyone who’s woken up the morning after a night of drinking to commiserate or to ease a pain or stress will be familiar with that feeling of the crushing disappointment and distress and all of the stress still being there the morning after. Whereas on the flip side, having had a night out with a few drinks where you’ve had a really celebratory and uplifting time, the next morning, even if you’re hung over, can feel kind of lighthearted still. 

So I think ultimately thinking about how we’re using alcohol, whether it’s to amplify fun or to cancel out stress or to numb stress, can have a very different impact on how it actually impacts us. Having said that, I have come to believe that even somebody who’s using alcohol to increase their experience of joy and relaxation and connection, ultimately using a substance for those things is always going to have some kind of a negative physical payoff, versus finding ways to cultivate those things from within. Ultimately, alcohol is a toxin. It creates a very heavy toxic load in our system when it’s metabolized by the body. People are always thinking about and talking about, what’s the best hangover cure? There honestly isn’t one, because it’s the substances that are produced when our liver processes alcohol that cause all of the icky feelings of a hangover. So if you’re drinking alcohol, you’re going to have some kind of a hangover. In terms of my wellbeing and our wellbeing as a society also, I just don’t feel like I have that much time to waste on processing unnecessary toxins out of my system. But going back to the socializing thing, it means that I do a lot more of my socializing during the day now, I do a lot more of my socializing one-on-one, I go to a lot less parties. So, a part of my workaround this has been getting okay with my inner introvert, loving her, and giving her what she needs to have a vibrant social life and good connections with people, which doesn’t necessarily look like the kind of social life that everybody else says I should be having, if that makes sense.

Allan (18:45): It does. The interesting thing was, I met my wife at a bar. And so for the first several years of our relationship, that’s where we would typically want to spend our weekends. And what I find is – in the book you went into it as “emotional intelligence” – I think as we’ve gotten a little more mature, that’s less of something we need when we can just actually spent some time together. We don’t have to be at the bar and we don’t have to be drinking. Having a nice dinner at home sans alcohol is a perfect evening for us now. As you’re looking at emotional intelligence and making better life choices, can you talk about how those are related? You said a little bit earlier when you don’t drink, you wake up the next day more energized, with better thought processes. That kind of snowballs, right?

Ruby Warrington (19:48): This thing about emotional intelligence, there’s a whole chapter on this in the book. We don’t get taught in school how to listen and respond to our emotions, and then in the wider society, some emotional and feeling states are celebrated and others are to be avoided at all costs. When ultimately all of our feelings are there to help guide us towards the right decisions for us, whether to guide us towards more of what’s good for us or whether to guide us away from things that are maybe not so much in alignment. And when we’re manipulating our feeling states, whether it’s to feel more good feelings or feel less bad feelings, we become disconnected from what’s giving rise to those feelings in the first place. So this idea of emotional intelligence is really about learning how to be with any of our feelings as and when they’re arising, so that we can really understand what’s giving rise to those feelings, and then begin to make decisions for ourselves and our lives based on how we feel about what’s happening. Maybe that sounds quite simple, and it can be. If it’s not something we’ve been taught how to do and we’re not used to even having that kind of inner dialogue with ourselves, it can feel a little confusing or overwhelming at first, but it is absolutely natural. And taking alcohol out of the equation really allows us to touch base deeply with how we’re feeling. 

A little bit about what you said, in terms of not feeling like you need alcohol in your relationship anymore. I don’t know if you experienced this at all, but for myself, I’ve always had a fantastic relationship with my husband, so it’s been very easy and we’ve always felt very connected to each other, I suppose. And similarly with many of my close friendships. But actually removing alcohol from those relationships, both with my partner and with other friends, I’ve experienced an even deeper level of emotional intimacy, I suppose, that I don’t think I could have experienced if we’d continued drinking together. It can be as simple as telling my husband or hearing from him some stressful things that have been going on in our lives, sober. We really feel the impact of that and we really feel the impact of each other being able to empathize with one another, and it’s a very holistic conversation. If we’d been having the same conversation in a bar over a couple of drinks, there’s always a slight disconnect, because there’s always a lens between you and the actual physical experience of being in that conversation. Again, I hope that makes sense.

Allan (22:32): It does.

Ruby Warrington (22:34): There’s a nakedness almost when you’re communicating and communing with people when there’s no alcohol, if you can muster the courage.

Allan (22:47): The way I think about it is, you’re talking more in the first person when you’re sober than when you’re drinking. When you’re drinking, all those bad thoughts, all those things are almost as if you’re telling someone else’s story.

Ruby Warrington (23:01): Yes.

Allan (23:01): Because you’re not really experiencing them in the moment.

Ruby Warrington (23:04): It’s a really good way of putting it. Yes, exactly. And that for me has been another revelation, really. I’ve had that situation with family members as well. I feel so much more connected to my brother now, and to my mother – both my parents actually – just as a result of being fully present in all of our communications.

Allan (23:24): Absolutely. Now, you go with the concept of sober curious, so I want to circle back around to that, because you have a definition – you call it “sober curious”, and then you have “sober sober”. I think there are people who are really good at moderation and there are people who are not. You had to go through this experience to figure this out, and that’s what kind of led you to the concept of “sober curious”. The way I pull that all together was with that simple question that you ask: Would my life be better without alcohol?

Ruby Warrington (24:02): It sounds so simple.

Allan (24:03): It does sound simple, but that’s where the depth of this book came from. It was not, “Sober Curious: Alcohol’s bad for you. Don’t drink anymore. The end.” Your book was a lot deeper because it really talked about these concepts of abstinence versus saying you’re going to allow yourself the intelligent decision when and how you’re going to use alcohol. And actually that’s led you to use alcohol much less.

Ruby Warrington (24:35): Absolutely. For me, this feels like a very sustainable approach to changing my drinking habits in the long term. Ultimately I had got to a point where I realized that needed to happen through repeated attempts at moderation. And by that I mean saying I’ll only ever drink two glasses of wine, or I’ll only ever drink at the weekend, or I’ll only ever drink on vacation. Invariably that would lead to me drinking as much as I had been before, which in my case I was probably drinking four nights a week, moderately to heavily, I suppose – heavily at the weekends and a few glasses of wine maybe during the week. So, this idea of being sober curious is really about allowing yourself the space rather than… I’ll backtrack a little bit. So the moderation didn’t work for me. The idea of complete abstinence for me was almost like putting alcohol on this pedestal of dangerous, unacceptable, but also still special. This is so pleasurable that as soon as I drank it again, I’m not going to be able to resist and I’ll be back where I was before. It almost kept it in that kind of vibe for me. Whereas I have taken alcohol off the pedestal, just put it on the ground in front of me, I’ve been like, “I’m going to look at you, I’m going to examine you. I’m going to be really, really honest with myself in this questioning of my relationship to alcohol.” And as a result of that, completely allow alcohol to become something different in my life, almost recategorize alcohol in my life. So, the sober curious questioning really means to ask a question any time there’s an impulse, an invitation or an expectation to drink, whether it’s an expectation on your part or in the eyes of others. And they may be questions like, “How is this drink really going to make me feel now, in an hour, by the end of the night, tomorrow? Why is there so much pressure for me to drink? Why do I feel the need to drink in this situation, rather than just showing up as myself? What’s going to be the longer term impact if I continue drinking regularly, socially, on my life?” And like I said, being really honest with your answers to those questions. For me it’s led me to a point where I now have almost recategorized alcohol as a Class A substance, to be treated with extreme caution. It’s just off the table for me, but not in a way that it’s prohibited; in a way that I have no need for that in my life, in the same way that I have no need for heroin in my life.

Allan (27:18): Absolutely. I was thinking about this concept in relation to my lifestyle and the things that I’m doing. One of the things that I enjoy is I will go through what I call periods of feast and periods of famine. I’m down here in the South and I love college football. Unfortunately, or fortunately maybe, we’ve moved to Panama, and being in Panama, I’m not going to have a real football season this year. I’m not going to be able to go to tailgating and do those things, which was one of those moments where I felt pressured to drink, because I wanted to be an extrovert, I wanted to have a lot more fun, I wanted to have all those different feelings and expressions and things that would go on, and watch a great football game, and then probably have a few drinks after the game. I thought in terms of, I’m using football as my excuse to drink. And now I’m not going to go to as many football games so I’m not going to have that in my life. Part of this is, what are the types of situations where you would drink and then deciding, “I’m just not going to drink at those.” The other side of it is saying, “How much would I miss not doing that if it really came down to me deciding I wanted to have less alcohol in my life because I want to feel sharp or be smarter, have more energy and not be damaging my health?” I’ll round it up for me to say I probably need to have fewer drinking events in my life.

Ruby Warrington (28:55): I guess that is one way to think about it. And I like the fact that you identified, “I was using this football experience as an excuse to drink.” If you try moderating by saying, “I’m only going to drink on special occasions” – is the occasion or the drink that’s special? Would you still want to participate in this thing if there wasn’t any alcohol? Would it still be a special occasion for you? That’s, again, something to question. Why is the alcohol so special to you? Why is it so hard to relax in those situations? Why is it so hard to bond and feel the comradery that you want to experience without alcohol? And that’s when we get into some of the deeper questions. I also will say there’s no shame at any point in this questioning process to seek professional help if you reach a point where you’re like, “I don’t understand or I don’t like what I’m discovering about myself and my experience.” I don’t attend AA and I’m not in 12-step recovery and I’m not abstinent. I’m not teetotal even. But I do think that for someone who is having difficulty in answering these questions, the community aspect of an organization like AA is amazing, because it really offers unlimited free peer-to-peer support, which we experience in very few areas in life, particularly in health and wellness. I think that those questions can get kind of deep. But the simple answer might be, “I prefer watching football at home on the TV. That’s actually a more relaxing and enjoyable experience for me. And in fact, if there are three guys out of that group who I really want to hang out with, then I can meet one of them and we’ll do a workout together and we’ll have a great bonding session that way.”

Allan (30:40): When I get an opportunity, if I’m in the country, I will go and watch a football game. I’m now much more aware because I was going through your book and saying, “These are things I’m doing and these are the reasons I’m doing them.” I had not really thought about it before. I’ll probably still try to go to a football game if I can get back in the country for one, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse that I have to drink. It’s going to be, “There’s an event and I’m there. I don’t need to necessarily stop by the liquor store on the way in. Just go to the game, enjoy the game, enjoy my time with my friends and make that what the event’s about.” So it really was an association, but now that I’m much more cognizant of that, have that self-awareness to say that, it’s probably going to change my behavior when I do those things.

Ruby Warrington (31:30): Absolutely. And that’s the thing – it brings us back around to the concept you mentioned earlier of “sober firsts”, which is recognizing what those situations are and then going, “I’m obviously going to go to my best friend’s wedding. I’m not just going to not go because I’m not going to be drinking. Okay, I’m just going to go and show up and see what happens.” Basically this freaks our brains out. I started associating drinking with being comfortable in social situations probably around age 14 or 15, which is when alcohol first started to infiltrate, I suppose. And if I been teaching my brain for 25+ years that I need alcohol in those situations, and then I choose not to have alcohol in those situations – that’s some pretty deeply ingrained neural pathways that I’m choosing to go against. I’m literally going against the grain. So, your brain is going to be going, “What are you doing?” But then you show up and these experiences can be so empowering, which is why I say do not ever shy away from the sober firsts. You need to go, you need to experience how much fun and connection you can have without alcohol. And slowly over time you’ll realize that you don’t need alcohol in any of these situations and that you can actually have just as much fun and feel just as connected without it. You may end up going home a little bit earlier. That’s often what happens with me – I get tired faster without the numbing of alcohol. And then the other thing to say is that if you’re not drinking and everyone else around you is drinking heavily, after a few hours, there’s going to start to be a disconnect in conversation and things like that. And again, nothing wrong with that on either side of the fence, and no shame at all in taking yourself home early and saying, “That was great, I had fun. And that’s going to be the end of the night for me.”

Allan (33:24): Yes. I’m going to have, I guess I’ll call it a sober first. I’ve done this before. One of the interesting things was when I was 16, because I wanted to really focus on football and I saw that alcohol was not helping me be better at football – it wasn’t helping anyone I knew be better at football – I stopped drinking. And as soon as I finished football, I was into college and I was like, “I’m majoring in physics. I can’t do this. I’ve got to study and make good grades. And I’m working all the time to pay my way through.” And then it was like, “Now I’m in the army. I have to be alert. They’re going to call me up at any moment. I could be in a combat situation. I don’t want to have that in the way.” And then I was back in college and then building a family and all those different things. And it wasn’t until I felt like I’ve accomplished the things that I set out to accomplish in my life. I was 32; I had at that point a good job. I was going through a pretty stressful period of time, and I said, “I’ll have a drink.” And that drink became me becoming a regular drinker. It’s not something I ever envisioned myself being. And now I’m on the other side of this saying, “What would my life be like? Would it be better if I took that step back?” One of the interesting things that’s going on as we record this – tonight, as soon as I get through here, I’m going to take a shower, get ready, and then we’re headed over to one of my friend’s houses for a party. The thing is though, she lives in hour away. So, to be sober driving back, I’m just not going to drink tonight. I made that decision, I’ll be the designated driver. I’m going to have to be social, but I know I’ll probably be a little bit more of the introvert of the party. But it’s one of those experiments and a sober first where I’m going to go through this process of figuring out how to have those conversations, to have that fun, to express myself without having to use the liquid courage.

Ruby Warrington (35:27): So what are your tactics going to be?

Allan (35:30): Lots of water.

Ruby Warrington (35:31): Lots of water. This is controversial in recovery circles, but I’m not in recovery so it’s fine for me to talk about it. If you’ve ever been a beer drinker, I really enjoy alcohol-free beer. I guess it has a placebo effect – it feels like drinking a beer and it kind of looks like drinking a beer.

Allan (35:47): And you feel comfortable. When I did the 28-day challenge, I did try it. I sampled various versions. I did find that the British versions were better, by the way.

Ruby Warrington (35:56): Yes. Europe is miles ahead when it comes to alcohol-free beer. Yes, indeed.

Allan (36:02): Yes, they are. We won’t name any names, but I did enjoy particularly the British versions that I was able to get here. It was fun to experiment with, and it does feel better. You’re holding something in your hands that makes you feel like you’re part of everything and it makes others feel more comfortable around you too. Probably not going to do that tonight though. I’m just going to do straight water and go with it that way.

Ruby Warrington (36:26): Good for you. And I think as well in social situations, beginning the conversations with questions, having a bunch of questions for people in your back pocket that aren’t necessarily like, “What do you do?” or, “Where do you live?”, but feeling safe to ask some more intimate or more intriguing questions. I suppose it helps to take the focus off “How awkward am I feeling? What’s my experience?”, and really open your focus up to, “Who’s everyone? Who are these people? What can I learn here tonight?”

Allan (36:59): Yes. I want to close off with one last question, and it doesn’t have to be related to the book or alcohol at all. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Ruby Warrington (37:19): For me, it’s slightly related to the book, but just in general, prioritizing my sleep is an absolute must. The knock-on effect of not getting proper sleep is something I feel physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. It’s really profound for me. So prioritizing sleep is definitely a big one, and that for me means having a really regimented, is the right word, but it sounds really strict and not fun. Just a really regular sleep routine, I suppose. I’m generally in bed by 9:30, so I can have half an hour with no screens to read a novel, to be putting my head on the pillow before 10:30. And I find that staying in that routine every night, weeknights and weekend really helps me stay in a great sleep cycle that generally helps me feel in optimal wellness all the time. A couple of other things. I stopped eating meat in 2010. That had a really huge impact as well on my overall sense of wellbeing. And the thing I didn’t mention about another one of the huge benefits for me of cutting out alcohol is that I had previously suffered from quite persistent, if not dramatic, IBS symptoms. That lessened dramatically after I stopped eating meat, but when I cut out alcohol it completely went away and I don’t have any gut issues anymore. Anyone who’s experienced IBS or digestive problems, it can really have a detrimental effect overall on your sense of wellbeing. So I guess those things – looking after my gut, getting really good sleep are probably at the core. It almost goes without saying, but I do some kind of movement practice every day and I meditate every day. Those are the other things, but I’d say with the sleep and the gut health, I could probably be pretty good with those.

Allan (39:20): Awesome. Ruby, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness. If someone wanted to learn more about you or the book Sober Curious, where would you like for me to send them?

Ruby Warrington (39:31): I recently reinstated my personal Instagram account, which is @rubywarrington, and that has most of the information. I’ll be posting about all the events, readings, etcetera, about the book that are coming up. I’ll be hosting a couple of retreats in the U.S. this spring and summer – one on the West Coast in May and one on the East Coast in July. And my website is The-Numinous.com, which is a whole other conversation, but a part of what I do is I have a spiritual wellness website called The Numinous. So yeah, you can find me there or @rubywarrington on Instagram.

Allan (40:08): Okay. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/370 and I’ll be sure to have the links there. Ruby, again, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Ruby Warrington (40:19): Thank you so much for having me. This was really fun.

Allan (40:25): Ruby certainly gives us some food for thought as it comes to alcohol and alcohol consumption. So I hope you take this to heart and that this episode was able to help you. And if you do find what I’m doing here – the podcast, the book and all of that valuable, I really would appreciate if you would give us a vote on the Author Academy Awards. I’m really, really interested in becoming a finalist for this award so I can go up there and be a part of the community. So if you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA, you can go ahead and vote. We’re in category for “Health”, and right now that’s on something like page 7 of 16, so you have to scroll through a bit before you find it. Find the cover for The Wellness Roadmap, and go ahead and click on that and give us a vote. They’ll let you vote one time, so please do go out and do that. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA and vote for The Wellness Roadmap today. Thank you.

Kathleen Trotter – Your fittest future self

Kathleen Trotter returns to the 40+ Fitness Podcast to talk about her new book, Your Fittest Future Self.

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  • Judy Murphy

Thank you!

Allan (1:06): Kathleen, welcome to 40+ Fitness again.

Kathleen Trotter (1:10): I’m so excited to be back. I feel like you’re like my brother or something. Our messages totally overlap, so it’s great. Wonderful podcast. We have a similar vision in health and fitness.

Allan (1:23): I was reading through your book, I found so many parallels to the way that we think about health and fitness. I love particularly that you, probably more than most that I’ve talked to, understand the value of happiness and the value of the taking this journey and how we have to put this all together.

Kathleen Trotter (1:48): What’s the point of being active and thin if you hate every single moment of it? It’s supposed to enrich your life, not detract from your life. I think about my parents a lot with this, because my dad is 77 now. He plays hockey four days a week, he rides his bike all around Montreal, which is super hilly. He farms potatoes, and it’s because he’s so active. And he’s so joyful. Every day I call him the farm and he’s like, “I just picked potatoes, and I was out for a walk.” He just has this quality of life. Same thing with my mom – she walks the dog, she gardens. I can’t imagine them if they weren’t active. They never wake up in the morning and think, “Ugh, I have to go for a walk, or have to walk the dog.” It’s a privilege to move in that way for them, and that really helped me and why I move. If I’m in a bad mood, I get to go for a walk and put me in a better mood. I get to see my friends and go to a fitness class. It’s a joyful thing.

Allan (2:45): Yes. I think that’s one of the missing points so many people have out there. There’s that, and then I think the other one is that so many people – and I’m partially at fault for this because I kind of view things as a journey as well – is that we’re going to get there, that there’s some form of destination.

Kathleen Trotter (3:03): Yeah, there is no end point.

Allan (3:04): In the book you came up with the Kathleen Cycle. Can you go through that Kathleen Cycle a little bit, because I think that pretty much articulates the way you see this?

Kathleen Trotter (3:16): The cycle is, you act and you learn from that act, and then you take that learning and then you act again. I’ll break it down a little bit. I was a really unfit, unhappy, unhealthy teenager. I think one of the reasons why I was so unhappy for a long time is that I felt I had to be perfect tomorrow, and that if I had a cookie, that was the end of it and I might as well just crawl into my bed again. And the thing about a growth mindset, which is that cycle of you acting and reflecting, is every experience is an opportunity to reflect and act and learn. So, you get out of that shame cycle, like, “I’m this terrible person, I might as well quit now.” And instead you’re like, “Oh, interesting. I had a cookie. Okay. Am I happy that I had that cookie? Is this something that I loved and savored? And if so, fine. But did I have a cookie because I was crabby at 3:00 in the afternoon and had low blood sugar? Did I have a cookie because I didn’t eat a good lunch? Or was I sad or depressed or angry? And if that’s the case, how do I learn from this experience and how do I go forward from there?” So if you had the cookie at 3:00 because you didn’t have a good enough lunch, maybe you skipped lunch altogether, then tomorrow you have to get a better lunch. It allows you to sort of step back and objectively look at all your choices and instead of shame spiraling into more bad choices, you can learn from it and make better choices tomorrow. I also think that it makes your history seem like a good thing. A lot of people think, “I’ve been unfit for 30 years”, or 20 years or 40 years or whatever, “And I’ve never managed to change the tides before. So why should I even start?” And what I say to people is that as soon as you use that Kathleen Cycle, as soon as you have a growth mindset, that everything you’ve done in the past is not a negative; it’s just taking you to this part in your process. So, if when you were in high school you loved playing hockey, then maybe what you need is to play hockey. Or if you loved running, or the only time you’ve ever been healthy and fit is when you worked out with a friend, then maybe you need to get a fitness buddy. You can look back at your history and say, “When have I been successful and how can I replicate those things? And when have I not been as successful and how can I not do that?” If it’s your birthday and you’re like, “This year I’m going to get fit” – look at the last 20 years and think when you have best been on the health course. And then go with those things. It’s more optimistic, it’s positive, but it’s also extremely helpful if you could learn from your experiences versus beating yourself up about them.

Allan (6:00): Yes. My favorite part of that is the act, because even a small step forward can be a huge momentum booster for your wellness. And when you are acting, at least you’re doing something positive for yourself. So I really like that aspect of the way your cycle works.

Kathleen Trotter (6:20): I love that. Acting is really key because we often put off for tomorrow what we can do today. I love what you just said – any small step. If you think about the final coin that makes you a millionaire – yes, it’s that final coin, but it’s all the coins that came before. Or that final step up the mountain. But you have to start at the bottom of the mountain. So, all of those little steps seem like nothing at the time, but eventually they accumulate and then you have your health drops all add up and your health bucket is overflowing. But if you never act, you never get that final step where you feel good about yourself. You have more energy, you’re sleeping better. And small things are so much more accomplishable. If you say, “Tomorrow I have to be down 20 pounds” – you’ll never start. But if you say, “Today I’m going to drink a little bit more water and get a few more steps” – you can do that in the next five minutes.

Allan (7:19): Yes. I think that’s where the disconnect for a lot of folks is. They look forward and say, “I’ve got this big distance to go.” And when they slip or anything goes wrong, they’re so tied up in that, that they won’t take the moment to look back and say, “Look how far up the mountain I’ve actually gone.” And they can do that for themselves based on the good things that they’ve done. I’m not a big fan of self-comparisons, but you can actually look at it and say, “I’ve done a lot of good things for my health and I haven’t done a lot of these bad things that I know that other people have done.” And use those for the moments to say, “I’m on a ledge. I’m not on a plateau, I’m on a ledge; and if I keep moving across this ledge, I’m going to be able to work my way up the mountain again soon. I just have to keep taking those little steps.”

Kathleen Trotter (8:16): Yeah, the next positive step forward, no matter how small you need to take. I think part of it is that people look at somebody like you or me, who’s written a health book and they think, “Those people never fall, they never deviate.”

Allan (8:29): You haven’t read my book yet, but I share…

Kathleen Trotter (8:35): If you haven’t read my book, I talk about that in the book as well. What I mean is when they look at us on image, on social media or even just the stereotype of that fit person, a lot of people think, “They’re perfect. They found motivation on the side of the road.” My point is that failing or falling or deviating off course, having those wobbles – that’s an inherent part of any process. So as soon as you think you have to be perfect, you might as well never start. It’s so disheartening. But as soon as you realize that it’s not about not falling, it’s about falling slightly less far, slightly less hard, slightly less intensely, and course-correcting really quickly, and then learning from the experience. Ten years ago, maybe my, quote unquote, “fall” would have been a couple of days I would’ve deviated off course. Maybe 15 years ago, I would’ve deviated for three or four days. And now it’s like if I have some chocolate at dinner, the next day I wake up and I go for a walk or go for a run or whatever. I still sort of deviate or have moments when I compare myself unproductive with other people, or I don’t have the best internal dialogue, or I skip a workout, or whatever it is. But my falls are slightly less intense and I definitely course-correct faster. I think that’s the trick. I think everybody listening has to know that falling and getting up is an inherent part of life. That’s not a deviation from the process. That is the process of getting healthier and learning which situations you’re more likely to fall in, so you can plan in advance not to do that. I love chocolate for example, so I don’t have it in my house, because I know that if I have it in my house I will eventually eat it. I don’t particularly love chips, so if my partner James wants to have chips in the house, that doesn’t really matter to me because I won’t eat them. We have sort of a rule where he doesn’t bring chocolate in house because he knows that is my weakness. So if I want chocolate, I go to my mom’s house. I have a nice beautiful little piece of chocolate, I savor it with her. Or James and I go on a date and we get some beautiful, high quality chocolate ice cream, and walk around. And we make it more special.

Allan (10:51): Absolutely, yes. In the book you share what you call the “13 goals for your fittest future self”. Do you mind sharing those goals and briefly going through each one?

