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Time management is one of the main reasons people give for why they can't eat healthy food. In her new book, Lose Weight With Your Instapot, Audrey Johns shows how this cooker can make short time of cooking healthy meals.
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Allan (1:01): Audrey, welcome back to 40+ Fitness.
Audrey Johns (1:05): Thank you so much for having me, Allan. I’m so excited to be back on the show.
Allan (1:08): I really do enjoy the approach that you have to cookbooks, one, because I went through the different recipes and they all look brilliant, and there are no cans of anything. It just makes me so happy that someone’s not saying, “Open up a can of this, or buy that.” In many cases you’re making your own stuff to fill in the gaps in the recipes, where normally the recipe would say, “Go buy a can of this or a jar of that.” You’re actually teaching people how to cook the whole meal.
Audrey Johns (1:45): Absolutely. One of the recipes that stands out to me in that is the red beans and rice. A girl growing up in New Orleans, I was so excited to be able to make red beans from scratch. And I agree – when you can make it for yourself, it’s going to be so much healthier.
Allan (2:03): It is. I knew what an instapot was; I’ve never really actually used one. The sad thing is I asked my wife because I was like, “I’m going to pull this out and try something.” We’re getting ready to move to Panama, so she sold our instapot.
Audrey Johns (2:19): Oh no! Well, you’re going have to get a new one. Are the electrical sockets different there? Is that going to be an issue?
Allan (2:25): No, the electrics are the same. The problem is that we’re lightening our load as much as possible, so we’re selling practically everything in this house before we sell the house, or as we’re still in the house. So, it was an easy sell for her. She listed it and got, I guess, what she wanted for it, and it went out in one of the first rounds of our selling. And I didn’t actually realize that until I started looking for it. Sadly, that was one of the few times I didn’t. When I was looking at the pork chops with the apple – that looks really good. What was so amazing was with some of the accessories, you can cook an entire meal in one. I didn’t actually realize how dynamic and how really good these instant pots are for, one, saving time, because you don’t have to be there while it’s cooking, but the other thing is, you can do so much with it.
Audrey Johns (3:13): Absolutely. The protein bowl for example – I absolutely love that dish. What you do is you put the quinoa at the bottom, and then you put the trivet, which happens to come with the actual instant pot, and then you put a steamer basket in there and within the steamer basket you put the chicken and all the other vegetables. You press “Go” and you walk away; and you come back and you have this perfect, amazing meal that all you have to do is just add to a bowl. You can do that with so many different items. You can have rice on the bottom and then you can have the steamer basket in there for your vegetables or for your protein. It’s one-pot cooking in a totally different way than what we’ve been used to in the last 10 to 15 years in the cooking industry. It’s exciting and it makes cooking more accessible to people who don’t really have the time to cook. I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about the instant pot. You know me – I love to talk about cooking, which is why I’m on the show. I go out and I’m talking to people about the instant pot. In fact, I had my car serviced yesterday and I was at the dealership, and the guy says, “Wow, I see here that you’re an author. What do you write?” I said I write cookbooks. “Oh, my girlfriend and I, we don’t have time to cook.” I’m like, “But you have an instant pot.” And there I am, selling the instant pot for the instant pot company.
Allan (4:30): They need to get you on retainer with a commission or something.
Audrey Johns (4:34): Yeah, that would be nice. But what I’m really excited about is encouraging people to stop going through the drive-thru; you can actually make a meal in the same amount of time that you go through the drive-thru. And while it’s cooking, you can kick off your shoes and turn on the news or some fun program, and help your kids with homework, and just relax. It’s so easy and it makes it so accessible. If you can learn how to use just three buttons, you’re set. That’s all you need to know to cook. That’s really exciting, and I feel like it makes it more accessible to the masses.
Allan (5:10): I’d seen it sitting on our kitchen counter. I just had never thought to use it. I have no problem cooking and I’m very good with the slow cooker, but it looked a little complicated to me when I first looked at it. Can you explain what an instant pot is and why it’s so versatile, why it’s such a good tool to have in your kitchen?
Audrey Johns (5:32): Absolutely. What I love about the instant pot is that you have all of these different options and there are tons of different buttons. And each instant pot they come out with is new and improved, there are more buttons. I love that, because it gives me more options, but I feel like it makes it more daunting for somebody who first opens it. And you go on these blogs and forums and there’s an instant pot community on Facebook that I’m a member of. And people are going on and they’re saying, “I got an instant pot last year for Christmas, 12 months ago, and I haven’t even opened it yet. I’m too scared to use it”. And it is daunting because there are so many buttons. However, there are only really three important buttons and if you can use just three buttons, then you’re set. What I try to do with Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot – my new cookbook – I try to only use those three buttons so it’s really easy. No matter which model you have, you don’t have to worry about finding the yogurt button or the egg button or any of that. All you really need to notice on your machine is the “Sautee” button, the “Pressure Cook” button, or “Cook” on some of them it says, and the “Cancel” button. That makes it more accessible for people who maybe don’t purchase the actual instapot brands, they buy an off–brand. Just find those three buttons and do the water test. When you get your manual, it asks you to do a water test, and basically, you can’t ruin water. You certainly can’t burn water in an instant pot; you can boil it. You do that one test and it kind of takes the fear out of it and it also makes sure everything is working correctly. Now that I’ve given you all of this information, maybe your head is spinning even more. To simplify it, to give you the most simple definition of what an instant pot is – it is an electronic pressure cooker. That’s it.
Allan (7:25): So basically putting the contents under pressure and then raising the temperature, and that allows it to cook faster while still retaining the moistness and not drying them out.
Audrey Johns (7:37): Absolutely. It’s kind of the polar opposite of the slow cooker. In slow cookers you cook it slow and low for as many hours as you like. With the pressure cooker, it’s a quick meal. Even on some of the recipes, like on an egg recipe, pretty much as soon as your instant pot has pressurized, you’re done. You just turn it off and you’re done. So it’s very fast, very easy. I’m a cookbook author and I love food. I cook all day, every day, and I am the first one to admit that pressure cookers are a little daunting for me. You hear these horror stories of them exploding. But with the instant pot, all of that fear, all of those issues are completely taken off the table because if something goes wrong, it shuts itself down. So I feel comfortable turning my instapot on and walking out the door and going and picking my kid up from school, and coming home and food is ready. You can’t do that with most other kitchen appliances, except for the slow cooker. It’s foolproof. And that’s what I really love about this new amazing… I mean it’s not that new, but it’s hot and exciting, and it’s very popular now. This is a great kitchen appliance.
Allan (8:51): Okay. So, we go out and we buy a pressure cooker or have Amazon deliver it to us, because Amazon, I’m sure, sells these things. It gets delivered to our house or we go buy it at a local store. We’re getting it out of the box and it’s going to walk us through doing a water test. That way we’ll know everything’s working the way it’s supposed to, and now we’re ready to start doing things. But besides buying your cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, what are some tips and tricks that we would want to know just to get started?
Audrey Johns (9:26): What I like to recommend is, pick something that you know you’re really going to love to eat. A lot of times people say, “What is the first thing I should make in my instapot?” Make something that you know your family is going to love. If you guys love mac and cheese, make mac and cheese. There’s a mac and cheese recipe here in my book. Don’t pick something completely over the top that you would never have made, for instance, the cassoulet. Make something simple and easy so it takes the fear factor out of it. Honestly, how hard is it to mess up mac and cheese? So, choose something easy and something you know the family will like. And what I always love to tell people is, in the kitchen, this is the only place in your life where you can completely mess up and you can call and order pizza, and that will fix your problem. So, get in there, get dirty and try it out. Worst case scenario, you’re pulling something out of the freezer or you’re calling for pizza. It’s one of those areas that you can really be bold and try something new. You can’t mess too many things up in the kitchen, especially with electronic pressure cooker. I mean you can’t even light a fire in the house, so it really takes any of the fear out of cooking. Also I know I had mentioned earlier on the podcast, a lot of people are really scared to take the instapot even out of the box. It’s so daunting. So I really recommend, don’t get overwhelmed by all of the different buttons on there. You can get to them later. Right now all you have to find is the “Sautee” button, the “Pressure Cook” button and the “Cancel” button, and that’s it.
Allan (10:56): Okay. Now, with the pressure, it’s going to have to let some of this pressure come off. Sometimes you can let it depressurize on its own, and on some recipes you need to go ahead and release that pressure. You encourage folks to use a wooden spoon to release that pressure because the steam coming out can burn you.
Audrey Johns (11:18): Absolutely. It’s extremely hot. I’m an Italian woman, so I have a collection of probably 200 wooden spoons. It is my preferred kitchen tool, if I may. I recommend using a wooden spoon. It’s not going to melt on you, it’s not going to get hot, like if you use a metal spoon. You go from the side, not from above, and you just knock the little dongle to the side and the pressure will come out. Now, if that scares you, another tip – don’t start your very first experience with an electronic pressure cooker on something that you actually have to release the pressure. It’s easy. I will admit the first time I did it, I was a little bit worried, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. It does make quite a lot of noise. But if that kind of thing freaks you out, don’t make an egg dish first off; don’t make something that you have to release the pressure, otherwise it will overcook. Make something easy. Make the sloppy joes in my cookbook. Make something that you can walk away from and two hours later when the pressure has naturally let itself release and it’s been heated up and it’s just been sitting and waiting for you, it’s not scary to open it up. I really recommend baby steps when it comes to using an instant pot, and then you won’t be scared of it and you’ll be excited and you’ll want to keep trying new things and you’ll get bold, and it kind of takes the fear out of it.
Allan (12:47): I guess most instant pots are going to have a “Keep Warm” feature. It keeps it warm for you. So if you said, “When I first get home from work I’m going to sit down and put all this stuff in there”, and then you go get into your comfy clothes for the evening, maybe take a shower or you go for a run or something, and then you come back in and it might’ve been in there for two or three hours before you get ready to eat, but it’s going to be ready.
Audrey Johns (13:15): Absolutely. The skinny sloppy joes in my cookbook come to mind when you bring that up. Last year I was the Girl Scout troop leader for my daughter’s troop, and I was testing the recipes for the book. I just had too much on my plate, to be honest. It was a lot going on, like, why did I decide to become a Girl Scout troop leader while I was recipe-testing? I don’t know, but I did. And so I made the sloppy joes and I left. That was the first time ever leaving the instant pot on and walking out the door, and it hadn’t even stopped cooking. It wasn’t that it was depressurizing on its own. It was still going. I walked out the door and two hours later, after we had done our meeting and all the kids had gone home and we had finally gotten home, they were the best sloppy joes I have ever made. They were warm and they were hot and they were ready for dinner. I barely had the energy to take my shoes off – 12 little girls and me, and I was already frazzled from cooking all day. It was perfect. This is perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time or who have a lot on their plates. My daughter will come home from school and I’ll start helping her with her homework and I’ll forget to cook dinner. And that’s me – a cookbook author – I will forget to cook dinner from time to time. And then I’m rushing to try and throw something together, but with the instapot I can already have it ready and I can just let it sit, or I can quickly whip something up. It’s amazing. I’m in love with my instapot. I am Audrey and I love an instapot.
Allan (14:51): You had me when you did a 30-minute marinara sauce, because when I make a marinera sauce, it’s a six-hour ordeal, easily. I’ll start in the morning and my wife’s like, “What are you doing on the stove cooking?” I say, “I’m making some marinara for dinner tonight.” She’s like, “Oh, okay.” It’s six to eight hours that I’m going to have to cook that marinara down, but in an instapot you can do it in 30 minutes. That’s pretty amazing.
