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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.

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Another episode you may enjoy

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

March 11, 2019

Lisa Davis | clean eating dirty sex

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Thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Davis (12:02): That’s so funny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Davis (20:28): Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4, 2019

Marla Heller and the DASH Mediterranean Diet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marla Heller (8:20): Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (17:30): Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marla Heller (40:03): Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (43:22): Thank you.

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

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February 25, 2019

Ruby Warrington is sober curious

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Thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (7:28): Like the CrossFitters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (22:32): It does.

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

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

Ruby Warrington (23:01): Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allan (35:30): Lots of water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 18, 2019

Kathleen Trotter – Your fittest future self

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

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  • Judy Murphy

Thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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