Kathleen Trotter (11:02): Absolutely. I think the first one we’ve really talked about. It’s the learning through falling and knowing that falling is not a bad thing; it’s part of the process. I think the trick with that is that if you know you eventually are going to fall, when that happens… And when I say “fall”, let’s take a cookie. So, people who think that a wobble is the end of the road, think, “I already had one; I might as well have five.” But if you know you’re going to make mistakes, then you can say, “I’ve had one cookie, but one cookie is not the same as five cookie.” Or one glass of wine is not the same as five glasses. Portions do count. Another example would be, let’s say you have to miss a workout for some work event. Something gets called and you were going to go to the gym after work. Instead of being like, “Oh crap, I missed my workout so I might as well have some cookies at the office party” or whatever event you’re going to, have some fried food and continue down the shame spiral; you say to yourself, “Okay, I missed the workout, but that’s okay. I don’t also have to have a glass of wine. I don’t also have to have dessert. And maybe while I’m going to the work party, I walk there, as opposed to taking a cab or the subway or something like that.” So, it’s about understanding that if you do veer off of your plan, always have a Plan B, a Plan C, and then learn from it. 

The second one is really connected, which is awareness. I always say that awareness brings choice. I think a big part of our health conundrum is that most of us aren’t aware of what we do. We’re not aware of what we eat, we’re not aware of our movement, we’re not aware of our sleep patterns, how much water we drink. So, it’s really worth keeping a journal for a couple of weeks and seeing what you’re eating, what you’re feeling. That’s a big thing. A lot of us eat when we’re angry or sad or tired. So, if you could connect, “I’m always eating sugar on days that I don’t get enough sleep”, then that might motivate you to sleep. In general, being more aware will help you take what I called a “pause”. A lot of people say to me, “I ate a cookie and had a glass of wine and then some ice cream. But it wasn’t until after I ate it that I realized what I’d done.” So I say to people, before you eat anything, just take a moment and pause and say, “Will my future self be happy if I eat this? Do I want this? Will this make me happier? Do I just want to phone a friend? Am I seeking comfort?” And that’s really connected to living as if you love yourself, which is tip number three. I often say to my clients that you have to learn to parent yourself. It’s amazing how many parents will say to me, “Kathleen, I had to eat that chocolate bar because I was out doing errands and I was starving.” And I’ll say to them, “Interesting. Were you with your kids? Were they with you?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah.” And I ask, “What did you feed them?” The parent will be like, “I had some almonds in my purse for them” or, “I made sure they’d had a healthy lunch.” So, a lot of us are able to parent others or they’re able to parent their parents or a loved one, and we fall short on ourselves. Sometimes it’s just giving yourself as much love and attention and awareness as we give to others. They’re all connected. 

Number four is being your non-judgmental best friend. I think a lot of us have these really evil roommates living in our heads. We’re telling ourselves we’re not good enough and speaking to ourselves so meanly. People will often repeat their inner dialogue to me, and I’ll say, “If you lived with that person – if that was your husband or your wife, or your roommate, you could just tell them to get out the door, right? You wouldn’t put up with that.” But for some reason we put up with things in our own heads – that just doesn’t make any sense to me. So again, it circles back to loving yourself enough to be aware of your dialogue, maybe journal, see what you’re thinking and break it down. Stop using this sort of belittling self-talk, because the belittling self-talk often can lead to forms of self-sabotage. So that’s tip number five, is getting out of the ways that we all self-sabotage. And one of the big ones is this negative brain propaganda: “I’m going to mess up. I might as well not even try. I failed so many times in the past. This meal doesn’t count, I’ll be better tomorrow. I deserve…” A big one in the self-sabotage is this “I deserve” mentality: “I deserve this cookie, I’ve worked so hard today.” And I’m not arguing don’t eat the cookie. Again, I love what I call my “love it” rule, which is, have moderate amounts of food you love, but don’t do it because you, quote unquote, “deserve” it. That’s a way of letting yourself off the hook. Decide you want it because you love it, but do you deserve to be putting bad food in your body? No, what you deserve for your health is go for a walk or have some water. We justify really bad behaviors with our internal dialogue. 

And a lot of it is connected to number six, which is being curious about who you are and what you like. A lot of people fall into this, “I’m not the type of person who does X.” So I’ll say to them, “Maybe you should have a little bit of extra protein at breakfast.” And they’ll go, “I don’t eat protein at breakfast. I have cereal.” Or I’ll say, “Why don’t you consider going to the gym with a friend?” “No, I don’t want to go with a friend.” Whatever it is, there’s always an excuse for every solution. So I always tease my clients that you’ve got to be somebody who finds solutions versus excuses. And be curious, because the worst that happens is you try something and you don’t like it, and then you don’t have to do it again. Just because you try a workout doesn’t mean you have to do it. A great example for me is yoga. For years I’m like, “I’m not a person who does yoga. Yoga is not my jam.” And then a couple of months ago I was thinking I needed something, and I said I’m going to do a 21-day yoga challenge, because something was wrong. Not wrong with my body, but I just felt like I needed something a little bit different. And by the end of the 21 days, I really enjoyed yoga. Now, I will never be somebody who does two hours of yoga a day, but I now do 10 to 15 minutes at the end of all my runs and I feel so much better. And I’m 35, not 25, so I think that’s part of it. What you need changes as you get older, but being curious is so, so important. And worst case is you don’t like it. My mom once came to a spin class with me; I was teaching it. We finished the spin class and she got off the bike and she looked at me and said, “Kathleen, I love you, and I will never do that again.” She literally hated it. She looked like she was going to vomit. But she loves yoga and she loves walking her dog. So she has found her fit in those things, but I really appreciate that she was willing to come try it. And then she didn’t like it, so she let it go. 

Number seven is that your body’s not a garbage can, so don’t put crap into it; don’t treat it like one. Again, have small amounts of treats that you love. And rest is really important. So I’m not arguing that you should never watch a movie and I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t take downtime. I love my meditation, I love my sleep, but I also am very aware of the quality of meats that I put into my food, the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables, the amount of water, and everything in moderation. And if I do decide to have chocolate, I try to make it better quality. I think of what my body needs, and the fuel that it needs, so good quality of food that’s going to fill me with energy and allow me to do all the things I want to do. Tip number eight is the idea of always eating from the top tiers of the cake, which is a visual that I love. If you think of a wedding cake, the top tier would maybe be one treat. So for me, one or two Lindt chocolates. The second tier might be three or four Lindt chocolates. Each of the tiers gets more, and by the time you get down to the bottom end of the cake, it’s like 3,000-4,000 calories. That’s where you have spiraled out of control and it’s, “I already had two pieces of chocolate so I might as well have four, and then I might as well have some wine, and then I might as well have a beer.” The problem is that it’s really hard to come back from the bottom tier of the cake. A lot of people will go out and go on this binge and eat 3,000 or 4,000 calories, and then they’ll say to me, “Kathleen, I’m going to be really good and I’m going to get back on track”. Then they’re really good for a couple of days, which is great, but that doesn’t really bring them back to where they started. So if you continually go to tier 10 and continually are only good for two or three days, it’s this negative spiral. If you only ever go the top two tiers of the cake, you stay relatively healthy and you can always go for a walk, go for a run. You can be healthy for a week or so and get back to your normal. That’s hard around the holidays, but it’s really important around holidays or your birthday or any of the big celebrations, because it’s easy to sort of let a birthday go for an entire month, and every celebration you eat tier 8, and then by the end of the month you’re like, “Oh my God, I feel terrible.” But if at every celebration you said instead, “I’m going to pick the one thing I love and do that, and then I’m also going to go for a walk.” 

Connected to that is number nine, which is demanding more of yourself, and connected to that is having compassion for yourself, but having compassion and demanding more because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself. It’s holding yourself to a higher standard because you want to have energy and you want to be the fittest self that you can be. That’s connected to tip number 10, which is thriving in your own lane. So, don’t compare yourself to others. You’re what your version of fit is. Work within your genetics. My dad always says, “Take your genetics and hit them out in the park.” You don’t need to look like your favorite celebrity. Doesn’t matter what the best workout for them is. It only matters what works for you and what’s best for you. It doesn’t matter what somebody else’s version of fit is, it doesn’t matter if they want to go to CrossFit. I think you mentioned that in our pre-talk. If CrossFit is not your jam, if that’s not your version of fit, that’s fine. My mom’s walking the dog and doing yoga – that’s great. Just know you, do you, and demand enough of yourself to be the best version of you that you can be. That’s connected to this idea that health is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You can’t change all of your unhealthy habits all in one day. This is really connected to what you were talking about earlier – taking small steps, at every moment being like, “What’s the one small little thing I can do better?” If you’re looking at a plate of food, maybe you have a little bit more vegetables and a little bit less of the unhealthy white carbs, or maybe you have a little bit more water. Or instead of having two glasses of wine, maybe you have two glasses of white wine spritzer. It’s the little choices that you make, and understanding that however long it took you to create an unhealthy habit, it takes a long time for a newer, healthier habit. That’s that marathon idea, a marathon without a final end date. It just keeps going and the process continues. 

Then the last two are very connected and they’re: learning to have greater inner stability, and deal with stress. I think that the inner stability is really connected to knowing that you are going to wobble, but you have to have the mechanisms ready for when you do wobble. You have to know your triggers. You have to know that life is going to be stressful, so how are you going to deal with that? Instead of thinking, “When my stressful time in life is done, then I’ll get healthy”, you have to think, “Life is always some level of stress. So the health has to start now, and I have to put steps together today that are going to help me in future maybe more stressful times.” I know for example the more stressed I am, the more important it is for me to take moments to meditate and to sleep and to go for walks. Those things really calm me down. And if you can create the healthy habits in slightly lesser times of stress, then when you’re actually in stress hopefully you’ll be able to maintain them. It’s about doing you and knowing you. I find team sports extremely stressful and anxiety-producing. So for me, if I am already stressed, going out and playing a team sport is not going to make me feel better. It’s going to make it worse. But for example, my dad loves hockey, or my boyfriend James loves baseball. Those things really de-stress him. If he’s really stressed at work, he knows he wants to go play golf with a bunch of his friends. So, it’s about knowing you and setting up systems that save yourself from your future self.

Allan (24:22): Each of those are wonderful in their own right. I think it’s good for someone to take some time to go through each of those.

Kathleen Trotter (24:30): That’s a lot. I just gave a lot of information.

Allan (24:31): It is a lot. I don’t want everyone to get overwhelmed and think they have to do all of those things. You can look at each of them and say, “Where do I stand on this one thing?” Where you’re talking about the top of the wedding cake for example – I know I’m more of an “all or nothing” type of person, so I’m actually going to skip on the snacks, because I know if I start the snacks, it’s going to start me on that same spiral that you were talking about. So, that self-awareness is looking at that and saying, “Am I a moderation type person or not?” Demand more out of yourself. This is not about you being a drill sergeant. The way I look at it is, if I told my wife I was going to pick her up at the airport at 5:00 a.m., I would be at the airport at 5:00 a.m. If I tell myself I’m going to go to the gym at 5:00 a.m., I’m going to the gym at 5:00 a.m.

Kathleen Trotter (25:32): Absolutely. It’s connected to the “living like you love yourself”. Parenting yourself or treating yourself like you would your spouse – I love that. I think your wife is very lucky to have you.

Allan (25:43): No, I’m very lucky to have her. And if I didn’t pick her up I’d be sleeping on the couch. But I think each of those, as you go through, take some time to do some self-awareness meditation, for a lack of a better word, where you just take the time and say, “Is this an area where I can get a big movement? Is this going to move the needle for me if I really focus on this one right now?” And you’re going to find one or two, or maybe even three, four, five or six of those that are going to give you a push in the right direction. It’s much the same when I talk about the GPS and I say we’ve got to look for those things in our psyche, in our head, in our mind and in our body that are going to work for us, and those things that won’t work for us. And those ones that are, that’s where the need of this is. That’s where you’re going to get that big movement. So these 13 are a really good primer for you to go through that thought process to understand where you’re going to be able to focus first and get the most results early.

Kathleen Trotter (26:55): I love it, and it’s so important to have this understanding that you are a unique being and what will work for somebody else won’t work for you. I think a great, slightly funny example is, one of my key Kathleenisms for myself is, the worst my mood, the more important my workout. For me, working out is really about my mood. If I’m in a bad mood, that’s when I know I have to go for a walk or for a run. I was speaking to one of my clients the other day and she said, “Kathleen, I tried to use your motto of ‘the worst my mood, the more important my workout.’ But then I said to myself I’m really not in a very bad mood. I’m in a better mood than I thought I was, so I definitely don’t have to work out.” So we just laughed. It’s a great example of how that motto doesn’t work for her, but for me it’s so powerful. All of my book is about exactly what you said – read it and if it works for you, use it, and if it doesn’t, move on to what does. As you said about knowing if you come from moderation and if you can have a few snacks or not. I love the idea of red foods, yellow foods and green foods. So for me, I am not very good at moderation with a few foods like chocolate, but I’m very good at moderation with most other foods. I know that my red foods are my no-go foods; they’re my foods that if I start, I can’t stop. So, I can’t have them in the house. That could be a helpful thing for people out there. But again, it goes back to understanding who you are. Maybe you’re a moderate person in some situations and not others. My mom is amazing. She literally will have a bite of a shortbread cookie, which is her “love it” food, and then put that shortbread cookie away. But I couldn’t do that if it was in the house. So, it’s all about knowing you and using what works for you. Knowing that the end result, the end goal is to be a fitter, happier version of you, and anything that’s going to get you there, that’s what you have to embrace.

Allan (28:59): I like that you brought up that we’re all genuinely unique in the way we need to approach our nutrition, our fitness and our mindset. You like putting together programs, I guess, or thinking about how you’re going to improve yourself. You look at it from a form of making mixes, like the mixed tapes we used to make when we were kids. Can you talk about the concept of mixes and how they would apply to nutrition, fitness and mindset?

Kathleen Trotter (29:34): It came about from a conversation I was having with my best friend Emily. We’ve been friends since grade 10. We were sitting having pedicures, and she always likes to ask me these questions. I think that day was about intermittent fasting, but in general, she’ll say, “What do you think of this workout?” or, “What do you think of this nutrition program or diet?” or whatever. And I will always say something like, “These are the pros and these are the cons. If you’re this type of person, these pros will work for you. If you’re this type of person, this wouldn’t work for you.” She’s great at marketing and PR, and she turns to me and she goes, “That’s your next book!” I was like, “What?” And she goes, “The next book is that it’s not about finding a program out there that’s already created. It’s about creating a mix that works for you – curating your own health. Taking the pros of all the different stuff out there, being an educated mix maker and figuring out what works for you.” And I was like, “Yeah, that is my philosophy!” So, that’s really what the book is. There are a couple of chapters on workouts where I break down all the different workouts and the pros and the cons. There are a couple of chapters on nutrition, and I break down everything from intermittent fasting to the Mediterranean diet to Paleo. And then there are a couple of chapters on mindset. I really believe that it’s about creating a mix that will work for you. The mix will change based on your age. And understand that you need all the remixes. Most of us know what healthy food is. It’s not rocket science to know we should eat more vegetables and move a little bit more, but knowing and doing are two very different things. I actually don’t believe that just having the knowledge of the workout and the nutrition mix is enough. The mindset mix is key because it’s what allows you to connect the dots between wanting to do something and actually doing it. I think that that’s actually where most of the nutrition and fitness information out there breaks down – that coaching aspect of, how do you actually make yourself do it? How do you make yourself move? And that’s what the book outlines, that you need all three mixes, and that’s what I take you through. It’s about creating what’s unique to you and then knowing that if you create a mix and it doesn’t work, you can reformat it; or if it does work, but then in five years it no longer works – that’s great, that’s okay. You’re changing, you’re evolving, and you create a new mix.

Allan (32:04): Excellent. Now, you brought up this concept in the book that you call “finding your kiwis”. Could you go through that with us?

Kathleen Trotter (32:15): Again, it came from a conversation, this time with one of my amazing clients, and we were talking about nutrition. She’s a mother of four and she was talking about how she’s constantly making food for other people and she’s making this dinner for this child and this dinner for that child. She was feeling very overwhelmed about what she should eat. I said to her, “What do you like?” And she was like, “What do you mean?” I was like, “You’re talking about all the food you make for other people and you’re talking about all the food that you’re not allowed to eat.” She was like, “I can’t have this, I can’t have that.” She was focusing a lot on others and what she was not allowed, which was making her feel super overwhelmed and kind of depressed. And I said, “Forget about what other people like and forget about what you’re not allowed to eat. Tell me what is a healthy food that you love? What do you actually enjoy eating?” She’s like, “I don’t know, I really don’t know. My son likes Brussels sprouts.” I was like, “No, forget about your son. What do you like?” Anyway, the first thing that she could think that she actually enjoyed was a kiwi. So I started to talk with all my clients about “finding your kiwis”. And a kiwi could be a food that you love, it could also be a form of exercise that you love. One of my favorite things to do is to put in a good podcast and go for a walk. It calms me, it centers me, it makes me feel like I’m learning and getting outside. So that for me is a huge key. I love raspberries; it’s a huge kiwi. So, kiwis are just healthy choices that you genuinely like; choices that you feel like you’re being pulled towards that choice versus something that you’re making yourself do. I think the more kiwis you can have in your mixes, the more likely you’re actually going to stick to the mix. We can all make ourselves do things and behave for a limited time. That’s the problem with big, unrealistic goals. You can make yourself go to CrossFit or go running or whatever for a limited time, but if you genuinely hate those things, you’re not going to stick with it long-term. I really believe that consistency matters. It’s much more important what you will do on a consistent basis for the rest of your life than what you will do once a month or once a year for an hour.

Allan (34:39): I think the reason that I really liked that concept was, it pretty much gets you focused on the positive things that you’re doing in your life and it gives you these little go-to’s. So let’s say that today might be your hit training session and you’re just dreading it. The other day I was talking with one of my clients; he said he gets so much anxiety on leg day that he almost doesn’t want to go. Then he goes and he feels great about it, but he’s just so afraid that he’s going to have a bad workout because they’re so hard. And I told him there are going to be days you don’t feel it. You know it’s not your body that’s broken down, but you’re just not feeling it. Or it might be that maybe you’re planning to go to a buffet dinner and you know that there are going to be bad things. But if you have these kiwis, these ideas of things that you would rather do, or really enjoy doing… So, maybe today isn’t the day for you to do the hit training. Maybe today is the day for you to go ahead and find a good podcast, get the headphones on and go for a walk. Or maybe today you say, “What are some of my kiwis that I know are healthy? Well, I really like Brussels sprouts.” And you happen to see on the buffet they’ve got Brussels sprouts. So, you skip the bread, which would be one of my kryptonites, and I would say immediately I’ve got to put Brussel sprouts on my plate first. So, I see that as a way you can have this inventory of these that can be there to help you and to motivate you, because they’re going to be there all the time and very easy for you to do and feel good about.

Kathleen Trotter (36:22): Again, it circles back to what we’ve talked about a couple of times – this idea of the GPS of health. I think in my mind that the non-negotiable is that I am working towards a fitter, happier, healthier and more joyful Kathleen. If that’s my non-negotiable, then I work backwards and I figure out how I’m going to make that happen. And kiwis are often a way that I can make that happen. Another way to do it is, I talk in the book about this idea of a “plug-and-play list”. So again, if your non-negotiable is that you move and you have as many healthy foods as you can in your day, if you have a plug-and-play list already created, then it takes away some of the cognitive energy. And the list is exercise you can do in five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes; healthy food, kiwis you can make in five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etcetera. If you think, “Now I just found 10 minutes. What can I do? I can dance around my house for 10 minutes. I can go for a quick walk. I can do some squats. I could make this salad because I’ve already prepared all the veggies.” I think a lot of the time with health, it can feel so overwhelming, discouraging and really joyless. And the combination of the kiwis and being prepared with lists of kiwis and lists of things that make it easy and convenient, it can take the weight off our shoulders. Who wants to be healthy if it feels like this thing is squashing you, right? If you constantly feel like the weight is on your shoulders, it’s just too much.

Allan (37:59): Yes. So Kathleen, following on that, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Kathleen Trotter (38:13): I love that question. First, I’m going to talk about my recipe. And everybody listening will know already that this is mine, so if it doesn’t work for you, let it go. I know that daily motion is key for me. That I consider a non-negotiable and it 100% will make me feel better. So, in a day, I want to try to fit in some type of motion. That could be running, it could be walking and listening to podcasts, it could be Pilates, it could be going to a fitness class with friends. I want to fit in some type of journaling or a reflecting process. That could be going to see my therapist, but if I’m in between therapy sessions, it could be writing in my journal for five minutes. It could even just be talking to a friend through an issue. And then I want some type of meaningful social interaction. And again, it could be just a phone call. I’m giving away my trade secrets of my relationship, but with my partner James every night we do a “best and worst” of the day, and a gratitude moment. Those three things are my grounding for a healthier, happier, fitter version of Kathleen – motion, journaling, and reflection of some sort with a significant other. So, that’s me. But I think it’s being aware enough of who I am and who I want to be, so I can be curious enough to continue. I keep going back to this curiosity being a really key thing. I think that 20 years ago if you’d asked me what would make me happy, I would’ve said chocolate and cheese and pasta. And if I had said I’m just not the type of person who likes to exercise, then I would never be where I am today. So much of it is being curious and knowing that that recipe I just talked about will hopefully change as I get older. So that would be my first one, is find your recipe, find what grounds you. 

The second one would be always believing that there is a solution. I credit my mom for this, because I hated being active when I was a kid. I was overweight, I wasn’t happy. And my mom said to me, “Kathleen, you don’t like being active, but there has to be a solution.” So she got me a membership to the YMCAS and she said, “Maybe why you don’t like being active is because being with kids your own age is really intimidating. Maybe you’d be more comfortable with adults.” So, we got a membership and I started walking on a treadmill for a couple of minutes and I took those really small steps forward, as you spoke about earlier. And walking on the treadmill led to doing weights, which led to doing fitness classes, which led to me teaching fitness classes, which led to me deciding to do exercise science in university. And so I got where I am today. So that would be it.

And then I think my final thing, just to quote Anne Lamott, or paraphrase anyway: “Don’t compare your messy insides to other people’s makeup face”, meaning comparison is the thief of joy. I think that social media can be wonderful if you use it in the right way. I love following people that I respect on Twitter and Instagram and it’s a great way to get new podcasts and new information. But it can be really, really dangerous if you compare how you feel on the inside about yourself to how other people look on social media. I think that so much of health and fitness is getting out of this shame-based “I hate myself”, belittling self-talk, “Look at all those other people who have it all together”, and realizing that we’re all human. None of us have it really together and we’re all just doing the best we can. We could be grateful for the fact that we can move and that movement is a privilege, and to go from there with a generous spirit and knowing that we’re all doing the best we can.

Allan (42:36): Those were wonderful. I appreciate that. I want to thank you also, because you did put this podcast in the “Resources” section of the book, which I really can’t say enough. I appreciate that so much. And there are a lot of other great resources back there.

Kathleen Trotter (42:51): It goes with my curiosity mindset. I think that learning from other people is so important, especially people that inspire you. On days that I feel really low, and honestly, I’ve suffered with depression my entire life – exercise and wonderful podcasts and learning from other people really helped me stay on my happy, healthy horse. I can’t tell people enough who are listening – growth mindset, Carol Dweck is amazing. Brene Brown, Gretchen Rubin, your book, your podcast. Just find people who motivate you, listen to them, be inspired by them. If you’re trying to figure out what to do, often what’s really useful is to look at somebody not in a comparison way, but think, “Okay, interesting. They’ve done these things. What can I learn from them? What can I learn from their journey for my own self?”

Allan (43:46): Absolutely. Now, you’re going to do a little contest thing for us. I’d like for you to talk about that, and after you do that, if you could tell us where people can learn more about you and learn more about the book, Your Fittest Future Self, please do.

Kathleen Trotter (44:05): Okay. The contest will be I think for anybody who comments on this podcast. They will get to win my new book, Your Fittest Future Self, signed, and my first book which is called Finding Your Fit. They kind of work both together. And also resistance bands, so you can get started doing some of the workouts that are in the book. You just have to comment on the post and then I will mail you the books. And if you have any questions, you can always get a hold of me on my website, KathleenTrotter.com. I’m KTrotterFitness on Twitter, kathleentrotterfitness on Instagram, and just Kathleen Trotter on Facebook. And I love chatting with people, I love answering questions, so get a hold of me if you have any.

Allan (44:49): Okay. This post is going to be at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/369. Leave a comment on the post and you’ll be eligible to win that wonderful prize, because they’re both wonderful books. Kathleen’s been on the podcast before, so I can tell you the other book is great too. And she’s giving you the resistance bands as well – that’s one of my favorite tools to share with my clients. So, thank you, Kathleen for that. And thank you for being a part of 40+ Fitness again.

Kathleen Trotter (45:25): It’s absolutely my pleasure. I love your philosophy and you’re wonderful to chat with. I’m going to use some of your tips that you gave me with my people.

Allan (45:34): Awesome. Thank you.

Well, today is the day. As this episode goes live, my wife Tammy and I are on an airplane headed down to Bocas del Toro, Panama. We are looking to relocate there and spend some of our retirement time on the islands of Bocas del Toro. We haven’t really decided where we’re going to live there yet, so we’re going to rent a place for a couple of months on the island, then we’re going to head mainland, spend some time in Panama City, Boquete, David, and probably Coronado. So we’re going to check out the country.

If you’re in Panama and want to meet up for coffee or something, please do reach out. My email is allan@40plusfitnesspodcast.com. I’d love to connect with you. Or you can hit me up on Facebook at the 40+ Fitness podcast Facebook group. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group and connect there. Maybe we can do a meetup of some sort – just let me know. I want to get to know Panama and if you can help me on that journey, I’d really appreciate it. 