Audrey Johns (15:20): I honestly felt like I was going to be struck down by lightning. I was worried about it. I’m like, “I am an Italian woman. My ancestors are going to be furious with me. This is not okay. You can’t cook marinara sauce in 30 minutes.” It was amazing, Allan. It was so delicious. I’m like, “Are you serious?” But it’s because it’s under pressure. It’s essentially giving you six hours’ worth of cooking time in 30 minutes. I still do prefer the long and slow method because that’s how my mom and my grandmother made it, but when I’m in a rush and I need a quick marinara sauce, that’s my go-to. It is so easy.
Allan (15:58): That’s a really quick meal when you think about a good healthy meal. You start the marinara sauce. You get some zucchini and make some zoodles and you’ve got a plant-based dinner ready for yourself in less than 30 minutes. That’s pretty cool.
Audrey Johns (16:15): Absolutely. And it’s delicious and it’s packed full of antioxidants. It feels like you’re splurging. There’s something about Italian food that even when you make it healthy, it just feels like you’re splurging. Or is that just me, Allan, because I’m Italian?
Allan (16:28): No, I enjoy Italian food, and that’s one of the problems. I don’t want to go out and eat it anymore, because I know what goes in it sometimes. You look at a label when you go to buy a pasta sauce and one of the first ingredients is going to be sugar or a high fructose corn syrup. And then you get to the bottom of the list and there’s 18 extra ingredients that I would never put in mine, but they have to put it in theirs to keep it on a shelf. So, you’re making good, high quality food. A good trip to the farmer’s market on a Saturday, and Saturday night you could be eating some of the best marinara sauce on whatever, whether you want to do pasta or zoodles. Boom! There you go.
Audrey Johns (17:14): Absolutely. And since you mentioned going to the farmer’s market and then going home and cooking – I did an entire chapter called Shred It Your Way. I want to find a way to be able to do an entire cookbook on this, but basically I did a recipe for shredded chicken, for pulled pork and for shredded beef. And then I had coinciding recipes that actually went with every single protein that I had put in the book, but specific recipes to go with the chicken, to go with the pork, to go with the beef. So you only had to cook one night a week. Or say, for instance, for the beef ragu rigatoni, all you had to do was basically boil water and you were done. I think that when you use the instapot and you cook in larger quantities, you could cook an entire week’s worth of food in two hours on a Sunday afternoon and then you’re set for the rest of the week. I’ve heard from a lot of people who love to meal prep that the instapot is their go-to, because it cuts down the time and you can do such huge quantities, especially if you have one of the larger instapots, like an eight or a six quart.
Allan (18:25): I harp on my clients about batch cooking all the time. One of the main reasons people will say they can’t eat healthy is that they just don’t have time to cook. Now, batch cooking with an instant pot is almost a no-brainer. If I want to do some batch cooking for the week, I’ll do three or four meals on a Sunday, put them in containers, put most of them in the freezer and then just pull those out the day before. I put them in the fridge and they’re good to go; I just warm them up. So yes, very, very good. Now, one of the things I do like about your cookbooks in particular is you take some time to throw in some really cool tips and things like that that might not have anything really to do with the topic so much. But you do include some tips about when we’re going to go out. This episode is going to air in January, but we’re always ending up at a party or at someone’s house and we’re having to make food choices that seem somewhat out of our control. Can you share some tips for when we’re going to go to an event or to a party on how we can structure our plate and stay healthy?
Audrey Johns (19:37): Absolutely. Like you said, I always add these fun things to my book, and this book happened to have a holiday chapter. So this is in the holiday chapter, but all of you listening in January, this goes for all events. It goes great for company events and going to a party. It’s simple. First of all, if you know you’re going to go to a place that’s going to be full of junk food, eat beforehand. I think that’s a go-to that’s really, really easy. But say for instance you didn’t know, and you get there and you’re completely overwhelmed, there’s tons of food, you don’t know what’s in it, you don’t know what’s healthy and what’s not – I really recommend starting out with the vegetables. All three of my books have always talked about your plate equation, and I always recommend following the 50 /25 / 25 – 50% vegetables, 25% protein and 25% carbohydrates. That gives you the opportunity to have something yummy, have a roll or a potato or something. You’re at a party. You want to make sure that you are splurging a little bit, but not too much. So I recommend starting out with the vegetables because if you start out with the protein or the carbohydrates, you’re going to end up filling up your plate really fast. Best case scenario – get a salad, because you know what’s in it; you can actually see what’s in it. If you end up getting some heavily cooked dish, you don’t know if there’s an entire can of cream of mushroom soup and two pounds of cheddar in it. Just because it happens to be a green item might not necessarily make it healthy. So I recommend going for your vegetables, ideally going for anything raw. Go for the veggie tray, the salad, those kinds of things. And then move onto the protein.
Now, because this is a holiday chapter and I’m modifying it for your listeners, I talk about how much I adore turkey. Any kind of white meat, chicken, turkey – anything like that is a great option. You’ve got that big old salad; you can chop it up and put it on top of the salad, you can put it on the side. Go for the protein next because you definitely want to feel full. I don’t know if I’m the only one who looks at food like this, but it’s like that’s the best deal there. You go out to dinner, and the steak and the chicken is the same price – I’m getting the steak; I’m getting the best deal. When I look at a holiday gathering, I don’t want to be cheap and only have the $0.25 salad. I want to have a piece of that chicken or I want to have some yummy steak. So, have a little bit of protein, and then finally go for the carbohydrates. And let’s go for something that’s more nutritious, if you can. I know a lot of people look at potatoes and they think starch, fat. But if you’re thinking about nutritional value, potato versus a roll – you’re going to get so many more nutritious elements from the potato. So have a baked potato. I make in my book the scallop potatoes; they’re absolutely amazing. They’re really healthy and low calorie. But fill up on the vegetables, then protein, then carbohydrates.
Another really great tip – if it happens to be a potluck, bring something healthy, bring something you know you can eat and you know that if you get there and everything is absolute junk and it’s going make you feel sick and reverse your weight loss work, then you know you can fill up on that. Then finally, what I always recommend is, you’re at a party – have the dessert, have a drink. Just have it in very, very small quantities. For dessert, I always recommend splitting it with somebody. So if you go to a party and there’s a great piece of pie or a cookie or a slice of chocolate cake – my favorite – split it with somebody or take half of it home or ask for a very small slice. When it comes to drinks, when you arrive at the party, don’t go straight for the champagne or a glass of wine. Wait until you’re actually sitting down with your meal. So, start with water, end with water and only have that one cocktail or that one glass of wine while you’re eating, and you’ll be less likely to splurge the entire time.
Allan (23:43): Yes, absolutely. You also got into another topic that I think is really important, because I get this question all the time: “Allan, what kind of exercise can I do to lose weight?” Every time I hear it, I let out a little internal sigh because they’re not going to like my answer. But just so they’re hearing it from someone else, can you answer that question for us?
Audrey Johns (24:09): I hope that I’m going to answer it the same way as you do. I am a firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen and not in the gym. Sure, you can burn some calories at the gym, but most likely you will end up thinking, “I just burned 300 calories on the elliptical machine and now I can go have a slice of chocolate cake.” I think that exercise is so, so important for our bodies. I am literally still sitting here in my Pilates clothes because I am a Pilates fanatic. It makes me feel strong, I carry myself better. I do look thinner, because I have better posture because of Pilates and exercise and because I’m stronger. But I am a very firm believer that weight loss is found in the kitchen. It’s all about what you put in your mouth. So, go for the exercise, but don’t expect it to do all the work for you. You actually have to start working on how you eat.
Allan (25:01): I am complete agreement with you there.
Audrey Johns (25:05) I’m so glad!
Allan (25:06): It surprises them, because I’m a fitness guy and they’re like, “You can teach us exercises and we can do these different things.” And I’m like, “Yes, but that’s for fitness. That’s to make you a better grandfather or grandmother, or make you better at tennis, or able to finish that 5K that you want to do in a couple of months.” That’s what exercise or training should be about, is helping you do those things. And then yes, if weight loss or fat loss is what you’re really wanting, that’s going to come from what and how much you eat. So, I completely agree with you that we’ve got to get our kitchens going if we want to get our waistline down.
Audrey Johns (25:45) I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, Allan. Why is that so hard for people to, not grasp, but to change? I do enjoy Pilates, but I was dragging getting there today, and I don’t always want to go. For me, I’d rather cook a nice healthy meal. I was trained to understand that and I think it’s daunting for people to think they have to give up something they love. They would rather add something. I don’t know that that is necessarily the easiest thing to do, adding something, especially something that strenuous. But I think if your listeners do think it would be easier to add an exercise versus change how they eat, maybe we change the way we look at it and instead of taking away things you can’t have, adding in things to your diet that you should be having. It’s kind of in that same mentality, that you’re adding exercise. Instead of adding exercise, why not add a plant-based meal, one meal a day? One entire meal that’s completely all natural, and then go from there. And then keep increasing the amount of vegetables and healthy proteins that you’re eating,
Allan (27:03): I think what it comes down to is, we were handed this really simple equation called “calories in, calories out”. So everybody thinks, “I can increase the calories out by doing this work and I still get to eat what I want to eat.” They may make some changes to what they eat, but in a general sense they don’t, because they want to eat their cake, they want to eat their bread, they want to have their M&M’s, because they get a dopamine fix on that. A lot of us get into exercise and realize it feels really good to exercise. Once you get into it, the endorphins and things are happening for you there, so it’s a feel-good. It’s kind of hard to tell someone, “I want you to somewhat deprive yourself”, if that’s the right way to say it, “of not having things while you go on this diet. To me it’s always the higher the quality of the food you’re putting in your mouth, the less of it you’re actually going to end up eating, because you’re getting all the nutrition your body needs. You’re not going to have these urges to go and eat a whole bunch of bad foods, because your body has what it needs. It’s not going to be telling you, “We’re not getting everything. Go eat everything.” That’s just not going to happen for you, and that’s why I think it’s really valuable for these cookbooks that are coming out that are using whole food ingredients, because this is simple. Once you get past that learning curve and get into it, it’s quick, it’s easy. As I was reading through the recipes, I thought just about anybody can do this. They’ll need some different pieces, the accessories in some cases, but once they have that kit and they get comfortable with this, it’s almost like an automatic. There are five or six ingredients in a dish, or in some cases just three or four. You put them in there in the way that they’re structured, just set the timer, and 15 minutes, 30 minutes later your meal is complete. It’s so easy that I think things like this are going to make it easier and better for people to get into the kitchen and do what’s right for their body.
Audrey Johns (29:17): Absolutely. I’m in complete agreement with you. The instapot will open up healthy cooking to the masses just because it’s so simple. And you can find them everywhere now. They sell them at my grocery store. I’m seeing them absolutely everywhere. So, I’m sure the majority of your listeners who’ve never heard of an instant pot, it’s going to be like once you see an orange car and then all you ever see is orange cars. You’re like, “Wow, I did not realize there were so many orange cars on the road.” Now you’re going to start seeing instapots everywhere. So, everybody can say “Thank you” to Allan and Audrey for this.
Allan (29:54): I think it’s a great tool. When I get settled down in Panama, we’ll probably be looking for one. I’m like you – not the Italian piece, but I actually like sitting in the kitchen and cooking. I’ll do other things while I’m cooking because it’s not always “you have to be on it” kind of thing. I pick dishes that are easier for me, but I love getting out on the grill, grilling some meat, protein, and then getting something going in the kitchen and moving around and using my kitchen, because it’s how I can get good food in my body. I’m not going to necessarily get that if I try to eat out all the time.
