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Kathleen Trotter returns to the 40+ Fitness Podcast to talk about her new book, Your Fittest Future Self.
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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 email@example.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.
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.
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
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.
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Time management is one of the main reasons people give for why they can't eat healthy food. In her new book, Lose Weight With Your Instapot, Audrey Johns shows how this cooker can make short time of cooking healthy meals.
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Allan (1:01): Audrey, welcome back to 40+ Fitness.
Audrey Johns (1:05): Thank you so much for having me, Allan. I’m so excited to be back on the show.
Allan (1:08): I really do enjoy the approach that you have to cookbooks, one, because I went through the different recipes and they all look brilliant, and there are no cans of anything. It just makes me so happy that someone’s not saying, “Open up a can of this, or buy that.” In many cases you’re making your own stuff to fill in the gaps in the recipes, where normally the recipe would say, “Go buy a can of this or a jar of that.” You’re actually teaching people how to cook the whole meal.
Audrey Johns (1:45): Absolutely. One of the recipes that stands out to me in that is the red beans and rice. A girl growing up in New Orleans, I was so excited to be able to make red beans from scratch. And I agree – when you can make it for yourself, it’s going to be so much healthier.
Allan (2:03): It is. I knew what an instapot was; I’ve never really actually used one. The sad thing is I asked my wife because I was like, “I’m going to pull this out and try something.” We’re getting ready to move to Panama, so she sold our instapot.
Audrey Johns (2:19): Oh no! Well, you’re going have to get a new one. Are the electrical sockets different there? Is that going to be an issue?
Allan (2:25): No, the electrics are the same. The problem is that we’re lightening our load as much as possible, so we’re selling practically everything in this house before we sell the house, or as we’re still in the house. So, it was an easy sell for her. She listed it and got, I guess, what she wanted for it, and it went out in one of the first rounds of our selling. And I didn’t actually realize that until I started looking for it. Sadly, that was one of the few times I didn’t. When I was looking at the pork chops with the apple – that looks really good. What was so amazing was with some of the accessories, you can cook an entire meal in one. I didn’t actually realize how dynamic and how really good these instant pots are for, one, saving time, because you don’t have to be there while it’s cooking, but the other thing is, you can do so much with it.
Audrey Johns (3:13): Absolutely. The protein bowl for example – I absolutely love that dish. What you do is you put the quinoa at the bottom, and then you put the trivet, which happens to come with the actual instant pot, and then you put a steamer basket in there and within the steamer basket you put the chicken and all the other vegetables. You press “Go” and you walk away; and you come back and you have this perfect, amazing meal that all you have to do is just add to a bowl. You can do that with so many different items. You can have rice on the bottom and then you can have the steamer basket in there for your vegetables or for your protein. It’s one-pot cooking in a totally different way than what we’ve been used to in the last 10 to 15 years in the cooking industry. It’s exciting and it makes cooking more accessible to people who don’t really have the time to cook. I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about the instant pot. You know me – I love to talk about cooking, which is why I’m on the show. I go out and I’m talking to people about the instant pot. In fact, I had my car serviced yesterday and I was at the dealership, and the guy says, “Wow, I see here that you’re an author. What do you write?” I said I write cookbooks. “Oh, my girlfriend and I, we don’t have time to cook.” I’m like, “But you have an instant pot.” And there I am, selling the instant pot for the instant pot company.
Allan (4:30): They need to get you on retainer with a commission or something.
Audrey Johns (4:34): Yeah, that would be nice. But what I’m really excited about is encouraging people to stop going through the drive-thru; you can actually make a meal in the same amount of time that you go through the drive-thru. And while it’s cooking, you can kick off your shoes and turn on the news or some fun program, and help your kids with homework, and just relax. It’s so easy and it makes it so accessible. If you can learn how to use just three buttons, you’re set. That’s all you need to know to cook. That’s really exciting, and I feel like it makes it more accessible to the masses.
Allan (5:10): I’d seen it sitting on our kitchen counter. I just had never thought to use it. I have no problem cooking and I’m very good with the slow cooker, but it looked a little complicated to me when I first looked at it. Can you explain what an instant pot is and why it’s so versatile, why it’s such a good tool to have in your kitchen?
Audrey Johns (5:32): Absolutely. What I love about the instant pot is that you have all of these different options and there are tons of different buttons. And each instant pot they come out with is new and improved, there are more buttons. I love that, because it gives me more options, but I feel like it makes it more daunting for somebody who first opens it. And you go on these blogs and forums and there’s an instant pot community on Facebook that I’m a member of. And people are going on and they’re saying, “I got an instant pot last year for Christmas, 12 months ago, and I haven’t even opened it yet. I’m too scared to use it”. And it is daunting because there are so many buttons. However, there are only really three important buttons and if you can use just three buttons, then you’re set. What I try to do with Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot – my new cookbook – I try to only use those three buttons so it’s really easy. No matter which model you have, you don’t have to worry about finding the yogurt button or the egg button or any of that. All you really need to notice on your machine is the “Sautee” button, the “Pressure Cook” button, or “Cook” on some of them it says, and the “Cancel” button. That makes it more accessible for people who maybe don’t purchase the actual instapot brands, they buy an off–brand. Just find those three buttons and do the water test. When you get your manual, it asks you to do a water test, and basically, you can’t ruin water. You certainly can’t burn water in an instant pot; you can boil it. You do that one test and it kind of takes the fear out of it and it also makes sure everything is working correctly. Now that I’ve given you all of this information, maybe your head is spinning even more. To simplify it, to give you the most simple definition of what an instant pot is – it is an electronic pressure cooker. That’s it.
Allan (7:25): So basically putting the contents under pressure and then raising the temperature, and that allows it to cook faster while still retaining the moistness and not drying them out.
Audrey Johns (7:37): Absolutely. It’s kind of the polar opposite of the slow cooker. In slow cookers you cook it slow and low for as many hours as you like. With the pressure cooker, it’s a quick meal. Even on some of the recipes, like on an egg recipe, pretty much as soon as your instant pot has pressurized, you’re done. You just turn it off and you’re done. So it’s very fast, very easy. I’m a cookbook author and I love food. I cook all day, every day, and I am the first one to admit that pressure cookers are a little daunting for me. You hear these horror stories of them exploding. But with the instant pot, all of that fear, all of those issues are completely taken off the table because if something goes wrong, it shuts itself down. So I feel comfortable turning my instapot on and walking out the door and going and picking my kid up from school, and coming home and food is ready. You can’t do that with most other kitchen appliances, except for the slow cooker. It’s foolproof. And that’s what I really love about this new amazing… I mean it’s not that new, but it’s hot and exciting, and it’s very popular now. This is a great kitchen appliance.
Allan (8:51): Okay. So, we go out and we buy a pressure cooker or have Amazon deliver it to us, because Amazon, I’m sure, sells these things. It gets delivered to our house or we go buy it at a local store. We’re getting it out of the box and it’s going to walk us through doing a water test. That way we’ll know everything’s working the way it’s supposed to, and now we’re ready to start doing things. But besides buying your cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, what are some tips and tricks that we would want to know just to get started?
Audrey Johns (9:26): What I like to recommend is, pick something that you know you’re really going to love to eat. A lot of times people say, “What is the first thing I should make in my instapot?” Make something that you know your family is going to love. If you guys love mac and cheese, make mac and cheese. There’s a mac and cheese recipe here in my book. Don’t pick something completely over the top that you would never have made, for instance, the cassoulet. Make something simple and easy so it takes the fear factor out of it. Honestly, how hard is it to mess up mac and cheese? So, choose something easy and something you know the family will like. And what I always love to tell people is, in the kitchen, this is the only place in your life where you can completely mess up and you can call and order pizza, and that will fix your problem. So, get in there, get dirty and try it out. Worst case scenario, you’re pulling something out of the freezer or you’re calling for pizza. It’s one of those areas that you can really be bold and try something new. You can’t mess too many things up in the kitchen, especially with electronic pressure cooker. I mean you can’t even light a fire in the house, so it really takes any of the fear out of cooking. Also I know I had mentioned earlier on the podcast, a lot of people are really scared to take the instapot even out of the box. It’s so daunting. So I really recommend, don’t get overwhelmed by all of the different buttons on there. You can get to them later. Right now all you have to find is the “Sautee” button, the “Pressure Cook” button and the “Cancel” button, and that’s it.
Allan (10:56): Okay. Now, with the pressure, it’s going to have to let some of this pressure come off. Sometimes you can let it depressurize on its own, and on some recipes you need to go ahead and release that pressure. You encourage folks to use a wooden spoon to release that pressure because the steam coming out can burn you.
Audrey Johns (11:18): Absolutely. It’s extremely hot. I’m an Italian woman, so I have a collection of probably 200 wooden spoons. It is my preferred kitchen tool, if I may. I recommend using a wooden spoon. It’s not going to melt on you, it’s not going to get hot, like if you use a metal spoon. You go from the side, not from above, and you just knock the little dongle to the side and the pressure will come out. Now, if that scares you, another tip – don’t start your very first experience with an electronic pressure cooker on something that you actually have to release the pressure. It’s easy. I will admit the first time I did it, I was a little bit worried, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. It does make quite a lot of noise. But if that kind of thing freaks you out, don’t make an egg dish first off; don’t make something that you have to release the pressure, otherwise it will overcook. Make something easy. Make the sloppy joes in my cookbook. Make something that you can walk away from and two hours later when the pressure has naturally let itself release and it’s been heated up and it’s just been sitting and waiting for you, it’s not scary to open it up. I really recommend baby steps when it comes to using an instant pot, and then you won’t be scared of it and you’ll be excited and you’ll want to keep trying new things and you’ll get bold, and it kind of takes the fear out of it.
Allan (12:47): I guess most instant pots are going to have a “Keep Warm” feature. It keeps it warm for you. So if you said, “When I first get home from work I’m going to sit down and put all this stuff in there”, and then you go get into your comfy clothes for the evening, maybe take a shower or you go for a run or something, and then you come back in and it might’ve been in there for two or three hours before you get ready to eat, but it’s going to be ready.