Also, if you want to do something to help the podcast, there is something really, really big that you can do that’s not going to be big from a pocket book perspective. Would you consider being a patron for the podcast? There are some awards and things that you can get by being a patron. You could go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon, and that will take you to our Patreon page. By being a patron, you’re helping to support the podcast. There is an expense to running a podcast like this, so you’ll help me cover those expenses. And then I do have some nice giveaways if you are part of the Patreon program. You can check that out, again, at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon. And I want to thank the folks that are already a patron of the show and have been helping me out so far. I really do appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you so much for that. It really is a relief to see that I’ve got fans out there that are helping and want to support keep the podcast going. So thank you for that. If you aren’t, then you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon.

And then finally, I did want to remind you again that The Wellness Roadmap is up for an Author Academy Award. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA, scroll to the bottom of that page – there’s a voting link there. Find us on page 7 in the “Health” category. It’s The Wellness Roadmap book by me, Allan Misner, and you can get to it, again, with a direct link from our website: 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA and help us win an Author Academy Award. Thank you. 

Another episode you may enjoy

Making fitness a lifelong habit with Kathleen Trotter
February 4, 2019

Gus Vickery – Authentic Health

You can find authentic health with the right changes. Dr Gus Vickery and I discuss his new book, Authentic Health: The Definitive Guide to Losing Weight, Feeling Better, Mastering Stress.

Patreons

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

  • Judy Murphy

Thank you!

Allan (0:55): Dr. Vickery, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Gus Vickery (0:59): Thanks so much, Allan. I’m really excited to be here.

Allan (1:02): Your book, which I really enjoyed, is called Authentic Health: The Definitive Guide to Losing Weight, Feeling Better, Mastering Stress. It took me to that last word before you really had me engaged and saying, “I’m going to read this book.” That is in my mind, one of the big missing elements that so many people skip, and I know I skipped it myself. So, 2018 was a beginning of a distress for me, and now in 2019 I’m going to try to watershed stress. In the book you’re pretty clear that if we’re not dealing with our stress, we’re missing a big piece.

Dr. Gus Vickery (1:44): Absolutely. And there’s both the direct and indirect effect on health. This became apparent to me over the 14 years I’ve practiced clinical medicine and seeing people in a family practice setting. A lot of people, as you know, are struggling with obesity or being overweight, poor energy, mental health issues, diabetes, etcetera. And of course there’s information to help them. You can improve your nutrition, you can get exercise. These are all things that we have a lot of information out there, but I would realize that I could give them information until the cows came home, but it was so often inaccessible to them in terms of being able to turn that information into action. So I started trying to figure out what’s keeping people from taking action? I just told them if they do these few things, they can reverse a disease and feel better. Why is it not happening? And of course you study it for your own self. So you begin to study the mind and stress responses and what occurs, and you quickly realize that when people are overwhelmed by stress, that a part of their mind – I call it the “higher mind” – I know it’s an oversimplification that helps them make choices and align with their desires, make plans, envision the future – it’s inhibited. It’s turned off, because they’re cranking out adrenaline and a fight or flight state all of the time, so not only can they not think from that capacity, but at the same time they’re in desperate need of something to feel better, a fix. And our society has made it very easy to get your fix, whether it’s this food you choose, the nicotine, alcohol, what have you. And so, if you don’t get control of the stress, you can’t put the rest of it into action.

Allan (3:20): Right. I’m going to admit right now you got me in trouble. I have a good diversity of friends on Facebook and throughout my life, and we don’t always agree on things. So it’s a pretty regular thing if I go onto Facebook, someone’s going to post something I’m not going to agree with. I’ll be really kind to say I’m not agreeing with them. But I realized as I was going through your book, that was just something that I was allowing to happen to me as I was going through my day. I check my Facebook probably two or three times a day because part of my business does run through the Internet, so I’m on. I said, “I’m just going to turn all that stuff off and I’m going to finish reading your book and I’m not going to worry with that.” Unfortunately, what ended up happening was, I forgot that it was Tuesday and thought it was Wednesday and I missed a call that was supposed to be on Tuesday night. So, I’m going to have to blame you for that a little bit because you got me to turn that stuff off so that I could in a sense distress, or at least keep some stressors out of my life for a period of time. I’ve got to learn the practice of still remembering what day of the week it is when I’m going through that practice.

Dr. Gus Vickery (4:46): That’s right. I’m glad you were able to take that action. For somebody like yourself, so tuned into health, so tuned into what needs to be done to improve health, you realize every single one of us needs this. We’ve all got our little things that we need to be doing.

Allan (5:02): At the time I was like, “I’m going to try this – turn Facebook off, turn the newsfeeds off.” I put my phone away; completely forgot what day of the week it was, which was great, except for when I woke up the next morning and remembered it was Wednesday and I was supposed to be on a call last night. I had some people to apologize to. Now, you brought up something in the book, which I think has probably been used a good bit in maybe more the scientific and the doctoral area. It’s not a term that I had actually seen in a health book before, which is kind of odd because I’ve read well over 200 of them just for this podcast. I’m going to screw it up when I say it – biopsychosocial model. Can you go through that, because I think it wraps this all together to give us a bubble of understanding that our body is not just one system, one thing, a simple rule, calories in, calories out? We want those simple rules, but this wraps it all together and says you really have to look at yourself holistically to understand what’s going on in your life.

Dr. Gus Vickery (6:15): Once you get your mind around it, it’s just common sense too. Intuitively it immediately resonates when you think about our mind, our body, our social environments and our cultural environment, and how all of those inform our health, our experience of health, our experience of whatever weight we’re experiencing. In med school, this has been around. When I was in medical school back in the ‘90s, we were being taught the biopsychosocial model. It was part of the curriculum to say it’s not just biology, it’s not just biochemistry, molecular biology and physiology, but how people feel about things is important for their health. What resources they have around them is important for their health. Now that seems obvious and I point that out, the initial theory of learning medicine is, you’ll honor all of that when you approach another human being to try and help them achieve their best state of health or reverse a disease. And then of course I allude to the idea that the modern healthcare delivery environment doesn’t allow any honoring. But the mind and how we feel and how we think has very quick and direct effects on our physiology and our experience of health, and our biology. What we take in from nutrients, how we move our body, whether we honored circadian rhythm – it informs our thinking and feeling centers in our brain and changes those aspects. And then again, cultural environment: What are the belief systems that we’re immersed in and how has that informed our habits, most of which we didn’t consciously choose – that’s determining our health as well.

Allan (7:46): Right. I was thinking through that concept because I didn’t go to medical school, but it was a brilliant concept. I’m like, “Yeah, of course that’s the way we would do it.” And the reason we know that’s the way we should do it is, there are things we know and respect, like the placebo effect. When I was much younger, I was in a club called the Positive Mental Attitude Flub. We would meet for breakfast on Tuesdays every week, someone would speak, someone would be responsible for putting together a little speech and then we’d have our breakfast together. Those were all things that we did to improve our lives in general, but what I found was most people that are doing those types of things actually are improving their health along the way. It’s not just one thing – it’s not just their business getting better or they just happened to be nicer people. Everything’s working better because they set their mindset.

Dr. Gus Vickery (8:48): That’s exactly right, which is why I started on the mindset and the desire and how you’re thinking before you get to just about anything else in the book, because that’s foundational. Part of the tension I felt as a physician – people come to us with their complaints: “I’m not feeling good”, or for a checkup or whatever. And then you’re sitting and you’re trying to help them figure out what’s the source and what’s the solution to these complaints, how to help them feel better. And the typical medical encounter in traditional medicine, the tools you’ve been given are medicines, prescriptions. I can help your stomach acid problem with a prescription. I can help your mood with a prescription. I can lower your blood pressure. And there is a role for those tools. I am a medical doctor, I prescribe medications. But when I found myself primarily using only that tool to try and solve problems that had much deeper roots, I realized this is ineffective, this is going nowhere. And of course eventually people didn’t continue to feel better. But what I also realized is, if they’re not bringing their own desire for health in the room with them, then there’s really not much I can do. For many of my encounters I had to back up and really start with, “What do you want? What is it you really want to experience?” “Of course, I want to feel good.” And I’m like, “Okay, let’s talk about what it means to feel good then, and how you’re going to get there.”

Allan (10:02): Me as a coach, for 95% of the people that call me or want to work with me, it’s weight loss. And I can coach them. I’m going to hold them accountable, we’re going to hang out. You had a program which allows you to structure test a lot of the concepts that you now have in this book. But I liked the fact that you recognize that weight gain is a cycle, and once we get on that cycle, the cycle fights us tooth and nail all the way. So many people will sit there and blame themselves and say, “I’m just lazy.” I did it myself – I called myself “the fat bastard”, and it was because I had not figured out a way to really break that cycle. It was just getting worse and worse every year and it still took me a long time to figure out what you succinctly put in this book. So, someone that’s feeling that way – whether they’re designating themselves “the fat bastard” or something else – what are the things they need to do right now, today, to start to break that cycle?

Dr. Gus Vickery (11:32): Several key things. One is understanding – understanding that you probably didn’t choose this problem for yourself. It’s something that happened to you. Yes, we’re making choices. Yes, there’s personal responsibility. And yes, you’re the only person who can make new choices. But more than likely if you’ve developed a weight problem, meaning an excessive amount of body weight that’s causing you to be unhealthy, it started at very young ages of your life based on exposures that were beyond your control and that you didn’t understand. So blaming yourself, bringing shame and guilt and saying you don’t have what it takes, is not going to help the situation. It’s just going to create stress, which is going to undermine your efforts to get healthy. So, understand the situation you’re dealing with is number one. And even though you can’t do it overnight, begin to let go of this blame. We don’t have the time for me to get into all of the mechanisms of how that happened – the epigenetics, physiology and hormones, but we both know that’s what happens, that’s what creates chronic weight gain. 

Two – understand what actually solves the problem. We know that daily reduced calorie diets and just increasing exercise do not solve this problem. We have copious evidence that low calorie diets and exercise plans do not lead to sustained weight loss. Yes, you’ll lose some weight, but you want to sustain it. So what’s actually creating the weight gain? It can be many different things, but for most people it is going to be, they’re probably eating excessively, because our foods are calorie-dense and nutrient-poor. They’re probably eating too frequently. I listened to one of your recent podcasts and you talked about fasting for a good bit of time, and it was great. It’s one of the foundational principles in my book. Eating too frequently will continue to create a hormonal response that favors fat storage, no matter what you’re eating. If you’re eating too frequently, you will stay in a cycle of, hold onto your energy, don’t use your energy. Then it’s inflammation and bad quality foods. If you’re choosing foods that trigger direct inflammatory responses in the body and they create increased oxidative stress, you are creating an internal physiological need that favors weight gain. In order to actually stop this cycle and allow your body to reset… And there’s hope here, because this actually works. It’s been proven to work and to allow the area of your brain that regulates your body weight, apart from your choices, to begin to reset your weight down. You have to honor your body’s design for eating, and that’s pretty simple. Our bodies adapted over millennia upon millennia to eating whole natural foods as close to their natural state as possible. That can include carbohydrates – you know I talk about ketogenics and things in the book. It’s a program that could be used, but people don’t have to be ketogenic. If they’re eating high fiber, nutrient-dense whole foods, then those will naturally begin to control appetite, correct energy balance and allow that area of the brain called the lipostat to begin to reset back down. And by eliminating the foods that trigger the human reward system, binge eating and dysregulation of normal satiety function and satiation function, you naturally correct the eating behavior. The problem just goes away when you do that, and then you balance feeding and fasting. You basically stop eating at such a frequent basis and you begin to allow periods for your body to use the energy that you put into it. So, natural foods, balanced feeding and fasting. There’s more to it – circadian rhythm, function, move, breathe, all that. But those two things.

Allan (15:13): The book goes into great detail on the hormone side of it, all the rest of it, which is really, really cool. Now, of course the “calorie in, calorie out” model pretty much requires you to eat all the time. I tried to go pescatarian. I was mostly vegetarian with some fish. I tried it and what I found was I couldn’t get enough sustenance to get myself to the next meal. So, I carried food with me. I became obsessed about food – I had food in my truck, I had food in my office. I pretty much feel like if I wasn’t showering, brushing my teeth or asleep, I was eating. So, I actually put on weight. I know that I did it wrong because every time I got hungry, I ran for the berries, I ran for the nuts. Those were my go-to snacks because they were convenient to carry, and abundant, because I can go to the grocery store anytime. But when I really started breaking down why I’m gaining weight, why this is not working for me – my ancestors would not have had access to berries and nuts like that, and probably not even at the same time, because nuts typically come in the fall, berries typically come in the spring. I feel better when I can fast, so I’m eating more fat and less carbohydrates and I feel better. But for a lot of people to start the fasting, it’s scary word: “Am I going to get blood sugar?”, all these different things that they’re concerned are going to happen. I would say if you’re going to do any extended fasting, please talk to your doctor. If you’re on any kind of medication, particularly blood sugar lowering medication – please talk to your doctor before you change your eating. But you lay out in the book what I think is a really clear plan for someone that wants to start working with fasting, so that they can be successful and use this as a protocol to get healthy. Can you talk through your protocol for fasting?

Dr. Gus Vickery (17:23): I sure can. It’s very important to keep it easy. And in the book I did say, don’t get stressed about this. When you learn what fasting actually is, you’re going to be refreshingly liberated. It’s not that you have to go 24, 36 or 48 hours. There is a role for extended fast when you train your body to fast for health, if you want to do that. As an example, one of my patients who I was coaxing towards this because of high insulin, high body weight, metabolic syndrome – he realized fasting was three meals a day, no snacks, with a 12-hour overnight window. That for him was fasting because it was a significant deviation from his eating pattern before. And that’s a traditional way of eating three meals a day; that’s not that hard. And when he learned that, he was like, “I can do that.” And of course it wasn’t long before he was doing 14 and 16-hour fasts because his body developed the skill. So I tell people, first you’re going to take your time. This is a skill that your body has within it to use, unless you have certain medical conditions. We’re making that medical disclaimer. If you have true medical hypoglycemia based on metabolic conditions, then this isn’t for you. But for everybody else, just about, this will work. So first of all, recognize you’re going to be patient with yourself and that you’re trying to achieve a specific end, which is metabolic flexibility and freedom from food and eating behaviors, and other improvements in health. 

The first easiest way to do this is to even look at it as a 12-hour window as a fast. You can use any 12-hour window, but one of the easiest is just to use your overnight window. You basically allow yourself to not snack after dinner and go to bed, and simply not eat the next morning until it’s been 12 hours from when you finished. Almost everybody can do that without much of a difficulty. The challenge for some will be that they were having ice cream at night. That’s not an issue with your ability to manage the hunger. That’s a craving. I think you want to talk about that in a little bit. So first of all, just extend your evening fast as skipping breakfast. You can start with a fast after breakfast or lunch if it works better for you. You could go from lunch to breakfast the next morning, but just consider a 12-hour window. Try to eat two or three meals a day and eliminate snacking. For some people just eliminating the snacking can be the beginning of fasting. When you get really good at this, you might want to go for 24, 36-hour fasts, especially if you’re trying to reverse weight issues, but don’t do that until you can do 16 or 18 comfortably. 

Now, don’t force fasting into your life when conditions don’t favor fasting. Don’t fast for your spouse’s birthday party. Don’t fast for Thanksgiving feast. Fast when it’s suitable for you, when it’s going to work socially. My fasting days are my work days, when all I really want to do is stay focused and productive and I don’t want to have to take time to eat. And then I can stop and really enjoy it with my family. Stay well hydrated while fasting. Most people fail because they become thirsty and dehydrated and they mistake dehydration for hypoglycemia. So they think they have lower blood sugar, but actually they’re just dehydrated. Drink plenty of water. Don’t overeat when you break your fast. When you first start to eat again, just eat a smaller meal. Give your body some food and give it a chance to digest. People have this mythological view that if you fast, you’re always going to end up becoming too hungry and then you’re going to overeat, you’re going to binge eat, and that’s going to create this yo-yo impact, but that’s just not true. Studies don’t bear that out. We tend to not eat as much when we’re actually breaking a fast. You have to expect to experience hunger. You are going to experience it. That’s part of what we’re on a mission to do here, is to begin to experience hunger and not always have to give into it. You’re going to have some physical and emotional discomfort, so you have to be prepared for this and you have to be in your mind determined to work through that. You know hunger is going to come for you, it’s going to come in waves and you have to know that you’re going to drink some water, redirect yourself, do some breathing, do some jumping jacks, something to turn that hunger off. 

Now, if you’re experiencing severe hunger, weakness, dizziness, nausea, sweating, just feeling terrible, brain-foggy – eat. You’re not being forced to do this. Just give yourself something to eat – eat some nuts, eat a small meal if you need to, and then just pick up from where you left off. That is not failure; it’s okay. Your body is leading you and sending you signals. On your non-fasting days, eat normally. Don’t undereat. That is a mistake I see people make because fasting becomes so powerful for people, they can use it to lose weight quickly, because you can use this interrupted calorie deprivation schedule to actually allow yourself to begin to create energy balance that favors weight loss without triggering the area of your brain to go, “Uh-oh. Let’s stop the process.” So it can be very effective. But if you undereat after a prolonged fast, all you’re going to do is the same thing as a reduced calorie diet. You’re not going to get the result you want. So eat normally on non-fasting days. In fact, eat robustly. Enjoy eating, because you’re balancing feasting with fasting. And then kind of vary the rhythm of it. Sometimes it’s 12 hours, sometimes it’s 16. You’re having a great day, you feel good – go 18 hours. But let your body lead you. Don’t try to force yourself through those hard stop moments where your body is actually going into a stress response, because that’s not going to get the result you want. Mostly, just make it a lifelong habit. It doesn’t have to be a 6-week program, a 12-week program. Make this a permanent habit. Don’t fast on your vacations, but then fast when you come back. There are a lot of great books out there on fasting. I like them, I read them, I geek out on this stuff and the physiology, but for most people it’s pretty simple – you’re just not eating. You don’t have to go and have a 90-day program written for you. Just give yourself permission to have longer windows without eating.

Allan (23:32): The core of it, I’ll say, and you say this in the book very well as an addition – if you’re going to keep eating garbage, processed foods, fasting is not going to work for you. Your body’s never going to listen to the signals you give it, that you’re trying to train it to do, because it is not going to understand what you’re eating is food. It’s not going to be properly nutritioned. As a whole, if you’re not eating high quality food, then don’t try fasting. That’s not your solution yet. Start with the high quality food, and then the fasting is where you step it up and say, “Now I’m in control. I’m going to train my body to actually give me the signals it’s supposed to give me, enjoy the food that I want to enjoy, get the nutrition that I need and my body will tell me when it’s time to eat.” And now you’re not locked into this, “I have to eat now because it’s 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening. It’s dinnertime.” It’s like, if you’re just not hungry when you know you’ve gotten the nutrition you need, don’t eat or have a small meal if you feel like you just need to make it through the night. But in a general sense, your body will start to actually say, “You’re hungry; go get some nutrition. You’re full; stop eating.” You train your body to do those things. You’ll understand what actual hunger feels like, and when you start to understand it, it’s not that scary. We have this abundance of food. And there is an initial, “Oh my gosh, I’m hungry. I need to eat”, but then you realize there’s food everywhere. I’m not going to not have food, unless we’re going through some kind of zombie apocalypse, but we’re not anywhere near that right now. And fasting will actually make you better in a zombie apocalypse.

Dr. Gus Vickery (25:22): That’s right. It is an essential survival skill. Our bodies are well designed for it, but you’re exactly right about the “eat real food” first. I think I’m very emphatic in that point throughout the book. A couple of times I actually equate it to smoking cigarettes, and some people might think that’s extreme. I don’t think it is, when you look at what cigarettes do versus what junk foods do to the body.

Allan (25:45): More people are dying of type two diabetes and obesity than lung cancer. So I think the math is there.

Dr. Gus Vickery (25:54): The math is there. Basically low quality foods don’t provide you nutrients, they directly trigger inflammatory and stress responses in the body, they are disease-causing agents, and they have been engineered to trigger the reward system and be addictive. It’s not that different than a processed cigarette with nicotine. So, people have to get their mind around that, just like a smoker has to quit smoking. I don’t judge them. If they were introduced at a young age to tobacco, it’s very hard. But I can’t stop their lung disease if they don’t stop smoking. If someone is metabolically sick because of the foods they eat, until they can actually get away from those foods, they’re going to stay sick.

Allan (26:33): When I first got into this journey, my first step in was Paleo, which is going to the whole food thing, and I said I’m not going to bread. And I’m not going to lie, I actually had dreams about bread. I would wake up in the morning like I could smell fresh cooked bread coming off of that dream. I was actually dreaming about being in a bakery, eating all the bread. When I first woke up, I’d just want some bread. But I didn’t have any bread in the house because I knew who I was and I knew if I have bread in the house, I’m going to have a craving for it and I’m going to run in there and start eating bread. When someone feels themselves being drawn in to a craving, what are some strategies, what are some things that we can do to get past that, to not fold to that creating?

Dr. Gus Vickery (27:31): I have an entire chapter trying to explain that craving loop and at least giving a couple of solutions for it, because it’s so important. When you’re dealing with craving, you’re not dealing with true hunger for whatever it is you’re creating. What you’re dealing with is a very strong central nervous system-based feeling. It’s a feeling. Craving isn’t a thought, it’s a feeling. And feelings are more powerful than thoughts. We know that. We act and behave based on our feelings, not our thoughts. I thoughts do inform our feelings over time. With craving, we tend to look at it through the lens of willpower: “I have to overcome that.” One of your recent podcast guests talked about how you’re not going to win the fight with willpower. That’s exactly right. Willpower is an important skill and it should be cultivated, and there are ways to cultivate it. It’s an executive function skill and we should cultivate it, but you can’t rely on it to overcome powerful feelings based on deep desires. In order to understand that craving, you have to understand a little bit about the human reward system. I won’t go that deep into it, but it’s a more primitive system in our brain. It works off of a euphoria signal to reproduce behaviors that would be consistent with survival. Of course, in our modern times now, we’re able to concentrate certain elements that have a powerful effect on the human reward system in a very unnatural way. They hyperstimulate the reward system. So we get this kind of overwhelming euphoric response, but it’s very brief, it’s short lived, and then we have an immediate need to get back and get that euphoria again. 

What we know is that the more sense of wellbeing you have… And our wellbeing is not euphoria. It’s associated with pleasure, but it’s different. Wellbeing are positive emotions like gratitude, contentment, peace, joy, etcetera. The more wellbeing we have, the less susceptible we are to the need for the euphoric response, the less susceptible we are to have to smoke a cigarette or drink too many drinks or take a drug or whatever it is that gets us. So, one strategy is cultivate wellbeing – cultivate gratitude, peace and joy, which is done through the activities that we know honor our ancestral design. Exercise, social engagement, faith-type spiritual exercises, meditation and breathing, listening to music, playing games – all the things that we love to do naturally. That gives us wellbeing, which reduces the need for a more primitive, “I’ve got to have a little fixed-type response.” But now let’s go ahead and say, “I know that when I encounter foods concentrated in salt, sugar and fat, I’m going to have a strong craving. And not only that, I don’t have to encounter them. I could be sleeping and already have that craving.” So, the craving exists apart from whether it’s even in our environment, but we know that it’s there, so we have that understanding. We’re not dealing with just a thought construct. You can’t just think your way out of this. You know you don’t want to give in, but you can’t seem to control that. You’re dealing with a strong feeling. 

There is a mindfulness-based approach that was proven, it was used. It became what’s called the 4–step UCLA method for people with OCD who have strong urges they can’t control. And what it involved was, one, detection or awareness – you have to understand what it is you’re dealing with. And then you have to actually label it correctly. Instead of assigning negative value to yourself, because you struggle with this behavior: “I’m going to binge eat. I feel terrible about myself. I have no self-control. I’m a fat bastard”, as you said earlier, you actually have to begin to depersonalize it. You’ve got to get all of that emotion out of there. So you basically see it for what it is and you recognize that it’s just a rogue circuit in your brain that you probably didn’t even choose for yourself. At some point you got exposed to elements you were susceptible to that trigger this hyper response, and it’s been happening for years, if not decades, and of course it’s going to keep happening. It has nothing to do with you. It’s kind of in control. So, you depersonalize it and you relabel it. It is not you; it’s just this rogue brain circuit. But then you have to take the next step. What we just did is we used our cognitive powers over the situation, but now we have to use a new power. You have to refocus, and this is where in response to that craving, you substitute a new behavior. The main pushback I get from people is that this sounds too simple to them, like, “How could it be as simple as when I crave bread that I go work in my garden, or I start writing? It couldn’t be that simple. I would’ve figured that out on my own.” Actually it’s simple but it’s not easy, because what you’re doing is you’re creating a new brain circuit, an actual new automated habit response to the original craving or urge you’re experiencing. When you do that, you pick an activity that gives you wellbeing, that’s familiar to you, that you already know you enjoy and that’s easy for you to do. So a binge eater, for example, one, they don’t have the stuff in the home. They start to feel that strong 5:00 craving, and as soon as they feel it, they don’t react to it, they don’t get emotional. They simply go take a walk with their dog. They go for 15 minutes, give themselves 15 minutes of space to walk with their dog in the woods. And for the vast majority of people that craving will have already reduced by 90%.

