Category Archives for "weight loss"
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Our guest today is so much fun! Lyn Lindbergh is a health coach and the founder of the Couch to Active community.
Allan (1:10): Lyn, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Lyn Lindbergh (1:13): Hello, Allan. Thanks. Good to be here.
Allan (1:17): I always like interviewing podcasters, because I know, one, you’re going to make it very, very easy for me from a sound and quality perspective.
Lyn Lindbergh (1:27): Or will I?
Allan (1:29): Or will you? Remember, we’re doing mine first and then I’m going to record on yours.
Lyn Lindbergh (1:35): I’ll be good.
Allan (1:35): It goes both ways. But the cool thing is, your book is called Couch to Active and that’s also the name of your podcast. I really, really like that. I think so many people today get locked into this concept of, “I’m not going to look like that person, so maybe I shouldn’t even try.”
Lyn Lindbergh (2:04): Yeah, that’s it. That’s a tough thing for people because I think we all have that image in our head of either the bikini body or the sweaty, ripped six-pack abs. Most of us will never get there, even if we do train exactly by the book and do everything by the book. But the thing about Couch to Active is, that’s not the point. And we recognize that for most of us, that’s not even what we want.
Allan (2:33): I agree. I’ve always tried to tell my clients, because some of them want that look. And I say, “If it’s a look you’re after, that’s great. You can aspire to that, you can work towards that and I’ll do what I can do to help you get there.” But what I’ve found is in the end, when I start really digging in with them, it comes down to, what do you want to be able to do? That’s where the “active” concept to me comes in. Active in your mind could be being able to run around with your grandchildren at the zoo, whereas active for someone else could be they want to go do a Spartan.
Lyn Lindbergh (3:11): Exactly. I found that at the core, I want to live a life I love. I want to love my life. If I’m going to the gym for an hour a day, doing a workout that I hate and dread every day, just so I can look a certain way, that doesn’t make me happy. That doesn’t make me find any joy at all. That’s where it falls apart for most people because really, it’s that internal feeling that we want of joy and peace and happiness.
Allan (3:48): think the other side of this is, you’ll see a training program, like Couch to 5K or something like that that’s put out there. Someone will get out there and start doing it and then all of a sudden something gets thrown in their way. It could be a health issue, an injury. How do you coach, how do you talk to people about dealing with those health issues that just pop up and get in our way? It’s never going to be a straight line, but we want it to be a straight line. How do we deal with that?
Lyn Lindbergh (4:19): I want it to be a straight line. If you find it, call me. I’ll give you my number. That’s the interesting thing. There are, as we know, a gazillion workout programs, pills, potions, lotions, gyms, you name it. Anything that you can give your wallet to, it’s out there for you. In and of themselves, for the most part, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, but most of them are designed for when life is going good. The problem is, like you just said, what happens when the cart gets upset? What happens when you have chronic illness or surgery, or God forbid, we age? I have found that a lot of times one of the big things that we forget about is compassion, and compassion for ourselves. Part of my journey was I got a couple of chronic health issues that I’m really public with. I’m missing 30% of my lung function and I’ve got fibromyalgia and another mysterious disease we’re still trying to figure out. It keeps me in the back of the pack all the time. And I had to pause and really look at it and say, “Why am I beating myself up trying to get the faster 5K time when I can’t? Why is this so important to me?” I redefined success as doing what I can do today and honoring what my body can do today. And if today all I can do is a 30-minute walk and maybe 20 seconds of jogging, and I do it – that’s success. Or if today I’ve got a big flareup and all I can do is grocery shop and then take a 4-hour nap – if I honor my body and what it can do one day at a time, one hour at a time – that’s my new success criteria. For me and for tons of people I’ve worked with, that becomes so freeing and so liberating. Then you can begin to really have that incremental success and gain strength, because you’re not torturing yourself over the things you can’t do that you used to be able to do, and instead you’re focused, or I’m focused, more on that positive what I can do. It’s just a better, happier place to be.
Allan (6:59): Yes. I like how you started that out with the word “compassion”. I’m in the process of reading a book that’s set up so that each day there’s a verse and it’s based on stoicism. It’s called The Daily Stoic. Each day there’s a little passage from Seneca or Marcus Aurelius or one of the original stoics, and then he writes his little blurb, his little bit about it to get you thinking about things. The first section of that is clarity. As I’ve gone through it and then I read in your book, I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to how much negative self-talk I have.
Lyn Lindbergh (7:44): Oh, it’s huge.
Allan (7:45): I called myself “fat”, and I guess I was fat. I considered myself to be fat, so I used that word. And every time I noticed myself slip up, the negative self-talk would kind of step right back in. What are some things we can do to get that compassion back for ourselves?
Lyn Lindbergh (8:08): Just push the “Happy” button and you’ll feel happy.
Allan (8:12): Where is that button?
Lyn Lindbergh (8:13): I’ve been looking for it. It doesn’t exist. I won’t give up hope, I’ll find it someday. No, you’re exactly right, Allan. That compassion piece is huge, because our generation – when I say that I mean 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s – we were just drilled with that concept of “No pain, no gain. Grit, self-discipline. Try harder, try harder. Live like you’ll die tomorrow.” We’ve all heard these thousands of times and it just puts more and more pressure on us and we end up feeling bad. Like you said, we feel fat and out of shape and ugly. So, part of it is to really start paying attention to what that brain is thinking. When you put on the pants in the morning and you look in the mirror, what is that brain saying to yourself? For me, a lot of it has been just talking to people about body image. If we talk about body image, for example, it’s an issue for – I’ve discovered and learned because I hang out with a lot of bodybuilders and a lot of women that you would call “tens”. We all have body image issues and we all are hard on ourselves. It’s really that awareness of, “I am beautiful. I am handsome.” The reason I’m dancing around this is the work is just huge to do around it. One thing that helps me is to realize if I ask myself the question, “Who are the best friends in my life? Who are the people that I have the most respect for? Who are the people I most admire?”, none of them fit on the cover of a Cosmopolitan or a Vogue magazine at all. When I bring that back to myself, it helps me remember this body external thing really isn’t that important. It helps me give myself compassion. That’s the external piece of it.