Audrey Johns (13:15): Absolutely. The skinny sloppy joes in my cookbook come to mind when you bring that up. Last year I was the Girl Scout troop leader for my daughter’s troop, and I was testing the recipes for the book. I just had too much on my plate, to be honest. It was a lot going on, like, why did I decide to become a Girl Scout troop leader while I was recipe-testing? I don’t know, but I did. And so I made the sloppy joes and I left. That was the first time ever leaving the instant pot on and walking out the door, and it hadn’t even stopped cooking. It wasn’t that it was depressurizing on its own. It was still going. I walked out the door and two hours later, after we had done our meeting and all the kids had gone home and we had finally gotten home, they were the best sloppy joes I have ever made. They were warm and they were hot and they were ready for dinner. I barely had the energy to take my shoes off – 12 little girls and me, and I was already frazzled from cooking all day. It was perfect. This is perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time or who have a lot on their plates. My daughter will come home from school and I’ll start helping her with her homework and I’ll forget to cook dinner. And that’s me – a cookbook author – I will forget to cook dinner from time to time. And then I’m rushing to try and throw something together, but with the instapot I can already have it ready and I can just let it sit, or I can quickly whip something up. It’s amazing. I’m in love with my instapot. I am Audrey and I love an instapot.
Allan (14:51): You had me when you did a 30-minute marinara sauce, because when I make a marinera sauce, it’s a six-hour ordeal, easily. I’ll start in the morning and my wife’s like, “What are you doing on the stove cooking?” I say, “I’m making some marinara for dinner tonight.” She’s like, “Oh, okay.” It’s six to eight hours that I’m going to have to cook that marinara down, but in an instapot you can do it in 30 minutes. That’s pretty amazing.
Audrey Johns (15:20): I honestly felt like I was going to be struck down by lightning. I was worried about it. I’m like, “I am an Italian woman. My ancestors are going to be furious with me. This is not okay. You can’t cook marinara sauce in 30 minutes.” It was amazing, Allan. It was so delicious. I’m like, “Are you serious?” But it’s because it’s under pressure. It’s essentially giving you six hours’ worth of cooking time in 30 minutes. I still do prefer the long and slow method because that’s how my mom and my grandmother made it, but when I’m in a rush and I need a quick marinara sauce, that’s my go-to. It is so easy.
Allan (15:58): That’s a really quick meal when you think about a good healthy meal. You start the marinara sauce. You get some zucchini and make some zoodles and you’ve got a plant-based dinner ready for yourself in less than 30 minutes. That’s pretty cool.
Audrey Johns (16:15): Absolutely. And it’s delicious and it’s packed full of antioxidants. It feels like you’re splurging. There’s something about Italian food that even when you make it healthy, it just feels like you’re splurging. Or is that just me, Allan, because I’m Italian?
Allan (16:28): No, I enjoy Italian food, and that’s one of the problems. I don’t want to go out and eat it anymore, because I know what goes in it sometimes. You look at a label when you go to buy a pasta sauce and one of the first ingredients is going to be sugar or a high fructose corn syrup. And then you get to the bottom of the list and there’s 18 extra ingredients that I would never put in mine, but they have to put it in theirs to keep it on a shelf. So, you’re making good, high quality food. A good trip to the farmer’s market on a Saturday, and Saturday night you could be eating some of the best marinara sauce on whatever, whether you want to do pasta or zoodles. Boom! There you go.
Audrey Johns (17:14): Absolutely. And since you mentioned going to the farmer’s market and then going home and cooking – I did an entire chapter called Shred It Your Way. I want to find a way to be able to do an entire cookbook on this, but basically I did a recipe for shredded chicken, for pulled pork and for shredded beef. And then I had coinciding recipes that actually went with every single protein that I had put in the book, but specific recipes to go with the chicken, to go with the pork, to go with the beef. So you only had to cook one night a week. Or say, for instance, for the beef ragu rigatoni, all you had to do was basically boil water and you were done. I think that when you use the instapot and you cook in larger quantities, you could cook an entire week’s worth of food in two hours on a Sunday afternoon and then you’re set for the rest of the week. I’ve heard from a lot of people who love to meal prep that the instapot is their go-to, because it cuts down the time and you can do such huge quantities, especially if you have one of the larger instapots, like an eight or a six quart.
Allan (18:25): I harp on my clients about batch cooking all the time. One of the main reasons people will say they can’t eat healthy is that they just don’t have time to cook. Now, batch cooking with an instant pot is almost a no-brainer. If I want to do some batch cooking for the week, I’ll do three or four meals on a Sunday, put them in containers, put most of them in the freezer and then just pull those out the day before. I put them in the fridge and they’re good to go; I just warm them up. So yes, very, very good. Now, one of the things I do like about your cookbooks in particular is you take some time to throw in some really cool tips and things like that that might not have anything really to do with the topic so much. But you do include some tips about when we’re going to go out. This episode is going to air in January, but we’re always ending up at a party or at someone’s house and we’re having to make food choices that seem somewhat out of our control. Can you share some tips for when we’re going to go to an event or to a party on how we can structure our plate and stay healthy?
Audrey Johns (19:37): Absolutely. Like you said, I always add these fun things to my book, and this book happened to have a holiday chapter. So this is in the holiday chapter, but all of you listening in January, this goes for all events. It goes great for company events and going to a party. It’s simple. First of all, if you know you’re going to go to a place that’s going to be full of junk food, eat beforehand. I think that’s a go-to that’s really, really easy. But say for instance you didn’t know, and you get there and you’re completely overwhelmed, there’s tons of food, you don’t know what’s in it, you don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not – I really recommend starting out with the vegetables. All three of my books have always talked about your plate equation, and I always recommend following the 50 /25 / 25 – 50% vegetables, 25% protein and 25% carbohydrates. That gives you the opportunity to have something yummy, have a roll or a potato or something. You’re at a party. You want to make sure that you are splurging a little bit, but not too much. So I recommend starting out with the vegetables because if you start out with the protein or the carbohydrates, you’re going to end up filling up your plate really fast. Best case scenario – get a salad, because you know what’s in it; you can actually see what’s in it. If you end up getting some heavily cooked dish, you don’t know if there’s an entire can of cream of mushroom soup and two pounds of cheddar in it. Just because it happens to be a green item might not necessarily make it healthy. So I recommend going for your vegetables, ideally going for anything raw. Go for the veggie tray, the salad, those kinds of things. And then move onto the protein.
Now, because this is a holiday chapter and I’m modifying it for your listeners, I talk about how much I adore turkey. Any kind of white meat, chicken, turkey – anything like that is a great option. You’ve got that big old salad; you can chop it up and put it on top of the salad, you can put it on the side. Go for the protein next because you definitely want to feel full. I don’t know if I’m the only one who looks at food like this, but it’s like that’s the best deal there. You go out to dinner, and the steak and the chicken is the same price – I’m getting the steak; I’m getting the best deal. When I look at a holiday gathering, I don’t want to be cheap and only have the $0.25 salad. I want to have a piece of that chicken or I want to have some yummy steak. So, have a little bit of protein, and then finally go for the carbohydrates. And let’s go for something that’s more nutritious, if you can. I know a lot of people look at potatoes and they think starch, fat. But if you’re thinking about nutritional value, potato versus a roll – you’re going to get so many more nutritious elements from the potato. So have a baked potato. I make in my book the scallop potatoes; they’re absolutely amazing. They’re really healthy and low calorie. But fill up on the vegetables, then protein, then carbohydrates.
Another really great tip – if it happens to be a potluck, bring something healthy, bring something you know you can eat and you know that if you get there and everything is absolute junk and it’s going make you feel sick and reverse your weight loss work, then you know you can fill up on that. Then finally, what I always recommend is, you’re at a party – have the dessert, have a drink. Just have it in very, very small quantities. For dessert, I always recommend splitting it with somebody. So if you go to a party and there’s a great piece of pie or a cookie or a slice of chocolate cake – my favorite – split it with somebody or take half of it home or ask for a very small slice. When it comes to drinks, when you arrive at the party, don’t go straight for the champagne or a glass of wine. Wait until you’re actually sitting down with your meal. So, start with water, end with water and only have that one cocktail or that one glass of wine while you’re eating, and you’ll be less likely to splurge the entire time.
Allan (23:43): Yes, absolutely. You also got into another topic that I think is really important, because I get this question all the time: “Allan, what kind of exercise can I do to lose weight?” Every time I hear it, I let out a little internal sigh because they’re not going to like my answer. But just so they’re hearing it from someone else, can you answer that question for us?
Audrey Johns (24:09): I hope that I’m going to answer it the same way as you do. I am a firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen and not in the gym. Sure, you can burn some calories at the gym, but most likely you will end up thinking, “I just burned 300 calories on the elliptical machine and now I can go have a slice of chocolate cake.” I think that exercise is so, so important for our bodies. I am literally still sitting here in my Pilates clothes because I am a Pilates fanatic. It makes me feel strong, I carry myself better. I do look thinner, because I have better posture because of Pilates and exercise and because I’m stronger. But I am a very firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen. It’s all about what you put in your mouth. So, go for the exercise, but don’t expect it to do all the work for you. You actually have to start working on how you eat.
Allan (25:01): I am complete agreement with you there.
Audrey Johns (25:05) I’m so glad!
Allan (25:06): It surprises them, because I’m a fitness guy and they’re like, “You can teach us exercises and we can do these different things.” And I’m like, “Yes, but that’s for fitness. That’s to make you a better grandfather or grandmother, or make you better at tennis, or able to finish that 5K that you want to do in a couple of months.” That’s what exercise or training should be about, is helping you do those things. And then yes, if weight loss or fat loss is what you’re really wanting, that’s going to come from what and how much you eat. So, I completely agree with you that we’ve got to get our kitchens going if we want to get our waistline down.