Allan (32:48): That’s exactly what I did. I didn’t have it in the house, so I would just put my headphones on, listen to some music that’s uplifting, and start walking. I would just go for my walk. And my walks started out fairly short, but after a while sometimes they would be a two-hour walk, depending on what I was going to do that day. But I got so much joy out of the walk that when I got back, bread was the last thing on my mind. I wasn’t thinking about bread anymore. I got out of bed and I was like, “Okay, get your stuff on. Get your headphones on and head out the door.” It does works. But you’ve got to break that cycle by, like you said, seeing it for what it is and then setting a different intention that’s going to benefit yourself and your wellness. You use a very similar approach to stress management. Can you talk about your approach to stress management? I’ve spent a lot of time in the last two years really focused on that one core thing for myself, because that was I think the last piece that I needed to put in place for myself and then realized how important it was when I actually started doing some work on it. Can you go through that model with the stress management?

Dr. Gus Vickery (34:08): Yeah. As we discussed earlier, stress is very powerful and it’s all around us. I use the term “stress mastery” instead of “management” because I wanted something more than we’re just going to manage our stress. I wanted us to become masters of stress response.

Allan (34:20): Bingo! I like that.

Dr. Gus Vickery (34:22): Exactly. I want to make sure we’re clear, we’re focused on chronic bad stress. We’re not talking about the good stressors and the occasional challenges in life that we’re well suited to, but the stress that’s making us sick and effecting us emotionally. Once again, you have to use your cognitive powers. Your ability to think and reason and understand is a very important piece of this. When you apply cognitive power to change thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviors, you’re talking about something called “cognitive restructuring”, which is foundational to cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help with anxiety, panic and depression. Cognitive restructuring works pretty well for any condition where you actually can begin to change outcomes just based on your understanding. Stress is actually one of those that it works well for. Cravings, because of the strong feelings associated with them, you have to apply other things besides just cognitive restructuring. 

So the first thing you have to do is detect stress. You have to know how it shows up for you. Does it show up through a bodily symptom like muscle tightness, sweating, palpitation of the heart, headache, fuzzy vision? There are all kinds of different bodily symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms. You might not have any emotional response to stress at all, but you may feel a whole lot of things in your body. You have to begin to recognize, “This is a stress response. This isn’t just a massive reflux or a sore neck. This is me responding to stress.” Or emotional responses – is it anger, irritability, impatience, melancholy, moodiness, whatever? Whatever your responses are – and it can be both body and mind – you have to detect it as quick as possible, because it’s kind of like getting lost in a forest. The further you go without realizing where you are, the harder it gets to find your way back out and the longer it takes to find your way back out. So those initial feelings are what are going to give you the clue, “I’m entering into a period where I’m starting to become overwhelmed by stress, even if I didn’t think I was.” That’s where you’re going stop and say, “I know how to detect it. I know what I’m dealing with.” And then you move into proper interpretation, because the vast majority of things – somebody arguing with you on Facebook about an issue that’s going to disappear – aren’t worth being stressed about. Whether it’s political, economic, whether it’s a situation of uncertainty you’re dealing with, you’re probably giving it more power over your life right now than it really has. So you have to begin to rightly interpret what is the stress issue. Most people immediately move down catastrophic thinking pathways. They become reactive, emotional, turn off their heart and mind. If there’s some insecurity in the company, they’re going to lose their job and their family is going to be destitute. Then they’re going to live on the street. Actually, there’s a good chance they won’t lose their job, but if they did, they’ll get another job, and even if they didn’t, the family probably won’t be on the street. Most of the negative outcomes we envision will never come to pass. Plus, it’s fruitless to spend our time living there, because we can’t do much about it. 

So detect it, you interpret it properly, and then you reinterpret it properly, meaning you do have some power over whatever the circumstance is. But then you have to use something to turn off the stress response internally. You have to. And that’s where we get into the breathing and the meditation, which I speak about extensively in the book. The reason I do is because it’s a proven expedient pathway to turning off stress responses, to dampening down the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. So even if you’re going to continue to feel a little irritable or nervous about a situation, you can at least calm your heart rate down, stop sweating and feel more calm physically by simply paying attention to your breath. And even doing perhaps a positive visualization meditation, a form of mindfulness meditation, or something else where you begin to see everything good that you actually have – all the good things that are still surrounding you, regardless of this, which will actually give you a greater power because then you’ll have a positive feeling in your mind that really makes the stress response minimal. But you have to do this daily and you have to be on it, because right now the world as it is will be throwing stress bombs at you constantly.

Allan (38:26): Yes. What happens for me physically and mentally is my higher brain turns off. I can’t seem to think straight. I lose a little bit of me. And I’m not a flight person, I’m a fight, so I suddenly get this desire to just want to strike, to do something to fight my way out of it. It was something as simple as my boss calling me while we were going through three years of layoffs, and my phone rings and my boss wants me to come to his office. I’m immediately wanting to fight because I know this is not going to be a good day. It was not a good day and it’s about to get worse. I step on the elevator and I just start breathing. It was like, “All I can do right now is just breathe and get my mind straight, get myself ready. This is out of my control. Once I understand what he’s here to tell me that, then I’ll figure out what we can do, but it is what it is.” And understanding what I had control over, what I don’t have control over, and then understanding that in the end it was how I let this affect me that was going to have the biggest impact on my career. And then when I got the opportunity, when I was laid off, it was, “Do I really want to go back to that? Do I want to go back to being stressed all the time, to being all the things that go on in corporate life?” And I was like, “No, I’ll figure out something else. I’ll get clients, I’ll do what I want to do, the things that bring me pleasure.” I completely said, “Forget it. I don’t want that in my life.” And I’m blessed to have had that opportunity to say I’m going to walk away from that. But it took me a good long time to get to that point where I would sit down and detect that I was stressing too much and say, “Okay, turn it around. Breathe.” And meditation and breathing were huge, huge helps for me as I was going through that period of my life. And I still use them today – when I feel a little upset, I just go in the bathroom and breathe.

Dr. Gus Vickery (40:43): For some people I know meditation is a real challenge. It took me years of consistent practice to get where I can really love quiet meditation for 20, 40 minutes. But breathing is something everybody can do. Even if they don’t have yet the skill of thought observation, activating the witness and some of the spiritual elements of meditation, they can absolutely begin to control their breath and attend to their breath and calm stress responses.

Allan (41:08): I liked the approach you had in the book to go on to the box breathing and all of that. Those were some great techniques and well worth the purchase of the book just for the breathing techniques.

Dr. Gus Vickery (41:18): Thank you.

Allan (41:19): 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. Gus Vickery (41:32): It’s a great question, and I like your definition. I’m always trying to get people’s definition of “health” because we’ve got to set a high bar for that definition if we want people to pursue it. I like your definition. Forgive me for this brief interlude, but I did think about this. I thought, “What a great question!” And I thought, “What are the usual answers?” And of course there are all kinds of answers. It’s nutritious food – we’ve already talked about that. Movement – we didn’t get into that as much. But you said being able to maintain; it’s like a perpetual getting this. I thought, “What would it be? What would I tell somebody that’s what I wanted them to have?” And I get back to what we’ve been talking about this whole time – mindfulness. 

To me, the first and most important thing is actually you have to desire that. You actually have to start with a mindful deep desire for what you just described. “I want to be fit and feel good and be as happy as I can be every single day.” If you deeply desire that, you build that into your consciousness, then you’re going to naturally choose the foods that are giving that to you. You’re going to naturally get up and move because it feels good. So then you don’t have to have a lot of instructions. So number one would be, stop and meditate on that, and desire it. Stay on it until you have in your mind a vivid picture associated with feeling of, “That’s what I’m after. I want this every single day.” And then play the long game, not the short game. This isn’t, “In six weeks I’ll be the fittest and happiest, etcetera.” No, this is, “Every year I’m going to keep getting happier, healthier, fitter, until the day that my life is done.” So, the long game is that you are going to every single day apply this thinking to your habits, to your daily life. And you’ll do 1% better in each category per day, based on what you’re after. And I have to pick one final thing. So we’ve got mindful desire, the long game, not the short game – you’re on this for the long road. Honestly the final one is not quite so esoteric. If I had to pick one right now, it’s honor your circadian rhythm. Allow your body to actually restore circadian rhythm function, which is intrinsic to everything else that we’re experiencing, which means you have to sleep, and then when you’re awake throughout the day, get natural sunlight. Turn off the devices, turn off the screens, get out in nature and restore circadian rhythm, because often times that restores actual eating behavior and a lot of other factors.

Allan (44:04): Excellent. I actually have my family here for the holidays as we record this. So we are prerecording this, but I have my family here. So as soon as we get off of this call, I am shutting down these computers and I’m going to spend some time with my family and some friends. Dr. Vickery, it’s been so great to have you on the podcast. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book Authentic Health, where would you like for me to send them?

Dr. Gus Vickery (44:30): They interface with our teaching, my blogs, etcetera, at www.HealthShepherds.com. That’s where I have my blogs, our videos, you can purchase the book. And of course the book is purchasable through any of the online book vendors as well.

Allan (44:48): You also have some 9-week programs and the whole bit out there. It’s a really good site; you should check it out. If you’re traveling, can’t write that down right now, this is episode 367. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/367, and I will make sure to have links there to your site. Dr. Vickery, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Dr. Gus Vickery (45:12): Thank you so much, Allan. And I appreciate your audience taking the time to listen to this.

As this episode goes live, I have just celebrated my 53rd birthday, so thank you. If you would like to give me a birthday present, there is something special that you could do for me today. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA, and that’s going to take you to a page for the Author Academy Awards. I’m up for an Academy Award in the “Health” category. So if you go to this page, it’s a little complicated, so just hear me out. You want to scroll down all the way to the bottom, because they allow the authors to submit on the same page that they allow to have the voting. So you want to scroll down to the bottom where you see “Voting”, and you’re going to be on page 1 of 15 for that first one. You’re going to want to click that arrow to go over to 6 of 15, and there you’re going to see the books in the “Health” category. You scroll down until you find my cover for The Wellness Roadmap. Go ahead and click on that cover, and that will secure your vote. So you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/AAA. That’ll take you to the page, scroll to the bottom and vote for The Wellness Roadmap. Thank you.

Also, I would really appreciate it if you would consider becoming a patron for the 40+ Fitness podcast. Now that I’m moving down to Panama, I won’t have as much access to some of the resources that I have here in the United States, so things are going to be a little bit tight for me from a budget perspective. I really would appreciate if you could give just a few dollars a month to help out the 40+ Fitness podcast, help me cover the audio production and the show notes. There are full show notes, transcripts for each episode each week. It does cost to do a podcast, they’re not free, so I appreciate any help you can. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon. And anytime you go to the podcast websites, in the sidebar you’re going to see a button. So if you don’t remember this link, at least go to the website for 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Podcast, and on any of the podcast episodes you’ll see it at the bottom down. If it’s on your phone, it would be further down the screen, but you can find the button for Patreon. So, 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon to help support the show. Thank you. 

Another episode you may enjoy

How to make disease disappear with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee

Audrey Johns – Lose weight with your instapot

Time management is one of the main reasons people give for why they can't eat healthy food. In her new book, Lose Weight With Your Instapot, Audrey Johns shows how this cooker can make short time of cooking healthy meals.

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  • Judy Murphy

Thank you!

Allan (1:01): Audrey, welcome back to 40+ Fitness.

Audrey Johns (1:05): Thank you so much for having me, Allan. Im so excited to be back on the show.

Allan (1:08): I really do enjoy the approach that you have to cookbooks, one, because I went through the different recipes and they all look brilliant, and there are no cans of anything. It just makes me so happy that someones not saying, Open up a can of this, or buy that. In many cases youre making your own stuff to fill in the gaps in the recipes, where normally the recipe would say, Go buy a can of this or a jar of that. Youre actually teaching people how to cook the whole meal.

Audrey Johns (1:45): Absolutely. One of the recipes that stands out to me in that is the red beans and rice. A girl growing up in New Orleans, I was so excited to be able to make red beans from scratch. And I agree – when you can make it for yourself, its going to be so much healthier.

Allan (2:03): It is. I knew what an instapot was; Ive never really actually used one. The sad thing is I asked my wife because I was like, Im going to pull this out and try something. Were getting ready to move to Panama, so she sold our instapot.

Audrey Johns (2:19): Oh no! Well, youre going have to get a new one. Are the electrical sockets different there? Is that going to be an issue?

Allan (2:25): No, the electrics are the same. The problem is that were lightening our load as much as possible, so were selling practically everything in this house before we sell the house, or as were still in the house. So, it was an easy sell for her. She listed it and got, I guess, what she wanted for it, and it went out in one of the first rounds of our selling. And I didnt actually realize that until I started looking for it. Sadly, that was one of the few times I didnt. When I was looking at the pork chops with the apple – that looks really good. What was so amazing was with some of the accessories, you can cook an entire meal in one. I didnt actually realize how dynamic and how really good these instant pots are for, one, saving time, because you dont have to be there while its cooking, but the other thing is, you can do so much with it.

Audrey Johns (3:13): Absolutely. The protein bowl for example – I absolutely love that dish. What you do is you put the quinoa at the bottom, and then you put the trivet, which happens to come with the actual instant pot, and then you put a steamer basket in there and within the steamer basket you put the chicken and all the other vegetables. You press “Go” and you walk away; and you come back and you have this perfect, amazing meal that all you have to do is just add to a bowl. You can do that with so many different items. You can have rice on the bottom and then you can have the steamer basket in there for your vegetables or for your protein. Its one-pot cooking in a totally different way than what weve been used to in the last 10 to 15 years in the cooking industry. Its exciting and it makes cooking more accessible to people who dont really have the time to cook. Ive been speaking to a lot of people about the instant pot. You know me – I love to talk about cooking, which is why I’m on the show. I go out and Im talking to people about the instant pot. In fact, I had my car serviced yesterday and I was at the dealership, and the guy says, Wow, I see here that youre an author. What do you write? I said I write cookbooks. Oh, my girlfriend and I, we dont have time to cook. Im like, But you have an instant pot. And there I am, selling the instant pot for the instant pot company.

Allan (4:30): They need to get you on retainer with a commission or something.

Audrey Johns (4:34): Yeah, that would be nice. But what Im really excited about is encouraging people to stop going through the drive-thru; you can actually make a meal in the same amount of time that you go through the drive-thru. And while its cooking, you can kick off your shoes and turn on the news or some fun program, and help your kids with homework, and just relax. Its so easy and it makes it so accessible. If you can learn how to use just three buttons, youre set. Thats all you need to know to cook. Thats really exciting, and I feel like it makes it more accessible to the masses.

Allan (5:10): Id seen it sitting on our kitchen counter. I just had never thought to use it. I have no problem cooking and Im very good with the slow cooker, but it looked a little complicated to me when I first looked at it. Can you explain what an instant pot is and why its so versatile, why its such a good tool to have in your kitchen?

Audrey Johns (5:32): Absolutely. What I love about the instant pot is that you have all of these different options and there are tons of different buttons. And each instant pot they come out with is new and improved, there are more buttons. I love that, because it gives me more options, but I feel like it makes it more daunting for somebody who first opens it. And you go on these blogs and forums and theres an instant pot community on Facebook that Im a member of. And people are going on and theyre saying, I got an instant pot last year for Christmas, 12 months ago, and I havent even opened it yet. Im too scared to use it. And it is daunting because there are so many buttons. However, there are only really three important buttons and if you can use just three buttons, then youre set. What I try to do with Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot – my new cookbook – I try to only use those three buttons so its really easy. No matter which model you have, you dont have to worry about finding the yogurt button or the egg button or any of that. All you really need to notice on your machine is the Sautee button, the Pressure Cook button, or Cook on some of them it says, and the Cancel button. That makes it more accessible for people who maybe dont purchase the actual instapot brands, they buy an off–brand. Just find those three buttons and do the water test. When you get your manual, it asks you to do a water test, and basically, you cant ruin water. You certainly cant burn water in an instant pot; you can boil it. You do that one test and it kind of takes the fear out of it and it also makes sure everything is working correctly. Now that Ive given you all of this information, maybe your head is spinning even more. To simplify it, to give you the most simple definition of what an instant pot is – it is an electronic pressure cooker. Thats it.

Allan (7:25): So basically putting the contents under pressure and then raising the temperature, and that allows it to cook faster while still retaining the moistness and not drying them out.

Audrey Johns (7:37): Absolutely. Its kind of the polar opposite of the slow cooker. In slow cookers you cook it slow and low for as many hours as you like. With the pressure cooker, its a quick meal. Even on some of the recipes, like on an egg recipe, pretty much as soon as your instant pot has pressurized, youre done. You just turn it off and youre done. So its very fast, very easy. Im a cookbook author and I love food. I cook all day, every day, and I am the first one to admit that pressure cookers are a little daunting for me. You hear these horror stories of them exploding. But with the instant pot, all of that fear, all of those issues are completely taken off the table because if something goes wrong, it shuts itself down. So I feel comfortable turning my instapot on and walking out the door and going and picking my kid up from school, and coming home and food is ready. You cant do that with most other kitchen appliances, except for the slow cooker. Its foolproof. And thats what I really love about this new amazing… I mean its not that new, but its hot and exciting, and its very popular now. This is a great kitchen appliance.

Allan (8:51): Okay. So, we go out and we buy a pressure cooker or have Amazon deliver it to us, because Amazon, Im sure, sells these things. It gets delivered to our house or we go buy it at a local store. Were getting it out of the box and its going to walk us through doing a water test. That way well know everythings working the way its supposed to, and now were ready to start doing things. But besides buying your cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, what are some tips and tricks that we would want to know just to get started?

Audrey Johns (9:26): What I like to recommend is, pick something that you know youre really going to love to eat. A lot of times people say, What is the first thing I should make in my instapot? Make something that you know your family is going to love. If you guys love mac and cheese, make mac and cheese. Theres a mac and cheese recipe here in my book. Dont pick something completely over the top that you would never have made, for instance, the cassoulet. Make something simple and easy so it takes the fear factor out of it. Honestly, how hard is it to mess up mac and cheese? So, choose something easy and something you know the family will like. And what I always love to tell people is, in the kitchen, this is the only place in your life where you can completely mess up and you can call and order pizza, and that will fix your problem. So, get in there, get dirty and try it out. Worst case scenario, youre pulling something out of the freezer or youre calling for pizza. Its one of those areas that you can really be bold and try something new. You cant mess too many things up in the kitchen, especially with electronic pressure cooker. I mean you cant even light a fire in the house, so it really takes any of the fear out of cooking. Also I know I had mentioned earlier on the podcast, a lot of people are really scared to take the instapot even out of the box. Its so daunting. So I really recommend, dont get overwhelmed by all of the different buttons on there. You can get to them later. Right now all you have to find is the Sautee button, the Pressure Cook button and the Cancel button, and thats it.

Allan (10:56): Okay. Now, with the pressure, its going to have to let some of this pressure come off. Sometimes you can let it depressurize on its own, and on some recipes you need to go ahead and release that pressure. You encourage folks to use a wooden spoon to release that pressure because the steam coming out can burn you.

Audrey Johns (11:18): Absolutely. Its extremely hot. Im an Italian woman, so I have a collection of probably 200 wooden spoons. It is my preferred kitchen tool, if I may. I recommend using a wooden spoon. Its not going to melt on you, its not going to get hot, like if you use a metal spoon. You go from the side, not from above, and you just knock the little dongle to the side and the pressure will come out. Now, if that scares you, another tip – dont start your very first experience with an electronic pressure cooker on something that you actually have to release the pressure. Its easy. I will admit the first time I did it, I was a little bit worried, but its not as scary as it sounds. It does make quite a lot of noise. But if that kind of thing freaks you out, dont make an egg dish first off; dont make something that you have to release the pressure, otherwise it will overcook. Make something easy. Make the sloppy joes in my cookbook. Make something that you can walk away from and two hours later when the pressure has naturally let itself release and its been heated up and its just been sitting and waiting for you, its not scary to open it up. I really recommend baby steps when it comes to using an instant pot, and then you wont be scared of it and youll be excited and youll want to keep trying new things and youll get bold, and it kind of takes the fear out of it.

Allan (12:47): I guess most instant pots are going to have a Keep Warm feature. It keeps it warm for you. So if you said, When I first get home from work Im going to sit down and put all this stuff in there, and then you go get into your comfy clothes for the evening, maybe take a shower or you go for a run or something, and then you come back in and it mightve been in there for two or three hours before you get ready to eat, but its going to be ready.

Audrey Johns (13:15): Absolutely. The skinny sloppy joes in my cookbook come to mind when you bring that up. Last year I was the Girl Scout troop leader for my daughters troop, and I was testing the recipes for the book. I just had too much on my plate, to be honest. It was a lot going on, like, why did I decide to become a Girl Scout troop leader while I was recipe-testing? I dont know, but I did. And so I made the sloppy joes and I left. That was the first time ever leaving the instant pot on and walking out the door, and it hadnt even stopped cooking. It wasnt that it was depressurizing on its own. It was still going. I walked out the door and two hours later, after we had done our meeting and all the kids had gone home and we had finally gotten home, they were the best sloppy joes I have ever made. They were warm and they were hot and they were ready for dinner. I barely had the energy to take my shoes off – 12 little girls and me, and I was already frazzled from cooking all day. It was perfect. This is perfect for people who dont have a lot of time or who have a lot on their plates. My daughter will come home from school and Ill start helping her with her homework and Ill forget to cook dinner. And thats me – a cookbook author – I will forget to cook dinner from time to time. And then Im rushing to try and throw something together, but with the instapot I can already have it ready and I can just let it sit, or I can quickly whip something up. Its amazing. Im in love with my instapot. I am Audrey and I love an instapot.

Allan (14:51): You had me when you did a 30-minute marinara sauce, because when I make a marinera sauce, its a six-hour ordeal, easily. Ill start in the morning and my wifes like, What are you doing on the stove cooking? I say, Im making some marinara for dinner tonight. Shes like, Oh, okay. Its six to eight hours that Im going to have to cook that marinara down, but in an instapot you can do it in 30 minutes. Thats pretty amazing.

Audrey Johns (15:20): I honestly felt like I was going to be struck down by lightning. I was worried about it. Im like, I am an Italian woman. My ancestors are going to be furious with me. This is not okay. You can’t cook marinara sauce in 30 minutes. It was amazing, Allan. It was so delicious. Im like, Are you serious? But its because its under pressure. Its essentially giving you six hours’ worth of cooking time in 30 minutes. I still do prefer the long and slow method because thats how my mom and my grandmother made it, but when Im in a rush and I need a quick marinara sauce, thats my go-to. It is so easy.

Allan (15:58): Thats a really quick meal when you think about a good healthy meal. You start the marinara sauce. You get some zucchini and make some zoodles and youve got a plant-based dinner ready for yourself in less than 30 minutes. Thats pretty cool.

Audrey Johns (16:15): Absolutely. And its delicious and its packed full of antioxidants. It feels like youre splurging. Theres something about Italian food that even when you make it healthy, it just feels like youre splurging. Or is that just me, Allan, because Im Italian?

Allan (16:28): No, I enjoy Italian food, and thats one of the problems. I dont want to go out and eat it anymore, because I know what goes in it sometimes. You look at a label when you go to buy a pasta sauce and one of the first ingredients is going to be sugar or a high fructose corn syrup. And then you get to the bottom of the list and theres 18 extra ingredients that I would never put in mine, but they have to put it in theirs to keep it on a shelf. So, youre making good, high quality food. A good trip to the farmers market on a Saturday, and Saturday night you could be eating some of the best marinara sauce on whatever, whether you want to do pasta or zoodles. Boom! There you go.

Audrey Johns (17:14): Absolutely. And since you mentioned going to the farmers market and then going home and cooking – I did an entire chapter called Shred It Your Way. I want to find a way to be able to do an entire cookbook on this, but basically I did a recipe for shredded chicken, for pulled pork and for shredded beef. And then I had coinciding recipes that actually went with every single protein that I had put in the book, but specific recipes to go with the chicken, to go with the pork, to go with the beef. So you only had to cook one night a week. Or say, for instance, for the beef ragu rigatoni, all you had to do was basically boil water and you were done. I think that when you use the instapot and you cook in larger quantities, you could cook an entire weeks worth of food in two hours on a Sunday afternoon and then youre set for the rest of the week. Ive heard from a lot of people who love to meal prep that the instapot is their go-to, because it cuts down the time and you can do such huge quantities, especially if you have one of the larger instapots, like an eight or a six quart.

Allan (18:25): I harp on my clients about batch cooking all the time. One of the main reasons people will say they cant eat healthy is that they just dont have time to cook. Now, batch cooking with an instant pot is almost a no-brainer. If I want to do some batch cooking for the week, Ill do three or four meals on a Sunday, put them in containers, put most of them in the freezer and then just pull those out the day before. I put them in the fridge and theyre good to go; I just warm them up. So yes, very, very good. Now, one of the things I do like about your cookbooks in particular is you take some time to throw in some really cool tips and things like that that might not have anything really to do with the topic so much. But you do include some tips about when were going to go out. This episode is going to air in January, but were always ending up at a party or at someones house and were having to make food choices that seem somewhat out of our control. Can you share some tips for when were going to go to an event or to a party on how we can structure our plate and stay healthy?

