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March 18, 2019

Dr Jaime Hope shows you how to habit that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (2:40): It’s scary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (7:17): Yup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (11:11): Yes.

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

Allan (13:03): Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (18:29): Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (34:58): I’ve done that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (48:22):Thank you.

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

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

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