Audrey Johns (30:33): Absolutely. Since you brought that up, the instapot is such a great tool to have when you are barbecuing, because you can cook a side dish. For instance, I’ve got the scallop potatoes in here, or the bruschetta, or these amazing spicy brussels sprouts with bacon. You can have that cooking and you can go outside. You don’t have to worry about lighting a fire in your kitchen. It’s great for that. Even when you are in your kitchen… It’s cold here right now and I’m not going to be barbecuing in 20-degree weather, but I can be working hard over the stove top and know that my rice dish or my potato dish or my brussels sprouts are not going to burn and I can just concentrate on the one item, the one main dish and let the instant pot do the side dish. So you don’t have to use it for the entire meal. You can use it for a side dish. You can use it for an entire meal. I have a whole breakfast chapter. I even made low calorie brownies in the instant pot. That seemed very wrong, if I’m being completely honest. I complained about it to everyone I knew, because I love to bake, Allan. So I complained. I was like a child. I was pouting. I was not okay with having to bake in the instant pot. I’m like, “That’s a recipe for the book I’m not looking forward to.” I made it. I will never make brownies in the oven ever again. They were the most moist and delicious brownies. And that’s not easy to do when you are eliminating a lot of the fat in the dish. And so, you can really make just about anything in the instant pot. And my cookbook, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot, it’ll give you tons of ideas. I actually make ginger ale in there as well. Low calorie ginger ale – I think it’s something like 17 calories per glass. You’re basically burning that off as you’re drinking it, it’s so low calorie. I really recommend anybody who has the means to purchase an instant pot or borrow one from somebody, just to make sure you love it first. And check out my book, Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. It’s easy, it’s delicious. They’re going to be all natural. And I tried to make something for everybody in here, so I think everybody will really, really love it.
Allan (32:40): There’s a lot of variety in there for sure. Audrey, one last question. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Audrey Johns (32:53): I have to say eating all natural by far. You’re going to feel better, you’re going to be fit, you’re going to feel happy, just because you will always be satiated and you’ll look your best as well. Your skin just glows and you always end up looking younger when you eat healthier. Same with water. I recommend to drink as much water as you can every single day. I drink on average about a gallon of water a day. I know that sounds like a lot. The closer you can get to that, the better. You’ll be full, your metabolism will be roaring. Your body is mostly water; you’ve got to give back to your body. And finally, no negative self-talk. I know I’m speaking to a man here and I’m sure that you men do have quite a lot of negative self-talk, but for women…
Allan (33:39): Maybe not as much as women, but yes, we do it too.
Audrey Johns (33:43): As women, and as men, we hold ourselves to this really high standard of how we look and we talk negatively about ourselves. Being healthy and taking good care of your body is hard enough. You don’t need to be putting yourself down. With that said, I was recently on the cover of a magazine. I didn’t recognize myself. I was so heavily altered on the magazine. So don’t believe what you see out there. Don’t hold yourself to really high standards of heavily Photoshopped pictures. Just be proud of yourself. Be proud of yourself that you’re trying, be proud of yourself that you’re strong. Try to find things that you love about not just your body. It is great to have a good self-image of your body, but about your mind – how kind are you, what a great parent or grandparent you are, how much you care about the people around you – so much more important than what you look like. I think that’s so important when it comes to being happy and healthy, is that you only use positive self-talk on yourself.
Allan (34:47): Excellent. Thank you for sharing those. The book is Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Audrey, if someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Audrey Johns (35:00): My Facebook page is a great place to start. It’s Lose Weight By Eating With Audrey Johns. You can also check my blog out at LoseWeightByEating.com, and that will also showcase my other two books, Lose Weight by Eating and Lose Weight by Eating: Detox Week. Those will be non-instant pot cookbooks. Also check out Amazon. The reviews are absolutely amazing for Lose Weight with Your Instant Pot. Visit Barnes & Noble and flip through the pages if you like. If you’re in the Boise area, I regularly go and sign all of the copies, so you may see me there with my sharpie marker. There are lots of places to check me out. Also, HarperCollins.com as well.
Allan (35:40): Okay. This is episode 366, so you can go 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/366 and I’ll be sure to have all the links there in the show notes. Audrey, thank you again so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Audrey Johns (35:56): Thank you, Allan. I always love coming on the show and I can’t wait to come back at the next book.
Allan (36:02): Outstanding. Yes.
So, do go check that out – having an instapot as a quick and efficient way for you to eat good, healthy food. And Audrey Johns makes it really, really easy with some great recipes in a beautiful book. You should check it out.
There’s still time – one week, approximately – for you to get your signed copy of The Wellness Roadmap. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound edition, or go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you’d prefer the paperback edition. I’m only going to be able to do this for about another week, because I am headed down to Panama in February and I won’t be able to ship books from there. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. Thank you.
Also, there’s time right now for you to go out there and get your lab results from YourLabwork. I’ve gotten a partnership agreement with them that allows you to get your discounted lab work – whatever labs you want to get done – and it allows you to track your progress. I had a full lab workup done before the end of the year, which I’m going to use to compare the things that I’m doing for my health and wellness and see what that’s going to do with what the results are. I’m not going to be looking at the scale because the scale doesn’t tell me the right numbers, but my lab work does.
So, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab. They offer really affordable tests. You can have the tests done that you want. A lot of times doctors try to talk you out of getting tests. They want to get the tests that they know and they can look up and answer to. Here you’re able to get the whole picture. Like I said, I got the full workup, but you can pick and choose the lab work that you want to measure yourself on. So be it your hormones, your cholesterol – anything that you’re interested in knowing about as far as your wellness, you can get those numbers. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Lab to get your lab results today. Thank you.
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.
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Often when we’re trying to lose weight, we end up getting into a stall or a plateau. Our guest today in his book, The Setpoint Diet, is going to tell you why that happens and what you can do to break the cycle. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Calorie Myth and I’m pretty certain The Setpoint Diet is also going to make that bestseller list. With no further ado, here’s Jonathan Bailor.
Allan (1:14): Jonathan, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Jonathan Bailor (1:17): Thank you so much for having me.
Allan (1:18): When I was really getting deep into my self-education of what I needed to do for myself, I came across The Calorie Myth. It was an eye-opening book, to say the least, for someone who really had been brought up in the mantra of calories in / calories out, just eat less, exercise more. I’d get on the treadmill or I’d get on the elliptical and I worked my butt off, and then I’m starving all day. Then you eat more calories to get your calories back. I’m like, “I’m eating at a deficit and I’ve done this for a while and it’s not working.” I think a lot of people run into that fact of, they’re doing everything right, and their body just doesn’t want to get rid of the weight.
Jonathan Bailor (2:06): It can be extremely frustrating, Allan. It gets to the root of my whole team’s work, and really, we stand on the shoulders of giants, articulating research done by the top doctors at the Harvard Medical School, at Johns Hopkins, UCLA, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic over the past 60 years that’s been buried from the mainstream. And this definition of, you’re doing everything right – what we’ve found is, the definition of what is right is wrong. It’s analogous to when we look at obesity and diabetes as diseases, which they are, as classified by the American Medical Association, that if you were to go to a doctor with a broken arm and the doctor were to prescribe you cough syrup, and you took that cough syrup correctly. Chances are your arm wouldn’t get any better and you would feel very helpless. It’s a condition called “learned helplessness”, because you’re doing everything you’re told, but the treatment for the disease you’re suffering from or the medical condition you are suffering from is simply incorrect. And that’s what we found over the past now 15 years, that this prescription we’ve been written for both obesity, overweight, and diabetes is simply wrong. What we have been told is right is wrong, and that is evidenced by the catastrophic impact it’s had on our culture.
Allan (3:26): Yes. I do have to say this also – in your book, The Setpoint Diet, you really got deep into the science. Each point you had in there was supported, and I really, really liked that. It was so much support, you couldn’t put all the bibliography in the book. You have to link to another website if you really want to go down the rabbit hole. I did. I spent a lot of time in that rabbit hole, because it was really fascinating stuff. Our body has this setpoint, and I talk to my clients about it all the time as they plateau. They’re working hard, they’re doing some of the right things, or most of the right things, but their body’s going to somewhat hit this setpoint. You call it a setpoint; I call it the body’s happy weight. We might not be happy with it, but our body is. Can you talk a little bit in detail about the setpoint and why we have a setpoint?
Jonathan Bailor (4:17): Allan, the term “setpoint” – a lot of your listeners may say, “I’ve heard of that term before.” And there is a bit of an irony here. In 1983, there was a book published called The Setpoint Diet – literally the exact same title of my book. But you can’t copyright a title. And that was also the year I was born. So I don’t know if fate had the destiny in store for me. The concept of “setpoint” has been around for a while, but the thing that’s happened over the past 7 to 10 years, which has been so revolutionary is, it’s gone from the setpoint theory to, we’ve now proven this. When I say “we”, I mean the broader scientific community, not me personally. For instance, if you look at even Wikipedia and you look up diabetes – the medical condition diabetes is defined by the breakdown in the body’s ability… This is according to Wikipedia; I’m not saying that Wikipedia is like God’s truth, I’m just saying that even Wikipedia is acknowledging this. It says that diabetes is the breakdown of the body’s ability to homeostatically, a.k.a. automatically regulate blood sugar around a healthy range. You do things to raise your blood sugar, your body does things to lower it. You do things to lower your blood sugar, your body automatically does things to elevate it. There’s never been a question, ever, that there is a setpoint around your blood sugar. There’s also never been a question, ever, that there is a setpoint for blood pressure. The breakdown in that homeostatic regulation of blood pressure is called hypertension. The breakdown in the homeostatic regulation of blood sugar is called diabetes. And we’ve now proven, over the past 7 to 10 years, that the breakdown in the body weight setpoint, which is as irrefutable as the blood pressure and blood sugar setpoints, is known as the disease of obesity or overweight. And it’s no more debatable than that your body regulates body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar. Once you understand that, it changes everything about how we approach weight gain and weight loss.
Allan (6:43): Right, because if we don’t reset our setpoint, basically we are not going to be able to, in the long term, keep that weight off.
Jonathan Bailor (6:53): That’s exactly right, and it would be just as absurd. Once someone gets the following point, it’s a little bit like seeing life in color for the first time. It will change the way you see everything. So, if you went to your doctor and you had diabetes, and your doctor said, “Eat less”, you would say, “Wait, what?” Eating less does not fix the problem with your pancreas, the problem with insulin secretion. The underlying root of the breakdown of the blood sugar setpoint can’t be solved by starvation. If you went to your doctor suffering from hypertension – again, the breakdown in the blood pressure setpoint – and your doctor said, “Eat less, you lazy glutton”, we would say, “Hey, wait a minute. There’s something else happening.” It’s the same thing with body weight.
Allan (7:55): Right. Now, in the book you mention three hidden factors that are basically setting this setpoint. So if I want to fix my setpoint, these are the three areas I need to think about, right?
Jonathan Bailor (8:09): Exactly. The term, again, “setpoint” has been around for quite a bit of time, but what has changed recently is a concrete definition and identification of what makes it up, how it breaks down and how we can fix it. So, what determines your body weight or body fat setpoint is the interaction of three key elements of your biology and physiology – your brain, your gut, and your hormones; and very specifically, when there is inflammation in your brain, when there is dysregulation in your gut microbiota, and when you have hormonal imbalances. Your first brain and your second brain – your gut – communicate via hormonal signals to automatically regulate appetite, to automatically burn calories. It’s not that calories don’t exist, and it’s not that calories in / calories out is like unicorns. It’s that your body is brilliantly set up to automatically regulate calories in and calories out so that you maintain this body weight setpoint. But when that system – the brain, the gut and the hormones – breaks down, that setpoint creeps up and obesity ensues.