Allan (10:35): I’ve found that it really comes from a practice called gratitude. You sit down and you think about the things that make you happy, those moments of joy when you can sit back and say, “This was good.” And what I’ve found is if you are eating the right foods, you can be grateful that your body’s using that food to improve your health. Like you said, you go out and do that 30-minute walk with 20 seconds of jogging. When you’re done with that, that’s something you should celebrate. You should be happy that you had the capacity to do that and that you’re doing something to improve yourself. And when you find yourself starting to go down that negative thought path, that’s when you want to turn it on and say, “Okay, I might not have eaten very well today, but I kissed my wife in the morning, I called my daughter and told her I loved her.” All those different things that you do, you can feel gratitude for. And if you keep practicing gratitude and keep looking for joy, a lot of that negative self-talk goes away.
Lyn Lindbergh (11:45): It really, really does it. And then possibly too is to take inventory of who’s in your social circle. They say you’re the composite of the five closest people around you. Whether that’s true or not, everyone’s saying it, so it must be true, right? So, what are those folks around you saying? Are they helping you with a positive mindset?
Allan (12:12): And it’s not on Facebook. Everybody’s presenting their best front side image in Facebook and filters and all the other stuff. Just realize that you don’t have to keep up with them; you just have to keep up with you.
Lyn Lindbergh (12:27): Yeah, what do they say? Don’t compare your inside life to everybody’s outside life or public life. Absolutely.
Allan (12:35): Exactly. Which is also why I’m not on Instagram. I might be the only personal trainer that’s not on Instagram.
Lyn Lindbergh (12:43): I’m barely on Instagram, because of the peer pressure.
Allan (12:48): I can’t do it. Plus it’s a phone thing. You can’t do it on a browser. I’m too old for that.
Lyn Lindbergh (12:55): Yeah, what is that? Okay, good thing. 40+, not too many of us are on Instagram, so we’re good.
Allan (13:05): Now, as we go through things, I think this is where a lot of people start to struggle, and you talked about it a little bit with your lung issue – we’re going to hit these barriers. And they’re natural barriers, because if we were all meant to be six-pack abs, bikini body people, then everybody would be, if it was easy. But it’s not easy. There’s an overabundance of food and there’s overstimulation where it’s easy to sit on your couch and never leave. Literally if the pizza guy would walk in the house and put it down in front of me, on the coffee table, I would never leave the house.
Lyn Lindbergh (13:50): I’ve got teenage boys. That’s exactly the life they would love.
Allan (13:54): “Hey, come on in!”
Lyn Lindbergh (13:56): “Right here, Mom. Just put the pizza right here, I’m good.”
Allan (14:00): So there are all these things that are going to distract us and keep us from getting where we really want to be. How do we break those barriers?
Lyn Lindbergh (14:09): When it comes to breaking barriers in fitness, one of the things that I like to share a lot is when you think about your biggest barrier, it’s not a gym membership. It’s not cash to throw at a personal trainer. It’s not all kinds of things. It’s the couch. The couch is our biggest competitor. Then we look at, what are our barriers to getting off the couch? And I say that metaphorically, because I know some people are listening to this and saying, “But I’m not on the couch. I’m just so busy.” One of the things that we do and teach, we call the “breaking barriers list”. The reason this exercise, the “breaking barriers list”, is important and impactful is because it helps you get crystal clear on what your real barriers are versus imagined barriers. And then it helps you get really laser focused on what you can do that requires the least amount of work to have the biggest impact on your ability and motivation to exercise. So, this is what I do to get people there. You could even start this right now. You just get any old piece of paper, or if you prefer to type on your computer, and you think of every single barrier to exercise that you can think of. And there are the big barriers: “I broke my leg”, “I got really sick”, “I have an aging parent I’m caring for”, “I have a job that I can’t quit”, “I can’ just quit my job or retire. I’m not there yet.” And then there are all the little, tiny barrier, like “I’m just busy” or “My kid called and I needed this this afternoon when I was going to work out.” This happened to me once – I showed up at the gym with two right tennis shoes. I forgot my left tennis shoe. List them all out; then go through that list and really ask yourself objectively, “Of all of these barriers that I see, which ones can I actually impact today, or which ones can I impact in the future?” You take the ones you can impact today, pick one and say, “Of all these barriers…” Take this stupid example of two right shoes. I can pack my gym bag earlier and leave it in the car and it’ll be there for me. Pick one and just work on breaking that one barrier, and let all the rest go. Maybe the next day or the next week, pick another one and let all the rest go. And just work through that list. Then the next question that always comes up really naturally is, what do you do with the barriers that are here to stay? So myself, for example, missing 30% of my lung function – that’s there to stay. It’s probably only going to get worse the rest of my life. You’ve got to make peace with those. That’s the real hard work, and it goes back to that compassion piece: “What can I do, given this barrier?” Sometimes it’s really easy to try to think, “Life should be perfect, life should be perfect. I’ll never give up, I’ll never give up.” And it’s not giving up; it’s just facing reality head-to-head and getting yourself in a real positive mind space and a positive mental space around it. So, that’s the whole “breaking barriers list” piece that we work through in a nutshell.
Allan (18:10): To me it comes down to self-awareness. If you can do this exercise, this is groundbreaking for getting you on track to really accomplish some great things, because once you start understanding what those barriers are, you eliminate them. I learned the same thing. I had to pack my gym bag the night before, or invariably I would forget my shoes or my socks, or just forget the bag. I literally packed the bag and set it by the door, so I’d almost have to trip over it in the morning to get out the door.
Lyn Lindbergh (18:46): You and a million people every day.
Allan (18:49): And I’d double check. You have to put those little strategies in place for the things you know are going to trip you up. I walk into the office on Friday and I see the sharks chumming in the break room. I know they brought donuts. I’m staying away from the break room.
Lyn Lindbergh (19:06): That’s a hard one. That’s an advanced skill.
Allan (19:14): It was funny. These were particularly weird – they were called Spudnuts. They were made from potato flour, so probably even worse than regular, from a sugar high. They put your blood sugar through the roof. And I loved them too. Then I was like, “Okay, I’ve got to get away from that.” So, I’d have nuts in my office and I’d see them be just like sharks chumming. I decided I can’t go there. I’d go to my office and sit in my desk and not go into the break room until lunchtime, because they would usually be gone by then.