Audrey Johns (25:45) I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, Allan. Why is that so hard for people to, not grasp, but to change? I do enjoy Pilates, but I was dragging getting there today, and I don’t always want to go. For me, I’d rather cook a nice healthy meal. I was trained to understand that and I think it’s daunting for people to think they have to give up something they love. They would rather add something. I don’t know that that is necessarily the easiest thing to do, adding something, especially something that strenuous. But I think if your listeners do think it would be easier to add an exercise versus change how they eat, maybe we change the way we look at it and instead of taking away things you can’t have, adding in things to your diet that you should be having. It’s kind of in that same mentality, that you’re adding exercise. Instead of adding exercise, why not add a plant-based meal, one meal a day? One entire meal that’s completely all natural, and then go from there. And then keep increasing the amount of vegetables and healthy proteins that you’re eating,
Allan (27:03): I think what it comes down to is, we were handed this really simple equation called “calories in, calories out”. So everybody thinks, “I can increase the calories out by doing this work and I still get to eat what I want to eat.” They may make some changes to what they eat, but in a general sense they don’t, because they want to eat their cake, they want to eat their bread, they want to have their M&M’s, because they get a dopamine fix on that. A lot of us get into exercise and realize it feels really good to exercise. Once you get into it, the endorphins and things are happening for you there, so it’s a feel-good. It’s kind of hard to tell someone, “I want you to somewhat deprive yourself”, if that’s the right way to say it, “of not having things while you go on this diet. To me it’s always the higher the quality of the food you’re putting in your mouth, the less of it you’re actually going to end up eating, because you’re getting all the nutrition your body needs. You’re not going to have these urges to go and eat a whole bunch of bad foods, because your body has what it needs. It’s not going to be telling you, “We’re not getting everything. Go eat everything.” That’s just not going to happen for you, and that’s why I think it’s really valuable for these cookbooks that are coming out that are using whole food ingredients, because this is simple. Once you get past that learning curve and get into it, it’s quick, it’s easy. As I was reading through the recipes, I thought just about anybody can do this. They’ll need some different pieces, the accessories in some cases, but once they have that kit and they get comfortable with this, it’s almost like an automatic. There are five or six ingredients in a dish, or in some cases just three or four. You put them in there in the way that they’re structured, just set the timer, and 15 minutes, 30 minutes later your meal is complete. It’s so easy that I think things like this are going to make it easier and better for people to get into the kitchen and do what’s right for their body.
Audrey Johns (29:17): Absolutely. I’m in complete agreement with you. The instapot will open up healthy cooking to the masses just because it’s so simple. And you can find them everywhere now. They sell them at my grocery store. I’m seeing them absolutely everywhere. So, I’m sure the majority of your listeners who’ve never heard of an instant pot, it’s going to be like once you see an orange car and then all you ever see is orange cars. You’re like, “Wow, I did not realize there were so many orange cars on the road.” Now you’re going to start seeing instapots everywhere. So, everybody can say “Thank you” to Allan and Audrey for this.
Allan (29:54): I think it’s a great tool. When I get settled down in Panama, we’ll probably be looking for one. I’m like you – not the Italian piece, but I actually like sitting in the kitchen and cooking. I’ll do other things while I’m cooking because it’s not always “you have to be on it” kind of thing. I pick dishes that are easier for me, but I love getting out on the grill, grilling some meat, protein, and then getting something going in the kitchen and moving around and using my kitchen, because it’s how I can get good food in my body. I’m not going to necessarily get that if I try to eat out all the time.
Audrey Johns (30:33): Absolutely. Since you brought that up, the instapot is such a great tool to have when you are barbecuing, because you can cook a side dish. For instance, I’ve got the scallop potatoes in here, or the bruschetta, or these amazing spicy brussels sprouts with bacon. You can have that cooking and you can go outside. You don’t have to worry about lighting a fire in your kitchen. It’s great for that. Even when you are in your kitchen… It’s cold here right now and I’m not going to be barbecuing in 20-degree weather, but I can be working hard over the stove top and know that my rice dish or my potato dish or my brussels sprouts are not going to burn and I can just concentrate on the one item, the one main dish and let the instant pot do the side dish. So you don’t have to use it for the entire meal. You can use it for a side dish. You can use it for an entire meal. I have a whole breakfast chapter. I even made low calorie brownies in the instant pot. That seemed very wrong, if I’m being completely honest. I complained about it to everyone I knew, because I love to bake, Allan. So I complained. I was like a child. I was pouting. I was not okay with having to bake in the instant pot. I’m like, “That’s a recipe for the book I’m not looking forward to.” I made it. I will never make brownies in the oven ever again. They were the most moist and delicious brownies. And that’s not easy to do when you are eliminating a lot of the fat in the dish. And so, you can really make just about anything in the instant pot. And my cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, it’ll give you tons of ideas. I actually make ginger ale in there as well. Low calorie ginger ale – I think it’s something like 17 calories per glass. You’re basically burning that off as you’re drinking it, it’s so low calorie. I really recommend anybody who has the means to purchase an instant pot or borrow one from somebody, just to make sure you love it first. And check out my book, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. It’s easy, it’s delicious. They’re going to be all natural. And I tried to make something for everybody in here, so I think everybody will really, really love it.
Allan (32:40): There’s a lot of variety in there for sure. Audrey, one last question. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Audrey Johns (32:53): I have to say eating all natural by far. You’re going to feel better, you’re going to be fit, you’re going to feel happy, just because you will always be satiated and you’ll look your best as well. Your skin just glows and you always end up looking younger when you eat healthier. Same with water. I recommend to drink as much water as you can every single day. I drink on average about a gallon of water a day. I know that sounds like a lot. The closer you can get to that, the better. You’ll be full, your metabolism will be roaring. Your body is mostly water; you’ve got to give back to your body. And finally, no negative self-talk. I know I’m speaking to a man here and I’m sure that you men do have quite a lot of negative self-talk, but for women…
Allan (33:39): Maybe not as much as women, but yes, we do it too.
Audrey Johns (33:43): As women, and as men, we hold ourselves to this really high standard of how we look and we talk negatively about ourselves. Being healthy and taking good care of your body is hard enough. You don’t need to be putting yourself down. With that said, I was recently on the cover of a magazine. I didn’t recognize myself. I was so heavily altered on the magazine. So don’t believe what you see out there. Don’t hold yourself to really high standards of heavily Photoshopped pictures. Just be proud of yourself. Be proud of yourself that you’re trying, be proud of yourself that you’re strong. Try to find things that you love about not just your body. It is great to have a good self-image of your body, but about your mind – how kind are you, what a great parent or grandparent you are, how much you care about the people around you – so much more important than what you look like. I think that’s so important when it comes to being happy and healthy, is that you only use positive self-talk on yourself.
Allan (34:47): Excellent. Thank you for sharing those. The book is Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Audrey, if someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Audrey Johns (35:00): My Facebook page is a great place to start. It’s Lose Weight By Eating With Audrey Johns. You can also check my blog out at LoseWeightByEating.com, and that will also showcase my other two books, Lose Weight by Eating and Lose Weight by Eating: Detox Week. Those will be non-instant pot cookbooks. Also check out Amazon. The reviews are absolutely amazing for Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Visit Barnes & Noble and flip through the pages if you like. If you’re in the Boise area, I regularly go and sign all of the copies, so you may see me there with my sharpie marker. There are lots of places to check me out. Also, HarperCollins.com as well.
Allan (35:40): Okay. This is episode 366, so you can go 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/366 and I’ll be sure to have all the links there in the show notes. Audrey, thank you again so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Audrey Johns (35:56): Thank you, Allan. I always love coming on the show and I can’t wait to come back at the next book.
Allan (36:02): Outstanding. Yes.
So, do go check that out – having an instapot as a quick and efficient way for you to eat good, healthy food. And Audrey Johns makes it really, really easy with some great recipes in a beautiful book. You should check it out.
There’s still time – one week, approximately – for you to get your signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound edition, or go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you’d prefer the paperback edition. I’m only going to be able to do this for about another week, because I am headed down to Panama in February and I won’t be able to ship books from there. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.
Also, there’s time right now for you to go out there and get your lab results from YourLabwork. I’ve gotten a partnership agreement with them that allows you to get your discounted lab work – whatever labs you want to get done – and it allows you to track your progress. I had a full lab workup done before the end of the year, which I’m going to use to compare the things that I’m doing for my health and wellness and see what that’s going to do with what the results are. I’m not going to be looking at the scale because the scale doesn’t tell me the right numbers, but my lab work does.
So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab. They offer really affordable tests. You can have the tests done that you want. A lot of times doctors try to talk you out of getting tests. They want to get the tests that they know and they can look up and answer to. Here you’re able to get the whole picture. Like I said, I got the full workup, but you can pick and choose the lab work that you want to measure yourself on. So be it your hormones, your cholesterol – anything that you’re interested in knowing about as far as your wellness, you can get those numbers. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab to get your lab results today. Thank you.
Do you suffer from a bloated belly, IBS,
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Allan (1:00): Tamara, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Tamara Freuman (1:04): Thank you.
Allan (1:05): Your book is called The Bloated Belly Whisperer. I know from reading the book why you now have that, for a lack of a better word, nickname, but that’s also what you’ve called your book. Can you give us a little bit of the backstory on that?
Tamara Freuman (1:20): Sure. I am a dietician and I work in a gastroenterologist’s office in New York City. And pretty much from day one when I started working there, patient after patient would come to me complaining of bloating. Early in my career I really had no idea what this thing was. It’s not something you read about in your textbooks when you’re learning in dietitian school. I just had to ask a ton of questions and understand what was going on, and it became very clear to me very quickly that not all of these people were talking about the same experience or the same problem. As my practice progressed and as my career progressed, I understood that bloating really meant many different things, but there were about 10 causes that I kept seeing over and over again, and they started to look very familiar. It got to a point where within the first 10 minutes of talking to someone who was bloated, by asking certain questions and gathering certain information, they were clues that would lead me very quickly to the right cause and therefore the right treatment. Once I figured out how to figure it out, I thought I’d better put this down in writing so that other people can really benefit from this knowledge.
Allan (2:30): And that’s what I think is really cool. Having written my own book, I think as a writer you’re like, “Gosh, I really do hope they read this first chapter”, because this first chapter is really critical. I know so many people are going to say, “I have constipation so I’m just going to flip to that chapter and get to the rub of what I need to do.” But you start off the book with a quiz. The reason I like the quiz is, it’s looking for those other signs that someone might be missing because they have the most significant symptom in mind, versus they might actually have two of these things going on at the same time and the quiz is actually going to help them do that. You kind of define how you started developing this quiz, but can you tell us about the quiz, how it works and why it’s valuable for the reader to take some time to go through it?