Allan (9:30): When people say “calories in / calories out” or they want to keep that paradigm, they just want to keep sticking to that simple rule, I say there are periods of time when our ancestors had no food, and there were times when the food was abundant. I’m guessing that our bodies probably weren’t designed to allow them to get obese over the summer and then whittle away over the winter. There are some metabolic changes that are happening during those periods of time that are allowing them to continue to survive.
Jonathan Bailor (10:01): That is correct. The thing that is essential to understand is that at the most basic level, the only thing that we need to prove from a scientific perspective to say that the setpoint is an irrefutable fact is if you feed people more calories than they need, does their body automatically burn more calories? The answer is “Yes”. If you feed people fewer calories than they need, does their body automatically burn fewer calories? The answer is “Yes”. And you can even look at it from a different perspective. You could say if someone exercises very heavily earlier in the day, does their body work to conserve calories later in the day? The answer is “Yes”. We’ve all experienced that – you have a really tough workout; how do you feel for the rest of the day? Tired. That’s your body automatically working to balance calories, and as a consequence, your weight, as calories are a component of that; not the be-all-end-all – they are a component, automatically.
Allan (11:02): I’d say tired and very hungry.
Jonathan Bailor (11:04): Exactly.
Allan (11:06): Now, I want to deep dive a little bit into each of those three factors, because I think there’s a lot of value in understanding how each of those affects our setpoint. Can we start with the brain inflammation and work through the three and talk about how that really impacts the setpoint?
Jonathan Bailor (11:24): Inflammation in your brain, or very specifically areas around your lateral and ventromedial hypothalamus… We’ll take a step back. There are a couple of parts of your brain. The one that is relevant for our conversation here is called your hypothalamus, and your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that has to do with allowing mission-critical functions that must take place 24/7, 365, without conscious control to happen. For instance, if you had to consciously think about regulating breaths in and breaths out, you could not function as a human being. We could not function as a species if our conscious brain, our neocortex, had to worry about beating our heart, or blinking our eyes, or shivering when we got cold, or prompting the sensation of needing to use the restroom when we consume excess liquids. There’s a part of your brain that is 100% dedicated to taking care of those life-sustaining, constant, mission-critical functions. That’s called your hypothalamus. When inflammation exists in the hypothalamus, those signals of, you need to use the restroom, or you need to breathe, or you need to slow down or speed up, can become compromised. And we know this irrefutable fact that there are certain substances completely independent of calories – take MSG for example, that have a detrimental impact on the hypothalamus, causing inflammation in the hypothalamus. And there are foods, such as certain Omega-3 fatty acids which reverse inflammation in the hypothalamus. So if we’re having a conversation about weight and we are not discussing inflammation in the brain and we are not discussing the hypothalamus, we are essentially having at best incomplete and at worst counterproductive discussion about weight.
Allan (13:27): Okay. Now, foods and things that are going to help us with this brain inflammation – you mentioned Omega-3, so I’m assuming fish, fish oil is going to help us; processed foods are going to hurt us.
Jonathan Bailor (13:42): Yes. When it comes to brain, gut and hormones, the good news is, as fate would have it, not dying is relatively simple. If it was extremely complicated, we probably would not have survived and thrived as a species as well as we have. So the way that we need to eat to optimize the health of our brain and our gut and our hormones is the same, which is important because I don’t want you to have to memorize, “I have to eat these foods for my brain, and then I need to set aside this part of my plate for my hormones, and this part of my plate for my gut.” We can cover what to eat all at once if you’d like.
Allan (14:23): We’re going to get into the SANE modeling in a bit, so we’ll get into that then. Cool. So let’s step into the microbiota.
Jonathan Bailor (14:35): One of the most shocking things when I talk with people about this casually is understanding that about 90% of the cells that exist in what you call “you”, are not yours. They’re cells of microorganisms that live in or on you. That which we define as a human being is actually trillions of little beings put together. We’re learning more and more about that, the mainstream is talking more and more about that. But when you look specifically at body weight, the research is so clear that there are certain types of bacteria which are much more prevalent in the gut of individuals who struggle with overweight than there are in individuals who are naturally thin. We can even go so far as to say there are certain types of microbiota that crave – these little creatures crave different foods. So while you think you might have a craving for sugary and starchy foods, it is literally true that you don’t, but rather these microorganisms that are living in your gut do. If you want to enlist billions of little bacterial helpers to help maintain a healthy weight and to literally crave the SANE foods that facilitate that, you can. And you’re not an army of one; you’re an army of trillions working towards this lower setpoint, the SANE lifestyle, and really feeling great and craving the foods that help you to feel that way.
Allan (16:23): Cool. And then the final piece is the hormones.
Jonathan Bailor (16:27): Hormones – talked about ad nauseum, but still not given enough attention. We can’t talk too much about hormones, because when you go to a gym and when you look on the television screens and when you look at the ads, it’s not going to say things like, “Do this exercise because of its hormonal impact.” It’s going to say, “Do this exercise because you burn this many calories.” At the end of the day your body does what hormones tell it to do. Period. This is so important to understand. Let’s use a simple example that most people are familiar with – anabolic steroids. Why do anabolic steroids work? Anabolic steroids work because they are essentially a hormonal messenger that tells your body to build muscle, therefore your body builds muscle. We know testosterone communicates X, and your body does X. Estrogen communicates Y, and your body does Y. We know that. So if we are talking about eating and exercise, if we’re talking about weight loss without talking about the hormonal impact of what we’re eating, or the hormonal impact of how we’re moving – again, we’re just missing… I’m going to try to think of an analogy on my feet here, but if you went to the eye doctor and the eye doctor was like, “Let’s talk about how your feet are doing”, you’re like, “Doc, I can’t see, and we’re not even talking about my eyes, we’re talking about my feet. What?” If you are not having a conversation about hormones while you are discussing your weight and your overall health, it’s a little bit like going to the eye doctor and have a conversation about your feet, because your body does what your hormones tell it to do. So if you don’t know and if you haven’t been empowered with the information you need to control that conversation and to get your body saying what you want it to say, a.k.a. “Burn fat and help me feel energetic”, but rather you have hormones getting triggered that are saying, “Store fat and make me feel tired” – it doesn’t matter how little you eat or how much you exercise. That conversation will probably only go worse and make the problem worse.
Allan (18:39): I was going through the hormones section of the book and going through each of them, there were some that came up that we don’t talk about much at all. We talk about insulin, we talk about leptin and ghrelin, we talk about testosterone, cortisol. But after that there are some of these other ones, like CCK, adiponectin and glucagon. There’s a lot of them. In my mind, as I’m getting into it, I know what most of these do fairly well and I know how to balance and manage a few of them, but I think the cool part of all of this was that your SANE method actually addresses all of them.
Jonathan Bailor (19:23): I appreciate you saying that, Allan, because that is the key thing here. The thing that I really don’t like is when people are made to believe that their bodies are fundamentally broken or stupid, and unless they micromanage these mission-critical biological functions, they are doomed to a state of obesity and disease. I think that is a diabolical way of looking at the human body, that unless we intervene and micromanage, our bodies are destined to be fat, diseased, diabetic, cancerous wastelands, which when you think about it is really what a lot of the fitness and diet industry says: Unless you know what every single hormone is doing at every single point in time, and what your calorie count is, and exactly how many steps you’ve taken, etcetera, things are going to go off the rails and you’re going to be in bad shape, which cannot be true. Why? Before we had any of the problems we have today, nobody did those things and everyone was healthier. So, by definition, it cannot be required to micromanage every aspect of your input and output in order to achieve effortless health, as evidenced by the fact that radically more people enjoyed effortless health in the past than the present. I’m not talking about hunter gatherers; I’m talking about in the ‘50s or in the ‘60s, when no one went to a gym, no one was focused on calories, and everyone was just healthier. What’s beautiful is, we can read The Setpoint Diet. I would appreciate if people read The Setpoint Diet, I think they will live radically better if they read The Setpoint Diet. But even if you remember no names of any hormones, if you simply remember to eat SANE foods in such high quantities that you’re too full for inSANE foods – all the brain stuff, all the hormone stuff, all the gut stuff will take care of itself and you will live radically better.
Allan (21:18): That’s one of the messages that came out of the book that I was really happy to see. Up until maybe about a year or two ago, diabetes was a progressive disease – you were going to die. You were going to lose feet, you were going to lose your kidneys, everything. And now we’re saying, no, if you make lifestyle changes, you can reverse your diabetes. The other thing was obesity – you’ve got some genetic problems. We can work out and we can cut some of the weight, but you’re always going to be big boned and overweight. And now we’re finding, no, if you make substantive lifestyle changes, we can reverse obesity. You talked about the SANE foods, and I definitely want to get into that. What are the SANE foods so we can stay away from the inSANE foods?
Jonathan Bailor (22:08): We came up with the… Well, that’s actually a bad way of describing it. It was more as if the universe presented this acronym, SANE, to me while I was doing this 15-year research journey. I stumbled upon it. I was doing all this research and it seemed like there are these things that are not commonly discussed and they’re not in any way, shape or form controversial in the scientific community. These are things like how much foods fill you up and how long they keep you full. Studies have been done for decades on, “Let’s feed people 1,200 calories of this type of diet and feed people 1,200 calories of this type of diet, and see which keeps people fuller longer.” That existed and that’s called satiety. And then the research around the different impact on hormones that foods have – this is sometimes discussed in popular literature as glycemic index or glycemic load, but it’s much broader than just insulin or just some of these sexy hormones that are discussed. So, the way I defined that is I just said “aggression”, because it looked like it was very clear in the research that there are some foods and some lifestyle decisions in general that caused these wild, aggressive swings in your hormones, and you can imagine that’s not great. And then the nutrient density – this is something that’s extremely important and is talked about a lot, but unfortunately is not talked about in the most optimum way, which is the ratio of essential nutrients – vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids – to things that are nonessential and / or toxic, like sugar. So, someone looks at the cereal aisle, they see Honey Nut Cheerios and it says it’s healthy because it’s enriched with vitamins and minerals. But if you put a vitamin pill in a can of Pepsi, I don’t think anyone would say that that can of Pepsi has now become healthy. So it’s essential that we look at the ratios.
Allan (23:58): Please don’t tell PepsiCo about that vitamin, because they will do it.
Jonathan Bailor (24:05): Yeah, they might do it. So, we’ve got to take a different look at nutrition. And then there are also different macronutrients that are processed differently by the body, more or less efficiently stored as fat. As the universe would have it, we have satiety, aggression, nutrition and efficiency, and that happens to spell out the acronym SANE. And what’s really cool is that all four of those factors can be objectively measured. You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. It’s not my opinion, it’s not any researcher’s opinion. There’s a scientific method to measure them. So we can look at any food and say, “How satisfying, aggressive, nutritious and efficient is it?” And then we can say, “These are SANE foods, these are inSANE foods.” To the extent that you choose to eat SANE foods, you will live extremely well, and to the extent that you choose to eat inSANE foods, you will not live as well. And we can empower people with that information.
Allan (24:54): Now, you laid out several of the SANE foods and several of the inSANE foods. I don’t want to go through an exhaustive list, but there was one that came up and your approach to it was very different than anyone else. You’re not a big fan of olive oil.