Lyn Lindbergh (19:51): That’s great.
Allan (19:54): That was a practice of self-awareness and understanding what the barriers are that are going to keep me from getting what I needed. That was one that would come up every once in a while. I can’t keep them from bringing donuts in, but I have to know myself to deal with it.
Lyn Lindbergh (20:13): Absolutely. It’s funny how this moment of shame is coming back, which I must let go. When I worked in a corporate office for 20 years, sometimes I would even be good at leaving those donuts alone until everybody was gone and it was only me.
Allan (20:35): When nobody is looking, it doesn’t count.
Lyn Lindbergh (20:37): Exactly. And part of that mindset and self-awareness, one of the things to break through that usually gets people really excited and helps them feel young and alive again – it’s really looking at your stereotypes. When you’re looking at breaking barriers, really challenge your stereotypes about who does what kind of exercise. So much of the time we think yoga is for the skinny girls and aqua aerobics is for fat and injured and out of shape. That’s so, so wrong. If you can break through your stereotypes of what kind of exercises you do as a person and try something new, it’s amazing how creative you can get. I had one woman who came to me and she was so excited. I had no idea how this came about exactly, but she said, “I was listening to your thing about breaking through stereotypes, because I’ve never exercised in my life.” She was almost 50 and she’d never exercised in part because she didn’t see herself as somebody who would exercise. And she said, “I finally found it and I love it. I got a treadmill. I put it in my dark basement downstairs with no windows. And every morning I read a book on the treadmill.” I just had to laugh because I told her that would be torture for me. I would hate it. She loved it though. She said, “I can do this.” So what if everybody else hates a treadmill in the dark by yourself? She loved it and that’s what got her to make a breakthrough.
Allan (22:36): I think what’s really cool is that you’ve got to find your place. I could tell you you should be doing all this lifting and you should be doing some cardio. We can go through the “shoulds” and there’s a valid reason for each one. You should be working on balance, you should be working on mobility, all those different things that we do need to make sure we’re maintaining. But how you get there can be your own unique joy, your own unique path.
Lyn Lindbergh (23:05): That’s really where the “smile” factor comes in in a big way. I’ve got folks who back country ski, folks who sword fight. For real, that’s a real thing.
Allan (23:18): I know, fencing. I envision this old lady beating the crap out of somebody with a sword.
Lyn Lindbergh (23:28): She just turned 50 and she’s so excited. “You won’t believe what I’m doing.” But we all know body doesn’t know or care if you’re on a treadmill or walking. To your body it’s movement. So, if you’re moving and it’s exercise, it counts. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a gym or not.
Allan (23:49): Very much. Now, every once in a while something is going to come along – a car accident, you’re out going for a walk or a run and you slip on some ice and you twist your ankle or mess up your knee or break an arm, and now dealing with this setback. And a lot of times it’s, “I can’t use my leg because I twisted my ankle.” So they stop exercising. They figure since they’re not exercising, they’ll just eat what they want to eat, go back to their old ways, and they end up with this setback. What was an unplanned detour now becomes a, “Let’s turn around and drive back home” kind of thing. How do we deal with that?
Lyn Lindbergh (24:35): The setbacks is a really interesting, tricky one. One of the things I love that you said, Allan, is “when” you have a setback, not “if” you have a setback. I think that’s an important piece, is realizing that setbacks are normal, they happen. They happen to all of us, they happen to me. Some of the setbacks that really trip us up the most is a lot of times we get in our mind that we’re going to finally be a person who exercises, and now all of a sudden I’ve got my plan and it’s all perfectly laid out. But that’s not the way it is; life changes. Those are the tricky ones, when like you said, you’re moving to a new home. So, new routines, new everything.
Allan (25:23): The gym on this island that we’ve moved to is not really a gym. They have some dumbbells, they have a leg press. I would call it more of a fitness studio. They do classes. I’m thinking if I go there I’m probably going to have to do the classes until I get my equipment here, which is going to take me a little while because you have to put it on a container ship, it has to go on a boat. It’s going to be a while before I see that stuff. So, that routine is completely thrown out; I have to come up with other things. I even asked if they have tennis courts. There are no tennis courts on this island. Unless I want to build my own. I could build one and then charge people to use it. That might not be a bad idea. A lot of the things I was thinking my lifestyle was going to entail when I move down here, it’s not here. So I have to change and I have to adapt. I’m doing a lot more body weight stuff, I’m doing a lot more walking. Those types of things are the things I’m putting into my regimen. I’ll probably lose a little bit of muscle mass because I’m not lifting like I was lifting. I lost a little bit of strength, but I can do what I’m going to do until I get my equipment down here.
Lyn Lindbergh (26:42): That’s exactly it. I would say for any of those setbacks – whether it’s a broken leg or moving to an island with no tennis court or, quote, unquote, “real” gym – one of the pieces to start out with first and foremost is that compassion piece again. Start first from a place of compassion for yourself and realizing this is normal. Setbacks do happen. And when you get there, which it could take you 10 seconds or two weeks, it depends, then you can start talking. If you live with someone, talk to them about your goals and your desires. If you make a new friend, talk to them about your goals. You’d be amazed at how people can help you find resources to make it happen. Really, at our core, most of us want to be exercising. Most of us want to have a buddy to work out with. That’s where I usually have folks start. And again, back to breaking through that stereotype of, what kind of an exerciser am I? What do I do? I can get massively creative to start really focusing on what exercise is going to meet my goals and make me smile? And those three things really are that sustainable piece that helps you stay in a good mindset for it all. Because again, Couch to Active – I’m all about living a life you love more than just creating out workouts you hate.
Allan (28:22): Yeah. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Lyn Lindbergh (28:37): I would say for me in my life, because getting and staying well has been complicated and I know I’m not the only one – education is huge for me. I’m an avid reader, constantly reading. I tell you, for anything, if I Google “Is keto good for you? Is keto bad for you? Are oranges good for you? Are oranges bad for you?” – the amount of data out there is just ridiculous. The more education you can have on everything, the better. The second one for me – a huge piece of physical wellness is also mental wellness. I think our generation has been raised with a lot of anxiety, a lot of pressure to perform and a lot of that negative self-talk. So I think a huge wellness piece of that is to not be afraid to crack that door open. If something inside of you is saying you need to look at mental health, look at it. And then the more simple one is, get the junk out of your kitchen. That’s what I had to do. If it’s there, I want to find the “Happy” button and the “Unlimited Willpower” button. If you find those, let me know, Allan, because junk’s got to stay out of the kitchen.