Tamara Freuman (3:28): The reason I developed this quiz is because the way that it works when a patient comes into my office is I have an hour to sit with you and ask you a million questions. And I do – I ask everything, and you’ll answer something, and that will lead me to another question. There’s sort of this brain algorithm thing going on that leads me into this “Choose your own adventure” decision tree, and then I land at the answer. I can’t do that in a written book, so what I had to do is come up with the next best thing, and this quiz really is that. It’s, how do I distill that very complex diagnostic back-and-forth into something that you can take by yourself at home and that will lead you to, if not the most accurate answer, the top three. And then maybe you can pick from the top two or three things that you sound like and recognize your own experience. So the quiz is the best chance that I have to approximate an in-person patient consultation with a reader sitting in their own home.
Allan (4:24): I really enjoyed going through the quiz and looking at the questions and the potential of what I would have answered at certain times in my life. I have the great fortune right now – I’m very clean with what I eat, so I don’t tend to suffer from bloating much. But I can say in my past, I definitely have had multiple symptoms of bloating, constipation and those types of things. I recognize the nature of it, so it was really cool to go through and say, “Yeah, that’s what I felt. That’s how that was. That would’ve been my diagnosis at that point in time.” I do want to go through what I think are some of the more common ones that I hear from friends and family and sometimes from clients. The first one that got my attention, and I have a couple of questions as we dive into it, is indigestion.
Tamara Freuman (5:18): Yes.
Allan (5:20): I see commercial after commercial after commercial of, “Take this pill, take that pill. This is quick; that’s going to take forever, but that lasts forever.” And go back and forth. Can you talk about the symptoms someone would have and then what some of the treatments are that they can do?
Tamara Freuman (5:37): Sure. Indigestion, the way I talk about it in the book, is the sour stomach bloat. And that’s really any kind of acid-related malady. This is one of the more common types of bloating that originate in the stomach. One thing I try to do in the book is really separate bloating that originates in the stomach, which is its own beast and it has its own remedies, versus bloating that originates in the intestines, which has other causes and other remedies. So, of the types of bloating that originate in the stomach, indigestion, acid-related issues are a problem. And what’s tricky about them is they can be very situational. Patients have a really hard time identifying what’s going on and whether there are food triggers, because they’ll say, “Sometimes I eat this food and I’m fine. And then another time I eat that food and I’m miserable. Am I intolerant to that food or not? What’s going on?” And the issue is, our stomach’s reaction to food is very contextual. It depends when we last ate. Has it been five, six, seven hours since we last ate and we are empty in acid? Or did we just eat three hours ago a big giant fatty meal and we’re still a little bit full from that meal? You could eat the same food in either of those contexts and have a really different reaction, versus you’re on a normal meal schedule, it’s been about four hours since you’ve eaten, you’re a little bit hungry – not over hungry, not over full. You eat that meal and you have a third reaction. And so, this idea that your body can overreact with acid, or you could have a loss of pressure in that muscle that separates your stomach and your esophagus, because you ate a lot of fat or you had some alcohol with the meal and that meal is refluxing on you. The trick to classic indigestion is really understanding the foods that trigger it, the contextual triggers of it in terms of your hunger level or fullness level, and therefore how to manage it with food choices, with supplements, with medications.
Allan (7:33): Okay. I like how in the book you’re very clear with, “Let’s start with the ‘How’ and what we eat.” You went through a process of saying if you suffer from indigestion, you’re going to want to eat more regularly, smaller meals, those kinds of things. And if that doesn’t quite solve all the problems, then there are some medical things we can do, as far as over-the-counter and prescription stuff. Can you walk through the food choices, the size and timing of meals, and then some of the other treatments?
Tamara Freuman (8:08): Definitely. As a dietician, the way that I would typically approach people with acid indigestion is I’m looking for foods that empty the stomach rather expeditiously. The way I describe it is your stomach is basically a food blender. Its main job is to liquify your meal, so that that liquid meal can trickle out of the stomach and move on into the digestive journey. I tell my patients, “Envision how much stomach acid does your stomach need to secrete, and how much time and churning does your stomach blender have to churn in order to liquify a giant kale salad versus to liquify a kale smoothie.” Same food, same ingredients, very different physical properties. So, you can envision what type of work and what kind of time and what level of acid will be required to liquify certain textures of foods, certain volumes of foods as compared to others. So the first thing that I’m really looking at with my patients is how much volume do we eat in a sitting and what are the physical properties of that meal? Can we tame the texture? Can we tame the volume? Break it up – instead of having a big lunch at 12:00 and then nothing again until dinner at 7:00, can we have a small lunch at 12:00 and then the second part of your lunch at 3:30 or 4:00, and then another small meal at 7:00, so that you’re never too hungry and overeating and then never too empty and starving, so you’re going to overeat because you’re starving. So, that’s one thing that I do. The second thing as a dietitian that I care about is fat. Fat really does have an effect on the sphincter muscle that keeps your stomach contents in the stomach and prevents them from refluxing into the esophagus. Really high fat meals can relax that pressure so that food is more likely to reflux. So for a patient who does have that classic indigestion, I’m looking at fat, I’m looking at frequency of meals, volume of meals, and texture. For many, many patients, that gets them really far in terms of symptom control, even without any medications.
Allan (10:20): You also threw alcohol in there, because that can be symptomatic as well, right?
Tamara Freuman (10:25): Absolutely. Alcohol has a very similar effect as fat in terms of relaxing that muscle, and that can make reflux more likely.
Allan (10:35): Most of the medications that are on the market actually reduce the stomach acid at some level. But I’ve read, and maybe it’s wrong and I’m misreading something here, that sometimes we would have some of these symptoms because our stomach’s not producing enough acid.
Tamara Freuman (10:54): That’s a really common Internet misconception that’s out there. I know that there are a lot of beliefs that we’re not having enough stomach acid and we should take apple cider vinegar or other things to acidify the stomach, or even supplements. There’s one called Betaine HCL that I see people use a lot. There’s really no evidence to support any of this; in fact, there is some pretty strong evidence to support the contrary. Frankly, if you ask any person who has suffered from chronic acid indigestion or more serious chronic acid reflux disease, they feel better when they take a TUMS, they feel better with acid reducers. So, I haven’t really seen any evidence to support this idea that not enough stomach acid would cause acid indigestion.
Allan (11:41): Thank you for that. Like I said, that kind of confused me when I was reading through. I thought we were supposed to go away from the TUMS and go towards taking HCL to push our stomachs to do the digestion faster, if you will. But I guess not. Thank you. The next one I want to talk about, which I think is also very common and actually very uncomfortable for a lot of folks because it makes it sometimes difficult for them to feel comfortable leaving the house, is constipation.
Tamara Freuman (12:12): Yes, constipation is a big one. It’s really common, and also I think a lot of people who are constipated don’t recognize that they’re constipated. I have a lot of patients who will come to me and they’re complaining of bloating, and when I go through my little back-and-forth algorithm in my brain, it sounds very much like what I call “backed up bloating”, or being full of stool. And they’ll say, “No, no, no, I’m not constipated. I go to the bathroom every day.” There’s this idea that if you move your bowels every day, you couldn’t possibly be constipated. And that’s not true at all. You could move your bowels, but move them incompletely, and still move your bowels every day and wind up having a very high stool burden or a very large backlog of stool hanging out in your colon that’s unable to really be passed. And so, sometimes people can be constipated and they don’t even know it.
Allan (13:02): Okay. So how would someone know the difference between normal constipation and something where they’re not completely getting rid of all the poo?
Tamara Freuman (13:12): The classic constipation, what most people recognize as constipation is, I don’t go every day. I might skip a day, I might skip two days. My stools are really hard. There are these hard little balls, or I have to strain incredibly much to go. And when I go, I feel like I didn’t get it all out. That’s the typical experience of constipation that most people who have that will recognize that they’re constipated. But there could be people who have extremely high fiber diets, for example. They’re putting a lot of stuff into the pipeline and they go to the bathroom once a day. And it’s like a smallish to medium, formed normal size stool – in other words, putting more stuff in than is coming out. Someone on a really, really high fiber diet might need to go to the bathroom three or four times a day to keep up with the input. Sometimes if you’re just going one time a day with a very high fiber diet, and it’s not an incredibly large amount of stool, you might be falling behind. That’s something people might not recognize is going on and then they don’t understand why they’re so bloated.
Allan (14:17): That’s because the fiber’s picking up extra water and making up some girth to what you’re digesting, versus not.
Tamara Freuman (14:27): Right. Fiber by definition is indigestible, so fiber that goes in must come out. We cannot break it down, we cannot absorb it. With fiber, what goes in must come out, and if a lot is going in and not a lot is coming out, then you might be outpacing your ability to eliminate it, which could happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have a slow colon, which can happen. Maybe your pelvic floor muscles aren’t working optimally and you’re unable to pass large amounts of stool. There are lots of reasons that could happen.
Allan (15:01): I actually had a green smoothie yesterday for lunch, and I’ve already gone twice today. So, I think the fiber is working its way through me quite quickly.
Tamara Freuman (15:13): It is. And I love that we’re at a place in our relationship where we can share these things with each other. That’s so great!
Allan (15:21): It’s funny, because actually there’s another author that I’m interviewing and he’s pretty heavy into the fiber stuff. Even though I do the keto, I’m going to work a little bit more on getting my greens in, particularly the leafy greens with the fibers. I did do a fruit smoothie yesterday, I’m going to do a smoothie today and see how that works for me.
Tamara Freuman (15:43): Excellent.
Allan (15:44): Alright. So, someone comes to you and they are in fact constipated. What can they do now to help themselves?
Tamara Freuman (15:53): The trick with constipation is, it’s really important to understand, if you can, the nature of the constipation. You can be constipated for more than one reason, as I alluded to before. For example, one thing is you just don’t eat enough fiber. That’s the low hanging fruit – nothing in, nothing out – so, that’s a more straightforward fix. Some people are constipated, like I said, because their colons are really, really slow; it takes a really long time for stuff to move through them. And the longer waste spends in your colon, the more dried out it can become, so that can be a cause for constipation. Some people, their motility is fine. Things move through them at a proper pace, at a normal pace, but the muscles involved with defecation aren’t coordinating properly – they can’t relax and let the stool out, or their muscles are too weak and they can’t propel enough force to get the stool out. There are all sorts of reasons that someone could be constipated and typically a dietician or a doctor will start with some of the more likely causes. They’ll look at the fiber, they might do a little bit of an-over-the-counter laxative thing and see if that does the trick. And for many people with a slow transit constipation or inadequate fiber, that is a really quick and easy fix. But if you’re someone that is on a high fiber diet and you’ve taken magnesium supplements or MiraLAX or a senna tea or something – those low level laxatives, and literally they haven’t done a thing for you – then we have to start wondering whether your musculature can really support healthy defecation, and maybe get an evaluation from a gastroenterologist of your pelvic floor function to see, because all the laxatives in the world and all the fiber in the world aren’t going to help if there is some faulty plumbing and things can’t get out.