Jonathan Bailor (25:17): I can’t give away the farm on this show by definition, because it’s a long book, but I’ll give away some of the farm here, which is SANE foods fall into four categories: non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense protein, whole food fats, and low fructose fruits, in that order. And one of the biggest, coolest new things about the new book is we actually subdivide those into optimal groups. So these are the optimal non-starchy veggies, optimal nutrient-dense proteins. These are the things that are most therapeutic to lower your setpoint. The common characteristic amongst SANE foods and amongst all those food groups is the presence of three things: water, fiber and protein, which is beautiful; this all becomes very simple. Basically foods that are high in water, fiber and protein are saner than foods that are lower in water, fiber and protein. If you look at vegetables, non-starchy vegetables are very high in water, fiber, protein. That’s why if you put spinach in a blender, it blends and becomes a liquid, whereas if you put crackers in a blender and blend them, it becomes a powder. Crackers, don’t have liquid in them; spinach is primarily all liquid, it just doesn’t look that way. It’s also shockingly high in protein. We all know that vegetables have a lot of fiber. Anyway, if we look at fat, we have been told a lot about, first of all, fat doesn’t make you fat, which is 100% true. And then we’ve also heard a lot about olive oil, like slather your food in olive oil and it’s fantastic to use olive oil. Without question, olives contain more water, fiber and protein than olive oil. The point that I make in the book, and the point that I would encourage people to think about, and the point that people in the same community have found to be so transformational for them in breaking through plateaus and in living well is, if coconut oil is good for you, which it is, relative to other oils, if olive oil is good for you, which it is, relative to other oils, you know what’s even better for you? Coconut. You know what’s even better for you? Olives. We call these “whole food fats” because they have more nutrients. They have more water, they have more fiber, they have more protein. I am not anti-olive oil; I’m pro complete scientific information. So, if one were to say that olive oil is a healthy oil and olive oil is a SANE oil, I would 100% agree with that statement. Now if someone said, “I think you should get 600 calories per day from olive oil, because fat is good for you”, I would say if you got 600 calories per day from whole food fats, because fat is good for you, you would live radically better than if those 600 calories came from a low water, low fiber, and low protein fat source such as olive oil.
Allan (28:07): Absolutely. Now, you did a spin on the MyPlate, and you call it the SANE plate. You’ve already laid out the elements of what we should be looking for, as far as fiber, water and protein, but you’ve actually laid this out now on a plate, so we know how much of the non-starchy vegetables, how much of the protein and how much of the low fructose fruit we should have on the plate. Can you talk about what that percentage is and what that looks like?
Jonathan Bailor (28:41): Really important to think in terms of a plate, because I don’t know anybody, myself included, who goes to a restaurant or to a dinner table or to the grocery store and says, “Where can I find the fiber?” or, “What is the protein that we’re going to eat right now?” or, “I want some water on my plate.” It doesn’t make any sense, right? Those are scientific terms that don’t really help us at the dinner table. So when we sit down at the dinner table or at a restaurant, what should our plate look like? It’s extremely simple. Half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are vegetables that you could, but you don’t have to, eat raw. This is a really important distinction, because a lot of people have been told that things like corn and potatoes are vegetables. They’re not; they can’t be eaten raw. They’re starches. Non-starchy vegetables are plants which are generally quite colorful with a few exceptions, which could be eaten raw. Think any green leafy vegetable, think things like peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, zucchinis, broccoli, asparagus, so on and so forth. I want you to fill half your plate with those, and I don’t care how you prepare them because what’s most important is getting them into your body in a way that you enjoy and can keep up forever. So if you hate the taste of raw vegetables, please don’t try to force yourself to eat raw vegetables. Use olive oil in that context to sauté those vegetables and make them taste great, because getting the vegetables into your body is priority number one. Just please don’t deep fry them. That is the only form of preparation that I would advise against.
The next big portion of your plate – about a third of your plate – is going to be nutrient-dense proteins. It’s really important that we focus on nutrient–dense proteins because you hear a lot of things about meat – it’s good, bad, etcetera. It’s just people being imprecise with language, which is unfortunate because certainly things like spam, hot dogs and processed meat are not good for us, much like, for example, processed sugar, which is a plant, is not good for us. Processed anything is not good for us, whether it be meat or plants. So we want to eat nutrient-dense proteins. These are generally humanely raised animals and / or wild-caught seafood. Canned is fine, frozen is fine, and having a big chunk of that on our plate because of the therapeutic impact of those nutritious sources of protein. And then the remainder of your plate can be low fructose fruits, like berries or citrus fruits. These are going to provide you the most of what you need to thrive and the least of things you don’t, such as fructose or other forms of sugar. And / or whole food fats, such as nuts and seeds. But what we’ve seen a lot of people do to make this even simpler is make half your plate non-starchy vegetables, half your plate nutrient-dense protein, and then use whole food fats and low fructose fruits for dessert. That’s when this gets really fun, because no way of eating that is disgusting or unappetizing is a way of eating that I would recommend anyone engage in for life. Life is about being here, being present, being happy, enjoying oneself. So, what’s beautiful is things like coconut, coco, almond flour, berries, all these types of delicious, decadent foods – these can make up the backbone of cakes, cookies, pies, ice creams, puddings. Pretty much any baked or dessert food you can think of, we can SANE-itize using whole food fats and low fructose fruits. Then eating becomes so simple – just pack your plate with non-starchy vegetables and nutrient-dense protein, and then eat some SANE dessert, and you will drop your setpoint and live extremely well.
Allan (32:20): Hallelujah! Now, I want to shift gears a little bit. You got into a series where you were talking about mindset, and you got into goal setting. You made a clear delineation about the types of goals we should be setting for ourselves, and I thought that was just brilliant. Could you take a moment to start talking about goal setting and the types of goals we should actually be setting for ourselves?
Jonathan Bailor (32:49): We talk a lot about mindset in The Setpoint Diet and it’s extremely important because where your head goes, your body follows. How many of us have said, “I’m going to do this!” and get really excited? And motivation wanes and it doesn’t materialize over time. There is tremendous research that has taken place that can help us, just like we know more about nutrition. The realm of positive psychology is so powerful. Like a lot of what we’ve been told about nutrition is just wrong and counterproductive, a lot of what we’ve been told about goal setting is wrong or counterproductive. For example, the way that we are generally told to make goals is what’s called “results goals”, and we’re generally told to do big results goals. Let me give you an example. I want to lose 100 pounds. That’s a big goal, and it is a result – 100 pounds is a result. The reason that that is bad – in the scientific research we define “bad” as “ineffective”, meaning it’s not going to yield the outcome you want. First and foremost, you don’t have ultimate control over the speed or ability to lose 100 pounds. There are things outside of your control that influence that, so making a goal that you have limited or no control over is not helpful, because if you can’t control it, that’s not helpful. But the other thing that’s even more important for a lot of people that we’ve worked with, is when you set a goal like that, you will feel like a failure every second of every day, because you haven’t reached that goal. And you’re not even close to reaching that goal. So you’ve now set yourself up. Your brain is going to say, “Alright, I’ve got to lose 100 pounds. Have I lost 100 pounds yet? No, failure. How about now? No, failure.” You wake up tomorrow: “No, failure.”
A much more empowering and effective approach to goal setting instead of big results goals… Which are fun; they’re like mental junk food: “We’re going to go to a conference, and I’m going to lose 100 pounds. And I’m going to make a million dollars, and I’m going to get married and have five kids. I’m going to do that all in the next three weeks.” And for the next 12 hours I’m going to be super excited, just like I ate a bunch of sugar, but then I’m going to crash and be like, “How the hell am I actually going to do any of that?” So it’s like junk food for your brain. A much more SANE approach is to create small process goals. What is a process goal? A process goal is something that you do and something that you have complete control over – so a process goal of, “I am going to blend a SANE green smoothie” – you have control over that, and it’s a process. I am going to do that, and it’s small. I’m going to do that right now. And it’s not super sexy, but what we’ve seen in the research, which is quite clear, is if you start stacking up process goals, if you start taking tiny actions that you can control daily, consistently, there is very little in life that will be outside of your reach. We know that’s true. Small, consistent change over time is the only way anything has ever happened in any of our lives, barring winning the lottery. We just need to recognize and embrace that and treat the way we eat and exercise in the same way.
Allan (36:17): You’re going to be happy to know that I did set a SANE goal and yesterday when I went to the grocery store, I bought a lot of leafy greens and I actually made your blueberry blast smoothie yesterday. And my goal is to do that each day now.
Jonathan Bailor (36:34): That is absolutely fantastic. That’s an example of some process goals that I can write down, I can check off, and I can do. I’m going to go to the grocery store and buy these ingredients. Allan, that’s an important point, because we really want to break stuff down into, what is the next action? It’s one thing to be like, “I’m going to make a SANE smoothie.” Okay, what are you going to blend it with? “Crap. Don’t have a blender. Don’t have the ingredients.” You want to just back up and say, “Where do I start?” You start where you start. Try to describe to me if you tried to teach someone how to walk. No, explain with words how to walk. You take one foot and you pick it up, you put it in front of the other. At some point we need to reduce stuff down to the simplest state: “I am going to get in my car. I’m going to drive to Safeway. I’m going to go to aisle 3. I’m going to pick up a bag of spinach. I’m going to go to the checkout.” That seems silly, but it’s like a blueprint. It’s like code for your life. There’s a reason computers work. The reason that computers work when they work is because instructions have been laid out extremely clearly, every step of the way. We need to do that for ourselves in our lives.
Allan (37:56): When you’re doing coding, you’ve got to think, “What’s my next step? What’s my next step?” And this is very similar. I already had a very good blender. It’s not the Vitamix that you recommend. It’s called Ninja, but it’s still a very good blender. And then I knew I need to get some more leafy greens, I need to pick up the lemons. I didn’t actually use the erythritol. That’s what I did skip out on because I didn’t think I’d need it with the lemon in there. And then I made my smoothie with some blueberries. It was awesome.
Jonathan Bailor (38:27): And that’s a huge win. Again, it seems like a small thing, but imagine that that became a habit. That’s another thing we talk about in the book. So let’s say that, Allan, you make that a goal and you say, “I’m going to consciously take steps to buy these ingredients to make these smoothies every day.” And you do that for 21 days, or 30 days, or so on and so forth. What you’re going to find is that next month instead of it taking effort to make that smoothie, it will take effort to not make that smoothie, because it will become a habit. When it can be easier to perform SANE, healthy habits than it is to do unhealthy, inSANE things, that’s when the magic happens. And that absolutely can be the case. We know thousands of people within the same family who crave green smoothies. It’s happened to me and my wife. We go on vacation, we go on a cruise where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait till we can get home and drink our green smoothies.” We’re in the midst of all this decadent, all-you-can-eat food, and we’re in the habit of drinking SANE smoothies, so we’re like, “I love the cruise, but I hate that I can’t have my green smoothies.”
Allan (39:42): I’m thinking I picked up spinach and I walked past all the other stuff. I’m like, “I could have put some dandelions in here. There was so much more I could have put in here that would have been interesting.” So I’m looking at it as an experiment. I’m looking at it as, “This is going to be fun because I’m going to experiment with different fruits, different berries, different flavors, and just have some fun with it.”
Jonathan Bailor (40:04): It is a great canvas on which to experiment in that way, with what we would call “optimal” non-starchy vegetables. If I’m like, “Hey, eat more dandelion greens”, you’ll be like, “Uhhh…” But you can just take a handful of them, toss them in the blender with some other stuff. You can toss a handful of all sorts of things into the blender. We’re not a smoothie company, this isn’t called The Smoothie Diet. But we have found that drinking the appropriate type of SANE green smoothies can be one of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to SANE-itize your diet and lower your setpoint.
Allan (40:41): I think it was five ounces of spinach that I put in there. I went a little overboard. I made a whole lot, but I drank all of it. It would have taken me a lot of effort to eat that much in its whole food form.