Allan (30:09): I’m pretty much the same way. My wife bought some Life cereal the other day and she was like, “Don’t judge me.” I’m like, “I’m not judging you.”
Lyn Lindbergh (30:18): Food shame!
Allan (30:20): But at the same time I knew I would end up in that box at some point. I knew myself. I almost said I’ll just eat it all so it won’t be here anymore. I didn’t go that far, but I did actually eat some of the cereal. Lyn, I want to thank you for being a part of 40+ Fitness. If someone wanted to learn more about you and learn more about the book, Couch to Active, where would you like for me to send them?
Lyn Lindbergh (30:54): Just have them Google Couch to Active and head over to the website, www.CouchToActive.com, and everything’s there.
Allan (31:04): Excellent. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/374, and I’ll be sure to have links there. Lyn, again, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Lyn Lindbergh (31:15): Thank you. It’s been a ball.
I hope you enjoyed that interview with Lyn. Really fun character, very goofy, but has a lot of fun with life and that’s a big, big part of the wellness formula. You have to be happy with what you’re doing. I love how she brings that to the table and it bears in her podcast and in her book. Do check those out.
Spring has sprung. As this episode goes live, we are into just the spring season starting up. And you know what that means – that means we’re going to be wearing a little less clothing, revealing a little bit more of our bodies. This is a perfect time to really start working on your health and your fitness. So if you’re looking for a coach and you’re interested in getting things done in the most efficient and effective way, without injury, I’m available to be your online coach.
You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programshttp://40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programs, and from there you’ll be able to see the various programs that I offer. I have group, one-on-one, and I do have some “Do It Yourself”, if you are so inclined to push yourself. I do have programs that have been proven effective for losing fat and for gaining muscle. So if you’re interested in training with me, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programs. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Programs.
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Two of the most studied diets that are successful for weight loss and better health are the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. In her book The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution, Marla Heller shows us how to use both of these ways of eating to optimize our health.
Allan (1:14): Marla, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Marla Heller (1:17): Thank you. I’m really glad to join you.
Allan (1:19): I have to say I’ve seen study after study after study and it’s always interesting to me there are certain diets that always end up at the top of the list. I think I first heard about the Mediterranean diet probably 15 years ago or better. It’s a long, long time people have been talking about that diet. The DASH diet is something that’s a little bit newer, and there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. But I have to be honest with you, I never really deep dived into either of them. And what I’ve found with your book was I had a lot of general misconceptions about what they actually were.
Marla Heller (2:01): Interesting. Tell me about those.
Allan (2:05): When I think Mediterranean, I don’t know why, but my thoughts always go to Italy. And Italy is one of the countries that would fit that concept, but I just think about all that pasta and pizza. There’s no way I can eat like that. I’ve eaten pasta before when I was younger. That’s pretty much how I put on my weight. So, if I’m going to eat like the French and the Italians, other than the fact that I know, having been over there, the quality of their food is a lot better than what’s available here sometimes, I just thought I’m not going to eat bread, I’m not going to eat the pasta. That’s the white foods that pretty much I need to stay away from.
Marla Heller (2:51): That is a very common misconception, that it’s all about having platefuls of pasta and lots of bread at the table. Actually that’s not the basis of the Mediterranean diet. That’s a more Americanized idea of what it is. And I will also mention that it’s where people get off-track with the Mediterranean diet, because it’s not absolutely defined. People take their own interpretation and as you say, they may get really off-track with that.
Allan (3:29): I think that’s why I never really dove into those and said, “I’m going to do that.” What I took out of it for my part is that they don’t do as much GMO, they don’t do as much of this other stuff over there. They have access to local produce because they grow it there, so I was thinking more in terms of, they’re eating higher quality foods. And I can sit there and put someone on a high quality carnivore diet and a low quality carnivore diet, and you’re going to see a difference in their health, just based on the quality of the food. But getting into your book, like I said, it opened my eyes to some depth that’s there. Another thing I really liked about the book was that you go with this approach of, “Don’t tell me what I can’t eat. Let’s focus on what we can.” If we’re filling ourselves and getting the nutrients we need from the foods we can, we’re going to be so much better off.
Marla Heller (4:25): What a concept that you should enjoy how you’re eating! And still be healthy. That’s absolutely something. If people can’t enjoy what they’re eating, they’ll never be able to stick with a healthy plan. That was actually one of the things that motivated me. This is my second career, and it motivated me to go back to school and become a dietitian. I was working with people who were having heart attacks at relatively young ages, including in their mid 30s. And after they had the heart attack, they went on living the way they lived because they didn’t think that eating in a healthy way would be satisfying enough that they could really enjoy their lives. And they still wanted to enjoy life. I knew from watching people in Europe, because I was traveling a lot in Europe, that they enjoyed how they were eating but they were still taking care of their health. And I thought somebody needs to bring that where you show people you can enjoy eating and be healthy at the same time.
Allan (5:30): My disconnect with those diets was along the lines of misconceptions. So, I’m really happy to have an opportunity to have this conversation with you. Could you take a moment and go through what the DASH diet is, how it came about, what it includes, and then go about the same thing with the Mediterranean diet?
Marla Heller (5:53): The DASH diet was originally developed by people who were working on different kinds of approaches to help people lower their blood pressure without medication, because they knew that some people who ate in particular ways had lower blood pressure naturally, and one of those ways was being a vegetarian. They saw that people who were Seventh-day Adventists, who were primarily vegetarian, had significantly lower blood pressure than most Americans. And they’re eating from the same food supply; there’s nothing different. They had the same kind of lifestyle and so forth, but the vegetarian diet seemed to be very helpful for lowering blood pressure. However, they didn’t I think that most Americans would actually go along with that, because we are a country of meat eaters. So, they wanted to take the best parts of a vegetarian diet and create one that was more flexible. First of all, I must say people could still be a vegetarian and follow the DASH diet, because it really does emphasize lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds. It includes things like mostly whole grains, but not overdoing them, and lean meats – fish and poultry, if you choose to include those in your diet, along with the heart-healthy fats. So, vegetarian or not vegetarian, it’s something that people can really fit into their lives. When they did the first research, they saw that people did lower their blood pressure as much as the first-line medications would do. And it did this in just 14 days. In fact, I have support groups on Facebook who are following this book, and people are seeing their blood pressure drop in as little as seven days. That’s very, very impressive.