Audrey Johns (19:37): Absolutely. Like you said, I always add these fun things to my book, and this book happened to have a holiday chapter. So this is in the holiday chapter, but all of you listening in January, this goes for all events. It goes great for company events and going to a party. Its simple. First of all, if you know youre going to go to a place thats going to be full of junk food, eat beforehand. I think thats a go-to thats really, really easy. But say for instance you didnt know, and you get there and youre completely overwhelmed, theres tons of food, you dont know whats in it, you dont know whats healthy and whats not – I really recommend starting out with the vegetables. All three of my books have always talked about your plate equation, and I always recommend following the 50 /25 / 25 – 50% vegetables, 25% protein and 25% carbohydrates. That gives you the opportunity to have something yummy, have a roll or a potato or something. Youre at a party. You want to make sure that you are splurging a little bit, but not too much. So I recommend starting out with the vegetables because if you start out with the protein or the carbohydrates, youre going to end up filling up your plate really fast. Best case scenario – get a salad, because you know whats in it; you can actually see whats in it. If you end up getting some heavily cooked dish, you dont know if theres an entire can of cream of mushroom soup and two pounds of cheddar in it. Just because it happens to be a green item might not necessarily make it healthy. So I recommend going for your vegetables, ideally going for anything raw. Go for the veggie tray, the salad, those kinds of things. And then move onto the protein. 

Now, because this is a holiday chapter and Im modifying it for your listeners, I talk about how much I adore turkey. Any kind of white meat, chicken, turkey – anything like that is a great option. Youve got that big old salad; you can chop it up and put it on top of the salad, you can put it on the side. Go for the protein next because you definitely want to feel full. I dont know if Im the only one who looks at food like this, but its like thats the best deal there. You go out to dinner, and the steak and the chicken is the same price – I’m getting the steak; Im getting the best deal. When I look at a holiday gathering, I dont want to be cheap and only have the $0.25 salad. I want to have a piece of that chicken or I want to have some yummy steak. So, have a little bit of protein, and then finally go for the carbohydrates. And lets go for something thats more nutritious, if you can. I know a lot of people look at potatoes and they think starch, fat. But if youre thinking about nutritional value, potato versus a roll – youre going to get so many more nutritious elements from the potato. So have a baked potato. I make in my book the scallop potatoes; theyre absolutely amazing. Theyre really healthy and low calorie. But fill up on the vegetables, then protein, then carbohydrates. 

Another really great tip – if it happens to be a potluck, bring something healthy, bring something you know you can eat and you know that if you get there and everything is absolute junk and its going make you feel sick and reverse your weight loss work, then you know you can fill up on that. Then finally, what I always recommend is, youre at a party – have the dessert, have a drink. Just have it in very, very small quantities. For dessert, I always recommend splitting it with somebody. So if you go to a party and theres a great piece of pie or a cookie or a slice of chocolate cake – my favorite – split it with somebody or take half of it home or ask for a very small slice. When it comes to drinks, when you arrive at the party, dont go straight for the champagne or a glass of wine. Wait until youre actually sitting down with your meal. So, start with water, end with water and only have that one cocktail or that one glass of wine while youre eating, and youll be less likely to splurge the entire time.

Allan (23:43): Yes, absolutely. You also got into another topic that I think is really important, because I get this question all the time: Allan, what kind of exercise can I do to lose weight? Every time I hear it, I let out a little internal sigh because theyre not going to like my answer. But just so theyre hearing it from someone else, can you answer that question for us?

Audrey Johns (24:09): I hope that Im going to answer it the same way as you do. I am a firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen and not in the gym. Sure, you can burn some calories at the gym, but most likely you will end up thinking, I just burned 300 calories on the elliptical machine and now I can go have a slice of chocolate cake. I think that exercise is so, so important for our bodies. I am literally still sitting here in my Pilates clothes because I am a Pilates fanatic. It makes me feel strong, I carry myself better. I do look thinner, because I have better posture because of Pilates and exercise and because Im stronger. But I am a very firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen. Its all about what you put in your mouth. So, go for the exercise, but dont expect it to do all the work for you. You actually have to start working on how you eat.

Allan (25:01): I am complete agreement with you there. 

Audrey Johns (25:05) I’m so glad!

Allan (25:06): It surprises them, because Im a fitness guy and theyre like, You can teach us exercises and we can do these different things. And Im like, Yes, but thats for fitness. Thats to make you a better grandfather or grandmother, or make you better at tennis, or able to finish that 5K that you want to do in a couple of months.” Thats what exercise or training should be about, is helping you do those things. And then yes, if weight loss or fat loss is what youre really wanting, thats going to come from what and how much you eat. So, I completely agree with you that weve got to get our kitchens going if we want to get our waistline down.

Audrey Johns (25:45) Ive been thinking a lot about this lately, Allan. Why is that so hard for people to, not grasp, but to change? I do enjoy Pilates, but I was dragging getting there today, and I dont always want to go. For me, Id rather cook a nice healthy meal. I was trained to understand that and I think its daunting for people to think they have to give up something they love. They would rather add something. I dont know that that is necessarily the easiest thing to do, adding something, especially something that strenuous. But I think if your listeners do think it would be easier to add an exercise versus change how they eat, maybe we change the way we look at it and instead of taking away things you cant have, adding in things to your diet that you should be having. Its kind of in that same mentality, that youre adding exercise. Instead of adding exercise, why not add a plant-based meal, one meal a day? One entire meal thats completely all natural, and then go from there. And then keep increasing the amount of vegetables and healthy proteins that youre eating,

Allan (27:03): I think what it comes down to is, we were handed this really simple equation called calories in, calories out. So everybody thinks, I can increase the calories out by doing this work and I still get to eat what I want to eat. They may make some changes to what they eat, but in a general sense they dont, because they want to eat their cake, they want to eat their bread, they want to have their M&Ms, because they get a dopamine fix on that. A lot of us get into exercise and realize it feels really good to exercise. Once you get into it, the endorphins and things are happening for you there, so its a feel-good. Its kind of hard to tell someone, I want you to somewhat deprive yourself, if thats the right way to say it, of not having things while you go on this diet. To me its always the higher the quality of the food youre putting in your mouth, the less of it youre actually going to end up eating, because youre getting all the nutrition your body needs. Youre not going to have these urges to go and eat a whole bunch of bad foods, because your body has what it needs. Its not going to be telling you, Were not getting everything. Go eat everything. Thats just not going to happen for you, and thats why I think its really valuable for these cookbooks that are coming out that are using whole food ingredients, because this is simple. Once you get past that learning curve and get into it, its quick, its easy. As I was reading through the recipes, I thought just about anybody can do this. Theyll need some different pieces, the accessories in some cases, but once they have that kit and they get comfortable with this, its almost like an automatic. There are five or six ingredients in a dish, or in some cases just three or four. You put them in there in the way that theyre structured, just set the timer, and 15 minutes, 30 minutes later your meal is complete. Its so easy that I think things like this are going to make it easier and better for people to get into the kitchen and do whats right for their body.

Audrey Johns (29:17): Absolutely. Im in complete agreement with you. The instapot will open up healthy cooking to the masses just because its so simple. And you can find them everywhere now. They sell them at my grocery store. Im seeing them absolutely everywhere. So, Im sure the majority of your listeners whove never heard of an instant pot, its going to be like once you see an orange car and then all you ever see is orange cars. Youre like, Wow, I did not realize there were so many orange cars on the road. Now youre going to start seeing instapots everywhere. So, everybody can say “Thank you” to Allan and Audrey for this.

Allan (29:54): I think its a great tool. When I get settled down in Panama, well probably be looking for one. Im like you – not the Italian piece, but I actually like sitting in the kitchen and cooking. Ill do other things while Im cooking because its not always “you have to be on it” kind of thing. I pick dishes that are easier for me, but I love getting out on the grill, grilling some meat, protein, and then getting something going in the kitchen and moving around and using my kitchen, because its how I can get good food in my body. Im not going to necessarily get that if I try to eat out all the time.

Audrey Johns (30:33): Absolutely. Since you brought that up, the instapot is such a great tool to have when you are barbecuing, because you can cook a side dish. For instance, Ive got the scallop potatoes in here, or the bruschetta, or these amazing spicy brussels sprouts with bacon. You can have that cooking and you can go outside. You dont have to worry about lighting a fire in your kitchen. Its great for that. Even when you are in your kitchen… Its cold here right now and Im not going to be barbecuing in 20-degree weather, but I can be working hard over the stove top and know that my rice dish or my potato dish or my brussels sprouts are not going to burn and I can just concentrate on the one item, the one main dish and let the instant pot do the side dish. So you dont have to use it for the entire meal. You can use it for a side dish. You can use it for an entire meal. I have a whole breakfast chapter. I even made low calorie brownies in the instant pot. That seemed very wrong, if Im being completely honest. I complained about it to everyone I knew, because I love to bake, Allan. So I complained. I was like a child. I was pouting. I was not okay with having to bake in the instant pot. I’m like, “That’s a recipe for the book Im not looking forward to.” I made it. I will never make brownies in the oven ever again. They were the most moist and delicious brownies. And thats not easy to do when you are eliminating a lot of the fat in the dish. And so, you can really make just about anything in the instant pot. And my cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, it’ll give you tons of ideas. I actually make ginger ale in there as well. Low calorie ginger ale – I think its something like 17 calories per glass. Youre basically burning that off as youre drinking it, its so low calorie. I really recommend anybody who has the means to purchase an instant pot or borrow one from somebody, just to make sure you love it first. And check out my book, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Its easy, its delicious. Theyre going to be all natural. And I tried to make something for everybody in here, so I think everybody will really, really love it.

Allan (32:40): Theres a lot of variety in there for sure. Audrey, one last question. I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Audrey Johns (32:53): I have to say eating all natural by far. Youre going to feel better, youre going to be fit, youre going to feel happy, just because you will always be satiated and youll look your best as well. Your skin just glows and you always end up looking younger when you eat healthier. Same with water. I recommend to drink as much water as you can every single day. I drink on average about a gallon of water a day. I know that sounds like a lot. The closer you can get to that, the better. Youll be full, your metabolism will be roaring. Your body is mostly water; youve got to give back to your body. And finally, no negative self-talk. I know Im speaking to a man here and Im sure that you men do have quite a lot of negative self-talk, but for women…

Allan (33:39): Maybe not as much as women, but yes, we do it too.

Audrey Johns (33:43): As women, and as men, we hold ourselves to this really high standard of how we look and we talk negatively about ourselves. Being healthy and taking good care of your body is hard enough. You dont need to be putting yourself down. With that said, I was recently on the cover of a magazine. I didnt recognize myself. I was so heavily altered on the magazine. So dont believe what you see out there. Dont hold yourself to really high standards of heavily Photoshopped pictures. Just be proud of yourself. Be proud of yourself that youre trying, be proud of yourself that youre strong. Try to find things that you love about not just your body. It is great to have a good self-image of your body, but about your mind – how kind are you, what a great parent or grandparent you are, how much you care about the people around you – so much more important than what you look like. I think thats so important when it comes to being happy and healthy, is that you only use positive self-talk on yourself.

Allan (34:47): Excellent. Thank you for sharing those. The book is Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Audrey, if someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?

Audrey Johns (35:00): My Facebook page is a great place to start. Its Lose Weight By Eating With Audrey Johns. You can also check my blog out at LoseWeightByEating.com, and that will also showcase my other two books, Lose Weight by Eating and Lose Weight by Eating: Detox Week. Those will be non-instant pot cookbooks. Also check out Amazon. The reviews are absolutely amazing for Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Visit Barnes & Noble and flip through the pages if you like. If youre in the Boise area, I regularly go and sign all of the copies, so you may see me there with my sharpie marker. There are lots of places to check me out. Also, HarperCollins.com as well.

Allan (35:40): Okay. This is episode 366, so you can go 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/366 and Ill be sure to have all the links there in the show notes. Audrey, thank you again so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Audrey Johns (35:56): Thank you, Allan. I always love coming on the show and I cant wait to come back at the next book.

Allan (36:02): Outstanding. Yes.

So, do go check that out – having an instapot as a quick and efficient way for you to eat good, healthy food. And Audrey Johns makes it really, really easy with some great recipes in a beautiful book. You should check it out.

Theres still time – one week, approximately – for you to get your signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound edition, or go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you’d prefer the paperback edition. Im only going to be able to do this for about another week, because I am headed down to Panama in February and I wont be able to ship books from there. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.

Also, theres time right now for you to go out there and get your lab results from YourLabwork. Ive gotten a partnership agreement with them that allows you to get your discounted lab work – whatever labs you want to get done – and it allows you to track your progress. I had a full lab workup done before the end of the year, which Im going to use to compare the things that Im doing for my health and wellness and see what thats going to do with what the results are. Im not going to be looking at the scale because the scale doesnt tell me the right numbers, but my lab work does.

So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab. They offer really affordable tests. You can have the tests done that you want. A lot of times doctors try to talk you out of getting tests. They want to get the tests that they know and they can look up and answer to. Here youre able to get the whole picture. Like I said, I got the full workup, but you can pick and choose the lab work that you want to measure yourself on. So be it your hormones, your cholesterol – anything that youre interested in knowing about as far as your wellness, you can get those numbers. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab to get your lab results today. Thank you.

Another episode you may enjoy

Lose weight by eating with Audrey Johns
January 21, 2019

Fix your digestive issues with Tamara Freuman

Do you suffer from a bloated belly, IBS, diarrhea, or another digestive issue? Our guest today, Tamara Freuman has the answers in her new book, The Bloated Belly Whisperer.

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  • Judy Murphy

Thank you!

Allan (1:00): Tamara, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Tamara Freuman (1:04): Thank you.

Allan (1:05): Your book is called The Bloated Belly Whisperer. I know from reading the book why you now have that, for a lack of a better word, nickname, but thats also what youve called your book. Can you give us a little bit of the backstory on that?

Tamara Freuman (1:20): Sure. I am a dietician and I work in a gastroenterologists office in New York City. And pretty much from day one when I started working there, patient after patient would come to me complaining of bloating. Early in my career I really had no idea what this thing was. Its not something you read about in your textbooks when youre learning in dietitian school. I just had to ask a ton of questions and understand what was going on, and it became very clear to me very quickly that not all of these people were talking about the same experience or the same problem. As my practice progressed and as my career progressed, I understood that bloating really meant many different things, but there were about 10 causes that I kept seeing over and over again, and they started to look very familiar. It got to a point where within the first 10 minutes of talking to someone who was bloated, by asking certain questions and gathering certain information, they were clues that would lead me very quickly to the right cause and therefore the right treatment. Once I figured out how to figure it out, I thought Id better put this down in writing so that other people can really benefit from this knowledge.

Allan (2:30): And thats what I think is really cool. Having written my own book, I think as a writer youre like, Gosh, I really do hope they read this first chapter”, because this first chapter is really critical. I know so many people are going to say, I have constipation so Im just going to flip to that chapter and get to the rub of what I need to do. But you start off the book with a quiz. The reason I like the quiz is, its looking for those other signs that someone might be missing because they have the most significant symptom in mind, versus they might actually have two of these things going on at the same time and the quiz is actually going to help them do that. You kind of define how you started developing this quiz, but can you tell us about the quiz, how it works and why its valuable for the reader to take some time to go through it?

Tamara Freuman (3:28): The reason I developed this quiz is because the way that it works when a patient comes into my office is I have an hour to sit with you and ask you a million questions. And I do – I ask everything, and youll answer something, and that will lead me to another question. Theres sort of this brain algorithm thing going on that leads me into this Choose your own adventure decision tree, and then I land at the answer. I cant do that in a written book, so what I had to do is come up with the next best thing, and this quiz really is that. Its, how do I distill that very complex diagnostic back-and-forth into something that you can take by yourself at home and that will lead you to, if not the most accurate answer, the top three. And then maybe you can pick from the top two or three things that you sound like and recognize your own experience. So the quiz is the best chance that I have to approximate an in-person patient consultation with a reader sitting in their own home.

Allan (4:24): I really enjoyed going through the quiz and looking at the questions and the potential of what I would have answered at certain times in my life. I have the great fortune right now – Im very clean with what I eat, so I dont tend to suffer from bloating much. But I can say in my past, I definitely have had multiple symptoms of bloating, constipation and those types of things. I recognize the nature of it, so it was really cool to go through and say, Yeah, thats what I felt. Thats how that was. That wouldve been my diagnosis at that point in time. I do want to go through what I think are some of the more common ones that I hear from friends and family and sometimes from clients. The first one that got my attention, and I have a couple of questions as we dive into it, is indigestion.

Tamara Freuman (5:18): Yes.

Allan (5:20): I see commercial after commercial after commercial of, Take this pill, take that pill. This is quick; thats going to take forever, but that lasts forever. And go back and forth. Can you talk about the symptoms someone would have and then what some of the treatments are that they can do?

Tamara Freuman (5:37): Sure. Indigestion, the way I talk about it in the book, is the sour stomach bloat. And thats really any kind of acid-related malady. This is one of the more common types of bloating that originate in the stomach. One thing I try to do in the book is really separate bloating that originates in the stomach, which is its own beast and it has its own remedies, versus bloating that originates in the intestines, which has other causes and other remedies. So, of the types of bloating that originate in the stomach, indigestion, acid-related issues are a problem. And whats tricky about them is they can be very situational. Patients have a really hard time identifying whats going on and whether there are food triggers, because theyll say, Sometimes I eat this food and Im fine. And then another time I eat that food and Im miserable. Am I intolerant to that food or not? Whats going on? And the issue is, our stomachs reaction to food is very contextual. It depends when we last ate. Has it been five, six, seven hours since we last ate and we are empty in acid? Or did we just eat three hours ago a big giant fatty meal and were still a little bit full from that meal? You could eat the same food in either of those contexts and have a really different reaction, versus youre on a normal meal schedule, its been about four hours since youve eaten, youre a little bit hungry – not over hungry, not over full. You eat that meal and you have a third reaction. And so, this idea that your body can overreact with acid, or you could have a loss of pressure in that muscle that separates your stomach and your esophagus, because you ate a lot of fat or you had some alcohol with the meal and that meal is refluxing on you. The trick to classic indigestion is really understanding the foods that trigger it, the contextual triggers of it in terms of your hunger level or fullness level, and therefore how to manage it with food choices, with supplements, with medications.

Allan (7:33): Okay. I like how in the book youre very clear with, Lets start with the How and what we eat. You went through a process of saying if you suffer from indigestion, youre going to want to eat more regularly, smaller meals, those kinds of things. And if that doesnt quite solve all the problems, then there are some medical things we can do, as far as over-the-counter and prescription stuff. Can you walk through the food choices, the size and timing of meals, and then some of the other treatments?

Tamara Freuman (8:08): Definitely. As a dietician, the way that I would typically approach people with acid indigestion is Im looking for foods that empty the stomach rather expeditiously. The way I describe it is your stomach is basically a food blender. Its main job is to liquify your meal, so that that liquid meal can trickle out of the stomach and move on into the digestive journey. I tell my patients, Envision how much stomach acid does your stomach need to secrete, and how much time and churning does your stomach blender have to churn in order to liquify a giant kale salad versus to liquify a kale smoothie. Same food, same ingredients, very different physical properties. So, you can envision what type of work and what kind of time and what level of acid will be required to liquify certain textures of foods, certain volumes of foods as compared to others. So the first thing that Im really looking at with my patients is how much volume do we eat in a sitting and what are the physical properties of that meal? Can we tame the texture? Can we tame the volume? Break it up – instead of having a big lunch at 12:00 and then nothing again until dinner at 7:00, can we have a small lunch at 12:00 and then the second part of your lunch at 3:30 or 4:00, and then another small meal at 7:00, so that youre never too hungry and overeating and then never too empty and starving, so youre going to overeat because youre starving. So, thats one thing that I do. The second thing as a dietitian that I care about is fat. Fat really does have an effect on the sphincter muscle that keeps your stomach contents in the stomach and prevents them from refluxing into the esophagus. Really high fat meals can relax that pressure so that food is more likely to reflux. So for a patient who does have that classic indigestion, Im looking at fat, Im looking at frequency of meals, volume of meals, and texture. For many, many patients, that gets them really far in terms of symptom control, even without any medications.

Allan (10:20): You also threw alcohol in there, because that can be symptomatic as well, right?

Tamara Freuman (10:25): Absolutely. Alcohol has a very similar effect as fat in terms of relaxing that muscle, and that can make reflux more likely.

Allan (10:35): Most of the medications that are on the market actually reduce the stomach acid at some level. But Ive read, and maybe its wrong and Im misreading something here, that sometimes we would have some of these symptoms because our stomachs not producing enough acid.

Tamara Freuman (10:54): Thats a really common Internet misconception thats out there. I know that there are a lot of beliefs that we’re not having enough stomach acid and we should take apple cider vinegar or other things to acidify the stomach, or even supplements. Theres one called Betaine HCL that I see people use a lot. Theres really no evidence to support any of this; in fact, there is some pretty strong evidence to support the contrary. Frankly, if you ask any person who has suffered from chronic acid indigestion or more serious chronic acid reflux disease, they feel better when they take a TUMS, they feel better with acid reducers. So, I havent really seen any evidence to support this idea that not enough stomach acid would cause acid indigestion.

Allan (11:41): Thank you for that. Like I said, that kind of confused me when I was reading through. I thought we were supposed to go away from the TUMS and go towards taking HCL to push our stomachs to do the digestion faster, if you will. But I guess not. Thank you. The next one I want to talk about, which I think is also very common and actually very uncomfortable for a lot of folks because it makes it sometimes difficult for them to feel comfortable leaving the house, is constipation.

Tamara Freuman (12:12): Yes, constipation is a big one. Its really common, and also I think a lot of people who are constipated don’t recognize that theyre constipated. I have a lot of patients who will come to me and theyre complaining of bloating, and when I go through my little back-and-forth algorithm in my brain, it sounds very much like what I call backed up bloating, or being full of stool. And theyll say, No, no, no, Im not constipated. I go to the bathroom every day. Theres this idea that if you move your bowels every day, you couldnt possibly be constipated. And thats not true at all. You could move your bowels, but move them incompletely, and still move your bowels every day and wind up having a very high stool burden or a very large backlog of stool hanging out in your colon thats unable to really be passed. And so, sometimes people can be constipated and they dont even know it.

Allan (13:02): Okay. So how would someone know the difference between normal constipation and something where theyre not completely getting rid of all the poo?

Tamara Freuman (13:12): The classic constipation, what most people recognize as constipation is, I dont go every day. I might skip a day, I might skip two days. My stools are really hard. There are these hard little balls, or I have to strain incredibly much to go. And when I go, I feel like I didnt get it all out. Thats the typical experience of constipation that most people who have that will recognize that theyre constipated. But there could be people who have extremely high fiber diets, for example. Theyre putting a lot of stuff into the pipeline and they go to the bathroom once a day. And its like a smallish to medium, formed normal size stool – in other words, putting more stuff in than is coming out. Someone on a really, really high fiber diet might need to go to the bathroom three or four times a day to keep up with the input. Sometimes if youre just going one time a day with a very high fiber diet, and its not an incredibly large amount of stool, you might be falling behind. Thats something people might not recognize is going on and then they dont understand why theyre so bloated.

Allan (14:17): Thats because the fibers picking up extra water and making up some girth to what youre digesting, versus not.

Tamara Freuman (14:27): Right. Fiber by definition is indigestible, so fiber that goes in must come out. We cannot break it down, we cannot absorb it. With fiber, what goes in must come out, and if a lot is going in and not a lot is coming out, then you might be outpacing your ability to eliminate it, which could happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have a slow colon, which can happen. Maybe your pelvic floor muscles arent working optimally and youre unable to pass large amounts of stool. There are lots of reasons that could happen.

Allan (15:01): I actually had a green smoothie yesterday for lunch, and Ive already gone twice today. So, I think the fiber is working its way through me quite quickly.

Tamara Freuman (15:13): It is. And I love that were at a place in our relationship where we can share these things with each other. Thats so great!

Allan (15:21): Its funny, because actually theres another author that Im interviewing and hes pretty heavy into the fiber stuff. Even though I do the keto, Im going to work a little bit more on getting my greens in, particularly the leafy greens with the fibers. I did do a fruit smoothie yesterday, Im going to do a smoothie today and see how that works for me.

Tamara Freuman (15:43): Excellent.

Allan (15:44): Alright. So, someone comes to you and they are in fact constipated. What can they do now to help themselves?

Tamara Freuman (15:53): The trick with constipation is, its really important to understand, if you can, the nature of the constipation. You can be constipated for more than one reason, as I alluded to before. For example, one thing is you just dont eat enough fiber. Thats the low hanging fruit – nothing in, nothing out – so, thats a more straightforward fix. Some people are constipated, like I said, because their colons are really, really slow; it takes a really long time for stuff to move through them. And the longer waste spends in your colon, the more dried out it can become, so that can be a cause for constipation. Some people, their motility is fine. Things move through them at a proper pace, at a normal pace, but the muscles involved with defecation arent coordinating properly – they cant relax and let the stool out, or their muscles are too weak and they cant propel enough force to get the stool out. There are all sorts of reasons that someone could be constipated and typically a dietician or a doctor will start with some of the more likely causes. Theyll look at the fiber, they might do a little bit of an-over-the-counter laxative thing and see if that does the trick. And for many people with a slow transit constipation or inadequate fiber, that is a really quick and easy fix. But if youre someone that is on a high fiber diet and youve taken magnesium supplements or MiraLAX or a senna tea or something – those low level laxatives, and literally they havent done a thing for you – then we have to start wondering whether your musculature can really support healthy defecation, and maybe get an evaluation from a gastroenterologist of your pelvic floor function to see, because all the laxatives in the world and all the fiber in the world aren’t going to help if there is some faulty plumbing and things cant get out.

Allan (17:47): Okay. Typically Ill have some coffee in the morning, and that seems to be a stimulant that gets my whole digestive system working rather quickly. So, that is something they could also consider – some caffeine in the morning?