Jonathan Bailor (41:00): 100%. I get probably 80% of the vegetables that I eat in smoothie form, simply because you could drink it at your desk, take it with you in the car, and that’s great. They’re raw. You don’t need to use a lot of olive oil in a green smoothie, for example. And then you can do all sorts of fun stuff. You can use avocado to help make it more creamy, so you get your whole food fats in there. It’s also a great place in which to try some nutrient-dense protein. You could have some whey protein or casein protein or pea protein or rice protein or hemp protein, some pasteurized egg whites. It’s a canvas on which you can really create something beautiful.
Allan (41:39): Yes. You get into another concept that you call “implementation intentions”. And I thought those would be extremely valuable to talk about.
Jonathan Bailor (41:48): Implementation intentions are the natural byproduct of the process goals, the small process goals we talked about earlier, where you really start to flesh out a plan. For example, rather than saying, “I have the small goal of drinking a green smoothie tomorrow”, an implementation intention will take it further and say “if, when, then”. So, “If it is the morning, when I am hungry, then I will make a SANE green smoothie.” So there are three components to it and it’s almost like making the decision ahead of time. This is really important. I don’t think we talk about this in the book, but you can be in what’s called a hot state or a cool state. Not to digress too much, but if you’ve ever found yourself in a context of passion with another human being, it’s one thing if you get cut off in traffic to say, “Calmly on my couch, I will behave this way.” But when someone cuts you off in traffic or jeopardizes the life of your family members in your car, you become emotionally aroused and your decision-making process changes a bit. Implementation intentions help you to act out and create an entire game plan for how you’re going to act in certain situations before those happen. So if I get home from work and I am stressed out, and I open the refrigerator, then I will grab the container of pre-washed sugar snap peas and I will binge on those. You literally have a plan for situations where you find yourself making inSANE choices. You have yourself set up, you have a game plan in place. You get that written down in a very simple formulaic way, and you are now empowered because you have made the decision and created the plan before you need to, so that when you need to, you’re ready.
Allan (44:00): It used to be at the office, they would bring these donuts called Spudnuts, and they’re literally made out of potato flour. So probably the most inSANE food on earth, because they’re coated in sugar and they’re potato flour. And when they bring them in the office, it’s like watching sharks be chomped. They’re all over the break room. So, I had this strategy, which was similar. It was this intention where I’d say, “If they brought Spudnuts, I’m going into my office and I’m going to eat a bag of nuts. I’m going to stay out of the break room until lunchtime.”
Jonathan Bailor (44:36): And the reason, Allan, that that is so powerful is, contrast that with the goal of, “I’m not going to Spudnuts.” That’s actually more of a result – the result of, “I’m not going to eat them”, but how am I going to not eat Spudnuts? These goals without “How’s” are meaningless, especially when you ask the question of, “I’m going to lose 100 pounds. How?” It quickly falls down. Implementation intentions force that “How” in an elegant way,
Allan (45:15): Absolutely. Now, you get into something else in the mindset part of the book that I just love, because I think it’s an underutilized aspect to wellness, and that is the concept of gratitude.
Jonathan Bailor (45:29): Gratitude is one of those things which research has shown without a shadow of a doubt that to not leverage gratitude is to your psychology like not eating vegetables is to your biology. There’s basically a dose-dependent relationship in the amount of gratitude that you proactively seek to express, and your mood. So gratitude journaling, consciously setting aside time to, once a day, tell people you love, “I appreciate how you emptied the dishwasher today, “I appreciate how you noticed my new socks.” It sounds simple, but so does “Eat your vegetables.” Sometimes the most profound changes in life come from the simplest practices in life, and gratitude is one of those.
Allan (46:16): I for the longest time struggled with stress. I was actually fortunate to get laid off, and now actually I’ve had a year of what I would call healing, so that I can make 2019 my complete “whoosh” of trying to get as distressed as possible. But one of my eye-opening moments was when I came to the realization that when you’re experiencing joy, you don’t feel stress. And to me gratitude is one of those self-inflicted joys. When you start actually thinking about how good things are, even the little things, it’s like you’ve taken in a bit of self-induced joy in that moment, and it’s a complete de-stressor.
Jonathan Bailor (47:05): That’s been my experience as well, Allan, and I will give the listeners to this an advanced technique that is actually not in the book, simply because we were so over the word count. It was supposed to be 80,000 words. We already went so over, we had to start cutting some stuff. But some people hear “gratitude” and they’re like, “Okay, what?” There’s a different way to approach gratitude that I’ve found to be helpful for some people, which is, while it may not feel great… Let’s say you have a cat that you really like, and you’re like, “I like my cat, I like my cat, I like my cat. This isn’t doing anything for me. Why did I listen to that podcast?” There’s a different approach. This sounds a little bit morbid, but it has a long track record historically; it’s just not talked about a lot. Imagine that something happened to your cat, as deeply as possible. Not for a long time, but just take 60 seconds and literally play through in your mind that something bad happened and you no longer had your cat. Then stop and hug your cat. You will instantly feel more grateful for your cat than you did before. So, there are two approaches. For some people based on their personality type, they’re like, “Hey, Snookums, I love you. I’m so grateful for you.” That works, and if that works, please do it. For other personality types that does not work, and all you need to do is close your eyes and imagine if Snookums wasn’t around, graphically. Then open your eyes and hug Snookums. In either case, you’re going to get that sense of joy that is so helpful with stress.
Allan (48:45): Absolutely. Now, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Jonathan Bailor (48:58): Drink SANE green smoothies every day. Sleep at least seven hours, and prioritize your life so that you can do that. Love and contribute as deeply as possible.
Allan (49:13): Those are wonderful. I adore those. Thank you for sharing that. Jonathan, if someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about The Setpoint Diet and the things you’re doing, where would you like for me to send them?
Jonathan Bailor (49:26): Please go to our website, which is SANESolution.com. That will give you all the information on the book, a bunch of free resources, wonderful miniseries coming out, tremendous coaching programs, all sorts of good stuff. SANESolution.com.
Allan (49:46): Awesome. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/363, and I’ll be sure to have all the links there. Jonathan, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast.
Jonathan Bailor (50:00): Thank you for having me, Allan.
I hope you enjoyed that interview as much as I enjoyed having that conversation. Some really good information for you to take into your January. I am very happy to say that I have finally, finally received copies of The Wellness Roadmap so that I can do some signed copies. If you would like a signed copy of the book, all you have to do is go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound if you want the hardbound version, or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback if you want the paperback edition. Again, that’s 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Hardbound or 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Paperback. I can only do this during the month of
Also, I wanted to let you know that I have partnered with a lab company called YourLabwork.com.
I did the full workup, so I have a complete particle count on my cholesterol, I have all the hormone checks, all that stuff done. I do that
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I entitled today’s show “Breaking a Weight Loss Plateau”, but the lessons that I’m going to teach you today can actually be used for any plateau that you’re on, whether it’s a plateau on strength, on mass-building, on losing weight, or even a plateau on improving your diet, because every one of those things ends up in a plateau. I use an acronym called POPP, and I’m going to discuss that and show you how each element of POPP will help you pop your plateau. Let’s first start out with why we end up in plateaus.
It’s one of those things where we’ll start a diet, we’ll change some things and almost immediately we’ll see some reward, some benefit from making that change. I know when I cycle back into ketosis, literally I could lose six pounds overnight. It happens time and time again. If I’m a little bloated, a little inflamed, haven’t been taking care of myself or eating as well as I need to, I start that low-carb, and the next day the weight just washes out of me. I know a lot of that’s water. I have the head to know what’s actual fat loss and what’s just water loss. So I’m not getting all crazy about it, but there is going to be a point, even when you’re doing ketosis, where you are going to plateau. I know a lot of people think, “I’m losing 15 pounds a month. I want to stay in ketosis, but if I keep losing 15 pounds a month, I’m going to dwindle down to nothing.” That’s never going to happen, because your body is really, really smart. It does this thing called “homeostasis”.
Homeostasis is basically balance. It’s a fancy word that scientists like to use and it just means they balance out. So, you’ve gotten your body used to eating a certain amount of food or a certain type of food. Your body has adapted. It’s been using body fat for a while, but then it says, “We’re in a long-term bit of famine here. We’re not getting as many calories as we’re burning. We’re getting some great fat and we’re feeling full. Things are good, the nutrition is great. I don’t need anymore, so I’m not going to be hungry just for the sake of being hungry.” And then your body says, “Let’s stop shedding this body fat, because we kind of like it. We’re going to stay here.”
That’s what I call your body’s “happy weight”. It’s not your happy weight necessarily, but your body is happy with it. So, how do we break this weight loss plateau, or any plateau? That’s where the acronym POPP comes in. So POPP stands for Patience, Other measures, Persistence, and Progression. And I’m going to take a few minutes here to unwrap what each of those means and how you can use each of these and all of these to help you break this plateau.
The first one is patience. You knew this was coming. I’ve taught you already that homeostasis is just something that’s going to happen. It’s going to be there. So, just know that the journey to wellness is ever going. It’s your entire life. You’re always going to be in this mode. The first thing I hope that you haven’t done is that you haven’t looked at this whole process as temporary, as, “I’m going to go on a diet, and then I’m done.” Really to take care of your health for the long term, to include weight loss, which is really a side effect of living a healthy lifestyle.
That’s exactly what you want to do – you want to make it a lifestyle. Is this a way that you can live your life going forward? So, with the patience aspect of this, start exploring the things that are serving you and what are the things that maybe aren’t serving you. This is truly a good lifestyle that you want to maintain. As long as you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle, then you use patience to say, “I know this is working. I know that I’m doing the right things for my body. If my body is at its happy weight at this point, maybe for the time being I need to be happy with that and accept that this is a long-term process. And over time I’ll probably see some progress, but I’m not going to see it at the rate I was perhaps expecting to.”
So, patience comes in regardless of how you look at plateaus, regardless of what you want to do about a plateau. You just have to recognize you’re going to have one now, you’ll probably have another one later, and another one after that, and another one after that. Before you get to your happy weight, your body’s going to find several of its own set points, its own happy weight, so just recognize this is a part of the game, a part of life. Make your eating choices, your workouts and everything you’re doing – make it lifestyle, make it sustainable for the long term, and you’ll see the benefits over time.
Now, that takes us to other measures. If I am looking at taking care of my health, then I’m going to see improvements elsewhere. So, maybe my skin looks a lot better, maybe your hair looks a lot healthier. Maybe some things that were happening to you before – you maybe had some eczema or irritable bowel problems, other things going on in your life that were making you uncomfortable and unhappy – and now because you’ve made a lifestyle change, you’re starting to feel a lot better there.
Maybe your waist size is going down. If you have a waist size over 40, that’s a strong, strong, strong indicator, direct correlation that you probably are at risk of cardiovascular disease. If you continue to see your waist get smaller, you’re onto the right track. A lot of women will tell me they get into this whole thing, they want to lose weight because they know if they lose 25 pounds, they’ll be able to fit in that dress that’s two sizes smaller.
But sometimes they’re not losing the weight. How are your clothes fitting? They’re fitting better. Okay, you’re getting smaller.
So, you can fit in that dress. Maybe the weight you thought you needed to be isn’t the weight you need to be, because now you’re shedding fat and maybe putting on a little bit of muscle, or maybe now you’re fully hydrated and before you were dehydrated. So, we’re not dehydrated; we’re in a healthy state. We’re seeing a lot of other markers, other health measures, other things going great for us. Turning your focus away from the weight and focusing on these other measures – my waist size getting smaller, my skin looking good, getting good night’s sleep, and maybe I’m not having problems going to the bathroom. All of those things matter. They add to the quality of our life.