Allan (7:51): It is. But you do caution folks about this – if you’re on blood pressure lowering meds and you decide to change the way you’re going to eat, have a conversation with your doctor, because that might be a moment when your doctor needs to know you’re doing this and you may need to be able to call in to him or her and say, “Doc, I’m checking my blood pressure each day. It’s just fallen off a cliff here. What do I do?” And they’ll help you taper down your meds the way that you need to.
Marla Heller (8:20): Exactly.
Allan (8:22): You say in the book it’s not so much that food is the medicine, but food sets a platform for us to get healthy, if we’re putting the right foods in our body.
Marla Heller (8:32): And that is one thing – when they go around the world and they look at places where people live exceptionally long and stay healthy that whole time, they found that they tend to have similar ways of eating that are really strong on the plant-based foods, but you can also still have some of the fish, meat, lean poultry and so forth. That is something that we really do want to emphasize, that you can stay healthy your entire life.
Allan (9:03): That’s the DASH diet. So, what is the Mediterranean diet and how is it a little different?
Marla Heller (9:09): The Mediterranean diet, the things that are really beneficial are much like DASH – the vegetables, the fruit, heart-healthy fats, which would include things like cold water fish, from which you get the fatty acids, the fish oil, things that actually help to improve your heart health. They also include olive oil all around the Mediterranean, not just in Italy and Greece. All around the Mediterranean olive oil has been the basis of their diets. That’s what they use. One of the things we talked about earlier is that people tend to get off-track and it gets all about having lots of pasta, lots of bread and it’s white bread and so forth. But it’s really those vegetables that make the heart of the Mediterranean diet. So, that’s something that’s kind of interesting. In fact, they’ve even found that on some of the islands in Greece and Italy where they were studying and saw that they did tend to have a lot of people who live to be over 100 and were still very physically active and socially active – they were eating lots of different types of greens. They would actually go out in their fields and collect some things for making a salad and so forth. And they think that that may have been one of the advantages. So having a variety of greens can be a really good thing, hidden benefit. Also the red wine seems to be pretty much protective as well. And it’s not something that people have to go out and start drinking red wine. It is really high in antioxidants, but there are also a lot of other fruits and vegetables that are very high in antioxidants. So, if you do drink wine, a little bit of red wine with dinner is a really great thing, but we’re not encouraging people to start drinking. But you do want to make sure you’re getting enough fruits in your diet as well. Those are some of the hidden things in the Mediterranean diet that most Americans aren’t aware of, and it’s probably one of the reasons why some people may try to follow a little bit of a Mediterranean diet and then it doesn’t feel like they’re getting a lot of benefits. I think it helps to focus on the core foods that are really going to be making you healthier, which would include things like fruits and vegetables, mostly whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry. And again, that’s the same thing as in the DASH diet. And in the Mediterranean diet, they also have a lot of nuts, seeds and beans as well. So the vegetable proteins are also really helpful for keeping people healthier on a long term.
Allan (11:59): Okay. Now, you mash these up to come up with the Mediterranean DASH diet program. One of the things that I saw in there that I have to say was a little surprising was that milk, dairy kind of plays a fairly big role in this.
Marla Heller (12:17): Actually in the first DASH study, they did one group where they didn’t give them extra milk and dairy, and they did not see as much blood pressure benefit as people did who were including a little bit of extra dairy. With the Mediterranean diet when they have dairy, it tends to be fermented, such as with yogurt or cheese. All around the Mediterranean, you’re going to see people using yogurt as a basis for sauces, for salads and so worth. That is something they include a lot of. It’s a little bit of shift in how you might do more of a Mediterranean-oriented DASH, but it’s certainly super delicious. So, that’s a good thing to do.
Allan (13:05): It is. So what we’re saying here is you put these all together and the basis of it, like you said, is going to be fruits and vegetables. The bread that you eat is going to be whole grains. And one of the dangerous myths that you have in the book is that it’s not 12 servings per day.
Marla Heller (13:23): That was something that actually came out in the late ‘80s in the United States. They recommended that people have between 6 and 12 servings a day of bread, or some kind of grain food. That is a lot, and that was precisely at the time when people were becoming much less active in their lives. So, we ended up with this epidemic of obesity based on these food guidelines of eating lots of grain and cut back on the amount of protein foods that you eat. And actually the one thing that we’re not getting enough of, and especially as we get a little bit older, is the protein-rich foods. You need that to maintain muscle, because the more muscle you have as you age, the younger your body is.
Allan (14:11): We’re going to get some of the protein from the vegetables. That’s one of the things that I’ve really been looking into lately. If you’re eating leafy greens, there’s protein in there. Now, your body’s got to get the other essentials that it’s not getting from that, and it’ll get those from other food sources. So, you can include lean meats in there with this. You’re going to get some protein from the dairy that you’re going to be eating. Like you said, for the most part it’s going to be fermented. If you’re getting cold water fish, you’re going to get fish oil and then also adding the olive oil, which I think most people know if they’re getting good quality olive oil, they are getting the right things their body needs. You put those altogether and now here’s this Med DASH program. But we started down the road of talking about these dangerous myths, and one of them was the 12 servings of grains. I think Kellogg’s or General Mills drafted that one and said, “Shove this one in here. Let’s make this the base of the pyramid.”
Marla Heller (15:08): It was actually based off people in some primitive areas whose blood pressure stayed at a normal level even as they got older, and they stayed healthy that whole time. They thought that part of the reason is because they were eating all these grains. Most Americans aren’t doing a lot of whole grains. Also, they stayed healthy because they were very physically active and they were not eating huge amounts of calories. So, combining easy access to food and lots of quantity, that turned out to be a really bad combination to have those recommended 6 to 12 servings of grain every day. That was really off-track.
Allan (15:52): There were others in there. Can you go through a few of, for a lack of a better word, favorite nutrition myths that are out there? I have a couple I’ll probably follow up with as well.