Allan (17:47): Okay. Typically I’ll have some coffee in the morning, and that seems to be a stimulant that gets my whole digestive system working rather quickly. So, that is something they could also consider – some caffeine in the morning?
Tamara Freuman (18:05): It’s actually not the caffeine. It’s the coffee. There’s a compound called chlorogenic acid that is in regular coffee and also in decaf coffee, and that is what stimulates the colon to kind of perk up and move along. You could get that benefit from both a regular coffee and a decaf coffee. Whereas even a caffeinated tea will not have as strong of an effect because it doesn’t have the chlorogenic acid. I know a lot of people don’t drink coffee because they say, “I’m caffeine sensitive. The caffeine doesn’t agree with me, so I can’t drink coffee and therefore I can’t benefit from the gut stimulating properties of coffee.” And I always tell them decaf works too. If you enjoy the taste of coffee and you’re willing to have a decaf, get on that because it will help.
Allan (18:51): Cool. That was in the book; I just actually forgot about it. I guess the other question that came up as I was reading through, because I had a guest on once that swore by coffee enemas. I know enemas are a way to help with constipation from time to time. What are your thoughts on coffee enemas?
Tamara Freuman (19:11): Enemas in general will promote emptying. I’ve had patients who’ve needed to use enemas regularly because their pelvic floor muscles don’t work well or because they have extremely pathologically slow transit, and enemas on a regular basis are the only way that they’re able to get some relief from their bloating – enemas, whether it’s coffee or water or salient or whatever. My understanding for the few patients I’ve had that have done coffee enemas – it was really about an alternative delivery system of caffeine, because they were not able to tolerate coffee by mouth. Once I had a patient who had these terrible migraines and caffeine really helped her with her migraines, but she couldn’t drink coffee; it gave her this awful, awful acid reflux. So, she happened upon the solution of coffee enemas as a delivery system for caffeine, and that seemed to work for her. So my understanding of a coffee enema in terms of constipation relief – it probably has much more to do with the enema and probably a lot less to do with the coffee.
Allan (20:12): Okay. Any other thoughts if someone’s going through constipation that they can do besides the changing and making sure they’re getting plenty of fiber, maybe taking some of the soft laxative formula or perhaps enemas, that we could consider if we’re looking for treatment options?
Tamara Freuman (20:32): What I would say about the fiber question is, if you are someone who does have a pelvic floor function disorder, eating less fiber until your pelvic floor muscles have been rehabilitated through treatment might actually make it better, not worse. The fiber is a little bit tricky, which again comes back to this idea of, if more fiber doesn’t feel better, there may be a reason for that. And for some people less fiber may be better. There’s another thing that is a little bit underrecognized with constipation, and that is position on the toilet. There is something out there called a Squatty Potty, which is basically an overpriced stepstool that you put in front of your toilet and it raises your knees so that when you’re sitting in a toilet, you’re in a more squatting position. That is our body’s more preferred natural position for pooping. The pelvic floor muscles are optimally aligned when we are in a squatting position. Particularly for people who have pelvic floor problems, getting those knees up with a stepstool of some sort while you’re going to the bathroom can really make a difference.
Allan (21:34): I should reiterate, because I think a lot of people stop their squat real early. So just being seated is not necessarily the squat position. We’re talking about your bottom being a little lower, so that the hip crease is below your knees. And yes, the Squatty Potties put you into that natural position while you’re on the toilet if you are having some issues. That’s actually why the guy invented Squatty Potty. I think he said his mother was having some issues and that’s why he came up with it. It’s cool, but it is just a stool. And then I guess the last area I really want to get into, as far as some of the things that we would deal with that I see from time to time, is carbohydrate intolerance. Can you get into that a little bit?
Tamara Freuman (22:23): Sure. Carbohydrate intolerance is any time that you have digestive distress because of a poorly absorbed carbohydrate. There are these different families of carbohydrates that human beings may be inclined for one reason or another not to absorb very well. And I think the one that most people are familiar with is lactose intolerance. I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that for a large segment of the population, once we’re out of our teenage years or out of our 20s, we start producing less of the digestive enzyme lactase that we need to absorb milk, sugar or lactose. As a result, when we have too much dairy, especially high lactose dairy, we can get really gassy, we could get bloated, we can have diarrhea. That’s one that we’re very familiar with, but there are other carbohydrates that we could also be intolerant to. Another one is fructose. There are these special transporters in our gut that are supposed to take fructose out of the gut and some people have more of them than others. So if you have a really high load of fructose and you don’t have enough transporters to take it out of your gut, you’re going to have very similar symptoms as lactose intolerance. And the trick to some of these carbohydrate intolerances is the symptoms don’t onset immediately after the lactose or the fructose or the offending carbohydrate. It takes at least four hours and typically closer to six to eight hours, because the symptoms of malabsorption don’t happen until that sugar or carbohydrate makes it all the way to your colon, and that takes a while. So what can happen is someone might experience the onset of gas at 3:00 p.m. and they’ll look and be like, “What did I just eat?” But really what they should be looking at is what did they eat for breakfast? And there are other carbohydrate intolerances that I’m seeing more and more of as well, especially with some of the special diets and the new products coming out that are sugar-free, low carb. There’s a lot of use now of sugar alcohols – things like sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol. People like them a lot because they’re natural or naturally derived. They have no calories, they don’t raise your blood sugar, and so you’re seeing them in a lot of sugar-free, low carb, even some keto products. The problem is when you have a lot of them in your diet, they can exert a very similar effect as a lactose intolerance or a fructose tolerance because human beings don’t absorb them well. So, those too can produce gas, bloating, diarrhea, things like that. There are these different families of carbohydrates that can produce those symptoms.
Allan (24:51): That’s going to be a function of doing a food log and looking at symptoms and trying to find that connection.
Tamara Freuman (25:01): Definitely. What I tell people is a food and symptom journal for a week, 10 days, where you record the time of what you eat, everything, and the time of onset of symptoms. And what you’re going to want to do is look back at four to eight hours before your symptom onset, because very often that’s where it originates. That’s especially so for carbohydrate intolerance. Not necessarily for other types of bloating, but for a carbohydrate intolerance a food and symptom journal is terrific. It really provides the data. You need to figure it out.
Allan (25:33): In the book you went through several supplements that we can use to help our digestive system do the things it’s intended to do so we don’t have these plumbing issues, for a lack of a better word. Do you mind going through a few of your favorites that would benefit most of us to consider having as part of our diet?
Tamara Freuman (25:57): Definitely. I’m not a big pill pusher, I’m not a huge supplement pusher. I’ll start there.
Allan (26:03): I’m not either, but I’ll tell you, I get more questions about what supplements they should be taking. I tell them, whole foods first.
Tamara Freuman (26:11): Definitely.
Allan (26:13): And if there are some other issues and you want to optimize, that’s when you can start looking to these things.
Tamara Freuman (26:18): Absolutely. If I had to pick the top two that I recommend the absolute most often and the top two that give the most of my patients… If I could only have two supplements to recommend for the rest of my life, which two would they be? They would probably be magnesium and soluble fiber. Starting with magnesium – it’s an electrolyte, it’s a mineral, our bodies have a need for it. It’s something that we need anyway, but when we take it in higher doses of 350 milligrams or more, it has what we call an “osmotic laxative effect”. That’s a fancy way of saying it draws more water into the bowel and speeds up bowel transit so that people who tend to be on the slower, more sluggish side, people who tend to have harder stools that are difficult to pass, it’s magical for them. You take it at bedtime, usually in a dose of 400-500 milligrams, sometimes a little bit higher if needed, and the next morning, it really helps regulate bowels for people who are constipated. And it’s really safe, it’s really cheap, it’s really available. It’s something that I recommend a lot, and it’s just a lot of bang for your buck.
Allan (27:29): I use a ZMA supplement from time to time, but I would caution folks with magnesium. Walk your way into it. You might wake up in the middle of the night and have a “hurry, go” kind of situation. But I do use a ZMA occasionally. The other thing I’ve noticed about the ZMA is it gives me these really cool lucid dreams from time to time. I just dream better, and I think probably I’m sleeping better with the ZMA. It is also relaxing and helps you sleep.
Tamara Freuman (28:01): Interesting. I don’t have all that much experience with it, so it’s really interesting to get that feedback. I would say that the other supplement that I use a lot is for people with the opposite problem – diarrhea; people who are really prone to diarrhea and this pattern of running back and forth to the bathroom four or five times every morning where they feel like they can’t get out of the house. For that, a soluble fiber supplement in the mass market – things like Citrucel and Benefiber; in the more natural market you’re looking at things like acacia fiber, Heather’s Tummy fiber, things like that. Taking that in the evening at bedtime can really regulate the bowels in the morning, calm down that spasmodic back-and-forth, consolidate all these little pieces that aren’t coming out at once into one or two complete, calm, normal formed stools that you get out easily and you get on your way. I have to say that for my patients with irritable bowel syndrome that are diarrhea-prone and spasmodic – soluble fiber is just magical for them; they do so well with it. So, I rely heavily on that in my practice.
Allan (29:08): Okay. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Tamara Freuman (29:19): I love that definition of wellness and I think it’s so similar to my own. One thing I see that I think undermines a lot of people’s ability to achieve that definition that you’ve described, is there’s a real dogmatism about diet. We kind of adopt these dogmas that, “This is bad, this is good. You should eat this way. We all should eat that way, because so-and-so told me that and so-and-so eats that way.” There’s this black and white thinking as if all human beings have to eat the exact same diet. I like to really encourage people to step back and take a more global perspective, which is, there are populations all over this big planet of ours who have extremely healthy lives that live into their 100s without chronic disease very, very well, and they eat really different diets. There’s not one diet that all human beings have to eat. And one diet that works for you or for your personal trainer or for your aunt or for your best friend might wreak havoc on you, in terms of digestively, or might be miserable for you because it makes you gassy or you hate the foods on it or it’s inconvenient for you. There are a lot of reasons why we don’t all have to eat the same diet, and I think allowing yourself and opening yourself to the possibility that you could have a very healthy diet and I could have a really healthy diet, and we could have completely different diets, and that is not a conflict. I think that’s so important. So that’s the one thing, to be a little bit less dogmatic about diet and really be open to the possibility of different paths to good health.