Focusing a little bit more on these other health measures that are going your way will let you know that you’re on the right track. That goes back to patience. That’s going to feed your patience, because it’s going to say, “It’s working. I can’t get tied up on what that scale is saying to me right now. If my body’s at a happy weight, but other things are going good for me, I need to take that and accept that and understand this lifestyle is working. So I need to stick with it.”
The next one is persistence, and that’s the “stick with it” part. Sometimes it’s very easy to sit there and say, “This isn’t going to work. It stopped. I’ve lost it.” And many people do. They get frustrated and they regress. So, the persistence aspect of this is to keep going. It’s to not let yourself get deflated that things aren’t going exactly the way you want them to. It’s continuing to do your batch cooking on Sundays, it’s continuing to do your 30 minute walks each morning.
Maybe it’s continuing to keep your sugars as low as you possibly can and making sure that you’re drinking plenty of water. All of these healthy lifestyle changes that you’ve made that are now habits – you just need to be persistent and keep doing them, because they are working. If you’re looking at these other measures and you’re seeing improvement from where you were – that’s work. That’s good stuff. That’s what a healthy lifestyle will do for you, so keep persistently pursuing good health, wellness. Wellness is health, fitness and happiness. So, be looking for joy, be looking for the things that are going to help you. That’s the persistence of constantly taking this and going and moving and doing. Stay persistent in the battle, because it’s working.
And then the final P is progression. We talk about progression a lot when we’re looking at training, exercise, because we say, “I’m going to add an extra five pounds to my squat” or, “I’m going to add an extra 15 minutes to my walk” or, “I’m going to try to run a little bit faster, so my progression is to try to increase my speed.” All of these different progressions basically mean you’re adding a little bit more effort. Typically in training, like I said, it works out as volume. The way we explain it as trainers is your training volume increases, either because you’re working out longer, you’re adding more training sessions, or you’re adding more weight.
Whatever’s making that resistance harder, you’re doing more of that. So, progression is the adding more, and it needs to be done gradually. If you’re doing gradual progression on all the training things you’re doing, it’s time to maybe think about a progression for your food.
And here’s how that looks. It’s an approach I take when I go off of what I call my “seasonal feasting period”. And we’re just now about to roll out of that because we’re approaching Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and Christmas end up being my feasting period. I’m in my feasting period, so what’s going to happen is I’m going to get into the new year and I’m going to say, “Not a special birthday; I don’t have to worry about it. This year coming up in February.
So now it’s time for me to go in my famine mode.” I’ll start into my famine mode with a very set approach of really, really low-carb, but the foods I like. I make sure I’m now doing my batch cooking and the different things I need to do to make sure I stay on plan. And then I start to shed the body fat. I’ll get to a point where the amount of fat I’m eating and the total calories I’m eating, I plateau. Like you, I will plateau. Now, I am much more focused on trying to add muscle and I’m much more focused on trying to lose fat. I might actually see my weight go up. So my measurement is not weight loss, but it’s the same concept – I’m trying to change my body composition.
Then I need to progress. And what that means to me is, I need to reduce my calories. What I’ll typically do is I will look to my percentages. I’m already fairly low-carb, so typically less than 20 net grams when I start. I look at my protein, and if my protein is where I need it to be and my carbs are where they need to be, then I slowly start trying to reduce the amount of fat in my daily intake. So I may cut another 100 calories off of my daily intake from where I was. Maybe I started at 2,100 calories and I’m going, going, going. I know I’m exercising, I’m going eat back some of those calories. On a given day, I might be eating 3,000 calories. If I had a really tough cardiovascular workout and burned 700-800 calories, I’ll eat those calories back. And then I’ll end up with maybe, like I said, close to 3,000 calories that day.
What’ll happen is I’ll say, “I need to tomorrow get it down to 2,900, or 100 less than what I would normally eat, plus what I would use.” That progression is just 100 calories. You shouldn’t think that 100 calories means that much, but 100 calories over the course of a year, is 10 pounds. So, it is a big number. It just doesn’t feel that big that day, because I’m not looking to say I’m cutting another 500, which I would typically then expect to see about a pound per week. My body’s going to plateau again really, really quickly. My energy levels, I’m not going to be able to do what I’m doing. For me, I just shave 100 off, and that 100 typically is enough for me to start seeing things moving a little bit more, not fast, but I see it, I feel it. It’s happening. That little bit of progression in my nutrition is typically enough to get me there.
The one thing I don’t sacrifice on or skimp on is, I still make sure I’m getting high-quality whole food, and I always try to make sure that I’m getting all of my nutrients. If I feel like my calorie load is not where it needs to be and I’m not eating as many carbs – so maybe I’m not getting as many vegetables or fruits – I may start taking a multivitamin supplement. I’ll probably start, because again, it’s typically in the early winter, late winter time period when I’m going through this plateau.
Often I’m not getting enough sun, so I’ll probably take a vitamin D supplement. I’m definitely taking some fish oil supplements and I’m calculating that as a function of my fat intake. As I look at all this, you can see I’m still making sure that I’m covered nutritionally. I’m only reducing a little bit of my fat calories and I’m trying to tell my body, “If you want that fat you enjoy, you’ve got to get it from the body. You’ve got to get it from me, because I’m not going to give it to you through my mouth.” And my body typically responds to that.
And now you wrap the whole POPP together, and it works like this: I’m patient enough to know that I can do this. I’m patient enough to know that my lifestyle is right and I just need to be there. I just need to have the patience to work with my body to get it where I want it to be – my happy place, not necessarily its happy place. I need to look at other measures to make sure that I’m on track with my health, and not just trying to chase after a single goal.
There was a time when I was training for a Spartan and I really wanted to be ready for that Spartan. So I was going to get stronger and I was working on my endurance. I had a strength coach; his name was Dave. And I was meeting Dave and my strength was just off the charts, going up. My deadlift when I started with Dave, was I think at 410. I was pulling 450-460 after about three months and I was like, “I could get to 500.” Suddenly I got this really, really focused mind on that singular thing, and I just started pushing. What happened was, my strength in my squat went down, my strength in my overhead press went down, and my strength in my bench press went down. My deadlift was going up, but some of the others were plateauing or stopping, and I just didn’t see it. Afterwards I looked at my journal and I was seeing over the course of a month 5% increase in strength in the deadlift, but I wasn’t seeing 5% in the other lifts, which told me I wasn’t balanced, I wasn’t focusing on the whole me. And I needed to be.
Unfortunately, during that period of time, that’s when I tore my shoulder – rotator cuff tore – so, some of the other exercises, like bench press, went down. I just dropped that. No overhead pressing. And I thought I’m still doing the deadlift, but after a while I realized I’m not there, I’m not going to make that 500. And I don’t need to be doing that 500, because now I need to be thinking about this Spartan race, and having a 500 pound deadlift is really not going to help me. I have a problem with my shoulder, and I need to make sure that I can get through this race without hurting myself any more than I need to. So, I got back on track. It took me a little while.
But you can’t get singularly focused on weight loss either. You need to be looking at these other health markers and making sure that they fit your life. Then there’s persistence, which means we should just stick to it. If you have good “stick to it-ivness”, you’ve made this a sustainable lifestyle, you now have the broad perspective of, you’re doing healthy things for yourself. That’s totally cool. Then you can sit down and have a basis for saying, “What’s the progression? If I really want to push myself out of this plateau, what are the things that I need to do to get out of that plateau?” So, you put all four of these together – POPP – Patience, Other measures, Persistence, and Progression, and now you have a model. You have a structure to approach every one of your plateaus with a plan – the last P here. So, have a plan. And that plan has to include POPP – Patience, Other measures, Persistence, and Progression.
The Wellness Roadmap is available now for pre-order. I’m offering it as a Kindle edition at a very, very steep discount price. You’re not going to get this book for this price after the pre-launch and the first few days of the launch. Once the book is live, I’m going to put the prices back up where they belong. But I’m basically giving the book to you. So if you’ll go to the Amazon page, look it up – it’s The Wellness Roadmap book, or you can look it up under my name, Allan Misner. You’ll find the book there.
The Kindle book edition is going to be as low as Amazon will let me put it, so basically as close to free as I could get it. I want it in your hands, and as soon as it goes live, you’ll be able to download it to your Kindle Reader. But I do ask one thing – once you’ve read the book, please do go give me an honest rating and review. Amazon loves those things. Amazon feeds off those things. Amazon will not show my book to anyone not looking for it, unless it sees these ratings and reviews are coming in, that people are seeing substance in the book.
All I ask is when you get the book and you’ve read it and you feel good about it, please do go out and give me an honest rating and review. It’s going to help propel the book and get it where it needs to be, which is in the hands and on the e-readers of people around the country and around the world.
Please do go to Amazon, look for the book The Wellness Roadmap, or search under my name, Allan Misner, and you’ll find the book there. Buy it at the steep, steep, steep discount. Like I said, it’s close to free as Amazon would let me put it. And then boom, there you go. Thank you for that.
In her new book, Think Yourself Thin, JJ Smith gives us tips for weight loss success. She also shows us how to eat a balanced diet, and look and feel our best.
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Allan (1:21):JJ, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
JJ Smith (1:25): Hello! It’s so great to be here today.
Allan (1:27): I want to thank you first for putting this in audiobook, because that’s actually how I ended up reading your book. I was thinking I’ve got to read these books, and I want to read it, and I wanted to make sure I got it done in time. So it was like, “Great, it’s an audiobook.” So I did want to let people know that this book is one of the few books, because there’s not many that come out and immediately have an audiobook. I wanted to thank you for that. That’s how I actually read your book.
JJ Smith (1:52): You are most welcome. It was fun reading it. It actually took a couple of days, but it was a lot of fun.
Allan (1:58): It took me almost no time to listen to because I had it on double speed. I really appreciated that you read the book and it really felt personal, effectively having a conversation with you through the audiobook. The book is called Think Yourself Thin, and I love the title, because I think a big part of what is missing on the market is how hard the mental game is when you start talking about health and wellness.
JJ Smith (2:27): Yeah. Not just hard; it’s not talked about enough. I say the mental mastery, the ability to get your mind right is the most overlooked factor in dieting and weight loss. I believe it’s the missing piece as to why people can’t actually get to their goal weight.
Allan (2:46): I completely agree. In fact, I have a book that’s coming out in about a month and a half. I spend 90% of that book talking exactly about that – how do we get our mind right, how do we set strategies that keep us on track? You’ve already done a lot of that grunt work for me here, because a lot of what I was talking about is actually now in your book. I’m really glad to see something like this out there that helps someone walk through and set up a mental framework to be successful.
JJ Smith (3:14): That’s right. So you and I are like minded. We are definitely on the same page.
Allan (3:18): We are here for sure. You use the term “SUCCESS”. I love acronyms and I love that you were able to use that acronym specifically. In SUCCESS you have seven mental strategies for weight loss. Could you take the time to share each of those and dive a little bit into what each one means and how we can use it to be successful in weight loss?