Marla Heller (16:03): Okay. One thing is that if people are thinking about losing weight, and at this time of year people are thinking about, “I ate too much during the holidays and I want to lose a little bit of weight”, they think that the weight loss itself is the goal. And it really is not. You want to lose fat, but you don’t want to lose muscle because if you lose muscle, you slow down your metabolism and it also can make you feel a little bit weaker. You actually want to focus on losing fat. And that’s one of the focuses that has been off-track. Actually having a diet that’s high in those grains, as we get older and if we’re not too physically active, it will tend to build fat. So the grains actually get broken down in digestion to sugar, and that sugar we don’t need for our activity gets stored around our belly, especially as we start going over the age of 40 or so. That can really get people off-track. We’d like to get rid of that excess belly fat especially, because that seems to be associated with a whole lot of diseases, but you want to maintain muscle. That helps you define what kind of foods you’re going to eat.
Allan (17:30): Absolutely.
Marla Heller (17:32): Another thing that we’ve all been way off-track on is thinking that if you just cut calories and you’re a little bit more active, you’re automatically going to lose weight. If people are in an ideal situation – for example, they have places where people can go in to lose weight and they’re trapped in the location and they’re very limited in how much they can eat and they do watch what they’re eating. But most of us are free living, free range people, and we can go around and do whatever we want to. It really helps to think about there are certain kinds of foods that actually will help us burn a little bit more calories. They have recently found out, although some researchers knew earlier, that when you’re digesting proteins, it takes a little bit more calories to actually digest it. You don’t get quite the same impact in terms of increasing your weight if you’re having enough of the protein foods as compared to if you’re having a really high starch or high sugar diet. So that’s a really helpful thing for people to know. And that was one of the things that was off-track, let’s say, in the ‘90s where as a dietician, we were trained to cut calories proportionally across fats, starchy sugary foods, and the protein foods. Actually you want to cut the starchy sugary foods and maintain the protein-rich foods and the heart-healthy fats, because they actually help to quench your hunger. And the protein helps to keep you feeling full longer. They really weren’t focusing in on how people work in a real life situation where they’re trying to moderate their food intake and to have it be something that they can actually sustain in the long run. So they would get off-track, they would not feel that they’re being successful in the diet, so they said, “I might as well go back to the way I was eating because this isn’t working.”
Allan (19:50): I agree. I’ve seen that. My thoughts on that one are that technically, yes, we are going to expand calories and if we’re not getting enough food, our bodies will begin to burn fat for that excess energy. But our bodies are really designed well to make sure that we don’t starve to death. So, what’s going to end up happening is your body will say, “You’re not eating enough, so we’re going to start cutting off certain processes that we don’t need as much. We’re not going to produce as much of this enzyme or we’re not going to make as much of that hormone. We’re going to start cutting out systems that don’t keep us alive.” So, your metabolism actually slows down.
Marla Heller (20:35): Actually it can happen that you do cut off things that are essential for survival. One of the things I’ve noticed is if people go through a really rapid weight loss and they’re not getting enough protein, your body will start breaking down even heart muscle, and that can be a problem. Actually, since you mentioned the starvation – when they set the RDAs for protein, it was based on preventing starvation in Sub-Saharan Africa. It wasn’t based on people who are not as physically active and eating a more sufficient diet. So, the protein RDA is a lot lower than it actually needs to be, and they recommend now that most people should probably have about… I know I’m getting into dietician talk, but instead of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, it should be up around 1.2. Or if people are physically active and as they get older it could go up to 1.6. So it’s a fair amount higher than what we were recommending in the ‘90s.
Allan (21:49): To put that in pounds, roughly what I would say is you’re going to need to eat somewhere between half a gram of protein per pound of body weight, and maybe just a little higher than that. That’s about the same range when you’re talking about kilograms.
Marla Heller (22:04): The minimum that they had from the old guidelines, for an average woman it would be about 65 grams per day. First of all, I will say people don’t eat grams of protein; they eat real food. So I tend not to emphasize the components of the food and really talk about getting a balanced diet, because when you sit down to eat, you want to enjoy it, you don’t want to be having to think about all these other components in the background. But if you get in the habit of having a variety of foods, you’re automatically going to be getting the right stuff.
Allan (22:42): Your body is pretty good about that. Once you sit down and you start putting your food together, you realize you’re going to need a protein source. A serving of fish or a serving of chicken is going to roughly give you about 25 to 30 grams. If you’re eating that about three times a day and maybe having a little bit of protein with your snacks, like cheese…
Marla Heller (23:04): Some yogurt or cheese or hardboiled egg for breakfast.
Allan (23:09): So thinking through that you’re getting protein with each meal is going to help with the satiation. Not being afraid of olive oil, because it’s not the bad fats for you. It’s actually very good for you if you’re getting a good quality actual olive oil. I hate reading those stories where they go into the grocery stores and test what’s on the shelves and find that a large portion of it doesn’t actually have olive oil in it.
Marla Heller (23:33): That is pretty scary.
Allan (23:34): I just shake my head. One that I found very interesting, because I recently had another guest on and he is a big fan of smoothies, so I tried his smoothie recipe and it’s actually pretty good. I made some adjustments to it and tweaked it a little bit here and there. And what I saw was this is a great way for me to get in a full five ounces greens, which would be difficult with just sitting down and eating them like a salad. I add some spirulina and chlorella in there, so I’m getting more greens, some celery or cucumber or something like that to bulk it up a little bit more, because there’s more fluid there now. But in your myths – I really have to ask you this – does the blender actually break down the fiber in the plants to a point where you’re not getting the benefit of that fiber?
Marla Heller (24:30): Yes. Again, I’ll apologize for getting maybe a little bit too chemically oriented, but the molecular weight of the fiber is really essential to allowing it to do its job. And along with pulverizing the vegetables, especially the longer you go, it actually does cut up those fiber molecules and makes them so that they’re much less effective. I will also say it’s a great property of vegetables and fruits that they are bulky and filling, and it is hard to overeat when you get a lot of them in your diet. That’s a benefit. And that’s one of the things we’re missing when we go towards the smoothies and so forth. We’re missing the whole point. And one of the things I really focused on with this book is re-teaching people how to eat. You might be thinking, “I know how to eat. I know how to put things in my mouth.” But it’s that balance between having some foods that are bulky and filling and relatively low calorie, like the vegetables and whole fruits, and having along with that something with some protein, something with some heart-healthy fats, because those give you that satiety that allows you to stay full longer. Bulky, filling to get filled up, and then the protein and the fat to feel full longer. That helps people with avoiding overeating without having to think about it.