There’s another thing I see a lot that really has a negative impact on people’s relationship with food and eating, which I think impairs wellness. It’s this real emphasis on what to avoid, what to eliminate, what’s toxic, what’s bad, and placing foods into these categories of dietary demons and defining your diet based on what you don’t eat. What I’ll say is I’ll have a patient who could come to me and say they follow a vegan diet or a plant-based diet. That doesn’t tell me anything about whether it’s a healthy diet, because potato chips are vegan, apple juice is vegan. So, defining your diet and good health by what you don’t eat, I think is a lot less useful than defining your diet and its helpfulness based on what you do eat. What’s actually going in your mouth? I don’t care if you’re a vegan, Mediterranean, keto, whatever kind of dietary pattern you follow. It’s less about what you avoid and more about what you do eat. You could avoid 50 things in the world that are supposed to be terrible for you, but if you’re not eating any vegetables or you’re not eating anything with vitamins, your diet’s not going to be healthy. And so really focusing on putting good stuff in your mouth rather than being so fearful of being poisoned by something that might not be perfect going in your mouth, is I think a really healthy, constructive way to look at your diet.
I think the third one is the importance of routine. We think about diet as being this main key to health, but I think we also forget that sleep plays a really big role. Movement and activity play a really big role. And ultimately for optimal health, our bodies want us to be in a rhythm of consistent meal times, adequate rest, regular movement. When any one of those three pieces of the puzzle are missing, it’s going to be really hard to have true and complete health and wellness. We talk a lot about diet, but then we stay up too late, messing around on YouTube, and then we get five hours of sleep. Or we skip meals some days and then try to compensate by eating a super healthy lunch, but we didn’t have breakfast. I think the best way to really be kind to our bodies and give our bodies what they need is to pay attention to consistent rhythms, routines, meal times, sleep times. Our bodies thrive, I think, when we have these set schedules and our organs know what to expect and have that predictability.
Allan (33:26): Tamara, those were excellent. I love all of those, so thank you for that. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book The Bloated Belly Whisperer, where would you like for me to send them?
Tamara Freuman (33:39): I have a website – TheBloatedBellyWhisperer.com. There’s information about the book. I have a lot of my old newsletters, where I sound off on things that are on my mind and important to me. There are links to things that I’ve written. I write a lot online for U.S. News and for Self, and so links to a lot of those articles are on my website. So I think my website’s a great place to start.
Allan (34:01): Excellent. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/365, and I’ll be sure to have a link there. Tamara, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Tamara Freuman (34:13): Thank you for having me. It was so fun.
If you've been struggling with gastrointestinal issues, you know it’s a big pain. Now Tamara in her book has given you a quiz that’s going to help you have the right conversations with your doctor to get this taken care of once and for all. So, I do hope that you’ll go out and check out that book if you have any issues with your stomach at all.
Also, I’ve been telling you this past couple of weeks, during the month of January, I am offering to sell you a signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound to get a hardbound edition of the book, or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback to get a paperback edition of the book, a signed copy mailed directly to you. I can only do this during the month of January because in February I’m moving to Panama, so hurry up while supplies last, because I did get a shipment of books in and I’d like to get them in your hands if you’re interested in having a signed copy. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.
Did you have a New Year’s resolution to go on a particular diet? How’s that working out for you? Our guest today is a holistic weight loss coach and one of the first international food addiction counselors. She’s going to give you some tactics and strategies to help you along with your diet. Her name is Erin Boardman Wathen, and the book we’re going to talk about is Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?
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Allan (1:10): Erin, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Erin Boardman Wathen (1:14): Thank you so much for having me.
Allan (1:16): Your book, Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?, I think is extremely timely, because we’re in the new year here and this is the time when people start their new diets, and it’s also the time when they quit their new diets. The word “diet” to me actually means what you’re eating. If you look in the dictionary, that’s what you’re eating. But we’ve kind of morphed the word over the years to mean a temporary state of eating, a restriction of doing something different than what we were doing before, almost with the intent that we’re going to go back to that later.
Erin Boardman Wathen (1:56): Yes.
Allan (1:57): But your book’s not about that.
Erin Boardman Wathen (1:59): No. My book is about how the fact that we go on diets is why we can’t stick to them, because it’s the way that you’re going to change your life, change your body composition, change all of those things, so you have a long-term approach. The reason why so many of us could not stick to our diet was because we went on a diet – the term that has become relevant, not the actual Webster’s Dictionary term, because we go on it like a Ferris wheel for example, where we always intend to get off of it at the wedding, the reunion, see the magic number, without any real commitment to the rest of our lives. And what I’ve noticed is a very important key to all of this is how and why we gain the weight in the first place. And it’s very often I hear this time of year, and I’ll hear it more in January: “I just enjoy the holidays.” There’s way more to it than enjoying the holidays. You also are eating cookies 24/7. So, we also need to really do a deep dive into why you gain the weight, how you gain the weight, and not just chalk it up to “That’s how life is.”
Allan (3:21): There was a point in the book where you said, “Looking back on it, I was not suffering from a lack of morals, nor was my life insufficient in some major way.” That sort of hit me in the chest, that we get into these episodes where we’re not living the way we want to live, and we then become the judge and jury of ourselves, and can be pretty harsh. Someone read the introduction to my book and they were like, “Allan, you’re way too harsh on yourself.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t think I was harsh enough.” But can you tell us a little bit about your backstory, because it was kind of fascinating to me? You shared so much, which was amazing, because it really opened my eyes to how we look to ourselves, how we’re perceived by others and how that all makes us into this stew of not living a whole life.
Erin Boardman Wathen (4:25): Yeah, no problem. I was definitely one of those kids whose mother had the right intention of never ever letting us have sugar, but when I had it, I was so enamored with it, I couldn’t eat it quickly enough and I had to get more, and had a very emotional and chemical reaction, looking back on it, from an early age. I distinctly remember my brother and I – he was years younger – Easter morning, I ate all my candy before we got to church, because there it was. I got older, I started dieting, but the sugar was very prevalent, especially in the ‘90s. For those of you who are younger or older than me – fat–free was what we were told was the way everything needed to be. Dean Ornish wrote a great book in the ‘80s talking about a certain type of diet for heart patients that somehow got distorted into everyone eating buckets of SnackWell’s. We used to when I was in college. So, the combination of my own predisposition to loving sugar, and everything having so much sugar at that time, because we took all the fat out. So, my weight definitely fluctuated; not enough that anyone ever really talked to me in a medical sense, or there was ever an intervention or anything like that. I was always under the radar because I, quote unquote, “looked normal”. I was a normal size and I always exercised, so my weight wasn’t too out of the normal range. But through all those years, I can look at every picture from my life and tell you how much I weighed, because I was always obsessed with how much I ate, “Can I be skinny by Friday? What’s going to fit?” It was this constant mental chatter going on constantly, constantly. I call it the white noise machine; it was always on, drowning out other things.
I didn’t understand intellectually as a person that it wasn’t because I was a bad person, it wasn’t because I was weak. It was because I was flat out addicted to sugar. I would catch myself having a disagreement with a friend or a family member and eating ice cream on the phone while I was arguing with them, in between bites. I would be getting in my points while eating fish food and standing in front of the refrigerator. Those episodes really made me realize there was way more to it than just “Erin likes sugar”. Everyone always thought it was so cute how much I liked sugar, like, “It’s so funny that you like sugar so much because you’re skinny.” And I’m like, “Well, I’m not skinny, but okay, fine.” But it was never a thing where anyone ever spoke to me about it seriously; none of my doctors, even though I was still getting acne and cavities in my 30s. No one ever asked me what I was eating, which is crazy to me. So, it definitely reached a point where on all those levels of acceptance I had to understand the reason I wasn’t the weight I wanted to be or the reason I was always kind of short with my husband, even though he would say I still am sometimes, is because I was always in some stage of sugar, either my blood sugar’s spiking, my blood sugar’s rising. I was constantly on this rollercoaster of sugar and Diet Coke. And the problem with diet soda, which a lot of us don’t understand is, the reason why we like it is because it tastes sweet, but it really messes with our brains and we end up needing, wanting, craving sugar even more. So it was a lot of sugar, artificial sweetener and a range of other symptoms.
Allan (8:31): I used to really have a bad addiction to Diet Coke. It wasn’t that I went around hiding it from people, because that just seemed to be normal. You’re walking around with a 44-oz Diet Coke. Why not? There are no calories. It’s not the lifestyle we really want to live, but it doesn’t register with us that we’re hurting ourselves. Whereas with candy, sugar and those types of things – and I think your favorite was the gummy bears – was that you had these in the console of your car, you had them stashed in places around the house. And even though you knew you wanted to get away from them, your body wouldn’t let you. Can you talk a little bit about sugar addiction and your experiences with it?
Erin Boardman Wathen (9:18): The thing about sugar addiction is, when you look back upon your life, you probably have pictures in your house, or your mother does, of you and your first birthday cake. We’re all celebrating, “Yay! Allan’s one! He’s going to get sugar. We’re going to light a candle.” So most of us have our first taste of sugar when we’re really, really young, way before we can even really understand it. And it’s so normalized. A lot of the food we eat currently for the average American person, so the standard American diet, is chock full of sugar we’re aware of. Most people will acknowledge there’s sugar in ice cream, for example. But sugar we’re not aware of, in things like hamburger buns or even juice. There’s orange juice or whatever fruit, and they add sugar into it to make it even sweeter. So, if you’re someone who is addicted to sugar, you could cut out the ice cream and the gummy bears, but unless you’re really aware of everything you’re eating, those hot dog buns are going to trigger your body to want more sugar. There are a lot of chemicals involved and dopamine receptors and a lot of science, but just to summarize it, which I think is easiest – the more sugar we eat, the more sugar we want, because like any drug, our body gets a tolerance going. For example, if you used to be able to only, quote unquote, “need” a medium Frappuccino, over time, the next one looks pretty good. That’s because your body’s craving more sugar. We might not even be aware of what’s going on, but that’s the behind the scenes science of why people end up with these gigantic drinks or smoothies or whatever, because “That sounds okay, but the bigger one sounds a little bit better.” That’s the sugar talking; that’s not your body talking.