Tamara Freuman (18:05): Its actually not the caffeine. Its the coffee. Theres a compound called chlorogenic acid that is in regular coffee and also in decaf coffee, and that is what stimulates the colon to kind of perk up and move along. You could get that benefit from both a regular coffee and a decaf coffee. Whereas even a caffeinated tea will not have as strong of an effect because it doesnt have the chlorogenic acid. I know a lot of people don’t drink coffee because they say, Im caffeine sensitive. The caffeine doesnt agree with me, so I cant drink coffee and therefore I cant benefit from the gut stimulating properties of coffee. And I always tell them decaf works too. If you enjoy the taste of coffee and youre willing to have a decaf, get on that because it will help.

Allan (18:51): Cool. That was in the book; I just actually forgot about it. I guess the other question that came up as I was reading through, because I had a guest on once that swore by coffee enemas. I know enemas are a way to help with constipation from time to time. What are your thoughts on coffee enemas?

Tamara Freuman (19:11): Enemas in general will promote emptying. Ive had patients who’ve needed to use enemas regularly because their pelvic floor muscles dont work well or because they have extremely pathologically slow transit, and enemas on a regular basis are the only way that theyre able to get some relief from their bloating – enemas, whether its coffee or water or salient or whatever. My understanding for the few patients Ive had that have done coffee enemas – it was really about an alternative delivery system of caffeine, because they were not able to tolerate coffee by mouth. Once I had a patient who had these terrible migraines and caffeine really helped her with her migraines, but she couldnt drink coffee; it gave her this awful, awful acid reflux. So, she happened upon the solution of coffee enemas as a delivery system for caffeine, and that seemed to work for her. So my understanding of a coffee enema in terms of constipation relief – it probably has much more to do with the enema and probably a lot less to do with the coffee.

Allan (20:12): Okay. Any other thoughts if someones going through constipation that they can do besides the changing and making sure theyre getting plenty of fiber, maybe taking some of the soft laxative formula or perhaps enemas, that we could consider if were looking for treatment options?

Tamara Freuman (20:32): What I would say about the fiber question is, if you are someone who does have a pelvic floor function disorder, eating less fiber until your pelvic floor muscles have been rehabilitated through treatment might actually make it better, not worse. The fiber is a little bit tricky, which again comes back to this idea of, if more fiber doesnt feel better, there may be a reason for that. And for some people less fiber may be better. Theres another thing that is a little bit underrecognized with constipation, and that is position on the toilet. There is something out there called a Squatty Potty, which is basically an overpriced stepstool that you put in front of your toilet and it raises your knees so that when youre sitting in a toilet, youre in a more squatting position. That is our bodys more preferred natural position for pooping. The pelvic floor muscles are optimally aligned when we are in a squatting position. Particularly for people who have pelvic floor problems, getting those knees up with a stepstool of some sort while youre going to the bathroom can really make a difference.

Allan (21:34): I should reiterate, because I think a lot of people stop their squat real early. So just being seated is not necessarily the squat position. Were talking about your bottom being a little lower, so that the hip crease is below your knees. And yes, the Squatty Potties put you into that natural position while youre on the toilet if you are having some issues. That’s actually why the guy invented Squatty Potty. I think he said his mother was having some issues and thats why he came up with it. Its cool, but it is just a stool. And then I guess the last area I really want to get into, as far as some of the things that we would deal with that I see from time to time, is carbohydrate intolerance. Can you get into that a little bit?

Tamara Freuman (22:23): Sure. Carbohydrate intolerance is any time that you have digestive distress because of a poorly absorbed carbohydrate. There are these different families of carbohydrates that human beings may be inclined for one reason or another not to absorb very well. And I think the one that most people are familiar with is lactose intolerance. I think its pretty common knowledge at this point that for a large segment of the population, once were out of our teenage years or out of our 20s, we start producing less of the digestive enzyme lactase that we need to absorb milk, sugar or lactose. As a result, when we have too much dairy, especially high lactose dairy, we can get really gassy, we could get bloated, we can have diarrhea. Thats one that were very familiar with, but there are other carbohydrates that we could also be intolerant to. Another one is fructose. There are these special transporters in our gut that are supposed to take fructose out of the gut and some people have more of them than others. So if you have a really high load of fructose and you dont have enough transporters to take it out of your gut, youre going to have very similar symptoms as lactose intolerance. And the trick to some of these carbohydrate intolerances is the symptoms dont onset immediately after the lactose or the fructose or the offending carbohydrate. It takes at least four hours and typically closer to six to eight hours, because the symptoms of malabsorption dont happen until that sugar or carbohydrate makes it all the way to your colon, and that takes a while. So what can happen is someone might experience the onset of gas at 3:00 p.m. and theyll look and be like, What did I just eat? But really what they should be looking at is what did they eat for breakfast? And there are other carbohydrate intolerances that Im seeing more and more of as well, especially with some of the special diets and the new products coming out that are sugar-free, low carb. Theres a lot of use now of sugar alcohols – things like sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol. People like them a lot because theyre natural or naturally derived. They have no calories, they dont raise your blood sugar, and so youre seeing them in a lot of sugar-free, low carb, even some keto products. The problem is when you have a lot of them in your diet, they can exert a very similar effect as a lactose intolerance or a fructose tolerance because human beings dont absorb them well. So, those too can produce gas, bloating, diarrhea, things like that. There are these different families of carbohydrates that can produce those symptoms.

Allan (24:51): Thats going to be a function of doing a food log and looking at symptoms and trying to find that connection.

Tamara Freuman (25:01): Definitely. What I tell people is a food and symptom journal for a week, 10 days, where you record the time of what you eat, everything, and the time of onset of symptoms. And what youre going to want to do is look back at four to eight hours before your symptom onset, because very often thats where it originates. Thats especially so for carbohydrate intolerance. Not necessarily for other types of bloating, but for a carbohydrate intolerance a food and symptom journal is terrific. It really provides the data. You need to figure it out.

Allan (25:33): In the book you went through several supplements that we can use to help our digestive system do the things its intended to do so we dont have these plumbing issues, for a lack of a better word. Do you mind going through a few of your favorites that would benefit most of us to consider having as part of our diet?

Tamara Freuman (25:57): Definitely. Im not a big pill pusher, Im not a huge supplement pusher. Ill start there.

Allan (26:03): Im not either, but Ill tell you, I get more questions about what supplements they should be taking. I tell them, whole foods first.

Tamara Freuman (26:11): Definitely.

Allan (26:13): And if there are some other issues and you want to optimize, thats when you can start looking to these things.

Tamara Freuman (26:18): Absolutely. If I had to pick the top two that I recommend the absolute most often and the top two that give the most of my patients… If I could only have two supplements to recommend for the rest of my life, which two would they be? They would probably be magnesium and soluble fiber. Starting with magnesium – its an electrolyte, its a mineral, our bodies have a need for it. Its something that we need anyway, but when we take it in higher doses of 350 milligrams or more, it has what we call an osmotic laxative effect. Thats a fancy way of saying it draws more water into the bowel and speeds up bowel transit so that people who tend to be on the slower, more sluggish side, people who tend to have harder stools that are difficult to pass, its magical for them. You take it at bedtime, usually in a dose of 400-500 milligrams, sometimes a little bit higher if needed, and the next morning, it really helps regulate bowels for people who are constipated. And its really safe, its really cheap, its really available. Its something that I recommend a lot, and its just a lot of bang for your buck.

Allan (27:29): I use a ZMA supplement from time to time, but I would caution folks with magnesium. Walk your way into it. You might wake up in the middle of the night and have a “hurry, go” kind of situation. But I do use a ZMA occasionally. The other thing Ive noticed about the ZMA is it gives me these really cool lucid dreams from time to time. I just dream better, and I think probably Im sleeping better with the ZMA. It is also relaxing and helps you sleep.

Tamara Freuman (28:01): Interesting. I dont have all that much experience with it, so its really interesting to get that feedback. I would say that the other supplement that I use a lot is for people with the opposite problem – diarrhea; people who are really prone to diarrhea and this pattern of running back and forth to the bathroom four or five times every morning where they feel like they cant get out of the house. For that, a soluble fiber supplement in the mass market – things like Citrucel and Benefiber; in the more natural market youre looking at things like acacia fiber, Heathers Tummy fiber, things like that. Taking that in the evening at bedtime can really regulate the bowels in the morning, calm down that spasmodic back-and-forth, consolidate all these little pieces that arent coming out at once into one or two complete, calm, normal formed stools that you get out easily and you get on your way. I have to say that for my patients with irritable bowel syndrome that are diarrhea-prone and spasmodic – soluble fiber is just magical for them; they do so well with it. So, I rely heavily on that in my practice.

Allan (29:08): Okay. I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Tamara Freuman (29:19): I love that definition of wellness and I think its so similar to my own. One thing I see that I think undermines a lot of peoples ability to achieve that definition that you’ve described, is theres a real dogmatism about diet. We kind of adopt these dogmas that, This is bad, this is good. You should eat this way. We all should eat that way, because so-and-so told me that and so-and-so eats that way. Theres this black and white thinking as if all human beings have to eat the exact same diet. I like to really encourage people to step back and take a more global perspective, which is, there are populations all over this big planet of ours who have extremely healthy lives that live into their 100s without chronic disease very, very well, and they eat really different diets. Theres not one diet that all human beings have to eat. And one diet that works for you or for your personal trainer or for your aunt or for your best friend might wreak havoc on you, in terms of digestively, or might be miserable for you because it makes you gassy or you hate the foods on it or its inconvenient for you. There are a lot of reasons why we dont all have to eat the same diet, and I think allowing yourself and opening yourself to the possibility that you could have a very healthy diet and I could have a really healthy diet, and we could have completely different diets, and that is not a conflict. I think thats so important. So thats the one thing, to be a little bit less dogmatic about diet and really be open to the possibility of different paths to good health.

Theres another thing I see a lot that really has a negative impact on peoples relationship with food and eating, which I think impairs wellness. Its this real emphasis on what to avoid, what to eliminate, whats toxic, whats bad, and placing foods into these categories of dietary demons and defining your diet based on what you dont eat. What Ill say is Ill have a patient who could come to me and say they follow a vegan diet or a plant-based diet. That doesnt tell me anything about whether its a healthy diet, because potato chips are vegan, apple juice is vegan. So, defining your diet and good health by what you dont eat, I think is a lot less useful than defining your diet and its helpfulness based on what you do eat. Whats actually going in your mouth? I dont care if youre a vegan, Mediterranean, keto, whatever kind of dietary pattern you follow. Its less about what you avoid and more about what you do eat. You could avoid 50 things in the world that are supposed to be terrible for you, but if youre not eating any vegetables or youre not eating anything with vitamins, your diets not going to be healthy. And so really focusing on putting good stuff in your mouth rather than being so fearful of being poisoned by something that might not be perfect going in your mouth, is I think a really healthy, constructive way to look at your diet.

I think the third one is the importance of routine. We think about diet as being this main key to health, but I think we also forget that sleep plays a really big role. Movement and activity play a really big role. And ultimately for optimal health, our bodies want us to be in a rhythm of consistent meal times, adequate rest, regular movement. When any one of those three pieces of the puzzle are missing, its going to be really hard to have true and complete health and wellness. We talk a lot about diet, but then we stay up too late, messing around on YouTube, and then we get five hours of sleep. Or we skip meals some days and then try to compensate by eating a super healthy lunch, but we didnt have breakfast. I think the best way to really be kind to our bodies and give our bodies what they need is to pay attention to consistent rhythms, routines, meal times, sleep times. Our bodies thrive, I think, when we have these set schedules and our organs know what to expect and have that predictability.

Allan (33:26): Tamara, those were excellent. I love all of those, so thank you for that. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book The Bloated Belly Whisperer, where would you like for me to send them?

Tamara Freuman (33:39): I have a website – TheBloatedBellyWhisperer.com. Theres information about the book. I have a lot of my old newsletters, where I sound off on things that are on my mind and important to me. There are links to things that Ive written. I write a lot online for U.S. News and for Self, and so links to a lot of those articles are on my website. So I think my websites a great place to start.

Allan (34:01): Excellent. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/365, and Ill be sure to have a link there. Tamara, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Tamara Freuman (34:13): Thank you for having me. It was so fun.

 If you've been struggling with gastrointestinal issues, you know its a big pain. Now Tamara in her book has given you a quiz thats going to help you have the right conversations with your doctor to get this taken care of once and for all. So, I do hope that youll go out and check out that book if you have any issues with your stomach at all.

Also, Ive been telling you this past couple of weeks, during the month of January, I am offering to sell you a signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound to get a hardbound edition of the book, or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback to get a paperback edition of the book, a signed copy mailed directly to you. I can only do this during the month of January because in February Im moving to Panama, so hurry up while supplies last, because I did get a shipment of books in and Id like to get them in your hands if youre interested in having a signed copy. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.

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Erin Boardman Wathen – Why can’t I stick to my diet

Did you have a New Year’s resolution to go on a particular diet? How’s that working out for you? Our guest today is a holistic weight loss coach and one of the first international food addiction counselors. She’s going to give you some tactics and strategies to help you along with your diet. Her name is Erin Boardman Wathen, and the book we’re going to talk about is Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?

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Thank you!

Allan (1:10): Erin, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Erin Boardman Wathen (1:14): Thank you so much for having me.

Allan (1:16): Your book, Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?, I think is extremely timely, because we’re in the new year here and this is the time when people start their new diets, and it’s also the time when they quit their new diets. The word “diet” to me actually means what you’re eating. If you look in the dictionary, that’s what you’re eating. But we’ve kind of morphed the word over the years to mean a temporary state of eating, a restriction of doing something different than what we were doing before, almost with the intent that we’re going to go back to that later.

Erin Boardman Wathen (1:56): Yes.

Allan (1:57): But your book’s not about that.

Erin Boardman Wathen (1:59): No. My book is about how the fact that we go on diets is why we can’t stick to them, because it’s the way that you’re going to change your life, change your body composition, change all of those things, so you have a long-term approach. The reason why so many of us could not stick to our diet was because we went on a diet – the term that has become relevant, not the actual Webster’s Dictionary term, because we go on it like a Ferris wheel for example, where we always intend to get off of it at the wedding, the reunion, see the magic number, without any real commitment to the rest of our lives. And what I’ve noticed is a very important key to all of this is how and why we gain the weight in the first place. And it’s very often I hear this time of year, and I’ll hear it more in January: “I just enjoy the holidays.” There’s way more to it than enjoying the holidays. You also are eating cookies 24/7. So, we also need to really do a deep dive into why you gain the weight, how you gain the weight, and not just chalk it up to “That’s how life is.”

Allan (3:21): There was a point in the book where you said, “Looking back on it, I was not suffering from a lack of morals, nor was my life insufficient in some major way.” That sort of hit me in the chest, that we get into these episodes where we’re not living the way we want to live, and we then become the judge and jury of ourselves, and can be pretty harsh. Someone read the introduction to my book and they were like, “Allan, you’re way too harsh on yourself.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t think I was harsh enough.” But can you tell us a little bit about your backstory, because it was kind of fascinating to me? You shared so much, which was amazing, because it really opened my eyes to how we look to ourselves, how we’re perceived by others and how that all makes us into this stew of not living a whole life.

Erin Boardman Wathen (4:25): Yeah, no problem. I was definitely one of those kids whose mother had the right intention of never ever letting us have sugar, but when I had it, I was so enamored with it, I couldn’t eat it quickly enough and I had to get more, and had a very emotional and chemical reaction, looking back on it, from an early age. I distinctly remember my brother and I – he was years younger – Easter morning, I ate all my candy before we got to church, because there it was. I got older, I started dieting, but the sugar was very prevalent, especially in the ‘90s. For those of you who are younger or older than me – fat–free was what we were told was the way everything needed to be. Dean Ornish wrote a great book in the ‘80s talking about a certain type of diet for heart patients that somehow got distorted into everyone eating buckets of SnackWell’s. We used to when I was in college. So, the combination of my own predisposition to loving sugar, and everything having so much sugar at that time, because we took all the fat out. So, my weight definitely fluctuated; not enough that anyone ever really talked to me in a medical sense, or there was ever an intervention or anything like that. I was always under the radar because I, quote unquote, “looked normal”. I was a normal size and I always exercised, so my weight wasn’t too out of the normal range. But through all those years, I can look at every picture from my life and tell you how much I weighed, because I was always obsessed with how much I ate, “Can I be skinny by Friday? What’s going to fit?” It was this constant mental chatter going on constantly, constantly. I call it the white noise machine; it was always on, drowning out other things.

I didn’t understand intellectually as a person that it wasn’t because I was a bad person, it wasn’t because I was weak. It was because I was flat out addicted to sugar. I would catch myself having a disagreement with a friend or a family member and eating ice cream on the phone while I was arguing with them, in between bites. I would be getting in my points while eating fish food and standing in front of the refrigerator. Those episodes really made me realize there was way more to it than just “Erin likes sugar”. Everyone always thought it was so cute how much I liked sugar, like, “It’s so funny that you like sugar so much because you’re skinny.” And I’m like, “Well, I’m not skinny, but okay, fine.” But it was never a thing where anyone ever spoke to me about it seriously; none of my doctors, even though I was still getting acne and cavities in my 30s. No one ever asked me what I was eating, which is crazy to me. So, it definitely reached a point where on all those levels of acceptance I had to understand the reason I wasn’t the weight I wanted to be or the reason I was always kind of short with my husband, even though he would say I still am sometimes, is because I was always in some stage of sugar, either my blood sugar’s spiking, my blood sugar’s rising. I was constantly on this rollercoaster of sugar and Diet Coke. And the problem with diet soda, which a lot of us don’t understand is, the reason why we like it is because it tastes sweet, but it really messes with our brains and we end up needing, wanting, craving sugar even more. So it was a lot of sugar, artificial sweetener and a range of other symptoms.

Allan (8:31): I used to really have a bad addiction to Diet Coke. It wasn’t that I went around hiding it from people, because that just seemed to be normal. You’re walking around with a 44-oz Diet Coke. Why not? There are no calories. It’s not the lifestyle we really want to live, but it doesn’t register with us that we’re hurting ourselves. Whereas with candy, sugar and those types of things – and I think your favorite was the gummy bears – was that you had these in the console of your car, you had them stashed in places around the house. And even though you knew you wanted to get away from them, your body wouldn’t let you. Can you talk a little bit about sugar addiction and your experiences with it?

Erin Boardman Wathen (9:18): The thing about sugar addiction is, when you look back upon your life, you probably have pictures in your house, or your mother does, of you and your first birthday cake. We’re all celebrating, “Yay! Allan’s one! He’s going to get sugar. We’re going to light a candle.” So most of us have our first taste of sugar when we’re really, really young, way before we can even really understand it. And it’s so normalized. A lot of the food we eat currently for the average American person, so the standard American diet, is chock full of sugar we’re aware of. Most people will acknowledge there’s sugar in ice cream, for example. But sugar we’re not aware of, in things like hamburger buns or even juice. There’s orange juice or whatever fruit, and they add sugar into it to make it even sweeter. So, if you’re someone who is addicted to sugar, you could cut out the ice cream and the gummy bears, but unless you’re really aware of everything you’re eating, those hot dog buns are going to trigger your body to want more sugar. There are a lot of chemicals involved and dopamine receptors and a lot of science, but just to summarize it, which I think is easiest – the more sugar we eat, the more sugar we want, because like any drug, our body gets a tolerance going. For example, if you used to be able to only, quote unquote, “need” a medium Frappuccino, over time, the next one looks pretty good. That’s because your body’s craving more sugar. We might not even be aware of what’s going on, but that’s the behind the scenes science of why people end up with these gigantic drinks or smoothies or whatever, because “That sounds okay, but the bigger one sounds a little bit better.” That’s the sugar talking; that’s not your body talking.

Allan (11:30): All that time, I thought it was the caffeine talking, which it probably was, because that was my primary source of caffeine. I decided to give up the Diet Cokes, but I still relapse every once in a while, but not very often. I decided I needed the caffeine, so I shifted over to black coffee. And it took me a little while. I actually had to use fruit as a bridge to get me over to drinking black coffee, but I was able to eventually get out from under what I would call a Diet Coke addiction.

Erin Boardman Wathen (12:07): I distinctly remember the same thing. I kind of prioritize which Diet Cokes meant the most to me, body-wise, craving, that sort of a concept. But that 4:00 p.m. one, I used to have when my kids would come home from school and everybody is in a bad mood. I’m making dinner or going to soccer. There’ll be times now where all of a sudden, out of the blue, I need a Diet Coke. I’ll look at my watch and it’s 4:00 or 5:00. It’s been years, but I’ll still have that, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! A Diet Coke would help!” And the thing is, if you are someone who’s got a problem with Diet Coke, it’s really easy to get one. You could just send your kid into the grocery store and they could bring you one out. We have a problem with these sorts of foods and drinks in our current environment, with the way the grocery stores are set up, and even things like going to get paper and there’s a row of candy before you check out at Staples. You really have to make a conscious effort to be aware of where all this stuff lies, because it isn’t like alcohol that’s in bars. Sugar is in everything, it’s everywhere. People love to give it to you as gifts, as “Thank You’s”, samples at Costco. But being aware of everything it’s in, or saying “No, thank you” until you know otherwise is something I’ve had to learn over time. Sugar addiction is one of those things where it’s so easy to trigger it again, even if you’ve been off of it for weeks and months, because your body is still kind of longing for it a little bit. And then there’s also the psychological component of, “A 4:00 o’clock Diet Coke would really help my kids be less irritating. It would fix it. My kids would whine less if I had a Diet Coke, the homework would be easier.” So, the physical and all the other aspects of when we get in these habits. And then our body is also interested in having it. It becomes a lot more of a process than just not having the ice cream. It also becomes reading every label and being very aware of what’s in your salad dressing, because even if we have the greatest intentions, if we’re always triggering ourselves for sugar without even meaning to, with a Diet Coke for example – it’s really hard to get away from it.

Allan (14:47): I like how in the book you’ve given us basically four guidelines, because the way I look at it is, one, I believe humans are opportunistic eaters. When we were foraging and hunting, that was perfect. We came upon a field of blueberries in the spring – it’s time to fatten up for the fall and winter, so go ahead, gorge yourself on the blueberries until they’re gone. And then they’re gone. But today you walk into a grocery store and 95% of it is sugar-laden crap.

Erin Boardman Wathen (15:17): Totally.

Allan (15:18): Your four guidelines give what I feel is a really good, solid base model for someone to go through their daily eating and figure out how to make it work for them. Do you mind going through your four guidelines?

Erin Boardman Wathen (15:31): Yeah, no problem. A food plan is something you stay on, it’s how you live your life. It’s from here till whenever. It’s not the “skinny by Friday” concept, or the reunion. It’s just how you’re living. I really thought a lot about all my nutrition knowledge, all my behavioral knowledge, all those things, and how to summarize it as quickly and as succinctly as possible. And I got to the four fundamentals because I think anything less than five on your hand is easy to remember, but also because if you stick to these things you will pretty much be okay. Even though they’re very simple – the amount of words or the amount of numbers – it doesn’t mean that it isn’t broad in its scope. So, first of all, stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. If you think about your average American grocery store, there’s fruit and vegetables on one wall, meat is always on the back, by the freezers, and the other wall is usually dairy. And you have oils and stuff in there somewhere. But we don’t really need anything in the middle. That’s where the Wheat Thins live, and the Granola, and all of the things that trip us up, that just decrease our quality of life. So, the first one is always stick to the perimeter or the grocery store, not just when you’re in the grocery store, but also in life. So if you’re going out to dinner and they put the bread down, you don’t really need the bread. You don’t need all of those refined carbohydrates.

Allan (17:19): I get really weird looks when I go to a conference and I pass the bread and I don’t take one. And then I don’t eat my dessert, and they’re just looking at me like…

Erin Boardman Wathen (17:30): Like, “What’s wrong with that guy?” Also, when I was doing my food plan, it was really important to me to have it not be ridiculous for normal people. By “normal people”, I mean average budgets in average parts of the world, not people that are going to go to five different grocery stores to get all the ingredients and spend hours in the kitchen and having a ton of extra cash. I’m talking normal food like chicken, broccoli, olive oil, things you can get in a regular grocery store. So, stick to the perimeters is always the first thing. The second is, three meals a day. Now if you’re an intermittent faster, you can say your coffee is one of them. But we don’t need to snack. We’re just in this habit of three meals a day and two snacks, and you always have dessert, like you were saying, or the bread. If we’re eating the right amount of food and the right portions, we can go very easily from lunch till dinner. We’re just used to having a snack, because everyone was always telling us we had to have snacks all the time. And look, there are so many snack foods available. So, we don’t need to be eating as often. And almost always the snacks we go to are some sort of chips or a bar or something that’s not really nutritious. It’s just empty calories, empty bag, empty everything.

Allan (19:12): The real thing here is, once people get off the sugar, they’ll start to recognize that the reason they were hungry at 10:00 and then again at 3:00 was the low blood sugar. They had a high blood sugar before, after they ate breakfast, because it’s orange juice, a bagel and a cup of coffee with three teaspoons of sugar in it. Their blood sugar spikes, and then by 10:00 their blood sugar’s plummeting and their body’s screaming at them, “Give me more.” So once you get to that whole food, like you said, walking around the perimeter of the store, that’s actually going to make this three meals per day a whole lot easier.