Allan (26:10): I do agree with that. If I sit down and I have a salad, I’m usually pretty basic with my salads. I might chop up a boiled egg and put some olives on there, and I’ll make my own vinaigrette, and that’s it. Or I’ll do a can of tuna or something like that on a salad. So it’s fairly basic foods the way that I eat salads, but they fill me up. I could still take that same five ounces; it’s just really tough to get it all in. What I found with the smoothie was the convenience that I can sip on it over the course of an hour or so while I’m working. It’s portable.
Marla Heller (26:52): On the other hand, then you never know when you’ve had enough. People will say, “I’m a grazer. I like to graze.” But you have to stop and think, how do you know when you’re done? If you’re always continually eating, how do you know how much you’ve actually consumed? Whereas if you sit down and have a snack and let’s say you have an apple and a yogurt and maybe some nuts, you’re going to finish that up and you’re going to feel satisfied for a long time. That’s a way of making it really easy to stay with your goals of getting the right foods. And those happen to be things that are all on the DASH diet, all on the Mediterranean diet, so you’re automatically eating the right things.
Allan (27:40): Okay. You had another one in here that shocked me a little bit because it kind of goes contra to what I think most of the advice out there is, and that was that small changes are best.
Marla Heller (27:52): That’s been the philosophy for, I would say almost 30 years, but people get discouraged so easily. Sometimes making a big change can make it much easier to sustain. Actually that’s one of the reasons that we have the jumpstart portion of the plan in this book, because we want people to refocus on how they eat. And that is one thing I keep hearing over and over again from my online groups. People say, “I’m not hungry” or, “I don’t know how I can fit in all of this food.” Whoever heard of a diet plan that you’re saying, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got too much to eat here”? So, that really can be a big help in getting people going. And what they start to see is their blood pressure goes down right away, that they’re starting to lose weight around their waist and all of a sudden their clothes fit much better. That’s reinforcement to keep going.
Allan (28:56): I think that’s one of the cores of this, and that’s where it hit me. We tell people to take a small step, it’s better than nothing. It’s like if you want to start a walking program, maybe you’re doing five minutes the first day and that’s all you can handle. That’s a step, and then you’re going to do a little bit more. But what you’re saying, particularly as we start looking at food is, let’s do something drastic so we see that payback and we’re reinforced fairly early, and we don’t have those drag-on effects and things. We just finished up a Sugar Challenge as this episode’s going live. When I deal with the differences of people, I’ve always had three levels in that. I know these numbers are going to scare you, but one of them is to cut your sugar to 50 grams per day. And for some people that’s already drastic enough. Then I have a 30-gram level, which is the intermediate, and then a 20-gram, which is the advanced. So I say we’re going to get our bodies to be able to understand and taste the sweetness of foods already. I remember as a kid, we would get strawberries and we would put extra sugar on the strawberries. And today I can’t even fathom doing that, not because I think that sugar’s inherently evil. When I eat a strawberry, it’s about as sweet as I can take. I really don’t want to add anything to sweeten the strawberry, because it’s already perfect.
Marla Heller (30:26): Exactly. That was something that was completely common, and now you can’t understand at all why they would do that. Actually I will say one of the things with sugar that comes from whole fruit is that you’re going to absorb that more slowly because you do have the fiber and the cells and so forth, and they hold trapped things and help it digest a little bit slower. So, having the whole fruits doesn’t give you the same impact as having a Snickers bar, for example.
Allan (31:01): So you’ll go online and you’ll look up the sugar in that and say, “Would I be better off eating the Snickers bar than I would be eating this fruit?” And that’s not actually true. You actually would get more beneficial nutrients, phytonutrients.
Marla Heller (31:14): It’s going to stay with you longer if you had the whole fruit.
Allan (31:18): There’s still a lot to be said about “You are what you eat”, because your body is remaking your cells all the time and food is affecting how your genes are expressed. Do you really want Snickers to be the one giving those signals?
Marla Heller (31:35): It doesn’t mean you should never have something like that, because you still have to have a real life. But there are many ways to satisfy that sweet tooth. In fact, if you keep the right foods on hand, if you’ve got your refrigerator full of fruits and vegetables and so forth – you may think you’re getting up to get a snack, “Maybe I would like to have a candy bar or something.” But then you go open the refrigerator and you see some whole fruit and some raw vegetables, you’re thinking, “I could do that instead. I could have this yogurt.” That really makes it super easy to stay on hand, when you keep the right foods on hand.
Allan (32:18): Absolutely. Now, there was something else you put in the book and I want to talk about this a little bit. I didn’t really put it on the plan, but it was in my thought process as I was going through this, because we’ve talked about yogurt a lot. You walk into the grocery store and the low fat yogurt or zero fat yogurt, they typically add sugar to it to sweeten it up or make it taste good enough for someone to want to eat it. But you said in the book that not all of that sugar is digestible or available, because of the bacteria. Can you talk through that process, because I really didn’t absorb it the way I wanted to?
Marla Heller (32:58): Okay. When you take milk to make yogurt, they have bacteria in there that help to digest the lactose. Lactose is the milk sugar. It helps to digest that and it breaks it down and it turns it into lactic acid, which is what gives you that “Tang!” when you’re eating the yogurt. The same thing also happens during manufacturing cheese. So, when you look at a food label of yogurt, it still shows the amount of sugar that was in the original milk. That gets really confusing because it really isn’t sugar anymore. However, they are changing the food labels, so now they will show you how much is added sugar. And it’s not all sugar that you want to avoid. Like I said, with whole fruits you still want that. But if you can look at the yogurt on one of the newer food labels and see regular milk would have 15 grams of sugar and this one has 23 grams of sugar and it shows me that eight grams are added sugar – that makes it a lot easier to understand. Again, with the yogurt it’s really confusing because they make the manufacturers say that it’s sugar, even though it isn’t anymore. So you have to go on faith and try to choose one that has low added sugar.