JJ Smith (3:41): Sure. What we’ve learned is that people actually like systems or regimens or things that they can actually follow. And what we did was put together the SUCCESS systems, which are the seven mental strategies that will give people new habits, new behaviors, a new mindset around how to think about weight loss. So the first one, “S”, is “slay resistance”. This is about stopping procrastination once and for all, but really giving a name to that lethargic, apathetic feeling of just not wanting to do what we know we need to do or we should be doing. The second is “use visualization”. We have to change the conversation we have with ourselves, and what visualization exercise does is allow you to engage your body and your mind, and set your intentions and say them out loud, so that everything can move in the direction of what your intentions are. The next is “C”, which is “commit”. I always say there are a lot of people interested in losing weight, but there are very few people interested or committed to losing weight. When you’re committed to doing something you make the necessary sacrifices in order to get to the goal. And a lot of people are not willing to make the sacrifices, but that’s the difference between being interested and committed. Number four – “control emotions”. I would say, don’t eat your heart out. We have to tackle emotional eating head on – the boredom, depression, loneliness, heartbreak, all those things that are causing us to use food instead of us being able to process through our emotions and feelings. Number five – “establish success habits”. This is one of my favorites, because this is so applicable in all areas, not just on your health and weight loss journey, but anything you can do to not have to rely on self-control. You want to be able to put success habits, you want to be able to put things in your environment that keep you away from temptation or allow you to have some consistency over anything you’re trying to develop as a habit. Number six is “support from others”. Studies show that those who have a support system have a lot more success than that don’t. We teach you about accountability partners, doing buddy contracts and other creative ways to have a real support system, and it’s not always your family and friends. And number seven – “supercharge your spiritual life”. A lot of us believe in a higher power, believe in God, but we have to be able to tap into our belief and our faith, and engage our spirit in our weight loss efforts. And that chapter goes into that in great deal.
Allan (6:25): What I really like about those is, every one of those is a piece of getting your mind right. And to me, even though this wouldn’t make any sense from an acronym perspective, it really does start with the commitment. When you make that commitment, it really does set the foundation for you to build all of these other things on top of.
JJ Smith (6:49): I agree. You have to be able to commit and understand what commitment looks like. In that chapter we delve into different types or ways to stay committed, different ways to put together a plan to make sure that you are executing. You have to be able to demonstrate and show commitment. It’s not just words.
Allan (7:06): Absolutely, and I think that’s where the other things come in. You have the accountability, because you’re reaching out to others. But the one I really want to dive into just a little bit deeper – again, I do think commitment is the most important to start, but for a lot of people it is that emotional control. I think for a lot of us it’s really the hardest thing to recognize when it’s happening, because it’s emotion-based.
JJ Smith (7:35): Yeah. The interesting thing about emotional eating – we delve deep into this with the 30-day mental mastery challenge. It’s a series of habits, behaviors and exercises that really gives you a foundation, so that when you run into challenges or you’re dealing with emotional eating, you now have new tools in your toolkit that you can rely on. One of the exercises in particular is called the Food Mood Diary. Why I like that one is, for the entire day, everything you eat, you write down how you felt when you ate it and how you felt after, because what you’re looking for are those emotional triggers, the things that actually cause you to eat, even if you’re not physically hungry. Physical hunger comes on every three to four hours. Emotional hunger comes on quickly, it’s urgent. You could have just eaten a half hour ago, but all of a sudden you want something to eat right now. So, you have to be able to identify your unique emotional triggers, because so much of making change is being aware. So when it happens again you’ll be like, “I’m not really hungry. I’m really bored, so let me get out of the house and go do something different.” So the exercises are intended to allow you to have new habits and new tools that you can rely on to actually make a change.
Allan (8:53): That’s what I like – beyond giving us these principles, there’s practice in this. Your 30-day plan literally goes through and explores these various things. The way I read it as I went through the plan was that these are meant to be stacked, so each day you’re learning a new tool and now that’s there, but you keep using it throughout the month.
JJ Smith (9:13): One per day. For some people, a single exercise can literally transform the way they think. As a matter of fact, there was a woman in our private VIP group. She said she only got to page 45 because she had an “A-ha” moment reading the book. Literally she had a change of thought about the way she was viewing her entire weight loss journey. She said, “After page 45, I got it. It clicked. I put the book down. I started the 10-day green smoothie cleanse and I’m back on this journey again.” So sometimes you’re actually just looking for a different way to think and see things.
Allan (9:50): I agree. As I talk to a lot of people, if they’ve committed, which I find a lot of people who were struggling really need to go back and review that – whether they truly have this innate commitment and the self-love aspect of that commitment, the same way that they would commit to, say, Jesus or how they would commit to a spouse. There’s this emotion, this deepness to it that goes beyond who you are as a human. I think once we kind of get that commitment down, the tactics that you have, like you said, those tools in your tool chest that are going help you get through these harder times are the times that you would have failed in the past.
JJ Smith (10:31): I totally agree.
Allan (10:33): Now, in the book… And I love this, because I like action. I just love action. You put in 12 principles for clean and balanced eating, and I really like that. Would you mind sharing those 12 principles?
JJ Smith (10:48): Okay. Do you want me to go through all 12?
Allan (10:50): if you don’t mind, because I think every one of them is extremely valuable.
JJ Smith (10:54): Alright. Number one is, choose nutrient-rich foods, not empty calories. Give your body nutrition, and not a lot of junk. Sometimes we can be full, but we haven’t given our body any real nutrition. The second one is, eat protein with every meal. Even if you eat carbs and fat, protein is what’s going to balance them out to minimize blood sugar spikes. And that will minimize how much fat we store in the body. Number three – always balance carbohydrates with protein. This is more about the balancing of how you eat foods. I always say if you only eat one thing, make it protein, but if you are going to eat carbs, make sure to balance it with some protein. Number four – don’t overeat carbs. Almost any weight loss or diet plan you follow, one thing is going to be common – low carbs. Minimize carbs, minimize sugar, breads and pasta. That’s never going to change. Number five – avoid excess sugar, salt and trans fats. Basically there are enough studies to show that sugar makes us fat, unhealthy and sick. Need I say more? And then too much salt has its own challenges, as well as trans fats, which are in a lot of fried foods. Principle six is, eat four to five servings of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables do the body good. A lot of times if we just make sure to get those in our diet, they can still give us healthy nutrition throughout the day. Number seven – limit your intake of red meat. A lot of people don’t like to eat red meat, but the reality is, it is the healthy protein when it is lean. And there are lots of people who enjoy red meat. What you don’t want to do is be eating red meat every single day, but just once or twice; a few times a week is perfectly fine. Number eight – eat two healthy snacks per day. This is just a method to keep the metabolism revved up throughout the day. Number nine – eat at least 30 grams of fiber. There are lots of studies that show that fiber’s good for the body and it has a lot of heart health benefits. Why I like it is, studies show that if you eat at least 30 grams of fiber per day, it will significantly reduce the amount of weight you can lose per year. I am a green smoothie drinker, so I always put a scoop of fiber in my smoothies. Principle 10 – drink plenty of water. Most places will say, drink half your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 200 pounds, that’s about 100 ounces. But honestly anytime you’re trying to lose weight, detox, or get healthy, proper hydration is key. It is what keeps all the systems in the body functioning well. Then number 11 – eat four to five times a day. A lot of studies say to eat more small meals, but eat more frequently throughout the day. And then principle 12 – buy organic as much as possible. Anytime you can avoid hormones, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics in foods, that’s always going to be better and healthier for your body.
Allan (14:05): Yeah. That’s why I liked all 12 of them. I think if you try to just apply one or two, you would see some benefits. Obviously, if you’re eating whole foods, you’re going to see benefits. But really, if you take all 12 of those and you wanted to roll them up, it basically says, just make sure you’re getting your fiber, keep your carbs in a moderate zone, stay off the sugar, the salt, the trans fats and fat fried foods, and drink plenty of water. So, you take those together and that gives you the rules. You can take this and walk through your house and figure out what’s in your cupboard that doesn’t belong, because it doesn’t fit these criteria. And then print this out and put it on your refrigerator, so that you’ve constantly got that front of mind. I think if you follow these 12 principles, you are going to be successful in your weight loss.
JJ Smith (14:55): Yeah. I always tell people, focus on getting healthy and the weight loss will follow. What these principles do is they allow the body to get healthy, and you’ll find that weight loss will be less of a struggle for you based on how you live.
Allan (15:07): I’m going to flip things around a little bit. Normally I would ask the question and then I would say a couple of other things, but I’m going to let you. When we get done, I want you to close out with your 10 commandments of looking young and feeling great. But I want to flip it around a little bit and have one little side conversation that I would have used to close out. Obviously the book is Think Yourself Thin, and you’ve done this green smoothie cleanse thing and a lot of people have seen success. And it’s in your book. You have all of these success stories. They’re wonderful stories. Every one of them by itself should motivate you. If you just went back and read one of them a day, I think it would be one of those things to keep you fired up as you start your day. I wanted to thank you for sharing those stories and thank the ladies that let you, because those were just awesome.
JJ Smith (15:58): Yeah. They are great stories. People on the weight loss journey sometimes need inspiration. And you read someone’s story and you’ll say, “That is me. I’m experiencing the same thing.” And then we also wanted you to know you don’t have to get to your goal weight to have some success. A lot of women there had success, they’ve lost a lot of weight. They’re still on their journey, but their progress deserves to be celebrated as well.
Allan (16:23): Yes, absolutely. They’re all celebrations and they’re all wonderful. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book and your programs and what’s going on, where would you like for me to send them?
JJ Smith (16:37): They can go to JJSmithOnline.com, and they’ll be able to get more information about this book and some of the other products and books that I offer.
Allan (16:45): Great. I want to thank you for being on the podcast, but before you leave, because this is one of the things you said when you do your talks – you like to close out with your 10 commandments of looking young and feeling great. Would you mind sharing those with us?
JJ Smith (16:58): Absolutely. So, whenever I do a keynote or write a book, I always share the 10 commandments for looking and feeling great. The first one is, “Thou shalt love thyself.” Self-love is essential to survival. There are no successful, authentic relationships with others without self-love. Number two: “Thou shalt take responsibility for thy own health and wellbeing.” If you want to be healthy, take the time to learn what is involved and apply it to your own life. Number three: “Thou shalt sleep.” Sleep is the body’s way of recharging the system. I always say it is the easiest, yet most underrated activity for healing the body. Number four: “Thou shalt detoxify and cleanse the body.” Detoxifying the body gets rid of poisons and toxins that have built up over the years, and it can really speed up weight loss and restore great health. Number five: “Thou shalt remember that a healthy body is a sexy body.” Where do women’s bodies look beautiful? It’s about being healthy, having style, being confident and comfortable in your own skin. Number six: “Thou shalt eat healthy, natural, whole foods.” Healthy eating can really turn back the hands of time and put your body in a more youthful state. What’s the fastest way to slow the aging process? Watch what you put into your mouth. Number seven: “Thou shalt embrace healthy aging.” I always say I don’t mind aging, as long as I look and feel great. The goal is not to stop the aging process, but to embrace it. Number eight: “Thou shalt commit to a lifestyle change.” No more bad diets. Commit to making changes in your mindset and your lifestyle for life, and you will have more success with your health and weight loss journey. Number nine: “Thou shalt embrace the journey.” This journey will change your life. It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle, so be supportive, applaud yourself for every small accomplishment. You might slip up, but you do not have to be perfect to get great results. And number 10: “Thou shalt live, love and laugh.” Laughter is good for the soul. Live your life with passion. Never give up on your dreams. And most importantly – love, because love never fails.
Allan (19:22): I adore every one of those. Thank you for sharing that. I really do; I love that. And again, I can’t thank you enough for sharing that. Thank you, JJ, for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast. This has been an awesome conversation.
JJ Smith (19:34): My pleasure.
Allan (19:36): The book is Think Yourself Thin. I encourage you to get this, because this is going to help you get your mind right and get yourself on track. And like you said, it might be something as simple as reading a certain passage in this book that just flips the switch and you’re there. And beyond that, you have the actionable 30-day plan that walks them through getting these things incorporated in their life, so they will be successful in weight loss.
JJ Smith (20:01): Absolutely. Thanks for having me today. It was absolutely fun.
Allan (20:05): Thank you.
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