Allan (11:30): All that time, I thought it was the caffeine talking, which it probably was, because that was my primary source of caffeine. I decided to give up the Diet Cokes, but I still relapse every once in a while, but not very often. I decided I needed the caffeine, so I shifted over to black coffee. And it took me a little while. I actually had to use fruit as a bridge to get me over to drinking black coffee, but I was able to eventually get out from under what I would call a Diet Coke addiction.
Erin Boardman Wathen (12:07): I distinctly remember the same thing. I kind of prioritize which Diet Cokes meant the most to me, body-wise, craving, that sort of a concept. But that 4:00 p.m. one, I used to have when my kids would come home from school and everybody is in a bad mood. I’m making dinner or going to soccer. There’ll be times now where all of a sudden, out of the blue, I need a Diet Coke. I’ll look at my watch and it’s 4:00 or 5:00. It’s been years, but I’ll still have that, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! A Diet Coke would help!” And the thing is, if you are someone who’s got a problem with Diet Coke, it’s really easy to get one. You could just send your kid into the grocery store and they could bring you one out. We have a problem with these sorts of foods and drinks in our current environment, with the way the grocery stores are set up, and even things like going to get paper and there’s a row of candy before you check out at Staples. You really have to make a conscious effort to be aware of where all this stuff lies, because it isn’t like alcohol that’s in bars. Sugar is in everything, it’s everywhere. People love to give it to you as gifts, as “Thank You’s”, samples at Costco. But being aware of everything it’s in, or saying “No, thank you” until you know otherwise is something I’ve had to learn over time. Sugar addiction is one of those things where it’s so easy to trigger it again, even if you’ve been off of it for weeks and months, because your body is still kind of longing for it a little bit. And then there’s also the psychological component of, “A 4:00 o’clock Diet Coke would really help my kids be less irritating. It would fix it. My kids would whine less if I had a Diet Coke, the homework would be easier.” So, the physical and all the other aspects of when we get in these habits. And then our body is also interested in having it. It becomes a lot more of a process than just not having the ice cream. It also becomes reading every label and being very aware of what’s in your salad dressing, because even if we have the greatest intentions, if we’re always triggering ourselves for sugar without even meaning to, with a Diet Coke for example – it’s really hard to get away from it.
Allan (14:47): I like how in the book you’ve given us basically four guidelines, because the way I look at it is, one, I believe humans are opportunistic eaters. When we were foraging and hunting, that was perfect. We came upon a field of blueberries in the spring – it’s time to fatten up for the fall and winter, so go ahead, gorge yourself on the blueberries until they’re gone. And then they’re gone. But today you walk into a grocery store and 95% of it is sugar-laden crap.
Erin Boardman Wathen (15:17): Totally.
Allan (15:18): Your four guidelines give what I feel is a really good, solid base model for someone to go through their daily eating and figure out how to make it work for them. Do you mind going through your four guidelines?
Erin Boardman Wathen (15:31): Yeah, no problem. A food plan is something you stay on, it’s how you live your life. It’s from here till whenever. It’s not the “skinny by Friday” concept, or the reunion. It’s just how you’re living. I really thought a lot about all my nutrition knowledge, all my behavioral knowledge, all those things, and how to summarize it as quickly and as succinctly as possible. And I got to the four fundamentals because I think anything less than five on your hand is easy to remember, but also because if you stick to these things you will pretty much be okay. Even though they’re very simple – the amount of words or the amount of numbers – it doesn’t mean that it isn’t broad in its scope. So, first of all, stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. If you think about your average American grocery store, there’s fruit and vegetables on one wall, meat is always on the back, by the freezers, and the other wall is usually dairy. And you have oils and stuff in there somewhere. But we don’t really need anything in the middle. That’s where the Wheat Thins live, and the Granola, and all of the things that trip us up, that just decrease our quality of life. So, the first one is always stick to the perimeter or the grocery store, not just when you’re in the grocery store, but also in life. So if you’re going out to dinner and they put the bread down, you don’t really need the bread. You don’t need all of those refined carbohydrates.
Allan (17:19): I get really weird looks when I go to a conference and I pass the bread and I don’t take one. And then I don’t eat my dessert, and they’re just looking at me like…
Erin Boardman Wathen (17:30): Like, “What’s wrong with that guy?” Also, when I was doing my food plan, it was really important to me to have it not be ridiculous for normal people. By “normal people”, I mean average budgets in average parts of the world, not people that are going to go to five different grocery stores to get all the ingredients and spend hours in the kitchen and having a ton of extra cash. I’m talking normal food like chicken, broccoli, olive oil, things you can get in a regular grocery store. So, stick to the perimeters is always the first thing. The second is, three meals a day. Now if you’re an intermittent faster, you can say your coffee is one of them. But we don’t need to snack. We’re just in this habit of three meals a day and two snacks, and you always have dessert, like you were saying, or the bread. If we’re eating the right amount of food and the right portions, we can go very easily from lunch till dinner. We’re just used to having a snack, because everyone was always telling us we had to have snacks all the time. And look, there are so many snack foods available. So, we don’t need to be eating as often. And almost always the snacks we go to are some sort of chips or a bar or something that’s not really nutritious. It’s just empty calories, empty bag, empty everything.
Allan (19:12): The real thing here is, once people get off the sugar, they’ll start to recognize that the reason they were hungry at 10:00 and then again at 3:00 was the low blood sugar. They had a high blood sugar before, after they ate breakfast, because it’s orange juice, a bagel and a cup of coffee with three teaspoons of sugar in it. Their blood sugar spikes, and then by 10:00 their blood sugar’s plummeting and their body’s screaming at them, “Give me more.” So once you get to that whole food, like you said, walking around the perimeter of the store, that’s actually going to make this three meals per day a whole lot easier.
Erin Boardman Wathen (19:49): Absolutely. The reason why people are ravenous at 4:00, a lot of it is because they didn’t eat enough fat at lunch. It all kind of goes together – we’re not eating enough in one meal, so then we have a snack in between. It’s this whole domino effect with one bad choice leads to another bad choice, leads to you’re eating from the time you get home from work until you’re asleep. You had the best intentions in the world at 6:00 that morning and you’re going to bed at 10:00 and you’re like, “What did I just do?” Because you’re eating sugar all day long. And it’s really easy to keep eating it, because it’s in everything. I’ve had clients who had two or three barbecue potato chips and are craving sugar for a week, and they’re like, “I don’t know what I did to myself.” I’m like, “Tell me everything you ate.” It’ll come down to a couple of barbecue chips, because there’s sugar in there, it triggered them. They, for whatever reason, weren’t cognizant of it. Next thing you know, they’re stealing their kids’ Halloween candy. It’s a slippery slope sometimes.
Allan (21:00): It’s the parent tax.
Erin Boardman Wathen (21:04): Yeah, Dad tax, right? So, you have three meals a day, the perimeter of the grocery store. I also talk a lot about meal planning, and not just “On Sunday I make batches of chicken” sort of thing, which is great if you do that, but also not making any food decisions on the fly. You should pretty much know what you’re eating every day, because it follows your meal plan. But also if you know you’re going out somewhere, look at the menu ahead of time if it’s someplace new. You shouldn’t be looking for excitement in your food. Your food shouldn’t be entertainment, it shouldn’t be your fun, it shouldn’t be your friend. It really is all you need to get from A to B in your lives, but we’ve made it into something else. So, meal planning is making sure you have all the right stuff in your house, but it’s also knowing the night before what you’re going to eat tomorrow. Not just what you feel like it going to the grocery store when you’re starving. Next thing you know, you have five cups of ice cream because it seemed like a really good idea. So, planning ahead and having that awareness, not when you’re in the moment of, “I’m not going to have dessert at that conference, because it never serves me. I feel really tired afterwards and I can’t do my work back in my hotel room or at the meet and greet or whatever.” When you chose not to have the bread and the desert, you probably made that decision a long time before you were in that situation.
Allan (22:40): I know when I walk into a conference, if it’s a buffet, there are tables I can select to go to or not go to. But if they’re bringing the food out, I know 99% of the time they’ll come out with a bread bowl, then they’ll bring out your salad, then your dish. And your dessert’s sitting right there in front of you the whole time. I don’t even look at the desert as a food item. I look at it as decoration on the table.
Erin Boardman Wathen (23:04): It’s entertainment, right?
Allan (23:05): It is. And I know everybody else is trying to chow through their food so that they can hit that cake. I’ll easily pass the bread and the butter. It took me really a long, long time to train myself to do that, and it kind of touches on one of the things you talked about in your four guidelines. I make sure, in a normal sense, that I’m getting enough fat. I’m not eating low fat. I’m eating high fat, low carb. I’m eating whole foods and my body is pretty much nutrient-dense because I’m making sure to get good, high quality food. I’m planning for that. I’ll go on to Thrive Market later today and order some organic meat shipped to my house, because that’s what I want to have. My local grocery stores are not really good at having enough variety of meat. So I’ll order my meat, they deliver it to my house in a few days, I’ll start thawing it out and that’s my food for next week. I like how you put all those together because I do think they give us a really good foundation moving forward. Now, we’re always going to run into the folks that say you can still have your cake, you can still have some bread; you just have to do it in moderation. It’s all calories in, calories out. This is another unique thing about sugar addiction – just like with all addictions, some of us can get off of an addiction really quickly and some of us cannot. Moderation might work for one out of 100 people, but tell me why moderation is not really the route that most of us should be taking.