Erin Boardman Wathen (19:49): Absolutely. The reason why people are ravenous at 4:00, a lot of it is because they didn’t eat enough fat at lunch. It all kind of goes together – we’re not eating enough in one meal, so then we have a snack in between. It’s this whole domino effect with one bad choice leads to another bad choice, leads to you’re eating from the time you get home from work until you’re asleep. You had the best intentions in the world at 6:00 that morning and you’re going to bed at 10:00 and you’re like, “What did I just do?” Because you’re eating sugar all day long. And it’s really easy to keep eating it, because it’s in everything. I’ve had clients who had two or three barbecue potato chips and are craving sugar for a week, and they’re like, “I don’t know what I did to myself.” I’m like, “Tell me everything you ate.” It’ll come down to a couple of barbecue chips, because there’s sugar in there, it triggered them. They, for whatever reason, weren’t cognizant of it. Next thing you know, they’re stealing their kids’ Halloween candy. It’s a slippery slope sometimes.

Allan (21:00): It’s the parent tax.

Erin Boardman Wathen (21:04): Yeah, Dad tax, right? So, you have three meals a day, the perimeter of the grocery store. I also talk a lot about meal planning, and not just “On Sunday I make batches of chicken” sort of thing, which is great if you do that, but also not making any food decisions on the fly. You should pretty much know what you’re eating every day, because it follows your meal plan. But also if you know you’re going out somewhere, look at the menu ahead of time if it’s someplace new. You shouldn’t be looking for excitement in your food. Your food shouldn’t be entertainment, it shouldn’t be your fun, it shouldn’t be your friend. It really is all you need to get from A to B in your lives, but we’ve made it into something else. So, meal planning is making sure you have all the right stuff in your house, but it’s also knowing the night before what you’re going to eat tomorrow. Not just what you feel like it going to the grocery store when you’re starving. Next thing you know, you have five cups of ice cream because it seemed like a really good idea. So, planning ahead and having that awareness, not when you’re in the moment of, “I’m not going to have dessert at that conference, because it never serves me. I feel really tired afterwards and I can’t do my work back in my hotel room or at the meet and greet or whatever.” When you chose not to have the bread and the desert, you probably made that decision a long time before you were in that situation.

Allan (22:40): I know when I walk into a conference, if it’s a buffet, there are tables I can select to go to or not go to. But if they’re bringing the food out, I know 99% of the time they’ll come out with a bread bowl, then they’ll bring out your salad, then your dish. And your dessert’s sitting right there in front of you the whole time. I don’t even look at the desert as a food item. I look at it as decoration on the table.

Erin Boardman Wathen (23:04): It’s entertainment, right?

Allan (23:05): It is. And I know everybody else is trying to chow through their food so that they can hit that cake. I’ll easily pass the bread and the butter. It took me really a long, long time to train myself to do that, and it kind of touches on one of the things you talked about in your four guidelines. I make sure, in a normal sense, that I’m getting enough fat. I’m not eating low fat. I’m eating high fat, low carb. I’m eating whole foods and my body is pretty much nutrient-dense because I’m making sure to get good, high quality food. I’m planning for that. I’ll go on to Thrive Market later today and order some organic meat shipped to my house, because that’s what I want to have. My local grocery stores are not really good at having enough variety of meat. So I’ll order my meat, they deliver it to my house in a few days, I’ll start thawing it out and that’s my food for next week. I like how you put all those together because I do think they give us a really good foundation moving forward. Now, we’re always going to run into the folks that say you can still have your cake, you can still have some bread; you just have to do it in moderation. It’s all calories in, calories out. This is another unique thing about sugar addiction – just like with all addictions, some of us can get off of an addiction really quickly and some of us cannot. Moderation might work for one out of 100 people, but tell me why moderation is not really the route that most of us should be taking.

Erin Boardman Wathen (24:48): First of all, moderation is like the unicorn. It’s rare that someone can just have a bite of cake, just a bite. Odds are they’re going to eat half of the piece, all of the piece, many more pieces. We need to look at food not just as beautiful and nutritious; it’s also a chemical reaction that happens. When we chew it, we start digestion. All these things happen internally when you just think you’re eating lunch. So, when we invite those chemicals into our body – and cake is a good example because you have sugar and flour, so you’ve got double dose – our body is going to think, “This is a really great idea.” Our pleasure sensors, dopamine, is very excited by this introduction. So that one bite is sort of like, “What do you mean? That’s it?” Kind of leaving it high and dry. Where if you never go there in the first place, you might see the cake, acknowledge the cake, be aware of the cake at the conference. But having just one bite and not going into a full-fledged sugar thing later, or bread, depending on who you are, is very, very unlikely, just based on the chemicals. Now, some people don’t care about that kind of thing. Some people don’t care about sweets, but they really can go for bread, like pizza, donuts, whatever. And it’s the bread. The way that we’ve gotten flour and sugar too nowadays – it’s so ground, it’s so refined, it’s so processed. It’s pretty close to our brain, because they’re both quick acting carbohydrates. What a lot of people don’t understand is that everything we eat, at the end of the day, has to fit under three macronutrients – carbs, fat, or protein. Sugar and grains are both carbs, and they’re quick acting carbs, compared to broccoli, which is slower. Not as exciting as cake. It’s also a carbohydrate, but it’s not one of the ones that will jack up your blood sugar and create this whole craving thing and have you start drooling. While a bite of cake, most of the time for most people, they’ll have a very difficult chemical and I guess psychological reaction to only having a little bit of it. If you notice all those mini muffins get eaten just as quickly as the big muffins, if not sooner, because they seem so innocent and because they’re little and cute.

And I remember moderation. Moderation was very big in the ‘90s; it still is very big with a lot of commercial diet plans. Even the whole “cheat day” concept is a take off of moderation. But to have all of those things reintroduced to your body and say it’s only going to be at that one meal is very difficult. Also, when we’ve been using food as entertainment, as our friend, as whatever emotional need we had at the time, you’re also bringing that up and up again with those foods. Chocolate cake could have also been what your grandmother used to make when you went over there on holidays or whatever. So there’s a lot of stuff around the chocolate cake that isn’t just the chemicals; it’s also going to be how you remember it. And what’s really interesting too is there’s this thing that happens when we get off of sugar and then we have it again. You’re probably used to the concept of a relapse with an alcoholic or a drug addict. But this thing is called “euphoric recall”. So, if we’re off of sugar and then we decide to have the bite of chocolate cake, because moderation is this thing we all believe in – it will actually taste better, because our body will want us to indulge more. That’s why when people relapse on any of these substances, it’s so much harder for them to get off of it than it was the first time, because your body is working against you. So, my take is, just stay away from it completely because moderation, like I said, is like the unicorn. It doesn’t really exist.

Allan (29:33): That takes me back to my concept of opportunistic eaters. They didn’t come up on a field of chocolate cake and start binging on it. There was some true nutrition in the berries, the fruits or whatever they found in that valley. Yes, for a period of time they went nuts because, like you said, it tastes wonderful because they’ve been seven, eight months without having any of it. And now here it is in abundant supply. Go ahead and eat it because at that point it was very, very healthy. I can tell you there was probably no moderation whatsoever if they were traveling around forging and found a big field of fruit. They would go nuts, but they needed to. That was a survival mechanism. And today we don’t really need that. Foods that are around us are not as nutritious as necessary, so moderation is going to be something that is not going to work for the vast majority of us. It’ll be, like you said, the unicorn that went out there and did it and said they can still have their cheat day and they’re fine. But for a lot of people, once they have that cheat, that little slip, then they start this rationalization of, “Well, I did have the cake, so I’ve kind of blown today. I guess I’ll go ahead and order a regular Coke and I’ll go ahead and get some popcorn at the movies.” They wake up the next morning and they’re like, “I really want to stop by Starbucks and get a Frappuccino.” And so the slip, while it was a single event, it now becomes a cascading mess. Can you talk to us a little bit about slips and how we can deal with those?

Erin Boardman Wathen (31:15): The thing about a slip is – let’s use the chocolate cake thing because it’s nice and easy. It seems like it’s no big deal, but we need to be very aware, like you said, the foragers. We’re not that far away in our bodies from that mindset. We have technology, and isn’t it great we can get everyone on our smartphone? Our bodies are still thinking “feast or famine” and “Is this fight or flight?” when you’re in a car accident. All these evolutionary responses kick in because we still have a lot of them lurking around. With a slip, when we reintroduce the sugar, our body is really, really happy about it, and then our brain decides, “We’re going to make it taste even better to her just to get her to eat more of it.” So here comes euphoric recall, yay! And then we start the internal nonsense of, “I’ve already blown it” or, “It’s okay to have dessert. It’s normal to gain weight in the holidays”, “Well, I’ve already gone there today, so let’s go there more.” The whole, “I have one flat tire; let’s make them all flat.” Next thing you know, we’ve talked ourselves into an entire crazy amount of food that we didn’t really think about eating. We just find ourselves eating it, because that cheat slip or that moderation slip, whatever you’re going to call that bite of chocolate cake, can easily morph into a cheat meal, a cheat day, a cheat weekend, a cheat week, just cheating. If we have that first slip, which is known to happen, it’s how we handle it. If we have the whole, “We’re going to flatten the other three tires because one tire’s flat” in our brains – that is not your best interest talking to you. That is the primal need for having stuff, and the hunting and gathering, all that other sort of analogies. That is not your best interest. Your best interest is to go brush your teeth, get some water, get away from the cake, and be very aware the next couple of days are not going to be very pleasant because your body is going to be jouncing for sugar. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you have to follow through though. But if you make that chocolate cake that you’re a bad person, there’s no point trying to eat right anyway, it’s normal… When you start talking yourself into how it was okay, then you’re definitely off in the wrong direction.

Allan (34:04): I’m going to steal that three car tires analogy, because I really do like that. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Erin Boardman Wathen (34:23): I thought about this before you asked me, so I definitely have a bit of an answer planned. We didn’t get to it, but my last fundamental of eating is to always have fat, protein, a low glycemic carb and fiber every time we eat. That will do a lot of good things, but it will also help regulate our blood sugar. When our blood sugar is not like a rollercoaster, when it’s nice and slowly processing food, it’s a lot easier to stay in that mental space. So we’re thinking about how to stay well. We’re in a place where we make the right decisions, where we’re going for the water and not the Diet Coke. Having a good handle on your blood sugar is a really good place to start, as far as staying well. Everything starts with our thoughts, right? If we’re thinking that we’re going to beat the system with sugar because we’re going to be that one person that’s going to be able to only have a bite – that’s going against own best interests. So, having a really good handle on your blood sugar is a very good place to start. So that’s number one.

Number two is to really spend a lot of time and think about how you want to feel and how you want to look six months from now, a month from now. All those dates and times just seem to happen to us, but actually, we have a lot of time before. For example, January 2nd is a notorious big dieting day, because the holidays are over and all these other things. Everyone’s pants are kind of tight. What if back in early December you sat down and thought about, “How do I want to feel on January 2nd? Do I want to feel like a busted can of buscuits, like I have all the other years before, or do I want to feel like I’m starting off 2019 with my best foot forward?” Think about both scenarios, because both scenarios are available to you, but one is going to put you in the right direction for a higher level of wellbeing, and the other one is going to get you where you’ve always gotten, which is probably breaking your diet by February 8th, which I think is the usual date most people fall off the wagon with their year-end resolutions. So really having a lot of mindset work, visualization and being realistic with what result you want and how you’re going to need to get there. You can’t feel your best on January 2nd if you’re eating nothing but cookies and drinking chocolate martinis the month beforehand. That’s not how it works. So, visualizing and thinking about what your future self really wants and needs is not for you to completely go off the wagon and go crazy over the holidays, and then January 2nd decide you’re going to starve yourself and do green juice, which is putting yourself in another extreme tailspin. So, that’s the second one.

My last one would be to be really cognizant of portions, because often times we have no idea what a serving is. We just think it’s till the bowl’s full, or whatever they serve us. If when we’re home, we weigh and measure all of the things we’re eating, we have an idea of what exactly six ounces of beef looks like. So when we’re in a restaurant and we see this huge piece of meat, we know it’s not one serving, even though they gave it to us on a plate. There’s actually enough meat for three meals there. So just being aware of that, like you said, opportunistic eaters, that if someone gives us a plate with a giant steak, a lot of people will try to eat it all, because it’s expensive or it’s special or it’s your birthday, when actually you’re eating three times the amount of meat you would be eating if you made it at home. So being very aware of portions and how crazy our portions are right now. A really good and cheap way to get a hold of this is regular old measuring cups when you’re at your house, and get a food scale, because when we’re out in the world and we’re presented with these gigantic portions, we understand that there’s no reason for us to finish it. But there’s this tendency to do it just the same.

Allan (39:08): I agree. Those were wonderful. Thank you for that. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book, Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?, where would you like me to send them?

Erin Boardman Wathen (39:18): The book is going to be in bookstores on December 18th, but before then you can pre-order it on Amazon or BarnesAndNoble.com. And they can get in touch with me on my website. It’s pretty easy – it’s ErinWathenWellness.com. All my information is right there. My Instagram – same handle, Facebook – same handle. It’s pretty streamlined.

Allan (39:39): Good deal. This is episode 364, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/364, and I’ll be sure to have all the links there. Erin, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Erin Boardman Wathen (39:52): Thank you for having me.

I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. You know I’m not a big fan of diets and weight loss procedures, things that we’re doing to try to lose weight. I think there are other health markers that are much more important, like your lab results. Now, if you haven’t had labs done in a while and maybe you just don’t want to go to your doctor or your doctor doesn’t really order you the kind of labs that you’re interested in knowing about, you can go to YourLabwork.com. It’s a company that will actually do the labs you want them to do. You tell them what you want, they get a doctor involved, the doctor does the things that he’s supposed to do. You show up at a Quest Center and they take your lab works. I have an agreement with them. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab – very good prices on their lab work. And they give me an education piece so I can do a little bit of deep diving into what the labs mean. I went through and had a full panel done, so really, really deep cholesterol, hormones, pretty much all of it, and got all the way down to the particle counts. Really, really detailed information; more information than my doctor would normally go for. I have that now as a benchmark for the year, so as I do things for my health and fitness over the course of this year, I now have a really good benchmark to measure my performance as we go. So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab and order any kind of lab work that you want done. Like I said, go down to a Quest Center. They’ve got all the paperwork done, they’ve prepaid for your labs there. You just show up, give up a little bit of blood, and they send you the results within a couple of weeks. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab.

Also, I got my books in. If you would like a signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound edition, or go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you would like the paperback edition. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. I’m charging the same price you’d pay on Amazon. I’m eating the shipping. But I will send you a signed copy during the month of January, because remember, I’m moving to Panama in February so I can only do this through the month of January. And I’m going to do this until the books run out. So, go ahead and get on and order that: 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.

Another episode you may enjoy

Jonathan Bailor – Breaking your bodyweight setpoint

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Often when we’re trying to lose weight, we end up getting into a stall or a plateau. Our guest today in his book, The Setpoint Diet, is going to tell you why that happens and what you can do to break the cycle. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Calorie Myth and I’m pretty certain The Setpoint Diet is also going to make that bestseller list. With no further ado, here’s Jonathan Bailor.

Allan (1:14): Jonathan, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Jonathan Bailor (1:17): Thank you so much for having me.

Allan (1:18): When I was really getting deep into my self-education of what I needed to do for myself, I came across The Calorie Myth. It was an eye-opening book, to say the least, for someone who really had been brought up in the mantra of calories in / calories out, just eat less, exercise more. I’d get on the treadmill or I’d get on the elliptical and I worked my butt off, and then I’m starving all day. Then you eat more calories to get your calories back. I’m like, “I’m eating at a deficit and I’ve done this for a while and it’s not working.” I think a lot of people run into that fact of, they’re doing everything right, and their body just doesn’t want to get rid of the weight.

Jonathan Bailor (2:06): It can be extremely frustrating, Allan. It gets to the root of my whole team’s work, and really, we stand on the shoulders of giants, articulating research done by the top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, at Johns Hopkins, UCLA, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic over the past 60 years that’s been buried from the mainstream. And this definition of, you’re doing everything right – what we’ve found is, the definition of what is right is wrong. It’s analogous to when we look at obesity and diabetes as diseases, which they are, as classified by the American Medical Association, that if you were to go to a doctor with a broken arm and the doctor were to prescribe you cough syrup, and you took that cough syrup correctly. Chances are your arm wouldn’t get any better and you would feel very helpless. It’s a condition called “learned helplessness”, because you’re doing everything you’re told, but the treatment for the disease you’re suffering from or the medical condition you are suffering from is simply incorrect. And that’s what we found over the past now 15 years, that this prescription we’ve been written for both obesity, overweight, and diabetes is simply wrong. What we have been told is right is wrong, and that is evidenced by the catastrophic impact it’s had on our culture.

Allan (3:26): Yes. I do have to say this also – in your book, The Setpoint Diet, you really got deep into the science. Each point you had in there was supported, and I really, really liked that. It was so much support, you couldn’t put all the bibliography in the book. You have to link to another website if you really want to go down the rabbit hole. I did. I spent a lot of time in that rabbit hole, because it was really fascinating stuff. Our body has this setpoint, and I talk to my clients about it all the time as they plateau. They’re working hard, they’re doing some of the right things, or most of the right things, but their body’s going to somewhat hit this setpoint. You call it a setpoint; I call it the body’s happy weight. We might not be happy with it, but our body is. Can you talk a little bit in detail about the setpoint and why we have a setpoint?

Jonathan Bailor (4:17): Allan, the term “setpoint” – a lot of your listeners may say, “I’ve heard of that term before.” And there is a bit of an irony here. In 1983, there was a book published called The Setpoint Diet – literally the exact same title of my book. But you can’t copyright a title. And that was also the year I was born. So I don’t know if fate had the destiny in store for me. The concept of “setpoint” has been around for a while, but the thing that’s happened over the past 7 to 10 years, which has been so revolutionary is, it’s gone from the setpoint theory to, we’ve now proven this. When I say “we”, I mean the broader scientific community, not me personally. For instance, if you look at even Wikipedia and you look up diabetes – the medical condition diabetes is defined by the breakdown in the body’s ability… This is according to Wikipedia; I’m not saying that Wikipedia is like God’s truth, I’m just saying that even Wikipedia is acknowledging this. It says that diabetes is the breakdown of the body’s ability to homeostatically, a.k.a. automatically regulate blood sugar around a healthy range. You do things to raise your blood sugar, your body does things to lower it. You do things to lower your blood sugar, your body automatically does things to elevate it. There’s never been a question, ever, that there is a setpoint around your blood sugar. There’s also never been a question, ever, that there is a setpoint for blood pressure. The breakdown in that homeostatic regulation of blood pressure is called hypertension. The breakdown in the homeostatic regulation of blood sugar is called diabetes. And we’ve now proven, over the past 7 to 10 years, that the breakdown in the body weight setpoint, which is as irrefutable as the blood pressure and blood sugar setpoints, is known as the disease of obesity or overweight. And it’s no more debatable than that your body regulates body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar. Once you understand that, it changes everything about how we approach weight gain and weight loss.

Allan (6:43): Right, because if we don’t reset our setpoint, basically we are not going to be able to, in the long term, keep that weight off.

Jonathan Bailor (6:53): That’s exactly right, and it would be just as absurd. Once someone gets the following point, it’s a little bit like seeing life in color for the first time. It will change the way you see everything. So, if you went to your doctor and you had diabetes, and your doctor said, “Eat less”, you would say, “Wait, what?” Eating less does not fix the problem with your pancreas, the problem with insulin secretion. The underlying root of the breakdown of the blood sugar setpoint can’t be solved by starvation. If you went to your doctor suffering from hypertension – again, the breakdown in the blood pressure setpoint – and your doctor said, “Eat less, you lazy glutton”, we would say, “Hey, wait a minute. There’s something else happening.” It’s the same thing with body weight.

Allan (7:55): Right. Now, in the book you mention three hidden factors that are basically setting this setpoint. So if I want to fix my setpoint, these are the three areas I need to think about, right?

Jonathan Bailor (8:09): Exactly. The term, again, “setpoint” has been around for quite a bit of time, but what has changed recently is a concrete definition and identification of what makes it up, how it breaks down and how we can fix it. So, what determines your body weight or body fat setpoint is the interaction of three key elements of your biology and physiology – your brain, your gut, and your hormones; and very specifically, when there is inflammation in your brain, when there is dysregulation in your gut microbiota, and when you have hormonal imbalances. Your first brain and your second brain – your gut – communicate via hormonal signals to automatically regulate appetite, to automatically burn calories. It’s not that calories don’t exist, and it’s not that calories in / calories out is like unicorns. It’s that your body is brilliantly set up to automatically regulate calories in and calories out so that you maintain this body weight setpoint. But when that system – the brain, the gut and the hormones – breaks down, that setpoint creeps up and obesity ensues.

Allan (9:30): When people say “calories in / calories out” or they want to keep that paradigm, they just want to keep sticking to that simple rule, I say there are periods of time when our ancestors had no food, and there were times when the food was abundant. I’m guessing that our bodies probably weren’t designed to allow them to get obese over the summer and then whittle away over the winter. There are some metabolic changes that are happening during those periods of time that are allowing them to continue to survive.

Jonathan Bailor (10:01): That is correct. The thing that is essential to understand is that at the most basic level, the only thing that we need to prove from a scientific perspective to say that the setpoint is an irrefutable fact is if you feed people more calories than they need, does their body automatically burn more calories? The answer is “Yes”. If you feed people fewer calories than they need, does their body automatically burn fewer calories? The answer is “Yes”. And you can even look at it from a different perspective. You could say if someone exercises very heavily earlier in the day, does their body work to conserve calories later in the day? The answer is “Yes”. We’ve all experienced that – you have a really tough workout; how do you feel for the rest of the day? Tired. That’s your body automatically working to balance calories, and as a consequence, your weight, as calories are a component of that; not the be-all-end-all – they are a component, automatically.

Allan (11:02): I’d say tired and very hungry.

Jonathan Bailor (11:04): Exactly.

Allan (11:06): Now, I want to deep dive a little bit into each of those three factors, because I think there’s a lot of value in understanding how each of those affects our setpoint. Can we start with the brain inflammation and work through the three and talk about how that really impacts the setpoint?

Jonathan Bailor (11:24): Inflammation in your brain, or very specifically areas around your lateral and ventromedial hypothalamus… We’ll take a step back. There are a couple of parts of your brain. The one that is relevant for our conversation here is called your hypothalamus, and your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that has to do with allowing mission-critical functions that must take place 24/7, 365, without conscious control to happen. For instance, if you had to consciously think about regulating breaths in and breaths out, you could not function as a human being. We could not function as a species if our conscious brain, our neocortex, had to worry about beating our heart, or blinking our eyes, or shivering when we got cold, or prompting the sensation of needing to use the restroom when we consume excess liquids. There’s a part of your brain that is 100% dedicated to taking care of those life-sustaining, constant, mission-critical functions. That’s called your hypothalamus. When inflammation exists in the hypothalamus, those signals of, you need to use the restroom, or you need to breathe, or you need to slow down or speed up, can become compromised. And we know this irrefutable fact that there are certain substances completely independent of calories – take MSG for example, that have a detrimental impact on the hypothalamus, causing inflammation in the hypothalamus. And there are foods, such as certain Omega-3 fatty acids which reverse inflammation in the hypothalamus. So if we’re having a conversation about weight and we are not discussing inflammation in the brain and we are not discussing the hypothalamus, we are essentially having at best incomplete and at worst counterproductive discussion about weight.

Allan (13:27): Okay. Now, foods and things that are going to help us with this brain inflammation – you mentioned Omega-3, so I’m assuming fish, fish oil is going to help us; processed foods are going to hurt us.

Jonathan Bailor (13:42): Yes. When it comes to brain, gut and hormones, the good news is, as fate would have it, not dying is relatively simple. If it was extremely complicated, we probably would not have survived and thrived as a species as well as we have. So the way that we need to eat to optimize the health of our brain and our gut and our hormones is the same, which is important because I don’t want you to have to memorize, “I have to eat these foods for my brain, and then I need to set aside this part of my plate for my hormones, and this part of my plate for my gut.” We can cover what to eat all at once if you’d like.

Allan (14:23): We’re going to get into the SANE modeling in a bit, so we’ll get into that then. Cool. So let’s step into the microbiota.

Jonathan Bailor (14:35): One of the most shocking things when I talk with people about this casually is understanding that about 90% of the cells that exist in what you call “you”, are not yours. They’re cells of microorganisms that live in or on you. That which we define as a human being is actually trillions of little beings put together. We’re learning more and more about that, the mainstream is talking more and more about that. But when you look specifically at body weight, the research is so clear that there are certain types of bacteria which are much more prevalent in the gut of individuals who struggle with overweight than there are in individuals who are naturally thin. We can even go so far as to say there are certain types of microbiota that crave – these little creatures crave different foods. So while you think you might have a craving for sugary and starchy foods, it is literally true that you don’t, but rather these microorganisms that are living in your gut do. If you want to enlist billions of little bacterial helpers to help maintain a healthy weight and to literally crave the SANE foods that facilitate that, you can. And you’re not an army of one; you’re an army of trillions working towards this lower setpoint, the SANE lifestyle, and really feeling great and craving the foods that help you to feel that way.

Allan (16:23): Cool. And then the final piece is the hormones.