Allan (34:31): Okay. Now, in the book you do give plans. So, if someone is really concerned about not knowing what to eat, because there’s a lot of variety of what you can eat… I like that that’s part of the focus of this whole thing, is what you can eat. You do go through a period of what you call the “jumpstart”, but you make that optional. Can you explain what the jumpstart is about, why it’s optional and how it would fit into the ongoing plan after that? Because this is not just a diet; this is really a lifestyle.
Marla Heller (35:05): Yes. One of the things that happens in most people’s daily lives is they have a breakfast or something and then their blood sugar crashes and they’re hungry again. You kind of get on this sugar rollercoaster. I will also say that starch breaks down to sugar as well, so it’s not just raw sugar that makes a difference. It’s also how much starchy foods you’re eating that causes blood sugar to surge and then to crash. So, during the first week or two you can do this jumpstart program that gets you off the sugar rollercoaster and it also teaches you to eat in a way that is filling and satisfying. I really focus in on the vegetables, learning how having some protein along with the bulky filling foods helps to keep you feeling satisfied longer. That’s what people say when they start going through this after a few days, that they’re not as hungry and they’re not eating as much of their meals as they used to. It is a natural way of keeping your blood sugar on a more even keel and keeping your energy level more consistent throughout the day. So, people can do that and that becomes a foundation when you start adding back in the fruits, some whole grains, things like that, because you’ve already learned how satisfying it can be when you combine those healthy foods.
Allan (36:47): Basically we’re dropping the fruit, or at least substantially reducing it, and the grains.
Marla Heller (36:54): And the non-fermented dairy.
Allan (36:57): Okay, non-fermented dairy. So you’re making some pretty big cuts there, some eliminations for this first little period, and it is going to be not the funnest eating opportunity. You’re going to have to get a little creative, which is really cool, because the book also comes with recipes.
Marla Heller (37:14): Think about it as one day at a time, or one hour at a time. “I can do this for this next period of time. I can keep going.” Just in little bitty steps, because you are re-learning how to eat, and this is going to be the benefit for the rest of your life.
Allan (37:30): Absolutely. So, after you’ve been on this for a while, then you can start adding in some grains and some fruit, and that’s going to give you some great information. Anytime you do an elimination diet like this and then you add those foods back in systematically, you’re able to see how well your body uses that for fuel, for building materials. If you have any sensitivities to dairy, you’re going to notice it. If you have any sensitivities to sugar, you’re going to sense it. If you have any issues with grains, be it gluten or whatever, you’re going to figure that out when you go through a process like this.
Marla Heller (38:11): A lot of people tell me that when they’re going through this jumpstart phase, their heartburn disappeared, they didn’t feel as bloated. As you say, it’s food sensitivities that people are eliminating that were causing them to not feel as good. That also makes this something you want to keep doing, because you want to feel good.
Allan (38:35): And sometimes that’s the wine. Wine can cause the acid reflux and that heartburn kind of feeling. That’s another thing that’s not in the jumpstart; there’s no wine for that first little bit.
Marla Heller (38:48): If you have some wine, it can also reduce your inhibitions, so you’re thinking, “Well, maybe I’m going to start eating sugar.”
Allan (38:55): “Let’s make some chocolate chip cookies.” Like I said, I really appreciate the opportunity to go through and get a better feel for what these diets are and where they can add value. I also appreciate when they’re put together and they give you a comprehensive program, because they tend to be number one and number two in the health studies that are out there of best diets. When they do the polls of what’s out there, what the science is showing, those guys are always on the top of those lists.
Marla Heller (39:30): Absolutely. It is because they are fundamentally good and they’re something that people can follow for a lifetime to stay healthy. We all want to live a long time, but we also want to be healthy that whole time. We don’t want to start losing our ability to do all the things we want to at a relatively young age.
Allan (39:53): I agree. And food is a big, big part of that, so getting your food right is really the first step in regaining and maintaining your health.
Marla Heller (40:03): Absolutely.
Allan (40:04): Marla, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Marla Heller (40:14): One of the first things is to ensure as you get older that you’re having a little bit more protein in your diet, because that is something that helps your body maintain muscle. And the more muscle you maintain as you get older, the better you feel. And it helps to prevent disabilities and so forth. If you can do the things that you want to do and feel like your body is young, then you’re going to be happier. A lot of times it’s these disabilities that really grind on people, whether it’s something where they have a pain syndrome or a bunch of chronic health problems, that can be a problem. One thing we didn’t really talk about through this is a situation called metabolic syndrome, where people tend to gain more weight around the waist, they may have high triglycerides and low HDL, which is a good cholesterol. Their blood pressure may be higher than they would like it to be, and they might not respond as well to insulin as they used to, so their blood sugar may be more on that rollercoaster. All of these diseases go together and they increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. All of those are challenging to deal with through your life. So if you’re choosing a diet plan that helps to naturally lower your blood pressure, naturally healthy with not having your blood sugar be as high, it helps you with keeping your good cholesterol at a good level. Those are all things that are going to make you feel better and help you have a better quality of life for the rest of your life.
Allan (42:04): Good. Marla, thank you so much for that. The book is The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution. If someone wanted to learn more about you or the book and get the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Marla Heller (42:18): The website is DASHDiet.org. That will take them to the site and they can learn about it. We also have the Facebook page that is also The DASH Diet. And we have some support groups for people who are trying to follow the diets. Some people have all kinds of great ideas, they have questions and so forth. The Facebook groups are DASH Diet 2, and the other one for the Mediterranean diet is Med DASH Diet. Those are all good ways.
Allan (43:06): Okay. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/371, and I’ll be sure to have the links there. Marla, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Marla Heller (43:18): Okay. I really appreciated having the opportunity to talk to you.
Allan (43:22): Thank you.
I hope that you enjoyed today’s episode and that you took something valuable from it. I work hard to try to bring the best possible guests to the show. Typically, that’s me reaching out to them. Occasionally, publicists will also reach out to me. But it does take some time to get them scheduled and get them on the show and make sure that we’re giving you the best possible content that I can from their book and from what their thoughts are. And I do hope that you’re getting some value out of each and every episode, because I do put a good bit of time into making sure that happens for you.
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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.
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.
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.