Erin Boardman Wathen (24:48): First of all, moderation is like the unicorn. It’s rare that someone can just have a bite of cake, just a bite. Odds are they’re going to eat half of the piece, all of the piece, many more pieces. We need to look at food not just as beautiful and nutritious; it’s also a chemical reaction that happens. When we chew it, we start digestion. All these things happen internally when you just think you’re eating lunch. So, when we invite those chemicals into our body – and cake is a good example because you have sugar and flour, so you’ve got double dose – our body is going to think, “This is a really great idea.” Our pleasure sensors, dopamine, is very excited by this introduction. So that one bite is sort of like, “What do you mean? That’s it?” Kind of leaving it high and dry. Where if you never go there in the first place, you might see the cake, acknowledge the cake, be aware of the cake at the conference. But having just one bite and not going into a full-fledged sugar thing later, or bread, depending on who you are, is very, very unlikely, just based on the chemicals. Now, some people don’t care about that kind of thing. Some people don’t care about sweets, but they really can go for bread, like pizza, donuts, whatever. And it’s the bread. The way that we’ve gotten flour and sugar too nowadays – it’s so ground, it’s so refined, it’s so processed. It’s pretty close to our brain, because they’re both quick acting carbohydrates. What a lot of people don’t understand is that everything we eat, at the end of the day, has to fit under three macronutrients – carbs, fat, or protein. Sugar and grains are both carbs, and they’re quick acting carbs, compared to broccoli, which is slower. Not as exciting as cake. It’s also a carbohydrate, but it’s not one of the ones that will jack up your blood sugar and create this whole craving thing and have you start drooling. While a bite of cake, most of the time for most people, they’ll have a very difficult chemical and I guess psychological reaction to only having a little bit of it. If you notice all those mini muffins get eaten just as quickly as the big muffins, if not sooner, because they seem so innocent and because they’re little and cute.
And I remember moderation. Moderation was very big in the ‘90s; it still is very big with a lot of commercial diet plans. Even the whole “cheat day” concept is a take off of moderation. But to have all of those things reintroduced to your body and say it’s only going to be at that one meal is very difficult. Also, when we’ve been using food as entertainment, as our friend, as whatever emotional need we had at the time, you’re also bringing that up and up again with those foods. Chocolate cake could have also been what your grandmother used to make when you went over there on holidays or whatever. So there’s a lot of stuff around the chocolate cake that isn’t just the chemicals; it’s also going to be how you remember it. And what’s really interesting too is there’s this thing that happens when we get off of sugar and then we have it again. You’re probably used to the concept of a relapse with an alcoholic or a drug addict. But this thing is called “euphoric recall”. So, if we’re off of sugar and then we decide to have the bite of chocolate cake, because moderation is this thing we all believe in – it will actually taste better, because our body will want us to indulge more. That’s why when people relapse on any of these substances, it’s so much harder for them to get off of it than it was the first time, because your body is working against you. So, my take is, just stay away from it completely because moderation, like I said, is like the unicorn. It doesn’t really exist.
Allan (29:33): That takes me back to my concept of opportunistic eaters. They didn’t come up on a field of chocolate cake and start binging on it. There was some true nutrition in the berries, the fruits or whatever they found in that valley. Yes, for a period of time they went nuts because, like you said, it tastes wonderful because they’ve been seven, eight months without having any of it. And now here it is in abundant supply. Go ahead and eat it because at that point it was very, very healthy. I can tell you there was probably no moderation whatsoever if they were traveling around forging and found a big field of fruit. They would go nuts, but they needed to. That was a survival mechanism. And today we don’t really need that. Foods that are around us are not as nutritious as necessary, so moderation is going to be something that is not going to work for the vast majority of us. It’ll be, like you said, the unicorn that went out there and did it and said they can still have their cheat day and they’re fine. But for a lot of people, once they have that cheat, that little slip, then they start this rationalization of, “Well, I did have the cake, so I’ve kind of blown today. I guess I’ll go ahead and order a regular Coke and I’ll go ahead and get some popcorn at the movies.” They wake up the next morning and they’re like, “I really want to stop by Starbucks and get a Frappuccino.” And so the slip, while it was a single event, it now becomes a cascading mess. Can you talk to us a little bit about slips and how we can deal with those?
Erin Boardman Wathen (31:15): The thing about a slip is – let’s use the chocolate cake thing because it’s nice and easy. It seems like it’s no big deal, but we need to be very aware, like you said, the foragers. We’re not that far away in our bodies from that mindset. We have technology, and isn’t it great we can get everyone on our smartphone? Our bodies are still thinking “feast or famine” and “Is this fight or flight?” when you’re in a car accident. All these evolutionary responses kick in because we still have a lot of them lurking around. With a slip, when we reintroduce the sugar, our body is really, really happy about it, and then our brain decides, “We’re going to make it taste even better to her just to get her to eat more of it.” So here comes euphoric recall, yay! And then we start the internal nonsense of, “I’ve already blown it” or, “It’s okay to have dessert. It’s normal to gain weight in the holidays”, “Well, I’ve already gone there today, so let’s go there more.” The whole, “I have one flat tire; let’s make them all flat.” Next thing you know, we’ve talked ourselves into an entire crazy amount of food that we didn’t really think about eating. We just find ourselves eating it, because that cheat slip or that moderation slip, whatever you’re going to call that bite of chocolate cake, can easily morph into a cheat meal, a cheat day, a cheat weekend, a cheat week, just cheating. If we have that first slip, which is known to happen, it’s how we handle it. If we have the whole, “We’re going to flatten the other three tires because one tire’s flat” in our brains – that is not your best interest talking to you. That is the primal need for having stuff, and the hunting and gathering, all that other sort of analogies. That is not your best interest. Your best interest is to go brush your teeth, get some water, get away from the cake, and be very aware the next couple of days are not going to be very pleasant because your body is going to be jouncing for sugar. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you have to follow through though. But if you make that chocolate cake that you’re a bad person, there’s no point trying to eat right anyway, it’s normal… When you start talking yourself into how it was okay, then you’re definitely off in the wrong direction.
Allan (34:04): I’m going to steal that three car tires analogy, because I really do like that. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Erin Boardman Wathen (34:23): I thought about this before you asked me, so I definitely have a bit of an answer planned. We didn’t get to it, but my last fundamental of eating is to always have fat, protein, a low glycemic carb and fiber every time we eat. That will do a lot of good things, but it will also help regulate our blood sugar. When our blood sugar is not like a rollercoaster, when it’s nice and slowly processing food, it’s a lot easier to stay in that mental space. So we’re thinking about how to stay well. We’re in a place where we make the right decisions, where we’re going for the water and not the Diet Coke. Having a good handle on your blood sugar is a really good place to start, as far as staying well. Everything starts with our thoughts, right? If we’re thinking that we’re going to beat the system with sugar because we’re going to be that one person that’s going to be able to only have a bite – that’s going against own best interests. So, having a really good handle on your blood sugar is a very good place to start. So that’s number one.
Number two is to really spend a lot of time and think about how you want to feel and how you want to look six months from now, a month from now. All those dates and times just seem to happen to us, but actually, we have a lot of time before. For example, January 2nd is a notorious big dieting day, because the holidays are over and all these other things. Everyone’s pants are kind of tight. What if back in early December you sat down and thought about, “How do I want to feel on January 2nd? Do I want to feel like a busted can of buscuits, like I have all the other years before, or do I want to feel like I’m starting off 2019 with my best foot forward?” Think about both scenarios, because both scenarios are available to you, but one is going to put you in the right direction for a higher level of wellbeing, and the other one is going to get you where you’ve always gotten, which is probably breaking your diet by February 8th, which I think is the usual date most people fall off the wagon with their year-end resolutions. So really having a lot of mindset work, visualization and being realistic with what result you want and how you’re going to need to get there. You can’t feel your best on January 2nd if you’re eating nothing but cookies and drinking chocolate martinis the month beforehand. That’s not how it works. So, visualizing and thinking about what your future self really wants and needs is not for you to completely go off the wagon and go crazy over the holidays, and then January 2nd decide you’re going to starve yourself and do green juice, which is putting yourself in another extreme tailspin. So, that’s the second one.
My last one would be to be really cognizant of portions, because often times we have no idea what a serving is. We just think it’s till the bowl’s full, or whatever they serve us. If when we’re home, we weigh and measure all of the things we’re eating, we have an idea of what exactly six ounces of beef looks like. So when we’re in a restaurant and we see this huge piece of meat, we know it’s not one serving, even though they gave it to us on a plate. There’s actually enough meat for three meals there. So just being aware of that, like you said, opportunistic eaters, that if someone gives us a plate with a giant steak, a lot of people will try to eat it all, because it’s expensive or it’s special or it’s your birthday, when actually you’re eating three times the amount of meat you would be eating if you made it at home. So being very aware of portions and how crazy our portions are right now. A really good and cheap way to get a hold of this is regular old measuring cups when you’re at your house, and get a food scale, because when we’re out in the world and we’re presented with these gigantic portions, we understand that there’s no reason for us to finish it. But there’s this tendency to do it just the same.
Allan (39:08): I agree. Those were wonderful. Thank you for that. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book, Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet?, where would you like me to send them?
Erin Boardman Wathen (39:18): The book is going to be in bookstores on December 18th, but before then you can pre-order it on Amazon or BarnesAndNoble.com. And they can get in touch with me on my website. It’s pretty easy – it’s ErinWathenWellness.com. All my information is right there. My Instagram – same handle, Facebook – same handle. It’s pretty streamlined.
Allan (39:39): Good deal. This is episode 364, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/364, and I’ll be sure to have all the links there. Erin, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Erin Boardman Wathen (39:52): Thank you for having me.
I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. You know I’m not a big fan of diets and weight loss procedures, things that we’re doing to try to lose weight. I think there are other health markers that are much more important, like your lab results. Now, if you haven’t had labs done in a while and maybe you just don’t want to go to your doctor or your doctor doesn’t really order you the kind of labs that you’re interested in knowing about, you can go to YourLabwork.com. It’s a company that will actually do the labs you want them to do. You tell them what you want, they get a doctor involved, the doctor does the things that he’s supposed to do. You show up at a Quest Center and they take your lab works. I have an agreement with them. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab – very good prices on their lab work. And they give me an education piece so I can do a little bit of deep diving into what the labs mean. I went through and had a full panel done, so really, really deep cholesterol, hormones, pretty much all of it, and got all the way down to the particle counts. Really, really detailed information; more information than my doctor would normally go for. I have that now as a benchmark for the year, so as I do things for my health and fitness over the course of this year, I now have a really good benchmark to measure my performance as we go. So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab and order any kind of lab work that you want
Also, I got my books in. If you would like a signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound edition, or go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you would like the paperback edition. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. I’m charging the same price you’d pay on Amazon. I’m eating the shipping. But I will send you a signed copy during the month of January, because remember, I’m moving to Panama in February so I can only do this through the month of January. And I’m going to do this until the books run out. So, go ahead and get on and order that: 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.