Jonathan Bailor (16:27): Hormones – talked about ad nauseum, but still not given enough attention. We can’t talk too much about hormones, because when you go to a gym and when you look on the television screens and when you look at the ads, it’s not going to say things like, “Do this exercise because of its hormonal impact.” It’s going to say, “Do this exercise because you burn this many calories.” At the end of the day your body does what hormones tell it to do. Period. This is so important to understand. Let’s use a simple example that most people are familiar with – anabolic steroids. Why do anabolic steroids work? Anabolic steroids work because they are essentially a hormonal messenger that tells your body to build muscle, therefore your body builds muscle. We know testosterone communicates X, and your body does X. Estrogen communicates Y, and your body does Y. We know that. So if we are talking about eating and exercise, if we’re talking about weight loss without talking about the hormonal impact of what we’re eating, or the hormonal impact of how we’re moving – again, we’re just missing… I’m going to try to think of an analogy on my feet here, but if you went to the eye doctor and the eye doctor was like, “Let’s talk about how your feet are doing”, you’re like, “Doc, I can’t see, and we’re not even talking about my eyes, we’re talking about my feet. What?” If you are not having a conversation about hormones while you are discussing your weight and your overall health, it’s a little bit like going to the eye doctor and have a conversation about your feet, because your body does what your hormones tell it to do. So if you don’t know and if you haven’t been empowered with the information you need to control that conversation and to get your body saying what you want it to say, a.k.a. “Burn fat and help me feel energetic”, but rather you have hormones getting triggered that are saying, “Store fat and make me feel tired” – it doesn’t matter how little you eat or how much you exercise. That conversation will probably only go worse and make the problem worse.

Allan (18:39): I was going through the hormones section of the book and going through each of them, there were some that came up that we don’t talk about much at all. We talk about insulin, we talk about leptin and ghrelin, we talk about testosterone, cortisol. But after that there are some of these other ones, like CCK, adiponectin and glucagon. There’s a lot of them. In my mind, as I’m getting into it, I know what most of these do fairly well and I know how to balance and manage a few of them, but I think the cool part of all of this was that your SANE method actually addresses all of them.

Jonathan Bailor (19:23): I appreciate you saying that, Allan, because that is the key thing here. The thing that I really don’t like is when people are made to believe that their bodies are fundamentally broken or stupid, and unless they micromanage these mission-critical biological functions, they are doomed to a state of obesity and disease. I think that is a diabolical way of looking at the human body, that unless we intervene and micromanage, our bodies are destined to be fat, diseased, diabetic, cancerous wastelands, which when you think about it is really what a lot of the fitness and diet industry says: Unless you know what every single hormone is doing at every single point in time, and what your calorie count is, and exactly how many steps you’ve taken, etcetera, things are going to go off the rails and you’re going to be in bad shape, which cannot be true. Why? Before we had any of the problems we have today, nobody did those things and everyone was healthier. So, by definition, it cannot be required to micromanage every aspect of your input and output in order to achieve effortless health, as evidenced by the fact that radically more people enjoyed effortless health in the past than the present. I’m not talking about hunter gatherers; I’m talking about in the ‘50s or in the ‘60s, when no one went to a gym, no one was focused on calories, and everyone was just healthier. What’s beautiful is, we can read The Setpoint Diet. I would appreciate if people read The Setpoint Diet, I think they will live radically better if they read The Setpoint Diet. But even if you remember no names of any hormones, if you simply remember to eat SANE foods in such high quantities that you’re too full for inSANE foods – all the brain stuff, all the hormone stuff, all the gut stuff will take care of itself and you will live radically better.

Allan (21:18): That’s one of the messages that came out of the book that I was really happy to see. Up until maybe about a year or two ago, diabetes was a progressive disease – you were going to die. You were going to lose feet, you were going to lose your kidneys, everything. And now we’re saying, no, if you make lifestyle changes, you can reverse your diabetes. The other thing was obesity – you’ve got some genetic problems. We can work out and we can cut some of the weight, but you’re always going to be big boned and overweight. And now we’re finding, no, if you make substantive lifestyle changes, we can reverse obesity. You talked about the SANE foods, and I definitely want to get into that. What are the SANE foods so we can stay away from the inSANE foods?

Jonathan Bailor (22:08): We came up with the… Well, that’s actually a bad way of describing it. It was more as if the universe presented this acronym, SANE, to me while I was doing this 15-year research journey. I stumbled upon it. I was doing all this research and it seemed like there are these things that are not commonly discussed and they’re not in any way, shape or form controversial in the scientific community. These are things like how much foods fill you up and how long they keep you full. Studies have been done for decades on, “Let’s feed people 1,200 calories of this type of diet and feed people 1,200 calories of this type of diet, and see which keeps people fuller longer.” That existed and that’s called satiety. And then the research around the different impact on hormones that foods have – this is sometimes discussed in popular literature as glycemic index or glycemic load, but it’s much broader than just insulin or just some of these sexy hormones that are discussed. So, the way I defined that is I just said “aggression”, because it looked like it was very clear in the research that there are some foods and some lifestyle decisions in general that caused these wild, aggressive swings in your hormones, and you can imagine that’s not great. And then the nutrient density – this is something that’s extremely important and is talked about a lot, but unfortunately is not talked about in the most optimum way, which is the ratio of essential nutrients – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids – to things that are nonessential and / or toxic, like sugar. So, someone looks at the cereal aisle, they see Honey Nut Cheerios and it says it’s healthy because it’s enriched with vitamins and minerals. But if you put a vitamin pill in a can of Pepsi, I don’t think anyone would say that that can of Pepsi has now become healthy. So it’s essential that we look at the ratios.

Allan (23:58): Please don’t tell PepsiCo about that vitamin, because they will do it.

Jonathan Bailor (24:05): Yeah, they might do it. So, we’ve got to take a different look at nutrition. And then there are also different macronutrients that are processed differently by the body, more or less efficiently stored as fat. As the universe would have it, we have satiety, aggression, nutrition and efficiency, and that happens to spell out the acronym SANE. And what’s really cool is that all four of those factors can be objectively measured. You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. It’s not my opinion, it’s not any researcher’s opinion. There’s a scientific method to measure them. So we can look at any food and say, “How satisfying, aggressive, nutritious and efficient is it?” And then we can say, “These are SANE foods, these are inSANE foods.” To the extent that you choose to eat SANE foods, you will live extremely well, and to the extent that you choose to eat inSANE foods, you will not live as well. And we can empower people with that information.

Allan (24:54): Now, you laid out several of the SANE foods and several of the inSANE foods. I don’t want to go through an exhaustive list, but there was one that came up and your approach to it was very different than anyone else. You’re not a big fan of olive oil.

Jonathan Bailor (25:17): I can’t give away the farm on this show by definition, because it’s a long book, but I’ll give away some of the farm here, which is SANE foods fall into four categories: non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense protein, whole food fats, and low fructose fruits, in that order. And one of the biggest, coolest new things about the new book is we actually subdivide those into optimal groups. So these are the optimal non-starchy veggies, optimal nutrient-dense proteins. These are the things that are most therapeutic to lower your setpoint. The common characteristic amongst SANE foods and amongst all those food groups is the presence of three things: water, fiber and protein, which is beautiful; this all becomes very simple. Basically foods that are high in water, fiber and protein are saner than foods that are lower in water, fiber and protein. If you look at vegetables, non-starchy vegetables are very high in water, fiber, protein. That’s why if you put spinach in a blender, it blends and becomes a liquid, whereas if you put crackers in a blender and blend them, it becomes a powder. Crackers, don’t have liquid in them; spinach is primarily all liquid, it just doesn’t look that way. It’s also shockingly high in protein. We all know that vegetables have a lot of fiber. Anyway, if we look at fat, we have been told a lot about, first of all, fat doesn’t make you fat, which is 100% true. And then we’ve also heard a lot about olive oil, like slather your food in olive oil and it’s fantastic to use olive oil. Without question, olives contain more water, fiber and protein than olive oil. The point that I make in the book, and the point that I would encourage people to think about, and the point that people in the same community have found to be so transformational for them in breaking through plateaus and in living well is, if coconut oil is good for you, which it is, relative to other oils, if olive oil is good for you, which it is, relative to other oils, you know what’s even better for you? Coconut. You know what’s even better for you? Olives. We call these “whole food fats” because they have more nutrients. They have more water, they have more fiber, they have more protein. I am not anti-olive oil; I’m pro complete scientific information. So, if one were to say that olive oil is a healthy oil and olive oil is a SANE oil, I would 100% agree with that statement. Now if someone said, “I think you should get 600 calories per day from olive oil, because fat is good for you”, I would say if you got 600 calories per day from whole food fats, because fat is good for you, you would live radically better than if those 600 calories came from a low water, low fiber, and low protein fat source such as olive oil.

Allan (28:07): Absolutely. Now, you did a spin on the MyPlate, and you call it the SANE plate. You’ve already laid out the elements of what we should be looking for, as far as fiber, water and protein, but you’ve actually laid this out now on a plate, so we know how much of the non-starchy vegetables, how much of the protein and how much of the low fructose fruit we should have on the plate. Can you talk about what that percentage is and what that looks like?

Jonathan Bailor (28:41): Really important to think in terms of a plate, because I don’t know anybody, myself included, who goes to a restaurant or to a dinner table or to the grocery store and says, “Where can I find the fiber?” or, “What is the protein that we’re going to eat right now?” or, “I want some water on my plate.” It doesn’t make any sense, right? Those are scientific terms that don’t really help us at the dinner table. So when we sit down at the dinner table or at a restaurant, what should our plate look like? It’s extremely simple. Half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are vegetables that you could, but you don’t have to, eat raw. This is a really important distinction, because a lot of people have been told that things like corn and potatoes are vegetables. They’re not; they can’t be eaten raw. They’re starches. Non-starchy vegetables are plants which are generally quite colorful with a few exceptions, which could be eaten raw. Think any green leafy vegetable, think things like peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, zucchinis, broccoli, asparagus, so on and so forth. I want you to fill half your plate with those, and I don’t care how you prepare them because what’s most important is getting them into your body in a way that you enjoy and can keep up forever. So if you hate the taste of raw vegetables, please don’t try to force yourself to eat raw vegetables. Use olive oil in that context to sauté those vegetables and make them taste great, because getting the vegetables into your body is priority number one. Just please don’t deep fry them. That is the only form of preparation that I would advise against.

The next big portion of your plate – about a third of your plate – is going to be nutrient-dense proteins. It’s really important that we focus on nutrient–dense proteins because you hear a lot of things about meat – it’s good, bad, etcetera. It’s just people being imprecise with language, which is unfortunate because certainly things like spam, hot dogs and processed meat are not good for us, much like, for example, processed sugar, which is a plant, is not good for us. Processed anything is not good for us, whether it be meat or plants. So we want to eat nutrient-dense proteins. These are generally humanely raised animals and / or wild-caught seafood. Canned is fine, frozen is fine, and having a big chunk of that on our plate because of the therapeutic impact of those nutritious sources of protein. And then the remainder of your plate can be low fructose fruits, like berries or citrus fruits. These are going to provide you the most of what you need to thrive and the least of things you don’t, such as fructose or other forms of sugar. And / or whole food fats, such as nuts and seeds. But what we’ve seen a lot of people do to make this even simpler is make half your plate non-starchy vegetables, half your plate nutrient-dense protein, and then use whole food fats and low fructose fruits for dessert. That’s when this gets really fun, because no way of eating that is disgusting or unappetizing is a way of eating that I would recommend anyone engage in for life. Life is about being here, being present, being happy, enjoying oneself. So, what’s beautiful is things like coconut, coco, almond flour, berries, all these types of delicious, decadent foods – these can make up the backbone of cakes, cookies, pies, ice creams, puddings. Pretty much any baked or dessert food you can think of, we can SANE-itize using whole food fats and low fructose fruits. Then eating becomes so simple – just pack your plate with non-starchy vegetables and nutrient-dense protein, and then eat some SANE dessert, and you will drop your setpoint and live extremely well.

Allan (32:20): Hallelujah! Now, I want to shift gears a little bit. You got into a series where you were talking about mindset, and you got into goal setting. You made a clear delineation about the types of goals we should be setting for ourselves, and I thought that was just brilliant. Could you take a moment to start talking about goal setting and the types of goals we should actually be setting for ourselves?

Jonathan Bailor (32:49): We talk a lot about mindset in The Setpoint Diet and it’s extremely important because where your head goes, your body follows. How many of us have said, “I’m going to do this!” and get really excited? And motivation wanes and it doesn’t materialize over time. There is tremendous research that has taken place that can help us, just like we know more about nutrition. The realm of positive psychology is so powerful. Like a lot of what we’ve been told about nutrition is just wrong and counterproductive, a lot of what we’ve been told about goal setting is wrong or counterproductive. For example, the way that we are generally told to make goals is what’s called “results goals”, and we’re generally told to do big results goals. Let me give you an example. I want to lose 100 pounds. That’s a big goal, and it is a result – 100 pounds is a result. The reason that that is bad – in the scientific research we define “bad” as “ineffective”, meaning it’s not going to yield the outcome you want. First and foremost, you don’t have ultimate control over the speed or ability to lose 100 pounds. There are things outside of your control that influence that, so making a goal that you have limited or no control over is not helpful, because if you can’t control it, that’s not helpful. But the other thing that’s even more important for a lot of people that we’ve worked with, is when you set a goal like that, you will feel like a failure every second of every day, because you haven’t reached that goal. And you’re not even close to reaching that goal. So you’ve now set yourself up. Your brain is going to say, “Alright, I’ve got to lose 100 pounds. Have I lost 100 pounds yet? No, failure. How about now? No, failure.” You wake up tomorrow: “No, failure.”

A much more empowering and effective approach to goal setting instead of big results goals… Which are fun; they’re like mental junk food: “We’re going to go to a conference, and I’m going to lose 100 pounds. And I’m going to make a million dollars, and I’m going to get married and have five kids. I’m going to do that all in the next three weeks.” And for the next 12 hours I’m going to be super excited, just like I ate a bunch of sugar, but then I’m going to crash and be like, “How the hell am I actually going to do any of that?” So it’s like junk food for your brain. A much more SANE approach is to create small process goals. What is a process goal? A process goal is something that you do and something that you have complete control over – so a process goal of, “I am going to blend a SANE green smoothie” – you have control over that, and it’s a process. I am going to do that, and it’s small. I’m going to do that right now. And it’s not super sexy, but what we’ve seen in the research, which is quite clear, is if you start stacking up process goals, if you start taking tiny actions that you can control daily, consistently, there is very little in life that will be outside of your reach. We know that’s true. Small, consistent change over time is the only way anything has ever happened in any of our lives, barring winning the lottery. We just need to recognize and embrace that and treat the way we eat and exercise in the same way.

Allan (36:17): You’re going to be happy to know that I did set a SANE goal and yesterday when I went to the grocery store, I bought a lot of leafy greens and I actually made your blueberry blast smoothie yesterday. And my goal is to do that each day now.

Jonathan Bailor (36:34): That is absolutely fantastic. That’s an example of some process goals that I can write down, I can check off, and I can do. I’m going to go to the grocery store and buy these ingredients. Allan, that’s an important point, because we really want to break stuff down into, what is the next action? It’s one thing to be like, “I’m going to make a SANE smoothie.” Okay, what are you going to blend it with? “Crap. Don’t have a blender. Don’t have the ingredients.” You want to just back up and say, “Where do I start?” You start where you start. Try to describe to me if you tried to teach someone how to walk. No, explain with words how to walk. You take one foot and you pick it up, you put it in front of the other. At some point we need to reduce stuff down to the simplest state: “I am going to get in my car. I’m going to drive to Safeway. I’m going to go to aisle 3. I’m going to pick up a bag of spinach. I’m going to go to the checkout.” That seems silly, but it’s like a blueprint. It’s like code for your life. There’s a reason computers work. The reason that computers work when they work is because instructions have been laid out extremely clearly, every step of the way. We need to do that for ourselves in our lives.

Allan (37:56): When you’re doing coding, you’ve got to think, “What’s my next step? What’s my next step?” And this is very similar. I already had a very good blender. It’s not the Vitamix that you recommend. It’s called Ninja, but it’s still a very good blender. And then I knew I need to get some more leafy greens, I need to pick up the lemons. I didn’t actually use the erythritol. That’s what I did skip out on because I didn’t think I’d need it with the lemon in there. And then I made my smoothie with some blueberries. It was awesome.

Jonathan Bailor (38:27): And that’s a huge win. Again, it seems like a small thing, but imagine that that became a habit. That’s another thing we talk about in the book. So let’s say that, Allan, you make that a goal and you say, “I’m going to consciously take steps to buy these ingredients to make these smoothies every day.” And you do that for 21 days, or 30 days, or so on and so forth. What you’re going to find is that next month instead of it taking effort to make that smoothie, it will take effort to not make that smoothie, because it will become a habit. When it can be easier to perform SANE, healthy habits than it is to do unhealthy, inSANE things, that’s when the magic happens. And that absolutely can be the case. We know thousands of people within the same family who crave green smoothies. It’s happened to me and my wife. We go on vacation, we go on a cruise where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait till we can get home and drink our green smoothies.” We’re in the midst of all this decadent, all-you-can-eat food, and we’re in the habit of drinking SANE smoothies, so we’re like, “I love the cruise, but I hate that I can’t have my green smoothies.”

Allan (39:42): I’m thinking I picked up spinach and I walked past all the other stuff. I’m like, “I could have put some dandelions in here. There was so much more I could have put in here that would have been interesting.” So I’m looking at it as an experiment. I’m looking at it as, “This is going to be fun because I’m going to experiment with different fruits, different berries, different flavors, and just have some fun with it.”

Jonathan Bailor (40:04): It is a great canvas on which to experiment in that way, with what we would call “optimal” non-starchy vegetables. If I’m like, “Hey, eat more dandelion greens”, you’ll be like, “Uhhh…” But you can just take a handful of them, toss them in the blender with some other stuff. You can toss a handful of all sorts of things into the blender. We’re not a smoothie company, this isn’t called The Smoothie Diet. But we have found that drinking the appropriate type of SANE green smoothies can be one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to SANE-itize your diet and lower your setpoint.

Allan (40:41): I think it was five ounces of spinach that I put in there. I went a little overboard. I made a whole lot, but I drank all of it. It would have taken me a lot of effort to eat that much in its whole food form.

Jonathan Bailor (41:00): 100%. I get probably 80% of the vegetables that I eat in smoothie form, simply because you could drink it at your desk, take it with you in the car, and that’s great. They’re raw. You don’t need to use a lot of olive oil in a green smoothie, for example. And then you can do all sorts of fun stuff. You can use avocado to help make it more creamy, so you get your whole food fats in there. It’s also a great place in which to try some nutrient-dense protein. You could have some whey protein or casein protein or pea protein or rice protein or hemp protein, some pasteurized egg whites. It’s a canvas on which you can really create something beautiful.

Allan (41:39): Yes. You get into another concept that you call “implementation intentions”. And I thought those would be extremely valuable to talk about.

Jonathan Bailor (41:48): Implementation intentions are the natural byproduct of the process goals, the small process goals we talked about earlier, where you really start to flesh out a plan. For example, rather than saying, “I have the small goal of drinking a green smoothie tomorrow”, an implementation intention will take it further and say “if, when, then”. So, “If it is the morning, when I am hungry, then I will make a SANE green smoothie.” So there are three components to it and it’s almost like making the decision ahead of time. This is really important. I don’t think we talk about this in the book, but you can be in what’s called a hot state or a cool state. Not to digress too much, but if you’ve ever found yourself in a context of passion with another human being, it’s one thing if you get cut off in traffic to say, “Calmly on my couch, I will behave this way.” But when someone cuts you off in traffic or jeopardizes the life of your family members in your car, you become emotionally aroused and your decision-making process changes a bit. Implementation intentions help you to act out and create an entire game plan for how you’re going to act in certain situations before those happen. So if I get home from work and I am stressed out, and I open the refrigerator, then I will grab the container of pre-washed sugar snap peas and I will binge on those. You literally have a plan for situations where you find yourself making inSANE choices. You have yourself set up, you have a game plan in place. You get that written down in a very simple formulaic way, and you are now empowered because you have made the decision and created the plan before you need to, so that when you need to, you’re ready.

Allan (44:00): It used to be at the office, they would bring these donuts called Spudnuts, and they’re literally made out of potato flour. So probably the most inSANE food on earth, because they’re coated in sugar and they’re potato flour. And when they bring them in the office, it’s like watching sharks be chomped. They’re all over the break room. So, I had this strategy, which was similar. It was this intention where I’d say, “If they brought Spudnuts, I’m going into my office and I’m going to eat a bag of nuts. I’m going to stay out of the break room until lunchtime.”

Jonathan Bailor (44:36): And the reason, Allan, that that is so powerful is, contrast that with the goal of, “I’m not going to Spudnuts.” That’s actually more of a result – the result of, “I’m not going to eat them”, but how am I going to not eat Spudnuts? These goals without “How’s” are meaningless, especially when you ask the question of, “I’m going to lose 100 pounds. How?” It quickly falls down. Implementation intentions force that “How” in an elegant way,

Allan (45:15): Absolutely. Now, you get into something else in the mindset part of the book that I just love, because I think it’s an underutilized aspect to wellness, and that is the concept of gratitude.

Jonathan Bailor (45:29): Gratitude is one of those things which research has shown without a shadow of a doubt that to not leverage gratitude is to your psychology like not eating vegetables is to your biology. There’s basically a dose-dependent relationship in the amount of gratitude that you proactively seek to express, and your mood. So gratitude journaling, consciously setting aside time to, once a day, tell people you love, “I appreciate how you emptied the dishwasher today, “I appreciate how you noticed my new socks.” It sounds simple, but so does “Eat your vegetables.” Sometimes the most profound changes in life come from the simplest practices in life, and gratitude is one of those.

Allan (46:16): I for the longest time struggled with stress. I was actually fortunate to get laid off, and now actually I’ve had a year of what I would call healing, so that I can make 2019 my complete “whoosh” of trying to get as distressed as possible. But one of my eye-opening moments was when I came to the realization that when you’re experiencing joy, you don’t feel stress. And to me gratitude is one of those self-inflicted joys. When you start actually thinking about how good things are, even the little things, it’s like you’ve taken in a bit of self-induced joy in that moment, and it’s a complete de-stressor.

Jonathan Bailor (47:05): That’s been my experience as well, Allan, and I will give the listeners to this an advanced technique that is actually not in the book, simply because we were so over the word count. It was supposed to be 80,000 words. We already went so over, we had to start cutting some stuff. But some people hear “gratitude” and they’re like, “Okay, what?” There’s a different way to approach gratitude that I’ve found to be helpful for some people, which is, while it may not feel great… Let’s say you have a cat that you really like, and you’re like, “I like my cat, I like my cat, I like my cat. This isn’t doing anything for me. Why did I listen to that podcast?” There’s a different approach. This sounds a little bit morbid, but it has a long track record historically; it’s just not talked about a lot. Imagine that something happened to your cat, as deeply as possible. Not for a long time, but just take 60 seconds and literally play through in your mind that something bad happened and you no longer had your cat. Then stop and hug your cat. You will instantly feel more grateful for your cat than you did before. So, there are two approaches. For some people based on their personality type, they’re like, “Hey, Snookums, I love you. I’m so grateful for you.” That works, and if that works, please do it. For other personality types that does not work, and all you need to do is close your eyes and imagine if Snookums wasn’t around, graphically. Then open your eyes and hug Snookums. In either case, you’re going to get that sense of joy that is so helpful with stress.

Allan (48:45): Absolutely. Now, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Jonathan Bailor (48:58): Drink SANE green smoothies every day. Sleep at least seven hours, and prioritize your life so that you can do that. Love and contribute as deeply as possible.

Allan (49:13): Those are wonderful. I adore those. Thank you for sharing that. Jonathan, if someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about The Setpoint Diet and the things you’re doing, where would you like for me to send them?

Jonathan Bailor (49:26): Please go to our website, which is SANESolution.com. That will give you all the information on the book, a bunch of free resources, wonderful miniseries coming out, tremendous coaching programs, all sorts of good stuff. SANESolution.com.

Allan (49:46): Awesome. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/363, and I’ll be sure to have all the links there. Jonathan, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast.

Jonathan Bailor (50:00): Thank you for having me, Allan.

I hope you enjoyed that interview as much as I enjoyed having that conversation. Some really good information for you to take into your January. I am very happy to say that I have finally, finally received copies of The Wellness Roadmap so that I can do some signed copies. If you would like a signed copy of the book, all you have to do is go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound version, or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you want the paperback edition. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. I can only do this during the month of January, because as you know in February I am moving to Panama. So, if you want a signed copy of the book, this is your opportunity. 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback.

Also, I wanted to let you know that I have partnered with a lab company called YourLabwork.com. They’re are really, really cool company in that they offer discounted lab work and you get to pick the lab work that you want done. They have the doctor there, they go ahead and call it in or send it in. You just show up at one of the quest centers. It’s already prepaid by them, so you just pay them, then they take care of all the backend work. They do these wonderful reports, they give you all kinds of information. I’m going through their educational course right now, so I’m also in a pretty good position to help you understand what is going on with those. Maybe we can do a Q&A if some of you are out there doing your lab work and want to talk about what some of these numbers mean. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab. They offer really good discounts. The rates they’re charging for these lab tests are really, really cost effective if you want to get things done, whether it be your hormones, your cholesterol, or any other kind of panel you want to check out. They’ve got a multitude of items for you to choose from and you can pick and choose the specific tests you’re interested in.

I did the full workup, so I have a complete particle count on my cholesterol, I have all the hormone checks, all that stuff done. I do that in my wellness trips with my doctor, but this was even deeper than what my doctor orders. This was really, really good information for me to have going into the new year, because I can use that now as a basis for how well my activities and the things that I’m doing for myself are in fact improving my health. You know I’m not a big fan of the scale. These numbers that you’re going to get from your blood labs are going to be so much more important as a measure and metric of health. So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab and that’ll take you to their site. Like I said, it’s a really cool service that they’re doing. 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab. Thank you.

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